J. Edgar Hoover Building
The phone was on its sixth ring by the time Mulder managed to get the door open to the basement office that housed the X-files. He was somehow able to get to the phone halfway through the seventh ring without spilling either the two large coffees or the new case file he was carrying.
âAgent Mulder, this is Dave Erickson up in Special Communications.â
âAgent Erickson! Youâre just the person I need to talk to. In fact, I was planning to give you a call this morning. What can I do for you?â
âActually, I was looking for Dana, uh, I mean Agent Scully. She had asked me to get some information for her earlier, and I was calling to give her the results. Is she there?â The young agent sounded hopeful, and Mulder had to roll his eyes. ** Good lord, not another Pendrell! **
âNo, sorry, sheâs not in yet this morning. If youâd like to give the information to me, Iâd be happy to pass along the message.â When the other agent hesitated, Mulder decided to take pity on the poor, besotted fool. âOr, if youâd rather, I can have her call you when she gets in.â
Mulder could practically see the idiotic grin through the telephone. âIf you could have her call me, that would be great, uh, I mean fine, that would be fine,â he stammered. âYou said you wanted to talk to me about something, Agent Mulder?â
âWhat? Oh, yes. I received a phone call at 3:15 this morning, and I need to know what number that call was placed from.â He gave the agent his home phone number. âCan you get me that information?â
There was a second of hesitation before the reply came. âYeah, I can get it.â His response was somewhat less than exuberant, and Mulder wondered what on earth couldâve happened in the last twenty seconds to darken the other agentâs mood.
âIn fact, I have it right here. According to Bell Atlantic phone records, there was a call at 3:15 this morning, lasting two minutes and twenty-five seconds in duration, placed from Agent Scullyâs home phone number to yours.â
Mulder was amazed. âHow did you do that so fast?â
Mulder heard the door open behind him and turned to see Scully enter the office as the lovesick Agent Erickson sighed in his ear. âThatâs the same information that Agent Scully asked me for.â
Scully set her briefcase down on the desk and motioned towards the two cups of coffee. He nodded at her and continued his conversation.
âOh, she did, did she?â He watched his partner with interest as she poured cream into one of the styrofoam cups. âWhen was this exactly?â
âAround 5:30 this morning. I guess she wonât need to call me back now.â He couldnât have sounded more dejected if someone had walked in and told him his dog just died, Mulder was sure. Poor guy.
âWell, thank you very much Agent Erickson. Agent Scully and I both appreciate your efforts.â
At the mention of the agentâs name, Scully looked up quickly, nearly spilling her coffee. Mulder gave her a knowing grin as he said goodbye and hung up the phone. He leaned back in his chair, fingers laced behind his head. âSoâ¦â he began.
âSo, I thought you were of the opinion that your redial button was malfunctioning?â
âI am Mulder, thatâs why I asked him to check my outgoing calls. So I could prove it to you.â
âNo, I donât think so. You didnât have to call at 5:30 in the morning for that. Admit it Scully. You were curious. You still are.â
She glared at him, and he knew he had her. âWell, are you going to tell me what he said, or do I have to call and ask him myself?â
âWhile Iâm sure it would make Agent Ericksonâs week to hear from you twice in one day, Iâll save you the trouble. He said exactly what Iâve been trying to tell you all along. At 3:15 this morning, a phone call was made from your phone to mine, a call that lasted exactly two minutes and twenty-five seconds. And during those two and a half minutes, Scully, you sent me to a deserted street in downtown Arlington to save a young woman from certain death.â
She looked perplexed. âMulder, what youâre suggesting, it just isnât possible. You realize that, donât you? Just how completely unlikely your story is?â
âHow else would you explain it Scully? We have the proof now. You did call me. As for whether or not the rest of it happened, Iâll get you a copy of the police report to read. How else can you explain the events that occurred once I arrived at the abandoned bakery that you sent me to?â
âItâ¦â She trailed off, unable to come up an argument. She sighed heavily. âI donât know Mulder. Youâre right, I donât have a better explanation, but I canât just blindly accept yours without more evidence either. So, unless youâve got the proverbial smoking gun hidden in your desk, letâs just chalk this one up to coincidence, shall we?â
Mulder wanted to argue, but knew his partner well enough to realize that he could talk himself blue in the face and she still wouldnât be convinced. The scientist in her would settle for nothing less than hard evidence, solid facts that proved to her beyond a shadow of a doubt that she herself had sent him on a mission that had saved a young womanâs life, and then had given him a warning which had saved his own. And all this accomplished while she lay sound asleep in her own bed, her conscious mind blissfully unaware of her subconsciousâ participation in the eveningâs festivities.
He decided to spare them both the frustrations that would surely arise should he choose to continue the conversation without this evidence, this âsmoking gunâ that her orderly mind found necessary to sanction belief, and changed the subject.
âOk then Scully, how do you feel about Marylandâs Eastern Shore?â
âLove the seafood, hate the jellyfish. Whatâs over there?â
âWell, a few hours from now, we will be.â He opened up the case file on his desk and withdrew several pictures, which he spread out for her inspection. âCrop circles, Scully. Crop circles and missing teenagers. On two consecutive mornings, the owners of two adjacent farms awoke to find their fields riddled with crop circles, and their teenage children missing.â
He separated the pictures into two sets of three. Indicating the first group, he said, âOn Wednesday morning, Jeff Patterson, a tobacco farmer in rural Jonesboro, Maryland found three crop circles cut into the tobacco field closest to his house. He ran into the house to wake his nineteen year old son, Joshua, but found the boyâs bedroom empty.â
One of the pictures was of a handsome young man with blonde hair and green eyes wearing a black cap and gown, presumably a graduation picture of Joshua Patterson. The other two pictures were of the damage to the crops, one an aerial view of all three circles, the other a grainy close-up of the largest of the trio.
Scullyâs eyes went to the second set of pictures as Mulder continued his briefing.
âOn Thursday morning, at the farm next door, Sandie Colby chased the family cat into the corn field next to their house. Seems the recalcitrant kitty was trying to avoid an early morning appointment with the vet. She ran after him for approximately 10 yards when she found herself standing in the middle of a crop circle cut into the corn. Since sheâd already heard about the incident at her neighborsâ farm, she returned to the house to check on her family only to find that her eighteen-year-old daughter Tracey was missing.â
The second group of pictures contained similar shots of crop circles, one from the air, the other close up. The third photo was of a pretty brown-haired girl, apparently Tracey, smiling brilliantly at something or someone outside the cameraâs view.
âNeither teen has been seen or heard from since,â continued Mulder, âand because of the obvious implications of the evidence at hand, the local police turned the case over to us as of this morning.â
âAm I to assume that by âobvious implicationsâ youâre suggesting that the presence of the crop circles indicates some kind of alien abduction scenario?â
âWell, thatâs why the case was given to us. As far whether or not that is what actually transpired, thatâs what weâre going to find out. Ever been to Jonesboro, Scully?â
âCanât say that I have. Are we going now, then?â She replaced the photos and put the case file in her briefcase.
âUh, yeah, as soon as I find my keys.â He began patting down his pockets, and when that turned up nothing, he started searching the desktop.
Scully, checking her briefcase to be sure she had a pen and pad of paper, answered without even looking up. âTheyâre on the floor between the desk and the file cabinet.â
Mulder had the keys in his hand and was midway through the act of straightening when it struck him that she hadnât yet been to that side of his desk, and therefore could not have possibly seen the keys. He gaped at her.
She laughed at his dumbstruck expression. âCome on Mulder. I donât have to be psychic to know that your keys end up down there at least three times a week. Maybe if you set them gently on the desk instead of tossing them from across the room they wouldnât slide off onto the floor.â
He looked at her for a moment longer, cocking one eyebrow in an imitation of her usual look of skepticism, trying to decide if she had really only been guessing or if there was more to it than that.
âIt was an educated guess Mulder, nothing more. Letâs go.â She picked up her briefcase and laptop and headed for the door. As he came up behind her, he felt rather than saw something land on his foot. He bent down to retrieve the object and found a silver bracelet made up of seven owls in profile, each about an inch in length. The right eye, the only eye visible in each, was set with a small, rounded, milky-white stone.
âHey Scully, did you drop this?â
She turned to examine the object in question. âMy bracelet! I didnât even hear it fall. Thanks Mulder.â
âLooks like the clasp is a little loose. Youâd better get that fixed before you lose it. Since when did you become such an owl lover anyway, Scully?â
She held out her hand to take the bracelet, but instead he turned her palm face down and fastened it on her wrist himself.
âIâm not really. I just saw it, andâ¦liked it for some reason. So I bought it.â She seemed almost embarrassed by her impulsive purchase.
âOoh Scully, how spontaneous of you! Pretty soon youâll start doing your laundry on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays and eating peanut butter straight out of the jar!â
She punched him in the arm as they walked towards the elevator. âShut up, Mulder.â
They rode back towards D.C. in companionable silence, Mulder at the wheel and Scully in the passenger seat using her laptop to type up the field report that would declare the Patterson/Colby case solved and closed. The kids were no longer missing, having been tracked down to a small motel in Ocean City, Maryland where they had gone to consummate their marriage.
The crop circles and subsequent âalien abductionâ scenario were part of a plan masterminded by the two teens to hide the reality of their elopement from their parents until it was too late for them to intervene. It had taken a ten second examination of one of the crop circles for Mulder to determine that whatever created them had definite earthly origins. That something had turned out to be a manual push-mower owned by the senior Mr. Patterson. From there it was simply a matter of a few well-placed questions posed to the parents and the truth began to unfold.
Josh and Tracey had been long-time sweethearts who were anxious to marry now that they both had finished high school. Their parents were equally adamant that they wait a few years before making such a long-term commitment. Due to the distraction caused by the crop mutilation, no one thought to check the teensâ bedrooms for missing items. Once it was determined that there were articles of clothing and luggage missing in each case, any thoughts of foul play were ruled out. One usually didnât have time to pack a bag when being abducted by aliensâ¦or humans, for that matter.
A quick search of county records revealed that two weeks prior, a marriage license had been issued to a Mr. Joshua Patterson and a Miss Tracey Colby. From there it was only a matter of finding the runaways, which proved to be a simple task in itself.
The suggestion to Traceyâs best friend, Kristen, that withholding her friendsâ location could be construed as âaiding and abettingâ the felony of âwillfully and maliciously misleading a federal agentâ, was all it took to get the city, motel name, room number, and phone number of the happy couple.
Mulder grinned to himself, imagining the looks on the young newlywedâs faces when their parents arrived shortly to interrupt their honeymoon. He thought it was a safe bet that theyâd soon be wishing they had been abducted by aliens.
The soft clicking of the computer keys ended abruptly, rousing Mulder from his thoughts. A quick glance at the passenger seat revealed Scully, fingers motionless over the keyboard, head back against the seat, eyes closed. She appeared to be about a minute or two from falling asleep.
âReport finished?â he questioned.
Without opening her eyes or turning in his direction, she replied. âUm-hmm.â
âYou planning to turn off that computer before you start your nap?â His voice carried just the slightest hint of amusement.
She gave a mighty yawn and turned her head towards him slightly, trying to get more comfortable. âIn a minute.â
Mulder doubted she would still be awake in a minute, much less cognizant enough to shut down the computer. Rather than risk rear-ending the car in front of them by doing it for her, he decided not to worry about it. Thanks to the five or six cups of coffee heâd had over the course of the afternoon, he would need to make a stop soon anyway, and would take care of it then. He turned on the radio for background noise, and returned his attention to the highway in front of him.
They rode that way for ten or fifteen minutes before an unexpected noise overshadowed the soft music emanating from the radio and Scullyâs even softer breathing. The unmistakable sound of typing.
Mulder looked over, surprised that his partner had awakened so abruptly. He had glanced in her direction less than two minutes ago, and had been quite certain she was sound asleep. What he saw now made him do a double take.
To look at her face, Scully appeared to be sleeping, head back against the headrest, eyes closed, lips slightly parted, breathing deep and even. Her fingers however, seemed to have a life of their own as they danced over the keyboard in her lap. ** Well, this is a new one, ** he thought. ** Iâve seen people walk in their sleep and talk in their sleep, but this is the first time Iâve ever seen someone type in their sleep! **
After two minutes or so of the incessant sleep-typing, Mulder decided to wake Scully before she completely ruined the report sheâd written. Without taking his eyes from the road, he reached over to gently still her hands, but jerked his own hand back when he encountered something unexpectedly warm.
Surprised, he diverted his attention from the highway long enough to try and determine the source of the strange heat. His gaze was drawn immediately to the bracelet on her left wrist, the owl bracelet that he himself had placed there earlier that morning. It was glowing. Or rather, the white stones that marked the one visible eye on each of the seven owls were glowing.
Each individual stone shone brightly as if lit from within by a fire, and Mulder stretched out a tentative finger to touch one. The white gem was unnaturally warm under his hand, but quickly grew cool as Mulder shifted his attention briefly back to the surrounding traffic.
At the sudden change in temperature, he looked back to find that the stones had returned to their normal state, all traces of the mysterious shine gone.
He blinked, and found himself wondering if heâd imagined their previous luminescence, or if perhaps it had merely been the light from the setting sun playing tricks on him. He moved his hand to Scullyâs shoulder and shook gently.
âScully? Hey Scully, time to rise and shine.â
There was no response from the sleeping redhead, so he shook her a little harder.
âCome on Sleeping Beauty, I told you itâs time to wake up. Donât make me have to pull over and wake you up Disney style.â
Finally she began to stir, and it occurred to him that she had been unusually slow to wake when heâd come to her apartment earlier that morning as well.
She opened her eyes and blinked at him tiredly. âWhere are we?â
âStill on Route 50, about fifteen miles east of the Bay Bridge.â
âWell, whyâd you wake me up then? Do you need me to drive?â
âNo, I was afraid you might sprain a finger.â As usual, he was unable to suppress his automatic, sarcastic response. âBesides, I figured that if I let you ruin that field report in your sleep, you might make me do it over, and you know how much I love paperwork.â
âMulder, start making sense, or Iâm going back to my nap.â
âScully, you were engaged in a phenomenon that I have never before witnessed in all of our history with the X-files.â She scowled at him. âYou were typing in your sleep.â
âMulder, what the hell are you talking â¦ aboutâ¦â Her question trailed off as she stared at the computer screen.
Mulder took her silence to mean that the field report was ruined. âWell, Agent Scully? Whatâs the damage?â
Her reply was a ragged whisper. âMulder, this isnât funny.â She had yet to take her eyes away from the word-filled screen, unable to believe what she was seeing.
âAww, come on Scully, I was only kidding before. Iâll redo it if you donât want to. Itâs not a big deal.â
âMulder, when did you do this? And how could â how could you write these things? Is this supposed to be a joke?â Her voice had an edge to it that he didnât recognize at first, because it was something he had rarely before witnessed in his partner â hysteria.
The Dana Scully that he knew prided herself on being calm, cool, and collected at all times, in all situations, and the few times he had seen that composure slip a notch or two had all been occasions that would have sent a lesser woman â or man, for that matter â screaming for the hills. She had faced down liver-eating mutants, mothmen, government conspiracies and even cancer without becoming a candidate for a rubber room, and yet, here she was, nearly in tears over a ruined field report?
Mulder was baffled. The only definite thing his mind was able to grasp was that she thought he was playing a trick on her. But even if that had been the case, her typical reaction wouldâve been to threaten him with bodily harm if he ever dared defile one of her sacred field reports again, and the only tears would be his own tears of pain. It simply wasnât like Scully to get this upset over something so inconsequential, and he felt the need to reassure her.
âNo, Scully, I told you, you were typing in your sleep. Iâm sorry I didnât wake you up sooner, before the report was ruined, but it just didnât occur to me right away. Donât worry about it though, I told you Iâll rewrite it once we get back to D.C., ok?â
He felt rather than saw her eyes searching his face, trying to determine his sincerity. He turned to give her a reassuring smile, and noticed her pallor for the first time.
âJesus Scully, youâre white as a sheet! What is it?â
She ignored his question and instead posed one of her own, her voice almost childlike.
âYou really didnât do this?â
âScoutâs honor.â Taking one hand off the wheel, he held up two fingers in the shape of a âVâ. âScully, you know, I do value my life somewhat. I would never risk it unnecessarily by messing with one of yourâ¦Scully?â
Before his eyes, her face went from white to a sickly gray, as she stared at him wide-eyed for a moment before turning back to the computer screen.
âMulder, I think maybe youâd better stop the car.â
Judging by her color, Mulder assumed she was going to be sick and began to pull over to the side of the highway, only to be waved on by her. âNo, take this next exit. There should be a McDonalds. Stop there.â
Her tone of voice implied to Mulder that this was perhaps the last place on Earth she wanted to be headed, but he followed her instructions nonetheless, sensing that she had not chosen this particular restaurant at random. And he was fairly certain that she wasnât suddenly craving a Big Mac.
Neither spoke for the minute or two it took to reach the restaurant. As they entered the parking lot, Mulder turned towards the right, following the directional arrows on the pavement. He headed for the first empty space, only to be stopped once again by his partner.
âNo Mulder, go around to the other side. By the drive-thru.â
He shrugged his assent and drove around to the other side of the lot. She pointed out a spot to him, giving him a final direction as they approached. âBack in.â
Mulder was mystified by his partnerâs erratic behavior. The odd sleep-typing, her obvious distress thinking heâd destroyed their field report as a practical joke, then becoming even more upset to learn that sheâd done it herself, these things were all completely out of character for her. He wanted to question her, ask her what had her so upset, and why they were stopping at McDonalds of all places, one of her least favorite restaurants in the universe.
Instead, he followed her directions without question, trusting his partner to explain herself to him as soon as she was able. But when she pulled her gun and checked the clip to make sure it was fully loaded and ready to fire, he was unable to hold his curiosity in check any longer. He finished backing the car into its slot, shut off the engine and turned to his partner.
âUh, Scully, you arenât planning to shoot me again, are you? I swear I didnât touch that report!â He tried to hide behind humor the fact that she was beginning to make him slightly nervous.
She rolled her eyes at him and ignored his question, reholstering her weapon.
âTurn the engine back on.â He opened his mouth to protest, to demand an explanation, but she stopped him. âPlease Mulder?â
That edge was back to her voice. Not as obvious as before, when heâd thought she was near tears, but there nonetheless, enough to have him reaching for the ignition before sheâd even completed his name.
Once the car was running again, he turned in his seat, looking at her expectantly. She took a deep breath, and began, âMulderâ¦â and then stopped as something else occurred to her. âWhat time is it?â
Mulder was beginning to think that one of them might be going insane and for once, it wasnât him. âItâs 6:57. Scully, what the hell is going on?â
â6:57,â she repeated quietly. She seemed to consider this for a moment before whispering, âOk, thatâs good.â She cleared her throat and returned her attention to her partner.
âIâd explain, but Iâm not sure that I can, Mulder. You need to see this for yourself.â She handed him the laptop, then sat back to watch his reaction.
He looked at the screen, fully expecting to see line after line of gibberish where their field report was supposed to be. When that wasnât the case, his mouth dropped open, and he looked to his partner for confirmation. Apparently this was the reaction sheâd been anticipating, because she nodded at him.
He held her gaze with his own for a moment before turning back to the computer and beginning to readâ¦
Chapter Three to be continued…