Dana Scullyâs apartment
Once again in her own apartment, Scully found herself standing at her dresser staring wide-eyed at her reflection in the mirror as she fastened the silver owl bracelet around her left wrist. That accomplished, she toed off her shoes, then removed her suit jacket and folded it neatly over the arm of the chair that sat in the corner of her bedroom. Next came her gun and holster, which she removed and placed on the nightstand beside her bed. Moving to the curtains, she closed them carefully, wanting to ensure that the rising sun would not encroach on the darkness of the room.
Finally satisfied that the environment was properly conducive to sleep, she approached the bed, wondering not for the first time if she might be losing her mind. Her partner was out there, God knows where, having who knows what done to him, and here she was moving about her bedroom in a surreal daze contemplating a nap. As much as her logical mind was screaming at her that this was sheer lunacy, that the only result this foray into the absurd could possibly produce would be to shorten that much further the amount of time she had to conduct a serious search for her partner, Scully climbed into her bed, settling her head back against the pillows. Yes, it was crazy, and yes, it was entirely possible that nothing would come of it, but she was determined to see it through to its fruition, nonetheless, for the same reasons she had led them to that McDonalds in Stevensville to apprehend a pedophile, despite her disbelief. What if it were true? If she had the means, quite literally in the palm of her hand, to save her partner, she simply couldnât allow anything to sabotage their use, including herself and her own skepticism.
Scully closed her eyes, taking slow, deep breaths as she willed herself to relax enough to sleep. If natural slumber proved impossible, she was prepared to take a sleeping pill, but she hoped it wouldnât be necessary, not being certain that the drugs wouldnât have an adverse effect on this little experiment. Fortunately, although it certainly hadnât seemed fortunate at the time, spending the night in a half-doze on oneâs sofa wasnât exactly a restful experience, so after just a few moments, Scully found herself drifting off, her last conscious thought directed to her partner.
**Oh Mulder, the things I do for youâ¦**
Reality returned in fits and starts, reasserting itself one sense at a time. Feeling came first, as she became aware of the cold, hard concrete beneath her stocking-covered feet, the cool air surrounding her causing the fine hair on her arms to rise in response. Smell and taste arrived simultaneously, carrying with them the nauseatingly sweet stench of gasoline. The odor was so thick, so overwhelming she was momentarily robbed of her breath as the vapors sought to steal oxygenâs rightful place in her mouth and nose and lungs. She gagged, trying desperately to clear her airway of the foul substance before she drowned in it.
Bending at the waist, hands resting on her knees, Scully coughed weakly several times until gradually she was able to breathe again, her respiratory system finally beginning to adjust to this olfactory assault. The smell of the fuel was still present, but no longer quite so overpowering. This was when she discovered that she could once again hear. And from the way it sounded, she was not alone.
The noises were faint, vague, and as near as she could figure given the fact that her eyes still stubbornly refused to join the party, they seemed to be coming from a place about fifty feet to her left. Turning, she cautiously began moving in that direction, knowing instinctively that this was where she needed to be.
As she drew closer, it became apparent that there were two distinct voices coming to her out of the darkness. The first was deep and slightly gravelly, its tone fluctuating between gentle amusement and searing anger. She vaguely recognized the cheerful timbre as belonging to the elusive Transit policeman sheâd spoken with the previous evening, Stuart Brown. When the rage of his insanity got the better of him, she could barely distinguish the guttural sounds emanating from his throat as being human. The second voice however, was as familiar to her as Scullyâs own mother.
Despite the knowledge that she was as good as invisible here, Scully couldnât stop the ragged whisper that hearing his pain-filled voice tore from her throat.
It was at this point that her eyesight decided to catch up with the rest of her, aided by a single, flickering candle casting its sparse light on the two men ahead of her. She increased the pace of her approach, not at all concerned with the thought that she might be observed. While she may not completely comprehend exactly what had brought her here, her limited understanding of the situation stretched enough to provide the knowledge that her existence here in this version of reality was undetectable by its natural inhabitants.
She was right there with them now, included in the dim circle of illumination cast by the candle. Scully moved closer to Mulder, wanting to assess his injuries, only mildly surprised to find that her presence cast no shadow over his face despite the fact that sheâd moved between him and the sole source of light in the room. Her loud gasp of dismay at the sight that greeted her had absolutely no effect on either the killer or his intended victim.
She dropped down onto her knees beside the straight-backed wooden chair to which her partner was tied with not only what looked like twenty yards of rope, but electrical tape as well. His arms were pulled tightly back behind him and fastened to the back of the chair with what appeared to be his own handcuffs. Each foot was taped at the ankle to the chair leg it rested in front of and a half a roll of tape secured his thighs to the seat of the chair, effectively cutting off any chance of movement whatsoever. The only part of his body not tied, taped, or otherwise strapped down was his head. And from the damage that had apparently been done to his face so far by this monster, Scully figured that moving his head around too much would be the last thing Mulder would want to do.
The entire left side of his face was an angry mixture of purples, blacks, and reds, and his left eye was almost completely swollen shut. There was a thin stream of dried blood that had trickled a path down the side of his face, the origin of which was concealed within his hairline. Looking into the one hazel eye that was visible, she could see the slightly dilated pupil that indicated the possibility of a concussion.
âSo what do ya say, G-man? Hungry yet? Thereâs plenty of rats down here in these service tunnels. I wouldnât want it to be said that I deprived a man of his last meal.â Brown spoke lightly, his tone almost buoyant, as if they were two long-time friends sharing a beer and a joke.
âGee, uh, no thanks. I think Iâll hold out for the second course. I had rat yesterday,â Mulder responded dryly.
âYouâre a real smart guy, arenât you G-man? A regular comedian. Well, thatâs ok. Makes it more fun. I mean, you shouldâve seen the look on the last guyâs face when I pulled out those scissors. Now that was comical.â
The killer chuckled to himself at the memory, before growing serious once more. âYou wanna know how youâre gonna go? I could give you a little preview.â
âAnd ruin all the suspense? No, thatâs all right. Iâll wait untilâ¦â
His words trailed off mid-sentence as he suddenly turned and looked directly at Scully. Forgetting for the moment that for her this was only a horrible nightmare, she had raised a hand to gently brush the hair away from his face so that she could examine the cut on his head. It was only when her fingers reached the point where they should have been stopped by the barrier of his flesh but instead kept on going as if passing through a warm, Mulder-infused fog that she realized her mistake. Currently she and her partner did not inhabit the same plane of existence, so physically she was unable to have any kind of affect on his environment. Yet, when her fingers had entered the space presently being occupied by her partner, she felt a tangible connection to him, as if she were able to touch his very essence and take a bit of it back into herself. And when his head snapped around to hers seconds later, she felt certain that on some level he too was aware of her presence.
âMulder? Can you hear me?â
Not really expecting a reply, and not getting one, she reached out a tentative hand to caress his bruised and battered face. This time his eyes slid closed and he leaned his head in her direction slightly as if he could feel the gesture and was gratefully accepting its comfort. He inhaled deeply as if infusing himself with some pleasant scent, and thatâs when she noticed that he was wheezing slightly on each indrawn breath. Without the benefits of an x-ray machine or even a proper exam, she could only deduce that this maniac had either hit or kicked her partner in the ribs, badly bruising if not fracturing a few. She found herself hoping that the wheezing was an effort on his part to reduce the pain of his injured chest and not due to a punctured lung.
Mulder opened his eyes and warily regarded his captor as Brown moved out of the circle of the candlelight. There was a slight scraping noise of metal on concrete as he bent into the darkness to pick something up, and then the sound of liquid sloshing around in its container. When he returned to the glow of the candle and brandished his prize with a maniacal grin, Scullyâs eyes grew wide with recognition.
âOh God, no,â she whispered, feeling suddenly sick.
In his hands, Stuart Brown held a red metal gas can.
As he slowly unscrewed the cap and walked toward Mulder, she jumped to her feet and screamed, âYou canât do this! It hasnât been three days! Youâre supposed to wait three days!â
He stopped directly in front of her partner, the can raised high over his head, and couldnât resist one last taunt. âYou got anything funny to say now, G-man? I could use a good laugh.â
Scully knew the terror he had to be feeling at that moment. A fear of fire was the only true phobia that Mulder had ever admitted to having in the years that she had known him. To be suddenly faced with the knowledge that your worst nightmare was coming true could be nothing less than paralyzing. So only Scully knew the inner strength her partner revealed when he unblinkingly faced his captor.
âNow, see, that wasnât funny, it was just rude,â he was told as the gasoline-filled can was inverted over his head.
Mulder coughed and sputtered as he desperately sought to breathe without inhaling or swallowing the foul substance. After enough of the gas had run off so that it was no longer dripping in his face, he opened his eyes as Brown spoke again.
âConsider that the prologue. Weâll save the final act for Sunday,â he said, as he brought the gasoline can down hard against the injured side of his face. Mulderâs head crumpled forward as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Scully wouldâve given anything at that moment to be standing in front of Stuart Brown with a loaded gun in her hands.
âIâm gonna get you, you bastard, just wait and see.â
âIâm gonna get you, you bastard, just wait and see.â
At the sound of his partnerâs heated snarl, Mulder forced himself to raise his head and open his eyes, despite the fact that the entire left side of his face felt as if it were on fire.
âHey Scully, can you wait to kill me until after Iâve had a couple of Advil?â
Scully whirled around and stared at her partner as if heâd suddenly sprouted wings and proposed a midnight flight to the moon. âWhatâs the matter? Never seen someone tied to a chair and doused in gasoline before? Scully?â
She gaped at him. âYou can see me?â She knelt beside his chair once again, waving a hand in front of his face.
âHa ha Scully, very funny. Now, are you going to cut me loose before that overgrown son-of-aâ¦â
Now it was Mulderâs turn to look incredulous as he realized that the overgrown son-of-a-bitch in question was sitting on the concrete floor not four feet away ignoring them completely.
âWhat the hell?â
âI wish I could Mulder, more than anything, but I canâtâ¦â
âWhy canât he see you?â he interrupted. âHeâs acting like he doesnât even see you!”
âBecause he canât. And up until a minute ago, neither could you. He hit you and knocked you out, and when you woke upâ¦â she snapped her fingers as the realization dawned. âThatâs it. You didnât wake up. Mulder youâre still unconscious!â
âScully, I have a headache the size of the Grand Canyon, not to mention some pretty painful ribs. Do you think you could possibly explain to me in words that are four letters or less just what in the hell youâre talking about?â
âThis is what Iâm talking about Mulder.â She raised her left wrist to show him the owl bracelet, itâs moonstone eyes glowing brightly enough to rival the light from the candle.
âIâm not really here. Let me show you.â She reached out and tried to touch the undamaged side of his face. As before, her fingers passed through him, leaving her with the feeling that sheâd touched a piece of his soul. In that instant, she could feel his wonder, his pain, and even the residual traces of the fear heâd experienced moments before when faced with the possibility of being burned alive.
His mouth dropped open at the ghost-like touch of her fingers.
âThat was you! Before he pulled out the gasoline, you touched me, didnât you?â
He waited for her nod before continuing. âI thought I must be suffering from some sort of brain damage. I didnât actually feel your hands, but all of a sudden, I felt like you were nearby. And I could smell youâ¦or rather, your shampoo or bubblebath or whatever that apricot stuff is that you sometimes use. Whatâs wrong?â
Her eyes full of regret, she told him, âI used it last night, probably right around the time you were getting your skull bashed in. Damn it, I shouldâve gone down there myself instead of calling the Transit police. I practically gave you to him, Mulder!â
But he was already shaking his head. âNo Scully, it wasnât your fault. By the time you got my message and called, he already had me. I was lying at his feet in the security booth pretending to be unconscious â well, half-pretending anyway since he had just clocked me in the head with his flashlight. Itâs nobodyâs fault but my own. I shouldâve waited for you to call me back or called Brentwell.â
Scully narrowed her eyes in concentration as a feeling of urgency swept over her.
âScully? What is it?â
âI think weâre going to have to save the Blame Game for another day, Mulder. Weâre running out of time. I think â I think that one of us is going to wake up soon. Mulder, I need you to tell me anything you know, about this place, or about him,â she indicated his captor who was happily munching his way through a bag of potato chips, âthat will help me to find you. Do you know where you are? It has the look of a subway tunnel, though not quite as big, as if maybe itâs some kind of service tunnel or underground storage?â
He shook his head in frustration. âIâm just not sure, Scully. Iâm fairly certain that we never actually left that metro station, but I was pretty out of it at the time. But even if thatâs the case, if you donât know exactly where to look, these tunnels are like a big maze.â
âOk, well at least I know where to start. What about him? Do you have anything on him that I might be able to use?â
âIâve been trying to draw him out, to get him to slip up and talk about himself, but so far he hasnât fallen for it. Actually, it only seems to piss him off,â he said sheepishly, winking his swollen eye at her.
âAww, poor Mulder,â she said sympathetically, reaching out to give him a reassuring pat on the knee before realizing halfway to her goal the futility of it. She paused, her hand hovering in mid-air over his leg as an idea began to take root.
âEarth to Scully? You in there?â
She stood up suddenly and pointed towards Brown. âMulder, he knows where you are.â
âYeah, but he canât see us at the moment Scully, and even if he could, I seriously doubt that heâd write down the address and invite you to tea.â
âHe may not have to,â she tossed back to him over her shoulder.
âWhen I touched you Mulder, it was like I could see inside you, what you were thinking and feeling. Maybe it will be the same with him.â
His voice stopped her inches from her goal.
âScully, you donât have to do this. Believe me, whatever you see inside him will not be pretty.â
She turned to him and smiled, the first real smile sheâd given him since this whole fiasco with the bracelet began. âMulder, you went to Antarctica with a bullet wound to the head to find me. Certainly I can take a glimpse into the mind of a madman for you.â
And with that, she reached out a tentative hand and touched the devil. Brown jumped in surprise at the sudden invasion as if he too could feel her presence in much the same way Mulder had. His eyes came to rest on his captive, who was still slumped over in his chair, dead to the world. While his attention was focused on Mulder, Scully took a deep breath, held it, and walked through him as quickly as she could.
On the other side, she paused for a moment, her eyes closed tightly, as she shuddered involuntarily. After their misadventures last summer in the South Pole, Scully had thought sheâd known what it meant to be cold, but this creature before her had a soul that was blacker than the darkest night and colder than any ice could ever be. She felt as if thousands of oily worms were crawling over her skin, and wondered if that feeling would ever completely fade. She had told Mulder days ago that Gallant, the pedophile theyâd arrested, was evil, but sheâd had no idea what evil was then. She knew better now.
She walked back to Mulderâs side and sat down on the floor beside him, suddenly more tired than sheâd felt since before her cancer had gone into remission. She was careful not to touch him, lest he get a glimpse of her little souvenir from good oleâ Stu. Mulder had enough to worry about without knowing what sort of sadistic things resided in the mind of his captor.
She looked at him and smiled, not nearly as brightly as she had moments ago, but he had to give her points for effort. It was the best she could muster when all she really wanted to do was vomit.
âI got it.â
âAre you all right, Scully?â
She opened her mouth to tell him she was fine, but simply nodded at his warning look. âIâll be ok. And so will you. Iâm going to get you out of here Mulder.â
âI know you will. I trust you,â he told her softly. âBut you be careful, Scully. Donât do anything stupid. Thatâs my department.â
Their gazes locked and held for a long moment, until, clearing his throat, he changed the subject.
âSo, what made you decide to use the bracelet?â
She shrugged. âThe Wolf called.â
It took him a moment to decipher her cryptic statement. âThe letter. Someone you love will be lostâ¦you mean that was me? Gee Scully, I didnât know you cared.â What was meant to be a teasing smile came out looking more like a grimace on his battered face.
She thought of giving some sort of flippant reply, then figured, what the hell, heâs unconscious anyway. He probably wouldnât remember any of this. âWell Mulder, I guess now you know.â
The look on his face was nothing short of stunned. âScullyâ¦Iâ¦uh, I just want to sayâ¦â
A shrill ring pierced the relative quiet of the tunnel, and Scullyâs last thought as the world faded to black was, âDamn it, not now!â
End Chapter Seven