Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Patterson, and Mostow all belong to Chris Carter and 10-13 Productions. No infringement is intended and no money will be made.
Author's Notes: Oddly, this story reflects my feeling toward the show. And don't worry, it's not a character death story. If you liked the story and think I should make more of an effort to continue writing (not on this particular story as it was meant to stand alone, but on other stories), please let me know. XScout@hotmail.com
Evidence of the Mind
Will the madness ever end?
It was the first thought that entered my numb brain when I saw what was in the dim room. I was too shocked and appalled by what was before me that I barely had a chance to remind myself that this was not a nightmare.
At least not one in the normal sense of the word. Not one from which you could simply wake and be safe from its clutches in the light of day. No, this nightmare was all pervasive, saturating everything it touched. It had begun with something as elementary as a phone call.
Skinner himself called our office and asked to see us immediately. The fact that he had made the call and not Kimberly was a signal that whatever he wanted to discuss was of the utmost importance. Usually it preceded some sort of news that the Assistant Director felt was sensitive and needed to be communicated with a delicate hand. Death of a family member, another connection to the Consortium and their agenda uncovered, an earth-shattering revelation about anything from our personal lives to our business lives.
A single glance between us silently communicated our concerns and an unspoken promise that we would face whatever came together. Too much practice at this sort of thing was evident in our acceptance of the implicit implications of such a phone call. We just adorned our jackets in silence and headed upstairs to face our superior with a united front, wary but ready for whatever was to come.
We were ushered into his office by his secretary, Kim's expression professional but her eyes holding a certain amount of sympathy. I saw Mulder's Adam's apple bob as he swallowed nervously and I reached out to give his hand a reassuring squeeze. Answering me with a soft smile, he led the way. We seated ourselves in our respective seats and stared attentively at the man seated behind the large wooden desk.
Skinner took off his glasses and passed a hand over his face before replacing the spectacles. Not a good omen. "Agents, I was contacted this morning by Donald Gerrard."
With the utterance of that name we both knew what it was we had been summoned for. Donald Gerrard had taken over the Investigative Support Unit when Patterson... retired. The fact that the man had called the AD could only mean one thing. He wanted Mulder to profile.
"Sir-" I began to protest but Skinner held up a hand.
"I tried to dissuade Gerrard but he was very insistent. It seems one of the cases they are working on has come to a standstill and they are desperate for some sort of break. You and I both know he would not have requested Agent Mulder's help unless he had no other choice."
I couldn't even muster a small smile at that. It was well known that there was no lost love between Gerrard and Mulder, the older man jealous of the young agent's profiling abilities and yet resentful of the fact that Mulder had left the ISU, feeling he had abandoned his duty. The cold fear that gripped my stomach kept me from enjoying the irony of the situation.
Skinner obviously saw the fear on my face and the distaste on Mulder's, because he continued his explanations in a placating tone. "When I told him you were both currently involved in a case he said that he had already gone to the Director and requested Mulder be reassigned temporarily and he was only notifying me as a formality. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would only allow the transfer if Agent Scully was included, despite the Director's orders."
It was a sign of how much Skinner cared about his agents that he was willing to question and even try to countermand his superior's direct orders. I was thankful for his intervention and showed him so by not arguing with the reassignment.
Mulder didn't argue either. In fact, he seemed to accept it with resignation and I wondered if he somehow knew that this was in the wind. Another half an hour and we were headed down to the parking garage, boxes of files on the case in hand and plane tickets to Colorado in our pockets. With the rushed preparations for an unexpected extended stay away from home, it wasn't until we were seated on the plane that I remembered to ask him about his reception to the transfer.
"I saw on the News this morning that another victim in the Starlight Killer case was found last night. Details were sketchy due to limited information the press was receiving but I could tell that desperation was setting in. It was only a matter of time before they called, I just didn't expect it to be so soon."
Someone else might have seen his comments as smug and full of self-importance but I knew that his 'talents' were not something he was grateful for. In truth, he avoided profiling as much as possible, knowing that the darkness might overwhelm him the next time and he wouldn't come back. It was a measure of his skill that he was the 'emergency backup' the ISU called on when they couldn't get a hold on a certain killer. I'd had only a few more experiences of his profiling ability after that first foray into madness with Mostow but they were enough to make a cloak of dread settle over me every time the ISU came calling.
My fears were well founded, because as soon as we walked into the Denver field office, the descent into madness began. Mulder was shuttled off to a private room full of gruesome photos and piles of paper while I was sent to the morgue to do an autopsy on the new victim as well as re-autopsy the last three bodies the killer had left. I didn't even have a chance to give him a few words of comfort before he was sequestered in the badly lit room and I was dismissed to the lower levels.
It wasn't until the next morning that I saw him again, seated at the large conference table in the briefing room. I had tried calling him but his cell was turned off and he hadn't returned to the motel we had been put up in. Normally I would have searched every room of the Denver bureau for him but the jet lag and thirteen hours on my feet caught up with me. I fell asleep on the bed without even taking off my uncomfortable shoes. I had only meant to rest a moment but the next thing I knew my phone was ringing and it was Gerrard, telling me that the morning's meeting had been moved to seven a.m. - which was twenty-five minutes away.
Managing to make it with three minutes to spare, I found the briefing room full of milling agents, their loud voices discussing sports, family, and any other subjects not related to the case. Down at the far end was a still figure, one of the few seated and the only one not deep in conversation. I appraised him from a distance before going over, wanting to get the fear under control so I could face my partner with nothing but strength and reassurance.
It was a good thing I did because what I saw made my stomach drop and my mouth go dry. He was slumped forward in his chair, his elbows resting on the table as though he needed the support. Dark shadows ringed his eyes and a thin grain of stubble graced his jaw. His unkempt hair showed small channels from where his fingers had repeatedly run through it. Obviously he had not slept and probably not eaten since breakfast the day before.
Shaking my head slightly, I struggled to pull a mask over the dismay I knew was obvious on my face. Walking over to take the seat next to him, I laid a hand on his forearm and called his name in a low voice.
He looked at me with tired eyes and somehow summoned up a tiny grin that went a long way towards banishing my fear. He opened his mouth to say something but Gerrard's voice cut him off, announcing that the meeting was to begin.
I sat back in my chair and listened to the team's findings, keeping one eye on the whiteboard being used to plot down important points in the case and the other on my partner. He appeared to be staring off into space, oblivious to everything else around him but I knew that he was absorbing it all even as his mind raced in a thousand different directions. It wasn't until the subject of the profile came up that he seemed to come back to earth, suddenly throwing himself out of the chair and expounding his theories on the whiteboard with large, almost illegible strokes of the pen.
The other agents stared on in a combination of disgust and awe, their own feelings of grudging respect at Mulder's intellect warring with repugnance at the method in which he came up with his theories. I was angry at their distaste and yet I understood. Mulder's mind was so unfathomable to them that they had a hard time understanding what it was they were seeing. All they knew was that he came up with the right answers, practically out of thin air, and that in doing so he seemed to sink into a sort of fugue state that probably seemed like psychosis. What they didn't understand scared them. It scared me the first time too, how close he communed with the killer, seemingly acting on the same impulses that made the monsters what they were and so becoming almost a monster himself.
I know he tries to fight it but in the end fails, always consumed by the abysmal depth of evil souls, losing a piece of himself each time. I try to help wherever I can, putting food in front of him, forcing him to get some sleep whenever possible, and trying to tether him to reality with my constant presence. But it had only been one day and already the tether was stretched taught. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought Gerrard was keeping us apart in some sort of attempt to get Mulder to sink faster. It would have been like killing two birds with one stone - solve the case quickly and get rid of Mulder.
But I'm not as paranoid as my partner and I know that the demands of the job often get in the way of what we want personally. It was a horrific case, one in which young women were taken from their homes and killed in unspeakable ways. Usually they were cut with a knife, star-shaped marks carved into their bodies as they were raped. Then they were released from their nightmare, killed in different ways, ranging from strangulation to a quick thrust to the heart. The condition of the bodies and the obvious lunacy of the murderer made everything more complicated. And so it went, day after day, Mulder working on his profile while I did autopsy after autopsy. My days were spent in the morgue and the lab, going over the results and trying to glean some sort of pertinent information from them. I checked on Mulder as often as possible, stopping by his office with a sandwich and bottle of juice or calling him on his cell to make sure he took a break.
Days turned into weeks as another three bodies were discovered and we all pushed ourselves harder, almost to the breaking point, trying to catch the madman who was terrorizing the city. I saw Mulder less and less, our paths only crossing when we were both at the same briefing. Often one or the other of us wasn't at a meeting due to what we were currently working on or because our expertise wasn't necessary at that particular time. He had taken to sleeping at the office, so any chance I'd had to talk to him at the motel was gone. The phone calls I made were rarely answered and when they were he spoke in clipped sentences about nonsensical things only his mind could comprehend. On the occasion I did see him I was almost breathless with fear and worry. He became increasingly sullen; his hoarse words few and far between, his temper flaring suddenly to then be replaced by apathy. His weight dropped off drastically, slacks hanging off his hips as his once toned body protested its lack of nourishment. The darkening smudges under his eyes were a testament to sleepless nights and I heard other agents whispering about screams in the night.
Terror filled every fiber of my being, fear for the man I loved. Yes, I loved him. It was something that transcended the physical; something so abiding that it imprinted itself on my soul. The fear was literally tearing me in two for I was losing him and there was nothing I could do about it.
On the sixteenth day after our assignment to this case I was standing in the lab looking through a high-powered microscope at a sample of soil collected from under the latest victim's fingernail. As I stared at the tiny molecules of brown and green I suddenly felt this inexplicable fear sweep over me. In seconds I had my cell pulled out and was dialing my partner. After listening to it ring over two dozen times, I disconnected the call and made another one, this time to Donald Gerrard.
"Sir, this is Agent Scully. I was wondering if you had spoken to Agent Mulder recently?"
Something like a grunt came from the senior agent. "When was the last time Mulder spoke to anyone?"
"Sir, I don't-"
Gerrard sighed. "Look, Agent Scully, last time I saw Mulder he was holed up in his office. Have you tried calling him?"
'Of course I tried calling him, you idiot!' I wanted to shout but restrained myself. "Yes, Sir, but he's not picking up. If you see him would you please have him call me immediately?"
"Mmmhm," Gerrard answered and I could tell he wasn't really listening.
I wished I had called on a landline so I could have the satisfaction of slamming the phone down but instead settled for pushing the End button forcefully. Next I made a call to Agent Franzoni who was one of the few in the regional office who was friendly towards my partner and me. He informed me that Mulder had left last night, saying that he had something he wanted to investigate further and hadn't checked in yet today.
Alarms blared in my head so loudly I couldn't hear myself thank Franzoni and hang up. Could Mulder have gone off in search of the killer on his own? Had he thought of some vital clue that told him the identity of the UNSUB and in his altered state of mind thought he had to catch the man by himself?
Visions of my partner laid out on the slab in the morgue, gruesome injuries just like the other victims had, decorating his cold body, raced through my mind. I had to find him. *Now.*
I rushed out of the lab, offering my colleagues no explanation and hurried to the garage. Soon I was racing through the streets in the government issue sedan, driving at an almost reckless speed. Screeching to a halt in front of our motel, I barreled through the door of my room and started going through my duffel for my gun. I didn't wear my weapon when I was working forensics and I figured that I might need it if I found whatever Mulder had gone in search of. I was on my way out the door when I paused abruptly.
I don't know where the thought came from but suddenly I had an overpowering urge to go into Mulder's room. All haste disappeared as I walked over to the connected door, time seeming to slow as I reached for the knob. Twisting the handle with excruciating slowness, I pushed to door open with a small shove.
Squealing on old hinges, the door swung open to reveal a dark room, the curtains drawn. Normally the thin motel curtains would allow some light to seep through but something had been placed over the material to make it block the sun. Stepping closer, I realized that the curtains were covered with paper. Pulling several sheets off the thin cloth, I scrutinized the scrawled writing scattered across the pages. It was Mulder's writing, scribbled in such haste that many of the words were smeared or incomplete. Turning around I looked up from the papers and gasped at what I saw before me.
Unbidden, one thought came to my mind.
Will the madness ever end?
The few pages I had removed from the curtain allowed some sunlight to filter through the sheer material, their rust coloring bathing the room in a reddish glow, turning it into a scene right out of Hell.
Papers covered every vertical surface in the room - walls, doors, tables, chairs, even the television. Papers covered in the same cramped script that was smeared across the pages in my hands. Not all of the words were as illegible, however. In several places more than one page had been written over with large marker-sized strokes, accentuating words like 'lust', 'fear', 'hate', 'need', and 'pain'. But one word above all others was emphasized, huge bold strokes of what looked like paint slashing across the papers tacked above the bed.
The marks still dripped with whatever was used to make them and with a cold certainty I knew it was blood. That was when I looked down and saw what lay in the bed, pain cutting into my heart as all breath escaped my lungs.
It was a body.
The sheets were drawn up haphazardly over the form, revealing only a human shape and large red splotches staining the covers. With faltering steps I made my way over to the bed and reached out a trembling hand to take hold of the sheets. Slowly drawing them back I was both relieved and terrified by the dead eyes staring up at me. Relief because it wasn't Mulder, terror because it was someone else, killed by the same M.O. as the very killer we were hunting.
A woman with long blonde hair was sprawled across the bed, her arms and torso marred by long, deep cuts, where her stomach was supposed to be there was a gaping hole. My gorge rose but I swallowed harshly, tearing my eyes away from the grisly sight. Considering the levidity of the body and the blood pooled at the bottom of the grotesque cavity, I guessed that the woman couldn't have been dead for more than six to eight hours.
I began to reach for my cellphone when I froze, thinking I'd heard a noise. Straining my ears I finally discerned a muffled crying coming from inside the room. Squinting in the dim light I traced the whimpers to a small form huddled in the corner between the wall and the bedside table. Cautiously circling around the bed I approached the trembling form with dread washing over me, knowing who it was but not wanting to accept it.
It was Mulder.
He was cowering in the corner, his legs pulled up to his chest and his arms pressed tight to his sides, hands covering his face. I reached out and wedged my fingers underneath his, pulling one of his hands away. I could feel cold stickiness on his fingers and mind-numbing doubt began creeping into my brain.
His face was deathly pale, punctuated by the dark circles beneath his eyes, his unkempt hair obscuring my view of his eyes. With a quaking hand I brushed the locks of hair out of the way and I couldn't help the cry of anguish that escaped from my throat.
His eyes. Those eyes that had a chameleon-like ability to change color; expressive orbs that had once lit up with laughter or sparkled in excitement - they were empty. Black pools of nothingness that I feared would swallow my soul if I didn't look away.
I don't remember calling the Bureau or 911 but I must have done both because Gerrard and numerous other agents arrived just before the ambulance. The EMTs loaded Mulder onto a gurney, working under the assumption that the same person that had killed the woman in the bed had attacked him. Perhaps, in a way, he had been.
Gerrard and the others, stunned by the implications of the tableau, fell back on procedure for comfort, treating the motel room as a crime scene. The agents moved around me like ghosts, averting their eyes when they caught my gaze, talking in whispers. I simply stood in the middle of the room, my body and mind paralyzed with a combination of shock, horror, and a strange sort of acceptance.
I clenched my hands into fists and felt a slick wetness between my fingers. Raising my arm, I stared at the offending liquid. But I didn't see the blood that dribbled down across my palm. All I could see were those cold empty eyes, holding no sign of the brilliant intellect that had resided within their depths. Dropping my hand back to my side I slowly turned in a circle and my heart ached at the sight.
The pages of Mulder's writing fluttered in the breeze being let in through the now open door, crackling in dissonance. It was all that I had left, the only evidence of the mind that had once been part of the man I loved. Dark black slashes of ink a window into his tortured soul as shapeless demons fought for control and finally culminating in a grim statement that told of a lost battle.
Red strokes drying into brown. With that one word I knew that more than one person had died within this terrifying room.
I was startled out of my reverie by one of the paramedics, asking me if I wanted to ride along. I nodded, following him out the door and climbing into the ambulance to sit beside the still figure on the gurney.
As the vehicle lurched into motion and the sirens began their plaintive wail, I stared out through the window in the back to watch that room of death, a sinking feeling weighing me down. The man lying before me was no longer my partner and in that receding room of Hell, the evidence of his valiant fight through the darkness of his mind was being washed away.
I closed my eyes and red letters danced across my eyelids. They were all that I had.