Author's Notes: Only for distribution at the Virtual Season Nine for two weeks before posting at other sites. To all of you who expected more from me, I apologize. My X-Files muse has abandoned me like David Duchovny has the X-Files. The chances of its return are as likely as his return to the show. Please, let me know if I should go out with a whimper or a bang. XScout
Virginia State Correctional Facility
The loud drumming in his head drew him out of his foggy sleep. His eyes were crusted shut and his mouth felt like it was full of cotton. Must have been one hell of a night; too bad he couldn't remember what happened. The last thing he could recall was being taken to the infirmary for some routine medical checkup or some such nonsense. Wouldn't want the inmates of purgatory to get sick, would we?
Rolling over on his cot, Arnie Bunkwater pried his eyes open to stare out past the cell bars. The lights were dim and he saw a shadow pass by - the stiff form of the night guard making his rounds. That meant it was still before dawn. The guards rarely came down death row but twice a night. No one liked to be spend a lot of time here, guards and inmates alike.
Leaning back into his bunk, Arnie watched the shadows play across the cinderblock ceiling, his early morning ritual beginning even earlier now that he was awake. He closed his eyes and replayed that fateful night that was both the pinnacle of his life as well as his downfall.
It had been approximately one in the morning when he was crouched outside her window, surrounded by flowers, their scent strong in his nostrils. He'd quietly slid open her window, careful not to make even the slightest noise. A cool breeze had swept past him, billowing the lacy curtains out towards the girl in the bed, reaching for her as though to warn her of his coming. He had crept over the windowsill and across the floor, moving stealthily by the moonlight. Just as he had reached her bedside and stared down at her angelic face, her eyes suddenly popped open. He never discovered what it was that had brought her out of her dreams, but then he hadn't given her time to tell him. He had clamped a rough hand against her mouth and pushed his larger body down onto hers. Her wide blue eyes had clouded over with fear and tears streamed from them. He had savored her fear like a connoisseur does a fine wine, felt her trembling body through his muscles. Then he'd killed her. Right there in her own bed, across from her parents' room.
The pure pleasure he had experienced that night still rushed through him when he thought of it. Then anger would follow, knowing that it was his overconfidence in his abilities that led to his capture. He had thought of everything, leaving no fingerprints, no semen, and no evidence as to who had once again stolen a life out from under the nose of the little girl's parents as well as the FBI agents on his case. But he hadn't counted on the flowers crushed beneath his boots, smashing into the crevices in the soles. Who really thought of those things? Apparently someone had and they had come for him. They had come for him and thrown him in this godforsaken cell where he had spent the last fourteen years of his life. Appeals kept him out of the gas chamber until now and he sometimes wondered if it was worth it.
Snorting at his own musings he leaned over and pushed himself to his feet, moving over to the center of the floor. Kneeling down he began to do some push-ups, felt his muscles strain with the effort. There was an odd burning sensation in his left arm and he pushed harder, hoping to let the exercise work whatever it was out. As he counted under his breath he noticed an odd smell permeating his cell. It was sweet and tropical, cutting through the harsh odors of the prison.
He knew that smell.
She felt a soft breeze blow across her face, bringing with it the heady bouquet of night-blooming jasmine. It grew outside her room on a huge bush that crawled up past the roof, the thick scent filling the summer nights. Her window must be open. But she didn't open it. What? Opening her eyes she saw a shape looming above her, its eyes bright pinpoints in the dark. Her mouth formed a silent scream just before a hand clamped over it. Struggling against the restraint, she felt a heavy weight place itself on top of her and the dark shape coalesced into a man. He was lying on her now, his face a mask of glee and a hellish light dancing in his eyes. She knew that she was going to die. Terrified out of her mind, she writhed against his massive body but he barely noticed her efforts. She saw something bright glint in the corner of her eye and her gaze flicked over to it. A knife. Oh God. Mommy! Daddy! Please, help!! The blade arced in a swift graceful movement and she felt warmth spread across her throat. It took a moment for the pain to come and when it did she almost passed out. But her mind knew that she only had a few seconds of life left and fought to keep every one of them. Her lungs burst as she struggled for air, darkness creeping along the edges of her vision. The last thing she saw was the man's face, pleasure and triumph etched across it. Then everything went black.
Dr. Sycaroe smiled as he placed the lid back on the jar. Standing just outside Arnie Bunkwater's cell he stared down at the lifeless form on the floor, dark bruises forming on the inmate's thick neck, just under the Adam's apple. The serum had worked perfectly, absolutely perfectly. Turning on his heel he walked back towards the exit, dropping the jar in his hand into the wastebasket at the end. He pushed the buzzer on the wall next to the door, putting on a face of distress as the door slid open.
"Something's wrong with Bunkwater, I need you to let me in," he instructed the guard who had opened the door, his voice breathless as though he had rushed for help.
The two men ran back down the hall, their feet clapping on the concrete floor in their haste. Skidding to a halt in front of cell 16-A, the guard pulled out a mess of keys, fumbling for the correct one. Finding it, he opened the cell and allowed the doctor to enter first. Sycaroe knelt next to the downed inmate and felt for a pulse.
The guard stared in shock, wondering what could have possibly happened. There was no sign of injury except a thin bruise across Bunkwater's neck. The cell had been locked. Suicide? Harry Gibson had been a guard for eight years and he had never seen any suicide like this. He left the doctor in the cell and hurried back to his station to call the warden.
He never noticed the small jar in the trashcan labeled 'Scent of Jasmine'.
Scully quickened her pace, not wanting to be any more late than she already was. As she neared the office door she noticed that there was no light coming from beneath it. Mulder was usually here before she was. Even if they spent the night together they always made sure to arrive in different cars at separate times. It kept rumors to a minimum. Reaching the door, she turned the handle and let it swing open, the hinges squealing noisily.
The room was dark except for a bright light illuminating a square patch on the wall. A shiver ran down the female agent's spine and settled in her stomach. It was one of her worst fears come to life once again.
"Scully! About time you got here. I've got something to show you that's going to knock your socks off!"
With a groan Scully dropped her briefcase on her desk and slumped down in her chair. She covered her eyes with her hands and shook her head in denial. "I haven't even had a cup of coffee yet, Mulder, can't it wait?"
"Ah, how you underestimate me, Scully."
Suddenly a delicious aroma wafted up to her nose, the warm steam beckoning to her. Eyes popping open, Scully saw a large mug of rich brown coffee sitting in front of her. Glancing up and to the right where her partner was standing, she noticed a smug grin on his face. She couldn't help but return the smile as she picked up the hot cup and sipped gratefully, waving with her free hand to continue.
The first slide ratcheted into place, the bright light on the wall replaced by a washed out picture of a prison cell. There was a body lying in the center, designated as the resident of the cell by the bright orange jumper he was wearing.
"Two days ago Arnold Everett Bunkwater was found dead in his cell from what can only be described as asphyxiation and a heart attack. A bruised larynx is offered as evidence."
A close-up of the victim's head was displayed across the wall. Black and blue marks ringed the neck and his lips had a distinctly purple tinge.
"He was found by the prison doctor, who was the only visitor Bunkwater had that night. The fingerprints left on the body match those in Bunkwater's file. To all intents and purposes it appears that Arnie, as he was more commonly known, choked himself until he passed out. Whether the subsequent heart attack was a direct consequence of the choking or not is still in question."
"And this is an X-File because...." Scully trailed off, her eyebrows raised.
Mulder just smiled and pressed the button in his hand, the next slide portraying a black and white mugshot. The subject was a big man, at least six foot four and weighing two hundred and fifty pounds. He had a long scar on the right side of his face and black stubble gracing both his head and his jaw. His beady eyes stared out from overhanging brows and just above a crooked nose that spoke of repeated breakage.
"This handsome devil you see before you is Joshua Crane, better know as the Mississippi Mangler. He was found dead last week of a heart attack. An autopsy showed that his innards had been twisted up so badly that it was a miracle he could function at all."
"Mississippi Mangler, Scully. You remember what he did to his victims?" Mulder waited until realization dawned on her face. "Yup, he disemboweled them. Does his death seem coincidentally similar?"
"But he wasn't disemboweled, he had a heart attack."
"True, but the fact that his intestines looked like they had been pulled out and then stuffed back in by a first year medical student with one hand tied behind their back doesn't strike you as odd? Besides, I'm not done."
"This is Max Krokoff, who back in 1996 went up and down the West Coast raping and murdering young girls. What do you think killed him?"
Scully studied the grainy photograph. It showed a man lying on a concrete floor, his wide open eyes severely bloodshot and dried blood on his upper lip. "I would have to say an aneurysm."
"That's the first conclusion the ME came up with. There was swelling of the intercranial tissue and bleeding around the brain that could have been caused by an aneurysm or a heavy blow to the head. Odd thing is though, it wasn't what killed him."
"Let me guess, a heart attack."
"Bingo. Now try and guess how he killed his victims."
This time Scully's voice was tinged with interest. "He crushed their skulls?"
"Two for two, Scully." Mulder walked over to the light switch and flipped it on, then returned and powered off the slide projector. He moved around to sit at his desk, rifling through a mess of papers filed on top. "I was aware of the previous deaths through the news but the latest victim of this mysterious heart attack hasn't been announced to the press yet. Jackson Plover, an old colleague from VCS brought it to my attention early this morning and I knew it fit with the others."
"Why did he call you? Do they suspect someone is systematically killing off these criminals?" A spike of fear shot through her gut as she considered the implications. "Do they want you to profile the UNSUB?" Over the past several months the VCS had been asking far too much of the ex-profiler and Scully didn't think she could handle another foray into madness.
Mulder's tone was soft with understanding. "No, Scully, nothing so exciting. Jackson just thought I would like to know because I was the primary profiler on the original investigation that put Bunkwater behind bars. He keeps me apprised of any news regarding the scum I helped put away during my tenure with the ISU."
Scully relaxed slightly, relieved by the explanation. "So, since you believe this is an X-File, does that mean you don't think there is someone behind these deaths? That some*thing* is responsible?"
Mulder grinned. "Someone is definitely behind these deaths, of that I am certain. But the how is far more uncertain. Psychic projection perhaps or even vengeful spirits; I haven't exactly come up with a particular theory yet."
An eyebrow raised high and disappeared beneath some wayward strands of red. "You? No theory? That is definitely beyond the realm of believability."
He just gave her a dirty look. "We're heading to Virginia State Correctional Facility to talk with the doctor who discovered Bunkwater's body." He picked up his jacket from the back of his chair. "Let's go."
Scully shrugged, having learned after so many years together that she should always be prepared for sudden departures. She stood and grabbed her jacket as well, pulling it on as she headed towards the door Mulder held open for her. She paused when she reached his side. "Mulder, you still haven't told me how Arnold Bunkwater's death fits into this equation other than the heart attack."
A dark look crossed Mulder's face as his thoughts slid into the past. "He strangled seven nine year old girls in their own bedrooms while their parents slept."
Virginia State Correctional Facility
Their dress shoes slapped loudly on the hard floor of the prison hallways as they were led to the warden's office. Though the warden hadn't been thrilled with the idea of the FBI coming into his world and shaking it up to see if anything fell out, he was complacent enough to allow them to conduct their investigation. He had accepted their request to speak with him just before his break for lunch.
The guard who had shown them to the warden's door stopped and did an about-face that would make any military man proud. "The warden is expecting you."
Mulder reached over and turned the doorknob, letting the door open and dropping him arm. He let Scully enter first, never taking his eyes off the guard, waiting to see if the stiff man would snap a salute or not. He stared a moment longer before giving up and then followed his partner into the office.
Warden Harbrook was a slender man, easily considered underweight and his frame appeared almost scarecrow-like in the straight edges of his freshly pressed suit. He was seated behind a large mahogany desk, glasses reminiscent of the sixties perched on his nose as he went over some paperwork. The other furniture in the office was the same dark wood as the desk, giving the room a somber feeling, the only accent from a cold frame surrounding a certificate that proclaimed his authority.
Without looking up, the warden waved at two large leather chairs in front of his desks. "Please, sit down. I'll be with you in just a moment."
The agents moved into the room, automatically taking positions that mirrored their customary places in Skinner's office. They sat in the oversized chairs for several minutes until Mulder became restless and started drumming his fingers on the arm. He heard a quiet sigh of impatience from his partner and decided that they had been kept waiting long enough. Opening his mouth, he prepared to insist they get to business.
He didn't get the chance to utter a sound.
"Thank you for your patience, Agents, I'm afraid I had to finish some pressing business." Harbrook closed a folder in front of him and set it on a larger stack of similar files. "Now, I believe that you have come to discuss the death of Arnold Bunkwater?"
Mulder looked at Scully and her head inclined infinitesimally as a signal that the floor was his. "Thank you for seeing us on short notice, Warden. We'll try not to take up too much of your time and our investigation shouldn't hinder the operation of the prison as long as we have your cooperation."
Harbrook nodded sharply, his eyes glaring down his beaky nose so that he resembled the crows Mulder had imagined he should be scaring away. "I will allow you access to anywhere you need to go as long as a guard accompanies you. As a safety precaution of course."
"Of course." Mulder's tone implied what he thought of the warden's 'safety precaution'. "We'll try to keep you apprised of any developments in the case."
"I doubt there will be any developments at all. Bunkwater died from a heart attack, end of story. He deserved worse and I imagine the only one upset by his untimely death is his lawyer. But if you want to investigate a death that should have happened years ago, then be my guest." Harbrook stood, signaling the end of the meeting. He opened his office door to reveal the marine stiff guard who had brought them there earlier. "Guard Flores will take you where you want to go."
Mulder and Scully shared a glance, their minds on the same frequency. They silently agreed to discuss their observations later when there wasn't an audience. They pushed themselves out of the enormous chairs and moved out into the hallway they had so recently vacated. Mulder threw a contemptuous glare at the warden before quickly striding down the hallway, not caring whether the guard was with him or not. Scully tossed a hasty "Thank you" at Harbrook and hurried after her partner, the guard following at a more dignified if not less hasty pace.
Mulder was waiting for them just around the corner where his way down the next corridor was barred - literally. Flores pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket and unlocked the cell-like door. He allowed the FBI agents to pass through and then came after, locking the door behind him. "This way; Bunkwater was kept in 16-A." Flores pointed down the hallway on his left then followed his own directions. He led the agents to a heavy door just to the right of a guard station. A small placard above the door identified it as 'Death Row'.
The guards nodded at each other and Flores and his charges were buzzed through. Hoots and catcalls followed them as they walked down the cellblock. Mulder instinctively moved so that Scully was between him and the guard, as though his body could protect her from the leering inmates who would kill just to touch a woman again.
"Here it is."
Flores sure was a chatty fellow. Mulder stepped into the open cell and looked around, trying to get a sense of a man he had profiled more than a dozen years ago. In his peripheral vision he saw Scully step back to allow him to soak in the scene. She began to question their chaperone about the night of Arnie Bunkwater's death.
The cell was nothing special, nothing marked it as out of the ordinary. A bunk, a latrine, and a shelf containing Arnie's meager belongings. Turning in a slow circle, he imagined the last few moments of the convicted killer who had spent over a decade in this room. Most likely Arnie spent his dying minutes thinking about the girls he had taken away from their parents forever. Mulder closed his eyes and was taken back to the original case, pictures flashing across his closed eyelids as his perfect memory played back detailed scenes. Arnold Bunkwater was on the short list of suspects, matching the profile to a tee, but there was no evidence linking him to any of the crimes. Until he killed Janice Lopez. That was when Mulder noted that the flowers outside Janice's room had been crushed by large feet, the rich scent almost masking the smell of death. It was then that Mulder realized that such a powerful smell may have been ground into the killer's shoes. It was a long shot but it was enough to obtain a warrant to search every suspect's house and examine their shoes. Mulder wasn't there but he'd heard that Arnie didn't even deny it when he was arrested, simply smiled and let the FBI agents take him away.
Eyes popping open, Mulder turned to see Scully and the guard watching him. "Can we speak with Dr. Sycaroe?"
Flores nodded. "It's his lunchtime, he'll be in his office." Waiting until the agents had moved out of the cell, Flores shut the barred door and led them back down the row. They paused at the guard station for a moment as they waited to be buzzed through.
"Scully, you smell that?"
Scully looked up at her partner, a question on her face. "Smell what?"
Mulder's head turned left and right, bobbing slightly as he sniffed the air. "I don't know, it smells like flowers or potpourri or something."
Bemusement replaced confusion. "In a prison? On death row? Think they're doing some arts and crafts in their spare time?"
He gave her a reproachful look. "I know, it's just that... Never mind, must be my imagination, leftover from memory."
Scully's eyes squinted as she tried to make sense of his remark but was stopped from commenting on it when the guard cleared his throat. The two agents had been standing in the doorway for a while after it had been buzzed open.
Mulder shook his head and slid between Scully and the guard station, following Flores down the hallway with a look of concentration on his face. As Scully turned to go with them, a strange scent wafted up to her nose, reminding her of candles that Melissa had burned in their room when they were children. Shrugging it off as Mulder's influence, she proceeded after the two men.
Dr. Alan Sycaroe's Office
"Doctor Sycaroe, some FBI agents wish to speak with you."
Sycaroe's eyes widened slightly before he ducked his face to wipe his mouth on a cloth napkin. "Show them in please." He pushed back from his desk and stood as the pair of agents walked into his office. Holding out a hand he grasped the man's hand first and then the woman's. "Please forgive the mess," he indicated the plate of half-eaten ham and beans before him.
"No need to apologize, Doctor, we should apologize for interrupting your lunch. I'm Agent Scully and this is my partner, Agent Mulder. We'd like to ask you a few questions regarding the death of a prisoner."
"Yes, Arnie Bunkwater I assume. Please, have a seat. What would you like to know?"
"I understand that you were the one to discover the body. Can you tell us about that?"
Leaning back in his chair, Sycaroe rubbed at his chin in thought. "Well, I had just begun my rounds-"
"It said in our report that you found him at five-thirty in the morning, isn't that a bit early?" Mulder interjected.
Sycaroe shook his head. "Actually, no. This is a large facility and the day starts early. I usually get here at five to get things in order and then begin my rounds. I had just performed a physical on Bunkwater the night before and discovered an abnormal heart condition, which I treated with conventional methods. I wanted to see how he was doing after treatment."
"What kind of heart condition?" Scully sat forward in her seat, her eyes bright with interest.
"Unusually slow heart rate. I thought it might be indicative of deterioration of his cardiac tissues and wanted to run some more tests. Apparently I was too late. I found him in his cell, lying on the ground with his hands wrapped around his throat. I immediately contacted Harry, the guard on duty, and he opened the cell so I could try to revive him. After several minutes of CPR I deemed it impossible to bring him back and called the time of death."
"Did you notice anything odd when you went into his cell?" Mulder asked.
Sycaroe's eyebrows raised. "Odd? Like what?"
"A strange smell, something out of place here."
Scully shot her partner a surprised look and so she missed the fear that flashed across the doctor's face. Mulder hadn't though.
Without waiting for an answer he stood and offered his hand to Sycaroe. "Thank you, Doctor. We've taken up enough of your time. One last thing - is Bunkwater's body available for an autopsy?"
The doctor stood as well, taking Mulder's outstretched hand and shaking it firmly. "Yes, it's downstairs in the morgue. I'm sorry I couldn't give you any more information."
Mulder just gave him an enigmatic smile.
Virginia State Correctional Facility Morgue
It wasn't until they were alone in the morgue that Mulder felt it was safe to talk. Flores had fled to the outer room when Scully made the first incision in Bunkwater's chest.
"Dr. Sycaroe is definitely involved."
"Why do you say that? And what was with that question about an odd smell?"
Mulder went on to describe to Scully how Bunkwater had been caught all those years before and how the smell he'd noticed earlier reminded him of the crushed flowers on the killer's shoes.
Now Mulder's previous comment about 'leftover from memory' made sense but it still didn't explain his logic. "What does that have to do with Dr. Sycaroe?"
"He is hiding something, I know it."
"Mulder, these inmates died of heart attacks, that much is obvious from the autopsy reports of the first two inmates. There are ways to cause heart attacks with the right drugs and I'm not saying that they weren't murdered, it's just that there isn't any evidence of paranormal causes. Perhaps someone is exacting revenge and everyone else is turning a blind eye because the victims were convicted killers."
"You mean Warden Harbrook?"
"You have to admit that he wasn't exactly worried about the idea that Bunkwater might have been murdered. He was rather emphatic about the fact that it should have happened a long time ago. All the victims were on death row for years, their sentences being prolonged by appeals. Maybe someone just decided to cut through all the red tape."
Mulder licked his lips, his mind processing this idea. "Perhaps. But there is something more to this. Those men didn't just die of heart attacks, there was also secondary trauma to each one that can't be explained."
Scully put down her scalpel. "Do you have a theory now?"
"I've got one forming but I'm going to need to do some snooping around first. I'm going to have the boys do a background check on the good doctor, see what turns up. I don't think we're gonna need to visit the other two prisons where the previous deaths occurred; talking to the prison doctors should be enough." Flipping open his cell phone, Mulder punched in some numbers.
Scully just nodded and turned back to her work, letting her partner's voice drift into the background.
Virginia State Correctional Facility Infirmary
"You know who that was, Doc?"
"The FBI guy. You know who that was?"
Sycaroe shined the light into Darryl's left eye and the prisoner blinked.
"That was Fox Mulder. You know, Doc, the profiler who put half of us in here. C'mon, you musta heard about him."
Looking up from his instruments, Dr. Sycaroe frowned at the inmate before him. "You mean to tell me that the agent who was just here is the one that you all curse constantly?"
Darryl looked smug, as though his knowledge somehow made him important. "Yup. Pretty little partner he's got. Wonder if they hump like bunnies?"
Ignoring the prisoner's crude comment, Sycaroe proceeded with his examination. "I seem to remember someone saying that the reason he caught so many killers was because he could think like one. Why's that?"
"Johnny Dunlap said that the guy killed his own sister back when they were kids. Hid the body where it couldn't be found."
"Johnny Dunlap is insane."
"Yeah, but he didn't make this up. He spent a couple of years in Lorton a while back and there was this guy there who used to work with Mulder. Bob Patterson or something. Anyhow, the guy said that Mulder was so good at what he did 'cause he thought like a killer, had the experience if you know what I mean. Wouldn't surprise me; most cops are crooked."
The conversation ended with the exam and when Darryl Covington left the room he immediately forgot about it. But Dr. Sycaroe didn't.
"Mmm-hmm, yeah, I got it," Mulder mumbled into the phone as he scribbled something on a piece of paper he had scrounged off his cluttered desk.
Scully moved over from examining the lone survivor in the fish tank to see what he had written. 'Institute of Neurological Studies - Dr. Hanson' was scrawled almost illegibly on the notepaper. It was a good thing she had plenty of practice reading doctors' writing or she may never have been able to make sense of her partner's notes through the years.
Mulder was nodding now, not the agreeing type of nod but the one that indicates you just want the other person to shut up so you can get on with your life. "Yeah, Frohike I'll tell her. No, I don't think... Frohike!!" Throwing a look over his shoulder at Scully he growled something harsh into the receiver, too low for her to hear. Finally he hung up and flopped down on the couch with a sigh. "Sometimes I wonder about that little mole."
Scully raised an eyebrow, afraid to ask.
"Oh, nothing, he just sends his undying love." The frown that crossed Mulder's face implied that more was said but, knowing Frohike, was too inappropriate to be repeated.
Dana couldn't help the smile that emerged. "He's got a good heart, I hope you weren't too hard on him." His own eyebrows raised in reply so she moved on. "Well, how is the INS involved?"
For a second, confusion clouded Mulder's eyes at the use of an acronym that seemed out of context but soon recognition dawned. "Dr. Sycaroe used to work for the Institute. Spent several years there trying to develop a drug that would improve neurological functions in impaired patients. His partner, a Doctor Hanson, is still there."
"Why would Sycaroe leave such a highly regarded position at the forefront of neurological research to be a prison doctor?"
Scully snorted. "Not likely. Perhaps he just got too burned out on the high level of stress to produce results. It wouldn't be the first time a physician took a sabbatical in a different field."
Pursing his lips, Mulder considered her suggestion. "Or maybe he reached a point in his research where he needed human subjects and was too impatient to wait for approval. Are you sure you didn't find anything unusual in Bunkwater's autopsy?"
"Nothing, just an elevated level of adrenaline and traces of norepenephrine, which Sycaroe said he'd given Bunkwater for his heart." Her brows furrowed slightly as she thought back through her findings.
Knowing that look, Mulder nudged her. "There's something else."
"Well, there is one thing. As far as I can tell, there was absolutely nothing wrong with his heart. It's like he suddenly had a heart attack for no reason at all."
"Maybe he was scared to death."
Scully's head drew back and she cast he partner a puzzled look. "Why would you say that?"
"If you thought you were being choked to death, you'd be pretty scared too." Mulder reasoned.
Silence reigned for a moment. "Are you saying that you think this is related to Augustus Cole, who you claim could create vision in other people's heads? He's dead and so are all the other men in his unit whose sleep patterns were altered."
"No, I don't think it has anything to do with sleep deprived soldiers but that case does prove that a person can die from fright if he truly believes he is dying. Psychosomatic death isn't that far-fetched anymore." Pushing himself up off the couch and moving into the kitchen, Mulder continued his line of reasoning. "Arnie killed his victims by strangulation. Wouldn't it be the ultimate revenge to have him die the same way he killed?"
Having followed her partner to the kitchen, Scully lounged against the doorframe and watched him rummage through the refrigerator. "It still begs the question of who is behind this, if anyone."
Pulling his head out of the fridge with two beers in one hand, he flashed her a grin. "That's why we're going to pay Dr. Sycaroe's ex-partner a visit tomorrow." Reaching up to a cupboard above the sink, Mulder selected a large bowl and held it out to Scully. "Now, you make the popcorn, it's my turn to pick the movie."
With a theatrical groan, Scully accepted the proffered bowl and proceeded to make the popcorn, shouting over her shoulder to Mulder, "Don't you dare pick anything with aliens in it, I'd had enough of them to last me a lifetime!"
Laughter drifted back from the living room.
Feeling the blood pumping through his body and the crisp morning air burn in his lungs was a joyous reminder of how good it was to be healthy. After so many trips to the hospital this past year, it had taken Mulder a long time to gain his stamina back. He still wasn't back to one hundred percent but he was determined to get there in record time. Pushing himself a little harder, he increased his pace and rounded the last corner that led to his apartment building. Slowing his jog as he made it up to the front door, he came to a stop and put his hands on his knees, breathing deeply.
Putting out a hand to open the door, he felt a heavy blow to the back of his head. The next thing he knew he was on the ground, his cheek scraping against the concrete. A deep voice growled in his ear, "Where's yer wallet??" The stench of alcohol wafted from his attacker's mouth and Mulder squirmed beneath the iron grip pinning him to the ground. Rough hands patted him down, presumably searching for anything of value. A sharp pain suddenly shot up his arm from just below his shoulder and he had to swallow a groan. Then the pressure holding him down was gone and he could hear feet running off into the distance.
Rolling over to lay on his back, Mulder took a moment to regain his senses. Slowly drawing himself into a sitting position, he used the wall to support himself as he stood. He stared out across the lawn, looking in all directions but there wasn't a soul in sight, no sign of the mugger or even a witness. Turning back to enter his building, he muttered, "Figures. Why me?"
Careful of the pounding in his head, he made his way up to his apartment, unlocking the door to be greeted by the warm rich scent of coffee. Scully's cheerful voice came from the kitchen. "Did you have a good run?"
"I wouldn't go as far as to describe it as good," he groused as he moved to sit gingerly at the dining room table.
Scully appeared in the doorway with two cups of steaming coffee in her hand, a look of worried surprise on her face. "Mulder! What happened??"
Wiping at the blood running from the scrapes on his cheek, he angrily answered, "Damn mugger knocked me down and tried to steal my wallet. Good thing all I carry with me when I jog is my ID."
Judging from his temperament that he wasn't seriously injured, Scully set down the coffee in front of him and then took his face in her hands, turning him so she could look at the abrasion. "Did you get a good look at him?"
"No, he got away before I had a chance. I should have gone after him." He flinched as she gently probed his head from signs of trauma.
"Unarmed and with a lump the size of an egg on the back of your head? That would have been foolhardy. Track my finger."
Following her commands they both went through the well-rehearsed process of judging whether he had a concussion or not. "Well, it looks like you came away with nothing but a bruised face and pride."
"Don't forget a king-sized headache." Mulder didn't mention the burning in his right shoulder, assuming it was just a bruised muscle.
"I can always take you to the hospital if you think it's worse," Scully offered sweetly.
Panic flashed across Mulder's face. "No, no, that's okay. I think I've had enough of hospitals. Let's just forget about it and get ready. We don't want to miss our appointment with Dr. Hanson."
Institute of Neurological Studies
Dr. Hanson's Laboratory
"Are you my nine o'clock appointment?"
Dr. Hanson was a tall reedy man with thick glasses and shaggy hair that had to be constantly brushed out of his eyes. His hands were constantly in motion, reminding Scully of her partner when his mind was racing far past that of the common man. She smiled inwardly as she answered, "Yes. We're Agents Scully and Mulder with the FBI. We would like to ask you some questions about your work and about your previous partner."
A pair of bushy eyebrows disappeared under the mop of hair as he shook their hands. "Alan? Is he in some sort of trouble?"
"Can you tell us what you two were working on while he was here?" Mulder deflected quickly.
"We were working on enhancing the brain functions of subjects by 'borrowing' neuroelectrical impulses from others. Where you could teach something to one person and then simply transfer it to another without having to go through the same arduous steps. By copying the impulses of one subject, I can put them in another subject who was previously unable to perform the same impulses. My original thesis of transferring intelligence is quite simple actually, the implications obvious for the mentally impaired or those with learning disabilities. A child who cannot feed or dress themselves due to neurological problems might be 'taught' how to do so with a simple injection of neuroelectrical impulses from a child who can."
Mulder looked at his partner for a translation. She was staring at Dr. Hanson with a look of astonishment on her face. "You mean you can take *memories* from one person and put them in another?"
The doctor nodded excitedly. "To date I have made successful transfers of neuroelectrical impulses in lab rats. My finding shows that the rats respond more to certain memories than to others. These would be things like your first date, your first kiss, or your first car accident; events or traumas in our lives that are so powerful that they are unforgettable. In the past 3 years I've..."
Mulder interrupted with something akin to suspicion, "So you've really transferred memory."
Hanson shrugged. "Well in lab rats at least. Not the most advanced brains I admit but a good jumping off point."
Hanson walked over to a small cage and pulled a gray and black striped cat from the container. "It's easier if I just show you." Next the doctor moved over to a large table that took up a good percentage of the room. A maze was built on top of the table, its walls approximately a foot high and no ceiling to allow spectators from above. Attached to one end of the table was a small box with a sliding door that opened into the maze. Next to this small box was a larger one exactly like it. It was in this box that Hanson placed the cat, petting it and making soothing noises. In the smaller box he put a large white rat that he had extricated from one of the many cages along the wall of the laboratory. Then he opened the door to the small box, allowing the rodent entrance into the maze. After a moment he did the same for the cat.
In an instant the cat sprang after the rat, who squeaked in fear and bolted through the maze, navigating the corridors at a frantic pace. Only making one small mistake, the rat reached the end of the maze in seconds, evading its pursuer. Hanson scooped up the tiny animal, scratching its small body. "Neuropeptides mediate memory storage and retrieval in your brain. In theory a person's thoughts and memories are contained in the cerebral spinal fluid but if you injected CSF you wouldn't see a thing because there's no primer, no starter. I started thinking about neuroactive drugs like norepenephrine and adrenaline."
Scully was nodding in understanding as the doctor returned the rat to its cage. "Because they increase the brain's sensitivity during memory retrieval, so hence, your starter."
"Right." He walked to a long counter and picked up a vial from a tray containing countless others. "This is it, my transfer formula; it's a combination of norepinephrine, a GABA inhibitor and a few other things." Drawing liquid from the vial with a large needle, Hanson went to a different cage on the other side of the room as the others and pulled out another rat. With no further ado he plunged the needle into this new rat. Mulder flinched in sympathy, rubbing his sore arm absently.
"When injected, the brain experiences the new memory impulses as if they were it's own. But for these impulses to be triggered they require outside stimulants such as a sight or sound that's familiar to the other brain's memory. This is a rat that has never been in the maze you just saw." Another vial from the table was retrieved and injected with similar efficiency as before. "This is the CSF of a rat who is familiar with the maze. By injecting this CSF into this rat he should be able to run this maze perfectly. The cat is the outside stimulus, to make the memory more vivid." Hanson returned to the table maze and put the rat in the small box, performing the same demonstration as before. The FBI watched in amazement as the rat ran the maze perfectly.
"It has an eighty percent success rate," Hanson beamed.
Mulder stared at the rat, safe in its enclosure at the end of the maze. "When do you start human trials?"
"That's a long way off." Hanson replaced both feline and rodent in their respective cages.
"Well, there are a few complications, not to mention about six years worth of paperwork." The doctor grimaced at this.
"What kind of complications?" Scully asked.
"The norepenephrine stimulates the heart. The heart rate and blood pressure of all the rats increased and unfortunately thirty percent of them..."
"Have heart attacks," Mulder finished.
Hanson shrugged. " I can't reduce the dosage and anything that would inhibit the side effect would also inhibit the retrieval."
Scully was staring at the maze as though she was imagining the rat racing through its course once again. She looked up, her eyes clouded with thought. "What about nitroglycerin?"
Hanson nodded. "I'd thought of that but while it might solve the short term problems, it would still run the risk of long term damage to the heart."
Mulder pinned the scientist with a sharp gaze. "And Doctor Sycaroe was involved in all processes of the development of this drug?"
"Yes, in fact Alan was instrumental in us reaching this point in the experiment. It was a shame that he left but he was so devastated by the loss of his daughter that he was no longer interested in his science."
Scully could feel her partner tense from across the room. "What happened to his daughter?"
Hanson lowered his voice, whether to show respect for the subject or whether he felt the need to act conspiratorially, Mulder wasn't sure, but he listened with great interest. "You remember that serial killer about a year ago that was killing children up and down the eastern seaboard? Well, Alan's poor little girl Leanna was one of his last victims before he was caught. The man nearly went mad with grief. What a shame," he repeated with a sigh.
Scully shuddered and looked up at her partner, whose eyes were dark with emotion. Putting a hand on his arm, she turned to the scientist. "Thank you, Dr. Hanson, you've been very helpful. I wish you luck in your valiant endeavor."
Hanson smiled. "No problem. If there's anything more I can do, feel free to call me."
Guiding Mulder out of the laboratory, Scully let go of him and let him sag back against the hallway. "Mulder. Earth to Mulder."
Shaking his head as if to clear it, Mulder flinched as his headache flared back to life. "Hmm? What?"
"What were you just thinking right then?"
"Oh, I was thinking about Arthur Stark."
"The Midnight Killer. He was the one who killed Leanna Sycaroe. You and I were working on the religious killings case with Kenny when they caught him. I remember hearing about it on the news when I had the TV on for noise. I didn't realize she was related to our Dr. Sycaroe." Looking down at his hands he murmured, "Wish there was something I could have done."
Scully grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a shake. "Mulder, don't even think about blaming yourself! You were a little preoccupied at the time and another case certainly would not have gone over well. Besides, they caught him and now he's behind bars where he belongs."
"Actually, no. He was on death row with a whole slew of appeals lined up to go but he died of a heart attack a month and a half ago. I hadn't included him in my list of victims because he was a perfect candidate for a heart attack," he muttered, thinking of the mugshots of an overweight man with teeth yellowed by tobacco.
They began walking down the hallway, their dress shoes loud on the slick floors. "I bet the parents of those kids Stark killed were angry and hurt by the seemingly blind justice system."
Mulder looked pointedly down at his partner. "Angry enough to take matters into their own hands."
"I think we just found our motive." Scully pushed open the large entrance door and stepped out into the bright sunlight, putting a hand up to her eyes.
"Now all we need is a weap- Aaaggh!!" Mulder's sentence was cut off by a strangled cry as he suddenly fell to his knees, his hands flying up to his head.
For a moment Scully was taken back several years to a time when she and her partner had been in a similar situation after he'd had a hole drilled in his head. But that was too long ago to be the same thing. Unless the recent blow to his head might have triggered it.
"Mulder?? Mulder, can you hear me?" She knelt next to him, putting one hand on his shoulder and the other on the side of his face. His eyes were wide open as though he was staring at something in utter terror.
All of a sudden he sprang to his feet. "Noooo!" he cried out, taking a few stumbling steps before falling back to the ground, his palms flat on the pavement.
Scully ran to him, bending down to his level. His breathing was ragged and perspiration spotted his brow. Placing two fingers on his neck she felt the thrumming of his pulse as it raced through his body. His eyes no longer seemed to see something unearthly but they hadn't lost the fear that had so startled her. "Mulder, what happened?"
Leaning back on his haunches as he took in huge gulps of air, it took him long moments before he answered. "I... I'm not sure, but I think I just witnessed Samantha's abduction."
Scully's brows knitted together. "You had a flashback?"
This time Mulder's answer was quicker in coming. "No. Well, yes, maybe, oh I don't know. I had a flashback but it wasn't like any I've ever had."
Concern was thick in her voice when Scully asked, "What do you mean?"
"I saw Sam's abduction as if it were through her own eyes."
George Washington Memorial Hospital
She lay flat against the table, her arms pinned to her sides and her legs strapped down about a foot apart. Above she could see a large cylindrical machine, something sharp protruding from the end facing her. As the machine began to move closer and closer she struggled against her bonds, crying out for help. Tossing her head side to side all she saw was darkness as though the entire world had disappeared except for the circle of light that enveloped her.
Tears began to stream down her face as she realized that no one was coming to help her, no one could hear her cries.
The machine came closer and closer, the sharp drill-like projection spinning faster and faster. Closing her eyes as if that could somehow stop this nightmare, she tried to think of good things, happy thoughts that would put her in a safe place. When the drill pierced her skin she screamed out the name of someone she had always trusted to come to her.
"Get him out of there right now!" Scully ordered the nurse. Spinning on her heel she ran out the door of the control room and burst into the MRI lab where her partner was slowly emerging from the scanner. His body was trembling as though from fright and his breathing was coming in harsh gasps. Occasionally a hoarse whimper emerged from a throat raw from a desperate cry for help.
Scully didn't know what was going on but she was beginning to suspect that Mulder's devastating flashbacks had something to do with Dr. Sycaroe and his miracle memory drug. The how was going to have to wait until she got a handle on Mulder's condition.
They had arrived at the hospital about an hour ago and met with Dr. Kurtz, who was familiar with Mulder's background from previous visits. Promptly running about every test imaginable from tox screens to x-rays, it wasn't until the MRI scan that Mulder had another episode. He had started to struggle against the bonds that kept him in place during the scan and then had suddenly called out his own name in an anguished cry. Quickly surmising what was going on, Scully had the operator shut down the scanner and rushed to her partner's side.
Pushing back damp hair from his sweaty forehead, she murmured softly, "Mulder?" When it was apparent that he was fairly lucid, she continued. "What happened? What did you see?"
His Adam's apple bobbed twice as he swallowed. "Tests. They were performing tests on her and she called out for me. I couldn't save her, Scully." This last was uttered in despair.
"Mulder, you did everything you could to find her and now she is in a better place. There is no need for you to feel guilty about something you had no power to fight against."
"I know but before I could at least imagine that she wasn't so completely frightened, that the tests weren't too painful." He turned bright eyes to stare up at Scully. "But now I know she was absolutely terrified."
"Maybe not. If what you saw was real, then it was simply a memory, not what she felt but what she saw."
He was shaking his head as she spoke. "It wasn't like memory, it was like an experience. It makes the past into the present as if you're really there. I know how scared she was."
"Because *I* was terrified."
"I can't. This damn gown flaps in the back and it's a bit chilly in here."
"Personally I don't mind the flapping."
Scully chuckled at the sight of her partner clutching at the back of his hospital gown. The sound of a door opening interrupted their banter and they both straightened to attention.
"I have good news," Dr. Kurtz announced. The MRI came back clean; there's no sign of any kind of damage. The blow to the head was superficial and there appears to be only a slight swelling. The EKG came back normal as did the tox screens."
"What about his heart?" Scully asked, trying to find a link to the effects Dr. Hanson had mentioned showed up in his rats.
Kurtz checked the clipboard in his hand, leafing through the test results. "No bruits, regular rate and rhythm. No murmurs, rubs or extra heart sounds and the lungs are clear. The only thing that might point to an answer is a raised level of adrenaline. Have you been under a lot of stress lately, Agent Mulder?"
Mulder just grunted.
Scully pursed her lips, thinking back on the past several months. Stress? What stress? She almost laughed out loud at the thought. "Dr. Kurtz, Agent Mulder has been in stressful situations before and never had these....episodes. They seem completely random as though it was an external stimulant that caused them, not an internal one."
Scully turned to look at her partner, who was staring at her with realization dawning in his eyes. "A trigger, something that is reminiscent of the memories I'm flashing back to. Like a bright light or being strapped down while a big machine hovers over me."
"Is there something wrong with your arm?"
Kurtz's question caught him off guard and Mulder actually had to look down at his own shoulder. He hadn't even realized he'd been rubbing it. "Not really. It just burns a little. I think I bruised it when I got mugged this morning."
"Let's have a look." Dr. Kurtz pulled up a chair and sat down next to the agent. Pushing up the gown sleeve to look at the spot Mulder indicated. "Oh, one of the nurses must have pushed the needle a tad too far, it appears they bruised the muscle. I'll have a word with them about it."
Scully nodded absently, her mind focused on the puzzle that was starting to fall into place.
En Route to Mulder's Apartment
"Mulder, we are not going to the prison. You need to rest and stay in a place that is familiar so there won't be any stimuli to trigger another episode."
"Scully, holing up in my apartment isn't going to help and sleep certainly won't either. We have to see Dr. Sycaroe and find out how to stop this."
"You have no conclusive proof that he did anything."
"Yes I do. Scully, this morning when I was mugged I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder, like something had stabbed me. Don't give me that look! I didn't tell you because I didn't see any obvious damage and just figured it was a bruise."
"Dr. Kurtz says it was an injection site and that one of the nurses was careless."
"He was half right. It was an injection site all right but not from one of the nurses. I pay close attention when people are poking me with needles and I remember very clearly that they never came near my right arm with a needle. They took everything from my left arm."
Scully licked her lips as she considered his words. "I'm not saying I don't think you've been injected with the memory drug, since there is a lot of evidence pointing towards it."
"But if you really had been injected with the same drug as the prisoners, then why aren't you dead?"
"I'd thought of that. The rats had heart problems, right? Well, they had been injected repeatedly and their hearts are much smaller than ours, so isn't it conceivable that what might cause a heart attack in them may only cause a racing heart in a human?"
Scully nodded. "I suppose, but those prisoners *did* die from heart attacks."
"But not from the drug," Mulder insisted. "Think about it. Suddenly you have a flashback to someone trying to kill you and there is nothing you can do to stop them because you already know that you're going to die. That would certainly qualify as a frightening experience and combined with a racing heartbeat could lead to a heart attack."
"That's all fine and dandy, but it still doesn't explain why you haven't had a heart attack," Scully pointed out.
"You seem awfully stuck on the fact that I should be dead. Something you're trying to tell me?" Mulder smirked evilly.
Scully frowned. "Don't even joke about that, Mulder. You know what I'm getting at."
"Unlike the others, I didn't kill the person who I'm flashing back to. She was abducted by aliens and experimented on but they didn't kill her. Add to that the fact that I've spent the last thirty years looking for her and delving into what she may have experienced, that I've become sort of immune to the horrific aspects of it. In other words, I couldn't be scared to death because I knew that she lived through it."
"But you said yourself that you were terrified," Scully reminded him.
"Yes, but not because I thought I was going to die. I was experiencing the fear she felt at the time but I was able to counter it with the knowledge that it wasn't going to kill me. Her. Whatever."
Scully's lips tightened into a thin line. "So you want to confront Sycaroe and ask why he's doing this."
"Oh, I know why he's doing it. His daughter was taken away from him by a monster and the justice system that was supposed to give him peace by destroying that monster has failed him. He's taking justice into his own hands and giving the killers a taste of their own medicine so to speak. I can't say that I blame him."
Scully shot him a surprised look.
"I'm not saying he's right to do what he's doing, but it doesn't mean I don't agree with him."
They drove on in silence for a while. When the exit came up that would take them to the prison instead of Mulder's apartment, Scully took it. "Mulder, why would Sycaroe think your sister's memories would kill you?"
"It's not that I'm wondering about. What I want to know is *where* he got Sam's memories."
Virginia State Correctional Facility
Without waiting for Harbrook's permission, the two FBI agents went straight to Sycaroe's office, ignoring the guards' protests with a wave of their badges. Not finding the doctor there, they moved on to the infirmary.
In the middle of giving an inmate his yearly exam, Dr. Sycaroe was unprepared for an interruption.
"Yes, what is it?" he asked impatiently, no even looking up from the chart he was busily writing on.
"Dr. Sycaroe, might we have a word with you." It wasn't a question.
Finally raising his head to see what impudent guard was bothering him, Sycaroe was surprised to find two federal agents staring back at him. Despite the fact that one of them was supposed to be dead, he hadn't planned on seeing either of them ever again.
"Oh, um, yes, certainly. Let me just finish up with Mr. Dumas here and I'll be right with you."
Mulder and Scully stood patiently, never letting the doctor out of their sight. He finished examining the inmate named Dumas, jotted down a few more notes and sent the man on his way. It was then that he turned to the pair of agents and cleared his throat. "All right, now, what did you want to speak with me about?"
"Perhaps we should discuss it in a more private location?" Scully suggested.
"How about my office?" Sycaroe held out a hand and gestured to the door.
"Lead the way." There was no way Mulder was going to turn his back on this man.
Sycaroe nodded, his face expressionless. "Certainly."
The trio filed down the hallways, eerily absent of other people. If Mulder was a superstitious man, he might have felt as though the prison itself was conspiring against them. Which meant that Mulder did indeed feel as though there were unseen eyes watching them.
Reaching the doctor's office, Sycaroe entered first, moving to sit at his desk. Folding his hands on the wooden surface, he waited expectantly.
Mulder decided to get straight to the point. "Dr. Sycaroe, we know that you're responsible for the death of at least four inmates."
Instead of surprise or remorse, the doctor simply raised his eyebrows and cocked his head as though he was confused. "And how do you believe that I killed them?"
Scully spoke up. "With an experimental drug you and your partner Dr. Hanson developed at INS. You implanted the inmates with memories from their victims and they died because of it."
Sycaroe neither confirmed nor denied the accusation. "Why should you care whether or not someone killed them? Those men were monsters who deserved much worse than they got. They were all on death row, why would it matter *when* they die?"
Mulder spoke in a low and soothing tone. "I know what it is like to lose a loved one, Dr. Sycaroe. The anger at the person who took them away, the need to bring swift justice with your own hand. But this isn't the way."
"You?? You lost someone? Ha! I know all about your sister, Agent Mulder. About how you killed her and buried her somewhere she'd never be found. You think that no one knows? Well they do! Your own peers have betrayed you to me! It takes a killer to catch a killer, Agent Mulder." Sycaroe's voice had grown in intensity as his rage increased. Suddenly he sprang from his seat and started pacing back and forth behind his desk.
Neither agent moved to stop him, knowing that the man was lost in his own mind, words pouring out of his mouth without conscious thought. It was a confession they were waiting for. The only movement taken was by Scully, who placed a hand on Mulder's arm when Sycaroe accused him of killing his sister. She knew it was still a tear in her partner's heart and she offered what small comfort she could.
"Arthur Stark killed my little girl! He killed my precious baby, the only person I had left who meant anything to me! All I had left was my anger and my work, my research and my vengeance. The longer I waited for justice the more I realized it was futile, that there is no justice. I wanted that monster to know exactly how my Leanna felt when he killed her and if felt so good to see the fear in his eyes when he knew that he was going to die. But why stop there? Why not let all the other baby butchers die by their own hands??"
"No matter how many of them you bring to your form of justice the pain will not go away. I spent almost thirty years searching for answers about my sister and when I finally discovered the truth I felt as empty as ever. Nothing will bring her back." Mulder held out his hands as if to appease the tortured soul he saw before him.
Confusion warred with anger and a flash of doubt crossed Sycaroe's face. "NO!!" he screamed, his hand lashing out at the closest thing to him, which happened to be a tall lamp near the window. The lamp crashed through the glass, sending shards out onto the yards below and shafts of light streamed into the room.
The loud noise and sudden burst of light may have been simply the shattering of a prison window but for one occupant of the room it was a window into the past.
She couldn't move as the light enveloped her, holding her body aloft. The only part of her that still seemed to obey her mind was her voice, crying out for her brother. She could see Fox scrambling across the room towards the large bookcase where Daddy kept the old books they weren't allowed to touch. He climbed up on a chair and reached for a small lock box on top of the bookcase. His fingers barely brushed it but it was enough to send the box careening off onto the floor, spilling its contents over the carpeting.
She watched her brother pick up the gun that had been hidden in the box, her mind dimly wondering how he knew it was there. He pointed the gun into the light and the clicking of the trigger was heard over the droning noise that permeated everything. He called out to her with such desperation that she knew there was no hope.
"Help me, Fox!"
Sycaroe watched as Mulder fell to his knees, his hands moving up to his face as a flashback overcame him. He trembled and shook as though experiencing some sort of seizure. Scully was next to him in seconds, one hand on his arm, the other on his back.
"Mulder, can you hear me?"
There was no response but he did lower his hands to reveal wide eyes staring into nothingness. Suddenly his arms stretched out as though reaching for someone and he cried, "Help me, Fox!"
Mulder doubled over, one hand braced against the floor, the other moving up to be placed on his chest as he sucked in deep breaths. Harsh words were pushed out between each gasp and Scully had to listen hard to understand them.
"I tried, I tried so hard and I couldn't save her. There was nothing I could do."
"Shh, it's okay." Scully's hand moved in circular motions on his back, trying to calm him. "Take it easy, long and slow breaths."
Sycaroe, seemingly forgotten in the corner of his office brought back reality with a strangled sob. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, I though you... I almost killed an innocent person. I would have been no better than the monsters I loathe. I've become that which I despise."
Mulder and Scully looked up to see Sycaroe shaking his head in disbelief. "No," Mulder said hoarsely. Coughing once to clear his throat he stood up with Scully's support. "No, you are not like them because you did what you thought was needed to uphold your value of life. Those men cared not for whose life they destroyed or what kind of grief their actions brought."
Sycaroe appeared to be slowly accepting Mulder's words, his gaze intense upon the agent's face. "I didn't know what to do, I was so angry. I had the means to bring to those men the same fear that they had wrought upon others. Power without knowledge is dangerous."
"How did you get admittance into the prisons where the other inmates were held?" Scully asked.
"With documentation provided by the Warden I was able to enter the other prisons and inject the prisoners under the pretense of doing blood tests so transfusions would be easily procured between facilities."
"Harbrook? You mean Warden Harbrook is involved?"
Sycaroe opened his mouth to reply but his answer was drowned out by a gunshot and then the doctor was on the floor, blood pouring from a hole in his chest, his dead eyes wide with shock.
The agents turned to see the Warden standing in the doorway, a smoking gun in his hand. At the moment the weapon was currently pointed directly at them. "Damn Doctor never could quit his whining. Too bad, his was a most promising intellect."
"You'll never get away with this," Mulder protested.
Peals of laughter poured from Harbrook's lips. "How cliché, Agent Mulder. And how naïve. Imagine my horror when I arrived moments after I heard several gunshots to find that Dr. Sycaroe had killed two FBI agents and then shot himself because he could no longer live with the death of his daughter."
"And you, with Sycaroe's drug, will be free to administer your version of justice to anyone you believe deserves it. How far will you go? How long will it take before you decide that your neighbor complains too much and needs to be taught a lesson? Or a woman turns down your advances and you want to punish her for dealing a blow to your manhood?"
"It doesn't matter. No one will ever know because all the deaths will look like heart attacks. Too bad yours won't be as clean." Harbrook raised the gun and leveled it at Mulder's head.
A shot echoed down the hallways and Harbrook fell forward, a bullet in his shoulder. Scully lunged forward and scooped up the gun that had fallen from the warden's grasp. Mulder moved just as quickly, pulling the man's hands behind him and cuffing them securely. His phone was out moments later, calling for an ambulance and the police. He nodded to the figure in the doorway, who was holstering his own weapon.
Scully stood, holding out Harbrook's gun. "Thank you."
Guard Flores inclined his head in a solemn bow. "Don't mention it."
Federal Bureau of Investigation
"Frohike, I swear, if you say one more word..." The threatening tone in Mulder's voice was enough to warn Scully that the Lone Gunman was once again professing his undying love for her. Ah, one of the few constants in life.
"Well, what did he have to say?" she asked when Mulder hung up the phone.
Pursing his lips, Mulder leaned back in his chair. "You'll never guess who funded Sycaroe's work; our favorite cover pharmaceutical company, Roush."
Scully perched herself on the edge of Mulder's desk and handed him a steaming cup of coffee. "I suppose that explains where he got your sister's DNA."
"Had any more flashbacks since last night?"
"No. Hanson did say they would fade as the drug left my system."
After arresting Warden Harbrook for murder and accomplice to four other counts of murder, the agents had gone to see Dr. Hanson for answers regarding Mulder's condition. The doctor, while saddened by the death of his ex-partner, was thrilled to know that the drug was effective in humans. He'd explained to them that the drug would be gone in a few more hours, whether absorbed by his body or expelled through his waste.
"Something good did come from this whole fiasco."
Scully raised an eyebrow.
When I had that flashback in Sycaroe's office yesterday, I felt what Sam felt when she was being abducted. She was so scared and she wanted me to help her. I couldn't."
Lowering her hand to take his in her own, Scully murmured, "Mulder..."
"I couldn't help her and she didn't blame me for that."
Scully cocked her head in an unspoken request for an explanation.
Mulder leaned forward in his chair and looked up into his partner's eyes. "All these years I've blamed myself, also knowing that she must have blamed me as well for not being able to save her. But now I know that she didn't. She never once thought that I had given up on her and let her go."
Ducking her head, Scully placed a tender kiss on Mulder's forehead, moving to his lips. "She didn't blame you because she loved you. Never forget that she loved you, Mulder."
A soft smile played across Mulder's lips. "That was Sam for you. She was unforgettable."