text file (87k)
As Scully comes to terms with shooting Donnie Pfaster,
a series of murders makes her question her own sanity.
RATING: R, for graphic imagery
CLASSIFICATION: A, casefile
SPOILERS/SETTING: through Orison, then diverges from canon
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: Special thanks to my beta UnderMySkinner (a.k.a. X-PhileChick#35)
for catching my mistakes and for her creative insights. You go, girl!
The night was thick around her as Scully stumbled through the dark toward her bathroom. Feeling her way along the familiar path, she didn't bother to turn on any lights to illumine the way.
Just inside the doorway, she halted. Alarm bells were ringing in her head as the hairs on the back of her neck stood erect. Something was wrong. She couldn't see it but feel it. Clad only in her pajamas, she had no means of defense but her own strength.
Holding her breath, she crept forward in the darkness, straining to see whatever intruder might be awaiting her. Slowly she began to distinguish the outline of a head across the room, and a pair of eyes gleamed back at her as though generating their own light. The form and its eyes were not human, yet they were somehow familiar to her. They brought back memories of being bound and helpless, terrified that she might die a horrible death before anyone found her.
The memories gave her chills as her own mind began to fill in the gaps to recreate the face. It was the visage of Donnie Pfaster, yet not--it was the image of his true face, the demonic persona that had convinced her this man was pure evil.
In the stillness, she couldn't determine if he was aware of her presence, but she decided that the dark was only to his advantage. Evil despises the light, so she would disarm him with its brightness and make her attack. Groping for the light switch at her side, she prepared to flip it on and mentally readied herself for a fight.
The lights went up, and she gasped in realization. She would have screamed but couldn't seem to find her voice.
The monster staring back at her was not Donnie Pfaster but her own face reflected in the mirror.
* * *
Abruptly sitting up in bed, Scully found herself drenched in sweat. The nightmares would not leave her alone; every night they only got worse. The Pfaster case may have been closed, but to her the matter was not. Although she had been officially exonerated of all fault, one person still held her responsible for his death: herself.
"For truly to pursue monsters, we must understand them. We must venture into their minds. Only, in doing so, do we risk letting them venture into ours?"
- Dana Scully, "Unruhe"
* * * * *
Scully stood in the produce section of the supermarket, absent-mindedly squeezing tomatoes. This was to be her first night in several days back in her own apartment, and she needed to stock up on fresh groceries before she headed home.
The DC police had closed their case, and OPR had made its ruling. Donnie Pfaster was shot by Special Agent Dana Scully in self-defense when he broke into her apartment and attacked her. She suspected that everyone involved knew the truth, but no one was willing to point fingers at her for ridding the world of such a monster. She had even received a pat on the back from one officer, and hushed congratulations from the marshal for the money she had just saved the taxpayers. But she couldn't feel any joy at the man's swift execution. She could only hope to put it behind her and move on.
As she stood there lost in thought, a voice behind her returned her to the present.
"Dana? Dana Scully, is that you?"
Scully turned to look into the face of a petite brunette who seemed vaguely familiar. In her current state of distraction, she couldn't find the name to go with the face.
"Dana, it's Megan, from the Academy?"
The name brought sudden recognition, and Scully extended her hand in greeting. "Megan Randolph, of course I remember. How are you?"
Megan had been Dana's roommate at Quantico when they first started their FBI training. However, Megan proved not to be FBI material and soon washed out. Scully had often wondered how the woman had even made it past the initial screening process, but there were rumors that Megan had relatives in high places.
"Oh, as well as can be expected. I decided to go to med school after I left the FBI, so I had to go back and start all over to get the necessary math and science courses. So, you know, life is busy. But how are you, Dana?" Megan stepped closer and lowered her voice, looking clandestinely from side to side. "I heard about the shooting on the news. I can't believe that man broke into your home and attacked you like that."
Scully refrained from commenting that it wasn't the first time such a thing had happened to her. "He just wanted revenge for us having caught him the first time." She said it nonchalantly, wanting to dismiss this line of conversation as soon as possible.
"But you did more than just catch him, Dana. You killed him. How did it feel to kill a man?"
The question was disarming, and from anyone else Scully would have taken it as judgmental, but as she recalled, this was simply Megan's way. She asked it with a childlike naivete and curiosity that had quickly set her apart at the Academy. But there was also an innocence to her that Scully had once seen in herself back when the two women had first met, and she regretted that that part of herself had long since withered and died.
There was only one way she could answer the question. "It felt wrong. It didn't matter who he was or what he had done. It just felt wrong to take his life." She hastened to end the conversation before Megan could ask anything further. "Listen, it was really nice to see you again, but I'm afraid I'm in a hurry to get home. Good luck with med school."
The tomatoes were long forgotten as Scully darted toward the check-out counter with her basket only half full. She hadn't waited long enough to hear Megan's parting words, nor did she bother to look back.
* * *
Mulder had just come back from a long run and was ready to hit the shower, if he didn't collapse on the couch before he made it that far. But the answering machine won out over both options as he noticed the light blinking insistently, informing him that someone had called while he was out.
*Beep* "Hi, Mulder, it's me. Listen, I, uh, I've decided to take some time off. I just need a chance to regroup and get my bearings again. I think I might go out of town for a while, somewhere where I can get away and think. I'll probably leave my cell phone behind, so if you call and can't get a hold of me, don't worry. I'll leave an emergency number with my mom if you need to reach me. So, I guess I'll see you when I get back." *Beep*
Mulder slumped down onto the couch and sighed. He was worried about his partner, but he didn't know what he could do for her right now. He had brought her back to his place to sleep that first night--or morning, rather--after the incident, but when it became clear that the police wouldn't be letting her back in her apartment for a few more days, she had insisted on finding a hotel room so that she wouldn't be "inconveniencing" him. He knew that she needed to deal with this in her own way, but he couldn't help but be concerned that she was distancing herself from him.
He wondered if somehow she was disappointed in him for "lying for her" (her words, not his), but he only saw it as covering his partner's back, just like any law enforcement officer would have done in the same situation. However, he expected that her accusations were directed entirely at herself. She felt that she had shot an unarmed man after he was already in custody. The problem was, she seemed to be the only one who saw it that way.
Listening to her message one more time before erasing it, Mulder hoped desperately that this time away would do her some good. She obviously wanted her space, and he would respect that. He only hoped that she would come back refreshed and ready to move forward with the same strength and confidence that he had always admired in her.
* * *
It was two days after Scully had started her leave, and she was exhausted. Although she initially intended to get as far away from this apartment as possible, the fighter in her would not allow her to concede defeat and relinquish her territory, and so she stayed to face her demons.
And demons there were. They waited for her in the dark, when she closed her eyes to sleep at night. But she knew from experience that they were not in this apartment alone. They were in her own mind, and they had followed her for the past week, from Mulder's apartment to the hotel room and back here to their source. Although she was brave enough to remain in her apartment, she still feared these evil spirits, and so she avoided sleep to keep them at bay.
And thus, she was exhausted. She knew that if she kept this up any longer, either the demons would follow her into her waking hours, or sleep would take her anyway. Regardless, her strength was now drained, and she would be no match for either.
Television and reading both proved to be easy sedatives, so the main task she had taken to was writing. Many years ago, when she first encountered Donnie Pfaster, the FBI psychologist, Karen Kosseff, had recommended that she start a journal to help her express the fears and uncertainties that she wasn't comfortable sharing with her partner. She had been hesitant at first, since even writing such thoughts was an admission that she had them; but eventually she acquiesced, and the journal became a steady companion over the years. By the time of her cancer, the entries had become personal letters to Mulder, with the hope that by addressing him in writing she might someday be able to share such vulnerabilities in person. But her pride always prevented it.
So once again she pushed him away instead of leaning on him in this time of uncertainty and weakness. She knew he was ready and willing to be of help, but she wasn't ready to accept it. She needed to prove that she was strong, to everyone, but mostly to herself. She couldn't let what was eating her up inside get the best of her. This was her own personal battle, and she had to win it alone.
With her journal in hand, she freely let such thoughts flow from her pen. As always, the entry was addressed to Mulder:
"As much as I'm afraid to be alone right now, I know that I have to. But what I fear most is myself. There is something lurking inside me that I don't fully understand. I told you after the shooting that I wasn't sure what compelled me to pull the trigger, and I'm still not sure. You asked me if I thought it was God, but I can't accept that God would ask me to kill a man in cold blood. The fact is, I pulled the trigger because I wanted to. It felt good to me, at least for the moment. I told you that Pfaster was evil, and that, I've never doubted. In fact, I think that's what drove me to kill him. To me, he was pure evil, the personification of evil, and so when I looked at him, I saw all the bad things that have been done to me over the years. And I wanted him to pay. All the hatred and anger that I felt toward Missy's murderer, and Krycek, and the cigarette smoking bastard, and all the rest of them, was flowing through me at that moment, and it all became focused on their incarnation standing before me in my living room. It was revenge, pure and simple. I killed him out of revenge.
"And now the evil continues to haunt me. I was no better than Pfaster in that moment, when I, like him, didn't hesitate to take a life. And I wonder if maybe I didn't unleash something in that act. If maybe I became like him in some way. Was the man born evil, or did he later become that way? And if it was something he became, how did it happen? Was there some external force that came over him and compelled him to act as he did? If so, could it have lingered here in that moment when I stooped to his level? Could it have recognized a kindred spirit in me and lingered when he departed? Is it still with me now?
"I fear what I may have become. I feel that I don't know myself anymore. How could I be capable of such an act? And if I can do it once, what will stop me from doing it again? Or, have I done it before and not felt the remorse? That thought is even more horrifying to me. After all, this isn't the first time I shot someone. I even shot you once, without hesitation. Was there something else driving me that day? Just an inch or two lower, and the shot would've gone straight through your heart. As a doctor, I took an oath to do no harm, and yet I injure more people than I save. I spend more time around death than around life. What kind of person does that make me?
"My arm is growing weary with writing, and I fear that I won't be able to stay awake much longer. I know the nightmares that await me. I fear that my dreams hold truths that I'm not ready to confront. I wish you could slay the dragons for me, but I know this is a path I have to travel alone. I just hope that I survive it."
Scully finally laid down the pen and stretched her tense muscles. She could no longer avoid the sandman. Her only hope now was to sleep so deeply that she wouldn't be able to remember her dreams. Although she seldom took sleeping pills, she had a stash of sample packets she had picked up at the hospital on her last visit, and she gratefully delved into them now.
Within half an hour, she was dead to the world and deep in REM sleep. When she awoke in her bed twelve hours later, she would have no memory of the intervening time.
* * *
A lonely man sat at the bar nursing the same drink that he'd been working on for the last hour. The truth was, he wasn't much of a drinker. Rather, he'd come here in search of company.
The blonde who sat in a booth at the back of the room had been scoping out the various customers since shortly after the man had ordered his drink. It was a busy establishment, and most others had arrived in pairs or already found a companion and left for other pursuits. This lone man at the bar seemed to be just the person she was looking for.
Few words were exchanged as she went in for the kill. Taking the seat next to him, she made sure that her skirt rode up a little too high on her thigh and watched appreciatively as he noticed. She placed her hand on the back of his neck and massaged it gently, in an innocent yet intimate gesture. As his eyes met hers, she leaned over to his ear to be heard above the moderate din around them. Her invitation was simple, and he eagerly responded. They left together, in search of a convenient place to engage in her proposed activities.
A motel down the street was familiar with such couples and didn't ask for names but charged by the hour. As they stood at the front desk, the woman sized up her companion and then leaned over to whisper something in his ear. When she pulled back, he was grinning like an idiot and paid for two hours up front. They disappeared up the staircase, hand in hand.
When it was all said and done, the evening actually went more smoothly than she had expected. After all, this was her first time, and she anticipated some initial problems or uneasiness at her task. But it had been easy enough to find a man ready to accompany her and eager to spend his money on what she offered him.
Her act was not born of necessity or desperation but was rather for the thrill of the hunt. She wanted to know what it would feel like to do this. She wanted to prove that she could.
When they got to the room, the woman told her eager companion to undress and wait for her on the bed while she went into the bathroom to freshen up. Everything she needed she carried in her small handbag. She was sure to pack plenty of latex since it was essential for her plans. Quickly slipping out of her clothing so it would be clean and undamaged when she was done, she took a deep breath and forged ahead.
Peeking out of the bathroom, she called out in a coy voice for him to close his eyes. He readily complied, and she quietly slipped up beside him. He jumped slightly at the prick of the needle, but she managed to shoot directly into his bloodstream and the drug knocked him out swiftly. She then arranged his inert form on the bed and set to work.
With a scalpel in her steady hand, she began with a Y incision. Cutting into a live body was so different than handling cold, dead flesh, and something about it thrilled her. The blood flowed freely and quickly coated her latex-covered fingers as well as her blade before it trickled down his sides and began to soak into the white sheets beneath him.
She really had no distinct pattern in mind once she got past this point, so she let inspiration move her as she freely invaded the man's torso and explored his various organs. As much as she longed to remove her gloves and feel him with her own flesh, she knew how foolish it would be to take such a risk.
For the next hour, she sliced and diced to her heart's content. The life slowly bled out of her subject, and she held her breath in anticipation at the moment that his heart stopped beating, right before she cut it out of his chest. She longed to take such a trophy with her, but she knew she couldn't dare. Nothing of his should be found in her possession. Strangers they were, and strangers they should remain. In fact, she still didn't know his name.
Nor did she want to. For now, it was of no consequence. She would hear it soon enough on the news.
With their time swiftly ticking to a close, she returned to the bathroom to clean up. Removing her wig, she then stepped into the shower and used the bar of motel soap to scrub off the blood stains from her skin and out from under her nails. She used only the small hand towel to dry herself off, and then she tossed the towel, soap, and wig into a plastic bag that she withdrew from her purse. They would be disposed of, but only in a dumpster far away from the motel.
After putting on her clothes, she snapped on a glove and used an antibacterial wipe to sweep over any surfaces and doorknobs that she might have made contact with. She took care that there were no hairs left in the bathtub. All remaining items, but the one glove that remained on her hand, were sealed up in the garbage sack or in her purse.
With one lingering look at her masterpiece displayed on the bed, the woman quietly slipped out of the room and down the back stairs.
Fifteen minutes later, when the key was not returned and the couple had not left, the desk clerk went upstairs to inform them that they needed to pay cash for another hour if they intended to stay any longer.
Nothing could prepare him for the sight that awaited him there.
"Is this evil something born in each of us? Crouching in the shadow of every human soul waiting to emerge, a monster waiting to violate our bodies and twist our will to do its bidding? Is this the monster called madness?"
- Fox Mulder, "Grotesque"
* * * * *
For the first couple of nights, the sleeping pills helped, but by the third night the dreams returned.
On the fourth day, Scully dreaded going to bed and stayed up past eleven, unlike her early retirement on the previous evenings. She had been watching TV for hours to try to provide a diversion for her mind, but after the first few minutes of the evening news, she turned it off in disgust and finally decided to face the inevitable.
In a way, it was a good thing that the sleeping pills had become ineffectual because her small supply was running low. But she took one anyway, in hopes that it might work tonight.
Sleep came quickly, but so did the dreams. In past nights, they had taken various forms, but all had the same result. She would be in various locations around her apartment, or even at the office, and she would see her demonic reflection in a mirror; once, she even saw herself through Donnie Pfaster's eyes.
Tonight, the scenario started in her apartment again. It was dark, and she was sitting in a chair in her bedroom. A noise sounded in the bathroom, and she crossed quickly through the blackness to confront her intruder. But this time, she didn't bother to turn on the lights. She knew from past experience that the only horrific visage she would encounter was her own. Instead, she turned and headed for the front door.
The scene in her mind's eye flashed to her wandering the streets of DC. She didn't recognize the neighborhood, but it was obviously a seedy one. Drug deals were going down on the streets, and every corner was populated with hookers. Drunks stumbled down the sidewalks, and there wasn't a cop in sight. No one paid her any notice as she walked among them. She blended right in.
Scully found herself stopping on a street corner and standing there alone. She was waiting for something, although she wasn't sure what. After a pause that seemed an eternity in her dream state, but was likely almost instantaneous, a black car pulled up in front of her. The windows were tinted, so she couldn't see the driver. The passenger door before her suddenly popped open in invitation, and she didn't hesitate to get in.
Even from inside the car, it was too dark to make out the features of the man beside her. Somehow, it didn't seem to matter who he was or where he was headed. She suspected that eventually he would turn out to be Pfaster, or even the devil himself. She was probably in a taxi to Hell.
The scene shifted again, and she was in a white room, almost blindingly bright, a stark contrast to the darkness from which she had just come. On a table before her lay a body draped with a white sheet. She looked down at her hands and saw that they were covered with surgical gloves. On a tray next to the table stood the instruments that she would need to perform an autopsy. The room held no other distinguishing features to indicate where she might be. In fact, the light beyond her was so intense that she couldn't even make out the walls.
It was obvious that she had come here to do an autopsy, so Scully stepped forward to remove the drape from the deceased. To her chagrin, she recognized the face: it was Pfaster. But her dream self was not deterred from moving forward. As usual, she could distance herself from the case and do her job.
Picking up a scalpel, she started to cut the Y incision. At the first puncture, a slow trickle of blood began to pool in the cut. This was not common when working with the dead, but it was not unheard of. Undaunted, she continued to slice--until she saw the chest cavity rise and fall underneath her hands. This man was still alive.
She jumped back in horror as Pfaster's eyes opened and looked directly at her. It was a look of accusation, but it soon turned into triumph. He was no longer the death fetishist: now she had taken his place.
* * *
Mulder had spent more hours at the office in the past week than he had for months, but it was not due to a heavy work load. The fact was, he had no life apart from his job unless it involved Scully, and she was out of town. So, as he usually did when she was gone, he spent most of his hours in the basement of the Hoover building.
In the middle of a lively session of wastepaper basketball, the phone rang, summoning him to Skinner's office. Although Mulder dreaded the idea of a big case without his partner by his side, he hoped that his boss would offer him something juicy to help break up the monotony. As it turned out, that was what happened, although the case did not qualify as an X-File.
Having been ushered in by Kimberly, Mulder took a seat across from the A.D., who proceeded to explain the situation.
"I'm assuming you've heard something about the murder a few nights ago, the one that involved the mutilated body of a legal aide?"
"I haven't been following it closely, but it's kind of hard to miss with all the exposure on the news."
"The press loves that kind of sensationalism, although the police have tried to keep a wrap on the exact nature and extent of the mutilation. Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be able to contain this much longer. There was a second homicide last night."
Skinner slid a file folder across his desk, and Mulder picked it up and started thumbing through it while they continued to talk.
"Are you concerned that this wasn't done by a human?"
"Actually, no, that's not why I contacted you. The DC police are concerned that a particularly heinous serial killer may be getting started, and so they called in the FBI to help catch him before this guy takes any more victims. The BSU is putting together a profiling team, and since your caseload seems to be a little light right now, I suggested that you might join them."
Mulder raised his eyes in question, hoping that his boss would elaborate. Skinner didn't miss his look of surprise.
"The fact is, Mulder, this is no ordinary killer. You can see for yourself the carnage left behind in each murder. For all the disrespect you've been shown over the years, you're still a living legend for your work on the Monty Propps case. Someone high up requested your assistance, although no one's willing to claim responsibility."
Mulling this over, Mulder continued to examine the file, but Skinner couldn't tell whether the papers and photos held his attention or he was really stalling while he considered his options. Then something before him seemed to catch his eye.
"You implied that the killer is a man. Is that the assumption that the FBI is working with?"
"You know as well as I do that a female serial killer is practically unheard of. With the lack of evidence, they're starting with the standard serial killer profile as their foundation. Why? Do you think this could have been done by a woman?"
Mulder closed the file and looked his superior in the eye. "I think this case will require more than just conventional thinking to solve it. Let the BSU know that I'd be happy to draw up a profile, but only if they agree not to assign me a temporary partner for the duration of this case. If I'm not working with Scully, then I work alone."
Skinner hesitated and then nodded his head in agreement. As Mulder rose and returned to his office with the folder in hand, the A.D. reached for the phone to inform the BSU that their former golden boy would be joining the team.
* * *
Mulder spent the rest of the day visiting the crime scenes and talking to witnesses. His initial stop was at the first motel room, which amazingly had already been cleaned up and put back in service. The investigators had been over the room twice but gathered a combination of too little evidence and too much. For a room that was rented by the hour, one would expect an overwhelming amount of trace evidence and DNA samples of all variety, which is exactly what was present on the carpet and bedding.
The bathroom, however, was another matter. It was virtually spotless. Only a few hairs and fibers were discovered tucked away in corners, but there was little hope that any of these matched the UNSUB or could be of any value in suggesting a suspect. So, the police had hauled off the mattress, which was the only real piece of evidence, the owner brought in a new one, and the otherwise unsullied room was already being rented out again.
The interview with the desk clerk from that night was equally useless. With such regular turnover among the guests, and a television next to the desk with free HBO, he had no distinct memory of the man in question. All he could verify was that the man didn't arrive alone and paid for two hours, and that he thought maybe the woman was a blonde, but he couldn't offer any more details.
This first victim, Timothy Hawkins, had been traced back to a bar earlier that evening. Thus, Mulder's next stop was the establishment in question, where he was able to interview the bartender on duty that night. Again, little information could be offered. The man himself had been rather nondescript, ordered just one drink (which the bartender only remembered by consulting the credit card records), and stayed for no more than an hour. He left with a companion, possibly a blonde, but the bartender didn't really get a good look at her.
The second crime scene proved to be much like the first, only it was fresh enough to still be cordoned off by police tape, and the mattress and bedding were still in place. Most of the investigating staff had completed their work and left, but there was one agent wandering around when Mulder arrived. It was a member of the profiling team, but he didn't know his name.
Apparently, however, the unknown agent knew him and felt free to address him by nickname. "So, Spooky, you got any ideas yet as to who we're looking for?"
Not bothering to return the man's gaze or acknowledge his question, Mulder spoke while he walked around the room to take in its details. "Do we know any more about this man's itinerary last night?"
There was a brief silence, but when Mulder looked over at Agent X, his cocky smirk dropped, and he finally answered. "He arrived with company, and his car was parked outside, so as far as we can tell he picked her up somewhere. Our guess is that he was cruising and looking for a quick date. One of the girls that works a street corner just two blocks down identified him as a repeat customer, so we have agents asking around for anyone that may have seen who he picked up last night."
Mulder emerged from the bathroom, which he had been inspecting as Agent X finished talking. "Were the victim's car keys found with the body?"
"Uh, no, I believe they were downstairs in the car."
"Let me guess: the passenger's side was spotless."
"The car's been towed for inspection, so I'm not sure what they've found, but I could call--"
"Don't bother. There's nothing to be found. This woman was meticulous. She was very careful not to leave any clues behind."
"Woman? Agent Mulder, do I need to remind you of the statistics--"
"No, you don't, Agent..."
"...Agent Collins. I'm quite aware of the standard profile. However, this is no ordinary killer. Both of our victims were last seen with anonymous female companions, so unless we're looking for a cross-dresser, the most likely suspect is a woman."
Collins looked like he was about to respond with a smart remark, but Mulder cut him off. "Is the desk clerk still downstairs? I'd like to talk to him."
"I believe so. Knock yourself out." Collins stepped aside and let Mulder pass by him to the door. All in all, it wasn't the most hostile conversation that Mulder had had with another agent, but it wasn't exactly congenial either. And it provided a good representation of the type of conventional thinking that the BSU had become crippled by in recent years.
Ever since the incident with Patterson, Behavioral Sciences had become overly cautious and profiled by means of statistical charts and personality quizzes rather than delving into the killer's psyche. Mulder knew all too well how Patterson's method could damage a profiler, but he also knew it was the best way to get their man--or woman, in this case.
He wasn't even entirely sure yet why he knew that the killer was a woman instead of a man in drag or a third party stalking the couple. It was just a feeling that he had. He only hoped that his profile would provide the support for that theory, and that his fellow agents would be willing to accept his input.
* * *
Scully slumped on the sofa with her journal in hand. The TV no longer offered her sufficient distraction from her own thoughts, so she didn't bother to turn it on. She would pick up a book every now and then, but her appetite for murder mysteries and pathology textbooks unsettled her. Once again, she was left with her journal as her only comfort and companion--her lone confidant, in the guise of her partner.
"My dreams have changed. You're the psychologist. You could tell me what you think they mean, if I had the guts to tell you about them. I still see myself with the demonic face, but now the images are no longer isolated to places that I'm familiar with. I've started to travel, and I see myself doing things, as though I have become Donnie Pfaster. But they're not the crimes that he's committed. They're different, and the victims are men instead of women. It's almost as if they're the victims that I would have chosen if I were him.
"The dreams scare me. I don't know what to make of them. Am I losing my mind? Did I unleash something that somehow has become a part of me? I'm afraid to be around people in case whatever this is tries to use me to hurt others. I think I'm better off alone in my apartment, but I also fear that that's where the demon resides. I don't know why I haven't called you yet to tell you about this. I need an outside perspective to help me see what's really going on. But I don't want you to see this side of me. I don't know what it would do to you to know that I'm capable of this.
"Maybe the problem is that I always underestimated my own capacity for evil. I was raised a good Catholic girl, and I committed myself to a life of fighting for justice. I've seen such horrors over the years, but I never considered myself capable of committing them. Perhaps I tried too hard to deny the potential that resides in all of us. When other people look at me, they see the good Dr. Jekyll. I wonder if by struggling too hard to fulfill this persona, I have given birth to a Mr. Hyde.
"I just don't know myself anymore."
* * *
Mulder stayed late at the office that night to finish his profile. A mess of crime scene photos, interview notes, lab results, and autopsy reports covered the desk and the walls. The only illumination was his desk lamp, and nothing visible within its range did not pertain to the case at hand.
By 9 o'clock, he finally sat down with his notepad full of chicken scratches (indecipherable to anyone but himself and his partner) and began to process them into a coherent profile.
His final determination was that the killer was indeed a woman. Physically, she was alluring enough to easily catch a man's eye yet common enough not to attract unwanted attention. She most likely wore disguises for her crimes and would not easily be recognized as the woman who had approached these men.
She was meticulous in nature, possibly even to the extreme of being obsessive-compulsive. She had a certain amount of medical knowledge, either by profession or by personal study, although she likely had some kind of unfulfilled dreams that she felt the need to act out on her own, such as the desire to become a surgeon. Through her job or volunteer work, she had ready access to medical supplies, and her used gloves and scalpels may even have been disposed of with the biohazardous waste at that same location.
In addition to medical expertise, she also had a knowledge of crime scene investigations and forensics, either through profession or personal study. She was extremely careful not to leave behind any fingerprints or DNA samples, pointing both to her knowledge of investigative methods and her pre-meditation and planning. However, with the detailed crime dramas on television these days, it was possible that such knowledge could be derived from that source without necessitating a personal connection with law enforcement.
The woman likely had a certain amount of animosity toward men or felt she had been victimized by them in the past. She duped them into false security about her intentions, so she possibly felt she had equally been used and betrayed by men, possibly powerful men whom she had trusted.
He recommended that the easiest way to catch her would be by posting surveillance in neighborhoods similar to the locations of the first two homicides. The profile alone would not lead to the killer since she would easily pass as a normal member of society, but it would be instrumental in identifying her from amongst a pool of suspects.
When he finished typing, Mulder sat back and read over his profile. He let the comments gel in his mind to try to discern a clear picture of their murderess. Closing his eyes, he reviewed the facts in a continuous loop.
An attractive woman with a medical background and unfulfilled goals. Meticulous in nature. Used and betrayed by powerful men.
Mulder's eyes shot open as he was shocked by the track of his own mind. True, the profile in many ways sounded like his partner, but he knew that she was incapable of the atrocities he had witnessed in these crimes. Yet he also knew that his profile was sound. He only hoped that no one else on the investigative team would make the same connection.
Shaking off the unsettling feeling that this elicited, Mulder took a deep breath and shoved these thoughts out of his mind. He was suddenly very grateful that Scully had decided to leave town. Even if someone else jumped to the same conclusion, they would immediately eliminate her as a suspect because she hadn't been anywhere near the area when the murders were committed.
With a sigh of relief, Mulder saved and printed his profile and then gathered his things to finally head home for a good night's sleep.
"We work in the dark. We do what we can to battle the evil that would otherwise destroy us. But if a man's character is his fate, it's not a choice but a calling. Sometimes the weight of this burden causes us to falter from the fragile fortress of our mind, allowing the monster without to turn within. We are left alone staring into the abyss, into the laughing face of madness."
- Fox Mulder, "Grotesque"
* * * * *
The next morning, Mulder stopped by the A.S.A.C.'s office to drop off his profile and spent a couple of hours with the profiling team to explain his deductions and suggest avenues of investigation. After lunch, he returned to his basement office to find a message that Skinner wanted to see him. Taking the elevator back upstairs, he was quickly admitted into the A.D.'s inner office.
"Agent Mulder, have a seat."
Mulder complied. After a minute, Skinner set down his pen next to the page he was writing on, pulled out a folded newspaper from a pile on the corner of the desk, and slid it across to the agent.
"Have you seen this?"
The headline across the front page on the afternoon edition of the Washington Post read: "Jill the Ripper's Trail of Terror."
"Sir, I swear I haven't been talking to the press."
"I believe you. But somebody's been talking. Apparently they got wind that we're looking for a female serial killer, and they latched onto that title like a baby to a nipple."
Mulder raised his eyebrow at the simile and tossed the newspaper back across the desk. Skinner set the paper aside and then looked down at his folded hands before turning to his true matter of business.
"I actually called you in here to ask your opinion on something."
"I'm wondering what you think about Agent Scully's current state of mind."
Mulder immediately tensed at the question, hoping that his fears of last night hadn't already been realized, and did his best not to tip his hand. "I don't fully understand."
Skinner unfolded his hands and leaned back in his chair. "I'm thinking about calling her in to help with the autopsies. She's one of our best pathologists, and through her work on the X-Files, she has a keen eye for evidence that other people wouldn't think to look for. Besides that, with the type of incisions that have been used on these men, and the fact that we're looking for a woman, I'd like to get her insights on what the killer thought she was doing to them. So, what I want to know from you is whether you think she's fully recovered enough from the Pfaster case that I can call her back from leave."
Mulder was a bit uncomfortable attempting such an assessment since he hadn't spoken to his partner for over a week, and the last time he heard from her she hadn't exactly come to terms with the ordeal yet. So, he avoided the question altogether and sought another way around the issue.
"I'm not sure that Agent Scully is reachable. She went out of town and probably won't be back until sometime next week."
"I wasn't aware that she left. In fact, she distinctly told Kimberly to forward any mail to her home address when she stopped by the other day."
Mulder was surprised by this information and sat straight up in his chair. "Scully was here?"
"Just a few days ago. She came by to get her paycheck and chatted with Kimberly for a few minutes." When it became clear that the agent was lost in his own thoughts, the A.D. addressed him. "Agent Mulder?"
"Sorry." He shook himself out of it. "She must have come back early. I've been so busy on this case, I probably missed her call. Listen, why don't I talk to her about this in person, and then she can give you a call and tell you whether or not she's ready to come back?"
Skinner had a feeling that there was more involved here than Mulder was letting on, but he also knew how fiercely these two protected each other. He decided to let it slide for now and acquiesced to Mulder's suggestion. Even so, after the agent slipped out of the office a moment later, Skinner couldn't help but wonder what the man had been hiding from him.
* * *
The first thing Mulder noticed as he drove up to Scully's building was her car parked on the street. He pulled into an empty space a few cars down from hers and looked up at her apartment. Through an open blind, he could see a lamp on in the living room. While neither fact was concrete evidence that she was home rather than out of town, he knew she must be there.
He sat there for a few minutes deliberating over how best to handle this. His instinct was to go straight upstairs and confront her, but he was angry that she had lied to him about leaving town and that she hadn't talked to him in the meantime, and he knew that the conversation wouldn't lead to her opening up to him if he immediately put her on the defensive. As he contemplated his options, the situation changed when he glanced up at her window and noticed the light go off and the blinds close. A minute later, Scully emerged from the front door and walked over to her car. Slumping down in the driver's seat, he watched her in his side mirror as she started the vehicle and drove off down the street.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Mulder got out of his car and headed for her building. As he had so many times before, he used the key she had given him to open the security door to the lobby, and he mounted the stairs to her hallway. When she was home, he typically knocked at her front door rather than intruding on her privacy, but this time he made use of the key since he knew she wasn't on the other side to answer. Once inside the apartment, his conscience started to nag at him, but he quickly squashed it into silence.
Truthfully, he wasn't sure what he was doing here. He already knew that she was in town, so looking around her apartment wasn't necessary to prove that. But there was something else bothering him. The profiler in him couldn't resist looking around for any clues that she could be a suspect in these killings; the partner and friend in him who trusted her above all others wanted to find evidence that she couldn't possibly have been involved.
The daylight filtering through the windows was sufficient illumination, so Mulder began to look around the apartment without turning on any lights. Nothing looked out of place or unusual. The rug was missing from the living room, but he himself had insisted on removing that before Scully returned home the week before. Other than the broken furniture that had been removed from the bedroom and the brand new door frame, there was no residual evidence of the incident that had occurred here less than two weeks ago.
As he swept through the living room, his eyes settled on an object on the coffee table that he didn't remember seeing before. At closer glance, it looked like a diary, a theory reinforced by the pen that lay next to it.
Sitting down on the sofa, Mulder picked up the thin book and turned it over in his hands. The outside betrayed no secrets. It had a cloth cover and was unsoiled, but the first half of the pages looked well handled. After deliberating for a moment, the curious investigator opened it. At first he didn't focus on the words but merely leafed through the pages, acknowledging that he recognized the handwriting as Scully's. But as the pages wore on, the quality of the writing changed. The hand was still familiar, but it was less smooth and sure. The pen pressed harder and the letters became shakier. The writer was clearly exhibiting a great deal of stress.
By the last few filled pages, Mulder became worried by this shift in the writing, and as he studied the characters, his eyes inadvertently began to read the text. He was disturbed by what he saw there.
"The demons continue to haunt me."
"I'm afraid of what evil I may be capable of."
"I just don't know myself anymore."
Mulder slammed the book shut and held it tightly between his hands. Sitting there in the muted light, he tried to process the dissonant thoughts stirring in his head.
As his eyes continued to absent-mindedly rove the room, he noticed a thin volume sitting next to the lamp on the end table. At first thinking it might be another journal, he quickly reached for it, only to realize that it was a novel. But the title itself was no less unsettling: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Mulder's attention was drawn to the bookmark inside. Inserting a finger, he let the book fall open to the saved page and read the text that was underlined there:
"I struck in no more reasonable spirit than that in which a sick child may break a plaything. But I had voluntarily stripped myself of all those balancing instincts by which even the worst of us continues to walk with some degree of steadiness among temptations; and in my case, to be tempted, however slightly, was to fall. Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror."
* * *
Driving around in the steadily growing afternoon traffic, "Jill the Ripper" hunted out the location for her next project. She liked to choose each place carefully and wanted to have a full knowledge of its geography before she made her move. Her last two subjects hadn't proved to be real challenges, so she decided to head somewhere a little more upscale this time. After all, there was no shortage of senators and congressmen in this town looking for a good time on a night like this, and they always had plenty of money to spend on a girl who looked her best.
A politician would make a juicy prize and serve as a worthy target. They were corrupt beyond measure and regularly used their power to destroy people they deemed beneath them--not least of all their own wives. Such a killing would be high profile, so she would have to proceed with extra caution. She had already attracted the attention of the press. She rather liked the nickname they had chosen, although she hadn't actually fashioned herself that way. But, if she proceeded in the tradition of her new namesake, the best thing about the Ripper is that he had never been caught.
* * *
Nearly an hour after her departure, Scully returned from the store with two bags of groceries in hand. When she placed her key in the lock and turned, she was surprised that she didn't hear the familiar click of the lock disengaging, yet the knob turned easily in her hand. She quickly dropped the bags and reached for her holster only to realize that she hadn't brought her gun with her. Pushing the door open rapidly, she remained in the hall as her eyes scanned the doorway and living room. Her fear soon turned into relief as she saw a familiar head over the back of the sofa.
Picking up her bags with sudden thanks that she hadn't bought eggs, Scully turned on the light switch and walked into the kitchen.
"What are you doing here, Mulder?"
She didn't bother to look in his direction as she swiftly put the groceries away. He didn't answer, and when she finally turned to look at him, she saw him standing by the sofa with her journal in his hand. She immediately blanched and wasn't sure whether to feel rage, embarrassment, or fear. The fear won out as she suddenly felt naked before him.
Her sole defense was to lash out at him, but her voice emerged merely as a harsh whisper. "That's my private journal. What are you doing with it?"
But Mulder ignored the question and launched into his own accusations, slowly moving toward her. "Why did you tell me you were going out of town? Why did you lie to me like that?"
Scully matched his steps by backing away from him. "I didn't lie. I intended to leave, and then I changed my mind. I am entitled to change my mind without informing you, aren't I?"
"What if there was an emergency and I needed to get a hold of you?" He continued his slow prowl as he spoke.
"Then you could have called me, and I would have answered." Scully's voice rose in pitch as she continued her retreat.
Mulder was now only a few feet from her. He lifted the journal still in his hand and waved it in her face before tossing it emphatically on the kitchen table. "What's going on, Scully? Why won't you talk to me about this?" He gesticulated toward the book he had just released, although he referred to much more than simply that.
Taking another step back, Scully found herself trapped against the counter. Mulder moved the last few steps until he was mere inches from her. Only now did he notice the look in her eyes. It was pure fear. Whether of him or of something else, his partner was afraid with an intensity that he had never seen before. The fight suddenly drained from him, and he found himself afraid as well, afraid of what could be so powerful as to cause this unprecedented reaction.
Her hands flew up to conceal her face from him as she hung her head. He wasn't sure if her trembling was due to fear or crying, but he couldn't help himself from wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tight against him.
"Scully, talk to me, please. I don't understand what's happening."
Her voice was muffled against his chest. "I'm afraid of what I've become."
Mulder loosened his grip and pulled back a little to try to meet her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"That I've become like Pfaster." Her eyes rose but wouldn't meet his. Instead, she looked straight past him. After a moment, Mulder looked back and realized where her eyes had settled. There on the table next to where the journal landed lay the last item she had pulled from the grocery bags, one which he failed to notice until now. It was the afternoon edition of the Washington Post, with the bold letters of the headline fully legible from their position.
Mulder looked back down at his partner, and she finally met his gaze with a question in her eyes. At that moment, he was able to decisively answer the same question that had been plaguing him all afternoon.
"But I've had dreams, Mulder. Horrible dreams where I've autopsied men who weren't dead yet."
"It wasn't you. You're not capable of this."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I know you. You'd never do something like this."
She pulled away from him now and moved to stand next to the table. "How can you know me when I no longer know myself?"
Mulder walked over and turned over the newspaper and then firmly gripped her shoulders to turn her toward him. "I know the killer, Scully. I wrote the profile. This isn't you."
"Then how do you explain the dreams?"
"They were just dreams, Scully." She pulled away from him again, with a look of disgust, and he followed her across the room. "Look, the story's been all over the news. You heard the details, and your subconscious mind integrated them with the disturbing images that were already haunting you. You started questioning whether you could be capable of evil, and when a truly evil deed arose, your mind latched onto that and made it part of your dreams."
Scully sank onto the couch and buried her head in her hands. "How do you know they were only dreams?"
Kneeling down beside her, Mulder swept her hair back so that he could see her face. "Because you said they were. Your mind knows the difference between dreams and reality."
Her head sprang up at this. "But that's just it, Mulder. I can't be sure of what's real anymore. If I've learned anything by working on the X-Files, it's that I can't always trust my own perception of reality."
Mulder couldn't deny this, and he didn't know how to refute her when she took his usual side of an argument. She took his pause as agreement and dropped her head again in defeat.
"Then you'll have to trust me." This got her attention, and she looked up at him again, with both hope and skepticism. "You'll have to trust me when I tell you that you didn't do these things. The Dana Scully I know is incapable of this kind of evil."
Her response sent a chill down his spine. "Maybe I'm not the Dana Scully you know."
* * *
Because of his partner's state of mind, Mulder refused to leave her alone that night. She simply accepted his presence rather than fight him on it. After they shared some tea together, she turned in early, and he soon fell asleep, feeling emotionally exhausted from the events of the day.
Early the next morning, he straightened himself out the best that he could, considering that he was still fully dressed and had squeezed his lanky frame onto her sofa that felt barely longer than a loveseat. He moved around the apartment quietly, careful not to wake her, and found her still sound asleep when he peeked in on her before he left.
Hurrying to his car, as he was already running late for the office, Mulder failed to notice the vehicle that slowed in front of the building and then sped away as the driver saw him emerging from the door.
As Mulder traced his usual path from the parking garage to his office through the halls of the Hoover, he grew increasingly uneasy at the way the other agents were looking at him. He was used to stares and whispers since few people around there showed him much respect, but this seemed more concentrated than usual. He tried to act casual until the last person exited the elevator on the stop before his, but then he quickly checked his fly and the rest of his appearance. He could only guess that the comments were about his rumpled state and the fact that he showed up to work wearing yesterday's suit and day-old stubble, but he still didn't think that he looked bad enough to evoke this kind of reaction.
When Mulder got into his office and checked his voicemail, he found an urgent message from the Assistant Director himself calling him up to his office ASAP. The agent knew immediately that something significant must have happened, and after smoothing over his suit one more time, he headed upstairs.
Upon his entry, Kimberly immediately ushered Mulder into their boss's office, and he soon discovered that this meeting was not a private one. Assembled there were several lead members of the profiling team, along with at least one member of OPR, and a few others that were unfamiliar to him. None of them looked very happy.
Skinner gestured his agent to sit in the chair at the end of the table and then stepped back rather than head the inquisition as Mulder had expected. The man who spoke first sat opposite him and was one of those present whom he did not recognize.
"Agent Mulder, can you inform us of your whereabouts last night?"
Mulder kept on his best poker face, although his heart sank to his stomach. This couldn't possibly be about him spending the night at his partner's apartment, could it?
"As far as I'm aware, sir, when I leave the office at night, my business is my own. Am I under suspicion for something?"
The Inquisitor did not look pleased with his response, but the interrogation was now taken up by another man, this time the head of the BSU. "Are you aware that another murder took place last night?"
Shifting in his chair, Mulder began to wonder where they were going with this. "No, I was not aware of that." He looked at the man in confusion. "Does this have something to do with my profile?"
Skinner now intervened. "Agent Mulder, an eyewitness provided us with a description of the woman seen entering the hotel room with the deceased." He paused out of discomfort, which only created a dramatic effect. "She was petite, about 5'2", with short red hair."
Realization settled upon him with the horror of the implications. "Sir, you can't possibly think--"
The Inquisitor interrupted him. "Not only does the description match that of your partner, Agent Mulder, but several points brought up by your own profile suggest a person with her medical expertise and training in law enforcement. Which leads us to suspect that after completing your profile, you already had a very good idea of who the murderer might be and proceeded to conceal that fact."
Mulder tried his best to control his rage. "You said it yourself, sir. It was my profile that provided those facts. If I really thought my partner was to blame, why would I write a profile that pointed directly to her? Why not hand in something that sounded completely different?"
The A.S.A.C. now spoke. "Because you know we would've seen right through it. You had to write something that would sound plausible but was still vague enough not to lead us to an actual suspect."
Mulder was beside himself with the incredibility of all of this. "Agent Scully is an exemplary agent with a clean record."
The OPR member continued his sentence: "...who recently faced a hearing regarding the fatal shooting of a suspect, and then took a leave of absence. It has not escaped our attention that the killings began shortly thereafter."
Mulder could no longer control himself at these accusations and began yelling. "That man wasn't a 'suspect,' he was an escaped convict who broke into her apartment and assaulted her! She shot him in self-defense, just as your own hearing concluded! It's only understandable that she needed some time off before returning to the field, but that certainly doesn't make her a murderer!"
It wasn't until Skinner came up behind him and gently pushed him back down into his chair that Mulder was even aware he had stood up. The smug expressions around the table in response to his tirade contended that they'd hit a sore spot and now had him on the defensive.
The room remained confidently quiet while Mulder composed himself and Skinner moved away. Before the accusations could continue, he raised his own question. "What time did the murder take place?"
The A.S.A.C. exchanged glances with the head of the BSU, and then glanced at the report in his hands and answered: "The couple checked into the hotel room around 10:30, so the murder must have occurred shortly after that."
"Then Agent Scully couldn't be responsible."
"Oh? And how's that?"
"Because she was home all night."
"And how would you know that?"
"Because I was with her."
"Most of us walk around thinking we're incapable of any acts of evil, and we are.... We can stifle that momentary urge to kill or to hurt. We have some kind of immunity to it. But I think it's possible that there's an occurrence in somebody's life, a tragedy or a loss that leaves them vulnerable, hurts their immunity to evil, and all of a sudden at that point in their lives when they're weakened, they're open to evil, and they can become evil."
- Fox Mulder, "Empedocles"
* * * * *
As Mulder should have expected, his alibi for Scully was not accepted as reliable and only led to further questioning. It was almost lunchtime when Skinner finally called a recess and asked the beleaguered agent to step into the reception area. After a few more minutes, during which time Kimberly would not look directly at him but continually stole surreptitious glances when she thought he wouldn't notice, Skinner summoned him back into a now empty office. The others had apparently exited directly into the hallway, and Mulder was grateful not to see them again.
The A.D. sat heavily into the chair behind his desk, and Mulder followed suit across from him. They remained in silence for a moment before Skinner picked up the conversation.
"I have a very hard time believing that Agent Scully is capable of this, but I admit that it looks bad for her."
"Is she going to be arrested, sir?"
"Not yet. I asked them to hold off until I could bring her in and question her myself. I also argued that since the eyewitness testimony is the only concrete evidence for now, she'd have to be identified in a line-up before they could obtain a warrant."
"The eyewitness is nearly worthless. This is the first mention of a redhead. The previous reports were of a blonde and a brunette. The killer is most likely wearing a different wig each time. If she's wearing a disguise, we need a lot more to go on than hair color."
"I know that as well as you do, Mulder, but we're going to have to tread very carefully here. I need to bring in Agent Scully so she can address these charges directly. In the meantime, I'll send a couple of agents to canvass her building to see if anyone can corroborate her alibi."
Mulder was about to say something regarding this, but the look from Skinner stopped him short.
"As for you, I want you to go down to your office and stay there until told otherwise. And don't even think about calling Scully--it will only look worse for both of you."
"Just promise me that you'll tell me immediately if they're going to arrest her."
Skinner hesitated and then responded. "I will. But in the meantime, you're going to have to stay out of trouble and leave things to me."
Mulder didn't exactly offer a resounding agreement, but he didn't argue either as he nodded curtly and then headed back to the basement.
* * *
The interview with Scully yielded no new information. She could only offer that she had gone to bed early and slept soundly all night, and that Mulder was still at her apartment when she went to bed but was gone when she got up that morning. She had no one to substantiate that she had been at home alone, also sleeping, at the time of the previous homicides. She claimed that she only knew of the murders through the media and could offer no additional information about how they were committed.
In contrast to Mulder, she didn't disavow her culpability with impassioned pleas. Although Skinner knew it would be out of character for her to make such an outburst, the other agents at the interview only thought that her composure made her seem more cold and calculating.
Just after 3 o'clock, Mulder's phone finally rang and ended his agonizing wait. Skinner informed him that Scully was being taken to the police station to participate in a line-up and that while she was not officially under arrest, he knew that if the witness positively ID'ed her, she would immediately be placed in custody.
Without bothering to ask for permission, Mulder snatched up his coat and headed out to meet them at the station.
* * *
Much to the partners' relief, the eyewitness had not been able to positively identify Scully. However, he hadn't been able to identify anyone in the line-up, and so she wasn't exactly exonerated in the eyes of the detectives and her fellow agents.
They were sitting in the hallway, Scully in a daze and Mulder quietly offering his support with his mere presence, with the investigators discussing her fate in the interrogation room, when the case took an interesting turn.
Scully was drawn out of her stupor at the sound of her name and looked up into the face of Megan Randolph. If she hadn't run into the woman only a week before, she might not have remembered who she was. Mulder just watched in confusion as the two women conversed.
"Megan? What are you doing here?"
"I heard you were taken into custody for these murders, and I knew you couldn't have done it. I'm here to tell them that."
"How did you know--"
"I stopped by the Hoover building to see you, and one of the agents told me where you were. I need to talk to someone in charge here."
Just as she was saying this, a door across the hall opened and Skinner emerged. Having heard the statement, he looked at Mulder in question, who only shrugged, so the A.D. moved forward to interrupt the conversation.
"Excuse me, miss. You said you needed to see someone in charge. What can I help you with?"
"Agent Scully didn't do it. She couldn't have. I know she was at home last night when the murder was committed."
Skinner looked to his agents in surprise and only saw confusion written over their faces. He led their new witness back into the room he had just exited and shut the door.
* * *
Half an hour later, the door opened again, and Megan was the first to emerge. Without a word, she smiled reassuringly at Scully and reached out to squeeze her hand before continuing down the hall and disappearing around the corner. After that, the remaining investigators filed out one by one, some looking at Scully with suspicion, some with frustration, and others not at all. Finally, Skinner stuck his head through the portal and summoned the two agents inside.
Once all three were in the room and the door was closed, Mulder spoke first. "What was that all about?"
Skinner sighed. "Well, Ms. Randolph claims that she came by Agent Scully's apartment last night to talk to her. She says she came to the door and heard voices and realized that Scully had company, so she went back down to her car to wait for the guest to leave. Eventually, she saw the lights go out. She waited for another half hour, but no one left the building. When she finally decided to leave, it was after 10 o'clock."
"That's not exactly an airtight alibi."
"No, it isn't, Mulder, but it's enough of a corroboration that we have no grounds for an arrest or a search warrant at this time. Agent Scully, do you believe her story?"
"I have no reason not to, but honestly, sir, I have no idea why she'd be stopping by my apartment, or how she even knows where I live, for that matter. I hadn't seen the woman in nearly ten years until I ran into her at the store the other day. She said she stopped by the FBI today to talk to me, apparently since she couldn't get me alone last night, but I have no idea what about."
"Well, regardless of that, she seems to have kept you out of jail for now. You're free to go home, although I wouldn't be surprised if they put you under surveillance. Needless to say, Mulder, you've been suspended from the case, so don't make things worse by snooping around where you don't belong."
"Me, sir? I can't believe you think I'd do such a thing."
Both his partner and his boss rolled their eyes at him, and Mulder smiled. He then stood and extended his hand to Scully. "C'mon. Let's go home."
* * *
It had been fairly late in the evening by the time they left the police station, so Mulder had driven his partner directly home and dropped her off at the front door to her building. The car surveilling them hadn't even tried to remain hidden, and Mulder noticed that it stayed parked on Scully's street after he drove off.
At 7 o'clock the next morning, Scully was awakened by the sound of her phone ringing. She managed to grab it just in time before the answering machine picked up.
"Scully, I think I know who the killer is."
"What? Where are you, Mulder?"
"Last night after I dropped you off, I went over to the Gunmen's. We spent the night tracking down information about your friend, Megan Randolph. We found out some interesting stuff about her. I'm pretty sure she's the killer."
"Wait a minute, I don't follow you. Start at the top."
"Well, I found it incredibly suspicious that this woman you haven't seen in nearly a decade suddenly shows up exactly at the right moment to provide you with an alibi, so I decided to do a little digging. It turns out that she's not a med student like she told you. After she left the Academy, she tried to go into medicine, but she couldn't get accepted at a reputable school. She eventually ended up at a community college and got licensed as a CNA. During the day, she works part-time at a nursing home, but at night, she moonlights as a housekeeper at a local mortuary. But there's more, Scully, and everything I've found so far fits the profile."
"But what's her connection to me?"
"That, I'm not sure about yet, but she may have some fascination with your work as a pathologist. I want to bring her in for questioning so we can learn more."
"Mulder, Skinner told you to lay off the case. You know he's not going to be happy about this."
"I didn't go anywhere near the case. I just did a little background check and happened to run across another suspect."
"Mulder...." Her tone was chastising.
"Okay, I admit it's going to take some effort to convince him, which is why I want you to go sit on her until I can get a warrant."
"How is that going to help me? I'm under surveillance. The best thing I can do right now is stay at home and out of trouble."
"But that's exactly why you should go. While you're keeping an eye on her, the surveillance team will be there, too, so they'll be your witnesses if anything happens."
She sighed. She wasn't convinced this was the best advice right now, but it had a certain logic to it. "Fine. Just give me her address, and I'll be there as soon as I can."
* * *
By 8 o'clock, Scully was parked outside of Megan Randolph's apartment building. She confirmed that Megan's vehicle was still in the parking lot and then decided to wait in her car until Mulder showed up with reinforcements or Megan made a move. It turned out that she didn't have to wait long.
About ten minutes after Scully got there, Megan emerged from her building and headed for her car. As the blue Volvo pulled out of the parking lot and headed east, Scully cautiously followed at a distance. A glance in her rear view mirror showed a black sedan doing the same to her. If the situation weren't so dire, she mused, she might actually find this comical.
Apparently oblivious to her tail, Megan made her way to Georgetown. As the streets became more familiar, Scully realized where she was headed--to her own apartment. Whatever Megan had come to see her about the day before was evidently still on her mind.
As they pulled up in front of the building, Scully decided there was no point in continuing her pretense, so she parked in the vacant spot directly behind Megan. The two women emerged from their cars at the same time, and Megan seemed genuinely surprised at their chance encounter.
"Dana! I was just coming to see you. My God, they didn't keep you in jail overnight, did they?"
"No, I just had an early appointment this morning. Actually, I guess I owe you my thanks. It was your alibi that freed me to go home last night. It was rather fortunate that you stopped by when you did. I wasn't really expecting to see you so soon after we ran into each other at the market the other day."
Megan moved closer and put a hand on her arm, which Scully found rather disconcerting, but she decided not to make any moves that might scare the woman away prematurely.
"I keep forgetting that it's been so long since you've seen me. I'm just so used to seeing you that I feel like were old friends."
Scully tried to keep the distress out of her voice. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I've kept an eye on your career over the years. Some people are content to just watch these things on TV, but I prefer the reality to the fiction. Especially since I got so close to being able to live it out every day. The FBI may be an old boys' network, but you're one woman that they weren't able to force out, unlike me. I wanted to watch you succeed. I've even shown up to observe at a few of your crime scenes."
This turn in the conversation was not putting Scully at ease, but she was at a loss how to respond. Had this woman been stalking her? Her instinct was to get the hell out of here, but she knew she had to use Megan's familiarity with her to their advantage. To her momentary relief, they were interrupted as her cell phone rang.
"I'm sorry. Can you excuse me for a minute?" Scully turned slightly and took a step away before she answered. "Scully."
"Hey, it's me. I talked Skinner into bringing her in for questioning. Where are you right now?"
Very aware of Megan's proximity, Scully decided it was best not to show her hand. "Uh, I can't really talk right now. I'll call you back later." She quickly pushed a button on her phone and then slid it into her jacket pocket before turning back to her companion. "Sorry about that, Megan. So, you stopped by to see me again this morning. It must be something important. What can I help you with?"
* * *
Mulder was surprised by his partner's abrupt dismissal, but he knew she cut him off for a good reason. He was about to hang up when he realized there were still muted noises coming through the phone. Turning up the volume, he was able to distinguish voices.
"...You stopped by to see me again this morning...."
Suddenly he realized what she was up to and hit the mute button on his phone as he turned to Skinner beside him in the driver's seat.
"Turn around. They're at Scully's apartment."
* * *
Scully hoped that her partner would be able to overhear their conversation through the layer of fabric. She had turned down the volume so the line would sound dead from her end, but she didn't know if the position of the phone would mute the receiver too much for him to hear them distinctly. She tried to put this out of her thoughts and pay attention as Megan spoke.
"Well, I've been fascinated with this recent string of killings--the ones they're calling 'Jill the Ripper'?--and I wanted to know what you thought of them. I mean, as an investigator. You must be privy to details they're not releasing to the press. What do you think of her work?"
Scully took the opportunity to move closer. She hoped her "guest" was too wrapped up in their conversation to notice that she hadn't invited her up to her apartment. "I think that this woman has a morbid fascination with anatomy and death. But I'd like to hear what you think. You've obviously followed these crimes very closely. Maybe you have some insight that might help us catch her."
This seemed just the right thing to say as Megan's eyes began to gleam with excitement. "Well, Dana, since you mention it, I was really hoping that you would let me observe an autopsy. With my medical knowledge, I think that's where I could prove most useful to the investigation. That's the best place to start with any homicide investigation, don't you think?"
"Megan, I'm afraid that my connections won't do you any good. Right now, I'm the prime suspect. They won't let me anywhere near the bodies, let alone bring in a friend to observe."
"But they couldn't possibly think that. Not after the alibi I gave them."
Scully paused and decided to take the questioning in another direction. Lowering her voice to a more intimate tone, she looked knowingly at Megan and said, "You didn't really stop by my apartment last night, did you?" Megan didn't show any response but waited to see where Scully was going with this. "Then how do you know that I'm not involved? Megan, if you know something that can help clear my name, then I need you to tell me."
Scully waited. She could see the wheels turning in Megan's head as she considered where to take this opening. For just a moment, the facade of innocence slipped to reveal a more shrewd and calculating personality. Then the faux naivete returned.
"Oh, Dana, I was afraid to tell anyone because I might get in trouble, but you're right. I have to come forward. You see, I've been following this case on my own, so I was poking around at the last crime scene--and I think I found the murder weapon."
The uneasiness in Scully's voice could no longer be masked as she answered. "Where is it?"
"In the trunk of my car."
The women simply stood watching each other for a moment, waiting for the other's response. Scully wasn't comfortable about standing in front of an open trunk next to a murderer without backup, or being discovered anywhere near a potential murder weapon. There was an eagerness in Megan's eyes that she just couldn't read well enough to assess the situation.
Thankfully the brief standoff ended with the arrival of her boss and partner. As they parked and approached, she urged Megan to make her next move. "If you have evidence to exonerate me, I think it's time you handed it over. Why don't you give me your keys so we can look in the trunk."
A look of apprehension briefly passed over the woman's face before it was replaced with a satisfied look of arrogance or pride. She dropped her keys into Scully's outstretched palm without hesitation and then stood beside the car to watch the drama unfold.
As Scully handed the keys to Skinner, the two undercover cops jogged over from their car to get a closer look at the situation. The small party watched as the trunk was unlatched by a gloved hand and then lifted open.
What they found inside was much more than a discarded scalpel.
* * *
In a surreal imitation of the night before, the two partners once again found themselves seated at the police department awaiting the verdict from the interrogation room. Although this time a suspect was actually being interviewed, it still felt as though Scully's fate hung in the balance.
After a long, tedious wait, Skinner finally emerged from the room to address his agents.
Mulder asked the question on both of their minds. "Did she confess?"
"No, I'm afraid she didn't, but I think there's enough evidence in the trunk alone to convict her. She's got an excuse for everything, of course--the surgical gloves, the wigs, the scalpels--but nobody in there is buying her story. The one thing she does keep harping on, however, is that Agent Scully is innocent."
"I can't explain it, sir, but the woman seems to be fixated on me. Apparently she's been watching me for some time." Scully briefly looked at Mulder and then dropped her eyes. "I only hope that she didn't kill these men as an attempt to get my attention, or my approval."
Mulder gently placed a hand over hers and spoke in softened tones. "I don't think she was trying to get your attention. I think she wanted to *be* you. You represented everything she wanted but couldn't achieve. In some sick way, I think this was her attempt to imitate you, maybe even to surpass you. But the last thing she'd want is for her idol to fall. That's why she had to step forward and divert the blame."
"And it's a good thing she did, too." Both agents looked up at him as Skinner continued. "If she hadn't stepped forward, we may never have connected her to these crimes."
Just then, the door behind him opened, and a hand-cuffed Megan Randolph exited, accompanied by a deputy. Paying no attention to the two men in the hallway, she paused in front of Scully and leaned in to address her.
"I never dreamed they would suspect you, Dana. But don't you worry, I won't let them think you did this. Even if I have to take the fall for you, I'll make sure they clear your name."
The deputy nudged Megan to keep walking, and Scully offered no reply as they passed. Next to her, Mulder stood and stretched. "Well, I think it's obvious that her next interview should be with a shrink. I know it takes one to know one, but that woman is a nutcase."
Skinner snorted softly and shook his head at the agent's attempted humor, but no such reaction was elicited from Scully. A curtain of hair from her bowed head kept her expression a mystery as she stared absently at the floor beneath her feet.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
- 1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV
* * * * *
"Dana, it's nice to see you again. It's been a while."
The agent smiled politely as she sank into the comfortable couch. Since her last visit, the small office apparently hadn't changed much, but she idly wondered if maybe she had.
Karen Kosseff settled herself into the opposing chair and opened her file. Scully knew that these records would contain details of her intervening injuries and reprimands, not to mention the recent encounter with Donnie Pfaster. She decided to wait patiently until the counselor chose a place to start.
"I see you've been through quite a lot lately. After the shooting, OPR cleared you of any wrongdoing, but you decided to take a leave of absence. Why is that?"
Scully looked down at her hands while she answered. "I had doubts about my state of mind and my own abilities. I wondered at my motives for pulling the trigger that night. I felt that my actions had been dismissed because of who the victim was, not because of what really happened, and I started to let the guilt consume me."
"But you've decided now to return to work. What's changed for you?"
Pausing a moment, Scully contemplated her response. "When these brutal murders occurred, I wondered at first if I could be capable of such a thing. But then I learned the truth about who committed them, and I was confronted with a darker version of myself. I saw what I would really look like if I truly yielded myself to my baser instincts, and I realized I could never become that kind of person."
Dr. Kosseff looked down at the file again briefly before continuing. "I've read here about Megan Randolph's obsession with you, and how she emulated you. When she looked at you, she pictured herself. But what about you? Did you recognize something of yourself in her?"
Scully raised her eyes and shook her head decisively. "No. What I saw in Megan was a distorted image of myself, like I was looking in a funhouse mirror. I'm not sure exactly how she saw me, but she couldn't have seen me for who I really am. If she had, she would've known that I would never have approved of what she did."
"This incident followed very quickly after the ordeal with Pfaster, and both events have clearly had a profound effect on you. You said that after the shooting, the guilt weighed very heavily on you. How would you describe your feelings about it now?"
Scully couldn't help but think back to the question Megan had asked her in the supermarket that day, about how it had felt to kill him. She mused that perhaps back then she should have listened to her own answer. "I feel that what I did was wrong, and that I can't excuse myself for my actions. I have no doubts that Donnie Pfaster was evil and that he deserved to die for the things he did, but it was not my place to be his executioner.
"But I've come to realize that even though I may at times feel compelled to take justice into my own hands, I still know the difference between right and wrong. The very fact that I doubted my own actions means that I'm still ruled by my conscience. At first, I tried to escape my remorse for killing him, but now I cling to it. Because, in the end, *that* is what separates me from Donnie Pfaster. That is why I can never become like him."
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