NEW: Dark Reflection (2 of 2)

Dark Reflection -- conclusion (4 of 6)
By Sally Bahnsen and Dawn


New River Lodge
Gauley Bridge, West Virginia
3:51 p.m.

The room presses in on her, too small and cluttered with
cheap furniture. Oprah drones on about alcohol levels and
dead teenagers, scattered applause greeting a particularly
witty remark. The air conditioner thumps and groans
heroically, though each breath she pulls into her lungs
feels heavy with moisture and smells faintly of his
shampoo. Help is on the way, she tells herself - a mantra.
She barks her shins on a spindly chair and navigates around
a small table, the laminated top chipped and peeling, to
fling open the door. Shaking fingers need three tries to
unfasten the chain lock.

Whimpering, low and strangled, pulls her back to the bed,
heart pounding in eyes and ears as well as chest. The
polyester comforter, emblazoned with gaudy yellow roses,
feels scratchy against her thighs as she drops down, one
hand reaching without conscious thought for clammy skin.

"Mulder. Mulder!"

"H...hurts, hurts, m...make...stop."

Words garbled, unrecognizable perhaps, to anyone but her.
Restless movements, leaning into her touch one minute,
jerking away the next. Arms flailing suddenly, eyes wide
open but unseeing.

"No! Nonononono. S...snakes...snakes.

"Shhhh. Easy, you're all right. There are no snakes; do
you hear me, Mulder? There are *no* snakes."

Hair sifting through her trembling fingers, thick, soft,
damp. Dodge and capture an arm, eyes squinting against the
spill of light through an open doorway, ears attune to the
wail of sirens and the squeal of tires on asphalt.


Long limbs turn rigid beneath her palms, then jerk and
spasm, out of control. Seizure.

"Ohgodohgodohgod." A chant. A prayer.

Hurried footsteps, clatter of wheels, barked commands.
Lips automatically form words in a voice high and tight
with swallowed panic.

"Thirty-nine-year-old male, vomiting, abdominal cramps.
He's been seizing for just under a minute. Prior to the
seizure he exhibited extreme lassitude and impaired mental

Scientific words. Objective words. Don't think about how
pale and still he looks, now limp on the thin mattress.
Don't flinch as the needle pierces the sensitive skin on
the back of one long-fingered hand. Don't contemplate
phrases like "BP's skyrocketing, 180 over 100," and "He's
completely unresponsive," and DON'T look at tense, grim

"We're taking him to Montgomery General Hospital, ETA ten

Fingers lock onto the uniformed arm in a bruising grip.

"I'm coming with you."



Montgomery General Hospital
6:02 p.m.

"Dr. Scully?"

"How is he?"

The words, spoken at the same moment, clashed and
scrambled in midair. Suzanne Kimball, the ER doctor who had
taken over Mulder's treatment and relegated Scully to the
waiting room with an iron hand, smiled.

"We got him in time - just. It was pretty touch and go
there for a while. Once we got his bloodwork and realized
we were dealin' with an overdose, we administered activated
charcoal and performed a gastric lavage. BP is still high
but greatly improved. It was almost 200 over 120 by the
time he got here; we're just plain lucky he didn't stroke
out. We'll keep him on nitroglycerin as a vasodilator 'til
his pressure gets back to normal, and I want him on
Dilantin for a bit to avoid any lingering seizures. Other
than that..."

"You said overdose?" Scully interrupted, brow furrowed.
"Overdose of what?"

"Ergotamine. Near as I can tell from the serum levels, he
must've ingested five or six tabs, and they were the
sublingual kind."

Scully's lips parted, and it took her a moment to find her
voice. "Ergotamine? The headache drug?"

Kimball lifted an eyebrow. "I take it you didn't know your
partner suffers from migraines?"

Scully bit her lip, her mind working furiously. "No. No, I

"The puzzlin' thing is why he took as many as he did.
Therapeutically, you don't want to exceed more than three
in a twenty-four hour period. Plus, he apparently
swallowed the pills, instead of lettin' them dissolve under
his tongue. Tell you the truth, Dr. Scully - if he weren't
who he is, I'd be wonderin' if he OD'd on purpose."

Scully forced herself to smile. "I can assure you that
Agent Mulder had no intention of overdosing, Dr. Kimball.
Can I see him?"

Kimball cast a brief look over her shoulder. "They were
cleanin' him up from the lavage when I came out here. He's
relatively stable, so I see no need for packin' him off to
the ICU. We'll put him in a regular room and keep close
tabs on his vitals overnight." Her green eyes twinkled.
"But somethin' tells me you'd rather not wait 'til he's
settled in."

Scully resisted the urge to cross her arms, and attempted
to keep her answering smile relaxed. "I am a doctor. Seeing
my partner a little rough around the edges isn't going to
throw me." She huffed softly. "Unfortunately, it's a sight
with which I'm all too familiar."

Kimball tipped her head toward the trauma room doors. "Go
on. You can escort him upstairs."

"Thank you, Dr. Kimball. For everything."

Scully felt the doctor's eyes following her as she walked
down the wide hallway. She concentrated on keeping her
steps slow and measured, her arms swinging loosely at her
sides. She'd spied the assessing gleam in Dr. Kimball's
gaze and knew she and Mulder would likely be fodder for
many future bull sessions in the doctor's lounge. Her
professional mask always slipped when Mulder's life was
endangered - a weakness even before they'd begun to deepen
their relationship. No sense adding any more credence to
staff's inevitable conjecture.

An older nurse with iron gray hair and a pleasant,
motherly face was tying a fresh gown around Mulder's neck.
She smiled as she tucked a blanket around his legs.

"He's doin' much better. Blood pressure keeps droppin' and
he hasn't had a seizure for over 30 minutes."

Scully tore her gaze from Mulder's pale face. "Has he
regained consciousness?"

The nurse, whose nametag read 'Doris,' gathered up a
soiled sheet containing assorted medical detritus. "Not
exactly. Been driftin' in and out the last five minutes or
so, but he's not really lucid." She shrugged. "Keeps
mumblin' somethin' about a skull. Might have a headache
from the high blood pressure."

Scully pursed her lips together to hide a grin. "Scully,"
she said, letting her eyes find him and moving to the side
of the gurney. "He's saying my name."

Doris squinted at her a moment, then shook her head. "You
Yankees sure pick interestin' names for your kids. I'm
gonna check to see if we can take him up to his room."

Scully barely heard her leave, absorbed by the feel of
Mulder's limp fingers in her own. She scrutinized each of
the monitors surrounding him, reassured by the various
beeps and clicks. Something deep inside of her that had
been tightly coiled began slowly to unwind, and she leaned
one hip onto the bed to relieve abruptly weak knees.

"You have got to stop doing this to me, Mulder. My heart
can't take it."

She was reflecting on the double meaning of her own words
when her partner sucked in a deep breath and his fingers
twitched against her palm.

"Mulder? You awake?"

He sighed and swallowed thickly, turning his face toward
her like a flower seeking the sun. Dark eyelashes fluttered
and finally slid open.

"Scull..." His eyes slipped shut, but he wrestled them open
again, struggling to focus on her face.

"Welcome back. Thought for a while there I'd lost you."

She'd planned a light, teasing tone, not the rough,
faltering one that caught in her throat.

Mulder licked dry lips and grimaced. "What my

Scully laughed through the tears that flooded her eyes.
"Long story, partner. Tell you all about it after you get
some sleep."

Mulder frowned, but his eyes were already down to slits.
"Feel strange...fuzzy. Throat hurts."

She stroked her fingers across his forehead, then through
his hair, knowing from past experience that the action
would put him to sleep.

"Shhh. Just rest now. You'll feel better when you wake up."

Another, longer sigh and his lips curved ever so slightly.
"Scully. Don'"

Scully leaned over and pressed her cool lips to his warm
dry ones without bothering to check for observers. "Never,
Mulder. Never."

Montgomery General Hospital
7:37 a.m.

Squeaky wheels clattering down the hallway, voices raised
in good-natured jibing, the squelch of rubber soles on
polished linoleum, and the steady beep, beep from the heart
monitor -- routine hospital bustle blending into white
noise, urging Scully's exhausted body to remain cocooned in
sleep. Sounds now so familiar, they no longer registered in
her mind.

A low groan brought her to her senses as quickly as if
someone had doused her in ice water. Her head shot up from
its resting place buried in the soft cushion of the chair.
She covered the distance to Mulder's bed in three quick
steps, casting an appraising glance at the assorted medical
equipment surrounding her partner. Checking, rechecking,
making sure.

The soft rustle of legs moving against sheets, testing the
boundaries of the bed. A tremor and a twitch of long
fingers partly obscured by Scully's small hand as her thumb
swept back and forth across his palm. More mumbling,
eyelids fluttering. A long breath sucked in through pale
lips and Mulder's eyes snapped open, only to drift to half-

"Hey, sleepyhead. It's about time you woke up."


"How do you feel?"

"Like someone's been...belly dancing...on my belly." A small
cough broke free and he winced, eyes slamming shut.

"I'm not surprised, Mulder. You gave me quite a scare
yesterday." Scully worked to keep her voice calm, matter of

"What...happened to me?" Mulder managed no more than a
gravelly whisper.

Scully worried her lip, eyebrows drawn together as she
smoothed the blue blanket draped across his chest. "You...
you succumbed to an overdose of Ergomar."

"What?" Mulder turned his head, struggling to focus on her
face. "What the that?"

"Ergomar - the brand name for the drug Ergatomine - is a
drug commonly prescribed for migraine headaches. It's
placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve, like a
nitroglycerin tab. When your blood work-up came back last
night, it showed serum levels of five or six times the
recommended dosage."

"Migraines? I don't..." Mulder lifted his head, then moaned.
He pressed the hand not hooked to an I.V. to his brow,
shading his eyes and massaging his temples with thumb and
forefinger. "I think someone better tell the FDA those
pills don't work. My head is killing me."

Scully's features relaxed into a brief smile before
tightening. "Mulder, this is hardly a joking matter. We..."
The words caught, lodged somewhere between her mouth and
her heart. "*I* nearly lost you."

Mulder seemed to really *look* at her for the first time,
his forehead creasing. Scully's eyes cut away to stare out
the window, one hand self-consciously straightening her
rumpled blouse and tousled hair. She knew what he was
seeing - dark circles under her eyes and lines of fatigue
around her mouth, skin too pale and psyche exposed and
fragile. She hated feeling this way, almost as much as she
hated him witnessing it.

Woozy as he was, Mulder apparently sensed her discomfort.
He tugged her hand up to his lips, pressing a kiss to her
knuckles. "Sorry," he murmured, intense green eyes
capturing her own. He sighed. "How, Scully? I'm not on any
medication. I stopped taking...ibuprofen for my
ribs...nearly a
week ago."

"I don't know, Mulder. It doesn't make any sense. What do
you remember after we left the Marcussens'?"

He licked dry lips, squinting a bit as he searched his
memory. "I...back at the hotel, I remember being frustrated,
angry." He threw his partner an apologetic look. "Then, I
started feeling...strange. I don't know, tired, I
nauseous. I remember stumbling into the bathroom...throwing
up my toenails. After's pretty much a blur."

"And you didn't take ANY medication? Did you have anything
to eat or drink?" Scully recognized that she'd begun to
sound like she was interrogating him, tried to ease off.
She felt as if she was grasping at straws, and she didn't
like it.

"Nothing, Scully. I had lunch with you, then coffee at the
Marcussens'..." His voice trailed off and his eyes turned
vague and out of focus.

"Mulder?" Scully's spoke his name sharply, concerned he
might be losing consciousness.

"The coffee, Scully. It must have been in the coffee."

Scully's jaw dropped and for a long moment she couldn't
find her voice. "The *coffee*? Mulder, I drank the coffee
too, and I'm fine." She spread her arms out as if to say
"look at me."

"Scully, how fast would that drug have hit?"

She inhaled deeply, then blew a long breath out her nose,
obviously struggling against irritation. "Considering the
levels in your bloodstream I'd say peak of action would
occur about an hour and a half after ingestion."

Mulder scrubbed his eyes with shaky fingers. "Lunch would
be...too long. I'd have been sick...when we talked to Beth.
It's the coffee, Scully. Has to be."

Scully was frowning, already shaking her head in denial,
when she abruptly froze.

"Scully? What is it?"

She stared at him as if unable to believe her own words.
"Sugar. You were the only one of us to use sugar in your
coffee. Beth Marcussen knew that. And Mulder, caffeine
enhances the absorption of ergatomine."

Mulder clenched his teeth. "Not Beth. Jacob."

Scully went very still. "*Jacob*? Do you realize what
you're saying, Mulder? You're suggesting that an eleven-
year-old child tried to poison you."

"It's not the first time we've seen such a thing -
remember the Eves? He *knows*, Scully. He...he knows I think
he's lying, and that I suspect he's responsible for
Rachel's disappearance. It all makes sense."

"Makes sense?" Scully's voice was high, incredulous. "How
can it make sense? The Eves were genetically manipulated,
prone to insanity. Jacob is a normal little boy!"

She couldn't believe it. *Wouldn't* believe it. But images
scrolled relentlessly through her mind.

*Jacob sitting at the table in his room, big, brown eyes
shiny with tears -- then coolly asking his mother for a

*Kathy Fergus proudly explaining how Jacob would conduct
his own research on the Internet.*

*Jacob at that same table, meticulously crushing five or
six little pills, then mixing them into the sugar bowl when
his mother turned her back.*

*Mulder doubled up in agony; disoriented one moment,
comatose the next.*

*Oh God, it can't be. He's just a child.*

"He's a little boy...with big problems, Scully."

She pressed the back of one hand to her lips. "There must
be another explanation."

"Just...just hear me out. I didn't tell you this
before...but...when I found those magazines in Jacob's
room, I
was sure I heard someone in the hallway. And I think he was
eavesdropping when we asked Beth about the time when Rachel
was lost in the woods. If he realized I was onto him...if he
felt threatened, desperate..."

Scully stared bleakly at him. "You're certain of this,
aren't you?"

"Scully, nothing about his story checks out. No heat
damage to the treeline. No power outage. No other reports
of strange lights in the sky. And have you asked yourself
why a purportedly timid little girl, afraid of her own
shadow, would chase a spaceship into the woods at night?"
Mulder's words began to slur, his eyes glassy. "I'm telling
you, Scully, it's him. It's Jacob."

He fidgeted, pushing at the blanket. Scully took in the
obvious signs of exhaustion that he valiantly tried to

"Shhh." She stilled his restless fingers with one hand and
placed the other on his brow. "You need to rest, Mulder.
Your body took a beating last night."

", Scully. We have to find Rachel. We don't know
she's dead, she could be trapped somewhere...injured. Every
day that passes...makes it less likely she'll be found
I can't just lay nothing." His eyes were a
treacherous contradiction to his words, persistently
sliding shut.

Scully traced her fingers across the furrowed skin of his
forehead, brushing them down along the shadowed outline of
his jaw. "Yes, you will rest. Your body needs time to

In spite of himself, Mulder slumped bonelessly into the
pillows, her words enveloping him like a feather quilt.
Though his eyes slid shut, he doggedly continued to fight
sleep. "Luke...want to talk to Luke. He...he knows
Should have seen...look on his face...I mentioned Jacob.
to him, Scully. He...he knows something."

"It's all right, Mulder." She continued to caress his cheek.

"Something...something else. Beth...she said...can't
know she said... Why can't I think straight?"

"It's the Dilantin, Mulder. Don't fight it, you need to
sleep. I'll take care of everything, okay? I'm going to go
back to the motel for a shower, and then I'll go talk to

Scully leaned over, her kisses following the path of her
fingers before lingering on his lips. "I'll be back soon."

"Mmm...'kay. Talk...Luke."

Scully adjusted the blanket and checked the monitors,
granting herself one last look at his face, smoothed by
slumber. A yawn struggled to break free but she fought
back, rolling tight shoulders and kneading the base of her

"Wonder what you'd say if you knew how much I'd like to
crawl into that bed with you, Mulder?" she muttered, lips
curving in a wry grin. She shook her head, chuffing a soft
laugh as she headed for the door. "Never mind. I already

Miller Residence
9:06 a.m.

Scully turned off the ignition and sighed, letting her
head drop onto the seatback with a soft thump. She was
currently suffering from what she privately called "PMS" --
post Mulder syndrome. PMS was a condition that occurred
immediately after one of her partner's near death
experiences. The rush of adrenaline tapped out, eyes
bloodshot and gritty from sleep deprivation, mind numbed
with overwhelming relief. Raleigh, North Carolina; Dead
Horse, Alaska; a makeshift O.R. hidden in the bowels of the
DoD... Gunshot wounds, alien retroviruses, experimental
surgery -- not to mention snakes and mutant tobacco
beetles. Too many hours spent in cheap plastic chairs,
drinking horrible coffee and praying to a God whose
existence she sometimes doubted. Mulder had more lives than
a cat, but luck inevitably ran out.

Was it any wonder she occasionally dreamed about stopping
the car?

Children's voices drifted through her open window. Scully
blinked, abruptly aware that she'd been staring sightlessly
at a baseball game being played in a wide cul de sac at the
end of the street. Saturday morning, and it looked as if
most of the neighborhood kids had turned out, split evenly
between the two teams. Scully spotted Jacob immediately,
standing beside a makeshift home plate, a bat cocked over
his right shoulder. The pitcher, a towheaded boy in a
ripped Sammy Sosa jersey, cranked his arm in a wide circle
before firing a perfect toss. Jacob's swing, though in good
form, came a little too late.

"Strike three! You're out, Jacob!"

Several outfielders performed a gleeful jig and headed in.
Even from a distance, Scully could see Jacob's face go
blank and very still. He pulled the bat back to his
shoulder and crouched forward.

"That was way outta the strike zone. Go again."

The dancers froze, and the pitcher's blond head jerked up
in obvious surprise. His fingers tightened around the
baseball, and he slowly shook his head.

"You was out, fair and square, Jacob Marcussen." The boy
was trying for outrage, but only managed to sound anxious.

Jacob shook his head slowly. "An' I say you missed it by a
mile, Luke. Pitch it again."

Luke turned, gaze roaming from child to child, searching
for a show of support. What he found, however, were
shuffling feet and evasive eyes. Swinging back around to
face Jacob, he squared his shoulders and tipped his chin up

"It was good. An' you're out."

Jacob pinned him with a long, intent stare, then dropped
his bat to the asphalt with a clatter. He sauntered slowly
over until he was nose to nose with Luke, who reflexively
backed up a step.

"I'd think real hard about that, Luke. Or else maybe..." He
leaned in close, and his voice sank to a level too low for
Scully to make out the words.

The effect on Luke was electrical. He lurched backward,
his feet tangling together until he nearly fell. Catching
himself, he spun on his heel and took off between the
houses at a run. Scully glimpsed a look of smug triumph on
Jacob's face before he jogged back to home plate and
scooped up the bat.

"Who's pitchin'? Guess Luke doesn't want to play anymore."

Scully shook off her stunned immobility and slipped out of
the car, striding rapidly around the side of the house
where she'd seen Luke disappear. The other children's
voices faded, and she could hear the snapping of twigs, as
if Luke had headed into the woods.

"Luke? Luke, wait!" she called, breaking into a trot.

By the time she reached the backyard, Luke was nowhere in
sight. She slid to a halt, panting a little as she surveyed
the wall of trees and foliage.

"He's goin' to his hideout. Nobody knows where it is."

The soft drawl at her elbow startled a gasp from Scully.
She looked down at a little girl of no more than six, her
curly blonde hair drawn into pigtails and tied with pink

"Hello." Scully dropped to a crouch so that she was at eye
level with the child. "My name is Dana. I work for the
FBI." She held out her badge.

"I'm Jessica, but folks call me Jess," the little girl
replied, studying her cautiously. "Are you looking for
Rachel too, like that boy FBI agent?"

Scully squashed the urge to smile, nodding instead.
"That's right. That's my partner, Agent Mulder."

Jess screwed up her face in puzzlement. "Why was you
callin' for Luke? He done somethin' bad?"

"No, not at all. I just wanted to ask him a few questions.
Do you think he'll come home soon?"

Jess shook her head. "Don't think so. Not after..." She
faltered, eyes darting nervously away from Scully.
"Sometimes he's gone for hours."

"Jess?" Scully tried to keep her tone relaxed, her face
open and friendly. "Can I ask you a few questions?"

The little girl looked at her solemnly for a moment, then
shrugged. Taking it as permission, Scully carefully stepped
into the minefield, mentally holding her breath.

"Agent Mulder told me that you and Rachel are best
friends; is that right?" Scully rewarded the nod with a
smile. "What about Luke and Jacob? Are they good friends?"

Rachel's eyes widened to the size of blue saucers, and
Scully could see her debate the merits of fight versus
flight. She patiently waited, enduring the little girl's
suspicious scrutiny, and was finally rewarded.

"No. Jacob don't have friends."

Not betraying her feelings of excitement and revulsion was
hard. Scully bobbed her head thoughtfully. "Why do you
think Jacob doesn't have any friends? He was playing
baseball with everyone just now."

Jess's gaze skipped nervously around, as if checking for
observers, before she leaned in closer to Scully. "We let
him play, 'cause we're too scared not to. You don't wanna
get Jacob mad at ya."

Scully pretended to consider this, looking puzzled. "Why?
What happens when Jacob gets mad at you?"

Jess wrapped her arms tightly around her small body. "Bad

Scully licked her lips. "Jess, I'm going to ask you a very
important question. But first, I'm going to promise you
that whatever you tell me will stay between you, Agent
Mulder, and me. Okay?"


"Do you remember when Luke fell off his bike and couldn't
be in the school play?" Jess stared, then nodded. "What
really happened, Jess? Was it just an accident?"

"Jacob wanted Luke's part real bad," Jess said, her voice
whisper-soft. "He told Luke to quit, but Luke wouldn't do
it. Jacob got real, real mad and he told Luke he better
quit the play or he'd make Luke sorry."

Jess paused, eyes flitting about the yard once again.

"Go on," Scully urged gently. "You're doing fine, Jess."

"Luke likes to go bikin' down Jimson's Gap -- that's a
dirt road that comes down the mountain across town. One
day, a little while after Jacob said those things, Luke was
ridin' down the hill and the front wheel of his bike just
come clean off. He flipped right over the handlebars --
hurt his head and broke his leg real bad. The doctor had to
operate, and he was in the hospital a long time." Jess
snuffled, swiping at teary eyes with the back of her hand.

"That must have been scary," Scully said gently, giving
the little girl's arm a sympathetic squeeze. "For Luke, and
for you."

"Jacob done it!" Jess blurted, her face flushed with anger
and tears. "He messed with Luke's bike so the wheel would
fall off! He hurt my brother on purpose so he could be in
the play 'stead of Luke!"

Scully kept her hand on Jessica's arm. "Sweetheart, I
understand that Jacob threatened Luke. But how can you be
sure he tampered with Luke's bike?"

Jessica's face looked pinched and old beyond her years.
"Jacob came over to visit Luke when he got home from the
hospital. He gave him an envelope and told him not to let
Mamma or Daddy see it if he knew what was good for him.
There was a picture inside -- a drawin' of Jacob flyin' off
his bike and landin' on his head. And there was a screw."

Scully couldn't stop the grimace, but she reassembled her
poker face as quickly as possible. "A screw...from Luke's

Jess nodded gravely. "Jacob don't have friends, Dana. But
he sure don't have enemies, either."

Scully swallowed hard. "Do you think Luke would talk to me
about the accident? Maybe tell me the whole story?"

The little girl shook her head vehemently. "No ma'am. Luke
made me swear never to tell anyone; he'd be real mad if he
knew I talked to you."

"Jess, you've been very helpful. But I have to ask you
just one more question, even though it's a tough one. Do
you think Jacob had anything to do with Rachel's

Jess flinched, her reply almost inaudible. "If he set his
mind to it, I think Jacob could make anyone disappear."

She wriggled out of Scully's grasp and ran.

Montgomery General Hospital
10:32 a.m.

Jackson Arnette, the doctor who had assumed responsibility
for Mulder's care once he'd been shipped up to the second
floor, was leaning against the nurses' station when Scully
stepped off the elevator. She altered her trajectory,
aiming for the physician instead of her partner's room. The
tap of her heels caught Arnette's attention, and he quickly
scribbled an instruction on the chart in his hands, before
setting it aside and offering her a smile.

"Well hello, Doctor Scully. Stoppin' by to check up on
that partner of yours?"

"Agent Mulder doesn't 'do' hospitals very well," Scully
said, her own lips curving. "I've found it's in the best
interest of all concerned if I keep a close eye on him."

Arnette was easily as tall as Mulder, with the same, rangy
build. He wore his dark hair long, so that it brushed the
collar of his white dress shirt, and his deep blue eyes
sparkled with warmth and good humor. All in all, a very
nice package, Scully admitted, trying hard not to blush
under his disconcertingly intense gaze, and feeling vaguely
disloyal for even entertaining the thought.

*Face it, Dana, you're not dead*

Funny how the little voice in her head always sounded like

Arnette grinned. "I don't think he's been awake long
enough to be much trouble. According to Cassie - that's his
nurse - he woke up just long enough to eat a piece of toast
and then fell right back to sleep. He was still out cold
when I checked on him a few minutes ago."

"You said you'd check his bloodwork again this morning.
Did you get the results?"

The doctor folded his arms and leaned back against the
counter. "Everything looks good, real good. Serum levels of
the ergotamine are so low they're barely detectable, and
his BP's back to normal. I've started to ease him off the
Dilantin, and if all goes well, I'll release him first
thing tomorrow mornin'."

"That's wonderful news. Thank you for everything, Doctor
Arnette." Scully felt a slightly goofy grin spread across
her face, discrediting her cool, professional response.

Evidently Arnette felt it, too. Something behind his eyes
shifted, and his gaze, though still warm, held a hint of
disappointment. "Just doin' my job. You'd best warn your
partner about the dangers of exceedin' recommended dosage
of a prescription, though. He's just plain lucky he's not
pushin' up daisies."

*Way to rain on my parade* Scully thought ruefully.

"Believe me, Doctor Arnette," she said aloud, turning back
toward Mulder's room. "Agent Mulder is painfully aware of
the danger."

She pushed the door open just in time to catch Mulder with
one bare foot on the linoleum and a wide-eyed, guilty
expression on his face.

"Hey, Scully. You look a lot better; that shower must have
agreed with you." Though his diction was clear, his voice
remained rough and raspy.

Scully crossed her arms and pinned him with a steely
glare. "Nice try, Mulder, but I'm still going to say it."


"What in the hell are you doing out of bed?"

Apparently deciding on a "best defense is a strong
offense" approach, Mulder thrust out his bottom lip and
narrowed his eyes. "Nature calls, Scully. I was just headed
to the little patient's room."

She huffed in exasperation and stalked over to the bed.
"Mulder, you're still weak and likely to be lightheaded
from the drugs. You shouldn't be attempting that without

Mulder waggled his eyebrows, giving her his best
lascivious look. "Ooo, Scully. Is that an offer?"

Scully raised an eyebrow, her gaze deliberately wandering
up and down his form. "You're in no shape to handle what
I've got to offer, monster boy."

"You know how I love it when you talk dirty." Mulder slid
off the mattress onto both feet, swaying precariously.

Scully's hand shot out reflexively to steady him, but
after a moment he shrugged it off and shuffled slowly
toward the bathroom. A poorly stifled snicker, erupting
into a snort, caused him to glance over his shoulder. The
hand pressed to Scully's lips couldn't hide the mirth in
her eyes.

"Nice view."

Muttering under his breath, Mulder reached around to pull
the hospital gown together before proceeding. He
disappeared into the bathroom, but left the door ajar.

"Did Luke talk to you?"

Scully sank into the bedside chair, smothering a yawn with
the back of her hand. Though she desperately needed a
caffeine fix, she'd been unable to bring herself to consume
a cup of coffee - normally a crucial component of her
morning routine.

"No. But his little sister did."


Mulder's path back to the bed zigzagged a bit erratically,
and he didn't bother to suppress a deep sigh as he settled
back into the pillows. He let his head loll to the right so
that he could see her face.

"Tell me everything, Scully."

She did. She described the baseball game, Luke's abrupt
flight, and Jessica's reluctant acquiescence to discussing
Jacob. Mulder listened raptly, only interrupting once or
twice to ask a question. When Scully finally finished
speaking, he continued to study her, tugging his lip
between thumb and index finger.

"You believe now...don't you?" His eyes held neither triumph
nor rebuke.

"I don't want to, Mulder..." Her voice trailed off, and she
gave a slight shake of her head before meeting his gaze.
"But, God help me, I do."

"I'm sorry, Scully."

Her sleepless night bubbled to the surface, and Scully
couldn't quite keep the snappish tone from her voice. "Why
are you sorry? You were right all along." She shoved a lock
of hair angrily behind her ear. "I just don't understand,
Mulder. What turns a child into a monster? If he'd been
abused, mistreated, maybe I could make some sense of all
this. But Jacob is from a good home with two loving
parents. I see nothing in his background to..."

Mulder bolted upright, only to grimace and cradle his
head. He absently pushed Scully's restraining hand off his
shoulder, motioning for her to sit down.

"Give me a minute, give me a minute," he muttered, lifting
his head to stare vacantly at the open door. "That's it!
That's what I was trying to remember. Yesterday afternoon,
when we were talking to Beth, she made a remark... 'No
to think history would repeat itself' - that's what she
said." Mulder made a face. "I wanted to ask her what she
meant by that, but she insisted on getting us coffee."

Scully frowned. "What do you *think* she meant?"

He sucked his lower lip into his mouth, leaning back to
stare pensively at a crack in the ceiling. "Bear with me
for a minute, all right, Scully? I started forming a theory
back when I was at Oxford, and what I saw during my time in
the VCU seemed to support it. True sociopaths - which is
what most serial killers are, and what I believe Jacob to
be -- lack the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
They operate solely in their own best interests; they're
completely egocentric. Any methods employed to satisfy
their own needs and desires are therefore acceptable, even

"Like making your little sister disappear so that you can
have a puppy," Scully murmured.

"A puppy, your parents' undivided love and attention,
control of the television remote..."

Scully made a small sound of distress in the back of her
throat, and he sent her an apologetic look before

"Profiling serial killers, crawling into their heads, I
became intrigued by the very question you just articulated
- why does one abused child turn into a monster, and
another, an upstanding member of his community? And what
about the ones from good homes, like the boys I told you
about? What happened to leave them...broken beyond repair?"

"You said you had a theory."

Mulder flashed her an impudent grin. "Seven years, Scully.
You should know by now, I always have a theory."

His banter drove back the darkness surrounding her heart.
Scully arched an eyebrow and pursed her lips. "Sorry,
partner, but you'll have to make do without the slideshow."

He pouted briefly before his eyes turned hazy with
concentration. "As I researched the criminals I profiled,
dug into their backgrounds, a pattern began to emerge. In
every case, somewhere in the suspect's family tree there
were other instances of sociopathic behavior. For the less
serious offenses - armed robbery, rape, assault - the trait
would show up on one side of the family, either through the
mother or the father. But in the truly horrific criminals -
the serial murderers, mutilators, torturers - the trait
expressed itself on both sides."

Scully stared at him, her mind working furiously to
process his words. "Mulder, are you suggesting that
sociopathy is a genotype? That a child can inherit the
compulsion to kill the same way he inherits his father's
dark hair or his mother's dimples?"


Scully blew out a long gust of air and shook her head.
"You never cease to amaze me."

"Is that your way of saying I'm certifiable, or that you
think I'm on to something?"

"I have to choose one or the other?" She chuckled at his
wounded expression, then sobered. "Actually, from a
genetics standpoint, I suppose it makes sense. If
sociopathy was linked to a recessive gene -- like blond
hair or blue eyes -- then it could conceivably be carried
but not expressed - or expressed to a lesser degree. Only
the contribution of a gene from each parent would result in
the complete manifestation of the phenotype, of the

"You're validating my theory? Scully, I just got very
turned on." Mulder's voice dropped and he leered at her

"Don't get too excited, Ace. A theory is all it is, and an
unsubstantiated one at that. I take it that you think
Beth's comment about history repeating itself means there
are some proverbial skeletons in the family closet?"

"I think without concrete evidence it's going to be nearly
impossible to convince anyone that Jacob Marcussen could be
a killer. Maybe unearthing a few skeletons will give us the
ammunition necessary to convince Beth and Sam to allow a
psychiatrist to evaluate their son."

Scully slowly shook her head. "I really don't think Beth

"I don't either. But as the esteemed Sheriff Sullivan so
eloquently put it, this is a small town, Scully. Everyone
knows everyone else's business - probably for generations.
And we should be able to track down newspaper articles and
police reports to give us what we're looking for."

"Don't even think about it, Mulder. Less than eighteen
hours ago, you were at death's door. You are not leaving
this hospital before Dr. Arnette releases you in the

"I'm *fine*, Scully. There's no reason I can't..."

"Wrong. The reason is that I will shoot you, and you know
I don't miss." She softened at his obvious frustration.
"I'll track down Sheriff Sullivan to see if he's got a
story to tell. Hopefully he can also point me to a decent
library where I can search old newspapers. You should be
grateful to be spared that ordeal, Mulder; you know those
microfilm readers make you nauseous."

Mulder opened his mouth to argue, then got a crafty gleam
in his eye. "I'll be a good little patient, Scully. IF you
leave me your laptop."

Scully's eyes narrowed. "I don't know. You're supposed to
be resting."

"I won't leave this bed! I can log on and conduct my own
research without setting foot outside this hospital room."
He tried to make his voice coaxing, but somehow it just
sounded desperate.

Scully heaved the sigh of a martyr. "Fine. It's in the
car; I'll bring it up. But I'm warning you, Mulder..."

She watched him exchange the pleading look for wide-
eyed innocence, holding up his right hand with just the
first two fingers extended. "I promise, Scully. Scout's

"You were an Indian Guide, not a Boy Scout, remember?" she
said dryly, standing up.

"Yeah. So?"

"Mulder, if being partnered with you has taught me one
thing, it's to never leave a loophole. You'll just use it
to hang yourself."

The expression on his face entertained her all the way
down to the car.



Gauley Bridge Sheriff's Office
12:52 p.m.

"How is Agent Mulder?" Sheriff Sullivan leaned back in
his chair, chewing on the end of a pencil, eyebrows
creeping together like two furry caterpillars as he
expressed his concern for the FBI agent.

"He's feeling much better, thank you, Sheriff. If he
continues improving at this rate the doctor expects to
release him from the hospital tomorrow."

"My cousin's wife suffers from migraines. Terrible thing,
I've seen her almost weepin' with the pain. I can
understand how a person might accidentally take too many of
those pills in a moment of desperation." Sullivan shook his
head sympathetically.

Scully's teeth clamped onto her bottom lip and she counted
silently to fight off the growing anger bubbling up inside
her. She couldn't quell the need to jump to Mulder's
defense and explain in no uncertain terms that he was not
responsible for his current predicament. She tamped down
her irritation and opted instead for a less emotional

"Agent Mulder doesn't suffer from migraines, and he didn't
take an overdose of Ergomar, accidentally or otherwise.
Someone gave it to him without his knowledge. He's lucky..."

"Whoa, whoa, hang on there, Agent Scully! Just what are
you implying?" Sheriff Sullivan brought his body forward
and leaned his arms on the desk, the abused pencil returned
none too gently to its former resting place -- an old,
chipped coffee cup crammed with an assortment of pens and
pencils, all bearing similar battle scars from time spent
jammed between Sullivan's teeth.

"I'm not implying anything; I am stating a fact. Agent
Mulder was poisoned yesterday afternoon. Deliberately.
Whoever did it had every intention of killing him."

"Now, who the hell would want to do that?" The sheriff
blustered, practically spitting the words at Scully.

"We're still investigating. Agent Mulder's symptoms came
on not long after we were at the Marcussens', interviewing

"I'm trustin' that what I'm hearin' here has nothing to do
with you accusing Beth Marcussen of poisonin' Agent Mulder.
Like I told you and your partner when you first came here,
the Marcussens are fine, upstanding people. I'd stake my
career on the fact that they've played no part in Rachel's
disappearance. Those poor folks..."

"Sheriff Sullivan, I'm not accusing Beth of hurting Agent
Mulder. I'm simply telling you that we were at her home
before he became ill. Which brings me to the point of my
visit here..."

"Well, all right, just as long as you understand that I
won't be listenin' to anyone bad-mouthing the Marcussens."
He swiped another pencil from the cup and shoved it between
his teeth, clamping down viciously.

Hmm. Scully did a quick mental backtrack. She was
beginning to wonder if Sullivan was the right person to
provide the kind of information she sought. The man was
certainly defensive as far as Beth and Sam were concerned.
How far could she push him before he flatly refused to
talk? She abruptly decided to go for broke. What the heck --
between them, she and Mulder had managed to antagonize most
of the local law enforcement from coast to coast. One more
time wouldn't make much difference, and right now Rachel
Marcussen was more important than an overly sensitive

"I'm not here to 'bad-mouth' anyone. I'm here, just like
you, to find a little girl. Now as I was saying, yesterday
Agent Mulder and I went to speak with Beth, hoping to
convince her to let us have Jacob evaluated by a
psychologist. The Bureau has one on staff who specializes
in pediatric trauma."

"And why would you be wanting to do that?" The pencil
left his mouth and now substituted for a drumstick, tapping
an erratic beat on the desktop.

"Sheriff Sullivan, Jacob obviously didn't see a spaceship
the other night. He's compensating for his own fear by
inventing a story about aliens abducting his sister. It's
a coping mechanism, but if he could talk to a professional
about his experience, he might open up and remember what
really happened." Scully knew her explanation contained
only half the truth, padding its razor-sharp corners.
Fortunately, it satisfied Sullivan.

"I see." Tap, tap, tap. "Well, yeah, you've got a point,
Agent Scully. I take it Beth didn't agree, though?"

"She was not entirely receptive to the idea. The idea of
Jacob seeing a psychiatrist seemed to upset her, and she
said something that left both Agent Mulder and me a little
puzzled. Her exact words were, 'no reason to think history
would repeat itself.' What do you suppose she met by that?"
Scully sat back in her chair, watching Sullivan closely as
the words sank in.

The pencil drum solo abruptly ceased.

The sheriff sucked in his bottom lip and gave it a workout
with his teeth. Scully wondered idly if he'd forgotten the
pencil was on the desk and not in his mouth.

"Sheriff?" she prompted.

More tapping.

"I heard you, Agent Scully. I'm just decidin' whether I
should allow this conversation to go any further. I get
the distinct impression that you're fishin' for something
that's going to implicate Beth in what's happened to
Rachel." His eyes narrowed, bushy brows all but obscuring
the shrewd glint.

This was too much. Exhausted, emotions rubbed raw by
Mulder's brush with death, deeply troubled by evidence that
indicated Rachel Marcussen might have been murdered by her
own brother - it all came crashing down around her.

"Sheriff Sullivan, I am not the enemy here. Agent Mulder
and I came to Gauley Bridge at *your* invitation. We
promised to help you find out what happened to Rachel
Marcussen, and Agent Mulder nearly died last night while
trying to do so. That little girl is still missing, and
you and I both know that every tick of the clock decreases
her chances for survival. Now, if you are more concerned
about Sam and Beth's reputations than you are about their
daughter's life, I suggest that you handle this case any
way you see fit. I'll arrange a flight back to D.C. for
Agent Mulder and myself as soon as he is released from the
hospital. You can reassure the Marcussens that their good
name is still intact while you're explaining why Rachel
hasn't been found." Scully gathered her things and stood,
fighting to hang onto the shreds of her self-control.

The pencil slipped from Sullivan's fingers, rolled across
the desk and landed on the floor.

*Thank God* Scully thought.

"Agent Scully." The words seemed to fumble around in his
mouth before he could bring himself to say them. "You're
right; I've been acting like an ass. I guess I'm a bit
territorial when it comes to Gauley Bridge. I *am* the law
in this town, and I take my job seriously. I told you
before, in a small town, everyone knows everyone else's
business. Good and bad. I was just tryin' to protect Sam,
Beth, and Jacob from any more pain. Guess I didn't go
about it the right way. Please accept my apology."

Scully closed her eyes, dropping her head until her chin
rested on her chest. God, she was so tired. But her
intention had never been to leave, just to force the
Sheriff into some positive action.

"I'm sorry too. It's been a long couple of days." She
offered Sullivan a small smile. "Now, if you don't mind,
I'd appreciate any insight you may have into what exactly
Beth meant." Scully resumed her seat.

"I'm not sure how much help I can be. What little I know
is mostly hearsay. Somethin' happened a long time ago in
Beth's family. She doesn't like to talk about it, and I've
never been one to pry. What's past is past; no need to keep
reliving it. We all got family members we'd rather not
claim as one of our own. No sense thinkin' one bad apple
is gonna spoil the whole barrel."

Scully bit back the urge to recite Mulder's recessive gene
theory, preferring instead to hold her tongue and let
Sheriff Sullivan continue.

"What I do know, is that it has something to do with
Beth's grandmother. Way I heard it, she murdered a member
of her own family, and they locked her away in some
psychiatric institution. I believe she remained there until
she died a few years back." He shrugged, sliding his hand
along his jawline, searching his mind for more information.

"I believe most of the investigation took place in
Charleston. If you want details, I can give you the name of
a buddy of mine. He's the station clerk at the Charleston
PD. Just mention my name, and I'm sure he'll be willin' to
help you out, point you in the right direction."

Sullivan pulled a piece of paper from under the coffee cup
holding the masticated pencils, selected a pen, and
scribbled down a name. He reached across and handed it to

"Ask for Amos Page."

Scully took the paper and ran her eyes over it before
folding and slipping it into her pocket.

"Thank you. I appreciate your feelings in this matter,
Sheriff. Please believe me when I say that our only
intentions are to do whatever is necessary to bring Rachel
home." She held out her hand.

"You're welcome, Agent Scully. I just don't want to see
this end badly." He shook Scully's hand, then stooped to
pick up the fallen pencil, tossing it on his desk.

"Neither do we."

Outside Sullivan's office, Scully took a moment to stretch
tight muscles. Turning her face toward the warm sunshine,
she tipped her head from side to side, working the kinks
from her neck, sighing at a particularly loud and
satisfying crack.

Coffee. She could really use a cup of coffee. Her need
for caffeine outweighed her previous reluctance, and now
she found herself searching for a diner so she could grab a
cup before she hit the road.

Twenty minutes and one cup of coffee later, Scully's car
was winding along highway 60 towards Charleston. She
balanced her cell phone against the steering wheel with one
hand while she punched in the hospital number with the
other. As she waited for someone to pick up, she wondered
if Mulder had found anything worthwhile on the Internet.

Montgomery General Hospital
1:36 p.m.

The high pitched trilling snapped him awake, blinking and
disoriented. Mulder ground the heel of one hand into sleep-
gritty eyes, fumbling for the phone with the other.


A brief silence, then Scully's voice, low and amused. "I
woke you up."

Mulder squirmed to a more upright position, noting that
someone had shutdown the laptop and reconnected the phone
line. He forced heavy eyes wide open, hating the thick,
sludgy feeling to his thoughts.

"What makes you say that?"

The overt affection in her reply warmed him, even as her
words irritated him. "Well, you only answer the phone by
saying 'hello' if you're half asleep." Another pause for
effect. "And there's the fact that more than ten seconds
have passed without you asking if I've learned anything

"The nurse slipped me a Mickey after lunch," he whined,
running his tongue around the inside of his mouth with a
grimace. "Thought you said Arnette was taking me off that

"I said he was tapering off the Dilantin, Mulder, not
eliminating it altogether. You are supposed to be resting,
after all."

"So, did you find out anything significant?"



"Well, after a little...persuasion, Sheriff Sullivan
admitted to hearing about some kind of incident involving
Beth's grandmother. The family lived in a suburb of
Charleston at the time - this was nearly seventy-five years

"Persuasion, huh, Scully? Bet ol' Jonas was putty in those
little hands." He couldn't resist teasing her, wishing she
were present so that he could watch her roll her eyes.

"Are you finished?" she asked dryly.

"Yes, ma'am. What kind of incident?"

"Sullivan was reluctant to say, other than the fact that a
death was involved. Evidently Beth has tried to keep the
whole thing very quiet, refuses to talk about it. There are
plenty of rumors, of course, but Sullivan has never
bothered to substantiate any of them. 'What's past is
past', is the way he put it. He was less than pleased with
the entire line of questioning."

Mulder coiled the phone cord around his little finger,
trying to jolt sluggish thought processes into motion.
"You're onto something, Scully. I think you should..."

"I'm in the car, Mulder, headed down Highway 60, about
twenty minutes out of Charleston."

She couldn't see the grin, so he made his voice low and
smoky. "I've always been partial to June weddings, babe,
how 'bout you?"

Scully snorted. "Is that supposed to cover the fact that
you've come up empty, Ace?"

"Scully, you wound me. As you pointed out, less than
twenty-four hours ago I was at death's door, clinging to
life by my..."

"Nothing, hmm?"

"Call me as soon as you know anything, Scully."

"I will."

Mulder replaced the receiver in its cradle, then stared
reproachfully at the laptop's dark screen. He'd tried
digging for information on Sam Marcussen's family history
for nearly two hours before succumbing to fatigue and the
effects of the Dilantin. Though he'd done little more than
spin his wheels, he had hopes that, armed with whatever
Scully found out in Charleston, they might be able to talk
Beth and Sam into allowing a psychiatric evaluation of
Jacob. Though he had little doubt what the results would
be, he feared that for Rachel it would all be too little,
too late. Missing nearly four days - odds were slim that
the little girl would be found alive.

Mulder had picked up the modem connection and was propped
on one elbow, reaching for the jack, when the phone rang
again. Scooping it up, he flopped back onto his pillow.

"Mulder," he sighed. Scully's words echoed in his head,
and he smirked at the ceiling.

"Hey, Wonderboy. What in the hell happened to you?" Tim
Spencer chirped.

"Long story, Spence, and highly implausible," Mulder
replied, lips quirking. "How'd you know I was here?"

"I know your MO, Mulder. Whenever you hit town for a case,
it's best to scope out the nearest medical institution."
Tim chuffed a little at his own joke.

"Very funny. Your concern is touching."

"Okay, seriously - are you all right? When I talked to
your partner, she said something about poisoning." The lilt
left Spencer's voice, replaced by honest concern.

"I'm fine; the doctor says he'll spring me first thing
tomorrow morning. You talked to Scully?"

"Yeah, she gave me her cell phone number when I talked to
her the other night. I caught her leaving the sheriff's
office. You two must be making headway on the case if
someone tried to kill you. Do you know who did it?"

Mulder hesitated, gnawing on his lip. When the silence
stretched long between them, Spencer cleared his throat.


Mulder pulled in a deep breath of air. "Spence, this is
just between us for now, all right? Until Scully and I can
nail a few things down, we're keeping our suspicions quiet.
This one could really blow up in someone's face - probably


Mulder glanced uneasily at his open door, dropping his
voice. "I am ninety-nine percent certain that Jacob
Marcussen is responsible for his sister's disappearance and
my unfortunate overdose."

This time the silence stretched out on Spencer's end of
the line, punctuated at last by a long, low whistle. "You
never go the easy route, do ya, Wonderboy? Guess I can
understand why you aren't broadcastin' that particular
theory." He paused, then added. "This isn't D.C., Mulder.
No one's going to accept that little boy hurt his sister
without concrete proof."

"Believe me, I know," Mulder said gloomily. "I need to
talk the parents into having him evaluated. Scully and I
are looking for indications of psychological instability in
either side of the family. She's checking out a lead in

"You know..." Spencer let the words trail off. When he
resumed speaking, his voice was slow, and his manner
distracted. "Ever since this case came up, something about
the name has been buggin' me. Like I'd heard it somewhere
before, though I can't put my finger on where that would

"The name? You mean Marcussen?"

"Yeah. My granddad was a great one for tellin' us stories
about famous criminals - Dillinger, Capone, Manson... Drove
my mother nuts; she complained all he did was give us fuel
for nightmares. To tell you the truth, though, I think
that's how I wound up in this crazy job."

"You think maybe that's where you heard the name
Marcussen?" Mulder couldn't keep a touch of eagerness from
his voice.

"Not sure. Could be, though. How about I do a little
diggin' around here and get back to you?" The amusement
abruptly returned to Spence's voice. "Guess for once I
won't have to track you down, huh, Wonderboy?"

"Funny. I can see your sense of humor, such as it is,
hasn't changed. I'll be right here."

"Back in a few."

Mulder hung up the phone, absently fiddling with the modem
cable before dropping it back onto the tray table. He
thought about Jacob Marcussen, in many ways the mirror
image of a young Fox Mulder. Was it really just genetics
that distinguished between hunter and hunted?

Mulder possessed the ability - he refused to think of it
as a gift - to profile killers. A simple term for something
far more complex and confusing. His final dark days with
VICAP had blurred into a continuous nightmare, slipping in
and out of the heads of some of the most repugnant and
inhuman monsters. No respite, because the more he caught,
the more they sent his way. It got so that he couldn't
shake the filth from one before polluting himself with
another. And through it all, he'd seen the distaste on the
faces of his fellow agents, heard the cruel whispers.

Impossible to immerse yourself so completely in the mind
of a killer.

Impossible unless you shared the same tendencies.

Mulder closed his eyes, telling himself that Jacob
Marcussen was a cold-blooded murderer. That right now he
had no place in society and probably never would.

And he tried hard not to see Beth Marcussen's devastated

Charleston Police Department
2:56 p.m.

Scully liked him immediately. He could have been anywhere
from fifty to sixty years old. She supposed his hair might
once have been brown, like Mulder's, but now there was only
a vague suggestion of the previous color poking out between
silvery strands. His eyes crinkled when he smiled, and she
found herself thinking that what she liked most about this
man was his friendly, open face.

Skin tanned and weathered by too much time spent in the
sun, accentuated blue eyes that shone brightly from beneath
heavy gray brows. Amos Page reminded Scully of Paul
Newman, the rugged good looks of youth only improved by
age. She tried to imagine Mulder in his fifties, or even
his sixties, his smooth, boyish face lined, and gray
dusting his temples. Her heart constricted as she realized
just how much she wanted to share Mulder's old age -
naturally and in due time, not hastened by tainted water.
Scully gave herself a mental shake and stifled the little
chuckle of amusement that threatened to escape.

"Well, hello there, young lady. I'm guessin' you must be
Agent Scully."

Scully's eyebrows communicated her surprise, and her hand
rested lightly on the badge still tucked inside her pocket.

"Don't be startled; news travels fasts in these parts.
The carrier pigeon arrived not ten minutes ago." Amos
erupted into a hearty guffaw of laughter. "I'm only
kidding! Jonas called ahead and told me to expect you."

Yes, she liked this man. His good humor was contagious,
and before Scully could stop herself, a smile had taken
over her own features.

"Amos Page?" Scully offered him her hand instead of her

"One and the same." His meaty paw engulfed her much
smaller digits and pumped her arm enthusiastically, while
with the other, he swung open the partition gate and
motioned her in.

"Welcome to my humble abode. Come right in and make
yourself comfortable." Amos scooped a pile of folders and
papers from a chair, dumped them on the floor, and pulled
it in front of his desk. "Have a seat." He returned to
his own chair on the other side of the desk.

"Can I get you anything? Coffee? A soda? Water? Just say
the word." Page picked up a pencil and started to twirl it
around his fingers.

*If he starts chewing or tapping that thing, I won't be
held responsible for my actions.*

"Nothing for me, thanks. I do have a few questions I'd
like to ask you. My partner and I are investigating..."

"The disappearance of the Marcussen child. Yes, yes, I
know. Well, let's face it, you'd have to be living under a
rock not to've heard about it. We've been doin' a bit of
investigatin' ourselves -- mainly helping out your boys in
the Roanake office. But from what Jonas tells me, you're
here for some family history. What exactly do you want to

"There was an incident some years back that involved Beth
Marcussen's grandmother. Sheriff Sullivan was a little
sketchy on the details, but said you might be able to fill
in the blanks. The original investigation was carried out
in Charleston; is that correct?" Scully pulled out her
notebook and started patting her pockets.

"Here, use my pencil," Amos offered, handing over the one
he'd been fiddling with.

"Thanks." Scully couldn't help giving the implement a
quick inspection for teeth marks. She felt a little silly
at the brief feeling of relief that washed over her -- the
pencil was smooth and even.

"Now 'bout that case involvin' Beth's grandmother. I do
remember it well. I wasn't born when it happened, but I
heard plenty about it as I was growing up. Why, my own
daddy was part of the investigatin' team." His eyes turned
wistful as he sifted through his memories.

"Any information you can provide would be very helpful to
us," Scully prompted.

"Oh, I don't mind helpin' you folks out. I'm just tryin'
to sort fact from gossip. I'm sure you know how these
things get blown all out of proportion over time. My daddy
didn't like to talk about it too much, but he did tell me
the whole story once, when I was about twelve or thirteen.
All sorts of rumors were flyin' around, and he wanted to
set me straight. From what I can remember, it happened
some time around the early 1940's. Katherine Jensen. That
gal was the talk of the town her whole life."

"What do you mean?" Scully asked, jotting the name and
date in her note book.

"She was really quite brilliant. I don't know that they
had such things as IQ tests back then, but I'd guess she
would've rated in the genius category." Amos shook his
head. "Sometimes it doesn't pay to be too smart," he added.

"Katherine graduated from high school at the age of
fifteen and was packed off to the University. Back then,
the University of Charleston was located out at
Barboursville --wasn't till around 1942 that it moved to
the city, where it is today. It used to be run by the
Methodists, and I believe that was the only reason her
folks allowed her to go. Anyway, she was studyin' to become
a pharmaceutical chemist, and one of the youngest students
ever accepted into a university in these parts. I believe
that record still holds. By the time she was eighteen, she
was back in Charleston, apprenticed to the local
pharmacist. 'Course, as you know..."

"Katherine Jensen, Beth's grandmother, was a licensed
pharmacist?" Could history really be repeating itself? The
parallels between Jacob and his great grandmother were

"You got it. But she didn't keep workin' for long. This
area is mostly mining country, and back then it was a
thrivin' industry. Katherine met a young man who worked in
the mines. The story has it that they fell head over heels
in love. Katherine quit her job at the drug store, much to
her family's dismay, and married him. They moved to a
little cottage just outside of the city. From what my
daddy told me, they lived a fairly quiet life, and if my
memory serves me right, I think they had five kids. Just
your average American family: hard workin', morally
upstandin' people. Then one night - clear outta the blue --
Katherine just up and killed the whole damn lot. Her
husband and all the kids...well, all but one, anyway. You
know, it still sends a shiver down my spine. To think
someone who appeared so 'normal' could just up and do a God-
awful thing like that..." His voice trailed off.

*Yes* Scully thought. *Someone so normal, so ostensibly
innocent. Like a young housewife and mother.*

*Or an eleven-year-old boy.*

"You said she killed the whole family except for one
child. Obviously Beth's mother must have survived."

Amos Page jumped, plucked back from the horrors of a 60-
year-old massacre.

"Yes, you're right, of course. We wouldn't have Beth if
everyone had died." He managed a small smile. "Beth's
mother, Janie, was just an infant. Apparently, she was
found just barely clingin' to life the next morning,
covered in her own vomit. As disgusting as it sounds, it's
the very thing that saved her life. Katherine poisoned the
family, added somethin' to the evening meal, and left them
to die in their sleep. Janie was the only one to vomit it
up. Back then, it was hailed as a miracle. And honestly,
Agent Scully, who's to say it wasn't?"

Scully wondered if miracles ran in the Marcussen family
too. For Rachel's sake, she hoped so.

"Who found the victims?" she asked.

"Now, this is where it gets really creepy." Amos stated,
his eyes glazing over as his thoughts once again turned

"More creepy than a mother killing her husband and kids?"
Scully was still trying to wrap her mind around Page's

"The next morning Katherine had a visit from one of her
neighbors. She invited the woman in for a cup of tea, just
like always. They sat and chatted for a while, until the
neighbor asked after the children. Do you know what
Katherine told her? 'Oh, I don't have children anymore.
I'm tired of bein' a mother, and I've decided to go back to
workin' at the drug store.' Of course, the woman thought
Katherine was havin' a little fun at her expense. After a
bit, though, when she didn't change her tune and the kids
still didn't show up, the neighbor got real worried. She
waited until Katherine left the room to bring her some more
tea and went snoopin'. You can imagine her horror when she
found all those little ones so still and cold in their
beds. Fortunately for Janie, she had the presence of mind
to check for a pulse. When she realized the baby was still
alive, she took her straight to the hospital. You want to
know the darndest thing?"

"There's more?" Scully asked, wondering just how much
worse this could possibly get.

"When the police arrived, Katherine was still in the
house, goin' about her chores just as she would on any
given day. She greeted the police-- my daddy being one of
them-- and invited them in for a glass of lemonade. She had
absolutely no remorse, no sense that what she'd done was
wrong. So far as she was concerned, she'd done what was
necessary to pursue her career."

"What happened to her?"

"The courts put her away in an asylum, never to be
released. She's been dead some fifteen years now, I think."

Scully's thoughts skipped to Jacob. *'Can I have a puppy
if Rachel doesn't come back?'* She let her eyes slip shut
for a moment as the truth about the boy finally hit home.
Nausea welled up in her throat, and she swallowed thickly
to keep it down.

"Mr. Page, do you keep files dating back to that time?
Would you have documentation on that case?"

"Sure do. It's filed away down in the basement. It might
take me a few minutes to find it, but if you can wait I'll
be glad to go take a look."

"I'd appreciate that. I'd like to make some copies, too,
if I may?" Scully handed back the pencil and slipped her
notebook into a pocket.

"Not a problem, Agent Scully. The copier is downstairs,
too. I'll fire that up for you while I'm at it."

Amos Page was as good as his word. Within fifteen
minutes, he was back upstairs and handing over copies of
the police reports.

"It's been a real pleasure meetin' you, Agent Scully. I
hope I've been of some help."

"Thank you, Mr. Page. You've been a great deal of help."

Scully tucked the envelope containing the documents under
her arm and reached for her cell phone. She knew she
should be elated that she'd made so much headway in the
case. But the thought of convincing Beth that her son could
be a murderer brought her no joy. How should they break
the news? Sometimes she really hated her job.

Montgomery General Hospital
3:13 p.m.

This time when the phone rang, he found he'd actually
drooled on the pillow. Cursing softly under his breath,
Mulder nearly upended a cup of water when he snatched up
the receiver.


"Don't know if it's going to help, but Sam Marcussen has a
real interesting branch on the ol' family tree."

Mulder ran a hand over his face. "Tell me."

"Joseph Robert Marcussen - let's see, that would be Sam's
great grandfather - was in the bank robbing business. Got
away with it nearly a dozen times before gettin' in the way
of a bullet and dying at the ripe old age of thirty-two."

"You found a file on him?"

"Well, let's just say he was on the 'most wanted' list
carried by the local law enforcement in a three state
radius. Quite the celebrity."

Mulder sighed. "I appreciate the info, Spence, but armed
robbery isn't quite what I was expecting."

Spence clucked his tongue. "So hard to please. Would it up
the ante if I told you that part of what made him so famous
was the trail of bodies he left in his wake?"


"Yep. Seems our pal Joe had a nasty habit of eliminating
any and all possible witnesses. Even if they happened to be
women or small children. The guy had no compunction about
pullin' the trigger."

Mulder felt his heartrate double, the last vestiges of
sleep evaporating. "Can you copy that information and fax
it to the sheriff's office?"

"Easier done than said."

"I take back at least fifty percent of the things I've
said about you over the years, Spencer."

"You always were generous to a fault, Wonderboy," Spence
said dryly. "Listen, I've got to run. Make sure you don't
leave town before introducin' me to that pretty partner of

Mulder's eyebrows crawled up his forehead. "I know I've
mentioned Scully plenty of times over the years, Spencer,
but I'm certain I've pleaded the fifth on her looks. How do
you know she's pretty?"

Spencer chuckled. "Got a sixth sense about these things,
Mulder. I could hear it in her voice - and yours. Catch you

So Beth Marcussen wasn't the only one with a shadow
darkening her past, Mulder mused. Tim's description of the
infamous Joseph Marcussen certainly indicated the kind of
pathology exhibited by Jacob - extreme egocentricity and a
total disregard for others. Now if Scully could only
substantiate a similar occurrence with Beth's grandmother,
perhaps they could convince the couple to consider their
suspicions. They were dabbling in the purely theoretical,
of course, not hard, irrefutable fact. But then, the object
wasn't to prove Jacob's involvement, only to open the

Mulder grunted in annoyance, shifting restlessly.
Meanwhile a little girl was out there somewhere, waiting to
be found. He only hoped she would be alive.

Three soft taps of knuckles on wood startled him out of
his brooding. Mulder looked up into the face of a stranger,
hovering uncertainly in the doorway. He looked to be in his
early to mid fifties, a few rebellious streaks of brown in
mostly gray hair. He wore the white coat of a physician
with a stethoscope casually slung around his neck.

"Agent Mulder?"


"Forgive me for the intrusion. You don't know me, but I've
had the pleasure of meetin' your lovely partner, Agent
Scully. My name's Blake, Doctor Donald Blake."

*Scully, you've got 'em falling at your feet* Mulder
thought with amusement as he motioned Blake into the room.

"Of course! Come in, Doctor Blake. What can I do for you?"

Blake stepped through the doorway, but didn't venture past
the foot of the bed. "Oh nothing, Agent Mulder, nothing at
all. I was here makin' my rounds when I heard about what
happened to you. Just thought I'd stop by and see that you
were doin' all right."

"I'm feeling much better, thanks," Mulder replied.
"According to Doctor Arnette, I'll be released in the

"Good, good, I'm glad to hear it," Blake beamed. With some
amusement, Mulder realized the man reminded him of Marcus
Welby. "Jack Arnette is a fine doctor; you're in good
hands." He squinted, stabbing a finger at Mulder. "You'd
best watch your consumption of Ergomar in the future, young
man. It's a powerful drug, and not to be taken casually, as
I've warned Beth many times. I know the pain of a migraine
can drive you near out of your head, but..."

"Beth? You mean Beth Marcussen?" Mulder heard the sharp
edge to his words, took a steadying breath.

"Yes. Guess you wouldn't know that she suffers from the
same affliction. Used to be, her headaches would get so bad
she couldn't function. The Ergomar has been a godsend for
the poor woman."

He wasn't surprised, really, but to hear his suspicions
confirmed so casually was...jarring. His face must have
revealed his discomfiture, because Blake frowned and began
moving toward the door.

"I can see you're tired, I won't overstay my welcome." He
hesitated, eyes moving uncertainly over Mulder's face.
"Agent Mulder, forgive me for askin', but have you made any
progress toward finding little Rachel? Agent Scully
mentioned that y'all specialize in this kind of case, so I
was hoping..."

Mulder dusted off his Special Agent persona and slipped it
on. "I understand your concern, Doctor Blake, but I'm not
at liberty to discuss an ongoing investigation."

"Of course, of course," Blake said hurriedly, but his face

"I can tell you that we're doing everything humanly
possible to find Rachel and bring her home safely."

Blake nodded, his reply cut short by the ringing of
Mulder's phone. Settling for a parting wave, he hastened
out of the room as Mulder reached yet again for the

"Hotel California." He could feel her eyebrow arch.

"The Eagles, Mulder?"

"'You can check out anytime you like, but you can never
leave.' Now tell me that doesn't describe this place."

"You sound a lot perkier than you did a couple hours ago,
Mulder. Anything you'd like to share?"

Halfway through a look of righteous indignation, Mulder
remembered he lacked an audience. "*Perky*? Scully, I do
not do 'perky'. If what you sense, however, is an aura of
satisfaction, it's because I'm finally making some headway
around here. How about you?"

"Uh-uh. You first, Ace. I'm all ears."

Mulder cradled the phone between his shoulder and his ear,
reaching for the water pitcher. As he recounted his phone
conversations with Tim and Doctor Blake's visit, he poured
himself a glass of water to soothe the burning of his still
tender throat. By the time he'd finished bringing her up to
speed, his voice had deteriorated to a hoarse rasp, and he
gulped down the cool liquid gratefully.

"I guess that settles it." Scully's tone was strangely
flat and lifeless. "It would be easy enough for a
resourceful kid like Jacob to figure out how many of his
mother's pills would be sufficient to cause an overdose.
Beth would be unlikely to notice a few extra were missing."

"You all right, Scully? You sound a little strange."

"I'm fine, Mulder." She heard his impatient grunt, and
managed a feeble laugh. "All right, maybe 'fine' is
stretching it a bit. The truth is, I'm tired, and this case
disturbs me on a number of levels that I'd rather not
explore. I just want to find that little girl and go home."

Mulder resisted the urge to pull the phone from his ear
and stare at it. Scully admitting she was feeling
vulnerable? While half of him rejoiced, the other wanted to
demand, "Who are you, and what have you done with my

"Sounds like you opened your own can of worms this
afternoon," he said quietly. "What did you learn about
Beth's grandmother?"

"She didn't kill *a* family member, Mulder; she murdered
her entire family." Scully proceeded to relate the entire
story, a barely perceptible tremor creeping into her voice
when she told of the neighbor finding Beth's mother,
covered in her own vomit and more dead than alive. "It's a
miracle she survived, Mulder. No wonder Beth became so
upset when we suggested Jacob see a psychiatrist."

"I wonder if Beth used to visit her grandmother in the
asylum," Mulder mused. "In any case, she's obviously
terrified of her grandmother's legacy. Of history repeating

"And it has." A sough of breath, and he could hear her
mentally squaring her shoulders. "I've made copies of the
relevant documents, Mulder, and I'm getting ready to leave
here. We can decide how to proceed when I get there. If
you're good, I might even smuggle in some dinner."

He could hear the effort she put into the weak joke and
tried to respond appropriately.

"Scully, I'm *always* good."

She snorted. "See you in about an hour."

His hands performed the task of hanging up the phone and
pouring another cup of water, but his thoughts were a
million miles away. Even armed with the knowledge that a
history of sociopathic behavior existed in the Marcussen
family tree, Beth was going to be difficult to convince.
And once convinced, it would still take time for a
psychiatrist to thoroughly evaluate Jacob.

Rachel had now been missing for nearly four days.

Time was a luxury they didn't possess.

Jacob was the key to finding Rachel, and Jacob was the one
they needed to confront. *He* needed to confront.

Mulder lay on his back, staring sightlessly at the
ceiling. Jacob was vulnerable. He'd realized Mulder was on
to him, been scared enough to try poisoning him. Now he'd
be twice as frightened. If he could get Jacob alone, push
the right buttons, he might just cave under the pressure
and come clean about Rachel's whereabouts.

If he could get Jacob alone. No Sam. No Beth. No Scully.

Jacob saw Scully as a weak link, easy to manipulate with
little boy charm and crocodile tears. If Mulder were to
have a viable chance at getting Jacob to confess, he'd have
to do it without his partner. Which left him with one
course of action.

Ditch Scully.

Boy, was she going to be pissed.

Mulder executed the technique he'd used in any number of
Scully-ditches. He grit his teeth, resolutely forced
Scully's face from his mind, and grabbed the phone.

"I need the number for the closest cab company to
Montgomery General Hospital..."



Marcussen Residence
5:07 p.m.

He met Beth coming out the front door. Head turned so that
she was gazing back into the house, she nearly bowled him
over. A small slip of paper and her keys tumbled onto the
front porch with a dissonant jingle, and her eyes flew open.

"Agent Mulder! I'm so sorry; are you all right?" She
touched his arm in an expression of concern, looking him up
and down for damage.

Actually, he'd been feeling rather lightheaded ever since
leaving the hospital, but he pasted on a reassuring smile.
"I'm fine; are you okay?"

"Except for a terminal case of clumsiness! I was just
headed out to the store - got halfway through cookin'
supper and realized that all the onions are moldy. Did you
need to talk to me? And where's Agent Scully?" Beth gushed

"Agent Scully had to drive into Charleston. And I actually
stopped by to speak to Jacob, if that's all right."

Despite Mulder's deliberately casual tone, Beth tensed,
and her eyes turned from open and friendly to apprehensive
and suspicious.

"May I ask why?"

Mulder twitched one shoulder in a brief shrug and slipped
his hands casually into his pockets. Scully had brought him
a clean suit in anticipation of his release the following
morning, little knowing she'd wind up aiding and abetting
his escape from the hospital.

"Just wanted to see how he's doing. Shoot the breeze."

Beth shuffled her feet, glancing at her watch. "I really
need to get that onion," she said doubtfully. "Sam's due
home at six, and the casserole needs to bake for thirty

"You go right ahead. I'll just keep Jacob company until
you get back." Mulder leaned against the door, trying hard
to appear non-threatening.

"Weeell, I guess that would be all right. I'll only be
gone about twenty minutes." She smiled tentatively.
"Jacob's back in his bedroom, playin' on the computer. You
can head right on back; you know the way."

"I'll do that. And please don't rush; we'll be fine."

Mulder waited until Beth had climbed into her car and
pulled out of the driveway before walking quietly through
the living room and down the hallway to Jacob's door. He
paused, listening to the innocuous sound of rapid clicks
and electronic laser bolts punctuated by soft grunts and
muttered expletives. Ordinary, everyday sounds made by
ordinary, everyday kids. Except this kid was just as far
from "ordinary" and "everyday" as you could possibly get.
Steeling himself for what lay ahead, Mulder knocked softly
on the door.

"Come in!"

At first he couldn't see Jacob, who was hunched behind the
computer monitor, so he circled around the desk. The boy
didn't bother looking up, his eyes glued to the screen, and
his thumb furiously stabbing buttons on the joystick.

"I thought you said you were goin' to the store, Mama."

"Hey, Jacob. What game are you playing?"

Jacob's head snapped around and every muscle in his body
tensed. His lips parted, and his eyes looked ready to jump
out of their sockets.

"Wha...What are you doing here?"

Mulder strolled over and sat on the bed. "Just stopped by
to see how you were getting along. You seem awfully
surprised to see me, Jacob. How come?"

Jacob's eyes narrowed and darted away from Mulder's,
returning to the computer screen. "Just wasn't expectin'
you, that's all."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm lucky to be here. After
I talked to your mom yesterday, I got really sick. So sick
that I nearly died. I spent all of last night in the

Jacob's fist tightened around the joystick, and he jerked
it viciously from side to side, but his voice lacked
emotion. "Really? That's too bad, Agent Mulder."

"The puzzling part, though, is that when the doctor tested
my blood, he found an extremely high concentration of a
drug called Ergomar. People take it for migraine headaches,
but if you take too much it can stop your heart. The thing
is, I don't get migraine headaches, and until yesterday I'd
never heard of that drug."

Jacob didn't respond, but his tongue crept out of his
mouth to swipe nervously over his lips. Mulder leaned
forward, his elbows braced on his knees. He pitched his
voice low and silky.

"Your mom gets migraine headaches, doesn't she? In fact,
Doctor Blake told me she takes Ergomar for them. Quite a
coincidence - don't you think? If we checked your mom's
bottle of pills right now, what do you bet we'd find five
or six missing?"

Jacob went very still. After a long silence, he looked at
Mulder. "My mama would never hurt anyone."

Mulder held his gaze and slowly shook his head. "Not your
mother, Jacob. You. *You* took the pills from your mother's
medicine cabinet. *You* ground them up, and when she turned
her back, *you* put them in the sugar she gave me to put in
my coffee."

Jacob shook his head so hard it seemed likely to fly off
his neck. "I don't...No! Why would I do something like that?

"Jacob, it's over. Why don't you save us both a lot of
aggravation and tell me where Rachel is. You and I both
know she wasn't abducted by aliens."

"I...we saw lights, a big ship. Rachel..."

"Rachel would be too frightened to chase a spaceship into
the woods. You invented your entire story from the
abduction experiences of other people. You saw me find
those magazines, realized I was onto you, so you panicked
and tried to poison me. But it didn't work, Jacob. None of
it worked, and it's time to own up to what you've done."

Jacob shuddered and his eyes flooded with tears. "You
don't understand; it's not like that! I didn't mean to hurt
her, just scare her a little. I was just mad, that's all."

Mulder's stomach lurched and he barely concealed his
turbulent reaction to the boy's words. "You were angry
because you wanted a puppy. But your parents said you
couldn't have one, that Rachel's allergies would make her

"She always spoils everything! It started the very day
Mama brought her home from the hospital. Everybody makin'
such a big fuss over her, talkin' about how cute she was.
She didn't look so cute to me, all red-faced and squallin'
like a stuck pig."

"What happened, Jacob. Where is she?"

Jacob shivered harder, and began crying in earnest. "I
only meant to lose her in the woods, that's all. How was I
supposed to know she'd trip and fall down into that ravine?"

Mulder ran his hand over his jaw. "She fell and hurt
herself? How badly?"

Jacob shook his head, hiccuping. "I don't know, I don't
know. She wasn't movin' at all, and she wouldn't answer me.
I just knew I was gonna be in so much trouble if Mama and
Daddy found out."

"So you left her. And you made up the story about the
flying saucer and the bright light." Mulder blinked back a
wave of dizziness. He slipped off his suitcoat and loosened
his tie.

"I'm sorry! Are you gonna tell on me?" Jacob eyes were
huge in his face, his tone pleading.

"I need you to take me to where Rachel fell. Will you do

Jacob hesitated, then nodded, swiping his nose with his
sleeve. Mulder rose and tilted his head toward the door.
"Come on, Jacob. Show me."

Dusk was falling, the shadows long and deep. Jacob led the
way out the back door, across the yard, and into the trees.
He repeatedly glanced over his shoulder as he stepped over
gnarled tree roots and ducked under low hanging branches.
Mulder followed doggedly, his heart pounding with an odd
mixture of anticipation and dread.

"How did you get her out here in the first place?" he asked.

"Told her I discovered Luke's hideout and I'd show her
where it was," Jacob answered, voice catching.

"How come none of the rescue teams found her?" Mulder
panted, blotting a trickle of sweat from his forehead.

Jacob's shoulders pulled taut. "I dunno. The ravine where
she fell was pretty deep. It was hard to see her, and she
wasn't movin'."

Five minutes into the woods Jacob veered off the trail,
scrambling over a large, rotting log. Mulder imitated his
movements, his dress shoes slipping and sliding on the
slick, mossy surface. He swatted at a cloud of gnats that
rose and buzzed around his head, struggling to keep up with
the fleet-footed Jacob.

"Jacob, slow down!"

"It's just up ahead; she fell right over here," Jacob
called, swinging his arm in a beckoning motion. "Hurry up!
You can cut through those bushes."

Mulder tripped on a rock, regained his balance, and broke
into a trot as he neared the boy, who was now pointing down
a steep hill. The thought that Jacob seemed overeager,
nearly enthusiastic, flickered through Mulder's mind just
as the ground vanished from beneath his feet. His stomach
plummeted, and he instinctively flung out both arms as the
world spun sickeningly.

His forearms smacked something solid with enough force to
wrench a scream from his lips, and his fingers scrabbled at
the dirt. The impact halted his downward plunge, but his
feet dangled helplessly over thin air. He attempted to
wriggle onto solid ground, but merely succeeded in causing
the dirt to shift so that he slid backward several feet,
barely clinging to the lip of a very deep pit. Mulder
pressed his forehead into the earth, sucking in great,
sobbing gulps of air.

The snapping and popping of twigs prompted him to lift his
head, and he found himself staring at a pair of size four
sneakers. Gingerly tilting his head further, he looked up
into Jacob's indifferent face.

"You wondered what happened to Rachel, didn't you, Agent
Mulder? Well, now you know."

Montgomery General Hospital
5:09 p.m.

When she'd first entered the FBI as a very young, very
green agent, her encounters with violent death had sickened
Scully. Whether a grisly casefile discussed during a
training course, or a battered and barely recognizable body
to autopsy, she'd had to struggle against her own dismay
and revulsion in order to get the job done.

Then came the X-Files, toughening her until she could
dispassionately and clinically view a crime scene that left
seasoned veterans pale and shaking. Through it all,
however, Scully maintained a basic outrage when it came to
murder. She found it very difficult to understand how one
person could be driven to take the life of another.

Until now.

"And just exactly how long has Agent Mulder been missing?"

The nurse, Cassie - a very young blonde who was even
shorter than Scully - cringed under the weight of the
agent's disapproving glare. "I couldn't say exactly, Doctor
Scully. I went in to check on him about twenty minutes ago,
just to see if he'd fallen asleep again and left that
computer of his on." Cassie recovered enough of her nerve
to send Scully a look of mild disapproval. "You know, the
hospital frowns on patients usin' their phone lines for
hookin' into the Internet. I tried to tell Agent Mulder
that, but he just went and did it anyway."

"Welcome to my world," Scully muttered. "So, you checked
on him twenty minutes ago, and he wasn't there?"

"No ma'am. His gown was just layin' on the bathroom floor,
and Agent Mulder was nowhere to be found. Honestly, Doctor
Scully, I've never had a patient just up and run out on me
like this. It's real upsettin'."

Scully patted her arm before shoving open the door to
Mulder's empty room. "Don't take it personally, Cassie.
Agent Mulder's ditches are completely indiscriminate."

Cursing under her breath, she crossed to the small closet
where she'd hung Mulder's clean suit. The empty hanger was
not unexpected - the piece of paper propped up on the shelf
only mildly so. Snatching it up, she stalked over to the
window where she could read it by the waning sunlight.


I know how angry you must be, but don't reach for your gun
yet. Contrary to what you're probably thinking, I've
considered this very carefully. I'm pretty sure I can
convince Jacob to confess, but only if I talk to him alone.
He'd have a difficult time seeing you as the enemy, Scully,
and you have the same problem. I know how hard you've
struggled with your feelings on this case. Please
understand that if I'm going to get Jacob to talk, I can't
afford for him to sense any hesitation or ambivalence. I
know better than to ask you to wait for my call, so I guess
I'll see you at the Marcussens'. With any luck, by the time
you get there, it will all be over.


Scully crumpled the note into a ball and headed for the
door with it wrapped in her fist. Cassie stepped forward to
ask a question when she emerged from the room. One look at
Scully's face, however, and she scrambled quickly out of
the way.

She reached the Marcussen house just as Beth pulled into
the driveway. By the time Scully crossed the lawn, Beth had
pulled a small, plastic grocery bag from the car and turned
to face her with a slightly puzzled smile.

"Hello, Agent Scully. Did you have a pleasant trip to

Scully arched an eyebrow. "It was beneficial. How did you
know I'd gone to Charleston?"

"Agent Mulder mentioned it. I didn't expect to see you

"Agent Mulder is here now?" Scully followed her to the
front door, relieving Beth of the sack while the woman
fumbled for the correct key and slid it into the lock.

Beth bobbed her head. "He wanted to talk to Jacob. Said
he'd keep him company while I ran to the store. Hang on."
She grabbed the bag from Scully and bustled off to the
kitchen, returning empty handed a moment later.

Scully followed her down the hallway to Jacob's room,
trying to keep a lid on anger that threatened to bubble
over. No matter how furious she was with her partner, it
was imperative to remain professional in front of Beth and
Jacob. Later, back at the hotel, she'd let him have it.

"Jacob? I..." Beth trailed off, turning in a slow circle to
scan the empty room. "Jacob?"

Scully walked over to the bed and picked up her partner's
discarded suitcoat. "Well, they must be around somewhere.
Mulder wouldn't leave without his jacket."

"Jacob? Jacob Samuel Marcussen, where are you?" Beth
called, heading back into the hall.

Several minutes later, after searching the house from end
to end, they stood in the middle of the kitchen, Scully's
face tense with suppressed worry, Beth's blank with

"Where could they have gotten to?" she asked Scully.

Frantic rapping on the back door absolved Scully of the
need to reply. Frowning, Beth pulled it open.

"Jacob, where...oh, Jess! What on earth is the matter, hon?
You look like you've seen a ghost."

Jess burst past Beth to seize Scully's hand. "Agent
Scully, you gotta come quick!"

Taken by surprise, the little girl managed to tug Scully
several steps toward the door before she regained her wits
enough to dig in her heels. She leaned over to better see
Jessica's frightened face.

"You have to tell me what's wrong, sweetheart. Where are
you taking me?"

Jess' eyes flicked over to Beth's face and then back to
Scully. "Please! I just need you to come."

Sensing the source of the little girl's discomfort, Scully
nodded to Beth. "Let me see what this is all about, Beth.
I'll be right back."

Jess pulled her out the door and down the back steps
toward the forest. When they reached the trees, Scully
slowed her steps.

"Jess, you have to tell me where we're going."

"I was in the woods, lookin' for Luke, when I saw Jacob
and your friend. I wanted to see what Jacob was up to, so I
followed them for a spell. Luke's teachin' me how to become
a secret agent," she explained proudly.

"Go on," Scully said, but allowed the little girl to lead
her into the woods.

"After a while they left the path, and I couldn't see 'em
no more. I didn't follow 'cause I knew Mama'd be real mad
if she found out. We aren't supposed to leave the trail --
even though Luke does it all the time." Her face screwed up
into a pout. "Anyway, I started to walk home, figurin' they
weren't comin' back. And then I heard it."

Jess broke into a trot, and Scully hastened to catch up to
her. "What, Jess? What did you hear?" The prickling feeling
that scampered up and down her spine warned she wasn't
going to like the answer.

Jess slowed just enough to look Scully in the eye, her
small face pale. "I heard a scream, Agent Scully. And I
think it was your friend."

Somewhere in the woods
5:43 p.m.

"Jacob, don't do this. You're not...going to get away...with

Mulder's ribs protested the fresh abuse, and the muscles
in his shoulders and arms trembled with exhaustion. He'd
located a small ledge for his right foot, but the left
still dangled freely.

Jacob squatted down just beyond Mulder's reach. "You
probably know there's a lot of minin' in this area, Agent
Mulder. But did you know there's also a lot of old
abandoned shafts that no one knows about? Some of 'em go
real deep. You fall down one of them, and no one's gonna
find you."

"Agent Scully...will come looking. Knows...I'm here," Mulder

"You *were* here," Jacob replied calmly. "And then you

"Won't...believe you."

Jacob shrugged. "I think they will. After all, everyone in
this town knows me, Agent Mulder." His lips stretched into
something that resembled a grin. "And I'm just a little

"I...didn't fall... for that act."

Jacob's brows knit together. "I know. And you've really
messed things up." He stood and stared down at Mulder for a
long time, then swiftly lifted his foot and ground the heel
of his sneaker into Mulder's left hand.

Bright shards of pain sparked through Mulder's fingers,
and he screamed. He reflexively loosened his grip, slipping
further over the edge and losing his precious foothold.
Several nails peeled back as he clutched at the ground, but
he was able to grasp a protruding rock and once again stop
his fall. He'd screamed Scully's name twice in sheer terror
before remembering the futility of the gesture.

"Jacob, don't...don't do this. You...don't have to...ahhh!"

The right hand this time, but Mulder had seen it coming
and somehow managed to keep his hand locked around the
rock. He grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes tightly shut,
tears trickling from the corners. Disjointed images
flickered through his head, like a movie on fast forward.

*"Caddyshack" playing and Scully on his couch, her face
relaxed and serene. "Well, I'm fairly happy, Mulder, and
that's something."*

*Jessica Miller's wide dark eyes. "You gonna bring Rachel
back home, mister?"*

*Jacob's head bent over a model, his words cold and
indifferent. "You can try all you want, Agent Mulder. But I
don't think they're gonna bring her back."*

*Beth's fluttering hands and pleading gaze. "Jacob's gonna
be just fine; no cause to think history would repeat
itself. None at all."*

*Scully, rumpled and exhausted, her voice quivering with
emotion. "I nearly lost you last night..."*

*Sorry, Scully.*

"NO!" he screamed as Jacob lowered his foot over the
fingers yet again.

"STOP! Don't do it, Jacob! Move away from him right now."

Scully's voice, harsh and commanding, brooked no refusal.
Jacob jerked in surprise, then slowly did as he'd been
instructed, backing up several feet and watching her
warily. Mulder heard the snapping of twigs as she
approached, but kept his face pressed to the earth, every
ounce of his remaining strength channeled into hanging on.

"Sit down against that tree and don't move. Jess, run back
to the house and tell Beth to call the sheriff." Scully
barked the orders as she knelt to grasp Mulder by both arms.

"Call...rescue squad," Mulder grunted as he wriggled forward
with his partner's assistance. "Think I found...Rachel."

Seconds later he was lying on his belly in the dirt and
dead leaves, gulping in air and dizzy with relief. His
fingers throbbed, the muscles in his shoulders clenched in
painful spasms, and his ribs ached, but solid ground had
never felt so sweet.

"You feeling okay?" Scully's fingers drifted through his
hair, but her eyes remained locked on Jacob.

Mulder hauled himself to his knees, groaning. "Yeah.
Stupid, but okay."

Scully's eyebrow did its dance, and she pursed her lips.
"I'll refrain from commenting, Mulder. For now, anyway."

Mulder dropped his head into his hands and moaned softly.

"What about me?" Jacob asked, voice quavering. "What's
going to happen to me?"

"We're going to make sure you get some help, Jacob."
Mulder's head snapped up at the hard edge in Scully's
words. Her face was grim but composed. "And that you can't
hurt anyone ever again."



The Root Cellar Bar
24 hours later

"So when he finally woke up - or should I say, regained
consciousness," Tim smirked at Mulder, who had buried his
face in both hands, "you could see the imprint of the
bathroom tiles all over the left side of his face. It took
practically the whole afternoon for 'em to fade."

Scully giggled merrily, a sound so rare that Mulder didn't
really mind that it had happened at his expense. He pinned
Tim with a long-suffering glare.

"Are you finished yet? Or do you intend to further impugn
my credibility?"

Spencer propped muscular arms on the table and grinned.
"Way I hear it, WonderBoy, there just isn't that much
credibility to impugn."

"Ha, ha," Mulder growled over Scully's snickering. "You're
a real barrel of laughs tonight, Spence. They ought to hire
you for live entertainment; you beat the heck out of the

Scully sipped her Coke in a poor attempt to hide a grin.
"So Tim... Why do you call Mulder, WonderBoy?"

"Because he knows how much I hate it," Mulder muttered.

Tim's grin softened to something less like teasing and
more like affection. "I met him over ten years ago, in the
summer of '89. Everyone was talkin' about Fox Mulder, the
best profiler the Bureau had ever seen, a rising star. He
was tactless, opinionated, and arrogant as hell. I hated
him on sight." He chuckled softly, and Mulder joined him.

"That's an understatement! We were partnered for several
of those asinine exercises at a team-building seminar --
through no choice of our own." Mulder shook his head
ruefully. "It's amazing we didn't wind up killing each
other before the day was through."

"He was so cocky and sure of himself, I started callin'
him 'WonderBoy' - and not in a complimentary way, as I'm
sure you can imagine," Tim continued. "After nearly comin'
to blows, we finally started to talk to each other. By the
end of that seminar, we'd become friends, and I'd come to
see that Mulder's reputation as the Bureau's Great White
Hope wasn't all just smoke and mirrors."

Mulder shifted and leaned back in the booth, his
expression distant and pained. "That was a long time ago,"
he said.

Tim looked at him shrewdly. "Not so long, Mulder. You
haven't lost your touch. You solved this case and brought
that little girl home, just like I knew you would."

One long finger, the skin marked with bruises, traced the
rim of his glass. "By the time we got her out of that
shaft, Rachel was more dead than alive. She'd fractured her
leg in three places, and between the severity of the breaks
and the delay in treatment, the doctors are afraid she may
never walk normally again. Add to that the fact that Jacob
has been committed to a psychiatric facility for what
promises to be a very long time, and I don't think Beth and
Sam Marcussen have a lot to thank me for."

A small hand wrapped around the glass and tugged it away
from his finger, forcing him to look up. Scully's intense
blue eyes drilled relentlessly into his.

"Mulder, Jacob had concealed the opening to that shaft so
well, none of the search parties found it. The very fact
that Rachel is still alive is a miracle. That sufficient
run-off from precipitation had collected so she had water
to drink, that her body was able to fight off infection for
as long as it did, that she didn't succumb to overwhelming
loneliness and fear - she held on, Mulder. She held on in
hopes that someone would find her. And we did."

Mulder didn't answer, but one corner of his mouth lifted
in a crooked smile.

Tim shook his head. "Same ol' WonderBoy. Always have been
your own worst enemy - especially on the basketball court."

Mulder gaped in outrage. "It's either been too long since
we've played, Spencer, or your memory has deteriorated
along with your talent. Even on my worst day I could..."

"I think those drugs must still be percolatin' your brain,
WonderBoy; you're delusional. I..."

Scully just rolled her eyes.

Wildwood Institute of Mental Health
6 months later

"I really, really never meant to hurt my sister, Doctor
Shelton. Back then I guess I just didn't know how to deal
with my anger and frustration, and I lost control." Jacob
broke off studying the geometric pattern in the carpet to
look his psychiatrist in the eye. "I understand now, that
what I did was very wrong. And since I've been here at
Wildwood, I've learned to express anger in more acceptable
ways. I just hope that someday Rachel can forgive me."

Dr. Shelton leaned back in his leather chair with his
fingers steepled beneath his chin. "I'm very glad to hear
that, Jacob. You have made incredible strides since you've
been here. The nurses and therapists all give you glowing
reports. I'm very proud of you."

Jacob smiled, ducking his head shyly. "Thank you, Doctor
Shelton. Comin' from you, that means a lot."

"You can run along to dinner now; I'm sure your group will
be waiting for you. I'll see you on Tuesday, same time."

"Sure thing! Tonight's pizza - wouldn't want to be late
for that!"

Dr. Shelton waited for Jacob to pull the door shut behind
him, then reached for the small tape recorder on the corner
of his desk.

"Jacob Marcussen continues to make incredible progress in
both individual and group therapy. As evidenced in this
session, he has clearly begun to understand the impact of
his actions, and his own culpability. If he continues to
improve at the present rate, I have hopes that he will be
spending this Christmas at home, with his family. While
reintegration will provide its own set of difficulties, I'm

The doctor continued to drone on, but Jacob pulled his ear
from the door and smiled. He'd heard everything he needed
to hear.


AUTHORS' NOTES: Well, we made it! Sally and I would like
to express what a joy it's been to be a part of I Made This
Productions Virtual Season. It's an honor and a privilege
to work with this group of talented people! Thanks go to
Vickie, Karen, and my hubby Ron, for their most excellent
beta; Suzanne, for being our resident advisor on all things
medical; Theresa Filardo for the wonderful artwork, and the
Crystalship gang, for support and advice. We hope you've
enjoyed reading this story as much as we enjoyed writing it!