TITLE: "Collector"

AUTHOR: Rebecca Marler info@bluemoonhorse.com

RATING: PG, some language particularly the F-word
CATEGORY: X

SPOILERS: None. However, the more you know of the X-files the more enjoyable the read.

DISTRIBUTION: Distribution: just let me know and keep my name and email attached. However, I would prefer that you reference this site address instead: http://www.bluemoonhorse.com/rebeccastories.htm

KEYWORDS: MSR, S/O in the past, Alternative Universe, Profiler, X-Files

SUMMARY: A psychologist in private practice, Dr. Fox Mulder, is asked by F.B.I. forensic pathologist, Dr. Dana Scully, for help in a serial killing investigation that defies the Bureau’s best profilers.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Samantha never disappeared, changing the course of Fox Mulders’ career and his destined meeting with Dr. Dana Scully. This story explores what might have happened if other "trigger" events had not. The conspiracy and myth-arc still exist but have taken a different path – however, they are not fully explored in this story. For purists, yes I know that I have changed the character of Jack Willis, but this is an alternative universe.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS? : Those that are open to "extreme possibilities."  If your are tired of the same old, same old, you will see our heroes in a different perspective - while remaining essentially the same. Phoebe is dead - terribly dead! How dare she think she could between our heroes? Samantha is alive - but all is not well. Cancer man has married Teena - yes you aren't in Kansas anymore...


Part I - Mulder

Sandra Matthews walked unsteadily, still trying to recover her composure, as she shoved girl things back into her purse.

"Call me…tonight," I requested. She nodded once, ducking through the final office door to seek anonymous refuge in the elevator.

I turned, my mind full of what Sandra had said about her childhood, when our group secretary, Trish, caught my eye. The counseling office was operated as a loose partnership – we were all licensed professionals with our own client list – however to save money, we shared a group of offices, liability insurance and secretarial services. Our cost saving Everywoman – Trish - silently nodded her head in the direction of two people sitting in the waiting room – the only ones left as the lunch hour was getting nearer, and the office was practically deserted.

For a moment I couldn’t place who they were – couples’ therapy? If so, body posture was telling me that this was going to be a rough one – not much friendliness left between these two.

The woman stood and I found myself looking down at a petite, redhead in her late twenties/early thirties. I noted the condition of her hair, nails and face. Well-groomed and put together – clothes neat. Not experiencing a psychotic episode, probably not depressed or suicidal.

She was severely dressed in a gray turtleneck and black suit. Career professional – possibly frigid? Rigid thinker? She had stunning blue eyes and a small gold cross nestled into the hollow of her throat. Religious? Dogmatic?

"Dr. Fox Mulder? I’m F.B.I. Agent Dana Scully and my partner, Special Agent Jack Willis. We made an appointment for a consultation on a case we’re working on."

We shook hands. Her grip was cool and light, firm yet pleasant.

Her partner was quite a few years older, perhaps forty or more. Dark-haired, and handsome he was also dressed conservatively, though a little less neatly – unmarried or an uncaring wife, I summated. Neither had rings.

"Please come into my office. We can be private there." While I turned a look passed between them which my mind noted and filed it. One of them didn’t want to be here. Before closing my office door, I requested Trish to transfer the phones to the service and reminded her to lock the outer door before heading out to lunch.

My office is more than just a place to meet clients and as a refuge it can be informal. The lack of desk seemed to bother them a bit. Hesitantly, they settled in the large leather club chairs, the woman close to my left, the man across.

"Yes?"

The woman seemed comfortable in the lead position (most women in couples also speak first) and said, "We were wanting your opinion on a note left at a crime scene."

She brought forward a stiff plastic evidence sleeve and as I reached forward I had the strangest feeling of déjà vu I have ever experienced. Although it’s not unusual for me to have flashes of intuition, its one reason why I make a good therapist, today’s impression was tremendously strong. The redhead registered my hesitation and looked at me curiously as I took the note silently from her hand.

It didn’t take but a moment to read through it.

"Ahh I see now why you have called on me."

Before I could expound, there was knock on the door and I was surprised to see Trish again as usually she leaves promptly for lunch to meet her boyfriend.

"Mulder, I think you better answer this call. It just came in before I could leave. It was your last appointment yesterday..." Our secretary’s words can be so full of discrete innuendo; I’m sure that’s why Samuel hired her. Also, Sam has a fixation on the legs of Mary Tyler Moore from the old Dashiel Hammet series, and Trish has legs that go all the way up.

"Of course. This may take a while. Please make yourself comfortable." I excused myself to the outer office. After talking with Philip, enough to calm him down and get him guided towards a decision about his lover (yet again), I re-entered my office to find the temperature had changed.

The atmosphere between the F.B.I. agents had become a stony silence. Dana Scully was admiring my eclectic mixture of books on various religious philosophies (definitely an interest in the spiritual than), and Jack Willis was flicking non-existent dirt off his polished shoe. I settled myself again and I took a moment to compose my thoughts.

"Yes I can see why you’ve consulted me about this." I broke the ice this time, as the other two seemed disinclined to discussion. "A woman possessed by a demon… probably not typical fare for the F.B.I."

"But it is for you?" said Willis, offhandedly belligerent, sardonic and dismissive.

"That’s all we get around here… demons, possessions, ghosts, voodoo… never a boring day at the office," I quipped while I thought to myself: these uptight bureaucratic types are a real pain in the ass.

"A woman?" Red paused and seemed surprised.

"Oh yes, I’m sure your handwriting experts told you that. The writing seems like that of a man’s at first but you can tell here…." I turned the stiff plastic around and pointed to some of the strokes of the ascenders.

"Female. Probably posing as a man. Or perhaps she thinks she is a man. Or perhaps someone who can change her gender at will. Her comments would lead me to believe the last was most probable."

"Thank you for your time…" Agent Willis stood and was giving his partner the signal to end the meeting. I returned the note and she took it, lowering her eyes before mine… disappointed than? Not what she was expecting? I shrugged – you can’t get too hung up on other people’s expectations. Pleasing others can ruin your life, as I well knew having a ruined life myself. They left and I fully expected not to seem them again, however, I should have listened to my intuition.

That weekend I was making notes from Sandra’s counseling session and was about to click off the end of the tape when I heard my own voice. My surprise kept me from stopping the cassette.

"Don’t. Don’t start." This was the woman’s voice, Dana Scully. I realized than that I must have accidentally taped the time that two agents had spent together when I had answered Phillip’s call.

"I’m not saying anything but since you’ve brought it up. This is a waste of time." Her male partner, Jack Willis, was the second voice.

"I think its time we considered other experts is all. This case has dead-ended and we can’t afford that."

"Dana, if you don’t stop trying to work outside the party line Kersh is going to kick your ass."

"Play by the rules, is that it Jack? You’re so good at playing by the rules aren’t you?"

"I don’t know what has gotten into you Dana… You’re acting like …."

"What?"

"I’m your enemy or something. I’m not."

There was an exasperated sigh. My guess would be the woman.

"I know… I know. It’s just … can’t you see we’re hidebound – stagnate. I might as well have joined the military. We need this man Mulder. He’s unconventional."

"A kook you mean."

Heartbeats of silence

"I’m asking for a transfer after this case Jack. I can’t do it anymore."

"I see…."

"Do you?"

"I see that you’re trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because were not sleeping together anymore doesn’t mean we can’t work together."

"Yeah sure, I’m fine with it. As fine as you are."

The sound of the door opening and than my voice again. I stopped the tape. Interesting.


Collector

Part II – Scully

The interview had been a waste. On the surface she fit the victim profile and we had hoped she might be someone who had escaped the attacker that had already killed five other people in the Washington DC area. However, even I had to admit it was a loss.

Jack had refused to accompany me to the hospital and instead was playing games with A.D. Kersh. When was Jack going to see that those late night staff meetings re-hashing the same material got us no where?

As I was walking down the hall, a voice caught and held my attention. I realized that it was the psychologist, Dr. Fox Mulder, whom I had consulted about two weeks ago against Jack’s wishes.

Mulder was sitting on a chair outside of a hospital room, his arm around an elderly lady who was sobbing badly into her hands. The picture seemed a snapshot of scenes I’ve played before – comforting the survivors. He seemed a bit bewildered with a trace of desperation.

"Can I help?"

Dr. Mulder looked up and smiled. His face had a frank and open look to it, which I instantly liked. However, I wondered than, and perhaps that was the cop in me, if he did have secrets and where they were hidden? As a psychologist he must possess more than a few, I concluded.

"Mrs. Matthews, this is Dr. Dana Scully. A colleague of mine." I was surprised that he remembered my name as he introduced us. The older woman took a shuddering breath as if to steady herself. "Dr. Scully can wait with you while I talk with your daughter Sandra about our decision."

My eyebrows raised – Coward! – And his eyes begged me – Wait.

I took a seat next to Mrs. Matthews and let her talk. That’s what survivors want to do – talk - so my role was not an onerous one. When Mulder returned Mrs. Matthews rose heavily and put her hand on his arm.

"Has she agreed?"

"Yes, but a private sanitarium. Why don’t you go in and visit while I call you a taxi?" As Mrs. Matthews left, he turned to me, his boyish charm more in evidence. Perhaps Dr. Mulder could turn it on and off, like a faucet? Especially when he wanted something.

"Thanks. I couldn’t think of a way to end that."

Down the hall he stopped and phoned for a taxi and than we both started walking again – together, rather aimlessly – towards the front exit of the hospital.

"How’s your case going? I’m assuming I can mention it since you brought me into it – a whole 10 minutes of consultation."

I wondered if he was bitter, but instead his voice sounded amused. His hazel eyes twinkled and he opened the door for me, his hand resting passively at my back as if to help me through. I thought about moving away but was too curious. He didn’t seem like a man on the make. Actually he looked tired and distant - his mind off to somewhere else.

"We have some promising leads." Now that sounded like something I would say to the press, however, he didn’t seem to notice my coolness so I drew further back and his hand fell away. As a cell phone rang I automatically reached inside my coat pocket, only to discover it had been my companions’.

"Mulder… Hey girl….Tonight? I’m rather busy… No, actually I’m with a beautiful redhead… Ha ha, very funny Sam, I am not walking an Irish Setter. I guess… Yes… for a few moments… Isn’t it almost over by now? Is mom there with hubby? <grunt> Okay, I’ll try but don’t count on it."

He rang off with a slight smile. Seeing my expression he explained, "My sister, Samantha. I had completely forgotten but she has a gallery show tonight. It’s a big deal for her. Funded by the National Endowment etc… etc…"

"You don’t have to explain."

"Yes, I do because she was wanting me to bring some proof of this redhead. So… would you like to go see some modern art?"

Was this some sort of play on seeing "etchings"? However I agreed, as I was feeling lonely. I could write a book about how many times I’ve been told that my personal life had floundered after Jack and I had split. Besides it would be interesting to find out more about Mulder and he assured me that visiting the show wouldn’t take too long.

"I’ve just got to put in an appearance. Kiss some faces and than pop back out. I’ll tell you frankly that you might not like her art – it can be rather disturbing." I wondered what could be more disturbing than the number of autopsies I’ve performed during my five years with the Bureau, but left that part quiet. Men usually didn’t want to hear about my work. I did not expect Dr. Mulder to be an exception.

The gallery turned out to be a small shop not far out of the way. It was the only lighted front on the block and you could see through the big plate windows that the party seemed to be going full blast.

As we stood outside I realized that others were dressed formally. I hesitated, looking down at my standard F.B.I. wear of white shirt and black suit. Mulder didn’t seem to notice my discomfiture and just guided me in with his elbow. With his long legs we were inside in moments.

After Mulder procured me a glass of white wine he went off to find his sister, so I took time to survey the art. He was right – her work was disturbing. Since it was modern with little realism I couldn’t decipher why. Perhaps it was the violence of how the paint had been applied and the savagery of the color that made me feel uneasy?

"What do you think of Sam’s work?" Mulder had returned with his sister, a tall willowy brunette with a nice face. She was a softer, gentler version of her brother. I tried to think of something polite to say and for a moment failed. The artist rescued me.

"It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable," she assured me quite seriously. She had a very quite voice and her eyes were noticing.

"Than I would have to say that it speaks true." Samantha Mulder smiled and I returned it. She hugged her brother’s arm tight to her and I wondered if she was possessive but as the night wore on I realized that she was terribly shy. Watching her, I wondered what type of demons she had inside to inspire the work on the wall.


Collector

Part III – Mulder

Although my life was consumed with getting Sandra settled after her attempt at suicide, my mind would find itself drifting back to the night I had spent with Dr. Dana Scully at Sam’s show.

Occasionally I would pull out Scully’s business card and wonder if it would be right to call her. Sam had encouraged me to contact her in her own delightful, sisterly way – "Hey mug when are you going to give that Irish Setter a call?" but the repulsion of getting involved that I’ve felt since Phoebe’s death held me back.

Though Dana and I had parted on friendly terms that night, I didn’t feel as though a call for a date would really be welcome. She had an attitude of self-contained aloofness that said, "don’t touch." The fact that she had accompanied me to Sam’s show I put down to curiosity and boredom. As my psychologist half would say, they still had ‘unresolved issues.’

I was still wrestling with my decision when I received a call from the lady in question thus putting me out of my indecisive misery. Her menthol voice asked if I could come down to the Bureau headquarters for a private meeting to discuss the "case."

Naturally I agreed. Not only was I curious about what she was working on but the appeal of the redheaded packaging couldn’t be denied.

After getting a visitors’ pass I made my way through a maze of elevators and cubicle passageways to a conference room. At my entrance, the inhabitants looked up and having an innate but also trained curiosity about people, I found their reactions interesting. Scully – welcoming; Wallis – surprise; a partially bald man wearing glasses – questioning and demanding; and from the others – relief for any diversion.

Scully quickly introduced me around the room and I took a seat next to hers that she had reserved with her gun. She tucked the large and serious looking weapon back into its holster unselfconsciously. I gingerly sat down. I do not like guns.

A.D. Walter Skinner (the man standing at the wipe board, heavily written upon) continued an overview of how they stood on the "case." While he talked, Dana slipped a file folder my way and turned her attention back to Skinner. I opened the manila folder to find a brutal, color photo of a slain black man. To say that it didn’t give me pause would be a lie. However as I took in the details, I could feel Agent Willis’ eyes boring into my forehead so I continued through the file with an air of manufactured nonchalance. Than I found myself too intrigued to worry about impressing Dana’s ex-lover.

Without asking, I appropriated (that’s how the government always terms it anyway) my companion’s notepad and pencil. I started some quick sketches, jotting words and a phrase, drawing circles and lines. I didn’t realize how intent I had been on my own project until the silence of the room finally drew my head up from my papers, which somehow had spread and taken over the entire conference table. Six pairs of eyes were staring at me as if I had turned into one of my own worst-cases.

"Rgghh" I cleared my throat, just realizing that for the last 20 minutes I must have been speaking all of my thoughts aloud.

"Agent Scully perhaps you can give us a little more introduction of Dr. Mulder." His commanding tone made me freeze, but Scully must have been more accustomed to her superior’s manner as she answered with her usual air of unconcern and calm.

"Dr. Mulder identified the handwriting as being female sir about a month ago. I had privately consulted with him with the permission of AD Kersh."

"You obviously have thoughts about this case, Dr. Mulder. Would you like to share them with the rest of us?" Although Skinner’s voice didn’t sound like one who really wanted toys shared, I jumped up excitedly from my seat anyway.

"Oh yes, here" and in my enthusiasm quickly wiped the board clean. I ignored the in-drawn breaths, and instead jotted down the victims’ names and motives.

Robert Wilson – affluent businessman – avarice

Maxwell Ghent – chef – gluttony

Elaine Rogers – prostitute – adultery

Eli Goodswin – ??

Margaret Meyers – housewife - envy

Greg Brown – musician – pride

"Their sinners. She’s taken them on to the next life. Perhaps they’ve even sold their souls to the devil for their success," I mused, drawing a nice little diagram with a flourish of squeaky marker. "The ritual is the important part. Each has to be prepared carefully beforehand and the steps never vary. Very obsessive- compulsive character I dare say. Rather anal, in laymen’s terms.

She’s probably knows quite a bit beforehand who she is going to kill as she’s chosen them due to their lifestyle and their ‘sins.’ She couldn’t be strong enough to overpower her victims…. Perhaps a drug to get them more compliant? The lure of sex?

I would think she has a ‘preparation’ area, very ritualistic, in design where she kills her victims. This special area where she does the killing will have a unique religious meaning to her. She would use the same place over and over again and I would guess it is a location other than where she lives so this might be the best point on tracking her down.

All the care is taken before the ritual. Afterwards the killer has no more need for the body - it’s a broken vessel, a shell – the soul is gone. The bodies are dumped willy nilly away from the sacred place she has chosen as the kill site."

I must have talked for several hours without a break. At the end before I could veer off to another theory that had just surfaced in my mind, Walter Skinner interrupted me by addressing Agent Scully, "He is certainly a fresh perspective. Keep him."

Skinner’s exit had apparently marked the end of the meeting. Wallis left next, with an exasperated grimace towards his partner. The others all escaped to bathrooms, telephone calls or some such need and leaving the object of my early morning dreams – Dana Scully - alone with me.


Part IV
Collector – Scully

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Dr. Mulder was definitely a non-conformist and a cage-rattler. If I had been finding myself bored and restless (Mom called it a mid-life crisis but I didn’t think you were supposed to have them when you turned 30) I had picked myself a runner for win, place and show.

After the others left, he waited expectantly, perhaps not realizing what a stir he had created just an hour ago when he casually wiped away about six months worth of work away and interrupted A.D. Skinner in his debriefing. He stood tall, his hands held out limply to his side, his hazel eyes slightly puzzled and questioning.

"I guess the party is over," he said and started piling up his own notes.

"I think the ‘party’ is just beginning," I said softly, but as it seemed that Mulder missed my remarks, I continued louder, "It looks like we will be working together after all."

"Call me Mulder," he said and than turned abruptly, startled. "You were going to ask me that weren’t you?"

"Don’t you have a first name?"

"Disliked intensely."

"What about a middle name?"

"For personal reasons, that’s even less preferred."

"Okay." I felt at a loss at how to proceed.

"You know we have never talked about how the F.B.I. is going to compensate me for my time." It surprised me how quickly and intensely I became angry. Here it comes, I thought, the leer, the touching and leaning over to look down my blouse.

"What do you think is fair?" I said, my voice cold as the Antarctica.

"Dinner for sure." I agreed to his wish but if Mulder was to be in my care and turned out to be a sexist bastard I was going to make matters very uncomfortable for him.

The first surprise was where he chose to eat. It was a small bar and restaurant, a "pub" run by an old English acquaintance of Mulders, named Scott O’Calahan. When we entered the bar, it was obvious that my pet psychologist was known as he gave a few waves and hellos before we found a spot back behind the bar area. We slid into opposite-facing booths.

"Fish and chips," he ordered without looking at the menu. I placed mine for a large chicken salad.

The next surprise was that he only wanted to talk about the case. He had a boyish excitement over being brought into it all and found the killer an interesting psychological study.

"Someone is going to be able to write a paper on this one all right," he commented, nodding his head sagely. His hands were clasped together on the countertop and his gaze wandered around the room while he talked. He seemed restless and overflowing with energy. The tired and drained man of about a week ago was gone.

"What did you mean that she could change gender ‘at will’? You brought that up when you saw the note," I asked, honestly curious.

"Gender can be represented in two ways: the biological and the psychological. All of us are a mixture of traits that would be labeled female or male. Usually one set of gender roles dominates the other making us male or female. Our killer could be biologically female but find herself acting as a male if given certain stimuli."

"You mean an out-of-control lesbian?" I scoffed.

"No, I wasn’t thinking of homosexuality in this case. Perhaps a multiple disorder personality. I would put my money on a hermaphrodite. Someone, who for whatever reason, feels just as comfortable being wholly female as being wholly male." As the food was brought out he switched subjects.

"You said you had been recommended to me. By who I wonder?"

"My sister, Missy – Melissa – had recommended you as a possible source. She met you at a…." I could feel my cheeks grow hot. I had deliberately not brought that up in our first meeting.

"…a New Age Conference. Melissa Scully. She was very interested in my paper on UFOs."

"Do you always do that? Complete sentences? Answer before your asked?"

He smiled in reply. He continued to doctor his fish and ‘chips’ with vinegar between bites.

"I have an eidetic memory. It makes it very easy to remember names and faces for instance. I only finish sentences of people I’m close to…"

I let that personal comment drop unnoticed in the still waters of our conversation. I brought the topic back to the case.

"Why couldn’t the crimes be committed by more than one person, a man and a woman?"

"That would be a possibility except for the note that you showed me. The words emphasized a conspiracy, a group of people committing these crimes. It was too obvious a diversion to make us think that more than one person was involved. A mental giant this person is not."

We drank our beers in silence. They were healthy glasses with a huge mound of foam on the top. Ordinarily I’m not a beer drinking person but the deep amber liquid and the British atmosphere of the place seemed to demand it.

"This place feels as though it was transplanted directly from England," I mused, voicing my inner thoughts out loud as I gestured toward the Rugby sports paraphernalia and photos of the Royals on the walls.

"Yes, it does. Scott came over about eight years ago and started this place. We met when I was taking exams at Oxford. He loves England but not the unemployment – hence the move."

Mulder waved someone over, whom I soon learned to be his English friend. Scott was a lean and tall man, with dark brown hair and pale cheeks. His friendly and intimate manner was a pleasant surprise as I expected a reserved nature. Mulder introduced me as a colleague, and after a few moments of idle chitchat, excused himself to the bathroom.

"Are you and Mulder involved?" Scott asked bluntly as soon as Mulder disappeared around the corner. I blinked once in surprise but answered anyway.

"No. We’re working together. I’ve brought him in as a consultant to a very difficult case of mine," He took no notice of my "back-off buster" tone of voice and just eyed me up and down with a thorough going over measuring look.

"Too bad. It would be good for him if you were a decent sort." Before I could protest or argue my merits, Mulder had returned and Scott went back to his duties, his job of chaperoning over.

For the third surprise that night, I went home alone with no suggestion from Mulder that it should have been otherwise.


Part V

Collector – Mulder

The next time that I heard from Special Agent Dana Scully it was an invitation to accompany her to a late night autopsy.

"I see your partner isn’t here, " I observed as she was doing the preliminary scrubbing up before beginning the autopsy on the sixth victim, the talented jazz musician Greg Brown.

"No." <we’re rarely together anymore> "Are you going to be okay with this?" <your not going to faint or something silly like that are you?>

Sometimes I have an odd way of hearing speech that is left unsaid. I call it "shadowspeak" and it happens rarely except with Samantha. I was surprised that Dana Scully seemed to be one of those rare people I could also understand under the surface. Which was fortunate for me for without that ability, her guarded face and low emotional output would have put me at a loss.

"It’s okay. Although I’m not a psychiatrist, I did watch autopsies being done in graduate school – usually for abnormal psych classes."

Dr. Scully was wearing green scrubs and huge glasses that masked most of her face. As I watched her work she pointed out several things of interest about Mr. Brown and how it related to how he had been tortured. Discovering that donated and carefully preserved medical cadavers were no match for the reek of Greg Brown I found it easiest just to concentrate on Red than the surgery itself.

"Brown was tied at the hands and wrists with something organic, either leather or cotton rope. Further examination of the fibers found in the cuts will reveal which."

"I would guess leather. If she dipped them in water beforehand and than tied the victim it would cause quite a litigate by the time the leather started to dry. That would account for those wrist marks. Leather would also have more ritual significance since it is the hide of an animal."

Scully seemed pleased with my answer and continued her investigations into Browns’ inner workings. It was obvious she really enjoyed her work and though many would have commented upon the grotesque aspect of it all, Dana Scully performed it all with the beauty of a diva performing an aria.

When I didn’t faint during the removal of the internal body organs I felt that I had passed some sort of unspoken test, winning her approval. Finally she clicked off the dictation tape and let the two lab boys slid the body back into a morgue storage drawer. I followed her back to the scrub up sinks.

"I didn’t hear you give a cause of death?"

"That’s the frustrating part of this business, Mulder," she replied as she stripped off her gloves, hair net and glasses. "Six bodies and we still don’t have a definite method of how she is killing them. The knife work, though spectacular,  was done after death. I suspect some sort of drug, perhaps one that can’t be detected after so many hours but without more forensic evidence we are at a standstill."

"How did your team figure out the killer was female? I’m assuming that you thought it was a male since you and your partner were surprised in my office the first time we met."

She paused for a moment, eyeing me speculatively, and I saw her weighing how much to reveal to me. However, it was only for a moment – I had already read the case file and there wasn’t much, except her private thoughts on the matter, that would be something I didn’t know.

"There were a few false fingernails found at the dump site of Elaine Rogers. It was first assumed to be hers but checking with the spouse we found that she didn’t wear them. It was enough to have the note re-examined by Special Agent Henderson and your deduction was confirmed."

"I see," I murmured and thought over what she had said while the F.B.I. agent left to the women’s locker to change into street clothes. In a few moments she returned, dumping the scrubs into a white tub labeled Biohazard Waste. We started out the morgue and went to wait for an elevator. Meanwhile, Scully continued the history of the case and my involvement.

"Originally, this case was under the jurisdiction of A.D. Kersh. He was against me using any outside resources but reluctantly agreed to me initially contacting you. However, when the matter was transferred under A.D. Skinner, I gambled and asked him if I could bring you in with us on a more permanent basis. Your estimation that the suspect was female stood greatly in your favor." <I took a risk to bring you on board. My career goes down with yours>

"I think we should ask your sister, Melissa, for some advice."

"What?" <are you crazy?> Scully turned towards me and allowed a mixture of puzzlement and dismay to show on her face.

"I’m thinking a good place to start would be with some New Age shops that sell items for satanic worship. From the little I know of your sister I think she might be able to give us a lead on a few back alley shops of this type." At the sight of the anger building in her eyes, I hastily reassured her. "Not because she practices those arts, but that she would know friends of friends sort of thing."

"I’m not sure that that would be good idea…." <I don’t want to do this>

"The person committing these crimes is going to need supplies. She could either make them or buy them. Some of the herbs needed for the best results – and this is someone who believes in doing a job well – can’t be grown very easily here in the United States."

"That does make some sense…. I’ll be seeing her tomorrow at a family thing. I’ll ask her than." < I still think you’re crazy>


Part VI

Collector – Scully

Of course Melissa was happy to help especially when she found out I was working with that ‘fascinating psychologist’ that she had met last summer in Connecticut. Missy commented about Mulder’s cute glasses, mock turtle shirts and some mumbled thing that sounded like ‘leather jacket.’ Though she tried angling some sort of group meeting into the bargain, I was firm with the statement that this was ‘government business.’

I love Melissa. Truly I do. I love her dearly. However, whenever Melissa is around I don’t stand a chance with a man. She has an outgoing yet at the same time mysterious personality that seems to attract men like moths to a bonfire. Missy has said in the past that my intellectualism scares men off and I guess that she is probably right as the only double date I had with her both men ended up taking her home.

Only Jack had been resistant to Missy’s powers of attraction and perhaps that is why I fell for him so quickly – he actually did NOT like Missy, and called her a lunatic several times for my benefit. Because Missy had recommended Mulder it was the initial reason for Jack’s dislike of our new colleague.

So was I interested in Mulder than after all? Was I concerned that he too might fall for her charms? He had asked about her specifically, which might have denoted a personal interest in her. However, it was really too soon to tell what I thought about Dr. Fox Mulder – and I had learned from Jack to move slowly.

Ignoring those thoughts, I met Mulder the next day with Missy’s list. I eyed him curiously and did admit silently that he had a cute little puppy-dog face that could be considered attractive. He also was a sharp dresser, if you took his ties out of the equation. Now, if only he would get a better haircut…

We started our search at some of the seediest places I’ve ever seen. Mulder seemed to enjoy going down dark alleys, knocking at doors without signs and peering through dusty windows into vacant shop fronts. Being with me gave him literally a license to pry.

I also discovered that Mulder’s personal style was full of sexual innuendo and jokes about relationships, though I seriously doubted that he had the ability to carry any of them through. His comments smacked of the sexism I had received from the male-dominated Bureau, and I at first bristled at his presumption until I soon realized that he was innocent of any real or implied harm. The poor man didn’t seem able to stop himself. Besides most of the jokes seemed to be leveled at his own expense.

By the time we had reached the third shop I decided to enter into the spirit of the game. We had once again been mistaken for a "couple" so I asked the man at the counter – a rather gorgeous and exotic specimen actually with dark brown skin and long shoulder length black hair – if he had anything to recommend to boost male virility.

"Form doesn’t always follow function does it, honey," he said sotto voice, speculatively eyeing Mulder up and down.

With that I felt that I had gotten my own back but instead of being angry Mulder only laughed good naturally. He shelled out the forty bucks for the vial of evil looking pills that the storekeeper had brought out for examination.

"For later," He commented, leering and giving me a good-natured wink. I quickly took the bottle from him and stuffed it into my purse, sincerely concerned about it’s vile contents. I admonished Mulder in a matter-of-fact way of the dangers of taking over the counter, non-FDA regulated drugs. My lecture about his health seemed to amuse him greatly, for though his mouth remained straight, the crinkle lines around his eyes folded with humor.

It was at the seventh shop that our luck took a change. The shop was a little better organized than the rest and a small bell tinkled, announcing our entrance. A tall woman greeted us with an innocuous remark and than let us alone to browse. I could sense Mulder’s excitement beside me; something had caught his eye and he cast a knowing glance to me along with a nod. We approached the counter.

The clerk greeted Mulder and I with an unusual, pronounced drawl that I could not place. What I found to be most curious was that she didn’t seem to notice me. She addressed her remarks to my male partner, showing him several items of silver jewelry under the counter, as if I simply didn’t exist.

Now when you’ve been a woman in the type of job I have, it doesn’t come as a surprise to meet this reaction especially from those that are busy casting eyes at my male partners. However, her attitude seemed to be hiding something more. Once or twice the salesperson caught my eye and her gaze skittered away in a frightened manner. Had she noticed the gun’s bulge under my jacket?

I closed the space between the three of us and she certainly moved away. Mulder raised a questioning brow towards me, silently asking if I wanted to push it further. I gave a slight nod.

"Actually I was looking for a ring for my friend here." Mulder indicated me with a vague wave of his hand and the salesclerk obediently removed a group of rings from under the counter. Mulder put on a pair of glasses to better admire them (Points to Missy on that one, I thought) and than picked out one – a snake eating it’s tail – and asked the woman to measure my ring finger.

Once again the shopkeeper met my stare, with hers sliding away. It was with obvious reluctance that she reached forward and placed the ring on my hand. As she began to slide it down past my knuckle, all hell broke loose.

I can’t tell really what happened -- of course Mulder has his own version of events. However, this is what I know.

My hand was on fire and I found myself flying backwards, off my feet. Slamming into a display case, it tipped over with me skimming across the top. Glass shattered - specimens for arcane rituals went tumbling - and hazily I saw a taxidermist specimen of a stuffed owl fly over my head.

"After her Mulder!" I screamed. He hesitated for a moment sparing a glance at my prone figure before he dashed through the swinging shutter door located between the counters.

"Mary, Mother of Jesus!" I swore, as I hugged my hand to me. It felt as though I had suffered at least a first-degree burn. I staggered to my feet and more glass shards fell about me.

It was than that I remembered that Fox Mulder was not my partner, not an agent and that he had just chased after an extremely dangerous subject with no gun, no badge and no training.


Part VII

Collector – Mulder

Scully found me alone in the alley. She immediately whipped out her cell phone and started talking.

"The stores’ name is Haven and Hell. It’s located over at 45th and Richmond. The suspect is a Caucasian female, 5’10", dark hair dyed blonde, shoulder length. Brown eyes. She was wearing a one-piece dark gray dress with some sort of black shoe or boot. She left the scene with us in pursuit but we lost her in the back alley. That was about," here Dana checked her watch, "around 4:15 p.m. All right. Yes. Okay. I’ll meet you at the hospital. No, just a few stitches. Right."

"Here let’s go to the car where you can sit down," I said when she clicked her phone shut with an aggrieved air. Dana used my arm and hobbled gingerly around the building, back to the front street. Sitting sideways with an open door she finally got a chance to examine her leg, which had a good-sized chunk of glass stuck in her calf.

"Just superficial. It missed the tendon." I wasn’t sure what to say to that matter of fact evaluation. Dana was obviously tough but it didn’t seem to be a false macho toughness. When you’re in pain there isn’t much left for an act.

Luckily a police car pulled up in a few moments. We updated them on the situation, and we’re able to leave. The drive was slow due to the afternoon rush hour traffic and as the adrenaline wore off the pain level for Dana increased. During one long traffic light she reclined the seat and closed her eyes. I thought I should say something but didn’t know what so just gave her an awkward pat on her shoulder. She responded with a slight smile but didn’t open her eyes.

We finally made it to the emergency room where I discovered that FBI agents have to go through the long and boring process that the rest of us have to do. Because of her hand injury, holding the clipboard was awkward for her, so I filled out the form.

There’s an amazing amount of information you can learn by filling out a hospital form. For instance I discovered that her father was deceased due to heart disease, her mother was the contact person (so no boyfriend or husband in the picture for sure than), she was Catholic and had type O blood.

After all the paperwork was processed we finally got into a bay where a doctor took a look over her various scratches and dents. Agent Scully quickly informed him that she was a doctor. She summarized her injuries and their degrees of severity. He didn’t seem impressed by her credentials and said something about, "doctors making the worse patients" before ordering a x-ray of her hand.

Scully returned from the x-ray department and got a few wounds flushed out with ionized water and stitched. When her partner Jack Willis found us it was obvious by his mood that it was time for me to take myself off. On the other hand, I really didn’t feel ready to leave Dana’s side until I knew more about her condition so I compromised with a trip down the hall to the coffee shop.

Now there’s something about emergency rooms. They aren’t much of a room. Most of the "walls" are curtains hung on a sliding system to gain a semblance of privacy. This doesn’t really do much except prevent anyone from seeing your naked ass, which is so well presented in those revealing hospital gowns.

Cloth walls especially don’t prevent anyone from hearing a conversation when they are standing right outside. I am not an eavesdropper by nature but wasn’t sure of the procedure – barge in or slink off? While I debated, I felt a strange replay of the conversation that I had accidentally tape-recorded earlier.

"You should have had your partner with you, not this idiot."

"Skinner wanted me to work with him. I think he can give us some valuable insight into the mind of this killer." <just leave me alone> Dana’s voice was soft, tired and hard to hear.

"If you had your real partner with you none of this would have happened. We would have her in custody and putting this whole thing put to bed."

"You weren’t there. It happened very suddenly. Besides I don’t see where you could have done anything that he didn’t." <just leave me alone>

There was a pause and I was about to enter when the Dana started again, "Jack, why have you contested my transfer? Things haven’t been good between us for a long time. Can’t you see that?"

"I can see it but forgive this stupid cop, I don’t know why."

"You don’t?" <just leave me alone> very softly.

"One day you were saying ‘I’m fine’ and the next day it was the cold shoulder. I want to know what I’ve done so I can make it right."

"It was just a game – a game for both of us. But eventually our expectations became different. You were happy having me there occasionally – a friend, partner, buddy and lover. That was okay with me too at first, but than it wasn’t enough in the end…not after eighteen months…" <I don’t love you…just leave me alone>

After a pause when Jack must have made a gesture, Dana’s voice became impatiently angry, the tone you get when explaining the rules for the umpteenth time to a disobedient child.

"I knew. I knew about them all. Vicki, Beth, and some girl I never bothered to name. Why do you think I always insisted on protection with you Jack? You just couldn’t keep it in your pants. I gave up on ‘us’ developing into anything for keeps." <don’t you see how you hurt me?>

"I thought we had both agreed to see others."

"Sometimes women agree to things just to get what they want, not because they ever figure they will have to ante up. That was my mistake and I freely admit it. But don’t try to stop the transfer – it’s for the best." <I don’t even have the right to be angry… just leave me alone>

After a long pause, Willis asked in a softer tone, "Do you want me to drive you home?"

"No, I rather have Dr. Mulder take me home." <hell, no, you idiot> She must have thought that sounded cruel because she added, "I want to go over the events of today – get a clearer picture of what happened before I write my report up for Skinner." <it’s over Jack, don’t you get it?>

I decided it was time to make an appearance and handed out coffees for all.


Part VIII

Collector – Scully

My pantyhose were ruined so I rolled them into a ball and threw them away. It hurt to walk in heels, so I carried my shoes and hobbled up the stairs in bare feet, trying not to think of what unsanitary things might be on the floor.

Fox Mulder hovered. That’s the only word to describe it. His hand was again on my back, in a place that it seemed he had staked off as his personal territory.

At my door he fumbled with my unfamiliar keys and when we finally entered, the comfort of home made me sigh. While I sat on the couch, Mulder investigated my fridge and cabinets. Using the electronic controls, I turned on the tape system to listen to Kathy’s rehearsal. As the deep strains of cello filled the room, I sunk downward into the soft cushions and propped my feet up on another pillow.

I must have been pretty wiped out because I fell into a light doze and only awoke when I heard my microwave beep. Mulder entered with a tray for supper – a bowl of hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, one side slightly burned.

"Thanks, but you didn’t have too." I struggled to sit up and took the tray. He found a chair opposite, avoiding the couch, as if I had spoken.

"I’ve got to head out soon. Before I go do you need anything else? Any one you would like me to call?"

"No, I’m fine." He didn’t seem to believe me, so I compromised with something he could do to alleviate his worry. "I think a hot pad for my hand. It’s still throbbing. I have one, under the bathroom sink." 

I slurped some soup while he plugged the hot pad behind the couch.

"Did you want me to write up something – a report of the events?" His hazel eyes were very green and gazing at me in a strange, curious way. He had a very full pouty mouth, which somehow contrary to its architecture, was masculine and appealing. I was too tired to puzzle out the paradox.

"Skinner will probably want to meet with you first thing in the morning to go over what happened today. Hopefully, the team will have some answers for us about who the shop clerk was, name and whereabouts. They might even have her in custody."

Mulder made no response to my optimism and said instead, "I do have clients to see tomorrow but could get away by 1:30."

"What if I meet you at your office and we can go over it together?" I suggested.

"All right if you think you can drive…? Here is my cell phone number if things change." He took out a business card from his wallet and scribbled a number on the back with the stubby end of a pencil. He slid the card across my coffee table towards me.

"I was just wondering if you could give me some further help."

"Sure." I replied, eyeing him cautiously over my sandwich.

"Do you have the name of a priest you would recommend to me? I need someone well versed in church doctrine to consult."

I was nonplused. That was not the question I had expected.

"My address book is on the table, by the phone. It has the name of an old friend of the family, Father McCue. He’s at St. John's Church in Alexandria. I think he could probably offer you some sort of assistance or at least point you the right way."

Mulder gave me a beaming, enigmatic smile.

"That would be perfect."


Part IX

Collector – Mulder

The next day appointments went smoothly and I was finishing up with my last client when the door burst open.

"Trish you know better…." I stopped, realizing that the intruder was not our efficient secretary but instead was a young man aggressively dressed in a punk get up reminiscent of my college days in England.

My patient, Mrs. Amhurst, a nervous type to begin with, clutched her purse tightly and looked desperately to me for guidance. I figured this incident would set us back about two months.

"I believe our time is up Mrs. Amhurst," I said calmly and reminded her, "be sure to set your next date with Trish." Hugging the door’s frame, my elderly and graying client scuttled past the disturbing stranger and practically ran for the outer door. I could see Trish’s outraged professional face hovering behind his shoulder but I shook my head slightly at her and she slowly moved to the safety of her desk.

"Why don’t you have a seat, Mr…?"

"Fuck that and fuck you! I’m doing a job here man and I don’t need no bloody fuck up from your side!"

The stranger rubbed his hand, twisted with silver rings, through his short blonde hair sporting dark roots. His nose was pierced and he wore a heavy black jacket with a circular gang insignia I didn’t recognize.

"Perhaps if you could tell me a little more about this matter I could help you?" Of course during my clinicals I saw patients on drugs – this man showed many of the same symptoms. He was sweating, eyes dilated, his temper irrational and his hands held a pronounced tremor.

"Damn right. Damn right," the man started pacing up and down the length of my office, shoving any furniture in his path aggressively out of his way. Not much damage can be done to chairs on rollers, but it was admittedly an impressive display of temper.

"Bringing that bitch into the picture – whose the hell’s idea was that??? I’m just the fucking messenger man, I don’t call the shots. You hear!? You got that? I’m not the main man here!"

"So you’re not the one responsible?"

"Hell no, are you crazy?" I almost laughed at his vehement reply but instead just cocked my head in puzzlement. He looked at me if I was first class idiot.

"I tell you I’m doing a job and I don’t need no fuck up here. This gets screwed, man, and I’m down at the bottom of the wheel and that ain’t my place no more. Some other fuck up can take that kinda heat."

My visitor was starting to cool off some. He seemed to notice the office for the first time and took in the view across the city.

"Nice place. You see what kinda hole they dumped me into? It’s all about position isn’t it? Who you know…"

"I have to agree that favoritism does abound. But that doesn’t mean you still aren’t as good, perhaps better than those that have."

"Your God damn right. Damn right." My visitor had found the ‘refreshment counter’ and helped himself to a whisky and soda. I didn’t think it was the right time to mention the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol. Perhaps it would be more appropriate in a later session.

"I think there’s been a mix up…?" I gently inquired. I couldn’t place this person in relation to anyone else that might be related to any current or previous clients. Jackie’s ex-boyfriend? That drug buddy of Mitch?

"Might be." he swallowed his drink in one draft and wiped his face messily on his jacket. "Damn good. You sure know how to live it up while you’re here. Now look here I have four more to go and they are going down - they are history buddy – and nothing you or your sweet ass girlfriend can do will change that.

Those folks knew the price – better than most and I feel no guilt about making them pay up. But if there’s been a fuck-up I’m not the one who’s going to pay for it. No way, Jose. I’ve done my time and I’m not going down."

I was just starting to get the feeling I knew where we were headed with this conversation when Agent Dana Scully walked into my outer office and all…excuse me… hell broke loose. My visitor exploded with wrath, throwing his empty glass with an explosion of glass fragments and a dribble of stain down the wall..

"You’ve brought that fucking bitch here! Is this some sort of set up? I mean what do you have to gain by it? You must be doing some heavy shit!"

"Scully don’t come in here!" I shouted but of course that just encouraged her to come further into my office, with a gun pointed at my visitor.

"Fuck you… I don’t have to put up with this kinda shit. I have rights! This beats the band, dontcha know?"

And before I had sense to really think about it I decided on a chivalrous course of action and threw myself between Scully – who had a loaded gun – and the stranger – who I felt in my heart was the more dangerous. I’ve been told I can be foolish, crazy, kooky and just plain stupid at times, but even now looking back I still think what I did was the smartest thing considering the circumstances as I saw them.

However, the next thing I remember was just sound - someone was sobbing in the background and I could hear Samuel’s voice calling my name from far away. Once everything stopped getting fuzzy, I took in that I was lying flat on my back, staring at a ceiling tile stuck with pencils. Something was tickling my nose - a fluffy mound of red hair was on my bare chest as my shirt had been opened. I blinked a few times.

"I’ve just finished giving you CPR, Mulder, as you went into cardiac arrest. I’m checking your vitals now. So just do the routine by telling me your full name and the last thing you remember."

"You mean I was unconscious when you were kissing me?" I asked stupidly thinking of my open shirt and wondering if this was some sort of distorted dream of mine where things were supposed to be fun but weren’t.

"Not under, dying… and CPR isn’t much like kissing. So just keep talking and tell me what I asked for like a nice little patient."

"Do I really havfta tell you my full name?" At her stern look I complied and than continued with how this guy had burst into my office, and than she had burst into my office, and than how I had ‘fainted’ or something very girly like that.

"I can hear the ambulance," Trish stepped out of my line and vision to look out the nice view of the parking lot. Her make-up was all blotchy. "They’re pulling up now."

"Okay now Mulder, just lay down here and wait. You’re going to the hospital for an EKG and more."

"Whoa there girlfriend," and I tried to roll to my side to get up and found myself blocked by Samuel’s hand. "Now look Sam I can’t be carted downstairs in a gurney – that’s damn silly looking."

But as no one budged on the issue, and I really didn’t feel like going 10 rounds, I just grumbled the entire way to the hospital. Scully was pretty decent about it and a flash of her badge and credentials got her a free ride whereas my insurance didn’t cover too much of it as I still had a deductible that had to be met.


Part X

Collector – Scully

They didn’t use the sirens since the immediate danger had passed and this wasn’t considered a life and death emergency. Mulder still looked pale but was in good spirits and even tried to obtain the phone number of the paramedic. At the hospital, we got our "old room" as Mulder fondly nostalgically called it.

"We’ve got to stop meeting like this Scully," he said and winked.

"Mulder, I don’t find anything humorous in the fact that less than an hour ago you almost died."

He only shrugged, at what he called my "ill humor." Not only was Mulder at his most infuriating but the staff wasn’t much help either. The EKG showed no interruption in the heart pattern and the cardiologist I spoke with thought I must have imagined giving CPR to a healthy, almost forty-something male.

Despite my request that they keep Mulder for observation, I found myself dropping Mulder him off at the curb outside of his apartment. I floored the Crown Victoria and tried to make it back to Bureau headquarters before the meeting was over. No such luck. Jack had already left, running down an old acquaintance of our suspect who now had a name – Celeste Fremont.

However, my partner had had time to drop off a large manila envelope on top of my desk with a post-it note marked "Read this about your hero." With trepidation about this Trojan horse, I slid my finger under the flap and discovered an entire mound of paperwork devoted to Dr. Fox William Mulder.

He was born October 13, 1961, in Chilmark, Mass., to parents Teena and William Mulder. His father died on November 27, 1973 during a break-in at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. Jack had even managed to include some stark black and white photos of the crime scene.

"Who would have thought he would have had so much blood in him," I quoted in a whisper as I reviewed the stills of quite a violent crime.

The incident seemed to have a profound effect on Samantha, Fox’s only sibling, as she entered a private sanitarium from 1974 to 1976 under the care of a Dr. Heitz Werber. This than was perhaps the impetus of her painting? I mused. And perhaps that was the starting point for Mulder’s interest in the workings of the mind?

His mother remarried in 1978, to a C.G.B Spender. That was also the same year that Mulder left for England where he attended Oxford University in England graduating with a B.A. and later a doctorate "summa cum laude."

In 1986 he married a Phoebe Green, which ended in a quick divorce that same year. Green turned up dead in 1990 and Willis had included another dossier, detailing Green's murder.

She had been brutally killed with quite a personal touch – her body showed myriad blows to the chest, groin and head. Glancing over the abbreviated autopsy report it seemed most likely that death had been due to repeated blows to the head, since some heavy object had crushed half the skull and the nose. She had also been sexually violated.

Mulder hadn’t been considered a suspect as he had returned to the states and begun a private practice at the time of Green's death. However, it was noted that his marriage to Green had been "acrimonious." As the case remained open, a whiff of hostility and suspicion towards Fox Mulder, was definitely reflected in the New Scotland Yard report.

As I shuffled the papers together again, a handwritten note fell out. It was Jack’s scrawl – "Crimes seem to follow him don’t they?"

"Have some pity, Jack," I muttered as I viciously tore his note up and threw it in the trash.

The rest of the seamy underside of Mulder’s life I stuck back into the file folder and tossed it across to Jack’s in box. I hoped that I could put it out of my mind and face Mulder with a clear conscience.


Part XI

Collector – Mulder

My visit to Father McCue was…enlightening.

It was obvious that Dana hadn’t informed the good Reverend Father of my intent to visit. However he quickly spared some time for me and we sat down in his quite comfortable office – Father Confessor 101 – with walls of books, relaxing chairs and a benign, fatherly face to match.

"Dana Scully gave me your name Father as a possible resource for a case that I’m working on with her."

"Are you with the F.B.I. too Mr. Mulder?"

"No. I’m just serving as an outside consultant." The stained glass window speckled his desk with globs of colored light due to the setting sun. I shifted my chair so I could see his face better.

"Actually Father I wanted to hear more about Dana. What do you know of her exactly?"

"Dana?" asked McCue, obviously taken back by my line of questioning. He eyed me suspiciously and I hastened to explain.

"You see I’ve just met her. We’re associates as I’ve said. We were in a situation yesterday that I thought was quite amazing and was wondering about her."

Father McCue was now definitely looking uncomfortable and I realized my mistake. He thought I was asking for some sort of personal revelation about the family. Perhaps he thought I was potential boyfriend material.

"Oh nothing personal, I assure you. I was more interested in knowing her religious beliefs… general things like that. I understand that you are the family’s priest?"

"Not exactly… not any more that is. I was when I was in charge of a different parish, closer to their old home. However, I have kept in touch with all the Scullys. Dana especially likes to come in here and argue theology with me."

"Yes, yes… that is what I’m interested in knowing about. For instance, I’m assuming that Dana is Catholic?"

"A practicing Catholic … though I don’t think she practices much anymore," said Father McCue with a good-natured smile. "She has her dilemma, reconciling science with faith. I imagine that Dana will always wrestle with what is real and what can only be imagined."

"Do you think….? Has she shown…?"

"I’m afraid that I really don’t know where you’re going with this Mr. Mulder." His wooden chair squeaked as he rocked it forward towards me, his hands held palm to palm in front of him.

"A few days ago, Dana and I were together and she was attacked. I had the distinct feeling that she was under divine protection. I was wondering if you ever had that feeling." I waited to hear Father McCue’s laugh but my punch line didn’t seem to elicit that reaction. He eyed me seriously and took a few moments to consider it, obviously ruminating through his memories of the Scully family.

"I’ve always had a feeling that Dana had a guardian angel. Is that the sort of thing that you mean?"

God, I felt relieved. Perhaps the only person you can discuss wild-hared theories with were the clergy after all. If they didn’t believe you could always cast it back in their face about their lack of "faith."

"She’s always been extremely lucky. I know from her mother that she’s been injured several times in the process of doing her job – hit in the line of duty or somesuch cop thing – and has always emerged out of it alive.

However, I always like to recall an event from her childhood. She was about 10 and had gotten terribly ill. Spinal Meningitis I believe but you would have to ask Margaret for the definite medical particulars. Everyone was sure she was going to die.

I had come to visit her – give her the last rites and in private she had confided to me. She wasn’t going to die. She knew it because the angel that stayed by her bed had told her that God had something special for her to do. Something only Dana could do and that it would save the world. She recovered – and I’m still waiting for her to save the world."

I felt the hairs rise back on my neck and goose pimples go down my arms. "Do you think that Dana is ‘good’?"

"I wouldn’t call Dana Katherine ‘saintly’… she has quite a streak of mischief though I think she has suppressed a good deal of it since leaving medical school."

"Perhaps good isn’t the word…" I started, groping for some sort of a question that would get the answers I wanted.

"Dana believes in justice. Justice and truth. That is what powers her. I don’t think she has much patience for those that don’t see the black and white, the right and wrong, of life. If your looking for an analogy to faith, I would say she would make an excellent avenging angel."

I had the feeling that Father McCue was not so secretly laughing at me but since that happens pretty often, I found it easy to ignore. I swerved to my other topic.

"What do you know about demons? I mean agreements with the devil?"

"The Devil and Daniel Webster sort of thing?" I nodded my head encouragingly.

"Well, mostly folklore. The bible does go into some depth about those who traffic with Satan come to no good in the end, but most of the mythology we have today of individuals making pacts and than having to get out of them is from popular television. You can’t make an agreement with the Devil without eventually paying the price – with your soul."

"One last thing, Father, I was wondering if you would have a list of abandoned churches – buildings that are not being used any longer for worship."

"Actually Dr. Mulder, today must be your lucky day. I just received a list from the Archdiocese of properties that our Parish, along with several other denominations, is putting up for sale at auction next week. I’ll get my secretary to make a copy of it for you before you leave."


Part XII

Collector – Scully

I started to worry about Mulder. I rationalized my concern that it was because Skinner had put me in charge of him but something deep inside of me kept recalling the incident in his office.

Who had been the strange young man yelling at Mulder? Mulder’s secretary Trish had told me he wasn’t anyone she knew. However, he vanished quickly enough after Mulder’s collapse – the mysterious collapse that didn’t show cause or effect. Mulder thought the visit was connected to our case in progress, but if so, how did the stranger get his office address?

The more I thought about it, the more concerned I became. I excused myself during lunch and drove over to Mulder’s office to confront him with a dozen questions. Instead, I was disconcerted to find an unknown black woman sitting in Trish’s desk. Her smooth black hair was cut short and so better revealed a face with strong and dark chocolate features. Her large brown eyes turned me inside out in about two seconds.

Before I could ask about Mulder, Samuel Lebowitz came out of his office door, holding a stack of papers. I hadn’t had much time to study Lebowitz during my last visit – the one that took me to the hospital by Mulder’s side – so I spared some time to analyze him.

He was a bit short for a male, under six feet, with a balding head and tight wiry black curls that were turning salt and pepper. His face was deeply lined on either side of his mouth – indicating a lot of time smiling or frowning. I assumed the former because Samuel’s gentle and understanding brown eyes lit up when he saw me. His large hands took mine into a warm welcoming and clasping, embrace.

"Hello, Dr. Scully. Looking for Fox?"

"Yes, yes I was. I couldn’t reach him on his mobile and was wondering if you could tell me how I could find him."

"So this is Mulder’s friend?" asked the black woman. Her voice had a thick southern accent.

"Dr. Dana Scully, meet one of our partners, Zuni."

"She has a very strong aura," was Zuni’s how-do-you-do comment and than she stood up gracefully and went through an office door, presumably hers, and shut it behind her. Samuel seemed to think that was perfectly normal and continued his discussion with me as if her abrupt leave taking was nothing unusual.

"I saw Mulder talk with Venkat earlier today; he might know where Fox got off to." He tapped on another office door and we entered after a low "come-in" greeted us.

I now met the last partner of Lebowitz, Mulder, Chanak, and Zuni, as the door aptly described everyone in Mulder’s practice. He was an Eastern Indian in his forties, of medium height, thin and angular with deep eyes and black hair.

"We’re looking for Mulder," Samuel stated as greeting.

"Disappeared again?" was Venkat’s response, which told me much about my wayward associate.

"I understand that you talked with him earlier this morning. I feel it may be important to know his whereabouts as quickly as possible," I said. If I had been the type that would develop a twitch under stress, I would have been spasmodic. I felt a great need to hurry up with this discussion and get on with it.

"Does this have something to do with Mulder’s visitor from yesterday?" I nodded agreement to Venkat’s question. "I don’t know if I could really help you as we didn’t really talk about that. Instead we discussed some themes found in eastern religions."

"What specifically?"

"The concept of demons. We talked about the universal wheel of life."

"Can you expound a bit more on that?" Although I felt as though I was getting nowhere, a tiny voice inside urged me to "hurry up and wait."

"Some people’s religious beliefs contain the concept that we are all located on a giant wheel, and as the wheel turns, we either rise in status, or go down. Life is not seen as linear as many Western religions view it but circular with a revolving theme of life, duty and service."

"Reincarnation?"

"It can involve reincarnation, but Fox seemed more interested in how someone rises up and down the wheel. What you may be more familiar with is the idea of reincarnation that we come back to right wrongs or to replay a life in a better way. However, there is also the belief that those on the wheel, the dead, can be given duties by which they have to perform to gain a higher status on the wheel."

"Meaning you can buy your way out of hell?" I tried to hold back the note of disgust.

"Not buy – there’s no money involved. But through services, good deeds, performing what the gods have asked of you – your rise higher." Venkat added, eyeing my cross, "Unlike your Christian beliefs, it allows for redemption even past life."

"How does demons play into this conversation?" asked Samuel.

"Western religions can view demons as evil, but in another view they are just performing their duty –"

"This duty being…??"

"Collecting those that have sinned, erred against the gods, or who are ready to have their souls be sent on."

I shot Samuel a look, which he didn’t understand. The notes that Mulder had shared with the FBI of his prospective of the case had leapt to my mind.

"Did he say anything else about his day… appointments? Meetings?"

"He did say he was going to Alexandria to consult someone about the Western view of things…"

"Father McCue!" I whipped out my mobile and started dialing.


art XIII

Collector – Mulder

It can be damn uncomfortable, ridiculous and frightening to be tied spread-eagled. Especially when there is a dead body right next to you.

"I just don’t think we should do this…." Whispered a woman’s voice.

"Shut the fuck up Celeste! Sometimes you have to have a little free will. Initiative, that’s what we need. Lack of initiative got us in trouble last time so we are just learning from our mistakes."

"I think perhaps Celeste is right, Fremont. I mean you don’t want to get in trouble with the powers that be and all that." The body next to mine was still steaming from the astounding number of open cuts on its body. I struggled against the leather ligaments but they squirmed tighter around me wrists and legs like live little snakes.

"Who knows man? Maybe it’s your time. And we are here to help you along. Right… right… that’s the party line. Now get it straight Celeste – we thought it was time that this soul go on."

The personality of Fremont seemed to dominate the right hand, the one named Celeste the left. Definitely there was a publishable paper about these two (or one?) but somehow I was beginning to doubt that I would have an opportunity to write it.

"But he seems like such a nice young man," Her voice was sad, as if she had been disappointed in me. "It’s always the nice ones isn’t it Fremont?"

"Damn right, baby. The more innocent they look, the more rot inside. But it’s not ours to judge, just Them. We just collect the garbage, not sort it."

I had the misfortune to meet up with Celeste Fremont at the fifth church I visited. As soon as I drove up and saw the large circular stained glass window that dominated the front gable of the church I knew I had struck pay dirt. Unfortunately, though my surreptitious sneaking around was apparently not secretive enough. After hearing the muttered, "not YOU again?" I found myself knocked cold and later awoke to find myself in the non-envious position of being Celeste Fremont’s eighth victim.

"You two aren’t thinking. I could help you."

"What does he mean?" asked the soft-spoken Celeste.

"Ignore him baby, he’ll promise us anything to get out of this. They always do. Just help me with these candles."

"Don’t I get any sort of explanation?" I begged, thinking of the injustice of it all.

"This isn’t some episode of Batman. There isn’t going to be the long explanation of our misdeeds." Fremont was getting out of patience with Celeste who was refusing to help light candles. It does take two hands for the easiest method.

"I just don’t get Eli Goodswin. I mean I understand the others. Wilson, avarice, because he had cheated on Wall Street. Ghent, as a fat chef, was gluttony. Elaine’s prostitution made her an adulator. Margaret envied her neighbors. Brown was too cocksure of himself."

There was a moment of silence and than Celeste whispered, "We made a mistake with Eli."

"A mistake?"

"A mistake! Fuck you. Shut the fuck up. We’re not infallible. I mean that’s not our job. Free will and all that shit. Why we’ve been given carte blanche to make mistakes," said Fremont reassuring him and Celeste.

"But I’m not a mistake. You know that. So it would be wrong to take me," I explained patiently, while salty sweat dripped into my eyes.

"We should listen to him Fremont. He makes sense. Besides, he had that woman with him that I told you about."

Fremont ignored her comments and squatted so it could see my face better.

"We’ve just got to fit you into the plan. Let’s see we have lust, sloth, and anger. Which one best describes you?"


Part XIV

Collector – Scully

The fastest way to cover the area was to split the list and have teams. To his credit, Jack came with me and didn’t complain (much) about Mulder or his crazy ideas. After several false leaders, we came to a church with a huge circular window. I immediately had the feeling we were at the right place. It reminded me of the talk of the wheel of life that Mulder had discussed with his partner, Venkat. My hunch was helped by Mulder’s car parked out front.

Jack and I split, he was to go through the back, me through the front. It didn’t take long to zero in on some voices – a man and a woman arguing.

The scene I found at the altar front of the church was disturbing and frightening. Mulder was strapped down to the floor, next to a body that was not alive. Hovering above him was the violent man from his office. He was holding a long knife that he moved rhythmically over Mulder’s torso.

"Everyone’s sinned at some time or other," he demanded. "So just make it simpler and quicker for yourself."

"Quicker doesn’t work for me… forget it." I could hear Mulder’s faint voice as he tried to keep it casual but there was strain underneath. As I came closer, moving at a crouch up the aisle between the prayer benches, I could see a line of blood dripping down Mulder’s face.

"I just don’t think this is the right thing to do Fremont."

I could see that Jack was coming up from the back of the altar. He noted my position with a nod of his head. I stood up with my gun ready, and cried, "F.B.I.!"

The figure threatening Mulder jumped up and with a clear view and I aimed for a shot in the shoulder. Nothing happened. I mean nothing. I clicked the trigger again. Meanwhile, Jack was throwing himself forward into a tackle – he could never forget those football days, but instead of bringing down the suspect he slid forward and uncharacteristically clumsy - slammed headfirst into the front row pew.

"Stop right where you are. Federal Agent!" I repeated, coming forward, my useless gun still aimed at the suspect’s heart.

"Do the right thing Celeste!" shouted Fox Mulder from his prone position on the floor. He was straining against whatever held him, still unable to rise.

I hadn’t thought that my attention had wavered, but now in front of me was standing the woman from the New Age store. Her long, trashy blonde hair hung in sweaty spikes down her forehead. She looked indecisive, worrying the end of her lip while holding the knife that I would have sworn her boyfriend had had a moment ago.

"Jack, there’s two of them!" I yelled for his benefit as I came running forward to take a second aim. "Drop the knife!"

Jack had already regained some composure and was pointing his gun also at our suspect.

"I just see one! Dana, where’s the other?"

"Don’t know. He was here, up front, a moment ago."

"Do the right thing Celeste. Fremont’s wrong. You knew the first time you saw her," begged Mulder.

"I …."

"Don’t listen to him, bitch. We’ve got to fill the quota to rise. Kill this cop. He’s got the crime of lust written all over him."

Before I could shout a warning, Jack fell in his tracks. I could hear the hoarse breath of expelled pain as he clutched his heart. Mulder was lurching to his feet, yelling and pointing behind my head. I turned and saw the large rosette of stained glass, it’s pattern of color shimmering over our faces with the setting of the sun. We were all frozen, taking our parts in some sort of play that I had just walked on stage with my lines forgotten. 

I shifted feet, aware that my gun might look dangerous but was probably a poor defense after it’s earlier failure.  Mulder was standing yet weaving. His face was pale with a streak of red dripping from a savage cut through his eyebrow. He held out his bloodied wrists in appeal and than spoke with a calm that he must have summoned from some inner resource.

"You’ve already taken lust, Fremont. And adultery. Taking Jack Willis will just compound the wrong to an extent that I don’t think you could rationalize it away."

"Don’t Fremont!" The voice was behind me was the woman Celeste. As a spared a glance out of the corner of my eye towards her, she looked calmer, and her face held some sort of determination. Mulder squinted at her with disbelief, slowly shaking his head.

"He’s right. It was a mistake. I’ve made my decision. It’s time we went our separate ways."

"Celeste, don’t leave me! We’re twinned souls -- you can’t go. We’ve been together now too long!" Jack's assailant was screaming, his arms raised in rage.

"Goodbye Fremont. And good luck."

Before I could react further Fremont lunged towards me, his knife straight out. Instinctively, I brought up my gun again and clicked the trigger. To my surprise I felt it recoil and the man went down.

"I guess Father McCue was right. It was my lucky day," said Fox Mulder.


Part XV

Collector – Mulder

I didn’t hear from Scully for some time. Perhaps after saving a guy from death she was done with me or perhaps since the case was finished so was our brief relationship. Zuni volunteered to read Tarot cards, or consult my Chart but I couldn’t bring myself to interest myself in her predicting arts. What was worse were the silent looks exchanged between Samuel and Venkat during our weekly staff meetings. Even Scott wanted to know what had happened to the "Irish Colleen," as he had dubbed her.

I slumped into a depression. It’s pretty bad when you listen to your intuition and all that it has said is wrong. So late on a Friday afternoon I was watching the heavy downpour outside my office window and was wondering how I would get to my car without drowning when the phone rang.

"Fox Mulder."

"Hi. It’s me."

My heart started pounding. I licked my lips to get my mouth wet again. I didn’t care how she knew I would recognize her voice. I didn’t have the pride to pretend.

"Hello Stranger."

"I thought you might like hearing how the case ended?"

"Sure."

"Jack’s recovering nicely. He’s already back onto active duty." <not my partner anymore>"

"That’s good news." I responded politely. "I guess no one bought my theory that you were dealing with a demon with multiple personality disorder?"

"No, I’m afraid not. <I can never tell when you’re joking…you are joking right?> However, you have quite intrigued Assistant Director Walter Skinner. You met him at the briefing?"

"I remember…"

"He wants me to be in charge of a new department."

"Wow… A promotion than?"

"A department of one, actually. Something that we call the X-files around here at the Bureau. I’m actually calling because I thought you might be some help on a case I’m working on now. It deals with U.F.O.’s and you said you were an expert…."

"Rather. Unfortunately for myself."

There was a pause before she began again. It must have been difficult for her to make this call.

"I would like your opinion about it. Could we meet?" <I want to see you again.>

And that is how we ended up at Scott’s Pub to discuss our future.


Epilogue

"Stop your fucking sniveling Celeste."

"Stop yours you big bully."

"I know you both tried your best," said The Presence. ‘I understand there were ‘mitigating circumstances."

"Damn right. We can’t be held accountable," retorted Fremont, quick to take up the rallying cry that might save their butts.

"Everything happens for a reason – don’t you believe that Celeste? Fremont?"

"So there was a reason for this?" asked Celeste in her small little girl’s voice.

"Who gives a fuck about reasons when we are both going down, baby. Don’t you get it? We are going back to rung one, and that’s if we’re lucky."

"Fremont if you would just learn to manage your anger more constructively you would be making better progress. However, I am not here to chastise, but to let you know that Celeste is rising and you are, hmm, staying at the same level."

"Rising?!" Celeste cried, overjoyed, she clapped her hands.

"Why does she get the reward," Fremont stated mulishly. "We didn’t finish the job."

"It was more important that Fox Mulder and Dana Scully meet than if the number of souls were collected on this last journey."

"That’s so sweet. How romantic!" gushed Celeste.

"We were a fucking dating service?!"

"Fremont you need to strive for serenity. This temper of yours doesn’t help your cause. However, to answer your question, our two friends needed to meet to put certain things into action."

"Like what? Fucking? I mean did you see those two?"

"No, not fucking as you so delicately put it. The need to save the world."

"Praise the gods and goddesses!" exclaimed Celeste.

"To save the world? Those two? Fucking help the world than."

"We don’t need your cynicism, Fremont. I think it’s time you two left. The world hasn’t stopped and there is work to be done."


Love, Hugs, and Squeaky Bed Springs to L.T. for helping me with the background on demons. My liberal interpretations of Eastern religious beliefs are probably full of errors. Any faults are my own.

The most fun I had with this story was dropping in references to Scully and Mulder's lives as we know them in the Chris Carter universe and than relating them to this different "future." It was due to Deep Background for names and data – http://deepbackground.simplenet.com/ that I could even accomplish this task at all as I have a horrible memory for names and dates.

And to the I in FBI site for police assistance - http://www.gypsymuse.com/thei/index.html
Again, all mistakes though are mine.