Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: A Halloween prank turned on its head puts Mulder in mortal danger and has Scully scrambling to save him from certain doom.


05.30 p.m.
October 31
X‑Files office
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington D.C.

Special Agent Dana Scully glanced at her watch, duly noted the time she plotted onto the report and clicked the save‑button. With a sigh, she leaned back on her chair, happy that she had managed to finish the report before she went home to her mother's elaborate Halloween dinner. Now all she needed to do was to print it and have Mulder sign it and that would be the end of that case. Tedious, boring, normal. Those words described the case‑scenario they had just been through, but she had actually relished it; because it was normal. No monsters, no aliens, no strangeness. No less dangerous, of course, but it was danger she could deal with. She clicked the print‑button and got up to get the report from the printer.

Before she reached the door, it swung open and a young agent she had not seen before stepped into the office. "Agent Scully. Are you leaving?" he asked, looking nervous for some reason.

Scully squinted at his badge, then shook her head. "No, Agent Carlson. Not yet. I'm just going to pick up something from the printer. Can I help you?" she replied.

The young man glanced around, his nervousness making his sweat lightly. "Uh ... I was hoping to find Agent Mulder," he finally said.

"Agent Mulder is upstairs. He'll be down in a bit. Was it important?" Scully wanted to know, a little uncomfortable about this kid showing up down here, looking like he had bad news.

"Uh ... well ... if you could just let him know that Timothy Barker has been released two days ago? He'll know what it's about," Carlson stammered, swirled around and literally ran out of the office.

Scully frowned. "Timothy Barker?" she muttered, then shook her head. She would tell Mulder when he came back down. "And a happy Halloween to you, too, Agent Carlson," she added and went to pick up the report.


06.00 p.m.           

Mulder returned to the basement office half an hour later and Scully had him sign the report after jotting her own signature down on it. Then she picked it up and was about to go upstairs to hand it over to Skinner. "I'll just drop by Skinner's office and give him the report and then I'm off. My mom's waiting with dinner. Are you sure you don't want to come?" she asked, somehow hoping he had changed his mind. She had asked him several times if he wanted to join them. Her mother had actually invited him.

Mulder merely shook his head. "Nah. I'm fine. I'll just go home, watch some TV and try not to be bored. Happy Halloween, Scully," he said, smiling.

That made her remember the message she had to give him. "Oh, Mulder, before I forget. An Agent Carlson was down here about half an hour ago, looking for you," she said, turning back in the doorway to face him.

Mulder, who had just dropped down on his chair to finish filing some of the things on his desk, looked up at her. "Carlson? I don't know any Agent Carlson. What did he want?" he replied, frowning a little.

"He told me to tell you that Timothy Barker had been released from prison two days ago. He said you knew what it was about." She eyed him more closely, noting the effect this piece of news had on him. He had gone deadly pale. "Are you all right?" she asked, slightly concerned.

"Barker is out?" he almost whispered, he voice nearly failing him. "Oh shit," he added more to himself than to her.

"Who is Barker?" Scully asked, stepping back into the office. It was obvious to her that Mulder was very scared of this man.

"He was a serial killer I helped catch," he managed, then got a hold of himself. Looking up to meet Scully's eyes, he heaved a deep breath. "Pretty nasty guy, that one. He didn't get very far. Killed three people before we caught him. The nasty part was the way he killed his victims. And he swore that he would do the same to me if he ever got out. I just didn't think he would ever be released. He got life with no chance of parole."

Scully's eyes narrowed. "Why would someone like him be released on parole?" she wanted to know, all of a sudden not certain she believed this guy Carlson.

"I don't know," Mulder muttered, not looking too happy when he got off his chair and started pacing.

"Let's check the database. He should be listed, right?" she suggested, wanting to put his mind at ease. This had to be a Halloween prank. She dropped down in front of his computer and called up the F.B.I. database on criminals. A search brought up a very relieving piece of information. "Take a look at this, Mulder," she said needlessly, since he was leaning over her shoulder, watching the monitor. "He died three weeks ago in prison. Carlson was just delivering a nasty Halloween joke. That also accounts for his nervousness."

Mulder stared at the monitor, thinking his own somber thoughts about why his colleagues saw fit to treat him like this all the time. It was starting to bother him that they would go to such extremes. "Yeah, that's great," he muttered and straightened up again. "Really great." He didn't sound like he meant it.

Scully looked up at him, noting the serious expression on his face. "Mulder, I think you should take this one up with Skinner. It may be Halloween, but it's still a pretty nasty joke to make," she suggested after a moment.

He focused on her, aware that she had a point, but knowing what it would do if he ran to Skinner with this one. Instead, he shrugged. "Nah, that's not necessary, Scully. It's not like they put me in a dangerous situation with this joke."

Scully eyed him intently for a moment, then sighed. "Maybe not, but they could have, Mulder. If it had been the other way around."

"Yeah, but it wasn't the other way around. I'm used to these kind of ... jokes." He turned away, not wanting to face her. If she looked at him for much longer, she would be able to see through the charade, how much it really hurt him. "Just leave it be," he added in an indifferent tone of voice. "I'm going home now. Did you want me to sign that report?"

Scully decided that she wouldn't press the issue any further, noting how shook up he really was by this incident when he asked to sign a report he had signed only moments ago. "You already did, remember?" she told him, holding up the report.

He grinned at her, wanting her to know it was no big deal, but knew it didn't come across right. "Oh, yeah. Right. I don't know where I've got my mind today," he said, making a joke of it. "Anyway, I'm off, Scully," he added, grabbed his coat and headed for the door.

"Happy Halloween, Mulder," she said, received a smile over one shoulder and then he was out the door. She watched him go and wondered. Then she grabbed her own briefcase and coat and left the office, too. She had to deliver the report to Skinner's office before she left.


06.24 p.m.
A.D. Skinner's office

A knock on the door made Skinner raise his head and give it a brief glance before he called "Come in." Scully stepped in with the report she had promised to hand in before she left and he nodded to her.

"The report, sir," she said, handing it over.

"Thank you, Agent Scully. Happy Halloween," he replied, receiving the report and putting it in a pile, then frowned a little when she made no move to leave the office again. "Is something wrong?" he wanted to know.

"Uh ... I know this is none of my business, really, and it is Halloween, but Agent Mulder was the subject of a rather nasty prank today," she said, knowing that Mulder would chew her out for interfering. She also knew why he didn't want to go to Skinner with this.

Skinner's expression became a little stern at that. "Such as?" he wanted to know, not giving her a chance to take it back now.

Scully sat down on one of the chairs in front of his desk with a sigh. "An Agent Carlson came down this afternoon and left a message for Agent Mulder. He was extremely nervous. He told me to tell Agent Mulder that Timothy Barker had been released from prison two days ago. When I told Agent Mulder, it affected him strongly. We looked Barker up in the database and it turned out that he had died in prison three weeks ago. If we hadn't done this, it would probably have caused Agent Mulder a lot of mental distress. And I think something should be done about this. It's going too far."

Skinner's frown deepened as he leaned back on his chair. "Barker is dead? That's strange. I haven't heard anything about that," he said. "Let's first of all clear this up, shall we?" he added, grabbed the phone and dialed a number. "Assistant Director Skinner from the FBI here. I would like to talk to Jonathan Frank. Is he in? - He has? Well, maybe you can help me? - Thank you. I'm trying to find out if the latest information we have on Timothy Barker is correct. According to our database, he died three weeks ago in your prison. Could you check that for me, please?" He placed a hand over the mouthpiece. "The best place to get the right information is at the prison where he was being held," he told her, then re‑directed his attention to the phone again. "Yes?" A dark expression spread over his face. "Really? And why is that? - On a technicality? That sounds ridiculous, considering that he has spent the past seven years behind bars without chance for parole. Would you please ask Mr. Frank to call me first thing tomorrow morning? - Thank you." He hung up, that dark expression still on his face. "Timothy Barker is alive and well. And he's out of jail. I think it's a sure bet he's going straight for Agent Mulder." Scully swallowed hard, realizing that Carlson had tried to warn Mulder rather than set him up for a Halloween prank. Skinner stabbed the intercom button. "Kim?" She replied at once. "Call Agent Mulder and tell him to return to the office at once. He may be in danger." Then he turned to Scully, releasing the intercom button again. "Try if you can get him on the cell phone."

Scully pulled her cell phone out and quickly dialed Mulder's number, but got the message that there was no connection to the cell phone at the present time. "It isn't on," she said, afraid of what that might mean.

"Right," Skinner grumbled. This was very quickly turning into a very bad situation.

Then Kimberly came in. "Sir, I only get his machine and there's no answer on his cell phone," she said.

Skinner gave it some thought for a moment, then sighed. "Call the whole team in, Kim. Everybody. Right now," he said. She nodded and disappeared back into the front office. Then Skinner looked back at Scully, his expression very tense. "You keep trying to raise him on that phone. I would rather have called the whole team in for nothing than find out that he's vanished."

"Yes, sir," Scully replied, clutching her cell phone in one hand.


08.00 p.m.
Conference room

The conference room was full of people. Most of them looked a little annoyed at missing out on their various Halloween parties, but a few looked like they were very conscious of why they had all been called back to the office. Since no contact had been established with Mulder, Skinner had decided to go forward with this. He would rather that it all turned out to be a wasted effort than that they had to dig into this for real.

"I'm sorry I had to call you all back to work on Halloween night, but we've got a pretty serious situation on our hands," Skinner began, eying everybody intently. He had a pretty good idea who the responsible party was, and the way they squirmed under his stare only confirmed that suspicion. "It seems that somebody has tampered with our database, and made Agent Mulder believe, that a man he helped catch and put away for life seven years ago has died in prison. This man, a serial killer of the really brutal kind, promised to come after Agent Mulder if he ever got out of prison. It has come to my attention that this unthinkable situation has arisen. Timothy Barker is out of jail and as per right now, 08.00 hours, Special Agent Fox Mulder is missing." He was angry and his tone of voice betrayed that anger even though his calm, yet tense expression didn't. "This prank may cost him his life, ladies and gentlemen. I want everybody who has no case at the moment on this until he is found. I don't care what it takes." After a moment worth of silence, Skinner finally let his anger show. "You can also consider this to be a wake‑up call. This is not kindergarten. I expect you all to behave like grown‑ups. I want to see those responsible for this outrageous prank in my office right now. Everybody else, get to work on this. Nobody gets to go home before we find him." With those words, he left the conference room and headed back to his office.

Five minutes later, those responsible entered his office, all of them looking very timid. One of them, an agent named Graham, cleared his throat. "Sir, this is one big misunderstanding. We never ..." he began, but Skinner cut him off gruffly.

"Agent Graham, I don't give a damn about your excuses. What you did is inexcusable. I should fire the three of you right now, but I won't do that until I know for certain that all three of you are equally involved in this. Now, who made the changes in the database?" he snapped.

Graham shuffled his feet, glancing at his cohorts for a moment. When neither of them took an initiative, he sighed. "I did, sir. But it wasn't ..." he began, but was cut off again.

"You have tampered with official information, Agent Graham. That alone is enough to get you tried and thrown in prison for a good many years. What you have done is illegal. Do you understand that? Apart from that, it has put one of your fellow agent's life on the line. Do you know what Barker does to his victims?" Skinner found it very hard to keep a lid on his temper. Graham had been a trouble‑maker from the start, but he had never thought that he would do something like this. "He guts them while they're still alive. Do you really hate Agent Mulder that much that you want something like that to happen to him?" he demanded angrily.

Graham's head had snapped up when Skinner told him what that monster did to his victims. That had definitely not been on his agenda. "No, sir. Of course not. We just wanted to pull a little Halloween prank on Agent Mulder. We never intended for him to get hurt," he was quick to say, completely caught off balance.

"Nevertheless that is what you have accomplished if we don't get to Agent Mulder in time, not to speak of the mental anguish you're putting him through with this so‑called Halloween prank of yours. Agent Graham, you can consider yourself unemployed from this very minute. Whether there will be any further repercussions depends on whether we find Agent Mulder alive, and if we do, whether he wants to press charges against you. I will strongly advise him to do so. Get out of my sight." Skinner waved him away, then turned his attention to the two other agents. "And what is your involvement in all this?" They glanced at each other, then looked back down on the floor without answering. Followers, Skinner thought. They had followed Graham around like two puppies. The thought made him sneer. "You're both suspended for a month. That will give me a chance to think about what I should do about your involvement. I want written statements from both of you. And you better hope and pray that we find Agent Mulder alive. Now get lost." Skinner was disgusted by the whole thing. What was it that made grown men behave like five‑year‑old kids? These three men seemed to have had no idea what they had done before it was too late. Shaking his head, he got up and left the office again to join the rest of the agents now working hard on establishing a plausible scenario.


Location unknown

Fox Mulder woke up with a start when his head connected with something solid. He winced and curled up, annoyed for a moment that he wasn't able to move his hands. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks that his hands were cuffed behind his back and that he was laying on his side in a dark, smelly, cramped space. His orientation was completely shot and the fact that this dark, smelly, cramped space was bouncing regularly, throwing him against the top of it, made it fairly easy for him to establish a sense of his immediate whereabouts.

He was in the trunk of a car, tied up and gagged, heading to God‑knew‑where. Despite the almost debilitating pain from the back of his head, he tried to think clearly, to force himself to remember what had happened to put him in this position. It slowly started to come back to him and he could vaguely recall having left the office to go home after that less than friendly Halloween prank his colleagues had pulled on him. He had made it all the way home. The darkness had overtaken him after he had closed his front door and had been on the verge of entering his living room. Somebody had attacked him in his own home, knocked him out, gagged and handcuffed him and dumped him in the truck of this car. So far so good.

The only question that remained was who had done this to him and why. He kept his eyes closed while he tried to concentrate on the matter at hand. The nauseating smell of gasoline combined with the nausea caused by the light concussion he had gotten from being knocked out made it difficult for him to think straight; especially since he also had to concentrate on the rather difficult task of not throwing up. If he did, he would suffocate because of the gag. He swallowed hard, wishing that this bumpy ride would be over soon.

As if his silent prayer had been answered, the car finally came to a stop. He heard the car door open and close and could vaguely distinguish footsteps on gravel coming toward the trunk. With an effort, he turned himself around a bit, wanting to get a good look at his abductor. And then the trunk lid rose.

Mulder didn't know who he had expected to see, but when the trunk lid rose and the internal trunk light came on, he had a pretty good view of the man standing above him. And he knew that face; the tense smile, the intense eyes; those intense, crazy eyes.

"Hi there, Mulder. Happy Halloween. Long time no see," Timothy Barker lisped, grinning a partially toothless grin down at the restrained agent. "You know, when they released me from prison the day before yesterday, there was only one thing on my mind; to look up old friends. And guess what. You were first on the list." Barker reached down and grabbed the collar of Mulder's coat, hauling him into a sitting position. "We're gonna have some fun, buddy. But I can't stay, you know. There are so many people I have to look up. Reggie is next in line."

Mulder couldn't think. It didn't happen often that he froze, but this was one of these few times. He was scared senseless of Barker. Seven years ago, the man had nearly gotten to him, had nearly killed him like he had killed his other victims. At the last possible moment, Reggie Purdue, his former supervisor, had saved his hide. Mulder didn't like to think of that episode. It had been one scary experience. And now he was going to relive it; quite possibly all the way. All he managed was to shake his head weakly.

"What? You're not happy to see me? I'm hurt," Barker said, his tone of voice dripping with sarcasm. He hauled the fear‑paralyzed man out of the trunk of his car and dropped him on the ground. "Don't go anywhere," he added with a wide grin. "I'll be right back." He closed the lid of the trunk, got in the car and drove it a few yards further up the gravel road.

Mulder tried desperately to break the paralysis, to get on his feet so he could get away, but he couldn't move. He was frozen stiff with fear, fully aware what Barker would do to him if he did try to run. But, on the other hand, there would be fairly little difference between that and what he would do to him anyway.

Barker came walking leisurely back toward him, fully aware of the influence he had on the younger man. It made him smile. Power was such a wonderful thing. Power through domination and fear was even better. But he did like the carving the best. Seven years had passed and he wanted to catch up a little before he went out in the world and carved some more. Doing this pup and then his supervisor would be a treat. A treat he had waited seven years for. The goddess of fortune had smiled on him again. He had been released on a technicality. He knew they couldn't hold him forever. And his very talented lawyer had done his job very well. Too bad the fool had turned out to be a wimp like all the others. When Barker had gone to his place to thank him and had admiringly picked up a carving knife in the man's kitchen, he had seen the sudden fear in his eyes; the fear that made him kill. It was like ecstasy, that fear. The more he got, the more he wanted.

He stopped in front of Mulder and squatted down. "Well, shall we go inside?" he asked, waving at the cottage not far away from the road; a gravel road leading to nowhere in the middle of nowhere. If anyone ever found this one, they would be lucky. Barker had considered sending Mulder's pretty partner a little note, giving her some guidelines. It was so much more interesting when they were just about to catch him. But he wanted a little time to himself; a little time to carve without interruption. And he could only do that if they weren't on to him.

"Yes, let's go inside," he answered his own question, grabbed Mulder and forced him to his feet. The fear hung in a thick cloud around his victim and he didn't blame him for being afraid. Oh no.

Mulder had back then thought that something was driving Barker to kill. That he felt resentment towards other human beings due to some unfortunate incidents in his childhood. What he didn't know was that Barker did have a pretty normal childhood; that his parents had loved him and cared for him. That thought made Barker laugh out loud. These profilers were so funny sometimes.

He hauled Mulder inside and dumped him on a chair before going back to close the door. "I think I'll leave the gag on for now. I'm a little tired and I want to get some rest," Barker told Mulder when he came back to him. "You know, I think you should take a look at the basement while I take a nap. Get acquainted with the room where you'll spend the next few days." Again Barker hauled him to his feet, dragged him toward the stairs leading down to the basement and pushed him down them.

Mulder took a header down the steps, but managed to twist himself around so he landed on his right shoulder rather than his head. The shoulder joint snapped under the impact and he screamed into the gag as the white hot pain blossomed through his arm and upper torso. The nausea took over once again, this time much more forcefully and it was with the greatest effort that he held it back.

Barker grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked his head up, causing another lightning bolt of pain to spark through him. "Oh, did you hurt yourself? I'm sorry. I'm so clumsy sometimes," he said, forced him back to his feet and gave the now ghostly pale younger man a hard push toward a wooden door across from the stairs.

Mulder tried to take in as much as possible of his surroundings, not that he thought he would gain anything from it. He stumbled backwards and slammed against the door, the impact sending another scream of pain through his shoulder. He felt tears rising in his eyes and found it hard to breath around the gag. Barker's wiry frame was the stuff that nightmares were made of. His nightmares were filled with wiry people when he wasn't dreaming about his sister's abduction. And seeing the man from his nightmares standing there in front of him, that taunting smile on his lips, made his blood run cold. It was like a bad omen; a very realistic bad omen.

Barker reached past him and opened the door, taking pleasure in seeing his nemesis falling backward into the damp, rot‑smelling cellar. He again grabbed Mulder, turned him over on his stomach and unlocked one of the cuffs around his wrist. Intent on making life as miserable as he could for the man who had cost him seven years behind bars, he unlocked the left cuff, dragged Mulder through the room and cuffed his right hand to a cold‑water pipe. Then he realized that the longed‑for muffled scream didn't come simply because Mulder had passed out.

"Oh, boo," Barker muttered, pouting for a moment. "Why are you people always so wimpy?" he added, gave the unconscious man a good, solid kick against the hip and left the cellar again, closing and locking the door behind him. Not that he thought Mulder would be able to get lose, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Humming to himself, Barker went back upstairs, dropped down on the couch and closed his eyes. He felt he needed a well‑deserved break. Getting to Mulder hadn't been all that easy.


10.00 p.m.
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington D.C.

Skinner heaved a deep breath and sighed. It was obvious that Mulder had been abducted from his apartment. No doubt there. The lock had been picked, there was a minor amount of Mulder's blood on the carpet in the small entrance hall and - most importantly - Mulder was missing. But there were no other fingerprints in the apartment than the ones they had expected to find. Nothing indicating that anybody had been there.

Skinner had sent out a search warrant on Timothy Barker, including the whole of Washington D.C. and a radius of 100 miles outside the city. Whether it would bring them anything was questionable, but he had to cover all possibilities.

He leaned back on his chair and for a moment watched the agents working under his command. Scully was involved as well, her nervousness and tension showing clearly in her hard‑cut expression. He knew she was going to give it her all to find Mulder, but they had fairly little to go on. No eyewitness accounts of Barker in the area. Nobody had seen anybody carry anything anywhere. That was D.C. for you. Nobody saw anything. Even if it had happened right in front of someone, they would still not admit they had seen it. "Damn," he muttered to himself. At the moment, he could not come up with anything they could do better or faster than they were doing it right now. And he feared that it might not be fast or good enough. If Barker stuck to his reputation, it was a good bet that Mulder was dead or dying at this very moment. There was no saying what that sick bastard was doing to him. Skinner took his glasses of and ran both hands over his face, trying to maintain an air of confidence. That was hard, though. He wasn't confident that there was anything else they could do.


He looked up to meet Scully's intense stare. "Anything?" he wanted to know.

"No. No new leads. I was thinking, though. Where did Barker take his victims?" she wanted to know.

"To an abandoned house on the outskirts of Washington. But it's already been checked and it hasn't been in use for years, agent Scully," Skinner said, a little confused about her question. She knew that already.

"Yes, but doesn't that give us a little more to go by? If he in any way sticks to the pattern - and I believe Mulder has told me time and again that serial killers do - then he will have found an abandoned house or cottage on the outskirts of Washington; maybe a summer cottage or something like it. Why don't we check if he might have rented a house somewhere in the area?" she suggested.

Skinner frowned. He actually hadn't thought about that one. "It's worth a try," he replied and got up, putting his glasses back on. "Billings, McEyre. Check if anybody with Barker's description has rented or bought a cottage or house anywhere in the Washington area. I think it's a fair guess that it will have to be a desolate place." The two men nodded and went to work on the phones at once. Then Skinner turned back to Scully. "Why don't you go to your mother's and be with your family, agent Scully. You look like you could need it," he suggested.

Scully stared at him for a moment, then shook her head. "I'm not going to be able to enjoy myself while he's out there somewhere," she said, turned around and went over to join Billings and McEyre on the phones.

Skinner hadn't expected anything else, but he had hoped that she was a little more susceptible to sense than Mulder would be. Apparently she had adopted a few of Mulder's qualities. He sat back down and started leafing through the reports on Barker, trying to find some kind of clue, something indicating where he might have taken Mulder.

Scully glanced over at him for a moment, then returned her attention to the printed lists they had just received over anything and anybody who was selling or renting cottages and houses in the Washington area. First they had to get rid of those that could under no circumstances be right; houses with neighbors, Houses in the city. Things like that. She looked at the overwhelming list and sighed.


Location unknown

He came to because he moved. His movement sent a scream of pain through his shoulder, which again yanked him mercilessly back to reality. Moaning, he tried to shift himself around so he could get at least a little comfortable, but had to realize that no matter how he moved, his shoulder was still killing him. With an almost aggressive movement, he yanked the gag from his mouth with his left hand. Then tentatively, he touched the sore joint, trying to figure out if it was as bad as it felt. He couldn't feel any protruding bone and there was no indication that he had bled, but the skin was swollen and tight around the joint. So, in general, his shoulder joint had snapped and that was it. Not too bad, really. Now all he had to do was get out before Barker immobilized him. And he knew he would. He clearly remembered the pictures taken of the unfortunate victims. There was only one thing that Mulder couldn't understand. Barker had been known to kill his victims within the first twenty‑four hours of their abduction. Although he had a fairly poor idea of what time it was, he thought it might be the middle of the night; early morning, even. Okay, so that didn't make it twenty‑four hours yet and Barker could still do him a lot of damage before those twenty‑four hours were up, but it still didn't make sense. Perhaps this killer had veered off his course due to his need for revenge.

Mulder thought the whole scenario through as he slowly forced himself to his feet, trying desperately not to move his shoulder in any way that might make the pain unbearable. The pain was blinding, breathtaking, but not enough to make him scream. And that was what he wanted to prevent. With tears of pain stinging his eyes, he carefully lowered his arm as he got up, holding onto it with his left hand to steady it.

When he finally reached a standing position, he slowly turned around so he was facing the pipe he was cuffed to. The pipe looked fairly sturdy. It would be more of an effort than he could manage at the moment to break it loose. And, needless to say, it would also make too much noise. Mulder's mind raced while he looked around the basement room. What he needed was ...  He froze, almost on the verge of slapping his forehead in sheer outrage over his own forgetfulness. He dug into his right pocket and retrieved his keys. Why Barker hadn't removed them he didn't know and at the moment he didn't really care, either. The handcuff key he always carried with him could be his road to freedom. With a little effort, he unlocked the handcuff and gently cradled his arm to his body. Turning around, he again inspected the room he was in. No window, so that meant he would have to go out the front door. But there was something he needed to do first.

He found some string which he pulled off a foul‑smelling package containing ancient winter clothing, and tied his arm up so he could prevent his shoulder from moving too much. The effort was almost too much for him and he was afraid of passing out if he tried too hard. On top of his broken shoulder, he still had the concussion to deal with. Dizzy spells along with a constant, low‑level nausea made it hard for him to force himself into action. But he knew he had to move if he wanted to stay alive.

Still holding his arm steady, he tried the door. It was locked and looked pretty heavy. There was not much chance of breaking it down. With a sigh, he glanced around again. So maybe he would have to wait for Barker to open the door and then brain him with something heavy. Knocking him out would be fairly easy. There were plenty of heavy objects in the room. The thing that worried him, though, was the fact that he knew he would freeze when Barker turned up. There was something about the man that made it impossible for Mulder to move if he faced him. "Well, then don't face him," he told himself quietly and started searching through the collection of heavy objects to find one he could handle with one hand.


Barker woke with a start. He sat up on the couch and glanced around the dark room. The urge had awoken him, the urge to wallow in blood. And there was someone waiting for him downstairs; someone who would not only pacify the urge for a while, but brighten his spirit with the joy of revenge, too. He rose from the couch, a smile plastered across his face which would make the Devil think twice about approaching him. Stretching the remainder of sleep out of his body, he leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling. There was one thing he loved to see in the eyes of his victims; the paralyzing fear. To emphasis that the time had come, Barker howled at the ceiling. He howled like a wolf at the moon.


Mulder froze, his left hand clutching a steel pipe, when he heard the sound. With apprehension, he tilted his head back and stared up at the chalked ceiling of the room, chilled to the bone. It wasn't the first time he had heard a human howling at the moon. But usually that sound was provoked by eagerness, by drunkenness. This sound was also provoked by eagerness. But not any eagerness he wanted to get to know up close and personal. Barker was on the move and he would come down those stairs and unlock that door soon enough. Aware that his time was up, he retreated to the wall next to the door, ready to kill Barker if he had to. If it would save his life, he would do almost anything right now. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he tried to steady himself enough to take the other man on. Then he leaned back against the wall, a tight grip on the piece of pipe. It would be his only defense, the only thing between him and certain doom.


12.30 a.m.
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington D.C.

Scully ripped another piece of paper off the pile in front of her, putting it aside. No‑go so far. None of the addresses had panned out. She sighed, desperation and fear clutching at her heart constantly. She had taken the time to briefly study Barker's file and now wished that she hadn't. She couldn't shake the mental images she was assaulted by constantly since reading the file.

The next name in line was a private man, not a company. She heaved a deep breath and dialed the number, hoping that he was home. The phone rang three times before it was answered. "Good morning, sir. I'm sorry to disturb you on Halloween night. My name is Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI. I'm calling you regarding the summer cottage you have for sale," she quickly said.

There was a brief pause. "You wanna buy a summer cottage in the middle of the night?" the man at the other end asked, sounding a little confused.

"No. I'm not calling to buy it, sir. I need to know if you have sold it and if so, to whom," she told him, trying not to sound as frustrated as she felt.

"Oh, I see. Sorry. I'm a bit slow. I had just fallen asleep when you called. Been a bit of a party here," he replied, sounding a little slurred.

"Again, I'm sorry, sir. Have you sold your cottage?" she insisted.

"Yeah. Actually, I have. Only two days ago. Can't give you much information, though. He paid cash."

Scully nodded. This sounded like it could be something. "Could you describe the buyer to me?" she wanted to know. She could virtually hear him scratching his head.

"Uh ... yeah. He was tall, kind of wiry. You know, a spindly kind of guy. And those eyes; man, I'll never forget those eyes. He looked kinda crazy, if you don't mind my saying so."

"I see," Scully said calmly, her heart racing in her chest while she stared at the picture of Barker. Tall, spindly, crazy eyes. "And did he give you a name, sir?"

"Sure did. Had to write it down on the owner slip. If you'll just hang on for a moment there, I'll go get it for you." He put the phone down before she could say anything.

Scully started tapping her foot, wishing to God that this man would hurry up and get back on the phone. "Come on, come on," she whispered.

"I'm back," the man's voice rang again. "Uh ... let's see. Here it is. The name's Timothy Barker. He paid in cash, signed the slip, got the directions and left again. A bank robber or something, is he?"

"No, sir. You have nothing to worry about. Could you please give me the address of the cottage and tell me exactly how to get there?" Scully asked, and started writing it down on a piece of paper. Some of the other agents working around her had become aware that she might have something there. "Thank you very much, sir. You've been a great help," Scully finally told him and hung up.

Then she rose, her eyes instantly fixed on Skinner, who was slowly approaching the table she was sitting at. "I think we've got him, sir," she said, holding up the address.

"Let's go," Skinner said, waving three other agents along with them. "Billings." The man came over. "Get on the phone and contact the D.C. police. Get them to send swat cars to this location and tell them to be very careful. We're dealing with a lunatic. Go," he said, giving Billings a copy of the address.


Location unknown

Mulder clutched the pipe like a drowning man would clutch a straw. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead while he waited, waited for Barker to come for him. It reminded him of childhood nightmares. The nightmares he'd had right after Samantha had been taken. Formless, frightening beings had come for him. And he couldn't move. No, they came for Samantha. And he still couldn't move. He was frozen, immobilized. For a second he closed his eyes, willing the pain from both his head and his shoulder to the background, never able to lose it completely.

At the sound of footsteps on the stairs, his eyes snapped open again. His heart started beating faster. His breath became shallower. The fear of the monster was upon him; the childhood fear of the dreaded beings that would come to take his sister away. Only this time, there was only one. And it was coming for him. It would hurt him and eventually kill him; unless he stopped it.

The clang of keys, then the rattle of it in the lock. He listened intently, all sounds louder than normal, the sound of his own heart thundering in his ears. Then the door swung open.

Barker stopped short, staring at the water pipe he had cuffed his victim to. It was empty. Frowning, annoyed, he stared at the pipe, then took a step forward. He saw the attack too late to prevent it, but noticed it to avoid the full and probably lethal blow. The pipe connected with his forehead, drove him back a step. Barker staggered for a second, then regained his composure. Madness was a marvelous pain killer.

Mulder did the one thing he shouldn't have done. After he had hit Barker, he focused on his face and looked straight into his eyes. There was a brief indication of pain, but then the madness erupted like a hidden geyser.

Barker smiled through the blood running down his face from the open wound on his forehead, then raised a finger, waving it at Mulder. "That wasn't very nice," he lisped.

Somehow, Mulder managed to break the paralysis and swung the pipe again. It was a powerful blow, one that would have killed Barker if he hadn't been prepared for it.

The pipe was stopped an inch from his face and his powerful hand yanking it easily out of Mulder's grasp. "As I said. That wasn't very nice," Barker repeated and threw the pipe aside. A butcher's knife glinted in his other hand and his thumb kept caressing the handle. "Now, let's get down to business. You're intent on making this interesting for me, aren't you, Mulder? Sort of like a Happy Halloween present, huh?"

Mulder backed up a few steps, trying to swallow and finding himself unable to. His throat had gone utterly dry. His eyes darted around, trying to find something else he could defend himself with, but nothing was within reach.

Barker abused his victim's momentary lack of attention and lunged forward with the knife, stabbing out at him. The tip of the knife cut easily through the fabric of Mulder's pants, slashing through the skin and muscle beneath like a hot knife through butter.

Mulder yelped in pain and staggered backwards, pulling away from the knife and Barker. He hit the rear wall hard enough to make his ears ring and the pain in his shoulder to erupt to a new level. It took his breath away and he fought a losing battle to regain it before Barker had a chance to come closer. He felt tears rise in his eyes, tears of fear, of pain and the fact that he couldn't draw a decent breath. He slid down the wall and sat down hard, the jolt sending another wave of nauseating pain through him. He almost couldn't feel the new injury in his leg. He could only hear the sound of his own pulse in his ears and his vision started to blur. His left hand clawed over the floor next to him and when Barker leaned down to take a closer look, Mulder grabbed whatever it was he had found and smashed it hard against the side of his tormentor's face. The impact was hard enough to send Barker reeling to one side, but it gave Mulder fairly little advantage. He was only beginning to regain his breath and it didn't happen fast enough for him to get up. Besides, his left leg felt dead and useless. As the air once again seeped into his lungs, he started feeling the moisture of his own blood, the stinging pain of the cut.

Barker shook his head and straightened, trying hard to understand how someone who had been so much in his grasp could bite back so ferociously. He wiped blood out of his eyes and focused on Mulder. The man really wanted to live. This only sparked the urge even more and Barker spat a blob of phlegm and blood onto the floor. "Naughty, naughty," he taunted in an unsteady voice and approached Mulder again. "I'm really going to have to hurt you for that one."

Mulder stared up at him, completely drained, unable to fend for himself any more. He was afraid, terrified even. And the only thing he could think of was why this had to happen on Halloween night.

Barker took position in front of him, slashing the air with his knife. "Don't pull any stunts, pup, or I'll cut your freaking hands off. You got me?" he snarled, annoyed that this pup had been able to hurt him. He lashed out with the knife, the tip finding its goal, cutting through fabric of both cloths and body.

Mulder didn't even have the strength to yelp any more. He whimpered at the new pain, the feeling of his blood spilling. At that moment he was as certain as he had ever been that he would die. And he didn't want to face that death, so he closed his eyes and turned his face away.

Barker leered, squatted down and aimed the knife at his victim; from the belly up. That always made for a slow, painful death. He wouldn't cut deep, just enough to open up enough to expose the intestines. The man wouldn't die of that. He would hurt a lot, but he wouldn't die. The real treat was when he reached into the body and pulled the coiled intestines out, stretching them to the breaking point before he started slicing them apart. His arm swung back, gathering momentum to gut this one alive.

A click, a loud bang followed by the spray of warm liquid and a subsequent thud made Mulder gasp. He had immediately identified the bang as a shot from a gun, but was, in his present state of mind, unable to connect it to anything. He still expected to feel the blinding pain of the knife when it drove into his guts. After a second where nothing further happened, he slowly opened his eyes and turned his head back toward the scene before him.

Two things assaulted his vision immediately. Barker was lying on the floor in front of him, on his back, with a hole where his face had once been. And Scully stood in the doorway, her gun grasped in both hands, staring across at him.

"Mulder," she finally said and lowered her gun. She stared at her partner, her professional side taking in what she saw and making mental notes on his condition, her emotional side twisting and turning at seeing the look on his blood spattered face, fear first, then surprise. She met his eyes, noted how he held back on his feelings, and stuffed her gun back into its holster. She stepped over the body of Barker and squatted down in front of Mulder, taking a closer look at his injuries for a second. Then she reached out and placed a hand against his cheek. "It's over," she said.

He stared at her for a second longer, unable to comprehend that he had, once again, been saved from this monster at the last possible moment. He stared at her so hard, his eyes hurt.

And then he started to laugh. The laughter raked through his body, making him hurt even worse, but he couldn't help it. It wasn't even because it was funny. It was just the release from the tension, the fear, the terror he had felt over the last hours. Hours he had thought would be his last. With an almost inhuman effort, he reached out to place his palm against Scully's cheek, not paying any attention to the other people filing into the room.

Scully grabbed his hand and held it in place, feeling how weak he was. "It's okay. You're safe now. Barker is dead," she told him, troubled by the laughter. She was aware that he had been under an enormous amount of mental stress since Barker had grabbed him, but she still felt apprehensive about his reaction toward this rescue.

His laughter abated after a few moments. He was too exhausted to go on. Instead, he closed his eyes and let his head sink back against the cool wall. He heard Scully calling for the paramedics, heard Skinner's voice among the others, and didn't care.

When the paramedics came and lifted him onto a stretcher, the last remains of laughter evaporated. Being moved was a painful experience. They dealt with his wounds, examined his shoulder and his head wound. They kept talking to him, telling him he had to stay awake. The sting of a needle inserted into his left arm made him jerk. No more pain, he wanted to shout at them, but could not find his voice for anything else but one thing. "Scully," he croaked. Then a cool hand touched his brow. He managed to open his eyes and found a pair of concerned, deep‑blue eyes looking back at him.

"Try to stay with me, Mulder," Scully said, trying a smile and finding she had none to spare. She was too worried about him. His shoulder was broken, he had two deep gashes, a head wound and a slight concussion. All this combined with the blood loss and the mental distress could be enough to kill him. She had to make sure he didn't go into shock or slip into a coma. "I'm right here," she assured him. When he moved his left hand, she grabbed it.

He smiled, a ghost of his usual smile. "I know," he whispered in reply, his eyes never leaving her face. "Happy Halloween, Scully," he added and his smile widened a notch at the shocked look on her face. He would be damned if he would die now.

Scully could see the determination in his eyes. She could tell that there was nothing he would rather do than close his eyes and drift away, but he didn't. He forced himself to stare at her, to keep her in his line of sight even when the paramedics placed an oxygen‑mask over his face. And it was then that she knew he wouldn't die. She clasped his hand in both of hers and finally found that smile she had been looking for. "This is not a happy Halloween, Mulder," she chastised him, knowing he would expect nothing else from her.

He just kept on smiling and kept on looking at her for a moment longer, then he sighed. "Yes, it is, Scully. I made it through alive," he told her quietly. "Thanks to you."

Reaching out, she caressed his face. "That's what friends are for, partner," she replied. "That's what friends are for. Happy Halloween to you, too."