Rating: PG


Violent Crime Section
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Skinner stood next to the meeting table, talking to Black, when Mulder turned up a little less than ten minutes late. Neither of the two men seemed to observe this, though, and Mulder was grateful for that. He stopped next to Skinner and surveyed the now neatly organized piles of pictures and papers on the table, all sorted and placed in chronological order. With a smile, he acknowledged Scully's handiwork and glanced around for his partner. He found her striding toward him from the entrance.

"Good morning. How are you feeling today?" she asked him once she reached his side.

"Good as new. I see you've put some order into things," he said, waving toward the table. "This should be a breeze now. Have you ever considered becoming a profiler?"

Scully merely smiled, then caught Skinner looking at them. "Agents, we have to double our efforts to find this perp," he said, his voice loud enough to attract the attention of everybody in the room.

Mulder had to admit to himself that he was glad to have both Scully and Skinner in the room with him. None of the other agents assembled would make any snide comments with those two around and he really needed some peace of mind right around now.

"We don't have much to go on," Mulder said. "Unless agent Johnson can give us a detailed description of the perp, of course. It will still take time to narrow down who he is, though."

"Quite right," Skinner agreed, looking a little concerned. "So far, there have been no new victims. Maybe you demoralized him yesterday by freeing agent Johnson," he added, eyeing Mulder in the hope that the man would agree with him. But he didn't.

Mulder shook his head. "I doubt that. This guy doesn't get demoralized by a set‑back. He'll just work so much harder on obscuring the next victim's whereabouts until he wants us to know where to find the body. I think I'll go down to the hospital and get a description from Johnson. He should have had the chance to take a good look at our guy."

Skinner nodded thoughtfully. "Do that. And when you come back, we have to find some way of nailing down this guy's identity. I don't want any more fatalities if we can in any way avoid it," he said, then nodded for Mulder to leave.

Mulder headed out, leaving his slightly concerned‑looking partner behind. Scully looked after him until the door closed behind him, then turned her attention to Skinner. "Sir, I think we've got a problem," she said.

Skinner raised an eyebrow, somewhat surprised. "What do you mean?" he wanted to know.

"I had a chance to go over this material yesterday and from what I can read in these files, this guy is in some way avenging himself on people who resemble other people who might have hurt him at one time or another," she started.

Skinner frowned. "And how does that pose as a problem?" he asked.

"That's not the problem, sir. I think he may very well try to get back at agent Mulder for depriving him of one of his victims. It was, after all, agent Mulder who found him, wasn't it, agent Black?"

"Yeah," Black replied. "He got the idea, all right."

Scully nodded her thanks to Black, then looked back at Skinner. "In order to prevent this from happening again, sir, he may decide to make Mulder the next victim. And, to be quite honest, nobody else has been able to find any of the victims before they expired. Mulder is the only one who has done that."

Skinner's expression revealed his sudden concern. Looking over at Black, he waved him toward the door. "Catch up with agent Mulder and don't let him out of your sight. I don't want him to go anywhere alone," he said. Black hurried of in pursuit of Mulder, while Skinner returned his attention to Scully. "I'm surprised you didn't offer to do this, Scully," he said.

"There's a very good reason for that, sir. If anything should happen, a man is more capable of defending agent Mulder than I would be. However much I hate to admit it," she said. "Besides, it might not be such a good idea if we stick together on this one. Mulder has a feeling for what's going on and I have the facts and the insight into his way of thinking. Eventually, I may be able to come up with the same results as he has, so if anything should happen to either of us, the other is still around."

Skinner stared at her, a little taken aback by this. With a great deal of trouble he maintained a serious expression. She was actually beginning to think like Mulder. It was very obvious in the way she stated her case. "All right. I agree with that," he finally said, having regained control. "You stay here and take care of things on this end. Agent Mulder and agent Black can go after the perp together with the rest of them."

Scully nodded in consent, then turned around to once more go over what they had.

Skinner watched her in action for a moment, gaining a new level of respect for the petite red‑head, then turned around to do his part of this job.


North‑West Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

Mulder reached the hospital with agent Black in tow. It had taken some convincing on agent Black's part to make sure Mulder understood the severity of the situation. Now that he did, though, there was no discussion about staying together. Black had made it very clear to Mulder what could happen if Scully was right and Mulder had been unable to ignore that. As a matter of fact, it had basically put the fear of death in him.

The two men found out where Johnson was and entered the room together. Black stepped forward, grinning broadly at his supervisor. "Hey, Johnson. You look better than yesterday," he said.

Johnson gave Black a curt nod, then focused on Mulder. "Well, Spooky, looks like you managed to get yourself a leading position for a change, huh? What are you now? The new SAC?"

Mulder was somewhat hurt by Johnson's reaction. He had not expected a parade, but he would have suspected that Johnson would have toned down his hostility considerably. This reaction from Johnson struck him with enough surprise that he didn't know what to say to it.

Black gave Johnson a stern look. "I think that one was uncalled for, Johnson. He saved your fucking life yesterday," he told the man somewhat angrily.

"And now I'm supposed to be grateful for the rest of my days? Spare me the crap, Black," Johnson retorted.

Mulder had regained his composure and felt his temper going the high way. Drawing a deep breath to calm himself, he put on a sarcastic smile. "Well, it didn't take you long to get back to your good old self, Johnson. Maybe I should have left you in that casket a little longer," he replied, his tone of voice cold as ice.

Now it was Johnson's turn to be taken aback. He wasn't used to a verbal defense from Mulder and it stunned him for a moment. He stared at Mulder, trying to spy any underlying threat, but figured he got what he asked for. Pursing his lips, he had to stomp down on his pride and aggravation pretty hard. Both Mulder and Black had a point. For a moment he said nothing, then he sighed deeply. "Old habit," he said as ways of explanation. Before either of them could comment on that, he gave Mulder a wry grin. "I take it you didn't come all the way over here to see how I was doing, huh, Mulder?"

For the first time in the years he had known Johnson did the other man use his name rather than his nickname. And to Mulder it felt as if the ice between them broke. "Partially I did. But we've come down here to hear what you've got to say about our guy. Did you get a good look at him? Can you describe him?"

Johnson stared at Mulder for a moment, then looked away, his eyes trailing over to the window. He considered how to break the news to the man for a moment and figured it might be best to be straight forward. "I didn't see him at all," he finally said, not looking at either of them.

Mulder and Black exchanged glances. "You didn't see him?" Black asked, sounding baffled.

"No, Black, I didn't see him, okay? He clobbered me from behind. I woke up in that damned coffin with no clue where I was," Johnson snapped, staring at Black with furious eyes.

"How the hell can you be this reckless, man?" Black demanded, sounding upset. "You went out there and you didn't even look around? Man, you could have died. Are you even aware of that?"

"Yeah, I'm aware of that. I'm the one who was stuck in that fucking coffin, Black. So spare me the tirade. I'm not in the mood," Johnson virtually roared, folded his arms over his chest and looked away.

Black was about to make a counter‑comment to that one, but Mulder stopped him by putting a hand on his arm.

"Johnson," he said, attracting the bed‑ridden man's attention. "What do you remember? What happened out there?" he asked, his tone of voice calm and soothing.

Johnson looked at him for a moment, his expression displaying his apprehension. It was slowly dawning on him why Mulder had such a high success‑rate. He was good at talking to people. He was very good at making them feel at ease. For a second he considered a derisive reply, but figured he needed Mulder's help to find this lunatic.

Instead of snapping at the man, he sighed. "I went out there to take a look around, to see if maybe there was something we'd overlooked. Something we missed the first time around. I was examining the intended burial site and I guess I wasn't paying attention. I sure as hell didn't expect that maniac to turn up out there again. The next thing I know, I get hit pretty hard over the head by something and everything turns black. When I woke up again, I knew where I was. I didn't want to acknowledge it at first, but I sure as hell knew where I was. It took every bit of strength I had not to panic."

"I don't think anybody would have blamed you if you had. That you didn't was what saved you, though. Hyperventilation would have killed you a lot sooner." Mulder paused, staring down at the floor in front of his feet for a moment.

"Sorry. If I had known he might be there... but I didn't. You probably would have, wouldn't you?" Johnson said, eying Mulder thoughtfully.

"Yeah, I probably would have. But, then again, you're not the one who's paranoid here, right?" Mulder replied with a smirk.

Johnson merely made a face. "Right. So, what do we do now? Sit around and wait for that fuck to strike again?"

Black was a tad surprised by the fact that Mulder and Johnson were actually talking without biting each other's head off. That was a new development. He had never heard Johnson say anything nice about Mulder. Whether he was in the room or not.

"That would be a dumb move, if you don't mind my saying so," Mulder commented. Thinking the thing over, he frowned a little. "Certain people at the office speculate that our guy might be a little bit upset with me for freeing you," he added. "It appears to be the general belief that he might be coming after me next."

Johnson's eyes narrowed for a moment. "So, what you're saying is that we should use you as bait and... hope he goes for it?" he wanted to know.

Mulder nodded. "Yeah. If I'm fitted with a bug, a locator or something like it, then it would be possible to track me and find me before I run out of air." Thinking about what he was suggesting, Mulder made a face. "Preferably, of course, the rescue team would get to me before he starts piling dirt on top of the coffin."

"What if he changes his M.O.?" Black wanted to know. "This guy is not your normal perp, Mulder. This guy's nuts."

"Most of them are," Mulder said. "And I don't think he's going to change his M.O. He's too fond of this game as it is. That's why he'll continue to do what he feels serves him best. Terrorize someone to death by burying them alive." The mere mention of the option made him go cold inside. He suppressed a shiver and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "It's the only way," he added.

Johnson nodded thoughtfully. "You know, Mulder, I think you're right. However much I hate to admit it," he said after a minute. "Go tell Skinner about this idea, Mulder. You'll need his go‑ahead on it," he then added. "Get out of here. Both of you. I need to rest."

Black looked a little disappointed, but nevertheless followed Mulder out of the room, hurrying after him.

They reached the garage without exchanging another word and Mulder headed briskly toward the car, oblivious to anything other than the idea that was taking shape in his head. Of how they could trap the perp quite easily. Of course, he would have to find a way around Scully's objections to this one. If he could somehow convince her that he needed her desperately to help him on this one, she would do it. He was sure of it.

"Mulder," Black called out, sounding a tad frantic.

He slowed down and looked back over his shoulder only to find Black standing there, looking somewhat confused. Frowning, he turned around to face him. "Come on, let's get going. We don't have much time," he said.

"No, that's right. You don't," a somewhat muffled voice said from behind him.

Mulder frowned and started to turn back toward the car and the origin of that voice, but he was stopped short by the sound of a gun equipped with a muffler going off. Black let out a half‑hearted gasp, his hand getting halfway to his head and the gaping, ragged hole in his forehead which the bullet had created, before he collapsed. Mulder stared at the dead man while all the color drained from his face.

"Don't turn around, agent Mulder, there's a good lad," that muffled voice said from right behind him while a hand removed his gun. At that moment he realized how Johnson could have avoided hearing this man approach. He hadn't heard him either. "I wouldn't want you to see me before time," he added.

Mulder swallowed, shocked by the fact that this guy had killed Black without even being provoked and in a public place, nonetheless. "Look, whatever it is you want, I'm sure we can find a solution to this without any further deaths," he tried and was rewarded by a solid knock on the back of the head by the guy's gun. It didn't knock him out, but it sure brought him to his knees.

"Let me repeat myself, agent Mulder. Don't turn around. If you see me, I have to kill you."

Mulder brought a hand up to touch the painful bruise on the back of his head, trying hard not to wince when his fingertips connected with it. "Listen to me for a minute, okay?" he tried again. "You don't have to do this." He was certain that this guy felt compelled to do what he did. He was probably schizophrenic. If he wasn't too far gone, Mulder should be able to reason with him. The worst thing he could do right now was show fear, so he remained as calm as he could under the circumstances.

The owner of the voice chuckled almost delightedly. "Ah, spare me the psychological bull shit, agent Mulder. I'm not insane. I'm not being guided by little voices telling me to kill."

He found the thought amusing. Mulder could hear as much from the tone of his voice. And it made him very, very afraid to think of another possible term for this man's illness. If he was a psychopath, he was a hell of a lot more dangerous than Mulder had originally thought. "Then why are you doing this?" he wanted to know, no longer able to control the slight quiver to his voice.

The man behind him chuckled again. "Put your hands behind your neck, agent Mulder, or I'll put a hefty hole through your head. This baby kicks ass this close up," he said, tapping the muzzle of the gun against Mulder's head.

Mulder complied at once, aware that he might buy himself some time if he took it slow and complied, putting the man at ease. "Don't worry. I don't want to die," he assured the man behind him.

"Good. That makes you a much more interesting victim," the voice replied. "Get to your feet very slowly."

Mulder rose to his feet, making a face at the pain in his head when he moved. What he wouldn't do for a Demerol right now, he thought. Cold fingers closed around his neck and he almost flinched away from the touch.

"Ah‑ah‑ah. No quick moves or I'll blow you to kingdom come, agent Mulder," the man said. "Turn slowly and headed toward the back of your car. Very slowly."

Mulder complied, moving slower than he had to, not taking any chances. He both wished that someone would turn up and didn't. Because the chances were that this maniac would blow them away instantly like he had killed Black just for seeing him.

He stopped at the trunk of the car, his hands still laced behind his head.

"Now, open the trunk and get in," the voice said.

Mulder hesitated. That would definitely hamper his chances of getting away. "No," he said, putting as much defiance in his voice as he dared.

"Agent Mulder," the voice said, almost regretfully. "Don't you understand me yet? If you don't comply, I will shoot you like I shot agent Black back there. It would deprive me of the pleasure of burying you alive, but I can live with that. You, however, can't. You'll be quite dead."

Mulder closed his eyes, afraid that if he brought one hand down, it would shiver. He nervously licked his lips, trying to think around the fear. Was this guy serious? The clear and undebatable truth of it was a big, fat yes. The tone of this man's voice, the steady way his fingers held onto Mulder's neck. There was no doubt about it. If he didn't comply, he would die at once.

Biting his lip, he slowly lowered his right hand to his pocket, found the key and brought it out. The bundle of keys clattered in his hand and he had to try three times before he was able to slip the key into the lock. He opened the lid, still with one hand behind his head.

"Now, hand me the keys and get in. And make sure you keep your back to me at all times. If I get the slightest feeling that you've seen me, you're dead, all right?"

The man's voice was nearly conversational and Mulder found it best to continue to comply. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that this man was a sociopath. Someone fully in control but without the feelings to go along with it. Instead of attempting to further speak his case, Mulder climbed into the trunk of the car, fear and apprehension making it hard for him to keep from looking back. He curled up inside and before he knew what happened, his abductor had whiplashed him across the back of the head, effectively sending him into temporary oblivion. He didn't hear or feel the trunk lid close or the engine roar to life.


J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington D.C.

Scully glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time, glanced over at Skinner again, and then back to the door. Where were they? Mulder and Black should have been back by now. Tapping her pen onto the pad in front of her, she wished he would call her, knowing he couldn't since his cell phone was lying on a pile of papers next to her. Just to let her know he was okay. Since agent Black hadn't come back, she presumed that the other man had caught up with Mulder.

With a sigh, she was about to get off her chair to talk to Skinner about this, when the door to the VCS opened and a very serious‑looking agent strode in, heading directly toward Skinner, who was seated at the far side of the table, going over some of the material together with one of the other agents.

"Sir," he said, interrupting the conversation.

Skinner looked up, frowning. "What?"

"I hate to have to tell you this, sir, but special agent Black was just found dead in the garage of North‑West Georgetown, sir. Bullet to the head," the agent said.

Skinner rose, looking very grave all of a sudden. "And agent Mulder?" he asked.

"There was no sign of him or the car, sir. Special agent Black was shot by a Sig, sir."

Scully had basically jumped out of her chair, but this information made her hesitate. She nervously looked over at Skinner, waiting for his move.

"Get forensics down there right now. I want that garage swiped clean of finger prints and anything else that might be useful," he said, knowing it was a shot in the dark. Too many people passed through that garage every day. Turning around, he found Scully standing next to him. "Did agent Mulder have his cell phone on him?" he asked her.

Scully stared at him for a second that seemed to last an eternity, then shook her head. "No, it's on the table over there," she said, pointing back to where Mulder had left his phone next to hers. "I believe he didn't think he would need it," she added. She could hear herself how shaky her voice already was.

Turning back to the agent who had brought them the bad news, Skinner quickly made a decision. "Put an APB out on that car. Get everybody on it. I want to know where it is and who's driving it. Move it, agent. I wanted it yesterday," he commanded, his voice harsh.

The agent hurried out of the office again, while everybody else started moving, too. Skinner stared giving orders to everybody and eventually found himself alone in the office with Scully still standing by his side. "I want you to tell me everything you know. Let's build a new profile on this psycho before he can bury Mulder," he told her in a strict tone of voice.

Scully nodded. What she wanted most of all was join those searching for that car. She wanted to be there when they found him. She wanted to be the one to reassure him. But Skinner had made it very clear that they were working together on this one and he wasn't heading out there right now.


They started going over the files, the pictures, the reports, and ended up where they had begun. With nothing. After struggling with the information, trying to read things into it that weren't there, Scully suddenly tossed the report she was re‑reading for the umpteenth time onto the table, propped her elbows on it and covered her face. "This isn't getting us anywhere. There's nothing in these files," she said, trying and failing to hide her distress. "There's no connection. None whatsoever."

"There has to be," Skinner insisted and put the report down he had been reading. Pulling his glasses off, he squeezed the bridge of his nose for a second, then replaced his glasses and looked over at Scully. "Look harder, Scully. There has to be a connection somewhere. There has to be a pattern."

He had barely said it before Scully dropped her hands and stared at him. "A pattern," she said.

Skinner frowned. "Yes, a pattern," he agreed.

"No, sir. A real pattern. - Where is that map?" She started rooting through the piles until she found a map of Washington D.C. and its environs. Pushing files and pictures aside, not caring that some of them landed on the floor, she spread the map out and looked down at it. Having memorized all the murder sites in the hope of finding some kind of connection, Scully grabbed a pen and made crosses where each and every one was located. Then she grabbed a ruler and started drawing lines between them. While she worked, she started breathing faster, more shallow, her eyes widening. "Equal length," she mumbled.

"Scully, would you please let me in on what you're doing?" Skinner asked, getting up finally to lean closer to the map.

Scully straightened a little and pushed the map into the center of the table. "An octagon, sir. He's creating an octagon around D.C.," she told him, waving at the nearly finished octagon she had drawn up on the paper. "All the sides are of equal length and with the same gradient between all sides. Which gives us the perfect opportunity to find him. That's how he determines where to bury them."

Skinner looked down at the map, then raised his eyes to meet hers and was mildly shocked to see the determination in her expression. One he knew too well. But not from her. Always Mulder. When he was obsessed about something, he had that look in his eyes. The look that Scully had just now adopted as her own. Looking back down at the map, Skinner nodded. "We have to work out exactly where the next grave will be. That's the only way to find him. You're right," he said, grabbed the map and strode out the door with Scully hot on his heels.

Skinner pushed the door to the computer division open and stepped up to the nearest agent. "Parker," he said, his voice strained.

"Sir," the young man said, rising from his chair with surprise plastered all over his face.

Skinner spread the map out on a table and tapped it. "Find the next point in this octagon. Agent Scully will fill you in," he said and stepped back.


Scully set to work with Parker and within half an hour, they had narrowed the next location down to a radius of one mile. Calculations and re‑calculations brought them constantly closer to the actual point. And the closer they got, the more nervous Scully became.

Eventually Skinner put both hands on her shoulders and gave them a squeeze. "Calm down, Scully," he told her quietly. "If you have a nervous breakdown, you can't help Mulder."

His words did the trick. She drew a couple of deep breaths, glanced at her watch and nodded. "I'm all right," she said, glancing up at him. "Thank you, sir."

He merely nodded and kept watching the proceedings.


Location unknown

Mulder came to with a thundering headache. It was dark, dank‑smelling and chilly where he was. His instant reaction was to panic. Trying to stretch out, his feet hit a solid wall. His breath came in shallow gasps while he basically flung both hands upward. His fingers connected painfully hard with what felt like a metallic surface above him and despite the heavy air, there was no shortage of oxygen.

It took him a moment to realize that he was still in the trunk of the car and when that sunk in, he stopped breathing for a moment. Forcing himself to calm down at the realization that he had not yet been buried alive, he closed his eyes and thanked whatever deity was near enough to hear him. Shifting his position, he felt down along his right leg for where he had his second gun hidden, but found it gone. The gun and the holster both. "Damn," he grumbled through clenched teeth.

Okay. No gun. That meant he would have to find other ways of defending himself. He started feeling around inside the dark trunk, trying to find something he could use. His fingers found a crowbar and he closed his hands around it as if it were a priceless treasure. Again he sent his thanks to anybody out there listening, rolled over on his back and readied himself to knock the living daylights out of his abductor.

For a long time, nothing happened. Then he heard footsteps. Tensing up, cursing his headache to hell, his fingers tightened on the crowbar and he was ready for anything when he heard the key slip into the lock. He had also braced his knees against the lid of the trunk to give this bastard a nasty surprise. The lock clicked and he pushed upward, pushing the lid out of the way.

But his abductor was prepared for anything, it seemed. A searing blight light blinded him, making it impossible for him to know in what direction to swing the crowbar and before he could make up his mind, a muffled shot rang out and a fire from hell spread from his right shoulder, causing him to let go of the crowbar with a yelp of pain.

"Now, now, agent Mulder," that muffled voice said, the light still in his eyes. "Make no sudden moves and I won't have to shoot you again. I've gotten you too close to where you have to go to kill you now, but it doesn't say anywhere that you have to be in one piece when I bury you."

Mulder gasped, trying to focus around the pain. The fingers of his left hand were wrapped tightly around his injured shoulder, his hot blood oozing out between them.

"Sit up slowly and climb out of the trunk, agent Mulder," the voice said. "Come on. I didn't even shoot you that badly. It's just a flesh wound."

Mulder ground his teeth, trying hard to keep a stream of curses at bay. It hurt like hell and he was bleeding. That was all he needed to know. Laboriously, he managed to haul himself out of the trunk of the car and came to his feet. His calves threatened to cramp up and he shifted his weight a bit to relax the muscles a little.

"There now," the voice said. "Shall we go?" he suggested.

"Go where?" Mulder hissed through clenched teeth.

"To your final resting place, of course. I've taken the liberty of preparing it for you and I think you will like it," the voice said, continuously shining the light into his eyes, blinding him.

Mulder blinked, his eyes watering from the sharp light, but didn't move. He wasn't about to get buried without a fight.

"Turn to your right and start walking, agent Mulder. And again, don't turn around. If you do, I will shoot you again. I don't care what it takes."

Closing his eyes for a moment, he considered his options, then slowly turned to his right and took a slow step forward, then another. He moved as slowly as he could, hoping that he could find a way out of this one on his own. It was becoming increasingly obvious to him that he was alone on this one. There was no way in hell that anybody could find him now.

"Keep moving, agent Mulder," the voice said behind him.

They were inside what looked like an old, abandoned garage. And at the far end, at the foot of a concrete pillar, he could see the hole. The closer he got to it, the more frantic he became. He wanted to swirl around and kick the shit out of this ass hole, but his survival instinct and fear of further pain kept him moving slowly toward certain doom. He was breathing raggedly now, fear and anger vying for control inside him. And all he felt like doing was to beg for mercy. If he allowed himself to get buried and he was freed in time, he still knew what it would do to him. It would add to the pile of fears he already had. It would increase his nightmares and kill his sleep all together. ‘You needn't worry about that, though,' he thought to himself with morbid humor. ‘You're not going to survive this one. You're going to suffocate to death five foot under.'

He came to a stop a good four feet from the edge of the hole and would under threat of death refuse to close the distance.

"Move on," the voice said behind him.

"No," he replied, his voice breaking with the tension.

"Move, agent Mulder. I don't want to have to shoot you again."

"Well, you'd better shoot me. Because I'm not going any closer," he told the man behind him.

The owner of the voice sighed noisily. "All right. If you insist," he said and shot Mulder in the leg.

The bullet penetrated the left side of his right calf and ripped through the muscle tissue, tearing a chunk of meat from the front of his calf when it emerged on the other side. He let out a cry of pain, lost his balance and fell to the ground. From where he landed, he could virtually look directly into the hole.

His abductor grabbed him rather roughly, hauled him up and dragged him toward the hole. He struggled, but could not bring up the strength it took to disengage himself from the hands of his tormentor. When the man finally released him, he was hanging over the edge of the hole with no possibility of return.

His balance shot, he keeled over the edge and fell into the darkness, hitting the bottom of the crate that was to be his final resting place so hard, it knocked the wind out of him. For a second, he could not breathe, then he managed to roll over on his back just in time to see the lid close over him. "No," he gasped, struggling to regain some strength to prevent himself from succumbing to the darkness. But there was nothing he could do. He heard the hammering of the lid being nailed shut and his mind started reeling as panic flooded him like stagnant water rising in an old well.

Within seconds, he was screaming for help, pounding helplessly against the wooden barrier, which was locking him in. It was threatening to steal his sanity, when he heard the first shovel of dirt hit the lid.



J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Scully stabbed a finger against the map. "There. Right there. An old abandoned garage," she said. They had finally managed to narrow it down to the exact location. Looking up at Skinner, she met his eyes and his approval.

"All right. Scully, you stay here and guide the others when they return. I'm going out there," he said, straightening.

Scully's expression could not have displayed more emotion than she did right there and then. "No. I'm not staying here. I'm coming with you," she said, her tone of voice not giving room for any discussion. "Don't even try to keep me here," she added, swirled around and hurried out the door.

Skinner looked after her for a second, then clapped Parker on the shoulder. "Good work," he said and hurried after Scully.

He caught up with her halfway to the garage. "Scully," he said, his voice commanding.

She didn't even slow down. "No. I don't want to discuss it, sir. I'm coming with you."

Skinner grabbed her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. "I realize that, agent Scully," he said. "And I wasn't going to tell you to stay. I want agent Mulder back as much as you do. I just wanted to spare you the shock it would be if..." He didn't get a chance to finish.

"Don't even think that," she snapped at him. "He is not dead. He's alive. And we'll get to him in time. If we hurry," she added, swirled around once more and stalked away.

Skinner made a face, shook his head a little and followed her once again. There was no stopping her once she got going. He sure hoped that he never got between her and Mulder. There would be hell to pay from both sides, that much was certain.


Once in the car, Skinner felt a little more in control of the situation again. He kept his eyes on the road and attempted to stay within the speed limit, but it was damned hard while knowing that one of his agents was probably being buried alive. He didn't dare to think that it might have happened hours ago and that this drive might be futile at best.

Scully sat in the passenger seat, hands clasped painfully hard in her lap, and stared out the windshield. There was nothing else she could do right now and it grated on her nerves that she couldn't snap her fingers and be there. The waiting was the worst part.

After a moment, she glanced at her boss. "Sir?" she asked.

Skinner glanced back, but only briefly. "I'm driving as fast as I dare, Scully," he told her, his tone of voice a little tense.

"That's not what I was going to say," she said, looking straight ahead of herself. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I just can't sit around and wait."

Skinner gruffly suppressed the somewhat bitter smile that threatened to break out on his lips. "Don't worry about it. I would have been surprised if you had accepted that without comment," he told her. Sending her another brief look, he was once again struck by how much she now had in common with Mulder. "Don't worry, Scully. We'll make it," he added, hoping to reassure her.

Scully nodded her head stiffly, wishing she could yell at him to punch it, they needed to be there yesterday. But she knew that Skinner was giving it everything he had and that he was almost as concerned about Mulder as she was.

It was getting darker by the minute and the closer they got to their destination, the more nervous Scully became. She actually wanted to get out of the car and run. Sitting still was not on her agenda this evening. When Skinner finally pulled the car into the abandoned parking lot of the old garage, she was out the door before the car had stopped completely. Standing there in the chilly night air, she looked around, trying to think like Mulder would. Where could he be? Her eyes fell on the heavy doors to the garage itself and she noted that the right‑side door was open. It had been pushed aside enough to let someone pass through without trouble. Pulling her weapon she headed toward the door.

Skinner followed Scully, more on guard than she was, yet he didn't hear anything which might indicate someone else being there. With his own gun drawn, he covered her back while she headed straight for the open door.

Scully didn't get that far, though. A man, at first oblivious to their presence, stepped out from the garage through the open door, carrying a shovel, a gun and what looked like a ski‑mask. He was tale with a mane of white hair, which belied his young‑looking face. Sharp features underlined grey eyes, which had nothing fanatic about them. He was heavily built without being overweight and clad in jeans, a t‑shirt and sneakers. All in all, he looked very ordinary except for his hair color.

Scully instantly took up a very defensive stance, arms stretched out, right hand holding the gun, left hand cupping the right. "FREEZE," she yelled.

The man, utterly taken by surprise, raised his head and stopped short. For a second it looked like he was going to raise his gun and try to shoot Scully, then he spotted Skinner behind her and decided against it.

"Drop the gun, sir," Scully demanded. "Drop it."

He frowned at her for a second, then complied. "What's going on here?" he wanted to know, putting on a big show of having no idea why they were threatening him.

Scully bristled at his insolence and very nearly pulled the trigger. "Drop the shovel, sir. Right now," she told him harshly. He complied, still looking confused. "Put your hands behind your head," she added. Again he complied.

"Don't I get to know what's going on here?" he asked.

Skinner eyed the man closely, briefly wondering and then deciding that they had their perpetrator. There was something about this guy that raised the hairs on his neck. "You're under arrest," he told him calmly. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say and do can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to contact a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided. Do you understand those rights?"

The man stared at Skinner for a second, then looked at Scully, then back to Skinner. "Yeah, I understand. But what's this all about? What am I under arrest for?" He continued to appear innocent.

"For the abduction and possible assassination of a federal agent on duty," Skinner told him.

The man blinked, looking utterly stunned. "I beg your pardon?" he asked, not sounding as surprised as he should have.

Scully eyed him angrily. "Where is agent Mulder?" she demanded.

The man glanced at her. "Who?" he asked, shifting a little.

He didn't look the least bit uncomfortable and it riled Scully up that he would pretend to be innocent. She let her eyes run over him and suddenly caught sight of something she hadn't seen before. Lashing out with one hand, she ripped the gun he had hidden from his waistline and weighed the Sig in one hand. It was Mulder's gun. She knew that weapon by heart.

Before Skinner could make any attempt to stop her, she had decked the man, hitting the side of his head with her gun. He went down for the count with a startled grunt. "Scully," he snapped, stepping up beside her. "Go find Mulder," he added, waving her toward the garage.

Scully stared at him for a second, her expression strained by anger and fear. Again she acted against the code by going down on one knee, grabbing the suspect's collar and yanking him up. "WHERE IS AGENT MULDER?" she screamed at him, nearly strangling the man with his tie wrapped around one hand.

Skinner knew he should intervene, but he was as anxious as Scully to find out where Mulder was. Instead of reprimanding her and basically sending her back to the car, which he should have done, he trained his gun at the man's head. "You better answer the lady or I won't be responsible for her actions," he said calmly.

The guy on the ground looked from one to the other, his expression suddenly not so calm any more. "You have no right..." he began, but was interrupted when Scully shoved him back down, banging his head against the asphalt. Dazed by the impact, he considered his options for a moment, realizing that these two were not going by the rules. And he had so counted on that they would.

"Where is Mulder?" Scully spat, ready to hammer his head against the ground a few times if that brought any results. "Tell me or by God, I will shoot you."

"Shoot me and you'll never find him," he replied with a vague smile.

Scully released the man and rose, looking like an avenging angel. "Don't tempt me," she snarled. Turning to Skinner, she gave him a frantic look. "I'll see if I can find him," she said, strode over the suspect, picked up the shovel and ran into the old garage.

With an expression of sheer hatred, Skinner grabbed the man and hauled him to his feet. "You are so damned lucky she didn't blow you away," he told him through clenched teeth. "If you keep playing coy with us, you won't be that lucky with me."

"Where's your integrity? Don't you have rules to follow?" the man said, his grey eyes regarding Skinner calmly. He was certain he could talk Skinner into releasing him, but he had somehow made the calculation without Skinner.

"I'm through being nice," the A.D. snarled and shoved him toward the door. "Make one wrong move and I'll blow you to hell. Now, get in there."


Mulder was trying to keep calm, but under the given circumstances, it was a little hard. He was scared out of his mind, ready to start screaming his head off again, but he knew it didn't do him any good. And he knew his air supply would be depleted within a very short time if he didn't harness his reserves. So he closed his eyes and drew a few deep, ragged breaths to calm himself. All the while, he had to fight to maintain control over the fear, the panic surging through him like electricity. He was going to die down here. Suffocate to death. Gagging, he felt a new wave of panic overcome him and before he had a chance for rational thought, he was once again hammering on the lid of the box, screaming for help.


Scully had stopped in the center of the garage and looked around, mouth hanging open in obvious shock. There were eight graves, all forming a corner of an octagon. A miniature of the octagon that this lunatic was creating around Washington. Frantically looking from one to the other to the next, she tried to determine which one it was. Time was running out. She knew that. One of these graves contained her partner and she would be damned if she would let him die.

Skinner saw what she saw when he stepped through the doors and he felt his heart drop at the sight. Grabbing the suspect's neck in a bone‑crunching grip, he snarled angrily, "Which one?"

"Take your pick," the perp said, sounding smug. "If you kill me, you'll have to dig all of them up to find him. If you let me go, I'll tell you which one it is."

"Fat chance," Skinner snarled, ripped out his handcuffs and cuffed the man's hands behind his back. "I could beat the shit out of you to get the answers I want," he added.

"Yes, you could," the man replied. "But how would you know it's the right answer? I could lead you on a wild goose chase."

Scully felt tears rising in her eyes at his words. How was she ever going to find Mulder before it was too late? Providing, of course, that it wasn't already. But she didn't think so. When he had come out of the garage, that maniac had just finished covering up the grave. Turning halfway to stare at him, she wondered if he had buried Mulder first and then filled in the other holes.

Raising her gun, she pointed it at his head. "Speak or die," she told him. The blunt determination in her eyes made Skinner take a step sideways to get out of the line of fire.

Looking around, the perp shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. You know, I actually can't remember which one he's buried in," he said, looking a little concerned.

Trembling with anger and distress, Scully lowered her gun again. "You bastard," she whispered, then looked around once more. She tried to determine which of the graves looked the newest. There was no time to call in assistance and it broke her heart to think of the terror her partner and friend was going through right then. "If he dies, you die. And I will make sure you suffer," she said, her statement directed at the perp.

Something made her stop short. Hesitating, she stared at the ground surrounding one of the graves. The only one that was close to a concrete pillar. There was something lying there in the dirt. She stepped forward, crouched down and picked it up. A quarter. Nothing spectacular, but somehow it made up her mind for her. She rose again and started digging.

"Are you certain that's the right one?" the perp asked, not looking so smug any more.

Skinner sensed the change in his demeanor and knew from that, that Scully was on the right track. He kept an eye on her while she started digging and more or less had decided that he should be the one doing that, when the perp suddenly managed to free his hands. His arm came up and he smashed the wrist with the handcuff still attached to it against Skinner's temple, effectively knocking him off his feet.

Grabbing Skinner's gun, the man raised it up, pointing it at Scully. But he hadn't noticed that she had reacted to the situation at once and had her own gun trained on him. "This is in self‑defense," she said and pulled the trigger.

Skinner rolled out of the way when the man keeled over and hit the ground. Then he sat up and glanced toward Scully for a moment. His head was throbbing with the impact of the blow and the cut over his temple was bleeding, but he would be damned if that would slow him down.

Struggling to his feet, he walked over to Scully, took the shovel away from her and started digging. The faster they reached the bottom, the better. So he dug, ignoring the fact that he was ruining his rather expensive suit with mud and dirt. All he could focus on was that it was desperately necessary to get all this soil out of the way right now.

Scully did her bit by pushing the dirt out of the way with her hands, anxiously watching while Skinner dug deeper and deeper. Pausing to wipe sweat off his forehead, he glanced up at Scully. "Get on the phone and call the paramedics and some assistance, Scully," he told her.

She nodded and dug out her phone to make the calls, but didn't move away from the edge of the deepening hole.


Mulder couldn't breathe properly any more. Air was running out and it was a fight to draw any kind of oxygen from the stale atmosphere. He gasped like a fish out of water while tears ran freely from his eyes. And all he could think was that he didn't want to die. Not before he could tell Scully how he felt about her. Clinging desperately to life, he knew he was passing out. Knew that death was waiting just around the corner.

"Scully," he whispered hoarsely into the clammy darkness. Somewhere in the distance, he thought he heard voices, thought he heard sounds. Scraping sounds. But he was no longer able to focus on them. Slowly, he faded away into nothingness while the darkness surrounding him engulfed him, swallowed him up and made him a part of itself.


Skinner kept laboring on, digging as fast as he could, hoping to God that they had the right grave. If he had to repeat this stunt on another grave, he would pass out. His head was throbbing away from the blow he had received and although the blood had stopped flowing, he could feel the wound with every move he made.

Driving the shovel into the dirt again, he struck something beneath. It sounded wooden when he stabbed it again. Doubling his efforts, he cleared the surface of the box, then just stood there for a moment, staring down at it. For the first time in a long time, he was afraid to continue. Afraid of what he would find when he pried the lid open.

Scully, who had been outside to look for the ambulance, came back in and stopped with a gasp when she saw the lid of the box. Before Skinner could do anything about it, she had lowered herself into the hole with him and was on her hands and knees, trying helplessly to pry the wooden planks away.

"Stand back, Scully," Skinner said, wiggled the tip of the shovel between two of the planks and broke one away.

Scully hauled the wood aside, dropped back down on her knees and reached into the box, finding what she had both hoped and feared. "Mulder?" she whispered, then glanced back up at her boss. "Let's get it open," she added and stood once more to help him remove the remaining boards.

Finding that the hole wasn't big enough for the two of them, Skinner decided to clear the planks out of the way and at the same time climbed out of the hole to go look for those paramedics. But once he was up on the edge, he found himself unable to tear his gaze away from Scully crouching over her partner, her hands wrapped around his face, her tears falling freely.

"Mulder," she urged, her trembling, aching fingers searching for a pulse. When she found it, she sighed with relief. "Mulder, wake up. Come on, partner. Come back to me," she insisted, her tone of voice tolerating no disagreement.

In the distance, the sound of sirens caused Skinner to glance at the doors, then he returned his attention to Scully's attempt to revive her partner.

She gently slapped his face, trying to stun him into waking up. Mainly because he wasn't really breathing. Her relief was slowly being replaced by concern at the shallowness of his breath.


Mulder slowly felt himself drifting back to the surface. He didn't want to wake up, didn't want to find himself back in the coffin five foot under the ground. But something was urging him to come back. A sting in his cheek, the warm sensation spreading from it. Suddenly he knew what that feeling was. Someone had slapped him.

His eyes snapped open and he sucked in a huge breath of air, relishing the feeling, at the same time terrified of what he would find. His eyes, unused to the light, took their time to focus, but what he saw above him when they finally did focus was certainly a sign from heaven. Deep blue eyes, smiling lips. Scully hovered above him, her lips moving. She was talking to him, but he couldn't hear over the throb of his pulse in his ears. All he could do was return her smile while he drew in another lung full of sweet air.

Scully caressed his face, thanking God that he was alive. "Mulder," she urged him. "Come on. Stay with me. The paramedics are on their way. You'll be fine, you hear? You'll be just fine." He was breathing on his own and that made up for a lot of heartache.


With a bit of a struggle, the paramedics managed to get Mulder out of the hole and onto a stretcher. With an oxygen mask over his face, Mulder was conscious enough to appreciate the familiarity of the situation. But it was a little hard for him to believe that he had been at the other end of this nightmare a little over twenty‑four hours ago. His fingers cramped around Scully's hand when the paramedics threatened to pull him away from her and her hand closed over his in return.

Scully went along with the ambulance and left Skinner behind to first of all express his dissatisfaction at the slow turnout his agents had displayed on this evening of dread. When he was done telling everybody off, a second team of paramedics insisted that he come along to the hospital to be checked for a concussion.


North‑West Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

Mulder woke up with a gasp, both hands going up to feel for the top of the box before he realized he was in a hospital room and no longer buried. Pain shot through his shoulder when he moved it and he groaned at the feeling. Without much conscious thought, he pushed the confining covers away and sat up slowly, disoriented, but lucid enough to realize he wasn't in any danger. Sitting with his back slightly bent, he breathed deeply a few times. His leg hurt, his shoulder hurt, his lungs hurt. He felt like he had tried to inhale the dirt which had surrounded him and realized that he probably had.

Before he could do anything, the door opened and Scully came in. A vague smile spread over her lips when she saw him awake and she closed the distance to the bed in two long strides.

"You're awake," she said needlessly.

Feeling tired and terrified and relieved all at once, he managed to keep a reasonable grip on himself.. "How long have I been here?" he asked, having to clear his voice a couple of times to be able to speak.

Scully glanced at her watch. "Less than twenty‑four hours. How are you feeling?" she wanted to know.

He blinked, trying to take inventory over how he felt, then he sighed. "Petrified," he admitted. "What happened to...?"

"He's gone," Scully said, knowing what he meant. "He resisted arrest and I was forced to shoot him," she added.

He looked closely at her, trying to determine if she was kidding, but found her expression deadly serious. "You shot him?" he asked, then glanced around. "I... uh... would like to get out of here today if possible."

Scully frowned a little, grabbed the covers and pulled them up over his legs. His instant reaction was to push them away again, freeing his legs once more.

"Don't do that," he told her, obviously unaware of the implications of his words.

Scully's frown deepened. "Aren't you cold? It's kind of chilly in here," she said.

Mulder focused on her, noting the rather concerned look in her eyes, and wondered why she was looking at him like that. "What?" he wanted to know.

"Mulder," she began, but didn't know how to go on. She knew that he had been through a very traumatic experience, but it still worried her to no end that he was reacting this way without being aware of it.

He slowly started to understand why she was worried. Glancing at the covers, it started to dawn on him that he was suffering from at least temporary claustrophobia, which was causing him to feel confined by the blankets. Somewhat reluctantly, he grabbed the covers and pulled them up to his waist, then met her eyes. "You're right. It is kind of chilly in here," he said with a vague smile.

"You don't have to do that to make me feel better, Mulder. I can hardly begin to imagine what you went through. I think I would have gone mad, had it been me. I would completely have lost my mind. Being buried alive is one of the things that really scares me, as it scares most people in this world, I'm sure," she said.

Sending her a crooked look, he briefly glanced down at the covers. "Yeah, maybe," he agreed, "but it's silly to feel that way about blankets."

Shaking her head, she denied that statement. "No, Mulder, it's not silly. But as long as you're aware of it, you can do something about it. Overcoming your fears right now is an important step, as I'm sure you know. Don't let it sink in. If you do, it will be that much harder to get rid of."

Pursing his lips, he thought it over for a moment, then frowned a little. "I thought I was the one with the psychology degree here," he said, attempting a joke that didn't really work out.

Nevertheless, it raised her spirit to see that he was able to even try to make light of the situation. That meant that he was already doing better. Smiling, she grabbed a chair and sat down. "That's right. But I've learned a little bit along the way."

He gave her a wry smiled, then glanced around once more. "Isn't there anything to drink in this joint? I'm parched."

Still smiling, she grabbed a glass and filled it with ice water from a pitcher sitting on the bed side table. Handing it over, she reminded him to sip it. "Just take it easy. Although you didn't manage to get dehydrated, you've undergone quite a shock. You need to recover slowly."

Mulder took a sip of the soothing cold water, enjoying the taste of it. It slowly dawned on him how close he had come to die a horrible death. And this close brush with death, horrifying and painful as it had been, had actually given him a new view on things. The air smelled sweeter. The water tasted sweeter. "Thank you for saving my life," he said, staring intensely at her. "Again," he added.

She moved to sit on the edge of the bed and took his right hand in hers. "You're welcome," she said.

Mulder frowned a little, took another sip of the water and gave her hand a squeeze. "I don't think I've ever been this scared in my life," he confessed, not looking at her. "I thought I would die. I was sure nobody would find me before it was too late." Finally focusing on her again, his frown deepened. "How did you find me?" he asked, vaguely remembering her dirty, disheveled appearance when he had opened his eyes and found her kneeling over him.

"Pure chance, really. Skinner and I were trying to come up with a possible scenario when he used a phrasing I hadn't thought of. He said there had to be a pattern. It suddenly hit me that all the other graves we had been directed to were within proximity of the city. I drew them up on a map and bingo. They formed a nearly completed octagon with painfully correct angles. Skinner had agent Parker use the computer to determine where exactly the next spot would be. That's how we found you." Mulder's somewhat surprised expression made her stop short and stare at him. "What's wrong?" she wanted to know.

"Scully, you do have profiling‑skills. You're starting to think like me," he replied, smiling. With a sigh, he sank back down on the bed. "Man, I'm wasted," he mumbled and draped an arm over his face.

Making a face and smiling at the same time, she squeezed his hand back. "Me? Think like you? Perish the thought," she said. "I think I scared the hell out of Skinner with that theory. He looked at me as if I were possessed or something."

"Not exactly possessed," Skinner's voice came from the door.

Both agents turned to face him, Scully with a slightly embarrassed smile on her lips.

"But, yes, you did scare the hell out of me," he agreed and stepped into the room. A bandage covered his left temple and he looked tired, but apart from that, there seemed to be nothing wrong with him. Focusing on Mulder, he managed something of a smile. "One of your kind is quite enough, Mulder." Glancing at Scully, his smiled widened a little. "You should have seen her. I believe she would have killed me if I had gotten in her way."

Scully opened her mouth to protest that statement, then quickly shut it again when she noted the rare smile on her supervisor's lips. "Quite right," she agreed. "Besides, I didn't hear you citing protocol when I stepped over the line," she added in a quiet tone of voice.

Skinner made a face. "Well, it wasn't really the time, now was it?" he asked, then turned his attention to Mulder. "How are you feeling, by the way?"

Mulder smiled vaguely. "It's going to take some time to get over this one, sir, but in general, I think I feel fine. I may just need a few days off."

Skinner nodded thoughtfully. "Take as much time as you need, Mulder. I don't want to see you in the office until you're feeling better. And if you need to talk to someone about what happened..." he said, but trailed off when Mulder shook his head before he had even finished.

"No offence, sir, but I don't need a shrink. I'll be fine," he said, a defiant tone to his voice.

"That was not what I was suggesting, Mulder," Skinner told him, sounding like his old self again.

Frowning, Mulder wondered what he was suggesting. "Uh... you weren't?" he asked.

"No, Mulder. I'm just telling you to remember who your friends are," Skinner said. "Well, I'd better get back to the office. Keep me posted. Both of you."

With that, the A.D. took his leave of his agents and left again.

Scully stared thoughtfully at the closed door, then turned back to face Mulder, who once again had his arm draped over his face. "He's right, you know," she said after a moment.

"About what?" Mulder mumbled into the crook of his arm. He wished the sensation of the walls pressing in on him would just go away. It raised a senseless fear in him that made him choke and he had to struggle internally to reduce the effects of it to a minimum.

"That you should remember who your friends are," she said. "If you need to talk about this, you know where I am. And I do think you should talk about it. Rather sooner than later. Don't put it off until it really starts to haunt you, okay?"

He let his arm slip off his face so it was bent over his head and looked at her. "Scully, I am really not in the mood for another phobia, so you really don't have to worry about that. I'm still a little shaky after this experience, but I'll get over it. Like Johnson will, too, I'm sure."

At the mention of Johnson, Scully dropped her eyes and swallowed hard. It didn't take a genius to see that something was wrong.

"Johnson won't get over it, Mulder," she said, looking up again, her hands clenched tightly in her lap.

Frowning, Mulder wondered if the man had gone over board and currently resided in a padded cell. An image that wasn't all that uncomfortable for Mulder to think of. "What does that mean?" he asked. "Did he snap under the pressure?"

"No, he didn't," Scully assured him, still looking uncomfortable. "No, he didn't snap," she repeated. Wondering if she should tell him, she decided she might as well. He would hear about it sooner or later and he might as well hear it from her."He's dead, Mulder. While we were all busy trying to figure out where you were... Johnson was kidnaped from his hospital room and returned to his premature grave. He suffocated to death while we were looking for you."

Mulder paled considerably and suddenly this wasn't so easy to get over any more. Biting his lip, he tried to force himself to think analytically about this, but found that he couldn't. His attempt to save Johnson's life had been in vain. "Jesus," he whispered, his overactive imagination instantly adapting the situation to himself.

"Yeah," Scully agreed and sighed heavily. "And we thought we had taken all precautions."

"What in God's name was he doing it for, anyway?" Mulder asked, staring up at the ceiling. "What the hell did he get out of burying people alive?"

"He was creating an octagon. I have no idea why, though. I don't know what it means. Maybe you do?" she asked hopefully, but Mulder shook his head.

"No. It doesn't ring a bell," he said, then frowned again. His head was hurting from the blows he had received and it made it hard to think clearly. "It could be a reference to the octateuch," he added.

Scully frowned. "The first eight books of the Old Testament?" she asked, a little confused, and he nodded. "In what way?" she wanted to know.

Mulder thought about it for a moment, trying to catch onto the idea which had spurred him to mention this, then sighed. "I don't know. It was just a thought. Or maybe it's in some way related to The Octagon in Newark, Ohio," he added, still looking thoughtful.

"The Octagon in Newark? What's that?" Scully wanted to know.

"It's supposed to be a lunar observatory which was – rather crudely – constructed on what later became the Hopewell farm in Newark, Ohio. According to the researchers, it was created somewhere between 200 and 500 B.C. Although I can't see how it could relate to this."

"Maybe he was part of a cult or something. A... I don't know...," Scully suggested.

"A cult..." Mulder mumbled, then shook his head. "I don't think so. I think this guy was an obsessive maniac out to hurt as many people as possible. I don't think he had a reason to behave that way other than the fact that the wiring in his head didn't connect properly."

Scully frowned at his words and the ferocity behind them, having to remind herself that he had a genuine right to be upset, but was overdoing it a little right now. Reaching out, she placed a hand on his arm. "Mulder, calm down," she told him. "I agree with you that he was nuts. And he scared the life out of you by what he did."

Feeling his chest constrict, he sat up and glanced around the room, suddenly feeling that it was way too small. And he actually thought he could see the walls coming closer. His breathing became more rapid and his fingers dug into the covers of the bed. "Scully," he cut in, grabbing her hand almost forcefully. "I have to get out of here. Right now."

There was something utterly frantic in his voice and Scully tried hard to understand what had set it off. A moment ago, he had been doing okay. "Why now?" she wanted to know and glanced toward the window and the dark sky outside.

He pushed the covers away again, slipped off the bed and looked around. "Where are my clothes?" he asked her, sounding as if it was very urgent that he got out of the hospital. Limping over to a closet imbedded in one wall, he opened it. "Found'em," he added and pulled the clothes out she had brought in for him. He got dressed as quickly as his injuries allowed, refusing to answer any questions, unable to control his breathing. Somewhere in the back of his head he knew he would start to hyperventilate if he didn't calm down, but the walls kept closing on him and despite all his training and ability to see through deceptions like this, he could not quell the fear, the downright panic, welling up in him.

Scully grabbed his arm rather hard, forcing him to look at her. "Mulder, get a grip," she told him. His actions were if not irrational then at least radical and it scared her a little to see him like this. "Tell me why you have to get out of here right now," she insisted, intent on calming him down.

He stared at her, becoming fully aware of his behavior and swallowed hard. "I can't stay here. Not after Johnson was taken from here."

"Mulder, that man is dead. I shot him. He's not coming after you again," she told him, speaking patiently like a mother trying to explain something to a stubborn child.

He closed his mouth, trying to force himself to breathe slowly, but it didn't work. He was still breathing like a race horse after a run. "That's got nothing to do with it. I know it's irrational, Scully. Believe me, I know. But I can't... stay. I just can't. I have to get out of here. I have to..." He trailed off, the frantic look in his eyes on the rise. His headache increased and he started feeling dizzy, a tingling feeling spreading through him.

Scully wrapped her hands around his face, forcing him to look at her. "You have a light concussion, you've been shot twice and you're suffering from shock. You can't just waltz out of here and forget all about this, Mulder. It won't go away unless you face it. You know that as well as I do. Now, sit down for a minute and listen to me, okay?" She was through trying to explain calmly. She was upset now, afraid for him because he was acting so much out of character. He was virtually gasping for breath now and she could tell by his pale countenance that he was getting dangerously close to passing out.

Mulder stared at her for a moment, finding that his mouth had gone dry from his rapid breathing, then sank down on a chair. Scully slipped a hand behind his neck and urged him to lean forward.

"Cup your hands over your mouth and nose and take deep breaths," she told him and squatted down in front of him.

He complied and slowly regained control over himself. For a long moment, he remained in that position with his head between his knees and his hands cupped over mouth and nose. Then he finally straightened up again. Leaning back on the chair, he looked utterly lost. He grabbed out for both her hands lying on his knees and his fingers closed hard around hers. "I'm okay," he said after a moment.

Disengaging one hand, she cupped it against his cheek. "Mulder, I can't imagine how you must have felt. This has been a very traumatic experience even if you try to convince yourself otherwise."

Mulder nodded. She had said so before and he knew she was repeating it because she believed he hadn't paid attention the first time around. "I know," he said, unable to force himself to let go of her hands. "I know." Thinking the event over for a moment, trying to come to terms with the fact that he had, in every sense, been buried alive for a while, something which had not really concerned him previously rose from his subconscious mind. "Who was he?" he wanted to know and focused fully on Scully again.

"We don't know yet. I'm scheduled for a hearing tomorrow morning and by then, we should preferably have found out who he was," she replied.

"I want to see him," he said, his tone of voice leaving no room for arguments.

But Scully wouldn't have been who she was if she had let that one pass. "Why?" she wanted to know. "What do you get out of knowing what he looked like?"

"I didn't see his face at any point. I never even got a glimpse of him. And since I intend to get over this, I need to know what he looked like. I need to see for myself that he's dead," he told her.

Scully eyed him for a moment, then slowly nodded. She could relate to that. "All right. But for now you need to rest, Mulder. You're not getting out of here today. You've got a serious bullet wound in your leg. You have one in your shoulder. You've been hit over the head one time too many. And you've experienced a very traumatic event. You need to heal."

"But it doesn't hurt that much," he argued, not wanting to stay despite the fact that he had more or less conquered his fears for now.

"That's because you're on painkillers, Mulder. Get back to bed. Now. You're going to hurt badly because of this little trip out of bed. And if you keep pushing your luck, you might end up with some kind of permanent damage that will prevent you from walking properly. So, please. Get back to bed," she said, waving toward the bed.

Mulder stared at her for a moment, then he reluctantly got back out of his clothes, this time with her help, and got back into bed. "Scully," he said after a moment.

"What?" she asked back.

"Skinner really didn't reprimand you for going over the line?" he asked, looking a little dubious.

"No, he didn't. As a matter of fact, he threatened this guy. I thought he was going to shoot him."


Mulder woke up in pain. The dull throb from his shoulder he could live with. But the livid, pulsating pain from his calf gave him quite a bit of trouble. A headache added to that and an extremely sore throat made him just want to roll over on his side and go back to sleep. But he couldn't. The almost comatose state of sleep he had spent the night in had been interrupted frequently by hellish nightmares of being buried in a slimy substance, which had clogged up his airways and prevent him from breathing. Every time, he had woken up with a constricted chest, gasping for breath.

Exhausted, he just lay there on his back, feeling that maybe he would have been better off dead. He briefly closed his eyes, wondering where Scully was and instantly reprimanding himself for thinking that she would spend her every waking hour at his side. But he had barely finished that thought before the door opened and Scully came in.

She smiled when she saw that he was awake. "Hi." Closing the door behind her, she came over to his bedside. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm in pain," he mumbled, then gave her a vague smile. "How am I doing?" he wanted to know.

"I hate to tell you this, but you'll live," she said, padding his arm lightly. "You'll have to watch that leg of yours, though. The doctor wasn't too happy about that wound."

His smile faded and he turned his head away from her, glancing toward the window. "I still want to see him," he said, completely out of context.

Scully pursed her lips for a moment, then sighed. "I can arrange for that, Mulder, but I still don't think it's a good idea. I believe it might increase your... fears if you have a face to put on him," she said.

Mulder turned his head back to look at her with a slight frown. "I see that the other way around, Scully. If I can put a face on him, I can tell myself that it's just a person. If I don't know what he looks like, he becomes a monster."

With a frown, she had to admit that she had never seen it that way before. "Well... I've actually never thought of it like that before." With a smile, she pulled up a chair and sat down. "But, then again, I'm not the one with the psychology degree here."

That made him smile, too. But only vaguely. "We all see things in a different perspective. I've just found the best way for me to deal with a situation like this. If I can't put a face on someone who's hurt me, I can't deal with the situation. If I can put a face on that person, they become human and are no longer a threat, you see?"

Scully nodded. "Yeah, I do," she said. "Well, I'll arrange for you to see him. But it will have to be after the hearing. I'm going to go in a few minutes."

"What's the hearing about?" he asked. "Johnson and Black?"

She nodded. "And you. The fact that this guy was able to get the better of three federal agents has got the brass worried. And I can't say that I blame them. He very nearly clobbered Skinner, too. I'll let you know how it went when I get back," she told him and got up again. "Is there anybody you want me to call? If you don't want to be alone, I mean."

He looked up at her, thanking the heavens for her friendship. She did mean more to him that he would ever allow himself to show her. As he had told Dan, he would rather have her friendship than not have her at all. Remembering his old friend, he briefly closed his eyes. "There's a business card in my pocket," he told her. "I ran into an old friend the other day. Maybe I can give him a call and have him come over."

Scully nodded. "Dan Harrison, right?" she asked, opened the drawer in the night stand and pulled the business card out. "Here you go," she said and helped him raise the head of the bed where after she placed the phone in his lap. "I'll leave you to it. Call the nurses if you need anything. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Mulder nodded, for a brief second wishing he could kiss her goodbye, then smiled at his own foolish thoughts. "Yeah, I'll see you later," he agreed and held off calling the number on the card until Scully had left.

Actually holding his breath, he dialed the number and listened to the ringing. No reply. Frowning a little, he glanced down at the business card again, saw Dan's home number listed as well and decided to give that a try. Maybe he had been called home early.

"Harrison residence," a female voice said when the phone was picked up.

"Yeah, hi, my name is Fox Mulder. I'm a friend of Dan's. Is he home?" he asked.

"Fox Mulder?" the woman asked, sounding surprised. "Uh... no, Dan's not here yet. I'm Carla, his wife. He's told me about you," she said and there was a definite smile in her voice.

"Really? Well, he's told me about you, too. We ran into each other in Alexandria and he gave me his card so we could get together for lunch. I tried his cell phone, but he didn't pick up."

Chuckling under her breath, Carla took a second to compose herself. "Well, he's probably switched it off. When he's working, he doesn't like to be disturbed. He was up on a construction of a high‑rise once when his phone went off and nearly made him fall off. So he always switches it off. Try him again a little later," she suggested.

"Oh, okay. I'll do that," Mulder said with a vague smile. Carla sounded very nice. "Well, I won't bother you any longer. Have a nice day, Mrs. Harrison."

"Oh, call me Carla. And I hope we can meet some day. After what Dan has told me, you're a pretty nutty guy," she replied.

Mulder actually laughed a little at that. "Well, that's Dan's version of events, Carla. We should get together some day so I can tell you the truth," he said.

"That's a deal, then. The next time you're in New York, you should drop by," she suggested.

"I'll do that," he said. "Take care." With that, he hung up. Yeah, Dan had been real lucky. She sounded very nice. He couldn't wait to talk to Dan again to let him know about his opinion.


J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Scully met Skinner outside the room where the hearing would take place. She wasn't nervous about the hearing since she knew that neither Mulder nor herself had done anything wrong this time around.

Skinner had a report with him, which he handed to her. "Here's the preliminary coroners report on our perp," he said and glanced toward to door.

"Thanks," Scully said and flipped the report open. Quickly scanning over the contents, she searched for and found the name of the man she had shot last night. Her eyes widened and she looked up at Skinner, who met her look with a frown.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Scully glanced down at the page again, somehow hoping she had read it wrong, then again looked up to meet her supervisor's eyes. "The identity of this man," she said.

Before Skinner could ask any further questions, the door to the hearing room opened and they were both called in.


North‑West Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

Scully walked very slowly toward the door to Mulder's room, not sure she really wanted to go in there and tell him what she had found. She couldn't bear to have to tell him, but she wondered if showing him wouldn't make things worse if he didn't know up front. Stopping in front of the door to his room, she stared at it for a moment, then pushed it open and stepped inside. He smiled when he saw her.

"Hi. How'd the hearing go?" he asked.

"The hearing went well. No problems. We're not in any trouble of any kind. Skinner testified that my shooting of the perpetrator was purely self‑defense and they didn't even question it. I think this hearing was just a formality," she said, hoping against hope that he wouldn't ask any further questions. To cut him off, she glanced toward the door and added, "I've arranged for you to see the body if you feel up to it."

He nodded, serious once again. "Yeah. I would like to put this thing to rest as fast as possible. And I would really like to get out of here as soon as possible," he told her.

"Mulder..." she began, but couldn't find a way to go on. She felt she needed to warn him, but also felt that maybe he wouldn't be able to stomach that bit of information.

He looked at her for a second, aware that she had something on her mind which she wouldn't or couldn't tell him. "I tried to get a hold of Dan, but I haven't been in luck so far," he told her. Somehow, he knew that what she might have to tell him wouldn't be something he liked and hence he didn't push her for the information.

Mostly, she felt like rushing out of the room and leaving this unpleasant duty to someone else, but she couldn't do that. "Mulder, we have the identity of the perpetrator," she said, raising her eyes to meet his.

Mulder's expression didn't change, but the look in his eyes was apprehensive. "Well, that's good... I guess," he replied, still not asking for the name. He was slowly but surely becoming convinced that he didn't want to know.

"Both yes and no," she said and held the coroner's report out to him. "See for yourself," she added.

He stared down at the report for a second, making no move to take it, then looked up to meet her eyes again. "It was Dan, wasn't it?" he asked after a moment.

Scully nodded. "Yes, he was identified as Daniel Harrison. Owner of Harrison Constructions of New York." Letting her hand holding the report drop again, she regarded Mulder for a moment, seeing the pain in his expression. "I'm sorry," she nearly whispered.

He nodded once and looked away. "So am I," he replied and closed his eyes. "Shit," he whispered.

"I think I'll call off the viewing," she said and started to turn away.

"Yeah. It's no longer necessary, now that I know that one of my friends tried to bury me." There was no anger in his tone, no hatred. Only pain.

"Mulder," she said, reaching out to grab his arm. When her fingers closed around his arm, she felt the tremble going through him. She didn't know what to say, didn't know how to lessen his distress at this discovery. She wished she would have been able to tell him that it had been a complete stranger. But the facts remained and he was right. One of his friends had tried to kill him. And if you can't trust your friends, who can you trust?

For a long moment, he just sat there, staring out the window, fighting his emotions, then he turned his head back to face her and gave her a vague little smile as he closed a hand over hers. "Thanks for being here, Scully. You're the only one I trust," he said.

Scully gave his arm a squeeze and sat down on the chair. There was no hurry in calling off the viewing of the body. They would figure it out for themselves that they weren't coming down. She couldn't leave him right now. And it dawned on her that she actually felt that she could never leave him again. Figuratively speaking.