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

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: A file with a shady past turns up on Mulder's desk. Naturally, it gets him in trouble.

11.00 p.m.
August 12
Location unknown

"I don't believe it!" That angry exclamation shattered the otherwise almost serene silence in the living room of the old mansion. "I don't believe you could have been so stupid." The woman talking threw her hands up, an expression of both disbelief and disappointment etched into her pretty face. She was tall for a woman and very fit. Short-cropped, blonde hair framed her face and the now fiercely sparking blue eyes.

The men she was talking to cowered under her anger. She didn't get angry often, but when she did, she had reason to be angry. "Uh ... " one of them began, carefully raising a hand like a pupil in school, trying to pacify an angry teacher. "We ... uh ... have no idea how he got it."

"I know how he got it. I don't give a fuck about that. He has the file and if I'm not mistaken, Special Agent Fox Mulder knows very well what to do with a file like that. If he understands the contents, all hell will break loose," she snarled angrily. Heaving a deep breath, she attempted to calm herself, knowing what agitation like this could do to her blood pressure.

"I'm sorry, Lee, but there's nothing we can do about it now. We've ... " the other man began, but stopped short when he saw the deadly gleam in her eyes.

"First of all, Fester," she snapped, using a nickname he wasn't too fond of, "I couldn't care less about your excuses. What bugs me is that this kind of information is in the hands of our enemies. Not that I in particular consider this very man an enemy. We need to get the file back and find out how much of it he has read. If he has read it all, he will have to be dealt with. If he hasn't read it, he will be dealt with anyway. The fact that he has touched the file is enough to upset the balance."

"Yes, Lee," the first man almost whispered, sinking deeper into the chair he was sitting on. "The thing is, we've already checked his apartment and his office, carefully of course, and there's nothing there. No trace of it. I believe he has it with him."

Lee closed her eyes, clenching her hands into fists. She remained motionless for a moment, her whole body rigid. Then she slowly sat down on the couch again, letting her breath out in a sigh. "Okay, fine. Fester, Clark. Mug him. Search his car, search him. I don't care what you do. Just get that damned file back. Now get out of here."

The two men got up and were out the door before her voice had died down. They were only too happy to be away from her when she was angry with them. And her anger was justified. They had really screwed up and nothing would stop her from ripping their heads off if the file remained in the hands of the federal agent. Fester had already decided to contact a good friend he could trust. Clark wasn't much use in cases like this. He was too afraid of Lee.


08.00 p.m.
August 13
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

Dana Scully glanced at her watch, sighed and leaned back on her chair. Closing her eyes for a minute, she pondered why she was still at work this late and then sighed again.

"You okay, Scully?"

She glanced over at her partner, who seemed just as chipper and fresh as he had this morning, and couldn't help grimacing. "No, I'm tired," she replied, her tone of voice betraying her fatigue. "We've been going over these files to no avail, Mulder. There's nothing in them. I don't know what you're looking for anyway."

"The same stuff as always. A hidden agenda. Some indication of an encounter with alien life forms. I just never knew there were that many files on this particular subject," he replied, leaned back and pulled his reading glasses off. His expression told of his fascination with the piles and piles of files they had stacked on their desks, and on the floor - and on the chairs - and on top of the filing cabinets.

Scully wasn't sure what he had in mind, but she couldn't see any reference to alien abductions in these cases. "Damn it, Mulder. I'm only human. I need sleep," she said after thinking it over. "We've been here since 6 this morning. This is a 14-hour workday we're keeping here and for what?"

He stared at her for a moment, then briefly gazed at his watch. "Oops," he then said, looking up again to meet her eyes with a guilty look. "I had no idea it was this late," he then admitted. "Let's quit for today, okay?"

Scully nodded, closed the folder in front of her and got up. "I'm going to be here at eight tomorrow and I am leaving at five. Got that?" she said, her tone of voice stern.

Mulder met her eyes again when she glanced over at him and couldn't help smiling. She was so beautiful when she was angry and tired. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes shining. "Yes, ma'am," he replied, barely preventing himself from saluting her, too. She would have taken him apart for that right now.

"Don't you dare start mocking me," she threatened. "I am not in the mood for that. Go home and get some sleep and stop being so damned chipper after working for fourteen hours straight," she told him, grabbed her coat and was out the door before he could say another word.

Fiddling with a pen, Mulder stared at the open door, listening to the rapidly receding footsteps of his petite partner. "See you tomorrow, Scully. Have a nice evening," he said quietly, smiling. The thing was, no matter how angry she got with him, he always knew it wasn't that bad. She did like him, after all. Deciding to follow her example, he closed the file he had been reading, grabbed his own coat and headed for the door after turning off the desk lamp. For a brief moment, he hesitated in the doorway and looked back at the stacks of files they were trying to find clues in. Maybe Scully was right. Maybe this was to no avail. But he hoped he would find the thread he was searching for; the thread which would eventually let him know what had really happened to his sister.

The somber thought of Samantha made his mood deteriorate and when he finally turned for the hallway, he didn't feel so chipper any more. His quest was ongoing and had never been stronger than now, but he sometimes wondered if he would ever find her again. It had, after all, been nearly twenty-seven years since she had been taken away from him. Shaking his head sadly, he closed and locked the door, then headed for the elevators.


The garage of the J. Edgar Hoover building was almost empty and very quiet when Mulder stepped out of the elevator. He walked slowly toward his car, hands in his pockets, his thoughts miles away. His preoccupation was the cause of his unawareness of what was happening before it had already happened. Suddenly, something was shoved into the small of his back. "Give me your money." The voice was hoarse, the owner of it close behind him.

Mulder froze to the spot, his mind going over what he should do in a millisecond. Not that there was much he could do when he had a gun pressed against his kidneys. "Take it easy," he said, raising his hands slowly.

"I said give me your money, damn it. Are you deaf?" the robber snapped.

Mulder was more than a little surprised that this man had made it into the garage in the first place. Although the security in the garage wasn't the highest in the building and the actual security check came once you stepped out of the elevators, there was still a gate to go through. He carefully reached into the inner pocket of his coat, attempting to retrieve his wallet, but he obviously wasn't fast enough for the guy. He had to admit to being surprised when the unseen aggressor hammered the butt of his gun against the back of his head. A roar of blistering pain exploded in his head while he lost his footing and crashed to the floor. The wallet he had already had in his hand skittered across the floor and was stopped by the rear tire of his car. Groaning, he tried to focus his eyes, but realized that it wasn't doing him any good. He saw two of everything. In an attempt to get a look at his attacker he tried to turn over, but the man grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his head back, ignoring the blood that stained his fingers. "Where is it?" he hissed.

Mulder groaned again, trying to think around the thudding pain in his head. He pointed toward the wallet, wincing when the man's grip on his hair tightened.

"I don't give a shit about your wallet, buster. Where is the file?" the man snarled, jerking hard at his victim.

"What ... file?" Mulder gasped. The pain from the wound increased when the man's fingers tightened even harder around the handful of hair he was holding onto.

"The file, you shit," the man snapped and took the opportunity to batter his victim a little. His fingers locked tightly into Mulder's hair, he raised his head a little more and hammered his forehead against the floor. "Spill it or die, shithead," he snarled. There was no response and the agent had gone awfully quiet.

Fester leaned in closer, noted that he was still breathing and hissed an angry curse. "Fuck it. Did you have to pass out now, you wimp?" he growled. He quickly searched Mulder, found nothing on him, grabbed his keys and went to search the car. Nothing there, either. Glancing back at the unconscious man on the ground, he considered his options and then decided that he had better report in with his superior before doing anything else. To make it look like the robbery it had started out as, he picked up the guy's wallet and ran for the ramp, leaving his helpless victim behind.


08.30 a.m.
August 14
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

Scully glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time, grumbled under her breath and crossed her arms over her chest. Mulder was late. So, maybe she shouldn't be angry with her partner for getting some well-deserved rest, but it really made her angry that he was pulling both of them through a work-load that would probably lead them to nothing and then he had the edacity to be late more than half an hour. So certain was she that he would have called her if he was sick, that she hadn't even bothered to check on it. After a moment, she grabbed the phone, dialed his number and got his machine. "Mulder, where are you?" she asked after the beep. "It's half past eight. Get in gear and get over here, would you?" With that, she hung up again. What was taking him so long? And besides she had never known him to sleep through three phone calls. One, maybe, but the second one should have aroused him. Shaking her head, she finally decided to check in with Skinner's secretary. Maybe she knew something. Again she picked up the receiver and dialed the internal number. "Hi, Kim. It's Dana Scully. Is Agent Mulder in with A.D. Skinner? He hasn't shown up down here," she wanted to know.

The other end was silent for a moment. "Uh ... no, Agent Scully, he's not in with A.D. Skinner. He's in the hospital," Kimberly said, her tone of voice betraying her confusion.

"The hospital?" Scully gasped. "My God, what happened?" She instantly felt bad about her initial thought that he had overslept just to annoy her.

"Apparently he was mugged in the garage last night and has a concussion or something. I got the message when I came in ten minutes ago. I assumed he had called you himself or I would have. I'm sorry," Kimberly said, sounding very apologetic.

"No, no, Kim. It's not your fault," Scully hurriedly assured her. "Is he at North West Georgetown?" she continued and received an affirmative from Kimberly. "Okay, I'll be going over there. Would you tell A.D. Skinner?"

"Sure, Agent Scully. And tell Agent Mulder hello."


09.15 a.m.
North-West Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

Scully hurried down the corridor to the nurse's station and stopped there to get directions. Then she headed for the room her partner was in. She was afraid of what she might see and relieved when she finally did see him. Although he looked bad, he was awake, watching the ceiling intently.

"Hi there," she said with a smile.

Mulder turned his head a little too quickly and winced at the pain that caused him. "Hi yourself," he replied after a moment.

Scully eyed him closely. The compress covered his forehead, but did not entirely cover the spreading bruise. "I can't leave you alone for a moment, can I?" she asked jokingly, more relieved that she wanted to admit that he wasn't unconscious or in a coma.

"Doesn't look like it, does it?" he replied with a weak smile. "It's not as bad as it looks, though. I'll be out of here by tonight," he added.

There it was again. He just wouldn't give himself the time to heal. Everything had to be done right now. "Don't rush it, Mulder. You have a concussion," she admonished him after having taken a look at his chart. Glancing back at him, she caught a glimpse of something white behind his head. "What's that?" she wanted to know, coming around the bed to get a closer look.

Mulder grimaced and brought a hand up to gingerly touch the back of his head. "Oh, he first clobbered me from behind before he hammered my face against the concrete. Nothing like a good bashing, is there?"

Scully heaved a deep sigh. It was so typical Mulder to make a joke out of a serious situation like this. "No, not really. Not when it comes to you, anyway," she agreed. "So, did he manage to get anything from you or did you give him a run for his money?"

Mulder actually managed to look a little embarrassed at that. "Oh, uh, well, he kind of took me by surprise. Before I knew what was happening, I was down for the count. I didn't even get a look at him," he admitted.

That again made Scully frown. "You didn't see him?" she asked and his carefully shook his head. "But he was after your money, wasn't he?"

Mulder shrugged. "I'm not so sure. First he was, yes, but then he demanded that I give him the file. The oddest thing is, I have no idea what he was talking about."

"He wanted a file?" Scully asked and Mulder nodded. "So he didn't take anything?"

"Yeah, he snatched my wallet after I was out cold, but that was retrieved from a dumpster around the corner from the garage. Everything still there. No money missing."

Scully's frown deepened. "So, he was after a file and not your money. So, which file was he after?" She had a vague idea that Mulder might know, but the look on his face convinced her otherwise. He looked pretty baffled by the whole thing himself.

"No clue. He didn't say. He just asked me twice for the file before he smashed my face against the floor and that was the end of that."

With a raised eyebrow, Scully again regarded his battered face. The purple bruise had spread all over his forehead and down his nose, affecting both eyes minimally. The lids next to the bridge of his nose were slightly swollen and discolored. "I can tell," she said. "You have to take it easy for a few days, though. A concussion, no matter how mild, is no joke."

He merely nodded, not so sure he would be able to stay away from work for a few days. "I'm feeling a lot better, Scully. I've got a bit of headache, but no dizziness and no double vision. That has to be good, right?"

Knowing where this was heading, Scully sighed. She would not be able to pound it into his thick scull that he should stay home. So she would just keep an eye on him instead. Maybe then he would go home and stay there out of his own free will. "Yes, that's good. But you've still got the concussion. Don't make it worse by over-exerting yourself, okay?" She rose from the edge of the bed again, put a hand over his and smiled. "I have to get back to the office. Try to rest as much as possible. And call me if you need anything."

He nodded. "Okay. Thanks, Scully." He smiled confidently at her, trying to convince her that he was doing fine despite how battered he looked, but as soon as the door had closed behind her, his hands came up to cover his aching eyes. "Oh man, that hurts," he muttered to himself. The thought of the attack and the subsequent battering he had received made him wonder. What the hell kind of file had that guy been after? It had to be important if it warranted this kind of behavior.


10.00 a.m.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

Scully slowed down when she neared Skinner's office, actually a little surprised to find the door open. And she could hear his angry voice from inside.

"This lack of security is a disgrace. What the hell were you thinking? Make sure that something like this never happens again, is that understood? We can't have our agents being beaten half to death by muggers who get into the basement without even being seen by the security cameras. That is irresponsible as well as bad publicity."

Scully didn't know whether to enter or stay outside, but Skinner saw her and waved her inside. The two security officers standing in front of his desk looked everything but happy. "Sir, I don't know what to say other than that this guy had access to the basement. He couldn't have gotten past the gate without proper clearance," one of them said.

"That doesn't mean anything if he can still get in and clobber somebody half to death. I don't want to hear more about this. Take care of it. Now," Skinner growled. He was furious over the turn of events.

The security officers left the office, closing the door behind them. Scully glanced after them, a little concerned. "Sir, I just went over to see Agent Mulder. He's doing better. No permanent damage."

"This breach in security is worrying. That man should not have been down there. No matter how he got there," Skinner said, waving at a chair for her to sit down on.

"Well, this might not be what it seems, sir," Scully revealed, wondering how he would take what she had to say.

Skinner frowned, wondering what came next. Scully was the one who had changed after starting to work with Mulder. Not the other way around. He had gotten to the point where he would not be surprised to hear some outrageous comment from her and that worried him a little. "What is that supposed to mean?" he asked.

"Well, as I said, I just talked to Agent Mulder. Apparently, this man wanted him to hand over some kind of file. He doesn't know what file, but this man was very insistent," Scully explained. "And his wallet was retrieved with nothing missing. No ordinary mugger, if you ask me."

Skinner's expression darkened a notch. Another conspiracy-theory? "What exactly are you saying, Agent Scully?"

"Well, I don't have any proof of this. Nor does Agent Mulder," she confessed. ‘Of course not,' Skinner thought, but didn't interrupt. "But it's obvious," she continued, "that this man was after something other than Agent Mulder's money. The fact that he didn't empty the wallet, that he demanded to have this file, whatever it is, supports that."

"And now the possibility exists that he realized Agent Mulder didn't have this file and that will be the end of it?" Skinner asked thoughtfully and didn't believe his own words for a second.

"Maybe," Scully replied. "But I'm not too sure. If my assumption is corrected, then the Cigarette Smoking Man and his cohorts are behind this. These people – if we are indeed talking about these people – have previously proven to be pretty relentless and a bit dense when it comes to things they want back."

Skinner's expression darkened even more. "Why don't you keep an extra close look on Agent Mulder for the next few weeks, Agent Scully? Just to be sure he doesn't get mugged again," he suggested, thereby indicating that it would be her responsibility to keep him out of trouble.

Scully stared at him, her expression a bit tight. "Sir, if I may remind you, Agent Mulder has a habit of going his own ways and he has a very strong habit of ditching me. If he does and something happens to him, I do not want to be held responsible for it. I'm not his keeper."

Skinner met her eyes for a second, seeing the sense in her words, then nodded. "I'll talk that over with him when he gets back. And he'd better stay in line this time. I do not want to be the one who has to place that special call to his mother."


02.00 p.m.
Location unknown

Lee paced the living room of the old mansion, angry and strangely in awe. "So, you couldn't find it on him or in his car?" she asked Fester for the umpteenth time.

"That's right. He must have hidden it well," he replied, standing at attention, his hands folded behind his back.

Lee stopped, staring into space for a moment. "Well, then there's only one thing we can do, isn't there? Increase surveillance on him and give him a chance to try and use some of the information. That way we will know for sure that he has it on him. Let's give him two weeks. If he has shown no sign of using it before then, we'll simply have to pull him in and ask him, won't we?"

Fester smirked at the thought. He knew exactly what Lee had in mind. He also knew how ruthless she could be when there was something she wanted. "Yeah. Let's do that," he agreed eagerly.

Lee glanced at him, and then waved him away. He left the room and Lee dropped down on the sofa, draping both arms over the back of it. If there was one thing she liked better than the intelligence work she was doing, then it was breaking tough guys. And Agent Mulder had the reputation of being pretty resilient when it came to drugs and questioning. She would enjoy breaking this particular tough guy.


09.30 a.m.
August 18
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

Scully made a face, regarding her partner's forehead with concern. "That's something of a bump," she finally commented and straightened up again.

Mulder tentatively touched his sore forehead, feeling the bump over. "It's big," he agreed. "And I've got a headache, too. Do you have any Aspirin here?"

Scully almost laughed. "Aspirin? For a concussion? You've got to be kidding, Mulder. Aspirin is not going to help with a concussion."

"Scully, really, it's not that bad. I just have this mild headache and I don't want it to get worse." He was lying of course. And he knew she knew he was lying. But that didn't change his approach.

Shaking her head, Scully opened her briefcase, pulled out a pill bottle and shook two of them out into her hand. "Take these. They're stronger than Aspirin. And if you don't want it to get worse, Mulder, you should go home and get some sleep. That's what you really need." She handed him the pills and a glass of water she had poured from the pitcher on her desk.

He took the pills and swallowed them, slightly surprised to have her hover over him like she did. That wasn't typical Scully-behavior. "I'll go home early, okay? Would that make you happy?" he asked, his tone of voice slightly sarcastic.

Scully returned to her chair and gave him that look he knew so well. The one which made him feel certifiably crazy. "I don't want you to do this to make me happy. I want you to do it so you can recover properly. I don't understand why you have to be so stubborn about this," she said, staring straight at him.

Mulder only grinned, perfectly masking the thudding pain in his head. "I'm not being stubborn. It's just not that bad," he explained, shrugging lightly.

Shaking her head, Scully returned her attention to the work at hand. They still had a lot of files to go over and he was impossible to talk to at the moment.

When she turned her back to him, Mulder raised his shoulders, wincing quietly. The pain was a lot stronger than he would let her know, but there was no way he would stay home. Not when there was so much work to do. Briefly pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, he tried to will the pain away. It didn't help much, so all he could do was to wait for the pills to take effect. Suppressing a sigh, he sank back in his chair, grabbed one of the files and started reading it. He didn't get very far before the headache became worse. The pills didn't seem to do much and he most of all wanted to close his eyes and just sleep. He glanced over at Scully, wincing at the pain it caused when he shifted his eyes, but didn't want to let her know how he was really feeling. But if he thought he had fooled Scully, he had another thing coming.

So abruptly that he didn't have time to raise his defenses she turned her chair toward him, eyeing him with a good portion of anger in her eyes. "One thing is that you don't want me to know how poorly you really feel, Mulder. Another thing is that you lie about it. You need to be home in bed. You need to rest as much as possible. Don't you understand that you're only making things worse with this stubbornness of yours?" She got off her chair, took one step toward him and looked down at him. "Your shoulders are basically up around your ears every time I turn my back on you. And I know the pills don't work properly, either. I can tell by the paleness of your skin and the sheen of sweat covering your face." Folding her arms over her chest, she frowned at him. "Admit it. You feel lousy."

He stared back for a moment, then closed his eyes with a sigh, carefully pinching the bridge of his nose. "Okay, fine. I feel lousy," he grumbled. Swallowing hard, he had to admit to himself that he felt worse than lousy. When he opened his eyes again, the room swayed like a boat in rough water. He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath to keep the nausea at bay. But it didn't work. "I think I need to lie down," he finally admitted.

Scully took another step toward him, her anger gone like dew before the sun. "Jesus, Mulder. You're going to kill yourself some day," she said. "Come on, I'll take you home," she added, reaching a hand out to him.

Wincing with the effort, he nodded and got up. Using Scully as a support, he went with her to her car and she drove him home.


11.15 a.m.
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

Mulder dropped down on his couch, covered his face with both hands and sighed. He felt awful. "Lie down. Get some rest," Scully said and he really wasn't in the mood to discuss it with her. He let himself drop sideways down on the couch, his hands still covering his face. Scully draped a blanket over him, then sat down on the edge of the couch. "This is what you get for taking this too lightly," she told him.

"Please, Scully. No lessons of morality right now," he mumbled into his hands. "I feel sick enough as it is."

That brought a smile to her lips. She just couldn't help it. Even when he was in pain he had to crack jokes. Putting a hand on his right arm, she gave it a light squeeze. "Just get some rest, okay? The more you sleep, the sooner this will be over."

He dropped his hands and looked up at her. "Okay," he agreed. When she was about to get up, he stopped her by grabbing her wrist. He felt silly for this, but feeling like this, he didn't want to be alone. "Would you mind staying until I'm asleep?"

There was something so basic in that request that she just could not deny him. She simply nodded. "No, of course not," she said and sat down again.


06.30 p.m.
August 29
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

"Hey, Scully. Guess what," Mulder said, rubbing his forehead and the remainder of the bruise there while staring down at the file lying open in his lap.

Scully turned her chair around to face him. "What?"

"I think you're right," he said after a moment's worth of silence. He didn't look at her because he knew what her reaction would be to what he had to say. She would probably verbally rip his head off.

"About what?" she wanted to know, almost certain she knew already.

"There's nothing in these files. I could have sworn ... " He trailed off, observing the silence in the room, then slowly raised his head to look at her. She was merely looking back at him.

"I told you so from the beginning. These two weeks we've spent reading through these files is a waste of time. There's nothing in here. Nothing at all," she said, grabbed the next file and opened it. "It's not that I don't believe in your sense of these things, Mulder, but ... " she continued, but suddenly trailed off, staring down at the file now lying open in her lap. "Uh ... what is this?"

Mulder got up and came over to take a look at it, frowning at the odd-looking front page of the file. It didn't look like anything he had ever seen inside the Bureau before. Skimming over the page, he frowned. "John Castor," he read a name aloud. "This doesn't look like it belongs down here."

"That's right. It's a Missing Persons-file. But it's not in Bureau standard. Look at the way it's set up," Scully replied, staring at the page with slight bewilderment. It looked very strange. Not exactly sloppy, but set up in a confusing way. It was difficult to get a grasp on what it was until one had a chance to read through it. "John Castor is obviously missing," Scully added, then flipped the page. The next page had pictures stuck to it with no explanations. The pictures themselves did not immediately make any sense at all. Mixtures of light and shadow, some of them vaguely indicating human shapes. Scully shook her head in confusion over these odd-looking pictures and was about to close the folder when Mulder stopped her.

"Wait a minute. What do you think this is?" he asked, pointing to one of the pictures that seemed to be mostly shadow-play.

"I don't know, Mulder. And I'm not sure I want to know," she said a little sternly. The pictures, for some odd reason, frightened her a bit. "Has it occurred to you that this might be the file you were attacked for?" she asked after a second and firmly closed the folder.

Mulder nodded thoughtfully. "It had crossed my mind, yes," he admitted. "Why they would want to nearly kill me for this I don't know, though. Maybe I should run it by the Lone Gunmen."

Scully almost flinched. All day she had tried to remember what it was she had to tell Mulder, but it had completely slipped her mind. "Frohike called me last night. He said they'd be out of town for a couple of days. He couldn't reach you, so he called me."

"Oh, okay. So I'll run it by them when they get back," Mulder said. Straightening, he kept looking down at the folder. "Where do we keep it until then?" he asked after a moment.

"Well, you're not taking it home with you, Mulder. Consider the consequences if these people find it with you. I don't even want to think about what could happen," Scully commented, wondering if it would have any impact on his decision at all. He remained silent for a moment and when she looked up at him, she could tell he was really working this one over. Eventually, he sighed.

"We'll leave it here. Put it in one of the other files. And remember which one. I don't feel up to going through over two hundred files just to find it again," he finally said. Scully almost dropped her jaw at that one. This was so unlike him. Maybe that bump on the head had put some sense in him. "And don't tell me where you put it," he added as if on second thought. That made her frown.

"Why not?" she wanted to know.

"Because I don't want to know until we can do something about it," he said serenely.

Scully looked up at him with renewed respect. So he did know when to back down. That was always a good sign. Or maybe that attack had shaken him up enough to make him see the light. She hoped that was it. "Okay. I'll make sure nobody finds it," she replied. And she knew just how to do that.

"I think I'm gonna go home now, Scully. I still have a bit of a headache," he admitted, grinning when he saw the surprise in her expression. "Not that bad. It's just from this damned sore spot on my forehead," he soothed her, gently tapping his brow.

Scully couldn't help smiling. This was one thing she really liked about him. He never ceased to amaze her. "Okay. I'm gonna go, too. It's late and I've got a date with my mom for dinner tonight. Can I drop you off or are you taking a car home?"

"It's a bit out of your way to drop me off, isn't it, Scully?" He was a bit surprised by the way she kept hovering over him, but was also aware that she was probably under orders to do so.

She merely smiled. "Hey, what are friends for," she replied, grabbed her things and followed him out of the office.

"What about the file, Scully?" he said, stopping short in the door way.

"I'm going to take care of it," she replied. "Don't worry about it."


07.30 p.m.
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

Scully glanced at the dashboard clock for the umpteenth time, knowing that Mulder noticed it. She glanced over at him and he smiled briefly.

"Why don't you let me off here. I can walk the rest of the way. It's a nice night," he said.

Scully slowed the car and pulled up to the curb. "Are you sure?" she wanted to know, a little concerned.

"Why are you so anxious, Scully? I'm gonna be fine," he said, starting to get a little annoyed. She seemed to be afraid something would happen to him on this last stretch of road. "You've been hovering over me like a nervous hen over her chicks ever since that incident."

Scully sighed, then shook her head. "I'm just worried, okay? If you can get mugged in the garage of the J. Edgar Hoover building, Mulder, you're quite capable of getting yourself into trouble walking home from here." Looking at him, she wondered if he would crack a joke over this, but he looked pretty serious. "I just don't want anything to happen to you. I'm sorry if I seem a little overprotective."

A weak smile curled his lips for a moment. Then he reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. "Well, I appreciate it, Scully. But you don't have to worry about me. I always pull through, don't I?" She had to nod to that one. "Thanks for the ride. Now go meet your mother. And tell her I said hi, okay?" With that, he opened the door and climbed out of the car. "Drive safely," he added and closed the door.

Scully raised a hand in goodbye as he headed up his street and he briefly looked back, waving at her with a smile. Shaking her head, Scully hoped and prayed that he would be all right. At the same time she scolded herself for being so overprotective. It was the same kind of behavior he had displayed, which had annoyed the hell out of her right after she had been returned from her abduction. Mulder could indeed take care of himself. Putting the car in gear, she drove off, now anxious to meet her mother.


Mulder glanced back as the car pulled away from the curb and disappeared down the crossing street. He shook his head in wonder, trying not to think too much about why Scully felt so overprotective toward him. He knew by instinct that Skinner had told her to keep an eye on him, but he figured she took this assignment a little too seriously. More than once had he wondered what lay behind, but that was ground he didn't want to tread on. Not now. He had a pretty good idea about it and if he went there, he wouldn't be able to go back. He knew that. And that would be fatal for their working relationship. Something he did not want to jeopardize for anything in the world.

Walking slowly up the street, he tried not to think of it and at the same time couldn't help it. It meant so much to him, that he had recently felt his priorities shifting. What seemed like a trivial thing to most people meant the world to him. That he would consider Scully almost as important as his search for his sister was something that had initially taken him utterly by surprise. But there it was.

"Got a light, mate?"

The voice seemed to come out of nowhere, but Mulder stopped the instant he caught sight of the guy standing in the shadows of an entrance to one of the buildings. Shrugging, he smiled briefly, trying to get a grip on the nervous bundle in the pit of his stomach. "Sorry. I don't smoke," he said and walked on.

"That's just too bad, ain't it?" the man said, suddenly very close.

Before Mulder knew what hit him, the man had tackled him, dropping him to the ground. Experience had a big part of the way this man handled himself when he slapped the handcuffs on Mulder's wrists, locking his hands behind his back. The whole thing took less than a minute and when the man stuffed a piece of cloth into his mouth and pulled a hood over his head, he felt himself panic. Hands grabbed him and he was roughly thrown into what he considered to be the rear of a van. Moments later, the vehicle was in motion, removing him from his home and any chance of getting help.

The thoughts that went through his head made his nightmares seem like a walk in the park. He didn't know where those thoughts came from, but rationalized that they were provoked from the trauma the previous attack had caused him and the shock of this one. It had all happened so quickly that he hadn't even had a chance to react. These people knew him. That much he was certain about. They knew not to give him a chance or he would come out on top. Struggling against the cuffs and the hood over his head, he at the same time tried to estimate which way they were going. Impossible, he knew, but he needed something to do to keep the creeping panic at bay.


Time unknown
Location unknown

Sometime later, the van came to a halt and Mulder, still tied up and gagged, was dragged out of the back and on shaky legs guided inside. He felt the shift in temperature and heard a door click shut somewhere behind him. Completely disoriented, he was guided down a flight of stairs, then pushed forward. The momentum made him stumble and fall over, where after the handcuffs were removed and his unseen attackers vanished. A heavy door fell into lock behind him as he struggled to get the hood off his head and the cloth out of his mouth. Spitting angrily at the floor, he looked around the tiny, empty basement room he was in. Not a clue gave away where he was. Staggering a little, he came to his feet and checked the room more carefully. It had dawned on him in all its horror that Scully wouldn't miss him until the following Monday, unless she wanted to talk to him before that. He hoped that she would try to call and get worried when she couldn't reach him. Two days would be plenty for him to lose his mind if he were to be locked up in this room for all that time. He hated tight spaces. His only consolation was that there was light.

As if some evil spirit had read his mind, the lights suddenly went out. "Shit," he hissed, instantly disoriented again. He reached both hands out and fumbled for the nearest wall, then felt along it to the door. It was still closed. He stood there, his hands on the door, thinking things over for a while. He hated the complete darkness. Although it was usually not something he would make a big fuzz over, he disliked it strongly when he was in a vulnerable position. And this was more vulnerable than he had ever wanted to be.

After a while where nothing happened, he fumbled along the wall to the rear of the room and sank down on the floor. He felt like screaming for help, but also knew that it would bring him nothing. Those who had brought him here would sooner or later reveal why. He just didn't particularly want to know. For now, it suited him fine that they left him alone.


10.30 p.m.
Scully's residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully closed the door after her mother had left and returned to the kitchen to do the dishes. While she worked on them, her mind kept returning to Mulder and what they had discussed this evening. She wanted nothing more than to just call him and continue their talk. After a moment, she decided that she would do just that.

Drying her hands on the dish towel, she walked into the living room, picked up the phone and dialed his number. After several rings she had to accept that he wasn't home. Maybe that or he just didn't feel like answering the phone. The moment she hung up it hit her that his answering machine would have been hooked up in both cases. She knew his routine by now and knew that the first thing he did when he got home was listen to messages, then either leave the machine on if he went out or switch it off if he stayed in. The machine was either full or off. So why didn't he answer? Frowning, she sat down on the couch, then shook her head. "You worry too much, Dana," she mimicked her mother's words and smiled. He'd probably fallen asleep and forgotten to turn the machine on. She would call him in the morning if he didn't call her before that.


Time unknown
August 30
Location unknown

Mulder snapped awake in the complete darkness of the basement room and felt disoriented for a moment. Then he remembered where he was and tried to relax into a more comfortable position. Sleeping while sitting up was not something he preferred to do, but he wasn't about to lie down on the floor. He heaved a deep breath and sighed, closing his eyes. The waiting and the uncertainty was the worst. Although he was glad that they hadn't touched him yet, he wasn't so sure he could count on it to remain that way. Trying to get as much rest as possible, he wrapped his coat tighter around himself and drifted off again.


Lee stared at Fester's sidekick whom she only knew as Joe. It was obvious that Joe wasn't his real name, but that didn't really matter. The guy had managed to secure Mulder for her without any fuzz and she appreciated people who could get the job done.

"Good job, Joe. Where is he?"

"Downstairs in the small room. We killed the lights in there to keep him in the dark, so to speak," Joe replied, casually regarding his fingernails, not a trace of amusement in his voice.

He was cold, that one, Lee mussed. "Right," she said. "What I want you to do is get him out of there, put him in a chair and make sure he doesn't get out of it. Get rid of his coat and shirt. He won't need those anymore." Lee was certain that Joe would get this job done, too. He seemed pretty efficient.

"Got it, boss," he replied, nudged Fester and left the living room.

Lee looked after them, one eyebrow raised. "Boss?" she mumbled, then shook her head. It was time to get ready.


Joe and Fester were ready for whatever might happen, which should have given them the advantage. Fester would switch the lights on and together they would overwhelm their prisoner without much trouble. They hadn't counted on him fighting back because he hadn't when they had picked him up.

The moment the lights were on, Mulder was up and moving. He managed to almost disable Fester with a solid kick to the groin, but Joe obviously didn't shy back from physical violence. Using a rubber truncheon of the kind the police used, he made it very clear who was stronger. The truncheon connected squarely with Mulder's right temple, knocking him off his feet and against the wall, a searing pain spreading throughout his head like wildfire. Grabbing his head with both hands, Mulder tried to regain the breath the impact with the wall had stolen and was forced to his feet by two very angry men. Wincing at the pain in his head, he tried to resist them as they dragged him out of the room, but he couldn't find the strength. The debilitating thunder behind his eyes made it hard for him to see, let alone act. He was dragged into another room and pushed down on a chair after they had removed his coat and his shirt. His hands were tied behind his back, then cuffed to the back of the chair. A hot trickle of blood ran down the side of his face and he sensed the world fading out around him. The last thing he thought before the darkness engulfed him was that at least they couldn't hurt him while he was out.


Sometime later, he came to again, groaning at the pounding headache. Another concussion, he thought and slowly raised his head. This couldn't be good for him. The first thing he saw when his eyes finally focused was a woman. Blond, blue-eyed, tall and pretty butch-looking. She was also smiling.

"Hi there," she said and squatted down in front of him. "I'm sorry the guys were so rough with you. I didn't intend for them to be that, you know. It's so difficult to get good help these days."

Mulder stared at her for a moment before groaning again.

"Joe," she called, reaching a hand out to one side. Mulder turned his head a little and saw the pills being put in her hand along with a glass of water. "Here, take these. They'll take the top of the pain," she said, holding them out to him.

For a moment, he stared longingly at the pills, then he shook his head. He had no idea what they were and they wouldn't be able to make him take them unless they forced him. "No, thanks," he said.

"You sure? They're Aspirin," she said.

He again shook his head. "No, thanks. I never take medication I don't recognize," he said, giving her a grim smile back.

She shrugged. "Fine with me. I don't care, really." Getting up again, the smile on her lips disappeared. "Now, let's get down to business, shall we?" Her tone of voice was no longer friendly. "Where is it?"

Mulder looked up at her, his expression full of agony and confusion. "What?" he asked, the bewilderment obvious in his voice.

"The file, agent Mulder. The file," the woman said.

Mulder frowned and instantly winced at the pain from his split temple. "What file?" He was starting to get a little fed up with this line of questioning. "What do you want from me?" he snapped.

"Now, now, friend. Take it easy," she said, squatting down in front of him again, putting her hands on his knees. "All I want is the location of the Castor-file. Then we'll take you home and pretend this never happened, okay?"

For a split second the realization showed on his face, then it became a mask. So, that was what they were after. He'd have to take a closer look at that when he got out of here. For now, he had to ward this woman off. "I don't know anything about any Castor-file," he lied.

She stared into his eyes for a moment, then rose once more. "I see," she said, obviously aware that he knew what she was talking about and was lying about it. "Well, I will have to convince you to disclose the whereabouts of this file then. It's very important to me and I'm willing to go a long way to retrieve it."

Mulder briefly considered telling her where to look for the damned file, then remembered that Scully had taken it home with her. ‘Oh damn,' he thought. Under no circumstances could he let this bitch know that Scully had it. Heaven only knew what she might do to Scully to get to it. "I still don't know what you're talking about. I haven't seen any file with the name Castor in or on it."

Slowly shaking her head, she seemed almost sad about his answer. "I'm really sorry you see it that way, Mulder. I really am. I don't want to hurt you, you know. I just want the file." Folding her arms over her chest, she looked down at him for a moment. "I know you have it. I know it was delivered to you by special courier. All you have to do is tell me where it is and that will be the end of this rather disgraceful episode. I'll have my file back and you will go back home. That's all there is to it. This file is none of your concern anyway. It's got nothing to do with aliens or UFOs or any such thing."

Biting back the pain, he stared up at her. It actually annoyed the hell out of him that he couldn't just tell her where to get it. If it was worth so much trouble, he didn't want it. Not until he knew what it contained anyway. "That may very well be, but I still have no idea what you're talking about."

She closed her eyes for a moment, seemingly almost meditating. Then she looked at him again. "Always maintain plausible denial, huh?" she asked, confusing him. "Right. You want to play tough, I can play that game, too." She turned and marched out of the room, followed by the guy she had called Joe. The door closed behind them and Mulder was once again alone.

Groaning, he tried to ease the tension in his neck by lowering his head, but that only increased the pounding. ‘What the hell did I do to deserve this one,' he thought, flexing his shoulders carefully to loosen up a bit.

Moments later, the door opened again and the woman re-entered. She had a gun in one hand. "Now, Mulder, shall we talk more seriously about that file?" she asked, obviously not asking a question she expected an answer to. She cocked the hammer on the gun and held it out to him so he could take a look at it. "I want to know where the file is. Don't play with me, Mulder. You're gonna loose every time." When he made no move to reply, she pressed the muzzle of the gun down on his right thigh, just above the knee. "Come on, Mulder. You don't really want a bullet wound in your leg, do you?"

Perspiration gathered on his brow as he stared down at this very real gun pressed against his thigh. "No," he almost croaked.

"Then answer the question. Where is the file? This will all be over a lot sooner if you just work with me," she said. She shifted the position of the gun a little, away from the bone and out to the side where it would hurt like hell but not really damage him permanently. "Well?" she asked.

Knowing what was in store, he still shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about," he insisted quietly. He ground his teeth even before she pulled the trigger, but he could still not contain the yelp of pain when the bullet slammed through his flesh, tearing nerves like wet paper. Being shot at close range was always extremely painful. Gasping, the world faded out of focus, then abruptly returned to focus when she slapped him hard across the face.

"Don't pass out now, Mulder. I need an answer and I'm damned well going to get it. Even if I have to take you apart bit by bit. And believe me, I can do that and keep you alive almost all the way."

He couldn't think straight, let alone speak. All he wanted was to pass out to get away from the pain. But that was obviously not going to happen. His breath came in shallow, quick gasps, leaving him lightheaded with the hyperventilation. Both his legs were secured to the legs of the chair so he couldn't even stretch out. Somehow, he had gotten it into his now breezy mind that it would feel better that way. The world again threatened to fade away into darkness and once again she pulled him back by slapping his face. Slowly, the world regained focus and with every heartbeat, the pain seemed to lessen a little. His system was starting to shut down certain areas in his brain to prevent him from dying from shock. With a fully blazing headache and a leg that was on fire, he didn't hear her voice any more. And he was grateful for that.

"Mulder." She finally managed to cut through and it annoyed him. "I know you're hurting right now. I can make it go away if you tell me where the file is. If you don't, I'll have to hurt you some more. Do you understand me?"

"I ... don't know ... what ... you're talking ... about," he finally managed, his voice hoarse and restrained with the pain. He focused on her and managed a sneer.

Meeting his now glazed eyes, she had to marvel at how resilient he was. Nobody liked pain. Not unless they were insane. "Okay, fine," she said, reached out to her right and grabbed something. A piece of rob. She tied it around his leg to stop him from bleeding to death.

"Hey ..." he croaked, causing her to look up at him expectantly. "Those ... were my ... good pants," he managed, trying to make a joke of it all. He needed to do that to stay sane.

Her eyes were sparking with anger at that. "Is that so? Well, prepare for some more damage, then," she spat, pressed the gun against his right calf at a crooked angle and pulled the trigger again.

He screamed once again, his breath now coming in ragged little sobs, tears of pain streaming down his face. He fought the restraints, bucking against the chair in an attempt to get away from her, away from the pain she was inflicting. He had also instantly decided that he would be quiet from now on. No more taunting. That only increased the hurting.


11.00 a.m.
Scully's residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully picked up the phone, dialed Mulder's number and got no reply again. With a frown, she hung up. "Now, don't go and get possessive, Dana," she told herself aloud, then sighed. Where could he be? She was worried, annoyed actually, that she couldn't get in touch with him. Somehow, she wouldn't let herself believe that he might be in trouble. Then the phone rang. Suddenly her heart was beating faster as she picked up the receiver. "Yes?"

"Agent Scully?" Skinner's voice. "I'm sorry to disturb you at home on a Saturday, but I've been trying to get a hold of agent Mulder, but nobody's answering the phone. Do you know where he is?"

Now, why should I know that? she thought a little aggressively, then calmed down again. Her nervousness over being unable to reach Mulder herself made her snappy. "No, sir. I must admit that I've been trying to get a hold of him myself since last night. He didn't say anything to me about going anywhere."

A brief silence answered her at first. "If you get a hold of him, let him know that I need to talk to him, all right?" Skinner asked. "And if you don't make contact with him within the next 48 hours, agent Scully, I want to know about that, too. I've..." he began, then trailed off. "Just let me know if you hear from him."

"Yes, sir. Have a nice weekend," Scully replied and hung up, her nervousness blossomed into full bloom. "Damn it, Mulder. Where are you?" she whispered, then decided to take the chance and go over there. She grabbed her coat and her keys and was out the door before she had a chance to regret.


12.00 a.m.
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

Mulder's apartment was very quiet. Scully looked around, saw no sign of him having been there recently and frowned. Okay, he didn't use his bed much. That much she knew. But there was no sign of him anywhere. The answering machine sitting beside the phone was blinking rapidly, indicating a lot of messages. She contemplated listening to them, then sighed and turned away from the machine. It was none of her business who called him. Standing there in the middle of his living room, she looked around, wondering what had gone wrong now. Because something was definitely wrong. Mulder always gave her a call or at least left her a message. "Damn it, Mulder. Where are you?" she repeated her question quietly.

She left the apartment again after feeding the fish and headed toward her car. Something made her hesitate as she looked down the street to the point where she had let him off the night before. Had something really happened between here and there last night? Was he perhaps in trouble? Slowly, she started walking down the sidewalk toward the point where she had seen him cross the street before she had driven off herself. Her eyes traced every line, every object on the ground, flipping from a bottle cap to a lost button to a piece of tinfoil and so on. What she hoped to see she didn't know, but she was somehow sure that there would be something. Then she looked up again and noticed that she had passed the spot where he had crossed the street. With a sigh, she turned and headed back up the sidewalk to where the car was parked. 'Am I jumping at shadows here?' she wondered silently. 'Mulder would get a kick out of this one. I'd better get home before he turns up and sees me here.' With that thought, she walked swiftly back to the car, completely overlooking the three expensive-looking dark blue buttons lying on the ground near a wall. If she had seen them, she might have recognized them. And it was not often that someone lost three buttons at once. She climbed into the car, started up the engine and leaned back in the seat. For a long moment, she just sat there, staring ahead of herself, then she put the car in gear and drove back home, hoping in vain that there might be a message from him waiting on her machine. But nothing. She promised herself that she would start a riot if he hadn't turned up by the following morning.


Time unknown
Location unknown

Breathing was something of a job for Mulder. After having shot him twice, beaten the crap out of him and inflicted more pain that he had thought possible, the woman and her cohort had finally given him so peace. Not that it helped him very much. Tied down to the chair as he was, he couldn't move much. His head hurt ferociously, his right leg was on fire from the ankle to the hip and he most of all wanted to die. But something in him was stubborn. If they would do this to him for that file, it had to be worth something. Heaving another shuddering breath, he tried to ignore the sting of his bruised ribs. That pain was the least of his concerns right now. Although she had tied his leg off to prevent him from bleeding to death, he could still feel the rather steady trickle of blood oozing down his damaged calf. If this kept up, he would bleed to death no matter what she did. His eyes half closed, he was barely able to think past the present moment. He had wanted to tell them where the file was but not if they kept treating him like this. No way. He wouldn't break. And besides, telling them would be jeopardizing Scully's health and life and he wasn't about to do that. The thought of Scully made him wince. ‘Please help me', he thought incoherently, knowing very well that she had no idea where he was. And even if she could find him, it would take time. Time he didn't have. ‘Oh God, help me.' Those words kept running through his mind over and over again. It would be such a solace to see her face, to know that he would be getting out of this mess he was once again in. He only hoped that she would miss him before the weekend was over.


Lee stood leaning against the door frame, watching him. She wondered what was going through his mind while his life slowly ebbed away. But she wasn't about to let him die of blood loss. She would make sure that he would be around for a while to come. Mainly so she could torture the answer out of him. For a long while, she just watched him, then she turned and went for the bandages she had sent Joe out to get. Lots of them. Within minutes, she returned to the basement room and laid out the bandages on a table next to the bottle of disinfectant. It wasn't the nice kind. This would sting in any wound. It would probably drive him into a frenzy of agony, but that would also serve a purpose.

"Wakey, wakey," she said, patting his face. He groaned, raising his head a little. "I'm here to take care of your leg."

"Get away from me," he mumbled, unable to put much strength behind the words.

Lee stared down at him for a moment, then shook her head. "Not likely, buddy." She pulled out her pocket knife and smoothly cut through the fabric of his pants. Then she untied his right leg, grabbed his ankle and eased it into a stretch. She could feel the tremble going through the muscles and one glance at his face told her that she was hurting him badly. His breath came in ragged, little gasps. "There," she said, grabbed the bottle and pulled the cap of it. His eyes focused on the bottle and he started shaking his head. He knew what it was and he knew what agony it would put him through if she poured that over his wounds. "Don't fret. I need to clean the wounds or they'll go septic. You don't want that, do you?" she asked, grabbed his ankle again and was surprised how much strength he was able to muster to get his leg away from her. But she held on, once again forcing his leg into a stretch, then tilted the bottle and poured the liquid right into the bullet hole in his thigh. He didn't even manage to vocalize his pain before he passed out.

Lee grumbled under her breath, then set about bandaging him up. The pressure bandage around both the wounds on his leg should do the trick. It would stop the bleeding. She then grabbed a syringe, filled it with a clear liquid and injected it into his right shoulder. "There. That should give you some more strength."


07.30 a.m.
August 31
Scully's residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully woke up with a start, realizing that she had fallen asleep on her couch. That was a first for her. But she was so worried about her partner and friend that she had found it impossible to go to sleep. The TV was still on and she realized that the early morning news had awoken her. Glancing at her watch, she sighed deeply. If there was any time he should be at home, it had to be now. Easing into a stretch, she grabbed the phone, dialed his number and waited. Nothing. Nobody home. Her mind was reeling as she considered the possible cause for his absence, that he hadn't gone home Friday night after she had dropped him off. With the receiver in on hand, she sat on the couch, staring down at the soulless device which would not let her get in touch with him. "Damn it," she mumbled, then dialed another number. This one was answered almost immediately. "Good morning, sir. I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, but I've been trying to get a hold of agent Mulder without luck. I went over to his apartment yesterday and he hasn't been home at all."

There was a brief silence, then Skinner grumbled under his breath. "Right. File a Missing Person's report on him, agent Scully. And meet me at the office at 09.00. I want to know what's going on here."

"Uh ... sir? He hasn't been gone for 48 hours yet," Scully said, afraid he might not have thought about that.

"That doesn't matter, Scully. If they make a fuss, just tell them to call me. I'll be in the office in half an hour."

"Allright. I'll see you at nine, then," Scully replied, hung up and went to her bed room to change her clothes. Fifteen minutes later, she was on her way out the door.


08.15 a.m.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

Scully had been asked to take a seat until one of the agents in the MP-division would get around to talk to her. She had been sitting there for ten minutes without result and was getting rather fed up. When she saw a female agent coming toward her, she rose and stepped in the woman's way. "Excuse me. I need to file a Missing Person's report here by orders of A.D. Skinner." She didn't like to pull rank on others, but if it got her what she wanted in this case, then she didn't mind.

The woman looked at her for a moment, then smiled a crooked smile. "Sure thing, agent Scully," she said, having read her name on the tag. "I'm Jane Glover. Have a seat." Scully sat down again and the woman took her seat across from her. "So, who's missing?"

"Agent Mulder. My partner," Scully said.

Glover made a face. "Spooky Mulder?"

It took all the self control that Scully could muster to avoid a scene here. She most of all felt like slapping her for that comment. Sometimes she thought that she hated his nickname more than he did. "Special agent Fox Mulder," she corrected her sternly.

"Are you sure you want to file a Missing Person's report on him? He might be out there somewhere, hunting UFOs." The cynical smile on Glover's lips made Scully furious.

"Damn it, this is a serious matter," she snapped. Before she could continue, though, another female agent turned up at the desk.

"What's going on here?" she wanted to know, looking for her young colleague for an explanation.

"Oh, agent Scully here wants to file a Missing Person's report on Spooky Mulder. Can you believe it?" Glover asked, grinning.

The newcomer stared at her for a second. "Don't you think that a little professionalism would be in place here?" she growled. "Get off that chair and make yourself useful elsewhere. I'm taking over here, Jane."

Glover stared back at her, then nodded with a look of embarrassment on her face. "Sure, TJ," she replied, got off the chair and walked away briskly.

Jones took the chair instead and sat down. "I'm sorry about that, agent Scully. Sometimes I feel like I'm still in Kindergarten here," she said with a pleasant smile. "My name's TJ Jones. So, what's the problem?"

Scully stared at her, then she broke the case down for her, telling her everything she knew from the moment she had dropped Mulder off and until Skinner had told her to file this report on him.

Jones nodded at regular intervals, made notes and eventually leaned back. "Do you have any clue what might have happened? Any idea at all?" she asked.

"He was attacked in the downstairs garage two weeks ago and I have the distinct feeling that we're dealing with the same person here. This guy appeared to be a mugger, but he wasn't interested in agent Mulder's money. He wanted some kind of file without ever identifying which one," Scully said.

"Okay. So, this person might have ... kidnapped him for questioning or something. Do you have any idea what kind of file we could be talking about?" Jones wanted to know.

Scully considered this for a moment, wondering if she could trust this woman, then sighed. She felt like she didn't have any other choice but to show her the file. "Yes, I think I have an idea," she said, opened her briefcase and pulled the file out. "This was among a lot of files we've been working on. We must have had it in the office for two weeks without knowing about it. It looks like a Missing Person's report, but it's not in any standard I've ever seen."

Jones took the file and leafed through it, frowning at the odd way it was set up. "Sure isn't one from this office," she admitted, then looked up at Scully. "The Castor-case is famous, though."

"It is?" Scully was a bit perplexed. "For what?"

"Well, there was this agent called John Castor some years back. He was really making life difficult for some very important people. Apparently he messed up a lot of their work by sticking his nose into it. The file on the Castor-case vanished about a month after Castor did and neither have been seen since. This is the first time I've seen it, but if this is the famous file on Castor, I don't have a clue why they would make it vanish. It doesn't say anything interesting and it's a mess." Scully could only nod. "Unless your partner would be likely to find anything interesting in it. Did he?"

"I don't think so. Mulder didn't know it existed until he was clobbered because of it. We were going to go over it this Monday, but now he's gone. And I have no idea where he could be."

Jones nodded, thoughtfully staring at the odd pictures in the file. "Okay. I've got an idea. I'm gonna leak the information that the file is in my possession, but I think you should keep it with you at all times. And don't tell anybody about it. That way we might be able to get this sucker to rear his head. And when he does, I'm gonna be there to chop it off."

Scully stared at her, frowning at this odd procedure. "I'm sorry. I don't know much about what's going on here in Missing Persons, but ... what good is it going to do to leak this kind of information?" she asked, wondering if she was missing something obvious.

Jones leaned a little closer. "The Castor-case was an internal matter, agent Scully. And a lot of odd happenings were connected to it. It was hushed down so fast that very few have even heard about it and that's why I think that whoever is after the file is connected to the Bureau in some way."

Scully's frown deepened. Jones had some strange ideas, all right. Mulder would like her. "But what makes you think that leaking the information within the Bureau will make any difference?" she asked again, not getting the point.

Jones smiled a little at her lack of understanding. "Because the Castor-case was an F.B.I.-matter. Somebody here doesn't want agent Mulder to mess with this file. I'm only surprised it has turned up in the first place."

Scully leaned forward. "And you think that leaking this information will make somebody react?" she asked and Jones nodded. "How long do you think this would take?" she asked on after a moment.

"Well, considering that the innards of the Bureau are as rotten as six-day-carcass in the sun, it shouldn't take too long. I know just who to leak this information to. He's gonna spread it faster than any ordinary chain of command could manage." Grinning, Jones closed the file and handed it back to Scully. "Are you gonna be in the office today?"

"For a while. I have an appointment with Assistant Director Skinner at nine. Which reminds me, I'd better get going." She rose and couldn't help smiling back at Jones. She seemed to be very efficient. "I'll be in my office until around ten if you want to talk to me."

"Okay. I'll be in touch A.S.A.P.," Jones said, leaning back on her chair.

Jones watched Scully go, then turned around in search of her scape goat. She knew his reputation as a snitch and she knew how to use it, too. "Hey, Bastian," she said, waving the guy over. He looked like a rooky and thought Jones confided in him. That alone was the joke of the department since Jones never confided in anyone. Due to the rather immature state of mind in this department, the others went along with the joke and Bastian so far hadn't realized that he was not the one using others.


09.00 a.m.
A.D. Skinner's office

Skinner looked up when Scully came in and waved her to a chair. "So?"

"I've filed a report with an agent named TJ Jones," Scully said, sounding a little uncertain. "She seems to be more serious about the matter than the others were."

"TJ Jones," Skinner mumbled. "I know her. She's very good. Said to be among the best in her field. What did she suggest?"

"She thinks it's an internal affair," she said and sat down. "She's going to leak the information that she has the file that Mulder was attacked for and then she wants to see what happens. I'm not so sure it's a good idea, though." Scully couldn't help worrying about the whole thing. "And it might take time before something happens. If anything does."

"With agent Jones' connections I bet we'll see action a lot sooner than we think. We're gonna handle this by ourselves as much as possible, Scully. Something tells me that there is a lot more at stake than this file they are after." Skinner leaned back, still concerned for Mulder's safety, yet confident that he would be found soon. He just hoped they weren't too late. "Have you found out what file this guy was after?"

Scully pulled the file from her briefcase once again and handed it to Skinner. He looked through it and was as puzzled by it as everybody else. "I can't make much sense of it. Agent Jones told me about the Castor-case and she speculates that this is what this is all about."

Skinner leaned back, rubbing his chin thoughtfully while he stared at the file. "The Castor-case," he finally said. "No wonder he's in trouble. This case was one of the worst incidents the Bureau has ever encountered. It's also one of those cases that was covered up and buried in no time." Looking up to meet Scully's eyes, his expression remained very serious. "If we are lucky, we might find him alive, agent Scully. The fact that he has had this file in his possession, no matter if he read it or not, is enough to get him killed. I don't know if you have any idea how serious this is. You are in jeopardy just by having this file with you."

Scully stared back at him, her expression as serious as his. "This file may be what decides whether Mulder lives or dies, sir. I am not going to let it out of my sight until he has been returned."

With an uncertain glance down at the file, Skinner contemplated the severity of the situation, then nodded. He handed it back to her. "You can hope and pray that agent Jones can be trusted, agent Scully. If she can't, you may very well have joined agent Mulder wherever he is before the end of the day."

Nodding, Scully replaced the file in her briefcase. "This file ... I can't believe anybody would hurt him over this," she said after a moment.

"The reason is buried in that file, Scully. That is for certain. You need to be able to interpret the text in order to understand the seriousness of this. Don't make the effort, though. The less you know about the contents, the better you're off. Do you understand me?" Skinner insisted and she nodded. "The phrase that knowledge is power doesn't prevail in this case. The less we know about this, the more likely we are to come out alive at the other end. Now get this thing out of my office. It's giving off a nasty smell."

Scully got up, but hesitated before leaving. The one thing she would love to ask him was the one thing she couldn't. Could he be trusted? "I'll keep you posted, sir," she finally said and left the office again.

Skinner looked after her with a stern look on his face. This was going to blow up in their faces. He just knew it would. And the situation was getting more and more aggravated by the minute. The Chain smoker had already approached him about the file, but at the time Skinner had known nothing about it. Now that he knew, he would have to pretend he didn't or Scully's life would be in danger. The whole thing was starting to bother him to no end. And in the end it was because Mulder couldn't keep his nose out of other people's business.


TJ Jones was waiting for Scully when she came down to the office in the basement. She was sitting on Mulder's chair, eyeing the contents of the office with a frown. When she heard Scully entering, she shifted her attention to her. "He really is hooked on all this stuff, isn't he?" she asked needlessly.

"Yes, he is. What have you found out?" Scully replied, not in the mood to discuss her partner's obsessions.

"The word is out. I'm going to have to be very careful going home today. But I'm ready for it. Once I've identified the guy, I'll give him the slip, then follow him to wherever he's gonna go. Once I know where he's holed up, I think we can be pretty sure that this is where Mulder is. I'll call reinforcements and ta-da. That will be the end of another nasty case. The bad guys go to jail and the good guys are reunited."


Time unknown
Location unknown

The world faded into view after an undeterminable span of time. Mulder was lying on his back, staring up at a chalked ceiling he didn't recognize. His immediate reaction was that he wanted to go back to sleep. It was dangerous to be awake. Then his senses kicked in and he realized that the pain he had previously experienced was now a dull throb he could easily live with. Slowly, he moved his head, noting that the pounding headache was gone, but his whole face felt sore. Painkillers. He had been given some pretty heavy painkillers. His wrists felt swollen and when he raised his right hand to inspect it, he realized that they didn't just feel that way. The skin was chaffed and red, bulging out with too much fluid. He breathed deeply and lowered his hand down onto the cot he was lying on, not making any sudden movements. His right leg throbbed away with the rate of his pulse. Carefully, he raised his head and looked down at it. It was wrapped in a pressure bandage which would keep him from bleeding to death. It was also elevated with several pillows. Closing his eyes, he let his head sink back onto the pillow. So at least she had the decency to not kill him that way. But he was still aware that he was not going to be out of danger. She was going to take him apart bit by bit to get the information out of him and he wasn't so certain that he would be able to resist much longer. When his mind was clouded by constant pain, the promise she had made to put an end to it sounded so good. Right now there was no way in hell he would give in, but if she started torturing him again, he was afraid he might break. He could virtually feel his resolve crumble. ‘Think of Scully,' he told himself quietly. She would give him strength. She would find him. ‘Soon,' he assured himself, hoping he was right.


Lee looked up when the door to the living room opened and Fester came in, looking all excited. She put the book she was reading aside and stared at him expectantly. "I've just received word that this other agent, a Miss TJ Jones, is in possession of the Castor-file, Lee. I've found her address and I know where she works, too."

Lee's eyes narrowed as she stared at him. She didn't really believe it could be that easy, but it would be worth a try. "Good. Wait for her when she comes home and relieve her of her burden. If she has it, we'll return agent Mulder to the world. If not, we'll continue our questioning of him. He must know where it is."

Fester grinned. "Sure thing. If she has it, I'll have it here by no later than tomorrow morning."

Lee nodded. "Good. I'm gonna go down and chat with our guest a little more. Just in case she doesn't have it."

Fester left again and Lee walked toward the stairs going down to the basement. She wondered if she would see fear in his eyes when she entered the room. Would he beg for mercy? If he did, she would be very disappointed in him. So much, actually, that she might consider killing him right away. But she needed to know where that file was. So killing him was not an option. Not yet. Stopping in the doorway to the room, she noted that he was awake. For a moment longer, she would leave him in the belief that he was alone and therefore safe. Then she cleared her throat. He raised his head, staring at her, and she was satisfied that the fear was not yet present. Probably because he was still influenced by the painkiller she had injected him with.

"Do you feel up to talking now?" she wanted to know as she approached the cot.

The first shiver of fear ran through him. "No," he croaked. His throat was dry and he felt a little dizzy.

"Why don't you just level with me, Mulder? If some of your friends have the file, all we want to do is go out there and pick it up. We won't hurt anybody. We just need to get that file back. It will put an end to all this suffering. You'll be home in a jiffy and that will be the end of this nightmare."

Letting his head sink back down on the pillow again, he closed his eyes. "I still don't know what you're talking about," he whispered, trying to ready himself for what came next.

Lee regarded him thoughtfully. "You're a tough one, Mulder. But, let me tell you, I've broken combat-trained commandos who are claimed to never break under any kind of pressure. I will get the information I'm after. I can mess with your head as well as with your body and I will not shy back from anything to achieve my goal. Do you believe that?" Her tone of voice was conversational, friendly even.

"Yes," he whispered. He truly did believe that. He didn't want to know what she had in store for him if he didn't comply. And if he could in any way prevent it, he wouldn't comply though.

"Are you protecting someone? Is that it?" she asked. "It's a fairly silly thing, wanting to die for someone else. You should be damned sure that person appreciates it or it would make this whole thing kind of useless. So, are you gonna let me in on who has the file? I promise you I won't hurt that someone. I just want the file. Nothing else."

Keeping his eyes closed, he forced himself to seem indifferent to what she was saying. She was so damned close to guessing where the file was. If only she didn't get it into her head that Scully might have it, then he would gladly suffer. She stroked his right leg and he winced involuntarily. Well, maybe he wouldn't suffer gladly. But he would not reveal the whereabouts of the file. "I don't know what you're talking about," he repeated.

Lee looked at his bandaged leg, considered her options for a moment and then pressed her thumb down on the very spot where the bullet had entered his leg. It was like releasing a spring. He sat up with a sharp intake of breath, slapping her hand away rather forcefully. His eyes were wide and wild with pain. "Talk to me," she said, meeting his stare.

"Not ... if it kills ... me," he gasped, the fingers of his right hand nearly digging holes into his thigh.

Lee looked at him for a moment longer, then nodded solemnly. "So be it," she said. With very little effort, she forced him back down on the cot and although he struggled against her, she managed to cuff both his hands to the head of the cot. It was only then that he realized that the cot was bolted down. Within a very short time, he regretted that he had ever laid eyes on that damned file. He generally cursed it to hell while he screamed his head off in pain.


04.00 p.m.
Nebraska Avenue
Washington, D.C.

TJ Jones had spotted the man waiting for her long before he had seen her. She needed to be sure it was him, but when he caught sight of her, all her doubts about that vanished. He kept watching her and obviously didn't know that she was also watching him. Jones strolled leisurely down the street toward her building, fully aware that he was now following her. Once she reached the door to her building, she quickly vanished inside. Keeping to the shadows, knowing that he wouldn't be able to see her, she watched him until he apparently gave up and walked away again. Jones followed him out into the night, grinning. She knew she had been put in the wrong department. Missing Persons wasn't half bad, but she would prefer to work with the real criminals. She had always wanted to go undercover and this was a dream come true. It didn't really occur to her that this could be dangerous. So she followed the man for a while and was caught off guard when she rounded a corner and found that he was gone.

Staring down the more or less empty street, she frowned. "Damn it," she mumbled under her breath and walked a few steps further. Suddenly, something hard was pressed against her back.

"Don't move, Miss Jones," a low voice told her. "And how are you this fine evening?" He started searching her and came up with nothing. "Where's the file, Miss Jones?"

"What fi.. ile?" she asked before she had a chance to think about it. She almost hit herself for that one.

"What file?" he repeated, then chuckled. "I should have figured that you didn't have it. That it was a trap. Trying to get to Mr. Mulder, are you? Well, since you're so eager to join him, you will."

That had not been on her agenda. Jones quickly considered her options, then figured that if she wanted to find out where Mulder was, this was the way to do it. She could then deal with whatever came her way once she was there. "Okay, okay, take it easy, right? I'm not making a fuss," she said.

"That's good. Because if you were, I'd have to clobber you. See the van over there? Walk slowly over there and remember, I'm a very good shot."

Jones started moving, walking slowly, never giving him an excuse to make good on his threat. He opened the back of the van for her and she climbed in, taking it slow. The back was completely blinded off. No way of seeing where they went. ‘Shit,' she thought and settled down on the floor after the door had closed again. No handle on the inside, either. With a sigh, she settled back. This had not been such a good idea after all. Boy was she going to get in trouble with her supervisor for putting herself at risk.


Time unknown
Location unknown

Fester shoved the pretty brunette into the living room of the mansion and frowned when he realized that Lee wasn't there. "Yo, Lee. Where are you?" he hollered. A muffled scream interrupted anything else he wanted to say. Jones flinched at the sound, suddenly very much aware that this was not a good idea. Fester, however, only grinned. "Looks like she's still talking to our guest," he said. "This way," he added and pushed her back into the hallway and toward the stairs to the basement. "Nice and easy."

Jones swallowed hard. She did not want to go down there. Those sounds of agony made her skin crawl. "What the hell are you doing to him?" she demanded, knowing full well who was doing the screaming.

"Don't you worry about that," Fester said and shoved her forward.

She stopped at the top of the stairs, aware that now was the time that she had to act. She waited for him to come closer, then she hammered an elbow backwards, knocking the air out of him. She threw her weight against him, knocking him over and wrestled the gun out of his hand. Pressing the weapon against his face, it was her time to smile. "But I do worry about that," she said, got off him and backed out of his reach and away from the stairs. "Get to your feet, shit head," she snarled.

Fester did not like the turn of events. This was not beneficial. Not at all. "Hey, take it easy. I was just doing my job," he tried.

"Right. Go down those steps right now. Move it, pal." Jones had the upper hand and this was the time she felt most at ease. No matter how dangerous this situation might be. She stared at this man, her eyes almost hurting because she didn't blink. And that was the only reason for that she noted the shift in his expression. They weren't alone any more. To keep a grip on the situation, Jones threw herself sideways, landing on her shoulder without ever losing sight of that Fester guy. The second one's fist hit the air where her head had just been. "Nice try, ass hole," she snarled. "Drop the gun and join your buddy." Both men looked rather amazed at her effectiveness at dealing with this situation. The second one dropped his gun on the floor and back up to stand beside Fester. She picked up the second gun and held both weapons in her hands. "Right. Here's the deal. You behave and I won't have to kill you," she said. "Now move downstairs. Nice and easy. I'll pick you off like sitting ducks if you as much as look at me wrong. Got that?"

Both of them nodded, then turned and walked down the steps. Jones stood at the top of the stairs until they had reached the bottom, then ordered them to stop. She was halfway down the stairs when she told them to move up a bit. The screams had ebbed away, but it was obvious that the third person was still continuing the process of making life a living hell for Mulder. "Move it. Nice and slow. One wrong move and you both get it," she warned them quietly. With guys like these it didn't help threatening one life to make the other behave. She had to make it clear that she would not distinguish between them if it came down to it.


Lee looked up when Fester and Joe turned up in the doorway. "There you are already. Did you get it?" she asked, wiping blood of her hands with a towel.

Fester swallowed, looking very unhappy. "Not really," he admitted.

Lee frowned. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" she snapped as they slowly edged into the room. Then she caught sight of the woman behind them with the guns. "Who the hell are you?"

"Nobody as far as you're concerned, sweetheart," Jones told her. "Why don't you go over there and join these two morons before I decide to put a bullet between your eyes. That would really mess up that pretty face of yours."

Lee considered her options, noting the way this woman held the guns. She was professional and she was used to handling two guns at once. There was no doubt about that. Slowly, she moved away from the cot, walking slowly to avoid provoking this woman. "Take it easy. No reason for losing your cool, okay?" she said. There had to be a way out of this.

Jones deliberately did not look over at the cot. She didn't need the distraction right now. She noted the cuffs dangling from the woman's pocket and smiled when she surveyed the room and found a lot of useful angles. "Why don't you cuff yourself together, huh?" she suggested. When neither of them made a move to comply, she cocked the hammer of the right-hand gun. "Don't make me mad," she added.

Lee retrieved the cuffs from her pocket and sneered. This was not what she'd had in mind. She handed one to the guys and they cuffed their hands together. Then Lee snapped the second pair of cuffs around her wrist and was about to lock it around Fester's other wrist, when Jones shook her head.

"No, honey. You don't do that until you've hooked the chain around that pipe right there," she said, waving her left hand toward a solid hot water-pipe. She noted the way Lee sneered again and couldn't help smiling. This was fun. She was aware that the woman was a lot more dangerous than the men and that she was probably in charge. Lee slipped the cuff around the pipe and locked it around Fester's wrist. "Now throw me the key, huh?" Jones said, glancing sideways at a table. What she saw there made her little heart rejoice. A tranquilizer gun. Now this was what she needed. She put down one gun and picked it up. There were several darts lying on the table. "Now, what would you need a gun like this for?" she asked and aimed it at Lee.

Lee's expression sagged. "Hey, come on. You've already cuffed us. You don't need to use the dart gun, too," she said, trying to ward off a disaster.

"Oh? Is that so? And did you really need to torture Mulder here?" Jones asked, then shook her head. "No, you didn't. So, here's looking at you, kid. Have a nice rest," she added and fired the gun. The dart hit Lee square in the chest and before she could even try to raise a hand to remove it, she sank to the floor like a deflating balloon. "Well, well, well. What do you know. It works," Jones said, grinning while she reloaded the dart gun, pointed it at Fester and pulled the trigger again. Moments later, all three of them were out. Before anything else, she searched them and found weapons on all three of them. She collected those and the spare keys for the cuffs, then finally turned around to take a closer look at Mulder. Her joy over being such a hotshot vanished immediately. "Jesus," she whispered.


05.30 p.m.
Crystal City
Washington, D.C.

Skinner had gone home immediately after he had talked to Scully, but he could find no rest, no peace. The fact that Mulder and Scully both were involved with the Castor-case was a bad blow. That case file should have been burned and buried a long time ago, yet here it was again. John Castor had been a bastard in life and now he was haunting the F.B.I. again. Skinner swore that as soon as Mulder turned up again, whether dead or alive, he would personally destroy that file. It made no sense, anyway, and to let Mulder have the slightest go at it would end in disaster. The subject of Castor was so sensitive that none of the people who had known the man talked about it anymore. They all just tried to ignore it. In a way, Mulder reminded him of Castor. With the exception that Castor had reached a point of no return. He didn't care about anybody but himself and whatever hidden agenda he had been after. And the Cancer Man had feared him like nobody else. The idea that Castor was still around had been raised back then and the rumor had never died down. It was as if he had risen from whatever grave he had been put in and was out for revenge. Skinner didn't believe that, but he wouldn't put it past Castor to have staged his own death back then. If that was the case, then he wouldn't be surprised at all if Castor stood behind what was happening to Mulder right now. Because Mulder of all people would be able to find him if he was still around.

His train of thought was interrupted when the phone rang. "Yes," he said gruffly.

"Sir, this is Scully. I've just been informed that agent Mulder has been found at an address just outside of D.C. I'm going out there right now. It seems Miss Jones came through for us."

"Where are you right now?" he wanted to know.

"I'm at home, sir," she said, sounding a little cautious.

"Stay there. I'll come by and pick you up."


06.00 p.m.
Scully's residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully stood waiting at the curb when Skinner's car pulled up in front of her. She got in, gave him the address, and settled back for the ride.

"Did agent Jones let you know how he was doing?" Skinner asked after a moment. He could sense the complete and utter strain on Scully.

"He's in bad shape, sir," she replied, not wanting to get into what Jones had told her on the phone.

"Well, we'd better hurry then," Skinner said and sped the car up.


07.00 p.m.
Washington, D.C.

The mansion was big. Scully was apprehensive about going in first, but Skinner took the lead, so she didn't have to. When they opened the front door, Jones came to meet them. "Hi. TJ Jones, sir," she introduced herself to Skinner, then turned to Scully. "I've called an ambulance. It'll be here soon," she said, pale as a ghost.

Scully looked her over. "Are you okay?" she wanted to know.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just a little shocked at what they've done to him," she confessed. "He's downstairs in the basement," she added and guided the way.

Scully followed her, gun drawn, not so sure she was up to this. She was a doctor and she had seen a lot of mutilated corpses, but she still wasn't sure she would be able to handle seeing her partner in a bad condition provoked by another human being. Jones stepped aside, waving toward the doorway to one of the basement rooms. Scully tugged her gun away, gave Jones another glance and stepped through the door. He was lying there on a cot and at first she didn't think he was breathing. She moved closer, surveying the damage done and heaved a deep breath. "Mulder," she almost whispered. He stirred and his eyelids fluttered open.

When he saw her, he thought he was hallucinating. It couldn't be her, could it? But whether it was a hallucination or not, he raised his right hand toward her. Swallowing hard, he tried to clear his throat. "Scully."

She sat down on the edge of the cot and took his hand in her, tears gleaming in her eyes. "Take it easy. The paramedics are on their way," she soothed him, gently caressing his face. He was panic-stricken and in severe pain. His t-shirt was blood-soaked from a fresh wound on his right side, apparently caused by the knife lying on the floor next to the cot. When he reached for her with both hands, she leaned over him and hugged him. He held onto her like a drowning man would hold on to a lifeline. "It's over now. You're safe," she whispered.


The three perpetrators were taken away at the same time as the paramedics carried Mulder out. Lee stopped, staring at the stretcher. "I hope you rot," she snarled before one police officer gave her a pretty hard push toward the waiting car.

Jones looked after Lee with a frown on her face. "What a nasty little bitch," she said, glancing sideways at Skinner.

"Yes, that she is," he agreed darkly, then turned to Scully.

"I'm going to the hospital with him," she informed him, her tone of voice telling him that this was not open for discussion.

"Of course you are," he agreed. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Keep me posted," he added and let her hurry after the stretcher. "Good job, agent Jones," he said to Jones.

She merely smiled. "Thank you. I wish I had arrived sooner. I might have been able to spare him some pain," she replied after the ambulance had vanished down the street.

"Don't blame yourself. He's alive. That's what we wanted out of this in the first place. Without you he might still be ... suffering." Skinner padded her shoulder and even managed a smile. "If you ever consider switching departments, agent Jones, you can give me a call. We always need good people." With that, he walked back to his car.

Jones looked after him, her expression serious. Experiencing what she had always dreamed of in real life wasn't as thrilling as she had thought. Most of the time, she'd been scared. And seeing what certain people did to others was a traumatic experience. Looking after Skinner's car as he drove off, she shook her head. "Nah, I think I'll stick with Missing Persons, thank you. At least there, somebody gives a shit." She hitched a ride with one of the police cars and was more than happy to be back where she belonged.


03.00 a.m.
September 1
North-West Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

Scully heaved a deep breath and tried to get more comfortable on the high backed armchair she was sitting on in the waiting room. The doctor's words after having seen what shape Mulder was in hadn't been too encouraging. "I only hope we can save his leg." Scully closed her eyes at the memory. Wasn't anything ever easy for him? Did he always have to get hurt so much more severely than others? She remembered that case where he had been shot in the leg. He had very nearly bled to death back then. And his trip to the Arctic. That had very nearly killed him, too. What would it take for him to live a normal life, she wondered.

Skinner came into the waiting room and sat down across from her. He looked as bad as she felt; completely depleted. "Have you heard anything?" he asked her after a moment.

"No, not yet," she replied and shifted hr position for the umpteenth time. "I don't know why it's taking so long," she added just as the door opened once again and the doctor came in.

"Miss Scully, Mr. Skinner. He's in recovery now," he said.

"How did it go?" Scully asked, getting up instantly.

"Well, his right leg was severely injured, as I'm sure you know. But the damage looked worse than it was. He will need some rehabilitation to get it up to speed again once it's healed properly, but that should be it for the physical part. The wound on his right side wasn't that bad. It again looked worse than it actually was. He's lost a lot of blood, so we've got him on a drop. He's got several stitches and a concussion to top it off. What I'm more worried about is the mental distress this might cause him. I've taken the liberty of requesting a counselor for him once he's fit enough to talk to one."

Scully nodded. That sounded like a good idea to her. "When can I see him?" she wanted to know.

"I would suggest that you leave him alone for tonight and come back tomorrow," the doctor suggested, but Scully instantly shook her head.

"No. I'm not going to leave him tonight. He needs somebody to talk to when he wakes up." She glanced at Skinner and noted the frown furrowing his brow. But she decided to ignore it.

The doctor looked at her for a moment, then nodded. "Fine. But he needs his rest. I don't think I have to tell you that," he said, nodded to both of them and left them alone again.

"Scully, it might be advisable to go home. You can't help him anyway," Skinner said after a moment's worth of silence.

"Yes, I can. If he wakes up and I'm not there ..." She left the rest unspoken, not bothering to explain. Either he got it or he didn't. She didn't much care what he had to say on the matter. She would stay.

"Fine. I'm giving you the day off tomorrow, Scully. Stay with him if you like. But I want a full briefing on what happened once he's up to it." He took one step toward the door, then turned back to look at her. "I want the file, Scully. The Castor-file."

Scully eyed him suspiciously. "Why?"

"Because it has to be destroyed. It is messing up people's lives and I'm not going to be responsible for that. Do you have it with you?" he asked, holding out his hand.

Scully stared at him for a moment, then sighed, opened her bag and pulled the file out. She looked at it for a moment, then gave it to him. "Mulder is going to hate me for that. I'm sure he would like to know what it was he was tortured for."

Skinner took the file, looked at it for a moment, then met her eyes. "The less he knows the more secure he'll be. Don't worry about any repercussions on this one. I'll make it official that the file is destroyed. That should prevent any further unwanted events from taking place." Pausing for a moment longer, Skinner thought briefly about what this all meant. Then he looked at her again. "Tell Mulder I'll fill him in on the file some day. I was, after all, one of the agents on that case." With those words, he turned around and left.

Scully looked after him, stunned. Somehow, it had never really crossed her mind that Skinner had once been in their shoes. That he had been a field agent. And the fact that he was involved in this case surprised her even more. It also explained his odd reaction when she had handed him the file. Heaving a deep breath, she let it out slowly and decided to leave it at that. Instead she headed out to find the room Mulder was in.


06.00 a.m.

Mulder slowly came to, wrapped up in a blessed blanket of painkillers. He felt fairly good despite the shiftiness of his vision. When he finally managed to focus, he saw Scully sitting beside the bed, asleep in the chair. The fact that she was there made him relax even more. He had known she would be and he would have been unhappy to say the least if she hadn't been.

She shifted a little, then opened her eyes and blinked at him. "Hi," she said with a smile.

"Hi," he replied and carefully cleared his throat.

"How are you doing?"

Frowning a little, he tried to get a grasp on his feelings. The lingering fear was there as he had suspected it would be, but he would be able to deal with it. "I don't know yet. I'm not really awake."

Scully's smile widened at that. It was good to see that his sense of humor was still intact. "They've called in a counselor who's going to talk to you once you feel up to it," she told him. "I think you would do yourself a favor by talking to him."

Mulder briefly closed his eyes, trying to suppress the dislike he felt for people who wanted to pry in his mind. He knew he needed someone who could help him deal with what had happened. Although he didn't feel any particular dread right now, he knew it would come once his body's resources were off the task of healing him. "Okay, sure," he finally said. "But for now, I don't want to talk to him. Okay?"

"Okay. Just promise me you will see him before you go down the drain," she insisted with a soothing smile.

"Yeah, okay. I promise," he said with a weak smile of his own. "So, where's the file?"

Scully stared at him, wondering what it took for him to lose interest in this one. "Skinner is going to destroy it," she said, knowing it would upset him, but not wanting to lie to him.

He tried to sit up and gasped as the wound just above his right hip complained strongly to that kind of violent movement. Scully grabbed his shoulders and pushed him down again before he could make the injury any worse. "Destroy it? I suffered for that damned file. The least I want out of this is to know what it's about," he gasped.

"I know that. I pointed that out to Skinner, too. But he was insistent. Besides, he's promised to fill you in on it when you're up to it," she said sternly, trying to make him behave.

"Fill me in? He can know about it, but I can't?" He tried desperately to get his breathing back under control, but the pain was a constant throb in his side and he felt slightly nauseous due to it.

"Mulder, relax. Skinner worked on the Castor-case back then. He probably knows all there is to know about it." That did calm him down. He held his breath for a moment, then exhaled slowly. "You do not need this right now, Mulder. You need to heal first. Do you understand?" And he had a long way to go in her opinion.

"Yes," he finally consented. "I understand." His voice was weaker than it had been before. Closing his eyes for a moment, he focused on willing the pain away, then looked up at her again.

"I know you're upset about this, Mulder. And you really don't need that stress right now. Would you please focus on getting well first? You've been through hell the last couple of days."

For a moment longer he just stared at her, then he smiled weakly. "Sure, Scully. If you say so," he said.


08.30 a.m.
September 22
Dina's Diner
Washington, D.C.

Skinner looked at Mulder and Scully for a long moment, trying to figure out if he should tell Mulder all there was to know about Castor. But then he decided to tell him enough to satisfy his curiosity, but not enough to wet his appetite for solving this case. In Skinner's opinion there was nothing to solve.

"John Castor was a mean son-of-a-bitch," he finally said, shaking his head sadly at the memory. "He was my supervisor at the time, but he was going his own ways already then. Castor had a love for unsolvable cases, but his preferences became more and more bizarre for every month that passed. He used to be the Golden Boy of the Bureau, showed a lot of guts and heart. But he took it to the edge and beyond. He crossed the line and he stayed on the wrong side. He got involved in something which we never managed to figure out what was and as a consequence, he became more and more anti-social, dangerous even. It is my belief that even the Cigarette-Smoking Man was afraid of him. I'm not sure, though. I didn't know him back then. But that is beside the point. Castor created a lot of problems. He risked the lives of his partners, even got two of them killed. The only thing that mattered to this man was himself and his agenda. They had given him the supervisor position because they hoped it would calm him down, get him out of the thick of things. But the increase in power created a monster."

Slowly turning his glass on the coaster, Skinner stared absentmindedly at the swirling drink. "I've seen a lot of things in my life I didn't much care for, but most of it never scared me. Castor did, though. There was something so inhuman about him. He sent a rookie into a warehouse once, knowing full well that the kid would get killed. There wasn't much left of the boy when they finally got to him."

Pausing again, Skinner looked up to meet Mulder's eyes. "He was involved in things I don't know anything about. We never bothered to look into it after his death. Mainly because everybody was glad to be rid of his bad influence. But, whatever it was, it turned him into a killer. And more. The case the file was based on was a simple case. A minor drug lord we had to bring down. Nothing special. We'd done that a million times before and it has happened a million times since. But on this occasion, John Castor was killed. The thing that bugged our superiors back then was that his body was never recovered. Some thought he had staged his own death so he could dedicate his time to his rather shady hobbies. I don't know what happened. I got wounded in the process along with a lot of others. Six other agents got killed. The whole thing was a disaster and when it was over, those of us that remained were happy to be alive. Until the Castor-file vanished about a month after his death, it got a lot of people in trouble. I don't remember who wrote the damned thing, though. I actually don't think that anybody will be able to tell you that either. A lot of odd things happened until it disappeared. Once it was gone, the strangeness went with it and we all silently agreed never to mention that blasted case or that man again."

Taking a sip of his drink, he shifted his position on the chair. "That's about all there is to tell about John Castor. The file has had a bad influence on people and that's why I've had it destroyed. There's no sense in keeping something like that around. I don't know if there are any copies of it around, but the original is history. And so is John Castor, I hope."

Mulder frowned a little. "So, it was never actually proven that he died?" he asked and Skinner shook his head. "That means he could continue whatever shady operation he was working with in peace."

"Yes, I suppose it does mean that," Skinner agreed, then gave him a sharp look. "Stay away from this case, Mulder. Think of what it brought you before you even knew what it was about. If you start digging, you might not like what you find. John Castor is dead and buried in my opinion and he should stay that way. Leave it alone."

"Is that an order, sir?" Mulder asked, his tone of voice slightly provocative.

Skinner met his eyes, then leaned back again and sighed. "No, Mulder. It's a bit of friendly advice. And a warning. You do not want to tread there. The Cancer Man is nothing compared to John Castor. Nothing!"

Mulder considered what Skinner had told him, what he had heard about the Castor-case since his return from the hospital and frowned. With a cold shiver he recalled the agony he had undergone because of the file and figured that certain things didn't need to be dragged out into the light of day. He eventually nodded. "Alright. I'll leave it alone. I've got no desire to get involved in this. Not after what happened."

Skinner eyed him closely for a moment, then nodded, relieved. "Good. I'm glad to hear that. Now, can we return to normal here? I don't ever want to hear about John Castor again if I, in any way, can help it." With that he got up. "I'm going back to the office now. Heed my advice, Mulder. Don't go near this case." Satisfied that he had said his piece in this, he then turned and left.

Scully and Mulder looked at each other for a moment, then Mulder leaned back and sighed. His right leg was doing better, but he still found it hard to walk without limping. He went over what Skinner had said again, thinking it all through, and figured that he had better stay away from this. But it did peak his interest that the case had never been solved and that there were so many strange things connected to it.

"Don't even think about it," Scully admonished him.

He glanced at her in surprise. "What? Did I say anything?" he asked, sounding innocent.

"No, but I know that look, Mulder. Listen to Skinner. Leave this one alone."

He looked her in the eye for a second longer, then he smiled. "Don't worry, Scully. I've learned my lesson here. I'm not touching this case with a ten-foot-pole. Let's get back to work, shall we?" With a sigh, he ran a hand through his hair. "Another unsolved mystery. How many monsters are we supposed to ignore, Scully?"

She patted his shoulder and got up. "Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees, huh, Mulder?" she asked.

Mulder looked up at her for a moment, his expression betraying his slightly bewilderment. "Who's talking about trees, Scully?" he wanted to know.

"Come on, Mulder. Let's go do some work for the money they pay us."

With a shake of his head, he followed her up to the register to pay for their drinks, still limping slightly. As he opened the door and held it for her, he glanced back into the Diner, for a moment staring at the booth they had just left.

"Are you coming?" Scully called.

With a shrug, Mulder stepped outside and let go of the door. It swung shut, closing out the daylight once more.

In the booth next to theirs, a man sat on the bench, leaning out for a moment to watch them go. There was a smile on his lips which didn't reach his ice-cold blue eyes.