A.D. Skinner's office
FBI Headquarters

Mulder sat down, aware of how his supervisor would respond to his theory. Having thought a lot about it, he had decided to go with Scully's version first. To pacify Skinner, so to speak. He could always air his true opinion if this one didn't work out.

Skinner eyed him thoughtfully, having his own ideas about what Mulder would say. "So? Did you find anything pointing toward the perpetrator?" he wanted to know.

"Uh ... kind of. Agent Scully and myself stuck our heads together and came to the conclusion that these murders are related to the statue. In order to catch the perp, I would like to ask your permission to take said statue to a safe house where this ... man will be given the opportunity to follow me. Apparently, the people who have owned this statue, whether in the legal sense or not, have died violently. The first artist was killed the self-same night he received the statue. Mary Starkweather died the night after she'd had the statue delivered to her house and the same goes for John Wilks. Although the statue as such was not his possession, but rather that of the art exhibition, which it obviously belonged to, he did take it to his home, intent on keeping it," Mulder explained.

Skinner's eyes narrowed for a moment, then he leaned back on his chair. "I don't like the idea," he confessed.

"Neither do I," Mulder replied. "But remember that all three victims were alone at the time of their death. I would not be alone. And I know what's coming. They didn't."

Pursing his lips, Skinner gave the idea some thought. He truly didn't like it, but on the other hand it was their best chance of catching that freak. "All right. We'll go with your plan, Mulder. But there will be plenty of back-up in the house and I want you out of the way at the slightest sign of danger. I do not want to have to explain to my supervisors why one of my agents was gutted on our turf. Do I make myself clear?"

Mulder nodded. "Yes, sir. Clear as crystal."

X X X

April 3
The Safe House

Pacing back and forth over the floor, too wired to sit still, Mulder glanced at his watch for the umpteenth time, then toward the windows and the door, expecting them to open. Now and again he would allow himself a quick glance toward the statue, never making full eye contact with it. Somehow, he could feel its eyes on him as if the stone would crumble and a black thing from hell would throw itself at him at any given moment. But it didn't move. It just stood there, stone that it was, arms stretched out, soulless eyes staring into the center of the room. One of the sharp claws had been tainted by the blood of one of the movers who had brought it here. He had cut his arm badly on it and had been sent to the hospital to have it stitched back together.

Another glance at the statue made him stop dead in his tracks. Staring at it, he frowned. Somehow, something seemed different about it. He couldn't quite tell what, but there was something odd about it. Slowly walking toward it, he leaned his head on one side, trying to figure out what it was. He stopped a few steps from it, examining it closely, feeling that odd attraction he had sensed earlier more strongly. Frowning, he kept staring at it, then suddenly realized what was off about it. A moment ago, the blood stains from that mover had still be there. Now, they weren't. His eyes fixed on the claw in question as he backed up two steps. The headset he was wearing crackled, letting him know he wasn't alone.

"What's up?" Scully's voice sounded slightly alarmed. Although he had said nothing, she could obviously hear something was wrong by the way he was breathing.

Adjusting the microphone, he kept his eyes on the statue. "The blood stain's gone, Scully," he said quietly and let his eyes drift over the sparse interior of the room he was in.

"Pardon?" She sounded a little startled.

"The blood stain left on the statue from that guy. It's gone," he repeated, sounding a little impatient.

"Somebody probably wiped it off, Mulder. Take it easy," Scully replied, her tone of voice low and soothing.

"No, Scully. I saw it there a moment ago. And now it's gone."

X X X

Scully, sitting in a room upstairs with two other agents apart from the others spread out over the house, leaned back on her chair. She was in constant contact with Mulder via the headset he was wearing and she had more or less expected him to go over the edge some time during the night. She just hadn't expected it to happen so soon. "Take it easy, Mulder. There's a plausible explanation for this," she said, aware that he was upset. She knew for sure that he had not lost faith in his original idea. That the statue would come to life.

Behind her, Agent McCain rolled his eyes at Agent Barrister. "Looks like old Spooky's managed to spook himself this time," he said in a low tone of voice. Barrister chuckled, nodding his head.

Wrapping her hand over the microphone, Scully turned around on her chair. "If you don't take this assignment seriously, you'd better leave. You don't want to be responsible for having a colleague gutted by a madman because you don't take him seriously, do you?" she snarled, angry as always when somebody put her partner down. Releasing the mic again, she didn't give them a chance to respond as she turned her back on them again. "Mulder, look around. Are you alone?"

X X X

In the livingroom below, Mulder glanced around almost anxiously. Taking a step to the right, he glanced behind the couch, up at the bookshelves, then back at the statue which had not moved and finally nodded. He was starting to feel very silly. "Yeah, I'm alone," he replied, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly to calm his thudding heart. "And ... uh ... Scully?"

"Yeah, Mulder?"

"Tell McCain and Barrister that they should remember to switch their headsets off before they start bad-mouthing me," he added, his tone innocent. If they made fun of him, he would freak them out. That was, after all, where he had his reputation from.

X X X

Scully glanced over her shoulder in time to see both Barrister and McCain ripping their headsets off, blushing. She knew very well that Mulder knew that they had still been listening in and she always got a kicked out of it when Mulder started messing with peoples heads. He usually only did it to those who sought to hurt him in one way or another. And he was damned good at it, too.

Smirking, she returned to her previous position. "I think they got the point," she said, doing nothing to hide the smile in her voice.

X X X

Letting himself drop down on the old couch, Mulder sighed and draped his arms over the back of it. "You know, I'm starting to doubt that he'll show," he said, glancing around. It was a cloudy night, not a star in sight, and they had been here for the better part of the night already. "Maybe if I take a nap he'll come."

"Yeah, and then you won't know he's there until he's digging his fingers into you. Forget it, hotshot. You're staying awake. And so will the rest of us. Besides, we can't expect him to be able to find out where the statue is this quickly," Scully replied, sounding a little tired.

Grinning, Mulder let his head drop back against the back of the couch. "Should we perhaps have left him a forwarding address?" he wanted to know, staring up at the cracked ceiling.

"Ha-ha, very funny," Scully replied, stretching uncomfortably on her chair.

Sitting like that, staring up at the ceiling, Mulder watched the shadow play from the shifting cloud cover outside for a while. There were no sounds in the house although there were eight other agents inside the house apart from him and Scully. Unsuccessfully trying to suppress a yawn, he covered his mouth with his hand for a moment, then allowed himself a moment's rest where he closed his eyes and thought of nothing. As he did that, a thought popped into his head. "Scully?"

"Uh-huh," she replied through a yawn.

"Have we checked what the weather was like on the nights of the other murders?" Mulder asked, opening his eyes again to glance at the window.

X X X

Scully leaned back on her chair and stared quizzically ahead of herself for a moment. His brilliant mind was once again in gear. She could virtually hear it working right now. "No, not that I know of. Why? Do you think the weather is of importance?" she wanted to know and turned her head to look out the window.

"Yeah, I think so. If I'm not entirely mistaken, those three nights had moonlight at least some of the time," Mulder replied and got up from the couch to walk over to the window. The heavy cloud-cover outside gave no indication of whether there was a moon at all.

Shaking her head in constant amazement, Scully smiled. How did he remember things like that? "Well, we can check if that was the case. You think moonlight is important?" Nothing but silence answered her. "Mulder? Do you think moonlight is important?" she repeated. There was no response and that made her slightly nervous. "Mulder?" she demanded.

"Yeah, I think it's important. I don't know why yet, but ... it's got something to do with that," he finally responded, then fell silent again for a moment. "Is it a full-moon tonight?"

Scully grabbed her calendar from her purse and leafed through it. "No. That was March 31. The next one is set for April 30," she replied, briefly noting mentally that the last murder had taken place on March 31. "Why?"

X X X

Mulder turned around and stared at the statue. "Then he won't show up tonight. He only attacks at full moon." Sending a glance out the window again at the overclouded sky, he sighed. "We might as well call it a night," he added, ready for the barrage of annoyance which would rain down on him from his other colleagues for not thinking of this before.

"Okay, if you say so. This is your show," Scully replied, sounding slightly bemused.

Raising an eyebrow, Mulder stared ahead of himself for a moment. "I'm glad you find this so amusing. I'm sure nobody else does," he said, surprised that his headset wasn't buzzing with grumbled annoyance.

"I'm sure you're right. We'll just pick up where we left off at the next full moon. No problem. Right, guys?" The last was directed at the other agents throughout the house and from the grumbled replies, Mulder could guess that they minded very much.

"No problem," he agreed and sighed. Again glancing out the window, he then turned and headed toward the door. In doing so, he passed the statue. Brushing past it, he thought he caught movement from the corner of his eye and stopped dead in his tracks, his head snapping around to catch the beast in motion. But there was no indication that it had moved. No change in its posture. For a long moment, he stared at it, then he slowly shook his head. "Tired," he mumbled and pulled the headset off. "I'm just tired." With that he opened the door and strode out to face the music. And neither of the others let him down.

X X X

April 30

Back at the safe house and the company of the statue, Mulder, Scully and the rest of the agents who had agreed to do this for another night, had spent the day going over what they knew of the three other murders and had all agreed on that the three murders had all occurred on a night with a full moon.

Agent Jones leaned back on his chair, staring ahead of himself for a moment. "Okay, so this loon thinks that killing the owner of the statue is something he has to do at full moon," he stated. Frowning, he folded his hands behind his head and turned his attention to Mulder. "Why?"

Mulder shook his head slowly, staring down at the table top for a moment. "I don't know. There seems to be nothing ritual about the killings. Who or whatever killed those people seemingly did it only for their personal amusement."

"Maybe these murders were done in rage? I mean, the way they were gutted?" one of the others suggested.

Scully shook her head. "No. There is no indication that this was anything but a well-considered attack. Despite the fact that apparently no instruments were used, there is precision in the assault. Whoever did this knew what they were doing. This kind of assault was meant to cause the victims as much pain as possible before they died." Looking around at all of them, she attempted to imprint on them how serious this situation was and how much more serious it could become if the perpetrator indeed turned up. "Be aware that even though this individual we're after does take his time to complete these assaults, it is possible that a great deal of damage could be caused if he is allowed access to any one of you. All I'm saying is that we should be really careful tonight."

The others nodded solemnly. None of them felt like making any wisecracks about Mulder's attempt to get his opinion in sideways. The situation was serious enough and since Barrister and McCain had decided to stay home - with Skinner's blessing, no less - things were quiet in the house. Mulder got up from his seat and wandered over to the window to stare down at the street outside the safe house. There were no guards outside the house since the perpetrator was supposed to gain access to the house unseen. Mulder just couldn't help thinking that the perp was already in the house. Standing in that living room, waiting for the moon to become full. Darkness was somehow of essence to that thing. But so was the full moon. Probably a combination of both.

"I still don't like this," Scully added, looking over at her partner with a gut feeling that this was something they shouldn't do.

"None of us do. But we all want to catch this loon," Jones said with a vague smile. "We can't have killers like that running around on the lose."

Folding her arms over her chest, Scully kept staring at Mulder. She knew something was going on in his head that had fairly little to do with what they had discussed here and she also knew what kind of trouble he always got himself in due to his beliefs. She just hoped that this time would be different.

X X X

Darkness had settled over the city a little while ago, but it would still take another half hour before the moon would show its face. Mulder stood at the window in the living room once again, staring up at a cloudless sky, every star in the galaxy seemingly visible. The moon had to be out, but he wasn't so sure it had to be visible. Frowning, he tried to recall the other murder nights, but as they had represented nothing special to him, it was difficult to remember them clearly. Besides, the definite time of death had not been established. Only an approximate time. Which gave them more or less the whole night to wait for the action. He glanced briefly back at the statue, which just stood there and was a statue and nothing else, and wondered if he was losing his mind. But that attraction he felt was still there and it was more potent than ever this night. With a sigh, he leaned his forehead against the cool glass, wishing himself away. He was starting to doubt that being here was such a good idea. Although he was considered to be pretty nuts by most of his colleagues, he didn't exactly harbor a death wish. And somehow, he couldn't help feeling that it was suicide to stay in the same room with the demon. "Scully?"

"Right here," her voice came immediately.

"Do you think I'm nuts?" he wanted to know, smiling a little at her expected reply.

"Of course you are, Mulder," she replied and he could hear the smile in her voice.

"Of course I am," he agreed and sighed again. "I'm beginning to have second thoughts here," he added, hoping that she might find some way of talking him out of this stunt he was trying to pull.

"Couldn't you have had those this morning?" Scully wanted to know, sounding slightly bemused. "We could be home, sleeping now."

Grinning, he almost responded to that one in an indecent manner. But he caught himself before it could slip out. There were others listening in. "Yeah. Sleep sounds good right around now," he said instead and yawned.

"Don't fall asleep, Mulder. If you're right, this guy's going to turn up any minute now," Scully said, hoping he wasn't lying on the couch or something similarly irresponsible.

Her words made him straighten up again. Although he was tired enough to drop, he felt oddly exhilarated. "I can't sleep while I'm standing up, Agent Scully," he said and smiled when he heard her sigh of relief.

X X X

Scully glanced at her wrist-watch, noted that it was half past twelve and leaned back on her chair. She knew that Mulder had to be just as tired as her and that alone made this a little more dangerous than it had to be. "Maybe we should call it off?" she suggested, hoping that he would go for it and knowing he wouldn't.

Mulder sighed. 'Be a little more convincing,' he thought, then shook his head. "Not a good idea. Let's just carry through with this, okay? If nothing happens tonight, we can go home and forget about it," he said after a moment.

Scully nodded to herself. She had expected as much from him. "Okay, Mulder. You're calling the shots," she said and settled back to wait.

X X X

The livingroom was very quiet when the moon finally showed itself. Peeking out behind one of the buildings across the street, it spread its meager light over that part of the city, sending milky rays through the windows. Mulder was still standing by the window, one shoulder leaning against the frame, staring out at the quiet street. A cloud cover was beginning to build, beginning to obscure the outline of the perfect full moon before it had completely cleared the building. Staring intently up at it, Mulder wondered if anything would happen anytime soon. The silence became eerie when he considered that seven other people were listening to what was going on in this room. Keeping his eyes on the moon, he frowned. The cloud cover was getting thicker.

Behind him, the room became darker as a massive cloud pushed in front of the moon, hiding it from sight. The statue was drenched in shadows when it started to move. The wings folded up against the body and its near-crouch straightened as it rose to its full height. Soulless eyes regarded the back of its potential victim as it took its first step forward.

Mulder stared up at the sky, lost in thought, his arms folded over his chest. Then for some reason he refocused on the glass of the window itself. It took him mere seconds to realize that there was movement behind him. "Scully?" he said, trying to sound calm. There was no reply. "Scully?" he tried again. A sound like escaping gas whistled through the air behind him. He stood still for a moment longer, groping for his gun in its holster under his left arm.

The demon bared its teeth in a silent hiss, raising its clawed hands up, ready to kill again, when its potentially defenseless victim suddenly turned around, ripped a gun out and fired. The slug hit it in the chest, forcing it back a step. If surprise had been a part of its senses, it would have been surprised. None of the other victims had fought back. But as it felt nothing apart from its instinctive need to kill, it hesitated only a second before it flung itself at the man.

Mulder was knocked back against the window hard enough to knock the breath out of him, the creature's claws from both hands and feet digging into his flesh. Its powerful hands had grasped his shoulders and the claws on its toes were digging into his thighs. Not one for giving up the fight easily, Mulder brought the gun up and fired several rounds into it at close range. The impact of the shots gave him enough momentum to throw the creature off. It hit the floor and recoiled instantly, moving with impossible speed and agility. But he managed to throw himself out of the way and at the same time ignore the pain from both legs and shoulders where its razor-sharp claws had cut into him.

He hit the floor at the same instance as the demon hit the glass, splintering the bullet-proofed pane with no apparent effort. Unable to get back to his feet again due to its rapid movements, he dragged himself backward, trying to get as much furniture as he could between himself and his attacker. But nothing in the room would be enough of an obstacle for it. All he could do now was try to get to the door so he could get out of the room. And all he could think of was that he hated to be right in cases like this.

With an effort, he hauled himself back to his feet once he had the couch between him and the demon and dared a glance over the edge. The demon was nowhere in sight. Breathing hard, he scanned the room, trying to get a fix on its location, but couldn't see it anywhere. Noise from beyond the living room door prevented him from hearing any sounds it might make.

X X X

Scully, alerted by the fact that the connection to Mulder's headset had shorted out and the subsequent shots, bolted down the stairs and ran toward the door to the living room, followed closely by two other agents. She grabbed the door knob, twisted it and threw herself against the door. But it didn't budge. "MULDER," she yelled, trying to force the door open. But it just didn't give in.

More agents joined her in the effort to open the door, but even when two of the biggest guys took over, the door still didn't budge. It creaked in its frame, but it didn't open.

X X X

Having the distinct impression that he was being watched from an awkward vantage point, Mulder kept scanning the room, his gun in one hand. "Where are you?" he whispered. He heard the racket at the door, but could do fairly little to accommodate his colleagues right now. A sudden inclination caused him to look upward and it was at the last possible moment that he did this. It was hanging from the ceiling, right above him, its eyes regarding him like a predator regarded prey. With a startled yelp, he launched himself over the edge of the couch, coming down painfully hard on the floor just as the demon hit the floor where he had just been. It hissed angrily, gnashing its teeth.

They played cat and mouse for a while with Mulder dodging its attacks with barely an inch to spare every time. The demon hissed in frustration every time it missed him, and although he was beginning to feel the strain of the constant movements, it showed no sign of slowing down. And he knew that if it got to him, he was dead. It would be a painful death, a slow one even. And the thought of those other victims was what kept him going, what kept his senses alert enough for him to dodge virtually every attack it made. It grazed him now and again, its claws cutting through the tough fabric of his jeans or ripping his t-shirt with no apparent effort. It drew blood, but the cuts weren't bad enough to slow him down.

He hit the door, grabbed the door knob and twisted it, desperate to get out. But he couldn't open the door from the inside either and he had to give up on the attempt seconds later when the demon launched itself at him in full flight. It hit the door with all twenty claws at once, barely missing his head in the process.

X X X

Scully and the two other agents who had tried to open the door paused at the sound of something colliding with the door from the inside. "Get this door open. I don't care how," she yelled, grabbed the closest heavy object she could find which happened to be a fire extinguisher and started battering the door knob with it. In her opinion, the man they had been waiting for had arrived and was right now trying to kill her partner. To prevent this from happening, she put all her effort into opening the door.

X X X