"A MILLION TO ONE"
A "Strange Luck"/"X-Files" Crossover
by Alison M. DOBELL
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING, WASHINGTON D.C.
"So where are you going?"
Mulder slid his jacket off the back of the chair. "I promised to meet someone. I won't be long, Scully."
Scully stood up and grabbed her purse. "I'll come with you."
Mulder paused, uncomfortable. "I promised I would come alone."
Scully frowned, suspicious. "Even more reason why I should come with you, Mulder."
Mulder shook his head. Scully took a deep breath. "Well at least tell me who you're going to meet."
"Nobody you know, Scully, but don't worry. I've had dealings with his brother in the past."
Scully watched Mulder leave, her lips pursed in an expression of disapproval. "So who's worried?" she murmered. Scully stared at the closed door. She did not like the sound of this but knew that nothing would make Mulder talk if he did not want to. He would tell her but only when he was good and ready. She gave a small exasperated sigh and turned to the file she had placed on top of her desk. She opened the folder without enthusiasm. Apparently some postal worker had reported seeing a UFO emerge from a lake, and another witness claimed to have seen several UFOs hover over the lake while appearing to siphon water from the lake into their craft. Scully groaned. Mulder was going to love this one.
* * *
Mulder followed the Interstate until he came to the fork then turned off and drove another two miles to the old truck stop. The diner was almost empty. Slowly he pulled in and waited. Just when he was beginning to wonder if he was wasting his time, a man came out of the diner and
walked slowly over to his vehicle. When he reached the driver's side the man ducked down so he could look Mulder in the eye. He seemed a little hesitant, his long coat flapping around his legs in the cold breeze. "Are you Agent Mulder?"
Mulder nodded. "Yes. What is this about?"
"My name's Harper, Chance Harper. My brother said to contact you if anything happened to him."
Chance nodded then glanced around. "Do you mind if we talk in the car?"
Mulder nodded and Chance walked round and got in the front passenger seat. "My brother's name is Eric Sanders but you may know him as Eric Vandeburg."
Mulder felt his interest quicken and waited for Chance to explain.
"I think he's in real trouble, Agent Mulder. In fact, they may have killed him already."
Chance shook his head then looked at Mulder. Mulder saw the concern and dread in the other man's eyes. "I don't know but I think they may be F.B.I."
* * *
THE BLUE PLATE DINER
Scully was curious. When Mulder had called her and asked her to meet them she had been at first surprised then relieved. But Chance Harper was not a bit like she had expected. For one thing, he was the most unthreatening person she had ever met plus there was a disarming honesty about him that made her feel inclined to believe his bizarre story. That he was genuinely worried about his brother, she was in no doubt. "You say you were the sole survivor of a plane crash?"
Chance nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I was two years old, that's when my adoptive parents took me in, but I kept having flashes about an older brother. Then my parents gave me the foot locker they had found with me when I was rescued from the crash and there was a jacket in it. A jacket I remembered being given to me by my brother. The name inside was Eric. But my brother wasn't on the plane so I figured he was still alive."
"Did you find him?"
Chance nodded. "Among the things he told me was some information about an F.B.I. agent called Wilford. Wilford was interested in my father because of his weird luck. Both my brother and I have inherited the same luck and Wilford wanted to find out more about it, use it for his own ends. He thought he could turn it into some kind of weapon. That's why he was after Eric."
Scully raised her eyebrows and looked at Mulder. None of it made sense to her. Chance looked resigned. "I know how crazy this sounds, believe me, and it gets worse. Recently I not only met up with my brother again but found out that my father was still alive. He'd gone into hiding from Wilford, changed his name, then no sooner does he turn up again than we run into Wilford and all hell breaks loose! There was an explosion and the next thing I knew I was alone. Everyone else had disappeared: my brother, my father, and Wilford!"
Scully looked at Chance for a moment in silence. "So what is this weird luck you and your family have?"
Chance gave a helpless shrug. "Things....just happen."
"What sort of things?"
"Accidents, fires, robberies, people falling off ladders, out of trees and planes - that sort of thing.
They just seem to happen around me and I end up rescuing people."
"And Eric? What about him?"
Chance paused, fighting with some emotion that almost overwhelmed him. "I know how slim my chances are of finding him, probably no more than a million to one, but I have to try. I don't know everything that Eric was caught up in and as far as I can tell my father was in even deeper, but I have to try. I have to find them if I can!"
* * *
Once in the safety of their own office, Mulder came straight to the point. "So what do you think?"
Scully shrugged and put her purse on her desk. "You have to admit, Mulder, it's a pretty bizarre story."
Mulder nodded then tilted his head thoughtfully. "Do you know what the strangest part is, Scully?" Scully waited for him to tell her. "I believe he's telling the truth."
For a moment neither spoke. Scully gave Mulder a quizzical look. "So what about his brother? You said you'd had dealings with him before."
"Our first job, Scully, is to try to trace Wilford. If we find him, my guess is we'll find Eric."
Scully gave Mulder a sarcastic look. "Yeah, an old bearded agent dragging around an oxygen tank and a breathing mask should stick out like a sore thumb, even in the F.B.I.! Why do I feel as if I'm trapped inside an episode of The Simpsons?"
Mulder leant on the desk and smiled. "No one said
this was going to be easy, Agent Scully!"
* * *
SHORES OF LAKE TACOMA
Emory Patterson watched the object suddenly light up, so bright he had to shield his eyes. When the light had diminished enough for him to risk looking again the craft had gone. He turned an ecstatic face to his friend, Earl. "See, I told you Earl! Proof postitive! I told you them things weren't no science fiction story. They gotta believe us now."
Earl looked shaken. When he had agreed to accompany his friend to Lake Tacoma he had not taken any of his stories seriously but now what he had seen had shaken him rigid. Emory started to pack up their camping gear. Slowly Earl came to his senses. "I know I saw it, Emory, but I still can't believe it."
Emory chuckled and clapped a friendly hand on his shoulder. He was walking on cloud 9. After years of telling folks the things he had seen this was the first time he had ever had a witness. They would believe him now. "Don't worry, Earl. Once we tell them what we've seen they'll send down some investigators and this whole thing'll be cleared up. You see if I'm not right."
Earl said nothing, he looked stunned. Emory frowned. "What? What's the matter, Earl?"
Earl gave a slow shake of his head, his voice sounding peculiar. "I don't think we're gonna be
telling anybody about this, Emory."
Emory was about to argue then realised Earl was not looking at him but at something behind him.
Emory turned to see what it was and at that point a bright light hit him...
* * *
Mulder was thoughtful. All of his more subtle lines of enquiry had failed to turn up any information on Wilford or even to acknowledge his existence within the Bureau. Of course there were more direct methods but if Chance Harper was right he could not afford to use them. He was concerned, thinking back to the first time he had met Eric. Even then things had been so muddled, chaotic, and tangled. Eric had been married then though Mulder had met his wife only once but it had shocked him when Chance told him about her death and the suspicious circumstances surrounding it. The seeming randomness of the things that were happening in themselves were starting to form a pattern. The picture it was creating was not a pleasant one. Mulder gave a long sigh then walked over to the telephone and stood looking at it for a few moments. He gave a small shake of his head, his eyes bleak and sad as if gazing on another scene a long time ago. Slowly he picked up the handset and dialed a number. "Danny? I need you to check something for me, but you have to be very discreet."
* * *
Earl was pretty badly shaken. He had no idea how he had gotten to town and at first had no recollection of what he was doing there. The Sheiff looked amused but he was not intially alarmed. He assumed that Earl had been out on the town, drunk way too much and was suffering the consequences. It would not be the first time and it sure would not be the last. "Look Earl, why don't you just go home and sleep it off? You'll be okay come morning, you see if I'm not right."
Earl did not respond. In fact, it did not look as if he had taken in a word the Sheriff had said. Instead he started to tremble, tears coming unbidden to his hazel eyes. Alarmed, Sheriff Jefferson hunkered down next to him realising the boy was in shock. "What is it, son? What's the matter?"
"He's gone!" Earl shuddered. "I saw it. They took him!"
The Sheriff frowned. "Who's gone, Earl? What happened?"
Earl looked away and shuddered again, then hugged himself and closed his eyes while tears streamed down his face. The Sheriff had known Earl all his life but he had never seen him in such a state. There was not so much as a whiff of liquor on the boy's breath and while he might
not be the brightest kid on the block, the one thing that he knew for certain about Earl was that he did not lie.
* * *
Shelly Fisher was adamant but Bobby Joe would not be moved. "Heck, Shelly, if you go saying things like that you're gonna get us both locked up! Just forget it."
"But you saw it too and don't tell me you didn't! I say we tell the Sheriff."
Bobby Joe flung a dirty look at his too-pregnant wife, then swung the trailer out onto the highway. "And tell him what?"
Shelly sighed, then moved quietly up the trailer to sit next to him. When she spoke again her voice had gone quiet, almost child-like. It was only later when he was thinking back that Bobby Joe realised she had been scared. "The light, Bobby Joe. We have to tell them about the light!"
For a long time neither spoke, then Bobby Joe glanced across at his wife and smiled gently at her. "Okay, honey. If you can stand the ridicule then what the heck, so can I!"
* * *
Scully watched Mulder's face closely. She had expected to see some indication of excitement when she handed him the case file but he read it in silence, a far-off look in his eyes as if he were reading the words but seeing something else. "Mulder?"
Mulder looked up slowly.
"Mulder, what is it?"
For a moment Mulder did not answer, then he tapped the case file lightly as he stood up. "Let's take a look at Lake Tacoma, Scully. See what Emory Patterson has to say."
Scully raised her eyebrows in surprise but said nothing. That was not what she had meant and Mulder knew it. She followed him out thoughtfully. Mulder had been in a subdued mood all morning and while there was nothing unduly surprising in that, she had a feeling he was keeping
something back from her. Scully was so in tune with Mulder that she could pick up a vast amount of information simply by looking at his face. The merest change in expression spoke volumes. What it told her now was that something serious was worrying him but she did not pry until they
were in the car. "So what did you find out about Wilford?"
Mulder paused then glanced across at her as he started the car. "He's a dying man, Scully."
Scully gave him a mildly sarcastic look. "I could have told you that..."
Mulder shook his head. "No Scully, you don't understand."
Scully frowned and waited for the explanation. Mulder pulled out of the lot and negotiated the traffic to filter onto the main highway. "Wilford is dying, Scully, but not of natural causes."
Scully looked at him in surprise. "What?"
"That tank of oxygen he carries around with him everywhere is his lifeline, but he only has a few days left at best."
Scully looked puzzled. "I don't understand. If that's true then why did he disappear?"
"I've been thinking back to some of the things Eric told me last time I saw him. About the work his wife was doing. At the time it didn't seem that important but now things are starting to fit into place. Eric thought it was some kind of biological or germ warfare they were working on..." Mulder's voice trailed off.
"Scully, I think it was one of the government's Black Projects!"
A look of horror stole across Scully's face. She took a deep breath before speaking. "Are you saying this has to do with experiments into alien DNA?"
Mulder shook his head. "No. This has nothing to do with alien DNA or UFOs."
Scully's initial feeling of relief was replaced by suspicion. "Then what?"
Mulder glanced across at her. "It is a form of biological warfare, only it is not being developed for use against a potential enemy, Scully." Mulder stopped at a red light and Scully's heart missed a beat as she saw the sick expression on his face. "It's being developed to use against our own people!"
* * *
Chance felt drained, he would be glad to get home though he knew he would not be able to rest let alone sleep. Mulder had promised to contact him the moment he came up with anything, but Chance was not very good at waiting. He needed to be doing something. Chance went over everything that had happened in his mind, trying to recall some detail he may have overlooked, some clue he had missed. He did not want to go back to his apartment just yet so he parked up then walked to the cafe. He needed some place he could think. But as he started to walk up to
the front door a man walked right into him. Chance automatically started to apologise but the man had his head down, grunted something unintelligable and hurried on his way. Just then something made him look across the road. A young woman stood on the opposite pavement with two small
children - a baby in a pushchair and a toddler standing near the kerb. The child was about three or four and as the woman turned to speak to the baby Chance had the sudden conviction that the toddler was going to run into the road.
Glimpsing a truck out of the corner of his eye, Chance dashed into the road just as the child stepped off the kerb and managed to scoop him up in his arms and just roll clear of the oncoming truck. Horns blaring and brakes screeching, the mother looked up in panic. Bruised but none the worse for the incident, Chance looked up and smiled from the gutter as the child wriggled out of his arms and ran to his mother. Chance got up and saw the anxious woman hug her child. Their eyes met and Chance saw that hers were filled with tears. "I don't know how to thank you."
Chance gave a slow smile. "You just did." He paused and was rewarded with a smile. He nodded then crossed back over the road. When he looked back the woman and her children were gone. In the cafe Angie was topping up a customer's coffee. Her eyes widened as she came over to him. "What happened to you? Have you eaten?"
Chance brushed himself down then sat on a stool as Angie grabbed a clean cup and poured him a coffee. "I've still got some steak and potatoes...?"
Chance gave her a lop-sided smile then nodded as he put his hand in his pocket to get his wallet. The smile vanished. Angie paused. "What's the matter?"
Chance looked around quickly and patted his pockets again then realisation dawned on him. "He stole my wallet!"
Angie looked at him in surprise. "Who?"
Chance dashed out the door and looked up and down the street but it was deserted.
* * *
Lake Tacoma was pretty quiet at this time of year despite being a bit of a tourist attraction. People came to the lake to fish, camp out under the stars, or simply take a break from the hustle and bustle of City or town life. But the peace and quiet had been cruelly shattered and now police black and whites were everywhere and curious onlookers craned their necks to see anything even
vaguely unusual. It was strange how whenever anything happened, no matter how distant or remote the locale, people would descend out of nowhere.
Mulder and Scully made a bee-line for the Sheriff, a harrassed looking man in his middle fifties. Mulder flashed his ID. "What happened, Sheriff?"
The Sheriff paused. "I didn't call in the F.B.I. but I can't say I'm sorry to see you folks."
Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance as the Sheriff took them to one side. "My name's Sheriff Jefferson. That boy over there is Earl Hayden, known him all my life, and if it wasn't for the fact that I've never known him to lie he'd be locked up right now for wasting Police time."
Mulder looked across at the boy. "What does he say happened?"
Sheriff Jefferson shrugged awkwardly, suddenly feeling more than a little foolish. He lowered his voice. "Seems he was with his friend Emory Patterson when they saw a strange ve-hi-cle hovering over the lake..." his voice trailed off as if he were reluctant to continue. Scully leaned forward. "Hovering? You mean an aircraft of some kind?"
The Sheriff shrugged. "That's what he says. Describes it as what some folks call flying saucers." The Sheriff gave them a hard look and was gratified to find neither of them was sniggering. It made it easier for him to tell them the rest. "According to Earl it was sucking up water from the lake."
Scully's eyes widened. "What?"
"Earl says the spaceship - or whatever it was - then hovered over them and a beam shot out, struck Emory in the chest throwing Earl backwards. When he sat up again the craft had gone and so had Emory."
Scully looked at Mulder. Mulder gave a little lift of his head, his keen eyes meeting those of the Sheriff. "So what did you do?"
"We went over every inch of this place, Agent Mulder, but we found nothing! I don't mind telling you, it's the damnedest thing that's ever happened around these parts."
* * *
Scully looked at Mulder as he walked over to the filing cabinet in their office. "So what do you think?" Scully frowned when he did not answer her and watched as he slid open the top drawer and started to sift through some old files. As he turned to face her, Mulder held up a handful of files. "These are all cases involving almost identical sightings and circumstances as those we found at Tacoma, Scully!"
Scully gave a little frown. "Which tells us what?"
Mulder dropped the files down on the desk with a thud. "This shows that the incident at Lake Tacoma is not isolated but the latest in a series that has been going on for the last thirty years! But none of them have been linked, each has been buried as an isolated incident in the X-Files."
"What are you saying, Mulder?"
Just then the telephone rang. Mulder picked up the handset. Scully watched his face change as he listened. "Where was this?" Scully held her breath. Mulder looked at her. "Okay Sheriff, we'll be right over!"
Scully waited only long enough for Mulder to replace the handset. "What was all that about?"
"They've found a trailer apparently abandoned off the Interstate no more than three miles from Lake Tacoma."
Mulder looked at her gravely. "The occupants appear to be missing. One Bobby Joe and Shelly Fisher, both local residents in this area."
"Maybe they went for a walk."
Mulder shook his head. "Shelly Fisher is eight months pregnant. The Sheriff also found signs of an unknown heat source and some charring around the immediate area. he's asking for us to meet him there as soon as possible."
Scully nodded and grabbed her purse and followed him to the door. Just as she reached the door the phone rang. Scully hesitated then went to answer it. She called Mulder back. "Mulder, it's Danny!"
Mulder nodded as he hurried back into the office and took the phone from her. He listened for a few moments then inhaled sharply. Scully was watching his face closely. "Yes. No, that's okay. Thanks Danny, I owe you one." Mulder put down the handset carefully before he would meet her eyes. "It seems Wilford is F.B.I. Scully. Or I should say was."
Scully's heart missed a beat. "What do you mean was?"
"Wilford was found dead in an alley, and Danny says that Chance Harper is the prime suspect!"
* * *
It took Chance a while for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His head was splitting with pain and it was hard to focus but gradually he was able to make out some shadowy detail. He was tied, hands behind his back, with what seemed to be some kind of twine that cut into his wrists when he tried to move. His feet were also tied together and someone had put a wide piece of tape over his mouth so presumably if he made too much noise someone might hear. That, at least, was encouraging. The floor on which he lay though was not, it was damp cold concrete and as his
eyes adjusted he could vaguely make out rough cast walls rising unevenly up to a very dusty ceiling that looked as if it was in danger of falling down at any moment.
Chance shook his head to clear his vision and was immediately sorry. He gave a low groan and leaned back onto the damp floor. It was then that he thought he detected a movement in the shadows opposite him. He froze and tried to sit up. He felt bruised all over as if someone had used him for a football, but his curiosity made him persist until he had managed to prop himself
upright against a wall. He waited a moment for the nausea to pass then peered again into the shadows. Was it another prisoner? Or was it his captors watching him? Cautiously he tried to look around but his bonds restricted him from too much movement, the twine so tight he caught his breath a few times with the pain when he forgot . Feeling tired he eased himself back against the wall and tried to think. The fact that he was still alive meant that he was deemed useful to someone, but who and why? And for how long? The who had to be Wilford, but why would Wilford want him alive? What was it Wilford wanted from him, or was he simply a bargaining chip in some elaborate game? If so, who was bidding and for what? Chance leant his head back
against the damp wall and immediately regretted it as pain flashed through his head causing him to see stars. Involuntarily, a muffled moan escaped his sealed lips and the dark patch of shadow that he had been watching seemed to stir in response. Chance froze and squinted, hoping to
catch some detail, an outline, anything, but he could still see nothing. Whoever or whatever it was had no intention of revealing itself. Chance cursed the tape across his mouth and wished there were more light. The dampness and the utter dark told him he was in some kind of cellar but beyond that his prison yielded up no further clues.
Chance rested for a few minutes then wriggled carefully so that he could lean sideways against the wall, avoiding the injury on the back of his head. He laid his left cheek against the cold damp wall, feeling the rough surface scratch his face like coarse sandpaper. It gave him an idea. He wriggled until he managed to anchor himself then rubbed his face along the side of the rough
wall until he felt the edge of the tape catch. Chance paused and gritted his teeth then started to methodically scrape the tape against the rough wall, trying to block out the pain as he repeatedly grazed the side of his face in an effort to work off the sticky tape. It seemed to take forever and several times he had to stop and rest before continuing but eventually his perserverence paid
off and one end of the tape came loose . Chance stretched his mouth open to free it and shook his head, ignoring how it made him dizzy. At last he managed to get the tape off. His face hurt and burned as if someone had set light to it with a blowtorch. Gingerly he explored with his tongue and tasted blood. Chance eased himself upright and rested a little before peering back into the shadows. Cautiously he whispered. "Is there anybody there?"
Chance paused to listen intently but all that greeted him was silence. He tried again. "You have nothing to fear, I promise! I won't hurt you, just come out and show yourself."
* * *
THREE MILES FROM LAKE TACOMA
As soon as Mulder and Scully reached the abandoned trailer, Sheriff Jefferson showed them the strange charred area in the grass some twelve to fifteen feet from the side of the road where the trailer was parked. The shape was irregular and roughly four feet in diameter. Mulder took out a pair of surgical gloves from his pocket and pulled them on then hunkered down to get a closer look.
Scully started to quiz the Sheriff. "So what do you think happened here, Sheriff?"
The Sheriff, who was watching Mulder closely, shifted his attention to Scully with a flicker of irritation. "How the hell should I know? I thought that was why you were here?"
Scully raised her eyebrows in surprised at his unexpected outburst and had the satisfaction of seeing him colour. "I'm sorry, but this thing's got me wound tighter than a watchspring. No offense intended."
Scully gave a nod. "We all want to get to the bottom of this, Sheriff."
The Sheriff nodded but said nothing. Mulder had picked up a little of the charred grass and was rubbing it between his fingers. The Sheriff watched Mulder sniff it and frowned at Scully. "What's he looking for?"
Before Scully could answer one of the Sheriff's deputies called out from a patrol car parked forty yards away. "Sheriff! Deputy Belton's on the radio for you!"
The Sheriff excused himself and left them. Scully watched and waited until he was out of earshot then looked at Mulder. "What do you think, Mulder?"
Mulder finished putting a sample into a small transparant evidence bag. "Sulphur."
Scully tilted her head. "Sulphur?"
Mulder put the bag in his pocket and stood up, turning slowly to look at the ground around him. "Several witnesses recalled an odour similar to that of rotting eggs before, after, or during a UFO sighting."
Scully raised her eyebrows. "And which is this?"
Mulder looked at her and gave a slight lift of his head in query.
"Is this before, after or during, Mulder?"
Mulder paused. "We won't know that until we locate one or more of the witnesses."
Just then Sheriff Jefferson pulled up alongside them in his patrol car and stuck his head out of the open window. He looked excited. "That was my Deputy Bill Belton over on the northside of the Lake. He's found Bobby Joe!"
* * *
Bobby Joe Fisher was freezing. Even wrapped in blankets he could not seem to get warm. His chalk white face and staring expression clearly mirrored his shock. Scully went over to check on him but the Sheriff blocked Mulder's path to prevent him following. Mulder looked at the Sheriff in query. The Sheriff made a gesture with his head and walked away from the others. Intrigued, Mulder followed him.
"Probably none of my business," said the Sheriff carefully. Mulder's interest quickly sharpened. "But my Deputy said he noticed some government types leaving the area just before he arrived."
"Did he say who they were?"
The Sheriff gave Mulder a hard look. "I was hoping you could tell me."
* * *
Chance saw a movement in the shadows but despite calling out softly a few times could get no reply. He paused and closed his eyes momentarily to try to shut out the throbbing of his head. Suddenly his eye flew open, what was that? He listened but all he heard was silence. Chance leaned forward and peered into the darkenss. "Hello? Is anyone there? There's no need to be afraid. Can you make some kind of noise if you can hear me?"
For a moment nothing happened then Chance heard a faint moan followed by a loud thump. His heartbeat quickened. Obviously, whoever it was must be bound in much the same way as he was. Chance looked around but the cellar seemed to be empty apart from himself and whoever
was hiding in the shadows. Only the wet floor and walls relieved the bare monotony of their prison. How he longed for a window or even a sliver of daylight to creep through a crack in the wall but there was nothing.
Chance crouched and rolled clumsily onto the wet floor, the half inch of water quickly soaking into his clothes and giving off the rancid musty odour of a place never open to the fresh air. It made him want to gag it was so foul. Carefully he part rolled and part wriggled his way across the sodden floor, his progress painfully slow. He stopped a couple of times to rest a little before he reached the man tied up by the far wall. It was strange the relief it gave him to find that he was not alone. The man lay with his back towards him and Chance could see the bloodied wrists where the twine had cut into his flesh. It told him the man had struggled, trying in vain to free
himself much as Chance had done. He wriggled closer, all the while his eyes adjusting to the darkness enabling him to make out more details. As he got to the man he froze. The man was wearing the same blue sweater that his brother had been wearing the last time he saw him. "Eric?"
At the sound of his voice, the figure started to wriggle and Chacne felt a lump come to his throat. Relief that his brother was, after all, still alive gave way to concern as to how they were going to get out of there.
Listen Eric, we have to get out of here. I'm going to turn around so that my hands will be facing yours. Between us we should be able to untie each other but it's going to be slow and painful. Are you ready?"
Chance heard a muffled sound then Eric banged his bound feet on the ground to emphasise his agreement. Chance wriggled round but what had seemed such a straightforward plan turned out to be nothing of the sort. Apart from the pain as the twine kept biting into his wrists, Chance found that his fingers were slippery from the blood but could not tell how much of the blood was his and how much was Eric's. Just thinking of his brother made Chance even more determined to keep going. He had no idea how long they wriggled, tugged, and teased at the twine before they eventually managed to free Chance's hands. As soon as his hands were free, Chance turned and untied his brother's hands and feet. While Eric carefully tried to rub the circulation back into his hands and wrists, Chance bent forward to untie his feet. When he looked up, his brother was pulling the tape off his mouth. "Ouch!"
Chance gave him a slow lop-sided smile. That was when Eric noticed Chance's grazed face. "What happened to your face? Don't tell me they nailed the tape on?"
Chance laughed and gave a slow shake of his head then winced involunatrily at the pain. His head throbbed like crazy but what did he care? His brother was alive! Eric noticed and brushed off Chance's protestations that he was alright and took a look at the back of his head. "That's a
nasty crack. Have you got a handkerchief?"
"It's okay, I'm fine!"
Eric tilted his head to look at his brother, sighed, then fished a handkerchief out of his own pocket and folded it into a pad which he then pressed against Chance's head. Chance gasped and closed his eyes, seeing stars. He felt dizzy and lightheaded, waves of nausea making him feel
sick. It took a few minutes for his head to clear enough for him to risk opening his eyes. When he could focus he saw that Eric was grinning back at him. "Lucky they didn't hit you anywhere important!"
Chance grimaced back at him then took out his own handkerchief so Eric could use it to hold the first one in place. Eric pointed to the side of his face. "How did you do that?"
"I used the rough wall to rub the tape off."
Eric made a face. Chance shrugged back. "It worked."
Eric looked at his brother thoughtfully. "So how did you end up here? I thought you got away?"
"After the explosion I tried to find you - but there was no sign of you, dad, or Wilford. I didn't like the look of things so I went to the F.B.I. I made arrangements to see your friend, Mulder."
"What did he say?"
"He said he would do some checking, see what he could find out about Wilford."
Chance looked away briefly then looked back at his brother, his eyes framing a silent apology. "I was supposed to wait until I got word back from him but I got impatient, so I went back to look for clues. Anything that would tell me what had happened. That's when someone came up and hit me from behind."
Just then they were startled by the sound of someone pulling back heavy bolts somewhere above them. The brothers froze and looked up toward the top fo the stone steps. Through the heavy door they could hear muffled deep voices, then there was a moment's silence before they heard the distinctive sound of a key being put in the lock and turned. Without a word they shrank back against the far wall and waited. With a creak and a shudder the heavy cellar door was flung open and light poured down the wet stone steps and bounced off the damp walls. Chance and Eric peered intently, trying to make out the details of their captors but the light turned them into large dark silhouettes devoid of detail. Chance strained to hear what they were saying.
"I don't want to go down there, Al - it's too dark!"
Chance heard the derisory snort and could tell that Al was not impressed.
"Then switch the light on, dummy!"
Chance saw the first man grope against the damp wall feeling for the old fashioned light switch. He heard him curse because the wall was so wet. The man called Al sighed heavily. He was obviously short on patience. "It's only water, Carl! Let's get this over with."
Carl grumbled something almost inaudible and tried again, this time his fingers found the metal switch but as he flicked the switch down several things happened simultaneously. There was a bright flash and a loud crackling sound as Carl fell headlong down the stairs with a startled cry, then everything went black. Chance and Eric could hear Al cursing at the top of the stairs, then
there was silence and the sound of retreating footsteps. Before Chance could think of what to do, they heard the steps returning and a torch light was shone down the stairs. "Carl! Carl, are you alright?"
There was no answer. Again they heard swearing then the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the stairs, the beam of light held steady to light the way down. As Al reached the bottom of the stairs, Chance saw the prone figure of Carl stretched out awkwardly, face down, in a shallow puddle of muddy water at the base of the stairs. Al approached the body anxiously and leant over Carl but did not touch him. "Say something, Carl! Are you alright?"
It seemed to dawn on Al that Carl was unconscious and unable to respond. For a moment Al hesitated, looking vulnerable and indecisive. Eric took the opportunity to lean close to Chance and whisper urgently in his ear. "If we make a break for it now we can overpower him and get
out of here!" As he finished speaking Eric started to move forward but Chance hung back, his eyes fixed on the man lying inert upon the floor. Eric stepped back and hissed in Chance's ear. "Come on, Alex! You can't do anything for him and this is our best chance to get out of here."
Chance shook his head. "We can't just leave him, Eric. I have to try."
Eric took a deep breath in exasperation. It was so like his brother to forget his own danger and think first of someone else. "Be a Hero another time!"
Chance gently shook his head and stood his ground. "I can't do it."
Eric let out the breath he had been holding. Reluctantly he nodded knowing he would not be able to change his brother's mind, then Chacne stepped slowly out of the shadows and raised his arms high to show he was unarmed and posed no threat. "Maybe I can help?"
Al spun round as if he had been shot, his face pale. But Chance noticed that, startled or not, he had taken a gun out of his pocket and was pointing it at him. Al was taking no chances. "How the hell did you get untied?"
Though the gun was trained on Chance, Al's eyes were darting everywhere as if suspecting a trap and waiting to be jumped at any minute. Chance stepped slowly forward, hands still raised. "Look, we don't have much time. Your friend has been electrocuted. We have to check he is still breathing and if not we have to try to re-start his heart."
Al frowned at Chance suspciously. "Why should I trust you?"
At this point Eric stepped slowly out of the shadows, taking great care to keep his hands open and away from his body. "Because you have the gun."
Alarmed, Al looked from Chance to Eric and for a moment Chance thought he was going to shoot them both but then he took a step back. As he did so, Chance stepped forward then dropped carefully to his knees and placed a hand on the side of Carl's neck to check for a pulse. When
he looked up his expression was troubled. "There's no pulse! Quick, help me turn him over onto his back."
Al gave Chance a strange look. "Why? Why should you care if he lives or dies?"
Chance gave a little shrug. "Let's just say because I do. Now are you going to help me or do I have to do this myself?"
Stung into action, Al put the gun back in his pocket and got hold of Carl's feet while Chance placed his hands under the man's shoulders. Eric put his hands under Carl's waist and between them they rolled the man onto his back. When Chance saw Carl's face lit by the torchlight he froze
for a moment as if he had been struck. Eric looked at him anxiously. "What's the matter?"
Chance gave a little shake of his head. "Nothing. I thought for a moment that I recognised him."
Eric frowned then looked down at the man lying at their feet. "What do we do now?"
"Watch what I do then when I tell you to, take over."
Eric nodded and watched as Chance bunched his right hand into a fist and struck the inert man in the chest. Alarmed, Al took his gun out of his pocket and trained it on Chance. "Hey! What do you think you're doing? Get away from him!"
Chance paused to look up but did not back off. "Look, we don't have time for this." Chance pointed at Carl whose face had already turned ashen. "He doesn't have time for this! If i can't get his heart re-started your friend will be dead and beyond the point where anyone can revive him. I'm not saying this will work, just that this is his only chance!"
Seeing Al waver with indecision, Eric spoke up. "Trust him, Al. He knows what he's doing."
Al turned to sneer at Eric. "Why should I?"
Eric's voice dropped, but his words were clear and seemed to carry more conviction because of it. "Because I do," he said simply.
Al looked at Eric, saw his sincerity, and looked back at Chance. He nodded but this time kept the gun in his hand. Immediately he had the go ahead, Chance raised his fist and thumped Carl's chest twice then placed one hand over the other and began chest compressions. As he did the compressions, Chance counted out loud looking at his brother as he did so. Eric took the hint and paid close attention so that when he took over he would be abe to get the timing right, then Chance stopped the compressions and tilted Carl's ehad back. Taking a deep breath he exhaled into Carl's mouth a couple of times then nodded to Eric. Taking his cue, Eric resumed the chest
compressions until Chance indicated for him to stop then Chance breathed into Carl's mouth again. They repeated this procedure for quite a few minutes before there was any sign that their actions would bear fruit. The first indicator was when Chance noticed the chest rise and fall for the first time unaided. He gave a slow smile that gradually lit his whole face with pleasure and gently brushed Eric's hands away. Eric looked at Carl and saw the chest rise and fall and grinned back at his brother with relief and something suspiciously close to pride. Chance looked up at Al and saw the man's stunned face. He looked as if he wanted to cry. "How did you do that?" he said softly.
Just then Carl started to splutter and shudder as he regained consciousness. Carefully Chance and Eric helped him to sit up. For a moment Carl seemed disorientated, his look unfocussed. "What happened?"
Chance explained. "You just got electrocuted and thrown down the stairs."
The man frowned, for a moment not comprehending. Chance looked around at the damp walls and floor. "This whole place is running with damp, walls and floors. My guess is that the light switch was metal. When you fumbled for the switch your hand got wet and the rest, as they say,
Eric nodded gravely at Carl. "You were almost history too. Alex saved your life."
Carl looked at Chance and frowned. It was all coming back to him. "Alex? I thought your name was Harper, Chance Harper?"
Chance nodded. "It is, but Alex is my real name. Eric is my brother."
For a moment Carl did not say anything, he was thinking. After a moment he got up, he was still feeling a bit shaky. He looked at Chance as if weighing him up. "But why? Why did you help me?"
Chance gave a little shrug. "Maybe I just wanted my wallet back."
Carl had the grace to colour a little. He looked away fro a moment. When he looked back at Chance, his expression was apologetic. "Sorry about that, I was just carrying out orders."
Eric looked at Carl intently. "Order? Whose orders?"
Carl shrugged uncomfortably. He looked at Chance. "I don't know. My orders were to grab you and bring you here so first I wanted to make sure I had the right guy."
Chance nodded as the pieces fell into place. "So you took my wallet to make sure?"
Carl nodded. "Nothing personal, you understand?"
Al watched the exchange in silence, not understanding most of it. He stepped forward and looked at Carl, waving the gun to indicate Chance and Eric. "So what happens now? What do we do with them?"
Carl looked non-plussed so Chance spoke up. "You could just let us go. Sort of look the other way. After all, you were electrocuted and nearly died. You could say Al was busy trying to revive you when we escaped."
Carl looked at them doubtfully then seemed to come to a decision. With one hand he brushed Al's gun to one side. "Put the gun away, Al, before you hurt yourself. As for you two, beat it!"
Chance nodded and started to follow his brother up the stairs when he paused and turned. "Hey! What about my wallet? I want my wallet."
Carl smiled and looked at Eric. "Is he always this stubborn?"
Eric grinned. "Usually he's worse."
Carl laughed and put his hand in his back pocket and took out a well worn brown fold-over wallet. He looked at it for a moment then tossed it to Chance. Chance caught the wallet gratefully. "Thanks!"
Carl shook his head, hardly able to believe the day's events. "You're welcome! Now get going before someone sees you!"
Eric tugged at Chance's sleeve to hurry him up then the two brothers turned and ran up the steps and out into the light to reclaim their freedom.
* * *
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING,
Mulder and Scully stepped out of the Interview Room in silence. Mulder paused thoughtfully in the corridor as he closed the door. Scully looked at him in frustration. "I don't get it, Mulder. You spend every waking moment chasing reports of flying saucers and when you finally get a case with everything in it - UFOs, witnesses, abductees, physical evidence and aliens it's still not enough! What is it you want, Mulder? What are you really looking for?"
Mulder looked at Scully, a subtle sadness tempering his features. He was sad she needed him to explain it to her. He thought she knew him better. "The truth, Scully. I just want the truth."
"And what if it turns out to be something you don't want to hear? Then what?"
Mulder paused. "Whatever it is, it has got to be better than all the lies, Scully."
Scully raised her eyebrows. "What lies?"
Mulder gave her a larconic shrug and half rolled his eyes. She noticed he looked tired. "I don't know, Scully. It just doesn't feel right."
Scully paused. "It doesn't feel right?"
Mulder nodded. "Doesn't it seem a little too perfect, Scully?"
Scully sighed and put her hands on her hips in exasperation. Mulder leaned towards her so that he could whisper. "Don't tell me that you believe?"
Scully gave him a sour look that made Mulder smile. He straightened up and started to stride off down the corridor. Scully frowned. "Where are you going?"
Mulder half turned but kept on walking. "We have a date with the morgue, remember?"
Scully looked at her watch and groaned. She had forgotten about Wilford. She glanced back towards the Interview Room. "What about Fisher? Price and Porter are expecting us to go back and finish the interview."
Mulder gave a little lift of his head as he answered. "I think we can leave him to Laurel and Hardy for the time being, don't you? We'll check back with them later and sort out the paperwork."
Scully tried to hide a smirk but failed miserably. She had to admit that Price and Porter were hardly the FBI's finest. Quickening her step she caught up with her partner. Whatever else you could say about working with Mulder, it was never boring.
* * *
As Eric followed Chance to his apartment block he hesitated. "I'm not sure this is a good idea!"
Chance paused. "Look, I don't have any other place to go. What do you suggest?"
Eric glanced around cautiously before answering. "I know, but don't you have any friends who could put us up? Just until we find out if it's safe?"
Chance's look hardened. "No. I'm not getting anyone else involved in this! Besides if anybody's looking for us this is the last place they would expect us to turn up."
Eric looked at his brother for a moment. "Unless they know you of course."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Eric shook his head. "Nothing. Forget it."
The brothers lapsed into silence. As Chance passed his neighbour's door and headed for his apartment, the door opened and a young woman wearing a welder's protective helmet stuck her head out into the corridor to call after him. "I thought that was you!"
Chance stopped and turned.
"She said she knew you so I figured it was alright to let her in."
Chance frowned then looked back towards the door of his apartment. When he turned back to question the woman she had already gone back inside and closed her door. Eric looked amused. "Who was that?"
Chance shook his head. "Don't ask!"
Chance took out his key to open the door but as he got closer he could see it was slightly ajar. With one hand he gently pushed the door open and stepped carefully inside with Eric following close behind him. Chance paused just inside the doorway to listen. It was quiet, but someone had put a light on in the kitchen area. Slowly Chance looked around but saw nothing untoward. Cautiously he looked in the kitchen and as he turned a figure moved slowly out of the shadow, startling him. He quickly recovered when he realised he had seen the woman before. "Dr Vale?"
The woman nodded. "Among other names..."
Eric looked at her closely, his expression suspicious. "You're Lola - Wilford's friend!"
Lola shook her head. "Wilford doesn't have any friends! I'm his associate, we were never friends though I once made the mistake of thinking we were."
Chance looked surprised at the trace of bitterness in her voice and wondered at it. "Mistake? What makes you say that?"
Before Lola could answer him, Eric interrupted impatiently. "We don't have time for this - it's not important."
Lola looked at Eric. "You should listen to your brother, you might learn something."
Chance leant towards her. "Like what?"
Lola gave a small sigh and Chance realised that she was tired. She looked like she had not slept properly in weeks. Her eyes fastened on Chance as she took a seat. "My mother was Marlene Clay, the woman Wilford advised not to get on that plane all those years ago..."
Chance looked at her in surprise. "What? You were one of the children with her?"
Lola shook her head. "No, I wasn't even born then! I came along afterwards. Mom called me her gift, her special child. If Wilford hadn't persuaded my mother to take another flight I would not have been born."
Chance nodded slowly, his eyes locked on hers. "So you figured you owed him?"
She shook her head. "No, worse than that! I thought I could trust him."
Eric eyed her suspiciously. "Why should we believe you now? You've already led us into a trap once before. How do we know this isn't another?"
Lola shrugged. "You don't, but for what it's worth Wilford was going to have me killed."
Chance looked at her thoughtfully. "Why would he do that?"
Lola paused, her voice dropping to almost a whisper. "For trying to help you."
For a moment no one spoke. Chance exchanged a look with with brother before continuing. "So why are you trying to help us?"
Lola's face took on a pained expression. "I never did feel happy about what happened. The plane blowing up with all those people still on board." Her eyes locked on to Chance's. "Only you survived."
Chance said nothing. Lola gave a little apologetic shrug. "Whatever else was going on, you were the one person I was sure was innocent and the more I worked with Wilford the more determined I became that he wouldn't get you too."
Eric frowned. "Why should you care?"
A sadness clouded her eyes as painful memories from the past came back to haunt her. "I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of, been party to things that would give most people nightmares, but I always believed I was doing the right thing. That the end justified the means." Her voice trailed off quietly.
Chance looked slightly baffled. "So what changed your mind?"
She looked directly at him. "You did."
Chance looked surprised. "Me?"
Lola nodded. "I knew Wilford had a history with your father but at the time I didn't know the details and I believed what I was told, that he was in some way a threat to national security. Then your father disappeared and Wilford started to show interest in Eric and given where he was working I believed Eric was carrying on where your father left off. I was led to believe that Eric was some kind of spy selling government secrets to the highest bidder. It was only when Wilford started to turn his attentions to you that I started to get suspicious and to suspect that his motivation was personal. I started to watch and listen more closely, trying to piece it all together. What I found out frightened the hell out of me until I just couldn't keep up the charade any longer."
Eric was not convinced. "But it didn't frighten you enough to stop you wanting to help?"
Lola nodded. "Once I suspected Wilford's true motives I was consumed with guilt. I knew I either had to bite the bullet and carry on as if nothing had happened or do something."
Eric looked suspicious. "You could have just run away."
Lola shook her head emphatically. "You don't understand. That's the one thing I could not do! If I've learnt anything about Wilford it's that he would never have stopped looking for me and he would have found me."
For a long moment no one spoke then Chance sat down next to Lola. "You took a big risk coming here, Lola."
Lola did not answer but looked down at her hands. Eric stuffed his hands in his pockets and started to pace the floor. "So what do we do now?" he said impatiently.
Chance shrugged and glanced around, then looked at Lola's tired face. "You take the bed, we'll sleep down here."
Lola looked alarmed and shook her head. "No, I couldn't!"
Eric stopped pacing, his suspicions aroused again. "Why not?"
Both Chance and Lola ignored him. "You look all in. It's up those stairs, you can't miss it, okay?"
For a moment Lola just looked at him then nodded. Chance watched her stand up and showed her to the spiral staircase. Eric waited until she had gone upstairs. "What do you think you're doing?"
"She's all in, Eric."
Eric looked at Chance as if he wanted to shake some sense into him. "She's setting us up, Alex, and you're falling for it!"
Chance shook his head. "I don't think so."
"What makes you so sure?"
Chance paused and looked at his brother, willing him to understand. "I don't know, it's just a feeling I have. And don't forget, she tried to help us once before."
Eric thought about that for a moment, nodded, then sat down next to his brother. "Okay, but I still don't trust her." He paused. "By the way, do you want me to call you Alex or Chance?"
Chance shrugged. "I don't mind."
Eric tilted his head and looked at him thoughtfully for a moment then smiled. "Chance suits you, you know? I'll call you Chance."
Chance gave his brother a slow smile. "It really doesn't matter, honest."
Eric smiled. "It matters," he said gently then stood up. Eric started to walk away, paused then turned. "Say Chance, where do you keep your spare pillows?"
* * *
"Do you know what killed him?"
Scully paused and glanced down at the body on the slab. "There are no marks of violence, no broken skin or contusions, nothing to suggest a struggle. As far as I can see he died from asphyxiation."
Mulder leaned over the body, his expression intent as he looked at the face more closely. "Smothered?"
Scully paused as she peeled off her gloves. "No, more a complete lack of oxygen to the lungs."
Scully finished peeling off her surgical gloves and chemical scrubs and tossed them in the bin. "I won't have the toxilogical results back for a while but at a guess I would say not. You said it yourself, Mulder. Lansdale Wilford was a dying man with only a few days left at best. He was 57 years old and not in good health due to exposure to some kind of chemical agent that severly disrupted his respiratory system and was slowly killing him."
Another thought occurred to Mulder. "So if it was death by natural causes what happened to his oxygen tank?"
Scully shrugged. "Maybe he got fed up with dragging it around with him? Maybe he just got tired. After all, why would someone want to kill him? He was already dying."
Mulder shrugged. "Maybe the killer didn't know that."
A disturbing thought occurred to Scully. "Or maybe the killer simply couldn't wait."
* * *
THE BLUE PLATE DINER
Chance, Eric and Lola walked into the Cafe to find Angie hovering just inside the door where she had been anxiously awaiting their arrival. Seeing Lola, Angie paused and gave Chance an uncertain look. "Who's she?"
"I'll tell you later, it's a long story."
Angie nodded. "Okay, but let's go out back."
Chance, Eric and Lola followed Angie behind the bar and into the back of the cafe. Chance looked concerned. "So what happened, Ange? Why all the cloak and dagger stuff?"
Angie took a breath to calm herself down, her nerves were all on edge. "Some men came in here looking for you, or should I say you and Eric. I think they'll be going over to your apartment next."
"Who were they? FBI?"
Angie shrugged. "I don't know but I don't think so."
Eric leaned towards Angie. "What did they look like, Angie?"
Angie thought a moment. "They were dressed in suits but there was something military about them, I can't put my finger on it but they scared the hell out of me. They didn't look like the type you should mess with if that helps."
Eric nodded. "That makes them most probably CIA or NSA."
Angie frowned. "But why would they be after you and Chance?"
Chance gave her a look and Angie spoke for him. "I know, don't tell me - it's a long story!"
Chance smiled then the smile faded. "Well we can't stay here and we can't go back to my apartment."
Eric looked at his brother. "So what do you suggest?"
Chance paused. "I think it's time we called in the cavalry."
Eric raised his eyebrows in query. "The cavalry?"
* * *
INTERVIEW ROOM, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING,
Mulder put his hands on his hips and walked passed Billy Joe Fisher thoughtfully. Scully, sitting across the table from Fisher re-assessed what he had told them so far. Price and Porter had grumbled surprisingly little about being left holding the baby but had excused themselves at
the first opportunity. Looking across at Billy Joe, Scully could hardly blame them. "So all you remember Mr Fisher, is seeing this bright light and pulling over onto the side of the Highway then getting out for a closer look?"
Bobby Joe nodded. "Shelly had seen the light before and nagged me into taking her into town to report it to the Sheriff, that's where we were heading at the time. Up until then I have to admit I didn't believe her." He paused and shrugged, suddenly embarrassed. "But then this light appeared and suddenly it wasn't funny any more. She wanted a closer look, and to be truthful so did I. I couldn't believe I was seeing what I was seeing, so we got out of the trailer and the next thing I know we were hit by this beam of light. When I came to there was no sign of Shelly and the light was gone!"
"And you don't remember anything else?"
Bobby Joe shook his head miserably then looked at Mulder. "What happened to me? And what have they done with my wife?"
Mulder leant on the table. "Have you ever undergone hypnotic regression, Mr Fisher? It's possible we may be able to retrieve details suppressed by the trauma of your experience."
A look of panic came into the man's eyes. "I'm not having anyone messing around with my mind!"
Mulder looked at him in mild surprise. "According to your own account Mr Fisher, someone's already been messing around with your mind. Wouldn't you like to find out who?"
Just then Mulder's mobile rang. Excusing himself he left the Interview Room. Scully frowned at Mr Fisher. "I can understand your reluctance Mr Fisher, but there really is nothing to worry about. We simply want to find out what happened to you - fill in the blanks. It may help us find your wife."
Bobby Joe did not say anything, he looked anything but enthusiastic and had lapsed into a sullen silence. Just then Mulder stuck his head through the door. "Scully, can I see you for a moment?"
Scully left the interview room and gave Mulder a quizzical look as she closed the door behind her. "What is it?"
Mulder leaned close to her and lowered his voice. "I have to go. That was Chance Harper, he's found his brother but there are people after them. You go back inside and see what else you can find out from Fisher."
* * *
AN OFFICE SOMEWHERE DEEP INSIDE FBI HEADQUARTERS
"Take a seat Mr Sanders, or whatever name you happen to be using at the moment! It doesn't really matter anyway, we both know who you are."
Robert Sanders kept his temper with difficulty. Reluctantly he took a seat and shot a venemous look at the man sitting opposite him in shadow, wreathed in smoke. "Now I'm here you can call off the search for my sons!"
The man in shadow took a slow drag on his cigarette and let the smoke spiral upwards before replying, his voice a mild mocking rebuke. "Come now, we are not monsters."
"That's a matter of opinion, wouldn't you say?"
There was no immediate reply. He took another drag on the cigarette then slowly extinguished the half-smoked stub into an astray. The simply manoeuvre was deliberate and precise, almost a warning. "You can hardly leave a job half done."
"What assurance do I have that my sons will come to no harm if I help you?"
The cigarette smoking man paused, he knew he had already won. "No assurance, no assurance at all! But as long as you continue the work the need for such assurance hardly rises, does it?"
For a long moment neither spoke, eyes locked in a silent duel. At last, Robert Sanders dropped his eyes. The cigarette smoking man spoke mildly, his voice silky and smug. "I knew you would eventually see things my way."
* * *
INTERVIEW ROOM, J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING,
"Look Mr Fisher, I can assure you hypnotic regression is a perfectly valid means of looking beyond the trauma of an event to uncover the facts."
Bobby Joe shook his head vehemently. He seemed more afraid of the idea of being hypnotically regressed than of the abduction.
Scully frowned. "What is it Mr Fisher? What are you so afraid of?"
Bobby Joe shot her a look and for just a moment she saw a flicker of real fear then it was gone. Fisher shook his head. "It's a loss of control, having somebody else crawl around inside your head and being unable to see what they're doing or to control your actions. It's like being violated!"
Scully was surprised at the strength of feeling injected into that reply. It spoke volumes and disturbed her more than anything else he had said. His words echoed reservations of her own, reservations that she had confided in no one - not even Mulder. As if knowing he had upset
her, Bobby Joe apologised. "I'm sorry, Agent Scully. I can't expect you to understand."
Scully gave a slow nod, her expression closed. "Of course."
Just then they were interrupted by a knock on the door. Scully got up and went to see who it was. An agent stood just outside the door. "Agent Scully, can I see you for a moment?"
Scully looked back at Bobby Joe. "I won't be a moment Mr Fisher. Please think about what I said."
She closed the door behind her and looked at the agent. "Agent Scully, there's a Sheriff Jefferson asking to see you and Agent Mulder. He says it's very important you go immediately."
Scully glanced back towards the door of the interview room. "In that case, can you have someone sit with Mr Fisher? This shouldn't take long."
* * *
WRIGHT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Shelly Fisher felt disorientated. It was dark and she was bare footed, scarcely noticing the ground beneath her feet or where she was going. When bright lights illuminated her suddenly, she froze in fear. Unable to move even to save herself. It was said that she had whimpered like a frightened animal when they approached her and now she was at Wright Memorial, unable even to tell them her name.
Sheriff Jefferson nodded to Scully to show her ID as they approached the hospital compound, but they said nothing until they were parked with their visitors badges in place. Scully put her hand on the Sheriff's arm to stop him getting out of the vehicle. She wanted some answers. "If nobody knew her name how did you know Shelly Fisher was here?"
The Sheriff puffed out his cheeks. "I am the local Sheriff, Agent Scully, and while I may not have scaled the heights of the FBI I am quite capable of identifying someone from a photograph!"
Scully looked surprised. "They sent you a photograph?"
The Sheriff nodded. "Standard procedure. The girl was found with no ID on her and no explanation for how she got here."
Scully glanced around at the base and raised her eyebrows. "Shelly Fisher came here?"
The Sheriff waved a hand. "Well not here exactly. She was found wandering on the runway at the nearby air base. They say she seems to be in some kind of deep shock."
They got out of the vehicle and a guard met them at the entrance, confirmed their IDs then showed them through. Inside, the hospital was much like any other except instead of being filled with civilians it was full of military personel. This was where military trauma victims came and
security was airtight. All the more reason why Scully could not understand how an eight months pregnant woman could end up wandering on the runway of a top security airfield. Something here simply did not add up and she intended to find out what.
* * *
Eric paused as Mulder opened the door of his apartment. "Thanks for helping us, Mulder, I appreciate it. We won't be staying long - just until we can figure out something more permanent."
Mulder nodded and looked at the two brothers. The likeness between them was not striking but it was there. Lola Vale was not with them. As soon as Chance had mentioned calling in the the FBI she had made her excuses and left. When Chance had asked how they would find her again she said they would not, if they needed to meet up again she would find them. Chance did not try to disuade her but thanked her for trying to help them. He had been surprised when she had leant forward and brushed a kiss on his cheek. Eric had been amused but Chance had felt strangely moved. He had the distinct feeling their paths would cross again someday. Mulder looked at the graze healing on the side of Chance's face. "What happened to you, Chance? It looks like you've been in a fight."
Eric laughed. "You could say he's been literally banging his head against a brick wall!"
Mulder looked at Chance in query. Chance shrugged, smiling. "It's a long story."
Mulder nodded then grew serious. He eyed the two brothers thoughtfully for a few moments, wondering how best to broach the subject. Seeing his expression, Eric's smile vanished. "What is it, Mulder?"
Mulder tilted his face so that he could watch both of their faces at the same time. "When was the last time either of your saw Wilford?"
Chance and Eric exchanged a look. Chance spoke first. "When the fuel exploded I was initially knocked out and when I came to I was in hospital. No one seemed to know anything about what had happened to the others. As far as I could find out, they only found me."
Mulder looked at Eric. Eric made a face. "I wasn't so lucky! After the explosion, I woke up to find myself in some kind of cellar. I was trussed up like a turkey and there was no sign of Chance, my father or Wilford."
Mulder's interest sharpened. "Someone kidnapped you?"
Eric nodded. "And not just me as it turned out. After Chance got in touch with you someone jumped him and we found ourselves sharing the same dungeon!"
Eric shook his head interrupting him. "We don't know."
Chance decided to add his ten cents worth. "I can tell you this. Whoever hired the goons that held us didn't pick them for their brains though we never did find out who they were working for."
All three fell silent for a moment then Chance asked a question foremost on his mind. "What about my father, Agent Mulder? Did you find out anything?"
Mulder shook his head. "I'm sorry, the trail is completely cold. He could not have disappeared more thoroughly if he had vanished into thin air."
Eric looked at his brother's crestfallen face. "That doesn't mean a thing, Chance! He laid low for almost thirty years when Wilford was after him, don't give up on him yet."
"That's another thing I wanted to talk to you about," said Mulder. Immediately he had their complete and undivided attention. "Wilford's dead! He was found in an alley earlier on today."
If Mulder had been in any doubt as to whether Chance or Eric had been involved in Wilford's death, the stunned expression on both brothers faces spoke more eloquently for their innocence than any amount of verbal denials. Eric recovered first. "Who killed him?"
Mulder gave a slow shake of his head. "We don't know. We don't even know if he was murdered or whether it was natural causes. At the moment, nothing is being ruled out."
Just then Mulder's mobile rang. He excused himself and stepped to one side for a little privacy. It was Scully. "Mulder, it's me! You're not going to believe this but right now I'm at the Wright Memorial Hospital with Shelly Fisher."
"What? That's great news! Is she alright?"
Mulder could almost hear Scully smile, it was in her voice. "Mulder, Shelly's given birth to a healthly 7lb baby boy!"
* * *
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR WALTER S. SKINNER'S OFFICE,
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING, WASHINGTON D.C.
"I called you both here to thank you on behalf of the Sheriff's Department for your help in their missing persons case..."
Scully and Mulder exchanged a look. "Missing persons?"
"Yes, Agent Scully. As of this moment this case is closed, solved, no further FBI involvement is necessary or warranted. You may return to your normal duties."
Mulder tilted his head as he looked at the Assistant Director. "May I ask how the case was solved. sir?"
The Assistant Director nodded. "It seems it was all a hoax, Agent Mulder. Emory Patterson came forward and confessed that he had set up the whole thing with the help of some friends. That's why Bobby Joe Fisher began to panic when you wanted him to be hypnotically regressed."
Mulder did not look wholly convinced. "Would you mind if I spoke to him?"
The Assistant Director's voice hardened. "The case is CLOSED, Agent Mulder! The Sheriff is embarrassed enough at being taken in by all this alien nonsense. I'm sure you know the feeling."
Mulder's face tightened into new battle lines. "Yes, sir."
The Assistant Director relaxed a little. "There is one thing before you go." He looked at Scully. "In the light of your autopsy report, Agent Scully, the Coroner has recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. The alert posted for Chance Harper has been cancelled and the matter is now formally closed."
Scully nodded. "Thank you, sir."
The Assistant Director paused when the agents made no move to leave. "Was there something else?"
Mulder cleared his throat softly. "I was wondering if you had heard anything about the possible whereabouts of a Robert Saunders, sir."
Skinner leaned back in his chair, the light from the window reflecting off his glasses so Mulder could not see his eyes. It was always a disconcerting effect. He wondered idly if the Assistant Director was even aware of it. "No. Should I?"
Mulder gave a little shrug then nodded in sudden understanding. "No sir, thank you sir."
Once outside the Assistant Director's office Scully turned on her partner. "What was that all about, Mulder? Yes sir, No sir, three bags full sir! Would you care to explain?"
Mulder gave her a half-smile that had nothing whatsoever to do with humour. "Not here, Scully."
Once back in their office, Mulder went to the filing cabinet and took out a pile of case files. He held the wad up to Scully then put them on the desk in front of her. "Do you know what these are, Scully?" he asked softly.
Scully sighed. She was getting tired of this game. "Those are the reports of UFO activity and sightings in a thirty mile radius of lake Tacoma, why?"
Mulder shook his head. "No, Scully. Those are a pile of Red Herrings!"
Scully frowned. "I don't understand..."
Mulder sat on the edge of his desk and looked at her. "Deep Throat once told me that a lie is most convincingly told when it is placed between two truths. Why go to such elaborate lengths to convince me that this was the latest in a long line of UFO sightings and possible abductions, Scully? Why go to all that trouble?"
Scully was looking intently at him now. "Suppose you tell me, Mulder."
Mulder paused. "It was a distraction, Scully. This case did not come up until AFTER Chance Harper contacted me asking for my help in finding his brother."
Scully's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "That is just so paranoid, Mulder, even for you!"
"Is it? Look at the facts, Scully. Doesn't it strike you as odd that now that Chance and his brother Eric have been re-united this 'UFO abduction' case suddenly resolves itself?"
Scully looked at him in disbelief. "Are you saying Chance and Eric set this whole thing up?"
Mulder shook his head. "On the contrary. I'm saying somebody did not want us devoting all our time to their case, which means there is something about the Harper case we are not supposed to find out. And, to create a charade this elaborate it has to be something pretty big, which implies that somebody at a much higher level of power is involved but what I can't yet figure out is why."
For a moment neither spoke. Scully felt stunned. The telephone rang and Mulder picked up the handset and listened. A smile touched his lips. "We'll be there!" Scully raised an eyebrow in query as Mulder replaced the handset. "We've just been invited to dinner!"
* * *
Scully raised an eyebrow at Mulder as they arrived at the apartment. Mulder smiled and knocked on the door which was almost immediately opened by Chance Harper. He had a tea towel over one shoulder and gave them a big grin. "Come in! We just wanted to thank you, just don't expect
anything too elaborate."
Mulder and Scully walked in and saw Eric and Angie laying the table. Angie stopped to shoot an indignant look at Chance. "Nothing too elaborate, well I like that!"
Mulder gave a dry laugh. "I'm sure it will be just perfect."
Angie gave him a dazzling smile then glanced at Chance out of the corner of her eye. "Well at least there are some gentlemen left around here!"
Scully smiled and leant towards Mulder. "I think you just scored Brownie points with the cook."
Eric took their coats then everyone sat down at the table. Chance raised his glass. "To friendship, long life and good food!"
Everyone laughed and repeated the toast. Angie looked at Chance. "You're going to have to do better than that if you want to get back into my good books, Chance Harper!"
Chance gave her a truly dazzling smile. "Thanks for everything, Ange!" Then before she could reply he leant over and gave her a kiss.
She beamed back at him affectionately. "Maybe I should cook for you more often?"
* * *
It was cold in the alley, the wind blowing leaves and rubbish and echoing the advent of Winter. At the far end of the alley was a large dumpster. The figure in the shadows emerged cautiously. She was wrapped up well against the cold but moved slowly as if weighed down. Carefully she dragged something half hidden in her coat. She paused by the dumpster, eyes darting all around to be sure that she was unobserved. At last satisfied she used both hands to lift the cylinder up and into the dumpster where it would lie with the other rubbish until the truck came to collect it in the morning.
Her last chore completed, she walked back down the alley pausing only briefly as she passed the spot where Wilford had taken his final painful breath. A smile touched lips that had too long been bereft of laughter, haunted eyes relaxed in the knowledge of a job well done. She could not erase all her sins but for the first time in her life she felt free, she felt clean. Despite the sweet smell of decay from the refuse all around her, to Lola freedom had never tasted so sweet...."
* * * T H E E N D * * *
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