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Chapter One

 

Darkness on darkness consumed the area, not welcoming in the light to offer a shadow as a friend. The stars glittered and sparkled as though laughing at her as she ran, knowing there was no haven to protect her.

The heavy footsteps following her were haunting as they echoed around her frantic form. As the moon continued to rise--full and red--the night grew ever colder, causing her shivers of fear to increase with the drop in temperature. Despite the chill, her blood felt like it was boiling, making her insides itch and her throat fill with acidic bile.

Turning the corner, she was welcomed by a tall wall, the brick gray and thick with nothing to grab to assist in her escape.

This had never happened before.

She stopped only long enough to turn and find another way out, but it was too late.

He was here.

His eyes were black in color, like a shark’s, shining despite the absence of light. The silhouette of a figure approached her, slowly, almost taunting her with the idea that maybe, just maybe if she were quick enough she could slip through and continue her futile getaway.

Who was she kidding? Even when she was able to find a way out, before, he always found a way back to her. It was all in vain.

"Please . . ." she pleaded, her voice sounding almost foreign to her.

She wasn’t sure what she was begging for; that he let her go or that all of this would just end once and for all.

He said nothing, just walked, the echo of his shoes filling the silence around them. It was almost unbearable to listen to, the sound deafening in her ears.

This had never happened before! She wanted to scream, as if informing him of that fact would make him rethink his actions and set her free.

But she was mute. Her fruitless attempt at begging was the last thing she had been able to say.

The last thing she would ever say.

She collapsed to the ground with silent sobs, her blonde hair falling as a curtain over her blue eyes. His body towered over her folded form, a sudden wind picking up. An outstretched hand hovered over the helpless body before him, the beating of her heart now so loud it played as a requiem.

The only thing louder than the cadence of her palpitating heart was her shrill screams resounding off the hollow walls.

And then it stopped.

 

XxX

New York City

8:43 AM

The fog covered the area like a gray blanket, street lamps barely breaking through the grounded clouds. Officers were scattered here and there, busying themselves with yet another unexplained death.

Detective Gavin Neely stood solemnly to the side as they zipped up the body bag. His partner was talking things over with the captain, tying up some loose ends before they took the next step . . . whatever it was.

They loaded the body onto the truck, prepared and ready to be autopsied. Gavin wasn’t quite sure what they expected to find this time, but they had to do something.

"Gavin!"

He turned on his heels to find his partner walking up to him, her hands in her coat pockets as she hugged the fabric to her body, warding off the chill.

"What do you know, Trish?" he asked without hesitation, his eyes shifting back and forth from her to the retreating truck.

"Amanda Porter, 23 years old, went to NYU. A biology major. You get a look at her?"

"Yeah, blonde, blue eyes . . . I think. You can never really tell when they have that white film over their eyes," he said, his attention now focused intently on his partner, yet his voice distant with the last comment.

"So, in other words, this guy has no MO aside from them all being female. Whoever it is, Amanda is only the third to be found dead outside her home."

"I’m not even sure if we’re looking for *anyone* anymore, Trish. So far there has been no evidence of an actual murder being the case. No sign of struggle, no wounds whatsoever on the bodies, nothing. And forensics–-the best on the squad--has yet to come across a single clue." They took a few steps together, toward no place in particular and then paused again.

"Agreed, Gavin, but murder is all it could be," Trisha sighed. "It’s just weird, you know?"

"Yeah . . . real weird," he added, more so to himself. Neither of them said a word for several moments until Gavin changed direction and began walking without his partner by his side.

"Where you off to?" Trisha called out, only then beginning to follow him.

"We’re out of our element here, Trish. We need to bring in the professionals."

"The professionals? Like the Feds?" She inquired, stopping, her arms crossing over her chest.

"Yeah," he threw over his shoulder.

"Gavin, who the hell is going to send anyone out here on a case like this? We can’t even bring in the New York office agents. I mean, it’s not even really a case, just a dead end. It’ll be a cold case before we know it."

Coming to a halt behind an officer, Gavin turned and flashed a grin. "Let’s just say I know a guy who gets high on this sort of stuff."

With nothing to say, Trisha’s eyebrows shot up before they scrunched up in confusion. Gavin tapped the officer on the shoulder, the young man turning around immediately, ready and eager to do what he could.

"Lance," Gavin addressed, "I need you to get a hold of the D.C. FBI for me, X-Files Division. Tell whoever answers that The Badger needs assistance, pronto."

Unable to do much else than stare at the strange request, the green cop simply offered a nod and a "yes, Sir."

XxX

Basement Office

9:32 AM

"The Badger, Mulder?" Scully arched her eyebrow, her hip perched on the side of his desk.

Scully had been the one to receive the phone call, request of the enigmatic Badger–-an identity that didn’t mean a thing to her but seemed to stir a memory in Mulder’s mind, given the nostalgic grin pulling at his lips.

"Yep, Scully, Gavin ‘The Badger’ Neely. We went to Oxford together. Well, he went there for two terms before he decided to move back to New York and be a cop," Mulder explained, his hands folded across his chest.

"Right, but . . . The Badger? There must be an interesting story behind that."

Mulder turned his eyes heavenward for a moment, thinking. The look on his face gave the idea that the story was, in fact, interesting. Looks can be deceiving.

"Not really," he started. "Once he found out my name was Fox, he decided that he wanted to be Badger. He’s a real smart-ass." Mulder grinned and Scully gave him a ‘look who’s talking’ look. "To this day I’m not sure why he chose that particular animal, but in a sense it suited the old bloke. Tenacious, a bit of a fighter, stubborn as hell."

Scully couldn’t help but smile at the fact that Mulder was reverting back to England days, his slang slowly slipping with him. The idea that he’d had a good friend over there, at least according to the fondness in Mulder’s voice, was comforting to Scully.

"So they need us up there, huh? Must be pretty crazy for them to skip over their own FBI office and come straight to us."

"Actually, it is peculiar, Mulder. Ten women, ages 22 to 35, found in random parts of town, dead," she read from her legal pad.

"And?" His face twisting in confusion, obviously wondering how this qualified as their kind of case.

"Notice I said dead, not necessarily murdered. They have no signs of actually being killed, Mulder."

"Ah, the plot thickens." He waggled his eyebrows and sat up in his chair, the hinges and screws squeaking with the movement.

"Yes. They’ve all been autopsied–-though the last victim’s results aren’t in but I expect them to be the same. According to the reports, their hearts just . . . stopped."

Mulder stood, for no other reason than to stand, and placed his hands on his hips as he seemed to consider all that Scully had told him. "Can that happen?" he finally asked.

"Well, yes, I mean an aneurysm; an enlarged heart and cardiac arrest are usually the cause. However there have been cases where the heart gave out due to the lack of potassium in the body, um, a violent blow to the chest–-like a football tackle–-that have caused the heart to erupt or stop. I’ve even read reports of the heart just stopping, for one reason or another. It’s like their time just ran out."

"Like a kitchen timer?"

Her lip curved up at the comparison–-the rather accurate comparison at that. "Yes, like a kitchen timer," she confirmed. "That instance is rare, however, and certainly doesn’t happen to ten women, seven of which were found at home, over such a short span of time," she shrugged, the idea bothersome but too strange to dwell on.

"When do we leave?" He immediately asked, his eyes having that sparkle that usually happened when a case piqued his interest. "We are going, right?" He asked, almost in panic by her silence.

"I had to run it by you first, make sure it wouldn’t bore you," she replied with a smirk, moving from the desk to retrieve her blazer.

"My curiosity is in overdrive, right now. I can tell even you are intrigued by this particular case, Scully."

"Well, I would like to take a look at the body," she said.

"Then come on, The Badger needs us." Mulder opened the office door, ushering Scully out, or rather, scooting her. If they hurried they could be on an afternoon shuttle to New York.