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Chapter Two

 

Newark Terminal

5:57 PM

Mulder and Scully exited the gate, their carry-ons at their sides, and made for baggage claim. Usually, when a case was an easy drive away, they avoided planes and opted to make the drive in a rental. However, the NYPD, or rather Gavin, wanted them up there ASAP, so they’d opted to fly.

They were to meet Gavin ‘The Badger’ Neely in the general area of baggage claim and pick up the small bags they had brought. By the sound of things, they would be here for a few days, so they’d come prepared.

"I don’t know what he looks like, Mulder, so you’ll have to spot him," Scully said from his right, trying to keep up with his strides. He was excited about this case, coupled with the advantage of seeing an old friend.

Aside from the Gunmen, Mulder had told her, Gavin was one of the few good friends he’d ever had. There’d been some growing up, though not many. Once his sister disappeared, Mulder had become very quiet and anti-social. Also, given he was at times suspected to be responsible for Samantha’s disappearance, most kids didn’t want a lot to do with him. Or, more so, parents didn’t want their children socializing with such an individual. Scully figured–-him having never really told her-–Mulder had gone to Oxford to try and start over. No one knew about his past there, unless he told them, so they would accept him easier. At times it pained Scully to think of what it must have been like for him as a child. The fact that it wasn’t long after his return to the States that he became a pariah once more didn’t ease the heavy feeling in her heart.

"About two inches shorter than me, dark hair, dark eyes, muscular guy–-almost to the point of no neck. Though, I haven’t seen him in almost fifteen years, so who knows what he looks like." As Mulder spoke, he searched the hectic crowd of people. They reached the conveyer belt filled with bags and almost immediately retrieved theirs.

Not a moment later, Gavin walked into the claim area, his eyes skimming the throng of people–-some waiting patiently for their bags, others impatient at how long it was taking.

"There he is," Mulder said, Scully following where his attention was turned.

It turned out Gavin had changed, though not much. He’d stopped working out so much, so it seemed, his muscles only toned now and a neck was visible. His hair was shorter and streaked here and there with gray hairs, the sign of aging making him look more debonair, much to Mulder’s chagrin.

The two friends made eye contact and Gavin made his way over to the agents.

"Foxy Mulder, you haven’t changed a bit." They shook hands and hugged, their grins wide.

"And you actually have a neck, Badge," Mulder joked, Gavin’s grin spreading. He shook his head, hitting Mulder on the shoulder lightly.

"Not one bit," Gavin repeated.

As much as Scully enjoyed watching the reunion, she cleared her throat so she could at least get in an introduction. The men turned their heads down to Scully, her smile small but welcoming toward Gavin.

"Gavin, this is my partner Agent Dana Scully, M.D." Mulder presented her with his palm turned up and she stepped forward, offering her hand. Gavin took it with a smile and gave it a hardy shake.

"Nice to meet you, Agent Scully. You keeping this character out of trouble?"

Scully smirked, her eyes drifting from Mulder to Gavin in a fluid sweep. "I do what I can," she finally said.

"Good, he needs someone to keep his feet on the ground." Gavin had no idea how much truth there was in that statement; how Scully did just that every single day.

"Alright, let’s get this show on the road," said Gavin with a clap of his hands, grabbing the bags and leading the way.

The three walked to the exit, the doors sliding open. Gavin continued to lead them to the garage and lights flashed as he unlocked the car from a distance.

Mulder decided to carry on with some friendly conversation, not knowing where to start. "I thought you had a partner? Last time we talked you did anyway. Tara? Tasha?"

"Trisha. Yeah, she’s holding down the fort until I get back. I’ll take you to your hotel and then we’ll head on over there." Gavin said this as he threw the luggage into the trunk, Mulder already pulling at the backseat door and sliding in, letting Scully have the front passenger seat.

They all buckled in and headed to the highway.

"So what were you studying before you left to be a cop, Gavin?" Scully asked.

"Psychology, just like Mulder. I was going to go the whole nine yards and be a Psychologist, PhD and everything, but something pulled me to this instead. I’m glad it did. What I did study comes in handy at times, so it wasn’t a total waste."

Scully only gave a nod, a small smile on her lips. She didn’t know much about the man beside her, Mulder having only told her about a few college memories, not really about the person.

"How long have you two been working together?" Gavin glanced at the rear view mirror, aiming the question more so at Mulder.

"Six years," Mulder answered, smiling.

Not knowing what else to do, Scully nodded in confirmation.

"Wow, that’s quite the partnership, though I have you beat. Trish and I have been working together for eight years."

The drive consisted of small talk, Scully finding out that Gavin was 37, never married and completely content with his job. She unleashed some information as well, though not much. Given the reputation Mulder had, Gavin made them talk about some cases.

At times he was intrigued. Other times he was disgusted. And then there were the times when he was flat out spooked. By the time they had shared some of their adventures, Gavin was sure he’d elected the right people for the job.

They made the brief stop at the hotel to drop off their things then headed straight for the station.

XxX

The bullpen was cluttered with apparent drug dealers, hookers and delinquents. Cops swarmed the place, few actually in uniforms, most in cheap suits.

"Ah, there’s Trish," Gavin pointed out. They walked over to where a medium height–-about 5'6–-black haired, olive skinned woman stood, talking to someone of authority. Mulder and Scully assumed it was the chief.

Gavin waited patiently as the two wrapped things up--something about picking up the results on Amanda and how this was all turning into a lost cause. The older man–-tall with a mustache and light hair–-gave an acknowledging nod toward Gavin, causing Trisha to turn and greet them.

"Hi, I’m Trisha Menzel. Agents Mulder and Scully, I presume?" She shook the two agents’ hands, smiling as much as the apparent stress of this case would allow.

"This is Chief O’Donnell," she went on to introduce. The man who could take on an army with one hand tied behind his back shook their hands with a firm, bone-breaking grip. He then excused himself, retreating to his office for reasons unknown.

"You’ll have to excuse him," Gavin apologized. "He doesn’t really like people. He’ll save them day in and day out, but to even suggest that he get to know any of them could get you killed."

Mulder and Scully did nothing but stand there, trying to offer expressions of understanding, but really just anxious to start the case.

"I suppose you two are ready to get this party started?" Gavin asked.

"You know it," Mulder replied, the first words he’d said since stepping into the building. Scully still stood quietly beside him. Peripherally, he could see her looking over the place, studying the people.

"Okay, let’s step into our office and we’ll tell you what we can," he began, already leading the way across the room. Trisha trailed behind, the two detectives sandwiching the people who they hoped would be able to get them somewhere in this case.

"There’s not a lot of information, just some background info on the victims. Like we told you, a clue has yet to be found. We’ve even got the best sweeping each crime scene and the bodies haven’t been any help either. Ten weeks and nothing."

The four cops entered the small office, files scattered everywhere, two small desks tucked in the corners. A laptop was the only computer and a radio sat high on a shelf. A boom-box really, circa 1984. The sputtering of a coffee maker could be heard buried under the rubble some place. One long florescent light was centered in the ceiling, but a lamp on each desk offered extra lighting. It was a rather cozy setting.

Trisha shut the door behind them then leaned against the wall, her arms folding across her chest. Her quietude and distant expression suggested just how troubled she was. Gavin walked over to a desk, presumably his, and picked up a thin manila folder. He handed it to Mulder then leaned his backside against the desk, his legs stretching out in front, the ankles crossed, and his arms placed on each side of his thighs as he perched.

"We’ve done some interviewing, but not all of the relatives and friends had much to say. It’s all in the notes. If you want to talk to them again that is fine by us. Maybe those reluctant at first will have something to say now," Gavin explained.

Mulder opened the folder, Scully leaning over to take a peek at the contents. Pictures of each victim, post-mortem, were paper clipped to the few papers inside. They wouldn’t read it all now, but save it for when they could really discuss it back at the hotel. They both skimmed the information before making eye contact to see if the other was finished. With not even a nod, Mulder closed it.

"About how long do we have before he strikes again? Or at least until there is another victim, whatever the cause," Scully asked, her voice even and professional.

"Approximately a week and a half. Maybe two," Gavin said succinctly. Mulder and Scully looked at one another once more then nodded.

"I don’t suppose you two have eaten?" Trisha broke in, stepping into the small circle of people and away from her bubble.

"No, not yet. We had some things to take care of before we left, packed, then went straight to the airport," Mulder answered, shuffling his feet.

"Well, normally I would treat you two to dinner, but Gav and I need to head over to Forensics to pick up some results on the last victim. I will suggest a place, though, just down the street from where you’re staying," she offered, an apology in her eyes for not being able to play hostess.

"That would be great," Scully said, a smile playing at her lips to soothe the woman.

"Just go back to the hotel and you’ll see a big pink and green neon sign that flashes ‘Stanley’s Bar and Grill,’" she directed, even making a flashing motion with her hands to better illustrate.

"Thanks," Mulder said.

"Call us if you need anything," Gavin said, handing them his card. "I have a good feeling about you two."

"We’ll see what we can do," Scully said, shaking the detectives’ hands goodbye.

"Here’s my card," Scully pulled out her wallet and retrieved the rectangular piece of information. "Call me once you know anything. I’d also like to get in to look at this last body, if that’s not a problem."

"Sure thing. Nice meeting you, Agent Scully. See you later, Foxy," Gavin teased.

"Later, Badge," Mulder supplied with a shake of his head, waving the folder as he turned to open the door. Placing his hand on Scully’s back, he led her out.

"Ever feel like you’re intruding on a conversation, even when the people aren’t even actually talking?" Trisha asked once the agents left.

"Tell me about it. You weren’t stuck in a car with them for half an hour," Gavin smiled, a small laugh coming from his throat with the comment.

"I sure hope they can crack this thing," Trisha said with a sigh, turning her body to her partner.

"Trust me; they know what they’re doing. I’ll elaborate on the way to Forensics." Gavin grabbed his trench coat from the back of his chair, while Trisha took hers from the coat rack hook. He quickly switched off the coffee maker and made for the door. They left the office, shutting the overhead light off and the two lamps spotlighting the area where they sat.

XxX

Stanley’s Bar and Grill

"So have you two talked since he left Oxford?" Scully asked around a sandwich. The sandwich she had ordered was fat and much too large to fit her mouth around, but she did what she could. Some of the honey mustard sauce would inevitably leak out from the bottom with each bite she took. Mulder had ordered a steak with a baked potato; he wasn’t struggling as much with his meal.

"Well, we wrote letters from time to time, up until I moved back to the States then we lost contact for the most part. There were some birthday and holiday cards every now and then, once I settled in. I think we’ve talked via e-mail a few times, but that’s about it," he shrugged and took the last bite of his steak, settling back in his chair to relax as he savored the barbecue taste.

"Hmm," was her response.

"‘Hmm,’ what?"

She finished chewing before embellishing. "It’s just a shame you didn’t stay in touch longer. You two must have become close awfully fast."

"We did. I can only think of one other person who has him beat," he smiled. Scully mirrored the smile, though she cast her eyes down to her plate, suddenly finding her pile of fries fascinating.

His smile only grew with her shy reaction. She picked up a fry and lathered it in ketchup before sticking it in her mouth.

"We have a lot in common, though. One of those things is, well . . . his sister died when he was ten. Of course with her it was a car accident, his dad driving. She was five, I think. His dad never forgave himself, even though it had been the other driver’s fault. It’s sad that the loss of sisters had to be what made us so close." Mulder’s eyes stayed on Scully as he spoke, their eyes meeting as he told the heartbreaking connection between him and his college friend. "He would have made a great Psychologist, had he stuck with it," Mulder added as an afterthought, changing the subject.

"I bet," she agreed, allowing the conversation to change without hesitation. "He seems content with what he’s doing, though."

"Yeah, he does."

The cell phone in Scully’s pocket trilled and she immediately went for it, wiping her hands on her napkin in haste.

"Scully."

Mulder tried to interpret what all was being said between Scully and the caller. Scully unleashed a ‘yes’ here and there, but it wasn’t thirty seconds before she thanked them and hung up. Before Mulder could ask any questions, Scully was already answering them.

"That was Gavin. The girl from this morning possessed no further evidence. She apparently died the same way, whatever it was." A frustrated sigh blew from Scully’s lips. "They’re letting me come in early tomorrow morning to take a look at the body," she added.

"I guess we better get out of here and get to work," Mulder said, taking a swig of his water before reaching for his wallet.

"It’s my turn, right?" he asked, already pulling money from the leather pocket.

"I think so." Her response was distant and her eyes were focused on the table, looking at the salt and pepper shakers.

XxX

The case bothered her, to say the least. It had been nagging her all evening. The lack of clues disturbed her, as it should anyone. She was used to this, having nothing substantial to go on. Working on the x-files for the last five, almost six, years of her life kind of made it impossible to avoid. That fact never made it easier, however. She was one of those rare agents who had yet to grow numb to the crimes of the world. Mulder was one of those rare few as well. Maybe that’s why they held on so strong to one another.

She took in a deep breath, her eyes not wavering from their gaze then let the breath out slowly through her lips.

"Scully?"

The sound of her name pulled her from her reverie, only to find Mulder standing, his jacket on, ready to leave. The waitress had brought them their ticket not ten minutes after getting their food. Mulder had slapped thirty dollars down in the middle of the table. As a rule, whoever didn’t pay for the meal, took care of the tip. Scully stared at him a moment, her mind not yet focused on what was going on around her.

"Yes, sorry," she finally said, shaking her head a little. She reached into her pocket, grabbed a five from her wallet and laid it on top of Mulder’s cash.

Scully stood up, slipped her coat on and lead the way out the door. Trying not to think much of her sudden silence and dazing, Mulder followed her onto the New York sidewalk and they made their walk to the hotel.

XxX

Room 223

9:37 PM

He flopped down on his back, hitting the mattress with an ‘oomph’ and a sigh. Dry washing his face with both hands, he closed his eyes. Scully sat opposite him, Indian style, papers strewn around both of them carelessly.

"Wow," he grunted. "There is nothing here, Scully."

As soon as they reached the hotel, Scully had gone to her room to change into ‘work’ clothes--black, loose pants and a long sleeved, plum shirt. While she changed, Mulder went to his room and did the same–-jeans and a grey shirt. She then went to his room, ready to get to work. At first they sat at the table by the window, but the surface wasn’t large enough to spread the folders out, so they’d moved to the bed and made it into a makeshift office. They’d been reading over the case information for two hours.

"Black, Latina, Caucasian, blonde, brunette, redhead, short, tall, skinny, curvy," Scully ran down the list of the ‘types’ of women who had died. If this was a murder case, appearance had nothing to do with the choice in victim. Scully let out a dramatic sigh then stretched her arms over her head and popped her back.

"So, Mr. Profiler, who done it?" she asked light-heartedly.

"Psh, I may be a legend, but I’m not that good," he said, his arms folded over his eyes, only his nose and mouth visible as he spoke. "I think the only way we’re going to find a connection is through friends, family, professors and employers. Looks like you and I get to play detective and do some asking around," he added.

Only nodding in agreement, despite the fact he wasn’t looking at her, Scully stretched her legs out in front of her. "My legs are asleep," she said quietly as if she felt the need to explain her leisurely action.

"You should probably be doing the same." Mulder came out from his hiding place, bringing his arms down from his face. He folded one arm across his chest, but rested a hand on Scully’s numb shin.

"Go on to bed, Scully. We aren’t going to get anything done tonight anyway and you have a body to look at in the morning. Once we have more answers we’ll be able to get somewhere."

With a nod and a sigh, Scully smiled wanly as she moved to get off the bed. "I guess I’ll see you in the morning then," she said, her voice sleepy. She looked around to make sure she didn’t forget anything. Seeing that she had everything, having not brought anything over in the first place, she walked to the door.

"Goodnight, Mulder."

"‘Night, Scully." He smiled, watching her as she left his room. Once she was out the door, he let out a dramatic sigh before peeling himself away from the bed and collecting the files again.

Moving it all to the small table, he sat down and began to make a list of the people they would set out to question.