Title: Liquid Memory II: Benefit of the Doubt

Author: Sandra Stringer

Date: Fri Mar 21 1997

Email address: Skirt89@aol.com

Rating: PG

Classification: TS

Summary: Will and Mulder discover a murder victim in the woods. Is Will next?

Liquid Memory II: Benefit of the Doubt

11:52 a.m. June 23, 2011

Wooded area near Highway 10

Will Reynolds a.k.a. Will Sanders a.k.a. Will Mulder was tracking his father through the woods. It had been his idea to do this, a special game he could play with his dad. He had suggested it back in May, a few days after school let out.

"C'mon, Dad, it'll be fun! I'll give you an hour's head start and then I'll search for you. It's like an advanced game of hide and seek."

His mother had chimed in, "Well, Mulder, it'll give you some much needed exercise and hopefully get some color on your cheeks. I think it's a fine idea."

His father had simply groaned. But Will had insisted. He and his father had not been getting along all that well lately. When he had brought it up with his mother, she had looked thoughtful for a moment.

"I don't know, Will. I think sometimes that he just really misses his work."

"The X-Files."

"Yes. The Bureau was his lifeblood. He worked around the clock, barely sleeping. It's hard to explain. It meant a great deal to him, and I admit that I was surprised at how quickly he gave it up."

"But he didn't really give it up, Mom. He spends every free hour surfing the net, researching...it's like he's become a...a voyeur. Someone who looks but can't touch."

"True. But it's been years and years. I thought he had adjusted."

"Maybe all that stuff that happened in March brought it back to him."

"Maybe. Just try to find something to pique his interest. You're older now," she ruffled his hair, "Becoming a man. Soon you'll have to make the shift from being just his son to being his son and his friend. He may be stubborn about it..."

"I'll see what I can do, Mom."

Now that he was actually doing it, trying to track his father in the woods, Will was beginning to wonder if it had been such a good idea after all. He had been at it for almost four hours, his sensitive skin was starting to burn even with the heavy sunscreen he had applied that morning, and the mosquitoes were driving him nuts. He had actually tracked his father's movements fairly easily at first, as Mulder had left behind broken branches and newly trodden grass, but then at the river all sign of his presence seemed to have utterly disappeared.

Will stooped at the water's edge and wet his face and hair, then took a long drink from his canteen. "It always looks so easy in the movies," he said aloud, then moved down the one path he had not yet tried. He stopped briefly once, to reapply sunscreen and mosquito repellent and to tie back his red hair that had grown to shoulder length over the past few months. Other than that his movements were uninterrupted, until he came upon a scene that totally jarred his senses.

He saw the blood first, a trail of it and markings in the dirt of someone being dragged across the ground. His breath caught in his throat. The blood looked fresh. His father...his movements took on a frantic note as he followed the trail. When he came upon the body his first reaction was to vomit violently. His second action was to scream at the top of his lungs, "Dad! Dad, come quick!" When his father wasn't immediately forthcoming, he felt a feeling of total panic rising in his chest. This time the scream that leapt to his throat got results. His father was at his side in mere moments.

Mulder first checked his son and then let his eyes followed his son's trembling finger as Will pointed to the scene several yards away. He pulled his son into a hug, then put his backpack on the ground and pulled out his cell phone. He called Scully first.

"Scully...yeah, we're still down by the river. Listen...no, listen, Will stumbled across a body out here...oh, I'd say it's definitely murder. Can you give me the sheriff's number? ...yes, but, Scully, you really need to see this...Yeah, we're about 20 yards from the river, near that boulder that every teenager in the county has painted on at least once..."

After calling the Sheriff, Mulder surveyed the scene cautiously, not moving. He knew that interrupting anything at the crime scene would be a mistake. He didn't want to bring on the ire or the attention of the local sheriff's department. Will watched as his father pulled the Polaroid camera from his pack, engaged the zoom feature and used up both of the film packs he had brought getting as many pictures as he could. He stowed the pictures and the camera back into his pack and was casually leaning against a tree with his son standing a few yards behind him when the Sheriff and several of his deputies arrived. Scully was not far behind.

She hugged Will briefly, then stood next to Mulder as they watched the Sheriff's deputies video tape and photograph the scene. When the deputy taking photographs moved around to the opposite side of the body, Scully and Mulder moved off into the woods so they wouldn't be included in the photograph.

"Mulder, why are you still here?"

"Guess."

"Oh...no. Something about this murder scene has caught your attention. What is it?"

Mulder turned to make sure that none of the police officers were in sight, then pulled the photos from his pack. He quickly rifled through the photos then pulled out one and pointed. "That, Scully." Will joined his mother in staring at the photograph.

"Will, perhaps..." started Scully.

"Mom, I'm alright."

"You don't look alright, honey." She took in the pale cast under his sunburn with concern.

"Mom, it's my first dead body. Give me a break, okay? I'm old enough to handle this. Just look at the pictures that Dad took."

Scully and Will stood on either side of Mulder and took in the shots.

"Mulder, it looks like...I don't see anything here that's all that unusual."

"Scully, there's a hole in the guy's forehead. Look closely. It's not a bullet hole. It looks like it was...gouged out, cut out."

"So?"

"Scully, I've got at least three old X-Files photos that show this kind of wound on murder victims."

"And?"

"None of the murders was solved. Think about it. Lots of symbolic meaning behind that kind of act."

"How so?"

"Well, that particular spot on the forehead, in front of the pineal gland, has deep resonating meaning for many religious groups. The pineal gland itself has been considered by some to be the seat of the soul or the placement of latent psychic ability. It has been described as a metaphysical bridge."

"Mulder, that is simply mumbo jumbo attached to the fact that no one knew what the pineal gland was for until the late 20th century."

"Listen, at least see if Anderson will let you assist at the autopsy, okay? Humor me."

"Mulder, I know you miss the work, but this is not an X-File!"

"Like I said, humor me, Scully. If you don't find what I think you'll find, then I won't say another word about it."

Mulder hurriedly put the photos away when he noticed the Sheriff approaching. He turned to greet the officer.

"Sir, I imagine you'll want our statements."

"Is that why y'all are hanging around? I had wondered...which of you found the body?"

Will stepped forward. "I did, sir."

"Okay, son. I know this is pretty harsh stuff," he turned to look at the body. "Maybe we could move down the path a bit. No need to keep hanging around here."

Together all four moved away from the body, going several yards down the path before stopping.

"Okay, son, tell me exactly how it went."

Will looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, sir, I came down the path and saw a trail of blood. I got really scared," he said, glancing at Mulder, "I thought maybe my dad had been injured or something. So I went down the path, following the trail of blood, then I saw it."

"And then what did you do?"

"I threw up, sir. Then I started yelling for my dad to come quick."

The sheriff almost grinned when Will admitted to losing his lunch, but quickly recovered. "You didn't see anyone else around?"

"No, sir. I haven't seen anyone at all today. My dad and I have been here most of the morning."

"Now, explain to me why you and your father weren't together." Mulder moved up to answer the question, but the Sheriff saw the motion and held up a finger to stop him. "Just let the boy answer the question, Mr. Reynolds." Mulder dutifully stepped back.

Will smiled slightly. "I guess it'll sound weird. We were kind of playing hide and seek."

"Hide and seek? Aren't you kind of big for those kind of games?"

"I guess so, but it seemed like a fun idea at the time. Of course, it didn't turn out to be all that fun."

"No, I guess it didn't. And you, Mr. Reynolds? Tell me how it went from your point of view."

Mulder put his hands in his pockets. "I heard Will yelling for me, but I initially thought he was just trying to flush me out, trick me. Then he yelled again, and I could tell something was really wrong. When I got to the scene, Will pointed to the body. I got my cell phone out and called my wife to get your number and then I called you. I didn't see anyone around either, by the way."

"And you, ma'am? Why are you here?"

"Well," said Scully, "I came to make sure Will was okay. Also I work for the forensics department at the hospital...I imagine I'll be part of the autopsy team."

The Sheriff made a few notes on his pad, then, "Alright, folks. I'm sure you've all had enough excitement for one day. I'll be in touch if I have any more questions."

**

10:29 p.m.

223 Cottonwood Street

Scully tiredly dropped her purse on the couch and limply sat next to it. Mulder walked over and sat with her, putting his arm around her shoulders.

"Rough day?"

"I'm worn out."

"Shall we talk now, or later?"

"Later, Mulder. I need to take a bath and relax. I want to talk to you about...things, but I don't want to take even the slightest chance that Will might overhear us."

"We can take a nice evening stroll after your bath."

"Mmmm. We'll see."

Will had heard his mother's car pull up. He powered down his computer, carefully hiding his notes behind layers of password protection, then joined his parents in the living room.

"Did you find out anything interesting about that guy, Mom?"

Scully took a deep breath and exhaled in a huff. "Nothing earth shattering, son. It's just another violent murder in a violent world."

"Had his pineal gland been removed?"

"Yes, son, it had."

Mulder piped in, "Really?"

Scully groaned. "Mulder, you can't get involved in this case."

"I know."

"You can't."

"I know."

"I mean it."

"I know."

Scully sighed, hauled herself up from the couch and headed for a nice, hot, cleansing bath.

Will leaned against the hall door frame and appraised his father's mood.

"Dad?"

"Hmm. Yeah?"

"I think Mom's too tired to notice...you know something you're not telling her."

"Maybe."

"C'mon, Dad."

Mulder looked at his son for several long moments. He was a few inches shorter than Mulder, but he was muscular, sturdy, strong and...and he had that Scully intelligence in his eyes. "Come with me, son."

Will followed his father to the locked office where all of Mulder's research was stored. Mulder unlocked and opened the door, flicked on the light and sat in front of the computer. After a few moments of booting up, Mulder entered some key phrases for a Boolean search, then pulled up the first "hit". A photograph unfurled in front of their eyes. Mulder tapped on the screen.

"Mary Earle, age 29, found in the woods near a river in Lansing, Michigan. Cause of death was assumed to be shock, trauma and blood loss. She had multiple lacerations on her stomach, neck and face. And...." He tapped the girl's photographic forehead.

"It looks the same as that guy today."

"The similarities are striking, Will. And each murder has taken place in a wooded area, near water." Mulder patiently showed Will each of the files he had in the computer, reciting the facts of each case as if he had them memorized, which he had.

"So what haven't you told Mom?"

Mulder looked at his son, then back at the picture. "There have been 12 incidents of this type. Two more occurred in the woods near Lansing. That was 1998. The murders invariably occur in sets of three."

"Meaning there will be more."

"Yes."

"What else?"

His mother's voice behind him caused them both to jump. "Nothing else." Will turned to find his mother in her robe, wet hair dangling. "Will, your father and I are going for a walk. Please don't leave the house."

After Scully had changed into jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes, she quickly ruffled her hair with a towel to a semi-dry state, took the hand of her husband and pulled him out the door.

"Scully..."

"Don't even start, Mulder. I'm tired and I'm hungry, but I didn't want there to be any chance of Will overhearing. What did you find out about the murder victim?"

Mulder took a breath. "Todd Samuels, age 42, dentist, collected toy trains as a hobby. And, yes, he has more in common with Will than the blood test. He was found along with two other children on a highway in Utah when he was four years old. He could speak English, but seemed to have no memory of his first four years, except that he knew his mother's name was Rebecca Samuels. Sound familiar?"

Scully stopped on the sidewalk and looked up at Mulder. "What else?"

"Scully...these murders usually come in threes over a period of several days to several months."

"Is there any way we can find out if there are other people with the same background in the area?"

"I've already checked against the names I have, and no hits. But Samuels wasn't on my list, which means my list is incomplete. In Samuels case, his story wasn't in any government file. Searching on his name I found an article on his appearance. I checked the names of the other children that were found with him, but they don't live here or near here."

"How many more cases do you think there are that haven't been reported in any way?"

"It's hard to say, Scully. It could be a lot. I'm going to keep researching, but..."

"I know. We'll have to wait and see."

**

July 18th 8:32 a.m.

Wooded area near Old Mill Road

Jake Henry had been fly fishing since first light. No bites, not one, plus the mosquitoes were totally out of control. He finally gave up, waded up to dry land, packed his gear and whistled his way down the path to his truck. When he saw the blood he assumed it was an animal kill. There were bobcats spotted on occasion in the area. It had been a boring morning and he was curious. He followed the trail of blood off the path into the underbrush. He did not throw up, nor did he scream. He simply whispered, "Oh, my God." Then he ran as fast as he could, his tackle box slapping against his leg all the way to the truck.

8:40 a.m.

Torkelson Memorial Hospital

Forensics Lab

Scully was sipping coffee and reading a medical journal when Dr.

Anderson, Chief of Staff, walked in with the new lab technician.

"Good morning, Reynolds."

Scully stood. "Good morning, sir."

"Steven Sorenson, meet Dr. Anna Reynolds.."

Scully shook the young man's hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Sorenson." Dr. Anderson turned to Sorenson and smiled. "I'll leave you two to get to know each other. Dr. Reynolds has only been here a few months herself, but has effectively impressed everyone here with her medical knowledge. I'm sure you'll get along famously."

"I'm sure we will, sir." Scully turned and faced the young man. "So, tell me a little about yourself."

Sorenson was obviously a little nervous. "Um, well, I got my lab tech degree last month at the University of North Carolina in Asheville."

"Was that your home town?"

"Yes, I..." The phone rang.

Scully picked it up, said "hello", listened, then hung up. She crossed her arms and gave Sorenson a discerning look. "How many dead bodies have you seen, Mr. Sorenson?"

Mr. Sorenson frowned. "I've never seen a dead body, Dr. Reynolds."

"Do you want to?"

"Do I want to see a dead body? Um, I'd have to say that no one really wants to see a dead body. Why?"

"Because the chief forensics examiner, Dr. Morris, is on vacation, and a dead body was just found in the woods. We have to go get the body."

"Oh."

"If you can't do it, I'll be happy to try to get one of the regular hospital staff to go with me."

"No, no. I can handle it."

Scully shrugged out of her lab coat and grabbed her purse. "I know this isn't the best way to start your new job."

"Well, I just never expected...I have absolutely no training for...autopsies or anything like that."

"I don't expect you to assist at the autopsy, Mr. Sorenson. I just expect you to help me run the blood and skin tests."

"Now THAT I've been trained to do."

Scully smiled and the two set out to take a drive in the meat wagon to a deep spot in the woods.

**

9:00 a.m.

Lainard High School

Soccer field

Will was having trouble banishing the uneasy feeling that had found a home in the pit of his stomach that morning. He was working the entire morning with kids from the nearby middle school, helping with the coaching duties along with several other soon-to-be high school seniors. He had just finished discussing how to kick the ball without losing control and was watching as the kids practiced their moves all over the field. He would occasionally shout encouragement or a suggestion, but his thoughts weren't on the kids.

The memory of the man's body, spread-eagled on the grass in the woods, the black hole on his forehead, the blood...the image kept coming up in his mind. He hadn't really allowed himself to think about it much, although he'd had a few nightmares. His concentration was broken by a sweet voice behind him.

"Penny for your thoughts, Will." Will turned and smiled. Tina Brown, the singular object of his more romantic notions, was standing with hand on hip, grinning through a veneer of newly acquired sweat. She was helping to coach the girl's middle school soccer team on the next field over.

When Will didn't reply immediately to her question, she asked anew, "What are you thinking about, Will? You have that look of intense concentration, like you are trying to work out a math formula or something. What gives?"

"Oh...uh...just thinking about morbid stuff. You don't want to know."

Tina tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. "Do you know what I find really annoying about boys in general, Will?"

"No, what?"

"They consider themselves to be enlightened beings of the 21st century, but they're actually sexist pigs." With a flip of her ponytail, she turned and stalked off the field.

Will shook his head, then took off after her, touching her arm as a silent request for her to stop. "Tina, you know what I find really annoying about girls in general?"

Tina grinned. "No, what?"

"They think they really want to know when a guy is remembering the gory murder scene he witnessed less than a month ago." With a flip of HIS ponytail, Will turned and stalked back onto the field, leaving Tina standing there with her mouth hanging open. She walked back to his side and looked at him as he pensively watched the players. Both were silent for several moments. Will broke the silence, looking into her eyes.

"Sorry, Tina. That was out of line." They broke the stare and stood side by side, watching the young players.

"Yeah, it was out of line, but I'm not porcelain, Will. I don't break that easily. Why are you thinking about the murder?"

"I don't know. It's just on my mind this morning. I have a serious case of the creeps."

"The creeps?"

"Yeah, my skin keeps crawling for no discernable reason and I keep remembering..."

"You don't have idea why you're thinking about this all of the sudden? Maybe you saw something on TV last night or read something that brought back the memory."

"I can't think of anything, Tina." Will got that look on his face that Tina had come to recognize over the past month as an indicator that he was holding back. She thought silently for a few moments.

"Will, I have had the feeling on a dozen occasions that you are holding back from telling me things. Am I right?"

Will looked at the ground. "Yes, you're right. I'm sorry about that."

"Are these things you're holding back, are they bad?"

"Depends on what you mean."

"Hmm. You're good at evasion. Don't you trust anyone?"

"I trust my parents."

"That's unusual all by itself."

"Yeah, that's what everyone keeps telling me."

"And what does it take to earn your trust?"

Will looked over at Tina. She was staring at the field, tendril of her brown hair loosed from her ponytail and teasing her face. He reached for her and pushed one of the stray locks behind her ear. "I don't know, Tina. I guess time and...I guess just time."

Tina smiled and looked up at him. "Well, we're never going to spend any time together unless you get around to really asking me out, you know?" This time when she walked off the field, Will didn't stop her, but he did watch her appreciatively as she walked back until one of the students came up to him and broke his concentration.

"Hey, Will, is that your girlllllfrieennd?"

The kid was teasing, but Will looked thoughtful. "Who knows. Maybe." He put a hand on the kid's back and led him back to his cohorts on the field. He gathered the group together and began discussing various ways to get the ball around the goalie.

**

9:20 a.m.

Wooded area near Old Mill Road

Scully had to give her new lab technician credit. He looked terrified, sick and upset, but he waited patiently at her side as the police shot video and took pictures. He didn't say anything when she would casually turn away from the scene whenever a camera was pointed her way. She knew that he noticed, but he said nothing. And when it came time to put the body in the body bag he stoically assisted, although he kept his eyes off the victim as much as possible. His relief when they loaded the body into the coroner's wagon was palpable.

On the drive back he commented, "Real death has a completely different...feel to it. You know, from what you see on television."

Scully nodded, "Yes, it does. I thought you did a good job of staying composed through the whole ordeal, Mr. Sorenson."

"Please, call me Steven. After that experience, I'm not sure I feel comfortable with the formality of Mr. Sorenson."

"Alright. I'll call you Steven, if you'll call me Anna." Scully smiled to herself. She had been using the name Anna for years, but it still didn't feel like it belonged to her. At least she didn't stumble when called by her assumed first name anymore. She fondly remembered when Mulder and Scully had fled Washington and found the first of their new homes, they had attempted to call each other Anna and James, but it never stuck. And when they slipped up in front of others, which they sometimes did, they would give the old "nickname" excuse.

Scully's reverie was interrupted by Steven. "So, Anna, you said a murder similar to this one has happened before. What's the background?"

Scully glanced over at him, then back at the road. "If you don't mind, Steven, I'd rather you ran these tests with an unbiased eye. This could be a copycat killer for all we know, and I don't want you to see things that aren't there."

"I'd like to think that I'm more professional than that, but you don't really know me yet so...sure, I understand. Just promise we can go over the details once all the tests are done and the reports are sent out."

"Deal."

Scully's cell phone rang, surprising them both. She pulled it out, flipped the top, and said, "Hi."

"Hi yourself. I just heard."

"Yes. The new lab technician and I are driving the body back to the hospital now."

"Isn't Dr. Morris out of town?"

"Yes."

"So you're doing the autopsy?"

"Yes, Mul...yes."

"Oops! Don't slip up in front of the new guy! Okay, well, I guess we'll talk tonight. Call me if you need to."

"I will."

Scully closed the cell phone back in her pocket. She expected Steven Sorenson to question her as to the nature of the call, but he remained silent for the remainder of the trip.

Scully was able to do the autopsy only an hour later. She did it by herself, recording the measurements and taking samples, talking constantly into the microphone that was hanging over the body. She knew almost immediately that it was the same killer. Every cut was the same and the pineal gland had been removed, dug out of the head with incredible ferocity. Since she was alone in the operating theater, she pilfered an extra measure of the victim's blood, dropping the capped test tube into the pocket of her lab coat. She had to know.

As expected, after running the various tests in the forensics lab with Steven, the results were the same as with the last victim. It was dark outside when she finally sat in front of the computer to type up the results. The sheriff had said, "The sooner the better, Dr. Reynolds. I gotta know what I've got here." Steven hovered in the background, cleaning up the lab slowly and diligently. Scully knew that he was waiting to talk to her.

When the printer started to whir and spit out pages, he approached her. "Anna, the blood work up. Is it the same as the last victim?"

"Yes, Steven, it is."

"I know I'm new at all this, but I've never seen anything like the strange cells in the victim's blood. They weren't bacteria, they weren't cancer cells. Any theories?"

Scully took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I'm not sure. I wish we had an electron microscope here. We'd be able to see so much more."

"Dr. Reynolds..." Steven stopped and looked at the floor. Scully stood. "Yes? You were going to say something?"

"Dr. Reynolds, I have a friend over in McClellanville. He's actually built an electron microscope."

"You're not serious."

"Well, yeah. I mean, I am serious. It's just that...well, we'd have to draw extra blood from the body and...it wouldn't be official since it would be done outside the lab, but..."

"Steven, it's an interesting idea. Actually, it's a good idea. Why don't you go into the office and call your friend and I'll use my cell phone to call home and tell them where I'll be."

"Okay." Scully watched Steven go into the office before she dialed the number for home.

"Mulder, it's me. Listen, I need you to do a background check on Steven Sorenson. He graduated recently from the University of North Carolina at Asheville...no, he's my new lab technician. We're going to see a friend of his who has an electron microscope and have a closer look at the blood from this latest victim. Call me back soon...as quick as possible...yes, the pattern is the same. It's the same murderer..."

Scully did everything she could think of to stall until Mulder got back to her. She pretended to go back to the body to draw more blood, she suggested they stop to get a bite to eat, which they did, then she had to go to the bathroom. She breathed a sigh of relief when Mulder called her just as she was about to leave the restroom.

"Okay, Scully. This guy is clean, in a manner of speaking."

"In a manner of speaking?"

"Well, he was busted for marijuana possession several years ago. He protested the Gulf War and the East Asian War very loudly, but was never violent. Other than that, I got nada. Do you know exactly where you'll be?"

"Yes, I have the address here. 77 North Park Lane in McClellanville."

"If I haven't heard from you in an hour, I'm coming out there, partner."

Scully smiled.

**

6:03 p.m.

223 Cottonwood Street

Mulder was holed up in the office when Will got home.

"Hi Dad."

"Hi," Mulder's eyes never left the computer screen.

"Dad?"

"Mm?"

"Uh, could you come out to the living room for a minute? There's someone I want you to meet."

Tina was surprised by Will's father. There seemed to be no family resemblance whatsoever. She eyed the tall, graying man. He did move with the same grace and ease as Will. She wondered if Will got his hair from his mother. She noticed that throughout the meaningless conversation between the three, Will's father kept looking at his watch. Will finally asked, "Dad, are you late for an appointment or something?"

"Uh, sort of, it's just...can I talk to you alone for a minute, son?"

The two went into the kitchen, Will leaving Tina with a reassuring wink.

"Will, I'm a little worried about your mom. She was supposed to check in with me at six. I'm going to go see if I can find her."

"That's fine, Dad. Do you need for me to do something?"

"No...yes, actually. Do you think Tina would keep you company while I'm gone?"

"Dad, I'm a little old for a babysitter, don't you think?"

"It's not that...maybe you should just come with me."

"No, Dad, it's alright. Tina and I were just going to hang out, play video games or watch

a movie. It's cool."

"Okay, but...alright, listen, lock all the doors behind me and...there's a gun in the storage chest in the hall. If you need it."

"Do you think I will? Is there something I should know?"

"No, no. I'm sure everything will be fine."

"I heard about the murder Dad. That's number two. Do you think I could be number three?"

"No, of course not. Just erring on the side of caution. I'll call you soon and check on you."

"Okay."

Tina and Will watched Mulder leave. Tina noticed right off the additional tension in the room. As soon as Will's father had left, she put both hands on her hips and faced Will.

"What the hell is going on, Will?"

"Nothing," he said, locking the deadbolt on the front door.

"Uh huh. You're a lousy liar, you know that?"

**

7:10 p.m. McClellanville

77 North Park Lane

"So, how would you folks like to have a look at the DNA strands on this sample?" asked Kipp Morgan.

Scully's eyebrows rose. "You have the equipment to do that here?"

"Amazing, isn't it? Yes, I have the equipment. Practically everything you see here is equipment left over from one branch of the Human Genome Project. So are you interested?"

"Yes. Absolutely," said Scully.

The three worked together to set up gels in capillary tubes. The work was meticulous and slow. Scully lost track of the time. On top of that, her cell phone was in her jacket pocket. Her jacket was on the couch inside the house. Morgan's lab was housed in an old barn almost 100 yards from the house. She never heard the phone ringing.

 

8:45 p.m. McClellanville

Outside 77 North Park Lane

Mulder checked the number over the door with his flashlight. He circumnavigated the house, peering through windows for any sign of activity. He spotted the barn through the trees, lights playing through wood slats. On reaching the barn, he could clearly hear a voice within.

"I've never seen anything like that, never," was all he heard. The protracted silence afterward just fueled his nervousness. He tried the door. Unlocked. He opened the door quietly and slipped in, gun in hand. He immediately saw Scully, safe and sound, obviously riveted by something on the computer. Unfortunately, Steven Sorenson and Kipp Morgan noticed him as well. Steven said, "What the hell?" prompting Scully to look up.

"Mulder, what...?"

"Sorry, Scully, I didn't know...I've been trying to call you."

Morgan said, "You know this guy?"

"Yes," said Scully, sighing, "This is my husband." She took a deep breath. They had both called each other by their real names. Again. "Kipp Morgan, Steven Sorenson, meet my husband, James Reynolds."

Steven looked at Scully, puzzled. He practically whispered. "He called you...."

"It's a nickname, alright?" said Scully, then moved up to Mulder. Through gritted teeth she said, "Now might be a good time to put up the gun."

Mulder smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Uh....oops?"

**

9:10 p.m.

223 Cottonwood Street

Will and Tina had played video games for awhile, but that had quickly grown boring. Tina suggested, "How about coffee and intellectually stimulating conversation?"

"What?" asked Will.

"I know, you may have never done such a thing before."

"You're right - I've never actually had coffee," he fired back.

The two bantered comfortably, discussing politics, religion - all the major hotspots of conversation. They were deep into a conversation about the latest ban on immigration when they heard the sound at the back door. It sounded like the screen door slamming shut, and it caused the teenagers to jump in their seats. They nervously laughed when no other sounds were forthcoming.

"Probably just the wind," commented Tina.

"Yeah," said Will.

Suddenly the room filled with a intense light and the air filled with a buzzing sound so loud that initially both of the teens covered their ears in pain. They were on their feet in an instant, trying to find a way to move away from the source of the clamor which seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. "What is it!?" Tina screamed. Will grabbed her hand and pulled her to the hallway. The light seemed to pierce the very fabric of the house. Will threw open the chest in the hall and pulled out the gun. He pulled Tina to the center of the house. "What's happening?!" screamed Tina.

He looked her in the eyes, noting that she seemed frightened but strong and ready. "I don't know!" he screamed back. He suddenly felt a searing pain in his mind. He dropped the gun and fell to his knees.

His next conscious memory was of looking up to see Tina with the gun in her hands, pivoting in circles in search of a target and screaming, "Go away! Leave him alone!" And just as suddenly as it had begun, the light was gone, the sound dissipated to a whisper and then it too disappeared. And the house was silent.

Tina was at his side in an instant, pushing locks of his red hair from his face to look into his eyes. "Will? Can you hear me?" He closed his eyes for a moment. The pain had been so intense...then opened them and returned her gaze. He tried to speak but all that came out was a whimper of pain. She pulled him into an embrace, the gun still in her hand.

When Scully and Mulder arrived home a half hour later, they found the couple in the hallway, Tina cradling Will in her arms. When they walked in, Tina immediately trained the gun on them, then relaxed upon realizing who they were.

Scully was immediately at her son's side. "Will? Are you hurt? Mulder, check the house." Mulder pulled out his gun and went to check each room. "Will? Honey, talk to me."

Tina spoke in a tired voice. "It came all of the sudden, Ms. Reynolds. There was a bright light..." Scully noticed that Mulder was hovering on the periphery, listening. "Then a noise so loud...Will got the gun, but then...but then he held his head, like he was in a lot of pain. He must have been like that for five minutes. The light was so strong. And then, and then it was just gone."

Scully looked at the girl with concern. Could she have hallucinated?

"What's your name, honey?"

Mulder said, "That's Tina. She was here with Will when I left. I thought it would be fine...I should have brought him with me. I didn't think. He could have been taken. Just like Samantha."

Scully looked at Mulder briefly. "But he wasn't taken, Mulder. Everything's fine."

Scully's attention went back to the gun in the girl's hand. "Maybe you should let me have that, Tina."

Tina handed over the gun without preamble. "I hate the damned things anyway," she mumbled.

Scully tried to speak to Will again. "Son? Speak to me, okay?"

Will slowly unfurled. "Mom?" he said, his voice quivering.

"Yes, sweetie, I'm right here." Scully noted that his grasp around Tina's waist did not lessen. "Mom, they know who I am. I'm next. I know it."

Scully looked up at Mulder, then back at Tina. "Tina, maybe you should let my husband take you home."

"No," said Will, his voice stronger now, "No, Mom. She stays."

"Sweetie, I'm sure Tina is probably ready to go home, especially after..."

"No," said Tina. "I'll call home and tell them I'm spending the night at a friend's. I'm fine, but I'm not leaving him tonight."

The look of firm resolution on both their faces stunned both Mulder and Scully. Mulder broke the silence.

"Scully, let Tina use your cell phone. Let's you and I go make some coffee. I think that the night is not over yet."

Scully joined Mulder in the kitchen.

"Mulder, we don't know anything about her."

"We know that she took that gun and was ready to use it on anyone that tried to hurt Will. What else do we need to know?"

"I can't believe I'm hearing this from you of all people, Mr. Trust-No-One."

"Ah, but I do trust you and I do trust Will. I trust his decisions and I trust his feelings. And he trusts that girl, absolutely. I had wondered...he told me several weeks ago after he first met her that he felt strange around her, that he felt somehow bonded to her. He's never said that about anyone but you, Scully."

**

11:42 p.m.

Will stood in the kitchen facing his parents. He held Tina's hand, still loathe to let her go. "Mom. Dad. We need to talk about this. Really, openly and right now."

"Will, you know we can't do that."

"Dad, I know you can. We've never let another soul into this family, never shared anything with anyone. You chose each other. I choose Tina. I trust her and I want her to know what's happening. And I believe she can keep a secret, even one as big as this."

Scully rubbed her necked and gave the girl an appraising look. "Tina, you've walked into a family with lots of secrets. If we're going to stick our necks out for you, I'd like to know a few things."

"Okay," said Tina.

"Explain to me where you learned to use a firearm. I know the difference between the grip of an amateur and the grip of a pro, and you looked like you had handled a gun your whole life."

Tina smiled slightly. "That's because I have, Ms. Reynolds, or should I call you Scully?" Mulder winced at that and said, "Ouch."

Tina continued, "You may have already met my father. He's Sheriff Brown."

"Oh, boy," said Mulder. "The plot thickens."

Tina smiled again, "Yeah, well. I watched Mr. Reynolds, or should I say "Mulder" walk around with a gun he pulled from his jacket and case this place like a rusty pro."

"I resent the use of the word "rusty,"' said Mulder.

"Listen," said Tina, "I know you guys are, as you say, full of secrets. But I care about Will and as long as your secrets won't bring harm to anyone, they're safe with me."

"How do we know you won't fill your father in on the night's events?" asked Mulder.

"You don't," answered Tina. "You'll just have to take my word for it."

"That's good enough for me," said Will.

And it was thus that Tina got to hear the story of the F.B.I.'s most unwanted, Mrs. Spooky, the abduction and the appearance of Will at the age of two. And it was thus that the Mulder family made their first real friend since they fled Washington, D.C. with Scully's young son.

At the end of the long tale, Scully paused. The only thing left to tell was the one thing she didn't want Will to know. She looked at Mulder. The foursome grew quiet. Mulder got up to re-fill his coffee. He was waiting for Scully to decide. He felt that Will should know, but she didn't. It was her decision. She decided.

"Will, there's more and it's pretty scary stuff."

"More scary than what's already happened?"

"In some ways, yes." She looked up at Mulder then down at her hands.

"Son, we've kept this from you...we didn't want you to think..."

"Dad," said Will, "Maybe you should take over for Mom here. You're usually better at reciting the facts."

Mulder looked at Scully, who nodded tiredly. "When we first found you, Will, we had a DNA scan done. The results were strange. Your DNA has branches that shouldn't exist in a human. We have no idea what they're for, no idea where they came from. We're not sure about the first murder victim, but tonight we were able to discover that the second murder victim has the same unusual DNA branching as you do."

"Wait, Dad. Tell me your theory. What do you think the unusual DNA branching means?" Scully gave Mulder a warning glance, but Will said, "No, Mom. I want to know what he thinks."

Mulder took a deep breath. "I think it could be as simple as genetic engineering or it could be as complex as being the result of a alien-human hybridization process."

"In other words, I may only be half human." Will looked at Tina.

"Tina, what do you think?"

Tina smiled, "It would explain your inability to speak in a straight line to the female of the species."

A chuckle went through the room. Scully said, "Will, the only thing externally that we've noticed is that you have an unusually high I.Q. It's much, much higher than mine. You also tend to sense when someone's lying..."

"Scully!" said Mulder, "Bestill my heart. It sounds like you're admitting the boy has psychic ability."

Scully glared at him. "No, but his advanced I.Q. could make him capable of reading even the most subtle body language clues and..."

The two went back and forth while Tina and Will watched in amusement. "Are they always like this?" Tina whispered into Will's ear. Will nodded and smiled. He whispered back, "I haven't even kissed you yet, have I?" Tina shook her head. Will leaned over and kissed Tina, and Tina smiled into the kiss. Mulder and Scully kept arguing.

**

August 24th 2:10 p.m.

Lainard High Auditorium

Will and Tina worked the refreshment table at the Freshman Orientation. The summer had passed slowly for both of them, and for Will's parents as well. Paranoia had been a common denominator for all of them. It didn't help that Tina's father didn't especially approve of Will's constant presence in Tina's days. When she had confronted her father about his terse attitude towards Will, he had said, "I don't know, Tina. There's something...different about that boy. It makes me nervous."

"Dad, trust me on this. The differences are what make him worth spending time with. He's one of the good guys, okay?" Still, the man glowered with disapproval whenever Will showed up at his home to pick up Tina. Invariably all he ever said to Will was, "I want her home early, understand?"

The couple avoided the woods around the city, for obvious reasons, but the incident at the Mulder house had imprinted them both - they stayed wary and watchful. Tina had discovered from a conversation overheard at home that the murder victims had not been in the woods when they disappeared. They had not disappeared into thin air, but the first had been at work when he disappeared. He was there and then just as suddenly, he was gone. The second victim disappeared at a party after going to the bathroom. Tina had initially thought to keep this morsel of information to herself, but it truly was impossible to keep things from Will. When she finally told him, he had responded, "Well, we'll just have to make sure I'm never alone."

Tina had laughed and said, "If you think I'm going into the men's room with you every time you need to go, you've got another think coming!"

The moment they had all been fearing came unexpectedly at Lainard High School in the parking lot after the orientation. Will was walking with Tina back to his newly purchased used car. The couple stopped in their tracks when they realized that Jerry Haverton and five of his football playing pals were congregated around Will's car.

"Oh boy," said Tina.

"Is there something I should know here?" asked Will.

"Well, it's...he was my boyfriend, Will, last school year. He went away for the summer and I met you and...oh boy."

Will took a deep breath. "This should be fun." The couple walked up to the car.

Jerry Haverton wasted no time. "Hello, Tina. I'd heard the rumors, but I didn't believe it. Why are you hanging out with this freak?"

Tina fairly bristled. "He's not a freak, Jerry. Just leave us alone, all right?"

Haverton circled the couple territorially. "Uh huh. I've heard about this guy. Smartest thing to blow into town since Einstein. Doesn't look very strong though, does he boys?"

The group let out several versions of agreement.

Will prepared himself mentally for a fight. He was ready to pounce on Haverton when the singing began, a piercing wavering whine which filled the air. Haverton kept speaking as if nothing was happening. `He can't hear it,' thought Will. He turned to Tina, who was looking all around in fright. "You can hear it, can't you?"

"Yes," she said, "It's all around us."

He felt Haverton's hand on his neck and automatically reacted by grabbing the boy's pinkie, whipping his arm around and forcing the burly teen against the car, all the while searching the skies for he knew not what. The wind kicked up and he saw the look of shock on Tina's face as she was forceably pulled backwards by invisible hands. The other boys seemed to notice nothing amiss. They continued to hoot and howl. Will punched Haverton in the kidneys, shoved him at the other boys and went after Tina. He grabbed her hands just as the white light was threatening to envelope her. He heard

Haverton say, "What the hell?" behind him.

He pulled Tina into his arms and said over and over again, "Stay with me, stay with me." Slowly her eyes focused on his. The white light crumbled like sand and the noise stopped. Will and Tina fell to their knees still embracing. The parking lot was silent. Haverton and company stood in shocked silence. At the moment that Will had pulled Tina into his arms, they had been able to see the light and hear the noise. With everything calm, they looked at each other with animal panic in their eyes and ran.

That night Will brought Tina to his mother and asked her, humbly, to "test Tina's blood, Mom. I think she's like me."

And she was.

The third murder victim appeared in the woods ringing Carter Lake. Her name was Kelly Childress and she was only 14 years old. Tina never told her father the sum total of her knowledge, but she did share the attempted abduction with him. It was important to her that her father know that Will had probably saved her life that day. Her father cried. It was the most shocking thing Tina had ever seen.

The End

 

 

Sandra Stringer




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