Virtual Season Two
  • Blood and Thoughtstalking
  • Psychodiagnostiks
  • 360 Maple Grove
  • Oestrus
  • Game Over
  • The Loyal Ones
  • Hypnagogia
  • Electioneering
  • Dreamscape
  • Callipso
  • Teporingo
  • The Jade Monkey Project
  • Bitter Revenge
  • Red Tide
  • Chi
  • Human Nature
  • Asthenopia
  • Ley of the Land
  • Everything To Live For
  • Warden
  • Grimm
  • A Piori

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    It was windy out, and the sky threatened to let loose at any second. He stared up at it for a moment, contemplating. He needed to find the perfect weather conditions, which in this case, would involve thunder and lightening. He was flying a kite, trying to prove what Benjamin Franklin hypothesized and later proved. I'm going to get big money for this, he thought. No one after Benjamin Franklin has survived this experiment.

    With money on his mind and dollar signs in his eyes, he set out to perform his experiment. He was prepared to risk his life and to test out a new "anti-electrocution" suit that he had invented. He was so proud of his new invention, bragging to his wife about how he had thought of it all by himself. She had become worried and told him that he was crazy, but was pushed aside. She had considered calling the police, but who was she to stand in the way of her husband's dreams?

    He laughed to himself and looked over at his wife, giving her a quick thumbs-up. She halfheartedly returned the gesture and watched as he looked back up at the sky. The conditions were becoming ideal. The sky opened up, revealing the biggest raindrops that he had ever seen. Feeling the electricity stirring, he witnessed the hairs on his arm stand on end. He knew at that moment that it would happen-he would be struck by lightening. The keys attached to the kite string jingled insistently, as if reinforcing his theory. He would be successful; there was no doubt about it.

    The woman stared at her husband through the sliding glass door in their kitchen. Had he lost his mind? Did he have a death wish? She wasn't sure what the answers to those questions were. He had been acting strange lately. Perhaps he knew he was going to die? He had a nightmare about five days before he started constructing his "anti-electrocution" suit. He said that it was the dream that would change their lives; it would make them money. They no longer had to live in an apartment with their three children. They would be able to afford a house. She was genuinely worried. She wanted to know what in the world her husband had dreamed about to make him think that an "anti-electrocution" suit would work. It wasn't like him to act on his dreams.

    He continued to stare at the sky, anticipating. It was about to happen-he was about to make money. He could feel the thousands of dollars sitting in his hand. He clenched his fist to make sure the money was there, gritting his teeth as the hair on his head stood on end. There was a bright flash, and in the next instant he was gone. He was on the ground, smoking like a piece of burned roast beef. His wife screamed and dialed 911.

    The police came and saw the body on the ground, many sadly shaking their heads. They called in what was known as the "meat wagon", and the coroner arrived five minutes later. The medical doctor who lived next door had unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the unfortunate victim, but his efforts ended as the coroner officially pronounced the charred man dead. The man's wife was distraught and called the children who were at a neighbor's house, playing with their friends. They were brought home after their father was taken away and told about his death.

    The man's boss stopped by. He had always been a figure of intimidation; the whole family was scared of him. He offered his condolences, which held no significance to the grieving family. He left and the family felt more depressed than ever, now they feared for their lives.

    Scully sighed, watching another slide show orchestrated by her partner. The reason behind this was to tempt her to investigate a case that had caught his interest. She had expected a phone call from him earlier that morning, as she was watching the case unfold on the news. She knew from that moment that he would be interested.

    "Yes, but I don't see why we had to be the ones to investigate this. It's a simple matter for the police and has nothing to do with the X-Files, Mulder." Scully complained, and Mulder, rolling his eyes, went on.

    "George Parisi, age 41. He was employed by an inventor's corporation called Thinkers. He decided he'd test out his new 'anti-electrocution' suit, and it apparently wasn't as successful as he had hoped."


    "He died at about 5:56 p.m. on August thirty-first." Mulder clicked the pictures forward and a new picture showed up on the screen. It showed a man who was very obviously dead and charred nearly beyond recognition. Scully cringed slightly and looked at Mulder, waiting for him to go on. When he didn't continue, she opened her mouth to speak.

    "Mulder, I don't get it. It's a simple matter of a man's utter stupidity. Why is it even being investigated?"

    "Is it still considered stupidity when you expect money to come from it?" Mulder hadn't expected Scully to answer. She just shook her head and complained.

    "This is pointless, Mulder...totally pointless." A pencil fell from it's place in the ceiling above Scully and hit her on the head as if to scold her for arguing. Mulder began laughing as Scully looked up at the ceiling and saw the nine other pencils sticking out of it. "You're practicing for distance, aren't you?"

    "I can't imagine what you mean by that, Scully." Mulder said in mock confusion.

    "You gave up sticking them into the ceiling panel above your chair because it was too easy. So you decided to aim for a piece of the ceiling that was farther away."

    "Hey, it gives me something to do on the days that mothmen aren't attacking Chicago."

    "Mulder, you're missing the picture here. What if Skinner finds out you're doing this?" Scully said, knowing that the Assistant Director didn't like agents desecrating their offices.

    "I don't know, we'll see what happens." Mulder said looking at the figure standing in the doorway.

    "See what happens when I find out about what?" Assistant Director Skinner asked suspiciously. Scully's face paled.

    "Um...nothing, Sir. The case that we're investigating has a twist in it, that's all. I wasn't sure if you were aware of it." Mulder tried to cover his embarassment as, at that moment, another pencil fell and hit Skinner on the shoulder. Scully's eyes widened and she got up.

    "You're saving your own butt this time, Mulder." Scully whispered as she passed his desk and walked out the door. The Assistant Director looked at Mulder over the top of his glasses, getting angry. It didn't take a genius to figure out how the pencil got up there. The door to the office slammed shut, and the remaining eight pencils fell, hitting Skinner. His face turned red, the veins in the middle of his forehead popping out and his hands balling into fists. Through clenched teeth, he began hissing. Mulder took out a bag of sunflower seeds and pushed it toward the Assistant Director.

    "Sunflower seed?" Mulder mumbled, making a futile attempt at a peace offering.

    "Agent Mulder, the FBI has a reputation to maintain. Get those pencils out of the ceiling and replace the panels immediately." Skinner turned on his heels and walked out of the office. Scully had been eavesdropping outside the door, and when Skinner walked out she saw how angry he was. She walked into the office, saw the pencils on the floor and began laughing. Mulder looked at her and then looked down at the floor.

    "It's not funny." He mumbled, which only made Scully laugh even harder.

    "So when are we leaving to go check this out?" Scully laughed.

    "As soon as I replace the ceiling tiles that I've destroyed." Mulder sighed.

    "Where are we going, anyway?" Scully asked, her laughter quieting.

    "A town called Sturgis in South Dakota."

    "The place with the Harley Davidson rallies?"

    "That's the one."

    Virgil Flannaghan stared at his loyal employees. All were poised, absorbing his every word. To not pay attention was the highest of crimes in Thinkers; one for which an unwilling employee would pay dearly. Virgil was satisfied, and allowed the faintest grin to cross his shiny face.

    "Mr. Flannaghan, sir?" His secretary asked, knowing better than to speak out of turn.

    "Yes, Lucy?" He responded, turning his voice from dispassionate to warm in a matter of milliseconds.

    "A client is here to see you."

    "Wonderful. Send him in when I tell you." Virgil looked into the eyes of his listeners as Lucy closed the door. "Before I send you out, I have some rather disturbing news to tell you. One of our fellow inventors has passed away." A soft lull fell over the crowd, and they looked up at Virgil questioningly.

    "George Parisi was working on an 'anti-electrocution suit'. didn't work. He left behind a wife, Kathleen, and two children." He finished, leaving his employees and retreating into the restroom. When he returned, his face was shinier and had turned red. He dismissed his employees and told the secretary to allow his three o' clock appointment in.

    The man walked into the office in a very business-like manner and stood before Virgil, shaking his hand.

    "Sit." Virgil simply stated. The man complied and they got down to business.

    "Sir, you can't keep this up for much longer." The man sighed.

    "And who are you to tell me what I can and can't do, Gene?" Virgil was becoming upset. That fact alone was not to be taken lightly; the man's rage had caused catastrophes.

    "Mr. Flannaghan, I mean no disrespect. But, when the bodies...when a correlation is found--"

    "What are you talking about, Gene? A correlation can never be established. We hardly have any connection with the Parisi family. We didn't touch George for at least 5 hours before his death--"

    "You know damn well what I'm talking about, Mr. Flannaghan. Don't play dumb. A tangible correlation does not always have to be established."

    "Name a homicide that was committed in recent years in which physical evidence was not needed to convict someone."

    "I can't think of one offhand, sir--"

    "Besides, homicide is not an established cause of death in this case, yet."

    "Sir, all that I am saying is that the more you do this...the more employees that die...they're going to start getting suspicious. They've already called the Feds."

    "They never cease to amaze me. Their stupidity. As far as they know, it was just a simple case of 'spontaneous electrocution due to a strike of lightening hitting a conductor'. They should have taken it into their own hands...instead, they call in the Feds. Do they really need the Feds to establish a cause of death? Do they really need an investigation?" Virgil was confused. The plan was not going as well as he thought it would.

    "Mr. Flannaghan, what are you going to do?" Gene asked, suddenly fear-stricken.

    "They're not going to find a correlation, Gene. And you're going to make sure of that." Virgil folded his hands on his desk in satisfaction. What a genius he was to come up with such an ingenious plan so quickly and effortlessly. The Feds would have to dig deep to discover any correlation. And they weren't going to get that far.

    The drive from the airport was smooth. Scully looked into the bathroom mirror in her hotel room. Had the 6 hours on the plane been less turbulent, it would have gone perfectly. Scully sighed, looking at the reflection staring back at her. It betrayed everything she felt: she was tired and hungry and wanted nothing more than to get this case over with. Try as she might, she still could not understand why they had been sent to investigate this. An electrocution. Why in the world was that such a strange occurrence? Thousands of people the world over have been electrocuted within the past year, Scully reasoned, the Federal Government hasn't been called in to investigate any one of those...why is George Parisi's death so important? As if to answer her question, a knock came at the door. She walked over and opened it to see Mulder standing there.

    "Hey, Scully, pondering the meaning of life again?" Mulder asked.

    "No... I'm thinking about the correlation between the Federal Government and this case," Scully mumbled.

    "We're it, Scully. We're the correlation. You're going to have to let it go. We're here and that's it. There's no rhyme or reason. We're here." Mulder responded, not quite understanding why Scully was caught up in that one minute detail that didn't matter.

    "What did you want?" Scully asked impatiently.

    "Who said I wanted anything?" Mulder grinned impishly.

    "Well, you knocked on my door. That must imply that you either want or need something."

    "Oh, alright. You caught me. I was looking at the case and I wanted to show you a picture." Mulder took a picture out of the file and handed it to Scully. When Scully saw it, she cringed.

    "My God, Mulder. Why did you want to show me this thing again?" Scully complained.

    "See those char marks on his forearm?"

    "Mulder, in case you haven't noticed, the whole body is charred."

    "Hear me out, Scully. Do you see them?" Mulder pointed to the burns.

    "Yes. What are you saying? Oh my God, Mulder. You think this man was purposely electrocuted? Mulderit is stated plainly in the text of this file. He was flying a kite with keys attached to it during a thunderstorm. If he wasn't suicidal, I don't know what he was."

    "You're so quick to dismiss things to human nature. He had no reason to want to die."

    "Mulder, you don't know how he handled his problems. You don't know exactly how certain events in his life made him feel. You only know for certain how you feel. What may seem like a molehill to you, could have been a mountain to him." Scully plopped on her bed, sighing.

    "Are you suggesting that I launch into a profile on this guy? Scullydo you have any idea how long it's been since I've done one of those?"

    "Oh, Mulder you have a penchant for profiling. You'll go back to your old, familiar ways soon enough."

    "But it's been a while, Scully. I'm rusty. Besides, why put the family through more pain than they are already going through?" Mulder reasoned. Scully saw her opening and pounced on it, securing her earlier argument's stability.

    "Aren't we doing the same thing just by being here, investigating this?" Scully looked at her hands and then into her partner's eyes, waiting for an answer.

    "Yes, but it's justified."

    "And it's not justified to delve into his past to see why he could have committed suicide? Why he died?"

    "Hey, I realize that we have to go through any means necessary to get to the bottom of certain cases, I just don't think that profiling the victim is one of the necessary means."

    "Oh, come on, Mulder. No buts. You often go beyond the call of duty to solve a case-so often, in fact, that I'm beginning to suspect you enjoy it-and yet you're not willing to do it now? Do a profile on him, Mulder. If not for Kathleen Parisi and her three children, then for me, to appease me." Scully closed her mouth and stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. Mulder was defeated. He had to do a profile now. He felt as though he had no choice. But, he had to admit, he did enjoy going into the crevices of other people's lives-seeing what made them tick.

    He stared at Scully for a moment and sighed his defeat. A small, satisfied smile crossed Scully's features. She suddenly looked at her partner, a thought having crossed her mind.

    "Mulder, what in the world were you doing studying the pictures? Aren't you tired?"

    "I came in here hoping you would see it my way. I'm leaving knowing you have." Mulder got up, grabbed the file, and gave Scully a self-assuring grin, letting her know that she had not, in fact, won the argument-he had known what she wanted all along.

    Kathleen Parisi smiled through her tears. Flipping through pictures that were taken at her wedding, she found one of George smiling, shoving cake in his new wife's face. He hadn't been nearly as eccentric then as he was the weeks prior to his death. George was radiant on his wedding day, beaming as he looked at his bride. Kathleen hadn't remembered a happier time in her life, giving exception to when her three children were born. Her kids were all that she had now. George had left her. He was gone, his life summed up in the dark brown oak of his casket.

    Virgil Flannaghan. The mere mention of his name was enough to still her heart and make her blood run cold. He was a nice enough man in the days following George's death, but he was pure evil. There was this air about him that made it impossible not to shrink away-and he knew it. He manipulated it. His employees knew it and obeyed his every whim. Kathleen was sure of it. She was surer of it now than she had been when George started working for Thinkers. There was something about Virgil Flannaghan that was not right. He was involved. He knew what happened to George and why. Kathleen's intuition tingled in the back of her mind, flashing signals of warning: You better be careful, Kath. Don't get too deep into this, he'll kill you too. She had no proof on which to base her suspicions, but when it came to her family and the people she loved, her intuition didn't play around.

    David, the eldest of her sons, stepped into the living room. His twelve-year-old body had taken on the appearance of a thirty-year-old. This last week had been extraordinarily rough on him. He stepped closer to his mother and placed a hand on his mother's shoulder. Kathleen laid her head on his hand for a minute.

    "Are you okay, Mom?" David asked. He was used to seeing his mother cry, but he thought that it might be wise to comfort her, putting his own agony aside for the moment. Kathleen wiped her eyes with the back of a hand and closed her wedding album.

    "Yeah, I'm okay. I was just looking at pictures of your father and I when we got married." She responded softly. She took her son's hand and kissed it. "So what were you doing out there?"

    "I was just sitting on the ground, thinking of Dad. I was trying to come up with different ways that Dad could have done his experiment without having to die at the end of it." David frowned.

    "You're so much like your father-he would be so proud of you now. You're always trying to figure out how to right the wrongs." A voice said. The voice was unmistakable and it came from an area directly behind the boy. Kathleen shot up and faced the man.

    "Mister Flannaghanwhat are you doing here? I didn't hear you knock." Kathleen stammered. A satisfied smile crossed Virgil's lips and he licked them in contemplation.

    "I was just on my way to pick up some laundry soap and I thought that I should just check on you, make sure everything is okay." Virgil answered smugly. He knew that times had been rough for Kathleen and her sons since George's death. He also knew that his life was on an upswing. He rubbed it in Kathleen's face with such fervor that the gesture was mistaken as being unintentional.

    "E-everything's fine, Mister Flannaghan." Kathleen stammered.

    "It's hard losing a loved one, isn't it?" Virgil asked, an almost condescending tone coming to his voice. Kathleen raised an eyebrow. He knew his question had been a rather stupid one and that the answer was obvious, but he meant to ask it.

    "Mister Flannaghan, what kind of question is that? Of course it's hard. It's hard watching your profits going down the toilet, isn't it?" Kathleen asked, the venom dripping from her voice. She walked from her position by the couch and over to the front door.

    "I know you didn't mean that, Kathleen, so I'll disregard it because that is, after all, the wise thing to do."

    "Since when have you worried about what is wise?"

    "Since I thought about how I would speak if my life were in danger." Virgil answered back calmly. He gave David a pat on the head and walked extra calmly out of the house, an evil smile forming on his lips.

    Mulder stared helplessly at the papers lying in front of him. He picked up a folder and began examining it's contents. A knock came at the door.

    "It's open," Mulder called. Scully opened the door. Mulder had been expecting her. "I've always done profiles on the criminals, not the victims," Mulder mumbled.

    "Well, the purpose of this is to figure out what George Parisi might have been thinking that led him to kill himself," Scully stated.

    "Scully, the purpose of a profile is to find out what someone will think next, what their patterns are and where the next crime will occur or who the next victim will be. Since George Parisi is dead, I don't think he'll be thinking anything for the next while."

    "Oh, so now you're the skeptic," Scully sighed. Mulder kept reading the files with mild interest. Scully took the same interest in watching Mulder make up a profile as he did when she performed an autopsy.

    "Hey, Scully, how do you feel about an autopsy?"

    "Mulder, one was already performed. It would be a waste of time. We would never get the permission to have the body exhumed," Scully sighed again and patted Mulder on the shoulder as she walked toward the door. "I'm leaving you to do your work. Have fun!"

    "Scully, this is anything but fun-especially on a dead man," Mulder said against the shutting door. He was left to his own devices. He took out his tape recorder, pressed record, and placed it on the table in front of him.

    "Profile of George Parisi, age 41. Caucasian male with a wife and two children. Worked at an inventor's firm called Thinkers. Apparently committed suicide via flying a kite with keys attached during a lightening storm at 5:56 p.m. on August thirty-first. Agent Scully has asked me to perform a profile on this man to determine why he would kill himself. I have come to the following conclusion: there was no reason for this man to want to kill himself. He had a stable job, a stable home-life, a good marriage, great kids and an exemplary childhood. It is suspected that he had a dream before he died-one consisting of having an incredible amount of money and the means in which to get it. His wife claims that since then, he had told her that she and the kids would be taken care of. He seemed upbeat. He had never exhibited signs of depression followed by euphoria, an indication of possible suicidal intentions. He was happy at all times, with very little exception." Mulder sighed. Trying to get into a dead man's head was not an easy task. How could I possibly know what possessed this man to perform the crazy act that he did? Mulder thought. He quietly shook his fist at the closed door, not appreciating the assignment that Scully had given him.

    Scully also sighed. She knew that she would have to stay out of his way for a little bit, just long enough for him to get this profile out of the way. She didn't enjoy making him do work that she knew he didn't want to do, but she felt that this was necessary. A car pulled into view as she was taking a walk around the premises. She liked to take a breath of fresh air sometimes. When she had been in the room with Mulder, it had felt as though she were suffocating because she felt that she was impeding on his work. She watched the car for a bit, not sure why her sights seemed so content on that one particular car. She sighed and decided that she wanted to return to her room.

    She walked into her room and closed the door behind her, content to just plop on the bed. She looked up at the ceiling for a bit, but didn't like the idea of just lying there, doing nothing. She became restless and followed a moth that flitted across the ceiling and landed on a lampshade. The ceiling had many yellowed cracks in it, and she could hear the hissing sound the pipes made when someone next door was taking a shower. For the past night, she had allowed that hissing sound to lull her to sleep. Her eyes chanced across the curtains covering the solitary window by her door. She found shadows playing across the plaid patterns. The shadow slowed as it approached her door, and she became happy. Mulder had surely finished his profile.

    "Done already?" Scully called out. She got off the bed and walked over to the door. "How did you do that so quickly?" She opened the door. In the doorway stood a single figure, not Mulder at all. The man grinned. Scully felt sheepish.

    "Can I help you?" Scully asked. The man nodded and advanced into her room. "Wait a second. I didn't tell you that you could come in. Who are you?" Suspicion and fear rose in Scully's voice. Her inquiry garnered no response and she reached for her gun. The man was quicker, though, and disarmed her with a quick backhand to the face, leaving Scully sprawled on the bed. Scully's adrenaline rose and she kicked the man square in the crotch. The man clutched himself, but kept fighting. He grabbed the leg that Scully used to kick him and twisted it. Scully screamed out in pain and kicked the man in the face with her other leg. Blood sprayed from the man's nose and some landed on Scully's face, mixing with the blood seeping from her own nose. The man backed off momentarily, giving Scully enough time to rise from the bed and start punching him in the face. The man blocked her punches and tackled her to the ground. She looked around for her gun, but she knew that it was on the other side of the bed. She clawed at the man's eyes, but he grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the floor with his knees. Scully lay on the ground, a mysterious man straddling her, and no phone nearby...unless.

    Scully reached the cell phone by her hip and kneed the man in the back. He grunted, and she kneed him again, this time harder. The man fell off of her, and Scully pressed the speed dial on her phone. The phone rang. The man was concentrating on his own pain for a second, and Scully scrambled up. Come on, Mulder! She thought. Mulder picked up, and as Scully was running toward the door, the man grabbed her ankle, tripping her and sending her phone flying toward the door.

    "Hello?" Mulder repeated into the phone. He could hear a commotion on the other end of the line. "Hello?" He repeated.

    "Mulder! I'm in my room! Help me!!!!" He heard Scully screech. He heard a loud crack, like a wooden board splitting against concrete, and the commotion stopped.

    "Scully?!" Mulder yelled into the receiver. And then the line went dead. He ran out of his room and towards Scully's, but saw a car screeching out of the parking lot. He attempted in vain to give chase, but stopped once he got the license plate number. He ran to Scully's room and frantically opened her door, expecting to find her bleeding on the floor. She was no where to be found, but a large puddle of blood was seeping into the carpet in front of the door.

    The people sat in a circle, meditating frantically. Candles burned and Virgil Flannaghan smiled. He closed his eyes and began his chant.

    "In the name of Olodumare we beckon you," he muttered in a monotone voice. "In the name of Olodumare we beckon you," he repeated, slightly louder. He opened his eyes and a candle flickered at just the right angle to cast a terrifying array of shadows on his face. His selected few employees opened their eyes and watched in fascination as Virgil called upon his guiding spirit.

    "My Orisha, guide me," he repeated, getting louder and louder with each repetition. "Guide me!" He yelled. Suddenly he stiffened. The smell of burning wax permeated every pore of his skin and he inhaled sharply. A voice that can only be described as "not of this earth" arose from his throat and he gave a shrill cry.

    "I am Nadino. Why do you beckon me?" He cried. He turned his head sharply and glared at one of his employees. "You. Answer me."

    "Me?" The terrified employee responded in a shaky voice.

    "Yes, you. Why do you beckon Nadino," The voice demanded.

    "Kathleen Parisi. she knows too m-much," the man stuttered, "What do you desire of us to keep the culture sacred?"

    "The response is simple, son of Olodumare. She must die. Her children must be purified and her memory forgotten. So says Nadino," the voice declared, and then was gone. Virgil closed his eyes and then opened them again.

    "You heard what he said. Nadino will perform the deed. But first, we eat," he declared. A chicken was brought into the room, already cooked.

    "Was the animal sacrifice prepared in the manners of our sacred culture?" Virgil asked. The woman holding the chicken nodded and she and her co-workers ate. Virgil watched as his employees ate and smiled. He had a lot of work to do tonight if he wanted his employees to believe what he had preached. Not one thread may be left behind in Kathleen Parisi's execution, and hers would not be as simple as George's had been. He ripped a leg off of the chicken and bit greedily, in an attempt to create an energy reserve that he would surely need in his endeavors later that night. Mrs. Parisi may even be abducted before her execution. She may die in a ritualistic manner, as he was sure the female Federal Agent would. He eyed Gene briefly and Gene gave the slightest hint of a nod. The employees were then instructed to take their candles with them and leave.

    "You have the female agent?" Virgil asked.

    "Of course, sir. The plans are in place." Gene responded.

    "Excellent. Has she roused?"

    "No, sir. Not yet. I was careful not to hit her hard enough with the board to fracture her skull. It's only a matter of time before she awakens."

    "Excellent," Virgil mumbled and ushered Gene out of the office. He needed to be alone to think about the course of action that he would be taking. He looked at his watch. Six o' clock. He still had a few hours before he would take Mrs. Parisi and lock her in the basement of the office building. Nadino had nothing to do with this: It was an act of evil solely on Virgil's part. Nadino had been a creation of his imagination used to gain his employees' loyalty and faith. Now that everyone was wrapped securely around his finger with the crime that was about to be committed, it was safe to commit this heinous act and not have anyone squeal. They would all think it was Nadino. They had to. Or they would face the same fate as Mrs. Parisi and the female agent.

    Sirens wailed. Red and blue lights flashed. Customers came out of their rooms to see what was going on. An attractive man stood leaning against a wall, the weight of the world on his shoulders.

    "I already told you what I know. My partner was in her room waiting for me to finish some work, and the next thing I know, she's gone." Mulder snapped at an officer that approached him.

    "Were you and Agent Scully" the officer hesitated, "together?"

    "What do you mean, 'together'? She's my partner. Of course we came here together."

    "What I meant was, do you and Agent Scully have a relationship outside of work?"

    "No, she's my partner and my friend and that's about it. What are you getting at?"

    "Well, in the case of a couple of lovers going out on vacation, it is always possible that there is a jealous party."

    "You're sick," Mulder snapped and walked off. He walked into his motel room and plopped into a chair next to a table, not even bothering to close the door. A detective walked in.

    "Agent Mulder? My name is Detective Morrison. I'd like to ask you a few questions," The slightly overweight male detective said.

    "I'm usually the one to say that," Mulder mumbled. The detective smiled slightly in response.

    "Yes, well, my first question is" the detective's brow furrowed, "What exactly happened?"

    "You mean you haven't consulted your police pals? I told all of them the story numerous times." Mulder grumbled, not happy with the way the investigation into his partner's disappearance was going.

    "Agent Mulder, I'm sure that you, of all people, could appreciate the investigation process that must be undertaken"

    "Not in this case, I don't. It hasn't led you to where my partner is."

    "We'll find her soon. The leads are promising."

    "Detective has it ever occurred to you that every second may count? There have been cases where if a victim had been found 30 seconds earlier, just 30 seconds, he or she would still be alive. Did you ever think of that? I don't care what technique you use to find her, but I want her found now. And, I think if you've ever lost someone close to you, you'll understand that." Mulder, suddenly feeling claustrophobic, rose up and walked out of the room, again not closing the door behind him. He avoided looking in the direction of Scully's room. He rested against the building, feeling weary. He eyed the slowly sinking sun on the horizon and was reminded of the seconds quickly ticking by. As the last remnant of the sun sunk, he was reminded of a flame. His thoughts wandered.

    They say that a burning candle is a metaphor for life, He thought, and this had better not be a sign that her life is being snuffed out. The sun completely disappeared and he sighed, slumping to the ground and pulling his knees to his chest. I guess all that can be done now is to wait, he reasoned with himself. Waiting while investigating had always been the hardest part for him. Scully knew that. God, where is she? He wondered. I bet the bastards who took her don't even believe in God. They probably practice ritualistic devil-worship or something. They're probably looking into her eyes right now, trying to figure out which one to pluck out and leave behind first. He cringed at the thought. Or maybe they're throwing me a curve? Satanic cults rarely attack their victims and drag them away from the site of the attack. Mulder suddenly grew stiff and rose to his feet. That's right, he thought, that's it. A religious cult. He ran over to Detective Morrison.

    "Detective? I want to go interview someone. The victim in the case that Agent Scully and I were working on had a bizarre dream, and I want to get to the bottom of it." He stated simply.

    "Your partner's missing and you're investigating someone's death, driven to investigating further by a dream the victim had?" Detective Morrison asked incredulously. Mulder only nodded insistently, turned on his heels and began walking away. "Are you always like this?"

    "Find my partner and she'll tell you." He countered without so much as tossing a glance over his shoulder.

    Kathleen Parisi tossed in her bed restlessly. Try as she might, she could not get used to sleeping alone. The dreams of George had become overwhelming to the point that she thought that if one more thing happened-one more catastrophic event or even a paper cut-she would crack into a million pieces. She had a terrible air about her that night, and so she encouraged her children to sleep in her room. She heard a scraping against her window and opened her eyes quickly, involuntarily constricting her throat, expecting to see an intruder. The tree branch kept scraping her window and she sighed. David whimpered in his sleep, and she rolled over to face her door to see if he was having a nightmare. She gasped suddenly as her eyes came across a figure standing in the doorway.

    "Think I'd let you get away, did you?" The silhouette whispered and stalked toward the bed. Kathleen was nearly paralyzed in terror.

    "What...what are you going to do?!" She demanded, clenching her fists.

    "Nothing that the children need to know about." The figure produced a gleaming steel baseball bat. Kathleen gasped again and started to whimper.

    "What are you going to do with that?!" She whispered loudly, afraid of what he might do to the children if they were to wake up.

    "Stay quiet," the man whispered, "stay quiet or I'll kill the kids!" Kathleen whimpered and the man advanced quickly, hog-tying Kathleen's limbs behind her back and dragging her out of the bed, being especially careful not to wake the children. Kathleen thumped the steps as he dragged her downstairs and out of the house. A loose nail in one of the steps scraped her chest and she wondered, among other things, why she hadn't noticed it before. A thin line of blood appeared across her left breast and blood smudged a step, leaving a barely noticeable trail. She whimpered and the man stopped. He produced a rag and shoved it into her mouth, gagging her. She coughed and her mouth protested against this intrusion, but the man picked her up again and continued dragging her towards his car.

    I live in an apartment complex, she thought, someone has to be seeing this. She looked around for a light on in any window and found a few, but no one was standing by their windows watching the spectacle. She struggled against her bonds.

    "Damn it, woman, I told you to knock it off," the man whispered gruffly and set her down on the ground. He lifted a leg and kicked her squarely in the ribs, knocking the breath from her lungs. Her eyes widened as pain coursed throughout her body. She wanted to cry out, but couldn't because she couldn't breathe. The man walked over to her front door, leaving her on the ground, and closing it quietly. Kathleen drew a sharp breath and felt herself being picked up again.

    She heard a sickening pop and felt excruciating pain emanating from her right shoulder. She screamed with the gag in her mouth, nearly passing out. The man dropped her again and kicked her in the stomach. She felt the bile rise in her throat, but suppressed the urge to vomit.

    "Oh, sick," the man whispered as he noticed her dislocated shoulder. He picked her up again in the same manner as he did before, disregarding her injured shoulder, and dragging her once again toward his car. She screamed out in pain again and he swung her back, momentarily worsening, then alleviating the pain, and brought her forward, slamming her head into his car door, denting it.

    At least the kids are safe, she thought before her world turned black. She was thrown into the back seat of the car as though she were a rag doll. The man got behind the wheel and took off his ski mask, which he wore for precautionary measures. Virgil Flannaghan stared at the body he threw in the back seat for a moment, contemplating. He then started his car and, without screeching the tires, sped away. He looked slowly in his rearview mirror and saw the headlights of what looked like a Ford Taurus looming down the road. He watched for a minute as the car pulled into the parking lot and he continued speeding off, taking the back roads.

    A small boy waited, scared behind his front door. It was dark and he had heard a struggle. Figuring it was the boogieman again; he went in search of his mom, who had since disappeared from her post in the bedroom. He tried calling for her, but heard the front door close. He ran to the front door just in time to see a tall figure pick up a package in white pajamas and slam it into a car door, seemingly head first. He realized it was his mom and stood paralyzed in fear.

    A pounding came at the door, breaking him out of his trance. He cowered in a corner and the pounding sounded again. The door flung open, the frame splintering. Mom is NOT going to like that, he thought.

    "Mrs. Parisi?!" The man screamed. The man pulled out something black and shiny. A gun! The boy screamed. The man's head turned.

    "Who's here?!" The man demanded. All that the boy could do was whimper. "This is Agent Mulder from the FBI! Show yourself with your hands above your head!"

    The boy emerged from the corner with his hands above his head and his bottom lip was in a pout.

    "David?" Mulder asked. The boy nodded slowly. "Where's your mom?"

    "I dunno. . .someone took her. They just left." Mulder holstered his gun and turned on his flashlight. He looked at the carpeted stairs for a moment and took out his cell phone. He dialed 911 and requested police assistance, giving David a slight smile.

    "Agent Mulder, do you have any idea how irresponsible it was of you to kick open the door? Now we have no evidence that there was not a forced entry." The officer reprimanded. Mulder rolled his eyes.

    "Now you're starting to sound like my partner." He mumbled.

    "You know, I'm not so sure that I like your nonchalant attitude about your misconduct." The officer said sternly.

    "Then you had better tell my mommy so that I can be punished." Mulder mumbled, yet again. "Look, everything will be fine. Just find something about Mrs. Parisi, will you?"

    "I thought"

    "That's another investigation. Now get to work." Mulder looked down at the floor. He noticed a nail was loose in a board on one of the stairs. A dark substance flaked off the nail. Blood? "Hey! Someone get over here with a swab and bag now!"

    An officer rushed over and Mulder swabbed up the flakes with a moistened q-tip.

    "Tweezers?" He asked sheepishly. The officer produced a pair and handed them to him. He pinched up a small pale flake and placed it in another bag. He labeled the two bags and handed them to the officer. "Blood and skin. Get them analyzed."

    He then plucked a few fibers from the blue carpet covering the stairs and placed them in a bag as well, labeled that bag and handed that to the officer.

    "Carpet fibers. Keep an eye out for them." He mumbled. He looked closer at the carpet, because there was a tiny white ball on it. A few feet away from that, on the next step, there was a white flake. He picked the white flake up with a gloved hand and eyed it closely. Wax? He thought. There are no candles in this house. He jumped up to his feet and placed both the white ball and the white flake in a bag and labeled them. He walked briskly to the commanding officer.

    "I'm going to interview one of the chief suspects in the case that my partner and I were working on before she disappeared." He mumbled.

    "Why do you always do this?" The officer questioned. Mulder, for once, looked at him like he had ten heads.

    "Do what?"

    "You always run away from the different crime scenes surrounding you, and go back to the case that you and your partner were working on before she disappeared."

    "That's for me to know and for my partner to find out once she returns."

    "Once she returns?"

    "Of course because you were supposed to be finding her. Now I guess that's my job. It's been my job all along, hasn't it?"

    "I don't know what you're talking about, Agent Mulder."

    "Of course you don't, why would you? You don't see the connection here. If you're not here to solve the problem, then you are part of it." With that, Mulder turned on his heel and walked to his car. He started it and screeched the tires as he sped away.

    Mulder gritted his teeth as he floored the accelerator, not too crazy about the officer sitting beside him. The officer thought nothing of Mulder and just stared out the window. Buildings loomed in the distance, and the sun reflected brightly off of their polished glass surfaces. Just a few more miles, and they would be at Thinkers Headquarters.

    "Can I ask why you're going back to the case that you and Agent Scully were working on? Do you mind?" The officer asked, choosing to be docile instead of forceful. He decided he could get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Mulder sighed audibly.

    "It's something that I wouldn't expect you to understand. You've never seen some of the crap that I've seen before. Scully would understand."

    "But I'm not Scully, and I'm asking you to make me understand." The officer mumbled. Mulder looked at him briefly and then turned to the road once again.

    "You want to understand?" The officer nodded. Mulder thought for a second.

    "This isn't your case, I can't discuss it in detail with you. Official FBI policy."

    "Since when have you cared about policy?" The officer remarked smugly.

    "Oh, so you have been reading up on Agent Scully's disappearance." Mulder grinned, glad to see that the police had at least been trying to do their job.

    "Yes. But can you just tell me what makes you want to interview this suspect now, of all times?" Mulder sighed, massaged the back of his neck thoughtfully, and spoke.

    "I showed Scully a picture. It was of a victim, but I had noticed something. Char marks. These were distinctive char marks. They had to have been made by something metal. Like a paper clip or something."

    "A paper clip?" The officer questioned, not knowing where Mulder was heading with this story. Mulder silenced him with a wave of his hand.

    "The victim had been struck by lightning. In instances where people have been struck by lightning, any metal object that the person had been wearing had left a permanent burn mark in their skin, but no evidence of the object has ever been found. The heat from the lightning is so strong that the metal dissolves. There have been cases where car keys have been in someone's pocket before they're struck, but after they're hit, the only evidence that the keys where even there is a burn in the shape of the keys on their leg. Getting back to my point"

    "Wait, I think I get what you're talking about." The officer interrupted.

    "No, I don't think you do. I think someone purposely meant for this man to be electrocuted."

    "Of course. He, himself did."

    "No," Mulder sighed, "that's not it at all. If you had been following our case at all, you would see where I'm going with this. I just wish that Scully were here. She understands me more than anyone else. She disputes me more than anyone else, too. That's why we've been partners for so long." They arrived at Thinkers Headquarters and Mulder parked the car.

    "Are you ready for this?" Mulder asked the officer. The officer nodded. "There is only one favor that I need to ask of you. Call for backup, but don't follow me into the office. When I tell you to, come in with the backup. Understand?" The officer nodded his approval. Mulder and the officer headed up to Virgil Flannaghan's office, both hoping this led somewhere, but for different reasons.

    The officer couldn't understand why such a paranoid man was in the FBI instead of constantly thinking that he was being bugged. He didn't understand Mulder's ramblings at all, or why he called his partner by her last name instead of her first.

    Mulder just wanted to find Scully, solve the case, and get out of there.

    He sat at his desk, a figure of immeasurable power and authority. Gene sat back and put his feet on his boss' desk. He pictured how it would be if he were in such a high position. The door creaked open and he stumbled out of the soft black leather chair.

    "Sir?" Gene croaked. He cleared his throat and stood at attention.

    "What are you doing here?" Virgil Flannaghan mumbled.

    "Never mind that, is it done? Is the prophecy of Nadino fulfilled?"

    "Don't tell me you believe in that crap."

    "N-no, I don't. I was just wondering."

    "Yes, it was fulfilled nicely. I don't imagine that our sacrifice will have enough time to rouse and identify her location before she dies. It's up to you to kill her."

    "M-me? Why me?"

    "Because I'm not having her blood on my fingers." Virgil grumbled.

    "But...but I'm supposed to kill the redhead, right?"

    "You're killing them both."

    "But then that's not said"

    "Forget what I said, if you disagree with me one more time, I'll make sure that Nadino has your sorry ass as a sacrifice!" Virgil roared.

    "I don't...I don't have to stand for this, you know. I could have climbed up the corporate ladder if I hadn't decided to come here"

    "Oh, boo hoo; go tell it to someone who cares." The door burst open and a flustered secretary stood back.

    "S-sir! You can't go in there! Mr. Flannaghan is a very busy man!" The secretary cried.

    "I'm just going to ask him a few friendly questions, ma'am. You wouldn't want me to charge you with hindering an investigation, would you?" Mulder strode into the office and sat comfortably in a chair opposite Virgil. Gene took a protective stance behind Virgil. "Boys, I heard you arguing. This wouldn't be a power struggle, now would it?"

    "I don't know what you're talking about." Virgil mumbled. A small smile played across Mulder's lips, and he shifted comfortably in his seat. He lifted his feet and put them on Virgil's desk in an act of defiance against the mask of authority that Virgil presented. Gene opened his mouth to protest.

    "Shut your mouth. You're nothing but a pawn in this twisted game of his." Mulder motioned over to Virgil to accentuate his words.

    "What do you want, sir? I'm a very busy man and have no time for nonsense." Virgil sneered. Mulder gave him a look and lifted his wrist to see what time it was.

    "I have all the time in the world, Mr. Flannaghan. You had better clear your schedule to accommodate mine." Mulder sneered back. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about the disappearances of both a Federal Agent and the widow of one of your recently deceased employees, would you?"

    "No, sir, I haven't a clue what you're talking about. Mrs. Parisi is a wonderful woman. I don't see any reason why she would want to disappear." Virgil stated simply.

    "How about Santeria?" Mulder inquired. Virgil looked at him as thought he was crazy, while Gene remained expressionless and defensive behind his boss.

    "Santeria? Why would I know anything about that?"

    "Well, you seem to be quite the fan of candles. The color of wax is very important, you know."

    "How would you know what I like?"

    "I'll be blunt with you, Virgil. This place smells like wax. Even my partner, who tends to like candles sometimes, does not have an apartment that smells quite like this."

    "Oh, that explains the scent” Gene mumbled mindlessly. Mulder glared at him as if to say, "I've got your number." Gene closed his mouth. Mulder put his feet back on the ground and stood up. He stood still for a minute, glaring at Gene and Virgil. He then picked up his left foot and produced a small flake of white wax.

    "You shouldn't practice that in your office, Virgil. It's bad policy. You're under arrest for the abduction of Kathleen Parisi." At that moment, the police burst in through the door and took hold of Gene.

    "Hold him for questioning."

    Mulder advanced behind Virgil's desk and arrested him calmly, without incident.

    "You have no proof!" Virgil suddenly yelled.

    "The wax from my shoe is on its way to the lab to be analyzed and compared against two samples taken from the scene of Mrs. Parisi's abduction. You've had three employees in the past three months die, yet you stated, and I quote, 'Mrs. Parisi is a wonderful woman. I don't see any reason why she would want to disappear'. We weren't talking specific victims, yet you singled her out. And Gene's utterance about a 'scent' is all the proof I need to indict both you and him." Virgil lowered his head. He then suddenly looked up and over at Gene.

    "You...YOU were involved in this. You were my accomplice!" Virgil screamed.

    "You getting this, boys?" Mulder asked the officers. They nodded darkly.

    "Check the basement!" Gene yelled. All action in the room stopped and everyone focused on him.

    "What? What did you say?" Mulder asked, slowly walking over to the man and leveling his face with his.

    "Your partner...your partner is in the basement. I think Kathleen may be there too." Gene lowered his eyes. Mulder gritted his teeth to resist the urge to punch the meek man.

    "Traitor!" Virgil screamed as he was being led out of the room.

    "I told you that you would be found out! I told you this would happen! And now you're stuck rotting in jail and so am I!" Gene cried. Mulder rushed out of the room and towards the elevator, pushing the down button. When he got in, the elevator began it's slow descent towards the basement.

    The elevator creaked in its journey to the basement. When it finally hit bottom, Mulder practically kicked the doors open. He ran out, his gun holstered and ready for any surprises.

    "Scully?!" He called. A weak response was heard in reply. Kathleen Parisi had answered his call.

    "In here!" She yelled weakly. Mulder ran to the utility closet that had become a prison to the two women. He tried the handle and it was locked.

    "Stand back!" Mulder yelled. When he was certain that he heard movement in the closet and that the women were back, he kicked the door open. A loud crack resounded throughout the basement, and the doorframe splintered. The door flung open to reveal the battered face of Kathleen Parisi and the still unconscious form of Special Agent Dana Scully. Mulder ran over to Kathleen and holstered his gun. "Are you okay?"

    "Yeah, I'm fine. A little headache and a sore neck and dislocated shoulder, but I'm fine." Mulder rushed over to Scully and felt for a pulse. Her pulse still went strong, but blood was caked in her hair.

    "Scully?" He called softly. She stirred very slightly. He pressed further. "Scully?"

    "Mmmmmm." She groaned. She moved her hand up to her head and touched the tender spot lightly. She winced and opened her eyes slowly.

    "Good morning, sleepyhead." Mulder said softly. Scully smiled slightly.

    "What happened?" She whispered.

    "Virgil Flannaghan decided to send one of his henchmen out to kidnap you and later to kill you so that he would never be found out."

    "What was he doing?"

    "He had a Santeria cult within his corporation. He led his employees to believe that he was possessed by some kind of evil spirit who needed both human and animal sacrifices. He then sent Gene, his henchman, out to kidnap you, flog you, and later to kill you. Then, he went out himself, thinking Kathleen might leak something. He hog tied her and dragged her down her steps and into his car, but not before slamming her head into his car door and knocking her out." Mulder explained. Scully tried to sit up but felt woozy, so she lay back down. Mulder took out his cell phone and called for an ambulance for the women.

    Scully shifted in her seat. It was a long ride back to the airport. Mulder worried his bottom lip, watching the road. Scully looked out of the window, and, suddenly a thought occurred to her.

    "Mulder?" She asked slowly.

    "Hmmm?" Came her response.

    "Why did we even go out to investigate this case?"

    "Isn't that the question on everyone's lips?"

    "No, I'm serious. Why did we?"

    "Good...for a second there I wasn't sure if it was the concussion talking."

    "Will you just please answer me?" She was starting to get irritated.

    "Hooked on a feeling."

    "What? You're not going to start singing that, now are you?"

    "No, Scully, that's my answer. I was hooked on a feeling that this case would lead to something."

    "Is that all?"


    "Are you sure you want to go with that?" Scully looked at her partner incredulously. If looks could kill, a corpse would be driving. Mulder nodded in response. "Final answer?"

    "Yes, Regis." Mulder answered curtly back. Scully stared back outside and sighed. That was her partner: always hooked on a feeling.

    "Skinner's going to want to know why I was flogged." Scully mumbled.

    "Yes, Scully. I know that."

    "How will we explain that?"

    "What do you mean, we? I'm already stuck explaining the pencil thing to him."

    "Yes, but that was your fault. I didn't ask to be cracked over the head with a two-by-four that just happened to fit inside my attacker's trench coat." Mulder sighed.



    "Don't say I never gave you anything."

    "Aside from the ride of my life and one enormous headache, you mean." Scully sighed and again preoccupied herself with the outside world.

    "That's what I mean." Mulder sighed. Scully was just glad to be alive.