Title: The Coiled Serpent
Author: aka "Jake"
Rating: R (Language, Violence, Adult Themes, Sexual Situations)
Classification: X, Post Ep (all things)
Spoilers: Up through "all things" in Season 7
Summary: Mulder and Scully try to navigate their newfound intimacy. Meanwhile, a psychokinetic killer with an overwhelming obsession for power develops a deadly fixation on Scully.
Scully downed her wine, emptying the glass. “Mulder, don’t you think...shouldn’t we set some ground rules?”
“We need rules?”
“Well, don’t we?”
Maybe they did. They’d both had workplace romances turn sour. He certainly didn’t want that to happen to them. But he also didn’t want to wait another seven years to act on the love he felt for her.
“Scully, I enjoyed last night. I’d like to do it again. Besides, you know I’m not good with rules.”
Disclaimer: The characters Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, and Walter Skinner are the property of Chris Carter, FOX, and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement intended. This is for fun, not profit.
Author's Note: I originally posted "The Coiled Serpent" on September 6, 1999. Later, dissatisfied with it, I removed it from my website and ignored it for almost 24 years. Recently, I decided to resurrect and totally rewrite it. I changed the plot, the subplot, and the time frame, moving it from Season 6 to Season 7, the morning after "all things." About the only things that remain from the original story are the title, some original character names, and the MOTW. What follows is the revised version.
University of Central Maine Anthropology Museum
April 7, 2000
Darren Linwood misted a glass display case with blue-green cleanser. While wiping away a day's worth of visitors' fingerprints, he eavesdropped on Stanley Whitherspoon talking to Henry Addison in front of a 30-foot-tall Haida totem pole, recently installed in the adjoining gallery.
"The Northwest Coast carvings are arriving from British Columbia early tomorrow," the museum director told the department head. “There’s no way we're going to be ready to open this exhibit on Tuesday.”
Addison murmured something in response. Darren wheeled his janitor's cart a bit closer to try to hear them better.
"There's so much left to do," Whitherspoon said. "Mounts, labels, lighting. I need more help.”
"Borrow a couple of my grad assistants," Addison offered before heading toward the exit. He turned at the door, his eyes flitting to Darren. "If you're desperate, ask Linwood to lend a hand," he suggested with an unkind smirk before he let himself out.
“I’d be happy to help, Dr. Whitherspoon," Darren offered.
"Uh...no thank you.” Whitherspoon turned his attention to the totem pole. It stood in the most prominent corner of the two-story gallery, where it would be the crown jewel of the new exhibit.
"I have experience with Northwest Coast artifacts. I catalogued the Tlingit materials two years ago," Darren reminded the director.
“And messed them up so badly it took two months to sort them out.” Whitherspoon dismissed him with a shake of his head.
"Dr. Whitherspoon, uh...“ -- Darren anxiously twisted his cleaning rag -- “has the Doctoral Committee made a decision about my thesis yet?" After years of pursuing his doctorate while working as a janitor to pay for his schooling, he was eager to move forward and get his degree.
"The committee rejected it. Again.”
Whitherspoon glared at him. ”Because we all felt your topic of kundalini energies had more in common with a Psychic Network infomercial than with a doctoral thesis on Eastern religious cultures. It was crap, Darren. Just like your five previous attempts. Why don't you just give up?”
“Yes. We're all tired of wading through your half-baked theories. Parapsychology is not a legitimate topic for a serious doctoral candidate. Anthropology is the science of human culture, Darren. *Science*. You’re wasting our time and yours if you think the committee will ever endorse such an outlandish topic. It's nothing but garbage and the sooner you face that fact, the better for all of us.”
"But, the psychokinesis studies at Princeton indicated--“
“Hogwash! The PEAR Laboratory never claimed people have the ability to move heavy objects, or even bend spoons, with their minds. You’re touting nothing more than sleight-of-hand parlor tricks.” Witherspoon turned his back on Darren. He withdraw a pair of white cotton gloves from his pocket and put them on before carefully lifting a small Potlatch bowl from a box on the nearby display platform. He ran a thumb delicately across the abalone inlay. “I have work to do. Go home, Darren.”
Darren felt the heat of humiliation uncoil at the base of his spine. It rose up his back. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. A rush of anger followed the wave of embarrassment and shame. He’d worked so hard! All those years...wasted? He aimed an unstoppable fury at a spot between Whitherspoon's shoulder blades.
The gallery began to quake. A collection of miniature totem poles trembled on the display platform in front of Whitherspoon. One teetered and fell.
A deep rumble caught Whitherspoon's attention and he turned to gape as the full-size Haida totem pole rose straight up in the air. The massive wooden house post weighed nearly a ton yet now hovered eight feet above the floor. In the blink of an eye, it sped across the gallery, only to freeze directly above his head. It hung there for a fraction of a second, still in its upright position, before it dropped with a thunderous crash and collapsed the director like an empty soda can. A growing pool of blood oozed across the fractured marble floor at the base of the pole.
Darren wheeled his janitor's cart to the storage closet and stowed his cleaning supplies. He retrieved his faded UCM cap from its hook on the wall. Ignoring Whitherspoon's crushed body, he crossed back through the museum to the front entrance and stepped out into the chilly April afternoon.
April 10, 2000
“Son of b--” Mulder honked his horn. “Light’s green!” he yelled at a driver three cars ahead.
He was running late. For a justifiable reason, really. Scully spent last night at his place. More than that, they’d had sex. For the first time. It was...mind-blowing. In a good way, of course, but in a nerve-racking way, too. Seven years together and he could count the number of times she’d kissed him on one finger, if you didn’t count 1939 Scully in a red dress on the Queen Anne, which he did but she didn’t. Or wouldn’t, if she knew about it. But she visited a Buddhist temple, had an epiphany about all choices leading to one choice, and next thing he knew, she was waking up from a short nap on his couch and leading him into his bedroom where she proceeded to undress and make him the happiest man on earth.
At least until he woke up this morning to find she’d left his apartment while he was still asleep. Didn’t wake him up for a cup of coffee or to talk about what happened -- or what would happen next -- leaving him to wonder if she regretted making love to him...with him...together...or if she simply wanted to clean up and change her clothes at her place before heading in to work because, admittedly, she had nothing at his place, no spare office wear or even so much as a toothbrush. Nothing except a jacket she’d once left behind years ago, which he’d never returned or even mentioned because he liked having it in his closet.
He honked his horn again although traffic was moving once more.
He’d swung by Trudy’s Cafe twenty minutes ago to pick up coffee and danish, the cheese and raspberry kind she liked, which made him even later. That was after arguing with himself about whether or not to bring her flowers. In the end, he decided flowers would start too many tongues wagging in the bullpen and she’d hate that. A lot. A lot, a lot. Coffee was a safer bet and she liked coffee. They both liked coffee. And danish. And now he was babbling in his head, he realized, because, well, because they’d had sex! They’d actually had sex! The most satisfying sex of his life. Bar none.
By the time he pulled into the parking garage at the Hoover Building, he was thirty minutes late. He grabbed the coffees and danish and hurried to the elevators.
When he arrived at his office door, he found it closed and for one heart-stopping moment, he thought she might not have come to work. Maybe she was avoiding him. Would avoid him for the rest of their lives. But he tried the knob and found the door unlocked.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he said as he pushed the door open and walked in.
Scully was there but she wasn’t alone. Skinner stood beside her with a file folder in his hand.
Scully flashed Mulder a “where have you been” look. So did Skinner but with a lot less panic and a lot more annoyance.
“Nice of you to finally join us, Agent Mulder,” Skinner said.
“What...what’ve you got there?” Mulder set the coffees and danish on his desk.
“A case that doesn’t quite fit any of the FBI’s usual crime categories.”
“Oh, we like those cases,” Mulder said. “May I?” He held out a hand for the file.
Skinner passed it to him. Mulder flipped to the crime scene photos and winced at the gore.
"Gives new meaning to the phrase 'low man on the totem pole.’”
“Yes, well...the deceased is Stanley Whitherspoon, director of UCM’s anthropology museum. As you can see, he died in a very...unusual way. See what you can find out,” Skinner said.
“I’ve booked us a flight,” Scully said. “It leaves in an hour.”
UCM Anthropology Museum
Darren wound the electrical cord around the museum’s wet-vac and eyed the two FBI agents in the adjacent gallery. The tall, lanky agent paced the distance from the Haida totem pole, reset in its rightful position in the corner, to the center of the room where he crouched and appeared to make some mental calculations. He ran his palm across the cracked marble floor. Although the blood had been cleaned up days ago, a pinkish stain still tinted the light-colored stone.
Several yards away, the agent's diminutive red-haired partner stood reviewing crime scene photographs, her pretty lipsticked mouth pursed in concentration. She had a compact but attractive figure, shapely legs, and high heels that made Darren’s mouth go dry. Those high heels click-clacked loudly on the glossy floor when she crossed the room to join her partner.
"Mulder, where's this Dr. Addison we're supposed to meet?" She sounded mildly irritated.
"Right here.” Henry Addison hurried into the gallery, flustered and out-of-breath. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Agents.”
He extended a hand to the male agent, who rose to his feet.
Darren inched closer and pretended to dust a nearby exhibit case while he continued to listen.
“I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Dana Scully." The man...Mulder...shook Addison's hand. "Can you describe exactly what happened here last Friday?"
"Well, I didn't witness it myself. Thank God.” Addison grimaced. "When I left Stan around 4:30, he was still alive. He planned to work most of the weekend installing the museum's new Northwest Coast exhibit...here in this gallery. The exhibit's grand opening was scheduled for tomorrow. For obvious reasons, we've delayed it until you've completed your investigation. I don't mean to sound callous, but how long do you think you'll be? I've got a shipment of artifacts in storage waiting to be installed and I'm sure Stanley wouldn't want us to delay the exhibit."
"Who found Whitherspoon's body?" the female agent...Dana Scully...asked, ignoring Addison’s question. She tucked the crime photos away in her file folder.
"Sherri Pulaski,” Addison said. “She's a work-study student. Senior with a minor in Museum Studies. She had planned to help Stan unpack and catalog the incoming artifacts. I brought her phone number, in case you wanted to question her.” He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to Agent Scully.
She slid the girl's phone number into the folder with the photos. "What time did she find the body?"
"Around 6:45 Saturday morning. The shipment of artifacts was scheduled for delivery shortly after 7:00. Stan had lined up four of his own students, plus two of my grad assistants, to help him unload and organize the exhibit materials. Sherri was the first to arrive."
"Her lucky day," Agent Mulder commented. "How'd she get in? Isn't the museum locked and alarmed?"
"Sure it is. But the student workers each have keys and pass codes for the alarm system's keypad. That said, Sherri found the museum unlocked and the alarm already disabled when she arrived."
"What did she do when she found Whitherspoon?”
"Called Campus Security. Then they called me and I arrived around 7:15. Sherri was hysterical and I can hardly blame her. It was horrible. Stan was flattened beneath the pole. Pulverized, you might say. The floor was covered in blood. And it was damn startling to see the totem pole out of place.” Addison gestured at it, back in its corner.
"How do you think the totem pole came to be in the middle of the gallery?” Agent Mulder asked.
"That pole weighs almost a ton. A ton! You wouldn't believe the equipment and manpower it took to get the thing back where it belongs, where you see it now. I can't imagine how it ended up over here...with Stanley under it." Addison glanced at the stain of blood. "Is there anything else you need from me, Agents?"
“The names of the students who have keys to the museum.” Agent Mulder handed Addison a business card. "And one more question. Were you here alone with Dr. Whitherspoon just before his death?"
"Actually, no," Addison answered. "I left Stanley with Darren Linwood."
"Yes. He's right over there.” Addison pointed at Darren, who stopped dusting.
Darren nervously licked his lips when Agent Mulder beckoned him with the fingers of one hand. Clearing his throat, he shuffled over to them.
"C-can I help with something?" he asked, feeling uneasy, but delighted to be closer to Agent Scully. Her hair shone like the copper bracelets in the Africa Gallery upstairs and her eyes were the color of the sea. She was, well, stunning.
“Mr. Linwood, we’d like to ask you a few questions, if we may,” she said, tucking a strand of her coppery hair behind her ear.
"Uh...sure. Yes. Go ahead. But I don't think there's much I can tell you.” Darren politely removed his faded UCM cap. He tried not to gawk at her glossy red lips, but found it hard to tear his eyes away.
"Dr. Addison tells us he left Dr. Whitherspoon here with you last Friday afternoon. Mr. Linwood, is it true you were the last person to see the museum director alive?" Agent Scully focused her blue, blue eyes intently on him, causing him to blush under her scrutiny. He felt shabby next to the well-dressed agent. He wished he was wearing a suit and tie like Addison and Agent Mulder, not frayed jeans and dirty sneakers.
"Well, I don’t know if I was the last, but I was here with Dr. Whitherspoon when Dr. Addison left," Darren said, glancing briefly at Addison. "Dr. Whitherspoon asked me to help him with the new exhibit. Told me to come back in the morning to catalog artifacts. He said he would lock up when he was finished. I put away my cleaning gear. When I left, Dr. Whitherspoon was still working in the gallery."
"What time was that?"
"A little before five, I think."
"Did you see anyone else in the museum at that time?"
“Dr. Whitherspoon asked you to help him catalog artifacts for the exhibit?" Agent Mulder asked, looking puzzled.
"Yes. I'm a student here. In the Anthropology Department -- a doctoral candidate. This janitor job just helps me pay the bills," Darren eagerly explained, wanting the agents, particularly Agent Scully, to know he was an educated man.
"Darren recently submitted his sixth thesis attempt,” Henry Addison said with open disdain. "I think he's going for a record. What was it this time, Darren? ‘Kundalini Energies: The Role of Psychokinesis in the Religion of Eastern Cultures?'"
Agent Scully leaned toward her partner and murmured, "Wasn't that your thesis, Mulder?”
"You wrote about psychokinesis and kundalini energies?" Agent Mulder asked Darren. He sounded genuinely intrigued.
"Yeah. Many Asian religions support the idea that all energy transactions in the physical universe are governed and controlled by the mystical force called kundalini," Darren began excitedly. "In the classical literature of Kashmir Shaivism--“
Addison groaned. ”Please, Darren. Spare us. The committee has rejected that thesis.”
"Rejected it? Why is that?" Agent Mulder asked.
"Because the idea that the mind can move objects from one place to another is groundless.” Addison looked at Agent Mulder as if any two-year-old could have grasped the point and come to the same conclusion.
“Groundless? Interesting choice of words,” Agent Mulder said. "Many people believe it's possible to psychically manipulate the physical universe."
"Many people are crackpots, Agent Mulder. We study the science of anthropology here, not the science fiction of New Age mysticism."
"I could loan you a copy of my thesis, if you’re interested, Agent Mulder,” Darren offered, pleased to have discovered a kindred spirit in the FBI man. "I have an extra at my apartment. I live only a half mile away. On University Drive."
"Let's go," Mulder said.
“Mulder?" Agent Scully looked as though their investigation had taken an unexpected, perhaps unnecessary, turn.
"It's on the way to the motel, Scully." Mulder curled his fingers around her upper arm and steered her toward the exit. "Can we give you a lift, Mr. Linwood?"
Darren Linwood's Apartment
Darren stumbled out of the back seat of the rental car even before Mulder shut off the engine. He was a tall, gangly man, around 30 years old, with dark, unkempt hair. He rushed to open Scully's door and in a chivalrous gesture, held out his hand to help her from her seat.
She ignored it and stepped from the car unaided. She was an FBI agent, not a damsel in distress, and this little side trip of Mulder’s was a waste of time.
"Watch the mud," Darren warned. “Walkway's kind of slippery."
He led them to the front door of a dilapidated two-story apartment building, where he dug deeply into the pocket of his jeans for a key. He fumbled for a moment with the lock. Finally he managed to swing the door inward and usher them inside.
The smell of last week's garbage filled the dingy front hall. "Upstairs," Darren directed. The stairs creaked as they climbed. At the upper landing, Darren wrestled with a second lock under the dim light of a bare, forty-watt bulb, which dangled loosely from its wires in the ceiling overhead. "Come on in."
Once inside, Darren hurried across the tiny living space and flicked on a table lamp before disappearing through a door at the back. Scully scanned the room, noting piles of text books, magazines, and newspapers stacked randomly on seemingly every surface. Two sets of bookshelves against the far wall were so overloaded, the shelves bent perilously under the weight. The only furniture in the room was a scuffed leather sofa and a dusty coffee table, both littered with papers, dirty dishes, and castoff clothing. In the back corner, a fish tank bubbled beneath an “I WANT TO BELIEVE” poster just like Mulder’s.
“This could be your place.” she said to Mulder.
“Nah, this is nicer.” Mulder lifted a newsletter from the arm of the couch and held it up for her to see. The familiar banner of the Lone Gunman was plainly visible beneath several round coffee stains. “All the comforts of home though.”
“Here it is,” Darren announced as he loped back into the room. He handed Mulder a thick sheaf of papers. “I'd really appreciate hearing your comments once you've had a chance to read it. Can I get either of you anything to drink? Coffee? Water? Uh...coffee? That's all I have, I'm afraid.” Darren smiled awkwardly. “I don't get much company. Too busy studying.”
“No. Thank you. Agent Mulder and I have to be going.” She looked hopefully at Mulder but found he was already absorbed in Darren's manuscript. “Mulder?”
“Hmm?” His eyes never left the pages.
“We have to go.” She placed her hand on his sleeve to ensure she had his attention. “Motel check-in, interviews with the student workers, a call to the M.E.,” she reminded him.
“Huh? Oh, yeah,” he mumbled distractedly, still reading.
She tugged him toward the door.
“Thank you, Mr. Linwood,” she said. “You've obviously made his day.” Her comment caused Darren's face to light up with pride.
“It's open,” Mulder responded to Scully’s soft knock. She entered his room to find him sprawled on his bed, pillows stacked behind his shoulders, and Darren’s thesis spread across the comforter. He had managed to shed his suit coat and remove his tie -- both hung over the seat of a nearby chair -- and his shoes lay haphazardly beside the bureau. But other than that, he was unchanged from earlier when he’d dropped her off at her room to call the M.E. about Whitherspoon’s autopsy while he went to interview work-study student Sherri Pulaski.
“You're not ready,” she said with some impatience. She was hungry. She also wanted to discuss her sleepover at his place last night.
She’d been happy about this latest development in their relationship. Was still happy. But she did wonder how they were going to make it work. *If* they were going to make it work. She felt one-hundred percent right about taking this next step but Mulder had seemed hesitant when she first suggested making love by tugging him into his bedroom. She didn’t question it then, in part because he seemed to warm up to the idea pretty quickly, but now she wondered why he initially appeared unsure. Not that they stopped to talk about it at the time, of course.
She hoped he wasn’t sorry about what they’d done. She realized now she should’ve woken him up this morning to discuss it but as she was dressing, she became more and more nervous about his reaction. In the end, she decided to slip out and talk later. As the day wore on, she became more worried. Suppose it had been a mistake? Had she jeopardized their friendship? Their partnership?
“What did you find out from the M.E.?” he asked, his eyes never leaving Darren’s manuscript.
“The autopsy was atypical, as you might imagine, given the condition of the body. Toxicology screens showed nothing unusual. Cause of death was blunt force trauma.”
“To say the least.”
“Splinters from from the bottom of the totem pole were embedded into what was left of Whitherspoon’s head, which was forced into his torso, which in turn was inside his pelvis, which was--”
“I get the picture.” Mulder made a face like he might throw up.
When his focus returned to the manuscript, she asked, “Did your interview with Sherri Pulaski turn up anything?”
“Nope. Nor did my interviews with the other student workers. One admitted to losing his museum keys about a month ago, but apparently the locks were changed the next day and all the students were issued new keys.”
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a copy of one of those new keys floating around out there somewhere.”
“Probably a moot point, in any case. It’s likely the museum was never locked that night, since Whitherspoon was still working in the gallery.” He flipped to a new page.
“Will you please put that down and get ready? I’m starving.”
“This is really very good." Mulder held up a page, then patted the mattress, inviting her to join him on the bed. "Darren Linwood is actually an intelligent guy."
"If he's so intelligent and his thesis is so good, why did the doctoral committee reject it?" Ignoring his invitation and the bed, she headed for the chair. She lifted his coat and tie from the seat and laid them across her lap when she sat down. Idly, she rolled his tie into a neat cylinder.
"They rejected it because they're narrow minded academics, unable to consider extreme possibilities unless those possibilities can be quantified by scientifically proven facts. They've got their heads stuck so far up their asses that--“ His face reddened. "Oops. Sorry. Uh...I didn’t mean to imply that *you*, as a scientist, ever have your head up your ass," he back-peddled. “But, obviously, that's where mine is. Up *my* ass, I mean."
She arched an eyebrow at him. “What's in his thesis that has you so captivated?”
"He's written about parapsychology, particularly psychokinesis, the ability of the human mind to move stationary objects without the aid of physical contact."
“I know what psychokinesis is. So...?” She unrolled his tie and absently stroked it with her index finger.
"Don’t you think that’s quite a coincidence?"
"In what respect?"
"In that the One-Ton-Totem mysteriously traveled more than forty feet, ending up on top of the museum director's head."
“You think Darren Linwood did that?"
“Well, he and Whitherspoon were alone together in the gallery just before the director's fatal Excedrin headache.”
“Please, don’t tell me you think Darren levitated that pole with his mind and murdered Dr. Whitherspoon."
"That's exactly what I think. Here, read for yourself.” Mulder nudged a section of the manuscript in her direction and rose from the bed. "I'm going to clean up."
"Mulder, why do you place any credence in Darren's writing? According to Addison, the man is an six-time loser.”
"There but for the grace of God..." Mulder drew his shirt over his head, cast it onto the bed, and disappeared behind the bathroom door. Scully soon heard the sound of water splashing into the sink. She shifted Mulder's coat and tie to the bed, picked up Darren’s thesis, and paced the room as she read.
//An article published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (Vol. 6, No. 4), reports on experiments carried out at Princeton University investigating the possibility that the human mind can influence random number devices in a way that can be measured in a laboratory. Prof. Robert Jahn, an engineer and former Dean in the Princeton School of Engineering, and Brenda Dunne, also of Princeton, released a detailed report based on nearly half a million experimental trials carried out by Jahn, Dunne, et al, at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory. The tests demonstrate an extremely minute, but statistically measurable, ability of the mind to skew the output of electronic number generators and other devices.//
Scully had heard about the controversial research conducted at PEAR. Despite years of testing, the validity of PK claims were never established. PK achievements were so minuscule, they were practically immeasurable. Scully skipped ahead in the manuscript.
//We must start with two assumptions: (1) “Thought" takes place at a different level than the physical (call it "mind"). (2) The physical level operates in accordance with natural law (Hamilton's Principle) except at the times when thought interacts with it. An analogy can be made to a billiard ball (physical system) rolling in a straight line until a cue stick (thought) interacts with it and sends it in a new direction.//
Blah, blah, blah. Scully didn't agree with Darren's analogy of human thought as a cue stick. And she certainly didn't believe Darren, or anyone else, had psychokinetically killed Stanley Whitherspoon with the museum's Haida totem pole.
"So, what do you think?" Mulder asked when he emerged from the bathroom, his voice momentarily muffled when he pulled a clean turtleneck over his head.
“It’s bunk." Scully dropped the pages on the bed. "Let's go eat."
"You don't believe in mind over matter?"
"Does that surprise you?"
"Well. Yeah, actually. Remember the Lauren Kyte case, HTG Industrial Technologies?”
“We never proved Lauren had psychokinetic powers.”
“How do you explain what happened to our car? To Dorland and those two Isfahan robbers? To Howard Graves’ office?”
“I don’t. We couldn’t explain it then and we can’t explain it now. But I don’t believe it was psychokinetic manipulation.”
“Given the scientific evidence from Princeton, I thought you'd at least consider the possibility that a stationary object can be influenced by human thought." He blocked her way to the door.
"I'm having a thought right now, Mulder." She fastened her eyes on him.
He quickly opened the door and stepped out into the hall.
"See, Scully. If you put your mind to it, you can move mountains. Or Mulders.”
UCM Anthropology Museum
Darren strode through the museum’s unlit galleries. He felt good. Strong. Stronger than he had ever felt in his life. He was headed for the museum’s administrative offices, hoping to go though the files to find the doctoral committee’s written comments about his thesis. With Whitherspoon dead, maybe he could make some minor changes and resubmit it, get it accepted at last.
At the end of the hall, light spilled from the open door to Whitherspoon's old office. The steady chug of a photocopier came from somewhere inside. Darren moved soundlessly toward it.
When he reached the door and peered in, he saw Henry Addison sitting hunched at the desk, back to the door, tapping at the keyboard of Whitherspoon’s computer. Traditional Kwakiutl music streamed rhythmically from a tape deck beside him. The photocopier spit out printed exhibit labels in time to the hand-clapping, drum-beating, and shell rattling on the tape.
Darren loudly cleared his throat.
"Christ, Linwood!" Startled, Addison spun to face him. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“Sorry, sir. I saw the light on. It’s late and--“
“I know what time it is. And I’m very busy. With Stanley dead, responsibility for the Northwest Coast exhibit has fallen to me. I’d appreciate it if you'd leave so I can get back to my work.”
“I could help you.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not? Why don’t you take me seriously? No one in this department takes me seriously!”
“No, Darren, we don’t, because your ideas aren’t worth serious consideration. We’ve tried to tell you, be honest with you, but you haven’t wanted to listen. So now I’m going to tell you straight out, in no uncertain terms, in hopes of finally getting through to you. You have no aptitude for scholarly research. You’ve become an irritating thorn in everyone’s side. You’re the laughingstock of the department.” Addison’s frown morphed into something more sinister, almost as if he was getting pleasure out of humiliating Darren. “Know what we call you? Loony Linwood. Now, get out of here and let me finish my work."
Something stirred at the base of Darren’s spine. He felt an uncoiling, a rising heat.
“No, I don't think I’m going anywhere,” he said softly, shaking his head.
“What did you say?”
”I said no."
Addison rose from his chair, his face reddening in anger. “Leave, Darren. Now!”
Darren felt calm, powerful. Energy was building inside him. He stepped forward until he and Addison stood almost toe-to-toe. “Not until you say please.”
“Go or I'm calling the police." Addison reached for the phone. When Darren didn't move, he furiously dialed 911.
"No time for that," Darren said.
The steady kerchunk, kerchunk of the photocopier ceased when it rose up off the floor, high enough for the electrical cord to pull free from the wall socket.
"What the hell--?” Addison had time to say just before the photocopier hurtled toward him.
It smashed into him, separating his head from his body. Darren raised an arm to shield his face from flying debris. The copier’s toner cartridge exploded. A black cloud of toner drifted downward, coating the desk, the floor, and Henry Addison’s headless body with its fine residue.
"Now I'll go,” Darren said and walked away. The molten heat in his shoulders and back subsided. It slid down, down, until it coiled once again around the base of his spine, where it would wait until Darren released it again.
Mainely Moose Pub & Grub
Scully ordered grilled Gulf of Maine salmon with caper chimichurri, roasted tomato coulis, and quinoa, with a glass of Blueberry Bliss wine. Mulder went with a Mainely Moose burger -- one pound of beef, bacon, chipotle BBQ sauce, fried onions, and cheddar cheese, with hand-cut fries on the side -- washed down with an Allagash beer.
Rowdy college students chatted and laughed at the bar. Professor-types filled the shadowed booths. Mulder and Scully sat in a back corner where they could talk without being overheard. Mulder hoped to discuss last night, but so far Scully remained laser focused on the case. For now, he went along.
“I don’t understand your fixation with Darren Linwood,” she said.
“It's not a fixation. It’s a hunch.”
“To quote you, Mulder, ‘potayto’ ‘potahto.”
He smiled. “I think Darren may be experiencing the kundalini energies he's written about in his thesis. If he is, it's possible he can levitate objects with his mind." He waggled his burger in front of her before taking a big bite.
"A one-ton totem pole?”
“Possibly,” he said, after chewing and swallowing. “We're not talking about the physical universe, but the universe of the mind. It may take no more mental power to lift a train than to bend a spoon." Trying his own little private experiment, he silently willed her to accept his point of view, to feel as sure as he did that Darren Linwood was capable of murdering Stanley Whitherspoon by dropping a totem pole on his head.
"Sorry, Mulder. I need proof.”
So much for that experiment.
He decided to change the subject. ”Would you...will you spend the night with me tonight?”
Her eyes widened. ”I have a perfectly good bed in a perfectly good room down the hall from yours.”
He studied her face: the graceful curve of her eyebrows, the delicate tip of her nose, the long russet lashes fringing her downcast lids. She was beautiful and he couldn't help but think of how she looked last night, nude in his bed. Tentatively, he reached across the table and traced his thumb feather-soft across her cheek. Feeling encouraged when she didn’t pull away, he slid his fingers into her glossy hair.
She leaned into his hand. ”Mulder, tell me about Darren's thesis," she murmured.
"You really know how to kill a mood, Scully.” His hand dropped away.
"Were we having a mood?" Her smile was soft, tolerant. He took it as a good sign. "Explain to me the basics of kundalini energies."
"Oooo, I like it when we talk dirty.”
"I know kundalini has something to do with meditation and yoga,” she said, ignoring his comment. “What else is it?"
He swirled a French fry in the puddle of catsup on his plate. "Kundalini is considered the Yoga of Awareness, but literally it means coiling, like a snake. In the traditional literature, kundalini is described as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. For centuries practitioners of Asian religions have sought to control its mystical force. They claim that all energy transactions in the physical universe are governed by it and controlling its energy helps you achieve your highest potential."
“Why have I never heard of it before?”
"You likely have, but under different names. Esprit, lan vital or, for the scientifically-minded like yourself, bio-electricity."
“Hm, all those autopsies I've performed and I never once found a snake coiled at the base of someone's spine."
“It's not an actual snake, Scully. It's an energy. Yogis practice awakening kundalini energy in an effort to achieve spiritual enlightenment. They describe an intense heat rising up the spine to the crown of the head when it's released. They say kundalini can temporarily accentuate the sex drive. It takes sexual energy in its raw form and converts it into a spiritual energy which allows for paranormal activities like telepathy, precognition, other-life recall, matter/energy conversion, psychokinesis, and communication with entities that inhabit the vast areas of our multi-dimensional universe."
"Entities that inhabit the vast areas of our multi-dimensional universe?" Clearly she wasn't buying any of this.
"Anyway, in addition to the sexual aspects, the more pleasant experiences associated with a kundalini awakening include waves of bliss, periods of elation, glimpses of transcendental consciousness. The less pleasant aspects are sharp aches and pains, sudden flashes of heat, periods of irrational anxiety.”
“You could be describing menopause. It doesn’t sound very dangerous. Hardly a cause for homicidal tendencies.”
“Don’t be so sure. If we take the psychological perspective and view kundalini as a power latent in our unconscious, then it’s understandable that awakening this force could bring unconscious feelings to the surface. Even in the best of circumstances, it’s likely to be uncomfortable, and if an individual is barely coping with his unconscious under normal day-to-day circumstances, then awakening kundalini may push him over into psychosis.” He pushed his empty plate away and drained the last of his beer. “Besides, kundalini may not be the cause of Darren’s homicidal tendencies. It may merely be the murder weapon.”
She shook her head, still not convinced.
“Spend the night with me,” he asked again.
She downed her wine, emptying the glass. “Don’t you think...shouldn’t we set some ground rules first?”
“We need rules?”
“Well, don’t we?”
Maybe they did. They’d both had workplace romances turn sour. He certainly didn’t want that to happen to them. But he also didn’t want to wait another seven years to act on the love he felt for her.
“Scully, I enjoyed last night. I’d like to do it again. Besides, you know I’m not good with rules.”
The chirp of Mulder's cellphone startled them both. Mulder dug the phone from his jacket pocket and put it to his ear. “Mulder,” he identified himself.
“Agent Mulder, I’m Chief Briggs, University Police. Dr. Addison is dead. It almost looks like...”
“Like someone threw a photocopier at him. I think you’d better come to the museum.”
“We’ll be right there.” Mulder tossed his napkin onto his plate.
“What’s happened?” Scully asked.
“Death by Levitating Object, Part Two.”
Henry Addison’s words circled Darren's brain like an endless round of Row Your Boat.
//You have no aptitude for scholarly research. You’re the laughingstock of the department. We call you Loony Linwood.//
The cruel words beat a terrible pulsing rhythm inside his head while his feet marched in time to it, down the sidewalk, toward his apartment. Despairing his inadequacies and fearing the truth of Addison’s accusations, he longed for the sensation of invincibility and elation he felt when he lifted that photocopier into the air. When he killed Addison. It was the same rush he’d felt when he levitated the totem pole and killed Whitherspoon.
He knew he should be appalled by his crimes, but instead, he ached to repeat them, to feel that liquid heat rise up his back and spread across his body, finally giving way to a blissful explosion of power. He wanted to awaken the kundalini now. Focusing his thoughts on it, he begged it to uncoil from the base of his spine, to climb the knotted bones of his back.
When he detected it stir and unwind, he was thrilled. With each stride he took, it rose higher up into his body, until its heat enveloped his chest, neck, arms, and face. He trembled as he walked. Broke out in a sweat, despite the chilly April air.
To complete the act, Darren knew he had to direct the kundalini’s enormous energy outward, away from himself. Desperate for its release, he searched the deserted street for a target. There was nothing. Nothing but an endless row of utility poles.
“Ohhh,” he groaned, his ecstasy close.
Euphoria engulfed him and it conjured up the image of Agent Scully in his mind. Her red hair. Bright lips. Eyes the color of the sea. Dana...
He narrowed his focus and targeted the nearest pole. It swayed. The electric wires tightened. With a tremendous jolt, an explosion of unstoppable energy streamed from his body to the pole, which flew up from the ground and caused a chain reaction. The pull of taut wires toppled one pole after the next.
Darren knew, even as the kundalini subsided and recoiled at the base of his spine, he would call it out again. For Dana.
UCM Anthropology Museum
With no electricity, the entire campus was plunged into darkness. Mulder steered their car into a space in front of the museum, parking between the Police Chief’s cruiser and one of two additional campus security vehicles already there. At the front door, an officer beckoned them with a wave of his flashlight.
"Looks like we missed the opening credits, Scully. Got your flashlight?”
“Always.” She patted her pocket.
They exited the car.
The officer at the front entrance led them into the museum and through its dark galleries, the beam of his flashlight jouncing as he walked. He directed them past the Haida pole, down a hall to an administrative office. The room flickered with several handheld lights as officers panned the walls and floor.
"Watch your step," someone warned from beyond the threshold. Mulder aimed his flashlight at the voice.
"Chief Briggs," the man identified himself, shielding his eyes from the glare.
"Agents Mulder and Scully,” Mulder said, lowering his beam. "What happened here?"
"Your guess is as good as mine. Corpse is over there.” The Chief swung his flashlight and illuminated the body. “Head’s there.” His light shifted to where Henry Addison’s pulverized skull lay next to a shattered photocopy machine.
Scully pulled on a pair of latex gloves and crouched to get a closer look, but was stopped short when Briggs said, "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't touch anything. We haven't taken pictures yet -- for obvious reasons." Despite all the flashlights, with the power out the room remained obscured in shadow.
“What can you tell us?” Mulder asked.
”We received a 911 call at 8:42 PM. Traced it to this location,” Briggs said. “We came right over. It took three, maybe five minutes to get here. During our preliminary inspection of the scene, we turned up your business card in the victim’s pocket, Agent Mulder. I wish you’d let me know you were in town."
Mulder silently cursed his habit of ignoring local law enforcement officials when arriving in a new place to investigate a case.
"Yeah, I was planning to drop by the station earlier to introduce myself," Mulder lied.
"I'm sure you were."
Mulder cleared his throat. ”What did the 911 caller say?"
"Not much. He dropped the receiver before giving any information to the dispatcher. But we're able to hear two men's voices on the tape after the phone was dropped. One man said ‘There’s no time for that.’ A second voice asked, ‘What the hell?’ Some sort of music was playing in the background the entire time. Drums. Chanting. Then there was a loud crash, like plastic and metal smashing to bits. The photocopier, I'm guessing." Briggs used his flashlight to point out machine parts scattered across the floor.
“Yeah. The man who first spoke said ‘Now I’ll go.’ That was it.”
Mulder squatted to run a finger through the fine powder on the floor. “Toner?”
“Yes,“ Scully said. She pointed the beam of her light across the room. “The broken cartridge is over there behind what’s left of the photocopier.”"
“It’s on everything.” Mulder stood. “Which means it’s probably on the killer, too.”
A commotion at the door caught everyone’s attention. A security officer stood firm at the threshold, preventing a woman from entering.
“Chief Briggs?” she called out, “What’s going on?”
“Dr. Talbot, what are you doing here?” Briggs crossed the room.
Mulder followed him.
Talbot was small woman with delicate features, reddish hair, and a worried expression. She craned to see around Briggs. “I was in Collections Storage when the lights went out. It took me forever to make my way out in the dark. Oh my God, is that Henry?” She pointed to Addison’s head.
“You shouldn’t be in here.” Briggs tried to herd her from the room but she stood firm.
“Don’t tell me I shouldn’t be here. I work here!”
“What do you do for the museum, Dr. Talbot?” Mulder asked. When she shot him a who-the-hell-are-you look, he pulled out his badge and pointed his flashlight at it.
“Oh. Okay. I teach Primitive Art and Design for the department,” she said, apparently satisfied with his credentials. He pocketed his ID. “I was in the storage area taking photos of Tlingit ceremonial capes when the lights went out.”
“Did you see anyone on your way to or from the storage area?” Mulder asked.
“Well, I stopped in the office here around 8:30 to let Henry know I was going to be in with the collections for a while. Oh dear, poor Henry...”
“He was alone?”
“Yes, but after leaving him, I thought I saw Darren Linwood walking past the Northwest Coast gallery.”
“*Thought* you saw?”
“The lights were off in the gallery, even before the power went out, so I wasn’t 100 percent sure. But just in case, I ducked into the corridor leading to Storage before he could spot me.”
“Why would you do that, Dr. Talbot?”
“Oh, God, Darren would’ve asked me about his thesis. I sit on the doctoral committee, you see. He would’ve talked my ear off about kundalini energies and parapsychology and who-knows-what-else. New Age nonsense, if you ask me. I didn’t have the time or the patience. He’s a loser, Agent Mulder. All of us on the committee think so.”
“Two members of that committee are now dead,” Mulder said.
“You can’t possibly think Darren is somehow involved in those deaths. The man can’t get out of his own way. The only way he could possibly kill somebody would be by boring them to death.”
“Be that as it may, do you have someone who can help you get home safely?”
“I’ll have one of my men take her,” Briggs offered. “Let’s get you out of here, Dr. Talbot.” He ushered her down the hall with a sweep of his arm.
Scully joined Mulder at the door. “Why is it you’re the only person who seems to admire Darren?” she asked.
“I don’t admire him, Scully. I believe what he believes.”
Darren Linwood's Apartment
Darren tossed his jacket onto his coffee table and slumped into the leather cushions of his sofa. Letting his head roll back, he closed his eyes and replayed the events of the past few days. He didn’t regret his actions. To the contrary, he felt sated by them. He didn’t think of them as murders. He considered them to be a sort of retribution, completely justified, as well as vindication that his thesis was correct and the doctoral committee members were small-minded fools.
Loser, huh? He’d showed them who the losers really were!
Thirsty, Darren heaved himself from the couch to get a glass of water. As he held the glass under the running faucet, he was surprised by an unexpected stirring at the base of his spine. The glass overflowed. He set it on the counter.
Unbidden, the serpent loosened itself from his bones. He hadn't called it out, but he was grateful for its presence.
He shut off the running water. The serpent inched its way pleasantly up his back. It nudged him toward his next act. He returned to the living room, grabbed his jacket from the coffee table, and hurried from the apartment.
“I’d like to hear that 911 audiotape. It might provide some clues as to what happened tonight,” Scully said from the passenger seat of the rental car.
“I know what happened tonight.” Mulder steered them away from the campus. “Darren went to the museum and killed Henry Addison.”
“By throwing a photocopier at him? Do you know how impossible that sounds? And what's his motive? Because Addison rejected his thesis?”
“Six times. The way Addison belittled Darren, it didn't look like they'd be exchanging friendship rings anytime soon. Maybe Darren got tired of being treated like the village idiot.” Mulder understood that particular feeling all too well. “But there is another possibility.”
“I'm all ears.”
“Maybe Darren was forced to kill those men.”
“You’re saying the Devil made him do it?”
“No. Nothing like that. Although...nah, not the Devil. But it is possible the kundalini is responsible.”
“Spiritual masters of the East warn that releasing kundalini energy before a person is ready for it can have a serious emotional effect on them. And no one should attempt to open its energy unless they’re in a balanced psychological state. Novices may become distracted by the energy itself and focus on the temporal and phenomenal aspects. The goal of the experienced kundalini yogi is the same as the goal of any legitimate spiritual practice: to be liberated from the bounds of the self-centered and alienated ego. But kundalini has an amplifying function that may make an individual more powerful but not more enlightened. In other words, Scully, Darren Linwood may be in over his head.”
“Okay, for arguments sake, let’s say Darren is the killer--”
“Darren is the killer. Or the killer’s instrument. Or the kundalini is his instrument. Whichever, I want to go to Darren’s apartment. Look for traces of copy toner -- evidence he was in the museum office at the time Addison died.”
“That won't prove Darren killed Addison, only that he was there.”
“That’s enough to bring him in for questioning. Huh...look at that.” Mulder slowed the car and squinted through the windshield. Up ahead, a flagman waved a stop sign in the dark. Five electric company vehicles blocked the street while a crew of line workers prepared to reset at least ten downed utility poles. The poles lay scattered along the road like giant Pick-Up-Sticks.
"This explains the power outage,” Scully said.
“But not who won the caber toss.”
As usual, his joke didn’t earn a smile from Scully.
“What do you think happened here?” she asked.
“Not ‘what,’ but ‘who.’ My money’s on Darren Linwood.”
312 River Street
Dr. Talbot's Residence
Marianne Talbot scuffed through the house in a pair of well-worn slippers. She adjusted her thermostat and turned out the living room lights. Yawning, she bent down to stroke the Maine coon cat twining around her ankles.
“Time for bed, Franz,” she said, though she didn’t feel tired. Not after seeing Henry’s decapitated head. Agent Mulder hinted that she might be in danger, too. Would she end up like Henry and Stan?
She hefted her twenty-pound cat onto her shoulder with a grunt and carried him with her into her study where she hunted the bookshelves for something to read in bed. Gladys Reichard’s “The Complexity of Rhythm in Decorative Art” was just the thing to get her mind off the horrible scene in Stan’s office.
Just as she was about to switch off the hall light at the foot of the stairs, a rapid knock sounded at the front door. Marianne whispered into the cat’s tufted ear, “Who could that be?” She drew back the curtain on the window by the door and peeked out.
Damn, it was Darren Linwood. The last person she wanted to see. And not because she believed Agent Mulder’s inference that Darren was a murderer. The idea was laughable.
“Darren, what are you doing here?” she called through the door, trying to mask the irritation she felt at seeing him.
“May I come in, Dr. Talbot? Please?” He sounded desperate.
“It’s late, Darren. I was about to go to bed. We can talk in my office tomorrow,” she said firmly.
“Please, Dr. Talbot,” Darren begged. “I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know where else to turn. I...I’m thinking...I’d be better off...dead.” He sounded truly anguished.
Marianne didn’t like Darren, but she certainly didn’t want him to do anything drastic. Especially if turning him away from her door put him over the edge.
"Alright, Darren. You can come in. Hold on.” She set the cat on the floor and slid back the deadbolt.
He pushed his way past her as soon as she opened the door.
"Thank you, Dr. Talbot. I’ve always felt I could talk to you.”
She found his statement odd. She couldn’t remember ever having a real conversation with him. He had taken her class on Traditional Northwest Coast Design and maybe her Style and Symbolism in Pre-Columbian Art seminar, but she couldn’t remember for sure.
“Well. Come on in then. Have a seat.” She led him into her kitchen and, after turning on the overhead light, she gestured to the table. “Tea?” she asked, not knowing what else to say when he remained standing despite her invitation.
“That would be very nice.”
His intense stare made her nervous. She truly regretted letting him in.
Cinching her bathrobe more tightly around her waist, she proceeded to fill the teakettle. He moved to stand directly behind her and she nearly bumped into him when she turned from the stove.
“Uh...excuse me, Darren.” She tried to edge past him but he blocked her way. “Darren?” Her voice wavered. “Darren, you’re frightening me.”
* * *
“Why would you be afraid of a ‘loser,’ Dr. Talbot?” He leaned over her and whispered in her ear. “You do think I’m a loser, don’t you?”
“No, I never...I don’t...”
“No? You don't call me 'Loony Linwood'? You and all the others on the committee?" He anticipated the swell of heat climbing his back. He smiled when he felt the serpent shift and begin to uncoil.
Talbot tried once more to skirt around him but he seized her around the waist. She gasped in alarm.
“Darren! Let me go! Please, let go!” She twisted and thrashed. When he wouldn’t release her, she slapped him hard across the face.
He reeled back from the blow, astonished that she would strike him. His face flamed from the intensity of her rejection and the beast inside him leapt up his back and over the crown of his head. Darren knew he couldn't stop it now, even if he wanted to. And he didn't want to.
The air in the kitchen crackled with static electricity. The powerful kundalini burst out of Darren and roared through the small room creating a cyclone of flying kitchen utensils, dishes, pots and pans. Larger items hurtled across the room. The microwave oven sailed past them to crash through the plaster wall into the powder room on the other side. Talbot screamed and covered her head when a kitchen chair soared at her. Everything sailed her way, targeting her, swirling violently around Darren, who stood untouched at the center of the room. He groaned with satisfaction when the refrigerator skidded out from the wall and crashed into Talbot, crushing her against the far wall.
Elated, Darren waited for the kundalini to return to its place inside his body. It retreated down his back and curled itself once more around the base of his spine. When he was sure it was settled, he crossed the room and crouched next to the broken body of Marianne Talbot. He traced his finger feather-light over the silky auburn strands of hair at her temple, where gray bits of her brain oozed from the crack in her skull. Her pale, delicate features and reddish hair reminded him a little of Agent Scully. He stroked Talbot's broken jaw, closed his eyes, and pictured the curve of Scully's calves and the swell of her breasts.
The kundalini would not be satisfied, he knew, until it possessed the sexy FBI woman.
Darren Linwood's Apartment
Mulder pounded on Darren’s apartment door with the heel of his hand.
“Darren? Darren! Open up!” he yelled, trying to be heard all the way to the second floor. He pulled a credit card from his wallet.
"You're not planning to--“ But before Scully could finish her warning, Mulder had wiggled the plastic card between the door and the doorframe, popping open the latch.
"Hey, they take MasterCard!" He smiled at her.
Pushing through to the front hall, they climbed the stairs to the upper landing, where Mulder used his credit card once again to gain access.
“Mulder, I shouldn’t have to remind you, we don't have a warrant to search Darren’s apartment.”
“We’re not ‘searching.’ We’re just having a little ‘look-see.’” Mulder flicked on his flashlight and swept the room with its beam.
“What, exactly, is the difference?”
“Scully, turn on your flashlight and help me search...uh... look-see.”
“This is breaking and entering.” Scully turned on her light. “I don’t condone-- Hey, look-see this.” She focused her beam on Darren’s couch. Mulder ran his finger across the leather.
“Toner. So Darren was in Addison’s office.”
“We need to find him. Where do you think he's gone?”
“Well, Marianne Talbot was on his doctoral committee. And like Whitherspoon and Addison, she was no fan of his work. If Darren is targeting committee members, she could be one of his next victims.”
“I’ll call her.” Scully searched the cluttered room for a phone book. “Do you know who else was on the committee?”
“Five people were listed on the cover letter attached to Darren’s thesis. Whitherspoon, Addison, and Marianne Talbot, as well as a Dr. Jenn Cheaver, an ethnolinguist, if I remember correctly, and a Dr. Roland Iversson of the Folklore Center.”
She located a phone book and punched Talbot’s number into her cellphone. “Machine’s picking up,” she told Mulder, then spoke into the phone: “Dr. Talbot, this is Special Agent Scully of the FBI. I have reason to believe your life may be in danger. Please, lock your doors and call me as soon as you get this message.”
While she left her number, Mulder dialed Jenn Cheaver on his own phone. She promised to lock her doors and call 911 at the first sign of trouble. Roland Iversson did the same when Mulder reached him.
“Talbot lives at 312 River Street, according to her listing in the phone book,” Scully said when Mulder finished his calls.
Darren balanced a pizza box on the palm of his left hand and tapped the bell at the front desk with his right.
"May I help you?" the chubby desk clerk asked, emerging from a back room holding a dog-eared romance novel.
"Pizza delivery for a Ms. Scully. Room number, please."
The clerk looked over her glasses to inspect Darren and the large pizza box.
"Smells good. Room 214. Upstairs and down the hall on the left," she told him and pushed her glasses back up her nose.
"Thank you.” Darren smiled, amazed at how easy it had been to get the room number. He was pretty sure the FBI woman was not in her room; the agents’ rental car had not been in the parking lot outside the hotel. But whether Agent Scully was in her room or not, he no longer needed the pizza. Halfway down the hall on the hotel's second floor, he nonchalantly stowed the pizza on top of the ice machine. He continued on to Agent Scully's room and paused outside her door to listen for the sound of the television or some other sign that she was inside. When he heard nothing, he rapped softly. Then, just in case she might be asleep, he knocked harder. There was no answer.
Darren focused on the locked door. Silently, he called the kundalini awake. The serpent was eager to emerge and slithered quickly up Darren's spine, across his shoulders, and down his arm. Darren placed his palm over the lock. He felt the magnetic heat of the kundalini radiate from his hand into the mechanism. It took only a moment before the door clicked open, allowing Darren to step inside.
Marianne Talbot's Residence
"The lights are on. Try the door, Mulder."
Mulder twisted the knob and found it unlocked. Drawing his gun, he cautiously entered the front hall. Scully followed, her own weapon drawn. She peered into the study to their left while he leaned into the living room on their right. Seeing no one, he continued silently down the hall toward the kitchen, pausing to check the powder room on his way by.
To his surprise, a microwave oven lay in pieces on the bathroom floor a few feet from a gaping hole in the tile wall. Peering through the hole into the kitchen beyond, he spotted Marianne Talbot, crushed behind a refrigerator. He gestured to Scully to attend to Talbot while he searched upstairs for Darren.
A quick circuit through the upstairs bedrooms and closets turned up nothing other than a large, long-haired cat curled up on one of the beds.
“No sign of Darren,” he told Scully when he returned to the kitchen.
“Talbot’s dead.” She rose from the body.
The destruction in the kitchen was staggering. Dented pots and pans, shattered china, bent silverware, canned goods, and boxed food littered every surface. The window above the sink was cracked as was the once-solid looking enamel farm sink. The refrigerator door was off its hinges. Canisters of flour and sugar appeared to have detonated, coating the countertops and floor with white powder. A KitchenAid mixer was lodged in the plaster ceiling.
Scully moved away from it. “I’ll call Chief Briggs.”
Dead tired, Scully and Mulder took the elevator to the hotel's second floor. They’d stayed at Marianne Talbot's until Chief Briggs arrived, then patiently answered all of his questions. Briggs issued an APB for Darren. Two uniformed officers were sent to guard Drs. Iversson and Cheaver at their homes.
"Spend the night with me,” Mulder urged Scully when they stopped in the hall outside the door to his room. He tugged gently at her fingers and gave her a pleading look. "I could make it worth your while.”
“It’s a tempting offer, really. But I'm beat and just want to shower and fall into bed.”
“I have a shower in my room. And a bed.”
She shook her head and smiled before leaning to rest her forehead wearily against his chest.
"You never give up, do you, Mulder?" Her voice was muffled against the fabric of his shirt.
"They say 'Hope springs eternal.'"
"They also say 'Know when to quit.'"
"True. True. But they *also* say 'Good things come to he who waits.'"
She peered up at him from under arched brows and shook her head again.
"How can you say no, Scully? I'm offering you my heart on a silver platter."
"Oh, is that what you're offering?"
"Heart, soul...and body. It's a package deal."
"G'night, Mulder." She started down the hall, but he tugged her back, his fingers still entwined with hers.
"A goodnight kiss?" he asked.
"G'night, Mulder," she said firmly and left him standing at his door.
"Someday you're going to regret the way you take me for granted," he called down the corridor, watching her slide her key into the lock of her door.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Good night, Mulder.”
He let himself into his room. There was no denying it, he was disappointed she’d declined his invitation. He’d hoped after last night...
Hell, he’d been hoping for a lot longer than that. Especially after she’d asked him to help with the IVF four months ago. He’d been happy to help her conceive and hoped a pregnancy, maybe a child, would bring them closer together. But when the procedure failed, she withdrew from him. And they seemed further apart than ever.
So he’d chanced a kiss at New Year’s. Hoping against hope to arouse in her the same feelings of love and attraction he felt for her. But that, too, went nowhere.
Until last night. Thanks to a Buddhist temple and a vision, apparently. Who would’ve thought?
He didn’t want to go back to being just partners. He wanted a romantic relationship with her. He loved her!
"Argh!" The situation was beyond frustrating. He kicked off his shoes. Shed his coat and tossed it onto the bed. His tie followed. He headed to the bathroom to take a shower. A really cold shower.
* * *
Scully flicked the light switch by the door, which bathed the room in the soft glow of a floor lamp in the corner. She slid the chain into place, locking the door, then shucked off her shoes. Those heels! God, her feet ached. She padded into the bathroom in stocking feet, turned on the light, and stared at her reflection in the mirror.
"Jesus," she huffed, appalled at the sight of her tired eyes and disheveled hair. A smudge of copy toner shadowed one cheek. She reached behind the shower curtain and twisted the faucet until a hot, steamy stream of water cascaded comfortably over the back of her hand. She let the water run as she shrugged out of her coat and yanked her blouse up over her head. She laid both on the counter beside the sink.
Staring at her new floral print bra in the mirror, her thoughts returned to Mulder. Was his invitation tonight just part of his usual repartee? Or had he meant what he’d said? Over the years, he’d persistently issued suggestive invitations. She always assumed those types of comments were meant to be jokes.
Not that she doubted he really did want to sleep with her. He’d been plenty enthusiastic last night after he’d gotten over his initial surprise. But did he want what she wanted? A serious, long-term, romantic relationship? Marriage? A family?
Admittedly, it was probably her fault that their relationship had never gone any further than it had. She had kept him at arm’s length, not wanting to repeat her mistakes with Danial and Jack. Somehow, seven years had passed without a single passionate embrace. Or kiss...if you didn’t count their chaste New Year’s kiss.
Until last night, that is.
Last night had been exciting, fulfilling, sensual. Momentous. It felt so right. Being intimate with Mulder was everything she’d hoped it would be.
Maybe she was misreading his seeming uncertainty at the start. And as was often her habit, now she was overthinking it. A trait that might very well be the reason why they hadn’t become lovers a long time ago.
A scraping noise in the outer room caught her attention. When it sounded a second time, she turned off the water in the tub and stood at the open bathroom door to listen. Except for the soft hum of the bedroom's heater, all was quiet.
She must be more tired than she’d realized. Now she was hearing things.
She returned to the bathroom, removed her gun, and set it on the counter beside her jacket and blouse. As she began to unzip her skirt, she suddenly changed her mind. She would get dressed, go to Mulder’s room, and make love to him. She looked again at her reflection in the mirror.
“There’s only one choice and all the others are wrong,” she said to her reflection. Her words to Mulder last night.
And there are signs along the way to pay attention to.
There had been plenty of signs over the years, she could see that now, all pointing her straight to Mulder. Or if not straight, at least along a circuitous path. The biggest of them all was when he agreed to help her with IVF. A sign? Good God, that had been a fucking billboard! For a short, wonderful time, she had held within her body a tiny life created by the joining of her DNA with his DNA. Her hopes had never been higher. Her appreciation of him had never been greater. But when the procedure didn’t take, she mistakenly took that as a sign, too. A sign to grieve. To retreat. Into herself and away from Mulder.
What a fool she’d been. It shamed her now to think she’d never even asked him how the loss had affected him.
They needed to talk. Really talk.
And afterward, she needed to tell him, and show him, how very much she loved him.
She reached for her blouse but it slipped from her fingers when she was grabbed roughly from behind and shoved hard against the bathroom wall. The jolt knocked the wind from her lungs and opened a bloody split along her forehead. Dazed, she tried to regain her breath. Her gun...it was on the counter, out of reach. The intruder pinned her firmly beneath his weight. She was unable to move.
"Don't scream. Don't make a sound," he whispered.
"What do you want?" she grunted.
"You, Agent Scully. I want you."
He knew her name. Face to the wall, she tried to look over her shoulder to get a look at him, but his hold on her was too tight and didn't allow her to turn. He was about Mulder’s height and weight. He was wearing a dark blue jacket. Dirty sneakers. Frayed jeans. She could see nothing else. But he smelled like window cleaner. And copy toner.
“Darren? Are you Darren Linwood?” she demanded.
"Yes," he breathed into her ear. She felt the stubble of his unshaved cheek scrape across her jaw.
"How did you get in here?"
"I can do lots of things you might not think possible."
"Let me go!”
"I don't think so." He squeezed harder.
The fingers of his left hand dug painfully into her ribs just below her bra. The fingers of his right crawled to the waistband of her skirt. She struggled, trying to free an elbow or a foot to strike at him.
"No, no, Agent Scully," he warned. "Don't move. You’ll awaken the serpent.”
“Get off me!”
“There’s no stopping it. It wants what it wants. Can you feel its heat? Its power? *My* power!” He ground his hips against her buttocks and groaned.
* * *
Still in his street clothes and lying on top of the bedspread, Mulder looked at the clock on the nightstand. Two-forty-two and he was impossibly wide-awake. He reached for the phone to call Scully, only to set the receiver back in its cradle when he realized she was probably soaking in her tub. Or, if finished with her bath, she was sound asleep.
He decided to get a cold soda. He rose from the bed and dug through his pockets for change. Counting out seventy-five cents, he ambled down the hall to the soda machine.
Damn, they were out of iced tea. He dropped his coins into the slot and punched the button for a cola. It landed with a thud in the tray. He grabbed it and was about to turn away when a pizza box on top of the neighboring ice chest caught his eye. Curious, he lifted the lid and was surprised to find a whole pizza inside, untouched. It smelled good. He wondered how long it had been sitting there. With a quick look up and down the hall, he felt the top of the box. It was cold. He let the lid drop back in place.
When he pulled his hand away, something black coated his palm.
"What the hell...?” He rubbed a finger through it. Gave it a sniff.
Toner. Mulder looked again at the pizza box. Several black fingerprints marked the sides and top. Shit.
Mulder glanced down the hall to Scully's room. He broke into a run.
At her door, he pounded his fists against it and yelled, "Scully? Scully! Let me in. Can you hear me? Scullee!"
* * *
Inside, Scully heard Mulder’s shouts and tried to cry out.
“Mul--!“ she managed before Darren slammed her face against the wall. Her teeth sunk painfully into the flesh of her lip.
"Shhhh," Darren hissed. "We don't want company."
"He won't go away," Scully said, blood oozing from her mouth. Mulder continued to call Scully's name and pound on the door.
"In that case,” Darren said, “let's invite him in."
He spun on his heel, yanking her with him. The sudden motion and the throbbing of her wounded forehead made her vision swim. She thought she might vomit. He dragged her out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. She kicked and writhed, trying to free herself.
“Watch this,” he said and the door to the room exploded inward, nearly coming off its hinges. At the threshold, Mulder stood with his gun drawn, a look of astonishment on his face. His shock quickly turned to anger.
"Let her go!" he demanded, aiming his gun at Darren's head.
"I don't think so, Agent Mulder. You won't shoot me."
“I said let her go! I will shoot you!"
"No. You have two choices," Darren told him calmly. "You can watch or you can die. Which will it be?"
Mulder blinked with apparent confusion. He stiffened his arms, seemed to double-check his aim. His finger twitched on the trigger, but before he could shoot, the gun flew from his hand and embedded itself deeply in the plaster wall on the far side of the room. Mulder stared at his empty fist, jaw hanging.
"What do you think, *Dana*?” Darren giggled. "Do you think he'd rather watch or die? The choice is now yours."
When she refused to answer, a blast of energy and a torrent of sparks flew outward from him, seemingly from the crown of his head. The eruption rolled over Scully, leaving her unharmed, and rammed into Mulder like a shockwave. He was hurtled backward through the air, through the open door and across the hall. His back struck the wall, cracked the sheetrock. He hung there, held in place by an unseen force. He watched horror-stricken as Darren ran his tongue wetly along Scully's jaw.
"She tastes good, Agent Mulder. Did you know that?"
"Let her go!" Mulder bellowed, affixed to the wall, unable to come to her aid.
Darren smiled and ran a hand down Scully’s thigh. He caught hold of the hem of her skirt and inched it higher. Staring directly at Mulder, he ground his hips against her and moaned with pleasure.
"She's mine now," he said and laughed.
The energy of the kundalini swirled around the room like a hurricane. Expanding hotly, it filled the space. Toppled a lamp. Sent the desk chair sliding into the bed. Scully struggled to escape Darren's grasp. Pinned to the wall, Mulder shouted obscenities.
The television set exploded and hurled slivers of glass and metal across the bedroom. A maelstrom of bedding and dresser drawers and coat hangers whirled out of control above the bed. The entire room vibrated with a magnetic charge, snapping and crackling with static electricity.
“No, wait! Not yet!" Darren screamed.
The desk rose and spun in circles. A bedside lamp detonated. Pictures leapt from the walls. The room’s large window fractured, shattered. A blizzard of needle-sharp fragments shot through the air.
Darren raised his arms to protect his face. Scully slipped to the floor. She covered her head.
The roar subsided. Glass tinkled as it settled. Mulder groaned.
Scully rose up, unsteady, knees weak. Glass fragments rained from her hair and shoulders. She stepped carefully in her stockinged feet out of the room, across the hall to Mulder where he sat slumped beneath an imprint of his own body in the wall above his head.
"Mulder, are you okay?" She placed her hand on his sleeve. He groaned again and opened his eyes.
“Scully, you're hurt.”
She glanced down at herself. Her arms were etched with small cuts. Her shoulders stung and she suspected there were cuts there as well. Her lip still bled and her forehead ached, but...
"I'm fine. I'm fine,” she said. “What about you?"
"I think...I’m okay." He stared past her. “But it looks like Darren...I think he’s dead."
Darren Linwood lay on the bedroom floor in a pool of his own blood, a knife of glass sticking out of his neck.
Two Days Later
Mulder lay belly down and naked on Scully’s bed while she examined the bruises on his back. She, too, was nude. Her sheets were in a tangle around them. They smelled like her. And sex. Mulder inhaled deeply, savoring the scent and the moment. He felt drowsy after their love making.
Intimate details played through his memory. The rosy-pink of her flushed cheeks and tightened nipples. The satiny warmth of her breasts, ivory white and perfect. Her taste, salty and fragrant and luscious. The wetness between her legs, inside her body. The sultry tone of her cries when she climaxed. The delight of being inside her.
He wanted her again already. He would always want her.
“Does this hurt?” She prodded a tender spot on his spine.
“Only when you poke at it.”
“Overall, your bruises don’t look too bad.” She smoothed her palms over his ribs and shoulders. “Looks like you’re going to live.”
“That’s good, especially now.”
“You’re lucky there were no broken bones.”
“Yes. I got lucky. In more ways than one,” he teased. His good fortune had little to do with his lack of injuries and everything to do with this moment. This newfound connection with her.
He rolled onto his back and drew her down beside him. She settled with her cheek resting in the hollow between his chest and shoulder. He lazily stroked her bare arm, elbow to shoulder and back again, careful to avoid the bandaids that hid her own injuries.
"What do you think really happened?" she asked.
"In Maine. To Darren."
Mulder blew air into his cheeks.
"I think Darren was too unpracticed to handle the energy of kundalini. He was a frustrated man, held in place by his superiors and the circumstances of his life. He tried to control the external, uncontrollable factors of his life with a power he didn't fully understand and was unprepared to handle."
"Why do you think the kundalini ended up, in effect, killing itself by killing Darren?"
"Kundalini takes raw sexual energy and converts it to an energy that some consider spiritual. In Darren's case and the situation with you..." Mulder paused to gauge her reaction, "Darren produced so much energy, the kundalini grew beyond the scope of any control, even its own. It self-destructed. But I think its suicide was accidental. In the passion of the moment, so to speak, it didn't foresee the outcome of its actions."
Many of the details about this case made Mulder uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. Darren's attempted sexual assault on Scully and Mulder's own inability to stop the other man's attack, terrified him. But what frightened him even more were the similarities between Darren and himself. They had much in common, so much so, Mulder wondered if, given the same set of circumstances, he might be capable of similar heinous acts. The notion that he could ever hurt Scully sickened him. Looking down at her split lip and bruised forehead, he decided to broach this fear.
"Scully, I can't help thinking that if the events of my life had been just a little different, I could have been Darren."
"You're nothing like Darren Linwood.” She gave him a fierce look.
“I believed what he believed. Don’t misunderstand me. I'm not saying we’re identical, but there were enough similarities to be...well...spooky." Instead of smiling as he hoped she might, she continued to look angry. When she opened her mouth to object, he plowed ahead. "What I'm trying to say, Scully, is that I know we make choices every day about who we are and who we want to become. But many choices are made for us: where we’re born, who we meet, how others treat us. It's the cards we're dealt. Full House and you're an FBI agent. Two Jacks and you’re a six-time loser in a rinky-dink anthropology department in Maine. Okay, maybe that should be the other way around, but you get the idea.” He offered her a lop-sided grin.
"But, Mulder, in either case, you still have choices. Let's say you choose to be a crackpot believing in the paranormal and the existence of little gray men," -- she looked pointedly at him -- “You do it knowing people will react to your choice in predictable ways. And when they do react, predictably or not, you make additional choices based on those reactions. In other words, you control your reaction to the cards you're dealt. Actually, it's the only thing we can control.”
Mulder nodded, but she had more to say.
"Mulder, Darren reacted to the derision of his superiors and the frustration of the circumstances of his life by embracing the power of kundalini. That was his choice.”
"The trouble was, it ended up controlling him.”
“You’re missing my point.”
“Tell me how you react to the derision of your colleagues and the frustration of the circumstances of your life?"
"Like an asshole?” This time he succeeded in making her smile, but it quickly faded.
She shook her head, disagreeing with him. "Mulder, you persevere despite the hand you were dealt...*are* dealt everyday. You react in noble and principled ways. Your choices are honest. Your actions are caring. You would never hurt me, or anyone else, to satisfy your own desires. The choices you make are nothing like those of Darren Linwood. The similarity between the two of you ends at your shared belief in the paranormal and psychokinesis."
"And our 'I Want to Believe' posters."
"Okay, and maybe your fish."
And our attraction to you, he didn't say. "Now that we're talking about it, there have been times I've wanted to drop a totem pole on Deputy Director Kersh's head."
"And yet, he's still walking around, hale and hearty." She rose up on his chest and looked directly into his eyes. "You're a good man, Fox Mulder." She lightly kissed his chin. "And, for your information, I don't ever take you for granted.”
This made him chuckle. And his heart swell.
She laid back down and caressed his stomach. Her nails raked the fine hairs around his navel.
“Mulder, how did you feel when my IVF attempt failed?”
Ah, a change of subject. He was ready for it.
“Heartbroken for you. And for me. Angry at what had been done to you. What was taken from you. But not hopeless.”
“I’d be four months pregnant now if the IVF had worked. Our baby would be about the size of an avocado.”
Avocado Mulder. He tried picturing Scully with the added weight. He liked the idea.
“Scully, do you still think we need rules about..." -- he swept the air with his hand -- "this?”
“Need I remind you that what we’re doing here goes against the Bureau’s policy of male and female agents consorting while on assignment.”
“But we’re not on assignment. At the moment.”
"We were just discussing a case, Mulder."
"Huh, I thought we were engaging in pillow talk."
“You know what I mean. There’s protocol to follow.”
“Scully, I don’t want to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. But if you think I’m worried about an FBI rule against ‘consorting,’ you don’t know me as well as you think.” He caressed her cheek. “You’re talking to a man who has trespassed on government property, broken into labs at the DOD, gained access to private residences without probable cause using a Bureau-issued credit card. Admit it, it’s one of the things you love about me.” He bent to kiss the crown of her head. “Isn’t it?”
“Maybe. A little.”
“And if you’re being honest, you also have to admit you sometimes like breaking the rules, too.”
“You dated Jack Willis. He was your instructor at the Academy, right?”
“Yes. I also had an affair with a married man. That doesn’t mean either of those decisions were good ones.”
“Bottom line, I love you, Scully. I want to be with you. *Romantically*.”
“I want to be with you, too. I do.”
“Then what’s stopping us? We’re consenting adults who’ve already wasted too much time.”
“True. But can we at least be discrete?”
“If that’s what you need, I can be discrete. Or if you want me to shout from the rooftops ‘I love Dana Scully!’ I can do that, too.”
“I would like that, but it’s probably not a good idea. At least for now.” A look of worry peaked her brows. “Also, we shouldn’t do, uh, anything, in our office.”
“Damn, so much for my taking-you-on-my-desk fantasy.”
“Or anywhere in the Hoover Building.”
“And there goes my taking-you-on-Skinner’s-desk fantasy.”
“I mean it, Mulder.”
“Okay. No hanky-panky in the Hoover. And discretion everywhere else. Got it. For now. Though someday I *will* be shouting from the rooftops.“
“I’ll let you know when.” She wrapped her arms around him. “You have a taking-me-on-Skinner’s-desk fantasy?”
“I actually have several.”
“Hmm. Maybe there’s a way we could make at least one of those happen.”
He returned her embrace.
“I love Dana Scully!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, making her laugh.
After a moment, she murmured against his lips, “I love you, too, Mulder,” the words soon turning into a sweet, delicious, perfect kiss.
(Posted June 23, 2023)
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