“The past is never where you think you left it.”
Katherine Anne Porter
Department of Defense Headquarters
Pentagon Basement Level 2
Skinner's warning had given them very little time to prepare for the brute force of the caravan that had arrived just before dawn. Not that more time would have ultimately mattered. This wasn't 2001. She and Mulder weren't in their thirties anymore. And unlike last time, they did have a life outside of their own to protect. Running was no longer a viable option. Not with everything that was at stake.
The math was simple.
If the syndicate wished them dead, they would be dead already.
Without them, the military didn't stand a chance in hell in locating or capturing William. So when the caravan arrived just as the sun rose, she and Mulder offered no resistance. Instead, they walked out of their Fars Corner home hand in hand, surrendering themselves to be placed in the back of two separate SUVs.
The ride to the Pentagon had been a quiet one. If the officers transporting her were surprised by her silence, they didn't elude to it, nor did they attempt to engage her in conversation. She suspected this was by design.
The commanding officer in charge was a familiar one. She and Mulder met Colonel Richard Nease at the hospital the week prior following William's disappearing act from the hospital. Her read on him at the time had been mixed. While he did seem genuinely surprised by what was revealed by the security footage, she found it hard to believe that those behind the strands of their son's alien DNA would task someone of his stature with the mission of capturing such a high-risk asset without providing any context for what that would entail. Unless, of course, they themselves had had no idea. Perhaps Mulder was right; even those behind the curtain were at a loss to explain William.
Now, as she sits alone in a small, desolate room, she is left with only her thoughts. But it's not regret or fear that fills her.
No. For the first time in nearly a decade, Scully feels as if she is on solid footing. Not because she is in control or possesses the power to stop the forces mounting against them, but because, for once, she is not running. And for someone who has been running from one thing or another for the past quarter of a century, there is a level of peace to be found in sitting still. As for the fear, she no longer has the energy to delve where she has lived for far too long.
No. The questions she finds herself asking now are questions of purpose.
Scully has always been a woman of action with roadmaps and contingency plans, but now, as she sits alone in a small, uncomfortable metal chair, it strikes her that she has no plan of action. She's not sure what the Department of Defense is playing at or what they hope to achieve by detaining and questioning her and Mulder. That's always been the comical element of this monumental game of cat and mouse. Of all the risks and insane adventures they have embarked on over the course of the last quarter of the century, they have come across very little tangible proof of an alien conspiracy.
The DNA databank she has built contains about 10 years of data and is located on a flash drive hidden in the safe beneath the floorboards of their Fars Corner home. The flash drive, the chip currently embedded at the base of her skull, and William's umbilical cord are the only pieces of physical evidence she possesses after 25 years of searching. And while her findings would certainly perplex a geneticist, it certainly doesn't explain the overlying arc or intent of Project Crossroads. In fact, none of what she and Mulder have experienced can be substantiated. It wouldn't survive the court of public opinion, much less be upheld in the court of law. That's been the syndicate's greatest defense from the beginning. What she and Mulder are caught up in is so far removed from the known bounds of science that it's easily dismissed as lunacy. The very nature of it and what it entails has always ensured their silence.
As frustrating as that has been from a historical standpoint, today may be the day that lunacy serves them well. Detaining them or imprisoning them for any length of time will only serve to increase the legitimacy of the conspiracy arc being painted by Tad O'Malley.
The call to Tad O'Malley had been a bold move, but the right one. Eliminating them now would only serve to amplify the frenzy surrounding the leaked crossroads documents and the manhunt for Jackson Van De Kamp.
The government would be far better off to paint them as loons than to prosecute them for releasing top-secret files. And while they could plant evidence to indict them on any number of bogus charges, she doubts that they will. Not because they are above it, but because having them locked up and tucked away would be unlikely to serve their purpose. They want William, and they don't stand a chance in hell of locating him, let alone capturing him without them.
The interrogation room they've placed her in has no clock, two-way mirror, or visible camera. The walls are dark, muting the light being put off by the caged fixture above, making the room appear smaller than it actually is. The entire design is hinged on isolation. Being made to feel alone in a desolate place for an unquantifiable amount of time certainly isn't a new tactic, but if they are counting on it breaking either of them, they will be grossly disappointed.
She and Mulder have lived in the dark and surrendered to hidden chains for well over two decades.
For them, the truth has always carried a heavy sentence of silence and isolation.
Whether they have them both on ice or have opted to start in on Mulder first remains to be seen, but the setting she currently finds herself in has made one thing abundantly clear to Scully. Nothing that follows will be by the book.
Just when she is beginning to contemplate laying her head down on the table and taking a nap, the door opens.
Nease's nod of acknowledgment is void of emotion as he crosses the room and drops several files on the opposite corner of the table. The air around him is cool yet electric. Not that she would have expected anything less from a man carrying his rank. She knows the type. She was raised by one.
"I would introduce myself, but you already know who I am."
While some might find the Colonel's entrance and demeanor to be cold and unnerving, Scully finds his way of bypassing the pleasantries to be oddly comforting. Doing away with the preliminaries and getting right down to business suits her just fine, but her appreciation stops there.
He has dredged her down here, so this will be his dance to lead.
Unfazed by her silence and even stare, Nease takes the seat directly in front of her, opening the top file and flipping it to reveal a large 8x10 photograph.
"I need you to walk me through your last interaction with Jackson Van De Kamp and Carl Gerhard Busch. The latter you most likely knew under his more commonly known alias, CGB Spender," Nease says, sliding the file across the table.
It's a picture of Spender in his earlier years. One he clearly hadn't realized was being taken.
"I have nothing more to offer you than what I've already provided in my official statement to the FBI."
It's a goading response, but it's not inaccurate. Since being placed in the back of the SUV early this morning, Scully has not put forth a single ounce of resistance, asked a single question, demanded a phone call, or asked for representation.
Nease remains silent as he waits. When she follows suit, he shifts his attention to a different folder, opening it and quickly scanning through its contents.
"Your official statement states that you last made contact with Van De Kamp in the abandoned factory and that your last point of contact with CGB Spender occurred just before the explosion at the Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verde National Park in 2002… and that, until recently, you believed him to be deceased."
"It also states that Van De Kamp and Spender were both shot at close range prior to their disappearance into the harbor, which suggests that you witnessed both shootings."
"I did not. Agent Mulder did. I heard the shots as they were being fired, but by the time I arrived on the scene, they were both gone."
"They being Van De Kamp and Spender?"
Nease pauses, studying her body language and facial expressions carefully, but Scully doesn't blink, holding his gaze and returning it with one of her own.
"For a woman who just lost her son, you don't appear to be shaken."
"To be shaken would require shock. I'm well beyond that."
Nodding slightly, Nease eases back in his chair. The change in his demeanor softens the room, but Scully remains unmoved. Though she suspects Nease is merely a pawn, she can't discount his purpose or who is pulling his strings. She's been at this game for far too long to underestimate her adversaries.
"Aside from the DNA analysis you ran to confirm who you believed Van De Kamp to be, there is no documentation, medical or otherwise, to confirm that you gave birth to a child. That's pretty crafty, even for a fed," he says, softening the edge to his voice. "Somebody with the means and resources to pull something like that off had to have had a good reason behind it."
Whether his intent is flattery or inquisition is unclear, but it doesn't matter because it was a statement, not a question. Nease may be here to chat, but she is not.
If he finds her silence surprising or annoying, he doesn't show it. Instead, he presses on.
"We found these in your Bethesda home," he says casually, opening yet another file and orienting it to where she can see the top photograph. It's a crime scene photograph with the picture of William standing inside his crib along with several others. All of which were taken months, if not years, following his adoption.
Though she is by no means surprised to find that they have searched both homes, she can feel the heat of their intrusion. The pictures she took from the Van De Kamp crime scene are among the few keepsakes she has of her son. The very thought of them being in the hands of the military makes her physically sick to her stomach, but she keeps her emotions in check and her face impassive, shifting her gaze to level with his as she waits for what she suspects is coming next.
"So, either you have had more contact with the Van De Kamps than your field report reflects, or you removed them from the Van De Kamp crime scene prior to the hand-off of the investigation."
A heavy silence fills the room.
This time, Nease waits longer, but as the minutes continue to tick by, he relents, shifting in his seat and assessing her with renewed interest before speaking again.
"Agent Scully?" he asks, raising his brow.
"You haven't asked me a question," Scully replies.
She keeps her voice low in an attempt to mask the fury boiling beneath the surface, but the shift in his expression and stature indicates that he is well aware of the fact that the pictures have hit a nerve.
"How did you come to acquire photographs taken of your son following his adoption, Agent Scully?"
Scully considers his question for a moment before responding.
"They were on his desk," she answers calmly, her voice quiet. "In a random, yet methodical assortment… various ages and events… his whole life in a small stack of photographs…"
The fact that Nease doesn't flinch at her statement or ask for clarification regarding the desk she is referring to confirms what she already suspected. It's why she didn't bother to side-step or refuse to answer his question. Nease knows exactly where she got the photographs and likely has video evidence of her looking through them and placing them in the lining of her coat prior to leaving the crime scene.
The only element of surprise she can offer at this juncture is candidness. Should Nease be the pawn she suspects him to be, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain by not fitting the profile he was fed.
"His room was clean and orderly. Everything with its designated place… the computer with the encrypted Crossroads files was hidden, yet the photographs were left out in plain view, stacked neatly on the corner of his desk as if he had organized them and left them out for a specific purpose."
As she speaks, she finds herself slipping into a trance-like state with her mind replaying the search of her son's room. Even with the knowledge she has now, the emotions are still raw. Getting a glimpse of the life he had as she listened to his body being zipped into a bag and prepared for the morgue had been brutal.
"Are you suggesting he left them there for you or someone else to find?" Nease asks.
To this, the Colonel says nothing, closing the file and removing the pictures from view.
"Despite what you may have been led to believe, Agent Scully, we are on the same team."
"Somehow, I highly doubt that, Colonel."
The room is silent for several minutes as he assesses her. Shifting back in his seat and resting his hands on the stack of files in front of him, the Colonel speaks again.
"Your son's safety is a matter of national security, Agent Scully. Harming him would not be in the best interest of any acting party."
"If you believe that, then you are a fool I didn't peg you to be."
An uncomfortable silence follows, each of them weighing the other.
When it becomes clear that Scully will not be the first to blink, Nease returns to the files in front of him having reached a decision.
The preliminaries are over. Whatever he has dredged her and Mulder down here to discuss is about to come roaring to the surface.
"Do you recognize this woman?" Nease asks, pulling a small stack of 8x10 photos out of a folder and sliding them across the table.
The photos are grainy and all in black and white, leading her to believe that they were pulled from some sort of surveillance footage. The bench in the backdrop suggests a park or public outdoor space, but even with the poor quality, there is no denying the identity of Jackson Van De Kamp. The woman, however, is more difficult to characterize. With half of her face obscured, she could easily be anyone, but her well-tailored business suit and medium-length blond hair set her apart from Jackson, who is dressed far more casually with his hands in his pockets and head covered by a hooded sweatshirt. The fact that Jackson isn't towering over her suggests that she's tall, anywhere from 5'6" to 5'9", but with the camera angle being above them and the woman wearing heels, it's difficult to tell.
One of the first things to strike Scully as she thumbs through the first few photographs is Jackson's body language. He appears to be at ease. Whoever this woman is, he doesn't fear her or perceive her to be a threat. But given what she has learned of his abilities, his apparent state of ease may not be of any significance. Jackson's ability to mask his identity would have allowed him to present himself to this woman in any number of ways, placing him in a position of power, not vulnerability. Either way, her assumption would be that he either knows her or knows of her.
As Scully flips to the final two photographs in the stack, the camera's angle changes to reveal more of the woman's face as she hands Jackson what appears to be a flash drive or some kind of digital device. One she assumes is a copy of the Crossroads documents that Mulder discovered on Jackson's hard drive.
A twinge of recognition tingles up her spine as she studies the woman's features. Initially, the eerie feeling that drifts over her is difficult to place, but as she studies the bone structure and lines along the mouth, recognition hits her with startling clarity.
Years of working for the federal government and practicing medicine have given her years of practice in maintaining a calm, cool exterior in the presence of chaos, death, and destruction, but in this instance, Scully is unable to control the spike in her pulse or change of her skin tone as the color drains from her face. It would be easy to blame the wave of nauseousness that courses through her body on her pregnancy, but it's not the child growing inside of her that evokes such a response. It's the pull of history and all that comes with it.
"So you do recognize her?" Nease asks evenly.
Raising her eyes to meet his, Scully is met with eyes that are gauging, not inquisitive.
That's when it hits her.
The purpose of this entire charade was not to incriminate her, force her hand in assisting with the ongoing manhunt for her son, or to identify a mystery woman.
The purpose was to gauge her response and deduce if she knew what Nease and the syndicate already know.
Diana Fowley isn't dead.
Diana Fowley is responsible for tipping off Jackson Van De Kamp.