J. Edgar Hoover Bldg.
Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully sat impatiently in the outer office of their superior, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Their scheduled meeting was twenty-four minutes late and that wasn’t like the hard-assed and punctual ex-marine. Mulder fiddled with his tie idly. He wore the one with tiny yellow space saucers on it today. He was trying to dress conservative for the big meeting.
He looked over at his beautiful and apparently, calm partner. He was glad she had no idea how many times during the day, lustful thoughts ran through his head about her. If she did, she would have him brought up on charges. They had been partners for 7 years and could honestly say they have been to the ends of the earth together. However, Scully considered him her best friend and that slot was where he was going to stay—if she had anything to say about it. There were many times he considered testing that boundary, but he usually chickened out. It was better to have her as a friend than not have her at all.
Kimberly was giving nervous glances at the inner office door as she tried unsuccessfully to raise Skinner on the phone. Finally she had to admit defeat. “I’m sorry Agents Mulder and Scully. A.D. Skinner isn’t answering any of his cell phones. This isn’t like him. I’m going to try one more location and then I’m going to report this to Deputy Director Amarillo.” She went back to dialing.
“I would say our meeting is cancelled, wouldn’t you, Scully?” Mulder watched Kimberly’s increasing agitation.
“It looks that way, Mulder.” Scully said with a small sigh. “I can’t say I was looking forward to it, but if Kimberly is worried about Skinner, maybe we should be too.”
“I’m sure he just forgot his phone in the car or had a dead battery.” Mulder said quietly, but Kimberly heard him in the small ante room.
“Unlikely Agent Mulder. A.D. Skinner carries 3 phones—one personal and two work related. One is even a satellite phone so we can reach him anywhere. For all three to go dead would be very unusual since I charge them personally. He always answers at least one of them when he is out.” She slammed down the phone with annoyance. “What is going on?”
Scully rose. “Kimberly, will you keep us informed?” The frustrated secretary nodded and the partners left going to their basement office. Scully sat at her desk, but Mulder paced.
“I think something is wrong. We should go to his apartment.” Mulder said grabbing his trench coat. “Coming Scully?” Scully was already packing up her laptop and a few files. Mulder halted. “What do you need those for?”
“I doubt we are coming back here and I would like to keep connected to the FBI network. We may need the database resources.”
Her rich red hair covered her face as she leaned down to put the items in a messenger bag. When she stood up, the hair still clung to parts of her cheek and Mulder reached over to tuck the copper strands behind her ear. Scully looked at him strangely.
“Sorry, Scully. You had your hands full. Ready?” She nodded and the duo quickly left the building en route to Maryland where the Assistant Director lived.
Mulder was negotiating traffic when his cell phone rang. Pulling it out and answering it, he listened for a few minutes then quickly pulled over.
“Mulder?” Scully said concerned. Mulder was sure that he had lost color in his face, but he put up a hand to quiet her as he listened to the electronic male voice at the other end of the phone.
“Agent Mulder, is Agent Scully with you?”
“Yes, she is here.” Mulder replied and watched the shocked look on his partner’s face.
The electronic voice continued. “Put me on speaker. I see that you have wisely parked the car and you will find nothing over A.D. Skinner’s apartment anyway.”
Mulder did so and looking at Scully pointed to the phone and then waved his finger around in the circle to indicate that they were being watched too. She seemed to understand.
“Agent Scully?” The disembodied voice said.
Scully answered. “Yes?”
“Good. I want you to hear this since it will take your joint efforts to solve the riddles and save Assistant Director Skinner.”
“You have taken him?” Scully asked calmly as she dialed her phone to contact the FBI and trace the call.
“Yes. You could say he is awaiting rescue.”
“Who are you?” Mulder interjected.
“Now, now, Agent Mulder. That would spoil the surprise! I’m sure you are already trying to trace the call, but you will be unsuccessful.” Mulder had muted the phone while Scully spoke into her device. The voice sounded irritated. “Let me know when you are done playing FBI and actually want to find your friend. I’ll call back then.” He hung up.
“There wasn’t enough time, Mulder. No trace.” Scully was upset.
“Did you tell them to monitor my phone?”
“Yes. Mine too.”
“He probably won’t call back. We may have missed an opportunity, Scully. At least we confirmed that he has been kidnapped. The FBI can mobilize now.” Mulder ran his fingers through his hair. “He said that going to Skinner’s apartment was useless. What do you think?”
“Let’s go anyway. Maybe his car is there. They checked the ramp and it wasn’t in his usual space.” Mulder pulled back into traffic.
“I wonder why the kidnapper contacted us?” Mulder had just merged when a mysterious ring came from the back of the sedan. Scully unbuckled and searched for the source. In a corner near the door was a small prepaid phone that she picked up with a tissue and answered it.
“Ah, Agent Scully.” The mechanical voice came through clearly. “Would you mind instructing your partner to pull over once again? I wouldn’t want you to be injured in an accident when you have only three days to save him.”
“Mulder, pull over.” Scully was stiff. He did so and she put the phone on speaker.
The voice started again. “Now that I have your attention, I want to explain the ground rules for our little discussion. You have alerted the FBI that there is a kidnapping in progress and they are monitoring your phones. While I wish you hadn’t done that, you had no way of knowing that I would punish Skinner for such behavior. “
“Let me be clear, from this point forward, attempting to contact any person associated with or in communication with the FBI will negate our agreement and Skinner will be immediately eliminated. This little game is between us only. I am watching right now and will continue to monitor you. Any attempt to enlist help from anyone will be dealt with in the harshest way. Do you both understand?”
Mulder and Scully looked at each other. Mulder knew protocol. Obeying this man’s rules will violate FBI policy. If they agree to do this they forfeit their jobs and if something happens to Skinner, they could be brought up on accessory charges.
“Um…if we play things your way, we will become accessories.” Mulder stated.
“If you don’t –he dies.”
Scully broke in. “How do we even know you have him?”
“Ah, proof of life. Look under your seat Agent Scully.”
Scully pulled out a large amber manila envelope and carefully opened it with the tissue. Inside were several pictures of a naked and bound Skinner in a completely non-descript room. A ‘New York Times’ newspaper was in the photograph showing the date as this morning.
“As you can see, he was alive just a few hours ago.”
“I want to talk to him!” Scully said.
“Not possible. Do you wish to discuss this with your partner? You can mute the phone and I’ll wait. If you call the FBI, the last thing you will hear is me putting a bullet in his brain.”
“Why did you pick us?” Mulder was getting upset. He could almost hear the smile on the other end.
“For several reasons, but mostly because I find your partnership…interesting. I would like to see you in action. Of course, I have studied your cases and found the events surrounding you to be intriguing. You two are like a lightning rod for the strange and unusual so I thought I’d try my hand at it. How better to you get to follow my yellow brick road than to take your friend?”
“Ok, I’ll tell you the rules, and then you can discuss it. You have three days to find your assistant director. As long as you do not attempt to contact the FBI or leave messages for anyone else, Skinner will be treated well. I will leave clues that only the two of you will understand. Solve each riddle and that will take you to the next clue. You should be able to reach the last clue in time to save your boss, but if you do not, he will be killed in a most painful way because I will be disappointed in you. I’ll hang up now. Try to trace this phone or do any other forbidden activity and he will suffer.” The voice clicked off.
The two agents stared at the phone for a few beats. Scully was the first to speak. “You’re right, Mulder. We’ll be charged as accessories at worst and fired at best. Do you think he really has Skinner?”
“My instinct says he does. If we stop communicating with the FBI, they are going to start searching for us too. We will have to run from law enforcement as well.”
“We owe it to Skinner to come after him.”
“Do you think he would want us risking jail and our careers?” Mulder was bitter. “Look, Scully. I’ll do it. I’m practically out the door at the FBI anyway. You can still have the possibility of a career.” *You’ll probably be better off without me*
“He said he wanted to see *us* in action. Besides, I wouldn’t let you take a risk like that alone. Skinner is my friend too.” Scully jumped because her phone rang. “Hello?......Do you show any incoming calls on our phones?......We were heading to Skinner’s apartment, but you are handling it……Deputy Director Amarillo, Agent Mulder and I will be taking a few days off…” She paused. “I know. We have to go.” Scully disconnected the call.
“It looks like you made up your mind.” The burn phone rang and Mulder clicked the button, pressing speaker.
“That was too bad, Agent Scully. You performed one of the forbidden activities right off the bat. Skinner will have to pay for that.” The mechanical voice sounded regretful.
“No!” Scully shouted. “They called me. I gave them no information! By telling them that we were taking a few days….” She stopped talking because there was a loud prolonged scream ripping through the phone. She covered her mouth in horror.
The mechanical voice was back. “That, my dear agent, was the sound of Mr. Skinner as a large piece of skin was cut off his back. I hope that doesn’t get infected.”
Mulder was angry. “You bastard!”
“I expect that you understand that I’m serious. Return to your apartment, Agent Mulder. The first clue will be waiting for you. Leave your cell phones there and take this one with you. The clock started ticking at 6am this morning so you have already lost half a day. I would get going if I were you.”