Rapture 3: We'll always have Paris
It was early morning, chilly and damp, when they arrived in France after a shortened, and in Mulder's case sleepless, night in the air. The Surete officer who waited for them on the runway tarmac was a man named Inspector Raymond Lafayette. Tall, blond, handsome, good-natured and speaking almost perfect English, he greeted a dishevelled Scully by kissing her hand. Mulder found himself disliking the man more by the moment - the feeling was only aggravated by the fact that there was little or nothing about him to actually disapprove of.
Three hours later Orly airport was a fleeting memory. They drove along almost deserted roads that took them deep into Brittany, through a region which Mulder was amused to discover was called Maine, through the cathedral city of Chartres, Le Mans and a half-dozen sleepy market towns.
'This case must be quite different from what you're used to,' Mulder said, as Lafayette skilfully steered the car around a tractor.
'No. I always get these cases, Agent Mulder,' Lafayette said good-naturedly. 'Last year it was werewolves in the Auvergne, the year before a haunting in a chateau in the Loire valley and an unpleasant business with a man-eating alligator in the sewers of Marseilles. Since the ghost in the Loire, my friends in the Surete have started to call me Lafayette le surnaturel. Translated it means...'
'I think I can guess,' Mulder muttered sourly.
'If you don't mind me saying so,' Scully interrupted, a little more loudly than was necessary, 'Your English is particularly good.'
'Thank you, Agent Scully,' Lafayette said, with a warm and genuine smile that Mulder found deeply irritating. 'I spent three years studying at Cambridge. That was really where I picked up the language. I haven't had much chance to practice since.'
'So what's our schedule?' Mulder interrupted curtly.
'I thought you would wish to see Drake's cottage first,' Lafayette said mildly. 'The murder scene is already almost a week old and the executors wish to take over the estate as soon as possible. That will take the rest of today, I think. Then we will stay overnight in Rennes and return to Paris the next morning. I will brief you at the Prefecture, then I understand from Assistant Director Skinner that there are some leads in Paris you may wish to follow up, Agent Mulder. For Agent Scully, we have delayed Drake's autopsy. It is not quite procedure to leave an autopsy for so long, but your reputation as a pathologist in these cases precedes you.'
Scully simpered - that was the only word for it, Mulder decided.
'If neither of you mind, I think I'll try to catch up on some sleep,' he said bad-temperedly.
'By all means,' Lafayette said, with a sympathetic shrug. Mulder didn't look round. He didn't need to - he could actually feel Scully glaring at the back of his head.
But it was hard to stay in a bad mood for very long. The countryside was beautiful, a patchwork of tiny fields. It was a little less green than England, but fresh from the early morning, with an air of greater warmth and pleasant, dusty neglect. Arch Drake's farmhouse lay at the end of a maze of country roads which wound unpredictably across the rolling countryside. Often there was barely space for a single vehicle, let alone two. The farmhouse itself was at the end of a long, muddy track, set deep in a wooded valley. It was a long, stone building, hundreds of years old, wreathed in climbing roses, with an ancient orchard set behind it. Most of the windows were boarded up and glass glittered on the cobbled courtyard beneath the morning sun and crunched beneath their feet. The doorway to the cottage was low, but the door that stood in it looked modern and out of place. The splintered remains of the original door - thick, dark oak - stood propped against the stone wall beside it. The three stood and looked around in silence. Apart from spring bird song and the noise of the wind in the trees there was no other sound. It seemed impossibly peaceful.
'Drake did not come to this place often,' Lafayette said, breaking the silence. 'It was one of three houses that he owned in Europe. Sometimes he came here for hunting, when the season was right, sometimes he would bring one of his boyfriends here for a weekend. He would spend perhaps a month here every year, no more.'
'Who found him?' Scully asked, narrowing her eyes against the spring sun.
'There is a gardener. He lives in a cottage on the edge of the grounds about a kilometre away. There was a violent storm that night so he came round the next day to see what damage had been caused and found the body when he entered the house to board up the windows.'
'Did he see anything?' Mulder asked absently, looking around at the thick woodlands.
'No,' Lafayette said with a shrug. 'The cottage is in the wrong place to see any cars approach. He would not even have been able to see if the cottage lights were on. Drake valued his privacy. And besides, the gardener is an old man and he drank heavily. I think he was sleeping very soundly when his employer died. The storm woke him, and he went straight back to sleep again'
'Had Drake told him that he'd be coming from Paris?'
'No. He told no-one. Usually he sent one of his staff ahead to make sure that the cottage was in order, but this time he may not have intended to stay.'
'And nobody in any of the nearby villages saw anything either?'
'No, Agent Mulder,' Lafayette said patiently. 'There are many tourists here, from Paris and from England and Belgium. A strange car would not attract any attention. Shall we go inside?'
The rooms of the cottage were low but cosily and expensively furnished. The rough walls were painted white and hung with oils and mounted animal heads. The floors were flagstoned, scattered with rugs. A perfect rustic retreat, but it rang false. It had been carefully designed but there was no sense that it have ever really been lived in. The fight which had claimed Arch Drake's life had left traces in almost every room they passed through, in the overturned furniture, the little spatters on blood on the white walls, the splintered wood of the banister. The fight had been carried upstairs, and had ended there. Drake's body had been found in the bedroom.
The room was palatial, but the linen on the four poster bed was stiff and brown with blood. The debris of a crime scene - smudges of fingerprint powder on the door, plastic sheeting, crime scene seals in a different language - seemed both alien and familiar. The killing had been a week before and the body was long gone, but the words in blood on the wall were there still, dark brown and flaking - "COME AND SEE". For a moment the three of them stood without speaking. Scully finally broke the silence.
'The writing is different,' she said. 'It looks almost as if it was written by a child. This wasn't written by the same person as Naomi Redburg's killer.'
'Oui,' Lafayette agreed cheerfully. 'Yes, Agent Scully. If it were not for the graffiti we would not have connected these crimes at all. Certainly there are two different killers involved. The weapon is different. In San Francisco the blade was razor sharp. Here, not as sharp, a thicker, heavier blade. There, no fight. The woman in San Francisco was overpowered first. Here, they fought with their swords in every room in the house. The American woman's killer entered her house very carefully, leaving no forensic evidence. Here the door is broken down.'
'The San Francisco killing was in a built up area,' Mulder said. 'This is an isolated farmhouse.'
'Oui,' Lafayette agreed amiably. 'Yes. But still. A man who is so careful... it becomes a habit. He does not suddenly start to take risks. Almost certainly two different people have carried out these crimes.'
Mulder nodded, as if the answer was no less than he'd expected.
'I understand, Agent Mulder, that Monsieur Drake was a friend of yours?' Lafayette asked sympathetically.
'I knew him for a little while but it was a long time ago,' Mulder said without emotion.
'And you knew the American woman too?'
'Yes. Again, it was a long time ago.'
'And you do not know who would want to kill them?'
'I can't remember anything that would explain these deaths,' Mulder said. 'I wish that I could. Neither of them deserved this.' He looked around the room again. 'These lightbulbs. Are they new?'
'Yes, Agent Mulder. How did you know?'
Mulder knelt and picked a tiny fragment from the thick carpet.
'There's still some glass in the rug. This isn't from the window. Your people must have missed it when they cleared up.'
'All the lightbulbs in the house were shattered, Agent Mulder. Everything electrical was destroyed. The electrical company believes that the lightning from the storm must have struck the pylon a little way up the valley.'
'And all the windows in this room were blown outwards.'
'Again, yes. It seems strange. Our forensics team suggested that the damage may have been caused by the fight. It seems unlikely, but there is no other explanation.'
'I think there's another explanation. We just don't know what it is yet.'
'If you say so, Agent Mulder,' Lafayette said, with another shrug. Scully gave Mulder a weary and long-suffering look.
'Was anything stolen?' she asked.
'Almost nothing. Some old photograph albums were kept in Drake's study. The study was searched, quite clumsily The albums were pulled out, some photographs taken. That is all. There was money here, good wine, some valuable antiques that would certainly have been worth stealing, but nothing was taken except the photographs.'
'May we see the study?' Scully asked. Lafayette gestured for them both to follow him as he left the room and headed back down the stairs.
'Whoever it was, he had no experience at searching a room. You know that it is good practice to search a chest of drawers from bottom to top so that you do not have to close each drawer when you have searched it. This man began at the top. He pulled each drawer out and threw them across the floor. That's no way to find something. To pile it all in a heap so that you can trip over it in the dark.' The shrug again. 'Whatever this man is, he is not a burglar.'
Drake's study had been roughly tidied, the drawers stacked in one corner and their spilled contents pushed into an untidy heap on one side of the room.
'The forensics officers have finished here,' Lafayette said. 'But I asked them to leave the papers for you. Nothing has been removed. I have searched through them once, but perhaps you know better than me what to look for.'
'Are the albums here?' Mulder asked.
'On the desk. This is the one from which the photographs were taken.'
The photograph albums were leather bound and smudged with grey from the fingerprint powder. Mulder opened the one that Lafayette had given him. Drake's bearded face smiled up at him in grainy colour. A hand-written note beneath the first photograph in the book read 'Boston - 1978' Max Donnelly was in most of the photographs: there were shots with Drake's arm around him, of Donnelly posing with a sword, of Donnelly and Drake at a restaurant, or in evening dress, or beside the sea with palm trees behind them.
Lafayette said: 'The young man with the sword, the one called Max. Do you know anything about him?'
'His full name was Max Donnelly. He disappeared several years ago,' Mulder said. 'Presumed dead, but no body was ever found.'
He flipped through the book until he came to the pages where the photographs had been ripped from their mountings. The written notes were dotted across the empty page. Most of them read simply: 'Maine - summer '79'.
An hour later Lafayette had left to call his local counterparts and Mulder and Scully were steadily working through the papers in the study. Drake had kept everything: old receipts, junk mail, bank statements, bills and personal mail. Scully set aside a thick sheaf of bank statements and sighed.
'Arch Drake has more money in his household account than I earned all last year, Mulder. Maybe there is something in this organised crime theory.'
'There wasn't anything illegal about the way he made his money, Scully,' Mulder said, concentrating on his own sheaf of papers. 'He started in the sixties. I think his original capital was a life insurance payout after his father's death in a boating accident. He made some good investments on the London stock market, opened a reasonably successful chain of fashion stores, sold them off for a couple of million in the mid-seventies and started backing some of the early computer companies in the US. In 1982 he started a software company that was bought up in 1988 for around fifty million.'
'Who did he leave his money to?'
'According to the will there's a kid, a Nick Drake, but he hasn't turned up yet,' Mulder said, shuffling through a stack of photocopied flyers and leaflets, glancing through each and putting it down on an ever growing pile on the floor. 'There isn't anything to indicate who the mother might have been. When he does show he's going to have more money than he knows what to do with. There don't seem to be any other relatives at all.'
'There's a son?' Scully said.
'I suppose his being gay doesn't preclude the possibility but nobody at the camp ever mentioned him and there's no record of Drake ever being married.'
'There's nothing in any of the albums either. No baby pictures or girlfriends. Doesn't that seem strange to you, Mulder?'
Mulder didn't answer and Scully glanced over at him. He was holding a notice in his hand, a badly photocopied list of the times and places of a series of public lectures on the history of French art. It had been part of a sheaf of leaflets advertising shows and exhibitions that for the most part had closed months before. They had obviously been picked up in Paris. Scully doubted that anyone besides Mulder would have bothered to read through them all. Beside the titles were passport sized photographs of the lecturers.
'Mulder, what is it? Did you find something?'
'Yeah,' Mulder said. 'It's Adam, Scully. This is Adam Pierson.'
The tiny photograph showed a man with a pale, fine-featured face - in his late twenties, Scully thought. The grainy photograph showed little more, but it left her with the impression of short, dark hair and amused eyes.
'Your friend from Maine?' Scully asked.
'Yeah. That's him. This is incredible. He must be almost forty now. He hasn't changed at all.'
'I guess there has to be someone who takes a flattering passport photo,' Scully commented. 'Or it could be an old photograph.'
'No. He's the same, Scully,' He shook his head in disbelief. 'He's exactly the same. I was afraid he'd be fat or bald or be wearing a suit and working for an insurance company or something... But this scares me more. He's exactly the same. He's even wearing one of those damn sweaters...'
Scully looked up sharply at the almost-pain in Mulder's voice. His eyes were still fixed on the tiny photograph.
'When's the lecture?' she asked. 'Going by the rest of the junk on this desk that list could be ten years old.'
'The lecture was only a few weeks ago. It says here he's still a grad student at the University of Paris. Christ...' He rubbed his hand roughly over his face.
'Why don't you look him up tomorrow, Mulder,' Scully suggested gently. 'You say he was with Drake in Maine for a few months. Maybe he can shed some more light on what's been happening.'
Mulder nodded slowly. 'Scully, I'm afraid he's going to turn out to be involved in this somehow. He was... good to me. It was a rough time in my life. He was a good friend.'
'Do you think it's likely that he was involved? Given what you know about him, I mean?'
'Not unless he's changed a lot. By the look of this he hasn't changed at all.'
'Mulder, your friendship with him might be what we need to get to the bottom of this. He may give you answers he wouldn't give anyone else. If you're honest with him...'
'I know. I just hope I can be honest with myself.'
Scully sighed. 'He's not a serious suspect, Mulder. The checks you asked Skinner to run showed that.'
'Yeah. There's no record of any British citizen of that name being in the States when Redburg died. There is such a thing as travelling under an assumed name, Scully.'
'I know, Mulder, but I think you're worrying too much. I've come up with a theory about these deaths.'
'Shoot, Scully,' Mulder said, leaning back against the wall, still holding the leaflet loosely in his hand.
'There's someone out there who wants Drake's money. Nick Drake inherits but nobody's ever seen him and nobody knows who he is. Someone else found out about it and decided to kill Drake, pose as his son and collect the money'
'So why kill Naomi?'
'She knew who the real Nick Drake was.'
'Do you have a theory about that too, Scully?'
'Drake and Max Donnelly seemed pretty close in those photographs, Mulder, and he looked about the right age to be Drake's son.'
'Scully, Max wasn't Drake's kid. They didn't have that kind of relationship.'
'Maybe Max didn't know he was Drake's son.'
'Sorry, Scully, but I think you're reaching here. I didn't catch it back then but I'm pretty sure now that Drake and Max were sleeping together. I know that doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility that they were related but we're assuming that Naomi would have known too and she wasn't the type to cheerfully harbour dark, incestuous secrets. Anyway, that theory doesn't explain the beheadings or the graffiti. Why draw attention to the fact that the murders were linked? Why were there two murderers? Why go to all this trouble? Why not just arrange a drive-by shooting for Naomi and a hunting accident for Drake?'
'I don't know, Mulder. All I'm saying is that fifty million dollars seems like a pretty good motive to me. Could one of the others in Maine have been Nick Drake?'
'There wasn't anyone else of Drake's physical type,' Mulder said, with a shrug. 'I guess Jacques would have been about the right age but I had the impression that he and Drake didn't like each other very much. Max was the only person Drake seemed at all close to.'
'Mulder, I'm not saying it's perfect but I think it's a working theory. Why else would the killer have taken the photographs if he didn't want to hide someone's identity?'
'Why take the photographs in the first place? That's something else that doesn't make sense. If they'd just been left in the album it's unlikely that anyone would ever have looked at them again. If they'd taken the whole album we'd probably never have noticed it was missing. Taking them like this is just drawing attention to the time and place they want to hide.'
'We may not be dealing with someone particularly rational or balanced, Mulder.'
'Do we ever?'
Scully sighed. 'Mulder, why don't you stop worrying, track down your friend when we get back to Paris tomorrow and catch up on the good old days back in Maine. I'm going to be at the mortuary for most of tomorrow and the day after anyway.'
'For one autopsy?'
'There have been a lot of beheadings in France over the last year or so. There are four or five other bodies that I've been asked to have a look at. It won't need both of us.'
'You're probably right. I'm not a big autopsy fan at the best of times. Well, not the human ones, anyway. I'll go find Lafayette.'
Lafayette was leaning against the car, dialling a number on his cellphone. He raised a hand to Mulder as he crossed the courtyard.
'Ah! Agent Mulder. Have you had any luck?'
The afternoon was growing cold. Mulder drew his jacket around himself more tightly.
'Some. Drake had some information about an old friend of mine from Maine. He's still in Paris. If you don't have any other plans, I'd like to track him down tomorrow while Scully starts the autopsies.'
'Of course,' Lafayette said. 'Do you believe this friend of yours could have been involved in this case any way?'
'As far as we know he wasn't in the States when Naomi Redburg was killed and I can't think of any reason why he'd want to kill either of the victims. On the other hand, he spent much more time with the two of them than I did. He may have some idea about a motive.'
'Then finding him would be an excellent idea'' Lafayette said approvingly. 'And it will be a pleasure to accompany Agent Scully tomorrow in your place. Your partner is a brilliant and beautiful woman. She reminds me very much of my old partner before she left the Force.'
'Why did she leave?' Mulder asked.
'Ah, when we married, she could not longer remain as my partner. And now, of course, with the children, it would be impossible.'
'Yeah. Of course.'
'Have you seen everything you needed to?'
'I think so.'
'Then we should leave for the hotel. I only have one more call to make. Nothing urgent. This is the night I usually go out for a few beers with my old friends from the Serious Crimes squad. I forgot to call before and tell them I wouldn't be able to come.'
Mulder gave him an insincere smile. 'Yeah. I hate it when that happens. I'll go and fetch Scully.'
It was late afternoon when they left Drake's cottage, and about seven o'clock by the time they reached Rennes. The hotel they were staying in was old-fashioned but comfortable - an improvement on the anonymous airport motels they normally used. Mulder showered and tried to rid himself of the feeling that it was still just after lunch. Jet-lag had shattered his already fragile sleep patterns. He resigned himself to the fact he wouldn't feel like going to bed until about six in the morning, local time. He tried the TV, but there was no cable and the only channels the antique set could pick up were French language. This was too far from England to get British TV, such as it was. A search of the room's cupboards revealed one book in English, written, as luck would have it, by Jackie Collins. He was reading through the first few pages when there was a knock on the door.
'Mulder? It's me,' Scully said, pushing the door open.
'Hey, Scully. I don't suppose you brought anything to read?'
'No adult pay-per-view channel, Mulder?'
Mulder lay back on the bed and grinned up at her. 'I found a Jackie Collins novel but I from what I've read so far I really don't think I want it lodged in my memory for the rest of my life.'
'Yeah, Mulder. Don't tell me. You need that space for 'Debbie does Dallas IV'.'
'As a piece of cinematic art it's deeply underrated, Scully.'
Scully gave him a resigned look.
'I just spoke to Lafayette, Mulder. An eyewitness has turned up but Lafayette doesn't think he's reliable.'
'It sounds like he's all we've got at the moment.'
'They're holding him overnight. We can go in the morning, or we can get it over with now.'
'Gee, I don't know, Scully. I want to keep reading this and see if there's going to be a major character I wouldn't want to shoot thirty seconds after I met them.'
'It's a lost cause, Mulder. I'll tell Lafayette we'll meet him downstairs in ten minutes.'
The drab, green interview room in the police station at Rennes could have been in almost any police station anywhere in the western world. The witness, a Monsieur Baigent, was a thin, wizened man, unshaven and with lank, shoulder length, yellow-white hair. He could have been any age between fifty and eighty. He wore a filthy brown sweater and beneath it a wide collared paisley shirt of a type that had been out of fashion for twenty years or more. The whole was set off by a wide and disreputable green tie that hung outside the sweater. He leered at Scully hopefully and was given an icy glance in return that only seemed to encourage him further.
'Monsieur Baigent is a thief of birds and rabbits,' Lafayette declared. 'I forget the word in English.'
'A poacher?' Mulder suggested.
'Yes. A poacher,' Lafayette said. He scowled at Baigent, who looked around at the three of them and grinned toothlessly back. 'I have told him that you are very important people from the American FBI.'
'FBI!' Baigent repeated cheerfully and a little indistinctly. He leered at Scully again.
'I think he likes you,' Mulder said out of the corner of his mouth.
'Mulder, he makes Frohike look like a cover-boy for GQ.'
'That would be kind of an interesting issue,' Mulder murmured back.
Lafayette continued. 'Monsieur Baigent claims that he was on the Drake estate on the night of the killing. Yesterday he was arrested in connection with another matter. It is unimportant, except that to save his skin he told the officers here that he saw the murderer of Monsieur Drake leave his cottage.'
'Who was he?' Scully asked. 'Did Baigent give a description?'
'The murderer, Agent Scully, was a knight in armour wearing a long coat and driving a black car.' Lafayette shook his head in disgust. 'He was "very big and very tall". And there was another man who hid in the trees and took photographs. I think Monsieur Baigent has been watching too many James Bond movies.'
'Can you ask him what kind of armour?' Mulder asked.
Lafayette looked at him suspiciously for a moment.
'You are serious, Agent Mulder? You believe this ridiculous story?'
Mulder shrugged. 'We already have swords. Why not armour as well?'
Lafayette sighed. 'As you wish. I'll ask him, Agent Mulder.'
A little later they sat in the cramped interview room surrounded by such reference books as the local library had been able to provide. Baigent pored through a junior encyclopaedia of history with an air of intense concentration, leaving grimy smudges on each page.
The officer who had been sent on this task had taken his duty seriously and picked up anything even remotely relating to armour. Scully picked up a large print romance and held it wordlessly up to Mulder. The medieval knight on the cover was clutching a gauzily clad blonde in his arms and gazing at her with an expression of rapt but brainless adoration.
'Swords at Sunset,' Mulder translated. 'It's one of the less well-known classics of French literature, Scully.'
'Do you really think he's going to be able to tell us anything, Mulder?' Scully said wearily.
'He's the only eyewitness we've got, Scully.'
'Drake's death has been in the papers. He probably heard about it on TV and now he's using it to get out of whatever he's been charged with.'
'According to Lafayette the press release that was given out didn't mention that Drake was beheaded or that the probable weapon was a sword. I think he was there that night, Scully. Ok, he doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but unless the mysterious photographer turns up he's all we've got.'
Baigent chose that moment to let out an incomprehensible exclamation. He grasped Mulder's arm and jabbed the book he was reading, leaving a series of fingerprints which would have gladdened the heart of any scenes of crime officer, talking wildly as he did so.
'What's he saying, Mulder?' Scully asked.
Mulder shrugged. 'I can't help you with that one, Scully. My French lessons at school didn't exactly cover incoherent murder witnesses with no teeth. I could ask him for three first class train tickets to Marseilles if you think it'll help.'
Scully glared at him, and Lafayette flashed them an amused glance. 'He says that this is like the knight he saw getting out of the car. He wore a long red and white dress over his armour. The armour was like the armour in the picture and it had a hood. Before he left, he pulled it off over his head and put it in the boot of his car.'
'Chain mail must be kind of a bitch to drive in,' Mulder mused.
Lafayette was looking over Baigent's shoulder. 'The caption says that this type of armour dates back to the eleventh century, maybe earlier.'
'The time of the crusades.'
'Yes, Agent Mulder. I believe so.'
'Ask him if the red and white dress was white with a red cross on it.'
'Yes,' Lafayette said, after consulting with their unwashed witness for a few moments. 'It's as you said. How did you know?'
'That's a surcoat from one of the old knight crusader orders.'
'How is this relevant, Agent Mulder?' Lafayette asked.
'We think a cult associated with one of the orders may be involved,' Scully said, with a glance at Mulder that told him to please keep his weirder theories to himself this time.
'The military crusader orders were charismatic and powerful religious groups,' Mulder explained. 'The Templars were probably the most famous of them. They built up their wealth and political power escorting pilgrims to the Holy Land. Eventually they took on the role of bankers and moneylenders. When they finally grew too rich and powerful the Pope, the French King and a rival order called the Hospitallers destroyed them by acting together to arrest its leaders and accuse them of blasphemy and the worship of false gods. This was sometime around 1310. Most of the members were killed but some of them escaped and vanished with merchant ships supposedly loaded with wealth. If a religious cult has identified with them it wouldn't be the first time. The Order of the Solar Temple not only believed they were reincarnated Templars but also venerated a sword that was said to be a thousand years old. More than fifty members killed themselves in a suicide pact in 1994.'
'I remember.' Lafayette said grimly. 'There were sixteen deaths here, in Grenoble. And you believe that there is another cult? That maybe Drake was a member?'
Mulder shook his head. 'From the short time I knew him I would say that his psychology was wrong. He was strong willed and self centred. He wasn't credulous enough to be a cult member. Naomi Redburg I would say definitely not. A violent, weapons-centred cult would have repelled her.'
'But perhaps they are victims of a cult for some reason.'
'It seems to be the most likely explanation,' Mulder agreed reluctantly. 'I just don't know why they would want to kill two people whose only connection is that they spent the summer of 1979 in a reasonably innocent hippy commune in Maine.'
'It seems logical that one of the other who was there at the time is now a member of the cult. A leading member, perhaps, who had a grudge against the two who were killed,' Lafayette suggested.
'From a psychological point of view the most likely person was a man called Jacques Lemarchand,' Mulder said. 'He was charismatic and manipulative. Skinner hadn't made any progress in tracking him down the last time we spoke. He said he'd call tomorrow if he had anything.'
'Lemarchand,' Lafayette mused. 'Was he French, Agent Mulder?'
'He spoke good English with an American accent. I don't know if he had American citizenship, but he certainly doesn't fit the description of the murderer. He was a little taller than Scully - not a big man by any standards.'
'I'll make some enquiries when we return to Paris,' Lafayette said, decisively. 'There's nothing else we can do until then. I'll have some paperwork to do here, so I'll meet you in the morning. I've ordered a taxi to return you to your hotel.'
Mulder nodded. 'We'd better try and catch up on some sleep, Scully.'
'Jet lag is a terrible thing,' Scully said dryly.
Lafayette nodded. 'Yes. Of course. I remember, at one time, before my marriage, it was impossible for me to sleep through the night,' He chuckled ruefully. 'Every night I would fall asleep on the couch, watching old movies on the television. All I ever ate was pizza. All I ever thought about was my work. It's hard to believe that my life was once so miserable.'
'It certainly is,' Scully said. 'Mulder? Are you coming?'
'I hate that guy, Scully,' Mulder muttered under his breath as they walked out to the taxi. 'One haunted chateau, one lousy werewolf and suddenly he's Mr Paranormal.'
'Never mind, Mulder,' Scully said soothingly. 'He's very mainstream. I'll bet no-one ever called him a ticking time bomb of insanity.'
'Yeah. I suppose there's that,' Mulder said, brightening a little.
Lafayette's office in the Prefecture Centrale was larger and tidier than Mulder's, but only a little. The drive back to Paris had dissipated Mulder's foul mood a little, and after a morning of briefings, of exchanging information, he found himself developing a grudging respect for his counterpart. Lunch had been more than adequate - it was hard to find a badly cooked meal in Paris, or one of less than four courses, even in a police canteen.
After lunch they returned to Lafayette's office. It was easier to reach Adam Pierson than Mulder had expected. The University switchboard operator listened to his request, in stumbling schoolboy French, for Monsieur Pierson's extension, then replied in perfect English that if he would like to hold, she would try to connect him. He was transferred to a ringing extension which was picked up almost instantly.
Mulder fought down a knot of tension in his stomach. From the single word it hadn't been possible to tell who he was talking too. 'Uh... Bonjour monsieur. Je... je voudrais parler au Moniseur Adam Pierson.'
Silence from the other end of the line.
' Mulder? Mulder, is that you?'
'Yes. I gotta tell you... your French is lousy. And I've missed you. I've missed you a lot. Mulder... Fox, where are you?'
'I'm in Paris. I'm staying at the Hotel Lutetia. Adam, can we meet?' He was almost laughing with relief. After all this time, it was turning out to be so easy.
'Yes. Yes, of course,' Adam said. He sounded stunned, on the edge of laughter too. 'Of course. God, you have no idea how good it is to hear your voice again.'
'I was thinking about you last week. When I read about Drake getting killed, I mean. Wondering where you were, what you were doing...'
'I need to see you. I'm in France. I already said that, didn't I...'
'Yes. I'm not busy this afternoon. I mean, I am, but... but this is more important. I'm at my office in the university. But you know that, you rang me here. God, what an idiot. Uh... I'll be here for the rest of the day. Can you get over here? Do you know where it is?'
'Yes. I'm in Paris. I can get over this afternoon... Adam...'
'I think we'd better stop this conversation before it gets any more incoherent... I... I'll look forward to seeing you. I'll be in my office all day. Do you know where that is?'
'Just give me the address and I'll find it. I'll find you. I'll see you later.'
Adam's office was a cramped room high in one of the university's solid Victorian buildings. It seemed clear from the clutter and the desks and bookcases that filled the little room that at least two people shared the office. No-one was there when Mulder arrived so he sat in one of the three unmatched chairs and glanced over the shelves that filled the best part of one wall, trying to find something to take his mind off nervous tension aggravated by jet lag, too much coffee and a nightmarish taxi ride through tail end of the Paris lunchtime rush hour. He realised sourly that he hadn't been this nervous during any one of the armed incidents he'd been involved in. Then again, for a while he'd had to deal with shoot-outs pretty much on a weekly basis. That had been work. This was deeply personal. *I don't want to screw this up* he thought unhappily, although he knew that it was more than likely that passage of time would have done the job for him.
He was glancing through an archaeology journal article that detailed the reconstruction of faces from skeletal remains with at least an attempt at professional interest when the door opened. He stood uncertainly. He didn't know what he'd expected to see, but the photograph had told the truth. The man who faced him didn't look a day older than when they'd parted, more than seventeen years before. Still wearing jeans, still wearing a sweater. Mulder felt an involuntary grin stretch his face.
'Adam?' He shook his head in disbelief. 'Christ, you're looking good.'
'So are you. God, it's good to see you again!'
They embraced briefly and parted, both a little unsure of each other, of how to continue.
'I don't know what to call you,' Adam said after a moment. 'You're too old be called kid anymore. Do you still call yourself Mulder?'
'Still Mulder.' Mulder said firmly. 'My friends call me Mulder. My partner calls me Mulder. I even made my parents call me Mulder.'
'Partner,' Adam smiled wryly. 'I guess I really do have some catching up to do.'
'My partner at work. I'm not married. Or attached.'
'I'm kind of glad to hear that.'
Mulder smiled. 'I kind of hoped you would be.'
Adam gestured to one of the ill matched chairs and sat on the edge of the desk.
'So you've got a partner. Does that mean you started a practice?'
'A practice? Oh, you mean as a psychologist. No, nothing like that.'
'You're going to make me guess? You're a tennis doubles player, a lawyer or a police officer. That or you've taken up ballroom dancing professionally.'
Mulder nodded gravely. 'They're thinking of making it an Olympic sport in 2000.'
Adam looked at him wordlessly for a moment. 'Mulder, tell me you're joking.'
'No, seriously. If synchronised swimming and beach volleyball can get in...'
'Mulder, you are not a professional ballroom dancer.'
'I can do the grin. Do you want me to do the grin?'
Adam gave him a grin of his own. 'Mulder, I don't know what it is that professional ballroom dancers wear in their time off but it sure as hell isn't anything by Armani.'
'All my plaid suits are off being pressed.'
'Seriously,' Mulder dropped himself back into one of the sagging chairs. 'I'm an FBI agent.'
There was a moment's silence.
Mulder pulled out his ID and wordlessly flipped it across the room.
Adam studied it with narrowed eyes, then flipped it back. 'This is real? You're an FBI agent?'
'That's a problem?' Mulder said. His voice was a little less composed than he would have liked.
'Not a problem, Mulder. It just seems... pretty unlikely, I guess. You're too... uh...'
'You think I'm too weird to be an FBI agent?' Mulder said, deadpan.
Adam nodded, amusement in his eyes.
'Not exactly the word I was looking for, but you're not far off.'
'But you mean that in a good way, right?'
Adam smiled wryly. 'I always thought you'd end up as a journalist or a researcher. An academic, even. I just didn't think you'd end up working for the government. You were pretty anti-establishment in a quiet kind of way. So you're... what, Special Agent Mulder?'
Mulder smiled. 'Kind of a mouthful.'
Adam leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. He eyed Mulder with some amusement.
'So what are you investigating, Special Agent Mulder?'
'Arch Drake. You said you'd heard about Drake being killed.'
Adam nodded and his smile faded. 'Yes. I don't catch much TV but it was in the papers. "The mutilated body of Arch Drake was found on the floor of his Breton farmhouse..." God, I hope it was over quickly for him. Did they catch whoever did it?'
'No. We have a few leads. There may be a connection with the camp.'
'With the camp? I don't get it. What's it got to do with back then? Drake's done a hell of a lot of moving and shaking since then. He probably made quite a few enemies before he even set the place up.'
'There was another death. Someone else who was there. I've been working on the investigation in the US. Now I'm over here on attachment to the Surete.'
'Then it was Naomi,' Adam said. A shadow crossed his face. 'The woman in San Francisco, I mean. Damn. I read about that in the papers too. I remembered the name and that she'd moved to San Francisco but there wasn't a photograph. I wasn't sure if it was her or not.'
'It was her,' Mulder said. The image of the head in the sink flashed into his mind. He pushed it away, to the back of his mind.
'And they hadn't met up since then?'
'That's what I wanted to ask you. I need to know as much as possible from that time. I remember you kept some kind of diary.'
'That was eighteen years ago, Mulder. I'll look around and see if I've still got it packed away somewhere, but I'm not promising anything. Why do you think the two deaths are connected, anyway?'
'There were some similarities in the modus operandi. Naomi and Drake were both beheaded.'
'Yes. As yet we don't know who by and we don't know why.'
'And the only link you've found between them was their time in Maine.'
Mulder nodded. 'Have you seen Drake recently?' he asked.
'The last time we spoke was six months ago, at a gallery opening. That was the last time I saw him, face to face, at least.'
'I don't understand. What do you mean?'
'Drake was a guy who got around a lot. I've seen him on TV a few times since then, read about him in the gossip columns. We weren't exactly close.'
'Would it surprise you to know that he had the programme for the French Art lecture series in his desk?'
'That's how you found me?'
Adam was silent for a moment, then seemed to recover himself.
'Then... then I guess the old guy did follow what I was doing. I've had a few unexpected commissions over the last few years. Magazine articles mostly. I guessed they might have come from him somewhere along the line. I'm sorry he had to die like that. If there's anything else I can tell you, Mulder...'
'Did you know he was gay?'
Adam nodded. 'That was an open secret. You think maybe he brought someone home?'
'His door was broken down on the night of his death so it seems unlikely. The French police are trying to find out if someone was blackmailing him.'
Adam shook his head. 'Not about being gay. Like I said, it was an open secret. These are the 1990s. When you've got someone who looks as good as Drake, still single well into his fifties, a well known patron of the arts - people are going to be surprised if you tell them he's straight. There were a couple of boyfriends...' he spread his hands.
'Who? Do you know their names?'
'Just from the gossip columns. Remy someone. Something to do with vineyards. And there was a blond American. Tad? Ted? The Surete probably have all this already.'
'Were you ever Drake's lover?'
Adam shook his head. 'Not classy enough for him. Compared to what he was used to I'd have been rough trade.' He stretched his arms lazily above his head and Mulder tried to avoid making the connection in his mind between Adam Pierson stretched out before him and the phrase 'rough trade'. It was hard going. Two inches of smooth white skin showed between the edge of his sweater and the waistband of his jeans. *Maybe if I sit on my hands*, Mulder thought to himself, fighting the urge to touch. The cramped office suddenly seemed a little warmer than it had a moment ago.
'Mulder, do you want to finish this over dinner?' Adam asked. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth at the noticeable uncertainty on Mulder's face. 'No lentils, I promise.'
Mulder smiled. 'Dinner would be great. So where are you taking me?'
'There's a place a mile or so down the Seine. The menu's pretty basic but what they do they do well. No too many tourists, good wine. My flat's not too far away...'
Mulder grinned at the underlying invitation. 'A flat in central Paris? Being a grad student must pay more than I thought.'
'Oh, think of it as a garret,' Adam said, with a lazy smile. 'It's traditional for students in Paris to starve in garrets. I'm looking after it for a friend who's out of town for most of the year. I get kicked out for a couple of months in the summer, the odd week here and there for the rest of the year - that's usually when I head back to England or the States.'
'Rent free. I just pay the bills.' Adam rose to his feet.
For a moment, they were both silent.
'So, is tonight a date?' Mulder asked.
'Could be,' Adam said with a faint smile. 'It all depends...'
'We might discover after ten minutes that we hate each other's guts. That we haven't got a damn thing in common any more. Let's just take it as it comes.'
'That sounds good.' Mulder smiled, suddenly frighteningly, deeply happy.
'Mulder. One more thing...'
Adam didn't speak. Just raised a hand to his face, steadying him, then moved in and kissed him on the mouth. The kiss was gentle and serious and sweet. Mulder felt a soft sigh escape his lips. His arms found their own way around Adam's body as he surrendered gratefully and much too easily to the inevitable. *Slut* he thought to himself happily and with a certain degree of satisfaction. He raised one hand to Adam's short hair. What was it about that hair? He heard Adam moan softly against his mouth. One of Adam's hands moved lower, touching his ass through the soft wool of his suit, pulling their hips tightly together, and then it was his turn to moan. When Adam released him he made a little noise of protest at the loss. For a moment they stood close together, still in each other's arms, faces only an inch apart. In a moment of sweet, remembered intimacy Mulder bowed his head, and felt Adam's lips touch his forehead, and heard his sigh as his hand came up to gently stroke Mulder's hair. He let his eyes close in willing surrender, as he always had before.
'Ok. So this is going to be a date.' Adam said softly.
They left the office together and walked in silence along the Seine, both deep in thought. The initial, careless joy of the reunion had faded a little, and the realities of the situation had begun to re-emerge. Adam seemed lost in thought at they walked, distant and remote, and Mulder glanced at him more than once as they walked. The other didn't seem worried, not exactly, but there was a tension about him that had not been there when he'd walked through the door to find Mulder in his office, or when they'd kissed.
To break the mood Mulder said ruefully: 'I was just thinking of all the reasons why this is a terrible idea. Going out for dinner with a potential suspect in a serial killing case is kind of unprofessional.'
Adam glanced at him. 'Thanks for the "potential".'
Mulder looked out towards the river. 'And what we had was a long time ago. It took a long time for me to get over it. Maybe I never did. I keep thinking it wouldn't be wise to start again.'
Adam said, uncertainly 'Do you want to let things cool off?' and Mulder looked up in surprise at the unsteadiness in his voice. Adam was giving him a way out if he wanted it, he realised, one he would probably have been wise to take.
Instead he just shook his head. 'Not an option. Not since that kiss.'
'Yeah,' Adam agreed. 'It isn't an option, not really. One of my better efforts.' He shot Mulder a half-mocking smile. 'So, what's it going to take?'
'To do what?'
'To prove I wasn't involved.'
'Anyone who saw you here on either of the murder dates. Supporting evidence. Credit card bills, shopping receipts, parking tickets...'
'For Naomi that won't be a problem. I think I chaired a seminar that morning. I'm sure at least some of my students stayed awake the whole way through. That whole thing, though...'
'What about it?'
'Why kill Naomi? She was harmless. She probably never offended anyone in her entire life.'
'I don't know,' Mulder admitted. 'If it wasn't for Drake I'd have assumed she'd been chosen at random.'
'What about the others? Are they all OK?'
'We haven't been able to trace most of them yet. We're still working on it. So how about Drake? Where were you when he was killed?'
'Well it's going to be a problem to prove I was in Paris.'
'All that week I was in New York.' He caught Mulder's curious glance. 'Translation job for a historical foundation I used to work for. I still work for them as a consultant sometimes. I can give you a couple of numbers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I spent most of that week in their research library. Any other questions?'
'Have you ever owned any chain mail?' Mulder asked, deadpan.
'Not recently,' Adam said, shooting him an amused glance, the earlier tension broken. 'Have you got a hot lead on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?'
'There was an eyewitness,' Mulder said wryly. 'It's just possible he's not reliable.'
'You're not kidding.'
Mulder paused before asking: 'Have you still got your sword?'
Adam nodded. 'Yeah. I've still got it somewhere. I don't do too much Kenjetsu anymore. Do you need to see it?'
Mulder frowned. Adam was a little too unconcerned for a man admitting to possession of a potential murder weapon.
'If the rest checks out it shouldn't be necessary, I guess.'
'Do you want to get that over with first? All the paperwork's back at my flat.'
'We can do it tomorrow. I don't seriously believe you had anything to do with this.'
'Routine enquiries?' Adam's mouth quirked in a faint, amused smile.
'Someone's gotta do 'em.'
'So is there any kind of a motive for the deaths?'
'The best theory so far is that someone at the camp must have had a grudge against Naomi and Drake. I can't imagine what it could be in Naomi's case'
'That follows. Have you traced anyone else yet?'
'Have you heard anything from Jacques Lemarchand since 1979?'
Adam let out an irritated breath.
'Yeah, we exchange Christmas cards every year. What do you think, Mulder? We hated each other's guts.'
'I've got to ask you this, Adam.'
Adam spread his hands in pacification.
'Yeah. I'm sorry. The short answer's no. Apart from Drake I haven't had any contact with any of the others. I take it that Jacques is your number one suspect at the moment.'
'He fits the profile best of anyone who was there. I don't see any of the others as a potential killer.'
Adam nodded gravely and rubbed the side of his nose. 'Then I'd say he was your best bet.'
'Do you remember any reason why he might have had a grudge against Naomi or Drake?'
'He was an antisocial bastard all round. I don't remember anything specific.'
'That's the problem. No obvious motive at all. That and that fact that our eyewitness says that whoever killed Drake was well over six feet tall. I remember Lemarchand being a lot shorter than that.'
Mulder smiled at the image. 'Gee, I don't know, Adam. Platform heels with chain mail. What kind of a fashion statement is that?'
'You didn't know?' Adam said innocently. 'It's what the stunted psychopath is wearing this season.'
'Well that clears the case up. We just search the hospitals for a short guy with broken ankles.' He smiled as Adam laughed. 'I've missed that.'
'Someone who laughs at my jokes. Without edging nervously towards the door at the same time, I mean.'
'What about your partner?'
'Scully? She's kind of serious.'
'No sense of humour?'
'Well sometimes I get the feeling she finds *me* amusing...'
'Your sense of humour must be an acquired taste, Mulder.'
'Yeah. The problem is I think I acquired it from you. Monty Python. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... Scully's always been more of a Seinfeld kind of person...'
The conversation sprawled on as it always had, as if seventeen years had never passed, as the two men walked on under the spring trees. Gulls squabbled and fought over the river and the bateaux mouche made their leisurely way under graceful bridges. Mulder wondered what their tourist passengers saw. A student and a businessman. Jeans and a sweater, and an expensive suit. *I look older than him now. Maybe they think he's my kid brother.* That was a strange thought. He remembered when he'd been the kid. For the first time in his life, feeling completely safe. And now, despite the circumstances, feeling safe again. This time, now that he knew the value of what he'd found, it was going to be so much harder to give it up again.
* * *
'It's him? Are you certain?'
The room was high in one of the most expensive hotels in Paris. It was very late - early in the morning, in fact. The woman who spoke was tall, blonde and elegant. The few fine lines that showed around her eyes despite perfect make-up were the only visible sign that she was the wrong side of thirty five. The young Englishman who stood patiently opposite her took it all in without changing expression. The suit was real Chanel. The heavy chain was real gold. A wealthy woman, but he knew that anyway. If she hadn't been wealthy, he wouldn't have been here.
He wordlessly handed her the photographs he had taken from the tourist boat.
'Please, sit down, Mr Leigh. Help yourself to a drink.'
He took his place on a soft, white leather sofa, poured himself to a mineral water and watched the perfectly manicured hands leaf through photograph after black and white photograph.
The woman sank back into the soft leather, absorbed by the pictures she held. The two men walking along the embankment, side by side. Talking, occasionally touching. Casual and comfortable with each other. The FBI agent, elegant in his trenchcoat and expensive suit. He was, she considered dispassionately, almost beautiful. The other dressed carelessly, casually. Clothes that were too big for him. Short dark hair, an attractive but not handsome face. A student. Ordinary. She sighed and gathered the photographs into a single, neat pile.
The Englishman sitting opposite her sipped his mineral water and met her enquiring gaze.
'His name is Adam Pierson. Mr Mulder went to see him as soon as he'd booked into his hotel this afternoon. He's an art historian at the University of Paris.'
'He looks very much younger than I imagined,' the woman commented. 'Are you certain he's the one?'
'He's the Adam Pierson who Mulder met in Maine in 1979.' Leigh said. 'Whether or not he's the man you're looking for or not I have no way of knowing.'
'I find it hard to believe that he is. Why did you leave them? Where are they now?'
'They ate at a restaurant and returned to Mr Pierson's flat. I believe they'll spend the night there.'
'Lemarchand said that they were lovers,' the woman said disinterestedly.
'Yes. I would say from their body language this evening that it's almost a certainty.'
'We can use that.'
'It shouldn't be necessary. As soon as I can get Pierson alone I'll bring him to you. It won't be necessary to involve Mulder further unless he interferes.'
'Don't you want to kill him?' the woman asked with mild curiosity.
'I don't kill for the sake of it,' Leigh said, equally mildly. 'You're not paying me for him and I don't have anything against him personally. He has quite a reputation in our circles. I think I'd enjoy meeting him socially.'
'You're a curious man, assassin.'
'I don't enjoy killing. It's just my job. If you want to pay me to kill Mulder then I'll kill him, but it'll be more trouble that it's worth.'
'A student vanishes - who notices? Maybe he met a girl, or decided to spend a month travelling or got bored and moved on. An FBI agent vanishes, and forces are mobilised - Interpol, the Surete, the Police Judiciarie, the DGSE even. There are roadblocks, his description is circulated. As I said, it's too much trouble. We're better to just leave him be. It might be as well to leave Pierson for a week or so also. To wait until Mulder returns to America.'
'No. Time is very short now. We can't wait and risk him vanishing again.'
'As you wish. I should be able to take him tomorrow.'
'Very well. Assume that he will recover quickly from any drug you use. You will need to tie him securely. If he is the man we're looking for, he will be very dangerous. Don't underestimate him. If you have to injure him, do so. Shoot him if necessary.'
'It won't be necessary,' Leigh said, with the air of one politely receiving instructions that have been repeated many times before.
'Good. Then I'll wait for you to contact me.'
She waited until he had left before making the telephone call. Gilles was at the apartment in New York. It would be six hours earlier there - not quite dark. The search continued in America, under Gille's personal supervision. That fool Richard had had his wish after all, Anne thought with some amusement, although with Gilles accompanying him his pathetic bid for freedom would be worse than useless. Gilles would keep him in line with a heavy hand, heavier than when they were alone on the island. Richard's depravities made him conspicuous. But then again perhaps in the cesspool of New York even such as he would not be noticed.
One thing she did know. Gilles would not stop, would not allow the others to stop, until they were certain that Adam Pierson was the man they sought. Methos. Ancient one. Anne looked at the photograph and felt a cold amusement rise within her. How could this be the man they wanted? Grim Death? This lanky boy in his twenties, with his sweaters and books and his student's haircut? But then again, what better way to hide? She dialled the number. It was answered almost instantly.
'Grand Master,' Anne said reverently.
'Lady Anne. What news?'
'My lord, we've found Adam Pierson.'
'Do you have him?'
'Not yet, Grand Master, but it's only a matter of hours. Mulder went straight to him. Leigh has taken pictures of them both and followed them to Pierson's apartment. He'll take Pierson in the morning, when Mulder leaves again...'
'Send me the photographs,' Gilles interrupted softly. 'I want to see his face.'
The photograph scanned quickly into her laptop.
'I'm e-mailing it to you now, lord.'
Seconds later she heard through her mobile the telltale chime of her e-mail arriving three thousand miles away on another continent. What tools this century had given them.
'This is Methos? This *boy* is Death?' Gilles asked after a moment in a soft, dangerous voice.
'This is Adam Pierson. We'll discover if he's Death tomorrow.'
'You've done well, my lady.'
'For the glory of God,' Anne said, but the connection had already been cut off.
An Apartment in New York City
Anne had done well. They were closer now than they had been in eight centuries, but Gilles did not allow himself to rejoice. The four of them had come close before and still failed. That was God's will. But still, to be so close...
Sometimes the vigil helped, but not tonight. He couldn't be still. So close, and he felt his skin crawl with the anticipation of it. Tonight the voices that always sang and talked and sobbed and cursed in his head were closer, and this time he could almost hear the words. The voices of the ones he'd taken. It had been so long, Lemarchand the first in a century or more. He had forgotten how sweet taking a head could be until Lemarchand had brought the memories back. And now he wanted battle again, and his skin itched with the need to kill again and be bathed in the fire. Holy fire.
He took the photograph up again and looked at it. The two of them, standing on the riverbank. Who would have thought that darkness would have such an ordinary face? And the one he'd corrupted. He'd seen the photographs of Mulder as a youth. *If I had found you first...* he thought, to discipline the boy, of course, to instruct him in the ways of the Lord. The darker lusts that swelled in him he pushed down, back into the part of his mind where everything animal and unholy was hidden. It was too late for Mulder now, and he'd have to die.
'I want to be the one who kills you,' he told the man in the photograph. It would be an act of mercy. Perhaps Mulder would repent at his hands. After all, Lemarchand had, in the end.
Outside the window a siren howled and almost drowned the voices out, then cut off abruptly. A car drove past, the thumping boom of its stereo seeming to force its way up through the floor, rising then fading away again. Yellow taxis came and passed and other, more expensive cars drove past more slowly and sometimes drew to a halt beside the girls who worked the street below. There was evil here, filth and evil and corruption, everywhere he looked. A Godless hell, but the thought that soon, very soon, this would be nothing but a howling waste of concrete and steel and white bone both cheered and comforted him a little.
Meanwhile, back in Paris...
It was much, much later when they finally made their way to Adam's apartment. The meal had been good, the conversation better, the wine not too plentiful. Anticipation of what was to come had grown slowly and pleasantly through the evening. Neither man had wanted to rush this night. They had taken the time to enjoy each other's company first. The relationship had always been about more than just sex.
'Home sweet home.' Adam said. 'Want a beer?'
Without waiting for an answer he went straight to the fridge and pulled out two cans.
'This is a nice place,' Mulder said, looking around. He put his coat down.
'How about some music?'
'Anything you want to listen to?'
Adam smiled. 'Something to dance to, then.'
'That would be... that would be nice.'
After a moment soft jazz swelled from hidden speakers somewhere.
'Why don't you lose the jacket?' Adam suggested.
'If you lose the sweater. What is it with you and sweaters anyway?'
'Nobody takes a guy in a sweater seriously. Nobody even notices a guy in a sweater half the time.'
'And you don't want to be noticed?'
Adam grinned as he pulled the baggy sweater over his head. He wore a t-shirt underneath. His body was as slender and muscled as Mulder remembered.
'It's a uniform, Mulder. Like the suit. Now come here...'
An hour later, when the CD ran out, they were still in each other's arms, hardly moving. Awkwardness had given way to renewed intimacy almost immediately. The remembered feel of Adam's body, the warmth of him, the smell of his skin and hair... easy to lose himself in that, and in the memories of a perfect summer so many years before. Now Mulder's arms were around Adam's shoulders, and he found himself very aware of the other man's hands resting gently on his waist. Adam murmured, his lips brushing against Mulder's ear:
'Mulder, do you want to go to bed now?'
'You spoiled me for the others, Adam.'
'I did?' Adam murmured. He was tracing a line of kisses along Mulder's collarbone with a kind of languid concentration. Mulder let his head fall back, arching his neck as Adam pulled his shirt back to fully expose his shoulder.
'You know what turns me on now? An English accent. Does it for me every time. An English accent, pale skin. Short, soft hair...' he stopped abruptly. 'Christ, I just realised! That means Phoebe was your fault!'
'Who's Phoebe?' Adam asked. His fingers found a nipple and began to tease. Mulder arched his back involuntarily and closed his eyes.
'The girlfriend from hell. Don't stop doing that. Do NOT stop doing that. Oh God...'
'Sensitive nipples. Bet you thought I hadn't remembered,' Adam said, his words muffled in Mulder's offered neck. 'You still taste good, Mulder. Better.'
'I guess... I guess Givenchy aftershave has got to be an improvement on bug repellent.'
'You know Mulder, I don't think I'm going to be able to support you in the style to which you've become accustomed...'
Mulder grinned, his eyes still shut. 'You think maybe we should call the whole thing off?'
'You want to stop now?'
'No... oh God, no, don't stop...' He ran both his hands though dark, velvet hair, fingers spread, following the graceful shape of his lover's head.
Adam's voice grew soft and thick.
'I've wanted to do this to you since you walked into my office, Mulder. I wanted to get you out of that expensive suit and fuck you right there on my desk.'
Mulder felt his mouth twitch into an involuntary smile.
'Why uhh... Adam... why didn't you? I don't think I'd have put up... much of a fight.'
'They make enough of a fuss about smoking in those offices,' Adam said indistinctly. 'God only knows what they'd say about having sex.'
'This is France. They'd probably sell tickets. This isn't fair, Adam...'
'Who said anything... mmm... anything about being fair?'
'A shirt's easier to get off than a t-shirt. I want to touch you too...'
Adam swore under his breath and pulled away long enough to pull the t-shirt over his head.
'I'm doing all the work here, Mulder,' he complained.
'Give me a chance.' Mulder said. His hand moved lower, stroked. He felt the other man shudder as Mulder's hand began to cup and trace his shape through the denim.
'Ohh yes... Now that's better, Mulder.'
'Let me get the rest of this shirt undone. I don't want any of the buttons ripped off in the throes of passion...'
'Has anyone ever told you you talk much too much, Mulder?' Adam asked in a rather strained voice.
'Yeah. A lot of people. All the time. Let me just get this undone...' he grinned. 'No boxers?'
'I only wear them in bed.'
'Not tonight, you don't. You know, from here it looks like you really are pleased to see me.' A pause. 'Feels like it too.'
'You're a bloody tease, Mulder.' Adam managed to say.
'Yeah. So they tell me.'
'You better get out of the rest of that suit, Mulder, otherwise Armani or not... oh God!'
'Yeah. I remember you liking that...'
Adam swore an oath that hadn't been heard for thirteen centuries, and manhandled the other onto the bed, pinning him by the shoulders.
'You had your chance, Mulder,' he snarled. 'I'm going to rip that fucking suit off with my teeth.'
He felt Mulder's body shake with laughter underneath him.
'No, wait...' Mulder gasped helplessly. 'Please. Not the Armani...'
'You have thirty seconds, Mulder. I'm not joking.'
Mulder struggled to get out of his clothes as the other nuzzled and bit at his neck and ear.
'No bite marks...' he managed to say through his laughter.
'You're giving an awful lot of orders,' Adam said indistinctly. Mulder managed to half pull, half kick his suit pants off.
'Any bites I have to explain to my partner,' Mulder explained breathlessly.
'The one without the sense of humour.'
'She's a forensic pathologist. She knows bites.'
Adam managed to pin him, then looked down at him.
'I'm going to make you shut up now.' he said giving the words the barest edge.
'Yeah, make me...' Mulder began happily, and then did indeed shut up as his mouth was taken in a hard kiss. He moaned: Adam held him down easily, taking his own sweet time about it. This was what he wanted. Oh God, this was exactly what he needed. When Adam released him his mouth felt swollen and bruised.
They looked at each other silently. In a few seconds playfulness had turned to full blown, unstoppable desire.
Mulder whispered 'I want you to do whatever you want to me. Anything you want.'
And that was all it took. Suddenly they were devouring each other, the few remaining clothes torn off so that body could rub against body, hardness against hardness. There was no skill, no finesse, just a frantic, breathless, desperate struggle towards completion. They thrust, cock against cock, until the pleasure mounted in wave after hot, painful wave, until the heat and friction between their bodies became too much to bear. Somewhere in the back of Mulder's mind came the thought that it had never been like this before, that if it had been he could never have let the other man leave, that he would have followed him, anywhere. Then all thought abandoned him. He came harder than he could remember coming in his life, sobbing obscenities, only dimly aware that his lover was crying out in a language he'd never heard before as he came too.
He let his head fall back. He was breathless, exhausted, drained. Adam rolled away from him, onto his front, his own breath coming hard.
Mulder managed 'Are you ok?'
'Yeah. Yeah, I think so,' Adam said, voice muffled by the pillows.
Mulder closed his eyes and waited for his breathing to return to normal.
'Christ, I needed that.'
'We need to wash up,' Adam said, voice slurred.
'Yeah. Kind of sticky.'
Neither man moved.
'Was it like that before?' Mulder asked in a slightly dazed voice. 'I don't remember it being like that before.'
'It wasn't like that before. I'd have remembered,' Adam said. He rolled over with effort.
'I'll get a cloth. Don't move or anything, will you Mulder.'
'Yeah,' Mulder said, voice on the edge of sleep. 'Like I could now.'
'I'll take that as a compliment,' Adam muttered. He pulled himself to his feet and made his way wearily to the bathroom. As he cleaned himself up he watched the bites and scratches Mulder had inflicted fade and heal in the bathroom mirror. For some reason that made him feel discontented. He wanted to keep those marks for a little longer. He sighed and rinsed out the cloth. Nothing lasted forever. Nothing lasted for any time at all. He returned to the bedroom.
But the lingering effects of jet lag and a long evening had taken their toll. Mulder's eyes were closed and his breathing had slowed to that of sleep. Adam sighed, and did the honours himself. Mulder's sleeping face had lost some of its strain and tiredness. He looked younger, though the years since they'd parted had left their mark. Adam climbed into the bed beside him, and pulled the other man close.
'Ok, so this was a mistake.' he murmured to himself, not for the first time in his long life. Or if not a mistake, a gamble he'd taken too often and which had never yet repaid him. The price for growing too close to someone was always pain. The happiness was just for a little while and the pain took far longer to fade. Better not to feel at all, but that was a trick that he hadn't managed in five thousand years. Unhappy and unsettled, he gathered Mulder to him. He didn't want to lose this one, but the only hope he had was a distant one indeed.
The voice in the darkness stirred Adam into semi-wakefulness.
Adam shifted against Mulder lazily, pulling him a little deeper into his arms.
'I am now. What's the problem, Mulder? Still having trouble sleeping?'
'I need to know,' Mulder said, his voice soft with sleep. 'Why didn't you answer my postcard?'
Adam was quiet for few moments.
'You didn't need me any more, Mulder.' he said, at last. 'I thought my being around would screw things up for you. You were just a kid...'
'We could have stayed friends. Oxford and Paris aren't that far apart.'
Adam turned to look at him. 'It wouldn't have been possible for us just to have been friends, Mulder.'
'No,' Mulder admitted. 'But I should have had a say in the decision.'
Adam turned his head away, looking up at the ceiling. 'Yeah. I know, Mulder. It was wrong to cut you off like that. I'm sorry.'
Mulder said: 'I missed you a lot.' The words were coming out as though he was seventeen again, hesitant and awkward. 'It was as if... when I was with you, I didn't need to pretend to be someone I wasn't. You liked me for who I was, it was that simple. I never really had that before. It hurt when I lost you.'
'I didn't mean to hurt you,' Adam said, with real regret. 'I had good reasons for what I did. I can't tell you what they were, but they were good reasons.'
Mulder sighed. 'I thought I'd gotten over it. I guess not.' He paused, uncertain how to continue, then pressed on: 'Adam, you were in some kind of trouble then, weren't you.'
Adam sighed. That hadn't been a question. 'Yeah. Let's just say I had some family problems.'
'Is what's happening now because of that?'
'I don't know, Mulder. It might be. I hope not, but I don't know enough to be sure.'
'Did you kill either of them? Drake or Redburg, I mean.'
'No, Mulder. I didn't kill them,' Adam said wearily, and Mulder flushed. The question was too obvious, a salve for his own misery rather than a genuine request for an admission of innocence or guilt.
'I believe that. But I think you know some of what's going on. We need to talk about it.'
'But will you tell me? I need to know.'
'We'll talk about it tomorrow, Mulder.' On impulse he rolled onto his side and kissed the other man gently on the mouth, then on the forehead. He whispered 'For a little while, you're going to have to trust me,' and kissed Mulder on the mouth again and watched a little of the unhappiness fade from Mulder's face.
'I trust you,' Mulder whispered. A blessed surrender. He felt tears start to sting at his eyes, for no reason, no reason at all.
Adam said: 'Then sleep, Mulder.'
It was a softly spoken order, an imperative. He closed his eyes in obedience, moved more tightly into Adam's arms, and let sleep take him.
Mulder groaned as Adam's alarm clock went off. The bedroom was unfamiliar, and he flailed for the clock unsuccessfully from where he lay in the bed before sitting up, pulling the sheets back and looking around for it with murder in his gaze. He located it, and slammed the alarm off with considerably more force than necessary. Beside him, Adam grunted something incoherent and shifted further down into the bed, taking advantage of Mulder's brief absence to steal a bigger share of the bedclothes.
'Christ, I hate mornings.' Mulder muttered. He rubbed his stubbled chin aimlessly.
The muffled shape in the bed beside him mumbled a sentence of which the only intelligible word was 'coffee'. Mulder gave him a disgusted look.
'You used to be more of a morning person than this.'
'What bloody time is it, anyway?' Adam said belligerently, surfacing from the blankets at last.
'I set it for quarter to seven.'
'Well why don't you just set it for a lot later and let me get some sleep?'
'Some of us,' Mulder said shortly, 'Have got jobs to go to.'
'At seven in the morning?' Adam snapped.
'I thought it would give us time for a shower, some breakfast...' he shrugged. 'Maybe screw each other senseless. But I'll understand if you're not up to it. A man of your age...'
Three seconds later he was pinned to the bed by his wrists with Adam straddling his body.
'I'm sensitive about my age,' Adam said.
Mulder grinned up at him. 'It's always good to know what buttons to push,' he said.
'I'll put some coffee on.'
'Gee, maybe you are a morning person after all.'
'If I have enough of an incentive, yeah. I hope you're going to make this worth my while.'
'Depends how good breakfast is,' Mulder said hopefully.
Breakfast was excellent - a leisurely affair involving coffee, croissants and English marmalade, served in bed. The two men savoured it, neither in any particular hurry to renew their intimacy now that the urgency of the previous night was gone. They were just finishing as Mulder's cellphone rang from his jacket pocket.
'Duty calls.' Adam said with a raised eyebrow. He retrieved the phone, which he tossed to Mulder, then picked up the tray with the remains of breakfast on it and took it through to his kitchen.
'It must be Scully. I forgot to call her last night. She's going to kill me,' Mulder said ruefully. He flipped the phone open. 'Mulder.'
'Mulder, where are you?' It was Scully, and she sounded angry. Mulder winced.
'Scully, I'm sorry. We went out for a meal and by the time we got back it wasn't worth coming back to the hotel so I stayed over. I know I should have checked in with you...'
His most placating tone of voice seemed to be working.
'Are you going to be finished there this morning?' Scully asked, more calmly.
'I've still got some things to check here. I'll update you when I see you. How did your autopsies go?'
'I'll update you when I see you,' Scully said dryly. 'I hope that's going to be sometime today, Mulder.'
The bed dipped as Adam got back in beside him. The innocent yet amused expression on his face made Mulder's heart sink - he knew that look of old.
'Uh... How does lunch time sound?' he asked Scully quickly. It looked like the sooner this conversation was over, the better. 'I've got to track some students down. They might not be awake until then.'
He was very aware that Adam had crawled under the covers and was moving down to the end of the bed. It was definitely time to end the call. Scully carried on regardless.
'Lunchtime would be fine. Drake's autopsy is scheduled for this afternoon so you won't have to miss it.'
'Uh, that's great, Scully. Lunchtime it is. I'll meet you at the hotel.' He tried to inject a note of finality into his voice, but Scully disregarded it.
'Actually, Mulder, we've been quite fortunate. The pathologist who's going to help me perform the initial autopsy on Drake is available today. He's dealt with several of these beheadings. I think you'll be interested to hear his conclusions...'
Mulder squirmed as he felt the lightest of kisses on his inner thigh. Strong hands touched the insides of his knees, pushing his legs further apart. A slender but firmly muscled body settled between them. Another kiss, a little higher, as Scully started talking about the lunch she'd arranged for them with the pathologist. Mulder made appropriate noises, and tried not to think about what was happening beneath the sheets. Short cropped hair, like velvet, brushed the inside of his thigh and he barely managed to hold back his gasp. Then, against the sensitive skin, lips curving in a smile then brushing in an amused whisper: 'Mulder... this is very impressive...'
*Oh Jesus.* With a growing sense of dread, Mulder realised that he was losing control of the situation fast. He moved a hand down to push Adam back down the bed. Instead he found his fingers running through the soft, spiky hair again. He really had a thing about that hair, he realised. He found himself shifting, legs spreading wider to give the other man the fullest access to him...
'Mulder, did you hear what I said?' Scully said.
'Scully, I think I'm going to have to get back to you on this.'
'Mulder is something wrong?'
Adam lightly kissed the swollen head of Mulder's penis, then engulfed it slowly between expert lips. Mulder bit back a yelp. Dear God, what was he doing with his tongue?!
'Mulder?! What's going on there?'
'Shit! Uh... I just spilt my coffee... Nothing to worry about Scully. I'll, uh, call you back...'
He slammed the cellphone down as Adam raised his head and murmured:
'Lying to an FBI agent, Fox? You ought to be punished for that...'
'I know who's going to get punished...' Mulder gasped.
'Is that a promise?' Adam said amusedly. He lowered his head again.
For Mulder the feeling of the Adam's hair lightly prickling against his inner thighs was almost as erotic as what his mouth was doing... what his hands were doing. He let his head fall back on the pillows as Adam tended to him with a practised, merciless tongue. A moment later he gave a gasp of disappointment as Adam released him.
A finger began to lightly stroke the cleft of his ass. 'We never did get around to doing this, did we,' Adam murmured. The finger was removed, then returned, wet with saliva.
Mulder began to writhe as the finger started to probe.
'God, Adam, yes... yes... please...'
'Am I still going to be the first here, Mulder?' Adam asked, with a crooked little smile.
'Ah...ahhh... no. No. But... but I don't make a habit of doing this...'
'You want me to be gentle with you, Mulder?'
'No.' Mulder whispered. 'Hurt me. Fuck me hard, Adam... I need this so much.'
'Two fingers now. Do you like that, Mulder?'
'Mulder, there's lube on the nightstand.'
'Sounds like something you fix up your car with...'
'Yeah. I remember. Just pass the stuff over, will you?'
'That feels... so good.' His voice trailed off into a whisper. 'That's *so* good.'
He closed his eyes, concentrating on the intense, incredible sensations. The feeling of the knuckles moving inside him, stretching him. Hurting him, just a little, just enough. He started to make involuntary little thrusting movements onto the hand, little whimpers he couldn't quite hold back. The two fingers were removed and returned slick with lube, smoothing it with feather light touches around and just into the ring of his anus.
Adam murmured, 'I think you're ready for three fingers, Mulder. It's overkill, I know, but you seem to be enjoying this a lot.'
'Yes. Oh God, yes.' The long, slender fingers filling him, feeling inside him for... 'Oh fuck yes!'
He felt his back arch involuntarily as the pleasure shot through him like an electric current. 'Oh
God, please, Adam, do it now!'
'You're sure Mulder?' Adam asked in mock concern. He raised an eyebrow. 'I mean I wouldn't want to do this if you weren't absolutely sure...'
'God, Adam, just *do* it, you fucking bastard...'
And then, thank Christ, he didn't have to wait anymore because Adam was there, pushing his legs further back and apart, opening him, pushing into him, and he felt himself being filled by something considerably bigger than the fingers had been and for a moment it hurt, too much, and then...
Oh God. There was something indescribably good about being pinned down onto white sheets, head pushed up into soft, heavy pillows, while another man pushed and strained against him, into him. Mulder felt himself losing control fast as Adam drove into him. He heard and barely recognised his own whimpers. All he could think was *finally, finally*. It was so good... so damn good... Adam wasn't sparing him, not at all. He wrapped his legs around Adam's waist, his hands clenched into fists, gripping the sheets, taking it all, helpless and wanting it that way. He wasn't going to last long, he knew that. Christ, Adam knew what he was doing with that thing. Alternating short, quick powerful thrusts with long, slow movements that pushed into him to the hilt. Then angled, working on his prostate... Between his gasps he felt his mouth stretch in an involuntary grin even as a tear ran coldly from the corner of his eye into his hair. *It's not how big it is, it's what you do with it.* Where the hell had he heard that? Adam didn't have any problems on either count: Mulder was going to be lucky if he could walk today. The bastard was being absolutely merciless. Somewhere, far away, Mulder's whimpers were turning into sobs, and then Adam lowered his head to bite a nipple, hard, and at the same time reached between their bodies to squeeze him tightly, and that was all it took. He came, hard, and didn't even try to hold his cries back. He felt the heat flood onto his belly, then a second later deep inside him and Adam crying out too and for a moment they were part of each other and at that moment it was all that he'd ever wanted, everything, and he felt his body shaking as they both came down...
'We should have done that before,' Mulder said. He blinked lazily. Any greater movement would have been too much of an effort.
'Before you weren't ready,' Adam said. He cleaned them both off with a washcloth and settled back against Mulder, head on his shoulder.
'That was fucking incredible.' Mulder said dreamily. He wanted to go back to sleep now. Adam raised his head and kissed his mouth, then again, more deeply.
'Did I hurt you?'
'That was fucking incredible,' Mulder said again. He shifted on the bed, sated and lazy. 'I think you just single-handedly discovered a cure for jet lag. How the hell am I supposed to get any work done today after that?'
'You're not meeting your partner until lunch time. We've got the rest of the morning.'
'I've still got to check your alibi,' Mulder said, with a shade of regret.
'Like you said, you'll be lucky if any of my students get up before eleven. It won't take that long to go through my papers and receipts.'
It was a couple of hours before they got around to that particular task, but when they did, the receipts were not a problem. Adam Pierson kept such finances as he had well-organised. On the date of Naomi Redburg's murder, according to his bank statement, he had gone shopping and filled his Volvo up with petrol at an inexpensive hypermarket on the outskirts of Paris. A month earlier there had been a flight to Seattle. There was no credit card record of the flight to New York at the time of Drake's death - that had been paid for by the foundation that had employed him - but there were airline ticket stubs, a currency transaction slip for $300 worth of travellers' cheques, records of two credit card purchases in dollars made in a New York branch of Barnes and Noble and a Manhattan hotel bar bill recording the consumption of large quantities of imported beer on the night of Drake's death. Mulder took what he needed, promising to return it as soon as he'd made copies. That routine task over more quickly than he'd anticipated, they left to find Adam's seminar students.
Student housing, Mulder was rather depressed to see, was apparently the same the world over. Three of the students shared a house nearby - a big Victorian building with a tiny but incredibly unkempt front garden and a general air of neglect. The doorbell didn't work - another constant. Knocking eventually produced a hungover-looking student of about twenty, with a straggling beard, bare feet and clothes that made Adam's look like the last word in elegance.
'Michel,' Adam murmured to Mulder, as they moved into a bare hallway with chipped paintwork and worn linoleum on the floor. 'Sociology.' Mulder nodded. It explained a lot.
The cellar kitchen they were shown into inspired instant feelings of deja vu. Cheap, badly fitted formica units almost hidden beneath geological layers of books, newspapers, flyers, bills and takeout menus. Empty bottles lined the windowsill, washing up was stacked high in the sink and there was a stale smell which seemed to come from the fridge. Mulder knew that if he opened it he would find as many as six separate cartons of milk inside, all labelled in biro and all at various stages in the transformation to curd cheese. He felt a sudden pang of nostalgia. He'd spent three years of his life living in a house with a kitchen like this. All that was missing were the traffic cones and the bicycles propped against the wall.
Breakfast was in progress when they arrived, despite it being well past eleven. The two girls who sat around the table wore jeans and sweatshirts. Both looked hungover, but both seemed to brighten visibly when they saw their guests. Michel threw himself down on a chair beside them and took up his coffee mug in both hands as if it contained some life-giving elixir.
'Sorry to interrupt breakfast,' Adam said, giving the two girls a friendly, slightly embarrassed but nonetheless devastating smile. 'Glad we caught you in.'
'Not a problem, Dr Pierson,' the blonde said. 'There was a party last night.' She nodded toward the bottle covered windowsill. 'We're still kind of recovering.'
'This is Stacey from Washington State,' Adam said. 'Helen's from down under.'
'Hey, Doctor Pierson. What's the problem?' The dark haired Australian's eyes narrowed in mild suspicion. 'Who's the suit?'
'I'm Agent Fox Mulder, Federal Bureau of Investigation,' Mulder said, flipping into official mode automatically. He ignored Adam's amused glance.
'Kind of out of your jurisdiction, aren't you Agent Mulder?' Stacey asked curiously.
'I'm temporarily attached to the Surete,' Mulder explained. 'I don't have any actual authority here.'
'So what's the problem?'
Adam ran a hand through his hair. He said sheepishly 'This is kind of embarrassing, but I need an alibi from you guys. Just to confirm you went to one of my seminars a couple of months back.'
Mulder raised an eyebrow. He wasn't the only one who had an official mode to flip into. Adam Pierson, mild-mannered grad student, had come to the fore.
'Sure,' Stacey said, with a warm smile. 'What are they saying you did, Dr Pierson?'
'Serial killer,' Adam said, with a perfectly straight face.
'We're just eliminating Dr Pierson from our enquiries,' Mulder said smoothly. 'Routine but unavoidable, I'm afraid.'
'Well Jeez, Dr Pierson, who've you been rubbing out?' Helen asked.
Adam shrugged. 'Students who hand their work in late, mostly.'
Grins from the three of them.
The two short, taped interviews covered exactly what he wanted. Both girls confirmed that they'd seen Dr Pierson on the day in question and on one other day Mulder had chosen at random, but not on a further two when Mulder knew that the other had been in the States. That finished he took names, home addresses and cellphone numbers, students having moved on considerably since the days of coin-operated pay phones. It was with some relief that he left the dark and slightly unpleasant-smelling kitchen. It was true what they said: you really couldn't go back.
Out in the street they paused to get their bearings.
'That made me feel old,' Mulder said.
'Yeah,' Adam muttered. 'Tell me about it.'
They stood on the street in silence for a moment.
I need to go and meet Scully.' Mulder said at last.
'Is this enough to put me in the clear?'
Adam's voice was only half joking. Mulder didn't answer.
Instead he asked, 'Adam, what do the words "come and see" mean to you?' and watched as the hazel eyes flickered, and Adam's face paled a little.
'You mean from Revelations,' Adam said, in slightly choked voice.
Mulder nodded. 'Yes. Probably.'
Adam said, very softly: '"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death and hell followed with him."'
'You know that off by heart?' Mulder asked.
'Yeah. For some reason it stuck in my mind. What does it have to do with all this?'
'Someone wrote "come and see" in blood on a mirror in Naomi's apartment.'
Adam closed his eyes. 'Oh God...' He sounded sick. 'And Drake's place too?'
'Drake too.' Mulder said. He felt his heart sink wretchedly as his last remaining hopes that his friend had nothing to do with the killings evaporated. He'd invested a lot of himself in what had happened between them in the last twenty four hours. He'd allowed himself to start to feel, to trust, to make himself vulnerable in a way he had very few times before in his life. Now it was if his words had caused a shutter to drop down between them. In that instant everything had changed, and they were strangers again. He had wanted so badly to let himself hope, but instead he felt a growing, gut-wrenching certainty that he was going to be hurt again, and this time around it was going to be worse than before.
'Do you have any kind of theory?' Adam asked. 'Who's behind this?'
Mulder pulled himself angrily back to the matter in hand. 'We've speculated that the murders are being carried out by some kind of extreme quasi-Christian fundamentalist group that identifies with the Knights Templar,' he said. 'But you know what this is about, don't you? "Come and see" - that message was for you. It's you they're trying to find, isn't it?'
'I'm still not sure,' Adam said, almost to himself. 'I need to find out more. There are some people I have to talk to.'
'I want to arrange protection for you, Adam. You've got to tell me what's going on.'
'I'll be ok,' Adam said in a voice so tight and distant that Mulder hardly recognised it. 'But thanks. If anything happens, I'll keep you posted.'
No,' Mulder said in a low, angry voice. 'That's not enough. I need to know what's going on. Do you think I can just let you walk away from me?'
If you want me to stay alive, you're going to have to, Mulder. You're going to have to trust me.'
Mulder looked away and swore softly.
'All right. I trust you. I shouldn't, but I do. Here's my card. If anything happens, if you find anything out, call me on my cell. Can I meet you again? This evening? I have to know what's happening.'
'I'll call you. We'll talk about it tonight. I promise.'
'Adam...' Mulder's voice caught. 'I don't like the way this whole thing feels. Just be careful.'
'Don't worry, Mulder. I'll be careful. I'm good at that. I'll see you tonight.'
'What is it?'
'Nothing. Forget it.'
Mulder watched him go silently. Then with the nagging feeling that somewhere along the line, he'd screwed up royally, he turned to go back to the hotel to meet Scully. Behind him, unnoticed, a car drove slowly into the street and pulled up just across the road from where the two men had parted. The assassin called Leigh watched until Mulder had turned the corner, going towards the nearest metro station. In the other direction, Adam headed moodily towards the Seine. Leigh smiled grimly. Now the fun began.
Lunch with Scully and her pathologist went some way towards dispelling Mulder's unhappy, edgy mood. The man was well-informed, and an expert on beheadings. That was unsurprising. Paris had been host to a disproportionate number of such deaths. As Mulder ate, Scully gave him a number of cool glances. Mulder sighed inwardly. It looked as though he was going to be paying for not calling Scully the previous evening, probably for quite a while.
The cold, clinical autopsy room was another constant in police work throughout the world. Drake's body lay pale and cold on the stainless steel autopsy table. The sound of trickling water filled the room.
Mulder gingerly pulled back the cloth that covered the severed head.
'Scully, this is getting strange.'
'Coming from you, that's worrying. What's the problem?'
'He looked exactly the same as he did eighteen years ago. He doesn't look a day older.'
'That's quite a coincidence, Mulder,' Scully said, as she selected a scalpel and held it up to the light. 'Are you trying to tell me that hippies from Maine have discovered the secret of eternal youth?'
'You know, Scully, I think that was a headline in the Weekly World News a few months back.'
'You're the one with the subscription, Mulder. '
'You saw 'Men in Black', Scully. Those papers have all the real news.'
'Mulder, how often did you see that film apart from the time you took me?'
'Not as many times as I saw 'Star Wars',' Mulder said, managing to sound slightly guilty.
Scully sighed. Sometimes she felt as though she was partnered with Doogie Mulder, MD.
'Well lack of ageing wasn't a factor in Naomi Redburg's case,' Mulder continued. 'She easily looked twenty years older than she did in 1979.'
'So how old should Arch Drake be?'
'In his fifties. His date of birth is down as 1942.'
Scully smiled humourlessly and shook her head. 'This is not the body of a man in his fifties, Mulder. This man is thirty-five years old, forty at the most. This has got to be someone else.' She turned to look at him. 'You're sure this couldn't be some relative we missed somewhere along the line?'
'This is him, Scully. Same guy.'
'I suppose it's just about possible that a fifty year old could be in this kind of condition with the right genetic make-up, the right environment, the right diet and a lot of exercise.'
'I am not sure about the diet, Agent Scully,' Lafayette said from where he stood against the wall, observing them. 'But Monsieur Drake had a room in one of his outhouses. A gymnasium. He was an accomplished swordsman, I understand.'
'It said in the report that a sword was found beside him,' Mulder interjected.
'Yes, Agent Mulder, that is correct. A bloodstained sword. But it was not the murder weapon in either this case or in the case of Madame Redburg. We are investigating a number of other, similar murders, but as yet the sword has not been identified as the murder weapon in connection with any of them.'
'Were there any other swords in the house?'
'Oui. Several. All apparently unused for many years.'
'There are too many swords in this case.' Scully muttered.
Mulder sighed. 'Yeah. Scully, Adam had a sword too. He said he used it for some kind of martial art. Kenjetsu, I think he called it.'
Scully looked at him in disbelief. 'And you didn't think it was worth mentioning? Mulder...'
'Yeah. I know. I'm going to ask him for the sword so we can eliminate him properly.'
'Agent Mulder, who is Adam?' Lafayette asked.
'A man called Adam Pierson,' Mulder said resignedly. 'The one I told you about. He's a graduate student and part time lecturer at the University of Paris. He knew both Arch Drake and Naomi Redburg, but when Redburg died he was in Paris and when Drake died he was in the US. He's not a serious suspect but he did own a sword when I knew him before.'
'Adam Pierson,' Lafayette mused. 'Why is that name familiar to me?'
'He doesn't have a criminal record here. I've already had that checked.'
'Non. No. This was in connection with another incident. It was curious, so it has stayed in my mind. Monsieur Pierson, I think, called us to halt a sword fight between two other men. It was two or three years ago now but one of the men I recognised as an American named Duncan MacLeod. Agent Mulder, if we are looking for a suspect we may do well to start there.'
'Duncan MacLeod? That's a name that's come up in connection with some of the deaths in the US. Who was he fighting?'
'A Monsieur Kalas. The murderer of another American, a Donald Salzer. Kalas was not a pleasant man.'
'Kalas. Is that a French name?'
'I do not know. It does not matter. The man escaped from prison - two guards were killed and there were four further deaths before he himself was killed. We believe that Monsieur MacLeod returned and finished what he had started.'
'Very public spirited of him,' Scully commented.
'But there's no proof that he was involved?' Mulder asked.
'No, Agent Mulder,' Lafayette said with a shrug. 'With Monsieur MacLeod there is never any proof. Ordinarily there would have been at least a recording on the closed circuit television. Not of the fight - that would be too much to hope for - but of Monsieur MacLeod going towards or away from the scene at the time of the incident. But this night, there was a severe storm. Every security tape recorded that evening in the whole of central Paris was wiped clean.'
'There was electrical damage at Drake's house too.'
'What are you suggesting, Agent Mulder?'
'I have absolutely no idea. If I come up with a theory to explain it, I'll let you know.'
His cellphone chose that moment to trill insistently.
Lafayette shook his head. 'I'll fetch us all some coffee, Agent Mulder.'
Mulder nodded. 'You have no idea how badly I need it.' He snapped the phone open. 'Mulder.'
'Mulder? Skinner. They've found another body.'
'Yes. Then dumped in the sea off the coast of New Jersey. So far the head hasn't turned up.'
'Were we able to make an identification?'
'Yes. The body was in the water for at least a month but we picked up some partial fingerprints from his belt and shoes. The victim was identified as a 26 year old Caucasian male named Jack Merchant. He vanished a month ago from his apartment in New Jersey. He had several drugs related convictions so Violent Crimes are working on the theory that this is gang related. He's too young to have been involved in your case but I'm having the photograph from his driver's license faxed to you so that you can eliminate him.'
'Can we tell if the same weapon was used as in either of the other cases?'
'Given the state of decomposition and without the head it's difficult to tell, but this time Forensics think the weapon was a chainsaw.'
'Ouch,' Mulder said dryly. 'Any repetition of the slogan, sir?'
'Not this time, Agent Mulder. I'll send you the full autopsy report as soon as we have it.'
'Thank you, sir. There's a fax down here if you want to send the photograph directly.'
'I have the number, Agent Mulder. The fax is on its way.'
'Thank you, sir.'
'Another one?' Scully asked wearily, from where she bent over Drake's body.
Mulder nodded. 'The name doesn't ring any bells. Skinner's faxing me his driver's license. He doesn't think this one's connected.'
As if on cue the fax machine in the corner clicked and whined into life. Mulder bent over it, watched as the blown up picture inched its way out.
After a moment, Scully said: 'Mulder, this guy is fascinating.'
'What about him?'
'He's the healthiest man of his age I've ever seen. Mulder, there's no fatty congestion at all within the heart muscle or the arteries. Minimal muscle deterioration...'
'He has the skin tone of a man twenty years younger, a perfect liver, kidneys...'
'Come and look at this.'
'Skinner's fax? What about it?'
'This guy was at the camp. This is... this was Jacques. This was the guy who called himself Jacques Lemarchand.'
They both looked at the picture in silence.
'Mulder, the date of birth on this driver's license is January 1971.'
'Yeah. I noticed that too.'
'That means that if this had been the man you knew in Maine he would have been eight years old. You've made a mistake, Mulder. This isn't the same person.'
Mulder looked at her and saw his confusion reflected in her face.
'It's him, Scully. In 1979 he looked exactly like this. He looks in his early twenties now, and he looked in his early twenties then.'
'Mulder, you know that's not possible. Could the driver's license be faked?'
'I guess it would have to be but that doesn't explain the photograph.'
'Old photograph.' Scully said, with a shrug.
'Not that old. See the t-shirt he's wearing? Pulp Fiction. The guy's a Quentin Tarantino fan. This could have been taken at any time in the last three years but not any earlier.'
'Mulder, it's possible that Drake, Merchant and your friend Pierson are all just incredibly well preserved for their age and it's more than likely that Merchant's driving license was faked or obtained using false documentation. Maybe they both had plastic surgery.'
Even Scully didn't sound too convinced.
'I don't buy it, Scully. This doesn't make any sense. I need to go and talk to Adam again.'
'I'll stay here. There are some other tests I want to arrange.' Scully said.
'What have you got in mind?'
'First of all, DNA. I know you don't like it, Mulder, but I want to see if Jack Merchant or whatever he called himself is Arch Drake's son.'
'I suppose it's worth a try but I'm pretty sure it's going to come up negative.'
'Even if it does it might give us some kind of insight into why none of these people seem to have aged, Mulder. Has it occurred to you that this sort of longevity might be genetic?'
'You think Adam might be part of the family as well? Scully...'
Scully raised a placating hand. 'I'm just saying it's a possibility, Mulder.'
'Forget it, Scully. This is getting ridiculous. You're going to suggest that Jack Merchant was Naomi Redburg and Arch Drake's lovechild next. You're making this whole thing sound like... like an episode of Melrose Place.'
'Mulder, what exactly do you know about Adam Pierson? Did he tell you *anything* about himself? About his family, where he came from? What his relationship with Drake was?'
Mulder sighed. 'All right, Scully. I'll ask him if Drake's got any dark secrets in his past then I'll ask him if *he's* got any dark secrets in his past. Satisfied?'
'One other thing, Mulder.'
'Do you remember the last case of unusual longevity we dealt with?'
Mulder closed his eyes. 'Scully, no. Forget it. Don't go there. There is no connection between this case and Chako Chicken.'
'Beheadings were a feature of that case too, Mulder.'
'Scully, I lived with these people for almost two weeks. If they were cannibals I would have noticed.'
'Fine, Mulder. But I'm still going to run some tests to eliminate it as a possibility.'
'You're wasting your time, Scully,' Mulder said, a little more angrily than he'd intended.
Scully gave him a withering look.
'And you're losing your objectivity, Mulder.'
'What the hell is that supposed to mean, Scully?'
'It means you're well on the way to becoming emotionally involved with a suspect, Mulder. He may not have been a suspect when we started this but he's sure as hell heading that way now. Have you considered what his motives are, Mulder? Why he's being so friendly after all these years? In 1979 he didn't even give you his forwarding address!'
'Scully...' Mulder began angrily.
'Mulder, you're going to have to face that fact that you had a hell of crush on this guy when you were a teenager and now it's affecting your judgement...'
'A *crush* Scully?'
'Mulder, are you really telling me that the two of you spent all last night and this morning going through his old photo albums?'
Mulder had the grace to blush a little. 'And there's something you should bear in mind for the future, Mulder.' Scully continued. 'Banging a mobile phone down doesn't usually end the call.'
Lafayette chose that moment to return with the coffee.
'Agent Mulder, you're looking a little flushed,' he said, with mild concern.
*Yeah.* Mulder thought. *I just bet I am.*
He stalked out of the mortuary in a grim mood. The worst of it was that he knew Scully was right. He was being unprofessional, to put the kindest interpretation on it. But he couldn't bring himself to believe that he was being used. The emotional connection had been instant and genuine, on both sides. There had been such unconditional joy in each other. The sex had been easy and incredible. It had felt so... so right.
It was time to find Adam again and talk - really talk, and with the thought of going to find the other came both a glow of warm, unreasoning joy and a knot of grinding apprehension deep within him. He turned abruptly on the pavement, heading back towards the University of Paris and Adam's office, and collided hard and clumsily with an English tourist.
'Sorry,' the other muttered.
Mulder made his own apology and shook his head. The English apologised for everything. It was a way of life. If you shot an Englishman he'd probably say sorry for getting in the way of your bullet. Rubbing a bruise on his leg he started to walk towards the Metro. He made it a block and a half before he realised that he really was feeling hot and flushed. *Probably that damn fish last night* he thought sourly. He leant against a wall to try to recover for a moment, but the weakness and nausea grew steadily worse. The world blurred. Slowly he felt himself sliding towards the ground. The last things he remembered were a nondescript, blue car drawing to a halt at the kerb nearby and an arm supporting him towards it. Then there wasn't anything else at all.
Adam was swearing softly as he almost ran back to the barge. *Come and see. Damn! I thought that was finally over! God, what a bloody mess!*
He burst in, and found Duncan standing tensely in the centre of the living quarters, katana in hand. He relaxed as Adam entered.
'Ever heard of knocking, Methos?' he snapped.
'Where's Joe?' Adam asked shortly. 'He's not at the bar.'
'What's the problem?'
'I need access to the watcher database right away. I need his authorisation codes.'
'Nothing I can't deal with, OK?'
'I take it the reunion didn't go so well, then,' Duncan said mildly. He sheathed his katana and sat back down on the long couch.
'The reunion went fine. Not that it's any of your business,' Adam replied shortly.
'My, but you're in a bad temper, Methos,' Duncan said with a raised eyebrow.
'All right, Mac,' Adam snapped. 'What *exactly* is your problem?'
'You seem to be the one with the problem, Methos,' Duncan said sweetly.
Adam sat down heavily and buried his face in his hands.
'I don't need this, MacLeod.'
'So, you met, he told you about his wife, his kids, his career in middle management, his nice house and his nice car. It happens, Methos. After all that time you can't expect the old connection still to be there. He was only a kid when you knew him before...'
'For your information Mac, he doesn't have a wife, kids or a place in the suburbs. There is quite definitely still a connection.'
'So what's the problem, Methos?'
Adam sighed and looked up at the other immortal.
'It's his job, Mac.'
'His *job*? How bad could it be?'
'How bad can you imagine?'
'Come on Methos,' Duncan said flatly. 'Don't keep me in suspense.'
'He's an FBI agent. He's working with the Surete on a recent series of mysterious beheadings.'
'What?!' Duncan growled. 'Methos, tell me this is just a bad, bad joke.'
'You heard. And it gets better. He's managed to link it back to Drake's half-assed sanctuary in Maine. That's where the big problems start.'
'Go on,' Duncan said grimly.
Adam sighed. 'Naomi Redburg and Arch Drake were killed by the same people. I think someone's worked out that Methos was at the sanctuary. He's working his way through the immortals and the mortals who lived there, one by one, trying to track me down.'
'That's a bit of a leap, isn't it?'
'I didn't survive this long without being just a little bit paranoid. I'm guessing whoever this guy is he followed Mulder and now he's got another name to add to his list. I was followed part of the way here.'
'An immortal?' Duncan asked tensely.
'Then it could have been the police. Is he still there?'
'I lost him in the metro, but whoever he is he's good. I don't think he's Surete.'
'What about the DGSE?'
'Nah. Secret service would have had more people along.'
'Maybe they did. Maybe you just didn't see them.'
Adam gave him a flat look. Duncan sighed.
'Ok, so there was just one of him. How do you know he isn't working with this Mulder?'
'No. Not Mulder,' Adam said with complete certainty.
'You haven't seen him in seventeen or eighteen years. A lot can change in that time.'
Adam shook his head. 'No. Not him. I've never been more sure of anything, Mac.'
'He's an FBI agent, Adam.'
'Mac, I think he's pre-immortal.'
'I think he's pre-immortal, but I don't know. I'm not sure.'
'How can you not be sure, man? He's either pre-immortal or he isn't.'
'I was the only person at the camp who picked up on it. It's very, very faint. I only really even noticed it the first time...'
'The first time you had sex?'
'You seduced a teenage kid. I thought it had to be something like that.'
'So now we get to what your problem is,' Adam said with weary sarcasm.
'I'd say I had a problem with it, yes,' Duncan said angrily, putting his coffee cup down a little more heavily than necessary.
'MacLeod, I don't have time to argue the ethics of this with you. I didn't seduce him. Let's just leave it at that.'
'He was a kid, Methos. From what you said he was at a vulnerable time in his life. You could have totally screwed up his whole sexuality.'
'Look, MacLeod, I may know my way around a bed but I've never changed anyone's sexuality single handed. It doesn't work like that. Why am I arguing about this with you anyway? Put it on your big, long list of ways I've disappointed you and save it for sometime when I'm not being hunted down for my head. The only reason I came here was to find Joe.'
Right here.' The voice made them turn abruptly towards the door. Joe stood leaning patiently against the door frame. 'Sorry to interrupt the argument, gentlemen. Want me to come back later?'
'No, Joe,' Adam said quickly. 'Don't go. I need to know who killed Drake. It's important.'
'It's an easy question to answer,' Joe said. 'We don't have the faintest idea.'
'Did Drake's watcher get any photographs? There's a chance I might recognise the guy.'
'What's the problem, Adam?' Joe asked, frowning a little at the urgency in the other's voice.
'Why don't you sit down, Joe?' Duncan said, with a glare at Adam. 'It's a long, convoluted story.'
'I've had a long, convoluted kind of life,' Adam snapped back. 'Ok, Joe. It's like this...'
The story didn't sound much more convincing than it had the first time around with Duncan. Of course he'd already made up his mind to keep the 'Come and See' part of it to himself. The fiasco with the Horsemen was still too fresh. He didn't want to put a strain on his still painfully uncertain relationship with either Joe or Duncan by bringing it up again. When he'd finished Joe leant back and pursed his lips.
'From the evidence you've got you really think someone's using this Mulder to track you down? Two deaths which may or may not be associated and someone who may or may not have been following you this morning?'
'Let's just take it as read that I'm a little paranoid at the moment, Joe.' He caught Joe's snort and Duncan's raised eyebrow and rolled his eyes. 'Ok, so I'm always a little paranoid. That doesn't mean they're not out to get me. I know that the killings are linked and someone was after me this morning. Given that I may as well assume the worst. It's a strategy that's never failed me in the past.'
'Well I know *we* haven't got anyone on you,' Joe said. 'I'll find out what I can about Drake's death. You think we've got an immortal who's hiring mortals to track down targets?'
'I don't know. That's why I need to find out who killed Drake. The chances are it's the same person who set this guy on me.'
Duncan's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
'You've had people coming after you before, Methos. Why don't you do what you always do? Drop out of sight for a while. Fake your death, get out of Paris and come back when things have quietened down.'
Adam stood abruptly and began to pace the narrow room.
'Not this time. It's not that simple anymore, Mac. Whoever's after me, I've got to take him out.'
'Why? What's so special about this one?'
'I don't like the way this feels, Mac. He's coming after me and I don't think he's working on his own. I think there's more than one immortal involved in this.'
'How can you tell that? You're overreacting, Methos.'
'After five thousand years you trust your instincts, Mac. This feels different. They're not going to stop until I'm dead and they'll kill anyone who gets in the way. They killed Naomi and Drake just because I had contact with them for a couple of months almost twenty years back. I don't want anyone else getting hurt.'
'You mean this Mulder.'
Joe sighed. 'Adam, the only way you're going to help your friend is if you get out of town and draw them away from him.'
'Right. Then I really do get to be the number one suspect in Drake's murder.'
'Adam, there's absolutely no evidence that you were anywhere near Drake's house when he died,' Joe argued. 'You've got nothin' to worry about.'
'Yes, Joe, but Adam Pierson, mild mannered ex-watcher, does not need to go on Surete or watcher files as chief suspect in a beheading.'
'You've never been that worried about your reputation before,' Joe said. 'Come on, Adam. You can't have it both ways. What's this really about?'
'Ok, Joe. I don't want to leave Mulder to get hurt and I don't want him to be the one who ends up hunting me down. I think that sums it up.'
'This thing you've got with him is pretty serious, isn't it,' Joe said.
Adam nodded and looked down to where his hands were loosely clasped between his knees.
'Yeah. It could get that way.'
'Any point in my telling you it's doomed from the start?'
'Not much. It hasn't worked noticeably in the past.'
'He's an FBI agent, Adam. You aren't going to be able to hide what you are from him for very
long,' Joe said gently. 'Besides which he could be thrown out of his job just for having a relationship with another man. That's a lot of baggage to be carrying into a new relationship.'
'I never said it was going to be easy, Joe.'
'I think you're both forgetting something,' Duncan interrupted. 'Someone's after your head, Methos, or did it slip your mind?'
Adam stood. 'No. It didn't slip my mind. I'll get out of Paris. There's an abandoned keep I spent some time at once, in Provence near Mount Pelat. It's a good place for a fight. If anyone comes round asking just point them in the right direction. I'll deal with them there.'
'Let me come with you,' Duncan said.
Adam shook his head. 'No thanks, Mac. I'll handle this on my own.'
'And what if there is more than one of them?'
'I said I'd handle it, Mac,' Adam said, firmly but without anger. 'I don't need your help. Joe, if you can get those pictures I'll catch you back at the bar in a couple of hours. And you both watch your backs for a few days.'
'Always do,' Joe said. 'Later, Adam.'
Joe and Duncan watched Adam stalk out.
'You get the feeling there's something he isn't telling us?' Joe asked thoughtfully.
'Always,' Duncan said. He went abruptly to one of the cupboards and pulled out a flight bag.
'What are you doing?' Joe asked carefully.
'What does it look like I'm doing? I'm packing. I'm going to follow him down to Provence.'
'He said he didn't want your help,' Joe reminded him dryly.
I'm going after him, Joe. That's not open to argument.'
'He doesn't want you there.'
'That's never stopped him, Joe. Besides, if he didn't want me there he wouldn't have told me where he was going.'
'Mac, let him fight his own battles. There's got to be a good reason why he doesn't want you involved with this.'
'Something else to add to my big, long list of ways he's disappointed me?' Duncan said, with more than a shade of bitterness. Joe shrugged.
'Could be, Mac. Maybe he just doesn't want to strain your friendship any further. It's taken quite a beating over the last few months.'
'Yeah. It's taken such a beating he'd rather get himself killed than come to me for help.'
Joe looked at him, then laughed shortly.
'The two of you driving each other nuts. If you don't drive me nuts too I'm looking forward to seeing which one of you cracks first. Tell me, Mac. What do you see in him?'
'You're supposed to be his friend, Joe,' Duncan said stiffly.
'I am his friend. I just thought maybe you could use some clarification.'
'He's a sarcastic, cynical slob,' Duncan said, starting to stuff clothes into the flight bag with more violence than was absolutely necessary. 'He's manipulative and calculating. And those are his good qualities.'
'You know what he thinks of you? He thinks you're uptight, infuriating and judgmental.'
Duncan gave him a short, tight smile.
'You know, I kind of guessed he might.'
'So why does it matter so much to you both that the other one stays alive? Why don't you just say your farewells and go your separate ways? It's a big planet. You wouldn't have to bump into each other more than a couple of times a century. And yet, here you go, off to Provence to butt in where you're not wanted to rescue someone who doesn't need rescuing.'
Duncan looked up from his packing in irritation.
'Did someone sell you the 'Dear Abby' franchise or something, Joe?'
'I'm a bartender. Relationship counselling goes with the turf.'
'We do not *have* a *relationship*, Joe,' Duncan said, heavily emphasising each word.
'Sure you don't. Think about it, Mac. I'll see you at the bar sometime.'
He left, and Duncan was in the process of zipping up the flight bag when his telephone rang. He let out a grunt of irritation when he heard the familiar voice on the other end.
'What do you want, Methos?'
'Just to know if you'd finished packing yet.'
'I don't know what you mean,' Duncan said curtly.
'You aren't going to ride in on a white charger to rescue me? I'm disappointed.'
'Did this call have a point, Methos?'
'Yeah. I can look after myself, Mac. You have to stay in Paris and look after Joe. It's not going to take much to find out that he's an old friend of mine. He's an easy target, Mac. Don't let him get hurt.'
The line went dead and Duncan muttered an ancient Gaelic oath at the handset as he slammed it down. In the distance he could see Joe walking slowly along the embankment, back towards his car. Biting back another oath, nastier and even more ancient than the first, he pulled his coat on and ran to follow.
Mulder woke slowly. His head felt thick. It ached dully, but with the promise that if he moved it the pain would get a lot worse. There was a peculiarly foul taste in his mouth. Drugged, he guessed. He was propped up in a sitting position, his hands tied behind him. Beneath him the floor was hard, rough and cold. Whatever he rested against was flat and slatted. The side of a wooden crate, maybe. Without moving, without opening his eyes, he tried to work out what he could of his surroundings. Somewhere big, somewhere cool. There was an echo in the air and the sound of water lapping against a dock or a shore. There was a high, tinny rattling sound in the distance, strangely familiar...
'I know that you're awake, Mr Mulder.' The voice was English, the accent decidedly upmarket. A man's voice, fairly young. 'There isn't any point in pretending that you're still unconscious. I calculated the dosage of the drug quite carefully. Given your body weight and what I know of your tolerance to alcohol you should have woken some five minutes ago.'
Mulder kept his eyes closed, and remained silent. The Englishman sighed.
'Mr Mulder, you really don't have all that much time left and this is a conversation I've been looking forward to for quite some time. I appreciate that the circumstances are hardly ideal but I had hoped that you'd have the grace to rise to the occasion.'
Mulder opened his eyes and said furiously 'All right. You want to have a conversation? Let's have a conversation. Let's start with what the hell you want and what the hell's going on.'
The sandy-haired man sprawled casually in front of him gave him a warm smile. He was wearing a suit, but no tie. Savile Row, Mulder decided. Hand tailored, understated, casual and extremely expensive.
'That's better, Mr Mulder,' the man said approvingly.
'Who are you?' Mulder bit out.
'Please, call me Mr Leigh, Mr Mulder.'
Mulder didn't bother to ask if it was his real name.
'That's not what I meant,' he said grimly.
'You would like to know my role in this drama,' Leigh said good-humouredly. 'At this point, of course, that it's traditional to roll out the euphemisms, but I won't insult you by telling you that I'm a "disposal specialist". I'm an assassin, Mr Mulder. I'm hired to kill people. I don't like to be immodest but it's something that I'm really extremely good at.'
'So I'm going to be murdered in cold blood by the very best. That's reassuring,' Mulder said. He tried to keep the edge of hysteria out of his voice.
Leigh ran a hand through his sandy hair.
'You joke, Mr Mulder, but my employment in the particular task is in part at least a reflection of your reputation in the eyes of my employers. I read your file with enormous interest, by the way. Your career has been fascinating.'
'Tell me, Mr Leigh,' Mulder grated. 'Do you enjoy what you do? Do you get off on this? What do you get out of it?'
'It's my job, Mr Mulder,' Leigh said, as if it was obvious. 'I'm paid a very great deal of money for it. I suppose there's always some enjoyment in performing a task well. Certainly there's a need for my work.'
'Yeah. Don't tell me,' Mulder said grimly. 'It's a public service.'
'There have been some occasions when that's actually been the case,' Leigh said. 'I arranged an accident for a gentleman on a yacht a few years ago which almost certainly fell into that category. But we're wandering off the subject...'
Mulder pulled fiercely at his bonds, not really expecting them to give.
'Mr Mulder,' Leigh said, rather flatly. 'I take pride in my work. You're quite secure and not uncomfortable and if you persist in trying to escape you're only going to hurt yourself. You may as well just sit back and we will both wait for your friend Mr Pierson to arrive. It's entirely up to you, but it would be rather pleasant to have a discussion while we're waiting, security professional to security professional.' He sighed. 'It's rare that I have the opportunity to discuss my work. My wife is uninterested, my clients are interested only in results and I'm afraid that most of my contemporaries tend towards the generic.'
'The generic?' Mulder asked, with a kind of wonder in his voice. Why was he calmly sitting here discussing this man's problems? Wasn't he the one with problems?
'Intellectually limited,' Leigh continued. 'Thuggish. Unimaginative. All exactly the same. The individuality bred out of them.'
'Like the staff at MacDonalds,' Mulder said, light-headedly. 'Maybe they should wear name badges. "Hi, my name is Alex and I'm your human asset disposal specialist for this evening."'
'Exactly, Mr Mulder,' Leigh said, with another warm smile. 'You joke, but you're quite right. It's become a trade, like plumbing. There's no artistry any more.'
'And you're an artist?' Mulder couldn't quite keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
'I like to think of myself as an artist. Do you mind if I smoke, Mr Mulder?'
'Would it matter if I did?'
'I suppose not,' Leigh said mildly. 'But I prefer to observe the pleasantries.'
'If you want to leave forensic evidence lying around the place that's your business,' Mulder said sourly.
Leigh smiled. 'That is precisely the intention, Mr Mulder.' He pulled out a packet of Morleys and lit one inexpertly. 'These American cigarettes are foul things. I prefer cigars, myself. Maybe the occasional pipe...'
'You're not working for the Consortium,' Mulder said, in a kind of daze.
'Good God no,' Leigh said, and there was tolerant laughter in his voice. 'I don't think it's betraying too much to say that they have nothing whatsoever to do with this. They don't hire assassins. They have their own people. Now I wonder, Mr Mulder, if during your time in the Violent Crimes you ever came across any of my work?'
'Apart from Naomi Redburg?'
'Apart from Miss Redburg, yes.'
'So you did kill her,' Mulder said grimly. 'What about Drake? Did you murder him too?'
'You already know that I didn't, Mr Mulder,' Leigh said reprovingly. The word 'murder' did not seem to offend him. 'It's rather strange. I prefer to work in Europe. I would have expected to have been assigned Mr Drake and Mr Pierson. Instead I've spent three months in the United States, scarcely home territory. I suggested a number of American operatives but my employer was insistent that I carry out the work personally.'
'Come now, Mr Mulder. I can't divulge the names of my clients.'
'You're going to kill me. Does it really matter?'
'It's a matter of professionalism, Mr Mulder. Professionalism is everything. In any case, I would be extremely surprised if my contact had given me her real name.'
'A woman? Why even tell me that much?'
'It's not going to make much of a difference at this stage, especially since the lady in question is on her way here now.'
'Am I going to meet her?'
'If your friend Pierson arrives first, no,' Mr Leigh said, without much regret. 'It's him they want. You are incidental. As soon we have him your part in this will be finished. You understand that it's nothing personal. As a professional courtesy I'll make your death as painless as possible.'
'I'm so grateful,' Mulder said through gritted teeth. He tugged at the bonds again. Leigh gave him an amused and weary look and threw the cigarette end far out into the water.
'Mustn't make it too obvious for Mr Skinner,' he explained. 'And of course the water will degrade any traces of DNA. Mr Skinner is almost as thorough as I am.'
Mulder sat back with his eyes closed and forced himself to relax. This maniac wants to talk. Take advantage of it, Mulder.
'So why do your people want Adam? Is it something that happened in Maine?'
'I haven't got the faintest idea, Mr Mulder. I don't ask questions, I just fulfil assignments. All I know is that they've been looking for him for a very long time.'
'And you were the one who found him?'
'Certainly I assisted, but I can't claim all the credit.'
'Jacques started it, didn't he? Jacques Lemarchand or Jack Merchant or whatever he called himself. He was the first one to be killed. He told you what you needed, that Adam was at the camp. You weren't interested in anyone else there. You only wanted to find Adam.'
'Well done, Mr Mulder. You're quite right. I wasn't involved at that point, only when it became clear that tracking Mr Pierson down was going to be problematic. You know, it's fascinating to see the way your mind works. Even though I don't usually operate in the States I'm quite grateful that you chose not to remain a profiler.'
'But you didn't know exactly who you were looking for, which was why you killed the others first. They were the only people you could trace.'
'The information that Mr Merchant supplied was incomplete,' Leigh agreed. 'He'd been hitting the cocaine rather hard for a couple of decades.'
'Didn't that seem strange to you? That Merchant looked exactly the same as he did twenty years ago? His driving license said that his date of birth was 1970.'
'I imagine it was forged, Mr Mulder. As for his appearance, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that he'd had plastic surgery. Drake too, probably.'
'Probably,' Mulder said dully. 'So you killed Redburg, and she didn't know anything. Drake didn't tell you either.'
'As I said, I didn't have anything to do with Mr Drake's death. My employers wanted to deal with him themselves.' A shrug that reminded him of Lafayette. 'Obviously that one was personal.'
Employers. More than one. Another precious fragment of information to file away with the rest.
'There's something different about them,' Mulder said. 'Drake and Adam and Merchant. Something they've got in common. Some reason why your employers are killing them themselves. I think it's something to do with the fact that none of them has aged at all in the last twenty years.'
'Perhaps,' Leigh said uninterestedly. 'As I said, I don't ask questions, Mr Mulder.'
'And the beheadings. There's a reason for that too. Maybe not in Naomi's case, that was just protective coloration, but Drake and Merchant had to die that way.'
'Mr Mulder, perhaps I haven't made this clear. I don't ask questions of my employers.'
Mulder took a deep breath. He was so damned close he could feel it, but his captor was starting to sound slightly annoyed. This was not the time to push it.
'So when did you make the breakthrough, Mr Leigh? How did you finally work out who Adam was?'
'Oh we didn't, Mr Mulder. You did that for us.'
*Oh Christ, no.* 'I don't understand.' Mulder said, and his voice sounded sick even to himself.
'While my employers were tracking Mr Drake down I remained in Maine. Jacques had given us only your first name. 'A kid named Fox', he said, 'and an Adam something'. Pearce, maybe. Not much to go on, Mr Mulder.'
'So tell me how you did it, Mr Leigh.' His voice was so cold and bitter he hardly recognised it.
'It was a rather satisfying breakthrough. A missing persons report filed by a Mr Jenks of which you were the subject. You have no idea how many thousands of pieces of paper I had to read through to get that information. We had very little co-operation from the local sheriff's office in the matter.'
*Fuck you, Herb,* Mulder thought bitterly. 'Sometimes I don't know what I pay my taxes for,' he muttered. Leigh ignored him.
'Of course, from what Merchant said we had no idea that Fox was your real name. Once we'd worked that out it made things a lot simpler. We had a deadline to work to, after all.'
'A deadline? When for?'
Leigh cast him a pitying glance, but otherwise ignored the question.
'Knowing your name speeded things up considerably. There are a great many Adam Pearces and Piersons, especially when the field includes both Europe and the United States, but there is only one Fox William Mulder.'
Thanks, mom. Mulder thought, with resignation.
'Your work meant that the Redburg murder would be brought to your attention, provided it was outré enough. Thus her beheading. Once you had made the connection with Mr Drake and your time in Maine you would track down and warn Mr Pierson. Was he your lover, as a matter of interest? Your cousin certainly seemed to think so.'
Mulder ignored that. 'So why the writing on the wall?'
'I'm sure you'll work it out if you think about it,' Leigh said. He watched Mulder with mild interest.
Mulder took a deep breath, then another. 'Two murders, two different perpetrators, two different continents. Maybe Redburg just ran into a serial killer. Maybe Drake just pissed off the wrong people. It could just barely have been a coincidence. The graffiti ruled that possibility out completely. It meant that the murders had to be linked.'
'Well done, Mr Mulder. It would be interesting to know why that particular wording was used, but...'
'Yeah. I know. You don't ask questions. Did you arrange for me to be assigned to help the investigation here?'
'I don't have that kind of influence, Mr Mulder. That's not to say that someone else didn't.'
'So I led you right to him. Why kidnap me? Why not just take him off the street?'
'Didn't you know, Mr Mulder?' Leigh asked, in some surprise. 'Mr Pierson has disappeared.'
'Come on Mulder.' Scully muttered under her breath. 'Answer.'
She sat on the edge of Lafayette's untidy desk. She'd been trying to get through to Mulder on and off for about an hour. During that time mild irritation had changed to exasperation, which in its turn was becoming fear. Mulder always answered his phone first time. He'd answered while Pierson was going down on him, for God's sake. She wondered briefly whether he was still sulking after their argument earlier, but dismissed the thought. If he didn't want to speak to her, for whatever reason, he'd have turned his phone off and left her fuming at his voice mail service.
'Agent Scully, is anything wrong?' Lafayette had returned and was standing uncertainly in the doorway. Scully nodded.
'Mulder should have been back by now, or he should have called to tell me he'd been delayed. He's not answering his cellphone but he hasn't switched it off either.'
'Where did he go?'
'Back to the University offices to speak to Pierson.'
'Do you know which building, Agent Scully? What was Pierson studying?'
'Art history, I think. I know his office is just a few blocks away from here.'
'Then we'll go and see if he arrived there.'
They made their way out to the front of the station. *One last try* Scully thought. She pulled out her mobile and speed dialled him again. A familiar, distant trill met her ears, so faint that she barely registered it. But when it stopped as soon as she cut off the call both she and Lafayette paused.
'It came from inside the station,' Lafayette said. 'Try again.'
'It's from the enquiry office.' Lafayette said, turning his head from side to side. 'This way.'
He unlocked the door that led from the public area into the offices behind with his pass key. Scully slipped through ahead of him, to the desk behind the high sheet of glass that separated the enquiry staff from the public. The trilling was coming from a box on a shelf underneath the counter. Lafayette knelt beside her as she pulled it out from a tangle of purses, umbrellas, watches and wallets. The cellphone was identical to her own. Mulder's. She cut her own phone off again. The ringing stopped instantly.
'Where did this come from?' she demanded. 'Who handed this in?'
Lafayette took over smoothly, talking to the desk clerk in fluent French, asking questions. The man searched through a sheaf of papers, pulling out a form, handing it to the detective. Scully tried to pick up what she could from tone of voice and expression: Lafayette's voice angry, the clerk defensive. Not for the first time, she wished that she had at least Mulder's grasp of the French language. Even a few words would have helped.
Lafayette said: 'The cellphone was handed in almost an hour ago. The clerk says that he has been too busy to answer it, he is not a message service.' he shook his head disgustedly. 'The woman who picked it up reported that she saw a man taken ill a few streets away. Someone in a car stopped to help him and the phone fell out of his coat when he was being helped into the car.'
Scully shook her head. 'Either he's incapacitated or he's being held against his will. Otherwise he'd have found a way to get me a message by now.'
They looked at each other for a moment. 'Let's get back to my office.' Lafayette said. 'I'll have one of my men ring the hospitals.' He moved back towards the stairs, so quickly that Scully almost had to run to keep up with him.
'What about the woman who handed the phone in?'
'She didn't leave a telephone number, only an address. I'll send someone out to find her. As soon as I've arranged that we'll go to the CCTV control centre. There may be a tape of what happened.'
'They've had an hour. They could be out of Paris by now.'
'You think this is a kidnapping?'
'I don't think Mulder was taken ill. He was fine just before he left.'
'Do you think this Adam Pierson is involved somehow?'
'I think he's in it up to his neck,' Scully said. *Damn Mulder!* Why did he keep doing this to her?
'Then I'll have his office and his apartment checked. We'll put out an all points bulletin on him and his car. If he's in central Paris, we'll find him.'
'I need to tell Skinner what's happened.'
'You can call him from my office.'
The next hour was nightmarish. Skinner was concerned and furious and it was all that Scully could do to talk him out of coming over on the next plane. Lafayette made call after call. Adam Pierson was not in his apartment or his office, nor had he been there all day. Someone else, however, had. The apartment had been broken into. The office had been unobtrusively searched. The woman who had handed Mulder's mobile in had returned from her shopping to find two detectives waiting on her doorstep... The car was blue, not a big car, she had told them, driven by a well-dressed woman with the man as a passenger. She hadn't seen the number, but she could tell them exactly where it had happened. Someone produced the CCTV tapes covering the streets between the station and the place where Mulder had been snatched. Scully watched with the six or seven other detectives who had quickly been assigned to the disappearance. The Surete were taking this seriously.
'It's a very professional kidnapping,' Lafayette said, giving her a soft commentary as the tape ran. 'The accidental collision. The administration of the drug. Probably a short, very fine needle concealed in the edge of the sports bag. It's a heavy bag so the pain of the bruise would have masked the puncture wound. This is certainly a professional. Did you see the way he positioned himself? Always facing away from the cameras. Then he gets into the blue car and the driver circles around the block. The kidnapper assumes correctly that Mulder will return to Pierson's office and he times it so he'll meet Mulder just as the drug begins to take effect.'
'What about the car? Have you identified it?'
'Stolen half an hour beforehand from an all day car park. We found it abandoned on a side street. They must have changed cars almost as soon as they left the area of Central Paris covered by CCTV.'
'But that's not Pierson,' Scully said. 'Is it... what did you say his name was? MacLeod?'
'Agent Scully, if you had seen MacLeod you would not forget him. He is a very big man. Very handsome. This isn't him, and the woman isn't MacLeod's associate.'
'Could MacLeod have been Drake's killer?'
'Baigent didn't identify him. My feeling is that he was not. From what I know of MacLeod he's not a clumsy man. On the contrary, he is very graceful. He wouldn't have caused the mess at Drake's cottage.'
'I think I need to speak to him.'
'MacLeod,' Scully said.
'I can't bring him in, Agent Scully. I have no grounds to do so yet.'
'I just need to talk to him. I'll go to him. What about MacLeod's associate?'
'Her name is Amanda Darieux. A professional thief. It's hard to tell from the tape but I don't believe that's her. She is a brunette, very slender, younger than this. We suspect her in a number of major jewel thefts but other than that we don't have much information about her.'
Scully nodded, and pursed her lips. Her face took on an expression of unshakeable determination.
'Do you know where MacLeod lives?'
'On a barge on the Seine, quite near the Isle de Paris. I'll arrange for a car to take you there.'
'Thank you. I just hope this doesn't turn out to be a wild goose chase.'
'I think you misjudge yourself, Agent Scully,' Lafayette said gravely. 'I think your instincts in this matter are good. MacLeod certainly knows more than he has told us.'
Scully nodded. 'If I find out anything, I'll let you know.'
'We'll get your partner back, Agent Scully. I promise you that.'
She nodded again, and turned to leave.
The barge was bigger than Scully had expected. Not the narrow, brightly painted canal barge that she had half been expecting but a dark hulk that probably had more room inside than Mulder's apartment. Not that that was anything to write home about.
She knocked on the door. There was no answer. She knocked again, then as she turned to go saw a lone jogger approaching along the quayside.
She raised a hand against the glare of the sun as he slowed. *He is a big man. Very handsome.* Lafayette had said. He hadn't been kidding. Scully's first, rather stunned thought was that Duncan MacLeod was too good-looking to be true. Even in his sweats he was the poster boy for guys who appeared on the covers of Harlequin romances. Chiselled of jaw, firm of muscle, dark and smouldering of gaze, sweaty and tousled from his run - oh boy, this one was easy on the eye all right. An aura of pure animal magnetism hung around him like the scent of cheap after shave. Scully swallowed and gave herself a brisk mental slap. *Concentrate, Scully!* Just because the guys she usually met in the course of her work were of a general quality that had made psychotic tattoo boy seem like a pretty good bet didn't mean she had to lose it for the first Fabio lookalike who turned up. Even if he did actually look like Fabio's more attractive, slightly older brother.
'Can I help you?' the jogger asked. He moved up the gangplank with the confidence of ownership. The accent was something between Scottish and American. The voice the words were spoken in was low and husky.
Scully swallowed. *Down girl,* she thought to herself.
'I'm Special Agent Dana Scully.' she said curtly. 'I'm an FBI agent attached to the Surete. I'm looking for a man called Duncan MacLeod.
'I'm Duncan MacLeod. What can I do for you, Agent Scully?'
'Mr MacLeod, I'm looking for an associate of yours. A man called Adam Pierson.'
Duncan had turned away from her to unlock the door of the barge. Now she saw the broad shoulders in front of her tense, but Duncan's voice remained polite and unconcerned.
'I'm sorry, Agent Scully. He isn't here. Have you tried his apartment?'
The smile he gave her as he turned back towards her was warm and friendly. And he had nice eyes, Scully noticed. Big and brown and trusting. Scully gave herself another mental slap. *Repeat after me* she thought to herself. *This guy has been a suspect in not one, not two, but six separate murders and disappearances. In Paris alone. That the Surete knows about. He has a police file a foot thick. You are not going to start calling him Duncan.* She injected a stern note into her voice.
'Mr MacLeod, a man matching Adam Pierson's description was seen here earlier today.'
That was a fact the Surete had discovered early on. There were always fishermen along this section of the Seine with little to do other than watch the world go by.
'I didn't say that he wasn't here earlier.' Duncan said mildly. 'He came by at lunchtime. Would you like to come in, Agent Scully? I'm going to put some coffee on.'
Scully followed him down the steps into the barge. In terms of taste, it was the opposite of Mulder's apartment. The barge was gracefully and elegantly furnished. There was no TV visible, but there was a very stately bed. Vaguely Scully remembered that this MacLeod had once been an antique dealer. Obviously he'd been a successful one. The few pieces she could recognise all looked extremely valuable. She realised that she was staring and pulled herself together.
'Please, have a seat. I'll just be a minute,' Duncan said from the kitchen area. Scully heard the sound of fresh coffee beans being ground and sighed. She added 'knows how to make real coffee' to her mental Duncan MacLeod checklist, right after 'fabulous apartment'.
'Mr MacLeod, I can't impress upon you strongly enough how vital it is that I get in touch with Adam Pierson. It could be a matter of life and death.'
That got a reaction. The big brown eyes grew concerned.
*Sensitive and caring* Scully thought. She gave herself a mental kick - the slapping didn't seem to be doing much good. *You're only here because this man may have information about your partner. Remember him?*
'Agent Scully, has something happened?' Duncan was asking. 'Is Adam in danger?'
Scully nodded. 'Yes. I think both he and my partner are in a great deal of danger.'
There was sudden comprehension in Duncan's expression. 'You're Mulder's partner. What happened?'
'Mulder was snatched from the street outside the Prefecture a couple of hours ago. He was drugged and bundled into a car. We think it's your friend they're really after.'
'Dr Pierson's apartment and office were both been broken into before Mulder was taken. We think when they couldn't find him they decided to take Mulder instead, to use as a bargaining counter. They'll probably ask Pierson to give himself up in exchange for Mulder.'
'Do you know who 'they' are?'
'No. We don't know who's behind this. So far they haven't contacted us. We have almost nothing to go on, Mr MacLeod, and we're getting desperate. You said he was here this morning?'
'At around lunchtime, yes.'
'Did he tell you anything?'
'Just that he'd run into Mulder again. He said he thought someone had been following him, but that he'd lost them.'
'Did he know who?'
'No. He didn't have any idea. He was pretty sure it was linked back to the time he spent in Maine but he didn't give me any details.'
Scully narrowed her eyes. Her instincts told her that MacLeod was not exactly lying to her, just not telling her the whole truth. She had the feeling that he'd tell her what was going on if only she asked the right questions. Unfortunately, she had no idea what the right questions were.
'Were you there at the time?' she tried.
'In Maine? No. I only met Adam a year or two ago.'
'Are you close friends?'
'Yes, I suppose we are.'
'Does he confide in you?'
The answer to that was a snort. An attractive snort, but a snort nonetheless. Obviously not.
'Adam doesn't confide in anyone if he can help it, Agent Scully,' Duncan said. There was something behind the words. An edge of bitterness, Scully thought, and wondered what the story behind it was.
'Does Dr Pierson have any enemies that you know of?'
A pause. 'He didn't mention anyone specific. As I said, he didn't have any idea who was following him.'
'Or why, Mr MacLeod?'
He was interrupted by a tap on the barge door, which was pushed open.
'Mac? Mac, you in there?'
Scully stood slowly. The newcomer was a fatherly man who walked with the aid of a cane. He seemed world-worn but friendly. An amputee, Scully realised from the way he limped down the stairs.
'Mac, I know you said to stay at the bar but Adam hasn't turned up. I think something's wrong...'
He saw Scully and trailed to a halt.
Duncan sighed and made the introductions.
'Joe, this is Agent Scully. She's Agent Mulder's partner. Agent Scully, this is Joe Dawson. An old friend. Joe, Mulder was kidnapped a couple of hours ago. Agent Scully would very much like to know where Adam is.'
The man called Joe Dawson shrugged.
'I'm sorry, Agent Scully. Like I said, he was supposed to meet me but he didn't turn up.'
'I've already told Agent Scully that Adam thought he was followed this morning,' MacLeod said. Giving Dawson a lead on how much she knew, Scully thought, but there wasn't a lot she could do about it apart from arresting them both and interviewing them separately.
'Why did he arrange to meet you, Mr Dawson?' she tried. 'If he was running for his life I'm sure it wasn't just for a social drink.'
The two men glanced at each other.
'All right, Agent Scully,' Joe said reluctantly. 'I was going to try to get him some information about Drake's murder. I've got some contacts in the Surete.'
'Adam thought that the people who'd killed Drake were responsible for following him this morning,' Duncan added.
'And he really doesn't know who or why?'
'He doesn't know who, and if he knows why he didn't tell us,' Joe said. 'He thought whoever was doing these killings was after him. He was worried your partner had led them straight to him.'
'Which is why he disappeared.'
'He gets a little overcautious sometimes,' Joe said.
'But he was fond of your partner, Agent Scully,' Duncan said quickly. 'He didn't want him involved. He didn't want him to get hurt.'
'The alternative theory, of course, is that he carried out these killings and he's getting out while he can,' Scully argued. 'There's no proof that he didn't arrange to kidnap Mulder himself.'
'Except that he wouldn't have needed to grab Agent Mulder from the open street when the guy was actually on the way back to his office,' Joe said reasonably. 'Your partner trusted him enough to get into a car with him.'
'Agent Scully, Adam Pierson didn't kill Drake or the woman in San Francisco,' Duncan said with finality.
'I suppose the three of you had an all night poker game going on those dates,' Scully said wearily.
'I'm going to take a lot more convincing than your word alone, Mr MacLeod.'
Joe nodded, as if he hadn't expected anything less. 'Adam was in America when Drake was killed. He used to belong to a historical foundation I work for. He still does a bit freelance work for us from time to time. I can find you some numbers at the museum in New York if you want to check it out.'
Scully nodded. 'We will check it out.' She pulled the CCTV stills from her bag. 'Do either of you recognise the people in these pictures?'
'I don't know either of them,' Duncan said. 'What about the car?'
'Stolen and dumped a few streets away.'
Joe took the pictures from him, looked at them and shook his head. 'This doesn't ring any bells with me. Can I take this, Agent Scully? I'll do some askin' around.'
'I'd appreciate it, Mr Dawson.'
'Is there anything else we can help you with, Agent Scully?' Duncan asked. It was clearly a dismissal. Scully narrowed her eyes.
'Yes,' she said coldly. 'I want to know the truth. I want to know what's really going on, but I'll settle for knowing where my partner's been taken and where Adam Pierson is. I don't care about your cult or whatever it is you do. As far as I'm concerned you can hack each other to pieces. That's the Surete's problem. I just want my partner back.'
'And if he's killed?' Duncan asked.
Scully fixed him with a calm, cold look.
'If he's killed I'm going to make it my life's work to hunt every one of you sons of bitches down, Mr MacLeod.'
'Agent Scully...' MacLeod began.
'We'll find out what we can.' Joe interrupted. Scully was surprised at the sudden authority in his voice. 'We'll do what we can to help you. Both of us. I can't guarantee anything but we'll try to find out where your partner is. All we ask it that you keep our names out of it.'
Scully nodded. 'Thank you, Mr Dawson. Here's my card. The number of my cell is on the back, or you can reach me at this extension at the Surete.' She scribbled Lafayette's number on the back.
'If we find anything out, we'll contact you.' Joe said.
MacLeod showed her out.
'You're a loyal friend, Agent Scully.'
'I'll wait to hear from you, Mr MacLeod.'
Lafayette was waiting outside the barge - the car that had dropped her off had gone. He nodded briefly to MacLeod as he held the car door open for Scully.
'Were you successful, Agent Scully?'
'Not really. If they find out anything, they'll let us know. Why didn't you come in?'
'Your presence here is less official than mine, Agent Scully. I thought that MacLeod might be more willing to give you information. Besides, Mr MacLeod is a chivalrous man. Forgive me, but I thought that he might respond better to... how do you say it...'
'A damsel in distress?' Scully said, rather coldly.
Lafayette had the grace to look embarrassed. 'It is no reflection on you, Agent Scully. Only on MacLeod. He is very old fashioned in that respect. I thought that this would be the best way of ensuring his co-operation.'
Scully nodded resignedly. 'And we need all the help we can get.'
They had turned back onto the street and were returning, in silence, to the prefecture when
Scully's cellphone trilled. She sighed and reached into her coat. She flipped the mouthpiece open and pushed the receive button. 'Scully.'
The ringing continued.
'It's Mulder's,' Lafayette said, tension in his voice. He pulled the car swiftly into the side of the road, causing a chorus of outraged horns behind them. 'Answer it.'
She found the second cellphone in her coat and did so. 'Scully here.'
'Agent Scully?' spoken with surprise and hesitation, an English accent. She had heard the voice before, although in considerably more muffled circumstances. 'You're Mulder's partner. I need to speak with him. Is he there?'
'Are you Adam Pierson?' Scully asked, her heart in her throat.
'Yes,' slowly. 'Is something wrong?'
'Mulder's been kidnapped, Dr Pierson. I have to see you.'
'Kidnapped? What happened?' The shock in his voice was genuine, Scully would have sworn.
'He left the prefecture to come to your office. He was drugged and pulled into a car a few streets away. We found the car abandoned and no trace of Mulder. That was three hours ago. Where are you?'
'Have there been any ransom demands? Has there been any contact at all?'
'No. Nothing yet. Where are you?'
'I had to leave Paris. I was supposed to meet Mulder tonight. I was calling him to cancel.'
'Can you get back here?'
There was a moment's hesitation on the other end of the line. Scully knew instinctively that if she lost this call, she would have lost Adam Pierson for good.
She pressed. 'Dr Pierson, one of the people who died in America was tortured and then beheaded with a chainsaw. If we want Mulder back alive and in one piece we're going to have to work together. I need your help.'
'Wait. *One* of the people who died in America? I only heard about Naomi Redburg.'
'Another body was found today. His name was Jacques Lemarchand. Do you recognise the name?'
Another silence. Then: 'Yeah. I knew him. I thought he... no, never mind.'
'Dr Pierson, so far three people have died that we know of. Now they have Mulder and you're probably next on the list. You need our help as much as we need yours.'
'So you're offering me protection?'
'We both know that the only protection you're going to get is when these people are either behind bars or dead.'
'And if I don't co-operate?'
'Then by tomorrow morning, you'll probably be in Switzerland or wherever it is you're heading and Mulder will probably have been killed.'
To Adam Pierson's credit, Scully thought, he didn't hesitate then.
'What do you want me to do?'
'Meet us at your apartment. If they try to contact you anywhere it'll be there.'
'It's going to take me about an hour and a half to get there.'
'Where are you?'
'About halfway to Orleans.'
Scully forbore to comment.
'We'll wait for you at your apartment.'
'I'll be there.'
Adam cut off the call, and swore softly to himself. He was parked in the car park of an anonymous motorway service station. A car that had followed him a little too closely and for a little too long on the autoroute had led to a change in his plans. He hadn't bothered to stop for lunch in Paris, or to meet Joe. Instead he'd followed his instincts and put the maximum possible distance between himself and that ancient city. Two hours or so away, after a circuitous journey that had involved switching from back roads to the motorway several times, he had finally decided that his pursuer, real or imagined, was no longer behind him. That being established he had stopped to buy a dry, overpriced sandwich and drink possibly the worst cup of coffee it was possible to get in France outside a MacDonalds. The call to Mulder had been an afterthought, but he didn't waste energy on wishing he hadn't made it. Instead he dialled another, familiar number.
'Methos. Thank God. You need to come back to Paris. Mulder's partner was here.'
'She came to the barge?'
'With a Surete escort.'
'They said Mulder had been kidnapped.'
'I know. I just spoke to Agent Scully. I'm on my way back now. I was just hoping they hadn't got you and Joe involved too.'
'Under suspicion, but not involved. Not yet, anyway. They know too much to be comfortable, Methos.'
'Yeah. I was afraid of that.'
'So what happens now?'
'Mac, I'm going to need your help on this one.'
'What do you want me to do?' Duncan said, without hesitation. He barely heard Adam's relieved sigh. 'You thought I was going to say no?' he asked incredulously.
'No. Not really. Thanks.'
'What's the plan?'
'It's time for Adam Pierson to make a spectacular and public exit.'
'You're going to fake your death and get out of Paris? You know, most people would say "I told you so" at about this point.'
'Cute, MacLeod. It's going to be a little more complicated than that. We have to get Mulder out alive, get the FBI and the Surete off our backs and work out who's behind all this.'
'Yeah. I'm going to have to hand myself in. You're going to have to kill me while I'm under police protection and get my body out before I revive.'
'That's going to be almost impossible,' MacLeod said. 'The Surete has a file on me a foot thick and Scully and Lafayette both know what I look like. And believe me, Scully's not going to let you out of her sight if she thinks you're the only way she's going to get her partner back. Can't we handle this ourselves?'
'I've got to work with them on this one. There's no choice. They know my name and they can get a photograph from my personnel file at the university. If I try to work this on my own every police officer in Paris is going to be looking out for me.'
'This is a mess, Methos.'
'Yeah. Tell me about it.'
Duncan sighed. 'So what's the plan?'
'Is Joe there?'
'Yes. I'll put the speaker phone on.'
'Joe, have you got anyone working in the prefecture at the moment?'
'Course. What do you want?'
'I want both of you to listen. Here's what I need you to do...'
Adam's flight had left him with a drive of at least an hour and a half straight back into Paris. Time enough for Scully and Lafayette to return to the prefecture, check for any progress in the investigation of Mulder's kidnap (there was none), eat a hurried meal at the police canteen and arrive at Adam's apartment well before he was due to get there. The apartment building was a tall block in a quiet neighbourhood. Expensive, Scully thought, or it would have been in Washington or New York. She said as much to Lafayette as they waited in the long, bare entrance hall for the concierge. Lafayette nodded in agreement.
'As an Inspector of police I earn more than 400,000 francs a year, but I could barely afford a flat in this apartment building. A graduate student would earn perhaps half as much as I do. On that salary alone, I do not understand how Adam Pierson could afford to live here.'
The building's concierge was an short, elderly woman, dressed in black with an enormous glass brooch pinned to the front of her dress. Her pure white hair was plaited into an ornate bun that suggested that loose, it would fall almost to her waist. She regarded both Lafayette and Scully with deep suspicion, despite their police credentials, and showed them up to Adam's apartment with great reluctance. There she stood scowling in the doorway, apparently determined not to trust them alone there.
The apartment was, to say the least, eclectic. The furnishings were ancient and modern, western, oriental and African. Scully noticed a graceful piece of glassware that she would have said was Roman if not for its perfect condition. An ancient bible bound in flaking leather was shoved carelessly into a bookshelf underneath what looked like a first edition of the Pickwick Papers and a paperback of 'Armadillos and Old Lace' by Kinky Friedman. Lafayette blinked and moved to examine a small picture half hidden behind a bookshelf.
'Agent Scully, if it were possible I would say that this was an original Caravaggio.'
'Are you sure it's not a copy?'
If it is, then it's contemporary.'
'Dr Pierson seems to be doing very well for himself,' Scully noted softly. 'Does he have any connections with drug or organised crime.'
Lafayette shook his head. 'Nothing like that at all. As far as we know, he is a perfectly innocent civilian. Besides, I do not see MacLeod becoming friends with a drug dealer. But smuggling antiquities is also a profitable business and MacLeod was an antique dealer once.'
Scully turned back to the concierge, who was watching them both with some disapproval.
'Madame, who owns Dr Pierson's flat?'
'The flat belongs to the owner of the apartment building, Madame,' the concierge said stiffly. 'An American called John Ruth-Johnson.'
'And Dr Pierson rents it from him? How can he afford it, Madame?'
For a moment the woman seemed caught between close mouthed caution and the desire to gossip. Seeing the Lafayette was still bent over the picture, she leaned closer to Scully.
'Mr Ruth-Johnson interviewed me for the position of concierge himself, mademoiselle. It was in 1947. I was a war widow with two young children to care for. Mr Ruth-Johnson was very kind to me then. He was a very charming man.'
Scully raised an eyebrow. 'I'm afraid I don't quite understand, Madame.'
The concierge lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
'Ah, Mademoiselle, when I look at young Doctor Pierson I see in his face the face of my employer. They do not share the same name but in some ways they are very alike.' She tapped the side of her nose tellingly. 'Perhaps later, in England, there was another lady to whom Mr Ruth-Johnson was also very charming.'
Scully gave a silent 'oh' of comprehension. Encouraged, the concierge leant in closer, enveloping Scully in a sickly cloud of lily of the valley. She confided in a hoarse whisper, 'The flat is Mr Ruth-Johnson's own, but he has not been to Paris for many years. Instead, he permits Dr Pierson to live here in his stead. To pay only the bills and not the rent. A suggestive arrangement, I think. Maybe one day this building will belong to Dr Pierson.' She spread her hands in expressive resignation. 'So I put up with the visitors hammering on the door late at night, the students with holes in the knees of their jeans, the strange noises, the boxes of books being carried *up* and *down* the stairs, the endless beer bottles...'
'Does Dr Pierson have any special friends?' Lafayette interrupted, turning away from the painting with some reluctance.
'A woman with dark hair comes here sometimes. I think they are friends but not lovers. Sometimes her boyfriend is here too - a big dark man who looks like a gangster.' She raised a hand unconsciously to her hair. Apparently MacLeod had that effect on a lot of people. 'There are some friends from the university from time to time. A man who walks with a stick, quite often. Last night there was an American in a good suit. I have not seen him before but he stayed until late this morning.'
'But you didn't see whoever burgled the apartment earlier?'
The shrug again. 'He did not come in past my office. I have already told your policeman that. And how long will he be waiting in my office, may I ask?'
'Madame, I can only apologise for the inconvenience,' Lafayette said, 'But I'm afraid that it will necessary for a little while longer...'
He paused. All three turned as they heard hurried footsteps behind them.
Scully looked around to see the man from Mulder's flyer standing in the doorway. Tall and slender with ruffled, untidy dark hair, dressed in jeans and a shapeless black sweater, he had an worried, uncertain look that made him seem both earnest and very young. There was no way, Scully decided, that this man could possibly be almost forty years old. There was no way that he was a drug dealer, or a smuggler of rare antiquities. There was no way that he could have done anything that would have merited an assassin being sent to hunt him down. Possibly, just possibly, he might have been fined for taking his library books back late or been given a parking ticket. This looked like another dead end. Scully sighed.
'Dr Pierson?' she asked.
'Dr Pierson!' the concierge said sharply. 'I must speak to you at once.'
Adam let out an irritated breath.
'Madame, forgive me, but I'm very busy.'
'Dr Pierson, I demand to know what is going on! First a burglary, now the detectives here to question you! I run a respectable building.'
'Maria, the police are here about the burglary,' Adam said placatingly. 'It's nothing to worry about.'
'Then why were there so many? Why did they search your mailbox? Why do they answer your telephone?'
Adam took her hand gently and patted it reassuringly and in a manner that spoke of long experience.
'Maria, I promise that I will sort all this out.'
'Please do so, Dr Pierson! I run a respectable building!'
'Maria, forgive me, but I must go and talk to these people.'
'See that this is sorted out, Dr Pierson. Now, here is your package. Tell your friends that I am not your private facteur, monsieur le docteur!'
Lafayette let out a weary breath. 'Madame, why didn't you tell us about the package?' he asked.
Maria gave him a withering stare. 'It was not addressed to you, monsieur. The lady who delivered it said to give it only to Dr Pierson. She said that it was important.'
Adam sighed. 'Thank you. 'Don't worry, Maria. It doesn't matter.'
Lafayette took out the CCTV photograph. 'Was this the woman you saw?'
'Yes. Yes, that was her. Certainment.'
Lafayette passed the picture to Adam, who looked at it and shrugged. 'Never seen her before. I think the man was the one who was following me earlier.'
'It is a start.' Lafayette said, with resignation. He turned to Maria. 'Merci, Madame. If we need anything more, we will send for you. Now you must give your statement to the officer downstairs.'
They waited until she had left before Adam carefully laid the little package on the desk. It was
small and square and heavily padded. For a moment, they looked at it in silence.
'I take it there's been no news,' Adam said at last.
'No. This is the only lead we have,' Lafayette said.
'Open it,' Scully said. All three of them knew what could be in it. *Please don't let them have hurt him* she prayed silently.
'We should check for fingerprints,' Lafayette said.
'There aren't going to be any fingerprints,' Adam said tightly. 'Whoever did this was a professional.'
Lafayette grimly pulled on a pair of latex gloves. 'Even professionals make mistakes.' He took Adam's offered Swiss army knife, wiped the blade and slit the side of the parcel open gently, then eased out the contents.
'It's his ID,' Scully said, letting out a breath. 'Just his ID.'
'And a telephone number,' Adam said, flipping the ID open. A yellow post-it note had been stuck inside. 'Is it worth tracking down who the telephone belongs to?'
'For a mobile? Probably not. We will do it, and we will find that it was given away free with tokens from breakfast cereal and registered in a false name. He will probably use it for this one call, then throw it into the Seine.'
'But you'll be able to trace the location?'
'Perhaps. If we do we will find that the call was received in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, or in the concourse of the Gare du Nord.'
'Do you want me to make the call from here?'
'The equipment we need is back at the prefecture.'
'Then let's go.' Adam said in a voice that was suddenly soft and deadly. His eyes narrowed and something ruthless glittered in them, something that made Scully suddenly glad she was not their focus. She revised her opinion of him with a shudder. A dangerous man, after all.
It took twenty minutes to return through the evening rush hour to the prefecture. The communications department had already been notified that they would be needed, and a technician was ready with the equipment they needed when they arrived.
Are you ready to make the call, Dr Pierson?' Lafayette asked.
Adam nodded, took the phone from the technician, took a breath and dialled the number.
'This is Adam Pierson.'
'Good evening, Mr Pierson.' A man's voice, cool, calm and British. 'I expected you to call before now. I was growing quite concerned.'
'I'm afraid Agent Mulder can't come to the phone right now. But be assured, for now at least he's alive and well.'
'I want to speak to him.'
'Regrettably that's not possible. Do you know Paris well, Mr Pierson?'
'Then come to the Marina St Denys ten o'clock tonight. I need hardly remind you to come alone and unarmed.'
'What's your name? Who are you?'
But the call had been cut off. Adam looked up at Scully and Lafayette. Lafayette shook his head slowly.
The technician spread his hands in rueful apology.
'Not enough time to track it,' Scully said.
'A professional,' Adam said, eyes narrowed in thought. 'Do you know the Marina St Denys?'
'Not well.' Lafayette said. 'Not yet. But we will.'
The briefing room was somewhere in the depths of one of the Surete's operational stations. The only decorations were notice boards, most adorned with grainy, laser printed mugshots of the area's habitual criminals, faces either young and insolent or old and hard. The air was thick with cigarette smoke.
Adam was introduced to the members of firearms unit who would be running this operation and was greeted with polite nods and expressionless gazes by the black-clad, patient men sitting around the heavy wooden table in the centre of the room. Armour had changed a lot, Adam thought to himself, since the crude, heavy shells of leather and metal he had once worn. Nylon, plastic, ceramic, kevlar - light to wear, always black. There were no weapons, not yet. Maps were spread across the scarred, coffee stained surface - of the area, a plan of the dock itself. Scully was the only woman in the room, but she was treated with no less respect by the others for all that. No. Not respect. Acceptance. She carried herself confidently, as if she'd done this many times before, with no sign of nervousness. From what Mulder had told him of his chequered career this probably wasn't the first time she'd had to come to the rescue. These men saw Scully as one of themselves. He was the outsider, the civilian, the one who had to be babied through this, the one who was probably going to screw the whole thing up.
He gave no sign that he spoke French and maintained an expression of faint boredom as the briefing was given. Lafayette finished the briefing and then turned to him, explaining what would happen. There would be a meeting. An exchange. Himself for Mulder. He'd go into the marina car park and ask to see Mulder. That's when the snipers would get the best shot. There was a lot that could go wrong. He should not feel obligated to do this.
'I'm obligated,' Adam said shortly. 'I have to do this.'
'Why do they want you?' Scully asked. It was a subject he had been hoping to avoid.
'When I was much younger, I had some... family problems,' Adam said. In a way, it was the truth, although he knew they would read a different meaning into it than Mulder. Mulder had assumed he meant this strange, duelling cult he'd theorised about to Scully. These men would assume organised crime. Ambiguities like that were useful, sometimes. Scully looked sceptical and Lafayette's face betrayed nothing. 'I tried to get out of the game and make a fresh start.' Adam said. 'I guess I've been tracked down.'
'You're telling us this is about organised crime?' Scully said in disbelief.
'Like I said, I've been out of the game for a long while now,' Adam said. It was a phrase that answered nothing, said in a tone that discouraged further questions.
'We'll discuss it further when this operation is complete.' Lafayette said. 'Right now, Agent Mulder's release is all that's important.
The cluster of unmarked police vehicles, his own car, the big white van that would act as the communications centre for the operation, all drove separately to the rendezvous point - a dark, deserted warehouse yard on the other side of the main road from the marina. There the final preparations were carried out.
The bullet proof vest they gave him was an exercise in pointlessness, but he strapped it on anyway. The actual act of being shot hardly worried him, but being shot and recovering in front of witnesses was more of a concern. He raised his arms patiently as he was fitted with a microphone, a transmitter, a tiny ear piece. His trenchcoat covered it all well. In the dark no-one would notice that he was wired for sound. His fingers itched to have his sword near, but that was impossible. His sword was with Joe, otherwise these people would have confiscated it in a breath. He only half-heard Lafayette's final instructions. He was to take his car, drive it down the long, potholed track to the boatyard, stop twenty metres from the gate, as far from the boathouse as he could. To keep the car between himself and the boathouse at all time. It was all obvious anyway and Lafayette had already been through it several times before. Now he just nodded absently, as he entered the state of battle readiness that came so easily after so many centuries. Eyes narrowed, adrenaline flowing, mind focused on what lay ahead, on the plan he had set into motion and the contingencies he had put into place should any part of it fail. Further plans lay at the back of his mind, still fluid, able to be adapted to any one of a hundred possible outcomes. But for now at least, the first plan was still the best.
'I'm ready to go now,' he said, when Lafayette had finally finished. Lafayette nodded.
'Good luck then, Dr Pierson.'
Somebody made final adjustments to the wiring underneath his sweater, then pulled the rough wool down and slapped him on the back.
'We have snipers covering the yard from three different positions.' Lafayette said. 'We'll be watching on the monitors and I'll be in radio contact with you all the way through. We'll try to establish whether he's alone first, so keep him talking for as long as you can. If you can get him out into the open and away from Mulder so much the better. That'll give us a clear shot.'
The drive to the marina was only a few hundred yards but it seemed to Adam like one of the longest he had ever made. The one thing that could really screw this up was if another immortal was waiting for him at the other end with the assassin, but as he drove along the rutted track he felt no buzz. He pulled his Volvo into the yard of the marina, a pitted concrete clearing surrounded on three sides by high fences, topped with barbed wire and stacked with sheet metal and marine junk. The doors of a metal warehouse stood open darkly at one end of the yard. On the fourth side of the yard the waters of the Seine moved darkly and silently past. A long concrete dock ran along the side of the warehouse, and Adam could hear the distant, ghostly noise of sail cleats rattling against hollow aluminium masts. A light shone brilliantly down from just above the warehouse door, intended to dazzle him, he imagined, and to put whoever was in the warehouse at an advantage. He breathed deeply, then again.
'Get out of the car,' Lafayette's fuzzy voice came through the ear piece. 'Through the passenger door. Keep the car between you and the warehouse. Get ready to duck down on my word.'
Adam did as he directed. His skin crawled. He hadn't sensed an immortal yet but there were a lot of places for someone to hide in the deep shadows cast by the light. He hoped the marksmen he knew were out there somewhere had a good enough shot. One marksman in particular, of course.
'I want you to call out and tell him you're here,' Lafayette said. 'Ask to see Mulder.'
'I'm here,' Adam said. 'Where's Mulder?' He barely made out a figure standing in the door of the warehouse, holding a gun.
'He's safe,' the man said.
'I want to see him. I want to see him drive away from here. Then I'll do whatever you want.'
'You don't have much of a choice, Mr Pierson,' the man said, with some amusement.
'If you don't, you can have all the fun of trying to find me in that river,' Adam snapped back. 'I'm a strong enough swimmer to make that a real problem.'
'If you jump into that river, then I'll kill him,' the man said without emotion. Of course this location had been chosen against the assassin's protests, Adam thought. It wasn't one he would personally have chosen, he had to admit. Maybe the escape route was going to be by water. Seemed likely.
Lafayette said 'Ask to see Mulder again. Keep asking.'
'As far as I know, Mulder's already dead,' Adam said. 'Show him to me.'
The man sighed, and pulled a remote out of his pocket. He pushed one or two of the buttons and the floodlight dimmed a little, while the lights in the warehouse came on, very low. Adam strained to see a shadowy figure on the floor beside the man. Mulder, apparently alive but unconscious. The man's gun was pointed loosely at his head.
'I want him to drive out of here,' Adam said again. 'He's nothing to do with this.'
'You're not in any position to make demands, Mr Pierson.'
'I think I am. You know I'm good enough to lose you again. If I get away you're never going to be able to find me.'
'If you get away, then I will be forced to approach some of your friends here for information.' the man said. He glanced down at Mulder, who had stirred slightly. 'Some of your close friends. Mr Dawson does not strike me as being a particularly robust man. He has already suffered a great deal in his life. Don't force me to add to that suffering.'
Adam felt a cold fury filling him, the quiet grad student persona and two thousand years of civilisation vanishing like ice on the surface of the sun.
He said softly, but with terrible anger; 'If you so much as touch him, I will hunt you down and kill you.' The words hung in the air with a dreadful intensity - a statement of fact, not a threat.
He saw the assassin nod once approvingly, although his eyes grew wary and suddenly appraising.
'I'm told you used to be good at that, Dr Pierson,' he said conversationally. 'I'm told that once they called you 'Death'.'
'I'm sure you've been told a lot of things,' Adam said in a low voice.
In his ear Lafayette was hissing urgently 'Don't get him angry. Don't make threats. Stall him. Draw him out of the warehouse if you can. We can't get a clear shot with him in there.'
Adam took a deep breath, regaining a semblance of calm. The hollow, jangling whisper from the boats echoed softly around them in the breeze from the river. The sun had almost set. On the far distant skyline only the last dark streaks of red and orange showed against black cloud. He took another breath and forced a veneer of politeness into his words.
'Mr Leigh will do as well as anything.'
'So who are you working for, Mr Leigh?'
'You'll find out who I'm working for soon enough.'
'Why do they want me?'
'They didn't tell me. Your past catching up with you, I assume. I imagined that you'd know who your enemies were.'
Adam shook his head. 'Not this time. I don't know who they are or why they killed Drake and the woman in San Francisco.' That last for Lafayette's benefit. 'Or was that you?'
'As I said, you'll find out soon enough.' Leigh said again. A fraction of a second's glance towards the river. He pointed the gun towards Mulder's head. Now, take off your coat, Mr Pierson.'
'I want to see that you're not armed.'
Adam shrugged, and did so, taking a few steps back from the car so the Leigh could see him, watching the other man for any sign of movement. The wiring and the bullet proof vest were both well hidden under his baggy sweater. He raised his arms slightly.
'I'm not wearing a gun. You know, you really should have brought someone else along on this.'
Was that a flicker of irritation?
'My employers want as few people as possible involved.'
'And what exactly makes you think they're going to let you live when this is over?'
'I'm touched by your concern for my welfare, Mr Pierson. Move into the light.'
'I don't think so.' Adam said shortly. 'Let Mulder go.'
'I don't think so, Mr Pierson.'
'So what happens now?' Adam asked. 'Unless Mulder's freed I'm not coming quietly. Let him go.'
'Mulder will regain consciousness very shortly.' Leigh said. 'He will be very groggy and unable to defend himself, but he should be capable of driving to safety. He will enter your car, and you will take his place here inside the warehouse. When I have you he'll be free to drive away.' The gun shifted slightly in his hand. The gaze that met Adam was clear and cool
*He's lying* Adam realised. The gun looked wrong - it was being held too far in the shadows. It was too big, too unwieldy. Some kind of tranq gun. Leigh was waiting for him to come out from behind the car, that was all, so he could get his shot. If he shot Mulder with it it would probably do no more than put him out for a couple more hours. Of course, that assumed he didn't have a real gun to hand as well.
'Mr Pierson, this is what I want you to do. Come around and open the driver's door of the car.'
Adam thought: *He knows I'm probably wearing a vest. If he gets a shot, he'll shoot me in the leg or the neck.*
Lafayette was saying 'Stay behind the car, Mr Pierson. We don't know that he isn't just going to
shoot you as soon as you move out. Stall him.'
He chose to ignore Lafayette's advice. Now was the time. He didn't want to wait for whoever was out on the river to decide to join the fun and get into position for a shot at him. He made a little feint towards the river, then lunged towards the shadows cast by the piles of scrap around the edges of the yard. The river would have been better, safer, anyway, but then there wouldn't have been any reason for Leigh to leave Mulder to come and make sure of him.
Leigh had been unprepared - he had been given no warning at all - but he was fast nonetheless. The gun fired, and even at the range, even with a fast moving target, even with a non-standard handgun, the dart came entirely too close. Adam would find it later, tangled in the wool of his sweater. But it had missed him, although Leigh had no way of knowing that he hadn't been hit. He gave a little groan, moved clumsily against the piles of scrap metal, causing some of it to fall, then let himself collapse to the ground. Leigh moved forward slowly, coming out of the warehouse like a cat, cautiously approaching the fallen body in the shadows.
In his ear he heard Lafayette shouting an order in French.
There were three or four sharp cracks. From his awkward, sprawled position in the shadows Adam heard rather than saw Leigh fall.
The black vans had seemingly appeared from nowhere, but they had to have been waiting somewhere very nearby. As he ran to Mulder he heard them roar down the narrow lane, then halt, spilling men into the yard, turning it into a place illuminated with flashing blue lights, filled with the crackle and buzz of radios. Mulder was alive - drugged, unconscious, but alive. For a moment, Adam let himself gently stroke the soft tousled hair. Mulder looked as he had when he had fallen asleep after they had made love - young and utterly vulnerable.
He murmured 'I'm truly sorry, kid,' then straightened and moved away as the paramedics took over. Past them he saw other black-clad firearms officers move past into the warehouse, their guns at the ready. A little way away Leigh, or whatever he'd said his name was, was lying in a dark, slowly spreading pool of blood, unconscious. At least one of the bullets had hit his head. It didn't look as if he was going to survive. Adam sighed. It would have been nice to know what all this had been about. He watched sadly as Mulder was stretchered away, then followed slowly towards the ambulance, pulling off the sweater then the vest, standing as much in the light as he could. *Come on Duncan.* he thought. *Let's get this over with. Head or heart. You've got a clear shot.* He wondered for a moment whether something had gone wrong. Maybe Joe's source at the Prefecture hadn't managed to get the location of the hostage exchange. Maybe Duncan hadn't found a vantage point to shoot from. Then he dismissed the thoughts. No point in buying more trouble than he already had. If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that his friends were more than competent. If by some chance things had gone wrong, he'd just make another plan.
'Mr Pierson, keep your vest on,' Lafayette called from where he bent over Leigh's body, interrupting his thoughts. 'We don't know that he's alone here.'
Adam called back, 'It's too uncomfortable. I'm taking it off.' He threw the vest onto the top of the Volvo and pulled the sweater back on. He was still festooned with wiring but it would take time he didn't have to get untangled from that. Now where the hell had Duncan got to?
'Get back in the van until we've secured the warehouse.' Lafayette ordered. 'It's not safe here yet.'
'Can I see him first?' Adam gestured towards Mulder. He recognised Scully bent over him by the red hair that escaped from the helmet and the slightness of her build. He saw Mulder shift slightly, raising a hand, his eyes flickering open, trying to focus. Far behind and above them something metallic glinted from the roof of a distant industrial unit about three quarters of a kilometre away. He turned to give Duncan the best target.
'Mr Pierson, get into the van now, or I'll have someone escort you there.' Lafayette made a move towards him, irritation written across his handsome face.
*Goodbye Mulder,* Adam thought sadly. *I'm sorry* From somewhere there was a distant *crack*. The bullet hit him in the exact centre of the forehead a fraction of a second later. He died before he could even think *nice shot*.
Somewhere in the darkness, unnoticed on the river Seine, a boat pulled up its anchor and drifted silently away downriver.
He revived in the darkness of a body bag, not for the first time, on the floor of a moving vehicle. The temptation to pull the zip open and free himself was overwhelming, but he forced himself to lie still. The buzz of an immortal's signature swelled over him, and he tensed as the van pulled in and stopped. The floor shifted underneath him as someone climbed into the back beside him. The zip was pulled abruptly back.
'Sacre bleu! Ee is alive!'
'Hah hah, Amanda. Very funny.'
'Well? What happened?'
'As far as I know it all went to plan,' Adam said. 'Things got kind of quiet after Duncan shot me but you know how that is. I thought you were there.' He pulled himself up into a sitting position, rubbing at a slowly fading bruise on his arm.
'No, I missed all the fun,' Amanda said. 'Wouldn't have done for me to scare anybody off. Are you about ready to go?'
'Yeah. Who he?' Adam gestured towards a second body bag lying alongside his on the floor.
'That's the late, mostly lamented Adam Pierson,' Amanda said. She dragged a heavy can of petrol out from under one of the seats and started wrestling with the top. 'It seems there was a little accident on the way back to the morgue.'
Adam clambered to his feet unsteadily. The headache from this one was going to last him the rest of the night.
'There was an accident?' he asked. Being shot through the head always slowed him a little on the uptake.
'There will be,' Amanda said gritting her teeth with effort, 'If I can ever get the lid off this petrol can.'
'So who is he really?' Adam asked. He pulled the zip on the body bag back a little, then made a face as the smell hit him.
'He was fished out of the Seine yesterday. John Doe number 147 this year, or he would have been if someone hadn't forgotten to book him into the morgue this afternoon.'
'I've noticed that people have these unexplained memory lapses when you're around, Amanda.'
Adam said. He took the can and winced as he tried and failed to twist the top off. Amanda gave him an *I told you so* look.
'I like to think it's my charm but I think the hundred thousand francs I gave the mortician probably clinched the deal. You know, with that and the van this is turning into quite an expensive operation.'
'Bill me,' Adam said, giving her a short, insincere smile. He gave the cap another wrench. This time it came loose. 'Did Duncan get away?'
Amanda gave him an exasperated look.
'Joe would have called if things had gone wrong. Relax, will you Methos? You're in the clear.'
'How about the kid?'
'Mulder? The FBI agent?'
'Yeah.' Adam heard the tension in his own voice. 'Did you hear anything? Is he OK?'
'Shock is all I heard.'
'He saw me get shot?'
'I think so.'
'Damn. I didn't want that to happen.'
'That little redhead was looking after him when I left.' Amanda gave him an arch little smile. 'So were you guys an item?'
'He's a nice guy. I liked him a lot.' Adam snapped. 'He doesn't get deserve to get hurt because of what I was. Of all the times these bastards could have picked to come after me...'
Amanda shrugged. 'Well I guess he's out of trouble now. Would you have told him?'
'Yeah. I was going to tonight. That was before all this blew up. No chance of that now.'
'You're really that serious about him, Methos?' Amanda asked, dark eyes suddenly wide.
'Yeah. What a screw-up.'
'You could find him,' Amanda said softly. 'Tell him anyway.'
Adam shook his head. 'At least this way I've only got myself to worry about. They won't waste their time on him if he thinks I'm dead. When this is over... I don't know. Maybe Joe was right. He's FBI. He takes his work very seriously.'
Amanda shrugged. 'Well, I hope he's worth it. In case you'd forgotten you're going to have to find yourself a whole new identity.'
'Yeah. Lucky I always have a couple of spares handy. I wanted to spend some more time in the States anyway. Have you got my sword?'
'Joe's bringing it along. He should be here any time now. Are you ready?'
'To sort out Adam Pierson here? Yeah.'
Amanda pulled the zip back and Adam frowned. 'Amanda, this guy's three inches shorter than me! He's forty-five if he's a day!'
'Yeah, well finding someone looking like you was always going to be a problem.' Amanda snapped. 'What do you think, you can just pick up the phone and order a stiff with a big nose and an attitude problem?'
'I do not have an attitude problem, Amanda,' Adam said coldly. 'I've just had a long night.'
'Well believe me, this guy was the closest they had.'
Adam sighed. 'We'd have been better off without a body at all.'
'What do you want me to do? Take him back and ask for a refund? Unless you want to heave him back into the river he's just going to have to do.'
'OK. Have you got a gun?'
'He's already dead, Methos.'
He gave her a weary look.
'Don't you think I'd better give him a gunshot wound, Amanda? It's going to look kind of suspicious if Adam Pierson here just heals up spontaneously.'
'You want three gunshot wounds,' Amanda said. 'Duncan got you a couple of times in the chest as well when you were on the ground. He didn't want you reviving too quickly.'
Adam looked down at himself. 'Great. This was a new sweater.'
'Maybe your new identify will have better taste in clothes,' Amanda said. She reached into her paramedic's coverall and pulled out a handgun, which she passed to Adam.
'You want to get that petrol out of here while I'm doing the honours?' Adam asked. 'I think three charred bodies would be overkill.'
Amanda opened the back of the van and jumped nimbly down, then pulled the petrol can out behind her. Three shots rang out as Joe's headlights drew up alongside her.
'Hey, Joe,' Amanda said. She smiled at him seductively as he drew alongside her.
'Where's Adam?' Joe asked.
'He thought our corpse could use some bullet holes.'
'A sidearm at point blank range isn't going to give the same kind of holes as a rifle at seven hundred yards, Amanda.'
'We're kind of hoping there's not going to be enough left for them to work that out. This guy's not much of a match.'
'You're going to blow the van up?'
'Only choice. It's not going to take much of a pathologist to work out that it's not Methos even without any records for comparison. We can't leave anything that could be identified.'
'Waste of a meat wagon,' Joe commented.
'I'll make a donation,' Amanda said, with a shrug.
Adam opened the van door. 'Where's the petrol?'
Amanda sighed. 'We'll be with you in a minute, Joe.'
'Better hurry. The plane isn't going to wait. Hey, Adam! Before you start...'
'Yeah?' Adam said, walking over.
'I bought you along some clean clothes. Better leave those with the stiff.'
'Good thinking, Joe. I *really* need these right now.'
'I'd better get started,' Amanda said, looking at the van with narrowed eyes.
'Be with you in a minute,' Adam said. He pulled the bloodstained sweater off with some relief.
Joe said tensely 'Adam, you're still wired up.'
'Relax, Joe. We're well out of range now. These things are designed to work over a couple of hundred yards, not three or four miles. Besides, it's switched off.'
'Still makes me edgy.'
Adam unhooked the harness the held the wiring in place and flipped the battery out of its housing in one easy movement.
'I'll dump it in the back with the rest of my gear. I didn't plan on it being a permanent fixture.'
'Are you guys going to spend the rest of the evening talking or are you going to come and give me a hand here?' Amanda called.
Adam sighed. 'Be back in a minute, Joe.'
'You seem kind of down,' Joe observed.
'It's been a shitty day.' Adam said, running a weary hand through his hair. 'I've blown my identity, my links with the watchers and one of the best relationships I've had in the last fifty years, plus someone's still after my head. If and when I get that sorted out, I've got to move to the States where the beer's lousy, I've got to start out on the student grad track all over again, it's going to
take me months to find a flat as good as the one I had in Paris and I still have a headache.'
'Sorry I asked,' Joe said. 'You goin' back to Seacouver?'
'It's as good a place as any and the university has a good reputation. I could do worse.'
Joe frowned. 'I don't get it. What is it about being a student? How long have you been doing this, anyway?'
Adam stretched tiredly. Joe watched in fascination as the little copper mushroom of a spent bullet was dislodged from somewhere in the recesses of his clothing, and hit the ground with a short, sharp 'tic'.
'Well if you don't count the library at Alexandria and a couple of years in Constantinople sometime in the third century AD, the first time was Bologna around 1099. I've still got all the certificates somewhere. Must be more than a hundred if you count the postgrad stuff.
'So what's the attraction? You have to live in cheap apartments, you're always broke...'
'Think about it, Joe. It's a very structured life but you can step out it of at a moment's notice if you have to. It's easy to move around and people don't notice you. Though that's not the main reason, of course.'
'No?' Joe said, with just a hint of sarcasm. 'Let me guess. The joys of learning?'
'The subsidised beer.'
'Jesus Christ.' Joe murmured in disgust. 'You'd think I'd know by now not to set myself up like that.'
'That reminds me. I meant to ask you...'
'No, Adam. I'm not going to start offering a student discount.'
Adam grinned. 'Hey c'mon, Joe. You were saying you wanted to get a younger crowd in.'
Joe snorted. 'Well I'm glad it's *my* welfare you have at heart.'
'And if you could see your way clear to backdating the discount to cover my tab...'
'Since you're never going to actually pay it anyway what difference is that going to make?'
'I'll pay it. Eventually.'
'Before I go bankrupt would be good. Anyway, if I wanted a younger crowd all I'd have to do is bar you. That'd drop the average age of the patrons by what.. twenty, thirty years?'
Adam raised his eyes to the heavens.
'Ok, forget I said that. What I was actually going to ask you was if you could use some extra help behind the bar.'
Joe's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
We're talkin' about you specifically here, right?'
'If I'm taking a medical degree I'll need all the extra cash I can get. I've got experience.'
'Yeah. I'll just bet you have.'
'I'm good at attracting students. I ran this place in Athens once. Had the whole of the Epicurean crowd as regulars. I'll tell you, those guys really knew how to party...'
'Hold on. You're going to med school?'
Adam gave him a worried look.
'I thought I just said that. Didn't I just say that?'
'So if I give you a job I'm stuck with you for the next five years?'
'I wouldn't have asked if I knew you felt like that about it,' Adam said, sounding mildly offended.
'I'll give you a week's trial. These are the ground rules. Mike's head barman so he decides whether you stay on or not. Any beer you drink, you pay for. You arrive a half hour before we open and you help clean up afterwards.'
'I know the drill, Joe. I've got about three hundred years experience at this.'
'I can't afford to pay you much.'
Adam shot him an exasperated look. 'If the answer's no, Joe, then just say so.'
'The answer is, I'll give you a week's trial and we'll see. And you pay your tab off before you start.' he added as an afterthought.
'This obsession you have with me paying my tab is kind of worrying, Joe.'
'Over the years I've learned to live with it.'
'Touche,' Adam said admiringly. 'You really are getting good at this, Joe.'
'Well just so long as I'm keepin' you entertained, buddy. Now I hate to rush you, but half the cops in Paris are going to be after us if we don't get a move on.'
'I'm on it. And Joe...?
'Thanks for everything you've done. I mean that.'
Joe nodded. 'No problem, buddy. Now you better get back to Amanda before she pulls a muscle or something. And move it, will you? We've got a plane to catch.'
Whatever Leigh had given Mulder to knock him out had left him weak and disoriented. Scully had insisted that he be hospitalised - kept in for observation at least overnight - and the paramedics had concurred. Now he was lying in a small, bleak hospital bedroom in an anonymous concrete block high above the some part of the city he didn't recognise. Outside the door he heard someone gruffly complaining about overtime and knew that Lafayette had posted a guard on the door. Whether it was to keep others out or to keep him in, he wasn't entirely certain. Nor, probably, was Lafayette.
But he couldn't feel anything. Emotionally he was numb, in shock. He knew should have been able to feel something, but all he could manage was a kind of weak anger. He tried to hold onto it - anything was better than the emptiness - but even the anger drifted away, and he was alone and empty again. His psychology training supplied the term 'post traumatic stress disorder', but the phrase was meaningless and after a while it slipped from his mind too. For a while he got out of bed, pulled the thin curtain back and stood by the window, looking out at the cold lights of Paris, a foreign city in a foreign land. The air that leaked in around the window frame was cold and damp, but he ignored it and watched the lights until one of the nurses came in and scolded him until he got back into bed. He picked up the remote for the TV on the other side of the room and flipped channels mindlessly. Scully's knock on the door came just after he'd watched three almost identical rap videos on MTV - a blur of shiny tracksuits and fireworks. Scully slipped into the room, and from the expression on her face, he knew he must have looked like shit. Old instincts made him try to put on a brave face for her. It didn't work.
'Hey, Scully.' Great. He sounded like shit too.
'Mulder, the nurse told me you were out of bed.'
'Yeah. Just looking out of the window.'
'You need to rest, Mulder. Get some sleep, or I'll have them give you something.'
'I can't Scully. I can't do anything right now. If I watch this stuff long enough I'll fall asleep.'
'Falling back on the old standbys?' Scully pulled the blankets up round him in an almost maternal gesture.
'Scully, I need you to tell me what happened. I only remember bits of it. Is Adam OK?'
From the patient, sorrowful look on Scully's face he guessed that she'd already told him before, maybe several times. 'Adam's dead, Mulder. I'm sorry.'
Mulder just nodded. 'Tell me what happened, Scully. I can't remember.'
'He was shot by a sniper. We thought Leigh was there alone but there must have been someone else we didn't know about. The woman, maybe.'
'I didn't know if I'd dreamed that bit,' Mulder said, in a distant little voice.
'Mulder, I'm sorry. I know he was a good friend. I'm so sorry.' She took his hand gently. He hardly noticed.
'Have they found the sniper?' He was asking the questions by rote. Words he was supposed to say, his mind on automatic pilot. From Scully's sigh he guessed that they'd been here before too.
'Oh Mulder. Mulder, you've had a long couple of days. Let it go. It's over. The case is over.'
'Over?' Mulder said blankly.
'You've got to face the fact that Adam had some kind of past in organised crime and it all caught up with him. He admitted as much. That's what this whole thing has been about. Drake and Lemarchand must have been mixed up in it too and Naomi Redburg was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.'
'He wasn't like that,' Mulder protested helplessly. 'This is all wrong.'
Scully said gently, 'Mulder, it takes a lot of courage to break away from that kind of life. It's bred into the bone. It's linked with brotherhood and family and identity. He was strong enough to break away and he cared about you enough to come back and face what he was running from.'
'And it killed him.' He looked away from Scully back to the muted television, blinking to try to keep the tears back.
'I'm so sorry, Mulder,' Scully said again. She paused, as if uncertain whether to continue.
'Mulder, you know I told you that the ambulance he was in was stolen? They found it on some waste ground. It was burned out. The body was almost completely destroyed.'
'Has there been an autopsy yet?'
'There's hardly anything left to carry out an autopsy on, Mulder. Whoever it was, they did a very thorough job.'
'Why would they do that? Why would they burn the body?'
'I don't know, Mulder. Because they wanted his compete destruction? You know how these people work.'
Mulder struggled up to a sitting position.
'Scully, we were both taught in academy that the main reason to destroy a body is to hide identity. I don't think that was him.'
'Come on Mulder,' Scully said wearily. 'You know he couldn't have survived. You saw the shots he took. He was killed instantly.'
'Scully, I saw a cameraman with the firearms unit after Leigh was shot. I need to see the tape of what happened.'
'Mulder, that's not wise at the moment.'
'I need to see it.' His mind grasped for a reason she'd accept. 'For closure, Scully. I need to see what really happened.'
They watched the tape in silence on the hospital issue VCR, on the television screen on the wall above the bed. Men in black, moving into the warehouse guns ready, securing the building. Adam standing on the concrete by his car, looking unsure and alone.
'Look at him, Scully,' Mulder said softly. 'He takes his vest off. He's looking around for something. Lafayette tells him to get back in the van. He doesn't. He moved to the side there - there's no reason except that he'll be more in the light. He looks over at us, then at something past us - in the direction the shot came from. Then he turns his body so he's directly facing the assassin, in the line of fire. Do you see the look on his face at that moment? Anticipation, regret...'
'You're saying he set himself up to be assassinated. He organised it?'
'I think he organised it. I don't think he's dead.'
Scully shook her head. 'I knew this was a bad idea. Mulder, I checked the body myself. A shot through the brain and two through the heart. He died instantly.'
'But he wasn't beheaded. Don't you see, Scully? They have to be beheaded.'
'Mulder, I know how very much you want him not to be dead.' Scully said, very gently. 'But he died. People don't just come back to life. When someone you love dies it's very, very common not to be able to accept it at first.'
'I know about denial, Scully. I just don't think he's dead.'
Even as he said it he knew how pathetic it sounded.
Scully took his hand, and he almost couldn't bear the compassion in her eyes.
'Mulder, I'm going to recommend to Skinner that you have some time off for compulsory counselling. You watched your friend die in front of you. You're not going to be able to just get over this and you're not going to be able to rationalise it away.'
'I lost him for almost twenty years, Scully,' Mulder said, voice finally breaking. It's not fair that this happened. It isn't fair.'
'I know, Mulder.' Scully said gently, pulling him into her arms. 'I know. I know.'
'I really screwed this one up, Scully. I led them right to him. If he's dead, he's dead because of me.'
'Mulder, this isn't your fault.'
'I'm sorry, Scully. I'm just so tired of the people I love getting hurt.'
'Shh, Mulder,' Scully said soothingly. 'This time it was nothing to do with you. Whatever you did they'd have found him in the end.' She broke the embrace and lay him back onto the pillows, brushing his hair away from his forehead. 'We did some checking on Leigh, Mulder. He was very good and very expensive. With the money they were pouring into this they'd have found him eventually, one way or the other. Do you understand that?'
Mulder nodded. 'Yeah.' He appreciated what she was trying to do for him, at least.
'Then try to get some sleep, Mulder, I'll be just up the hall if you need me.'
'Scully I don't tell you this often enough, but I'm glad you're my partner,' Mulder said, voice rough with exhaustion. 'Skinner told me there were a lot of requests for you from other agents when the news went round you were going to join the section. I'm glad I'm the one who got lucky.'
'You got lucky. I got landed with the partner with the big nose and the attitude problem.' Scully said dryly.
'I do not have a big nose.' Mulder protested sleepily.
Scully smiled. 'Get some sleep, Mulder, or I will make them give you something. Lafayette wants to debrief you in the morning. He thinks this is all his fault too. I guess you two really do have a lot in common.'
'Sleep well, Mulder. I'll see you in the morning.'
Mulder lay back, but sleep eluded him. The numbness had left him. Now he just felt lousy. He knew what he'd said to Scully had sounded insane. Lucky she was used to it by now. Anybody else would have taken his gun instead of recommending counselling. His mobile rang from the bedside table, and he picked it up almost automatically, glad of the distraction.
A crackle, as if from a badly made tape.
He heard someone gasp - an agonised, muffled, pain filled gasp. The noise of a vehicle.
'Who is this? Who are you?'
The vehicle stopped. Footsteps. The sound of a van door being opened and closed. A zipper being pulled.
'Sacre bleu! Ee is alive!'
'Hah hah Amanda. Very funny...'
'Well? What happened?'
'As far as I know it all went as planned. Things got kind of quiet after Duncan shot me but you know how that is. Anyway I thought you were there.'
'No, I missed all the fun. Wouldn't have done for me to scare anybody off. Are you about ready to go?'
'Yeah. Who he?'
'That's the late, mostly lamented Adam Pierson.'
He listened to the rest in silence, right up until the man called Joe's comment on how edgy the wiring made him, when the tape cut off abruptly. The call was cut off just as abruptly a second later. The thought of organising a trace had not occurred to him. There was no room for any thought at all in the turmoil of emotions. Shock first, then betrayal and fury, then disbelief. *He did this for me? How could he do this to me?* For a few moments he just sat there, unable to think or move, then with shaking hands punched another number into the phone.
Even with the voice disguised there was only one person the clipped accent could have belonged to.
'Byers, it's Mulder.'
'You sound upset, Mulder. Everything OK?'
'No. Byers, someone called me on my mobile a few minutes ago. I need to know who.'
'I'll get Langly on it. We'll call you back. Usual number?'
'Yeah. Can you ask him to do it now? This is important.'
'Mulder, what's wrong?'
'Byers, just do this for me.'
'Ok, Mulder,' Byers said calmly. 'We'll call you back as soon as we find out. Just hang in there.'
He must have sounded more upset than he thought. It was only when he glanced up and saw his reflection in the mirror over the sink that he realised that his face was wet with tears.
He kept the cellphone in his hand, but he had no idea how long it was before it rang again.
'Yeah. Who called me, Langly?'
'Nobody called you, Mulder. Nobody's made a call to your number in the last four hours.'
'Are you sure?'
'Yeah, Mulder. I'm sure. There's no record of a call being received.'
'Is there any way someone could have called me without it appearing on the phone company records?'
There was a moment's silence from the other end of the line.
'They didn't just erase the record, Mulder, it never appeared in the first place. It would take some expert hacking, good planning, inside knowledge and a lot of expensive equipment. It's possible, but I couldn't have swung it.'
'Can you find out if someone else did?'
'Not unless you could tell me exactly who they were, Mulder. If someone was good enough to hack into your mobile they're going to be just as good at covering their tracks.'
'But it is possible that I was called?'
'Mulder, if you say you got a call, you got a call,' Langly said. 'What's wrong?'
'Not on this line,' Mulder said. 'I'll see you when I get back to the States.'
He rang off before his friend could say anything further.
After a couple of hours of wretched tossing and turning they did give him something to help him sleep. Whatever it was knocked him straight out and left him feeling slow and disoriented when he woke late the next morning. By the time Lafayette came by to debrief him he had a pounding headache and had already had two surly arguments with the nurse about not being allowed to take a shower yet. Lafayette was less immaculate than usual. It didn't look as if he'd slept at all.
'Agent Mulder. How do you feel this morning?'
Mulder made a face. 'Lousy. Is there any news?'
'I think that Agent Scully told you last night that we recovered the ambulance, and a body.'
'What about the sniper?'
'Nothing. We've circulated the woman's description to the ports and airports. So far there haven't been any sightings.'
'There's something I need to know. Adam was wired, wasn't he?'
'Yes, Agent Mulder. In these situations that's official policy.'
'But after I was recovered, you stopped recording.'
'Yes. We switched the equipment off. There was no point in continuing. In any case, he was taken out of the receiver's range when he was driven away.'
'Thanks. That's all I wanted to know.'
Lafayette nodded. 'Agent Mulder, I want you to know that I feel a great deal of responsibility for what happened. I'm sorry. I failed you both. I could have protected him better than I did.'
'No, you couldn't.' Mulder said, shaking his head. 'There wasn't anything else you could have done. He put himself in the line of fire. He took the vest off himself. You ordered him to safety and he ignored you. It wasn't your fault.'
'You say that almost as if you think he knew there would be another assassin.' Lafayette said slowly.
'I think he did. You saw the tape. He lined himself up for the shot that killed him.'
'Why would he do that?' Lafayette asked, his brow furrowed.
'I don't know,' Mulder said wretchedly.
Lafayette said, 'Agent Mulder, perhaps you have also been thinking about the other deaths. Not Mademoiselle Redburg, but the others. Men and women who did not age, all beheaded. These are not gangland killings. There is more to it than that.'
'Go on,' Mulder said guardedly.
'The autopsy indicated that the body in the ambulance was probably not Adam Pierson's.' Lafayette said. 'Which was as I suspected. We both know that the most common reason to destroy a body is to conceal its identity and that the second is to conceal the cause of death. There were some discrepancies in the type of ammunition found in the body, some indications that whoever it was died by drowning and with high levels of alcohol in his bloodstream. Our people have put the time of death at sometime around twenty-four hours before the body was burned.'
Mulder looked at him with warring suspicion, disbelief and hope.
'You think he's still alive too?'
Lafayette nodded and frowned into his coffee. 'I'm not sure what to think, Agent Mulder. There are too many things about this case that do not make me happy. I think Pierson knew how to fight. He was no stranger to weapons. He was not afraid of guns or of armed men. And, as you say, he gave himself to the second assassin far too easily. He implied that he had once been involved with organised crime, but I do not believe he was that kind of man.'
'No. He wasn't,' Mulder said.
'It has always bothered me that many of the bodies found beheaded had partially healed wounds that had not been noticed by their families or mentioned to their friends,' Lafayette continued. 'But what if these wounds did not exist before the time of the killings?'
'You think that these might be injuries inflicted in the fights that led to their deaths,' Mulder said slowly, finishing the thought. 'Injuries that somehow took minutes rather than weeks to heal.' He found himself looking at Lafayette with new respect. That particular explanation hadn't occurred to him.
Lafayette nodded. 'Yes, Agent Mulder. That is my theory. Maybe these are people with such an ability to heal themselves that beheading is the only way to kill them. Maybe that is why they do not grow old. Maybe even a bullet through the brain would not be enough to kill such a man.'
Mulder bent his head and ran his hands through his hair. 'Someone called me and played the tape of what happened in the van after it was taken. Adam was alive. I heard him come back to life. He was speaking to a woman called Amanda and later a man called Joe. They mentioned someone called Duncan as the man who had shot Adam. They planned the shooting between them.'
'Who was the caller?' Lafayette asked, gently curious.
'I don't know. All he did was play me the tape. I tried to find out where the call came from but there wasn't any record of it. I thought maybe Scully was right.' His voice grew strained. 'That I was in shock and denial and I'd created a scenario in my own mind where Adam somehow survived.'
Lafayette shook his head. 'Amanda, Joe and Duncan all exist, Agent Mulder. Duncan MacLeod we have already discussed. He is the main suspect in a number of recent beheadings. Amanda Darieux is a professional jewel thief and MacLeod's occasional lover. Joe Dawson is MacLeod's close friend, and Pierson's too, it appears. When Leigh threatened Dawson, Pierson responded with a fury that I would not have believed from him unless I had heard it myself.'
'What do you think really happened?'
'Our investigations into Leigh's background have told us nothing,' Lafayette said, running a hand through his blond hair. 'He is a hired killer, as simple as that. A very expensive hired killer, but hired nonetheless. We have nothing to explain why his employers wanted Pierson dead.'
'What if these people are divided into warring factions?' Mulder suggested, frowning as he thought through the possibilities. 'Maybe Adam belonged to one of them and left to join this MacLeod instead.'
'It's possible, Agent Mulder. I would argue that too many of the people who have died have been loners with no apparent connection to one another for that to be true. Also that Pierson did not know who was hunting him.' He spread his hands. 'But anything we come up with will be speculation. MacLeod won't talk, of that I'm certain, and if Pierson is alive he will have taken measures to hide himself.'
'So what do we know?' Mulder said speculatively. 'First of all a group of people were hunting Adam down. Leigh spoke of more than one employer.'
'There were at least two others. The woman in the car with Leigh and the man who killed Drake,' Lafayette mused.
'And Adam had no idea who they were,' Mulder said.
'Or why they were after him. He asked Leigh. Leigh said that he didn't know.'
Mulder stood and began to pace up and down the narrow room.
'The last place Adam was positively identified by these people was Maine in 1979 and they were only given that information a month or two ago by Jacques Lemarchand. They didn't know Adam's name, only that he was one of the people there at the time, which is why they went through as many of the survivors as they could trying to find him.'
'Naomi, Drake and Lemarchand.' Lafayette noted.
'At least two others from the camp have vanished in suspicious circumstances within the last few years,' Mulder mused. 'Skinner's been doing some checking. There's still no trace anywhere of either Rebecca Kirkwood or Max Donnelly.'
'Do you think those disappearances were associated with this case?'
'No. Whoever was looking for Adam only heard about the camp a few months ago, when they found Jacques. Those disappearances predate that.'
'Then you think that this was to do with their lifestyle?' Lafayette asked, raising an eyebrow.
Mulder nodded. 'I think these people kill each other as a way of life, one to one, with swords. They're not fights. They're duels. I just can't explain why.'
'Perhaps it is a compulsion.' Lafayette suggested. 'Some form of mental illness that accompanies this longevity. Psychotic episodes, perhaps.'
'But then why would they only attack each other? Maybe there are exceptions, but the majority of the people who were killed were voluntary participants in the duels that killed them.'
Lafayette sighed. 'Until we have more evidence any speculation will be baseless.'
'But for whatever motive, a group of these people decided to hunt Adam Pierson down. They went through the others who were there trying to get more information. Then they found me, and I was their trump card. If anyone could track him down, it was going to be the guy who had the last contact with him. I had all the resources of the FBI and the Surete at my disposal. I led them straight to him.'
'You had no way of knowing.'
'They followed the two of us to his apartment last night, then waited till we went out separate ways in the morning,' Mulder continued, as if he hadn't heard. 'Joe Dawson told Scully that Adam was followed, but he saw them and shook them off. He realised what had happened and decided discretion was the better part of valour. He went into hiding. That's when they decided to take me instead.'
'He could have stayed in hiding, Agent Mulder. I think this is a man who knows how to run and hide. What he did was for your safety. You must have been close friends.'
'Yes,' Mulder said sadly.
'Will you try to find him?'
'There's not much to go on. He mentioned spending some time in the States.'
'So you believe he's gone to America?'
'I don't know. It would be a place to start.'
'I'll run some checks at the airports. Will you involve the FBI?'
'Skinner's going to think I've finally lost it if I send him a 302 asking for permission to track down a guy who was shot fatally three times in front of twenty police witnesses. Then there's the fact that if Adam realises someone's after him he'll just vanish again. I can't take that risk. I have to do this alone.'
'If I discover anything else about the people who hired Leigh, I'll pass on the information.'
Mulder nodded. 'If I discover whatever the hell's going on, I'll let you know.'
'I'd appreciate that, Agent Mulder,' Lafayette said, with just the barest trace of a smile. 'When are you flying out?'
'They wanted me under observation for at least twenty-four hours but Scully talked them out of it. She booked our flight back for this evening. Eight pm.'
'Call me and I'll drive you to the airport. I hope that I'll meet you and Agent Scully again, Agent Mulder.'
'Don't worry,' Mulder said. 'I'll be in touch.'
Georgia de Milly raised her gloved hand to the deep blue skies, and a smile of pleasure crossed her tanned, freckled face as her falcon returned to her in a rush of air and wings and trailing jesses. She hooded the bird, then moved gracefully back along the scrubby, stony path that led up the hillside. Perhaps she should have worn skirts for the hunt, but she found women's clothes constricting. Jeans and boots gave her more freedom. Gilles did not like that, but Gilles was not here. Besides, she had learned always to be ready to fight, even in this place.
She smiled at the massively built man who held both their horses, waiting patiently for her, his own clothing as casual as hers.
'Poor hunting today, Julian,' she said cheerfully.
'I'm sorry, my lady. But the day has been fair.'
'Fair indeed. Do you regret that this will end one day, Julian?'
'It is God's will,' Julian said simply. Georgia pushed an errant lock of curly brown hair behind her ear, and looked up at him, narrowing her gold-green eyes against the sun.
'What did you think of the world outside the island, Julian?'
'I did not like it at all, my lady,' Julian said. She knew he would not lie to her. He had not lied to her in nine centuries.
'Why, Julian?' Georgia asked curiously. They had not spoken much of his journey to France.
'I do not like the noise, my lady. There are too many things I don't understand now. I don't like driving cars. I don't like aeroplanes. I don't like staying in hotels. I don't like the shops. The money isn't real any more - no gold or silver. There are too many things to remember. Not to touch things with my fingers. To look away when I see the cameras.' He paused and looked down, his earnest face reddening. 'I know you were angry with me because of the photographs, my lady. I thought I did well in bringing them. You were looking for pictures before.'
'I know you meant well,' Georgia said soothingly. 'It's of no matter, Julian, and perhaps it was not all to the worst. You fought well against Drake. It must have been a good fight.'
'I was glad,' Julian said awkwardly. 'I thought... I have only fought against you and Richard and Anne for many years now. I thought that I would not be good enough.'
'How could you not be?' Georgia said. She reached up impulsively and patted his cheek. 'You are a great warrior, Julian. None can stand against you.'
'All my victory is yours, my lady.'
Georgia nodded, scarcely hearing the words, taking them as her due. 'Not mine, Julian. Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. (1)'
Julian bowed his head again. 'Yes, my lady.'
Georgia turned to look out over the Mediterranean. The waters rippled under the spring sun, from blue to green to purple. In the distance she could see the coast of Syria, a faint, dark line on the horizon. She sighed. It had been a long time since she had ridden through those hills.
'The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels (2),' she said softly, trying the words again. They were like jewels, shining and true. The harvest would be very soon. One more perfect summer remained to them. Then exile would end. But how fast it had gone...
Her thoughts were shattered by the insistent noise of her beeper. She unhooked it from her belt and read the scrolling message, shading the LCD screen with her hand.
'Anne is returning.'
'Has she found him?'
Georgia found herself smiling at his simple faith, his certainty that she already knew.
'I don't know, Julian. Richard's message only said that the helicopter had crossed back into our airspace.'
'We should return and make ready.'
She let him help her mount her horse, although she did not need his help.
'Timothy. Come,' she called.
The wolfhound that had been lying in the shadows, tongue lolling, scrambled to his feet.
'All your hounds have been called Timothy,' Julian said.
'Timothy was my first hound. I was just a girl. I remember my father saying that it was not fitting for a girl to have a hunting hound. And how my mother laughed and told him that the woman of de Milly did as they wished, and that this was the first and least of the arguments we would have, and that he should let me have the hound.'
'I cannot remember when I was a boy.'
He sounded sad. Georgia looked over at him with something like regret in her eyes.
'I don't like this,' Julian said suddenly.
'This virus. This killing from a distance. Better to hold your sword in your hand. To look into your enemy's eyes as you strike.'
'For five hundred years, we've lived without even that. No death, no killing.'
'Such is God's will,' Julian agreed. 'But I've dreamed of the day when we would fight again.'
'Yes.' Georgia agreed softly, radiantly. 'So have I. So have I.'
In the distance they both heard the noise of the approaching helicopter. Georgia stood in her saddle, trying to see it against the glare of the sun.
'Do you think Gilles will let me have one?' Julian asked. 'A hound, I mean, like Timothy?'
She smiled down at him. 'I'll ask him, Julian.'
The sound of the helicopter grew nearer, and filled the sky. Georgia held her horse still as the animal shifted nervously beneath her, and soothed the nervous falcon. Julian drew his sword and raised it to the sky in salute as it neared them, passed over them, a dark bird rising from the sea.
(1) Templar motto: Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the glory.
(2) "the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels" (Mtt.13:39)
"For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive, and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]
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