From: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: November 1, 1998
Title Ė Tipped Off
Author Ė Zuffy and Little Green Woman
E-mail Ė email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating Ė PG
Category Ė MSR, post-The End
Spoilers Ė The End
Keywords - Mulder/Scully, Diana Fowley, Gibson
Summary Ė Scully is suspicious of Dianaís loyalties and follows her to England to try to prove her duplicity.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Agent Fox Mulder and Agent Dana Scully and such other references of the copyrighted X-files are the sole property of its creator, Chris Carter, and its owners, 1013 Productions, and FOX television, a unit of 20th Century Fox, Inc. No copyright infringement is intended.
To the reader: This was my very first fanfic and it still has a special place in my heart. Be gentle, though, because I think I've learned a lot about writing since then, even though I have not had time to go back and revise this piece.
After she recovers from her gunshot wound, Diana Fowley is assigned to the X-Files by Blevinsí successor. She joins Mulder and Scully in what is now a three-person operation. Scully is suspicious of Fowleyís motives and the way in which she came to be assigned. She notices what she believes to be subtle errors in what Diana is doing, but canít be sure if there is anything intentional. Mulder trusts Diana and refuses to listen to Scullyís misgivings. He is both annoyed and a little intrigued by what he considers to be a large dose of jealousy.
Conversation in the Car
Mulder was driving himself and Scully back to the office from surveillance. She was looking out the window at the dark streets. "Donít you think itís a little strange how many little things have gone wrong since Diana joined us."
"Everyone makes mistakes, Scully. I do, you do, she does."
"No, itís not just that. Itís the way she undercuts your theories in subtle ways."
"Iím surprised to hear you making this particular criticism, Scully," he said, smiling at her.
"No, no," she said, missing his amusement. "She takes your ideas and twists them away from your point and comes up with an alternative that doesnít quite work."
"So now you think Iím always right?"
"Mulder, Iím serious. Havenít you noticed how Section Chief Turner favors her? First, he assigned her as extra support to the X-Files even though weíre always on the verge of being shut down. Then whenever you present an idea and she differs, he always agrees with her. Sometimes her ideas are even stranger and spookier than yours."
"Well, Blevins assigned you to the X-FilesÖ"
Scully interrupted, "Öto undermine youÖ"
"Öwhich you havenít done very well," he said smiling, "and maybe Dianaís ideas are just better than mine."
"No, Mulder. We keep dead-ending. What if Turner works for the same people Blevins worked for? What if heís another mole in the FBI, trying a new way to debunk the X-Files and cover up the truth?"
Mulder had no response, so Scully took a breath and continued. "What if heís working for the men who killed my sister and your father? Who gave me cancer. And who took your sister. And definitely ruined our lives and those of thousands of other people with their tests?"
"Scully, thatís not possible. When Blevins was exposed, everyone got more cautious. The Bureau took care to hire the right guy this time."
"Trust no one, Mulder."
"Trust Diana. Sheís one of us. Sheís working with us now."
Scully sank back in her seat, frustrated at Mulderís unflappable confidence in Diana. How could she prove what she felt so strongly?
X-Files Office, the next day, September 8
Scully walked into the office, a small space with not quite enough room for three desks. The walls were yet bare, with a few official memos posted. None of the drama of Mulderís old office had been restored after the fire and Scully wondered on and off whether she should take the lead and buy him a poster. Itís so hard to read him, she thought.
As Scully paused by the door, Diana rushed out, bumping into her. Mumbling apologies, Diana hurried on without even looking Scully in the face. Puzzled by Dianaís abruptness, Scully put her briefcase down on her desk and began to take out papers. Dianaís laptop beeped "you have mail" and Scully edged around her desk to glance furtively over at the open computer. She noticed airline information on the screen. Moving closer, she read flights to London, one highlighted for late that same afternoon. Are we going on a trip, she thought? No one tells me anything anymore. She resisted opening the email, thinking that itís wrong to spy on a colleague. Besides, she thought, sheíd probably be detected and Mulder would turn on her. Bad enough to have one enemy on the team, she said to herself.
Twisting her pen around in her hand, she suddenly recalled something Frohike had once shown her: by hitting the reply button she could see the message without it registering as opened. Now or never, she said softly. I have to know if this woman is undercutting us. Without any more hesitation, she hit the keys and quickly read "Meeting confirmed, 12-9, 1 p.m. Orion House, penthouse." Anonymized sender. Resetting the machine as it was, she sat back down at her desk mystified. Why fly to London tonight for a meeting in December? Or maybe the two things are unrelated? Suddenly she recalled, of course, the British write dates the opposite way. 12-9 is tomorrow, September 12, not December 9.
Diana interrupted Scullyís thoughts just then as she re-entered the office. Seeing that she had failed to close her laptop, Diana looked suspiciously at Scully, who attempted to look interested in a medical journal. Still glaring, Diana announced, "An old terrorism case has been re-opened. Iím on call. Donít wait up." She stormed out closing the door a little too hard. Scully raised an eyebrow. Guilty as charged, she thought.
Scully picked up the phone and arranged a ticket to London that evening on a different flight than Dianaís. Mulderís collection of maps had burned with other papers in the X-files, so Scully hunted on the Internet for some indication of what and where Orion House might be. She was lucky. Within a few minutes she had determined that it was an office building not far from Leicester Square. A few more keystrokes turned up a homey sounding hotel not far away.
The phone interrupted her final arrangements.
"Scully," she said flatly.
"Itís me. Tell Diana the surveillance is off. Our suspect seems to have disappeared. It looks like he was tipped off. I donít know how it happened."
"Gone? Gone where?"
"To London. She rushed out of here a little while ago."
"I think I understand what happened to our suspect."
"Let me guess. Youíre going to tell me that Diana called him up and told him everything. Sheís probably also responsible for the laundry scorching one of my shirts." He paused. "Look Scully, letís not forget that she was almost killed when Gibson was kidnapped. Iím sorry to say this, but if you keep on this tangent you are going to undermine our ability to work as a team."
"I can get proof of what I was saying before." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
"Thatís the only kind."
"Then Iím coming with you."
"No, itís better if I do this alone. Weíd be too easy to spot together."
"I donít like this, Scully. If youíre wrong, it could set us back permanently. If youíre right, youíre putting yourself in too much danger."
"Check your shadow email. Iíll figure out a way to be in touch."
Mulder hung up his cell phone, puzzled about how Scully had become so obsessed with her suspicions of Diana. She usually kept her emotions under complete control, yet now she seemed so jealous. It had amused him at first to think of himself as the object of her possessiveness, but it wasnít like her and that bothered him. He thought he knew her pretty well after these five years. Just then, his phone rang.
"Fox, this is Diana. Look, can you get someone else to take over the surveillance. Maybe Dana, though, frankly, Iím a little worried about her."
"Yes. She seems stressed, tired. Paranoid, even."
"Yes, you know, sheís been so suspicious lately. Acting really strangely around me."
"I canít believe Iím saying this." She laughed nervously. "Iím the one who sounds paranoid. But when I was in the office just now, I had the feeling that sheíd been fooling around with my laptop. I walked in and she was just, I donít know, just reading some journal. She looked at me with such an innocent expression. Very unnerving."
Mulder frowned to himself. "I guess Iím not following. But about the surveillanceÖ"
"Yes, look. A terrorism case we thought we had tied up has come loose. Iíve been called back for a few days."
"Where are you going?"
"Canít say. This isnít a secure line. Got to run. Keep an eye on Dana for me."
London, September 9, Soho district
Scully walked up the block from Hazelís Hotel in Soho. Booking her flight at the last minute, she had been stuck in a middle seat on the long overnight flight. Mercifully, the man on her right had not tried to pick her up, but he had snored loudly and persistently. The woman to her left must have been reading something incredibly funny because her suppressed laughter kept shaking the seat. Scully had hardly slept at all. The gloomy and overcast sky hardly improved her mood. At least it was warm out.
The Orion House was a modern granite and glass building. Its first floor was lined with shops. Scully looked up eleven stories; she guessed they housed offices and not apartments. Across the street was The Slug and Lettuce Café. It was beginning to fill up with suited office workers out for a quick lunch. She dashed across the street avoiding a motorcycle that sped along the curving street. Scully scanned the café hoping to find a table close enough to have a view of the Orion. She became aware of a fortyish man staring at her. His eyes motioned her over.
"Iím leaving in just a moment," he said in a well-educated English accent. "If youíd like to sit downÖplease."
"Thank you," she replied. "IímÖuhÖmeeting my husband here and was afraid I was too late to find a table."
"Lucky guy," said the man, his eyes dropping to see that her left hand betrayed her. "Iím Alec Duckworth. Most people find my name easy to remember."
"Animal names are like that," she said with a smile, thinking of her partner.
"And you have just flown in from the States, I suppose."
"I didnít know I looked that bad."
"You donít," he answered, "but I make it my business to pay attention. The sunglasses and hat say youíre hiding something today. Your accent says the rest. Enjoy your lunch." With that, he left. Scully watched him cross the street to Orion House, glance at his watch, and enter the building.
She felt strange wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day, but she hadnít much time to pull together a
disguise Ė her hair pulled up under a big hat and a short maroon spaghetti-strap dress, so unlike her usual suit. Maybe she wasnít as invisible as she hoped. Oh, well, she thought, at least the table is perfect. Her back pressed up against the window, she didnít stand out to anyone looking from the street but she had a clear view of the entrance to the building. She picked up a discarded newspaper; an article about an outbreak of mad cow disease caught her eye.
"Are you ready to order?"
The voice made her start. "IÖI havenít seen the menu," she stammered. The waitress sighed and handed Scully a single laminated sheet.
"A salad, please. Greek. And sparkling water. Thanks."
For once, she hoped lunch would be slow to arrive. Keeping one eye on the street, she returned to the paper. Fifteen minutes passed. The salad arrived. Other tables began clearing out.
As she slowly ate her salad, a black cab pulled up in front of the Orion. Scully turned her attention to the man stepping out. His back to her, he paused to light a cigarette before looking around quickly, then entered the building.
A few minutes later, a woman sporting a gray suit and carrying a handbag hurried to the entrance. Before stepping through the revolving doors, she paused and glanced to her side and across the street. Her eyes swept over the remaining people at the outside tables of the café. Dianaís glance skimmed past Scully, then she turned and stumbled into the engulfing doors.
Scullyís route back to her hotel took her through Leicester Square where she stopped to watch one of the street performers. A pasty college-age man was prancing around shirtless to the sound of a guitar player. It looked like he was trying to do ballet, but had only taken a few lessons. His underwear was showing over the level of his low-slung belt. "Guess Iím getting old," Scully thought, shaking her head. She also noticed a young man sitting off to the side working intently on his laptop. He reminded her of a younger Langley. A strategy occurred to her. She excused herself. "I know this is going to sound strange, but I need to send a message that wonít be intercepted. Is there a cybercafe nearby?"
He glanced up at her taking in the glasses, hat, and dress, then shrugged. "Back there," he said, pointing quickly over his shoulder. "CyberNights. Nuthinís perfect, though. If they want to read your mail, they will."
Scully thanked him wondering who his particular "they" were. The storefront cafe was barely a block away, its bright graphics fitting in well with the tone of the area. She looked around inside and spotted an empty table away from the other patrons. Sheíd never been in a cybercafe before, but another Langley clone soon came over and gave her the few instructions she needed.
Scully typed in an email address for Mulder. They had just established a code of boxes that would change from day to day when they were apart. She just hoped that Mulder hadnít shared their secret with Diana. "Trust no one, Mulder," she muttered under her breath. Quickly, she typed <I saw what I needed to see. D in meeting with CSM and others. More later.>
Scully walked the few blocks back to her hotel. As she rounded the corner, she saw Diana walking out the door of the Hazel with Duckworth. To hide her face, Scully quickly bent down as though she had dropped something. The pair turned in the other direction. Scully dashed across the street and into the hotel. She wondered if by some bizarre chance Diana had been staying there, too. Or had they tracked her there? It mightnít have been just chance that she had met Duckworth at the café.
Scully entered the now-familiar Hazelís Hotel lobby. She made a bee-line to the desk. Thankfully, a new clerk stood in place of the one who had checked her in earlier that day.
"Excuse me, I am meeting Diana Fowley here. Could you tell me her room number, please?" Scully asked politely. She hoped she didnít look too suspicious.
The young women at the desk typed in the name. "F-o-u-l-y-?" The clerk looked up, hoping that she had spelled it correctly.
"Y-yes. No, no, I mean, itís F-o-w-l-y." Scully corrected her.
"Yes. She is in room 264."
"Thank you," Scully said as she hurried to the elevator.
Scully took out her fist-sized lockpick gun. The FBI had issued her one that "fits in your purse." How sexist she thought as she recalled Section Chief Turner handing it to her. Scully fiddled around with it until the lock gave way. Dianaís room was like any other room. A cabinet with a TV inside, a bed with the simple floral pattern on the sheets. She scanned the room and her eyes fell upon the pine table in the corner.
She saw the yellow pad of paper next to the standard gray phone.
How could she be this stupid? Scully thought.
Taking the pencil that lay on top of the pad, she rubbed it along the surface of the paper. "Didnít think this old trick worked any more." she thought as a message appeared. GP, 117 Wands BR.
Gibson Praise, thought Scully. Diana has Gibson.
Scully returned to her room, changed into slacks and a baggy black shirt, and tucked her weapon into the back of her belt. Earlier, she had picked up a map at a huge map store and now spread it out to look for Wands BR. Reading through the listings, she guessed that Wands probably meant Wandsworth. BR had to mean "bridge," she thought. The key directed her to southwest London and she soon found it: Wandsworth Bridge Road, not far from Parsons Green.
Exiting the hotel, she returned to Cybernights. The Langley clone seemed surprised to see her again, but quickly returned to his game. She connected to the mailbox she had set up earlier for herself, but found no message from Mulder. "Itís 11 oíclock in Washington, she said to herself, "he ought to have responded." It troubled her that he still didnít take her suspicions seriously even after she had committed herself to this trip. A real blind spot, she thought. Scully had felt protective of him ever since Diana had suddenly appeared in Washington acting as if she had come to reclaim a rightful place. It had galled Scully that she had initially felt real jealousy of Diana, and she had struggled not to show Mulder. Now the jealousy had been replaced by uneasiness. She shook off the thought and typed to Mulder: <Who is Alec Duckworth?>
She decided to take the tube rather than a cab out to Parsonís Green so she would know how to get back. It had started to drizzle. Scully found a cheap umbrella at a kiosk, grateful that it might help hide her. It was too crowded on the train to study the map until sheíd switched from the Piccadilly to the District Line at Earls Court. She poured over the details of the neighborhood, straining at the tiny print to memorize the street plan.
Coming down the stairs at Parsonís Green, she was surprised at the prosperity of the neighborhood. A well-kept park lay just ahead and the terrace of the pub acros the street was full of well-dressed people. Wandsworth Bridge Road was about a half mile away. When she got there she found that the street was lined with shops and restaurants, some reflecting the neighboring prosperity and some holdovers from a scruffier stage in its history. She pretended to look into the shop windows while hunting for the address. Once she found it, she wasnít sure what she could do. At least find out how many guards there were.
117 was a tired looking grocery store with rooms above. The day had darkened with the rain and the lights were on. Crossing to the other side of the street, Scully peered around her umbrella to see if she could see figures moving. A man in the apartment walked to the windows and pulled the thin curtains shut. With the light behind him Scully couldnít see his face. A light went on in the next room and the scene was repeated. They had used deadly force to grab Gibson and Scully knew they would use it to protect him.
Some of the shops were beginning to close, but Goggle Eyes, the video shop across the street from the grocery, posted later hours than its neighbors. Scully went in, hoping to buy some time while she came up with a plan. She pretended to read the titles of the movies one by one as her mind spun, making no headway. The woman behind the counter finally looked up from filing her nails to ask, demand actually, that Scully name what she wanted. Scully looked frantically at the titles and blurted out, "The Exorcist."
"Well, youíre looking in entirely the wrong place," and she walked to the other side of the shop. "Here." She paused and extended the video toward Scully. "Are you a member?"
"No, Iím just in town for a few days."
"Well, Iím sorry," she said, snatching the video back. "I canít rent unless you can prove that you have a stable residence. Electricity receipts, that sort of thing." She pointed to a sign that read:
Must have 3 forms of photo identification to join. Passports not included.
Just then an explosion ripped through the front window.
In Charing Cross Hospital, Scully awoke with a throbbing head and aches all over. She took in her surroundings and neighbors and realized that she hadnít a clue where she was. Her head and arms were bandaged; she peeked under the sheets to see if her legs were as bad. A nurse came in to check the patients and stopped at Scullyís bed.
"How are you feeling now? Youíre lucky the blast did no more damage to you."
Scully vaguely remembered an explosion. "Are there internal injuries? Can I see my chart. Iím a medical doctor. Please let me see whatís wrong."
"Weíll have to wait until the doctors get here for that." She bustled over to the next bed. Scully waited until she had left the room, then shifted down the bed until she could knock her chart loose with her toe. The clipboard clattered to the floor. When the orderly walked by she called out to him to pick up her chart and hand it to her. Unthinkingly, he did.
Looking over her chart, she quickly realized that there was nothing seriously wrong, so when the doctor appeared, she asked to be discharged.
"Well," he replied, "Iím not sure weíre ready for that. Your husband said there was some possibility of a biological contam...""
"Having a little memory lapse?" he said, making a note to the chart. "Yes, Alec. You recall now?"
"Alec was here?" she said with growing nervousness.
"Yes," the doctor looked back down at the chart, "he asked us to call when you woke. Iíll do that now."
"No, no." She paused. Trying not to sound too demanding, she added, "It will be a much nicer surprise if I call. Heíll worry less if he hears my voice." She smiled as sweetly as she could muster.
"Well, okay, but remember to tell him that you must stay here under observation."
As soon as he left the room, she slipped from the bed and pulled the curtain round. Her things were in a cupboard beside the bed and she quickly pulled on her soiled and bloody clothes. Her gun was gone and the contents of her purse had been rifled. The hotel key was missing, but they had not taken her passport, tickets, or money. Doing her best to brush off the surface damage to her clothes, she shoved her hospital I.D. bracelet up her sleeve, slipped out of the room, and made for the stairs. In a bathroom on a lower floor, she washed her face and smoothed out her hair. She continued down the last flight of stairs and walked briskly from the hospital as though it was perfectly normal to look battered and bruised.
On the other side of Fulham Palace Road, Scully caught a taxi back into central London. The driver wasnít sure whether she was an escapee or not and kept looking at her in the mirror. On the whole, he felt it would be better not to ask. Arriving back at the hotel, she limped in to find Mulder making a scene at the desk. She grabbed his arm, "Mulder, Iím here."
He looked her over with shock on his face. "My God, what has been going on? They told me they never heard of you. No record at all. And look at you." He smoothed her face rubbing across the bandage on her temple.
Scully leaned across him to the desk. "Iím Miss Scully, room 421, but Iím afraid Iíve lost my key."
"Iím sorry, but thatís not possible. 421 is rented to one of our long-term guests."
"Well, maybe it was 241. Iíve had an accidentÖ"
"No, Iím sorry."
"But my thingsÖ Whereís the clerk who was on duty yesterday?"
"That would be me," he said, looking at her coolly.
She turned away from the desk and led Mulder off to the side. "I donít know whatís going on, but we may be in danger here. Obviously someone has tried to erase my existence." She began to sway and he caught her arm. "Mulder, take me someplace where I can get cleaned up."
They left the hotel and caught a cab a block away. Scully had wanted to walk farther, but Mulder was concerned by her pale color and limp. As they sat back in the seat, they started talking at once.
"What happened to you?"
Not now, she mouthed. "I canít believe youíre here. How did you know to come."
"After I checked up on Duckworth, I figured there was a lot more going on than Iíd thought." She had closed her eyes, leaning back in the seat. He paused looking at the damage to her face and clothes. She might not want to hear his news now.
"Tell me about Duckworth." She opened her eyes.
"Alexander Duckworth. Heís a brilliant biological researcher who likes to live the good life. He did pathbreaking work in recombinant DNA right when the field was getting hot. Some years back he lost his university position in a scandal involving research fraud. He altered his published results to mislead his scientific colleagues while he was selling his real findings to a shadowy conglomerate. Itís not clear who heís working for now."
Scully listened carefully. "Gibson is involved. Theyíve got him and I was following. Thatís what I was doing when the bomb went off. Diana is with them."
"Maybe sheís found him for us, Scully."
"Not for us. Not necessarily. We still donít know which side Diana is on."
"Sheís been in counter-terrorism, she knows how to play both sides. Itís easy to misread her moves. I canít see why sheíd change loyalties."
"She hasnít helped us yet, Mulder. Where is the evidence she was ever playing our side at all? If sheís playing a double game she might never tell me what sheís up to, but why didnít she tell you?"
"So whatís your theory? Whatís she doing with Gibson if not trying to get him back?"
"IímÖIím not entirely sure about that. Sheís probably carrying out more of her experiments; maybe trying to figure out what the limits of his power are. Whether there are ways to protect your thoughts from him."
"Whereís your evidence that this is what sheís doing?"
"Well, she was talking that once about people who need to keep secretsÖ"
"Look, is there anything personal between you and Diana?"
"Personal? Mulder, what do you mean by that?" She was clearly offended by the implication.
He shrugged and looked into her face. "Nothing. Iím sorry. Youíre in danger, Scully."
"Donít you think I know that?"
"Can we stop here? Iím feeling a little hungry." They got out of the cab and entered a small Chinese restaurant. Scully ordered soup and when the waitress disappeared, told Mulder everything, starting with the meeting at the Orion and ending with the explosion.
"When I woke up in that hospital this morning, the doctor came by and said my husband, Alec, asked that I be kept for observation. Mulder, I think they were on to me from the start. It was no coincidence that he bumped into me at the café; he was looking for me. They obviously knew where I was and got to the hotel people."
"How did you and Diana end up at the same place?"
"I donít know. Maybe that part was coincidence. Or maybe when she realized I was following herÖ Mulder, could the phone be tapped?"
"When? Which phone?"
"When I made my reservations."
Where did you call from? The office?"
He exhaled loudly. "That would be unbelievable. Iíll have to smuggle in the Lone Gunmen to help. For now, letís get you some new clothes and find another place to stay."
"Mulder, I want to go back to the apartment where they had Gibson."
"If they have him. I think you need your rest. Even if he had been there they will have moved him by now."
"Maybe thereís a clue, Mulder. We canít give up."
"OK. Weíre not giving up. We have to make preparations first. And you do need to change unless you think punk style is back."
They had ended up on Oxford Street. Scully picked a shop almost at random and picked out some new clothes while Mulder started calling old friends to see if there was any place they could stay. On the fourth call, to an old psychology classmate from Oxford, he found someone with a spare room.
"I found a place we can, what do people say, crash? We need to go there before we do anything else."
"Mulder, this canít wait."
"It will have to. Just a bit."
The ride to South Kensington was slow through the characteristically heavy traffic. Mulderís friend, Alisdair, lived on a quiet street, in a large old rowhouse that had been converted to flats. Alisdair greeted them warmly, and began recalling some escapades that he and Mulder had been involved in years before. Seeing how tired Scully looked, however, he cut short and settled them in the guest room in back. Mulder suggested that Scully stay and rest, but she was sure that he would ditch her there. He gave her some time to wash up and change clothes, then they caught a cab to Wandsworth Bridge Road. Scully asked to be dropped off at the corner, and led Mulder the block or two to the building she had seen the night before. There was a "To Let" sign on the door to the stairs. They entered the grocery store below and asked the man at the cash register about it.
"Itís vacant, has been for a bit. But itís perfectly suited to a nice young couple like you. Just getting started, are you?"
"You could say that," replied Mulder, casting a look at Scully. "Weíd like to have a look."
"Yes, weíd like a place where we can stay from time to time."
He led them upstairs, fiddling with a ring full of keys.
"Here you go. Iíve got to get back to my shop. Come down as soon as youíve had a look."
The flat was dingy and the windows hadnít been washed in some time. It was sparsely furnished with a few chairs, a table pushed up against a window and a cart for the television. Mulder peeked through an internal door to see a bedroom with a double bed and a roll-away pushed off in a corner. Scully looked through the kitchen, opening and closing cupboards hoping to find some evidence of the last occupant.
"Scully, I have to say that this apartment seems to be pretty dusty for a place that was occupied just yesterday. Are you sure this is right? With the explosion and allÖ"
Scully walked over to the window and pointed across the street. "There, where itís boarded up. Thatís the video shop. And I know I was right across."
"But the dust."
"I donít know. Maybe they brought dust in and blew it around."
Mulder raised an eyebrow. "Iím glad I didnít come up with that theory."
She walked around the room again, stopping at the TV cart. She turned around, walked a couple steps back and bent down, running her hand over the carpet.
"I was just thinking about how Gibson was always watching TV. If he had been here, this is where he would have been sitting."
"Feel any vibrations?"
"No. I think thatís your department, Mulder." She turned over the edge of the carpet and stared at the floor. "Look at these scratches. Do you think they might mean something?"
Mulder got down on his hands and knees. "Whatever they are theyíre fresh. I think there might be letters. Thatís and H here and an E at the end. The ones in the middle are rougher, but it could be House. The curved letters would be harder to mark against the grain of the wood."
"Then the first word starts with S. Thereís an M. T at the end. Make that ET at the end."
"Could be Somerset. Somerset House. What would that be?"
"A house, a building. Itís something to go on."
"Scully, I know you want to find him. We both do. But we donít even know that he was here. We donít know whether this has anything to do with us."
"No. Mulder. Just think. If Gibson can read minds, he knew where they were taking him. And he must know that Iím here. Iím certain this is meant for us."
"Scully, it might be a trap. Youíve been hurt. Let me do this."
"Iím fine, Mulder. I want to get to the bottom of this. I want to find him." As she said this she thought, I donít want you to trust Dianaís judgment when you find Gibson with her.
Mulder left Scully at his friendís house, insisting, this time, that she lie down. He headed to the local library to check references to Somerset House and found a likely sounding place, a country home a hundred miles or so west of London. The next day he and Scully set out to find it. Scully was feeling somewhat better, but Mulder wished he could have persuaded her to return to Washington. He worried that her head injuries would continue to bother her if she did not get enough rest, but she insisted on continuing.
A three-hour drive brought them to a lovely small village. Late blooming flowers brightened the gardens of the stone cottages and the shopping area had not been badly defaced with modern storefronts. Mulder had called ahead to reserve rooms in a small inn. The clerk seemed a friendly sort so they asked about the local "great houses" as any tourists might. He brought out several brochures and lay them on the desk. "Oh, he said, you wonít be wanting to see this one." He picked up the one that said Somerset House and put it aside.
"It looks quite lovely," said Scully with a rueful smile, "is it closed?"
"Well, the owner, a very nice older gentleman he was, has gone missing. Theyíve closed up the house until they can put his affairs in order. If you come back next year, Iíll wager itíll be open then."
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances, wondering whether this meant, in fact that they had found Gibson.
After dark, they drove out to the house and parked around the side of the grounds. There was a spot where the brick wall was low and they scaled over the top. Coming down in the shrubbery on the other side, they could see a large house off at a distance of roughly two hundred yards. The lights were on in a few rooms on the first and second floor. They made their way through the bushes to the edge of the lawn. Dogs barked in the distance but the sound didnít seem to be getting any closer. If this was the right spot, it was strangeóor lucky--that they had encountered no guards.
Inside the house, a small group was gathered in the drawing room. They had removed the sheets from several of the chairs and were sitting in a loose circle. A large man with a fleshy face seemed to dominate the group. He sipped his drink and spoke to the one woman in the room.
"Well, Diana, he said, "your friends have found us. Or you have led them here? I have word from my man in the village that they arrived at the inn this afternoon. You assured me of the utmost secrecy. I do not understand how this has happened."
"Wait, just a minute," a good looking man interrupted. "There can be no doubt of Dianaís loyalty."
"Thatís all right, Alec. There was a slip in security when I left Washington. IÖI donít know how it happened, but fortunately we knew right away. My question is how Agent Scully just walked out of the hospital."
"That doesnít matter now. What matters is what we do about themÖand you." As he pronounced this last word the large man looked sternly at Diana.
"It is important that I continue to be involved in the X-files. Can any of you doubt that? How else would you have been able to get the information Iíve supplied? When have you been able to detour Mulderís inquiries so easily and with so little disruption to your own plans. Sooner or later my role will have to end, but I think I have more to accomplish."
Alec put his hand on her shoulder. "Of course, my dear. Of course youíre right. But if Mulder knows youíre here with us, and his friend has surely convinced him of it, then how can you maintain credibility?
"Thereís one thing that will do it," replied Diana. "I will release Gibson to the two of them. Itís the only thing that will prove my loyalty to them."
The shock of her proposal silenced the group. Then one after another protested that they could not give up Gibson.
"The stakes are too high," insisted the large man.
"Look, I can take him away and you counterattack and get him right back."
"He might talk while heís with them. Could be dangerous for you," said Alec.
"No, no. Iíll be with him the whole time. Iíll make sure he understands that heís not to breathe a word."
The others were still debating the merits of the plan when the door opened and the smoking man walked in. The plan was explained to him and he agreed with Diana. Pulling a drag on his Morley, he said, "Itís the only thing that will work. Weíll get him back quickly enough. Diana, I assume youíre ready for a few blows to make it look realistic."
Outside, Mulder and Scully creeped around the terrace, hoping to find a curtainless window to peek in. All at once, they sensed movement off to the side. Someone seemed to be running away from them. As the figure cut through a pool of light, they saw a woman with her arm around a smaller person. A child. Mulder put his arm out to stop Scully. "I think itís Diana. If it is, thatís Gibson with her. Come on."
The woman had reached one of the cars. She pushed the child into the backseat and opened the driverís door. Just then Mulder and Scully rushed up. Mulder had his gun drawn. Diana jumped in surprise. "Fox, Fox is that you?" she whispered. "Gibson said you were near. Iíve got him here, but we have to hurry. Help me push this car to get it rolling. If they hear it starting, theyíll be all over us."
Mulder holstered his gun. The three pushed the car and once it was rolling down the slight incline, they climbed in, Mulder in the passenger seat and Scully in back, next to Gibson. As they neared the road, Diana started the engine. The gates were already conveniently open.
Once on the road, Diana sighed with relief. "I donít know how you found me, but boy am I glad to see you." Mulder saw her smile by the dim light of the instrument panel. "The group knows youíre here. They have spies in the village. We need to get out of here quickly."
"It was risky to grab him like that, Diana."
"It was my mission. I didnít want to let the Bureau down. Or you." Another smile. "Besides I had no choice. They were going to take him to Tunisia tomorrow. Someplace in the desert. By then it would be too late."
Scully said something softly to Gibson who was lying hunched over. Hearing her voice, Diana interrupted, "Gibson, are you all right? Sorry for the fright." She caught his eyes in the rear view mirror and gave him a sharp look. He stiffened and Scully followed his eyes just in time to see the hostile glance.
"He seems a little groggy, Diana."
"Thatís valium, Dana. Theyíve been keeping him sedated."
"Where should we take him?" asked Mulder.
"We should head for the embassy. We have to get him away from here and he might need papers," replied Scully.
"OK. London it is." Diana pressed harder on the accelerator. "Weíll head for the M3. Itís four lanes most of the way. We can make it in two hours at this time of night."
They rode in silence for several miles. Then Mulder spoke up. "Why didnít you tell us what you were up to?"
"I couldnít. I was afraid of leaks."
"Itís a dangerous thing to do alone. How would you have been able to grab him and get away without backups?"
"Dangerous is how Iíve been living for the past five years. Infiltrating groups like this. Thereís no way you could have helped. Until this moment, of course. Thanks." She squeezed his hand.
"No, you should thank Scully." He turned to look at her but she was trying to talk to Gibson.
Mulder sat in front thinking about the case. Suddenly Gibson sat up shouting "No, no, no, no, no." Mulder turned around sharply just as Scully grabbed Gibson to calm him. But he squirmed around, looking straight at Mulder, repeating no, no, no in a quieter voice. Mulder realized that Gibson was focusing on him. He suddenly relaxed his face and said softly, "There now, Gibson, are you better?"
"Yes, itís okay now," he replied weakly.
Gibson leaned back in the seat. Just as he was turning his head, Mulder noticed that Dianaís bag had been tipped open by Gibsonís squirming. A small green light shone inside. Scully glanced down at the same moment. The look between them said that they both understood. Dianaís cell phone was on.
"What was all that about?" Diana asked, turning to look over her shoulder quickly.
"A nightmare or fright, I think," replied Scully. "Heíd drifted off, probably a side effect of the drug. Heís been through a lot, I imagine."
"Yes. Well, they havenít hurt him as far as I can tell but a kidnapping is a kidnapping."
They continued down the road, Mulder and Scully each frantically trying to devise a strategy to evade the pursuers who were surely on their tail. When Mulder began talking again, Scully leaned forward slightly and slid the cell phone from Dianaís bag. She coughed several times to cover the sound of switching it off, then slipped it into the inside pocket of her trenchcoat. She then stroked the back of Mulderís arm, hoping that he would understand what she had done. He looked back at her and followed her eyes down to the now darkened bag. At the next turnoff, Mulder said to Diana, "Turn here, quickly. I thought I saw some lights behind us. It couldnít have taken them long to find out that you and Gibson were missing."
Diana started to protest, but did as she was told, pulling into a narrow lane and slowing her speed. The one lane road cut through a hillside of trees, a sort of tunnel green and lush by day but pitch dark at night.
"Kill the lights. We can hope that they missed our turnoff, but we need to keep going."
Diana looked across at him and slowed the car some more. "Going where? Do you know where we are? Was there a sign where we turned? Itís so easy to get lost in these lanes and weíll never get Gibson safely to London."
Mulder knew that she was trying to get information to her associates. He thought ruefully that he had believed her to be his colleague and friend just a short while ago.
Diana steered the car along over the rough, narrow lane. "Fox, itís too dark here to drive without lights."
"No, leave them off. Otherwise theyíll find us quickly enough. It looks like the trees end just ahead and weíll have a little more light."
"Let me stop here. They canít see us and will surely drive on."
"No, we canít count on ..."
A sudden crash from the back of the car sent them straight into the dense bushes of the hedgerow which made a thick green wall along the road. Diana could neither go forward nor back up. Quickly two occupants of the other car rushed up with guns drawn. Mulder and Diana, still shaken by the crash, did not have a chance to pull out their own weapons. Scully tried to push Gibson to the floor. The two strangers quickly opened front and back doors of the car. One grabbed at Gibson, threatening to shoot if Scully did not release her hold on him. The other ordered the three agents out of the car and onto the ground, then taped Mulder and Scullyís hands and feet. The first man shoved Gibson into the back seat of what could now be made out to be a Mercedes. The two men began arguing about whether they should take or leave Diana. From the inside of the car, a third man emerged holding a lighted cigarette.
"Take her," he said firmly. "She knows too much. My other friends can stay right where they are. Someone will find them in the morning, maybe sooner. Iím sure the local police will be very interested in how two American agents came to be freelancing around the British countryside. Mr. Mulderís initiative will be appreciated back in Washington, as usual."
After the Mercedes pulled away, Mulder and Scully were left in darkness. The night was cloudy, backlit only weakly by the moon and stars.
"Mulder. Mulder, where are you. Mulder?" Scullyís voice grew louder until she heard the sound of kicking against the ground. She struggled with the bindings on her hands, but the duct tape wouldnít budge or stretch. She rolled to her left toward the scuffing sound and bumped into the tire of the car.
"I think weíre on opposite sides of the car. Stay there. Iím going to play inchworm and come over there. Can you move your hands at all?"
No voice answered her, only the sound of more scuffing getting closer.
"What did they do to you? Are you gagged? Well, thatís stupid of me; if youíre gagged you canít answer."
Scully twisted and rolled toward the back of the car. Mulder had already almost reached her, cutting himself on some of the broken glass from the collision. He shifted around to meet her head on.
"Here," she said. "Whereís your face?" She rubbed her cheek up against his. "Duct tape. I think I can peel it loose with my teeth, if youíre brave."
He nodded and turned his face to expose the edge. "Hold still." She gently scraped her teeth against his cheek, nudging at an edge of the tape. When she had pried up a corner, she bit down on the tape. He moved his head slowly to help her pull it loose.
"Thanks. Thatís the most fun Iíve had on this trip."
"That stuff tastes awful. My fingers are a little loose. Maybe I can get my nails under the tape around your wrists." Lying back to back, she felt for his hands, and slowly moved her fingers over the tape until she found the edge. It was slow pulling it open and her hands began to ache. Mulder started talking while she worked at it.
"How far back do you think we were set up? From the beginning? Only when they knew you were on their trail? I canít believe we didnít see this coming."
"Hold still, this is hard."
"Do you think they wanted us here? Was it a trap?"
"Mulder, if there was a trap, I was the one who fell for it. Hold still! But I had to know what she was up to. Maybe she left her laptop open deliberately. Maybe she was daring me. But really I donít think they hatched this until they learned I had followed her. There, is that enough to wiggle your hands free?"
Mulder pulled his hands out of the tape and took a small knife from his pocket. He quickly cut Scullyís hands and feet loose from the tape and then finished freeing himself.
They sat quietly for a minute, side by side, leaning back against the car. Mulder finally sighed.
"I misjudged her completely, you know. I was fooled right up until Gibson tipped me off." He rubbed his hand over his forehead.
"Tipped you off? So thatís what that was about?"
"Yes, his shouting interrupted what I was thinking just then. That Diana had come through after all and that, well, sheíd done a fine job. I was about to propose that she accompany him back to the States. Thatís when Gibson started shouting and I realized that he was staring at me with that frightened look. So I tried thinking the opposite, that Diana was with them, leading us into a trap. Thatís when he settled down. Even if he misinterpreted what he heard people saying, he could see whatís in her mind."
"Iím sorry. I know she was your friend." She looked away.
"You were right all along." He rubbed her hand. "I guess I more or less dismissed what you said about her. When she and I worked together before, she was always dependable and Iíd had confidence in her. WeÖwe were close for a while and then she got fed up being in the basement. Literally and figuratively. Got fed up with me, too, I think, because of what I was learning from the X-Files. It didnít surprise me when she left. Then when she came back it just didnít occur to me to think about how she might have changed when she was abroad. What things she might have gotten involved with. Looking back, I guess it was all a game for her: the X-Files, me, you." He paused before continuing. "I confess I also supposed that you might be jealous of her. Iím sorry about that; it wasnít fair of me." Another pause, this one longer. "I guess even spooky guys want to think that theyíre desirable." He looked at her. In the dim light he could make out a little smile.
"Spooky women feel the same way."
"Youíre not spooky," he said, pushing her hair away from her face.
She looked up at him. "Neither are you." A smile spread across his face as he turned. They sat in silence for a minute, enjoying the sense of camaraderie that had been so strained lately.
"Well, Mulder. What can we do exactly? Theyíre probably on their way to the airport now. Iím frightened for Gibson. Diana has to figure out that he gave her away."
"I donít know any way to stop them now."
She sat up quickly. "I have Dianaís phone. Is there someone we can alert?"
"No one is likely to believe us. Do you want to follow them to Tunisia? Howís your French? Your Arabic?"
"Rusty and nonexistent. What about you?"
"All I remember from French 101 is Ďje tíaime.í Not likely to get us very far at Passport Control. I guess our freelancing is at an end for now. Letís get in the car and stay warm Ďtil morning. Weíll call someone for help then."
Mulder helped Scully to her feet and held the car door open for her.
Thanks for reading!