"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 25 of 45
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
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Playa del Norte Street
La Jolla, CA
Friday, June 19, 1998
Nichols had finished his conversation with the head Marshal as their assembled officers waited behind them. "We ready?"
A curt nod, then Pierce spoke into his wrist. "All exits covered. Proceed."
Shiffeln and Herrod, wearing identical dark green suits, made their way inside the Spanish-styled four-story structure.
In the rear of the assembly, Mulder bent over his partner, his breath warm on her ear. "At least we're only dealing with humans."
She sent him a quick eye-roll, but said nothing.
Back in the front, Shiffeln's voice crackled out of a hand-set. "You guys better get up here. You're not gonna believe this. The guy and the old broad ain't here. Her wheelchair is, though. Got enough clothes, wigs, and make-up for a Cabaret performance scattered around."
Nichols turned to one of the agents who had been on stake-out. "What have you seen?"
The man shrugged. "A lot of people, mostly leaving in groups of two or three. We've had cameras watching both front and rear entrances. We can review the tapes here or back at the offices."
The balding Montanan gestured for the partners to come to the front of the group. "Chief, if you and Scully wouldn't mind, you know this guy best. Think you can pick him out in a disguise if we set you two up in the van to go through tapes?"
The agents exchanged a glance, then headed back to the surveillance truck.
Playa del Norte Street
La Jolla, CA
Friday, 9:13 am
Dana Scully tapped the monitor she was using. "Mulder, I think this is he."
He rolled his chair beside hers to watch over her shoulder as she replayed the tape. "Or, she." He grinned down at her. "He's the right height, but, an ugly blonde." Turning back to his monitor to fast-forward through the images, he grunted. "The woman's passing as this man." He poked the screen. "Not enough swagger in the walk."
Pierce had been glaring at them both from a seat toward the front of the van. "About time, you two. They have a forty-five minute head-start on my people."
After scrolling forward a few more minutes, Scully tucked her chin. "Tell your people to look out for a red Impreza, Utah license plate. She just entered the vehicle and drove off." She tried zooming, then shook her head. "I can make out the second digit of the license number is 5 and the last is an L, but the rest are blurred."
Mulder crossed his arms. "They traveled separately, and she made a point of driving past the van. She may be acting as a decoy."
Nichols nodded. "Okay, the Bureau will alert the airports, trains, buses, ports and the Highway Patrol in case they try to leave the city. I'll also contact the SDPD. They have more eyes than we do. We can at least get her in for questioning, even if she knew nothing of his actions."
Pierce snorted. "Locals. Amateurs."
The balding Montanan shook his head. "Not a bit. I've worked with them on other cases. They'll bring her in, regardless of her current appearance."
Wordlessly, Pierce stalked out of the van, slamming the door behind him.
Nichols glared at the chair the Marshal had been using. "You'd think no one could do law enforcement but them." He shook his head, before smiling over at the partners. "Thanks, Chief, Scully. I can say it, even if he won't." He opened the door to exit, then paused. "Great. We've attracted the media. Hang tight, guys." He closed the door behind him, giving the partners some quiet.
Scully slumped down to rest her head on the back of the seat.
Mulder reached over to brush his fingers over the back of her hand, which was lying limply on the worktable. "Okay, Scully?"
One corner of her mouth quirked. "Tired. A little achy." She straightened. "Not bad." She turned to him. "Pierce really needs to dial it back a notch. We're all on his side."
He shifted next to her. "Try telling that to him."
They exchanged tiny grins, then, as the handle rattled, faced the door.
Nichols poked his head in. "The SDPD has the Impreza."
The partners were on their feet. Mulder let out a huff. "That was fast."
The dark look on Nichols's face brought them to a halt. "Unfortunately, Scully, we'll be needing your services yet again."
She cocked her head. "Accident?"
The greying head shook. "Not automotive. The vehicle was found on the meridian of the 805. Looks like another poisoning."
She looked up at the tall agent's face, before turning to the ASAC. "Do we have the body, Nichols, or do the Marshals?"
"No, neither. It's in the morgue at the Northern Division. SDPD's head pathologist, Hitchens, is standing by to offer you any assistance you may need, Scully." Nichols pulled the van door aside to let them descend. "We've got a uniform to get you there in style."
The tall agent smirked down at his partner as he clicked the car door open for her. "You got that wave memorized yet, Doctor?"
She cocked an eyebrow at him after he closed it behind her.
He held his hand vertically, rotating it from side to side.
Nichols's mustache was twitching as she was driven off, then he watched while Mulder, keys in hand, headed for their rental while humming a snippet from Thomas Arne's 'Alfred.' "Those two." He smiled to himself.
San Diego Police Department
San Diego, CA
Friday, 11:04 am
Dana Scully, still in her scrubs, emerged from the small morgue at the back of the Division Building. As she was pulling off her face mask, she walked down the corridor to a tight group of waiting men: Nichols, Mulder, Donato, a Latino, and an African-American.
She nodded to Sergeant Johnson, whom she had met briefly on her arrival. "Sir, this has all the hallmarks of cyanide poisoning. There was no blockage of the heart, but, yet, cardiac arrest is my diagnosis. She had flushed skin, and I've taken blood samples to test."
The tall African-American nodded. "I've met this woman." He looked over at Donato and the Latino. "She was the one claiming to be Evans's sister." He turned back to the diminutive agent. "Sorry, need to finish introducing you. Agent Scully, this is Richard Gonzales, one of my detectives. He's partnered with Jerry Donato."
She stripped off the latex glove to extend her hand. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Detective Gonzales. Apologies for the circumstances."
He waved the words away. "No problem. You think this was self-administered?"
She nodded. "We've seen this before, Agent Mulder and I, in Athens just last month on a previous case." She turned to her partner, who was now standing beside her. "Is the analysis of Benner's capsule back yet?" She would not, in present company, discuss who was performing that for them.
The dark-haired agent nodded. "I gave them a shout while you were slicing and dicing, Scully. The capsule's formulation is quite specific. Our experts tied it to a Japanese medical firm." They held each other's gaze while the SDPD partners shifted closer to each other.
A quick intake of breath, then Donato called out a terse question. "The Hikkado Medical Researchers?"
The FBI partners looked over at him, before the tall agent nodded. "Yes."
"So, Sandie had it right." The thick-chested detective found himself unable to stop grinning.
Scully took off her cap. "Yes, she did."
Nichols held a folder toward her. "Chan brought this in while you were working."
She read the pages, then passed the document to her partner.
Mulder looked it over, then up at her. "What I am supposed to see here, Scully?"
"Marshal Tapping was killed with an injection of cyanide as well, Mulder." She took the sheets back from him. "I would be very surprised if all three aren't the same formulation. It looks like all our cases are coming together."
"Just one question." The tall agent had his hands in his pockets. At her quirked eyebrow, he threw out a droll quip. "Do we draw straws to see who gets to pass the news on to Pierce?"
The swinging doors pushed open behind Donato. "Pass *what* on to Pierce?" The grey-haired Marshal sneered as he came to a halt.
Scully looked up at him. "Luther's mother, if that's who she really is, expired due to self-ingestion of cyanide, probably in a capsule."
The sunglasses snapped off. "What do you mean, if that's who she is?"
Mulder shifted closer to his partner.
Scully tucked her hair behind her ear. "I noticed evidence of plastic surgery around the eyes. It's similar to the procedure I have read about that Asians had performed to make themselves look less Oriental back about fifty years ago." She stepped up to the Marshal. "I'm having skin and tissue samples DNA analyzed. I've asked them to look for specific markers that will give her heritage away."
The Marshal leaned into her face. "This sounds like a bad forties movie, Agent Scully. Can you ever say anything I could take seriously? Ever?"
She drew herself up straight. "Sir, is there a problem with my previous autopsy?" The question was asked in her driest, most professional timbre.
Pierce took a step back. "No."
She advanced on him. The foot of height he had on her seemed to shrink as she approached. "Then, you can trust these results as well. We are working on a case that has connections to Japanese medical research corporations, and we suspect a tie here. Has anything been uncovered about Luther's whereabouts?" She waited.
The Marshal slid the dark lenses over his eyes. "He was spotted in a traffic camera out on I-78. That's all I'm willing to say."
Mulder snorted. "You mean, you lost him?"
The teeth set under the sunglasses.
Scully crossed her arms. "Sir, do you have any idea what Tapping was looking into when he came out here? Director Skinner spoke with his supervisor, but he passed on no details."
The greying Marshal glared at her. "Are you challenging my authority, Agent Scully? Why are you questioning me?"
The tall agent stepped to her side. "She's right. Luther is scuttling back to his Smoking Master. If the Marshal's Service can make headway against that Red Eminence, you will have the Bureau's gratitude." He pushed his fists against his hips.
The auburn-haired pathologist cocked an eyebrow. "But, Tapping's actions here in San Diego before his death may tell us why he was such a threat."
Pierce snarled at the partners, Mulder first, then Scully. "A threat? What are you saying, here?"
Nichols glanced at the SDPD officers, then nodded. "There are organizations working within the government to retain a degree of Cold War power none should have in a representative democracy such as ours, Sir. That's who is threatened."
After a snort, Pierce rounded on them. "You are all insane. The Marshal's Service is terminating this ad-hoc cooperation between itself and the Bureau, as of right now. If any of you try to investigate Tapping's death, be certain, we will respond with lethal force. The Marshals take care of our own." He glared at the faces around him. "Is that understood?" He spun on his heel, then he was gone.
Johnson watched the Marshals clear out at their superior's command. "That went well." He gazed down at Nichols. "So, how do the SDPD and the Bureau proceed here? We have two corpses and not enough answers to explain them."
The greying Montanan chewed his mustache for a moment. "We've pushed people around the clock on this one. I can bring in a few more fresh officers so we can look into Alice Franklin's past and contacts. If she's been here ten years, she must have a network of associates we can run to ground." He checked Johnson's face. "A little routine police work at this stage will get us further along than a cavalcade of dramatics, wouldn't you say?"
The African-American nodded. "I'll set up a rotation with my detectives, transferring the search every eight hours. Any incidental information we pick up on Tapping will be ours." He turned to his officers. "Detectives, take a breather. You've been at this since overnight."
Nichols stepped over to the partners. "Chief, Scully, I'm not gonna tell you two what to do, but I know you both have unfinished business, and Walt will be rotating in here in a few hours."
Scully looked up at Mulder. "We can at least stop by the University so I can speak with Sandra. Perhaps I can convince her you're not as much of a loon as she thinks."
He bent over her gratefully. "You and your heavy-lifting, Doctor." After the auburn-haired pathologist changed, the pair headed for the double glass doors and the street.
4132 Mayer Hall
University of California at San Diego
Friday, 12:06 pm
Sandra Miller, half her salad still sitting in a plastic tray, looked up at the slight figure in the doorway, whom she recognized from her review of the agent's official FBI folder. "Agent Scully?" She dropped her notes on the desk before crossing the office. "What brings you here?"
The pathologist lowered herself onto the metal seat Sandra had just cleared of reprints. "I think you already know why, Professor Miller."
The chestnut-haired woman cocked a too-heavy brow at her. "You're going to try to convince me my brother doesn't believe in little green men, and he fosters orphan puppies in his free hours?" She dropped her hazel gaze to the papers in front of her while picking up a pen.
Scully tucked her chin, trying not to laugh outright. "Hardly. He does well to keep an ever-augmented school of fish alive in his aquarium." That earned her a one-sided smirk, so she pressed forward. "As for the other-" She paused as she bent into her bag to retrieve her laptop. "-I have evidence here for you to review."
Sandra eyed her cautiously. "*Please* don't tell me you see them, too, Scully."
Both auburn eyebrows now in motion, a short bark escaped the agent. "Professor Miller, I feel like I've stepped through the Looking Glass." Rounds of basement arguments were dancing in her head. "I'm a doctor. The first thing we're taught in medical school is that, if you hear the pounding of hooves, look for horses, not zebras. It's a reminder to check for the common causes of an illness based on the symptoms first, before chasing something rare or unknown. But, Mulder starts with the okapis in the rear-view mirror and races away from there. I'm also a physicist. I've tried to lay out our evidence here following the dictum that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. You and I both know this, but, I've had to work and work to get Mulder to understand we can only accept that which we have proven to be true, with verified data and confirmed accounts. I won't even discuss how painful assembling a case to go to trial is for him. He attempts to present his evidence step-by-step, but often, what's a simple mental stroll for him is a leap off a cliff for the rest of us. I'm better at laying out an A, B, C through to Z case for a jury, which is why most of the testimony in the Saunders trial you'll read is from me." She placed the black box on her lap to grasp the hinged end with both hands. "Please don't misunderstand, he's brilliant when he's intuiting connections that many, many times I would totally miss. It makes him a superb criminal profiler, and helps us make arrests that stick, even if we have to turn the trial itself over to lawyers, either from the Bureau, or from outside." She twisted on the seat. "But, as far as getting acceptance for his other ideas, it's been a detriment. Unless we can back up what we say, we might as well be Erik von Daniken, misled by a humorous French reworking of H. P. Lovecraft into saying Martians built the Parthenon."
Sandra sat up straight. She regarded the slight woman in the charcoal-grey suit carefully for several long moments, then threw her chestnut curls back over her shoulder, before she rose to walk around her desk. Leaning against it, she crossed her arms.
Scully blinked, the familiar gesture setting her spine rigid. "Doctor Miller?"
Her long fingers waved. "Please, it's Sandra." She held her hands out. "Let me look at that. I've had to give testimony in court myself, as an expert witness for airplane malfunctions in crashes, so I understand his frustration." She was not yet ready to explain further to the somber woman gazing up at her that it was the one time she had tried to work with James on a make-or-break case for him. In spite of all her efforts, her adoptive brother had failed miserably in closing arguments, so had lost. "It's good to work with someone who doesn't think the way you do. It keeps you on your toes, mentally, and the results are often superior to what one would accomplish alone."
The auburn-haired pathologist sent the professor a full-wattage smile. "Okay, then, it's Dana." After opening the laptop, she clicked in her ten character password, before cd'ing into the Evidence directory. She passed it over, keyboard toward the professor.
Without a word, Sandra walked back around to her chair, settled in, propped her feet, ankles crossed, on the desk, only then beginning to read.
The long hours of the past weeks wearing at her, Scully sagged against the metal ribs of the chair back. She had set her cell phone to vibrate so this conversation could proceed interrupted, but it had buzzed almost continuously since she had entered the professor's office. She shook it free of her jacket pocket to check the numbers, before releasing a long, silent breath.
The chestnut-haired woman lifted her eyes from the screen, shifted to one hip, then held out a thick clump of keys, all wedged on a single over-sized ring. "If that's Bureau business, open the office next door with this." She gripped one marked with green tape. "Feel free to use it as long as you wish. Jeanette has the day off, so you won't be disturbed. Also, please forgive the mess. Judy and I haven't had the heart to clear it way yet." She fell silent, then resumed tapping the mouse-pad.
The agent took the heavy batch. "Thank you." She headed into the next room. Once the door was closed, she had to hop over several stacks of journals and piles of reprints before finding the desk. Balancing carefully on the edge of Tom Wilton's chair, she pressed the first speed dial button. "Mulder? It's me."
"Yeah, Scully, tell me what's going on. Should I come in?"
She crossed one arm over her ribs before leaning back. "She's reading over our evidence. Give it some time. What's happening with the Franklin investigation?"
"Dunno. Nichols is coordinating with Johnson. They'll get back when they need us, he said."
One corner of her lips quirked. "How many times did you call him, Mulder?"
She heard a huff. "Only three, Doctor."
She jumped at the knock on the door. "Sorry, this may be Sandra. I'll call you back."
"Yeah." The call terminated, Scully crossed the same obstacles to open it.
Sandra, laptop in hand, was standing in the entrance. "Dana, I'm impressed with how thorough you have been, but I'm afraid I can't review all this right now. I have some papers to work on, but, please, come by my lab this evening. I have an experiment to get underway, then I'll have hours free to go over all you've done. I've typed the address into a file so you will know where to park."
The agent tucked the phone away in her jacket. "Okay. We'll do that. I know how difficult it is to find time to write papers with all the other duties of a job."
As they stepped into the hallway, the professor passed the agent the Dell. "Oh? What did you manage to publish?" Her dark eyebrows drew together.
The auburn-haired pathologist tipped up her chin to meet a familiar hazel gaze. "The results of multiple investigations, some still under review. While down in Chiapas, I was introduced to several herbal compounds, efficacious as antibiotics and for relief of influenza symptoms. We also uncovered a new archaea-bacterium species from deep lithosphere cores in Washington State. I worked with Professor Susan Miles at Johns Hopkins to DNA-type it. We're actually getting two publications out of it in specialist journals." She found herself smiling. "I doubt you're recognize them. We swapped first authorship there."
The chestnut-haired woman stopped her with a hand on her arm. "How did the Bureau feel about this, Dana? Did they support you?"
Clutching the laptop, Scully shook her head. "Not officially, no. But Mulder found the funds for the page charges for the Chiapas discoveries, somehow." She glanced down at the blinking battery light. "Otherwise, I was prepared to pay for them myself." She looked up to see a full grin spread across the professor's face as she draped the keys across the cradle of a long, slender hand. "We're waiting to hear back from the reviewers of the Archaea-bacterium manuscripts about our revisions. He also used Bureau funds for covering Rosen's dissertation-related publications. She is, after all, just starting out."
Sandra's hazel eyes were dancing as she tucked them away. "Okay. I look forward to speaking again this evening. Anwar and I should have our set-up done by seven."
along Genese Avenue
San Diego, CA
Friday, 2:19 pm
"Scully." She straightened unconsciously at the voice emanating from the black phone. "Sir? What may we do for you?"
Mulder canted his eyes toward her, but had to stop at a crosswalk for students on bikes and skates.
"Agent Scully, I am here at X-Files West, but, the place is deserted. Where are you?"
One cheek twitched. "Sir, they're all at the Northern Division of the SDPD. Nichols and Sergeant Johnson are working out a surveillance schedule. We'll head over to you and fill you in." When she terminated the call, she looked over at her partner. "X-Files West, Mulder. Skinner's waiting."
She shifted on the seat. "Mulder, are you okay?"
He sent her an uncertain grin. "Yeah. I can't help feeling like I'm still sitting out in the cold, watching the reunion inside."
She reached for his arm. "Mulder, that's the last thing you should think. Sandra has a lot on her mind right now, as do you. When I told her you helped pay for my Chiapas papers, it broke the ice. She understands, I think, that you respect points of view different from your own."
"Oh." He turned into the parking lot for the Bureau office. "Don't make me out to be too much of a Saint, Scully, I'll never be able to live up to the expectations of you Dames Rectitude."
She sent him a broad smile. "I'd say you already have, G-man."
His only response was a nervous grin as they exited the vehicle.
Robert Schiffeln on his heels, Walter Skinner was striding out to them. "Agents!"
The partners exchanged a glance before the dark-haired Section Head pulled himself erect. "Sir?"
But the little man had raced out ahead to stand in his path. "Are you the Big Cheese?"
Mulder set a glance of confusion toward the auburn-haired pathologist. "You been filling his head with fables, Scully?"
She tucked her chin. "My apologies, we met earlier, Agent?"
"Robert Schiffeln, Ma'am." He extended his hand. "Phil said he mentioned my idea to you."
She grasped a palm almost as small as her own. "Oh, yes, I remember, the undercover plan." She waited for Skinner and Mulder to join them. "We should discuss this inside." Once they were gathered on the seats in the ASAC's office, she faced the slight man. "Agent Schiffeln, Nichols told us of your expertise in undercover work."
He grinned. "That's Phil. He brought me in to your group because we had worked together to take down several drug cartels in the old days." He began waving his hands. "This Consortium of yours, they're no worse that what we've hacked before. Sure, they wear fancy suits and all-"
Mulder frowned. "Schiffeln, they'd kill you in a heartbeat if they suspected you but we couldn't pull you out in time."
"And the cocaine guys wouldn't have? Really, I get it, see, I do. Walt's filled me in a bit." He leaned forward. "The best way to know the future, Miss Scully, is to invent it." He had assumed his plummiest upper-class British accent. "Now-" He paused as he pulled on his shirt collar. "-Imagine me in a three-piece suit as I say that. I got'em, you see, all pressed and ready to go. Just say the word."
Scully's eyebrows were as far up her forehead as they could travel.
Mulder shook his head. "Let's shake this out a bit, Schiffeln. We have a dead Marshal on our hands, even if Pierce won't let us work the case. Once we know where to send you - "
"But, that's no problem!" He turned to the bald Director. "Walt, didn't you tell them this Group is advertising job openings like any other government agency? All I have to do is apply."
The partners exchanged a glance before Scully faced their superior. "Sir?"
Skinner took off his glasses. "Yes, he's correct there. Pendrell and Phillips checked the place out; an office with bare desks and no staff down on K Street is the address listed to submit resumes." He replaced the spectacles. "I'm as baffled by this as you are by this open recruiting. It's not the procedure that has been used in the past."
The conversation was suspended by a rattling cell that Mulder held to his ear. "Okay. We'll be there as soon as we can." Tucking the phone away, he looked over at the others with relief. "Nichols and Johnson are ready for us now."
End – Chermera – Part 25 of 45