By San aka Humbuggie
(still to be archived on my site)
Disclaimer: Don’t shoot me for borrowing these characters! All copyright belongs to people that I don’t know personally.
Type of story: Lots and lots of MTA, UST and MSR, no rating required other than this J
Story: When a desperate mother contacts Mulder to find her daughter who ran away to join a cult, Mulder gets an unforeseen chance to deal with his past. But when he infiltrates in the cult, Scully must do everything in her power to save her partner from his ‘salvation’.
Spoilers: Lots of spoilers for ‘The Field Where I Died’, a few for ‘The X-Files Movie’ and smaller ones for other episodes like ‘Pusher’, ‘Little Green Men’, the whole Samantha-abduction thing and ‘Anasazi’.
Timeline: The story takes place about two years after the events in ‘TFWID’, thus somewhere in the sixth season timeline. The events occur before ‘Closure’ with Mulder still looking for his missing sister.
All lyrics are copyrighted, written and sung by Roxette
They were my inspiration for this story, and I thank them deeply!
Her blood was on his hands when he carried her outside towards the man waiting with his car. He would take over her body and make sure she got her final resting place. But he was the one that killed her. He saw the blood and realized what he had done.
Before, it had all seemed strange. Unreal. Out of this world. But he saw clearly now that he had done that what he had feared others to do for so long now.
He stared at her slim forms and the shadows on her face. She looked so pale, so innocent and so sweet. And now she lay in his arms and she was dead.
‘Put her in the backseat of the car,’ the man ordered, opening the door for him so that he could carefully put her in.
The man closed the door, satisfied with what he saw. Then he turned towards him and said, ‘Now join Dominique and the others.’
He nodded and left, like a puppet following the pulled lines.
But everything inside of him screamed for her. And he knew he would not get the salvation that Dominique had preached for so long now. For him, nothing would matter ever again.
Because he, Mulder, had killed Scully.
crashed by the gate
Captured my fate
My eyes couldn't see
I hardly breathed
I was diving so deep
He touched her skin, just barely. His finger lingered underneath her chin, raising her face so that she was forced to look at him. Her eyes met his and she found the faith she had lost so many weeks before. He smiled, giving her the strength and qualities the others had all so admired in him. She nodded slightly, as if to tell him she was going for it.
He knew she would. They always did. He wrapped them around his finger and they all obeyed his every wish. That was the only power he had – the only power he wanted to use in this godforsaken world.
‘Are you ready to take the step to salvation, Vicky?’ he said softly, using the timbre of his voice that had overwhelmed so many others before her.
Again she nodded, this time smiling with that one gesture, full of expectation.
‘I need to hear you say it,’ he whispered.
‘Yes,’ she said, hardly recognizing her own voice. ‘I am.’
He opened his hand, allowing her a look at the white tablets that lay on the palm of his hand. ‘You’ve been feeling under the weather lately,’ he softly said. ‘You don’t know what’s wrong with you. You don’t feel like you deserve to be here anymore. You just know that you want something else in your life than what’s been given to you. And therefore you came to me, and told me that you wanted to be with me. Is that what you want, Vicky?’
‘You say that you put all of your trust in me. You claim that I am the one that will be the most important person in your life from now on. Are you ready for that, Vicky? Are you willing to give it all up for me? Are you willing to neglect your mother from now on? Are you willing to ignore your friends should they beckon you?
‘Take this tablet and show me that you care.’
Her hand didn’t tremble when she took one of the tablets from the palm of his hand and put it in her mouth. It felt dry and seemed to stick to her tongue but she swallowed it without complaining and opened her mouth again. He looked inside of her mouth, then at her and smiled as he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. Then his tongue explored her mouth and she closed her eyes as she felt his grip on her. He had already decided that she would be his next. He loved her slim figure and the way the forms of her perfect body reacted to his touch. She was perfect and would suit him just fine.
The fact that she didn’t like him to stick his tongue in her mouth didn’t matter. The moment she swallowed the first tablet, she had taken the plunge.
He pulled himself away from her and smiled as she closed her eyes and let herself drift away into the land of oblivion. He moved his hand just slightly and immediately two of his followers appeared and took her away to her new resting place. She had a room next to his. He had decided it to be that way until she would move in with him. They would all feel when the time was right.
But he had to be careful with this one. She was under aged. If they found out, he might be in trouble. And the others didn’t like him fooling around with her. In fact, they dreaded that she was here, fearing that the cops or Feds would now have a reason to invade their shelter.
He had ignored their protests, claiming that no one could stand up to him. He was stronger than them all and if they were honest with themselves, they knew this was true.
He could be patient though. In three weeks her birthday came up. She would turn eighteen. After that, they would not go after her any longer. She would be an adult with a mind of her own. By then she would have signed all rights over to him. She would be able to tell them what she wanted and what she desired. By then she would be in his grip forever, and she would not even think about going back. He had decided that it would be it this way.
He walked to the window of the white painted building and looked outside over the gardens that he kept so well. He saw them work. They all loved this place. They loved the everlasting sun and the fabulous smelling flowers. They didn’t want to return to the real world with bills, payments and problems. They all had their own reason to be here – as did Vicky. He never chose one that didn’t have a problem or a reason to run away. He checked them out carefully, and selected them one by one himself.
He walked over to the locked cabinet behind him, and pulled out the file on the girl with the chain of keys he carried on his belt. The other set of keys were in the hands of Dennis, his most trusted watcher. In a few weeks her mother would suffer a grave accident. The girl would inherit it all. By then she wouldn’t mind donating her income to keep this place up and about. And then he would take off, after plucking the last of them.
He smiled. If there was one thing he liked more than a beautiful girl, it was a beautiful girl with money. And with Vicky Moss, he had both.
Fox Mulder couldn’t help but smile as he noticed the plastic alien on the night table. ‘Cute,’ he said.
The woman in her late forties stared at him first as if she didn’t understand what he was on about. Then she looked down at the alien and sighed, ‘Oh yeah. She’s always been nuts about aliens. I never quite understood why. These rubbish things cost quite a bit of money.’
‘Does she believe in aliens?’
‘What?’ The woman looked up strange at the redhead agent that stood in the doorway and had asked the question. ‘I guess so. She loved shows like Star Trek and The Outer Limits. I guess she must have believed in them. I’m sorry, but what has that got to do with her disappearance?’
‘Nothing,’ Mulder said, throwing questioning glances at his partner as if wondering why in the world she would start talking about aliens at a time like this. Scully just glanced back and raised her shoulders slightly for only him to see.
In thoughts Mulder’s finger touched the plastic alien and his eyes explored the room to track down what was missing. There was nothing here to indicate that the young woman had ran away from home, yet everything in him said that this was the case. There were many young women who couldn’t find their place at home, and just took off.
But here Vicky Moss had just left with nothing on her. Her clothes were all in the closet, her shoes were all there except for the pair of boots that she wore, and all of her bags were still present. Her diary lay on top of the night table, and her make-up was all there. Nothing indicated that she had ran away.
‘I don’t understand why she took off,’ Mrs. Moss said. ‘She had a good home. We got along even though there was a lot of discussion about her father. She never told me she was in trouble. As far as I know she didn’t get herself knocked up. But she chose another sort of life. Why in the world would she do that?’
‘Teenagers often have a strange look to life, Mrs. Moss,’ Scully said politely. ‘Vicky might have seem perfectly happy in your eyes but in truth be a very unhappy young woman. Can I ask you why you are so sure she ran away and wasn’t kidnapped?’
‘She has taken money out of her bank account yesterday afternoon. The bank called me this morning because it was a large amount. They didn’t know of course she ran away.’
‘Couldn’t she have been forced to take off this money? Can it not be that you will still be contacted for ransom? You are a wealthy widow, Mrs. Moss. People have done stranger things for lesser money.’
‘I’m not that rich,’ Elaine Moss protested. ‘Sure, my parents left me some money but most of it has been spent when I bought this house after my husband took off. Whoever took her, might not know this. Still, I would have heard something by now, wouldn’t I? It’s been two days. No, I know where she is.’
Mulder and Scully glanced at each other again, both expecting Elaine to come up with the truth soon enough. The woman sighed and sat down, rubbing her face. ‘I cannot believe this is happening again,’ she whispered numb. ‘I thought Vicky would be wiser. But no – she had to do it.’
‘Do what, Mrs. Moss?’ Mulder asked gently as he sat down beside her on the bed. Elaine took a picture from the night table. It showed three happy people with no care in the world.
‘That picture was taken right before her father died and left me with her,’ Elaine Moss said. ‘Of course I should mention that two days before he croaked, he ran off with a blonde bimbo and dropped our daughter off at my place after picking her up from school. Since then, I saw a change in my girl that terrifies me.’
‘Why did you wait this long to contact the FBI, Mrs. Moss?’ Scully asked.
‘To be honest,’ Elaine sighed, ‘my daughter is not the easiest of girls. She’s been into some problem a few years ago, and she’s got a reputation of being difficult to handle. But I don’t blame her for that. I blame Henry.’
‘Is she on medication or drugs?’ Scully asked.
‘Not that I know of, but I’m not sure.’ Elaine Moss sunk on her daughter’s bed and stared at the picture in Mulder’s hand. ‘I know you must think I’m crazy, but I knew she’s living with the wrong crowd at this moment. I know where she is – at least I think I know where she is.’
‘Then why did you contact us?’ Mulder asked. ‘Instead of warning the police, you called the Bureau and asked for me specifically. I don’t recall us meeting. How did you get my name?’
This time Elaine Moss looked up and said calmly, ‘we have a mutual acquaintance.’
She stood up and left the room, going to a small closet in her own bedroom where she dug out a photo album that seemed to have been gathering dust for some time now. She took out two articles and a set of photos and handed the set to him.
‘Your name was all over this case,’ she said, as he read the articles about the case they handled a few years ago. The Temple of the Seven Stars. The name brought back a lot of memories for Mulder. They were memories he had never dealt with. And now he stared at Melissa’s photo as it had appeared in the newspapers as one of the many casualties of a mass suicide.
Mulder couldn’t help but swallow away the pain and guilt he had felt for so long now as he stared at the photos of Melissa and Ephesian. It all seemed so long ago, yet it felt like it had happened yesterday. He looked up at the woman, knowing he couldn’t hide his pain.
‘Melissa was my niece,’ she said softly as she gave him a picture of the woman he had shared so many lives with. The one he couldn’t save. ‘My sister is ten years older than I am. She had a daughter way before I did. Melissa took off to a cult, just like I am sure Vicky did.’
‘I can’t help you,’ he said, handing her the pictures back. ‘Melissa died and that case was closed two years ago. Cults is not my jurisdiction. I cannot do this.’
‘But you were there. I read about it in the papers. You tried to help her and the others but couldn’t. Now I fear that my daughter has fallen into the same trap. I don’t just fear it. I know it. I read about it.’
Elaine Moss pointed at the diary on her daughter’s night table that had been left as evidence of her whereabouts. During the past few days Elaine had wondered if her daughter had left it especially for her to read, so that she could know where she was if she needed help.
‘I remember so much about Melissa,’ Elaine said softly. ‘She was everyone’s favourite because she was the oldest. She used to come here when she was little, long before my daughter was born. She changed. She met Ephesian and she got hooked. He was like a drug to her. He wheeled her in and kept her in that cage that he called a Temple. It destroyed my sister. She had to watch in pain as Melissa changed and eventually disappeared out of sight. When the Bureau called her to say that Melissa was dead, she collapsed. I don’t want that sort of phone call, Agent Mulder.’
‘What cult are you talking about, Mrs. Moss?’ Scully asked gently.
‘They call themselves Salvation Awaits and claim that they’re a help group for people with problems, issues, whatever. They hand out flyers and promote their so-called yoga-sessions. You can read the diary. She wrote about it. She met this man who calls himself Dominique and got hooked instantly. She skipped school to attend one of the sessions. Then they recruited her. And the last passage in her diary says that she went to see them. She hasn’t come back since. Should I draw further conclusions here?’
Elaine continued as her eyes stared outside to the streets with people that had no cares in the world. ‘I know that she has changed. I know she used to come home on time every night and now sometimes stayed away for hours. I know she’s been skipping classes. One of my friends saw her wondering around the Square, talking with those people. He warned me about them, and said that there was a large group of people – mostly women – already living in an old school that they renovated right outside of town.’
Mrs. Moss turned to Mulder and said, ‘I heard rumours that there was something going on between you and Melissa. I informed myself about this case. I know you tried to help here and persuade her not to go back to that … nut. What I want from you now, is to stop this from happening to my daughter as well. If and when she’s in a cult, I want her out of there before they decide to kill themselves too.’
Mulder nodded slowly. Scully glanced at him. It was his call to make. Then he simply nodded and said, ‘We’ll talk to our superior and see what we can.’
Scully glanced at Mulder, speaking for the two of them as she said, ‘Cults fall under the FBI’s field of expertise. I’m sure we will have no problem assigning ourselves to this case.’
‘Thank you,’ Elaine sighed. ‘Thank you so much.’
She turned and left the room, leaving the two of them inside. Scully looked at Mulder, walked over to him and put her hand on his arm. ‘Mulder,’ she said softly, forcing her partner to look at her. ‘You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. There are enough colleagues that can take over. I know how sensitive this lies –‘
‘You know,’ Mulder said, interrupting her before she could finish her excuses, ‘when Melissa died, I felt like I owed it to her to go to the funeral, but I didn’t. We didn’t go. I know that to most of us thought she was just a victim in a case that we couldn’t help. So I didn’t go, and I felt regret afterwards that I let her be buried without saying goodbye to her. But I knew we would meet again – not in this life but in our next. It seemed useless to mourn her death.’
‘I know –‘ Scully began, but Mulder raised his hand and looked at her.
‘There’s always been something missing in my life, Scully. It’s like a gap that only she could fill in. I know that now. She was supposed to be part of my life. If only we had met under different circumstances, she might still be alive and I might –‘
‘- No, Mulder,’ Scully interrupted. ‘Melissa fell into the wrong hands but that happened long before you met. Everyone makes his or her choices early in life. You met, probably because you believe it was destined. But you couldn’t have saved her. For that, it was already too late.’
Mulder sighed, looking aside. ‘I shouldn’t talk about this,’ he said quickly. ‘It’s been so long ago.’
‘No,’ she said, ‘I want you to talk about it. You mourn her. You have every right to.’
‘It’s been too long. I can hardly remember her face.’
‘No, you remember every feature of it. But she rests in your heart, Mulder. Like everyone that is dear to you, rests in your heart. She’s there with your sister – with Samantha.’
He smiled. ‘Thank you.’
She smiled back as her fingers lingered on the back of his hand and they both felt the connection that had been established so long ago.
- 3 -
Dominique Durant stood before the window of his small office and looked outside. He had chosen this room as his office because it gave him a clear view of everything that went on in his gardens. Despite the fact that everything seemed to be going its own way, there was something that drew his attention. The tension hung in the air when two women started arguing with each other and a few of the children were sitting on the lawn watching it.
He knew both women by heart and by body. They held no secrets for him. But the jealousy hung so thick that it became a danger to all of them. He didn’t interfere though. He liked it when they argued about him. At least then he could feel that they still would do anything for him.
Gretl especially was one of his most special women. Several times she had sworn that she would do anything for him. She was even prepared to kill her own father for him of she had to.
The catfight slowly came to an end. It worried him in a way that they weren’t drugged enough to avoid this argument. But he had reduced the amount a bit on his senior followers. Now it seemed that they were too much in control. He would have to deal with that later.
Now he had more urgent things to deal with. In a few days the cult would inherit a million or so when Gretl’s father would die from a failing heart. The doctor was already taken care of. The coroner went for his usual amount. The amount paid to keep these people in his pocket was nothing compared to what he would have left. He would have to switch his MO though. Soon enough someone would pick up the connection and start asking questions. That was one thing he couldn’t afford.
But in a few weeks they would believe he was dead anyhow, and no one would look for him. It would resolve itself pretty soon.
He left the office and used the hidden door to gain access to his locked apartment. In the bedroom he put his hand against the far wall. On the other side rested the girl that would soon be in his bed. If only he could be patient enough …
- 4 -
The FBI-offices seemed nearly empty when they knocked on the door of Skinner’s office. It was already late but Skinner didn’t mind seeing them this late. It had been a busy day going through all the documents and information they had on Dominique Durant, the leader of ‘Salvation Awaits’.
‘Come in,’ Skinner said, offering them a seat and coffee. Mulder declined the coffee and put a file on the table with the information they had gathered in the course of the afternoon. Skinner drank his coffee, leaned more comfortably in his chair and said, ‘Tell me about this case.’
Mulder sat down and started explaining about the phone call they had received from Elaine Moss. He opened the file and dug out the photo of Vicky they had been given by Elaine.
‘We’ve been talking to the local PD about this cult that Mrs. Moss claims exists,’ Scully said. ‘In truth, we cannot be sure at this moment that it is a cult we’re talking about, but it sure sounds like this is the case.’
‘The cult where Vicky could be in, calls itself ‘SA’, or ‘Salvation Awaits’,’ Mulder started. ‘They distribute leaflets all over town, promoting their yoga and self-knowledge exercises. They lure people to a former high school outside of town that has been transformed into a secluded home for its members. It’s been renovated about three years ago and is very strictly guarded. No one gets in without an invitation. ‘Salvation Awaits’ focuses on a particular target of people. They only recruit those with money and not many relatives, and preferably those with problems or issues. In short – people that are in need of a bit of attention and comfort.’
‘How do they find these people?’ Skinner asked, glancing at a list of people that had their official residency at the former Henderson Institute.
“By chance,’ Scully said. ‘They are invited to join an introduction class. Dominique who calls himself the chairman selects the members personally. No one gets in without passing him. Every single of them was recruited on the streets.’
Skinner glanced at his agents, returning his attention to the file they had carefully put together with the help of the PD and ‘Salvation Awaits’-Website. Mulder didn’t seem to be paying attention to what Scully said, but just looked tense at the file in Skinner’s hands.
Skinner couldn’t help but remember what had happened a few years before. He too was reliving the events. Finding those bodies in that secluded room was one of the most gruesome things he had ever seen. He didn’t want to look back at it.
‘What do you know about this Dominique?’ he asked.
‘He’s an American citizen with French roots,’ Mulder said, handing a newspaper clipping about the man. ‘Dominique Durant is a man in his late thirties who has been convicted for fraud about ten years ago. He spent three years in jail. After his release he secluded himself in the south of France at first, and then returned to the US where he bought the old school and started renovating it. There have always been doubts about where he got the money to do so. Rumours have it that he married a rich French girl who drowned mysteriously, leaving him her fortune. Her parents had filed a complaint against Durant but that never made it to court.’
‘And he uses this building as his haven?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Scully said. ‘It seems that Durant has a way with persuading his members to donate large amounts of money to him. With the money coming from France he renovated one wing, but with their cash he did the other wing as well. In total, according to the information that we have, there are twenty-three members living in that building right now. We don’t know how many guards he has. There are a few men that stand out. One of them is Dennis Withers, a ex-convict Durant met in jail. They were roommates.’
‘How can we get this guy?’ Skinner said. ‘Looking at this file I would say that there is nothing out of the ordinary to this guy. He hides himself behind this yoga-movement he started, and everything seems legally in order.’
‘It’s true that we cannot get him back on the financial side of his business, sir,’ Scully said. ‘But we do believe that there is something wrong there. Several members inherited shortly before or after they joined the cult. Almost all of them donated their entire inheritance to the group. That’s their means of income. We believe that despite the sober lifestyle Dominique called into life, he in fact is saving up for a rainy day.’
‘So money is his motive,’ Skinner said, ‘that’s not really noble, is it?’
‘Unlike other leaders of cults, Dominique doesn’t claim to be guided by God or any other power,’ Mulder said. ‘That perhaps makes him more dangerous than all the others. He’s prepared and willing to do anything for money. The police have reason to believe that he’s a murderer, but there’s no evidence. All they have are the names of a doctor and coroner who have signed the death certificates for these sudden deaths. That alone is not proof enough to arrest Dominique or the people he works with. There has to be reasonable doubt to exhume the bodies.’
‘What can you do then?’ Skinner asked. ‘Arrest him and question him? The moment you walk in that home of his, he’ll get rid of all the evidence. He won’t succumb to your questioning. There’s no way you can prevent this working from the outside. You need proof from the inside.’
‘First of all,’ Scully said, ‘we need to find out if Vicky Moss is in that cult. She’s underage so we have the authority to get her out of there. However, if he sees us coming, he’ll make sure she’s out of sight. She’s not on his registration list yet. He’ll probably claim she’s vacationing there or something. However, in about three weeks she turns eighteen. When she’s legally an adult, we won’t be able to get her out.’
‘What do you propose then?’ Skinner said.
‘I’m afraid,’ Scully began, ‘that we will have to –‘
‘- I want to try to get in there,’ Mulder interrupted her. ‘Get in that cult and win his trust. If we become a member of his cult, we’ll have a way of watching what happens from the inside.’
Scully looked at her partner. ‘You can’t do that. He’ll figure you out from the start. You’ll only endanger yourself and the others.’
‘Not if he thinks I’ve got nothing to loose.’ Mulder looked aside. ‘I’ll just have to persuade him that I mean what I say. And we can do it, basing the lies on top of the truths. Sir, if I can get in there and let him believe that I’ve burned all my bridges, he’ll take me in.’
‘He’ll distrust you from day one!’
‘I’ll make him trust me.’
‘No,’ Scully said hard, ‘you’re only doing this because of Melissa. But Vicky Moss is not Melissa, Mulder. You don’t have to do this.’
Mulder looked at Skinner and said, ‘you know I’ll do it one way or another. If you think about it rationally, you know that we will never be able to prevent a disaster from happening when we’re standing on the outside looking in. If you go to that cult and arrest him, he’ll have gotten rid of every piece of evidence. He’s able to kill them all just like Ephesian has done and so many others before him. They all believed that they were divine. This man only believes in one god: Money. So let’s give him what he wants.’
‘You don’t know what he does to get these people to believe him,’ Scully protested hard. ‘They might be on drugs or medication to keep them calm. They might not be able to take care of themselves. How are you going to protect yourself against this?’
‘You are going to protect me,’ Mulder said quietly. ‘We’ll be in constant contact. But I need your support on this or it’s not going to work and you know it. I need you to trust me, Scully.’
Scully sank down on her chair, feeling angry with herself and her partner. She knew he was right but she wasn’t willing to give in just yet. She turned to Skinner, ready to use her boss against her partner. But Skinner had already agreed to the idea. She saw it in his eyes. Mulder had been undercover before and it had worked out in some way. He could take care of himself.
‘All right,’ Skinner said. ‘You have three days in there. If you are in trouble, we need you to get in touch with us. We’ll smuggle a cell phone in that compound if necessary. And don’t do anything stupid, Mulder. Your job is to get Vicky Moss out of there, and find evidence to murder or fraud. Don’t be a hero and face Dominique by yourself.’
‘No sir,’ Mulder said.
Scully already feared that he would be taking too many risks. ‘Know thy partner,’ she mumbled, as they left the office.
- 5 -
The square was crowded with people, but it wasn’t too difficult to find the members of ‘Salvation Awaits’. They were all dressed the same way, acting similar. They all seemed to be in their own place in time and space, as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
Mulder walked over to one of them, passing the woman carelessly. ‘Salvation Awaits, sir?’ she asked.
‘What?’ he turned and looked at her as she offered a flyer with words written in bold letters.
‘Are you interested in finding out more about relaxation techniques and yoga-exercises? We have an excellent program for stressed out people that are seeking a bit of relaxation after office hours. You look like you need it.’
He smiled vaguely. ‘Really?’ and accepted the folder. ‘Thanks.’ Quickly he glanced over the leaflet and returned to look at the young woman. She was a pretty looking blonde. In fact, all the men and woman that were members of the cult seemed to be attractive and appealing. Besides money, they also had looks.
‘What exactly is this ‘Salvation Awaits’?’ he asked, getting her attention. She smiled, expecting this question from him.
‘Why don’t you find out for yourself and come to our meeting tomorrow? Our introduction session is for free and right outside of town. You’ll love it.’
‘I’m not so sure that this is my cup of tea. I’m always very busy and –‘
‘- The more reason to come over. Why don’t you give it a try? I promise that you’ll be taken care of. Just ask for Gretl when you get there. I’ll guide you.’
Mulder nodded and smiled as he walked further, nodding at the other members of the cult that stared at him. At ease he walked over this car, pretending to be reading the folder. He could feel their eyes pierce in his back.
When he drove off, an attractive man clad in a business suit walked over to Gretl and said, ‘Who was that?’
‘I have no idea but he’s coming tomorrow to our meeting,’ Gretl said pleased. ‘Dominique, he might become one of your new followers.’
The man in the suit nodded and smiled as he kissed Gretl. ‘You did well, my love.’
Gretl smiled back and returned to her spot, pleased with the attention he gave her. It was always hard struggling for a spot in his good books and now that she had it, she would do anything to stay there. It was where she belonged.
- 6 -
The newspaper article received a special place on the front page, drawing the attention of anyone that read the paper. FBI investigating disappearance of agent’s sister again, the headline read, with a subline saying, Argument around case-investigation still ongoing. The article referred the reader to an article on the second page.
Dominique glanced over it as he drank his coffee; more interested in the stocks he had bought a few weeks ago. All was going perfectly. In about a month or so he would be able to leave the country with enough money to spend the rest of his life in luxury. Everything he had set up during his time in prison was coming to a close.
The new recruitment session would start in about half an hour. Dominique was especially interested in the man that had been talking to Gretl. He had seemed interested enough. From the way he came over, he might do anything for a living, Dominique thought. But he wore expensive shoes and an Armani-suit. Money would be no problem.
Gretl had seemed eager enough to talk to him. She told Dominique that she was in need for some fresh blood in the house. It had been too long since she had met someone interesting enough to stop her from feeling bored.
He sighed as he rubbed his temple. Sometimes he really got fed up with all the women in this place. If he didn’t keep them under control with the tablets, they would have taken off instantly.
He glanced at his watch, looking outside. The first cars were already arriving. They were early. A tall man got out and looked around him, insecure. It was the same man he had seen the day before. He seemed to be even more nervous when he walked up to the front gate and was allowed in by one of the guards. Then he stood in the middle of the driveway until Gretl walked over to him and he seemed relieved to meet a familiar face.
Dominique put his newspaper aside, suddenly catching the picture of the FBI-agent that was featured on the second page. It was the same face he was looking at outside. He was the one whose sister had disappeared over twenty years ago and had not stopped searching for her. He was the one reopening the investigation to her disappearance, causing arguments within the FBI.
And now he was here.
Dominique felt a shiver run down his spine. Somehow the fact that there was an FBI-agent on his premises, didn’t appeal to him. But when he sent the man away, he would immediately become suspicious.
But this was an outcast. And he had money.
Dominique straightened his shoulders, glanced at his features in the mirror and used the regular stairs down. By the time he reached the lawn, the six invited guests had arrived, and his game could begin.
- 7 -
‘What do you do, Mr. Mulder?’ Dominique asked as he sat on the bench before the man.
Mulder looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘I’m an FBI-agent. Well, I was an FBI-agent until yesterday.’
‘Really?’ Dominique said soothingly, folding his hands over each other. ‘What happened to you yesterday?’
Mulder’s eyes darkened and he didn’t seem to be willing to talk about it first. But Dominique’s soft voice seemed so charming and honest it felt difficult not to respond. There was something in his voice that appealed to people. He was able to get the deepest secrets out of them. Slowly Mulder realized that he too would be able to become a victim of this man, hadn’t he realized beforehand that all of it was just a way to get to him.
‘Mr. Mulder,’ Dominique said friendly, ‘in this house we tell each other the truth. You are here for relaxation techniques. But those techniques do not help unless you confide in me. I cannot help you until I know what bothers you. What drives you. What brings you here. Without those answers, you are not eligible to become a member of our selected group.
‘My sister,’ Mulder said as his eyes drifted off, refusing to look at the others. ‘She disappeared when I was twelve years old and she was eight. Everyone always blamed me for it: my parents, the community and our friends. I was at home and had to watch her. But I couldn’t stop her from disappearing. I spent my entire life looking for her. My fellow colleagues have tried to stop me. Even my partner didn’t support me when I followed a lead into my sister’s disappearance. I finally got so fed up that I left. I decided that I can only find her on my own terms. I don’t need their resources to help me.’
‘So you just packed your bags and quit the FBI?’
‘That’s what basically happened, yeah. I didn’t need to be there for the money. My father left me a large inheritance. I’m planning on investigating her disappearance on my own terms from now on. She’s very dear to me and I want to find her. It’s been my life’s goal and it will stay that way until I finally track her down.’
‘Do you believe that she’s still alive?’
‘I know that she is. I’ve seen evidence that she’s out there, waiting for me. When I find her, I’ll tell the world that they were all wrong. I don’t need my so-called friends to tell me that.’
Dominique looked very serious when he moved away from the wooden bench he sat on, and put his hand on Mulder’s shoulder, forcing the agent to look at him. ‘You haven’t had a second’s peace in your life, have you, Fox?’
Mulder winced at the use of his first name but nodded slowly. ‘No, I haven’t.’
‘And you came here to find that peace. You want confirmation that what you did was right.’
‘I don’t know why I’m here. When I talked to that woman yesterday, she sounded so happy. I just –‘
‘- You just want to be happy yourself, don’t you? That’s what anyone wants. That’s why you are here.’
‘But I’m not allowed to be happy. I lost her.’
‘You were just a child. You couldn’t be held responsible. If anyone’s responsible, it’s your parents for leaving you alone.’ Dominique started walking and took place behind Mulder who still sat down and stared before him. ‘Why are you really here, Fox?’
Mulder straightened his shoulders. ‘I want another life,’ he said firmly. ‘I want to live with people that don’t blame me for my sister’s abduction and don’t push me back when I want to find out what happened to her.’
‘Do you believe you’ll find that here?’
‘I don’t know what I’ll find here. I don’t know anything about this place. I just came here because that woman told me I could find some peace and rest here. I should be out there, looking for her, but right now I can’t. I’m just exhausted. I want some rest.’
Mulder hid his face between his hands. His shoulders shook as he leaned forward. The other guests looked at him and nodded in compassion. Dominique leaned forward and put his hand on his back. ‘You’re going to be fine, Fox. We all are. I promise you that you’ll get through this and that you will never have to be alone again. I guarantee it.’
Mulder looked up, staring gratefully at Dominique who smiled and nodded just as compassionately as the others had done. A few moments later the group parted. Dominique walked his guests to their cars, and looked at the group of people that glanced at him hopefully. All of them expected a resolution to their problems and he was able to give it to them. But resolution had its price and he already knew whom he was going to select.
The FBI-agent would be among them soon. His first test would be a test of faith. After that, it would become clear if he was telling the truth or not. And then it would be very simple to wheel him in. The risks he took for granted. Life was full of risks. This was no exception.
It just made everything more fun.
- 8 -
She watched as he packed his bag, staring in despair at his moves. She didn’t want him to go. She could sense that it would all come to a dramatic end if he did. But he had made his decision and she knew better than anyone that he was unstoppable.
When he put his cell phone in his bag, she stopped him. ‘Don’t,’ she said, ‘they’ll check and take it out. You should hide it. I’m pretty sure they won’t strip you down to the bone.’ Her hand lingered on his, and they both looked at it.
‘I’m sure stripping is not a part of their agenda,’ he grinned back, shoving the cell phone in the pocket of his jeans. ‘But you’re right of course. I should be careful.’
‘And check the room they give you for bugs. You can never be sure enough. And –‘
‘Scully, I know what I’m doing,’ he said, stopping her before she could finish. He took her in his arms, forcing her suddenly to lean into him. Her first reaction was to shove him away, but then she embraced him and put her head against his chest.
‘I have this feeling I won’t see you again,’ she whispered, looking up at him.
He didn’t respond at first. Then he smiled and made sure she saw him. ‘You don’t think you’re getting rid of me that easily? I promise you that we will stay in touch constantly. The moment it gets rough, you get me out of there.’
‘I’m just afraid he’s going to prevent us being in touch.’
Mulder sighed and moved away from her, closing his bag. ‘I don’t want to go through this again, Scully. You know I have to do this. If I don’t, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. We’ve never backed out of a rough spot before. Why should I start now?’
‘You’re leading yourself by your emotions, Mulder. That’s what I fear the most. You’re not doing this because you believe it’s the best way to act. You do this because you don’t want Vicky to become another Melissa. But you said it yourself; Dominique is a more dangerous Ephesian. As soon as he figures out that you’re there for a purpose, he’ll kill you and you’ll have no defence. You can’t take your gun in there. You’ll be an easy target to him.’
‘Then I’ll just have to make sure he doesn’t figure it out,’ Mulder said, putting his bag on the floor. ‘I’m not afraid of him, Scully. I just don’t want you to panic on this. I need you now more than ever. You need to pull yourself together and be there when I need you.’
‘I’ll always be there for you,’ she responded. ‘I just don’t like the idea of you being locked up in there. I dread the idea that you might be fed medication or drugs. It’s the rational side of me speaking, I know. I wish I could come with you.’
‘I know.’ He smiled reassuringly. ‘The fact that you’ll be around to cover my back, is enough to keep me up and about in there. Trust on that.’
‘I only trust in you,’ she responded seriously.
He didn’t need her to say that. From all the doubts in the world that he had ever had, there was one that had been resolved a long time ago. There was just one person he trusted and she stood right in front of him, ready to do anything to help him.
That alone, was more than enough to take this dangerous step.
Scully knew that. When they said their goodbyes, she took the back door, allowing her to leave in the darkness and unseen. They both knew that her presence in his apartment could mean his end, yet they couldn’t deny that they needed to say goodbye in a proper way.
And so she left, as if she had no right to be there any longer. And he spent the last night in his apartment by himself, staring into the darkness while the VCR played one of his favourite movies. But for the first time, he didn’t watch it.