You crashed by the gate
Captured my fate
My eyes couldn't see
I hardly breathed
My heart was asleep
- 1 -
The room was filled with people clad in light colours. Their faces were bright and happy, yet showed signs of a strange sort of numbness, as if they weren’t able to think for themselves. They loved being in this room, surrounded by the ones they loved. They had chosen to be here. Yet, some of them seemed to be out of place and out of time – waiting for something that they couldn’t grasp.
Amongst them was a young woman that by far seemed to be the one most out of place. She had entered the group last, and was still adjusting to this new pace in her life. Everything had come to a stop, including her thoughts, dreams and ideas. She felt that something was wrong. Yet she too wore that same expression that they all had to the bone. She was a part of them. And she didn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if she had wanted to, she could not leave.
‘Today,’ Dominique started with the voice that spoke of trust and faith to his followers. ‘Today, I have found what I have been looking for. I searched for people that were in search of me. We encountered and discovered each other, and now they are here because they chose to be. They’re standing before you as they have come. They will live here amongst you and share their belongings with you. They will love you and take care of you, as they love and take care of me.’
Dominique stretched out his finger and pointed at the three people standing before all the other members on a small podium. They looked nervous and out of place. But the ones that stood on the podium smiled and nodded, as if to assure them that they had made the right choice.
‘These newcomers still seek their place in society. They have chosen to be excluded from their own worlds to live with us. They want to be a part of our family. I expect you all to give them the friendship that they deserve.’
Dominique looked at the woman in her late forties he had selected. She was standing beside Mulder and seemed to be the most nervous one. She was a widow. Her family had deserted her when she married her late husband, making her choose between them and the man she loved. After their marriage he had made himself a small fortune that now belonged to her. Dominique had chosen her after running an thorough background check. Even though she was one of the oldest women around, she would also be one of the easiest targets he’d ever had. If she died, no one would investigate. She had no one that would care.
The woman, Renata Lowe, glanced at the two people beside her that were newcomers, like her. She felt like she was standing on a stage, acting in a play. This seemed all so unreal that she was already dreading the choice she had made. She didn’t have to be here, yet she was.
Beside her stood a young lady in her early twenties that had been keen on being part of the group instantly. He didn’t want to have her at first, because she wouldn’t bring in enough money. But she was able to pay the entry-money and would make for a nice extra to the fortune he was gathering. Plus, she had a great body. If he were lucky, he would still enjoy that for a while before the grand finale he was preparing.
The one he worried about the most was Mulder. The ex-FBI-agent seemed to be standing there expecting a huge change in his life yet there was something in his eyes Dominique couldn’t read and didn’t like. The background check had shown that the agent had been telling the truth. He had quit the FBI, leaving behind everything. He had handed over his badge and gun.
An insider he had used before confirmed that the FBI-agent had always been an outcast and was nicknamed ‘Spooky Mulder’. He was a joke to a lot of his colleagues because he investigated cases of the paranormal. He had also insisted for years that aliens had abducted his sister. When he resigned, a lot of high-ranking officers had been quite pleased. It seemed that they had been trying to get him out for years.
Dominique had no idea why he took in Mulder that easily. Dennis had asked him bluntly why he took the risk, and he couldn’t answer. There was something in the man that appealed to him. During the short time he had been followed by one of his men, he had not sought out contact with his friends or former colleagues. He had lived in seclusion in his apartment, not even going out for food. He had lived on junk food all the time, delivered at home. He acted as they had all acted before the final decision. Waiting. Expecting. Wanting more from life than what was given to them right now.
During the three conversations before the selection, Mulder had come across as a self-assured man on the outside with a lot of issues on the inside. It took Dominique some time to force some personal information out of him. The only time he had watched the agent collapse was during the very first session, where he had told them about the one issue in his life that had never been resolved.
But finally the agent did seem to give in and talked about his past and the one woman that had deserted him: his partner, Agent Scully. He had called her a traitor that worked for the FBI and was sent to debunk his work. He had worked for years with her, yet always doubted her loyalties.
He told him that Scully had sought him out a couple of times, trying to get in touch with him. Her description matched with that of a redhead woman that had been seen walking in and out of Mulder’s building a few times but who had left almost instantly, as if she had been sent away.
But Dominique was still careful. He needed to make sure it was true. And there was only one way to find that out. It would be Mulder’s first test, and the one that mattered the most.
And so the test of faith began as the newcomers were welcomed by their ‘family’ and invited to join them for lunch. A large, bright dining room was set for a group of thirty people. There were no children on the premises. Dominique refused mothers or fathers with children, even when they had a fortune to spend. He didn’t want marital or legal issues in his little world.
There were twenty-six followers now, counting the three newcomers. From the six guards that walked around on the compound, three were invited to join lunch. Dennis, Dominique’s most trusted right-hand sat at one side of the table, glancing occasionally at Mulder. Dominique took a seat at the head of the table. The two other guards took place between the very quiet groups of followers.
All guests were invited to sit at the simple lunch table. All the plates were white and plain. The table was not decorated. Everything breathed simplicity. Besides each plate stood a very small white cup with a white tablet on it. Mulder was seated next to Gretl, the woman he had met on the square, and Denise, a young woman who didn’t seem older than fifteen but was in fact twenty-eight. Vicky Moss sat at the far end of the table. There was no way he could speak to her now without acting suspicious.
He watched them all, trying to read something of their faces. Their expressions were blank and they hardly spoke a word, even though they didn’t seem unhappy. They simply sat still, waiting for a move from Dominique, who looked them over, crossing his hands under his chin.
Only when he moved to take the white tablet out of his cup, the others did the same. The newcomers watched as the followers took the tablet and put it in their mouth, swallowing it with the glass of water that was foreseen for everyone. The three new ones didn’t have a tablet.
Mulder glanced at Dominique who stood at the top of the table and watched his followers. But he didn’t take his tablet. He brought his hand to his mouth and put the tablet in, but with a very quick move that was hardly noticeable, he spit it out again in the palm of his hand.
Then his hand moved towards the napkin and shoved it underneath. And no one saw – except for Mulder, who tried to not to look too openly at the man that deceived his people.
Lunch followed, as it would have done everywhere. The food was prepared simple but good. There was only water to drink. There was no selection possible. Everyone received the same food. Everyone emptied their plate; despite the fact there was more than enough.
At first Mulder was tempted to leave a bit on the plate, but didn’t. He didn’t want to arouse suspicion. He was a good, little boy after all.
Everyone ate in silence. Not a single word was uttered until the plates were empty. Then a few people spoke to each other but the conversations were whispered in silence.
Then Dominique rose and asked the three newcomers to follow him. Surprised the three rose and followed the man up the stairs to the third floor, and through a large corridor into separately locked quarters. The leader used a key to unlock two French doors and asked them to take a seat on white chairs in a small waiting area. The three took a seat and waited in silence until he returned and invited the shy young woman in.
The woman seemed surprised that she was the first one to go in, but followed without questioning. The second pair of doors locked behind her. Mulder leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. It all seemed to so unreal and strange, and far from a good idea.
‘What is all this?’ Renata suddenly whispered beside him. ‘I thought this would be some sort of resting place, but I feel like I’m in a cult or something.’
‘I don’t know,’ Mulder responded, liking the woman instantly. Her bright eyes seemed to be as sceptic as Scully’s.
‘I’m not so sure that I like what’s going on here,’ the woman continued. ‘Do you think it would be too late to tell them I changed my mind?’
‘I don’t know,’ Mulder responded, wondering why an attractive woman like her would be in a place like this. Little did he know that she was wondering the same thing about him. ‘I think I’m going to hang around to see what happens next.’
She smiled and offered her hand. ‘Renata Lowe.’
‘Just promise me one thing, Fox,’ she said with a conspiracy look in her eyes, ‘the moment I start acting strange, tell me so I can work on it.’
He laughed, surprised that it felt so good to have a bit of humour in this place. It was something to cling onto.
A few moments later the meek woman came out and walked past them. She didn’t seem to notice them. Dominique came out and asked Renata to follow him. The woman winked at Mulder and walked after the leader into his quarters.
Mulder rose up from his seat and walked over to the barred window. As he looked outside he saw the others on the lawn. They seemed to be part of a Victorian novel. They all sat or walked over the lawn. Some of them were reading. Others just sat there in silence to enjoy the sun. He watched as the meek woman joined them and sat down as well.
They all reminded him of zombies. Whatever that tablet did or didn’t do, it was probably one of the most dangerous drugs out there to cause this result. And he knew that soon enough they would be forced to go the same way.
Mulder thought of the cell phone he had hidden in his room. Before lunch, they had been given the chance to unpack their belongings. He hadn’t dared to leave the phone in the pocket of his pants. Instead he had hidden it in a pair of socks in the bottom drawer of the small closet he received.
Before entering the compound, they had received instructions on how much stuff they could take with them. One of the specific conditions had been not to bring books or music. Books were available in a huge library in the main building, and music played from the stereo system that could be heard all over the building. Of course modern music wasn’t allowed. All that played was selected, classical music.
There was no television available in the rooms, but one of the main halls had a small television room that was open between specific hours. There would always be a guard available to monitor the program selection. No violence was allowed.
All of these conditions just added to the sense of seclusion and isolation. There were no newspapers or means of finding out what was happening in the outside world. There were no telephones, except for one in Dominique’s office. And the guards all had cell phones to be in constant touch with each other.
Several times that morning and during lunch, Mulder had wanted to call Scully and tell her that he was pulling back on his decisions. But he wasn’t a quitter. Looking at the people in this place, it seemed that they could use a bit of help. At least now he would be able to find out for himself what was going on in this place.
Dominique most definitely had the best of views on the garden. From this spot he could watch any activity and see any intruders coming from afar. Mulder wondered why he had chosen the third floor though. It would take him some time to go from one end of the building to the other.
The door opened again. This time Mulder was asked to come in. Renata Lowe, the woman he had spoken to just a few moments before, now ignored him as if he didn’t exist. She had changed ina few minutes time.
Dominique waited for him in a white room with a large desk, a cupboard behind that desk and a table with two chairs. Against the back wall a white couch was supposed to bring a bit of comfort to the room, but in fact it just added to the coldness of the room. With the light furniture and lack of decoration, it seemed to be a doctor’s office.
‘Fox,’ Dominique sat, inviting the man to sit down on one of the chairs. ‘Welcome to ‘Salvation Awaits’. I am very happy that you decided to join us and take this time to get your life in order. I was doubting for a bit that you would take the step, but I’m glad that you did.’
‘I am happy,’ Mulder said with steady voice. ‘But it feels strange. I’ve never lived with this many people together. I’m not so sure that I’ll be able to fit in.’
‘You will get used to that soon enough. Remember that you always still have your own room left if you want to be alone. You are free to go wherever you want except for my offices. The doors will always remain locked. My quarters are on the second floor, just like yours, but again – you are not allowed to go there. That goes for all the rooms. When in private, everyone should respect everyone’s decision to be alone.’
‘I understand that,’ Mulder nodded.
‘The grounds are large and appealing for strolls. You can compare it with a small park. Our garden is one of the most beautiful in the country. You can do whatever you want to feel at home. We support hobbies and pastimes. If you like to paint or sculpt, we will provide the materials. And if you want to go in search of one your talents, we will help you as much as we can.’
Dominique smiled. ‘I’m sorry; it sounds like I’m laying down the rules here. I don’t want to chase you away. You are free to go whenever you want. You are not a prisoner here. If you feel like you don’t belong here anymore, you can leave. But I can guarantee you that no one has done that ever since I started ‘SA’. There’s never been a desire to leave us. I’m very proud of that.’
‘I understand,’ Mulder said as he relaxed a little bit.
Dominique leaned against the desk and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. ‘You needed help, Fox, and you found it with us.’
Dominique stood up, leaving the desk as he walked to the barred window and glanced outside at his people. ‘As you know, our income exists of yoga-classes and relaxation techniques. My advice is that you follow those classes. Soon you will be asked to recruit new people, like you have been recruited on the square. But that’s for the future. Right now I want you to relax and enjoy.’
Mulder smiled, thinking that this was the end of it. But of course it wasn’t. Dominique put his hand in his pocket and stretched it out before him, opening it so that Mulder could see a tablet on the palm of his hand. ‘There’s one last thing that you need to do before becoming a member of our community. You need to show me that you mean what you say.’
‘What is this?’ Mulder asked, looking at the tablet.
‘You already know. Your friends already take these tablets. They’re not drugs, Fox. They’re homeopathic products that will help you to relax a little bit. Everyone that comes in here is so tense and stressed out that we need to help you a bit when you start out. These tablets will do that for you. You will feel a lot better.’
‘I don’t want to feel numb or out of control,’ Mulder objected weakly.
‘You won’t. You’ve seen all the others. They take those tablets voluntarily. It makes them feel good about themselves and that’s what they need right now. Every single person out there has been in trouble one way or another. They all suffered for something that was beyond their power. I help them as I will help you forget about your sister’s disappearance.’
‘I don’t want to forget.’
‘Yes, you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.’
‘No, I came here to find peace, not oblivion.’
‘The only way you can find peace is by forgetting what has driven you to this point in time. I know what pushed you in the past, Fox. You haven’t had a life since the day your sister disappeared. You put your life at stake so many times to find her. Isn’t it time that you stop doing that and start living your own life? Don’t you deserve that much?’
‘I do,’ Mulder said quietly, ‘but I refuse to take these tablets. I want to be in control.’
Dominique sighed deeply and said, ‘Then I’m afraid we don’t have nothing more to talk about, Fox. I ask you to do one thing for me and you refuse. I cannot help you any longer if you don’t scratch my back for once. But I understand. I’ll have Dennis help you pack and leave.’
‘No, wait,’ Mulder said weakly, stopping Dominique before he could open the door. ‘Is this the only way I can stay?’
‘I’m afraid it is.’
‘And they’re not drugs?’
‘I guarantee it. Why don’t you try it out and see what it tells you? You’ll feel fantastic, I swear.’
Mulder took one of the tablets from Dominique’s palm. The leader handed him a glass of water and said, ‘Show me your faith, Fox.’
Mulder closed his eyes as he swallowed the pill, knowing what it would do. But he had no choice. Dominique watched as he drank the water. Then Mulder opened his eyes again, staring at the cult leader. The effect was noticeable instantly as the drug entered his bloodstream and did its job.
Mulder smiled, as the world seemed to become a new place suddenly. The change was so clear, deep inside of him. He wanted to fight off the drugs but couldn’t. Every worry seemed to be far away; every reason for existence unimportant. There was just this place and no worry in the world. Everything outside of this room was another man’s worry.
Dominique leaned over, patting him gently on the shoulder. ‘I’ll take care of you from now on, Fox,’ he whispered, using that voice he had learned to use so well over the past few years. ‘You’re mine now and I’ll never let you go.’
Mulder nodded and stood up. Dominique grabbed his arm and guided him out of the room. ‘Why don’t you join the others?’ the leader said, leading Mulder to the staircase.
The FBI-agent quietly made his way down. His footsteps were noticeable on the wooden staircase that had been restored two years ago. Downstairs he joined the others in the garden, taking a seat on one of the benches. There was a comfortable silence amongst them.
Dominique glanced through the window at his three new kids. They acted like they all did. Tomorrow he would know how they would react to the drugs. Some of them couldn’t stand them and became ill. Most of them went through the motions without too many hassles.
But one thing the drug did for all them of: It never lost its grip on them. It unwound the toughest of people, and delivered them in his hands like lambs to the slaughterhouse. And he could do with any of them whatever he wanted to do. This drug not only controlled them; it also set their minds open to him. And when he ordered them to do something for him, they did. Not one of them had ever refused.
The agent had passed the test of faith for now. But it had only just begun, and the coming days he would keep a strict eye on him. He would have never let the agent go. Even if he had decided to refuse those tablets, he would have forced the drugs upon him. He couldn’t allow any of them to leave. For that it was already too late the moment they walked into his house.
In the middle of the night Mulder woke up with a splitting headache, lying on the bed in his small, private room. It took him a while to realize he was at the secluded compound. Before long he realized what had happened. But he had no recollection of anything that happened after he had taken the tablet in Dominique’s office.
He couldn’t remember having dinner. He couldn’t remember talking to any of the others. And he didn’t know how he had gotten to his room. There was just the realization that somehow he had lost half a day of his life and there was no way of getting that back.
And the worst part was that he would not know if he had betrayed himself.
- 2 -
In the middle of the night Mulder sat on his bed with his cell phone in his trembling hands. It had taken him some time to gather his wits and to explore the room for bugs or cameras. There didn’t seem to be any. Dominique probably thought everyone was so under the influence of drugs that they would cause no harm. And the doors were locked. He couldn’t get out even if he wanted to.
He had difficulty dialling her number. In fact, it just seemed outright impossible to talk to her in a normal way. She seemed to be part of another world that he couldn’t reach anymore, and that after spending just one day and night in this place.
She picked up the phone instantly, despite the fact it was nearly three a.m. ‘Mulder,’ she said with worry in her voice that sounded like heaven to him. He wanted to be with her right now and feel secure in her presence. Instead, his seclusion only seemed to become worse by the minute.
‘Yeah,’ he said hoarse, ‘I’m here.’
‘Why didn’t you call me sooner? Are you okay?’
He wanted to tell her he was fine but he couldn’t lie. She would figure it out instantly. She knew him too well. Quickly he explained what had happened. She listened in shock when he told her he couldn’t remember a single moment after leaving Dominique’s office.
‘You have to get out of there, Mulder,’ she insisted, ‘this is getting way over your head. You’re no use to anyone if you walk around drugged in there.’
‘No,’ he said firmly, ‘I need evidence. I haven’t been able to talk to Vicky yet, but I will in the morning. I’ll try to get through to her.’
‘How can you, when they feed you drugs?’
‘They only fed them to us during lunch. My guess is that they believe the effects last a full day. But I woke up in the middle of the night. What if those drugs have more influence to your system after a while, numbing you completely after more exposure? That buys me a bit of time.’
‘Don’t you think they see through you?’
‘I can play a druggie,’ he joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere a bit. ‘Scully, I need to steal a few of those tablets. If they are drugs, we can get him on that. I need to talk to Vicky Moss and a few of the others first before I get out of here. If I leave now, he’ll know and destroy all evidence. You know what he’s able to do.’
‘That’s what worries me the worst,’ she said. ‘Have it your way, Mulder. I’ll give you one more day. But I’m getting you out of here after that, you hear?’
Reluctantly she hung up, more worried than angry because he had waited so long to call her. But the fact that he was slowly losing control scared the wits out of her. She resisted the urge to call Skinner and ask for his permission to fetch Mulder. Instead, she slid out of bed and turned on the lights. She had not been able to sleep. Now she couldn’t even if she wanted to.
So at four a.m. she found herself in her kitchen, drinking instant coffee, wondering what her partner was doing right now.
After the call Mulder laid awake on the bed, staring at the cracked ceiling. The floor squeaked outside of his room. They were doing their rounds, probably checking up on their victims. Mulder couldn’t help but wonder about Renata Lowe and the other young woman that had joined with him. Had they woken up in the middle of the night as well? Had they wondered about this place too?
He was glad when the morning came and the bell rang for breakfast. At breakfast the same ritual followed. Everyone sat down quietly but there was no tablet. That would come during lunch. He didn’t dare to look at the others and ate his croissants quietly. But when his eyes shifted restlessly, they met Renata’s who sat opposite him.
From the clear look in her eyes, he knew she was her normal self as well. He nodded slowly, unnoticeable to the others. They would talk during breakfast. Somehow there was something different about Renata. She had a secret that she wasn’t telling.
Mulder drank his coffee, trying to glance at Dominique, who was occupied with Vicky Moss sitting next to him. He spoke softly to her. The girl’s eyes seemed meek yet her gesture spoke of tension. Then the girl turned away from Dominique and drank her tea. Her eyes glanced at Mulder, and then shifted again, ignoring all of them.
After the group parted, a number of them returned to their quarters. Everyone had received strict orders to keep their room clean. There was no housekeeping, except for two women who came once a week to scrub the floors. Everyone made their own beds. There was a daily check-up in every room.
It was already rather warm for the time of year. Mulder waited to see what Vicky and Renata would do, and then walked after Vicky who left, apparently for a stroll down the artificial park.
He walked after her, taking a slow pace. There was a gardener at work who ignored him. One of the guards that usually watched the gates, talked to one of the women. They were on the other side of the pond.
‘Vicky,’ he said softly so that she alone could hear. She stopped and turned to look at him. Instantly he knew she wasn’t under the influence of the pills. Her eyes were bright and alive, unlike those of the others. He knew she noticed the same thing.
‘Who are you?’ she asked, refusing to look him straight in the eyes.
‘You know who I am.’
‘No,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘I know who you pretend to be. Now tell me who you really are.’
‘Can’t you guess?’
‘You didn’t quit the FBI, did you?’
‘Did my mother send you?’
She frowned, exploring his face. ‘I know you,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen your face before, but –‘
Suddenly she seemed to recognize him. ‘You worked on Melissa’s case, didn’t you? My mother kept articles and pictures of her death. You were in them. I remember now. Is that how she got in contact with you?’
He nodded slowly. ‘She worries about you. She contacted me. It was my idea to do this.’
‘What exactly are you doing?’
‘I’m trying to gather evidence that our friend Dominique Durant is a liar, a drug-dealer and a murderer.’
Vicky smiled, baring her white teeth. She was a beautiful young woman that had everything going for her. By far she seemed the brightest of them all, having somehow overcome the effects of the drug.
‘You’re right,’ she said. ‘He is all that. But you cannot prove it.’
‘Can’t I? I’ve got you, haven’t I?’
‘Who says I’m willing to testify?’
Mulder sat down on one of the wooden benches near the pond. She hesitated for a moment and then sat down beside him. Both glanced at the guard on the other side of the pond. He didn’t seem to find it strange that they were talking.
‘If you weren’t willing, we wouldn’t be sitting here,’ Mulder said. ‘You’re not under the influence. Care to explain?’
She raised her shoulders. ‘I didn’t want to feel so numb. I don’t take those tablets anymore.’
‘But you are willing to stay and be put in constant danger.’
She sighed. ‘I came here for seclusion and peace of mind. That’s what I found.’
‘At the cost of what? You obviously don’t feel at home here, or you wouldn’t question Dominique like you’re doing by refusing to take those pills. There is something bugging you and you know it, Vicky.’
The girl glanced angry aside. ‘My mother had no right to send you. I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks. I can do whatever I want then. If you take me home now, I’ll cause hassles and expose you.’
‘You know that they’ll kill me.’
‘Like I care.’
‘Of course you do. Don’t act like a tough girl, Vicky. We both know it’s just a façade.’
The girl seemed worried by his words. ‘I can’t go home. We haven’t had a good contact for ages. At least here I’ll be able to think things through. But –‘
Suddenly Vicky stopped talking when Gretl walked over to them and asked to be seated beside them. Vicky nodded and changed. Instantly she became a meek woman without a mind of her own. Mulder realized instantly that Gretl was not to be trusted.
The other woman smiled at Mulder and asked, ‘Do you like it here?’
Mulder nodded and smiled back. ‘I love it.’
A few moments later Vicky got up and walked back to the house. His chance to discuss matters with her was gone.
The remainder of that morning Mulder didn’t have a chance to talk to Vicky, and there was no chance to see Renata.
At lunch Mulder felt eyes of Dominique rest upon him when the cup with the tablet waited for him. He couldn’t take the chance of dumping the tablet. Dominique knew all the tricks in the book. If he acted suspicious now, he could forget his investigation.
He sighed as he took the pill and then startled when Gretl put her hand on his wrist and said, ‘It gets better. After a while you don’t feel so numbed anymore. Your body will get used to it and adapt.’
Mulder nodded, dreading the effects that would start as soon as the effects of the drug entered his system. Within a few moments his body seemed to turn into the zombie state that they were all in. He could feel the change come over him.
Later on, he would not remember that they had taken him to the gardens where he sat down for several hours, just staring into nothingness as if he was a psychiatric patient that had been tranquillised for his own good. Only after dinner he could slowly feel some of his senses return.
By that time he was already starting to feel sick as a dog.
When he woke up around two a.m. he felt nauseated and sick, puking out his guts as he rushed to the toilet of his small private bathroom. His dinner was already digested and nothing but bile came out. With that bitter taste in his mouth and feeling like crap, Mulder leaned his head against the cool wall and tried to gather his wits.
After a while the pain started to succumb. He splashed cold water in his face and washed his neck, face and wrists, regretting the moment he had decided to infiltrate this place. After drinking another cup of cold water, he returned to the room.
Lying on the bed he called Scully. He wasn’t even able to rest his head against the board. He just wanted to lie down, trying to deal with the dizziness. He knew his body was resisting the invader in his bloodstream. Dominique had said that some had difficulty adapting. He had hardly ever taken painkillers in his life. Even at the worst of times, fighting for his life at some hospital, he had mostly refused to take any sedatives.
And now suddenly he was forced to take something that could be considered a very strong sedative. No wonder he wasn’t dealing too well with it.
Scully sounded very alert when he called her up. He knew she had refused to rest until he called her, ready to call the cops and break down the doors if necessary to save him. He knew she was ready to get him out of there, and to be honest – that’s what he wanted to most. But he also knew he just needed one or two conversations with Vicky Moss to persuade her to leave with him. She would be his evidence. And then they could use his testimony to arrest Dominique on the basis of drug-dealing and test his followers.
‘You’re sick,’ Scully said when he had barely spoken her name.
He couldn’t deny that he was.
‘I’m getting you out of there, Mulder,’ she said. ‘This will only get worse and you know it. Everyone in that place is drugged up. Sooner or later your body will collapse or give in. If that happens, we might already be too late to deal with this properly. You know you can’t investigate.’
‘I’m getting to Vicky, Scully,’ he said weak. ‘I need one more day to persuade her to get out of there. He can’t stop her. If I have her, we have our evidence.’
‘You can’t deal with it and you know. You’re sick. You sound like you’re barely able to stand on your feet.’
‘I can manage,’ he said. ‘I’ll stay in bed during the morning and get to her in the afternoon. But I need to persuade her. If I leave now, she’ll shut down and refuse to talk. I’ll deal with my daily dose somehow. I’ll call you in the evening. If it’s still bad or you don’t hear anything from me, you get me out of there. Okay?’
‘Agreed,’ Scully said, despite the urgency she felt inside of her. When she hung up, Mulder sighed and put the cell phone back in the pair of socks he put in the bottom drawer. Before long he fell asleep, feeling weak and exhausted. Whatever the drugs were that they fed him, his body was resisting it. At least that was worth feeling so sick.
- 3 -
Mulder’s absence was immediately noticed in the breakfast room. Dominique sent Gretl to check up on him. In the morning the doors to the bedrooms were always automatically unlocked. She found him lying feverish in bed, begging to be excused at the breakfast table. He did look like hell. He didn’t even have to fake being more ill than he already was.
‘I’ll send Dominique,’ Gretl said, alarmed by the way Mulder looked. She had never seen anyone sick since the day she had first entered the home. She wasn’t used to seeing this. But she had heard stories about others feeling sick as well.
A few minutes later Dominique came to Mulder’s quarters and found his follower just like Gretl had said. Dominique sighed, realizing this was the third time something like this happened. He didn’t like it. He didn’t want doctors on his premises. They had to deal with this themselves. He would have to reduce the dose and make sure Mulder adjust slowly to the drugs.
‘I’ll be fine,’ Mulder mumbled, lying exhausted in bed. ‘I just need a bit of rest.’
‘I’ll have Gretl bring you some toast and tea. You need to eat something. If you don’t, you’ll just weaken more,’ Dominique said friendly, sitting on the edge of the bed as if he made a house call.
‘I couldn’t stand eating,’ Mulder said, closing his eyes already. ‘I’m sorry to be such a pain, Dominique.’
Dominique smiled reassuringly. ‘Don’t worry about it and get well. But promise me to eat something. If you don’t feel better in the afternoon, I’ll give you some medication or send for a doctor.’
Gretl, who entered the room with a tray with toast, jam and coffee disturbed Mulder again later that morning. A cup with the white tablet lay next to the plate with food. ‘Dominique wants to make sure you eat everything,’ she said. ‘And you should take that tablet as well. It will help you heal.’
Mulder ate three bites of the toast and put the pill in his mouth, drinking some water. Gretl smiled and stroked his hair when he closed his eyes and fell asleep, feeling restless.
When she left, he hurried out of bed and spit the tablet out in a washcloth he kept in his toilet bag. Then he shoved the tablet in the bottom of his toilet bag. It would never be found there. Before long he was able to catch a normal, restful nap.
When he woke up, he found another tray in his room that had been brought in when he slept. On it he found toast and orange juice and a bit of dry meat. There was no tablet this time. He ate a bit of it, feeling much better. The worst seemed to be over.
Quickly he took a few bites and glanced at his watch. It was after two. Most of the members would be outside right now, strolling the gardens. He walked over to the window that looked out on the gardens and noticed that about a dozen people were there. The others were gone. If he remembered correctly it was Monday afternoon. Chances were that some of them had left for the city to recruit new people. There were two guards walking the premises. Dominique was nowhere in sight.
With a bit of luck, he would be the only one in the house right now. He had to take the chance that Dominique had gone to the city with the others. This could probably be the best chance he had.
Quickly Mulder slipped on a jeans and T-shirt, socks and sneakers and left his room, closing the door carefully. If anyone checked up on him, he would have a problem, but it was a risk he had to take.
The bedrooms were on the second floor of the second building. Using the big wooden staircase he could hurry upstairs, where Dominique’s office was. But the doors were always locked. It would have no use to try to get access there.
The only other place he could think of right now was Dominique’s bedroom that was on the same floor as theirs. It would be a good place to start. Quickly Mulder hurried down the corridor until he came to the far door to the biggest bedroom in the building.
His first impression was that the door was locked, but it just needed a bit of a push to get in. Quickly he walked in, closing the door behind him. The bedroom was a spacious place that held a small sofa, a bar and a cupboard that was locked.
Mulder looked around. There was nothing out of the ordinary. The closet held clothes in the style he had gotten used to. Three pairs of shoes waited for their owner on the bottom of the closet. There was no extra luxury; nothing to indicate that Dominique lived a rich life.
In the top drawer of the night table, Mulder found a single key. It was large and seemed very old. Somehow it seemed out of place. Mulder took it and put it in his pocket.
Quickly Mulder closed the drawer and left the room, nearly bumping into Dennis who came from the other side. Mulder hurried, walking as light-footed as he could over the creaking floor. He was sure that someone had heard him, but Dennis didn’t come after him.
Without further incidents Mulder reached his room and took the key out of his pocket. There was something with that key that he couldn’t define. Something told him to keep it with him. But where? If he were out of luck, they would search him and find it. He put it in a handkerchief and shoved it in his shoe. It would walk a bit uncomfortable but at least no one could find it there.
Then a hard knock on his door shook him up. Mulder startled and walked over to the door, realizing that he was still dressed. Quickly he removed his sweater and kicked out his sneakers and ruffled his hair, trying to look tired and sick.
Dominique stood there with Dennis.
‘Fox,’ he said, ‘how do you feel?’
‘Better,’ Mulder said, knowing he still looked very pale.
‘Did you leave your room, Fox?’
‘Yes, I did.’
‘Where did you go?’
‘I wanted to go out for some fresh air, but when I reached the staircase, I felt nauseated and had to come back. I’m better now though. I would like to go outside for some air.’
Dominique glanced at Dennis and nodded. ‘Why don’t you take Fox out? I’m sure he could use the fresh air.’
‘Yes, Dominique,’ Dennis said, putting his hand under Mulder’s elbow, forcing the agent to come with him. Dominique stayed behind in the room, glancing around. Then he closed the door behind them, locking himself up in Mulder’s room.
‘What’s going on?’ Mulder asked dazed.
‘Dominique wants to make sure you’re not under any bad influences, Fox. He’s going to search your room to see if you brought any illegal stuff in here.’
Mulder grinned nervously, wondering if he should fight Dennis off and make a run for it. The two of them made their way down the stairs. Dennis was a strong man and could easily outrun him. No, this was not the right time.
Outside the sun burned on their faces. Mulder glanced at the group of followers that seemed complete again. Vicky stared at him for a brief moment when Dennis put him on a bench and said, ‘I’ll be around.’
Mulder nodded and closed his eyes. The dizziness was passing slowly. At least that was something. And if he were a good actor, Dominique would still believe he was under the influence. He was pretty sure Gretl informed him about taking the drug.
He felt someone touch his shoulder and looked up. Vicky sat down next to him and stared before her, ignoring Dennis’ fierce eyes that tried to figure out if they were talking. Vicky didn’t say a single word. Then she stood up and left him alone again.
A few moments later Dominique came out and spoke briefly with Dennis. Mulder knew they had found the cell phone. He bit his lip, trying to act as numb as possible. When dinner came, he sat down at the table with the rest of them. They ate in silence.
But there was a tension in the air that they could all feel.
Suddenly Dominique stood up and said loud, for all of them to hear, ‘I unfortunately have bad news. One of our people has acted against the rules and will be punished. No matter how much I regret having to do this, I must act accordingly.’
Dominique’s eyes looked at them one by one. Then he moved away from his seat and walked beside them. Surprised and in shock Mulder watched when Dominique touched Renata’s shoulder and asked her to get up. The woman shared a glance with Mulder before she turned and faced Dominique.
‘You know what you did wrong, Renata,’ he said.
The woman nodded.
‘I –‘ she stopped, not able to give the correct answer.
Dominique’s face looked sad and disappointed when he nodded towards Dennis and one of the other guards. They guided Renata out of the room, closing the door hard behind them. It gave a tremble that went through everyone’s soul.
Mulder opened his mouth to ask what was going on, only to be stopped by Gretl, who sat on her regular spot beside him. Her eyes gave a warning glance.
Dominique’s eyes rested long on Mulder before he turned away and walked back to the head of the table. ‘I feel –‘ he started, ‘that my world is coming to an end. That, what I have created and put my faith upon is crumbling underneath me. When a reporter is able to infiltrate this secluded and private community, only to spread lies about us, I fear. I am afraid that I can no longer trust any of you. And the basis on which I have built this communion, was trust.’
He turned away dramatically, sighing deeply. ‘I will have to make a decision that might affect every single one of you. I will inform all of you tomorrow of this decision.’
This time the crowd seemed disturbed and restless. They mumbled to each other when Dominique left them alone. Mulder sat in shock, realizing that he wasn’t the only one undercover in the compound. But somehow they had discovered that Renata was a reporter. How could he be sure they didn’t know he was still an FBI-agent?
Confused Mulder decided not to try to go after Vicky again. Instead he would call Scully and tell her to organize a bust. If Dominique were to make that important decision, it could very well mean the end for all of them. Something told him that an era was coming to an end.
He realized all too well that there was much more at stake now than just Vicky Moss. Renata Lowe’s life could very well be in danger. She might already be dead. He needed to find her quick, before they ended her life. If needs be, he would go in search of Vicky and Renata, and leave with them.
When he reached for the pair of socks with the hidden mobile phone in the drawer, he came back empty-handed. His phone was gone. Suddenly a noise behind him surprised him and the sound of a turning key shook him up.
‘Hey!’ he shouted, trying to stop the door from locking. But he could do nothing but bang his fists on the door and hope that someone would hear. No one came to respond to his call. It was only a little after seven and already he faced a night filled with boredom. He could not get in touch with Scully and tell her what was going on. He wouldn’t be able to help Renata out, and might as well be facing his own death soon.
Unless someone unlocked the door and got him out.
But no one came. And night fell as if everything was as it should be.
- 4 -
Scully’s instincts told her that Mulder was in trouble. She picked it up as a sixth sense as she had done so many times before, saving his life a few times in the process. Now all she could do was inform Skinner and get him out of there instantly.
It was nearly seven a.m. when she called him. His voice sounded alert as if he was already at work. ‘Meet me in my office in half an hour,’ he said, when she finished her introduction.
He hung up before she could say anything else. Relieved she hurried to the office, meeting him in the hallway on his way in.
A few moments later Agent Wilkes stepped in as well. Skinner had contacted him on the way in. It seemed everyone was up for a very long day. Scully recognized him from her previous meeting with him and Mulder to discuss ‘Salvation Awaits’. Then, Wilkes had said that ‘SA’ didn’t have their immediate attention. There had been lack of evidence to show ‘SA’ was becoming a danger to its members. Now things had changed.
Wilkes listened in silence when Scully explained about the few phone calls she had done with Mulder. Skinner had already been informed about the first one, agreeing with Mulder then that they had to wait and see. Now his worry grew when he learned that Mulder hadn’t called, and that he had been sick during their last talk.
Wilkes frowned, listening to the explanation of the drugs the followers received. Then he put a file on the table and said, opening it, ‘after our meeting a week ago, I did a bit of research on my own, even though my A.D. still doesn’t believe we have enough to go after Durant. I extracted bank statements from five ‘SA’-members, and saw that they all extracted large amounts from their accounts. Plus, suddenly the name Durant seems to appear everywhere. With what you are saying, I believe I might be able to convince AD Gersh to organize a raid to arrest Durant.’
‘With all due respect, sir,’ Scully said, ‘but my partner will not live through that. Durant is able to kill them all before we are able to get to them. If they see us coming, it might already be too late.’
‘With all due respect, Agent Scully,’ Wilkes interrupted her, ‘but your partner screwed up. He’s become a victim himself and jeopardized not only his life but also the lives of all the other inhabitants of that compound.’
Scully turned forcefully towards him. ‘You weren’t interested in investigating how a seventeen-year-old girl could become a member of a cult. You didn’t care about the strange deaths that are a part of that cult. In fact, you didn’t even believe it was a cult, did you? At least Mulder did something, and he has the proof he needed. What more do you need?’
‘That’s enough, Scully,’ Skinner said hard, calming her down with one look. ‘It’s no use blaming each other. Agent Wilkes, I’m sure, had his reasons not to go after Durant. Let’s see how we can help those people now, shall we?’
Wilkes nodded, clenching his teeth. He wasn’t interested in getting hell from a fellow agent who didn’t know how they handled cults. On the other hand, he knew perfectly well how she felt, and why her partner had done what he did. He was there when Ephesian and over forty people killed themselves. It was worse than the worst war to witness.
‘I want to try and get Mulder out of there myself first,’ Scully said. ‘We have to make sure he’s alive and well. He can tell me what the best way to go about is. He alone can tell us what to do.’
‘I’m not sending you in there,’ Skinner said strict. ‘I’m not risking you too.’
‘Sir, you know we have to do this. They have no right to stop me. Legally, I can pull strings. Mulder signed all his rights over to me in case of mental instability or medical issues. If I find Mulder legally unfit to act I can use a warrant to get him out of there. Durant cannot stop me from doing that.’
‘Okay,’ Skinner said. ‘I’ll have a warrant ready in case you need it. Are you going right away?’
‘I’ll be going around noon. Mulder told me they get their daily dose around that time. I need to prevent them from giving him those drugs. I might as well use any means necessary.’
‘Good. I want to hear from you before five this afternoon, Scully. If I don’t, I’m signing a search warrant myself. Got it?’
Skinner turned to Wilkes. ‘You’d better advice Gersh to have his team ready. The moment Mulder and Vicky Moss are out of there you’re going in. I want your guys ready.’
‘I’ll try to fix that, sir,’ Wilkes said weak.
‘No. You’ll do it or I’ll have your badge. I’m through being polite when it comes to political issues like this. One of my best agents is in immediate danger thanks to your lack of help, and I won’t stand for that. I don’t want a second Ephesian here, got it?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Wilkes said, excusing himself.
When he left and shut the door, Scully couldn’t help but smile. Skinner looked at her when her smile faded into worry. ‘He can take care of himself, Dana,’ he said, moving from his chair to a seat next to her. ‘He always has.’
‘I know,’ she said. ‘But I’m angry.’
‘No. At the situation. I hate feeling this helpless.’
‘You’re helping him now.’
Scully nodded, not wondering if it was already too late.
- 5 -
Suddenly the door unlocked. He shifted up from his seat near the window where he had stared through the bars at the garden where the others sat. He hadn’t had breakfast. They hadn’t unlocked his door. He had been secluded from all the rest.
Dominique came in with a look on his face Mulder hadn’t seen before. ‘Fox,’ he said seriously, ‘it seems that we have a slight problem.’
‘We do?’ Mulder asked numb. ‘What problem might that be?’
‘It seems that you are still in touch with your friends at the FBI. Last night I didn’t want to believe that you would be capable of betrayal, but I could not deny the evidence at hand.’
‘What evidence might that be?’ Mulder asked, feeling weak in the legs. He felt hungry and unstable.
‘You brought a phone in this house that you used several times. You called your friend Dana Scully. I don’t know what you told her, but this is forbidden.’
Still debating if he should lie or not, Mulder realized quickly that a chance of getting out of this game with his story intact, was not an option. Dominique’s eyes changed colour when he said, ‘She’s come to see you.’
‘Dana Scully. She’s here, waiting for you in the lobby. You told her you wanted to leave, didn’t you?’
‘No, I didn’t. How could I? You took my phone.’
‘You told her lies about us. Why else would she be here?’
‘Perhaps she just came to see how I was doing.’
‘Do you want to leave, Fox?’
Mulder didn’t give an answer, knowing that his lies would be discovered. Dominique sighed. ‘That’s what I dreaded.’
Almost unnoticeable Dominique nodded towards Dennis. Only then Mulder saw that there was a second guard who had been standing outside, waiting for a sign. The two of them grabbed him before he could react.
‘Hey!’ Mulder shouted, trying to fight off the guards who got a firm grip on him. ‘What is this?’
Dominique watched as the two guards pushed Mulder onto the bed, using their full strength to keep him down. Mulder was thrown on his belly, his arms stretched aside so he couldn’t use them. His wrists were clung to firmly. Mulder fought for all he was worth, kicking and screaming like crazy. But they were too strong for him and kept him down easily.
Dominique had closed the door behind the second guard. The thick walls and door kept the noise inside the room.
Then Dominique leaned over and grabbed Mulder’s left arm, pushing a syringe into the flesh. Quickly he emptied its contents and pulled it back out. Mulder’s body seemed to convulse at first, fighting the contents of the injection.
Then he relaxed and hardly moved anymore, closing his eyes. Dominique’s moves caused the guards to stand down and they watched while their leader turned Mulder on the bed. The agent remained quiet and almost lifeless when Dominique lifted his eyelids and said softly, ‘Fox, can you hear me?’
Mulder swallowed, sighed deeply, opened his eyes and looked at Dominique. ‘Yeah,’ he said. His pupils were dilated. Numbness had set in. He stared into nothingness. The only thing he could do was listening to Dominique’s voice.
‘Are you here to get me down, Fox?’ Dominique asked gently. ‘Do they know what I’m doing?’
‘Yeah.’ Mulder’s answer mumbled and difficult to hear. Dominique watched, as the agent seemed to struggle within, still trying to fight the contents of the syringe. But the sedative was too strong to ignore, even for a man with a will like Mulder’s.
‘You’re doing great, Fox,’ Dominique said softly, helping him to sit up. The agent still seemed to have difficulty to stand straight. Dennis had to keep him up. Mulder hardly seemed to move when Dominique put his left index finger under the agent’s chin and forced him to look up.
‘He’s a goner,’ Dominique said to Dennis. ‘He won’t be able to say his own name.’
‘If you keep this up, you’re going to kill him.’
‘We all have to die. Besides, by tonight it will all be over. First he’s going to do something else for me though. By now I’m sure our agent knows who’s the boss.’
‘I hate to say I told you so,’ Dennis said angrily. ‘You shouldn’t have taken him in. He and that damned reporter have forced us to move things forward. They’ve put the plan in jeopardy.’
‘The plan stands as it is. We had everything ready as it was. In a few days we’re out of the country, enjoying their cash, my friend.’
Dennis nodded, pushing Mulder forward. Like a zombie the agent walked down the stairs, followed by Dominique and his guards.
- 6 -
Scully waited nervously in the lobby of the huge building, biting her fingernails. A few women passed her but they didn’t look at her. She felt nervous. If Mulder were like that, how would she be able to talk to him? All she could do was hope and pray they hadn’t harmed him. It did take quite a long time for them to fetch him.
The French doors opened and three men walked over to her. She recognized Dominique immediately from the photos. They didn’t do him justice. He was a handsome man with the charisma of an old-fashioned movie star. No wonder he could persuade all of his followers to take drugs. When he spoke, he sounded attractive and honest.
The second man didn’t interest her. But it was her partner that gave her the biggest shock. Before her stood Mulder, staring blank at her. His body slumped a bit and he was unshaven. He looked like he hadn’t slept for weeks.
‘Mulder,’ she said, resisting the urge to grab his hand and take him out. Instead she took two steps and stared at him in despair. He wasn’t responding to the sight of her. In fact, she could have been anyone. He would have reacted the same to anyone.
This had nothing to do with the illness he had told her about. His pupils were dilated and didn’t seem able to focus on reality. They were restless and nervous. He looked like a drug-addict searching for the next kick. He had lost weight; his clothes seemed baggy and didn’t fit.
‘Mulder,’ she repeated, trying to get a grip on her partner. He just stared at her, not able to recognize her. She bit her lip angrily, then turned towards Dominique and bit, ‘what have you done to him? He’s a zombie!’
‘Your friend has been a bit ill but he’s fine. Our doctor gave him medication to make him well. He’ll be fine in the morning. He’s just feeling under the weather.’
‘He’s not going to stay here until the morning,’ she said, ‘he’s coming with me.’
‘On what authority?’
‘I’m a medical doctor, his friend and guardian in case of medical urgency. I have a written statement of him assigning me to take his decisions.’
‘I’m sure that only counts when it comes to mental unfitness. But your partner is doing just fine.’
‘He’s not. Anyone can see that. He needs to be in a hospital. If needs be, I’ll get a warrant.’
‘Why don’t you do that then, Agent Scully,’ Dominique said calm. ‘Your friend is no longer an FBI-agent. He’s resigned. He chooses to be here. He’s not here against his own will.’
Dominique softened as he looked at Mulder and leaned forward a bit towards Scully. ‘I know you’re worried about your friend, but he’s in good hands. It’s time he forgets about the past and starts living in the present. I’ve offered him a place of rest – a home – that what he’s been seeking for so long. Are you going to deny him that?’
‘You fed him those lies,’ Scully said, not wanting to betray Mulder by telling Dominique he was still at the FBI. Anything could happen. ‘You claim that you want to help him. Have you ever considered that you have fed him that urgency to find his sister? He might have had a better life if you hadn’t pushed him all this time.’
‘Is that what he told you?’
‘It’s what I see. Fox has said several times that he wants peace and quiet. He’s getting that right now. Aren’t you, Fox? In fact, he has already said that he will give me full consent. He’s fed up with you, Agent Scully.’
Scully stared in shock as Mulder nodded slowly as if to confirm.
She blinked her eyelids forcefully and swallowed away the dryness in her throat. She needed to get Mulder out of here now. She couldn’t wait for Skinner. In despair her voice sounded hoarse when she spoke again.
‘I want to speak with him alone,’ she said.
‘I can’t let you do that.’
‘I need to hear it from himself that this is what he wants. If he cannot tell me, I’ll call my superior right now and get that warrant before you can blink your eyes. As long as I have his consent, I will use it at any cost, even if it means declaring him mentally unfit.’
‘All right,’ Dominique said, pointing towards the secluded garden. ‘You have five minutes.’
He opened the door for them and showed them out. Mulder walked beside her in the same zombie-state-of-mind that he had been all this time. She brought him out, putting her hand on his wrist to lead him to one of the wooden benches near the pond.
There were more people in the garden but they all kept their distance. They could have been alone in the Garden of Eden – that quiet and peaceful it seemed. But it was artificial and Scully knew it. She could understand a bit better now how someone could want to spend their time here. Still, anything was better than this – even the hard, cold world outside these walls.
A woman looked at them from the other side of the pond. She was reading a book, lying on the grass. Yet her glance always seemed to return to them, watching them with a careful look.
Scully made sure her partner could see only her and took his hands in hers. ‘Mulder,’ she said, using the softest tones of her voice. He didn’t turn towards her. She put a hand under his chin and forced him to look at her.
‘Mulder, please try and understand this. I need to get you out of here. You’re in danger. Can you hear me? You have to understand what I’m saying now. If you don’t, I won’t be able to help you. I will have to be forced to leave you alone again, until I can get help.’
His eyes blinked twice but he didn’t respond. Wherever he was, he wasn’t able to understand her. Whatever they had drugged him with; it had its effect on him. He listened only to one voice and it wasn’t hers.
‘Mulder, please listen to me. You alone can get yourself out of here at this moment. You need to persuade them you want out. Can you do that for me, partner? Do you remember why you were here in the first place?’
She leaned over and kissed him softly, her lips lingering for two seconds on the corner of his mouth. He didn’t react. But there was some change in the way he looked at her. He was trying to fight the drugs from within, to be able to communicate with her. She was getting through to him!
The woman across the pond got up and hurried towards the building. She had dropped the book on the grass. Scully knew she had not much time left.
‘Mulder, speak to me. Tell me what you want!’
Her partner opened his mouth, blinking his eyelids again. From the house Dominique rushed towards them. Scully refused to look at the ‘SA’-leader and kept her focus on Mulder.
‘Let go of him now,’ Dominique said, ‘or I will be forced to use extreme measures.’
‘I’m taking him out of here,’ she said firmly, pulling him up.
‘You can’t. He doesn’t want to come with you.’
‘Yes, he does. If you don’t let him go, I’ll scream fire and send this place to hell.’
Dominique wasn’t ready to argue. Pulling her up by the right arm he extracted her from Mulder. ‘He’s staying!’ he said.
From the corner of her eye, Scully saw her partner’s lips move. ‘He’s trying to say something,’ she said, pulling herself free.
Dominique turned and stared at the male agent. Then he leaned forward so that Mulder alone could hear and whispered, ‘If you give one kick, I’ll kill her right here. You know I will.’
Mulder’s body seemed to shift on his seat. Then it relaxed again and he shut his mouth, refusing to look at Scully.
‘I think he’s made his point, Agent Scully,’ Dominique said, releasing her from his grip. ‘Why don’t you leave now? You’ve upset him enough. You have no place here.’
‘I’ll come back,’ she said hard. ‘You can count on that.’
Dominique only smiled when he guided her to her car and watched as she drove off. On the bench, her partner still sat quietly, as the numbness slowly took off.
- 6 -
‘You know we can’t keep him here any longer,’ Dennis said as he glanced at the man on the bench. ‘He’s betrayed us. He’s a danger to us all. Kill him now, Dom, before he destroys us.’
‘He’s of no danger now. He doesn’t even remember his own name.’
‘Those drugs will wear off soon. And then what? Are you going to keep on feeding him drugs until you decide to kill him after all? Just get it over it!’
‘No, he has to die with the others. It’s suitable. He came here to help them and he will die with them. At least then his death will have some meaning.’
‘What the hell does that mean?’ Dennis exclaimed. ‘She’s getting a damned warrant!’
‘She won’t be able to do so, Dennis. It’s all been taken care of. She’s not leaving the house. And tonight it will all be over.’ Dominique sighed. ‘Unfortunately we will have to do with less than we expected, but nothing will stop us from starting anew. By tomorrow morning there will be nothing left of this house.’
‘Where is she then?’ Dennis asked in fear. ‘Did you kill her?’
Dominique smiled. ‘Of course not. I had to let her go so my little children wouldn’t be disturbed. Remember, they believe they live in paradise. I want them to believe in my goodness, until the very last second before their death.’
‘Where is she then?’
Dominique pointed at the window. A car drove to the back of the building. A guard got out and opened the back door. Then he opened a car door and lifted the redhead female agent out of the car. Then the door closed and everything was as it had always been.
The only ones seeing it were Dominique and Dennis, from the window of Dominique’s private dining room.
- 7 -
His eyelids blinked as he lay on the bed of his impersonal room. His hands rested on both sides of his bodies but Dominique could tell that he was slowly getting his senses back. Patiently he waited and smiled when Mulder eventually seemed to become aware of his surroundings.
Dominique handed him a glass of water and smiled as he sat on the edge of the bed. ‘How do you feel, Fox?’
‘I don’t know,’ Mulder mumbled, feeling the dryness in his throat. Thankfully he emptied the glass of water and leaned back tired against the pillows of his bed. ‘What happened?’
‘You were very ill. We had to take care of you. Don’t you remember that you passed out in the dining room this morning?’
‘I passed out?’ Mulder asked with a thick voice. ‘How come?’
‘You didn’t take well to our homeopathic products, but we’ve corrected that now. It’s been a rough patch for you but the doctor said you should be feeling better soon.’
Mulder closed his eyes, rubbing his eyelids with his fingers. ‘I remember something – I saw Scully.’
‘My FBI-partner … a friend. She came here to talk to me. But she left.’
‘That must have been a dream, Fox. There was no one here.’
Mulder rolled on his side, trying to get a grip on the dizziness he felt. He remembered vaguely things that were out of the ordinary. He remembered being locked up, two men grabbing him, a syringe, sitting in the yard and listening to Scully. His left arm ached as if he had been injected. He stared at the floor, ignoring Dominique who waited until he would look at him again.
‘It was a dream, Fox,’ Dominique said with that voice that was so hard to disbelief. ‘You’ve been very ill and I feel guilty about it. But that won’t happen again. I guarantee that from now on we’ll monitor you day and night to make sure you’re adapting to our ways. You’ll feel better soon.’
Dominique offered his hand with two different tablets in it. ‘Here,’ he said. ‘Just take these and you’ll feel better. They’re sleeping pills. You’ll wake up bright and fresh in the morning.’
Mulder didn’t object but swallowed the two pills down with a glass of water. Then he sighed and said, ‘I’m so tired, Dominique.’
‘I know, Fox,’ the man responded, pulling a blanket over Mulder’s cold body. ‘Just rest.’
Within a few moments Mulder’s breath was normal and deep. Dominique smiled and looked down at the agent. He would not wake up again. Tonight this place would burn down and they would find the agent sleeping in his bed.
Dominique left the room and locked the door. Inside the room Mulder slept a drug-induced dream.
But then the door was unlocked again, and a woman slipped in, locking the door carefully from within with the key that Dominique had left.
‘Fox,’ Vicky said as she shook him by the arm, trying to wake him up. Mulder startled and mumbled something.
‘Come on, Fox,’ she said, ‘I need you. I’m afraid.’
Mulder slowly opened his eyes. His eyelids seemed to weigh too heavy at first. He stared at her. ‘I can’t –‘ he said, not recognizing her.
She pulled his heavy body up, trying to get him to move. ‘You’ve been drugged, Mulder,’ she said, trying to get him to move on his own. ‘We need to get you alert. Think! Did he give you pills?’
Mulder sighed, slumping forward. ‘Don’t remember –‘
‘Think – were it pills?’
Mulder nodded. Vicky pulled him up until they both swayed on their feet. Slowly she forced him to make his way to the bathroom, helping him to sit down before the toilet bowl. ‘I’m sorry, Fox,’ she said, ‘I need you awake.’
He stared at her, understanding what she wanted to do. He nodded, forcing two fingers down his throat until he convulsed and puked out all that was left in his stomach. He hadn’t eaten since dinner. All that came out were the nearly digested tablets in his empty stomach.
Vicky reached up and handed him a glass of water. Carefully she cleaned his mouth with the washcloth. He sighed, trying to get his thoughts straight.
‘Listen to me, Fox,’ Vicky said, putting his face between her hands so that he had to look at her. ‘I think your friend is in trouble. They say she left but I saw her car at the back of the building. I don’t know where she is, but you need to find out. Her life might be in danger.’
‘Scully?’ he asked.
‘The one you were talking with. I don’t know her name. A redhead.’
‘Scully,’ he confirmed, ‘so it wasn’t a dream.’
‘Is that what they said? What did they do to you, Fox?’
‘Don’t remember. A syringe. They drugged me. I saw her and he said it was a dream.’
‘She’s here somewhere. We need to get out of here. Dominique is going to kill us all tonight. I heard him say it. They think I’m still taking that stuff, but I haven’t since two days. I’m okay now, but the others aren’t well. He didn’t feed us this afternoon. He has something planned for tonight. I try to tell them – I don’t know what he’s doing – I see things –‘
‘Switch drugs,’ Mulder whispered. ‘Medication in Dominique’s bedroom.’
‘I need you to help me. I can’t do this by myself.’
Mulder grabbed her by the arms. ‘You have to. Don’t let him do this to you.’
She nodded. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I need you to tell me where she might be. Where did they take her?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t been here long enough. There are lots of rooms that aren’t being used. But if they have her, she might be in one of the basements. You have to find her there. I can’t help you.’
She reached in the back of her pocket and lifted out a cell phone. It wasn’t his. It had belonged to one of the guards. ‘I just found this,’ she whispered. ‘I didn’t dare call my mother, but I thought you would know who to contact.’
Mulder could hug her and smiled reassuringly when she asked if he could stand on his own two feet now. He pulled himself up and swayed a bit, but at least he could stand. He grinned. ‘Hey, at least I got a bit of rest.’
She smiled back. ‘I have to go,’ she said.
‘No,’ he said, ‘promise me something. Meet me within an hour at the gates. If I’m not there by then, stay out of the way and find a hideout. If Dominique’s planning on killing you, you don’t want to be around.
He nodded. She left. The door was unlocked now. All he had to do was get out of here and find his partner before they found him.
He waited until Vicky’s footsteps were gone. He tucked the cell phone in his jeans and put on a sweater over his T-shirt. He felt naked without gun and means to defend himself, but at least he had all his senses. That was worth something.
He opened the door. The moment he did, two pairs of strong hands grabbed him before he was able to move. He wanted to scream and shout but a large hand covered his mouth. Then a sharp sting in his left arm made his body limp and numb, and he slumped forward into the arms of Dennis.
The last thing he remembered before he passed out, were Dominique’s eyes staring at him in the semi-darkness of his room, and his voice demanding to know who had unlocked the door.