X-Files - The Spooky Murders
"What are you doing here?" Scully asked once she was over the shock that at seven in the morning their little basement room was already occupied. She had come in to catch up on some paperwork, but obviously that wasn't going to happen today.
"Oh, hi, Scully," Mulder replied, without turning around. He was sitting in front of his projector screen, staring at what looked like a drawing of a crime scene.
"Do we have a case?" Scully asked, dumping her coat on her chair.
"No," Mulder answered instantly, then sighed rubbing his eyes. "Well, theoretically we do. But we're gonna have to solve it from here."
For a moment Scully wondered if she should ask why, but before she could decide Mulder continued: "A man was found dead in a dark alleyway that ends in a wall. What do you think?"
"Mugging gone wrong," Scully suggested and Mulder nodded his consent.
"Now, this victim was dressed in nothing but a towel," Mulder added.
Scully raised an eyebrow, but wasn't quite convinced. "That's surely extraordinary, but not quite enough for an X-file, don't you think?"
"Generally, I agree," Mulder admitted, and his partner could already sense there was more. "But not this time."
He flipped the image and Scully took a closer look. This one was a crime scene photo, showing the victim. The man was indeed naked, except for a beach towel that was wrapped around his lower parts. It had a slightly pink hue, but Scully couldn't tell if that was its natural colour or an effect of the blood that covered the rest of the body. There was definitely enough of that, so much in fact that it was hard for Scully to discern any visible cause of death. Although some violent cause seemed logical.
In general the man seemed to be middle-aged. He looked tall and slender, although it was hard to say considering the only frame of reference was the towel. He must have been somewhat attractive, she thought, sporty, but not too much, dark hair, straight face...
Mulder flipped the image back to the schematic, and only then Scully noticed she must have been staring at the photograph for several seconds. Now she was staring at her partner instead, still not quite able to close her mouth properly.
"The body was found this morning in a small town up in Maryland," Mulder explained. "Luckily the coroner knew me and the stuff I'm usually working on and had the good grace to call me first."
"Is that..." Scully started, pointing at the projector screen where the photograph of the dead body had been just a moment ago. At first it had seemed to freak her out even more that Mulder had appeared completely calm. But looking closer, she could see dark rings under his eyes and deep lines in his face. Agent Mulder, by the nature of the cases he usually worked on wasn't easily spooked, but she could see that he was as thoroughly shaken as she was. He'd just had a couple more hours to deal with it.
"Yes," Mulder nodded. "The fingerprints are a match. I'm still waiting for the DNA results."
Scully finally found her chair. "But how?" she asked.
Mulder shrugged. "So far I have two theories. I'm afraid you won't like either or them very much," he replied. "Either someone murdered me in the future and travelled back in time to dump the body here."
Scully was about to protest, but he raised his hand.
"Or," Mulder continued before she could interrupt, "the body is a clone."
"But clones, like identical twins, wouldn't have the same fingerprints," Scully put in.
Mulder nodded. "That's correct if you're assuming that a clone is a copy of someone based on the genetic material of that person. But what if someone found a way to make an exact copy?"
Scully nodded, contemplating the possibility, but then stopped herself before her thoughts trailed off too far. "So, what do we do now?"
"I've already asked the coroner for his final report," Mulder replied. "He said I could have the towel, too. And..."
He was interrupted when the door flew open. "Agent Scully," Assistant Director Skinner asked, his voice made her skin crawl. "I hoped I'd find you her..."
His voice trailed off as he looked at Mulder, who turned around in his chair and met the gaze of his boss levelly.
"I take it they found another body," Mulder guessed, when Skinner kept staring at him, stuck in the middle of his sentence.
"Yes," the assistant director tried to compose himself, but his voice still sounded raspy. "That is, a body was found..."
"Let me guess," Mulder continued. "The victim has a striking resemblance with me and was wearing a pink beach towel?"
"A green towel," Skinner corrected him.
"So close," Mulder said with a tired almost smile. More to himself he murmured: "That could mean that the colour might not be significant. Then again you never know. Stabbed?" he asked more loudly.
"Shot," the director replied, trying hard to keep his voice from breaking up again. "Five bullets evenly distributed in thorax and abdomen. One in the head."
"Ouch," Mulder mumbled and nodded, as if in deep thought. When he looked up again, he caught the questioning glance of his boss and flipped the image on the projector back to the crime scene photo. "This body was found this morning."
Scully noted that, like her, he avoided looking at the picture. But Skinner stared at it, much like she must have earlier.
"How?" The almost whispered one-word-question wasn't directed at anyone in particular, but Mulder picked it up anyway.
"That's what we're trying to find out," Mulder said and tried another smile, but it didn't quite get there. "However I think the time-travel theory just went out of the window."
"Ok, then," Skinner said, still slightly shaken. "On the outside we'll treat this like usual murder cases. I want the two of you..."
"Sir, I don't think it's wise to have us involved in this investigation," Scully put in.
"On the contrary," Mulder interrupted. "This clearly is an X-file. And it's got to do with me personally."
"Which is why you will stay put," Skinner reclaimed his authority. "Both of you. I will have agents investigating this. As far as anyone else is concerned, one of our agents has been murdered and there would be a lot of weird questions coming up, if we don't look into this ourselves. They will report directly to you, Mulder. But you will not leave the building until we've got this cleared up. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Mulder sighed and Skinner nodded.
"Actually, sir, I'd like to stay here, too," Scully put in, before the assistant director could say anything to the contrary. "I had hoped we could get hold of the bodies. I'd like to sit in on the autopsies."
It hadn't sounded as calm as she had wanted it to, and Skinner gave her a long look. "Are you sure?" he asked quietly.
Scully squared her shoulders and met his gaze steadily. "Yes, sir."
"Alright then, Mulder, do you want anyone in particular investigating your death?" Skinner asked with bitter irony.
"Actually not," Mulder replied with the ghost of a smile. "Let's ask for volunteers and see who comes up."
Skinner nodded and turned to go.
"Oh, sir?" Mulder asked, just before he was out of the door. "Maybe you should tell them there's a murdering psychopath out there who's dressing up his victims to look like me."
"That's not what you think," the assistant director replied, half question, half statement.
"No, sir," Mulder answered honestly. "But it's the most believable explanation right now. News travels fast in an agency like this and I'll have to leave this basement eventually, if only to go to the bathroom. And creating my own ghost story is the last thing I need right now."
"I'll see to that," Skinner replied and as he took the steps up to his office, he wondered just what he had gotten himself into.
"So, Spook, you mind telling me how it is that there's three of you and two of them are dead?" The question came from Special Agent Frank Hanson, who was the senior agent of their little task force, and he obviously was still somewhat annoyed that Mulder had the lead.
"I'd love to, if I could," Mulder replied and dropped a folder on the desk and himself into the chair across from Hanson. "And it's three dead by now."
"Oh, a new one," the older agent remarked, skipping through the file. "This one got clothes on, might be another perp, copycat maybe. Wouldn't be surprised if there's more than one person out there who likes to see you dead."
"Including you?" Mulder asked half-serious.
Hanson looked up and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Come on, Frank," the agent continued. "Everyone else assigned to this is either a rookie who volunteered out of a serious case of hero worship, or a youngster who was volunteered by Skinner."
"Once a partner, always a partner," Hanson replied with a shrug, but Mulder wasn't satisfied.
"We haven't been partners in over six years now," he stated. "And you were glad as hell when Skinner tossed me into that basement. You've been avoiding me ever since. So why the sudden interest?"
"Well, at first I actually thought you finally bit the dust. I've always warned you – and still do – that mystery adventure crap you're working on will some day break your neck. And I do still take some interest in my former partners," the bulky ex-military admitted and almost blushed. Then he added: "Also Rogers got a few days off and I don't want to have to do paperwork all on my own."
"I see," Mulder replied and walked over to the whiteboard to add the details of the latest victim to those of the previous two. "Now, let's see what we know. Our first two victims were found here and here," he pointed in two locations on a map that showed the east coast, one in Boston and one slightly more north-west.
"Scully says both of them died at some point yesterday night," he added. "However because of the weather it's impossible to determine the exact time of death. Or which of them died first. This one was found while you were up in Maryland."
Mulder took a photograph of another dead body out of the folder he had just brought in and pinned it next to the others, then marked a spot on the map, slightly west of D.C. "He was found here, in Turkey Run park. The preliminary report of the coroner on scene says he was shot – six bullets, five in the body, one in the head - and must have died between six and eight this morning. I'm still waiting for the lab results and ballistics reports, but I'm sure fingerprints and DNA are a match. And there's a good chance the bullets match those of our second victim, too."
"So you think it's a single perp?" Hanson noted and Mulder nodded.
"Of course we can't dismiss other possibilities yet, but I think that either our murderer is working alone, or it's a group, systematically hunting down whoever that is."
"And what do you think?" Hanson asked, seeming somewhat uncomfortable. "About who – or what – those dead guys are?"
"I don't know yet. I think they are clones of some sort," Mulder replied. "I hope that if there are more of them out there, we might be able to catch one of them alive enough to answer that question."
"So how do we know, Spook, that you're actually you and not one of them?" the older agent asked sourly.
"We don't," Mulder replied with and ironic smile and Hanson almost flinched. "Right now I'm not even entirely sure I'm me. We're dealing with something – or someone – who can copy DNA, fingerprints and quite certainly also iris and retina patterns and any other trait by which an individual could be identified. Right now there's no way to be completely sure."
Mulder's call from the door of the mortuary made its addressee jump and Scully almost dropped the evidence jar in her hand.
"Sorry," Mulder added and crossed the room. "Anything new?"
"Not really," Scully replied, pulling a white sheet over the body she stood next to. Two more figures covered by equally white sheets were occupying the adjacent tables. A plastic bag with bloody clothing was leaning against the wall and the doctor picked it up together with the small jar that held six more or less deformed bullets, still showing traces of blood.
"Fingerprints of all victims match. DNA results of the latest one aren't back yet, but I'm not expecting any surprises there. Toxicological came back on all three," she summed up rather soberly. "The only potentially interesting thing I found is that apart from what killed them, there is no sign of any kind of injury on either of them."
"I don't quite see what's so fascinating about that," Hanson put in.
"I didn't think you would," Scully retorted. "Every injury, no matter how small, every cut, every bruise, every burn, every broken bone and also every infection leaves scar tissue. Nothing in the human body, if it is once damaged, heals completely back into the state it has been before."
Mulder nodded understandingly, but Hanson's expression was still blank, so Scully continued: "Every injury leaves a mark. Most of the scars we carry are so small they aren't obviously visible, but you can see them if you look closely. There's no two-year-old child on this planet who wouldn't have any scars already, but there are no traces of any injury whatsoever on our victims. Of course I haven't had the chance to dig deeper yet, but I'd be very surprised if there was anything different about the inside that we can't see from the outside."
"Of course," Mulder murmured enlightened. "That totally makes sense!"
But Scully scowled. "I can't see how," she replied darkly. "I've pulled your medical records, and even if I hadn't, in the time we've been partners alone, you've been shot, stabbed, frozen..."
She cut the list short, when Mulder cringed. "The only way to produce matching fingerprints would be an exact copy, you said that yourself. But an exact copy would still have the scars of those injuries. It would be unavoidable."
"You're assuming that these are copies, like with a printer. But assume that someone could grow a person, like you grow bacteria in a petri dish. Scully, forget for a moment that you know my age. How old would you estimate our victims are?" Mulder asked back.
His partner looked at him, confused, but answered his inquiry: "Mid thirties, forty at most."
"But if they had been around that long, they would have had some injuries in that time, right?" Mulder continued. "Also someone would surely have noticed, so how come we've never heard of them before?"
Scully sighed. "What are you trying to say?"
"I'm saying that although all our victims look as if they are as old as me, their bodies are only a fraction of that age," Mulder concluded, but Scully didn't look convinced.
"That idea is a bit far fetched, don't you think?"
Before Mulder could throw an argument back at her, they were interrupted by the door opening, Hanson couldn't quite suppress a sigh of relief. In came a young man who didn't look much more than twenty years old and looked very nervous.
"Agent Mulder?" he stuttered. "There's been another murder. And this time we have a picture of the shooter."
"That's good, Maybridge," Mulder replied with an encouraging smile. "Have you run this through the database already?"
"No, sir," the young agent swallowed and produced a photograph from the folder he was holding. The picture was in grey shades and from the angle it depicted the scene, had to be from a security camera. It showed a large room, most likely the foyer of some official building, with people scattered throughout the room, in the middle a man with a drawn gun.
"Now that's certainly something I didn't expect," Mulder mused while he passed the picture to Scully and Hanson, along with a photograph of the victim. "I've had a few cases where the killer was also the victim, but I don't think this qualifies as a suicide. Anything else?" he asked Maybridge.
"Yes," the young agent replied. "Skinner wants to see all of you. Now."
"You've heard about the latest developments?" Skinner asked, when Mulder, Scully and Hanson had taken a seat in his office. The three agents nodded and he continued: "Then you can already imagine why that makes the situation somewhat problematic. The local authorities have already asked about you. I have told them you have been here during the time of the murder, but they only believe me because we have our own security footage to prove that."
"Sir, we haven't been able to read the full report yet..." Mulder started and the assistant director nodded.
"As far as the police is concerned, about an hour ago, you walked into a branch of the National Bank here in D.C., gun drawn, fired six rounds and thereby killed another version of yourself and injured another man, a Dr. McLain," he explained. "The only reason they haven't demanded your extradition yet is that they can't make heads or tails of it themselves. However someone could all too easily get the idea that one of my agents is running around shooting people, which is why I want this cleared up as soon as possible."
"Do we have an agent at the scene already?" Mulder asked.
"Not yet," Skinner admitted. "But if you think you're going..."
"I'll go," Hanson interrupted him, only too happy to have something to do to get his mind off just how creepy all of this was.
Skinner nodded his consent and Mulder continued: "We should also ask that Dr. McLain a few questions."
"He's been through surgery, the doctors have promised to notify me when he's awake," Skinner put in. "That will most likely still be a couple of hours, though. And for you, Mulder, my order still stands. You'll stay here, until we can be sure this issue has been resolved."
"Hey, Spook," Hanson knocked on the door of the briefing room, before he entered.
Mulder looked up from the papers on his desk as if he had been asleep, or at least very deep in thought. "Hey," he replied.
"I brought you something, since you can't get out," the older agent said with a smile and put two Chinese take-out boxes on Mulder's desk.
Curiously, the agent opened one and peeked inside. "Mango chutney. You're seriously still playing that joke?"
"You're proof it still works. Besides I haven't had anyone to play it on in some time," Hanson answered, picking up the second box and a pair of chopsticks, before he slumped down into the chair next to Mulder. "So, how's it going, Spook?"
Mulder sighed, then shrugged. "Not much going on. There has been no new development and while I have a nice theory, it's no more than that and it doesn't tell me where my murderous double is."
"Where's everyone else?" Hanson gleefully dug into his food while Mulder was still poking around listlessly in his.
"I sent them home," he said. "After all there's not a lot to do right now and everyone else is going home, too. Except Scully. That doctor woke up a while ago and she went to the hospital to question him, I hope that will give us some lead. I've done some research on him in the meantime, and I think he might actually be connected to this. He's a scientist, a geneticist. There's little else to be found about him, tough."
"Sounds like you've had about as much fun as I," Hanson replied, still wolfing down his chutney. "I spend half my time assuring the bank managers that there was not attempt of robbery and the other half fighting with the police about who had jurisdiction."
"You know you could go home, too?" Mulder reminded him and Hanson gave him a broad grin.
"Well, you're not going anywhere the way Skinner grounded you here, Spook," he said. "And I want to know what's this all about since I'm already in it. Besides, pulling a night-shift is no fun on your own."
"Well, then here's to a long and boring night," Mulder murmured.
"Dr. McLain?" Scully softly knocked on the door as she entered. The man in the bed still looked rather young and gazed up from a book as she entered. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI. I'd like to ask you some questions about what happened in the bank today."
"Sure," the man said with a smile and put down his book.
Dana pulled a chair closer to the bed to sit down and took out a copy of the security camera picture Maybridge had shown them earlier. "Do you know this man?"
"No," he said, but a little too quickly.
"Are you sure?" Scully asked, and pointed at the picture. "Because that man is dead now and the man who shot him – and you – is still out there."
"I don't know him as such," the scientist answered evasively, then sighed. "It's complicated."
Scully pulled out another picture, a portrait. "This is Special Agent Fox Mulder," she explained. "My partner."
"Oh crap," McLain muttered.
Scully raised an eyebrow. "So you do know the shooter and the four others?"
"I don't...," he started, but almost flinched under the agent's unrelenting gaze. Then he sighed. "Yes, they are the copies. We called them Steve, Paul, Michael, George and Henry."
Scully looked back questioningly. "Copies?"
"Clones, if you want to call them that," he replied. "I can try to explain, but I'm not sure I can simplify it enough for your to understand. It's all very scientific and I'm not very good at relating things like this in terms understandable for normal people."
"I'm a medical doctor," Scully replied with a shrug. "Try me."
"Ok, so I'm a scientist working on a genetic research program," he started. "We're working on finding out why the same genotype can lead to different phenotypes in individuals and what factors influence that how, like what determines which genes are active and..."
"You're working on why the same genes can lead to different looks. Like why identical twins have different fingerprints," Scully simplified it, before the scientist could get too excited about the topic.
"Yes," McLain answered and took a deep breath. "Now that's only my group. But there's other groups working in our project, too, studying all sorts of things: cell reproduction, diversification,..."
"So what is it you actually do?"Scully interrupted him.
"Mostly research," he replied. "Only that a while ago the entity that is sitting on our funds also supplied us with data about your partner: Blood sample, hair sample, skin sample, fingerprints, iris and retina scans, medical records, basically everything except who he actually was or him in person. Even MRI and EEG. And they told us to make as exact a copy as possible. A lot of scientist left, they said it was unethical. I only saw the possibilities for my career and told myself I could advance humanity..."
"And you actually made a copy?" Scully put in.
"Yes. That is five of them. Or rather five where it worked," he replied. "It was other groups though. I don't know how they did it, we only ever saw the finished results after a couple of months. But we – well not my group, but you know – even actually managed to copy basic brain patterns. It's incredible. Although it did take us long enough."
"Then how did it happen that four of them are dead now and one running around shooting people?" Scully asked.
"That is Steve. The one who shot them. He was the first one," he replied meekly. "The thing is, we only managed to copy some basic brain patterns, which makes them much like children in a lot of ways. Now Steve, he is quite intelligent. But he doesn't understand the concept of right or wrong. He only knows good and bad as we taught him, and one of the first rules was that the copies weren't allowed to leave the compound.
"But the others wanted to leave and some of us felt guilty, I guess, and we helped them escape," he went on. "They aren't dangerous, you know. Only Steve always felt that as the first one, they weren't as good as him and to him they probably proved that by breaking the rules when they left. At least I think that's why he went after them, and God only knows where he got the gun. It was pure chance actually that I was in that bank."
"Where do you think he is now?" Scully asked.
McLain shrugged. "He's the only one left now, I guess he's going back to the compound."
"Only he isn't the only one left," Scully murmured, already reaching for the phone in her pocket.
The scientist blanched when he arrived at the conclusion she had had a moment earlier, but Scully was already out of the door.
"Good evening, Agent Mulder." The elderly security guard gave the tall, dark haired man a friendly smile. "Working late?"
"Yeah," the man replied, reaching inside his coat.
"Oh, that's not necessary." The guard shook his head and waved him through. "Just come on in."
"Thanks," the man said and headed for the staircase.
The agents calm voice was both relieving and terrifying to the person on the other end of the phone line. "It's me, Scully," she said. "Is Mulder with you?"
"No. He just went downstairs to get something from his office," the older agent said.
Scully tried hard not to curse. "You have to find him," she replied. "The clone, the one who murdered the others, he's still out there. He's armed and dangerous, and he might be after Mulder next."
"Got it," Hanson answered. A chill ran down his spine as he hung up and redialled. "This is Special Agent Frank Hanson," he said when the security guard answered. "If Special Agent Mulder comes by, do not let him in."
"I'm sorry, sir," the guardsman replied. "I already let him through, just a moment ago."
Hanson suppressed a curse. "If he comes back, hold him up," he ordered and hung up. Hastily he grabbed his gun and headed for the door. He didn't quite think about where he was going as he headed for the staircase and down the stairs, two at a time.
Mulder's office was in the same part of the building, several levels down, and Hanson prayed his former partner hadn't taken the elevator. He had just passed the ground level when the sound of gunshots made him jump the last few steps.
Hanson pushed through the hallway doors at a run, into the dimly lit corridor. At the other end he could make out a figure in the light of an emergency exit sign, pointing a gun into the sideways corridor.
The agent slowed down to proceed more carefully, when the door to the staircase fell shut behind him with a clang. The figure turned around to him and when he took aim, Hanson reflexively pulled his trigger.
His opponent silently fell to the floor and he hurried on. As he drew nearer, he recognised the man on the floor. He swallowed hard and turned into the side corridor. At first it seemed empty, until he saw another person leaning into an open door. "Mulder?"
"Yeah," a strained voice replied and Hanson stepped closer, but about an arm's length from the other man he stopped. Blood was soaking through the shirt of the man who did look like Mulder – but then so did the one he had just left dead in the other corridor.
"Show me your arm," Hanson demanded and earned a non-comprehending look from the other man in return. "Your left arm," he explained. "The first week we were teamed up, you chased a suspect from the scene. You ran through a glass door and cut your arm. We had it stitched up, but you should still have a scar above your left elbow. If you are really Fox Mulder."
Mulder sighed and slowly began rolling up his left sleeve with trembling fingers. Hanson had to come closer to see, but he knew what he was looking for. When he found it, he lowered his gun with a sigh of relief.
"How did you know that wasn't me?" Mulder asked while Hanson looked for something to use for a makeshift bandage and found a first aid kit.
"I didn't," he replied, while he got to work.
"Great," Mulder answered and flinched when Hanson pulled the bandage tight.
Once the older agent was satisfied with it, he went into Mulder's office to call for an ambulance. A moment later he came back with a bottle of bourbon he had pulled out from Mulder's desk and two glasses. "I need a drink," he said. "You want one?"
"I'll wait for the paramedics," Mulder replied and his old partner shrugged.
"Suit yourself," he said and sat down next to the younger agent. "You know it's been a nice ride," he mused as he downed the shot. "But I'm more than happy to leave all this mystery crap to you in the future."
Scully already began to fear the worst when she saw the flashing blue lights of ambulance and police cars in front of the FBI building. She had tried to call the office several times, but the line was dead and Mulder didn't answer his cell phone. A shiver ran down her spine when she imagined what might have happened, but she suppressed the thought as she came closer.
A wave of her badge brought her through the police line screening off passing pedestrians from the building. She ignored the officer trying to approach her and headed straight for the ambulance.
"I'm sorry, you can't..." one of the paramedics started, but she ignored him, too.
"Hi, Scully," Mulder called from his place on a stretcher. He had one arm in an improvised sling and a slightly apologetic and very exhausted smile on his face.
His partner hurried over against the paramedics' continued protests. "Mulder, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine," he assured her.
Scully let out a half relieved, half exasperated sigh. "What happened?"
"I was shot," he admitted and earned a worried glance and questioningly raised eyebrow from his partner, so he added: "By myself."
Mulder nodded. "Hanson took care of him," he replied and motioned towards the FBI building. "Actually you might want to stay out of there, for tonight at least. Things got a little messy."
"I see," Scully said, her gaze still fixed on Mulder, until she was convinced he would really be alright. "In that case, I guess I'll just call it a night."