How could he have prevented it?
No way he could have known that bank robbers would be fleeing his bank while he was walking up to the ATM. No way he could have known that Scully would be right in their path – she hadn't even had time to yell "Freeze! FBI!" before some hair-triggered thug had smacked her across the skull with his gun. No way he could have known that she'd strike that particular felon as the perfect portable hostage – he couldn't believe how fast they'd had her bundled into the car.
Just bad luck that Scully had the keys. Just bad luck that the car he flagged down for pursuit succumbed to terminal engine trouble in less than two blocks. By then there were cops all over, responding to the bank's silent alarm. He gave them the car's license number and description.
They found it later that evening, stashed under cover about a mile away. There was some blood on the seat, but no prints and no Scully. No one in the area was admitting to having seen anything.
So here he was, in hell again. And she was who-knew-where. He stared at the Tactical map, unseeing, and tried to force a pattern on the uncommunicative data.
Skinner clumped up behind. "We'll find her," he said.
Dana swam back to herself – someone was saying something. Her hands were tied painfully behind her; her face was against something rough and hard – a concrete floor? Her skull, she thought, was probably cracked. Anyway, it hurt like hell. Oh yes, and someone was saying something.
"Miss Scully? Or actually I suppose I should say Agent Scully. Agent Scully? Wake up? Please wake up, miss. Can you hear me?" The voice had a British accent.
That made her curious enough to force her face up off the floor and wrench her eyes open. It took a certain amount of blinking, but soon she was able to make out the speaker. He was a white male, medium height, with light hair and a round, pleasant, foolish-looking face. He was wearing a white suit and tie. It was probably just her head trauma, but she could almost swear he glowed slightly, in this dim and crowded basement she seemed to find herself in. He was still talking.
"Thank heaven you've finally come around. I was afraid you'd – well, never mind. Agent Scully, are you all right?"
"Head hurts," she muttered. Her eyes were closing. "Stay awake," she told herself, but it was hard. Doggedly, she tried to start loosening the ropes that bound her arms. It was too hard to keep her head off the floor. She was going to pass out again, and not be any closer to escaping.
"Here, let me help." The voice was suddenly very close. She hadn't heard the man move at all. Although she didn't feel his hands untying the ropes, all of a sudden they were loose around her wrists.
"Thank you," Dana whispered. Opening her eyes again, she found his worried face peering right into hers. "Who are you, anyway?"
"You can call me Marty. Your father sent me."
"Hi, Marty," she said sleepily.
"What's your partner's phone number, Agent Scully?"
"What?" She started to drift off again, confused.
"Your partner's phone number!" Marty insisted.
It didn't make any sense. For one thing, her father was dead. She told him Mulder's number anyway.
"I'll be right back," he said, and vanished.
That was surprising.
Scully blinked a couple of times and tried to take stock. Her gun, wallet, badge, and jewelry were all gone. She was still fully clothed. She had a piece of rope, which was no longer tied around her arms, and she was apparently hallucinating big-time.
She had to get out of here.
She was trying to get up when the man in white suddenly reappeared.
"That should do it," he said cheerfully. Seeing what she was doing, he rushed to her side. "Please lie back," he worried, "your head's starting to bleed again. That concrete's awfully hard. Here." He sat cross-legged beside her. "Put your head in my lap. I'm pretty insubstantial, but it should be a bit softer than just the floor."
Wearily, Scully did as he suggested. It was a little more comfortable, though more weirdly chill and misty than any lap she had previously encountered. The cold felt good on her throbbing head.
"You're nice and cool," she said, and fell asleep.
Mulder had hoped he could think better in his familiar basement office, but it was no good. They had no leads, no tips, no useful witnesses. Door-to-door searches were turning up nothing. It had been almost 24 hours. Would this be the time he wouldn't get her back?
The phone rang. He grabbed it before the first ring was even completed. "Mulder," he barked.
"I have an international call for a Mr. Fox Mulder from a Mr. Jeff Randall. Will you accept the charges?" The woman on the phone had a British accent.
"All right," Mulder said dubiously. He was sure he didn't know any Jeff Randall.
"Mr. Randall, you may proceed," the woman said.
A man's voice came on. It was also British, but tired and gravelly – the voice of a man who'd probably been beaten up a lot. "Mr. Fox Mulder?"
"Of the FBI?"
"Okay, Mr. Mulder, this is going to sound weird, but give it a listen. Your partner, Dana Scully, is being held prisoner in the basement of a building on the north side of Washington there. DC. Got a pencil? I'll give you the address."
"What?" Mulder started, but Jeff Randall, whoever the hell he was, was rattling off a street number.
"Wait! Don't hang up!" Mulder shouted as she scribbled the information down. "How do you know this?"
"My partner Marty told me, told me to call you. Gave me your number, too."
"What, in England? How'd he know?"
The gravelly voice chuckled. "My partner's a ghost, Mr. Mulder."
In a London booth, a thin sixty-ish man with a tired face hung up the phone. He flicked a cigarette stub into a puddle and walked quickly away.
Mulder grabbed his notepad and headed upstairs to get Skinner. This tip was spooky even for him, but it was the only tip they had.
When Scully woke up the second time, she tried to convince herself she felt a little better. She did manage to sip up, with Marty's mostly theoretical help, but she soon wished she hadn't because her nausea was so much worse in an upright position. Marty kept vanishing and reappearing in a very distressing manner. She knew she should drag herself over to the door and try to force it somehow, but when she tried she just fell down prone on the floor and drifted off.
Suddenly Marty was beside her again. "Wake up!" he said. "There are some FBI men outside on the sidewalk. Make some noise! Make some noise! So they can find you." He disappeared again.
"Help!" Scully yelled. That wasn't very loud – she tried again. "Help! FBI! I need help!"
Marty blinked back in. "Keep it up!" he grinned. "I think they hear you!"
Unfortunately, the FBI agents weren't the only ones who could hear Scully's cries for help. Two of the bank robbers burst through the basement door.
One bellowed, "Shuttup, ho!" and raised his rifle butt to slam it into Scully's head again. But suddenly the air was full of flying debris. Scully watched in confusion as the two crooks were pelted with cardboard boxes and scraps of wood – all kinds of junk that had been stored in the basement. The rope that had previously tied her arms snaked along the floor and ran itself up around the ankles of the bigger of the two goons, tripping him. As he fell, he accidentally squeezed off two rounds.
"Oh, good," Scully thought fuzzily. "Gunfire in DC is always Probable Cause." FBI agents poured into the basement. The last sight Scully saw before she lost consciousness again was Mulder and Skinner taking the two bank robbers into custody. She thought it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
Mulder kneeled beside his partner as the paramedics prepared to get her onto the gurney. Hairline fracture of the skull this time, but he hadn't lost her yet. "Please don't let her get kidnapped again," he prayed, like a child, even though he knew there was no one to answer his prayers.
Scully opened her eyes. She smiled at him. "Hey, Mulder," she said faintly.
His heart sang.
Then she looked at the empty air beside him and whispered, "Thank you, Marty. Good-bye." She closed her eyes again.
Mulder felt a chill run down his spine.