The Truthseekers

Near Grover's Mill, New Jersey October 5, 1993

Mist rose from the New Jersey countryside and lay on the night like a white blanket. The chill of autumn made it feel wet and cold. He pulled his coat closer and wondered why these things always happened in out of the way places and what it was about deserted roads or farmers' fields, forests, or seashores that gave rise to events of this nature. He glanced up as the red and blue beams of the police cars, fire trucks and ambulances glowed in the white mist like colored lights on a Christmas tree covered with angel hair spun glass and snapped up his collar against the chill.

Hearing another vehicle pull up, he turned with a smile and noted the elegant redhead alight from the vehicle. Dressed in long black beaded gown, covered by a long black velvet evening coat, she nodded curtly when she saw him and slammed the car door with a "Thank you!" to the officer behind the wheel. As she stepped toward him, she pulled latex gloves out of her pockets and he nearly laughed.

"So what's the emergency Mulder?" Dana Scully asked in her husky voice.

"Sorry… did I interrupt a hot date?" Fox Mulder apologized to his new partner. She'd been assigned to his X-Files project at the FBI only last month. While he didn't really think he needed anyone working with him, he appreciated her expertise. Besides, she was easy on the eyes.

"Opera tickets," she said with a shrug as she pulled the gloves on.

"I wanted you to see the crime scene and the body before it was moved," he shrugged in explanation.

Scully gestured for him to lead the way and then grumbled when her three inch heels sank into the soft dirt of the field as they made their way to the search-lit area of the field. She mumbled something unintelligible as she lifted one foot and glared at the mud clinging to the heel.

Mulder offered no information, wanting to see what her unbiased and yet analytical mind would come up with when she saw the body.

"What the hell happened?" Scully cried out as she noted the charred grass, the still burning oak tree and the firefighters hosing it down.

"You tell me," Mulder said. He pulled a toothpick from his pocket, removed the paper and inserted it into his mouth. He did like the cinnamon-flavored ones.

Scully knelt next to the body. "Well he was decapitated… that's obvious." She leaned closer and then closer still. Then she sat back and looked up at her partner, her eyes wide in confusion. "There's no blood. Did it happen post-mortem?"

"Doubtful since he was fighting for his life," Mulder replied. He gestured toward the head and then at the sword still clutched in one fist.

Scully pulled out a recorder. "Victim is approximately six feet tall and one hundred and eighty pounds. Death appears to have been by decapitation but the lack of blood on the ground or on the clothes or in the wound makes that appear unlikely." She snapped off the recorder. "I'll know more when I autopsy the body."

"I have every confidence," Mulder replied with a thin smile. He turned to leave when she called his name, rose and grabbed his arm.

"What aren't you telling me?"

"I wouldn't want to bias your investigation," he replied.

"Has this happened before?"

Mulder drew in a deep breath as the toothpick moved from one side of his mouth to another. "Nearly two dozen times in the past five years."

"A serial killer who beheads his victims?" Scully shook her head. Her hands, now devoid of the latex, plunged into the depths of her velvet coat.

"So it seems," laughed Mulder as he headed toward his car. He waved back at her as he told her to let him know what the autopsy showed.

"He must have been exsanguinated," Scully was explaining to him the following morning. She'd been up all night and yet still looked lovely… not a hair out of place… her white lab coat over her beaded evening gown. She pulled off her reading glasses and met Mulder's gaze. "It means there was no blood in the body."

"I know what it means," Mulder said. "Anything else?"

Scully caught a short breath and then sighed deeply. "His body apparently was subjected to an intense electrical force. His organs displayed grave damage. But there was no sign of how he was electrocuted… no burn marks indicating a pathway."

"And the exterior of the body looks perfectly normal," observed Mulder. He leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his head. "No wounds besides the obvious."

"Something tells me you knew all this."

"Why do you think it's an X-file? As I said last night, I have twenty of these in the last five years since I've been on the job. Prior to that… there were over a hundred that followed the same pattern in this country alone. They also occur all over the world. I've even found records in the files of the former Soviet Union. Something or someone is out there killing men and women… and leaving behind a puzzling crime scene. In all cases, the victim has a sword in his hands; a sword I might add, that is not the murder weapon. Some of the swords are worth thousands of dollars. So the motive isn't robbery."

Scully sat heavily in the wooden chair opposite his desk. Her face reflected her confusion. "You are suggesting that these murders are supernatural in nature?"

Mulder's grin widened. "I'm suggesting that there is something unexplained about them."

"I need to see the other files."

Mulder gestured toward a stack of files on his desk. "I thought you might. Be my guest." He rose, slipped on his jacket and prepared to leave.

"Where are you going?"

"Back to Grover's Mill. The police there picked up a suspect fleeing the scene. I thought I'd interview him."

Scully glanced again at the stack of files and then grabbed them as she hurried after Mulder. Her high heels clicked smartly on the tile floor. As she shifted them under one arm. "I'm coming too."

"Dressed like that?" Mulder asked.

Scully shoved the files into his arms. "I'll get my coat. Wait for me."

Mulder nearly laughed aloud. Whatever his partner's agenda was… whatever she'd been ordered to do… she was becoming interested in the odd nature of these cases. True… most she might eventually explain naturally… but that still left the illusive few. And it was with them that he would finally win her over to his side.

Inside the interrogation room, the suspect bit one of his finger nails; then he buffed it against his wool slacks. He held his hand before him and smiled broadly at the result. Next he rubbed a hand through his slick-backed hair, scratched his scalp and then sighed. He rose and circled the table, finally stopping at the two-way glass. He began to examine his teeth and worked his jaw open and shut.

Scully looked away from the sight with a grimace. "You seriously think this man decapitated a much larger and far more fit man?"

"The police found him fleeing from the area shortly after the explosions."

"Weapon? Blood trace? Fingerprints?" Scully asked as she flipped through his file.

"Nope… just a name that rang a bell with the chief of police."

"His name?" Scully flipped back to the front page. "Benjamin Carbassa." She shrugged. "Why did he recognize the name? Does he have record?"

"Well yes… and no," chuckled Mulder. When Scully gave him a quizzical stare, he relented. "In 1927, Benjamin Carbassa worked for the mob as a bag man."

Scully folded her arms across her. "He must have been very young."

"He was thirty-five… the same age as this man gives."

Behind the glass, the suspect was peering at the glass closely and evidently checking his skin. Scully shuddered again. "And what aren't you telling me?"

"He was killed in the Good Friday shootout in Atlantic City."

"What do his prints show?"

"In 1927… identification by fingerprint was still fairly new. The original Benjamin Carbassa's are not on file. If you look on page three… you'll see the photo of his dead body, taken at the scene of the crime."

Scully looked and grimaced slightly. "Well he certainly looks dead."

"Those old machine guns really made for a messy corpse."

"So this man just happens to have the same name. Perhaps a son… a nephew?"

"Carbassa never married. There is no record of an illegitimate child. He was an orphan… no relatives. Besides… do the math. Even if he were born in 1927… he'd still be too old."

Scully peered at the photograph and then checked Carbassa's vitals. "Odd… he's the same height and weight as the other one. Age… physical description… everything matches." She sighed as the file slapped against Scully's beaded evening gown; the black beads clinked in protest. "This doesn't make sense. Why would anyone pretend to be a Prohibition Era gangster? Especially such a minor non-entity?"

"We find that answer… we may learn what's going on," Mulder suggested. "The truth is out there Scully. I believe that. We just have to open our eyes and our minds to see it."

"There is a plausible and reasonable explanation for this," Scully insisted with curt nod of her head. "That's what we have to determine."

"So you think the possibility that this man is some sort of immortal who remains the same age as long as he kills other men and somehow metabolizes their life force isn't plausible?"

Scully gave him a pained stare. "Why would anyone want to look like a mid-forties, overweight, and not terribly attractive man?"

In spite of everything, Mulder laughed. "Well you would think he'd want to be six feet tall at least."

"Like our victim."

Mulder nodded. "Like our victim. And we still need to find out what happened to the blood."

"Precisely," agreed his red-haired partner. She indicated the door. "Shall we?"

Benny Carbassa turned from admiring his reflection in the two-way glass as Mulder opened the door to usher Scully in. He extended one sweaty palm toward the agents. "Hey… good to see ya!" he grinned widely. "I've been in here for hours and wondered if I'd ever see another living soul." When neither agent took his hand, he wiped it on the front of his gray silk shirt and laughed nervously. "Maybe you can tell me why I'm here?"

"You don't know?" asked Fox Mulder as he took a seat across from the little man.

"Hey… I was driving along, minding my own business and boom… flat time. I stopped to change it and was grabbed by the cops. They hustle me in here and then nothing. I've been in here for hours."

"Has no one discussed the situation with you?" Dana Scully asked, taking a seat. She wished she'd left her coat on. Carbassa was positively admiring her evening gown's plunging neckline. She leaned on one elbow as she raked her fingers through her red hair, thereby obscuring his view while she turned to her partner. "Has no one interviewed him before us?"

"When I heard they had someone, I asked as a courtesy that we interview him first."

"But why not last night? Why wait until this morning?"

Mulder shrugged. "I wanted to wait for the autopsy."

"Autopsy?" Carbassa asked with a gulp. "Does this mean somebody died? Man oh man… talk about bein' in the wrong place at the wrong time." Carbassa paled and leaned back in his chair. His quirky body language kept him moving. It made it difficult to read if he were hiding anything.

Mulder smiled affably. "Perhaps if you tell us in your own words everything that happened… everything you saw last night before being brought in for questioning."

"Everything? Gee… lemme see… I drove out to my Aunt Sophie's old place. She left it to me when she died some years ago."

Mulder duly began taking notes while Carbassa talked. He was also aware that Scully was calmly observing Carbassa… probably trying to profile him or something.

"Anyway," Carbassa continued, "Aunt Sophie's was in bad shape. Cost me a fortune to fix up and bring it up to code."

"Sophie Carbassa?" Mulder asked.

"Sophie Costanza," Carbassa corrected and then spelled the name. "She wasn't really my aunt… but she doted on me as if she were. She had no relatives… so I got the place."

"What time did you leave the Costanza farm?" Scully asked quietly.

"Lemme see. It was dark. I couldn't see much. No flashlight. So about then."

"It was near midnight when the police stopped you," Mulder added; his comment laden with the question of time.

Carbassa shrugged. "Mebbe it was later. I don't know. My car stalled. There was some sort of freak electrical show. Then once I got it going again, a tire blew. I was changing the tire when the cops stopped and hauled my ass… pardon me miss… It is Miss isn't it?" Carbassa grinned openly.

Scully managed a small smile. "Agent will do."

"Agent… wait… You two are FBI?" Carbassa's eyes widened fearfully.

"Do you have something to hide from the Federal Bureau of Investigation?" Mulder asked affably.

"Uh… no. Of course not. Just a regular guy. No reason to worry 'bout anything," Carbassa mumbled. For the first time since the interview began, Dana Scully got a clear impression that the man did have something to hide. His gaze shifted around the room… refusing to meet the eyes of either agent. Beads of perspiration became evident on his brow and upper lip.

Scully doodled on her pad, "Something to hide!" Meanwhile she continued to gaze at him pleasantly.

"Am I under arrest? I swear… I ain't done nothing."

"That's a double negative," Mulder observed. "Does that mean you have done something?"

"What? Course not! I didn't behead anyone tonight!"

"Does that mean you have beheaded people in the past?" Scully asked as her pen made curliques around the words on her notepad.

"Beheaded people?" Carbassa laughed nervously. "That would be an extreme way to kill someone."

Mulder scratched his temple. "Agent Scully, did we mention that someone was beheaded?"

"Why no Agent Mulder, we didn't," Scully's eyes sparkled. They had him.

Carbassa looked from one to the other while his complexion paled. "Uh… well you see… I did see something."

"And what was that?" Mulder asked.

"Two men… both about six feet tall… swordfighting," Carbassa replied. "One cut off the other's head. Freak lightning storm. The winner raced off. I ran the other way." Carbassa pulled out a massive handkerchief and wiped his face.

"So you did see the fight," Scully murmured as she made notes.

"Uh… yeah."

"And why didn't you report this to the police?"

Carbassa shrugged. "Should I have a lawyer?"

"Do you need a lawyer?" Mulder asked lazily.

Carbassa shrugged again. For someone who said he only witnessed a crime… he still seemed awfully nervous.

"Did you recognize the murderer?"

"Carbassa shook his head in swift little bursts. "Tall man, red hair, broad shoulders. Never saw him before."

Scully lifted a sheet. "Odd… that's what the victim looked like."

"Oh," Carbassa said softly. He clasped his hands before him on the table. "Maybe they were twins?"

Mulder's eyes narrowed. "Twins? Duplicates? Doppelgangers? I hadn't thought about that," he added.

Seizing on that fact, Carbassa's head bobbed back and forth. "Yeah… twins. They were even dressed the same."

"Did you hear them say anything?" Scully asked suspiciously as she tried to kick Mulder's leg with hers.

"Say anything?" Carbassa pondered. "Uh… there can be only one?" He swallowed nervously.

"One? One what?" Mulder asked as he rubbed his leg.

"Uh… one twin?" Carbassa suggested. "Maybe it was like the Smothers Brothers… you know… 'Mom always liked you best!'"

Scully sighed deeply. "Rather an extreme way to deal with sibling rivalry."

Carbassa opened his mouth to say something and then seemed to think better of it. He clamped his mouth shut and shrugged.

Scully rubbed her temples, wishing that the headache she felt forming would vanish. She had a feeling this interview was going nowhere. Once again she was aware that Carbassa's gaze was fixed on her plunging neckline.

"Remind me to keep a spare outfit in a locker at work," Dana Scully remarked as they drove from the Grover's Mill police station.

"Didn't you get the memo?" Fox Mulder couldn't help teasing. "I know it was part of the list of items I gave you when you were assigned. Number 6b. 'Always keep spare clothing at the office.' It was right after the one about always keeping a bag packed. After all… we never know when something is going to happen some place and we'll have to catch a flight."

Scully stared at him pointedly, not certain she truly believed him or not. Finally deciding that a discussion of their suspect… if that's what he was… might help, she changed the subject. "So what about Carbassa?"

"Well he did it… or he knows who did," Mulder nodded. "At least… he knows something more than he's telling. Once we got close to it… you saw how he clammed up."

"But all anyone can prove at this point is that he was in the area… he saw something… he's not certain what. And besides Mulder. What about the blood?"

"Maybe when the body was struck by lightning it all boiled or evaporated away?"

"That doesn't account for the lack of evidence of a lightning strike. Yes there was lightning. But there are no burn marks on the body!"

Mulder grinned widely. "And now you begin to see why these cases fall in my lap. Something cannot be explained by normal science. Besides," he indicated the sign with the town's name with a head gesture as they passed it. "Do you know why Grover's Mill is famous?"

Scully sulked slightly. "No… but I'm certain you'll tell me."

"Orson Welles… War of the Worlds… radio drama. Any of that ring a bell?"

Scully supported her shaking head with one hand. "So now they're aliens from some other planet? Mulder… you do have a one track mind. You can explain away any of these with your conspiracy theories that the government is covering up alien activity."

Mulder shrugged. "Well they could be aliens fighting a millennia-old battle down through the ages. They are doomed to fight and behead one another until only one is left."

Scully shook her head. "That's ridiculous and you know it."

"Well then you explain it."

Scully opened her mouth. It worked up and down a moment. Finally she sighed. "I can't… yet. But I will."

The toxicology reports were inconclusive. Their victim had enjoyed a good merlot shortly before his death, but drugs were not a factor. Scully held up his dental x-rays to the light. "Perfect teeth," she signed. ""erfect teeth to go with a perfect body." She glanced up as Mulder entered the lab, pacing back and forth and mumbling to himself. He clearly looked unhappy..

"So what's happened?" she asked.

"Benny Carbassa committed suicide while in the holding cel last night."

"Oh?" Scully sat back surprised. "He didn't seem suisicdal."

"He hanged himself with his suspenders." Mulder stopped pacing. "But that's not the worst of it."

"Oh?"

"His body disappeared from the Grover's Mill morgue sometime between midnight and dawn."

Scully stared at him thoughtfully. "And? Was it found again later minus its head?"

Mulder stared at her for several moments, apparently trying to gauge if she were serious. Then he shook his head. "No… but that pretty much closes the case for the regular authorities."

"And for us?"

"Without any more leads… it goes into the unsolved and unexplained file with the rest of them." Mulder sank onto one of the metal stools near the autopsy table and began spinning back and forth idly. "But there will be others. Last fall there were several beheadings in Seacouver, Washington. Then in February they stopped as suddenly as they began. In the past month… another one was reported."

Scully smiled slowly. "So we hop a flight to Washington? I packed my bag this morning."

Mulder paled and slumped on the stool. "Actually… another agent is already on the case of the slayings in Seacouver. He's appropriating my files on the unexplained beheadings. He's got the support of several congressmen who want the murders solved and taken care of. I'm ordered to turn everything I have over to him. He's already building up a task force to deal with this serial killer."

"And the lack of blood? The freak lightning storms reported in the vicinity of the murders? How will he deal with the odd facts?" Scully had to admit to herself at least that the case had hooked her and she really wanted to solve it.

Mulder shook his head. "I don't know. I will write up a report… but as you likely know… my reports don't hold a lot of water with the higher-ups."

Scully made no reply, just smiled sympathetically at the despondent Mulder. He'd been so excited about this case. She'd seen it in his body language and his jokes. He really thought he had discovered an odd sort of killing that defied logic. While she wasn't ready to accept his theories… she had found herself intrigued by the facts of the case.

"I'll get all my autopsy findings into a report for this agent. Who is it by the way?"

"Matthew McCormick out of the Louisiana Bureau. A real hot shot! Evidently he thinks he's got evidence suggesting that it's all the work of a single serial killer who moves from place to place. His report suggests that some sort of Middle Eastern terrorist is at fault. You are aware that in Muslim culture… beheadings are still a legal form of punishment?"

"Well," sighed Scully as she closed the file and rested her hands on it. "Somehow the idea of a single Middle Eastern terrorist creating this much havoc is ridiculous."

"So maybe it's a group of them?" Mulder suggested, his voice sounding hopeful.

"A group of Middle Eastern terrorists out to kill anyone who disagrees with their belief system and world view? There can be only Islam?" Scully's voice sounded skeptical as she then chuckled. "Mulder… that's even sillier than them being immortals from outer space."

"Really?" Mulder beamed like a boy who had won a prize at the county fair. "So maybe the idea of the aliens and their millennia old battle isn't so far-fetched?"

Scully shook her head. "I didn't quite say that." She stood and stretched. "You know… I'm going home early today. I've put in two long, hard days on this case and I am so ready for a bubble-bath and a pedicure." She removed her lab coat, thankful at least for the trim business suit rather than the evening gown she'd worn all day yesterday. At least she'd had time to go home last night and change. "What are you going to do?"

Mulder rose and raked his fingers through his untidy hair. "I'm going home and feed my fish," he said reluctantly. "Who knows… maybe a UFO will land on Washington Green at midnight… or a fleet of them will hover over the principal cities of the world… or…"

Scully took his arm as she turned out the lab lights and led him into the hall. "Mulder… have you ever considered changing jobs? Maybe you should be a writer for some science fiction magazine."

"Who says I'm not," he laughed even as a blush proceeded up and over his face. As they walked toward the elevator, his laughter, joined by hers, echoed against the cold walls of the corridor. The truth might be out there… but the truth of this case would rest in the hands of someone else.

#30#

This story is written from the point of view of Scully and Mulder who never discover the truth… a truth fans of Highlander fully understand.

Benny Carbassa appeared in the series in the fall of 1994 (Season 3) as a two-bit gambler and small time hood who had once met Duncan MacLeod in the 1920's. Since at the end of the episode, he's given a bus ticket to New Jersey, I decided that he might have originated there and left New Jersey due to coming to the notice of local authorities in the Fall of 1992, shortly after the X-Files began.

Matthew McCormick appeared in Season 5 of Highlander as an FBI agent on the trail of "serial be-header" Carl Robinson, his one-time student.