Title: Breathless

Author: Pattie

Rated: Imagery may not be suitable for those under 13.
Reader and parental discretion is advised. Is the MPAA
still watching us?

Category: X-File, MT.

Spoiler(s): What? By now everyone knows every episode
of every season and I'm really tired of... Oh, all
right! Well after the cancer arc, but before Season 6.
Also, there is a post-series joke which a few of you will
recognize as being from real life!

Summary: After proving werewolf activity was not
responsible for a double murder, Mulder and Scully are
drawn into a case with more extreme possibilities.

Feedback: Welcomed and answered at patfiler@hotmail.com.

Archive: Gossamer, Pattie's Pocketful of X-Fics.
Others please drop me a line if you want it.

Disclaimer: All X-Files characters and property belong
to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox
Studios. Captain Kirk, the Klingons and Chekov are owned by
Paramount Studios and the Roddenberry family. No money
is made, and no copyright infringement is intended. Mars
bars and Snickers bars are registered trademarks of Mars
Incorporated and its affiliates. Bounty bars are also
a trademark of Mars Incorporated, but are only available
in America in miniatures in "Mars Celebrations". Full-size
bars are to be found in Canada and the United Kingdom,
among other countries. I make no money and do not intend
endorsement of these products. (But I wouldn't criticize
them either!)




MAMA'S SWELL MOTEL
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA
6:41 AM


Fear suffocated him as he tried valiantly to reach for
his father's gun to stop them from taking his terrified
sister. Once again he woke to sweat-drenched sheets and
the fervent beating of his heart. It was the usual
scenario he faced each time he remembered his sister's
abduction in his dreams. There had been so many nights
without sleep, and then his body would cave in and allow
slumber to overtake him. Then, the dreams tormented his
psyche.

The travel alarm in his motel room had rescued Fox Mulder
from the painful ordeal, and he dragged himself to the
shower. He and Scully had been investigating yet another
report of a werewolf or werewolves terrorizing a small
town.

Well, at least they 'weren't running after UFO's again',
his partner had said the night before. Maybe that remark
had generated the familiar dream.

His attire was impeccable, his hair neatly combed into
place, and all traces of overnight beard had been shaved
away, but Mulder's tired face betrayed his torment.

Scully opened the door to his motel room and knew something
had invaded his sleep again. "Mulder, you look like Hell.
Let me guess: Ellen's Air Force Base again?"

"Sorry, no cigar." His eyes were bloodshot, and dark
circles decorated his lower eyelids. Those dark bags were
fully packed.

Scully joined him at his tiny table for breakfast.
"Samantha."

"Yes. How far did you get with the ME's report?" It was
better to get straight to work and forget the night's
pain.

"Well, the man was definitely mauled, Mulder. But by all
indications, it was a bear. He was done in by a bear, not
a werewolf. We did manage to identify him as Henry
Bosworth, 31, of Bangor, Maine. The female victim's
results should be in by now, but I really doubt it was a
werewolf, Mulder. Mulder?"

His mind had been somewhere else. "Sorry. You were
saying?"

Scully worried that perhaps Mulder had been working too
hard lately. "Mulder, you were miles away. Maybe the
heavy workload these past few months has gotten to you.
Why don't you ask for a few days off? I can take care of
things here. I think the wildlife got to Andrea Bosworth
as well, and there's really no reason for you to
investigate this 'werewolf' report any further... "

"No! I need to work!" The sheer force of his anger could
have stripped the paint from the walls. He turned away
from his partner for a moment, contemplating his scrambled
eggs. A deep breath seemed to cool his demeanor. "I'm
sorry, Scully. I guess your abduction, the Samantha clone
on my Dad's doorstep, finding out about the 'Gregor
Project' and the 'Lichfield Project", and everything else
these past couple of years, including your cancer, has been
as hard on you as it has been on me. I didn't mean to lash
out at you like that."

"Look at me, Mulder. We're in a very small town, people
here have been imagining werewolves, and it's really just
an all for nothing case. I'm just as frustrated as you
are, so why don't we just wrap it up today and go home? I
can have the report on Mrs. Bosworth by noon, and we can
drive back to Washington. As your personal physician, I'm
ordering you to take some time off. We can't afford you
having an emotional meltdown."

Mulder felt about two feet tall and very contrite. "Your
breakfast is getting cold, Scully. Eat. I'm not as fragile
as you seem to think. Let's just eat and get on with the
day." He knew the dam had burst and he was exhibiting
signs of... he would have diagnosed anyone else of Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. But it was more than that.

Scully thought she could have broached the subject of time
off more carefully. Ever so gently. she whispered, "Do it
for me, if not for yourself?"

"I guess I haven't been meeting my own needs very well,"
Mulder confessed. "I thought if I kept myself up to my
neck in my work, my subconscious wouldn't have time to act
up. And I've taken you on this work-a-thon with me. Salt?"

"No, thank you. I think I could use some time off, but you
need it more than I do. You're shouldering all kinds of
guilt not only about the cases we couldn't prove, but the
biggest X-File of all: the disappearance of your sister. I
think you know who's really to blame by now, Mulder."

Mulder didn't want her to utter another word, because she
was right. "Your eggs are getting cold."

"You're avoiding a heart-to-heart... "

"Just... just stop." Mulder sipped his coffee. "We'll go
home after you get the last report and really, I will take
time off. I'm sure I can putter around in the basement."

"Your 'basement' is The X-Files Office, and I know that."

"I have to keep busy. It keeps me from thinking about
things over and over again... "

"And so you have nightmares about them instead. When was
the last time you went out to West Tisbury and just hung
out on the porch?"

"After Dad's death, when I closed it up. Out of the five
days I was there, I spent one whole hour sitting on the
porch looking at a cat chasing birds. Yeah, maybe you're
right, Scully. Maybe I need to get out there where there
are no cases, become the Inheritor to the Manor, and
proclaim myself patriarch of the Mulder clan."

"Now you're being sarcastic," Scully protested. "Cut the
bull crap."

Mulder lowered his voice. "No, Scully. I'm serious. I
wasn't a very good protector, but I may as well be a good
Mulder. It is time I took the reins, shrugged off the
past, and moved on."

"Well, if you're serious, my prayers go with you, partner.
Just be back in time for the next assignment. I'll drop
you off at your place, and I expect a postcard in three or
four days. No night time calls, Mulder."

"But that's the only bad habit I have, Scully!"

"Not by what I've heard." Scully smiled, thinking about
the video tapes she had once found by accident. She
glanced at her watch, took one last sip of coffee and
stood. "I'd better get downtown. Get yourself packed and
we can be out of here by noon."

Mulder shook his head and smiled. "Yeah. Go on, Scully.
I'll even pack for you... "

"Oh no. Remember, I carry a gun."

As the door closed, Mulder thought about the prospect of
facing time alone, away from work. Something deep inside
told him either on vacation or working, nothing would
improve until he knew exactly where Samantha was, and
whether she was living or dead.


***


DOWNTOWN ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA
MAIN STREET POLICE STATION
7:19 AM


A nine-year-old-girl in denim overalls and blonde pig-tails
dropped her bike on the sidewalk and ran up the stairs,
into the lobby and told an unbelievable story to the desk
sergeant. "You gotta get down to the park! There was this
man! He grabbed another man, said he was going to take
his breath away and he did! He took the man's breath
away!"

The stunned sergeant took down the details the girl
repeated to him, and a couple of squad cars were
dispatched.

Scully had been down the hallway handing the local
detectives her report, and was about to call the morgue to
find out if there were any further details about the death
of Mrs. Bosworth when she heard the commotion at the front
desk. After having heard the child's story, and against her
better judgment, she called Mulder. As he was her partner,
she had no choice. The call the the Medical Examiner's
Office was made during the drive back to the motel.

Mulder met her in the motel parking lot. "Just as I was
about to pack your lingerie, too," Mulder chuckled. "Any
news on Mrs. Bosworth?"

"She apparently was clawed, but not to death. She died of
asphyxiation, but there were no finger prints, paw pad
prints, or ligature marks on the body. Her apparent
suffocation could be related to the little girl's story,
but the Boswell murders took place just outside of the
city. This one took place in an inner-city wooded park.
And, the story's just too far-fetched, Mulder. Maybe
inspired by the Friday Fright Night movies last evening?"

"Maybe, but let's check it out anyway. Besides, we're used
to the unusual, aren't we, Scully?"

Scully stopped the car at the park. "You are, Mulder. I
still believe there's a scientific explanation for
everything. We just don't get it all yet. I really don't
think this is an X-File, Mulder."

"Time will tell. Let's see what they've got."

As Mulder and Scully made their way through the wooded area
of the park, the girl was relating her story to the police,
as other officers stood over a body, snapping pictures and
marking the area off.

"Mulder, Scully, FBI." A middle-aged detective greeted the
agents yet again. "Sorry to get you guys down here again on
a Saturday, but... "

"I was already at the station when Tracy Saunders got
there," Scully admitted. "So, what happened, Detective
Smye?"

"Forensics can't find any physical evidence yet. Frankly,
I don't even think this is related to the maulings, or even
Sarah Bosworth's death." He, too, looked weary and worn. As
a homicide detective, Scully supposed he had seen too many
tragedies in his career.

Mulder surveyed the body, and the surroundings. "Well, we'd
like to find out for ourselves." He caught Scully glaring
at him on the other side of the body. "Despite the fact
that the case which brought us here is closed. Right,
Scully?"

"Any description of the man Tracy saw?" Scully wondered.

"We're just about to take her down to get a sketch. The
victim has been identified as Maurice Harris, age 45. He
lived alone. Full I.D. and vital statistics in his
wallet. No criminal record. Chartered accountant."

Mulder went through the personal effects. "One hundred
thirteen dollars, so I'm betting it wasn't a robbery.
Any indication Mr. Harris knew his killer?"

"Whoa... We're fast, but not THAT fast. Let's see what
the ME finds out," the detective suggested, as a hearse
pulled into the grassy area of the park. "I think that's
Mr. Harris's ride. Shall we?"

"We'll stick around here for a while." Mulder insisted.

"Happy hunting." Smye popped an antacid tablet and made
his way to his car.

After Smye had left with the others, Mulder and Scully
searched the area underneath where the body had been, then
the immediate area around the crime scene. Once again, the
gloves were on, and once again it was a pretty muddy area.

Scully was growing tired of looking for the unknown
evidence her partner thought he might find. "Mulder, I
don't think we'll find... "

"A tarot card? Scully, this is the death card. And before
you say anything about fortune tellers, or that anyone
could have dropped it here, may I remind you it rained last
night, and this card is completely dry."

"Then the police can get the prints," she sighed in
resignation. "Okay. You can unpack. Aren't we lucky we
brought our gloves?"

"Didn't pack," Mulder retorted. "Okay. This time I actually
did pack. I wanted to get out of here just as much as you
did. But on the off chance the cases are related, we may
as well see that Mr. Harris's killer is found. Judging by
your tone of voice, my guess is you could use some time
off yourself. What is it, Scully?"

"Nothing, really. I just feel drained, that's all. Let's
see if we can find anything else, then check in with the
station."

Mulder stood still and she turned around. "Are you really
okay, Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder. My physical last week was textbook perfect,
and I have made a full recovery from that practical joke
spree three months ago. You know we're both due for
vacations, so let's get the show on the road."


***


MAIN STREET POLICE STATION
11:32 AM


The police sketch artist had completed his work to young
Tracy Saunders' satisfaction. "That's perfect!" The little
girl exclaimed. "How come it took all those transparencies
with eyebrows and stuff?"

"We want to get the best description," the young red-haired
man replied. "And you did most of the work, so you deserve
a reward." He handed Tracy a Snickers bar.

"Gee, thanks! Too bad you didn't have a Bounty Bar."

"A what?"

"It's a chocolate-covered coconut bar. "Can I go now?"

"I'll have to check with Detective Smye, but we're through
with the art."

A few minutes later, Smye walked into the station. A few
minutes after that, Mulder and Scully arrived.

"Got the sketch, Sir."

"Great," Smye answered, doffing his coat. "What about the
statement?"

"Cheevers has it, and somebody here is anxious to go
home."

Smye walked over to the girl and shook her hand. "You're
a very bright young lady, and I'm sorry you had to be
scared like that. You did the right thing today, and
your parents must be very proud of you."

An officer escorted Mr. and Mrs. Saunders out of a confer-
ence room, and Mrs. Saunders hugged her daughter. "It's
okay, baby."

Smye gestured toward the agents. "Mr. and Mrs. Saunders,
Special Agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI."

"How do you do," the father said as he shook their hands.
"Detective, can we take our little girl home now?"

"Yes, but we might need her later if she remembers anything
else."

The girl's father nodded and held the door for his family.

After the Saunders left the station, Mulder and Scully
followed Smye to his office, with the sketch of the man
last seen with Maurice Harris in the park.

As Mulder studied the image, he removed the tarot card
from his pocket and had a look of recognition on his face.
It was a look Scully didn't like, because it meant this
case was one that harkened back to a long lost X-File
hidden deep in the archives, and another bizarre theory
was about to come forth from Mulder.

"Have you compared this with any mug shots yet?"

"No, Agent Mulder. But don't worry, we'll do that. I
don't like the smell of this case any more than you do.
We don't need another serial killer running loose. I'll
have the girl called back, run a comparison and see if
she can link him to anyone. You seem to recognize this
one. Do you?"

"Maybe. I think I might have something on someone
fitting a similar description. Scully, I have to go back
to Washington. I'm sure you'll want to be there for the
autopsy, so I'll fly out there and be back late tonight."

"Okay. Are you thinking of anyone specifically, Mulder?"
Scully tried to hold back the 'I'm being ditched again'
feeling.

"Just a hunch at this point. If I leave now we can speed
this up, hopefully." He hurried out of the room leaving
Smye with a 'What the -- ?' look on his face, and Scully
just shrugged.

"I'll be down at the ME's office. You have my cell
number." Scully left the poor detective wondering what
the hell was happening in town.

"First werewolves, now a breath-stealing crazy." He
shook his head and picked up the phone. "Ellis, get the
Saunders girl back here and bring out the rogues' gallery
of guys meeting her description. Let's see if the sketch
matches up with anyone we know." He took a fresh roll of
antacid out of his desk and offered some to Scully, who
declined.


***


It was 7:15 in the evening when Mulder returned with the
file he needed. He went straight to Scully's room.

Scully held up the preliminary autopsy reports. "It seems
Mr. Harris died of oxygen deprivation, as did Mrs.
Bosworth. And Detective Smye called. Tracy Saunders'
description matched with a man known to Erie police, and
she recognized one Lawrence Keswick, 35, a.k.a. 'Larry the
Lurker' from his mug shot." She glanced at the dog-eared
folder Mulder was holding and continued. "And you're going
to tell me he's an X-File. Am I right?"

Mulder removed his coat and sat on the bed. "Lawrence
Keswick is not as young as the Erie police say, Scully.
Records of a man fitting his description go back to the
early 1920's, and in those days he was referred to as 'The
Seizer'. He was said to seize his victims' breath and
be gone before his victims were discovered. In fact, he
seemed to have disappeared in the mid-1930's. There were
sightings and more victims in the 50's and 70's. In
1992, he was picked up for getting a little peek into a
few windows, as well as stalking. That's how they got his
picture. I didn't think I'd see this one any time soon,
but I was getting the occasional update. Keswick just
finished two years' parole for peeping and stalking. He
does tarot card readings for anyone who gives him the time
of day and the promise of money for his efforts."

Scully was tired, hungry, disappointed. "We should have
gone home when the going was good. I got the same
information on Keswick about three hours ago, but nothing
like your story. So you're telling me 'Larry the Lurker'
is 'The Seizer.'"

"The one and only. I know, we're both due for a break.
But think of this as our chance once again to prove that
The X-Files is an active department, worthy of continued
operation. We can solve this one, Scully. There's a diner
down the road. Let's put down the papers for a while and
get something to eat."

"Well, I can't say I wouldn't like to take a break from
the paperwork. But you should call Smye and make sure
Keswick is being monitored. I'm not sure how he's going to
take the rest of the news."

Mulder smiled and grabbed his coat. "Like the others,
Scully. They'll stare in disbelief, then nod and smile."

"And shoot me a sympathetic look," Scully added wearily.


***


MAMA'S SWELL MOTEL
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA
1:07 AM


Mulder's TV glowed with images of Captain Kirk dealing
once again with Klingons, but Mulder had long been asleep.
Just as Ensign Chekov declared his valiant "Got him!" cry,
the motel room phone rang.

"Mulder." This had better be important, he thought. "Yeah.
Okay. We'll be there in twenty minutes." He called Scully's
room.

Scully reached for the phone with her eyes closed. "Scully."
She felt she was talking in her sleep, and the receiver
slipped to the floor. That woke her up. "Sorry, Mulder. Can
you repeat what you just said?"

"Another victim. Surveillance swears 'Larry the Lurker'
didn't leave his house, but I have my doubts. This one has
all the markings of 'The Seizer.'" There was no reply.
"Scully?"

'I'd better damn well wake up,' she told herself. "Yeah,
give me a few minutes. I'll meet you at the car."


PICNIC BENCH
AGGIE'S DINER
1562 MAIN STREET
1:35 AM


Once again homicide officers were questioning potential
witnesses and marking off another murder scene. A young
woman lay on the cold asphalt beside a wooden picnic bench.

"To think we ate here earlier," Mulder mused. "Talk about
ships passing in the night." He spat a sunflower seed
husk straight into the trash bin.

Scully immediately gave the body a cursory exam. "You say
no one heard anything?" She asked a young officer.

"That's what Aggie's customers were telling us. The lady
was eating out here on account of the non-smoking policy.
One server saw her take her burger and salad out here, and
when he looked out to see if she was okay, she was lying
here dead."

"So there were no other customers in the diner?" Mulder
wondered.

"Well, the server did say a man and his pregnant wife went
in and out with an order, but as far as he knows the woman
was still alive when they were leaving."

Scully stood and removed her latex gloves. "No sign of
trauma other than hitting her head when she fell, but I
don't think that caused her death. I'll need to do an
autopsy," she sighed.

"At least you're still practicing medicine, Scully."

"Problem is, Mulder, I took an oath to save lives, not to
unravel the mystery of their deaths."

Mulder turned to the officer. "Are the other officers still
at Keswick's house?"

"Yes. Word is the guy went out the back door. He hasn't
shown up there. Just a second." The young cop answered his
radio. "That was Detective Smye. We've got an APB out on
Lawrence Keswick."

"I think it's time we visited his home," Mulder decided.


***


LAWRENCE KESWICK'S RESIDENCE
2:01 AM


The unmarked cars drove away and were replaced by cruisers
by the time Mulder and Scully reached the home of their
suspect.

"Eight blocks away from the scene of the crime," Mulder
grumbled as he slammed the car door, "And nobody saw him
leave."

"Maybe he wasn't home," Scully assumed.

"According to the call I got, they'd followed Keswick to
his home after spotting him at a drug store."

They flashed their badges and introduced themselves. "Time
to check out this guy's digs," Mulder stated bluntly. "I'll
go 'round back, you see if you can get in the front door."

"I doubt he'd leave it open. Mulder." Scully motioned for
one of the uniformed officers to accompany her.

Sure enough, Mulder and one officer found the back door
unlocked, and Scully needed some assistance from the
other officer. With guns in hand, they entered the house
and stole through every room.

"Well, at least he's neat," Mulder remarked. "Bed is made,
no dirty dishes, and did you notice the complete lack
of family portraits to clutter the decor?"

"Mulder? Look at this." Scully was peering over an old,
yellowed newspaper.

"So it's true. Dewey lost the election way back. Look
at this. "'Seizer' Strikes Fifth Time'. I have to
hand it to the guy, Scully. For a man probably well over
80, he keeps a neat house. There's not a speck of dust,
cookie crumb, or wet towel lying around. Looks like he
went out the back door, but there's a ten foot wire fence
on three sides out back."

"I don't think a man over 80 can hop any fence, Mulder."
Scully turned to the policemen. "Let's get the canines
out here. They can pick up his scent from the throw
on the couch. It's about the only thing that's not folded
around here."

Mulder looked through the man's desk and found more old
newspapers, an insurance policy, and a pen and check book,
but nothing remarkable. "If he didn't hop the fence,
Scully, you owe me all the paperwork on this one."

"And vice versa," Scully shot back. "Don't you just wish
you were back in Washington?" Her tone was definitely the
'I'm pissed off' inflection that she used when she was fed
up with things seemingly going nowhere on a case.

"What? And miss all the fun here?" He poked around a wicker
wastebasket. "Definitely a Mars bar addict," he noted.

Soon enough, but not too soon for Scully, the Canine Unit
arrived with two Shepherds to pick up the scent and prove
that Keswick, a.k.a. 'Larry the Lurker' had hopped the
fence behind the house, and eventually the trail ended at
a farm a mile out of town.

Mulder and Scully drove out with the police cruisers and
Mulder had the police check out the farmhouse as he and
Scully went into the barn. Several riding horses voiced
their disapproval of a disturbed slumber, and one horse
at the far end of the barn was particularly bothered, and
kept turning his head toward a wooden staircase.

Mulder clued in and looked up in the direction of the hay
loft. He motioned for Scully to keep quiet and she stayed
on the ground as he climbed the stairs, gun in hand.

When Mulder gained a foothold in the hay, a dark figure
lunged at him with a pitchfork, striking him in the chest
before he could aim his gun, but not impaling the agent.
"Freeze! Federal Agents! Put it down, Keswick!" He aimed
his gun, but before he was able to say another word, the
man lunged at him with the pitchfork again, which entered
Mulder's belly in three places, about three inches into
the flesh. Mulder's gun fell below the hayloft.

"Oh no," the man whispered. "You're not going to waste
that last breath on thin air... " He hovered over a
bloodied Mulder and prepared to seize the very life of the
agent when Scully yelled from behind him.

"Freeze! Hands up!" And when 'The Seizer' moved ever
closer to his prey, Scully shot him straight through the
head. Then she quickly climbed up the stairs to attend to
Mulder. As Lawrence Keswick expired his last breath,
Mulder gestured to Scully to lend her his ear. "I wish I
was back in Washington."

As she applied pressure to Mulder's wounds and reached for
her cell phone, she whispered, "You won't when you see how
much paper work is ahead of you. Looks like he missed the
lungs, Mulder. But I have serious concerns about those ribs
and your abdomen. Next time, we go straight home."

"Yeah, Scully." Mulder smiled. "But the thought of that
beautiful basement office leaves me breathless."


END











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