Opportunity or Fate - 3/?
He hesitated a moment, then dialed. “Yeah?”
“Uh, hello. This is Fox Mulder, I was - “
“G-man! Didn’t expect to hear from you, big guy.”
“Yeah, well, uh, I need some help.”
“Help? From us?” The cackle of laughter caused Mulder to wince and nearly hang up before he heard the phone being handed over.
“Hello? This is John Byers, may I help you?”
“Byers, yes. This is Fox Mulder.” Mulder breathed a short sigh of relief. Byers was the normal looking one.
“Agent Mulder, what can we do for you?”
“This is going to sound strange, but I have an investigation I’m involved in and I’d rather not go through the Bureau.”
“Of course. Would you like to come over? We don’t like to talk about our work over an open line.”
Mulder grinned, but made no comment on that. “Yeah, that would be fine. What’s the address?”
Mulder smiled as he heard the locks being disengaged. He’d thought he was paranoid. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea, but at least he knew they’d be cautious.
The little one, Frohike, was at the door giving him the once over. “Is this a set-up?”
“May I come inside?” Mulder asked quietly.
Again it was Byers that smoothed things over. “Agent Mulder, please, come in.” He glared down at Frohike, then led Mulder over to the living area of the large room. One side was filled with electronic equipment. The blonde with the long hair glanced up, then returned to his keyboard.
“How can we help you, Agent Mulder?” Byers spoke up to cover for the other two men’s lack of manners.
“Yeah, about that, maybe I - “
“Backin’ out?” Langly sneered. “Afraid we’d show up the Bureau?”
Mulder squared his shoulders and looked the man straight in the eye. “Not at all. I hope you would be able to show up the Bureau in this case. They’ve already dropped the ball and apparently don’t care. I do.”
Langly leaned back, but didn’t challenge him.
“So what’s the case? I’d love to shove it up their asses over there,” Frohike returned to the room holding four beers. Mulder took the one offered and nodded his thanks.
“What we say here, it’s just between us?” Mulder asked.
“Yes, it is. I swear it,” Byers held out his hand. Langly looked like he was going to protest, but Frohike shook his head and then all four of the men settled around the living area.
“I have an abduction victim who was returned. She had no memory of her abduction or of herself. Apparently she was rescued by a Paul Forrester of Atlanta, who told her he’d had her examined by doctors and that she would very likely never recover her memories. He kept her and married her.”
Byers frowned. “Was he the kidnapper?”
“No, but I wonder if there was some connection. What I need is an extensive background check on the man, but I don’t want to go to interviews yet. I’d like it to be an electronic trace, at least at first.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place for that. Paul F-o-r-r-e-s-t-e-r?” Byers was taking notes now.
“Yes, husband of Dana Scully and father of Randy Forrester. Don’t have an address or workplace, other than Atlanta. I don’t want to tip my hand. Dana and Paul have been married less than a year; I could probably get that date for you. Randy is from a previous marriage.”
“You want to tell us what you hope to find?”
“I’d rather not.”
Langly nodded at that and grinned, cracking his knuckles. “Sit back, Agent Mulder, and watch me work.”
“You?” Frohike sputtered, and moved toward another of the keyboards. Both began typing rapidly.
Byers met Mulder’s eyes and motioned for him to follow him to the other room. When they took seats in the mismatched easy chairs Byers took a drink from his bottle. Mulder followed suit.
“I have to say I’m really surprised to see you, Agent Mulder.”
Mulder took another swig from his bottle. “I’m a little surprised myself.”
“This is a personal investigation.”
“Yes, it is.”
They were silent for a moment. “You know, it might help us if we knew a little more about - “
“It might, but I can’t,” Mulder interrupted.
Byers nodded. “Fair enough. What else have you been up to, that you can talk about?”
They visited for nearly an hour before Langly’s whoop startled them. “My guess is Langly found something before Frohike,” Byers said dryly.
“Yeah, that’s what it sounded like to me.” They both rose and returned to the machine room.
Frohike was plainly pissed, but had moved to stand behind Langly, reading over his shoulder.
“What’d you find?” Mulder joined him.
“Your ‘hero’,” Langly said sarcastically.
“What?” Mulder tensed, moving closer.
“He’s on the payroll of Rouche.”
Mulder looked blank at that.
“Rouche? Didn’t you read the issue before last?”
“Sorry,” Mulder muttered.
Frohike shook his head. “We try to keep you informed, big guy.”
“I’ll try to do better. Could you explain?”
“Roche is a pharmaceutical company; not the most ethical one.”
The two men nodded.
“I don’t get it.”
“They do testing, Mulder. Not necessarily legal testing. Probably on humans.”
Mulder’s eyes widened.
“The government knows about it,” Langly stated flatly. “They’re in cahoots.”
“Langly,” Byers said slightly exasperated, “we don’t - “
“Sure we do,” Frohike interrupted. “They’ve been doing it for decades. How else could such a small company stay in business against the giants of the pharmaceutical industry?”
“I don’t know any of their products,” Mulder said watching them.
“Good point, but they manage to stay in business,” Frohike mused.
“So, Paul works for these guys. And he ‘found’ Dana wandering in the desert? Could you guys keep looking into this?”
“Sure; we’d be happy to. Exposing this kind of shit is what we live for,” Langly gave Mulder a slow smile. “Then will you tell us what you know?”
“I hope so.”
He had his key in the lock when he heard the phone ring. He quickly made his way inside and grabbed up the receiver before the machine could pick up. “Hello?”
“Dana? Is everything okay?”
“Yes, I, I know it’s late notice, but we, my parents and I, were wondering if you could join us for dinner tonight.”
“That sounds wonderful. Are you sure?”
“Very sure,” she sounded more relaxed now. She gave him the address and some directions.
He had no trouble finding the place. The house was in a nice neighborhood of medium size homes. It looked like a home, not at all what he was used to. He reached for the doorbell, but the door opened before he could press it. She was standing there smiling up at him.
For just an instant he was speechless. “You’re up,” he said smiling.
“Yes, but slow. I don’t think I’ll be running any marathons in the near future.”
“They’re overrated, a nice swim gives you a great workout without killing your knees,” he responded as he joined her in the entry. “You really do look good.”
“Thank you.” Her cheeks tinted slightly at the compliment and she turned away, motioning toward the living room. His hand came up to the small of her back without thinking.
Her father was on his feet as he heard them coming. “Mr. Mulder, I’m glad you could join us tonight.” They shook hands.
“It’s my pleasure, really. The cold pizza - “
“Uh oh, I better tell Maggie to heat it up.”
“Ahab,” Dana shook her head, smiling. “I’m pretty sure Mom has never served cold pizza in her life.”
“Cold what?” Maggie’s voice came from the doorway. “Mr. Mulder, you’re here.” She joined them and to his surprise gave him a quick hug. “I haven’t done anything fancy for dinner, pot roast.”
She looked puzzled at the chuckles that brought. “Ignore them, Mom,” Dana said, laughing herself. “Ahab just offered him cold pizza.”
Maggie looked askance at her husband, then her eyebrow went up. “You obviously need to be more help in the kitchen. Come on.”
Winking at Mulder, he meekly followed his wife back toward the kitchen. Dana took a seat on the couch and motioned for him to join her. “Are they always like that?”
“I don’t know, friends.”
She blinked, watching him. “Yes, I guess they are. They’re each other’s best friend.”
“That’s really nice.” He looked around the room spotting the photographs. “Are all these family?”
“Pretty much.” She started to rise but he forestalled her, rising himself and picking up the group picture. “That’s Bill and Tara, this is Charlie and Mary with their boys, Will and Sam. Melissa is my sister and that’s me.”
She nodded. “I guess it is these days, but Dad was gone a lot, Navy, so . . . “
He grinned at the inference and nodded. They talked of her health and visiting with her family until Maggie came to call them to dinner. He assisted her to her feet, and again, his hand was on her back as they moved to the dining room.
He goggled at the food laid out before them but it seemed to be the norm for them. Maggie was pushing thirds on him before he realized it. “I, I can’t. I’m going to have trouble getting dressed tomorrow,” he protested. Then watched her bring in the apple pie for dessert. “You can’t eat like this.”
Dana laughed, “No. I wouldn’t fit in anything I own either, but this is a special occasion.”
“Thanking the man who saved my life.”
“I didn’t - "
“Yes, you did,” William interrupted. “If not at the bank, then at the hospital.”
Mulder looked puzzled and Dana looked away from her father for a moment. There was an awkward silence for a moment.
“Well, I certainly do appreciate this. I haven’t had such an enjoyable evening in a very long time,” Mulder said looking at Maggie.
How was he supposed to have saved her life at the hospital? Rather than ask that, he brought up a subject that had been studiously avoided all evening. “How long has Paul worked for Rouche?”
“Rouche? I’m sorry, I don’t . . . “
“Rouche Pharmaceuticals,” Mulder said by way of explanation.
“Paul doesn’t work there. He’s an investment banker. Where did you hear that he worked for a pharmacy company?”
“I thought he said, guess I was mistaken. Sorry, I’m sure you know where his paycheck comes from. Have you heard from him?”
“Oh yes, he calls every night to check in.”
Neither Maggie nor William made any comment to this and Mulder regretted bringing up the man’s name.
“Why don’t we have our pie and coffee in the living room,” Maggie changed the subject and rose from the table. Dana led the way with William carrying the tray. They took seats and Maggie served the dessert.
Mulder and Maggie noticed Dana’s stifled yawn at the same time. “I think I should be heading home. You need to get some rest.”
“It’s early, Mulder.”
“But he’s right, Dana. You’ve been up a long time today.”
“I’m trying to get my stamina back, Mom.”
“Starbuck, you know she’s right,” William said gently.
“I feel like a child, being sent to bed.”
Mulder grinned. “I need to head home anyway. I want you to look after yourself.”
“Mulder, could you wait just a moment,” William asked.
“Of course.” He helped Dana to her feet again and watched as Maggie and she ascended the stairs after a last goodnight.
After they had disappeared upstairs, William looked over at Mulder who resumed his seat. “Paul didn’t mention where he worked to you, did he?”
Mulder met his eyes. “No, sir.”
William sat back, sighing. “You investigated him.”
“I’m sorry. I had no - “
“Please, don’t apologize. I’m grateful. Could you tell me what you found?”
Mulder blinked, but slowly nodded. “He’s listed as an employee for Rouche and not as a banker. I take it you don’t know him very well.”
“I don’t know him at all, what I do know is that Starbuck is not the same person she was before she was taken.”
“In what way?”
“The Dana I know would never let a man dominate her the way Paul does. He’s isolating her from her family, friends, and her personality has changed, she’s more subdued, less independent. I’m worried about her.”
“Is she still on the sleeping pills?”
“What sleeping pills?”
“Paul has her on them, to keep away the nightmares she started to have when her memories started returning.”
William stared at him for a long moment. “He’s drugging her.”
“I don’t - "
“I’m very glad you came over tonight, Mulder.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each clearly contemplating what the next question should be. William looked up to ask Mulder something and saw the younger man tense, stiffen, then before he could open his mouth they both heard the screams from upstairs.
Mulder was on his feet racing up the stairs before Maggie, who was half down could turn. William was only a couple of steps behind him.
Mulder burst into the room Dana was using, and saw her in the throes of a night terror. He didn’t hesitate, taking her into his arms. “Dana, it’s a dream. You’re not alone. It’s Mulder, I’m right here with you.” He murmured these words over and over, holding her, rocking her.
It took a while but she finally began to calm down though she was still clinging to him. That’s when he realized that her parents were standing there watching them. “Uh, sorry, I - “
He started to release her but her grip on him tightened and William shook his head. Mulder nodded and pulled her back against him. She looked up at him then. “Th-thank you.”
“It’s okay. Do you remember the nightmare?”
She shivered but shook her head. “I, I can’t remember anything but the terror.”
“You didn’t take your sleeping pills?”
“No, not tonight or last night. It was a mistake.”
“I don’t think so. But I’m sure it feels that way right now. Think you could sleep again?”
“I don’t even know if I want to.”
“You need your rest,” Maggie had moved closer.
Dana turned fearful eyes toward her, but didn’t argue. Mulder helped her recline again and tucked her hair behind her ear. “Your mother’s right. Try to get some rest.”
He retreated from the room along with her father, while Maggie tucked her back in. They headed downstairs slowly. At the foot of the stairs, Mulder turned to William. “May I take a couple of her pills, the sleeping pills, to have them analyzed?”
“I’d appreciate it.” William looked back upstairs. “She responded to you.”
Mulder looked up startled. “I - “
“Sorry, just an observation. Let me get those pills.”
He made a quick stop at the guys’ apartment before heading home. He left them with the pills and information about Paul’s employment. They promised to get right on it. Byers was already crushing up one of the pills for analysis before Mulder left them.