He was close to something. His heart beat faster, and his palms were slick. After listening to his profiling, he knew why he must have been up all hours of the night. The tone of his voice on the tapes, the underlying excitement as he relayed the details of the hunt. He was close, and he could feel it.
He just couldn't remember what he was thinking when he recorded it.
Scully said that this memory "confusion" had only happened when he was close to solving a case. Why did he have to be so goddamned tight-lipped when it came to some things?
Aliens? Sure, seen 'em.
Government conspiracies? Absolutely, knew the guys involved.
Mutants? Yep, we got 'em: fluke men, Mexican goat suckers, you name it.
Serial killers? Serial killers? Uh...workin' on it. Working on it and not telling a fucking soul.
Mulder knew that his method of profiling consisted of cloistering information and impressions in his mind until the picture became clear. He would immerse himself deep in a case until he could surface with a solution.
Scully was right: he was deep into this one and hadn't surfaced yet. So deep, in fact, that his memory had failed. His mind had turned to mush just when he needed it to be its sharpest. Now he had to pick up the pieces of his profile and place them with the facts of the investigation.
Unfortunately, he had only hints and clues to work with. Listening to his profile in progress, Mulder heard the agitation in his own voice as he relayed his thoughts. He figured that these tapes were for his ears alone, since Scully's voice wasn't on any of them. He had to put his thoughts in some kind of order.
Mulder's hands skimmed his desk until he rediscovered the microcassette tape recorder he'd been listening to. He needed a method of looking at and examining his thoughts. His old method had consisted of jotting reems of barely legible notes on countless yellow legal pads. His present circumstances forced him to alter that procedure. He placed a fresh cassette in the machine, brought the microphone close to his mouth, and depressed the "Record" buttons. His voice echoed slightly off the basement walls as he taped his thoughts:
"Young men in the prime of life. Looking for love and in love with life. All of them gay, all of them attractive, all.." He stopped for a minute and thought, 'There's that descriptive word again: Attractive.'
He continued, "Bar hopping., and beer drinking in Fells Point. Age---Cause of death was extreme age. Died of advanced age. Age. Six month intervals. Last victim was youngest. Victims getting younger, gay, attractive, beer drinking, poison. Poison? No, not poisoned. Bruised lips. Did all victims have bruising around the lips?"
Mulder's voice took on a low sing songy quality. His sentences became shorter, more disorganized. His eyes were closed as his fingers squeezed the "Record" buttons on the tape machine. He continued with his head bowed close to the microphone. "Gay. Gay's not important. Red herring, only throws us off. Romantically involved? Were the other victims romantically involved? Friends? Drinking friends? Only drinking? Drug use? Body found in Canton; who lives in Canton? All had friends to bar hop with..nobody noticed him missing..died missing... away from others..killer was with him...killer knew him...killer wanted something from him.."
His voice trailed off as an annoying sound interrupted his thoughts. He pulled his glasses off and fiercly rubbed at his eyes. That sound again; what was it? He shook his head and realized that the phone on his desk was ringing. Yanking the receiver up to his ear he blurted, "Mulder!"
"Mulder, it's me," Scully's excited voice answered. "Look, I have some..."
He cut her off. "Romantically involved? Scully, were any of the other victims romantically involved?"
She began again. "Mulder, listen. I have some preliminary results on the DNA testing and..."
Mulder didn't let her finish, "Were any of the other victims in A committed relationship!?" His voice was dangerously low.
"Mulder, I have..."
"No, Mulder. No. None of the other men had committed partners. Now listen..."
He slammed the phone down in its cradle and unplugged it from the back.
Continuing into the microphone he said evenly, "None committed...no romantic relationships. Three young men...handsome.murdered... single attractive men... no significant other. Goes to bars...out of loneliness.hoping for, for....please, no loneliness...looking for love?...hoping to find...no, lost....all dead....all lost....old...alone...please, no...extreme age. They die of old age...Go to bars...They die... all of them murdered ...No! Too soon, too young ...They all die old...Alone... no Other ....oh please no, no....Died wrinkled and old... Paper thin skin. Faces distorted with age... Bruised faces....Dead and gray and ....alone with the killer."
Another sound, this time from his hip. No time. No time.
Another sound. Cell phone.
"NOT NOW!!" Mulder tore the cell phone from his hip and stabbed the "Off" button.
He took a deep breath. The stale pizza smell competed with Scully's perfume and his body's sweat for attention.
He rewound the last few seconds of the tape and heard, "Bruised faces... Dead and gray and alone with the killer. (cell phone chirping) NOT NOW!!..."
He pressed the "Record" button and continued, "Body changes. DNA testing... DNA... test for.... Life is change. Changes....old....ages... dies...life...life and death... death for life....age for beauty....beauty dies...beauty lives....young men...bruised by kisses...old men, kissed by death... murdered for youth....murdered for beauty....all dead...all bruised, all kissed...."
The windows were small in the basement and set high above the floor. Very little light came in the windows, even during the bright mid day hours. The sun had long since set, and the basement office was very dark.
Of course, Mulder could no longer judge time by the height of the sun in the sky. The basement was eternally dark to him, but he knew that the night must now have robbed any light that would have come into those small windows.
He changed the tape and continued recording. "Young, and handsome. Old and wrinkled, why? Life...Life for death. How? Bruised lips. Slapped? Kissed?"
A sound. Then another sound. Then vanilla and rain. Scully was here.
"I'm here, Scully."
He didn't hear her flip on the light switch. Her clothing rustled, and the air shifted as she approached. A very small smile made its way to his lips as he realized how well she must know their office to walk so confidently in the dark.
"I have some information about the testing." Her voice was soft and careful as she spoke. A scraping sound indicated that she'd pulled a chair up to the opposite side of his desk.
He released the "Record" buttons on his recorder.
"They were killed for their youth, Scully. For their beauty and their youth."
She took a breath in the darkness and asked, "Can I tell you what I've found?"
"Kisses, Scully. Kisses killed them." His voice sounded far away even to himself.
"David Graham's DNA was altered, Mulder. Whatever killed him did it on a molecular level. I collected a DNA sample from his home in Annapolis. I compared it to his current DNA, and they don't match. They're close, but they don't match."
"Kisses murdered him, Scully. Changed him...aged him. Changed all of them. Check the others; they were all changed."
"Yes, Mulder. David Graham was changed, he aged and he lost a piece of who he was. I don't know how, but it happened."
"Stolen. A piece of him was stolen and replaced with...with what?"
"His youth was stolen, and his beauty was stolen. His cellular structure was altered, and that was how he was murdered." Scully's voice took on Mulder's cadence, and her voice dipped towards him in the dark.
"The murderer wanted to be young and handsome, so he changed his own DNA. Stole it from David Graham. Changed it with a kiss, killed him with a kiss...how? How, Scully?"
"Bruising around the mouth, Mulder. Point of entry. Mouth, lips, teeth, tongue."
"His heart, Scully. The point of entry was the part of him that sought love. He had no lover, no romantic involvement. He was looking for love and found death wrapped around a kiss." Mulder leaned on his elbows, his hair brushing hers as they spoke, their foreheads nearly touching as they shared each breath. Their spoken thoughts became one voice.
A female voice first. "What would be accomplished by changing the DNA structure?"
Then the male voice. "The murderer was looking for youth and beauty, and he stole them. Extracted them right out of David Graham's cells."
"Why these victims? Why David Graham? Kevin Owens? Christopher Nicholas?" her voice asked.
"They were handsome and lonely and looking for someone. They all were. They were somewhere where the killer could see them, admire them, want them."
Her soft voice continued in perfect sync with his, "They must have been in a location where the killer could lure them away without anyone noticing."
"Yes, he lures them away, then kisses them, kills them."
"The murderer does kill them, Mulder, but he takes something from them first. Something from their cells."
Almost before she finished her sentence he said, "He needs something. He takes what he needs, what he wants."
"What, Mulder? What does the killer want?"
"Their youth. Their beauty. Their lives. The killer didn't want to live his own life anymore, so he stole *their* lives."
"Why? Why did he murder these men?"
Mulder's voice was hushed, "The murderer was old and no longer beautiful. But not now. Now he is attractive and has David Graham's youth."
With an unspoken cue, they both sat back. Mulder tipped his head backward and let out a lungful of air. Scully's head shook, and tiny droplets of water flicked Mulder's hand.
"It's raining, Scully?" Mulder's voice asked.
"It was, but I think it stopped...it was stopping by the time I got here." He could hear her as she finger combed her hair, and felt few more drops fall on his hand.
"We have to catch him, Scully. We have to make him stop."
"Who is he, Mulder? How can we find him? Where is he?"
"The answer's on Baltimore's streets. The murderer is there; I'm sure of it. We have to go out there. Tonight."
Their office was black and breathless for a minute, then Scully's hesitant voice said, "Mulder.."
"I know, Scully. I know I can't watch your back. But we're only going so I can get the feel of things. I don't remember being out at the crime scenes, and I have to go back. I promise, at the first sign of trouble we're out of there."
His hopeful, excited voice found her in the dark.
"The first sign of trouble?" she repeated.
"And we're out of there," he confirmed.
Scully sighed loudly, "All right, all right. But you're picking up the bar tab." Her chair scraped as she moved it back.
Mulder stood, grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair, and started towards the door, saying, "Just as long as you don't order any of those girly drinks. It's embarassing to pay for those."
His voice trailed off as he raced Scully to the elevator. But not before he heard her mutter, "Great, *that* he remembers."
|Part 3|In A Flash|Part 5|