Hunter's Moon

This story first appeared on the XFiles.creative newsgroup in October 1995 (written when I was supposed to be studying for my exams :)  ) It is intended as a sequel to Beastmaster though I think both stories stand alone reasonably well. There are references to Beastmaster in the story, and if you are interested, it is available in this archive. I hope you enjoy my story. I would really love some feedback.

*:)

amanda

DISCLAIMER

The characters Mulder and Scully and Skinner and Cancer Man and X Files are the property of TenThirteen Productions and Chris Carter, and have been used without permission. This story is copyright Amanda le Bas de Plumetot.

There is no sex in this story, just some nudity (and a little bit of ogling, you'll have to take care of the pictures yourselves, though...) There is some violence and a couple of nasty bits, but I've tried not to bee too gratuitous. While I do not portray Mulder and Scully as An Item, I have been chided by a friend who insists that my stories are quite romantic. M & S are never less than devoted to each other.

HUNTER'S MOON

 Mulder stepped over the body, apparently engrossed in a newspaper. Scully waited till they were out of earshot of the police and forensic people,."Mulder if you step in any evidence I'm going to kill you."

 Mulder made a show of checking the soles of his shoes and then returned to the newspaper.

 "I'm not kidding, Mulder," Scully hissed at him, "And we are supposed to be working here."

 He didn't even look up from the newspaper."What makes you think I'm not working?"

 She flicked at the edge of his newspaper, leaving a bloody smear. "The fact that you've had your head stuck in tabloid heaven practically ever since we got here was sort of a  clue."

 "Scully, this is important stuff. Could be relevant to the case."

 "What? Elvis's alien love child turns homicidal maniac? Tabloid headline-yes. Relevant here? I don't think so."

 "Try Great apes stolen from local zoo."

 She was beginning to feel exasperated and didn't much care at this stage if the police heard what was going on. "Mulder, we're supposed to be dealing with a murder here and you want to add tabloid newsclippings to some old X file on gorillas."

 "Scully...how did doctor Fraser die?"

 Scully turned and surveyed the scene, it was patently obvious how the man had died. Once you got past the wall to wall blood in his cell and took a good steady look at the picture, well, it didn't take much to figure out what was wrong. Basically the man's head wasn't attached. In fact, it wasn't even in the room where the rest of him was. At the present time police were combing the grounds, checking out the small lake, rubbish dump, and any earth that had been recently turned over.

 "Don't kid with me Mulder."

 "I'm not kidding. How did he die?"

 "He was decapitated."

 "How?"

 "Well obviously I won't know that until the autopsy."

 "Take a guess, Scully. Take a look at the body and the room, and tell me...just a guess what you think might have happened to him."

 Scully had spent half the morning having a good long look at that body. She really didn't need Mulder's games right now, but he didn't do these things just to annoy her. She'd known him long enough to realise that. She looked again at the body, trying to see it from a different perspective. The neck was twisted as though he had been throttled, although from what she had seen, there were no finger marks around the neck. It looked as if the left shoulder and collarbone had been broken. She turned slowly back to Mulder.

 "His neck wasn't severed, was it?" said Mulder.

 Scully shook her head. "I can't be positive," she said."I'll know more after the autopsy."

 "Come on, Scully, do your sums. Somebody breaks into prison..."

 "It's only minimum security."

 "It's still prison. And somebody broke in. They bent the bars on the window, and they ripped the head off doctor Fraser there. And three days ago several animals, including a silverback gorilla were abducted from a private zoo not twenty miles from here."

 "A week ago, Mulder a fifty nine year old derelict had his head severed from his body not twenty miles from here. The head was never found. And animals aren't abducted, they're stolen. I suggest you look for some sort of pattern between the two decapitations before you go trying to build a psychological profile for a maniacal gorilla."

 Mulder flipped a bundle of papers out of the pocket of his coat. "Autopsy from Brandon Mills, the decapitated derelict. His head was severed by three blows from what was probably a small axe. As you said, the head was never found. I think there is a connection, Scully, and I think the gorilla is involved too. Mills had a record for violent crimes, though not recently. He was actually dying of cirrhosis of the liver, and wouldn't have seen Christmas even with his head still on."

 Scully slapped her hand against her head. "Don't tell me...I know, Mills was killed, and then his ghost came and inhabited the body of the gorilla which decided to rip off Fraser's head because aside from being a drunken thug, he was actually a great patriot and didn't think Fraser was paying dearly enough for his crimes."

 "Now you're getting close, Scully."

 She shook her head in exasperation and returned to the body, crossing its arms and zipping closed the bag that enfolded it. She signalled to the morgue attendant to take the wheeled stretcher away and snapped the rubber gloves off her hands, taking care to dispose both of the gloves and plastic apron she wore without touching their contaminated surfaces.

 "Look, Mulder, I'm going to travel back in the ambulance so I can get straight into the autopsy. Why don't you just take the car down to the zoo and have fun with the animals?"

***

 The zoo had once been a farm. These days it was kind of a retirement home for elderly and excess animals from other zoos and animal parks. Leena Topp met Mulder at the gate.

 "We're not open mid week," she began. Then he showed her his I.D. She took it from him and read it carefully. "Cute name," she said, and smiled.

 He smiled back, she was ten years older than him and had skin like leather. Her hair hung in untidy bunches, and she smelled as if she had been mucking out the lions' cage.

 She walked him through the compound to a large, empty enclosure. The centrepiece was a large, flat rock overhung by a tyre swing hanging from an oak. At one end was a shallow pond. It was small and simple, but Mulder had seen worse zoo enclosures.

 "This is where we kept Bananas."

 "Bananas?"

 "Horrible, isn't it? Very undignified. He worked as a circus performer with a clown called Nuts. When Nuts died about five years ago the circus owners didn't want to keep Bananas. They figured he was too attached to Nuts to really want to work with anyone else, and he was getting on. You know, retirement time."

 She indicated the gate of the enclosure. It had been locked with a chain and padlock which had simply been snapped by a bolt cutter. "I'm afraid we're not a high security place. They had no trouble getting to Bananas."

 "Was he violent?"

 "Bananas? No. Despite the name he was a very gentle, dignified animal."

 "Was he strong?"

 "Oh enormously."

 "Strong enough to kill a person?"

 "Mr Mulder Bananas was a four hundred pound  highlands gorilla. The kind that sleeps anywhere he wants to...you know? He could rip a man's arm off if he wanted to, but he was not a violent animal. I can't make promises about animal behaviour, I can't read their minds, but I truly do not believe it could be in Bananas's nature to harm a person."

 Mulder nodded. "I believe there were other animals taken."

 "That's right," she indicated the adjacent enclosure. It was very similar to the gorilla's. "Bono the orang-utan. He came to us from a zoo in Iowa that closed. He was only young, we were actually going to send him to a zoo in Ireland as part of a breeding programme. I suppose he and Bananas have become part of one of those obscene trades in animal parts now," she sighed, her shoulders slumping.

 "Was that all? Just the two apes?"

 "No, there was one other. Your namesake, Mr Mulder."

 "Someone stole a mulder?"

 "No. A fox. We've got excess animals from other zoos, five males and two females. One of the males was taken."

 "Just the one?"

 "One gone, four still sitting there in their enclosure. I know why someone would take the apes, but it's beyond me why they would take just one fox out of five."

 "Patch for a fur coat?" Mulder suggested, though the removal of the last animal gave him a churning, uneasy feeling in his stomach.

***

 Scully had almost finished the work when Mulder walked in. "So," she said,  "did you talk to the animals?"

 "Yeah," he surveyed the scene on the slab before his partner. "Steak tartare for dinner?"

 "Nope," she indicated a bowl on the table beside him. "Liver and kidneys."

 "Yum. So how was he decapitated?"

 "Someone ripped his head off, Mulder. Someone with hands the size of dinner plates and short, black and grey hair."

 "Any ginger hair?"

 "Ginger hair?"

 "An orang-utan and a fox were taken from the zoo as well."

 "Mulder, I have pretty well just admitted to you that a gorilla did the murder. Now you want me to tell you he had accomplices?"

 Mulder shrugged. "Maybe he just likes redheads."

 "Don't push it, Mulder," she snapped off her gloves and apron. "Do you have any real ideas?"

 "The two apes were alone in their enclosures. There were five foxes in their pen, but only one was taken."

 "Maybe he was the foxiest."

 "Do you remember finding a dead fox in the woods with my gun and I.D. next to it?"

 "I remember Mulder," she said quietly. She also remembered the effect the discovery had had on her partner. "I also remember that whoever killed that fox also tampered with evidence I'd removed from a body I'd been autopsying. They replaced the material I was sending for analysis with the fox's heart. Do you think there's a connection between that fox and this one?"

 "It's possible. The man who drugged me was particularly taken with my name."

 "A lot of people are, Mulder. You should use it occasionally, maybe you'd get to like it."

 "I think that fox might have been taken as a warning to me, Scully."

***

 There wasn't that much to go on. Mulder sat silent and brooding, Scully drove. "Want me to pick up some take out on the way home?" she asked.

 "I don't want to go home."

 "Dinner? Movie? Dancing?"

 "The place where Mills was killed."

 "Mulder you are such a party animal."

***

 The place was pretty much what they had expected. Derelict as the people there. A dumping ground of human values. A breeding pit for diseases that a medical system with no social conscience was creating. Faces peered at them curiously as they got out of their car, and then closed away, police here? Nobody home.

 Mulder plunged right in. "Any of you folks know Brandon Mills?" They shrugged and muttered amongst themselves. Nope. The guy had been living there pretty much since the last time he got out of prison, about seven years ago. But no one knew him.

 "You know he was murdered," Mulder pointed to a small, dark alley. "Right over there."

 "So what?" said one of the men.

 "Don't you care?" asked Scully.

 "Sure lady. We care. He was our friend. I don't believe you care though."

 "Why not?"

 "You're the police. What do the police care if one wasted old dude like Mills gets aced?"

 "This is America, my friend," said Mulder. "The president cares about everyone."

 The man's face brightened. "Which president?"

 Mulder held up a green note. "What do you know about what happened?"

 "Don went with a guy."

 "Just one guy?"

"Yeah. Just one. Big dude. You know, fat. With a beard. He had money. He offered Don money just to like go with him for a few minutes."

 "What colour hair?"

 "Blonde...light brown."

 "Was the man carrying anything?"

 "Does the president have a friend?"

 A second note appeared in Mulder's hand. "He had a bag. Like a big bag," he held his hands wide apart. "One of those kind of sports bag things, like you could put a tennis racquet and stuff in it."

 "And Mills went with him down there."

 "Yeah," the man pocketed the money. "Two of them down the alley."

 "Did you see what happened?"

 "I don't wanna look at that stuff. I might be wasted but I'm not a pervert."

 "Did you see the man come out?"

 He shrugged. "Saw him leaving. Saw him walking away."

 "How much later was that?"

 "Maybe five minutes, maybe ten. I couldn't tell you exactly, someone rolled me for my Rolex," he pulled up his dirty shirtsleeve to reveal a dirty, wasted wrist and walked off, laughing.

 "That was cynical, Mulder," said Scully.

 "Guess I need a lesson in ethics," he shrugged, and walked towards the alleyway.

 Little effort had been made to clear away the garbage in the alley. It spilled from dumpsters onto the ground. Apparently the garbage had never really been put back since a cursory search for Mills's head a week earlier, and nobody really cared. There were quantities of fruit rinds and vegetable peels in one dumpster, and the whole place smelled like shit.

 "Scully have you noticed any stray dogs around here?"

 "No."

 "Cats?"

 "Mulder, if you want another pet, I don't think a stray cat would be a good idea. They're very opportunistic. It might eat your fish."

 "I'm just wondering where all the excrement came from," he said, indicating a garbage bag that had split, spilling litter and turds down the side of the over full dumpster.

 "Someone's pet?" Scully suggested. "Looks like it's been using a tray of kitty litter," she squatted, poking at the excrement with a pencil. "Could have come from a small dog."

 "Or a fox," said Mulder.

 Scully stood up and flicked the pencil into the dumpster. "Mulder, it's too late for all this. I'm tired, I'm hungry, it's dark, and I don't have a torch. No one's going to take all this away from us, why don't we just go home now and paddle in the poop tomorrow, hm?"

 He stood there looking vague and undecided. She propelled him towards the car. "Come on, Mulder, I'm taking you home."

 "You can take me home, Scully, but you can't keep me."

 "Just get in the car."

 He wouldn't have dinner with her. "Promise me you'll eat, Mulder," she said as he got out of the car.

 "Okay, I promise I'll eat," he shrugged. He watched her drive off before he finished the sentence under his breath: "...but I just won't say when."

 He fed his fish, checked his mail, replaced the battery in his cellular phone, picked up his keys and torch, and was out the door less than ten minutes after Scully had dropped him off.

 He didn't leave the car in the same place, but some blocks away where the street lights were brighter and pedestrian traffic a little heavier. Mills's little family was some distance away, celebrating the generosity of Mulder's presidents. Mulder walked to where the dumpster overflowed, looking down at the bag with the animal excrement in it. There were banana skins in it too, and the whole thing seemed too stupid to be true. He stared up at the blank wall of the building. It was light industrial, the entrance was on the opposite side, but he remembered another alley that ran parallel to this one that would take him through to the front of the building.

 The second alley was as dark as the first, though it at least held the glimmering promise of light at the far end. He could see traffic droning past, too. He snagged his gun from its holster, walking cautiously. There was a soft thump behind him but before he had time to turn something slammed him into the wall. His head was smacked into the bricks, the air was driven out of his lungs. There was a hard, hairy arm across his chest, and a he heard a voice through the ringing in his ears.

 "Hello, Fox, I thought it might be you. In fact, I was really hoping it would be you."

 He knew that voice, he knew the face that went with it. The man who had doped him with some animal derivative that made him think he was a deer, running through the woods trying to eat grass, was standing before him. A gorilla had its arm around Mulder's neck.

 "You know we were never formally introduced," said Mulder. "But I guess this is your mother, right?"

 The gorilla grunted and its grip tightened so that its hand was around his neck. Mulder tried not to dwell on the death of Fraser.

 "Pick him up and bring him, Don," said the man. "He's the one I was telling you about. His name really is Fox. I'll show you his I.D. when we get in."

 The gorilla said: "Huh," and swung Mulder over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. It held one wrist and ankle casually with one of its massive paws. Mulder hung there, bouncing to the gorilla's knuckle and stomping gait. All he could do was stare at his gun, still lying where he had dropped it.

 The place smelled like animals. It was much the same laboratory set up that Mulder remembered from the log cabin, but there were animals this time. One small cage contained a fox. It stared at them as they came into the room, but did not move. Mulder thought the orang-utan was in a cage beside it, but when the ape moved he could see that it was standing beside to empty, larger cage. In fact, it was fiddling with some of the test tubes on the bench.

 "Just put him down, Don," the man said. The gorilla seemed reluctant to let Mulder go. "It's okay. Look, Fox, if you try to run, if you try to make any move to get out or to break anything, or to just do anything except what I say, then Don here is going to break both your legs. Okay?"

 "I understand," said Mulder.

 The gorilla made a noise that sounded like: "Yuh."

 Mulder's legs had turned to mush anyway. He sank to the floor and tried to locate the lump at the back of his head where he'd been slammed into the wall. The gorilla ambled away from him. It plonked its body down into a chair and reached across the table to a packet of cigarettes, took one and lit it.

 "Cute place you've got here," commented Mulder. "Just like home."

 "We're making do," said the man.

 The gorilla grunted assent and slumped back into the chair, casually crossing one leg over the other. There was a bottle of bourbon on the table and a glass, next to the gorilla's ash tray. It poured itself a drink. If Mulder hadn't spent the past few minutes draped around the animal's neck like some kind of bizarre parody of a stole, he might have decided it was simply a man in a gorilla suit.

 "I guess Bananas and Nuts had a really close relationship," said Mulder.

 "I don't know what you're talking about," said the man, he turned to the gorilla. "Just don't drink too much of that stuff," he ordered. "You already managed to destroy one liver, try and keep this one in better shape, will you?"  The gorilla made a rude gesture.

 Mulder wondered if someone had been tampering with his water again. He looked across at where the orang-utan was standing. It clattered about with the glass ware, apparently someone thought it knew what it was doing. At the back of the bench it was playing at was a low shelf, and Mulder could see two mason jars on it. They were very large jars. They had to be, for each one held a human head.

 "You know," said Mulder, "the last time we met you had a deerskin on the wall, but I see you've developed a more exotic taste in decoration."

 "I'm so glad you appreciate it," said the man.

 "Is there any chance of you enlightening me this time?" asked Mulder hopefully.

 "You really don't know what this is all about, do you Fox?" said the man.

 "No, I really don't. Send me to my grave happy."

 "Fox, Fox, Fox," the man shook his head, laughing. "We're not going to kill you."

 Mulder's hand slipped into the pocket of his jacket, he could auto dial Scully, it would only take a couple of seconds for him to shout out where he was. Of course the gorilla might break both his legs for him if he did that, but if he didn't, it seemed pretty likely that his head was going to be floating in another Mason bottle, beside Mills and Fraser.

 "Don, take that coat off him," said the man casually. "I think he might have a cel phone in there. Check him for arms, too. It's possible he had more than one gun. I want him clean."

 The gorilla moved on Mulder, it was less than careful as it removed his coat and the jacket under it.

 "I could have done this without help," said Mulder, struggling as the gorilla removed his gun holster and then ran its paws over his body, feeling for concealed weapons.

 "Nuh," said the gorilla finally.

 The man nodded, "David," he called. The orang-utan turned and looked at him. "Come over here, I've got someone I want you to meet."

 The orang-utan ambled over. It walked right up to Mulder and put its spidery hand on his face. "This is the F.B.I. man I was telling you about, David. Fox Mulder." He showed Mulder's I.D. to the orang-utan and it gazed at the card for a moment, then back at Mulder, comparing his face with the photo. "You see?" said the man. "It's his real name." The orang-utan flicked the I.D. onto the table, it looked at Mulder and then at the fox in the cage, and then it began to laugh. There was absolutely no question that the noise the animal was making was laughter, great roaring belly laughs that had it rolling about on the floor till tears ran out of its eyes.

 Mulder was certain someone had been tampering with his water supply. "What's it all about?" he said finally.

 "Fox...you're such an innocent," said the man."I might just have to tell you."

 "Yeah. When I die I'd like to be as happy as him."

 The orang-utan was wiping tears from its eyes and snorting.

 "You know who he is, don't you?" said the man.

 "He's Bono the orang-utan."

 "Half right. Bono's in there, but he's sharing."

 "Sharing."

 "With David Fraser."

 "Dr Fraser was killed last night. What did you do?"

 "David and I worked together for quite some time on a little project for the government. It involved distillation of memory."

 Mulder motioned towards the gorilla who was pouring himself another shot of bourbon. "Sounds like what he's doing."

 "No, that's more a pickling process. What we did was work on modifying neurotransmitters, the actual process of tracking down thoughts and memories."

 "Sounds like science fiction."

 "Sounds like, but isn't. I'm sure you remember your little adventures in the forest. The derivative I was using at the time came from deer. Pretty basic stuff, but certainly more complex than what I'd started with. The people I shot up with planarian derivative didn't do much at all."

 "So you were working on this with Dr Fraser?"

 "There were others involved, of course. It was a military thing, very secret. Trying to figure out how to carry memories across from one person to another, so that, for example, the thoughts and ideas of one person would continue even after he was dead. All highly unethical but it was a matter of national security, so we did it. And then the budget was cut."

 "Democrats?" said Mulder.

 "How did you guess? Most of the others were moved into other areas. It didn't seem to bother them. Me it bothered, I was on the verge of breakthrough. I told them that but they wouldn't listen. David was bothered, too. The ethics of the whole business bothered him...or the lack of ethics. Ironic, isn't it? They were afraid he'd go public on them, so they busted him with that stupid breach of secrecy charge. The only person on the team with any moral backbone finished up in prison."

 "And you ran away, with all your knowledge, and your breakthrough," said Mulder.

 "I'm one step ahead of them," said the man. "I thought they'd caught me when you found me in the forest, but you really didn't know what was going on, did you?"

 "Only that there were...odd circumstances over the deaths of those people. Look, if it makes any difference to you, I think you and I are on the same side," said Mulder hopefully.

 "How did you decide that, Fox?"

 Mulder shrugged. "Who hates my enemies must be my friend," he suggested.

 "What, because you're F.B.I. and I was with defence you think we share some sort of patriotic tendency?"

 "I was thinking more along the lines of a similar dislike of government double dealing and secret agendas."

 "Nice try, Fox, but I'm not going to fall for it. In case you hadn't noticed, I don't tend to trust people too readily, and I'm certainly not prepared to give any sort of trust to a guy who carries government issue plastic." He flicked Mulder's F.B.I. card into the corner on top of his coat and jacket.

  "I don't suppose there's an option other than killing me?" said Mulder, feeling rather resigned.

 "I told you, Fox, I don't kill people. Get him ready, Don. On the table, same as you did to Bono."

 The gorilla ambled over from its chair and Mulder was suddenly very afraid. "Uh," it said, taking him by one wrist, and he understood that it meant he should stand, but his knees would not work properly, and he kept sinking to the ground so that the gorilla had to half drag him to the small stainless steel table that stood beside the bench where the orang-utan had been fiddling. Mulder could see the mason jars clearly now, and their contents stared back at him. His heart was hammering and he felt faint with his eyes losing focus and the hissing sound of his too-rapid pulse in his ears.

 The gorilla laid him face down across the table. There were manacles on the two far corners and it shackled his wrists. He wanted to plead for his life but he was afraid that if he opened his mouth he would either vomit or just cry pitifully. After all that he had been through in his convoluted quest for truth, it seemed stupid to die at the hands of a lunatic who had taken the perversity of bestiality into such a weird permutation.

 He felt the gorilla's hands at his ankles. Apparently there were shackles on the bottom of the table legs, too. He was spreadeagled across the table now, bent at the hips with the table sticking into him just below the navel, and his backside stuck out and his legs spread. Then he felt the gorilla's hands at the waistband of his pants,  unbuckling his belt, unzipping him and pulling pants and underwear down to half mast. Oh god, and Mills had spent time in prison. Who knew which way his tastes bent. Mulder braced himself for the worst, at least it gave him something to focus on. But the gorilla just slapped him once on the bare cheek and then stood back.

 "Sorry to disappoint you, Fox," said the man, "but you really aren't his type."

 "Not into miscegeny, huh?" said Mulder through the hammering of his heart.

 "He always liked violence better than sex. Anyway have you ever had a good close look at gorilla equipment? Pindicks. Don, would you get the fox ready for us, please?"

 Mulder followed the gorilla with his eyes. It went to the cage where the fox had been silently crouching the whole while and grabbed the animal by the scruff of the neck. Before the fox had time to do more than utter a small yelp of protest, the gorilla's big hands twisted its head one way and its body the other till it tore the two apart. Mulder gagged at the sudden violence, closed his eyes too late against it. He heard its hot blood splash to the floor, and Mulder thought the blood had spilled all down his legs until he realised he was wetting himself.

 "Thanks, Don," said the man. The gorilla casually handed the fox's head to the orang-utan,."If you wouldn't mind cleaning up a bit now," suggested the man. The gorilla grunted affably and went for a mop.

 "Don't worry," the man reassured him. "It won't take long. We just need to take some material from its brain. The hypothalamus. Preparation is a very quick procedure." Mulder could see that the orang-utan was apparently quite adept at this. He'd even scrubbed for surgery and was wearing a mask and surgical gown and rubber gloves. It looked completely stupid and the gloves didn't fit his hands properly, but it didn't seem to bother him.

 "You know I got this fox purely because I thought...I hoped I would run into you."

 "Glad I didn't let you down," said Mulder quietly.  He watched the gorilla swab the floor. It was preferable to watching that adept orang-utan. The gorilla moved next to him and he heard it make a tutting noise with its tongue. It undid the shackle off his left leg and slipped his wet pants, shoe and sock off, then shackled him again and repeated the process on the right leg.

 "He didn't want you to get a rash," said the man.

 Mulder said nothing. He was fighting a battle to stop his teeth from chattering, and his legs were shaking against the table. The orang-utan was holding up a 10 ml syringe full of greasy golden liquid.

 "All done?" said the man.

 The orang-utan nodded and Mulder felt the cold smear of alcohol swab down his spine. "Don't do this," he heard himself beg.

 The man had inserted a wide bore needle onto the end of the syringe. "It is time, Fox, for you to meet your namesake. Could you hold him steady, please?"

 The gorilla held his shoulders, the orang-utan held his hips. They stretched him between them and he could not move, except to let out a moan of pain when the man stuck the needle into his back, slipping it between his lumbar vertebrae.

***

 When the pain was gone there was still the matter of escape. He was about to begin chewing off his left foreleg when they released it. He fell over with surprise. It took a moment before he could find his feet and get up. Something was wrong, but he really didn't have time to think about exactly what, he just had to get away from them.

 One of them made an opening in the wall and he looked at it longingly. The opening was freedom, but the enemy stood very close. He took a cautious step and the enemy moved away. He knew he was fast enough, he dashed through the opening and down the hallway into the street.

 He was hit by a bewildering amount of noise and activity. Bad-smelling things moved past him and roared at him and he knew he needed to get away. He ran at a steady jogging pace until he found a quieter, darker road to follow. His senses had been curiously dulled, he could hardly smell anything and his range of hearing seemed to be dulled. The night was darker than it had ever been before.

 Despite his reduced sensitivity, he could smell food cooking and it wasn't far. He followed his nose to the dumpster at the back of a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. There was movement in the garbage and in lightning reflex his jaws snapped around a half grown rat. Things were very different for him, but at least he needn't go hungry.

***

 Scully woke early. She knew Mulder would want to get right back to that heap of manure in the alleyway. She tried ringing him as she ate her breakfast, but there was no reply. She dropped by his apartment but his car had gone. She figured he had probably headed straight to where they had left off the night before, and she went there as well. She parked her car behind Mulder's and walked straight to the alleyway.

 It was deserted. No Mulder, no derelicts. Just a pile of shit. There was another bag on top of it and Scully slipped on a pair of disposable gloves and sliced the bag open with a scalpel from her pocket forensic kit. There was fur inside. She pulled it wide open and found the fox, head and body not intact, but both parts were in the bag. The head had been mutilated. There was clothing in the bag, too, and the ammonia smell of urine. She pulled the animal and clothing out. A pair of men's pants. Nice cut, and a nice looking pair of shoes too, and sox and underwear. There was something in the pocket, and before she even pulled the wallet out and checked the driver's licence in it, Scully realised they were Mulder's pants she was holding.

 Her gun was already in her hand when she saw the outlines of what she thought were two men at the end of the alleyway.

 "F.B.I." she screamed. "Stop where you are or I'll shoot."

 But they didn't stop, they just kept right on coming. In fact, one of them ran towards her, so she just started shooting until they both fell down. Then she called for backup.

 The man and the gorilla were both dead. Inside the building they found a very contrite orang-utan, the heads of Dr Fraser and Mills, Mulder's coat and jacket, I.D., holster and phone. They found Mulder's gun outside the building in a nearby alley. There was no sign of Mulder until mid morning when Scully received a call. It was Skinner. "Agent Scully, a man answering to agent Mulder's description was picked up by police about half an hour ago." He gave her the details of where to go.

 "Don't touch any of this stuff," she ordered as she went out the door, she hoped it wasn't a complete waste of breath.

 Scully had pocketed Mulder's personal effects. She flashed his I.D. badge as well as her own at the desk sergeant.

 "Oh, that guy," said the sergeant. "Indecent exposure. He really F.B.I.?"

 "Yes he is. He's my partner."

 The sergeant indicated a hallway. "Head case," he muttered. "First door on the right."

 It wasn't what Scully had expected. She wasn't even sure it was Mulder in the cell. He was naked from the waist down and filthy dirty. There were little cuts on his face, hands and feet and he paced up and down the length of his cell like a wild animal.

 "Mulder," she called. "Mulder it's all right.  It's me. Scully."

 He looked at her with a mad, feral expression when she spoke, but his eyes slid away from her as if she meant nothing, and instead searched endlessly the bars of the cell he paced.

 A police officer with a bunch of keys stood beside Scully. "I don't know what he's on," she said, "But he isn't talking. I really don't think it would be wise to let him out just into your custody, he's quite violent."

 "Mulder?" said Scully hopelessly.

 "Took three guys to bring him in. He bit one of them pretty badly. We're considering pressing charges. If I was you I'd have him taken directly into psychiatric custody. Probably the only way he'll avoid the assault charges at this stage."

 Scully nodded. "I'll get a court order," she said quietly.

***

 Skinner listened in silence to her request, and looked at the old X File she had dug up. She came up with every reasoned, rational, logical argument she could think of, because right now, more than ever she needed Assistant Director Skinner on her side.

 "Agent Scully, if I sign these papers and have Agent Mulder committed, what makes you think I will ever be able to get him out again?"

 "Sir I need him somewhere safe. Right now he's dangerous, at least to himself. Now I've seen him in this kind of state before, and it took a little time, but he did snap out of it. I'm hoping that will happen again."

 "I'm not saying he won't snap out of it," said Skinner. "What I am saying," he glanced suspiciously at the door, "is that once these papers are signed, there may be...certain factions who would be interested in keeping him put away. Permanently. Whatever condition he's in."

 "Sir, we've got to do something," insisted Scully.

 Skinner put his hands over his face for a moment and closed his eyes. "Go back to the police station, Agent Scully. Wait there. Someone will come. Trust me. But don't speak to anyone about this."

***

 Scully watched Mulder walk round and round his cell. Like a wild animal that had been caged. An officer slipped a tray full of food through to him. Mulder got down on his hands and knees and ate, just sticking his face into the food. He tried to drink by lapping at the water in the glass, but it fell over and she watched him licking the water up off the ground. It was disgusting. Then he went back to his pacing.

 Two men dressed in grey uniforms arrived. They told her they were from The Clinic, and that they had signed release papers. The officer with the keys opened the cell for them. "Watch him, he bites," she warned.

 "So do we," said one of the men. They cornered Mulder in the back of the cell and Scully didn't see what they did, but presumably one of them hit him with a hypo filled with knockout because a moment later he was slumped in their arms. They wound a rug around him and carried him out on a stretcher. Scully followed them out the door and then followed their van in her car till it turned down a suburban street into the grounds of a large, unmarked building surrounded by beautiful gardens.

 A well dressed older woman met Scully at reception. "Dr Scully? My name is Amelia Peterson. We're very pleased to see you here. I want to assure you that Mr Mulder will be well cared for, and we will do our utmost to see that your instructions are followed to the very letter. If you wouldn't mind signing him in, we have our Very Private facility prepared."

 Scully signed the papers. Apparently Skinner had got Mulder into a drying out clinic for the rich and famous. The Very Private facility, she saw, was a high security room. It was very well padded and with no way for the inhabitant to escape or do harm to himself. She watched the two men move Mulder from the stretcher onto the bed.

 "Your instructions, doctor?" asked Amelia.

 "Right now what he needs is a wash and some basic first aid. Aside from that, I'm not really sure what you can do for him. Just look after him. I have to go out now, but I'll be back this evening. How long will the knockout drug last?"

 "Probably another hour," said Amelia.

 "I probably won't be back before he wakes up," said Scully sadly. "Just do what you can for him."

***

 There were very few papers in the place. Scully rummaged under the watchful eyes of the heads in the mason jars. Certainly she had said she wanted things left for the time being, but she thought the police would show some discretion.

 There were a few computer discs and a couple of notebooks. Scully took them, signing a receipt for the officer on duty. She went to Mulder's house and fed his fish and threw his mail on the coffee table. She went to her house and cooked an instant meal out of the freezer while she showered and changed. She picked at the meal and collected her computer and the discs and notebooks. She needed to get back to Mulder, needed to be there for him. And for herself.

 A video camera had been discreetly concealed within one of those plush walls of Mulder's cell. Scully sat in a small office and watched him pace round and round the room. At least he was clean, the hospital gown flapped round his thighs. Under other circumstances she might have enjoyed the view, but now she only wanted to find some way to make him stop.

 She tried to concentrate on the material she had brought with her, though it didn't seem to make much sense. The notebooks seemed to be filled with mad ravings. She tried the discs. At first they seemed to be in some kind of code, and then she realised that it was code, and she knew it. Line after line, page after page of amino acids. Somehow what she had here was a description of what had been injected into Mulder, or at least how the derivative worked and what it changed within the brain of the recipient.

 Scully went into the small staff kitchen and made herself a pot of coffee. It was going to be a very long night. She tried to discipline herself to concentrate on the pages and pages of codons in front of her, and the cryptic notes that went with them. Pen in hand she noted down parts that she thought were relevant, but it was a specialist field and most of it completely beyond her. The coffee wasn't helping much, and she realised, as she shook herself awake, that she had been dozing. She stared at Mulder on the little screen, it seemed as if he never stopped pacing, though she noticed that the blankets had been dragged down from the bed and made into a kind of nest, so she guessed that at some stage he must have been sleeping.

 Her eyelids were beginning to mutiny and her eyes had started to water so that she couldn't see what was written on the screen. There was a sofa in the office, and she stretched out on it, covering herself with Mulder's coat.

 Scully dreamt. She was on the ocean, pushing a shopping trolley down a supermarket aisle. The Aisle was impossibly long with shelves that seemed to stretch up to the sky. The shelves were full of cans, but there were only five different kinds, each one a different colour. There was adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine and uracil.

 "I must be caught up on the Nucleo-tide," she said to the orang-utan who was perched on the end of her shopping trolley.

 "It's for people who are peptide bonding," said the monkey, smiling.

 Scully began reaching up into the shelves and pulling down can after can. "Don't forget your codon sequences," reminded the orang-utan.

 They sailed down the aisles, collecting their cans. Sometimes Scully would stare hopelessly up at the shelves wondering what she needed to get, and the ape would reach his long arm out and pick up three cans in the one hand. Other times she would grab recklessly at the offered cans, and the orang-utan would tut-tut and throw some of the cans out onto the floor.

 She met Skinner coming in the opposite direction. "I'm buying some food for my fox," she told him.

 Skinner looked unhappy. "It's a fox fix," he said. "There are no foxes in the liar's kennel, but we do have room for a Mulder."

 They kept walking, Scully had tossed an impossible number of cans into the trolley, but it never seemed to over-fill. She was coming to the end of the aisle now, and Mulder was there, only he really was a fox. His face had morphed into an animal's jaws and his hair had turned ginger.

 "Let me help you feed him," offered the orang-utan. It lifted cans from the trolley, only now they had changed. They were different colours, and instead of the names of nucleotides, they bore the names of amino acids. The ape placed the cans carefully on the floor in front of the fox and then turned to Scully, it held her face between its spidery paws. "You must make a note of this," it said.

 Scully was in a hypnagogic state, like dreamwalking. She could see the cans before her and read them as she wrote down the names from the labels in a notebook. A moment later she felt herself snap awake. She had a notebook open with a list of amino acids written on its pages. There wasn't time to question what had happened, Scully only knew that she had slept on the problem and had come up with some sort of an answer.

 Mulder paced endlessly on. Amelia came to the door of Scully's little office. "Doctor Scully, we were wondering if you had any orders for Mr Mulder today."

 "Treat him like an animal," said Scully.

 Amelia raised an eyebrow.

 "Keep him as clean as you can, if possible, get the hospital gown off him and let him go naked. He'll be more comfortable like that, and it will keep him cleaner. Feed him in a bowl as if he was a dog, and put his water in a dish. He'll only spill it otherwise. He'll tend to violence if people get too close to him, so aside from getting the gown off him, keep away."

 "Is he simply delusional?" asked Amelia.

 "It goes a little further than simple delusion, but that's a good enough description. He really does think he's a wild animal. I think I can do something to help, though. I'm going out, I'll try and be back later today."

 Scully pocketed the note books and computer discs. She had flattened the battery in her computer so she just left it where it was. She headed back to the laboratory where Mulder and the animals had been held.

***

 The room was empty. Every jar, bottle, bag and shelf was completely gone. There was no sign of where it had gone or who had taken it. Scully headed for the Hoover Building and Skinner's office.

 "Where has it gone?" she demanded.

 "They took it, Agent Scully. It was out of my control."

 "Sir, I believe I can help Agent Mulder if I can just get to the material that was in that laboratory."

 Skinner sighed and nodded. "You have something they want, the notebooks and computer discs. They're willing to trade you two hours with the material for the information you have."

 "Two hours? Sir that may not be long enough."

 "They could have just taken the material, Agent Scully."

 "You don't seem to understand, a man's life is at stake here."

 "No, YOU don't understand, Agent Scully. These people don't care about Agent Mulder. They would be happy to see him dead, or stuck in an asylum for the rest of his life. In fact, they would prefer that option. I have stuck my neck out a mile to get you this one concession. Make the most of it Agent Scully. You're all Mulder's got."

 The materials had been set up in a small laboratory in the Hoover building. Scully glared at the man standing there as she walked in. He was hazed by a cloud of cigarette smoke and seemed not to notice the look she gave him.

 "Agent Scully, I believe you have something for me," he said.

 "You can have it when I'm finished," she snapped.

 The man sat passively by the door and continued to smoke while she worked. She was by no means certain of what she was doing. She only knew that Mulder wasn't going to snap back this time like he had last time, and if she wanted to help him she was going to have to act fast. There was no doubt in her mind that the person Mulder referred to as Cancer Man would not let her have access to the materials beyond the two hours Skinner had managed to get him to agree to. She worked feverishly.

***

 It seemed to be finished. There was nothing for her to test it on. She simply had to believe a dream. A cold hand covered hers and she was wreathed in smoke. "The materials, Agent Scully," he said.

 She took the discs out of her pocket and laid them on the bench, keeping the syringe full of greasy liquid in her other hand. "Did you know smoking can cause peripheral artery disease?" she said as he scooped up the discs and notebooks. He snorted at her and took the book that she had been working from as well.

 "How do you know I haven't made copies of all this?" she called as he walked away.

 He reached the door. He didn't turn, he simply said: "We checked your apartment, Agent Scully. And the office you were using at The Clinic. There are no copies." The door closed silently behind him.

***

 Apparently Amelia Paterson never slept. Either that or she worked with clones of herself, because she was there to greet Scully again when she arrived. As always she looked immaculately groomed and uncompromisingly pleasant.

 "Hello, Dr Scully. I think you'll be very happy with Mr Mulder."

 "How is he? Has he snapped back?" Scully was hoping she wouldn't have to use the questionable protein compound she had synthesised. She was hoping he would just spontaneously get better, as he had the first time, though she knew that by now it was unlikely. It was taking far too long, she had to be Mulder's miracle.

 "No...he still thinks he's an animal. But we've cleaned him up and made the room...more comfortable for him. Did you manage to get the treatment you were going to try out on him?"

 Scully nodded. "I'm going to need help, though. This needs to be administered epidurally. I'll write up an order for an anaesthetic if you can provide me with someone who'll help administer it."

 From apparently nowhere, the same two men who had brought Mulder from the police station appeared. One of them held a small syringe. "You can write that order up later," said Amelia, let's treat the patient first.

 It occurred to Scully that she had seen no staff other than these three people in the whole place. In fact, she had seen no other patients or doctors, either. She felt an uneasy suspicion.

 Mulder had been trotting round and round the room. He was naked and the room no longer contained a bed, just a heap of bedding twisted into a kind of nest on the floor. There was a large bowl of water beside the bed and another bowl containing food chopped into bite-sized pieces. There was excrement in two corners of the room.

 Mulder paced along the far wall when the opened the door. The nervous activity never stopped, and Scully saw him eyeing the open door as though he was trying to assess the possibility of escaping past them. They quickly stepped inside and closed the door. Mulder backed away from them and the two men advanced on him. They had obviously been working as a team for a long time and were well practiced at what they did. One grabbed Mulder, holding him  in a kind of half-nelson so that he was unable to bite or effectively punch. At the same time the other man grabbed one of his arms, located a vein, and injected the drug into it. Scully saw Mulder's eyes roll back and the man holding him gently lowered him to bedding on the floor.

 The men rolled him and held him in position. He lay on his side in a foetal curl, his back bent so that Scully could slip her needle between the vertebrae in his lumbar spine. She eased the needle in and slowly injected its contents. Then there was nothing to do except wait.

 "How long will he be out for?" she asked, suddenly concerned that she didn't even know what it was that those men...paramedics? nurses? orderlies? had used to knock him out.

 "About an hour," said Amelia.

 "It would be nice if we could clean him up a bit before he wakes," suggested Scully. The smell in the room offended her, and she knew it would upset Mulder. If it was Mulder who woke.

 Amelia beamed her charming professional smile. "We'll move him to another room," she said.

 One of the men had brought in a basin of soapy water and was washing the food off Mulder's face. The other brought a gurney and once Mulder was cleaned up they loaded him on. Scully walked with him to an identical room at the far end of the corridor. They put Mulder in the bed and tucked blankets around him. At least now he looked normal, just sleeping in bed. The man took the stretcher away and Scully sat beside the bed in the still, silent hospital.

 She dozed for a little while and then woke with a start. It was odd that Amelia had not come to see her, that no nurses had come. It was the most completely quiet hospital Scully had ever been in. She glanced at Mulder's sleeping form and then took the risk, walking briskly down the corridor to the room he had been in originally. It was empty, of course. Clean, but empty. There was no sign of the syringe she had used. It wasn't until then that Scully realised that all this must have been some kind of a set up, too.

 She walked back to the room where Mulder was lying and gently stroked his head. "Don't you let me down, Mulder."

 "Don't you walk out on me, Scully," he replied.

 She was surprised, she thought he was still asleep. She was overwhelmingly relieved, too, that she had Mulder back. She didn't let him hear any of it, though. "Walk out?"

 "I saw you leave the room just then," he opened his eyes and tried to lift his head up.

 "I was wondering why it had gone so quiet in here. They've all left."

 "Just you and me kid?" he'd slumped back into his pillow. "I feel as if I've been going round in circles for days."

 "You were. It's nice to have you back, Mulder."

 There was a small ensuite bathroom beside the bedroom. Inside it Scully found Mulder's coat and some clothes. It was a tracksuit, training shoes, underwear and sox all new, all Mulder's size. Somehow Scully felt that this was the Skinner touch. Mulder went in, coyly draped in a bedsheet. He stood under the shower for what seemed like an age to Scully, and she was just about to bust down the door and attempt a creative line in rescue techniques when the water stopped. He came out looking somewhat scruffy but pleased with himself, he was shaved and clean and damp.

"Well," she said. "Let's get you home. You look as if ten hours' sleep wouldn't even make a dent."

 "Scully, I can't go home now. We need to find the man who did this to me, and his accomplices, the gorilla and the orang-utan."

 "The man and the gorilla are both dead. The orang-utan's gone back to his zoo."

 "Then we need to go back to the zoo."

 "Mulder you need to go home and sleep."

 "If they get at him first, Scully..."

 She gave up. There was absolutely no sense in arguing with Mulder. He had a one track mind and once he focussed on something he would simply not be convinced otherwise. "Just tell me how to get there," she said.

 He dozed in the car.

 "Are you hungry?" asked Scully. "Would you like me to stop for some food."

 "Uh, I ate fairly well in my altered state."

 "The police said they found you in a dumpster in the back of a fried chicken place. You're probably lucky you haven't come down with salmonella poisoning."

 "That's not the worst of it, Scully."

 "Oh?"

 "Let's just say that for now on ratatouille just won't be the same for me unless it has real rats in it..."

***


 Leena Topp was there at the gate again. She smiled at Mulder and was polite to Scully. Scully could see her putting the two of them together and approving of slightly less than an entirely professional relationship.

 "We've come to see Bono," said Mulder.

 "I'm sorry, Agent Mulder, you're too late."

 "Has he gone to that other zoo."

 "No," she shook her head sadly. "He's dead."

 They walked slowly towards the ape enclosures. "Do you think it was some kind of reaction to his abduction that killed him?"

 "I don't know, Agent Mulder, I've never had an ape commit suicide before."

 In the centre of the animal's enclosure was a tree branch three feet long and chewed to a point at one end. It had been stuck into the ground and held upright by rocks and other branches. Mulder and Scully could see blood streaking the entire length of the stick and splashed about on the rocks.

 "I think he jumped," said Leena. "From that branch up there, in order to impale himself properly. The stick went in there," she pointed with one finger to just below her chin, "...and came right out the top of his head. It happened some time last night."

 Scully thought of the friendly orang-utan in her dream, but said nothing.

 Mulder thought for a long time. Eventually he said: "Scully, an injury like that would affect the hypothalamus, wouldn't it?"

 "It would probably completely destroy it," she said.

 "Good," said Mulder.

***

 Scully wasn't so sure it was good, though. The smoking man had everything; the bodies of the man and the gorilla, the heads of the two men had been killed, every note from the laborotory, and all of the notes she had made. They even had the syringe she had used to inject Mulder. The knowledge that the orang-utan had carried was destroyed, but the smoking man had fewer ethics than the ape.