Mindprints
by analise

Category:S,MSR, A
Archive: Yes, just let me know where
Rating:R
email:analise@2cowherd.net

Posted in full at: http://www.rhino.com/analise

Disclaimer:These characters are the property of Fox and 1013. No
disrespect intended.

-->Note: This is a story that was never going to see the light of a
list..but apparently I am unable to abandon anything that I've already
written 100+K for. So 7 rewrites later, here it is, thankfully bearing
little resemblance to its original form.

-->Another note for the medically-knowledgeable: I did a little
research on amnesia and the brain for this..but I rapidly discovered
that I would need to go to medical school to truly write about what I
was trying to say. So. !Creative license alert!  here. Forgive my
ignorance in the field of Neuroscience.

+++++++

The small Honda's exhaust plumed into the frigid January air in a
thick cloud of smoke and condensation, the engine choking and chugging
as it struggled to idle. The harsh sound of scraping grated across her
nerves as she struggled to chip the ice off the windshield.

Winter. Winter on the East Coast.

It could be worse, she grumped, it could be summer on the East Coast.

Some sort of subconscious penance, she supposed. That was why she had
not moved out to California yet. It was the only possible explanation
for why she stayed in a tiny town like Somerville, why she continued
in her low-paying, thankless job, why she lived only 15 minutes away
from her mother so that she could subject herself to constant and
regular speeches about what she needed to do to improve herself. As a
thirty-eight year old single woman with frizzy mud-brown hair and too
much extra weight around her hips, there was a lot for her mother to
complain about.

No. She loved nursing. She even loved her mother. She just
hated winter.

She paused to pull the thin, ratty wool further up over her numb
nose, feeling her breath instantly soak into the fabric. Nothing like
an icy scarf to really make a task pleasant, she thought sourly.

There. She straightened up, surveying her handiwork. Just enough of
the windshield was cleared to see through..the defrost would take care
of the rest on the way over to County. She was just turning to go back
up the steps of the hospital when the first fat white flake floated
innocently from the lead gray sky.

Perfect.

Picking up her gait, Linda crunched up the steps ..smashing the tiny
white balls of sidewalk salt under her boots with absent satisfaction.
She pushed into the heated foyer of Somerset Medical Center, pulling
off her thick wool mittens as she went.

"Ok Meg, I'm ready to go. Where is she?" She said, tromping over to
the main desk, feeling the warmth of the indoors immediately soak into
her frozen face. Her nose began to run. Another bonus of cold weather.

The large woman behind the counter looked up at her with a small
smile, adjusting her over-large glasses out of well worn habit.

"Any minute now. Jed just went up to get her." She neatly stacked the
papers she was working on and paper clipped them, slipping them into a
thin manila file marked with colored tabs on the side. She passed the
file over to Linda. "Here you go. Just in case the files didn't
transfer properly..always good to have hard copy."

Linda had to smile. Meg Haines was the epitome of organization..and
she still didn't trust electronic file transfers. Always with the
paper copies. The people over at Essex County Hospital must really
love her, she thought wryly. Extra data entry for them. She accepted
the file without argument, her eyes scanning the name written along
the side tab.

Jane Doe.

Where had that term come from? It was obviously the female version of
John Doe..but how did that particular moniker end up as a label for
the lost? Why not John Smith? Or better yet, Joe Smith. So that would
make her..Jane Smith, not Doe.

Her aimless thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Jed
Williams, the beefy third floor intern, was leading a small slender
woman engulfed in a huge men's leather jacket across the foyer
towards her.

Pale, perfect skin marred only by a lurid puckered scar across her
forehead that seemed as out of place as a rodeo clown at a ballet. A
tiny slim patrician nose perched over a set of the most doll-like
cupids bow lips she had ever seen. The porcelain face was framed with
copper-red hair cut in an elegant, smooth cap that fell to just below
her delicate jawline. And the eyes. It was the eyes that were the most
arresting. Large cornflower blue orbs coolly surveyed the room, taking
in her surroundings..drinking it in as if she were very carefully
grasping for something, anything to anchor herself to. Those eyes
projected icy control, but even Linda could see the fear and
uncertainty that coiled just beneath the surface like an
infestation of vermin.

"Jane?" Linda walked forward, holding out her mitten-free hand, "I'm
Linda Garland." She smiled in her most reassuring manner, introducing
herself for the first time to a woman she'd already become intimately
acquainted with in the ICU. The oddities of nursing. "I'll be taking
you to the State Mental Hospital over in Essex County.."

The woman nodded firmly in acknowledgment, solemnly taking the
proffered hand and shaking it tenderly. Her hands were still
healing..they had been done most of the damage in the accident..her
hands had been raw bloody rags when she'd been brought in. Now they
were wrapped in a soft skin of bandages that hid the fact that her
fingertips..her ID cards..were flayed almost to the bone from their
trip through the windshield.

"Linda. It's nice to put a name to the face." Jane said, her delicate
chin raising. "I haven't gotten the chance to thank you.."

"No need for thanks.." the nurse replied, her smile giving lie to her
words. She loved to be appreciated. It seemed that most patients
simply took nurses for granted. She was a little surprised the woman
had even noticed her. The patient had been in a coma through most of
her care, and when she had awoken, she'd been groggy from the pain
killers.

"Do you have everything?" Linda asked, the smile remaining on her lips
as she leaned down and tried to pick up the small cardboard box Jed
had set next to Jane. The woman forestalled her by picking it up
herself and nodding firmly.

"What little I have, yes."

"Well then, your chariot awaits." Linda grinned. "Such as it is."

The nurse pushed open the door and a gust of freezing air clawed at
them with icy fingers, reaching up noses to spike the moisture in
their throats..making it hard to breathe. She watched out of the
corner of her eye as Jane pulled the over large jacket up around her
face and trotted awkwardly down the steps to the idling Honda, her
oddly shuffling gait speaking of injuries under her swaddling clothes
that she couldn't quite fully disguise.

The snow was coming more quickly now and Linda switched on the
headlights in the thickening fall. It was late in the afternoon and
the way her aging car drove it would likely be night before they got
to State. The interior of the Honda was blessedly warm and she could
see Jane rubbing her bandaged fingers together gently, pale knuckles
bearing signs of crusty healing scabs. The woman was lucky she'd
retain full use of them. Lucky in general. Amnesia or not, she was
still alive.

Linda pulled into traffic, the tires crunching and crackling through
frozen slush and the windshield wipers setting up a tempo against the
falling flakes. Against her will, she recalled the state that Jane had
been in when she'd arrived at Somerset over 4 weeks ago with a shiver
that had nothing to do with the cold.

The petite redhead had been a mass of bloody wounds from the terrible
car wreck she'd been extracted from. Linda'd overheard Lyle, the
EMTwho'd driven the ambulance to Somerset, describing the
car as being wrapped around a tree like a newspaper in a windstorm.
He'd guessed the car had been going over 80 on the slick roads. The
driver had not survived. A man so badly mangled that he'd been
unidentifiable. From what they had been able to determine, the car had
hit a patch of black ice on the wide corner before the highway crossed
the river and had spun off the road like a top, smashing into the tree
it was still melded with. A check had shown that the car had been
stolen not far from the accident.

What they found even more disturbing than the crash was the fact
that not all her injuries could be explained by it. Geena, the
nurse on duty in the ER had told her in a whispered tone that the
EMTs had had to cut handcuffs off her wrists and that her ankles
showed similar signs of being bound.

It was really no surprise to anyone who'd seen her condition upon
arrival that, by the time she'd come out of her coma, she exhibited
all the signs of classic amnesia.

The worst part of it all was that with no ID on her..and only wearing
jeans, a bloody T-shirt and a man's leather jacket, they had no idea
how to contact any family or friends she might have to help her
through her ordeal.

The woman was alone in more ways than just inside her mind.

More problems sprang from her condition once she was awake.

Her lack of money or insurance was an issue that sadly became more
important than her amnesia. Her ruined hands could not give
the authorities fingerprints..and it became an issue of waiting until
her hands healed enough to provide that vital information since the
local sheriff had few resources to draw on for this sort of thing. To
make things worse, a few days after she'd awoken..she'd begun to have
the seizures.

The young woman had been so clearly still in need of medical
attention...attention they couldn't give her for free. The catatonic
states lasted anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 days, and they simply
couldn't release her onto the streets in her condition.

The answer was simple..and unpleasant.

New Jersey ran a profit-free program for indigents and homeless people
through the state mental facility out in Essex County. As much as
Linda hated putting *anyone* out in that under-funded, poorly staffed
hospital..there were just no other options. Certainly, no matter how
fond of the mystery woman she had become, she couldn't afford to take
on her expenses just to keep her at Somerset.

And so, feeling somewhat like the guy who has to take his dog out into
the woods to be shot because it's too old and sick, she went...taking
Jane with her.

The woman was silent for the first hour of the drive, and Linda was
too busy navigating the snow and ice of the poorly plowed county road
to try to draw her out. It was only after they had emerged onto the
highway and the sun was long down, that her passenger spoke.

"None of this looks familiar." her words were quiet as she looked out
at the white world of falling snow. Linda could hear a quivering of
grief and lonliness fraying the edges of her control.

"Can't you remember anything at all?" Linda asked, pulling to a stop
at a lonely light..the red glowing in the blackness of the newly
settled evening. The woman did not look at her. She knew that Jane
had been asked that question before, many times. That hypnotists and
therapists and psychologists had all tried to find answers in her
psyche.. and they'd failed.

" When I go into those...seizures...I remember things.. as
I'm sure you know. I think I know who I am then..but I can't really
hold on to any of it when I come out."  She shook her head. "The
things I do remember seem so fantastical...monsters and
conspiracies..people out to get me.." She refused to look at Linda,
and the nurse could tell she was embarrassed. There was a small
self-depricating grin on her face that held no humor, only
bitterness.

"There is one thing that remains constant..I remember this man. I
think...I think he cares for me." her flawless forehead was crinkled
in concentration. "I can almost see him...I can almost.." she cut off,
closing her eyes.

The light turned green, but instead of accelerating Linda let the car
sputter at an idle and turned to place a hand on Jane's knee.

"It's all right. Don't worry." Useless platitudes. " It will all come
back." Linda added the last, knowing it was a lie..and knowing that
Jane knew it was a lie. But, surprisingly,the redhead nodded,
accepting it.

The car started forward again and Jane's delicate-yet-husky voice
seemed to float through the compartment.

"He's touching me sometimes. Other times I can feel emotions I can't
identify. Love, despair, I don't know...something powerful." The soft,
almost dreamy words added an otherworldly atmosphere to the dusky,
diffuse light of the interior of the Honda. She shook her head,
white-wrapped hands coming up to rub her eyes. "Whoever he is, he's
the only thing that seems to be a constant in the visions and in my
dreams..and I don't even know if he's real..or if he represents
something...I just don't know."

The words sounded worn, as if she had repeated them many times...to
the doctors...to herself. Her voice was thin, but still strong,
resounding with private tears long spent on the frustration of her
missing identity.

Linda refocused her attention through the slightly fogged windshield,
rubbing away some of the condensation with her mittened hand, and
silently vowing to get the defrost fixed for once and for all. The
snow was falling hypnotically in the high beams of the Honda, making
it look like they were hurtling through a void of white flecks. Jane
had stopped talking, and Linda glanced over at her instinctively.

The slender woman had gone rigid, her blue eyes wide as saucers, her
lips parted with a gentle relaxation that was totally out of place on
her frozen face.

The car slid a little as she skidded to a stop on the shoulder, the
tires grinding and crunching in the frozen snow and slush that was
piled on the side of the road. Linda grabbed the thin shoulders,
feeling the fragility of the bones through the overlarge jacket...the
taut muscles of the woman's arms. Jane's face was eerily empty.

"Jane? Jane? Can you hear me?"

Linda had seen Jane go into these states before. The doctors had
termed them flashbacks because she *seemed* to be replaying some event
from her life.

"JANE!" Linda knew the doctors didn't like to bring her out of these
states violently..but the car was no place to have an attack.

She slapped her.

It seemed to work. The redhead was still for a moment, and then her
eyes flicked up at Linda's ..a little confused. She looked down at her
hands, turning them gently, staring at the thick bandages as if for
the first time.

"I'm sorry about that." Jane's words were quiet..one step above a
whisper.

"Do you remember anything from this one?" Linda asked softly, her hand
still on Jane's shoulder, relieved that she was alert again.

"As far as I'm concerned, I was sitting here talking to you and then
you slapped me." her voice was back to its normal calm again, her face
composed and cool. Linda nodded, sitting back in her seat. She gave a
tentative grin.

"I tend to do that a lot." she said wryly. "That must be why I
can't keep a steady boyfriend. In the middle of conversations I'll
just lean over and bitch slap the guy."

She was rewarded with a small chuckle, and relieved, she put the
Honda back into gear and pulled back onto the highway.

"I can see how that might make you unpopular.." Jane said, smiling a
little smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"You have no idea honey.."

It was only a few minutes more and the brick gate of State Mental
loomed ahead in the shine of her headlights. She could see the
garishly lit fluorescent guard booth at the entrance setting the
surrounding snow aglow with a bluish halo.

"Here we are," she said in the sudden silence, glancing over at Jane
again. Her passenger had turned her pretty eyes towards the gate and
the well-lit '60s architecture of the hospital beyond. The blue gaze
was unreadable.

Linda waved at Gary and then the gate was swinging open and the car
was heading up the long drive.

++++

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Hands. Gentle and yet harboring a strength only hinted at. Long
tapering fingers, elegant wide palms, a scattering  of small dark
hairs on the backs. They stroked her ribs, slipping along her side
leaving a fiery trail behind them, bringing her skin to flushed,
aching  life. They moved, cupping her breasts, the center of his palms
ever-so-lightly brushing her nipples into tingling tightness. They
climbed, worshipping her, touching her like she was made of spun
glass, of precious rare crystal..skimming the white column of her
throat and settling to cup her face between them.

A gasp puffed gently from her mouth and she let her own slender
fingers reach up to cover his, stroking the delineation of his
knuckles, tracing fingertips along the sweet curve of his wrist.

A sharp trilling jarred through the poetic silence of the motel room,
stilling hands and mouths and touches. She watched his lips curl in a
resigned smile. They let their kiss linger briefly and then she was
rolling out of the bed, glimpsing fragments of ugly brown carpet and a
riot of bedspread pattern before targeting her discarded trench. She
fumbled within its ruined folds, grimacing at the now muddy remains of
the once new overcoat. Kneeling naked in the dirty early morning
light, her fingers closed around her cellular and opened the
connection.

She could feel his eyes admiring her from the bed, but the distant
squawking words in her ear had calmed her body's desires. She could
feel the cool strength of her shields settling around her shoulders.
She could feel *him* take note of it and become aware without even
turning her head to look at him.

Good news. She clicked off the phone and turned to find him pulling on
his clothes with a speed that told her he already knew that their
quarry had been found just from her body language. A language he had
spent the past year doing intensive personal study on.

She followed suit, pulling on jeans and T-shirt, knowing that her good
clothes were in the same terrible muddy state as her overcoat. He
tossed her his leather jacket as they left the motel room and she
huddled gratefully into its fragrant warmth.

The world was bright with new snow even in the predawn light. The
parking lot was still unplowed and it took them a few moments to clear
the rental car of piled drifts. She glanced over at him, her eyes
conveying concern, her mouth moving around words of urgency and speed.
He nodded, his own feelings written in his eyes.

They had to hurry. There was little time.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

And she woke up.

She didn't even wait for her breath to slow. She lunged for the pad of
paper she kept by her bed and awkwardly began to scratch down in a
shaky hand the vision that was already fraying and scattering like dry
leaves in the wind even as she wrote.

Impressions only.

Making love. Beautiful mouth. Motel. Snow.

And it was all gone.

She stared at the alien words she'd just penciled on the lined paper,
trying to conjure back some of the imagery. But there was nothing. It
meant *nothing* to her. Everything she'd been grounded in so strongly
just moments before was scattering to the four corners of the room,
breaking apart like the ashy remains of burnt paper.

She refused to let the frustration claim her.

Setting the pad down, she slipped her bare legs out of the bed to rest
on the cold stained linoleum floor. Moonlight was streaming in the
barred windows and she quietly padded across the small distance to the
shatterproof glass, wrapped fingers coming up to lightly clasp the
iron bars.

Somewhere in the ceiling a steady drip echoed down rusty, mildewed
pipes and the old chipped radiator in the corner moaned and muttered
like an old man..providing an endless litany of rheumatic complaints.
It kept her company in an odd distant sort of way...letting her feel
that something else was as lonely and hurting as she was.

The storm had cleared up, leaving wispy tendrils of condensed moisture
trailing in the sky, lined in silver by the half-moon that hung
directly over the trees.  Now a soft blanket of new snow covered
everything in a white expanse of pristine clarity.

It was achingly serene.

She let her forehead fall to rest against the rough chill of the iron.
Linda had explained to her that all the windows here were barred and
that she shouldn't let it bother her. Inwardly Jane had laughed sadly
at the irony. Bars to keep her in. Where would she go?

It was not for long, she whispered to herself. Just until her hands
healed. The span of time that it would take for her flesh to pull
itself back together..her identity resting on the regeneration of tiny
ridges and whorls. It seemed a heavy burden for such a small part of
her.

Linda had apologetically shown her to the bed she was assigned to,
clearly embarrassed by the poor quality of the accommodations. The
room was indeed both tiny and not-so-clean, but she was grateful that
it was private. It would have been much worse if she'd been put in one
of the echoing wards. She wasn't sure if her nightly 'visions' were
loud, but she didn't want to find out by waking a neighbor with her
moans and cries. Nor did she want the dubious company of screams or
babbling in the night. And from what she had seen so far, that was the
only company she would find here.

She and Linda had walked the long halls towards her room..halls
spotted here and there with the occasional robed individual standing
or sitting against the dirty white cinderblocks, dribbling a stream of
unending discourse with themselves or the chipped paint of the walls.
The echo of screams and shouting had drifted distantly down long,
dreary halls dotted with identical gray doors.

The kind, apologetic nurse had left her at the new hospital, clearly
regretful, promising to come back often and check on her. She had not
known Linda long, but she was a familiar face in this sea of
unfamiliar faces. She would look forward to seeing her again.

She wondered, and not for the first time, if she did see someone she
knew..would she recognize them? Would it be like the vague
frisson of deja vu that sometimes played with your sense of reality?
Or would that person, that face, blend in with all the others as just
another construct of flesh and muscle and bone? She had carefully
searched each and every face she'd come in contact with since she'd
become aware of her empty memories, but nothing and no one had been
anything to her.

And of course, there was always the niggling terror in the back of her
mind that the next face might be the one that unlocked the horror she
knew was lurking in her subconscious.

She was torn between the need to know who she was and the fear of
discovering whatever it was that she was hiding from herself. She told
herself she wanted to remember. But did she? She feared that in the
deepest part of her, she did not want to know anything about it. That
she was purposely remaining in the dark.

She shut her eyes. The catatonic states she slipped into happened
almost every night. When she was sleeping, she could categorize them
as dreams. Potent, powerfully real dreams that she could never hold on
to. She looked forward to them as much as she dreaded them. It was so
painful to have everything back, her identity, her knowledge..and then
have it taken away again and again. The worst was that while she did
not remember anything about them, she took enough away from them to
*know* that during them, she was not lost.

She walked back over to her bed and bent down to pull a cardboard box
out from under the metal frame. Within it were her only possessions. A
pair of jeans the nurses at Somerset Medical had worked very hard on
to get the blood out of ...and the leather jacket.

She pulled the jacket out of the box and sat down on her bed with it.
Lifting it to her face, she inhaled deeply, breathing in a scent that
was at once familiar and meant nothing. Was this her jacket? This was
much, much too big for her, so she doubted it. Did this jacket belong
to the man in her dreams? She liked to pretend it did.

Was he her husband? Was he looking for her? Did she love him?

There was also the possibility that this jacket belonged to the one
who had driven the car into the tree and now lay in an unmarked county
grave.

That last thought brought her to the verge of shivering panic each
time she had it.

And she didn't know why.

She didn't move her face from the collar of the thing as she lay back
down, clutching the bulk of it in her arms, smelling the leather mixed
with a unique musky odor that was part sweat and part unknown
aftershave. She didn't notice when her tears bled onto the leather,
and she slowly drifted back to sleep.
 

+++++++

The cracks on my office ceiling are widening. Sometimes I wonder if
they will ever become wide enough to swallow me whole. The oatmealy
texture of the old decaying sheetrock beneath the peeling paint
reminds me of the house that I grew up in. The house in Haleyville.
For a moment I am back in the creaking old rooms, running up the
uneven attic stairs..playing with my brother in the drafty eaves.

Thoughts of Howard  bring me crashing back into my own cold world
again..feeling the spiderweb of control I wear daily settling back
over my shoulders. His blank staring eyes vanish with a shove of
ever-weakening control.

The door is resounding with a knock that sounds eerily like a death
knell.

"Come" I call, my voice is admirably firm and steady.

Kevin, one of the sideshow freaks that showcases the sad quality of
orderlies I am forced to work with, enters leading someone new. I
momentarily forget what I was doing..forget that I had been expecting
her..forget that her "Jane Doe" file sits under my fingertips on my
desk. She is not like the rest. That roiling mass of society's
excrement that flows through my doors daily. I, the keeper of such
filth, I, who could be a great doctor..renowned in my field, here
reduced to such low means.

I shake off the familiar clawing hands of my own failures and stand.

She is petite and perfect. She is beautiful.

"Welcome to Essex." I say, proud of my deep, reassuring voice. My
doctor-voice. I hold out my hand and she sets one slim, bandaged set
of delicate fingers in my palm. I can see that she is searching my
face for clues..for something. I remember, suddenly, her file.

Post Traumatic Retrograde Amnesia. Not normally the sort of thing I am
used to dealing with. Another wave of bitterness washes through me at
the thought of the babbling tide of homeless and drug addicts that lap
at my door every day. This one is different.

"Please sit..Jane. May I call you Jane?"

She fixes me with a look that manages to contain amusement, annoyance
and indifference all at once as she lowers herself carefully into the
orange vinyl of the chair.

"You may call me whatever you like, Dr. Kuelman. I certainly won't
argue over semantics."

I like her.

"Jane then." I sit back behind my desk and flip open the manila file.
It is slender. Nothing is known of this beautiful creature. She is a
clean slate. I feel the tingle of a thrill crawling up my spine. She
could save Howard. She could save me. I look over her charts again.

Her cat-scans show normal brain activity, which is good. What is
interesting is that she is still showing the symptoms of the Post
Traumatic Retrograde Amnesia..and she doesn't seem to be recovering
any of the memories she's lost. It has been almost 4 weeks. While that
delay is usually a sure sign of serious brain damage, none can be
found on any of her scans.

That leaves the only option. That she is purposefully repressing her
own memories for some reason.

Interesting. Already my mind is spinning. A woman like this..she could
easily be everything I've been looking for. 12 years in this hellhole
of a hospital. Perhaps ...perhaps she would succeed where the others
had failed.
 

"Well Jane..I don't know what to tell you.." I clear my throat,
tamping down my eagerness..trying to say all the right things. "You
should be starting to remember bits and pieces by now. Most PTRA
victims start to regain their memories within 2 weeks unless there is
brain damage. Since you clearly have no sign of that, we have to
assume that you are purposely not allowing yourself to remember." I
flip another page, pretending to read what I have memorized already
this morning. "These states that you fall into..can you tell me
anything about them that is not written here?"

"I've been trying to write down what I can directly after the
dreams..or 'states' as you call them," she says.

Resourceful.

"Has it been helping? You need something start building your memories
on, Jane. Most amnesia victims have *some* memories. They use those
memories like islands..and those islands grow larger and larger with
each bit of new information until they meet each other and fill in all
the cracks.." I am pleased with how professional I sound. I rarely
have the opportunity to speak so coherently to a patient and have them
understand me.

She is nodding ever so slightly..she has clearly heard this before.

"No, doctor. The images that I have recorded so far mean nothing to
me."

"Can you tell me what you've been writing down?" I ask, curious for no
other reason beyond curiosity's sake.

I have already decided that she is the one.

She takes a deep breath and purses her lovely lips in what I can
clearly see is irritation. I suddenly feel annoyed. Perhaps it is her
ever-so-slightly superior attitude..as if she knows better than I what
is good for her. I am the doctor, she is the patient. I ask a
question. She answers me.

"All right." She lowers her eyes to a pad she produces from her robe
pocket with a tiny jerk of her elegant eyebrows. "So far I have: green
ice, red eyes, forest, rain, basement, tattoo, microchip, vampires,
pizza, corn field, bees, motel, snow..." She delivers a long string of
words to me in a voice that borders more and more on the insolent. As
if she is trying to let it be known that she already *knows* these
words are of no help to her...and certainly not to me.

When she finishes reading off the list, I suspect that there are a few
she's omitted, but I don't push her on it. I don't want to help her
remember, I remind myself. It will be easier if she doesn't remember..

I also refrain from any expression of anger at the way her attitude
has turned suddenly contemptuous. I am pleased by my self-control.

"Well, Jane, I don't know what to say. The only one who can really
help you at this point is *you*. It sounds to me like your 'visions'
are not actually any kind of memories or even reality..but simply a
fantasy construct of some kind. Perhaps set up to protect your real
memories." I flip the file shut and sit back in my old squeaking
chair. "I'd suggest some associative thinking..perhaps that will give
us some clues."

Good time-wasting techniques. I can already tell that it will be no
simple thing to unlock her memories.

"You mean Rorschach tests?" she asks, one eyebrow climbing up her
forehead.

I frown. She is very quick and she seems to know a little bit about my
field. I will have to be careful.

"Yes. Ink blots, or maybe word association."

She sighs softly and nods. Almost defeatist now.

"I have some medication that I think will help." I say carefully.

Howard appears abruptly in the corner and I school my
features to remain neutral. I want to shout at him to go away..to
drive my letter opener between those staring eyes. I can feel the
blood lapping at my feet, surrounding my desk. A single bead of sweat
tracks its way down the side of my face.

Some days I am able to ignore him and other days I just want to kill
him.

Jane is silent. She doesn't seem to notice the death that is carefully
filling the room. Perhaps she is simply brave.

And then it is gone. My brother leaves. The blood retreats. Good.

He is visting me more frequently. I wonder what that
means. Perhaps it means that I am closer to success. I hope so.

His appearance here..with Jane..it is a good sign, I think. She will
help me. She will be my salvation.

And I will finally save him.

++++++

++++++++

Even with the fading damage of the accident, the woman was
startlingly lovely. If Linda hadn't feel so sorry for her, it was
likely that she'd have to hate her on principal.

She dragged a hard plastic chair up to the side of the bed and sat
down in it gratefully.

"I have to say..I would  kill myself before I did THAT commute
every day. This place is just too damned far away." Linda complained.

Jane smiled softly at her from where she sat on top of the bed. She
was wearing her hospital-issue pajamas, but she had the leather jacket
she'd been found with draped over her shoulders for warmth. Linda did
not comment on the fact that Jane turned to bury her nose in the
collar every so often.

"What brings you all the way out here then?" Jane asked, her blue eyes
glinting with the afternoon light that sparkled off the snow outside
the window. Linda could see the pleasure that her visit had brought
the younger woman. "You only dropped me off a week ago."

"You..obviously." Linda grinned. "Just wanted to see how you were
taking it out here in the boonies." She raised her eyebrows, "Any cute
orderlies I should know about?"

Jane chuckled softly and looked down at her whitely swaddled hands.

"Not really. I think most of these guys would be better off guarding a
shopping mall...or maybe a donut shop. One of them actually has a
hump."

Linda laughed. She'd run into a fine specimen of her own on her way
in. The guy looked like he ate at McDonalds for each and every meal.

"And how are you doing?"

"I think it's getting worse." she looked directly up at the older
woman, Her eyes speaking volumes, her softly rough voice was swimming
with undercurrents of fear. Linda could tell that the lack of control
over her own life was almost worse than missing memories.

Both women remained silent for a span of moments, neither sure what to
say next.

They were spared further conversation when a nurse entered the room
with Jane's medication. Linda refrained from peeking to see what they
were giving her..but she guessed that they were sedatives. It was her
experience that state hospitals would often sedate people with
problems like Jane's just because they had no time or real resources
to do much else. It bothered her a great deal.

After the nurse left, Linda finally reached into her pocket ..pulling
out the item that an intern had given her the day before.

"Jed, you might remember him, he found this in the ICU, we were
wondering if it was yours."

She opened her fingers to reveal the delicate golden chain of a
necklace, the tiny cross lying flat across one of her fingers.

Jane's eyes widened as she looked at it and slowly, reverently lifted
it up with one hand into the light.

"It *is* mine...I'm sure of it." she whispered. "I can't say how I
know that...but I can see myself wearing it."

"You're Catholic then?"

"I..I guess so." she bent to undo the much-repaired clasp, her red
hair falling to obscure her face as she fiddled with it.

Linda crawled up onto the narrow cot with her, lifting her hair away
from her nape and clasping it shut herself.

Jane sat with her hand over the thing for a little while, her eyes
closed, as if she were trying to speak to it...trying to find out what
it knew of her.

A moment later she looked up at Linda, a smile on her face.

"Thank you. Somehow this ...helps. It's like proof that I exist in the
world." she tilted her head to the side. "You know what I mean?"

Linda nodded, pulling back to sit down in her chair.

"I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you just have to have
something. Anything. You need to know that your entire existence isn't
just some character in a story...or a thought dreamed up by someone
else. You need something solid." She smiled at the younger woman.

Jane looked at her and Linda wondered what was going through her mind.
How would it be to have everything that made you the person you were
..taken from you?

It would be like being set adrift. No ties to friends or family or
loved ones. Nothing at all. She sighed. It was depressing..being near
Jane. It was like she wore her sorrow like a cloud...a cloud you
couldn't help breathing in when you came close.

"I talked with the Sheriff the other day..you know, just to keep on
him about you." Linda frowned at the memory. "He made up some shit
about being busy, but I could tell that he hasn't even checked with
the State Patrol or the Police in New Jersey. I think he figures why
waste his time when he can just wait till your fingers heal and find
out who you are the easy way." She shook her head. "And at this rate,
I'm inclined to agree. Besides, our Sheriff Lloyd isn't good for
much of anything...besides drinking and beating his wife."

She paused when she saw Jane's eyes blink blearily. Her suspicion
that the woman had been given sedatives was bearing out.

"I have to go Hon. Look, try and rest. Maybe your body just needs to
heal before your mind can."

Jane nodded, stifling a yawn.

"Thanks, Linda..thanks for my necklace.."

She reluctantly got to her feet. She had duties back at the hospital.

She and the lost woman exchanged a long glance and then she was
touching her on the shoulder and walking out the door.

+++++++
 

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The car moved through the quiet of the predawn streets with an urgency
born of long weeks of searching and the promise of closure. She could
see the frightened face of 22 year old Patty Hanson in her mind's eye
and she knew the feelings of helplessness and fear she must be going
through. She'd been there herself more than once. Patty was still
alive, she had to be. She felt a touch on her knee and she looked up
at him, losing herself in the confidence she gained simply by meeting
his autumn gaze.

He believed that they would find her in time. His belief was often
strong enough for both of them.

His words were of encouragement and a declaration that there was no
time to wait for the backup to come once they got there.

She agreed with certitude, knowing that the girl was living on a
running timer. Each minute that passed could mean her life..or even
her sanity. James Kirlow was not gentle with his victims. She did not
want to wait, she wanted to reach the end of the bloody trail they had
been following for so long.

Flouting convention and regulation was something they did. It was part
of who they were. It was demanded from the situation.

The run-down apartment building loomed in the dim light of the
pinkening sky, the parking lot they pulled into was quiet and covered
with the thick snowfall of the previous night. Streetlamps flickered
unevenly along the sidewalks as they both drew their weapons and began
to move stealthily through the drifts that had piled up along the side
of the tenement their quarry had been tracked to.

Following the somehow ominous sweep of her partner's black overcoat,
huddling in the thin warmth of the over large jacket, she moved
quietly up the back stairs. Apartment #35. That's what the Baltimore
detective had told her on the phone. The police were on their way, but
it would be at least another 10 minutes before they arrived.

She felt his eyes on her and without words they quietly agreed which
side of the hall each would take.

Coming out of the stairwell into the filthy hallway, she mimicked his
easy, graceful movements along the opposite wall. #35 was at the end.
They passed by gaping doorways..apartments that had been long
abandoned. Apartments that had become refuges for homeless and
transients. Rats scuttled in the strengthening morning light,
scattering through trash piles and leaving tiny tracks in the light
dusting of snow that had drifted through the broken windows.

She was strongly aware of each of her senses, smells assailed her on
all sides..the odor of garbage and urine mixed with the biting cold
tang of the icy morning that drifted through the shattered windows of
the hall. She could just taste the scent of his cologne from across
the hall, the faintest of whiffs of the simple maleness of him. Her
ears picked out the distant sound of traffic from the nearby freeway,
the scraping of the plow on the street below, the chittering of the
rodents in the abandoned rooms..the quiet in and out of his vapor-mist
breath.

She closed her eyes momentarily, letting her mind clear, preparing
herself for the possibility of finding the missing girl in the state
they had found the others. Preparing for the possibility that they had
been too late to save this one....like with the others.

And a frisson of disquiet prickled down her spine.

She opened her eyes, finding him, freezing in place. He instantly took
note of her, his own gaze meeting hers and understanding that
something was wrong. They were nearly to the door..he was poised at
the doorknob, gun in hand.

A click, an echo. She spun.

A figure was silhouetted against the window that opened to the clean
air of the outside..a black cutout of limbs and torso against the
pink-orange of the dawn sky.

The explosion of sound blacked out her hearing for a moment, a strobe
flash of light and the tang of gun oil. Out of the corner of her eye,
she saw her partner jerk like a puppet whose strings had been yanked.
A terrible blossom of crimson red unfurled on his chest, his limbs
flailing to either side, his head flying back..his beautiful eyes
going wide with shock and pain and the emptiness of broken eggshell.

In that moment..that eternally slow moment that she spun to him, her
lips forming his name, the featureless figure moved as quickly as a
shadow. In the next moment... the one when she let her body come up
and away from the sight of her partner's crumpled form..her gun moving
to position itself, he struck her.

Her world became a study in black.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

"Mulder!" Her scream shattered the dark and she sat straight up,
bolting out of the formless black of her comfortless memories.. her
heart beating hard enough to pound out of the fragile shell of her
ribcage.

Her shaking hands reached for the notepad, her fingers clawing to
write the name, her head spinning, her cheeks wet with tears.

After she'd scrawled out the word, she bent over the pad and
sobbed..huge, gutwrenching gasps..her nose and eyes bleeding salt and
snot as she cried. She was losing it ..losing it all. She grasped for
the remnants of the dream with flayed fingertips, trying to remember
his face, his eyes, who he was..so important. But then it was
gone..leaving her the shards of her grief, but not the understanding
behind it.

And she was left with a name on a lined piece of paper, the image of a
dead body and the ghost of a gun in her hand.

After an eternity in which she wept softly to herself..simply from the
ache of a pain that she couldn't pin a source to, she wiped her soaked
cheeks on the end of the blanket and wrapped her arms around her body,
goosebumps rippling over her skin in the chilly room.

After almost an hour, she moved off the bed in what had become a
nightly ritual, leaning down to pull the jacket out of the box. Lying
back down with it crushed under her cheek..she was finally able to
relax enough to fall back to sleep.

++++++++

Linda pulled her jacket on, grumbling to herself about lazy doctors
and how her mother didn't raise her to be no girl Friday. Tugging on
her mittens, she clomped down through the lobby, waving to Meg, and
pushed out into the frigid air of a Monday that seemed to be shaping
up the wrong way.

Main St. was only a block away and luckily someone had finally
shoveled the sidewalks. Looking both ways, she trotted quickly across
the icy crust of the street towards the corner coffee shop, still
muttering about spoiled-assed doctors and how they didn't *like* the
perfectly good coffee in the break room. No, they had to have
Cappuccinos and Mochas and Lattes and what-have-you. They had to have
*Biscotti* with their too-good-to-just-be-called-coffees.

She pushed into the diner accompanied by the sound of the little bell
over the door and a gust of extra-cold morning air. Tromping her feet
to drive out the chill that had seeped through her clothes just from
the brief trudge across the street, she pulled herself up onto a stool
at the counter and waited for Pat to appear.

Glancing to her left, she made a quick scan of the occupants of the
diner and her eyes snagged on a man a few seats down the row. He had a
head full of glossy dark hair, and he wore a long, black
expensive-looking trenchcoat..not the sort of thing you often saw in
Somerville. But what caught her attention most fully was the fact that
he was arrestingly beautiful.

Not her type at all, she tended to like men who weren't so obviously
more attractive than she was ...but yeah, beautiful was a word that
worked.

Funny. Usually a nose like that would mar a face as pretty as his, but
in this guy's case, it only added character and charm and masculinity
to spare. Maybe it was the mouth. Damn, but guys weren't allowed to
have lips like that.

This fella would be someone to take home to mom irregardless of the
fact that he looked drawn, unshaven and exhausted. She imagined that
he was on his way through town to some high-powered business meeting
on the coast and hadn't had time to shave.

Hmmph. Good dresser. Attractive. He was probably gay.

She flicked her gaze away from him before he noticed her staring and
began tapping her fingers on the countertop. Where the hell was Pat?
She could just see the woman's white-bunned head through the order
window in the kitchen.

She felt her eyes sidling sideways again, and this time he was looking
back at her with mottled multi-hued eyes. Busted.

She cracked a weak smile and snapped her gaze back to the counter,
slightly mortified. Brother. This was why she didn't date attractive
guys. Too much goddamned pressure.

Pat saved the day by bustling back out from the kitchen.

"Hey sweetie, the big boys want their Lattes?" she asked, adjusting
her glasses on her nose and leaning against the opposite side of the
counter.

"Yeah." she twisted her lips and finally yanked her mittens off her
hands, remembering that she was angry. "Just give me 3 Lattes, one
with skim milk and an extra large mocha. Oh..and I want a handful of
those Biscotti too.." she slumped back in the counter chair with a
sigh. "I don't know how I get volunteered for this shit." she grumped.

"It's coz they know you won't say no dear." The older woman bustled
her large bulk over to the Cappuccino maker, turning her back on
Linda.

"Excuse me." Oh god, his dark voice gave her the shivers. She turned
to look at him. Umph. He was even better looking straight on than he
was in profile. He was moving..pushing a map towards her on the
counter.

She forced her eyes from his face to the overly-folded, worn map of
New Jersey.

"Do you know where ..exactly.. the state patrol is headquartered? I
know it's around here somewhere.." he lifted his eyebrows in an
expression meant to apologize for bothering her.

She pulled the map to her with a frown. It was just outside town..she
knew that much. She tapped her fingertip on the line of Hwy. 22 that
skirted the edge of Somerville.

"I think it's out here. Just get back on Main St..and at the next
major intersection..take a right." Her nail traced a line along the
paper roads. "You'll pass the cemetery on your right..just keep going.
Eventually it will hit 22 and I think they're out there somewhere."
She bit her lip, pushing the map back at him. "I'm sorry I can't be
more specific."

He lifted one hand in a mild, somehow unbearably tired gesture.

"No. That'll be fine. I can find it." He refolded the map awkwardly
and that was when she noticed that his left arm was in a sling.

"What happened?" she asked before she could curb her tongue. She could
see now that his shirt bulked out over his heart in a way that spoke
of heavy bandaging.

She saw him glance at the injury as if for the first time. A brief
cloud passed in front of his tired, sad eyes. He didn't speak for a
long time.

"I..made a mistake." he muttered finally. Darkly.

Good one Linda. Now he thinks you're some small-town nosy nellie.

Pat set a big bag on the counter in front of her just then.

"Six dollars sweetie." The older woman turned to the stranger.
"You need anything else today, Hon?"

The man pushed his coffee cup and the remains of a picked-at breakfast
of eggs and hash browns across the counter towards her.

"No thanks. Just the check. I've got to get going."

Linda dug the money Dr. Miller had given her out of her parka and
tossed it on the old Formica, pushing herself off the stool and
grabbing the big brown bag.

"Thanks Pat." she pulled on her mittens and glanced at the dark haired
man again. "Good luck. Hope you find it easy. It's out there
somewhere." she said.

"Thanks..I know." he added the second part softly..almost as an
afterthought. And then she was gone, shoving open the door with her
shoulder and ducking her head into her collar against the sudden bite
of the frigid air.

Another fabulous first impression courtesy of Linda Garland, she
thought sarcastically as she trotted across the icy street towards the
hospital. No doubt he was going to carry that scintillating bit of
conversation around with him for the rest of his days. Note to self:
Remember this the next time you think about going out with good
looking men.

She hadn't even asked for his name.
 
 

++++++++++
 

I watch her charts so carefully.

I take meticulous notes and make sure that there are witnesses to her
every reaction. I will need the verification later.

The meds that I'd had the orderlies administer are taking effect. Her
'episodes' are becoming more violent. I'd guessed that they would
have escalated on their own, but the homemade drug cocktail I've been
giving her is stimulating her Septo-Hippocampal pathways. Her 'dream'
states are now causing her to fight the things that she's experiencing
in her mind..in some form or other. I love it when things happen as
planned.

Proof again that my genius does not belong here. That I am better than
this place.

The Others did not have her initial memory loss, but their dreams had
become powerful. Many of them had become sleepwalkers before...

...I do not finish the thought. The Others had been inferior. And this
time, the amnesia itself is a key. I am certain of it.

Yesterday she struck out at a nurse during an episode and knocked the
woman to the floor. It is a good reason to start restraining her at
night. It will not be questioned later, and I will be able to quietly
start the morphine injections into her Amygdala while she is sedated
at night. For once I am glad that I have a staff composed of the
leavings of the medical world.

I just know that she will be the one that succeeds where the others
failed.

She is the key to my escape.

++++++

Another endless night alone. Not even her own memories for company.
Only terrible, disjointed images that did nothing to comfort..only
torment.

She lay on her cot, staring with oddly aching eyes at the
moonlight-crossed ceiling, chasing down stray tendrils of fleeing
impressions..relentless as a hunting dog. Things were becoming so much
harder to grab onto. The dead man and the feel of the gun clasped in
her fingers haunted her..taunted her with possibilities, and yet her
mind seemed somehow incapable of properly connecting the dots.

Sometimes she felt that she was even forgetting her time at the
Somerset Medical Center mere weeks before. Names and faces were
blurring, difficult to retrieve.

But the image of his blood splattered body splayed before her was
stark in her mind, even though she could not make out his features nor
the surroundings he lay in. Splinters of pain lodged in her head as
she closed her reddened eyes.

Oh God.

The grief she had felt had been reduced to the discolored stain of her
tears on the notepaper she'd written the name on. It was the only
evidence that she had been reduced to sobs a few nights before.

The pain was creeping around her, clenching around her muscles and
binding her heart in iron claws. She looked down at her loosely
restrained hands, imagining blood crusting underneath the
bandages...collecting in the soft webs between her fingers..drying in
the slim lines of her palm like a reddish spiderweb.

No. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly and curled her tender fingers
into her palms. What if the dead man that she continued to see in her
mind..what if he was the one who had stolen her? Maybe she had killed
him. She had been carrying a gun..she was sure of it.

Somehow there was something, some shred of hope that wrapped itself
around her bleeding soul like a balm.. it told her that the dark hair
and autumn eyes would never hurt her. Never.

She lay still against the pillows with a shaking sigh. She felt her
sore eyes dragging shut with drugged exhaustion. Almost every night
since she'd been admitted to Essex, her slumber had been occupied with
the catatonic episodes that dominated her life now. It was not real
sleep, and she was starting to feel the effects of that lack. How long
had it been since she'd simply slept? Why wouldn't her mind let her
rest? Wasn't that what the medication was supposed to be for?

And the violence. What did that mean? Why was she striking out now?
Why was she struggling?

The only thing she took to be a good sign was the fact that in the
past week, her visions *seemed* to be following more of a linear
track..connecting together better..as if they were tracking recent
events. The first episodes she'd had all those weeks ago had given
her images and flashes of the oddest things. Things she couldn't and
wouldn't give any weight to. Men who incinerated with a touch.
Creatures that walked through darkened forests with blood red eyes.
Vampires without their sharp teeth.

Now her dreams seemed to give the impression of focus..and of winter.
That alone was a clue to her that they were recent. Over the past
three nights, the visions had taken place under gray skies and within
white landscapes.

And she still had the name.

Mulder.

She held it to her like a talisman, like a treasured keepsake. Mulder.
She said it out loud in the empty room..hearing the unfamiliar ring of
her own voice. It sounded so ..comfortable. It held levels and nuances
that she was sure had the ability to either set her free or drive her
to madness.

Her mind was starting to drift again, her weary thoughts giving in to
the nebulous arms of sleep, and with a small prayer to whatever gods
watched over her that she be allowed to have a full night of rest, she
slipped away.
 

+++++
 

"Are you sure you weren't trying to write 'murder'?" asked Linda,
leaning conspiratorially across the table..the notepaper in one hand.

They were sitting in the cafeteria eating a bland lunch of chicken
soup and bread. They could have been two friends sharing a table at
work were it not for the fact that Jane was wrapped in a faded blue
terry robe..her hands still swathed in bandages. She knew that she
looked terrible. Odd bruises had formed under her strangely tender
eyes and her skin was so pale it was nearly translucent. She had seen
a faint blue network of veins under the white flesh at her temples
when she'd looked into the polished metal bolted to the wall of her
room. And thin, she could count her ribs by touch.

She looked up at Linda, smiling at her sense of drama and shaking her
head. She tried to ignore the faint look of horror that appeared in
Linda's face every time the nurse took in her haggard appearance.

"I'm sure it's a name. I just don't know if it's a first or a last
name. I get the impression it's a first name." She frowned.."But it
*sounds* like a last name."

Linda shook her head.

"Ok. So it's a name. Any other clues beyond that?"

She shook her head. She wasn't ready to relay the information about
the feel of the gun in her palm or the sight of the blood on his white
shirt. If that man was this "Mulder" at all.

"I wish I could remember more of the visions," she said for the
millionth time as she bit her lower lip in concentration, staring into
the murk of her soup. She picked at an ugly piece of chicken that was
swimming near the top. She looked up at the woman who sat across from
her, her brow wrinkling suddenly. "Linda.." she started, leaning
forward, "I haven't told Dr. Kuelman any of this, but I'm sure that my
dreams are starting to gain a little cohesiveness.."

"Why wouldn't you tell the Doctor that?" Linda frowned.

"I..I don't know why. I just have this feeling .." she faded off for a
moment, sucking on the inside of her cheek as if she hated to give
creedence to a mere instinct. "Something about him gives me the
creeps."

She watched as Linda twisted her lips. She knew that the nurse had
been reluctant to send her here..knew that she didn't like sending
*anyone* here. Looking at the terrible shape she was in now, she
wondered if Linda's fears were justified.

Linda had examined Jane's fingers upon arrival, and the scabs were
starting to turn a darker shade. The nurse had guessed that it would
only be another week before they peeled away..exposing the valuable
prints beneath. Hopefully then, someone could be contacted to get her
out of this place.

As if to punctuate that hope, a bearded man in a filthy smock started
to howl, flinging his food at the windows in a frenzy of movement. Two
beefy orderlies converged on him, wrestling him to the floor with a
series of blows that made Linda tense with fury across from her.

After the scuffle was over and the old man had been taken from the
room, Jane *forced* herself to look away..back at the woman she hoped
to wring a large favor from.

Linda cleared her throat and leaned forward towards her before she
could speak.

"Have..." the nurse was a little reluctant.."have you had any
flashbacks yet about how you got those abrasions on your wrists and
ankles? Do you even remember the car wreck?"

"No." Jane's voice was firm suddenly. "I mean..I don't know for
certain. But I don't think that I've gotten any images at all about
what happened to put me in this.." she she looked down at her wrapped
hands ..stark white against the dark blue of the ancient formica
tabletop, "state."

Jane made a sudden dismissive gesture with her hand and looked at the
nurse again. Her face was closely shuttered again as she moved back
onto the ground she wanted to be on.

"I think.." she went on, "That this 'Mulder' is important." She leaned
closer. "Do you think..do you think that you could look up the name
for me? See if he's in this area? Maybe he .." she paused, sitting
back again and looking down at her lap.

She didn't even mention her greatest fear..the one in which she was
certain he was dead.

"It's silly, isn't it.. I mean I'll probably know in a week
anyway..when the bandages come off." They were both placing a lot of
hope in her fingerprints.

She felt a hand gently enclose hers.

"No way honey. I'll do it. If he's in the area, I'll find him. "

She looked up in Linda's eyes and smiled a little tremulously.

"Thanks.. I just know that he's the key to this. Somehow. Assuming I
can trust my dreams.."

"Lets just hope he's not the guy who drove you into that tree." Linda
said solemnly.

Jane nodded.

"I'd thought of that. There's something that tells me he's not. I
believe that ..somewhere deep."

Linda tilted her head, hooding her eyes.

"I guess you still have the strength of your beliefs.." the nurse
grinned.

And Jane's world suddenly convulsed and retracted down to a tiny
pinprick ..and she was falling..falling into it.

++++

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
She woke with a splitting headache, her mouth filled with the
metallic taste of her own blood. Wrenching her eyes open with an
effort, she squinted around her surroundings.

She was in the back of a van. Her hands were twisted uncomfortably
behind her back, bound there. Her legs were tied together and a thick,
foul-smelling rag was rammed tightly between her teeth. Under her
cheek, she could feel the rumbling of tires on asphalt.

The harsh, cloying smell of gore was thick in the air of the van and
she lifted her head just slightly to look around. Two large garbage
bags sat across from her on the rotting, stained carpeting of the
van's floor and she could see a dark black liquid seeping out of the
plastic in the dim light of the interior.

With a gagging horror, she realized that it was blood..and that the
bags were very likely filled with the remains of Patty Hanson, the
girl they had given everything to save in time.

Everything.

She had given up her partner..

..for nothing.

She replayed the moment in her mind when he had fallen under the
onslaught of the shotgun. She watched again as his beautiful face went
blank with shock and emptiness. As his lanky form folded like his
bones had gone to jelly.

Oh God. He was really, honestly, finally dead this time.. wasn't he.
He'd been shot in the heart. She let her eyes squeeze tightly shut
again, closing out the reality of the van she lay in, the dead girl
beside her in pieces..the partner and lover who'd fallen behind.

She slowly became aware of the fact that the van had stopped and she
began to quickly take stock of her situation. Time for grieving would
be later. She would not end up like that girl. He would be very
disappointed with her...and so would she.

The back doors of the van opened and cold winter air rushed in, the
sharp wet scent of snowfall biting at her nostrils. It was night, but
a streetlight several hundred yards away illuminated the side of a
fairly large but empty highway. She could not see him..but she already
knew his face. She'd stared at photo after photo of him. His childhood
pictures, his high school yearbook..even the modeling head shots he'd
had done in the eighties. She knew him well enough, this predator.

He grabbed onto one of the trash bags and hauled it out of the van,
smearing a sticky trail of blood behind it on the hideous shag
carpeting. He vanished from the opening, struggling with the weight of
his grisly load...his breath leaving light-limned vapor trails behind
him.

Catching her breath through the gag she wore, she sat up. If ever
there was a chance..it was now. She tried to scoot forward towards the
freedom of the doorway, but winced at a cold metallic bite on her
wrists. She craned her neck to see. Her hands were not merely tied
together..they were handcuffed to a metal loop set into the side of
the van.

Swallowing her panic, she launched herself into a fast, frenzied
attempt to free herself, to test the strength of her shackles. She was
neatly incapacitated. There was no give at all in any of her many
bonds and she felt the wet warm trickle across her knuckles that told
her she had cut herself on the cuffs.

A shadow skittered across her vision and she rolled her eyes to see
that he had returned. He stood there for a moment, his handsome face
curled with a small smile and his eyes glinting with something unholy.
Then he leaned forward and took hold of the second bag..dragging it
out of the van as well.

Disposing the evidence neatly..leaving it for the highway patrol to
find. Leaving it for the next investigators to puzzle over. Do it, she
thought furiously. We have your profile now. We know how you operate.
Dumping your calling card will simply help us catch you.

She realized the fatal flaw in her thinking even as she formed the
thoughts. There was no "us" anymore. She and her partner had come the
closest of anyone to catching this murderer. A man who had been
committing his terrible crimes for almost 10 years without being
caught. They had almost done it.

But almost didn't really count. Did it. She closed her eyes with a
rush of renewed pain.

The sound of a footstep gave her pause and she looked back down
towards the doors again to see him standing there. Grinning. She
refused to break eye contact with him. She refused to let him see her
fear and pain and grief.

Her composure seemed to rattle him..just a little.. and he slammed the
doors shut on her, returning her to darkness. A moment later the van
started again.

And this time her partner would not be there to rescue her.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
 

+++++++

She's had another 'episode'. The worst yet.

Last night I gave her the first Morphine injection.. accessing her
brain through the soft tissue at the corner of her left eye. I hadn't
hoped to see results so quickly..but the intensity of her mindless
flailing is something I had not expected. The Morphine *should* be
inhibiting her memory even further, acting in concert with the
neuron-weakening drugs I've been giving her all week.

I come into the commissary to find her on the floor in the grip of
three of my orderlies. The woman..the nurse from Somerville is with
her. That makes me frown a little. I do not like the idea of my
subject having any ties outside Essex.

Her body is still fighting and there is nothing behind her wide blue
gaze. She is showing almost classic seizure symptoms. I make
a mental note..that was not expected..it did not happen with the
Others.

I kneel down and administer a sedative quickly..before the nurse can
notice that the color of the drug is just a little off. Not quite the
clear liquid of a normal sedative.

"I don't understand," the nurse is stroking the damp hair off my
subject's face. "Her episodes were never like this before." She looks
right at me, her eyes narrowing. "What have you been giving her?"

I school my features to express only innocence and false surprise.

"Nothing special. Just some sedatives to help her relax..to help her
sleep." I say coolly, refusing to get angry at this woman who should
know better than to argue with her superiors. She is only a nurse. I
am a doctor.

She stares at me for a long moment and I begin to lose the tentative
grip I have on my temper. Is this harpy challenging me?

"Why did you sedate her just now? She would have come out of it..she
always does. Drugging her into submission is not the way to help
her.."

I draw myself up. I know that I am a big man. I tower over her.

"I don't believe that you have a degree in medicine, *nurse* Garland.
I know what is best for my patients. She was a danger to herself and
others in that state. Sedation was the only answer."

She does not reply. She only looks at me..as if she's reading my
thoughts. As if she knows. There is suspicion in her eyes.

No. She can't know. No one knows. No one except Howard. Stay calm.

I can feel my demons dancing and cavorting around in my
conciousness..clamouring to be let out. Eager for blood. I quell them
with a practiced hand.

Later.

Later.

Instead of further tormenting me with her witch's glare, she follows
the orderlies out when they take my new subject out on a
gurney..pausing only once to take one final look at me.

And then I am alone in the cafeteria.

+++++++++

++++++++

Linda tromped in from the cold, the paper bags that contained her
groceries crackling in her arms as she bumped the door shut with her
hip. Wonderbread mrowred as she awkwardly discarded her boots,
figure-eighting between her legs and leaving snow-white cat hairs all
over her slacks. She not-so-gently shoved him out of her way as she
pushed into the kitchen. Her mood was still dangerously foul..even
after the long drive back and a short trip to the store.

Setting the food on the counter, she gripped the edge of the counter
and forced her shoulders to relax...counting to ten. Again. The
outright, blatant misuse of drugs she had just witnessed was not the
real cause of her anger..though she like to pretend it was. The real
reason, if she admitted it to herself, was that she was guilty, Guilty
for putting Jane in that place. For putting at least 5 others out
there over the years she'd worked at Somerset. She had driven them out
there herself.

She was just as guilty as Dr. Kuelman and his incompetent staff
because she *knew* the place was a pit, and yet she did nothing. She
was guilty through inaction..but she would be damned if she would do
nothing any longer.

After a long moment of calming herself while she put away the food
she'd bought, she set hot water on for tea and walked out to her
computer, booting it up.

She had two goals. The first was to look for Jane's Mulder...it was a
promise she had made..and she would keep it. But the second was
foremost in her mind. She wanted to know more about Dr. Kuelman. She
wanted to know his background..the background of Essex since he'd
taken it over. Jane's treatment in the cafeteria had not been the
first time she'd seen evidence of mistreatment of patients there. But
it was the time that had finally got her mad enough to do something
about it. And the young woman had looked awful. What was the meaning
of the bruising around her eyes? It was the sort of thing that
occurred with a broken nose...but Jane's face had looked unmarred but
for the still-livid scar on her white forehead.

The fact that the woman's episodes had escalated to the physical
realm was alarming. From what she knew of post traumatic retrograde
amnesia sufferers, they regained their identities over the span of a
few weeks..each successive memory that came back would help bring
others until they began to increase exponentially. It was never a
violent thing. They just got their memories back.

Jane had remembered nothing..and instead of her 'episodes' helping her
regain her past, they seemed to just be beating her up.

The teapot whistled, interrupting her thoughts, and a moment later she
was sitting down at the keyboard, blowing hot steam off a cup of Earl
Gray. The screech of her modem connecting to her ISP had her leaning
forward to bring up her browser.

Jane's name first. Mulder.. it was all she had to go on.

First, the search engines. Then, if she found nothing, she would check
the online directories..and failing that, she would go to the library
and dig through the phone books. It promised to be a bad thing if she
got that far. There was certainly more than one Mulder on the East
Coast.

She typed 'Mulder' into the Lycos search box, clicked -return-..

..and hit instant gold.

The single shortest investigative effort in history, she thought with
a pleased grin.

Assuming that this much-mentioned Mulder was the one she wanted. Jeez.

The search returns just kept listing.

UFO, MUFON , government conspiracy sites. If this was the guy, he was
some sorta expert on kooks. And..at the top of the first scanned
article she found, she discovered her quarry's employer.

Jeez was right.

Glancing at the clock, she realized that it was too late to call the
*FBI*. Odds were she would reach an automated message. There was no
reason that the call couldn't wait till the morning. Jane wasn't going
anywhere.

After she scribbled the number down, she clicked around a little while
longer, wary of how easy it had been, trying to find other Mulders.
There were one or two...a personal homepage belonging to a Patty
Mulder that showed some badly focused pictures of her cats, and a
listing in the directory for a Jason L. Mulder in Providence, Rhode
Island.

That one seemed a little more likely than the FBI guy...but when she
rang up the number it was disconnected. So much for that. There was no
one else..at least listed in the online directories.

After refreshing her tea, she abandoned the Mulder-search and set to
work on Dr. Kuelman. There was little she was going to be able to find
online about his past..but if he had ever written up any kind of
article for a medical journal, it might be listed somewhere.

Success was not to be had as easily this time. The clock on her
cluttered mantle chimed out 2 in the morning by the time her tired
clicking unearthed anything of use.

She had been about to throw in the towel when her search through the
New England Journal of Medicine database finally dredged up an article
from 1981.

--External Storage and Retrieval of LTMemory within the
Parahippocampal Region & Inhibiting Effects of Morphine on Spatial
Memory  --by N.J. Kuelman

Frowning her way through terms she only grasped on the most basic
definitional level, she began to get the picture of what the man was
saying. It set a cold hand right on the back of her neck.
Frankensteinian stuff. He was claiming that he could retrieve,
manipulate and store memories.. *externally*. He claimed that he HAD.

She delved back into the database, searching out journals that might
give the reaction of the medical world to his theories. All thoughts
of sleep had been driven from her mind.

Unlike his article, the medical world's opinions of his work were easy
to hunt down. After the 1981 article he was unilaterally reviled and
denounced as a dangerous quack. A fraud and a flake. She found a news
snippet that mentioned that his grants had been revoked and his
funding pulled.

And then she could find nothing more.

Around 4am she finally switched off her computer and simply sat at her
table for a long time, lost in thoughts that ..frankly..scared her. So
the guy was a little wacky. Ok. That didn't mean he was dangerous.
After all, he had been operating Essex for almost 12 years now without
mishap. At least she didn't *think* there had been mishap. Sure, she'd
gotten wind of some neglectful treatments..but nothing had ever been
done. The only people that ever got sent out there were the indigent
and the homeless. These people had no one to push the State for more
funding.

She rubbed her face, a wave of exhaustion suddenly sweeping over her.

Sleep. She would need it if she planned on going in to the library
before her shift tomorrow.

And she did.

++++

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
He'd hit her again. She could feel the tenderness on the back of her
scalp that spoke of another bludgeoning. That was how this guy worked.
He believed in getting his women the old-fashioned way..with a club to
the head.

Blinking, she saw that she was no longer in the van. The sound of
Christian rock pumped gently in the heated air of the compartment and
she could see the snow-covered scenery of the rural countryside
passing by through the glass at her right.

They were in a car now. A small sporty import from what she could
tell. He was trying to loose his trackers. From the difficult time
she and her partner had had finding him in the first place, she knew
that he was doing a thourough job.

Without her partner on her trail, she held out little hope that
anyone would find her in time. This cold, brutal killer had shown a
great deal of cunning in the way he had bamboozled the authorities to
date. Unlike most serial killers, this man was not deranged. He was
unlikely to make errors.

She stared dully out the window, watching fence posts pass one by one
against a backdrop of blank white fields. It wasn't real. None of it.
The fact that she was tightly bound underneath the blanket he had
drawn up over her body. The fact that her captor was a coldly sane
killer who was likely fantasizing even now about her drawn-out,
painful death.

The fact that the other half of who she was.. was dead.

Funny (yeah, ha ha) how you have an aspect of your life that is so
much a part of you..and yet external. It's a risk, letting yourself
decompartmentalize like that..letting someone else carry half of you
around with them. When they go, they take it with them. She felt
empty, listless...lost.

Closing her eyes she was helplessly drawn back
to the image of his body falling backwards again..the red hole in his
chest ..the splattering of crimson on the snowy white of his shirt. It
was so clear..each detail of his form in the moment of his death. Why
couldn't her memories give her the time when she'd first opened her
heart fully to him? The feeling of utter rapture that had consumed her
knowing that he felt the same way.. that he was only complete when
they were together? Why couldn't she see his visage filled with that
expression that he saved only for her? Why did she only have to see
that blank emptiness of his beautiful face?

A touch startled her and her eyes flew open, flicking to the side to
see her captor leaning across the car towards her. His handsome face
was coolly devoid of mercy and it chilled her. He spoke to her, his
words filling her with dread and revulsion. He was warning her to
remain quiet at the gas station up ahead. Any wrong move and he would
make her regret it very badly.

Perhaps he would kill her quickly if she did, she thought softly. Was
her partner waiting for her on the other side? Maybe she would be
seeing him soon. She let the irrational hope give her a little peace.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

In the darkness of her small room, her vision drifted into blackness.
She did not wake up to write down what she could remember of it. She
could not. Instead, she lay under the layers of Kuelman's drug
cocktail like it was ice covering a lake. She could not chip through.
She could not even try.

She looked up at the chill blue of the sky reflected through the ice
of her own lake..and she floated in the murk of memories that she no
longer seemed to be capable of understanding.

++++++++

Linda pushed into the break room with a tired groan. She'd been hoping
to get a moment of free time sooner than this, but it had been a
terrible day. No sooner had she gotten to work after spending hours at
the Microfiche station in the library, than a schoolbus had skidded
off the road outside of town. No one was killed, but the emergency
room was packed with both crying children and anxious parents. It made
for general mayhem.

She sank onto the couch and took a moment to catch her breath. It
wasn't long before she was leaning towards the end table and pulling
the phone into her lap. But she didn't pick up the receiver. Instead
she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, her mind still whirling
with what she'd learned that morning at the library.

The back issues of the local paper had given her practically nothing
to go on. Kuelman had been hired out at Essex in 1987. The article had
stated that he was a graduate of the upscale Harvard Medical School
and that he had a background in Neuroscience. He had come from
Hartford, Connecticut..and a search of the publications in that city
had yielded interesting results in the form of a rather frightening
article.

There had been an accident that killed Kuelman's younger brother when
he was about 13. The article did not give specifics because the local
authorities had been baffled. There was talk of blaming young Nelson
Kuelman..because he had been the one who had been with his brother
when he was found, but no explanation for Howard Kuelman's death could
be given. He was pronounced brain-dead by the EMTs before he reached
the hospital. There had been no marks on the boy to explain it and
though the autopsy revealed no brain damage, the general consensus was
that it had been some sort of aneurysm.

She had no idea what that meant in relation to Kuelman's later field
of study. It could be that his brother's death had just inspired him
towards a career with the brain..but somehow it felt sinister. She
would go to the County Medical Records for Essex next...she had a
pretty good idea what she was looking for now.

She opened her eyes and looked down at the plastic white phone under
her hand. She'd been so involved in her investigation of the evil
scientist out at Essex this morning that she'd nearly forgotten about
Jane's mystery name.

An FBI agent. It seemed somehow ludicrous. She sat with her hand on
the receiver for a long moment, battling the feeling that she was
about to make a fool out of herself in front of a federal agent who
would have no idea what she was talking about. She finally pulled the
scrap of paper out that she had written the Bureau main number on.
There was a chance that it *was* the right Mulder ..FOX Mulder (what
a name that was)...even though it had just been too damned easy to
find him. *Nothing* was ever that easy. Jane's Mulder was more likely
some carpenter or plumber in one of the small towns scattered
throughout Jersey State. That was reality..not the life of some kind
of secret agent.

She carefully dialed the number and listened to the phone ring. It was
the automatic computer answering service. She dutifully listened to
the options..wishing that the recording would give her a little credit
for intelligence and not speak so godamned slowly.

"Federal Bureau Of Investigation, this is Jenny, how may I help you?"

Perky.

"Hi Jenny, I'm looking for Agent Fox Mulder." There was a moment of
rapid tapping as if on a keyboard. And then:

"That Agent is not currently on the premises.. may I transfer you to
his voice mail?" she asked brightly.

You couldn't pay me enough to sound that perky, she thought.

"Umm, yeah. That would be ..good." she gnawed on her lip, quickly
trying to formulate a message with her soggy, tired brain that would
make sense and not leave her sounding like a rambling lunatic.

-Beeeeeeep-

"Um ...uh, hi. Hi. My name is Linda. Linda Garland..I'm a nurse at
Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey. //Ugh, like he
needed to know her life story..// I know this might sound weird, but
I'll get to the point..//yeah, give him hope..//  The..uh.. reason I'm
calling is because..um, //jeez, how do you put this?// well, there was
this woman who was admitted to our emergency room about a month
ago..and she's lost her memory and...um.. about two days ago she
remembered a name. Mulder. So I ...uhh, found your name on the
internet and we ..I thought that it might be you..//good lord, she WAS
sounding like a rambling lunatic..// and well, anyway, if you know
what I'm talking about..this woman is pretty short and has this red
hair..and"---BEEEEEEP

She pulled the phone away from her ear with a startled frown. She'd
actually talked so long she'd run out of time. She hung up the phone
with a sigh and closed her eyes again. That was really classy. Really
smooth. Amazing how fast you can think on your feet Lin. She hadn't
even left her number.

She sucked the inside of her cheek between her teeth and debated about
whether she should call back and finish rambling. Well, she reasoned,
the guy *is* a federal agent..he oughta be able to track me down since
I gave him my name and where I work. *If* he knows Jane, he'll be
interested enough to call information.

She set the phone back on the side table and sighed. She'd wait till
the guy called back before she tried to find more Mulders.

Satisfied that she was doing her best for Jane..at least more than
the incompetent Sheriff Lloyd,  she took a drink of water from the
fountain and went back out to deal with the schoolbus accident.

+++++

++++++

I think that tomorrow will be the night.

She is receiving the drugs extremely well. No psychosis.. I think it
has to do with her pre-existing amnesia. I would have never thought of
that. Perhaps it is fate that is allowing me to finally finish my
work.

I sit in my office and stare at Howard as he perches in a chair across
from my desk. Today there are no bloody visions accompanying him. I
wonder why he left them behind. There's no accounting for what a dead
brother will do, I suppose.

It's alright Howard. I'll make it up to you now. Tomorrow night will
be a triumph for both of us.

One more injection of Morphine tonight will clear the neural
pathways..will make room for you.

I am giddy with anticipation. I can already imagine the accolades and
the apologies I will receive for this from all those doctors who
scorned me. It will be sweet, so sweet to see the admiration in their
eyes.

Howard continues to give me his empty stare, feet not quite touching
the floor, his bare knobby knees are scuffed and scraped as they had
been that afternoon.

 I was 15 and he was 13. He had just gotten a new
bike and he had wanted to go back outside and ride with his friends
over in the empty lot three blocks down. I had bribed him with offers
of letting him read my prized comic books and he had stayed.

Just a little prick, Howard. I'd told him that. If only he'd held
still..if only he'd just kept quiet. I hadn't wanted to hold his mouth
shut..but mother had been in the back yard..and she had already warned
me not to play with her nursing equipment. Mother was not a patient
woman.

It hadn't seemed like a very long time before Howard had stopped
moving under my hand. I thought he'd finally decided to cooperate.

I remember thinking how long the needle was..how I hoped it would be
long enough. The map of the brain in my school book gave me an idea of
where I needed to reach. I'd used the needle, sliding it in through
the soft tissue in the corner of his eye..pushing until I was sure I
was far enough.

Howard had not woken up again..and no one had ever discovered what I
did. I hadn't meant to kill him..I hadn't. I had loved him. Looking
back, I suspect that any modern pathologist would have realized what
had happened, but back in the '40s such details were easily
overlooked.

I shake the memories away. He was sacrificed for the greater good. His
death will one day be remembered as the first step in my
ground-breaking discovery.

I glance over at the safe on the wall. Beyond that small door it still
sits..I've been keeping it safe for all these years. Hard to believe
that almost 50 years of research and work are about to pay off.

I turn back to the chair, and Howard is gone again. I suppose he had
somewhere to be. Probably off playing with the Larson twins in that
vacant lot down the street.

The sun is setting out the window, casting a pink glowing shroud
across the snow, a single long shadow creeping and stretching towards
me..cast by the lonely outpost of the guardhouse at the gate.

Shaking off my sudden apprehension as having no place in my remaining
hours before the triumph, I begin preparations on the final series of
injections for my subject before the last, most important one tomorrow
night.

++++++

Streetlights threw brilliant circular pools of light along the snowy
walk towards the Courthouse as Linda hurried, trailing streamers of
breathy vapor, through the crisply cold air of the night. Exhaustion
hovered at the edge of her consciousness, making threats she had no
intention of cowing to. Glancing at her watch, she realized that she
only had a few more moments before Jerry decided she was a lost cause
and went home.

She crunched up the shallow steps to the glass panels that made up the
front doors of Essex County Courthouse. There was only one light on
further down the hallway that she could see when she pressed her nose
to the frigid glass. She lifted one mittened hand and pounded on the
door, listening to the rattling echo down the darkened coridoor.

A moment later Jerry Sipowicz was hurrying along the faux parquet
floor, a flashlight clutched in one hand..digging for his keys with
the other. She'd dated Jerry in high school and although he was now
married with 2 kids, there was little that he still wouldn't do for
her. When she had called him that afternoon and asked if he would let
her into the courthouse to do a little 'night reading' he'd been
reluctant..but in the end, he'd agreed. He always did.

The door swung open and he pulled her inside, nearly wrenching her
arm.

"Hurry up before the night watchman sees you!" he hissed at her,
locking the panel behind her. Then he was pulling her along the hall
at a fast clip, eyes darting left and right like they were pulling off
some sort of criminal operation.

"Jeez Jer, what are you so uptight about? There's nothing illegal
about this..it just happens that I couldn't get off work till you guys
were already closed for the night."

"I could lose my job for this." he snapped, but she could sense a
softening of his tone. "It's just that you were late..and Mary is
expecting me. You know how she is, she'll probably think I'm having an
affair if I'm five minutes behind."

Linda nodded a little absently, her mind already turning toward the
records she was searching out. The Medical Records office was dark
when Jerry let her in.

"Can you make this quick?" he whispered, standing by the reception
counter and glancing back out into the hallway periodically. She was
already moving silently down darkened alleys of filing cabinets. "What
are you looking for anyway?" he asked, his voice echoing a little down
the thin metal canyons.

"Evidence" she said, deliberately keeping him in the dark. She didn't
want to have to start at the beginning. Luckily he kept quiet.

Shining her flashlight along the labels that decorated the metal faces
of the files, she finally found the section that pertained to Essex
County. Rolling out the file drawer for 1981, she began her hunt.

It was almost 3 hours later and Jerry had left her long before with a
key and instructions how to exit the building. She had barely noticed
his retreat. After only an hour of research, she had gone back even
further in the hospitals records to before when Kuelman had been
instated there. She had to compare to be sure. Another two hours to
gather sufficient evidence..her horror growing with each passing
minute.

How was it possible that this had been occurring for over a decade
with no one noticing? Over 600 deaths in 12 years..that was almost 50
dead a year. There was, of course, no real pattern to be found in
cause of death, that would alert the review board..but the sheer
casualties..how could that not tip anyone off? She already knew the
answer.

Essex County was a non profit hospital..run by the state..primarily
for the care of people who had nothing and no one. If a homeless man
died, who was to know? Who would care? If an amnesia victim with no
ties died, who would notice?

There was no doubt in her mind that Kuelman was behind it. Taking what
she had seen with her own eyes just in the last year that she had been
shuttling people over to Essex and coupling that with his
Frankensteinian research in college, she just knew.

Sliding everything back into its proper place with numbed fingers, she
pushed herself to her feet, her back aching and her head spinning with
thoughts of what she should do next.

She would file an official complaint first thing in the morning..begin
official procedures against Kuelman and Essex. She would request
permission to become a temporary guardian of the Jane Doe and get her
the hell out of there in the meantime. She was a registered nurse with
Home Care certification, they would let her.. if she asked for no fee.
 

She could still see the Doctor injecting Jane in front of her eyes.
She just hoped that her actions weren't too late.
 

+++++

She awoke only periodically..her mind filled with a hazy soup. Images
were dancing and dissipating before her eyes..as if someone had the
clicker for the VCR and was pushing play and then rewind and then fast
forward..never letting her get a clear glimpse of what she was looking
at.

And the images were familiar, she realized that with a little jolt.
She knew how important it was to fully recognize them. She could see
the man with the dark hair..but this time, instead of the stark sprawl
with the bloody stain on his chest..this time he was smiling at her.
Saying something wry that she thought she should be quietly chuckling
about. She could see a woman she was sure was her mother. A little dog
with pumpkin fur went bouncing through the room. A man with the
brilliant white of a Navy dress uniform. She knew these things..she
knew them.

Her eyes were rolling in her head..she was unable to control the
muscles any longer. There was something wrong, she knew that
instinctively. There was a text book in her head that was reading
symptoms aloud to her. Brain damage, her own voice lectured. Decaying
neural pathways. Degeneration of the memory retrieval system.

There was a nurse in the room, but her presence was like a fly bumping
against the window ..she paid no mind. She was focused inward..she was
close. She could taste her identity..frayed and faltering on the other
side of a paper-thin wall.

"She's coming to Doctor.." the nurse's voice was extraneous.

"Another injection Penny. That should be the last one before the
surgery tonight. Have you made all the arrangements?"

"Of course Doctor." the voice said.

There was a prick that sent her back into oblivion..but her mind did
not stop beating against the barrier. She was close, so close..there
was no more time left. It was a man's voice that spoke, that urged her
on.

She fought.

+++++

The sun was touching the horizon by the time Linda finally got all the
bureaucratic hoops properly jumped through, papers signed and Review
Board alerted. All the paperwork..the frightening evidence of what had
been occurring at Essex over the past 12 years..had been sent to the
State Board for proper review. And most importantly, she had gotten
permission to pull Jane from the hospital the next morning.

The sky was beginning to darken with menacing snow-clouds by the time
she pulled down her street, tiredly fighting the pull of the
semi-frozen slush on the tires. The light was odd..pinkly streaming
rays pushing tenaciously through the coming snow..casting an eerie
glow over the dimly glowing snowbanks that piled high to either side
of the street.

There was a brown car parked outside her house and she could vaguely
make out a figure behind the wheel. A frown marred her forehead. Now
what? Jerry wanted his key back? She had told him that she would get
it to him by tomorrow.

Pulling up the short drive and under the carport, she had barely
opened her door when she glimpsed the driver of the brown car striding
up her walk towards her in her side mirror. Not Jerry...and he was
moving quickly.

Every terrifying scenario her self-defense teachers had ever spelled
out was flashing through her mind as she quickly straightened and
reached towards the ignition for her keys. As soon as she saw him face
on, she froze.

The first thing that ran through her mind, illogically enough, was
that maybe she hadn't made as bad a first impression as she had
thought at the coffee shop. But one glimpse of his expression had her
back to thinking that she might need to protect herself...his eyes
were fearsome in his haggard face.

She found herself instinctively backing into her little Honda,
pulling her bag up against her midsection. He was reaching into his
coat, pulling something out and then he was in front of her and she
found herself looking at a picture of him next to an official seal
and a metal badge that proclaimed him a Federal Agent.

One blink. Another. The name in black print. Fox Mulder. She had
forgotten about the call she had made..she had forgotten in the frenzy
of her discoveries about Essex. She looked up at his face again,
meeting the sizzling intensity of his stare.

"Linda Garland?" he asked, his voice that same whiskey rumble that she
remembered from the coffee shop.

She nodded, forcing her body out of its defensive stance and lifting
her chin. She'd left that damned message yesterday.

"Where have you been?" she asked, folding her arms and squinting at
him. "Didn't your secretary give you my message?"

He didn't even acknowledge that she had spoken.

"You said you had information about my partner? I asked at the
hospital, they told me where you lived. They didn't have her there."

He had not moved since he'd put his ID back into his coat. He looked
ready to turn and spring into action at any moment.

"Your partner?" That rose her eyebrows. FBI agent was not something
she would have picked in all the things that she had imagined Jane
doing.

"Where. Is. She?" he grated. She blinked up at him.

"She was taken out to Essex..I was going to pick her up tom-"

He suddenly grabbed her arm and began to haul her towards his car, his
grip was biting into the flesh above her elbow.

"Ow! Hey buddy..lay off!" she jerked her arm out of his grasp and
stopped moving, glaring at him. What, was he some sort of Neanderthal?
Clearly he left all the people-skills to his partner. If that was
indeed who Jane was.

"You are taking me there..now." he said, his jaw tight. She saw that
he still had his left arm in a sling under his coat and that the hand
was clenched into a fist. "Please.." He added, his voice cracking just
a little.

She finally noticed the pain seething behind his autumn-colored eyes,
the whiteness around his mouth.

She nodded then, moving back to her car she shut the door and
followed him down the driveway.

It was only once she was strapped in and the car was moving down the
street through the slowly falling flakes of the coming snow that he
looked at her.

"Tell me everything." He said. It was a command.

She did.
 

++++++
 

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
They had changed cars again.

It was snowing terribly out and he needed every ounce of his
concentration to pay attention to the road. She could see the
whiteness of his knuckles gripping the steering wheel and she simply
stared at them for a long time with reddened eyes encircled in purple
and black.

There was still no sign of any pursuit. There had been no chances for
escape.

Escape. Her mind would not quite wrap around the concept any longer.
What did it matter anymore if she did get away? What would she be
going back to? It seemed an airy concept now. Something lofty and
not-quite real. Her brain seemed to be intent on numbing her to her
current situation..and right now, that seemed the best tack. A
numbness would mean that she wouldn't remember that he was dead. That
this murderer did not hold control over her life and death. That he
would not hold the power to do to her what he had done to Patty
Henson. He had already taken the one thing she held the most dear.
What was physical pain to that?

She let her eyes fall away from his fingers...let them focus on the
hypnotic falling snow in the headlights outside. It looked like
hyperspace, she thought idylly. They were whisking away towards some
far-away place where nothing could touch her or hurt her..a place
where she would not remember the emptiness of his autumn eyes as he
fell.

She watched as a sharp curve approached on the indistinct road before
them. And without even pausing to consider her actions, she flung
herself against her captor...wrenching the wheel to one side.

The car swerved horridly, the tires moving helplessly against the
slick surface of the icy road, finding no purchase. The law of inertia
took over. An object in motion...

...and they plunged off the known of the road into the formless white
of the night.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It was there. It was all there as if it had never been gone. Every
last aching detail of her pain. And, god, it hurt. It hurt to remember
the death of the girl they had struggled to find in time...but most of
all it hurt to remember that Mulder was dead. The agony of being the
one left behind...it was enough to make her want to crawl back into
the dark hole she'd been hiding in for so long now.

No. She knew the futility of it. It certainly wouldn't bring him back.

Her bruised and sore eyes dragged open, her breath catching in her
throat. Hands jerked sluggishly against her bonds as she tried to
raise her fingers to her face.

She froze as movement in the shadows of her night-cloaked room
stirred..expelling the form of Dr. Kuelman across the worn linoleum to
her bedside. She blinked up at him and forced her mouth to work, to
form words that she somehow had to struggle to define to herself.

"Dr. K-Kuelman?" her voice was harsh and slow and not at all her own.
He leaned over her and she could feel the humidity of his breath
against her cheek.

"Yes my dear?" he whispered, his hand coming up to smooth her hair
back from her face. She wondered briefly why he whispered.

"I need for .. to make .. phone call for me.." she said in blurry
words. "Call." her forehead wrinkled as she struggled to recall the
number.."410-546-7980..that's  ..um..Bureau phone-board. Ask for Agent
M--" she paused, her heart clenching with remembered pain. "No..ask
for-- Ass-is-tant Dir-ec-tor ..Skin..ner. Tell where I am..." she
said. Her eyes rolled involuntarily as she struggled to keep them
open. She was having a very hard time dredging up the basic vocabulary
she needed.

He didn't move..he continued to look down at her with eyes full of an
emotion that confused her. He was staring at her with an intensity
that seemed to scald her.

"How do you feel Jane?" he asked.

What?

"My name is Dana ..Katherine ..Scully.." she pushed out through
gritted teeth, her tender hands curling into fists of frustration.

"How do you feel ..Dana Katherine Scully?" he straightened and looked
down at her from his rather impressive height. His eyes were still
filled with an odd mix of exultation and a blankness that was starting
to pump adrenaline through her body. He was fiddling with something in
his pocket.

"I..I feel...wrong. I'm..I can't seem to..remember words." It took her
almost a full minute to force out the simple sentence.

"Excellent." he sighed. "I don't understand why you seem to have
regained your memory though..I don't understand that at all." his
frown suddenly transformed into another smile. "Not that it really
matters."

He withdrew the thing he had been fiddling with out of his pocket. It
was a long hypodermic needle.

Her eyes took in the length and slenderness of the point and she began
tugging at her bonds again, her breath starting to come in short
gasps. There were really only a very small number of things you needed
a needle that long for..and she couldn't imagine how they applied
here.

"I'm sorry that you have to be awake for this one..but it can't be
helped my dear. Don't worry. You will be remembered in the annals of
medicine for this. Immortalized by my work."

One of his large hands settled on her jaw, wrenching her head up and
immobilizing it.

And she realized with horror where he was going to put the needle even
as it descended towards her right eye.

+++++

+++++++

Linda glanced over her shoulder at the FBI man as they ran down the
long dimly lit hall together. He was following her, using her as he
might use a hunting dog..to find his quarry irregardless of the
obstacles.

It had taken them longer than usual to make it out to Essex..the storm
that had begun as cute little flakes had boiled into one of
the worst blizzards she had ever seen in Jersey. Agent Mulder had
been forced to drive carefully as she talked..telling him in detail
every aspect of her contact with Jane.

All through it, even the part where she spoke of the injuries the
woman had sustained...he remained silent. She spoke of the amnesia and
the 'episodes' that Jan-Dana had suffered through..and the dream where
she had recalled his name. She told him about the hospital and the
evidence she'd uncovered regarding Dr. Kuelman and his murderous track
record at Essex.

He'd been quiet, but his knuckles were white as bone on the steering
wheel and he stared straight ahead into the darkness of the storm as
he drove. She was astonished to see something similar to guilt..to
self-blame on his face.

She didn't even want to know.

When they had reached the guard station at the gate he had wordlessly
pulled out his badge to Gary and the man had taken one look at his
face and waved them through.

"Hurry up.." his voice was strung tight, almost to the point of
breaking.  It was the first thing he had said since he'd asked her to
tell him what had happened.

She could understand his urgency..she was the one who had seen the
numbers..knew that this place was a charnel house thinly disguised as
a hospital. She could only hope that Kuelman didn't work that fast.
After all, she had just seen Jane two days ago.

She snagged a chart off the wall as they blew past a nurse station and
she began to flip through it, scanning names.

"Here." she said finally, pointing at a closed door that sat down the
hall a ways.

Agent Mulder just grabbed the handle and pushed. It was locked, just
as all the doors in this hospital were. Without even thinking, he
flung his shoulder at the door with all his strength.

"Scully!" He cried, his voice a serrated blade.

She blinked at his loss of control ..unmoving only for a moment before
she took off back towards the nurses station.

She recognized the look in his eyes as desperate fury and she knew
there was no way that a) he was going to break down a door designed to
withstand violence..or b) she was going to be able to keep him from
trying.

She grabbed the ring of keys from the recently cowed nurse at the desk
and ran back down the hall towards the man. He was still trying to
break in the door and she could see splotches of red blotting through
the white of his shirt just over his heart.

"Christ almighty!" she snapped at him, stepping in his way and shoving
the keys in his face. "Chill out!"

He paid no attention to her censure and he began to flip through the
keys, trying them one at a time until finally, a click sounded and he
flung the door open.

The scene that greeted them stunned them both to silence.

The room was empty.

++++++

The woman, Dana Katherine Scully, lay on the table, her head gripped
tightly in a vise. This was the most delicate part of the
operation..this was the part where he had lost all the other subjects
who had made it this far. He knew it could succeed, he knew it..he
just had to be so very careful.

His brother's vial lay carefully wrapped in the bottom of the pocket
of his white coat, ready to use if he succeeded this time. He knew
that he would. She had responded so well to everything so far..she'd
come further than over 70% of his other subjects.  This would be the
time, he could feel it in his bones.

The whir of the clippers startled him a little as Penny bent
emotionlessly over the woman to shave the hair away from the area
behind her ear. He watched the coppery locks spilling to the floor,
mesmerized by the brightness of the color..even in the antiseptic
lights of the operating room.  One glossy strand landed on a small
sneaker-clad foot and he looked up to see Howard standing there,
staring at him.

It was appropriate that he had come. He had never come to any of the
others.

He reached to his side and picked up the drill.

+++++++

Linda intercepted an orderly before her new friend slammed him up
against a wall and she discovered that Penny..long known as Kuelman's
senior nurse..had taken the Jane Doe towards the surgery wing.

Surgery. Now her own sense of panic was rising to meet the levels
that the FBI man was already riding on.

Even though he was bleeding profusely now from the wound under his
shirt..the wound over his heart, she could barely keep up with him.

Surgery. God..the names of all the dead that had spooled out of this
place were flashing before her eyes. Almost half of them had suffered
from the ubiquitous 'brain aneurysm'. She had no doubt that Kuelman
had been practicing his theories on them. She had no doubt that Jane
was about to follow the rest of them into the grave.

A bang from ahead told her that Agent Mulder had burst into the first
operating room. She rounded the corner to see him come barreling back
out. She was slightly chilled to see that he now held a gun in his
good hand...his overcoat billowing to the floor behind him as he
shrugged out of it.

He slammed through the next set of swinging doors.

Running up to the room, she would later recall the sweep of the two
panels slowly swooping back and forth with the energy of his passing.

She heard a shout..a sound of horror and fury. Words spit like machine
gun fire. A guttural cry and a high pitched sound..like a drill.

She skidded to a stop in the opening of the room and was in time to
see Dr. Kuelman frantically lowering a drill towards Jane's head.

"No..you don't understand..I have to.." his words were babbling. The
drill bit into the flesh of the woman's scalp. She didn't even see the
FBI agent lower his gun. She only heard the shot.

The doctor spun back, the whirring drill falling from his slackened
grip, turning off as soon as his hand released the button on its
shaft. She saw a stain of red on his smock right at his shoulder..his
face white with shock. He stumbled and fell backwards.

As his eyes slowly rolled up into his head she could have sworn that
she caught a glimpse of a boy..about 11 or 12 years old..standing over
the man. There was an oddly queasy look of triumph in the child's
eyes.

She blinked..and then the boy was gone.

+++++++

Her head hurt.

It was not a headache. The side of her head stung and throbbed,
sending tiny webs of fire out alongside her scalp. The doctor's voice
inside her that had been silent for so long spoke quietly..external
head wound. Minor.

Eyelashes fluttering, she opened sore eyes to see Linda sprawled in
the chair next to her bed, reading a book amusingly titled "How to
Find The Man Of Your Dreams". She couldn't help but grin, blinking
puffy lids.

"He'll find *you*," she croaked. Her voice was raspy and thin..as if
she hadn't used it in a long while. The book dropped to reveal a pair
of startled brown eyes.

"Ja..Dana?" She shut the book with a snap, tossing it on the beside
table. She leaned forward and crossed her arms on her knees. "How do
you feel?"

She closed her eyes at the question. How did she feel? She remembered
everything now. Everything. Even the moments before the doctor had
given her what she had thought was her final injection. She couldn't
stop the crushing sadness she felt that she was somehow still alive.
She'd actually been looking forward to the velvet peace of death. She
wouldn't have had to remember that Mulder was gone.

A terrible ache welled up in her then. It would be so hard. So hard.

She *could* go on without him, that had never been a question. She was
fully aware that he would have expected it of her..and she had always
been one to live up to his expectations. Not because she needed that
validation from him, but because she would be betraying herself if she
wasn't all she could be in his eyes. And her own. It had always been a
theoretical question..one she had dwelt on only in the darkest hours
of the night while he slumbered next to her..because it was always a
possibility in their lives. Always. Death hovered around both of them
and they simply lived each day together..moved purposefully through
the currents and eddies of life, and they accepted that.

Well, it had finally happened. And she was the one left behind this
time. Somehow she had always known that it would be that way. Mulder
simply lived with too much fire in him...too *much*. It was inevitable
that he would flare out of existence like the a cheap firework.

She could sense Linda hovering anxiously at her side.

"I'm ..fine." she said, opening her eyes again..her throat tight with
tears that she would not let flow. God it hurt. It hurt so badly..but
she was..fine. Fine. "I ..remember ..everything." she whispered.

Linda reached out and touched her forehead, a little smile on her face
that said that she didn't understand..couldn't understand her
pain..and that she wouldn't belittle Dana's feelings by pretending
that she did.

"I like your new haircut.." she said. "I'm sure that..on you, all the
gals back in DC will be wanting to go out and shave their heads. You
look like the barbie I had when I was a kid after I found a pair of my
mom's scissors."

She raised her eyebrows.

"What?" The hair comment was secondary. How had Linda known that she
was from DC? Had her hands healed? She glanced down to see her fingers
still wrapped in gauze.

Linda had produced a mirror, misreading her confusion, and she found
herself looking at her brand new Frankenstein appearance. Her hair had
been shaved in a swath on her left side to the top of her skull and
there was a thick bandage covering the skin behind her ear.

She looked at Linda with a frown.

"What the hell happened?" she asked gently fingering the wound and the
baldness. She sort of remembered the needle..she remembered the
Doctor..

The nurse slit her eyes in anger.

"Kuelman has been doing what he did you to people for years here. He's
managed to kill over 400 innocents with his tampering. We haven't
been able to get much out of his nurse..she isn't the sharpest knife
in the drawer. Kuelman's dead , but we're still looking for some
idea of what he was trying to accomplish. The fact that he was
completely insane is the only thing that we know for certain."

Scully twisted her lips and folded her arms..eyes turning hard as the
nurse talked on. The irony that she had escaped one murderer to fall
into the hands of another did not escape her.

"Apparently the bastard was injecting morphine directly into your
Amygdala." Her forehead wrinkled in disgust. "It's a lucky miracle
that he didn't do any really permanent damage to your long term
memory. Dr. Miller has given you several Glucose injections that have
reversed most of the damage, but you might have a hard time recalling
exactly what happened to you over the past few days."

Scully pushed herself into an awkward upright position..needing to
cover up the sudden sting of tears in her eyes, waving off Linda's
attempts to help her. If only it might have erased the memories of
that cold deserted hallway in Baltimore.

Linda put a hand on her shoulder in sympathy.

"I'm ..I'm so sorry that I put you in there...it's entirely my fault
that you're in this condition. I had my suspicions about Essex for
years, but never did anything." Linda turned her face to the side, her
eyes finding a spot on the floor. "I should have realized sooner what
was going on."

Focusing on someone elses pain seemed to dampen her own...helping her
pull her comfortable mask up and over her features. She let her
bandaged hands curl over the nurse's forearm.

"Don't blame yourself for the actions of a madman. You saved me..thank
you."

Linda blinked at her.

"*I* didn't save you...that was your partner."

The words didn't sound real for a moment. They were perfectly
appropriate, of course..she'd heard them so many times, but entirely
impossible.

A sound at the door made her look up and she was taken from confusion
to shock in the span of a millisecond. A hard blink did not dislodge
him from her view. Her hand clenched down on Linda's arm almost
painfully.

He wore a hospital smock and his arm was in a sling. She could see the
telltale bulge of bandages over his heart. Her mouth gently dropped
open. All over, she could feel a tingling in her limbs. It was him. If
she were blind and deaf and half dead she would know it was him.

"Mulder?" her voice was so soft she was certain that only she could
hear it.

Linda had stood.

"What the hell are you doing up?" she asked, her expression darkening
like a thunderhead. Her sharp words directed at the man in the
doorway. "The doctor ordered to stay in bed.."

He didn't pay any attention to Linda whatsoever. His eyes were locked
with hers. He was alive. Oh god. It was..she..she couldn't describe
the feelings that were flooding her body. Somehow they had both done
it again.

One bandaged hand rose of its own volition..stretching towards him.

Linda was forgotten and Scully didn't even notice the door shut gently
behind the woman.

"Scully.." his voice was so thin.

And then he was there, kneeling by her bedside, his face in her lap,
his good arm clutching her to him so tightly she could hardly take a
full breath.

She was running her hands through the silk of his hair, across the
too-thin shoulders, convincing herself that he was real, that he was
whole. She saw tears of his own wetting his cheeks and she suddenly
tore the bandages off her hands so that she could feel him under her
scabbed fingertips, filling the sensitive skin of her palms with his
cheek.. running over his lips, his delicate eyelids..the soft skin of
his throat.

She could feel his warm hands on her sides, slipping up her back and
curling over her thin shoulders..stroking down her arms. His lips were
at her cheek, her ear, her eyes..her mouth. He was real. He was alive.

Sobbing almost painfully, she curled herself into his embrace and let
herself listen to the beautiful, simple music of his heartbeat.

Again.

Again, death retreated to its corner..still there, still hovering. But
cheated once again.

++++

++++++++
Epilogue
++++++++

Linda stamped her feet wearily at the entryway, ridding her boots of
excess snow. Really, next year she was moving to California. Really.

She tucked the box up under her arm more firmly and headed for the
elevator, humming tunelessly. Slipping inside she hit her floor and
leaned back against the dimly polished steel of the wall. Winter
notwithstanding, it was a good day. Her meeting with the Hospital
Director had gone better than well. Impressed with her initiative and
actions regarding what was now called a "Terrible Tragedy", she'd
gotten a promotion to Head Nurse of the ICU and a hefty raise and
bonus. Lots to smile about.

The elevator dinged on the third floor and she stepped out with a
spring to her step. She would buy a big TV, she decided. She'd always
wanted one of those things. Not like she had time to watch it, but
Wonderbread would appreciate the new place to sleep.

She knocked lightly on the door nearest to the nurse's station and was
rewarded with a light voice calling her to enter.

She stepped inside, peering at the occupant and her unauthorized
visitor.
 

"Can't you stay in your damned bed?" she asked a little sharply,
frowning at the escapee.

He shrugged.

"I got bored." Fox Mulder was sitting in a chair next to Dana Scully's
bedside, his bare feet propped up on the edge of the bed, clicking
through the channels the hospital offered methodically. He had what
looked like a box of candy open in his lap and he was going through
them ..breaking them open one by one..apparently hunting for something
specific.

Dana was sitting up in bed, eyeing him almost indulgently, a pretty
yellow and brown scarf tied around her forehead..hiding the bandages
and the shaving.

"You know Mulder, my mom sent those for me." Dana said, frowning at
him as he went through the box systematically.

"And you can have 'em." he said, setting the box of massacred
chocolates on her lap. "None of them are the good kind."

She sighed and pushed the candy aside, her eyes lighting on the box
that Linda was carrying.

"What's that?" she asked, curious. Linda could see that she'd managed
to attract her partner's attention as well. First things first.

She pulled the newpaper off the top of the box, tossing it down onto
Dana's knees.

"Thought you'd want to see the attention you got." she said. The
front page of the New Jersey Tribune had her badge Id photo on the
front page alongside a distance shot of Essex. The headline read
"Madman Uncovered In Decade Long Murder Spree".

Dana's eyebrows rose.

"Do they mention you at all?" she murmered, her eyes scanning the
article.

Linda shrugged, still not smiling.

"A few times. This is the part you should read.." she pointed to the
second to last paragraph. Both the woman and her partner pointed
their eyes where she indicated.

'...following the subsequent rescue and treatment of the FBI agent,
Sheriff Lloyd Parker was suspended without pay from his postition
when a reporter took note of the missing woman's photo pinned to the
bulletin board in the Police Station. Apparently neither he nor his
men checked the 'Missing Persons' board, even when they were
confronted with a woman they could not ID..."

Dana's eyes rose to meet her partner's..and to Linda's surprise, they
both began to chuckle. The nurse shook her head, clearly they were
both too tired to be as furious as they ought to be. She set the box
down on the foot of the bed and opened the flaps.

"Hey, my jacket.." Mulder exclaimed, then stopped with a frown as
Dana's face went suddenly blank. She pulled the jacket out of the box
and slowly  buried her face in it.

Mulder shifted onto the bed suddenly, his good arm coming around her,
his brow creased in a frown.

Even in her pain, Dana Scully seemed grounded..strong..when her
partner was at her side. She hadn't realized until she'd seen them
together, that the people she had known so briefly before were mere
shadows of their selves. They became whole in each other's presence.

She had talked to the woman earlier yesterday and the redhead had
confessed that she had not yet spoken to her partner about her
experience with her kidnapper.. or at the hospital. Not like she'd
told Linda anything either..and, frankly,  she had no desire to
know. She didn't want nightmares for the rest of her life. The door
into the dark lives that these two led was one she wanted to remain
firmly shut.

Suddenly Dana was putting the jacket back in the box and pulling out
the last thing that Linda had placed in there.

Frowning, she lifted up a thick manila folder that had been closed
with several straining rubber bands. Her partner's arm dropped from
her shoulder to lean in closer so he could see what it was.

"Kuelman's notes." She explained. "I figured you might want them.
They're just copies of course..but the investigators found them
yesterday night in a hidden drawer in his desk. They explain what he
thought he was doing." She folded her arms and shook her head, going
on.

"He was trying to place what he thought was the essence of his
murdered brother Howard into someone else. He was positive that he
could transplant *memories* and therefore identity out of one person
and into another. He honestly though the ECF fluid he had extracted
from his little brother in the '40s would bring the kid back to
life..in you. All the other people he killed in some stage of the
process of trying to blank out the neural pathways that memory is
stored in. He was certifiably insane. Claims he saw his brother all
the time."

Linda didn't dare mention the little boy she'd thought *she'd* seen in
the operating room. These agents would think she was as crazy as
Kuelman was.

"He thought he could take memories out of one person and put them
another?" Agent Mulder seemed oddly fascinated. "I'm not even sure
that works in *theory*."

"This guy was nutso, Mr. Mulder." Linda said, cranking her mouth to
one side. "I mean he killed his little brother...suffocated him and
drove a goddamned needle into his brain. You shouldn't look for reason
from him, Agent Mulder."

She thought she saw Dana roll her eyes as she snapped the rubber bands
aside and began shuffling through the doctor's notes.

"I saw that look.." Mulder said, his notable lower lip pouting out
just slightly.

"What look?" Dana asked innocently, rifling through the papers with a
little smile on her lips. It was the first evidence of a real smile
that Linda had seen on the woman's lips since she'd first laid eyes on
her.

That settled that. Dana would be fine.

She watched them sitting on the bed for a moment, their heads bent
close together over the notes..arguing quietly over different portions
with comfortable ease.

And it was only a moment or two later when Dana began to talk quietly.
Linda knew she was telling a story that did not start with a 'Once
Upon A Time', but ..for now...did have a happy ending.

She backed slowly out of the room, letting them talk it out, letting
Dana slowly spill the fear and the loneliness that living with no
identity had imbued her with, in private. Letting her share it with
the other half of herself so that she would never be that alone again.

Closing the door quietly behind her, she went to find the duty nurse
to tell her to give room 312 a little privacy for a while.

At least as long as it took to relate a tale of lost and found
memories. And when Dana was through, she suspected that her partner
would have a story to tell of his own.
 

END