Title: Circles

Author: The VS10 Producers: Vickie Moseley, Susan Proto, Sally Bahnsen, Theresa Jahn, Dawn Zemke, Suzanne Bickerstaffe, and dtg

Category: Mytharc

Keywords: case file

Archive: Two weeks exclusively on the IMTP VS10 site.
After that, please ask.


by The VS10 Producers


* * * * *


Scully Residence
December 27,1993

Maggie Scully slipped the key into the lock, opened
the door and went inside, deftly side-stepping the
neatly stacked boxes that lay just inside the foyer.
Pine and cinnamon scented the air, stirring up old
familiar memories of brightly wrapped Christmas gifts
and saucer-eyed children. She understood perfectly
her daughter's propensity for trying to make
Christmas last a little bit longer. The best times
were always far too short.

In the moonlit shadows, Maggie could just make out
the Christmas tree standing in a corner of the living
room, stripped bare of all its finery. Tall and
green, its pine needles were still as fresh as the
day they'd hauled it through the front door.
Regardless, its stay in the Scully household was
over. Bill was never one to linger over silly
sentimentalities. He was never able to shed the
batten-down-the-hatches all-hands-on-deck attitude he
needed to captain a ship. Not even at home. And his
family knew, that come the day after Christmas, the
tree was history.

Maggie sighed audibly, her mood still troubled after
their abrupt departure from her daughter's home. She
had expected to stay and talk awhile before hitting
the road. After all it was a rare occurrence these
days for the three of them to be together, and she
knew Dana had made a special effort with their meal
tonight. Maggie shook her head. Even as an adult,
Dana was still eager to impress her father, still
seeking his approval.

Tonight, Maggie had hoped that her husband would
finally give their daughter the encouragement she
craved. They'd discussed it on the way over, and she
thought that Bill would make the effort to tell Dana
he was proud of her, despite his wish that she pursue
a career in medicine.

When he'd failed to take the hint, she could have
shaken him. Her frustration flared to life again and
she turned to her husband, unable to hold her tongue
any longer, "Bill, we talked about this. Dana needs
to hear the words. She believes you disapprove of her
career choice--"

"And she'd be right…"


"Now, hold your horses, Maggie. Disapproving of Dana
joining the FBI does not equate to lack of pride in
her successes. "

"Then you should tell her…"

"Dana knows how I feel." Captain Scully shrugged out
of his coat and peeled the scarf from around his
neck. He hung both items on the wooden coat tree
beside the door.

Maggie stood with hands on hips. "How?"

"She's my daughter." Bill Scully gave his wife an
affectionate wink. "Now, how about that cup of coffee
you promised me."

"Bill..." Maggie's argument was cut short by the
sharp trill of a telephone.

A brief look of surprise crossed the captain's face;
he checked his watch and glanced at this wife, "I'll
take it in the den." He lifted his hand to his mouth,
mimicking the act of drinking from a cup and mouthed
the word, "Coffee?" Then, turning on his heel headed
towards the den, the sound of the telephone loud and
demanding at that late hour.

Bastard! "Pigheaded son-of-a…" Maggie cut herself off
before the fruits of being married to a naval officer
became all too apparent.

So, he was expecting a phone call from the base.
That's why the big rush to get home. Asshole! She
stomped into the kitchen, more in the mood to prepare
a cyanide cocktail than a pot of coffee. Not only had
he hurried to get home for work reasons, but he'd
blown her off when she tried to talk about Dana.

She set about making the coffee, her movements jerky
with the suppressed desire to throttle her husband.
While the coffee was brewing, she leaned against the
countertop in silent fury. *Don't think this is over,
Bill. I'm not done with this topic of conversation

"Uh, huh." Bill sat with one hip propped on the
corner of his desk, phone tucked tight into his ear.
Months of investigation were finally coming to
fruition and this was the phone call that would drop
the last piece of the puzzle into place. He hadn't
told Maggie what had been going on at work; he hadn't
wanted her worrying unnecessarily. One more vital
piece of information and it should all be over.

"Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes."

Bill shifted the receiver to his other hand and
grabbed a notebook and pencil from the desktop. He
listened intently as the officer on the other end of
the phone gave a brief summary of the day's progress.
They finally had a name to go with the man they'd
been seeking.

Leaning the notepad on his thigh, he held the pencil
poised, ready to write. "Who?"

The answer hit him like a bullet, swift and painful.
"That's...not possible..."

Maggie added two teaspoons of sugar to her husband's
cup, and cream to her own. A few deep breaths and a
self-administered pep talk had calmed her slightly.
She knew how stubborn Bill could be at times and she
usually just let it ride. But on occasion... She
smiled to herself, suddenly amused at how the same
qualities that had first attracted her to him, the
ones she'd found so endearing—- his strength and
sense of order—- were the same things that could
drive her to distraction on a bad day. She sighed to
herself. Nothing like a good cup of coffee to begin
peace negotiations.

A quick stir with the teaspoon and Maggie headed back
to her husband.

Being careful not to spill the hot liquid, she pushed
the door open with her hip and entered, "Bill I..."

The crash of porcelain hitting the floor echoed
through her head as time seemed to slow down to a
frustrating crawl. "Bill! What's wrong?"

Maggie stood frozen in place, her feet suddenly heavy
and uncooperative. She stared in horror as her
husband took a couple of staggering steps toward her,
both hands clutching at his chest. He opened his
mouth as if to speak, but his face crumbled into a
grimace of agony and Bill Scully sank to his knees.

Motor neurons suddenly kicked into life, sending
vital messages to Maggie's numbed senses. She ran to
her husband, wrapped her arms around his shoulders
and lowered him onto his side. "Oh, my god! Bill!"

The handset lay on the floor beside him. She snatched
it up and held it to her ear. "H-hello. I need…"
But there was no one there. With trembling fingers
she hit 911 and waited to be connected.


Act I

Nine years later
FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC
Monday, 3:04 PM

The forecast had called for scattered showers so, of
course, it was pouring. The dampness seemed to seep
in everywhere, cling to one's clothing, and make
squeaking sounds on linoleum as people carefully
navigated the hallways with wet shoes.

Mulder rarely saw his partner on a bad hair day, but
weather like this seemed to wreak particular havoc on
her. She'd clasped the unruly strands in a tight
ponytail at the nape of her neck in an attempt to
regain control, but the humidity seemed to be

As he tapped on the door to Skinner's office, he
smiled down at her, receiving the expected smirk in
response. She was still fussing with the sleeves of
her blazer, which were probably still damp. Her
umbrella had snapped open on her in the office,
splattering both her clothes and all the papers on
his desk.

A grumbling "come in" sounded from the other side of
the door, and they entered. Skinner was at his desk,
paging through the contents of a file folder that
Mulder guessed was the case they were about to

"I'll be with you in a moment," he said without
looking up.

They took their customary seats, and waited. The
water trickling down the window behind Skinner served
well as a distraction during several minutes of
silence. A gust of wind blew large, full droplets
against the pane. It made them thankful they were in
a warm, dry place, even if it was Skinner's office.

Mulder studied him patiently, his superior tapping
short fingernails on clean white pages. He glanced at
his partner, receiving a shrug in response. Skinner
closed the folder and sat back in his seat. His mood
was unreadable.

"I have a missing person case for you." He slid the
folder across the desk to Scully. "Greta Wilson
disappeared a few days ago in Clayville, New Jersey.
Certain aspects of the case would seem to fit your
particular area of expertise."

Scully opened the folder, holding it so Mulder could
read over her shoulder. She looked up almost
immediately. "*Crop circles*?"

Mulder knew the look Skinner was getting. He'd been
on the receiving end of it a few times himself.

The A.D. shrugged. "It could be a hoax, one made to
look like an alien abduction, but the fact remains
that a woman is missing. And there have been similar
cases over the past several years that we've only
just now found out about. They were never reported or

"All in the same town?" Mulder jumped in.

"Yes. The previous women were all returned safely and
refused to press charges. Arthur Wilson is the first
to take any action, but he hasn't received any help
from local law enforcement. I want to know why."

Mulder could sense Scully tensing up. Her thumb
pressed a wrinkle into the manila folder. "Sir, it's
not that I don't want to help Mr. Wilson, but I still
fail to see why this is an X-file."

Mulder gently took the folder away from his partner
before she folded it into an origami pattern. His own
interest was definitely piqued, but he knew that
Scully was far from convinced.

"Why would the other abductees have refused to report
the crime?" he wondered aloud.

Scully shot him a sharp glare for his terminology.
She addressed Skinner directly then. "They could have
become enamored of their kidnapper. Perhaps this guy
is very charming. Once they were returned, they may
have wanted to protect him. It's a common reaction to
the experience. You should know that, Mulder."

Skinner shared a silent acknowledgement with Scully
as Mulder rifled trough the report.

"But crop circles to cover it up, Scully? It's seems
like overkill. Why would he create a distraction if
he's already won them over enough to keep quiet?" He
noticed she was still staring at Skinner, not wanting
to listen to him.

"I know this has some sensitive subject matter for
you both," Skinner remarked quietly. "But, I do think
you two are best suited for the job. And, I'm sorry
to say, I agree with Mulder. We need an investigation
here and somebody has to help Mr. Wilson and his
family. We can't leave a citizen stranded like that.
Plus," he leaned back in his chair, "it seems we need
to jump start the local PD into some action."

Scully looked very much as if she had more to say,
but instead, she nodded and stood up. Mulder quickly
followed suit. She glanced back at him over her
shoulder as she headed for the door. "I'll go home
and pack, Mulder. You see about a car."

He traded looks with Skinner and started after her.
"One bureau-issue Taurus, coming right up."


New Jersey Route 55
8:40 PM

Scully was MIA. Distracted, pensive, she'd spent the
majority of the trip gazing out the window at
nothing. Mulder's attempts at any of the distractions
they normally enjoyed on long car rides had fallen
flat. Truth or Dare, Watercooler Trivia-- even My
Favorite Mutant-- were all met with polite
disinterest. She didn't seem to be angry with him,
she was just... someplace else.

He shifted his grip on the steering wheel and glanced
over at her, trying to catch her eye. When, after
several minutes, it became clear she was completely
oblivious to the overture, he sighed.

"Talk to me, Scully."

She jerked a bit, pulling her gaze reluctantly from
the window to focus on his face. The dim interior was
lit briefly as they passed under a streetlight, and
he saw the faint creases marring her pale brow.

"About the case?"

"About why the case is bothering you."

Her forehead smoothed and she huffed a little laugh,
but not before he caught the guarded look in her
eyes. "Mulder, the only thing bothering me about this
case is that we're investigating it in the first
place. It's a waste of our time." She shook her head.
"Crop circles."

"Bullshit." He gritted his teeth, clamping down on
his irritation. The days of accepting "I'm fine,
Mulder" were over. They were past that, damn it.
"This isn't professional differences over a case,
Scully. Something's been eating at you ever since
Skinner handed us that folder. Is it your own
abduction? Is this hitting a little too close to

Her lips compressed to a thin, bloodless line. "I was
kidnapped, Mulder. By Duane Barry, not aliens. Those
responsible for my disappearance, for the tests
performed on me, were very human." She looked away,
jaw clenched. "Physiologically, anyway."

His angry retort stalled as he caught a glimpse of
her trembling hands. Mulder took a long slow breath
and gentled his tone. "I know. I'm not discounting
the possibility that these women might have suffered
the same experience. Either way, it warrants further

He paused, realizing she'd somehow neatly steered the
conversation from its original purpose. "After all
you've been through... It's understandable that this
case might push some buttons for you, Scully."

"I'm all right."

Something inside him snapped. His grip on the
steering wheel turned white-knuckled. "You aren't all
right! Why is it so hard to admit that to me, Scully?
Why do you always have to be the strong one, so
perfectly in control? I love you, damn it! All of
you. God knows, I'm a basket case often enough. Do
you think less of me because of it?" He tore his eyes
from her and concentrated grimly on the road, voice
little more than a whisper. "Maybe you do."

"Pull over."

It wasn't what he expected. A startled glance at her
face revealed little as he cautiously guided the car
onto the shoulder and flipped on the hazard lights.
He shifted into park with more force than necessary
and waited, glaring at the windshield.

"You know that's not true."

He blinked at the undercurrent of emotion in her
voice. Still unwilling to let go of his frustration,
he turned to study her face. The pure, undiluted love
there dried up the remainder of his anger.

"You're right. But sometimes, Scully. Sometimes it
feels that way."

"I'm sorry." She tangled their fingers together but
turned to look out the window. "I was raised by an
officer in the United States Navy, Mulder. In a
household run with military precision. Logic,
self-control, discipline--those were qualities my
father prized above all others." A tiny smile curved
her cheek. "A Scully doesn't fall to pieces under
pressure, doesn't give in to displays of emotion.
She holds her head high, rides it out." A slight
pause and she squeezed his hand. "It's not easy to
overcome twenty-one years of conditioning."

Mulder lifted their joined hands, brushing his lips
across her knuckles. He tipped his head, one corner
of his mouth turning up. "You've been there for me
during some of the darkest days in my life. I'd like
to return the favor now and then."

She swallowed; blinked. When she spoke her voice was
wispy. "I'd like that, too." She licked her lips. "I
was being truthful when I said I was fine with this
case, Mulder. But I can't say it hasn't caused a
few unpleasant memories to resurface."

"Is that where you were just now?" At her questioning
look, he added, "You've been quiet and distracted
since we left. You may be physically in this car, but
mentally you're miles away."

"I guess I was thinking about the women and what they
may have endured. You know, whether the kidnapper is
human or extraterrestrial doesn't really change the
sense of powerlessness, of complete dependence on the
whim of your captor. The violation of your mind as
well as your body." Her gaze turned distant,
contemplative. "Regaining some semblance of control,
even if only over the memories, means everything."

"Are you saying you think that may be why the women
never involved the police?"

"It's possible. Better to forget than dredge it up
over and over again. Reliving an experience may
eventually bring healing, but it's a painful process.
Too painful, for some." She seemed to shake herself
out of a daze. Her eyes dipped to the dashboard clock
and she squared her shoulders. "We'd better get

He nodded and reached for the gearshift. "I have the
feeling Skinner's going to be keeping tabs on this

"You might try to remember that when you're dealing
with the local boys." A hint of a smile curved
Scully's lips, affection replacing preoccupation.
"And just for the record, Mulder? I love you, too."

He grinned smugly and shifted into drive. "I know."

Thirty minutes later they pulled into the parking lot
of The Ambassador, a motel that had little to warrant
the grandeur of its name. Mulder was whistling when
he returned from checking them in, a Cheshire cat
smile on his face. He slid behind the wheel,
jiggling two large plastic key rings in her

"Rooms 28 and 29, right around the corner. Two double
beds and a king, respectively." He jockeyed the car
into a parking spot in front of the two doors and
waggled his eyebrows. "Wonder which room will be
seeing the most action?"

Scully rolled her eyes and got out of the car. "You
said it yourself, Mulder. Skinner will probably be
monitoring this investigation more closely than

Mulder popped the trunk and handed over her suitcase.
"What's your point? It's not like we're still in the
closet, after all. Skinner's known for months that
we've been doing the horizontal mambo." He leaned
into her space conspiratorially. "Scully, the man
gave us a gift voucher to a sleazy motel. I consider
that his blessing."

She gave him the look--the one that left him feeling
like an errant toddler. "We've been over this,
Mulder. What we do on our own time, and what we do
while we're on the clock are two very different
situations." She plucked the key to 28 from his hand
and headed for the door. "You can have the king."

"Sculleee! When we're sleeping we are on our own
time." Hearing the whine in his voice did little to
dispel the toddler image. He shut the trunk and gave
it one more try. "It's conservation of resources,
Scully. Less water wasted washing sheets, less
manpower expended cleaning the room..."

She disappeared into 28 without a backward glance and
the door shut firmly behind her. Mulder hefted his
suitcase with a longsuffering sigh.

"God, I hope they have cable."

Before he'd taken three steps the door opened and
Scully's head popped out. This time she was the one
with the Cheshire cat grin.

"I had you, Mulder. Big time."

* * *

Clayville Municipal Hall
Tuesday, 8:45 am

Mulder parked the car at a metered spot just a few
yards from the door of the Municipal Building. The
city fathers and mothers of Clayville had obviously
received some nice grant money or a fat real estate
tax increase, because the building before them was
very new, sporting a cornerstone dated 2001.

Mulder waited for Scully to join him on the
sidewalk, placing his hand at the small of her back.
"So, how do you want to play this? Good agent/bad
agent or 'I'm from the Government, I'm here to
help you'?" he asked with boyish grin.

"Mulder, Skinner made it clear that the local police
weren't interested in our being here. I say we play
it straight, ask as many questions as they'll answer
without giving us any bull and continue on our

"Oh goody! I get to be bad agent this time," he
responded gleefully.

"I can't take you anywhere," Scully said with a
deep sigh as he opened the door for her.

Inside the building it was warm and bright and still
held the aroma of new carpeting and freshly brewed
coffee. A glass partition separated the visitors from
the woman sitting at the desk, immensely engrossed
in the latest Harlequin Romance. Mulder wiggled
his eyebrows down in Scully's direction and
approached the glass, bending so he could speak
through the metal filter.

"Excuse me, I'm Special Agent Mulder with the
FBI and this is my partner, Agent Scully. We're
here to see Chief Donaldson." To prove his identity,
Mulder pulled out his wallet, gold badge catching the
overhead lights and reflecting back off the glass

The woman held up an index finger to either signal
a pause or check for wind direction, Mulder wasn't
certain which, and proceeded to wait until she
reached the bottom of the page before turning her
attention to the two agents. With exaggerated
slowness, she put the book aside and smiled up at
them. "Sorry, Chief Donaldson's out of the office
until Tuesday. I can leave a message," she suggested,
pulling over a pad of scrap paper.

Mulder smiled tightly. "No, I'm afraid we need to
speak with someone sooner than next week. Is it
possible to speak with the second in command?"

A frown replaced the woman's feigned helpful
smile. "Deputy Chief Ambrose is out sick. Sorry."

Mulder bit his upper lip and felt his blood pressure
rise a few notches. Scully unobtrusively put a hand
on his arm and took a step closer to the glass. "Is
there anyone here we could speak with regarding a
missing person's case?" she asked sweetly.

The woman's blank stare lasted a full minute. Just
when Mulder was about ready to take out his weapon
and see if the glass was indeed bulletproof, the
woman reached over to the phone on her desk and
quickly dialed a number. "Jeff, there are two FBI
agents out here. Can I send 'em back to you? They
want to know about a missing persons case."

A few seconds of silence filled the air, the woman
picked at a hangnail. "I know, but everybody else is
gone. Looks like you get the sticky end of the
lollipop, buddy," she said with a sarcastic smirk.
She hung up the phone and looked up at Mulder with
undisguised distaste. "He'll be right up." She then
picked up her book and found her place again.

In short order a well dressed young man opened a
side door and waved Mulder and Scully in to the
inner office. He turned on his heel and led them
through a maze of standard office cubicles to the
last one. Grabbing a chair from the cubicle next
door, he set it down and motioned for the two agents
to take a seat. Finally he looked at his visitors.

"I'm Jeff Harrison. What did you want to ask about?"
he said. Mulder noted that the greeting did not
include the customary offer of a handshake and was
relieved. He wasn't sure if he could shake the man's
hand. His neck, maybe, but a hand might require too
much self-control.

"Detective Harrison," Scully started, noting her
partner's bright red flush of anger. "We're here to
help with the investigation into Greta Wilson's
disappearance. Her husband contacted our office..."

"Domestic dispute," Harrison said shortly.

"Excuse me?" Scully asked, tilting her head.

"Domestic dispute. Happens all the time. A married
couple fights all the time in the city, gets this
idea that they need a change of scenery and move to
the sticks, but he keeps beatin' on her or she keeps
cheatin' on him. Sooner or later one of them has
their fill of it and runs off. It's not a missing
persons case."

"Is that what happened the other times?" Mulder asked
coolly. Scully noted the air in the room had dropped
twenty degrees just from the sound of his voice.

Harrison looked dumbfounded. "I don't know what
you're talking about," he said, nervously shuffling
papers on his desk. "What other times?"

"You said 'it happens all the time'. We've received
information that other women have gone missing, but
they returned. Are you saying those were 'beatin'
and/or cheatin' situations as well?" Mulder leaned
back in his chair and crossed his legs. Scully
instinctively sat forward, watching every move the
detective made.

"Miscommunication. Notes get mislaid, messages aren't
written down. You can look at our records. We don't
have any official reports of missing persons."

"Except Greta Wilson, right? Her husband reported her
missing two days ago. As of late yesterday, he'd not
heard anything from your department," Mulder said,
leaning forward now, resting his elbows on his knees.

"Look, if you're accusing this department of . . ."

"I'll take it from here, Jeff." A tall man with dark
curly hair, receding just a touch at the temples,
filled the doorway of the cubicle. "I'm Chief
Donaldson. Is there anything I can help you with?"

Scully noted that the young man looked extremely
relieved to have slipped off the hook. She turned
her attention to Chief Donaldson. The agents stood
and Mulder again pulled out his badge, flashing it at
the Chief.

"Chief, we heard you were out until next Tuesday,"
Mulder remarked innocently. When his comment received
no reaction other than a stern glare from the Chief,
he continued. "I'm Agent Mulder with the FBI. My
partner, Agent Scully," he said, turning slightly
toward her. "We're attempting to get some information
on the disappearance of Greta Wilson."

Donaldson nodded. "Let's talk in my office," he said.
"Thanks, Jeff. Go see if Gracie needs any help

Scully scowled as the young man headed in the
opposite direction. "He's not a detective?"

"Who said he was a detective? He's a file clerk,"
Donaldson replied curtly. Scully's blood pressure
reached the boiling point just as Mulder's had.

Once in Donaldson's office, Mulder noted there was
only one chair for visitors. When the Chief made
no effort to obtain another, both agents stood. "Has
there been any progress on the investigation?"
Mulder asked, frustration coloring his tone.

Donaldson seated himself at his desk, then made a
few keystrokes on his computer. "Let's see,
Ambrose took the statement just yesterday,
contacted her former employer, they haven't answered
back—looks like no progress at this time." He looked
up at Mulder and smiled. "You know, it's very

"That this was a domestic dispute and she just ran
off with her boyfriend?" Mulder supplied
sarcastically. "At least that was the 'official
opinion' of your file clerk! Chief, I get the feeling
that your department really isn't taking this
disappearance very seriously."

Donaldson bristled, a flush coming to his cheeks
that matched the red in Mulder's eyes. "Look, this
isn't New York. When someone goes missing, a child or
someone like that, we take it seriously. But I'm not
going to waste manpower chasing after some Eva Gabor
wannabe who's decided she doesn't like the Green
Acres as much as her husband tried to convince her
she would. That's their business and they'd do best
to leave law enforcement out of it, so we can
concentrate on some real crimes."

"There have been other occurrences," Mulder said
through gritted teeth. "Were those ignored as well?"

Donaldson narrowed his eyes to mere slits. "There
have been no official reports. Now, if you don't
mind, I do have other business to attend to."

"Chief, if I need to subpoena you and drag you before
a Grand Jury for obstruction of justice, I'll do
that. Have there been other occurrences where people
have gone missing?"

It looked like a Mexican standoff, but Donaldson
was the first to blink. "Over the years, there have
been a few knee jerk reports. But the women turned
up safe and sound and every last one of them refused
to discuss it. Their husbands took them back,
probably to save their marriages and we just dropped
the investigations for lack of evidence. That is all
I have to say on the matter. Now, I'll ask you
nicely, remove yourselves from this office or I

Without a word, the two agents left the office and
the building. Out on the sidewalk, Mulder stopped
and looked back toward the door, pulling a few
seeds out of his trench coat pocket and popping
them in his mouth. "Bet he's never been invited to
the National Organization of Women's fundraising
luncheon," he grinned over at Scully. Scully shook
her head, but couldn't keep the grin off her face. It
faded as soon as they were settled in the car.

"So why would every one of those women refuse to
make a statement? Are they willing to buy into the
'cheatin' heart explanation?" Mulder asked as he
started the engine and backed out of the parking

"Most of them probably don't remember what happened
to them, Mulder," Scully said quietly, staring out
the passenger side window. "And the ones who do
probably don't want to."

He reached over and found her hand on her lap,
squeezing it gently. "Scully, I know this is really

"Mulder, I'm not ready to assume alien abduction,
or even military abduction," Scully said, pulling her
hand away and crossing her arms. "Maybe there's
something else here. Maybe it could be as simple
as a domestic dispute." At his disapproving glance,
she dropped her eyes. "I just don't want to jump on
the alien bandwagon until we find more evidence of
their involvement."

Mulder stopped at the red light at the corner and
turned to look at her. "But you aren't dismissing it
out of hand," he offered, an affectionate smile on
his face.

She let a grin steal across her lips. "Mulder, after
all these years, I know better than to dismiss
anything out of hand. Now, let's go over and talk to
Mr. Wilson. Maybe he can give us some insight
into this."

"Yes ma'am!"

* * *

Act II

Wilson residence
Clayville, N.J.
9:30 AM

"Arthur Wilson?" Mulder asked as he pulled out his
ID. Upon seeing Wilson's nod, Mulder introduced
himself and Scully. "May we come in, sir?" When the
man failed to respond in either word or deed, Mulder
added, "Please? Or we're going to need life jackets
soon, Mr. Wilson."

Mulder's words shook Wilson out of his trance, and he
stepped aside quickly. "Sorry," he muttered, closed
the door, and then led them into the living room.
"Will you help me? Please," he pleaded, "I don't
understand why she's still missing. This makes no

"Mr. Wilson, what doesn't make sense?" asked Scully.

"That she's still missing. I mean, first of all
there's been no one looking for her. Can you imagine
that? The cops keep telling me there's nothing they
can do about it. Of course that was after they'd
asked me about my marriage and whether me and the
little missus were having any problems," the
distraught man's voice began to escalate. "If Greta
ever heard herself referred to as the 'little missus'
you can be sure there'd be hell to pay. The woman has
a brown belt in karate. Who the hell do they think
they're dealing with here, Ma and Pa Kettle?" ranted
Wilson, the anger in his voice becoming more evident
with each passing syllable.

"Have you spoken to your neighbors?" asked Scully.

"I tried, but every time I've gone over to try and
talk with them, the housekeeper or the nanny answers
and they refuse to speak with me."

"Well, what about the police? Have they tried to -"
began Scully.

"- Agent Scully, do you have any idea of what I've
been dealing with here?" Arthur Wilson asked angrily.
"They keep trying to convince me that she ran away
with her lover from New York. They haven't lifted a
finger to try and find her. Not one damn thing!"

"Mr. Wilson," Mulder said softly, "is there any
possibility that the police department's assumptions
might have some validity to them?"

"No." Wilson answered quickly, and though the agents
gave some consideration to the swiftness of the
response, both concluded it was due not to
bitterness, but rather to confidence in his beliefs.
"None whatsoever, " he continued. "The thing that's
getting me so pissed off is that they won't lift a
finger to try and find her. God knows who the hell
has her!"

"You think she's being held against her will?"
interjected Scully. "On what evidence do you make
that assumption?"

"Well, if she weren't being held against her will,
she'd be back by now! I'm telling you - someone's got

"Okay, sir, I think it would be best to start from
the beginning," suggested Mulder in a quiet, non-
threatening manner.

"I've already told the police everything I know."

"Yes, but given the amount of support the local PD
has been giving you of late, it might be best to
start over with us," Mulder said.

"Yeah, of course." He drew a deep breath, blew it
out, and then took a moment to take a good look at
the two strangers who stood before him. "Christ,
almighty, you're sopping wet. You want something hot
to drink? Tea or coffee, or something?" he asked,
suddenly contrite.

"Actually, a cup of coffee sounds pretty good at the
moment," Mulder admitted. Scully couldn't help but

"C'mon, let's go into the kitchen. I've got a pot
going round the clock."

Wilson led the partners down the long center corridor
of the colonial home. They entered the large kitchen
where Wilson pointed to the oversized island for the
agents to plant themselves. He grabbed the coffee pot
and three mugs and clanked them softly down onto the
faux marble counter top.

"Nice place," remarked Mulder. "How long have you
been here?"

"Not all that long. We moved here from New York two,
no I guess now it's almost three months ago. I'd just
gotten a promotion with my company, so my sales
territory grew by a few hundred miles. We figured
with the additional traveling, it was better for us
to be more centrally located to my clients. So, here
we are in good old Clayville, New Jersey," he said
with a sigh.

"You don't seem to be very enthusiastic, Mr. Wilson,"
observed Scully.

"Forgive me, Agent Scully, for not exactly being
enamored with a place that's all but told me that the
fact my wife has been missing for over 72 hours is
not their concern."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Wilson; of course that's
understandable." Scully paused for a moment,
wondering if she should push. She decided the need
for information was paramount. "You mentioned your
wife has a brown belt in karate. What other interests
does she have?"

"My wife loves reading - damn, she's voracious, you
know? She can read two and three books at one time. I
know I never could do that - too damned confusing for

Scully smiled and looked over at her partner briefly.
Greta Wilson certainly reminded her of someone she
both knew and loved. "I know what you mean, sir. I'm
a one-book-woman myself." She smiled, and then gently
asked the question that was upper-most on her mind.
"Mr. Wilson, was your wife happy about your moving to

"Yeah, Agent Scully, as a matter of fact she was. It
was a mutual decision that we figured would benefit
both of us. Greta is this A-type personality, you
know? She was a bank officer at one of the largest
banks in Manhattan and working these ridiculous
hours. Everything you heard about so-called banker's
hours is bull; she put in ten and twelve hour days

"Well, when I got the promotion and the extra money
that went with it, we decided now was the time to try
and start a family. We decided that Greta would be a
stay-at-home mom. And yes, Agent Scully, that was a
mutual decision, too. Greta didn't want to watch our
child grow up via the video camera. So, she's taken a
leave of absence from a job that she doesn't plan on
returning to, and we've been trying to conceive."

Mulder gave Scully a quick glance. She returned it
with a small smile to let him know she was okay with
the subject matter. One of these days she was going
to have to have a serious talk with her partner about
his protectiveness.

"So, you moved here and while you traveled, Greta set
up house?" asked Mulder.

"Yeah. Well, she tried." Arthur smiled, but fatigue
cramped its full effect. "Greta was a helluva loan
officer, but she was not exactly June Cleaver. We
finally called in a decorator to help put the place
together. We'd been living in a pretty small
apartment in Queens, New York, so we had a lot of
empty rooms to fill in this house. It was driving
Greta crazy, so we hired someone to decorate and get
everything ordered and arranged. Fortunately, we had
a nice little nest egg from living in that small
Queens apartment, so we could afford that luxury."

"The house looks lovely," said Scully.

"Thanks. Now if Greta could only come home to enjoy

"What did she do all day? I mean if she was leaving
the decorating of the house to someone else, how did
she occupy her time?"

"It was hard at first, especially since I was out of
town for days at a time. It got better when the
Quilting Bees sent her an invitation."

"The Quilting Bees?" echoed Mulder.

"Yeah, it's some kind of women's club. They get
together and make quilts. I think they do other
things, you know, like for charity, but they
primarily make these giant quilts," explained

"Not exactly like getting a workout in a dojo, is
it?" remarked Mulder.

Wilson let out a small chuckle. "That's true. Greta
didn't know what the hell to make out of it at
first." Wilson's curled up into the first true smile
since the Mulder and Scully had arrived. "When she'd
first learned of the Quilting Bees, Greta told me of
how she'd flunked Home Economics in high school. Of
course, when her own teacher, in an attempt to help
poor, helpless Greta, sewed the zipper into her skirt
project backwards, Greta figured that it was a sign
from above that everything she wore was best left to
the professionals - you know, Lauren, Armani, Wang."

The smile quickly faded.

"What I wouldn't give to have her be on a damn
shopping spree right now," he said softly. Both
agents nodded in understanding.

"But she joined anyway?" prodded Mulder.

Wilson nodded. "Yeah, she figured it was a good way
to get to know the other women in the community.
Greta wasn't exactly sure if she was going to fit in;
she's a professional, white collar working woman, you
know? She brought home the bacon, but she
was never one to really take the time to fry it up in
the pan. So, she joined, but not without a lot of

"How did it go?" Mulder asked.

"Okay, I guess. She didn't say much about the women
or the meetings. In fact, she'd always be real quiet
for a couple of hours after she'd come home. It was a
little strange, but I figured it was just because she
was marking out new territory for her."

"Quiet how?" probed Mulder.

"I don't know; she was just quiet. She didn't talk."

"If you asked her a question, did she answer you?"
asked Scully, picking up the line of questioning.

"Well, as a matter of fact no. She'd just go into the
bedroom and lie down to go to sleep. I just figured
she was tired."

"And when she woke up? How was she then?" asked

"Fine. Like she always is. Why? Do you think this has
anything to do with her being missing?" asked Wilson

"It's probably nothing, Mr. Wilson, but we're going
to look into every possibility. Do you have the names
of the Quilting Bee members?"

"No, I'm sorry, I don't. I just know that most of the
women from this development are members."

"That's fine. Here's my card. If there's anything
else that you can think of that might help us to find
Greta, call that number."

"Okay, I will," he said as he accepted the card.
"Please find my wife, so that we can get the hell out
of here and go back to New York where we belong."

Both agents nodded their assurances that they would
and let themselves out. Scully turned to Mulder and
said, "Never knew quilting could be so damned taxing
that you'd need to take a nap afterwards."

"Just what I was thinking, Scully. Think maybe we
need to pay a visit to the Quilting Bees?"

* * *

Clayville Community Center
11:10 AM

Obviously, the nice fat grant money hadn't extended
to the Clayville Community Center. There was no doubt
in Mulder's mind that this building was the product
of a rural township. But that wasn't to say it was
unattractive. It was small, and well maintained, and
it looked as sturdy as any modern-day structure.
Maybe more so. Its fine architecture almost resembled
that of a church. White cement rendered exterior
walls, long rectangular windows, and a tower that
could easily pass for a belfry.

They found a parking space in front of the building
and pulled over.

"Quilting Bees." Mulder muttered to himself as he
climbed out of the car. "Bees, Scully. You know you
gotta wonder…"

"Don't even go there, Mulder. This has nothing to do
with bees. It's just a name."



He grinned at her. It was cruel how easily she bit.
"C'mon, Scully. Lets go see why quilt-making is so

Large oak doors, chocked open with a brick, framed
the entrance to the Community Center. They made their
way through a small foyer adorned with pamphlets and
posters offering various community activities to the
townsfolk of Clayville. Ahead of them was a set of
double glass doors leading into the main hall. Mulder
stood back and let Scully pass in front of him.

A group of about a dozen women were seated in a
circle at the back of the hall. A table laden with
small patches of material sat beside them. A picture
of concentration, they all sat with their heads
bowed, working industriously over the intricate
pattern on the quilt. Not one of them was speaking,
and not one of them was even remotely curious about
the intruders.

Mulder leaned down and whispered to Scully, "When
they called it a Quilting *circle*, I didn't think
they meant it literally." Then he cleared his throat
and addressed the women, "Excuse me?"

In unison all the women lifted their heads and stared
at the agents, their expressions blank and eyes
strangely vacant.

Mulder took a step towards them, reached into his
pocket and held up his ID. "I'm Agent Mulder and this
Agent Scully. We're with the Federal Bureau of

The women continued to stare.

Scully moved beside Mulder. "We're investigating the
disappearance of Greta Wilson and were wondering if
we could ask you some questions."

A woman with short blond hair who looked to be in her
early 30's stood up. "I'm sorry. We can't help you."

Mulder took another step forward. He wasn't quite
sure why, but this woman made him feel that if he
made a sudden move she would scamper off like
frightened deer. "Her husband said she was a member
of this group."

"She was. But now she's gone."

"Did she mention to any of you that she was leaving?"
Mulder let this eyes scan the faces of the others who
seemed content to let the blond woman speak on their

"I told you, we don't know anything."


"Johnson. Lizzie Johnson."

"Mrs. Johnson, the local police are under the
impression that Mrs. Wilson left because of marital
problems. What do you think?"

"I couldn't say." The woman laced her arms defiantly
across her chest.

Scully moved closer to the group. "We've just been
speaking with Greta Wilson's husband. He's extremely
worried about her."

When there was no response, Scully sighed quietly
then continued, forcing her voice to remain calm and
composed. "Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Wilson believes
something bad has happened to his wife. We would
really appreciate some help. Any insight at all to
her state of mind before she disappeared. Did she
seem anxious or upset?"

"She seemed fine. Now if you'll excuse us, we have to
get this quilt ready for the church raffle." The
woman returned to her seat.

A quick glance at her partner, a deep breath and
Scully decided to try another tack. "It's very
beautiful," she said, nodding towards the huge quilt
stretched taut across a wooden frame. "It must have
taken you a long time to make." For the first time
since entering Scully noticed the elaborate pattern
of circles sewn into the material. She'd never seen
anything quite like it.

"Not so long." The woman gathered up her needle and
began stitching.

Mulder could feel his partner's growing frustration.
Cutting her some slack he calmly took over the line
of questioning. "Mrs. Johnson. Ladies. A woman is
missing. More than likely being held against her will
and I find it strange that you are able to sit here
and treat this matter as if it is nothing unusual."

Despite their persistent silence, Mulder sensed he
had hit on something.

Scully moved back to her partner. "Mulder…"

Mulder ignored her, instead, he propped his hands on
his hips, stared directly at Lizzie Johnson and
continued with his train of thought.

"Maybe because here, it's *not* unusual. Greta Wilson
isn't the only woman to go missing from Clayville, is
she? It's happened to you, all of you, at some time.
And you were all returned. That's why you're not
concerned. You expect her to come back."

Lizzie Johnson held his gaze. "I'm sorry, I don't
know what you're talking about."

One of the other women found her voice. "Lizzie,
maybe we…"

"Shh. Quiet, Alison."

Mulder turned to a young woman who looked as if she'd
rather be offering herself up as a sacrifice to the
gods than speaking out of turn in front of the FBI.

He spoke quietly when he addressed her. "Alison? Can
you tell us anything about what happened to Greta?"

Lizzie jumped to her feet again. "Agent Mulder! I
must insist that you leave now. I'm sorry about
Greta, but we can't help you."

This time when Scully's hand found his elbow he
allowed her to pull him aside, out of earshot.

Mulder lowered his head speaking directly into her
ear. "Hey, Scully, I thought I was playing bad cop

When she answered, her breath was warm against his
cheek. "Mulder, we're not getting anywhere here."

"They know something, Scully. I'm sure of it."

"Maybe they do, but they're not going to tell us.
We're wasting our time."

As much as he hated to admit it, Scully was right.
These women weren't going to give them anything. At
least not intentionally. Coming to a decision, he
nodded quickly and straightened up. He placed his
hand on Scully's shoulder and gave it a gentle
squeeze then turning back towards the women he
offered Lizzie Johnson his card. "If anything comes
to mind, anything at all, please call us. Both Agent
Scully and myself can be reached on our cell phones.
Any time."

Reluctantly, Lizzie accepted the card and with a
slight incline of her head bid them good day.

The women sat like statues, no one daring to move or
speak until the agents were completely out of sight.

Alison Mackie held the edge of the quilt in tightly
clenched fists, eyes shifting nervously between
Lizzie and the others. "Oh God. It's happening

"Alison, I told you to be quiet. We agreed not to
talk about it."

"But it's longer this time. It's never been like this

An older, heavy-set woman, her face lined with
concern said, "She's right, Lizzie. This is

Lizzie Johnson turned on the group, eyes blazing, and
lips pulled back in an angry snarl.

"Do you think I don't know that?! We've all been
through it, some of us more than once. But there's
not a darn thing we can do to stop it." She paused
taking in the bewildered faces staring back at her.
"We have to try and forget about it. We've all got
families that need us. Billy's only just now starting
to trust me again. And I don't want to give him any
reason to be getting stupid ideas about me playing
around on him." She paused, softening her tone, eyes
turning distant and bright. "He still looks at me
funny when I leave the house. Like he's wondering if
I'm going to come back. We've gotta let it rest."

The women looked at each other. Lizzie was right. If
they just kept quiet, didn't draw attention to
themselves then maybe they would be safe.

* * *

Outside Clayville Community Center
11:45 AM

Mulder slipped the key into the ignition and started
the engine. Beside him Scully was fuming, chewing on
the inside of her cheek as she stared out the window.

"That could have gone better."

She swiveled in her seat, turning the full force of
her glare upon him. "Could have gone better? Mulder
that was nothing but an exercise in futility; a
complete waste of our time."

"I disagree, Scully. I, for one, learned a lot."

One eyebrow crawled up her forehead. "You did."

He nodded, deadpan. "Quilting is obviously a much
more complicated process than I ever realized."

Oh man, there was that look again, and this time she
was not amused.

"Okay, okay." He held up both hands, partly in
surrender, partly to ward off any sudden
(though perhaps deserved) blows. "I was kidding about
the quilting. But I am serious when I say that I
don't believe the interview was a total loss. They're
scared, Scully. Couldn't you feel it?"

She pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't know. I
guess I felt something, I'm just not sure what it
was. They were so damn tightlipped but..." She raised
her eyes to his. "I did get the sense some of them
were uneasy. And not just about us."

Mulder nodded. "I'd venture to say whatever happened
to those women is a lot scarier than a couple of
agents on Uncle Sam's payroll. The question is, where
do we go from here?"

"We haven't examined the mysterious crop circles
yet." Scully's tone made it clear that she filed crop
circles in the same category as "The Whammy." "Maybe
it's time we went out there and took a look at what
all the fuss is about."

He leaned in close, until his nose brushed the soft
flesh of her cheek near her ear. "You trying to get
me out in the middle of nowhere so you can have your
wicked way with me, Agent Scully?"

She astonished him by placing her hand on his thigh,
tantalizingly close to certain portions of his
anatomy, and giving it a gentle squeeze. "I don't
have to get you in the middle of nowhere for that,
Mulder. I can have it pretty much anywhere I please."
Her voice was low and husky, just the way she sounded
when they...

She was getting too damn good at this. He swallowed,
resisting the urge to shift in his seat. "I was
thinking a bird's eye view might be best. Maybe the
state police have an extra helicopter we could

"You really think they'll hand over a helicopter and
pilot when we tell them we want to view crop

Mulder shifted into drive, doing his best to ignore
the hand still resting on his leg. "Just ask 'em in
that voice, Scully. The helicopter is in the bag."

State Police Headquarters
2:20 PM

"I'm Jack Weston; I'll be your pilot."

Not bad, Scully noted as she shook the young man's
hand. Early thirties, jet black hair and big blue
eyes. Not exactly the shy, retiring type, if the
1000-watt grin he flashed her was any indication. She
was both irritated and amused to feel Mulder bristle
at the pilot's attention. When would he ever learn?
She hadn't given another man more than a passing
glance in years and now... She enjoyed an inward
smirk. Last night should've assured him how she felt,
if nothing else did.

Mulder scowled at her a little as they settled into
their seats and Jack began his pre-flight checks. He
fastened his seatbelt, glaring first at Jack's back
and then her.

"You look awful damn happy for someone being forced
to investigate crop circles. What are you thinking

Sometimes he growled just like Skinner--a fact that
he'd vehemently denied when she once pointed it out.
Scully allowed the corners of her mouth to turn up in
an enigmatic smile. "Bubble bath."

He blinked, knocked off balance by her answer. Scully
turned to look out the window, humming a little under
her breath. Twice in less than two hours. She was
getting good at this.

"We should reach the area you want to see in about
three minutes," Jack called back. "What did you say
you were looking for? Some kind of circle?"

"Crop circles. Impressions in vegetation caused by
the extreme heat and weight generated by an alien
craft--in this case in a cornfield." Mulder launched
into lecture mode, obviously buoyed by her remark.
"They're often characterized by..."

"Let me get this straight. You're hunting aliens? As
in little green men flying space ships?" Jack's
question lacked malice, yet dripped with incredulity.
"You telling me the federal government pays you to do

Mulder settled back into his seat with a smirk. "God
bless America, land of opportunity."

Jack shrugged. "Whatever. At least I'll have
something to tell the... What in the hell is that?"

Mulder peered over Scully's shoulder as the
helicopter dropped to a lower altitude. The
impressions were unmistakable, whorled and
twisted paths where the dried, brown stalks had been
flattened and pressed into the earth. The tracks
covered a large section of land, anywhere between 20
and 30 acres in size.

"One heck of a big crop circle." Mulder frowned,
leaning closer to the glass. "Or maybe more than

Scully gazed down at the flattened corn, mesmerized
by the intersecting lines and curves. And then,
abruptly, her eye found the pattern and everything
clicked sharply into focus. Her breath caught in her
chest, jaw dropping in sheer disbelief as her brain
tried to make sense of what her eyes were seeing.

"Scully?" Mulder's hand cupped her shoulder, warm,
reassuring. "What is it?"

She met his concerned gaze for only a moment before
the landscape drew her back like a magnet. It was
either one hell of a coincidence or...

"I thought you said you learned something about
quilting today, Mulder." She shook her head at his
puzzled expression, chuffing a shaky little laugh.
"Look again-- not at the individual lines and
circles, but at the pattern. Can't you see it? The
design is just like the one in the quilt those women
were sewing!"

Mulder blinked, eyes widening in disbelief, then
delight. "You're right! They're identical!"

Jack, momentarily forgotten by them both in the
excitement of discovery, motioned for their
attention. "I've already made one circuit of the
field. What do you want me to do now?"

Mulder moved to make eye contact. "Can you land?"

Jack hesitated, then chuckled. "Why not? To hear you
tell it, I won't be the first craft to touch down in
that field."

As the pilot maneuvered the helicopter into landing,
Mulder grinned and jerked his thumb in Jack's
direction. "He's beginning to grow on me."

Scully rolled her eyes. Moments later she was
struggling to follow Mulder, who had jumped out of
the chopper the moment the runners touched the
ground, face alight with glee. She had a
sudden, vivid memory of him on a deserted road in
Oregon, dancing in the rain. Gritting her teeth, she
fought to keep up, but the faster she tried to move
the deeper her heels sank into the mud.

The trill of a cell phone brought them both to a
standstill. They each grabbed instinctively for their
pockets, Mulder coming up the winner.


Scully watched his impatience transform first to
surprise, and then the intense concentration that
signaled a Mulder on the scent.

"When?... Where is she now?... I understand, but we
really need to speak with her... Yes, today. We can
be there within the hour... Thank you."

He pocketed the phone and strode rapidly back toward
Scully, face grim. "This will have to wait, Scully.
That was Mr. Wilson. His wife has come home."

* * *


Wilson residence
6:20 PM

Greta looked exhausted. Dark circles beneath her
haunted eyes stood out starkly in a face pale as
moonlight. Her blouse and jeans hung limply on her
thin frame, and her blonde hair looked as if she'd
recently raked through it with nervous fingers.

Her husband sat next to her at the kitchen island,
urging her to drink some hot chicken broth. She
pushed it away several times, until it finally
spilled and cascaded over the countertop and onto the

"I really wish you'd come back at another time, Agent
Mulder," Arthur pleaded as he sopped up the rest of
the broth with some paper towels.

"I apologize, Mr. Wilson, but we need to know what
your wife can tell us while the memories are fresh."

It was Mulder's greatest fear right now. He wanted to
be sure their evidence didn't remain locked inside
this woman's mind.

Greta stared mutely at a splash of broth her husband
had missed. She hadn't moved or acknowledged their
presence, and Mulder's frustration was beginning to
show. "You have to let us talk to her."

"Look at her. What can you do but make matters
worse?" Arthur Wilson put his arm protectively around
his wife's shoulders.

"She needs to talk about what's happened. She needs
someone to help her remember."

"It's not going to be you. You don't care about her,
only about what she can tell you!"

Mulder's eyes flashed a warning, and Scully stepped
forward to place a hand on his arm.

"Mr. Wilson," she interjected, "I understand your
concern, but Agent Mulder and I are here to help,
just as you asked us to do. I'm also a medical
doctor, and I can assure you that your wife will not
be harmed by talking to us."

"I'll talk to you, Agent Scully."

Three startled pairs of eyes turned to Greta Wilson.
She looked back at them with a shaky smile as her
husband pulled her into a fierce hug.

"Oh, sweetheart! Are you okay? Are you sure?" The man
was babbling in his excitement, and his wife patted
his arm absently as she looked directly at Scully.

"I'd like to talk to you. Please." She gently
disengaged herself from her husband's hug and got
slowly up from the stool. "We can go to my room."

Scully walked to the woman and steadied her with an
arm around her shoulders. As they headed down the
hall, Mulder moved to join them, but Scully shook her
head. He nodded reluctantly and watched the two women
enter a room at the end of the hall, closing the door
softly behind them.

* * *

"Greta, I'd like to do a quick exam, if that's okay."

The woman smiled faintly. "A house call?"

Scully smiled, too. "Special circumstances." She
placed two fingers on the woman's wrist and noted the
not unexpectedly rapid pulse. "When was the last time
you slept?"

Greta frowned in concentration. "It seems like a very
long time... I don't really remember."

Scully lifted the woman's chin to look closely at her
eyes, then began to move her fingers along the jaw
and throat, probing gently for swollen glands. When
she reached the back of the woman's neck, the breath
froze in Scully's lungs. She bent closer and lifted
the woman's hair back to verify what her touch had
located. There was a small red scar at the base of
Greta Wilson's neck.

"What's the last thing you do remember?" Scully
forced her voice to a neutral register as she
continued her exam, her heart pounding with

Greta closed her eyes and sat quietly for several
minutes. She shook her head in defeat.

"I remember dreams. Scattered images that don't make
sense to me."

"Do you remember anything about being in a field? Do
you remember being with the women in your quilting

"Only the meeting last week. And no, I haven't been
in any kind of a field." She began to cough
uncontrollably. After a moment, Scully went to the
door and called down the hall for Mulder to bring a
glass of water. He brought it a moment later, with
Arthur Wilson hot on his heels. Scully handed the
glass to Greta, and silenced their questions with a

The coughing abated, and Greta sagged forward,
bracing her hands on either side. She was facing away
from the two men, and Scully gently stroked the hair
away from her neck as she caught Mulder's eye. He
followed her gaze. Scully knew the instant he spotted
the scar.

She sat down next to Greta and spoke softly. "What
happened at the meeting last week?"

Greta sighed deeply, coughed one more time, and
latched her hand onto Scully's arm for support. "The
usual. We completed one of the presentation quilts
for the festival. It came out beautifully."

"I saw it. It was very beautiful. Tell me, Greta,
where did you come up with the pattern for it? It was
very unusual."

"I don't know. The other women in the circle had
designed it. This was the first big project I had
participated in."

"Have you ever seen the pattern anywhere else?"

Greta was silent again for a long moment. "No," she
finally answered.

"Are you sure?" Mulder interrupted.


"No, you're not sure, or no, you don't remember?"

The grip on Scully's arm tightened and Mrs. Wilson
began to breathe loudly again, as if she were ready
to cry.

"Maybe that's enough for today," Arthur suggested,
anger still an undercurrent in his voice.

"Mrs. Wilson--"

"Mulder, please," Scully stopped him. Then to the
woman at her side, "Mrs. Wilson, can you answer our

"I can't. I can't because I don't know. What's
happening to me? Do I have amnesia? Am I losing my
mind?" Then she really started to cry.

"I think that is enough for today," Scully stood up,
giving Greta's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "We'll
come back and talk some more another time, when
you're feeling better."

Greta nodded but never looked up.

The man walked them to the front door, then followed
them out onto the porch and closed the door behind
himself. "Agents, I'm sorry if I'm being difficult.
It's just..."

"There's no need to apologize," Mulder demurred. "We
understand. Please call us if her condition changes.
Otherwise, we'll just stop by tomorrow afternoon to
speak with her again, if that's all right."

Wilson nodded. "Yes. If-- *when* she's better." He
walked inside and closed the door, defeat in every
line of his body.


The Wilson Residence
Greta and Arthur Wilson's bedroom
Wednesday, 7:10 PM

Greta Wilson had a splitting headache. More than
anything else, she wanted to sleep. Sleep all day,
all night, all month. She wanted to wake up and find
out that this was all a nightmare. Leaving her job,
moving out to the country, joining the circle. A
nightmare that would disappear with the first rays of
daybreak and never return.

But she knew that wasn't the case.

As she stood in her bathroom, her reflection stared
back at her. What was happening? How could everything
have gone so wrong so fast? Just six months ago she
was successful, looking up the ladder of her career.
She'd joked to one of the support staff about
changing the drapes in her boss's office when she got
in there.

And now, there was nothing but black void and
terrifying feelings that weren't even real memories.
Greta prided herself on her memory. She was excellent
with figures, fantastic at recalling small,
insignificant details. That's how she'd gotten so far
in her old job. But there were four days missing from
her life and she had little hope of ever reclaiming

She opened the medicine cabinet with a shaky hand and
started rifling through the bottles and jars. Didn't
they have anything for a headache? Her hand landed on
some sleeping pills that she'd gotten when they first
moved to Clayville. Surprisingly, the darkness and
the quiet at night seemed to cause her difficulty
sleeping. She was used to noise, she was used to
activity. But the pills had worked and after a few
weeks, she'd become accustomed to the silence at
night. Now, she welcomed that silence, that darkness.
It was someplace to hide. She clutched the bottle and
struggled with the childproof cap, shaking one pill
into the palm of her hand. Replacing the bottle on
the shelf, she cupped her hand under a stream of
water from the faucet and used the mouthful to
swallow the pill. Closing the medicine cabinet door,
she went back into the bedroom and crawled into
bed under the goose down comforter.

The phone rang. She glared at it a second, willing it
to stop. Where was Arthur? Why wasn't he answering?
On the fourth ring, she groaned and sat up, grabbing
the receiver. Her greeting was cut short. A frown
carved its path across her forehead. She stared
blankly at the dresser against the wall. After a few
moments, she nodded. "Yes," was all she said and she
carefully replaced the receiver.

Slipping her feet to the floor, she walked the few
steps back into the bathroom. This time she didn't
stop to look at her reflection in the mirror, she
just opened the medicine cabinet and let her hand
close around the bottle she'd just used. The cap
didn't cause her any trouble this time, and when it
was removed, she shook the remainder of the bottle,
two dozen pills, into her hand. Very methodically,
picking them up one by one, she swallowed each pill
dry. With a blank expression she once again replaced
the cap on the bottle and put the bottle on the
shelf, closing the cabinet door. On stocking feet she
returned to the bed and lay down, closing her eyes,
this time for the last time.

Ambassador Hotel
7:35 PM

Mulder pulled the car into a space near the motel
door. Scully was out of her seat and halfway to the
door before he could catch up with her.

"She knows something, Scully. You saw how she was
acting," he said as she opened the door with her key.
"Scully, what about the chip?" For a moment, he was
afraid she was going to close the door on his foot,
but instead, she moved farther in to the room,
allowing him to follow her.

"Mulder, she was upset, I'll give you that. And yes,
there was a chip in her neck, I'll grant you that we
need to investigate this further. But from what I
could see, she knew nothing. She couldn't tell us
where she's been, and she definitely didn't know
anything about the chip or the crop circles. I can't
see where that little exchange at the end, which
almost caused her to break down completely, got us
anywhere on this investigation!" She tossed her purse
on the bed and was pulling off her coat when she
stopped dead in her tracks.

"You know, you two really should consider marriage
counseling if this keeps up." At the sound of the
voice in the darkness of the back of the room, Mulder
pulled his gun. Alex Krycek stepped into the room
just as Scully flipped on a light.

"Nice welcoming committee, Mulder," Krycek said with
a smirk and then looked over at Scully. "At least
Agent Scully isn't ready to drill me," he noted with
a 'cat who ate the canary' grin.

Mulder didn't move from his position, didn't lower
the gun. After a moment, he raised the weapon to eye
level. "Krycek, I suggest you either leave or start
talking because my finger has been itching all day."

"He's such a tease," Krycek quipped to Scully. "Put
the gun down, before you hurt somebody. I'm unarmed."
He held his arms out and turned toward Scully, a
silent offer for her to frisk him. Scully stepped
closer and patted him down. When she looked up at
him, their eyes met and for a fraction of a second,
she saw the other Krycek, the one she'd met in
another dimension, smiling down at her. Shaking her
head to clear the image, she stepped back.

"He's telling the truth, Mulder. He doesn't have a
weapon," she said, trying to cover her embarrassment.

"At least not one we can find," Mulder allowed
reluctantly. He holstered his weapon, but kept his
hand on the grip. "You have five minutes."

"What is this, Name that Tune?" Krycek asked. At
Mulder's stare he shrugged. "OK, it's not like I need
to point you kids in the right direction. I just
thought I'd save you a little time."

"What are you talking about?" Scully demanded.

"Greta Wilson, for one. And about 15 other upstanding
women of this fine community, for another. They might
not remember what was done to them when they all
vanished into thin air, but it goes back a long time
and it will continue. Unless it's stopped, of
course." Krycek flashed Mulder a toothy grin. "If
you're man enough to try and stop it, I should say."

Mulder closed his eyes and refused to take the bait.
"We suspect the disappearances are related to the
quilting circle and to the crop circles we saw
outside of town."

Krycek shook his head angrily. "Stop looking at the
obvious! They want you to make that connection. What
you need to do is look farther, deeper."

A quick look over to Scully and Mulder decided
against mentioning the chip again. He glared at
Krycek. "And this is news?" Mulder huffed. "Stop
being so damned cryptic and tell us what you came
here to say!"

"You flew over the field, right? Did it ever occur to
you to look closer? Go look at the corn, Mulder. Take
a look at the ground around the field. It might just
lead you to the real perpetrators of this little
disappearing/reappearing act. And they might not be
as far away as you think."

Scully exchanged a quick glance with Mulder, then
looked back at Krycek. Could they have missed
something that easy to find?

"Go back to the field," Krycek told him.

"It's almost dark," Mulder pointed out.

Krycek rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Then use
those high-powered, over-priced flashlights you're
always losing," he growled. "Wasting taxpayers
dollars never seemed to bother you before. I can tell
by the layer of dust in the adjoining room you rented
to keep up pretenses," he added with a cheshire cat

"What's out in that field, Krycek? Burn marks?"
Mulder asked once again ignoring the smart remarks,
but his patience was obviously growing thin.

"You two kids have a good time at that field. And
remember, curfew is at 11 on a school night." Krycek
said, heading for the door.

Mulder grabbed his arm. "What are we going to find,
Krycek?" he seethed.

The double agent just smiled. "Guess you'll have to
go out there and see for yourself. Oh, and Mulder,
next time, let Scully play 'bad cop'. I think that
would be so much more enjoyable."

* * *

Scully's room
11:39 PM

Hunger had driven them to the Denny's across the
highway after Krycek's visit, and the debate that had
drawn stares from their fellow diners was still in

"I can't believe we just let him walk out like that,"
said Mulder, his body language showing every bit of
the tenseness his voice held.

"We had nothing to hold him on, Mulder. What did you
expect to do with him? Handcuff him to the bed frame
until we figured out what he's up to?"

Mulder shook his head. He knew she was right, but
that didn't ease the frustration. He walked over to
where their suitcases lay and lifted them to the bed.
Then he opened them both and started rifling the

"Mulder, do you mind? I'd like to have something to
wear tomorrow that's not totally wrinkled or torn.
What are you looking for anyway?"

"Damn it, Scully!" he said, his voice tense. He
continued to pick through the clothing until he found
what he was looking for and laid it aside. Then he
began a search of his suitcase. "We looked at that
field! What the hell is he not telling us?" he said,
continuing to sift through the articles inside.

"I don't know; you never know with Krycek. There's a
real possibility that it's nothing more than a red

"What are you talking about? Look, Krycek has always
been sneaky and underhanded, but the information he
had always led us somewhere."

"True, but more often than not, his information led
us to blind alleys. You know that's true, Mulder."

"I know, I know. But even his blind alleys took us
somewhere, even if we didn't always see where we were

He picked up the small, black object and held it as
if testing its heft. "Hmm, they sure do make these
suckers a lot smaller. Here ya go partner; heads
up!" he called out as he gently tossed it over to

She looked at him with an incredulous expression.
"You've got to be kidding, Mulder. It's almost
midnight. What can we possibly hope to find now that
can't wait till the morning?"

"Red herring or not, Scully, we've got to go check it
out, now. Krycek doesn't just appear out of the blue
because he likes to make social calls; he was here
because he expects us to go check it out. And that
means now.

"Now? Mulder, you said it yourself - it's dark out
there. What the hell are we supposed to see?"

"Hey, Ratboy was right about one thing," Mulder said,
as he hefted up the other small, but high-powered
flashlight. "These suckers cost the taxpayers an arm
and a leg; we might as well get our money's worth out
of it."

* * *

It was easy to forget how damn dark it got out here
in the middle of nowhere, Scully mused. Their high
powered flashlights seemed barely adequate in the
vast blackness that marked their path.

As they approached the perimeter of the crop circle,
she raised her flashlight to look at the corn. "This
is too strange," she said in a whisper.


"The corn, it's bent."

"Well, of course it's bent, Scully, how do you think
it gets formed into these huge, intricate designs?
Besides," he added with a small smile, "didn't you
see 'Signs'? Crop circles around the world have corn
that's bent."

She managed to choke back her chuckle. "No, it's
more than that. Look how it's bent. They're too
perfectly angled, in the same spot on each ear of
corn. It's... odd."

While Scully continued to look at the corn, Mulder
bent down to check out the ground. "Scully! I think
I've found something."

Scully walked away while still mulling over how the
corn could have been so consistently bent without
being broken. She knelt down near her partner and
asked him what he'd found.

"I guess the movie forgot to mention the tire tracks
that go along with the circles. Look."

"Too small to be a four by four," she commented.

"Yeah, way too small, but it would have to be to get
around here." He studied the marks, then snapped his
fingers. "Of course."

"You gonna let the rest of the class in on your idea,
Mulder?" She smiled. Scully always did enjoy
watching her partner make those giant leaps.

"Golf cart."

"Golf cart?" she echoed.

"Yup, they're very maneuverable and small enough to
get around these cornstalks."

She couldn't argue. "Okay, so now what?"

"There's got to be a reason these tracks are here.
Let's go follow the yellow brick road."

They found themselves weaving back and forth,
following the intricate pattern of the crop circle's
design as they followed the tire tracks to the other
end of its perimeter.

"It's not leading anywhere, Mulder. I really think
this is a waste of--"

"What the f--?" called out Mulder.

Bright lights flooded the area leaving some to shine
directly on the agents, blinding them.


"I'm here, Mulder! I'm right here!"

The intense lights blinded them. They stood side-by-
side with weapons drawn, unable to see anything but
blinding white.

Suddenly, the distinctive sound of weapons being
cocked chilled their blood. "Oh, shit," Mulder
offered. "Scully, lower your weapon." The lights
began to dim, and they could see a dozen or more
armed soldiers wielding machine guns in front of
them. Corn rustling in the dark told them there were
at least another dozen soldiers behind them.

"So, do you like your red herring pickled or boiled,

"He did it to us again, Mulder."

"I don't know. I don't know this time," he replied,
and then turning to his captors, he said, "What do
you want from us?"

Suddenly the lights brightened and temporarily
blinded them again. Then, from out of a halo of
lights a single officer approached. Scully shielded
her eyes in an attempt to identify the person.
Immediately, an arm grabbed her from behind and
pressed his arm firmly against her carotid arteries
on both sides of her neck. She pulled futilely at the
arm for a few seconds before the darkness took her.

"No!" Mulder cried out, "Leave her alone!" He rushed
over and tried to free her, but before his hands
could get a good grip, another soldier stepped
forward. Mulder only had time enough to recognize the
butt of a rifle headed his way before the impact sent
him to the ground.

One of the soldiers spoke into a walkie-talkie. "It
is done, sir."

"They are contained?" came a voice, scratchy with
static, through the speaker.

"Yes, sir." He then ordered the others to drag the
now unconscious bodies of the two agents to the backs
of the two small golf carts that awaited them.

"They've been loaded up, sir."

"Excellent, lieutenant. Bring them to me."

"Yes, sir, Commander Scully."

* * *

End (1/2)

To be continued...

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