Chapter 18: Early Retirement

     John Doggett stays at the safe house after Mulder and Scully’s departure. He can’t wait long or there will be questions, but he hopes to give them a decent head start. As a dark stroke of luck would have it, the body doesn’t leave much in the way of evidence.

     The only forensic analyst even remotely qualified to examine that mess up there just left the scene.

     He peeks at the woman’s remains, but the term is too generous to describe what awaits in the dark room at the top of the stairs. His stomach turns, any grim fascination leaving him in a final glance at the angry black pool of bubbling flesh. He turns away, reaching into his pocket to pull out the cell phone.

     “Yeah, this is Special Agent John Doggett, badge number GHT0342032. I have a possible homicide at a local safe house; get a team out here as soon as you can.”

     He gives the dispatch officer the address, and it’s several hours before two young FBI agents, a man and a woman, pull up in a rented Chevy.

     They’re rookies judging by looks alone, barely out of the Academy. The man’s face is smooth, he probably doesn’t shave more than once a week. The woman wears heels that make Doggett think she doesn’t spend much time in this part of the country.

     Since when did the FBI start hiring college kids? he wonders, folding his arms as they approach.

     “Agent Doggett?”

     “That’s me.”

     “I’m Agent Henderson, Federal Bureau…”

     “Yeah, I figured as much, put the damn badge away. You got the call, I take it?”

     The young man, taken aback by the senior agent’s unexpected animosity, tries to recover. “Sir, we have reason to believe that two former FBI agents were recently housed at this location without official authorization. Do you know anything about that?”

     Doggett narrows his eyes, but doesn’t flinch. “I might.”

     The young man looks over at his partner nervously, and she steps in. “They were said to be accompanied by a young boy and his mother.”
“Mother’s dead, the body’s upstairs,” Doggett retorts. The shock on their faces would be priceless if he weren’t so preoccupied in covering for Mulder and Scully.“I arrived before they escaped with the boy. We were attacked. That’s why I called.”

     “Uh…,” the young agent falters, “I…”

     “Attacked? By what?”

     The woman’s sharper than she looks, thinks Doggett. She might make a decent agent some day.

     He snorts. “Fucked if I know.” This is the truth. He still has no idea how to explain the smoldering body of Mrs. Van de Kamp, which has almost completely melted into the upstairs floorboards.

     “Fox Mulder and Dana Scully took the boy and the car no less than half an hour before your lazy asses got here. They’re headed south. Why don’t you two have yourselves a wild goose chase and leave me to the body? I’ve already called C.S.I., they’ll be here any minute.”

     The two agents exchange looks again, clearly unsure how to deal with the bossier, more experienced ex-cop standing before them.

     “Sir, with all due respect…”

     “What I can’t figure out,” Doggett interrupts, raising his voice, “is why you’re both still standing here. Am I going to have to tell your superiors that you let two former FBI agents, one of them an ex-fugitive, flee a crime scene with a young boy? ‘Cause lemme tell ya, I don’t know how they do this out here in East Bumfuck, Montana, but back in D.C. that’s a fast track to early retirement.”

     To Doggett’s surprise, his intimidation tactic works. The man, Henderson, takes a step back, visibly disarmed. For a moment it looks as though the woman will stand her ground, but then she, too, retreats, shooting Doggett a cold look. “C’mon, Henderson. Let’s go. Agent Doggett, did you…”

     “I put out at APB on the car twenty minutes ago. Think I can handle this.”

     That was almost too easy, he thinks as he watches the Chevy tear off in the wrong direction.

     He has called for an investigation, he’d been truthful about that point, though he knows the team won’t be able to explain what they find any more than he could.

     But that’s the least of his problems. He’ll have to answer to Skinner when he returns to D.C., and likely face a panel of higher-ups about why he let two former FBI agents escape with a child whose mother lies dead in a Montana safe house.

     He’d been truthful about another point, too. What had he told the younger agents? “A fast-track to early retirement.”

     Yeah, he thinks morosely, that just about sums it up.

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