Chapter 29: Something Else

     MINNEAPOLIS, MN
     OCTOBER 30, 2013
9:45 A.M.

     Doggett steps off the plane, expecting a short layover before his flight to D.C. The investigation of Mrs. Van de Kamp’s body is underway, he’s having what’s left of the poor woman shipped back to Quantico, but he doesn’t expect anyone to be able to tell him what happened last night. 

     Until they re-open the X-files, they don’t stand a chance in hell at solving this one.

     He stops at a news stand, scanning the headlines, tossing a candy bar on the counter, as he reaches into his jacket pocket to check his phone. There’s a voicemail from Skinner.

     “Doggett, I don’t know where the hell you are, but when you get this message, you’d better book yourself on the first flight to Cranbrook, B.C. Something’s come up.”

     He frowns. Skinner, though technically his superior, wasn’t in the habit of throwing cases his way. Unless…

     Mulder said they were heading north. British Columbia isn’t far from Montana…

     “Dammit,” he mutters under his breath, startling the cashier. He flashes an apologetic smile that looks more like a grimace, and pays for the candy bar, no longer concerned with making his connection.

     Got a different plane to catch.

     There’s a sinking feeling in his gut as he approaches the ticketing agent, flashing his badge. “This is an emergency. I need a seat on the next flight to British Columbia.”

#

     It’s dark when he lands at Canadian Rockies International, a smattering of lights from the city blink up from the landscape as the plane descends toward the tiny airport. He’s spent the last four hours uncomfortable and cramped on the equally tiny plane, and, unable to sleep, his thoughts are drawn back to his encounter at the safe house.

     What had he seen? He goes over the events in his mind again; he remembers following Scully upstairs after the crash in the room above, the strange dark shape flickering, almost blinding in its darkness. Scully, paralyzed, in some kind of trance, and Mulder yelling at her from over Doggett’s shoulder. He’d reached out, grabbed her, drawing her back and away from the door just before the boy…

     Before he what? Exploded?

     He shifts in his seat, this time his discomfort is internal. The light had come from everywhere, white hot and burning. He could feel his skin tingling uncomfortably in the split second before his hand reached out to slam the door shut, the three of them nearly caught in the blast.

     Though his time at the X-files was brief, he’d come to know former agents Scully and Mulder as a formidable team. The things they’d done and seen during their careers at the FBI were the stuff of legend. He still heard whispers about them in the bullpen, rumors mostly, but Doggett had seen a number of X-files for himself, and within every rumor is a grain of truth.

     But that kid…

     He’s something else.

     The irony in this turn of phrase is not lost on him.

     Now he’s been called back to northwest, to a remote area of southern Canada, after informing Skinner of the attack via voicemail no less than twenty-four hours ago. He’s come to the conclusion this is either an elaborate plan to call him on the carpet for his actions, or there’s been trouble. Doggett isn’t sure which scenario to hope for.

     He departs the plane and cracks his neck, wincing at the ache along his back. The cell trills from within his pocket, revealing a second voicemail from Skinner, this one with instructions to rendezvous at the local police branch. He finds the place easily enough, unsurprised to find the small-town headquarters are little more than a hole in the wall, a real backwater operation.

     He finds Skinner and another unfamiliar agent, identifiable by the FBI tag clipped to his jacket pocket–he’s stout, bearded, unremarkable. They stand over a large map in a conference room that might pass for a closet in D.C.

     Or a basement office, if you’re really unlucky, thinks Doggett, suppressing a smirk.

     Skinner and the other agent are using pins to mark points on the map, creating boundaries, dividing the paper landscape into a rough grid. Doggett approaches, a faint, wry smile on his lips. “With all due respect, you picked a hell of a place to call a meeting, sir.”

     Skinner turns, greeting him with a curt nod; he doesn’t return the smile. “Agent Doggett, thanks for coming on such short notice. This is Special Agent Markel, International Operations. He’s agreed to assist in this…investigation.”

     “Investigation, sir?”

     Skinner pauses, narrows his eyes at Doggett. “I think you know what we’re doing here, agent, don’t play dumb. I have reason to believe Fox Mulder and Dana Scully fled north into the woods just outside Bonners Ferry, Idaho, yesterday afternoon. I have a source, someone who suggested there may be a…threat…in the vicinity. You were the last to see them, is that correct?”

     Doggett nods. “At the safe house. We were attacked. Just like I told ya on the phone.”

     Markel speaks, his voice low and grating. “Is the boy with them?”

     Doggett hesitates, thinking carefully about what to reveal. Skinner has proven himself a trustworthy ally in the past, but he’s unsure about Markel. If Skinner trusts him—and he must, because Markel knows about the boy—Doggett decides he has no choice but to do the same.

     “Agent Doggett?” There’s a menacing edge of impatience in Skinner’s voice. “Look, this isn’t a witch hunt. I can’t guarantee you’ll keep a spotless record, but right now my priority is to ensure everyone gets out of this alive. If you know something—”

     “Yeah. Yeah, they took the boy. His mother was killed in the attack. Her body’s being shipped back to D.C. as we speak, although I don’t think they’re going to find much.”

     He can tell Skinner expected this, but the Deputy Director flinches nonetheless. “We notified border control several hours ago, they have a patrol out, but we haven’t received word on Mulder and Scully’s position. I don’t think they’ve crossed into the country yet.” 

     If they haven’t made it this far by now, something must be wrong, thinks Doggett, keeping his expression neutral. “They planned to hike in, fly under the radar. That’s all I know.”

     Skinner nods. “Thanks to Agent Markel, we have full cooperation from the RCMP. I’ve asked them to provide us with a search team, including a helicopter. We’ll have a ground team with aerial assistance. There are several miles to cover, it’s rough terrain. This is a needle in a haystack situation, and we need all the help we can get.” He takes off his glasses, rubbing at tired eyes. “With that in mind, I suggest we begin our search at first light. We’ll meet back here at oh-six-hundred, regroup with the rest of the search team.”

     With that, the agents break, agreeing to rendezvous in a few hours to begin the manhunt. Markel mutters something about coffee and steps out the door, leaving Doggett to frown at the floor, hands stuffed into the pockets of his travel-rumpled slacks. Something about this investigation doesn’t sit well with him. 

     Skinner is preoccupied, shuffling papers into his briefcase, and Doggett seizes the opportunity to talk to the man alone.

     “Sir?”

     “Yes, Agent Doggett.”

     “If you don’t mind my askin’…who’s your source?”

     The man narrows his eyes, a look of consternation flashes across his face. “I’m afraid I can’t say.”

     “You can’t, or you won’t?”

     “Agent Doggett, we have work to do here. If you have something to say, have out with it, or stop wasting my—”

     “Does this have something to do with Project Ultimam, sir?”

     Skinner glances at the open door, shooting Doggett a warning look.

     “Agent, I suggest you focus on the task at hand.”

     “I’d like to, but it’s hard to do that without all the facts. Since when is a Deputy Director involved in a simple search and rescue?”

     Skinner’s face tightens, turning a faint shade of crimson. His next words are clipped, spoken through bared teeth. “Agent, leave it alone.”

     Doggett shakes his head, brushing this off. Skinner is an intimidating man, but many years in Violent Crimes has thickened Doggett’s skin. “All I’m sayin’ is, if you have information that could help with this investigation…information about this threat…I hope we have all the facts before we throw good men into the line of fire…sir.”

     Skinner approaches Doggett, coming within inches of his face, and for a moment he thinks the man intends to hit him. But instead Skinner lowers his voice, his tone confidential.

     “I received an anonymous tip from someone claiming to be a friend of Mulder’s. This friend suggested there might be greater forces at work here. Forces of an…unusual nature.” He narrows his eyes at Doggett meaningfully. “But I’d appreciate your discretion in this matter, Agent Doggett. I’m already walking a fine line with International Operations, Agent Markel is asking questions, not to mention I have the Director breathing down my neck…we can’t afford mistakes here.”

     Skinner grits his teeth, looks away. “To be honest, I don’t know what we’re going to find. I just hope it’s not three dead bodies.”

     Chastened, Doggett nods, thinking of the shadow figure at the safe house, the way the woman’s body had to be scraped off the white wood floor.

     “You an’ me both, sir.”

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