Taken, Part 2: The Interrogation
Ten Hours Later
Wednesday, 10 August 1994
The morning sunlight made the hospital room seem cheerier than either of its occupants felt. Mulder had just dropped the bomb on Scully that after an all-night manhunt, Alex Krycek was still missing. And there were no leads.
After a long pause, Scully offered, "I guess not finding him is better than finding him dead. At least there's a chance we will find him one day." She left it unsaid that eventually not knowing what happened to him would be worse than knowing he was deceased.
Mulder nodded, contemplating the pattern on the floor tiles.
Scully lifted her hand to her head, then resisted the urge to scratch her stitches. "I lay here all night thinking about a man I barely know. Yet he put everything on the line to save me." After a long silence, she decided to put the most pressing question on her mind to words. "Why, Mulder?"
Finally meeting her eyes, and revealing how much this situation was tormenting him, Mulder simply shrugged. "I don't know. I can guess at some of it.... he saw a crime in process and intervened. That's what we do. Why he was looking out for you? I... I really don't know." Mulder returned his gaze to the linoleum tiles. "It must have something to do with what he was trying to tell me, but I'm not able to connect the dots in any way that doesn't just raise more questions."
Silence reigned again, both lost in thought until their reverie was interrupted by the arrival of Walter Skinner.
"Agents." He acknowledged both as he crossed to the side of Scully's bed. "Scully, I'm glad to see you're doing well."
"Thank you, sir." She sat up straighter in the bed and pushed her hair away from her face. "Any update?"
Skinner just shook his head. "Nothing significant, agent. Though the lab has confirmed that all the blood in the backseat was Agent Krycek's."
Scully looked at her hand, blinking rapidly. She knew what that amount of blood loss meant. Without medical care, he was likely already dead.
She glanced at Mulder, found him still and silent, staring at the floor. His face was ashen.
Skinner cleared his throat, trying to break the heavy silence before telling them why he was there. "It looks like we're going to need Agent Mulder's assistance with the investigation."
"It's about time," Mulder whispered to the floor, before meeting Skinner's gaze. "What's going on?"
"With one exception, it would seem that you're the only person we have who knows much of anything about Alex Krycek. And the investigative lead needs to know whatever you can tell him."
Mulder weighed that cryptic response for several long moments. "I don't actually know him all that well. We've only been partners for a short time. What about his family? And who's the other person?"
Skinner made a stay gesture to stem the flow of Mulder's questions. "I'll get to that. As for his family. Father deceased more than 15 years. Mother is some kind of wildlife expert, older sister is a wildlife photographer. Both are apparently in Africa together shooting a documentary on giraffes. We haven't been able to get in touch with them as yet. Extended family is so spread out, not only are they slow to find, it's unlikely they'll have anything useful to offer. We're trying to run down any close childhood friends, but it seems the family moved frequently related to parents' work. He never mentioned any of this to you?"
Mulder rubbed his temples. "Not really. He mentioned in passing that they moved around a lot when he was a kid. I thought he said something about his dad being a veterinarian. I only remember that because it didn't seem like the kind of job that takes a man on the road. I thought maybe he'd been exaggerating."
"Father was a vet, specializing in large cats."
"I assume you don't mean overweight Maine Coons?" Scully asked wearily.
Skinner smiled grimly. "At the time of his death he was the world's foremost expert on Siberian tigers. Family spent time in Russia when Krycek was young, which is where he learned the language, which is one of the reasons he was placed at HQ straight out of the Academy. That and he was second in his class. None of this is familiar to you?"
"Nope." Mulder blinked at the news that Krycek placed so highly at Quantico. Another piece of data to show how little he knew about his partner.
"Okay, so you don't know much about his past. What about his present?"
"Did he ever talk about friends, activities... relationships?"
The slight change in Skinner's tone enabled Mulder to put of the pieces together. "Is that who you've got? Krycek's girlfriend?"
Skinner blinked at Mulder having put it together. "No. We found a man at Krycek's apartment. He claims to be the boyfriend."
"Boyfriend?" Mulder and Scully chime in unison.
"I take it he didn't mention it."
Mulder shook his head absently, lost in thought.
Skinner and Scully watched Mulder for several minutes, but he seemed completely unaware of them. Finally Skinner cleared his throat to get Mulder's attention. "We've had this kid in the box for several hours. My hunch is that he's telling the truth, but I'd like you to accompany me back to HQ and observe... let us know what you think."
Nodding, Mulder got to his feet. He laid a hand on Scully's arm. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah," She offered with a tight smile. "Please let me know what happens."
Forty minutes later, Mulder watched an attractive young man from behind a two-way mirror. Skinner stood next to him, arms crossed over his chest, eyes intently focused on the same person.
The man had a lean build and short black hair. And that's about all Mulder could distinguish while he had his head resting on his fisted hands. He wore jeans and a close-fitting white and grey striped button-up shirt, left untucked. His height was around 5'10".
"Look," the man, purportedly named Jaden, lifted his head revealing deep blue eyes ringed by red blood vessels, "I'm not answering one more question until you tell me what happened to Alex."
"Why do you think something happened to Agent Krycek?" The agent in charge's tone held the faintest hint of contempt and a whole lot of accusation.
Mulder's brows drew together in disapproval at the baiting way Agent Edwards was treating the kid. Though he knew exactly the reason why.
"Oh for fuck's sake," Jaden exploded, launching himself back from the table and kicking over the chair. "Alex is an agent, you're all agents, and you keep asking me if I know where he is. Obviously something happened to him. I'm worried and scared and you're grilling me like a suspect. And I'm not telling you one more thing!" Jaden banged his fist against the nearest object, which happened to be the two-way mirror. He rested his forehead head against the surface, seeming to deflate all at once.
Curious, Mulder stepped closer to the window, barely a few inches separated him from what seemed to be their only link to Alex Krycek. The man's impossibly deep blue eyes slipped shut as tears began to escape. His lips formed a word... Alex.
Mulder glanced at Skinner and shook his head, indicating that his gut reaction was that the kid wasn't a real suspect.
Skinner nodded and turned to exit the viewing room. His gut said the same thing. Still, he wasn't betting his agent's life on his hunch.
He was halted by Mulder's next words. "Sir, Edwards wasn't the right choice for this interrogation."
Pushing down annoyance at having his orders questioned--again--Skinner turned back. "Why is that Agent Mulder?"
"Edwards is a homophobe."
Skinner's brows snapped together in a frown. "How do you know that?"
"Everyone knows. He doesn't really make much attempt to hide it."
"Fuck." Skinner rotated on his heel and left.
Mulder resumed his study of Alex Krycek's lover.
Only a few seconds passed before A.D. Skinner entered the interrogation room and dismissed Edwards.
The man Mulder was contemplating pushed himself away from the mirror and turned around.
Skinner held a hand out to Jaden. "I'm Assistant Director Walter Skinner."
Cautiously, Jaden accepted Walter's handshake. "I know your name. Alex has mentioned you a few times."
"Why don't you take a seat? Can we get you some coffee or anything?"
Jaden contemplated the new arrival with some suspicion before reluctantly replying, "Some water would be very appreciated."
The water dispenser right outside the interrogation room made it a simple matter for Skinner to take care of it himself. Once he had his subject seated, he sat opposite and opened the file. Edwards' apparent personal issues necessitated an impartial review of the interview notes. Jaden immediately picked up that the questions were starting again and, at his scowl, Walter neutrally offered, "Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. MacKay. This must be very difficult for you."
"Difficult?" Jaden asked incredulously. "Difficult! No. Difficult is finals week. Difficult is D.C. traffic on a Monday night. This," he gestured vaguely at the room, "is hell. My lover is missing. Though no one will tell me why or how or even for how long. I have no idea what's happened. And the only reason I sit here and put up with this bullshit is because of the slight hope that someone will tell me the fuck is going on!" His hands curled into fists and he struggled to control his breathing.
Skinner folded his hands over the file and met Jaden's angry glare unwaveringly. "Okay. We've determined that Agent Krycek attempted to intervene in the kidnapping of another agent on Monday night. Both agents were abducted. Because of Agent Krycek's bravery, the other agent was able to escape and we were able to apprehend the kidnapping suspect. However, Agent Krycek was taken by another, as yet unidentified subject or subjects. Neither of them has been found."
Jaden dropped his head in his hands. "Oh my god."
Skinner looked away for a moment, his instincts told him this young man's grief was genuine, but he had to make sure.
An angry voice brought his attention back. "What are you doing to find him?"
"We've completed a thorough search of his last known location. We're interviewing people who knew the suspect. We're evaluating physical evidence taken from several locations. And, we're speaking with people like you, who knew Agent Krycek. I assure you that I'm putting the full resources of the Bureau into the investigation."
"Why are you talking to me? Why aren't you talking to the people who took him?"
"The man who abducted him died at the scene."
Jaden frowned. "Man? One man?"
"How did one man manage to abduct two FBI agents?"
Skinner hesitated, not knowing how to tell this innocent-looking young man that his lover was likely dead.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"Agent Krycek was shot trying to stop the kidnapping."
"Shot?" Jaden's voice dropped to a horrified whisper. "Where?"
"We believe he was shot in the abdomen."
Mulder felt like he'd been punched in the gut when Jaden's eyes filled with tears. Working with the X-Files, this wasn't something he had to deal with often. Or perhaps it was simply that he didn't usually feel this oppressive guilt when other victims cried.
Jaden looked completely lost. "Why? I don't understand. Why did the kidnapper even take him?"
"We don't know yet."
"Well, why was this other agent a target?"
"We're still trying to find out."
"Have you heard from whoever has Alex? Ransom demands?"
"We haven't heard anything as yet. But we're trying to be hopeful."
Fury swept over the delicate features of the man who was, Mulder completely believed, Alex Krycek's boyfriend. "Well, I don't have him. I wish I did. I wish he were home, safe in bed. But he's not. And every minute you waste talking to me is a minute you're not looking for him. I'm not some great super-cop, but I do know that if Alex wasn't the target, looking at his life isn't going to tell you where he is. You look at the life of this other agent. You go talk to his wife or girlfriend or mother or whoever and find out why they wanted him."
Skinner released a heavy breath. "We have some reason to believe that Agent Krycek may have had loyalties to someone outside the Bureau. And that this other... connection may have had something to do with his kidnapping and that of the other agent." He paused to let the young man take in the information. "Perhaps you can shed some light on this question?"
Jaden shook his head in bemusement. "Alex? I can't imagine that. Alex doesn't have any loyalty that would supercede the Bureau. He hides it from most people, but he's such an idealist... he really believes in what he's doing." He rubbed his hand over his face, whispering to himself, "How are you going to find him when you don't know a damn thing about him?"
Though the question wasn't actually directed at him, Skinner decided to answer it anyway. "Perhaps that's something you can help us with?"
Looking tired and hopeless, Jaden gestured for Skinner to continue his questions.
Skinner decided it was time to test the kid. "I'm going to list some names. I'd like you to tell me if any of them are familiar to you." At Jaden's nod, Skinner began with, "Reese Donovan." The first name was a ruse... a random agent's name. Skinner watched Jaden closely as he continued the list of names. Even a slight reaction could be telling. "Dana Scully." Nothing. "Duane Barry... Karl Reagan."
Jaden's brows shot up. "Isn't that the Director?"
Skinner kept his expression neutral. "Yes."
"What does he have to do with it?"
"Ah." Jaden frowned and then glared as he comprehended the game Skinner was playing with him. "Any more?"
From his isolated location, Mulder wished he could tell Skinner to try some of Alex's recent cases.
As if on cue, Skinner asked, "Saul Grissom."
Jaden just shrugged his shoulders.
"Um... Alex mumbled the name Cole in his sleep one night. I don't know if it's the same guy or not."
"And when was this?"
"It was two weekends ago. Alex had been really stressed out about work and he'd been having a hard time sleeping, so I didn't think anything about it."
"Do you know why he was stressed about work?" Skinner already knew the answer.
And Jaden saw right through the question. "You already know Alex was involved in a shooting that had him on administrative leave for five days. And that's all I know about it. Alex doesn't want me to know about his work. He thinks I'll worry. Like I don't worry anyway." He sighed heavily. "Can we finish the name game, please?"
Skinner rattled off several more names that elicited no response. He decided to break out the big guns. "Carlyle Spender."
Jaden's brows snapped into a frown. "Spender?"
Mulder pressed a hand against the glass, wishing he could break through. Who was this Spender guy that Skinner's body language changed to subtly defensive and it bothered Jaden, too?
"You've heard the name?" Skinner prompted.
"Once. You know, I'm not so sure I should be telling you any of this." Jaden looked uncomfortable, as if he were worried about betraying Alex in some way.
"We have to look at everything. The smallest detail is sometimes what cracks a case like this. So, please... Spender?"
Jaden sighed. "Fine. Alex got a call on his cell one night-"
"Can you be more specific about which night?"
"July 28th." At Skinner's raised brow, Jaden added, "Yeah... the day after that shooting thing at work."
"Alex's cell rang... he got really tense, so I paid attention. He said something like, 'yeah, I got it.' Then he looked upset at something. He was prowling the room like a caged tiger." Skinner carefully watched the drift of Jaden's eyes as he recounted his memories. "He kept talking about 'there's stuff you're keeping from me,' and 'I don't believe you anymore.' It was so weird. Afterward, I tried to get him to talk to me about it, but he said it was just work shit and then he distracted me and I forgot about it 'til you mentioned that name."
"That's all you remember?"
"How did you know the name?"
"Oh, when he answered the phone, he started the call with, 'What now, Spender?'"
Skinner nodded. A change of subject was vital before it occurred to Jaden to ask any questions he couldn't possibly answer. He pulled a piece of paper from the file on the table. "I need to confirm some of the information you've provided us."
"Fine," Jaden assented with little affect.
"It says here you live in Baltimore. That correct?"
"Yes," he replied with the sudden exasperation of a man asked the same question many times. "As I told several of you previously, I'm attending Johns Hopkins, doing graduate work in biophysics. Shall I give you my address, professors' names and GPA again?"
"I know it's difficult to be asked the same questions over again. This may not be the last time you're asked. Please understand that we need your help and going over this information does aid the investigation."
Jaden closed his eyes, but nodded for him to continue.
"Agent Edwards found you in Agent Krycek's apartment in Alexandria?"
"I have his key." Irritation now showed clearly on Jaden's face. The man probably couldn't hide an emotion if his life depended on it, Mulder mused. "He also has mine."
"So, you live about an hour apart. How often do you see each other?"
"Uh, as much as we can. He usually spends Friday and Saturday night with me. I don't have class on Tuesday, so I come down to see him on Monday night and Tuesday." With an expression of aggravation, he leaned forward and added, "I usually head back to Baltimore early on Wednesday, right after we have sex."
Skinner ignored the comment. "You said you usually spend the weekend with him. Any changes recently?"
Jaden looked at the table, any semblance of anger gone. "We went spelunking in West Virginia two weekends ago. I dragged him there to get his mind off the BS at work while waiting for the outcome of whatever internal review they--you--had to do about the shooting. During the week, I was working on my thesis and couldn't break away. Last weekend he said he couldn't see me... something about work, but he wouldn't say much. He was really distracted. I was supposed to see him as usual on Monday night, but he never came home. I figured he was working on a case, so I stayed, tried to reach him on his cell, hoped to see him Tuesday... yesterday." A shuddering breath gave away his distress. "He never came home, never answered the phone. Then your people busted in and..." He wiped irritatedly at his face, then flashed a meaningful look at Skinner. "I've been in this shit hole since."
Skinner gave the stern version of a sympathetic glance, pausing briefly before his next question. "Other than what you've already told me, has Krycek, Alex, mentioned anything to you about his work in the last few weeks?"
That was apparently a new question as Jaden looked contemplative for several seconds. "Alex doesn't talk about work much, though I know he loves it." Lips quirked up at some memory. "He was so happy when he was assigned to HQ after the Academy. So was I. We were convinced that he was going to get assigned to Phoenix or something and we'd have to deal with occasional weekends until I graduated." Shaking off his private ruminations, Jaden continued. "He just doesn't talk about work. Although..." his brows drew together in apparent concentration. "He's been really moody about work since he got this new partner. Fox, uh... Moron... Murder... Moldy... I don't know. Some M-name. The first name stuck with me, though. I'm sure you know who it is."
Skinner nodded, refusing to smile at Jaden's verbal gymnastics. Mulder wished he were in the room to glare at Jaden in person.
"Alex was moody how," Skinner prompted.
"I... I don't know. It was like something was bothering him, but he wouldn't talk about it. Is that Fox guy the person who was abducted with Alex?"
Jaden frowned. "Then where the hell was he? Why was Alex working without his partner?"
"That's part of what we're trying to understand."
Jaden shook his head in frustration, clearly upset by his perception of Bureau personnel ineptitude.
Skinner took the opportunity to change the subject. "According the notes from the team who searched Agent Krycek's apartment, they didn't find much evidence of your relationship other than some men's clothing that would be too small to fit Krycek." Skinner left off that some of the sexual paraphernalia they found likely confirmed Krycek was gay. The items weren't specific in any way to Jaden MacKay.
The owner of said clothing bristled at the implication that he wasn't Alex's boyfriend. Then he just felt defeated. "It's just bad fucking timing."
"He usually has a picture of us on his bedroom wall. And there's a photo album that's usually kept on the bookcase in the office. Both are at my place. He keeps several pictures of me in his wallet, too."
"Why are the photos at your residence?"
"I'm the sentimental one in our relationship... I wanted to put pictures from our trip to the caves in. And I wanted to update the wall photo. The one there was from when we met three years ago."
"I do need to advise you that though you denied our request to search your residence, we were able to obtain a warrant."
Jaden just dropped his head. "I think I hate you people." He looked back up at Skinner, his eyes bright with tears. "Don't take my pictures of him... please."
The team had to see those photos. But provided there was nothing probative, the Bureau would have no reason to keep them. Skinner opted for an oblique nod. "Does Alex smoke?"
Blinking in surprise, Jaden could only manage, "What?"
"The team didn't find any signs of smoking paraphernalia at Alex's apartment, but they did find a cigarette butt in his car."
Mulder tensed at that. Alex already admitted being in contact with the Smoker. Still, he'd give anything to know the brand of cigarettes.
"Alex doesn't smoke. He hates cigarettes. I smoked occasionally when we first met, but he would never..." Jaden trailed off, flushing a bit.
"He wouldn't kiss me if I tasted like cigarettes. So I dropped the habit. Quickly." He stared off into space, mumbling, "I can't imagine him letting someone smoke in his car."
"What about his friends?"
"Alex knows a lot of people but he hasn't got many friends... he moved too much growing up. He had some buddies at the Academy, but they've been assigned all over the country. I don't think they talk much anymore."
"Can you think of any of their names?"
Jaden managed to come up with four names. Skinner made notes for his team to follow up on. Two of the men were in Los Angeles, one in Florida and the fourth assigned to London. It was likely a dead end, but it had to be checked.
From his quiet observation room, Mulder watched as Skinner conducted the interview. He often asked questions at the same time Mulder thought of them himself. Skinner asked about an address book or date book. Only on Alex's computer, apparently. Mulder knew the lab was already going over it. From the notes he'd read, they hadn't cracked Krycek's passwords yet. Skinner asked about passwords. Jaden claimed to not know them.
Skinner asked if Jaden had observed anything odd or out of place at Krycek's apartment while he waited there for over a day. No.
Pausing for a moment, Skinner perused his notes. "What can you tell me about his family?"
"Oh come on... I gave all of this to-oh, fuck it. Whatever. Beth, his mother, and Linda, his sister, are both in Africa shooting a documentary. They contact Alex through very sporadic emails via Beth's Johns Hopkins University mail account. I don't know how to get in touch with them other than the email addresses I've already provided. You can probably do better in that area than I can."
"Johns Hopkins?" Skinner queried at the coincidence.
Jaden rubbed his temple. "Beth Krycek teaches biology classes intermittently at JH. That's how I met Alex three years ago... we bumped into each other as he was leaving one of the science buildings. He'd stopped in to see his mother."
"Have you met his family?"
"Of course," Jaden snapped. "They're gone. A lot. But whenever they come home, Alex and I see them. You want particulars about that? Do you care that Linda and I get along great, but Beth thinks I'm trying to tie her son down? Do you give a shit that Alex's mother doesn't get that he didn't like being dragged all over the world... that he wants to stay in one place for a while? What else could you possibly want to know? Linda's a redhead. How 'bout that? Some freak recessive gene."
Skinner made a stay gesture to stem the family details. "We're almost done. Okay? Just a couple more questions."
"What about other family members we should talk to?"
"His father is dead. No uncles or aunts through his mother, but four uncles through his father. However, Beth cut contact with them after Andrei died. Alex has zero contact with them. His paternal grandparents are deceased. His maternal grandparents are in New Mexico, retired and approaching serious senility. What else can I tell you?"
Skinner just nodded an acknowledgement. "If Alex needed to get away in a hurry, who would he turn to?"
"Linda. That satisfy you? He's pretty tight with his sister. But she's thousands of miles away." Jaden leaned forward, placing both hands flat on the table. "If Alex were in trouble, he'd come to me."
"NO!" Jaden pushed back away from the table, arms crossed over his chest. "Are you being deliberately obtuse?"
Skinner met his glare head-on but didn't reply. Eventually, he asked. "Can you tell me about the last time you saw Alex?"
Mulder watched the kid totally fold in on himself. He felt a twinge of sympathy, but pushed it away. Sympathy clouds your judgment.
"It was nearly 11 at night on Sunday the 31st. I was leaving to head back to Baltimore. Alex was happy and relaxed... he loved the caves we'd explored that weekend. It helped shake him out of whatever funk he'd slipped into after the problem at work the week prior. We talked about the coming week... he and I agreed that we'd skip our mid-week visit so I could study and he wanted to spend some extra time at work." Jaden was finally smiling... lost in his memories. "All the way to my car, he griped about me taking the framed picture of us ... I told him to learn to live with a wallet size for a couple weeks. He kissed me goodbye, said, 'love ya, Jade,' just like he always does." His attention was now fixed on his lap, the tears dripping onto his crossed arms. "Then I went home." Eyes filled with sadness finally met Skinner's penetrating gaze. "That was ten days ago. I haven't seen him since."
Skinner was finding it difficult to continue to push this young man. It was clear the only thing Jaden MacKay could offer the FBI was insight into Alex Krycek. He reorganized his thoughts. "And the last time you spoke to him?"
Jaden wiped the back of his hand across his face and took a deep breath. "Monday morning... two days ago. I called to confirm things for our visit... he sounded distracted. I figured he was busy. He just said, 'yeah, I'll see ya tonight, babe.' That was it."
"Is there anything you can think of that might help us locate Agent Krycek?"
"Yeah... do your jobs and find out why the other agent was kidnapped."
Instead of replying to the barb, Skinner reached into his pocket, extracting a card. He leaned across the table, handing it to Jaden, who cautiously accepted it. "Here's my card. If you think of anything, please call me. Night or day."
Mulder blinked at that, but then it made sense. He couldn't very well have the kid call Edwards, and Skinner probably had to sort out some personnel issues on the team before he could assign someone else. Besides, Kimberly could screen anything.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. MacKay. I promise you, we'll do whatever we can to find him." Skinner rose to his feet, whishing he could reassure the young man slumped at the table that they were going to find his lover. But he didn't have that confidence. "I'm sending for Agent Donovan to drive you home-"
Jaden interrupted. "I'm going back to Alex's."
Skinner shook his head. "His apartment is temporarily sealed. That probably won't be for very long, but in an investigation like this, we search very thoroughly." He paused waiting for signs of comprehension. When Jaden seemed to have absorbed that Krycek's apartment was a disaster area, Skinner added, "I'm sure it will be upsetting for you."
Jaden shook his head. "Please call me when you're done with it. Someone has to clean up... I'm not going to have Alex come home to a huge mess."
Dissuading the kid seemed unlikely, so Skinner just accepted the terms with a short nod.
"Agent Donovan will make sure you get home safely."
When Jaden looked up at him, Skinner realized just how tired the young man really was. "Does this guy hate fags as much as the other one?" Jaden asked without ire.
"I assure you that Agent Donovan will treat you with the respect you deserve, or he'll have to answer to me. As will Agent Edwards. We don't tolerate bigotry at the Bureau."
Jaden's expression shifted to something less defensive when he saw that Skinner wasn't making any attempt at denying that his agent might have been inappropriate. Getting to his feet, he shook Skinner's hand. "Thank you." He started toward the door, then looked back over his shoulder. "Alex is a good man, Mr. Skinner. And he loves me. Whatever negative thoughts you're entertaining about him are just wrong."
At Skinner's lack of response, Jaden sighed and exited the interrogation room. Skinner followed to arrange for his ride home.
Mulder paced around the observation room while he waited for Skinner to return. The chances of the A.D. letting him any further into this investigation were nil. His involvement seemed doomed to be limited to profiling Jaden MacKay.
A few minutes later, Skinner returned. He leaned against the wall and watched Mulder pace. "Well?"
Mulder ceased his orbit. "I believe him. At least, I believe he believes what he's saying."
Skinner nodded. "Did you hear anything that contradicts what you know to be true?"
"No. I-" Mulder broke off, having to push guilt away again. But there was more this time... a profound sense of loss he didn't know what to do with. "I wish I could tell you more about Krycek, but I just don't know."
"You said Jaden believes what he's saying. What do you think we're not hearing?"
"I don't know. Maybe nothing. But two people in the same relationship can have different perspectives on it. He may think he's important to Alex Krycek, doesn't mean he actually is." For some reason he didn't want to look closely at, Mulder didn't want Jaden MacKay to be important to Alex Krycek.
Skinner frowned. "Well, he's our only insight into Krycek's life or his movements. If there's a chance we're barking up a dead tree, I want to know."
Mulder didn't realize he'd been holding his breath, but he let it out slowly and tried to fake ambivalence for his next request. "I can tell you, but I need to see that photo album."
With a rueful shake of his head, Skinner replied, "I knew that was coming." He stepped close to Mulder, completely invading his space. "Okay, Mulder. I'll let you proceed with one condition; your involvement on this case begins and ends with your assessment of Jaden MacKay. Nothing further, Mulder. I'm dead serious about this. If I find that you've questioned even one witness, or are harassing the SAC, I'll suspend you. Indefinitely."
But that wasn't enough for Skinner. "You understand me, Agent Mulder?"
"Yes, sir!" Mulder desperately didn't want to agree, but he knew if he didn't this meeting would be his last involvement in this case.
Skinner contemplated Mulder for several seconds. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he turned away and headed for the door, calling back. "As soon as the lab is finished with it, I'll have it delivered to you. I want a report before end of business today."
When the door was closed and he was once again alone, Mulder sat heavily in a nearby chair. His knees seemed to have turned insubstantial and his stomach was tied in knots. As much as he wanted to see the photo album, he dreaded it with the same intensity.
Then he felt like kicking himself. He'd forgotten the one question that was burning him up... Who the fuck was Carlyle Spender?
End Part 2