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This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Deny Nothing

Alex considered making conversation in the car, but since the only question that came to mind was "Are you fucking Mulder?" he considered discretion to be the better part of surviving.

The chop shop was an hour outside of Washington, in a part of Virginia where there were more Confederate flags than working stoplights. Alex surveyed the grimy junkyard with disgust. Usually, Americans' businesses were clean, like their teeth, but this shithole could have come from Russia with love.

He hung back as Scully flashed her badge, pushing back her jacket to make quite sure that the tattooed lout behind the counter got as good a look at her Sig as he'd been getting of her breasts. Judging by the way he straightened up and began to look anywhere but at her, he got the message.

She explained that they were looking for a car, and the man averred that they hadn't received any cars in the last few days. Apparently business was bad.

"Sir, do you understand that it is a federal offense to convert federal property to private use?"

"We don't have any fed'ral vehicles," the good old boy insisted.

"Sir, have you heard of the 'Lo-Jack'?"

He nodded, licking his lips. Alex noted that, despite the meat-locker air conditioning, the man's Harley Davidson T-shirt was ringed with sweat.

"Are you aware that the missing federal vehicle had similar tracking technology and that we have received a transmission from this location indicating the presence of the vehicle?"

The man didn't know whether to nod or shake his head, complex sentences not being his strong suit, so he just swallowed, his eyes widening and bulging under the dirty fluorescent lights. "Uh, maybe I –"

"Sir," Scully cut him off, sounding bored. "I will make this simple. I want that vehicle, in however many parts it now exists. If you give me the access I need without further argument, you and I are done. If I have to call for a warrant, I will invoke the state and federal forfeiture laws and clean this place out down to the junkyard dogs."

Alex repressed the urge to clap, because it would be very Zen without his left arm. Gorilla boy wiped a sweaty hand over his forehead. "Fuh-follow me."

"You know," he whispered to Scully as they trotted after the agitated man, "it's feds like you who cause these nasty rumors about unmarked helicopters and martial law."

Her lips thinned and she strode ahead of him, short legs working overtime. He grinned at her back. She had more buttons than a space shuttle. Maybe that's why Mulder was willing to put up with everything else, just for the fun of pushing them.

The car was mostly intact, raised on a lift so that it could be more efficiently dismantled. "Get up there and look around," Scully ordered him. "He probably got out of the car voluntarily, but there might be a gas receipt that would help."

Alex grunted and used his arm to lever himself into the driver's seat. He wished she'd watch his one-armed prowess, but she was off scaring the bejeezus out of the Asian mechanic cowering in the darkened recesses of the garage.

He checked the glove compartment, but there was nothing but the manual. No surprise. Mulderleavings wouldn't be neatly hidden away.

The space under the seats was much more productive. The dead leaves and cigarette butts had to be from previous drivers, but there was a McDonald's bag that still smelled of burgers and salt. Alex poked through the greasy wrappers until he found the receipt. Some of the purple ink had run. He could tell that Mulder had spent $10.44 — what an amazing pig the man could be — but the store number was only halfway visible. Still, with a few phone calls it would be a good lead.

Scully came back around to the door of the car and looked up at him expectantly. "Mulder thought he deserved a break that day." He showed her the receipt. "It should help pin down his location." Getting into the car was one thing, but how was he going to get down without falling on his ass? He dangled his legs over the side and prepared to jump.

Wordlessly, Scully moved so that her shoulder was in exactly the right position. He grabbed at the soft fabric of her jacket and managed to remain upright as he landed, though his shins ached.

"The car was brought in by a friend of Mr. Kim's, there," she informed him as he let go of her. "Mr. Kim does not want any trouble with the INS and he was quite helpful. His friend got the car when it was dropped off in front of the friend's store. According to Mr. Kim, everyone in the Korean community knows that his friend works in the 'used car business'."

****

Scully got on the phone and began to harass hapless low-level executives to find the source of the McDonald's receipt. Corporate HQ was forthcoming once they knew that there was no investigation into beef quality going on, just an attempt to trace a missing agent.

The McDonald's was on Georgia Avenue, just at the edge of the District. They drove there without talking.

What could Mulder have been looking for?

Ever since the events of the past summer, Mulder had been unable to get official approval for X-Filish investigations. He'd been doing domestic terrorism, because sometimes he could zoo up some conspiracy connection to wackos who were stockpiling Uzis because they saw black helicopters on the telephone lines where normal people only saw ravens. Alex had heard that Skinner had called in ten years of favors to keep Mulder out of ISU and to continue his field assignment status with Scully.

"Was there anything about a case in this part of town?" he asked Scully as she returned to the car. He already felt the frustration of a dying lead.

"The manager checked with the girl who filled his order," she said instead of replying. "She says he was buying lunch for himself and a kid." So Mulder wasn't quite as greedy a hog as he'd thought.

"Description?"

She fastened her seatbelt and started the car. "Asian, she said. She wasn't a good witness. I suspect she thinks 'they all look alike'. But the good news is that he was wearing a uniform from the Catholic school a few blocks away."

"I never saw Mulder as a chicken hawk," Alex said and she was actually so shocked that she gasped. If she hadn't been belted in she probably would have pistol-whipped him, but instead her hands twitched on the steering wheel. "Are you angry because he might be a pedophile or just because he might be cheating on you?"

The car jerked into reverse and to the side, throwing him against the car door so that his good shoulder ached. He could see her face tighten against the vitriol that wanted to spew from her like plague blisters bursting. Maybe she just couldn't think up a good enough comeback.

She drove the way he always thought insecure men did — aggressively, using the gas and brake pedals liberally and sometimes without appearing to distinguish between the two. Another datum for the profile. "So, when did you and Mulder finally do the deed?" he asked as they prowled down the block, looking for the school.

"What deed is that?"

"Coy isn't your best look, Agent Scully."

Her lips thinned, a rosebud crushed under a jackboot's heel. "Did you know that you babbled in Russian when you were having sex with him? He asked me what some of it meant."

He should know better than to play with her. She might not have Mulder's psychology degree, but something had surely rubbed off. One way or another. If he didn't hit back now, the power dynamic would be all wrong for the rest of this investigation. "Why would he ask you? Does he kiss and tell?"

"He thinks I know everything." He saw the school, next to a small church, and Scully noticed it as well. She turned onto the cross street and pulled into the school parking lot.

Okay, he could accept that answer for now. Scully parked in a spot marked "Reserved for Sisters" and they got out. Schoolchildren rushed past them like a flock of sheep chased by the homework wolves — school was just getting out.

****

Scully went strangely passive on him as soon as they got in the school. Alex would have thought that the child-size universe suited her, but she looked around the place as if she were a wayward child brought in for correction. Mulder had mentioned that she was Catholic; perhaps she was flashing back to the transgressions of her youth, back when guilt was a stunning prime- time discovery instead of syndicated and in reruns.

For whatever reason, he had to take the initiative and flash his fake badge at the two nuns in the front office. He smiled at them and they smiled back. Nuns liked law and order, and he'd been told more than once that he had the face of a choirboy. Usually by a Catholic man with priest issues.

Remembering, he grinned at the nuns as they waited for the headmistress. He could tell that his excessive happiness made them a little nervous, but they smiled back even as their eyes lost the hang of it. Scully didn't seem to notice his mindgames; she sat in her plastic bucket chair with her hands folded in her lap and her eyes focused somewhere in the next hemisphere.

He mouthed a thank-you to the nuns as the door to the headmistress's office swung open and a high, tiny voice asked the agents to come in, please. It wasn't very nice to freak nuns out. Doubtless they were mostly nice women who prayed for fags like him to repent, though certainly there had to be a few who'd rather he just burn in hell. They probably fantasized about the sex, or the torments of hell (assuming that they saw a distinction) as they counted their rosaries.

A cup of coffee and three yearbooks later, they'd extracted a list of all the school's Asian boys from the sister-headmistress. She seemed more concerned that one of their students would have lunch with a strange man, even one who said he was a policeman, than over the fact that said man was missing. He understood her reasoning. You take care of your own, and fuck the collateral damage.

And there was a boy who had not been to school in three days, since Mulder had come looking.

His mother worked in a grocery store, but his father worked for an import/export business. That had definite skullduggery potential. Scully extracted the boy's home address from Sister Mary and promised that they'd file a missing persons report if it seemed indicated. The Sister thought that the parents were unlikely to trust the government enough to go to the police, unassisted, even if their son was missing.

They were driving to the Silver Spring address the nun had given them when Scully's cellphone went off like a car alarm.

"Scully."

Skinner's voice through the phone made him sound like an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. It made sense, as Scully was the little red-headed girl. And Mulder, the hapless Charlie, eternal loser but also the protagonist of every adventure. They made sense, but who was he? Snoopy, maybe, living in Charlie's doghouse, with his front paw snipped off by the Zamboni.

Scully visibly lost patience with what she was hearing and interrupted Skinner mid-noise. "Sir, I think that's –" Her mouth snapped shut and he thought he could hear the bones in her jaw jolt. But her submission didn't last long. "No, sir, I cannot agree — No, sir, in my best judgment — And do you have any idea where those orders — No, I will not … Very well then … Thank you, sir," and surprisingly, the last words didn't sound forced at all. She sounded almost relieved.

"Care to share with the class, Scully?"

"Skinner's received orders to let this go. He's officially granted me a week of personal leave but will confirm that I'm acting under the FBI aegis while I continue the investigation."

"Nice guy."

She looked at him curiously, as if uncertain whether to take the statement at face value. "Can you get money? Skinner thinks I should keep away from my apartment and my credit cards since there are indications of government involvement here."

"No problem."

Robert Park and his parents lived in a nondescript apartment building. They rode the elevator up in silence. Alex wondered if agents ended up sleeping with their partners just because there was nothing better to do. Without a script like the folks on 'Homicide' it was hard to figure out what to say during the long waits that were part of any investigator's life. Come to think of it, he knew a few assassin pairs that were like that, too. Indifference was almost impossible to maintain when you and your partner were tossed rapidly from utter boredom to ineffable terror at random intervals. After too many adrenalin jolts, it was either sweaty sex or bloody murder.

They found the apartment and Alex pounded on the door. From eight stories up, it would be difficult for someone to sneak out the window. After thirty seconds, he turned to Scully. "Do you need to look away while I break in?"

"Don't you like to be watched?"

His mouth dropped open for just a second, and then he reached in his pocket for his lock gun. The door opened like a college freshman after six beers, and they were in.

It was immediately clear that the place had been abandoned. The air had the dusty stillness of flight, and an overstuffed suitcase that had obviously been overlooked in the rush sat on the couch. There were a few spots on the wall where pictures should have been.

"Check the trash for anything they tried to get rid of," Scully ordered, pushing past him. She went over to the small desk under the window and began to pull out drawers. He saw flashes of Korean and she began stacking documents to take away. It could be letters from home, but that was a job for the translators.

Scully was as efficient as an Uzi plowing through bystanders; she'd tossed the desk in the time it took him to sort through souring kimchee and empty boxes of cornflakes. They did the bedroom together, Alex pawing through the clothes and Scully checking the bedframe and other classic hiding places. There was nothing there, and nothing in the toilet tank or the light fixtures either. He was again surprised that she knew exactly where to look. He'd always assumed, from what Mulder said, that Scully was above the unsavory, both in her own life and when examining others'. It was beginning to look like that was just another of Mulder's delusions.

In the child's bedroom, taped under the closet shelf, he found another Korean document. Scully seemed distracted by the stuffed animals and she rearranged them while he checked for anything else.

"Can you get these translated?" he asked when he was finished.

She nodded vaguely, eyes so large and vulnerable that she could be the subject of one of those cheap hotel-room paintings of innocent orphans.

Kids, he thought. Something about kids. She did not need — Mulder did not need — her distraction.

"What are we going to get it done now that you've lost Papa Hoover's blessing?"

"Langley," she said and smiled.

Series Navigation«Deny Nothing: Chapter 1.5Deny Nothing: Chapter 2»
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