The BAU Works an X-File?
The agents gathered in a warehouse only a mile from the school and looked sadly at the most recent victim of their serial killer, who was quickly becoming prolific.
The young girl, like the others, was lying naked in the center of a pentagram. Her heart had been removed just as gruesomely as the other girls' hearts had been. She looked younger than the other girls, too, though not much.
"Any idea who she is?" asked Hotch.
"Yeah," said Andrew Laurence, one of the local police officers. "That's Matilda Cofton. She goes to the high school with my daughter; they're both in the ninth grade."
"So, now we have a ninth grader, a tenth grader, an eleventh grader, and a twelfth grader," supplied Rossi.
"Do you think he's going to go after an eighth grader next?" asked the alarmed Laurence, thinking of his own children and their friends, who spanned many grades.
"It's possible, but unlikely. He's targeting the high school," said Mulder with more conviction than he felt.
"Is there anything you can tell us about Matilda?" asked J.J., as CSI began to take apart the crime scene looking for forensic evidence.
"She's a nice kid," said Laurence. "She's been sick."
"Sick how?" asked Hotch.
"She was in renal failure last year and has been getting dialysis. Do you guys need anything else?" asked Laurence as he eyed the work being done around him. Standing around and talking was fine and good, but he needed to do something, to feel like he was truly helping catch this killer.
"No, that's it," said Hotch, letting the officer go off and help CSI.
"The pattern is getting stronger with each victim," said Mulder. "He's going after teenage girls who have issues. What I want to know, now, is whether or not Matilda ever had an altercation with Principal Salazar?"
Hotch nodded, having been updated during the drive over. "Maybe you should pay another visit to Ms. Mackey," he suggested.
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
"You're back," said Eugenia Mackey a bit tentatively as Mulder and J.J. walked back into her office, only about an hour after they had left.
"We're back," agreed Mulder. "We've just found another body. I am going to tell you who it is, but until the family has been notified, we have to ask you not to discuss this with anybody."
"Of course," said Mackey quickly.
"Matilda Cofton," said Mulder, sitting down on the edge of Mackey's desk.
"Oh no," said Mackey, bringing her hand to cover her open mouth, tears brimming in her eyes.
"You knew her well?" asked J.J.
"Yes, she was a sweetie," said Mackey. "She was struggling to catch up in her studies after missing so much school last year when she was at the middle school. She almost got held back a year, but she really wanted to stay with her friends. I've been working with her to ensure she is where she needs to be academically. I know how it feels, I was quite ill when I was a teenager, too."
"And has she had much interaction with Mark Salazar?" asked Mulder.
Mackey clenched her jaw tightly before saying, "I don't like these questions about Principal Salazar. You're trying to make this his fault."
"We're not," said Mulder, "we're just trying to get the whole story and follow it wherever it may lead — right now, the story is leading to Salazar. So, did Matilda have much interaction with him?"
"She was considered a special needs student due to her renal failure," answered Mackey. "Because of that, she met with me, Mark and several teachers on a regular basis to plan her schedule and make sure she was all right. School could be very stressful for such a sick girl."
"Did she ever meet with him alone?" asked J.J.
"Well, yes," said Mackey, "but she never ever said that there was anything bad happening. She seemed to really like Principal Salazar."
"How often would you say they met?" asked Mulder.
"I don't know … maybe once a week," said Mackey.
"Once a week?" repeated Mulder. "That doesn't seem excessive to you."
"Matilda was a very sick girl," said Mackey defensively. "She needed a lot of support."
"Thank you for all your help," said J.J., nodding to Mulder to indicate that it was time to leave.
"Yes, you've been a Godsend," said Mulder, taking Mackey's hand, causing her to blush, restoring the color to the cheeks that grown paler and paler during the course of their interview.
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
"So, what do we know?" asked Hotch, as the team, plus Mulder and Scully, gathered back at the police station.
"Matilda Cofton's autopsy didn't yield any surprises," offered Scully. "Like the other three victims, Matilda self-administered the paralytic and the perpetrator, with a weapon that I still haven't been able to identify, cut her heart out of her chest."
"Do we even have any suspects?" asked Morgan, feeling discouraged by the most recent killing.
"Yeah," said Mulder, standing up to better command the room. "Principal Mark Salazar. The first three victims had issues with him; they accused him of inappropriate, possibly sexual, behavior. The fourth victim apparently spent a lot of one-on-one time with him."
"He seems like a viable suspect, except there is no apparent sexual sadism in these kills," said Reid. "The girls were naked, but there were no signs of sexual assault." Turning to Scully, he confirmed, "Were there?"
"No," Scully answered. "Matilda Cofton was certainly not a virgin, but there were no signs of sexual trauma. She didn't appear to have had sex within even the last three days."
"Well, it's possible he was using his untoward feelings as an excuse to get to know these girls, so he can use them for his Satanic rites," said Mulder, growing more excited as he kept speaking. "What do you think he's trying to do? Gain immortality? Become wealthy? I mean, ridiculously, sinfully wealthy!"
"Well, whatever he's trying to do, he's going to be very disappointed — possibly to the point of mass violent rage — when it doesn't work," Reid said.
"If it doesn't work," said Mulder, wagging his eyebrows.
"And what are you suggesting?" asked Rossi, wishing Mulder would just leave. He felt sorry for the man, but that was no reason to let him run slipshod over the FBI. "That we let him keep killing girls to see if it will work?"
"Of course not," said Scully quickly, coming to her partner's defense. "We obviously need to find some evidence so we can arrest him and prevent any more deaths."
"If it is him," said Hotch. "As Agent Scully just pointed out, we don't have any evidence. It bothers me that we still don't have a working profile, just bits and pieces of one."
"Well, I got you some info on one Mark Salazar," said Garcia over the speaker phone from her office back in Quantico. Startled, Mulder jumped, not having been aware that Garcia was listening in. "Mark Salazar, age forty-six. He's been principal at Hoban High School for the past three years. He was married, but they divorced seven years ago. They cited 'irreconcilable differences.'"
"Probably code for 'pedophile,'" put in Rossi.
"He's gotten a couple of parking tickets, which he paid in full," continued Garcia, as if Rossi had not said anything at all. "And that's it. He's squeaky clean. Not much here."
"What kind of magazines does he subscribe to?" asked Prentiss.
"A lot of fancy car magazines, but he drives an old beater," said Garcia.
"See," said Mulder, "he wants wealth. Nobody just looks at nice cars. You look at them and fantasize about driving them."
After shooting Mulder a quelling look, Hotch asked, "Any complaints on file from Hoban School District or any other school districts?"
"Um, just a second," said Garcia, and they could all hear the clack of her keyboard. "Yes. Just one. Cochrane High School. A student said Salazar had rubbed up against her, but she recanted, said she was angry over a failing grade. He used to be a biology teacher."
"So he would know which drugs and in which dosages could paralyze a teenage girl without killing her prematurely," said Reid.
"Would he?" questioned Mulder. "Don't get me wrong; I think Salazar's our guy. But I don't think knowledge of pharmacology is a requirement to teach teenagers what kidneys do."
Rather than respond, Reid just pressed his lips together and looked down at the table. He couldn't help it; he just didn't like Agent Mulder. He found the man arrogant and off-putting. He didn't understand how a man so smart and who also worked for the prestigious FBI could believe in the supernatural and the extra-terrestrial. Also, Rossi clearly had issues with Mulder, and Reid trusted Rossi's opinion. Trusting Rossi had saved his life a few times in the past.
Also ignoring Mulder — though finding him somewhat interesting and amusing — Prentiss said, "I think we should bring Salazar in for questioning."
"I agree," said Rossi. "While we don't have a working profile yet, I've met Salazar and I believe it's the right move. We need to put some pressure on him and make it clear that we're in charge.
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
"I don't understand what I'm doing here," said Salazar, leaning back from the table in the station's interview room. "I've already told you everything I know."
"You look pretty comfortable," said Rossi, sitting opposite Salazar and consciously mimicking his laid-back posture.
"Is there a reason I shouldn't be?" asked Salazar.
"I wouldn't be so comfortable if I were you," said Rossi. "I'd actually be pretty nervous considering the circumstances."
"What circumstances?" asked Salazar, leaning forward a bit.
"Four of your students are now dead," said Hotch, circling behind Salazar, causing the suspect to look over his shoulder nervously.
"Four? Who else?" asked Salazar, ghostly pale now.
Hotch and Rossi ignored his question. "We spoke to you earlier, but you never mentioned seeing Maria Lopez naked in the showers," said Hotch.
"I don't know who told you that, but it isn't true. I didn't see anything," protested Salazar, beginning to feel like a swimmer bleeding in shark-infested waters.
"You also failed to mention that Emma complained about you ogling her, and that Tricia reported being uncomfortable with the amount of physical contact between the two of you," added Rossi.
"None of that's true. I'm their principal."
"Tell us, do you put the 'pal' in principal?" asked Rossi.
Salazar now looked visibly shaken, sweat beginning to soak through his shirt. "I never did anything wrong with any of my students," said Salazar, clearly hoping this pronouncement would end further questioning.
"We've heard differently," said Hotch simply.
"You said there was a fourth murder? Who was it?" whined Salazar almost pitifully.
"We think you already know," said Hotch.
"What?" spluttered Salazar. "How would I know?" His eyes then widened, almost comically. "No, no, no, no, no. I would never — I could never — How dare you? I am a principal. I care for my students."
"Care how?" thundered Rossi.
"I gave those girls the attention they needed, the attention they weren't getting at home," said Salazar.
"And we know what kind of attention that was," said Rossi, deciding to take a gamble based off of a hunch. "Matilda Cofton told us all about the special attention you gave her."
"What did she tell you?" demanded Salazar.
"Matilda told us what you two used to do during your weekly meetings," said Hotch, picking up seamlessly where Rossi had left off.
"Then Matilda told you that I would never hurt anyone," said Salazar, speaking much more calmly and quietly than before. He appeared to be resigned. "I liked Emma, Tricia and Maria. I felt badly for them. They were hurting, suffering. I just wanted to make them feel better, but I would never hurt them. Matilda must have told you that. She must have told you how I've taken care of her."
"You've been sleeping with her," bit off Rossi.
"I've been loving her," corrected Salazar. "She was in so much pain, but she's happy now that she's with me."
Disgustedly Rossi stood up, satisfied that Salazar was a pervert, but not their killer. He and Hotch headed to the door to leave.
"Wait," called Salazar. "You said another girl had been killed. Who?"
Before closing the door on the interrogation room, Rossi leaned back in and told Salazar: "Matilda Cofton."
Left alone in the interrogation room, Salazar put his head on the table and began to weep.
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
"So, it's not Salazar?" asked J.J.
"He genuinely believed Matilda Cofton was still alive," said Hotch.
"And now he's bawling his eyes out in the interrogation room," said Mulder. "What are we going to do with him?"
"He's not our guy, so he's not our problem anymore," said Hotch. Before Mulder could begin to argue, Hotch continued, "We'll turn him over to local police. He's going to jail, but we're not the ones putting him there."
"So we're back to square one," said Morgan dejectedly.
"Which, remarkably, isn't that far from where we were before," put in Mulder unhelpfully.
"And what do you suggest?" asked Rossi, feeling Mulder get more and more under his skin as this case wore on.
Pretending he didn't hear the exasperation in Rossi's voice, Mulder said, "I think we should go through all the evidence again and completely retool what little we had of a profile," said Mulder.
"And what changes would you like to make?" asked Rossi, still bristling at Mulder's mere presence. "I suppose you want the profile to say that the un-sub is a 'white, male wizard, in his 30s or 40s'?"
"Well," said Mulder slowly, buying time as he re-examined the crime scene photos. "I don't think we're looking for a wizard; I think it might be a witch."
"A woman likely wouldn't leave the bodies naked though," pointed out Prentiss.
"But there was no sexual component to these crimes," argued Mulder. "I mean, maybe the girls needed to be naked for the spell to work."
"But what makes you think it's a woman?" asked Morgan, finding himself increasingly fascinated with this oddjob FBI agent.
"Well, the paralytic was self-injected, right?" Mulder asked Scully, more for the rest of the team than for himself.
"Yes," confirmed Scully, "the evidence points to that."
"That means the victims were convinced to do it," said Mulder. "A man likely wouldn't be as skilled at that. It's not impossible for a man, but a woman would likely be more empathetic — or seemingly so — and be able to relate to the girls better, or at least make them think she was relating. Also, a man wouldn't have to resort to convincing the girls to be complicit in their own murders. A man would be able to overpower the victims; women use other tools."
"It's why so many female killers use poison," added Reid. "In 1925, in Ohio, Martha Wise poisoned three of her family members to death and crippled more than a dozen with arsenic. In Seattle in 1986, Stella Nickell poisoned her husband and an innocent shopper by planting cyanide-laced medicine on drugstore shelves. In the 1930s, in Cincinnati, Anna Marie Hahn poisoned German immigrants and stole their money, similar to Dorothea Puente in the 1980s in Sacramento, who poisoned people to steal their social security checks."
Reid opened his mouth widely to take a deep breath, but Mulder cut him off. "We get it: Women poison people," said Mulder with a wry smile.
"Yeah, the un-sub being a woman actually fits the profile better than a man does," Reid agreed.
"Well, I have the boy genius on my side; who else?" asked Mulder jovially.
"Women are better at convincing people to do things," said J.J., shrugging slightly, as if to say, 'Sure, I'll go along with this … for now.'
"Let's try to get together a profile," said Hotch.
A short time later, the BAU and Mulder and Scully were standing in front of the Hoban Police Department's finest, delivering a profile.
"We believe we are looking for a white woman," began Hotch, "in her 20s or 30s."
"She would be someone with whom the victims feel they can identify," explained J.J. "She probably had a rough time in high school."
"She is likely intelligent and a master manipulator," said Reid. "She is adept at getting these girls to do whatever she tells them to do."
"She probably is in a position of power, giving her even more of a hold over these girls," added Morgan.
"She is likely someone they know well," said Prentiss, "perhaps a teacher, as high school seems to be the main connection between the victims."
"She is probably attractive and unassuming," added Rossi. "People are more likely to respond positively to someone who's attractive."
"Although she is charming and attractive, she's probably single," said Hotch. "Anything to add?" he asked, looking to Mulder and Scully.
Scully just shook her head no, but Mulder felt the need to scoff. "Seriously, was that presentation just now scripted? Does everyone need to talk? How do you decide who gets to say what?" Hotch just fixed him with a quelling look, before sweeping by him to go back into the conference room. Following their boss' example, the rest of the BAU re-entered the conference room as well. "Seriously," said Mulder to Scully, "did you notice that they all said something? That was weird, right?"
"You're trying to prove that aliens exist, but them cooperating during a meeting is weird?" asked Scully, before she too joined the BAU in the conference room.
"There's weird and then there's weird," said Mulder to himself. Eyes suddenly going wide, Mulder had an epiphany. Oddly enough, hearing the entire BAU team deliver the profile had put all the pieces into focus. He had a sinking feeling that he knew who the un-sub was. He needed to make a phone call.
"Can you narrow down the search?" J.J. was asking Garcia over the phone when Mulder came back.
"Sure thing, sweetie," said Garcia.
"Wait," said Mulder, with a wild look in his eyes. "Look up everything you can about Eugenia Mackey."
"The guidance counselor?" Prentiss asked.
"It just hit me," said Mulder. "I think she's our killer."
"What? Why?" asked J.J.
"Well, you said she was flirting with you," Scully said to Mulder. "There's obviously something pathologically wrong with her."
"Thanks," said Mulder with an insincere grin. "But she worked really hard to insinuate herself into this investigation and she matches the profile to a T."
"How so?" asked Rossi.
"Well, she's a single, white female in her 20s or 30s," started Mulder.
"She's 31," chimed in Garcia.
"She's attractive, charming, and just look at how well she got us to look at Salazar," said Mulder. "She set him up. She chose these girls knowing the trail would lead to him.
"And I talked to Dr. Brown just now, and he told me that when she was a teenager she was really into the goth scene," continued Mulder. "Also, when J.J. and I were interviewing her, she mentioned being sick when she was in high school."
"She suffered from pseudotumor cerebri," said Garcia. "It's an increase in pressure in the cerebral-spinal fluid. She was hospitalized for three months."
"She's definitely in a position of power at the school," continued Mulder. "All the troubled kids automatically get sent to her. Lambs to the lion."
"That's all well and good," said Rossi, "but we don't have any proof. I'm not convinced that she would know how to administer the paralytic."
"Um," said Garcia, in her favorite way to let the team know that she knew something they didn't, "in college, she double-majored in psychology and pharmacology. She used to work at a pharmacy, before getting her master's in social work."
"Let's go pick her up," said Hotch. "It's 7 p.m., she's probably home now."
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
When the team arrived as Ms. Eugenia Mackey's house, it was dark.
"She must not be home," said Morgan.
"Or she's doing satanic rituals by dim candlelight," said Mulder, shrugging off Morgan's raised eyebrow.
"We have a warrant," said Hotch. "We're going in."
Splitting up to cover all the entrances, the team entered the home quietly, with their guns drawn. It was a strike against Mackey in Rossi's book that, even with murders around town, none of her doors were locked; clearly she knew she had nothing of which to be afraid.
Upon first glance, the house seemed entirely normal. A bit messy, but that was to be expected of a single woman living alone. There were knickknacks everywhere; it was almost overwhelming. The plain white walls were adorned with pictures torn from magazines — pictures of savannahs, beaches, forests, mountains. The great outdoors, cooped up in a smallish, drab house.
The kitchen was a wreck, with dirty bowls scattered around. While nothing was growing in any of them or anything, they had clearly been hanging out waiting to be washed for a couple of days. A half-eaten bag of potato chips lay on the table, next to an empty bowl that had likely once contained dip. Instead of decorating the kitchen with magazine photos, Mackey had plants growing on the window sill, table and counter: mint leaves, dill, spider plants, a small lemon tree that had not yet borne fruit.
The upstairs was quite standard, as well. At first the agents thought someone had ransacked the room, but then they figured out Mackey's system: Dirty clothes go on the floor. The bed was unmade, but, judging by the rest of the house, the team knew that didn't mean anything. The bathroom was thankfully clean, though she had several empty bottles of soap lined up on the counter. The guest room looked gorgeous; the bed was made, the floor was clear, the desk was empty. It would have been perfect if not for the thin coat of dust layering everything. It had clearly been a while since Mackey had had an overnight guest.
Although a bit depressing, none of this screamed serial killer to the agents. Until they went into the basement.
Unlike the rest of the house, the basement was pristine. The floor was swept; there were no teetering piles of magazines or miscellanea. Everything was neat and orderly — especially the shrine to the witch goddess Hecate against the far wall. The shrine was draped in shimmering, black cloth with burned-down candles scattered atop it and hanging medallions depicting devilish symbols. A dark green pad lay in front of the shrine, still with two small indentations made by the bony knees often resting there.
The most ghastly site, of course, were the four mason jars, each containing a dark red, human heart. Lying in front of the hearts was a short, jagged-looking dagger — a dagger that would likely leave jagged, gaping holes in teenage girls' chests.
"I guess we found our killer," said Prentiss, grimacing at the gruesome display.
"I still don't understand why, though," said Mulder, rifling through some writings and diagrams on a small table set next to the shrine.
Before anyone could respond, they heard the front door slam closed.
Moving as one, without even having to communicate, the FBI agents, glancing upward, spread out around the basement, clinging to the shadows, with their guns drawn and ready. They didn't have to wait long before they heard a woman's soft tread on the stairs, coming right to them.
Mackey was only halfway down the stairs, with only the bottom half of her body visible, when she seemed to sense that something was not as it should have been. Ducking her head down, Mackey looked into the basement and immediately made eye contact with Mulder.
"Eugenia! Don't move!" shouted Mulder.
But before Mulder had even finished her name, Mackey had taken off, racing back up the stairs.
"Damn!" muttered Rossi, taking off after her, with Mulder close on his heels. The other agents ran up the stairs, too, fanning out through the house.
But it was Rossi and Mulder who caught up with her in the backyard, surrounded by small white Christmas lights, clearly left up year-round, and some interesting statuary.
"Stop!" bellowed Rossi, training his gun on the suspect.
Mackey turned around with her arms in the air and her eyes wide, staring at the two guns trained on her. She looked startled and wary, which in Rossi's experience was a good sign. It usually meant that the suspect would do what he told them to do and not choose to do something fatally stupid. And he told her: "Keep your hands up. I'm coming closer."
On the upside, the kept her hands raised. On the downside, she began gesturing, contorting her fingers into symbols and characters and marks — dark, old, worrisome looking marks. Her voice started as a whisper, growing louder and louder. She sounded supernatural, as if a second, deeper voice were layering over her own. "Crudus. Cruentati omni tebram. Multitudo viscerum tuorem et capite cruentati."
Mulder would never be sure if it were true magic or the power of suggestion, but he began to feel a bit ill. Rossi just tried to ignore the creepy Latin.
Then, from seemingly nowhere, Mackey pulled a knife and rushed Mulder. Had the blade connected, it surely would have pierced Mulder's heart. But it didn't connect. Just before the dagger could hit its target, Rossi put two bullets into her chest.
Instead of stabbing Mulder, she fell into his arms, curling up convulsively as her blood ran from the two new holes in her torso. Cradling her in his arms, Mulder began begging her not to die. "Please, Eugenia, please," he beseeched her. "Hold on."
Rossi, who had already pulled out his phone and called for an ambulance, was joined by the other agents, who looked on at the tableau of Mulder holding the gasping woman, all of them knowing that she would die there, encircled by his arms.
"Please don't die," said Mulder, near tears. "I need to know. What were you trying to do? Was all this real or a delusion? Was it? I need to know. I need the truth."
As the blood filled her lungs, Mackey couldn't speak. She raised her hand — the one that had recently grasped a knife, intending to plunge it into Mulder's heart — and stroked Mulder's cheek. Then, smiling with her blood-coated teeth, Ms. Eugenia Mackey died.
And Mulder felt crushed.
0 ~ 0 ~ 0
Rossi tried to rest on the short plane ride back to D.C., but he couldn't banish from his memory the look of wild desolation on Mulder's face as the killer had died in his arms.
Standing up slowly, Rossi made his way to the front of the plane, where he had last seen Mulder. As he passed the other FBI agents, he noted that they were all sleeping, apparently not unduly affected by this latest case. That was good. Having done this job for so long, Rossi knew that each agent hit a point where they just could not do it anymore, and he always feared that each case would be the last for one of the team members, all of whom he now considered family.
Everyone was sleeping except Mulder, who was gazing out the window.
Rossi sat opposite him and tried to think of something to say, but found that all words had suddenly left his mind. For an author, this was not a favorable experience.
The two just sat in silence for some time, before Mulder broke the silence, saying, "It will never cease to amaze me that humans have air travel. Here we are, among the clouds, sharing this space with birds. It's really amazing when you think about it."
"It is," agreed Rossi, seeing his opening, feeling his words return to him. "I'm sorry you didn't get the closure you wanted on this case. I know you wanted proof that all this was real. I'm sorry I killed her before she could answer your questions."
"Really?" said Mulder. "This from a man who tried to have me removed from the case and basically thinks I'm a joke?"
"I don't think you're a joke," said Rossi, remembering some of his earlier, harsh words and feeling regret. "I think you are incredibly intelligent and a damn-good agent when you want to be. I wish you could still work with the BAU, but I suppose nothing would tear you away from your x-files now."
"No," said Mulder softly, still gazing out the window.
"What are you hoping to find?" asked Rossi.
"The truth," said Mulder simply.
"What truth, though?" questioned Rossi. "That aliens exist?"
"That this isn't all there is," said Mulder. "I want to believe that there is more out there. I want aliens to be real and I want magic to be real. I have to believe they are. It's too suffocating to think that they don't exist. If magic isn't real, then Eugenia killed all those girls for nothing. Then she was sick and maybe even a monster. But if she really was a witch, then maybe she was just playing by a different set of rules; maybe she was doing something awe-inspiring. And if aliens are real, then my sister was taken for a reason, and I can find her."
"It's too horrible to think that some human took her," said Rossi softly.
"You still think I'm crazy, don't you?" asked Mulder, looking at Rossi for the first time since their conversation had begun. He had a small smile on his face.
"Not crazy," said Rossi, "troubled. I wish there were something I could do to help you."
"You can," said Mulder. "Keep your eye out for x-files. Let me know if your team comes across something beyond the normal."
Rossi nodded and got up to return to his seat, knowing that he would never call Mulder. And Mulder looked back out his window, knowing Rossi would never call.
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