Infatuation with a Vampire

Chapter 8

Mitch, the attendant on duty, had returned just in time to hear Scully's exclamation that the stiff in drawer number ten was alive. He rushed over and gazed down at the electroencephalograph results.

"That's weird," he said. "It's only one spike though."

"It was a reaction to pain," Scully explained. She decided to test her theory once more by pressing her finger into the infected area of Nick's arm again. The electroencephalograph spiked and continued to draw similar spikes as long as she applied pressure to the arm. Scully reached a hand into her shoulder bag and pulled out a pair of tweezers. "Mitch, can you get me some antiseptic and a bandage, please?"

"Sure." Mitch quickly retrieved the items she requested.

"What are you going to do?" asked Mulder.

"This," said Scully as she deftly probed the small wound on Nick's arm and removed the tiny but troublesome splinter embedded in his flesh.

Mulder noticed the constant movement on the graph as the splinter was removed and his partner proceeded to clean and bandage the area. Once the doctoring had been completed, the pattern on the graph faded to a simple line.

"Wow! I ain't never seen nothing like that before," said Mitch in total awe. "I guess he's got to be alive if he was able to feel that. I suppose we better get him up to the ER then."

When Mulder blurted out, "No!" both Mitch and Scully glared at him, waiting for an explanation as to why they shouldn't be racing the patient to the emergency room. Mulder grabbed Scully by the arm and pulled her away so he could talk to her privately.

"Scully, you can't take him to the emergency room. Haven't you been listening to me? The man is a vampire. You take him into the ER with a lot of bleeding patients and blood-soaked doctors all over the place, he's liable to wake up and go into an uncontrollable feeding frenzy. Now, he's going to be waking up in a couple hours anyway. Can't we just wait?"

"Mulder... okay let's just say for the sake of argument that he is a vampire. You said so yourself that this might be my only chance to see what makes him tick. I'd like the opportunity to examine him as thoroughly as possible. Do you have a problem with that?"

Seeing the unwavering determination in her eyes, Mulder wisely chose not to oppose her. "No, I don't have a problem with that."

Scully gave a simple nod, then walked back over to Mitch. "I need you to bring in a gurney. We're going to take him upstairs and have him admitted for tests and observation."

When the attendant set off for the gurney as requested, Mulder approached his partner. He watched in silence as she disconnected the wires of the EEG machine and prepared to put it away. "Will you do me one favor and keep that cross in place while you're doing your tests?" he asked.

Scully studied her partner closely for a moment, then said, "You really believe you saw him fly?"

Mulder nodded. "How else do you think he got you up to his cabin? The sheriff told me that they didn't spot any roads leading up there and no sign of a trail leading away from the place. He had to have flown you in."

"Maybe what you saw was us being hoisted up by a helicopter hovering high above. Maybe the same way I was taken off that mountain was the same way I got there."

"You're really reaching for it there, Scully," Mulder chuckled mockingly.

"Well, I'm reaching for what makes sense, Mulder. And what makes sense is that this man was in a car accident and probably suffered some form of trauma to the brain, which has gone without treatment for too long and has manifested itself into this very unique comatose state we're witnessing now. He mentioned that he had been having some severe headaches and he agreed with me about coming in for x-rays and a CT scan."

"He actually agreed to that?"

Scully thought about that for a second, then shrugged. "Well... he never disagreed."

Mitch returned with a gurney, and as he parked it next to the not quite dead body, he questioned Scully. "Does this guy have insurance? They're kind of funny around here about bringing back the dead and not getting paid for it."

"He doesn't need insurance," said Mulder. "He's filthy rich."

"He is?" asked Scully with surprise.

"Nick Fletcher alias Nick Knight, alias Nicholas de Brabant, multimillionaire. He owns the mountain you were on."

"Filthy rich?" Mitch echoed. "That's good enough for me. Let's do it!"

Mitch helped to transfer Nick from the morgue slab to the gurney, leaving behind the body bags. Luckily, it was a slow night in the emergency room and a young resident took a personal interest in the case. Dr. Winetraub, naturally, had never seen anything like it before and agreed with Dr. Scully in getting x- rays taken right away. In only a few minutes, they each stood completely dumbfounded in front of the developed x-rays of Nick's brain.

"If this guy isn't really dead, he ought to be," Dr. Winetraub marveled over the sight.

"It's amazing," Scully concurred. "It's hard to believe he's been fully functioning all this time."

"Is that what I think it is?" asked Mulder as he stepped up behind the two medical experts and studied the x-rays attached to the lighted view box.

"If you're thinking bullets," Scully replied, "I'd say yes. I'm guessing that these three entered the brain at the same time and about the same angle, though I've yet to find a point of entry. The other smaller dots you see are fragments of a fourth bullet."

"There was a report that Knight had been shot in the head last year while on duty. The shooter used cop killer ammo. Knight was at first pronounced dead, but when he miraculously pulled through, they changed the story to say that he only received a flesh wound."

"I've seen the kind of damage those type of bullets can inflict," said Dr. Winetraub. "If this guy was hit with one, his brain would have been Swiss cheese. Still, what I'm seeing now doesn't make sense. It looks as though each tiny fragment has been encased in its own little protective sac."

"And the fluid in the sacs are causing the fragments to disintegrate," Mulder offered his opinion. "Notice the edges are completely smooth as though they're being worn away. The same thing is happening with the other three bullets. Only instead of three, small individual sacs, he's produced one large, kidney- shaped sac to accommodate all three bullets."

"And because of the shape and size, it's causing abnormal pressure to build up in other parts of the brain," Scully added. "That could easily account for his irrational behavior of late, not to mention his current condition."

Dr. Winetraub voiced his thoughts. "I'll tell you, Dr. Scully, normally I'd say that Mr. Knight is a candidate for immediate brain surgery, only I honestly don't think it'd do much good."

"Why wouldn't you think surgery would help?"

"Well, he's not breathing. And you say he's been that way all day. I don't have to tell you that severe brain damage can occur within a few minutes from lack of oxygen."

"Yes, of course, I am quite aware of that, but as impossible as it seems, his brain appears to be the only part of him that's actually functioning. I've established the fact that he's capable of experiencing and differentiating between pain and relief. Perhaps if we could get a specialist in to look at him?"

"Does he have any next of kin?"

"Yes, but we haven't been able to make contact yet. We know that he does happen to be a very wealthy man, not that it should influence the quality of care he receives."

"Then why did you bring it up?"

"Just in case it does." Scully gave the young doctor a knowing glare which worked wonders.

"Tell you what. Let's go ahead and get him set up in a room, and I'll make some phone calls and see if I can't get someone a bit more knowledgeable in this field to take a look."

"Thank you, Dr. Winetraub."

As Dr. Winetraub turned away to speak with a nurse, Mulder gently took Scully by the arm and escorted her out of radiology into the hallway next to where Nick's gurney was parked.

"Dr. Scully, I have a quick question for you," Mulder spoke keeping his voice low. "Are you out of your mind?"


"Scully, why won't you believe your own eyes? A man is lying right in front of you with all the classic symptoms of death, only he's not dead. He's been walking around with four bullets in his brain and no sign of an entry wound. You want to know why? Look at his arm, the one where you pulled the splinter out. Go ahead. Look."

Feeling him nudge her with his intense stare, Scully slowly reached for Nick's arm and gently lifted one edge of the bandage. After taking a cursory glance, she pulled the bandage off completely and gasped at her findings. Gone was all sign of swelling and discoloration that had been there before. The previously deformed flesh and skin was now as flawless as the rest of him.

"He's self-healing," Mulder told her. "Ask yourself why a minuscule splinter like that would have caused such a nasty wound in the first place. Because it was wooden, Scully. A tiny, wooden stake driven through the flesh of a vampire."

Scully became flustered by the realization that her partner just might be right. "Mulder, I.... I don't.... I don't care what he is. Maybe you're right. Maybe his body is healing itself." As she continued to speak to her partner, Scully's attention focused on Nick, her hand absently began to stroke his blonde curls. "Perhaps in time, months or years, those bullets in his brain will totally dissolve and they'll be no signs that they were ever there. Maybe in just a few hours or days, that tumor will shrink and the pressure will decrease, and the headaches and confusion he's experiencing now will be history. But right now, he's suffering. Vampire or not, I can't just stand by and do nothing."

Mulder placed himself in Scully's view by leaning over the gurney and turning his head in her direction. His sudden closeness forced her to look him in the eye. It was only then did she become aware of her intimate contact with Nick and she jerked her hand away from him. She was saved from dealing with her partner's intense gaze when an orderly came along and took hold of one end of the gurney.

"Excuse me folks, but I have to take Mr. Knight to his room now."

The agents stepped aside so the orderly could do his job. They silently followed behind the young man as he wheeled the gurney down the corridor. The ride on the elevator up to the third floor, was also in silence. The orderly met up with a nurse who barred the visitors from entering until she'd had a chance to get the patient settled.

"Nurse, it's very important that you leave that cross that's taped to his shirt, right where it is," Mulder warned. "And don't open the window blinds. He's allergic to sunlight." The nurse gave him a peculiar look, then simply nodded her understanding before closing the door. Mulder turned to his partner who was leaning with folded arms against the opposite wall. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Downstairs, you seemed a bit... I don't know how to put it exactly. You seemed really concerned about him."

"Aren't you concerned?" Scully replied rather defensively. "Isn't that why we came to Montana in the first place; to find him and offer our help?"

"Did something happen up at his cabin that you're not telling me, Scully?"

"I told you, Mulder, all we did was talk. Nothing else happened."

"How do you know? You don't even remember how you got there. He made you forget."

"Oh yeah, that's right," Scully spoke in a mocking tone. "Vampires can mesmerize their victims. I forgot about that one."

Mulder chuckled lightly. "You still don't believe. I bet he could sprout fangs and drink blood right in front of you and you still wouldn't believe he's a vampire."

An image of Nick as Mulder had just described flashed in her mind, causing her to shudder. She quickly shook the thought from her mind and looked up at her partner towering above her. "I believe what you said about him waking up soon. I'm not sure why I believe, but I do. And I also believe that he will need surgery to remove those bullets so that he can return to living his life normally, whatever normal happens to be for him. And finally, I believe that whatever or whoever Nick Knight really is, basically he's a good, decent and very caring individual."

"Must have been a hell of a conversation you two had."

Scully reflected on the different topics discussed for a moment, then stated softly, "It was." She checked her watch for the time and surprised Mulder when she informed him that they still had more than half an hour till sunset. "We've got time for a cup of coffee," she added. "What do you say?"

"You go on. I'll stay and keep an eye on our friend."

"All right. I'll stop off and check with Dr. Winetraub to see what he's found out regarding a specialist. Be back in a few."

As his partner went in search of coffee, Mulder waited patiently outside Nick's room. After a few minutes more, the door opened as the nurse held it for the orderly to wheel out the empty gurney. In passing, the nurse gave him the okay to visit. Mulder entered Nick's room and closed the door behind him. He was pleased to see that the nurse had followed his instructions and kept the window blinds closed, but as he approached the bed, he saw that his other warning had gone unheeded. Nick was no longer dressed in his own clothes. He wore only a hospital gown, covered to the waist by a sheet.

Mulder stepped cautiously up to the right side of the bed and pulled his backpack from his shoulder. He unzipped one of the pockets of the bag, reached inside and pulled out two pairs of handcuffs. Resting the bag lightly on the bed, Mulder took one pair of the handcuffs and as stealthily as possible, clicked it onto Nick's right wrist. At the instant he attached the other end of the cuffs to the bed railing, he heard a low growl. Before he could react, a blur of motion caught him by the throat and pulled him downwards to face the golden eyes and fangs he had encountered once before.

"Mulder, isn't it?" the same menacing voice hissed in his face.

The iron grip around his throat allowed Mulder just enough leeway to gasp for air and sputter a few words. "I'm flattered... you remembered."

"Oh, I never forget the face of a potential meal."

Mulder used one hand to try in vain to break the iron hold on his neck. His other hand was fumbling for one of the zippers on his backpack. "If you're hungry," he gasped, "I... brought the... bottles from your cabin."

"What makes you think I want that bovine swill? I prefer the good stuff. Your heart does pump the good stuff, doesn't it, Mulder? I hope you don't taste like your unappetizing partner, but I guess there's only one way to find out."

Mulder's eyes went wide at the insinuation that the vampire had tasted the blood of his counterpart. However, there was no time to dwell on that. He was positive he was about to become dinner. He actually felt the sharp tip of one fang as the vampire sought to rip his collar out of the way. Mulder's hand was frantically reaching inside the backpack seeking and then finding what he hoped would save his life. He grabbed the wreath of garlic and quickly shoved it in his attacker's face. The effects, thankfully, were immediate. When the choking hand fell away from his throat, Mulder quickly rushed to the window and opened the blinds. Hoping to find the protective rays of an evening sunset, he was disappointed to find only a darkening, cloudy sky.

When he looked back, he was not only relieved but also surprised to find that the vampire had been completely incapacitated. Mulder loosed his collar and tie as he stood with his back against the window, laboring to catch his breath. He watched as Nick lay writhing on the bed, the garlic wreath acting as an immovable weight on his chest and an ugly rash forming on his skin wherever the garlic had made contact He attempted only once to grab it with his free hand, but the stinging sensation he incurred, forced him to let go instantly. He twisted his head left and right, in a useless bid to avoid the pungent fumes that burned his eyes and caused swelling in his throat.

Cautiously, Mulder moved towards him, carefully measuring just how safe it was to do so. The eyes were still golden but no longer menacing in appearance. Instead, they reflected a piteous expression of helplessness and anguish. Mulder knew surrender when he saw it. Nick watched him, unable to speak, he pleaded silently for assistance. Mulder braced himself with a deep breath, then returned to the bed. Nervously, he picked up the other handcuff and used it on Nick's left wrist, meeting with no resistance whatsoever. After securing the handcuff to the bed rail, Mulder timidly reached for the garlic wreath. Another growl caused him to draw back, but studying Nick's eyes again, he figured that the growl had only been from discomfort and probably not meant as a threat. Mulder picked up the wreath, peeled off a few cloves from one of the bulbs and tucked them under the edge of the pillow on each side of Nick's head. The rest of the garlic was returned to the backpack.

Once the biggest portion of the crippling irritant had been removed, Nick felt his body slowly beginning to return normal. After a moment, he was able to gasp out a hoarse, "Thank you."

"You were right," said Mulder. "Fresh is better."


"Nothing. Um.... Are your eyes going to stay that way?"

Nick turned away shamefully. "Hungry," he whispered.

"Sorry, but all I have to offer is bovine swill. Interested?"

The death look Mulder got from Nick was a touch unsettling. It probably wasn't a good idea to tease a hungry vampire. Mulder reached into another section of the backpack and brought out one of the full wine bottles taken from the cabin. He saw the color in Nick's eyes intensify at the sight of it.

"Oh, I'll have to find a corkscrew somewhere," said Mulder after realizing what kind of top the bottle wore.

"My mouth," said Nick as he weakly forced himself up on his elbows. When Mulder held the bottle up to him, he pulled the cork out with his teeth with a show of impatience and spit it out off to the side. Placing his lips to the bottle's rim, he drank greedily with eyes closed as Mulder tilted the bottle upwards for him.

Mulder found it both exhilarating and a bit gross, feeding blood to a vampire as though he was giving a baby its formula. The bottle was more than half empty by the time Nick had consumed enough to assuage his hunger. He relaxed back onto the pillow, frowning slightly at the smell of garlic that wafted up from each side. He opened his eyes, displaying a calm blue, and focused on the man standing over him. For the first time since he had awaken, he finally became aware of his environment.

After Mulder recapped the bottle and placed it back into his bag, he noticed the look of confusion on Nick's face. "You're in a hospital in Great Falls," he answered the unspoken question.


"The miracles of the computer age. When we first met, you introduced yourself as Nicholas de Brabant. I had the name checked out and discovered you owned a little mountain property out there. The local sheriff went out in a search helicopter, and I suggested that he tape a cross to your chest before stuffing you inside two body bags and transporting you back."

A moment of panic crossed Nick's face as he had a disturbing thought. "Agent Scully! Where is she? Is she all right?"

"She's fine," Mulder assured him. "She just went for coffee. Speaking of Scully, I have to know something. Did you do anything to her? I can tell you've clouded her thoughts somehow so she doesn't remember everything, but I have to know."

Nick saw the deep concern in Mulder's eyes and decided to answer him truthfully. "I didn't hurt her," Nick spoke softly. "I held her in my arms and we kissed. Maybe more than once but I don't quite remember."

A twinge of jealously coursed through his veins, but Mulder pushed the emotion aside as he sought to have his next question answered. "Did you hypnotize her into kissing you?"

"It's possible. That's not normally my style, but then I haven't been behaving much like myself lately."

"Did you bite her tongue or something? Is that how you know that her blood doesn't taste so good?"

Nick had no recollection of admitting that fact, but as he eyed Mulder, and noted the fresh bruises on his neck, he realized there was something else he didn't remember doing.

"She had a nosebleed," he finally answered. "It was nothing I did to her, I swear. We were talking and it just happened."

"And you couldn't pass up a free sample," Mulder surmised.

"Normally, I can. I worked as a homicide cop for years and I was always being tempted, but I had a good handle on my control. Now...." He didn't bother to finish the thought. "Her blood tasted odd," Nick admitted. "It left a sour aftertaste. I figured maybe she was taking some kind of medication. Is she? Is she ill?"

"Not that I know of. She was abducted two years ago by persons unknown. I believe that she may have undergone some secret government experiments involving alien DNA."

"Alien as in...?"

"Little green men from Mars or wherever the nearest home planet base may be. I work for a department of the FBI known as The X-
Files. Scully and I investigate unsolved, unexplained cases involving the paranormal. We came across evidence that our government has had contact with alien beings but they're hell-bent on keeping that information strictly confidential. For the most part, no one wants me digging around in The X-Files because they're afraid I may uncover the truth and expose them. But, on the other hand, there seems to be a few rare individuals who secretly want me to find out things. They slip me crumbs that eventually lead to something bigger. Someone slipped me your file in hopes that I'd find you first."

"I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that your government knows about me and that--"

"Uncle Sam wants you. My guess is for experimentation."

"Is that why I was brought here? You're going to turn me over to them?"

"No, that's not my plan. To tell you the truth, I never really had a plan other than finding you."

"And now that you have?"

"I guess it all depends on whether or not you can get a handle on your control again. I imagine that those sudden mood swings of yours aren't normal. When did they begin?"

"I'm not sure exactly. Two months... maybe more. I can't control him. He's growing stronger every night. I thought that by staying up in the mountains, away from people, I could keep him from hurting anyone. I know it's hopeless now. I can't fight him anymore. There's only one solution left."

"An operation."

Mulder turned at the sound of his partner's voice. He stepped back from the bed as Scully entered the room, then watched with an inkling of envy as her eyes went straight to Nick. The vampire and his former hostage exchanged affectionate smiles before exchanging words.

"Agent Scully, I'm glad to see you made it back safely."

"I'm glad to see you made it back too. When I first woke up and found you on the couch, I thought surely you were dead."

"I'm sorry about that. I didn't realize you'd wake before I would. And I can't believe that I could have possibly slept through all of this."

"I'm actually glad you did. Has Mulder told you about the x- rays we had taken of your brain?"

"No," Mulder answered her. "I only got as far as the helicopter ride."

"You took x-rays?" Nick asked incredulously.

"Yes," Scully replied as she stepped closer to the bedside. When she noticed the handcuffs, she shot a questioning look at her partner. He answered her silently by quickly running his fingers across his neck, drawing her attention to the blossoming bruises there.

Nick picked up on the gesture as well. "I'm sorry about that," he apologized to Mulder. "That's only one of the reasons why it's not a good idea for me to be here."

"We want to help you," said Scully. "I think it's quite possible that your unpredictable behavior as well as those headaches you get could be caused by the tumor we found."

"I have a tumor? That's impossible."

"There seems to be a lot of things about you that fall under the impossible heading. Do you realize that you're walking around with a skull full of lead?"

Nick gave a minor nod. "Accident," he murmured.

"Yeah, well, apparently you healed up on the outside, but on the inside, things went a little weird. A tumor the size of my fist has formed around the three bullets lodged in your brain. I won't pretend to understand how or why it's happened, but I do feel that it's definitely contributing to your problems and that it should be removed as soon as possible."

Nick considered her words carefully, then glanced from her to Mulder, then back again. "Are you suggesting that I have brain surgery? Here in this hospital?"

"Well, unless you can think of someplace better," Scully replied in a lighthearted tone.

"Agent Scully, you do realize that I'm... that I'm--"

"A little different?"

"That's an understatement," Mulder mumbled at his partner's unwillingness to face the truth about Nick.

Scully heard but chose to ignore her colleague. "Nick, I understand that your physical makeup is somewhat unusual, but I still believe that surgery would be in your best interest."

"But not yours," said Nick. "Or Agent Mulder's, or anyone else involved. It wouldn't be just me and my dangerously, unpredictable behavior you'd have to worry about."

"What are you saying?" asked Mulder with growing concern.

Before he could answer, a sudden wave of pain exploded in Nick's brain. His body arched and his hands grabbed onto the rails, bending them significantly. Mulder pulled Scully several feet away from the bed, and they each watched helplessly and waited. Though it seemed to last an eternity, the episode was over in a matter of seconds, leaving Nick, shaky, slightly disoriented and golden-eyed.

Scully started to go to him but Mulder held her back, wanting to wait and see which personality was now present. Nick's eyes searched the room in confusion before finally landing on Scully. He displayed the same look of anguish that he had worn back at the cabin when he had mistaken her for Natalie and pleaded with her not to make him go through with her plan.

"Nat," he called to her weakly, "I can't... I can't do this anymore. I just can't go on this way."

Scully pulled away from Mulder's grasp and went to Nick's side. When she got closer, she noticed tiny beads of blood sweat on his forehead. She pulled a handkerchief from her blazer pocket and blotted the crimson moisture away as she spoke in a tender voice.

"It's okay, Nick. You're going to be okay."

"It hurts," he whimpered.

"I know. We're going to take care of you. We're going to make it so it doesn't hurt anymore."

"I think he needs the rest of this," said Mulder as he uncorked and handed her the half empty wine bottle.

Scully accepted the bottle with only a moments hesitation, then lifted Nick's head and supported it as he drank down the contents of the bottle. She didn't question his need for the blood, nor did she question the strange color of his eyes or sweat. For now, her brain deemed none of that was important.

The bottle was drained briskly, then Scully lowered Nick's head gently onto the pillow. Standing now on the opposite side of the bed, Mulder took the empty bottle and stuffed it back into the bag. A few seconds later, he noted a marked difference in Nick's demeanor. Clear, blue eyes focused on Scully with complete recognition, shadowed by embarrassment.

"Agent Scully."

"It's getting worse, Nick. You really need that operation."

Nick shook his head slightly. "I can't. I appreciate your trying to help, but I can't go into surgery. Just my being here is putting both your lives in jeopardy. I can't afford to have anyone else find out about me."

"You were trying to warn us about something earlier," said Mulder. "You said something like it wouldn't be just you we'd have to worry about. Who else would we have to worry about?"

"I can't say. You already know too much as it is."

"Would it have anything to do with Lucien LaCroix?"

Nick looked at Mulder in amazement. "How...."

"I'm FBI, remember? Mr. LaCroix is a vampire too, isn't he? And he's looking for you. What happens if he finds you?"

"Not if. When."

The door opened just then and Dr. Winetraub entered carrying Nick's chart. "Ah, Dr. Scully, there you are. I talked to my colleague, but he doesn't--" The doctor stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed that Nick was wide awake. "He's... he's alive! I mean, he's awake! I can't believe it!" He moved closer to the bed, his mouth open in amazement. "Mr. Knight, I'm Dr. Winetraub. Let me shake your hand." He reached for Nick's right hand and saw that it was handcuffed to the bent railing. He looked to Mulder in wonderment.

"He's under arrest for kidnapping."

The doctor started to draw his hand away but Nick grabbed it and held tight. "Dr. Winetraub, listen to me," Nick spoke in a demanding tone. Once the doctor looked into his eyes, he was spellbound. "Listen very carefully," Nick continued. "You never saw me like this. I'm deader than a doornail. Whatever tests were run on me before were wrong. Computer error, a glitch in the machinery, human misinterpretation. There's no way possible I could be alive. Nothing more can be done for me. You'll turn over my chart to Agent Scully and you'll destroy all other paperwork and computer records concerning me. Understand?"

Dr. Winetraub nodded. "Dead, destroy the records," he murmured.

Nick let go of the man's hand, then laid back against the pillow, closed his eyes and played dead. Mulder quickly pulled the sheet up on both sides to hide the handcuffs. A second later, Dr. Winetraub snapped out of his dazed state and looked down at the chart in his hand. After a moment of uncertainty, he handed the chart over to Scully.

"Why don't you take this, Dr. Scully. I'm afraid there's nothing more we can do here for Mr. Knight. The findings earlier were undoubtedly caused by human or mechanical error. This man is obviously deader than a doornail."

"Is that the technical term for it?" Mulder asked while trying to keep a grin off his face.

"Forgive me," Dr. Winetraub apologized. "It's been a long day. You'll have to excuse me now. I've got some paperwork to take care of."

After the doctor left the room, Mulder broke out into a big grin and said. "You have got to teach me that!"

Nick opened his eyes and looked up at the agent solemnly. "It's easy to do," he said. "You just have to die first."

The simple comment was enough to wipe the smile from Mulder's face. There was so much he wanted to know about this creature, but at the same time, that haunted look in Nick's eyes told him he was better off not knowing.

"What about the operation, Nick?" asked Scully. "You really do need it."

Nick thought for a moment, then asked, "Could you be the one to perform the surgery?"

"Me? No. I'm not that kind of a doctor. I do all my surgery on the dead."

"That's what I am," said Nick with an ironic smile.

"No, you're not dead," Scully disagreed with him, sounding eerily like Natalie with those words.

Nick blinked his eyes to keep them from producing tears, then he looked to Mulder and asked, "What else do you have in that black bag of yours? You know you can't just let me walk out of here, don't you? Even with the surgery, there's no guarantee that my sanity will return. I can't control my actions anymore. Today, it's just cows. Tomorrow...."

Mulder understood what was being asked of him. He had come prepared with a couple of long, sharp wooden stakes in case the need arose to defend himself against a raging killer. However, he never thought he'd be asked to assist in a planned suicide.

"Why don't we just get you out of here first," Mulder suggested, "then we'll discuss the--"

"Someone's coming," Nick warned, then instantly went into his dead man routine.

Mulder quickly drew the sheet over Nick's head, then stood back just as the door opened and two men wearing orderly uniforms stepped into the room. Both men stood about six feet tall, one black and one white, appearing to be around the age of thirty and well built.

"Excuse us, sir," said the bald, black man, "but we have to remove the body now. They need to get this room ready for another patient."

"Well, we were just getting ready to head down to the basement," said Scully. "We can take the body to the morgue ourselves."

"Hospital policy, ma'am," said the long-haired blond. "We have to do it. But you're free to tag along if you like."

The agents stepped out of the way and allowed the orderlies access to the bed. They each took one side, unlocked the wheels, then began moving the bed out of the room. Scully held the door open for them, then followed them out to the elevator. Mulder was right behind them until he thought of something.

"Hold the elevator for me," he said. "I'll be right back." He ran to Nick's room and looked inside the closet where he found a plastic bag on the shelf that contained Nick's clothes and shoes. He realized then that the nurse had followed his instructions after all and had left the cross taped to the shirt. When he returned to the elevator, he found only his partner present and no sign of Nick and the orderlies. "Scully, where'd they go?"

"They went ahead," Scully replied casually. "There wasn't enough room for all of us."

Mulder watched the numbers light up over the elevator door. "Where the hell are they taking him?"

"What do you mean?"

"The morgue is in the basement," Mulder pointed out. "So why is the elevator going up?"


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