OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM
|SCULLY'S CASE FILES|
POUND OF FLESH.
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, 1l.55 pm
The conclusion of a case was essentially a misnomer. In reality it heralded only the beginning of the inevitable and time consuming paper chase. The writing and compiling of reports could take many hours, and no one was fond of it, but the task was a necessary evil. No organisation existed without its paperwork. As a result this stormy night found Dana Scully at her computer. She knew the intelligence gathered enhanced the FBI’s already extensive criminal profile database which was available at her fingertips and she could, and did, tap into it at any time.
Although seen as an essential clerical requirement, Scully had always maintained a habit of updating her field journals and case notes religiously, even if having to sacrifice much needed downtime in order to do so. Her uncompromising regimen had stemmed from necessity, from long study sessions at college and especially Med School where the labour had paid off, and in those days there were no such luxuries as desk tops and powerbooks.
Above the undertone of the low rumbling storm, the rhythmic clicking of keys sounded much like the rain beating against her window as her fingers raced over the keyboard. Scully had thought about some music, briefly, but wanted to concentrate without distraction. Battling against a deep tiredness that bordered on exhaustion, she needed to get the thing out of the way so she could ‘hit the rack’ as her father used to say. There was that early flight tomorrow . . .
Another flash then thunder, followed immediately by a much brighter, closer flash and Scully paused to count. Just after ‘one’ came the crash of thunder and another, immediate flash. An extremely close crack of thunder somewhere overhead, and the pedestal lamp beside her died. Her computer winked out. "Oh, what the -" she took off her glasses and looked about her in disgust.
Fortunately she’d saved the entry at the end of the last paragraph and the surgeguard connected to the power outlet was new. But in the dark she suddenly sensed a foreboding. Something was wrong. A blackout was not only unusual it was unlikely and Scully rose from the chair with some trepidation to draw the curtain aside. She was surprised and a little concerned to see the street lamp burning brightly outside, its beaded reflection remained an imprint on her rain-wet window.
Scully felt a tightening in her stomach - a deep dread caused by deja vu; the fact that she felt unsafe in her own home. Her apartment had been violated before despite her security precautions. She had even once considered abandoning the place, but why should she? That would be giving in. She wasn’t about to concede, and she could look after herself. Turning, she quickly reached for her automatic. The weapon was nearby. These days she kept it close. Scully removed the Smith & Wesson 9 mil from its clip-on holster effortlessly.
To load, she drew the slide back slowly, deliberately, with as little noise as possible, though that wasn’t necessary with the reverberation of the storm. Resisting the strong temptation to embrace the trigger she rested her forefinger against the guard and nudged her thumb up against the safety. Scully adopted her usual two handed hold, stepped back and turned from the window. Mouth dry, her pulse had quickened considerably as her heart pounded and she began to drag in oxygen to try and clear the late-night cobwebs. Already her palms had moistened and she tingled with anxiety and anticipation.
Scully planted her feet and panned her body, training her weapon from one wall to the other. Her immediate view remained unchanged. Like the flash of a camera each occurrence of lighting showed her a picture of normality from her living room right through to the kitchen. Why then did she feel as if she was being watched?
She lowered her weapon slightly as she examined her position - there were really only two options. She could stand there and wait it out (wait for what?) Or she could investigate and allay her fears, after all it may be a case of her being paranoid and simply shy of shadows; regrettably, it was such a case lately and it was a personal liability she had been trying to eliminate. In her job unfounded fears like that could get you killed.
Scully raised the weapon to eyeline and, following her aim, moved forward. She kept behind the automatic, using it to lead her towards the kitchen. Despite the intermittent flashes of light and dark it appeared everything was as it should be, but still the feeling that she was being watched persisted and she edged ahead, one step at a time. She was startled by another, deafening, crack of thunder directly overhead which seemed to shake the building and the place crackled with static electricity. Scully hesitated and automatically glanced at the ceiling.
Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, the gun was viciously struck from her hand by a blow on her forearm delivered with such force that her entire arm went instantly numb and totally useless. The next thing she knew she had been thrown against the wall so hard it winded her and a muscular arm had been thrust against her throat, keeping her there.
Sheet lightning revealed an abhorrent and familiar outline in profile. Scully found herself stricken by fear, and she froze. The Devil. She shut her eyes tightly in disbelief. When she opened them again the profile had changed. Her predicament had not. The fetishist had returned.
Donnie Pfaster’s eyes were cruel. He touched the side of her face and she flinched, which pleased him. He stroked her hair, taking a pinch in his fingertips to savour its texture. He said nothing as he searched her terrified eyes, then bent low to her as he tried to force his mouth over hers, but pure reflex reaction overcame her paralysis and she succeeded in turning her face away. But this only brought a swift, savage punishment. He punched her twice, hard, in the body just below the rib cage. Her legs lost all feeling; she almost collapsed. Nausea welled in her throat.
Fighting the pain and the hazing effects Scully tried to keep focused and aware, but she knew she wasn’t strong enough to resist him forever and the horror of sexual interference took hold. She couldn’t even cry out; she could barely breathe. He pressed his body against hers but not for the reasons she feared. Again in the brief flash of lightning she caught sight of the sharp reflection of a hunting knife held blade upwards. He had pinned her against the wall to keep her still. Donnie Pfaster was intent on unfinished business.
Outside in the rain, Mulder drove the car into the curb outside 3170 53rd Road and leapt out of the driver’s seat. He could see Scully’s lights were out and only Scully’s. She may have simply gone to bed, but they’d spoken on the phone a little before the beginning of the storm and she’d told him that she would complete her report that night. He had expected to find her hard at it. Now he was worried. Perhaps his fears were unfounded. He wasn’t sure what to think. Hell, even if he was wrong . . . he’d get her out of bed if he had to.
Pfaster pressed hard simply for the torment; and he was enjoying every moment of the game. Scully squirmed but it did no good. She couldn’t move. He placed his cheek against hers and whispered close to her ear: "I have you now, girly girl. Be afraid. Be very afraid." He nuzzled her neck. Scully wanted to be sick.
Mulder banged on the door. "Scully?" The intrusion distracted Pfaster for a moment, but that was all she needed. Scully pulled her left arm free and clawed at his face. It gave her a perverse kind of pleasure to feel her nails bite into the skin around his eye. The man yelped, and as he brought his hands up and drew away, she stamped down hard onto his foot. Pfaster cried out in pain and appeared to sag. Scully tried to knee him in the groin but he’d lurched back and she couldn’t exert as much force as she wanted to. It was successful enough to allow her to slide away out of his immediate reach. Turning, she sidekicked and cracked him in the back of the left knee then followed it up with another to his kidney region which brought him down.
Mulder heard the muffled noises and rattled the door handle furiously."Scully!" he drew his gun and tried to kick the door in; it wouldn’t yield. Scully reacted to his voice and attempted to break for the door. Pfaster, growling in anger and pain, swung out an arm, caught her by the ankle and she fell heavily, but she managed to slip from his grasp and roll partly away. Not quickly enough, however. Pfaster used her own momentum to haul himself back upright and he pushed down on her hip with all his weight on his hand to force her flat to the floor. Scully thrashed and kicked wildly, trying to crawl away from him, but all she got for her trouble was a loose scatter rug and made no progress. She needed help.
"Muld!" her cry was cut off as Pfaster grabbed her by the arm and shoulder, swung her savagely front on and raised the knife.The door burst in. "Scully!"
Mulder entered with a wash of bright light from the hallway brandishing his gun, and took in the situation with one quick scan. "Drop your weapon!" he bellowed and moved forward. Pfaster hesitated, but he refused to comply. Mulder waited, trying to locate Scully in amongst the furniture. Her feet told him she was on the floor behind the man. He couldn’t shoot now even if forced to. It would be an unsafe shot. "I said drop it you sonofabitch!" Mulder hoped the threat was enough.
Pfaster’s eyes narrowed. Mulder had the impression he was weighing up his options. He expected the man to capitulate without much of a fight as he had previously when faced with greater odds. He was wrong. Like a bad forward pass the knife came at him in a tumbling motion. It struck him flat and bounced off his left shoulder. He was vulnerable there; the old scar still tender. As a result he lost his balance, fell against the kitchen table and landed awkwardly. His gun skidded to the side and away from him. Before Mulder could recover sufficiently and get to his feet, or even defend himself, Pfaster was upon him. A stinging right cross caught him square on the jaw.
Mulder went down like a ton of bricks. Chairs clattered as they were knocked aside. He hit his head heavily against the edge of the preparation bench and, like a discarded rag doll thrown away by an angry child, slid down the front of the kitchen cabinets and lay still, unconscious.
Pfaster was in the process of turning when Scully cannoned into him. The impact knocked him backwards but that was all, and it hurt her more than it did him. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest thing she could have done, but she was desperate. She’d seen Mulder go down and reacted automatically out of concern. Still, it had cost her and she stood there undefended and stunned for precious seconds. Pfaster cuffed her with a backhander that took her breath away and sent her reeling.
Scully ended up hard on her back next to the glass coffee table and tangled up in the scatter rug. It took an enormous effort just to free herself. She was tiring badly, but she had to get up. She’d glimpsed Mulder’s gun in the shadows near the door. If she didn’t get the upperhand soon she knew she was lost. She needed that gun. However, in order to get it she’d have to get past her attacker. She had to think fast. She used to play football with her brothers, relying on speed and agility rather than brute strength and recklessness and she gambled she could evade the man in a bump and run.
Scully bounded over the sofa and made her move without pause. She ducked under a swinging right arm and elbowed him in the side as hard as she could. Her intention was to get him on the wrong foot then sidestep and swerve, much like a wide receiver on a post pattern. The theory was good, the practical didn’t quite go as planned. Pfaster appeared to ride the blow. He caught her in the crook of his arm and as if toying with her, spun her round and slapped her in the face as if she was no more than a nuisance.
Scully staggered drunkenly though she managed to prevent herself from falling by flailing out an arm and latching onto the backrest of a lounge chair. The left side of her face felt strange, painful and numb and puffy and she seemed to have lost some of her peripheral vision. She found her nose was bleeding and thumbed the blood away. She couldn’t find her breath.
They stood facing each other, Pfaster content to let her totally exhaust herself, after all he had her exactly where he wanted her and with Mulder down she was on her own. She saw the man walk toward her then pause when he reached the doorway leading to her bedroom and en-suite. Pfaster glanced in at the bathroom, to the deep clawed-feet antique tub. She knew what he was thinking.
Scully drew herself up to her full height, she glared at him long and hard as the ordeal of their last encounter came flooding back. How he’d stalked her, tormented her, intended to kill her by drowning her and carving her up. She had only recently finally rid herself of the nightmares, now this. She had been nothing to him - simply a means to his violent, perverted ends. And she hated him for it.
As if freed of a debilitating obstruction she no longer felt afraid. She was angry, very angry, utterly sick and tired of always being on the receiving end. Something inside her snapped, and she attacked. Scully hit Pfaster with everything she had; kicks, punches, elbows and feet, all the tricks to subdue an assailant her instructors had taught her, using her small stature to her advantage by staying under his reach. Her ferocity surprised him and took him off guard for a time as he tried to counter her and protect himself. She managed to draw an opening and slammed him under the chin with an open-palm karate blow that snapped his head back and caused his knees to buckle and she thought for a moment she might have had him. But the man was too strong and too determined to finish what he started. As she was about to hammer him in the chest with her fists he picked her up and threw her away from him.
Scully found herself momentarily airborne before smashing onto the bare hardwood floor on her side. The pain brought tears to her eyes and she stiffened, gasping and unable to move, knowing now that anger alone wasn’t enough. She found herself submitting to the distress . . . it was so easy to lay there and let go. She was exhausted, aching, her body overtaxed and weak and she finally knew that the tears weren’t just from the pain. Difficult as it was to think, one thing remained perfectly clear. To surrender was to die, and the primitive impulse to survive kicked in.
With considerable effort she lifted her head and that was fortunate because she could see the tantalising squarish shape of her gun. Some distance out of her reach it had fallen grip first under the middle of the sofa. Whatever chance she had lay with the gun. She had to get it. Nothing else mattered. Without looking back she hurriedly drew her knees up to use as a springboard and she propelled herself forward left hand outstretched, reaching for the weapon.
Pfaster lunged at her. He got hold of the waistband of her slacks and wrenched her to him. She twisted one way and the next to break free. She kicked away off his shins and as he fell scrambled on hands and knees towards the sofa. Pfaster tried to use his hands to heave himself up but in clumsy fatigue his arms failed to hold his weight and he slumped back to the floor. His expression conveyed an odd mixture of anger and child-like bewildered innocence. Fleetingly. His eyes soon narrowed into a cold calculation. Pfaster had sighted Mulder’s gun.
Scully’s strength cruelly deserted her just when she needed it most. A sudden weakness in her upper body caused her to lose her co-ordination and she crumpled onto her face less than an arm’s length away from salvation. It may as well have been a million miles. Try as she might it seemed that fate was conspiring against her. She could hear Pfaster moving behind her. Much too close. She thought of the bath, the knife, his harvesting of hair and fingernails for trophies and she clawed at the floor to inch painfully ahead. Splayed fingers and palm hurting with a desperation that saw her snatching at nothing, Scully growled in frustration and pushed to stretch. A last ditch effort and she had the cold weight of the silver Smith & Wesson in her grasp.
There came the deafening click-clack of metal on metal as Pfaster drew back the slide to load. Scully heard the ominous sound and marked it. She was armed now and hope for life brought with it renewed strength. She rolled onto her haunches then into the kneeling position, located her target, and snapped off the safety. Standing there, not Pfaster but the image of the Devil she had seen earlier, that she knew from before. In one demonic hand the gun, lifting to shoot. Months ago she had hesitated in terror. Not so this time. Scully had no choice but to pull the trigger. Once was enough.
Pfaster looked shocked and surprised. He dropped the gun, clutched at his chest then toppled sideways to fall on the floor in a lifeless heap. Scully sat back on her heel a moment and frowned deeply. It was bad enough to have to aim your weapon at a human target knowing that you may need to use it. From experience she knew that the conscious decision to bring yourself to open fire could be gut-wrenching, and she was thankful she hadn’t been given the luxury of time to think about it. Nevertheless that didn’t make it any easier and she closed her eyes briefly in acceptance of what she had done.
Scully rose with some difficulty and limped towards the figure. From natural caution and strict training she continued to aim at the man, ready to act if she saw the slightest threatening movement. Using her foot she dragged Mulder’s gun away from Paster’s hand and bent to pick it up, only then did she lower her own to kneel beside the body. She checked Pfaster’s carotid pulse then abandoned him and went to her partner.
Mulder stirred at her touch and winced in pain. Scully allowed herself a slight smile as he cursed and rubbed the back of his head. She ditched the automatics up onto the bench and abruptly fell utterly exhausted and breathless by his side and leaned against the cabinets with her eyes closed. She couldn’t stop shaking, perspiration streamed down her face. There was a familiar tightening in her throat, a quivering about the mouth as the floodgates threatened to open. Force of will stemmed the tide, she was determined not to cry over this, however difficult.
Mulder pinched his eyes hard. Through a dull and annoying headache he noted the body beside the sofa and guessed what had happened. Scully must have had a pretty rough time of it. He leaned a little against her and asked: "You all right?" She wasn’t able to answer immediately, unable to find her voice, much too busy trying to put a brake on her racing heart and regain normal breathing.
Scully automatically took stock of her condition on a medical basis. The burning discomfort running from her neck and along the length of her right shoulder as well as down the middle of her back told her she may have pinched a nerve. That pretty much reduced her right side capacity to nil although she had regained some feeling in her arm, it was almost too painful to move now. While she didn’t think it was broken a precautionary x-ray was probably a good idea. She also thought she may have strained a thigh muscle. A bruised hip, a bloody nose, but otherwise she was relatively unhurt, and the discomfort served to remind her that she had survived. Scully could have rattled off a list of the aches and pains, but didn’t bother.
"I’m okay," she replied without opening her eyes. The physical contact was very reassuring and she found herself responding. Mulder adjusted as she moved against him and took the weight easily. A brief touch on his arm indicated her thanks and she asked. "What about you?"
"Nothing some aspirin won’t fix." Speaking of fixing, Scully glanced past him. "Mulder, you’re making a habit of breaking my door down."
"I’m sorry. I couldn’t find the key."
"You knew I was in trouble?"
"No. We got word that Pfaster had escaped. I wanted to warn you. It was quicker to get over here. The storm is playing havoc with the phones."
Scully knew there was more to it than that. He had been worried and wanted to check on her personally; thank God that he did. She was silent for a time, introspective, until she asked: "How do you think he found me?" she wiped her nose in an unladylike fashion with the back of her hand. For the first time Mulder saw that it was bleeding. "I don’t know," he said, taking out his handkerchief and handing it to her. "They’re not even sure how he escaped. A notebook was found stuffed under his mattress. He’d scribbled one name over and over . . ."
Scully almost smiled. "Mine, right?" Mulder nodded. "Revenge is a powerful motive. It had made him even more bold, even to the point of taking enormous risks and resorting to overt violence. You were the only one to have escaped that ritual bath of his. He couldn’t abide that."
Blue and red flashing lights painted the room as police cars drew up outside. Someone in the building must have called them. Oddly, Scully became aware that the storm had subsided. Finally it was over.
The need for revenge was indeed a powerful motive, but so was the desire for justice. The business between herself and Donald Addie Pfaster had remained unresolved. Until now. And one thing was certain, he wouldn’t be terrorising anyone ever again. On that basis alone she felt her actions more than justified.
She looked to the lifeless form. It concerned her that she felt a certain satisfaction that the man was dead. The feeling went against her very nature. But since Melissa’s murder she had become harder, less willing to give pity to those who sought violence and preyed on the innocent. She had learned the hard way that to survive was to fight fire with fire. Scully felt no guilt whatever in exacting her own pound of flesh.
--end of file--
C L Goodwin 1997
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