Eyes of Texas, The

by Polly

Title: The Eyes of Texas
Author: Polly (polly122456@yahoo.com)
Classification: MSR, Casefile
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: In this particular universe, events after "Je Souhaite" never happened and even today Mulder and Scully continue to solve cases together from their basement office in the Hoover Building; beyond that, there are references to many episodes. Lots and lots of references.
Disclaimer: Not mine. All things X-File belong to 1013 Productions.
Archive: It's yours; just let me know.
Feedback: Always appreciated
Notes: Written for the Waco Weekend Challenge (elements and more notes at the end of Part 2); all mistakes are mine.
Summary: Mulder and Scully get the call when someone is threatening the President of the United States


The Eyes of Texas
By Polly


DEWITT RESIDENCE
WACO, TEXAS
OCTOBER 1, 2003

Nathan DeWitt savored the last bite of his hot dog, the final morsel drowning in chili, onions, and green peppers. He washed it down with a swig of beer and smacked his lips in appreciation. "Delicious, babe. Better than Wrigley."

Sandy DeWitt dried her hands on a dish towel and sat down at the table with her husband. "Well, thank you. That's high praise coming from you."

Nathan glanced at the clock on the wall and turned toward the stairway. "C'mon, Nate," he shouted. "Shake a leg. The game's about to start."

"Be there in a minute, Dad," came the reply. "Just gotta finish my homework."

Nathan snickered. "What's more important? Homework or the Cubs?"

"You shush." Sandy slapped her husband's arm lightly. "Don't say that even in jest. There are other things in life besides baseball, you know."

"Good thing my father never heard you say that, woman," Nathan replied. "He wouldn't have let me marry you."

Sandy smiled as she picked up the empty plates from the table and took them to the sink. Nathan drained the beer bottle and folded his arms across his chest. "God, I wish Dad was here. He lived and breathed the Cubs. He'd be beside himself right now."

"He's watching," Sandy said as she rinsed the plates and put them in the dishwasher. "And he's got the best seat in the house. I know he'd be thrilled that you're passing on your love of the Cubs to Nate, just the way he did with you."

Nathan nodded. "Well, I'm gonna get another beer and get the set warmed up ..." He was interrupted by the chime of the doorbell. "Who the hell could that be?"

"You want me to get it?"

"No, I'll get it," Nathan said, pushing back his chair. "You're too nice. Whoever it is, I'm gonna get rid of them pronto."

"Be tactful," Sandy teased. "Not everyone plans their day around Cubs games."

Nathan pulled open the door and recognized one of the two men standing on his front porch. "Hey, Jack," he smiled. "What brings you out this way?"

Officer Jack Redmond shook the hand that was extended to him, then put his hands on his hips. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Nathan. Hey, Sandy."

Nathan could sense his wife behind him even before the Officer greeted her. "No problem. Is something wrong?"

"I'm afraid so," Officer Redmond replied. He nodded at the man standing beside him. "This is Agent Morrow from the FBI Field Office in Dallas."

"FBI?" Nathan chuckled as the man flashed his credentials. "What the hell is going on here, Jack?"

"I'm sorry, Nathan," the Officer replied. "We need to talk to Nate."

"Nate? Why?" Sandy spoke up. "Is he in some kind of trouble?"

"I'm afraid so, ma'am," the Agent replied. "Your son is suspected of threatening the President of the United States."


FBI HEADQUARTERS
OCTOBER 8, 2003

Scully glanced at her watch as she maneuvered the stairs leading to the basement office. Already 8:45. She pushed open the office door and took a quick look around. The files she had neatly stacked before leaving the office last night were now strewn across the two desks and the floor. A half-eaten jelly donut was perched precariously on the credenza. She glanced around quickly and saw no sign of her partner, but the evidence was clear that Hurricane Mulder was in the building.

Scully dropped her purse on her desk, the desk he had finally requisitioned for her now that they officially shared the basement office, and grabbed her coffee cup. As she poured a cup from the coffee pot on the little table by the door, a voice called out from the back room of the office.

"Good morning, sunshine!"

No matter how annoyed she was at him, his voice never ceased to make her smile, especially first thing in the morning, and she smirked to herself as she slowly stirred the aromatic liquid, waiting for the creamer to dissolve.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him step out into the main section of the office. He crossed his arms and leaned against the glass partition.

"You're late, Scully," he said. "Where have you been? I thought you'd be here an hour ago."

Scully leaned against her desk and blew on her coffee before taking a sip. "Where have I been, Mulder?" she asked. "Well, let me see. First I overslept because someone turned the alarm off instead of setting it on snooze. Then I spent another 15 minutes looking for the cap to the toothpaste tube because someone left it off again. And then I spent another half-hour cleaning the hair out of my Lady Schick so I could shave my legs. That's where I've been. Good morning to you too, sunshine."

"Sorry. I left my razor at my place."

Scully took another sip of her coffee. "I've told you before, Mulder. Why don't you get another razor and leave it at my place. Then you'd have one at my place and one at your place and this problem would be solved."

He uncrossed his arms and moved to stand in front of her. "Or, we could find a place that's our place and that would solve the problem too."

"I thought you wanted your own space."

"Scully, I said that three years ago when we first started sharing space on a regular basis. I seem to remember bringing this up once or twice before, and it occurs to me that you're the one who wants to keep your own space."

"Mulder, this is neither the time nor place to discuss this." Scully returned to the coffee pot to refill her cup.

He came up behind her as she stirred in more creamer, arms circling her waist. "Well, if you don't want to talk about that, I can think of something else we could do." He began to nuzzle her neck, placing soft kisses just below her ear.

"Mulder, knock it off," she said, not very convincingly. "Somebody could come down here."

"Nobody ..." <kiss> "...comes down here ..." <suck> "...Scully." <kiss>

"Skinner comes down here," she countered, taking another sip of coffee and giving him better access to the back of her neck.

"Yeah, but Kim always calls down to warn me when Skinner's on his way," he said, placing a light kiss on the place where a microchip lay just below her skin. "We have a deal."

"What kind of deal?"

"Well, Kim calls me whenever Skinner's on his way down here, and in return, whenever I'm in her office, I always pretend to drop something so I have to bend over and pick it up and I give her an up-close-andpersonal look at my most excellent ass."

Scully laughed as Mulder's tongue tickled her earlobe. "Oh, you are full of yourself today, aren't you?"

"Why shouldn't I be," he replied, slipping a finger inside her shirt, lightly tracing her belly button. "You made me a very happy man last night. And again this morning."

Scully laughed again and pulled his hand out of her shirt. "Mulder, you're disgusting."

"C'mon, Scully." He kept one arm around her waist and reached up with the other to flick off the light switch. His whisper was pure seduction. "Let me show it to you."

"We can't, Mulder," she replied, trying to remove his arms from her waist. "I'm not kidding."

His breath was warm on the side of her face, but goosebumps raised on her arms at the soft words dripping with honey. "C'mon, Scully. You know you want to see it."

"Mulder, I'm warning you ..."

A quick click and familiar whir made Scully spin around quickly, forcing Mulder to break his embrace. She watched the dust particles dance in the bright light emanating from the slide project and snorted in disgust.

Mulder leaned in close to her ear. "Sucker." He chuckled and strutted toward the back office, leaving her with nothing to do but pick up her coffee and follow him.

"I'll get you for that, Mulder," she said, rounding the corner and taking her place to watch another Fox Mulder Production.

"I'm counting on it." He smiled and clicked the first slide into place. "Hope you brought your cowboy boots, Scully."

"Texas? Not vampires again."

"Nope, not this time," he replied, "But there is something sinister going on in the Lone Star State."

"And what, prey tell, might that be?"

"Threats to our Commander in Chief, Scully." Mulder pointed to the handwritten letter displayed on the screen. "Someone in his home state is not happy with Dubya."

"The President must get hundreds - maybe thousands - of threatening letters every day, Mulder." Scully took another sip of coffee. "What makes this an XFile ?"

Mulder clicked the slide changer again and the view pulled back, showing hand-written letters lined up side by side on a table.

"Eight letters, Scully." Mulder walked forward to stand beside the screen. "Written over the course of five days by eight different people, all residents of the city of Waco, Texas."

"I'll grant you that's unusual," Scully said, "but surely it's not impossible that there could be eight wacky Waconians out there among the lunatic fringe."

"I believe they prefer 'Wacoans,' Scully, and ordinarily I'd agree with you. But in this case, none of the Wacoans in question has any recollection of writing the letter. Yet a handwriting analysis shows that each letter was indeed written by the person who denies writing it."

Scully contemplated the matter over her coffee cup and opened her mouth to speak, but as usual, Mulder anticipated what she was going to say. "And before you suggest it, no, I don't think it's a case of psychic writing like we've seen before."

Scully's mind drifted back to the LaPierre case, when Mulder learned the truth about what happened to his sister. His ability to come to terms with her fate and to finally let go of the past had in part paved the way for the two of them to pursue a more intimate relationship.

"So to ensure Dubya's safety, they're sending us to investigate. The eyes of Texas will be upon us, Scully."

"The eyes of Pennsylvania Avenue, you mean."

"That too," Mulder walked to the back of the room to stand beside her. "Who knows? Maybe if we do a good job on this, Dubya will float some extra funding our way."

"Not if he hears you calling him 'Dubya,' he won't."

Mulder ignored her. "Just think. What we do here might put the X-Files Division on the map, Scully. We might get funding for some extra staff."

"Extra staff? I thought you liked the fact that it was just the two of us down here."

"Oh, I do," he said. "But if we had some more staff to do the scut work, that would leave more time for you and I to investigate the things that are really important." He leaned over to steal a kiss, but Scully sidestepped his advance. Mulder shrugged and walked back toward the screen. "Maybe not," he mumbled.

"Maybe they're lying," she offered, turning the possibilities over in her mind. "Have we determined if these people have any connection?"

Mulder clicked through the slides showing a close-up view of each letter. "Yes, we have. All eight letter writers play on the same baseball team."

"Well, there you go," Scully smiled. "It's a prank. Or an initiation of some kind. And they're all lying about it to cover it up. A conspiracy, Mulder. Right up your alley."

"I don't think so, Scully." He clicked the final slide into place and tapped his knuckle on the screen, making the group photo displayed on it flutter slightly. "You see, each person who wrote a letter is a member of the Waco Wranglers. A Little League team. All of our suspects are 11 or 12 years old."


Mulder eased the rental car out of the Lariat lot and into the late afternoon traffic. Things were at a slow crawl, and he impatiently drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as Scully studied the map, trying to find the quickest route to the Waco Police Department facility.

"Look, Scully." He pointed to his left, toward a gigantic Texas state flag that proudly waved over a Ford dealership along the roadway. "Remember the last time we saw a flag like that?"

Scully shuddered. "Dallas." It didn't seem possible that it was five years since they last set foot in Texas. But the memories were still close to the surface. Bombs, bees, and black oil. Something cold and alien inside her, Mulder warm and comforting beside her as they clung to each other in the ice and snow of Antarctica. An almost kiss that started something they didn't finish until two years later. Thankfully, she and Mulder had come a long way since then.

"Right or left?"

Mulder's request for directions brought her back to the present. "Um, right," she replied, regaining her composure. "Then left on Barron Avenue, and left again onto Fourth Street. It's not far."

They had decided to stop at the police station before going to the hotel, meet the locals, get a look at the facilities and set-up, and then start fresh early the next morning. Interviews had been lined up with each Wrangler player and his family, and that would take most of the day on Thursday.

A short while later a fresh-faced secretary escorted them into the office of Waco Police Chief Thomas Rush. The office was small but comfortably furnished. Family pictures adorned the Chief's desk and citations and photos with local dignitaries filled the wall behind it. The Chief was at his desk talking to another man seated in one of the visitor chairs.

"Chief Rush, I'm Dana Scully and this is my partner, Fox Mulder," Scully said as they displayed their identification.

"Tom Rush." The Chief stood and shook hands with both Agents. "I'm glad you could come. We're at a bit of a loss to explain what's going on here, I'm afraid." He motioned to the other man. "I'd like to introduce you to ..."

"Buck Preston." Mulder interrupted, extending his hand. "Texas Ranger. It's an honor."

Preston stood and shook Mulder's hand, then Scully's. He was an inch or two taller than Mulder, Scully noted, and probably just a few years older. His sandy blonde hair was streaked with auburn, and his blue eyes sparkled, even in the office's low light. His warm handshake and engaging smile exuded a certain gentlemanly charm.

"Well, I wasn't aware my reputation as a Ranger was known outside the state of Texas," Preston drawled, squeezing Scully's hand before letting go.

"Actually, it's your reputation on the baseball diamond that I'm a little more familiar with," Mulder gushed. "All America first baseman for Baylor in 1977, member of one of the most lethal double play combinations in college baseball history. You batted .418 in your senior year, right behind Steve Macko, and you led the Bears to their first appearance in the College World Series. Every pro team in the country was clamoring for your services, but you surprised everyone by opting for a career in law enforcement instead."

Preston seemed genuinely embarrassed but pleased. "I always tell folks that Macko ended up with the Cubs and I ended up with the Rangers. But when they handed me a badge instead of a bat, I knew I'd made a mistake."

"Baylor's 1977 team was one of its best ever," Mulder exclaimed. "It's great you got to be a part of that, though a lot of people were disappointed they never got to see you play in the majors, me included."

"Baylor fielded a pretty good team this spring too," Preston said. "Unfortunately, our basketball program grabbed all the headlines this year, and not in a good way."

The conversation was interrupted by a phone call, and Preston motioned the Agents to a corner of the room to allow the Chief some privacy. "I have to confess, Agent Mulder, that actually you're no stranger to me either. At least by reputation. That's why I called in some favors at the Bureau and requested your assistance on this matter."

"You've heard of the X-Files Division?" Mulder asked.

"In 1993 I was assigned to look into allegations of illegal activities going on with a religious sect operating just outside of Waco," Preston explained. "I started my law enforcement career here, and the Rangers thought I might have some added insight. That religious sect turned out to be the Branch Davidians, of course, but this was before the Feds were called in. During my investigation I found out a little about David Koresh and I thought it would be valuable to work up a profile on him. So I called on an old friend of my father's - Reggie Purdue."

Mulder smiled at the memory of his old mentor.

"Reggie told me he had just the man for the job - a young profiler who used to work for him in the Violent Crimes Section. Reggie said this guy could get into people's heads the way no one else could, and he was someone who wasn't afraid to consider extreme possibilities. In fact, Reggie told me the guy had just moved to a division of the FBI assigned to investigate paranormal activity and strange phenomenon - The X-Files."

Scully looked over at Mulder with pride. She was always happy when Mulder had the opportunity to learn that not everyone in the Bureau looked at him with derision, even in the early days.

"Well, anyway, you know the rest of the story. Within a few weeks ATF and then the FBI took over the case and I no longer needed the profile," Preston continued. "But I always remembered what Reggie told me; and that's why I called and asked for you when this case came up."

"Buck, it looks like I'm gonna be awhile," the Chief said, his hand over the receiver. "Why don't you take the Agents down to the room we've set up."

The Chief resumed his conversation and Preston nodded, then motioned Mulder and Scully into the hallway. "We've set up this conference room for you as long as you're here," he explained as they walked down the corridor. "I hope it'll be satisfactory. All the officers here will be at your disposal if you need them."

Scully looked at Mulder and decided to ask the question that was on both their minds. "If you don't mind my asking, Mr. Preston, exactly what is your interest in this matter? Is the case under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement or the Texas Rangers?"

"Please, it's Buck." They stopped outside the conference room door and Preston folded his arms across his chest. "I'm not here in any official capacity, Agent Scully. My interest is strictly personal. One of the boys who's been accused is my godson. His father was one of my fraternity brothers at Baylor."

"I see," Scully replied.

Preston looked down and scuffed his shoe along the floor. "I know all these kids and their families. I've worked with them in baseball clinics, gone to church with them. I know they didn't do this. And if this isn't cleared up right now, I know this accusation will follow them for the rest of their lives. A big 'subversive' branded across their permanent record. It'll be a black mark that'll haunt them when they apply for college and every time they apply for a job." He looked Mulder straight in the eye. "That's why I need someone who is willing to consider extreme possibilities, Agent Mulder. Because right now, that's the only possibility I can consider."

Mulder nodded his understanding. "Then let's get to work," he said, and turned the knob to the conference room door.

Scully stepped through the door first with Mulder right behind. The room featured a large oval conference table, with six comfortable executive type chairs. A television set and overhead projector sat on rolling carts pushed against the wall on one side of the room, and a large white board covered the wall on the opposite side. A large display case along the third wall housed an assortment of antique pistols and rifles, a Walker Colt revolver displayed prominently in the center. The other end of the room was home to an oversized brown leather sofa.

"Looks like you've thought of everything," Mulder said. "Do we have a schedule for the interviews with the boys and their families tomorrow?"

Preston snapped his fingers. "I left it in Tom's office. Be right back."

Mulder walked around the conference table and plopped down on the leather sofa. It wasn't quite as comfortable as his, but damned close. "Somebody here did their homework, Scully," he quipped. "They obviously know about that thing we do on my couch when you're helping me relax. Can't wait to try that out on this baby."

"Don't get your hopes up, Mulder," Scully replied. "Or anything else for that matter."

Mulder was forming his equally lascivious reply when Preston returned with the meeting schedule. "Here you go," he said, handing the typed list to Scully. "I hope you don't mind. I also took the liberty of making reservations for you at the Clarion Hotel. It's just up the street. I asked for connecting rooms. Your supervisor told me that's what you prefer, makes things easier for you."

"That's our boss," Mulder said, standing to look over Scully's shoulder. "He knows what we like." Scully's elbow poking in his ribs put a stop to any further comment he was considering.

"Thank you very much, Buck," Scully said as she took the reservation confirmation from his hand. "That was very considerate of you. Will we see you tomorrow?"

"Nathan asked me to be here when you question his son, if that's all right."

"I don't see why not. Till tomorrow then." Scully extended her hand and Buck squeezed it before he ambled back down the hallway.

Mulder eyed the exchange warily. "Okay, you can put your tongue back in your mouth now. What is it with you and lawmen from Texas, Scully?"

"Well, you know what they say, Mulder. Everything is bigger in Texas. I guess maybe I'd just like the opportunity to find out." She chuckled at his wounded expression. "And just in case there's any question later on, I would like it duly noted right now that the Texas Ranger most certainly does not have big, buck teeth."


CLARION HOTEL
9:38 P.M.

"I'll say one thing for the Ranger," Scully said. "He has much better taste in hotels than you do."

Mulder tipped the bellboy and closed the door behind him. "Hey, the places I pick have character." He picked up his suitcase and inserted the key to open the connecting room door. "And you'll be singing a different tune when Skinner denies reimbursement. This place is probably over and above what we usually spend."

"I don't care," Scully said, unbuttoning her jacket as Mulder disappeared into the connecting room. "We deserve to stay in a nice place every once in a while."

"Hey, Scully, come here."

"What do you want, Mulder?" she asked as she loosened her blouse cuffs. "I want to take a shower."

"Just come here."

Scully kicked off her shoes and reluctantly made her way into the other room. She expected Mulder to be sprawled invitingly across the bed. "Forget it, Mulder. I'm tired and I want to take a ..."

She stopped short, completely taken aback. While her room was standard hotel issue, Mulder's was decorated in a western motif, from the paintings of cowboys hanging on the walls to the huge set of horns mounted on the bed's headboard.

"The brochure says it's the Longhorn Room." Scully was so engrossed in taking in the decor that Mulder's voice startled her.

"It's, um, impressive."

"So if I get horny while we're on this case, Scully, it's definitely not my fault."

"Nice try, Mulder," she said, turning back to her room. "I'm taking a shower."

"Don't worry, Scully," he called after her. "When we do have sex during this trip, and we will, we'll do it in your room. I know how you are, and I'd be afraid you'd poke your eye out on those things."

A black pump with three inch heel came sailing by, and Mulder ducked just in time.


OCTOBER 9, 2003
4:45 P.M.

Scully sighed and leaned her head back against the soft leather sofa cushion. They had completed interviews of seven of the boys accused of writing the threatening letters and each of the stories had been exactly the same. None of the boys remembered writing or mailing the letters or even thinking about doing such a thing. Each was a good student, attended church regularly, and had never been in trouble before. The boys loved baseball above all else, and each knew that even a minor indiscretion would get them kicked off the Little League team.

Beyond that, there was little the boys had in common. They lived in different parts of town, went to different schools, and didn't have much contact except on the ball field. They represented various ethnic backgrounds and came from different income levels. The letters were written on different brands and styles of paper with different instruments.

But each child and his parents agreed that the letter was written in the boy's handwriting. They just had no explanation as to how it could have happened; and so far, neither did Scully.

Mulder returned from the rest room and sat down beside her. "Tired?" he asked, rubbing the spot between her shoulder blades where a knot always formed.

"Exhausted." She stretched her neck muscles and relaxed just a little under his soothing touch. "That feels good. Thanks."

"Where's Buck?" he asked, letting his hand linger on her shoulder for just a moment longer.

"He went out to get the DeWitt family," Scully replied. "They're out in the waiting room. The letter supposedly written by Nathan DeWitt, Jr., was the first letter discovered by the Postal Service."

"I don't know about you, Scully, but I don't think one more interview is gonna shed much light on this situation. I don't think these boys any have any clue how they came to write these letters."

"I tend to agree, Mulder, but if that's true, then we're back at square one."

The Agents stood as Buck ushered the DeWitt family into the conference room and closed the door. Introductions were made and all but Buck took a seat around the table. He made himself comfortable on the leather sofa, preferring to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Scully had handled the majority of the questions during the day with Mulder chiming in occasionally, but this time he initiated the conversation.

"Cubs fan, huh?" He pointed to the cap that Nate wore, then jerked a thumb toward himself. "Yankees man."

Nate's eyes lit up and Mulder discovered he had found the right opening. "The Red Sox are gonna clobber the Yankees," Nate proclaimed. "And even if they don't, the Cubs'll take 'em in the series. They don't stand a chance this year."

"Nate, that's enough," his mother scolded, but Mulder waved a hand.

"That's quite all right," he said. "I like a man with conviction. You know, the Marlins look pretty tough. But to be honest, I'm kind of rooting for the Cubs this year too." Nate smiled and Mulder had made a friend for life. "My name's Fox. Nate, do you know why you're here? Why we wanted to talk to you today?"

"It's about that letter they said I wrote," Nate replied. "But I didn't write it. I know it looks like my handwriting. And I know it's got some of the same spelling mistakes I always make. But I didn't write it, I swear."

Mulder smiled. "I believe you, Nate. But do you know why anyone would want to make us believe that you and your teammates wrote these letters?"

Nate shook his head, so Mulder took a different tactic. "Has anyone ever suggested that you write a letter to the President or has anyone said bad things about President Bush to you?"

Nate shook his head again. "No. Well, nobody but Captain Andrews. He says President Bush is no good and should be run out of the White House, even if he is from Texas."

Scully flipped open her notebook at the mention of a new name. "Who's Captain Andrews?"

Nate's father spoke up. "He's an old retired riverboat captain. He lives at the Veteran's Home, doesn't have any family. The boys on the team have sort of adopted him as a community service project. They visit him periodically, make decorations for his room, bring him gifts on holidays, things like that."

"So all eight boys who allegedly wrote the letters had contact with this Captain Andrews?" Mulder asked.

"I suppose so," Nathan said. "They have to participate in order to stay on the team. You think this old man is somehow responsible?"

"We're just looking for connections right now, Mr. DeWitt," Scully replied. "This is someone that all the boys have come in contact with, so it's worth checking out. We'll be talking to everyone that fits that description - like the team's coach, Doctor ... Williams, I think his name is?"

"That's right, Doc Williams." Nathan responded. "He's coached most of these kids since they were in Pee Wee ball."

"We're just trying to cover all the bases," Mulder interjected. "No pun intended."

"Are we done here then?" Nathan seemed in a hurry to put as much distance between his family and the police station as he could.

"I believe so," Scully said. "We'll contact you if we need anything else. You've been a big help. Thank you, Nate."

"And don't put the whammy on my Yankees tonight." Mulder tapped Nate's shoulder. "They're already down a game."

Nate laughed and followed his parents to the door, then quickly turned around. "I almost forgot, Uncle Buck. Can we still have the game on Saturday?"

Preston eased his lanky frame up from the leather sofa and put his hands on his hips. "Well, we've already sold a lot of tickets, Nate. I don't think the FBI will object."

"All right!" Nate bounded for the door. "Thanks, Uncle Buck. See ya Saturday!"

"Thanks for being here, Buck. We'll see you at the game." Nathan nodded to his friend and pulled the door closed behind him.

"What game is that?" Mulder asked.

"It's a charity baseball game to benefit the Police Youth Services Program," Buck explained. "The youngsters are going to take on the old timers. It's been planned for months and we have sold a lot of tickets. Since this matter is still under investigation, I didn't think you'd object under the circumstances."

Mulder glanced at Scully. "No, no objections. As long as we get to see you play, that is." Mulder started to gather up the trash that had collected during their daylong marathon - coffee cups, candy wrappers, and his mountain of sunflower seed hulls wrapped in a napkin.

"Yeah, I'll be there. You know, I just had an idea." Buck stroked his chin thoughtfully. One of the guys who was supposed to play on our old-timers team was called out of town unexpectedly so we're a man short. How about you, Agent Mulder?"

"Me? Play? Oh no, I couldn't."

"Oh, come on," Buck pleaded. "You obviously love the game. You've played before, haven't you?"

Mulder opened his mouth to speak, but Scully's voice came out. "I have it on very good authority that Agent Mulder played a mean right field back in the day."

Buck frowned. "Oooh, right field, huh?"

Mulder looked wounded. "Hey, you gotta have an arm to play right field."

Buck laughed. "Yeah, I know. So what do you say?"

Scully gave him an elbow to the ribs. "Go on, Mulder. You know you want to."

Mulder shrugged. "Okay, I'd be glad to fill in. Where and what time?"

"Texas State Little League Complex, Preston Field, two o'clock." Buck put his hand on the doorknob. "What about you, Agent Scully? Can I recruit you too? It is a co-ed game. Some of the girls from the Midway Little League Team that just won the softball World Series are going to play on the youngsters' team."

"I think I'll stick to the cheering section, thanks very much," Scully replied. "Agent Mulder can represent the federal contingency quite nicely."

"Suit yourself." He pulled the door open. "So what do you two have on tap for tomorrow?"

"We'll be following up the leads we got today," Mulder responded. "Interviews with Doc Williams, Captain Andrews and a few others. Hopefully, something will shake loose."

"Sounds good." Buck glanced at his watch. "Well, I'm late for a dinner appointment. You know how to reach me if you need me. I'll see you Saturday if not before." With a brief wave, he disappeared down the hallway.

"Thanks for volunteering me, Scully." Mulder growled as he tossed another styrofoam cup into the trash can and started to gather up his notes.

"Well, I did promise to get you back for yesterday." She winked at him as she stooped to pick up a pencil that had fallen on the floor. "You go ahead and pretend to be annoyed all you want to, Mulder. I know you were aching for him to ask you to play. I just paved the way, that's all. Consider it an early birthday gift."

"I can't ever put anything over on you, can I, Scully?"

"Nope. I know you better than you know yourself. And you can thank me later."

Mulder waggled his eyebrows. "However will I do that?"

Scully smiled. "Mmm ... we'll think of something."


CLARION HOTEL
9:54 P.M.

Scully sat cross-legged on the bed and deftly used her chopsticks to snag a piece of pork from the takeout container. "I have to say that if I was asked to name the top ten cities for take-out Chinese, up to now Waco would not have been on that list. But this is great Chinese."

Mulder didn't answer. He was sprawled on the other bed, captivated by the Yankees/Red Sox playoff game.

"Although I don't know what possessed you to order Dr Pepper to go with it."

A commercial appeared on the television and Mulder hit the mute button on the remote. "Dr Pepper was invented here, Scully. It's got its own museum and everything. So when in Waco, do as the wacky Waconians do."

"I heard somewhere they prefer 'Wacoans'," Scully teased. "How do you know all this stuff, Mulder? You always have these fascinating little facts like the Dr Pepper thing. How do you know that?"

Mulder took a drink of his Dr Pepper. "I don't know. I read stuff. And I have a photographic memory."

"Yet you can't remember to sign expense reports or buy another razor to leave at my apartment."

"I have a selective photographic memory."

Scully giggled. "I'll say. What's the score, anyway?"

"Four to two, Yankees, bottom of the sixth."

Scully closed the take-out container and glanced up at the still-muted set. "Can I ask you another question, Mulder?"

"Shoot."

"You grew up in Massachusetts. Why do you like the Yankees and not the Red Sox? I mean, isn't that sort of blasphemous, or something?"

Mulder looked over at her and smiled. "Since when did you become so knowledgeable about baseball?"

"Since I had a good teacher show me the finer points of the game." She winked and fiddled with the cellophane wrapping on her fortune cookie. "Seriously, why do you like the Yankees?"

"I figured they already had the curse of the Bambino to contend with. They didn't need to be saddled with a loser like Fox Mulder for a fan too."

She looked at him sternly. "I hate it when you put yourself down like that, Mulder. Please don't."

He swallowed hard wondering what good thing he had ever done to bring Dana Scully into his life. "I guess it was just an act of rebellion. My father loved the Red Sox and hated the Yankees, like any good Red Sox fan should. So I became a Yankee fan to spite my father. And I guess it just stuck." He stared at the screen for a few moments, then added, "Besides which, I wouldn't have been able to stand the obvious Dr. Seuss jokes - you know, Fox on Sox."

Scully laughed and scooted off the bed, gathering up the empty containers and tossing them in the trash. She finished her Dr Pepper, then climbed back on the other bed and lay down beside Mulder, her head on his chest.

"Thanks for coming back here to watch the game," he said quietly, his fingers playing in her hair.

"I enjoyed it," she replied. "And the Chinese food." She realized her eyes were drifting shut when he spoke again.

"You know, Scully, besides the Dr Pepper museum, Waco has a pretty nice river walk and a historic suspension bridge that spans the Brazos River. Since we're kind of taking an off-day on Saturday, maybe we could go down there after the game. Take a walk in the moonlight? That is if you don't mind being seen with a broken-down old right fielder like me."

"I think that sounds nice. And maybe when we come back from our walk we can re-enact that scene from 'Bull Durham.' One of the perks of your Longhorn Room is a pretty nice bathtub. And I seem to remember that Kevin Costner did all right for a broken-down old ballplayer."

Mulder smiled and kissed the top of her head. "It's a date."

He brought his arms tightly around her, and Scully closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep in the embrace of the man she loved.



WACO VETERINARY HOSPITAL
OCTOBER 10, 2003
10:10 A.M.

The bell above the door tinkled to signal their arrival, but the black Lab sprawled on the floor in front of the heartworm medicine display barely moved a muscle.

"Seems awfully quiet for a veterinary hospital," Scully said as Mulder squatted by the dog and scratched him behind the ear. The steady thump of tail-on-linoleum was the only indication the dog even knew they were there.

"He said he would be between appointments at 10:15 and could see us then." Mulder patted the dog's stomach and stood up. "You know, if we got a new place, Scully, we could get a dog."

"I've seen your track record with fish, Mulder. And I told you this morning, we'll discuss this when we get back home. Not before."

"Can I help you?"

Mulder and Scully looked up to see a man in a white coat standing behind the counter. He was balding, had a slight build, and wore wire-rimmed glasses. Scully estimated he was in his late forties and stood about five foot six. Not exactly what she imagined based on the boys' description of their beloved baseball coach. "Are you Dr. Edwin Williams?" she asked.

The man nodded. "Most folks call me 'Doc.' You must be the FBI agents."

"That's right," Scully replied, pulling out her ID. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully and this is my partner, Fox Mulder. I believe you spoke to Agent Mulder on the phone this morning."

"Yes, I did. Buck Preston told me you would probably be calling. I'm glad to help out in whatever way I can. I can't imagine the boys doing anything like writing those letters. It has to be a mistake. If I can help prove that, I'm happy to do so."

"How long have you coached in the Little League program, Dr. Williams?" Mulder asked.

"I've coached the Wranglers team for the past six years," Williams replied, "but I've coached at various other levels for the past 20 years. Little League play is limited to 11 and 12 year olds, but I've known most of these boys since they were five or six."

Scully pulled out her pad and pen. "Are any of your own children on the Wranglers team?"

"I don't have any children, Agent Scully," Williams said. "I'm not married."

Mulder stepped in. "How is it that you came to be coaching a Little League team if you have no children in the program?"

"I love baseball," Williams said. "And I like to give back to my community. I originally got involved because I went to school with many of the kids' parents. Nathan DeWitt was one of my fraternity brothers. I think it helps in a lot of ways that I don't have any children in the program. I don't have to worry about accusations from parents that I'm showing favoritism. I know my dad got a lot of that when he coached my Little League team."

"Have you lived in Waco all you life?" Scully asked.

"No, actually I'm from your neck of the woods originally." The doctor straightened some pamphlets lying on the counter. "I grew up in Washington, D.C. My family moved here in 1971."

Mulder smiled. "Followed the Senators, huh?" Out of the corner of his eye he saw Scully shoot him a strange look.

Doc Williams laughed. "As a matter of fact, Agent Mulder, we did. My father was an avid Senators fan. He was crushed when the original Senators moved to Minnesota, and devastated when the expansion club moved to Texas. He swore he wouldn't stay in a city that gave away its franchise not once but twice, so he packed us up and moved us to Waco in the fall of '71 so we'd be here for the start of the '72 season."

"Now that's a dedicated fan."

Scully cleared her throat and tried to steer the conversation back to the task at hand. "Dr. Williams, the boys seem like a very close-knit team. Do you think there's any chance that they actually did write these letters as some sort of dare or initiation?"

"Not a chance," the vet replied. "The boys on this team are some of the best I've ever coached. They're focused and hard working. They wouldn't do something so foolish." He shoved his hands in his coat pockets. "Some of the parents have told me that it looks fairly certain that the boys did write the letters, but I know they wouldn't have done so on their own. There has to be another explanation. I just hope you can find one."

Scully glanced at Mulder. "Well, we're doing our best to get to the bottom of this, Dr. Williams. If there is another explanation, I'm confident we'll find it."

"Thank you. For the boys' sake, I'm very grateful." He glanced at the clock above the front door. "Well, my next appointment will be here in a few minutes and I have to get things ready in the back. Will there be anything else?"

"No, that's all, Doctor." Scully extended her hand. "Thank you very much for your time."

"My pleasure." The vet turned away, then back. "Oh, Agent Mulder, I understand you're going to play in the game tomorrow."

Mulder nodded slightly and his lips formed a selfdeprecating grin. "Looks that way. Are you playing too?"

"No, I'm afraid my playing days are over. Bum knee. I'm going to coach the youth team. So I guess I'll see you tomorrow." He disappeared through the door behind the counter marked "Private."

Mulder stared after him, lost in thought, until Scully touched his arm. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He shook his head. "Just thinking about fathers and sons and baseball."

She smiled and took his hand. "Come on, let's go someplace nice for lunch. My treat. Then we have to be at the Veterans Hospital at two."

"Okay."

She pulled him toward the door. "So let me get this straight: Washington once had a baseball team?"

Mulder laughed and opened the door as the little bell tinkled again. "Scully, Scully, Scully. I have so much more to teach you."


WACO VETERANS HOSPITAL
3:30 P.M.

As a dish of applesauce flew past her ear, Scully thought that rarely, if ever, had she and Mulder conducted two such distinctly different interviews on the same day.

The mild-manned veterinarian they had spoken to this morning was a far cry from the salty riverboat captain they sat with this afternoon. They had been here for more than an hour, and the old man had done nothing but rant and rave the entire time, each tirade punctuated by a string of expletives. He had criticized the government, the economy, the doctors and nurses at the hospital, the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Navy, Rush Limbaugh, and President George W. Bush. And applesauce.

"Is it always this bad?" Scully asked the aide who came to clean up the mess.

"Are you kidding? This is a good day," she said. "The only time he's not like this is when those kids come to visit him."

Scully glanced over at Mulder, who had pulled a folding chair up next to Captain Andrew's wheelchair and was trying his best to engage the old man in conversation. She had to give Mulder credit. In cases like this he usually got frustrated quickly and left her to try and charm the uncooperative subject. But today he was hanging in there. He seemed to find the cantankerous old man more comical than dangerous.

Whatever Mulder had said seemed to be working, Scully thought. Or maybe they were putting Andrews' medication in his food. Either way, he had calmed down a bit, and Mulder started the questions again. "So how long were you in the Navy, sir?"

"Thirty-five years, thirty-five goddamned years. All that time and the measly little pension I get. That's the damn government for you, always trying to gyp you out of what you rightfully earn. That damned George Bush, he wants all my money. Just like his daddy." The old man waggled a finger in Mulder's direction. "You work for the government too, son. You know how they are."

"Yes sir, I couldn't agree more." Mulder smiled. "And after your military career you piloted a riverboat for a number of years?"

Andrews pounded his fist on his tray table. "I ran all the big ones - the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Brazos for 20 years. And what thanks do I get? They take my boat away from me. Stick me in here like an old shoe. I need to be on the water! I need my boat! It's the damn government, I tell you! Goddamn George Bush."

"Is there anything you like about the President, sir?" Scully asked sarcastically.

Andrews calmed immediately and was thoughtful for a moment. "His wife," he finally answered. "That Laura Bush, she's a keeper."

Scully had heard enough. She rose from her chair and cocked her head toward the hallway. Mulder got the message and placed a hand on the old man's shoulder. "It's been a pleasure meeting you, sir. Thank you for your help."

Andrews took Mulder's other hand between the two of his. "You come back and see me again, son. I'll tell you all about the glory days on the river. And we'll talk about the government."

"I'll do that, sir. Thank you."

Mulder joined Scully in the hallway. She was staring out a window into the courtyard, watching several residents enjoy the late afternoon sun. He stood beside her and leaned against the glass.

"What gives, Scully? I thought we were just beginning to get somewhere."

"Mulder, I admire you for trying, I really do, but you weren't going to get anything else out of him. I think it's pretty apparent we've found the break we've been looking for."

Mulder jerked his thumb toward Andrews' room. "What, him?"

Scully crossed her arms and stepped closer. "You heard him, Mulder. He's extremely bitter, hates the government, blames it for everything that's happened to him in his life. And he hates the President most of all."

"So?"

"So ... I think that somehow he's made an impact on those boys, and that in sympathy or solidarity or whatever they wrote those letters. And now they're lying about it because they don't want to get in trouble."

"Scully, you're reaching."

She cocked her head slightly and looked up into his eyes. "Well, I'm waiting to hear your theory."

"Um, I don't have one yet. But I don't think the Captain has anything to do with this."

"Then I don't know where we go from here." Scully said. "Because the two people we talked to today were basically the only remaining leads we had."

Mulder stepped even closer so they were almost touching. "I think where we go from here, Scully, is out to dinner. Then back to the hotel. And then I show you how we incorporate that set of longhorns into a special evening activity you will never forget. I've been studying the logistics and I think I have it figured out."

She gave him 'the look.' "I thought you were spending all your time in that room thinking about the case and now I find out that's what you've been doing in there?"

"Among other things." He gave her the patented Mulder grin that was hard to resist. "I'm a big proponent of safe sex. I wouldn't want either one of us to be gored while in the throes of passion. That really wouldn't look good on the insurance form."

She couldn't help but laugh. "I thought there wasn't supposed to be any hanky-panky the night before the big game."

"That's a myth, Scully. Maybe for a lesser man, but not for the Mighty Fox Mantle."

"And what about the case? Are we just supposed to forget about that?"

"For a little while." He put his hands on her shoulders. "Let's just kick back and relax tonight and tomorrow. We deserve it. I give you my word we'll solve the case on Sunday."

Scully shook her head. "Okay, as long as you give me your word."

Mulder curled his arm around her shoulders as they set off down the hallway. No matter what happened tomorrow, at least he felt fairly certain he wouldn't strike out tonight.


TEXAS STATE LITTLE LEAGUE COMPLEX
OCTOBER 11, 2003

From her spot in the bleachers, Scully shielded her eyes as she looked up into the mid-afternoon sun. It was a beautiful day, the sky was an amazing shade of blue, and the temperature was moderate. A great day for baseball!

It had been a great day all around in fact, Scully thought, as she took a bite of her hot dog. She and Mulder had spent the day the way she imagined regular people spent their Saturdays - not chasing livereating mutants but lounging in bed, reading the newspaper, shopping, feeding the ducks in the park, and enjoying each other's company. There was a time when she believed a day like this would have driven Mulder mad; but today he seemed to thrive on it.

She craned her neck to look over the crowd and spotted him in the on-deck circle, swinging the bat around his shoulders, a huge smile plastered on his face. He was having the time of his life. And she had to admit, she was impressed. She knew Mulder was a good athlete, but she rarely got to see him in full jock mode. She knew he hadn't played in a real baseball game for a long time, but he did remarkably well, so far batting two for three including a double and making several good plays in the outfield. And he proved he was telling the truth about his arm when he fired a ball to Buck Preston at first base to keep a runner from stretching a single into a double.

The old-timers were retired in the top of the seventh before Mulder got up to bat, so he picked up his glove, tucked it under his arm, and looked up into the stands where Scully was sitting, just long enough for their eyes to meet. They exchanged broad smiles and he jogged back to the outfield.

Mulder felt like he was walking on air as he took his place back in right field. The day had been an absolute dream. He and Scully had a wonderful morning and he'd played well in the game, when all he had hoped for was to not be embarrassed. He'd rarely had a game as good as this one in high school, and in high school he'd never had a girl as beautiful as Scully in his cheering section. He'd only made one mental mistake, nearly misplaying a routine fly ball when he was busy daydreaming about Scully in a short skirt, tight letter sweater, and a great pair of pom poms.

But now it was the bottom of the seventh, the youngsters were ahead 7 to 3, and Mulder found himself doing the same thing he used to do as a kid in similar situations: trying to steal the other team's signs. He never considered it cheating; just a way to challenge his mind and stay focused on the game. So through the remaining innings, whether in the field or on the bench, he kept his eyes on Doc Williams flashing signs from the sidelines. Fastball. Hit and run. Steal. Low and away. There were a few he couldn't decipher, but by the time the last out was made, he pretty much had the coach's signals figured out. Funny how baseball had grown and evolved, but the basics had stayed the same for a century.

The two teams gathered around home plate as handshakes and picture taking ensued. Mulder was watching Scully carefully make her way down toward the field when someone clapped him on the back.

Buck Preston was all smiles. "You played a great game, Agent Mulder. Thanks for filling in on short notice."

"I had a terrific time, thanks for asking me. Those kids were too good, though. They beat the pants off us."

"Hey, the important thing is we raised a lot of money for the Police Youth fund and we all had a good time." Buck rubbed his elbow and winced slightly. "Plus these charity games remind me that I made the right decision to go into law enforcement instead of baseball."

Mulder laughed as Scully joined them. "Come over here to console the losers, did you?"

"Of course," Scully replied. "Besides, the winners aren't old enough to buy me a beer later. You all played wonderfully. It was a terrific game. Too bad that one team had to lose."

"That's enough of the sports cliches for me," Buck said. "I promised some autographs and pictures, I'd better make good on that. I want to see how the case is coming, but no work today. I'll talk with you tomorrow. You two enjoy your evening, and thanks again for playing, Mulder."

"No. Thank you." Mulder and Preston exchanged waves before Buck was enveloped by a group of youngsters, pens and paper in hand.

"Well, I learned a few things about you today, Mulder," Scully said as they walked toward the parking lot.

"And what are those?"

"Well, for one, that you're a pretty good baseball player."

"And for two?"

"That Kim ain't seen nothin' until she sees that fine ass in a baseball uniform."

Mulder put his arm around her waist. "Well, if you play your cards right, Scully, you might get to see this fine ass 'out' of a baseball uniform at some point tonight. But right now, I seem to recall we have a date."

"That we do," she replied. "You lead, I'll follow."


CLARION HOTEL
OCTOBER 12, 2003

Scully blinked hard against the sunlight streaming through the window, denying her a few more minutes of sleep. She rolled over and mumbled into the pillow. "Mulder, get up and close the curtain."

Receiving no response from the other side of the bed, she rolled back and reached out, but he wasn't there. Scully sat up quickly and called his name, but no answer. The bedroom was quiet, no sounds coming from the bathroom or Mulder's Longhorn Room. She slipped out of bed and padded through the open connecting door just to be sure, but no sign of Mulder anywhere.

She returned to her room and was searching for her cell phone when she noticed the note propped on the nightstand by the lamp. She unfolded the paper and read Mulder's neat block print:

'S - Went for a run in Cameron Park, then to police station to look over notes. Meet me there. Love you. M'

She should have known. Playtime was over, and Mulder was back on the case.

Forty-five minutes later Scully snagged a muffin from the breakfast bar in the lobby on her way to the front desk. "Any messages for Rooms 62 or 63?" she asked the clerk on duty.

The young lady checked under the counter. "No, nothing, Agent Scully."

"Okay, thanks." Scully headed for the door, but the clerk called after her.

"Agent Scully, did Agent Mulder really want me to mail this?"

Scully returned to the front desk. "Mail what?"

"This letter." The clerk held up an envelope bearing the hotel's return address logo. "He gave it to me this morning and asked me to mail it right away, but when I looked at it after he left, I thought it might be a joke. Do you think he really wanted me to mail it?"

Scully took the letter and gasped. The address on the envelope was written in the same neat block style as the note she had tucked in her pocket. No mistaking who wrote it, and no mistaking its intended recipient.

GEORGE DUBYA BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON, DC


WACO POLICE STATION
10:13 A.M.

"I didn't write it."

Mulder sat with his elbows on the oval conference table, the letter in question laid out before him. He'd read it twice already, but thought one more time might somehow alter the content:

'Dear Dubya,
Nearly three years after your inauguration I'm still asking myself how you got to be President. Oh, I remember now. Here in America, just because you get more votes doesn't mean you win.

Our country is headed down the tubes, and I hold you fully responsible. We're still in Iraq, the economy stinks, you're giving our war veterans and senior citizens the shaft, and all you're worried about is having your goons question the expense reports of hard-working FBI agents.

Your decision-making skills haven't improved since you were managing partner of the Rangers and were the only MLB owner to vote against instituting the wildcard playoff system. Lucky for the Angels and Giants last year that you lost that vote 27-1.

I'd watch out if I were you, because I know where you live.

F.W. Mulder'

Mulder pushed the paper toward Buck Preston and Tom Rush who were sitting across from him. "I didn't write it," he repeated, even though he knew almost certainly that he had. "I mean I don't remember writing it."

"Exactly what happened to the boys," Preston said. "I think we know now they're telling the truth. Whatever happened to them to make them write those letters, now it's happened to Agent Mulder. It's downright ..."

"I think 'spooky' is the word you're looking for."

Scully was pacing the floor behind Mulder but paused to rest a hand on his shoulder. She was relieved that Preston and especially Chief Rush didn't seem to be questioning Mulder's integrity or sanity but were instead focused on finding the common denominator that might provide an explanation for all the threatening letters.

"This letter is a little different than the others," Scully noted, "because it includes some references to Agent Mulder's personal frustrations, whereas the boys' letters seemed to be simply relaying the opinions of someone else." She paused and sat down next to Mulder. "This certainly lends credence to the theory that someone is somehow 'willing' others to do his or her bidding without their knowledge."

Chief Rush looked skeptical. "Willing? What does that mean?"

Scully glanced over to see if Mulder wanted to field the question, but he appeared to be deep in thought. "Agent Mulder and I have seen this ability before. I'm not sure it can be explained. It could even be some form of hypnosis or amazingly strong power of suggestion. But I think we're all in agreement that those who are writing these letters are not doing so of their own free will."

Buck Preston nodded. "But the question remains, who would do this?"

The room was quiet for a moment, then Scully spoke again. "One thing we haven't considered is that it's possible the person doing this doesn't even realize he has the ability to somehow communicate his subconscious thoughts to others. And perhaps that ability only works with people who are able to maintain an open mind - like children, or Agent Mulder."

Scully glanced at Mulder again, hoping he didn't take offense, but his thoughts still seemed to be elsewhere. "On Friday, Agent Mulder and I spoke with Ignatius Andrews, the retired riverboat captain that the Wranglers team has adopted. Captain Andrews was belligerent and incoherent most of the time, but Agent Mulder seemed to form some type of connection with him. One of the aides told me he has a similar bond with the boys on the team. I think somehow Captain Andrews is willing others to carry out his desires, perhaps without even realizing it."

Mulder gnawed at his bottom lip and Scully assumed he was turning her theory over in his mind. Preston and Rush seemed to be contemplating her conjecture as well.

Chief Rush finally spoke. "Agent Scully, why don't you and I go over and talk to Andrews again? Under the circumstances, I don't think it would be a good idea for Agent Mulder to ..."

Mulder suddenly sprang to his feet, knocking the chair back to the wall. "I know how he did it! Let's go!"

He was out the door and halfway down the hall before the others were on their feet. Scully shrugged. "He does that," she explained, and the three followed Mulder out the door.


"That's crazy! I don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

"In all fairness, I don't think you do." Mulder was still wearing the sweats from his earlier run and a steady trickle of perspiration was making his tee shirt cling to his back. "I'm fairly certain that on a conscious level you didn't realize what you were doing. But the fact remains that you are able to project your subconscious views to others and that you made the subliminal suggestion for those threatening letters to be written."

"How?"

"Signs, Dr. Williams," Mulder replied. "I'm not really sure how you do it. But when you're flashing signals to the players during a ball game, you're somehow planting the seed. Not just to write the letter, but what to write in it."

The doctor stepped from behind the veterinary office counter and shook his head vigorously. "Even if what you're saying is true, why would I do such a thing? I love my country. I don't hate President Bush."

"But I think your father does."

"What does my father have to do with this?" Williams asked. "He's been dead for six years."

Mulder crossed his arms in front of him. "The other day you told Agent Scully and I that your father was a die-hard Senators fan. So much so that he picked up his family and moved them halfway across the country when the Senators became a new team in a new city."

"But Bush wasn't involved with the Rangers back then. His investment group didn't purchase the team until 1989."

"Maybe your father felt if Bush hadn't become involved in '89, the team would have moved back to Washington. Become the Senators again. I don't know." Mulder shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe these are your subconscious thoughts or maybe your father is somehow channeling you to get his message across. But I do believe the way you flash the signs is the catalyst for the letters being written. And if you'll cooperate, I think we can prove it."

"I'd like nothing better than to prove you wrong and clear my name, Agent Mulder," Williams said. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to step over there and flash a series of signs to Buck over here." Mulder motioned for the two men to position themselves at opposite sides of the veterinary hospital office, about 10 feet apart. "It doesn't matter what they are. Just flash them one right after the other. And Buck, as he does that, I'd like you to say out loud what he's instructing you to do. Everybody ready?" The two men nodded. "Okay then. Go."

Williams began a series of hand signals and Buck called them out one by one. "Bunt. Curve ball. Intentional walk. Double steal. Split-fingered fastball. Hit and run. Bush is a moron. Doesn't deserve to be President. Write the letter. Off speed pitch. Infield shift ..."

Williams stopped the signals abruptly. "Oh my God! It's true!" He looked frantically at Mulder. "I wasn't thinking those things, I swear! I don't understand how ..."

Mulder raised a hand. "It's okay, Dr. Williams. It's okay." He turned to Preston with concern. "Buck, are you all right?"

"Sure," Preston replied. "What's wrong?"

"You don't remember what you just said?" Scully asked.

"Just regular baseball stuff," Buck answered. "The usual signs. Why? Was there something else?"

Williams sank into one of the waiting room chairs and covered his face with his hands. "My God! I don't believe it! It's not me, I swear! I didn't mean to! I'm so sorry, so sorry!"

Chief Rush looked completely stymied. He scratched his head and muttered, "Well, I'll be damned."

Williams looked up at Mulder, his cheeks wet with tears. "I don't understand. How did you know?"

Scully couldn't wait to hear the answer to that question herself.

"This morning I wrote a letter to President Bush," Mulder replied. "It was very similar to the ones written by the boys on your team. Assuming that none of us wrote those letters of our own free will, the logical explanation was that the boys and I had some kind of shared experience. That narrowed the playing field quite a bit."

"I still don't get it," Buck said. "How did you know it was the signs? I mean I understand the boys, but how were you affected?"

Mulder smiled sheepishly. "During the game yesterday, I was amusing myself by trying to steal Coach Williams' signals. An old habit I'm afraid. But I guess thankfully, I was successful. Otherwise we might never have figured this out. The letter I wrote contained a reference to Bush voting against the wild card playoff proposal when he was in charge of the Texas Rangers. That's something I didn't know, so that information had to come from somewhere. I got to thinking about you and your father and everything fell into place."

Williams wiped his eyes. "But why would my father do this? He loved the Senators, but he was a kind and gentle man. Making threats, especially against the President, and using me to trick people - that's just not him."

"Maybe in death, a frustrated fan gets to do the things he would never dream of doing in life," Mulder speculated. "Or maybe the bond between you and your father and baseball is so strong that it transcends the astral plane and the things he's thinking and feeling are somehow being thought and felt by you. But you're only able to express those things through your subconscious mind." He looked over at Scully. "Fathers and sons and baseball. Sometimes it's a complicated triangle."

Scully smiled back at him and nodded. "It certainly is."


CLARION HOTEL
1:36 P.M.

Mulder exited the bathroom wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist, his hair spiked in all directions. He was glad to finally have the chance to wash away the remnants of his run that now seemed such a long time ago. He stopped in front of the full-length mirror next to the desk and in the reflection saw Scully sitting on the bed talking on the phone. As soon as she glanced up, he sucked in his breath and struck a few bodybuilding poses, pretending to admire his physique in the mirror.

"All right, thank you." Scully finished her conversation and clicked the cell phone off. "Are you thinking you have a future as an action hero now that Arnold is governor?" she asked playfully.

"Hasta la vista, baby," he mocked in his best Schwarzenegger impression. "Come on, Scully, admit it. Not bad for an almost 42-year-old."

"Not bad at all." She slid off the bed and stood behind him, appreciating the view from both sides, thanks to the mirror's reflection. "And an honorable man, to boot. You said you would solve this case on Sunday and you were as good as your word."

"No, actually you solved this case, Scully," he replied, turning to face her and pulling her into an embrace. "You put all the pieces together. You were exactly right. You just had the wrong 'vet'. But if you hadn't laid things out the way you did, I might never have realized what Williams was doing. I owe it all to you. Behind every great man there's a great woman. You're my one in approximately 6.3 billion."

"And you are mine." She smiled up at him. "And speaking of behinds ..." Scully reached down and loosened the towel's twisted knot and it dropped to the floor leaving Mulder gloriously in the buff. She stood on tiptoes and hugged him tight, giving her just enough leverage to peek over his shoulder and get a good look at the reflection of his posterior in the mirror. Scully silently vowed that Skinner's secretary would never get a view as good as this one.

Scully ran her hands down his back, her nails tickling his flesh. He pulled her into a deep kiss and she squeezed his backside seductively, leaving her hands to cup the firm mounds while his tongue brushed against hers.

"That was the airline on the phone," she said when he broke the kiss. "If you want to give your Longhorn Room one last workout, we're going to have to hurry. Our plane leaves in four hours."

His response was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Shhh," he whispered. "Maybe they'll go away."

"Agent Mulder? Agent Scully? It's Buck Preston. Do you have a few minutes?"

"No," Mulder mouthed, but Scully tapped his right cheek.

"Just a second," Scully called out, then pointed to the other room. "Go put your pants on."

Scully waited until a grumbling Mulder was safely in the other room, then opened the door to admit Buck Preston.

"I'm sorry to intrude," he said breathlessly, "but I thought you and Agent Mulder might be getting ready to leave and I wanted to catch you before you did."

"That's all right, Scully replied. "Agent Mulder's changing. Actually I just finished making our reservations. We got a flight out tonight. How's Dr. Williams holding up?"

"A little shell-shocked. As are we all." Buck ran a hand through his hair. "I don't think we're quite sure what to make of all this yet."

"That's understandable," Scully nodded. "I've been working with Agent Mulder for ten years now, and I'm afraid some of our cases still leave me baffled."

"I don't think anyone's going to press charges," Buck continued. "It does seem fairly certain that this was unintentional on Doc's part, but we'll be checking it out, having Doc talk to some professionals. Little League season is over for this year, so his contact with the kids is minimal. We'll just have to see how it goes before we decide on whether or not Doc continues with the program."

Mulder appeared from the other room, barefooted and hair still spiky but dressed in faded blue jeans and a gray tee shirt.

Buck smiled. "Agent Mulder, I was just preparing to tell Agent Scully how grateful we all are for what you did here. Everyone was ready to pin this on those boys, no questions asked, and you and Agent Scully were willing to consider the alternatives. We can't thank you enough."

"It's not necessary," Mulder replied in his "aw shucks" style. "It's our job to uncover the truth. I'm just glad this case had a relatively happy ending. It's really no big deal."

"Well, it is a big deal to me. And I'd like to show my appreciation." Buck reached into his jacket pocket, took out a small card, and handed it to Scully. "A friend of mine owns The Cotton Palace. It's a bed and breakfast out by the University. I've booked a room there for the two of you for tonight and tomorrow night as my guests and I won't take no for an answer."

"That's very generous of you, Buck," Scully said, "but we can't. I don't think it would be appropriate for us to accept a gift of that magnitude for just doing our jobs and we do need to get back to D.C." She held the card out, waiting for Buck to take it.

"Well, I already called your supervisor, Mr. Skinner, and told him what a great job you did on this case." Buck pushed Scully's hand away. "I also told him that we needed your services for just a bit longer, to wrap up some loose ends and what not, and that since tomorrow is a Federal holiday, we wouldn't be able to do that until Tuesday. So we'd need to keep you here at least until Tuesday evening. I told him that given the circumstances, we'd be happy to pick up the tab for your expenses for the extra days, and he said that would be fine."

Scully looked at Mulder and he just shrugged.

Buck reached into his jacket pocket again and pulled out another card. "I also recall that Agent Scully mentioned in passing that tomorrow is your birthday, Agent Mulder."

Mulder nodded. "That's true."

"Then consider this a birthday gift between two notso -old ballplayers." He handed the card to Mulder. "There's a paddleboat called The Spirit of the Rivers that takes you on a scenic cruise around Waco. I'd be honored if you two would enjoy a birthday dinner aboard the Spirit on me tomorrow night."

Mulder read the card and shook his head. "Buck, this is too much."

"Nonsense. It's my pleasure. My godson and his family mean a lot to me, and I'm very grateful for what you did."

The two Agents looked at each other again. "Well, then, how can we refuse?" Scully reached out to take Preston's hand. "Thank you very much. I'm sure we'll enjoy the room and the cruise."

Preston shook Mulder's hand too, then headed toward the door, Scully at his side. "I've got a car waiting," he said. "Get your things packed, come on downstairs, and I'll drive you over to The Cotton Palace. I'll be waiting in the lobby."

Scully started to open the door, then closed it again. "Buck, I'm curious about one thing. You said you booked us one room at the bed and breakfast. How did you know we were a couple?"

"Why, ma'am, I'm a trained investigator." Buck smiled. "But mostly, I'm not blind, I'm not deaf, and I'm not stupid. You two might think you do a good job of hiding it, but you don't. Especially when the eyes of Texas are upon you. It's pretty apparent you're smitten with each other. But don't worry. Your 'secret' is safe with me."

Scully blushed and smiled bashfully. She pulled the door open and Buck stepped into the hallway. "We'll be down in a minute," she said and closed the door.

"Do you think The Cotton Palace has longhorns on the bed?" Mulder asked.

"Somehow, I don't think so."

"Then maybe we'd better take these with us." Mulder said. "I'm getting kind of attached to them."

Scully pulled their suitcases out of the closet and placed them on the bed. "Well, I haven't had a chance to get your birthday gift yet. Maybe you'll get a set for your very own."

Mulder arched his eyebrows. "Well, Scully, thanks to the Texas Ranger who does not have buck teeth, if the next two days go as I hope they will, you won't have to buy me anything for my birthday. But if you still feel so inclined, maybe one evening next week we can search the internet or visit some western bars in D.C. and find something that suits my personality."

Scully was pulling items from the dresser drawer and tossed those that belonged to Mulder to him. "Oh, I can't next week, Mulder," she said. "I'm afraid I'm going to be very busy."

He opened his suitcase and dropped the boxers and tee shirts inside. "Why?"

"Well, I'm going to be very busy perusing the newspaper looking for a new place for us to live and a dog to live with us."

Mulder's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "You mean it? For real?"

"I think it's time, Mulder." Scully walked to the closet to retrieve the clothes hanging there. "Now go get the stuff out of the bathroom, and double check the Longhorn Room to make sure we didn't leave anything in there. Oh, and don't forget to pack your birthday suit. I expect to see quite a bit of that over the next two days."

Mulder headed for the connecting door, but there he paused and turned to face Scully. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Once or twice," she replied, gathering the hangers in her hand. "But that's the sort of thing that bears repeating. I love you too, Mulder."

He took the few short steps to the closet and kissed her softly once, twice, three times. Then she took him by the shoulders, twirled him around, and gently pushed him back toward the other room. "Now, git along, little doggy. We've gotta hurry before Buck comes back to find out what's keeping us."

"Okay, pardner." As he disappeared through the doorway, Scully heard him shout. "Yee-haw! God bless Texas!"

Scully smiled and dropped her black pumps into the suitcase. Memories of the last trip to Texas were hereby erased; this would be the visit to the Lone Star State she would remember for the rest of her life.

THE END


Written for the Waco Weekend Challenge. Here are the elements; I think (I hope) I got 'em all:

A crusty, rustic riverboat captain
A leather couch - not Mulder's usual one A Texas Ranger - historical or real live A really big Texas flag
Furniture made with longhorn horns or deer antlers A paddleboat
Dr Pepper
An antique gun
Chinese food
A nice veterinarian
A President (George W. lives here)
The Davidians (David Koresh lived here) Baylor University (with the infamous basketball murder)

Notes: This was my first try at writing something resembling an 'X-File'. It was more difficult than I expected, and turned out longer than I anticipated, but was a good experience and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Challenge, even though I didn't quite make the deadline. (Also, apologies to the real first baseman on Baylor's 1977 team - Luke Prestridge.)


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