Touching Jericho (6/15)
FBI Field Office
Salt Lake City
The field office seemed as good a place as any to start. Mulder
flashed his ID at the front man.
"Mulder, Washington Bureau. Is Agent ben Jacob around? or Agent
The agent scowled at Mulder's badge and examined it carefully, then
shook his head. "*Another* Washington puke? You OPR?"
Mulder grimaced. "No, just visiting. Agent Scully is my partner. I
need to speak to her."
"Haven't seen Agent Scully today," the agent told him, "I'm sure
she's with the rabbi, though. She did come all this way to see him.
Why don't you leave a message? I'm not sure when they'll be back.
Certainly not in time to finish this paperwork..." The man ran a hand
through his reddish hair and glared at Mulder from tired blue eyes.
"The rabbi? You talking about Agent ben Jacob?"
"The one and only. Our resident theological authority. Our one man
psychological justification team. The guy who tells us why terrorists
do the things they do. Other than them being depraved assholes that
is." The agent flicked the paperwork in front of him with a finger.
"He knows a lot about that kind of stuff? Terrorism? The criminal
"As much as any of us," the agent replied. He stared at Mulder.
"So ben Jacob's good at his job? What was his specialty anyway...
counter-terrorism? Hey, wasn't he the guy that helped us out in
Pennsylvania? On that terrorist action a few months ago?" Mulder
faked a smile, and saw the other agent unbend a bit.
"Yeah, that was Ash. Damn shame he was there at the time, though."
"Oh, you mean because of what happened? With his fiancee, ah..."
Mulder pretended to fumble for a name.
"Davi? Yeah, real rough when your intended gets torched by the very
people you're supposed to defend against. Makes you doubt the whole
system, you know?"
Mulder nodded slowly. He did know. He'd never forget the panic that
had wrenched his gut the moment he'd learned Scully had been lured to
the dam. He kept his tone conversational. "I would be very perturbed
if terrorists killed my girlfriend, and angry too. And I'm no counter-
"Ash wasn't angry, not at first. I think he was in shock. First time
I'd ever seen the rabbi struck speechless." The agent tipped back in
his chair. "Can't say it was a welcome change."
"So is he okay now? Or did the death affect his job?" Mulder probed.
The agent shot him a look of disgust. "What the hell do you think?
Your childhood sweetheart gets murdered, and being an FBI agent you
just soldier on? Christ! You sure you aren't OPR? No compassion. Of
course he isn't okay. Would you be if you lost someone you loved in a
senseless tragedy like that? Wouldn't you be angry? Upset? Confused?
Depressed?" The man shook his head. "Just wish I could help."
Mulder flinched inside. Wasn't that exactly what Scully had gone
through? A senseless tragedy? Not just once, but twice? Emily and
Ruskin Dam? "Sometimes... you can't help, even when you want to,"
Mulder told him. "The person won't let you."
The other man gave a harsh laugh. "If only it were that easy. First,
the person has to acknowledge there's a problem, before you can try
and solve it." After rubbing his face with one big paw, the man
glanced at Mulder. "Look, you didn't stop by to hear me expound on
Agent ben Jacob. What do you want?"
"I'll admit I'm curious about Asher ben Jacob, seeing that he's
spending a lot of time with my partner. Partners got to protect each
other, you know?" Mulder gave him that fake smile again. "So, is ben
Jacob a good guy or what?"
The agent gave Mulder a long look. "You speaking personally, or
"Both. Should I be concerned for my partner on a personal level, or
for her professional career?" Mulder leaned close. "The guy's not
going to get her in trouble, is he?"
"Ash? On a personal level, you couldn't ask for a more honorable
man. I don't think he'll get her pregnant and dump her, if that's
what you mean." The man snorted. "I'd trust him with my sister.
Always praying and being reasonable. Makes the rest of us poor slobs
"As opposed to professionally?" Mulder said. "I know the guy's had
"Hey, I told you, his fiancee's death hit him hard. Maybe he did a
few things he shouldn't have. Which of us wouldn't, given the
"Is that why you thought I was OPR?" Mulder asked him.
"Yeah, both you and Agent Scully. Asher's my partner. Some of the
time." He held out a hand. "I'm Pat Riley."
Mulder shook the offered hand. "So what did ben Jacob do that
warranted OPR taking a look?"
"Oh, the rabbi went poking in Bureau resources trying to find some
connection between his girlfriend and the other people that got
killed. Other than the obvious, them all being UFO nuts. Anyhow, he
wasn't careful enough, and got caught with his fingers in the
information till." Riley shrugged. "I figured the rabbi was using
the Bureau for his private research again. This time they may not
listen, and both him and me would be the recipients of a four bagger.
But like I said, Ash is an ethical guy. He'd never let an innocent
party go down with him. Theoretically."
The phone rang and Riley answered it, then rolled his eyes. "No,
Asher isn't here. Yes, sir, Rabbi Green, I'll tell him you called.
Again. Yes, sir. I'll let him know that, sir. Goodbye." Riley hung up
and heaved a big sigh, then scribbled a message on a pink pad.
"Why don't you point me to ben Jacob's desk, I'll leave him a note,"
Riley heaved himself to his feet, gathered up the stacks of papers
around him and shoved them into folders, then left them by the
computer. He waved the pink message slip. "Come on, it's back here."
Mulder followed him to the back of the room and a half walled cubicle.
Riley pulled a notepad off the messiest desk Mulder had ever seen
-besides his own- and gave it to him. "Here, leave it on the other
desk, that's Ash's. He'll get it when he comes by. If he comes by.
Son of a bitch is in for an ass chewing if I catch him. Our paperwork
was due an hour ago..." he shrugged at Mulder. "Maybe you'll get
lucky. Maybe he'll actually decide to do his damn job today instead
of socializing on Bureau time." Pat Riley dropped the pink phone slip
and returned to the front, leaving Mulder at Asher ben Jacob's
offensively neat desk.
Socializing? Mulder didn't need to be reminded with whom. He sat
down and pulled the pad towards him, then glanced up to see if any of
the other agents were watching him. Riley was.
His opportunity for snooping diminished, Mulder scribbled on the
pad. 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.' He ripped the
paper off the pad and folded it, then looked for something to slip it
under. Mulder's eye fell on the desk calendar. He picked it up,
placed the note underneath, pulling the calendar close enough to read
the meticulous writing under today's date. 'Lunch, Devereaux House.
Dana. The idea of ben Jacob and Scully together, on intimate terms,
gave Mulder a sinking feeling. "There's lots of reasons for Scully
not to come back last night... and have lunch with this guy..." he
muttered to himself. "Doesn't have to be serious... they're probably
just discussing business. Or religion." Yeah, right, a Catholic and a
Jew discussing theology over lunch. About as plausible as little gray
aliens. After another minute's uneasy contemplation, Mulder strode to
the front and interrupted Pat Riley again. "How do I get to the
"Take a cab."
Mulder leaned over the desk. "You get paid extra for the stand up
Riley merely turned the telephone around to face Mulder and handed
him a phone book. "Take a cab. Lunchtime is murder for driving. What,
you think D.C. is the only town with traffic problems?" Riley got up
and went into a nearby room when another agent beckoned to him.
Mulder kept his mouth shut. The rental needed gas anyhow, he dialed
for a cab. His fingers drummed impatiently as he listened to what
vaguely sounded like a pan-pipe version of Enter Sandman. Five
minutes worth. A hushed conversation from two people standing in the
conference room doorway was better entertainment.
"...fine, Pat, but when you mention potentially explosive compounds
and baby terrorists in the same sentence and Asher doesn't seem
interested, I have to start wondering," a husky female voice said.
"I know, I know..."
Mulder's ears pricked up. He turned casually towards the
conversation, phone still pressed to his head. He recognized the
voice of Pat Riley, but not the woman. She had her back to him.
"Give me a few days," Riley continued. "Ash's pretty involved in the
church stuff, they got foreign guests coming in and need his input,
then there's this new case..."
After a long hesitation, Riley spoke. "It might have something to do
with those terrorists who whacked his girlfriend."
"Shit! You didn't think this was important enough to keep me
Mulder flinched. Pat Riley was obviously in deep shit.
"I just found out myself."
Mulder sympathized. He hoped that was an excuse, however feeble.
"You keep on him," the woman said, "One thing this office will *not*
allow is personal vendettas, no matter how heinous the crime. He gets
out of line, Pat, you let me know."
"How the hell am I supposed to tell, Christina? The man's been out
of line since the day I met him."
"This has gone too far, Pat," the woman told him, "Asher ben Jacob
is becoming a major problem. His personal life is impairing his
ability to do his job. He *was* a damn fine agent. He can be again.
I've tolerated your lying and covering for him, because of that. I
even sympathized, to a point. No more. You're due for a promotion,
Pat. This won't look good when the time comes to decide who gets the
slot. Make a decision. Asher either shapes up, or I'll recommend
dismissal. You can tell him when you see him. Now get that paperwork
finished." The woman walked out and headed for another office,
slamming the door behind her.
Riley sagged against the wall, muttered to himself, "When I see him?
How about *if* I see him..." When he looked up, it was straight at
Mulder. Riley scowled. "You want the 800 number for the transcript?"
Mulder shrugged before returning to his phone call, "No, not worth
Riley stalked over. "Let me tell you, Agent Mulder. If you know
what's good for that partner of yours, you'll haul her pretty little
ass out of here. Hell is about to break loose, and she's in front of
"I thought you said ben Jacob was trustworthy?"
"I did. He's also hell bent on destroying his career with this
obsession about finding Davi's killers, and some company called New
Genesis. That's what got him the letter of censure before, this snipe
hunt. They're bound to still be watching. Hate to see Agent Scully go
down in the crossfire."
"Scully's a lot tougher than she looks. Last time I tried to tell
her what to do, she shot me..." Mulder felt weird, Sandman playing in
one ear, Riley in the other. Very surreal. "Look, I'll do my best to
convince her to get back to D.C., okay?"
"If you care about your partner at all, you'll do better than that.
Just distance yourself from this whole mess. Get her out of harm's
way. That's all any of us can do."
"What about *your* partner, Riley? Who's going to get *him* out of
harms way? Or is he an acceptable sacrifice in the name of career
His reply was a few choice words and a slammed door as Riley
disappeared into another office. Luckily for Mulder, the pan-pipes
were replaced by a disinterested female drawl inquiring his
destination. Mulder placed his request for a cab, and fled the cotton-
thick tension of the field office for the relative safety of the
Salt Lake City
Riley had been right about one thing. The traffic was impossible.
Impatient, Mulder finally tossed the cab driver his fare, and bailed
out of the cab a few blocks shy of his destination.
His long strides brought the Devereaux House quickly into view, but
Mulder had little interest in admiring the renovated showplace. His
eyes zeroed in on a flash of red hair as he caught a glimpse of the
petite redhead standing off to the side of the building, large
plastic shopping bag at her feet. Scully dressed casually, dark pants
and a cream colored sweater under her jacket, hair tousled by the
wind, expression masked by trendy Ray-Banns. A man approached, and
stood by her side.
Mulder decided to make the lunch a threesome, and stepped up his
pace, eyes glued to the couple ahead of him. The man was tall, well
built, neatly dressed. He wore a skullcap on his head, atop hair that
was long, even by Mulder's standards. The guy looked like a
professor, one of the philosophy teachers that never left his college
days behind him. The man had presence, Mulder had to admit, presence
and some sanctimonious quality Mulder always associated with Scully
at her most stubborn. This had to be Asher ben Jacob.
ben Jacob stood very close to Scully, placed a hand against her
cheek and said something, gave her a quiet smile.
Mulder hesitated, and stopped as he watched the ebb and flow of
pedestrians around them. Suddenly he wasn't sure a confrontation with
the two would be in his best interests. As he watched, ben Jacob
slipped his hand behind Scully's neck, leaned down and kissed her.
Mulder backed up, bumping into several people. Images swirled
through his mind in rapid succession. ben Jacob, Ruskin Dam, ben
Jacob and Scully together, talking together, laughing together... ben
Jacob kissing Scully. ben Jacob's dark hand on Scully's delicate
skin... His mind refused to take him any further. Is that where she'd
been all night? Mulder found himself taking several deep breaths of
the fresh air, all thoughts of a quick confrontation driven out of
He walked. He would return to the hotel and wait for Scully to get
back there. He would sound her out first. If that was at all possible
by now. He didn't look back to watch them enter the restaurant.
Completely oblivious to Mulder's presence, Scully watched Asher
approach. He cut through the tourist swarm with the ease of a
running back, stride purposeful, eyes fixed on one destination. Her.
Scully couldn't help it, she smiled. This man was good for her
Asher stopped a foot away and peered into her eyes. One hand rose
and cupped her cheek in an oddly possessive manner. "Dana. How are
you? Did you have any trouble finding the restaurant?"
She inhaled, intoxicated by the woods-spicy aftershave he wore. It
reminded her of her father, and Mulder in a strange way. It wasn't
the brand Mulder wore, but the mixture of aftershave on warm skin had
the same comforting effect. "No, I walked through Temple Square. It
was beautiful, all those flowers... all those people. Just being
themselves. It was good to see."
He did something that surprised her then. He leaned forward and
kissed her, a fleeting brush of lips across her cheek. "I know. I
always come to Temple Square when I want to feel better about myself.
So much beauty tends to make ones own problems diminish." He looked
at her a long moment and gave a slow smile. "Being with you has the
same consequence. You look nice." Asher picked up Scully's shopping
bag and placed a hand lightly on her back. "Come, you must be hungry."
It took only a few minutes for them to be seated at a secluded
table, ornate menus placed promptly in their hands. Scully looked
over to find Asher studying her with that grave intensity. She
swallowed, dropped her eyes to the menu and flipped it open. "Is
there anything you can eat here, Asher? I mean, I never thought about
it, your dietary restrictions and all... my knowledge of Jewish
culture is limited... maybe we should go somewhere else--"
Asher gave her a last look then shrugged to himself. "It's nowhere
near as kosher as I keep my kitchen, but don't worry. I won't be
struck dead." He shot her a wry grin. "There's always salad."
Scully echoed Asher's choice, and ordered a caesar salad sans
anchovies and a kiwi orange juice. After surrendering the menu to the
waiter, she leaned back in her chair and considered ben Jacob a
minute before asking, "Is it hard? Practicing your religion and being
an FBI agent?"
He took the time to think, dark eyes pensive, hands steepled in
front of him on the table, head tilted slightly to the right. With
the dim lighting, dark looks, and knit kipah on his head, he could
have come from any renaissance painting of the consummate scholar.
"Being a practicing Jew and an FBI agent is no harder than being a
practicing Jew and a truck driver, I think. Or a schoolteacher... or
any other profession. Yes, there are times when my religion has to
take a back seat to my job. I understand this, my god also understands
"It sounds like you are on good terms with your god then, Asher,"
Scully commented softly.
"Not as good as I have been in the past," Asher admitted, "but I am
working on it. Every day I pray for guidance and strength, in hopes I
can put my disillusionment behind me."
"Has God heard your prayers?"
Asher gave a small smile. "I'm sure he hears them. But I don't pray
for him to grant me these things, I pray he has patience with me as I
try and figure them out."
Scully leaned forward, put her chin in one hand. "I admire you,
Asher ben Jacob. For having the courage to face your problems."
He laughed softly. "No courage involved, I face them, I don't face
them. It is not my god's dilemma, but mine. I am the only one who can
change things. I pray to better myself, not to curry favor with a
deity." Asher picked up his water glass and took a long drink from
it, carefully replaced it on the table, then shrugged. "My crisis of
faith is no different than anyone else," he looked up, "No different
than yours. Only that you have been struggling a lot longer than I
have. I wish I could help you... I want to help you, Dana."
Scully couldn't meet his penetrating gaze. Her eyes dropped to the
cloth napkin in her lap. "You have helped me, Asher. By being here.
By listening." It was her turn to grasp the ice water and take long
Asher reached across the table and captured her free hand. "Surely
there is something else I can do? Some way I can make things better
Scully allowed him to keep his hold on her hand, allowed his thumb
to caress the inside of her wrist. "Aren't you angry, Asher? At what
happened to Davi? Every time I think of Emily, my stomach knots. I
can ignore what happened to me, but to use a child like that..."
"'These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination
unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent
blood...'" Asher's voice trailed off, he looked at her, eyes
shadowed. "There is no excuse for shedding the blood of a child,
Dana, none at all."
"I thought the Old Testament was about vengeance, Asher?"
"'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in
the image of God made he man...'" Asher shook his head. "Vengeance is
not mine to take, Dana. I may feel it in my heart, and I pray that my
god understands my anger, but revenge belongs to the Lord. I would
not presume to question his judgment."
Scully studied him, the proud gaze, fierce eyes that hid the
tormented soul. She let out a delicate laugh. "You *believe*, Asher.
I like that."
"You will believe again also, Dana. When the time is right."
"Yes. I have no doubt."
The waiter set plates in front of them, and Asher was forced to drop
her hand. He closed his eyes, lips moving while the waiter attended
to Scully. When they were alone again, Scully gave Asher a fleeting
smile and speared a romaine leaf. "What passage was that quote from?
About the innocent blood?"
"Proverbs." Asher checked through his salad before he began eating.
"I did a special study on the Writings in rabbinical college."
"My biblical knowledge is not what it should be," Scully admitted.
"I am not a good Catholic..."
"I always had an interest in Psalms, even as a child. It speaks
within my heart..." He looked down at his plate, stirred his fork
through the romaine and spinach.
"I have favorite books too," Scully told him, "but they seem to
change as I change. Job, Matthew, Corinthians, Revelations..."
Asher looked up at her then. "I am unfamiliar with the New
Testament. It was difficult enough to absorb all the writings by
Jewish scholars." He shifted in his seat, uncomfortable either with
the idea of the Catholic Bible, or with the knowledge he was
deficient in some area.
Scully turned the talk to lighter things then, books, music, places
they'd both been in Washington and New England. The change resulted
in a visible easing of Asher's mood. Relaxed, Scully decided to
indulge and ordered cheesecake for dessert. Asher watched her dig in,
half-smile on his face, fingers playing with his water glass. The
waiter returned with the check. Asher took it and paid, stopping
Scully's unspoken offer with a look.
She concentrated on finishing her cheesecake, offering Asher a bite
from her fork. His hasty refusal amused them both. "Come on, Rabbi,"
she teased, "It's a lot less intimate than other things we've
shared... and I want your opinion, as a native Easterner."
His eyebrow shot up. "How do you know where I'm from?"
"Your accent. And the letters..." Scully's gaze dropped to her plate
for a split second.
Asher laughed. "You can take the boy out of Philly, but..."
"So I hear." Scully returned his smile, and sliced off a bite of
Asher leaned across the table as Scully held the fork out, his hand
grabbing her wrist and steadying it. He closed his lips around the
fragment of cheesecake, eyes riveted to hers as he pulled the fork
from his mouth slowly, using her hand as a guide. His tongue slipped
out and gracefully flicked across his upper lip. Scully felt a
flutter in her stomach. Maybe dessert was a bad idea. After salad.
Asher held her wrist another beat before letting go. Those sinfully
delicious eyes mesmerized her as thoroughly as any pit viper.
The muted chirp of a cel phone broke the spell. Relieved, Scully
dropped the fork to her plate with a clatter, and dug in her coat.
She pulled the cel out, looked at it. The chirp came again. "It's not
mine," Scully told Asher.
He sighed, a long suffering sound, and reached into his coat pocket,
pulled out the cel and flipped it on. "ben Jacob."
Scully watched his expression change from resigned to interested.
"Yes, I can stop by. As a matter of fact, I'm in the vicinity. No. I
was having lunch with... a friend." He glanced across the table at
Scully and gave her that slow smile. "Devereux House. No, it won't
bankrupt me, the Bureau does pay its employees on occasion. Come on,
I can't work for you, Porter, so quit asking. You know we'd just
argue theology all day and never get anything done. Yes, she is
definitely worth this place." He looked at Scully and gave an
apologetic grin. "Okay, give me 15 minutes." Asher cut the connection
and stuck the phone back into his jacket pocket.
"That was Porter Kent, over at the LDS Office Building. He wanted to
know if I could stop by, he has a few things to discuss. About some
visiting dignitaries. It's a bit unusual, him not scheduling in
advance, but..." Asher shrugged. "You're welcome to come with me.
Porter was insistent, as a matter of fact. He said he hasn't seen me
with any woman since... well..." Asher looked at her. "I took Davi to
visit the building once, last fall. Introduced her to Porter and the
security team. She hated it. Said she found the whole atmosphere
'oppressive'. But you, being an agent... might see it differently."
He shook his head and added hastily, "Not that it's the only
reason... If you'd like to come with me, the view from the upper
floors is fantastic... lots of tourists go there. I haven't had a
chance to make your visit more pleasant. Non Bureau..."
Scully gave him a small smile. "I wouldn't call last night a Bureau
related activity, Asher. I should let you do your job."
Asher reached out and took her hand. "Please?"
Scully studied him, wondering about the yearning she saw on his
face. It was the eyes that did her in, the wide, puppy dog look
reminiscent of Mulder. Maybe she could get her men to start wearing
dark glasses. Then again, the ones that had it down to an art didn't
need to rely on one non verbal clue. Their whole bodies were a
testimony to their persuasive powers. Asher's thumb caressed the
inside of her wrist, reminding her of the man's exquisitely gentle
touch just hours ago. She sighed in defeat. "Sure, why not?"
end part 06/15
Touching Jericho (7/15)
Church Office Building
Near Temple Square
The deference shown Asher ben Jacob by the security guards at the
door gave Scully pause. Asher obviously commanded a great deal of
respect here, despite his religious background. He procured a visitor
pass for Scully, then pulled a security pass from his pocket and
clipped it on before leading her to the elevator.
"I'll introduce you to Porter first, then let you take a look
"Sure, whatever you want, Asher." Scully clutched her shopping bag,
feeling vaguely ridiculous. Like a tourist. They stopped on the
fifteenth floor, Asher nodding to the young man on guard. "Bennett.
How's it going?"
"Fine, sir. He's expecting you." Dressed in dark pants, a white
shirt, and a tie, the young man looked like any of the multitudes
populating the building on church business. He also looked like he'd
just graduated high school the day before. The earpiece and way he
lifted his wrist to his mouth to talk into a hidden microphone
identified him as a member of the security team, however.
Scully felt her eyebrow rise. The whole setup reminded her of the
Secret Service, and covert operations. No wonder Davi felt oppressed.
Asher walked up to the door and punched a code into the keypad set
alongside. There was a loud click, and he opened it, motioned her
"Isn't all this security a bit much," Scully asked in a low voice.
They stepped onto a carpeted hall, and into a bustle of people who
Knew Where They Were Going.
"Not really, the prophet is one of the more powerful religious
leaders in the world, he just avails himself of modern technology for
protection. Although placing it in the hands of children makes me
uneasy at times. They're too susceptible to other influences." Asher
nodded to another ear-pieced young man and continued down the hall.
"I've done some training for Porter's security teams, how to handle
an intruder, preventative measures, how to respond to bomb threats.
After I came back from Bomb School, Porter had me revamp their
Explosives Search procedures. Their security can handle almost
everything that comes their way."
"Then why are you here?" Scully asked.
Asher turned and grinned at her. "Because I'm fluent in several
languages, including Buspeak. Someone's got to translate for the
government." He opened a door and ushered her into a waiting room.
The secretary looked up and smiled. Another innocuous young man in a
white shirt, sans earpiece. "He'll be right with you, Agent ben
Jacob. Have a seat."
Scully dropped her bags on the couch and wandered to the window,
taking in the view of Temple Square and Salt Lake City. "Wow, you
"This isn't the best view either. I'll have Bennett or Devane take
you up to the observation deck. It tends to put things in
perspective. Sometimes I go there just for the mental breather."
A door popped open behind them, making Scully jump. She turned.
"Asher, there you are! Come in, come in..."
"Porter." Asher turned, and held out a hand, accepting a hearty slap
on the shoulder with the handshake.
"Glad you could make it, son. Who's your pretty little friend?"
Scully eyed the fit man in his early fifties who stood beaming at
her. He wore a white linen shirt and tailored black pants, his hair
was styled, with no attempts made to hide the gray strands dominating
the blonde. The smile was toothpaste commercial bright, and its full
wattage directed her way. It didn't distract Scully from looking into
his eyes and noticing the grin didn't extend that far. The blue eyes
were more slate-colored, and distant. Flat. Scully forced herself to
smile back. 'Pretty little friend' indeed...
"This is Dana, she's a--"
"I'm a friend of Asher's," Scully said, cutting Asher off as she
"Porter Kent." He moved toward her purposefully, towering over her,
and a few inches above Asher.
Scully took the hand Porter held out. It was dry, well manicured,
and pumped her fingers just a bit too vigorously; it clung to her
just a moment too long as the bland eyes slid over her, examined her,
sized her up, rated her on some internal scale... then dismissed her.
The cologne he wore was a scent Scully found particularly cloying.
She tugged her hand free and stepped back. "Nice to meet you."
"Come in, Asher, Dana." Kent moved back into his office, leaving
them no choice but to follow. "Asher, we had the pleasure of your
partner's presence here earlier. Sorry you missed him."
Scully trailed Asher, putting the other agent between her and the
church official. She stopped inside and looked around, impressed. The
office was very open and airy, the furniture graceful and
unobtrusive. An eclectic display of cultural artifacts was arranged
across a table and on the back wall. A colorful silk prayer rug
caught her eye. Intrigued, Scully drifted that way.
"Riley? What did he want?" Asher looked a little surprised.
Porter smiled. "I thought you might have been able to tell me. He
was asking questions. I'm sure if it was something important you'd
know all about it."
Asher remained oddly non-committal. "This the security roster?" He
picked up a folder off the coffee table.
"Yes, take a look," Kent answered, "tell me what you think." He
followed Scully to where she stood in front of the rug. "Impressive,
"Very. The intricate pattern of the arabesque is one of the things
that intrigues me about Muslim art. Is this a Mihrab?"
"Yes... I have another rug in the garden of paradise design, but I
like to alternate my furnishings." Kent gave Scully a speculative
look. "I also have some wonderful examples of Islamic calligraphy
over here. Pages from the Koran, old and rare writings from Spain. I
collect and sell them. I'm hoping to get Asher to translate for me
someday." He picked a binder off the table and handed to her.
Asher looked up at the mention of his name. "I told you, Porter, I
speak Arabic much better than I write it. Not to mention translating
another cultures' religious text is just not my cup of tea."
"Asher is not fond of our Islamic friends, which is understandable,"
Porter said to Scully. "So much history of strife and tension for
such a common beginning. Asher and I have had many a discussion on
the origins of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. I must remain
"Of course," Scully replied, catching the set of Asher's shoulders
even as he pretended to read the folder in his hands. She turned the
pages of the binder, gazing at the scripts in Arabic that represented
the Islamic religion. "Where did you get all this calligraphy and
"Oh, I did some missionary work over in Turkey and other places, and
even taught at BYU in Jerusalem ten, twelve years ago. Of course,
that was in the dark ages, before computers. We did everything
manually." He laughed. "Good handwriting was highly prized back then."
"Is that where you picked up your interest in calligraphy?"
"Yes, I started pursuing it then." Porter walked back over to Asher.
"So what do you think?"
"If this is the team for the Brazilian contingent, we're in
trouble," Asher replied. "None of them speak Portuguese."
Porter laughed. "No, sorry, I thought I told you, we got the word
the Middle Easterners are a definite go. This is your team. I assumed
you'd translate for me, like I asked."
Asher took a deep breath. "If you really need me to. I thought you
could handle it."
"Asher, Asher, you know your Arabic is far superior to mine. We
can't run the risk of making any mistakes, this is far too important.
Okay, son?" Kent clapped him on the shoulder.
"Okay," Asher muttered.
"Good, good," Porter rubbed his hands together, then pushed Asher
down towards the couch. "Now, lets go over those teams. Devane and
Fullerton might be a bit much together..." He sat next to the agent,
and pulled the file from his hands.
Scully flipped to the back of the binder and stopped. A batch of
pages were stuck in haphazardly, the graceful ink script paused in
its delicate spread across the page. Curious, she leafed through. It
looked to be versions of the same page, at different levels of
completion, with only one word altered from the original. All of the
variations were done on heavy paper, much the same as the Koran
manuscript page at the front of the book. Another of the pages was
done in elaborate script, Scully recognized some German words. It
looked to be a stock certificate for a company called Ursprung
Neugeboren. Her mind went to work translating, but it had been a long
time since she'd spoken any German, much less read it. Neugeboren-
newborn? Ursprung? Newborn what? That didn't make sense. Scully felt
Porter's eyes bore into her back and closed the binder, replacing it.
Small utensils with floral motifs, pottery, more silk rugs and what
looked like a reed pen lay on the table. A partially open drawer gave
her a glimpse of several bottles of ink. Scully pushed the drawer
closed with her knee and touched up a curved animal horn set on a
velvet stand. It was almost three feet long, and highly polished. For
some reason it looked out of place among the overly detailed Islamic
artifacts displayed on the table. Porter Kent looked over at her
again, so she asked, "What's this?"
It was Asher who answered, intensity undiminished even from across
the room. His dark eyes bore into hers. "A shofar. A ram's horn. A
symbol for *my* people." Asher's gaze wavered then, and dropped back
to the table in front of him. There was a terse moment of silence.
"I picked it up in Jerusalem," Porter commented, "Well, how about a
tour of the observation deck?" He punched a button on his intercom.
"Mister Bennett, come in here a minute, please."
Kent went to the door and met the young security officer. "Please
take Miss Scully up to the twenty sixth floor and show her around.
Agent ben Jacob and I have some important business to discuss, and I
don't want to bore her pretty little head with the details." He
turned his high wattage smile on Scully again.
She took the hint and grabbed her packages, obediently following the
security man out of Porter Kent's office, so not to strain her
'pretty little head'. Grrr. Whereas Asher's attentions to her
feminine side made her feel wanted, and appreciated, Porter Kent's
made her feel bristly, and annoyed. It also brought out the devilish
side that wanted to prick that insufferable attitude like an overripe
balloon. Considering where she was, maybe indulging in impish
activities wasn't a good idea. Scully turned her attention to the
well rehearsed patter of the young security guard. She had no doubt
Asher ben Jacob would come find her when he was good and ready.
After leaving Porter Kent, Asher walked Scully back towards her
rental, it was a block further away from his Stealth. They paused by
the shiny red car. "I need to go to the synagogue," Asher told her,
"Rabbi Green wants to talk to me. Probably about me missing minion
this morning..." He gave her a cynical grin and shrugged, running one
hand down the immaculate fender of his car. "I don't make it a habit
of blowing off my rabbi or his requests. He must have been worried
when I didn't show up this morning. You can come with me, if you
want..." His voice trailed off as he studied her from under his
Scully shook her head and gave him a quiet smile. "As much as I'd
like to, Asher, I think I've monopolized enough of your time today."
"I didn't mind."
"Maybe not, but I'm sure you have work to do. I just feel like going
back to my hotel and relaxing a bit." She reached out and put a hand
on his arm, pulled him around to face her, and away from his car.
"Have dinner with me tonight? I'm buying... I'll even pick you up..."
Those dark eyes searched hers throughly. "You want that?"
"I want." Scully stepped closer to him. "This isn't my normal mode
of operation, Asher, to sleep with a fellow agent then disappear. I
like how we feel together, how we act together, I like how we can
talk. I'm not quite ready to walk away. Are you?"
"No..." Asher shook his head. "We help each other, Dana. It's good
for us... good for me to talk, about Davi... my rabbi has been very
helpful, but... I don't think he really understands how it feels...
to be alone, to be left alone, to have your love ripped away..." He
closed his eyes a moment. "He hasn't had his heart torn to pieces
like you and I have. He's been lucky." Asher gave an eloquent shrug.
"You and I, Dana, have had things happen to us that others cannot
comprehend. Maybe that is why you were brought here, so we could help
each other, so we could get past this, so we could try and heal."
"It's already started, Asher. We can talk about it. That's your
"It's a start, yes, but I feel something more is needed... something
to placate this mood inside me."
Scully looked up at him. "All I know, is I'm starting to feel again.
After months of my emotions being locked up inside myself, I'm
starting to take them out and look at them in the harsh light of day.
I had to decide after Emily died, do I want to feel again? Is it
worth the risk?"
"You knew the answer before this. You just had analyze the risks and
weigh the costs. But it's inevitable, it's like day following night,
we can't stop it. We can hide for a while, but sooner or later, we
have to acknowledge the dawn..." Asher frowned, and rubbed a hand
over his face. "I am like you... I want to feel again too. I just want
to feel... Nobody understands... I just want to feel... alive." He
looked over her head, distancing himself.
Scully did something then she never would have been able to a week
earlier, or even a day earlier. She reached out and slipped her arms
around Asher ben Jacob, and pressed her cheek to his chest and hugged
him. As an attempt at empathy, it felt awkward. "I know exactly what
you're talking about."
Asher's arms went around her, he returned her hug rather hesitantly
for such a passionate man. "I think you probably do. More's the
After a moment, Scully stepped back, disengaged herself. "See you
"You want I should pick you up?"
"On one condition..." Scully felt a smile tug at her face as she
reached over to caress the pristine paint of Asher's Stealth. "That
you let me drive your car. I've been dying to get my hands on it."
Asher laughed. "So it's not my body you want, but my car? I'm
crushed." He grinned, awkwardness dispelled. "But if you put a
scratch on her, I won't be responsible for my actions."
"You're a lot more concerned about that car than your body," Scully
retorted, "Boys and their toys..."
"You liked my toys well enough last night."
It was Scully's turn to laugh, loudly. "Damn, Asher... I think we're
going to be all right..."
Best Western Hotel
Salt Lake City.
Mulder had far too much time for contemplation on his hands. He
paced and channel-surfed impatiently, checking out every sign of
activity out in the hallway. The faint ding of the elevator was his
call to arms. Mulder bounced off the bed, pressed his eye to the
peephole in the door.
The fish-eye view showed Scully weighed down with packages, bundling
through the door to her room. As Mulder opened his door, hers slammed
He took a moment to collect himself, then knocked lightly on her door.
Amid the rustling of paper, Scully's voice called out. "Who is it?"
"What were you doing, Mulder? Holding your ear to the door waiting
to hear me come back?"
Mulder winced. "I need to talk to you. Can I come in?"
Mulder walked in, closed the door behind him and remained in the
tiny entry. "I waited for you last night." He ventured into the room
a few steps.
Scully gave him her full attention and stopped opening the packages.
"I'm sorry, Mulder, I was... held up."
"By Asher ben Jacob?" As soon as the words came out of this mouth,
Mulder noticed Scully's expression change. Her frosty look sliced
through him, but he ploughed on regardless. "You were with him all
"We had lunch, then I went shopping," Scully explained flatly.
"And last night?"
She folded her arms. "Since when did you become my chaperone? I
think I've heard enough already, Mulder."
"Think, Scully... How much to you *really* know about him?"
Scully's lips tightened. "That's *my* business, Mulder. Mine. You
didn't even want to come to Utah. You could have been here from the
"Word around the office is he's not exactly the golden-haired boy,"
Mulder replied, "It gets worse. He's been in trouble with OPR, he's
used the FBI for his own gain, Scully."
"And *you* haven't, Mulder? Please."
"Scully, listen to me..." Mulder did his best to sound contrite.
"When you didn't come back last night, I was worried. I went to the
field office today looking for you. That man is trouble, Scully.
Straight from his partner's own mouth. You want OPR sniffing around
us as well? Like they don't want an excuse to shut us down?"
There was a stagnant pause. Mulder took a step back, unconsciously
preparing for the detonation that was his partner unleashed.
But there was no storm. Instead there was an unnerving resignation
in her voice. "This isn't about your conspiracies, Mulder. It's about
Mulder closed his eyes a moment. When he opened them he saw the
fleeting look of disappointment that crossed her face. Disappointment
in him. He regrouped. "Then what about Emily? And why did Frohike
call me at four in the morning with a message for you about New
"He found an address?" Scully's tone gave away her interest.
"Check your email. It's all there." Mulder studied her a moment.
"That's why you're here, Scully. To give him answers."
The look she shot him was disdainful perfection. He kept quiet, met
her eyes, waited for her to come around to his way of thinking.
"There could be a simple explanation, Mulder. He's been looking for
the same answers we both have..." She studied him and heaved a sigh.
"What makes you think you're the only one on this quest, Mulder?
Who's to say there aren't others out there trying to find the same
answers you want?"
"Is he? Looking for the truth? The answers to my questions?"
Scully hesitated, then replied. "No. Not to your questions."
"And what if all he's trying to do is find out what *you* know...
What *we* know? That was always the original intention."
"I have no easy answers for Asher. I wish I did. He doesn't even
understand the questions. He does understand basic human needs,
however." Scully turned her back on him, began unpacking again, "I'm
sorry, Mulder, I appreciate your concern, but really, it's not
necessary. I *can* make my own decisions."
The hang-dog expression he gave her could have melted polar ice caps.
Scully had long since become impervious. "I don't have time for
this, Mulder. I need to change. I'm going out."
"With ben Jacob? Again?"
"If you must know..." she paused, her back still to him, one hand
absently smoothing the paper on one of the packages. "Yes."
Mulder frowned. "Where are you planning on putting the next tattoo,
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
A hundred bad words throbbed through Mulder's mind, but his common
sense had since wrestled back control of his tongue. He shoved his
hands into his pockets and studied his shoes. "I'm sorry."
She turned to him again. "I know what you're doing, Mulder. I
understand. But I'm not you. I'm not planning a secret trip to Puerto
Rico, or going to vanish into the Alaskan wastelands on a whim and a
prayer. I'm just going to dinner with a fellow agent. Someone I like.
Someone who likes *me*. I'm enjoying a vacation. That's all."
Mulder nodded slowly. "Fine. Have a good time." He was careful not
to slam the door on his way out.
Back in his room, Mulder dropped heavily on the bed, causing the
frame to groan in protest. Apparently ben Jacob's particular brand of
charm thoroughly blinded Scully to the obvious.
It could come down to something as simple as sex. He couldn't blame
ben Jacob for being infatuated with her. Scully was intelligent,
attractive, desirable... and vulnerable.
The thought surprised him, stirred a pocket of guilt. In the
aftermath of Scully's abduction, throughout the cancer and with
Emily, he'd accepted her simple declaration, 'I'm fine, Mulder', for
what it was worth. A statement of her fierce independence and ability
to prevail. He'd been reluctant to dig deeper. Intimacy scared him.
The Mulder household frowned on emotionalism and familiar gestures.
He'd studied psychology obsessively in college, there were reams of
intellectual explanations and justifications for what he'd been
through, and what Scully'd been through, both as a child and
abductee. It surprised him to learn the fundamental human need for
touch, for a connection to another never went away, that if left
unfulfilled it could take on an urgent life of its own, driving a
person to desperate measures. Sex, however tentative the
justification, satisfied the base urge for human contact. No wonder
it was so popular.
Mulder flipped on the television. He thought ben Jacob with his
allegedly pious demeanor and sterling reputation, would be above
something as plebeian as sex. It appeared the good rabbi had a few
imperfections. Which pleased him to no end. He'd eventually win his
battle to point these flaws out to Scully, count on it. Scully didn't
belong out here, and she didn't belong with Asher ben Jacob.
Mulder couldn't see ben Jacob's hold on his partner. Sex was a fine
recreational pursuit, but not a reason to request a week long
vacation. ben Jacob wanted something from her, it had to be.
Otherwise, why request the files on Skyland Mountain and Ruskin Dam?
Otherwise, why was Dana Scully, a perfectly logical bastion of modern
womanhood, hanging around Utah? Utah? When she could be back in D.C.
with him working on a case? Mulder promised himself one thing: he
would find out the mystery. From now on, Asher ben Jacob would have a
shadow. Specter, thy name be Fox...
Residence of Asher ben Jacob
Scully was up and about before Asher returned from his ride. His
routine hadn't been difficult to note. ben Jacob put in a busy day.
Five thirty in the morning the guy was up and taking his bike for a
grueling spin. By six forty he was out of the house again, dressed
and on the way to his synagogue.
She pottered about in the kitchen, gave herself time to sit down and
enjoy her first coffee of the day. She sat at a small table, sparse
except for a pile of unopened letters haphazardly tossed onto it.
She started making eggs, broke a few into a pan and turned up the
heat. There was something comforting in the normalcy. She could get
used to this.
The front door slammed, followed in quick succession by the bathroom
door. As the eggs began to hiss at her, Asher finally made an
He came up from behind, slipped an arm around her and kissed her
ear, then peered into the pan, "Smells good..."
Scully smiled slightly to herself. She would have never expected to
find Dana Scully so comfortable with banality. "There's mail for you
on the table."
"I know... haven't gotten around to checking it for a few days."
Asher flipped through the pile, pausing when he got to one envelope.
Scully noticed his expression change. "Something wrong?"
"No." He tore open the letter with one finger, unfolded it and read
She dropped into a seat opposite him, unconvinced. "Asher? What is
"Nothing. Just an old friend." He smiled slightly. "Your eggs are
Scully jumped from her seat and returned to the stove, resisting the
urge to swear and turning down the heat instead. "You'd tell me if
there was a problem?"
"Yes..." he agreed absently. "When are you planning on returning to
Scully faltered in her stirring, something in his tone gave her an
uneasy feeling. "I'm due back next week."
There was a drawn out pause. Asher returned the letter to its
envelope, and tucked it safely away in his pocket.
Funny how reality has a way of slapping you in the face. Scully
turned off the heat, stared at the sizzling eggs. Was this history
about to repeat itself? She'd return to Washington and they'd
exchange some mail, yearn for what could be, as distance drove its
inevitable wedge between them. The time bomb planted inside her would
continue its silent countdown, invariably tearing her away. Could she
do that to him?
Asher shifted in his chair, changed the subject. "I should thank you
for the information your friends supplied. I should have your
"Not these ones, Asher. Don't mention it. I don't put much weight on
it anyway, not that address."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Perhaps."
Scully slipped the eggs from the frypan onto a plate; over easy,
sunny side up.
end part 07/15
Touching Jericho (8/15)
Church Office Building
Salt Lake City.
A few phone calls secured the information he needed, and Mulder
picked up the trail bright and early from ben Jacob's home address.
The sight of Scully's rental brought a scowl to his face. He was
going to enjoy this tail. Putting a stakeout on Asher ben Jacob was
easy. Following him around Salt Lake City was even easier. The man
drove a red Dodge Stealth, obeyed all traffic laws, and never seemed
to look back. Mulder reflected that before he started in the X-Files,
*he* never looked behind himself either.
ben Jacob put in a busy day. Early morning bike ride then out of the
house again and on the way to his synagogue. Mulder drank bitter
convenience store coffee and ate stale convenience store pecan rolls
while ben Jacob got religion.
After a brief stop at the Bureau, the agent drove downtown, parked,
and set off on foot up carrying a soft sided briefcase. He seemed to
be in no hurry, pausing to look in shop windows, exchanging
pleasantries with others passing by.
There was a sudden flux of people through the Temple Square gardens,
and the Utah agent studied them carefully from his post against the
wall. Apparently whatever he saw satisfied him, for he began to move
again. Without his skullcap he blended well with the flow of young
men headed through Temple Square and the buildings around it. Too
well. Mulder lost him several times, finding him again by good
fortune and sheer desperation. He closed the gap as ben Jacob
approached the main entrance to the Church Office Building.
ben Jacob disappeared inside. Mulder hesitated a moment, then took
the plunge and followed, hanging back behind a group of teenagers on
a visit. They followed their assigned leader, Mulder tagging behind.
He didn't expect the smiling security guard that stepped in front of
"Can I help you, sir?"
Mulder thought fast, considered his options, then whipped out his
credentials. "Hi, I was supposed to meet Agent ben Jacob out in the
courtyard, and I'm afraid I got lost. He seems to have headed to the
meeting without me. Can you point me in the right direction?"
The guard examined Mulder's identification. "Sure, Agent ben Jacob
will be going to the fifteenth floor to meet with the security team.
Take the elevator up and I'm sure you'll catch him."
Mulder edged around the overly friendly man and moved toward the
elevator bank. ben Jacob stepped onto the left hand elevator. The
doors closed. A few seconds later the gaggle of tourists got on the
"Have a nice day," the guard called after him.
Mulder gave a half hearted wave then raced down the hall. He skidded
to a stop in front of the elevators. The display indicated the right
elevator was the express up to the observation deck. The far elevator
display showed it had gone down, not up. This was the ground floor,
not much below them but parking garage. Frowning, Mulder glanced
around. The guard was busy with another person, no one was paying him
any attention. He walked to the door of the stairwell and slipped
He found four levels below him, taking a chance, he went to the
lowest one first and cracked open the first door he found. It led out
to the depths of the parking garage. Mulder closed it and went to the
second door. It didn't budge.
Mulder raised an eyebrow. He tried again, and realized it was
probably locked. Interesting. Parking garage or nothing, it seemed.
Mulder grinned, whipped out his wallet and the heavy plastic phone
card he'd run out of time and never tossed. He used the card and the
point of a small penknife to pry open the lock, once popped, he
cracked the door open cautiously. Piece of cake. Thank you, Master
Frohike... It led to a long, barren corridor, elevator in the middle,
blank metal door off to Mulder's right. The lights were subdued,
sporadically placed, and hummed loudly, fluorescents flickering and
contributing to the unfriendly atmosphere.
At the far end of the narrow hall, about sixty feet away, was Asher
ben Jacob. He stood in front of another large metal door that had no
markings or writing on it of any kind. It also had no knob or bar for
access. ben Jacob pulled a white index card out of his breast pocket
and stared at it, looked around, then shifted the card to his left
hand with the briefcase. He pressed his palm to an innocuous painted
square next to the door. It slid back to reveal a security keypad and
card slide. ben Jacob hesitated, consulted the 3 x 5 card, took
another look over his shoulder, then began punching in numbers.
Nothing happened. ben Jacob shook his head and pressed another
button. The door slid back silently.
Mulder gaped. By the time he recovered ben Jacob was through the
opening. Mulder yanked open the stairwell door and darted down the
hall, trying to muffle his steps on the hard linoleum. If ben Jacob
turned around, he was busted. The other agent also moved quickly,
hanging a right and disappearing out of sight down another corridor.
That section was more brightly lit, and a slight medicinal odor
wafted down the hall on its way to the HVAC grid. The mechanical hum
became more pronounced. Mulder was still a good twenty feet from the
door when it began to slide closed.
"Damn!" Mulder muttered. He yanked out his cel phone and went to one
knee, calculated trajectory, drag, speed, and linoleum, then slid his
cel phone down the hall in an Wednesday night bowler's prayer shot.
His aim was true, the phone sped across the linoleum, plastic back
scraping along heroically, hurtling toward the narrowing gap of the
closing door. Unfortunately, it arrived about 2 seconds after the
door closed, and bounced off, spun in a lazy circle, then came to
rest a few feet back down the hall towards Mulder.
"Damn..." Mulder repeated. He stared at the door in frustration,
then got up, retrieved his phone and went to the wall, pressed the
panel. It opened. He could access the keypad, and thought of trying
to enter numbers, but figured a wrong combination might alert
someone. ben Jacob obviously had inside sources. Mulder stared at the
keypad as if he could ascertain the code by sheer force of will.
"Guess you have to use the Dark Side..." The panel snapped closed,
narrowly missing his thumb. He raised an eyebrow and backed away.
"Round one to the Rabbi..."
Mulder retreated up the hall and reached for the elevator button.
There wasn't one, just a key access slot to summon Otis to the
depths. Mulder sighed, and moved to the stairwell, trudged up six
flights and emerged into the corridor. The bottom emergency door was
the only locked one he encountered. He'd be damned if he was going to
walk up twenty flights, though. Not just on the off chance he'd meet
up with the other agent at the security offices. ben Jacob sure had a
damn funny way of killing time before a meeting.
Mulder gave the up arrow a savage jab and leaned against the wall.
The elevator arrived promptly, opening itself to engulf Mulder and
imprison him with the two secretarial types who'd boarded earlier.
They glanced over, and offered him a tentative smile. Mulder punched
fifteen, and noted that to go below the ground floor also required a
key for access. It appeared the rabbi had the run of the place. So
why did he need a cheat sheet? Mulder snorted. The secretaries looked
at each other, smiles frozen in place.
Maybe ben Jacob had been making a security check of the building,
but somehow Mulder doubted that. Locked doors, unmarked corridors,
skulking federal agents. It didn't add up to innocent, Bureau
reportable activities to Mulder. Part of ben Jacob's job as
government liaison? "In a pig's eye," he muttered, scowling at the
floor indicator. This was an office building, what the hell could be
going on here?
The secretaries fled on the ninth floor, and Mulder leaned against
the back wall, mind shifting to high gear. Where did ben Jacob go and
why? What was so top secret about the floors below? Better yet, what
the hell was Scully still doing in Utah?
The ding of another floor got his attention, and Mulder watched a
man get on, wearing a more subdued badge clipped to his suit. Pale
gray with his picture on it. The man gave Mulder a long look,
violating every tenet of the elevator rider's code, then finally
"Morning." Mulder gave a brittle grin and got off on fifteen like he
knew where he was going.
Taking a quick look around, he stationed himself in a small waiting
room within sight of the elevators, lurking behind a tall potted palm
that attempted to lend ambiance to the hospital-like corner. From
here he could see down both corridors, one that continued out of
sight, and anther one barred halfway down by a set of double doors
and the omnipresent security key pad. You'd think they had Christ
himself locked up in this building somewhere. Unless it was all for
show. See how modern we are, the best security systems in the
Christian world. Your sins are safe with us. Too bad it couldn't keep
out one persistent Jew named Asher ben Jacob.
Ten minutes, twenty minutes, a half an hour passed. Mulder
alternately sat and stood, faked interest in a magazine, flashed
bored smiles at the few people who looked at him questioningly and
offered to help. "Just waiting on a friend..."
The elevator dinged softly and disgorged a shaken Agent ben Jacob.
The younger man was pallid, hair plastered to his forehead and the
back of his neck, tie yanked down away from his throat, briefcase
clutched tightly in both hands.
Mulder peered over the edge of his magazine. That briefcase looked a
lot bulkier than last time he'd seen it.
ben Jacob headed for the restrooms down from the elevator. Several
minutes passed before he reappeared, his hair slicked back, face
still pale but freshly washed, skullcap readjusted. Mulder watched,
feigning interest in his magazine. There was an uneasy moment as ben
Jacob stared directly at Mulder. Mulder remained casual, and looked
back at his magazine, even though the haunted look on the other man's
face sent a shiver down his spine.
ben Jacob approached the blocked corridor, went up to the double
doors, and entered a combination on the key pad without consulting
his index card. The door buzzed and he passed through, shutting it
securely behind him.
Mulder regrouped. With ben Jacob in a meeting, there wasn't a lot he
could do except wait him out.
Feeling as if he was pushing his luck, Mulder headed back outside
into the courtyard, across the street, bought a newspaper and a
bottle of water, then found himself a place on a bench that afforded
an open view of the Office Building. If ben Jacob headed towards his
car, Mulder would see him.
He watched, drank the bottled water, then another. Read the
newspaper impatiently, positioning it so he wouldn't be noticed. Utah
news was not Washington news, luckily, so getting overly engrossed in
his reading wasn't an option.
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, he could get used to this. The
water began kicking at his bladder, and Mulder looked over at the
office building, wondering if it would be safe to leave for a few
minutes. Mulder got to his feet and headed that way just as Asher ben
Jacob exited the doors and made his way to the street, briefcase
firmly clutched in his left hand.
Mulder preferred the direct approach. He caught up with ben Jacob,
dropped into step beside him. "How many people you think know you've
been snooping around in the basement?" He watched the other agent
glance at him, unable to disguise the flicker of apprehension.
"I don't believe we've been formally introduced, Agent Mulder."
"You know who I am?" Mulder's eyes narrowed.
"Yes. I noticed you tailing me this morning. Agent Riley was kind
enough to identify you for me." ben Jacob paused long enough to
glance at Mulder again, then kept walking.
Mulder wasn't about to be put off. He pursued. "I saw the look on
your face, ben Jacob. What did you see down there? In the basement?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Yeah, right, you sorry son of a bitch." Mulder grabbed ben Jacob's
arm and jerked him to a stop. "You're not the only one who's got a
lead on New Genesis. What's in the briefcase? Holy water? Or illegal
ben Jacob merely looked at Mulder, the consummate poker face.
Mulder cursed to himself. So much for Plan A. He glared into the
other man's muddy eyes.
ben Jacob stared back. "I don't need your help. Or any of your
files. Although they made for amusing reading. Spooky."
"*Don't* patronize me," Mulder warned, "you don't fool me with that
holier-than-thou Mother Theresa crap, ben Jacob. I don't care if
you're Priest on High, king of the Rabbis, or converse with God
himself on a daily basis. You're up to your righteous eyeballs in
something, I can smell it from here."
ben Jacob gave him a slight smile. "None of us is perfect, Agent
"Look, I don't know what it is you're doing. But I'm sure as hell
going to find out. Until I do you aren't going to be able to turn
around without me being in your face. You understand me, *Rabbi*?"
"Shall I pass that message on to Dana? Or shall you?"
"Give her my regards." Mulder wheeled, wadded the newspaper into a
ball, and slam dunked it into a nearby trash can along with the water
bottle. "Thanks for the enlightening chat. Let's do lunch sometime.
Or not." He stalked off, disgusted with his clumsy handling of the
situation. ben Jacob needed a good, swift kick in the butt, and
Mulder longed to be the one to give it to him. Scully or no Scully.
Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building
Salt Lake City
It was just on dusk, and Mulder waited outside the field office in
his rental, eyes riveted to the front of the building. He didn't like
the way things were adding up. Rumors of personal vendettas,
unexplained excursions to restricted areas, and an outside agents'
unhealthy interest in the Ruskin Dam affair. His musings were rudely
interrupted by the sound of a car door opening. His own.
A large man dropped into the passenger seat.
"Does this look like a cab?" Mulder peered access the gloomy
interior of the car.
"Pat Riley. Asher ben Jacob's partner. I was at the front desk when
you started your snooping."
"Nice to meet you again. Now get out."
"I want to know why the all the sudden interest in Ash. First Agent
Scully, now you. If this is OPR, you're going about it in a mighty
"I told you I didn't belong to them. What makes you all so damn
paranoid about internal investigations? Asher being a bad boy -
again?" Mulder smiled. He felt his face crack.
"I've watched you following Ash." Riley leaned towards him, "You
couldn't pin a tail on a donkey."
Mulder rolled his eyes. "I'm cut. But I still want to know why
you're so keen to assume ben Jacob is under any kind of review. You
"No..." Riley suddenly didn't sound so sure of himself.
"You're his partner. If he's heading into trouble, he'll drag you
along with him. We already had this conversation, didn't we? If
something is going down here, it's in *both* our best interests to
keep ahead of the game. Don't you agree?"
Riley didn't answer, stared straight ahead.
"My only concern here is Agent Scully, my partner. I protect her,
you protect him. That's the way the game is played. You do want to
help ben Jacob, don't you? There must be something--"
"New Genesis." Riley ran a hand over his hair, checked the side view
mirror. "I don't know how much truth is in it, but Asher is convinced
that's the answer to what happened to Davi - his girlfriend."
"And exactly how much *do* you know?"
"Not a lot. He asked me about it, and I did remember seeing it
somewhere. Here." Riley tugged a slip of paper out of his pocket,
passed it to Mulder. "Copy of an electronic components receipt. We
recovered this from a bust, the rest of the receipts were missing.
The stuff listed there is easily obtainable, nothing illegal about
it. Except every single piece could conceivably be used to create a
Mulder's eyebrows raised a notch, "I'm assuming you don't mean an
"Not unless it's the kind that lets you wake the dead."
The address caught Mulder's eye. The same one Frohike gave him. "LDS
Church Office Building?" Riley was the second person in two days to
inform him New Genesis was near Temple Square - without him even
asking. He got the distinct impression someone was trying to tell him
something. "You give this little tidbit to ben Jacob yet?"
"Not yet..." Riley blew out his breath. "I was wondering if it would
be... prudent. Ash's a nice guy, but he tends to... obsess. Heavily.
Besides, the address has got to be fake. Nothing there except the
admin offices. This was for the Office Building. I checked it out
myself yesterday morning. Was a waste of time. The church doesn't
even use post boxes."
"Maybe..." Mulder chewed his lip. There was something deep in the
bowels of that building, something that required locked doors and
elaborate security precautions. Something a person without the right
connections couldn't get to. Something that he hadn't seen, but
another agent had. He faced Riley, took on an almost accusational
tone, "Why are you telling me this?"
"I'm trying to help?"
It wasn't the most convincing of responses. Mulder studied the other
man. There was something else here, call it a hunch. Movement in the
rear-vision mirror caught his eye. ben Jacob was climbing into his
car. "Shit!" he turned the ignition, barked at Riley, "Nice try.
Guess I'm not as dumb as you hoped." He managed a quick glance at the
other agent. "Now get out. Unless you want to come for a ride."
The slamming car door was Mulder's cue to hit the gas pedal. In a
squeal of tires and blue smoke, he was gone; in his wake horns blared
and Agent Pat Riley remained on the curb, tie flapping in the
University Park Hotel
Salt Lake City
It always helped when people underestimated you. Mulder was more
than happy to let ben Jacob think he'd lost him. He stayed well back,
let the traffic obscure his nondescript blue rental. ben Jacob
obviously did not want Mulder following him, Riley's interference
proved that much. That only told Mulder he was on to something.
He pulled his car onto the curb and watched his quarry. ben Jacob
parked his car, and got out. He looked around a moment -very likely
looking for Mulder - then headed into the lobby of the Park Hotel. As
soon as he was out of sight, Mulder jumped out of his car and ran to
catch up. If only the FBI budget would stretch to this place, Mulder
mused. Nice view... The last place he expected to see ben Jacob
heading for was a bar, but it served Mulder well. In the subdued
light, he could easily blend into the crowd. He took a seat and
helped himself to a complimentary pretzel.
ben Jacob stood in the bar, waiting. But not for long. A woman
approached from the hotel entrance, saw him and smiled, then flung
herself into his arms, lips locking onto his like a heat seeking
missile. Nine tenths of the bar stopped to watch. A few whistles
She was slender and sexy and possessed an exotic beauty that had
Mulder mesmerized for a few seconds. ben Jacob eventually untangled
himself from her embrace, apparently none the worse for wear. He even
allowed her to straighten his kipah and smooth his jacket.
Mulder was convinced it wasn't ben Jacob's sister; or long-lost
cousin, or any other family member. Ergo it was a friend. A very
*close* friend. Mulder watched the two sit at a table, close
together. They talked quietly, the brunette seemed unable to keep her
hands off ben Jacob. After another five minutes, they got up and
headed out of the bar, towards the hotel area. The brunette handed a
key to ben Jacob just before they got on the elevator.
No prizes for guessing why ben Jacob had been so keen to lose
Mulder. It wouldn't do for Scully's partner to see this. No double-
dealing here, except for the old-fashioned kind. Mulder grunted in
disgust, and ordered a club soda with lime. Then another. He
loitered, but after twenty more minutes decided enough was enough.
Actually, he'd seen more than enough. Mulder slammed the empty glass
on the bar and stood, walked toward the opposite entrance and
considered his alternatives.
As much as he wanted to tell Scully, indeed *needed* to tell her, it
wasn't an option. 'Hi Scully. Oh, by the way, I was following your
boyfriend around like some kind of stalking psycho tonight and found
out he's a two-timing jerk...' Mulder shook his head. Like the lady
said, she was still armed.
Scully chose that moment to appear, coming through the main doors
and pausing to look around before making a beeline for the bar he'd
just vacated. Mulder swallowed. No escape. She was headed straight
Scully noticed him, and slowed, suspicion written all over her face.
She wore a soft beige dress of some clingy knit-looking material
Mulder had never seen before. It caressed her curves and sculpted
them as she walked. The heels and the cut of the dress accentuated
her legs. They were very nice legs. Short, but nice... Several men
eyed her with interest, and Mulder stepped forward, closing the gap.
"Mulder? What are you doing here?" She gave a tentative smile.
Mulder swallowed. "Just a little sight-seeing. Stumbled across this
place... Was about to get some dinner. Can I talk you into joining
me? Haven't had the chance to see you much this week."
"I'd like to, Mulder, really... but I all ready have a date. How
about lunch tomorrow?"
"C'mon, Scully..." his eyebrows danced enticingly, "Ditch your plans
and come with me. It'll be fun."
"Pleeeeease?" The look he gave her was impossible to resist.
Except of course, if you were Scully. "No, Mulder. I can't. Really."
"Can I assume you're meeting ben Jacob here somewhere? At least have
a drink with me while you're waiting."
"Well..." Scully checked her watch, "I am a little early..."
I bet you are, Mulder thought to himself. He chewed his lip and
waited for her answer.
Scully smiled at him again. "Okay. I'd like that."
Relieved, Mulder led her to the bar, checking the dark corners
carefully for ben Jacob and the brunette. They hadn't reappeared.
"Rum and Coke, Mulder." Scully perched on a stool and grabbed a
pretzel from a nearby bowl.
Mulder stood close behind, hovered over her protectively as he
ordered her drink.
"You having dinner here, Scully?"
"Yes, Asher insisted. Said the view was spectacular, I have to
Thirty minutes or more passed while the agents made awkward small
talk. Every time Mulder tried to steer the conversation around to ben
Jacob, Scully changed the subject. It was obvious she'd picked up on
his dislike of the man, and was determined to ignore it.
Mulder noticed Scully checking her watch with more frequency. He
leant over closer and nudged her slightly. "You've still got me,
She gave him a distant smile. "He's just a little late... that's all."
Mulder nodded, indulged in a large mouthful of liquid courage before
answering softly, "I don't think he's coming, Scully..."
She frowned. "What? Why?"
"It's just that he's--"
"Right over there." Scully held up a hand, attracting ben Jacob's
attention. He moved out of the hotel doorway and came towards them,
smiling until he saw Mulder. It faded instantly.
Scully didn't seem to notice, she slid off the stool and went to
him. ben Jacob murmured something in her ear, then smiled at her.
Mulder played with his glass, fiddled with his soggy cardboard
coaster, looked at his shoes. Anything to avoid watching their
Scully led him back. "Asher, this is my partner, Fox Mulder. He's
been keeping me company while I waited. Mulder, this is Asher ben
Asher smiled, eyes dark, and held out his hand. "Agent Mulder, nice
to meet you."
Not bringing up their earlier meeting for Scully's sake. Mulder
would have been impressed if the guy wasn't such a slimy creep.
Mulder shook the hand, squeezing it as hard as he could. "Likewise."
His smile was saccharine.
"Will you be joining us?" ben Jacob's eyes shot daggers at Mulder.
"Ah... no... no. Some other time." Mulder would have loved to crash
their party, but figured it wouldn't earn him any brownie points with
Scully collected her bag. "I just want to freshen up a little."
ben Jacob nodded, eyes following her progress to the ladies' room.
Mulder didn't like the look on ben Jacob's face. As soon as Scully
was gone, the charade ended. He scowled. "Don't think I didn't see
that little brunette you were making yourself cozy with in the other
bar. What the *hell* do you think you're doing? "
"And what the *hell* makes you think it's your business?"
Mulder stepped closer. "If you think I'm going to sit back quietly
and watch you do a number on *Dana*, you're sadly mistaken."
Asher's fingers drummed methodically against the bar. "You don't
know what you're talking about."
"No? Well, I'll tell you this much. Either you tell Scully... or I
will. Got that Casanova?"
There was no response forthcoming. Asher simply settled into a seat
at the bar and waited.
"Tell Scully I had to leave in a hurry... something in here doesn't
agree with me." Mulder tossed a few bills onto the bar, then paused
to hiss in ben Jacob's ear. "Make up some bullshit story. That's what
you're best at, isn't it? Bastard." Mulder stalked out, enraged he
always seemed to be running from a man he'd rather punch.
Scully returned, a little surprised to find Mulder gone and Asher
scowling into his drink. She shrugged in resignation as she pulled up
a stool. "Where's Mulder? What happened?"
Asher remained in thoughtful silence a moment. He took a long
swallow from his glass, then finally turned and looked at her. "Can
Agent Mulder be trusted...?"
end part 08/15
Touching Jericho (9/15)
Salt Lake City
Mulder tailed ben Jacob to his synagogue, then waited outside for an
hour, cursing the faulty heater in the rental. It was early for true
warmth, the sun shone feebly against the crisp chill of dawn. Mulder
looked longingly at the empty coffee cup on the floorboard. He hadn't
dared stop, not wanting to lose the other man.
As far as he knew, Scully still slept in ben Jacob's house,
blissfully unaware of her partner's vigilance. Mulder stretched
muscles cramped from a night in the rental and pictured Scully in a
warm bed, buried under a puffy quilt... eyes closed, mouth relaxed in
sleep, body relaxed from--
Whoa, don't even go there, Mulder admonished himself. His partner's
sex life was none of his concern. Unless Scully was in danger, he had
no legitimate reason to charge in and wrestle her away from Asher ben
Mulder shook his head. The image of ben Jacob seducing Scully
grated. How the man could go from kissing the young brunette to
kissing Scully was beyond him. The utter gall annoyed Mulder. He felt
offended on his partner's behalf. An excuse to punch the bastard's
smug face, that's all Mulder wanted.
His eyes snapped forward as ben Jacob walked out of the building
with a group of men, dressed mostly in suits and ties, kipot firmly
fixed to their heads. They all listened respectfully to the rotund,
gray-bearded man in the middle, who talked and waved his hands to
punctuate the conversation. After a minute, the group smiled and
nodded to each other, then broke up and headed to their respective
vehicles. Except ben Jacob, who remained in conversation with the
bearded individual for several more minutes.
ben Jacob then walked straight to Mulder's rental, leaving the older
Mulder waited until ben Jacob knocked on the window before lowering
"I'm going to the bureau for a few, then over to the Office Building
to get started on the details for today's meeting with the middle
eastern contingent. Security will be heavy. You'd probably lose me in
traffic on the way over as it is."
"How do I know you're not lying?"
ben Jacob gave him a level look. "You don't. Just thought I'd warn
you, since you seem intent on monitoring my days. And my nights." His
eyes flared with suppressed anger.
Mulder flung open the car door and got out. "I've already got an
eyeful, *Rabbi*. Believe me. Hope you're proud of yourself. Two
"I'm sure Dana appreciates your alleged concern, *Spooky*."
Mulder grabbed ben Jacob by the front of his jacket, went eye to eye
with the annoyed agent, a hair's breadth from taking him up on the
unspoken invitation. A gentle hand fell on his arm. The older man
with the beard pushed them apart. "Federal agents do not brawl with
each other in public, especially in front of a house of worship, nu?"
He then spoke to ben Jacob in a soft voice, in another language.
It didn't fool Mulder, the man was giving his counterpart a dressing
down, no matter how benign it sounded. ben Jacob didn't seem to
resent it. He listened respectfully to the older man, then nodded.
"Do not throw stones in a well from which you drank water..." The
rabbi reached up and placed his hand on ben Jacob's shoulder, smiled.
"Will you make minyan tomorrow, Asher? We need you."
"Of course," ben Jacob reassured him. His answering smile was brittle.
"Good. Now, you need to tell this man what you told me."
"Asher, he is the one you wanted in the first place, correct? So,
take advantage of his presence and relate the information. I've taken
you as far as I can. You know what you have to do now." The man held
up a finger, and paused to gather his thoughts. "There are many ways
to tackle a problem, Asher. Sometimes you climb over it, sometimes
you batter it down with persistence. Once in a while you look for
passage to the other side. The time has come to decide whether Agent
Mulder here is a wall, or a door." The man squeezed ben Jacob's
shoulder and looked into his eyes. "Baruch ata Adonai Elohainu melech
ha'olam sheh'kocho u'gvurato maley olam..."
ben Jacob cast a puzzled look upward. "I didn't hear anything."
"Sometimes the thunder we hear doesn't always come from the sky."
The rabbi patted ben Jacob on the shoulder and wandered off to his
Mulder rubbed his chin. "Can I buy a vowel, rabbi?"
The other agent let go with an exasperated snort. "I am *not* a
rabbi. *That* man is a rabbi, a teacher. A leader. One who can help
people..." ben Jacob leaned against the fender of Mulder's rental and
sighed. "I never thought things would get this complicated..."
"So what do you have to tell me?" Mulder leaned next to ben Jacob
and stared at the other man.
"Why didn't you just come in the first place? When I asked for the
"I have no interest in what happened at Skyland Mountain, or Ruskin
Dam, or Cassandra Spender."
"Bullshit." ben Jacob turned his head to contemplate Mulder. "I
can't believe you let Dana come out here alone."
Mulder grinned to himself and folded his arms. "Don't let Scully
catch you talking like that."
"She's a woman in crisis. She lost a child, that alone takes a long
time to get over."
"I know. I was there." Mulder stared out across the parking lot.
"One thing you need to know about Scully, she has to do things her
own way. On her own terms."
"That doesn't mean she shouldn't have a shoulder available."
"I noticed you jumped right in to offer her one, ben Jacob. Way I
see it, you're no better than anyone else, taking advantage of a low
point in her resistance to sleep with her. That alone pisses me off
like you wouldn't believe."
ben Jacob was silent a prolonged moment. "I saw something yesterday.
In the office building."
"When you got off the elevator... after being in the basement. You
looked like you saw the devil himself."
"Not the devil... But evil personified..."
"You'll have to elaborate for me, rab- ben Jacob. Evil sports a hell
of a lot of disguises from what I've seen."
ben Jacob glanced over at him, and took a deep breath. "I saw
people... I think they were people, suspended in giant... fish tanks.
Vats filled with greenish fluid. Row after row of them. All the
same..." He shook his head. "It was an abomination... to mock
Adonai's work like that... to adulterate creation in such a manner...
When Dana told me of how she, and Davi, and others were stripped of
their ova, I was horrified. It sounded like Nazi Germany all over
again. This cannot be allowed. When I saw what they *did* with the
ova... the perversion they fabricated... it made me sick. It still
"How did you know? That they were creating life from those ova? It's
a big leap in logic, ben Jacob."
"I saw records... names... equipment. I'm not stupid."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Mulder replied. "I wish you were
stupid. If you figured it out, how long until they figure out *you*
know? Then the evidence vanishes. And maybe you too. We have to go
back, get proof of what's going on."
"Proof for whom? Who the hell is going to believe me?"
"*I* believe you. And I know some people..." Mulder frowned. "If
you're afraid to do it, just let me in and I'll get the proof I need."
"Fear has nothing to do with it. I took a few things, but nothing
telling. Records. We'll get you the concrete proof, Agent Mulder. As
long as I get what I want."
"And what's that?"
"I want it gone. I want that abomination destroyed. Davi would not
want her children to be like that. Neither does Dana..."
"Fair enough, we get the proof, I'll see that it goes somewhere
where it will do the most good. Deal?"
ben Jacob gave a slow nod. "Deal." He held out his right hand.
Mulder looked at the hand a long moment, then grasped it, feeling
the heat and fire of the other man's pulse. "Let's do it."
Residence of Asher ben Jacob
Scully hesitated to answer the door, but from the persistence of the
knocking, whoever it was wouldn't be going away any time soon. She
wrapped Asher's robe more tightly around herself then padded down the
hall and stood on her tiptoes to peer through the peephole.
Three figures stood on the front stoop, one male and two female, an
older couple and a younger woman. The couple were dressed in elegant,
if conservative clothing, collars of coats pulled up against the
morning chill. The man had a close cropped beard that did nothing to
disguise the similarity in color and features to the agent who'd left
the apartment an hour and a half ago.
The unladylike phrase, 'oh, shit' ran through Scully's head, then
she sighed, thankful she'd at least showered after spending the night
in Asher's bed. After a quick comb of her hair with her fingers,
Scully threw the door open in time to catch the older couple arguing
in another language. All three people stopped to gape at her.
The younger woman recovered first, she looked Scully up and down,
slow smile spreading across her classically apportioned face.
Brunette hair was french braided and tucked under a fashionable
beret, and caramel-colored eyes regarded Scully with wry amusement.
The young woman spoke in musically accented English.
"Well, I guess Asher isn't as bereft as I was led to believe." She
shot a side glance at the man beside her.
He recovered enough to glare at Scully and ask in an aggressive
voice, "Who are you?"
Scully leaned on the door frame and crossed her arms. "Dana Scully.
I'm a friend of Asher's."
"Obviously," the young woman murmured, earning her an irritated look
from the man. She ignored it.
"I am Doctor Daniel ben Jacob, Asher's father," the man announced.
After a pause he pulled the quiet woman out from behind him. "This is
my wife, Sarah. Asher's *mother*," he added unnecessarily.
Sarah graced Scully with a slight smile.
The young woman stepped forward and offered her hand. "I am Rebekah
Levine, Asher's fiancee."
Scully couldn't decide if she felt blase, stunned, wounded, or
betrayed. Probably all of the above. Should she be polite? Rude? The
bitch from hell? Alas, the drama queen just wasn't in her. She smiled
and took the proffered hand. "Fiancee? Since when?"
"Since a year ago, but that's another story." Rebekah flashed Scully
a grin. "May we come in? It's been a long flight. Is Asher here?" She
shot Dr. ben Jacob a look, which he ignored by turning his head and
pretending to study the mezuzah.
"At least he has not completely forgotten his roots," the man
commented as he touched his fingertips to the wooden case.
Scully stepped back. "Come in. Asher's not here, he left for work
already..." A tidal wave flowed past her, arguing sharply.
"You just flew in?" Scully asked. Truth was she didn't have a lot of
small talk in her either, but to her none of the three looked much
like they'd just endured a 20 hour flight.
"Yes." Rebekah glanced briefly in the direction of Daniel. "Asher
was expecting us."
Doctor ben Jacob stopped to look at Scully, eyeing the bathrobe with
a raised eyebrow. "It appears we *just* missed him."
Scully resisted the urge to tighten her belt. "Why don't I get
dressed? There's coffee and pastries in the kitchen. Make yourself at
"'Make yourself at home'?" Doctor ben Jacob repeated loudly.
"Daniel, hush," his wife told him. A burst of Hebrew followed as the
Scully fled up the stairs to Asher's bedroom. She dug her clothes
out from the tangle on the floor, discarding Asher's boxer briefs in
favor of her own underwear, suppressing the wicked idea of wearing
them downstairs to face his parents. She dressed and went into the
bathroom to put her makeup on and brush her hair. She emerged a few
minutes later and searched for her shoes, found one alongside the bed
and dropped to her hands and knees to look underneath for the other.
"It's over here. By the door."
Scully started, and narrowly avoided cracking her head on the
bedframe. She got to her feet and looked over. Rebekah stood in the
doorway, navy pump dangling from one finger, cat-like smile again on
"You're very pretty," she said, "and nothing like Davi." She handed
Scully the shoe.
After slipping it on Scully straightened and smoothed her hands over
her shirt. "So are you. Nothing like Davi."
Rebekah laughed, a surprisingly husky sound from someone not much
bigger than Scully. "Ah, the lioness emerges. Did you use those claws
on Asher?" She moved further into the room and gave Scully a critical
glance. "You look fine. No one would know you wore those clothes
"I can name someone..."
"Daniel? Ignore him. He is critical of everyone, especially his son.
So as his son's lover, you automatically earn his disdain."
Scully replaced the makeup in her pocketbook and plucked her blazer
off the floor. "I must say, for Asher's fiancee, you're taking this
"I do not care who Asher sleeps with. Yet. There is no law in Jewish
culture against premarital sex." Rebekah shrugged. "As you may have
noticed, Asher is a very intense person. Sex is excellent stress
"Are you saying he's involved himself in this... pursuit before?"
Scully asked. She was fascinated by the forthright Israeli opposite
her, cavalierly discussing her fiance's sex life with 'the other
Rebekah smiled and arched an eyebrow. "Asher may come across as a...
a..." her eyes dropped to Scully's gold cross than back up, "saint,
but he is just a man, nu? A good man, but a man all the same. He
tries, but he has needs..." She picked up his boxers off the floor
and studied them. "White, how boring." With a flick of her finger
they landed in the laundry basket in the corner. "Davi's influence,
no doubt. She would have made the perfect rabbi's wife."
"You didn't like Davi?"
"Dislike Davi? No, she was a wonderful person," Rebekah said, "and
Asher loved her very much. Too much perhaps." She wandered over and
began making the bed, pulling the covers up over the disheveled
sheets and tucking them.
Scully watched her. "Why do you say that?"
Rebekah smoothed the quilt over the pillows. "Can you imagine being
loved by someone that intense? Whose single minded attention was
focused only on you? It must have been frightening, in a way. I know
it was one of the reasons Davi put off marrying him. She believed
Asher would consume her, devour her creativity, overwhelm her with
his presence." Rebekah looked up. "Do you understand? Davi thought
she would lose herself. That's why she didn't marry him."
"It's not the major reason," Scully said quietly.
"No. I know there was another reason. I know what it was. But Asher
was a fool for letting her go. There are other ways..."
"He had no choice. It's what Davi wanted."
"Davi wanted *him*. But she couldn't measure up to Asher's
impossible expectations." Rebekah scowled. "She never fought him on
the important things. And he backed off when he should have been his
usual insistent self. What a mess it was... then to have her taken
away before resolution..." She looked at Scully. "How ironic that
terrorists took the two people Asher loved best in the world."
"Yes, Davi, and my older brother, Binyamin. Asher and my brother
were very close, like brothers themselves..." She gave Scully a
fleeting smile. "Ben was killed in a terrorist attack. A bomb. Asher
dug him out with his bare hands, so we would at least have the body
to bury. My parents were very grateful, as was I." Rebekah picked up
Davi's picture from the night stand. "Asher was a great source of
comfort to me during that time."
"I can imagine," Scully said before she could stop herself.
"Careful, those claws are showing again. You must know by now, Asher
is very protective of those he cares about." Rebekah put the picture
down. "The time has come for us to help him."
Near Temple Square
"How are we going to do this?" Mulder asked. The two men stood on
the sidewalk on after parking their cars. ben Jacob was careful to
stow file folders and his prayer bag in the trunk before facing
Mulder jangled the rental keys and looked up the street. "Can't we
just park under the building? Surely you have clearance for the
parking garage. I don't fancy walking the streets with any of the
evidence I want."
"I have clearance," ben Jacob admitted. He shifted the briefcase
from his left to right hand and back again, then checked through his
"I've been following you for two days and you've never once used the
parking garage. Even on quick trips. Or the one under the field
"What's your point, Mulder?" ben Jacob pulled a key card from an
inside pocket and held it out. "Here, hang onto this. Just in case. I
can code my way out of almost anywhere, but you might need a backup
Mulder accepted the card and studied it, checking the magnetic strip
on the back before tucking it into a pocket. "Will it get me in
"Everywhere except where you want to go the most. But I have the
codes for that." ben Jacob patted his breast coat pocket. "Leave the
talking to me. As of now you're another Fed liaison in training. I'm
your boss. Let's go." ben Jacob set off up the street at a brisk pace.
Mulder hastened to catch up. "I got it, you're on some crazed
exercise regime, that's why you park so far away."
"Probably the closest spot we'll find this time of the morning
"Be closer to park in the garage."
ben Jacob swore, a nasty epitaph at odds with his religious dress.
Mulder grinned. "Not to mention we could take the elevator down. You
*do* have a key, don't you?"
ben Jacob jerked to a stop and swung around to face Mulder. "What?
What the hell do you want from me?"
"Some straight answers for a change, ben Jacob." Mulder gave an
elaborate shrug. "I don't like you around Scully, and I just don't
like you period."
"I'm crushed. Deal with it."
"I'm trying, but only because you may have something I want."
"Access to New Genesis."
"Yep." Mulder stared at the other agent. "And I'd really like to
know why you won't park in the underground garages. You know
something I don't?"
ben Jacob took a deep breath and looked up at the sky, then back at
Mulder. "I don't have to tell you shit, Agent Mulder. I hoped because
of your background that *you* would help *me* with this Ruskin Dam
and New Genesis thing. I guess I was blinded by your press releases.
You're not out to help anybody but yourself. Not even Dana deserves
your precious time." He held up a hand as Mulder opened his mouth to
reply. "I've met your kind before. So I'll tell you what you want to
know in hopes it will shut you up. I don't park in underground
garages because they give me the creeps, okay?"
"The creeps?" Mulder grinned, then sobered and bit down on the smart
remark that sprang to mind. He needed ben Jacob to get into the
Office Building. Their unspoken non-aggression pact could go up in
smoke at the wrong word. "Are you claustrophobic then?"
"No, not really. It's just..." ben Jacob sighed and rubbed a hand
over his face, looking older and world weary. "I had a friend, in
Israel. We were very close, our families visited back and forth all
the time. He was two weeks from completing his military obligation
when somebody bombed the building he was staying in. It took two days
to get to him... by the time we reached him, he was dead from his
injuries. If we'd only been a little sooner, dug a little faster.."
ben Jacob shook his head. "Ever since I've had nightmares about being
buried alive." He resumed walking. "So, that's my excuse for not
parking in the underground garages. Happy now?"
Mulder paced alongside. "I'm not fond of dark enclosed spaces
myself. Remind me to tell you about Eugene Tooms someday..."
As they approached the main doors, Asher turned to Mulder. "I'll do
the talking. Just follow my lead."
Mulder's reply was a casual nod. He crammed his hands into his
pockets and followed ben Jacob to the main desk. There were more
security guards about than yesterday, all friendly, all smiling, but
their eyes missed nothing. ben Jacob walked up to the counter and
spoke to an older guard.
"Agent Mulder will be working with me today when the middle eastern
dignitaries come in. He has federal security clearance."
"Yes, sir, no problem, sir." The guard took a look at Mulder, who
was now holding up his ID. "Agent ben Jacob, Secretary Kent asked me
to give you a message when you came in. He asked that you to wait
here for him."
"Very well. Please tell him I'm here."
Mulder watched Asher frown to himself as the guard picked up the
phone and spoke briefly, then slid a clipboard over the counter,
"Sign here. You too, please, Agent ben Jacob."
"Yes, sir. Orders, sir."
ben Jacob tried not to frown and picked up a pen, then filled in the
Mulder signed the register, then took a few steps back, and waited
for ben Jacob to join him. "You weren't expecting that, were you?" he
asked in a low voice.
"No. But Porter was expecting me later this morning. Perhaps there's
been a change of plan."
"You sure know how to pick your times."
"Patience is a virtue," Asher reminded him.
"So is monogamy." Mulder shot back, "So do me a favor and keep the
self-righteous sermons to yourself." He watched a distinguished
looking gentleman approach, not a hair or manner out of place.
Asher nodded in recognition. "Porter."
"Asher, forgive the small change in plans..." Kent greeted ben Jacob
with an enthusiastic handshake, then looked at Mulder. "Who's your
ben Jacob made perfunctory introductions. "Agent Mulder is visiting
from Washington, learning the liaison business. He's my charge today,
and will be observing."
Kent turned to Mulder and offered his hand, "This is unexpected...
but we're glad to have you here, Agent Mulder."
It took Mulder a whole two seconds to size the man up. As he shook
Porter's hand, Mulder smiled politely. His thoughts were less polite,
dominated by visions of used car salesmen and talk show hosts.
Kent glanced at Asher, "We do have a few.... delicate matters to
attend to. Perhaps Agent Mulder would like to spend some time on the
Mulder started shaking his head, "I don't think--"
"Of course he will." Asher interrupted before Mulder could protest,
then added, "I'm sure he can find his own way up. Twenty sixth floor,
Agent Mulder." ben Jacob's eyes were flashing messages.
That was good enough for Mulder. He nodded his agreement.
Kent signaled to two men who had been lurking behind them. "This is
Taylor and Brandt. You go with them, Asher, I'll be along shortly."
Mulder eyed the security guards. Overly large men in dark suits
tended to make him nervous. By the way Asher was looking at them,
they weren't friends of his either. Asher cast Mulder one last look,
then turned and followed the men as asked.
"I'm sorry to leave you out on a limb like this, Agent Mulder." Kent
checked his Rolex with a flourish. "Asher shouldn't be any more than
an hour. I can have someone show you around if you'd like." Kent
glanced around the bustling hallway, disinterest plain.
"Ah, no thanks." Mulder had a tour of his own in mind, and he didn't
expect the catacombs to be on Kent's official sightseeing list. He
pulled his phone out of his pocket, "I need to make a few calls, then
I think I'll just grab a coffee and wait."
"No coffee here, Agent Mulder. But there is a choice of other non-
caffeinated beverages. Feel free to check out the observation deck.
On the twenty sixth floor," Kent repeated, "It was nice to meet you."
Kent offered his hand again and flashed the plastic smile.
As Kent turned and walked away, Mulder made a show of making a call.
Until Porter Kent disappeared into the elevator. Then he switched his
phone off and slipped it back into his pocket, waited a good five
minutes to be sure. He decided to take the stairs.
Getting back to the lower level was easy with ben Jacob's key card
in hand. He followed the dank corridor, trying to keep his footsteps
quiet, as he had the previous day. In a matter of minutes he was
facing the smooth metal door that had kept him at bay. Not anymore.
He swiped the card, waited for the door to open. The console gave a
sharp beep and the light stayed red. Mulder held his breath and
stared at it. Damn. It was asking for a code. He started thinking of
possibilities. Pi... Napier's Constant... Logarithmic Base... score
of the last Super Bowl.
Finally he shook his head in frustration and muttered sarcastically
to himself, "Open Sesame..."
The door slid open with a mocking groan to reveal Asher ben Jacob,
not twenty feet ahead of him. Mulder took a few steps inside then
stopped, studied the look on the other man's face. Something wasn't
right. A cold fear gripped him.
ben Jacob shook his head, said quietly, "You should have gone to the
The last thing Mulder heard was the hiss of the doors closing behind
end part 09/15
Touching Jericho (10/15)
Church Office Building
Near Temple Square
Cold tile pressed against Mulder's cheek. The smell of floor
wax filled his nostrils, along with the lingering odor of
something nauseatingly sweet. His head ached, but not nearly as
much as he expected. He reached up and felt it gingerly. No
hits, no lumps, no fractures... When he regained enough of his
senses, he figured lying on a dank floor wasn't doing him any
good. He pushed himself up on his hands and groaned slightly,
fighting down the urge to vomit.
After another few minutes, he felt better, and sat up, opening
his eyes. The first thing he saw in the harsh light was Asher
ben Jacob. The next thing Mulder noticed was a 12 volt lantern
battery and the connected digital display that flipped
relentlessly downward. There were seven minutes and thirty seven
seconds on the clock.
Mulder's eyes widened. There it was, as plain as day, right
before his eyes. A ticking bomb.
He blinked. But it was still there.
"b-ben Jacob...?" Mulder's voice caught. He contributed it to
the fading nausea from whatever -whoever- put him out.
"No time to talk, Mulder." ben Jacob's tone was clipped. He
crouched over the object on the floor, studying the back side of
the digital countdown intently. His jacket lay on the floor
beside him, and his shirt sleeves shoved up his arms. A bead of
sweat rolled down the side of his face, to join the moisture on
his upper lip.
Mulder instinctively moved back, but the wall stopped him dead.
He reached for his weapon, found the holster empty. Closing his
eyes, he let out a curse. "What the hell are you doing, ben
"What does it look like I'm doing?" ben Jacob snapped, "I liked
you better when you were unconscious." He traced a wire with a
finger then wiped his arm across his face.
Mulder propped himself against the cold wall, then ran a check;
No broken bones, but his chances of staying in one piece
suddenly didn't seem promising. He forced himself to tear his
eyes away from the doomsday clock and look around the room
instead, trying get his bearings without giving in to the
insidious panic creeping up his spine.
It was a small room. In fact, it was claustrophobic - far too
small for him *and* ben Jacob *and* a bomb. As ben Jacob turned
to work from the front of the device, Mulder noted the other
agent's empty holster and frowned to himself. He patted his
overcoat pocket, relieved to find his phone still nestled safely
inside. His eyes darted back to the clock, and he wondered
exactly how far he could run in 7 minutes flat -and why the hell
he wasn't running.
Instead he eased the phone from his pocket, and opened it.
Mulder hit speed dial, frowning at the static that greeted him.
The beep of the phone attracted ben Jacob's attention. His eyes
widened in horror, and he eased back from the bomb, then darted
across the room.
Mulder's foot clicked impatiently against the tiles as he
ignored ben Jacob's approach. "Scully, answer, damn it--"
ben Jacob collided with him and wrestled the phone away all too
easily, seemingly pumped up with excessive adrenaline. ben Jacob
flipped the phone off and stood, chest heaving.
Mulder was sure his face mirrored the wild eyed expression
opposite him. "You son of a bitch! What *is* your problem?"
"Me?! Are you nuts!"
"Am *I* nuts?" Mulder raised his voice, giving himself an
instant headache. "Christ, *I'm* not the one up to my elbows in
a god-damn bomb!"
"Agent Mulder, what do *you* know about bombs?"
Mulder's eyes narrowed, "They go 'bang'."
"Just what I need. A comedian." ben Jacob stared down at him.
"Radio waves, signals from cell phones, electrical surges can
all detonate bombs. So quit being an idiot." He tossed the phone
into Mulder's lap.
Mulder's eyes darted to the display. 6:32. "Don't want your
party to start unfashionably early?"
"Just stay put and don't touch anything." ben Jacob stalked
back across the room and resumed his study of the bomb's
That comment got Mulder to his feet. "I don't remember our deal
having anything to do with blowing this place sky high."
"You should have kept out of it, Mulder. I never needed your
help." ben Jacob straightened again, then shook his head,
"There's no way I can do this in time."
"A bit late for that now, isn't it?" Fire alarms shrilled.
Mulder jumped and cursed again. Screw looking cool.
"A bit late for both of us." ben Jacob nodded at a spot behind
Mulder. "See that support beam over there in the corner?"
Mulder turned and looked. "Yeah?"
"That's not Play-Doh taped around that pillar."
Mulder studied the massive amount of gray, clay looking
material plastered over the pole. Duct tape held another digital
display and a bristling array of wires to the mess. "Why do I
get the feeling I should have stayed in D.C.?" He glanced at the
clock again. 4:31. "So what do you suggest?"
"I'd suggest we get the hell out of here, but the doors are
"What??" Mulder lunged forward and grabbed ben Jacob by the
shirt, shaking him, "Open the damn door!"
ben Jacob shoved him away. "I can't! I've already tried." He
rubbed his face, "I've made a terrible mistake..."
"Damn right you have, buddy!"
"It's not my fault! I had no choice."
"You got to work on your denial problem, pal. In the meantime,
let's figure a way out of here. A smear on the wall is *not* how
I intend to go."
ben Jacob looked at Mulder, eyes flashing, "Have you still got
that key card I gave you?"
"Yes..." Mulder frantically dug through his pockets, "Yes...
somewhere... Here!" In his haste, the card sprang out of his
pocket and clattered to the floor.
ben Jacob scooped it up and ran to the door, swiped the card
through. Nothing happened. The light stayed red. He pulled out a
note card and stared at it, then punched in a code. Nothing
happened. Frowning, he stared at the note card. "That son of a
bitch... He changed the codes!"
"Who changed the codes?"
"The Head of Security... he's the only one who could do it that
damn quick." ben Jacob took out a pen and started writing
numbers down, scowling and muttering to himself before letting
out a sharp laugh. "Let destruction come upon him at unawares;
and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very
destruction let him fall..." He punched in another series of
Again nothing happened. 3:55. The red light on the panel
continued to flash, one pulse for each tick of the clock
"So much for God." Mulder paced. "What the hell do we do now?"
ben Jacob blew out a long breath and slumped against the wall,
Mulder looked to the ceiling in frustration, not expecting to
see their salvation quite so easily - a air duct grid in the
ceiling. A grin spread across his face. "That's the best advice
I've been given all day..."
"What?" ben Jacob followed Mulder's line of site until he was
staring at the same grid.
No words were spoken. In unison, both men dragged a table
around to give them enough height to reach the ceiling. Mulder
scrambled to the top and yanked off the grid cover, then poked
his head into the hole and looked around, "It's a heating and
air conditioning duct. It's pretty narrow, but I think we can
make it. I can see another exit, about 30 yards down from here."
"Go!" ben Jacob started pushing at his legs, " Now. Climb."
Mulder didn't wait to be invited twice. He heaved himself into
the duct, the shrill of alarms echoing the pounding in his head.
The duct swayed under his weight and his shoulders rubbed the
sides. If rats could do it, so could he. "ben Jacob?"
The muffled voice drifted up. "I'm right behind you. Go!"
Mulder thumped and squeezed his way to the next grid cover on
hands and knees. One good punch, and it hit the ground below
with a twang and spun like a top. Mulder didn't even stop to
consider how far it was to the floor. He just closed his eyes
He landed in some kind of tunnel, or service corridor about
twelve feet wide. Fluorescent lit, with concrete floors, there
were no alarms in this hall, and the near silence was worse than
the catatonic blare. The tunnel stretched endlessly ahead of
him. He whirled. Behind him were double doors and the concealed
key pad cover. And a bomb. As Mulder scrambled to his feet, he
looked up at the duct. "ben Jacob? Come on!"
Without another glance, Mulder bolted down the corridor. He saw
a set of doors in the distance, they seemed incredibly far away,
so he put his head down and sprinted, a clock in his head
mocking him with a NASA style countdown. He reached the far
doors and stopped, these were unlocked. He slid one back
manually and looked behind him. ben Jacob was nowhere in sight.
Mulder eyed the long corridor. "Come on, come on..."
There was no sign of the other agent. Mulder hesitated, then
started back down the oppressive corridor. "Scully, you'd better
About halfway back he saw a figure drop from the ceiling and
collapse to the ground. ben Jacob.
That was all Mulder needed to see. He skidded to a halt and
reversed direction, his lungs burning, sweat stinging his eyes.
He stumbled, and ignored the roaring and the thundering of his
pulse. A few more yards...
It was then he realized that the sounds he heard were external.
A tortured groan served warning as the earth beneath his feet
took on a life of its own. Over it all rose a mocking voice,
eerily reminiscent of a pre-pubescent Fox torturing his sister
during a board game; greedy childlike eyes watched the last
grains of sand slip through the egg timer; high pitched voice
squealed with adolescent glee. "Bzzzzzzt. Time's up..."
Salt Lake City.
Pat Riley and the rest of the field office were quick to arrive
on the scene, having felt the explosion rumble through the city,
and immediately heard the call for law enforcement and rescue
personnel. They stared, angry and humbled that something like
this could have happened in their backyard. Christina Martinez
was the first to recover, assigning her people to help out. Well
trained, they moved quickly to aid the rescue efforts.
Christina then turned to Riley. "Where's Asher?"
"I... I don't know, ma'am."
"Find him. If anybody, our terrorism expert should be here,"
Riley dug out his cel phone and dutifully plugged in ben
Jacob's number. He got a 'No Service' in response. Frowning,
Riley dialed Asher's apartment. After several rings, a strained
female voice answered.
Immensely irritated at finding the female agent at ben Jacob's
apartment, Riley growled into the phone. "Let me talk to Asher.
"Who is this?"
"This is Agent Riley. Ash's partner. Get Asher's lazy butt to
the phone. We got an emergency."
"Asher's not here, Agent Riley."
Riley frowned. He saw Christina eyeing him from a few feet
away. "What do you mean? Where is he? You're there."
Scully cleared her throat. "Asher left earlier this morning,
before seven. He said he was going to the synagogue then work.
Didn't he come in?"
"Damn... Listen... Agent Scully, he wasn't in the office when I
came in this morning. It's imperative that we find him. Do you
have any idea where he might be?"
"He mentioned he had security duty with the prophet. Why?
Riley, what's going on?"
"Damn. God damn." Riley looked at the ruined building in front
of him. "Agent Scully, can you come downtown right away? To
Temple Square? There's been an incident, we'll probably need
your services as pathologist..."
"What's going on, Riley? Tell me, please..."
"Somebody blew up the LDS Temple Office Building." Riley heard
the Washington agent suck in her breath, and hoped she hadn't
come to the same conclusion he had. "If you can get down here...
we need all available agents. And that pain in the butt Mulder,
if you can find him."
"We'll be right there. I'll find Agent Mulder." She hung up.
Riley turned off his phone and stared at it, then looked up at
the Office Building.
Christina walked the few feet to him. "You find Asher?"
"Not exactly..." Riley swiped a hand over his face. "Agent
Scully was at his house, she said he left for work earlier this
morning. He could have come into the office I suppose, I didn't
get there until eight-thirty. He could have come and gone, he's
probably off checking leads on a case, didn't turn his phone
"Pat." Christina put her hand on his arm. "What is it?"
Riley took a deep breath. "She said he had security duty with
the prophet this morning."
"Where would he do that? Pat?"
"According to Ash, the prophet moves between the Temple and the
other buildings. There was supposed to be a meeting between the
church and some Middle Eastern dignitaries this morning, I read
it in Ash's logbook."
"So where would they be? Asher's our liaison, he should be with
them, and the other security agents."
"You're correct, ma'am." Riley turned to face the bomb site.
"The security offices are on the fifteenth floor of the Office
Building. The prophet's offices are also somewhere in the
Christina took a deep breath. "Shit..."
Riley echoed her sentiment. "If Ash was doing his job as
liaison... he would have been somewhere inside."
The two stared at the ruined building.
"We'd better make sure the building occupants are accounted
for, and question the ones that got out. Maybe they know
"We do know someone pulled the fire alarm a few minutes before
the bomb went off... probably kept the death toll from being way
higher than it would have been," Riley commented.
Christina pulled her cel phone out and pointed at him. "I want
you to find out who pulled the alarm. Find out if the prophet
and his security team are still in the building, or if they made
it out. Find out the last time anyone saw Asher. We need to know
where to look. Pull Franklin and whoever else you need to help."
"You think Ash's alive, ma'am?" Riley gazed past her to the
collapsed concrete on the front of the building, wreathed in the
still drifting dust.
"Until I have proof otherwise, that's what I'm going to assume.
The man knew bombs, and terrorists. Someone warned the building
in time to save lives. Those two things alone tell me Asher was
here. Let's get to work." She set off toward the wreckage with a
purposeful stride, Pat Riley one step behind.
Agent Scully was picture-book cool when she arrived at the
scene barely 30 minutes after Riley's call. It was a stark
contrast to the drive over, which had been fraught with concern.
It wasn't a difficult stretch to put together two and two and
come up with the likely scenario that Asher was at the building
this morning. It was where he was supposed to be, and now he was
missing. Scully decided under the circumstances to wait for
facts before worrying his family, and said nothing of the
bombing to them. She'd also been unable to raise Mulder on the
phone, and despite no evidence to assume he'd been anywhere near
the scene, it nagged at her.
Once past the yellow tape, her purposeful stride took her along
a path increasing with debris, through groups of police and
federal agents to the center of the action. The damaged building
was impossible to ignore, but she fought the urge to stop and
gawk, taking the time to garner her strength and focus on the
She sought out Riley and Martinez, waited until they finished
their conversation with one of the rescue workers before
interrupting them. "I got here as soon as I could. I'm sorry I
wasn't able to contact Agent..." her words slowed as she caught
their sympathetic expressions, she did her best to fight the
panic twisting her gut, "...Mulder?"
It was an eternity before Riley answered. "We expected he'd be
with you. He's the least of our concerns right now."
Scully let out a long sigh of relief, but her reprieve was
Riley cleared his throat, and spoke softly for such a big man,
unable to fully hide the anguish in his voice. "I'm... We're
sorry, Agent Scully. I don't know how to tell you this..." Riley
glanced over at the wrecked building, an involuntary flicker,
like a motorist passing a traffic accident. He turned back to
her, faced her squarely, pain squinting his eyes. "We've just
received witness confirmation that Asher ben Jacob was in the
Church Office Building this morning. He's currently...
Scully closed her eyes and took a calming breath. Then another.
Asher. Not Asher. Fate could not be that cruel. She opened her
eyes, focused on the issues, proud of the steadiness of her
voice. "What's being done?"
"They're still working on making the area safe, checking for
secondary devices. Then the rescue workers can move in and start
a thorough search."
Scully nodded. "Asher's parents are at his place. They arrived
this morning. I should probably call them."
"Oh, hell... You want me to do that?" Riley offered.
"No. Thank you. I can handle it." Scully looked at him.
Riley pointed. "Triage is set up over there, but injuries were
minimal. You can check, but I doubt they'll need you. Cuts and
bruises mainly, a few broken bones. Fire alarm managed to clear
the building, thank God." He blew out a breath, shook his head,
"It was a close call."
"Who raised the alarm?"
"None other than Mr. Porter Kent." Riley tugged his notebook
out of his pocket, flipped through the pages. "According to Mr.
Kent, he received a call at his desk at approximately 9:15 this
morning, telling him he had 15 minutes to clear the building. He
called a fire drill."
Scully frowned to herself. "How did he assess the threat as
real? Fifteen minutes isn't a lot of time for decision making."
"I asked him that as well. He said the voice was a recording,
digitally masked, and he decided to err on the side of caution."
Riley shrugged, stuffed his notebook back into his top pocket,
"That's usual security procedure."
"I see..." Scully's eyes scanned the scene, but she did her
best to maintain her focus on Riley. "You'll be confirming this
story against the phone company records?"
"Here's the clincher... It's unlikely to be verifiable. He
claims the call was internal."
Scully's eyebrows raised a notch, "It's not unusual for
terrorists to be killed by their own devices."
"Now ain't that a shame..." Riley mused, "I see the illustrious
Kent hasn't been too overwrought..." He nodded towards a crowd
of reporters, where Kent the center of their attention. "He's
been milking it for all its worth. Not a bad return for a dime."
"For a man with an obvious superiority complex, that doesn't
surprise me." Scully took her phone from her pocket. "I'd better
call Asher's parents. Before they hear it on the news."
Riley nodded solemnly, added, "Watch your step, Agent Scully."
She stopped abruptly, eyes searching for familiar and unwelcome
figures. "What? What do you mean?"
"Evidence ... They're still marking out the search area..."
"Oh. Yes, of course." She flushed, and damped down her
paranoia, then picked her way through the rapidly expanding
crowd. She was challenged at least three times despite her badge
before she reached State Street, the inner perimeter of the
sealed off area. Gawkers were confined behind a barrier and
stared patiently. Scully used the relative quiet to make her
In the eerie sanctuary of the deserted street, it was easy to
almost forget the string of destruction behind her. Scully tried
Mulder's cel phone once more, only to hear the standard recorded
message. His phone was out of the service area, or not turned
on. That avenue closed, she took a breath, steeled herself, and
made the call to Asher's apartment.
To her relief, the younger woman answered the phone. "Rebekah?
This is Dana Scully."
"Dana?" Faint disappointment colored Rebekah's voice. "We were
hoping you were Asher. He's not at work?"
"I'm sorry," Scully chose and discarded a dozen words before
plunging ahead. "There's no easy way to say this. I have some
bad news... regarding Asher."
There was a stagnant pause.
"Rebekah? Hello?" Scully prompted. On the other end of the line
she heard movement.
Eventually the girl regained her voice, "What has happened?"
"I'm downtown. Someone bombed the Church Office Building.
Rebekah... we believe Asher was in the building at the time.
That he's still inside."
"I will come."
"I'm not sure that's a good idea... they may not let you
anywhere near the scene."
"Why not? I have experience. With the bombings." The bitterness
"I know. But it's security... it's not up to me. I'm not in
charge here. The best thing you can do is break the news to his
"I will. Then I am coming down there."
"Rebekah, you don't understand--"
"No, it is you who do not understand, you only sleep with
Asher. I love him. I would do *anything* for him. I cannot lose
him again. Not now."
The line went dead. Scully jabbed off her phone, stuffed it
back into her pocket. She realized Rebekah wasn't the sort of
person to take no for an answer. Even love couldn't move a multi-
storey building or quicken rescue efforts. But that was going to
become someone else's problem.
Her thoughts were distracted by movement at the end of the
street near South Temple. She picked up her pace, holding up her
badge to a man with a camera, "Excuse me, sir... This is a
restricted area. I'm going to need to see some ID."
The man grumbled at the interruption, but passed her his press
Scully checked it, then handed it back. "I see you here again,
and I'm arresting you for obstruction." She pointed, "Get to the
other side of the tape, sir. Now."
He turned and walked, although grudgingly. Scully kept a few
steps behind him to be sure he was going in the right direction.
As she passed the parked vehicles, she gave each a cursory
glance. Until she laid her eyes on Asher's familiar Stealth. She
slowed and bit her lip. It only confirmed the likelihood of him
being in the building.
It was the next car along that made her stomach jump - a rental
- a typical Bureau type rental; Mulder's rental. She moved
closer, cupped her hands to the glass and peered through the
window, noticing the econo-sized cup of coffee from a local
convenience store; the map of downtown Salt Lake; the pile of
fast food wrappers on the floor of the passenger side. That was
all she needed to see.
"Mulder..." She let her forehead rest against the roof of the
car, but the sun-warmed metal offered no relief. It was too nice
a day for this. She was supposed to be on vacation. Her first
instinct was to run straight back into the fray, in the best
tradition of the cavalry. To find Mulder. To grab every single
person she could lay her hands on, shake them stupid, and yell
at them to help, to start digging with her bare hands. But that
was a luxury she could ill afford. It was the Navy in her blood.
Steady as she goes. After a moment, she tried the door. Locked.
She moved back down to Asher's car, tried the doors, surprised
to find the passenger door unlocked. There was a tiny scrape
marring the immaculate paint, parallel to the lock button. Slim
Jim her mind automatically supplied. The contents of the car
seemed undisturbed, Asher's briefcase and religious books tossed
on the passenger floorboards, Leo Kottke CD in plain sight. She
opened the door with her fingertips, knowing she had no real
reason to be looking, but looking anyway. Perhaps for a thread
of hope. Proof that he and Mulder had gone elsewhere together.
Together. Yeah, sure. Mulder tensed every time he heard Asher's
name, no telling what he'd do if they were locked in a room
together. So what the hell *were* they doing together? Scully's
gaze fell on a white envelope propped against the radio. It
looked out of place. She picked it up by the edges. No address
or return address, nothing on the outside to indicate where it
belonged. The lack of normalcy was ominous.
Scully then broke a cardinal family rule. She opened mail that
didn't belong to her.
The page she drew out was heavier than the usual bond paper, it
bespoke elegance and extravagance. It also made a fitting
background for the carefully crafted words. Scully read the
paper. She sucked in a choked breath, then read it again in
"My name is Asher ben Jacob. I am an FBI agent. I hold a
position of trust and power in the area of law enforcement. I
took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I
am also a Jew. Schooled and trained in the best secular and
rabbinical colleges. I am a teacher, entrusted with the faith of
"Yesterday I committed a crime..."
end part 10/15
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