Sam took a deep breath, steeling herself for the meeting ahead. She had asked to meet Agent Mulder alone, not wanting the rest of the team there to interfere. It would be hard enough as it was, without seeing their subtle sympathy. That much had been clear the minute she walked into the office. John, Nathan, and George were all favoring her with "puppy dog eyes" every time she looked up, and even Grace had given her hand a reassuring pat. Only Bailey seemed to have the sense to know that sympathy would only make things worse, and thankfully he had treated her with the same brusque camaraderie he always did.

She stopped short as she saw the man seated at the table, remembering him as much younger and less haggard. Of course, the same things could probably be said about her, since it had been ten years since she'd seen him last. He seemed unaware of her presence as he pored over a scattered mess of papers; probably the case files. She had her own 'murder books' with her, and the idea of him looking through them, seeing her notes, her insights, and possibly disagreeing with her made her temper flare momentarily. She dropped the stack of binders onto the table from about a foot up, so they made a satisfying "thump." She had to admire him for not jumping. He just looked up from the file he was reading, eyebrows lifted slightly in question.

"Agent Mulder." she said evenly, acknowledging his presence.

He stood and extended his hand "Agent Waters, it's a pleasure to see you again."

She didn't take his hand, standing with her arms crossed, unwilling to observe the normal pleasantries with him. "This is a little off your beat, isn't it? Or, in your expert opinion have you decided that Jack has been getting away with this all these years because his space ship whisks him away from the scene before anyone can catch him?"

Mulder studied her for a moment, then a wry smile curved his mouth. "Well, at first I did think that possibly an ancient energy creature that we know as Jack the Ripper was hopping from body to body and thus confounding our investigation until I remembered that was just an old episode of Star Trek."

Sam couldn't help it, she laughed. A real, unforced, open laugh. Her appreciation of the man went up several points. "I asked for that, didn't I?" she said, shaking her head.

Mulder shrugged. "I never could resist a straight line. Look, I know this is kind of awkward, but maybe I can be of some help. As the saying goes, sometimes two heads are better than one."

"Encountered any two-headed monsters lately?" she asked flippantly.

"Aside from the Congress?" he asked, deadpan. "Nope. Shall we get to work?"

Realizing he wasn't going to be baited, she nodded and sat down, pushing her stack of books across toward him. "This is my own collection. I thought you might want to look at them."

He nodded, and pulled them toward him, but didn't open any of them. Instead he looked at her, assessingly for a moment, then spoke.

"First tell me what you think."

"About what?"

"About Jack. Is there some other reason I'm here that they haven't told me about?"

Sam just couldn't seem to keep herself from getting annoyed, even though she knew it wouldn't help matters any. She tamped down her anger and tried to compose herself.

"Well, the basics... male, in his late thirties to early forties, high IQ, maybe over 140. Probably an abused child. I would guess he's small of stature, feels a need to compensate by exerting control over others, methods range from leaving messages at his crime scenes, to terror, and murder. He's ordinary looking, blends in with a crowd, and probably not disfigured, since he carries his attacks out methodically and sometimes practically in public. His voice has no discernable regional accent, possibly indicating a fairly high level of education."

Mulder nodded through most of her recital, but when she finished he kept looking at her as if he expected her to continue. She started to feel uncomfortable. Finally he frowned a little. "That's it?" he asked.

She bristled. "What do you want? The Psychic Friends Network?"

"No, I want you to do the work I know you're capable of. You're deliberately not seeing some things."

"Such as?"

He shook his head. "Not now, not yet. I need to do more work before I do this for real, but I will tell you one thing, we're not looking at a forty-year-old. He's your age, or possibly a year or two younger."

She stared at him. "Why do you say that?"

"Everything points to it being someone who considers himself your peer, but also in a subdominant position to you. If he were older than you, there would be a different dynamic to the relationship, a mentor/student sort of feel."

She thought about that for a moment and could see where he was coming from, but she disagreed. "I don't think that's true. You know that in serial killers, often their actual age is offset from their psychological age by their inherent insecurity, I think we're seeing a reflection of that."

"Why? What makes you think that? Has Jack ever demonstrated feelings of inferiority?"

After a moment's thought she had to shake her head. "No, but that's usually the case with this type of personality."

"I don't see it here. What else makes you think he's older?"

"I..." she stopped, realizing for the first time that she didn't have a clear reason. She frowned. "I'm... not sure. Gut instinct, maybe."

Mulder nodded. "That can be useful on occasion, but you don't want to start relying on it too often. See if you can come up with a better reason and we'll debate it."

She nodded, distracted, already inside her head trying to examine Jack from new angles and see if Mulder might be right. She didn't like the idea, but she couldn't dismiss it out of hand. He reached for one of her books and opened it, letting her work in silence.

* * *

Dana glanced at her watch, saw it was twenty after eight, and stretched, yawning, and listening to her stomach growl. She'd finally finished going over the autopsy reports, and now she had questions she needed answered, but unfortunately, Grace had gone home hours earlier. She got up and went to the door to see if anyone else was around. The bullpen was empty and conference room door was still closed, but there was a light in Malone's office. Knowing he'd been on Jack's case since early-on, she hoped that he could answer the questions she had. She put her shoes back on and walked over to Malone's office.

He sat at his desk, head bent over some paperwork, scowling slightly as he wrote something on a legal pad. She tapped lightly on the doorframe to get his attention and he looked up. Seeing her, he smiled, an expression that changed his face startlingly from homely to nearly handsome.

He stood up and waved her in. "What can I do for you?"

"Two things, really. First, I have a few questions about some of the autopsy results. Since you've been with the case all along, I hoped you could help me with them."

"I'd be happy to try. What's the second thing?"

"Do you guys have a vending machine around here? I'm starved."

He chuckled and beckoned her to follow as he moved toward one of the file cabinets. "No vending machine, but I am in charge of the office stash. Help yourself."

He opened one of the drawers to reveal an amazing trove of goodies. There was a tin of Oreos, a 2-pound bag of miniature chocolate bars, an assortment of single-serving chip bags, some cheese-n-cracker packets, several varieties of just-add-water soup, and a huge container of hot chocolate mix, with marshmallows. Scully grinned.

"I see someone around here likes junk food."

"I think we all do. Isn't it a requirement of the job? If nothing in there appeals, we could order pizza, or there's a decent Chinese take-out around the corner."

She considered that briefly, but decided to wait for Mulder and Agent Waters to finish up before taking a dinner break. She could hold out awhile longer, especially with something to tide her over. She deliberated for a moment, then opened the Oreo tin and took two. Malone helped himself to one before she replaced the lid. She also grabbed one of the cheese-n-cracker packets, then closed the drawer.

"Is this what you call 'southern hospitality,'" she asked around an Oreo.

He grinned and nodded. "Only the best for our guests." He waved a hand at the couch. "Have a seat... just shove those papers out of the way."

She shoved, and sat. Setting aside the second Oreo she peeled back the wrapper on the crackers and dug the little plastic stick into the cheese-food-product.

"Your questions?" Malone prompted after she'd smeared a cracker with orange goo and downed it.

She nodded, swallowing. "Victim eleven, Dr. Dexter Nelson. The autopsy report said he was 'surgically mutilated' but gave very few specifics. Did Jack take trophy parts?"

Malone shook his head. "Not exactly. Most of Dr. Nelson was still present at the crime scene, if not exactly intact. The only body parts actually missing were his fingers. Jack later used them to create false finger prints at another crime scene, so we don't know if he took them as trophies, or just as props to use later."

Scully nodded, in the process of devouring another cracker, and held up a finger to ask for a moment to finish swallowing.

Malone suddenly smacked his forehead with his palm. "Where are my manners? Would you like a drink? We have coffee... or ah... Sam usually keeps some diet drinks in her office. I could raid her supply."

"Coffee," Dana managed to say, without spewing cracker crumbs.

Malone went over to a coffee maker perched on a file cabinet and poured some of its contents into a Styrofoam cup. "Do you use anything?" Dana shook her head and he brought it over. "Sorry about the cup. I'd bring you a real mug but we all have our own and you wouldn't want to drink out of them."

Dana thought about her own mug back at the office, stained from years of coffee and few washes, and understood. She sipped the hot liquid and her eyes widened. Expecting the usual bullpen slop she was pleasantly surprised by the rich flavor of the brew. Malone correctly interpreted her look.

"Hey, when you drink as much of that as we do, it pays to get the good stuff. What's your next question?"

"Vera Lewis, the victim who was injected with rabies. Did she describe her abductor at all? It took her eighteen days to die, she must have talked about what happened."

Malone's face was bleak. "She tried to help, but he'd kept her sedated most of the time. When she wasn't sedated, she was blindfolded. All she could tell us was that he 'sounded like a white guy' and that she didn't think he was very big, because he had trouble lifting her."

"Did they try the rabies series?"

He nodded. "She had the entire course of injections, but it was too late. He'd waited long enough before he dumped her that the virus had time to really take hold." His fists clenched. "Bastard."

An apt sentiment. Suddenly her cookie didn't hold much appeal. She studied the man across from her, knowing he'd been profiling for longer than almost anyone still with the Bureau. She thought about Vera Lewis, and the other victims, and briefly pondered nature of someone who could do that to another person. She was very glad she didn't have the same knack as Mulder, or Malone, for getting inside the heads of these men. How did they do it? How did they stay sane? It was bad enough having to deal with the killer's handiwork. Taking a gulp of her coffee, she continued on to her next question.

* * *

Mulder was beginning to wish Agent Waters would go away. Though he needed her there to answer questions, he was getting heartily sick of her disagreeing with him at every turn. It was almost as if she were deliberately baiting him. He knew her work, he'd seen it before. She was good. Damned good. So why was she also so blind when it came to this guy? As soon as he thought it, he knew the answer. She didn't want to admit that this was someone she'd known for a long time. She didn't want to see herself as the focus of his madness, possibly the stressor that had set him to killing. He couldn't really blame her for that, but on the other hand her deliberate blindness was costing lives.

"He's an organized killer." Agent Waters said, out of the blue.

Mulder turned to look at her, frowning. "No, he isn't. He's primarily an organized killer but some of the crime scenes show definite signs of disorganization. I think we'd have to classify him as 'mixed.'"

The slim blonde scowled back at him, her mouth set stubbornly. "You have no idea what you're talking about! He's meticulous!"

Mulder nodded. "Yes he is, but he doesn't always use a kit. Sometimes he relies on objects found at the scene to furnish his weapons and props. He sometimes kills quickly, almost mercifully, and other times with exceptional savagery. He kills both men and women. Sometimes he stages, sometimes he doesn't. There's no consistency."

"That's because he's organized! He deliberately changes his M.O. in order to throw us off the trail." Waters said firmly.

"Wrong. He wants you to find the bodies. He wants to be connected to them. He's proud of them. That's why he leaves messages."

"They're just taunts. They don't mean anything."

"Of course they do. Everything this guy does has meaning! The way he eats, the clothes he wears, the way he ties his shoes, the way he breathes! He is ritualistic to the extreme, we just don't understand the meaning of his rituals yet."

She was taking a deep breath, clearly ready to refute him, when the door to the conference room opened. Malone and Scully stood there, eyeing them curiously. Mulder wondered if he and Agent Waters looked as much like squabbling kids as he was afraid they did. Scully looked mildly annoyed, and he wondered what he'd done wrong.

"Did either of you realize that it's after two in the morning?" Malone queried drily. "We're tired of waiting, pack it in for the night! We're not going to catch him in the next two hours, right?"

Waters looked at her watch and grimaced. "Damn it! I had no idea it was so late! I have to get home! Chloe and Angel will be worried!"

Malone nodded. "I have to take our visitors to their hotel. Mark and Ian came in around nine to do some analysis while Grace wasn't using the lab. Get them to escort you to your car."

She nodded distractedly, grabbed her jacket off the back of a chair and took off. Mulder sent an apologetic glance at Scully, who did look pretty tired. Still, he didn't want to bag it yet. He looked at Malone.

"Look, why don't you take Scully over to the hotel? I haven't really gotten into Jack's head yet, but I think I'm close. I'd like to keep at it for a while longer. I can get a cab when I'm ready to call it quits."

"Mulder..." Scully began, her voice concerned.

"I'm fine, Scully. You know me. I never sleep anyway. Go on."

She looked frustrated and uncertain, but finally sighed. "All right. Just don't come whining to me when your stomach lining dissolves in a sea of caffeine." She turned to Malone. "I hope you don't mind if it's just me."

The older man shook his head, and Mulder read something in his gaze that made him look more closely. His gaze shifted from Malone to Scully, and back, but whatever he thought he'd seen was gone. He must have imagined it.

"I don't mind at all. We can stop at an all-night place on the way and get something to eat if you like," Malone offered.

Guiltily Mulder realized that they probably hadn't eaten, waiting for him and Agent Waters to finish. He knew how grouchy Scully got when she didn't get fed regularly, and their last meal had been fast-food grabbed on the way to Dulles. Sure enough, Scully nodded enthusiastically.

"That sounds like heaven."

"Let's go, then," Malone said decisively.

Scully took a step toward the door, then stopped. "Mulder, are you hungry?"

He thought about it, and shrugged. "I could eat something, but I need to stay here and concentrate."

Scully and Malone shared a conspiratorial glance. "Can I?" she asked. Malone nodded, and she turned back to Mulder with a grin. "Check the left-hand file cabinet, middle drawer in Malone's office. There's instant noodles and some other stuff."

"You can heat water in the coffee pot," Malone added. "Help yourself to anything you find. It's all replaceable."

He committed that to memory, "Left hand, middle drawer. Gotcha, thanks."

Malone nodded and moved out of the doorway to let Scully precede him. Mulder watched them go with a vague feeling of unease, but even after several moments of trying to figure out why, he couldn't come up with an answer. Shrugging it off, he returned to the folder he'd been looking through when Agent Waters had declared Jack was an organized killer. He yawned, and put it back down. Food might help. Picking up the three folders that most interested him, he headed for Malone's office and the left-hand file cabinet.

* * *

He waited in the shadows, taking care to stay in the security camera's blind spot. He had set mirrors to effectively mask the camera nearest his target, but hadn't wanted to tamper with the other cameras as well. The more tampering he did, the more likely it was to be noticed before the trap was sprung. Hearing voices he tensed, and stole a glance at the trio who had just entered the garage. After a moment he relaxed and smiled coldly. It was Her. She was accompanied by two men he didn't recognize, they were not a regular part of the VCTF team She worked with. They were probably guards of some sort. She never came here alone after he'd left a message there for Her. He watched as they walked Her to Her vehicle and saw Her safely inside, then stood and waited until She had left the garage. He did not attempt to contact Her. While he always enjoyed seeing Her, tonight was reserved for someone else.

The two men re-entered the building. Jack slipped out from his hiding place and stealthily moved toward the vehicle he knew his prey would take. That one was too assured, too cool, and needed to be shown the error of overconfidence since the last lesson had apparently failed. Also, his disappearance would put Her on edge, would take away yet one more of Her supports, and force Her to continue playing the Game. The trap was set, it remained only to spring it.

The interior door scraped open and two people emerged. For a moment he was disappointed, thinking it was not his prey, but then the dark, hard face turned briefly his way and he knew it was. But... who was the woman with him? She was not in the plan. Suddenly angry, he watched them through narrowed eyes. The woman, a petite red-head in an ugly beige suit, said something to Malone, who responded with a smile and laugh, his head bent close to hers. The woman laughed as well, and did not seem to rebuff the apparent intimacy.

As they walked together toward the car, his mind raced. How did this fit into his scenario? Who was the woman, and what was she to Malone? How would She feel to see the man who seemed to have become Her emotional anchor, laughing and talking intimately with some other woman? Slowly he began to smile, and he waited. The trap would work as well with two, though it would take a little more effort. The results might well be worth it.

* * *