(A child's bedroom. AMBER LYNN LAPIERRE, a little girl of about five, is kneeling beside her bed saying her prayers in sing-song. Her parents, BUD and BILLIE LAPIERRE watch her fondly.)
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake,
I pray the lord my soul to take.
God bless Mommy. God bless Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa LaPierre and Grandma
and Grandpa Dyson, and...
MRS. LAPIERRE: (with a smile, knowing some stalling is going on) Okay, okay, Amber Lynn. Bedtime. Come on. You grab Mike, okay? Hop in. Let's get you cozy, cozy, toasty, toasty. In the sack, snug as a bug.
(They tuck her into bed. )
MR. LAPIERRE: Night-night, Little.
AMBER LYNN: Night, daddy. (kiss) Night, mommy.
MRS. LAPIERRE: Night, love. (kiss) Headlights out, Amber Lynn.
(AMBER LYNN closes her eyes. MRS. LAPIERRE switches the light off)
MRS. LAPIERRE: That's a good girl.
(The night light is on as they leave the room. MRS. LAPIERRE pauses a moment to look affectionately at her daughter, then leaves the door cracked open.)
(Later, MR. LAPIERRE is lying on the couch watching television. It must be a Friday night in an alternate universe, because he is watching Harsh Realm. Chase scene in a hallway.)
MAN ON TV: Weapon on the floor!
MR. LAPIERRE: This is great.
(MRS. LAPIERRE enters the bedroom and turns down the bed. Then pauses, as if in a trance. She goes the closet and removes a paper-wrapped clothes hanger from a dry- cleaners. She rips off a section of the paper, then goes to her desk. She opens the drawer and takes out a red felt tip pen. There is also a Hollywood Video tape case in the drawer.)
(In the living room, MR. LAPIERRE is still watching TV.)
MAN ON TV: What is this trial I'm being put through?
(MR. LAPIERRE hears the sound of a door being shut.)
MAN ON TV: A test of my love for you?
MR. LAPIERRE: Billie?
(There is no answer. He gets up, turns off or mutes the TV, and goes toward the bedrooms. He glances at his wife. MRS. LAPIERRE is writing on the paper: "Mr. & Mrs. LaPierre, Listen carefully! I have kidnapped your daughter and will kill her unless you do exactly as I say. Any deviation from ")
(MR. LAPIERRE looks in his daughter's room. He goes to her.)
(MORE OF MRS. LAPIERRE'S WRITING: " my instructions will result in the execution of Amber Lynn.")
(MR. LAPIERRE looks at his daughter. Her face and neck are bruised and mottled as if she has been strangled to death. He gasps, and looks at her again. The bruising is gone. She is just a sleeping little girl. He sighs in relief.)
(MORE OF MRS. LAPIERRE'S WRITING: "Go to the police and I will strangle her and send you the body parts one by one. Tell a stray dog and you will never see her alive again. Don't do anything dumb. No one shoots at Santa Claus.")
(MR. LAPIERRE tucks his daughter in again and rubs his face. He goes out of the room. The door suddenly slams shut behind him. He tries the knob. It is locked. He sees either a shadow or some black oil seeping under the door.)
MR. LAPIERRE: Billie! Amber Lynn!
(MRS. LAPIERRE looks up from her note. MR. LAPIERRE begins breaking the door down. A picture falls off the wall. The door gives way. AMBER LYNN's bed is empty.)
(MULDER, in jeans and leather jacket, gets off the elevator and goes to SKINNER's office. There are lots of agents present. SKINNER is on the phone. His ASSISTANT hands him a sheet of paper.)
SKINNER: (on phone) Amber Lynn LaPierre, that's right. A federal investigation is underway... Of a kidnapping in Sacramento, California.
(SKINNER notices MULDER in the doorway. Other agents notice him, too. SKINNER hangs up and goes to him. They speak softly. SKINNER is not pleased to see him.)
SKINNER: Why are you here, Agent Mulder?
MULDER: I want this case.
SKINNER: I'm fairly certain I've got more than enough competent Agents in here.
MULDER: (sarcastic) Ooh, I can see that.
SKINNER: This is a kidnapping, Agent Mulder. A little girl snatched from her bedroom. Basic missionary-style FBI work. It's not an X-File.
MULDER: I'm aware of the facts.
SKINNER: We're trying to rule out all possibilities before we start making any statements.
MULDER: That's what I'm talking about-- ruling out other possibilities.
SKINNER: I can't just give you the case. I have to follow protocol. Behavioral gets first crack, then the people down at N.C.M.E.C.
MULDER: Two, three, four hours-- this case is going to be a circus. Every starstruck attorney in America is going to want to represent these people for free. If somebody doesn't ask the right questions right now they may never get asked.
SKINNER: (pause, looks at his watch) You've got till noon. Mulder... the agents in my office... they have a pool going.
(MULDER starts walking toward the elevator.)
MULDER: They think she's dead. Don't bet on it.
(SKINNER watches him leave.)
(Outside the LAPIERRE's house. It is a crime scene and media circus. MULDER drives up, gets out and makes his way up to the OFFICER who is holding back the REPORTERS.)
OFFICER: Make room, make room. Back it up. Back it up. Come on, a little more, sir. A little more.
REPORTER: (to MULDER) Excuse me, have they found the girl? Are there any new developments in the case? Is she dead?
REPORTER 2: Are the parents suspects in the disappearance of their daughter?
(MULDER ignores the reporters and goes into the house. HARRY BRING, a small nervous man in the house stops MULDER.)
HARRY BRING: Sorry, no press allowed inside.
(MULDER holds out his badge.)
MULDER: Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI. I'd like to speak to Mr. and Mrs. LaPierre, if I may.
HARRY BRING: My clients have nothing to say. (hands over his card) Uh... Harry Bring. How can I help you?
MULDER: Mr. Bring, your your card says "real estate law and conveyances." Have you ever handled a murder case?
HARRY BRING: This isn't a murder case.
MULDER: Well, it might as well be once the facts about Amber Lynn's disappearance get out.
HARRY BRING: My clients are not murderers and and I resent any such accusation.
MULDER: Yeah. If you really want to help your clients, Mr. Bring get them a real lawyer.
MR. LAPIERRE: It's okay, Harry.
(MR. LAPIERRE is holding his sobbing wife on the couch.)
MR. LAPIERRE: Billie and I got nothing to hide.
(MULDER sits across from them and speaks gently. MRS. LAPIERRE gets herself calmed down.)
MULDER: Mr. And Mrs. LaPierre, my name is Fox Mulder. I'm a Special Agent with the FBI and I have a lot of experience with crimes like the one that took place here. I know you've made a statement to the police but I'd like to ask you some questions about that and I'd like you to answer in as much detail as both you and your lawyer are comfortable with. I want to ask you about the note you found. Where did you find it?
MR. LAPIERRE: In my daughter's bedroom.
MR. LAPIERRE: When I went to check on her.
MULDER: Um, do you know what time that was?
MR. LAPIERRE: 9:30, I think. Right-right about then. I was watching TV in here.
MULDER: What were you watching?
MR. LAPIERRE: I never heard of it before. It was good.
MULDER: What about you, Mrs. LaPierre?
MRS. LAPIERRE: (pause as she looks at her husband) I was in bed already.
MULDER: Were you asleep?
MRS. LAPIERRE: Half.
MULDER: Is that Amber Lynn's bedroom that I saw down the hallway there?
MRS. LAPIERRE: (whisper) Yes.
MULDER: Do you always lock your doors at night even if you're home?
MRS. LAPIERRE: (nodding, almost crying) Yes.
MULDER: You know most of your neighbors, I bet up and down the street. You're on good terms with them?
MR. LAPIERRE: Most of them, yes.
MULDER: Can you think of anyone that might have wanted to hurt Amber Lynn?
(MRS. LAPIERRE sobs loudly.)
MRS. LAPIERRE: No.
HARRY BRING: (defensively) That's enough questions. They've been very helpful but I think you can see these folks have nothing whatsoever to hide.
MULDER: Mr. and Mrs. LaPierre, I want you to understand something because it's going to get very confusing from here on in. But whatever else the FBI says or does they're going to try their damndest to find your little girl.
MRS. LAPIERRE: Okay.
MULDER: Thank you.
(MULDER starts to leave.)
MRS. LAPIERRE: Agent Mulder... do you think they will? Find her?
MULDER: (softly) Oh, I hope so. Yeah... I really do.
(Night. Car pulls up to a motel room. SCULLY gets out and knocks at the door. MULDER is lying fully dressed on the bed. The only light is from the television. MULDER doesn't get up.)
MULDER: It's open.
(SCULLY opens the door. She's not very happy.)
MULDER: Come on in.
SCULLY: What are you doing?
MULDER: Amber Lynn LaPierre.
SCULLY: Mind if I turn on a light?
MULDER: (softly) Yeah. I do.
(SCULLY closes the door.)
SCULLY: Skinner is royally pissed. At you.
(MULDER watches as MR. LAPIERRE is hounded by a reporter.)
MULDER: I'm sure he is.
SCULLY: He expected a report at noon. He waited. Now he sent me to find you, to get it.
MULDER: I don't have a report.
SCULLY: They had to move on the case. The media got wind of the police findings and they're going to broadcast them. The parents are being held for further questioning.
MULDER: They're not guilty, Scully.
SCULLY: The facts would say otherwise. There's no sign of a break-in. Both parents were home when the girl disappeared.
MULDER: They lied about where they found the note.
MULDER: That's what I've been thinking about.
(On the television, we see a news story about Jon-Benet Ramsey segue into a story about AMBER LYNN LAPIERRE.)
SCULLY: Is it the media or just our own morbid fascination with the killing of an innocent?
MULDER: She's not dead, Scully.
(MULDER's cell phone rings. He answers it.)
MULDER: (on phone) Mulder.
WOMAN: (on phone) Fox? It's me.
(MULDER is surprised.)
MULDER: (on phone) Mom? Hi.
(In her house, MRS. MULDER is watching the same news story.)
MRS. MULDER: (on phone) I'm watching the news. That little girl in California-- you're out there, aren't you?
MULDER: (on phone) Yes. I am. Are you okay, Mom?
MRS. MULDER: (on phone) When are you coming back here?
MULDER: (on phone) Well, I'm not sure. I... You know, I... I don't know.
MRS. MULDER: (on phone) Call when you get back, Fox.
MULDER: (on phone) Okay, I will. Um, you take care, Mom, okay?
(He hears a dial tone and hangs up. Clinton is now on the news.)
(MRS MULDER looks at the framed picture of YOUNG MULDER and YOUNG SAMANTHA standing next to a tree.)
(SKINNER's office. The agents are looking at forensic evidence from the case. The note that MRS. LAPIERRE wrote is on the overhead projector.)
SKINNER: From the note we can and have determined several facts. There is a threat of physical violence but no demand for money or ransom. The note is short and written on a torn piece of paper suggesting haste and little or no planning.
(SKINNER looks up as MULDER and SCULLY enter the office.)
SKINNER: The paper's a type used by dry cleaners to protect laundered garments. The torn piece the note was found on matches exactly a piece that was found in the garbage at the LaPierre home. The ink matches a felt tip pen that was also found in the garbage. One set of prints were found on it-- Billie LaPierre's prints.
MULDER: Is it her handwriting?
AGENT FLAGLER: That's going to be difficult to prove due to the felt tip pen and the quality of the paper which tends to cause bleeding and makes the handwriting indistinct. It also looks like there's been an attempt to disguise the writing. By using samples of Mrs. LaPierre's handwriting, you see dominant letter forms-- the "s" in "strangle..." "Stray dog..." Here in "Santa Claus..." matches up with the S's in "dollars..." "Seven" and "cents."
(Compares the writing with a check carbon.)
AGENT FLAGLER: Enough to make a connection.
MULDER: But not an indictment.
SKINNER: (patronizing) Do you have information you'd like to share with us, Agent Mulder?
MULDER: Bud LaPierre says he'd been watching television and had gotten up to go to bed when he found Amber Lynn missing. But according to the police report the TV set was still on when the first officers arrived on the scene. By his own account both mother and father put Amber Lynn to bed and were never more than 20 feet from her room during the period in which she was abducted. The LaPierres know all their neighbors up and down the street -- are on good terms with them. But no one saw a stranger on a Friday at a fairly early hour enter into a locked and lighted home and remove this little girl undetected.
AGENT FLAGLER: Husband's lying for his wife.
MULDER: I don't think so.
(MULDER stares at the note.)
MULDER: Because that doesn't explain what happened to this little girl.
(MULDER leaves the room. AGENTS look at each other. SCULLY looks at SKINNER, then follows MULDER.)
(SCULLY joins MULDER in the X-Files office where he is looking through files.)
SCULLY: What are you doing, Mulder?
MULDER: There's something in that abduction note that I've seen before.
SCULLY: That's not what I mean. You're personalizing this case. You're identifying with your sister.
MULDER: (with a soft smile at himself) My sister was taken by aliens. Did I say anything about aliens, Scully.
SCULLY: There are a lot of good agents up there in Skinner's office who do not have the patience for this.
MULDER: What did I do? I provided a logical counterpoint.
SCULLY: You told them that they were wrong, Mulder.
MULDER: And they are.
(He hands her a file. In it is a note that ends: "I will not hesitate to execute this child. Don't do anything dumb. No one shoots at Santa Claus.")
MULDER: Pocatello, Idaho, 1987. Look familiar?
(A man is sitting in a car with a tiny Santa figurine dangling from the rearview mirror. He is video taping children playing.)
(Women's prison. MULDER and SCULLY are admitted to KATHY LEE TENCATE's cell. She is in her late 30's, hair cut very short. She looks eager for company.)
GUARD: Kathy Lee. Visitors are here.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Oh, can you let them in, please?
MULDER: Hi, Miss Tencate, my name is Agent Mulder. This is Agent Scully. Will you have a seat?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: It's not the Ritz.
MULDER: (gentle) Um, we just have a few questions. We've reviewed the facts of your case and the facts seem to speak for themselves. Your six-year-old son, Dean, was taken from his bed while he slept. A note was found threatening his life later determined to be written by you. You plead innocent at trial but you were convicted and sentenced to 12 years even though your son's body was never found.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Yes, that's right.
MULDER: Your story is that, uh on the night your son disappeared you had a vision of him dead, but you thought it was your mind playing tricks on you but when you got up to check on him he was missing from his bed. Is that accurate?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Yes.
MULDER: Now, three years ago after seven years of incarceration, you changed your story and confessed to the murder of your son in a fit of insanity. A psychotic break.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Yes, that's right.
SCULLY: Why did you do it?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I don't know. I was full of rage.
MULDER: I have a, uh, copy of the note that you wrote. Do you mind if I show it to you?
(KATHY LEE TENCATE shakes her head.)
MULDER: Now there's a phrase down here at the bottom. "No one shoots at Santa Claus." Can you explain what that means to me?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Uh, it means, that, uh... when someone promises you something, a gift-- like Santa Claus-- that no one would do anything for fear of not getting the gift.
MULDER: A little girl disappeared from her bed three days ago. This is a note that was left at that scene. Will you take a look at that and tell me what it says at the bottom?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Same thing.
MULDER: Neither note makes a specific demand. In both cases, there's no evidence of foul play or a break-in. And as in your son's case there's no body to be found.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I told them where the body was.
MULDER: Yes, you did, but, uh, it wasn't where you said it was going to be.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I can't explain it.
MULDER: I think you can.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I can't.
MULDER: You can't explain it because you didn't do anything. You didn't kill your son and you didn't bury him. You're not guilty of anything other than a lie just like these people. The only reason you changed your story was to get out of here because you knew the parole board might buy the story of a psychotic break and of your terrible remorse but they would never, never let a woman out of jail who claimed her son just disappeared out of thin air. Now, these people, they need someone to tell them it's okay. Someone to corroborate their story.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I'm not that person.
MULDER: They need your help.
(GUARD enters the cell. MULDER and SCULLY leave.)
SCULLY: That was utterly irresponsible, Mulder. It was out of line and it was without any basis in reality.
MULDER: Do you think that woman could have killed her son?
SCULLY: She was convicted in a court of law.
MULDER: So how do you explain those two notes written ten years apart could contain the same obscure phrase?
SCULLY: I can't explain it, Mulder, but you're doing exactly what I said. You're personalizing this case.
MULDER: No, I'm going to solve this case. I am going to solve it.
MULDER: I'm going to find those kids.
(Another GUARD lets them out of the block.)
SCULLY: What if they're dead, Mulder? Don't go looking for something you don't want to find.
(KATHY LEE TENCATE is crying on her bed. She looks up and sees a small boy in her cell staring at her. He is surrounded by a halo of light. The boy vanishes. She gets up and goes to the bars of her cell.)
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Guard. Guard, please can you get them back? Guard! I need to talk.
MULDER: (voice on machine) This is Fox Mulder. Leave a message. I'll try to get back to you.
(The machine beeps. In her house, TEENA MULDER is looking at pictures of her son and daughter. She takes one out of it's frame and drops it into a wastebasket to burn.)
TEENA MULDER: (voice on phone) Fox, it's your mother. I'd hoped you'd call upon your return but I haven't heard from you. I'm sure you're busy. There are so many emotions in me I wouldn't know where to start. So much that I've left unsaid for reasons I hope one day you'll understand.
(Police station or lawyer's office. MULDER enters and is there with the lawyer, HARRY BRING and MR. and MRS. LAPIERRE.)
HARRY BRING: This is highly unusual.
(MULDER closes the door.)
HARRY BRING: I want to know what you're doing here.
MULDER: There's something I want your clients to see.
HARRY BRING: I want to know what it is first.
MULDER: (putting a cassette into the video player) Don't shoot at Santa Claus, Mr. Bring. You're going to want to see it, too. (to the LAPIERREs.) I believe you share a secret.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: (on video tape) I'm, uh... I'm doing this because I feel that it's the right thing to do and because I know what you're going through and I wouldn't want to happen to you what happened to me. I just want to tell you that your little girl is okay. (MRS. LAPIERRE sobs) And I know you're afraid of the truth because I saw things that I was afraid of, too and I can't explain all of it except to say that I don't remember... Ever... Thinking those words that I wrote, let along writing them. It was like they wrote themselves using my hand. But, um, what I know for sure because I feel it in my heart is that my son is safe and protected and in a better place.
(MRS. LAPIERRE cries.)
(Multiple monitors show children laughing and images of AMBER LYNN. Some have news broadcasts.)
NEWSCASTER: Rumors and suspicions aside the parents of Amber Lynn LaPierre were released today for lack of evidence against them and after giving a new statement to the Sacramento police which insiders say has authorities still baffled and confused recounting a detailed story that claims supernatural forces were at work when their daughter was abducted. The LaPierres, seen here returning to their home declined comment...
(A man enters the room and watches. One of the monitors shows MULDER being interviewed.)
MULDER: (on video) ...Federal investigation of the case will continue but will no longer focus on the LaPierres as primary suspects. We, uh, we will intensify our search for Amber Lynn and we remain hopeful of her eventual safe return.
(Scene changes to SKINNER's office where SKINNER and MULDER are watching a recorded image of the newcast.)
SKINNER: (pausing the video) Intensify our search where? The twilight zone?
MULDER: I have a corroborating witness.
SKINNER: In state prison.
MULDER: There's a material connection between these two women.
SKINNER: The only connection, Agent Mulder, is you. I've got people busting their butts on this thing, Agent Mulder. Putting together hard evidence, real evidence while you're out gathering Grimm's Fairy Tales from convicted murderers.
MULDER: It doesn't make sense. It's incomprehensible in any kind of a real world way.
SKINNER: I deal in the real world, Agent Mulder. You begged onto this case as part of the solution. All you've done is hand our only suspects the Twinkie Defense.
(SCULLY has entered the room.)
SKINNER: (very irritated) What? What is it, Agent Scully?
SCULLY: I need to have a word with Agent Mulder.
SKINNER: It can wait.
SCULLY: No, it can't, sir.
MULDER: What is it, Scully?
SCULLY: (softly) Mulder, your mom's dead.
(MULDER stares at her.)
(MRS. MULDER's house. Some OFFICERS are investigating the kitchen. MULDER enters, followed by SCULLY, and goes over and speaks to the OFFICERS in the kitchen. SCULLY watches MULDER with concern. The oven is open and there is tape along the edges of the door. One of the CORONERS hands MULDER an empty prescription bottle. MULDER goes into the bedroom area. SCULLY follows.)
MULDER: Over here.
SCULLY: What is it?
MULDER: (indicating the prescription bottle) Diazepam. She used them to sleep.
SCULLY: Was there a note?
MULDER: (sighs "no") She called when I was in California. She wanted to talk, but, uh... I never called her back.
MULDER: (confused) Uh... Why would she do this? It just doesn't make any sense.
(MULDER wanders over to the dresser.)
SCULLY: We never truly know why.
MULDER: No, she wouldn't kill herself. (looks at empty frames) Why are these pictures gone? There were photos here. There were photos of my sister and I. This is all that she had left of us and they're missing. Why...?
(MULDER sits on the bed and closes his eyes and sighs. SCULLY sits on the bed behind him.)
MULDER: She saw me on the news. She wanted to talk about the missing girl, Amber Lynn. She wanted to tell me something about her, or maybe she couldn't tell me over the phone because she was afraid that they would do something like this to her.
MULDER: (rationalizing, grasping) Whoever took my sister. Look at this place. I mean, it's like... it's-it's all staged-- the pills, the oven, the tape. It's like a bad movie script. They would they would have come here and they would have threatened her. She would be upset; they would have to sedate her. I would look for a, uh... a needle puncture mark or something else in her system besides these pills.
SCULLY: (rising, pleading) Oh, no, Mulder. Please don't ask me to do this.
MULDER: Scully, who else can I ask?
SCULLY: An autopsy, Mulder? I mean, it's one thing on a stranger but you're my friend, and she's your mother...
MULDER: I know, but if you don't do it, I might never know the truth.
(They look at each other. SCULLY sighs. She will do it.)
(Prison. The GUARD lets MULDER into KATHY LEE TENCATE's cell.)
MULDER: (tired, quietly) You've seen things. I need to understand them.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Something's happened to you.
MULDER: My mother is dead. You know why.
(She shakes her head.)
MULDER: Look, I can help you. I can talk to the parole board for you. But right now, I need you to help me.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I don't understand what you want.
MULDER: I'm not here by accident. My sister was taken away from me when she was eight years old... like your son was taken away from you.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Where's your sister now?
MULDER: (soft laugh) I don't know.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: Your mother knew, didn't she?
MULDER: Why do you ask that?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: She was trying to tell you.
MULDER: Tell me what?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: She'd seen them.
KATHY LEE TENCATE: The walk-ins. Old souls looking for new homes. Your sister's among them.
MULDER: You can see them?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: (smiles) Yes. But sometimes it's very difficult because they live in the starlight.
MULDER: (pause, perhaps not believing her) Is my sister dead?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: They took her to protect her soul from the great harm it would have suffered in her life just like they did my little boy.
MULDER: Where do they take them? Your boy? This little girl, Amber Lynn LaPierre?
KATHY LEE TENCATE: I don't know. But they're okay. I'm sure your sister's there, too.
(Arched gate for "Santa's North Pole Village Where it's Christmas All Year Round" Sound of children laughing and talking as a station wagon pulls up and kids get out run in to see some reindeer in a pen. WORLD WEARY DAD follows.)
LITTLE GIRL: That's not Rudolph.
YOUNG BOY: Do they all have names?
LITTLE GIRL: Is not. Is not.
YOUNG BOY: (singing) Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose
CHILDREN: Like a light bulb! Red-nosed reindeer!
YOUNG BOY: You can't say it.
LITTLE GIRL: Yes, I could.
YOUNG BOY: No, you can't.
LITTLE GIRL: I could.
YOUNG BOY: No, you can't.
(A PAUNCHY MAN, late 40s, walks up to the pen.)
WORLD WEARY DAD: Hey, buddy. The kids want to see Santa. What about it?
PAUNCHY MAN: He's just flying in.
LITTLE GIRL: We're going to see Santa!
(The kids cheer. The PAUNCHY MAN unlocks and goes into one of the buildings on the complex. It is the room with all the video monitors that we saw earlier. "Good King Wenceslas" playing softly on piano. The PAUNCHY MAN begins changing clothes.)
(MULDER's apartment. He is in jeans and his gray t-shirt. He is rewinding and listening to the message on his answering machine over and over. It's not easy for him.)
TEENA MULDER: (voice) Fox, it's your mother. I'd hoped you'd call upon your return but I haven't heard from you. I'm sure you're busy. There are... so many emotions in me I wouldn't know where to start. So much that I've left unsaid, for reasons I hope one day you'll understand.
(He rewinds again and puts his head close to the machine as if trying to hear any noise in the background.)
TEENA MULDER: (voice) There are... so many emotions in me I wouldn't know where to start. So much that I've left unsaid for reasons I hope one day you'll understand.
(he leans his head on the machine. There is a knock at the door. MULDER opens it for SCULLY. She looks very sad and tired.)
MULDER: I'm glad you're here. My mother was trying to tell me something. I think I figured it out. It's something about my sister that she was never able to tell me.
(He plays the tape for her.)
TEENA MULDER: (voice) So much that I've left unsaid for reasons I hope one day you'll understand.
MULDER: She knew what I'd find with this case out in California.
SCULLY: How could she know that, Mulder?
MULDER: A child disappearing without a trace-- without evidence-- in defiance of all logical explanation? She knew because of what's driven me-- what I've always believed.
SCULLY: (walking toward him) Mulder...
MULDER: Scully, these parents who've lost... (swallows painfully) who've lost their children... They've had visions of their sons and daughters in scenarios that never happened but which they describe in notes that came through them as automatic writing and words that came through them psychically from old souls protecting the children. My mother must have written a note like that herself. Describing the scenario of my sister's disappearance of her, of her abduction by aliens. Don't you see, Scully? It never happened. All these visions that I've had have just been... they've been to help me cope, to help me deal with the loss but... I've been looking for my sister in the wrong place. That's... what my mother was trying to tell me. That's what she was trying to warn me about. That's why they killed her.
(SCULLY is sitting facing him.)
SCULLY: Your mother killed herself, Mulder. I conducted the autopsy. She was dying of an incurable disease. An untreatable and horribly disfiguring disease called Paget's Carcinoma. She knew it. There were doctor's records. She didn't want to live.
(MULDER stares at her a moment, then puts his face in his hands. Suddenly he stands and shakes the desk violently. SCULLY touches his arm to calm him down. He pulls away in agony, starting to break down.)
MULDER: She was trying to tell me something. She was... (voice breaking as he cries) ...trying to tell me something.
(SCULLY is almost crying herself.)
SCULLY: Mulder, she was trying to tell you to stop. To stop looking for your sister. She was just trying to take away your pain.
(MULDER turns to her desperately and holds her tightly around her waist and cries. SCULLY holds him and puts her lips against his neck. She rocks him gently.)
(Bedroom. MR. LAPIERRE gets into bed and puts his arm around his wife. MRS. LAPIERRE looks up and gasps as she sees AMBER LYNN standing in the bedroom surrounded by a faint light. AMBER LYNN's lips move as she says something.)
(Next morning. Knock on MULDER's apartment door. SCULLY goes to the door and opens it for SKINNER. She is still wearing the clothes from the night before. She looks very tired.)
SKINNER: (looking into the apartment) How's he doing?
SCULLY: It's been a hard night for him.
(Pause. Small face off.)
SKINNER: Billie LaPierre is asking for him. She's got something to say and she'll only talk to Mulder.
SCULLY: It's not a good...
(SCULLY stops and looks over her shoulder as MULDER comes up behind her.)
MULDER: What is it?
SKINNER: This case has heated up. I've booked two flights for us.
(SCULLY looks up at MULDER. MULDER nods and goes back into the apartment. SCULLY looks at SKINNER.)
SCULLY: Well, then you better book three.
(The LAPIERRE's bedroom. MRS. LAPIERRE is asleep. Her husband gently wakes her.)
MR. LAPIERRE: Honey, wake up. He's here. Come in, Agent Mulder.
(MULDER enters followed by SCULLY.)
MULDER: (indicating SCULLY) It's okay. She's here to help. What happened here, Billie?
MRS. LAPIERRE: I saw my daughter right in this room.
MRS. LAPIERRE: Standing right there. I swear to god. She was right over there in the pajamas her grandma gave her... saying something to me.
MULDER: What was she saying?
MRS. LAPIERRE: I don't know. Her lips were moving but I couldn't hear. (sobs) I thought... I thought she was saying "74."
MULDER: "74"? The number 74? Does that mean anything to you?
(MRS. LAPIERRE shakes her head.)
MULDER: (without much hope) 74 mean anything to you, Mr. LaPierre?
(He shakes his head.)
(MULDER, SCULLY, and SKINNER leave the house.)
MULDER: Let's go home.
SCULLY: Mulder, we just got here.
MULDER: We're not going to find these people's daughter alive.
SCULLY: How do you know that?
MULDER: What we're hearing-- it's the delusional talk of people that don't want to accept the truth.
SKINNER: You think they know what happened to their child?
MULDER: Maybe, maybe not but you can't see a ghost and still hope to find her alive. Both things can't be true. And if this little girl's spirit really did appear to her mother then there's probably only one explanation.
SKINNER: You think their daughter's dead.
SCULLY: Well, what about the handwritten note?
MULDER: (sad, tired) I don't know what that means. I don't know what is the truth and what isn't anymore. I'm way too close to this case to make any kind of sound judgment. In fact, I would like to ask for you to let me off this case, please, and I'd like to take some time off.
(SCULLY and SKINNER look at each other as MULDER walks to the car.)
(Later, SKINNER is driving SCULLY and MULDER along a rural road. MULDER is in the back seat staring out the window. SCULLY, in the passenger seat, glances back at him with concern. They pass a highway sign for Route 74. SCULLY thinks for a moment then pulls a very good road map out of the glove box.)
SKINNER: What is it?
(SCULLY follows Route 74 on the map to Santa's North Pole Village.)
SCULLY: Santa Claus.
SCULLY: Stop. Turn around.
(They arrive at Santa's North Pole Village. SKINNER looks around outside. It appears to be deserted. MULDER and SCULLY pass Christmas decorations and go into the room with the videos. They see SKINNER walking around.)
MULDER: Some of these tapes go back to the '60s.
(They put a tape in the machine.)
MULDER: I think I know what we're going to find here. It's what my mother was afraid of. My sister.
(They watch one of the tapes. Children are looking at the reindeer. One of the little girls is AMBER LYNN LAPIERRE.)
SCULLY: It's Amber Lynn LaPierre. This tape was dated two days before her disappearance.
(MULDER sees someone on one of the monitors and turns just as the PAUNCHY MAN slams and locks the door. MULDER begins trying to break down the door. SKINNER sees PAUNCHY MAN running and follows him.)
(SKINNER chases PAUNCHY MAN. MULDER breaks open the door and he and SCULLY follow. Either SKINNER needs to work out more or MULDER and SCULLY should qualify for the Olympic sprinting team because suddenly they are right behind him.)
(SKINNER fires his gun into the air and the PAUNCHY MAN freezes and drops to his knees.)
SKINNER: Keep your hands up.
(SKINNER holds a gun on him as SCULLY cuffs him.)
SCULLY: What's your name?
PAUNCHY MAN: Ed... Scruloff...
SCULLY: You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak with an attorney and to have the attorney present during questioning. If you so desire...
(MULDER looks around at the ground with growing horror.)
(SCULLY and SKINNER look. All around them are what look like child-sized graves.)
[TO BE CONTINUED ...]