Six women. Six abductions. Each unique in their style and completely baffling. Danielle Simmons, Helen Croush, Beatrice Dorner, Rachel Bidman, Camille Douglas and Kelly Frank all taken for a period of several weeks and then returned. All unwilling or unable to speak of their abduction except to say that they had nothing to report. It was odd. None of the women knew each other and their only similarity seemed to be the fact that they were attractive and successful. Each worked in a key upper management position or owned their own company. Each was in good standing with the community and possessed an impressive financial portfolio.
Money was not a motive. None of the women were coerced or threatened for payment and no ransom notes were ever sent. The women were not abused sexually. A few, under the pressing of the local authorities, even consented to a medical exam. There were no drug traces or marks. It was as if each of the women took an unwanted, sudden vacation. The only key difference seem to materialize in their behavior. The six women now seemed calm and quiet in direct contrast to their normal aggressive persona. Threatened with harassment the police eventually dropped their investigation. One by one the women stopped talking. A few women quit their jobs and moved away.
However, local authorities feared the abductions were only the beginning. The perpetrator would escalate. This could manifest into a myriad of intense scenarios; all of which would translate into police failure. So the police continued their investigation and concentrated exclusively on the evidence. Personal invitations to the victims; the calling card of the abductor.
Helen Croush received a small unmarked envelope. Mysteriously it appeared on her desk. No one knew how it had been delivered. Inside the envelope was an invitation to a private spa complete with complimentary massage and facial. This was not unusual. Many of the women due to their charity donations often received unsolicited offers. There was a telephone number to book your time and schedule a limousine pickup. In bold letters printed across the top of the invitation the words "Baby yourself" appeared. Witnesses remember seeing Helen step into a black limousine parked in the circle driveway. That was all. The driver opened the door but no one remembered height, build or the slightest trait concerning his description. He had purposely parked adjacent to the stone columns to avoid the surveillance cameras. That was the last time anyone saw Helen until a patrol cruiser picked her up naked on the outskirts of town.
The number on the invitation was a dummy cell phone number piggy backed on another account. That account was now dead. The address of the spa was an abandoned warehouse owned by the city. Crime investigators concluded the warehouse was not the site of the abduction. The limousine had been stolen and returned to the lot from which it had been borrowed. Unfortunately due to the slow follow up any latent evidence was inconclusive. Still the crime lab poked and prodded through the limousine but found nothing. The invitation was printed on common stock and manufactured locally. The ink was from a Hewlett Packard desk-jet, probably a 9800. No hair, no fiber, no prints, nothing. He had been very careful.
Rachel Bidman received a two night getaway at a nearby Bed and Breakfast. Her invitation offered her to "Relax". Beatrice Dorner received a dinner cruise with complimentary limousine transportation. Her message read "Time to sail away". However, to the investigators Danielle Simmons' invitation seemed to offer the most promise. She received six months free membership to a trendy new gym for her recent charity donations. She arrived, changed into her gym clothes and vanished. The police were grateful for the break and felt that the kidnapper was close to capture; but the lead yielded nothing. All of the employees were clean and it became apparent that they were dealing with someone from the outside. The only lead was the description of an unknown maintenance employee. Frustrated the police listened to the conflicting descriptions of the mystery man.
All of the women turned up nude. Some materialized at their offices and others on empty roads. Unfortunately, none of the women seemed to have any knowledge of their experience. The only clear recollection they shared was useless. They all insisted they had never seen their abductor nor heard his real voice. When he did speak it was always altered and modulated. Only one incident evoked a raised eyebrow from the detectives. Officer Sharon Hanson was present during the Kelly Frank's session. At this time the police did not know the extent of the abductions and were leaning toward a more plausible scenario such as a jealous boyfriend or colleague.
Despite the insistent questions Kelly Frank remained calm. She continued to stonewall. It was obvious that she remembered something but was not telling. Frustrated the detective in charge suggested a break. Kelly Frank's deadpan expression never wavered. Her beautiful features framed by her thick brown hair remained still. At twenty eight she held a corporate position of immense responsibility. Confrontation was no stranger. In an effort to bond with Kelly Officer Hanson went to her purse to find some gum. Normally her purse would had been stored in her locker but she was scheduled for court and did not want to trek all the way back downstairs to retrieve it. Procedure dictated otherwise but they were only taking a statement and not interrogating. Sharon moved a few items in her purse and lifted out her hairbrush. Kelly Frank's eyes transfixed on the wooden item and began to cry. It was assumed that the tremendous strain of her ordeal had taken it's toll. She was released to be questioned later. No one connected the two events.
When Camille Douglas was discovered on an access road nude and sobbing at three o'clock in the morning; the local authorities contacted the FBI. The escalation of violence theory persisted. The police were desperate. At the FBI the case was assigned, reassigned, reassessed then reassigned. It was the dictate of bureaucracy.
Special Agent Dana Scully brushed back the red strands of her hair and closed the case file. She reached for a travel requisition form. This was not a desk investigation. It required personal attention. It was exactly the kind of case that Agent Mulder would have relished. However, once again, in their combined efforts to conclude a case they had broken protocol and procedure. Now they were off of the X-files separated and forbidden contact. Frankly she was pleased as she clicked confidently down the halls of the Hoover building unaccompanied. Too long she had existed in Mulder's shadow. She missed him but lately felt superfluous as she filled in the spare pieces of their investigations. Her assignment on the X-files was challenging but she longed to take the lead and follow her own instincts. Their investigations into the paranormal had garnered them a dubious reputation; which is why Assistant Director Skinner had assigned her this particular case.
"I know this seems like an X-file Agent Scully, but I think the locals are just seeking attention. The Chief of Police is a bit of a grandstander. I'd like our profile there to be low key. I don't want another media blowout. Just go up there and poke around and point them in the right direction. You'll be taking lead on this but I want you to stay in the background. You will be working with a Detective Tyler. I've been assured that they will give all the manpower needed. It's your case." Skinner rattled.
Skinner leaned back and eased his large frame into the black leather chair. He adjusted the rolled sleeves of his crisp white shirt. Scully knew the signs. Skinner was busy and obviously bothered by the intrusion of this new case. Her reply was brief.
"Sir, I don't think this is an X-file, but it does lean to the strange. I've reviewed the available evidence and worked up a profile. It's all in there. I do think the local detectives are correct that the kidnapper will eventually escalate to violence."
"You ever seen anything like this?"
"No sir. Victims of kidnapping are resistant but not to this degree. There is Helsinki syndrome but I don't think that applies here."
"Well, I don't mean to sound sexist Agent Scully but a woman's perspective may be useful on this."
"I agree sir."
Agent Scully unceremoniously entered the Portland Police Central Precinct on Second Avenue. Cleared by the Desk Officer she made her way upstairs to the detectives. Scully had been in dozens of police stations. They melded together in a stereotype of thrift store desks and antiquated metal chairs punctuated by flickering florescent lamps. Scully never anticipated the reception of local law enforcement. Their attitude was often fickle and she was well aware of first impressions. Scully wore her long coat, blue blouse, dark pants and high heels. A few officers paused to watch the womanly vision of understated sophistication.
The squad room resembled a precision dance recital as officers weaved past each other. The name plate near Scully read "Det. Tyler". She studied the family photo and replaced it. As she turned to scan the room a large uniformed officer knocked her elbow.
"Watch it red!" The woman officer spat. She shifted the stack of files in her meaty hands.
"Sorry." Agent Scully uttered softly with her eyebrows sarcastically raised.
"Excuse me?" Scully called.
"Yes?" the large woman replied sharply.
She wheeled and faced Agent Scully. The woman officer was very tall and blessed with a breast line that strained the seams of her uniform. Scully involuntarily inhaled.
"Yes?" She asked again. "As you can see we're a little busy. What?"
"Do you know where I can find Detective Tyler?"
"There." She pointed to the corner office.
"Thank..." Scully answered to the woman's back.
"Don't worry about Herrick." Detective Tyler interjected.
"She just got passed over again. Trying to make Sergeant. She's smart but she has... well, attitude."
Agent Scully smiled but it manifested more as a smirk than the friendly open smile she imagined.
"Don't worry, she's fine, just overworked. You're Agent Scully right? So what do you need?" He asked.
"I want to start with the evidence."
"Okay. But there's something you should know before you start. Kelly Frank committed suicide this morning. There wasn't a note or anything, she just checked out. I'll get back to you with the details."
"I know it's difficult but let's see if we can get the family to agree to an autopsy. It might help." Scully said.
Hours later Agent Scully's vision began to blur. She pinched the bridge of her nose under her glasses. Detective Tyler popped his head into the interrogation room.
"No thank you."
"No, not really. Little things. Look at this." Agent Scully slid the plastic evidence bags toward Tyler.
"The words on the invitations. "Baby", "Pamper", "Surrender", "Relax", "Time. They're all in bold. There is an obvious theme here. I think he views these women a certain way. Think about what he's doing. He's offering these invitations to them. He doesn't force them. He wants them to come to him of their own free will." Scully stated flatly.
"You think he knows these women?"
"No. I don't think so but he's obviously choosing them well in advance based on his careful planning. He knew where to park when he picked up Helen Croush. The maintenance uniform at the gym. He knew that the air conditioning was broken. I think it's more likely that the victims represent a woman or several women from his past. And all of them share similar characteristics. They average in height and build. They are older but appear young and they are all very successful in their field."
"Something that's bugged me from the beginning. Why paper? Why send hard evidence to the victims. Why not e-mail? It's not untraceable but it's not as obvious."
"I think he wants us to know how clever he is. He wants us to have these invitations." Scully added
"You think this guy wants to be caught?"
"Eventually yes. When he's caught the scope of his work be exposed and recognized.
"What work? What is he doing?" Tyler asked.
"I don't know exactly."
Detective Tyler arranged the bags on the table.
"You should get some rest." He suggested.
"I'd really like to interview a few of the women."
"Okay. I don't know how much you'll get out of them. Who do you want to start with?
"Why her?" Tyler questioned.
"Because she's the only one that drove to her own abduction. All the other women were picked up."
"That's interesting. I'll drive. I know where it is." Tyler said.
Rejuvenated by the new information he energetically rolled off the desk. Scully admired his new enthusiastic form.
The street lights rolled rhythmically over the glass as they glided across the glistening pavement of rain swept Portland. Scully rarely relaxed during a case but allowed herself a moment of fantasy. She glanced sideways at Detective Tyler. He was the kind of man to which she was attracted. He was serious about the work but exhibited a playful side. The Miles Davis music that originally filled the car was a clear indication that he was not uptight. He turned it off and apologized for the blast of jazz music and grinned. She pondered how he would fair on a real X-file case. Mulder crowded her mind and Scully was grateful when Detective Tyler broke the silence.
"So have you ever seen anything like this before?"
"A few times but it usually turns out to be a hoax. This is different. What can you tell me about Danielle Simmons?" Scully asked.
Detective Tyler did his best to recall the data. Danielle was a striking blonde woman in her early thirties. However, her youthful bone structure and slim physique cast her more in the range of her early twenties. An advantage she played to its full potential. She started a small software company with a partner five years ago. Their innovative advances in corporate data entry immediately expanded. A few years later Danielle Simmons exercised her option and bought out her partner. Ms. Simmons socialized very little except with share holders and clients. She frequently attended charity events and contributed generous amounts. She was single and there seemed to be no recent relationships or even brief affairs. She did not drink, smoke nor was there any indication of drug use. She worked out regularly at a semi private gym.
They slowly eased to a stop before an elegant two story home. A small porch light illuminated the brick walk way. The house was white with green shutters and the Victorian trim evoked a sense of nostalgia. It reminded Scully of summers in Maine with her father. The pair darted across the lawn anxious to avoid the sprinkle of rain that had returned.
"It's open." Scully pointed.
"Hello? Federal Agent. Ms. Simmons? We just like to talk to you."
"Portland Police, Detective Tyler. Your door was open."
"I'll check upstairs." Scully said.
Tyler nodded and moved into the kitchen. Upstairs Agent Scully noticed a light from the bedroom at the end of the hall. The boards creaked as she slowly entered. On the floor a young girl in braided pigtails hummed as she scrawled in a coloring book. Her thin legs splayed out from under her school uniform. She did not acknowledge the intruder. Scully adopted the soft tone she often reserved for children.
"Hi. What are you coloring?" She bent down next to the girl.
"Nothing. Just a horse." The young girl answered.
"Do you know where your mother is?"
"She's gone. She went to get food. Do you like pizza?" She twisted on her side and faced Scully.
"Uh, yes. Do you?"
She resumed coloring. "I like cheese pizza."
A low cough emanated from the hall. Detective Tyler motioned with his head to Scully. In his hand she saw the framed photo he had taken from the hallway.
"No, but check this out."
"Oh my God."
In the frame was an ordinary photo of a woman dressed in a pinstripe suit; but it was the face that took Agent Scully by surprise. The face was Danielle Simmons. The same face that belonged to the young girl in pigtails. A noise from downstairs startled them.
Several minutes later Mrs. Patricia Simmons was finally calm. She nodded to the law enforcement identifications and apologies. She paced and described the previous months and confirmed that the girl upstairs was indeed her thirty-two year old daughter, Danielle Simmons. She had gone next door to borrow more clothes. The neighbors had a teenage daughter and Danielle flew into a tantrum unless she wore age appropriate clothing.
After her disappearance Danielle returned to her office but seemed odd. Her colleagues were quick to express concern but cautious to suggest anything beyond mild exhaustion. Danielle's demeanor had changed. She came to work early in the morning and never saw any clients. She worked in her office all day with her door closed. She ate very little and her regimen at the gym stopped. She lost several pounds. Three months ago her attorney arrived for a three hour meeting that lasted into the night. The next day she announced she would be stepping down and transferring control of the company to the Board of Directors. She signed a power of attorney over to her mother, sold her condo in the Pearl district and moved back home.
Outside under the yellow porch light Detective Tyler and Agent Scully spoke. The rain pounded the white steps of the suburban home.
"That girl looked like she was in her teens." Tyler commented.
"Obviously she's suffered a great trauma. More than we originally realized. It is common for someone to retreat or even regress in order to escape their own mental anguish. I've just never witnessed it. I think it would be wise to check on the mother. She may be perpetuating her condition."
"Yeah. Okay, but..."
Scully reached behind him and tugged the belt of his trench coat.
"Keep talking but try to look across the street. We're being watched. He was there when we pulled up."
Detective Tyler continued and cocked his head slightly. In the shadows of an oak tree a dark figure stood frozen, a cardboard cutout. Detective Tyler shifted again and the dark figure sprung to life.
"Federal Agent! Stop right there!"