Paul Gadzikowski


Finders Keepers, Chapter One

Thanks to Mary Greten for responding to my Usenet post requesting the details of Scully's comments on time travel from her thesis, as quoted in a 1997 episode of THE X-FILES. Thanks to my wife Leah for details on the classical Louisville supernatural community. Thanks to my mother Claire Gabriel for backstopping me on matters of Catholic doctrine (thus guiding me to
drop that scene).

6:30 P.M., NOVEMBER 23

Dr. Clay Watterson paused for a sip of water. He was having a difficult time keeping himself calm. Of course it dampered his enthusiasm - it always had - that he wouldn't be recognized publicly for his work during his lifetime, if ever. Well, he'd turned the secrecy tables on them - he was much further along than he'd admitted. They'd be in for a surprise tomorrow.

He checked the status indicators on his console, then eyed the interior of the receiving chamber through the window from the control room. Everything was go. Everything had been go the last six times he'd looked. Watterson wouldn't be so nervous if he weren't doing this alone, like all the smaller tests, but it was part of his personal top security plan: As far as his assistants knew and his notes revealed, tomorrow would be the first test, when the bigwigs were here to watch.

Watterson checked the retrieval criteria once more, crossed his fingers, and pressed the initiation switch.

This time the transported object was large enough that the sonic continuum disturbance would have been audible in the control room even without the speakers. But there was a high, strident screeching with it now that there had never been before. It seemed like forever, but it was only a second or two, before Watterson realized that the anomalous noise was only the screaming of the transport object.

It had worked.

Watterson's elation was almost immediately curtailed by the behavior of the transport object. This was the first living test object, and that it would find the experience unpleasant hadn't occurred to him, but apparently it had done so. It was agitated to the point that Watterson was afraid it would do itself injury. Maybe he should send it back. He had hoped to hold it longer, but no matter; he was certain he could duplicate these results later. He started resetting the controls to replace the transport object.

Before he could start in earnest he was distracted by the opening of the receiving chamber door. He looked up, straight into the eyes of the transport object. He looked back down, verifying once again the retrieval criteria. He felt astonishment that a reptillian life form from approximately 43 million B.C. could be intelligent enough to recognize and operate a doorknob.

It was his last thought.

10:30 A.M., NOVEMBER 24

Special Agent Dana Scully wondered how much longer she could take it. In the few months she'd been working with Special Agent Fox Mulder she had grown increasingly incredulous at his credulity. During the drive from Louisville's Standiford Field to the crime scene, he had regaled her with tales of local supernatural phenomena that were so well known he didn't need notes.

"Standard poltergeist stuff," Mulder wrapped up his discussion of a mansion across the river in Indiana, as they pulled into the parking lot of the research building in the rented car. "Then there's the guy who tries to hang around Hurricane O'Malley's after closing, and when you ask him to leave he disappears into thin air."

"Have you investigated any of these personally?" Scully asked as he parked.

"Never been here before," said Mulder. "I don't have any local haunts."

Inside they showed their badges at the front desk, where they were directed to the building security office. From there they were shown to the victim's lab by a security guard, who had come on at eight after the police had been and gone, and knew nothing. The building security chief had left for the station with the police, and either was still there or had gone back to bed. The body had been discovered about midnight during rounds. The guard took them as far as the yellow police tape across the open door to the victim's lab, and went to find someone for them to talk to as they ducked underneath and went in.

Standing in the middle of the crime scene was an oddly dressed little man. A straw narrow-brimmed Panama hat was pushed back on dark, receding hair, between bushy eyebrows and which there was an impressive forehead. He wore a mismatched suit that included a sweater with question marks embroidered all over it, and from the pocket of his dark brown sportcoat hung an umbrella whose red handle was shaped as a question mark.

When he heard them come in he turned and came to them, grinning and shaking their hands. He had prominent front teeth. "Hello," he said, tipping his hat to Scully, "I'm the Doctor."

"I'm Special Agent Scully and this is Special Agent Mulder. You're a colleague of the deceased, Dr. ...?" Scully asked as they flipped their badges.

"We work in the same field," said the Doctor. Shortly Scully would come to consider that a falsehood; eventually, she would realize it was a half-truth. Before either agent could ask him what field he meant he asked, "What's the F.B.I.'s interest?"

"The crime took place on federal property," Mulder said. "That makes it the Bureau's jurisdiction."

"Well, what do you make of it?" The Doctor waved his hand around the room.

Scully guessed it was supposed to be the control room for whatever conditions were to be produced in the chamber visible through the window in the wall opposite the door. She had to guess because the electronics from the console were spread in pieces all over the room, with the exception of the area of the floor marked off by the white tape.

"I'd say Dr. Watterson made someone pretty mad," said Mulder.

"It is essential," said the Doctor, "that I find out exactly what the settings were on this," he waved his hand at the ruined console, "when it happened."

"How is that relevant?" Scully asked.

"It's the most relevant fact in the investigation," said the Doctor. He turned his attention back to their surroundings and started poking at this or that piece of electronic debris with the tip of his umbrella.

"Hello?" Scully and Mulder turned around to find a young man ducking under the tape. "I'm Dr. Speed, I was Dr. Watterson's assistant."

Mulder and Scully introduced themselves. "We've come from Washington to look into this," Mulder said.

"Washington? Why?" asked Speed. His tone of voice suggested he knew the answer.

"Our specialty," said Mulder, annoying Scully obscurely with his plural pronoun, "is cases of a strange and unusual nature. We were given to believe that your project falls into that category. What is it you're doing here?"

"I can't tell you," said Speed.

"It's a primitive timescoop," announced the Doctor. He enunciated the last word with emphasis.

"Primitive?" Speed said, offended. Then, "How do you know that? Who are you?"

"He's not with your project?" Scully asked. Belatedly she noticed that the Doctor was wearing no security pass clipped to his clothes, not even a temporary such as she and Mulder had been issued downstairs.

"I thought he was with you," Speed said.

"How did you get in here, Doctor?" Mulder asked.

"My methods are indistinguishable from magic."

The agents exchanged a glance. "I'm afraid you're going to have to come with us, sir," said Scully.

"Well," said the Doctor, "I prefer to work alone, but if you want to help ..." Scully had originally taken his slight accent as Scottish, but the more she heard of it the less certain she was.

"Sir, this is a high security area," she said. "You haven't any identification and you won't say how you got in -"

"Oh, just call Brigadier Bambera of British UNIT, if you must," the Doctor snapped.


"Doesn't your goverment tell you anything?"

"United Nations Intelligence Taskforce," said Mulder. "It's a top security organization."

The Doctor looked at Mulder as if truly noticing both of them for the first time. "Very good!" Scully noted that he had spoken of UNIT as if he expected them to be familiar with it, but had been unapologetically surprised when Mulder actually fulfilled this apparent expectation. She decided she didn't like him very much.

"UNIT figured in an investigation of mine once," Mulder explained to Scully. "But their work is higher clearance than mine, so I can't cite them in the X-Files. Just his knowing about them lends credence to his claim."

"You don't mean ..."

Mulder nodded. "Go ahead and verify it. But I think we have ourselves a consultant for this case."

"How many times have you used this?" the Doctor was asking Speed.

"It's never been used," said Speed. "The first test was to be today. It's been canceled, of course."

"Someone's been using it," said the Doctor, pointing with his umbrella at a piece of wreckage that Scully couldn't identify. "Look at that chronon filter."

Speed didn't seem persuaded, but answered the Doctor's question. "Only Dr. Watterson could have used it secretly."

"What do you mean by timescoop?" Scully asked.

"A device which reaches back into time," said the Doctor, sticking his arm out vertically through a mimed pipe or tube, "scoops up something, a physical object, into a relative dimensional field," he closed his fist around an imaginary object, "and brings it into the present," he pulled his arm back. "Time," repeating his reach motion, "scoop," repeating the grab and pull. "It's quite simple, really."

"We haven't tested it," Speed insisted. "Only Dr. Watterson understood the theory."

"Someone believed him," Mulder said, "someone important. You don't build equipment like this by saving up your milk money."

"Mulder, the murder investigation," said Scully. With difficulty she brought Mulder's attention back to the real world, asking Speed the usual questions - where were you when, do you know who might want - learning nothing helpful, and dismissing him.

"Forensics have been here and gone," said Mulder. He handed her the rental car's keys. "Why don't you go to police headquarters, check out their reports and the body. I want to look over the security tapes."

"Shouldn't we take a look at the crime scene ourselves?"

"That's in hand, I'd say," said Mulder, indicating the Doctor, who was poking through the remains of the equipment again.

"Yes yes yes, go on, do your own business," said the Doctor dismissively. Scully turned and left the room in a huff, not waiting to see whether Mulder followed; but he did, to accompany her as far as the security office.

Scully slowed to a halt after they left the elevator on the first floor. "What's that?" She pointed to a large blue-painted wooden box, about seven feet tall by four by four, standing in the lobby. There was an electric lamp at the apex of its roof, and at several points it had legends or full-blown notices in block letters. "That wasn't here before, was it?"

"No," said Mulder. "It's a police box, Scully. Kind of a bobby's phone booth. They still had them when I started at Oxford, but by the time I left they'd been phased out because the cops had all started carrying radios."

"What's it doing here?"

"Beats me. Except ..."


"Well, it's kind of an anachronism, right? And the victim was involved in a time-travel experiment ..."

"Mulder!" Scully stalked off for the car, shaking her head.

11:00 A.M., NOVEMBER 24

Sherman Kennedy II wandered out the back of the bus station. He had seventy three minutes to kill on a layover, and had killed six with a package of Hostess cupcakes and a half pint of milk. But when he went to ditch the wrapper and the carton, the trash cans in the station were all stuffed full. Sherman was no litterbug. He went looking for the dumpster.

There was a customer parking lot in the back, and the dumpster was surrounded by cars. To get to the lid he had to squeeze between the dumpster and a badly parked Tempo GL. Just as he was reaching for the lid he tripped over something - someone's forgotten baggage, it felt like. He put his garbage in the dumpster; then he leaned over to get a good look at the object he'd tripped on.

Sherman ended up putting the cupcakes and milk into the dumpster too, in an abrupt and unpleasant manner. The rest of his seventy three minutes, and more, was taken up by interviews with homicide detectives and the Louisville medical examiner.

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Chapter Two


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