The Fig Leaf
10 43rd. St.
When the yellow cab had stopped in front of the strip club, Scully and Skinner had both looked out the car windows with surprise and some shock. Bolted to the brick wall of the exterior of the building, neon figures of a naked woman with an apple and a snake beneath the name of the place - The Fig Leaf.
Skinner then spent five minutes arguing with the cab driver over the address, but it seemed that there was no mistake. Whomever Skinner had dragged her to see was inside.
Unless, of course, this was all just one big joke on her. But one look at Skinner's serious face maintained that he wasn't laughing.
Finally, Skinner paid the man and climbed out of the cab, Scully following. The cab driver pulled their bags from the trunk and dropped them on the cement curb before he got in again and drove off.
After staring at the building for another long minute, Skinner reached down and slung his duffle over his shoulder, then picked up Scully's bag and headed for the door. The second he'd opened the door a crack, the night air was filled with the brutal rhythmic pounding of the music inside.
Squaring his shoulders, he pressed through, leaving Scully to follow in his wake.
Inside, the club reeked of sweat, liquor and smoke. There was enough light to see the barely dressed women gyrating on the stage across from the bar. There were tables surrounding the stage, half filled with men of varying degrees of age. The women, of course, couldn't be more than 25, and Scully guessed a few might be under the legal drinking age as well.
Black panels covered the walls, making what light there was stark and almost harsh. The pounding music was there simply to provide the women something to concentrate on as they performed for the lewd crowd.
Skinner glanced at the stage show for only a moment before his eyes went directly to the bar. As he approached, he looked over the men sitting at the bar. They were a collection of local riff-raff and some made guys. Nothing that he couldn't handle. Stopping at a large empty space between patrons, Skinner leaned in and signaled the bartender.
Halfway down the bar, the heavy-set man in a grimy white dress shirt with the sleeved rolled up turned and noted Skinner's hand and verbal order. The large man made his way to Skinner, his receding black hair a match for Skinner's, but his eyes were cold. He picked up a glass and proceeded to shove it under the spigot, filling it with whatever the house beer was.
"Three bucks," said the bartender, glancing from Skinner to Scully and back again. Skinner pulled three ones from his pocket, along with a twenty and shoved them across the bar.
"I'm looking for Anthony DiMerra. Is he here?" Skinner asked, dropping the bags on the floor as he reached for the glass in front of him.
"Maybe. But I can tell you, he ain't interested in sharin' any profits for the girls here. Sure, your whore is pretty and probably fucks great, but we don't need any girls with an owner that ain't us," the bartender stated sharply, pocketing the twenty and starting to turn away from Skinner to go shove the three bucks into the cash register.
Behind him, Scully's temper was ablaze, shocked at the man's insinuation that Skinner was trying to pimp her to the club. She couldn't believe. . .
Suddenly Skinner's hand flashed over the bar and gripped the bartender's arm. The man turned to face him, and at the same moment, Skinner heard the sound of safety snaps being popped and weapons being drawn.
Shit, he thought. He had wanted to avoid this, but he wasn't letting this prick take his money without giving him the information he wanted. The fact that he'd insulted Scully hadn't really entered into his decision.
Of course he was sure that one of the weapons he'd heard come flying free was his agent's. Unless things cooled down fast, he might have to protect this guy from Scully's wrath. But the big problem seemed to be the five or so guns surrounding him and pointed at the back of his head.
Easing up on his grip, Skinner allowed the bartender to slip from his grasp. One of the men from near the end of the bar got up from his stool and moved towards Scully and Skinner's position. Skinner slowly turned and got a good look at the man with the Beretta 9mm auto pointed in his and Scully's direction.
"Vincent Penella. I figured you'd be dead by now," Skinner said, his hand slowly moving to his back, as Scully moved forward with her Sig, covering for her boss.
"You *should* be Walt," spat Vincent, his gun now directly trained on Scully, as she was the looming threat, but keeping his eyes on Skinner. "After what you did to our boss, you should have ended up fish food. Some of the guys thought you had. What'd you do, skip the country or did you turn? How'd you stay hidden all this time, huh?"
Gripping the butt of his gun, Skinner started to move away from the bar, forcing Vincent to make a choice on who to follow, him or Scully. At the same time, Scully started to move the opposite way, almost directly across from Skinner's position.
"I had nothing to do with Carmine's situation, Vinnie. But I am here to help Anthony. I've got information on what really happened to Carmine, and I know he'll want to hear it. He asked me here."
"You fucking liar! You're the Judas who got Anthony's old man, our *chief* whacked!"
Skinner saw Vinnie's hand start to swing his way, the look in the man's eyes telling him he had two second before his insides were about to become ventilated. With reflexes born on the rice paddies half a world away and honed during his time in the Bureau, he pulled his Smith & Wesson 9mm auto and sent a round through Vinnie's shoulder, making the man drop his gun.
Scully fired a second round into the wall, and spun to aim at the advancing mobsters, suggesting they keep their distance. On the stage, the girls screamed and ran for cover, as some of the patrons ran for the door.
"You fuck! You shot me!" screamed Vinnie, as he clutched his injured shoulder.
From the back area, a young wiseguy appeared and moved through the other armed men to Vinnie's side. He whispered something in the man's ear, and Vinnie's eyebrows shot up, as if in surprise.
"Mr. Skinner," the young man said, and Skinner nodded in his direction, "I'm Benny Alberti. Mr. DiMerra is expecting you. If you'll follow me."
Slowly the gangsters lowered their weapons, and Skinner and Scully did the same. Reaching down, Skinner grabbed their bags and followed Benny as he moved to the back area. Scully glanced over her shoulder as the men helped Vinnie out the door, hopefully taking him to get his shoulder taken care of, and then continued after Skinner and their 'guide'.
Benny ushered Skinner and Scully past the velvet curtain leading to the back rooms of the club. Here, obviously was the rest of the operation - storerooms most likely downstairs, dressing or undressing rooms for the dancers, private rooms for 'special' performances' and what looked to be the manager's office.
They took a sharp right and were soon before a dark wood door. Benny knocked and waited for as response within.
"Come," announced a disembodied voice on the other side.
At that, Benny turned the handle and nearly pushed Skinner in, leaving Scully to follow. She was starting to get annoyed by this whole "macho" attitude and everyone treating her like an after-thought. But she knew she didn't have much choice in the matter. This was Skinner's deal, and she couldn't afford to get angry and piss them off, especially if they really could help them, help *her* find Mulder.
Behind the tacky glass and chrome desk at the center of the dark room sat a young man, about 25, dressed in a stylish suit that was too big for him. Obviously, this was the person that Skinner had come here to see.
Anthony DiMerra. Mob boss and apparently an acquaintance of her boss.
"You realize the only reason you're here Wally, is that I'm curious what you think you have that I want," Anthony started off, wasting no time in establishing his dominant position and speaking to Skinner in such a demeaning way. Yet Skinner seemed to shrug it off instantly. He knew Anthony was capo among the North Jersey Families, but after the Columbians took their business in the eighties and RICO took their freedom in the nineties, that didn't mean much. Skinner knew the Family when they made presidents die an a whim, and Anthony DiMerra was a long way from that.
"You know what I have. Information on where your father is. I have to admit, I would have thought you would have tried a bit harder to find him in the last 10 years, but that's your business. What I'm willing to do is take you and a few of your men to where he is, and help you get him out. After that, I just need his help with a problem of my own. Then, we're done," Skinner explained with a no-nonsense tone of voice.
The young gangster sat there and looked thoughtfully at Skinner, his brown eyes flicking from Skinner to Scully and back again.
"You realize that I'd always assumed that someone had whacked Carmine, don't you?" Anthony explains, "When he went missing before I was born, the Captains at the time thought *you* were even responsible."
As he spoke, Anthony let his fingers slide over the nickel-plated revolver that sat atop a stack of twenty-dollar bills on his desk. Scully snuck her hand toward the Sig at her waist. Skinner was stone-cold still.
Then Anthony smiled. It was not comforting in the least. "But I remember the day that I received that audiotape that said that a man named 'Skinner' would one day contact me and help me complete my vendetta, and to help this man anyway I could. I understood then that there was more to my father's disappearance than I'd been told. Now, here you are, asking for my help, offering my father back in return. Why should I trust you? You and the woman with you are obviously Feds, or that letter I sent you wouldn't have gone to Fibi headquarters, now would it? How do I know you're not setting us up?"
"Because your father trusted me. Even if he probably shouldn't," Skinner replied, obviously frustrated at the situation. "We have as much at stake as you do. We need Carmine alive to help us. So, the question is, do you want him back?"
There was a long pause as the dark, curly haired man seemed to mull over the situation. Finally he answered, "Yeah."
"Alright then. Call a few of your guys and tell them to get their gear ready for a road trip. We're leaving tonight to find your long-lost father in a lovely little resort north of San Francisco. . . in a secret jail block underneath San Quentin Prison," Skinner announced.
Newark Intl. Airport (EWR)
Skinner stared at his reflection in the cracked mirror of the Newark airport restroom. The face he saw looking back was a stranger. The lines in his forehead seemed deeper, and his eyes seemed cold and dull. It was as if the years since everything had happened had disappeared. He looked like a gangster again, and God knew he was starting to act like one.
After being reassigned at the Bureau, he'd done everything in his power to put behind him the sins of the past. Now he had voluntarily brought them forth and brought someone else along for the experience.
Of course, Dana Scully was an FBI agent. Trained to handle any situation. But he could still remember that nothing he'd been taught in the Academy had prepared him for the wholesale violence and numbness to that violence that he'd seen in his time with the DiMerra family. Still, he couldn't even begin to imagine what Scully had already seen, had gone through while she'd been with the X-Files.
Yet, he reminded himself, it had been her choice to walk with him into the underbelly. She wasn't doing it because she had a past she had to settle with these men. She was doing it because she had to, if she wanted to get Mulder back.
Mulder. It always seemed to come back to him where Scully was concerned. He wouldn't be surprised if she would wrestle naked in lime green Jell-o in the bullpen of the Hoover building if it would mean that he'd be returned. For a moment, he found himself distracted by the image, and then angrily berated himself. She was his subordinate. He shouldn't think like that about her. Besides, he had a deep suspicion that the only man she was interested in had dark hair with hazel eyes and shitty taste in neckties.
Of course, the devotion and attraction, if he didn't miss his guess, wasn't one sided. Mulder would do anything for Scully. He remembered vividly how he'd been after her abduction, during the coma, and later during her cancer. Scully was everything to him. One day, he was sure that Mulder would have to wake up to the fact that *she* was the truth he'd been looking for all this time.
Just like Skinner had known that one day he'd have to face his past. And it seemed that day had finally come.
He finished up and proceeded back out into the airport terminal where Scully, Anthony and three of his men were waiting for him. His FBI badge and some forged papers would get them and the indiscreet bulges under their shoulders onto the red-eye flight that left in twenty minutes. And then he'd have to face the man who'd spent the last 25 years in hell, and live up to his part in that.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
South San Francisco, CA
Once the flight had landed, they made their way through the massive terminal and outside to the rows of taxis, shuttles and cars that stopped along the turn-around to the airport. Skinner gave Anthony a slip of paper, told them to meet him there at 6pm that night and then steered Scully into a waiting cab.
The flight had been long, and Scully hadn't been able to help but look between her boss and the Mafia thugs that he somehow seemed to have an affiliation with throughout the trip. What she had gotten into, she wasn't quite sure, but Mulder was still out there and she had to find him. If these 'wiseguys' could help her, she'd play along.
For the time being at least.
The cabbie had thrown their bags into the trunk and set off for the address Skinner gave him. When the man had heard 'Oakland', she could almost hear the cash register go off in his head. Clearly they were going to be driving for a while.
As the car chugged through what was probably commute traffic, she looked out and wondered again just what Carmine DiMerra had to do with Mulder's abduction. Surely the Consortium was involved, but how that related to these mobsters, she had yet to get Skinner to explain to her.
She'd been taking a lot of things on faith with her boss on this excursion. How much longer she'd continue to give him that slack depended on where they ended up today.
An hour later, they were in one of the more run-down neighborhoods that Scully had ever visited. That Skinner was taking them here did not bode well for that thinning thread of trust. This whole thing seemed like it was taking forever, and for all she knew, Mulder didn't *have* forever for Skinner to go sight-seeing.
Finally the cab stopped before an old, dilapidated Victorian and announced a wrenching dollar amount for the ride. Without blinking, Skinner scraped it up, along with a tip and got out. The cab driver hurried out and got their bags, dropping them to the pavement before driving off and leaving them there.
Once he had his bag in hand, Skinner was climbing the steps. He dropped his bag to the porch floor and rung the doorbell. After what seemed too long, the door swung open, and a dark skinned black man around Skinner's age opened it.
The two greeted each other with a handshake and hearty hug, an obvious camaraderie like that of men who spent months together, simply staying alive. Based on the man's age, she guessed they'd been in the war together, or possibly even early academy at Quantico. It was all supposition, as Skinner had yet to introduce them.
"I'm glad you could help me out. I know it's a lot to ask of you," Skinner began, as he released his grip on his friend as he pulled back. "Like I said when I called, it could be dangerous."
Reggie laughed loudly, a guttural sound that seemed to resonate in his chest. With a gesture, he waved of Skinner's concerns.
"Walt, how many times did you haul my ass out of trouble in 'Nam? Five, six maybe? I think it's the least I can do to help you with this little problem of yours. So just haul your sorry ass in here, and give me the rest of the story."
At that, Skinner picked up his bag and started in. After a moment, he realized that Scully was still outside. Turning, he looked out and found her standing at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed against her chest. If she hadn't been wearing the dark sunglasses against the morning sun, blocking his view of her eyes, he would have been able to confirm his initial assessment that she was pissed.
"Be right back Reg," Skinner said, and headed outside down to his agent.
"Scully," he began. . .
"What the hell are we doing here Skinner?" she asked harshly, her patience gone and her temper flaring. "You have yet to explain *one* thing to me of why we're here, what those Mafia goons have to with this, and how all of this relates to me finding Mulder!"
For a second, he expected her to haul off and hit him. The truth was he couldn't blame her if she did. He'd been keeping most of the plans and knowledge he had to himself, almost as if to keep her innocent a while longer as to exactly what they were going to do. Now, he knew he not only didn't have the right to, but he couldn't keep her out of it any longer.
"I'm sorry Scully. It's just. . ." he said, faltering under her stare. "Look, let's go inside, get some rest, and then we'll talk."
"No. You tell me *now* what's going on, or I'm leaving. For all I know, Mulder could be dead by now while you play 'The Godfather' with these mobsters," Scully insisted, her tone unyielding.
Sighing, Skinner knew that she meant every word she said. The time for answers had come.
"Alright. Grab your bag and come inside. I'll explain there."
With that, he turned and walked up the stairs, glancing once over his shoulder to see her shoulder her gear and start to follow him up. He held the door for her, and then shut it behind her as she dropped her stuff by his, took off her sunglasses and looked around the place. They stood in the living room, furnished by a sofa, loveseat, TV and recliner. At the back she could see a kitchen, and assumed that the doors to the right between them went to the bedroom and bathroom in the place.
Standing at the kitchen entryway, Skinner's friend Reggie watched her and her boss as they came in and she looked around. She wondered what he was thinking of, as his gaze went back and forth between her and Skinner.
"Reggie, I'd like you to meet one of my agents from the Bureau, Dana Scully. Her partner, Agent Fox Mulder was kidnapped last week. He's the reason we're here," Skinner informed his friend, and Reggie moved to where she stood and shook her hand. "Reggie's one of my oldest friends. We served a tour in 'Nam together."
"Nice to meet you Agent Scully. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances."
Skinner nodded in Reggie's direction, and the man disappeared, leaving Scully and Skinner alone in the living room. He found the recliner and sat down, waiting until she was seated to start. She sat on the loveseat, her expression anxious.
"When I first started working for the Bureau, I was assigned to an undercover mob investigation. That's how I met Anthony's father, Carmine. Anyway, when the assignment came to a close, Carmine was supposed to go to jail, but someone higher up wanted more. They stuck him in a secret jail block until he would offer up the information they wanted. It wasn't until later at that I came to learn that he was being held there, not for those reasons, but because he knew too much about someone within the Consortium. And I believe that this man is the person responsible for Mulder's abduction. I believe you know him by the name The First Elder," Skinner explained at length, watching Scully's face go from understanding to shock. "Carmine knows things that could expose him, and if we can exploit that knowledge, we can get Mulder back."
For what probably was five minutes, Scully sat in stunned silence. She'd expected that someone affiliated with the Consortium had orchestrated Mulder's kidnapping. First on her list had been Cancerman, but that hadn't fit. She didn't know who else within the conspiracy would want to take Mulder, so her attempts to find a source to tell her something had failed. Now here was Skinner, saying he believed he knew who was responsible for Mulder's kidnapping, and that this errand was about getting someone who they could use against him, for leverage in getting Mulder back.
"Alright, for the moment, let's just say that we do find this man who knows these secrets about The First Elder. How would we let Them know we want to cut a deal?"
Ah, Skinner thought to himself. Cynical, rational Scully was making her appearance. She hadn't stopped to ask questions about his past or the deal with the gangsters. Her focus was still fully rooted in how they were getting Mulder back, and how Carmine fit into that.
"As soon as we spring Carmine, I have a feeling that we'll be being contacted. But if not, I think we may have some allies who are trying to track down Mulder's whereabouts."
"Who," Scully asked, suspiciously.
"I'd rather not say," Skinner began, and as he saw her gearing up to demand the person's name, he hurried to explain himself. "I have my reasons Scully, and I'll have you remember that I got you the location of Mulder when he'd run off to Alaska, didn't I?"
At that she had to concede. She remembered that night when the man Mulder called X showed up at his apartment, thinking her partner had contacted him, and refused to tell Scully where Mulder had gone. Skinner had shown up minutes later, bloody and disheveled and gave her the information. If he said he could get the information, then she had little choice than to trust him.
"Yes, you did. So, Anthony is here for his father. Once he has him, what then?"
"Truthfully, I don't know. I expect that Carmine's vendetta with The First Elder will keep him around until we get Mulder back. But I can't guarantee it. Anyway, it's almost noon. We should get some rest before Anthony and his men get here at 6," he remarked, just as Reggie seemed to appear out of no where. "Reg, do you have someplace for Scully to sleep for a few hours? I can just sleep on the couch. . ."
"I'm not using my room, so after we talk, you can get some rest in there. As for agent Scully, I have a spare bedroom that she can use. Let me show you," he informed them. Scully reached down, picking up her bag and then stood to follow Reggie.
"Here's the spare, and there's a bathroom of its own attached. I'll make sure that you and Walt are up by 5, and get you something to eat before we storm the castle and all," Reggie said with another of his deadly, deep laughs.
Scully entered the sparsely furnished spare bedroom, dropped her bag and other items and closed the door behind her. Sitting on the bed, she pulled off her hiking boots and then curled up on the mattress.
She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.