Fandom: SGA/X-Files (Fusion)
Warnings/Spoilers: No pairings. Minor spoilers for SGA S4 "The Seer."
Word Count: ~7100
Author's Notes: Written for the xfileyourfandom challenge. No knowledge of The X-Files is required to understand this story, and neither Mulder nor Scully make an appearance. This story is based on the episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (transcript). Some dialogue by The Stupendous Yappi and Clyde Bruckman was lifted directly from the episode, including most of Bruckman's predictions, and his speech about paradoxes.
Summary: While visiting Earth, Sheppard's team is sent to investigate a serial killer who seems to be targeting people with the ATA gene.
"He has... yes! A tattoo! Somewhere on his body!" rasped the Stupendous Yappi, waving his hands dramatically. "Maybe the tattoo has facial hair. I think."
John suppressed a smirk and turned away from the psychic to survey the room again. It was a comfortable-looking apartment, decorated in green and white, its only unusual feature the dolls lined up on every flat surface. The police had told him that the victim had been a professional doll collector; apparently her home had doubled as her showroom. Nothing about it suggested a reason why this woman had been chosen by the killer.
John turned his attention back to the Stupendous Yappi, who was now kneeling on the carpet, ear to the ground, proclaiming the killer's impotence. The police-summoned psychic had not, John noted with dry amusement, gone anywhere near the dining room table where the victim's entrails were still piled in a messy heap. Nonetheless, the local law enforcement officers seemed attentive and the junior detectives were dutifully taking notes. His own team, on the other hand…well, Teyla was maintaining an expression of polite interest, but Ronon was openly snickering and Rodney was nearly vibrating with suppressed rage. John couldn't really blame them--the whole performance was patently ridiculous--but their lives were going to be a lot more difficult if they lost the cooperation of the local police. He cast a stern look at Ronon and slid over to try to calm Rodney without attracting attention.
"It's gone," announced the Stupendous Yappi loudly, standing up. "I lost the vision. Someone is blocking me. I am picking up negative energy." He spun around and began walking from person to person, leaning in to sniff at each. He halted in front of John and studied him intently for a moment. "Please, leave this room."
"What?" John protested, startled. "I'm here on behalf of the Air Force to investigate these murders!"
"You give off negative energy."
"You are not a believer."
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" Rodney burst out. "We are here to investigate a murder, and you're wasting our time with these preposterous antics! If someone else dies, it will be your..."
"Rodney!" John interrupted.
"Colonel," said Detective Cline, walking over to the join them. "We'd really appreciate it if you'd step outside. The rest of your team can remain to witness any findings."
"No!" the Stupendous Yappi snapped. "He needs to go too." He pointed an accusing finger at Rodney.
"Detective," John said sharply, "this investigation falls under military jurisdiction. Your people are being allowed to participate as a courtesy." He stressed the last word, a reminder of their relative positions in the investigational hierarchy. He didn't really care whether he heard what Yappi had to say, but he didn't want the police to think they could start handing out orders.
"When the hell did the Air Force start investigating the deaths of civilians?" muttered one of the crime scene investigators.
"First few were marines," Ronon observed laconically, glancing down at her. John ignored them both and focused on staring down the detective, who was staring stubbornly back at him.
"It is all right, Colonel, Teyla said, stepping between them. "Ronon and I will observe and report back to you."
John grimaced at the thought of leaving the two non-Terrans alone with the police and a supposed psychic, but the Stupendous Yappi was now standing in the middle of the room with his arms crossed and his nose in the air, and the local enforcement were uniformly glaring at John and Rodney, and he couldn't pull his whole team out without offending everyone further. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Fine. Let us know if he says anything useful."
"Unbelievable!" muttered Rodney as they exited the apartment. "Do they honestly think that they're going to get anything out of that so-called psychic?"
"Well, they're pretty desperate. No forensic evidence, no obvious connections between the victims…"
"Other than the fact that they all have the ATA gene."
"Yeah, but they don't know that." John crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. "What's really ridiculous is that you and Ronon were the ones giving off all the negative vibes, and I’m the one he chose to kick out."
"How anyone could take that seriously…" Rodney muttered.
"It'll keep them out of the way while we investigate," John said.
They were only in the hall for a few minutes when the victim's door opened and the Stupendous Yappi stalked out, followed closely by his entourage.
"People like you make me sick," he spat as he passed by John and Rodney. John placed a restraining hand on Rodney's arm as he stepped forward to respond.
Rodney grumbled but turned back to the apartment. Teyla and Ronon emerged a moment later amidst the outflow of police and came over to them.
"Did he give you anything useful?" John asked.
"He doesn't feel like he's in control of his own life," Ronon said.
"Who? Yappi?" Rodney asked.
"The killer," Teyla said. "The Stupendous Yappi also said that the next body will be dumped somewhere, possibly near a church."
"Can he get any more predictable?" Rodney groaned.
"We'll leave that for the police to follow up on," John said. "Come on. Let's get some dinner."
"So you really use guys like that in investigations?" Ronon asked as they left the apartment building.
"Not in any reputable police department," Rodney said contemptuously. "These guys are clearly second rate."
"It was quite a performance," Teyla said diplomatically, sliding into the back seat of the car.
"I thought you believed in psychics?" John asked, twisting in his seat to look behind him.
"Not everyone who claims to be a seer actually possesses that gift," Teyla said.
"Anyone who puts on that much of a show is faking it," Ronon said flatly. "And he didn't say anything specific about the killer."
"Then I guess it's up to us," John said. He started the car and pulled smoothly away from the curb.
"Why are we the ones investigating this, anyway?" Rodney asked.
"Three dead ex-marines and two dead civilians, all with the ATA gene," John reminded him.
"Assuming the most recent victim had the ATA gene," Rodney said. "They've haven't confirmed that yet. And that still leaves the question of why we are the ones investigating this. The SGC has Earth-based teams who could handle it." His lips quirked. "I hear SG-1's free."
"Colonel Carter's away with the Apollo collecting data on that new black hole. The SGC thought the investigation team ought to include a scientist who knew something about Ancient technology, in case the killer or killers have gotten their hands on some," John said, suppressing a grin at the memory of the other reason SG-1 was free. He hadn't seen it himself, but Mitchell had described the newly purple Vala in amused detail. Apparently some cultures took great exception to petty thieving. "Anyway," he added, "it's not like we weren't already here."
"Yes, on vacation."
"Vacation ended three days ago," Ronon said.
"And we could be on our way back to Atlantis."
"The faster we solve this, the faster we get to leave," John said.
They stopped for Thai at Ronon's request--it was the third night in a row he'd asked for it, and John was beginning to suspect there was a reason for it beyond annoying Rodney, so he overruled Rodney's objections and made sure to request orange-free dishes. They'd barely made it back to their motel when John's cell rang.
"They've found another body," he said grimly as he hit the off button.
The sixth body--identified from his wallet as Air Force Lieutenant Gerald Bryce, formerly of SG-18 and not, John noted with relief, of Atlantis--had been discovered in a dumpster behind a high rise.
"He was found by one Clyde Bruckman," Cline told them, consulting his notes. "Sixty-two, insurance salesman. We're treating him as a suspect."
"Why is that?" Teyla asked. John followed her gaze to the balding, slightly stout man who stood off to the side, staring listlessly at the ground. Not really the picture of a serial killer, he thought.
"Says he never touched the body, but he knew the guy's eyes had been cut out."
"And that tells you what, exactly?" Rodney asked impatiently. "That the man can see?"
"The body was face-down in the dumpster," Cline said witheringly.
"We'll want to talk to him," John said. He stepped away from the detective and turned to the rest of his team. "Teyla and I will talk to Bruckman. Why don't you two go talk to the crime scene guys?" Rodney nodded and Ronon shrugged, so he left them to the crime scene while he and Teyla headed over to where Bruckman stood, still staring at the ground, attended to by a young uniformed officer.
"We need to interview him," John said, nodding to the officer standing beside him. The officer nodded back and went to join his colleagues around the body. Bruckman looked up when he spoke, and John took a moment to study the man. He was tall and stooped, dressed in a rumpled suit minus the tie, as if he couldn't be bothered changing out of his work clothes. He had an air of quiet, weary despair--the only emotion that penetrated his otherwise guarded expression. John couldn't see any signs of shock or disgust over what he'd found in the dumpster. He wondered if that was the real reason the police considered Bruckman a suspect.
"Mr. Bruckman," John said, holding out his hand. Bruckman shook it automatically. "I'm Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, and this is Teyla Emmagan. We're investigating this death on behalf of the Air Force, and we have a few questions for you."
"The Air Force?" Bruckman said incredulously. "What's the Air Force got to do with this?"
"The victim was a former Air Force officer," Teyla said smoothly. "Naturally we are concerned about what happened to him."
"I understand you told the police that the eyes had been gouged out," John said.
"Well they were, weren't they?" Bruckman asked. "Entrails too."
"What we want to know is how you knew that," John said patiently.
"All the others were."
"The information about the entrails being removed wasn't released to the public."
Bruckman shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I don't pay attention to the news. Too depressing."
"How did you know where to find the body?" Teyla asked.
Bruckman stared at her silently a moment, then looked away. "I just stumbled across it. Look, I didn't kill him. I didn't kill any of them."
"No," Teyla agreed, tilting her head. "I do not believe you did."
John looked at her questioningly.
"He has the same look as Davos," she explained, catching his look. "I believe he can help us."
John sighed. "Rodney's going to love this."
"Who's Rodney?" Bruckman asked.
"If he were to see the scene," Teyla murmured.
John turned to Bruckman. "I think you need to come with us, sir."
"Am I under arrest?" he asked flatly.
"No," John replied. "But we're hoping you can help us." Bruckman frowned in what John chose took to take as assent. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he slipped over while Rodney was berating a crime scene technician to tell Ronon that he and Teyla were following a lead and would be back for them soon, then escaped before Rodney could notice him. He didn't mention Teyla's hunch that Bruckman was psychic.
They took Bruckman over to the previous victim's apartment.
"What's this all about?" Bruckman asked as they led him into the now abandoned crime scene.
"This apartment belonged to a previous victim," Teyla said. "We are hoping that you will be able to pick up something." She turned as Bruckman slowly circled the room. "Do you see anything?"
"Besides a lot of dolls?" asked Bruckman, running his hand along a shelf of porcelain figures. "What am I supposed to see?"
"Something about the murderer?" John suggested hopefully, still wondering whether they were making fools of themselves. Bruckman looked at him skeptically.
"Air Force, huh? Can I see your ID?"
"Sure," John said, pulling out his military ID. Bruckman squinted at it, then looked up at them, frowning.
"I don't know what you think you're going to get from me," he said. "All I did was report a body in my dumpster. And now I'm being accused of doing things, of being able to do things that I couldn't possibly..." He stopped mid-sentence, attention apparently caught by the dining room table. He walked over to it slowly and looked down at the bloodstain on the lacey white tablecloth, then ran to the bathroom. John winced at the sound of vomiting.
"I believe he saw something," Teyla said quietly.
"Assuming he's not putting on a show like the Great Yappi," John said cautiously, but he was inclined to agree with her. The reaction struck him as genuine.
Bruckman emerged a moment later, gasping. "The killer, he doesn't feel like he's in control of his own life. I mean like, who is, am I right? But this guy…he truly believes…he sees himself as a kind of a…puppet."
"Do you know anything else about him?" Teyla asked gently. "What he looks or sounds like? Or where he will strike next?"
Bruckman shook his head, still looking stunned.
"Any idea why he's doing this?" John asked, thinking about the commonality between the victims, and the SGC's concern about what that might mean. He wondered if this guy could pick up a hint of whatever machine or technology the killer had obtained.
"Why does anyone do the things they do?" Bruckman asked rhetorically. He walked over to one of the doll-lined shelves. "Why do I sell insurance? I wish I knew. Why did this woman collect dolls? What was it about her life? Was it one specific moment where she suddenly said, 'I know…dolls.' Or was it a whole series of things? Starting when her parents first met, and somehow combined in such a way that in the end she had no choice but to be a doll collect…" His voice trailed off and he knelt down and gently lifted a doll off the shelf. He turned toward them, eyes distant. "You'll find a woman tomorrow morning by the fat little white Nazi storm trooper...Glenview Lake. Your body's floating in Glenview Lake." He stopped and set down the doll. "Now if you'll excuse me, I think I've seen enough death for one night."
They drove Bruckman back to the scene, where the police confirmed that they'd checked his alibi for the time of the murder, and he was no longer a suspect. He went inside, and they went around back to the dumpster, where Rodney and Ronon were waiting for them.
"They're still processing the body," Rodney said. "They probably won't find any evidence, though. This guy didn't leave anything behind at the previous scenes, and they were all a lot less contaminated than this one. Oh, and the SGC confirmed that Bryce had the gene. Did you find anything?"
"Mr. Bruckman believes that another body will be found in Glenview Lake tomorrow," Teyla said.
"How's he know that?" Ronon asked. "Unless he put it there."
"He is a seer," Teyla said. "Like Davos." John suppressed a groan. He could feel Rodney's skeptical look.
"A seer? That was your great lead?" Rodney asked.
"He gave us specific information," John said, waving a placating hand. "Let's see if it pans out before we pass judgment."
"I don't need to wait," Rodney said. "It's a waste of time to even look for that body."
"You said the same about Davos," Teyla reminded him.
"Just because it turned out that Davos knew a few things doesn't mean that the guy who happened to find the body is psychic. He's probably just another attention seeker, like the Tremendous Yappi."
"Stupendous Yappi," Ronon corrected.
"Whatever. The point is…"
"We can make the police do the search," John said quickly. "That will keep them out of our hair tomorrow while we investigate a little further."
"Fine," Rodney said shortly. "You can waste their time as long as you don't waste mine."
They didn't get much time to investigate. The police called at 8am to say they'd pulled a woman's body out of the water--another civilian.
"What is a Nazi storm trooper?" Teyla asked as they surveyed the scene.
"A Nazi…what?" Rodney asked.
"Mr. Bruckman said the body would be found near a fat little white Nazi storm trooper."
"A storm trooper was a type of soldier," Rodney said, "and I don't see any nearby. I told you, this guy's a fake."
"Oh, I don't know," John said. "Doesn't that look kind of like a storm trooper?" He pointed to a squat white propane tank.
"It's a bit round," Ronon said doubtfully, cocking his head.
"He did say fat," John said.
"I can't believe…you are joking, right?" Rodney said. John, not entirely sure himself, just grinned.
"We should speak to Mr. Bruckman again," Teyla said firmly. "He may be able to provide us with more information."
Bruckman was waiting for them in an armchair in front of his television. It was a sparsely decorated apartment, John noted absently. All neutral shades, with so indications of hobbies or interests. As if he'd just moved in.
"I knew it was you," Bruckman said without looking up. "And I know why you're here. You're here because you found that woman's body and now you're convinced I have some sort of psychic power and you want my help in catching this serial murderer."
"That is correct," Teyla said. Bruckman stood up and turned around.
"I won't help you. Please leave."
"But you are psychic," John said uncertainly.
"Oh, I'm psychic all right," Bruckman said hollowly. "I wish to God I weren't."
"It is a great gift," Teyla said.
Bruckman scowled at them. "Do you want to know how you're going to die?"
They were silent for a moment.
"No," Ronon said at last.
"You can't possibly know how we're going to die!" Rodney protested.
Bruckman turned and stared intently at him for a moment, then his eyes widened in surprise. "That's impossible!" He looked at each of them in turn, his expression of disbelief growing. "Where the hell are you people from? And what are those…things? Those pale things with the long white hair? I don't even think they're human."
"The Wraith," Teyla said, taking an involuntary step backwards. "Are you saying that one of us will…" She stopped and took a deep breath. "I think it would be better if I did not know."
"It's not you," Bruckman said. He looked at each of them again, shaking his head. "I don't believe it."
"So how am I going to die?" Rodney asked defiantly. At Ronon's disapproving look, he said, "What? If I know, I might be able to avoid it. Or at least I can stop worrying in all the situations that I know won't kill me."
"I see a bright white light," Bruckman said.
"Like an explosion? Or like I'm glowing? Oh God, am I glowing? Maybe I don't die at all; maybe I figure out how to ascend."
"I don't know anything about ascending," Bruckman said, "but there's a lot of light. And you're old. Well, older than you are now."
"Old," Rodney said, pacing a few steps. "Old is good." He stopped and looked up, half-smiling. "So I guess I'm not going to die on a mission anytime soon. And the Wraith won't be taking over either."
"There aren't any of those things on Earth, are there?" Bruckman asked.
"Oh no," Rodney said. "We don't have any here."
"Rodney!" John protested.
"Look, clearly he already knows that we've been to other planets. The guy's psychic."
"Oh, now you're a believer," John said.
"What about the murders?" Teyla interjected. "Have you seen anything else about the killer?"
"No," Bruckman said. "And I'm not going to help you with that."
"He's murdered seven people!" John said.
"And he's going to kill more whether I help you or not," Bruckman said levelly.
"How do you know?" Teyla asked.
Bruckman half-smiled. "How could I see the future if it didn't already exist?"
"If it's all predetermined, why bother doing anything?" Ronon asked.
"Now you're catching on." Bruckman turned his back on them and sat down again in front of the television. A moment later he twisted his head to peer at them from around the chair back. "You know, I don't know what kind of insurance the Air Force offers, but General Mutual has some very good plans."
"We do not need insurance," Teyla said, walking around until she stood between him and the television. "We need your help. We do not know that the future is set, and as long as change is possible, we must try to make it happen. If we can save lives, we must."
Bruckman turned to look at her. "Well you see, that's another reason I can't help you catch this guy. I might adversely affect the fate of the future. I mean, his next victim might be the mother of the daughter whose son invents the time machine. And the son goes back in time and changes world history. And then Columbus never discovers America, man never lands on the moon, the U.S. never invades Grenada…or something less significant, resulting in the fact that my father never meets my mother and consequently I'm never born." He stopped, realization dawning across his face, then looked up at Teyla with something approaching a smile. "So when do we start?"
After some discussion, they decided to go with the classic approach, as gleaned from the handful of psychic-related movies that John and Rodney had seen. They brought Bruckman into the police station, and sat him down with a bag full of items taken from the evidence room.
The first item was a circle of three brass frogs.
"I don't know what it is, but it belonged to one of the victims," Bruckman said. John nodded encouragingly.
"The guy who cast the mold for this will die of prostate cancer at the age of eighty-two."
Rodney tapped the table impatiently.
"Do you see anything else?" Teyla asked.
"It's ugly," Bruckman said flatly. "Next!"
An hour and twenty items later, they knew no more than when they'd started.
"Can you do anything other than predict how people are going to die?" John asked in frustration.
"Not really. I play the lotto every week and I always lose."
There was a tap on the window. John stood up and went to the door.
"I thought you might want to see this," said the detective. He stepped into the room and held out a small evidence bag.
"What is it?" John asked, taking the bag.
"We found it on the woman from the lake. We found identical key chains on two of the other victims. We traced them to an investment firm called Uranus Unlimited. Apparently they provide market strategies based on astrological forecasts. The company is owned by a man named..."
"Claude Dukenfield. Age forty-three. 316 Roundview Lane. Divorced with two children. Makes about eighty-seven thousand a year. Non-smoker," Bruckman said from his chair.
"Is that true?" John asked the detective.
"I think so," the detective said. "The name, age, and address are right."
"You got all that from the key chain?" Rodney asked.
"Oh, no. I sold him a policy a couple of months ago. It's just a coincidence."
"Want us to track him down?" the detective asked.
"You won't be able to do that," Bruckman said apologetically. "He's been murdered."
"Pull over here," Bruckman said. John eased the car onto the shoulder. Behind them, Rodney stopped the second car.
"This is it," Bruckman said, climbing out of the car. "The body's around here." He straightened up and began walking into the woods. John looked at his team, shrugged and followed.
"When did you first start predicting people's deaths?" Rodney asked as they walked.
"What happened in '59?" John asked.
"Buddy Holly's plane crashed."
"Who's Buddy Holly?" Ronon asked.
Bruckman turned his head. "You don't know who Buddy Holly was? You really are from another planet, aren't you?"
"He was a singer," Rodney said.
"And you predicted this...Buddy Holly's death," Teyla said.
"Oh, God, no. Why would I want to do that? But I did have a ticket to see him perform the next night. Actually, I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly. 'Chantilly Lace,' that was the song."
"So if you didn't predict his death…" John said.
Bruckman sighed. "The Big Bopper was not supposed to be on that plane. He won the seat from someone else on a coin toss."
"Okay," John said.
Bruckman stopped walking. "Look, imagine all the things that had to occur, not only in his life, but in everybody else's, to arrange it so on that particular night, the Big Bopper would be in a position to live or die depending on a flipping coin. I became so obsessed with that idea that I gradually became capable of seeing the specifics of everybody's death."
"So…where's the body?" Ronon asked.
"I don't know," Bruckman said. "I can see the area, but I don't know exactly where it is."
Forty-five minutes later, even Teyla was ready to admit defeat.
"Isn't there some sort of sensor we can use?" John asked Rodney. "A dead body sensor?"
"No. That's why we were using Mr. Psychic there."
Bruckman shrugged. "Sorry."
"That's enough for now," John decided. "We need more manpower. We can send the police out to look when we get back to town."
They headed back to the cars, where they discovered that the previous night's rain had left the first car firmly stuck in the mud. After the first few attempts to pull out failed, John and Ronon got behind the car to push, leaving Rodney to push the gas. As he leaned into the car, John caught Bruckman's expression.
"Glad we can make you smile," he said.
"I'm not smiling," Bruckman said, "I'm wincing." He pointed at the ground. John looked down. There was a hand sticking up from the mud under the tire.
John and Teyla returned to Bruckman's apartment later that evening, leaving Rodney and Ronon to wrap up things with the police. John was carrying a small evidence bag.
"We found this on Dukenfield's body," John said, holding out the evidence bag. Bruckman opened it and pulled out the piece of latex.
"Don't you have a crime lab to analyze these things?"
"They take time," John said, "and I don't think the next victim has that kind of time."
Bruckman sighed and held the latex up to his face.
"I don't know what it's from, but…the killer's going to kill more people before you catch him."
"Can you help us identify him?" Teyla asked.
"He thinks…he thinks he's found a way to see the future," Bruckman said. "Some sort of machine? But he can't use it…he's looking for the person who can. And when they can't, he gets angry."
"I thought you said this guy sees himself as a puppet?" John asked.
"He does. It's because he thinks he can see the future; that means the future already exists. He has no control, no responsibility for his actions. He tells himself he kills because he has to, but really he just enjoys it. The machine's just an excuse."
"Anything else?" John asked.
"I've seen some of the things he's seen."
Bruckman squinted. "I see…a kitchen. You're in it. He's behind you…he has a knife. You don't see him. He's stalking toward you…oh, God."
"What is it?" Teyla asked, leaning forward.
Bruckman stared into the distance. "The knife has blood on it. You've stepped in a pie. Coconut cream, maybe? Or is it lemon meringue….I'm not sure…it's hazy."
"You're looking down at it and he's behind you with the knife. No, it's banana cream. You're looking down at the pie and he's coming toward you..."
John swallowed. "Then what? What does he see?"
"Nothing," Bruckman said, relaxing. "Just the visions of a madman." He slid the latex back into the bag.
"You know all that from touching that material?" Teyla said.
"How am I supposed to get anything from this tiny little thing?" Bruckman asked. He stood up and picked up a letter. "I got this in the mail today." He handed the letter to John.
"To whom it may concern," John read. "I've realized what I've been doing wrong, and I'm looking forward to meeting you. Sincerely, you know who. P.S., say hello to the Colonel for me."
Bruckman waved at John. "Hello."
"He knows you," Teyla said. "You are in danger. We need to leave."
Bruckman shook his head. "Doesn't matter what you do. I'll be dead before you catch this guy."
John opened another file. Across from him, Rodney groaned.
"How many of these things are there?" he asked. "And why aren't we leaving this to the police?"
"Because the police don't know they need to look for someone who has access to Ancient technology."
"Is that what you're looking for?" Bruckman asked. "People with access to this technology?"
"Who were around for all the murders," John agreed. He skimmed the personnel file of retired Marine Colonel Gomez. Nothing about it suggested serial killer. He closed the file and reached for the next one in the pile.
"How come they're not helping?" Bruckman asked, nodding toward Ronon and Teyla, who were both sprawled on the couch in front of the television.
"Because they don't know enough about Earth to spot suspicious elements in someone's background."
Twenty minutes later, Rodney stood up abruptly and left the room, muttering something about cake. John stood up, stretched, and wandered over to the other side of the hotel suite, where Bruckman had joined Teyla and Ronon. The three of them were watching "Deal or No Deal" with a raptness that John found a little frightening.
"He's a coward," Ronon declared.
"He should have continued," Teyla agreed.
"You can see how one small decision changes everything," Bruckman said.
All three looked up as John approached.
"Find anything?" Ronon asked. John shook his head.
"A lot of people have left the SGC," he said. "And so far, they all look innocent."
"Will we be staying here tonight?" Teyla asked.
John shook his head. "We'll get the local police to cover for us tonight. Go back to our own hotel and regroup."
"There's no point in leaving someone here," Bruckman said. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen."
"We will protect you," Teyla said reassuringly. Bruckman shook his head sadly.
"We'll get some dinner as soon as Rodney gets back," John said. "Then we'll call in the locals for the night. You'll be fine."
Ronon stood up and walked over to the window, pulling aside the long, dark curtains to look out onto the street. John joined him.
"Do we know for sure this guy's a target?" Ronon asked, letting the curtain fall.
"He got the letter."
"Could be a distraction," Ronon said. "Keeping us away from the real target. Do we even know if he has the gene?"
John frowned. "Good point. We should probably get him tested tomorrow."
"Colonel!" Teyla called. John and Ronon turned toward her. Bruckman was gasping and clutching his chest. John swore and pulled out his cell phone.
Rodney found them in the waiting room. "How is he?"
"The doctors said he will be fine," Teyla said. "It was just indigestion. They are keeping him overnight to be sure."
"Great," Rodney said. "There goes that lead."
"We'll need to keep someone on guard here until we know whether Bruckman is a real target," John said. He held out a vial of blood.
"Right," Rodney said, taking the vial. "I'll send this off to the SGC."
John's cell rang. He looked down at the number. "There's been another one," he said, opening the phone.
They left Bruckman under guard at the hospital and went to the crime scene. The victim was another civilian.
"He didn't bother taking the body this time," Cline said, crouching over the sheet-covered form. "Didn't gouge out the eyes, either, though it looks like he started to." He pulled back the sheet to show them.
"He must have been in a hurry," Rodney said.
"Looks like he left behind his weapon," John noted, nodding at the fork sticking from one eye.
"Yeah, and I bet we get prints off it," Cline said, replacing the sheet. "We've got a shoe print outside, too." He stood up and rubbed his hands together gleefully. "This is more like it. No more psychics and their vague visions and predictions. Hell, we don't even need our own hunches. This case is just now about good old-fashioned forensic police work."
John and his team huddled on the sidelines while Cline talked to the forensic unit.
"Why would he suddenly become so careless?" Teyla asked quietly. "It does not make sense."
"If we believe that letter, he thinks he's found what he's looking for," John said. "Maybe he's not worried about getting caught anymore."
"But then why attack this guy at all?" Rodney asked.
"Perhaps to distract us from protecting Mr. Bruckman, " Teyla suggested.
"If he's a real target," Rodney said.
"How'd he know?" Ronon asked.
"How'd he know what?" John asked.
"Who had the ATA gene."
John and Rodney froze.
"Oh God," Rodney said, "of course! He must have access to their blood. So that means blood bank, blood lab, or..."
"We left Bruckman in the hospital," John said urgently.
"What do you mean you don't know where he is?" Rodney yelled. "He was here half-an-hour ago with chest pains! How could you lose track of him?"
"His police guard has disappeared as well," Teyla said.
"Split up and begin searching the hospital," John ordered. He nodded at Ronon and Rodney. "You two check the blood labs. Teyla, you look around this floor." He turned and headed for the elevator.
"Where are you going?" Rodney asked.
John paused mid-step and gave them a twisted smile. "The kitchen."
"John," Teyla said warningly.
"What's fate?" Rodney asked.
"Mr. Bruckman predicted that the killer would attack John in a kitchen."
"At least we know where he'll be," John said.
"Then we should all go to the kitchen," Ronon said.
John shook his head. "Bruckman might be wrong."
"Then I will come with you," Teyla said. "Ronon can search this floor, and Rodney can go to the lab." John hesitated, then nodded, and the two of them headed for the elevator.
The hospital kitchen buzzed with activity. John and Teyla stepped through it carefully, guns carefully concealed, drawing questioning looks but not challenges. Or attacks.
"I'm not seeing a lot of pie here. Or any sign of Bruckman."
"No," Teyla agreed softly. She looked disappointed. "Perhaps Mr. Bruckman was wrong. Or perhaps we're here at the wrong time."
"Better hope he's wrong sometimes," John said, "or else he's in trouble." He nodded toward the corridor. "Let's head back up and see if Rodney or Ronon have had more luck."
Ronon met them outside Bruckman's room with a grim expression. "Police guard's dead. No sign of Bruckman."
Rodney joined them a moment later, wearing an excited expression. "I know who it is."
"You found him?" Teyla asked.
Rodney shook his head. "I looked over their list of technicians in the blood lab. One of the names jumped out at me. Martin Gleeson. Same last name as one of the scientists at Area 51. I put in a call, and this Gleeson is that one's brother."
"That must be how he got his hands on Ancient tech," John said.
Rodney nodded. "They're bringing in the brother for questioning now, to find out if he brought anything home, or somehow gave his brother access to the labs. And," he waved a piece of paper triumphantly, "I got an address."
Martin Gleeson's house was dark on the outside. John waved Rodney and Teyla to the back, and climbed up the front steps, gun drawn, Ronon at his back.
There was no answer when he knocked. He stepped back and let Ronon kick in the door. He heard a cry as they came through the doorway, and he headed toward it, through the empty hall and down the stairs into the basement. He found Bruckman gagged and tied to a chair. John crouched down beside him while Ronon kept watch at the foot of the stairs.
"You shouldn't have come," Bruckman said flatly as John pulled down the gag.
"Where's Gleeson?" John demanded.
Bruckman shook his head sadly. "It's not me he's after."
From upstairs came the sound of a crash, and a gunshot.
"Stay with him," John ordered, standing. He took the stairs two-by-two, heart pounding. At the top of the stairs, he turned and began padding silently down the hall, checking rooms as he moved. At the second room, his flashlight hit a prone figure. John slipped into the room and knelt down. Rodney lay on the floor. John felt for a pulse and sighed with relief when he found one. He used his light to check for injuries and didn't spot anything obvious, then used one hand to feel Rodney's skull until he found a familiar lump.
A crash came from another part of the house. With a last quick look at Rodney, John stood up, wishing that he'd had Ronon and Bruckman come up with him. Reluctantly he turned away from Rodney and headed toward the sound.
He found Teyla sitting on the floor of the dining room, back propped up against a white wall, right hand gripping her left arm. Blood trickled through her fingers.
"He was waiting for us," she said in a controlled voice. "There were traps on the door."
"Are you all right?" he asked, kneeling beside her. He reached out for her arm, but she pulled back.
"It is just a graze. He went that way." She nodded toward the door opposite the one John had come through. "You need to stop him."
"All right," he said, standing. "I'll be back for you."
The lights were off in the next room, but enough light trailed through the doorway from the dining room to enable him to identify it as a kitchen. John shook his head in resignation and flipped on the lights, gun still ready. He couldn't see Gleeson. He also couldn't see any way out of the kitchen other than the one he'd come through. He circled the room carefully and stopped in front of the open window. A small man might be able to fit through, he thought. He reached out to close it, and stumbled backward as a heavy can came swinging toward his head and grazed his temple. Cursing he turned, knocking something off the counter with his elbow. He looked down at it. A pie lay on the floor at his feet. Banana cream, his mind filled in. He caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and blocked the downward swing of the knife automatically. The knife clanged against the floor as John grasped the arm wielding it.
"I knew you'd come," Gleeson said in his ear, leaning into him. "I saw it. But I'll see more now that you're here. My brother told me about you, Colonel." He twisted in John's grip as John struggled to turn around without letting go or dropping his gun. Gleeson swung a fist into his lower back, and John let go and fell forward. Gleeson reached for the knife, as John scrambled for the gun he'd dropped on his way down. He saw Gleeson pull his arm back as John's fingers brushed metal. He tried to twist out of the way, but as Gleeson began thrusting forward, a shot rang out.
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Gleeson gasped, slumping to the floor.
John looked up. Ronon was standing in the doorway.
"I thought I told you to stay with Bruckman," he said, holstering his gun.
Ronon strode over, grasped his hand, and pulled him to his feet.
"I gave him the car keys, and told him to get away from here."
John nodded and looked down at the still body on the floor. "We need the police and an ambulance for Teyla and Rodney. And we need to search this place for whatever Ancient tech this guy had. Sounds like it might have been some sort of psychic tool."
John found it in Gleeson's sock drawer before the ambulance or the police got there, the obvious alien-ness of it standing out against the mundane surroundings. He wrapped it in one of Gleeson's t-shirts without touching it, and carried it out to show Rodney, who was sitting in the dining room with a bag of ice to his head.
"What does it do?" Teyla asked, staring at the translucent cube.
"Gleeson thought it could let him see the future," John said.
"Have you tried it?" Ronon asked.
John shook his head. "I figured we should know a little more about how it works before I start experimenting with it."
"I'll take a look at it when we get back to the SGC," Rodney said.
Sirens sounded in the distance.
"About time they got here," Rodney said.
"What happened to Mr. Bruckman?" Teyla asked.
"Sent him home," Ronon said. "He's fine."
"Could you check on him, John?" she asked. He nodded as the pounding began on the door.
He left Ronon at the hospital, and found a junior police officer to take him over to Bruckman's. There was no answer when they buzzed, so Officer Soto talked the super into letting them into the building and then into Bruckman's apartment. The apartment was dark, the living room and kitchen both empty. With a sinking heart, John led the officer into the small bedroom. Bruckman lay on the bed, a plastic bag over his head and a small pill bottle on table beside him.
"He was right," John said softly as Soto felt for a pulse, then reached for her radio to call it in. "He died before we finished." He looked down at the still form, and fingered the cube in his pocket.
“The coroner will be here soon,” Soto said, looking over at him.
There was a note on the bedside table. Soto leaned down to read it, then picked it up and passed it to John.
I was lying. He doesn't get you with the knife. If you want to know, turn over the page.
John hesitated a long moment, then flipped over the sheet of paper.
John swallowed hard and handed the sheet back to Soto.
"They'll be here soon," Soto repeated.
John touched the cube in his pocket again, and settled in to wait.