by Henry Wyckoff

DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations of The X-Files television program are the creations and property of Chris Carter and Fox Broadcasting and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.

Director Skinner walked down the street, his hands in his pockets, whistling some tune -- God only knew what it was. No matter how cynical he got, or how beat down he could get, his daily walks soothed him.

It was an interesting kind of soothing.

Rather than walk in the park, he would walk on the streets near the offices. It wasn't a bad part of town -- compared to others -- but in a city where drug dealers are camped out across from the White House, it still isn't a safe place to be.

It was a soothing kind of walk that kept his nerves ready to tighten at a moment's notice, a soothing walk that kept him not only in shape, but also in preparation.

His schedule might have been from 9 to 5, but his walks were anything but routine. Every day, he took them at different times, for different lengths of time, and to different places.

That's why he was surprised when someone moved up alongside him and put a hand on his shoulder for a brief moment, "You're very hard to reach, friend."

Skinner remained relaxed. "I like to keep it that way."

"Bad for business."

"You know where my office is."

"So does everyone else."

They walked in silence for a moment.

"What do you want?" asked Skinner. He turned a corner down a narrow street.

"My offer still stands. Money... that new car you always wanted... Tasha... It can all be yours. Just join us."

Skinner put a hand on his shoulder in a friendly gesture, "Sorry, but you're not in a position to do anything." He took his hand off and kept walking.

"What makes you say --- [grak! cough! gggch!]" He fell to his knees, his face turning blue.

"Because you're not in a position to do anything."

Nobody was looking. Skinner shoved at the man with his foot, kicking him into a corner behind some trash cans. Nobody would see him by chance or out of the corner of their eye as they walked by.

Skinner walked on, his heart heavy -- but not from the killing.

He was trapped, faced in all directions by threats. He couldn't stay still either, because a sword dangled above his head by a single thread -- one that could snap any time.

What he feared the most was that one day, he would say the one word: "Yes."

The End

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