Title: MAIL (1/1)
Date: July 23, 1999
Summary: Skinner receives a package
Archive: ArchiveX, Gossamer. Any others if you ask:
just so I know where this is travelling to. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
EXPLANATION: This came about because Karen-Leigh made a comment about how anal retentive Skinner appeared to be in DRESSING. This is *her* fault <g>: I wanted to see just how anal retentive Skinner could be.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013, but let's not forget that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
The package was about six inches square.
Addressed to him: PERSONAL.
He shook it, knowing it was safe to do so. All external mail came through an x-ray machine just in case. So it wasn't a bomb. And it wasn't something on the reject list.
No return address.
Handwritten label in a strong, clear cursive.
He didn't know anyone in Scotland.
He placed the box on his desk, stared at it. Decided to leave it for now. It used to drive Sharon crazy that he could receive something in the mail and leave it while he finished some work he had started.
In this case, it was a meeting just about to begin with several agents who were presenting case progress reports. One of whom was Jeffrey Spender. Which meant he would need something to distract him while Spender droned on, pontificating. The box would accomplish that.
Almost too well in fact. He found he had hardly heard a word of Spender's report when he realized that the table was waiting for him to say something. He nodded, gave his usual form reply to Spender's reports which always seemed to satisfy the man. Was Spender the only one who didn't understand those comments were formula by now?
By the time this meeting was over, he had a lunch meeting to attend with a couple of the other ADs and one of the Deputy Directors.
Then there was some crisis thing he had to deal with that was mainly PR rather than cold hard fact. He really disliked that part of his job. Hated having to answer questions in media-speak.
So, by the time he got to the package again, it was after eight and he still had the rest of the afternoon's work to get through. Kim had left hours ago after seeing to it that a sandwich and a cold drink were on his desk. That he was just now getting to.
He had taken off his tie, unbuttoned a couple of inches of shirt, rolled up his sleeves. He was reaching for another report when his eyes caught sight of the box, sitting there to one side of his desk, looking like it was patiently waiting for him to notice it.
He pushed back in his chair and stared at it.
It seemed to stare back at him, stoically patient. Still waiting for him to unfold its mysteries.
He reached for it, moved it around in his hands. Wondered why he was so reticent about opening it. It had been a long hard day and it wasn't over yet. Maybe he felt the need of a treat of some kind. Something that would egg him on to finish the work that had piled up in his absence.
On the other hand, what was wrong with opening it up now? Could be something mondaine: he would have anticipated for nothing.
He laughed at himself. Put the box back down to one side. Probably nothing more than an error, sent to him by mistake. He reached for a report.
Still. It *was* addressed to him: W. S. Skinner. FBI Headquarters. J. Edgar Hoover Building. Washington, DC. On two sides of the cube. And "Skinner" was underlined on both.
He pushed the report to one corner and picked up the box again. Examined it on all sides.
Thick brown wrapping paper. Folds crisply executed. The tape holding the edges down was of the narrow packing variety. Smoothed down for a firm fit. Someone had taken the time to ensure the package would arrive its wrapping intact.
He used his thumb nail to coax up one of the end tapes. Slowly pulled the tape off the paper. His grandmother used to open her gifts in the same measured manner. She could remove the tape off any fancy wrapping paper without tearing the tape or marring the paper in any way. Drove his mother crazy when she did that.
He worked all the tape off before he even contemplated opening the wrapper. He unfolded the end flaps, carefully straightened the paper. He placed the semi- opened box on his desk, unfolded the wrapper like an unveiling.
The box surprised him.
It was plain. White. Held shut with just a bit of tape at the front of the lid.
Nothing to give him a clue as to its contents.
He was intrigued. He picked up the box, tossed it back and forth between his hands.
His eyes followed it as he tried to judge its contents. Weight -- heavy enough but not so heavy as to overwhelm the size of the box. Solid -- no rattling. Or was it just well packed? He rotated the box, sniffed it. No smell. Maybe there was an internal wrapping, an envelope of some kind.
He set it down on the desk in front of him. Just looked at it. Could almost feel it snickering at him: I know what I am and you don't.
Finally, he stripped the last external piece of tape, opened the lid. Peered in.
Oh, God! Was it...It couldn't be!
He held his breath. Carefully, reverently, he eased the bubble plastic encased contents out of the box.
He was stunned. He blinked, not trusting his sight. This might still prove to be a mistake. A mirage. A mis-reading by his brain.
He unwrapped the bubble plastic exposing the exquisite reel for fly-fishing.
He cradled it in his hands, raised it to his eyes, not daring to believe...Yes, there it was. The discretely etched HARDY REELS with the even smaller "3 - 6 wgt" designation.
A Hardy. Top of the line. The Rolls Royce of British fly-fishing equipment.
Something he'd always wanted to own. Except that his one or two fishing escapes a year didn't warrant the extravagant expenditure of a Hardy.
He turned it over in his hands, rubbed his thumb over the etching. Realized he had a stupid grin on his face.
God! Who would have sent this to him?
He checked the box, the wrapping paper. No clues.
Except...No...Wouldn't be...Could it?
He remembered an encounter he had had that spring, in an out-of-the-way place eatery.
Had shared a meal, conversation with a one-armed assassin. Even shared his tent with him for one night. Had, in the early morning light, even demonstrated some of the skills the sport required.
Might, if he remembered well, have even mentioned the existence of Hardy Reels. With some longing. He had never discussed Hardy Reels with anyone else.
Why would Krycek have remembered...But it seemed he had.
Why would he have sent...What the hell was *he* to do with...He should return it. But where and to whom? There was no return address. No indication where it had been purchased. Only thing he knew was that it had been mailed from Aberdeen, Scotland.
What was Krycek doing in...
He carefully enfolded the reel in its protective wrapping. Placed it back in its box. Closed the lid on it. Moved it back to a corner of his desk. Sighed regretfully. Reached for a report and tried hard to put it out of his mind.
Not very successfully.
The thing just sat there, patiently waiting for him to finish his work.
It was nearing midnight when he slipped on his suit jacket, turned off the desk light. He was almost at the door when he looked over his shoulder at the white box sitting on his desk, innocent, the fulfilment of a wish he'd expressed aloud only once.
In the car, he carefully settled the seat belt making sure it wouldn't crush the box in his suit pocket.