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Sheild thinOUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

NEW STORIES.


CHECKS AND BALANCES
original fiction
"lt's a funny old business..."

A conventional case sees Skinner and Scully pitted against bank robber Maurice Jackson in the confines of a derelict warehouse, but Jackson seems to have an uncanny ability to avoid arrest.

CHECKS AND BALANCES

DISUSED FACTORY,
EASTON, MARYLAND, 4.30pm

Seeking shelter from the persistent rain, Skinner edged back against the wall of the warehouse and crouched beneath an awning as far as he could, somehow squeezing his large frame into a tiny space that was no bigger than the diameter of a trash can. As he wiped the rain drops off his glasses he cursed out loud about the current state of affairs.

When he replaced them it was with a decided impatience. At least the clean eyewear allowed him to survey the parking lot of the rundown, disused sheet metal factory to look for any kind of movement but there
was nothing out of the ordinary. A glance over his shoulder however revealed a car turning into the other end of the street; a glimpse of ahead of auburn hair and he realised Scully was driving. The car slowed
and pulled to a stop, and she got out. With a single scan she sighted him, crossed the street at a run and, with difficulty, squeezed through a gap in the wire fence. She drew her weapon as she approached his
position, her posture low and cautious, and not because of the rain.

"What are you doing here?" he asked quickly when she joined him.

"Long story," she said curtly, and nodded at the building. "What happened?"

"Jackson."

"Jackson?" It took only a moment for her to connect. "Maurice Jackson, wanted for bank robbery?" she shook her head, clearly puzzled.

Despite his ill humour Skinner was pleased that Scully had kept herself appraised of the operations in progress and didn't have her head buried in the X Files as Mulder had always been inclined to do. It
meant he didn't have to launch into a detailed briefing on the spot. Instead he said simply: "Escaped. Months of work down the can. Sheer chance I trailed him here. We got last minute word he sometimes uses this place to lie low and stash his proceeds."

"What about the task force?" she moved closer to him to get out of the rain.

"Fully deployed at the stakeout." His jaw muscles tightened, clearly he was more than just annoyed.

"And he slipped the net?" she raised her eyebrows, her voice derisive. "A vanishing act?" A tiny smile. "I know what Mulder would say."

Once again Skinner was reminded how Scully tended to include Mulder in her conversations as though he was still here; her way of dealing with his absence. He saw the joke but added: "God, don't even suggest
it. I know the talk about this guy having an uncanny knack of just disappearing, but that's all it is, just talk. There's no X File here, Scully, just sloppy detective work."

Scully had to agree. She didn't envy the S.A.C. in charge of the taskforce at all. Skinner would be demanding answers. Jackson hand somehow been alluding arrest for over a year which didn't make the
FBI look good in the eyes of the media and as the man in charge that made him look bad. There would be heavy pressure from above to close the case. Question was, how to proceed. "What now?" she asked,
ducking from the stream of water that suddenly spilled over the edge of the rusted guttering.

"Jackson's inside, somewhere. I've got some back up of the way. The rest are following."

"Is he armed?"

"Reports say no, but his weapon of choice is a switch blade knife, and he won't hesitate to use it. As you know his M.O.. is to take a hostage and threaten to kill them if his demands aren't met."

"One way of getting attention." Scully observed and then pondered only for a moment. "Well there's two of us now. Do we go in?"

Skinner placed his hand on her shoulder and she turned to him, to find much concern. "1 not sure I want to expose you to any kind of danger,not in your condition." He told her soberly.

She shook her head. "1 told you not to worry. I'm fine." Her face was not stern but determined, and slightly amused - she wasn't even showing yet. How men could over-react to pregnant women sometimes.
Thank God Agent Doggett didn't know, she didn't think she could stand the two of them. Once again she asked: "Now, are we going in?"

As much as it went against the grain Skinner had to concede the point. Besides he needed her. He finally gave his answer: "All right. As it is I don't see much choice. We waste any more time and he could
make good his escape, and to be truthful I'm not prepared to allow that. Kersh is breathing down my neck on this one already."

Scully could understand his desire to not to let the opportunity to close the case slip away, so to speak. They both knew how the Deputy Director would like to sideline them both. "Any idea of the layout?"
she asked, giving the place the once over.

"No, but from the outside it seems a simple enough floor plan. Offices, canteen and factory area, all on one level."

Scully raised an eyebrow and then her lips pursed tightly as she checked her weapon. She was quick and proficient as she did so.

Skinner edged past her to take the lead while she hung back and waited for his signal. While he continued to worry him that he was depending on a pregnant woman, he couldn't deny Scully was also
something else. She was not only a good investigator but an excellent field operative as well. She was a good shot and could think quickly on her feet. More importantly she wasn't afraid. This alone inspired
confidence in him.

Skinner checked his own weapon, waved his hand and rose. Scully moved with him. Guns at the ready they made their way into the dim interior through a propped open back door to a small storage area. Ahead were two doorways that apparently split off to what appeared to be the kitchen and dining room of the old staff canteen. Skinner again used a hand gesture to instruct her to take one door while he took the other and she veered away. Scully extracted a small flashlight from a pocket that she rested on the barrel of her weapon before disappearing. He watched her go, then entered his door cautiously.

In the gloom he found a large dining room devoid of most of its furniture, not only was it dusty and dirty, the place almost completely in ruin. There was an overpowering smell of decay and damp. As he was
about to proceed he heard Scully's voice shout: "FBI! Hold it!" and propped to listen further. Suddenly he heard a shot, both loud and sharply echoed in the confined space. The report was different to their
service weapons - more a pop than a bang and he was instantly, deeply concerned. He hadn't even considered Jackson had a gun until then. Skinner turned and back tracked to find the other entrance and,
drawing his weapon up to eyeline, moved into the wreck of a kitchen.


A pin point of light indicated Scully's location. In the semi darkness she couldn't tell whether he was already too late, and with his heart in his mouth he forced a path through the accumulated junk and dismantled equipment to get to her side. When he reached her side she was slumped against the overturned preparation benches. Gently he felt her back and body for a wound and finding none he turned her over. With an arm around her waist and the other supporting her back he partly lifted and propped her in a sitting position against the bench. Scully was bleeding, there was a nasty gash high on her head near the hair line and she appeared to be semi-conscious. Nevertheless she still held her weapon tightly in her hand. He took it from her and set it down at her side.

Immediately above them he saw a wrenched water pipe bearing a bright brass scar along a length, and Skinner shook his head. Obviously the bullet had hit it first. That old pipe had probably saved her life. He
held his handkerchief against the wound to try to stem the bleeding and was relieved to see her eyes on him but they were half-closed and pain-filled, and when he called her name all she could manage was an
inaudible mumble. He suspected a severe concussion at best, at worst,a fractured skull.

Scully seemed to be near the point of losing consciousness. Her eyes were now unfocused and almost closed. Skinner touched her face to find her skin was cold, and he thought of shock, so he pulled her overcoat tightly across her body, took off his own coat and covered her to keep her warm. When her head suddenly lolled back he knew she'd slipped into unconsciousness. He quickly cleared an area around them of refuse to try to make her as comfortable as possible. For now that was all he could do. The guilt rose at once. This was all his fault. He should have ordered her to remain outside where she was safe. If anything was to happen... He sat back on his haunches and ran his hand over his mouth, thinking. Skinner reached for his cell phone and dialled 911. He identified himself, requested an ambulance and gave as much detail as possible. Once that was done he rang off and placed his phone onto a wooden chopping block to free his hands.

As he attended Scully's wound Skinner considered the problems individually. Number one: either the suspect had long gone or was still here, perhaps even with the gun pointed at him right at this moment.
Problem number two: whether to wait for help, or continue the pursuit of the suspect. Three, the clincher: a man at liberty with a gun obviously constituted a clear and present danger to the public and it was obvious his duty was to try and make an arrest. Any subsequent incident as a consequence of his failure to do so might be construed as dereliction. Scully would be the first to remind him of that. Scully...

Skinner gently pushed the hair back over her ear with his fingers to look at her face closely. While there was a swelling bruise forming about the wound she showed no obvious pain and she was breathing
normally. The blood appeared to be congealing. Nonetheless, still torn by the decision to go or stay, he picked up his weapon and went out in search of the man. Behind him on the wooden block his cell phone
remained, forgotten.
In the passageway just outside the canteen, he heard scurrying footsteps fade into the distance, which immediately confirmed his suspicions that the man had not left. He felt an involuntary shiver go up his spine. Skinner stood still, trying to gauge his suspect's location which proved a problem in itself.

The place was dark, dank, smelling of mould Somewhere there was water running, perhaps from a broken-down pipe The rain continued, tapping a lazy rhythm on the roof above. The air was cold, damp and yet he was sweating, blood rushing to his fingertips He fancied he could feel his heart beat ten times faster than normal and the silence made his ears ring. He took another step forward, grateful there was enough light to see sufficiently, but didn't appreciate the shadows - anything could be lurking in the darkness. For some reason he thought of rats, and he hated rats. A small flight of steps through swing doors brought him to the intersection of two corridors, a ramshackle office to the left. He turned to check it. A faint noise, then, framed in a second doorway stood Jackson, but only for a second. Skinner raised his weapon.

"FBI!" He bellowed, identifying himself by law. "Give it up, man,there's no way out!" (He hoped that was true.)There was a suggestion of the glint of dull metal then a sickening sharp crack. The bullet missed, fortunately, as Skinner ducked instinctively into the office to get out of harm's way and flattened
himself against the door. He let only seconds go before he reached around and loosened off three of his own unsighted, hoping for a hit that would end the matter then and there. By the time he chanced another look there was no sign of him. Skinner actually sighed with relief. To tell the truth the near miss had frightened the life out of him, and served to reinforce the danger. Where the hell was that backup! He felt for his phone and then suddenly remembered where he'd left it. Skinner swallowed hard, steeled himself and ventured cautiously into the right-hand corridor.

It suddenly occurred to him that while he may not only going against strict procedure, he had abandoned all good common sense. He'd rushed into this on the spur of the moment, without proper consideration. He
could have depended on Scully to watch his back but now he was alone. Running a gunman to ground and apprehending him wasn't child's play, and it unnerved him more than he cared to admit. There was no denying the anxiety. He no longer belonged to this kind of work, too long in a supervisory role to remember how it was to be a field agent. He could quote you Rules and Regulations to the letter; command and control a hostage or siege situation, a major disaster, or plan in detail the security arrangements for a visiting head of state, but he simply couldn't remember the last time he had been forced to trade shots with a suspect in a situation like this. You needed to be razor sharp and on top of your game. He was rusty and knew it. He had to keep his wits about him. If he didn't he could wind up dead. That thought didn't make him feel any better at all.

Keeping his back to the wall, a tighter grip on the automatic than was probably necessary, he made his way along the corridor. A heavy firedoor needed opening before leading out to the expansive, debris-filled
factory floor. The sun had broken through the clouds and streamed in multilayered shafts through high windows and broken skylights, and he was momentarily blinded by the increased glare; his eyes took
precious seconds to adjust. When his vision returned to normal he relaxed, all was quiet, except for the swirl of dust rising up from the floor Certain it had been disturbed by the man's hurried passage through here, he approached and quickly switched sides of the doorway, letting his weapon do the search: a sweep across, up and down then a square - all by the book. He moved cautiously forward when he sighted the plain outline of footprints, and his pulse quickened. There came the abrupt sound of a metal rattling at the rear end of the factory, followed by a door banging, closer. Taking cover behind a long length of rusted storage racks, Skinner edged toward that exit. It turned out to be a dead end. A bolted wire door leading to the loading dock remained firmly secured. No way for Jackson now but to backtrack past him, or ... use the corridor which had led off to the left? He turned to head back out of the factory to the intersection of the corridors - a mistake.

Caught out in the open between two sections of the racks, Skinner felt rather than heard the shot. It came as a ripping, searing pain in his upper right arm that caused him to drop his gun. The impact spun him round, and his legs went from under him. He managed to prevent smacking face first onto the concrete floor by throwing his hands out forward, shortening the fall, only to jar wrist and elbows as a result.

Even so he had the presence of mind to scramble to his knees as a second shot rang out to get back to the scant yet relative safety of the storage racks. In his haste he flung himself blindly to the far side of
the racking and landed in a heap amidst the rubble piled up against the factory wall. He ingested a lung full of dust for his trouble and spluttered and swore at the same time. Hugging bruised ribs and winded, pain hit him all at once, but he didn't have time to console himself. Skinner flinched as a rough hole suddenly rent the brick wall not far from his face, stinging his right ear with sharp fragments. How many was that? Three? Four? How many rounds were left! Realising he must be a standout target, self-preservation took over and he rolled against the racks with his back to the floor, seeking refuge. He examined the wound through the tear in his sleeve. It had gone right through the jacket and shirt and creased his upper arm and he realised
that he couldn't have been luckier. Merely a nick, painful and bloody, but nothing more than a damned nuisance. For a makeshift bandage he removed his tie to bind his arm in order to stop the bleeding.

Once he'd completed that necessary task and finding his mind suddenly, worryingly, blank the realisation that he had been wounded finally hit him. Christ, he could have been killed! The realisation brought on a backwash of conflicting emotions. It had really come down to a question of inches and an amount of providence which couldn't be measured. Actually, the burden of his growing physical distress came as a welcome reminder that he had survived. But it also left him with another battle to contend with. He thought he had put it behind him, all those years ago in Vietnam. The ambush, the ear-splitting gunfire that found him and ripped into his body, even the near-death experience.

He'd worked so hard to rid himself of the memories only to find now that they had never really gone away. Sure there were the sleepless nights, but that was different, unconnected. Up until this moment he had considered himself durable, reasonably tough, stress-proof, fairly calm and clear-headed when required and able to keep his temper in check. That was his job after all, managing: delegating, organising, running his department by the strength of his personality and will. Dodging bullets, however, was wearing all this a bit thin, cutting chunks from his reserves, doing his nerves no good at all, making him realise he wasn't as strong as he thought. He didn't think he could take being shot at again. He dropped his head back onto one of the lower shelves, closed his eyes and cursed his lack of good judgement.

At first he couldn't fathom the confusion, the anger, frustration ... it was hard to face up to a limitation. He'd always been so sure of himself, and making decisions and giving orders had come naturally. He'd never had any difficulty viewing a situation and arriving at a workable solution on any scale, both in practice and on paper - seems all it served, was to give him a false sense of confidence.

With this clinical overview came the irony. Delegation. He was good at that. It was easy to sit back and watch from the sidelines then analyse the results. It was an entirely different matter when taking an
active part in making those results actually happen. Problems; unforeseen circumstances with which you have no control; your suspect not playing the game you want him to and doing the unexpected; your own weaknesses, bad decisions and lapses of judgement. All these factors looked different in the stilted style of
formal reports. Impersonal, with no allowances for the hard yards, the sweat, the set-backs. And the pain.

His thoughts turned again to Scully and he worried over her well-being. She needed help now, and it was his responsibility. He was an Assistant Director of the FBI, for god's sake, not some green 'cherry' agent! Whatever it took, he had to get this thing over with, one way or another. The only question was: how?

The eerie, damp-laden silence of the kitchen was broken abruptly by the sound of tiny claws. A large brown rat ventured out from beneath the filthy dislodged steel sinks and propped on its haunches to examine
the bundle that blocked its path. The rat put out its paws to touch the fabric and sniffed, testing to see if the object was solid, decided it was and jumped up to scurry across, and down to disappear the other side. Scully stirred at the intrusion, groaned and opened her eyes slowly only to cringe at the pounding in her head. She felt instantly nauseated. She tried to ignore the affects and struggled to lift her arms to her face to find that an overcoat had been placed over her. Finally, as awareness returned, her surroundings registered and she glanced around her at the kitchen, blinked several times and tried to remember. The events slotted in, finally, and her predicament came to her in sharp jolt. The overcoat belonged to Skinner. Where was he? Had he gone after the man alone? Surely not? She had to do something.

Scully drew the coat aside, away from her. She grabbed the leg of the upturned preparation bench and levered herself into a position where she could get onto her knees. She placed her other hand onto the top of
the edge of the bench and pushed herself unsteadily onto her feet where she rested a moment, hoping her legs would hold her. Throbbing pain came with the elevation. She touched her forehead and came away
with blood on her fingers. Looking above, she saw the pipe's raw brass scar and her mind was able to summon the mental playback.
She remembered being confounded by a twisted lattice of water pipe
that was dangling down almost in front of her face. Strangely enough the impression had been of a tree snake slowly sliding from a higher to a lower branch, its head momentarily hanging in the vacant space
between.
Behind this barrier there had been a fleeting image of a male figure who seemed to instantly vanish without moving into the shadows which caused her to baulk then she shouted at him to stop.

There was a flash of light accompanied by a loud bang and she ducked down to avoid the shot. The round hit the pipe and deflected, almost catching her as she tried to get down. She lost her footing as a result and fell heavily, hitting her head against something hard and sharp that knocked her senseless That was all she remembered with reasonable clarity. Skinner had been with her for a little while, much concerned, she
thought, but he had gone. With a resigned expression she slung the coat over the bench and rested her head in her hands, allowing a low moan to escape her lips. She didn't feel at all well. The incident had taken its toll on her and it was crucial that she get it together and quickly.
There came a muffled shot and she looked up sharply...

A faint sound of movement brought Skinner back to the moment, and he turned onto his stomach to survey the factory floor. To his right, over at the far end, another set of identical storage racks were located and he concentrated on that point until his eyes hurt. He was soon rewarded with a glimpse of a crouching form - Jackson. Oddly he thought that area vacant only moments before. Well, obviously the man hadn't been able to find a way out, so if he wanted his freedom, he'd have to come back this way. Skinner could do one of two things: take him head on, or wait it out. (Could Scully hold on?) The first wasn't available option. No one in their right mind would willingly charge down the barrel of a loaded weapon. As for the second, Jackson must have seen him hit and may think he'd been able to eliminate him as a barrier to his escape altogether. If Skinner lay in wait, making no sign, he might be able to draw the man into the open, where he stood a decent chance of taking him. It was a big IF.

Skinner looked at his watch and was amazed to find no more than fifteen to twenty minutes had passed since he entered the building. It seemed impossible, it felt like at least an hour. God, it seemed more
than an hour. His throat was sore and he could have used a drink of water, anything to get the dust down. He wiped his mouth with the dirty cuff of his shirt. He must be covered with the muck; the grime clung to the back of his neck and irritated the corners of his eyes, his glasses were smudged.

Skinner resisted the temptation to keep glancing at his watch, knowing that all it would do would be to increase his anxiety. He was uncomfortable. His arm had begun to trouble him with a painful throbbing. His heart was racing like an over-revving car engine with the accelerator pedal stuck. He wanted to be anywhere else but here. He couldn't do anything, however, until his suspect did. And it was frustrating. All he could hear was the wind swirling through the gaps in the skylights and his own heavy breathing. To top it all off the rain started again.

Suddenly Jackson broke cover, breaking the deadlock, and ran fast. Skinner knew he'd have to time it right because if he allowed him any kind of room he couldn't hope to catch him in a foot race. And there
was still the gun to worry about. With a wince he hauled himself to his feet, judged the distance and angle as if lining up a difficult, dancing opponent in the boxing ring, tensed, and went for the man. If not speed
and agility, then weight and size were to his advantage and he prayed that Jackson couldn't turn and fire before he got within arm's length.

Skinner cannoned into him from the blind side, head down, driving his shoulder hard into the man's lower ribcage and taking him clean off his feet in an impact so jarring it rattled his own sternum. The sensation
gave him a perverse kind of pleasure, knowing he was making the man pay for the trouble he caused, it didn't matter that he lost his glasses in the tackle, he had his man. The momentum carried them sideways,
and they crashed to the floor, raising a cloud of thick dust. Jackson came off second best, hit by what must have seemed to him like a runaway diesel. Skinner faired the better, cushioned mainly by the
struggling body beneath him, but his right forearm was pinned.

He attempted to twist the man face down using shoulder and hip, at the same time trying to secure a desperate grip with his left hand around the gun. It was presently out of his reach and all he could gather was a loose purchase on the sleeve of the man's jacket. Jackson, deafening him with grunts and shouted obscenities, was surprisingly strong for his size and actually got his arm up to turn his wrist inwards and even without his glasses Skinner saw the barrel swing towards him. He couldn't get enough leverage to add power from his shoulder and back to his left arm nor free his trapped limb either. Jackson took him by the neck and began pushing him awkwardly backwards. He tried to jerk his right arm free but it was becoming almost too painful to move now. The only thing he could do was roll off to the side, drag the man over with him, then use his greater bulk to force Jackson onto his back.

Skinner succeeded in getting the man part the way round onto his side and this time he got hold of the gun to slam it hard against the floor in an attempt to dislodge it. The thing went off, startling him and he
almost froze. Jackson used his hesitation to retaliate and Skinner took a well aimed punch to the side of the face before he could raise his injured arm to block a follow-up. He slammed the gun down yet again,
and finally the weapon fell free, but it cost him another, vicious blow just forward of the temple, which stunned him so badly he nearly blacked out. Jackson had flailed out his free arm and found within
reach a length of splintered wood, refuse from a stack of broken pallets close by and used it as a club, knowing Skinner's right arm was almost totally useless, therefore leaving that side exposed and
undefended.

The man dumped him off and struggled to his feet determined to make a dash for it. Almost blinded by the pain, Skinner reacted to the movement in alarm. If he allowed the man to get away now, then it would have all been for nothing! A last ditch effort, a desperate lunge, an ankle tap brought the man down. This one was not going to get away from him, not after what he did to Scully. Jackson scrambled to his feet out of Skinner's reach and when Skinner looked up he wasn't there. Jackson suddenly appeared behind him and as Skinner tried to get up he turned to kick him savagely in the side. Skinner grunted with the pain, collapsed and rolled onto his back. Jackson fumbled in his pocket...

Scully entered the passageway immediately outside the canteen with her guard up and her weapon held at the ready. She looked left and right, then proceeded down the passageway using steps that were slow
and deliberate. Her route was merely a guess because she had no idea where she was going or where Skinner had gone. She continued through two swing doors and down the steps to the intersection where another corridor veered off to her right. Straining to listen, she thought she could hear scuffling at the end of the right hand corridor and followed the sound. It brought her to a heavy fire door.

As she leant forward to open it she felt queasy and weak and fell against the door. Her knees actually buckled and Scully had to surrender her weight to the door to keep herself from falling. She worried she was on the verge of fainting. For a moment she thought she was going to be ill and clenched her jaw hard to try to ward of the irksome feeling that she suspected was not entirely from the blow to her head. Fortunately the unpleasant sensation passed. However she still felt unwell as she opened the door. Too bad. She forced herself on. She had heard shots; Skinner needed her help. Nevertheless, she was watchful - no point in blundering into who knew what. As she came out onto the factory floor what she did find stopped her in her tracks with all thought of her physical distress dismissed. Jackson had a knife in his hand, flat and low down, in the street-gang fashion and was preparing to strike. She took aim yet for a second she thought she lost sight of him in the background and hesitated, thinking she was still suffering side affects. Fortunately he came back into focus and she acted quickly.

"Drop your weapon!" She yelled, flinching at the loudness of her own voice Jackson ignored her. "Drop it now!" One last warning. Jackson made to lunge. She had no choice now. Scully fired, hit her target and
the man reeled and fell. Scully lowered her weapon and ran forward.
As Jackson tumbled at his feet, Skinner rose only to fall back onto, rather than sit, on the nearby stack of pallets. He rested his head in
his hands, battling to bring his racing heart back under control. Initially pumped full of adrenaline, he found the high drain away even more quickly than it had come and he felt weak and shaky.

Scully quickly, visually checked Jackson, noted the neat bullet hole in the man's shoulder and kicked the knife away from his hand, but truth be told she was only concerned for Skinner.

When she reached his side, and knelt down before him, he didn't seem aware of her. She went to touch his arm. Skinner snapped back and away in an instinctive defensive reaction, a glazed look in his eyes.
Scully had seen men galvanised like this before and didn't push it. Post-trauma stress syndrome was the lofty designation. To hell with that, it was simply the shakes. She waited for him to work it out on
his own, and used the time to take stock of the badly swelling right eye, the bloodied sleeve bandaged with his own necktie, the dust and sweat-streaked face, his scuffed shoes, and his suit now a dirty grey.
Whatever had taken place, he certainly had a rough time of it. Scully found his glasses for him, wiped them on her overcoat and placed them into his hand. His hand grabbed hers and didn't let go.

Over the years and especially recently the barrier of rank had been eased between them. Skinner was like any other colleague who had gone through a harrowing experience and was now having to deal with
the after-affects and Scully didn't hesitate to place a hand on his
shoulder, as much to reassure herself as well as him."lt's all right," she said gently with a tight smile.

Skinner's dark eyes flicked toward her. Recognition was there, and a real desire to perhaps let pent up emotions go, but she knew that was something to be done later, in private. Right now it was enough just to
bear up.
For Skinner, Scully's familiar, steady and confident voice was like a tonic; with her here he felt safe and the ordeal was finally over... not only for himself. He searched her face.

"Dana, are you okay?"Scully also held a desire not to appear weak, a defenceless woman, despite how she felt. "I'm all right," she fended the question off with a nod and leaned over to examine his arm. "Much pain?" she asked, gently removing his hand from hers so she could lift his makeshift bandage to get a better view.

"lt's hurting. Nothing I can't manage." Not quite true. As he relaxed every part of him began to react to the strain and if he had a mind to, he could have rattled off a manifest of aches and pains. That wasn't
important. "You're sure you're all right?" he asked her again.
Scully gave him another tight smile and squeezed his hand briefly before turning her attention to Jackson. Just as well she did. He was
more than unconscious, clearly something else had caused a complication.

"He's stopped breathing," she said in alarm as she checked the man's carotid vein. "No pulse. Can you help me with CPRT"

Skinner immediately joined her and as she began mouth and mouth he initiated heart massage, his desire to try and save the man outweighing the pain he experienced from his own wound. After a little while, to his surprise Scully grimly drew back and felt for the man's carotid pulse again. She gritted her teeth and cursed out loud: "Damnit!" She moved towards him, indicating with a hand motion that Skinner should allow her some room. He automatically obeyed the request. With a bailed fist Scully abruptly thumped Jackson three times directly in the middle of the chest as hard as she could then turned again to quickly tilt the man's head right back. She pinched his nose and blew two times hard into his mouth. Jackson's cheeks billowed out like balloons from the force. Scully glanced back at Skinner."All right, let's go again."

They both resumed CPR in rhythm working hard amid the desolation. Finally after what seemed like an age, they were rewarded when the man coughed and moaned and Scully once again placed her fingers
against his neck.
"I've got a good pulse," she commented breathlessly but with satisfaction and placed her ear to his chest. She looked up. "Heartbeat sounds okay."

Once again seeing her put her vocational skills in practise Skinner's admiration of her professionalism increased. It was easy to forget she was a fully qualified medical doctor when witnessing her almost beat
cop like qualities in the field. He helped her roll the man over into a coma position and Scully tried to stem the blood flow by ripping a piece off the man's own shirt.

"What's wrong?" Skinner asked, even to him the shoulder wound didn't seem that serious.

Scully shook her head. "1 don't know, blood pressure, diabetes maybe. I'll follow it up later, right now I have to get him to hospital immediately. We need an ambulance."

"Should be one on the way," he explained quickly and saw her query.

"It was meant for you. They should be here by now but I guess they can't find the place." She sat back on her haunches and nodded. She would ring again. Just as she reached for her phone they heard the sound of a piercing ambulance siren, growing louder as the vehicle approached. It was followed immediately by another siren, a different tone, and Skinner knew that at last the cavalry was arriving. While Scully again checked the man's pulse, his thoughts returned to reflect on recent events. His encounter with Jackson had been close run thing and his feelings and thoughts were still confused. Did all his agents find it as difficult?
And did they go through the same gamut of emotions after such an encounter? How was Scully really feeling deep behind her professional face? He understood now the reluctance to confide in him even if
pressed. It was the bottom line, after all; hiding your feelings; displaying a stiff upper lip, getting on with job. The "J. Edgar Hooverway." Drilled into them all from the beginning and a trick he'd long
mastered but often felt trapped by. Oh, if Scully only knew the half of it! If only he could tell her.

As their eyes met briefly he got the uncanny impression that somehow he didn't need to. That they both
understood the cost. At times the whole thing seemed so crazy and unpredictable, how circumstances could turn in the blink of an eye, when the hunter became the hunted in a life or death struggle. Nothing could ever be taken for granted. Ever. Skinner became aware that Scully was looking at him again but this time with an odd expression. She raised an eyebrow."lt's a funny business," he observed cryptically, voicing his thoughts out loud for her, which reminded him of something he had quite forgotten.

"What is?" Scully asked.

"Cops and robbers."

She shook her head. "1 don't understand."

"lt's something I heard once. A visiting Commander from the Police in England told me that at a conference a couple of years ago. He said that 'it's a funny old business, this cops and robbers.' I wasn't sure
what he meant then. Now it seems so perfectly clear."

Scully frowned. "I'm not sure I follow," she confessed.

Skinner explained. "One minute we're trying to eliminate this man as a threat, the next we're obliged to save his life."Scully pursed her lips as she pondered this, and another thing struck her. For once there was no X File here. There were no supernatural theories, no mythical beasts, no paranormal explanations, just routine police work (if you could call it routine) indeed, old fashioned "cops and robbers" and strangely she had found it refreshing to have to deal with what Mulder would have termed scud work. Sure, if he had been here he might have interpreted the evidence differently and made an outlandish leap but that was just the way he viewed things. Before she could convey this to Skinner they heard movement and the rattle of equipment and the moment was lost.

She rose to meet the paramedics, to guide them, and when she glanced back Skinner was leaning over Jackson, taking care of him, and the gravity of his words struck her. If you cared to analyse it, an odd state of affairs did indeed exist between law enforcers and law breakers. For the FBI, there were in-built regulations, established procedures to ensure that justice was served. In the field this didn't always apply.

The criminals had no such rule book. They would run, they would hide, they would even kill to avoid prosecution. The FBI were authorised to use deadly force but even here there were loopholes. Scully was certain that Jackson would have left them to die in his wake and a clever lawyer would suggest his was a case of self defence. It was a hell of a long way from Congress and the law makers to the street, and the street had its own law. A funny old business? Yes, it definitely was. The rule book was there for a reason, and Scully was thankful for it but in many ways it tended to hinder natural justice. Maybe in the end
simple ways and means were more suited to enforce the law than the complicated checks and balances.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 2002

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