OF THE MAINSTREAM
CHECKS AND BALANCES
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
"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?" 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
"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
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
"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.
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
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?"
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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.
"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
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
"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?
As their eyes met briefly he got the uncanny impression that somehow
he didn't need to. That they both
"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
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
--end of file--
C L Goodwin 2002
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