Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully aren’t mine, they’re CC’s, 10-13’s, and Fox’s. They’re just on loan and I am paying interest. Everybody else is mine, bought and paid for.
Author’s Note: This is a sequel to “Fallen From Grace” and “Amazing Grace”. You should read those first or else you won’t get it. I plan on turning this series into a long running endeavor so I hope I’ll be able to keep your interest. E-mail me with any stray thought that might have popped up as you read. XScout@hotmail.com
In Good Graces
Plainville Police Station
"Are they here yet?"
"Damn it! It's been over forty minutes! You tried their phones, right?"
Sykes nodded in exasperation. Of course he had, did Gillis think he was stupid? "Look, I don't see why you're so upset. I mean, Spooky isn't exactly a stable guy, he's probably-"
Dan Sykes was cut off mid-sentence as his body was slammed up against the wall, strong hands gripping his shirt front. ASAC James Gillis' voice was quiet, low and dangerous. "You listen to me and you listen good! Mulder is one of the best damn agents I have ever worked with! He has more intelligence and passion for justice in his little finger than you have in your whole body. If you ever, I mean *ever*, imply that he is not worthy of our respect, then I suggest you transfer to a different field office. Do I make myself clear??"
"Yes, Sir." It came out a whisper.
Gillis released the man and turned around, walking back to the other side of the room they had been using as their command center within the police department. He leaned over and placed his hands on the glossy tabletop, breathing deeply. "All right. What about Cornwall, have we been able to reach her?"
Agent Brahms, who up until then had been standing wordlessly in the corner watching the altercation between the other two men, stepped forward. "We sent an agent over to the motel and got the manager to open up her room. It was empty, no signs of a struggle, nothing out of the ordinary. Her cellphone isn't picking up and her car is missing."
"Shit." Gillis pinched the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger. "Okay, let's do this by the book. Send a team of three out to the motel to talk to anyone who might have seen her, follow up on any leads offered." He turned around. "Sykes, perhaps you'd better be part of that group."
Sykes just nodded, knowing that he was in the proverbial doghouse. "I'll get right on it, Sir." With that he left the room, hunting down Chaney and Thornburg so they could try and find Trish. They would be of the same mind as him - that Spooky was off somewhere chasing UFOs. Or maybe he and his pretty little partner were holed up somewhere, all hot and sweaty. He smiled. He'd like to be holed up with Scully any day.
Back in the small room, Gillis was conferring with Brahms. "You have the list of men they were scheduled to interview? Good. Then let's start with the one in the middle. If they’ve been there, then we try the next two. If they haven’t, then we’ll go for the previous two. Get Ryan to bring the car around. Let's go." He grabbed his coat from the back of a chair and pulled it on, striding out the door energetically, Brahms on his heels.
9769 Cambury Drive
She shifted the weight in her lap slightly, careful not to jar him too much. Not that he'd notice. She looked down at the man lying in her arms, gratefully watching his chest rise and fall.
No response. She hadn't really expected any. He'd lost consciousness about five minutes ago and she had little hope of him waking any time soon. All she could do was put pressure on the wound and keep him as warm as possible.
She glanced at her watch, barely able to make out the numbers in the faint light. Half past two. They were half an hour late for the check in time, Gillis should be pretty antsy right now. He would probably re-interview each of the men on their list to establish whether she and Mulder had been there. Working his way down to the last name on the list. The right name.
Hopefully they ascertained the other suspects' innocence quickly and made it here in haste. She prayed that Mulder would be able to wait. He had lost so much blood, the bullet still inside of him causing God only knew what kind of damage.
Not long after they'd been thrown into this dark shelter she had realized that Dolby didn't confiscate her cellphone. Her jubilance didn't last long. The walls of the tornado shelter were far too thick for a signal to get through, especially since her battery was only half charged. Desperate, she had decided to try Mulder's in hopes that his would have more power.
Whether it had or not she would never know. The phone was shattered inside his coat pocket, victim to the same bullet as he. After that she realized the only thing left for her to do was wait. Until Dolby came back to finish them. Until Gillis arrived with a rescue team. Either one took time.
Scully leaned her head back against the cool concrete, pulling Mulder's body closer. It was time they didn't have.
Plainville Police Station
"Hey Randy, you seen Agent Gillis?" The officer who had just come through the door headed straight for the FBI's command center.
The one sitting behind a desk, feet resting on its surface, mouth full of a bagel, shook his head. "You're not gonna find him in there. Him and his boys left 'bout five minutes ago, must've just missed 'em. Why? Whatcha got?"
Lieutenant Jack Thomas cursed under his breath. "We've got another body, same MO as the Wrangler. Two boys found a woman's body washed up on the bank where they were going fishing. I was hoping they'd be able to find some evidence on her that'd help them catch this guy."
Randy swallowed the last bit of his bagel, slurping some coffee loudly. "They all got them fancy cellphones, why dontcha call 'em?"
Jack smiled broadly. "Sometimes, Randy, you're not as stupid as you appear to be."
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jim Gillis was sitting in the passenger seat of a blue Ford Taurus, his fingers drumming impatiently on the leather dashboard. Agent Ryan was seated next to him, prudently exceeding the speed limit by fifteen miles an hour. In the backseat, Agent Brahms was shuffling through some papers, his eyes bright and eager.
Brahms leaned forward between the front seats. "Sir? Agent Mulder's profile say that the UNSUB is a manipulator, someone who lies easily and believably. How are we to know whether any of the suspects are telling the truth when they tell us that Agent Mulder and Scully have or haven't been there?"
Gillis' fingers never stopped their staccato beat. "I'll just know."
Scott Brahms chewed on his lip for a moment. This was his first field assignment and he wanted to make sure that he was going about it the right way. He respected his ASAC and was always sure to follow his orders to the last letter. Gillis was a twenty year veteran of the Bureau, Brahms trusted that the older man’s instincts would find the clue.
He went back to studying the profile on their killer. He was fascinated by the insight that Agent Mulder had, putting together what appeared to be random clues into a cogent idea of what made the UNSUB the way he was. And how to find him. It was like a window into the killer's mind. It was like words from the mouth of a prophet.
Brahms had been brought up through the Academy on Spooky Mulder stories. That he had the highest solve rate in the history of Behavioral Sciences, could write accurate profiles with scanty evidence, and actually became the UNSUB in essence. How he could solve a case in minutes, saw little green men everywhere, and how he and his partner were intimately involved. Of course these last few he was less inclined to believe. Meeting the ISU legend in the flesh was a bit intimidating.
But over the past week, Brahms had seen why the rumors said what they did. It was like watching a ballet, a well-choreographed dance that Mulder performed at the crime scenes. The profile was everything he imagined, amazingly in depth, based on few clues, and written while Mulder was flirting with the killer's thoughts. Brahms had witnessed how badly it affected the profiler, how his physical and mental well-being had dangerously declined.
That was where the other rumor came in. Agent Scully. She cared for her partner, he could see it in how her worried gaze sought him out constantly, affirming whether he was okay or not. And the way he looked at her? Scott could see it in his eyes, that Mulder would do anything for her. They were closer than any other pair of partners that Brahms had ever seen. They could have an entire conversation without words, could predict each other's thoughts and actions. It was a connection.
Scott sighed. He wouldn't be assigned a partner for a while yet but he could only hope that he would be able to form so strong a bond. Drawing himself from his reverie, he remembered where they were headed and hoped that it was all for naught, that the X-Files team was safe. He skimmed a few more lines on the paper in his hand and bent forward to ask the ASAC another question.
Before he could open his mouth a phone rang. Everyone reached for their pockets instantly, halting their movements when Gillis said, "It's mine." He flipped open the cellphone and announced himself.
The voice on the other end was loud and tinny. "Yeah, this is Lt. Thomas. We just pulled a body out of the river, looks like your guy was at it again."
Gillis grimaced, assuming the worst. "Do you have an ID yet?"
"Nope. Female, about 30 to 35. I haven't been down to the scene yet, thought I should call you folks first."
"Thanks Lieutenant. We were on our way to interview some men, we'll stop by until another unit gets there." Gillis decided that if it was the corpse of Dana Scully, then Mulder's would surface next. There was no way he would let Scully go without a fight. "Where is this?"
"Hmmm?" She had been surprised and simultaneously relieved when Mulder regained consciousness a few minutes earlier. He remained in her lap, his body shuddering every now and then with spasms of pain.
"You know, I'm red... green color blind."
She blinked. Yes, she knew, what did that have to do with anything? "Uh huh."
"They look... like a muted brownish to me. But your hair has... always been the richest shade of red."
She smiled at that. "Maybe because you know what color it’s supposed to be, your mind supplies the right hue." It was a guess, she had no idea why her hair, but nothing else, would be red to him.
"I'm grateful for that. I would have... hated to miss that." He twisted a bit to stare up at her, gasping as his body was jarred. His hand lifted upwards and he ran trembling fingers across the bottom fringes of her hair.
A tear escaped and ran down Scully's cheek. The way he had spoken made her heart drop into her stomach. She took the hand and squeezed it gently, "Mulder, you can't give up hope."
"Gillis... should have been... here already. Something... has happened." He was pausing more often, the effort of talking was taking its toll.
"Shh, you don't know that. I'm sure they'll be here any minute." But deep down she knew he was right. Something *had* happened.
"God damn it!" The dull thud of a fist hitting the dashboard was loud in the silent car. Ryan swallowed nervously, keeping his eyes on the road, not daring to look at the enraged ASAC.
"How did this happen??" It was a rhetorical question. No one knew how, because it wasn't supposed to happen.
Brahms scrubbed his face, not wanting to allow his tears to come. He had seen his share of bodies in the past month of investigation, but this was different. This was someone he knew.
They had arrived at the crime scene to find it swarming with local police, some of whom he recognized. Scott had searched out the body right away, wanting to discover if it was Scully or not. When the coroner pulled back the yellow flap of the body bag relief washed over Brahms. The woman was blonde. Being bloated and dirty from its sojourn into the muddy river, it had taken a moment to see past the condition.
That was when horror replaced relief. It *was* the body of an FBI agent. Special Agent Patricia Cornwall. He unceremoniously lost his lunch a second later. He was thankful that Gillis didn't appear to notice. The ASAC was on the phone, calling Agent Sykes to tell him to get over here. The forensics team had showed up a minute after that and soon there was nothing to do. They would look for clues and Sykes' group would follow up on them.
So now they were back in the car, heading for their previous destination. Scott was desperately trying to get past the shock, to put it behind him so he could focus on his job. But he couldn't. All he could think of was how he and Trish had been laughing together yesterday. She was telling him about this guy she was seeing, how interested he was in her career. It wasn't often that she found a man who wasn't intimidated or resentful of her because she was a woman in a predominantly male job.
Eager to impress him, she had told him a few things about the case they were working on. Brahms was a bit leery about this, knowing it was against protocol to talk about a case to civilians. But he was the new kid, he didn't want to be branded as untrustworthy or as a brown-noser. So he'd kept his mouth shut.
Now he wasn't so sure he had made the right decision. Had she talked to her boyfriend in private or in a public area? Could the killer have been close and overheard them? Oh no. The boyfriend. Someone was going to have to call him and tell him the news. Scott made up his mind that it was he who should do the deed, to call... what was his name? Ray. That was it, Ray.
He pulled out the piece of paper that listed the five names of the men they were going to interview and wrote at the bottom so that he wouldn't forget. All he needed was a last name. Shouldn't be too hard, this was a fairly small town, there could only be maybe a dozen guys named Ray and fitting the description she'd given him.
Suddenly something struck him. It took a moment for him to pinpoint it. The name above his scrawl was Raymond Dolby. Ray. "Holy shit! Stop the car!"
Agent Ryan slammed his foot on the brake and the vehicle came to a screeching halt. Luckily the road was deserted and no accidents were caused. Gillis twisted around in his seat, his face a mask of surprise. "What is it, Brahms??"
"Sir, yesterday Trish, Agent Cornwall I mean, she told me that she was seeing someone named Ray and that she had discussed the case with him. Sir, the last name on this list is Raymond Dolby." He knew he could get in big trouble for his duplicity in keeping Trish's breach of protocol a secret, but lives were at stake. Screw his job.
Gillis' jaw dropped open and his face purpled over in rage. "She did what??" Suddenly he shook he is head. "Never mind, it doesn't matter now, but you and I will have a talk later about this."
"Yes, Sir," Scott mumbled.
"Ryan, get this car turned around and head for-" he paused to look at the paper, "9769 Cambury Drive."
9769 Cambury Drive
Dolby stood by the window, the curtain drawn back slightly so he could see the road. They were coming. He chuckled in the back of his throat and turned away. He had tucked the gun in the back of his jeans, covered by his baggy flannel. If they caught him with it he was doomed, but he counted on his superior intelligence to keep him safe. They were idiots, he could fool them so easily.
A knock sounded on his door and he sauntered up to it, ready to play his part. He pulled it open, a questioning look plastered across his features. "Can I help you?"
The oldest man stepped forward. "Are you Raymond Dolby?"
"Sure, why don't ya'll come-"
"Mr. Dolby you are under arrest for the suspicion of murder."
"What??" he squawked. This wasn't exactly how he'd planned it. He started backing away from the three federal agents.
Gillis followed him, making sure his hands remained in plain sight. They didn't really have much evidence to arrest this guy but procedure be damned. He knew in his gut that Dolby was the killer, plain and simple. "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney."
Dolby had backed far enough into his house that he was able to dodge into another room in a flash, leaving the trio of agents standing in the entrance. Gillis looked at Ryan and flicked his eyes to the right, signaling for him to go around and try to flank Dolby. To Brahms he whispered, "You're with me." Louder, he continued his earlier line of conversation. "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
Edging his way towards the opening into which Dolby had disappeared, he took the classic Weaver stance. Counting silently to three he whirled himself into the doorway, his gun aimed at the middle of the room. He jerked to the side as bits of plaster and drywall exploded next to him when a bullet slammed into the doorjamb. Throwing himself aside, he managed to fire blindly into the room long enough to provide cover. A few feet away, Brahms was cringing against the wall, his gun trembling inches away from his face.
"Do you understand these rights as I have said them?" Gillis yelled, just to get a rise out of Dolby.
"Fuck you and your rights!!" Another shot came through the door and embedded itself in the bottom of the stairs.
"Did you hear that? Those were gunshots!" Scully strained her ears for any other noise that might give her a clue as to what was happening outside of their prison. "They're coming, Mulder, they're coming."
The walls were too thick, she could only hear the ragged breathing of her partner.
He crouched down next to the door and peeked around the corner. He could see Dolby's back as the man hid behind the couch, his gun held firm in his right hand. Now came the hard part.
Doug Ryan thought of his wife and baby daughter who were safe at home in Kansas City. If this didn't work out, he hoped they would understand someday that it was because he couldn't allow the killer to go free, that this was his job.
He took a deep breath and lunged around the corner. "Freeze! Drop your weapon!"
Dolby's head whipped about to stare at the agent behind him, weapon trained at his chest. He closed his eyes and sighed in defeat. "Shit" was all he said before he released his own gun and raised his hands into the air.
Ryan didn't move from his position, instead he shouted, "I've got him, Sir!"
Gillis appeared across the room instantly and strode over to his agent. "Good work." Then he moved next to Dolby and kicked the gun out of the killer's reach. He drew out his handcuffs and snapped them onto Dolby's wrists in a practiced maneuver "You've already been read your rights so I'm not going to repeat myself." He yanked on the cuffs, forcing Dolby to stand.
"Now, where are Agent Mulder and Agent Scully?" he demanded.
Dolby spat on the carpet. "Kiss my ass, you government pricks."
The force of the blow that struck him in the jaw toppled him back onto the couch. Gillis stood over him, his face set in stone. "I'm only going to ask you one more time-"
"Sir!" It was Brahms, who was still out in the hallway. "Sir! I've found something!"
Gillis glanced at Ryan and nodded in a silent order to watch the suspect. After Ryan had Dolby covered, he hurried back out to where Brahms was crouched on the floor, the corner of a floor rug in his hand. "What is it?"
Peeling the rug away from the hard wood, Brahms revealed a thick reddish brown stain smeared into the boards. Gillis blanched. "All right, I want you to call the paramedics and then I want you to get Sykes over here with that forensics team. Brahms, are you hearing me?"
The younger agent had grown pale and his eyes were unfocused. Gillis' hand on his shoulder served to snap him back to reality. "Yes, Sir." He reached into his coat and groped for his phone.
Gillis shoved the long rug aside and followed the trail of blood into the back of the house, coming to a sliding glass door that looked out into a dreary backyard full of weeds and litter. In the middle of it all was a mound of earth, two large doors mounted atop it. A tornado shelter, common accessory to those in Kansas. But usually they didn't have crowbars in the handles to prevent anyone from getting out.
He slid open the back door so fast that the glass rattled in it's frame. He raced over to the shelter and grabbed the crowbar. "Brahms, get out here!"
Scully heard *that*. It was ASAC Gillis, thank God! "Mulder, he's here! It's going to be okay, they're here!"
Her partner didn't move.
When the entrance to the shelter was thrown open light streamed down onto the pair of agents below. Gillis was halfway down the steps when he paused, taking in the scene before him.
Mulder was laying on the ground, blood covering his clothes and staining the dirt around him. Also drenched in the thick red liquid was Scully, her hands and chest dripping with it. But it was obvious which one was injured.
The one receiving CPR.
Brahms heard Gillis yell from the backyard and shook his head, as though the person on the other end of the phone could see him. He was really getting sick of this conversation. "Shut up, Sykes! I don't give damn what you think! You are under orders to bring a forensics team here and that's all there is to it! So get your lazy ass in gear!" He stabbed the end button with his forefinger. Not as satisfying as slamming down the receiver would have been, but it would have to do.
He'd surprised himself with his anger but it restored his sense of purpose and now he moved through the house quickly and with a lot more confidence. He emerged into the backyard and took a moment to locate Gillis. The ASAC’s head was poking out of a hole in the earth, his hand waving back and forth. Jogging over, Scott came down the first few steps of the shelter.
He had been prepared to find one of the missing agents injured, the blood was obvious enough of that, but for some reason he couldn't have imagined that it would be so bad.
He froze in place and watched in morbid fascination as Scully compressed Mulder's chest, her mouth moving down to breathe air into her partner's lungs. Mulder's head wrenched to the side and he began to cough, blood decorating his chin.
Gillis spoke again. "Go back and stay with Ryan. When the paramedics get here, send them out." Not bothering to reply, Brahms scrambled up the steps and into the house. He didn't want to be near all that pain.
It was but three minutes later when the EMTs arrived, Sykes and his team not far behind. Scott directed them to where Gillis was waiting, staying with Dolby instead of going with them. Sykes came in, Thornburg, Chaney, and the forensics guys in tow.
Ryan took that as his cue to finally take the suspect down to the station and toss him in a cell. Brahms elected to go with him, feeling a need to be useful.
The team began their procedures, cordoning off the crime scene, the flash of a camera lighting up the room, notes taken quickly. They all stopped momentarily as a gurney was wheeled through, laden with a fellow FBI agent, partner alongside and ASAC following. Sykes swallowed hard. He'd heard that someone was hurt but he figured Spooky’d just got a scratch or something.
Faced with reality, he turned around and pretended to be absorbed by a bullet hole in the wall. He made a silent promise to be a little more open-minded in the future.
J.P. Bailey Memorial Hospital
The ambulance ride had been a nightmare, Mulder vacillating between delirium and unconsciousness, going into cardiac arrest just as they pulled into the ER unloading bay. Rushed into the emergency room, he’d been revived with two tries of the defibrillator. The doctors then stabilized him as well as they possibly could and then sent him upstairs to the surgeons.
Scully was waiting again. She hated waiting.
She hardly noticed when someone sat down next to her. "How are you doing, Dana?"
She blinked furiously, the fuzzy shape at her side coalescing into a solid form. "Sir?"
"I was hoping for something a little more descriptive." Jim laid his hand on hers. "He's going to make it, you'll see. He was in good health before..." Gillis trailed off, remembering how Mulder had stopped eating and sleeping. "Well, he'll make it just so that he can gloat and tell us all he was right."
Scully smiled sadly. "Thanks."
Gillis leaned back, settling into the plastic chair. Together they waited.
Scott Brahms walked down the hallway, his shoes clicking loudly on the polished tile. Dolby had been processed and was now resting ‘comfortably’ in the county jail. Sykes and Forensics had finished up the crime scene and were all celebrating the end of this hellish case. But Brahms couldn't celebrate with them. There was an uneasy air hanging above the party, none could forget that one of their own was dead, another critically injured.
He came to the room of his destination and took a deep breath. He pushed open the door. There were three people inside, all of them asleep. Mulder lay in the bed, numerous machines hooked up to him, each emitting its own distinctive blip or whir. Scully was on his right, the guard rail lowered and her head pillowed on crossed arms next to him. ASAC Gillis was on the left, reclining in an uncomfortable looking chair.
Scott tiptoed in, deciding that if he came all the way down here he should at least come in. He stood at the foot of the bed, his hands in his pockets, his lips pressed in a firm line.
He jerked, his breath whooshing out of him. "Sir, I thought you were asleep," he whispered.
Gillis shook his head then motioned at the hallway. He rose and they both left quietly. "Is there something you needed, Brahms?"
"No, Sir. I just wanted to... I mean, I thought that if... this wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for me."
Gillis raised his eyebrows. "Am I to understand that you feel this is your fault? That if you'd informed anyone of Trish's... misconduct, that this could have been avoided?"
Brahms stared at the floor. "Yes, Sir."
"Bull shit." Scott's head snapped up at the ASAC's words. “Even if we had that knowledge, we still would have had to send someone out to interrogate him. They might have given away that they knew something and he would have gotten more violent, killing those agents. Luckily, Trish is the only casualty, sad as it may be.
"You are a good agent. Brahms, I wouldn't want to see this ruin your career. What do you say we keep yours and Trish's conversation between us? I'll talk to Ryan and let him know."
"Sir, I... I... thank you, Sir."
"Don't make me regret it, Brahms." He slapped the young man on the back. "Now, what do you say we get some food, I'm starving."
Scott broke into a huge smile. "*Yes*, Sir."
Scully woke up suddenly, the feeling of being watched overwhelming. She looked around to find a pair of hazel eyes on her. "Hey," she said softly.
"Hey." It was barely a whisper. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Hey. Looks like we made it."
"Yeah, looks like it." Her eyes grew misty and her throat constricted. "But it was too close this time, Mulder. I almost lost you." Her voice cracked on the last word.
His hand searched hers out and grasped it gently. "I'm just glad you're okay."
Scully suddenly laughed, though it sounded strangled with emotion. "Yes, I'm fine. It's you who’s in the hospital. The bullet just missed your lung, Mulder, a millimeter to the right and you'd be playing a harp right now."
"You really think they'd let me past those pearly gates, Scully?"
"With your luck, Saint Peter would be on vacation that day. But you're not going to have to worry about that anytime soon. The doctors predict a full, if slow, recovery. You must be in God's good graces, Mulder."
"If this is what being in his good graces feels like, I'd rather not be." He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.
Scully was instantly all concern. "Are you in pain? I can get the doctor to give you more medication."
"No. I don't want to sleep just yet. Will you just stay her with me for a while?"
"Sure, why don't you close your eyes. I'll be right here." He complied and she reached up to caress his forehead lightly.
He drifted off a minute later, soothed by his own personal angel. Scully continued to caress him long after he was aware of it. "Sweet dreams, Mulder."
to be continued in Grace Note