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The Collective Solution

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Shane Masterson, the local lieutenant on the case, was leaning up against the ICU nurses station awaiting their arrival just over seven hours later. A year or two past middle age, with a tall stature and a neatly trimmed beard, his posture suggested he was wasting his time while his expression respected the duty. He gave them a curt nod once they’d approached.

“Agents Mulder and Scully?” Lieutenant Masterson asked, standing at full height and extending his hand. “Name’s Masterson, I’m the lieutenant assigned to this case.” He’d taken his hat off and gestured toward Sarah’s room with it. “Can’t imagine what the FBI wants with this case,” his voice trailed off and they could both see the lie. “The attempted robbery failed and if she survives, which they aren’t expecting, she’ll be headed to prison.”

“What can you tell us about the perpetrators?” Mulder asked walking over and peering through the window at the girl. Eerily still and pale, hooked up to a ventilator. He recognized a cardiopulmonary bypass machine at her side. Scully appeared next to him, taking the chart from its place outside her door, scanning through it.

“Greg Lebeau, Ian Hanover, Nicole Sargeant all nineteen were DOA,” Masterson began. “I’m sure you read that in the report. Autopsies haven’t been completed, but they’ve been able to ascertain that Lebeau died of a single GSW that punctured the lining of his heart. The other two, and Sarah Alston in there suffered cardiac arrest at the scene. An RN who works in the ER downstairs was there and administered CPR and she managed to hold on. The docs induced a coma to try to buy time. For all the good that’ll do.” 

“What do you mean by that?” Mulder asked.

“Because she has cancer,” answered Scully looking up suddenly from the medical file. “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it’s early, she probably didn’t even know.”

Masterson nodded and continued, “Cursory examination of the bodies of the deceased revealed Sargeant had late stage breast cancer. We were able to track a contact of the group to a clinic she’d been getting chemo from, self-pay.”

“Well that explains the bank job,” Mulder said, the answering silence confirming his assessment.

“Kids were classmates at Union High School near Cottonwood just north of here. Grew up together. Ran away about four years ago, been in Phoenix ever since. Hanover has a record for petty theft, on probation. They all live above a bodega where Ian and Sarah had been employed.” The lieutenant pulled a business card from his pocket and handed it to Mulder. “Here’s my card with my pager number on it, parents' addresses are on the back.”

Catching the officer’s eye he questioned, “any other theories you’re working on?” Whether Mulder meant it as an accusation, it landed as such and the larger man bristled.

“I make it a point to operate on what I can see, Agent Mulder. When all’s said and done there’ll be no one to prosecute for the failed robbery.” He placed his hat on his head, matter of factly. “Theories aren’t good use in my line of work. I’ll leave that to you Feds.” With that he turned and the agents watched him walk back out the same way they’d come, Scully met Mulder with an irritated expression.

“Making friends, as always,” Mulder joked, ignoring the daggers Scully cast at him.

“You better hope we don’t need his help, Mulder.” She put the chart back, drawing her arms to cross her chest and he sensed apprehension as she asked, “do you have any theories?” He almost chuckled at that, anticipating their habitual volleying match.

With no lead in, no rational thought to soften the blow he responded, “telepathy?” She couldn’t tell if it was in jest but her jaw acted on impulse regardless.

“Oh come on, Mulder. Based on what?” The right eyebrow, ever her tell. If an angle could hold secrets, he was sure this one did. She enjoyed this just as much as he did.

“While it’s true there hasn’t been conclusive evidence of telepathy, let’s not forget Gibson Praise, Scully. Whether it’s able to be explained scientifically or reasoned away, there are people who possess psychic abilities.” He pocketed the card and ushered her toward the exit, knowing they had at least another hour drive if they wanted to interview relatives before dark. 

“Mulder you’re talking about a physical response culminating in what appears to be a shared death. That isn’t even telepathy, it’s-it’s sympathy pain. It’s nothing more than extreme empathy, Mulder.”

“Then please explain your theory as to how three people could almost seamlessly carry out a bank robbery in the largest city in the state without saying a single word to each other,” he challenged as he held open the hospital door for her and they simultaneously cinched their coat belts a little tighter at the mid January Arizona cold front.

She gave him a sheepish grin, “well I don’t want to sound like a broken record but, it could be as simple as empathy. You heard Lieutenant Masterson, they grew up together and they’ve probably spent the last four years together. Being as close as they were, people can begin to develop a fundamental understanding of one another that can sometimes appear to manifest as psychic or extrasensory abilities.” When they reached the car she turned to him and shrugged, “in all actuality, they are just finely attuned to each other.” Hazel green eyes met blue, for a split second but he felt something snap between them, confirmed by the slight pink tinge sneaking toward her cheekbones. She’d claim it was the chill in the air, but he’d felt the heat too.

He let his eyes leave hers to reach out around to unlock the door and as he drew close he could feel her tense, could hear her breathing cease. He smothered the smile threatening his lips, reached into his pocket and handed her the business card. "Well, let's go see if you're right, shall we?"