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Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, Homicidal Maniacs

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Left to himself, Mulder would have been in the lead as they came down the hall. A.D. Skinner knew better than to leave him to himself when he was out on loan to ISU. Matthew McCormick was even tall enough to keep up with him.

"No warrant," Matthew reminded him, quiet but firm. "And it'll be a lynch mob when you nail this motherless creation, so don't give him grounds to get evidence dis--"

Mulder stopped in front of room 228: the last room on that side of the hall, on the top floor of a motel that'd seen better days, and right by the fire escape stair. Both of them had smelled that rancid, sour-sweet smell of decay.

"Probable cause," Mulder said flatly, only to have Matthew pull him back and first signal him to one side, then to draw his gun.

"You'll just hurt your shoulder that way. And probable cause it is." Matthew pivoted on one foot and kicked the door just over the lock. The door burst open… and nothing moved in the dim, too-cool room. Mulder waved Matthew in first, covering the door until Matthew indicated that the bathroom was clear and kept moving into the rest of the room.

"No one," Matthew said softly. "The bastard's either out killing another victim--"

Mulder shook his head immediately. "Too soon. He may be scouting, but he's not ready to kill yet."

Matthew nodded, gun still in hand and steady by his side. "Then he's out for food -- or he's run again."

Mulder pulled on latex gloves. "Watch the door."

"I'll just wait and see how long it takes someone to investigate. Ready for me to call in back-up?"

Behind him, Mulder was already prowling, checking the A/C set on high cool despite it being a crisp, clear March. Even with gloves, he didn't touch the settings. "No. Let me make sure he's not coming back."

"Nothing I can do will make that door close properly again," Matthew warned him. It hadn't been in good shape even before he'd kicked it.

"Damn it--" Mulder paused, looking the room over with narrowed eyes, motionless except for that slowly moving head. His mouth tightened down. "Right. Call for back-up. Unmarked cars, ready to stop and question anyone coming or leaving in a truck with a lidded tool insert or a van, tinted windows, either way at least seven years old. But it's probably too late. I think he's gone."

"Leaving us another present," Matthew said. Mulder was scanning for clues to the madman's patterns, so his temporary partner pulled on latex gloves of his own and set about trying to find the body they could both smell. No point in calling that they'd found the latest victim until they *had* found a body...

Not in the tub, the most obvious place, not in the closet, not under the sink or in the drawers (praise God for not so small favors; that would have required dismembering), not under the cheap desk.

Mulder was examining the scatter of newspapers without quite touching them, then the way the pillows lay on the bed, the placement of the TV remote, even the way the curtains were mostly closed over the windows.

Matthew left him to it and gave the room one more appraising look, from window to hall door. (No one had appeared yet. Somehow, he wasn't surprised.) This his mouth tightened as he realized where the latest victim probably lay. "Mulder."

Mulder looked up, saw his face. "Where?"

"In the box springs," Matthew said quietly. "Only place left."

Mulder nodded, that fact slotting neatly into his pattern. "That's why he's here. It's old enough and cheap enough to have box springs." He crouched by the bed, sniffed, and then pulled out a flashlight.

When he straightened up, his expressionless face told Matthew they'd found their missing man; Matthew was already dialing ASAC Lange, their local contact, to tell him the current results and to request assistance. After he hung up, Matthew said quietly, "Mulder. We're getting closer. There're still water drops on the shower curtain. "

Mulder shook his head, resisting any number of urges: to examine the evidence more thoroughly and be damned to the crime scene techs, to pull the poor body out and try to learn more about the boy's killer, maybe to strangle Matthew for keeping him focused on procedures and protocol instead of solely on anticipating and outwitting their prey. "Maybe an hour. Maybe."

From the hallway came the sound of until-then contained liquid hitting the floor, and they were both out the door chasing the man fleeing ahead of them.

Sometimes, close was enough.



ISU: Investigative Studies Unit, i.e., the profilers. It used to be BSU (Behavioral Studies) until someone finally *looked* at the initials.

Scully's fine, but her mother's in the hospital with a broken hip, so Skinner grabbed someone else who could keep up with Mulder and periodically kick his theories back into something juries would listen to.

And oh, yeah. They caught the bastard. They were close enough.

Title from the comment about 'Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.' This time it counted with the homicidal maniac.