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The Collective Solution

Chapter Text

Scully walked through the office door just as Mulder was pushing a video into the VCR, his crisp white shirt stretched taut across his shoulders.

“Check this out, Scully.” His features as animated as Mulder’s features could be, he pointed the remote at the TV as she placed her purse and briefcase in her chair.  She leaned against a file cabinet and watched as a grainy black and white the image coalesced on the screen.

“A bank robbery?” 

He spun around on his heels to face her, a grin exploding on his face. He could build anticipation for a root canal. Giddy as a schoolboy, Mulder’s introduction to a case was her favorite part of every new assignment.

“Just watch, Scully.” His head and the remote both gestured toward the screen where three masked, armed intruders fanned across the lobby of a bank. She made a number of initial observations as she watched the scene unfold. Two males, one female. Generic ski masks, probably purchased at a big box store. Identical glock pistols. Two are right-handed, the male in the lobby favors his left. Four tellers, one security guard face down on the floor with seven patrons, all who appear to be at least thirty years of age.

“First National Bank of Arizona in Phoenix, two days ago. That’s Ian Hanover up top, Sarah Alston to the left and Greg Lebeau over there. Nicole Sargeant is outside, driving the getaway car. All four are nineteen years old, from Cottonwood, Arizona. They ran away from home together three years ago.”

Scully was now only half listening to Mulder as she studied the video, perplexed. It just feels, off, she thought, scanning the image for clues as she tried to put her finger on the niggling feeling of unease. She could hear Ian speaking to the tellers and an occasional whimper or cry from the hostages. She leaned closer to the screen, studying an elderly asthmatic gentleman She jumped back when the gun went off. She watched all three robbers fall to the ground at once as a second security guard appeared on the screen.  She assumed he had come from the area of the vault.

“Wait, rewind that back, Mulder.” He grinned, knowing that she was now fully invested.  She knew there had been a single gunshot. Why didn’t Greg and Sarah fire at the guard?  

Mulder and Scully rewatched the surveillance footage again once, and again a third time.

“They aren’t communicating,” she observed aloud. 

On the fourth review of the footage, Mulder pointed out a subtle, but sudden and seemingly unprompted movement made by Greg. He’d made eye contact with Sarah and then it appeared as if he sensed he should move.

“What’s your explanation for the collapse of the other two, Mulder?” She studied the footage intently trying to find clues.

“Three,” he replied leaning back against the desk. “One shot was fired but all four of them were hit.”

Scully looked up. “That’s not possible, Mulder.”

She knew she’d only heard one shot. Her mind raced to fill in the blanks, to identify the explanation for the scenario that had played out on the screen. “What’s their status?” she wondered, scanning the periphery of the image paused on the screen, all three robbers on the ground.

“Three were DOA,” he handed her the file. “The middle-aged woman you can see on the left is a nurse, she began doing CPR on the female. She arrested multiple times. They ended up inducing a coma, but she won’t make it.” A wary eye strayed up once more to find him staring at her over the medical chart she’d been perusing.

She saw the characteristic light behind his eyes, the excitement oozing from every pore as he waited for her to initiate their standard back and forth. 

“They’ve caught everyone involved.  Which means that when we get there we can focus on the case.”  

“What case?  Mulder, the FBI has zero justification to pursue an investigation into this matter.”

“Are you serious, Scully?” 

“They know who was involved, and three out of the four of them are deceased.  You said yourself that the fourth is in critical condition and unlikely to survive.   There’s nothing that local law enforcement hasn’t already or can’t handle.” 

Mulder scoffed, but he saw an infinitesimal gleam of intrigue in her eye that belied her dismissive attitude.  She was curious.

“The reason the FBI has been called in to consult on this crime, Agent Scully, is because, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, there was only one bullet fired.”  Mulder’s tone was jovial as he slipped into his jacket and stepped behind her to walk to the door. He stopped and leaned in closer, stretching both of his arms forward and alongside her as he held his hands up in front of her.  He made a fist with this left hand and then lifted his index finger. He raised four fingers of his right hand.  “One bullet, Scully. Four shooting victims. I think that’s going to weigh on your fearfully intelligent, yet highly skeptical brain until you can explain it to me. For science.” He lingered another moment. His closeness unnerved her, and she held her breath in her throat for the millisecond before he dropped his arms and stepped away, leaving the skin on the back of her neck to tingle.   It had been over a week since they’d last stood so close, the sound of Dick Clark and Auld Lang Syne muted and faded by the thrumming of her heart and his lips on hers. 

She’d dropped him off at home that night with a wistful smile and a gaze that lasted a moment longer than platonically acceptable and every day since had been business as usual. A stolen glance here, a shy smile there, but business as usual. This sudden change in the air tied her stomach in knots even as she watched him head for the door.

“We fly out of Dulles at 1,” he called behind him. With a last gentle smile, he added, “meet you there.”