Title: South by Southwest
Category: Casefile, MT.
Spoilers: None. Set it in Season 6.
Summary: Mulder and Scully ride the rails to nail a pair of jewel thieves.
Archive: Gossamer. Any others, you know by now what the process is.
Disclaimers: I do not own any original X-Files character, plot, premise or the title. Chris Carter, Fox Studios, and Ten Thirteen own them. There is no money made by me, and this is a tribute, not a copyright infringement.
Written for the "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles" Theme for the Mulder's Refuge December Challenge. Placed second.
DANA SCULLY'S APARTMENT
This was the type of Sunday Scully usually spent under a blanket with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. The cool draft through her bedroom and the miniature drifts on the windowsill heralded the second week of December, and it was a very early snowstorm for the DC area. She gazed out the window briefly and smiled. Christmas would be coming soon, and with it the warmth of her family. She turned back to her book and sipped from her mug.
Mulder was usually either reading the Sunday paper or out for a run by about 8:00 a.m., but today was different. He had received some tips the previous day from a friend of a friend of a friend who knew somebody, and he was immersed in reading everything the man had sent him, and making some comparisons to FBI bulletins the office had received of late. The desk in his office was layered with photos and folders.
He decided this case was going to take teamwork and an undercover operation was in order here. Mulder gathered the folders, notes and called...
"Hey, it's Mulder. Are you busy right now?"
She sighed and rolled her eyes, slammed the book shut, and counted to five. "No, Mulder. I was busy, but now I'm making idle chit-chat."
"Oh. Well, I'm sorry to disturb you, and I know I did, but how would you like to see America by rail?"
"Mulder, if this is one of your flying saucer, or black oil, or... or Reticulan wild goose chases, you're out of luck. Unless we get an order from Skinner, there's no way I'm going off on a couple of hours' notice with no official stamp of approval."
Mulder smiled. The ever fiesty Scully. "Well, this is going to have a stamp of approval by the time you get to the office, through all that slush on the road, and please be prepared to say, 'Well done, Mulder. You got approval this time.' This looks like a Federal case, and no one's been told yet. I'm calling Skinner to tell him what this is, so you start packing and prepare for a short briefing at the office. There'll be a quiz later."
"But Mulder... " Christmas shopping would just never get done, she thought.
"No 'buts' about it. The sooner we solve this bona fide case, the better our record here gets." Mulder hung up before his partner could argue.
"Mulder... " She slammed the receiver down. "Grinch."
By the time Scully strolled into the office, Mulder had put together a complete slide-show. "Wanna hit the lights? I would like to start on this right away."
Scully flicked the switch and removed her coat. "I'm impressed. Slide-show and everything. And, on a weekend. So, what's this?"
"See that couple? Fiona and Martin Russo, married fifteen years, twelve of which they've spent as travelling jewel thieves. Except for the one year they spent in prison, but their lawyer won them an appeal based on a technicality and lack of witnesses. Mode of transportation: passenger train. Found to have been armed at the time of their apprehension, but apparently, there still wasn't enough to convict them on. They're free as birds, and have been spotted on train routes here and there for the past five years--since their release. They know the prime travel packages, and know who's on the list. Word has it, they're about to ride the rails again."
"And so are we," Scully complained. "Why not somebody else, Mulder? There are plenty of agents who do this all the time..."
Mulder turned the projector off, and put the lights back on. "I was tipped off and went to Skinner last night. He gave us the go ahead. Besides, the guys upstairs need more impressing about now, seeing as they're feeling pressure to kick our butts again."
"Now I get it. Kiss up time."
"Never, Scully. You know that. Just look at it as earning some bonus points."
"Yeah, it's kissing up time, all right. Well, I'm betting we're going undercover, so who are we going to be? Nick and Nora Charles?"
"No, but it's nice to know you're a fan of 'The Thin Man'. This time, we're Mike and Carol..."
Scully cut him off right then and there. "Brady? No way, Mulder."
He supressed a laugh. At least a grin wouldn't get him into trouble. "Mike and Carol Lacey. Our I.D.'s and tickets are ready, and all we have to do is get to the train station."
"You can have the lower berth, Scully. Besides, what would people think if we had separate quarters? By the way, I've arranged for a more appropriate wardrobe than the usual business suits you love so well... "
"On the company card, no doubt. And are we tourists or..."
"First class, well-to-do, creme de la creme, from one of the finest families in the American east. I even have your finest jewellery for those evenings in the dining car... "
"On the company card? Well then, we'd better going. So, are these people already on the train, or are they getting on elsewhere?"
"Grab those expensive suitcases, put in a few of your things from the overnight bag, plus the files, and we're about ready to go. My sources say Mr. and Mrs. Russo get on board at Lynchburg. You and I, Mrs. Lacey, are taking the scenic route to Houston, Texas, guests at a gala ball. You know high society, Scully. Pre-Christmas parties, all that stuff."
"Lead the way, Mike."
Mulder and Scully boarded the Amtrak train and found a quiet area to sit and go over the files on the Russos. "As far as everyone knows, these two work alone", Mulder began.
Scully was wide-eyed with interest as she went over the couple's long history of suspected thievery. "Mulder, it says here they weren't armed, and no one seemed to know just how this couple stole the jewellery. Apparently, they were on the trains, boats, even planes listed here, and at various hotels, but all there is is circumstantial evidence."
"There at the wrong time. I know. My guess is they accessed the sleeping areas and/or slipped a few mickeys. Now, read on about their life style. Apparently they are champagne and caviar all the way, bet on high-stakes race horses, and still maintain a home. Well, the house is small. No servants. I mean, Heaven help them if the hired help finds out where their pay comes from."
"Oh, dear. That would be embarassing, Mike. So, what do you do for a living?"
"Most of the time, I'm a banker, in a very wealthy family, and I own race horses. You write for a daily newspaper, as a food critic." Mulder stood and stretched.
"Where are you going, Mike?"
"Well, it's nearly time to dress for dinner, Carol. In a couple of hours, the Russos will be here, and we'll be in the dining car for cocktails. I suggest you slip into something... a little more applicable to our status. Oh, do wear that lovely necklace I put on your overnight case."
Scully raised an eyebrow. "You do spoil me, Mike dearest."
"Nothing but the best for my lady."
Now, if he'd only said that in other circumstances... Scully thought. She couldn't resist the urge to visualise herself walking away from a case, with Mulder saying that to her over a gourmet coffee. As she smiled and drifted back to reality, she closed the folder she was reading and waited for her partner to return so she could change clothes.
While passengers embarked and disembarked, Scully walked into the dining car to meet Mulder. One look at Scully, and Mulder's heart went into overdrive. She was wearing a silky little black dress, diamond earrings that dusted her white shoulders, and a genuine pearl necklace. Mulder's $900.00 suit added charm to his handsome body.
"Well, Mrs. Lacey, you look like a million dollars!" He stood in awe, as she sat down at the table.
"Why thank you, Mike."
They sat and waited to be served.
"So, Mike dearest, the Lynchburg passengers have just arrived. Have you seen the Russos?"
"Not yet. I imagine they'll be here soon. They're probably getting ready. Would you like a drink?"
"White wine, I think. Go easy on the drinks, Mulder. We're working."
"That's 'Mike' to you. Relax. I'll only have one glass of wine. Looks like we're about to move again. You did lock our home away from home, didn't you?"
"Of course." Scully moved her head closer to Mulder. "This had better be wrapped up by Christmas, Mulder. Or you will owe my entire family an apology."
"Relax," Mulder whispered. "I doubt we'll be two weeks on this one. Look happily married, Scully. Everyone's starting to order cocktails."
After they had ordered their wine, Scully noticed two familiar faces enter the car. "Don't look now, but our suspects just came to dinner."
"Make sure they see those earrings, Scully."
"Oh, I'd say he's eyeing the pearls, thanks to this little number you had bought for me. Either way, they're scouting a few of the other passengers."
Mulder frowned when he noticed a man wearing a Rolex watch. "They never give me the watch when we're undercover."
"That's because we're usually after paranormal phenomena and little grey men, Mike. The signet ring you're wearing will suffice."
"You're too kind, dear. You know, I wonder just how many people suspect they're being given the once over. You'd think people would wear cheap imitations these days."
"Some of them are, Mulder. These people are aware of what can happen. My guess is the real goods are packed away and the Russos go hunting while the rich play. She sure has a nerve, wearing real fur."
"My guess is they want to blend in, talk to a few of the prospective marks, and then size up the bounty. After dinner, let's hang around the club car."
"Mulder, we're supposed to be working, not playing. Well, at least maybe we can get to know those two. Mike, it might be a good idea if we... "
"Wherever they go, we go?"
"Well, I guess you could put it that way. A little walk through the train, and someone might be out several thousand dollars' worth of property. Let's order. I haven't eaten since this morning."
A voice came over the public address system. "Next Stop: Spartanburg."
An elderly couple sat playing cribbage, while a mother and four kids sat sipping shakes and at times getting a bit out of hand. "Almost bedtime, guys. Afton, you're ten. You know better. Put the straw back in the glass and drink up."
A young couple, obviously on their honeymoon, set their drinks aside and made their way to the sleeper car.
"Now that's romantic," Mulder remarked. "Does it give you any ideas, Hon?"
"Oh, yes. At least they're not going to have their jewellery stolen tonight, Mikey."
"That's Mike. Gin."
"Unlucky at cards. I followed Fiona Russo around after dinner. Apart from using the ladies' room, I haven't seen her wander into anyone's belongings yet. Look at them, Mulder. They're watching the scenery, having a couple of drinks, playing it cool. Are you sure your sources were right about this trip?"
"I'm sure. It's just a matter of time before they make a move. They're getting a good look at the passengers, I'm pretty sure of that. Why don't we introduce ourselves, Carol." Mulder extended his hand and Scully took it. They took seats with the Russos. "I don't believe in taking a trip without saying 'Hello' to my fellow travellers," Mulder said with a warm smile. "Mike and Carol Lacey. We're on our way to Houston."
A dark-haired man in his mid-forties shook Mulder's hand. "Marty Russo, and this is my wife Fiona."
"My! What a lovely pearl necklace. Are they real?" Fiona was almost drooling.
"Why, yes. Mike knows I like only the very best." Scully decided to play the part to the hilt. "And that's what he gives me. Right, Darling?"
"Oh, now, just wait till Christmas. Of course, it just wouldn't do to outshine the ladies at the ball in Houston. So, Marty, what do you do when you're not travelling?"
"Oh, this and that. I'm into a little of everything. Fiona here has me busy, right Honey?"
"My goodness, yes! We're going down to visit family over the holidays."
Scully decided to keep the conversation focused on the Russos. "So, where is this family? They must be thrilled you're going down to see them!"
Marty decided to speak up, as they weren't going to reveal much about themselves. "Schriever, New Orleans. Every year for ten years now, we've gone down to good old Schriever. So, Mike, you didn't say what you do for a living. I guess you earn a good amount of money!"
"My family's into banking, and I own a few race horses. Well, Marty, you know we all need a hobby. My entire family is in the banking business, and I met Carol at a rodeo in the Dallas area. Carol, tell them about your adventures in the culinary field."
Scully smiled, trying to look bashful. "Well, I do write restaurant reviews from time to time. My goodness, I do watch my weight, though. Mike, honey, why don't we buy the next round of drinks?"
"Heck no, I think we should get some rest," Mulder said. "I think it's been a long day."
"Sorry you couldn't stay a little longer," Fiona said, smiling. "Do join us for breakfast."
"Well now, we can't promise, but we'll try. Goodnight." As Mulder led her out of the club car, Scully was angered. "Hey, why are we turning in so early?"
"We're not," Mulder whispered. "We're going to go over what's happened so far, and review the case notes. Then, we're going to do some looking around."
"You think they'll be trying something?"
"My guess is they'll be watching everyone like a hawk, and where they sleep."
By 9:30 p.m., Mulder and Scully had gone over every piece of information about the Russos. Mulder decided to walk around to see if the couple were trying to enter any of the passengers' quarters, Sure enough, Marty Russo was trying one of the locks.
"Lose your key, Marty?"
"No, Mike. Well, looks like I have the wrong door. That old insomnia keeping you awake?" The man was clearly stalling for time, or trying to get Mulder to forget he'd seen him trying a door.
"Just a little heartburn. Always gets better if I walk around a little. I guess your wife's turned in for the night?"
"No, she's watching some old movie in the lounge. I guess I really don't need that... book I was looking for. Why don't I just go back and join Fiona. She cries over those old movies."
"Right. Breakfast tomorrow, remember?"
"Yeah." Martin Russo sheepishly rushed off as Mulder watched him. "Okay, Mr. Russo. I've got your number," Mulder said to himself.
The train had just passed Tuscaloosa when it was jostled and derailed. The passenger cars turned over. Mulder and Scully tried to help usher passengers to the exits, and watch for Fiona and Martin Russo. Sure enough, the Russos were determined to be the last to leave their berths--for the very reason Mulder and Scully were watching them.
One of the conductors walked down to where Mulder and Scully were helping people, and checking for any injuries. "C'mon, folks, we've had an accident, but if you all leave in an orderly fashion there'll be buses and ambulances here soon. Let's go!"
Scully approached him quickly. "Dana Scully, F.B.I. My partner and I are undercover looking for any signs of theft. I can't go into it all, but there's a man with a twisted ankle, a couple of ladies with contusions, and a little boy with a nasty concussion. You do your job, and we'll do ours, okay?"
"All right. I'll find some people to help get them out of here." As the conductor went about his business, Scully hurried back to Mulder. "You see them?"
"No, but this would be a perfect time for them to make a move. There they are!"
Scully noticed Mulder was favoring his left arm. "Mulder... what happened to your arm?"
"Later. Let's go before they get away!"
The pair were running out of a door with a couple of bags. Mulder and Scully ran after them. "F.B.I.! Freeze!" The Russos dropped the bags, and tried to run. Mulder and Scully ran after them. "Stop or we'll shoot!" Scully shouted. The Russos stopped in a wooded area, and turned to face the agents.
"You have nothing on us!" Fiona shouted.
"We have witnesses who saw you leave with a few things that didn't belong to you. We also had a tip you were going to be working this train," Mulder informed them. "You have the right to remain silent... "
As Mulder advised them of their rights, Scully handcuffed the couple. When he finished, she looked at his arm. "We need to get you to a hospital, Mulder. I think it's broken."
"Oh, I know it is, Scully. Ow! Ease up, Scully!"
"We got 'em Mulder. That's the main thing."
THREE DAYS LATER
As the final report was being printed out, Scully admired her jewellery for the last time, and ran her hands over the silky dress she had worn on the train. "So much for the life of luxury, Mulder. Where's your suit?"
"It was damaged in the accident. I did manage to get the rest of my suits back in mint condition. I wonder what it would have been like spending a couple more days as Mike and Carol Lacey... "
"I guess we'll never know now. So, who was the third party that night?"
"Apparently, one Dwayne Alderston. Some guy they met up with and hired in Lynchburg the day before they boarded the train. He drove down there and put a few dozen two-byfours over the tracks. He was picked up yesterday in Lynchburg."
"How's your arm, Mulder?"
"Pretty good, but since it's only broken in two places, I think I'm going to have a very uneventful Christmas this year. I'll probably call my mother, catch up on the football games, and do some paperwork. What about your plans?"
"well, I just never know working here now, do I?"
"Wanna take a train ride with me?"
"Not on your life."
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