The Spider and the FBI: Part 8 "They didn't teach that at Arthur Murray"

Synopsis by guest writer Jose Chung:
Ah, the Fourth of July, a time for fireworks, patriotism, and apparently, romantic entanglements amidst the chaos. Picture this: a bustling square, teeming with folks eager for the grand spectacle, but beneath the surface lies a whirlwind of emotions fit for a daytime soap opera. Enter Scully, a woman consumed by turmoil, and Skinner, a man with a penchant for authority and perhaps a dash of jealousy.

Their heated exchange, set against the backdrop of exploding fireworks, is a symphony of passion and misunderstanding, punctuated by the crackle of gunfire—a plot twist that even I couldn't have scripted better myself. But wait, amidst the chaos, a moment of unexpected tenderness unfolds, proving that love, like fireworks, can ignite in the most unlikely of places. So, grab your popcorn and buckle up, folks, because this Fourth of July just got a whole lot more intriguing!

Preface:
If anyone is wondering about the reference to Arthur Murray, it’s an old school of dance that is still, unbelievably, still in operation. Actually, there’s one not far from me, and each time I drive past it, I grin.

Note
the employment of a flashback in this part that I was really, really thinking about taking out, however, it serves as part of the narrative, and I set decided to visually set it apart with a varying font that I hope I can emulate in the different platforms I post this in.

“They didn’t teach that at Arthur Murray”
Part 8 ‘The Spider and the FBI’
By PR Chung

It was nearly dark when Walter Skinner stepped inside the Elmo Sheriff's station. He pushed through the double glass doors and was greeted by the striking sight of a statuesque woman who promptly stood. She gave him a cautious once over before recognition registered in her eyes.

"You must be Walter Skinner," she said as he approached the desk.

"Yes," he answered, reluctantly accepting the fact she had noticed the resemblance between himself and Lawrence because he had not met her before when they brought Bernstein in for holding. The fact that he was actually wearing some of Lawrence's clothing probably helped her identify him as well.

"Sheriff Durokoff and your partner just left a few moments ago, sir." She explained as Skinner took note of her nametag pinned immediately above her left breast: S. GREENBOW.

"She's n-" Skinner broke off his explanation that she wasn't his partner and just nodded. "I know," he said having been wakened by Scully's call only a half an hour before. He knew there were materials being sent from the Albany Sheriff's office, better Gryzwac's mug shots he hoped; the first batch sent then successive copies had only been grotesque blotches of toner. Anything would be good right now considering there was still no word from the agents that were coming from Casper. "We were expecting faxes, have they been sent yet?"

"Better yet, Mr. Skinner," she announced turning to pick up a folder lying on the desk behind her. She was poetically no-nonsense in manner, efficient and courteously respectful. "Scanned and e-mailed just before you came in." She explained handing him the folder.

Why hadn't they done this earlier, damn it? He wondered, opening the folder immediately to check the information sent.

"Apparently, the holiday schedule left Albany without someone who fully understood the resources available to them."

Skinner glanced at her feeling surprised by her answering his thoughts precisely.

Up close like this he realized how extraordinarily pretty she was- most men might have said even drop dead gorgeous, but he was not one to hand out such ample endorsements. Her hair looked incredibly thick although she had it pulled back into a single smart braid, her brows were dark with a perfect siren arch over almond eyes, and her creamy complexion was laid over high cheekbones that suggested a Native American heritage.

"I'm glad Lawrence didn't have that problem today." He remarked returning to his study of the papers before him.

"If you don't mind me saying so," she began to say drawing his attention upward again. "Your resemblance to Sheriff Durokoff is... remarkable."

She smiled and it was delicately flirtatious.

After a moment, not knowing how to respond, Skinner averted his eyes, biting the inside of his lower lip before speaking. "How's Bernstein doing?" he asked briskly, closing the folder. "Been giving you any trouble?"

Her smile withered. "No, sir."

"Good. You're not here alone are you?" He wondered first then glanced toward the hall that led down to the holding cells located at the center of the building.

"No, sir," she answered again, her tone stilted. "There are two other deputies here."

Gesturing with the folder as he took a step back, he nodded and offered a crisp half smile, saying, "thanks for the help."

“Enjoy the show tonight.” Greenbow said as Skinner started to leave.

“Sorry?” 

She smiled. “The fireworks show.”

He hesitated a moment, thinking of all the activity in town. “Right. Thanks again.” 

Outside the Sheriff's station, the air was filled by the smell of tasty food and the sound of music tirelessly playing in the square. The streets were lined with parked cars, windows draped in blankets as their owners camped out atop the vehicles, ready for the coming fireworks display.

Skinner heard people cheering for a crowd-pleasing number the band was just beginning when he strolled across the street to begin his search of the square for signs of Scully and Lawrence.

Repetitive guitar strumming filtered over the sound system set up in the park, the crowd hooting and hollering as it stopped and then started along a completely different chord, a little musician's trick to throw a crowd. 

Hackneyed, Skinner thought as he passed the buzzing lighted sign board with one bulb out and a 't' dangling off the word celebration in the announcement: Elmo, See fireworks here, 2nd Annual 4th of July celebration. Why just the second? He wondered, picking his way around the thick blanket of people camped out on the grass waiting for the Oooohs and Ahhhhs to begin.

The closer he got to the band stand he encountered fewer people sitting, more and more were pressing their way toward the band and the meager dance floor that had been laid out for the occasion.

* "You've got your little ways to hurt me.
You know just how to tear me up
and leave me in small pieces on the ground."*

Skinner heard the singer begin to holler into the microphone, the band filling in behind his voice with a bawdy sound that wasn't half-bad. The crowd surged with applause and pressed closer to the sound pushing him back out to the fringes of the masses. It was just as well, he thought skirting the back end of the crowd, searching as he went for a single red head he'd lost track of for almost the entire day.

It was no one’s fault but his own she'd been in Lawrence's company most of the day. He tried to believe the fact that he was too tired to join them for lunch, but in all honesty he had only wanted to avoid as much contact with Lawrence as possible, and an excellent job he'd apparently done. He really had been pretty hungry, he could remember being hungrier though, he'd live. But good lord the food smelled good... Maybe, he thought, he could have suffered Lawrence's company just little while— and if only he had...

Well, then this wouldn't have been going on—

* "You've got your little ways to hurt me,
They're not too big but they're real tough
Just one cold look from you can knock me down..." *

Skinner froze, glaring at the sight of Scully and Lawrence on the dance floor. They were nearly standing still next to the other dancers who appeared to be moving on skates they were gliding through a two-step so gracefully. Scully was laughing, hand in hand with Lawrence who was apparently trying to show her a dance step that she was just not getting.

* "To look at you and me, no one would ever know
the pain that I've endured 'cause I won't let it show..." *

Adding to his dismay, Skinner realized it wasn't just the band, but the crowd was cheering for but the antics of their courageous Sheriff and his dance partner. 

His eyes grew narrow and dark. What the hell happened to keeping a low profile? He scrutinized the scene, bracing himself against some invisible wall as memories trembled through his mind. This wasn't wait he had expected to find. But what then? She had spent the whole damn day with him. You knew, he told himself. You knew and you didn't do a damn thing about it.

* "My friends would laugh out loud if they only knew
The truth about how I am just your lovesick fool..." *

Something in him told him to turn away, but another part- perhaps an older, wiser, braver part of him stopped the retreat. This was inappropriate behavior for an agent, drawing needless attention to her presence—this needed to stop. He started through the throng of spectators as the chorus began to roll out of the overhead speakers...

* "You've got your little ways to hurt me,
They're not too big but they're real tough..." *

*************************

"Here you go, hon."

"Well, thank you kindly, darlin." The man said taking his plate away with a huge grin across his face. "Could you be a sweetheart n'tell me when the fir'works r'gonna' be startin'?"

"Uh, well, soon as it gets dark."

He tipped his chin. "Much obliged. Much obliged"

Marie frown as she watched him go, wondering why he was dressed so warm for the weather- it just wasn't cool enough for that jacket, she thought and then wondered why his voice had sounded so odd, almost like he'd been trying to sound like he had an accent.

She watched him disappear through the crowd seeing how he was hobbling a little in boots that looked too small for a man his size.

She leaned closer to the woman working the serving line with her. "Wanda, did you hear how he talked?"

"Who?" Wanda said glancing around briefly not having much time or interest in anything except not sloshing hot barbecue sauce all over her hand.

"That fella I just waited on. Did you hear how he sounded?"

"No, why?"

"I think he was making fun of us."

Wanda handed the plate of ribs off to one man who disappeared allowing yet another to step up to the counter then looked at Marie. "Us? How'd I git' involved in this?"

"No, not just you and me, us, as in us- the town, country folk."

Wanda just looked at her. "I don't know what the hell you're talkin'bout."

******************************

Red faced and laughing breathlessly Scully finally came to a rest on a bench she'd vacated just in time. Durokoff followed, plopping down next to her. He blew out a great breath and laughed again, shaking his head.

"I have never been so embarrassed in all my life," she declared between spasms of laughter.

"Oh, sure you have..." he said. "I'm the one who’s never been so embarrassed in my life."

Scully's laughter stopped abruptly as she jerked her startled eyes up at him.

He looked at her, trying to be very serious but didn't manage it for long. He laughed and patted her on the back. "I'm only teasing."

She smiled shaking her head. "How could you drag me out there in the middle of all that?"

"Moi," he placed his open hand on his chest, mocking offense. "All I did was ask you to dance. They did the rest," he gestured toward the crowd surrounding the dance floor. "I didn't think that was gonna' happen for one minute. Geez."

He could be so countrified, and she believed it was conscious at times, but Scully found it endearing, much like everything about him. She realized she had really become quite taken with this man, and she also recognized the reason she had been so easily, in such a brief period of time. 

The answer was only so obvious before it became trite. He was, for all reasons and purposes, the next best thing to a man she foresaw no future with. A man who showed only marginal interest and could show no more, too respectful of proper place and appropriate behavior. In no way was that a terrible thing, it only made him that much more desirable.

"I have a confession to make," she said and saw the wariness pinch at the corners of his eyes. "I was really shocked when I saw you this morning."

"Really, why's that? Hadn't Walter mentioned..."

She was already shaking her head. "I know very little about your cousin's... my superior's life. He's a very private man."

Durokoff's brow creased. "So, there isn't anything between the two of you?"

Scully all but spun on the seat, looking at him, utterly shocked.

"Oh," he said in response to her reaction, pulling his head back in surprise. "I guess not, then."

"No," she laughed, mildly astonished.

"Well, I thought..." he paused looking thoughtfully at the ground, then said, "Well, I don't know what I thought, actually."

Scully tilted her head, cocking a brow. "Yeah, well..."

Durokoff sighed and brushed at something invisible on his thigh. "I was pretty surprised to see you- I mean all of you, that is, this morning," he seemed to be stammering a bit. "I haven't seen Walter in quite some time. I wasn't even really sure it was him at first." He reached up and pulled his hat off fully for the first time since they had met. "Not since before this apparently happened to both of us," he said and grinned.

"Why has it been so long?"

Durokoff shrugged resting the hat over his knee. "A lot of different reasons. We just drifted apart the way family drifts apart over the years. After his mom died, mine and the other sisters tried to keep everyone together, keep Walter within the family celebrations and holiday events but I think after he came back from Viet Nam things really changed. His father died and after that he didn't seem very interested in gatherings or any of the traditions they were trying to keep alive in the family."

He shrugged again. "But he just kept to himself." A ponderous moment passed between them and then Durokoff shook his head, saying, "anyway, now that I've completed my geography slash philosophy lesson for the day... Do you wish to know more about genealogy? Perhaps a slide show or home movies- A sample of DNA to take back to your laboratory.?"

Scully chuckled and touched his arm. "I don’t' have a lab. I hardly have a desk."

"Huh?" He frowned.

She shook head. "That's all right. I feel like I've just snuck through your cousin's closet or drawers as it is."

"His drawers, huh?"

She nodded her head, laughing harder. "Yes, his drawers."

Durokoff joined in her laughter, managing to a few words in between chortles. "I'll be sure to mention this to him."

"No, ho, ho..." she said giggling and gripping his arm harder as if to support herself.

He laid his hand over hers and she looked up in surprise at his touch.

Their laughter drifted, replaced by wondering as they met one another's gaze.
"I really like this," he said with a gentle smile and touched her upper lip with the tip of his thumb, lightly brushing the small beauty mark there.

***********************

Norwalk Senior High School
Stary Night Dance
Friday, March 22, 1968

*”Drop your silver in my tambourine,
Help a poor man fill a pretty dream”*

"Hey, Cubby, where's Ruby?" Skinner recalled Fred Huggins calling to him at high school dance. The guy had materialized out of nowhere at his side. Great, he thought ruefully, this was just the last person he needed to see right now.

"She's here..." a sixteen-year-old Walter Skinner answered, feeling the condensation on the two cups of punch he was holding threatening his grip. Feeling like a real simp.

"I don't see her," Huggins said, craning his head to scan the dance floor.

"She's here." Walter growled trying to adjust his grip on the cups, hearing the least befitting song he could have thought of begin to play throughout the gymnasium- ‘My Green Tambourine.’ "Who the hell decided to play this?" He grunted jerking his gaze around at more couples swarming to the dance floor. "When the hell did this become a slow dance-"

*”Now listen while I playyyyyyyyyy….”*

"Where's Lawrence?" Huggins briskly asked.

"I don't know." Walter began to glower at the rotund, pimply-faced boy beside him. He knew what he was getting at, and he didn't like it. "He's here, too, I guess."

"You sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure-" Walter blurted at him jerking his hands with irritation, sloshing the punch from the cups, barely missing his beige tuxedo pants. "Damn it," he yelped taking a quick step back.

"Better be careful," Huggins cautioned. "That stuff is like acid. I think that red color does some bad stuff to your insides." 

"What?" Walter looked at him with frank bewilderment.

"Do you think that color is natural? Have you ever seen that color in nature-?"

Walter shook his head hard, trying to clear it of this nonsense. "Here," he said shoving one of cups of punch into Huggins chubby fingers. "Just hold this for me and be quiet."

"Isn't that Ruby over there?" Huggins suddenly said stretching his neck like a giraffe.

Walter looked, ducking, and weaving to see through the ocean of stumblebums. "Where-?"

"Right there..." Huggins pointed and Walter froze.

There she was, his date, across the crowded room and draped over Lawrence like a finely woven piece of silk.

Walter just stared at the two of them dancing, rooted in place, and feeling like a dumbass all over again until he realized... 

Elmo, Wyoming
July 4th, 1999

Skinner stared across the square, spotting them. They weren't dancing at all but sitting on a secluded bench just beyond a field of blankets and happy faces, just the other side of cavorting children. And it wasn’t his date Ruby anymore that Lawrence was leaning toward...

This is absolutely inappropriate! The mind of the Assistant Director trumpeted while Walter "Cubby" Skinner's first instinct was to go grab his cousin by the scruff of his neck and shake him around like a rag doll.

************************

Dana Scully was enchanted.

Durokoff's touch was soothing, and his voice was filled with earnest emotion. She didn't resist or withdraw when he pressed his lips to hers. For just an instant, a moment when he had hesitated to look in her eyes, perhaps searching for some argument or permission from her, she wasn't looking into a stranger’s eyes. She didn't see Lawrence Durokoff...

"Agent Scully!"

The sound startled her. She jerked back and turned around to see Skinner glaring at her, at both of them. "Sir-?" She exclaimed, immediately standing, shame faced, and guilt ridden.

"Scully, what are you doing, have you lost all sense of duty?"

"I-" she hesitated; her voice seized by humiliation.

"Walter..." Durokoff started, making a helpless sort of placating gesture as he stood. “Don’t, this is my fault.”

Skinner snapped his attention at him, directing a glare of glacial proportions at him. "What kind of a department can you possibly be running in this town while you're out fraternizing?"

"Fraternizing—?"

"No, sir," Scully suddenly said, responding to the last question he had spat at her. Her voice was suddenly succinct, ridged and evenly formal. "I assure you that my sense of duty and obligation is solidly in place." 

Skinner looked at her, pissed on all fronts. Their gazes locked in silent battle- cold persecution and blistering resentment passing between them. "Excuse me." she said tightly.

He watched her go, his feelings and thoughts a boiling tumult of agony and yearning, disillusion, and regret.

"You know, Walter," Durokoff said as he slapped his hat back down over his head, annoyed and disgusted. "You're just like your father."

He looked at him, scrutinizing him for a second, before telling his cousin, “Why don't you go climb a tree, Lawrence." 

Durokoff seemed confused for instance before his eyes widened, realizing what Skinner had just referenced. Before the man could react, Skinner turned to leave, to find Scully. 


*************************

Only a hint of iridescence was left in the western sky- faint bluish lavender caressing the mountain crests. It was dark now for all intents and purposes and the fireworks would begin soon with great booms, shrieking whistles and popping crackles, the air filling with the smell of nitrates and sulfur, drifting smoke, and clamorous cheers.

Overkill perhaps, Gryzwac considered as he screwed the silencer onto the muzzle of his gun. He did this in complete darkness, below the narrow stream of streetlight cascading through the windshield of the truck, working with the components of his labor by feel rather than sight. How often had he done this in the dark, pitch-blackness covering his approach, his intent?

He laid the gun beside him on the seat, slipping it under a paper sack, waiting and watching the hurried activity of the locals before him.

The truck windshield had a crack in it, running the width and splintering off into a web-like pattern on the passenger’s side, still he had an excellent view of the Sheriff's station. Just three deputies, he had counted inside, then counted himself lucky for the premium view again.

He'd managed to find a parking spot for the beat and rusted ford pickup he'd taken in Devil Speak (he loved the names of these towns, they had real style and creativeness), between cars parked on either side of an alley way. Sure, he knew he took the risk of catching attention for the illegal parking job, blocking an entrance and all that jazz, but so far so good. 

He was confident there was just too much going on for any of the yokel cops to be inspecting the parking situations along side streets. Although, there sure the hell weren't very many side streets in this town. Just as well, fewer streets between him and the highway once this was done...

**************************

Amidst the bustling activity in the square, with people scurrying to their makeshift seating arrangements for the upcoming show, Scully felt a storm of reactions. The initial hum of nighttime insects was drowned out by the flurry of movement. Even the band on stage was in constant motion, preparing for the fireworks.

Scully's mind, however, was far from the music. She was consumed by turmoil, grappling with feelings of bitterness, indignation, and embarrassment. She yearned for a moment of solitude to collect her thoughts yet feared that overthinking would only worsen her state.

As she sought refuge under a gazebo, she surprised herself by accepting a cigarette from a passing stranger. Once a rebellious act against her father, it now symbolized a desperate attempt to soothe her nerves in adulthood.

Seated on the bench, Scully reflected on her recent actions with a mix of disbelief and regret. How had she allowed herself to become so infatuated and blind to reality? Her fixation on Durokoff, mistaking him for someone he wasn't, allowing herself to forsake her principles and lose sight of her true self.

She puffed on the cigarette, growing angrier at herself, and Skinner
And damn him! How could he have berated her like that?

She knew full well there was a pre-existing problem between him and Durokoff, common differences or some feud caused by a stolen marble during childhood- who knew, but damned if she would be the new crux of their contest. 

Durokoff had been genuine in his attentiveness, she wanted to believe this yet couldn't help but feel he'd been vying for her, seducing her on some low-key level- was she to be another trophy, another victory? Another marble in the sack?

Skinner, blustering and masking personal emotion- and that's all it was- spouting policy and etiquette— How could he allow himself to accuse her of personal indulgence? 

She drew on the cigarette, blowing out a furious puff of smoke. 
Damn that hypocrite!

If she wasn't so mad she thought she might have cried. She was quivering, a mass of vexation, confusion- humiliation, and that was the real issue to draw tears about. Mortification that her weakness had been exposed, that her insensibility to let Durokoff kiss her had been splayed out before Walter Skinner.

Another angry puff, “damn it.”

"What the hell are you doing? Put that damn thing out!"

The boom of Skinner’s voice caused her to jump. She turned her eyes up to him, tiny daggers flying at him as she exhaled and stood. "Yes, sir,” she contemptuously reacted.

Skinner was on the gazebo stairs, hovering one step away from entering, watching as she tossed the cigarette away, promptly sending it into a birdbath just outside the gazebo with a hiss. 

"What the hell has gotten into you, Scully?" He questioned her, his brow drawn with emphatic confusion. “What was going on back there? Allowing yourself to be distracted like that? Completely off-guard at a critical time like this? There’s no luxury to explore options here, Scully.”

“Options?” She repeated, stunned arrogance and the implication of her intentions. The begging sounds of crackling and popping fireworks punctuated her statement. 

“Come on, you’re smarter than this,” he disparaged her, “a guy like Lawrence has one thing in mind. I’m disappointed you’d fall for his tactics.”

“And you are the last person I thought I’d hear such arrogance from, not to mention petty jealousy to the point of insulting my discretion, both professionally and personally.”

“I don’t know what you’re suggesting—”

“I’m not suggesting anything— I’m stating the obvious.”

“It’s like you’re deliberately trying to piss me off.”

“And why would I do that?”

“I don’t know!”

Fireworks boomed above them outside of the shelter of the gazebo, flashes of sparkling light flickered and danced, illuminating the crowd of people just feet away, entirely enthralled by the spectacle above and totally ignorant of the heated argument behind them. 

“I think you do— you think I was trying to get a reaction from you—”

“You’re imagining things,” he scoffed. 

“You know, Bernstein was right,” she declared, “he warned me that I was going to end up in some puerile tug of war between the two of you.”

“Is that what you think? That’s there’s some competition going on here?” he was incensed. 

“Isn’t there? Really? It’s so obvious, it’s glaring!” she exclaimed, “you’re so absorbed by some protracted dispute between the two of you, whether it be those dance classes you had to take alone, or that he stole all your marbles in a rigged game, or your date at the Clodhopper’s Ball in the school gym— Regardless, I— I got sucked into the middle, and became the prize marble.” 

He just stared at her. 

The sound of the fireworks display was increasing, building in intensity, the finale soon to come, delighting all spectators.

Scully watched him for a moment, her mouth pulling into a pout. “I’m not a marble.”

He looked back at her and appeared to be mulling over her statement. 
Then, his expression unreadable, he nodded, and explicitly said, “it wasn’t the Clodhopper’s Ball.”

“Wha—?”  Her confusion was broken by his suddenness, a motion so abrupt and criminal it took her breath.

In that very moment Skinner took her into his embrace and placed his mouth on hers the world outside erupted, massive bursts of fireworks exploded simultaneously, filling the air with thunderous booms and crackles that reverberate through the night. In a breathtaking climax, the entire sky was lit with an array of colors, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of light and sound. The crowd cheered and applauded, their hearts full of joy and appreciation for the spectacle unfolding.

And every boom, every crackle, and every burst of cheers was a mere hush. All the flashes, all the brilliance of light unnoticed. The only thing Scully was aware of was the soft sigh when their lips touched, a shared breath of release in that pinnacle moment. Their kiss, this first touch, began abruptly only to slow as they treasured the moment becoming lost between right and wrong.

Her senses in a whirl, Scully needed a moment and tried to draw away. They merely watched one another, the dwindling display of fireworks casting shadows across their silent faces. 

Scully’s mouth drew into a pleased smile, an entertaining thought occurring to her. "They didn't teach that at Arthur Murray, did they?" she teased him gently.

He shook his head, flicking his brow with diluted amusement. "Nope."

They didn't need the weight of words to burden their decision to continue what had taken so much of them to start. Skinner closed his mouth over hers with an earnestness that conveyed promises and desires in this kiss, that she return with an equaled response. 

They were vaguely aware of the end of the fireworks display, and the crowd beginning to shuffle around them, readying to go, to enjoy more music and food. The world entirely on the periphery of a moment of enduring bliss, their lips carefully exploring the others, the entire world was tuned out—

Until they heard it, breaking through their reverie, an all too recognizable and surprising sound.

They parted quickly. "That was gun fire." Scully said, and the crowd began to murmur.

Again, rolling over the square like a whip snap, gunfire sounded just beneath the blast of rockets. Panic swept the crowd, breaking out from the far edges and moving inward, people began to scream and dash in aimless directions. Staggered the band faltered in mid song and soon were evacuating the stage.

"It's coming from the Sheriff's station," Skinner declared and rushed from the gazebo, pushing, and fighting his way through the mass of frantic people swarming in the square, Scully on his heels. 

"Stay back, Scully," he called to her, "you don't have a weapon."

**************************
Continue in part 9 the finale of ‘The Spider and the FBI’

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