Snowman

Cover

SNOWMAN

Story and Illustrations by CindyET

TITLE: Snowman

AUTHOR: CindyET

E-MAIL ADDRESS: cindyet@tdstelme.net

INFO: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual Season 8

DISTRIBUTION: Archive anywhere — but please drop me a

note to tell me where.

DISCLAIMER: The characters Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are

the property of Chris Carter, FOX and 1013 Productions. No

copyright infringement intended. This is for fun, not

profit.

SPOILER WARNING: Vague references to War of the

Coprophages,

Rain King and Je Souhaite.

RATING: R (Language and Violence)

CLASSIFICATION: X

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully travel to the remote town of

Caribou Corners, Maine, to investigate the chilling death

of 10th-grader Danny Davis. The murder weapon? An icicle.

The motive? Unknown. The killer? Depends on whom you ask.

Some believe he’s human. Some claim he’s a legendary man of

snow. The one thing everyone agrees on: he’s going to kill

again.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Special thanks to Marybeth for the great

beta.

You’re the best! Any errors found herein are mine.

FEEDBACK: Please. Write to cindyet@tdstelme.net.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE:

http://www.crosswinds.net/~bluefroggie/cindyet.html

SNOWMAN

PROLOGUE

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Caribou Corners High School

Caribou Corners, Maine

Friday, February 16

2:59 p.m.

“Heads up,” a voice warned and a pencil whizzed like a

dart toward the bulletin board, just missing the teacher’s

right shoulder. Ricocheting off the wall, the miniature

harpoon tumbled to the floor with a chattering bounce. It

settled at Ms. Spencer’s feet.

“Ooops. Almost nailed her.” A flurry of tittering giggles

swirled through the class of grinning tenth graders.

At the front of the room Connie Spencer swallowed and

blinked. The pencil’s broken tip pointed at her like an

accusing finger and she struggled to keep her knees from

buckling. Clearing her throat, she selected a nub of chalk

from the blackboard’s powdery tray. Her fingers trembled as

she wrote, causing the chalk to sputter and skip. Her back

to her students and her arm jogging with the rise and fall

of her shaky letters, she strained to recall when, or even

how, things had grown so out of control. She knew it was

long before today. Or even before the start of school five

months ago. In fact, Connie Spencer couldn’t remember a

time when she hadn’t felt afraid.

In a shivering script, she wrote the students’ assignment

on the blackboard.

— 10-page essay on the theme “tales within tales” as

illustrated in Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of

Calaveras County” —

Disgruntled groans, rumbling through the room like an

avalanche, died when the bell rang, ending the school day

and marking the start of Winter break. Books slammed shut.

Chairs scraped backward. The students poured out the door,

hurrying to their lockers and their coats. Turning from the

blackboard, Connie Spencer gaped at the disheveled rows of

empty desks and breathed the room’s chilling silence into

her lungs with a feeling of longed-for liberation.

“Hi Mommy!” Seven-year-old Katie twirled into the room,

arriving from her afternoon dance lesson. “We practiced

pirouettes in ballet class today,” she said and proudly

demonstrated her newfound skill.

“That’s very good, Katie.” Connie watched her daughter

whorl around her. “Did your dad drive you?”

“Nope. Miss Tredwell drived.” Katie spun again, her bulky

winter coat flaring like a woolen tutu. “Miss Tredwell said

my pirouette was best in class.”

“Don’t boast, Katie.”

“Well, she did!”

Connie was certain Katie told the truth, that the ballet

teacher had indeed complimented the girl. Not because Katie

was an especially good dancer, but because Anne Tredwell

was a kindhearted woman. Connie was grateful for the

special attention the dance teacher lavished on her

daughter.

Connie and Tom Spencer’s divorce had been hard on Katie.

Their marriage had been even worse. The memory of her ex-

husband’s uncontrolled temper knotted Connie’s stomach even

after two years. Although Tom Spencer was granted

visitation rights with his daughter, a court order kept him

at a safe distance from his ex-wife.

Sliding into her coat, Connie watched her daughter spin

happily around the room.

“You ready, honey?”

“I know a song, Mommy. Wanna hear it?” The girl didn’t

wait for an answer but launched into her song. “Frosty the

snooowmaaan, is a fairytale they SAY. He was made of SNOW

but the children KNOW how he came to life one DAAAY!” While

Katie sang, Connie took hold of her hand and led her into

the hall. Their rubber boots squeaked against the glassy

floor as they walked toward the exit. Halfway down the

corridor, Katie abruptly stopped at the door of the

school’s biology lab, locking her sherbet-colored boots in

place and halting her mother.

“Hi, Uncle Phil!” The girl waved a mittened hand at the

biology teacher.

“Hello, Katie. Hi, Con.” Phil Peters smiled and waved

back. “Doin’ anything special for winter break?” He stepped

into the hall, plunging his arms into his coat sleeves

before pinching Katie’s nose and making the girl giggle

with delight.

“No. No plans. How about you, Philly?” Connie answered,

her unease lessening somewhat in her older brother’s

calming shadow.

“Not a thing. Just the way I like it.”

“Whaddabout Winter Carnival?” Katie asked. “Aren’t you

gonna go, Uncle Phil?”

“Of course I am. How ’bout you?”

“Uh huh! I’m gonna build a snowman for the snowman

contest. I know a song. Frosty the snooowman…” she began

again.

Peters held open the door and Katie pranced out into the

snow, singing her song and twirling in dizzying circles.

“Be glad to give you a lift home, Con,” Peters offered,

ushering Connie out into the cold.

“No, thanks. We enjoy the walk and it isn’t far.”

“Okeydoke. Hey, if the weatherman’s right about Sunday’s

snowstorm, I’ll be by to shovel your driveway.” He winked

and headed to the parking lot, strains of “thumpity thump

thump, thumpity thump thump” making him smile as he waved

goodbye.

“Look, Mommy, look! It’s Frosty!” Katie ran through knee-

deep drifts to a large snowman standing guard in the

schoolyard. A striped scarf in the school colors flapped

around the snowman’s neck and two tiny stone eyes appeared

to squint across the yard at Connie. A wide line of pebbles

dotted the white face, creating a lop-sided grin while

skinny, bent arms branched out into woody fingers swayed in

the breeze, waving hello to the girl’s waiting mother.

Katie rubbed her mittens over the snowman’s big round belly.

“Mommy, look…” Katie stopped mid-sentence when she saw

three familiar boys exit the school behind her mother.

Danny Davis, Ricky Hart, and Benjamin Shute.

“Troublemakers” she’d heard Uncle Phil call them.

“Hey, Ms. Spencer,” Danny sniggered as the three scruffy

tenth-graders crowded around Connie.

“She looks kinda nervous, Danno. Maybe you scare her,”

Ricky giggled, looming over his much smaller teacher.

“Do I scare you, Ms. Spencer? BOO!” He puffed in her face,

his breath blowing a lock of her dark hair across her

forehead.

“G-go home, boys.” She tried to steady her voice but it

whined from her throat like wind skimming across the icy

school yard.

The boys laughed. “‘Go home, boys, go home, boys,'” they

mimicked.

Danny pushed closer until he squeezed Connie firmly

between himself and Ben. The slippery fabric of his down-

filled vest squealed against her raspy wool coat. The boy’s

airy winterwear exhaled the odor of pizza, cheap cologne

and car grease when he pressed into Connie and she held her

breath against the smell.

“We’re havin’ waaaay too much fun right here, Ms. Spencer.

Ain’t you havin’ fun, too?” he asked.

Connie shook her head, her eyes fixed on Danny’s widening

smirk.

“P-please go…” A wave of fear blurred her vision and in

her mind’s eye she saw her ex-husband’s raging face

floating between her and the haughty teen. She could almost

feel Tom Spencer’s brutal fingers crushing her throat.

A biting swirl of snow billowed around the three teens and

their teacher. Across the schoolyard, Katie lost sight of

her mother in the sudden squall. The percussive crack of

shattering ice boomed through the air as long icicles

plunged from the school’s overhanging roof, one after the

next, detonating on the sidewalk with the raucous pulse of

a Gatling gun. Katie blinked with each explosive jolt.

“Mommy…?”

She was answered by a gurgled scream. The vortex of

blowing snow sucked skyward, popping Katie’s ears and

inexplicably taking the blizzard with it. When the blowing

snow cleared, Danny Davis lay sprawled on the sidewalk with

a four-foot-long spear of ice stuck through his neck. His

mouth was packed solid with snow. Blood pumped from the

wound splitting his throat and the vermilion puddle haloing

the boy’s head steamed with the lost heat of his dying

body.

A scraping *schht, schht* of ice drew Katie’s attention

away from the frightful scene. Glancing over her shoulder,

she was certain she saw the frozen snowman’s stony smile

twitch. The words “catch me if you can” whistled past her

ears.

ACT I

Two days later

Route 1, Northern Maine

*Schht, schht, schht.*

Scully sat in the driver’s seat, watching Mulder scrape

ice from the windshield of their rental car. A fog of

breath huffed from his nose with each thrust of the scraper

across the glass. Despite the car’s suffocating defroster,

this was Mulder’s third trip into the stormy weather to

clear their view. Lashes laden with ice and dark hair

turning white, he squinted to avoid the onslaught of

stinging sleet that pinged and bounced off the de-iced

surface of the car.

“The Ice Man Cometh,” he announced, sliding into the

passenger seat and slamming the door behind him. A blast of

bitter air followed him inside, causing Scully to shiver.

“You look like an abominable snowman,” she said and

shifted the car into drive.

“Didn’t know you were up on such things, Scully.” A shake

of his head sent a spray of melting snow in her direction.

She sniffed her disapproval, flooding her sinuses with the

humid smell of his damp wool coat. “I watched ‘Rudolph’ as

a kid.”

“Well, I always thought I had more in common with Yukon

Cornelius than with the Bumble. I identified with the

prospector’s elusive quest for the unattainable.”

“Silver and gold?”

“Metaphorically speaking.” With a sly half-smile, Mulder

plunged an icy hand down the back of Scully’s collar. She

let out a yelp of displeasure when his chilly fingers

pressed into the bare skin of her neck. “Pay dirt, Scully!

I may have just struck the mother lode,” he chuckled into

her ear.

“Stop it, Mulder. Tell me about our case,” she advised.

He withdrew his frigid fingers and rearranged himself

comfortably in the passenger seat.

“Danny Davis, tenth grade student at Caribou Corners High

School, died when an icicle pierced him through the neck.

His lungs were packed like a snow cone.”

“How did an icicle pierce his neck?”

“Well, that’s the question, Scully. His two best friends,

Benjamin Shute and Ricky Hart, who were witnesses, say

Danny was stabbed by their teacher, Connie Spencer.”

“So if the boys saw Ms. Spencer stab Danny, how is this an

X-File?”

“You know I *love* it when you ask that. It send chills up

my spine every time.” He shivered to emphasize his point.

“Just give me the facts, Mulder.”

“Ricky and Benjamin weren’t the only ones to witness

Danny’s unlikely demise. Actually, quite a few people saw

what happened.”

“Do they corroborate the boys’ story?

“Snowball’s chance in hell, Scully. Phil Peters, the high

school biology teacher who happens to be Connie Spencer’s

brother, was standing by his car in the school parking lot

about sixty yards away when the incident occurred. He

insists the event, although unusual, was an accident. He

claims a strong wind knocked a row of icicles from the

school’s overhanging roof and Danny was simply an

unfortunate victim when one falling icicle flew at him and

stabbed him in the neck.”

“Flew at him?”

“Sounded suspicious to me, too. A dance teacher, Anne

Tredwell, was in the parking lot as well, talking with

Peters. She’s uncertain about what she saw…or actually,

what she didn’t see. She said the blowing snow made it

impossible to know for sure what happened. But based on Ms.

Spencer’s character, she’s adamant that Connie Spencer

didn’t kill the boy.”

“X-File, Mulder, X-File. Get to the point if there is one.”

“There is. Ms. Spencer’s seven-year-old daughter was

present, too. She claims a snowman killed Danny.”

“A snowman?”

“A snowman.”

“This girl is how old?”

“Seven. Her name is Katie.”

“Explain to me why you think Katie’s allegations are worth

risking our lives driving to Caribou Corners, Maine, in

this snowstorm?”

“Katie’s version of the event was corroborated by the

school’s custodian. The janitor, Elwood Jenkins, was in the

schoolyard shoveling snow at the time the alleged attack

took place.”

“And he says a snowman killed the tenth-grader? With an

icicle?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know how unlikely that story sounds?”

“I do. Or I did. But after a little digging, I’ve changed

my mind.”

“And what did you find?”

“An old legend, Scully.”

“You’re not planning to sing ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ are you?”

“Not at all. This is something with a little more local

flavor.” Mulder’s limbs vibrated with excitement and Scully

marveled at his frenetic enthusiasm. No matter how many

myths and legends he encountered, his fervor never seemed

to wane.

“According to legend…” she prompted, causing him to

smile and launch into his story.

“According to legend, back in the early days of Caribou

Corners when the small village was little more than a few

families settled bravely in the remote north woods, a

handsome trapper named Georges Desjardins married a pretty

farm girl named Catherine Dawes. Georges adored his

beautiful young wife and lavished her with devoted

attention. In turn, Catherine loved Georges with all her

heart. On the eve of the happy couple’s first wedding

anniversary, a mysterious stranger visited their home

demanding to be fed and given a place to spend the night.

Although the stranger was fearsome in appearance, having

skin and hair and even eyes the color of new fallen snow,

Georges and Catherine were kindly people who opened their

home to the man. During dinner, the stranger told them his

name was Maledeneige.”

Scully snorted. “Man of snow?”

“That’s what the legend says, Scully. Anyway, after

dinner, Maledeneige took a white stone from his pocket and

laid it on the table. ‘This is a magic stone,’ he told the

young lovers. ‘It has the power to protect you from your

fiercest enemies. Since you have treated me with kindness

tonight, I will offer you the stone in exchange for a kiss

from your pretty wife.’ Well, Georges did have an enemy, a

brute of a man named LaRoche who was a trapper, too. Both

men hunted the same forest. One day, finding his line of

traps sprung but empty, LaRoche had accused Georges and

threatened to kill him. Although Georges was innocent, he

believed the surly trapper meant to kill him the next time

they met. Not wanting to leave Catherine a widow at the

hands of LaRoche, Georges agreed to trade his wife’s kiss

to Maledeneige for the magic stone.”

“I don’t suppose Catherine had anything to say about all

this?”

“If she did, it’s not mentioned in the legend. So,

Maledeneige took Catherine in his arms and kissed her long

and hard. He continued his kiss until she became frightened

and began to struggle. Despite her protests, Maledeneige

persisted with his unwelcome kiss. Georges grew jealous and

angry at the sight of the stranger’s snow white lips

pressed against his struggling young wife’s mouth.”

“What did he do?”

“He tackled Maledeneige and the two men fought. Georges

was no match for the white-eyed stranger and Maledeneige

soon had the upper hand. With a ferocious twist, he snapped

Georges’ neck, killing him.”

“No!” Scully found herself caught up in Mulder’s tale.

“Yes! The stranger then turned to Catherine. ‘Now both the

magic stone and you are mine!’ he said. Mad with grief and

fright, Catherine grabbed a pot of boiling water from the

stove and hurtled it at Maledeneige. The scalding water hit

him full in the face. His snow-white skin melted like

candle wax as he screamed in agony. Covering his wounds

with his hands, he ran from the house, vowing to return and

kill Catherine later that night.”

“So what happened?”

“Catherine was afraid for her life. So she took the magic

stone the stranger had left behind and packed it into the

center of a snowball. From the snowball, she built an

enormous snowman. ‘My husband is dead and I am alone,’ she

told the snowman. ‘You must protect me from the evil of

Maledeneige.’ To her astonishment, the snowman nodded. And

he slid across the yard to stand guard at her front door

while she hid inside the house.”

“Did Maledeneige come back?”

“He did. And he was more frightful looking than ever with

his features distorted by his burns, and his white eyes

staring out of gaping holes in his scarred, snow-white

flesh. Unaware the snowman contained the magic stone,

Maledeneige climbed Catherine’s steps and prepared to break

down her door. The snowman grabbed Maledeneige by the neck.

It shoved a frosty fist into the stranger’s terrible mouth,

past his melted white lips and down into his throat. The

snowman’s arm filled the surprised man’s gullet, packing

his lungs with snow and suffocating him. Maledenaige was

killed and Catherine was saved.”

“Well, that’s a good fairytale, Mulder, but it doesn’t

explain the death of Danny Davis.”

“That’s not the end of the story.”

“Oh. So what happened next?”

“The snowman continued to guard Catherine against all

enemies. But try as he might, he couldn’t save her from her

own grief. You see Catherine’s heart broke when her loving

husband was killed. She couldn’t live without him. She fell

ill and soon died. And without Catherine, the snowman was

left to search for others who might need his protection. To

this day, the snowman returns to Caribou Corners each

winter where he roams the countryside looking for

injustices against the weak, avenging cruelties visited

upon the helpless.”

“So he’s a good guy? Everyone lived happily ever after?”

“That would depend on your point of view, Scully. I doubt

Danny Davis or his family would look at it quite that way.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Connie Spencer Residence Caribou Corners, Maine

*Schht. Fump.*

*Schht. Fump.*

*Schht. Fump.*

Connie paused at her snow shoveling when she saw an

unfamiliar car pull to a stop at the end of her half-

scraped walk. She didn’t recognize the official looking man

who sat in the passenger seat or the red-haired woman

behind the wheel. When they stepped from the car, Connie

blinked in surprise at their smart wool coats, impractical

calfskin gloves and ankle-high boots. Neither wore a hat

and their salon-cut hair flailed in the sleety wind.

Clearly they weren’t locals. Connie glanced over at the

driveway where Phil leaned on his shovel staring at the

strangers, too.

“Ms. Spencer?” Mulder asked and when Connie nodded, he

hooked Scully’s elbow and escorted her through the snow to

the cleared portion of the walk. He reached into his breast

pocket and withdrew his ID. “I’m Agent Fox Mulder and this

is my partner Dana Scully. We’re with the FBI.”

At the sight of Mulder’s badge, Phil abandoned his snow

shovel to join his sister. Nearing the agents, he extended

a hand and introduced himself.

“I’m Phil Peters, Connie’s brother,” he smiled. “You’re

here about Danny Davis?” he guessed.

“Yes. May we ask you each a few questions?”

“Sure,” Peters ushered them toward the house.

“Actually, Mr. Peters, we’d prefer to interview you

separately,” Scully said as tactfully as possible. “The

garage?” she suggested, gesturing to the open door.

“Oh…uh, sure. Whatever you say.”

“Shall we go inside, Ms. Spencer?” Mulder asked, guiding

Connie with a sweep of his arm.

Connie stabbed her shovel into the snowbank and led Mulder

into the house. “How ’bout we sit by the woodstove?” she

invited.

The heat from the stove was welcome after the stinging

cold outside. Connie motioned Mulder to the couch.

“Tell me what happened at the school last Friday, Ms.

Spencer,” Mulder prompted.

“Well, Katie…that’s my daughter…Katie and I were on

our way home. She stopped to get a look at a snowman in the

schoolyard. I-I waited for her on the sidewalk. That’s when

some boys from my class came along and…well, they

uh…they s-surrounded me.” Connie picked at a ragged nail.

“Was Danny Davis one of the boys?”

“Yes. And a couple of his friends. Ricky Hart and Ben

Shute.”

“What did the boys say?”

“They…they didn’t say much really, but I knew they were

trying to scare me.”

“Why would they do that?”

“They’re not my best students. I-I told them to go home,

but they wouldn’t go.” Connie gulped for air at the memory.

“You felt in danger?”

“Yes.”

“Why was that?”

Connie thought back to the panic that had surged through

her at the time. Trapped between the boys, unable to

breathe, she had sensed the grip of her ex-husbands fingers

around her throat. She felt it again now and the feeling

was so real, she raised a hand to her neck to prove to

herself that no one actually held her.

“I-I felt cornered, I guess. The boys are a lot bigger

than I am.” Connie lifted her torn nail to her teeth.

“How was Danny killed, Ms. Spencer?”

“I-I’m not sure. I mean I know an icicle…” Connie

shivered, the scene still vivid in her mind. “It went

straight through his neck. I guess it fell from the roof

when the wind started blowing.”

“Ms. Spencer, did you want Danny dead?”

Despite his gentle tone, Connie flinched at the question.

She wondered how he knew, how he had guessed that for a

single, brief moment she had wanted the boy dead. The shame

of that desire now flared across her cheeks and she looked

away from the agent’s prying eyes.

“No! I-I was afraid, but I didn’t want him dead. He was

just a boy, for goodness’ sake. I didn’t kill him. It was

an accident. It had to be an accident.”

“The other two boys, they claim you stabbed Danny in the

neck.”

“They’re mistaken. I-I did no such thing.”

“Your daughter said Danny was killed by a snowman. Why

would she say that?”

“Agent Mulder, she’s just a little girl. She imagined it

is all.” Connie’s eyes flashed with anger. “Danny’s

death…well, it was a horrible thing for a child to see.

And Katie’s already seen more than her fair share of

horrible things.” As soon as the words were out of her

mouth, Connie wished she could take them back. Ashamed of

her failed marriage, she had no desire to explain her years

of abuse. Not to this complete stranger. Not to anyone. How

do you convey the constant fear? The beatings. The black

eyes and broken bones. Connie had lost several teeth while

Katie watched, wide-eyed and frightened. Even as a baby in

a high chair, Katie bore silent witness to one terrible

bloody encounter after the next. Tom Spencer never hit his

daughter, but Connie had suffered his unpredictable

battering for five long years.

“What are you saying, Ms. Spencer? What exactly has Katie

seen?”

“Agent Mulder, Katie’s father and I are divorced. Our

marriage wasn’t a happy one. It was hard on Katie. That’s

all I meant.”

“I’d like to talk with your daughter,” Mulder said. When

Connie’s eyes widened, he quickly added, “About last

Friday.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“I can understand that, but Katie witnessed a possible

murder. I need to question her about what she saw. Please,

call her in.”

“She…she’s not here right now. She’s with her father.

They’re at the schoolyard, building a snowman…for…for

tomorrow’s Winter Carnival.”

* * *

In the garage, Peters leaned against Connie’s old Dodge.

“Sorry I can’t offer you a chair, Agent Scully. You’re

welcome to share the bumper.” He smiled.

“I’m fine, Mr. Peters. This won’t take long. Can you tell

me what happened last Friday?”

“A terrible accident,” Peters became serious and shook his

head. “Freaky. As you can see, we’ve had a lot of snow in

Caribou Corners this winter. It’s several feet deep on most

roofs and the school’s no exception. I’d have to say a

sudden gust of wind caused the snow to slide off the school

roof, taking the icicles with it. Danny…well, he was

standing beneath it when it happened and an icicle caught

him in the neck. He bled to death in a matter of a few

minutes. The report said the icicle hit his carotid artery.”

“Was Danny standing alone under the overhang?”

“No, Connie and two other boys from her class were on the

sidewalk as well. Ben Shute and Ricky Hart.”

“But no one else was hurt?”

“No, thank God.”

“You’re aware, aren’t you, that the other two boys have

accused your sister of stabbing Danny with the icicle?”

“Yes, I’ve heard that. Those boys…well, there’s no nice

way to put this, Agent Scully…those boys are

troublemakers. Connie’s had a hard time with ’em all year.

I know from personal experience they can be disruptive and

they have little respect for authority. Connie warned the

boys weeks ago that if they didn’t buckle down, they’d fail

her class. A failing mark would mean repeating tenth grade,

so you can see why the boys might want to make trouble for

Connie.”

“When the accident occurred, did you have a clear view of

what happened?”

“I’d been watching them, keeping my eye on them from the

minute the boys showed up, in case Connie needed my help. I

was about to intervene when the wind started blowing the

snow around. I saw what happened, Agent Scully. I was

looking right at them. Connie didn’t stab that boy. Nobody

stabbed him. It was an accident, not murder.”

“Mr. Peters, I have to ask you this.” Scully looked a bit

embarrassed. “Why did your niece claim a snowman killed

Danny Davis?”

Peters relaxed and actually laughed out loud.

“She’s a 7-year-old, Agent Scully. She’s heard that silly

old snowman legend all her life and took it to heart when

the accident occurred. She’s just trying to make childish

sense of a terrible situation. You don’t put any credence

in a crazy fairytale like that, do you?”

“Scully?” Mulder interrupted, poking his head around the

doorframe. “If you’re finished here, I’d like to head over

to the school. I wanna get a look at that magic snowman.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Caribou River

2:32 p.m.

Ricky Hart reset the tip-up and de-iced his fishing hole

using a beat-up skimmer to clear out the slush. A fat

hornpout lay dying at his feet, its gasping gills sluggish

as it simultaneously suffocated and froze. Several yards

away, a couple more traps waited to snare an unwary fish or

two.

“Leave it be, Jack!” Ricky ordered, frowning at his

pestering dog. The shaggy mixed-breed danced around the

boy, begging for a handout. To keep the dog away from his

fish, Ricky tossed the hornpout into an Igloo cooler and

closed the lid. He aimed a half-hearted kick at the dog.

When a northerly wind skated along the river’s frozen

surface, Ricky turned his back to the blustering snow.

Keeping an eye on his traps, the boy pushed his hands

deeply into his pockets in an effort to keep them warm. He

shivered as another swirl of snow penetrated the worn

fabric of his jeans, biting the backs of his legs from his

calves to the tops of his thighs.

Glancing at the high school perched on the distant slope,

Ricky thought back to Friday. Danny’s death was Ms.

Spencer’s goddamn fault, he was sure, although he hadn’t

truly seen her do it. At the time, he’d closed his eyes

against the blowing snow, but even so she was to blame.

He’d told the sheriff as much, too. Ms. Spencer was a

wacko. Everybody knew she was nuts. Hell, her husband went

off and left her because she was certifiably crazy, so damn

paranoid Tom Spencer couldn’t stand to live with her

anymore. They should lock her away in a loony bin

somewhere. No way was he going back to her class, even if

it meant a suspension.

Jack barked and trotted to the far trap. Snout buried in

Ricky’s tracks, a frosty sneeze threatened to send the dog

bumping into the tip-up.

“Com’ere, Jack,” Ricky called and whistled through his

teeth. Jack stood at attention, ready to bolt back to the

boy. But then he hesitated, nose in the air. His hair

bristled along the ridge of his back. He looked beyond his

young master and barred his teeth. A low growl gurgled from

his throat, even as his tail slid between his legs.

“Jack! What’s a’matter, boy?” Ricky took a step toward the

hunched dog as Jack released a spatter of warning barks.

*Schht. Schhhttt! Schhhhhtttttt!*

A scraping current of air plowed into Ricky’s back,

popping his eardrums and propelling him forward. He

stumbled and a frosty arm, bitter cold and alarmingly

powerful, caught him around the waist from behind,

preventing him from sprawling to the ice. The arm squeezed

and forced the air from the boy’s lungs. Ricky tried to

inhale, desperate for a breath as his ribs cracked, but a

sleety hand folded over his face, blinding him and blocking

his mouth. The intense cold scalded the boy’s nose, cheeks

and chin. He sucked against the glacial hand, his breath

hitching in his empty chest. His arms flailed like the

hornpout’s gills, desperate at first, but slowing, slowing.

I’m dying, the boy thought as snow filled his mouth,

glutting coldly across his tongue and pressing against the

back of his throat, stretching the malleable skin to an

impossible thinness. The fist of snow filled him, expanding

until the boy gagged on the arctic pain. Frosty shards

grated the fragile membranes of his mouth, his throat. His

insides split and ripped lengthwise, bursting like a frozen

water pipe, as the plug of snow jammed his gullet. Packed

solid with icy crystals, the boy lost consciousness and

slipped stiffly to the frozen surface of the river.

ACT II

Caribou Corners High School

3:12 p.m.

Katie’s giggles reached Mulder and Scully the moment they

stepped from their car. Crossing the school parking lot,

they watched the little girl wrestle with a snowball at

least half her size. Unable to budge the monstrous sphere

another inch, her father joined her effort, helping her

lift the ball into place atop a similar globe.

“Next we make Frosty’s head, Daddy!” Katie squealed and

danced a crooked circle around the headless snowman.

Tom Spencer ignored his daughter’s frolicky enthusiasm,

staring instead at Mulder and Scully. Even from several

yards away, he could make out the badge on Mulder’s

proffered ID.

“I haven’t gone near Connie,” Spencer insisted, gloved

palms raised. “I don’t know what she’s told you, but I

haven’t broken the restraining order.”

“We’re not here about that, Mr. Spencer. We’re

investigating the death of Danny Davis and we’d like to

speak with your daughter.”

“Katie? What for?”

At the mention of her name, Katie stopped her spiraling.

“Me?” she asked, her reedy voice quavering into nothingness.

Scully approached the little girl and knelt in the snow,

putting her eye-to-eye with the seven-year-old.

“Hi, Katie. My name is Dana,” she introduced gently.

“That’s a nice snowman you’re making.”

“Yep!” the girl brightened. “His name is Frosty. D’you

know Frosty the Snowman?”

“Yes, I do. The song says he came to life one day.”

“Uh huh! Thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump,”

Katie sang, “Look at Frosty GO!” The girl’s enthusiasm made

Scully smile. The child was cute. With dark hair peeking

out from under an ice cream-colored cap and a shallow

crescent dimpling her wind-chapped chin, she resembled her

mother, but without Connie’s undercoat of sadness. “My

snowman’s gonna come t’life, too!” Katie proudly claimed,

“‘Cause I got a magic stone.”

“A magic stone?” Mulder asked, stepping closer and giving

Scully a quick glance.

“Yep! Wanna see it, mister?”

Mulder nodded and crouched, too. Katie tugged off an icy

mitten and dug into her pocket. Withdrawing her hidden

treasure she unfolded her fingers with a triumphant smile

and exposed a snow-white stone.

“What makes your stone magic?”

“It’s gonna bring Frosty to life. Like the hat.”

“The old silk hat in the song?”

“Yep. Only, I din’t have no hat so Mr. Jenkins gave me

this magic stone.”

“Mr. Jenkins?”

“He works at Mommy’s school. He fixed the song.”

Mulder looked confused. “Fixed the song?”

“Like this: ‘There musta been some magic in that white

stone Katie found, ’cause when she placed it in his

hhhhhead, he began t’dance arounnndddd!’ See?”

“Have you ever seen a snowman come to life, Katie?” Scully

asked.

The girl’s happy smile vanished, melting into a tremble of

fear. Dread peaked her delicate brows, transforming her

into a miniature replica of Connie Spencer.

“Yes,” Katie whispered.

“Where?”

“Here.”

“At the school?”

“Mm hm.”

“Can you show me?” Scully held out a gloved hand. Mitten

dangling, Katie placed her tiny fingers in Scully’s palm.

With Mulder and Tom following a few paces behind, Katie

towed Scully across the schoolyard to the snowman standing

guard at the front walk.

“Him.” She thrust an accusing finger at the leaning snowman.

To Scully the snowman looked like any average snowmen:

three giants spheres of snow, one stacked precariously atop

the next, tilting the figure a bit and giving it the

impression of motion. Small stones defined the eyes and

mouth; its expression appeared grim but not necessarily

malevolent.

“Tell me what happened, Katie,” Scully asked gently.

The girl sucked her lip into her mouth. Her brown eyes

glossed with tears.

“Danny wanted to hurt Mommy. He scared her. The snowman

doesn’t like Mommy to be scared.”

“He doesn’t?”

“No. He got mad and blew the wind and knocked the icicles

off’n the roof and made a whooshey noise and…and stuck an

icicle in Danny’s neck.”

“You saw him stick an icicle in Danny’s neck?”

“Well…”

“Did you see it, Katie? Did you really see it?”

“Um…not zackly. But the snowman smiled real mean when

Danny got stuck.”

“The snowman smiled?”

“Uh huh. And he said ‘catch me if you can.'” Katie

mimicked a whispering voice, soft as blowing sleet.

“Isn’t that what Frosty says in his song?”

“Yeah, but…but Frosty doesn’t say it like that. Frosty

says ‘Catch me if you CAN!'” Katie sang the familiar

melody. Then she pointed at the snowman. “He sounded like

schhht, schhhhht, caaaatchhhh meee ifff youuu caaannn.”

Again she whispered.

Scully nodded and gave the girl’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Thank you, Katie.”

“You finished?” Spencer asked, fists on his hips.

“I think we’ve heard enough,” Scully answered. “How about

you, Mulder?”

Mulder opened his mouth, but his reply was lost in the

blaring siren of the Sheriff’s passing cruiser.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Caribou River

4:01 p.m.

“Damn!” Sheriff Ted Riley swore as he lifted Ricky Hart’s

face from the slush-filled fishing hole. “How in hell…?”

He rolled the dead boy’s stiff body onto its back. A

conglomeration of ice and snow plugged the teen’s yawning

mouth. Blue lips stretched agonizingly around a frozen

mass. The boy’s eyes were wide-open, lids glazed in place

with a veneer of crystal clear ice.

“He was dead when I got here, Ted. I didn’t think I should

move him, you know, in case…well, in case I accidentally

disturbed some evidence or something.” Anne Tredwell, ill

dressed for the biting cold and the setting sun, marched a

nervous triangle between the dead boy’s three abandoned

fishing holes. She dodged a lopsided snowman located

halfway between the farthest hole and the body. The snowman

leaned toward the boy’s corpse like a curious bystander at

a car accident.

“You did right, Anne,” the sheriff assured her,

disappointed to see the dance teacher’s twitchy pacing had

already flattened a wide expanse of surrounding snow,

obliterating any incriminating footprints. But truth be

told, if Anne hadn’t spotted Ricky from her home atop the

river’s bank in the first place, the dead teen certainly

would have laid face down in the fishing hole all night.

The falling snow would have covered any tracks and the

sheriff would have had to chisel the boy out of the ice in

the morning. “Damn,” he swore again.

“Is the ambulance coming?” Anne asked, her voice watery

with overwrought nerves.

“Yeah, but the coroner might’ve been a better choice.”

“I was hoping, you know, that maybe the medics could

revive him. You hear about that all the time. Kids drowning

in cold water and being brought back to life.”

“I don’t expect that’s gonna happen in this case, Anne.”

“I just can’t get over it. Danny last Friday. Ricky today.

Do you think there’s a serial killer on the loose?”

“It’s a bit premature to speculate about…” The sheriff

fell silent, surprised by the approach of an unfamiliar man

accompanied by a red-haired woman.

“Sheriff, I’m Agent Fox Mulder,” the man said from a

distance, holding out a badge.

“FBI?”

“Yes. This is my partner Agent Scully.”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t call the Bureau.”

“No, sir. We’re here to investigate the death of Danny

Davis.”

“Agent Mulder, Danny died in a freakish accident. His

death was nothing more than a stroke of very bad luck.”

Mulder nodded at Ricky’s body. “And this boy? Another

stroke of bad luck, Sheriff?”

“Might be. It’s possible he slipped, knocked himself out

on the ice and drown in his fishing hole.”

“And I’ve been told *my* theories are farfetched.” Mulder

raised his brows at Scully before returning his attention

to the body. “This boy wouldn’t happen to be a former

friend of Danny Davis, would he? One of the boys who

witnessed Friday’s ‘accident’?”

“And if he was?”

“Since you seem to believe in fluky strokes of misfortune,

Sheriff, you might want to put the remaining boy in

protective custody. I hear bad luck often comes in threes.”

“You’re jumping to some mighty big conclusions, Agent

Mulder.”

Mulder offered the sheriff a small shrug before wandering

away to inspect the nearby snowman.

clip_image002

“He does that.” Scully squatted next to the dead teen and

snapped on a pair of latex gloves. “Mind if I take a look

at the body?” Without waiting for the sheriff’s permission,

she prodded the icy plug filling Ricky’s mouth. Finding the

blockage rock-hard, she wriggled an index finger between

the chunk of ice and the boy’s hardening cheek. “This is

odd.”

“What’s that, ma’am?” the sheriff asked, clearly irritated

by the agents’ meddling.

“His oral cavity is completely occluded.” She reached

beneath the boy’s collar and squeezed his neck. The

pressure caused blood to ooze from the teen’s mouth and

nose. “His trachea and esophagus are impacted. The

hemorrhaging indicates his passages have ruptured. And he

hasn’t been dead for very long. Was he on his back like

this when you found him?”

“No, he was face down in the fishing hole,” Anne Tredwell

answered. Still pacing, she dodged around Mulder and the

snowman.

“That’s impossible. I mean, it’s theoretically feasible to

drown in a fishing hole” — Scully eyed Mulder who had

plucked the carrot nose from the snowman’s scowling face —

“but this boy’s throat and mouth wouldn’t be obstructed

like this. The water, no mater how icy, would have drained

out.”

“Well, that’s how I found him,” Anne insisted, marching

back to the dead boy.

“And you are…?” Mulder asked.

“Um, Anne Tredwell. I live right over there.” She

indicated a house on the bank with a sweep of her ungloved

hand.

“You witnessed the death of Danny Davis, too, didn’t you?”

Mulder recalled her name from his list of witnesses. With a

snap, he bit off the end of the snowman’s former nose.

“Well, yes and no. It happened so fast. I really didn’t

see much of anything. It was very windy. Snow was blowing

everywhere. It was impossible to make out what happened.

But I’m quite sure it was an accident.”

“Didn’t Danny’s friends say he was killed by their teacher

Connie Spencer?”

“Ricky and Ben were wrong about that, Agent Mulder. Connie

Spencer wouldn’t hurt a fly. Not after all she’s been

through.” Anne was adamant.

“And what would that be?”

“She was beaten almost to death by her ex-husband. Several

times. The man is a monster.” The dance teacher nodded

solemnly.

“Now Anne, you don’t know for a fact if that’s true or

not,” the sheriff cut in. “You’ve only got Connie’s say so

on it.”

“Then why was Connie granted a restraining order?” Anne

argued.

“You know as well as I do why the judge granted that order.”

“Why was that?” Mulder asked, chomping on his carrot.

“If it’s any of your business, Agent Mulder, the order was

granted to keep Connie from falling over the edge, so to

speak. She’s not exactly the most stable person.”

“That’s not true!” Anne objected. “She’s been through some

tough times, but she’s not crazy. It’s her ex-husband who

should be locked away! He’s the insane one, not Connie.”

Mulder looked past Anne and the sheriff and pointed the

remaining nub of carrot at a man standing on the crest of

the hill near the school. “Who’s that?”

“That’s just Elwood, the school’s custodian,” Anne

identified the man.

Barely visible in the late afternoon dusk, the bent figure

stepped into the shadows and vanished.

“Elwood Jenkins? Didn’t he claim a legendary snowman

killed Danny Davis?” With a curious squint, Mulder

scrutinized the now noseless snowman.

“Jesus Christ.” The sheriff rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell

me you believe that foolish story.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Connie Spencer Residence

4:41 p.m.

Tom Spencer stood at the end of Connie’s walk and watched

Katie wave to him from the front steps. She flashed him a

happy smile before she slipped inside the house. She was

such a sweet girl. A good girl. Even-tempered. Easy-going.

Not like her mother, thought Spencer. Life with Connie had

been one nor’easter after the next. Soon after their

wedding, she had sunk beneath the surface of depression

like shattered spring ice on the Caribou River. And like

those choking, broken flows, she had tried to drag the rest

of the family down with her. Paranoid, delusional, prone to

hysterics. He was relieved to be out of the glacial

whirlpool. But he missed Katie; he no longer saw her every

day. Limited to weekends and vacations, his time with her

was never enough. Goddamn that judge for granting Connie

custody.

Connie’s snowy walk shimmered, reflecting the glow of the

living room windows. Where the sheen faded to black,

Spencer waited, hunched against the cold, glaring angrily

at the house.

Connie has no right to Katie, he thought. The crazy woman

blew everything out of proportion. Always did. Things had

not happened the way she made them sound to the judge.

*Schht. Schht.* He shuffled his cold feet against the

granular snow. Feeling chilled, he thrust his gloved hands

into his pockets.

I’ll get Katie back, he thought.

*Schht. Schhhht. Schhhhhtttt!*

Behind him a massive fist drove a sharp punch into

Spencer’s lower back, sending a spiral of pain through his

kidneys, buckling his knees. With his hands trapped in his

pockets, the surprised man was unable to stop his fall and

he hit the ground hard. His head bounced against the frozen

walk, splitting his cheek. He watched a pool of steamy

blood form in the snow beneath his throbbing nose.

Wriggling in an attempt to free his trapped hands, Spencer

found himself caught beneath a crushing knee against the

small of his back. The weight pressed him with unbearable

force and he thought he heard a rib pop. Then a second. He

tried to scream, but couldn’t suck in enough breath to

shout for help.

With fingers so cold they burned, two icy hands wrapped

around Spencer’s throat and squeezed. Tom Spencer listened

to the gargle of his own strangled voice when his larynx

burst with a quiet collapsing snap. With a nauseating feel

of weightlessness, Spencer was lifted and spun wildly onto

his back. The movement was so rapid, a salvo of panic shot

from Spencer’s aching neck to his exploding heart. His

fright bore a bone-chilling hole straight through his

stomach to his bowels.

Powerless to stop the assault, Spencer shut his eyes to

the terror. He felt his jaw pried open by arctic fingers. A

fist of snow plunged into his mouth, freezing his tongue

and plugging his throat. Two tears leaked from his closed

lids, searing a scalding path down his frostbitten cheeks.

I’m fucked, Spencer thought as he lost consciousness.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Elwood Jenkins’ Residence

5:13 p.m.

“Knock again, Mulder.”

Mulder rapped harder on the peeling wood door as Scully

peered through a black window.

“He’s not home, Scully.”

“Want to wait for him? We could sit in the car for a while.”

Mulder shrugged. He was getting hungry. Breakfast had been

a muffin on the plane and lunch had been no more than the

snowman’s carrot nose. His mind kept wandering back to the

Caribou Corners House of Pizza, the little restaurant

they’d passed on their way to Jenkins’ house.

“Let’s give him another fifteen minutes,” Mulder agreed

and walked to the car. He fished in his pocket for his

keys. “If he’s not back by then, we’re gonna–” Mulder

never finished his sentence. A wet, cold snowball hit him

in the back of the head, bursting on impact and spraying

him with slush and ice. “Jesus!” He spun to face Scully, a

look of startled surprise on his face.

Scully looked equally surprised. And guilty. She raised

her palms, already backing away and apologizing.

“I really didn’t expect to hit you, Mulder, I–”

“Oh, right, Ms. Never-Misses-At-The-Firing-Range.”

“That’s different! That’s with a gun.”

Having cleared most of the melting snow from his neck,

Mulder marched toward her. Revenge sparkled in his eyes and

a slanting grin tugged at his lips.

“No, Mulder. Wait. It was an accident. I didn’t–”

“An accident! You’re telling me you weren’t aiming at my

head?”

“Well…”

“Where were you hoping to hit me, Scully?”

“Well…” She continued to back away. Glancing over her

shoulder, she tried to gauge the terrain, searching for a

possible route of escape. The moment her eyes left him,

Mulder launched himself at her.

“You can’t outrun me, Scully,” he shouted, plowing through

the snow, quickly closing the gap between them. She

laughed, feinted left and dodged right, but he anticipated

her move and cut her off. She shrieked as his arms closed

around her waist and he lifted her off her feet. “You’re

doomed, Scully,” he whispered in her ear.

“No, Mulder, wait…”

She struggled against his bear hug and managed to slip a

hidden fistful of snow down his already chilled neck. He

howled at the shocking cold and nearly dropped her. Off

balance, he tumbled to the ground, taking her with him.

Sprawling in the snow, he rolled until she was trapped

firmly beneath him.

“Now what, Scully?” The rumble of his voice vibrated

against her chest and he grinned as he scooped up a palm-

full of snow and showed it to her.

“You wouldn’t,” she challenged.

“No? Why wouldn’t I? Give me one good reason not to wash

your face.”

She answered his smile with a chuckling laugh, her steamy

breath puffing humidly against his cold-chapped cheeks.

“Because you’re a better person than I am?”

“Hardly.”

“Because your mother taught you not to pick on girls?”

“You’re an FBI agent, Scully.”

“Because…uh, because…”

“Hmmm?” He held the snow closer.

“Because I’m really, really sorry?” she wheedled.

“Are you?”

“No.”

He aimed the snow.

“Wait!” she demanded with another hitching chuckle. He

paused, hand in the air, snow inches from her smiling

mouth. “Don’t you have something a little less cold you

could press to my lips?” She smiled sweetly and arched an

eyebrow.

“Are you flirting with me, Agent Scully?” He lowered the

snow away from her face.

“Are you laying on top of me, Agent Mulder?”

“So I am.” He let the snow sift slowly through his fingers

and kissed her reddened nose. Combing her wet hair away

from her face with a snowy glove, he considered kissing her

again.

*Schht. Schht. Schhhht.*

Startled, Mulder scrambled to his feet at the scrape of

approaching steps. He hauled Scully up after him and a

blizzard of snow fell from their coats.

“Who the hell are you?” a bent figure asked from the dark.

“And what th’hell are y’doin’ in front of my house?”

The crooked man, no more than a silhouette, shuffled to

his front door while Mulder and Scully self-consciously

dusted the snow from their clothes.

“I’m…uh, I’m Agent Fox Mulder. This is my partner Agent

Dana Scully. We’re…uh, we’re with the FBI.” Mulder

managed to dig his ID from his coat. He shook snow from his

badge.

“Really? You investigatin’ the snow in my front yard?” The

bent man unlocked the door and stepped inside.

“Uh, no, sir. We’re…uh, are you Elwood Jenkins?”

“And if I am?”

“We’d like to ask you a few questions. May we come in, Mr.

Jenkins?”

Hissing disapproval, Jenkins waved them in. He flicked on

the hall light.

Mulder couldn’t help but gawk in astonishment at the bent

man’s appearance. Despite Jenkins’ stooping posture, the

willowy man stood at least an inch or two taller than

Mulder. Curved like a branch weighted with ice, his head

swayed in front of his chest as if battered by the wind.

More startling still was Jenkins’ snow-white complexion;

the skin of his face had no pigment whatsoever. His hair,

his brows, his lashes were ashen. Pale lips split his paler

face. In fact, the man was so colorless his teeth resembled

a row of yellow pencils when compared to the pallid tint of

his skin. Mulder gaped at the man’s shocking white-blue

eyes and Jenkins’ frosty irises stared defiantly back at

the dumbfounded agent.

“Ask your damn questions,” Jenkins insisted. He invited

them no farther than the front hall and left the door ajar.

Mulder was struck by the hall’s frigid air; the temperature

was at least ten or twenty degrees colder inside than out.

The chill raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

“Did you witness the death of Danny Davis?” Mulder’s

breath fogged the air with each word.

“Yup.”

“Can you explain to us what happened?”

“I can describe it but I cain’t explain it.” Frosty

currents swirled from Jenkins’ nostrils, rising like

chimney smoke through the chill. “The Snowman done it.”

“A snowman killed Danny Davis?”

“Yup. Putta icicle right smack through the boy’s neck.”

“How?”

“I told ya, I cain’t explain it. But he done it. He done

it through the powers of Mal-dee-nej. It’s magic, s’what it

is. Cain’t say it no plainer.” Jenkins bobbled impatiently,

eager to be rid of the pestering agents.

“You believe in the legend?”

“‘Course. Don’t you?”

“Why would a snowman kill Danny?” Scully asked, clearly

dismissing the incredible fairytale.

Jenkins’ head stilled for a moment as he studied Scully.

His white-blue eyes combed her face and hair. She gasped

when he suddenly plucked a slip of ice from the tangled

strands of her hair, his warped fingers brushing her soft

earlobe, searing her with cold. An involuntary shiver

shuddered across her shoulders and she instinctively

stepped out of his reach.

“The boy musta done somethin’ t’get the Snowman angry.”

“Such as…?”

Jenkins sighed, air chuffing from his lungs like winter

wind through bare tree branches. *Scht, scht, scht.*

“How th’hell do I know? Snowman protects those that need

protectin’. And the boy, he weren’t zackly no angel,

y’know. Not too many angels in this town, truth be told.

Mebbe that’s why the Snowman’s stays on in Caribou Corners.

I’d hafta guess the boy deserved what he got.”

“Mr. Jenkins, where were you late this afternoon, just

before you watched us pull Ricky Hart’s body from his

fishing hole?” Mulder asked.

“At the school. Cleanin’ up.”

“Cleaning up?”

“Y’know,” Jenkins lips twisted upward, exposing his

yellowed teeth. “Takin’ out the trash.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Caribou Corners Motor Inn

6:57 p.m.

Mmmmm, Scully sighed, lowering herself into the bathtub’s

steamy water. Thick, humid air caressed her, curling her

hair and forming silvery beads on her flesh. Her legs

reddened as she slipped beneath the soap bubbles. The water

warmed her numbed limbs, drawing her down until only her

head and knees peaked above the water’s surface. She closed

her eyes and let her hands float at her sides.

“Scully?” Mulder’s voice was muffled by the intervening

bathroom door.

“What do y’want, Mulder?” she murmured without lifting her

lids.

“Pizza’s here,” he announced, opening the door and

thrusting the box into the room. The smell of oregano

wafted on the steam, causing her to open one interested eye.

“Vegetarian?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means there were two choices: pepperoni or double

cheese. Since there isn’t any pepperoni on this one, I’d

hafta say it’s vegetarian.”

“Fine.” She closed her eye once more. “I’ll take it.”

“Uh…Scully…you want me to come in?”

“I…” She hesitated and he wondered what she was

thinking. Or doing. Would she get out of the tub, put on

one of those damn terry robes that hung down to her ankles,

hiding every curve? Or would she just spread a thin layer

of bubbles modestly over herself and allow him to come in?

The changes in their personal relationship made second-

guessing her more difficult than ever. But despite their

new closeness, he doubted she was at a point where she’d

feel comfortable inviting him to watch her bathe.

“It’s okay, Mulder. Just bring it in.”

Yes! He pumped his arm. And almost dropped the pizza.

“Okay. I’m coming. I’m coming *in*.”

She stared up at him from the tub, a thick layer of

bubbles hiding everything but her head and knees.

“You use the whole bottle of soap?” He stared in disbelief

at the mountain of opaque bubbles.

“Why? Were you planning on a bubble bath later?”

“No…I…Where do you want the pizza?”

She opened her mouth, begging silently for a bite. With a

smile, he hooked a slice from the box and aimed the point

at her waiting lips.

“You gonna join me?” she asked when she’d finished

swallowing her bite.

“In the tub?”

“The pizza, Mulder. The pizza.”

“Oh, right. Of course. Uh, I’ll just take a slice

and…uh…” Sweeping his arm in the general direction of

the door, he let his eyes drop below her neckline. Damn,

couldn’t see a thing. “I’ll sit outside.” He grabbed his

pizza and stepped from the room.

Leaving the door ajar so they could talk, he settled on

the floor just outside the bathroom. “Still think Danny’s

death was an accident, Scully?”

“I don’t know about Danny, but I’m damn sure Ricky Hart

didn’t fall into his fishing hole and drown.” Her voice

slipped softly through the crack between the door and the

jamb.

“What do you think happened?” He could hear a light splash

of water. He let his head fall backward against the wall.

“I’d prefer not to speculate until after tomorrow’s

autopsy. How about you? You have any theories?”

“Oh, you know me, Scully. I prefer to speculate *before* I

have any evidence. Facts just tend to get in my way.”

“Soooo…?”

“It was the Snowman, Scully.”

“With a magic rock in his head?” Definite splash sounds now.

“Mm hm.”

“Then who put the rock in the snowman’s head, Mulder? And

why? Jenkins?” she asked. “You have to admit he’s strange.”

“True. But I dunno. I checked Jenkins’ background before

we left DC. As a matter of fact, I checked all the

witnesses’ backgrounds. None of them had criminal records.

None of them had so much as a parking ticket.”

“That could just mean the killer is clever.”

Mulder swore he could hear Scully soaping…some part of

her body or other. Was that even possible?

“Connie Spencer had motive and opportunity. That would

make her the prime suspect,” Scully went on.

“Anne Tredwell swears Connie couldn’t kill a fly.”

“The sheriff disagrees with Tredwell about Connie’s

emotional state.”

“I don’t think she did it, Scully. For now I’m sticking

with my snowman theory.”

“Are you saying you believe the snowman acted alone?” she

chuckled.

“Scully, can I confess something to you?”

All sounds of splashing water or frothing soap stopped.

Not a single bubble popped.

“Yeah. Of course, Mulder. What is it?”

“I hate snowmen. I’m not afraid of them. I just hate them.”

“There’s something vaguely familiar about this

conversation. You aren’t going to describe a peculiar

childhood snowman epiphany, are you?” Her splashing resumed.

“Well…I wouldn’t call it ‘peculiar’ necessarily.” Was

she laughing?

“No? Does your story end with a girlie scream?”

“No, it doesn’t. Okay, maybe a little scream. But a very

manly one.” He was sure she was smiling; he could hear

it…at least, he could hear something.

“What’s your snowman story, Mulder?” Scully suddenly

appeared in the hall, wrapped from armpits to thighs in a

towel. She wasn’t smiling, bless her. She was kneeling to

sit next to him. All muggy and pink, she stretched her legs

out beside his and took his hand.

“One day, when I was a kid, Sam and I built an army of

snowmen,” he began, thankful for her steamy grip.

“An army?”

“Okay, a corps. Uh…actually, there were only six. But

they were big.”

“So what happened?” She diverted his attention from her

smile with a wriggle of her toes.

“We built the snowmen to guard our castle.” God, her toes

were cute.

“You had a castle?”

“Mm hm. Well, a fort. Uh…a trench/cave sort of thing.

Anyway, we built the cave after we built the snowmen. What

we failed to anticipate was that the cave didn’t have the

necessary architectural reinforcement to support the weight

of the snowmen on its roof.”

“I think I see where this is going. It collapsed?”

“Yes, with Sam inside. I was scared to death. That might

have been when I screamed. Snowmen were tumbling all over

the place, heads rolling, eyes falling out.”

“Smiles turned upside down into frowns?”

Her toes were downright sexy, but her comment drew his

eyes back to her face.

“Laugh if you want, Scully, but I thought for sure Sam had

been killed. I dug down through the snow, calling her name

over and over again.”

“Was she hurt?”

“No. Just terrified. Although, less so than me. I finally

managed to get her out. She was crying. I was crying. But

the snowmen…the snowmen just laughed at us.”

“They laughed? They actually laughed?”

“They’re creepy, Scully. They’re creepier than clowns. Or

mimes. They’re creepier than clowning mimes.”

“Mulder, you can’t seriously have a snowman phobia.”

“I told you, I’m not afraid of them. I just hate them.” He

moved their linked hands into his lap and traced his thumb

over the hills of her knuckles.

“I see. Your distaste for snowmen isn’t going to cloud

your perspective on this case, is it? You sound like you

might be going into this with a distinct bias.”

“I’m trying to keep an open mind, Scully. I–”

Across the room, the phone rang. Mulder released her hand

and heaved himself from the floor. Scully waited, listening

to his one-sided conversation, not much more than a series

of “uh huhs.”

“Well?” she asked after he’d hung up.

“There’s been another death. Sheriff’s decided to call

this one a murder.” He returned to offer her a hand up.

“Who’s been killed?”

“Tom Spencer. Connie’s been brought in for questioning.”

ACT III

Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department

Presque Isle, Maine

7:47 p.m.

Connie slumped in her chair, her head bowed over the

interrogation table and her arms hugging her sides. She

hunched beneath the weight of Sheriff Riley’s grilling.

When an uncontrolled lock of hair fell across her face,

curtaining her eyes and blinding her to the room, she

didn’t tuck it away. Instead, she squeezed her lids shut

behind the swaying drape, fortifying her flimsy wall of

denial.

Still wearing their coats, Mulder and Scully leaned

against the wall while Sheriff Riley paced angry circles

around Connie. The sheriff had become increasingly

irritated by Connie’s silence. Pulling no punches, he

battered the unnerved woman with his blunt questions.

“Connie, did you kill your husband?” the sheriff asked

outright.

“Ex-husband,” she whispered, eyes still shut.

“Did you kill your *ex*-husband?”

Connie wagged her head, waffling her swathe of hair.

“But you wanted him dead, didn’t you?”

“Nooo.” She shriveled in her seat and a tear shivered down

her cheek.

“No? Weren’t you afraid of him? Weren’t you afraid he was

going to hurt you? Maybe hurt Katie? He beat you, didn’t

he? That’s what you claimed in court. That’s why you

insisted on a restraining order, wasn’t it? Weren’t you

afraid…afraid for your life?”

“I didn’t kill him. I didn’t kill anyone! I didn’t! I

swear I didn’t!”

The sheriff stepped closer, stopped his pacing. “What

happened three years ago, Connie?”

Connie shook her head.

“You know what I’m talking about,” the sheriff hissed.

“You pointed a gun at a student.”

Mulder exchanged glances with Scully.

“T-that’s not t-true!” Connie stuttered. “He lied about

that!”

“It happened, Connie. You pointed a gun at Paul Davis —

Danny’s older brother. Three years ago you threatened to

kill Paul.”

“N-nooo! I didn’t. He threatened *me*! He came to my

house. He said he’d hurt me if I didn’t g-give him a

passing grade.”

“So you pulled a gun on him.”

“I didn’t! H-he made that up.”

“Three years ago you threatened to kill Paul. Two days ago

you murdered his brother Danny. Danny’s death wasn’t an

accident at all, was it?”

“Yeeesss–”

“You killed Danny. You killed Ricky. And you killed Tom.

Now you’re going to prison — for the rest of your life.”

“Pleeease–”

*Schhht-scht.*

The inward swing of the door interrupted Connie’s plea.

Phil Peters stood at the threshold accompanied by a woman

in a business suit. The woman crisply crossed the room and

set her briefcase on the table.

“No more questions, Sheriff,” she said. “I’m advising my

client to remain silent.” She raised a quizzical eyebrow at

Mulder and Scully. Scully displayed her badge and the

lawyer’s eyebrows climbed higher. “FBI?” she asked.

“I didn’t call them, Vick,” the sheriff insisted.

“Con, are you okay?” Peters’ worried eyes took in his

sister’s tear-stained face.

“Where’s Katie? I thought she was with you, Philly.

You…you didn’t bring her here, did you?”

“No. No, of course not,” he soothed. “Katie’s with Anne.

She’s fine.”

Connie sagged with relief to know her daughter was safe

with the dance teacher.

The sheriff waggled two fingers, beckoning Mulder and

Scully out of the room into the hall.

Once in the corridor, Mulder asked, “Exactly how do you

think Connie Spencer killed her ex-husband and those two

boys, Sheriff?”

“I won’t know that until the bodies are autopsied.”

“I’d be glad to perform the autopsies right now,” Scully

volunteered.

“By all means. The sooner we know the cause of death, the

sooner Connie Spencer will begin her life sentence.”

“I don’t think Connie murdered anyone,” Mulder argued.

“Agent Mulder, Connie Spencer had motive and opportunity

to kill all three victims. I’m confident the autopsies will

prove she’s guilty.”

“Earlier today you said Danny’s death was an accident.”

“I’ve changed my mind.” The sheriff bristled. “Tom’s

murder convinced me Connie’s to blame.”

“I don’t agree. I think you need to place the third boy in

protective custody.”

“What the Christ for? We’ve got our killer locked up right

here.”

“You’re wrong, Sheriff. The killer is still out there and

Benjamin Shute’s life is in danger,” Mulder insisted,

keeping his voice low. His restraint ignited a flare of

anger in the sheriff’s eyes.

“Oh really? And just who do you think the murderer is,

Agent Mulder?”

“I think there are paranormal aspects to this case. We

need to be looking for a supernatural killer.”

“Jesus Christ. Don’t tell me you believe that crap about a

storybook snowman, Agent Mulder.”

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

“You’re spouting fairytales, for chrissake. The idea is

ridiculous. Our killer is right here,” Riley’s shout

zigzagged down the corridor. He stepped closer to Mulder

until the two men stood toe-to-toe.

“Ben Shute needs protection,” Mulder maintained.

Before his insistence provoked the sheriff into a brawl,

Scully placed a finger on her partner’s sleeve. “You check

on Ben, Mulder. I’ll perform the autopsies. Maybe we can

solve this case before morning,” she said. “I’ll meet up

with you later.”

Giving her a quick nod, Mulder brushed past the irate

sheriff and headed for the exit.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Shute Residence

Caribou Corners, Maine

9:07 p.m.

Mulder mounted the Shute’s sloping front steps, taking

care not to slip on the ice. He rapped loudly on the storm

door and waited.

*Schht. Schht.* Tree branches scraped overhead. Mulder

raised his collar against the wind. He knocked again.

*Schhht. Schhht.* Peering over his shoulder into the dark,

Mulder watched a fine powder of snow billow horizontally

across the driveway. Ice-covered branches waved at the

starless sky.

Inside someone shuffled toward him. The door swung open to

reveal a beer-bellied man with an unlit cigarette dangling

from his lips. He frowned at Mulder’s badge and with a

grunt of displeasure, he let Mulder in.

“What the hell do you want?” The man scratched at his

unshaved chin.

“I’m looking for Benjamin Shute. Is he your son, sir?”

“Christ almighty, what’s the boy gone ‘n’ done now?”

“He hasn’t done anything, sir. I’m only concerned for his

safety. Is he at home?”

“Sure. Up in his room.”

“You’re certain?”

“Course I’m sure. You can hear his friggin’ rock ‘n’ roll

blastin’ all the way down here.”

It was true. Mulder could hear the regular thrum of drums

and bass guitar.

“Mind if we check, sir, just to make sure?”

“Christ.” The man turned and lumbered toward the back of

the house. Mulder followed him through the dark hall and up

a steep staircase.

“What makes you think my son ain’t safe?” The man pounded

a beefy fist against the door when they reached the boy’s

bedroom.

“Ricky Hart was killed today, sir. I think your son may be

the killer’s next target.”

The man was genuinely shocked. “Benjy!” he called out,

trying to be heard above the blaring music. “Benjy, open

this fuckin’ door!”

The door slapped open, liberating the screams of the

Pajama Slave Dancers. The boy’s father bumped past his

skinny son and snapped off the blasting boom box.

“Christ, Benjy, you’re gonna go deaf listenin’ to that

shit.”

The chastised boy thrust his chin at Mulder. “Who’s he?”

“FBI agent. Claims your life’s in danger. Says Ricky’s

dead.”

“Rick’s dead?” Ben’s eyes rounded. “Holy shit. I just saw

Rick on the river ‘fore I went t’Miss Tredwell’s today.”

“What time was that?” Mulder asked.

“‘Round one o’clock.”

“Did you help Ricky build that snowman down on the river?”

“What the Christ are you talkin’ about?”

“Benjy, watch your fuckin’ mouth.” His father held up a

fist.

“The snowman. By the fishing holes. Carrot nose?” Mulder

said, tapping his own nose.

“We dint build no friggin’ snowman. We look like babies to

you?”

Mulder ignored Ben’s smart-mouthed question. “Why were you

at Miss Tredwell’s?”

“She pays me to shovel her driveway.”

“You see anything strange while you were there?”

The boy shook his head, then blushed with embarrassment.

“Uh…yeah, there was somethin’ I guess. When I was

shovelin’, I…uh…thought I heard…well, a voice.”

“A voice? What did it say?”

“It was a whisper, kinda. I-I thought it was just the

wind. It said, ‘Catch me if you can.’ Does it mean

somethin’?” The boy’s face drained of color. “Did…did Ms.

Spencer kill Ricky, too?”

“That woman’s a lunatic,” the boy’s father said.

“Shouldn’t be teachin’ kids nothin’.”

“Ben, has anyone other than Ms. Spencer ever threatened

you or your friends?” Mulder asked.

“Sure, that asshole janitor, Jenkins. He’s always cussin’

at us kids. A coupl’a times, he chased us outta the

schoolyard like he owns the place. He raised a shovel at us

once.”

“Why did he do that?”

“I dunno. He’s a freak.” Ben shrugged and stared at the

worn floorboards.

“Boys’ll be boys, Agent Mulder.” A nervous laugh shook

Ben’s father.

“Ben, I want you to stay inside during the next day or

two,” Mulder told the boy, “And I want someone to stay with

you. Can you do that?”

“But tomorrow’s Winter Carnival! I was plannin’ on goin’,”

the boy whined.

“You’ll do as you’re fuckin’ told.” His father thrust a

finger at the boy’s nose.

“Don’t go out of the house, Ben,” Mulder warned. “Not for

any reason. And lock your doors.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Aroostook County Morgue Presque Isle, Maine

Using heavy-duty cutters, Scully snipped through the

costal cartilage of Ricky Hart’s ribs, shearing his sternum

free from his ribcage. The detached piece of bone and

cartilage resembled a giant twenty-legged spider as she

lifted it from the boy’s chest and laid it gently in the

tray beside the corpse. Flaring the flesh like bloody

wings, Scully exposed the lungs and liver, burst trachea

and the bulging esophagus beneath. An incision in the neck

revealed decimated vocal chords. And although the plug of

ice had melted from the boy’s mouth, his bruised lips and

tongue remained blistered from their exposure to severe

cold.

Scully inspected the damaged trachea. The cartilaginous

rings were separated and the intervening membranes were

shredded all the way down to the bifurcation and beyond.

The bronchial tubes remained swollen. She prodded the right

bronchus. It was hard. Frozen. As was the external serous

coat of the lungs. Using a scalpel, Scully carefully cut

through the subserous tissue. The alveoli underneath

contained a plug of solid ice, despite the above freezing

temperature in the morgue.

“This isn’t possible.” She dug at an icy cylinder running

through the right bronchus, chiseling loose a barrel of

frozen snow. At the center she uncovered a small, white

stone and she plucked it from the snow with her gloved

fingers.

“Ouch!” She dropped the stone. Even through the latex of

her glove, the rock was so cold it hurt her thumb and

forefinger. Using steel pincers this time, Scully lifted

the stone to inspect it more closely.

Her eyes widened as a coat of frosty crystals formed

thickly around the white rock, expanding it until the stone

resembled a miniature snowball.

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_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Caribou Corners High School

10:06 p.m.

“What the hell?” Mulder muttered, rubbernecking and

hitting the car’s brakes. The vehicle skidded to a stop. He

threw the car into reverse and floored the gas, spinning

the tires and flinging snow into the air. The school’s

lights had caught his eye; they were all on, spilling from

the windows in long blue-white rectangles. Their glow

illuminated an astonishing fairytale kingdom of frozen

castles, twisting dragons and sturdy snowmen in the

schoolyard. Mulder shut off the engine and practically

leapt from the car.

He guessed the numinous realm had been created for

tomorrow’s Winter Carnival sometime after he and Scully had

left the school earlier in the day. But the size and number

of the sculptures seemed physically impossible considering

the short amount of time that had passed since he had

visited the school in the afternoon. The sudden appearance

of the structures made their presence seem all the more

charmed.

Drawn like an eager child to Santa’s Village, Mulder

entered the crystal empire. He ran a gloved hand along an

icy wall as he explored one of several castles, walking

beneath a toothed parapet and around a barrel-shaped

turret. Arched doors punctured the twelve-foot-high walls

at regular intervals and he peered through one opening

after the next. He couldn’t see more than a foot or two

into the gloom.

Beyond the first castle, an enormous frozen, snow-scaled

serpent twisted up out of the ground. Mulder stopped by the

dragon’s yawning head and touched a finger to one of the

mythical beast’s sharp icicle teeth. A glossy tongue curved

between the creature’s gaping jaws. Sticking his head into

the monster’s maw, Mulder quickly examined the beast’s

frosty gullet.

Withdrawing from the dragon, he paused in front of a

phalanx of snowmen lining the imaginary parade ground and

blocking his path. Reluctant to cross in front of them,

Mulder studied the row of white faces. Grim-mouthed and

stony-eyed, the snowmen seemed to ignore the agent’s

squinty inspection. He pursed his lips and softly whistled

the first stanza of Frosty the Snowman. When silence

followed his deliberate rendition, he tried a second

stanza, picking up the tempo a bit. Nothing stirred except

the snowmen’s willowy arms, flailed by the chilly wind.

“At ease, men,” he ordered and marched quickly forward,

jingling his keys and whistling the rest of the familiar

children’s song.

*Schht. Schhht.*

Mulder froze mid-step, his last note trilling eerily off

the icy castle walls.

*Schht. Schhht.*

He drew his gun.

*Schht. Schhht.*

Something moved on the far side of the schoolyard.

Something white. And tall.

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“Federal agent!” Mulder called out. “Freeze!” he yelled

and then rolled his eyes at the irony of his demand.

“Jus’ me, Mr. Mulder,” Elwood Jenkins hollered back.

A fog of air billowed from Mulder’s lips as he chuffed his

relief. He lowered his weapon and crossed the yard to

Jenkins.

“Still trackin’ your killer?” The janitor leaned on his

snow shovel, the school’s fluorescent lights tinting his

pale skin an icy blue. “You might have a hard time catchin’

this one.”

“Why’s that?”

“Snow can be an unpredictable thing,” he answered, seeming

to dodge Mulder’s question. The custodian’s bobbling head

nodded at the crystal kingdom. “Some days somethin’ can be

made of it. Castles. Or dragons. Other days, it just as

likely slips through your fingers. People are like that,

too, I’ve noticed.”

“Meaning?”

“Sometimes people and things are hard to grab onto. They

ain’t always what they seem.”

“Including yourself?”

“S’pect so.”

“Katie Spencer said you gave her a magic stone to bring

her snowman to life. Did you give her a stone, Mr. Jenkins?”

“Yup. Girl needs a friend.”

“Is the stone magic?”

“Like most things, that depends on who you’re talkin’ to.”

“I’m talking to you.”

The white-skinned man smiled, showing his yellow teeth.

“You’re a smart man, Mr. Mulder, an’ you know s’well as I

do there ain’t no such thing as absolute truth. The

storyteller has one truth. The list’ner has ‘nother. We

pick ‘n’ choose our own truth based on our point of view.”

“The truth is the truth.”

“Yup, it is. But it don’t look the same t’everybody. Take

you, fr’instance. You believe in magic stones and killer

snowmen. Me, too. So does the little girl. But Sheriff

Riley, he wouldn’t be caught dead believin’ such nonsense.

Could be he just needs to step a bit closer to change his

perspective. Or mebbe you need t’step back t’change yours.”

“Do you know something about the murders that you’re not

saying?”

“I know somebody’s killin’ people. An’ it’ll take lookin’

at it from the right angle t’find just who’s guilty and who

ain’t.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Aroostook County Morgue

Presque Isle, Maine

11:42 p.m.

The body of Tom Spencer gaped below Scully’s probing

fingers. She searched the frozen lungs for a white stone

similar to the one she’d removed from Ricky Hart. She

couldn’t explain how the rock had become lodged so deeply

in the boy’s lung, but she was certain she would find one

in Tom Spencer as well. For the past couple of hours she’d

watched the first stone grow thick with frost where it sat

on a stainless steel tray. The snowy coating had increased

in circumference by several inches. The rock now resembled

a four-inch snowball. And apparently it was still growing,

despite the fact that the tray was balanced on top of the

room’s chugging radiator.

“Ah, there you are.” Scully pried loose a stone identical

to the previous one, careful to use pincers to lift the

cold rock from Spencer’s lungs. Although Scully had

thoroughly searched Ricky Hart’s chest for other bits of

foreign debris, she had found nothing but the one stone.

The same seemed to hold true for Spencer.

*Schhht.* Sheriff Riley pushed his way through the autopsy

bay doors.

“How’s it going, Agent Scully? Find anything to

incriminate Connie Spencer?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“What’s that?” he indicated the stone she held in her

pincers.

“Good question. It looks like an ordinary rock.”

“But…?”

“But, I can’t figure out how it got past the rima

glottides to become so deeply embedded in the lung. If

inhaled, it should have traveled no further than the

bronchus where it would become fixed, occluding the lumen

of the tube and causing respiratory failure on that side.

However, this stone pushed beyond the physical limitation

of the tubes. As did the one I removed from Ricky Hart.”

Scully pointed at the tray resting on the radiator.

“What the hell–?” The sheriff walked to the tray and

reached for the snowball.

“Don’t touch it!” Scully warned. “It’ll burn you like a

chunk of dry ice.” She dropped the second stone next to the

first. “I can’t explain it,” she said. “Aside from the

stones, both victim’s lungs were packed with ice and snow.

Tom Spencer had several broken ribs. Ricky Hart’s larynx

was crushed. We’ll have to wait for the toxicological to

tell us if either or both of the victims were drugged

before they died.”

“Well, I’m gonna hold Connie in custody until you’ve

submitted your final report. I was hoping you’d find

something a little less mysterious and a little more

incriminating, Agent Scully. I want to keep that crazy

woman behind bars.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Sheriff.”

“You heading out?”

“After I stitch and wrap the body. I’ll be another half

hour at least.”

“You want me to wait? Give you a ride back to your hotel?”

“Thanks but I’ll call Mulder when I’m through here. I’ll

be fine.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Leaving the morgue behind, Sheriff Riley stepped out into

the swirling snow. He fitted his hat more tightly to his

head and zipped his jacket against the bluster. It wasn’t a

fit night for man or beast. And that’s exactly why he never

expected to see a white figure bending over the hood of his

car.

Striding the length of the walkway, Riley’s hand settled

on his gun. The white figure shifted and blurred. It slid

and spun at an alarming speed. *Schht. Schhht.* A blast of

razor-sharp sleet peppered the sheriff’s face, causing him

to momentarily lose sight of the strange figure. The wind

whistled past him, whispering in his ears as it went: catch

me if yoooou caaaan. Riley checked behind him. Nothing. He

turned back to the car; the intruder was gone.

“Nerves must be playing tricks on me.”

Rounding the car’s bumper, he gasped when the heel of his

boot suddenly skidded out from under him. At first he

thought he’d hit a patch of ice, but the ground beneath him

wasn’t hard or smooth. Or stationary. It dragged strangely

beneath the soles of his boots, bucking and pulling, like a

rug being yanked out from under him. “Shit!” He lost his

balance and toppled backward. He fell with a bone-jarring

thump. “Dammit!” Pain sparkled up his spine.

*Catch me! Catch me if yoooou caaaan!*

Sitting on the icy ground, Sheriff Riley wrenched his gun

from his holster. He peered into the blowing snow and aimed

into the churning air. His hat flew from his head and

twirled wildly away.

*Schhht. Schhhht. Schhhhhht.*

A snowy fist materialized out of nowhere and smashed into

Riley’s jaw, whirling him like his hat. His gun spun

unfired from his hand and landed somewhere behind the

cruiser. Blood spouted from his ear. A second wallop

blinded him, smashing coldly into his face, cracking the

bridge of his nose. A third strike knocked him flat on his

back.

Frosty fingers gripped Riley’s ankles. He felt himself

dragged dizzily across the ground. Thrashing his arms, he

uselessly tried to grab onto something solid in an attempt

to slow his skidding movement away from his car.

“Who are you?” he yelled, unable to see his assailant.

“What the hell do you want?”

With a pull that nearly tore his legs from his hips, Riley

was hurtled several yards through the air. A terrified

squeal exploded from his throat when he collided against a

slanting bank of snow. The impact emptied his lungs and

numbed his legs and arms. Paralyzed and helpless, he

blinked in disbelief as a crushing weight of snow dropped

and buried him within a tomb of white. Pinned beneath

several feet of snow, the sheriff struggled to move, to

breathe. Gasping for non-existent air, his mouth gaped. A

blizzard sucked past his lips. Frost expanded across his

tongue, inflating like an ice-cold balloon. It rushed down

his throat. Gagging him. Suffocating him. Overstuffed…his

neck gorged, bursting…he silently cursed that he’d been

wrong about Connie Spencer.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Aroostook County Morgue

1:57 a.m.

Mulder parked his car behind the sheriff’s cruiser. He was

surprised to see the sheriff’s vehicle still here. Scully’d

told him on the phone that Riley had left at least forty-

five minutes ago. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he swung his leg

from the car and put his foot down on top of Sheriff

Riley’s half-buried pistol. He plucked the gun from the

ground.

“This can’t be good.” He pocketed the gun and drew his own

weapon.

Nearby trees pitched and clawed and crackled, flogged by

the wind. A hulking snowman stood guard beside the

sidewalk, its flinty eyes seemingly directed at Mulder.

Wedged tightly atop the snowman’s head was the sheriff’s

hat.

“Nope, not good…at all.”

Glancing at the morgue’s dimly lit entry, Mulder’s concern

for Scully rolled uneasily in his stomach. Halfway to the

steps, he noticed something strange and spiky protruding

from the snowbank. Sliding his flashlight from his pocket,

he aimed it at the unexpected object.

“Shit.”

The beam of light exposed five fingers curling stiffly

from the snow.

Mulder clambered up the bank, sinking to his knees in the

drift. He exchanged his gun for his cell phone and quickly

dialed 911. Cradling the phone under his chin, he pawed at

the snow, uncovering a buried wrist, arm, shoulder. He

talked and tunneled, spouting directions and shoveling snow

with his hands. Recognizing the sheriff’s jacket, he let

the phone drop and dug faster.

He searched for the sheriff’s face, hoping against hope

that the buried man was still alive. Scooping and tossing

snow, he clawed downward. Sweat striped his face and

drenched his neck, chest and back despite the cold. Skating

between his parted lips, frantic breathy plumes chugged

from his lungs only to be grabbed by the wind and yanked

into the blackness somewhere above his head. The pulse of

his heart throbbed outward from his ears where it collided

with a scream of passing air.

*Foooxxxxx!*

The bridge of a nose and the wells of two eyes came into

view. For a brief instant, Mulder thought the face was

Sam’s, her mouth opened in a terrified cry. He struggled to

keep the evening’s pizza in his stomach.

Beneath his palm, a bulging wad of snow plugged the

sheriff’s mouth. Riley was dead. Mulder abandoned the body

and ran to find Scully.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Aroostook County Morgue

Two Hours Later

In an effort to control his adrenaline pumped limbs,

Mulder hugged his arms to his chest and jammed his jittery

fingers into his armpits while he watched Scully dig into

Sheriff Riley’s frozen chest. The sheriff’s body lay split

up the middle on a steel table in the morgue where the

Deputy and the ambulance crew had placed him earlier. The

crew had preferred not to stick around for the autopsy and

the Deputy excused himself to see to the release of Connie

Spencer. With the perfect alibi this time, it seemed Connie

was innocent after all and the Deputy saw no reason to hold

her any longer.

Hanging over Scully’s shoulder, Mulder peered into the

open cadaver.

“Find it yet, Scully?”

“Give me a minute. I’m checking the bronchus now. Yep,

here it is.” She held up a small white stone, trapped

between the prongs of her pincers. The stone immediately

developed a bristly coat of frost.

“Abracadabra.” Mulder waggled his fingers over the

changing stone.

“I refuse to believe this rock is magic, Mulder.”

“Then why is it growing fur like some freaky arctic Chia

Pet?”

“I couldn’t say.”

“And how did it get inside the victim’s lungs, past

those…those tiny little tubey thingies.” He waved at the

sheriff’s exposed bronchi.

“I can’t explain that either. But just because I can’t

explain it doesn’t mean anything mystical or supernatural

is going on.”

“Oh, come on, Scully. You think an ordinary person did

this? Killed these people?”

“Well, what’s your theory, Mulder?” Scully dropped the

frosty stone onto a tray. “Do you think the magic stone of

Maledeneige is responsible for bringing to life a murdering

snowman, whose mission is to right the world’s injustices

and avenge the cruelties of man, and in order to do so, he

shoves a frosty fist into the lungs of his victims thereby

simultaneously suffocating and freezing them to death?”

“Sounds kinda unlikely when you say it, but it does give

new meaning to the term ‘cold-blooded,’ huh?”

“A person is responsible for these deaths, Mulder, not a

snowman.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” he said, surprising her. “The

snowman is simply the murder weapon.”

“Wonderful. That’ll look great in our report.”

“In the legend, the magic stone is imbued with protective

powers that turn an enemy into a victim. All the victims

here could be considered a threat to Connie Spencer. The

boys, her ex-husband, even Sheriff Riley might be viewed as

her enemies.”

“So who would be most interested in protecting her? Her

brother?”

“Possibly. Or Anne Tredwell. She’s been supportive of

Connie. Actually, Elwood Jenkins has been sympathetic as

well. He was the one who gave Katie her magic stone and

he’s been outspoken in his opinion that the victims got

what they deserved.”

“But the victims never posed any real danger to Connie.

Would Jenkins or Tredwell or even Peters kill four people

based on an imagined threat?”

“It’s a matter of perspective, Scully. Jenkins said

something about that earlier today. He said, ‘we pick ‘n’

choose our own truth based on our point of view. There

ain’t no such thing as absolute truth.'” Mulder mimicked

Jenkins, bobbling his head and hunching his back.

“You’re quoting a janitor, Mulder.”

“A man who takes out the garbage may know a thing or two

about the truth of life. Besides, he’s right. You’re

choosing your own truth right now, Scully. You’re looking

at this case through your highly polished scientist’s

lenses. And although I’m willing to admit that your logical

point of view often serves us well, it also blinds you to

less rigorous conclusions.”

“Mulder, after seven years with you, sometimes I am

willing to accept a less-than-scientific explanation for

the things we encounter.”

“When?” He smiled. “Once in a blue moon?”

“Hopefully not that often. But need I remind you of Ansen

Stokes, the Invisible Man from Olivette, Missouri?”

“Rendered imperceptible by a magic genie.”

“Mm. I was open to extreme possibilities in that case. Too

bad my proof went poof.”

Mulder chuckled. “The invisible man disappeared — there’s

a nice irony to that.”

“Not nice at all, Mulder. The whole thing was very

embarrassing.”

“Awww, but you were so cute believing the unbelievable.”

He touched his finger to the tip of her nose.

“My point is, Mulder, I put my biases — my scientist’s

lenses, as you call them — aside,” she batted his hand

away. “And if we’re going to be honest and admit our biases

here, let’s not overlook your own preconceived fear of

snowmen.”

“I’m not afraid of them, Scully. I told you, I just hate

them.”

“Whatever.”

“Besides, I’m willing to agree that *in this case*, the

snowmen are probably not acting on their own. Someone is

using them to protect Connie. And I’m not sure we can rule

out Connie herself.”

“You said earlier that Connie wasn’t a murderer.”

“I don’t think she is…consciously.”

“Uh oh. Is that another theory I hear knocking at the door?”

“Yes, but it’s a familiar one. Remember Holman Hardt?”

“The weatherman from Kansas. Mulder, Holman may have

tossed a cow at you, but he never killed anyone with a

snowman.”

“But he could have. His repressed feelings of love for

Sheila erupted in tornadoes, snowstorms and even a flying

cow. The point is, he was doing it unconsciously. Why

couldn’t Connie’s fears, real or imagined, be responsible

for a similar phenomenon?”

“You’re giving up on your magic stone theory?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Well, if what you’re saying about Connie is true — and

I’m not saying that it is — then there’s someone else we

need to consider as the murderer.”

“Who’s that, Scully?”

“Katie.”

ACT IV

Caribou Corners High School

Next Morning

Unable to penetrate the deep overcast, the mid-morning sun

glowed like a nickel coin in a pewter sky, slurred low on

the horizon despite the early hour. The schoolyard joggled

with sherbet-colored knit hats, fluttering scarves and

ballooning down-filled coats. Screechy kids’ voices

vibrated across the glittering ice sculptures.

“Crowded,” Scully commented, arm linked with Mulder’s,

more for the windbreak of his body than from any romantic

notion.

“Hearty souls, must be used to the cold.” He glanced at

her reddened nose and flailing hair. “You need a hat,

Scully.”

“I’m not the hat type.”

“Who exactly is the ‘hat type’?”

“Cowboys, astronauts, magic-hat-wearing snowmen named

Frosty,” she paused, looking around. “Jesus.”

“Jesus? He wore a crown of thorns, but not a hat per se.”

“No, Mulder, I was just commenting on…all this.” She

waved a gloved hand at the ice castles, the snowmen, the

dragon.

“Oooh. I–”

“Miss Dana, Miss Dana!” Katie skipped breathless and

smiling toward Scully. “Com’ere! See my snowman!” The

little girl tugged excitedly on Scully’s hand. Scully

grabbed Mulder’s arm and allowed herself to be pulled along

by the girl, feeling like a link in a very short chain of

Crack the Whip.

Anne Tredwell waited for Katie beside a crooked line of

Snowmen; more than three-dozen entries stood ready for the

judges’ consideration later in the day.

“Good morning, Agents. When Katie saw you arrive, she

insisted on showing you her snowman.” Anne’s eyes never

left Katie. Fatigue grayed the dance teacher’s face but she

forced a smile. “She barely slept at all last night,” Anne

confided. “Not until Phil called and said he’d brought

Connie home from…” She glanced at Katie to gauge whether

or not the girl was listening, “J-A-I-L.”

“Is Mommy ‘n’ Uncle Phil comin’ t’see Frosty?” Katie asked

her dance teacher.

“Yes, sweetie. They’ll be here soon.”

“Yippee!” Katie pranced a circle around the snowman. “Do

you like my snowman, Miss Dana?”

Scully inspected Katie’s entry. The snowman looked as if

it smirked with a broad stone-studded grin wrapped from one

nonexistent ear to the other. Instead of a traditional

carrot nose, Katie had stuck a pencil above the wide mouth,

giving the snowman a beaky, bird-like appearance. Two

pennies served as eyes and slanting twig brows lent an

expression of worry to the bloodless face. One of Katie’s

ice cream-colored hats topped the stack of snowy spheres;

the pompom jittered in the nervous breeze.

“Very nice, Katie. What do you think, Mulder?”

“I think there are a heck of a lot more snowmen here this

morning than there were last night. And there were a lot of

snowmen here last night. How…?” Mulder gazed down the

long line. The number of snowmen had practically doubled in

the last few hours.

“Mulder, what do you think of *Katie’s* snowman?”

He turned his attention to the girl’s entry. Taking his

time, he scrutinized the snowman from all sides. Finally,

nose to pencil, he stared into the snowman’s penny eyes.

“Looks like a prize winner to me,” he announced.

“Really?” Katie squealed with delight and clapped her

mittened hands.

“Definitely.” Giving the neighboring snowmen a suspicious

glance, Mulder adjusted the knit hat on Frosty’s broad

skull.

“Agent Mulder knows what he’s talking about, Katie. He’s a

snowman expert.”

“Let’s not brag,” Mulder suggested, not amused by Scully’s

subtle jibe. “Did you put your magic stone inside your

snowman, Katie?”

“Nope.” She pawed through her pocket and produced the

white stone. She held it up high for Mulder to see before

showing it to Scully and then to Anne. “I’m saving it for

later. I dint want Frosty to run away before the contest!”

she giggled.

“Good plan.”

“Mulder.” Scully’s face had become serious. “By the school

door.” She pointed.

Across the schoolyard, Elwood Jenkins posed with one long

white hand on the school’s open door, staring directly at

Mulder. Jenkins’ pale head bobbed as if nodding agreement

to Mulder’s unspoken intent to follow the janitor into the

school. With a yellow smile, Jenkins disappeared behind the

closing door.

“I’ll be back,” Mulder murmured and trailed after the

vanishing janitor.

* * *

Stepping inside the school, Mulder found the hall dark and

empty. Jenkins was nowhere in sight. Jesus, it was cold. He

guessed the building’s heat had been lowered for winter

break, but it seemed unlikely the school would be left cold

enough to allow the water pipes to freeze.

“There’re igloos pumping out more BTUs than this place,”

he muttered, starting down the hall in search of Jenkins.

Joggling the handle of each door he passed, Mulder found

one classroom after the next locked tight. Further down the

hall, however, he could see a shaft of fluorescent light

spilling out across the floor and he hurried to the small

suite of lit offices.

The outer room was clearly home to the school’s secretary.

Squeezed between a bookcase and a photocopier, her desk was

cluttered with family photos, porcelain knick-knacks and a

snowglobe that cheerily begged “Let it snow! Let it snow!

Let it snow!” Behind her desk, two open doors led to twin

offices. A lamp illuminated only one.

Mulder edged toward the lit room. Careful. Tense. He drew

his gun and paused at the inner door. Leaning cautiously

over the threshold he saw that the office was vacant and

Jenkins was nowhere to be found. But against the far wall,

a single drawer in a bank of dusty file cabinets gaped

open. Mulder felt certain the drawer had been purposely

left ajar just for him.

Glancing over his shoulder to double-check for Jenkins, he

crossed to the file cabinet. He peered into the open drawer

where he found hundreds of file folders bearing the names

of students who had attended Caribou Corners High School

more than a decade ago. Troubled students. These were the

guidance counselor’s files.

One folder peaked above the rest as if recently removed.

He read the folder’s handwritten tab: PETERS, CONNIE T —

Connie Spencer’s maiden name. Mulder pulled the folder from

the drawer and spread it open on the desk.

* * *

“Mommeeeee!” Katie shrieked when she noticed Connie and

Phil Peters approaching. The girl plowed into her mother’s

outstretched arms. Peters playfully tugged his niece’s

swinging hair. “Hi Uncle Phil! Mommy’s here!” Katie bounced

with delight, announcing the obvious.

“Yep. No way she’d miss seeing your snowman take first

prize. Where’s Miss Tredwell?”

“With Miss Dana and Frosty. Over there.” Katie pointed a

mittened finger.

Peters excused himself and crossed the yard to the line of

snowmen where Anne and Scully stood watching Katie’s

reunion with her mother.

“Hi Anne. Thanks for taking Katie last night.”

“My pleasure, Phil. You know the girl’s always an angel.

Uh…have you met Agent Scully?”

“Yes, we’ve met.” Phil nodded at Scully. “Where’s your

partner this morning?”

“Inside.” Scully tilted her head at the school. “With

Jenkins.”

* * *

Mulder’s index finger traced a handwritten message

scrawled in red ink across the bottom of Connie’s first

grade report card: 2/19/71: Connie Peters admitted to

Caribou Corners Memorial Hospital — nervous collapse.

Connie hadn’t missed a single day in the first two

reporting periods of her year in Grade 1. Her marks

indicated she was a good student. But the report card

remained blank for the third and fourth quarters. Mulder

studied the tiny class photo taped to the back of the

report card. Connie looked just like her daughter Katie,

right down to the shallow crescent dimpling her chin when

she smiled at the photographer. A second report card was

clipped to the first. The attached photo showed an almost

unrecognizable girl hollowed by grief. And fear? She looked

frightened. Scared to death. Evidently Connie had been

readmitted to school in the fall of ’71 to repeat the first

grade. Mulder scanned the marks on the second report card,

looking for clues that might reveal something about her

emotional state. U’s representing unsatisfactory behavior

filled the report. Connie no longer took part in group

activities or paid attention during class. Her work was

often late. She wasted time daydreaming. The teacher noted

the seven-year-old appeared to be overtired and often wore

the same clothes to school for several days in a row. The

report card was signed by a Mr. H. Tredwell, not Connie’s

parents.

Returning to the file cabinet, Mulder retrieved Phil

Peters’ records in hopes of finding more information about

Connie’s first grade decline. What would cause the seven-

year-old to suffer a nervous breakdown? And why didn’t

Connie’s parents sign her card? He flipped quickly through

Peters’ folder.

In 1971, Phil Peters also attended Caribou Corners

Elementary School, but as a third grader. His marks

indicated he was a good student, like his sister before her

hospitalization. Satisfactory grades filled his card. His

entire card. Evidently whatever had bothered Connie hadn’t

altered her brother’s study habits. Peters had missed only

one day of school the entire year. February 19. The day

Connie was admitted to Caribou Corners Memorial. That

didn’t tell Mulder much. Whatever had pitched Connie off an

emotional cliff evidently hadn’t affected her brother Phil.

Ruffling through the folder of papers, notes and report

cards, Mulder stopped when he came to a letter from a

Presque Isle physician.

Gentlemen, Our psychiatric review indicates that the

patient (Philip K. Peters, 9 years old) is mentally and

emotionally sound, despite the recent loss of both parents

(Robert and Janet Peters, d. February 16, 1971). The

patient is communicative, even ebullient, and presents no

symptoms of depression. He worries about his sister (Connie

T. Peters, age 7, currently at CCMH) but demonstrates no

emotional impediment. We are confident Philip can

successfully finish out the year at Caribou Corners

Elementary School. Sincerely, James Miller, MD

“Ebullient? With two dead parents and a sister in the

loony bin? Dr. Miller needs to take his head out of his

ass.”

Mulder flipped the doctor’s letter over. He arched an

eyebrow at a big red question mark drawn on the back of the

sheet. Taped to the lower half of the page was a yellowed

newspaper clipping — Robert and Janet Peters’ obituary.

“Shit,” Mulder hissed, reading the obit.

The clipping reported that Connie and Phil Peters’ parents

had died when a roof-full of snow slid from their home,

crushing them both to death on their front steps. The two

children had the misfortune to witness the bizarre

accident. And coincidentally, or perhaps not, Janet Peters’

maiden name was Desjardins — the same name as Georges and

Catherine in the tale about the legendary killer snowman.

Mulder felt the hair on his neck prickle.

*Schht. Schht.*

Mulder spun to see Phil Peters glaring at him from the

outer office, feet scuffling the floor. Despite the

distance, Peters recognized the newspaper clipping.

“How exactly did your parents die, Phil?” Mulder asked,

closing the folder and setting it on the desk, freeing his

hands.

“It was an accident.” Peters nervously swayed, rocking

side to side in the doorframe.

“Was it? Or is that just the story you’ve been telling

yourself…and everyone else…all these years?”

“No!” An overcast of rage darkened Peters’ folding

features.

“No? Are you sure? Are you sure you didn’t cause the

deaths of your mother and father? Using a magic stone,

perhaps?”

“NOOO!”

* * *

“Nooooo!” Connie moaned, lurching as the schoolyard’s snow

suddenly shifted and pulled beneath her feet. The white

ground rippled. Billowed.

Scully snatched at the air in an effort to keep her

balance. She felt as though she stood on the bloated back

of a waking giant. Surging. Swelling. Quaking the line of

snowmen beside her with a shivery squeal of sliding ice.

*Schhht. Schhhht. Schhhht!*

Katie’s eyes widened and filled with tears.

A swirl of stinging sleet blew across the schoolyard.

Connie dropped to her knees. She groaned again and covered

her head.

The howling gale sliced over the yard and zigzagged

through the castle doors with a series of piercing shrieks.

When a snapping fissure split the castle’s wall, fracturing

the frozen turret and causing the parapets to teeter and

fall, Anne screamed. Her cry was lost among the startled

shouts of the panicked crowd.

Scully snagged Katie’s hand and lifted the frightened girl

into her arms.

* * *

“What happened thirty years ago, Peters? What really

happened?” Mulder inched closer to Peters and the door.

**God damn it! I just shoveled that walkway!**

Peters flinched at the anger in his father’s imagined

voice.

“What is it, Peters? What?” Mulder asked.

**What…what the hell would possess you to build a

snowman right in the middle of the walk, Philly?**

Peters blinked, trying to bring Mulder’s face back into

focus.

**Don’t talk back to me, young man. Just get rid of it!

Connie, stop your bawling!**

“No. No, no, no,” Peters hummed, staring at an invisible

shovel thrust into his hands by a memory. He could see his

sister’s crying face, looking so much like Katie. His

father’s fist gripping the tiny girl’s arm. Lifting her.

Setting her down roughly, impatiently, in the front hall.

Returning to stand next to their mother. Fists on his hips.

Just outside the door. Below the overhanging roof. The

snowman…the snowman…

**Catch me if you can!**

Mulder took another step forward. Peters’ head snapped up.

“Stay where you are!” he screamed, halting Mulder.

Stumbling backward toward the hall, Peters broke into a run.

Mulder sprinted after him.

* * *

“Nononononono,” Connie keened, her face buried in her coat

sleeves. Anne Tredwell, despite her own fear, tried to calm

Connie.

*Catch meeeee! Catch meeeee if you caaaaaaan!* The wind

spiraled around the line of wobbling snowmen.

Katie gripped Scully. “It’s happening again, Miss Dana!”

the girl warned, tears spilling from widened eyes. She

buried her face in Scully’s neck when one of the castles

collapsed with an earsplitting explosion. Chunks of ice

hurtled toward the crowd, scattering the screaming

visitors. Scully hunched protectively over Katie as a

blizzard of icy needles detonated from each crashing block.

The pummel of hail raised a sudden, blinding veil of snow.

The wind tossed the haze across the schoolyard like a snow-

white blanket thrown over a bed.

Scully caught a glimpse of Phil Peters. Like a ghost, he

materialized out of the maelstrom and raced to the phalanx

of snowmen, calling Connie’s name. He spotted his collapsed

sister at the end of the row, crumpled on the ground and

crying. Lurching his way toward Connie, Phil raised his

arms to protect his face from the churning snow and pitched

himself into the blasting wind.

Appearing behind Peters, Mulder also raised his arms to

protect his face from the gale. Hair flailing and eyes

squinting, he hurried past the procession of snowmen in

pursuit of Peters.

When Peters reached Connie, he shoved Anne Tredwell

roughly out of his way. Hauling Connie to her feet, he

shouted something at her and although Scully was only a few

feet away, she couldn’t hear him over the wind’s deafening

howl. The blast was so loud, it was almost as if there were

no sound at all. A vacuum of noise sucked painfully on

Scully’s overloaded eardrums.

Peters gripped Connie’s shoulder, keeping her upright.

Together, they turned to face Mulder.

*Schhht. Schhht.*

Several snowmen slid out of line.

“Oh, nooo,” Katie whimpered against Scully’s cheek.

*Schhhhhht!*

One of the snowmen blocked Mulder’s path, separating him

from Connie and Peters. Another loomed into place behind

the agent. Mulder swiveled, realizing too late he was

trapped.

Scully set Katie down. “Stay here, sweetie,” she shouted

into the girl’s ear.

“No!” the girl screamed, gripping the fabric of Scully’s

coat.

“Yes!” Scully insisted. Already she’d lost sight of

Mulder. He was completely surrounded by a shiver of

rolling, tumbling snow.

“No!” Katie cried again.

Several snowmen toppled, appearing to come unglued. The

rolling spheres separated. Spun. Slid.

“I have to help Agent Mulder.”

Katie shook her head. “He’s gonna die,” she whimpered.

“No. No he’s not,” Scully told the girl firmly. Looking

over Katie’s head for Mulder, Scully knew he must be buried

somewhere beneath the trembling jumble of broken snowmen.

“Use my magic stone, Miss Dana.” Katie dug into her pocket

and produced the tiny, white stone.

“Katie, I don’t think–”

“Please, Miss Dana. Hurry,” Katie urged, pressing the

stone into Scully’s palm.

The memory of Sheriff Riley’s packed lungs flashed into

Scully’s mind. Was Mulder already dead, his chest plugged

and his gullet split wide open by a frozen fist of ice and

snow? Desperate, Scully took Katie’s stone and ducked into

the bluster, brushing past Connie and Peters. Two more

steps and she stood beside the massive sculpted dragon.

With a frantic look in Mulder’s direction, she embedded the

stone deeply into the serpent’s frozen forehead.

Pop. Pop, pop. Ice sputtered and snapped like a volley of

firecrackers, causing Scully to flinch at each blast. The

ground rumbled, shook. Vibrated her teeth. The serpent’s

icy scales bulged and bucked along the dragon’s rippling

crystal skin. Grinding and scraping, the serpent’s head

shifted and unfolded, rising ten, fifteen, twenty feet into

the blowing air. Its jaws snapped shut, clapping like a

rifle shot. It slid onto its clawed feet, heaving its

hulking belly from the ground, lashing its great tail and

leveling an expanse of ground around it more than forty

feet wide. A storm ruptured from the dragon’s gaping maw

when it bellowed.

The monster’s head swung downward, plummeting until its

frosty nostrils stopped within an inch or two of Phil

Peters’ shocked face. Its glassy eyes rolled, focusing on

the frightened man. The crystal lids slowly blinked. Peters

trembled and the snowy serpent huffed, spewing a blizzard

of snowflakes at the shaken man. Peters released his hold

on Connie and, unsupported, the stunned woman slipped to

the ground.

The serpent’s head lifted, peered over Peters to where

Mulder lay buried, pinned beneath a shifting bank of ice.

Flicking out its tongue between icicle teeth, the dragon

tested the flavor of the air. Then with a sudden snap, the

serpent struck, clamping its jaws tightly over Phil Peters’

head.

The wind stalled. The ground stopped trembling. The

snowmen stood motionless.

The icy dragon shattered like a broken mirror.

Scully hurried around Phil Peters’ bleeding body to dig

Mulder from the snow.

EPILOGUE

Caribou Corners High School

The Next Day

10:12 a.m.

“We don’t have to do this,” Mulder trailed Scully across

the parking lot to the schoolyard where sections of

shattered snowmen lay scattered like wounded soldiers on a

battlefield. The skin on his face appeared frostbitten and

a nasty scrape blazed his left cheek. Even so, he looked

pretty healthy for a man who’d been attacked by an army of

snowmen not twenty-four hours earlier. “Do we?”

“Yes, Mulder. It’s time you faced your snowman phobia.”

“I told you, I’m not afraid of them–”

“I know, you just don’t like them.” She offered him a

sympathetic smile. “It’ll be fun, I promise.” She gave his

arm a

squeeze of encouragement, but even so his creased brow

remained creased. “I’ll start,” she suggested, scooping up

a handful of snow. She patted it into a perfectly round

snowball and rolled the tiny sphere along the ground. The

ball quickly grew in size, picking up snow until it was as

large as a human head.

“What did the hospital report say?” he asked, content to

let Scully push the head-sized snowball into something the

size of a beach ball.

“Connie told the staff psychiatrist everything.” She

grunted as she shoved the snowball, now at least three feet

in diameter. “She gave her doctor permission to share the

story with us.”

“So what happened in 1971? How did Robert and Janet Peters

die?” Mulder reached out to steady Scully as she rocked

back and forth trying to jostle the overgrown orb another

foot or two. The giant snowball already outweighed her.

“You gonna help me or not, Mulder?” She swiped a damp lock

of hair from her face.

“Doncha think it’s big enough? Start the next one. When

it’s ready, I’ll lift it on top of this one.”

Frowning at him, she began a second snowball.

“You were saying? Robert and Janet Peters…?” Mulder

prompted.

“Connie said she and Phil found a bag of white stones in

the garage during the winter of ’71. After finding the

stones, Phil told Connie the legend of Maledeneige. He

claimed the stones were a secret stash given to the

descendants of Catherine Desjardins.”

“But the legend said Catherine died soon after her husband

Georges was killed. She didn’t have any descendants. Did

she?”

“Like most stories, years of telling the tale have spawned

several interpretations. In the version Phil relayed to

Connie, Catherine Desjardins didn’t die of grief over the

death of her husband but died in childbirth and the Snowman

supposedly returned to Caribou Corners each winter to

protect Catherine’s descendants.”

“Janet Peters’ maiden name was Desjardins,” Mulder said.

“Exactly. Phil knew that. So, seven-year-old Connie and

nine-year-old Phil believed they were descendants of

Catherine Desjardins and they also believed they had

discovered the legendary stones of Maledeneige. So they

built a snowman in their walkway to test the magic.”

“What happened?”

Scully pointed to the second fat snowball. “This one’s

ready, Mulder.”

He eyed the original boulder several yards away. Hefting

the massive snowball from the ground, he groaned with

aching effort. “Are we havin’ fun yet?”

“You’re not having a good time?” Scully sounded honestly

surprised. While he struggled with the enormous ball,

wrestling the weighty sphere into position, she continued

her story. “Connie remembers her father being furious when

he saw the children had built a snowman in the middle of

his recently shoveled walkway. He insisted Phil remove the

snowman and clear the walk. Connie was sure the snowman was

magical and she didn’t want to destroy it. So she started

crying. Impatient with her tears, Robert Peters carried his

daughter into the house.” Scully tilted her head and eyed

the headless snowman. “It’s crooked, Mulder.”

Mulder adjusted the snowman’s belly.

“Connie remembers being set on the floor just inside the

door,” Scully went on. “Her father and mother stood outside

on the front step. The ground started shaking. There was a

terrible roar and then snow and ice slid from the roof,

burying and killing Janet and Robert Peters.”

“I’ll bet the snowman was laughing.”

“I don’t think so, Mulder.” Scully formed a new snowball

for her snowman’s head.

“Well, obviously the snowman viewed Robert Peters’ anger

as an attack on the children, so it protected them by

killing the parents. The magic stone worked.”

“Mulder, the stones weren’t magic. Connie found out later

that the stones had been purchased by her father to improve

drainage beneath the front steps. He’d bought three 75-

pound bags of crushed white rock and stored them in the

garage for the winter.”

“But the snow on the roof…”

“It was an accident, Mulder. Caribou Corners had over

eighty inches of snowfall by February of ’71. I checked.

It’s no wonder Robert Peters was angry about shoveling his

walk. He’d probably done it a million times by then.”

Mulder didn’t look satisfied. He leaned an elbow on the

shoulders of the headless snowman and surveyed the results

of yesterday’s mayhem. “But, Scully…”

“Mulder, Connie and Phil believed the stones were magic

the day their parents were killed. They blamed themselves

for their parents’ deaths. That’s why Connie had a nervous

breakdown. Phil went into a state of denial. Even after

they found out the truth, they couldn’t shake the emotional

effect. They always felt somehow to blame for building that

snowman and placing their parents in harm’s way that day.

With their parents gone, Phil became overprotective of his

sister…to the extreme. Keeping his guilt bottled up for

thirty years, Phil finally snapped. He saw Connie’s

students, Tom Spencer, even Sheriff Riley as a threat to

Connie. Phil killed them, Mulder. There was no magic

snowman.”

“I don’t know, Scully. How do you explain the stones you

removed from the victim’s lungs? How do you explain all

this?” Mulder waved his hand at the cracked castles, the

broken dragon, the smashed snowmen. “Don’t tell me this was

caused by a freakish earthquake or something. You saw that

dragon come to life, Scully. You put Katie’s stone into its

head — to save me. You must’ve believed it was magic.”

Scully tossed Mulder the finished snowman’s head and he

twisted it into place.

“Mulder, I…I was desperate. ‘Desperate times call for

desperate measures.’ ‘Necessity is the mother of

invention.’ ‘A magic stone in the dragon’s head is worth

two in the bush.'”

“Hmm. Hackneyed and hacked at cliches aside, Scully, you

obviously acted on the belief the stone was magic.”

“I didn’t really think about it, Mulder. I just did it.”

“Very unscientific of you.”

“Well, maybe there was a blue moon last night.”

“Scully, you saw what happened. I saw it. We both saw it.”

He eyed the faceless snowman. “Maybe Janet and Robert

Peters’ deaths were no more than the result of a tragic

accident. But what happened here yesterday was no accident.

Phil Peters used the snowmen to protect Connie. He wanted

the snowmen to kill the boys, Tom Spencer and Sheriff

Riley. He wanted me dead, too. And he used magic stones

like Katie’s to bring the snowmen to life.” Mulder left the

snowman and wrapped his arms around Scully’s waist. “Like

Jenkins said, you’re choosing your own truth, Scully. Take

off your scientist’s lenses,” he murmured into her ear.

“Only if you promise to try wearing them for awhile.”

“Only if you promise to give up on this horrible snowman

building activity.”

“You’re really not having fun?”

“I can think of plenty of things to do that would be more

fun than this.” He waggled his brows.

“Mulder, for seven years I’ve listened to your suggestive

intimations. You plan to make good on those at some point

or are you all talk and no action?” She flashed him a

disarming grin.

“I-I’m action.”

“Really? Then how about you stop flappin’ that handsome

jaw and start…um, performing. Action Boy.”

“Well, I didn’t mean right here, Scully. We’re…on a

case.” He whispered the last part.

“Our case is over,” she whispered back.

He lightly kissed her lips.

“I haven’t made *that* many suggestive suggestions, have I?”

“No? For a guy with a photographic memory, your lens has

become pretty cloudy. Let’s see if I can clear your

aperture. If I remember correctly, you once asked me what I

was wearing while we talked on the phone. You told me my

knowledge of World War II aircraft turned you on. You asked

me if your tree-climbing prowess turned *me* on. And you

suggested making a honeymoon video while we were working on

a case. I even think I recall an invitation to join you in

bed while on that same case.”

“Oh, *that*. Scully, my intentions were strictly

professional.”

“You meant one thing but I heard another?”

“Must be. Remember what Jenkins said? He said there is no

absolute truth. We each derive our own truth from our own

perspective.”

“The truth is out there but it may not be the same truth

for everyone?”

“Exactly, Scully. You’ve got it.”

“Ah huh. Okay, Mulder, just so there won’t be any

confusion, explain to me *exactly* what you meant when you

said you could think of plenty of things to do that would

be more fun than building this snowman. I wouldn’t want to

misunderstand…you know, like I’ve so obviously

misinterpreted the honeymoon video thing. Let’s not leave

anything open to individual interpretation, shall we? Let’s

be sure your truth is my truth.”

“I guess I just meant…you know…that we might enjoy…”

He shrugged.

“Another pizza and a bubble bath?”

“There you go!” He kissed her nose. “We’re seeing this

exactly the same way.”

Linking his fingers through hers, he drew her away from

the Snowman and led her toward the car. Twisting to look

over his shoulder, he glanced back at the faceless snowman

one last time.

“Um…Scully, is that snowman smiling?”

“Who cares, Mulder. I’m smiling and at this moment, that’s

all that should concern you.”

THE END

Authors notes: Thank you, VS8, for allowing me to

participate in this project.

Feedback, good or bad, is welcome on “Snowman” or any of

my stories. I don’t even pretend to be a professional

writer, so any pearls of wisdom are very welcome. Send

comments to cindyet@tdstelme.net.

My other fanfic can be found at my website,

http://www.crosswinds.net/~bluefroggie/cindyet.html,

generously maintained by the wonderful bluefroggie.

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