Roller Rink

Cover

TITLE: Roller Rink

INFO: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual

Season 8

AUTHOR: Cecily Sasserbaum

RATING: PG

CLASSIFICATION: X, H

DISCLAIMERS: “The X-Files” belong to Chris Carter, not

me.

I also don’t own “Wild Thing” by Ton Loc, or “Break My

Stride” by Matthew Wilder, or “Hold Me Now” by the

Thompson Twins.

ARCHIVING: IMTP only for the first two weeks.

SUMMARY: Vanishing competitive roller skaters.

Ambitious reporters. Civil War reenactments gone bad.

And agents on wheels. Where will it all end?

TEASER

Wednesday evening

Kiddsboro, Georgia

June 12

There aren’t even that many hills in Kiddsboro,

Georgia. It is actually a remarkably flat town.

Which is at least part of what makes this so ironic,

thought Mulder. And he was certainly one to appreciate

irony. Even when it wasn’t especially on his side.

“Scully here,” came Scully’s voice, over the phone.

Mulder considered how to best phrase this.

“I’m stuck,” he said.

“Stuck?”

“I lost the reporter,” Mulder answered, glumly. No end

to his humiliations today, apparently. “But I’m sure

he’ll be okay.”

There was a pause. “Stuck where, exactly?”

“You know the big hill? On that road that leads right

into the downtown square?”

“I can picture it,” she said.

“I’m stuck about halfway up. I’m holding on to a

doorknob, but I don’t think I’m going to last much

longer. My palms are sweating.”

There was a pause.

An elderly woman came out of the front door of the

barber shop across the street and began carefully

wiping its windows. Mulder tried to duck a little.

Maybe it was best not to be conspicuous, given the

situation.

“Now when you say ‘stuck,’ Mulder, what exactly do you

mean?”

“Well, Scully,” he said, trying to keep his voice

cheery without getting too loud, “I think I’m being

chased by an armed suspect. He’s got a Confederate

rifle.”

“A Confederate rifle?”

“I think so.”

“Should I call for back-up?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, it might not be real, Scully. It might be a

prop. Like for those civil war reenactments, you

know?”

“Okay,” Scully was starting to sound peeved. “Someone

is chasing you with a civil war rifle that might

actually be a prop. You don’t want back-up. Mulder,

why aren’t you running?”

“I can’t,” Mulder said, lowering his voice, “because

of the skates.”

The woman across the street had finished wiping the

windows. She brushed off her hands, considered her

work. It glinted a little in the peach-colored

streetlights.

“Oh no,” Scully said. “You’re wearing skates?”

Mulder stared at the skates in question, which had

very untidy red wheels at this point, after all the

places he’d been in them in the past thirty minutes.

He hated these skates. Really he did. It had been a

terrible idea to put them on.

“It’s really more complicated than I care to get into

right now, Scully. Let’s just say there are wild

things afoot in Kiddsboro, Georgia.”

“You can say that again,” Scully said. “And you can’t

take them off?”

“Not without some kind of major crash happening. A guy

has to keep some remnant of dignity, you know,

g-woman?”

“Right,” Scully said. “Dignity.”

“And if I let go of the doorknob, I think it could all

be over, Scully.”

“And what were you suggesting I do, exactly?”

“Pull up the car next to me? Let me hop in, and take

off the skates?”

“That would be a very solid plan, Mulder,” Scully

agreed, “if I was anywhere near the car. But I am

actually a little busy myself right now …

investigating.”

At the top of the hill, the soldier, Captain Plummer,

had appeared again, wearing the navy blue wool

uniform, looking back and forth furtively in the

street.

Captain Plummer had huge feet, Mulder noticed! They

probably didn’t even make roller skates in his size.

Mulder pressed himself hard against the door frame,

trying to disappear.

“I see the guy again, Scully,” whispered Mulder into

the phone.

He stared longingly downhill, where the road ended

into a public square right in front of the courthouse.

If he took off rolling down the hill, how far he would

make it? Sure, he’d be rolling pretty fast, but Scully

had mentioned before that the fastest you could go on

roller skates was what, ten miles an hour? He could

aim for something soft, like a bush, or a tree, or the

fountain.

Or maybe, once he started gathering speed, he would

vanish into thin air. That’d be one way to resolve

this case, he thought to himself. Gotta love *that*

irony.

Mulder bent his knees slightly. “I don’t think he’s

seen me yet.”

“The Confederate? He’s near you right now?” she was

saying.

“Well, he’s actually a Yankee,” Mulder said. “But for

various reasons, he uses a Confederate rifle. Can I

call you back? I need to make sure I’ve got my gun

handy, in case he tries to take me prisoner again.”

“Please, take your time,” she said.

But he never heard her answer, unfortunately.

Because he dropped his cell phone when the doorknob he

had been clutching slipped out of his sweaty hands.

Scully, on the other hand, could hear on the other end

of the phone the sound of rattling plastic skate

wheels, beginning rolling slowly, but cataclysmically

gaining speed.

“Oh no,” she said softly. For the second time in the

conversation.

There was one characteristically girly scream,

shouting the rawest, least defined syllables of her

name somewhere in the distance.

And was that a cavalry bugle playing reveille? Maybe

the Yankee soldier?

This was turning into a kind of theater of the absurd,

she thought in frustration.

The only thing clear in her mind were the eighties

lyrics she had heard playing just minutes before at

the Kiddsboro Roll-Away Roller Rink. She grimaced, and

the handsome young reporter, who sat across from her

at the table, leaned forward in concern.

“Nobody’s gonna break my stride. Nobody’s gonna slow

me down,” she sang into the phone, to no one, making

eye contact with the reporter.

Forward momentum is the entire problem, she decided.

She and Mulder had been rolling downhill, without

brakes or kneepads, from the beginning.

If only she could retrace their steps.

ACT ONE:

10 hours earlier

Roll Away Roller-Skating Rink

Kiddsboro, Georgia

Scully decided this immediately: the Roll Away

Roller-Skating Rink may indeed be a center for

competitive artistic roller skating in the southeast,

but it hadn’t updated its interior design since 1987.

Nor its security system, since she and Mulder had just

walked in the open front door. Nor its music

selection, if the nasty-minded Ton Loc tune playing

loudly over the speakers was any indication.

“What do you think, Scully?”

“I think,” Scully said, looking around, “that someone

has seriously abused the color neon green, and the

concept of hot pink spirals.”

“I mean about the case,” Mulder said. They hadn’t seen

anyone inside of the rink yet, but he had somehow

found a vending machine, and was opening a fresh

packet of sunflower seeds. “What’s your theory?”

Scully swallowed her annoyance. This particular game

of Mulder’s was wearing thin. He knew damn well he had

only told her half the story. Woke her up Sunday night

and told her to be on a plane to Atlanta the next

morning. She rolled her head around on her neck,

trying to work out a little stiffness from the plane,

and tried to think of what her appropriate line would

be. Did it matter, really? Something skeptical was all

it took. She was just supposed to set him up to be

brilliant, right?

“Two adolescent girls disappear in one fortnight from

one southern suburban roller-skating rink. I would

disappear, too, if I was sixteen and living in this

town.”

“They don’t just disappear, Scully,” Mulder said,

cracking into a sunflower seed and leaning against the

rink’s wall. “They vanish. Literally. Without a trace.

In front of witnesses.”

Scully grimaced. “Let me guess. In the middle of a

roller-skating tournament. When the fog machine’s

rolling, and the disco ball is lowered?”

“Woo-hoo, Scully likes to do the wild thang,” sang

Mulder. A Ton Loc fan, apparently.

“Of course, my amateur magician uncle could make my

cousin Mattie disappear, too, Mulder. All he needed

was enough smoke and mirrored balls and a clever

diversion.”

“Three weeks ago Veronica Milton, aged 16, was skating

through a rehearsal of her highly ranked competitive

roller skating routine — she’s the defending junior

southeast division champion — when she vanished right

in front of witnesses, including her mother, Wanda

Milton. She hasn’t been seen since,” Mulder said. “She

was right in the center of the rink, according to Mrs.

Milton. See any room for a trap door there, Scully?”

Scully scanned the rink. Well-scuffed wooden floors,

ghostly residues of gum gone by, probably dating back

to the first flush of roller skating popularity in the

1960s.

“I don’t, Mulder,” she said. “But we should have it

checked out. Were there other witnesses?”

“Five of them,” Mulder said. “Including a rink

employee, Kyle Wyatt, aged 15, who according to the

front-page story on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

confirms Mrs. Milton’ story. One minute Veronica was

there, the next minute she was gone.”

Obviously he was relishing this dramatic telling of

the story, Scully thought wearily to herself.

Obviously she was being asked to play the role of

incredulous audience member. She plopped down on a

nearby pink bench and looked dutifully up at him,

feeling like a child.

*Let me know when I’m supposed to say something,

Mulder.*

“The local police don’t know their elbow from their

ass, they file a missing person’s, and that’s

supposedly the end of it,” Mulder smiled. “But Scully,

guess what happened then?”

“Another girl disappears,” Scully answered, right on

cue.

“Fiona Emery, age 14, last week during a dress

rehearsal of the afore-mentioned southeast semifinals.

She was going through her routine in front of no less

than three hundred witnesses when she, too,

disappeared. Leaving behind … guess what, Scully?”

“A single phantom roller skate,” guessed Scully, “that

continues to roll on without her.”

“Scully,” smiled Mulder, fluttering his eyelashes.

“You just gave me chills.”

“How were Fiona Emery’s chances at the semifinals,

Mulder? Was she in the running to win?”

“She sure as hell was,” called a voice nearby, causing

Scully to jump off her seat.

There was a gawky adolescent boy with a surprisingly

long and narrow face standing leaning on a mop just

feet behind them.

“Fiona was one of the favorites,” the boy said,

“although she never won before. Fiona is an amazing

roller skater. One of a kind.”

He wore a black tee-shirt with “Roll-Away Skating

Rink” emblazoned across it, and stood with a shy

slouch, but Scully was most distracted by the longness

and narrowness of the boy’s face.

What was it, two feet long? And only five inches

across? What kind of skeletal structure must produce

such an unusual face? *My god, he looks just like a

horse,* she thought, somewhat unkindly.

“Fiona was a real star at the compulsory dance

skates,” he added, taking a step forward. “She had

this sweet routine set up to ‘Flashdance/What A

Feeling.’ Y’all know that song?”

“Sure do,” Mulder said. “Jennifer Beals, right?”

“Well, Fiona really made it her own,” the boy cocked

his head. “Triple hook twists. Superior floor

patterns. Always in time. No falls.”

“You’re Kyle Wyatt?”

“Yes, sir,” Kyle answered. “I’m a rink attendant and

assistant manager here. Y’all with the police?”

“I’m Agent Mulder, and this is my partner Agent

Scully. We’re working on this case for the FBI.”

“Oh, sweet,” Kyle breathed. “Then do you know what

happened to her, sir? Do you know if she’s still

alive?”

“You were here when Veronica Milton disappeared?”

“I saw them both … go,” answered Kyle. “Veronica and

then Fiona. I never saw anything like it before, sir.

One second they was rolling, doing turns, extensions,

everything was perfect. Then they was gone. Same thing

both times. We searched the whole rink for hours —

the bathrooms, the basement, the parking lot.”

“Did you know both girls, Kyle?” Scully asked.

“Did I know them?” Kyle’s strangely narrow mouth

opened a little. “Well hello, of course I did. They

trained here, both of them. Were here just about every

day right before big competitions. We used to go on

drives together, me and all the roller girls.” His

hand clasped his slender bicep for a moment,

wistfully. “Hell, I was maybe going to go in for the

pair skating with Fiona one of these days, soon as I

get my upper body strength up to par. I’m not such a

bad skater myself, see.”

“You and all the roller girls?” repeated Mulder.

“Yeah, Fiona and Veronica and all the others. You

know, the girls who compete in the competitions?”

All those girls hang out with you, Scully wondered?

Why?

“Did Veronica get along with everyone?” Mulder said.

Kyle pursed his lips. “No,” he said. “Of course she

didn’t. It was too important, winning the semifinals,

you know? And Veronica pissed a lot of girls off when

she won last year. Lots of people said her routine was

just a knock-off of the national champion’s in 1997.”

“Anyone in particular get mad?” Scully said.

“Well, everybody did, from time to time,” Kyle

shrugged. “Those girls all hate each other like

poison, but they are also like best friends. You know

how you can hate somebody and love them at the same

time, right?”

“Right,” Mulder said. A little too quickly, Scully

thought, irritably.

“Yes, sir, Veronica had a tendency to get stuck-up,”

Kyle said. “But Fiona was a sweetheart. Real pretty,

and real smart, too, you know? Good at school. Pretty

singing voice. Christian. I guess sometimes people

thought she was a little too good, if you know what I

mean.”

His strangely narrow face seemed to crumple a little.

“But I was really pulling for her to win, actually. I

think lots of people were,” he said.

“I’m sorry, Kyle,” said Scully.

“I just hope they’re still alive,” Kyle said. “I read

somewhere where some little kid disappeared one day,

and then turned up years later the same age, and it

turned out he had been abducted by a UFO. Do you think

that could have happened here? You think Fiona will

turn up again, when I’m like fifty? But she’ll still

be fourteen?”

Scully, slowly, shifted her glance to Mulder, who

simply raised his eyebrow.

“I think this is where I’m supposed to say no,” Scully

said. “That’s not very likely, Kyle.”

Kyle stared back at her, blinking his

too-close-together eyes. “Ma’am,” he said. “Don’t take

the wrong way, but you’ve got just about the prettiest

hair I ever saw.”

“Thank you,” Scully said, surprised.

“Is it natural? Do you mind my asking?”

“Well,” Scully said, clearing her throat, “it’s very

close to natural.”

“But it’s not a wig, that right?”

“No,” Scully said, horrified. She was not unaware of

Mulder’s smirking. “It is definitely not.”

“It would be a damn pretty wig, you know? Excusing my

language,” he said.

Over Kyle’s shoulder, Mulder raised his eyebrows at

Scully.

“Uh … thank you,” Scully said again.

“Well, listen, y’all want some coffee or something?”

asked Kyle. “I’m just about to brew up a whole bunch.

We got the McKenzie birthday party coming in here in

an hour, and I need to be on my toes. Them little kids

don’t know how to skate, you know, and they’ll be

crashing into poles left and right.”

“Coffee would be excellent,” Scully answered. “We’ll

probably look around the rink for a few minutes.”

Kyle gave an awkward nod, and turned to leave. But he

paused for a minute.

“Y’all know something? Fiona wasn’t like Veronica,” he

said. “She wasn’t like any of the other roller girls,

either. She could have done anything in the world, you

know? Not just roller skate. She was real smart, and

special, and beautiful. That’s all I wanted to say.”

He walked away. The back of his head, it seemed, was

just as long and narrow as his face.

“I used to have crushes like that, too,” Mulder said.

“Poor kid.”

“Yeah, poor hair fetishist kid,” Scully said,

unsettled.

“I bet you still think it’s just an amateur magic

trick, don’t you, Scully?” Mulder said softly.

Scully swallowed her annoyance again. “And I bet you

think it’s a haunted roller rink, Mulder.”

“Maybe,” nodded Mulder.

“It’s almost like we don’t have to have a

conversation at all. We could move on to the next

scene, if you want.”

Mulder laughed a little, and Scully felt herself

looking wistfully towards the rack of rental skates,

and wondered if at any time during this case she would

get an excuse to put a pair on.

She didn’t see Gordon A. Schime walking in the open

front door.

***

“You two are from the FBI,” Gordon A. Schime announced

triumphantly, from across the rink.

He was very young, well-built, good-looking. Dressed

decidedly too elegantly for his surroundings, Mulder

thought, in some ribbed beige turtleneck sweater and

dapper slacks. He was barreling across the rink like a

wind storm, wielding a spiral notebook.

“Sure are,” Mulder answered, wondering how he . “And

you are…?”

“The press,” Gordon answered. “Mind if I ask you a few

questions?”

“We’re busy,” answered Scully.

“You’re the reporter who wrote the story in the

Atlanta Journal-Constitution?” Mulder said. “Gordon

something?”

“Gordon Schime,” answered Gordon A. Schime. “But I

write with my middle initial. A. For Andrew.”

“You interviewed Fiona just minutes before she

disappeared, Mr. Scheme?” Mulder said.

“Schime,” repeated Gordon. “I have to make sure you

get it right for professional reasons, see. Mind

repeating it back to me? Gordon A. Schime?”

“Gordon A. Schime,” Mulder said, a little bewildered.

“She had this white-toothed smile that was almost

perfect. One of those pageant smiles you see around

here. Lacquered with lipstick,” said Gordon. “But I’m

no adolescent psychologist, and even I could see the

cracks. I had a hard time getting her to relax enough

to interview her.”

“You work for the newspaper?” Scully said.

Mulder didn’t blame her for being suspicious. They had

not had good luck with journalists in the past. But

there was an edge in her voice that seemed harder than

usual. Scully wasn’t in a very good mood today, he

noticed. There was something missing in their banter.

Gordon nodded, looking back at her with what seemed to

be equal suspicion.

“It’s a first-class national paper,” he said. “But

I’ve been there one year. I usually work for the city

desk, but for some reason, my editor thought I would

be a good choice to cover an artistic roller skating

competition in the far-out burbs.”

He adjusted his turtleshell frame glasses, began

flipping through his notebook furiously.

“Here it is,” he said. “My notes. Should I share them

with you?”

“If you don’t mind,” Scully answered. “We don’t have a

lot to go on here.”

Mulder gave her a muted glare. He didn’t like to

engender the impression they weren’t on top of their

game. Call it male pride, maybe. She missed his look,

trying to peek over the side of Gordon’s shoulder to

see his notes.

Gordon scowled, thoughtfully. “I don’t think it’s an

ethical problem to show you my notes. I already wrote

the story on the disappearance. It was front page.”

“Congratulations,” Mulder said.

“Well, it’s my first front page story since I

graduated from journalism school,” Gordon said,

shrugging. “And I sure as hell didn’t expect to get

one when I got sent on the competitive roller skating

beat. You have to love the irony.”

He flipped the notebook page open.

“All right, here we are. She said, ‘Life consists of

more than sparkly leotards. It’s about style, and

sass, and well executed jumps.'”

“She said that to you?” Mulder said. “What kind of

fourteen-year old was this?”

“Her leotard was some kind of purple and silver,”

Gordon said. “Really too sparkly, frankly, for my

tastes.”

Mulder, eyeing a brightly-hued “Say No To Drugs”

poster on the wall of the roller rink, nodded in

understanding.

“Maybe you should explain your entire conversation

with her,” Scully said. “I’d be curious to hear about

how these competitions work to begin with.”

Gordon’s eyes lit up. “You mean, a flashback?”

“Well,” Scully answered, giving Mulder an uncertain

look. “I mean, just explain it to us.”

“Excuse my cinematic language, but that would require

a flashback,” Gordon answered, “which I don’t mind at

all. But if we sit, have coffee, and indulge in a

flashback, will you all answer some questions for me

when we’re done? I have a deadline, see.”

“Sure,” Mulder shrugged to Scully. “Let’s have a

flashback. And then you’ll get your interview with the

feds afterwards.”

Scully gave him a questioning look, and Mulder smiled

back.

It’s easy to promise answers, Mulder thought to

himself amusedly, when you don’t have any yourself.

***

Roll Away Skating Rink

Kiddsboro, Georgia

A week earlier.

Fiona Emery was worried about her purple-and-silver

leotard. That much Gordon could tell.

“I know a lot of competitive roller skaters have worn

this particular style of leotard, Mr. Scheme, and that

some might even call it, oh, cliched, at this point,

but I think I can make it my own. I can give it my

special personal sparkle, so to speak.”

Other competitive roller skaters! Obviously she

assumed this was a regular beat for him, covering

regional roller skating competitions for suburban

Atlanta bureaus. Gordon imagined such a horror for a

moment, and shuddered.

He considered explaining to this surreal fourteen

year-old, for a moment, about how he was actually a

serious reporter, and a good one, meant to have been

covering at least the Georgia state races if not the

presidential race, but that for some reason his

ignorant editor Lou, under some unfortunate delusion

about what Gordon, as a gay man, would be interested

in, had assigned him this horrible roller skating

championship story.

But instead he dutifully wrote her comment down on his

pad: special personal sparkle. It might make a good

lead for this godforsaken, hopelessly doomed story.

The Roll Away Roller-Skating Rink was decked out in

what Gordon, as a somewhat aesthetically-challenged

gay man, supposed was its finest decor, a mauve and

green tissue-paper extravaganza, with the slightest

hues of silver accent. It was filled to the brim with

noisy, squeaking, adolescence, choked with anxiety,

stiff with sequin and hairspray. There were girls in

costumes representing an array of excess, from genteel

pale yellow satin suits with slits cut for skating

ease, to black leather skin-tight body suits that

showed off awkward twelve-year old figures.

Some girls, jerking gracefully about on wheels in

front of them, seemed to be warming up, on the rink.

Gordon wondered who the favorites were.

“So Fiona, what are your chances today, do you think?”

Gordon smiled, hopefully, turning to her. “If you had

to guess. Do you think you’re going on to regional?”

“Oh, I hope so,” Fiona chimed back, showing those

pearly teeth and cocking her head slightly. “I try not

to be negative, anyway.”

The purple shiny thing on top of her head that seemed

to be gathering together spectacularly long blonde

curls, was bouncing in time with her words.

“My mother always says, to show zest. Confidence.

Peppiness. The face you show the judges is the face of

a positive girl!”

“But aren’t you at all nervous? Gosh, Fiona, I think I

would be,” Gordon smiled warmly, taking a step closer.

He hoped that his tone was giving the right message:

trust me, come on, open up a little.

“A little,” Fiona’s smile didn’t flicker, though. “But

when I’m nervous, I just think about other things.”

“Like what?”

But she just smiled, staring straight forward, her

expression blank and happy. Gordon wondered if her

batteries had run out.

“You think about being at home, maybe? At school?” he

tried. “Somebody you have a crush on?”

“Do you really want to know?” she whispered, through

her smile. “Because actually, it’s weird, Mr. Scheme.”

Gordon resisted correcting the pronunciation of his

name. “Sure, tell me.”

She leaned forward a little, her smile small now, and

whispered carefully: “I always think about building

things.”

“Building … things?”

“Like for this competition, I’ve been thinking about

building a house of playing cards, ” she whispered,

her eyes unnaturally bright, “with three stories full

of playing cards, each placed precariously on top of

another, in odd and unexpected formations, spades upon

hearts, queens upon jacks.”

Her smile never faltered.

“Sometimes it gets as big as a real house, you know?

It keeps piling upwards, like a skyscraper, can you

picture it?”

Gordon stared back at her.

“Sure, Fiona,” he answered, carefully.

But he must have sounded too patronizing, he realized.

She seemed to freeze.

“Oh,” she said, laughing forcedly a little, “maybe you

should forget I said that, okay?”

“Uh, okay,” he said, staring back at her.

“I’m just being stupid, because I’m so nervous,” she

whispered. The smile was wilting.

Now she was becoming downright depressing, Gordon

thought miserably. He started thinking wistfully of

his little house in Candler Park in Atlanta, where he

could go home and have a big glass of Chardonnay.

Watch the Braves game. Sit on his recliner chair.

“You ready, dear?” a faintly glamorous woman asked,

stepping in behind Fiona suddenly.

“And see, the house collapses,” whispered Fiona, still

staring at Gordon.

“You’re first up, honey,” the woman said, reaching up

to adjust the purple sparkly thing atop Fiona’s head.

“Are you ready to be a PPP?”

“A Positive, Peppy Polly,” Fiona explained to Gordon,

her eyes wide and bright. “That’s what PPP stands

for.”

Gordon was appreciative for the explanation.

Mrs. Emery, whose stiff blonde curls seemed like a

less genuine echo of Fiona’s, beamed at her daughter,

and pulled her chin towards her.

“Don’t forget your triple twist, leg straight, no knee

jiggles, okay, love?” she said, pressing her lips atop

Fiona’s head, ever so gingerly.

“Sure, Mom,” Fiona smiled back. “Let’s do it!”

“Er, good luck, Fiona,” Gordon said, unsure of whether

it was ethical for a reporter to say such a thing to

one competitor over another.

“Thank you, Mr. Schime,” she smiled, the most gracious

14-year old girl in the world.

And she began to skate out on to the rink.

Gordon wondered if she was already thinking about card

houses.

Imagining spades upon hearts upon clubs, he sat down,

absent-mindedly, on a faded bench nearby.

“May I have your attention please? We’d like to get

started,” came a booming voice over the PA system.

The lights dimmed. Even without houses of playing

cards, this would have been entirely over the top,

Gordon thought. He had an ex-boyfriend who loved this

kind of campy event. Too bad old Rich wasn’t still a

main character in his life. If he’d been here, this

would have been more fun.

“First up, from right here in Kiddsboro, fourteen-year

old Fiona Emery!”

Gordon was surprised at the applause. It seemed Fiona

was well-liked, anyway. He wondered if she’d be as

beloved if everyone knew about her little architecture

fetish. The adolescent rink employee standing behind

him gave a rebel yell of appreciation.

The disco ball lowered in the middle of the rink, and

Gordon was reminded, unpleasantly, of junior high

skating rink experiences, of sweaty palms and smelly

skates and Bon Jovi playing melodiously over the

loudspeaker as he wheeled around awkwardly.

But Fiona was not awkward at all. And she wasn’t

dancing to Bon Jovi, either.

Fiona was indeed sparkling; her leotard, as

illuminated by the lights, was truly magnificent, even

Gordon, who was damn certain no professional roller

skating expert, had to concede that. She was tossing

her lengthy blonde ponytail effectively from side to

side to the thump of the electronic music, and

crossing her skates over one another impressively.

Some observers around Gordon began to clap in time

with the music.

Now Fiona was doing some kind of splits in the air,

extending her leg farther than Gordon thought was

really necessary, and he had a glimpse of her face,

which seemed momentarily as though it were a depiction

of smiling frozen in acrylic.

This was really just a beauty pageant, Gordon

realized. A beauty pageant on wheels. They’re supposed

to look happy and poised.

But something else was happening now. Fiona was

extending her limbs, skating with very clean, forward

lines, her arms jutting out like bird’s wings.

Gordon leaned forward. She was gathering incredible

speed.

Her feet, pushing forcefully against the rink floor,

were moving farther and farther apart as she flew

forward. The beat of the music accelerated suddenly,

and more of the audience began clapping along.

“Go, Fiona,” screamed the skating rink employee behind

him, clapping madly.

Fiona’s momentum grew. At speed like that …

“My god,” Gordon said outloud.

But before he could say anything else, Fiona, with

elegant, dancer-like extension, swooped up,

lightening-fast into some kind of fancy jump. Some

stage smoke, tinted purple, swirled, like a whirlwind,

around her.

Gordon was aware of the others in the rink gasping,

suddenly, and his own mouth was open, too. Who knew

this was so impressive, he had time to think.

But then it happened. She landed too fast. Bird-like,

beautiful, but too fast. It was obvious, even to

Gordon. He clenched his fists, stood up, anxiously.

Fiona was in motion, a blur of purple and silver

sparkle, with a feathery cap of blonde curls, heading

straight for the wall of the rink.

Why didn’t she use her skate stopper? Even Gordon, in

eighth grade, in 1987, knew about skate stoppers. Why

didn’t she brake herself?

“Slow down!” Gordon felt himself try to scream. “Slow

down, you’re going to hit!”

Gordon scrunched his eyes shut, sure that Fiona would

smack against the wall, would fly to the rink floor

with a sickening thud and crack of bone, would fall

with jarring force.

But when he opened his eyes, he saw that Fiona didn’t,

in fact, hit anywhere.

And she didn’t fall either. In fact, she didn’t do

anything at all.

Gordon’s eyes anxiously scanned the rink, peering

through the suddenly eerie stage smoke, trying to see

clearly in the dappled strobed light. He heard calls

of panic around him. Somewhere, the faintly glamorous

Coach Emery was screaming.

But Fiona Emery was gone. Off the rink. Nothing but

smoke remaining.

She had vanished entirely. Or so it seemed.

The main lights went on, quickly, and Gordon felt

himself gasp again, seeing what was on the rink floor.

“Look,” he whispered breathlessly. “Look right there

..”

One skate, with a purple ribbon tied jauntily through

its laces, rolling over the rink floor with no owner

anywhere in sight.

***

ACT TWO:

Roll Away Skating Rink

Kiddsboro, Georgia

June 12

Four hours later

“I guess we should pay visits to the girls’ families,”

Mulder said, chewing. “Maybe they’ll give us some

insight. The reporter seemed to think Mrs. Emery was

some kind of nut, anyway.”

Mulder and Scully were sitting at a hot pink vinyl

table, eating some slightly anemic pale pink hot dogs

with everything. The skating rink was teeming with

kids now, shouting loudly to one another about school

that day, as they laced up their skates. Mulder

watched them wheel out onto the floor, happily

shrieking.

“As nutty as she indeed may be,” Scully said, “that

doesn’t explain how she made her kid disappear in thin

air in front of witnesses. It doesn’t explain

anything.”

“Mmm,” Mulder nodded, his mouth full.

“The trouble with this case is,” she said, that crisp

tone still in her voice, “that we only seem to be able

to investigate motive. But motive for what? We’re not

really sure what the crime is, exactly. Kidnapping?

Homicide? Bad magic tricks?”

“What’s your theory, Scully?” Mulder said.

“Some kind of … mass hypnosis,” she offered lamely.

“What about you?”

After the sudden departure of Gordon A. Schime, they

had spent hours checking out the rink itself, going

over every inch of the floor and of the basement

beneath, with nothing unusual found, except that

Scully had stuck her elbow in old watermelon-flavored

gum, which still smelled, despite several scrubbings

in the ladies’ rest room. Mulder wondered if this was

still making her cranky.

“I’m going with time warp, I think,” Mulder said.

“Time warp?” “Einstein postulated that if a human

being could move fast enough, they would experience

time more slowly than everyone around them,

effectively jumping forward in time for decades, even

centuries…”

“So Mulder, you think these girls got going fast

enough on their skates that they leaped forward in

time?”

“Sure,” Mulder shrugged.

“Maybe they were going 88 miles per hour, right?”

Scully said. “Just like Michael J. Fox in the

Delorean, is that it, Mulder?”

“No, not like Michael J. Fox,” Mulder said, sheepish.

“Roller skates can only travel 10 miles per hour,

maximum, I’d estimate,” Scully said. “Einstein was

talking about speeds past the speed of light.”

“But crazy stuff happens, Scully,” Mulder said,

equally lamely.

He took the last bite of his hot dog, and

half-heartedly licked the relish off of his fingers.

And didn’t say anything else. She looked over at him.

He suddenly wished he was home with his fish in

Washington, watching the Yankees game.

“That’s it for your theory, Mulder?”

“I thought maybe the rink would have a complicated

history that might imply ghosts, or abnormal

paranormal activity,” Mulder said, “so I had some

research done.”

“And?” “And this rink was built in 1978,” he said.

“Before that, this land was devoted to a gas station.

No unusual deaths, no prior paranormal connections.

Depressingly suburban.”

“So you’re ruling out haunting, Mulder?”

“Not ruling it out,” he said. “But it’s looking

unlikely.”

“That’s a change, at least,” Scully said, smiling. She

wiped her hands, triumphantly. “Then it seems to me

that we have no plan of action.”

Mulder was unsettled by her apparent joy.

“Scully,” Mulder said, carefully, “you seem happy that

we don’t know how to proceed.”

“Well, to be honest, I’m happy we’re not having the

same old argument any more.”

“The same old argument?”

“You know what I mean, Mulder.”

Mulder scowled. “You don’t like our arguments anymore,

Scully?”

“I do and I don’t,” she said. “Don’t you ever feel,

Mulder, like you’re arguing with me just for the sake

of arguing? That you don’t actually believe the things

you’re saying anymore?”

Mulder shifted in his seat, and looked at her.

“Actually, I tend to believe in the things I argue,

Scully.”

“I guess I sometimes wonder,” she said, “why I’m still

so skeptical, despite all we’ve seen. I sometimes

think that maybe I’m just parroting back some argument

you need to hear, and not representing my own views at

all.”

This provoked the oddest sensation in Mulder, like

being in a runaway car without the brakes on, or

losing one’s footing and falling, without warning,

down a steep hill.

“I can see,” he said, quietly, “why that would be a

problem for you.”

There was a pause, and their eyes locked. Scully

looked like something was slipping out from under her.

Like roller skates.

And then she turned. Looked out at the rink.

The kids were doing the hokey-pokey, putting their

right skates in and out and screaming along to a

deafening level.

“That’s what’s it’s all about,” Mulder sang along,

trying to change the subject.

“Do you roller skate, Mulder?” Scully said quietly.

“Well, ” Mulder said, too loudly, “I’m a great ice

skater.”

“So that’s a no?”

“Oh, I suppose you’re some former champion roller

skater, Scully?”

“I’m no champion, but I’m not half bad, either,” she

said. “I can skate backwards.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Do you want to skate?” she said, giving him a little

sideways glance. “We could rent skates right now.”

And what an odd question that is, Dana Scully, Mulder

thought.

“While we’re investigating the rink, Scully? Don’t you

think that’s unprofessional?”

“We can say we want to check out the floor while on

skates,” she said. “It could help us think through the

case.”

“We’re going to do the hokey-pokey? I’m not even sure

I can skate forward.”

Scully sighed, and leaned forward on her knees in

defeat. “I guess I was just hoping for a plot twist

about now, Mulder. Before we get in a rut.”

Mulder was about to say something in response.

But again, neither had yet noticed the entrance of

Gordon A. Schime, who for the second time that day had

reason to enter the Roll-Away Roller Rink to speak to

two federal agents.

***

“I know who did it,” announced Gordon A. Schime,

staring down at the agents’ table. “I know who did it,

and I would like for you to come and arrest her while

I observe and take notes.”

Scully and Mulder stared up at Gordon A. Schime

mutely. Mulder noticed Scully’s mouth was slightly

open.

“Aren’t you interested?” he said. “I know you don’t

have any other leads.” He gazed down at their plates.

“My god, you ate those hot dogs?”

“Who,” Mulder began, “do you think did it, Mr.

Schime?”

“And did what, exactly?” Scully said.

“It was Wanda Milton,” Gordon A. Schime said,

triumphantly. “Veronica Milton’s mother. She made both

of them disappear.”

“And if I ask you how you know this,” Scully said

cautiously, “will it require a flashback?”

Gordon A. Schime smiled. “Very likely only some brief

expository dialogue.”

“Please tell us, Mr. Schime,” Mulder said politely.

“After I finished my interview with you all,” Gordon

began, “which wasn’t, by the way, very

illuminating…”

Mulder couldn’t contain a smile.

“I went over to the Milton household, to get a quote

from Wanda Milton, something about how she felt now

that the FBI was taking on Veronica’s case.”

“So you were at the Milton house?”

“It’s your standard suburban cookie-cutter house,

plunked down into an Old South small town,” nodded

Gordon. “And as I was walking up to the very cute

door, something caught my eye in the garbage on the

side of the house… blonde hair. A long blonde curl

hanging out of the garbage can.”

“Blonde hair?” Mulder repeated. “Attached to a head?”

“That was naturally my thought,” Gordon remarked. “So

I went to the garbage can to investigate.”

“You should have called the police,” Scully said,

sourly.

Mulder glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Is

this was one of those times where she was saying

something dutiful without really believing it?

Or maybe it was only for his benefit that she took on

the role that clearly bored her so.

“It was a blonde ponytail,” Gordon said. “The exact

curly long blonde ponytail that used to be attached to

Fiona Emery’s head. I remember it specifically. It

even had the same purple sparkly elastic thing holding

it together. But it was lopped off.”

“No body?” Mulder said.

“No body,” repeated Gordon. “But I can only think of

one way that Fiona Emery’s ponytail ended up in Wanda

Milton’ garbage can.”

“Oh yeah?” Scully said. “How?”

Gotta admit this girl can be a damn cute smartass when

she wants to, Mulder thought, hoping Gordon

appreciated it.

Gordon turned to her, smiling faintly patronizingly.

Gotta admit this kid knows how to smile, too, Mulder

added, hoping Scully appreciated it.

“Agent,” Gordon said, charmingly, “this was a very

small story to begin with. But now the paper is

getting excited about it, due to the involvement of

the FBI. This could be a major opportunity for me.

I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“We should go talk to Mrs. Milton, Scully,” Mulder

said. “Why don’t we let Mr. Schime tag along, just for

kicks? He could wait in the car.”

“Mulder,” Scully’s eyes were ice. “It’s not protocol.”

This was where she was supposed to complain that they

were breaking FBI policy, that civilians couldn’t tag

along, that they shouldn’t be talking to reporters,

that he was officially still a potential suspect.

Mulder smiled back at her, hoping he looked as

charming as Gordon A. Schime.

But maybe Scully never thought he was charming any

more. Maybe she just saw him as the guy she had to

play skeptical big sister to all the time.

“I had a feeling,” he said, softly and casually, “that

you would say that.”

She stared back at him, and her mouth flickered.

The implication seemed to work. Enough, anyway, to

fast-forward to the next scene, as Gordon A. Schime

would say.

***

1 hour later

The Milton Family Home

Windy Creek housing subdivision

Kiddsboro, Georgia

“Might I say that I do admire your hairdo, Miss

Scully,” said Mrs. Milton.

Scully pressed a self-conscious hand to her head,

which she was all-too-aware was curling unnecessarily

in the June humidity. There was an awful lot of talk

about hair around here.

Wanda Milton had led Scully and Mulder inside her

sweet-smelling suburban home, which had a soundtrack

of television game shows coming from the family room

and young voices shrieking from upstairs.

Her house was immaculately decorated. And Mrs. Milton

herself, smiling widely, was a kind of poster child

for the beauty products industry, Scully decided, with

face made up like a porcelain doll’s, and meticulously

arranged dark curls. Mrs. Milton gave the impression

of constantly moving: flickering, like an insect who

must flap its wings thousands of times just to stay in

one place.

“Thank you,” Scully said, uneasily.

“Would you mind terribly, Miss Scully, if I touched

your hair?”

Yes, there was too much Donnie Pfaster floating around

this town for Scully’s tastes.

“Actually, Mrs. Milton, we need to ask you some

questions,” Mulder began, moving protectively to

Scully’s side: one of his tendencies that managed to

both annoy and endear.

“Oh, of course,” Mrs. Milton said, more hesitantly.

She moved, slowly, to the couch to sit down next to

them. “About Veronica, of course. Can you tell me any

more?”

“We actually want to ask you about Fiona Emery,”

Scully said. “The second girl who disappeared.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Milton looked surprised. “All right.”

She got a picture of Fiona and Veronica, surrounded by

the other roller girls, off of a shelf, and handed it

to them.

“I knew Fiona pretty well, of course. She was always

in the competitions. And she’s one of Veronica’s

friends. Very good in school. Sharp as a tack,

really.”

“Do you recognize this, Mrs. Milton?” Scully said,

pulling out the plastic evidence bag, and placing it

in front of Mrs. Milton.

The blonde ponytail lay inside, having been carefully

extracted from the garbage can on the side of their

house.

“Why yes, I recognize it,” nodded Mrs. Milton,

smiling.

She looked expectantly back at them, as if she failed

to understand the implication.

Scully sought out Mulder’s eyes, momentarily, and then

shifted her stare back to Wanda Milton.

“Can you explain how it happened to be in your garbage

can, Mrs. Milton?”

“Oh, of course,” she said. “It’s extra. It’s an extra

piece leftover from one of our ‘I Dream of Jeannies.'”

“I’m sorry?” Mulder said.

“One of our ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ hair pieces?”

explained Mrs. Milton. “One of the roller girls wanted

one similar to the one Fiona Emery has … with all

those blonde curls tied up on the top of their head?

It’s a top of the line hairpiece. One of my best.”

Scully felt herself sink a little in the easy chair.

“I’m a hairpiece designer,” Mrs. Milton said, smiling

steadily. “That’s why all of the roller girls have

such spectacular hair. My services are very popular.”

Mulder cleared his throat a little. “I see,” he said.

“How does one become a hair designer?”

“Well, my family has been in hair design for years,”

smiled Mrs. Milton proudly. “We always joke that we’re

Kennedys of wigmaking.”

She waited, but neither Mulder nor Scully laughed.

“We only use natural human hair, you see. Some of

these ladies will tell you synthetic is just the same,

but they are dead wrong. Let me show you.”

Bright-eyed, she hopped up from the sofa, and returned

with a rack of what looked very much to be a wide

variety of human hair, carefully wound around pegs.

“See? We can match anyone’s hair, or else go out on a

wild tangent,” Mrs. Milton smiled, clasping her hands

together. “This is Fiona’s color. Ash blonde. My

Veronica always uses this, one of my favorites: raven

black, which we worked up into a really nice

Cleopatra, a straight bob.”

Scully managed to nod.

“I either weave the hair directly on to a hairnet cap,

or else I make little extension attachments so that it

can fit into your natural hair. I do really nice work,

if I do say so myself,” smiled Mrs. Milton. She eyed

Scully’s hair. “I could give you a really striking

long red ponytail, you know. It’d be so cute.”

“And how many of the girls use your services?” Scully

said, quickly, before the subject switched back to her

hair.

“Oh, all of them do now,” Mrs. Milton said, smiling.

“You see, agents, the point of all of this competitive

roller skating nonsense isn’t to win trophies, despite

what you hear some of these coaches and moms saying.

It’s to be beautiful. A star. If only for a moment. My

wigs make that possible.”

Mulder and Scully were both, it seemed, speechless.

“That’s what I always tell Veronica,” Mrs. Milton

said, her lovely face twitching a little. “Competitive

roller-skating is just like a beauty pageant, on

wheels. It’s these girls’ big chance to be glowing,

and special, and … happy.”

“And was Veronica happy, Mrs. Milton?” Scully asked.

Mrs. Milton looked down at her hands. “Oh, Miss

Scully,” she said, looking Scully straight in the eyes

sadly, “is any sixteen-year old girl happy?”

“Wanda,” came a bellowing male voice from the family

room. “Wanda, do we get HBO or not?”

“We do, Howard,” called Mrs. Milton back, continuing

to stare at Scully with an odd, bright intensity.

“Damn ninety-two channels and nothing’s on the tube,

for crying out loud,” Howard’s voice irritably floated

back.

“My husband,” Mrs. Milton smiled, apologetically,

fingering her hair samples nervously.

All at once, Scully felt very sad for Mrs. Wanda

Milton, who might just be an expert in unhappiness.

“Who’s that upstairs, Mrs. Milton?” asked Mulder.

“Veronica’s siblings?” There was giggling coming from

somewhere else in the house.

“Oh no, Veronica’s brother is off at college. Those

are just some of the roller girls,” Mrs. Milton said.

“I’m redoing some hairpieces for them, and they just

like to hang out in Veronica’s room. Until she

returns.”

Scully scowled. “Friends of Veronica’s?”

“Yes, just three — Mara, and Whitney, and Ashleyann.

All great skaters,” Mrs. Milton said. “And lovely

hairpieces.”

“Wanda,” called the voice from the family room, “come

here a second.”

“I’m with the FBI agents, Howard,” Mrs. Milton called

back.

“Come here a second,” repeated the voice, insistently.

“Excuse me,” Mrs. Milton said, nervously. “I’d better

go see what Howard wants.”

“We’ll just be here,” smiled Mulder, reassuringly.

Mrs. Milton flitted out of the room, leaving behind a

whiff of rose-hued perfume.

Mulder, with widened eyes, turned to look at Scully.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “Curiouser and

curiouser.”

“That doily,” Scully whispered, pointing to an

elaborate decoration sitting on a coffee table, “is

made of hair, Mulder.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” whispered Mulder. “Over there

she has a Scottish kilt woven entirely out of hair.”

The kilt, framed in gilt gold and pressed behind

glass, was labeled with an ornate brass tag: “1891.”

“It’s all rather disturbing,” Scully whispered,

crinkling her nose.

“And it’s hard to imagine where all of it came from,”

Mulder said.

“Desperate women,” Scully said, “who need money and

opportunity more than they need their hair.”

“There are lots of desperate women in Kiddsboro,

aren’t there, Scully?” Mulder said, thoughtfully.

She looked at Mulder carefully, expecting him to

boldly venture forth a theory.

But he didn’t.

“There are,” agreed Scully.

They sat in silence for a moment, as if they didn’t

know what to say.

I suppose this is what happens when we don’t have the

script, thought Scully darkly.

“Mulder, I’d like to speak to Veronica Milton’s

friends,” she said. “Maybe they’ll have some insight

into what she and Fiona were involved with.”

Mulder nodded. “That sounds good. And I’ll take the

boy reporter and go pay a visit to Fiona’s family.”

Scully rolled her eyes. “Why the reporter, Mulder?”

“Why not? He needs the story.”

“Forgetting that it runs against FBI policy for a

moment,” Scully said, “haven’t we had enough troubles

with the press over the years?”

“Hey, what can I say,” Mulder smiled. “I like to see

my name in the paper.”

His smile could be so winning.

And Mrs. Milton, thought Scully, is right. Everyone,

even Mulder, wants to be a star.

***

“While the Milton family lives in a luxurious New

South suburban home,” Gordon A. Schime explained, as

they wound around a rounded corner in the rental car,

“the Emery family comes from much more humble

origins.”

“Oh yeah?” Mulder said, sipping a milkshake with one

hand and turning the wheel with another.

They had stopped through the drive-through of a fast

food restaurant — which Kiddsboro, Georgia seemed to

have no shortage of — and were now circling through a

tiny, run-down neighborhood looking for the Emery

home.

“Fiona Emery comes from old-time Kiddsboro stock,

former farmers,” Gordon said. “Her mother, Linda

Emery, is a single mom, who works as a teacher’s aide

at the local elementary school. Humble origins.”

Mulder nodded, smiling. He liked Gordon’s dramatic way

of speaking, although he had a sense that Scully did

not. But it didn’t hurt to have this sense of personal

flair, Mulder decided. Maybe he should try to build up

his own sense of drama.

“Remind me, Agent Mulder, to look up some details on

wigmaking when I can get online again,” Gordon said,

thoughtfully. “How did it escape my attention that

Mrs. Milton was a wigmaker, of all things? What an

amazing detail for my story.”

“Gordon, have you had any indication that Fiona Emery

did well in school?”

“Oh, very much so,” Gordon said. “I did an interview

with her math teacher just yesterday. Fiona was an

honors student, exceptionally bright, apparently,

although I certainly didn’t get that impression from

her at the competition.”

“Playing dumb is part of the act,” Mulder suggested.

“Maybe that’s why.”

“Southern belles aren’t supposed to be good at math,”

agreed Gordon.

They pulled up in front of the house, which was

definitely less spectacular than Veronica Milton’s

home. It was a small, boxy, brick affair, with car

parts scattered over the front lawn, and a car that

seemed unable to run sprawled out over most of the

driveway. A large gray canvas tent lay spread out over

the front stoop.

“What is that?” Gordon said, mystified, as they walked

up to the front door. He kicked at the canvas tent

experimentally. “You think somebody’s going camping?”

“May I help you boys?” came a southern-tinged voice

through a screen door.

Linda Emery was a fragile-looking woman, not

unattractive, with a mass of blonde curls exploding

over her head, standing blocked by the doorway.

“Mrs. Emery, I’m Fox Mulder with the FBI,” Mulder

said. “And I believe you know Gordon A. Schime with

the newspaper?”

“Hello,” Mrs. Emery said, pink lips bending up into a

smile. “Have you come to ask about my Fiona?”

“That’s right,” Mulder said. “Just a few questions.”

“Will it take long?” She opened the door further, and

Mulder couldn’t help but to notice she was wearing an

old-style, tan-colored hoopskirt. “I’m on my way over

to the Fiddle Creek battle, you see, as soon as my

boyfriend gets here.”

“The Fiddle Creek battle?” Mulder repeated, staring at

Gordon.

“It’s a local Civil War reenactment,” Gordon

explained. “Actually, it’s more of just an enactment.

It’s a completely fictional battle between the Yankees

and the Confederate boys that takes place right

outside Kiddsboro.”

“I play a Confederate lady who loves a Yankee despite

the obstacles,” Linda Emery said. “That’s my role. My

boyfriend plays the Union soldier, even though he’s

from right around Kiddsboro. See, we conquer adversity

with our own strength of heart.”

“Sure, it’s all very inspiring,” Gordon nodded to

Mulder, straight-faced. “And how often do you do it,

Mrs. Emery?”

“Every weekend, although I almost didn’t go this week,

because of Fiona’s … disappearance,” she said,

looking away. “It seemed inappropriate.”

“It must be hard,” Gordon said.

Mrs. Emery fanned herself lightly with a lace-edged

fan. “But on the other hand, being Eloise Hatcherly

for a while helps me deal with stress. So I decided to

tough it out and go.”

Mulder swallowed.

“We’ll try to be fast,” Mulder said. “So you can get

to the battle.”

And he had a sense something very strange was about to

occur.

***

Scully, like Fiona Emery, had always been good at

math and science. And she hadn’t exactly been the

coolest girl in high school. She had always found

other adolescent girls to be rather overwhelming, and

was reminded of this sensation now.

At first the roller girls had been the smiling parrots

Gordon had described: perky, with pat answers. But

after speaking with them for just ten minutes, Scully

found she had somehow, mysteriously, won them over.

Now they were themselves. Which was every bit as

overwhelming.

“I know where we’ll take you!” Ashleyann was

exclaiming. “I know exactly where we’ll take you.

We’ll go driving up and down Davis Street.”

“Oh, that’s perfect. You are going to love it, Agent

Scully,” Mara added, smiling broadly. “Hey, Agent

Scully, what’s your real name? Your first name?”

“It’s Dana,” Scully said, feeling like she had lost

control of the situation rather completely.

She was sitting — rather awkwardly in her hose and

skirt — on Veronica Milton’s bedroom floor,

surrounded by Ashleyann Rich and Whitney Kitchens and

Mara Polston, the three adolescent roller girls.

“Dana, we’ll show you all the places we always go,”

Mara continued. “Where Fiona and Veronica always go,

too, you know? Maybe we’ll see those Fort Gordon army

boys again, you guys!”

“Your hair is so pretty, Dana,” Whitney said,

breathlessly. “Is it real?”

“Yes,” Scully said, “it is definitely real.”

“Do you mind if I touch it?” Whitney asked, reaching

for Scully’s head. “I bet it’s super soft, isn’t it?”

Scully managed to avoid the hand by rising, feebly, to

her feet.

“Girls,” she said, “maybe we could go driving up and

down Davis Street? And talk a little about Fiona and

Veronica?”

“Oh sure,” Mara said. “But are you going to go like

that?”

“Like what, Mara?”

“Like, in that suit?” Mara smiled. “I mean, it’s a

really nice suit for being an FBI agent, but we’re

going to be driving on Davis Street, you know?”

“What does that mean, exactly?”

“It means you should look a certain way,” Whitney

said, seeming to try very hard to be polite. “I bet

Veronica has a shirt that would fit you.”

“You could wear this skirt!”

“Do you want me to do your hair?” Whitney asked. “I

could make you look like a star, Dana. There are men

out there your age, you know!”

“I’d prefer to keep on my suit,” Scully said, stepping

back. This was becoming a nightmare. “But I appreciate

the offer.”

“Suit yourself,” Ashleyann said, and the three of them

giggled.

“Do you mind if we dress up a little before we leave,

Dana?” Whitney said.

“No,” Scully said, cautiously.

“I want to wear all black!” smiled Mara.

“Did Fiona and Veronica have boyfriends?” asked

Scully, doggedly determined to get some answers.

“Veronica had a boy at Georgia College she used to

date,” Ashleyann said, applying powder to her nose.

“What was his name, y’all? Marvin or something

stupid?”

“Oh, she broke up with him ages ago, Ashleyann,”

Whitney said, waving her hand. “He’s history.”

“Fiona doesn’t have a boyfriend, except for Kyle

Wyatt, who is, like, so in love with her,” said Mara.

“But she isn’t the boyfriend type, you know?”

“What do you mean?” said Scully.

“Well, she is just so into skating,” Mara said. “I

mean, all of us are really into skating, but Fiona’s

mother is even more hardcore than most of ours. A

really driven coach. And when Fiona wasn’t skating,

she was studying or something.”

“She wants to be an archeologist when she grows up,”

added Ashleyann.

“No, you dumbass,” Mara said. “Not an archeologist. An

architect.”

“Right,” Ashleyann said. “An architect.”

“Like *that* was going to happen,” Whitney added.

“What do you mean?” Scully said. “Why wouldn’t that

happen?”

Whitney glanced, nervously, at the other two girls.

“Well, it’s just her mom has her booked in every

roller skating tournament for the next ten years,” she

said, shrugging. “Her mom didn’t want her going off to

college or architect school or whatever.”

“Not when she could skate like that,” Ashleyann added,

wistfully. “Fiona is such a good skater.”

The girls were quiet for a moment.

“She is coming back, don’t you think, Dana?” asked

Ashleyann.

Scully stared at her mutely for a moment.

“Because we like Fiona so much,” said Ashleyann. “And

Veronica. It wouldn’t be skating competitions without

them.”

Scully sighed.

“I hope so,” she said, fiddling with a hair bow she’d

picked up from the counter top. “I really hope so.”

She wondered how Mulder was doing with Mrs. Emery.

***

“Every once and a while,” Linda Emery said, fanning

herself gently, although the air conditioning was

blasting, “Fiona can be a difficult teenager. But for

the most part, she is as sweet as can be.”

Mulder looked around at the Emery living room, which

was plastered with photos of blonde-headed Fiona in

sparkling leotards, from her infancy onwards.

“I was a pageant girl myself,” explained Linda Emery.

“I was Miss Kiddsboro County, Georgia in 1979, and

then was a runner-up in Miss Georgia in 1980, you see.

But Fiona just took so well to roller-skating that I

figured, why not, you know? Everybody always says it’s

just a pageant on wheels anyway.”

“I’m told that Fiona does very well in school, too,”

Mulder prodded.

“Oh, of course,” cooed her mother, smiling faintly.

“She is a bright, bright girl. She just exudes that

certain sparkle, do you know what I mean? That’s what

the judges always write on their evaluations.”

Gordon was regarding a photo of Fiona at age ten that

sat next to him, in which she was wearing a flame-red

tutu.

“I make most of her costumes myself, Mr. Schime,” Mrs.

Emery said, smiling. “We pick out a style we like, and

then I stitch it all together. I hand sew all the

sequins. But it’s worth it.”

Mulder considered this. “Did you expect Fiona to do

well this year, Mrs. Emery?”

“I most certainly did,” Mrs. Emery said, her voice

suddenly tough. “I expected her to be in the running

for national champion, if you must know the truth. She

was at the top of her game before this happened.”

Her voice broke, and a very shiny tear trickled down

her nose.

“She is such a dedicated athlete,” said Mrs. Emery,

her voice like broken glass. “It doesn’t seem right to

take this from us, when both of us have worked so

hard, and kept up a positive attitude for so long.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Emery,” Mulder said, trying to have

Scully’s sense of empathy for a moment. “We’ll do our

best to find your daughter.”

“Oh, Agent Mulder,” Mrs. Emery said, clasping his

hand, abruptly, to her chest. “I can tell you will,

too!”

She was staring, radiantly, at him, and Mulder

resisted the urge to snap back his hand. He threw a

helpless glance at Gordon, who just gave him a little

half-smile as he jotted something down in his

notebook.

“I can see into your soul, Agent Mulder,” whispered

Mrs. Emery.

Mulder gulped.

“Eloise,” came a booming voice, from right outside the

door. “Eloise, it is I!”

Dropping Mulder’s hand quickly, Linda Emery stood up,

surrounded by taffeta and satin, and began wiping her

eyes furiously.

“Oh dear,” Linda Emery said, glancing at the clock on

the wall. “That’s my boyfriend, and he’s already in

character.”

“Well, we can finish up later,” Mulder said, ashamed

at how relieved he was. “Go on and enjoy yourself at

the battle.”

“Eloise, it is I, your one true love, Captain Emmanuel

Plummer!” boomed the voice again.

“This could be tricky,” Mrs. Emery said, her voice

still ragged. “It’s very hard to get Captain Plummer

out of character, once he’s in.”

Mulder had to admit he found this statement rather

intriguing. But he wasn’t sure how much more he could

handle.

Gordon scowled. “Well, we’ll just be leaving, then,

Mrs. Emery.”

“You don’t understand,” sighed Mrs. Emery,

dramatically. “It’s already too late.”

“Eloise!” Captain Plummer, a burly, impossibly large

man, burst through the door to the Emery residence

with a Confederate rifle in hand.

“Emmanuel,” cried Mrs. Emery, lifting her hands into

the air.

Captain Plummer regarded Mulder and Gordon with

something akin to horror. He staggered backwards, his

mouth falling open, slightly.

“Why, Eloise,” he said, in disbelief, “you’ve sold me

out to the Rebels. You’ve betrayed me to Rebel spies!”

“No, no, Emmanuel,” cried Linda Emery. “They are no

one, of no importance!”

“Your betrayal cuts me to the quick,” hissed Captain

Plummer.

He turned to face Mulder and Gordon.

Who were, at this point, quite speechless.

“This is the gun of a Rebel spy who tried to

double-cross me,” Captain Plummer said, indicating his

rifle. “I am a Union soldier, loyal to the Republic,

and have no qualms in executing you Rebel rats where

you stand.”

“Sir,” Gordon began, “we were just leaving.”

“I’m an FBI agent,” Mulder tried, hopefully. “I’m a

representative of the federal government.”

“Don’t insult me with your lies,” spat Captain

Plummer. “I can tell by the way you smell that your

loyalties lie with that stinking pig Jefferson Davis.”

“Is his rifle loaded, Mrs. Emery?” Mulder called,

urgently, to Linda Emery, who had fallen, weeping, to

her knees.

But she didn’t answer.

“Is it loaded, Mrs. Emery?” he repeated.

But presumably, she was now Eloise.

“You’re nothing but a loose Rebel lady!” snarled

Captain Plummer. “You make me wretch!”

“Oh, Emmanuel,” she sobbed, falling to her knees. “How

can you speak to me so!”

Gordon, standing slightly behind Mulder, began edging

his way, quietly, towards the open door.

Mulder took the opportunity to distract Captain

Plummer.

“Don’t blame her, Captain,” he said, feeling like an

idiot. Where the hell was Scully for this? “She had

nothing to do with our … plot.”

“And I’m to believe that!” roared Captain Plummer, who

was an impressively large man. He cocked the rifle,

and looked as though he were prepared to fire it.

“What lying filth!”

Oh, come now, would a rifle for a Civil War

reenactment *really* be loaded, considered Mulder? It

seemed highly unlikely.

But if he had to guess, he’d say Captain Plummer’s

sanity was going downhill fast. And maybe it hadn’t

started all that far uphill.

“Say your prayers, lying traitor,” snarled Captain

Plummer, raising the rifle towards Mulder.

Gordon, who was very well-timed, took this opportunity

to bolt out the door.

“Tarnation!” screamed Captain Plummer, running into

the door frame. “Come back, you son of a woodcock!”

Captain Plummer ran into the front yard, and there

were the sound of two shots. Whether they were real

bullets or not, Mulder could not tell.

But he did know he should begin running.

“Horatio,” whispered Mrs. Emery, handing him a pair of

men’s skates, “take this, and run, my love. These will

help you gain speed.”

“Mrs. Emery,” Mulder said, dumbfounded, taking the

skates. “I’m Agent Mulder. Not Horatio.”

“I’ll miss you, too, Horatio,” she answered, smiling.

“But you should be gone.”

That much was true.

And as Mulder made his way towards the back door, he

wondered, frustratedly, why Scully always conveniently

missed the very weirdest parts of every X-file.

“Godspeed, my love!” called Linda Emery, or Eloise, or

whomever.

***

Wednesday evening

Kiddsboro, Georgia

June 12

Scully had called an end her outing with the roller

girls rather abruptly.

They had gone cruising down Davis Street, as promised,

and indeed they had pointed out every exciting stop on

a roller girl’s evening out: the Waffle House, replete

with truckers who sipped coffee and ogled teenage

girls; the discount movie theater playing second-run

films; the run-down bowling alley.

It hadn’t illuminated anything in particular about

Fiona or Veronica except this: they had very ordinary

boring suburban kids’ lives.

All night, Scully had received much advice on how to

do her hair and makeup, which she had resisted as much

as possible. Although she did end up getting her hair

curled in strange girly little ringlets by Whitney,

and had some weird sparkly makeup put on by Mara. And

this adolescent makeover must have worked to some

extent, since several teenage boys and one 22-year old

army private had asked for her number that night.

Or maybe it’s not just the women who are desperate in

Kiddsboro, Georgia, Scully thought.

They dropped her off at the roller skating rink, where

she hoped she would find Mulder again, as he wasn’t

answering his cell phone.

But of course, all too predictably, Mulder was not

here. Instead, the place was packed with junior high

school kids looking for some evening skating thrills.

“Agent Scully,” called a voice behind her.

She turned around. It was Wanda Milton, which startled

her a little.

“I’ve been looking for you,” said Mrs. Milton,

smiling. “I had a little gift, just in case you wanted

to use it.”

She handed Scully a little plastic-wrapped soft

bundle, which Scully dazedly unwrapped.

It was a long, curly red ponytail, with a pink bow at

the end.

“It’s just your hair is so pretty,” Mrs. Milton said.

“You might look so nice with a ponytail. So young.

Just if you wanted to sometime.”

It took Scully a moment to respond.

“Thank you,” she said, faintly. “I’ll have to try it.”

“No problem,” smiled Mrs. Milton. “And if you wanted

another one, here’s my card.”

She handed Scully her business card.

“Thank you again,” responded Scully, weakly.

Mrs. Milton smiled, nervously, and slipped through the

crowd.

“Nice hair, Agent Scully,” came another voice nearby.

It was the freaking reporter. Sitting at a table,

looking dazed.

“Mr. Schime,” she said wearily. “I don’t suppose you

know where my partner is.”

“We were separated,” Gordon said. “It’s a rather

unbelievable story, actually.”

“Which unless you believe him to be in grave danger,

I’m not sure I want to hear,” Scully said. “I’ve heard

some pretty unbelievable stories where Mulder is

concerned.”

She sighed, and sat down next to him at the table,

watching the kids zoom by. She held the red ponytail

experimentally up to her head, and decided against it,

stuffing it into her pocket.

An eighties tune was blasting over the loudspeaker.

“Don’t these kids want to listen to hip-hop, or

whatever it is kids listen to now?” Scully said,

disliking how old she seemed to sound. “What’s with

all these eighties songs? It reminds me of college.”

“You went to college in the eighties?” said Gordon.

“You’re older than I thought.”

“This is ‘Nobody’s Gonna Break My Stride’ by Matthew

Wilder,” Scully continued, smiling a little. “One of

my favorites.”

“‘Last night I had the strangest dream,'” sang Gordon,

amiably. “‘I sailed away to China / In a little old

boat to find you…'” He smiled. “It reminds me of

second grade.”

“It reminds me of my partner,” Scully said, without

thinking.

There was a pause.

“There’s naturally sexual tension,” Gordon observed.

“As in every working situation,” Scully replied.

“There’s more than just a little in this one, though,”

Gordon said. “Isn’t there?”

“Do you want to get a drink, Mr. Schime?” Scully said.

“There’s a bar right next to the rink, I noticed. And

I could use a drink.”

“You’re no closer to solving the case, I take it?”

“Damn straight,” she said.

“Then I’m no closer to writing my big story,” he said.

“So I could use a drink, too. Let’s fast forward to

the bar scene.”

***

Scully was on her second gin and tonic. Gordon, who

was being more prudent, was still on his first.

It was a dive bar: of that let there be no doubt.

There was some unidentifiable country music squealing

from some jukebox in the corner. And those inside were

not the finest citizens of Kiddsboro — rather a

grizzled, muscle-shirted, tattoo-sporting bunch —

but fortunately, they seemed to pay Gordon and Scully

no attention at all.

The air inside was tinged gray-blue from cigarette

smoke.

“Do you ever feel like your life has become

pre-scripted?” Scully said, waving the smoke away from

her. “Like there’s nothing you could possibly say or

do that could break you out of some character you’ve

been preselected to play?”

Gordon scowled, swirling his drink.

“Most Americans occasionally think of their lives as

being a film,” Gordon said. “It’s part of our cultural

conditioning. We’re a media-saturated culture, so it

becomes part of our self-identity.”

“Do you really think so?” Scully said.

“Oh, definitely,” Gordon said. “Haven’t you ever heard

a song on the radio, while you’re driving along in

your car, and had the sensation that it was the

soundtrack to your life?”

Scully smiled. “Is that why you use film and

television terms to talk about things most people

think of as everyday life?”

Gordon smiled back. “I suppose it’s my way of being

cute and media-savvy,” he said. “But I also think that

there are many people who, for one reason or another,

don’t see themselves as the stars of their own lives.

Which is, in my eyes, a problem. Your life is the one

place where you’re always supposed to be top-billed.”

Scully nodded, and took a sip of her gin and tonic.

“I’m talking about saying things out of habit, because

you think you’re *supposed* to say them, rather than

you need or want to say them,” Scully said. “Falling

into weird little patterns of interactions with

people.”

“Playing out artificial roles,” Gordon nodded. “Anyone

who’s been a gay man in the south understands that

well, Agent Scully.”

“But sometimes you don’t want to be playing a role,”

Scully said. “Sometimes you just want to be you.”

“Some sociologists think there’s no such thing as

‘you,'” Gordon suggested. “Some sociologists say that

we’re all just a lump sum of a bunch of different

roles. So you, Agent Scully, are some combination of a

number of parts: daughter, sister, federal agent,

woman, partner. That combination is what makes you

you.”

“Do you believe that, Mr. Schime?”

“In part,” he said. “Although I think there might be

something more to us than the combination of roles we

play.”

“Yes,” Scully said. “I would agree with that.”

Gordon sipped the dregs of his gin and tonic.

“But what I hear you saying is,” Gordon said, “you’ve

gotten into this big sister act with Agent Mulder when

really you want to be getting it on.”

“That,” Scully said, wagging her finger, “is

definitely not what I said.”

Gordon flashed her a charming smile. “Maybe I was

fishing. Forgive me; I’m a journalist.”

“But I do think I’ve slipped into a role I no longer

feel right playing,” she said, thoughtfully.

“Oh?”

“I start responding to Mulder before he even starts

talking,” she said. “Sometimes I’m nothing more than a

reflex of his. He offers a far-out opinion on a

far-out case, and I respond automatically with some

absurdly pedestrian explanation.”

“You search out ways, even absurd ways, to fulfill

other people’s expectations of you,” Gordon nodded.

“Just like Fiona Emery. Only you’re older and more

educated and more accomplished.”

Scully was astonished.

“Well, that’s easy enough to solve,” Gordon said.

“Just stop.”

Scully didn’t know what to say.

“Or,” Gordon suggested, “alternately, you could just

realize you were playing a role, and tear into it with

relish and zeal. Because at least then it’s a

conscious choice.”

A conscious choice.

Scully suddenly was aware of the ringing of her cell

phone.

Oddly enough, it was Mulder.

And he was stuck on skates in the center of downtown

Kiddsboro.

***

ACT THREE:

Wednesday night, 7 pm

Roll-Away Roller Skating Rink

Kiddsboro, Georgia

June 12

When Mulder finally hobbled back to the rink, holding

the skates gingerly in his hands and stepping around

stones in his socks, Scully was sittting inside at a

table by herself. She had oddly poufy hair.

“What happened to your hair?” he asked.

She stared back at him, speechless.

“Did you curl it or something?” he tried again.

“Mulder,” she said slowly, “what happened to you?”

“Oh,” he said, looking down, “I guess I did crash

after all.”

His suit was torn past recognition, although his

scratches, at least, were at a minimum. He’d aimed for

a tree, which had been a good move.

“And the Yankee soldier?” Scully said.

“The rifle wasn’t loaded, fortunately,” Mulder nodded.

“So he fired, and I just played dead for a few

minutes. Which after running into the tree, wasn’t

really that hard.”

“Should I check you out?”

“No,” Mulder waved his hand. “I don’t think so. I

think I’m fine, physically.”

Scully raised her eyebrows.

“But I am worried about this case, g-woman.”

“You’re not going to ask if I solved it while you were

gone?”

“Did you?” “No,” Scully said. And smiled.

“Have you, by any chance, been drinking, Scully?”

“Not much,” Scully said. “But enough that I think we

should couple skate.”

“Couple skate?”

“Haven’t you noticed it’s Couple Skate?” Scully

pointed to the rink, which seemed to be dimming, with

a disco ball magically lowering. “This way, I can keep

you from falling too much.”

“I’ve had enough skating for tonight, Scully,” sighed

Mulder. “I don’t think I can do it.”

“I don’t care,” Scully said, standing up. Mulder

realized she had already put on skates, which boded

poorly for him. “Put on your skates, Mulder.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been sitting around drinking

while I’m being chased down in the streets,” Mulder

complained.

“Come on, I want to get to the skating scene already,

Mulder,” replied Scully.

She turned to go out on to the rink, and Mulder

noticed something. Not only was her hair poufy: it was

also unusually long.

She had a long red ponytail. Which wasn’t, he decided,

a normal Scully hairdo.

***

Mulder was a horrible skater. That much he was right

about.

But Scully felt at home on skates, like she was

fourteen years old again. And the music was Thompson

Twins’ “Hold Me Now,” which brought back some intense

college makeout memories. She felt the ponytail

flapping against her back, which added to this feeling

of youth.

They were by far the oldest couple on the rink, she

noticed. They probably raised the average age by a

decade. A pair of enamored thirteen-year olds whizzed

by them.

Scully was skating out in front of Mulder, leading him

forward with her hands while skating backwards

flawlessly.

clip_image002

“Look at you go, g-woman,” Mulder said, admiringly,

gripping her hands. “Maybe you could be national

champion, if you got Mrs. Emery to be your coach.”

He began wobbling, drastically, and Scully grabbed his

forearms, steadying him.

“You’re not even trying, Mulder,” she said, holding

tight.

“I’ve never been much of a roller skater, Scully,” he

said, straight into her face. “Although I did go to

this roller derby in New York one summer during

college.”

“I had my first kiss on roller skates,” Scully said.

“Get out,” replied Mulder.

“I was thirteen. The back of the roller rink,” Scully

said, smiling. “This was an older boy. Fifteen, I

think.”

“No wonder you’re such a good skater,” Mulder

commented, “when rinks have historically been a place

for you to get some action.”

“Just remember that,” Scully laughed.

Now what does that mean, Agent Scully, she asked

herself?

But Mulder didn’t respond.

“‘Both of us searching for some perfect world we know

we’ll never find,'” sang Scully softly along to the

Thompson Twins song, trying to turn on her skates.

It wasn’t a successful turn. She fell a little, nearly

toppling them both.

“Now you can’t fall, Scully,” Mulder said. “How will

you support me?”

Scully smiled. “Maybe we can alternate.”

She linked her arm into his, and began skating a

little faster, so he would have to keep up with her

pace.

“Too fast, g-woman,” Mulder said. “I’m going to crash

again. I’m no skater.”

Scully pressed closer against him, trying to prop him

up. And also, she admitted, because his warmth was

oddly comforting.

They were finally beginning to get a rhythm: push,

glide, push, glide. Mulder seemed to be warming up,

for which Scully was grateful. She released her grip

on him a little bit.

But he pulled her back into him for a second, and

seemed to study her face.

“How are you, Scully?” Mulder said softly. “You look a

little funny.”

“I had two drinks,” she shrugged. “I’m probably just

flushed.”

“No,” Mulder said. “It’s more than that.”

And now that he mentioned it, she felt a little funny,

too. Like there was something very light inside of

her.

Almost like helium, or a winged creature.

“Why don’t we go sit down?” suggested Mulder.

She began to skate off the rink. But before she made

it all the way off, she had the oddest sensation. Like

she was being blown away. Like she was rolling blind

down a tunnel.

Like she was disappearing into thin air.

***

Thursday, 9 am

Emory Univeristy Hospital

Atlanta, Georgia

June 13

She woke up to Mulder, of course.

The memory of the Thompson Twins was still ringing in

her ears, but she knew it was many hours later.

“Scully,” he whispered. “How are you?”

“I don’t know,” she said. Her voice was creaky, but

otherwise she felt fine.

“Look,” Mulder showed her a newspaper. “You made the

back page of the front section: ‘FBI Agent Injured

During Investigation,’ by Gordon A. Schime.”

Scully smiled. “I’m glad he got something in.”

“Yeah, he’s a good kid.”

Scully paused.

“Mulder, why am I here?”

“You passed out on the rink floor,” Mulder said. “And

you were in a deep sleep all night. But they think

you’re going to be fine by this evening. There’s

nothing really wrong with you, as far as they can

tell.”

She sat up, and looked, curiously around the room.

“I was worried,” Mulder added, softly.

“Was it…?”

“Yes,” Mulder answered. “I think it was.”

Scully lay back on her pillow, and half-closed her

eyes. “Tell me a story, Mulder.”

Mulder exhaled.

“This is a true story, based on some research I was

able to do tonight,” Mulder said.

“All right.”

“It takes place in Victorian England. A Scottish

wigmaker became very fashionable in society circles.

She was able to give women added depth to their hair,

make them look more beautiful.”

“Her name?”

“Ellen McNabb,” Mulder said.

“Go on,” responded Scully.

“In 1877, twelve young women wearing the McNabb wigs

vanished while riding,” Mulder said. “That’s horses,

not roller skates.”

“My god,” Scully said.

“Ellen McNabb was jailed, although no evidence was

ever massed against her,” Mulder said. “Later in her

life, she claimed she only had the power to let

unhappy girls start over. That she was only giving

those girls a chance to disappear and restart their

lives. Her hair rooted into their heads and sucked

away the sadness. So she said.”

“Let me guess,” Scully said. “This is the

great-great-grandmother of Wanda Milton.”

“Exactly right,” Mulder nodded. “And in 1902, Walter

McNabb was accused in an American court in New York of

kidnapping a young girl who had bought one of his

wigs. But he was released. No evidence.”

“Wanda’s grandpa?”

“Right,” Mulder said. “It was her, Scully. Something

chemically she did to the hair extension.”

“She didn’t want the roller girls to turn out as

unhappy as she is,” Scully said. “To be trapped in

these artificial roles.”

“So she took matters into her own hands,” Mulder said.

“And thought she would be doing them a service with

this long-time family remedy for sadness,” Scully

said. “Starting with her own daughter.”

“And continuing with Fiona Emery, who wanted to be an

architect but was doomed to be a competitive roller

skater.”

“But how?” Scully wondered. “It doesn’t explain what

happened to them, Mulder.”

“Maybe they were transported to a different place,”

Mulder said. “Maybe they reappeared in, like, New York

or London. Or maybe they really did start over. The

essence of them was reborn, maybe, into a new person.”

“Reincarnation,” replied Scully.

“Maybe,” shrugged Mulder.

“Maybe,” agreed Scully.

Mulder, clearly startled by this new open mindedness,

didn’t reply.

“But my ponytail,” Scully said, suddenly. “Was it

…?”

“It disappeared when you passed out,” Mulder said.

“Too bad,” Scully said. She had hoped to have it

analyzed.

“Scully…” Mulder began.

“She thought I was unhappy,” Scully realized. “She

thought I needed to vanish, too.”

“Yeah,” Mulder said, looking away. Scully was

surprised at how wounded he looked.

“And that’s the real mystery of this case, Scully. Why

didn’t you? Why did the hairpieces affect those girls

but not you?”

Scully paused, fingering the edge of the sheet, and

smiled. “You really don’t know, Mulder?”

Mulder, slowly, shook his head. Scully noticed the

lines under his eyes. No sleep for him last night.

“Because unlike those girls,” she said, “When I was

skating with Wanda Milton’s hairpiece on, I was not at

all unhappy.”

Mulder stared at her.

“She was right about them,” Scully said, “which is

very sad, really, Mulder, when you think about it. To

be young and already so unhappy.”

She reached out and pressed her hand into his.

“But she was wrong about me,” she said softly.

She reached down and kissed his knuckles, lightly.

He gave her a wide and crooked grin in return.

Too bad Gordon A. Schime isn’t here, she thought.

Because this is the perfect time for the closing

credits to roll.

***

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