TITLE: Roller Rink
INFO: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual
AUTHOR: Cecily Sasserbaum
CLASSIFICATION: X, H
DISCLAIMERS: “The X-Files” belong to Chris Carter, not
I also don’t own “Wild Thing” by Ton Loc, or “Break My
Stride” by Matthew Wilder, or “Hold Me Now” by the
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?
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.
“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
“Now when you say ‘stuck,’ Mulder, what exactly do you
“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
“A Confederate rifle?”
“I think so.”
“Should I call for back-up?”
“I’d prefer you didn’t.”
“Well, it might not be real, Scully. It might be a
prop. Like for those civil war reenactments, you
“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
“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,
“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 …
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
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
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
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*
Mulder bent his knees slightly. “I don’t think he’s
seen me yet.”
“The Confederate? He’s near you right now?” she was
“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
“Oh no,” she said softly. For the second time in the
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.
10 hours earlier
Roll Away Roller-Skating Rink
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
“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
“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
“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
“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,
“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
“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
“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?
“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
“Right,” Mulder said. A little too quickly, Scully
“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
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
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
“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.
“Yeah, poor hair fetishist kid,” Scully said,
“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
“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
“The press,” Gordon answered. “Mind if I ask you a few
“We’re busy,” answered Scully.
“You’re the reporter who wrote the story in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution?” Mulder said. “Gordon
“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
“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
Mulder, eyeing a brightly-hued “Say No To Drugs”
poster on the wall of the roller rink, nodded in
“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
Scully gave him a questioning look, and Mulder smiled
It’s easy to promise answers, Mulder thought to
himself amusedly, when you don’t have any yourself.
Roll Away Skating Rink
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
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.”
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
“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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
Roll Away Skating Rink
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
“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
“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
“So Mulder, you think these girls got going fast
enough on their skates that they leaped forward in
“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,
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
“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.
“So you’re ruling out haunting, Mulder?”
“Not ruling it out,” he said. “But it’s looking
“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,
“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,
“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
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
“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
“So that’s a no?”
“Oh, I suppose you’re some former champion roller
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
“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
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,
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
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
1 hour later
The Milton Family Home
Windy Creek housing subdivision
“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
“Thank you,” Scully said, uneasily.
“Would you mind terribly, Miss Scully, if I touched
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
“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
“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,
“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
“Why yes, I recognize it,” nodded Mrs. Milton,
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
“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
“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
Scully scowled. “Friends of Veronica’s?”
“Yes, just three — Mara, and Whitney, and Ashleyann.
All great skaters,” Mrs. Milton said. “And lovely
“Wanda,” called the voice from the family room, “come
here a second.”
“I’m with the FBI agents, Howard,” Mrs. Milton called
“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
“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,”
“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
“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
“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,”
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
“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
“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
“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,
“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.”
“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
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
“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
“Girls,” she said, “maybe we could go driving up and
down Davis Street? And talk a little about Fiona and
“Oh sure,” Mara said. “But are you going to go like
“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
“Suit yourself,” Ashleyann said, and the three of them
“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
“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,”
“No, you dumbass,” Mara said. “Not an archeologist. An
“Right,” Ashleyann said. “An architect.”
“Like *that* was going to happen,” Whitney added.
“What do you mean?” Scully said. “Why wouldn’t that
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
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
“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,”
“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
“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
“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,
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
“I can see into your soul, Agent Mulder,” whispered
“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
“Oh dear,” Linda Emery said, glancing at the clock on
the wall. “That’s my boyfriend, and he’s already in
“Well, we can finish up later,” Mulder said, ashamed
at how relieved he was. “Go on and enjoy yourself at
“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
Gordon scowled. “Well, we’ll just be leaving, then,
“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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“Nice hair, Agent Scully,” came another voice nearby.
It was the freaking reporter. Sitting at a table,
“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
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
“‘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
“It reminds me of my partner,” Scully said, without
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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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.
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
A conscious choice.
Scully suddenly was aware of the ringing of her cell
Oddly enough, it was Mulder.
And he was stuck on skates in the center of downtown
Wednesday night, 7 pm
Roll-Away Roller Skating Rink
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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
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
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
Scully was skating out in front of Mulder, leading him
forward with her hands while skating backwards
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“I had two drinks,” she shrugged. “I’m probably just
“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
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
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.”
“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
She sat up, and looked, curiously around the room.
“I was worried,” Mulder added, softly.
“Yes,” Mulder answered. “I think it was.”
Scully lay back on her pillow, and half-closed her
eyes. “Tell me a story, Mulder.”
“This is a true story, based on some research I was
able to do tonight,” Mulder said.
“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.”
“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.”
“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
“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,
“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
“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
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.