--------- 4 ------------

"Remind me never to move here," Mulder muttered, shaking off a slush drenched foot, staring up at the brown, brick warehouse that was the current home of the "Rockville Performers."  Scully smiled at him and looked down at her feet, watching as her breath escaped her mouth and fogged into the smoggy air.  It had already taken them approximately fifteen minutes to find the place by cab after they decided to ditch the rental at the motel--much good it would do them here----and Mulder had already managed to do something to himself.  He had already managed to stick his foot in it.  And by "it," she literally meant a giant puddle of slush.  It was almost amusing.

Mulder grimmaced and knocked again.  Scully cracked her neck.

Finally, the door swung open and a young girl stood in the wide, brightly lit entryway.  She was tall, about 5 inches taller than Scully, and she couldn't have been any older than 25, if either of them were to hazard a guess.  She was cute looking and slender, with long curly brown hair and striking blue eyes that shone with confusion as she looked from Mulder to Scully, then appreciatively, back to Mulder again. Mulder smiled at her. Scully stiffened.

"Can I help you?" she asked, cordially.

Mulder flustered for a moment and Scully shot him a barely suppressed glare.

"Agent Mulder," he finally managed, retrieving his badge and flashing it at her. Scully did the same, adopting a carefully orchestrated neutral posture.  Mulder gestured vaguely towards his partner.  "And this is my partner, Agent Scully."

The brown haired girl squinted at the badges and then nodded, as if it had finally dawned upon her.  "Oh," she gasped.  "Oh--of course.  Ben told me that he heard the FBI would be sending someone.  Of course, come in.  I'm Sarah, by the way."

Mulder nodded, and he and Scully stepped slowly inside, looking around curiously.  Scully exchanged a short glance with her partner and then began to walk off towards her left.  Mulder remained stationary.

"Sarah Jamison?" he asked.  The young girl nodded, enthusiastically.

"Yeah," she replied.  "I guess you read my statement."  Mulder nodded again.

Scully stepped further away from Mulder and began look around, taking in the room with her eyes, reminding herself to memorize everything she saw.  She walked past a rack of velvet costumes, alternately fingering one of the fancier dresses.  She started to traverse what looked like either a short hallway or an entranceway to a larger room, probably the auditorium, and walked faster.  Her heels echoed loudly against the hardwood floor and she began to hear voices emanating from within the larger room.

"Tell me, daughter," bellowed a loud, high pitched female, "what do you think of marriage?"

Another, slighlty softer voice bellowed back, "it is an honor I dream not of."

Then, another loud voice, this one male, called out, "no, no, NO! Amanda, how many times do I have to tell you, you do NOT look directly AT Liz when you say that.  And for godsakes, don't BELLOW the line like that.  You want to be wistful, gentle.  You are Juliet. You are young, you are innocent, goddamn it!"

Scully entered the room and stared up at the stage.

"Now do it AGAIN, Mandy."

Scully took a breath and nearly gaped.  It had been a long time, she thought, a LONG time since she had gone to the theatre, since she had been anywhere NEAR one, actually.  She had nearly forgotten what one looked like from the inside, unnoccupied; how impressive it could be.  The white domed shape of the room was large and the seats ran all the way around the theatre, from stage right to stage left, including the balconies that extended nearly all the way to the bright red, velvet curtain.  The stage itself was rather large, especially for an independent theatre, and numerous props and sound equiptment littered both it's hardwood platform and the four front row seats.  Fancy Shakesperean style costumes were draped over the backs of the fifth row, and players dressed in fifteenth century garb mingled around the orchestra pit as the performers on stage rehearsed and the director screamed.

The woman whose face was obscured from Scully's view repeated her line, "It is an honor I dream not of."  The director--or the person she assumed was the director---groaned and threw a large clipboard up in the air so that it rattled and smacked when it hit the stage.    None of the other performers turned to look.

"Damn it Amanda!" he snapped, and the girl bowed her head, frustrated.

Scully took the moment to clear her throat.  The director turned.

"Sir?" Scully asked, stepping closer.  The assumed director stared at her, critically, and ran his eyes from toe to head.  "yes?" he asked, distainfully.  Scully stiffened her back and held out her badge.

"Agent Scully, FBI. Sorry to interrupt the rehearsal."

The director sighed, sadly, and leapt down from the stage, his black dress pants swishing as he hopped to the floor.  "Jordan Smith, director, and don't worry," he assured her, extending a hand for her to shake.  He raised his head to glare up at the stage. The young girl had not moved.  Her head was still bowed. "It wasn't much of a rehearsal anyhow," he finished.

Scully nodded, briskly, and Jordan motioned for her to sit amongst the throng of seats nestled in the front row.  They had both seated themselves when Scully opened her mouth to speak.  However, before she could ask anything at all, she heard a noise from behind her---floating laughter--it sounded like, and then the sound of her partner's rich, booming voice.  "No," he said, sounding jovial.  "I don't think I could ever stay awake long enough to do Shakespeare."  More laughter, and then a female voice---assumably, Sarah Jamison, giggling, "how can you find Shakespeare boring?"

Scully took the opportunity to work on her self-restraint and she turned her head, definitively clearing her throat.  Mulder caught her eye and smiled guiltily, not saying anything for another moment.    Then he quickly stepped down the red-carpeted aisle and made his way to the front row.  Sarah Jamison in tow, he took a seat next to Scully and shook hands with Jordan.

"Agent Mulder," he said, briskly.

"Jordan Smith," the director answered.

Sarah chimed in. "They're the ones that were called in, I think."  The director nodded, sadly.

"Yes," he sighed.  "About what happened to Jen.  Such a horrible accident."

Jordan shook his head and leaned back against the seat, taking a deep breath.  "To be honest though, I didn't see the need for calling in the FBI.  We all just assumed that it was an accident.  That she lost her footing or something."

Mulder cleared his throat and leaned forward on his haunches, staring straight at Mr. Smith.  Oh boy, thought Scully, slightly amused.  Here we go...

"Really?" Mulder asked, recalling a few statements from his eidetic memory.  "Then there must be some confusion here."

Scully glanced at Sarah ,who quickly looked down, and Jordan furrowed his brow, confused.  "Really?" the man asked.  "And why is that, if I may ask?"

Mulder glanced at Scully, granting her silent permission to take over the direction of the conversation.    Scully locked eyes with him and understood his game right away--don't give away too much of the hand, you never find anything out if you show your cards too early.  She acknowledged the unspoken understanding with a nod of her head.

"Mr.  Smith---" she started.

He held up a hand.  "Jordan, please."

Scully smiled, thinly.  "Jordan," she began again, sitting up straighter.  "Agent Mulder and myself have recieved several puzzling reports from a few of your performers and a good precentage of your lighting crew.  It would appear as though some of this company believes Ms. Green may have, in fact, been pushed."

Jordan stared at Scully as if she had grown a third head.  "Pushed?" he asked, beffudled.  Scully nodded.  "But... but.. who? and how?" he asked, apparently flustered.  "When I came out, everyone said it was an accident. They told me she fell."

Sarah leaned forward and spoke up sheepishly.  "I didn't see you when you came out, Jordan," she managed, shyly.  "I would have told you then."

Jordan stared at her, confused.  Scully raised an eyebrow and took in the exchange.  Apparently, young Sarah had failed to mention her suspicions to him.  Mulder propped up an arm on the arm rest, leaning forward again, interested.  "When you came out?" he asked, fixing his eyes on Mr.  Smith.  "Then you weren't in the room when Jennifer's...accident occurred?"

Jordan nodded.

"Yeah," he replied.  "I was back in wardrobe with Gracie, trying to figure out how to fix the tear in Mercutio's death scene costume.  It had been torn the day before during rehearsal.  Ben had brought it in that morning---You can go ask Gracie, if you want.  I can get her---"

Scully held up a hand.  "No," she insisted, softly. "No, we can talk to her later, that's fine."

Jordan nodded again. "Of course," he conceeded, "whatever you require."

Mulder interrupted then, shifting his legs so that they rested close to Scully's.  "Jordan," he started, "If I might ask----who was it that you spoke to when you came out of wardrobe?"

Jordan furrowed his brow for a moment as if lost in thought. Scully's gaze trailed absently towards the top of his head which was half balding and shiny on top, almost like AD Skinner's.  Jordan Smith was a fairly diminuitive looking guy, she faintly noticed, thin and gangly, harmless looking really.  It was amazing how murderers and sociopaths looked like everyone else---not that this guy was one, of course.

"Well," the director began.  "let me see who... Umm...I was back with Gracie when I heard someone scream---I think it sounded like 'no.' Then, there were a few more screams but I don't know whose.  When I ran out, I smashed right into Jennifer's understudy---Amanda. She was yelling for someone to 'call 911.'  When I shook her shoulders to ask her what had happened, she began crying that Jen had fallen.  That she must have tripped because she fell right off the balcony. Well, of course, I was---"

"I'm sorry, how many screams, did you say?"

Jordan looked up, startled.  Sarah and Scully both turned their heads regard Mulder's interruption. His expression was thoughtful, his legs crossed right over left.  He creased one eyebrow and looked closer at Jordan.

"Excuse me?" the director asked, confused.  Mulder sat up straighter.

"How many screams?" he repeated.  "Three?  Four?  You said you heard one, and then others afterward, is that right?"

Jordan nodded, confused.  Scully looked over at the thirty-something, balding little man, and tried to read him as her partner's train of thought began to dawn upon her.

"Um, there were a few," the director repeated.  "First one, then the others. I don't know how many exactly, though, if that's what you want to know."

"Jen's was the first," Sarah chimed in, softly.  "Then there was another—right after.  Someone on stage maybe.  I don’t  think that it was Jen, because, um,  Jen screamed again, and there was a thud.  Scared the shit out of the rest of us---we started screaming after----Claire, Joey, Rachel, Ben and me. Everyone else was at lunch, I think, but we were here in the pit when we heard her scream 'no!' " Mulder nodded and encouraged her to go on with a nod of his head.  Sarah cleared her throat, self conciously.

"----So, at first, we thought that maybe she'd been fighting with someone.Mandy came to mind first---Jen and Mandy had gotten into a terrible fight the day before and I knew Mandy was somewhere by the stage.   So, um, we couldn't see anything, and we thought that maybe they were just fighting again, you know? But then, we all heard a thud---like I said---and so we got up to see what was going on.  There were papers all over the place.  And Everyone started screaming then and Mandy came running, screaming, that Jen had fallen off the balcony."

Mulder narrowed his eyes for a moment.  "So then, Mandy wasn’t with you in the pit," he stated, and Sarah shook her head.

"Oh no," she answered, offhandedly.  "Mandy was up on stage with the lighting guy---standing in. They have to use body doubles sometimes, to adjust the lighting, you know?  Mandy is--was---Jen's understudy, so she was filling in for Jen while Jen was backstage."

Scully leaned forward, enquiring, "And the lighting technician can attest for this?"

Sarah nodded, folding her hands in her lap.  “Oh yeah,” she said, decisively. “A lot of the guys saw her from a distance.  They were up there you know, on the catwalk.”

Scully bit the inside of her cheek, forcing back a wry smile, and looked down at her heels, remembering her partner’s earlier groan inducing joke.  Out of protection over her professional mask, she refused to look at him, but from under the seat, she could feel the back of his heel knock at hers, playfully, as if saying, “told you so.”

Jordan Smith cleared his throat, uncomfortably.

Mulder stared at Sarah thoughtfully, and then swiftly turned his gaze towards Scully.  Scully looked back at Mulder and nodded, understanding the silent question.  She turned her eyes towards Jordan and did not miss a beat.

"Jordan?" she asked, "Out of curiosity, who was it that you said you ran into when you came out?"

Jordan cocked his head to the side and regarded the question.  "Amanda," he said, as if deep in thought.  "Yes, it was Amanda.  She was running from the stage and I crashed right into her.   She was completely hysterical."

Scully nodded thoughfully and then gazed over at her partner one last time.  His expression was clear and she understood every nuance of those hazel eyes.  She understood him as clearly as if he had spoken words out loud.  'Go find this understudy.'

"Excuse me," Scully apologized as she pulled her body upright, lifting herself slowly from the red fold down chair.  It squeaked and groaned in protest, and Scully watched the bottom flop back up to meet the headrest. She gave Mr.  Smith a quick, polite smile, and then edged away from his, Sarah's, and Mulder's conversation.

Time to get to work on her own.

She knew, of course, that Mulder was quite capable of handling the situation himself.  He was good at what he did--damn good, as a matter of fact, and they would make much more headway if she started to question others while he kept up with Jordan Smith.  Now, she especially wanted to interrogate this "understudy" Amanda whatever her name was.  After all, the "understudy" motive was probably one of the oldest in the book, at least as far as the stage acting profession went.  That is, Scully quickly reminded herself, if this was indeed a homicide, which in her mind was still somewhat doubtful.


At the sound of her name Scully turned around, her brief reverie abruptly interrupted.  She had half expected to see young Sarah Jamison whom she had introduced herself to earlier. She had not, however, expected to see a person she had nearly forgotten about in the seventeen years since she had last graced the age of eighteen.  It was a face she had not seen since high school; one she would have just as soon forgotten, the second after graduation, as a matter of fact.

"Well, it IS you," the woman gasped, a slender hand flying to her bodiced bosom.

Scully fought back old, adolescent nerves, and picked up her chin, aristocratically. "Mandy Larson," She managed, lowly.  Amanda giggled.

"Well," she breathed, gushing, " Carson now, but---" she held out her hand, knuckles outward, and waved a large monstrosity of a wedding band in Scully's face; a huge, overgaudy, tearshaped diamond, set in a circle of white gold.  Scully suppressed the urge to gag.

Amanda raised a speculative eybrow and proceeded to eye Scully from head to toe, the corners of her mouth turning upwards smugly as she started,  "My, my."  Scully swallowed.  Amanda grinned like the cat that ate the mouse on Christmas.   "As I live and breathe.  'No-Date-Dana-Scully.' All grown up "

At the sound of her old, dreaded, high school nickname, Scully jutted her chin out in a grand show of defiance. I am not that girl, she thought to herself. Not anymore. But her mouth went dry, her nerves began to revert to the jelly they had once been in high school,and she forgot what it was she was going to say.  On the outside, she tried to look cool, calm.  On the inside, however, her countenance was waning.  Fuck, she berated herself, fuck, fuck, fuck... She hated that after nearly twenty years, 'Mandy' Larson---now Carson, could still make her feel like an inadequate teenager without even trying. Fuck, Scully thought, angrily. I'm a grown woman.  I'm an FBI agent.  God damn it, this is ridiculous.

"It *IS* still Dana *SCULLY* isn't it?" Amanda asked cooly. Scully resisted the urge to yank out her Sig and shoot her old high school 'chum' in the head.  Yup.  Same old Amanda, she thought resentfully.

And same old 'no-date-Dana" too, a part of her brain reminded her. She swiftly ordered it to shut up.

"Yeah," Scully managed, somehow ordering her voice to remain steady.  "it's still Dana Scully."

Amanda nodded, as if she had figured as much all along.  She opened her mouth to say something else, but another voice sounded behind them.

"Hey? Scully?"

Both Amanda and Scully turned at the sound of Mulder's voice echoing into the large domed theatre.  He eyed both women, catching Amanda's quick, scrutinizing gaze, and then Scully's. Amanda eyed her old classmate for a moment, as if confused to see "no date Dana" with a man, and then she folded her velvet sequined arms across her low cut bodice.

"You almost done?" Mulder asked, and Scully cleared her throat, wishing, for all the world, that she could just sink into the floor and never get back up.

Damn it, she thought. God damn it.  I never even questioned Amanda about the death. I never... DAMN!  What the hell is wrong with me?!

Scully looked back over at Amanda, expressionless, and Amanda smirked back at her.  In that moment, Scully could have sworn she knew what Amanda was thinking.  Pathetic-no-date-diseased-Dana-Scully.  The thought ran through her head and tormented her. It played like a broken CD, over and over until  Scully finally turned away at the thought---at the memory--and made eye contact with Mulder.  Her Mulder. The man who loved her.

I am NOT 'No Date Dana" anymore, she insisted to herself.  No...

Mulder widened his eyes at her and waved a hand, questioningly.  "Scully?" he asked again.

Scully cleared her throat.  "Yeah," she managed, trying to keep her voice even, trying to maintain her focus.  "Yeah, I'm ah---" Amanda gave her another smug look, then turned and walked away.  Scully swallowed, feeling all of seventeen again.  She hated herself for it.  "I'm finished," she finally managed, sounding calm and controlled.  Mulder nodded.

Scully took a deep breath and quickly sped past Mulder, making her way back up the red carpet, clenching her right fist so hard she thought she might draw blood.  Damn it, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut as she walked, damn it....