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Screenplays, Bullshite and Onions

SCREENPLAYS, BULLSHITE AND ONIONS

a miscellany by Malachi Stone

 

 

 

© 2015 by Malachi Stone

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author. All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Death Toll, a screenplay

Sinema, an unfinished screenplay

One Million BCE, fragment of a novel

Heart’s Desire, an unfinished novel

Jennifer Anuston’s Return to Television,  une histoire de clés

About the Author

Connect with me Online

 

 

 

Many moons ago, before I realized that screenwriting is a young man’s game, and dazzled by reports of fuck-you money being paid to average guys like Joe Eszterhas for SHOWGIRLS and similar pieces of drek, I became seduced by the idea of adapting my novels into screenplays. Result: a couple hundred queries ignored and a metric shitload of time pissed away in the attempt. No matter: here is my first effort at writing for the silver screen. (I apologize in advance if the formatting leaves something to be desired. I’ve read Syd Field and all the rest of the how-to books same as you have and know the drill; Mobipocket is like running it through a Cuisinart.)

 

 

 

DEATH TOLL

a screenplay by Malachi Stone

 

FADE IN

 

FULL SCREEN PHOTOGRAPH

 

Attractive brunette woman striking a seductive pose in an office setting, clad only in lingerie, heavy red-framed glasses and a red mortarboard.

 

ZOE (VO)

(playful)

 

Printed that last one yet?

 

SOUND of FRED EFF’S heavy sigh. His left hand with wedding ring turns the picture, revealing another photo of the same woman topless, her back to the camera, coyly looking over her shoulder.

 

FRED (VO)

 

Oh, Baby.

 

Another deep sigh. Another turned photo in the series. The woman nude this time, concealing her breasts with her arms and her pubes with the hat.

 

ZOE

 

Sure it’s not too … wet to touch?

 

FRED

 

Oh, Baby!

 

ZOE

 

You like?

 

FRED

 

Oh, Baby!

 

ZOE

 

Care to make any other comments

besides ‘oh, Baby’?

 

FRED

 

Lose the hat.

 

 

ZOE

Wait ‘til you download the next one. I’ll be hatless. Your fucking brain will self-destruct, Baby.

 

FRED

 

It’s not my fucking brain running the show tonight.

 

EXT. BANFIELD MANSIONNIGHT

 

Lightning flashes through a sheet of rain.

 

A bronze sign partially obscured by ivy says: “University Institute of Parapsychology.”

 

FRED

 

Send it to me quick, before

this storm knocks the power out.

My blood’s boiling.

 

INTERCUT ORSON WELLES “ROSEBUD” CLOSEUPS OF ZOE’S AND FRED’S MOUTHS EACH WITH A HEADSET MICROPHONE, AND ZOE’S PC MONITOR SCREEN

 

ZOE

(Phone-sex operator seductive, breathy and over-enunciating)

 

Patience, Darling. First I want you to tell me how it feels, staring at pictures of your best friend’s wife naked?

 

FRED

 

How do you think it feels? I wanna be there with you right now, just you and me alone in your office.

 

ZOE

(moans softly)

 

And then what?

 

FRED

 

I’d show you where you could hang that hat.

 

 

ZOE

 

Same false seductive tone. She is the woman in the photo, wearing the same glasses but a lab coat this time and is voice-chatting online with Fred on her headset while she calmly types notes on her computer.)

 

But Darling, I’m afraid Steve is somewhere close by. You do remember Steve? My soon-to-be ex-husband —- and your oldest and dearest friend?

 

FRED

 

He’s working late.

 

ZOE

 

Shall I put him on?

 

FRED

 

I thought you already were.

 

INT. ZOE’S OFFICE.

 

It’s the same office as in the photos. Another lightning flash and thunderclap. Zoe types like the wind.

 

MONITOR

 

“Subject exhibits lame attempt at humor.”

 

ZOE

 

I guess we both are.

 

MONITOR

 

“Subject’s voice tense, anxious.”

 

ZOE

 

What would your lovely wife Janet do if she found out?

 

FRED

 

Probably kill me, so let’s not tell her, shall we? I won’t if you don’t.

 

MONITOR

 

“Guilt complex evident.”

 

ZOE

 

Don’t you feel the tiniest bit guilty about what we’ve been up to these past few weeks, Fred? Janet and I are professional colleagues.

 

 

 

FRED

 

Janet doesn’t suspect a thing.

 

ZOE

 

But does it disturb you at all, Darling, cheating on her with me like this?

 

FRED

 

All you and I ever do is voice chat online while you show me dirty pictures of yourself.

 

ZOE

 

Isn’t that cheating?

 

FRED

 

We never meet in private, never go out on dates. There’s no touching. We never even hold hands. How is that cheating?

 

MONITOR

 

“Subject becoming increasingly defensive.”

 

Fred rifles through the series of progressively unclothed poses of Zoe. He turns his wedding ring back and forth on his finger as though it’s tight. On his desktop cluttered with papers and files, a heavy nameplate says: “Fred Eff, Attorney at Law.”

 

There is also a large desk frame portrait of Fred, JANET, and their daughters AOIFE, CAOIMHE and EIBHLIN. Janet is a titian-haired beauty in her mid-forties.

 

 

 

ZOE

 

Cheating is all in the mind. Idle minds are the devil’s playground. Don’t you agree, Fred, Darling?

 

FRED

 

What if I said I wanted more out of you than just your mind, Zoe?

 

MONITOR

 

“Accelerated, shallow

respirations.”

 

ZOE

 

Then I’d say I like the way your mind works, Fred. Oh, but what would Professor Steve say? We mustn’t forget Professor Steve.

 

MONITOR

 

“Inflame subject’s guilt. Induce psychoneurotic aggression.”

 

FRED

 

(suspicious)

 

That sounds like typing. Who’s typing at this hour? Are you typing?

 

ZOE

(urgent whisper)

 

Hold on; he’s coming.

 

Door to Zoe’s office opens and STEVE enters. He tries to kiss Zoe by way of greeting, but she brushes him off.

ZOE

 

Some of us have work to do, Little Professor.

 

STEVE

 

You mind not calling me that, Zoe?

 

 

ZOE

 

If the shoe fits. Little Professor.

 

STEVE

 

In my case, the shoe’s ‘way too tight. What’s with the headset?

 

ZOE

(bored)

 

Dictation, if the mood strikes me. Haven’t you heard? In the academic world it’s publish or perish.

 

STEVE

 

You’re liable to perish at any moment, staying on your computer and wired up to a headset in the middle of this lightning storm.

 

(He mimics an oratorical requiem)

 

Professor Zoe Toddman martyred in the name of science. Fatally zapped by an errant thunderbolt.

 

ZOE

(typing, preoccupied)

 

Professor Zoe LeGrand Toddman. If you’re writing my obituary, at least get my name right.

 

STEVE

(still sarcastic)

 

Failing to include your maiden name? How could I have been so thoughtless, Darling?

 

ZOE

(into the headset)

 

My husband is here bothering me, as you’ve no doubt realized by now.

 

STEVE

 

You’re not dictating. Who’s that on the phone with you?

 

ZOE

(into the headset)

 

Stephanie, Professor Steve is here, asking too many questions. And as always, they’re the wrong questions.

 

FRED (VO)

 

Try and get rid of him.

 

ZOE

(ironic)

 

Trust me, Sweetie. Men are like buses: another one’s coming any minute. I’ll send you some more of that data to review. Tomorrow ok?

 

FRED (VO)

 

Wait! Wait!

ZOE

 

Pleasant dreams, my Darling.

 

(to Steve)

 

I’m multitasking. You should try it sometime, Little Professor.

 

STEVE

 

There’s that name again.

 

ZOE

 

Transcribing research notes while I have an emergency girl talk with one of my grad students who just broke up with her boyfriend.

 

STEVE

(reading Zoe’s monitor over her shoulder)

 

Yeah, and throwing around terms of endearment like ‘Sweetie’ and ‘My Darling.’ You never even used those with me.

 

ZOE

(exasperated)

 

Sweetie! My Darling! I’m trying to work here!

 

STEVE

 

Aren’t you getting awfully familiar with your grad students?

 

ZOE

 

Look who’s talking.

 

STEVE

 

It may be none of my business, but we do need to maintain a certain professorial distance from our students. Am I right?

 

ZOE

 

You’re right, Little Prof. It is none of your business. As if you aren’t doing the same thing with dear sweet Kim down the hall.

 

STEVE

 

With Kim I keep it one hundred per cent professional. She’s only here waiting out the storm. And we’re making some real progress.

 

ZOE

 

I’ll bet.

 

STEVE

(defensive)

 

With our remote-viewing experiments I mean.

 

Steve walks to the window and looks out at the storm. Heavy rain beats against the window, distorting his features. He tries to change the subject.

 

STEVE

 

You and I must be the two hardest-working scientists on this campus.

 

ZOE

 

You’re half right, Darling.

 

STEVE

(ignoring the double put-down; looks at his watch)

 

Name me two others still advancing the state of mankind’s knowledge close to midnight on a Friday, braving an electrical storm?

 

ZOE

 

Don’t forget Daddy.

 

STEVE

 

How could I ever forget Daddy, even for a blessed moment?

 

ZOE

 

He’s been down in the mirrored room for hours, meditating.

 

STEVE

 

Do you mean to say the renowned Professor Bruno LeGrand honors us with his presence at the witching hour?

 

ZOE

 

I’m due to join him. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed? The hour, the date, the storm’s fury, all perfect for our experiment.

 

INT. THE MIRRORED ROOM.

 

Thunder echoes.

 

Professor BRUNO LeGRAND paces impatiently. Muttering and brooding, he stares intently at his own face in one of the full-length mirrors that cover every wall in the huge octagonal windowless ballroom from floor to ceiling.

 

LeGrand’s oxygen cannula looks like twin snot trails out his nose. We hear the hissing rhythm of the oxygen. Long beard unkempt, clad only a black satin hood and cape covered in occult symbols, he’s a walking-dead version of Merlin the magician.

 

INT. ZOE’S OFFICENIGHT

 

STEVE

 

What is it the two of you have in mind, as if I didn’t know? Astral projection? Time travel? And you call yourselves scientists.

 

ZOE

 

The science of parapsychology is barely a century old. With our rat mazes and card-guessing experiments, are we really so arrogant as to dismiss thousands of years of pagan culture that went on before? The most powerful occult holiday of all begins tonight at midnight.

 

STEVE

 

What, Halloween in April?

 

ZOE

(mystically)

 

Every ancient culture had a word for it. The Germans called it Walpurgisnacht. The night of the dead –- that haunted night when the curtain between light and darkness is drawn aside and the dead walk among us.

 

STEVE

 

Daddy should feel right at home.

 

ZOE

 

It all begins tonight, Steven. The hour is almost here. The raging of the storm is that unholy night’s power about to break through.

 

STEVE

 

Come on, Zoe —- quit wasting your time on all this occult bullshit.

 

ZOE

 

You come on, Little Professor, with your little mind and your little dick to match! I’ll spend my time any way I choose.

 

STEVE

 

Crackpot theories got Daddy banished to this haunted mansion. The department couldn’t take any more of his nutty experiments.

 

ZOE

(defensive)

 

Those ‘nutty experiments’ earned my father his remote viewing assignments with the CIA.

 

STEVE

 

So he trances out a couple times and dreams up the map coordinates where they can get their hands on Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega.

 

ZOE

 

Don’t forget those kidnapped generals and oil executives over the years.

 

STEVE

 

All he did was manage to con a few government spooks, and what’d it get him in the end?

ZOE

 

Daddy’s involvement had to be kept top secret, but the CIA paid him big money —- none of which you’ll ever see, Darling pet.

 

STEVE

 

He may be worth a cool twenty million bucks, but he lives in a filthy garret like Nostradamus --

 

ZOE

 

Daddy chooses to live simply. What’s that to you? And for your information it’s closer to thirty million.

 

STEVE

 

—- when he’s not busy haunting this house, that is. He’s the Banfield mansion’s number-one spook.

 

ZOE

 

Do I detect a note of professional jealousy, Little Professor?

 

STEVE

 

What’d he do —- go out and bury the money in some cemetery at the stroke of midnight?

 

ZOE

 

I’ll never tell.

 

INT. THE MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

LeGRAND

(Throws off his hood, tilts his head back and bellows)

 

Zoe!

 

INT. MAIN ROOMNIGHT

 

Darkened central room of the Banfield mansion, featuring broad elegant double stairway with ornate banisters. SOUND of LeGrand’s voice echoing, somewhat fainter but still clearly audible.

 

 

LeGRAND (OS)

 

Zoe!

 

 

INT. ZOE’S OFFICENIGHT

 

LeGRAND (OS)

(more faintly)

 

Zoe!

 

ZOE

 

Steve, Darling, be a love and go tell Daddy I’ll be right down, won’t you?  I just need to finish up here.

 

STEVE

 

I’ll gladly perform any task in the name of science, my pet. However lowly.

 

ZOE

 

One of your most endearing qualities, I’m sure.

 

LeGRAND (OS)

(faint but even more insistent)

 

Zoe!

 

STEVE

(as he exits)

 

Duty calls. Or should I say bellows?

 

Zoe’s office door closes.

 

ZOE

 

Fred, Darling. Are you still there?

 

 

 

FRED

 

That was a hell of a close call. Too close for comfort.

 

 

 

 

ZOE

(downshifts back into the seductive mode)

 

Isn’t that part of the thrill? The fear of discovery? All our most

intimate secret desires exposed?

 

FRED

 

Speaking of exposed, weren’t you going to send me some more of those glamour shots of your lovely self?

 

ZOE

 

Sorry, Darling —- I’m late for an important research project. Same

time tomorrow night?

 

FRED

 

Only if Janet falls asleep early again. Sure you can’t scan just one more for me right now? You got me so horny, Zoe.

 

ZOE

 

No time, Darling. Besides, delayed gratification is the secret to pleasure. Take it from a doctor of psychology.

 

FRED

 

I want a second opinion.

 

ZOE

 

Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. And Fred —-

 

FRED

(clearly frustrated)

 

Yeah?

 

ZOE

 

Don’t break the spell by cheating on me with your wife. No hanky-panky with Janet until I say so. Agreed?

 

 

 

FRED

 

Not much chance of that. She spends half her waking time in church, the other half working.

 

ZOE

 

And no self-abuse allowed, either. That would be cheating on me. And I will not tolerate you cheating on me.

 

FRED

 

I must be crazy doing this.

 

ZOE

 

Quit self-diagnosing, Fred. You’re not crazy. You and I are, quite simply, elevating adultery to an entirely new intellectual plane.

 

FRED

 

This mind over matter shit only goes so far.

 

ZOE

(colder)

 

Any time you choose to end our little game, all you have to do is say so, Fred Darling.

 

FRED

(anxious)

 

That’s not what I’m saying.

 

ZOE

 

You want the game to go on, then?

 

FRED

 

You know the answer to that.

 

ZOE

 

I need to hear you tell me, Fred. I need to hear it from you that you want the game to go on.

 

FRED

 

Yes.

ZOE

(after a beat)

 

Yes what?

 

FRED

(defeated)

 

Yes, God help me, I want the game to go on.

 

ZOE

 

Same time tomorrow night, then.

 

FRED

 

Right.

 

ZOE

 

Meet me online and try not to make too much noise. We mustn’t disturb poor Janet’s beauty sleep. Or her prayers.

 

FRED

 

Probably go to hell for what I’m thinking right now.

 

ZOE

 

There is no hell, Fred -— only your unresolved childhood masturbation guilt. Dr. Zoe will fix your boo boo, tomorrow night.

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOM.

Steve enters.

STEVE

 

Hey, Bruno. Trying on your Halloween costume? Little early for trick or treat.

 

LeGRAND

(ignores his jibe)

 

Where is my daughter?

 

STEVE

 

Upstairs wrapping something up.

 

LeGRAND

 

The time is nigh.

STEVE

 

The time is what? Oh, nigh. (Checks his wristwatch.) I’ve only got about a quarter till nigh. Think maybe I’m running a little slow?

 

LeGRAND

 

Do not scoff at things you cannot understand.

 

STEVE

 

So what exactly is on the agenda, Bruno, now that the time is nigh? And can all three of us play scientist?

 

LeGRAND

 

The Permeance admits of only two … players, as you so flippantly express it.

 

STEVE

(nods, humoring LeGrand)

 

The Permeance. Mind explaining that one to me again? Zoe tried to once, but it all sounded like Alice through the Looking Glass.

 

LeGRAND

 

Tell me, Steven, what has science discovered to be the one object that has always incited utter fear in uncivilized people?

 

STEVE

 

I don’t know —- underarm deodorant? (laughs)

 

LeGRAND

 

The mirror, Steven. And do you know why they fear the mirror?

 

STEVE

 

Kinda late at night for the Socratic method, Professor.

 

LeGRAND

(ignoring Steve’s impertinence)

 

They fear the mirror’s power to capture the human soul. From time immemorial, savage peoples have feared the mirror’s awesome spell.

 

STEVE

 

And here we are completely surrounded by mirrors. Funny, I’m not scared at all. Are you, Bruno?

 

LeGRAND

 

Perhaps you should be afraid. Consider this: every fear instilled in mankind has its origin in some real cause –- some hidden truth.

 

STEVE

(drawn in by LeGrand’s madness; loves a good academic argument)

 

Granted. So why the fear of mirrors, then? Doesn’t that fear defeat your premise?

 

LeGRAND

 

Does it? What if I could prove to the world that through the mirror lies the true passage to the soul’s immortality?

 

Lightning strikes again. The electricity goes out, leaving Steve and LeGrand in eerie chiaroscuro, with only the flickering light from the hearth of an Adam fireplace.

 

LeGRAND

(mysterioso)

 

Deep in a meditative trance, on a night not unlike this very night, I first communed with the Cosmic Masters.

 

STEVE

(uneasy)

 

The Cosmic Masters. You mean those invisible thirty-five-thousand-year-old guys you shoot the shit with every now and again, right?

 

 

LeGRAND

 

Precisely. On that night the Cosmic Masters revealed the secret of The Permeance to me.

 

STEVE

 

And that is?

 

LeGRAND

 

Mirrors.

STEVE

 

It’s all done with mirrors, right, Bruno? That’s the big secret the Cosmic Masters laid on you?

 

LeGRAND

 

The Atlanteans may have first discovered the technique -— no one can be certain. The Egyptian priests of Osiris are said to have perfected it. Druid priests of the inner circle at Stonehenge knew it as well. It was handed down and practiced as a forbidden ritual by the Gnostic heretics, and still later by the Knights Templar, who carried it back to Europe with them after the Crusades. It was practiced and refined by society’s outcasts over the centuries: the medieval alchemists and the witches of Salem knew of its mysteries. Adolph Hitler himself learned the secret from his Nazi mystics, and attempted to use it on what would prove to be the last day of his life. Unfortunately, he did not foresee the dangers of Walpurgisnacht. April 30 th. What the Druids called the Eve of Beltane. On that fateful night, deep in his bunker, his new wife Eva Braun at his side, the two of them experienced what has come to be known as an abruption.

 

STEVE

 

A what?

 

LeGRAND

 

The spontaneous combustion of the human brain, not fully understood except that it seems to result from certain misuses of The Permeance.

 

Zoe enters. She is wearing a weird robe matching her father’s.

 

ZOE

 

The lights are out all over campus. Good thing you lit a fire, Daddy.

 

LeGRAND

 

You’re nearly late.

 

ZOE

 

It’s called ‘on time,’ Daddy dear. Blame Steven here for distracting me so I couldn’t get my work done.

(Turns to Steve.)

 

Incidentally, weren’t you just leaving?

 

STEVE

 

I don’t know –- was I?

 

ZOE

 

One mustn’t let our nubile Kim get bored -— right, Darling? Although I’m sure she’s frequently bored, working for you. Pun intended.

 

STEVE

 

Don’t worry; I’m outta here.

 

LeGRAND

(To Steve)

 

A word first.

 

STEVE

(impatient)

 

What’s on your mind, Bruno?

 

LeGRAND

 

Zoe and I cannot be disturbed during our… experiment. However, you must summon us no later than twenty-nine minutes hence.

 

STEVE

(Derisive)

 

Hence?

 

LeGRAND

 

Your levity has no place here, Steven. Twenty-nine minutes hence, our lives will literally be in danger, and in your hands.

 

STEVE

 

Why’s it such a matter of life and death, Bruno?

 

University carillon clock chimes twelve in the distance.

 

LeGRAND

 

You must summon Zoe and me exactly twenty-nine minutes after you close that door. Not one minute later, if you value our lives.

 

STEVE

 

So I’m kind of like the timekeeper?

 

LeGRAND

 

There is no more time. You must swear to summon us in precisely twenty-nine minutes, or our quest will go terribly awry. Swear it.

 

STEVE

(Flippantly makes scouting salute)

 

Scout’s honor.

 

Steve turns his hand around to exhibit the universal gesture with his middle finger to Zoe.

 

You too, Zoe.

 

He exits through one of the mirrored doors. Zoe and LeGrand stare at one another for a count of five.

 

LeGRAND

 

You’re married to a fool, my daughter.

 

ZOE

 

That’s easily remedied. Shall we commence, father?

 

LeGRAND

 

Indeed.

 

The two of them simultaneously throw off their robes, standing and facing the mirror nude.

 

LeGrand and Zoe focus intently into the mirror, deep in concentration.

 

INT. BANFIELD MANSION CORRIDOR.

 

Steve hurries through the mansion to rejoin KIM, who is staring trancelike at a city map. She has lit several candles because of the power outage.

 

KIM

(Excited)

 

I’m visualizing the bowling museum, just from mentally focusing on the street address you gave me.

 

STEVE

 

Sure you’ve never been to St. Louis?

 

KIM

 

Never in my entire life, Professor. I’m seeing it, truly seeing it, through my third eye. It’s a real breakthrough. Totally.

 

STEVE

(hands her pad and pen)

 

Here, draw what third eye of yours is seeing, Kim. Let your hand, the pen and the paper be extensions of your mind.

 

Kim draws frantically, eyes closed. The outline of a building takes shape. It’s the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO. Steve at his computer clicks on a photo. Although she can’t see the picture, it’s identical in every way to Kim’s drawing.

 

STEVE

(after she finishes)

 

Very good, Kim. In fact, quite phenomenal. You’re well on your way to completely mastering the LeGrand remote viewing technique.

 

KIM

 

Awesome! Give me another one, Professor. This is turning into the best Walpurgisnacht ever!

 

STEVE

 

All right. Let’s try Half Moon Hotel, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. November twelfth, nineteen forty-one.

 

Downloads another picture on his computer, this time a deteriorated urban setting where a man lies sprawled dead in the street. The caption says: ‘Death of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles.’)

 

Incidentally, that’s the third time I’ve heard the term ‘Walpurgisnacht’ mentioned this evening. Eerie coincidence?

 

KIM

(again drawing frantically)

 

Maybe. All things come to us in threes, we Wiccans say.

 

STEVE

 

So what is it, exactly? Walpurgisnacht, I mean.

 

KIM

 

Walpurgisnacht is a night when all the evil beings have full sway. That’s when us Wicca pagans have to be super careful.

 

As Kim draws, the figure of the dead man on the sidewalk begins to take shape. Her sketch is so accurate it could be a chalk outline for the real Reles in the crime-scene photo. Steve moves behind her to survey her work.

 

STEVE

 

Wicca pagans?

 

 

KIM

 

I’ve made a study of all world religions, and Wicca paganism is the oldest and most powerful.

 

(stops drawing)

 

How’d you hear about Walpurgisnacht?

 

STEVE

 

From Zoe and her father this evening.

 

KIM

 

Your wife is so cool, Professor Toddman.

 

STEVE

 

Isn’t she? I’m a truly fortunate man.

 

KIM

 

I’m already a Wiccan priestess in my own coven. I’d love to face to face with her about stuff like Walpurgisnacht.

 

STEVE

 

At the moment she’s face-to-face with Professor LeGrand; an experiment. Staring into mirrors or something.

 

KIM

(drops her pen and turns around in horror)

 

They can’t! Not tonight!

 

STEVE

 

Careful, Kim —- you’re losing concentration.

 

He approaches and puts his hand on her shoulder to steady her.

 

KIM

 

But don’t you see, two people focusing into a mirror at midnight on Walpurgisnacht invites in all the hooded spirits?

STEVE

 

Hooded spirits?

 

KIM

 

Calling all the evil dead back into the world. Especially if it’s done by two people who’re close. Even worse, if they’re both naked.

 

STEVE

 

Why would they be naked? They’re father and daughter!

 

KIM

 

Nudity adds power to any Wiccan spell. It’s how we commune with the elemental spirits of nature: no clothes. Spirits hate clothes.

 

Steve’s hand on Kim has an unintended effect on her. She turns and starts coming on to him.

 

KIM

 

In my coven, we’re always naked when we cast our spells. Completely nude.

 

STEVE

 

Completely nude? I must say I find the whole idea quite intriguing, Kim.

 

KIM

 

I thought you might. Beautiful young college coeds prancing around the bonfire naked. We’re not toasting marshmallows, either.

 

STEVE

 

I’m attempting to visualize it now.

 

KIM

(seductive)

 

You should join us, Professor. You’re in luck -- we’re auditioning candidates to be our coven’s new warlock.

 

STEVE

 

Let me think about it, after my divorce is final. Which shouldn’t be much longer -- if the elemental spirits are merciful.

 

KIM

(coy smile)

 

Cool. But I’m dead serious about Professor LeGrand’s experiment tonight. You ought to go and warn them, Steve. It’s hella-dangerous.

 

STEVE

(bemused)

 

Hella-dangerous?

 

KIM

 

I’m serious. It’s one of the most powerful black magic spells you can do. Ever hear of Aleister Crowley and his crowd? The Golden Dawn?

 

STEVE

 

British weirdos fooling around with the occult in the bad old days, weren’t they?

 

KIM

 

Boy howdy! And look what happened.

 

STEVE

 

What do you mean, ‘look what happened’?

 

KIM

 

I mean World War One. World War Two. Hitler himself was ‘way into the black arts.

 

STEVE

 

Has Bruno been filling your head with all his bullshit, by any chance?

 

KIM

 

Oh, I wouldn’t dare face to face with a legendary authority like Professor LeGrand personally. I find him more than a little scary.

 

STEVE

 

Yeah, Bruno’s a scary guy in many ways. A stinky guy, too.

 

KIM

(giggles, holding her nose)

 

I know what you mean.

 

STEVE

 

He abandoned all efforts at personal hygiene after the University banished him to this annex as punishment.

 

KIM

 

Punishment for what?

 

STEVE

 

For being ‘way into the black arts. Bruno went nuts; his fascination with the occult led to his complete mental breakdown.

 

KIM

 

We Wiccans call up the forces of nature and the spirit world. But my coven stays totally away from the black arts.

 

STEVE

 

Yeah, well, Bruno’s living proof what can happen to you, fooling around with those black arts.

 

KIM

 

How heavy’s he into them now?

 

STEVE

 

Over the years, at Department expense, Bruno has managed to amass an occult library that’s the envy of warlocks the world over.

 

KIM

 

Awesome!

STEVE

 

Not too many people know about it for insurance purposes, but it’s housed in this very building.

 

KIM

 

Oh, I’d love to see it. Could you show me, Steve?

 

STEVE

 

Sorry, Kim. It’s off-limits to undergraduates.

 

KIM

(seductive)

 

Are you sure? I’d be very grateful. And a Wiccan priestess knows special ways to show her gratitude to a man.

 

INT. BRUNO’S LIBRARYNIGHT

 

Two-story dark wood shelves hold a multitude of forbidding, heavy tomes. Two steep, tall ladders on tracks extend to the upper regions. Casement windows, suits of armor, and massive room dimensions make one think of a medieval castle.

 

Oblivious to their spooky surroundings, Steve and Kim embrace passionately, struggling to undo each other’s clothing. Kim takes a step backwards and reclines on a library table, offering herself to Steve. They undress and begin to make love.

 

Time passes. Suddenly the lights come on again. The University carillon strikes the half hour.

 

STEVE

(fumbling to look at his wristwatch; strikes it in frustration.)

 

Damn! My watch stopped.

 

KIM

(sarcastic but hurt)

 

I feel special.

 

STEVE

(frantic)

 

What time is it?

 

 

 

 

KIM

 

I dunno, about twelve-thirty or so, I guess. Why, you late for a hot date or something?

 

STEVE

(extricating himself from Kim’s post-coital embrace)

 

Worse.

 

Dressing frantically as he exits the library, Steve races downstairs.

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

STEVE’S VOICE (OS)

(shouting with alarm)

 

Zoe! Bruno! Zoe!

 

Zoe and LeGrand stand naked, side-by-side, staring vacant, heavy-lidded and entranced into the mirror. They appear to be deeply immersed in some form of ecstasy.

 

Without warning a large window of bone in each one’s forehead blows open like two striking cuckoo clocks, only instead of little birdies, twin geysers of blood and brain explode forth from their heads.

 

Steve throws open the door; blood and brain matter spatter against the mirrored walls and all over his white lab coat and anguished face.

 

Zoe and LeGrand’s bloodied bodies twitch and spasm violently as though electrocuted. Both fall backward, dead.

 

Steve screams and screams, utterly horrified by the bloody spectacle.

 

Lightning flash, peals of thunder as the lights go out again.

 

INT. FRED EFF’S STUDYNIGHT

 

The telephone rings. Fred is studying the compromising photos of Zoe by candlelight and listens to the answering machine, now on backup battery.

 

FRED’S RECORDED VOICE

(bored and monotonous)

 

“You’ve reached the law offices of Attorney Fred Eff. There’s no one here right now to take your call. Your legal problems are important to us and we do want to help, so please leave a message after the beep and someone will get back to you.”

 

Answering machine beeps.

 

STEVE (OS)

(frantic)

 

On the answering machine:

 

“Fred, are you there? Something awful has happened. Pick up if you’re there. Are you there, Fred? It’s horrible. Fred, you gotta —-”

 

Answering machine beeps to cut Steve off.

 

Fred resumes viewing the printed photos of Zoe until Janet enters the door of his study clad in her nightgown and carrying a candelabrum. He frantically slips the set of printed photos into a drawer. Janet speaks with the hint of an Irish brogue.

 

JANET

 

Fred! Thank God you’re awake!

 

(suddenly suspicious)

 

Whatever are you doing up at this unholy hour? And in this storm?

 

FRED

 

Going over some evidence. Why?

 

Janet

 

Why? Did you not hear Professor Steve’s call just now? You must have sensed the anguish in the poor tortured man’s voice.

 

FRED

 

He knows I’ve got office hours.

 

JANET

 

It’s a blessing I picked up the phone when I did … There’s been a tragedy, Fred.

 

FRED

 

What do you mean, ‘a tragedy’?

 

 

 

JANET

 

I mean Steve’s dear wife Zoe and her father Bruno LeGrand have met their deaths this very hour, under horrible circumstances.

 

FRED

 

Zoe dead? Where? How?

 

JANET

 

At the Annex. Steve’s nearly incoherent. Apparently they’d been conducting some research that went wrong. Steve blames himself.

 

FRED

 

Is he still on the phone?

 

JANET

 

I told him you’d be there immediately.

 

FRED

 

Thanks a whole lot. It’s after midnight, and the power’s out.

 

JANET

(reproving tone)

 

After all, Fred, he’s only your single oldest and dearest friend in the whole world.

 

FRED

 

Don’t remind me.

 

(starts putting on his coat)

 

The Annex – that’s that old spook house ‘way over on the old part of campus by all the trees, right?

 

JANET

 

The Banfield mansion, at the end of Purgatory Road.

 

FRED

 

How appropriate.

 

JANET

(Kisses Fred goodbye)

 

Mind that you don’t run over any inebriated college students on your way, Fred.

 

FRED

 

Oh, you’re going with me. You can ride shotgun and watch out for any drunks yourself. You’ve invited us both to this party, my dear.

 

JANET

 

But Fred, I’m in my nightclothes!

 

FRED

 

I’ll wait.

 

JANET

 

And the children –-

 

FRED

 

They’re all asleep. And Aoife’s nearly sixteen. They’ll be all right.

 

JANET

 

What conceivable help could I be?

 

FRED

 

I’m going to need a good forensic psychiatrist tonight. And you, my dear, happen to be the very best. Now hurry and get ready.

 

Janet exits. Fred’s computer begins booting up even though the electricity is still out. Zoe’s picture appears like a screen-saver.

 

INSERTVOLUME INDICATOR

 

Green volume bars activate on Fred’s computer monitor, modulating like speech.

 

Fred fumbles for the headset, pulls it over his head.

 

FRED

 

Who’s there? Zoe? Is that you?

 

ZOE (on mic)

(otherworldly, like a spirit medium)

 

Same time tomorrow night, Fred. The game will go on.

 

(unearthly laugh)

 

INSERTEXTREME CLOSEUP OF PHOTO ON MONITOR

 

Zoe’s face in the photo wears what now seems an eerie “come-hither” expression.

 

EXT. BANFIELD MANSIONNIGHT

 

A late-model Lincoln Navigator makes its way up the winding drive to the front door of the mansion. Fred is driving; Janet, hastily assembled for the trip, rides beside him.

 

INT. BANFIELD MANSION FOYER

 

A ponderous doorknocker sounds. Kim runs to answer it. Janet, protecting her hair from the heavy rain with a leather briefcase, dubiously regards Kim’s Goth attire and Wiccan pendant.

 

KIM

 

You’re his lawyer friend?

 

JANET

 

Merely his lawyer friend’s wife, I’m afraid. And you are?

 

KIM

 

I’m his research assistant, Kim.

 

JANET

(extends her hand)

 

Doctor Janet Daugherty, Kim. Bit late for research, isn’t it?

 

FRED (OS)

 

Could we continue the introductions sheltered from the inclement weather, ladies?

 

He slips in the door past Janet.

 

FRED

(playfully deferential)

 

Doctor Daugherty.

 

Fred shakes the rainwater from his umbrella.

 

FRED

(to Kim)

 

Kim, is it? I’m Fred Eff.

 

KIM

 

Fred F? Like one of those twelve-step programs where you only give an initial instead of a last name? I’m Kim B, then. B as in Burke.

 

FRED

 

No, Kim – my last name is Eff.

 

KIM

 

Oh. I didn’t know how lawyers worked.

 

FRED

 

Where’s Professor Steve?

 

KIM

 

I’ll take you to him; he’s really zoned.

 

FRED

 

I can imagine.

 

KIM

 

Can you?

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

Kim throws open the door. Janet enters first, then recoils in horror.

 

JANET

 

Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

 

Steve is kneeling over the bodies of Zoe and LeGrand murmuring incoherently.

 

Fred enters; Kim tries to follow.

 

FRED

 

Wait outside.

 

Kim exits.

 

FRED

 

Have you touched anything, Steve? Anything at all in this room?

 

STEVE

(disoriented)

 

Fred? I – I don’t know.

 

FRED

 

Have you called the police yet? Ambulance?

 

STEVE

 

Kinda late for the paramedics, don’t you think?

 

(Laughs immoderately)

 

FRED

 

And no cops?

 

STEVE

 

No cops. You were the only call I made.

 

FRED

 

Good. Let’s see about getting you cleaned up.

 

STEVE

 

Don’t you want to hear what happened, Fred?

 

FRED

(warily)

 

Do you want to tell me?

 

STEVE

 

I’m – not sure. Do I?

 

FRED

 

Do you even know what happened here tonight, Steve? Here in this room, I mean?

 

STEVE

(babbling)

 

I lost track of time. My watch was running slow and I lost track of time. By then it was too late. Too late to warn them. Too late --

 

FRED

 

All right, Steve. That’s enough. As your lawyer, my advice is to keep your mouth shut for now. You’re in shock.

 

INT. BANFIELD MANSION

 

Outside the mirrored room.

 

KIM

 

I never saw a real dead body before tonight, let alone two. How about you, Dr. Daugherty? You’ve probably seen loads of them.

 

JANET

 

Fewer than you might imagine, Kim. One never does get used to it.

 

KIM

 

What’s the worst one you’ve ever seen?

 

JANET

 

Emotionally? My poor dear mother. She died last year, quite suddenly, I’m afraid.

 

KIM

 

Bet you’ve never seen two bodies as messed up as the ones in there. Why’re their heads like that?

 

JANET

 

That’s for the medical examiner to determine.

 

 

KIM

(snorts)

 

Good luck.

INT. MIRRORED ROOM.

 

Steve and Fred silhouetted in front of the roaring fire.

 

STEVE

 

How am I going to explain all the blood on my clothes, Fred?

 

FRED

 

Simple. Take off that lab coat.

 

STEVE

(complies)

 

Here.

 

Fred wads up the bloody lab coat and tosses it into the fireplace where it is quickly consumed.

 

FRED

 

No explanation necessary. Now the shirt.

 

STEVE

 

Isn’t that destruction of evidence?

 

Fred

 

What evidence?

 

INT. OUTSIDE THE MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

JANET

 

What do you suppose went on in there tonight, Kim?

 

KIM

 

I told Steve to warn them. He didn’t listen. What a cowan!

 

JANET

 

Beg pardon?

 

KIM

 

A cowan. A mundane? A non-witch, sort of like an outsider.

 

 

 

JANET

 

You fancy yourself a witch, Kim? Is that it?

 

KIM

(proudly)

 

High Priestess of my own coven.

 

JANET

 

So I take it you profess some considerable knowledge of witchcraft, then?

 

KIM

 

Enough to avoid peering into a scrying mirror naked with a soul mate on Walpurgisnacht.

 

JANET

 

Indeed.

 

KIM

 

How about you, Dr. Daugherty. Are you into Wicca?

 

JANET

 

Heavens, no! I’m sure my parish priest would excommunicate me in a trice were I to get into Wicca.

 

KIM

 

What church you belong to?

 

JANET

 

St. Patrick’s. Roman Catholic.

 

KIM

 

Pee yew!

JANET

 

You Wiccan priestesses are something less than ecumenical, it appears.

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

 

 

FRED

 

You sure there are no firearms of any kind on the premises? No explosives? Nothing to cause this kind of damage?

 

STEVE

 

Nothing like that.

 

FRED

 

Prescription drugs? Illegal drugs or paraphernalia? Tell me now, because the police’ll search this place top to bottom.

 

STEVE

 

Not even an aspirin.

 

FRED

 

One more thing, Steve. You’re checking into a hospital, at least overnight. Janet’s orders.

 

STEVE

 

But why?

 

FRED

 

You don’t look so good. Plus, it puts you out of reach of the cops for a while, till we can figure all this out.

 

STEVE

 

No way! The Department head already wants me gone. I’ve worked too close with LeGrand over the years. They wish we’d both vanish.

 

FRED

 

Looks like they got half their wish tonight, with LeGrand. That leaves you.

 

STEVE

 

I’m non-tenured faculty. They want my head on a pike. All they need is an excuse to fit me for a ‘crazy’ t-shirt and I’m history.

FRED

 

Which t-shirt would you rather end up wearing? Crazy, or murderer?

 

STEVE

 

Murderer?

 

FRED

 

You’re divorcing Zoe. Your father-in-law wrecked his own career and yours with his crazy bullshit. Who’s got a better motive?

 

STEVE

(resigned)

 

Which way to admitting?

 

FRED

 

Attaboy. Now one more thing. Was Zoe using any kind of computer tonight?

 

STEVE

 

The one in her office. Why?

 

FRED

 

We’d better pack it up for safekeeping for now. I’ll review whatever’s on her hard drive. Make sure it’s non-incriminating.

 

STEVE

 

C’mon, I’ll show you where it is.

 

Fred and Steve carry Zoe’s monitor, CPU and related equipment to Fred’s car.

 

EXT. HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOMNIGHT

 

Steve enters, supported by Janet on one side and Kim on the other.

 

EXT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

Janet and her three daughters AOIFE, CAOIMHE and EIBHLIN walk through the churchyard cemetery, past ALMA DAUGHERTY’S well-tended grave. The daughters enter the church, leaving Janet at graveside.

 

 

INSERTALMA DAUGHERTY’S TOMBSTONE

 

There is a cameo photograph of Alma mounted on the simple stone above the inscription: Beloved Mother Alma Daugherty. 1924-2004.

 

Janet reverently places a bouquet near the grave, crosses herself and begins praying. When she finishes, she enters the church and ducks into a confessional.

 

JANET

(crossing herself once more)

 

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My last confession was three –- no, four days ago, Father.

 

PRIEST

 

Say all the sins that you remember since your last good confession.

 

In the sanctuary, the girls are jostling one another and giggling; the oldest shushes them. They genuflect and sit side-by-side in a front pew. Time passes.

 

JANET

 

I am heartily sorry for these and all the sins of my past life.

 

PRIEST

 

Say an Act of Contrition and three Hail Mary’s. Go and sin no more.

 

JANET

(hesitates)

 

Father, is it a sin to still feel the pangs of grief so deeply? After all, it’s been a whole year since my dear mother died.

 

PRIEST

 

It’s no sin to mourn her loss, child. I know you loved your mother very much. We all loved Alma.

 

JANET

 

Thoughts creep in. I fear she may have died with a mortal sin on her conscience. She expressed feelings of envy the day before she passed.

 

PRIEST

 

Christ is merciful.

 

JANET

 

Is her soul still in Purgatory, do you think, after all this time? And what can it be like for her there? These thoughts torment me.

 

PRIEST

 

You must pray for her, my daughter.

 

JANET

 

I need to know what her soul is going through in Purgatory. I need to know she’s not one of the damned.

 

PRIEST

 

We cannot truly know until we walk that road ourselves. But we will not walk it alone. Christ our Saviour will be walking beside us.

 

JANET

 

But what’s it like? And are we Catholics the only ones who still believe in Purgatory at all? I must know!

 

PRIEST

 

The Eastern Church believes in something closely akin to Purgatory. They call it the Toll Houses.

 

JANET

 

Toll Houses?

 

PRIEST

 

The Orthodox believe the newly departed soul must walk the way of the Toll Houses. The tollkeepers on that lonely road are demons.

 

JANET

 

Demons, Father?

PRIEST

 

Aye, wicked demons, crouching like wily predators for one last chance at us, one last temptation, to harry our poor souls down to Hell.

 

JANET

 

You don’t mean to be telling me we can still be tempted even after we’re dead, Father?

 

PRIEST

 

Sadly, yes. The soul weighted down with many sins is easy prey for the demon tollkeepers –- Lust, Pride, Wrath –- the whole wretched crew.

 

INT. FRED’S HOME OFFICEDAY

 

Fred is rigging Zoe’s computer CPU. He boots it up. A glamour shot of Zoe’s face appears as her screen saver. Fred dials up and puts on his headset.

 

FRED

 

Zoe? Zoe, are you there?

 

INT. CONFESSIONALDAY

 

JANET

 

What about the faithful? Are any tempted by the demons of the Toll Houses?

 

PRIEST

 

On our last journey we have only our prayers to deliver us from temptation. The demons who keep the Toll Houses are powerful indeed.

 

JANET

 

What does one say to these demons?

 

PRIEST

(suddenly intense)

 

Nothing! Not one word, my child. It is perilous to one’s immortal soul to bandy words with a demon.

 

INT. FRED’S HOME OFFICEDAY

 

FRED

 

Zoe? Can you hear me? It’s me, Fred. Zoe? Zoe? Are you there?

 

INT. CONFESSIONALDAY

 

JANET

 

Father... there’s something more. I think -- that is, I know, my husband’s been unfaithful.

 

PRIEST

 

I see.

 

JANET

 

But not in the traditional sense, Father.

 

PRIEST

 

What other sense is there?

 

JANET

 

Over the Internet, Father.

 

PRIEST

 

Ahhh.

 

JANET

 

He’s no good at covering his tracks. He’s been betraying me with a younger colleague of mine.

 

PRIEST

 

Have you confronted him? Asked him to stop it?

 

JANET

 

Oh, no, Father. It’s as though he wants to be caught, and I won’t allow him that quick release, that easy outpouring of contrition.

 

PRIEST

 

What, then? You intend to permit his flagrant adultery to continue?

JANET

(suddenly bitter)

 

Not for a moment. The woman is newly dead. She walks the way of the Toll Houses, full of her sins, and good enough for her, I say.

 

INT. FRED’S HOME OFFICEDAY

 

FRED

 

Zoe? It’s me, Fred. Can you hear me?

 

(to himself)

 

I must be nuts.

 

Fred begins to slip off the headset.

 

INSERTVOLUME INDICATOR

 

Green volume bars activate on Zoe’s computer monitor, modulating like speech.

 

Fred whips the headset back on.

 

ZOE (on mic)

(otherworldly, like a spirit medium)

 

Fred. Darling Fred. Have you missed me, my heart’s desire?

 

FRED

 

How can you be talking to me like this, Zoe? You’re dead.

 

ZOE

 

Soon we’ll truly be together. We’ll make mad passionate love, in one another’s arms at last.

 

FRED

 

I stood over your corpse last night. I stood there and watched while the coroner’s crew hauled your dead body off to the morgue.

 

ZOE

 

I know. I saw you there. Was that a tiny tear in your eye, Fred, as they drew the sheet up over my shattered, lifeless face?

FRED

 

Unbelievable! This can’t be happening!

 

ZOE

 

Oh, but it is, Fred my Darling. I’m coming home to you this very afternoon. Then we’ll be together as one. Forever.

 

(another unearthly laugh)

 

INT. CONFESSIONALDAY

 

Zoe’s laughter echoes. Janet is seized with a paroxysm of agony that bows her back, transforms her face into a rictus of pain and makes her eyes roll up into her head.

 

PRIEST

 

Are you all right, my child? Shall I summon a doctor?

 

Janet’s semitransparent spirit rises and hovers weightlessly over her body, which unfolds like a waking vampire bat. A cruel and cunning expression forms on ‘Janet’s’ face, her body now possessed by Zoe.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

I am a doctor, Padre. Molest any good altar boys lately?

 

Janet/Zoe stalks out of the confessional and past the three girls seated in the front pew.

 

JANET/ZOE

(to the eldest)

 

Got your learner’s permit yet?

 

AOIFE

 

You know I do, Mother.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Good. You drive. Let’s haul ass out of this morbid dump.

 

AOIFE

 

Aren’t we staying for Mass?

 

 

JANET/ZOE

 

No time. Got a date to blow your father.

 

The three girls react with shock at Janet/Zoe’s language.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Blow his mind, that is. Or what’s left of it.

 

EXT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

Janet/Zoe hurries the girls through the cemetery toward the parking lot. Janet/Zoe roughly kicks the bouquet off Alma’s grave and steps on it. All four pile into the car.

 

INT./EXT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

Janet (her disembodied soul, to be precise) drifts toward the side exit door of the church and opens it. At that moment, LADY L swings a huge maul that strikes the door, missing Janet’s face by millimeters.

 

EXT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

Lady L wears a pink hardhat and dirty bib overalls. Her armpit hair is visible when she swings the maul. An “L” appliqué on her hardhat represents her moniker.

 

LADY L

 

Jeekers Crikes. I guldamn near knocked your head clean off, you dizzy bitch!

 

JANET

 

What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?

 

LADY L

 

Don’t you use your swear words at me, Missy. I got the contract to wreck this here condemned building by end a’ next week.

 

JANET

 

For your information, this building is not condemned. This building is a church. My church. Let me see that contract of yours.

 

 

LADY L

 

Ain’t got time to show it to you or any other nimmy-nosed bitches. My girls and me gotta work our tits off if we’re gonna finish this job.

 

JANET

 

Then let me tell you how I intend to spend my time, Madam. I intend to go back into my church and place an emergency telephone call to the police. After that I shall telephone the local building inspector, who will undoubtedly revoke your contractor’s license on the spot, if indeed you even have one. I will then contact my husband, who as a prominent local attorney will file a lawsuit seeking damages more than adequate to bankrupt your pathetic company.

 

Janet turns to re-enter the church. Lady L slams the maul handle across the doorway, barring her passage.

 

LADY L

 

Hold on there, Missy. Whatsamatta, you don’t believe in equal opportunity? It bug you I got the only all-girl crew in the city?

 

JANET

 

Stand aside or I’ll –-

 

LADY L

 

Or you’ll what? Ain’t it enough I gotta fight the unions, the city, the banks and the EPA without catching shit from a sister?

 

JANET

 

I’m not your sister.

 

LADY L

 

Shame on you, girl! Listen, us bitches better stick together, or they’ll stick it to us.

 

Janet attempts to pass but Lady L blocks the door holding the maul. The two women struggle. Janet is no match for Lady L’s strength.

 

LADY L

(panting from exertion)

 

What say me and you get a few things straight here, ok, Janet? ‘Cause you ain’t gonna get back in there nohow.

 

JANET

 

H –- how do you know my name?

 

LADY L

(familiar)

 

I been knowin’ you all your life, Dr. Janet Daugherty. Even before you was fencin’ champ a’ Northern Ireland as a girl, I been on you.

 

JANET

 

You might have read that in an old newspaper.

 

LADY L

 

You sure made mincemeat out of that older boy. Had to pretend to be a boy yourself to compete in that champeenship match at all.

 

JANET

 

You could have learned that in any number of ways. And now I’ll thank you to allow me back inside my church.

 

LADY L

 

Mize well get used to it, Janet. Church ain’t gonna help you none. You’re dead, girl. Plum dead. You’re slated for demolition.

 

Lady L throws her head back and laughs. Her teeth are filed sharp as a shark’s; there are three rows of them in her mouth.

 

JANET

 

I don’t believe you. You’re lying. And don’t you threaten me!

 

Lady L brandishes the maul handle like a toy sword, laying the end of it gently aside Janet’s cheek.

 

LADY L

 

Remember how you used to practice your Irish ass off, fencing? You still work out with the sword three, four times a week, right?

 

JANET

 

When I have the time, yes.

 

LADY L

 

Whaddya gonna do now, Janet? Run me through with a fencing foil? Gotta face facts here: you’re dead, girl. Touché. Match over.

 

JANET

 

Twaddle! I’ve never felt so alive.

 

LADY L

 

Watch who you callin’ a twat!

 

JANET

 

No, I –-

 

LADY L

 

I ain’t the one had my body carjacked out from under me. An’ yours was one tight little bod, for your age.

 

JANET

 

What are you talking about?

 

LADY L

 

Hell, I’d do you myself. Truck’s right over there. I’ll furnish all the necessary tools.

 

(her voice changes, becomes unearthly deep)

 

Whattaya say, Janet? Wanna get it on?

 

Lady L points a polished fingernail to a growing bulge in the crotch of her overalls.

JANET

 

Come any closer and I’ll scream.

 

LADY L

(advances toward Janet; normal voice)

 

No one to hear you now ‘cept my girls and me. All three of us like the ladies, though we did make one exception. For your priest.

 

(laughs demonically)

 

JANET

 

Who are you?

 

LADY L

 

What’s in a name? Personally, I crave my privacy. Trading names brings on a lot of games. I’m no game-player.

 

JANET

 

I think you’re a demon. One of the demons who watch over the Toll Houses.

 

LADY L

 

I like to think I’m a demon with a pickaxe or a wrecking bar. Some say I’m a demon in bed. But what you call a demon demon? Get real, girl.

JANET

 

Then who or what are you?

 

LADY L

 

Call me ‘Lady L.’ Lovely to look at. Lucky in love. Or just ‘Venus’ would be fine. Rhymes with ‘penis.’

 

Lady L makes a crude vagina “V” with index and middle fingers, draws her opposite index finger back and forth between them, and leers at Janet.

 

LADY L

 

Still time.

 

 

JANET

(flustered)

 

Forget it. I’m a married woman and you just…  forget it.

 

LADY L

 

Suit yourself. Change your mind, you know how to whistle.

 

Lady L whistles through two fingers, summoning two other female construction workers: TEENSY and EASY, wearing pink hard hats, one with a “T”, the other with an “E.” Teensy has to weigh herself on a truck scale; Easy is lazy as black strap molasses.

 

LADY L

 

Janet, meet Teensy and Easy. Teensy, I guess the reason for the moniker is obvious.

 

TEENSY

(brushing dust off her hands from running a router; extends a handshake that Janet refuses)

 

How’s it goin’, Janet?

 

LADY L

 

Easy, because she’s easily the laziest white woman in the building trades. Likes to set on her ass all the time.

 

EASY

 

‘Specially when I get paid for it.

 

TEENSY

 

How’s it feel to be dead, Janet honey?

 

JANET

 

How’s it feel to be cast out of Heaven, demon? Your true name wouldn’t happen to be Gluttony, by any slim chance?

 

EASY

 

Ooh, girl, she got you good.

 

TEENSY

 

I’m a BBW with a big rack —- the kind men like —- and a big appetite to match, for food and for all things male and female.

 

LADY L

 

Ever had a big one, Janet? I mean a really big one? What about a four-way hump with three other hot, sexy women?

 

JANET

 

Lord Jesus Christ, save me!

 

LADY L

(flinches momentarily, then recovers)

 

He can’t hear you ‘way down here. Plus, He never said a word against lesbians, ever. It was that raging homophobe Paul bad-mouthing us.

 

JANET

 

Don’t you blaspheme against Holy Scripture, demon!

 

LADY L

 

Have it your way. Religion and politics sure can screw up romance.

 

JANET

 

And what about Leviticus? God’s law condemns a woman lying with another woman, and sentences the sinners to death by stoning.

 

TEENSY

 

I used to have to be stoned before I’d go for that kind of action. Not no more, though.

 

LADY L

(to Janet)

 

That same law deals out the death penalty for penny-ante crimes like cursing your parents or working on Saturday.

 

TEENSY

 

Even for time-and-a-half?

 

LADY L

(flipping her off)

 

I got your time-and-a-half right here. Besides, Janet’s wrong. Nowhere in the Old Testament is there even one word against lesbians.

 

EASY

 

Hallelujah sisters!

 

LADY L

 

If God was anti-lesbian, He’d have said so in his nit-picking law that’s so loaded with stuff like how to wash up after a wet dream.

 

JANET

 

I won’t listen to any more of your blasphemy!

 

LADY L

 

See what you’ve been missing all these years, Janet, and over nothing?

 

JANET

 

This is one of the Toll Houses, isn’t it? I’m really dead, aren’t I, and this is the first of the Toll Houses?

 

TEENSY

 

Mmmm, Toll House sounds good. I like their cookies.

 

EASY

(filing her nails to a point)

 

You like everybody’s cookies.

 

LADY L

(creepy voice again)

 

I’ve always been at your left elbow, Janet, peering over your shoulder, breathing at your jugular vein all your life.

 

JANET

 

No! It can’t be true!

 

LADY L

(normal voice)

 

I was there last night in the dark when you decided to go ahead and enjoy ye olde sixty-nine with hubby and you thought nobody was looking.

 

JANET

 

Oh, my God!

 

LADY L

 

Forget to confess that little naughty-naughty, Dear? Your own Saint Thomas Aquinas says what you two kids did was a mortal sin.

 

JANET

 

I –- may have simply forgotten.

 

LADY L

 

Don’t say much for Fred’s bedroom skills, does it? But imagine that: an unconfessed mortal sin. I’ve got you, Darling. You’re hellbound.

 

JANET

 

You’re lying! Such a thing is not possible.

 

LADY L

 

I always knew the Big L would be your downfall, Janet. Lust was an electric eel between your legs, lapping you and zapping you.

 

JANET

 

There is no sin in having a normal human sex drive.

 

 

 

LADY L

 

Maybe not, but you’ve also entertained impure fantasies about the ladies now and then, don’t try and deny it.

 

JANET

 

Impure fantasies? What impure fantasies?

 

LADY L

 

Thought you’d never ask.

 

Lady L takes a black book from the back pocket of her overalls and flips through its pages until she finds her place.

 

LADY L

(rapidly)

 

July twenty-fourth, nineteen seventy-one you watched Siobhan Brody slip off her underpants in the locker room after fencing practice and whispered to Mary Riggs that you, quote, wondered what her pussy would taste like, unquote.

 

TEENSY

 

Hoo-wee, Janet!

 

EASY

 

Out of the mouths of babes.

 

LADY L

 

Shame on you, Janet. And on Saint Christina the Astonishing’s Day. They say Astonishing could actually smell the sin in people.

 

EASY

 

No! She could smell their sin?

 

LADY L

 

Yeah, word is she’d climb up the sides of buildings like a human fly, even levitate when the stink got really awful.

 

(to Janet)

 

Isn’t that a beautiful legend? Your church puts those out like shit through a tin horn.

 

JANET

 

Stop blaspheming the church. The

sin you mentioned, if indeed it happened at all, was committed in the innocence of my youth.

 

LADY L

 

There’s whole porticoes of Hell devoted to innocent youths, Janet. Why, there’s even a nursery for the unbaptized and the aborted.

 

JANET

 

Liar!

 

LADY L

 

It’s one of our fastest-growing service areas. Just ask your parish priest.

 

(waves the notebook)

 

And there’s more. Anybody curious?

 

EASY

 

I am! I am!

 

TEENSY

 

Ooh, Janet, you naughty girl you!

 

LADY L

(even more rapidly)

 

October 18, Yearofourlord two thousand two, you and one Zoe LeGrand Toddman —- you do remember Zoe, don’t you, Janet?

 

JANET

 

Yes. She’s dead.

 

LADY L

 

Is she? Awwww. Hope it ain’t too late to send flowers.

 

(reads on)

 

You and Zoe accompanied one another to the ladies’ room at the annual Psychology Department awards dinner.

 

Teensy quacks out an enormous fart. She inverts her thumb on top of her head.

 

TEENSY

 

Safety.

 

EASY

 

Peew! Hope that ain’t sin I’m smellin’.

 

LADY L

 

As you held the door for her, her port boob brushed up against your starboard one, shall we say less than accidentally on her part?

 

TEENSY

 

Two love boats passing in the night. I’m getting wet, girls.

 

LADY L

 

All the rest of the evening she shot you oh-so-meaningful glances. By the time the two of you shared a per, per …

 

EASY

 

Perfunctory?

 

LADY L

 

Knew it had to be some kind of funk.

 

(reads again)

 

Per-funk-tory embrace at evening’s end, you fantasized what it would be like to unpeel her bra and suck the sweat off her breasts.

 

TEENSY

 

Relax, Janet. We’ve all been there.

LADY L

 

But see, here’s the problem, girls: Janet never bothered to confess that one, either.

 

Lady L makes a sound like a quiz-show disqualification buzzer. Catcalls erupt from the other two.

 

LADY L

(to Janet)

 

Hey, don’t blame me; I’m not one to judge anybody. It’s your hoity-toity church sending you straight to Hell. Unless…

 

JANET

 

Unless what?

 

INT. HOSPITAL MORGUEDAY

 

A pathologist in scrubs flips on fluorescent lights and throws off the sheet from a guttered stainless steel autopsy platform where Zoe’s body lies. LeGrand’s body is on a nearby cart.

The pathologist dictates into a suspended microphone as he works.

 

PATHOLOGIST

(in an even, professional tone)

 

Body is that of a well-developed, well-nourished female who appears less than her stated age of thirty-seven years. Extensive head trauma.

 

(bends forward with a penlight)

 

Cranium is almost completely evacuated. Frontal bones of the skull and associated tissues ruptured outward, cause unknown.

 

Morgue doors open. Steve enters, dressed only in a hospital gown.

 

STEVE

(sees Zoe’s body)

 

Omigod!

 

PATHOLOGIST

 

Sir, you’ll have to leave. This is a restricted area.

 

STEVE

 

I’m her husband. That is, I was her husband. When she was alive, I mean. We were divorcing, but I was still her husband. Until she died.

 

PATHOLOGIST

(pressing an intercom button)

 

Security. This is Dr. Handelman in the morgue. We have a situation here. Code Orlac.

 

STEVE

(emotionally overwrought)

 

You’re a doctor. Who or what could do this to a human body?

 

PATHOLOGIST

 

Sir –-

 

STEVE

(raving out of control)

 

You don’t know, do you? You have absolutely no idea. Well? What’s your expert opinion, Doctor? Go on, tell me, goddammit!

 

PATHOLOGIST

 

Sir, I’m afraid you’ll really have to leave now. Security has already been notified.

 

STEVE

 

You cut up dead bodies every day. In your entire career, I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything like this before, have you? Have you?

 

EXT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

LADY L

 

Unless you help us get our hands on Zoe and her dad.

 

TEENSY

 

It’s the Chief, see? The Chief wants Zoe and LeGrand bad, ever since they pulled this latest stunt of theirs.

EASY

 

Come join us, Janet. You’ll get your own personal stay-out-of-Hell-free card, and ransom your lovely body in the bargain.

 

TEENSY

 

Better make up your mind fast, Janet.

 

JANET

 

How do you know I wouldn’t be a double agent?

 

LADY L

 

Guess we’d just have to trust you, Babe. Deal?

 

JANET

 

How do I know you’d follow through with your end of the bargain? Isn’t your Chief notorious for reneging on his pacts?

 

LADY L

 

Guess you’d just have to trust us, Janet.

 

TEENSY

 

You don’t wanna go to Hell over them piddly-assed sins of yours, do you, Janet?

 

LADY L

 

Don’t listen to her, Janet. I’m gonna be straight with you: Hell is a myth.

 

The other two demons exchange incredulous looks.

 

JANET

 

Oh, come on. Pull the other one; it’s got a bell on it.

 

LADY L

 

Death is nature’s recycling program. Is that such a surprise? Nature recycles consciousness same as everything else.

 

JANET

 

Recycled consciousness?

 

LADY L

 

It’s true.

 

  JANET

 

There’s a novel theory.

 

LADY L

 

Consciousness is pure energy. Who’d waste all that precious energy on eternal torment? Nobody. That’s why Hell is so much medieval bullshit.

 

JANET

 

Then what advantage is there for me in joining you?

 

LADY L

 

You wanna get your sexy body back, dontcha?

 

JANET

 

Go on.

 

LADY L

 

Look at my girls and me like white blood cells in whatcha call an organic sense, ok?

 

JANET

 

If you say so.

 

LADY L

 

Every so often, assholes like Zoë and LeGrand come along and threaten the whole order a’ things. That’s when me and my crew go to work.

 

JANET

 

And if, as you say, Hell is a myth, then where do Zoë and LeGrand find themselves once your work is done? What happens to their souls?

 

LADY L

 

I’m gonna answer you this way, Janet, and you tell me if I’m wrong: who in the fuck cares?

 

EASY

 

Look!

 

Janet/Zoe, her dark sneer callous and cold, a slack face, comfortable with the sufferings of others, exits the church carrying Janet’s purse. The girls lead the way, owl-eyed and insecure.

 

EASY

 

You want that bitch to wear you until she wear you out? Girl, she fixin’ to ease on home and get her damn self busy with your husband.

 

TEENSY

 

Easy’s right. You better pull your finger outta your ass, Janet.

 

LADY L

 

Well, Janet? What’s it gonna be?

 

JANET

 

Go straight to Hell, all of you.

 

LADY L

(voice deeper and more menacing than ever)

 

You heard her, girls.

 

The three demons encircle Janet. Lady L and Easy grab her arms and force her down onto the pickup truck bed. Teensy brandishes the big router. She starts it: an enormous drill bit whines and spins, throwing off dust and smoke.

 

TEENSY

 

I’ll bet you never had a really big one up inside you, did you, Janet? I mean a really big one.

 

Teensy moves the drill bit ever closer to Janet’s vagina. Janet utters a bloodcurdling scream as the drill bit hits home.

 

INT. FRED’S HOME OFFICEDAY

 

Fred, still wearing his headset, looks at Zoe’s amateur soft-core porn. Janet/Zoe bursts in. She ignores the porn and gives Fred a long, passionate kiss. The three girls retreat to their rooms.

 

FRED

 

Church must agree with you.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

One must keep up appearances. You ask me, it’s a fucking waste of time. Speaking of fucking …

 

INT. AOIFE’S ROOMDAY

 

Aoife cringes to hear the unfamiliar sounds of rowdy afternoon sex in her parents’ bedroom. Janet/Zoe, overbalancing Fred, moans heedless cadenzas of climax OS. Aoife turns on her stereo and pumps up the volume in a futile attempt to drown out the noise.

 

INT. MASTER BEDROOMDAY

 

Fred and Janet embrace on the unkempt bedding. Janet/Zoe pounds on the mattress.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Let’s get rip-roaring drunk tonight, you and me. What do you say, Freddy boy?

 

FRED

 

I’d say you don’t drink. You always called it The Irish Disease.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Where’s the best place in town to get stool-hugging drunk? I’ll bet you know ‘em all, don’t you, you sly dog? Every last one of them.

 

INT. AU BARTWILIGHT

 

Fred and Janet/Zoe look out of place as dinosaurs in the college bar, but Janet/Zoe is unfazed. Students are lined up like animals at Noah’s Ark behind the greeter as he checks ID’s and collects cover.

 

JANET/ZOE

(shouting over the din)

 

You’re charging a double sawbuck cover to hear some fucking garage band?

 

GREETER

 

The cover charge entitles you to unlimited complimentary drinks until ten PM, Ma’am.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

You’re gonna lose your ass on me tonight, Garçon. Fred, pay the man.

 

Janet/Zoe urges a reluctant Fred to dance, grinding her pelvis into his, showing off one sexy move after another, to the noisy acclaim of the crowd. Fred pulls away, dragging her toward the bar. They sit; a handmade sign on the mirror advertises Irish Car Bombs.

 

JANET/ZOE

(signaling the bartender)

 

Gimme an Irish Car Bomb, and don’t skimp on the Jameson’s.

 

Fred surveys her with a look of newfound approbation. The bartender mixes the components, then rings a bell just before dropping the brimful shot glass into the pint. The crowd shouts: drink, drink, drink! Janet/Zoe chugs it, slams down the mug.

 

A DRUNK

 

Watch your teeth, lady!

 

JANET/ZOE

 

A lady always minds her teeth, Dear.

 

Crowd roars its approval.

 

JANET/ZOE

(to bartender)

 

What’s your name, Stud?

 

BARTENDER

 

Jason, Ma’am.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Keep ‘em coming, Jason. They taste like chocolate soda.

 

JASON

 

You sure, Ma’am? These dudes are super potent.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

That’s how I like my dudes, Jason: super potent.

 

MONTAGE -- Janet/Zoe downs six more Irish Car Bombs. She rings the bell herself before chugging the last one. She nudges Fred to dance with her. He declines. An Adonis in a plum tank top and skin-tight jeans showing off a camel hump ambles by.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Hey you in the purple wife-beater! Yeah, you! Wanna dance?

 

ALLEN LARK

(in a heavy Australian accent)

 

No worries, Sheila.

 

They dance suggestively; Janet/Zoe is the aggressor, but the young man is anything but resisting her. Fred starts drinking in earnest.

 

FRED

 

You know that guy, Jason?

 

JASON

 

Watch out for him. That’s Allen Lark. A true SMOC.

 

FRED

 

Schmuck?

 

JASON

 

SMOC. (Spells it out) Stud muffin on campus. He’s some kind of top-rated mountain-climber. Australian, or Kiwi, maybe.

 

FRED

 

Double Jack over ice, Jason. And don’t wander off.

 

JASON

(pours the drink)

 

I’d watch my lady, if I were you.  Unless you want Allen Lark rappelling down her rack. That’s the only mountin’ I’d worry about.

 

Somebody needs to turn the hose on Janet/Zoe and Allen Lark by this time. They look about ready to get a room. Fred slugs down another double.

 

INT. JANET AND FRED’S BEDROOMNIGHT

 

Janet awakes with a start, as though from a nightmare. Her head is under the covers. She throws them off and sits up in bed.

 

JANET

 

Fred? Aoife? Girls? Where is everybody?

 

The TV spontaneously turns itself on. Shocked, Janet turns to see.

 

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR (OS):

 

And finally, we have received late word of the untimely death of noted forensic psychiatrist Janet Daugherty.

 

JANET

 

No! It can’t be!

 

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR

 

An authority on sex crimes, she was a frequent guest commentator on this network and will be missed. She was forty-four.

 

JANET

 

But I’m not dead. I’m right here!

 

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR

(patting her Valley of the Dolls hair helmet)

 

Of course you’re dead, Janet. But we’re all proud to have had the privilege of working with a distinguished woman like you.

 

JANET

(aghast)

 

You can hear me?

 

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR

 

Our family of viewers will always remember you, Janet: you were famous. And TV people are famous forever. Who can ever forget Jessica Savitch? Doodles Weaver? Lumpy Brannon?

 

JANET

 

You bitch! Who the hell do you think you are?

 

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR

 

With all the late-breaking stories, I’m Vanity Superbia and I’ll return after a short break with a look back on the life of Janet Daugherty: mother, scholar, friend.

 

Vanity wipes away a fake tear, then flashes a winning smile for the camera. She speaks sweetly to a technician:

 

VANITY

 

Are we off, Jerry? Good.

 

Vanity focuses all her rage on Janet.

 

VANITY

 

Don’t you ever diss me on my own show, goddammit! Give me my proper respect or take a hike. TV shrinks are a dime a dozen.

 

JANET

 

Look, Vanity –-

 

VANITY

 

I’m the host

 

JANET

 

Whoever you are, you’ve got the story all wrong. I’m alive. How can I be dead? I’m right here talking to you.

 

VANITY

(bored, studying a script)

 

Most of the folks I talk to are dead. They just haven’t heard the news.

 

Exasperated, Janet stalks out of the bedroom and down the stairs. Invisible to her, Lady L and the others wait like vampires on the landing and at the foot of the stair.

 

In the kitchen, a small TV comes alive with Vanity’s image. Janet screams.

 

VANITY

(wagging an index finger)

 

Ah ah ah. Don’t want to miss that exclusive retrospective, do you?

 

Hair and makeup people work slavishly over Vanity at pit stop speed during the break. Janet bolts, but Vanity’s voice echoes after her throughout the house, coming through every television every stereo and every computer. Her voice permeates the house.

 

INT. LIVING ROOMNIGHT

 

Janet crawls onto a sofa and draws her legs up, hugging a pillow. The plasma TV on the wall refuses to shut off, even when she pounds on the remote.

 

VANITY (OS)

(in an eerily supernatural, seductive voice)

 

Believe only in yourself, Janet. Stop fighting and join us. We’ve all been waiting for you. For a long, long time.

 

JANET

(covering her ears with the pillow)

 

I won’t join you. I’ve already refused the others. You’re demons, all of you. Evil liars. I won’t listen!

 

Mournful bagpipes begin a rendition of Amazing Grace. A montage of newsreel clips, B&W mixed with color, of varying quality and condition, plays on the TV screen.

VANITY (VO)

 

Known as the Dr. Joyce Brothers of forensic psychiatry, Janet Daugherty, who died today, leaves behind a distinguished legacy.

 

Intrigued, Janet begins to listen.

 

VANITY (VO)

 

Never content with traditional feminine pursuits, Daugherty began redefining the role of women in athletics at an early age.

 

Grainy B&W gymnasium footage of a fencing competition in Northern Ireland. Janet at fifteen, triumphant in the boys’ championship match at Ulster, ripping off her mask and unfurling her long hair to the astonishment of the crowd. She’s a girl!

 

VANITY (VO)

 

While still a teen, Janet and family fled to the U.S. from war-torn Northern Ireland. Academic distinctions soon followed.

 

INSERTPICTURE

 

Senior portrait photo of Janet, her hair styled in a disco shag. Disco music plays.

 

VANITY (VO)

 

Janet graduated summa cum laude from prestigious University of Chicago Medical School.

 

INSERT. Chicago skyline.

 

In the background, a thirties-vintage recording of Chicago.

 

VANITY (VO)

 

It was in the Windy City where she met and later married her husband, Attorney Fred Eff, who survives her along with their three daughters, Eve, Elaine and Camille.

 

JANET

 

You’ve got the girls’ names wrong.

 

VANITY

(impatient aside to Janet)

 

Ask me if our viewers care.

 

(resuming the TV obit)

 

Daugherty first made her mark on the world stage of forensic psychiatry by profiling serial killer Ted Bundy.

 

JANET

 

I was only a student at the time. No one would listen.

 

VANITY

 

Her incisive consultations with law enforcement authorities resulted in Bundy’s early apprehension and prevented scores of murders.

 

JANET

 

I never did that.

 

VANITY

 

But you could have, Janet. In your own mind, you had Bundy profiled, and in the end your impressions proved totally accurate.

 

JANET

 

But no one listened!

 

VANITY

 

Men. What can I say? You can’t tell them anything. Men have always held you back, Janet, or tried to. Held you back and let you down.

 

JANET

 

I don’t think that’s fair; certain men in my life have fulfilled me. Fred, for instance.

 

VANITY

 

Ah, Fred! Let’s talk about Fred. What’s wrong with this picture, Janet?

 

TV screen fills with a video closeup of Fred’s face, in the throes of near-orgasm. He pants and sweats, mouth half-open, eyes half-closed. His mouth-breathing grows quicker and shallower.

 

FRED

 

Zoe! Oh, Zoe!

 

JANET

(shielding her eyes and shaking her head)

 

Stop it!

 

VANITY

 

That’s right. Fred was busy getting his nuts off looking at nudie pictures of Zoe —- filthy pictures he’d kept hidden from you.

 

JANET

 

You’re a liar!

 

VANITY

 

Am I? These candid videos of Fred were taken today, on the very day you died, Janet. How fulfilled do you feel now by men’s attentions?

 

JANET

 

It’s her tempting him.

 

VANITY

 

Bingo. So why not do something about it, Janet? Join us and kick that bitch out of your body and into Hell where she belongs?

 

JANET

 

I’ll never join you. You’re the demon Pride, aren’t you?

 

 

VANITY

(pretending to ignore Janet’s revelation)

 

Your life review shows you’re no quitter. You don’t take things lying down. What gives?

 

JANET

 

This is another of the Toll Houses, disguised as our home. I’ll give you credit -- your set dressers have it almost perfect.

 

VANITY

 

What do you mean, almost perfect?

 

JANET

 

Our bed’s unmade.

 

VANITY

(wicked laugh)

 

Blame Fred. Fred and Zoe both enjoyed your body in your bed this very day.

 

JANET

 

I don’t believe you.

 

VANITY

 

It’s true. Zoe and Fred, in your own bed, while the children listened, and semen glistened. So you see, everything is perfect.

 

JANET

 

Go back to Hell, demon Pride.

 

VANITY

 

Give me a break, Janet. Pride gets a bad rap in your outmoded religion. I’m talking about simple everyday self-respect.

 

JANET

 

‘Pride is an excessive love of our own ability; so that we would rather sinfully disobey than humble ourselves.’

VANITY

 

The Baltimore catechism. How quaint. But I’m not talking about

pride, merely a sense of personal worth. What’s wrong with that?

 

JANET

 

‘ Pride begets in our souls sinful ambition, vainglory -- ’

 

VANITY

 

‘ -- presumption and hypocrisy.’ Uh-huh. But self-esteem is vital to a woman’s mental health. Nothing’s worse than low self-esteem, right?

 

JANET

 

Pride was the devil’s sin, by reason of which he was thrown out of Heaven.

 

VANITY

 

What about taking pride in your appearance? Don’t you feel pride for your family? And how about professional pride?

 

JANET

 

Pride is always a sin. The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape.

 

VANITY

(preening over the misperceived compliment)

 

Why thank you, Janet! But what are you going to do about Zoe? Lie down and take it?

 

JANET

 

Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.

 

VANITY

 

Think back to your fencing. You put your guard down, some asshole’s bound to ram a rapier straight through your pancreas.

 

JANET

 

Get thee behind me, Satan.

 

VANITY suddenly appears behind Janet’s back, speaking in her ear over Janet’s shoulder.

 

VANITY

 

The best defense is a good offense.

 

JANET

 

‘We receive the gift of Counsel to warn us of the deceits of the
devil, and of the dangers to salvation.’ Begone, Pride.

 

VANITY

 

See, all this talk about pride is just a trick of words to bullshit the parishioners every time the collection plate comes around.

 

JANET

 

‘ … the devil’s sin did not deprive him of the great intelligence and power which he possessed as an angel.’

 

VANITY

 

Why lay a guilt trip on people already crippled by guilt? Guilt is such a useless, destructive emotion, don’t you agree, Doctor?

 

JANET

 

Not when it’s the voice of your conscience.

 

Janet calmly walks away. Vanity’s OS voice follows her, continuing the TV obit.

 

VANITY (OS)

 

Daugherty turned down a full professorship at Stanford, only to endure the bodily insult of serial pregnancies, the mind-numbing regimen of diapers, formula, sleep deprivation and colic …

 

 

INT. HOSPITAL MENTAL WARDNIGHT

 

Steve, restrained in a straitjacket, sits on a chair facing a plain table. An attendant ushers DR. HAROLD RUDD in.

 

DR. RUDD

(intently observes Steve, then slowly shakes his head with seeming disdain)

 

I take it you are aware, Steven, that your position with the University has never been more in jeopardy than at this very moment.

 

STEVE

 

Dr. Rudd, if you’d only witnessed the things I have in the last few hours –-

 

DR. RUDD

 

Calm down, Steven. Let’s not make things any worse than they already are, shall we? I’m here to help you. If I can.

 

STEVE

 

That’s very kind of you, Doctor.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Not at all. I feel a certain sense of duty whenever one of my own faculty members faces a tragedy, albeit one of his own making –-

 

STEVE

 

Dr. Rudd! You’re not saying any of this is my fault, are you?

 

DR. RUDD

 

I’m not saying anything, Steven. My advice is that you do the same. Your attorney friend has offered the identical opinion, I trust?

 

STEVE

 

Fred? Yeah, he told me to keep my mouth shut. Just like you’re telling me now.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Then heed our advice, Steven. Say nothing. Let your lawyer and I speak for you, at least for the present.

 

STEVE

 

Can you get me out of here, Dr. Rudd?

 

DR. RUDD

 

I must ask you a few questions first. Are you suicidal?

 

STEVE

 

No. Furthest thing from my mind.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Good. Any visual or auditory hallucinations?

 

STEVE

 

None.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Excellent. Don’t feel like killing anybody tonight, do you?

 

STEVE

 

Only Bruno LeGrand.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Not much danger there, I’m afraid. Anyone else need killing tonight, in your judgment?

 

STEVE

 

No, sir.

 

DR. RUDD

(warmly; looks into Steve’s eyes with a penlight.)

 

Don’t call me sir; I’m an enlisted man just like you, Steven. Tell me, what do you plan to do once you’re released from confinement?

 

STEVE

 

Well, it may sound crazy, but I’m going to devote all my research time to publishing Bruno LeGrand’s studies of The Permeance.

 

DR. RUDD

 

The Permeance?

 

STEVE

 

Yes, Doctor. I feel I owe it to Zoe’s and her father’s memory. It’s the least I can do. Their findings are real, Dr. Rudd.

 

DR. RUDD

 

I see. Fascinating. And precisely how do you intend to obtain funding for such an ambitious task, if I might inquire?

 

STEVE

(confidential, trusting)

 

Professor LeGrand hid away millions of dollars he made working for the CIA.

 

DR. RUDD

 

I had no idea. Millions, you say?

 

STEVE

 

Literally millions in untraceable cash, and I’m going to use Bruno’s own remote viewing techniques to locate where he’s buried it.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Singularly intriguing.

 

STEVE

 

It’s my legacy.

 

DR. RUDD

 

I suppose it is, by law. There’s no one at all to stop you now, is there?

 

 

STEVE

 

Not a soul.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Remote viewing is a bit unreliable, though, is it not?

 

STEVE

 

I used to think so, but a student intern of mine turns out to be really great at it. Soon as I get out, we’ll start the search.

 

DR. RUDD

(deadly calm, menacing tone)

 

I’m afraid that will prove much more difficult than you can possibly imagine, Steven.

 

STEVE

 

What are you talking about?

 

DR. RUDD

(fiddles with the straps of Steve’s straitjacket)

 

What about you, Steve? Trying on your Halloween costume a little early this year, aren’t you?

 

STEVE

(shocked with the realization of whom he’s been talking to)

 

It can’t be!

 

DR. RUDD

 

Still running a little slow, are we, Steve? You always were a bit slow. Better reset that watch of yours before you hurt somebody.

 

STEVE

 

You’ll never get away with this, Bruno!

 

DR. RUDD

 

Oh, but I already have. Zoe and I both have. Many times.

 

STEVE

 

What are you talking about?

 

DR. RUDD

 

You never listen, do you, Steven? Remember last night, when I told you about Adolph Hitler and his blushing bride Eva Braun?

 

STEVE

 

So?

 

DR. RUDD

 

So buried in shallow makeshift graves outside that Berlin bunker in 1945 the Russians found two bodies, both burned nearly beyond recognition. Abruptions, Steven.

 

STEVE

 

Who cares after all this time?

 

DR. RUDD

 

No one, Steve. That’s just the point: once they find the corpse, everyone gives up the search. But what happens to the soul?

 

STEVE

 

You tell me, Bruno. You seem to have this all figured out.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Oh, I do, Steve. I do indeed. Tell me: you were always good with remembering dates. What’s my date of birth?

 

STEVE

 

April 30, 1945.

 

(eyes widen)

 

Dr. Rudd makes a mock Heil Hitler sign and smirks at Steve.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Ask yourself, Steve, why my birthday is so easy to remember?

STEVE

 

Because there were always two birthday cakes. Yours and Zoe’s.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Zoe was born April 30, 1968. The year was an amusing coincidence. My dear Eva was twenty-three years younger than I when we died.

 

STEVE

 

This whole thing is insane! Are you trying to tell me the woman I married was Eva Braun reincarnated?

 

DR. RUDD

 

A foolish and impetuous marriage. I consoled Zoe over the years by continuing to fuck her day and night behind your back and under your nose. She was after all, my wife before she was yours?

 

(his voice goes up like a question)

 

STEVE

 

You sick bastard!

 

DR. RUDD

 

This latest life bored Zoe. Fortunately, she was not destined to live very much longer.

 

STEVE

 

What are you talking about?

 

DR. RUDD

 

At this moment I expect corpse Doctor Handleman is about to discover the terminal cancer that was eating away at Zoe’s vitals.

 

STEVE

 

Zoe was dying of cancer? I think I’m beginning to understand all this. What about LeGrand?

 

 

DR. RUDD

 

Herr Doktor LeGrand possessed a fine brain but bad heart and lungs. I fear there was not another year of useful life left in him.

 

STEVE

 

So you and Zoe, or Eva or whoever, killed off your hosts like cold-blooded parasites and found other bodies to invade, is that it?

 

DR. RUDD

 

A gross oversimplification, but basically sound.

 

(he draws a deep breath)

 

I find it quite liberating to cast off that infernal oxygen tank and breathe free at last.

 

STEVE

 

From crazy pariah to department head in one night! You did all right for yourself. But where’s Zoe?

 

DR. RUDD

 

All in God’s good time, Steven. You will meet her again soon, I assure you. But first you must rest.

 

He produces a hypodermic needle and jabs Steve in the neck with it. Steve fights against the straps, but all resistance is useless. Dr. Rudd presses a buzzer near the door. The attendant appears a moment later.

 

DR. RUDD

(to attendant)

 

Keep him restrained at all costs.

 

(looks back at Steve with fake regret)

 

I’ll complete the necessary commitment forms. Poor fellow’s crazier than a bedbug.

 

Steve lunges for him, acting crazier than ever, playing directly into Bruno’s hands. The drug takes hold; Steve falls to the floor and thrashes around, gnashing his teeth, eyes popping.

 

INT. BANFIELD MANSIONMAIN FOYERNIGHT

 

Kim runs to answer a tumultuous knocking; she opens the door to Janet/Zoe and Allen Lark, both pig drunk. Janet/Zoe’s clothing and hair are disheveled, and there is a recent suck mark on her neck.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Well, well, well. If it isn’t Steve’s little pal Kim, all wide-awake and perky. See how she opens the door like she owns the place?

 

ALLEN

 

I haven’t met any of your friends.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

And I haven’t met any of yours. But Kim’s no friend of mine, are you Kim? Merely my husband’s research ass – sistant. Accent on the ass.

 

KIM

 

Aren’t you confusing husbands, Dr. Daugherty?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

S’what I do best.

 

KIM

 

What brings you here so late?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Allen and I were wondering, Kim, if we might make brief use of that foldaway bed upstairs.

 

ALLEN

 

How brief?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

That’s entirely up to you, Darling.

 

ALLEN

 

Then no worries, Sheila. No worries at all in that department.

 

JANET/ZOE

(to Kim)

 

It’s kind of urgent. Something just … came up.

 

She rudely gropes Lark, who doesn’t seem to mind.

 

JANET/ZOE

(to Lark)

 

Is that a jumbuck you’ve got in your tuckerbag?

 

KIM

 

It’s awful late.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Past your bedtime, I’m sure. Of course, if you and the Little Professor are planning on laying claim to the foldaway –-

 

KIM

 

For your information, Professor Steve was taken to the psychiatric ward tonight.

 

JANET/ZOE

(nuzzling Lark)

 

Not a moment too soon.

 

KIM

 

He may be committed.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Sorry to disappoint you, Dear: the word commitment is not in Steve’s vocabulary.

 

(to Lark)

 

Care to make like Rhett Butler, Darling?

 

ALLEN

 

Rhett who?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Stop asking questions and waltz your lady love up those stairs, Matilda.

 

Lark swoops Janet/Zoe into his powerful arms and transports her up the winding staircase in a fireman’s carry.

 

INT. MENTAL WARD VISITING ROOMDAY

 

Janet/Zoe, in white lab coat and stethoscope, squints in pain from the sunlight streaming into the solarium. She gulps three quick successive cupfuls of cold water from the water cooler.

 

INT. PRIVATE EXAMINATION ROOMDAY

Two burly attendants bring Steve in, still in a straitjacket.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Take that off him right now.

 

ATTENDANT

 

He’s a feisty one, lady.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

In the future you’ll kindly address me as Doctor. Now do as I say.

 

Attendants grudgingly comply. Steve slumps down in a chair, working the soreness out of his arms.

 

STEVE

 

Janet! Am I glad to see you! Is Fred here, too? No offense, but I need a lawyer a lot more than I need a psychiatrist right now.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Examining you was Fred’s idea, Steve. Didn’t he mention it to you last night?

 

STEVE

 

Yeah. Yeah, now I remember. Sure, go ahead, Janet. Do your thing. Just get me the hell out of here.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

They tell me I should be afraid of you, Steve. Should I be?

 

STEVE

(laughs ironically)

 

What for? I’m the same user-friendly college prof I always was. To know me is to love me.

 

JANET/ZOE

(takes his pulse, listens to his heart.)

 

You’ve convinced me.

 

(she massages Steve’s shoulders from behind)

 

How’s your range of motion? Nothing dislocated by those apes, I hope?

 

STEVE

 

Not permanently, no.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

What’s that on your neck?

 

STEVE

(eyeing her hickey from the previous night)

 

I was about to ask you the same question.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Never too late for romance, in my case. Yours looks more like a botched injection site. Did you put up a struggle?

 

STEVE

 

No more than any other red-blooded American male would if Hitler tried to stick him in the jugular. You mean there’s really a mark?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Appears to be. What do you remember?

STEVE

 

It was the weirdest dream. Dr. Rudd came in to examine me, then he morphed into my father-in-law and then Adolph Hitler. Muy loco, huh?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Sounds wild. Of course, you have been under a great deal of strain lately, Steve.

 

STEVE

 

I can’t believe there’s a mark, though.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

I’m all through here.

 

STEVE

 

What’s the verdict?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Well, there’s still an emergency commitment hearing this afternoon, but I don’t think you need to worry.

 

STEVE

 

Thanks, Janet. You’re a lifesaver.

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Only, Steve, I wouldn’t plan on researching or publishing anything about The Permeance and all that nonsense, ok? Why tempt fate?

 

STEVE

(instantly wary)

 

How do you know about The Permeance?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

I think Fred may have mentioned it.

 

 

 

STEVE

 

I never said word one about it to Fred. The only people who’d ever even heard of the Permeance were LeGrand and …

 

JANET/ZOE

(pirouettes, taunting him with her new body)

 

Marley without the chains, Little Professor. How do you like the new me?

 

STEVE

 

It can’t be. You’re –-

 

JANET/ZOE

 

Dead? Death is merely a state of mind, Darling pet. And as you can see, I’m living proof of Daddy’s most controversial secret theory.

 

STEVE

 

Which is?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

The Permeance. Transmigration of souls. Think of the potential –- to possess one body after another throughout time. To live forever!

 

Janet/Zoe laughs maniacally. Her voice changes from that of Janet to Zoe and back again.

 

INT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHDAY

 

Janet enters alone, genuflects, opens the confessional door and closes it behind her.

 

JANET

 

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

 

PRIEST’S VOICE (OS)

 

Say all the sins you remember since your last good confession, my daughter.

 

JANET

 

I must be losing my mind, Father. Ironic admission for a psychiatrist to be making, isn’t it?

 

PRIEST

 

There is no irony inside here, only truth.

 

JANET

 

What is truth?

 

PRIEST

 

That was Pontius Pilate’s question. You know the answer.

 

JANET

 

But I’ve encountered demons, Father. The demons insist that I’m dead, and yet I refuse to believe them. They want me to join them.

 

PRIEST

(demonic voice)

 

You know what they say, Janet: when in Rome. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

 

JANET

(horrified)

 

You’re no priest!

 

VANITY

(sliding back the confessional window)

 

I’m no nun, either. Not even a televangelist. How about it, Janet? Feel like getting baptized again?

 

Confessional starts filling with water. Janet struggles, but the door is jammed shut. The water fills to her chest, then her mouth. Janet gasps for air in the tiny diminishing airspace at the peak of the booth. Vanity jerks her below the surface.

 

VANITY

(a demonic travesty of her face)

 

Join us or drown, Bitch!

 

Janet turns away under the water, only to encounter horrific countenances of Lady L, Teensy and Easy. All grab her and pull her down.

 

INT. COURTROOMDAY

 

Steve sits at counsel table beside Fred. Two mental hospital attendants flank Steve.

 

FRED

 

Do me a favor, guys: he’s not going anywhere. Cut us some slack, ok?

 

Attendants move and sit a few feet behind Steve.

 

Dr. Rudd bursts through the double doors of the courtroom followed by two University attorneys. One is a gray eminence; the other -- apparently his lackey -- wheels in a dolly bearing a stack of boxlike black cowhide briefcases.

 

The young man unstraps the briefcases, methodically unstacks them and snaps each one open in turn. Every sound seems too loud and abrupt in the huge courtroom.

 

Dr. Rudd poses beside the jury box, three fingers in his vest pocket, in a contemplative mode as though he were about to begin his winning summation. Fred rises and strides forward, right hand out, a “hail fellow, well met” expression pasted on his face.

FRED

 

Dr. Rudd, is it? Fred Eff, glad to meetcha.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Fred, Harold Rudd. Likewise.

 

FRED

 

I was going to say, you look like a lawyer standing here.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Actually I am a lawyer, Fred. A doctor/lawyer. Harvard Law, class of ’68. Harvard Medical, class of ‘72. Kept me out of Vietnam.

 

FRED

 

Is that right?

 

 

 

DR. RUDD

 

That’s right, Fred. Your client’s a very sick man and I intend to prove it.

 

BAILIFF

 

All rise. The Circuit Court of DuSage County is now in session, the Honorable Darcy Connor presiding.

 

Judge Connor, an attractive woman of about thirty, ascends the bench.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Please be seated.

 

(briefly reviews the court file.)

 

Gentlemen, before the court this afternoon is an emergency commitment petition brought by Dr. Harold Rudd on behalf of the University, correct?

 

DR. RUDD AND FRED

(in unison)

 

That’s correct, your Honor.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Dr. Rudd, call your first witness.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Petitioner calls Professor Steven Toddman as an adverse witness under Section 2-1102, your Honor.

 

Steve and Fred exchange worried glances. Steve approaches the witness stand; clerk swears him in. Steve appears near-breakdown.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Tell us your full name, Steve, and your occupation.

 

FRED

(reading Steve’s panicked expression)

 

Objection!

 

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

On what basis, Counsel?

 

FRED

(flustered)

 

The question is compound.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

(exasperated)

 

Counsel, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of preliminary examination. Well, aren’t you?

 

DR. RUDD

 

Thank you, your Honor.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

(to Fred)

 

I intend to conduct this hearing in an orderly fashion. I will tolerate no further pettifogging objections in my courtroom. Understood?

 

FRED

 

Yes, Judge.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

(to Steve)

 

Witness will answer the question.

 

STEVE

 

Steven Toddman, associate professor of psychology at the University.

 

DR. RUDD

 

And as such, are you engaged primarily in undergraduate teaching and research at the present time?

 

STEVE

 

Yes.

 

DR. RUDD

 

And I take it you would agree with me that a teaching and research position such as yours demands a rather high degree of mental stability, does it not?

 

STEVE

 

I suppose so.

 

DR. RUDD

 

You suppose so. For how many years have you occupied your current position as associate professor with us?

 

STEVE

 

Going on fourteen.

 

DR. RUDD

 

And for many of those years you had occasion to work closely with an individual by the name of Doctor Bruno LeGrand, isn’t that a fact?

 

FRED

(rattled by Steve’s tweaked-out state)

 

Objection. Leading and suggestive.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Overruled. This is cross-examination. Witness will answer the question.

 

STEVE

(in full-scale emotional meltdown)

 

Yes, I’ve worked with you for years, Bruno. Or should I say Der Fuhrer?

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Wait a minute. Just wait a minute.

 

STEVE

 

I can’t let him get away with this, Judge. Don’t you see? I’m the only person living who knows his secret and it’s up to me to stop him.

 

FRED

 

Your Honor, may we have a brief recess to permit the witness to compose himself?

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

I take it one of you intends to present some psychiatric testimony in this matter?

 

FRED

 

Yes, Judge. My wife Dr. Janet Daugherty will testify. She’s out in the hall right now as a matter of fact.

 

STEVE

(frantic)

 

Don’t call her, Fred. She’s not who you think she is. She’s – changed.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Counsel, kindly advise your client there will be no further outbursts in my courtroom.

 

FRED

 

Yes, your Honor.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

If he cannot or will not restrain himself, I may consider granting Dr. Rudd’s petition on the spot.

 

FRED

 

I understand, your Honor.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Dr. Rudd, would you have any objection to taking Attorney Eff’s psychiatric witness out of order?

 

DR. RUDD

(magnanimous)

 

None at all, your Honor. Reserving my right to further cross-examine Professor Toddman, of course. Assuming such cross-examination proves necessary.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Attorney Eff?

 

FRED

 

Thank you, your Honor. Respondent calls Dr. Janet Daugherty Eff to the stand.

 

INT. COURTHOUSE CORRIDORDAY

 

Janet/Zoe in professional attire sits waiting on a dark wood bench, an evil smirk on her face.

 

INT. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH CONFESSIONALDAY

 

Janet struggles to gasp for air in upper pocket of the booth now filled like Houdini’s water torture chamber. She makes the sign of the cross.

 

JANET

(in fluent Gaelic)

 

Sé do bheath’ a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta —-

 

SUBTITLES

 

Hail Mary, Full of Grace –-

 

INSERTALMA DAUGHERTY’S TOMBSTONE PORTRAITDAY

 

JANET

(continues praying in Gaelic)

 

-- tá an Tiarna leat. Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhruinne losa.

 

INSERTEXTERIOR CLOSEUP OF CONFESSIONAL DOOR HANDLE –DAY

 

Door handle seems to turn as though by an invisible hand. Water rushes out.

 

Janet, drenched and exhausted, collapses in the confessional. She gasps once, twice.

 

INT. COURTHOUSE CORRIDORDAY

 

Janet/Zoe gasps and writhes in torment.

 

BAILIFF

(calling the next witness)

 

Dr. Daugherty! Dr. Daugherty!

 

(noticing Janet’s distress)

 

Are you all right, Ma’am?

 

JANET/ZOE

(now composed, deadly calm and arrogant)

 

I’ll thank you to address me as ‘Doctor’, not ‘Ma’am.’

 

Janet/Zoe rises and strides into the courtroom.

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMILLUMINATED ONLY BY FIREPLACE LIGHT

 

Kim and her THREE COVEN-MATES prance in a circle, nude. Each in turn throws a handful of powder into the hearth; the fire burns alternating colors.

 

All pause; Kim holds a sword above her head.

 

KIM

 

On this Beltane, I call upon all the nature goddesses of spring: sever the ties that bind Professor Steve.

 

ALL FOUR

(in unison)

 

Sever the ties that bind Professor Steve.

 

KIM

 

Danu, mother of all the gods, sever the ties. Macha, mother goddess, sever the ties. Ariel, angel goddess, sever the ties.

 

ALL FOUR

(in unison)

 

Danu, Macha, Ariel, sever the ties.

 

 

 

INT. COURTROOMDAY

 

Janet/Zoe takes the stand and is sworn.

 

FRED

 

State your name, please, and your profession.

 

DR. RUDD

(smug)

 

Petitioner will stipulate to Dr. Daugherty’s considerable professional credentials without the necessity of voir dire.

 

FRED

 

Very well. Doctor, at my request have you had occasion to recently examine one Steven Toddman, the Respondent in this cause?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

I have indeed.

 

FRED

(overly confident)

 

And would you kindly tell the court what if any findings and conclusions you were able to formulate as a result of that examination, Doctor?

 

JANET/ZOE

 

That Steven Toddman is clearly psychotic. In the course of a single examination he manifested all the signs and symptoms of –-

 

FRED

 

Doctor, I’m not sure you understood my question –-

 

DR. RUDD

(on his feet, indignant)

 

Your Honor, objection! He asked the question, and now he has his answer! Counsel is arguing with his own witness!

 

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMFIRELIGHT

 

KIM

 

Brigid, sever the ties. Artemis, sever the ties. Venus, sever the ties that bind professor Steve.

 

ALL FOUR

(in unison)

 

Brigid, Artemis, Venus, sever the ties.

 

KIM

(raises her sword)

 

To an unknown goddess, more powerful than all the others, sever the ties. All powers of heaven, we invoke thee!

 

ALL FOUR

(in unison)

 

All powers of heaven, we invoke thee!

 

The fire in the hearth flares supernaturally. A raging wind whips the women’s hair.

 

INT. CONFESSIONALDAY

 

Lady L peeks around one corner into the booth; Teensy and Easy the other.

 

LADY L

 

Hiya, Janet. Remember us? Betcha never though you’d ever catch the three of us in church, didja?

 

TEENSY

 

Girl, You look like a drowned rat.

 

All three laugh diabolically.

 

LADY L

 

No more screwing around, Janet. The party’s over. You’re coming with us.

 

(deep voice)

 

You’re all ours now.

 

Lady L laughs and shows the triple tier of teeth. Janet, still soaked to the skin, cowers in a corner. The three demons advance. The same raging wind mounts. Suddenly Janet vanishes.

 

INT. MIRRORED ROOMFIRELIGHT

 

KIM/JANET

(confused and disoriented, instantly modest)

 

Where am I? Where are my clothes? Who are you people?

 

FIRST WITCH

 

Awesome! Kim’s fucking possessed!

 

The three dance ring-around-the-rosy circling Kim/Janet until she breaks free of them and flees with the sword in hand, frantically grabbing up articles of clothing.

 

INT. COURTROOMDAY

 

FRED

 

Your Honor, all I request is a brief continuance to obtain another mental examination in view of this unfair surprise testimony.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Counsel, how can you possibly claim surprise at this testimony when you’ve elicited it from your own witness, who’s also your own wife?

 

FRED

 

Your Honor, the undue haste with which this case has proceeded made it impossible for me to confer with Dr. Daugherty before calling her.

 

DR. RUDD

 

That’s preposterous, your Honor. Are we to assume Doctor Daugherty and Attorney Eff do not even engage in pillow talk?

 

Spectators laugh.

 

Kim/Janet throws open the courtroom’s double doors like a pirate.

 

KIM/JANET

 

I’ll thank you not to speculate on what my husband and I discuss in the privacy of our marital bed, LeGrand.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Bailiff, eject that woman.

 

BAILIFF

(plaintive and fearful)

 

Have a heart, Judge! That’s one mean-lookin’ toad-sticker she’s holdin’.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

 

Then call for backup.

 

Bailiff moves toward the door, but backs off and obligingly takes a seat in the spectator’s section after Kim/Janet brandishes the sword and leers at him.

 

Dr. Rudd springs toward a Civil War exhibit of crossed swords. Grabbing Judge Connor’s gavel he breaks the glass and seizes one of the swords.

 

DR. RUDD

 

Fair warning, Fraulein: I mastered the art of fencing at school in Munich, where I favored the German longsword. Prepare to die!

 

KIM/JANET

 

I hope you’re a better fencer than you were a painter, Shickelgruber. En garde!

 

Janet/Zoe tries to break up the match; clonks heads with Kim/Janet and knocks Zoe out of Janet’s body. Janet in her own body now fences with Rudd. She’s a latter-day Maureen O’Hara in At Sword’s Point.

 

JUDGE CONNOR

(as swordfight action continues)

 

Order! Order! Clear this courtroom now! I’ve summoned the security staff and 911! Police are on their way! Put down those swords before I find you both in direct contempt of this Court!

 

STEVE

(Embracing and sheltering a woozy Kim)

 

Don’t worry, Kim. I’ll protect you.

 

KIM

 

What happened? Where am I?

 

Janet and Dr. Rudd continue their swordfight.

 

DR. RUDD

 

For not having taken a life in more than a century, this sword is razor sharp.

 

JANET

 

Then prepare yourself for a close Irish shave.

 

Janet’s sword flashes again and again mere inches from Dr. Rudd’s face; he scarcely parries the deadly onslaught.

 

JANET

 

I hope you carry a styptic pencil for emergencies, Herr Schveinunt.

 

Dr. Rudd tries a grand downward swing but reaps only air. He tries again, this time burying the blade in the Judge’s bench. The next instant Janet stands staring into his eyes, inches from his sweating face, the tip of her blade resting securely against his Adam’s apple.

 

JANET

 

Match point, arsehole. Now unhand your weapon or start looking for lebensraum in Hell.

 

Dr. Rudd lets go of his stuck sword and backs away. Police officers triangulate from the courtroom door and the two doors behind the bench, drawing down on Janet.

 

POLICE OFFICER

 

Drop it, lady!

 

Janet reluctantly throws down her sword; Dr. Rudd slithers away and retrieves it. Enraged, he swings it wildly at Janet.

 

DR. RUDD

 

I’ll never see Hell, Irlander bitch!

Police officers fire at him, hitting him multiple times in the chest. He falls and dies.

 

INT. STEVE’S OFFICENIGHT

 

Steve and Kim pursue their remote viewing experiments.

 

STEVE

(as Kim, eyes closed, scribbles furiously on an artist’s sketch pad.)

 

Think thirty million, maybe more. Government money, new bills probably. Hidden, but not far.

 

KIM

(her eyes pop open in a flash)

 

Got it! It’s been hidden in the mirrored room all along, behind one of the panels!

 

STEVE

 

What are we waiting for? We’re rich, Kim!

 

Excited, they run out.

 

INT. FRED’S STUDYNIGHT

 

FRED

 

I told Judge Connor you’d had a mild concussion and were temporarily out of your head. I had to talk to her like a Dutch uncle but I finally cooled her out.

 

JANET

 

That’s a blessing. I feared for my medical license, not to mention criminal prosecution.

 

FRED

 

No worries. Goddamn, I’m starting to sound like Allen Lark.

 

JANET

(affectionate)

 

Let’s agree never to mention that name again, all right, Freddy?

 

 

FRED

 

Sounds good to me. You mind if I ask you one thing, though? What in the hell got into you, Janet?

 

JANET

 

Not ‘what,’ Fred. Who.

 

Fred’s computer comes to life; volume bars modulate like speech. Janet puts on the headset.

 

JANET

 

Wrong number.

 

She pulls the power plug out of the wall.

 

JANET

 

Guess I flamed her. Is ‘flamed’ the proper expression?

 

INT. BANFIELD MANSION FOYERNIGHT

 

Zoe and LeGrand enter stealthily, moving toward the mirrored room.

 

INT. THE MIRRORED ROOM.

 

Steve and Kim tap a few mirrored panels, finding nothing. Then Kim gets an inspiration, touches a carving on the fireplace and triggers a sliding door mechanism that opens a hiding place behind one mirror. They run to it, finding valises full of wrapped currency inside.

 

INT./EXT.  DOOR TO THE MIRRORED ROOMNIGHT

 

Zoe and LeGrand throw open the door and enter. The room appears empty at first. Then multiple horrific images of Lady L, Teensy, Easy and Vanity appear in the mirrors, leering at them from every side.

 

VANITY

 

Hello, Eva.

 

LADY L

 

Welcome home, Adolph. What a long, strange trip it’s been, right, Baby?

 

EASY

 

You smell something burning? Smells like wienerschnitzel.

TEENSY

(sniffs the air like the glutton she is)

 

Who’s cooking?

 

Zoe and LeGrand go up like two roman candles.

 

CREDITS ROLL

 

 

 

Back in 2007, a Utah outfit calling itself Cleanflix began “sanitizing” movies and releasing their own bowdlerized versions of popular films through their website, Films You Can Trust. The Director’s Guild sued. You can see how the dispute came out by renting the documentary Cleanflix. Anyway, the idea occurred to me to write a screenplay about a screenwriter wannabe loser who hatches the idea of taking G-rated pabulum like Olsen twins flicks and “dirtying them up” as he puts it. I began this effort but soon abandoned the idea when I got bored with it, and also because I was beginning to realize what a losing proposition it is to sell a screenplay in today’s market.

 

 

 

SINEMA

an unfinished screenplay by Malachi Stone

© 2015 by Malachi Stone

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

fade in:

 

EXT. BRENT AND SARAH’S DOUBLE WIDEDAY

 

Lawn mowers hum, children shriek at play in a well-tended Midwestern trailer park next to a funky old house. An aged Mustang blackened with primer and an even more ancient Aerostar minivan dappled with junkyard panels share the tiny drive.

 

BRENT

(Dictating to SARAH as he flips burgers on the grill)

 

Fade in. Colon. Skip a line. With me so far?

 

SARAH

(shrugs with indifference; she’s not so sure she likes putting up with a prima donna would-be screenwriter)

 

You’re the movie expert.

 

BRENT

 

Then take this down: Black screen. We hear a stentorian voice-over –-

 

SARAH

 

Spell check?

 

BRENT

 

Forget it. Too pretentious. Producers might not get it, anyway.

 

SARAH

 

I’m not sure I get it, either.

 

BRENT

 

We hear this deep voice in voice-over. That’s parenthesis V.O. close parenthesis.

 

SARAH

(writing in shorthand)

 

What’s the deep voice say?

 

BRENT

(affecting a James Earl Jones basso profundo)

 

“There are five great apes.”

 

(resumes natural voice)

 

Ok, now, type all caps INT period MUSEUM HALL dash NIGHT.

 

SARAH

 

You want night all caps too?

 

BRENT

 

I want the entire line all caps, then skip a line. Still with me?

 

SARAH

 

This is so weird.

 

BRENT

 

It’s what they call a format, Babe. You’ll get used to it.

 

 

SARAH

 

We both should be taking that screenwriting course instead of just you. Then I could follow along easier.

 

BRENT

 

Relax; I’m gonna teach you everything I know in no time.

 

SARAH

 

How’re the burgers doing? Shall I call the kids?

 

BRENT

 

They need another minute.

 

SARAH

 

You want the hot dogs yet?

 

BRENT

 

Let’s keep focused on this screenplay, ok?

 

SARAH

 

Just tell me when you want the hot dogs.

 

BRENT

 

Right. So we fade in on a big-city museum hall at night with all these huge statues of the great apes in eerie light.

 

SARAH

 

Can you fade in twice like that?

 

BRENT

 

What?

 

SARAH

 

You faded in once already, before the stentorian voice-over. Don’t you have to fade out before you fade in again? I’m just asking.

 

BRENT

 

Shit. My hands are too greasy to go get the book now. Okay, fuck the black screen. Fade in right to the museum in the second line.

 

SARAH

(sarcastic, following orders)

 

“Fuck the black screen.” Got it.

So now you want the parenthesis V. O. close parenthesis right after the second line?

 

BRENT

 

Yeah. “There are five great apes.”  As the voice-over narrates, the camera cuts to a closeup of each statue, one after the other.

 

SARAH

 

How do you say that in script format?

 

BRENT

 

Screenplay format. Just take it all down verbatim. That means word-for word.

 

SARAH

 

Don’t patronize me, Brent. You’re taking a junior college screenwriting course in Oglesby, Illinois. Big shit.

 

BRENT

 

Go ahead and criticize me for trying to broaden my horizons and better our circumstances.

 

SARAH

 

Here we go.

 

BRENT

 

Here we go, hell. You think it’s easy to work a full-time job, take a night course, and still find time to help you raise these kids?

 

SARAH

 

They’re your kids too, Brent. Speaking of kids, I got another notice in the mail: Charlene’s taking you back to court.

 

BRENT

 

Again? What is it this time?

 

SARAH

 

Child support, what else?

 

BRENT

 

The bug up her fat ass is that she knows we’re a happy family while all she’s got is that lame TV show of hers: Charlene’s House.

 

SARAH

 

Charlene’s House? Is that piece of shit still running on local cable access?

 

BRENT

 

Channel Three, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 12:35 AM.

 

SARAH

 

You memorized the schedule? You mean to tell me you still watch her?

 

BRENT

 

Baby, I admit it: I tape all the shows and watch them on the weekends, while you’re at work.

 

SARAH

 

Brent!

 

BRENT

 

It’s strictly self-preservation -- I need to track what the bitch is up to.

 

SARAH

 

Uh-huh. Then tell me, you being her number-one fan, does she still do that same disgusting thing at the end of every show, pray tell?

 

BRENT

 

What thing is that, Babe?

 

SARAH

 

You know the thing I mean, where she prances around nude for all the men?

 

BRENT

 

I always fast-forward those parts out of respect for you, Babe.

 

SARAH

 

I’ll bet. Sure you’re not staring at closeups of her hippo ass on TV like all the rest of the guys? That’s it, isn’t it?

 

BRENT

 

I should have known this was coming -- she’s been bad-mouthing me the past three shows running.

 

SARAH

 

Then why don’t we sue her for –- what do they call it? Character assassination?

 

BRENT

 

Defamation of character. I thought about that, but what’s there to win? She’s got no money, only a big ass and tits down to here.

 

SARAH

 

Brent Parks, don’t hand me that bullshit you haven’t been watching her nude. Fast-forward, your lying ass!

 

BRENT

 

Ready for those hot dogs!

 

With a suspicious frown, Sarah brings Brent the package of hot dogs. Brent tears it open and, deep in thought, places them one by one on the grill as he clicks off the great apes.

 

BRENT

 

“Chimpanzee. Orang utan. Gorilla.” Shit! What’s the fourth great ape?

 

SARAH

 

I don’t know; man?

 

BRENT

 

See, that’s what I’m leading up to: that man is the fifth great ape. I can’t remember the fourth great ape, though.

 

SARAH

 

Think back to the last time we took the kids to the zoo. Is it gibbons?

 

BRENT

 

Nah.

 

SARAH

 

Baboons?

 

BRENT

 

Nope.

 

SARAH

 

Or wait, maybe those ugly, purple-butted things –- what are they called? Mandrills?

 

BRENT

(frustrated)

 

Not them, either. What did the textbook say in that anthropology course I took?

 

LES (OS)

(From over the backyard fence)

 

Bolabos.

 

BRENT

 

Goddammit, Les! I can’t have people listening in like that. I’m trying to create here!

 

LES

(ambles around the end of the fence and into BRENT and SARAH’S tiny backyard)

 

And I’m trying to help you create. Bolabos is your fourth great ape.

 

SARAH

 

What’s a bolabos, Les? I don’t think I ever heard of that one.

 

LES

 

It’s a kind of midget chimpanzee.

 

BRENT

 

How can a midget chimpanzee be one of the great apes?

 

LES

 

A fun fact I picked up working at the zoo. Bolabos is one of the five great apes. Mean little bastards, too. Take your thumb off like that.

 

SARAH

 

Wow, Les! How many jobs do you have, anyway?

 

LES

 

It varies. Five at the present moment. The old lady’s holding down two part-time, plus she’s got all them kids to take care of.

 

SARAH

 

Seven jobs between you. Awesome.

 

LES

 

Seven kids, seven jobs. That’s how you get to afford a house like that there, or so them folks at the bank tell me.

 

SARAH

 

You and Tammy have seven beautiful children, Les. You should be proud.

 

LES

 

Thank you kindly, Sarah. You folks should be equally proud of your two.

 

BRENT

 

You and the family got time for a burger or a wiener, Les?

 

LES

 

My friends, we’d pick you clean. No, duty calls. I’m needed down at the tire place in twenty minutes. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

 

BRENT

 

You still getting around on that old bike of yours, Les?

 

LES

 

Call me the bicycle Irish: clan of the mighty Schwinn, thanks be to our President and his good friends the Saudi Arabians.

 

BRENT

 

Sure I can’t offer you a ride?

 

LES

 

And how would I commute to my next appointed round, the Convenient? Without my trusty Schwinn, I’d be late for the knife and gun shift.

 

SARAH

 

Thanks for the help on Brent’s script, Les.

 

BRENT

 

Screenplay.

 

LES

(saddling up on a sixties-era rustoleum-red Schwinn)

 

Script or screenplay, good luck. Hope to see you both in the movies.

 

Les rides off on his bicycle, carrying a lunch pail. Smoke rolls off the grill into Brent’s face.

 

BRENT

 

Shit! Piss! Fuck!

 

SARAH

 

Brent! Little ears!

 

BRENT

(spraying water from a ketchup squeeze bottle)

 

Sarah, let’s not get started. You know I abhor censorship in any form.

 

SARAH

 

And you know how I feel about exposing our children to smutty language. Adult to adult is one thing.

 

BRENT

 

I was raised in a repressive Methodist home, not unlike another civil libertarian. You may have heard of him –- Hugh Hefner?

 

SARAH

 

I know, I know.

 

BRENT

 

And you know how that experience radicalized me, Sarah. You know how important the First Amendment is to me. Censoring movies, for example.

 

SARAH

 

Here we go.

 

BRENT

 

The public may be content to let some Mormon or some red-state redneck re-cut DVD’s and violate the director’s artistic vision --

 

SARAH

 

But you’re not a director, Brent. Face it, you’re not even in the movie business.

 

Sarah’s facial expression shows she instantly regrets bursting Brent’s bubble, but it’s too late.

 

BRENT

 

What’s that supposed to mean, Sarah? That my opinion is any less valid because I’m just starting to break into show business?

 

SARAH

 

I’m only trying to protect our children.

 

BRENT

 

But don’t you see, that’s the thin edge of the wedge, Sarah. Protect the children. Before you know it, the First Amendment is history.

 

SARAH

 

One thing has nothing to do with the other.

 

BRENT

(becoming righteously enraged)

 

Oh, yeah? I hate these DVD censors. I purely hate ‘em.

 

SARAH

(it’s a familiar conversation to her)

 

I know you do, Baby.

 

BRENT

 

You know they even went and butchered up my favorite motion picture of all time? LEPRECHAUN FIVE? LEP IN THE HOOD?

 

SARAH

 

I know they did, Baby.

 

BRENT

 

After they got done with it, that damn Leprechaun acts like somebody’s Lucky Charms bitch --

 

SARAH

 

It’s a shame, I know.

 

BRENT

 

  -- and the gangstas all talk like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

 

SARAH

 

Nothing we can do about it.

 

BRENT

(pauses, suddenly inspired)

 

Oh, no? You just gave me a brilliant idea, Sarah.

 

SARAH

 

Uh-oh. Should I ask what it is?

 

BRENT

 

I -– no, we’re going to start a company, you and me, that goes around dirtying up clean movies. We’ll call it Sinema.

 

SARAH

 

Cinema?

 

BRENT

 

S.i.n., get it? Sin-ema. Together we’ll reverse the tightass video censorship process. Two First Amendment crusaders, you and me.

 

SARAH

 

And where’s the money coming from to start up this big company of yours? My paychecks from Wal-Mart or yours from the Patel Motel?

 

BRENT

 

We’ll do it the same way the rednecks did: first sell copies to our friends and neighbors, word will start to spread, and voilá.

 

SARAH

 

Meanwhile, I’ll die of embarrassment.

 

BRENT

 

Why? The religious right Simonizes our dirty movies, why can’t we Sinemize their clean movies?

 

SARAH

 

Brent, won’t we get in trouble?

 

BRENT

 

Trouble? We’ll get stinking rich, is all. We’ll clean up by dirtying up, simple as that.

 

SARAH

 

Like how, for instance?

 

BRENT

 

Like you know what looping means?

 

SARAH

 

No, Joe Hollywood, I don’t know what looping means.

 

BRENT

 

Then listen and learn something, girl, since we’re going to be in show business together.

 

SARAH

 

Says who?

 

BRENT

 

Looping is when the star records over a dirty word with a clean one. Like instead of ‘motherfucker’ he says, I don’t know, ‘moth invader.’

 

SARAH

 

What’s a moth invader?

 

BRENT

 

How should I know? It’s just an example.

 

SARAH

 

It’s a stupid example. I don’t even know what it means.

 

BRENT

 

It’s how they sanitize movies for TV. That’s all you need to know for now.

 

SARAH

 

Looping. Okay. I got it.

 

BRENT

 

Now suppose I get hold of a G-rated movie, go in and insert the word ‘fucking’ as an adjective every couple of lines or so?

 

SARAH

 

Every couple of lines or so, somebody says ‘fucking?’

 

BRENT

 

Right. But only where appropriate and shit.

 

SARAH

 

Are you crazy, Brent? You are crazy, aren’t you?

 

BRENT

 

I don’t know, am I? Crazy, or a genius, you decide.

 

SARAH

 

You’d never get away with it.

 

BRENT

 

Or maybe drop in a gratuitous nude scene here and there to keep all us mature adults in the audience awake and interested.

 

SARAH

 

To keep all the men interested, you mean.

 

BRENT

 

Or it could be my own bare ass, for the ladies’ viewing pleasure in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

 

SARAH

 

You wish. Pervert. What’s all this going to cost, by the way?

 

BRENT

 

Shit, Baby, nowadays you can do anything with computers. Including edit videos. I could use Patel’s setup while I work the night shift.

 

SARAH

 

You better not let Mr. Patel catch you making dirty movies on his computer network, Brent. We need that paycheck bad.

 

BRENT

 

Don’t you see, Sarah, this could be our way out?

 

SARAH

 

Yeah, our way out of a job.

 

BRENT

 

Once this idea takes off, we’ll never have to worry about a job or a paycheck ever again, and Charlene can kiss my ass.

 

 

SARAH

 

Famous last words. Remember that time you went on eBay and tried to sell yourself to Hollywood as a personal assistant?

 

BRENT

 

That guy said he was a big producer. How should I know he was producing nothing but gay porn?

 

SARAH

 

And what about DEMON OF THE DOUBLE-WIDE? The first all-camcorder comedy horror movie, starring all our friends?

 

BRENT

 

That should have worked.

BLAIR WITCH proved hand-held camcorder shit can be big box-office.

 

SARAH

 

Yeah, right.

 

BRENT

 

Trouble was, our friends fucked it all up. If you recall, none of ‘em could act worth a sorry shit.

 

SARAH

 

It was fun, though.

 

BRENT

 

Plus, that damn anthrax scare had to hit right when I was mailing out my demo tapes to all those Hollywood heavy-hitters.

 

SARAH

 

I’d never seen a real FBI agent before those two came to the house.

 

BRENT

 

Remind me, none of the cast members of DEMON OF THE DOUBLE-WIDE gets near this new project. They’re a fucking jinx.

 

 

SARAH

(resigned to going along)

 

When you get onto one of these kicks, I know better than to try and stop you. Just promise me one thing, Baby.

BRENT

 

Anything, Sweetness. Anything at all.

 

SARAH

 

Promise me you won’t get caught.

 

BRENT

 

Cross my heart. I’m working the graveyard shift alone tonight. Perfect time to get started.

 

Two kids, a boy about six and a girl about four, run into the yard and hug Sarah, shouting “Mommie, Mommie.”

 

BRENT

 

Hope you kids are hungry. Bogie, hamburger with the works for you?

How ‘bout you, Baby? Hot dog on a bun?

 

SARAH

 

Who wants pickle relish?

 

INT. PATEL MOTEL OFFICENIGHT

 

Brent has two computers and a monitor rigged together at the front desk. Wearing a headset, he fast-forwards a DVD to the scene he’s looking for, and intently begins inserting words.

 

BRENT

(hesitates, then finds his moment, pauses and searches again after each word)

 

Fucking.

Fucker.

Asshole.

Twat.

Dickwad.

Cunt.

Suckass.

Motherfucker.

 

INSERT. An Olsen twins DVD case lies face-up and open on the counter.

 

BRENT returns to the scene’s opening and listens on the headset.

 

BRENT

 

Oh, yeah! Perfect!

 

Brent produces a camcorder and positions it on the counter next to the DVD case. Dropping his pants, he sets it to Record. He wags his bare ass at the camera.

 

Insert. Extreme closeup of the videocam’s red eye and lens as it records every movement of Brent’s derriere.

 

EXT. PATEL MOTELNIGHT

 

A respectable elderly couple pull up in a new Lincoln Town Car. Hubby, wearing a driver’s tam, helps blue-haired wife out of the car, leaving the baggage.

 

INT. PATEL MOTEL OFFICENIGHT

 

Brent, fingers laced behind his head, begins air-humping for the camera, really getting into his uncredited performance.

 

CUT TO:

 

B&W split-screen security cam views of Brent shaking his ass for the camera behind the desk and elderly couple striding toward the front entrance.

 

INT. PATEL MOTELNIGHT

 

A split-second before elderly couple intrude on Brent in mid-performance, he hears them and dives under the counter and out of sight. Too late, he sees his jeans and leopard speedos draped over a chair out of reach. Hubby impatiently rings the bell.

 

HUBBY

(eyeing Brent’s clothing)

 

Desk clerk ought to do his laundry on his own time.

 

WIFE

(impish expression)

 

I see somebody else likes leopard next to his dingle-dangle.

 

BRENT, cowering under the desk, overhears. His eyes widen.

 

HUBBY

 

Hush, Elsie. No need for the whole world to know our secrets. Where the hell is that desk clerk? Concierge! Concierge!

 

BRENT, still naked from the waist down, pops up above the counter, kneeling but trying to maintain his composure.

 

BRENT

 

You folks checking in?

 

ELSIE

 

Oh, look, Lyle: it’s one of those little people –- you know, like the ones in the Wizard of Oz.

 

LYLE

(flustered)

 

Sorry, young fella. I guess I didn’t see you down there. Scheisskopf, reservation for two. King-size bed and Jacuzzi.

 

ELSIE

(warmly confiding in Brent)

 

It’s our forty-seventh wedding anniversary.

 

BRENT

 

That’s very nice, Ma’am. I certainly hope you and Mr. Scheisskopf will enjoy your stay with us.

 

ELSIE

(she can’t help herself)

 

May I ask you a personal question, young man?

 

BRENT

 

Of course, Ma’am. Ask away.

 

ELSIE

 

Are you a dwarf or a midget?

 

BRENT

 

Ah, I guess I was just born short, Ma’am.

 

ELSIE

 

Well, I think you and your kind are simply adorable.

 

BRENT

 

Why don’t I go ahead and check you in, Mr. and Mrs. Scheisskopf. Did you confirm those reservations?

 

LYLE

 

Yessiree, Bob. Used my Diner’s Club platinum. King-size bed and Jacuzzi bath. Is there going to be a problem, young man?

 

BRENT

 

No problem at all, sir. Let me check our computer.

 

BRENT shuffles sideways on his knees until he is looking up at the computer monitor. He reaches beyond his grasp for the keyboard, which sits on the opposite section of counter beyond an open gate.

 

ELSIE

 

My goodness, they should provide special equipment if they’re going to employ the little people.

 

Brent pulls hand-over-hand on the keyboard cable until the whole works crashes to the floor, triggering a playback.

 

BRENT

(his clearly audible recorded voice)

 

Fucking.

Fucker.

Asshole.

Twat.

Dickwad.

Cunt.

Suckass.

Motherfucker.

 

ELSIE

 

Oh, my! Sounds like one of those obscene calls. You know the ones we used to get late at night, Lyle?

 

LYLE

(righteously indignant)

 

Young man, I’ll have you know we’re good churchgoing folk here.

 

ELSIE

(with pride)

 

Lutheran, Missouri Synod.

 

LYLE

 

And as such, I think we are entitled to demand a proper explanation for the spew of filth we’ve just been subjected to.

 

BRENT

 

You’re absolutely right, Mr. Scheisskopf. And there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.

 

LYLE

 

Well, I should hope so.

 

BRENT

 

You see, the thing is –- I’m one of the tens of thousands of people who suffer from Tourette’s syndrome.

 

ELSIE

 

Oh, you poor, poor thing! Lyle, you remember: Maury Povich devoted an entire program to that Tourette’s syndrome; I think it was last May?

 

LYLE

 

Well, I –

 

BRENT

 

My therapist feels it would be helpful for me to get the bad words out harmlessly by recording them late at night when no one’s around.

 

ELSIE

 

How intriguing!

 

BRENT

 

That’s right, and the fact is, it does seem to be helping.

 

LYLE

 

I don’t know, Elsie –- I still think I should call the manager.

 

ELSIE

 

Lyle, it’s a disease.

 

PATEL enters.

 

PATEL

 

Did someone call for the manager?

 

(suddenly nonplussed)

 

What is the meaning of this, Brent? Here are motel guests in need of service.

 

BRENT

 

I know, Mr. Patel, but you see –

 

PATEL

 

No I do not see. Get up off of your knees at once, or be fired.

 

BRENT reluctantly rises to his feet, still naked from the waist down. Patel’s eyes widen as though seeing a tiger stalking him in the Indian jungle. Elsie gasps.

 

ELSIE

 

I thought you were one of the little people!

 

CUT TO:

 

Insert: Television Screen.

CHARLENE’S HOUSE is well underway.

 

CHARLENE

(mean, bitter and vindictive)

 

And my sniveling little bastard ex-husband –- and I do mean little , you married gals know what I mean --

 

 (stage whisper)

 

-- a baby dick!

 

INT. BRENT and SARAH’S trailer – night.

 

BRENT

 

There she goes again, damn her! See what I mean?

 

CHARLENE

 (VO)

 

Turned out to be a deadbeat dad.

 

SARAH

 

How does the station let her get away with saying shit like that on the air?

 

BRENT

 

It’s not only physically humiliating; it poses an agonizing moral and ethical crisis for me as well, Sarah.

 

SARAH

 

What do you mean?

 

BRENT

 

Given my strict constructionist interpretation of the First Amendment.

 

SARAH

 

Say what?

 

BRENT

 

Although I disagree with most if not all of what Charlene is saying, I’ll defend to the death her right to say it.

 

SARAH

 

You’ll defend to the death your ex-wife going on TV and accusing you of being a deadbeat dad?

 

BRENT

 

That’s right.

 

  SARAH

 

A deadbeat dad with a baby dick?

 

 

 

Some time ago I became captivated by the notion that the human race and human civilization may be considerably older than science has heretofore suspected. For instance, a ceramic topographical map 120 million years old has allegedly been unearthed in China. Given the Chinese penchant for fossil forgery, one must take such specimens with rather more than the proverbial grain of salt, while at the same tome one cannot help but wonder whether mankind may be rather more than a relatively recent phenomenon.

Then there is this tidbit from a long-defunct nineteenth-century newspaper:

 

 

Gold Chain from Morrisonville, Illinois, 260 – 320 million years old
On June 11, 1891, The Morrisonville Times reported:

“A curious find was brought to light by Mrs. S. W. Culp last Tuesday morning. As she was breaking a lump of coal preparatory to putting it in the scuttle, she discovered, as the lump fell apart, embedded in a circular shape a small gold chain about ten inches in length of antique and quaint workmanship.

 

At first Mrs. Culp thought the chain had been dropped accidentally in the coal, but as she undertook to lift the chain up, the idea of its having been recently dropped was at once made fallacious, for as the lump of coal broke it separated almost in the middle, and the circular position of the chain placed the two ends near to each other, and as the lump separated, the middle of the chain became loosened while each end remained fastened to the coal.

The lump of coal from which this chain was taken is supposed to come from the Taylorville or Pana mines (southern Illinois) and almost hushes one’s breath with mystery when it is thought for how many long ages the earth has been forming strata after strata which hid the golden links from view. The chain was an eight-carat gold and weighed eight penny-weights.”

The Illinois State Geological Survey has said the coal in which the gold chain was found is 260 – 320 million years old. This raises the possibility that culturally advanced human beings were present or visiting in North America during that time.

 

How did this gold chain find itself left behind in Earth’s distant past more than a quarter of a billion years before humans had evolved?

 

And consider this article that recently appeared on LiveScience.com:

 

 

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer

Almost every man alive can trace his origins to one man who lived about 135,000 years ago, new research suggests. And that ancient man likely shared the planet with the mother of all women.

The findings, detailed today (Aug. 1) in the journal Science, come from the most complete analysis of the male sex chromosome, or the Y chromosome, to date. The results overturn earlier research, which suggested that men’s most recent common ancestor lived just 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.

Despite their overlap in time, ancient “Adam” and ancient “Eve” probably didn’t even live near each other, let alone mate. [The 10 Biggest Mysteries of the First Humans]

“Those two people didn’t know each other,” said Melissa Wilson Sayres, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study.

Tracing history

Researchers believe that [+ modern humans left Africa+] between 60,000 and 200,000 years ago, and that the mother of all women likely emerged from East Africa. But beyond that, the details get fuzzy.

The Y chromosome is passed down identically from father to son, so mutations, or point changes, in the male sex chromosome can trace the male line back to the father of all humans. By contrast, DNA from the mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of the cell, is carried inside the egg, so only women pass it on to their children. The DNA hidden inside mitochondria, therefore, can reveal the maternal lineage to an ancient Eve.

But over time, the male chromosome gets bloated with duplicated, jumbled-up stretches of DNA, said study co-author Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University in California. As a result, piecing together fragments of DNA from gene sequencing was like trying to assemble a puzzle without the image on the box top, making thorough analysis difficult.

Y chromosome

Bustamante and his colleagues assembled a much bigger piece of the puzzle by sequencing the entire genome of the [+ Y chromosome+] for 69 men from seven global populations, from African San Bushmen to the Yakut of Siberia.

By assuming a mutation rate anchored to archaeological events (such as the migration of people across the Bering Strait), the team concluded that all males in their global sample shared a single male ancestor in Africa roughly 125,000 to 156,000 years ago.

In addition, mitochondrial DNA from the men, as well as similar samples from 24 women, revealed that all women on the planet trace back to a mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa between 99,000 and 148,000 years ago — almost the same time period during which the Y-chromosome Adam lived.

More ancient Adam

But the results, though fascinating, are just part of the story, said Michael Hammer, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study.

A separate study in the same issue of the journal Science found that men shared a common ancestor between 180,000 and 200,000 years ago.

And in a study detailed in March in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Hammer’s group showed that several men in Africa have unique, divergent Y chromosomes that trace back to an even more ancient man who lived between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago. [Unraveling the Human Genome: 6 Molecular Milestones]

“It doesn’t even fit on the family tree that the Bustamante lab has constructed — It’s older,” Hammer told LiveScience.

Gene studies always rely on a sample of DNA and, therefore, provide an incomplete picture of human history. For instance, Hammer’s group sampled a different group of men than Bustamante’s lab did, leading to different estimates of how old common ancestors really are.

Adam and Eve?

These primeval people aren’t parallel to the biblical Adam and Eve. They weren’t the first modern humans on the planet, but instead just the two out of thousands of people alive at the time with unbroken male or female lineages that continue on today.

The rest of the human genome contains tiny snippets of DNA from many other ancestors — they just don’t show up in mitochondrial or Y-chromosome DNA, Hammer said. (For instance, if an ancient woman had only sons, then her mitochondrial DNA would disappear, even though the son would pass on a quarter of her DNA via the rest of his genome.)

As a follow-up, Bustamante’s lab is sequencing Y chromosomes from nearly 2,000 other men. Those data could help pinpoint precisely where in Africa these ancient humans lived.

It’s very exciting,” Wilson Sayres told LiveScience. “As we get more populations across the world, we can start to understand exactly where we came from physically.”

 

Anyway, I got up early one Saturday morning and thought I’d try my hand at a novel exploring these and similar intriguing facts. The disappointing result follows.

 

 

 

 ONE MILLION BCE

Fragment of a science fantasy novel that died aborning

© 2015 by Malachi Stone

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Until the breakthrough no one had suspected their existence. The passage of time had long since wiped away every physical trace. There were no potsherds, no stone tablets, no petrified remains, no footprints in the sand—no sign that they had ever lived or walked the earth. Their discovery confounded archaeology and paleontology and scrolled back every timeline, transforming millennia into epochs, epochs into periods, periods into eras, eras into aeons.

It began with something called a “retrograde analysis algorithm,” a shibboleth of symbols springing from the mind of a theoretical physics professor trying to gain an edge in the weekly game of chess he regularly played with another academic, a research biologist studying the recovery of antediluvian DNA.

“A tooth?”

“That’s right, a tooth. A molar. To be more precise, a third molar. A wisdom tooth, in this case a tooth that imparts wisdom.”

“You hope.”

“Can you imagine the impact of finding intact human DNA in a specimen reliably dated to three hundred thousand years BCE? I’m talking homo sapiens sapiens DNA, the same DNA as in you and me. It’s a revelation, Hank; it telescopes the migration of modern man back in time for a good hundred fifty thousand years, maybe more!”

“If you can prove it.”

“Oh, I can prove it. Think of it, Hank: an anatomically modern human specimen, older than the Neanderthal, way older than the Denisovans, and discovered outside of the African continent.”

“Maybe he got lost.”

“Yeah, well, maybe. But he didn’t stay lost, did he? I found him and I’m keeping him, or his tooth at least. After I extract the DNA I may wear his tooth around my neck on a chain when they hand me my Nobel prize in Geneva next year.”

“Where, precisely?” Hank asked absently as he checked his iPhone for messages. He had been considering sacrifice of his queen’s bishop in order to draw Martin into a trap, but after consulting the RAA’s advice via a cell phone app of his own design, he abandoned the intention.

“Ah, that I cannot tell you, my friend. Rest assured, though, that if I were to divulge the geographic location where that tooth came from, you would likely fall out of your chair and writhe on the floor in utter astonishment.”

“A hint, then.”

Martin hesitated. With a gloat in his voice, he conceded, “All I can tell you is that it was found someplace very, very cold. Cold enough to preserve DNA in near-pristine condition, lucky for me. And lucky for science.”

Hank was about to slip the iPhone into his pocket when it vibrated in the familiar custom pattern. He checked the app once more. There on the screen was a killer diagram and accompanying description of how he could hand Martin a humiliating chessboard defeat in only four moves!

“I’m going to take a wild guess and say Antarctica.”

Martin’s face blanched. He always was an open book to a careful observer like Hank. “It was discovered in Antarctica, isn’t it? I’m right, aren’t I?” Hank hadn’t lost track of the game, but his curiosity was clearly piqued. “But how the devil—”

“Ice core samples,” Martin said grudgingly. “You know how Frosty Glenn in Meteorology heads out every summer to one godforsaken frozen waste or another and sets up his derricks and drills like he’s trying to strike oil? He comes back with these long cylindrical lengths of ice and studies them at the climatology lab where they’re kept in cold storage. Some of the ice he collects goes back three, four hundred thousand years or more.”

Hank moved his rook. “So?”

“So, there’s Frosty, peering through the ice, looking for air bubbles or whatever, and what do you think he sees trapped there, in situ, suspended in incredibly ancient blue ice, where a tooth clearly should not be found. At first Frosty figured somebody was trying to play a joke on him. But after he grilled his associates and grad students he realized that it wasn’t a visit from the tooth fairy, that the tooth had been there all along, frozen in ice over a mile deep, for an astounding length of time.”

“Your move,” Hank said.

Martin studied the board with chagrin. “I’m swearing you to secrecy on all this, Hank,” he said. “If word of it gets out before I publish my findings, let’s say that I’d be more than a tad upset.”

“My lips are sealed. Are you going to move, or what?”

Martin shook his head. He knocked over his king with a flick of his fingers and conceded. “I can’t concentrate on my chess game with this new research afoot. You’d never have beaten me with that gambit if I’d had full command of my wits this evening, Hank.”

 

 

 

In my writing I’m always flirting with mysticism and magical realism. Recalling that Richard Nixon, the man many of us used to love to hate, once opined that the American people didn’t believe anything was real unless they’d seen it on television, it occurred to me that if somebody in the United States actually rose from the dead, it would likewise go unnoticed unless the networks covered it in prime time. That idea spun into a flight of surreal fantasy. Sadly, I soon became bored and dumped this effort, which follows.

 

 

HEART’S DESIRE

An unfinished novel by Malachi Stone

© 2015 by Malachi Stone

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Deer Valley Independent, October 21, 2009

 

Spring Plains, IL. – Heart Christian, 38, of Spring Plains, fell and sustained serious injuries today while descending a concrete staircase at the local Methodist Church where she is a member. Ms. Heart, who was carrying a covered dish at the time of her accident, is currently hospitalized at Protestant Memorial Hospital where she remains in a coma. Reverend Sanders, church pastor, states that the church board had recently allocated funds to carpet the painted steps leading to the church hall in the basement but that “we just didn’t act soon enough.”

 

 

Heart awoke in a cage. She wore only a plain shift. A man stared at her, his head tilted with curiosity. Heart tried to place his manner of dress. Finally it occurred to her: he looked like one of those men on the Dutch Masters cigar box, in a black wide-brimmed hat with a buckle on the hatband, square white collar and long black coat. On closer scrutiny the coat turned out to be a robe. He was seated cross-legged on what looked like a prayer rug suspended in space two feet off the floor.

The man said, “Peace be with you.”

“Who are you? And how do you do that? Float in the air?”

The man said imperiously, “I am Saddam Hussein. Not the martyr in the Time of the Centuries who died and rose again, may he live forever and ever, Amen. No, but that Saddam Hussein is my namesake.”

“But why am I here in this cage? And why are you dressed like that?”

“I am dressed like any other Judy-in-Training,” the man said. “And you are under suspicion of heresy. It is my duty to prepare you for your preliminary examination by a full Judy. In your case the most powerful in all the Brotherhood of Judies: Brother Sinistrare, peace and blessings be upon him forever and ever.”

“What is a Judy? What are you talking about? I’m an American. I have certain rights, you know.”

“A Judy is what in the Time of the Centuries you might have called a judge or magistrate, only vastly more powerful. Here we are ruled by the Brotherhood of Judies, as we have been for nearly a thousand years.”

“But what is it you do?”

The man Hussein became incensed. His prayer rug rose higher in the air. “I have studied four hundred years to become a Judy-in-Training, and you would have me tell you in an instant,” he huffed.

“You don’t look like you’re over thirty. Four hundred years?” Heart marveled. “Why, people don’t live even a fraction of that span.”

“Not in your epoch, which we refer to as the Time of the Centuries.”

“Do you have a different manner of measuring time? Is that it?”

“Not in the slightest. We have continued to adhere to the fiction of Newtonian time as a convenience, ever since the discovery of the Internal Contradiction and the invalidation of mathematics and theoretical physics. No, young lady, we have been blessed by the One True God with vastly increased life spans. You might say the Old Testament curse of threescore and ten has been lifted from mankind.”

“So you’ve really lived for four hundred years?”

“Five hundred forty-six, actually. The last two hundred alone have been spent mastering the application of the Trilemma of Roosevelt, a centrally important doctrine in our system of laws.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“It was originally expressed by its proponent in your own time,” the man explained. “But like so many other seminal discoveries, its critical importance and its deep wisdom remained hidden, completely overlooked for many centuries. In much the same manner, penicillin was discovered quite by accident by a medical student in 1896 and forgotten, then rediscovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming. However, its antibiotic medical properties were not utilized until your D-Day. The same observations could be made regarding your age’s ignoring certain critical discoveries that could easily have given you a workable cold fusion technology.”

“I’m sure. So what do you intend to do to me?”

“I intend to prepare you for your preliminary examination, as I have already stated.”

“Suppose I refuse to cooperate? What then?”

“Why would you refuse?”

“I don’t know; because I have questions and they’re not being answered.”

“When have I done anything in our conversation thus far other than answer your questions?”

“I still don’t get how I got here, do you know what I mean? I’m not from here, and to wake up like this, caged up like an animal—”

“How does one find oneself anywhere? As an example, how does one put in plain words one’s own birth? The subjective experience itself is impossible to remember, so one naturally takes the word of others. Does the self even exist before birth? Is there a self at all, or is the self no more than a convenient illusion like the passage of time? These things defy explanation; they are mysteries.”

“That tells me nothing. Why am I in this cage? Tell me that!”

The man shrugged. “When I first encountered you, you were already in the cage. Therefore I have no opinion.

“No opinion! What kind of crazy answer is that?”

“For all I know, you have always been in the cage. However, I suspect you have been quarantined. Others may have placed you in the cage fearing that your beliefs are dangerous to yourself or to others. Or perhaps you placed yourself in the cage for that same reason. However, all I have said thus far is rank speculation on my part. As I say, these things are mysteries. Nothing has been revealed to me.”

“I think you’re playing with me. If you won’t tell me how I got in the cage, or why, then please tell me what I have to do to get out. I want to go back to my husband and children. It’s senseless and cruel to keep me cooped up in here. I’m not dangerous to anybody, least of all to myself.”

“So you say. As I have admitted already, I do not know how or why or when you went into the cage. Therefore I cannot offer any assistance in removing you from the cage. I am a Judy-in-Training and am here for the sole purpose of preparing you for your preliminary examination.”

“You said I was being held on suspicion of heresy.”

“I said that you are under suspicion of heresy.”

“Then tell me who suspects me?”

“Suspicion is a truly chimerical phenomenon. Who can say where it begins and where it ends? Or with whom?”

“But I must have done something to make somebody suspicious, right?”

“If you insist.”

“No, what I mean is, why would anybody be suspicious of me unless I’d done something to, to warrant their suspicion, in other words?”

“Quite so.”

“But, see, that’s it: I don’t remember doing anything.”

“Is amnesia a defense to murder?”

“I guess not; you’re the lawyer.”

“By the same token, is heresy less culpable when the heretic has no memory of having committed it?”

“It’s not a crime at all where I come from,” Heart said.

“Aha,” said the man.

“Oh, well,” Heart said, “I guess you better start preparing me, then. Since that’s your job, and all.”

“We have already begun.”

“Then let me ask you another question: you said that God reversed the Old Testament curse, the one after the Flood that man would only live seventy years or so?”

“Indeed. Antediluvian lifespans have been restored. Moreover, the One True God has placed His sign in the sky and has turned back the celestial clock to five minutes before the fall of man.”

“What sign in the sky?”

“What your astronomers in their collective ignorance would have called a black hole, now positioned in equipoise with our galaxy, blotting out the western sky. Quite remarkable to observe, although after so many years we have become accustomed to it.”

“Aren’t you worried the black hole might swallow up the entire galaxy and you with it?”

“Nonsense. The sign in the sky has persisted without change in living memory, and lives have become rather long since it first appeared.”

“How do you know it’s from God?”

“Because He has told us.”

“Told you how?”

“The One True God lives among us. He has taken on flesh once more.”

“Don’t you know what the Gospels say about false christs?”

“No more need for a Christ. Thanks be to the One True God, mankind has returned to the garden.”

 

I’ve long suspected that much of my inspiration derives from hostility. Perhaps nothing ignites my hostility quite as much as daytime television, as you may surmise from the following parody.

 

 

 

JENNIFER ANUSTON’S RETURN TO TELEVISION

une histoire de clés

 

 

The publicity machine had hyped the living shit out of it for at least a month: Jennifer Anuston—THE Jennifer Anuston—a special guest on THE VIEW. When the final day arrived, production assistants scurried all over the studio from before five AM, making sure everything was in readiness for her: the usual bottled water, idiosyncratic snacks and sundries, but strange requests too, like lavender-scented mineral oil, expensive organic natural fiber towels heated in a towel warmer to precisely 98.6 degrees, and an imposing python head sculpted from wax. One production assistant stated with apparent authority that Jennifer needed the snakehead to display on the show because she was passionate about animals. More preparations were made than for visiting royalty. In fact, Jennifer Anuston was America’s answer to visiting royalty, a true Hollywood star deigning to do a daytime television appearance. Barbara Falters would have been willing to sell her left tit to manage this coup; fortunately, she didn’t have to.

The staff in the makeup room were surprised when Jennifer appeared that morning at 5 AM, having already changed into a robe. She looked much smaller in real life, and had a girl-next-door quality about her that belied her stardom. She had to introduce herself to be noticed.

“Hi, I’m Jen,” she said, offering her hand to the head makeup artist.

“Of—of course you are,” the startled woman stammered. “H-how do you do, I’m so meesed to pleat you—I mean, pleased to meet you, I’m sure. See how I am?” she added, flustered. “I’m Vera, incidentally.

“Hi, Vera. And relax; I get that all the time from fans. I’m flattered. Ready to work your magic?”

“Oh, no magic required. You’re so beautiful Ms. Anuston; this job’ll be the easiest I’ve ever done.”

“Now I’m really flattered. Especially because this morning I need all the help I can get. Courtney and I practically closed Il Sole last night trying to wait out the fucking paparazzi, but the cocksuckers ambushed us anyway.”

Even though in her business she’d heard it all before, Vera tried not to react. It was so discordant: the voice and face were Jennifer Anuston’s from Friends, but the argot was Al Pacino in Scarface. Shocked by Jennifer’s plain language, Vera beckoned her to a chair and went to work. Jen’s skin was nearly perfect, her hair was already washed and pulled up in a headband; Vera could clearly see the natural wave. She started with foundation, matching the tone and shade and requesting Jen’s approval.

“Have you ever eaten a woman’s pussy in the back seat of a Hummer?” Jen asked a propos of nothing.

“C-can’t say as I have, Ms. Anuston.”

“Jen. Here’s a piece of advice: get a room. Courtney and I thought we’d given those paparazzi pricks the slip last night, so she parks the Hummer on the upper deck on the NBC lot—we have lifetime privileges there, and everybody usually leaves us alone to do our thing. Wouldn’t you know it, no sooner do we slip our panties off when along comes this one little shitsucker in a chartered helicopter clicking away with his Nikon and a telephoto lens. I told Courtney, we should have popped for a suite at someplace quiet like the Chateau Marmont. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have my bare cunt splashed all over the tabloids like Britney Schmears.”

Before Vera could answer, Joy Bewhore’s voice rang out. “Jen, Dear! How’s my favorite friend from Friends?” Joy rushed to Jen and the two women embraced. Joy’s hair was wrapped tightly under a silk turban; her pre-makeup face looked drawn and haggard, her eyes and mouth somehow smaller. Vera thought she glanced Joy’s fingertips slip under Jen’s robe and explore her breast, but she couldn’t be sure. Joy brayed, “I hear you can still take a licking and keep on ticking, as the saying goes.”

“I proved it again last night,” Jen said, then burst into giggles.

“You little minx, you! Who was the lucky gal? No, don’t tell me, let me guess. Madonna?”

“Didn’t even know she was in town. Good guess, though: she and I nearly wore each other out after the MTV Movie awards last season.”

“Demi?”

“We’ve taken to calling her The Bionic Woman after all the surgery. Wrong again. I haven’t been with Demi since the Bruce Willie days when we shared a three-way in Idaho, in bed with half her damn doll collection for witnesses. You should hear her when she cums. She has that dainty face, but what comes out of her mouth sounds like a moose cow in rutting season.”

Joy whooped with laughter. “You’re telling me? She almost got the two of us thrown out of the powder room at last year’s D K.”

“You two? Sounds fantastic.”

“You should have joined us.”

“Next time call me.”

“It’s a date. I hear that new boy toy of hers, what’s his name, Kutcher? They say he has a schwantz on him that’d split you in two.”

“He’d need one, to cum after Bruce.”

“Honey, Bruce is still one of the most well hung studs in Hollywood and I’ve had them all. Speaking of which, have you met Barbara and Whoopie?”

“Not yet,” Jen said. “They promised to pop into the green room before the show.”

“Pop in: interesting use of the term,” Joy mused. “After Vera gets you all pretty and you’re done in hair, buzz me from the green room.”

“Interesting use of the term,” Jen said playfully. “Buzz me.”

Jen was alone in the green room by seven-fifteen. She poured herself a bottled water over crushed ice and watched the monitor. Suddenly the door burst open and in walked Barbara Falters and Elizabeth Assholebeck. Elizabeth blurted out, “Jennifer Anuston! I loved you in GIRL, INTERRUPTED.”

“Elizabeth, be quiet,” Barbara broke in. “Jennifer, we are so very pleased that you could be on our show today.”

“Thanks, Barbara. I’ve always been a big fan of the show, and, truthfully, it’s been a dream of mine to meet all you ladies.”

“The pleasure is all ours,” Barbara responded graciously. “Now if you’ll excuse me I’m needed in makeup. After age eighty-seven, everything takes a tad longer.”

“Even the sex?” Jennifer asked with an impish expression.

“Especially the sex,” Barbara said. “Take my latest book, for example. Had I been even more truthful and honest, I would have admitted my affair with Art Linkletter during the HOUSE PARTY days in the early television era. I don’t care if he was a Canadian border-jumper; that man’s schlong was like an all-day sucker. Made my jaws ache so that I could hardly talk to Dave Garroway. That was when people first started thinking I had a speech impediment.”

“I can understand you perfectly,” Jen said.

“Thank you dear. Now Elizabeth will keep you company. Try not to let her annoy you.” Barbara quickly exited.

“What’s Brad Pitts really like?” Elizabeth ventured.

“He really likes filthy skanks who steal other women’s’ husbands,” Jen said, looking her right in the eye. “He never forgave me for giving BBT a rim job at that Vanity Fair Oscars party.”

  “So Elizabeth, do you ever help your guests loosen up before the show?” Jen asked.

“I try to make our guests as comfortable as possible, whatever.”

“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear you say, Elizabeth, because you know what? The only thing that helps me loosen up before a television appearance is to have another woman eat my pussy.”

Elizabeth gasped, “But Jennifer, I’m a good Catholic girl. I even went to Catholic school, all the way through.”

“Then you’re no stranger to cunnilingus, Elizabeth.”

“Call me Liz.”

“I’d rather call you Lez,” Jen joked, wriggling out of her tight short skirt to reveal she was going commando for the occasion.

“I can’t believe I’m sitting here with Jennifer Anuston in the green room and she’s…bottomless,” Elizabeth marveled, her mouth agape.

“I can see your tongue hanging out, Elizabeth,” Jen smirked. “Why not put it to better use? I know you want to.”

Sighing, “I’ve always wanted to,” Elizabeth went down on Jen like an eagle swooping down on a mouse, or rather, a beaver. She licked away, enraptured with the rare thrill of orally servicing her favorite star. Jen spread her legs and closed her eyes. There is nothing like experiencing another woman’s first time eating your pussy, she mused. Elizabeth was a natural, exhibiting even more innate cuntlicking skill than both Olsen twins put together. Her tongue was everywhere, ultimately working its way to the border of Jen’s asshole.

“Oh, baby, rim my ass. Rim my ass, baby, that’s what I really want, oh, yeah,” Jen moaned. Just then the green room door burst open and in strode Whoopie Goldfarb, clad in a gaudy pantsuit that only she could wear for the show.

“Elizabeth! Can’t leave you alone for a minute, child,” she scolded gently. “Still, I can understand. After all, how many times in a woman’s life does she get a crack at Jennifer Anuston?”

“Hi, Whoopie,” Jen said, her legs pulled up to better open her asshole for Elizabeth’s intimate attention, adding, “Don’t stop, Elizabeth.”

“Girl Friend,” Whoopie cheered, “I’ve been trying to get her to do that for me since Rosie left the show. Damn, that white girl can eat ass. She can clean up my back kitchen any time.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing, Whoopie,” Jen said, her voice quavering with pleasure.

“You know what you need, Jen? The one thing that would hit the spot right now? Is to be sucking on a big black dick. You ever suck black dick, girl Friend?”

“No, but I’d love to sometime,” Jen said.

“No time like the present.” Whoopie unzipped her fly and let her distinctly masculine trousers fall to the floor. She was wearing a leopard thong underneath. A leopard thong with a distinctly unfeminine bulge at the crotch, at Jen’s line of sight and inches from her face. Whoopie’s eyes bulged with desire as Jen reached and peeled down the thong.

Twisting over one shoulder to see, Elizabeth shrieked, “Whoopie has a penis!”

“Damn right Whoopie has a penis,” Whoopie said. “Whoopie’s what they call a hermafro-dyke.”

“I’d love to suck it for you, Whoopie,” Jen sighed.

“Thought you’d never ask,” Whoopie replied, offering her big black cock for Jen to fellate. Nearly concealing a sagging bull ball sack, her cock hung easily nine inches limp, but it didn’t stay limp for long once Jen went to work on it. Aroused, Whoopie’s cock was more than thirteen inches of mahogany.

Pumping her pelvis, Whoopie fucked Jen in the face while Elizabeth ate away, alternating at each woman’s asshole. She noticed Whoopie’s scrotum tightening down to the size of two prunes, and knew that Whoopie was close to cumming. Wondering whether she should warn Jen in advance, she decided against it. It was less than four minutes before airtime.

Moaning and exhaling hoarsely, Whoopie came all over Jen’s face and in her celebrated hair, a copious flood of cum. At that same moment, Jen came from the combined effect of Elizabeth’s ass licking and lucky guess at finding her g-spot with her fingers up Jen’s cunt. The waves of pleasure were so intense, Jen failed to notice the cum decorating on her face and hair. Someone knocked on the door and announced, “Three minutes, ladies.”

“Oh, shit,” Whoopie cursed, struggling to snap her thong back into place and hitch up her pants. “Hate to get eaten and run, Jen, but that’s show business.”

“Is my lipstick smeared?” Elizabeth bleated.

“Your mouth’s been in two women’s assholes and you wanna know is your lipstick smeared?” Whoopie said. “Look in a mirror, girl. Clean yourself up, or twelve million housewives gonna know all your business.”

“Bye, Jen. And thanks,” Elizabeth said perkily as she left the green room.

“I should thank you. Both of you,” Jen said with sincere gratitude.

“Jen, you’re our first and only guest this hour,” Whoopie said. “So maybe you ought to take a quick look in—”

A stage manager urged, “Whoopie, you’re on!” and rushed her out the green room door.

After a few minutes of the usual banter among the co-hosts, Barbara Falters introduced Jennifer Anuston. The crowd went wild, standing and cheering for Jen’s entrance. Those cheers turned to gasps as the audience members—mostly women—studied Jen’s face in closeup on the monitor.

Whoopie’s semen, although it had dried and clarified during the five minutes Jen had waited to make her entrance, was still clearly visible adorning her hair and forehead. The audience’s shocked whispers mixed with a few nervous laughs at first, then regained intensity into a renewed, even louder roar of approval.

The tabloids screamed THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT JEN!! above cover photos artfully concealing the blots of semen in black patterns that could mean nothing else. Mothers protested and blocked their children’s view in the checkout lines, but the “Jennifer Anuston facial” issues sold out everywhere. “Facial Chic” briefly took over in Hollywood, with celebrities as diverse as Sharon Stoned, Lindsey Lohung and Justin Dweeber arranging with publicists to be “surprised” by paparazzi while wearing a facial in public. Even Jane Fondle got into the act, touting a new video and a line of “cum cosmetics” that she claimed would remove wrinkles.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Malachi Stone is a practicing attorney in Southern Illinois. He is the author of eleven novels, a collection of short stories and a miscellany of assorted works.

 

CONJURER’S OATH

DEAD MAN’S ACT

DEVIL’S TOLL

GREEDY AS THE GRAVE

HARD BREAK

HEARTBALM

OZARK BANSHEE

PRIVATE SHOWINGS

RUDE SCRAWLS

SCREENPLAYS, BULLSHITE AND ONIONS

ST. AGNESEVE

SHARP FORCE TRAUMA

WICKED KING DICK

 

 

 

CONNECT WITH ME ONLINE

 

 

Facebook:

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Email: mailto:[email protected]

 

Be sure and listen to the FREE MP3 version of the first ten chapters of HEARTBALM performed by the author. Start here:

 

[+ http://archive.org/details/MalachiStoneHeartbalmChapterOne_AndNowaWordFromMySponsor+]

 


Screenplays, Bullshite and Onions

Many moons ago, before I realized that screenwriting is a young man's game, and dazzled by reports of fuck-you money being paid to average guys like Joe Eszterhas for SHOWGIRLS and similar pieces of drek, I became seduced by the idea of adapting my novels into screenplays. Result: a couple hundred queries ignored and a metric shitload of time pissed away in the attempt. No matter: here are my first efforts at writing for the silver screen. Bonus material attached.

  • ISBN: 9781310816383
  • Author: Malachi Stone
  • Published: 2015-11-26 17:20:26
  • Words: 26654
Screenplays, Bullshite and Onions Screenplays, Bullshite and Onions