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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

unproduced screenplay: ‘Cat & Mouse’ Part 3

(Cat & Mouse begins here)

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INT./EXT. THE AGENT’S CAR/RURAL ROAD – DAWN

The Agent drives, rubs his eyes. He looks like he hasn’t slept in years.

He reaches for his cell phone, on the passenger seat, dials a number.

  • THE AGENT
  • It’s me, honey. Did I wake you?… I’m sorry… I just needed to hear your voice… You’re the only one who understands me…

The Agent’s car continues along the road. The sun rises behind him.
EXT. ANOTHER SMALL TOWN MAIN STREET – LATER THAT MORNING

Cars are parked diagonally along the street in front of the shops, including a diner.

The Agent’s car pulls in to park next to a green, old-style VW Beetle with Illinois plates.

INT. DINER

The diner bustles with breakfasters.

The Journalist, at a table in the corner near the window, chows down with gusto. Through the window, he see:

THE AGENT

get out of his car and head for the diner.

The Agent enters, glances around for a table, doesn’t notice the Journalist.

The Agent moves to sit at the counter.

A waitress approaches him expectantly.

  • THE AGENT
  • Coffee.

MINUTES LATER

The Agent sips his coffee, studies a local map.

The Journalist approaches him from behind and takes the counter seat next to him.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • So, what brings you to this neck of the woods?
  • THE AGENT
  • What?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Bad pun, huh? Neck of the woods? Gallows humor — it’s the only way to survive a job like this.
  • THE AGENT
  • Are you following me?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Hey, I was here first. Are you following me?

AT THE JOURNALIST’S TABLE – MINUTES LATER

The Journalist takes a copy of HEADLINE magazine from his satchel, pushes it across the table to the Agent.

The cover is a montage of happy, smiling photos of the victims of the strangler, with the coverline CUT DOWN IN THEIR PRIME.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • I’m with “Headline” magazine.

He speaks in hushed tones, aware of the bustle around them.

  • THE AGENT
  • Not a rag, then.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Five Pulitzers last year, one of them for me. Come on, I’m not some vulture from Eyewitless News. This is an important story–
  • THE AGENT
  • That the media is fucking up.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • So help me to tell it right. Why did you tell that TV reporter that the killer wanted publicity when you knew that wasn’t true?
  • THE AGENT
  • Because I didn’t like the way they were handling the story. How did you know it wasn’t true?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • I’ve been covering the story since Milwaukee. Since the first murders there. I’ve covered serial killers before. I think I know how this guy’s thinking.

The Agent flips through the magazine, stops at the story on the killings. Several spreads are full of happy photos of the victims.

  • THE AGENT
  • This is good, actually. It’s the kind of coverage I’d have asked for.

The Journalist slips a mini tape recorder onto the table and pushes the Record button. The Agent doesn’t notice.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Why? What’s good about it?
  • THE AGENT
  • This guy kills in a blind, sudden rage, but then he’s remorseful. Dumping a body on the side of the road usually indicates disdain, contempt for the victim, like they’re garbage. But the way he arranges them, almost like they’re sleeping…
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Like they’re sleeping?
  • THE AGENT
  • It’s like he can’t deal with the fact that they’re dead.

The Agent is practically mesmerized by the photos in the magazine.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Yeah…
  • THE AGENT
  • So if we can play up the sympathy for the victims, humanize them, make them more real for him, we might make him feel bad enough to crack, do something stupid, turn himself in, even.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Why would you try to direct the coverage? How do you know he’ll read it?
  • THE AGENT
  • Oh, he’ll be following the media coverage. He’ll be obsessed with it.

The tape recorder CLICKS off, and the Agent looks up, startled.

  • THE AGENT
  • What are you doing?

The Journalist fiddles with the recorder, turns the tape over.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • My job.

The Agent snatches the recorder away.

  • THE AGENT
  • How did you end up here? How did you know I’d be here?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Instinct. He’s here, or he’s been here.
  • THE AGENT
  • Do you know where he’s going?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • How did you manage to be on the scene of the last murder before he even struck?

The Agent is angry but silent for a moment, then rises and tosses the recorder back to the Journalist.

  • THE AGENT
  • I don’t want to see you again.

He stalks out of the diner.

IN THE CORNER

The Fan watches him leave.

INT./EXT. THE FAN’S CAR/RURAL ROAD – LATER

The Fan’s old Ford chugs along the road. The Fan rests his elbow on the open window while he drives and hums to himself, the breeze in his hair.

EXT. RURAL ROAD – NOON

An attractive WOMAN (white, 25-35), her long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, jogs along the side of the road. She pays more attention to the scenery than anything else.

The GROWL of a car passing her O.S. hardly disturbs her, but the sound of it stopping ahead of her makes her look toward it.

HER FACE

as she approaches the car and stops cautiously at the passenger side window.

  • WOMAN
  • You’re a long way from home. You lost?

INT. THE AGENT’S CAR – RURAL ROADSIDE – SAME DAY

With a start, the Agent, in the driver’s seat of the parked car, wakes from a catnap.

EXT. RURAL ROADSIDE

The Agent paces near his car, upset and shaken.

INT./EXT. THE AGENT’S CAR/RURAL ROAD

The Agent talks on his cell phone as he drives.

  • THE AGENT
  • I don’t know how to explain it, honey. It’s like… No, more like I can just feel where he’s going. Like we’re both using the same compass keyed to the same sick magnetic north… I can’t even imagine what his final destination might be. He probably doesn’t have one in mind… Right. I can only tail him, sometimes a step ahead, sometimes a step behind… No, you’re right, it’s never been like this before. This is weird. It’s… Yeah, it’s scaring the shit out of me.

The Agent drives past an abandoned and derelict farmhouse.

A green VW Beetle is on the side of the road, broken down. Smoke roils from its engine.

The Journalist stands next to the Beetle, tries to flag down the Agent’s car.

  • THE AGENT
  • What?… I can’t just leave in the middle of an investigation… Yeah, maybe, when this one’s over…

The Agent looks back at the Beetle in the rearview mirror, then glances around at the surrounding countryside: nothing for miles, and nary a passing car but his own.

  • THE AGENT
  • Look, honey, I gotta go… Yeah, we’ll talk about it later.

He hangs up, puts the phone on the passenger seat, and turns the car around.

INT./EXT. THE AGENT’S CAR, NEAR THE BEETLE

The Agent makes the U-turn to come up beside the Beetle.

The Journalist sticks his head in the passenger-side window. He doesn’t yet realize it’s the Agent’s car.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Hey, can you–
  • (recognition)
  • Oh.
  • THE AGENT
  • Get in.

The Journalist climbs in, picks up the phone.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • We could call for a tow truck.

The Agent takes his phone from the Journalist and puts it in his jacket pocket.

  • THE AGENT
  • The next town is just a few miles down the road.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Oh. Okay.

The Journalist sees:

THE PHOTO

of the woman taped to the dashboard.

EXT. SMALL TOWN #3 MAIN STREET

More small-town Americana: shops, a diner. The Agent’s car pulls in to park near the police station.

INT. THE AGENT’S CAR

  • THE AGENT
  • I’m gonna check in with the local PD.

The Journalist looks lost. He glances up and down the street: no service station.

  • THE AGENT
  • They can probably recommend a towing service.

INT. POLICE STATION

The station is small and quiet — this is a sleepy town. The Agent and the Journalist enter.

The POLICE CHIEF (30-40s) holds up a finger to indicate he’ll be with them in a moment. He bounces his baby in his arms while his wife looks on, smiling.

The Agent, melancholy, watches them…

INT. THE AGENT’S HOUSE – FLASHBACK – MORNING

The faces of the Agent and his WIFE — the woman in the dashboard photo — are close as they make love urgently. They are close to orgasm. Their passionate moans erupt into laughter as they climax.

MINUTES LATER

They lie, exhausted, entangled in the sheets and each other.

The Agent smiles, laughs gently, as he caresses his wife’s skin, kisses her shoulder, nuzzles her neck, buries his face in her long brown hair.

  • THE AGENT
  • So, do you think we did it this morning?
  • WIFE
  • Give your boys a chance to swim upstream, would you?

The Agent grins and mimes glancing at a wristwatch.

  • WIFE
  • Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen right away. It can take months, and we’ve only just started.
  • THE AGENT
  • I can’t wait.

They kiss, slowly, romantically.

IN THE KITCHEN

The Agent and his wife bustle around the kitchen, prepare breakfast, take every opportunity they can to touch and caress each other in passing.

The phone RINGS and the Agent picks it up.

  • THE AGENT
  • Hello?

END FLASHBACK

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