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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

unproduced screenplay: ‘Cat & Mouse’ Part 7

(Cat & Mouse begins here)

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INT. HONKY-TONK BAR – CONTINUOUS

As before. The Agent takes a sip from his still half-full glass.

The Journalist takes a stool next to him at the bar.

  • THE AGENT
  • How’s the Bug?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Blew a belt. Now it’s good as new.

The Bartender approaches.

  • BARTENDER
  • (to Journalist)
  • What’s your poison, sweetheart?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Corona.
  • BARTENDER
  • (to Agent)
  • Top you up, honey?

The Agent shakes his head.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • So, do we have him?

The Agent waits for the Bartender to step away.

  • THE AGENT
  • You haven’t covered serial killers before. You’d have known about souvenirs. I follow the media on all our cases — I’ve never seen your name before.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Oops. Found out.
  • THE AGENT
  • Did you even win a Pulitzer?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • It was for political coverage. My series on “Machiavelli in the Modern World.”
  • THE AGENT
  • So why this story?

The Bartender returns with the Journalist’s beer, flashes a flirty smile at both men.

She steps away to attend to another customer.

The Journalist takes a long, slow swig from his beer.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • The first victim, back in Milwaukee… she was my sister.
  • THE AGENT
  • What? We looked. We couldn’t find any relatives.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Different last names. She took our stepfather’s — I didn’t. We weren’t really in touch for the last few years.

The Agent stares down into his drink.

EXT. MILWAUKEE ALLEY – FLASHBACK – NITE – RAIN

Neon lights reflected in puddles. Behind a dripping Dumpster and near a slick brick wall, a woman, dead on the wet ground, posed like the others, as if asleep.

END FLASHBACK

INT. HONKY-TONK BAR – CONTINUOUS

As before: the Agent and the Journalist at the bar.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Why was she different?
  • THE AGENT
  • What?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • My sister. She was killed there in the alley and her body was left there. The others have all been dumped in the woods, but they weren’t killed there. Why was she different?
  • THE AGENT
  • I think… He didn’t intend to kill her, your sister. I mean, he didn’t plan it — it was an impulse, sudden. The posing, afterwards–
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • The posing?
  • THE AGENT
  • He was sorry. He just wanted them to look nice.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Not sorry enough to turn himself in, though.
  • THE AGENT
  • No. He ran. He was scared, maybe. Not of being caught, but at what he’d done.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • So why did he kill again? Maybe he was scared because he enjoyed killing and wanted to do it some more?
  • THE AGENT
  • Maybe. Or maybe… I know this sounds perverse, but the subsequent killings may have been a way of atoning for that first murder.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Atoning? By killing again?
  • THE AGENT
  • Imagine this: Something your sister does enrages him, and he kills her impulsively. This shocks him, so he runs away, calms down. He’s not a killer, he tells himself, that wasn’t like him at all. And to prove it, he’ll interact with women who look like your sister, just to show himself that he’s not driven to kill them, too.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • But he is.
  • THE AGENT
  • He is. He sweet-talks them, maybe, he charms them, but they don’t react the way he expects them to — maybe by just not being your sister. When they fail to be what he needs them to be, he gets angry and kills them in a rage. And then he’s remorseful again, tries to hide them.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • He doesn’t hide them too well, though, does he? You keep finding them.
  • THE AGENT
  • It may be more a matter of hiding the truth from himself than from anyone else. He’d probably be relieved to be caught, because that’d stop him from killing again.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • That doesn’t sound like the joker with the camera back at the station.
  • THE AGENT
  • No, it doesn’t.
  • (beat)
  • I don’t think it’s him.

LATER

The place has nearly emptied out.

The Journalist and the Agent still sit at the bar. The Agent swallows the last of his whiskey.

The Journalist waves the Bartender over, tipsily waggles his empty beer bottle at her — he’s already had more than a few.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • One more for the road.
  • BARTENDER
  • I think you’ve had enough, honey.

She winks at the Agent, still at the bar next to the Journalist.

  • BARTENDER
  • Least you made up for him. I’ve never seen a man make a single drink last so long.

The Agent tips his empty glass at her in an apologetic salute.

  • THE AGENT
  • Nothin’ personal, ma’am. An agent must be fit for duty at all times.
  • BARTENDER
  • (nods at Journalist)
  • He’s not fit for much right now. How ’bout a nice cup of coffee for the road, boys?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Sounds good.
  • THE AGENT
  • Not for me, thanks.

The Agent stands, leaves a generous tip on the bar, makes for the exit. He nods to the only other patron still left in the bar, a drunk in a corner, who nods back tipsily.

  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Guess I’m out, too, then.
  • BARTENDER
  • Oh no you’re not. You’re not getting behind a wheel in that condition — police chief’d have my license. Sit your butt down while I brew us up a pot.

The Bartender shoots a coy look back at the Journalist as she heads for the coffeemaker, and he grins back at her.

The Agent, at the exit, makes note of their flirtation.

EXT. MOTEL #3 – NITE

The Agent fumbles with the key in the door to his room.

EXT. DRIVEWAY – THE AGENT’S HOUSE – FLASHBACK – NITE

The Agent’s personal car pulls in near the SUV, which is parked at a crazy angle.

INT. FOYER OF HOUSE

The Agent closes the front door. The living room beyond is half-dark.

His wife is curled up on the couch with a glass and a bottle.

He heads up the stairs, doesn’t acknowledge her.

His wife silently raises her glass to him, doesn’t move from the couch.

END FLASHBACK

INT. MOTEL #3 ROOM – NITE

The Agent lies on the bed, curled up in despair, his cell phone to his ear.

  • THE AGENT
  • Honey, are you there?… Please pick up… Please…

Silence. He closes the phone and closes his eyes.

INT. RURAL COLORADO POLICE STATION – MORNING

The Colorado Cop watches TV news:

A video clip of the dramatic arrest of the Fan at the funeral cuts to an anchor and a pundit.

  • PUNDIT
  • I mean, this is sensational stuff. This nutjob was absolutely taunting the cops and the feds, showing up at the funeral like that–
  • ANCHOR
  • If this is the guy. We don’t know that yet.
  • PUNDIT
  • Oh, this freak is the guy…

As the debate continues, the Colorado Cop turns away from the TV, remembers:

INT. MILWAUKEE LECTURE HALL – FLASHBACK

The small auditorium is filled with law enforcement officers in uniforms from all over the U.S.

The Agent is at the lectern on the stage. Projected slides of a gruesome crime scene illuminate the wall behind him.

  • THE AGENT
  • –one of the most important things to learn is to trust your instincts. Use the senses, the intuition you’ve developed through years of dealing with scumbags.

A ripple of laughter through the audience.

  • THE AGENT
  • When that little bell goes off in your head, the one that says “This is the guy,” listen to it. More often than not, that little voice knows what it’s talking about.

The Colorado Cop, in the audience, listens attentively.

END FLASHBACK

EXT. IMPOUND YARD – DAY

The Agent and the Assistant Director walk through an improvised impound yard behind the police station.

White-jumpsuited FBI technicians swarm over the Fan’s old Ford — one of them looks up at the Assistant Director and shakes his head.

  • ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • We’re just not finding anything we can use. Between that and the Ohio speeding ticket–
  • THE AGENT
  • Are we sure he got that ticket on the same day as the second Milwaukee murder?
  • ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • No question. He gave the ticketing officer a hard time and got a free trip to the station for it. He was fingerprinted.
  • THE AGENT
  • Shit.
  • ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • He was absolutely in Cincinnati on the same day our second girl was getting strangled in Milwaukee.
  • THE AGENT
  • This guy just likes getting arrested.
  • ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • We’re gonna have to let him go.
  • THE AGENT
  • I was starting to have my doubts about him anyway.

EXT. POLICE STATION – LATER

The Agent stands on the steps of the station, surrounded by cameras and microphones. The media huddles around him as close as they can.

  • THE AGENT
  • –was released a few hours ago. Not only could we find no evidence whatsoever to tie him to the strangling spree, we have conclusive proof of his whereabouts at the time of one of the murders, and he was nowhere in the vicinity.

The flurry of shouted questions. One wins out.

  • REPORTER #1
  • How close is “nowhere in the vicinity”?
  • THE AGENT
  • He was several states away, in a county lockup.

Again, shouted questions run together, until:

  • REPORTER #2
  • What was he in jail for?
  • THE AGENT
  • He was arrested on a nonviolent misdemeanor charge. This man is not, I repeat, not a danger to anyone.

More shouts, then:

  • REPORTER #3
  • What about the reports that he had some sort of scrapbook of the stranglings?
  • THE AGENT
  • That’s true, but he appears merely to be a crime buff, and not a criminal himself.

More shouted questions.

  • THE AGENT
  • There’s really nothing more to say about this person. He is not a suspect.

More shouted questions.

  • THE AGENT
  • But I would like to say something to the real killer. If you’re watching, I want you to know that I understand that you’re sorry for what you’ve done, that none of it was meant to happen. I know what you’re going through, and I want you to know that you can trust me. Come talk to me, and we’ll make everything all right.

The Agent pauses for a moment to gaze sympathetically into the cameras while the reporters shout at him some more.

  • THE AGENT
  • I have nothing else.

He turns and enters the police station.

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