>>/ The Game

/ The Game ( 2)

: / The Game.

/ The Game

CUT TO:

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, MASTER BEDROOM -- NIGHT

Nicholas comes from the bathroom, just showered. He looks at CNN on TV. He walks to change channels: infommercials, B+W movies, cartoons. BUGS BUNNY. Nicholas leaves Bugs Bunny on, steps back, watching.

He sits on the bed.

CUT TO:

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, MASTER BEDROOM -- DAY

Nicholas sleeps. Cordless PHONE RINGING. He stirs, awakens, face creased, hair mussed.

NICHOLAS (in phone, voice cracks) Hel... hello?

MARIA (v.o.) (from phone) Mr. Van Orton, it's Maria. I... I wasn't sure I should call...

NICHOLAS (in phone) What time is it?

Nicholas studies his CLOCK RADIO: 11:05. He picks it up and examines it, suspicious.

MARIA (v.o.) (from phone) Eleven o'clock. I took the liberty of rescheduling your nine a.m. with Allison and Dietrich. Are you... not not feeling well?

NICHOLAS I'll be in in an hour. I left my briefcase at fifteen-thirty-three Montgomery. Check with their lost and found.

MARIA (v.o.) Alan Baer's in town, at the Ritz-Carlton.

NICHOLAS Really?

MARIA (v.o.) He's requesting dinner tonight.

NICHOLAS We'll let him know.

MARIA (v.o.) Also, the Claremont Hotel called to say they have your American Express card at the front desk. You left it last night?

Nicholas is confused. He crosses with the phone, finds and studies his wallet. He fingers an empty plastic pocket.

MARIA (v.o.) Should I send someone... ?

NICHOLAS No. Give me their number.

MARIA (v.o.) Eight, four, three, three-thousand.

NICHOLAS See you in awhile. Goodbye.

Nicholas hangs up, dials.

HOTEL MANAGER (v.o.) (from phone) Claremont Resort and Spa.

NICHOLAS (into phone) This is Nicholas Van Orton. I'm told my American Express card...

HOTEL MANAGER (v.o.) (from phone) Yes, Mister Van Orton. Everything's in order. The concierge has arranged for the wine and flowers in the room.

NICHOLAS Has he?

HOTEL MANAGER (v.o.) And, a young woman phoned just now to say she's on route but running a little late.

NICHOLAS (pause) Did this young woman leave her name?

HOTEL MANAGER (v.o.) I'm sure I don't know.

NICHOLAS Thank you.

Nichola hangs up, interest piqued.

CUT TO:

EXT. BAY BRIDGE -- DAY

Nicholas drives the Bentley. PREVIOUS CONVERSATION:

SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR (v.o.) There's no answer. Would you like his voice mail?

NICHOLAS (v.o.) Tell him his brother called, and to call back soon as he can.

SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR (v.o.) Yes, sir.

CELLULAR DISCONNECT. Nicholas looks in his rearview mirror. THRU MIRROR: a grimy BLACK SEDAN follows... keeps distance.

EXT. CLAREMONT HOTEL -- DAY

Grand hotel. Nicholas lelaves his car with the valet.

INT. CLAREMONT HOTEL, LOBBY -- DAY

At the GLASS DOORS, Nicholas pushes thru. A THIN MAN in a plain suit isn't looking, BUMPS Nicholas.

THIN MAN Sorry. My fault.

Thin Man exits. Nicholas crosses the opulent lobby to the desk. The grinning HOTEL MANAGER spots him coming.

HOTEL MANAGER Ah, Mr. Van Orton. Here you go...

NICHOLAS Have we met?

He hands over Nicholas' AMEX CARD, which Nicholas studies.

HOTEL MANAGER I believe so. If you would jsut sign here...

The manager offers a CHARGE SLIP and pen. Nicholas looks at the manager, the slip, then signs. The manager hits a BELL. A BELLHOP arrives.

HOTEL MANAGER Show Mr. Van Orton to his room.

NICHOLAS The key?

HOTEL MANAGER Hm?

NICHOLAS Is there a room key?

HOTEL MANAGER Didn't I give you two?

NICHOLAS No, you didn't...

Nicholas shakes his head and pats his pockets, stops, feeling one pocket... reachse in and takes out a GOLD KEY on a hotel key chain. Nicholas looks to the GLASS DOORS.

NICHOLAS Cute.

INT. CLAREMONT HOTEL, HALL -- DAY

Long hallway. Nicholas follows the Bellhop. They arrive at the door to ROOM 277.

NICHOLAS I'll take it from here.

He tips the Bellhop, who leaves, uses the key, entering...

INT. CLAREMONT HOTEL, ROOM 277 -- DAY

Nicholas shuts the door. There's a room-service cart with wine chilling. Nicholas moves down this short hall...

NICHOLAS Hello... ?

His jaw drops. The room is TRASHED. Curtains shredded, furniture overturned, television imploded, mirror spiderweb-smashed, walls full of holes.

Nicholas moves forward, having spotted... His battered BRIEFCASE on the ruined mattress.

The latch is undone. Nicholas opens it.

Inside: MANY PHOTOGRAPHS of blurry SEX acts. Bodies in motion. Limbs. Breasts. A NAKED WOMAN tied to the bed. One PHOTO shows two women entwined with a NAKED MAN who appear to be NICHOLAS. It's a so-so cut-and-paste job.

A LOUD KNOCKING at the door startles Nicholas. He closes the briefcase, freaked.

He hurries to the door as POUNDING is HEARD again, puts his eye to the peephole.

THRU THE PEEPHOLE: a MAIN gets out her keys.

MAID (thru door) Time to make up the room.

Nicholas fumbles with the SECURITY CHAIN, slides it in place as the door opens -- stopped. Nicholas keeps hidden.

NICHOLAS Could you come back later?

MAID Yes, sir. Sorry.

THRU THE PEEPHOLE: the maid moves away.

Nicholas crosses to retrieve his briefcase, and is crossing back when he stops in his tracks upon seeing...

On a dresser, a MIRROR covered in COCAINE lines and residue.

IN THE BATHROOM

Nicholas turns on the faucet, washing the cocaine down the sink, hands shaking. The mirror edge cuts his thumb and he gives a cry, drops the mirror, which SHATTERS on the floor.

Nicholas sucks his thumb, puts it under the faucet. He finds a hand cloth and wraps it round his thumb.

There are big blood droplets on the sink and floor.

Nicholas grabs wads of tissues from a box on the back of the toilet, using them to blot up the blood, throwing tissues in the toilet and flushing.

Nicholas keeps wiping blood. The toilet burps, OVERFLOWING. WATER SPILLS OUT...

Nicholas backs away, panicked, exiting...

INT. CLAREMONT HOTEL, HALL -- DAY

Nicholas looks out from Room 277. He sees a MAID CART, HEARS an O.S. VACUUM CLEANER. He run-walks down the hall, hugging his briefcase. He pushes thru a STAIRWELL DOOR.

EXT. CLAREMONT HOTEL -- DAY

Nicholas takes his Bentley back from the valet, pulling out fast to the street. Further back, the grimy BLACK SEDAN moves from the curb.

INT. NICHOLAS' BENTLEY -- DAY

Nicholas' mind races. He wipes sweat off his face. He glances in his rearview...

THRU MIRROR: the black sedan, following again.

Resolve comes to Nicholas, and anger. He speeds up.

EXT. BERKELEY STREETS -- DAY

The Bentley weaves thru traffic, taking a corner sharp. Nicholas spins the wheel, heading...

DOWN AN ALLEYWAY

Nicholas brakes hard, gets out of the Bentley and heads for the mouth of the alley...

As the black sedan follows, blocked, stopping. Nicholas comes to pull open the car door, confronting the rumpled, PLUMP GUY behind the wheel.

PLUMP GUY What the fuck... ?!

NICHOLAS Why are you following me?

PLUMP GUY I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just driving...

He falters as he follows Nicholas' angry gaze to the seat beside him where a FILE is open to a PHOTO of NICHOLAS.

PLUMP GUY (fumbling to close file) Look... what I'm doing is none of your business...

NICHOLAS Is Alan Baer "the Game?" Is that what this is?

PLUMP GUY (defiant pause) Friend... why don't you back off.

He leans as he talks... inside his jacket, he wears a gun.

Nicholas reaches across and pulls the gun, hefting it.

PLUMP GUY Hey... !

NICHOLAS (of the gun) Nice touch. Does the game use real bullets... ?

Nicholas points the gun at the sedan's rear tire, FIRES! The gun is SHOCKINGLY LOUS -- BURSTS the TIRE!

Nicholas looks to the smoking weapon, blanching.

Plump Guy leaps to the other seat, scrambling out the passenger door, submissive...

PLUMP GUY Okay, I'm a private investigator. Somebody hired me to keep tabs on you...

Nicholas lifts the gun, unsure, pointing it awkwardly...

NICHOLAS Who... who hired you?

Plump Guy bolts, running away down the alleyway. Nicholas aims the gun after him, but catches himself, lowers it. He runs the other direction, back to the Bentley...

Nicholas gets in the car, drops the gun on the seat, drives.

INSIDE THE BENTLEY

Nicholas returns to the street, glancing back. He looks at the gun. He opens the glove compartment, throws the gun in. He takes out his CELLULAR PHONE, dialing...

MARIA (o.s.) (from cellular) Mister Van Orton's office...

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Maria. Have Sutherland meet me at the Ritz-Carlton. I'm on my way there now.

MARIA (o.s.) May I tell him... ?

But, Nicholas is already pushing DISCONNECT.

CUT TO:

INT. RITZ CARLTON HOTEL, LOBBY -- DAY

Nicholas enters with briefcase. Sutherland rises to follow.

SUTHERLAND What's happened...

NICHOLAS Follow me.

INT. RITZ-CARLTON, ALAN BAER'S SUITE -- DAY

A HOTEL EMPLOYEE rolls a room service cart out. Nicholas pushes past with Sutherland in tow. Alan Baer, his handsome WIFE and lovely DAUGHTER are seated at a table where a WAITER lays out a splendid meal.

ALAN BAER Nicholas... this is unexpected.

Nicholas takes out the SEX PHOTOS, throws them on the table.

NICHOLAS Do you actually believe that because you publish children's books, anyone's going to care about my reputation?

Wife and daughter are frightened. Alan Baer covers the photos with his napkin.

NICHOLAS You could print pictures of me wearing nipple rings and butt-fucking Captain Kangaroo... all anyone would wonder was whether the stock was up, or down.

Sutherland's nervousness grows by the second.

DAUGHTER Daddy... ?

ALAN BAER It's alright, dear. Mr. Van Orton...

SUTHERLAND Nicholas...

NICHOLAS (still to Alan Baer) That you've involved Conrad... is unforgivable. I am now your enemy.

ALAN BAER Are you finished?

NICHOLAS No. This is my lawyer, Samuel Sutherland. I thought you two should meet.

ALAN BAER We met, this morning. I signed the termination contract for Baer/Grace. I accepted your settlement, Nicholas. you were right. I'm going sailing.

Nicholas opens his mouth, but no words come. He looks to Sutherland. Sutherland nods to confirm.

ALAN BAER You're welcome to join our luncheon. Maybe we can straighten this our. (motioning to...) My wife, Mary Carol, and my daughter-in-law, Kaliegh.

Wife and daughter give mumbled greetings, having no desire to meet Nicholas. Nicholas just stands stymied.

NICHOLAS It seems I've... please, disregard my apparently misguided remarks.

Nicholas heads for the door, hurrying out. Alan, wife, daughter, the waiter and Sutherland exchange looks.

SUTHERLAND Well...

Sutherland walks to retrieve the sex photos.

SUTHERLAND Enjoy your lunch.

Sutherland smiles, exiting.

CUT TO:

INT. NICHOLAS' OFFICE -- DAY

Nicholas sits at his desk, opens his briefcase, checking the contents. Soon, Sutherland arrives, shutting the door. He watches Nicholas, deciding.

SUTHERLAND How concerned should I be?

NICHOLAS It was a misunderstanding.

Sutherland puts the SEX PHOTOS on the desk.

NICHOLAS Someone's playing hardball. It's complicated. Can I ask a favor?

SUTHERLAND You know you can.

NICHOLAS Find out about a company called C.R.S. Consumer Recreation Services.

SUTHERLAND Sounds like they make tennis rackets. What do we know?

NICHOLAS Just what I told you.

SUTHERLAND Nothing else?

Nicholas remembers. He opens up a file drawer in his desk.

NICHOLAS They gave me their waiver. On their... wait...

Nicholas hands over a file, returning to his briefcase. He finds an ENVELOPE with a SMILELY-FACE on it. He opens it. He takes out a silver-plated METAL CRANK. Like a handle.

SUTHERLAND What is this?

Nicholas looks up. Sutherland's looking in the file, quizzically, hands it back...

Nicholas studies PINK-TINTED PAGES; the pages Feingold gave him, once dense with words, now completely blank except for NICHOLAS' SIGNATURE and INITIALS several places.

NICHOLAS (of the pages) Christ... I can't believe it... invisible ink?

SUTHERLAND You're joking.

NICHOLAS It's what they do. It's like... being toyed with by a bunch of... (picks up SEX PHOTOS) Depraved children.

Nicholas examines each photo. Sutherland goes to leave.

SUTHERLAND Very well. If you tell me not to worry, I shan't.

NICHOLAS Sam... (as Sutherland stops) Thank you.

Sutherland exits. Nicholas keeps examining the pictures. He sits forward, finding something...

IN A PHOTO: the out-of-focus back of a NAKED WOMAN wearing only a RED BRA.

NICHOLAS (INTO PHONE-INTERCOM) Maria. The other night... last night, there was a woman here named Christine. I called a taxi, from that company we use...

MARIA (v.o.) (FROM PHONE-INTERCOM) Elite?

NICHOLAS What?

MARIA (v.o.) Elite Taxi Company?

NICHOLAS Look into it. Find out which car answered and where they took her.

Nicholas sits back. He picks up the METAL CRANK, twists it in his hands, frowning, pockets it.

CUT TO:

EXT. VAN ORTON MANSION, GARAGE -- NIGHT

The rapid SOUND of a PHONE OFF THE HOOK is HEARD OVER: BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP... The Bentley pulls in. Headlights out.

IN THE CAR, Nicholas takes the gun from the glove compartment and puts it in his briefcase.

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, KITCHEN -- NIGHT

Dark. The PHONE OFF THE HOOK is LOUDER, grating: BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP... Nicholas comes in the back door, peering into the weak moonlight.

NICHOLAS Ilsa?

Nicholas replaces the phone on its cradle. QUIET.

He reaches for a light switch, ZAP! -- BLUE SPARKS leap to his fingers. Nicholas YELPS and shakes his hand out.

The switch has been RIPPED OUT, leaving exposed wiring.

Nicholas goes to his briefcase, getting the gun and moving forward, wary, calling out...

NICHOLAS Ilsa!?

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, DEN -- NIGHT

In the blackness, Nicholas comes to stand at the doorway, levels the gun at someone across the room...

NICHOLAS I've got a gun!

There's a roaring fire in the giant fireplace and a FIGURE in a chair. Nicholas eases forward...

It's the HARLEQUIN in the chair, with a GLOSSY B+W PHOTO between its teeth. Nicholas pulls out the picture...

A POLICE PHOTO of NICHOLAS' FATHER, his body sprawled. It's stamped "PROPERTY SFPD" in red.

There's a NOTE papere-clipped behind: "Like my father before me, I choose eternal sleep." At the bottom, a RED SIGNATURE ARROW affixed, "Please Sign Here."

Suddenly, ALL LIGHTS SURGE TO LIFE, icy and ghoulish -- each and every bulb replaced by BLACK LIGHT...

Nicholas pivots slowly, taking in the horror...

The wrecked den is covered in FLUORESCENT SPRAY-PAINT GRAFFITI: "WELCOME HOME" "FUCK YOU" "NICHOLAS VAN COCKSUCKER" "SUCK IT" "C.R.S. RULES" "HAVING FUN, RICH BOY?" Everywhere. Across windows, paintings and curtains.

The ceiling is covered in "MOMMA'S BOY" and OBSCENITIES.

Scaffolding's been left behind. Used SPRAY CANS on the splattered Oriental rug. A PAINT/AIR COMPRESSOR.

NICHOLAS ... fuckers...

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, MASTER BEDROOM -- NIGHT

A glowing ANARCHY SYMBOL sprayed across the door which is throw open by Nicholas as he enters.

It's all BLACK LIT here too. GRAFFITIED and DESTROYED. "HELTER SKELTER: in jolting letters. Nicholas backs out...

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, VARIOUS ROOMS -- NIGHT

FOLLOW: Nicholas down the hall and around corners, BLACK LIGHTS above, walls covered in CURSES and MULTI-COLORED SQUIGGLES. Like a bad trip thru the Bat-Cave...

DOWN STAIRS

Past OTHER ROOMS likewise awash in vibrant slurs...

THRU THE KITCHEN

Now also revealed as ruined. Nicholas goes out the door...

EXT. VAN ORTON MANSION, BACKYARD -- NIGHT

Nicholas runs to the GUEST HOUSE.

INT. VAN ORTON GUEST HOUSE, FOYER -- NIGHT

BANGING on the FRONT DOOR. Ilsa comes to look thru the peephole, opens the door to a breathless Nicholas.

ILSA Mr. Van Orton... ?

NICHOLAS Ilsa... you're alright?

ILSA Yes. What do you mean? What's wrong?

NICHOLAS Did the alarm go off? The house... they... you didn't see... ?

ILSA I don't know what you're talking about. What's happened?

NICHOLAS There's been a break in. Lock this door and stay here. Don't move a muscle.

Nicholas runs back toward the house.

ILSA Be careful!

EXT. VAN ORTON MANSION, BACKYARD -- NIGHT

Crossing the lawn, Nicholas pulls out his cellular phone, dialing as he runs, takes out his gun.

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) (from cellular) Nine-one-one, emergency...

NICHOLAS (into cellular) I need the police. There's been a break-in at my home...

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) (from cellular) Okay, sir. Stay on the line and give me your address...

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, KITCHEN -- NIGHT

Nicholas enters, still on the phone, locking the door, beginning to punch the security code into the ALARM KEYPAD.

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Twenty-two Moore Street. At the corner of Moore and Buchanan.

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) Now, sir, you said it was a break-in...

NICHOLAS Yes...

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) Are you sure they're gone... ?

As Nicholas finishes the security code, the KEYPAD BEEPS, and Nicholas straightens, worried.

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) ... are you sure there's not still someone somewhere in the house?

NICHOLAS I... don't think so.

And with the DYING HUMMMMMMMM of POWER FAILING, all the BLACK LIGHTS GO OUT. Nicholas raises his gun...

NICHOLAS Oh God...

Pointing it into the dark kitchen, hand trembling.

911 OPERATOR (v.o.) Hello? Are you still there?

Behind, a DARK FIGURE outside rises against the kitchen door window, POUNDING FRANTICALLY! Nicholas leaps and spins, CRYING OUT in terror, dropoping the gun...

The gun bounces across the linoleum.

It's CONRAD at the kitchen door, haggard and scared, his pale face pressed against the glass, pointing frantically.

CONRAD Meet me out front!

Conrad ducks away, moving on.

CUT TO:

EXT. CITY STREETS -- NIGHT

The Bentley takes a corner fast, heading downhill, moving from residential to mostly urban...

INSIDE THE BENTLEY

Nicholas drives. Conrad looks back over his shoulder, a man on the run, dark circles under his eyes.

NICHOLAS Tell me where we're going.

CONRAD Just drive, man. (slumps low) It's fucking nuts!

NICHOLAS What's this all about, Connie?

CONRAD Shhhhhhh. Wait... wait...

Conrad flips the sunshade, looks behind it, feels the fabric of the roof and the seam of the door.

He grips the interior LIGHT, breaks it open, pulling the bulb and wires.

NICHOLAS What are you doing?

CONRAD They're methodical. They're nothing if they're not that.

NICHOLAS Who?

CONRAD C.R.S. Who do you think? Jesus H., thank your lucky charms. To think what I almost got you into.

NICHOLAS (miserable) Yeah, almost...

CONRAD You dodged a bullet.

NICHOLAS How do you mean, exactly?

CONRAD They fuck you and they fuck you and they fuck you. And then, just when you think it's done, that's when the real fucking begins.

NICHOLAS Slow down, take a breath...

CONRAD It doesn't stop, Nick. I paid the bill, I gave 'em their money, but it all started again. They won't leave me alone...

NICHOLAS What have they been doing to you?

CONRAD Everything. I'm a goddamn human-pinata...

NICHOLAS Calm down. Why would they keep playing after you paid?

CONRAD You think I know? I paid them more to make it stop.

BOOM! -- the wheel jerks in Nicholas' hand, TIRES SCREAM...

CONRAD What the hell... !?

ON THE STREET

A TIRE'S BLOWN OUT. Riding the rim, the car jerks over...

INSIDE THE BENTLEY

Nicholas stops at the curb. Conrad's turned in his seat.

CONRAD It's them. They did this.

NICHOLAS It's a flat tire. That's all.

CONRAD How do you know?

NICHOLAS We're going to figure this out. Get a grip on yourself.

CONRAD Okay... okay.

Conrad faces forward. Nicholas gets out to look at the wheel, using his cellular, then returns to the open window.

NICHOLAS The phone's dead.

CONRAD Really?

NICHOLAS Do you know how to change a tire?

CONRAD No. Do you? (off Nicholas' frown) Can't be too hard, can it? I don't think we should be here out in the open like this.

Nicholas rubs his temples, looks all around, frustrated.

NICHOLAS Check the glove box... might be another battery there.

Conrad OPENS the glove compartment: KEYS SPILL OUT. At least fifty, silver and gold, all stamped "C.R.S."

Conrad's breath catches in his throat. He looks to Nicholas, afraid. Nicholas leans closer...

NICHOLAS How did those... ?

CONRAD You're part of it...

NICHOLAS What? Connie...

Conrad climbs out, pointing across the roof of the car...

CONRAD No! You're one of them. Of course, it makes perfect sense!

NICHOLAS No, it doesn't! Those keys were put there. I didn't even know...

CONRAD You're behind this, aren't you? You and your sick friends. Well, make it stop!

NICHOLAS Listen to yourself. Why would I do anything like what you're describing?

CONRAD Because you hate me. Because you had to be here, when mom died. Because you had to do it alone. (near tears) Well, don't you think if I'd known... I'd've been here too. I'd have been here...

NICHOLAS Stop this. It's not true...

CONRAD I'm sorry, Christ, I'm sorry! How many more times do I have to say I'm sorry before you forgive me... ?

NICHOLAS Stop it!

Conrad bolts away, full tilt, into a nearby PARK and PUBLIC GARDENS. Nicholas gives chase, calling after.

AHEAD, Conrad runs headlong, disappearing thru thick bushes.

Nicholas follows, downhill, falls and slides, gets up. At the bottom, he shoves thru vegetation...

On the other side, Nicholas looks all directions, gulping air. Conrad's nowhere to be seen. Nicholas stops.

NICHOLAS (shouting) Connie!

Far off, there's a concrete path winding thru the park past a BANK OF PAYPHONES. ONE PAYPHONE starts RINGING. Nicholas starts back the way he came.

Behind, ALL THE PAYPHONES start RINGING. Nicholas halts.

He runs to the phones, answers one.

NICHOLAS (into phone) You sons-of-bitches...

MAN'S VOICE (v.o.) (from phone) Flippy? Is Flippy there? Flippy?

Nichols slams the phone down, picks up another...

RECORDING (v.o.) (from phone) If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and...

PHONE STOP RINGING. Nicholas hangs up, digging out his wallet. Rifling thru it, he comes up with the VALET TICKET with the C.R.S. EMERGRENCY 800-NUMBER on it. He dials...

Puts the phone to his ear. BUSY SIGNAL. He slaps the headset-tongue, redialing, waiting...

RECORDING (v.o.) (from phone) We're sorry. The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service...

He throws the receiver, tears the valet ticket in half and tosses it, then steps back -- KICKS the phone.

EXT. CITY STREET -- NIGHT

Nicholas returns to his car, looks down at the flat tire.

At the rear, Nicholas opens the trunk. He reaches in and takes out the car's JACK. He looks at it like an alien thing, turns it over, tosses it into the street.

He closes the trunk, REMOTE's the ALARM, walking away. There's a TAXI heading this way. Nicholas hails it...

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas gets in. GLASS separates him from the CAB DRIVER

NICHOLAS Twenty-two Moore Street.

The driver nods and hits the gas.

EXT. CITY STREETS, FURTHER ON -- NIGHT

The taxi roars down the street.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas has his head back, eyes closed, loosening his tie. He looks out the window, narrow his eyes.

NICHOLAS (pointing) Um... you want to turn here... (TAXI KEEPS GOING) Excuse me, you missed the turn.

The driver says nothing. Nicholas knocks on the glass.

NICHOLAS Did you hear me? You're...

Nicholas stops, noticing the DRIVER I.D. on the other side of the partition. "California Regal Sedans." C.R.S.

NICHOLAS No... no, no, no. Stop the car!

The taxi HALTS at a LIGHT. Nicholas tries the DOOR HANDLE. Doesn't work. He tries the WINDOW HANDLE -- it COMES OFF.

ON THE STREET

The cab PEELS OUT as the light turns green.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas tries the other door, panicky. Same results -- locked in. The taxi makes a SCREEEEECHING TURN...

ON THE STREET

The taxi speeds up... heading for a WHARF AREA and PIERS.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas presses against the partition, urgent, calm...

NICHOLAS Listen. I am a very wealthy man. Whatever they're paying you, I'll double it!

The taxi driver simply opens his door and leaps out...

THRU THE WINDOW: the driver ROLLS, a perfectly executed stunt fall. Nicholas can't believe. He grabs frantically for his seatbelt, SNAPS it around him, looks up...

Opens his mouth to SCREAM...

ON THE WHARF

The taxi goes FLYING off a deserted pier... airborne...

SPLASHES DOWN! in the San Francisco Bay.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas is jerked forward, breath slammed out of him.

ON THE SURFACE OF THE WATER

The taxi goes under in an eruption of bubbles.

UNDERWATER

THRU THE TAXI WINDOW: Nicholas pulls off his seatbelt, extricates himself and starts kicking the window. Dashboard lights grow eerie as they submerge.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas stops kicking, trying to calm. He looks to the front: water's gushing in through two-inches of open window. The taxi's less that half full.

NICHOLAS (to himself) It's a game... it's a game...

He tries the DOOR HANDLE again, yanking, to no avail. He realizes something, searches his pockets...

UNDERWATER

The taxi sinks, headlights dimming in murkier depths.

INSIDE THE TAXI

Nicholas finds the METAL CRANK. He takes a deep breath...

SUBMERGING. He puts the crank in the WINDOW HANDLE HOLE, turns the crank. The WINDOW LOWERS, water flooding in...

UNDERWATER

Nicholas swims out the window, heading upwards...

EXT. SAN FRANCISCO BAY -- NIGHT

Nicholas bursts to the surface, sucking air. He treads water, catching his breath.

GIRL'S VOICE (o.s.) Hey, mister... are you alright?

Nicholas turns. There's a CABIN CRUISER docked nearby. A beautiful GIRL in a yellow raincoat throws a life preserver. Nicholas swims to it.

EXT. CABIN CRUISER -- NIGHT

Nicholas climbs the rear ladder with the girl's help. He stays on his knees, teeth chattering. The boat's luxurious.

GIRL You could get hepatitis from that water.

She helps Nicholas up, keeps a grip on him.

NICHOLAS I need the police.

GIRL Let's get you dried off first. I might have some clothes below.

INT. CABIN CRUISER, BATHROOM -- NIGHT

The shower and mirrors are fogged. Nicholas' wet clothing sits in the sink. He's wearing a short-sleeved shirt, pulling on trousers.

IN THE ADJOINING BEDROOM

QUIET MUSIC. Nicholas comes from the bathroom, feeling the waistband of the pants, checking out the cuffs.

NICHOLAS You know, these fit... perfectly.

GIRL They were my husband's. My late husband... may he rest in peace.

Nicholas looks to the girl. She rises from the bed and slides the raincoat off, wearing only a BIKINI. A Playmate.

Nicholas just sort of sags.

The girl undoes her top, which falls. She steps forward.

GIRL I've been so lonely.

NICHOLAS I can't tell you how not interested I am.

GIRL Don't be nervous. They said you'd be nervous.

NICHOLAS Don't take another step.

The girl covers her breasts, confused. Nicholas gathers his clothing from the sink, heading for the stairs.

GIRL Isn't this what you like? They told me you had a thing for boats.

NICHOLAS First they try to kill me, now you? (to girl) Put your damn clothes back on.

Nicholas scrambles upstairs...

EXT. CABIN CRUISER -- NIGHT

Nicholas leaps off onto the wharf. The girl, pulling on her raincoat, crosses to the boat's rail, waving a BOX. Thru the box's window: a gold GLASS CUTTER nestled in velvet.

GIRL Don't you want your thing? I was supposed to give you this thing.

Nicholas just keeps walking.

CUT TO:

EXT. C.R.S. BUILDING -- DAY

TWO POLICE CARS, marked and unmarked, pull to the curb. From the plainclothes car, MALE DETECTIVE and FEMALE DETECTIVE get out. Nicholas and Sutherland get out.

INT. C.R.S. BUILDING, LOBBY -- DAY

Nicholas, Sutherland, Male and Female Detective cross the busy lobby with TWO UNIFORMED OFFICER'S behind.

INT. C.R.S. BUILDING, OFFICES -- DAY

Nicholas enters, followed by the others. He stops short... REVEAL: this huge room, once filled with cubicles far as the eye could see, is now entirely EMPTY. Trash. Dust. Fixtures jutting from the floor.

CUT TO:

INT. NICHOLAS' OFFICE -- DAY

Nicholas stands with hands in pockets, staring at the floor. Sutherland's here. Female and Male Detective stand together. She's checking notes.

FEMALE DETECTIVE Management for the building says that space hasn't been officially rented yet. The county recorder has no listing for "Consumer Recreation Services" or any derivation thereof. No sign of the boat or the girl. We're checking escort services, but it's unlikely. Divers are looking for the taxi, and soon as they find it they'll pull the plates and V.I.N.

MALE DETECTIVE Have you gotten in touch with your brother?

NICHOLAS He hasn't called back.

SUTHERLAND What about the house?

MALE DETECTIVE The graffiti was painted in an oil-based marine marking solution. Illegal in the states. Not impossible to trace, but it'll take time.

FEMALE DETECTIVE The photos, gun, the clown, the ambulance, cable box, everything else... it's all pending. (shuts notebook) Breaking and entering we have, solid. Malicious mischief, vandalism, harassment. But, that's about all.

SUTHERLAND Illegal surveillance, reckless endangerment...

NICHOLAS Attempted murder.

MALE DETECTIVE Except... you said you hired these people.

SUTHERLAND

That's irrelevant.

MALE DETECTIVE It's our job to let you know what we have. We haven't got motive.

FEMALE DETECTIVE (to Nicholas) You are who you are, so we know you're not making it up. But, we've never dealt with anything quite like this. Be appropriately cautious. (pause) Unless you think they're done with you.

CUT TO:

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, KITCHEN - NIGHT

Ilsa sets down a plate: sandwich with crust cut off, potato chips and carrot sticks. Nicholas eats, pondering.

NICHOLAS What was my father like?

Ilsa's at the fridge, near where drop-cloths, paint cans and other repair preparations are piled.

ILSA What makes you ask?

NICHOLAS I'm not sure.

Ilsa comes to set down a glass, fills it with milk.

ILSA All the time I've known you, you've never once asked about him.

NICHOLAS He came to my mind recently, that's all.

Ilsa moves to put food back into the refrigerator.

ILSA Your mother thought he was a good man. He worked very hard. What I remember most was his manner was so... slight. It was easy to spend time in a room, and not realize he'd been there the whole time.

NICHOLAS Was he morose, or...? I mean...

ILSA No. What happened... no one expected it.

NICHOLAS Sometimes I wonder how much of him there is in me.

ILSA Not much, I think.

NICHOLAS I'm just like him.

ILSA You're not like him at all. I don't know exactly what's going on around here lately, but don't make me start worrying about you.

NICHOLAS Did you worry about him?

ILSA Nobody worried about your father.

Nicholas stares at his milk. PHONE RINGS. He answers...

NICHOLAS (into phone) Hello.

MARIA (v.o.) (from phone) It's Maria. I found the address you wanted from Elite Taxi.

NICHOLAS (picks up pen and paper) Go ahead...

CUT TO:

EXT. SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD -- NIGHT

Rows of lower-middle-class homes. Nicholas parks. A WHITE VAN sits near, a wrench-wielding WORKMAN painted on the side. "Cable Repair Specialists."

Nicholas crosses the lawn of a WHITE HOUSE, to the porch. He rings the doorbell and waits. Finally, an older man in a bathrobe answers, CHRISTINE'S DAD, puffy-eyed.

CHRISTINE'S DAD Yeah?

NICHOLAS Hello. Is Christine in?

CHRISTINE'S DAD She's sleeping.

CHRISTINE (o.s.) Who is it, dad?

INT. CHRISTINE'S LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT

Christine looks down from the top of the stairs. Below, Nicholas looks up past Christine's dad.

CHRISTINE What are you doing here?

NICHOLAS Can we talk?

CHRISTINE It's okay, dad.

Christine's dad opens the door and heads away. Christine comes down, in a pajama top and shorts, pleased.

CHRISTINE Didn't think I'd ever see you again.

NICHOLAS Come here...

He watches to make sure dad's gone, leads Christine to the middle of the room, takes out a PHOTOCOPY, unfolds it.

NICHOLAS What can you tell me about this?

The SEX PHOTO of the woman in the RED BRA.

CHRISTINE What is it?

NICHOLAS Is this you?

CHRISTINE Where'd you get this?

NICHOLAS It was left in my hotel room, well, not really mine. You're saying it's not you?

CHRISTINE I think I would remember. (hands it back) What makes you think it's me?

NICHOLAS Well... the red bra.

CHRISTINE (like he's crazy) Okay.

NICHOLAS I thought...

He's at a loss, drained.

NICHOLAS Do you mind if I sit?

CHRISTINE Sure. You alright? Is this still that contest you're in...

NICHOLAS (sits) I'm tired. I'm sorry, I should go. I've been enough of a nuisance.

CHRISTINE Let me go get some clothes on. We'll talk, okay? Be right back.

Christine hurries upstairs. Nicholas stands, calls after.

NICHOLAS Do you have any aspirin?

Nicholas takes in the room, unhappy. He squints at a VIRGIN MARY figurine, picks it up... unscrews the head. It's a decanter. He sniffs it and puts it back. He sniffs the air, noticing...

A WISP OF SMOKE rises from a bright LAMP.

INSIDE THE LAMPSHADE: Nicholas peers inside. A PRICE TAG dangles against the bulb, turning brown, smoking.

Nicholas reaches to remove the tag -- burns his finger on the bulb, jerking his hands away. He blows on his finger, sighs, walks to poke his head thru a swinging door...

INT. CHRISTINE'S KITCHEN -- NIGHT

Modest, cluttered. Nicholas goes to the sink, holds his finger under the faucet. NO WATER. He jerks the faucet handle, but gets nothing. He looks around...

Opens a drawer -- EMPTY. He opens another drawer -- EMPTY. He opens more EMPTY DRAWERS, a disturbing thought forming. Opens a cabinet -- EMPTY.

INT. CHRISTINE'S LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT

Nicholas returns, scanning the room. He picks up a FRAMED PHOTO of a LITTLE GIRL in a dress, takes the frame apart...

The picture is an ADVERTISEMENT from a glassy magazine, with TEXT folded behind and print on the back.

Nicholas takes a breath, quickly replaces the clipping just as Christine returns from upstairs. She's in a pull-over dress, putting her hair up.

CHRISTINE Want anything to drink?

NICHOLAS (holds up frame) You?

CHRISTINE Yeah. First Communion. Aren't I a little angel?

Nicholas offers the frame to Christine, fury showing...

NICHOLAS Take the picture out.

CHRISTINE What's wrong?

NICHOLAS Take the picture out of the frame and show it to me.

CHRISTINE I don't...

Christine tries to assess the situation... realizes he's onto her. She swallows, making a quick decision, drops her facade, her voice a desperate WHISPER.

CHRISTINE They're watching.

NICHOLAS Wha... ?

CHRISTINE (under her breath) Not here! They can see.

Christine motions with her eyes. Nicholas looks...

ON THE CEILING, a red-bulbed SMOKE DETECTOR.

CHRISTINE (cheery, in character) So, what do you say we go for a drive? We'll take your car...

She takes his hand and pulls him. Nicholas yanks away...

NICHOLAS No! I'm sick of this...

CHRISTINE Nicholas...

Nicholas points up at the smoke detector, addressing it...

NICHOLAS You can come out now, if you're there. Come on out! Let's go!

Nicholas walks to the fireplace, picks up a FIREPLACE POKER. He moves to SWING it up -- SWATS the smoke detector.

Christine runs to the picture window.

CHRISTINE Now you've done it!

THRU WINDOW: THUG 1 and THUG 2, muscle men, climb out from the CABLE REPAIR VAN, running this direction.

Nicholas comes to look, poker in hand.

NICHOLAS What? Oh, and I suppose they're going to...

THRU WINDOW: Thug 1 and 2 draw guns, pointing...

Nicholas furrows his brow, unsure.

CHRISTINE Get down!

WINDOW'S BLOWN IN by GUNFIRE! as Christine tackles Nicholas.

Shattered glass showers down. KNICK-KNACKS FLY TO PIECES. Christine crawls. Nicholas follows. They flee, Nicholas gasping and glancing back, terrified...

IN THE KITCHEN

Christine pulls Nicholas thru a door...

INT. CHRISTINE'S GARAGE -- NIGHT

Christine and Nicholas come downstairs to the empty garage.

Christine's dad looks up from his solitaire game at a card table, a day player thrown off by this backstage intrusion.

CHRISTINE'S DAD What the hell... !?

Christine leads Nicholas out the REAR DOOR...

EXT. CHRISTINE'S BACKYARD - NIGHT

They run along the back of the house...

NICHOLAS What is this!?

CHRISTINE God, wake up, it's a con!

Around the corner, toward the front, Christine stops, looking across the front lawn to Nicholas' Bentley.

INT. CHRISTINE'S GARAGE - NIGHT

Thug 1 and 2 bluster in, guns up. Christine's dad points to the open rear door, afraid. Thug 1 thinks quick -- SLAMS the GARAGE DOOR OPENER...

The OPENER'S MOTOR RATTLES to life, GARAGE DOOR RISING...

EXT. CHRISTINE'S FRONT LAWN - NIGHT

Nicholas and Christine speed away in the Bentley.

BEHIND, Thug 1 and 2 crawl under the garage door, giving chase, FIRING. Too little, too late. They run to the van.

EXT. SUBURBAN STREETS -- NIGHT

The Bentley roars onwards...

IN THE BENTLEY

Nicholas drives, white-knuckled. Christine watches behind.

ON THE STREET

The van pursues, far behind, but closing ground.

IN THE BENTLEY

Nicholas checks his mirror. Christine looks forward...

CHRISTINE Look out!

ON THE STREET

The Bentley SIDESWIPES another CAR as Nicholas runs a light.

The Bentley keeps going, the other car SPINNING...

The van BRAKES HARD to avoid the spun-out car. The van reverses, angling to get around...

FURTHER ON

The Bentley SKIDS into an alley, lights off, still moving.

The van, having lost half a block, misses this and continues straight, raging forward, then SCREEEEECHING to stop...

In the middle of a four-way intersection, stumped. The van chooses a direction, cutting a corner, roaring away...

INT. BENTLEY - NIGHT

CHRISTINE (looking back) Okay... they're gone...

She's thrown forward as Nicholas SLAMS BRAKES. He reaches across and throws Christine's door open.

CHRISTINE What are you doing... ?

NICHOLAS Get out.

CHRISTINE I could've handed you to them. They find me now, I'm dead...

NICHOLAS Get out of my car!

CHRISTINE You don't have a choice. No one else is going to tell you what's going on.

Nicholas stares at her with hatred.

CHRISTINE Do you want to know? If I'm gone, you never will.

Nicholas flips the headlights on, puts the car in gear and drives. She pulls the door shut.

NICHOLAS You can talk while I drive us to the police.

CHRISTINE No cops. I've got a warrant out. Mail fraud. They'll take me in, but you won't be able to prove anything else.

Christine takes out cigarettes, lights up.

CHRISTINE I can't believe they didn't take the time to get the house right.

Nicholas grabs the cigarette, throws it out his window.

NICHOLAS Who are "they?"

CHRISTINE I don't know, nobody does. I'm an employee.

NICHOLAS Then, what good are you?

CHRISTINE I know things... like who you can trust. Like that your brother was in on it from the beginning.

NICHOLAS That's a lie...

CHRISTINE Yeah? I was your waitress on your birthday. Connie told you about C.R.S. that day, remember? I was already playing my part, before you started the game.

Nicholas looks to her, realizing the truth of it. Christine's lighting up a new cigarette.

CHRISTINE It wasn't his fault. He thought it was his only way back. They fleeced him real good.

NICHOLAS How? How could they have gotten anything?

CHRISTINE They did the same to him as they did to you.

NICHOLAS What are you talking about... ?

She gives him a pitying look.

CHRISTINE They've already got it, Nicholas. They got everything.

Nicholas shoots her a glance; this is absurd.

CHRISTINE Check your accounts. That night in your office, when we were there...

FLASHBACK -- NICHOLAS' OFFICE -- THAT NIGHT

Christine runs her finger down Nicholas' TELEPHONE. She looks to see Nicholas is preoccupied, lifts the receiver...

Reads the PHONE NUMBER underneath. She turns, looks down...

There's a NUMBER written on the PHONE JACK on the wall: #C4.

CHRISTINE I got the number to your private line and modem. I gave C.R.S. remote access to your computer...

FLASHBACK -- VARIOUS INSERTS

NICHOLAS' C.R.S. TESTING: Nicholas' hand scribbles his SIGNATURE... fills out a FINANCIAL QUESTIONNAIRE. A TAPE RECORDER'S REEL SPINS... a PENCIL blackens TEST BLOCKS...

CHRISTINE You already gave them everything else. Handwriting, voice samples, psych-info. They used it all to figure out your passwords.

FLASHBACK: ON A MONITOR, combinations of LETTERS and NUMBERS SCROLL BY, multiplying, too quickly for the eye to see...

CHRISTINE From there, they only had to keep you distracted while they broke into the network and transferred your holdings to dummy accounts.

FLASHBACK: FIGURES appear on a COMPUTER SCREEN; HIGH NUMBERS flying down to 000,000,000's. More NUMBERS, falling.

CHRISTINE Remember Jim Feingold, the guy who signed you up? He did five years for hacking Citibank in eighty-four...

FLASHBACK: PAN UP from deft fingers at a keyboard to JIM FEINGOLD, lit by cold COMPUTER SCREEN GLOW.

BACK TO SCENE IN BENTLEY

Nicholas sweats. He checks his watch, takes out his cellular, dialing with his thumb. Christine smokes.

CHRISTINE Why else would they be willing to put you under... ?

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Overseas operator? Please dial Allgemeine Bank, Zurich.

CHRISTINE They don't care about you anymore. Alive or dead is the same, as long as they bury you deep enough.

EXT. HIGHWAY -- NIGHT

The Bentley SPEEDS out a tunnel on the highway toward S.F.

INSIDE THE BENTLEY

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Guten tag. Vilen dank, Englisch. Blue-two-backslash-five. Mother's maiden name: Miller. Six-nine-zero, D as in David. Yes. The balance... (listens) That's impossible. When did... ?

Nicholas listens, scarcely breathing. Christine seems regretful. Nicholas lowers the phone, shuts it off.

CHRISTINE They got everything.

Lights flash across Nicholas' sweaty features.

CUT TO:

EXT. GAS STATION/CONVENIENCE HUT - NIGHT

Nicholas pumps gas, pale, on his cellular. Christine stands across the lot, out of earshot, watching the dark freeway.

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Call soon as you get this message, Sam. I checked them all, I don't know how, but they drained my accounts. Now they're trying to kill me. You tell the cops, I've got one with me. We'll make her testify. I know how it must sound. Call on my mobile. Be careful

INT. CONVENIENCE HUT -- TIME CUT

A FEMALE CLERK taps a gold credit card, listens on a PHONE. She hangs up, goes to the BULLETPROOF WINDOW. Nicholas and Christine wait on the other side with armloads of food.

CLERK (into intercom) They say I have to take the card.

Nicholas seems numb. Christine checks her pockets.

CHRISTINE (via intercom) I think I've got some cash.

CUT TO:

EXT. DIRT ROADWAY -- NIGHT

The Bentley overtakes a logging TRUCK on this dirt road.

IN THE BENTLEY

QUIET NEWS RADIO. Nicholas drains coffee from a styrofoam cup, rolls his window and tosses the cup out, trying to stay awake. He looks beside him.

Christine's asleep against her door, placid and innocent-looking. Nicholas stares at her.

CUT TO:

EXT. LAKE, VAN ORTON CABIN -- NIGHT

Beautiful lake. Dense forest. The Bentley's parked near a relatively humble CABIN. LIGHTNING FLASHES across the sky.

INT. CABIN -- NIGHT

FIRE in the fireplace. Christine tends a metal pot over the flames. Nicholas sleeps slumped in a low chair. Christine passes with the pot. Nicholas awakens, disoriented, searching for familiarity. He sits forward...

Christine's in the candle-lit kitchenette. He watches her, grim. She makes coffee. He sits back.

CHRISTINE What?

Christine comes over and gives him a mug of coffee.

CHRISTINE What did you say?

NICHOLAS I didn't say anything.

He gets up, walks, sipping coffee. Christine watches him. Nicholas stares at FAMILY PHOTOS on the mantle.

CHRISTINE (sad, unsure) My name's not Christine. It's not my real...

NICHOLAS Who the fuck cares?

He doesn't even look at her, picks up a PHOTO: FATHER and YOUNG NICHOLAS, holding up fish. Nicholas rubs the dust off his father's face.

CHRISTINE It's just money. You should be glad you're alive.

NICHOLAS It might be best if we didn't talk.

CHRISTINE All I mean is... someone like you...

NICHOLAS How many times have you done this? I'm interested.

CHRISTINE What?

NICHOLAS Scams, con games. How many?

CHRISTINE I don't know. A lot.

NICHOLAS Whatever kind of nickel-and-dime shit you did before, this is more than just me. Your friends raided pension plans, and payrolls... they took just over six-hundred million. You ruined people's lives.

Christine looks sick and truly scared. The CELLULAR CHIRPS. Nicholas goes to pick it up off a table.

NICHOLAS (into cellular) Yes.

SUTHERLAND (v.o.) (from cellular) I got your message. I was disturbed, to say the least...

Christine stands.

CHRISTINE Who is it?

NICHOLAS (into cellular) What do we do?

SUTHERLAND (v.o.) (from cellular) I've been on the phone for an hour already. Nicholas, your funds are intact. Nothing's been touched.

CHRISTINE (worried, insistent) Who is it?

NICHOLAS (still into cellular) What do you mean? I checked them myself. I made the calls...

SUTHERLAND (v.o.) Nothing's changed. I'm telling you, not a cent is unaccounted for...

NICHOLAS (cups phone, to Christine) My lawyer... says nothing's missing.

She shakes her head ominously.

CHRISTINE (fear, whisper) He's in on it...

Nicholas stares at Christine, trying to comprehend...

SUTHERLAND (v.o.) I don't know what's happening, but stay where you are till I get to you. Give me your precise location...

CHRISTINE Sutherland's in on it.

SUTHERLAND (v.o.) I'll come there. Hold on, Nicholas, I have another call. Tell me where you are.

Nicholas lowers the phone, pushes DISCONNECT, afraid.

NICHOLAS We have to get out of here.

The PHONE CHIRPS again. Nicholas looks at it, flicks a switch on the side, silencing it. He sits, sickened.

NICHOLAS How did they get to him? Why didn't you tell me?

She lights a cigarette, backing toward the kitchenette.

CHRISTINE Mm... I wouldn't worry about it.

NICHOLAS What... what do you mean?

CHRISTINE It's out of your hands.

He looks up, trying to figure. His head lulls... He takes a breath, looks at his trembling hands. Drugged.

He looks around, confused... spots the COFFEE CUP, realizes.

With a CRY of RAGE, he LUNGES toward Christine, but comes up short, toppling a shelf, contents CRASHING DOWN...

Nicholas rolls, pained, clutching his throat, taking air in RASPING GULPS. He crawls, swings his fist, slams a table...

CHRISTINE Cellular calls can be intercepted, you know.

Christine backs to avoid, hefts a heavy cooking POT in case. She maneuvers, steps over him. He grabs, blindly...

She scoops up the dropped PHONE and crosses away.

CHRISTINE (cigarette 'tween lips) All those calls you made, to B of A, France, Switzerland... you were talking to my people. (hits REDIAL on cellular) You filled the blanks. Access codes, passwords, stuff even your lawyer didn't have -- but we have it now.

Nicholas tries to stand, falls, clutching his gut, CRYING OUT in great pain, frothing at the mouth.

CHRISTINE It's over, Nicholas. Goodbye.

THE ROOM SPINS round and round, spinning OUT OF CONTROL.

FADE TO BLACK

BREATHING... then a STRUGGLE... POUNDING, KICKING...

INT. CRYPT -- MORNING

A PARTICLE-BOARD LID SPLINTERS as Nicholas pounds his way out of a COFFIN, looking wildly around, eyes blood-shot...

A moldering MAUSOLEUM. Light seeps thru cracked walls. Piles of rotten flowers. Coffins. Hundreds of flies.

Nicholas gags on the air, climbing free and falling to the floor, legs weak. He's in a WHITE SUIT, dazed and afraid. There's a RED ROSE taped to his chest.

EXT. MEXICO CEMETERY -- MORNING

Pushing the plywood door of the MAUSOLEUM outward, Nicholas tumbles into dawn light. He's in a ramshackle GRAVEYARD. Tombs for miles. Misty, tropical vegetation. Third World.

Nicholas walks, trying to figure this. He notices the red rose, pulls it off and throws it. An OLD WOMAN sits at a grave with her rosary. She watches Nicholas, emotionless.

NICHOLAS Where am I? What is this place?

The OLD WOMAN speaks SPANISH. Nicholas stares blankly. She seems to be asking questions. Nicholas finally realizes it's a foreign language, turns, walks away.

CUT TO:

EXT. MEXICO STREET -- MORNING

A busy downtown street. A sea of MEXICAN PEOPLE, many poor. Nicholas walks, caught in the flow of the crowd, JOSTLED, aimless. The world's a NOISY BLUR around him.

Nicholas pushes to the TRAFFIC JAMMED street, spotting a POLICEMAN directing traffic, heads for him...

NICHOLAS Officer... officer...

HORNS BLAST. Nicholas comes to the officer, relieved...

NICHOLAS Do you speak English? I'm an American.

The policeman scolds Nicholas in SPANISH, shoos him away. Nicholas searches his empty pockets...

NICHOLAS Listen... they took my wallet... (insistent, of himself) American. I am an American citizen.

The policeman shouts angrily, grabs Nicholas' arm. Nicholas reflexively pulls away...

NICHOLAS No, you don't understand, I'm an American...

The policeman unsheathes his baton -- STRIKES Nicholas. Nicholas hits the street, raising his arms in defense. The policeman SWINGS AGAIN...

Hits Nicholas' skull. Nicholas runs, escaping thru traffic.

The policeman curses after him.

CUT TO:

EXT. MEXICAN BUS STOP -- DAY

Hot. Nicholas sits on a bench, a dried blood trail down his face, holding balled-up newspaper to his bleeding head. Others on the BUSY SIDEWALK don't even take notice of him.

Nicholas checks to see if he's clotted, tosses the newspaper. He watches traffic pass, sits forward, elbows on his knees, staring at the sidewalk.

NICHOLAS ... fuck...

Tears forming in his eyes. He takes a deep breath, stops himself, swallowing back despair, deciding. Determined...

He gets up and walks. He picks up the pace, running.

LONG SHOT: Nicholas running, across one street, down another, a strange sight in his filthy white suit. Stopping now and then to ask questions of passerbys, moving on...

FOLLOW: Nicholas continuing, stopping in a SHOP DOORWAY.

NICHOLAS (to SHOPKEEPER) The embassy? Please... the American embassy, do you know it?

No answer. Nicholas continues, slowing. Ahead down the sidewalk, there's another MEXICAN COP, tough-looking. Nicholas hesitates, then, approaches...

NICHOLAS Excuse me... Buenos Diaz, I'm looking for the United States embassy. U.S. embassy, please... pour favor?

The cop seems angry, eyeing Nicholas' appearance, deciding. The cop points down the street. Nicholas heads away.

NICHOLAS Thank you. Thank you, sir.

Nicholas runs.

EXT. AMERICAN EMBASSY -- ESTABLISHING -- LATER DAY

"Embassy of the United States of America, MEXICO CITY."

INT. AMERICAN EMBASSY, OFFICE - DAY

A secretary leads Nicholas in from a crowded hallway. An American COUNSELOR rises from his small desk in his small office, shaking Nicholas' hand, taking PAPERWORK.

COUNSELOR Please, sit...

Nicholas sits in a metal chair. A fan blows, poor remedy in the heat. The counselor reads the paperwork.

NICHOLAS Mister... (sees desk name plate) Mister Patterson. Some things have happened... it's important that I...

The counselor holds up his hand, still reading...

COUNSELOR No money, no identification or passport. You are in a fix. (looks up from papers) What did happen to you?

NICHOLAS Well, where to begin. It's complicated...

COUNSELOR (matter of fact) It always is.

Nicholas looks to the counselor, who sips a glass of water and looks at papers. Nicholas takes a moment, rethinks.

NICHOLAS What happened was, I'm on vacation, alone... I was robbed, at gunpoint. They hit me and ran. Two men, a few blocks away. They took my wallet, money... all of it. So...

COUNSELOR Robbed?

NICHOLAS Yes.

COUNSELOR Have you gone to the police?

NICHOLAS I don't speak Spanish. All I need is to get back... just enough for that.

The counselor taps his finger on desk's edge.

COUNSELOR We'll help with the police, if you want to bother. As far as money goes... can I make a suggestion? (off Nicholas' nod) You say you were mugged?

NICHOLAS Yes.

COUNSELOR And, they didn't take that watch?

Nicholas looks at the ROLEX he's wearing, didn't realize it till now, having taken it for granted.

COUNSELOR How much is it? A few thousand, at least. A Rolex like that... lucky for you they missed it.

NICHOLAS Yes, very lucky.

INT. MEXICO CITY PAWN SHOP -- LATER DAY

INSCRIBED on the back of Nicholas' ROLEX: "On your 18th birthday, your father's watch. Love, Mother"

The FEMALE OWNER examines the Rolex inside a rusty metal cage, makes a face. Nicholas is at the front of the long line in this impossibly cluttered pawn shop.

PAWN SHOP OWNER Cincuenta dolares Americano. Fifty.

NICHOLAS Fifty? Do you know... (deep sigh) It's a Rolex. It's gold. Not gold colored, actual gold.

PAWN SHOP OWNER Si, oro. Cincuenta y cinco. Cincuenta y cinco Estados Unidos.

Nicholas runs his hands thru his hair... resigned.

NICHOLAS You see, all you had to do was get in the ballpark. Yes, fifty-five... si, senorita.

The owner counts battered dollar bills from a cigar box.

CUT TO:

EXT. BUS STOP/TACO STAND -- DAY

At a faltering TACO STAND painted in peeling orange paint, Nicholas pays for tacos wrapped in paper and a bottle of Budweiser. A bus ticket sticks out his breast pocket.

Nicholas steps away, wolfing down the food, following it with guzzled beer. MANY PEOPLE are waiting for the bus, on and around benches, suitcases and belongs in piles.

Nicholas looks, still chewing, to THREE YOUNG MEXICAN CHILDREN staring at him. They stand with their plump MOTHER, just watching him. Nicholas faces away, eating.

CUT TO:

EXT. MEXICAN HIGHWAY -- DUSK

A repainted SCHOOL BUS zooms past, trailing exhaust.

INT. BUS -- DUSK

Not one empty seat. At the back, Nicholas' eyes flutter under their lids. He SNORES QUIETLY. The MOTHER of the three Mexican children is next to him, one child in her lap. She's asleep, leaning toward Nicholas. The child's awake.

The bus shifts, GEARS GRINDING, and mother slides further over till her head rests on Nicholas' shoulder. Nicholas awakens, looking at Mother against him.

The child looks up at Nicholas. Nicholas looks at the child. Nicholas puts his head back, closes his eyes.

After a moment, the bus jerks and Nicholas opens his eyes, turning to look out the window, watching a far-reaching SUNSET. Crimson and gold clouds.

CUT TO:

EXT. MEXICO/UNITED STATES BORDER - NIGHT

In the line of vehicles at the U.S. BORDER, the BUS' BRAKES HISS, doors swinging open for an AMERICAN BORDER OFFICER...

INT. BUS -- NIGHT

The BORDER OFFICER comes on, not a calming presence. The Mexican passengers know what to do, holding up GREEN CARDS and PASSPORTS for perusal...

The officer grunts at each passenger he approves, moving on.

Nicholas slides lower in his seat. Mother, beside him, produces her GREEN CARD and holds it aloft, waiting. The officer comes to glare at Nicholas.

Nicholas looks back at him, unblinking.

The officer looks to Mother's card. He says something in SPANISH. Mother responds in SPANISH. The officer grabs her card, speaking, dissatisfied.

He shouts for Mother to get off... hurrying her up, moving her out...

Mother moves, carrying the child in her lap, hastening the other two children seated in front of her.

Mother protests about her rope-bound SUITCASES in the overhead shelf, trying to grip one, arms full of child. The official pulls her along, ignoring...

Nicholas watches. He rises...

OUTSIDE THE BUS

Mother and three children are unloaded. The official waves the bus on to the border, despite Mother's protest.

The bus sets in motion... AT THE BACK OF THE BUS, the rear emergency door is forced open. Nicholas is there, dropping one suitcase...

Following with a second suitcase, tossing it to the ground gently as the bus' motion allows. Mother spots this, moving to collect the suitcases, children following...

ON THE BUS

The BUS DRIVER shouts a complaint in SPANISH.

At the rear, Nicholas pulls the door shut and latches it, watching thru the window as Mother and children drag their suitcases out of the path of other vehicles.

CUT TO:

EXT. CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY -- NIGHT

Nicholas walks backwards, exhausted, hitchhiking on the freeway shoulder. TRAFFIC absolutely SOARS PAST.

EXT. BOB'S BIG BOY RESTAURANT -- NIGHT

Highway in the b.g., Nicholas hikes across the parking lot of this 24-hour DINER, past many parked TRACTOR TRAILERS.

INT. BOB'S BIG BOY RESTAURANT - NIGHT

There's a heavy duty TRUCK DRIVER clientele elbow to elbow at the counter, eating, drinking coffee. The BELL above the door TINKLES as Nicholas enters.

NiCHOLAS Pardon me...

Nicholas moves to the end of the counter, louder...

NICHOLAS Excuse me, please, if I could have your attention...

Conversations stop. Everyone looks to Nicholas. He's scruffier than ever; a hobo freak in a white suit, fed up.

NICHOLAS Thank you. If anyone's heading to San Francisco, I need a ride.

Met with silence. Nicholas clears his rough throat.

NICHOLAS There's... (digs in pockets) There's all the money I've got left in it for you... eighteen dollars and seventy-nine cents...

Nicholas puts his crumpled bills and coins on the counter. One penny falls. You can hear it hit the floor and roll.

CUT TO:

EXT. UPSTATE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY -- DAY

BRIGHT DAY. A big, Baskin-Robbins TRUCK rumbles by...

INT. BASKIN-ROBBIN'S ICE CREAM TRUCK -- DAY

ENGINE and ROADWAY ROARING. Windows open, wind whipping. Beside the DRIVER, Nicholas sleeps wrapped in a blanket.

CUT TO:

EXT. SAN FRANCISCO -- EARLY EVENING

The Baskin-Robbin's tractor trailer keeps on truckin'.

AHEAD: the San Francisco skyline.

EXT. WAREHOUSE DISTRICT -- NIGHT

Nicholas climbs down from the Baskin-Robbin's truck, thanks the driver. The truck lurches away. Nicholas walks.

CUT TO:

EXT. VAN ORTON MANSION -- NIGHT

The gate is WRAPPED IN CHAINS. Nicholas arrives, trudging. He pulls to test the chains. There's a "PUBLIC AUCTION" SIGN hung. Nicholas tears it down, begins climbing...

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, KITCHEN -- NIGHT

A ROCK SMASHES a glass pane in the door. Nicholas reaches thru to let himself in. No electricity. Graffiti's gone. There's scaffolding. Work in progress. Appliances gone.

Nicholas checks the PHONE, finds it dead.

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, DEN -- NIGHT

Nicholas looks in. Furniture's wrapped in thick plastic. Curtains and paintings are gone. Like the kitchen, this room's repainted. Cold and bare.

INT. GUEST HOUSE, FOYER/LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT

The front door's ajar. Nicholas pushes it open slow, entering darkness. The living room is completely empty.

NICHOLAS (calling upstairs) Ilsa.

Pitch dark at the top of the stairs. Nicholas moves forward into another EMPTY ROOM. It's creepy quiet.

INT. VAN ORTON MANSION, GARAGE -- NIGHT

Nicholas enters the moonlit garage. THREE EMPTY SPACES.

INT. MANSION, MASTER BATH -- NIGHT

IN THE SHOWER, Nicholas scrubs his hair with a bar of soap, huddled under the cold spray, shuddering.

INT. MANSION, MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT

In the stripped bedroom, Nicholas, in a baggy t-shirt and jeans, pulls a paper wrapped package from a dresser. On the bed, he tears open the paper, pulling out a long OVERCOAT.

INT. MANSION, KITCHEN - MORNING

Dawn light. BIRDS HEARD SINGING. Nicholas opens drawers. He finds a mason jar with CASH inside, unscrews the lid.

INT. MANSION, LIBRARY -- MORNING

Moving boxes. Half the shelves of this impressive library are emptied into high stacks of books on the floor. Nicholas moves to search a section still lined with books...

... looking for one in particular, reading spines...

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, leather bound. Nicholas takes it down.

INT. MANSION, FOYER -- MORNING

Nicholas heads for the front door. He halts, noticing... An ENVELOPE on the counter, "TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN."

Nicholas opens the envelope, unfolding a letter... "Like my father before me, I choose eternal sleep." Still with the RED SIGNATURE ARROW affixed below.

INT. MANSION, KITCHEN -- MORNING

The "suicide note" lands in the sink, BURNING.

CUT TO:

EXT. UNION SQUARE, GEARY STREET -- DAY

A MINI BUS halts at a corner. Nicholas is the second rider off, paranoid, book under his arm. He moves down the sidewalk... toward the FOUR SEASONS HOTEL.

INT. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL, FRONT DESK -- DAY

Unkempt, unshaven Nicholas is a blight in this flawless hotel. At the desk, he gets the CLERK'S attention.

NICHOLAS I'm here to see Conrad Van Orton. Ring his room.

The desk clerk gives a pause while Nicholas scans the lobby.

DESK CLERK One moment, please...

The desk clerk crosses to a gray, elder statesman MANAGER, huddling to speak in hushed tones. Nicholas watches them, concerned. The manager walks over...

NICHOLAS What's the trouble?

MANAGER You're here for Conrad Van Orton? I'm the hotel manager...

He offers a handshake which Nicholas ignores.

NICHOLAS Pleasure to meet you, I'd like to see my brother, thank you.

MANAGER (worry, guiding Nicholas) Your brother. Will you come with me?

NICHOLAS What's this about?

MANAGER It's a private matter, for you... I think you'll be more comfortable...

NICHOLAS Where's my brother?

The manager looks around, feeling indiscreet, voice low.

MANAGER There were complaints by other guests, and damage to his room. We did the best we could to accommodate his behavior.

NICHOLAS His behavior... ?

MANAGER He couldn't, or refused to pay. We extended credit...

NICHOLAS Look, where is he?!

MANAGER There was an incident a few days ago... a nervous breakdown, they said. The police took him. They left this address, in case anyone...

Nicholas struggles to absorb this while the manager takes out a BILLFOLD of business cards, offers a SLIP OF PAPER...

MANAGER It's a hospital in Napa. I'm terribly sorry. If you'd have been here, you'd have seen, there was nothing else to do.

Nicholas regards the paper, disbelieving, sorrow welling up.

CUT TO:

EXT. ELIZABETH'S HOME (SAUSALITO) -- DAY

ELIZABETH, Nicholas' ex-wife, bends to kiss her young DAUGHTER. The daughter runs to a waiting, luxury MINI-VAN. The female driver waves as the van pulls away.

Across this suburban street, Nicholas stands watching.

Elizabeth is about to go back inside, but she sees Nicholas. She's surprised, smiling at first instinctively, but then she looks concerned.

INT. RESTAURANT -- DAY

BUSINESS PEOPLE chat over breakfast. A TV at the bar shows GOOD MORNING AMERICA. Nicholas and Elizabeth are seated near. He's edgy, fingering a spoon, hand on his book.

NICHOLAS I need your car, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH What happened to you, Nick? I mean, look at yourself...

NICHOLAS I know, look at me, well... (short laugh) What happened? I don't know. I don't even really know. I have some things to try to take care of... I need the car a little while.

ELIZABETH Of course you can have it if you need it. Can I get you something to eat?

She starts working the CAR KEY off her keychain.

NICHOLAS You're the only person I can trust. Everyone else... (pause) If Sam Sutherland calls, don't tell him you saw me. Lie to him. And, whatever you hear, whatever anyone tells you when this is over...

Nicholas straightens as a PALE WAITRESS arrives. He studies her. She notices his fixation, tries to ignore.

PALE WAITRESS (serving...) There we go... coffee and English muffin... water... (smiles) So, if there's anything...

Nicholas picks up his bottled water, examining the broken plastic SAFETY SEAL around the cap.

NICHOLAS This is open. Someone opened it.

PALE WAITRESS Yes sir, I...

NICHOLAS I can't have this open. (gives it back) I'd like another unopened. And I don't want ice. I need a glass without ice.

The waitress leaves, glad to get away from this freak. Nicholas keeps looking all around the restaurant and over his shoulder. Elizabeth takes Nicholas' hand, worried.

ELIZABETH Nick, talk to me. You're scaring me. I don't even know what you're saying.

He faces her, looks down at her hand in his.

NICHOLAS I'm sorry, Liz... I don't mean to.

Nicholas clasps her hand, caresses it, looks at her.

NICHOLAS The last few days, um... I've been thinking... had a lot of spare time. (pause, sad) I want to tell you... I'm starting to understand why you left me. I've been resenting you for it, maybe, but ... I want to apologize, for all of it. For shutting you out, for not being there. I... (swallows) Anyway, I hope you can forgive me.

ELIZABETH There's nothing to forgive.

NICHOLAS It would mean a lot to me... if you and I could be friends. If I could have you back in my life... in some small way. It would be important.

ELIZABETH Of course, Nick...

Nicholas tries to smile. He glances away for a second, and he lets out a STRANGLED CRY because he SEES SOMETHING...

NICHOLAS No... no!

He stands, agonized, looking across to the... TELEVISION, where JIM FEINGOLD is ON SCREEN in C.U.

NICHOLAS (to television) You fucking bastard!

ON TELEVISION: Feingold looks menacing, the top of his HEAD REDDENING and beginning to THROB. CHEESY SOUND EFFECTS...

NICHOLAS (still to t.v.) How did you find me here?!

Obviously, everyone's watching Nicholas, Elizabeth included.

FEINGOLD (v.o.) (ON TELEVISION) Honey, my head is killing me!

WIFE'S VOICE (v.o.) (from t.v., o.s.) Did you take anything, sweetie?

FEINGOLD (v.o.) (on television) I took aspirin, but it's not working!

ON TV: a FEMALE HAND appears, offering a BOTTLE OF PILLS.

WIFE'S VOICE (v.o.) (from television) Try Ambutol, you silly goose. It's stronger than aspirin and...

Nicholas is starting to understand, stunned.

NICHOLAS He... he's an actor...

ON TV: Feingold, now cured, holds up the pills and smiles.

FEINGOLD (v.o.) Thanks to Ambutol, I've got my head back together.

JINGLE MUSIC. Nicholas looks to Elizabeth, points to t.v.

NICHOLAS It's just a t.v. He's just an actor.

ELIZABETH (slowly) Yes.

Nicholas realizes how he must look. He picks up the car key, gives Elizabeth a kiss on the forehead.

NICHOLAS I'll explain someday.

ELIZABETH I hope.

She watches Nicholas hurry away. She sits forward, wondering, shaking her head.

NEAR THE CASH REGISTER, Nicholas moves to the door, but stops. He goes to the CASHIER.

NICHOLAS Can I borrow your Yellow Pages... ?

The cashier digs under the counter, comes up with the PHONE BOOK. Nicholas takes it, leaving...

NICHOLAS Thanks.

Nicholas goes out the door, gone. The cashier does a double-take, about to say something, confused, dour.

CUT TO:

EXT. URBAN STREET -- DAT

A run-down neighborhood. Nicholas drives Elizabeth's VOLVO, erratically, distracted...

INSIDE THE VOLVO

He steers with one hand while paging thru the YELLOW PAGES open on the seat. He gets to RESTAURANTS, trading glances between the book and the street.

ON THE STREET

Red light ahead. The Volvo stops.

INSIDE THE VOLVO

Nicholas finds ads for CHINESE RESTAURANTS, running his finger down, flipping the page. His finger hits it -- a grinning CARTOON PANDA. "TUNG HOY Chinese Restaurant."

NICHOLAS Tung Hoy. Tung Hoy... best in Chinatown.

He tears the page out and studies it like a pirate with a treasure map. Suddenly, an arm reaches in thru the window, putting a KNIFE to Nicholas' throat...

MALE VOICE (o.s.) Get out of the car, fucker...

Nicholas holds still, eyes shifting to look at the wasted, skittish TEEN THUG threatening.

TEEN THUG Open the door and climb out. Leave it running.

Nicholas is twitchy calm, motionless.

NICHOLAS You're making a mistake...

The knife presses harder against Nicholas' throat.

TEEN THUG Get out of the car.

NICHOLAS You don't understand...

TEEN THUG Get out of the car, motherfucker! Get out of the car... !

Nicholas' hand finds and opens the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" beside him. It's HOLLOWED-OUT with a GUN hidden inside, a revolver, which Nicholas grips...

Nicholas brings the gun across, into the thug's face...

NICHOLAS You have no idea how fragile I am right now.

The thug backs off... runs away. Nicholas watches him go, puts down the gun, drives.

CUT TO:

EXT. TUNG HOY -- DAY

A festive Chinatown neighborhood. At "TUNG HOY," ducks hang behind the CARTOON PANDA painted on the window.

INT. TUNG HOY -- DAY

Cramped. Walls covered in CELEBRITY HEADSHOTS. Nicholas faces an OLD CHINESE WOMAN behind the counter.

NICHOLAS He's an actor. He does television commercials...

CHINESE WOMAN Do you know how many customers we have? Hundreds. Thousands.

NICHOLAS I know he orders from you. He had his food delivered to Montgomery Street. Fifteen-thirty-three...

The woman just shakes her head, continues bagging orders. Nicholas realizes it's futile. He bends over the counter.

NICHOLAS Is there anyone else I could ask? Maybe they'll remem...

Nicholas stops, eyes locked...

Low on the wall, amongst the grease-browned pictures of pseudo-celebs, there's a newer GLOSSY OF FEINGOLD, smiling big, labeled "William Fisher."

Nicholas looks to woman who's shouting into the kitchen. He jumps up on the counter, reaching with his fingertips for the "Feingold" PHOTO, straining, almost has it...

EXT. CHINATOWN STREET -- DAY

On a PAYPHONE, Nicholas looks at the BACK OF THE HEADSHOT -- credits, phone number -- flips it to show Feingold/Fisher.

NICHOLAS (v.o.) (into phone) ... I know it's short notice Mrs. Fisher, but we were hoping your husband could audition today. He's perfect for the part...

MRS FISHER (v.o.) (from phone) Oh, this will break his heart...

NICHOLAS Is there any way we can get in touch with him?

MRS FISHER (v.o.) His beeper's here on the table. He took the kids to the zoo.

NICHOLAS The zoo. How sweet. Which zoo?

CUT TO:

EXT. ZOO -- DAY

ANIMALS lounge in their cages. TOURISTS wander, mostly families. Here comes Nicholas, running, searching...

Ahead: Feingold's in casual clothes, eating ice cream, doing his best to supervise THREE OBNOXIOUS CHILDREN. Nicholas moves in, slows when he's close.

NICHOLAS Bill Fisher, I love your work...

Feingold turns, smiling... till he sees Nicholas and recognition sets in. He goes pale, sheepish.

FEINGOLD Okay, please.. I got my kids...

Nicholas casually shows him the gun.

NICHOLAS Get rid of them.

FEINGOLD Hey, everyone -- snack time! Here... here you go...

Feingold takes out cash and dispenses it. KIDS CHEER and run to a nearby SNACK CART.

FEINGOLD Look, it was just a job. Nothing personal, ya know? I play my part, improvise a little. That's what I'm good at.

NICHOLAS I'm tired of dealing with peons. I need to get to whoever's in charge.

FEINGOLD Nobody knows, pal. Nobody gets the big picture... (looking away) Jason, Tommy, cut it out!

His BOYS are THROWING ROCKS at the MONKEYS. They look to their father, drop the rocks and saunter away.

FEINGOLD Goddamnit, why do they do that?

NICHOLAS (grips Feingold's shirt) How do I find them? Their offices are empty.

FEINGOLD They own the whole building. They just move from floor to floor.

Nicholas releases him.

NICHOLAS They know you... you worked for them. You can get me in.

FEINGOLD No, I can't. I'm sorry and all, but...

NICHOLAS Tell them the cops are after you... tell them you've got to talk to someone, I'm threatening to blow the whistle.

FEINGOLD What whistle? There's no fucking whistle. This is fucking dangerous.

Nicholas gets in Feingold's face, furious.

NICHOLAS You don't seem to understand. Right now -- I'm dangerous.

Feingold gets the message.

CUT TO:

EXT. C.R.S. BUILDING -- EARLY EVENING

Dusk. LIGHTS OFF in the towering building. A battered STATION WAGON rounds a corner, PAUSES at the GARAGE RAMP.

IN THE STATION WAGON

Cluttered car. Feingold at the wheel, tense, appears alone.

FEINGOLD We're here.

BEHIND THE SEAT, Nicholas peeks from under a blanket.

NICHOLAS Drive in.

FEINGOLD What are you gonna do anyway? You won't get your money back.

NICHOLAS (muffled, under blanket) I don't want money. I'm pulling back the curtain. I'm here to meet the wizard.

INT. C.R.S. UNDERGROUND GARAGE -- NIGHT

The station wagon comes down the ramp to a closed GATE. A BEEFY GUARD looks from his booth. Feingold waves timidly. The GATE RISES and the station wagon moves on...

IN THE STATION WAGON

IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR: Beefy Guard watches, suspicious.

FEINGOLD (under his breath) He's eyeing us like Tiffany Towers.

NICHOLAS (o.s.) Just go. Park where he can't see.

IN THE UNDERGROUND GARAGE

ACROSS THE GARAGE, near elevators, the station wagon parks. Feingold gets out, scared. Nicholas climbs out, crouched, gun in hand, points for Feingold to go first.

Feingold goes to push the elevator button, sweating. Nicholas remains hidden between cars.

A few elevators down, ELEVATOR DOORS open and a fierce C.R.S. SECURITY GUARD gets off, spots Feingold, murmurs into a WALKIE-TALKIE while taking out a gun.

C.R.S. GUARD You're not allowed to be here.

FEINGOLD No, they called me back... I have a fitting...

Behind, Nicholas puts his gun to the guard's neck.

NICHOLAS Give me the gun.

Security Guard gives it up, an automatic, which Nicholas throws across the garage. Nicholas forces the guard to the open elevator, takes the WALKIE-TALKIE and pockets it, pulls Feingold along...

IN THE ELEVATOR

Nicholas frisks the Guard... pulls out HANDCUFFS.

FEINGOLD You don't need me...

NICHOLAS Shut up. Cuff him to the rail.

Feingold takes the handcuffs and obeys. Nicholas jams the gun against the guard's neck.

NICHOLAS What floor?

C.R.S. GUARD Fourteen. But this elevator ain't gonna get you there, college boy.

Nicholas pulls off the guard's KEYCHAIN, sorts keys...

He uses a GOLD C.R.S. KEY on the control pad, turns it and hits 14. DOORS CLOSE. The elevator sets IN MOTION.

C.R.S. GUARD You'll never get away with this. These people will fuck you up.

Nicholas ignores. Feingold whimpers.

INT. C.R.S. BUILDING, 14TH FLOOR HALLWAY -- NIGHT

ELEVATOR OPENS. Nicholas peers out. No one in the hall. He pushes Feingold ahead, pushes ALL THE FLOOR BUTTONS.

C.R.S. GUARD You're fucked. You're both...

ELEVATOR SHUTS. Nicholas and Feingold move on.

NICHOLAS Where?

FEINGOLD I told you, they hired me over the phone. I never met anyone.

NICHOLAS Where'd you pick up your checks?

FEINGOLD It was a different floor then...

NICHOLAS Guess!

FEINGOLD Like, this way... sort of...

Nicholas nudges Feingold ahead with the gun.

INT. COMMISSARY -- NIGHT

Door swings open. Nicholas and Feingold enter... A BUSTLING, NOISY COMMISSARY. A cafeteria counter along one wall. People CHATTING and LAUGHING at rows of long tables.

Nicholas keeps a grip on Feingold, walks forward, stunned...

EVERYONE FROM THE GAME IS HERE: the PARAMEDICS eat with the HEAVY MAN who faked the heart attack. CHRISTINE'S FATHER is seated near the airport HOMELESS BUM, BIKINI GIRL and the MEXICAN MOTHER with her THREE CHILDREN from the bus.

PLUMP GUY, the P.I. who followed Nicholas and had his gun taken, comes off the cafe line with a soda, spotting Nicholas... spotting the gun, quaking. He flees...

Nicholas and Feingold continue. BUSINESSMAN 1 and 2 from Nicholas' club sit near AMBULANCE ATTENDANTS. The TAXI DRIVER and the FEMALE DETECTIVE chat.

There's the HOTEL MANAGER from the Claremont... the BELLHOP... the CHINESE WOMAN from Tung Hoy... the DESK CLERK from the Four Seasons and TEEN THUG. Every incidental character from Nicholas' recent life.

Nicholas inches into the room. A few of the players begin to notice him, some trying to place him, others pointing him out to their dining partners. Nicholas halts, sees...

CHRISTINE rising, picking up her dirty tray, in mid-conversation till she turns and sees...

Nicholas, who raises his gun.

CHRISTINE Oh, fuck...

People notice the gun. SOME SCREAM. Everyone goes HUSHED.

CHRISTINE What are you doing here?

NICHOLAS I'm back from the dead.

CHRISTINE Nicholas, okay... you're not about to shoot anyone...

Nicholas moves to grab Christine. She drops her tray...

NICHOLAS You're coming with me!

MALE VOICE (o.s.) Everybody down!

Nicholas spins. At a far entrance, TWO SECURITY GUARDS aim guns. PEOPLE SCREAM. Some run. Many dive for cover. PANIC. Nicholas gets behind Christine...

He uses Christine as a shield, arm around her throat, pulling her backwards. Feingold's frozen, hands held high...

SECURITY GUARD 1 Don't move!

Nicholas glances at the door, moving for it, dragging Christine. Feingold's still got his hands up...

Nicholas and Christine near the doors...

Feingold bolts another direction, leaping tables...

Security Guard 1 shifts aim to Feingold...

SECURITY GUARD 1 Stop!

Security Guard 1 FIRES...

INT. 12TH FLOOR HALLWAY - NIGHT

Nicholas shoves out into the hall with Christine just as GUNSHOTS ECHO behind. MORE horrified SCREAMS HEARD and TABLES TOPPLING and PLATES CRASHING.

Nicholas shoves Christine ahead, searching desperately...

NICHOLAS Get us out of here...

CHRISTINE Nicholas...

NICHOLAS Get us out!

He shoves. She falls. He pulls her back up...

INT. STAIRWELL -- NIGHT

They enter. He makes her climb at gunpoint...

NICHOLAS Move, move, move!

They climb stairs... up towards the "HELIPORT..."

EXT. ROOFTOP -- NIGHT

Air ducts, etc. A MUFFLED ALARM SOUNDS as Christine comes out the door onto the windy rooftop, followed by Nicholas. She backs against the railing the borders the huge BLACK PIT at the center of the building; an atrium SKYLIGHT.

Nicholas SLAMS the door, throws the HEAVY BOLT, searches to make sure the rest of the roof is clear.

CHRISTINE What do you think you're doing?

NICHOLAS You tell me... I want to know who's behind this. Who did this to me... how, why... ?

CHRISTINE How deluded can you be? There's no why...

NICHOLAS Who's responsible?!

CHRISTINE It wasn't you. It wasn't personal...

NICHOLAS You call them...

Nicholas pulls out the WALKIE-TALKIE, throws it to her.

CHRISTINE It could have been any asshole with a couple hundred million in the bank.

NICHOLAS Call them, tell them to get the boss up here. Tell them I'll kill you...

POUNDING is HEARD from the other side of the roof DOOR. MUFFLED VOICES. Nicholas reacts.

CHRISTINE They won't...

NICHOLAS They will! You tell them if they don't come now, I will shoot you!

STATIC and GARBLED ORDERS HEARD from the WALKIE-TALKIE.

CHRISTINE I'm telling you... they'll let me die first. You're not in a position to threaten them. You're trapped. You're the one who...

Christine freezes, thrown...

CHRISTINE ... wait a minute...

She's taking notice of the revolver Nicholas brandishes...

CHRISTINE Where'd you get that... ?

NICHOLAS ... what... ?

CHRISTINE That gun. That... that's not automatic. The guard had an automatic...

POUNDING is LOUDER against the nearby door.

NICHOLAS What the fuck are you... ?

CHRISTINE Where'd you get that gun?

NICHOLAS It's mine...

CHRISTINE We searched the house.

NICHOLAS Guess you missed it.

CHRISTINE (suddenly very afraid) Just... wait. Just wait! Okay... please, I'm not kidding anymore...

Christine brings the WALKIE-TALKIE to her mouth...

CHRISTINE (into walkie-talkie) He's got a gun. Everyone, he's got a real gun up here! Real situation! (switching channels) ... damn it...

NICHOLAS What are you doing?

CHRISTINE Nicholas, this is fake. It's all part of the game...

NICHOLAS Fuck you.

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP against the DOOR...

CHRISTINE Listen very carefully, I'm telling the truth... this is the game. This was all the game.

NICHOLAS Bullshit. They killed him. Feingold, Fisher, whoever... they shot him...

CHRISTINE No, now wait... think about it. What did you see... ?

NICHOLAS I saw them kill him!

CHRISTINE What did you really see? This whole time... special effects, squibs, like in the movies. Please, you've got to believe me... (into walkie-talkie) He's got a gun, with real bullets!

NICHOLAS Stop talking to them!

CHRISTINE Okay... okay... (drops walkie-talkie) I put it down. Now open that door. Mister Fisher's right on the other side of that door. He's an actor...

NICHOLAS Stop talking...

CHRISTINE Nicholas...

NICHOLAS Shut up!

CHRISTINE Let me show you...

She takes a step toward the door.

NICHOLAS No! You take another step, I'll shoot! They're trying to kill me...

CHRISTINE You're wrong. You're about to make the biggest mistake of your life. Put that gun down.

POUNDING on the DOOR is DESPERATE. Nicholas falters...

CHRISTINE Think about it! They followed you every step of the way. There was always a safety net. The taxi, there was a diver. At my house, the window was rigged... they shot at us with blanks...

NICHOLAS That's not true...

CHRISTINE It is. It's what you hired us for. Nobody touched your money. Nobody stole anything. They're waiting on the other side of that door with champagne... all your friends... it's a celebration...

NICHOLAS No...

CHRISTINE Open that door, you'll see. Your brother's there... Conrad. He's there. It's your birthday party...

NICHOLAS Stop it!

CHRISTINE Please, Nicholas, let me show you...

She takes a tentative step towards the door...

NICHOLAS Don't move, you bitch... !

CHRISTINE (still moving) I have to show you...

NICHOLAS No!

And from the staticy WALKIE-TALKIE on the ground:

MALE VOICE (v.o.) (thru WALKIE-TALKIE) ... Take him down! Take him down...

CHRISTINE (shouts to door) He's got a gun!

With a CLANK! -- the DOOR is POUNDED OPEN, swinging...

Nicholas turns, aims at the door...

CHRISTINE Don't!

Nicholas FIRES, gunshot DEAFENING... !

In the doorway, Conrad, in TUXEDO and PARTY HAT, is startled as the magnum of CHAMPAGNE he holds EXPLODES and throws foam and glass in a wide spray...

The smile falls from Conrad's face as BLOOD spreads across his chest. He looks to Nicholas, confused, collapsing...

A collective cry of horror comes from the gaily dressed PARTY-GOERS behind as Feingold catches Conrad and eases him to the ground, cradles him...

Nicholas lowers his gun... realizing...

NICHOLAS Connie...

Feingold clutches Conrad, trying to stop the bleeding, feeling for a pulse. Blood flows out Conrad's mouth.

FEINGOLD Jesus... you shot him... ! (back to others) Someone call an ambulance!

Conrad's eyes are closed. He's motionless. He's dead.

Christine lets out a hysterical sob, hands to her mouth.

FEINGOLD Oh, God... oh, God...

Nicholas drops the gun, moves forward, stunned, numb...

FEINGOLD He's dead... he's dead... ! (to Nicholas) You killed him!

Nicholas falls to his knees in front of Feingold and Conrad. Christine's eyes fill with tears...

CHRISTINE (to Nicholas) Why?! I told you... I told you. Why didn't you listen?

Feingold releases Conrad to the floor, rising, bloody...

FEINGOLD We're going to jail. We're all going to jail for the rest of our lives...

People start clearing out of the stairwell, heading down.

FEINGOLD (to Nicholas) We thought you knew! How could you let this get so out of hand?

Nicholas just remains kneeled there, breathing unevenly, staring at his brother's corpse...

CHRISTINE Why wouldn't you listen to me? What is wrong with you? You killed your own brother!

Nicholas looks to the dark sky, tears streaming down his face. He looks all around.

Christine stops, looking down at the corpse, crying out of control. Feingold comes to attempt to comfort her.

Nicholas gets to his feet, unsteady, backing away, looking to the GLASS SKYLIGHT. He wipes his tears.

Nicholas stands motionless for the longest time. Calm.

Nicholas moves forward... a goal in mind...

Christine turns, sees...

Nicholas comes to the edge of the SKYLIGHT...

Christine screams...

Nicholas leaps...

INT. C.R.S. BUILDING -- NIGHT

Nicholas CRASHES thru the SKYLIGHT, FALLING... SPARKLING SHARDS surround him like stars as he PLUMMETS...

The WORLD BELOW is PITCH DARK. Nicholas turns in the air, head thrown back, closing his eyes...

FLASHBACK/GRAINY HOME MOVIES -- FLASH FRAMES

QUICK IMAGES: the CLOWN, CHRISTINE'S FACE, NICHOLAS and CONRAD as children, Nicholas' FATHER striking the ground... IMAGES so RAPID they're hard to process.

BACK TO SCENE

As Nicholas falls...

FALLING forever...

He lets out a CRY as the end rushes closer... BRILLIANT LIGHT suddenly illuminates him. Nicholas throws his eyes open, gasping in the brightness...

LIGHTS come on from all sides to show NICHOLAS' IMPACT as he lands on his back, arms outstretched, SWALLOWED by an ENORMOUS INFLATED LIFESAVING CUSHION that covers the entire floor of the atrium...

AIR is HEARD RUSHING. Nicholas sinks, coming to rest as the cushion DEFLATES. Harmless bits of BREAKAWAY GLASS shower down. He doesn't move...

He can't comprehend. Motionless. DOORS are HEARD OPENING. FOOTSTEPS RUSHING FORWARD.

VARIOUS VOICES (o.s.) ... let's go! ... make sure he's alright... see if he's okay...

STUNT COORDINATORS come from all directions, in C.R.S. jumpsuits, wading thru the flowing cushion, coming to help Nicholas up, asking if he's okay. Nicholas just blinks at them, quaking, lips trembling...

He's led out of the cushion, barely standing, sees...

Conrad runs from the elevators, covered in blood but very much alive, smiling...

Conrad reaches Nicholas, throwing his arms around him, giving him a long kiss, laughing...

CONRAD Happy Birthday, Nickie. Happy fucking Birthday...

Conrad embraces him again, knocks him back into the cushion. Nicholas is still not all there, pulling away...

NICHOLAS Get... get off. Get off me!! You... you...

Nicholas shoves free, staring at Conrad, looking up, looking back at Conrad, looking all around, terrified, near tears...

Emotion overwhelms Nicholas. He laughs and cries at once, takes Conrad in him arms, holding tight, hands balled into fists, clinging gratefully.

ACROSS THE ATRIUM, DOORS OPEN and people flow out, cheering: Sutherland, Ilsa and Elizabeth at front, looking unsure, forcing smiles, led by C.R.S. ESCORTS. And behind, DOZENS and DOZENS of C.R.S. WORKERS, ASSISTANTS and TECHNICIANS.

At the bank of ELEVATORS, DING, DING, DING... DOORS OPEN and the CAST OF CHARACTERS EMERGES, Feingold leading, holding Christine's hand, everyone elated and shouting victoriously.

The crowd encircles Conrad and Nicholas as they climb back out of the cushion. HUNDREDS of WELL-WISHERS gathering...

Conrad climbs a few stairs, pulls Nicholas along, motions...

CONRAD Ladies and gentlemen... (pause) My big brother... Nicholas Van Orton! He had it all, and now he has it all back!

THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE. Nicholas looks out over them, flush, awed, unable to catch his breath.

CUT TO:

INT. C.R.S. BUILDING, ATRIUM/LOBBY -- TIME CUT - NIGHT

LOUD MUSIC. COCKTAIL PARTY IN PROGRESS. A huge CAKE is being cut. Tables surround a PACKED dance floor area where Feingold dances crazily. Everyone's drinking, eating...

IN THE CROWD, FIND: Nicholas stands with a bottle of champagne in hand, watching Ilsa embrace Conrad.

ILSA I hope we'll be seeing more of you.

CONRAD Count on it.

Ilsa reaches to straighten Conrad's hair. She regards Nicholas with affection, kisses his cheek.

ILSA Goodnight. See you home.

NICHOLAS Goodnight. (watches her go, to Conrad) Where was she?

CONRAD In a hotel. Ordering room service and watching pay-per-view. She was a real sport.

BUSINESSMAN 1 and HEAVY MAN come thru the crowd to Nicholas.

BUSINESSMAN 1 Hey, congratulations! You did great... really kicked ass...

HEAVY MAN Amazing, just wanted to tell you...

Nicholas thanks them, shaking hands as they move on.

NICHOLAS (to Conrad) You know... how'd you manage the gun? I mean...

CONRAD Baby, they were all over the house with metal detectors. They switched your gun with a look-alike, rigged barrel, loaded with blanks. Pop-gun.

MAN'S VOICE (o.s.) (from behind) Mister Van Orton... ?

Nicholas and Conrad both turn to face a C.R.S. ACCOUNTANT, a nebbish who holds a CLIPBOARD and gives an amused look.

ACCOUNTANT Conrad Van Orton.

CONRAD Yeah... ?

Conrad steps aside with the accountant. Nicholas takes a swig off his champagne, nods in response to C.R.S. WORKERS who slap his back as the pass.

Nicholas realizes something, begins searching the crowd as Elizabeth arrives with HUSBAND and DAUGHTER hand in hand.

ELIZABETH We have to head out... just wanted to say goodbye.

NICHOLAS You're going? Well, thanks again. (to DAUGHTER) Good to see you, Rachel... (shakes HUSBAND'S hand) Thanks for coming, Mel. I'll get your car back. Right now it's, uh... at the zoo. Sorry.

ELIZABETH Happy Birthday, Nicholas.

NICHOLAS I'll call. I really will.

ELIZABETH I know.

She kisses his cheek. Nicholas waves as they go...

NICHOLAS Bye guys.

Nicholas looks around, still searching. He walks, receiving more random congratulations, heading to a table where Sutherland sits puffing a cigar. Nicholas sits.

SUTHERLAND Bravo, young man. you have to tell me what this was all about sometime. (blows cigar smoke) I want you to know... when it looked there for awhile like you were going slowly insane... I was fully prepared to have you committed to the finest mental-health facility available. I mean that sincerely, don't thank me.

NICHOLAS You warm my heart.

Sutherland smiles, raises his glass. Conrad deposits himself in a seat, holding an inch-and-a-half thick stack of COMPUTER PAPER, studies the last sheet, thumbs the pages.

NICHOLAS What?

CONRAD This... ? Oh, this is just... this is the bill.

Conrad tries to laugh, daunted.

NICHOLAS Really?

CONRAD (none too happy) Yeah.

NICHOLAS Split it?

CONRAD Oh, God yes please. Thanks, man. I'll take you up on that.

NICHOLAS (leans forward) Where's Christine? (off Conrad's look) The waitress.

CONRAD Yeah, yeah. She called a cab. Said something about catching a plane.

NICHOLAS Did she?

Nicholas looks around.

EXT. C.R.S. BUILDING -- NIGHT

Nicholas comes out of the building to the street, hurrying without wanting to appear hurried, looks both ways. Down the block, a TAXI arrives. Christine's getting in.

Nicholas runs to catch it...

NICHOLAS Excuse me... Christine... !

She looks out, waiting with the door open.

NICHOLAS Hi. Didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

CHRISTINE That's my fault. I get too worked up at these. I'm very method. You do know... that's not my name.

NICHOLAS I didn't know what else to call you.

CHRISTINE Claire.

NICHOLAS Claire. Pleased to meet you.

He holds out his hand. She shakes.

CHRISTINE I have to get to the airport...

NICHOLAS Where are you going in such a hurry?

CHRISTINE There's another gig starting in Saudi Arabia. I'm just a walk-on this time though. Bit-part.

NICHOLAS What about dinner sometime, when you get back? Would that be... ?

CHRISTINE (pause) Is this something you're interested in? I'm not really that person I was.

NICHOLAS I realize. Maybe you could... tell me a little about yourself.

CHRISTINE Like what... my favorite color... ?

NICHOLAS Like... where are you from?

CHRISTINE Originally, Connecticut.

NICHOLAS Big family... small?

CHRISTINE One brother, one sister.

NICHOLAS Studied acting, I assume?

CHRISTINE Julliard, yeah.

NICHOLAS Single?

CHRISTINE Yes.

NICHOLAS Boyfriend?

CHRISTINE No.

NICHOLAS Underwear?

CHRISTINE Always.

Nicholas nods, scratches his head.

NICHOLAS I could learn to live with that.

Christine smiles.

NICHOLAS See how much I've learned already. Imagine how much more I could learn if you let me keep you company to the airport.

She considers.

She moves over. Nicholas gets in beside her, shuts the door. The cab drives away, into the nighttime city.

<<<

/ The Game.
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