A team of white-coated technicians work in a lab filled with high-tech equipment. Tom lies on a table, naked except for a cloth draped over his waist. An apparatus is lowered over his eyes and sensors are being affixed to his chest. On a platform a level above the table, Dr. Moen studies a monitor showing Tom's face and excitedly tells Mr. Grey they have induced a level 15 trance state. Before they had perfected this process, level 10 was the deepest they thought possible. He says Tom is responding beautifully. Grey looks over the railing at Tom and says "As long as it works." He says Veil is very important to these people and he had made certain guarantees. Moen declares it will work. From level 15, he says, they can produce fully reliable negative and positive hallucinations. They will have complete control over his sense of time and space. Whether they tell him a year, month or a day has passed, he will experience it. If they want him to believe it, he will. Grey tells Moen he wouldn't be the first to underestimate Tom and reminds him of Bellamy. Moen scornfully characterizes Bellamy's conditioning techniques as the psychological equivalent of 8-track tapes. He calls him a dinosaur, but Grey softly adds that like them, Bellamy is now extinct. Moen argues that Tom can't be attacked directly. He says Bellamy's problem was that he threatened Tom's sanity and when that failed, his life. It's clear from his profile that he has little fear of losing either. He identifies Tom's weak spot: compassion. If he believes someone he cares about and who's really important to him is in danger, he'll tell them what they want to know.
A soft buzzer sounds and a woman technician Tom tells Moen the subject is ready. He says to Grey "Let's fall in love." With the press of a few buttons on the equipment overhead, colored lights begin flashing in the apparatus over Tom's eyes. The rapid movement of his eyes increases in speed as the treatment progresses. Moen speaks into a microphone, telling Tom he remembers when he first met Karin. He describes a picture-perfect day in April when Tom was in the park, feeling wonderful even before he knew it was the day he was going to meet the love of his life. Ducks swim in a pond, a jet of water cascading behind them. A dark-haired woman in a red tank top and white shorts stands on the grassy edge, photographing children. She instructs one several times to move to the left and finally moves too far herself, tumbling into the water. Tom, who had paused to watch before, now goes to help her, telling her "They say the measure of a dedicated photographer is just how far you'll go to get the photograph." He offers his hand to pull her out but falls in himself. They spend some time laughing and exchanging light-hearted banter. Suddenly noticing they have an audience, Tom waves to the group of children watching "Thank you, thank you so much. Next show at 11." They wade out of the pond and Tom tells her his name. The woman introduces herself as Karin Stolk, then turns her attention to her camera, saying she hopes she got the picture. Tom unscrews the long lens and water streams out, bad for the camera but cause for more laughter. Tom suggests they find a place in the sun to dry off.
Tom had already told her he was a photographer and as they walk through the park, she asks what kind of pictures he takes. He tells her he's a photojournalist, but most of his stuff is a little less on the sunny side. When she asks if she might have seen his stuff anywhere, he says he's done work for a lot of the wire services, but he's pretty much freelance now. She then asks if he's any good. He replies that it depends on who you ask, but he would say he's one of the best. They both laugh about how he needs to work on his self-esteem. Karin asks if he ever thinks about giving lessens. As Tom answers "Mostly never" we see him laying flat on the table. Karin asks if that includes people who really need lessons or risk drowning. We see a black-and-white image of her face in the viewfinder of a camera, Karin seated behind it against a white background. Tom's voice is a flat monotone as he says CPR might be more valuable than photography. Karin sits on a stool to the side of the table, just in front of the camera. We can see her lines on a teleprompter as she asks what it would cost for starter lessons, a basic Photography 101 kind of thing. He suggests some dry clothes and an Italian dinner. They are back in the park, sitting on a bench as she tells him she doesn't cook. He says they're safe-- it's on him. He hands her a roll of film. Sitting on the stool in the lab, she holds it near her face, saying "I think this is going to be my lucky roll." Moen nods and smiles in satisfaction.
Tom and Karin are now in a sunny apartment, Karin studying a column covered with black-and-white photographs. She tells him how wonderful they are, that his work is powerful and so filled with emotion. He asks if it's that obvious, and she searches for the right work to describe how they make her feel. They laugh when he ends the sentence: Dry? They move to the kitchen where he fixes coffee. She tells him she has only been living here for about ten weeks now. She had been having second thoughts about staying, because the big city can get pretty lonely, but she's glad she stayed. Right now, she doesn't feel so lonely. Moen and Grey watch on a small screen and Moen exalts "Yes! He's in. He's hers. He's ours." He then instructs "System down." The lights shut off, leaving Karin with her mug of coffee in a small kitchen set. She walks over beside Tom and looks down at him, colorless light pulsing over his form. She walks towards the platform housing Moen's control center and motions to get his attention. She asks if everything is all right and he excitedly assures her it's by the numbers. She asks if Tom really believes all of this is real. Moen answers that Tom knows it's real. The day they met in the park is now a pleasant, permanent part of his memory. She says she's not so sure he's going to be as easy to crack as he thinks. He acidly comments that he doesn't remember her having a degree in psychology when he looked at her resume. She responds "Maybe not, doctor, but when you were out scoring your 4.0 grade point average, I was out scoring. I've known a lot of men and most go over real easy because they spend a lot of time believing that they don't." She doesn't know about Tom, but some things you just don't learn in books.
Tom tosses and turns in a hospital bed. On the bedside table is a framed picture of Karin. A nurse wakes him from his agitated sleep, telling him it's all right. She says he's in the hospital because his cab was in an accident, but he only has a slight concussion. She picks up the picture of Karin, commenting on how pretty she is, and asks if she's his wife. Tom looks puzzled but manages to answer, "No, she's not my wife." She then asks "Girlfriend?" A befuddled Tom quickly says no, but as he glances at two other pictures of Karin on the table, seems almost relieved as he changes his answer, saying "Yeah, that's my girlfriend. That's Karin." Grey, watching on the monitor, says Tom doesn't seem very convinced. Moen reminds him that Tom has only had one treatment. They're already pushing him harder than he wanted to. He says Tom will be fine. Grey asks if fine is really the word he wants him to use in his report to the director. Moen tells him they need one more induction before he introduces Karin to Tom's waking mind. He promises that when they bring them together in the real world, she will be the most important person in his life.
Tom lies on the table again, the lights flashing in his eyes. They are back in his apartment. Karin stands by the window, resting her elbows on the windowsill. Tom reclines on the sofa and playfully kicks pillows at her. When her only response is to pick up one of the pillows and hold it as she continues to gaze out the window, he points out that the window looks out on an alley. She seriously tells him she has to ask him something. She wants to know if he's losing patience with her. He laughs and walks over to her, asking why she would even think that. She's concerned because they have been going out for three months and have never gotten past the serious necking stage. She knows he must have thought about it. We see him back at the lab as he says expressionlessly that he figured she would let him know when she was ready. She asks "Are you for real?" Back in the apartment, she rests her forehead against his for a moment then draws away. She says she has to tell him something, but first she wants him to know that he's probably the most amazing man she's ever met--the most thoughtful and the brightest. She says "There's someone else." Moen examines the read-outs on several screens as he says "Perfect! Blood pressure, heart rate, GSR, respiration. He's anxious. He's hurting." He laughs and asks sardonically "Ain't love grand?" Karin tells Tom it's not what he thinks and he bitterly responds that she doesn't know what he thinks. She explains that she and Mark have been together since just after she got out of high school. She says it's been over for about two years but they've been avoiding saying it. He sullenly says she now has two guys on hold. She tells him she wants to be with him. She just has to finish one thing before she starts another. She is going to leave tomorrow to talk to Mark and will be gone for about two weeks. She asks Tom to let her do this the way she needs to do it, saying two weeks isn't the end of the world. Tom says it just feels like it. She says she really cares about him, but he says they can talk about that in two weeks.
Karin sits at a dressing table fixing her hair. Moen sweeps in and stands behind the mirror, abruptly telling her he needed her ten minutes ago. She calmly puts on her makeup, saying she needs to look great. He argues that Tom has known her for the past four months; he's sure he'll be happy to see her any way she looks. She says those first four months were in his head, now it's for real. Moen says it's all the same for Tom. They're moving on to the next step: no drugs, no induction, no electronics. They just need to be sure that his waking mind will accept everything they've started. Karin tells him airily she's sure his waking mind will have an easier time accepting everything they've started if she looks her best. She says she needs ten minutes.
Tom is in his darkroom, removing a photograph from a chemical bath. The doorbell buzzes and he opens his apartment door to see Karin standing in the hallway. When he doesn't speak, the observing Grey says "This is not working. He's confused." Moen holds up a finger as he waits. Karin tremulously asks if everything is OK. With a sob, Tom says "God, I missed you" and folds his arms around her in a long embrace. Moen smiles. In the darkroom together, Tom and Karin develop the pictures she took of the children in the park. He tries to give her pointers on how she can improve the background, but she wraps her arms around him from behind and kisses his cheek, reminding him of the day they met. He says they don't have to do this and she promises to pay attention, but continues to caress his cheek and kiss him. He tells her what she needs to do is just see the picture in her mind before she takes it, because it's all there-- she just has to record it. She says so that's how he thinks of himself: a recorder. She goes into the kitchen to bring him some coffee and he soon hears the sound of breaking glass. Tom calls "Alyson, you OK?" He enters the room to see Karin kneeling on the floor picking up pieces of a broken mug. As he stoops down to help her, she asks "Who's Alyson?" He looks at her blankly before saying he doesn't know. Laughing uncertainly, he repeats he doesn't know, suggesting maybe she's one of the many femme fatales of his life. She jokes about the secret life of Tom Veil and he realizes it wasn't the right thing to say. She says she thought she knew everything there was to know about him and he tells her she knows the important stuff. She says she's beginning to wonder and excuses herself to clean up from the spilt coffee.
She steps into the lab and calls up to Moen "Who's Alyson?" She demands to know what the hell has happened to Tom. Moen argues with Grey, saying they have implanted four months worth of memories into Tom in the last three days. They need to let him live the reality for a while. Grey shouts that they don't have a while. Moen says Grey told him he had a week. He says everything is going according to anticipated results and reactions. He turns his attention to Karin, saying she should be back in the apartment, because if he expects to find her there and she's not, she'll damage the reality. Hands on her hips, she asks again "Who's Alyson?" He tells her that's not her affair, and she informs him that it is her affair and that's what irks him. After she leaves, Grey says she would be better prepared for these things if they let her in on this project. Moen says the more she knows, the more likely she'd be to give herself away. He says in the end, they will live or die by the smallest of details.
Tom and Karin are in bed, their bare shoulders showing above the sheets as lies on top of her, kissing her face. He suddenly appears dazed and winces in pain. Karin asks what's wrong and he says he doesn't know, rolling onto his back to rest his head on the other pillow. Lights flash before his eyes and he has a brief vision of the girl on the bicycle shooting out in front of him. He says this just isn't right. Karin says she doesn't understand-- what is he saying? He flashes back to the ambulance and sits up, saying there's just something not right about this. She lays her hand on his shoulder and he yells "Don't touch me!" He apologizes and walks to the kitchen, striding about agitatedly. She follows and begs him to talk to her. He throws off her hand, telling her to just get away from him. He orders her not to touch him, saying he doesn't know her. She asks him again what's wrong, pleading with him to just come back to bed. He sweeps the dishes off the counter with his arm, then yells at her, asking "Who's Alyson?" She swears she doesn't know, but he keeps coming at her, demanding to know who Alyson is. The door flies open and Moen plunges a syringe into Tom's midriff. Karin looks away as Tom's body begins to shake and Moen lowers him to the floor, then she hastily leaves. Grey looks down at Tom's comatose form and asks Moen "According to schedule?"
Grey stands in a stairwell, speaking on a cellular phone: "Yes, sir, we've made him a priority one ... Yes ... Yes and you will have them by the end of the week ... Very good, sir and if that--" The call clicks off abruptly.
Pulsing lights move over Tom as he undergoes induction again. Grey tells Moen firmly that they have only 24 hours. They have no more choice; Moen will have to push Tom as far as he can go. Moen says Tom's already running an emotional edge and dislikes pushing him any further, but Grey tells him to risk it. Moen pushes a couple buttons and pictures of Karen appear in succession on the screen. He tells Tom to look at her-- she's very beautiful, very special, everything he's ever wanted, everything he cares for. She may be the most beautiful woman he's ever met in his life. He opens the valve on the IV drip leading into Tom's arm and tells him to think about how it would feel to lose her, if she would leave him or if something were to happen to her. He asks Tom how he feels now-- frightened? alone? He describes how just the thought of losing her makes it hard to breathe. He says the truth is Tom cannot live without her, without knowing that every time she leaves the house she'll be coming back to him. Tom's chest moves up and down in labored breaths and his body begins to shake. Moen says Karin is everything and the only thing that makes life worthwhile. Without her love, he would die. Tom screams her name "Karin!"
Tom sits in his apartment considering a matte to frame a photo of Karin. Surrounding it are other portraits of her and of the two of them together. He discontentedly pushes them away and walks to the phone, waiting impatiently for his call to be answered only to hear Karin's voice on an answering machine. As he unhappily walks away, the phone rings and he picks it up, eagerly saying hello. The caller, Mr. Grey, introduces himself as Dr. Grey from Holy Cross Hospital. He tells Tom that Karin has been in an accident.
At the hospital, a young nun checks a chart and tells Tom Karin's still in surgery and that the doctor will come out and talk to him as soon as they're done. She tells him she suffered some rather severe internal injuries, but quickly assures him that Dr. Hamilton is a wonderful surgeon. She asks if he's Tom and says Karin will need his support. She infers from what Karin said when she was brought in that they had an argument. Karin kept telling them to call him and apologize for anything she might have done. She tells him Karin loves him very much. He thanks her and finds a seat in the waiting room. Absorbed by his thoughts, he soon becomes uncomfortably aware of the woman in the next chair staring at him. The surgeon briskly enters and tells Tom that Karin is a lucky young woman. Her rib cage punctured her left lung, but fortunately it wasn't as serious as they initially thought. He agrees to let Tom see Karin for a moment, but tells him she's groggy from the anesthesia and needs to rest. Tom kneels by Karin's bed, weeping, telling the sleeping woman how sorry he is and how much he loves her. "If anything happened to you, I just don't think I could live." He sobs unrestrainedly as he kisses her cheek, saying again he's sorry.
Tom wheels Karin out of the hospital onto the sunny walkway. She tells him what got her through this was knowing that he would be there and that he cared about her. That plus what she holds in her hand: a roll of film. She reminds him of a girl, a camera, a park and a pond. He's surprised that she still has it, but she calls it her good luck charm. He sets the brake on her wheelchair and kisses her, telling her he loves her, before he walks away to get the car. He swings around at the sound of a dark van speeding into the lot. Two men grab Karin and hustle her into the van. Tom runs into its path, but has to dive sideways to keep from being run down. Taped to the arm of the wheelchair is a note: "If you call the police, she dies. If you speak to anyone, she dies. We will contact you. Go home." The call comes at his apartment. Grey's voice tells him they have the girl. If Tom doesn't do exactly as he says, she will die. He is to come to 4655 SW 18th St. There's a service buzzer at the entrance. He is to be there in one hour or she dies.
Tom sits on a wooden chair in a bare, concrete room with a mirror on one wall reflecting his image. Grey's voice over an intercom tells him that an intravenous needle has been inserted into Karin's arm. The chemicals they use are similar to those used in lethal injection, but the muscle relaxant used to avoid intense pain has been eliminated. If Tom hesitates to answer any question or if he answers any question untruthfully, she will die. Tom asks what if when they get what they want, she still dies. Grey tells him he'll have to take that chance. Through the one-way mirror, he and Moen watch Tom's distress as he gets up and leans facing the wall. He pushes away and asks resolutely what they want. Grey begins by asking his name. Tom answers "Thomas Veil." Grey asks if he's sure of that, and Tom throws his arms out in a helpless shrug. Grey asks his occupation, and Tom responds he's a photographer but he's sure he already knows that. He answers that his marital status is single, and when Grey comments he's trying to change that, asks if that's a question. Grey asks if he's familiar with a photograph titled Hidden Agenda. Tom walks over to the mirror and shouts "You know I am!" Grey asks what Tom can tell him about that photograph. Tom seethingly describes it as well-composed, in focus and very professional. Grey asks with whom he's discussed the photograph and what was the nature of that discussion. Tom rages that he can't remember every conversation he had about a photograph he took 2 1/2 years ago. He orders him to get to the point and tell him what he wants to know. Grey asks what Tom did with the negatives. When Tom hesitates, he describes the effect the drugs will have on Karin as it works on her autonomous nervous system. Tom had been twisting his watchband and now holds the watch in his hand. When he turns it over, he sees an inscription: "To Tom from your loving wife Alyson." Grey asks again what he did with the negatives. He says "She's running out of time, Mr. Veil." Tom says "Alyson ... My wife's name is Alyson." He begins to remember that his wife's name is Alyson and they have a german shepherd named Newt and live in Lake Forest, Illinois. Grey says Karin will die if he doesn't answer the question, but Tom shakes his head and repeats that his wife's name is Alyson, adding that they've been married for 2 1/2 years. Grey yells that Karin will die. Tom voice is determined and intense as he says he was on assignment in St. Louis. Alyson's mother's name is Laura and her father's name is Sam. He shouts "What am I doing here? Who the hell are you people?" Grey and Moen run to escape the shower of glass as Tom picks up the chair and throws it through the mirror.
Grey speaks on his cell phone in the lab. "Yes, sir, I understand ... First thing in the morning. Yes, we will." Moen tells Grey he had to double the dosage of the sedative to calm Tom down. Moen tells him they're being called back. Karin steps onto the control platform above and stands in the shadows, listening. Moen thinks there's still a chance they can rebuild his memory, but Grey says there's no time. He doesn't think Moen understands the way they think. They expected results and he and Moen failed. The director wants to see them personally. Moen says "Removal" and Grey says that's usually the way they deal with failure. Moen asks what if Tom died? Grey sighs and responds that Tom's too important; it would be tantamount to failure. Moen says not if the failure fell into their court and became their responsibility. He tells Grey about a new drug they've been experimenting with. Its side effect is a weakening of the walls of the ventricular chamber. Autopsies performed on test subjects showed that they were dealing with some form of congenital heart disease. Their hearts literally burst inside the chest cavity. The file that came from Central City's operations showed Tom to be in perfect health. How were they to know that the stresses they would put him through would kill him? Grey raises the question of traces of the drug being found in Tom's system. Moen says there's no fingerprint for the compound because it's too new, and besides, the body breaks it down into basic amino acids within two hours of being administered. Even if they do catch on, the end result would still be removal. He has some in his pharmacy and can get it here in an hour. They turn at the sound of Karin's footstep on the metal platform, but see nothing.
Moen unfolds a cloth pouch containing two vials and a syringe. As he draws the drug into the syringe, he tells Grey it works more quickly if it's injected into the heart. He tosses the pouch aside and pulls up Tom's shirt, looking for the precise spot. A feminine voice shouts "Stay away from him!" They whirl to see the dark form of a woman emerge from the light, a gun held in front of her with both hands. When Moen sees it's Karin, he asks her what the hell she things she's doing. She orders him again to stay away from Tom. Irritably saying he doesn't have time for this, he turns back to Tom. She fires and he turns around gasping before falling to the floor with a shocked look. She tells Grey he's next and orders him to back off. He says quietly "You're in love with him." He obeys her command to move away but stealthily steps towards her as he reminds her that this was all a fantasy, that Tom was scripted and prepared and she was playing a part. He says none of it was real, not even for Tom in the end. She says Tom would have given it all up for her if it hadn't been for the watch. He says again that she's in love with him and lunges for the gun. Crying "Don't!" she shoots and he falls to the floor, landing near the syringe still grasped in Moen's hand. She tenderly strokes Tom's face, telling him she's going to take him someplace. She promises that nobody's ever going to hurt him again. She screams as Grey drives the syringe into her back. She spins and shoots him again in reflex. She frantically shakes Tom, begging him to wake up. His eyes open and she tells him they have to hurry; she'll help him to her car, but they don't have much time because they will be coming after them. She struggles to lift him from the table and support his weight as she guides him toward the door. She suddenly screams in pain and they fall to the floor. Her last words are "I love you, Tom."
Tom wakes up, mumbling he has to get out of here. He's puzzled when he sees Karin's face near his own and tries to wake her, finally realizing she's dead. He grabs onto a console unit to laboriously pull himself up, accidentally tripping a switch that lights up the kitchen set. One by one, he lights up the other sets: the apartment, the hospital room, the park bench. He stumbles back against another table and picks up a roll of film he discovers there. He places it in Karin's hand and tenderly strokes her cheek. Moen's voice is heard: "You feel it in your stomach, don't you? It's hard to breathe. Just the thought of losing her. The truth is, you cannot live without her..." Moen's voice follows him as he presses a button to raise a door, then steps out into the dazzling light.
Synopsis © 1995 Marge Brashier
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Used by permission.
December 26, 1995