Red neon letters flash HOTEL down the side of a dingy, brick building. Tom gets out of a taxi in front and passes winos warming themselves by the fire lit in a trash can near the entrance. He raps on the caging separating the desk from the shabby lobby to get the attention of the clerk, who tells him that it's 20 bucks for an overnighter, 10 if he can finish his business in under an hour. Tom lays a picture of a man in uniform on the counter, Ft. McAllister Psych Facility, Corrections Division on a placard near the bottom. The clerk glances at the photo and says "Yeah, what about it?" Tom asks if he knows this man and the clerk says he knows a lot of people, but he doesn't know if he knows what he knows. After Tom slides a folded 20 dollar bill toward him, he admits he knows him. He describes him as a head case, always walking around with two eyes behind his head, looking over his shoulder as if somebody's about to jump on him. Tom asks if he had ever seen anyone following him or asking questions about him. The clerk says no one had until Tom showed up. He adds that it was almost more of a problem to keep him there than to throw him out on his ear. When Tom asks why he didn't, he says Eddie paid his tab a year in advance. As far as the clerk is concerned, that's the only thing that kept him out of the hatch. Tom holds another 20 dollar bill in the clerk's sight, saying he wants the key to Eddie's room.
Tom unlocks the door of the room and has to force it open by throwing his weight against it several times. He clears away a heavy curtain of cobwebs covering the doorway. The red neon light from the Hotel sign flashes against the wall, the only other light in the room the snowy picture on the TV screen. When Tom switches on a floor lamp, the snow suddenly clears to show a program in progress. A man walks through a busy restaurant, searching for someone. He finally seeks out the maitre d', asking "Raoul, did Nancy change tables?" Tom hears him use the same words he himself had used to describe Alyson, "Good smile, great legs, lousy tipper", as he says Nancy's not at their table. Raoul says "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what you're talking about." The man says "Sir? Are you kidding? We were at that table over there." Tom remembers himself at the restaurant hearing Gino tell him that Mr. and Mrs. Charney have had that table reserved. Raoul on the TV show completes the sentence: "every Thursday for the last ten years." Tom tries turning to another station, finding nothing but snow. The man playing Tom asks where Nancy is. Raoul responds "Perhaps if you come to the front desk." Tom remembers telling Gino, "The joke's over, so where is she?" The actor repeats the same lines. Raoul tells him he's afraid he's going to have to ask him to leave the restaurant. The actor says he's not leaving until he finds his wife. Tom pulls the cable from the set, but the program continues. A man dressed in a bathrobe stands beside a woman holding a dog and pumps a shotgun, saying "Conversation's over, friend. You either turn and leave--" The man who posed as Alyson's husband continues "Or I can blow a hole in your leg and we'll carry you out of here." Tom sits breathing hard until the words "A Max Webb Production" appear on the screen, accompanied by the closing theme music. He scrambles in the drawer for something to write on, grabbing a New Testament and writing on its pages. The screen returns to snow. Tom rifles through the Testament and studies the name Max Webb. Further forward in the volume, he finds someone has written in bold letters across the text: "The answers are in this book."
He locates Max Webb Productions by night, its fence topped with coils of barbed wire. He sleeps wrapped in a tarpaulin in the back of a pickup truck. The gate is open in the morning and he walks through it and enters a soundstage. As he steps inside the building, a bell rings and quiet on the set is ordered as they begin Take 2. As a woman sits inside a stationary car turning the steering wheel, a man grabs her hair from behind, saying "All right, talk to me!" Tom sees himself and Alyson as the scene portrays what happened in the car the day after his identity was erased. Suddenly Angie, the actress playing Nancy, breaks off her line and asks the director if he really has to grab her like that. She says she spent a long time on her hair and it totally ruins it. Phil, the director, grimaces as he rises from his chair and walks over to tell her this scene is crucial to the plot. He asks her to think about it-- Lenny's seen her with another man posing as her husband the night before, he's desperate to get some answers; he's not going to be worrying about her hair. Angie tosses her head and says "OK, fine. I will just look like crap for the rest of the show." Robert, the actor who plays Lenny, gets out of the car and says he has a problem with the whole scene. He questions Lenny popping out of the back seat of a car, asking how predictable can you get? The long-suffering director asks if he has a problem with predictable. He then says Robert's fired, yelling and gesturing for him to get off his set and out of the building. Robert slams the car door and angrily disputes Phil's power to fire him, saying it's not even his show. Robert says he is Lenny Little; without him, they can toss the whole series. Phil tells him that's it, that's predictable. He explains that when something somebody wants very much is suddenly taken away, they're going to fight like hell to get it back, even to the point of popping up in the back seat of a car. He asks if they can do the scene now.
He shakes his head as he walks back toward his chair, saying "Actors!" He notices Tom and guesses that he's one of Angie's guys. Tom asks "How do you know all this?" Phil chuckles and says they all look alike, tall and good-looking. Tom says he means the show, asking how they know all this and who they are. Phil tells him it's a closed set, but Tom says "I asked you a question. What the hell are you people doing here?" He asks how they know all this, about Alyson in the car and the scene in the restaurant. Phil tentatively says that it's called a script, lots of pages full of words that tell the actors what to say. He says he's just the director, he only interprets; if Tom has a problem with the script, he should take it up with Max Webb. He identifies Max Webb as the writer-producer. He asks if they're through with the emotion here, if he has a future he can dream about again. Tom picks a script up from a table, tearing off the cover sheet with Max Webb's Redmond, WA address. Angie hurries over, saying that's her script, but Phil waves her off.
Tom rings the buzzer of a unit in an ultramodern complex filled with gleaming white surfaces. When no one answers, he turns the knob and finds it unlocked. He enters Max Webb's office, where Max sits in a swivel chair speaking into a small tape recorder: "So Lenny is sitting there in a straitjacket opposite Dr. Landers. Now Landers is one of those friendly, benign types." He switches off the recorder and turns without haste to tell Tom he has a buzzer. Tom's tone is unfriendly as he says he used it. He demands who Max works for. Max says he works for the government, two ex-wives and the bank. He asks if Tom's a fan. Tom says he knows damn well who he is and asks what point he thinks he's trying to make. Max says he doesn't know, but he thinks it has something to do with identity, the individual against the oppressive, faceless society. Tom tells him he's replaying scenes from his life and he wants to know why. Max says he'll take that as a compliment; if Tom identifies with Lenny, he's done a good job. As a writer, he's flattered that he's struck such a nerve with Tom that he found out where he lived and broke into his house. Tom says he just wants to know what he thinks he's trying to prove. Max says he thinks what he's trying to prove is that Lenny doesn't have a choice. Tom asks if he sure about that and he says "Hey! I'm the writer!" He cites this week's episode as an example, where Lenny has traveled 1200 miles, actually believing that he's going to get to the bottom of things, only to find that by the time he gets there, they're already one step ahead of him. The affability leaves his face as he says "I'm telling you. He's becoming predictable." Tom suggests he's doing it on purpose, to give the opposition a false sense of confidence. Max is excited by the idea, dictating into the recorder: "Note: Idea for a way around Lenny's predictability. Maybe he's doing this on purpose." He clicks if off and says, no, he's made the heavies too good, downright brilliant actually-- they're just not that easily fooled. Tom says Lenny isn't either, but Max argues expansively that Tom is one guy, whereas the opposition has the means and the money. Tom says maybe he underestimates his leading man. Max replies that he knows exactly who Lenny is and what he's capable of. He says "Lenny's in hell until he gives them what they want and there's nothing he can do about it."
He grimaces at the taste of his coffee and says he's going to get a fresh batch. Tom looks at the dictaphone on the shining, black surface of the desk and picks it up. He presses the button to hear "Scene 49. Lenny's desperate ... He gets answers, but none of them are satisfying. So the writer gets up and walks into the kitchen. Lenny takes a beat, thinks over his alternatives and he can't resist. He's got to know what the guy is up to, so he crosses to the dictaphone and he plays back a section of the tape." Tom hurls the dictaphone at the window, leaving a circular pattern of cracks. Max cocks a handgun and says the visit is over, adding "Not that I don't appreciate the occasional interruption, but I've got work to do." He tells Tom he wrote the scene and knows how it ends, warning him not to overestimate his value and think Webb won't use the gun. He orders him to get out, then says with a broad smile "Hey, enjoy the show. You might learn something."
After Tom leaves, Max calls someone named Simmons on the telephone, saying he was just here and everything went according to plan. Max leaves the room. Tom crouches down as he moves toward the scarred window and looks in to make sure Max is gone. He kicks the glass from the window and enters. Alarms buzz and a recorded voice announces: "Attention, all Springwood residents. There's been an unauthorized entry in Building 1. Lock your doors and stay inside." Security guards run down a staircase. Tom glances through a notebook on Webb's desk, then presses the redial button on the telephone, waiting impatiently for an answer. A woman's voice answers the call "Elegra International. Good morning, can I help you?" Tom asks where they're located and the guards move closer as she asks who's calling. He says he's Max Webb and she asks him to hold. The announcement sounds again through the complex. The guards open the door to Max's unit with guns drawn, moving carefully through the apartment to the door of the office. The telephone receiver lies on the desk, the receptionist's voice heard as she says "I can put you through to Mr. Simmons now. Hello? "
At the headquarters of Elegra International, a half-dozen young women sit at a curved desk, answering telephones in a variety of languages. The woman speaking English tells a caller that Mr. Simmons is in a meeting now but she can have him return their call. A security officer dressed in a business suit asks Tom if he can help him. Tom says he's here to see Mr. Simmons, but the guard tells him he can only be seen by appointment. Taking Tom's arm to gently steer him in the direction of the corridor, he assures him that if he leaves his name and number, he can have somebody get back to him. As Tom walks down the windowed corridor lining the mezzanine, he looks back to see an executive surrounded by a small entourage walk through a skyway leading to another section of the building.
The executive stands by a limousine, giving last minute instructions to his staff. As the limousine moves through the parking garage, Tom leaps in front of the vehicle, his hands on the hood. The brakes screech as the limo stops and Tom is thrown back by the impact. The horrified driver rushes over to see if Tom is OK and is stunned by a backhanded blow from Tom, who jumps into the driver's seat. He presses the button to slide down the partition. When Simmons sees him instead of Frank, his driver, he rushes to open the door, but Tom is quicker with the door locks. Simmons asks Tom who he is and what he wants. Tom has his own questions: "Who are you? What is Elegra and what is your connection to Max Webb?" Simmons settles back in his seat and says that's a lot of questions. When Tom says "Talk to me, Simmons," he says Tom doesn't have it in him to kill him. Tom responds that he didn't have it in him, but things happen, people change. He asks again who he is and with a small smile, Simmons says Tom knows he can't tell him that. Tom speeds along a gravel road and spins the limousine around to enter a secluded driveway. He marches around to open the back door and grasps Simmons by the throat. Simmons asks if Tom thinks it will stop if he kills him. Tom says he doesn't know, but it might give him some pleasure to know he had taken one of them out. Simmons laughs and Tom asks if he thinks it's it funny. Simmons asks how Tom knows that killing him isn't exactly the move they want him to make. Tom loosens his hold and Simmons tells him he's in over his head. He pulls a syringe from his pocket and flicks off the cap. Tom grabs his wrist, but can't stop Simmon's arm from moving slowly towards him. With "No, not for you, pally," Simmons plunges the syringe into his other wrist and falls limply back against the seat. Sirens are heard in the distance as Tom takes Simmons' wallet from his inside jacket pocket.
In a bar called the Dirty Duck, Tom takes a seat at a plain, wooden table. He can hear glass breaking somewhere as he takes the crumpled bills from the wallet and puts them in his pocket. In one of the credit card slots is a blank card key with a magnetic strip. The bartender steps over and asks what he can get him. Tom says "Something cold would be great" and with a touch of exasperation, the bartender lists the choices: beer, ice tea or lemonade, Tom choosing the latter. Noticing Tom's blank expression, the bartender asks if he's OK and Tom says he's fine. Tom looks up as the TV over the bar suddenly switches from sports to the Lenny Little Show, Lenny' voice asking "Who do you work for? What's your connection to Max Webb?". Tom watches a replay of the scene that recently took place in the limousine. Remote control in his hand, one of the bar's patrons says "This thing again. Where the hell does it come from?" The bartender says it's some kind of pirate broadcast; he heard a rumor they do it down in Mexico. He stops the man from changing the station, saying that it's good. Tom steps to the bar and lays money for his drink on the counter as the man portraying Simmons asks Lenny if he thinks it will stop if he kills him and tells him he's in over his head. The bartender motions at the screen and says "Just what they'd expect you to do." He tells Tom he just doesn't get why he does what they expect him to do all the time. "You ask me, Lenny keeps up like this, he is one dead puppy." Tom watches spellbound as Lenny desperately drives the vehicle.
Tom sits at a table in the Dirty Duck, the New Testament open to the page with the words "The answers are in this book." A small notebook also lies open, where Tom has written notes: "Circled words ... Chapter 8 ... Matthew." He reflects that he doesn't know what he expected to find when he came looking for pieces of Eddie's life, but what he's found is just as mysterious as Eddie himself. He turns to the eighth chapter of Matthew, where St. Matthew and Chapter 8 have been circled. Flipping to the inside cover, he sees the word Street has been circled in the Adams, Pennsylvania address of the Gidions, providers of the Bible. He writes the word Street underneath Matthew on the notebook page.
Tom walks past the sign for Matthew Street. At number 8, he finds a doorway with a button labeled "Press for delivery." A buzzer warns passersby as a freight elevator opens up from the sidewalk. Tom steps unto the platform and presses another button, riding the elevator down below the surface of the street. He finds himself in a room filled with a jumble of cardboard file boxes stamped Confidential. He takes one from the top of a pile and turns it over, a shower of shredded paper cascading onto the floor. He hears a voice: "Sort of a shame, don't you think?" Max reclines with his feet on a desk, a cigar in his mouth. He says that at one time or another, all this seemed really important-- everyone here meant enough to someone to justify all this paperwork. He uses Dave Powers for an example, taking a few sheets from a folder. He says he put up a good fight, but he lost. He feeds the sheets through a shredder and says it's now just so much useless paper. Tom asks what Max wants from him. Max says he thought they'd already been over that and Tom says sarcastically that he's a slower learner. Max says he doubts that and asks "Where are the negatives?" Tom asks why they're so important and Max answers that they're not, Tom is. Tom looks at him for a moment and then sardonically suggests Max could refresh his memory. Max says it's an attitude like that that keeps getting Tom into trouble. He asks if he doesn't realize that there's no future in running. Tom states that he's done OK so far. When Max asks what makes him so sure of that, he says he's here where he wants to be, not back in Calaway, where they want him to be. Max asks what he himself is doing there, then. He asks if Tom really thought they didn't know about Powers and that Tom would come looking for him. He says, "It's like I said, predictable." Tom responds, "Unless I just walk away." He tosses some of the shredded paper aside and says they've seen to it that it doesn't matter now, anyway. Max says Tom can't walk away and never could have, that he has to dig until he gets all the answers. He says he spoke the truth before: "When a person is driven, when something is so desperately important to him, he become predictable." He says it's Tom's basic problem. Tom tells Max his basic problem is learning he can't get everyone to play his game. Max chomps at the cigar and says, "Well, most people." Tom leans across the corner of the desk and says they all make their choices. Max tosses a stapled sheaf of papers at him as Tom starts to leave. He asks if Tom could really just walk away if he were to tell him that right at his feet is the last episode of the Lenny Little Show. Tom asks what difference it makes to him. Max smiles and urges him to admit that he's Max's biggest fan; no one else watches with his enthusiasm. He says this is the episode where Lenny finds the answers to all his questions-- the where, the why, the who. He calls it the moment of truth. Tom stands still, fighting an inner battle, then picks up the script and walks out.
Tom enters the Take 3 Deli, the script rolled in his hand. Angie spots him standing in line and effusively calls him over to her table. She recognized him from the set. They hear the sound of dishes breaking as she asks him if he's read the script and calls it a total bummer. She says they got Lenny with this gas that makes him docile and helpless, like a chemical lobotomy. She opens the script and tells him to read the end. He sees the lines "Lenny's eyes go dead as he falls lifelessly to the floor. FADE OUT." He forces a laugh and asks what happens. Through a stream of like's and totally's she relates how Lenny scales the outside of the Elegra building with ropes. She calls it out of character because he's a photographer, then admires how well Tom knows the show when he says he's a photojournalist and has seen a lot of military action, so it's not completely out of character. She says she had thought Lenny was smarter than that-- he just walked right into their trap. Tom says maybe he had no choice, but she says everyone has a choice. Tom suggests that whatever's in that building is too important to him. She dubiously agrees it's possible, then says she's kind of glad it's over because Nancy is such a hard character to play. Tom calls her complex and says her emotions are never very easy to understand. Nancy says she could never figure out whether or not she was on Lenny's side; one day she's convinced Nancy's doing this to protect him and the next, she's convinced she's in on it. She says it's so hard to play a scene when you don't know where you're coming from. Tom says maybe she just loves him; maybe Angie just has to assume that from the beginning and let things fall into place from there. She asks if he works for Max and when he answers that he does in a way, asks him not to tell Max what she said about the plot, because he has a fit if they don't just bow down to everything he writes. She says she still can't buy it, though. She would have never gone into that building because it was such an obvious set-up.
Back at Eddie's hotel, Tom gathers the objects he'll need, placing some in the pockets of his jacket.
Robert skulks through the bushes in darkness, Phil sitting in his director's chair, encouraging him: "That's good, Robert, keep looking ... Anyone could be coming. You can't afford to get caught now."
Tom hides in the shadows outside Elegra, pausing as he watches two security guards pass by. He sits next to a dumpster and takes a coil of rope with a grappling hook from his bag. He tosses the hook above him and grabs the trailing end of the rope.
Robert climbs the rope against a rough, brick wall, Phil encouraging him to keep going.
Tom places his bag inside the dumpster, taking off his dark jacket and discarding it as well. He says "So much for being predictable" as he walks away. He uses the card key to enter Elegra.
As Robert nears the top of the building, Max yells "Cut." He apologizes, but says he has last minute changes and adds that they're going live. When the director protests, Max says it's the name of the game-- he had a better idea at the last minute. Robert doesn't want to climb the rope again, but comes around to Angie's argument that Lenny's background makes him capable of it. When he learns the rope is out, he asks how Lenny gets inside. Script in hand, Phil explains he uses the card key he got from the Elegra executive, walking right through the front door and up to room 302. Angie says the rope is so much better. Max smiles smugly and says "Trust me. It needed a new ending."
Tom walks through Elegra's corridors with a flashlight.
At the Dirty Duck, a customer calls "Come on, Lenny, it's a trap! What are you doing?" The bartender calls him a bonehead, complaining that he shouldn't even be up there. The customer says he has to get the file. The bartender bets 10 bucks that the file isn't even in there.
Lenny moves through the halls with the flashlight, his gear clanking against his waist beneath his open jacket.
First Lenny, then Tom, uses his card to unlock the door to Room 302.
His face darkened with patches of charcoal, Lenny opens the door and switches on the light.
His features unsullied, Tom slowly opens the door to find he's in a room filled with rows of long, horizontal drawers.
The bar patrons watch intently as Lenny steps through a room filled with metal file cabinets, the top of his shoe breaking a beam of light.
As Tom passes through the room illuminated only by his flashlight, a small red light begins to flash near floor level.
Simmons and Max Webb watch a screen on which the outlines of the banks of drawers and a moving figure are barely recognizable. Simmons says "He's in!" Max complains he can't see a thing and Simmons switches to the infrared channel to track Tom's body heat.
Tom finds the drawer labeled VA-VI.
Lenny pulls open a drawer of a file cabinet and rifles through the folders slumped over in the loosely-packed drawer.
Tom carefully slides open the drawer and looks through the files neatly set into upright slots until he finds the one for Veil, Thomas. As he slides it partway out, a row of darkened lights can be seen along the edge of the slot.
Lenny pulls out the folder. Blue gas pours in through an overhead vent. He looks up and falls choking to the floor.
Silence has fallen on the bar as the crowd watches in rapt attention, the bartender and the customer he wagered with looking at each other with shocked expressions.
Max and Simmons move briskly down the hallway, Max asking if he's sure the gas will be clear. Simmons says the exhaust fans will pull out the residual gas after 60 seconds. They don masks and wait until a man wearing protective clothing checks the room and gives them the all clear. Tom is nowhere in sight. Max asks where the hell he is and says he got out. Simmons asks about the file. Max exclaims that it's still there and grabs it from the drawer. The lights along the slot begin to flash and beep. Simmons yells "No, Max!" and they run to the door in time to see pins slide into place on its lock. Bars slide down over an overhead window. A hissing sound is heard as they look up at the vent. Taped to the drawer is a note: "You're right, Max. When a person wants something badly enough, they become predictable."
Tom sits on a bench beneath a brightly-painted billboard with a swimsuit-clad woman lounging on a beach and the slogan "Escape to Paradise." A police car stops on the street and its driver shines a light in Tom's face, ordering harshly "Buddy, move it or lose it." Tom stares back, disheartened yet defiant, making no motion to move. The police car turns on its blue lights and drives off to answer a call. Tom sighs and gets up from the bunch, ambling away with his hands in his pockets. An Evergreen Stage Lines bus begins its journey through the streets of the city.
Synopsis © 1996 Marge Brashier
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Used by permission.
January 6, 1996