He steps into a payphone and punches in a number. He hears himself and Alyson exchanging light-hearted banter as they instruct the caller to leave a message. Stepping away from the telephone booth, he is suddenly blinded by bright lights. A group of men step in front of their cars, the headlights trained on Tom. One man steps forward and introduces himself as Alex Hilliard, saying "We've waited a long time for this."
Tom sits in a straight-backed chair illuminated by a spotlight, the only light in a darkened room. A voice from the shadowy rows of men offers to let him smoke or have a drink of water, but he demands to know what this is about. He is told they are just waiting for the boss. A young woman walks past the seated men, her form first a dark silhouette. She apologizes to Tom for being late and introduces herself as Sandra Wilson of the U.S. Attorney's Office. She instructs them to kill the spotlight, reminding them that Tom is not a prisoner. The truth is, she tells Tom, he may be the man of the hour. She introduces some of the men: Alex Hilliard, assistant U.S. attorney; senators from Illinois and Wisconsin; a U.S. District court judge; and the Chairman of the Senate Investigations Committee. She apologizes for the "cloak-and-dagger pyrotechnics", but says they didn't want to lose him again. She says they were the people looking for him, but when he tries to connect this with his stolen photograph and what happened to his mother and his friend, Larry Levy, she tells him they had no need to steal the photograph. Their copy came directly from his lab. She says they had assumed he went into hiding because he knew The Organization had stolen it. Tom is incredulous to hear his experience described as being in hiding. "I've been in living hell for the past six months", he says. Sandra wants to settle him into a house they have set up for him nearby. He can ask her any questions he wants on the way and she has a couple for him. The rest can wait until the hearing. He exclaims that he doesn't know anything about any of this. She asks him if he hadn't read the papers or watched the news lately. She says he is their missing link. Once they have his deposition, they can make their arrests. He just needs to authenticate the photograph before a federal judge. To confirm his story, he will also have to give them the negatives.
At the townhouse, two well-dressed men assigned to protect Tom are decorating a Christmas tree. Tom explains to Sandra that while she talks as if he were the one who was difficult to find, it seems to him that it was the other way around. He asks her about The Organization and she defines it as a well-funded group of political fanatics who have been "wreaking havoc on internal politics and foreign policy" over the last four years. He asks her if she means that the men in his photograph weren't U.S. military personnel, and she says that the organization wanted it to look that way. She reminds him of what was happening at the time he took the photograph: the U.S. government was trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the revolutionary government. The four victims were high-ranking officers of the revolutionary government. With the U.S. government implicated in their executions, all their work "went to hell in a hand basket." He asks about his wife, and Sandra tells them that they had been in contact with her but thought it would be best to wait until after the deposition. She assures him that "We're on your side. I can't imagine what they must have put you through, but we're not them." She gives him her personal phone number in Georgetown, but when she leaves the room to answer a call, he opens her wallet and reads a Richmond address on her license.
Tom uses the phone and hears the message he and Alyson recorded again. One of his guards is returning with groceries. Tom notes that he hangs his overcoat beside the door and puts his keys in the pocket. After dinner, Tom and one of the guards sit in the living room, the soft light of a color wheel reflecting snow flakes against the wall, as the other man washes the dishes. Tom is almost observed as he slips into the front room to get the keys from the coat pocket. A little later, he tells them he's going out to get some fresh air. They tell him not to go any further than the front porch without them. He agrees but the car soon pulls away from the house.
Tom checks a map as he drives, searching for Sandra's Richmond address. The headlights of another car approach from behind, its driver following Tom as he changes lanes. Tom is rammed from behind and then from the side. Seeing the headlights of an approaching truck, he braces himself for the next impact and swings his own car into the side of the other vehicle. The two cars separate, both avoiding the truck, but the other car goes out of control and hits a parked pickup truck, the pickup exploding in flames. Tom is shocked and gasping for breath as he looks back at the inferno. The ambulance moves out slowly, its lights flashing. Sandra parks her car and walks over to tell Tom how stupid it had been for him to leave the house. He accuses her of lying about her address, and she angrily tells him that she works in Georgetown and has an apartment there. Her house is in Richmond and since she had been spending so much time working on his case, she thought she would go home and see her family for an early Christmas dinner. She tells him that Rick and Roy were put there to protect him. She implores him to work with them and promises that after tomorrow he can go home and put this nightmare behind him.
Tom is escorted from Sandra's car up the steps of the courthouse, barricades separating them from onlookers and the press. He hears his name and sees Alyson to one side, flanked by two police officers. He paces through an empty courtroom, waiting to be called for his deposition. Suddenly Alyson is there. She wraps her arms around him and holds him close. After a moment, he gently pushes her away from him, protesting that this isn't right, that it's too fast. He demands to know why she did it. She speaks of how terrifying they can be and what they had put her through. He reminds her that she handed him over to the police and pretended not to know him and speaks of her talking to Dr. Bellamy. If there is going to be any chance for them, she has to go over everything that happened after they left Tom's studio that night. In her version of events, after he had gone to the restroom a man she thought worked for the restaurant had came to her table and told her that Tom had been taken ill. He told her that Tom had been taken outside for some fresh air. When she stepped through the door, she was grabbed and shoved into a van to be taken to an interrogation room. She was told that if she didn't cooperate with them, they would kill Tom. Tom tells her he had already heard this story in the car before she turned him over to the police. She claims that it wasn't the police, that it was the man who had approached her in the restaurant and she had feared he would kill them both if she said the wrong thing. She explains her visit to Dr. Bellamy by saying that she had known Tom was taken to Calaway and had gone there to try to find out who these people were and if anyone there could help them. She claims that Bellamy had reassured her he would review Tom's case and would release him if he felt he was in his right mind. She says "Ever since you got up from the table that night, I've worried about you and looked for you. I thought I would die. I didn't think I could make it without you. I didn't want to make it without you." Tom remains silent, studying her face, but when he is called, leans his head against hers, his sniffles revealing the tears not far beneath the surface. He tells her "I'm afraid to walk out on you again." She assures him "I'll be here. I can't believe it's really over."
Sandra, Hilliard, Tom and Alyson exit the courthouse, Sandra telling Tom that they will need the negatives to prove the statements in his deposition. He tells her to make her arrests. When he knows that the people who did this are behind bars and he and Alyson are safe, he'll turn over the negatives. She nods agreement, but watches with a discontented look on her face as the other three drive away. Back at the house, Rick and Roy gently admonish Tom for making them look bad. Tom says he has made a deal with Sandra that he and Alyson will stay put if the two guards will stay out of their way and give them some privacy. In front of a glowing fire, Tom and Alyson share a tender moment with him explaining how it had felt to him when he saw her standing at their door with another man. She assures him that she has only one man in her life. As they kiss, he slides the hem of her dress up to rub his fingers over a birthmark on her thigh. She suggests they go upstairs so he can continue checking out whatever he wants or finds what he's looking for, but he tells her he needs time. She tells him they have all the time in the world.
A car door awakens Tom and he turns to see the bed beside him empty. He begins calling Alyson's name urgently, cursing for a moment, thinking that the nightmare is beginning again. He continues searching downstairs to be vastly relieved to see Alyson walk out of the kitchen. He lays his hands on her shoulders and tells her she can't disappear on him like that. "My heart can't take it." She seems half-piqued, half-amused by Tom's behavior, telling him she was only making breakfast. She offers to leave a trail of breadcrumbs when she goes back to finish.
Christmas music fills the air as Tom and Alyson enter a store from the busy street, Alyson telling Tom he needs to learn to relax. A man in a trenchcoat watches them and suddenly whips out a camera and flashes a picture of them, pronouncing "That's one more for the Gazette, Mr. Veil." At the man's sudden movement, Tom pushes over a display unit, shattering its glass shelves. Rick and Roy grab the man, hustling him out of the store, and Tom pulls Alyson out onto the street to get some air. Passing a storefront television, they see a news report of the arrest of 14 men in an anti-U.S. conspiracy brought to light by Tom's photograph, Hidden Agenda. Tom smiles in relief, scarcely able to believe what he is hearing. Back at the townhouse, Sandra has a Christmas present for Tom. Inside is a file folder; she explains that some of the arrested people had been willing to cooperate to save their own hides. As Tom leafs through the first few photographs, he is exhilarated to realize that this really does appear to be his file. When he expresses his appreciation, Sandra thanks him again, saying they couldn't have done it without him. She reminds him again of the negatives. He tells her he can get them to her a little bit later; they're not here. She tells him the sooner he turns them over to her, the sooner they can get him and Alyson home.
Tom finds Alyson in the kitchen basting a turkey for Christmas Eve dinner. He tells her he is going to get the negatives. She tells him to hurry and promises him a surprise when he gets back. Roy and Rick congratulate him and wish him luck. They are leaving to spend Christmas with their families. Tom jumps when a pan clatters on the floor in the other room, then seems amused at himself. When he returns, he asks for the big surprise that Alyson promised him. He steps into the hallway to find his mother seated there. Tom looks stricken as he remembers the last time he saw her, gravely ill following a stroke. She tells him she is sorry and asks for forgiveness. "It took a stroke and ten years of loneliness to make me come to my senses and realize that I've been wrong about a lot of things." He fights backs tears as he hugs her and says "Merry Christmas, Mom." At the dinner table, she talks about the day he came to the house and she had said her son was dead. She could hear the words coming out of her mouth and suddenly it felt wrong. She hopes Tom can still find room in his heart for her. He smiles and gets up to kiss her again, clasping her hand and saying that maybe it will be a new start for all of them.
Tom and Alyson embrace in the privacy of their bedroom, Alyson dressed in a red teddy and speaking of old times. He kisses her, working his way down her body, checking once more for the birthmark. She assures him it's still there and he says he didn't doubt it. He tips her back onto the bed, settling on top of her.
Daylight floods the room as he is awakened the next morning by the sound of a car door and the car's motor as someone drives away. This time he finds the room ransacked, the pictures askew on the walls. He calls for Alyson and then his mother as he comes down the stairs to find the whole house in a similar state. He finds a videotape on the floor and begins to play it, finding take two of the news report where the supposedly-arrested men are led out of the courthouse in handcuffs. He opens a Christmas card propped up in view. The bold red letters read "Merry Christmas from all of us to you." A handwritten message says "Where did you put the negatives? How did you figure it out?" The signature: Alyson. He picks up the lamp and detaches the negatives taped behind the snowflake color wheel.
A collection kettle bell rings flatly as Tom steps out onto the daylit street, deprived of its evening holiday glitter. Sorrow is etched in his face as he turns and walks away, his bag hung over his shoulder.
Synopsis © 1995 Marge Brashier
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December 14, 1995