UPN - Nowhere Man


Thomas Veil has continued to hold out hope in spite of what he's living through that whoever's done this to him might have overlooked something, that a small piece of his life has been forgotten and locked away in a distance corner. He has secured a job working as a messenger for a large photo syndicator named Chimera Photoworks. Some years ago, he had sent a dozen photographs to them for sale to syndication. He's hoping that somewhere in their archives he might find a trace of his past.

He parks his motorcycle outside Chimera and climbs the steps adjoining the loading dock to enter the building, pausing when his pager beeps. Inside the mailroom, the manager checks the time and grouses that Tom could have been there and back by now. Tom walks in and tosses an envelope onto the counter. The manager gives him a strapped case to deliver and tells him they want it yesterday. Tom asks if he paged him with this number. The manager tells him he gets one page only and that means it's him and he should get the lard out and get to a telephone. He says no one else has his pager number. He tosses a card key on the counter, printed "Chimera Photoworks Security Key" and calls, "Joey, I need something from the stacks." Tom palms the card key and conceals it under the case as he leaves the room. Joey sifts through the envelopes on the table, then asks where the key is. The manager tells him it's on the counter where he left it. He looks up as Joey says he needs the visible key.

Tom uses the card key to open the door to the Archives. He crosses the grilled floor of the upper level until he reaches Aisle 10, where he removes the cover from a file box and begins shifting through its contents. A security guard opens the door to the Archives. Hearing the door open, Tom recovers the box. The guard searches the first floor, shining his flashlight to each side and through the grilled floor of the upper level. Tom drops the case as he moves out of the aisle. The guard shouts "Who's there?" Tom picks up the case and flees. The guard runs up the stairs and shines his light down each row, but fails to discover Tom concealed behind a box on an upper tier. The guard has moved a distance away when Tom's pager beeps. Tom jumps across the top shelves of several units, then runs down the stairs, first pulling a cart of boxes over to block the stairway. He sets the case down and kneels in front of the door, dropping the card key in his haste. He manages to open the door and close it behind him, escaping before the guard opens the door to find an empty corridor. As Tom runs away, the pager beeps again, displaying the number to call.

Tom drops coins into a pay phone. He hears an English voice inquire, "How are you enjoying life at the bottom, Mr. Veil?" The Voice says that things really went to hell when Tom left that pretty wife of his sitting in that restaurant while he went to the men's room for a cigarette. Tom curtly asks what he wants. The Voice says he wants to help him. Tom laughs shortly and says, "I'll bet." The Voice instructs Tom to meet him tonight at the Museum of Science on the fourth floor at 11 p.m. He promises to make sure it's worth his while. Tom tells him he forgot the part about "Make sure you come alone." The Voice says that it hardly seemed necessary, given the state of Tom's life. He tells Tom to put away the pad he took from his pocket, intending to write down the time and place of the meeting. Realizing that the man can see him, Tom searches the buildings around him, his gaze coming to rest on a painting of a man hanging from a rope beneath an upper window of one of them.

As Tom enters the Museum of Science, a modern glass-constructed building, a woman's voice announces that the museum will be closing to all visitors in five minutes. On the fourth floor, Tom passes photographs of infants in various stages of development to walk by a pasty-faced figure of a man on life support in an exhibit on euthanasia and organ transplants. The unseen Voice says he's so glad Tom decided to come; he thinks this will turn out to be an educational experience for him. As Tom walks past a giant eyeball, the Voice quips, "Here's looking at you, kid." Tom ignores the attempt at humor and demands to know what he wants. The Voice responds, "I told you, I'm here to help you." He explains that he's going to help Tom, because Tom is going to help him. Tom says flatly, "Not likely." He reads the sign at the end of the bed in the exhibit: "Should the tubes be removed?" The Voice says it's a question worth contemplating: "Should we pull the plug?" He tells him that for the last ten years, he's been working for the people Tom has been trying so hard to find. He's sure he doesn't need to tell him that his employers are a powerful, well-organized group with little tolerance for people who come between them and their objectives. When he began his association with them, he was under the impression that their objectives were the same as his, but that no longer seems to be the case. Tom says sarcastically, "Oh, you don't get invited to the country retreats much anymore." The Voice responds, "Once a member of the club, always a member." He says he continues to do his job, but he has something of an attitude problem. He tells Tom he's going to take them down, piece by piece if he has to. Tom asks why he doesn't just walk away and turn them in. The Voice inquires, "To whom?" After a pause, Tom answers, "To the authorities." The Voice says Tom still doesn't understand; they are the authorities. He explains that the man he works for is Richard Grace, one of the highest-ranking members of the organization. Tom asks ironically, "And you're just volunteering his name?" The Voice reminds Tom that he told him he was here to help him if Tom helps him. Tom asks once more what he wants. The Voice says, "I want you to kill Richard Grace."

A graphic of shattered glass explodes across the screen. A wire basket on a desk holds an envelope addressed to Tom. He opens it to find a photograph and a card. The Voice says that the man in the picture is Richard Grace. While the face is probably not familiar, he should be of some importance to Tom. Instead of answering Tom's question of "Why is that?", he instructs him to go to the County video archives and give the card to the person behind the counter. He will then be handed a videotape that the Voice has no doubt he will find interesting.

Tom feeds the tape into a VCR at the county archives and hesitates before pressing the play button. Grace and seven other executives sit around the illuminated surface of a round table, studying the open folders before them. Grace tells them in business-like tones that he's sure they're all aware that he has called this session to consider a matter of erasure. A black-and-white photograph of Tom holding a camera is projected on a screen on the wall. Grace says he has strongly recommended his erasure to the board and he expects them to green-light this project. He adds that it is of personal interest to him. The members set cards into slots in the table in front of them, then watch as they slide into the slots. Hand over his mouth, Tom rewinds the tape to watch the cards disappear again. Grace unemotionally thanks them for their support. He says that as of now, Thomas J. Veil of Evanston, Illinois is no longer. With the press of a button, a shattering sound accompanies the slide of Tom fading into snow. Tom watches, devastated. He switches off his beeping pager, deeply affected by what he has seen.

He walks slowly down a busy street to enter a 1-minute photo both. He feeds in a one dollar bill, then averts his eyes from the flashing light. A lighted panel reads "Your photos are being processed." The Voice says, "I hope you enjoyed the video." Tom asks bitterly what his point is--what did he think that he was going to accomplish. The flash recurs several times as the conversation continues. The Voice says he just thought he might be interested in putting a face to the man who was responsible for his erasure. He also thought that once he knew more about Richard Grace, it would make his decision to kill him that much easier. Tom says quietly that he hasn't made that decision. The Voice says confidently, "You will." Tom suggests that he might have pointed him towards a man who holds the answers to his questions, a man who does him more good alive than dead. The Voice claims that Richard Grace executes; he does not initiate. Tom asks if he's telling him that the man who approved his erasure doesn't know the reasons why. The Voice says Grace is a man who thrives on power, on knowing that he can control or ruin others. If given the opportunity to know why, he would not be interested, although in Tom's case, he did have something personal at stake. A strip of four black-and-white photographs feeds out of the machine. Tom glances at them and angrily asks, "What the hell is this?" They show Grace kissing a woman who appears to be Alyson, both dressed in bathrobes. Her face is turned away from the camera, but the long, brown curly hair is the same. Tom asks what Grace is doing with his wife. The Voice suggests that maybe Tom should ask him. Tom asks how he got these. When there is no answer, he slams his hand against the wall, shouting "I asked you a question!" He shakes the booth in anger and frustration.

Tom walks down the third floor hallway of the Ben Stark Hotel, a multistoried urban hotel which has seen better days. He unlocks the door to 322, then turns around to be sure no one is watching. He kneels to find that the straight pin he placed in the edge of the doorjamb hasn't been dislodged. He picks up the pin and puts it in his pocket as he enters the room. He starts to take off his jacket, but stops short when he sees an accordion file folder on the bed. He steps cautiously across the bed, then lunges at the curtain covering the closet. He checks that the window is firmly fastened, then lights a match to make sure the Xs he marked at the meeting of the window sash and jamb are intact. He checks the others windows, then moves a chair and removes a small section of the baseboard, taking a strip of negatives from their hiding place. He opens the file folder and pulls out a large glossy of Grace and several typed sheets.

Tom stands next to his motorcycle, watching Grace step out of his mansion, kiss his wife good-bye, and start down the walk towards his car. Tom reflects that if someone had told him a few months ago that he would be sitting here watching the man who took his life and debating whether or not he could take his life, he wouldn't have believed it. The difficult truth is, despite his rage and his anger, killing Richard Grace would not change his life in any way. Grace gets in his car and drives away. Tom puts on his helmet and follows him. He watches as Grace enters a bookstore, talks briefly to the proprietor, then enters a back room. The bell over the door jingles as Tom goes inside. He walks through the rows of stacks, then enters the glass-windowed door to the Rare Books room, finding no sign of Grace. Back in the main room, the proprietor asks if there was something special Tom was looking for. Tom says he was looking for a man, a friend of his. He says he thought he saw him go into that back room before he came in. The man asks doubtfully, "And you saw him come in here?" Tom tells the proprietor that he talked to him for a second, then he went in the back. The proprietor says he's sorry, but Tom must be mistaken. Tom smiles fleetingly and says "Thank you."

Tom looks up and down the street, then walks away chagrined. As he starts to cross the street to his bike, his attention is drawn by the sounds of an aluminum garage door cranking upwards and a car engine starting, along with the sight of two men in suits stepping out of shops on either side of the bookstore. He runs for the bike as a car speeds out of the garage and brakes to pick up the two men. Tom accelerates around the corner, pursued by the car, which swings wide as its tires skid trying to make the sharp turn. A white panel truck crossing at an intersection stops as Tom runs a stop sign and turns in front of it, blocking the path of the car, which slides sidewards to a halt.

Tom walks up the long nave of a church illuminated by candles in chandeliers high overhead and a soft glow through stained-glass windows. He remembers an earlier phone conversation which the Voice began by telling him that he should learn to follow orders. He told Tom to go to St. Mark's church on 4th, adding that they say confession is good for the soul. The shadowy figure on the other side of the screen in the confessional says in the familiar voice that he's beginning to understand why they consider Tom's reconditioning and elimination a priority. He tells Tom he came extremely close to putting their arrangement in jeopardy. Tom informs him that they don't have an arrangement. The Voice says Tom does seem to possess an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Tom reminds him wryly that he's had encouragement. The Voice says fortunately, he didn't do enough damage to prevent them from proceeding with their plans. Tom gets up to leave but finds that the door won't open. The Voice orders, "Sit down, Mr. Veil! You'll leave when I want you to leave!" Tom gently touches the circle of light shining on the cross on the screened window, then slumps back down on the bench. He says it's all so easy for them to just eliminate who or what stands in their way. He says he's not them, pausing before he adds morosely, "not yet." The Voice says he would have thought the most recent photographs would have been sufficient incentive. Tom asks what Grace's connection is to his wife. The Voice responds, "Your wife?" He says that Richard Grace leaves town tomorrow and will be gone for almost a month. His wife left today ahead of him so he will be alone for the next 24 hours. He says it will be best for Tom to kill him tonight. Tom says, "Sorry. I've made other plans." This time the door opens without difficulty. He starts to walk away, then hurries to open the door to the priest's side of the confessional. He finds no one inside, but on the floor is an open case containing a gun and silencer.

Tom lies on the bed in his room at the Ben Stark Hotel, listening to the Voice on a mini-cassette recorder. The recording explains that the most vulnerable and accessible entry to Grace's home is the French door off the front terrace, which uses a deadbolt that is right next to the glass part of the door. He gives Tom the code (47223) to enter into an exterior keypad to disarm an alarm beam by the left side of the door. Tom gets up and walks over to study a plan of the house lying on a table near the window. The Voice on the tape explains that he has marked the positions of the alarm beams. He says that Mrs. Grace is visiting her sons at the private military academy where they attend school. Mr. Grace usually arrives home by seven, eats dinner and does paperwork until 9:30. By 10:00 he will be in his room sleeping. Tom looks across the room at the open gun case as he listens to the Voice say that if Tom does this right, Grace can go to bed without a care in the world and die contentedly in his sleep.

Tom watches as a second-floor light above the door of the Grace home is switched off, leaving only the room to its left lit. He wonders how easy it would be to kill another human being. He ponders the idea that in some strange way, killing Richard Grace could be considered an act of self-defense, albeit after the fact. He is the man who murdered Tom--the man who without care or concern took his life. He walks up to the front of the house and enters the code into the keypad outside the French doors, triggering a green light. He smashes one of the panes with his elbow, padded by his corduroy jacket. He passes through rooms expensively decorated with rich colors, marble fireplaces and oil paintings. He listens at the foot of the plushly carpeted staircase and then turns away to enter a study paneled in gleaming wood. He examines framed photographs of Grace with Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and his own smiling family. Tom pulls the gun from his waistband and drops it on top of an open volume on the desk. Only then does he notice the blood on the back of his hand and fingers a tear in his sleeve from breaking the pane. He sits at the desk, looking around him thoughtfully.

When he slides open the center desk drawer, a quietly-beeping alarm alerts Grace, who has been reading in bed. Grace gets up and pulls on his bathrobe. Tom holds a stack of pictures under the lamp and finds that the first ones are of Alyson smiling as she stands in a tropical setting, the ocean behind her. Grace takes a shotgun from his closet and checks to make sure it's loaded. The next photo shows Grace in a Polynesian restaurant kissing a woman who appears to be Alyson, but her face is not shown. In the next, the couple faces the camera in the same restaurant, the border of the picture inscribed "Compliments of the Hotel du Monlux." Beneath are pictures with Grace and a woman in the same bathrobes as in the pictures from the photo booth, the first showing the woman's bare shoulders as she leans across Grace in bed. Tom fights to control his grief and anger, then takes the silencer from his pocket and screws it purposefully onto the weapon. Grace descends the stairs and passes a row of glass-fronted bookcases to enter the study. Tom steps out behind him, pointing the gun with his arm stretched out full-length. He orders Grace to put down the shotgun and tells him he needs very little encouragement to use his own gun. Grace surrenders the shotgun and tells him there's no money in the house, but Tom says he doesn't want his money. Grace turns and recognizes Tom, saying "Dear God, it's you."

Grace tells Tom that if he's going to kill him, he'd at least like to have time to be able to leave a note for his family. Tom angrily asks if he means giving him the opportunity he never gave him and tells him to go to hell. Besides, from what Tom can see, he's been spending most of his free time with Tom's family. Grace realizes he's referring to the photographs and says "Oh, you mean those." Tom roughly orders him to sit down. He perches on the corner of the desk, pointing the gun at Grace, and asks, "Why?" Why was his life erased? Why did they steal his photograph? Why is it so important for them to get the negative? He is met with silence. He asks what Grace did with his wife, and Grace asks the same question the Voice had: "Your wife?" Tom presses the barrel of the gun below Grace's collarbone and asks him how it feels to know that someone else is in control, to know someone else can make the decision as to whether he lives or dies. Grace exclaims, "It wasn't personal!" Tom calls him a cold bastard. He says he wants him to think about his wife and sons and about Tom's finger on the trigger. Just the slightest amount of pressure and he will never see those boys grow up, never hear anybody say "I love you" or get to say it to anybody--"No past, no present, no future." Grace begins, "Listen!" but Tom grabs him by the front of his robe and throws him against the wall, ordering him to shut up. He advances with the gun outstretched and says, "You really hate me, don't you? Well, you created me, you son of a bitch. The man standing here with his finger on the trigger is your creation and the rest of your life is up to me." He says all he has to do is make one small, simple decision. He realizes a man like Grace is probably wondering why he would even hesitate when it's just a life. There are so many others, so why should a person hesitate about taking one here and there. He presses the barrel of the gun against Grace, who cringes when Tom shouts that at the end of the day, it's like turning off a light switch. Tom says, "But then again, that would make me you. That's something I could never live with." He grabs Grace by the throat and says he would like him to answer some questions. The pressure on Grace's throat eases as Tom is hit over the head. Grace manages to gasp, "Thanks. What are you doing here?" Three silenced shots are heard and Grace slides slowly down the wall.

Tom stirs from unconsciousness and pushes himself partway up to see Grace slumped in the corner. He fails to notice the book of matches from the Ben Stark Hotel lying next to the gun on the floor. Sitting in a diner drinking coffee, he hears the 5:30 a.m. KXRT radio news, reporting the murder of Richard Grace in the posh Salem district of the city. Grace was reportedly home sleeping when an intruder broke into the house and shot him three times at close range. He is described as a successful security industry analyst perhaps best known for his yearly fund-raising efforts on behalf of the End Hunger Now campaign. While there are no eyewitnesses, police had recovered the murder weapon and found a good deal of trace evidence at the scene--hair, blood, fingerprint and fiber traces left behind by the murderer. Tom walks back to the Ben Stark Hotel and sees police cars in front with their lights flashing. The lobby is bustling with law enforcement officials and press. A detective asks the desk clerk if he had seen anyone come in the last three or four hours. The clerk tells him people come in and out of here all the time--it's a hotel. The detective says they will have to do a room to room search if he can't do better than that. The clerk asks, "You got a warrant?" and the detective holds up his hand for the warrant held by the uniformed cop behind him. No one notices Tom peering into the lobby from the service entrance door. He descends the service stairs closely followed by a detective with a flashlight. The detective turns off into the garage. Tom slips out of the crawl space beneath the flight of stairs and starts back up the stairwell.

Tom locks the door to his room behind him and pries the baseboard section concealing his hiding place from the wall. To his despair, the negatives are gone. He hears sirens as the lights from the police cars on the street below flash across the room. He snatches his clothes from the closet and shoves them into his bag. He hears a knock at the door, followed by "Police. Open up." Tom says he'll be right there, then hurries to the bathtub to scrub the blood from his hand and forearm after changing into a short-sleeved blue shirt. He manages to sound slightly groggy as he opens the door and says "Hey, man, what's going on? It's 3:00 in the morning." The policeman says they're looking for somebody. He asks for his name and Tom gives his real name. The officer asks if Tom minds if he takes a look around and answers "No" when Tom asks if he has a choice. He notices Tom's bag by the bed and asks if he's going somewhere. Tom says, "So sue me, I don't use hotel dressers." He sits on the bed and asks the officer if he's going to tell him what this is all about. The cop replies that they're looking for somebody--that's all he needs to know. When the officer turns away briefly, Tom reaches down to push something further under the bed. The officer slides his flashlight back into the loop at his belt and asks Tom to please get up. Stalling, Tom says, 'Excuse me?" The cop tells him to get up and get back. He pulls Tom's bloody jacket and shirt from under the bed. Tom says he can explain that. The cop tells him he will, and speaks into the radio attached to his lapel, reporting that he has him in room 322. Tom hits the cop with a roundhouse punch and runs to the window. There's an immediate exodus from the lobby. Tom raises the window and climbs out onto the fire escape. The police reach room 322, finding the dazed officer. Their leader orders one to take the roof, another the lobby, reporting into his walkie-talkie that he's on the fire escape. Tom reaches the sidewalk and pushes the last flight of steps upward. He hears "Come on, get in!" He runs to get in the open passenger door of a car driven by a young woman. A policeman stands in front of the car, weapon drawn, and fires into the accelerating car before diving out of the way. The car crashes through a pile of crates and speeds away.

Tom follows the woman through a raised aluminum door, where they disappear into a brightly lit, misty tunnel. She stops at the entrance to a darkened theater. Tom asks her what happens now. She tells him she was just told to bring him here. He asks, "By whom?" She says that it's just a job and wishes him good luck. He calls after the fleeing woman, "Wait a minute!" but stops as several spotlights snap on in succession, focusing on him. The Voice says he hopes Tom wasn't expecting a movie; he tried to get a print of the Fugitive, but it was such short notice. Tom asks what he wants--he's already got the negatives. The Voice says, "At the risk of repeating myself, I want to help you." Tom asks sarcastically if that's why he had him framed for murder. The Voice says he wanted Mr. Grace dead--he's dead; if he's happy, Tom will be happy. He says they're both free and clear now. Richard Grace is dead and once they've run Tom's fingerprints and blood type, no one in the organization will suspect the Voice. Tom asks angrily how this is supposed to help him. The Voice says Grace is a casualty of war. Tom struck first. They know what a loose cannon he is. He tells him to think about it: Can they want him any more than they already do? Tom argues furiously that the stakes are different now. It's not just about them and him anymore. It's about him and the police. The Voice says that the organization doesn't know that he's the one who killed Grace and they would never let Tom fall into the hands of the police or the legal system. Tom says sarcastically that he hopes somebody tells that to the police. The Voice says they have already have and tells Tom to come up to the light. Tom thinks for a moment, then slowly starts up the steps towards the control booth. The spotlight suddenly extinguishes and a film begins, showing a young Hispanic man being taken out of his house in handcuffs, a crying child clinging to his leg. The voice-over explains that six hours after the murder of Richard Grace, police have arrested his 32-year-old gardener, Manuel Lopez. They had found personal items stashed in his basement. The spotlight shines on Tom again. The Voice asks if Tom sees how simple it all is. They can rewrite any story any time and make the ending come out any way they want. Tom points out that it's still his blood and his fingerprints on the gun. The Voice tells him that his people know that, but the police and the public will believe otherwise. He says they've killed one bird with two stones: Grace is dead, he still holds his position with the organization and Tom has been cleared of any murder charges.

In the control booth, an envelope rests on top of a small case. Tom opens the envelope and holds the negatives inside up to the light. The Voice calls it a show of good faith: he had them and he returned them. Tom picks up the palmtop computer and asks, "What's this?" The Voice tells him to think of it as his personal filing cabinet, a filing cabinet overflowing with information about the very people he's been looking for. Tom asks why he's giving it to him. The Voice says it's because he makes good on his word; he had told Tom he would help him. Tom asks what's in it for him and the Voice asks if it isn't clear by now--he wants them taken down as much as Tom does. What Tom learns from his filing cabinet will help him work his way to the top of the organization. Tom asks why he doesn't just draw him a straight line right through the front door. The Voice answers that it gives him too much pleasure to think of the damage Tom can do to them on his way there. Tom puts the computer down with a flourish, asking what makes him think he'll even use it. A flash of light outlines Tom's face similar to the features of a negative image. He says he could just leave the computer here, walk away and never look back. The Voice asks "Could you?" The light flashes again. Tom faces resolutely away for a moment, then turns to look back at the palmtop computer.

Synopsis © 1996 Marge Brashier (brashier@tcccom.net)
Do not post this synopsis on other web sites, mail lists, etc., without permission.
Used by permission.
January 24, 1996