As Tom pushes the wheelchair of an elderly resident down the hallway of Shady Meadows Nursing Home, he ponders the fact that there never seems to be a rush of people applying to deal hands on with the problems of the elderly; perhaps it's too difficult to come face to face with our own fate. In any case, it wasn't too hard to get a job. He wheels the chair into the sitting room and bends over to ask the woman if it's OK. She says doubtfully that she thinks it's a little warm. He tucks the blanket down over her lap, but says he wants her to pull it back up if she gets cold--he doesn't want her to catch a chill. She smiles radiantly and nods her head. A man sitting nearby intones, "He'll find out. Nice boy. Comfort and try. But only the healthy ones here will die." Tom amiably tells Rudy that he might want to take it a little easy on the poetry--it's kind of upsetting to some of his friends. Rudy works the tiny billiard balls he holds in his palm and chants, "Mary made one and Judy made two. No one saw. Not even you. Then Sylvia was just one more. And soon enough, Pauline is four."
Pauline sits in a chair beside the bed of her elderly husband Max, holding his hand as he fretfully asks what time it is; is it time for the show? He says they have to be on the dance floor in ten minutes. Tom pauses in the doorway with the breakfast tray he has brought. Pauline tells Max, "I love you, sweetheart, and wherever you go, I'll always be with you." She gently turns his face towards her and strokes his hair. He asks if she shined his shoes. She leans forward to tenderly kiss his forehead. Tom knocks on the open door and asks if everything's OK. Pauline brushes away a tear and assures him that everything is fine. She tells him she just worries about Max sometimes. Tom says that in his heart Max is still nineteen--he's doing fine. Pauline smiles and kisses her fingertip before shaking her uplifted finger, saying "From your mouth to God's ears."
Tom escorts Pauline onto the broad porch of the nursing home. He asks if she knows anything about some patients named Judy or Mary or Sylvia. She answers that she doesn't think so. Tom says it's probably nothing, but Rudy seemed to be trying to tell him something about them. Pauline laughs and says she's afraid Rudy's as far gone as Max. Tom says spending all her time here must be hard on her. She says it's not as hard as it would have been to leave Max here alone. He's the only family she has and they need each other. She says it's been that way for a very long time. She exclaims "Oh, my!" as she recognizes the man who has pulled up in a dark car and walks up the steps of the nursing home. When Tom asks who he is, she identifies him as Dr. Shayzin and excuses herself. She hurries over to the doctor and anxiously tells him she must speak to him. Tom watches through the glass doors as the two speak, Dr. Shayzin holding Pauline's hands as he apparently reassures her.
Max laughs as he sits up in bed watching the TV. Tom brings in his tray and is alarmed when he sees an aide stripping the other bed. He asks what she's doing; where's Pauline? The aide informs him that Mrs. Gilbert passed away last night. Tom looks over at Max chuckling as he watches television and asks if he knows. She says Nurse Whiteford told him about a half hour ago. Tom steps out into the hallway to hear Rudy say, "Nice boy. Comfort and try. But only the healthy ones here will die."
Tom sees Nurse Whiteford in the hallway and calls her name to get her attention. Without stopping, she tells him that unless this is an emergency, she has work to do. Tom quickens his stride to catch up with her and says he just heard about Pauline Gilbert. He asks what happened; how did she die? Nurse Whiteford tells him she had a coronary. Tom protests that she was in perfect health. Nurse Whiteford impatiently tells him that she was 76 years old; she didn't have to be in poor health. After 76 years, her heart just stopped. She says that they are here to make these people more comfortable and look after them, usually until they pass--life ends. Tom asks if there will be any sort of service or funeral. She says she doesn't think so; Mrs. Gilbert's family has expressed their wishes that all the arrangements be kept private. Tom flashes back to Pauline telling him that Max is the only family she has. Nurse Whiteford says that she spoke with the family personally when they came to pick up the body this morning. Tom says he guesses that everything's been taken care of. Nurse Whiteford tells him that she's sure he has more important things to bother himself with.
Tom enters the search query "Gilbert, Pauline" into a computer at the nursing home. Her file appears on the screen, with "Patient deceased January 18, 1996" in large letters. He notes that Pauline had no reported medical condition since she arrived at Shady Meadows; she hadn't had so much as a cold in three years. Yet four days before she died, she had a complete series of tissue tests run at a place called Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory.
Tom moves stealthily along the outer wall of the building housing Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory. The driver of a white van stops the vehicle to insert his key card to open the garage door. The entry is cut into the side of the hill, allowing Tom to step onto the top of the van. He stretches out on top of the vehicle and holds on as it moves into the underground garage. He slips off the passenger side of the van and watches as the driver uses the key card to enter a caged-off section of the garage and disappears through a door. Tom slips through the sliding cage door before it finishes closing. The interior door reveals a corridor flooded with blue light, with flashing lights seen through a doorway ahead. Tom hears a recorded voice, "Now entering biohazard contamination," echoed in French and Japanese. The driver takes a lab coat from the shelves piled with white jackets. After he steps through the doorway, a red light scans down his body. Wearing one of the white coats, Tom walks down a corridor busy with people dressed either like himself or in blue uniforms. The dominant language spoken over the intercom is Japanese. Beneath a sign pointing the way to Cryo Transfer, a patient swathed in bandages lies on a gurney. The patient watches Tom as he passes and futilely tries to speak. Inside the Physical Therapy room, attractive young women attired in white leotards and tights gently stretch in a yoga exercise. A dark-haired young woman maneuvers a walker, attended by a therapist. Another therapist snaps at Tom that they need more tensor bandages and heat pads. Tom says "OK" but continues to watch the exercise. The man asks what he's waiting for; they're in the supply room. Tom hurries out the door. The therapist yells at him to come back, then runs to press an alarm button on the wall. Sirens scream as a woman's voice over the intercom announces a security breach in section 4. Tom sees before him two blue-uniformed men just past another pair wearing lab coats. He turns and runs in the other direction. Chased by four blue-uniformed security men, he crashes into a cart being pushed into the hall. As he pushes open the door to a lab, he hears the announcement that section 5 is clear; 6 and 7 are now being checked. He runs the length of the lab and down a long, narrow stairwell, his pursuers not far behind. Reaching the basement level, Tom quickly looks around him, then pushes one door open before disappearing through another. The security men divide their forces, two choosing the slowly-closing decoy door, the others running through another doorway. Tom passes through a cramped, dark corridor lined with steam pipes and climbs the spiral staircase at its end. He pushes up a slab to find himself on the edge of an exhaust grate outside Advanced Biogenetics.
Tom returns to Shady Meadows to try to find the answers to his questions about Advanced Biogenetics. Jerry, who is busy mopping the floor, tells him he saw Rudy taken to Physical Therapy a couple hours before. Tom asks if it isn't a little late for that. Tom can hear a shower running as he opens the door to Physical Therapy. No one answers when he quietly calls Rudy's name. Tom pulls open a stall door and is horrified to see Max lying on his side in the shower, the water pouring over him. He still wears his bathrobe. Tom turns off the shower and kneels by Rudy, shaking him and calling his name. Rudy suddenly snaps to alertness and chants, "They know I know. They tell lies. I know they know everyone dies."
Tom watches Nurse Whiteford lock her office and tell Jerry good night as she passes him in the hall. Tom uses a lockpick to open her office door. He flips through some file folders sitting upright in boxes on top of the file cabinets, then tries the drawers to find them securely locked. Switching on the computer, he enters "Judy" as his search query. He selects the first of three possibilities. According to her file, Judy Hague was born May 1, 1918 and died Dec. 3, 1995. On Nov. 31, 1995, tissue samples were taken at Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory. A search for Sylvia yields only one name: Sylvia Baker, born Apr. 27, 1921, deceased Dec. 19, 1994. She also had samples taken just before she died. Mary Fisher was born Sep. 10, 1929 and died March 8, 1995. Her tissue samples were taken March 4, 1995. The three women had no reported medical conditions; all had Dr. Shayzin as their physician. Tom realizes that Rudy was right about one thing: four women, all apparently in good health, had suddenly died. All had been tissue typed by Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory before their deaths. Tom takes a key card from the rolodex on the desk.
As Tom passes Max's door, he hears a woman's soothing voice: "It's all right, sweetheart. It's all right, Max." In a quavering voice, Max asks if she can hear the music. He says he can hear them, but he can't see them. Tom steps back and sees an attractive, young dark-haired woman lean over Max and tell him that they're right over there. She says the bandleader looks wonderful, dressed in a black tuxedo with a white carnation in his lapel. Max's face lights up as he sees him. He says he loves that song and croons, "Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me. Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee." She lovingly caresses his hands lying on top of the blanket as he continues to hum the melody. She bends over to kiss his forehead and briefly stroke his cheek as he subsides into sleep.
Tom follows as she descends the stairs outside the nursing home. She starts to run away but pauses when he asks if he can talk to her for a second; it's kind of important. He says he saw her talking to Max and wondered how she knew him. She tells him that Max is her uncle and that she flew in as soon as she heard about her Aunt Pauline's death. Tom says she must have been at the funeral, and she tells him that it was very small. Tom says he doesn't want to appear to be prying, but he had gotten to know her aunt just before she died and her death just seemed so unexpected. She tells him that it was very sudden, but she guesses Pauline was lucky. Tom questions the word "lucky." She explains that she meant that Pauline went suddenly, instead of hanging on like Max. Tom says Max is fine; his mind's not all there, but he's not suffering . She smiles and says, "From your mouth to God's ears." Tom recognizes the gesture as she kisses her fingertip and points upward. "Pauline," he says, stunned.
Soft music plays in the background as Tom and Pauline dine in a restaurant. Tom asks, "But how, Pauline? It's not possible." She says of course, it's possible. He's looking at her--what does he see? Tom asks how they could accomplish something like this; who are the people that did this? Pauline tells him that it's an experimental program; they use very sophisticated equipment and medications. She's not exactly sure how it all works, but it seems to be doing the job. The whole program is headed by a man named Dr. John Shayzin, whom she warmly describes as a genius. Tom asks what she really knows about him. She answers that she knows what she sees. She says Tom is acting like she had done something wrong and argues that nobody's been hurt. Tom lists his objections: phony deaths, a non-approved medical procedure, strict security. He asks how she can be sure that at the end of the road she's not going to get hurt. She says he just doesn't understand. He asks about Max. She sadly tells him that Max still thinks he's in the Starlight Ballroom in 1941. Tom says, "Right, with you as his dance partner." She says she's devoted most of her life to Max, even the past four years since he's been the way he is. Max has been everything to her, but her voice fills with excitement as she speaks of when Dr. Shayzin told her that she qualified for his program--her body chemistry was suitable for the procedure. Tom says she decided that sounded like a fair trade, youth and beauty for leaving a life and a husband behind. She tells Tom that's unfair. He's a young man; how could he possibly know about any of this? He has the best years ahead of him. Tom says he doesn't have time to go into the details, but whatever Shayzin's up to, it's not what she thinks. He says that there are some dangerous people and he's been trying to track them down for a while now. Whoever they are, they practically destroyed his life, and he has reason to believe that Shayzin is connected to them. If he's right, Shayzin's not in the business of making people feel good. Pauline tearfully pleads with Tom not to take this from her; it's the only thing she has left. She says Max is going to be happy with or without her; he doesn't even know that she's gone. She says she deserves this. Tom tells her she deserves better than this; he's just afraid that she doesn't know what she's getting herself into. Pauline asks him to please, please not say anything to anybody about this.
Tom drives a Shady Meadows van to Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory and uses the key card to open the garage door. Entering Pauline's room, he takes her chart from its holder on the door. There is a monotonous humming sound and a light brightens and dims behind the curtain covering the window. He studies a framed photo of Max and Pauline. The procedure notes in the file list final CSM, nutrition/medication, physical conditioning, rehabilitation therapy and constructive solid modeling. In another section of the building, he sees Shayzin pass with his hand on Pauline's shoulder, speaking of her progress. As they enter a room, followed by two assistants in long blue lab coats, he tells her she will have energy like she's never had in her life. The sign beside the door reads "Constructive Solid Modeling." Tom enters a nearby door labeled "Constructive Solid Modeling Observation." Pauline lies sedated on a table. The technician attaching sensors to her forehead tells Shayzin that she's ready. Shayzin says this will be her last treatment; her bones should be solid by now. Glass panels slide into place around the table and mist rises around Pauline's face. Shayzin watches a computer screen where a 3-D image of the woman rotates. He says they're ready for the implant now. An x-ray image on the screen shows the placement of the implant at the very top of the spinal column. Her body shakes as the implant is inserted. A technician says that the implant is seated and they should have full autonomous control in fifteen minutes. A voice on the intercom informs Dr. Shayzin that Mary Fisher is ready for level 4. Shayzin says he will be there in five minutes.
A striking young woman dressed in a black leotard and tights strides purposefully down a corridor. A man drops behind her and holds a knife to her throat. She flips him over her shoulder and stabs him in the stomach with the knife she takes from him. Dr. Shayzin enters the control room and asks how Mary is doing. A technician seated before a large monitor answers, "Incredibly efficient." Mary holds the pistol at arms' length, checking in all directions. A door opens at the end of the corridor. She drops the man framed in the doorway with a volley of shots before he can fire. Shayzin asks if they have full control of the implant. The technician tells him that she's scoring a high 80, above the median reflex level; everything's functioning perfectly. A man starts down the flight of stairs in front of Mary. She rolls out of sight as he fires at her. Sliding forward, she hits him with a series of shots while lying on her side. The technician says he's glad she's on their side. Sitting at one of the computers nearby, Tom hears Shayzin say, "Until we destroy the implant." The technician says it will be a real shame to lose her, but Shayzin tells him not to lose any sleep. He says they sell dreams here and there's always more where she came from. Speaking into a microphone, he says it was good work and that they'll set up a level 5 simulation in 20 minutes. The "dead men" get to their feet. As Tom leaves the room, Shayzin looks toward the door, an uneasy, questioning look on his face.
Pauline lies sleeping, wearing a low-cut white satin nightgown. When Tom whispers her name, she sits up in bed and asks what he's doing here. He asks her to tell him the truth. He wants to know what is going on around there and what they are training them for. She asks what he's talking about. He asks what they put in her neck. She responds impatiently that they put in an implant and that it's to prevent infection. He says, "That's what they told you." She asks why he thinks everything's a conspiracy and argues that these people are legitimate doctors. He says they're using the implant to control them somehow. She asks why they would want to control them. He admits that he doesn't know, but he thought maybe she did. She says she doesn't; whatever he's thinking, he's wrong. He tells her that they're using her--he just heard Shayzin say that they can destroy the implant. She tells him that she's heard enough; she doesn't know why he's doing this. He says that he knows what these people are capable of; he's just trying to help her. She says she doesn't want his help and what she wants is for him to leave now. Once he is gone, she presses the intercom button beside the door and says she needs to speak to Dr. Shayzin.
Seated at a computer in the control room, Tom enters the search query "Gilbert, Pauline." Her medical records appear, along with her Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory file with the notation "Assignment: Pending." He tries "Fisher, Mary." Her file includes "Assignment: Harnish, Jason." Tom clicks on Harnish's name. A newspaper appears on the screen with a photo of Harnish beneath the headline "Business Community Braces for Appellate Court Ruling." The subheading reads "Harnish expected to overturn anti-trust decision." A new file opens up displaying Mary's photo alongside her D.O.B.: 9/10/29. "Termination order" flashes on the ABL file, with the entry "Subject: Harnish, Jason. Location: St. Regis Hotel. Operative: Fisher, Mary. Date: 2/5/96." He types in his own name: "Veil, Thomas J." He waits anxiously as "Searching..." lingers on the screen. A series of images flash on the screen, including a newspaper article and a portion of the photograph Hidden Agenda. An ABL file includes "Subject: " with the entry blank. A medical file appears with the last entry "Tissue samples 8/20/95." The D.O.B. is 5/30/61. He watches as the numerous entries under raw data are rapidly computed. His anguish grows as the entries beside a darkened square appear: "Blood type: O-. Sex: Female. Height: 5' 8". Weight: 125 lbs." An outline of a woman's head appears in the box. The features are revealed one chunk at a time until he is looking at a photograph of Alyson. The text underneath reads "Veil, A."
The lights snap on as Shayzin comes through the door accompanied by four security men. He asks if Tom found what he was looking for. Tom asks why Alyson's face is there. Shayzin says that Tom may have noticed that they have a lot of faces here, most of them very attractive. He asks who he is. Tom asks if they were using the implant to control her, too. Shayzin says that whoever he is, he seems to know a lot about what goes on here. Tom wearily tells him that he keeps hoping they would be more subtle with this, but he supposes that if they can't extort cooperation, they can always force-feed it. Shayzin says smugly, "A rose by any other name." Tom asks if that's what he calls killing an appellate court judge. From what he gathers, Mary looks exactly like somebody the judge thinks he knows very well. Shayzin tells him he wouldn't worry about the judge; he's got three hours longer to live than Tom has. Right now, he's checking into the St. Regis Hotel looking forward to a night of bliss. Shayzin says Mary is very good at what she does--the man won't feel a thing. Tom says he guesses that makes two of them. Shayzin asks again who he is. Tom folds his arms and says Shayzin's the answer man; he can tell him. Shayzin realizes that he had seen Tom working as an attendant at Shady Meadows. He asks what he hoped to accomplish. Tom tells him that he thought he might find out just who gives the orders around here, who makes the decisions. Shayzin states that he decides what happens here. Tom says he doesn't think so; he may control some of these women, but judging from his arrogance, he would say he's strictly middle management. He adds that whoever controls him obviously doesn't need to use an implant. Shayzin orders the security men to take Tom to modeling. Tom is surrounded and propelled from the room.
Shayzin glances at a series of brain scans on a screen and tells Tom that since he's so interested in his work, he thought he might like a personal demonstration. Tom is strapped to the table, sensors taped to his forehead. Shayzin says he's discovered a way of breaking down the molecular matrix of human bone tissue. Pauline watches through the window of the CSM observation room as the glass sides are raised around the table. Shayzin explains that once that matrix is altered, the bones become somewhat pliable, reaching a consistency of something resembling plasticized putty. The trick is applying just the right amount of alteration. Too little and the bones would snap like so much kindling. Too much and they would liquefy completely. The skeletal structure would disintegrate, taking with it all the major nerves and organs in the process. Tom asks who else he has cooked up in here--his wife, his mother and father? He says he's interested in knowing how long he thinks he can get away with this; if Tom found him, somebody else is bound to. Shayzin asks, "Who are you?" Tom responds, "One of your failures." He suggests he may want to think about what's going to happen to him when the Director discovers he's murdered one of his pet projects. Shayzin asks how he knows about the Director. Tom says he's so tired of "you bastards" that he's tempted not to say anything and just let him throw the switch. Shayzin asks more forcefully, "How do you know about the Director?" Tom stares at the ceiling. The glass panels fold down and Shayzin furiously yells at the workers to get Tom out of here.
Strapped to a gurney, Tom is wheeled onto the elevator. Pauline calls for the attendant to wait and hurries into the elevator, laughing as she thanks him. She requests, "One, please" and unfastens the strap across Tom's shoulders as the attendant turns to press the button. She says flirtatiously that she doesn't think she had a chance to properly thank him for letting her out of there the other night. She holds on to the lapel of his jacket and pulls him into the corner. Tom reaches down to release the strap across his hips. Pauline says she doesn't think it's very good manners when a girl doesn't repay a favor. The attendant tells her to just name the place and time. As she reaches behind her to unfasten the strap across Tom's ankles, she tells the attendant that he knows where her room is. She says brightly, "Any time's a good one." He gazes after her as she walks off the elevator. Tom kicks him in the chest and then punches him before he can recover. Tom catches up with Pauline not far from the elevator. She urges him to get out of there. He tells her to come with him, but she says she can't. She doesn't answer his question of "Why not?" but sorrowfully advises him to get out of this place while he still can. She gently runs her hand down his cheek and bids him to go.
From a pay phone, Tom dials 911 emergency. He excitedly tells the dispatcher that they have to get some people over to the St. Regis Hotel right away. There's a man there named Jason Harnish and there's a woman with him who's going to kill him. She asks if he's reporting a crime in progress. He says he doesn't know; he doesn't think it's happened yet, but it's going to. He urgently adds, "At the St. Regis!" She says she'll connect him with the Sheriff's Department and asks him to hold.
A newspaper with a photograph of Harnish and the headline, "Jason Harnish to Overturn Anti-Trust Decision" sits on a hotel room table beside two champagne glasses. Harnish hands Mary one of the glasses and stands behind her caressing her shoulders, saying that it's a night worth waiting for. Wearing a black velvet dress and with her hair elegantly coiffured, Mary tells him that she's glad he found the time to get away.
Tom frustratedly tells the dispatcher at the Sheriff's Department that all they have to do is get some people over to the St. Regis--he's telling him that a man is going to be murdered. The man laughs and says he's been watching a little too much TV.
Mary pushes Harnish unto the bed from where they stood embracing. Surprised, he asks what has gotten into her tonight. She laughs as she lowers herself on top of him and tells him he'd be surprised.
The dispatcher says incredulously, "You're telling me this man--" Tom supplies Shayzin's name. The dispatcher continues, "He ordered Judge Harnish's execution?" Tom says exasperatedly that the place is called the Advanced Biogenetics Lab; it's just off Highway 18. The dispatcher says with disbelief, "And this doctor puts out hit orders on prominent citizens." Tom says he told him what he knows and hangs up the phone.
Mary kisses Harnish passionately, than sits up with a smile and pulls his shirt open. He says he has some protection if that's what she's worried about. With a sparkling smile, she tells him that hers is more effective. Several police cars pull up in front of the hotel, lights flashing, and the officers run into the building and up the stairs. Unaware of the police cars below, Harnish relaxes back onto the bed. Mary bends forward and stabs him in the side of the neck with a small object concealed in her hand.
Police cars pull up to the entrance of Advanced Biogenetics Laboratory. Tom runs over and tells the senior detective that he's the one who called. He asks if they got to the hotel in time. The detective asks how they get into this place. Tom shows him the key card and says he's coming with them; there's somebody he's got to talk to. The detective says flatly that that's not going to happen. Tom says truculently that he's not going to argue with "you people." The detective echoes disbelievingly, "You people?" Tom mutters darkly, "Any of you." The detective motions his people towards the opening door. As they run through the garage, Tom tells the detective there's something wrong--the garage is always full. He says Shayzin is here, because his car is parked there. Tom uses the key card to open the inner door. He leads the detectives and uniformed policemen down the corridor. As members of the party break off to search the side corridors, the lead detective says it looks like they've pulled up stakes and cleared out.
In the Physical Therapy room, elderly women in white leotards and tights moan and cry as they try to comfort each other. They walk with difficulty, bent over and shuffling slowly. One sits in a wheelchair, another on the floor beside the walker, holding on to its rails. The detective radios to get some people down to the Physical Therapy room. He asks Tom where Shayzin's office is. In the hallway, he asks a young uniformed policeman if he had seen anybody come down this way. He instructs him to seal the exits, with no one in and out until he says so. The cop respectfully answers, "Yes, sir," but a small smile plays over his face as he turns to go after Tom leads the detective towards CSM. Constructive Solid Modeling appears at first to be empty, but a man wearing only boxer shorts lies by the bank of computer terminals. The detective turns him over and recognizes him as one of theirs--the face is the same as the policeman they encountered in the hallway. Shayzin's car moves out of the garage, the man at the wheel with a face identical to the young policeman.
Two officers descend the stairs, leading an elderly lady dressed in a blue robe, aged and hunched over. Tom recognizes her and softly calls her name. She says feebly that Pauline's a very pretty name. Tom says, "Hey, Pauline, it's me. It's Tom." She repeats vaguely, "Tom? Tom and Pauline." She asks if he likes to dance and if he would like to dance with her. She lifts one hand and asks if he hears the music. She begins to sing. "Beautiful dreamer. Wake unto thee." Distressed when she can't remember the next line, she frantically asks if he can hear it. Tom gently reassures her that he does hear it. Pauline smiles and takes his hands. As she hums the melody of Beautiful Dreamer, they dance together in a slow, shuffling waltz.
Synopsis © 1996 Marge Brashier
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Used by permission.
February 12, 1996