Tom waits anxiously by a telephone booth. He picks up the receiver and pretends to speak to someone as a woman passes by. When the phone rings, he snaps it up with an eager, "Yes." A clipped voice says that he's changed his mind; he won't do it. Tom says that all he needs is the list of names, their ranks and where they were stationed in '92. The man contends that they'll kill him if they even know he's talking to Tom. Tom argues that they don't have to know--he doesn't have to know who he is or what he looks like. He just needs the list. The man says he's running out of time. Tom pleads, "Please" and points out that he said himself that it's a matter of conscience. The man replies that it's not just a matter of conscience, it's a matter of time. Tom asks if his fear really clears things up for him. The man says, "8:00 a.m., the ice works on Jordan, north entrance." If Tom's not there on time, he won't wait. He hangs up before Tom can speak again.
Tom turns as the barrel of a pistol is jabbed into his back. Bradley, a balding man with a long ponytail and fu manchu mustache, barks harshly, "I want the negative!" Tom suddenly knocks away the barrel of the gun with one hand, swinging a hard elbow into the man's face and pushing him away. He runs down the sidewalk and across the street, causing a car to slam on its brakes, its driver leaning on the horn. Bradley is almost a block behind after he crosses the street. Tom runs into an alley, fruitlessly trying to open several doors. He backs into a man in a black studded vest who pushes Tom against the wall, a knife to his throat, ordering "Give me the bag!" They both look as Bradley appears at the end of the ally. The punk suddenly slashes the strap of the bag along with Tom's shoulder. Tom sinks to the ground as he runs away. When Tom looks again towards the head of the alley, Bradley is gone.
Soft jazz music plays from the radio in a noisy street clinic where a young intern stitches Tom's arm. The female DJ's sultry voice says, "And the search begins, night people, for the answers that wait within the darkness and shadows. This is Corrina, your light in the night. Here to guide you through your travels and lend a helping hand." Tom tells the intern that he bets he's sewn up his share of gang members. By his description of retro-punks, the intern realizes that he means the Mac Boys. He says that if he gets mixed up with them, there's not going to be enough left of him to sew up; they might as well just tag and bag him right now. Tom tells him that he'll take his chances and asks what he can tell him. The intern remarks that they're as bad as they get; they find you on their turf, they'd just as soon cut you as give you the time of day. In answer to Tom's question, he says that their turf runs from 93rd to 95th, between Broad and McCarty, four square blocks of hell right in the middle of the civilized world. A gunshot victim is wheeled in on a gurney. Tom turns away from the sight of the bloody body as Corrina continues: "Step softly, my curious friends. Though the darkness is gentle, it holds the secret to our fears."
A caricature of a green skull surmounted by black bat wings and Mac Boys in vivid red letters is painted on a graffiti-laden wall. Tom gets out of a city bus, feeling as if he'd stepped out of the civilized world and into a jungle, not a jungle located 5000 miles away in Chile, but one that lives alongside us 24 hours a day. He has eleven hours until his meeting, one night to find his negatives. A clock strikes nine as he walks past the street sign for 93rd street. A match flickers inside a parked car he passes. A punk with a crest of bright orange hair steps out of the car after he passes. Tom walks past the sign for 94th street, flexing his injured arm. He becomes nervously aware of four punks walking after him, laughing and whistling, one with a knobbed walking stick across his shoulders. When he looks back again, the street is empty. He can hear the soft banging of pipes of different pitch as he passes an old mattress and other debris. He turns the corner to suddenly face two of the punks, turning to find the other two just behind him. Tom says reasonably that he's not looking for trouble. One grabs Tom and searches him as Mackie tells him that he guesses he came to the wrong place. Tom says that he knows he's on their streets, but one of their guys took something that belongs to him--a bag; he just wants to get it back. The Mac Boy who searched him says that he's got nothing and suddenly punches Tom from behind, Mackie following up with a kick to the stomach, asking if he's calling one of his boys a thief. Tom lies on the ground, grimacing and exclaiming through clenched teeth that he's not calling anybody anything; there's something in that bag that's not worth anything to him. That's all he wants--he can have whatever else that's in there. Mackie presses the walking stick across Tom's throat and says that's real generous of him, but whatever his boys take, they keep. He says he glad that they've cleared up that little misunderstanding. Tom rolls with pain as one of them gang kicks him as they step over him and walk away. He slowly gets up, holding his side.
Corrina: "The search is never easy, my lonely wanderers. But remember this, though you travel in darkness, you need not always travel alone." Tom can hear a woman shrieking, "Get off me! Leave me alone! Get off!" A young woman struggles with a man in an alley. He grabs her by the leg and pulls her back as she tries to escape, throwing her to the ground and grappling with her as he shouts at her to shut up. Tom runs into the alley and pulls the man off her. He grabs a board and thrusts it into the man's ribs. The young woman struggles to get away from him when he takes her by the arm, but he assures her that he's not going to hurt her; he just wants to see if she's OK. The attacker gets to his feet with a shout of "Bitch!" Tom brandishes the board like a baseball bat and orders him to get out of there. He can now see that the girl is only a teenager. She studies Tom and asks if he has any money. Tom, slumped over from the exertion, laughs with weary amusement and answers, "No, not much." She asks how much. Tom looks at her slowly and asks if she shouldn't be at home. She says no and returns, "Shouldn't you?" She comments that he's not from around here. Tom says that he's looking for someone, a Mac Boy, and she quickly tells him to forget it. Tom says he wishes he could, but it's important. He's about 6' 4", muscles out to here, an earring, nose ring and a chain running between them. He realizes by her expression that she knows him, but she explains that there are some things you just don't do on the street; telling people where other people are is one of them. Tom says that saving people at knifepoint's another one, but where would we be without rule breakers?
She leads him to a dinghy hotel pulsating with rap music and says that his name is Tiny; he lives on the second floor. She tells him he shouldn't go in there and tries to persuade him to at least wait until morning. Tom replies that he can't and asks her name. He says, "Thank you, Margo" and leaves her outside the hotel. A man lies on the stairs inside, blood seeping from his neck. As Tom reaches the second floor, he can see another man face down in an open doorway. Three shots boom out. A dark-haired boy points towards a door. Tom kicks it in, horrified to see Tiny on his back, shot in the neck. He frantically searches through the bag, in despair when he finds his negatives missing. Bradley runs past him and down the stairs. Corrina: "There are things that go bump in the night. Be prepared, good people. Be prepared and always stay one step ahead of the game."
Margo watches as Tom runs out of the building in pursuit of Bradley. He catches him in a diving tackle. Tom gets the best of it at first, punching the man and grabbing him from behind as he tries to pick up his dropped gun. Bradley grabs Tom's leg and flips him on his back. They trade punches until Bradley sends Tom to his knees with a hard punch to the jaw. Tom sways groggily until he's kicked in the face by Bradley. Bradley walks over to pick up his gun, not seeing the approaching semitruck until way too late. He and Tom both lie on the street, moaning with pain. Bradley pulls himself up and limps away in agony, holding his leg. Tom lies unconscious on the pavement.
The Mac Boys stand over Tiny in his apartment. One says that it was three shots to the neck; it has to be that guy, the one who was looking for him. Mackie asks, "Who saw this?" The little boy solemnly says that he did. Mackie asks what he looked like, the man that did this. The boy says that he wasn't from around here. Mackie asks if he was about his height, with light brown hair. The boys nods seriously. Mackie orders his gang, "Bring him back to me." The clock strikes eleven.
Tom stirs on the pavement and pushes himself to his knees, retching painfully, before getting to his feet. Corrina: "Truth is life's blood, my gentle seekers. So follow that truth. Take your fear and doubt and follow the truth." As Tom splashes rainwater on his face, he spots the trail of blood that Bradley left behind him. He follows it along the street to a phone booth with blood smeared along the glass behind the dangling receiver. Tom is startled by a sudden thump on the glass and a man's harshly shout: "The phone doesn't work! None of them do! Not in this neighborhood!"
The soft sound of banging pipes surrounds him as he follows the trail of blood through debris-littered streets to a door he sees several people enter. Tom follows them inside to be greeted by the soft strains of chamber music and people in evening dress standing about with cocktails, being offered appetizers by circulating waiters. Mounted pictures are displayed against fencing inside the converted warehouse. An elegantly-dressed woman intercepts him and tells him she's sorry, but this is a private function. Tom apologizes and asks if she saw a guy come in here; he was cut and his leg was bleeding kind of bad. She says she hasn't and starts to ask him to leave; when he pushes on, she comments that this is why she hates coming down to this neighborhood. People recoil from Tom's bloody and disheveled appearance as he passes through the crowd, trying to assure them that he's not going to hurt them, he just needs to find somebody. He pleads with them, "Why won't you people help me? I just need to find someone." A well-dressed bouncer grabs his arm and escorts him to the door. He says the man Tom described hasn't come in here, just him. Outside, he tucks some cash into Tom's pocket and tells him to buy himself a hot meal. Tom bends over a cracked mirror, suddenly aware of his bloody face and soiled clothes. He strikes a matchbook into flame to verify that there's a patch of blood beneath his feet and sets out to follow the trail again. Unseen by Tom, Bradley sits against a wall, shuddering with pain as he tightens a tourniquet around his leg. Tom hears a rattling noise and runs at the sight of the Mac Boys stalking him. He slows to a walk when he loses them by scurrying past a parked truck. The Mac Boys search angrily, shining their flashlights about. Tom stops in front of a Chinese shop window, hearing women's sobs inside his head as he studies four dangling ducks eerily reminiscent of his photograph Hidden Agenda. He runs as hears Mac Boys draw near. The clock strikes midnight.
The Mac Boys burst through the doors of a church. A frightened woman scurries out of a pew and leaves. A young black priest challenges them, "Come to confess, Mack?" Mackie points his walking stick at him and sneers that it's none of his business. Father Ray declares that if it's in his church, it is his business. Mackie argues that they're not hurting anything, they're just looking. Father Ray remarks that they're always looking for something; it's the same thing every night: another person, a different reason. Tom lies under a pew near their feet. Mackie tells Father Ray that he's got what he's looking for; now let him find his. Father Ray says that what he's looking for is right here, gesturing around him, and here, pointing to his chest. He doesn't have to go searching for it in the streets. Mackie tells him to spare him the sermon--he's going to find this guy. Father Ray grabs him by the throat, the walking stick falling to the floor to lie in front of Tom's eyes. He says firmly, "This is my church, Mackie. It's not your turf." He asks if he understands what he's saying to him; do he and his boys have any business with the Lord tonight? Mackie answers sullenly no and the priest tells him to go home. Mackie bends over to pick up his stick, looking into Father Ray's eyes as he does so. He sneers as he follows his men out, but backs away as Father Ray follows them to the door. Once they're gone, Father Ray steps back and says, "You sit proudly in my pews. They're not for cowering under." Tom apologizes as he gets up and says he's sorry for bringing these guy into his church. Father Ray asks what his business is; he's not from around here. Tom replies that a lot of people have been pointing that out. Father Ray advises him to leave while he's got the chance; he's afraid that the church's influence doesn't extend far past these walls. Tom explains that he needs to find someone; he's got something that belong to him. Father Ray says that nothing could be worth the price he would have to pay. He tells him to go home. Tom replies, "I wish I could. I really wish I could." The priest watches with concern as Tom leaves his church. Corrina: "Halfway to dawn, night people. Just remember, in the dawn's early light, the answers are sometimes hard to find."
Tom sits hunched against some wooden flats against a wall. He reflects that there haven't been many times when he's thought about giving up the chase, but now he finds himself closed in on two sides; two sides with different purposes but the same target: him. As always, it begins and ends with the negatives.
Bradley limps towards a telephone booth, dragging one leg behind him. Blaze, a black man with dreadlocks, ignores his order to get off the phone and continues his conversation. Bradley suddenly grabs him and bangs his head several times against the glass booth. Blaze comes at him with a knife in his upraised hand, freezing at the sight of the gun in Bradley's outstretched hand. He says placatingly, "It's yours, buddy. No problem. Sorry, no problem." A woman's voice answers Bradley's call: "Operations." He identifies himself as "Angler 8 9 Delta" and says he has the negative. He tells her they need to bring him in; he needs medical attention. He gives his location as 95th and McCarty. She instructs him to mark point and hold position; they're rolling.
Corrina: "There are answers at hand, my children. You just need to know where to look. This is Corrina, your light in the night, taking you to dawn." Tom sees drops of blood on the sill of window leading into a warehouse. Inside, he picks Bradley's coat up from the ground and searches the pockets, jumping violently when Margo touches his shoulder. She says she's been trying to find him for hours; the Mac Boys are looking for him because they think he killed Tiny and the other people in that building. Tom tells her that he was trying to save the guy; he just got there too late. She looks about nervously and says they shouldn't say here; they might find them. Tom says he appreciates that she's trying to help him, but she shouldn't be here; he tells her to go home. She says she doesn't have a home. Tom tells her to go wherever she goes then; if the Mac Boys find them, he doesn't want her dragged into this. She says she wants to help him. Tom tells her that she doesn't know him; she doesn't know anything about this. She argues that he doesn't know her, but he bailed her out. She says she didn't need his help, but he needs hers. She looks about anxiously at the soft sound of banging pipes and urges him to get out of there. She explains that it's the way they talk to each other. Tom realizes that's what he's been hearing all night; he thought it was steam in the pipes. Margo says fearfully that they know where they are. She grabs his hand and runs.
The clock strikes six. Tom asks Margo where they're going and she replies, "Where they aren't." She says that they're heading north. Tom asks how she knows that and she answers that it says so. She runs her hand over the wet paint on the side of a building, reading N -> one-nine-five and explains that Mackie's got a net out from Noble to 195th. She says that they could go over to 193rd; it'd be safe there for a while. Tom asks her if she knows where the ice works are. He says he has to meet somebody there at eight. She tells him it's about 20 minutes away if you can catch a bus and offers to take him there. Tom says he has to find this guy first. Margo asks why he's so important. Tom explains that he has something that belongs to him. Margo asks if it's something worth dying for and Tom answers, "No, it's something worth living for." She asks if that guy killed Tiny because Tiny took it from him. Tom suddenly realizes that the guy was trying to make a phone call--he was trying to call for help. He tells Margo that the guy he's looking for needs to find a phone. She says that most of the pay phones around here don't work. Tom asks if she knows the ones that do.
Bradley sits leaning against the phone booth, shaking. He turns his head as Blaze points a gun at him and roughly asks what he wants. Blaze tells him that he picked the wrong homey to mess with. Bradley suddenly grabs the gun with both hands and flips Blaze over his shoulder. He shoots him several times in the neck. A young boy flicks out the blade of his switchblade and moves stealthily away to begin tapping on a pipe trailing down the exterior of a building.
Tom lifts the receiver of a pay phone and hears a dial tone. Margo asks if he was there. Tom says it doesn't look like it and asks where the next one is. She answers that it's over on McCarty. When they see the Mac Boys coming, they quickly turn the other way, slipping around a chainlink fence. They sit shielded by the cardboard lining the fence, Tom's arms protectively around Margo as the Mac Boys rattle the fence and move on. Margo looks into his face searchingly as he releases her.
Tom and Margo keep pace behind the cover of a streetsweeper as they near the telephone booth on McCarty. When Tom sees that the man he's looking for is inside, he motions for Margo to move away and take cover behind a stack of crates. Tom is abruptly seized by one of the Mac Boys and struck by another. He's dragged through the door of their hideout. Margo starts to back away and is grabbed by two of the Mac Boys and pulled shrieking through another door. The clock strikes seven.
With his hands bound behind him, Tom is repeatedly punched in the stomach as he's questioned by Mackie, who asks why he killed Tiny. Tom yells that he didn't kill his friend; he was dead when he got there. Margo cries that he's telling the truth; there was someone else there--she saw him. Mackie orders his men to blindfold them. Tom shouts that he's making a mistake; she had nothing to do with his. He pleads with Mackie to let her go. Mackie grabs him by the shirt as one of the punks blindfolds him and says that if he tells him the truth, that he killed Tiny, he'll let her go. If not, he'll do her first. Tom agrees that he did it--just let her go. Mackie tells him that's very good and pushes him away. He orders his men to kill the girl. Tom yells, "No!" and throws himself in front of Margo. Mackie draws his gun and orders his gang to kill them both. The boy with the switchblade runs in and cries that somebody just killed Blaze; he saw it. Mackie asks where and the boy answers that it was on McCarty. Tom shouts that it's the guy he's telling him about. One of the punks shoves him backwards as Mackie yells at him to shut up. The boy reports that the dude just popped him three times in the neck. One of the punks exclaims that the neck was where Tiny got it. Tom shouts again that he's telling him this is the guy they're looking for. Mackie yells that somebody's gonna die. He orders his men, "Let's go." Tom has Margo turn around and starts to untie the rope binding her wrists.
Bradley sees the car approaching and hobbles out of the phone booth. He gets in the back seat and tells the driver to get him the hell out of here. He suddenly exclaims, "What the hell?" A gang of Mac Boys approaches, wielding sticks and bats. Mackie shoots out one of the front tires. Bradley yells at the driver to get them out of there as he backs away. More Mac Boys shoot out the rear tires with rifles. They jump up on the hood and begin battering at the windshield and shattering the side windows. The driver runs from the car to be shot down by Mackie. Tom and Margo turn the corner in time to see Bradley get out of the car, still clutching the pistol. He's immediately struck down onto the pavement. Tom frantically yells, "Hey! Don't kill him!" and runs towards the group battering Bradley with sticks and clubs. Mackie pronounces, "It's over. Let's go" and the Mac Boys walk away. Tom kneels beside Bradley and turns him over, bending his head to the dead man's chest in anguish. He then fumbles through his pockets until he finds his negative, clutching it in his hand and falling back against the car with relief. Margo asks if that's what he was looking for. He answers yes and asks what time it is. When she tells him it's 7:45, he asks how he gets to the ice works. She tells him he can grab a bus over on Broad and offers to come with him. Tom says he has to do this alone, but he wants her to have something. She sees that it's a bus ticket. Tom says that it's an open ticket and tells her to just take it and go home. She cries that she doesn't have a home; her parents don't even care where she is. Tom argues that however bad it was, it can't be worse than this; she can't have a life here, not even a bad one. She asks if he's going to go home. He gently takes her by the shoulders and says he has to go. She turns the ticket over in her hands as she watches him walk away.
The clock begins to strike eight as Tom gets off a bus. He reaches the ice works door before the last stroke, pounding on it in frustration when it's locked with a closed sign. He sees a man getting into a black limousine across the street. He runs to the street yelling "Hey! Hey!" as the limo moves away. Overwhelmed with frustration, he hears Corrina again: "The night is gone, my friends, and with it all the things you thought you'd find. The path home is better seen in the darkness than in the light. An image, a photograph, lines and shadows--the answers will just have to wait until darkness returns." Her voice comes from a small radio on a newsstand shelf. Tom asks the newsseller what station he's listening to. The man answers "WKZN" and when Tom asks if he knows where they broadcast from, points to a nearby building with a sign reading WKZN.
Soft jazz plays as Tom passes through the dark, silent building. Corrina speaks: "That's all for me, night people. Until sundown, this is Corrina, your light in the night, reminding you that your dreams are what take you where you go. In the darkness or the light, your dreams are what make you who you are." Tom opens the studio door. In front of a moving reel-to-reel tape player is a cigar perched on a glass ashtray and a yellow no. 2 pencil.
Synopsis © 1996 Marge Brashier
Do not post this synopsis on other web sites, mail lists, etc., without permission.
Used by permission.
May 3, 1996