Thomas Veil sits in a diner, a cup of coffee in front of him, as he wonders whether he's doing this to himself or if it's what happens to a person who's been cut off for too long. He's approached by a blowzy, overweight waitress who asks if she can get him anything else. Tom turns his head away from the unbearably bright light when he looks at her with bleary eyes. Her face swims in front of him as she snaps that she doesn't have all night. He pushes himself up from his stool with a jolt, knocking over his coffee cup, causing her to screech angrily, "What's the matter with you?"
Tom has blood drawn, then undergoes a series of tests, including a MRI scan. He reflects that he didn't like the idea of submitting to another institution, but he didn't know where else to turn; he had to find out what was wrong with him. The doctor pulls down one of several sheets of film with images from a brain scan, not responding when Tom asks if he can tell what it is. He murmurs to himself about a journal of neurology as he searches his computer's memory. Tom asks what he's looking for; he asks him to stop acting like he's not here and tell him what he's doing. The doctor explains that there was a controlled experiment done about two years ago at a private clinic. He doesn't know what they were looking for, but what they ended up with was an induced condition identical to Tom's. He says that in the worst cases of sleep disorders, the patient manages a few minutes a day. The side effects of this experiment were uninterrupted insomnia. The indications are identical, with the same signatures on the lab work. Tom asks what he can do to fix it. The doctor tells him that there was nothing more published after the initial result; he guesses that the people at Calaway decided to scrap it. Startled, Tom asks if he means the hospital in Illinois. The doctor asks if he's heard of it. Tom remembers himself in a straitjacket, telling a shadowy Dr. Bellamy that he's not deluded, that he has no paranoid obsessions. He tells the doctor that he's been there.
Calaway was the psychiatric hospital where Tom had been taken nine months before. It's where he met Dr. Bellamy, his first interrogator, the man responsible for his initial debriefing and evaluation, who tried to convince him from the beginning that he was having some kind of a breakdown, but who was machine-gunned right before Tom's eyes when he failed to retrieve his negative for Hidden Agenda. Tom leaves his room at Calaway and weaves his way down the hallway, flashing back to images from his earlier stay here. He witnesses a young, dark-haired man being dragged down the corridor by two orderlies, loudly pleading for someone to listen to him, shouting that his name is Michael Kramer and he's not crazy. He cries that it's a practical joke that's gone too far; someone put his family up to this. Tom remembers being sedated and dragged back into the hospital by two orderlies. Kramer frantically asks why everyone is acting like he doesn't exist. He kicks a third orderly in the chest and is dragged away, struggling and shouting for help. Tom places his shoe over a dropped key as he kneels and picks up the fallen orderly's ID badge and wallet. The orderly snaps at him to get back to his room, then orders the patients watching them to do the same. Tom says that he was just trying to help. As he turns to leave, he picks up the key.
A uniformed guard monitoring a security camera remarks that someone's not where he belongs. The picture freezes on Tom standing at a junction of the corridor. The security guard instructs his companion to keep tracking him while he gets an ID. As he waits for the computer to identify Tom, he picks up the telephone receiver and asks for Gilmore. Tom moves down the hall and peers through a window in the door of the records room. When he hears a sudden shout of "Hey! All right, move away from that door!", he tries to flee from the orderly who rushes him and pulls his arms behind him. Dr. Gilmore steps through a door, accompanied by another orderly. Tom demands, "What did you bastards do to me? Why can't I sleep?" Gilmore glances dispassionately inside a file folder and instructs the orderlies to take him to 3A and tell Dr. Novik that he'd like to see him right away.
Tom asks the orderly who sits him on a stool if the straitjacket is really necessary and is told that it's orders from Dr. Novik. A handsome black man, impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, sits down across from Tom in the dimly-lit room and crosses his legs. Tom softly exclaims "JC!" and stands up, the orderly ready to restrain him as he walks closer to the doctor. Tom flashes back to his earlier stay at Calaway, remembering JC singing a blues lament: "I tried to tell them who I am, but they don't believe me. You believe me, don't you, Eddie?" Tom says, "It's me, Tom. Tom Veil." Dr. Novik answers quietly that he knows. When Tom comments that he does remember him then, Novik states that they've never met. He says that his name is Dr. Novik and he's here to help him. Tom tells him that his name is Joe Carter, but everybody called him JC; they were both in this place nine months ago. He asks why he's pretending to be somebody else. Novik quietly orders him to sit down. After the orderly guides Tom back to his seat, Novik says, "There's been a policy change. Game over. Give up the negatives or die."
Novik grinds a pencil into the end of a cigar and sniffs the stogie before asking Tom if he minds if he smokes. Tom sits in front of him in his windowed office, his arms confined by a straitjacket, his head nodding with fatigue. His voice is strained as he asks JC why he's doing this; what's happening? Novik clicks his lighter shut and puffs on the cigar. He explains that he hasn't slept in two weeks and it's beginning to take its toll. He tells Tom that he's doing this to himself. Tom says that he just wants to go back to a normal life. Novik assures him that he will and demands, "Now where are they?" Tom strains against the straitjacket and is surprised when it pulls away from his shoulders. He frees his arms and pulls the jacket down. He holds out the negatives towards Dr. Novik, who reaches for them eagerly, to have Tom at the last moment clench his fist around them. Tom falls forward, his head hitting the mattress of the bed he kneels on. Novik stands nearby, remarking that one of the great ironies of sleep deprivation is that it doesn't shut down that part of the brain that produces nightmares. Tom sullenly informs him that he's not getting the damned negatives. Novik suavely says that he knows they will, eventually they will. He asks why he can't understand that what they do here is for his own good; it benefits everyone. Tom says that he's seen his better world--it's full of zombies. He tells JC that he's seen it too. Novik exclaims, "Oh, here we go again, back to JC." Tom says that maybe he's right, maybe JC doesn't exist, but asks what he was doing a year ago. JC claims that he was right here at Calaway. Tom asks where he went to medical school, what his childhood was like, who his parents are. JC tells Tom to have it his way and leaves the room.
Tom hears him ask a nurse to bring him the Thomas Veil file and the video from nine months ago. She's to leave them on the desk in his office. Tom follows the nurse, descending the stairs while she takes the elevator to the basement. He watches as she retrieves his tape from the video library and signs the clipboard on a desk. His eyes fall on a tape labeled J. Carter. Back upstairs, Tom collides with the nurse as she turns a corner. Tom apologetically picks up the tape that has flown from her hands, fumbling with the box as he complies with her order to give it to her. She sharply points out that he's off limits. Tom says that he was just taking a walk. She asks an orderly to remove him to their secure area; he takes Tom by the arm and escorts him to the recreation room.
Tom sits at a table, holding his head as the noise from a ping-pong game echoes deafeningly through his brain. Kramer stops by his chair and asks if he has a cigarette. When Tom looks at him blankly, he explains, "You know, little white tubes with tobacco in them." Tom utters vaguely, "Cigarette." Kramer starts to walk away in exasperation; he stops short when Tom guesses that his ATM card doesn't work, that his key doesn't fit in his front door and everyone he's ever known treats him like a stranger. Kramer sits down and asks how he knows that. Tom tells him not to give them anyone's name, not his family, not his friends, no one; the people he cares about are in danger. He glances over at Novik, who stands speaking on the telephone, and tells Kramer that he's not here to help him. Kramer asks if he's saying that Novik is part of this. Tom says he's just saying that from here on in, trust nobody; the people here will stop at nothing to get what they want from him. He walks away, advising Kramer to be careful. Kramer asks how he knows that.
Dr. Novik takes the videotape from the box labeled T. Veil and feeds into the VCR. Tom quietly enters the room. His feet on an ottoman, Novik sips a drink as the tape starts to play. A voice quavers, "I don't know anything." On the screen, JC sits wearing a straitjacket and asks an unseen interrogator what they want from him. The superimposed text reads, "Joe Carter, Session 3". The interrogator tells JC that he knows what they want. JC begs him to make it stop. Leaning against the wall behind Novik with his arms folded, Tom asks the doctor if he still thinks he's delusional. He says that he knows it sounds impossible, but that's who he really is: Joe Carter. Novik stands and says that he shouldn't be here. Tom tells him that he shouldn't be here, either. He insists that he didn't make this up and asks why it's such a leap to think that he was once on the other side. He tells JC that he's his only chance; he's his memory, so let him help him. Novik says that he doesn't need his help and he has work to do. As he leaves, Tom tells him to just check out the file of Joe Carter.
Novik sits at his desk, hesitating a moment before pressing the mouse button to retrieve Joe Carter's file. Under his photograph are the words "Current ID: Novik, MD. Calaway Hospital." Carter's personal information appears on the screen: "Born 2-5-56. Marital status: Married. Wife: Janet, Born 4-12-62. Daughter: Emily, Born: 3-9-90." The previous address listed is in Evanston, Illinois. Novik picks up the telephone and dials the number. A child answers, repeating her hello when Novik at first fails to speak. She identifies herself as Emily and asks who he is. Novik sits up straighter and says that he's a friend of her daddy's. Emily says that her daddy's in heaven with her grandma and grandpa. Novik's voice quavers when he asks if she remembers her daddy; she answers uh-huh. A woman asks Emily who she's talking to. She takes the phone and apologizes, asking who he is. Novik holds the receiver away from his ear, hearing her ask if anyone's there before finally hanging up.
Tom looks through the small window in the door of Kramer's room. Kramer is strapped down in bed, drugged and mumbling disorientatedly. When Tom comes to his bedside, he asks what's happening to him. Tom explains that he has something that they want. Kramer argues that he doesn't have anything, but Tom tells him he does; he just doesn't know it yet. He asks Kramer what he does. Kramer replies that he sells real estate, but no one in his office recognizes him; none of his friends recognize him. Tom says that the people here are going to try to make him doubt himself and his sanity. He tells him not to let that happen, that he has to remember who he is.
Novik stands in his office, lost in thought. Gilmore enters and says that it's time--the treatment room's been prepared. He says it's time to move things along. Novik responds distractedly, "Right, the treatment room, yes." Gilmore asks if there's a problem. Novik says no, he was just thinking about the case. Gilmore asks if it's his opinion that he's ready and Novik assures him "Oh, yes, absolutely." Gilmore gives a small nod and says, "After you."
Tom protests "No!" as a needle is inserted in his arm. Strapped to a table, his body jerks as he fights the injection. Novik tells him that he wanted to sleep, so "Sweet dreams". He opens the valve to start an IV drip. Tom slowly drifts off to sleep. He sees first a glowing fire, then Alyson kissing him as they embrace in front of the fireplace. Watching through a window overlooking the treatment room, Gilmore checks his watch. Tom walks with his arm around Alyson through his photographic studio, then smilingly touches his glass to hers at the restaurant. Suddenly he's jolted awake, painfully gasping as Novik sets aside the paddles he used to shock Tom's chest. Novik comments that it felt good for a moment, didn't it? Tom begs Novik to let him sleep. Novik instructs the orderlies to take him back to his room. After Gilmore walks away, Novik tells Tom that he knows the rules--when they get the negatives. This will all be over when he wants it to be. He takes one of Tom's hands and folds his fingers over something. Back in his room, an orderly drapes a blanket over Tom and turns out the light. Tom opens his hand to find a capsule. He swallows it and relaxes into sleep.
He's roughly shaken awake in the morning by two orderlies who tell him he's had enough beauty sleep and pull him out of bed. When Tom asks what's going on, one of them snaps that they don't pay him to answer questions. They lead him around the edge of a swimming pool and leave him on a bench. Novik walks over and quietly asks Tom how he knows what he knows. Tom tells him that he was here. Novik asks if they were friends and Tom answers "Not really," but he thinks JC was trying to tell him something; he just couldn't figure out what it was. Novik remarks that whatever it was, they'll never know. He sits beside Tom and says that he thinks he has a daughter, but he doesn't know her, he doesn't remember her. Tom exclaims that that's what they took from him; it's his soul. Novik asks how he knows that--because of a videotape, a voice on the telephone? He insists that it just doesn't make any sense; he's real, he has to be. Tom says that he knows it's hard, but he has to open his mind and look at the facts, because that's what's going to get him through this. Novik dejectedly muses that yesterday he was a happy man, a successful doctor; his life was in place. Today nothing fits; everything's turned around. Tom says that he knows, but it's the truth; that's what he has to face. Novik asks why, so he can end up like Tom--on the run, without a life, unable to trust anyone? Tom tells him that there's one person he can trust: himself. Novik responds, "Maybe, but so what?" Tom urges, "Let's get out of here, JC." Novik says that he doesn't seem to understand, so he'll make this as simple as he possibly can: Joe Carter's dead and so is Thomas Veil.
Novik returns to his office to find Gilmore seated at his desk, studying the computer screen. Gilmore remarks, "Taking some extra interest in the Veil case, I see." He comments that he sees that Novik has accessed the main computer to pull down some extra files. Novik explains that he felt he could do a better job if he had a little more background on him. Gilmore severely warns that he doesn't want to have to micromanage him; they give him everything he needs. Novik agrees that he's right and apologizes. Gilmore lightens his tone and asks if he's all set for tomorrow's procedure, approvingly saying "Good" when Novik affirms that he is.
Tom appears to be sleeping when a security guard shines his flashlight in his face; his eyes open after he turns away. Once the guard moves on, Tom proceeds down the darkened hallway to Michael Kramer's room. Kramer asks where he's been, complaining that he's been waiting half the night. Tom starts to unfasten the straps confining Kramer to the bed and explains that he had to wait until it was safe; the guards were running late. Once Kramer is free, Tom starts to lead the way from the room. He turns, asking what's the matter, when Kramer remains sitting on the bed. Kramer asks what they're going to do to them if they get caught. Tom exclaims that they are caught; if Kramer's not up for it, he can stay, but he's out of there. Their first stop is a locker room, where they don white jackets they take from two lockers. They carefully approach the nurse's station, where Tom throws a towel over the face of a female security guard seated at the desk. He yells for Kramer to get the straps and uses them to bind her hands behind her. Tom presses the button to open the security gate at the end of the hallway. They start down the steps to the first floor, but turn around when they see patients and staff walking about in the hall below.
Tom and Kramer walk through the basement, passing unnoticed behind a man working with some computer printouts at a table, the noise of the physical plant drowning out the sound of their footsteps. They wave at a man in a glassed-in office and descend another flight of steps to a sub-basement. They exit the hospital and as they reach the end of a walkway leading away from the building, freeze at a sudden shout of "Hold it!" A security guard stands with his gun drawn and orders them to turn around and put their hands behind their heads. As Tom is handcuffed, Novik tells him, "Bad move, Tom." Kramer complains that he never should have listened to Tom; they were going to let him go, but now they're never going to believe him. Tom beseeches Novik, "JC, please," but Novik says simply that he's sorry. The guard asks where he wants them, and he answers "Central"; he wants them reclassified. He wants to go there now--he's not taking any chances. Tom and Kramer are loaded into the back of van. When the guard starts to close the doors behind them, Novik hits him in the head with his own gun, then injects him in the back. Tom asks what he's doing, and Novik replies that he's probably making a big mistake.
The car moves slowly to the gate, Novik driving with Tom beside him, Kramer in the back. The guard shines his flashlight over their faces. Novik/JC assures him that it's OK, they're with him. The guard presses a button and the gate slides open. Gilmore watches on a TV monitor and reports on a telephone that they just left the premises. Kramer asks if someone wants to tell him what the hell is going on. He exclaims that this has definitely been the weirdest 48 hours of his life. Tom says that he wishes he could tell him that it's over. JC curses softly, then explains that he thinks they're being followed. The car behind suddenly moves out to pass, honking its horn. Tom runs his hand over his face as the tension eases. JC tells him that they're almost out of gas.
When they pull up to the gas station pump, JC tells them to put in ten bucks; he has to take a leak. Tom gets out of the car and discards the white jacket. As he starts to fill the tank, he can see JC speak to the clerk inside and hand him a folded bill before walking past them with a key attached to a large metal disk. Kramer asks what he knows about this guy Novik and Tom emphatically replies that he doesn't trust anybody. A dark car stops a short distance from the pump, its engine running. Tom can see several blue sedans approaching. He tells Kramer to get in the car. Kramer immediately asks what's wrong, but Tom orders him to just get in the car. Tom returns the nozzle to the pump, walks casually around the car and gets in. He starts to slowly drive away, then suddenly accelerates. JC runs towards them, yelling for Tom to wait for him. He pulls the door open and jumps in, demanding to know what the hell is going on as they speed out of the gas station. Tom suggests that JC tell him.
Three cars pursue them, one moving past their car and pulling in ahead of them. The fugitives appeared to be penned in by the other cars, when Tom suddenly brakes and slides the car around to head back the other way. He drives off the roadway and parks at the edge of a woods. The organization men follow on foot, spread out in a line and proceeding with flashlights. As they run through the trees, Tom asks JC how they got on to them. JC asks why he's asking him. Kramer suddenly trips over a root and sprawls heavily. Tom returns to help him, ignoring JC's shout of "Let's go." Tom suddenly says "Damn" as he identifies the homing device that Kramer has dropped on the ground. JC grabs Kramer by the jacket, enraged that he gave them up. Kramer blurts that he's sorry, but they told him he'd end up like him; he just wants this to be over. JC declares that it's over and shoves him to the ground. The pursuers follow the signal of the homing device to Kramer, who lies on the ground holding his head.
Tom and JC emerge from the woods unto a highway. JC crosses the road and stands with his thumb out. Tom asks where he's going--the state line is the other way. JC replies that he's not going that way; he's going home. Tom says that's not a good idea; it's the first place they'll look for him. JC explains that he has to see Emily. When Tom objects, JC says he knows what's ahead of him. He tells Tom to go on; he'll be all right. Tom realizes that JC hasn't told him everything. He asks what Calaway is and what they do there. JC states that Calaway is a place where certain members of the scientific community perform certain experiments. Tom realizes that JC is saying that he was an experiment; he asks what they did to him. JC tells Tom that they rewired him; they rewired his entire neural architecture. Tom follows as he heads towards the cab of a tanker truck that has stopped, asking how and pointing out that he escaped. JC asks, "Did you, or is that just what you remember?" Tom insists that he did, he knows he did. JC yells to the driver, who has sounded his horn, that he'll be right there. He tells Tom that he doesn't have all the answers. Maybe he did escape, but that's not even important now; these people have a plan, the agenda. Tom steps in front of him and exclaims, "Hidden Agenda!" JC explains that their work in mind control is being applied to a small sample. The success rate, unfortunately, is staggeringly high. He says that they're almost ready to apply it. Tom asks "To whom" and JC responds "To whomever they choose." Tom says dazedly that he has to rethink everything, but JC objects that there's no time. Tom asks what that means and urges JC to tell him. JC cries that if he knew, he would. The driver yells that he hasn't got all night. JC clasps Tom in a hug, humming a blues lament in a rich, low voice. He wishes Tom good luck, extending his hand in a simple wave before closing the truck door.
Tom rides on the flat bed of a pickup truck, a black dog by his feet as he leafs through his diary. He realizes that what they did to him was different than what they did to JC. His procedure was surgical; they took his memory all at once. What they did to Tom nine months ago was electrochemical. He's on a clock; all the things that have been happening to him--the sleep deprivation, the delusions--mean the clock is about to strike twelve. The pills JC gave him are just a reprieve from the inevitable. Soon all his memories will be gone. Without ceasing to breathe, he will cease to exist.
Synopsis © 1996 Marge Brashier
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May 5, 1996