FADE IN ON: Black screen SOUND OS -- a CHOKED BACK BREATH, GASPING, lungs looking for air, the struggle for life and we --
FLASHCUT TO: INT. LIMBO/WATER - ANOTHER TIME: GASPING for BREATH continues, more relentless, harder, heavier and into the FRAME we SEE fragments, slowed into special motion, dreamlike, surreal: Dirty blonde hair lifts and tumbles; Bubbles POP through the murky water; A hand and then its attached arm swims, in trouble, trying to climb.
And then floats as if disembodied, momentary; The SWIMMER drifts, then a brief effort twisting, signs of struggle; A leg pushes off the nothingness, threatened, an impossible fight; And the claustrophobic GASP, a last chocked back BREATH as other sounds begin to bleed in: the CRACKLE of a RADIO, a few VOICES MURMURING and then more clearly --
WOMAN'S VOICE: (O.S.) Jesus, please... Jesus...
The water blurs opaque, into a murky veil of illusion and we DISSOLVE TO:
INT. FORD FIESTA - MORNING: The cracked windshield of a blue Ford Fiesta. The clouded form of the drowning SWIMMER is replaced by a small plastic day-glo cross that sways as the Fiesta is lifted up on a tow truck hoist. A PARAMEDIC jogs over to the car as
PARAMEDIC: (O.S.) Hold it, hold on...
The Fiesta stops its ascent. The passenger side door opens and the Paramedic reaches in and snares the bopping cross.
EXT. CITY STREET - MORNING: The Paramedic carries the plastic symbol over to a middle aged woman who's sitting on a stretcher, wearing a foam neck brace and looking totally relaxed. This minor fender-bender is an ignored sideshow on a quiet commercial street. As the woman reclaims her crucifix, a lanky MAN strides by, over-coated against the fall weather. We FOLLOW the MAN as he rounds the corner.
EXT. ANOTHER CITY STREET - MORNING: And as he walks on, he gazes out at a small Catholic Church ahead. St. Ursula's is a modest seminary sitting adjacent to the Church. And just in front, behind a chain link fence, is: An asphalt playground used by the Church's pre-school program. A group of CHILDREN play there in happy confusion, watched by TWO FEMALE DAY-CARE WORKERS.
EXT. PLAYGROUND - MORNING: One of the day-care workers alternately pushes TWO KIDS on the swings, using one hand. In her other hand, she holds a cigarette. Her clothes are worn, her sneakers frayed. A simple gold cross hangs loosely from her neck. She's got ancient holes in her ear lobes from another, earlier time, but no longer any earrings.
This is MAYA LARKIN. The kids she's pushing are singing "Frere Jacques" as they soar up and down on the swings. The second day-care worker, more nicely dressed, shoots Maya disapproving glances as she gives her swinging child modest pushes. A Latino BOY walks up to Maya, both his shoes are untied and his jacket's unzipped. He points to his feet.
MAYA: (with mock severity) Look at you.
She moves away from the swings, puts out the cigarette and stoops down, tying his shoes. After she finishes, Maya watches him run back into the throng. He dashes past the LANKY MAN, standing just ten feet away. A powerful figure, CLAUDE LAREAUX is in his sixties. A stern, heavy expression glances his face. Maya stands back up slowly, looking at him, a more serious expression on her face now. She tosses her cigarette as we: SMASH CUT TO:
EXT. RURAL ROAD - MORNING: A non-descript Chrysler New Yorker as it winds its way down a rural road.
INT. CHRYSLER MOVING - MORNING: The car's driver is a fleshy man in his forties named JOHN TOWNSEND. He's anxious, a nail-biter, with the worn hands of a worker. Townsend's slightly nerve-wracked, but trying to settle it all inside. Maya touches a fore-finger across her upper lip, warm, she moves forward, covering heat vents with a cupped hand, uncomfortable, then finally flipping off the heat altogether, which makes a final WHOOSHING GASP.
She POWERS OPEN the electronic window, a rough hum as... CLOSE ON Lareaux, in the back seat watching her. Seated next to Lareaux is a dark haired, kind looking man in his 30's, JEREMY. Maya straightens the cuffs of her shirt sleeves - first the right, then the left. Then she repeats it all. Townsend notes the repetitive movement. And the RADIO is ON in the B.G.:
RADIO DJ #1: So it says here in today's news that science is looking for a lost minute of daylight.
RADIO DJ #2: Yeah, what's that all about? They have satellites now that can read our ATM receipts from outer space, but no one knows how we lost a minute of sunlight?
RADIO DJ #1: When they find that minute...
Townsend FLIPS OFF the radio. There is an excruciatingly loud pause as everyone in the car sits quietly. Then Maya turns sideways, leaning towards the backseat, and whispers to Lareaux:
MAYA: (muffled by ROAR of passing truck) Why are you doing this to me?
LAREAUX: I know, Maya, but you'll understand when you see this man. I really need your strength.
Maya silently acknowledges his remark.
LAREAUX: (CONT'D) (subbed, in French) Ensemble pour toujours quio qu'il arrive.
Maya reaches over, putting a soft hand on Townsend's knee.
MAYA: Good seeing you again.
TOWNSEND: Wish the circumstances were different. As Maya turns back around in her seat, Lareaux looks up, sees Townsend's dart of worry in the rear view.
EXT. KINGS COUNTY MENTAL HOSPITAL - MORNING: Institutional 50's architecture. Two-story building on picturesque grounds. The Chrysler pulls up to the gate.
INT. HOSPITAL CORRIDOR - MORNING: Lareaux, his overcoat open, walks down the dim corridor. We now see he's a priest. He's wearing a black cassock with a waist-high surplice (belt) and a narrow purple stole. He carries a Bible. Townsend, Maya and Jeremy are right beside him. We see Jeremy is also a priest. Townsend is carrying a hard, black leather suitcase.
Large windows, bordered by huge pillars, circumscribe the never-ending corridors. Thick doors line the walls, each with a tiny observation window, filled in with octagonal wire patterns. The foursome avoids looking directly at any of those windows. They pass other rooms, doors wide open, lined with several beds each separated by worn curtains.
INT./ EXT. SECOND CORRIDOR - MORNING: Sitting next to a door on this corridor is the hospital's Chief Resident Psychiatrist, DR. LESLIE ALLEN. She's casual, calm and intelligent. A mature woman in her late 50's, still attractive, at peace with herself. As she sips a cup of peppermint tea, she glances outside, through a window opposite her chair, at a huge old tree, the antithesis of the sterile, prison-like environment inside. She finds ways to remain grounded in this place. As Lareaux and company approach, Dr. Allen switches her gaze and --
LAREAUX: (hands over a document) Your court order, Dr. Allen.
DR. ALLEN: (standing, makes transition) You know I'm not comfortable with this.
LAREAUX: But your patient is legally entitled to it.
DR. ALLEN: This patient has been plagued with temporal lobe seizures.
LAREAUX: It's the patient's request, doctor.
DR. ALLEN: (insistent) I'm aware of that, but I don't think he's in any condition to make requests. I'm trying to appeal to your more...logical self, Father. (as she glances briefly at Maya, Townsend and Father Jeremy) I'm concerned about harm to my patient.
LAREAUX: (picking up the Doc's visual cue) Father Jeremy and Deacon John Townsend of St. Ursula's, and our associate, Maya Larkin. (off her look) Secular assistants are permitted if regarded as qualified. Maya is eminently qualified.
DR. ALLEN: I think I should join you.
MAYA: (brusquely, interrupting) -- you wouldn't last five minutes.
LAREAUX: (getting to it) Just open the door, please.
As the Doctor unlocks the door, Lareaux, Townsend, Father Jeremy and Maya file in. Tense. Cautious.
INT. PATIENT'S ROOM - MORNING: The room has been painted hot pink. The only furniture is a large table, a chair and a bed. A few books sit stacked on the table: Albert Beutel's Cryptology, George Fleck's Shaping Space and Claude Shannon's seminal Mathematical Theory of Communication, among others on advanced math. A slightly round man named HENRY BIRDSON is seated in the single restraining chair, compulsively writing numbers on a yellow legal pad. He wears green hospital pants and T-shirt. He looks up and smiles at all his visitors; a blinding, angry smile.
BIRDSON: How do you like the color in here? (glancing over barred windows) Spos'ed to be relaxing.
Maya and Townsend avoid looking at Birdson. Maya straightens the cuffs of her sleeves. Lareaux puts his Bible and a small crucifix on the table.
LAREAUX: Hello Henry. Do you know why we're here?
Birdson nods, pleased with himself. He stretches, languidly drops his pad onto the table and yawns.
BIRDSON: Looking forward to it. Do you have a cigarette?
CLOSE ON Lareaux As he catches Maya's gaze and as -- CLOSE ON Maya, who looks back at Lareaux, we: CROSSCUT TO A SERIES OF FLASHCUTS:
INT. ANOTHER PLACE, ANOTHER TIME: Confined space. Cheesy lace curtains drape across plexi sliding windows, a soft and constant WHISPERING of the "Our Father" in the b.g. and we SEE: a younger Lareaux, longer hair, moving gracefully toward Maya, SUBTITLED IN LATIN
LAREAUX: Do not remember, O Lord, our sins or those of our forefathers.
CLOSE ON Maya's face. Wide-eyed at 16 years old. In the b.g., Maya's sister, stands rigid, afraid.
LAREAUX: (CONT'D) And do not punish us for our offences.
An arm twisting almost out of its socket. A SCREAM.
LAREAUX: (CONT'D) And lead us not into temptation.
SCREAMING CONTINUES. Maya's on a bed, her head jerks sideways, involuntarily.
LAREAUX: (CONT'D) But deliver us from evil...
A crucifix follows its own shadow as we:
CROSSCUT BACK TO: INT. PATIENT'S ROOM - MORNING: Townsend opens the black leather suitcase. Inside: rolls of duct and masking tape, two Bibles, three rosaries, a scapular, bottles of holy water and a gold Chalice, sitting in foam-laden velvet, for the Communion Eucharist. Maya quickly and expertly locks in Birdson's chair restraints. Arms and legs. Father Jeremy pulls out a roll of duct tape, sealing the desk drawer shut. Then, he sets up a portable tape recorder on the table. Secures that as well.
Birdson restrained, Maya pulls large square-cut pieces of blackout cloth out of the suitcase. She grabs a roll of masking tape, TEARING two pieces of it with her teeth, right off the roll. A SEARING, jarring sound, unexpected every time. Moving to the door, she immediately tapes a square of blackout cloth over the observation window. As the cloth drops, Dr. Allen's face disappears. Maya TEARS several more pieces of masking tape, continuing to block out each window.
INT. HOSPITAL CORRIDOR: Two hours later, Dr. Allen is reassuring one of her patients. She's calm, focused, helpful.
PATIENT: (pointing to his stomach) My bowel is out. I told you. It's open, can't you see it! My stomach's been eviscerated!
Suddenly an ORDERLY bursts around the corner, sprinting toward her.
INT. HOSPITAL CORRIDOR: Dr. Allen and the orderly are jogging down the hallway. The sound of SCREAMING can be faintly heard in the distance. Dr. Allen starts to run, leaving her patient, holding her stethoscope and pocket for anything that might fall out. Her BREATHING is slightly LABORED. Her patient SCREAMS after her:
PATIENT: (freaked) My bowel!!! My stomach's been eviscerated! And you won't help me! HELP ME!!!
INT. HOSPITAL CORRIDOR: A stunned Laura Allen stands outside Birdson's room as TWO MORE ORDERLIES frantically try to pry open the door.
DR. ALLEN: (an order of meds.) Haldol, Cogenten, Atavan 5, 2 and 2 IM.
From the room, a CHORUS of TORMENTED VOICES is heard. A hideous CACOPHONY that builds in intensity with each passing moment, punctuated by sharp explosions of wood and glass. It sounds like the room is being torn to pieces. Along with everyone in it. Something heavy hits the door on the other side. Suddenly, the door BURSTS open. The screaming instantly stops.
Lareaux's at the door, pushing past the two orderlies and as he collapses against a wall, Dr. Allen sees he's shaking, completely devastated. Father Jeremy hurries after him, concerned.
FATHER JEREMY: Father, are you alright? Can you get up?
Laura Allen walks slowly over to the door. And bracing herself, she leans forward and stares inside. The room is immaculate. Nothing's damaged, not a stick of furniture is out of place. Townsend and Maya slowly back out, careful not to look at Birdson who sits nonchalantly still tied to his chair...
BIRDSON: He's right here, you know.
Birdson turns and stares at Dr. Allen with a chilling look of triumph.
BIRDSON: (CONT'D) (same languid posture, his own thought process etched in his brain) Come on in...
Dr. Allen freezes. Townsend moves past her. Maya pulls the door shut very quickly. In her hand, she's grabbed Birdson's legal pad and one of his advanced math books.
EXT. MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE - MORNING: A restless CROWD clusters outside the entrance of the Manhattan courthouse, a mixture of press, public and security.
INT. COURTROOM - MORNING: Inside the packed courtroom, the atmosphere is hushed and tense. Up on the witness stand, MR. SILBERMAN, a meek, reluctant witness, is testifying. The DEFENSE ATTORNEY is relentless. The JURY seems pretty intent on the testimony. They eye:
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (O.S.) Mr. Silberman, you worked with the defendant, George Viznick, for two years.
The accused, GEORGE VIZNICK. He's in his early 20's, with thick, black hair and strong features. His neatly-pressed suit and tie cannot disguise the fact he has the feral eyes of an unrepentant psychopath.
MR. SILBERMAN: (O.S.) Yes.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (O.S.) (pacing in front of witness) And how would you describe him?
MR. SILBERMAN: (O.S.) Quiet. Real quiet...
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (O.S.) And on the day of the murders, his state of mind?
MR. SILBERMAN: (O.S.) Seemed...on edge.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (O.S.) On the day of the murders (dramatic pause) what did the defendant request?
MR. SILBERMAN: (O.S.) He asked to go home early. He said he was bothered by all the people who kept telling him what to do.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (O.S.) (to the jury) Tell the jury how many people work in that office with you and Mr. Viznick.
MR. SILBERMAN: (O.S.) Just me.
There's a general MURMUR at this disclosure and... In the first row, wearing his press credentials like all the other prominent members of the media, sits PETER KELSON. Peter's in his early 30's, fit, handsome, well-dressed, even seductive. The ubiquitous success story, cynical, edgy and focused, he's all or nothing. Peter takes notes in a leather book, graph paper, his own color-coded system, meticulous annotation. He stares intently at the defendant.
INT. MAYA'S ROOM IN THE SEMINARY - DAY: A woman's arm and hand are visible as she writes - CLOSE ON piece of notebook paper covered with a nonsensical collection of vowels and consonants. We TILT UP to see Maya, who tosses the sheet onto a pile of rejects. She takes a sip of coffee. Stale. Maya reacts. Finishes a cigarette. Puts it out in a plain glass ashtray. Lying next to her pack of cigarettes, a vintage Zippo, inscribed, "peace and fuck you." To Maya's left is Birdson's legal pad.
On it he has written rows of numbers in neat, precise handwriting. Maya has drawn red lines at regular intervals, showing a repeating pattern of 11 numbers in a row. In the b.g., her used, always, "ON," 24" TV is airing a daytime talk show. Guy describes his girlfriend's affair AD LIB. Maya reacts to the insanity of the show.
On the wall above Maya's table that serves as her desk, is a varied collection of crayoned drawings from the children in her day-care class, a postcard from Louisiana depicting New Orleans, a postcard-sized copy of Modigliani portrait of a woman, and an old photograph of Maya and her sister. CLOSE ON The page she just discarded "IF R EQUALS ONE" at the top and letters of the alphabet matched up with a series of numbers.
Birdson's cryptology book is visible to Maya's right, as she works off her newest piece of paper, labeled "IF S EQUALS ONE." Maya moves to her mini fridge. Looks inside. Pulls out a soda. Pops the tab. Spray startles her a moment. Wipes off her fingers. SLAMS the door.
TIME CUT: Comparing numbers and letters with a second piece of paper, Maya notes that the first number, 24, gives her the letter "P." The next number, 13, produces an "E." She writes those down. Flicks a long ash into a half-full ashtray. Gulps air.
TIME CUT: Maya continues the coded procedure. The next three numbers equal a "T," an "E" and an "R." Finally spelling "Peter." Maya gets up. Stretches. Ashtray getting full. Taps out a single cigarette from her shirt pocket. Lights it. EXHALES deeply. Excited and scared at the same time.
TIME CUT: Maya checks her newest numbers, adding the letter "K." Tamps out her cigarette into an ashtray with earlier cigarette debris. Small stacks of used up paper. Maya stares at her results, exhausted.