The Bottom LIneTake the Tour Biography of D.R. Nelson
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FADE IN: EXT. RESIDENTIAL/URBAN STREET -- DAY Sustained shot of a 3 year-old girl flying overhead, a look of distress on her face. Slow motion. CUT TO: SOUND: SCREECH OF BRAKES, SYMBOLIC OF AN AUTO ACCIDENT INT. COLLEGE DORM ROOM -- NIGHT CLEO awakes with a start, unnerved by this nightmare. Gradually, her eyes close again as she falls back to sleep. CUT TO: INT. COLLEGE CLASS ROOM -- DAY Cleo sits in class listening to the PROFESSOR intone his lecture on (?). She appears slightly preoccupied, yet still half-attentive. EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS -- DAY Cleo walking to her next class (side profile). She glances up as she passes someone familiar to her, a boyfriend. This is Mel. MEL How'd you do? CLEO I think pretty good; I studied. MEL Studied? Or (emulating falling asleep) "studied"? She bumps into him playfully. CLEO I mean really studied. It's not my subject. MEL Is tonight coffee night? CLEO Yeah, I don't have classes tomorrow. CUT TO: INT. DINER -- NIGHT Cleo sits in a booth looking out at the night traffic. Mel eats a hot fudge Sundae. MEL Tomorrow ... movies? What do you want to see? CLEO I don't know. Something funny. Don't you ever need to study? MEL Mm-mm ... genius. Cleo laughs. CLEO You aren't! MEL I blow off studying a lot. You know that. Studying what I'm supposed to, anyway. I'm writing a story about Vietnam. I study that more than Statistics 101. It's unbelievable what went on over there. CLEO Like what? Mel feeds her a spoonful of Sundae. MEL Like losing but not losing. People here didn't want it, so our people over there had to evacuate the country. People were hanging off of helicopters. That was Saigon, 1975. Roy says we got out of Iraq before it came to the same thing. Cleo is quietly amused by this. CLEO Your brother still think 9/11 was an inside job? MEL (Growing serious ) Because it was! Cleo shakes her head in dismissive wonder. MEL (CONT'D) Steel doesn't melt at-- CLEO I had that dream again. The one about flying. Mel idly twirls his spoon in his Sundae, attentive. The bell over the door RINGS and both look to see a man enter, approximately 60 years old. He never looks at them, but takes a seat on the nearest stool. A WAITRESS arrives to take his order. CLEO (CONT'D) I'm flying through the air, like someone throwing me. And just before I hit the ground, I wake up. MEL Well, obviously you're not dying. Otherwise, you would in real life. That's what they say. CLEO I know what they say. Mel feeds her another spoonful of Sundae. CLEO (CONT'D) I think that's a myth. I think I've died in dreams before, or knew I was about to. MEL (Leading her) Is that the same thing? Anticipating and experiencing? CUT TO: EXT. GRASSY CURB -- DAY A flashback shows us a 3 year-old Cleo rolling in the grass as she comes to a spot. She looks up at the direction from which she was thrown, shock or wonder in her eyes. CUT TO: INT. DINER -- NIGHT CLEO I don't know if it's something I saw on TV or what, but I keep picturing it at the weirdest times. It's the third dream now. Mel continues twirling his spoon in his Sundae, concerned for her. CUT TO: INT. HOME KITCHEN -- NEXT EVENING Cleo's MOM is at the sink. Cleo sets the table. They sit down as her younger brother STEVE comes in from outside and her FATHER comes down from upstairs. Everyone eventually gravitates to the table. MOM makes everyone link hands. Steve is resigned to it. They all link hands. MOM Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food for us be blessed. By His hand we all our fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen. Steaming bowls are passed around. STEVE So, what's Mel up to? CLEO 5' 10", I think. Father smirks. MOM He's not getting in the way of your studies, is he? How'd the test go? CLEO Won't know 'til Tuesday. FATHER What test? CLEO 60's Political History. FATHER You study? CLEO Of course. And no, Mel doesn't get in the way. We're studying different subjects. FATHER He know what he's going to do, yet? CLEO He wants to be a writer. Father scoffs. No one else does. MOM (To Steve) What about your test, hon? On the kitchen counter, a small TV is on with the sound off. Steve ignores the question and points out the news to the others. STEVE Two murders now. Father looks at him, off guard, then looks to the TV himself. On screen is an artist's sketch of a middle aged man wearing glasses and a fishing cap, with hooks all around it. FATHER I heard about it on the way home. STEVE They're saying it might be a serial killer. CLEO Fruity Pebbles or Alpha Bits? Mom laughs, her back to the TV everyone else is now paying more attention to. MOM Don't let your food get cold. STEVE Dad, you think it's a serial killer? FATHER I think it's a couple of murders, that's all. The cops are guessing. STEVE How do you know? MOM Guys, c'mon, save the murders for dessert, at least. CLEO I had this dream the night before. Flying through the air, and maybe hitting the ground, I don't remember. I saw something like it on a TV show, or movie, whatever it was. Didn't you say once that I was in some kind of accident? Like, a car accident? Father looks at his daughter sharply, but also has a good poker face. He glances to his wife. MOM Yeah, sort of. You weren't in the car. You were in the street. I turned around for three seconds and when I turned back, you were running toward the street. CLEO You told me I tripped over something and hit the sidewalk. MOM (Hesitating) Yeah. That's right. Father's face is grim. STEVE What if it is a serial killer? Will there be a curfew? CLEO What do you care? You have to be in bed by nine anyway. STEVE Summer's comin'. CLEO (To Mom) You ever dream about something more than once? MOM ...No. I don't think I ever have. Of course, nobody remembers all of their dreams, so maybe. Mom's disposition has grown slightly darker, but still remains unnoticed by her kids. On the TV screen, we see a body on a stretcher being loaded onto an ambulance. There is a sheet over the body from head to toe, yet there's no other indication this is even part of the same story. Over this we hear a CRASH... Mom jumps visibly, and turns to see the family dog, REGGIE, standing up with paws on the counter, knocking down a plate of something. FATHER Reggie, get out of those veggies! Steve and Cleo both laugh at the rhyme. He stands to tend to the mess while the dog leaves the scene of the crime. On his way past his wife, he lays a hand on her shoulder but the act is so subtle as to go unnoticed. Over this, we hear the loud bray of a truck's HORN. CUT TO: INT. CLEO'S ROOM -- NIGHT Her eyes snap open from the sound. It's the dream, again, but this time no visuals survive. She blinks, and we see her trying to remember. She rises to an elbow and gropes around on her nightstand for the TV remote. It's the light from the screen that eventually lights her, as well. Resting on an elbow, she watches... Cleo's POV: an infomercial about real estate. The sound is muted. She flips the channel and sees David Bowie on stage, circa 1973, with a big head of fuchsia hair. EXT. FAMILY HOME - SAME NIGHT Cleo ventures out into the silence of a sleeping street, just her and the streetlights. She sits at the top of the steps leading down to the sidewalk, restless and tired at the same time. She looks down to... ...the grassy curb between sidewalk and street. A moment of contemplation segues into... EXT. GRASSY CURB -- DAY The house next door. In sepia tones, we see a man come out onto the porch in slow motion, leaping down the stairs and running toward the street... 3 year-old Cleo, still laying on the grass, is watching the street but is distracted by the sight of the man running. Mom, on the porch, is running down the porch steps, and her face is suddenly frozen in horror as she realizes what's happened. The sound of the truck's horn blaring is distant and dull, as if heard from a great distance. EXT. FAMILY HOME/PORCH -- NIGHT Cleo turns her head to look at the same general space where her mom was standing on that day. In the process of turning back to face front, she notices.... CUT TO: EXT. FAMILY HOME/SIDEWALK -- DAY Too fast for us to see, an image of a woman walking a Malamute puppy flashes by. CUT TO: EXT. FAMILY HOME/PORCH -- NIGHT Cleo's POV: a man out walking his dog. He comes to a stop at the corner across the street and stands under a streetlight. He glances in either direction, and then crosses in the direction heading away from her. She never sees his face. CUT TO: INT. FATHER'S STUDY -- NEXT DAY We see the record sleeve for Bowie's album "Heroes" leaning against a long line of other records. The music we hear is called "A Sense of Doubt". The record spins on it's wheel. Cleo is looking at the back of a different record. Behind her, Father enters and goes to his desk. FATHER What're you up to, Lucy Magoo? CLEO Listening to your records. Father takes a seat at the desk and puts on glasses, tending to paperwork. FATHER David Bowie, huh? Rest in peace. You finally decide to upgrade from that stuff they play at school? CLEO I listen to everything. You know that. FATHER You got that open mind from me, and don't forget it. Bravery too, just don't tell mom I said it or I'll have to hide under the desk. Cleo laughs. CUT TO: EXT. PORCH/SIDEWALK OF STANFORD'S HOUSE -- DAY We follow ROGER STANFORD, an older man in a wheelchair, as he rolls out of his front door and onto his porch. There he sits, observing the street with no hurry in mind. CLEO V.O. How's work going? FATHER V.O. Too much of it, that's how it's going. I was relieved when you started out a biology major. You can't take a laboratory home with you at night. An accountant is not so lucky. My laboratory fits in a briefcase. INT. FATHER'S STUDY -- DAY FATHER Speaking of nighttime, I want you to start calling me to come and get you from night classes. CLEO Why? Did Captain Crunch strike again? FATHER I'm not laughing. Not until the police get this murder business sorted out. CLEO Was there another one since yesterday? EXT. PORCH/SIDEWALK OF STANFORD'S HOUSE -- DAY Stanford idly watches a squad car roll up to the curb about a hundred feet from his door and stop. The eyes narrow as... A POLICEMAN gets out, a flier in hand, and approaches the nearby telephone pole. FATHER V.O. Not that I've heard, but what I did hear is that there are similarities in the murders that seem to imply a connection. CLEO V.O. Like what? FATHER V.O. They're not saying. Just 'similarities'. CLEO V.O. Mel has night classes, same as me. FATHER V.O. Yeah, well, I'm not yet willing to trust Mel with my daughter's safety. He might be a good kid and all-- CLEO V.O. He is a 'good kid', I promise. INT. FATHER'S STUDY -- DAY FATHER I'm sure he is. Just humor me for a few weeks, will you? Put your old man's heart at ease? Call it a favor if you must. EXT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/SIDEWALK - DAY Stanford rolls down a handicap ramp leading him to the sidewalk. We watch him roll himself to the telephone pole. New/higher angle: Stanford's POV: the artist's sketch we saw on TV the day before. Stanford reaches into his pocket and removes a pair of glasses, putting them on. They match the pair worn by the face in the sketch. In fact, Stanford looks much like the sketch, himself. As he rolls back inside his house, the door closes behind him. The angle rises to show a address number carved into a piece of wood that looks like a fish. DISSOLVE TO: EXT. UNIVERSITY CAMPUS -- DAY [STATIC] INT. PSYCHOLOGY WING/OFFICE OF DR. MADDOX -- DAY [Important note: Mel and Dr. Maddox wear different clothes in the scene they share with Cleo than they do without her, to signify different days.] Mel appears in the doorway of Dr. Maddox's office... Mel's POV: Dr. Maddox sits on the windowsill, smoking. Noticing Mel, he clumsily throws whatever it is out the window, exhaling. Mel observes this, querulously. CUT TO: INT. CORRIDOR/COLLEGE CAMPUS -- DAY Mel escorts Cleo down the corridor to the Psychology Office. MEL He's a little strange, but anybody else wouldn't have done it for free. CLEO Done what for free? MEL All I want you to do is keep an open mind. CLEO Ok. And by 'a little strange' you mean ...? CUT TO: INT. MADDOX'S OFFICE -- EARLIER Mel sits before the desk of Dr. Maddox. Mel's POV: Maddox randomly moves things around on his desk. Getting comfortable, he first crosses one leg over the other and then reverses to recross with the opposite leg. INT. CORRIDOR/COLLEGE CAMPUS -- DAY MEL Well, I'm not sure, exactly. Strange-eccentric, not strange crazy. Just keep telling yourself he's a professional. This is not his first rodeo. CLEO And by 'rodeo' you mean...? INT. MADDOX'S OFFICE -- EARLIER MADDOX Ok, I admit I'm intrigued. She'll have to sign some kind of waiver though. We'll call it an experiment, since I don't actually have a license. However, I do have some experience with this. MEL A waiver? Could something go wrong? Maddox appears to consider this possibility or how to represent it, seeking counsel inside his head, which leaves Mel to... ...shift uncomfortably in his seat, observing Maddox with subtle dread. Glancing sideways, he sees... Mel's POV: a anatomical model of a skeleton stands in his blind-spot, wearing a Hawaiian lei, "Blues Brothers" shades, a "Party Naked" t-shirt and Detroit Tigers cap. INT. CORRIDOR/COLLEGE CAMPUS/MADDOX'S OFFICE -- DAY Mel leads Cleo into Maddox's office. Maddox is reading something on the screen of his laptop, the lid of which he slaps down as Cleo and Mel enter. MEL Doctor Maddox? This is Cleo. Cleo has noticed the furtive movements, smiling incredulously as she shakes Maddox's hand. MADDOX Pleased to meet you, Cleo. I'm ... well, what he said. Come right in, nice to see you, and all that. Have a seat. Let's get started. CLEO What are we starting, exactly? MADDOX (To Mel) You didn't-- MEL Dr. Maddox, here, can hypnotize you ... if you want. Maddox, seeing Cleo is being asked for the first time, glances at Mel, slightly confused. MADDOX I don't know if I-- Cleo, resolved, takes her jacket off. CLEO No. It's OK. Let's do it. Both men are taken aback. MEL You know what you're doing, right, Doc? MADDOX I know what I'm doing. I'm just not licensed to hypnotize people. I will need you to sign a waiver, however, if we continue. Cleo turns, looking down at a sofa buried in books and magazines and student's papers. From there, her eyes rise to the skeleton in the t-shirt. Her reaction is much the same as Mel's, the day before. MADDOX (CONT'D) Let me move some of ... well, all of it, out of the way. He does so. During his distraction, Cleo and Mel exchange a look of "Are you sure?" Mel goes from this, to... Mel's POV: the skeleton has a pipe hanging out of his mouth, unlike yesterday. Mel does a double-take, but isn't sure what's different about the skeleton. CLEO Where's that waiver? Mel sees it laying in the printer tray and hands it to Cleo, who glances at it, speed reading. MEL Maybe we should lock the outer door. Is anyone usually here around this time but you? MADDOX (Considering) I can find out from Kathy. She'd know. Maddox exits and Mel steps over to the computer on the desk and lifts the lid. Mel's POV: 3 internet windows are open: the top is a template for a downloadable waiver agreement. Sliding that one aside, he sees a Wikipedia page for "hypnotism". Mel appears crestfallen. Mel's POV: sliding aside the Wiki page, he sees the third is a page from Bing Images. Five hundred pictures of Bozo the Clown. Mel's impression mimics a confused dog. Quickly, he slaps down the lid and slides back to where he was standing. He even has the same stance just as Maddox comes back in, and shuts the door. MADDOX (CONT'D) I can close my door but another professor is going to be in tonight to teach a class, so he's going to need his office. Maddox shuts the door. Cleo is trying to get comfortable on the couch. MADDOX (CONT'D) Cleo, go ahead and lie down. Mel, I've got to ask that you remain completely quiet during this. Maddox pulls up a chair for Mel, who takes a seat. He takes a seat in a chair adjacent to her. He reaches into his pocket and removes a crystal that shimmers as it catches the light. MADDOX (CONT'D) I want you to stare at this crystal, Cleo, and I'm going to count backward from 100. Slowly, you will begin to feel yourself growing drowsy. Your lids will grow heavy by the count of 80, and by 60 they will close completely. By 40, my voice will begin to grow dimmer, and by 20 you will begin to remember your childhood bedroom. By 0, you will be able to vividly describe the way it looked, down to the finest detail. CLEO I slept in it last night. MADDOX But does it still look exactly the same as it did when you were three years old? CLEO No. It couldn't have. MADDOX And you don't now remember what it looked like when you were three years old, do you? CLEO Not enough to describe to the last detail, but of course I've seen myself in pictures from the time. MADDOX Are you ready to go there now? Cleo's POV: Maddox holds up the crystal, which shimmers as he gradually tilts it back and forth. CLEO First tell me why you have a skeleton hanging out in your office when you're not a medical doctor? MADDOX I need someone to bounce ideas off of. Cleo, seeing he's dead serious, lies back with no further faith than before, but still remains game. MADDOX (CONT'D) I'm going to begin counting, Cleo, from 100 ... 99 ... 98 ... Cleo watches the crystal, and by 60, her eyes are closing. A quick flash of a backyard Barbecue with a banner we can't read comes and goes in a blink, followed by other images from different times. Photographs begin to change like someone demonstrating a flip book. All childhood images. Also, bits of film from various memorable events. This is nothing too deep, but gradually, the spastic nature of the images begins to slow in place, then speed up again, then slow. Over this, we hear Maddox counting. By 20, we are in... INT. CLEO'S BEDROOM/3 YEARS OLD -- DAY Cleo, at 3, looks at "us" from the center of the bedroom, toys strewn everywhere. The shot lingers for 10 seconds, as Maddox's voice grows to its most distant. As it fades completely, YOUNG CLEO begins to reach the limit of her attention span. She goes to the window and looks outside, seeing something that seems to make her happy. She runs out of the room, but descends the stairs slowly, determinedly, holding the rail tightly. At the bottom of the stairs, she runs for the door, opens it and runs outside. CUT TO: INT. MADDOX'S OFFICE -- DAY Maddox is concentrated on what he's doing, Mel looking over his shoulder. Both watching... POV: Cleo's brow creases. EXT. FAMILY HOME/PORCH -- DAY Cleo, on the porch, gazes jubilantly at... Cleo's POV/panning shot: coming down the adjacent street is an ice cream truck. Her perspective lingers and then continues right, landing on MOM, who's ironing. She turns to see her daughter, then follows what must be Cleo's pointing finger. Cleo's lips move without emitting sound. CLEO (Pointing) Mom! Ice cream! Mom nods, and turns to look down at her pants pocket. She pulls out a $5. As she raises her head again to look at Cleo... Mom's POV: Cleo is halfway down the stairs. Coming up the sidewalk is a NEIGHBOR LADY walking a beautiful dog. A Malamute? Beyond them, so is the a-foreseen truck. INT. TRUCK -- DAY The DRIVER sees no one in the road, so reaches over to a small cooler, intending to grab lunch. For seconds at a time, his eyes leave the road. EXT. FAMILY HOME/SIDEWALK -- DAY The neighbor lady stops as Cleo approaches. Cleo is overjoyed to see the dog, probably with some familiarity. Perhaps it licks her face. We see a C.U. of the dog's leash held by the neighbor lady's finger, not whole hand. The truck is coming up the street from behind her. Mom is waving down the ice cream man, descending the stairs. INT. TRUCK -- DAY With still no one in the truck's path, the driver makes a final lunge for his cooler, and this time looks away too long. EXT. FAMILY HOME/SIDEWALK -- DAY The neighbor lady is knelt down, holding the dog so Cleo can play with it, but looking up at Cleo's mom, about to say hi and wave as soon as Mom looks back her way. She isn't expecting Cleo to make a grab for the leash, which she does. In the second between leaving the neighbor lady's finger and being grasped fully by Cleo, the dog breaks free and runs into the street. Neighbor Lady notices the truck coming, finally, and sees her dog running in front of it. She doesn't expect Cleo to run after the dog, and is off-balance, falling as Cleo clears the reach of her grasp. From the stairs, Mom is now fully aware that she has no chance of stopping what's about to happen. She screams, without sound. The music of the ice cream truck has now reached it's pinnacle of volume. The neighbor lady screams, too, without audio, and gets to her feet clumsily. Behind her, from the front door of the house next door, the NEIGHBOR bursts out and leaps to the bottom of the steps. INT. TRUCK -- DAY The Driver secures his cooler and drags it over, finally looking up to the street again, where he sees... ...a dog crossing the street dragging its leash. He stands on his brakes. EXT. FAMILY HOME/STREET -- DAY The sound of the brakes SCREECHING distracts Cleo, and she stops, looking to the grill bearing down on her. We see a man's arm reach into frame and scoop up Cleo. CUT TO: INT. MADDOX'S OFFICE -- DAY Cleo sits up with eyes wide open. Maddox actually falls backward, off his chair. Mel moves in closer. Cleo is breathing hard, seeing the images fade yet trying to hang onto them. MEL Are you ok? Cleo nods, but has no words yet. Maddox sets his chair back up and sits. MADDOX Are you--? A rapping on the door cuts him off. KATHY You ok, Al? MADDOX Yes, sure. I just tripped. Kathy accepts this. CLEO Why did I just wake up? MADDOX Because I didn't suggest that you wouldn't. It's quite common to wake up during hypnosis, unless the hypnotist plants instructions otherwise. CLEO (To Mel) I was there. So was someone else. Come on, we need to go. Thank you, Doctor. Cleo and Mel leave Maddox. Walking past the skeleton on his way to his desk, he removes the pipe from its mouth and puts it in his own. MADDOX (To the skeleton) Told you I could do it. CUT TO: EXT. SIDEWALK -- DAY Mel and Cleo walk along the sidewalk briskly. MEL Why can't you just ask your mom about all this? CLEO Her and my dad are hiding something. I think I have a right to know. MEL So what exactly are you trying to find? CLEO Someone saved my life and I want to know who it was. I think I need to thank them. MEL And you say this lady will know him? CLEO She'll know something. She was there. I want to know if someone died to save my life. MEL Why wouldn't your Mom or Dad just tell you that? CLEO That's our mystery, isn't it? CUT TO: EXT. MRS. BIRCH'S FRONT PORCH -- DAY Mel and Cleo stand outside the door, waiting for it to open. A young woman does so. This is LISA, Mrs. Birch's daughter. LISA Cleo? I don't believe my eyes! How long has it been? Lisa opens the screen door and embraces Cleo. CLEO Vacation Bible School. We gave little kids lemonade and cookies. Lisa laughs. LISA And we were less than ten years older ourselves. Come in! Come in! You have to see Mom. Their voices disappear inside the house. LISA (CONT'D) Mom, look who's here! The screen door closes behind them. INT. MRS. BIRCH'S BACK PATIO -- DAY MRS. BIRCH is in her seventies. She sits comfortably on a lawn chair. Besides her sits a full grown Malamute. MRS. BIRCH Hypnotism, huh? Wow! I've always wanted to see what that was like. How was it? CLEO A little scary, to be honest. But that was how I found out you were there, walking your dog. MRS. BIRCH Oh, yes. That was Rascal. He was such a sweetheart. CLEO So he didn't get hit by the truck? MRS. BIRCH Oh, no! He lived a long and happy life. Lord, how he loved to chase things. This one's Samson. He loves his muh-muh, doesn't he? The dog in some way to confirms this. CLEO Mrs. Birch, I woke up before I could see who threw me to the curb and saved my life. Mrs. Birch grows darker, petting Samson. MRS. BIRCH He was a policeman. Lived across the street from you guys. He was home for his lunch hour and was coming out to get in his squad car. I'd noticed him while walking, but then I got to you, and Rascal was just as happy to see you as you were to see him. Most days in Summer, it was your daily rendezvous. When I showed him the leash before we stepped out, I'd say, "let's go see Cleo? Wanna see Cleo?" CLEO Did you know his name? MRS. BIRCH Sure; I knew everybody in the neighborhood to some extent. Roger ... Stanford. He and his wife got a divorce and both moved away. There were rumors he used to get rough with her. CLEO Rumors? MRS. BIRCH Well, your mom said some of his co workers had to show up in the middle of the night, more than once. I heard from the Dawsons, next door to them, the Stanford's were always yelling at each other; him the loudest, of course. Kimmy Dawson once told me after a fight, Roger took off and she could hear Angie crying. It was in the Spring: too chilly to turn the air on yet, too warm to keep the windows closed. Good "sleeping" weather. CLEO So, you probably don't know where they moved, huh? MRS. BIRCH You want to thank him for saving your life. CLEO I would. Yes. MRS. BIRCH What'd your mama say about all this? MEL I'd be the one to meet him first, Mrs. Birch. Cleo subtly shoots a glance at Mel that says, "Oh, really?" MRS. BIRCH That's probably a good idea. Courteous, not suspicious, if you put it across right. CLEO Why would we be suspicious? MR. BIRCH and Lisa join the others on the back patio. Mr. Birch is carrying hamburger patties on a plate in one hand and a spatula in the other. Lisa follows him with a bag of buns, cheese and some spices. MR. BIRCH Game time! Everybody take cover! MRS. BIRCH There's no way to stop him. Don't even try. MR. BIRCH How do you kids want your burgers? Cleo and Mel share a glance. CLEO Oh ... we wouldn't want to impose... MRS. BIRCH Nonsense. You'll no sooner get out of here without eating than you'll get him to miss a Tigers game. MR. BIRCH I had a dream last night that they're going to start winning soon! Lisa leaves her stuff by the grill and comes over to join her mother and guests. In the background, we hear the game playing. LISA What'd I miss? Hope it wasn't classified. MEL We're trying to track down the Stanford's that used to live across from Cleo. LISA Penny was in my class, at least until she went to live with her grandparents. CLEO Why'd she do that? LISA I don't think I ever found out. We weren't necessarily close or anything. Cleo looks to Mrs. Birch, whose disposition has darkened a little more. MRS. BIRCH I never heard that one before. Interesting. Cleo can see that... Mrs. Birch is lying. LISA I had the impression she didn't have it so good at home. I would've asked, not that it was any of my business, but you don't necessarily think of such things in the third grade. In fact, I saw her a week or so ago at Kroger. No one sees Mrs. Birch's deepening sense of dread, this time, but us. LISA (CONT'D) We exchanged numbers, but I haven't called her and she hasn't called me. CLEO Will you call her for me? Or I can. I'm looking for her father. LISA I don't see why not. Why her father? As we see that Mrs. Birch's sense of concern has deepened further, we hear Mr. Birch in the background. MR. BIRCH Hop-skippety!! That's a double!! CLEO He saved my life when I was about 3 or 4. Lisa's eyebrows go up. LISA I hope you'll tell me that story sometime. Lisa pulls out her phone and calls Angie. Doing so, she stands and wanders off to hold the conversation. MRS. BIRCH I sure am glad you came by today, hon. It's been such a long time! Cleo smiles and pats Mrs. Birch's hand. MRS. BIRCH (CONT'D) I'm just worried about you finding this guy. I always had the feeling Roger was a little ... unstable, if you know what I mean. MEL You mean by the way he treated his wife? Mrs. Birch considers her answer carefully. MRS. BIRCH That was part of it. It's just ... I don't know. Maybe the years have mellowed him out some. I do hope so, if you're planning to pay him a visit. CLEO I'm only there to thank him. How can I not try? MRS. BIRCH Just promise me you'll take your friend with you. Mel, is it? MEL Yep. CLEO I'll be brief, say my piece, and go. Lisa returns, hanging up. LISA We're going to have coffee this week sometime. She says her father moved away for years and then moved back here. He lives over on the other side of town. MR. BIRCH (In the background) You bum! You want to go home early, is that it? Everyone cracks a grin or stifles a giggle at this, all except Mrs. Birch. MRS. BIRCH He lost his legs. Cleo's smile evaporates. MRS. BIRCH (CONT'D) He threw you out of the way. But the truck hit him. Just on the corner, but enough to drag him under the tire. Cleo's jaw drops. Everyone is dead serious now. CUT TO: EXT. THE STANFORD RESIDENCE -- DAY We see ROGER STANFORD, dressed in his uniform, just about to open his driver's door to get in when he looks backward and sees... Roger's POV: the truck coming down the street. CUT TO: EXT. MRS. BIRCH'S BACK PATIO -- DAY Cleo blinks rapidly, not ready for this memory. It's passing is so fast as to race a bullet. MRS. BIRCH I won't mince words, honey. Not since you're going over there. That man was as mean as a snake, and that was before he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Maybe some things are best left where they lay. Cleo's eyes reflect the heightened stakes of the situation, but doesn't say anything. MR. BIRCH You-reka (Eureka)!! That's what I'm talkin' about! CUT TO: EXT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/SIDEWALK Mel and Cleo pull up in Cleo's car. Mel rides shotgun. They both... POV: eye the house. MEL I don't know about this. CLEO I'm not afraid. I come in peace. He'll see that. MEL You don't know what he'll see if he's unbalanced. CLEO Well, what do I say if you go up first? Gee, Mr. Stanford, we weren't sure it was safe? We thought you might flip out? MEL You have your phone. Set up a text and hit send if you need me. CLEO Ok, Roy Rogers. Cleo gets out and walks up to the house. CUT TO: INT. STANFORD'S HOUSE -- DAY Peeking through Venetian blinds... Stanford's POV: watching Cleo approach. EXT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/PORCH -- DAY Cleo rings the doorbell, her eyes rising idly... Cleo's POV: ...to the fish-shaped address sign above the door. Cleo jumps slightly when the door opens abruptly. STANFORD Not buyin' ! CLEO Mr. Stanford, my name's Cleo Riley. Do you remember me? I wanted to see if I could talk to you. The end of a cane comes into view and pushes the door open all the way. In the shadows, Cleo can see a man wearing glasses, confined to a wheelchair. CLEO (CONT'D) I don't know if-- STANFORD I know you. He fully rolls into view. With the sun going down over Cleo's shoulder, he has to squint, tilting his head back a bit. CLEO You want me to move over? STANFORD No, no. I can't see you at all if you stand in front of it. Come on in. He pushes open the screen door for her and Cleo takes it, heading in. CUT TO: EXT. STANFORD'S STREET/CURB -- DAY Mel sits behind the wheel now, parked a little further up the street, near the curb. He's watching her in the rearview mirror. He's not happy she's going inside. MEL Of course she is! CUT TO: INT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/KITCHEN -- EVENING Stanford rolls into the kitchen, Cleo following. STANFORD Have a seat. You want some coffee, or I got tea. CLEO Um, coffee would be great. STANFORD How d'you take it? CLEO Not picky. However you take yours. STANFORD Why?...We ain't the same. Cleo blinks, not having meant offense. CLEO I'm ... sorry. I didn't-- STANFORD Two sugars, I bet. I drink mine black. Nobody wants my coffee black, I can assure you. I wouldn't let my worst enemy drink it, and you are far from that. Now, creamer ... that's a tough one. I'd bet my last quarter you've got a sweet tooth, but it doesn't look like you let it get the best of you. Cleo chuckles politely. CLEO You're right. I never take cream, but I do put in two Sweet n' Lows. You nailed it. Stanford turns the chair, with her coffee in hand, and brings it to the table. Cleo's POV: Stanford never makes eye contact, before turning himself back to the counter to pour his own. CLEO (CONT'D) So I hear you used to be a cop. Stanford freezes, this time, half-turning. STANFORD What do you mean? Cleo feels herself caught in another verbal faux pa, lost for words. STANFORD (CONT'D) My daughter told you how to find me. CLEO Yes. She said she was going to call you. STANFORD She did. She tell you I used to be a cop, too? CLEO No, I mean, I already knew that-- STANFORD And I'm askin' how? CLEO People remember you, Mr. Stanford. I just asked around. A friend of mine bumped into your daughter a while back and they exchanged numbers. Stanford turns back to the table, his coffee in one hand. He rolls forward. STANFORD I'm sorry if I seem gruff. They changed my meds again. Makes me sleep like crap. I just didn't think anybody still remembered me. That came as quite a shock. People used to give me the stink-eye in that neighborhood. I wasn't too sad about leaving finally. CLEO Is it hard for cops? People tighten up around you, keep you out of the cliques. STANFORD Cops keep together. I always had friends. You're not wrong, though. You can't pull up behind someone in a squad car without the person in front of you getting nervous. They drive slower; I was forever passing people. It's a minor annoyance. Was. CLEO Did you stop being a cop? Stanford leans back, now eyeing her fully. The expression might indicate a limit to his allowance for familiarity. STANFORD What do you do? CLEO I'm in college. Studying Political Science. STANFORD What do you do with that degree? Go to Washington? CLEO I could. I want to teach, at some point. STANFORD Maybe run for office some day. It isn't clear whether he's scoffing or enjoying the idea. CLEO I don't know, I guess. I just care about government. It seems like things don't get fixed fast enough. STANFORD Corruption. Cleo seems uncertain how to respond. STANFORD (CONT'D) That's why. Too many people make too much money from things not working. People get into office and then someone comes in with a big suitcase full of cash. That would give anyone pause. We can't help it. None of us. Basic instincts: self-preservation. And you need money in this world to survive. As long as that's the means to survive, nothing will get fixed; not completely. Wars. Millions of people out of work if we don't have one. McCain said we'd stay in Iraq for 100 years. I don't blame him. I don't blame any thief for doing what they do. You gotta eat. Beg, steal, or borrow, they say. Cleo is lost in this rant. STANFORD (CONT'D) What's the most you would do to survive? CLEO It depends. STANFORD On what? CLEO On whether my dying might save somebody else. STANFORD Ah. A hero. Is that you? CLEO I don't know. I've never been in the position to make that decision. I think I would risk my life to save someone, yes. I bet you had to do that all the time as a cop. STANFORD You don't know anything about me, Miss Cleo Riley from Baker Street. You're not jaded enough by life to feel evil standing behind you. Looking over your shoulder. CLEO Are you evil? STANFORD I think all of us are, under the right circumstances. Same basic instincts. There were no Hallmark stores at the dawn of man, but we would damn sure kill the fool that tried to steal our food. All that fool wants to do is eat, to keep breathing, but so do you. If he eats your food, you might die before you can find more. It's not in our nature to just hand things over because other people need them. It's in us to be mean, it's only the reasons that change. CLEO You gave your legs for me. Why? Didn't you need them anymore? Stanford is plainly deciding whether or not to be offended. CUT TO: EXT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/STREET -- NEAR DARK Mel sees a set of headlights approaching in the rearview mirror and watches a white van slow before pulling into Stanford's driveway. His expression belies a desire to act now. INT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/KITCHEN -- NEAR DARK STANFORD I was a different person. CLEO Maybe so. But there's no way to lose yourself completely. If it was there once, it's still there now. STANFORD Confucius, are you? By college, no less: that's impressive. CLEO You demonstrated you were good. Or I wouldn't be sitting here today. STANFORD If I had to do it over again? I don't know. CLEO That's fair. But you did do it when it counted. CUT TO: EXT. FAMILY HOME/SIDEWALK -- DAY 3 year-old Cleo is rolling in the grass as Mom rushes up to her. The truck is stopped, askew in the street. Stanford lays unconscious near the front end. Mrs. Birch (Neighbor Lady) stands up, staring over the roof of the car next to them in shock. The Malamute puppy runs around the back of the truck, practically leaping into Mrs. Birch's arms. Mom covers Cleo's eyes and pulls her head in, belatedly trying to get her daughter to un-see what has just happened in front of her. She is sobbing with relief. The Driver is out in the street, mortified by all that's happened. He is joined by the guy who ran out of his house to assist. They tend to Stanford for seconds, and then the neighbor runs back into his house, presumably to call an ambulance. The last shot is Cleo, at her current age, watching all of this from a position in the shadows of the porch steps. CUT TO: INT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/STREET -- NIGHT STANFORD I've done more than enough bad since then to over-rule throwing you from in front of a car. I used up all my credit from that one. A KNOCK at a side door to the house draws the attention of both. Cleo jumps a little. Without waiting for someone to answer, the side door opens and a man in a white delivery outfit walks in almost like he owns the place. He's near the stairs heading down to the basement, backing in with a two-wheel hand-cart full of boxes. He doesn't see either of the kitchen's occupants, who both watch him. DEVLIN They didn't have those muffins you like so much; said they'd be getting a new shipment soon-- STANFORD Meet Cleo! Cleo, meet Devlin. He delivers my groceries. Devlin stops, turning his head sharply to stare directly at Cleo. DEVLIN You have company, I see. I can just take this stuff downstairs. STANFORD Yeah, you do that, Dev. I'll be down in a minute. Devlin departs. CLEO I'm sorry. I'm taking up too much of your time. I should probably go. STANFORD Conscience all clear, then? CLEO Nobody made me come here, Mr. Stanford. I just didn't want you to think the person you sacrificed so much for is ungrateful. I owe every day to what you did, and I just wanted you to know that I know that. I will never forget you, Mr. Stanford. STANFORD No good deed goes unpunished, huh? CLEO Raking somebody's yard is a good deed. I hope I'll be so lucky as to save someone else's life someday, under conditions where it all depends on me. I would feel blessed that God gave me that much power. You're right about a lot of people being bad, or evil. They tell themselves they don't have any choice, either. But you had a choice. You could've just stood there and watched me die. There was no time to think. Nothing drove you but instinct. Base instincts, just like you said. To me, you're a hero. Live a long life, Mr. Stanford. Because of you, I will. She turns to the door but stops before leaving, turning back. CLEO (CONT'D) Thank you, Mr. Stanford, for every good thing that lays ahead of me. I owe you for every minute of it. Cleo leaves, closing the door behind her. We hear the screen door BANG finally. Stanford watches the closed door for several seconds, then turns away, thinking. Behind him, we hear steps rapidly ascending the basement stairs. DEVLIN (Agitated) Who the hell was that? STANFORD Nobody. DEVLIN Yeah? Just someone you're letting walk away with a good look at your face. Why was she here in the first place? STANFORD She's nothing to us. I'm telling you not to worry about her. Devlin is at the door, hand on the knob. DEVLIN You're not thinking-- STANFORD Dev, look at me. I need to tell you something and it can't wait-- Devlin stops and starts to turn back. CUT TO: EXT. STANFORD'S HOUSE/LAWN Cleo is heading toward her car. From out of the shadows near the porch steps, Mel emerges and catches up to her from behind, nearly causing her to leap out of her skin. CLEO Jesus Lord, Mary and Joseph! Say something first! MEL Sorry, sorry. What happened in there? They each hear a a GUNSHOT from inside the house and whirl around. Fortunately, Mel grabs Cleo as she starts back to the house. CLEO (Tearing up) I think he just shot himself! We have to call someone! MEL Call anybody you want, but not from here. We're leaving. There's nothing you can do if he did! She refuses, nature insisting she try and help. He has to grab her around the waist, lift her off the ground, and carry her thrashing back to her car. As we watch them go, the angle pans back to Stanford's house. After a beat, the same shot tracks forward, "walking" alongside the house to the back. Halfway there, we see someone running at full speed from the back of the house; a woman, running as though her life depends on it. She has huge strips of gray electrical tape dangling from both wrists and both angles. We have a long time to watch her go, to appreciate how desperate her situation is. Finally, we come to the corner and turn it to see an open back door through which she ran. When Stanford emerges from the shadows inside, he is leaning on the cane we saw earlier. Over his other shoulder is a gym bag. In his free hand are Devlin's keys. Watching her go for a second or two, he finally leaves, satisfied with his observation of the woman's escape. We then track him around the back of the house and around to the driveway. We watch as he gets in the van, backs out, and leaves frame left. We are left to stare at the empty street for two more seconds before... FADE OUT: TITLE: "HEROES" Roll credits to David Bowie's song "Heroes" in German.