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FADE IN: EXT. HOLLYWOOD HILLS - NIGHT We rise, like a glider, above the Hollywood Hills and away from the bright lights of Hollywood. We float over homes trimmed with festive Christmas lights. Until finally we hold, like a prying eye, above a-- LARGE HOLLYWOOD HILLS HOUSE that sits on a precarious perch high on a hillside. There are no Christmas lights on this house. We enter, through the window, lapping past gauzy, fluttering curtains. Discreetly. INT. BEDROOM A YOUNG WOMAN with long flowing hair leans over the prone body of a 50-year old MAN. She's in jeans and a loose top, massaging him up and down his back. He's in bed, on his stomach, naked under a body towel. And in heaven. MAN This... is... incredible. She moves her hands down his body, kneading expertly as she goes. She knows what she's doing. Her hands move down under his towel. Down his back. Down farther. The man moans at her touch. She's taking him to another level. He wants more. But instead... she stops abruptly and starts to pack her oils into a backpack. The man rolls over. A hungry look on his face. MAN C'mon... YOUNG WOMAN (chiding) I thought you had company coming. The man remembers. It's enough to make him want to cry. He looks at the phone beside the bed. MAN I can call her-- She sits back down on the bed, puts her finger to his lips. YOUNG WOMAN That would hurt her feelings. You don't want to hurt her feelings. He shakes his head at her, then smiles. MAN You're too much. YOUNG WOMAN I know. Maybe he will get his wish after all. As she angles down toward him with a youthful exuberance. EXT. HOLLYWOOD HILLS - NIGHT The same house. But later. MOVING toward the window again. Hearing THE SOUNDS of love making. Dimly, through the window, we see two shapes going at it under the covers. EXT. BALCONY - BEFORE DAWN The mood should be sleepy at this hour. But... The man emerges from the bedroom, wearing a silk robe. He's clearly upset. Turns around, faces inside. MAN What the hell d'you want anyway? (a beat, alarm) Hey, look. I told you to leave. He backs up to the railing. Fear replacing alarm now. MAN What the hell is that-- No... D-- don't do that... Don't-- A fireplace poker whips into frame. SMASHES into his face. Once. Twice. Three times. ANOTHER ANGLE - BELOW BALCONY A-I-EEE! A chilling scream, followed by the man falling off the balcony. Dropping a full thirty feet before hitting a concrete abutment -- with a bone-decimating THUD. His body rolls off, plunging fifteen more feet onto-- A NEIGHBOR'S PROPERTY Careening down a steep, brush-covered hill, picking up steam all the way. If he's not dead now, he was never alive. Crashing through a fence now, awkwardly belly-flopping into-- A SWIMMING POOL His body explodes onto the wet, tranquil surface. A dog begins to BARK. SECURITY LIGHTS flare on, illuminating his inert descent to the bottom. Where he hovers lifeless. ANOTHER ANGLE - WINDOW overlooking the pool. An ELDERLY WOMAN NEIGHBOR peers out, alarmed by the lights and the splashing that just woke her. THE MAN'S CORPSE floats to the surface of her pool. She SCREAMS in horror. Suddenly, the ROAR OF AN ENGINE diverts the woman's attention. She looks up to the side, at the edge of the narrow road that snakes past the rear of her property and on up the hill. A RED SPORTSCAR whizzes by. INT. COURTROOM - DAY CLOSE ON - RICHARD BYERS A lawyer, in his mid- to late-forties, sitting tiredly at the defendant's table, his eyes impassively closed. The mousey- looking WOMAN DEFENDANT looks over at him, worried. JUDGE'S VOICE Does defense wish to cross? PULL BACK TO REVEAL -- the entire courtroom. The pretty 30 year-old prosecutor LAUREN PIERCE, the JUDGE, the Witness and everyone else waiting for Richard expectantly, impatiently. Suddenly, his eyes shoot open, reassuring his client, then scan the gallery, finding and locking on a MAN around 40 who gives him a 'thumbs up'. His eyes turn now, fiercely, menacingly on the witness, WALTER RICE. RICHARD Tell me if I'm understanding you correctly. You say that on the four separate occasions when Carla Rice claims to have been brutally beaten by her husband--your brother--it was Carla, not husband, who instigated the discord. Do I have that right? WALTER RICE Yes. She lied about my brother beating her. He never did that. RICHARD So...she threatened him with his own gun? Each time? Including last June 13, when she shot him dead? And only to get the gun away from her did he have to hit her... "a little", as you put it? WALTER RICE That's right. Just a little. Richard walks over to the clerk's table and picks up a GUN with a tag attached. RICHARD Would this be that gun, Mister Rice? WALTER RICE (examining it) Yes. RICHARD You're sure? This was the gun? WALTER RICE Yes, it's got my brother's initials carved on it. Richard takes the gun back. RICHARD Explain to me then how the defendant could have threatened your brother with his own gun on all those previous occasions, when it wasn't in his possession until just before the shooting? Could you do that? As the witness squirms uncomfortably: LAUREN Objection. The defense has no proof of-- RICHARD (flourishes a paper) This is a copy of a pawn receipt we've just received from Lucky's Loan in Northridge. From April 11, 1997 to May 21, 1998, this very 38 caliber Smith and Wesson, was in the possession of Lucky's Loan. Until James Rice took it out of hock. (swings back to witness) Carla Rice never threatened your brother. She only killed him in self- defense... to avoid yet another brutal beating, isn't that right? Walter Rice shrinks down into his chair, as the gallery buzzes away. Richard turns away from it all. Satisfied, but hardly content. EXT. COURT HOUSE PLAZA - DAY Richard is thanked profusely and tearfully by the woman defendant and her family. But he's uncomfortable with it all. RICHARD It's okay, it's okay. Finally, he pulls away from the group and walks off, toward the man who gave him the thumbs up in the courtroom -- HECTOR GONZALES -- who shakes Richard's hand warmly. HECTOR That pawn shop idea paid off, huh? Brilliant idea, boss man. RICHARD More luck than smarts, Hector. HECTOR Yeah, I could use some of your luck at the track. RICHARD Hey, you're the one who found the pawn shop. HECTOR That's what I get the big bucks for. (off Richard's smile) Look, I gotta scoot, man. I got a truckload of relatives coming from Mexico for Christmas. RICHARD No problem. And Merry Christmas, Hector. HECTOR You too, Ricardo. Hector gives another thumbs up, and bounds away. Richard trudges off in another direction. ANOTHER ANGLE Lauren has been watching. Now that Richard's alone, she moves toward him. Joins him walking. LAUREN May counsel approach? (as she does) Y'know, if somebody truly impartial, like an appellate judge, were to look at you now, she-- RICHARD She? LAUREN A little creative visualization. In any event, she might think you're feeling guilty about getting a guilty woman off. RICHARD Might she? LAUREN You got away with one. Pulling that rabbit out of the bag... with no prior discovery. RICHARD If you don't like it, you can always appeal. LAUREN What I don't like is losing three times on one case. RICHARD Three times? LAUREN The trial is once. The appeal would be twice. And our bet... (off his look) You don't remember our bet? Dinner at RICHARD I thought that was just a-- LAUREN Don't say joke. I don't joke about free dinners with the opposition. (a hesitant beat) So what do you say? Want to collect tonight? RICHARD Tonight? LAUREN We could be on opposite sides of the aisle again tomorrow. Richard looks back uneasily into her gaze. But he can tell she really wants this. INT. LAW OFFICES - LATE AFTERNOON A busy reception area. Richard enters wearily, approaches the RECEPTIONIST, who hands him a pile of messages. RECEPTIONIST Congratulations, Mister Byers. RICHARD Thanks. He takes the pile and walks off down-- THE HALLWAY As he reads his messages cursorily, he's joined by ERIC KRAMER, an attorney in his fifties. Eric drapes his arm over Richard's shoulder as they walk. ERIC Rack 'em. What's this make... a dozen in a row? RICHARD I don't keep track, Eric. ERIC Well I do. And I was worried about this one. I would've bet you dinner it was a lost cause. Especially against Lauren Pierce. RICHARD I already won dinner. (off Eric's look) From Lauren Pierce. ERIC (a raunchy chuckle) Ooh. She must have an ulterior motive. Richard shakes his head, smiles incredulously, as they turn into-- RICHARD'S OFFICE Richard goes straight for his chair, plops down. A spent man. ERIC It's okay to gloat if you want to. You just won a big case. (no reaction) Y'know, I've got six other attorneys who'd give their eye teeth to be in your shoes. Richard gazes wistfully at a photo on his credenza. A pretty young woman with long, flowing hair, and a sweet three-year-old boy. As he gazes, almost trancelike: RICHARD It was hot in court today. It shouldn't be this hot in December. Must be the Santa Ana's. ERIC For chrissakes, Rich, it's been a long time now. RICHARD (wistful) I don't know. Seems like yesterday... or the day before. ERIC You're talking like an old man now... and beginning to look like one too. (off Richard's shrug) You can't spend the rest of your life punishing yourself. RICHARD I don't see why not. ERIC I wish you'd just talk about it for a change, get it off your chest -- I'm not saying with me -- but somebody professional-- RICHARD (finally looks up) I'm not interested in talking about it. With anybody. Okay?! ERIC Okay, okay. (beat) Well, since you're obviously not going to do anything different this Christmas, how about doing me a favor? Richard glances up at him. ERIC There's a fellow from my club whose daughter might've gotten herself into trouble. RICHARD What'd she do? ERIC He says nothing. But he wants somebody to handle things. Just in case. (off Richard's skeptical look) He's already given us a significant retainer, Richard. RICHARD I'm a litigator, Eric. Not a babysitter. ERIC Come on, Richard. Everybody else has plans for Christmas. RICHARD (a beat, then sighs) Okay. Where is he? ERIC I'll send him in. RICHARD Hey, I didn't mean now... Eric smiles as he leaves. Richard shakes his head, glances back at the photo. In a few beats, HOWARD MEREDITH, a still handsome sixty-year- old man, pokes his head in. He's clearly anxious. Richard gets up. RICHARD Come in, Mister... MEREDITH Howard Meredith. (shakes hands) Thanks for seeing us, Mister Byers. (calls out) Jessica. In walks the same young woman we saw massaging the man in the opening scene! JESS MEREDITH. Her hair flowing unfettered, unaffected, down her back. Looking beautiful... and yet so wholesome and uncorrupted -- not unlike the woman in the photo. Richard is immediately taken with her. RICHARD Hello. She smiles innocently, shyly at him. Like a teenager. She can't be much older than 19... maybe 20. And yet there's something much older in her eyes, a penetrating quality they have. Richard can't help himself: he smiles back. It's instant electricity -- for him, at least. RICHARD Why don't you sit down? They do. Jess peers around. Fidgets with a CRYSTAL PENDANT around her neck. Richard notices, then addresses Meredith. RICHARD What can I help you with? Meredith clears his throat nervously. Concern etched all over his face, and in his voice. MEREDITH You heard about Rawley Goodman? RICHARD Isn't he the bookie who fell off--? MEREDITH The very same. (a long beat) Jessica was at his home that night. RICHARD Was Goodman a friend of yours, Miss Meredith? JESSICA A client. I'm a massage therapist. MEREDITH That's the legitimate kind. Board certified and all that. RICHARD Do the police know all this? MEREDITH Mister Goodman kept an appointment book. They've been to see us. Richard can't keep his eyes off her. Her eyes are all over the office, but they manage to meet his once or twice. RICHARD When were you there, Miss Meredith? JESS I arrived at eleven. PM. RICHARD Seems late for a massage, isn't it? JESS Mister Goodman made his living betting on sports. Eleven o'clock was the end of his workday. I took my ninety minutes, then left. RICHARD And when did he die? MEREDITH The police say at five a.m. RICHARD There's no problem then. JESS (to her father) See? What did I tell you? MEREDITH Finish your story, Jessica. She frowns. Richard waits for Jess to continue. JESS (a beat) After I left, I went to a dance club on Sunset, called Afterhours. (suddenly animated) You ever been there? RICHARD (not in a million years) No. JESS Well, I met a guy there. (a beat) We left the club and drove around the hills. I told him about the incredible view from Rawley's house. He said he wanted to see it. I... I don't know why really, I guess I though we could hang out till sunrise--it's my favorite time of day. Anyway, I took him up there. (her father squirms uneasily) We left before five. Sunrise wasn't happening for a while. And definitely before anything happened. She looks past Richard. At the photo on the credenza. RICHARD Did you see anything up there? Beside the view, that is. JESS No. We were only there a few minutes. Then we left and I dropped him back at the club. RICHARD Okay. So all we need is a statement from this... guy. Who is he? Jess looks over to her father. Sheepishly. He looks away. JESS I only know his first name. John. (off Richard's probing look) I'm sorry. But it's the truth. MEREDITH You can understand why I wanted to retain an attorney. (beat) I was told you have a reputation for defending women... RICHARD Generally my cases involve women doing something prosecutors consider criminal because of physical abuse. MEREDITH (anxious) The police were very skeptical when they questioned her. It scared me. JESS Oh father. MEREDITH All I want you to do is find out what's happening. RICHARD (a long beat) I can ask around the DA's office. Maybe our investigator can look into things too. JESS Well, that's done. She shoots to her feet. Her father stands up. MEREDITH Here's my card. Richard takes the card. But looks directly at Jess. RICHARD What if I need to reach you, Miss Meredith? JESS I'm at the same address. RICHARD You live at home then? She nods. He doesn't take his eyes off her. MEREDITH Thank you very much, Mister Byers. Meredith leads his daughter out the door. Richard remains standing, in a semi-daze. MEREDITH AND JESS In the reception area. JESS Oh damn, I forgot something. I'll be right back. She heads back toward Richard's office. INT. RICHARD'S OFFICE - CONTINUOUS Richard turns back to the picture window. Lost in his thoughts. The door swings open. It's Jess. He spins around. Surprised to see her. JESS (conspiratorial) I'm really sorry, Mister Byers. But there's something I didn't tell you just now. Or the police either. (a beat) The man at the club... his name isn't John. It's Karl. Karl Rampton. RICHARD Why didn't you tell me? JESS (rapid-fire) We were married -- briefly, really briefly -- last year. I was just eighteen. It was kind of a... shotgun thing. I got pregnant and I thought... Anyway, I had a miscarriage. And then he left. Richard is stunned, but recovers quickly. RICHARD That doesn't answer my question. Why didn't you tell me... or the police? JESS Father was with me, both times. I didn't want to get him upset. He hates Karl and all that happened. He already had one heart attack when Karl and I... She trails off. Richard shakes his head incredulously. JESS I don't want to lose him. If it's not absolutely necessary, can't we keep Karl to ourselves? RICHARD (a long beat) Where do I find him? JESS I don't know. (pleading look) Please. Couldn't you just find out what's happening first? That's all father really wants. RICHARD What else haven't you told me? JESS Nothing. Really. RICHARD All right. She looks down the hall again. Then giggles shyly. Which surprises Richard--and turns him on. JESS Can I just say one thing I noticed about you. RICHARD About me? JESS You should try to lighten up. RICHARD Come again. JESS (a twinkle in her eye) You're too serious. Which makes you too tense. I can see it in the way you hold your shoulders. Keep it up and you'll be all stooped over when you get... older. And she skips out. This time Richard follows to the-- RECEPTION AREA Just in time to see Jess and Meredith leaving through the main doors. He stands there and watches, marvelling. He doesn't notice-- ERIC standing behind him. Watching him watch Jess. He gives Richard a playful elbow and a lecherous smile. ERIC Merry Christmas. Richard continues to gaze at the now vacant doorway. INT. JAKE'S RESTAURANT/BAR - NIGHT A packed and noisy after-work bar, festively decked out for Christmas. Lauren and Richard are at a table away from the din, having dinner. Richard looks around. RICHARD I never saw Jake's so full. LAUREN It's been this way every day for three or four years now. RICHARD No kidding. Lauren puts her fork down. She has something difficult to say here. LAUREN Look, Richard. You can't help but hear things. I know what happened to your wife. He stares back at her. RICHARD It's something I'd rather not talk about. LAUREN I understand, and I wasn't going to. It's just that... well, I had a relationship -- a marriage -- that ended two years ago. And... (gropes for the words) ...all I'm saying is, I've had it with licking my wounds. I haven't seen anyone now for... God, it's depressing how long. It's hard to meet men nowadays, in case you haven't heard. RICHARD It's a hard world, Lauren. LAUREN (a deep breath) Anyway... oh dammit, I should just say it, right? You want to spend any of Christmas week at Big Bear? He looks at her. Totally surprised... and at a loss. LAUREN It'll be at my sister's cabin, which has two bedrooms, one of which she would share with me, so... It would be perfectly chaste and proper. Unless of course-- No, strike that. Richard isn't sure how to respond. But he is flattered. RICHARD I haven't skiied in years. LAUREN Before you make any radical decisions you'll regret later... we're not talking Aspen chic here. It's pretty rustic, and it's up a terribly winding road. But it overlooks the lake. And it is beautiful. Oh, and I've got all my ex's ski gear. He looks at her for a few beats. RICHARD Maybe it's time I did do something different. What's your sister like? LAUREN She has the protectiveness of a mother goose and the morals of Ken Starr. You'll be quite safe. They both smile. Lauren takes a sip of wine. Richard follows suit. Neither is sure how to follow up now. LAUREN So... any new cases on the horizon? RICHARD No cases, I hope. But a client. One Howard Meredith. LAUREN You don't mean Jessica Meredith's father. Goodman's masseuse? RICHARD Don't tell me we're on opposite sides of the aisle already. It hasn't even been a day. LAUREN You can breathe easy. I'm not assigned yet. RICHARD You, uh, treating it as murder? LAUREN (a beat) Well, the man was not suicidal. And he wasn't drunk. So, until they find otherwise, yes it is a murder investigation. BBRRNGG. The muffled tone of a cell phone ringing. She reaches for her purse, he for his jacket pocket. LAUREN Yours or mine? RICHARD Mine. He pulls out his CELL PHONE. RICHARD Excuse me. (into phone) Hello. (listens a beat) Mister Meredith. What? (listens a longer beat) Just make sure she doesn't say anything till I get there. I'll be ten minutes. He pockets the phone. Gives Lauren a troubled look. LAUREN What is it? RICHARD My new client is at the Hollywood station. (gets up) I'm sorry-- LAUREN I really hope we don't end up meeting in court on this one. (he nods) Well, we can talk about Big Bear later. RICHARD That'll be good. And thanks for dinner. He leaves. Lauren looks down at his barely touched food. LAUREN Yeah. INT. HOLLYWOOD POLICE STATION - CORRIDOR - NIGHT Richard comes down a corridor. Approaches Meredith, who's busy pacing, anxiety blanketing his face, crimping his body. MEREDITH They can't keep her in there like that, can they? She didn't do anything. RICHARD Just stay here. I'll take care of it. A cop opens the door, while keeping Meredith out. Richard enters an anteroom, then proceeds through to an-- INTERROGATION ROOM where Jess is seated at a table. Also at the table, DETECTIVE GLADES and a uniformed cop. Jess leaps to her feet. Gives him a relieved smile. JESS Mister Byers, thank God. RICHARD Don't worry, we'll have this straightened out in no time. (to Glades) What's the deal, Glades? GLADES Merry Christmas, counselor. So, can we stop twiddling our thumbs and talk to your client now? RICHARD You've already talked to her. GLADES That was before we knew her car, or one that looks exactly like it, was seen leaving Goodman's -- not twelve thirty, like she said -- but five a.m. Just after the neighbor heard Goodman fall in her pool. Richard looks at Jess, who shrugs back at him. JESS I don't mind explaining. RICHARD (pulls her aside) You'll explain to me first. GLADES Your client wants to talk. Why not let her talk. JESS I've got nothing to hide. (to both men) And I want to help as much as I can. Really I do. Richard takes a deep breath. Sits down next to Jess, who smiles back trustingly at him. She looks to Glades, almost eagerly, to begin. INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - LATE Everyone seated. Richard watching Jess, who keeps her composure by massaging her crystal pendant and glancing toward Richard occasionally for reassurance. GLADES So there was no hanky-panky between you and Goodman? JESS (a guileless laugh) Hanky-panky? God no. GLADES Then why'd you go back there at five in the morning? And why didn't you tell us before? JESS I wanted to show Karl the view. And I didn't want to get him involved in anything. GLADES We've checked on Rampton. He moved out of his Vegas apartment a few weeks ago. Seems to've left behind a few outstanding markers. (beat) So, he's got an address here, right? JESS I'm sure he does. But I don't know it. INT. VIEWING ROOM - CONTINUOUS Lauren enters. Watches from behind the one-way mirror. Notes the way Richard looks at Jess. BACK TO SCENE GLADES And you and Karl never went inside the house? JESS We just looked at the city lights. They're really cosmic from up there. GLADES Cosmic, huh. (beat) D'you see or hear anything strange? JESS (a girlish giggle) I suppose. If a woman having an orgasm is strange. Is it? GLADES In my house it is. So...you must've gotten damn close then. JESS She was really loud, believe me. A smile for Richard. ON LAUREN Her eyes narrow. BACK TO SCENE GLADES I don't suppose you know who this moaner was. JESS Sorry, no. GLADES Why'd you decide to drive off like a bat out of hell? JESS I didn't decide. Karl needed to get back, to get ready for work. GLADES He works then. You know where? JESS Sorry, I don't. GLADES Where'd you drop him? JESS At the club. He had his car there. Glades straightens up. He's aggravated. GLADES Okay. Thanks for coming in, Miss Meredith. You understand we're only after the truth here. JESS Sure I do. Everybody is. Richard takes Jess by the arm, to walk her out. RICHARD See you later, Glades. (Glades nods) Oh, and next time, make sure there's a crime before you bring a client of mine downtown. GLADES (suddenly smug) Didn't I tell you? Goodman's fireplace poker was wiped clean, but not clean enough. We found a trace of his blood on it. There was a crime, counselor. JESS You mean, somebody murdered him? Richard frowns and escorts her out of the room. ON LAUREN Still in the viewing room, sizing up Jess as she walks out of the interrogation room with Richard. INT. HALLWAY Richard and Jess move down the hallway. JESS Murder. I can't believe it. RICHARD Why didn't you tell me about the woman? JESS (almost oblivious) I'm sorry, I didn't think it was important. He was with women a lot. Richard shoots her a look. JESS (innocently) I didn't mean to upset you. Otherwise, I'd have told you. RICHARD You don't want to upset anybody, do you?! Not Rampton, not your father, not me. JESS Of course not. Nobody wants to upset anybody, do they? RICHARD (sighs) You really don't know who the woman was? She shakes her head no. JESS Am I a suspect? RICHARD That you are. Which means I need to know how to find Karl. JESS (relents) There's a health club down the block from Afterhours. He hangs out there. Look, is there any way to keep this from my father? RICHARD (stunned) After all this--? JESS I have faith it'll turn out all right. I really do. RICHARD Matters of law call for more than faith, Miss Meredith. JESS (childlike) I have faith in the law too. And no one's called me Miss Meredith since my high school biology teacher. It's Jess to everybody. As long as I can use their first name too. RICHARD (shrugs his approval) Fine, Jess. She smiles again. Seemingly so damn sure of that faith. Richard can't get over it. INT. STATION WAITING ROOM - A MOMENT LATER Richard and Jess enter. Meredith is tied up in knots of anxiety. He leaps to his feet, pulls Jess to him, hugs her. MEREDITH You all right, honey? JESS I'm okay. Thanks to-- Mister Byers. Meredith turns to Richard. RICHARD I wouldn't worry. They were just fishing. (beat) I'll have my investigator look for Jess's alibi-- what was his name again? (at Jess, as she flinches) John, wasn't it? She gives him a camouflaged, but relieved smile. INT. SLICK HEALTH CLUB - DAY Chrome- and mirror-lined, and packed with guys and girls who hardly need to tone their bodies. Hector enters with his assistant, a young man in a cheap suit -- RANDY. Shakes his head at the eye-popping girls in workout outfits. HECTOR Well, if you gotta work this time of year, this is the place to do it. Where do they get these girls, huh? He goes over to a receptionist. Asks her a question we don't hear. She points in the direction of-- CORNER OF CLUB A handsome, blonde man about 40+, in t-shirt and bike pants, is attacking the weight machine. This is KARL RAMPTON. Hector seems surprised, then says something to Randy, and walks over to Rampton alone. HECTOR Karl Rampton? Karl glances up at Hector. Fear lights up his eyes. Suddenly, he leaps off the machine and CHARGES toward the rear exit. But right into Randy, who's waiting there for him. KARL I don't have any money... I swear-- HECTOR Relax. We're not after money. (hands him a card) Hector Gonzales. PI. My boss represents your, uh, ex-wife. KARL Jess? HECTOR How many ex-wives you got, man? Karl looks at the card. His fear vanishing. KARL What do you want? HECTOR A few answers, that's all. KARL I bet you used to be a cop. HECTOR Once. KARL Well I know how you guys twist things around. I'll talk to your boss direct, if you don't mind. INT. RICHARD'S OFFICE - SUNSET Karl, in casual street clothes, is seated opposite Richard, and gazing out at the skyline. Hector is beside him. KARL Hell of a view. RICHARD As good as the view the other night? KARL (a glare) No. Not nearly. RICHARD You must owe a lot of money to run from my associate like you did. HECTOR Try to run. KARL (defensive) I had a few business debts, okay? Richard and Hector look back at Karl derisively. He glances nervously away, toward the city lights. Stands up. RICHARD You know that Rawley Goodman was dumped off his balcony after -- or maybe while -- you and Jess were there. KARL I don't watch the news. HECTOR You got to be more convincing, man. If we were cops, you'd be toast. RICHARD (as Karl paces to window) Jess is a suspect, Karl. Which means you are too. Karl spins around. This really is news. KARL Look, I'd just gotten back in town. I called her up and asked her to meet me at the club. HECTOR Why? KARL For chrissakes, you've seen her. Isn't it obvious? Besides, I worry about her. RICHARD You worry about her? Is that why you left her after getting her pregnant? How old was she? Eighteen? And you were...forty-what? KARL What's my age got to do with it? We were legal. RICHARD (disgusted) What did she ever see in you? It couldn't have been maturity, not at any age. KARL Very funny. RICHARD All right, let's get back to that night. Why did you go up to Rawley Goodman's with her? KARL She said she'd just massaged some guy in his house, at midnight... I freaked. I guess I'm still a little, y'know, jealous. So I made her take me up there. RICHARD And she did? KARL She figured I'd probably get off on the lights and chill out. So we got there, but Goodman had some woman with him. HECTOR Did you see her? KARL Heard her. She liked what Goodman was doing to her. A lot. RICHARD And then? KARL We left. (beat) Look, I didn't know about Goodman til the next day. I swear it. And I'll swear it in court-- RICHARD It won't come to that, Karl. We're going to see the police now and straighten this all out. Okay? Karl nods nervously. Hector glances at his watch. HECTOR Great. Maybe I'll get home before the kids are asleep. HALLWAY Richard, Hector and Karl walking along. RICHARD I hear Meredith didn't like you much. KARL The son of a bitch thought I was too grown-up for his little girl. RICHARD You sure it wasn't... not grown up enough? Karl gives him a nasty look. As Eric approaches from a side office. ERIC Hey, what's up? RICHARD (to Hector and Karl) I'll meet you at the elevator. Richard watches Hector and Rampton, as they exit. RICHARD I'm taking a witness to the police station. ERIC I thought we paid Hector to do things like that. RICHARD I just want to make sure he goes through with the deposition. ERIC You're taking an unusually strong interest in this case. RICHARD Maybe the reason I won my last dozen cases, is that I take an unusually strong interest in all my cases. And he walks off. Eric shrugs. EXT. PASADENA NEIGHBORHOOD - DAY An upscale area. Richard drives his car along one of the residential streets. RICHARD'S CAR turns up the driveway. Pulls to a stop next to Jess's red car and a white Cadillac. Richard goes up to the front door. Rings the bell. In a few beats, the door opens. It's Howard Meredith, with an eager, welcoming smile. MEREDITH Mister Byers. Come in. Richard enters-- INT. FOYER MEREDITH I didn't expect such personalized service. RICHARD I had some good news and wanted to deliver it in person. MEREDITH Fantastic. What is it? RICHARD We found Jess's alibi. He gave a deposition to the police last night. MEREDITH Thank God. And everything's all right then? RICHARD I hope so. MEREDITH Well, Jessica will want to know. Come with me. Meredith leads Richard through the living room, to the rear of the house. He comes to a closed door. MEREDITH Her massage room. She's with one of her clients. (knocks) Jessica. Mister Byers is here. JESS'S VOICE Come in. Meredith opens the door. Inside, Jess is massaging a beautiful woman, about forty, naked and only barely under a towel. The woman, like Rawley Goodman earlier, is in heaven, as Jess's hands expertly ply her well-oiled body. Richard is stunned; Meredith looks away, a bit embarrassed. But neither Jess or the woman seem put out by the company. Quite the contrary. RICHARD Sorry. JESS (between strokes) Just... one... second... A distant phone RINGS. MEREDITH Excuse me. I'll be right back. He leaves. Richard watches Jess work on Evelyn. The towel moving somewhat, showing more of the woman's eye-catching body. Jess's strokes are so... so sensuous. Finally, she's done. JESS Are you all right, Evelyn? EVELYN turns over under the towel. Looks at Richard. EVELYN As long as my muscles are in your hands, I'm perfect. JESS Oh. Evelyn Sterling, my client. Richard Byers, my lawyer. EVELYN (eyeing him) It seems I'm always being interrupted by lawyers. Usually divorce ones. RICHARD That I'm not, Miss Sterling. EVELYN Then there's no reason to be sorry. JESS I'll be back in a flash, Evelyn. EVELYN You'd better, dear. Jess closes the door. Then summons a big smile for Richard. EXT. BACK YARD - MOMENTS LATER Jess and Richard, walking. RICHARD You often see clients at home? JESS A lot want it this way. RICHARD (looking around) Nice place. I can see why you live at home. Jess stiffens defensively. JESS What's wrong with that? I'm barely twenty. RICHARD Nothing... (beat) Look, I suppose I could've called... but I wanted to tell you personally. We located Karl. He swore out a statement corroborating everything you said. Except... he said he made you take him there because he was jealous of Rawley Goodman. Jess laughs at the silliness of the idea. Richard can't take his eyes off her. She's mesmerizing him. JESS He still worries about me, that's all. He thinks I should be out on my own. RICHARD What do you think? JESS Oh, I think when the time's right... (on an impulse) Y'know what? We should celebrate. Why don't you come over for dinner tomorrow night? RICHARD It's a little premature for celebra-- JESS Father was going to invite you anyway. Just come, okay? (Richard nods okay) Look, I've got to get back to Evelyn or she'll have a panic attack. Bye. RICHARD Bye. She hurries back inside the house. Richard watches her. Every fanciful step. EXT. MEREDITH DRIVEWAY - A MOMENT LATER Richard heads toward his car. Meredith joins him. MEREDITH So, what's next? RICHARD She'll have to give a deposition. And maybe testify at trial -- if there ever is one. MEREDITH So who was this alibi of hers? RICHARD Your typical Hollywood swinger. MEREDITH A typical Hollywood swinger is hardly new-age enough for Jessica. Richard shrugs. RICHARD How did she ever get into this line of work anyway? MEREDITH Oh, she dove into it in high school. Became a vegetarian. Meditator. Crystals. The whole nine yards. Of course I'd rather she were a writer. She has real talent there. She's written a play, you know. RICHARD I didn't. MEREDITH But... she enjoys this, so what can I do? Richard nods, then opens his car door and gets in. MEREDITH So, how's eight o'clock tomorrow... for dinner? RICHARD Perfect. Thanks. MEREDITH No. Thank you. He starts the car and drives off. ANGLE ON - ANOTHER CAR easing away from the curb and taking off down the street after Richard's car. INT. OTHER CAR A suspicious, leering and beady-eyed KARL RAMPTON. INT. RICHARD'S LIVING ROOM - EVENING Expensive look. Modern, efficient. But unkempt. Richard sprawled on an easy chair, in his JOGGING OUTFIT. Smoking a cigarette. Listening to jazz. EXT. RICHARD'S HOUSE - CONTINUOUS Across the street from the beautiful Mediterranean house is... a car. And inside is Karl. Looking agitated, angry. INT. RICHARD'S HOUSE Richard, still listening to the music. He looks at the cigarette angrily, then pounds it out in the ashtray. RICHARD I must be cracked. Suddenly, there's a CLATTER at his front door. He pulls himself out of his reverie and goes over. Listens. Hears a rustling. Someone's there. For a moment he's alarmed, but then shakes it off and opens the door. It's Lauren, with a big, vulnerable smile, struggling to control a set of skis. LAUREN I'm sorry, I'm all thumbs. (off his puzzled look) Your skis... for Big Bear. I'd have brought boots too, but my ex's feet were tiny. Like his mind. RICHARD I can't believe-- come on in. She enters. Lays the skis against a wall. Then grips her hands tightly, anxiously together. LAUREN Your secretary gave me your address. I hope you don't mind. RICHARD No... you want... a drink or anything? LAUREN No. I've got a dinner engagement. RICHARD Oh. I thought it was hard finding a man these days. LAUREN It's my aunt. She lives in Santa Monica... just down the canyon. RICHARD Sorry. I was just... LAUREN I know. Making conversation. RICHARD No. Trying to be smart. Which I wasn't. (beat) So, how's the Goodman case unfolding? LAUREN (chiding) I couldn't tell you, even if I knew. RICHARD Do you? LAUREN Well, it did land in my in-box... but believe me, there's nothing to know. Except that your client is better off than before Karl Rampton gave his depo. (beat) Satisfied now? He smiles back at her guiltily, as she peers around the room. Observes the general state of untidiness. Richard notices, covers. RICHARD The cleaning lady hasn't been in a while. LAUREN Look, I hope I'm not foisting this trip on you. If you don't feel like going... RICHARD No, I do-- LAUREN I mean, because, let's face it, some people would consider what I'm doing almost humiliating. RICHARD Some weird people. Whose opinions shouldn't matter anyway. LAUREN (smiles) Thanks. RICHARD (smiles back) No, thank you. And I do want to go, Lauren. Really. Relieved, she reaches into her purse and pulls out a set of ski goggles. LAUREN Hopefully, the Santa Ana's'll die down and we'll have some rain. (off his perplexed look) No rain down here, no snow at Big Bear. No snow, no need for these. (hands him the goggles) My ex did have a big head. But then I thought... you might too. They laugh. EXT. RICHARD'S HOUSE - EVENING Karl is still in his car. Watching. KARL'S POV - as Lauren comes out of the house. Richard, coming out with her, waving good-by. She takes off in her car. Richard starts to jog up the street. SERIES OF SHOTS of Richard jogging: down the street, onto Ocean Boulevard, onto the Santa Monica Pier, where he stops long enough to lean over the side and gaze into the dark frothy foam below. EXT. ALLEY - MOMENTS LATER Richard jogging, labored now, in an alleyway near his house. He's not even halfway down the block when-- A CAR turns into the alley behind him. Its headlights bright and piercing. Coming right at him. He moves to the side of the alley. Stops. So does the car. He starts up again. So does the car. Now he's scared. His eyes focus on the end of the alley and the relative security of the street. He sprints for it. But the car screeches forward, its engine breathing down his back. He dives for some trashcans. The car pulls even. Richard looks for something to defend himself with. Spots a rusted curtain rod in the garbage. Lifts it. The side window on the car lowers. Revealing KARL RAMPTON'S smirking face. KARL Relax, I just wanted to know if you needed a ride. RICHARD (out-of-breath) Rampton! You son of a bitch. KARL (sardonic) I never thanked you for takin' me to the cops. RICHARD I did it for my client. KARL The lovely Jess. Well now that snoopy detective thinks I had a motive to kill Goodman. RICHARD Jealousy, I'd bet. KARL Jealousy my ass. He found out I owed Goodman on some gambling debts. (off Richard's amazement; sneers) Whoa, I'm surprised Jess didn't tell you -- she seems to like you so damn much. YOWL! A scream. Richard flinches. But it's just a cat racing across the alley. Chasing another cat. RICHARD Why're you following me, Rampton? KARL Hey, what do you think? Jealousy maybe? Huh? Karl speeds off. Richard watches the tail lights disappear. Then tosses the curtain rod back in the trash pile. EXT. SANTA ANITA RACE TRACK - DAY The horses bolt out of the starting gate. GRANDSTAND Richard makes his way through the grandstand. Looking around. Finally, he sees who he's looking for: Hector, standing near the rail by the track. Richard heads down. By the time he reaches Hector, the horses are into the stretch... and Hector is nearly apoplectic. Screaming. HECTOR No, you idiot. Fast-er. Not slower! No! NO! The race ends. Hector tears up his ticket. Curses in Spanish. RICHARD I hope that's not the kids' Christmas presents fluttering to the ground. HECTOR (spins around) No, just mine. What're you doin' here? RICHARD Your wife said you were at the track, and... (gazes around) ... I figured I could use a new experience. HECTOR In that case, don't bet on anything then. EXT. RACE TRACK PARKING LOT - DAY (LATER) Hector and Richard walking along. HECTOR If Rampton owed Goodman enough dough, he'd sure-as-hell be on my short list. RICHARD Yeah, and it keeps Jess -- if only by implication -- on a list that's only a little longer. (beat) I wish we knew the woman Goodman was with that night. HECTOR Assuming there was one. RICHARD (takes umbrage) Do me a favor and stop assuming. HECTOR Hey, I'm just sayin', you never know. That's all. I mean, she might just be protectin' the jerk. They keep walking for a few beats. RICHARD Goodman was a major-league bookie, right? (Hector nods) Maybe he owed somebody himself. And couldn't make the payments. HECTOR So he puts the squeeze on guys like Rampton. (shrugs) Well, when a bookie gets into money trouble, it's usually with the guy he has to make his payments to. RICHARD Can you find Goodman's boss for me? HECTOR Look man, you got the girl her alibi. Why bother? RICHARD Maybe I don't like her alibi. The person, I mean. Hector gives Richard a questioning look. HECTOR L.A.'s a big place. Could be one of a dozen guys. (beat, then a sigh) You gonna be home? RICHARD I'm going to dinner at the Merediths. Hector rolls his eyes. HECTOR You ever go to your client's for dinner before? RICHARD They're usually in jail, Hector. INT. MEREDITH HOUSE - NIGHT The doorbell RINGS. Jess comes down the stairs, adjusting a tight-fitting dress, and hurries to the door. She waits a second, then opens it. JESS Mister Byers. You're right on time. Richard, gazing at her. Finally forcing himself to stop. RICHARD (mock anger) I thought we had an agreement. JESS Oh God. What did I do now? RICHARD You didn't call me Richard. JESS (an alluring smile) Just playing. I wanted to see if you'd remember. RICHARD So, do I pass? JESS Pass? RICHARD Well, if it's a game... I need to learn the rules. He smiles back at her. JESS Dinner's ready. INT. DINING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER Richard and Meredith seated at the dinner table. Waiting for dinner to be served. MEREDITH You've done a good job, Mister Byers. RICHARD It isn't done yet. Jess is still a suspect. Meredith is taken aback. MEREDITH I thought this John fellow corroborated her story. RICHARD Right, he did. But no one's home free until the murder's solved. MEREDITH In that case, we still need your services, don't we? RICHARD (a joke) As long as you don't mind paying for them. MEREDITH (jokes back) As long as you don't overcharge me. RICHARD I imagine you're slightly tougher when it comes to business dealings, Mister Meredith. MEREDITH If I were in business, I'd lose it all in a New York minute. No, my wife was wealthy. She died of leukemia. Jess enters the dining room carrying a tray. JESS Okay, enough mindless chatter. Enter... food for body and soul. She puts the platter down and hands each man a dish. Richard looks curiously at his. JESS It's a tofu-seaweed dish. But the secret is the seasoning: it's a secret herb mix that has energizing and oxygenating properties. RICHARD What does it energize? JESS (an impish smile) You have to experience that for yourself. For the first time in a long while, Richard is lost in a woman's eyes. MEREDITH Go on. Dig in. RICHARD (takes a bite) Excellent. Really excellent. INT. GODFATHER'S NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT A STRIPPER grinds away on a small stage decorated tackily for Christmas. The club is packed with testosterone-pumped men. Hector walks in. Looks around. Goes over to a small table where a SMALLISH MAN is seated alone. Sits down next to him. The man never looks at him. They both watch the girl getting down to her bare essentials. MAN (eyes still on girl) What do you want? HECTOR (eyes also on girl) Information. MAN On who? HECTOR Whom. The man shoots Hector a quick, nasty look. HECTOR Rawley Goodman. MAN He liked girls and gambling. And thought he was good at both. HECTOR Was he? The man shrugs, turns back to the dancer. MAN Don't know about the girls. But word is, he broke the bookie's cardinal rule: don't bet. HECTOR And whose book would he be in? MAN How bad you want to know? Hector plants five twenties on the table. HECTOR Real bad. The man snickers. Picks up the bills. Then corrects him. MAN Badly. EXT. MEREDITH HOUSE - NIGHT Jess, Richard and Meredith at the front door. MEREDITH Thanks again, Mister Byers. RICHARD I'll be in touch. JESS And I'll walk you to your car. Jess and Richard leave Meredith, who goes back inside. WITH JESS AND RICHARD - WALKING JESS You're sure you liked dinner? RICHARD I'm sure. Especially that dessert, what was it...? JESS Rice-carob pudding. RICHARD Very tasty. JESS (laughs) What about the fennel tea? RICHARD Loved the fennel -- fennel? -- tea. JESS Come on. Tell the truth. It's good for you. RICHARD What, the tea or the truth? JESS Both, of course. (beat) I can still sense something tight about you. Is it my father? Maybe he's too... RICHARD Protective? JESS Then we're protective of each other. RICHARD Right... his heart. JESS Ever since mom died... She trails off. A little distant now. RICHARD It's okay. I don't need to know. JESS Thanks. They arrive at his car. Richard tries to break the suddenly somber mood. RICHARD Y'know, I can relate if he is protective. I mean, if you'd bring home some mindless, heavy-breathing young-- JESS Why does he have to be mindless? And young? RICHARD (taken aback) Well, I don't know... JESS How old are you anyway? Forty? Her eyes gleam. RICHARD Thanks for the compliment anyway. JESS Anyway, you shouldn't be afraid. RICHARD Me, afraid of what? JESS That you couldn't play these games anymore. She stares into his eyes. Her look is so unaffected, and yet so scorching. Richard doesn't know what to say. Fortunately, his CELL PHONE RINGS. He fumbles into his pocket and picks it up. But first has one last word on the subject. RICHARD I might just be a very beat-up twenty- two year old, you know. Which might still be too old for some twenty year olds. (into phone) Hello. (muffled voice) Hector... what's up? (muffled voice) Okay. At Godfather's? But why--? (muffled voice) I'll be there in... fifteen minutes. As he folds the phone back: JESS (teasing) Why are you going to a topless place? RICHARD Because... my investigator may have found something and wants me there. He also wants to buy me a Christmas martini. How do you know about Godfather's anyway? JESS I once massaged a girl who worked there. Suddenly, a gleam breaks out in her eyes. She's excited. JESS I'm going with you! RICHARD Forget it. It's a sleaze joint. I'll let you know everything Hector tells me first thing in the morning. She delivers a comic, exaggerated pout. He gives her one last prolonged look, then gets into his car and drives off. Jess watches. EXT. GODFATHER'S NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT Richard gets out of his car. Heads to the entrance. But is interrupted by a SCREECH OF BRAKES behind him. He turns around. It's Jess's red sportscar. She leaps out and runs over to him. A bundle of enthusiasm. RICHARD What the hell are you--? JESS I'm going inside whether you like it or not. What else can he do? He gives in. INT. GODFATHER'S NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT Richard and Jess enter. She's the only female in the audience. And seems to relish it, taking it all in almost giddily. JESS It's just like I pictured it. Richard spots Hector at a table by himself. He takes Jess by the arm and heads over. Hector sees him approaching, with Jess. He stands up. HECTOR Hiya. Hector Gonzales. JESS Hi. I'm Jess Meredith. HECTOR I figured. Why don't you guys sit down? I only ordered one martini. JESS That's okay, I don't drink. I just want to watch. They sit down. Richard barely glances at the hard-working dancer on stage. He's all business. RICHARD So what's so important that I had to come here? HECTOR I thought you'd like the scenery. (off Jess's grin) Just kiddin'. First things first. He lifts his glass. Richard lifts his. HECTOR To this year being better than the last. RICHARD Okay, that's not bad. As they tip glasses and drink, Jess peers around at all the men staring lecherously up at the stage. JESS Why are men so serious when they watch strippers? Women aren't when they see male strippers. Richard and Hector look at her. They have no answer. Finally, Hector turns back to Richard. HECTOR I found out who Goodman paid dues to. (beat) Mickey Sterling. RICHARD The mob guy? HECTOR He was into Sterling for beaucoup bucks. RICHARD Hmmm. HECTOR But that's only the half of it. (a beat) Seems like Goodman was playing toesies with Sterling's wife. They were separated, but... well, you never know. Like with O.J.? RICHARD What's the ex's name? JESS (O.S.) Evelyn. Hector and Richard both spin her way. Stunned. JESS The woman you met at my house yesterday. She introduced me to Rawley. She looks back innocently at the two of them. JESS They were just friends. Richard shakes his head. Turns back to Hector. RICHARD Do the police know? Hector shrugs. Richard gets up to leave. RICHARD Well thanks. JESS Wait. We just got here. And you didn't finish your drink. RICHARD My meeting's over. If you want to stay... you've got your car. He starts to walk away. She jumps up. JESS Nice meeting you, Hector. HECTOR Certainly was. And she runs out after Richard. EXT. GODFATHER'S - NIGHT They come out together. Walk toward the cars. JESS I know you're thinking that Evelyn was the woman with Rawley. That maybe she even... She trails off, as they reach her sportscar. RICHARD Was she? JESS I don't know. RICHARD So now you're saying it's possible they were more than just friends? Jess stops to consider it. Stares back at him. JESS Anybody could be more than just friends. (beat) Including you and me. RICHARD We are more than friends. I'm your lawyer. You're my client. She moves a step closer. Her face breathing into his. JESS Did you know that when the energies of two people vibrate in perfect harmony, it can be so powerful... that it would be dangerous to ignore it? He doesn't move. Just looks into her eyes. She into his. Then suddenly, impulsively, surprises her--and himself--by kissing her. Long, and deep. Finally, he lets up. RICHARD What would your father think-- JESS I told you, I don't care. RICHARD Don't interrupt me... (a beat) What would he think if you went away for Christmas? With a man old enough to be your-- JESS --my lover? (after a beat) He wouldn't like it. But... that's life. She puts her arms around him and gives him a deep kiss. Suddenly, he realizes they're on a public sidewalk. He glances around to see if anyone is looking. A couple of horny guys are. He straightens up. Instant propriety. RICHARD You'd better get home. JESS It's only ten o'clock. RICHARD (hesitates) I've got to do something. JESS More business? He looks off into the flickering lights of Hollywood Hills. RICHARD No. I've got to return some skis. (gives a quick look) Don't ask. JESS Y'know, I just realized where we could go. RICHARD Where? She smiles at him, and without another word, hops into her car, and drives off. He watches. Then sees the horny guys, both of whom are giving him the old 'thumbs up'. INT. CONDO BUILDING LOBBY - NIGHT Richard enters, carrying all of Lauren's skiing gear. Looks at the directory. Finds 'Lauren Pierce'. INT. HALLWAY Richard approaches her apartment. Places the skis against the doorjamb. He has a notion to just leave the stuff there and take off. But finally, he rings the bell. It's an uneasy wait. Until... the door opens. LAUREN What a surprise. Come in. RICHARD (awkward) Actually, Lauren... I just came... to return these. Now she sees the skis, the poles, the goggles. He hands them to her. She doesn't hide her disappointment. RICHARD I'm sorry, but I... I can't go to Big Bear. Something came up. LAUREN (eyes him suspiciously) What came up? (off his non-reaction) Miss Hardbody Meredith? (off his reaction) God, if I'd known you had such a Lolita complex-- RICHARD She's not that young. (beat) Look, I'm sorry. Lauren looks at him, suddenly sharp and antagonistic. LAUREN You already said you were sorry. (beat) Did you know Karl Rampton owed Goodman fifty thousand dollars? RICHARD I didn't know the amount. She's surprised, but keeps going. She wants to get back at him now. LAUREN Then you won't be surprised if some of us were wondering if he and Miss Meredith -- who, remember, lied for him at first -- were thinking about that when they came up with their 'phantom woman' moaning away in ecstasy. RICHARD You don't know there wasn't a woman with Goodman. LAUREN And you don't know there was. She's about to slam the door shut, when she remembers the goggles in her hand. LAUREN Here, keep these. You'll need them to see through all that white light she's beaming off at you. She hurls them at him, then smashes the door shut in his face. Tears well up in her eyes. In the hallway, Richard stands stock still. Catching his breath. Angry at himself. INT. RICHARD'S OFFICE - DAY On the phone. HECTOR I'm sorry, man. I got my once a year family get-together starting in twenty minutes. Once a year. I can't stiff 'em. Look, suppose I go see her tomorrow. It can wait. Richard looks at the photo on his desk. Of his wife and child. Closes his eyes. RICHARD It's okay, Hector. I understand. I'll call her myself. He hangs up, contemplates for a few beats, then dials another number. Waits through the rings. EVELYN'S VOICE Hello. RICHARD Mrs. Sterling, this is Richard Byers, Jess's attorney. I was wondering if we could chat about the Goodman case. (no response) You could come down here or I could-- EVELYN'S VOICE I'm not interested in talking to you, Mister Byers. Click. She hangs up. Richard looks blankly at the receiver in his hand. EXT. RESIDENTIAL STREET - DAY Richard drives his car down the street of upper-middle-class houses. INT. HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER The house is empty. A doorbell CHIMES. EXT. FRONT DOOR Richard waits impatiently. Looks at an intercom. EVELYN'S VOICE ON INTERCOM Who is it? RICHARD Richard Byers. Jess's attorney. I know you didn't want to-- The door clicks open. He enters-- EVELYN'S HOUSE Walks into the living room. Looks around. Silence. He pokes his head down a hallway. ANOTHER ANGLE - ON RICHARD As if someone is watching him from somewhere in the house. Someone who bears him no good will. Suddenly, from behind, one of the doors opens. He whips around. It's Evelyn Sterling. In a workout outfit. EVELYN I'm sorry I was so rude on the phone. There's no excuse really. RICHARD That's all right. She wipes perspiration off her face. Richard does the same. EVELYN The air conditioning is out. And here it is, hotter than summer. Can I get you something cold? RICHARD No... I wanted to talk about Jess's situation. I understand you and Rawley Goodman had a relationship. Her smile disappears. Jagged nerves come to the surface. EVELYN Had is the operative word. Anyway, I was home that...fateful night. RICHARD You and Jess are friends, right? EVELYN The best of friends. Why? RICHARD The police still think she was involved in Goodman's murder. You might be able to help her. She spins away from him. She does know something. RICHARD If you're her friend, tell me the truth. You were there, weren't you? She's clearly pained, and doesn't answer. She tries to walk away, but Richard plants his arm against the wall, blocking her. EVELYN I didn't kill him. RICHARD So you were there. And you saw something. Tell me! She clenches her eyes shut. Remembering it all. EVELYN (staccato) I was in the bathroom. I heard a yell. I came out. And Rawley was... (beat) ... gone. Over the edge. I left as quickly as I could. RICHARD Was it your husband? Mickey? She turns her face away without answering. RICHARD Karl Rampton? EVELYN I don't know Karl Rampton. Look, I promise you I won't let Jess be harmed. Frustration overcomes him. He grabs her by the arms. Hard. RICHARD She already has been! Now I know you saw someone. Who was it?! EVELYN (almost crying now) You're hurting me. Richard quickly lets go. He feels ashamed. Guilty. RICHARD Did anybody threaten you? EVELYN (a long beat) Maybe you should leave now. RICHARD And maybe you should tell the truth. EVELYN I am-- I will. Please... He looks at her. A sight to pity. He shakes his head, then turns away and leaves. EVELYN (so he can't hear) I could never harm her. When he's gone, she pulls herself together. Moves to the sidelight by the door, watches Richard jump into his car and take off. FOLLOW EVELYN as she plods through the foyer, trying to collect herself. Then climbs slowly up the stairs. ANOTHER ANGLE - THROUGH AN OPEN WINDOW Someone is watching her. BACK TO EVELYN on the second floor, trudging into her bedroom. Standing at the dresser and looking miserably into the mirror. She takes a deep, getting-her-shit-together breath, and starts poking anxiously through a pill case. MOVING P.O.V. Along the second-floor landing, coming right up to her door. Evelyn picks out some pills with trembling hands. Pops a few. THE DOOR begins to open. Silently. She doesn't notice. Suddenly, a CREAK. She spins around on her seat. Looks up. EVELYN I didn't tell him-- I didn't-- The unseen visitor moves closer. A GUN comes INTO FRAME. Aimed at her face. Evelyn moves back away from the menace. Holds her hands up in front of her. EVELYN You know you can trust me-- I would never-- PA-TOW! The gun fires. Blood splashes across the mirror, the dresser, the wall. INT. DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICES - DAY Richard strides through a bustling room. Approaches a glass- enclosed office. But he can't see inside: the shades are drawn. He knocks. FEMALE VOICE INSIDE Who is it? He enters-- LAUREN'S OFFICE Lauren, Glades, and a second cop are seated around the desk. Lauren gives Richard a particularly stony look. RICHARD I need to talk to you. LAUREN I'm in a meeting, Mister By-- RICHARD Look, I'm sorry about-- LAUREN I told you not to be. Richard takes a breath. Realizes what she thinks it's about. RICHARD About interrupting. But I wanted you to know that Evelyn Sterling was at Goodman's the night he was killed. LAUREN How do you know that? RICHARD She told me. I came here to ask you to get a deposition from her. Lauren and Glades exchange an odd look. RICHARD What is it? LAUREN Evelyn Sterling was found shot to death... about fifteen minutes ago. Richard is staggered. RICHARD But I just saw her, an hour ago! Glades looks at Richard differently. GLADES And when you left her... she was alive and well? RICHARD Would I be asking you to interview her if she weren't? Come on. GLADES Well, whatever she knew went down the drain with her. Which is awfully convenient for your client, isn't it? RICHARD It's convenient for somebody, but not my client. Who, might I remind you, isn't accused of anything, Glades. GLADES Yet. Richard glares, first at Glades, then at Lauren. Glades stands up, puts on his jacket. GLADES I'm on my way to Meredith's. You probably want to be there when I question her about Mrs. Sterling. Glades and the other cop leave. Lauren stands up, comes around the desk to face Richard. LAUREN When I watched you in court, I thought, there's a guy who's a hopeless romantic. Defending defenseless women. That attracted me. (trails off, then:) I was wrong. You're just a hopeless fool. RICHARD I'm sorry you think that, Lauren... but for the first time in a long time, hopeless is just what I'm not. And he hurries out. Lauren remains in the middle of the office, shaking her head sadly. EXT. MEREDITH HOUSE - DAY Richard's car and Glades' police car pull up in the driveway together. MEREDITH HOUSE - REAR PATIO - DAY Jess is in short pants, practicing tai-chi off of a video. She looks incredible. Her father comes out of the house, looking worried. MEREDITH Jessica... She looks over, just as Glades, his partner and Richard come out on the patio. She smiles sweetly. The men stare at her. JESS Hi, Lieutenant. Mister Byers. (off their looks) What is it? RICHARD I don't want you to talk to them, Jess. JESS Why not? RICHARD Because you don't have to. JESS But I want to. I want to help. She looks to Glades, eager to answer anything. GLADES Where were you about an hour and a half ago, Miss Meredith? JESS (innocently) I was at my women's group. Glades, the other cop, and even Richard look at each other. JESS It's actually called a Goddess group, but... well, women's group is easier to relate to. You think? GLADES Sure. So what's a Goddess group? JESS (how to explain) See, we women have lost touch with our feminine nature. Our Goddess power. This is our way to get it back. Glades suppresses an amused cough. MEREDITH What is this about, detective? GLADES What time did you leave this... Goddess meeting? JESS I don't know. Two? (smiles) I don't own a watch. MEREDITH She was home by two fifteen. GLADES And where was the meeting? JESS Bel Air. GLADES Isn't Evelyn Sterling's house on the way from Bel Air? RICHARD Give it a rest, Glades. JESS (sudden alarm) Something's happened. GLADES You could say that. Somebody stopped by her place, probably around two o'clock, and killed her. Jess is flabbergasted. JESS Killed?! Evelyn? No! GLADES I understand she was a friend. Jess, too shaken to talk, nods yes. GLADES Good enough friends that if you saw her at Goodman's that night, you might have a natural, even understandable, impulse to lie for her? RICHARD Jess. JESS It's okay. Really. (back to Glades) I didn't see her there. GLADES Or good enough friends, that if she'd seen you that night, she might've lied for you? RICHARD You're reaching, Glades. GLADES I only reach for what's there. (to Jess) Well, got to leave... and check on that... Goddess meeting. Miss Meredith. Mister Meredith. He turns to leave. Richard goes over to him. Out of earshot of Jess and Merredith. RICHARD You're wasting your time, Glades. How about looking into Mickey Sterling? Or Karl Rampton? GLADES Y'know, the last time I looked you were a lawyer, representing criminals and other scum. Not a cop. RICHARD I've represented a few of them too. GLADES Touché, counselor. Glades smiles, then leaves with his partner. Meredith goes after them to show them out. Jess is distressed. JESS I can't believe it. Evelyn... (slow) Rawley told me she was coming by. RICHARD (incredulous) You knew she was the one with him?! JESS Not for sure. But if she was with him... well, I knew she couldn't have done it-- RICHARD What've you got, some sort of Joan of Arc complex?! First you lie for Rampton, and then her! She collects herself, then moves to the TV and flicks the tape off. JESS I'd better go help her. RICHARD She's dead, Jess. There's no helping her anymore. JESS (emphatic) Yes there is. EXT. PACIFIC OCEAN OVERLOOK - DAY Jess pulls her car into a parking area on the bluff. Richard's car stops nearby. Jess gets out, walks solemnly toward the edge. Richard watches her. But doesn't follow. WITH JESS as she stops at the cliff edge. Takes a PHOTO out of her pocket. A shot of her massaging Evelyn, both smiling for the camera. She looks at the picture fondly. Now she takes a large clear CRYSTAL out of her other pocket and wraps the photo around it, securing it with a ribbon. Then she tosses them as far as she can. The photo and crystal arc in the air and drop placidly into an incoming wave. Jess watches serenely. MOMENTS LATER As she returns to her car. Richard comes up to her. JESS You followed me. RICHARD I was worried. JESS If you want to worry about somebody, worry about Evelyn. She looks back out to the ocean. JESS This was my way of releasing her spirit of any attachment to me. If everyone she knew did that, she'd be free to get on with her journey. Richard looks out to sea. Then back at her. JESS (reflective beat) She offered to let me stay with her. Whenever I wanted to leave home. Maybe I could've kept her away from Rawley. RICHARD How would you have done that? JESS (shrugs) By being a friend. Listening. I don't know. I don't think I know anything. Richard gazes dreamily into her face. RICHARD Well I know something. (beat) That energy you were talking about... between two people? It's about to bust me apart. Richard can't hold back anymore. He grabs her and pulls her close to him. Kisses her hard. Digging his hands into her back and enfolding her. He could do it right here, but-- --Jess pulls away. JESS No, after the funeral. We'll go away together. She gives Richard a long kiss. And bounds away to her car. All he can do is watch. EXT. SANTA MONICA STREETS - NIGHT Richard jogging along. At times racing faster than he has any right to go. He turns onto-- A SIDE STREET Dark and residential. He's running on fumes now, slowing down and breathing heavily. Behind him, HEADLIGHTS from an indistinguishable car turn onto the street. Move slowly behind him, keeping pace. He turns around, sees the car. Suddenly, it accelerates. Directly at him. He's blinded by the lights and can't see anything. Is trapped like a deer with the car hurtling relentlessly at him, until finally... He leaps away, tumbling off into some bushes. He never does see the car as it speeds away, burning rubber in its extreme haste. All it leaves behind, is a piece of a newspaper, still fluttering down onto the street pavement. Richard gets up and picks up the newpaper fragment. On it, written in magic marker is: "Keep your nose in your own business... if you want to keep it straight." He looks off to where the car disappeared. He reaches for his little fanny pack and pulls out a cell phone. Dials. RICHARD Hector? What did you find out about Mickey Sterling? EXT. CEMETERY - DAY A small crowd gathered for Evelyn's funeral. Among the mourners, a man in his late forties, and a girl in her early twenties. MICKEY STERLING and Evelyn's DAUGHTER. In the back, Jess, dressed in a floral outfit, sets herself apart from the sea of black. With her is her father. ANOTHER ANGLE Richard standing by his car in the cemetery drive, watching. Waiting. The ceremony ends. The crowd disperses. Jess approaches the daughter; they embrace warmly, exchange a few words. Then Sterling pulls his daughter away. They approach Richard, who stares angrily at Sterling. Sterling stops, gestures to one of his aides to take the daughter to the limo, and glares daggers back at Richard. STERLING What do you want? RICHARD What do you want? You're the one who's sending your goons out to threaten me. A faint, but nasty, smile from Sterling. STERLING Threaten isn't in my vocabulary. I stick to simple words... like either do, or don't. RICHARD So doing is what happened to your boy Goodman... and now Evelyn. Who's next? Sterling grabs Richard, shoves him violently against his car. STERLING You sonofabitch. You wanna say something, say it. RICHARD I've said it. He lets Richard go, straightens himself. Then, threatening: STERLING You get too close to the fire, you burn. He straightens his suit jacket and walks off. Jess hurries up to Richard. She's carrying a backpack now. JESS Are you all right? RICHARD I'm fine. Don't worry about it. JESS (cheering up) No problem there. That's my philosophy of life. She slides into his car. He gets in on his side. JESS At least she's free now. The car takes off down the narrow cemetery road. INT. CAR - MOVING RICHARD How about you? You free now? JESS Oh... that. Well, I had a talk with my father. He's cool with this. RICHARD Cool? That's hard to believe. JESS Well... maybe tolerating would be more like it. Richard's car passes the last of the procession cars lined up in the road. It happens to be-- MEREDITH'S CAR He's standing next to it. Watching with more than a tinge of worry, as Sterling remains glaring at Richard's car moving away. She waves at him. He waves back, with that look of worry still etched on his face. EXT. INTERSTATE 10 - DAY Richard's car speeds by a San Bernardino exit. INT. CAR RICHARD When are you going to tell me where we're going? Jess smiles playfully. She's having a great time with this. JESS Just stay on 10 til I tell you otherwise. THE CAR speeds past the Big Bear exit. EXT. I-10 - LATER AFTERNOON A road sign reads Palm Springs. INT. CAR RICHARD Not Palm Springs either? She shakes her head, smiles, and points to another road sign. Desert Hot Springs. EXT. TWO BUNCH PALMS RESORT - EVENING Richard's car drives onto the resort grounds. Lots of palm trees. Little bungalows. Hot pools all over. INT. BUNGALOW - EVENING They enter the bungalow, throw their bags down on the bed. Richard looks around. RICHARD Nice. Before he can turn around to face her, she pushes him down onto the bed. Then pounces on top of him. She's ready now. RICHARD You're a surprise a minute. JESS I thought you said the energy was-- He puts his arms around her. RICHARD ... busting me apart. JESS Me too. She kisses him -- hard. Then harder. He returns it. They grope at each other's clothes. Inch by inch, bit by bit, the clothes start coming off. AN HOUR LATER - DIMLY IN THE DARK They're on top of the still-made-up bed. Making love. His hands gliding up and down her. Her fingers digging deep and hard into his back. Richard is in heaven. LATER THAT NIGHT The whirlwind finished for now, Jess massages him lightly. Her touch delights him. RICHARD When do I get the full treatment? JESS You really think you're ready for deep-tissue emotional release? RICHARD Do I need it? She gets on top of him; switches to a deep, kneading massage. RICHARD Ow! JESS (laughs) You need it. But you can't take it... yet. Jess starts back on the easy massage. But something's bothering Richard. He turns over, looks up at her. JESS No, let the energy flow through you. Otherwise the tension will never-- He grabs her hands. RICHARD I want you to know why there's no one else for me to spend Christmas with. JESS (uncertain) Okay. He lets go of her hands. Takes a deep breath. RICHARD I was married, to a young and beautiful woman. Till about three years ago. Her name was Rachel. We had a son... Evan. (long beat) Rachel was taking Evan to pre- school. It was the first rain of the season, so the roads were slick. A car...came skidding across a divider. And crashed right into-- (shakes off the memory) Rachel died instantly. Evan lived another week. Till his third birthday. Jess is overwhelmed by the story. JESS God, that's horrible. I'm... sorry. RICHARD At the time...I was doing drugs. I thought I performed better in court if I were a little jazzed. She'd confront me about it... I'd yell at her. That's the way it went. Until this once... (this is hard for him) ... I hit her. Kind of a slap really... but I hit her. I never did anything like that before. He squeezes his eyes shut. RICHARD It was the same day--that morning-- she was killed. She was probably thinking about that when... He trails off. Jess strokes his head consolingly. RICHARD (another deep breath) I've never told this to a soul. JESS Your muscles all just relaxed... you know that? He nods, and looks up into her eyes. RICHARD I feel a thousand pounds lighter. JESS Like you could just fly away, right? RICHARD She was a lot like you, Jess. Sweet, fun loving. Even mystical, in her own way. (smiles) Damn, I can even smile when I think of her now. Thank you. He pulls Jess down. Hugs her close to him. Then suddenly, she pops up on her elbows, surprising him. JESS (on a whim) We need to keep those muscles relaxed. RICHARD What? JESS And I know how. Come on. She leaps off the bed. Opens the door of the bungalow. Still stark naked. RICHARD You can't go out there like that. JESS Out there is where the hot tubs are. RICHARD Well, just in case there's someone else as nutty as us... He wraps a towel around himself and gets up. Grabs another and wraps it around her. She delights at his touch. JESS Ready now? RICHARD As I'll ever be. EXT. DIMLY LIT RESORT GROUNDS - NIGHT A strong desert wind blowing. Jess prances across the grass to a hot pool. Richard steals along behind her, constantly on the lookout. She drops her towel and jumps in. Richard flinches at the LOUD SPLASH. JESS (laughs) Ooh, it's hot. RICHARD (a forced whisper) I hate hot. JESS Hot's just a state of mind. And your mind's a thousand pounds lighter, remember? RICHARD You'd better be right about this. He dips his toe in the water. Then his foot. JESS See, it's not so bad. (beat) Well... are you coming in or not? As Richard looks around one last time to see if anyone's watching, Jess jumps up and rips his towel off. Tosses it aside and laughs at him. Now there's nowhere to run. He jumps in. Much to her delight. JESS They say the water has healing powers. RICHARD Well these old bones could use it. JESS I don't see any old bones. RICHARD I'll remember that on my next birthday. Suddenly, surprisingly, she switches gears and splashes warm water at him. Then swings around, facing him, and straddles him between her legs. They kiss. He's beside himself in ecstasy. EXT. BUNGALOW - MORNING The Christmas-wreathed door opens. Jess and Richard emerge. Look out at the brilliant sky. JESS Merry Christmas. RICHARD Damn, I forgot. Merry Christmas. Well, where to? Jess smiles, pulls him along. Another game. He lets her. JESS You'll see. RICHARD'S CAR Speeding along a two-lane highway. EXT. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL MONUMENT - DAY The car is stopped by the side of the road. No traffic in sight. Only Joshua trees. Seemingly millions of them. As far as the eye can see. CAMERA MOVES away from the road, onto the sloping plain of joshuas. Finally, we stop at a clearing. Richard and Jess are on the ground, flat on their backs, looking up at the sky and trees around them. Richard looks over at her. JESS Can you hear the world spinning around? RICHARD You are something, you know that? A gust of wind catches Richard's attention. RICHARD This is where the Santa Ana's come from. Jess turns suddenly wistful. JESS I remember we had desert winds in Colorado too. They'd blow so hard sometimes and scare me out of my sleep. But my dad would come in and tell me stories about how the winds carry birds and seeds all around the world. The stronger the wind, the farther it could carry all those wonderful things. She muses back to that time. A happy memory. RICHARD Well, Santa Ana's do good things too. They keep the storms away. JESS (closes her eyes, dreamy) Anything to keep the storms away. He looks at her. Then closes his eyes too. Dreamily. JESS Do you have any dreams? RICHARD I'm living mine. How about you? JESS When I have the time, I'm going to start writing. RICHARD Your father mentioned you were good at that. JESS I wrote a great play in high school, called Stress Point. My drama teacher loved it. RICHARD Really? What was it about? JESS It was something I read about in the papers. Two young parents who couldn't take the pressure of having a child. (beat) So they kill it and leave it in a dumpster. RICHARD Pretty gruesome. JESS Yeah. That's why the drama club never put it on. Suddenly, Jess snaps out of her reverie: JESS Have you ever been rock climbing? RICHARD What? JESS This is the place to learn. RICHARD Rock climbing? You do that too? JESS I've just been a few times. And not far from here. (looks off) C'mon, I know where there's a rope already set up for spontaneous people like us. She leaps to her feet, pulls him up with her. EXT. ROCK FORMATION - LATE AFTERNOON Jess bounding up to a huge rock formation. Richard huffing behind her. They reach a thirty foot rock face, with a rope dangling down from the top, secured along the way by several pitons. JESS You ready? RICHARD (looking up) No way. JESS Okay, coward. And without another word, she latches onto the rope and starts to walk her way up the face. RICHARD Be careful. JESS It's not even thirty feet. In what seems like no time, she's pulled herself to the top, and looks down at Richard. JESS Well? RICHARD You really think you can shame me into doing this? JESS Yes. Richard purses his lips, shakes his head, but he knows he has to do it. RICHARD If anything goes wrong, the cell phone is in the car. JESS Nothing'll go wrong. Come on. Richard starts up the rope. A lot more gingerly, a lot more slowly, than Jess. Jess leans over and watches him. JESS You've got the idea. I'm coming down. RICHARD What? JESS So I can catch you if you fall. RICHARD Funny. And he struggles onward, as Jess disappears from view. RICHARD'S POV Alternating between looking up and down, and straight ahead at the rock face. He's nearing the top now and feeling good about it. He looks up one more time... ... and sees the rope as it loops over the clifftop seem to go loose. As if its anchor at the top has been pulled loose. Suddenly, the rope slackens and he drops several feet. He's dangling against the rock face. Luckily, he manages to hold on, for dear life. Now his weight is held up only by the piton directly above him. RICHARD Hey! Jess! No answer. RICHARD Jess!! In a few beats, from below: JESS My God, what happened? RICHARD How the hell should I know? Jess surveys the situation. JESS Swing your weight over to that ledge... to your left. RICHARD (looks over) Easier said than done. JESS You've got to. RICHARD And then what? JESS You can brace your weight enough to relieve the pressure on the top piton. I'll run back up and see if I can secure the rope back. Richard starts to swing his body weight over to the left. As he does, the piton directly above him starts buckle loose. JESS Hurry. Finally, Richard manages to swing his leg onto the tiny ledge and get at least part of his weight off the rope. But he's in a precarious situation. RICHARD Now you hurry. Jess takes off. Richard can't see her anymore. The wait seems interminable. Suddenly he hears a hammering from above him. TOP OF CLIFF Jess has found a rock and is hammering the anchoring piton back into place. JESS This top piton pulled out. I'll have it in a second. RICHARD (struggling to maintain) A second is all I've got. JESS Okay. I've got it. She tosses the rock aside and leans over the side, looking down at Richard, who now gingerly swings his weight back off the ledge. JESS You can make it now. RICHARD Yeah. In a few beats, she's helping him up onto the clifftop. He plops down on the rock surface, catching his breath. JESS You okay? RICHARD How the hell did that happen? JESS I don't know. It was solid as can be when I reached the top. (looks more closely) These things don't happen by themselves. RICHARD What're you saying... that somebody made it happen? Jess takes a moment to think. Then looks back at him with her big beautiful eyes. And laughs. JESS You look hideous. He can't help it. He smiles back at her. RICHARD You want to see hideous. I'll show you hideous. INT. RESORT HEALTH SPA - DAY Richard and Jess lying side by side, in MUD BATHS. Laughing hysterically at the way they look. Jess tosses some mud at Richard. JESS Hideous! LATER Richard cringing from a rough massage at the hands of a big, burly woman. Jess looking on, still laughing. INT. RESTAURANT - EVENING Richard and Jess cozy in a corner of the restaurant. A Christmas tree nearby. Richard holds out a glass to toast her. Winces. Then rubs his aching shoulder. RICHARD Helga could've caused permanent damage. JESS (a twinkle in her eye) She's not the only one. They look at each other. Sip their wine. INT. BUNGALOW - NIGHT Jess giving Richard a massage. Full and deep and sensual. He's totally melted down in a pool of relaxation. EXT. I-10 - DAY Richard's car going the opposite direction now. To L.A. INT. CAR They're both quiet. Suddenly, Jess turns to Richard. JESS I wish we could've stayed. Richard looks at her, but doesn't say anything. EXT. MEREDITH HOUSE - AFTERNOON Richard and Jess stand outside of his car. RICHARD I want you to come home with me. She looks at him. Wants to say yes, but doesn't. RICHARD I know it sounds crazy but... I think your father would understand. Eventually. She turns her gaze toward the house. JESS Give me a little time. I'll talk to him. She kisses him. Then walks up to the house. Looking back at him every few steps. INT. RICHARD'S CAR - DRIVING - DUSK Richard pulls out his cell phone. Punches in a number. RICHARD'S VOICE ON PHONE You've reached six eight four-- He hits his remote code for the answering machine. Listens. KARL RAMPTON'S VOICE (slurred, drunk) Son of a bitch. I told you to stay away from her. Don't think you can-- Richard shakes his head, fast-forwards to the next message. HECTOR'S VOICE Where the hell are you? Out of range on your cellular, that much I know. Anyway, I got some news you might be interested in. Give a buzz. Richard checks his watch. Makes an abrupt turn. EXT. HECTOR'S HOUSE - EVENING A pleasant, working-class neighborhood. Richard gets out of his car. Heads up to a house lit up with Christmas decorations. Approaching, he hears Mexican songs from around the back. He goes around the side to-- HECTOR'S BACK YARD --where Hector's entire family is celebrating over a barbequed dinner. Hector spots Richard and walks over. HECTOR Hey, there you are. Want some food, company? The whole damn family's here. RICHARD (wistful) Looks nice... but thanks anyway. I really just wanted to find out what the news was. HECTOR Yeah, the news. Well, one of my many better contacts, who I'd never invite anywhere near this house, told me Mickey Sterling's people were asking around about Rampton. And they didn't seem all that friendly. RICHARD Maybe Rampton saw something... at Goodman's. (beat) What do the police know? HECTOR I couldn't find out. But maybe you could use your in at D.A.'s office... RICHARD My in is now a big out. Anyway, she's up at Big Bear now. HECTOR No she isn't. I tried calling her today. She was in the office. Richard considers for a few beats. RICHARD Thanks Hector. And Merry Christmas. HECTOR Hey, Christmas is over. (beat) Look, there's one more thing. Rampton isn't the only one Sterling's asking about. He's checking into you too. RICHARD Is he. INT. JAKE'S RESTAURANT/BAR - NIGHT Richard enters the bar area at Jake's. Looks around. ANOTHER ANGLE Lauren with some other attorney-types at a table. She spots Richard. Excuses herself, and walks over. Drink in hand. LAUREN This is a surprise. RICHARD How come you didn't go to Big Bear? LAUREN (sips her drink) Why be lonely in a lonely place when I can do it in the big city. With millions of people around. And where did you spend your Christmas? RICHARD The desert. LAUREN Was it merry? RICHARD It was fine. LAUREN I'm happy for you. No I'm not. (lifts her glass) Are you having a drink or not? RICHARD No. I came to tell you something Hector learned. LAUREN The amazing Hector. RICHARD Sterling's been looking for Rampton. I think Rampton knows something that could implicate him. Lauren puts her drink down on the bar. All business now. LAUREN At the time Rawley Goodman's body was discovered, Mickey Sterling was on a chartered plane flying up and down the coast, with an impressionable starlet he impressed even more in the rear cabin. RICHARD He could've had someone else do it. LAUREN (dramatic beat) Sterling wasn't jealous, Richard. In fact, he was looking for a way to unload Evelyn on someone -- anyone-- so she'd leave him alone. He was happy she was with Goodman. So happy that he tore up Goodman's IOU. Richard is taken aback. LAUREN Anything else? RICHARD There's Rampton then. He left a threatening message on my machine. Maybe Sterling got to him. LAUREN Yes. And there's your new friend. Or is it client, I forget the distinction. Two of whose own clients are dead now. RICHARD She hasn't threatened anybody. Plus, she hasn't a shred of a motive. LAUREN She doesn't have to threaten you, that's for sure. (takes another drink) As for motive... maybe she's just plain crazy. RICHARD (reacts, angrily) Maybe she's the only one who isn't. LAUREN Y'know, I remember a law professor telling us... when a lawyer with his objectivity parts, he tends toward... fucking up. Be careful, Richard. She puts her hand on his shoulder, tenderly, and walks away. INT. RICHARD'S BEDROOM - NIGHT He's fitfully asleep. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS It's dark. Too dark to tell who's moving catlike into the kitchen. Only that it's a HUMAN SHADOW creeping along with a pen flashlight. The shadow moves over to the stove, turns on the gas range. Then... leans over and blows hard. The flames go out. But the gas stays on. HSSS... The shadow moves over to the kitchen window, shuts it tight. Then places a CANDLE on the counter and lights it. Leaving it ominously unperturbed. The gas continues to HISS out of the burner. RICHARD Still asleep. Turns over. Wriggles his nose. The smell of gas tickles... but doesn't wake him. EXT. RICHARD'S HOUSE - NIGHT P.O.V. - Watching from a car. Gloved fingers worry over the steering wheel. THE GAS RANGE ...hissing. Filling the kitchen with gas vapor. The candle still sitting placidly on the counter. Just waiting for the balance to tip. Suddenly, a slight flicker. But that's it. RICHARD turns over in bed. Rubs his nose. The smell of gas is hitting his subconscious. But it's still not waking him up. CLOSE ON - FRONT DOOR The knob turns, the door opens. ANOTHER SHADOW -- or is it the same one? -- enters the dark house. A beat. Then-- ... the shadow moves into the kitchen. Goes straight for the range, and turns it off. Then blows out the candle and opens the window. RICHARD'S BEDROOM The door opens. The shadow moves inside. Stops. Looks down at Richard. What's it going to do? Peel off its clothes, that's what. If only Richard were awake. He'd see a beautiful body disrobing provocatively at the foot of his bed. Jess's beautiful body. She drops her clothes and gets into bed next to him. Starts to rub him. He opens his eyes. But he's still half-asleep. JESS It's me. Jess. RICHARD Jess? Suddenly, his brain clicks into gear. RICHARD Jess. What're you doing here? JESS I told him. RICHARD Huh? JESS My father. Believe it or not, he agreed. He said I should do whatever seemed right to me. And this does. I'm moving out. She rolls on top of him. Swings her hair aside. Kisses him. It begins. She pushes the sheet away and starts moving down his body. Hot and torrid. LATER Richard watches Jess come out of the bathroom, his face a tidal pool of satisfaction. She flops down onto the bed. Notices his smug look. JESS (impish) You know, you're not as great as you think you are. RICHARD (mock alarm) Uh oh. What're you trying to say? JESS You're way too careless. RICHARD I could've sworn I used protection. Or is Alzheimer's setting in already? JESS (laughs) No, you left your front door open... RICHARD That's not careless. I was hoping you'd be using it. JESS Were you hoping I'd use your stove too? RICHARD What do you mean? JESS You left the gas on. And a candle lit. Y'know, I might've actually saved your house from going up in a fireball... Sudden alarm registers. Richard leaps out of bed, into a robe and out into the-- KITCHEN He switches on the light. Looks around, sees the candle. Jess comes in after him. JESS Don't feel bad. I do stupid things like this all the time. Anxiety blankets Richard's face. RICHARD Jess... I don't own any candles. EXT. RICHARD'S HOUSE - EARLY MORNING Richard walks Jess to her car. The top is down and it's loaded with BOXES AND SUITCASES. Richard glances at them. RICHARD I want you to go back home for awhile. JESS But I want to stay with you-- RICHARD I don't want you here if someone is trying to blow up the place. JESS (shakes her head) It doesn't make any sense. A car HORN sounds. Hector's car pulls in behind Jess's. He gets out, approaches. JESS Look, I've got two clients to see in Pasadena. What are you going to do? RICHARD See if I can find out who's missing any candles. JESS Be careful? He nods. She gives him a hug, smiles at Hector, then gets in her car and drives off. HECTOR Piece of work, huh? My momma always told me, stay away from the pretty ones. They can drive a sober man loco. Especially one-- RICHARD --my age. I know. (sighs) Your momma is wise, Hector. Thanks for coming. HECTOR That's what you pay me for. Richard leads Hector back to the house. INT. KITCHEN - LATE Hector examining the room, the candle. Shakes his head. HECTOR Awful lucky she came when she did. Aw-ful lucky. RICHARD Give it up, Hector. She saved my life. HECTOR Or... (beat)... changed her mind. Richard glares at him. But now sees a different look in Hector's eyes. RICHARD What is it? HECTOR Karl Rampton may never've gone up to Rawley Goodman's the night he died. Richard stiffens. HECTOR He was in a poker game in Venice -- from somewhere between four and five in the morning til noon. Now, if it was five, he was playing poker when Goodman died. RICHARD Shit. Can't you pinpoint the time? HECTOR Time's the last thing poker players pay attention to. Richard has to struggle to take it all in. RICHARD If he was lying, then... HECTOR Then she was alone up there. RICHARD Or with Evelyn. (beat) It's absurd, Hector. Why would Rampton lie? HECTOR He's hung up over her. Like everybody else. RICHARD And maybe hung up enough to want to try to kill me. Richard simmers quietly for a beat. RICHARD What about Sterling? HECTOR He's back East, showin' off his Trump Tower suite to his latest honey. I'm sorry, boss, but this whole thing just ain't his M.O. He's too smooth for this. Richard looks away, groping for answers. RICHARD Where's Rampton live? HECTOR Uh uh. You're not goin' there. RICHARD Oh yes I-- HECTOR He's coming to see you. RICHARD (incredulous) What? HECTOR I called him, told him we knew about the poker game. He said he wants to come in, see you, and set everything straight. Ten o'clock in your office. RICHARD (checks his watch) All right. Let's see what he has to say. INT. RICHARD'S OFFICE - DAY Richard, standing by the window, gazing at the skyline. Hector at Richard's computer, playing computer solitaire. RICHARD It's going on eleven. HECTOR And I haven't won a single damn hand. Richard spins around. Picks up his jacket, heads for the door. HECTOR Where you going? RICHARD He's not coming to me. So I'll go to him. He whips through his door, out into-- THE HALLWAY --and almost runs right into Eric. ERIC Hector told me about the gas. Have you called the police yet? RICHARD No. He strides away from Eric. As Hector comes out of his office: ERIC Where's he going? HECTOR To find Karl Rampton. ERIC Find Ramp--? (yells after Richard) You've gotten way too involved here, Richard. Personally involved. Richard shoots him one last look before exiting the office suite. RICHARD It's about time. And he leaves. Hector close behind him. EXT. GARDEN APARTMENT - PARKING LOT - DAY Richard's car pulls into a parking spot in the lot. Hector's car pulls up alongside. They get out. HECTOR Well, this is it. He reaches into his glove compartment, pulls out a gun. RICHARD What's that for? HECTOR We're either dealing with a murderer, an accessory, or a loco. This works for all three. They walk toward the building. EXT. RAMPTON'S APARTMENT - A MOMENT LATER Richard and Hector come up to the front door. Buzz. No answer. Buzz again. No answer again. They walk around the side of the building... ... to the rear, where the apartments give out onto a park- like setting. Find Rampton's. The large sliding-glass door is ajar. Richard gets to it first, slides it back, enters-- INT. RAMPTON'S APARTMENT Spare, but still messy. RICHARD Rampton? (beat) Anybody home? Silence. HECTOR Flew the coop, I'll bet. Hector goes one way, Richard another. Follow Richard as he walks through the living room. Past the kitchen. Down a hallway. He comes to a door that's partially open. Slowly, carefully, he nudges it open. Rampton's bedroom. He pokes his head in, apprehensively. Looks around. No Rampton. He goes back into the hallway, sees Hector in the bathroom, looking in the sink. He points out something to Richard. HECTOR Couple drops of blood. RICHARD What do you mean, blood? HECTOR Relax, it's two drops. He cut himself shaving, that's all. EXT. PARKING LOT - MOMENTS LATER Hector and Richard emerge from the apartment house. Suddenly--KAPOW! KAPOW! Two shots ringing out, bullets caroming off the pavement next to them. Hector pulls Richard down behind a car. KA-PING! A bullet rips into the car hood, just above their heads. Hector already has his gun drawn, ready to fire. But where? He scans the area. RICHARD See anything? HECTOR Nah. Richard takes a gander now... and another bullet crunches into the car, inches away. HECTOR Hey man... stay down. From the other side of a retaining wall across the street, they hear the SOUND of an engine starting up, revving high, and then screeching away. But they can't see the car. Slowly, they emerge from behind the car. RICHARD They're gone. HECTOR Yeah. (beat) Y'know, it's not me they're after. RICHARD I do know. And this makes three times somebody's tried. HECTOR Three? RICHARD Somebody followed me out to the desert. Look, do me a favor. Call the cops. Tell 'em about the gas in my house, and Rampton going AWOL. And this little episode. HECTOR And you? RICHARD I need to talk to my client. They head off to their respective cars. Neither of them notice-- ANOTHER ANGLE What we recognize as RAMPTON'S CAR in the lot. PULL IN CLOSE to windshield. As the glare from the sun recedes, we can see inside-- KARL RAMPTON'S BODY lies across the front seats. Drenched in blood. A bullet hole in just above his right eye. EXT. MEREDITH'S HOUSE - DAY Richard rings the front door bell. In a few beats, Meredith opens the door. RICHARD Is Jess here? MEREDITH Isn't she with you? RICHARD No. I thought she'd be done with her appointments by now. MEREDITH (sudden worry) What's happened? RICHARD Nothing. I just wanted to talk to her, about the case. Have her call me when you hear from her. MEREDITH Something's wrong, isn't it? RICHARD Just have her call me. He walks away. Meredith watches him, puzzled and worried. EXT. ROAD - DAY Richard driving aimlessly. Suddenly, he puts on the brakes and stops to think for a moment. Then takes off in a hurry. EXT. EVELYN'S HOUSE - AFTERNOON Richard comes to the front door. It's open. He goes-- INSIDE Silence. Then, a SOUND. A grunting, scary kind of sound. RICHARD Jess? He starts toward the rear of the house. Past a couple BOXES filled with Jess's stuff. She's here. He gets to the room where the noise is coming from, louder, more onerous from this close distance. The door is closed. He hesitates. RICHARD Jess, are you in there? A heavy, grinding kind of sound. He doesn't know what to make of it. It unnerves him. But finally, he opens the door. It's Evelyn's home gym, and Jess is working out. Sweating and grunting and breathing heavily. Looking spectacular through it all. She stops when she sees him. Smiles. JESS I didn't hear you. How'd you know I came here? RICHARD You told me Evelyn offered you her place. JESS Her daughter said Evelyn would have wanted me to stay here. So... Richard approaches her. Dead solemn. RICHARD Somebody just tried to shoot me. JESS No. But who-- RICHARD The same person who followed us to the desert and who turned my gas on. (beat) I want you to be honest with me. Was Karl playing poker when Goodman was killed? (off her stunned reaction) I want the truth. Were you up there alone? Jess leans back on the machine. Sighs deeply. JESS I did meet Karl. Just like I said. While we were talking, I sort of casually told him about the night- time massages I gave Rawley. Well, that set him off... but good. He knew Rawley, and didn't like him. Anyway, he stormed off. Like a madman. She leans forward again. JESS I thought for sure he was going up to Rawley's. So I drove up there myself and waited for him. He never came. RICHARD So why did he lie for you? JESS He knew I'd be a suspect. I went along with it. (beat) He... still loves me, I guess. She gets up, her body all glistening. Walks over to him. Drapes her arms around his shoulders. JESS I'm sorry I lied, Richard. He throws her arms off him. RICHARD Did you see him today? JESS Karl? No. I was at my Pasadena appointments. Why? RICHARD He was supposed to see me and come clean about everything, but he never showed up. I thought maybe someone warned him off. JESS Karl never was very good at handling... situations. I guess that's why he left me. Richard plops down on a bench. Shakes his head. She picks up a towel. Sits down beside him. JESS Who could have scared him off? Mickey Sterling? RICHARD Some people might think it was you. JESS Oh God. Richard watches her. She's just too upset, too surprised to be be lying. JESS I'm scared, Richard. I know I shouldn't be. That I should have faith and be wise and all. But I'm scared. He can't help himself. She's like a helpless, needy waif. He sits down beside her, puts his arm around her. Draws her close. JESS At least you can be wise for me. Gradually, his defenses collapse. She looks up at him. JESS Stay here with me? The way she looks at him... he can't resist. INT. RICHARD'S OFFICE - HALLWAY - DAY Eric and Lauren hustle down a hallway, enter-- RICHARD'S OFFICE Hector is at Richard's desk. Still playing solitaire on Richard's computer. He leaps to his feet. ERIC Where's Richard? HECTOR Am I my boss's keeper? LAUREN From what I can tell, he needs one. Weren't you with him at Rampton's? HECTOR Yeah, so? Rampton wasn't there. LAUREN Yes he was. In his car. With a bullet in his brain. Now I'm trying to do Richard a favor, Hector. Where is he? Hector can see she cares. HECTOR He went looking for his client. I think she was in Pasadena or someplace massaging some old ladies-- LAUREN The police checked those old ladies. She missed both appointments. HECTOR Uh oh. She goes over to the phone. Picks it up. LAUREN What's Richard's cell phone number? INT. EVELYN'S BEDROOM - EVENING Jess is in bed, under the covers, alone. Looking radiant and happy. She listens to the sound of the shower from the bathroom. BBRINNGG. The sound of Richard's cell phone ringing. She finds it, in his jacket pocket. Muffles the sound in her hand... until it stops. INT. BATHROOM - CONTINUOUS The room is steamed over from the hot water. Richard is in the shower, motionless, allowing the pelting water to knock some sense into him. Suddenly, Jess parts the shower curtain. Startling him. JESS Can I come in? RICHARD Sure. She enters, and puts her arms around him. She's almost oblivious to the luxuriant warmth of the hard spray. JESS Hmmm. Feels good, doesn't it? RICHARD I was just thinking. JESS What about? RICHARD (a beat) About how old Evan would be if he were alive. (another beat) And Rachel too. Jess puts her arms around him. He's all hers now. She kisses him, then rubs her now-hot, wet face against his. JESS Ooh. You didn't shave. A MOMENT LATER They're wrapped in towels and standing by the sink. Jess is shaving Richard with an old-fashioned-- DOUBLE-EDGED RAZOR Long, deliberate strokes up his neck and throat. It's sexy and sensuous. Suddenly, the razor catches. It nicked him. RICHARD Ow! JESS I'm sorry. It must be an old blade. Let's see if Evelyn has any refills. RICHARD I doubt they even make that kind anymore. She opens the medicine cabinet. Finds a dispenser. JESS Here we are. She takes out a blade, holds it delicately in her hand, and looks at it strangely for a long beat. RICHARD What is it? JESS I was just thinking of Evelyn. And Rawley. I can't believe... She snaps out of it and hands him the blade. He puts it in the razor. Then takes her hand by the wrist and places the razor in it. RICHARD Here, you've got a job to finish. As she does, he notices something on her wrist. Looks closer. An OLD SCAR. All the way across her wrist. RICHARD What's this? JESS (covering) What? RICHARD This scar. She looks away. RICHARD You tried to commit suicide. JESS (long beat) I was barely thirteen when my... mother died. I was just stupid. I didn't know what I know now. RICHARD Which is? She looks straight and deep and admiringly into his eyes. JESS That life is really precious. And there are people who care about me... and are worth caring about. She suddenly remembers something. JESS Oh God. That reminds me. RICHARD What? JESS You don't mind shaving yourself, do you? I wanted to pick up some more of my things before my group meets tonight. RICHARD Your goddess group? JESS I've never missed a meeting. RICHARD Miss one tonight. I'll say you had a headache. JESS The ladies might think you had some ulterior motive. RICHARD Smart ladies. She smiles at him, then hurries out of the bathroom. THE BEDROOM - LATER Richard is in his pants and shirt now. Watching Jess finish dressing. He has some left-over streaks of shaving foam on his face. She watches him watch her. Then, playfully, comes over and wipes the foam off his face with a pair of panties. JESS Don't worry, these are straight out of the suitcase. Can't have you going around like that all night. He laughs. And heads for the door. JESS Where are you going? RICHARD You have a way of making a grown man thirsty. INT. EVELYN'S LIVING ROOM - LATE Richard roams through the living room, coke in hand. He idly scans one of the boxes, notices it's filled with photos. He stoops down, starts going through them. A LARGE PHOTO of a little girl with her mom. He looks at the back. "Jessica, six years old." Smiles. He looks cursorily at a few others. Then picks up another pile. Sees ANOTHER PHOTO of the same little girl, with her mom and a man. They're standing in front of Mile High Stadium, people milling around behind them. Snow on the ground. Richard flips the picture over. On the back: "Jess's first Bronco game, Nov. 1984. With mom and dad." RICHARD Dad? But 'dad' is NOT Howard Meredith!!! This dad is a small, balding man. Richard digs through the box. Finds an old customized Christmas card. The top half is a photo with a twelve-year old Jess, her mom and the same man. "Greetings from the Barrys. Eleanor, Tom and Jess." Stunned, Richard drops the Christmas card back into the box. This can't be. Suddenly, the door bursts open. It's Jess. Oblivious. JESS Did you see my purse--? RICHARD (accusing) Who are the Barrys? She sees what Richard's been rummaging through. Turns ashen. JESS The Barrys?... My-- my mother and father. RICHARD Father?! Who's Howard Meredith then? JESS My step-father. He married my mother after my father died. People don't understand when I tell them I live with my step-father. They think it's weird. So I tell them he's my fath-- He grabs her hard, angrily, by the elbow. RICHARD You said it was your mother who died. Was that a lie?! Was it?! He's close to hitting her. She looks up at him like a frightened deer. JESS My mother and father died... please don't... He catches himself. Stops. Feels the trembling rage inside him, and hates himself for it. He backs off. JESS I don't know, I've been so confused, Richard. That's why I go to this group. Those women know how I feel, how I want to live. Like you do. RICHARD I don't know shit. Or are you just too young to notice? (calming) You better get going. JESS I don't have to go. RICHARD Go! She wipes her eyes dry. Tries to pull herself together. JESS Will you be here later? He doesn't answer. But she gives him a quick kiss anyway, then leaves. Richard sits silently for a moment. Finally, he gets up, picks up a phone. Punches in a number. RICHARD Is Hector there? (muffled voice) I need him to check something for me... EXT. RICHARD'S HOUSE - SUNSET He gets out of his car, heads for the front door. Seated on the steps is none other than... Lauren. He stops short. RICHARD What are you doing here? LAUREN You weren't answering any of your phones... I figured you'd eventually show up here. Thankfully, alone. RICHARD What does that mean? She gets up, approaches him. LAUREN I didn't want Glades or some other cop to tell you. Karl Rampton's body was found in his car. He was shot. Apparently with the same gun that fired at you and Hector. RICHARD Jesus... and I thought he was the one... LAUREN I know you did. Where's your client, Richard? RICHARD Come on, she was with her own clients this morning. LAUREN Glades checked. She never showed up at her Pasadena appointments. Richard is dumbstruck. He doesn't know how to respond. LAUREN The only latents in your kitchen are yours and hers. (beat) Besides yourself, who knew you were going to Rampton's? RICHARD Hector and... He stops himself as soon as he remembers. LAUREN ... Miss Meredith? Isn't she around whenever you have a close brush with the eternal these days? He takes a deep breath. Walks past her to the door. RICHARD Want a beer? LAUREN Thanks. It is hot out here. INT. RICHARD'S KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER Richard and Lauren, sipping on beers, at the kitchen counter. Richard is anxious, and a bit agitated. Lauren seems to genuinely want to solve his problems. LAUREN Let's speculate for a second. RICHARD Forget it. LAUREN Let's say... Rampton was going to tell you the truth. That he never went to Goodman's that night. If... and I use that term advisedly... if that would have implicated your client-- RICHARD I know where you're headed, Lauren. I'm not stupid. LAUREN So who else should be a suspect? Richard doesn't answer. She gets up, leaves her beer half- finished. LAUREN You should talk to your client. Suddenly, a thought hits Richard. Like a lightning bolt. RICHARD First I need to talk to her father. LAUREN Don't tell me you think he's the culprit now. RICHARD No, it's just... I need to clear up some things about Jess's past. Lauren sighs, and moves past him. Puts her hand on his shoulder, like she did before. Only this time, she leaves it longer. And he moves his own hand up, to grasp hers. RICHARD Thanks, Lauren. She smiles, almost in resignation. And leaves. Richard sits there, contemplating the beer bottles... and his options. Finally, he reaches for the phone. Dials. RICHARD Has Hector called yet?... EXT. MEREDITH NEIGHBORHOOD - EVENING Richard parks his car, walks resolutely to the front door. Rings the door bell. No answer. He tries the door. Locked. He moves around to the side. Notices a light on in the garage. It beckons him. He hurries across the yard and enters through an open side door. INT. THE GARAGE The place is nearly totally bare. But on the workbench... there's an opened PACKAGE OF CANDLES. He picks one up. It's identical to the one he found in his kitchen. Then he sees a door to the rear. It leads outdoors, into the back yard. He takes it outside. Twenty feet away is a 10'x12' STORAGE SHED. Its door too is open. INT. STORAGE SHED Richard enters. Turns on the light switch. The floor is clear, but PACKING BOXES ring three of the walls. Richard heads right for them. Spots an Oscar-like TROPHY in one of them. It reads: "Best Actress, Class of '96, Jess Barry". He puts it down. Begins to rummage. High school books, albums. All of it Jess's stuff. EXT. MEREDITH DRIVEWAY - CONTINUOUS A car's tires roll to a stop in driveway. BACK TO RICHARD Moving to another box. He pulls out: A YEARBOOK - EVERGREEN HIGH, CLASS OF 1996. He thumbs through hurriedly. Pages fly by. Pictures. He goes for the B's. "Jessica Barry. Sweet Jess. Girl Most Likely to Succeed. Drama Club." He thumbs through... Finds a page on the Drama Club. A picture of Jess and A BOY playing Romeo and Juliet. In the picture, they don't look like they're acting though; they really look in love. P.O.V. - DRIVEWAY Moving to the garage. BACK TO RICHARD His gaze shifts to another yearbook photo: the whole DRAMA CLUB posing, with the faculty director: none other than... HOWARD MEREDITH, standing next to Jess, his arm cozy around her. A bit younger, but definitely him. Richard puts the book down. Shaken. He's not her father. Not her step-father. But her high-school drama teacher! He clenches his eyes shut. Throws the book against the wall. That's when he spots several old newspaper clippings: "COUPLE DIES IN FIERY ACCIDENT"... "GAS EXPLOSION ON BOAT CLAIMS LIVES OF SID AND APRIL BARRY". Richard's eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. Suddenly, from behind him: MEREDITH (O.S.) What are you doing here? Richard spins around. There's Meredith, a can of gasoline in one hand; a .38 in the other. RICHARD I came to talk to you. MEREDITH It's too late for talk. RICHARD That gun... that's what you used, isn't it? Meredith gives him a disdainful look, but says nothing. Very methodically, he starts pouring the gasoline onto the boxes and books. Richard picks up one of the candles. RICHARD It was your candle in my house, wasn't it? Not Jess's. Meredith finishes off the last of the gasoline, tosses the can. And then looks at the candle. MEREDITH Everything that's mine is hers. (then up at Richard) Well, I hope you and Jess had safe sex. RICHARD What we had is none of your business. MEREDITH My daughter's business is my business. RICHARD She's not your daughter! Or even your step-daughter. What did you, fall in love with her when you were her drama teacher? After she wrote her great play? MEREDITH No, before. RICHARD I suppose you taught her rock climbing. MEREDITH No, she taught me. Everything isn't always what it seems. Meredith looks down at the boxes. His eyes are glazed over. MEREDITH She's always needed a steadying hand in her life. I shaped her. I molded her. I gave her her vision. Something her small-minded parents couldn't. RICHARD So their accident wasn't so accidental, was it? Meredith smiles, as much as admitting so. RICHARD But then Rampton came along. MEREDITH She thought Rampton could provide a new vision... But he was too young. Like you. RICHARD And Goodman? And Evelyn? MEREDITH Goodman was a horrible influence. Worse than Rampton. Evelyn was even worse. A 'good and tender' friend... RICHARD A little too tender? MEREDITH At times. She was the one with Goodman that night. She swore she wouldn't say anything. (rueful) But... she was weakening. RICHARD Like Jess is now. You know she's not coming back this time. MEREDITH Of course she is. After I destroy all this, no one will know we're not as we seem. He grabs a matchbook off a work table. RICHARD I will. MEREDITH No, I'm afraid you won't. He aims the gun at Richard. Richard has to talk. To say something. Anything. RICHARD You're wrong about Jess. She's not coming back. She's leaving you for me. MEREDITH She can't. She'll always need someone like me. (off Richar's puzzled expression) Come now. You have to know what I mean: a FATHER figure. But then... I suppose that's what you are too. The truth stings. Richard doesn't know what to say. Meredith lights the match. RICHARD Don't do anything insane. MEREDITH But I already have, haven't I? He tosses it at the doused boxes. Instantly, flames shoot up. MEREDITH I'm sorry, Mister Byers. As Meredith aims the gun at him, Richard SHOVES one of the boxes into Meredith. RAMMING it into his knee. The gun FIRES wildly. Meredith stumbles back. Richard charges into him. They fall to the floor, a mere few feet from the burning boxes, whose flames now lap against the wall. Richard manages to push Meredith's gun-hand up against the flames. But his hand is in it too. The heat sears at both of them. Who's going to last longer? Finally... Meredith screams, and drops the gun. Richard lets go too. They both roll away from the flames, grasping their scorched hands. Meredith grabs Jess's trophy. Richard grabs the gun, which is engulfed in the flames. But the metal is so scorched, he can't hold on. As he turns back to Meredith... ... the trophy comes crashing down on his neck. He slumps down on the floor. Meredith grabs an old rag and picks the hot gun up with it. But it's too hot to shoot Richard with. He looks back down at Richard, who's motionless, and runs out. Gun in hand. Richard opens his eyes, and struggles to his feet. But he's weaker than he thought and falls to the floor again. The flames surround him. MEREDITH races outside with the bundled gun. Jumps into the red sportscar. INT. HECTOR'S CAR - CONTINUOUS Driving. Looking for an address in the dark. RICHARD manages to get to his feet again. Totters through the flames and out of the garage. THE SPORTSCAR starts up. Its wheels spin madly as he backs it wildly down the driveway, where it... ... SMASHES into Hector's car, just now turning into the driveway. Hector's head cracks into his side window. He stumbles out, groggily. Meredith is merely shaken. He straightens himself. Then jams his foot on the gas pedal. He's going right for Hector! Richard comes out from the shed. Sees it all happening. RICHARD Hector! Watch it! Hector reaches for a handgun, but can't move fast enough. The sportscar is on top of him now. Hector hurls himself out of the way... but not completely. The fender clips his feet, sends him cartwheeling onto the grass. Meredith's car speeds off. Richard runs down the driveway. As Hector struggles to his feet. RICHARD You all right? HECTOR Yeah... Maybe a little break here and there. He's some nasty fella, huh? Richard sees Meredith's tail lights. RICHARD He's going after Jess. I've got to follow him. HECTOR We, boss. (at his gun) I wouldn't trust you with one of these. RICHARD Okay. Richard races off toward his own car, which is parked nearby. He starts it, and pulls it up to Hector, who hops in. The wheels spin violently and the car takes off. INT. RICHARD'S CAR - MOMENT LATER Richard peering as far ahead as he can, looking for Meredith. Finally, he sees a pair of tail lights turn to the right. HECTOR He's heading for the freeway. Richard speeds up. Makes the right. EXT. FREEWAY Meredith's banged-up sportscar passing others, weaving in and out of traffic. Richard's car doing likewise. INT. RICHARD'S CAR Richard, intent. Hector, on the phone. HECTOR How the hell should I know where we're going? We're following the guy. Yeah, just look for us. Jeez. He hangs up the phone. Frustrated. HECTOR Cops. Richard switches lanes hard. Sending Hector reeling. HECTOR Take it easy, man. RICHARD I take it easy and he kills Jess. Like he did all the others. HECTOR The man is not her-- RICHARD I know all about them. HECTOR How'd you--? RICHARD Her yearbook. HECTOR She lived with her aunt for a while after her parents died. (beat) You know about the guy she was going with in high school, a guy she acted with...? Richard switches lanes again. Hector rolls with the flow this time. RICHARD I saw his picture. HECTOR Kid died two weeks after graduation. Drug overdose. 'Course, he'd never been known to partake before that. RICHARD Add another one to the list. HECTOR Meredith took over. Took her away from her aunt when she was seventeen. Barely three years ago. And brought her out here. RICHARD What about Meredith's wife? Did she die from leukemia? HECTOR If you call her car running off a cliff leukemia. Six weeks after Jess's graduation no less. (beat) Guy was busy, huh? RICHARD Guy still is, Hector. MEREDITH Looking at his rear-view mirror. Spots Richard's car behind him. Makes a sharp bee-line for the far right lane. RICHARD follows hard right, almost clipping a car in the middle lane. MEREDITH takes the next exit. RICHARD barely makes the right lane in time, swerves off and follows. EXT. SUBURBAN ROAD - MOMENTS LATER The two cars speed along, about a half-block apart. Meredith looks back again. Unexpectedly, SLOWS HIS CAR to a crawl. Richard can't understand. Pulls up directly behind him. HECTOR Careful, man. He's pulling somethin'. Suddenly, Meredith pulls his car onto the shoulder, like he's having car problems. Puzzled, Richard stays in his lane, cautiously coming up abreast of Meredith. Looks over. Meredith smiles at him. Then, lightning fast, WHIPS his car into Richard's lane, RAMMING fenders -- like the Ben-Hur charioteers. He rams Richard's car across the dividing line, into oncoming traffic. Richard tries frantically to steer away from an oncoming garbage truck. He succeeds, but now he's heading right into a group of SKATEBOARDERS -- who all manage to dive away, though some of their boards get mangled under Richard's tires. They surround Richard's car. Screaming and cursing angrily. Meanwhile, Meredith speeds off. MEREDITH looking into his rear-view mirror. Satisfied, but looking grim. He's got other business to attend to. RICHARD tries to steer his car, haltingly, out of the angry crowd. A SKATEBOARDER holds up his shattered board. SKATEBOARDER Look what you did, dude. A second skateboarder grabs one of the mangled boards and rams it onto the hood of Richard's car. Another by-now meaningless dent. Richard glances up the road. No sign now of Meredith's tail-lights. He has to make a move. Suddenly... P-TOW! P-TOW! Two shots fired by Hector into the ground, sends the skateboarders scurrying for cover. HECTOR (to Richard) Well, what're you waitin' for? Richard floors it. In a beat, he's up to seventy in a thirty- five zone. And peering ahead for any sign of Meredith. There he is! Turning left way up the road. It takes Richard a while, but he gets to the turn. Only to be waved down by a GUARD at a security kiosk of a gated community. RICHARD The guy who just came through here is a killer. GUARD Mebbe so, but at least he knew where he was going. How 'bout you? RICHARD There's a house having a woman's get- together tonight. Where is it? (guard won't answer) Dammit! He's gonna kill her! GUARD You are certifiable, you know that? RICHARD Hector... show him how certifiable. Hector leans over, aims his gun at the startled guard. HECTOR Where's the meeting, man? WITH MEREDITH Pulling his car into a packed driveway. He gets out. Hefts his gun in his hand and strides up toward the door. WITH RICHARD Driving up a cul-de-sac. He stops. Frustrated. He took a wrong turn somewhere. He peels rubber as he backs up and continues. Screaming down the road. INT. HOUSE - NIGHT A dozen women seated informally around the modern living room. Jess is on the floor, beside the floor-to-ceiling picture window, teary-eyed. A woman, the GROUP LEADER, is talking to her, intensely. GROUP LEADER (points to her eyes) It's so wonderful to see truth pouring out of your eyes now, spilling out over your entire body. It's healing you. Can you feel it? Jess is in a teary reverie. She nods. JESS But what do I do now? GROUP LEADER Don't do. Un-do. And you've already started that process. You're regaining your will-- BAM! The door BURSTS OPEN and Meredith barges in, gun in hand. The women SCREAM. Jess stands up to him. Now Meredith stops. His look turns plaintive. MEREDITH You weren't going to leave me? (she doesn't answer) After all I've done for you. After all we've done together. JESS (bravely) I am... leaving you. MEREDITH No, listen. It's not too late. We can start over again. Someplace else. Better than here... GROUP LEADER She's not afraid of you anymore. You can't infect her-- MEREDITH (suddenly indignant) Infect!!?? Me, infect? Meredith FIRES in her general direction. The bullet hits the wall. All the women flop onto the floor for dear life. EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS Richard's car comes up the street. He sees the house, with all the cars parked in front. And the red sportscar. He whips into the driveway, stops the car, then looks up through the large picture window. RICHARD'S POV Meredith pointing a gun at Jess. Hector opens the car door. Gets out to take aim. It takes forever. RICHARD Well? HECTOR He's too close to her. RICHARD Shit! He jams his foot on the gas pedal, driving the car up the long lawn, with the passenger door still wide open, and Hector left behind at the curb. HECTOR Hey! What are you doin'??!! INT. HOUSE Meredith, his gun-hand trembling with rage. MEREDITH Come back, Jessica. JESS Put the gun down. Please, Howard. Tears well up in Meredith's eyes. MEREDITH So this is what it's come to? Howard? Not father? JESS Please... MEREDITH That's what those other men... these crazy women... have done. Made you lose all respect. He raises the gun toward her face. But she's not afraid. She's ready. He pulls back on the trigger... slowly. MEREDITH Whenever anyone got in our way... it only made us closer. But now... you really mean it... (beat) Good bye, Jessica. He's about to shoot when-- CRASH!! The huge PLATE-GLASS WINDOW shatters into a thousand pieces as RICHARD'S CAR comes hurtling through the air. Right into the living room. Frozen, startled faces everywhere. Especially Meredith's. The car hits him squarely and drives him up against the rock fireplace. Crunching him, crushing him. The car rebounds backward a foot or so. Meredith slumps to the floor. Jess rushes to him. He's barely alive. JESS I'm sorry. MEREDITH (on his last breath) No need... Find someone like me... Find him... Richard jumps out of the car. SIRENS approaching. Hector limps into the house. Marvels at the wreckage inside. Richard races to Meredith. RICHARD Meredith, you're dying. You've got to tell me the truth. Meredith nods weakly. RICHARD Did you kill all those people? Jess's parents? Your wife? Everyone else? Meredith looks up at Jess... lovingly now. Then back to Richard, almost fiercely. MEREDITH Every... god... damn... one... And he dies. JESS No! No! RICHARD You don't need to play the father- daughter game anymore. It's over. She turns to Richard. With the despairing eyes of a child. Richard understands now. Something has been terribly wrong inside Jess. Always. GROUP LEADER (from behind) She could never break away from him. RICHARD (to Jess) Tell me one thing, Jess. Did you know... about the killings? JESS It... it would've been like turning in my own father. RICHARD I was next on the list, wasn't I? (she nods) Why? JESS Because... you were breaking us apart. Richard has a terrible thought. RICHARD And who was more afraid of that happening? Him... or you? JESS (a long stare) Me. Several women come over to comfort her. Richard can't look at her. He walks away, out of the house with Hector. JESS No, Richard! Him! Him! Richard doesn't turn around. He walks past the arriving police. INT. COURTHOUSE HALLWAY - DAY Richard waiting anxiously in the hallway. He gazes out a nearby window. Heavy rain falls outside. A door opens. Lauren comes out. Goes right to him. LAUREN Well, her new lawyer did his job. The judge agreed to the plea bargain. Six years probation for accessory after the fact. If she goes through with the counseling. RICHARD She needs it. She smiles at him. A hint of sadness. LAUREN You're still hooked on her. RICHARD Actually, I'm not. Richard gives her a long look. Then turns back to the window. Nods at the rain. RICHARD It should be turning to snow up at your sister's cabin. LAUREN If you want to get away by yourself for a while, it's empty. RICHARD I've been away by myself already. For too long. (a tentative smile) Besides, I'd need somebody to show me around up there. How to light the fireplace... things like that. She smiles back at him. He doesn't look away. They start to walk off together. Lauren is almost buoyant. LAUREN Oh, I meant to tell you, not everything burned in the fire. The police recovered a play Jess wrote in high school. RICHARD (disinterested) Something as sick as that should have probably burned too... parents who kill their kid. Lauren stops dead in her tracks. LAUREN Richard, it's about a kid who kills her parents. Richard can't believe it. His head swimming. RICHARD Oh, Christ! Then she... (trails off) Jesus, I can't believe it. (excruciating beat) It was her, not him. And Meredith lied for her, not the other way around. To his dying confession. LAUREN Want my opinion? I think it was different for each murder. One time him, one time her, another time maybe both of them. (beat) Bottom line, I don't think we'll ever know. Richard looks out the window. RICHARD She could start this all over again, couldn't she? EXT. HAWAIIAN MANSION - SEASIDE - DAY A glorious day. In the driveway, a RED SPORTSCAR. INT. MANSION Jess is massaging someone we can't see. MAN'S VOICE That's tragic. How old were you? JESS Fifteen. Almost sixteen. PULL BACK to reveal... A SIXTY YEAR-OLD MAN with silver hair, under a large towel. He moans at her touch. She stops massaging. Her hand reaches for the CRYSTAL PENDANT hanging around her neck. She fingers it. MAN It's as if you never had a father. JESS Yes... It is. Kind of. Jess smiles down at him. Ever so sweet and innocent. And goes back to her massage. THE END
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