a Spring like Day
By Blake Habermann and Stephen Mosblech
Originally broadcast on WNYZ in March of 2010
Subsequently aired on numerous international independent stations.
Sound Design & Editing by Oliver Input
SKOOGS OFFICE IN THE TENDERLOIN DISTRICT OF SAN FRANCISCO
SKOOG: Another rainy night in the Tenderloin, gutters choked with the filth of a million cigarette butts and sad stories, overflowing sewage puddles the whores wove through like tight rope walkers, tottering in their bulging heels towards corners and alleys where they ply their wares. One of them had slithered up here, long slim and strung out no doubt, staring me down from behind a smouldering dunhill she’d picked out of the near empty pack on my desk. I ought to clock this dame and quick just to shut her up, god knew out of what hole she sashayed lipstick gash mouth and pins built for strikes. Better to put a dame like this horizontal, whether for pain or pleasure. She’d mentioned a case, seemed like a cakewalk, but the worst ones always seemed that way. I thought I’d seen her in town, some underground parking lot where girls from Nebraska or some other desperate western state turn tricks for payola but no she had class, or what passed for it around here, and that meant the one thing I was after, and hopefully a bit of it. Money.
PAULA: ...and that’s why I need your assistance Mr Skoog.
SKOOG: This ain’t the boy scouts of America, lady. Let them help you if you need “assistance”.
PAULA: If they could help me I’d of been calling them for the past three days with no answer.
I’m not here to play games with you, Mr. Skoog.
SKOOG: Well me neither, pleasure to meet you and all miss...
PAULA: Call me Paula
SKOOG: Thank you very much Paula I’ve got a couple real cases to take care of so if you don’t mind.
PAULA: One thousand up front, another on delivery.
SKOOG: Hmmmm, now I’m getting concerned,about as concerned as a DISMISSIVE METAPHOR.
PAULA: You don’t understand, you have to help me.
SKOOG: No you don’t understand sweetie, you got my number you must know what I do. Now what makes you think I’ll go chasing after runaways for a lousy two grand? Police station’s down the street, they’ll do it for free.
PAULA: But they ask a lot more questions.
SKOOG: Yeah. I’ve got a few of my own. Who’s the girl?
PAULA: My sister. She’s in danger, her husband is a very bad man.
SKOOG: Whoa whoa whoa I might not be the cops Missy but I don’t go taking grown women away from their husbands, if you’ve got some family beef don’t bring me in on it.
PAULA: Her life is in danger
SKOOG: Then go there yourself, whaddya need me for? If she’s in danger with her old man go spirit her away.
PAULA: I can’t. She told me I can’t. She told me if I came, he’d...I don’t know something bad will happen.
SKOOG: What did she tell you exactly?
PAULA: I got this letter. I hadn’t heard from her in ten years and I got this letter, she needs my help, and I need yours...
SKOOG: Well, suppose I did take the case, which I may not, where can I find her?
PAULA: Great Falls, Montana.
SKOOG: (chuckles) Montana? - You got the wrong guy lady, What do I look like to you, a cowboy? go find some hack down in chinatown, two large for a trip to Montana and some family feud? With a wildcard dame who might break out for the territories, plus a husband? I ain’t Sigmund Freud or social services Missy, so once again thank you very much for your time but here’s the door...
PAULA: Three thousand.
PAULA: Three’s all I have. I swear.
SKOOG: Stop bs-ing me, I know how you know me, how you heard about me, from Ricki down at the Del-Ray, entertaining insurance salesman in for the long weekend. How much you go for a pop?
PAULA: What does that have to do with anything?
SKOOG: C'mon, how much? Huh?
PAULA: For God’s sake Mr. Skoog, four thousand if you insist just please.
SKOOG: satisfied. Alright, now, alright, I just got new carpets don’t get them all salty, I’ll look into your little problem, see what I can find, and maybe, just maybe I’ll get her out of there.
PAULA: Thank you Mr. Skoog, thank you so much, here is her letter,
SKOOG: I hope that isn’t the only paper you’ll be handing over...
PAULA: Here is half of the money, you get the rest upon your return - with Rhoda. I know I can count on you.
LETTER FROM RHODA
SKOOG: Rhoda Pulaski...She wasn’t hard to find. Runaways never are. An hour after I pulled into Great Falls that hole on earth twenty four hours hard drive from Turk Street - I’d staked my car out in front of where she lived. I'd left San Francisco before dawn and hit the wilderness that night. As I sped the towns blew by - eventually woods, devouring all traces of humanity. Burley, Rupert, Aberdeen, Dubois for gas, fresh pack of smokes, some trash coffee and to piss out my kidneys before I hit Beaverhead National Forest, a yawning maw of wrinkled foothills and dusty plains, up through Cascade and finally into a wide nothing of highway that lead right to her front door. A sense of growing dread chewed into me... this rush of wind and twisted trees, driving me forward towards, what? I didn't know. I had the address, I had a description, now to rescue the girl from what Paula’d called “this very bad man.”
March 17, 11:45 pm: Chevy G20 cargo van, 94’ model white exterior with blacked out windows pulled into their driveway, 864 3rd Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana. One male, heavy set, mid 40’s, presumably the husband, exits vehicle and enters the Pulaski residence.
March 18 4pm: Nothing abnormal, no activity so far.
March 18 9:30 pm: Swearing and fighting, standard domestic abuse scene - shattering plates, the whole nine. Male takes several black duffels out of garage - stows them in van. What IS in those bags? No sign of the girl except silence.
March 19 1:30 am: Woke, loud, pulsing drone. Coming from house. Noted laughter/screams. Suddenly this heavy feeling in my guts and I have to puke like lead sickness. Keep asking myself as I stare into my own puke dripping off the dash: what the hell am I doing out here in the middle of nowhere freezing my ass off? I dreamed my kidneys were failing and I saw Vanna crawling with centipedes from every hole in her.
March 19 6:00 am: Woke with a start: male departs premises in van. A quiet day unfolds - like you’d never see in San Francisco and the sunset. At least there’s the natural beauty enough to make the shit [piss] coffee worth it in this hicktown.
March 20 10:46pm: [Loud screech of tires heard from a distance] White van careens up driveway whining in like a missile, nearly crashing headlong into the house. Frank is accompanied by a short fat pig of a man. Laughing, Piggy gives Frank an envelope, after counting the money Frank stops, looks at the man, and cold cocks him, he slumps to the ground. Frank enters house, leaving the man to crawl away - like a mewling piglet baby. At this point, Rhoda hasn’t been out of the house in three days, and I’ll be thinking all night of Vanna’s soft, nether lips and those centipedes.
March 21 5.30 pm
The blinds parted a moment and half a face peeked out. Eyes on me. The magnetic almost pyschic wave. Four days since I located this dame. Still seems like an easy collect once I make contact, but something stinks, sweet sick stink of bad news coming. And maybe it was, but now, I needed some sleep.
Sound for time passage, crickets, morning sounds
Sound of knocking on car window
SKOOG: And then there it was, the face from the window, the girl from the letter, Rhoda, Rhoda Pulaski, in the end, she’d come to me...
RHODA: What are you doing here? What are you doing in front of my house?
She was shivering in a barely there nightgown and house slippers long past worn through. Clutching her small body with thin white hands in the predawn dark.
RHODA: I’ve seen you, for the past three days I’ve seen you, what are you doing here? What do you want? Who ARE you?
So I gave her the run down, in a number of ways, and she sat and listened, right there but seeming a mile away in my ‘84 Desoto’s passenger seat. Her body smelled of menthol cigarettes and knockoff chanel, and suddenly the day seemed warmer, lighter somehow...
RHODA: Come and get me? And take me where?
SKOOG: Back home, where it's safe, to your sister Paula.
RHODA: What do you know about safe? You should get out of here. Just go.
SKOOG: Listen, your sister hired me to do a job here, I plan to do it. I saw your letter - he’s drugging you, you’re afraid and he’s unstable, I saw that much myself.
RHODA: The letter was a mistake, you don't understand anything not about Frank or me or anything, you’re so stupid like some little baby.
SKOOG: Fine, have it your way, just talk into the mic and tell me if you're coming with me or not, and if you aren't at least make up some damn good reason so I can comfort myself at night when I think about the 2 grand you made me miss out on.
RHODA: I can’t believe I’m are standing here talking you should be running for your life John Skoog and praying to God and I should be back inside. It’s exactly like he said he showed me a picture yesterday of you on our living room floor and you had a black eye and now you wanted to come here. What did you come here for like he said I need to go back inside now.
SKOOG: Rhoda…wait. Just wait a second.
SCREECHING OF TIRES THAT SIGNALS THE ARRIVAL OF FRANK
FRANK: Get your hands off my wife.
Rhoda’s death, pulaski’s living room
Frank I can't feel my hands or my feet
could you loosen the ropes
my feet are so numb? - RHODA said
You don't need your feet Rhoda you're never going to leave this room and as like a rope-bondage princess on the verge of her ultimate experience when everyone who is watching can feel your insides melt because you can't even squirm you’re never going to leave this room- hey you shit-for brains detective - whaddayid say his name was?
He said John. John Skoog or something.
Well that's a pretty name John Skoog -ooog you also look a princess dollface - hands, feet and neck bound on my floor like a Christmas present - why don't you take your shoes off you're not going you’re anywhere either [pause, footsteps] you like looking at her flesh huh? like that? except the way I pounded your face in is any light getting in that pinhole of an eye - oh wow that's a swollen eye look at how swollen his right eye is Rhoda
Yeah Frank his eye is swollen.
- I wonder if he can see you and the way I tied up those tits? JESUS look at em JOHN if you could ride a camel into that eye you'd be in heaven John. BUT instead of HEAVEN JOHN you thought you could spy on my wife and not come into my house and feel what life in my house is it is and how we live in GREAT FALLS without becoming a part of this life like the retarded son I never had?
He was just trying to help me Frank- RHODA is saying
Yeah you need help like another hole in your head Rhoda which is gonna make you feel pretty awful pretty frigging quick. FRANK RESPONDS
OH MY GOD - RHODA can't help but groan
Help me I want it to end
I can’t take any more.
Can you feel Frank's cold hands around your throats while life crawls up your spine like a steak knife and I sever your jugular and it spurts all over our nasty little friend over there do you want that to happen baby
do it frank
say you want it to happen rhoda
yes frank cut me open
you're gonna bleed rhoda
bleed me frank everything i've done i can't take it anymore
mmmuhmmm mmm HELP you psycho - you killed her why did you kill her you’ll never get away with Frank Pulaski
SHUT IT IT JOHN
I’m gonna feed you some pills now baby -
baby is going to take the pills now or John I will take this bloodied knife and ram it so far up your no no spot do you understand me you will forget everything that happened since you came to Great Falls right now or I will kill everything you know - you have seen before john and you will see me again now forget and swallow your pill john skoog.
SKOOG’s office SF beat up desk, couch that’s coming apart against the opposite wall. He sits in reverie, feet on desk mind glued on memory, eyes fixed out the window - overlooking a dismal street - he sat down some 15 minutes ago he is a zombie - whores and slow cars glide through the street below.
SKOOG: Raining - it’s always raining in the Tenderloin, eked out 15 years in this racket on infidelity cases mostly - snooping vice and the soiled underthings of wives and bankers and louts and its where I’d like to die one day an old man with a little cash in the bank - last two weeks night after sucking night with cold sweats its not the whores ghosting in heels after other Johns on the street with their mincing, fat jelly hips or this case I should be surveilling: no my thoughts are zeroed on Great falls - may I never see it again, may everyone in the world be happy - but those fingers, scabbed and fetid,, oozing who knows what disease forced down my throat making me eat from his fist and said “Baby you’re gonna eat those pills and forget now”. THAT SCUMSUCKER. OK FRANK OK but I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna wear your face. Of course he’d got the jump on me while I was casing the dame and he’d just slit her throat and her head lolled innocent except for the blood and her eyes were begging for mercy. I'd got an eyeful of his hands alright while he was working the gag out of my mouth and another of her tits while she sat there dead while I swallowed those tranqs and a third eyeful of his face scorched as with radiation into the front of my brain - I will kill you FRANK PULASKI if I ever see that FREAK on sight I will shoot him in the balls - yeah if you don’t piss myself and run in the other direction. Be greatful you’re alive John Skoog, be greatful there are 1,137 miles between you and there and you will never see Montana again.
[Gets up, takes out letter]
AND THIS GOD AWFUL LETTER SHE WROTE HER SISTER
DEAR PAULA long time blah blah blah PAULA
[BEAT RHODA’s voice]
Paula, I don’t know if he’s drugging the food or if I’m just loosing my mind and I should be put in a hospital with people to care for me but God half the nights laying there I can’t move my body and there are vast oceans of color in the sky and FRANK is whispering horrible things into my soul and I see visions of him eating my flesh
OR I see visions of me with knives sticking in and he his hunched over and black grease is spurting out of my eyes or a fight because I lost his jeans and he beats me almost unconscious and I wake up Paula and I’m on the couch and I can see these visions right now and the television is on and Frank is still at work and I’ve lost track of what day it is and I really need some kind of help and ever since I left home the things I’ve done… I don’t know I don’t think anything can help me and I don’t know if I’m really writing this letter and I can feel him sniffing through my brain and he knows I’m writing it Paula god that’s the awful thing you’ll help me you always did I love you and hope you are ok and happy.
VANNA ENTERS SHE GLIDES LIKE A WHORE OFF THE STREET SHE IS A MEDIUM CLASS CALL GIRL SHE HAS KNOWN SKOOG 4 YEARS NOW; HE IS A REGULAR.
Light knock at door it creaks open.
SKOOG: WHAT IS IT WHO’S THERE? I’VE GOT A GUN.
VANNA- Put your hands where I can see them detective.
SKOOG: Vanna - geez am I glad its you.
VANNA: Yes silly its me - who’d you think it was, the boogey man?
SKOOG: I’m just a little on edge tonight.
VANNA: I’ll bet baby. I haven’t seen you for a while, you must need a vacation
SKOOG: Whatever you say Honey, you’re the expert. A little vacation would be nice.
VANNA: Whatever I say John? You’re a sweetheart. Now take your pants off and take out that big, fat, wallet. Oh, You are happy to see me, and you are so tense.
SKOOG: You’re right Vanna I need help. I should get help.
VANNA: Relax. mmmm What have he here?
SKOOG: Oh Yeah Right there.
V: How's the little detective?
POTENTIALLY JOIN THESE TWO SCENES?
SKOOGS OFFICE SAN FRANCISCO Vanna, argument.
SKOOG: Keep your bra on Vanna I just need someone to talk to tonight.
VANNA: Suit yourself John Skoog. Price is double for just talking.
SKOOG: As long as you sit there and look pretty. I just - I just can’t stop thinking about all the violence in the world, that people like Frank thrive in it Vanna; and that girl he cut open.
VANNA: Aww, did the big bad men in the world hurt my little detective? Why aren’t you touching me John?
SKOOG: It’s eating me up inside Vanna.
VANNA: Just feel this. Don’t you like that? Doesn’t it make you feel good?
SKOOG: I can’t Vanna. Not tonight. I’m sorry. I just hate myself for what happened out there.
VANNA: Baby can you forget Great Falls for 15 minutes? You called me to come over, now forget about it John...
SKOOG: What did you just say?
SKOOG: Tell me what you just said Vanna.
VANNA: I said you need to forget John about Great Falls and that girl Rhoda. You’re coming apart like a scared little mouse.
SKOOG: Forget? I bet you’d like that. I bet you would like if I take this gun and ram it down your throat Vanna and I’ll tell you about Frank and you feel your teeth breaking and your skull breaks and a bullet rips a nice clean tunnel through your spine and comes right out your anus you’d like that wouldn’t you?
VANNA: You don’t have balls detective. And you know what I’d love if you did. Maybe the best thing is we forget all about this little arrangement John. Forget you ever saw my pretty little face, forget you ever knew my number. There’s only two kinds of men in the world that are worth talking to John, the kind that never make a threat and kind that take you by the throat and do exactly what they say they will. Maybe your little friend Rhoda liked second type. Me I prefer women John - they’ve got more class. I’m walking out that door right now and you’ll never see me again.
SKOOG: You’ll be back two days from now, begging for comfort.
NARRATOR: Later that night asleep in at his desk.
FRANK: Do you remember John the sun swept days as a child when you felt a grandeur
the grandeur of god
the grandeur of angels and electricity oh you were momma’s little angel then John
FRANK: the cosmos and pulsars John in infinite expansion] swelling in your heart as if you were an actual thing John and the silent whispering of life’s secret became audible and the sun went black
SKOOG: The black sun
FRANK: And you woke
in the hospital and your mother was screaming for you to wake up and come back to her. And the first tremulous time you paid Vanna after you made love on your desk and she kissed you on the mouth; that same swimming of the perceptual world.
SKOOG (drugged or in dream trance): I remember Put the knife down Frank. I can’t feel my legs. You can have everything OK? I’ll forget Rhoda I’ll forget everything.
VANNA: That’s a good boy, John. It’s all just an illusion.
FRANK: Oh wow. Look John its VANNA this is gonna hurt but it’s gonna help too as I cut it out of your dreams and your meat.
SKOOG: Vanna? Is that you?
VANNA: Hello detective, you looking to party?
SKOOG: I knew you’d come back Vanna.
VANNA: I could never leave you stupid. Everything we had.
FRANK : This is so perfect John.
VANNA: I can take away all the bad things John.
SKOOG: I’ll do anything for you Vanna.
VANNA: Then cut me open detective. There are millions of larvae in me, cut me open so they can get out.
FRANK: Look at her John
SKOOG: Frank WILL YOU DO IT FOR ME?
FRANK: Isn’t she beautiful?
SKOOG: She’s so beautiful. I can see it pushing in globules out of her - can you husk her for me? She needs to shed her skin.
FRANK: I’m here to help you John. Say it Vanna.
VANNA (yielding, dissolving): Yes Frank cut me open I want to see god
SKOOG: Please FRANK
FRANK: Ohh John it’s always just yes Frank with these centipedes. And Vanna, help her John, help her by eating the larvae off of her liver after I’ve flayed her.
SKOOG: Yes Frank
(A ROARING BUZZ OF BLISS ROARING ATMOSPHER LIFE LOVE EVERYTHING)
FRANK: SEEE JOHN! You can help people too when you say yes.
JOHN SLEEP GROAN AND EATING
SKOOG: YES FrankI WANT TO HELP SO MUCH.
VANNA: This is everything I’ve ever wanted.
SKOOG (choking, puking): I can’t Vanna I’m sorry I just can’t.
VANNA (sounding disappointed) :Goodbye John.
SKOOG: VANNA don’t leave me.
SKOOG WAKES UP
SKOOG: I need a drink.
EPISODE 4 Scene 1
ANSWERING MACHINE: You have reached offices of John Skoog private detective, leave your name, number and a brief description of your case after beep:
Mr. Skoog this is Paula Rhoda Pulaski’s sister Paula its very urgent you contact me immediately I can be reached at 415 855 5556
Mr. Skoog you must call me immediately this is Paula - as in Rhoda Pulaski’s sister Paula Rhoda whom you watched die - I am in Great Falls I couldn’t stop myself I needed to get here and see the room Rhoda died where she breathed her last where you watched her die. It is urgent call me as soon as you get this.
I have been calling this machine and calling why don’t you answer I can almost feel you breathing in your chair stupefied and afraid to pick up the phone Mr. Skoog there is certain information I need to know about and I have information that you need to know your life is at stake call me immediately I do not have good cell phone reception in Great Falls but I have spoken with Frank - it was awful - and you must speak with me he is a very bad man and I do not think even though you saw him kill Rhoda you can imagine what he is capable of - the things he has done to me in the last three days (the things I have seen in the last three days) - call please I don’t have any one else this may be your last chance. I am staying at the Super 8 Motel in down town Great Falls you can also reach me there.
John you must call me back today immediately - have you been having black outs since Frank gave you those pills after he was cutting open Rhoda’s throat and you lay on the floor watching him and thinking you could marry her - it is very important feel behind your left ear is there a scar behind your left ear Mr. Skoog have you been having auditory hallucinations you must call me I fear that my life is in danger and I know now that it was your fault Rhoda was killed how could you have let that innocent girl die how could you sit there and watch with your sick mind and do what Frank told you to take pills . Please John you must call me by this time tomorrow my number is 415 855 5556
BEEP END OF NEW MESSAGES
EPISODE 4 SCENE 2
he sound of a nightstick striking bars
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG
Good morning ladies rise and shine you filthy sons of whores, Come on now everybody up everybody - you in the corner up.
A chorus of voices protests and fights break out. OLIE IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Rather than fights breaking out, I suggest male voice complain about the light, the hour, hungover voices, the like. I would mix those together and reverberate for some coherent ambience.
Ideally, Blake and Levi could do two different voices each.
SKOOG: As the flourescent light cut through my eyelids all I felt was the shrieking mass of pain that was my head. And for a moment I heard that scumsucker’s voice and felt him in there like the sick recombinant twistings of a retrovirus.
Frank Pulaski I’m gonna kill you.
Sound of a heavy slap
OFFICER: This ain’t the holiday inn tough guy, checkout time’s 6 am. On your feet.
SKOOG: I’m going.
OFFICER: Then get going buddy...
SKOOG: The drunk tank. At least I was inside instead of being rag dolled into the corner like all those wetbrains out there. The last thing I remembered was Vanna’s perfume stinking up my apartment after she slammed the door in my face and I needed a drink worse than hell. I’d polished off the emergency bottle of black velvet and stumbled out with a numb sick junky need in my guts to booze to death every living thought crawling through me. I must have gone on a bender, distorted fragments of memory came bubbling back: a neon parade of whores, jerking their tits as the cars slowed by, one fat african queen shrieking “come and get it honkies”, later puking kimchi out into the bay and a blonde’s sneer of revulsion over chemical white teeth while I tried to warn her about the insects swarming in her, when I tried to help her and her heel catches my right nut isn’t that just the worst, I screamed “Vanna VANNA I can do it now I promise,” then three crew-cut boys in blue taking me down, fresh out the academy types trying to half nelson me and squawking rookie-talk “please sir calm down” I bit and scratched but could barely stand much less stand up to these clowns, so now it was the drunk tank motel. The perfect “happy ending” to this whole nightmare shebang: I was lying in my own puke.
OFFICER: Move it or lose it pal.
SKOOG: When I’m good and ready.
OFFICER: Wait just a second, John Skoog right?
SKOOG: That’s what my Mother used to call me.
OFFICER: I’ll be damned First Lieutenant Johnathan Skoog retired, 5th precinct, homicide division?
SKOOG: I know you? Maybe rough up your sister at Prom or something?
OFFICER: Then we’d have you locked up for real, a permanent red flag on your file, she was barely out of diapers when you left the force, but my sergeant, Sergeant Moran, showed me your picture with the mayor back after you broke the Henfield murders, front page and everything...he still talks about it, even though all the other guys at the station thought you were a joke...
Biggest case in the Tenderloin Jackie always says, said you’d gone wire to wire til they put the guy away, then went private right after.
Can’t say I blame you, after what happened to those girls...
Ancient history. Say hi to Jackie for me...
Matter of fact I’m supposed to be looking for you today - on Jackie’s orders.
Supposed to drop by your office on account of some stiff we picked up down at the pier this morning, bloated something awful.
What’s that got to do with me? I ain’t no killer.
All Jackie said is you’d want to know her name was Vanna Laforge. Ugly sight John. Jackie said she used to be a real looker.
SKOOG: Vanna? Was she stabbed? Have you got anything on Frank Pulaski?
HITCH: I don’ know any Frank in connection with this case. She was strangled John, massive contusions, slivers of glass driven into the bone. Coroner’s guessing from a wine bottle - strangulation was done with a length of garden hose. We got a suspect in custody one Alston Travey – some low-life dealer, long record, screwing her for sure maybe her pimp – turned himself in couple hours ago - the filth he is spewing about what exactly happened - its hard to make sense of it John - sometimes a thing like this it’s hard to make sense of, hard to make sense of life period, you know what I mean, it’s so, whats that word, ephemeral. She a client of yours or something?
SKOOG: Something like that. Tell Jackie thanks would ya?
OFFICER: No problem, Skoog. You still gotta move outta here.
SKOOG: Yeah, I guess I do.
EPISODE 5 SCENE I
Sound of change dropping into a payphone
Sound of numbers being punched.
Sound of ringing phone
Come on...come on come on Paula, pick up – pick up the phone
BEEP BEEP BEEP. We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. This number has been disconnected.
Sound of SKOOG violently hanging up phone.
DAMMIT! Paula where are you? You saw the letter, you knew that psycho is dangerous, how could you be so stupid - because he killed your sister, what could you have hoped to achieve where I failed? Or were you tired of your sad whore’s life?
Maybe that explained it. Rhoda is dead, Vanna is dead and now you’re probably trussed and gagged upside down in some basement with his hands on your neck ready to bleed and there’s nothing left in me but this sagging pain in the hollow of my chest where I hear their voices.
And Vanna’s head bloated near bursting like from an adder’s bite puffed with wharf water, her lips curled back over teeth blackened by the death action of an ocean bacteria, her eyes had swelled out of their sockets and some kind of drill worm was infesting her skull, but I knew it was her, the second they pulled back the sheet in the morgue.
It’s funny. I could piss myself laughing how life takes one last shuddering wallop and the vast contraption yaws and clatters, and you feel what once reached all the way down to the molten iron core at the center of the earth is dissolved in horror, your beliefs and dreams, a corpse like Vanna is and now the tectonic plates that held your sad little life together ruptured and the whole continent is going to tear itself apart and sheer off into an abyss.
That’s what’s real, that’s what life is, no use pretending. Maybe you’re right Paula and you’ve got to charge after something cause otherwise its just more mucking filth cases in the Tenderloin and to kill Frank or be killed would be less flaccid.
I had to get a hold of myself, grab hold of something I could sink my teeth into. I stared like an idiot through the phone booth’s mottled plastic panels hoping some idea would dawn, the sun was rising over the bay, someone had scratched “All U need is L-U-V” the light made the letters glow. The clouds broke so amazingly your heart cracked and liquid golden shafts of light poured down in perfect honeyed droplets.
Only one solution remained: Find Frank Pulaski and smash his head through a wall till he squeals, make him beg for a change. Time to dance to my tune Frank you freak, time to watch that last gasping light get snuffed out of your eyes and have you know it was me in control. In my mind I saw the slowing life-blood pulse in his neck, and I saw the light spilling like blood over the San Francisco morning, blood beacons lit my shining path.
Before I knew it I was watching the city melt away and feeling that cold thumping drone of the road, careening toward Great Falls, just like he said, only different, this time I would get the jump on him and the way to do that was track down his fat, laughing stooge and put a gun to his head.
EPISODE 5 SCENE II
Awwww man this place me and Frank hung out called Darlin’ Sue’s had an electric sign, giant, that I called Alice, a neon round faced farmer’s daughter type, her smile broadcast out over the highway begging with lust mutely like a squid in the night air, and sleek black choppers with curves mesmerized in rows at her feet and so obviously belonging to men swarming with kill tats, vest tans, and dyed-hair skimpy girlfriends that are used to getting jacked open on a whim. These kinds of places seep into the corners of every town, down a track and tucked away - with the reptilian-sulfur reek of sex like a teenage boy’s red and chafed genitals. I knew he’d turn up here, could smell him through the coarse odor of leather and stale beer’s sharp tang. John Skoog homing in. That beast who was going to damn well pay for what he’d done to Rhoda and her sister, who were both so beautiful. Paula’d let slip that she’d been ringing his phone off the hook so now we were waiting.
SKOOG QUESTIONING BAR PEOPLE
Have you seen this man?
Sorry I haven’t.
What about you? Have you seen him?
I’ve never seen that guy before in my life.
I saw him, looking jittery and uptight as a fourteen year old with a candle rammed up his ass when he came in and shouldered past the bikers, flashing my picture at them. And you know Frank would have been proud because I felt a pang of sadness, I could see all the help he would need. He sidled up to the bar.
What’ll it be, stranger?
Double Evan Williams, neat with a glass of water
Thanks. I’m looking for a guy, calls himself Bill Henderson, you know him?
Must be your lucky day. He’s at the end of the bar, by himself with the mojito.
SOUND OF SKOOG MOVING THROUGH BAR
You’re Bill Henderson.
Am I? Am I really?
That’s what says next to your picture in the national database right next to violent perp against a female minor.
John Skoog, I know you better than that. We had a long conversation last time you were unconscious on the Pulaskis’ living room floor. I shaved your back.
Cut the crap fatso, where’s Frank?
Frank? Frank, oh yeah Frank, do you miss him?
If you don’t start talking in the next three seconds I will shoot you in the balls.
Relax. He’ll show up once he gets done with his new chicky Paula - yeah. He loves this place, all the young girls like roses - I saw you eyeing a couple when you walked in.
What have you done to Paula? If either one of you has so much as breathed on her so help me...
Breathed? That’s a good one. She’s hanging by her feet now, with so many flesh wounds I don’t think she can breathe anymore. You’ve got to keep an open mind John Skoog. You don’t seem like one for metaphysics, but you’ve got a lot of reading up to do before you have your little tête-à-tête with Frank.
I’m not fucking around with you shithead (REVOLVER COCKING SOUND) Now tell me where he is.
SHOTGUN COCKING SOUND
Put your gun away, sit down and finish your drink. We’re civilized people here in Great Falls.
Okay, okay, I don’t want any trouble. I’m just trying to help.
Let me explain something to you because Frank won’t waste the time. A year ago December we were hunting elk out near Two Medicine Lake. When it was just getting light Frank got a bead on a bull elk as big as you can imagine. And he helped a bullet right through its heart, like you wanted to do with me just before. We were standing over it, in its final death throes. Animals evacuate their bowels right before death. Frank knelt down and put his hands into the wound and it was like, it was like, everything awake, I’ve been to the Vatican John, and this was more.
A CAR SCREECHES UP IN THE DISTANCE, A DOOR OPENS, HINGES SQUEAL, WE HEAR FOOTSTEPS APPROACH
FRANK: What did I tell you about talking to strangers Bill?
SOUND OF A BOTTLE SMASHING
BILL: I know Frank I shouldn’t have I’m...
SKOOG: Frank Pulaski.
FRANK: John, why don’t we take a walk together, we have so much to discuss.
SKOOG: Talk to this.
[Draws gun. Fires. Frank drops and groans.]
FRANK: Ahhhh It didn’t have to be like this John.
[Cocking the gun again]
SKOOG: Open your mouth baby! You’re going to swallow this pill Baby!
[Frank gun in mouth]
BARTENDER: I warned you Mister! Drop the gun NOW!
SKOOG: You end here, Frank.
SKOOG (wounded noises): You shot me you goddamn hick. [GROAN]
BARTENDER: I told him to put the gun down. I didn’t want to shoot him. I told him not to.
BY THE BAY ATMOSPHERE
WOMAN LAUGHS IN THE DISTANCE
WOMAN: Throw him the stick, go ahead John.
JOHN (straining) : I... can’t... lift... it.
WOMAN LAUGHS AGAIN
WOMAN: I love you so much John.
SKOOG: Your hair is just like Vanna’s... will you marry me? I have always wanted to visit the ocean. To drown all of my memories.
WOMAN:: Do you hear that trilling [NIGHTINGALE SOUND] I am not the real Vanna.
SKOOG: That’s ok. I like to feed the seagulls from my hands and watch you laughing by the water’s edge. Can you help me learn to swim?
WOMAN: I have to go. There’s so much blood on your arm. (sucks in air)
SKOOG: Where did she go. You’re bleeding from a hole in your chest, Frank.
FRANK: Look what you’ve done to me. I just wanted to love you, I wanted you to love me.
SKOOG: Frank, its too much. I can’t There’s centipedes in my left arm. . I want to enjoy the sunset with her.
FRANK: There’s nothing to see here John. You should leave
SKOOG: But she needs help... [CRIES] Where did she go? Vanna...? Frank I want to tell you something...
FRANK: No no no no I won’t listen.
WOMAN: Stop hurting him. Please, pleae. He was trying to help you.
SKOOG: I still can’t see the other half of your face.
WOMAN: Wake up... Wake up... [in a nice loving voice]
WOMAN/NURSE: Mr. Skoog? Wake up, Mr. Skoog. Can you hear me? Blink your eyes if you can hear me.
SKOOG (moans): Vanna, Vanna.
NURSE: Ah, there we are. Mr. Skoog. How do we feel?
SKOOG: Where am I?
NURSE: The hospital. You had a quite little accident - out in Great Falls.You’ve been asleep a few days.
SKOOG: Where is Fr---agggh Oh christ- my arm... I can’t feel my arm! [panic mode]
NURSE: Shush now, everything will be fine.The doctor will be in when we’re all rested to update you on your present condition.
SKOOG (hyperventilating): What happened?
NURSE: You’re in shock Mr. Skoog
SKOOG: What happened is he dead? Did I get him?
NURSE: Calm down, you can rest now, you need to rest.
SKOOG: (breaks down, almost incomprehensible through tears and drool) After everything I’ve been through.
NURSE: You have to take it easy your heart is still weak.
SKOOG (between sobs): NOOOO
[Heart monitor beep speeds up, flat line, sounds start to muffle]
NURSE: Help! Call Dr. Meyerson! Patient in 416 is flat lining. We need a defibrillator in here stat!
WHITE SPACE - THE END
[Spring like sounds, birds, ...]
FRANK: O noble son of pure space...
SKOOG: Vanna it feels so good.
VANNA: Merge with me John.
SKOOG: Yes Vanna you are so beautiful I will dissolve.
VANNA: This is perfect.
SKOOG: This is perfect.
[ Nightingale sound ]