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Echoes in the Dark

 

CREDITS.

FADE IN: With Nirvana’s ‘School’ playing, have shots from a different types of film and specific angles (digital, 35mm, 16mm, TV news cameras, surveillance cameras, etc.) of four gunmen terrorizing a particular high school one morning. Many shots of stampeding kids.

As the song returns to the final chorus (after about two minutes), we are in the hallway with the four gunmen trying to hold a sparsely populated class in a classroom (w/teacher). As soon as the song cuts out:

 

Eddie (rifle drawn, to a girl just in the doorway, about to flee down the hall)

Get back in the fucking classroom!

 

Sandra (shrieking)

I’m not – It’s not my – don’t –

 

Eddie

Get in the fucking room!

 

The four gunmen enter the classroom, pushing Sandra in ahead of them. There are six students in the class, plus one female teacher, who is in her early forties. General consternation in the class.

 

Eddie

Shut up!

 

Steven

Hey! Hey! No one else has to die today! Just shut up!

 

Jason (one of the students)

Ben, what the fuck?!

 

Miss Kelner (to one of the gunmen, aghast)

Ben, what going on?!

 

Mark

Shut up, Miss Kelner!

 

Eddie (to Miss Kelner)

Sit with the students! Now! Go! (to one of the gunmen) Ben! Fire alarm!

 

Miss Kelner scurries over to sit in one of the many unoccupied desks. Ben quickly moves to the door, goes into the hallway for a second and pulls the alarm, then goes back to the classroom doorway, guarding it. The alarm screams in the classroom until Steven breaks it with the butt of his gun. It is still heard in the halls faintly. Immediately after, Eddie fires one round into the ceiling above. One scream. Then, finally, complete quiet.

 

Eddie

No one in here has to die today. No one. I don’t want to play any mind games with any of you, no personal vendettas against anyone here, nothing. This is just a hostage thing. Nothing more, I swear to you. I can only imagine what you already think of us and to tell you the truth I don’t care. Just sit tight. (pause. To the other gunmen) I’ll be back in a moment.

 

Mark (alarmed)

What-

 

Eddie (already halfway to the door)

I’m checking the halls nearby. (to Ben) Take their phones and turn ‘em off. (to Steven) If they move, shoot ‘em.

 

Eddie stomps out. Ben watches him go from the door. The alarms are loud in the hall.

 

Ben

Be quick.

 

Eddie (turning to him)

Don’t worry, we’re fine.

 

Ben (with a hopeless kind of sigh)

Bullshit.

 

Their eyes lock. Eddie breaks off first and disappears down the hall. We follow Eddie. [Through this walk around the halls, INTERCUT with shots of police cars, SWAT teams, fire engines, slowly congregating near the school, as students stream out.] The halls are empty. He breaks most of the fire alarms in the area close to their classroom. He goes to a soda machine, and at first just stares at it. He fishes through his pockets and takes out a couple quarters, jamming them into the machine. The familiar clunk, and Eddie pulls out a can of pop from the machine. He just stares at it. Then he leans against the machine and slowly sides down it, until he’s sitting on the ground. Pause. He looks around. CLOSE UP: He’s suddenly breathing hard. He cracks open the can and starts to chug it quickly. When he finishes it. He stares at the can, then crinkles it and throws it down the hall. It echoes. Eddie takes a deep breath and gets up and walks back to the classroom. The hostages are handcuffed to desks in front of them. Everyone is looking at him expectantly (the hostages in fear, the other gunmen in awe). Pause.

 

Eddie (while staring at the hostages)

Phones?

 

Ben

Just two.

 

Eddie

Got the dish soap?

 

Steve

In the backpack. (short pause) I’ll go pour it out around the stairway.

 

Eddie

Good. Thanks. (short pause) Spread it around, don’t make a big puddle.

 

Steve (taking ordinary bottle of dish soap from the backpack)

Don’t worry.

 

Steve exits. Pause.

 

Miss Kelner

What are you going to do to us?

 

Eddie (having not been listening)

Hm?

 

Miss Kelner (repeating, more nervous)

What are you going to do with us?

 

Eddie

Nothing. (short pause) Nothing really. Just… a typical hostage situation. (short pause. He starts to chuckle a bit) Typical hostage situation. (turning to Steven) What the fuck is a typical hostage situation?

 

Steven

Ed, what-

 

Eddie (more to himself)

I mean, we just ran through the school, shooting anything that moved, and now…it’s just a typical hostage situation. (short pause) A typical… a typical… the words have lost all meaning to me.

 

Steven (annoyed)

Eddie, what the fuck are you talking about?

 

Sandra (blurting out)

Don’t you know what you’re doing?!

 

Mark (in Eddie’s ear, anxious)

Look, we should call the cops and tell them we have hostages, shouldn’t we?

 

Eddie

We will. We will in…(checks watch)…two minutes. (pause) Now…now. (short pause) I… we… can pretty much guess what you all think of us right now. Fine. (short pause) Fine. All it really means now is that you realize that we won’t hesitate to kill any of you if… the situation comes up that requires…us to do that. We will. (pause) But we don’t want to. You have no reason to believe us, of course, but we haven’t hurt you yet, and if everything goes to plan…or even close to plan… you’ll probably leave here…okay. (pause) This isn’t a grudge thing. I don’t know any of you personally, and even if we did, focusing our anger on just one or a few of you is…silly…ridiculous. (pause) Right now you’re just bargaining chips. That could be a good thing… it could be a horrible thing. (pause) You can talk, you can do work, you can cry…just do it quietly. If you need the can, one of us will escort you. Not in groups, and when you use the stall, it’s with the door open. (short pause) That last thing might sound piggish, but those are the breaks. Any questions? (short pause) Even ones that you know will piss us off.

 

Jason (immediately)

What the fuck is wrong with you?

 

Sandra (pleading)

Why… why did you do it?

 

Pause. Other than Eddie, the gunmen look riled, gripping their guns apprehensively.

 

Eddie (with a grin)

I think that’s… the same kind of question.

 

Jason

I want to rip your fucking head off.

 

Pause.

 

Eddie (still grinning)

Maybe that’s why we did it.

 

Jason and Jeff still look like they’re ready to jump out of their seats. Steven and Mark seem ready to pull the trigger. Long pause. Eddie’s watch beeps. His smile slowly fades and he pulls out a cell phone.

 

Eddie (with a sigh)

Okay. (looking to the teacher) Miss Kelner, you’re going to have to help with this phone call for a moment. (dialing three digits and putting the phone to his ear, to no one in particular) Well…let’s get on with it.

 

CUT TO: A local 911 switchboard. We do not hear Eddie’s exact conversation with one of the operators, but just a general collage of 911 calls all from the shooting (kids screaming about guns, about the school under attack, we hear the operator’s ‘calm, commanding’ words). What we see is the particular operator listening with slowly dawning horror as Eddie tells them the situation. The pitch and intensity of the sound collages rises with his or her facial expression until the sound cuts out when the operator removes their headset.

 

911 Operator (to unseen supervisor)

Officer Barclay!

 

CUT TO: The swarm of police cars holding camp over one hundred yards from the school. We follow a detective as he walks past all the cops and cars and everything.

 

Hunslow (in mid sentence)

-always at a distance, and don’t talk to anyone. Two week suspension without pay if anyone talks to the media. (turns around a points to a distant strip plaza) Two shooters on the roof. Almost more for decoration, though, at this point. We want them to think we’ll cap anyone. (continues walking) What kind of guns did the kids say they have?

 

Parson

Although obviously not confirmed 100%, some sort of assault rifle. Pistols, as well, maybe.

 

Hunslow

Well, if you’re going to do something…may as well do it right, huh? (short pause. Loudly, to about eight around him) Cigarette?

 

Cop (turning to him)

Yeah, thanks, I’ll have one.

 

Hunslow

I mean does anyone have a cigarette.

 

Three seconds of silence.

 

Hunslow (with a sigh)

Yeah, it just seems like that kind of day.

 

Cop (coming up from behind, running)

Detective Hunslow! (Hunslow turns. The cops is almost out of breath) The call. It’s him. In the truck. (he jams his thumb towards a large police truck)

 

Pause. Everyone looks at Hunslow, who is stone faced.

 

Hunslow

Okay. (short pause) Lead.

 

We follow them to the truck.

 

Cop

He called the emergency switchboards just minutes ago and beyond taking responsibility and saying he has hostages-

 

Hunslow (interrupting)

Do we know that he does for sure?

 

Cop

He put a teacher on the line for a couple seconds. A Suzanne Kelner. Then he said he wouldn’t talk to anyone else except whoever’s in charge just outside the school.

 

Hunslow (more to Parson)

That’ll be me for…what… twenty more minutes?

 

They get to the truck and step inside. Many computers, monitors, people, etc. A rather somber yet professional atmosphere. Some cops give their seats to Hunslow and Parson.

 

Hunslow (catching eyes with one cop)

Hey, Bill.

 

Bill

Hey, Adam.

 

Hunslow

Say, you got a cigarette?

 

Bill

Sorry. Quit.

 

Hunslow (to everyone in the truck)

Does anyone in here have cigarette?

 

After a brief pause, a cigarette is handed to him. He puts it in his mouth.

 

Hunslow (to whomever gave him the cigarette)

Light?

 

Bill (pointing to no smoking sign)

No smoking in here, Adam. (short pause) Sorry.

 

Hunslow (puts the cigarette behind is his ear with a ‘it’s that kind of day’ sigh)

All right. (short pause) Let’s talk to him.

 

Bill

Just pick up the phone in front of you and press pound then one.

 

Hunslow (picking up phone and pressing the buttons, to Bill)

What am I talking to him on?

 

Bill

His cell.

 

Hunslow (to Parson)

Find the account information, who it’s charged-

 

Cop

We already have.

 

Eddie (picking up. His voice echoes through the truck)

Hello?

 

Hunslow (put off by the two people talking)

Uh…hi…uh… who is this?

 

Eddie

Who is this?

 

CUT TO: A shot of recorders starting to tape.

 

Hunslow

Detective Adam Hunslow. Who am I speaking to?

 

Eddie

Are you the highest-ranking officer outside? (short pause) You are just outside, aren’t you?

 

Hunslow

Yes. And I am the highest ranking officer present. (short pause) Are you one of the gunmen?

 

Eddie

I am.

 

Pause. Silence in the truck. The noises outside seem distant and faint.

 

Hunslow

How are the hostages?

 

Eddie

Terrified.

 

Hunslow

How many?

 

Eddie

Later.

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow

Fine. (short pause) You’ve tried as quickly as possible to get in contact with us. What do you want?

 

Pause.

 

Eddie

Seven hostages. Six students, one teacher. All unharmed. (short pause) Hunslow, right? Your first name’s Adam?

 

Hunslow

Yes.

 

Eddie

Take me off the party line, Hunslow. I just want to speak to you.

 

Pause. Hunslow nods to Bill, who presses a button. Hunslow prepares himself with a pad of paper and a pen. Frequently INTERCUT from Hunslow to Eddie.

 

Eddie

Are we good?

 

Hunslow

We’re not on the speaker. It’s just you and me.

 

Eddie

Good. (short pause) How are you, Hunslow?

 

Hunslow

I’ve been better. I want a cigarette right now, and I can’t smoke in this truck.

 

Eddie

I’d like a cigarette, too, come to think of it.

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow

What’s your name?

 

Pause.

 

Eddie

Eddie. Eddie Leighland.

 

Hunslow

Okay, Eddie. Let’s get down to brass tacks. What do you want?

 

Eddie

Right now, I just want to talk.

 

Hunslow

Well, that’s fine. If you want, I’m sure I can rustle up a hostage negotiator.

 

Eddie

No, no. You seem calm, affable. I’ll talk to you for now. (short pause) The 911 operator sounded like they were either going to shit their pants or try to strangle me over the phone.

 

Hunslow

Well, you understand why, I’m sure…

 

Eddie

That it might be their kid lying in a pool of their own blood in the cafeteria?

 

Short pause.

 

Hunslow (with a sigh)

Yeah, I’m sure that’s why.

 

Eddie

Are you afraid your kid might be the same? Or trapped in a room with me right now?

 

Hunslow

No.

 

Eddie

Why’s that?

 

Hunslow

I don’t have any.

 

Eddie

Good choice. (short pause) Neither do I, matter of fact. (pause, as if waiting for a remark) I guess I can’t be funny if I just shot a lot of people.

 

Hunslow

To be honest Eddie, and that’s the only way I’m going to play it, I didn’t think it was that funny just by itself.

 

Eddie

But me killing teenagers - my fellow students - doesn’t help, does it?

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow

No. No, it doesn’t.

 

Pause.

 

Eddie

What do you think of me, Hunslow?

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow

I think you’re a sick fuck.

 

Murmurs among the other cops in the truck.

 

Eddie

For talking so casually about the things I did?

 

Hunslow

For doing the things you did.

 

Pause.

 

Eddie (with a sigh)

I wonder if you’ll ever be able to understand…

 

Hunslow

So do I. (short pause) I want to.

 

Eddie (with obvious faux-impressiveness)

Really?

 

Hunslow

Yes. Of course I do. (short pause) Everyone does.

 

Eddie

Well, maybe we’ll all find out at the trial, huh?

 

Hunslow

Maybe we will. I hope this works out as… much as it possibly can at this point.

 

Eddie

Sort of a salvaging of the day at this point, huh?

 

Hunslow (as two sheets of paper are placed in front of him)

Well, I just want to- actually, hold on for a minute.

 

Eddie (amused, tongue-in-cheek)

Hold on a minute? You don’t tell the hostage taker to hold on, do this, do that, or anything! You bow to them like the temporary gods that they are! Haven’t you watched any cop films?

 

Hunslow (looking over the sheets of paper)

This isn’t a movie, Eddie. You seem like a smarter kid than that.

 

Eddie

So, just before you go - if you do – what’s more pressing than me right now?

 

Hunslow

I’m looking at information about injuries, snubbing my nose at the media, and…(looking at one sheet carefully)… wondering what a Mr. Richard Leighland of 4652 Maplewood Crescent would think of you right now.

 

Pause.

 

Eddie

Got to the government information pretty quick.

 

Hunslow (looking over the sheet that is info about the cell phone account)

Uh-huh.

 

Eddie

Probably doesn’t say much.

 

Hunslow

It doesn’t.

 

Eddie

Nothing about my high school life. My daily routine of being a ghost, in a society that doesn’t care, will never care, will never change…

 

Hunslow sighs. Everyone in the truck is staring at him. Pause.

 

Hunslow

Do you think your parents will call you? See if you’re all right? Find out – quite quickly, mind you – the situation you’re actually in?

 

Eddie

I have no interest in talking to my parents. I bought this phone yesterday. They don’t know it exists. Until my Dad’s visa bill comes. (short pause) And he gave me that credit card, y’know. Didn’t steal it from him or anything. A joint account.

 

Hunslow

Trying to give you freedom and responsibility.

 

Eddie

Exactly. (short pause) You’d have been a good father.

 

Hunslow

Thank you. (short pause) I said I’d be honest with you, didn’t I, Eddie?

 

Eddie

You did.

 

Hunslow

Then you understand I ask this in all seriousness, and not in some rage of anger I might have towards you right now. (short pause) Do you honestly understand the situation you are in right now? You could be killed before the day is out. If you want my honest opinion-

 

Eddie

I don’t.

 

Hunslow

I thought you wanted to talk.

 

Eddie

Talk, not hear your opinions on what I should and should not do.

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow (with a sigh)

Eddie, this could go on for a long time and end very bad for you. I honestly want it to work out now just as much as it can.

 

Eddie

Oh, don’t worry about me, detective. I don’t get myself into situations I don’t know the outcome of.

 

Hunslow

Is that fact, Eddie?

 

Eddie

I know exactly what I’m doing. Start at one end of the school, end at the other shooting less frequently as you go through so you have some hostages left in the building. Choose a class with only a few students and a teacher who won’t stir up any shit. Make sure the class is well out of the way, with only one access point. (short pause) I did my homework for this. (short pause) I was even on the honor roll last year.

 

Long pause. Hunslow cups his hand over the receiver and leans toward Parson.

 

Hunslow (quietly)

Blueprints to the school.

 

Eddie

Hunslow?

 

Hunslow (back to phone)

Yes?

 

Eddie

I thought you’d left for a minute.

 

Hunslow

Eddie, I’ve got nowhere else to go.

 

Eddie

Same here.

 

Hunslow

You wouldn’t want me to talk to anyone else with you?

 

Eddie (after a quick glance around the classroom)

I don’t think they’d have very much to say. (short pause) You said you wondered why I did it, right Hunslow? (short pause) You wanted to ask why?

 

Hunslow

I will in time. But right now I just-

 

Eddie

Shoot first, ask questions later?

 

Hunslow

End this first, then ask questions later. (pause) And I’d want to ask them to a live Eddie Leighland.

 

Eddie

I see. Would that be before or after I’m hauled away to prison for the rest of my life?

 

Pause.

 

Hunslow

But you know that would happen, because you know what you’re doing, Eddie.

 

Eddie

I do. (pause) I do. (pause) Adam, I- Does it bother you that I call you Adam?

 

Hunslow

I can deal with it.

 

Eddie

Do you prefer ‘Hunslow’? Or ‘Detective’? ‘Pig’?

 

Hunslow

I guess I’m flexible, Eddie.

 

Pause.

 

Eddie

Detective, I think you and I have reached an impasse in our conversations.

 

Hunslow

Really?

 

Eddie

I keep throwing ‘em to you, and not only do you miss every one, you aren’t even swinging.

 

Hunslow

As I said, I can get you a hostage negotiator who would be-

 

Eddie

No, no, no. That’s just a same-shit-different-day kind of thing. (pause) I think we can move on to my demands.

 

Hunslow

Okay. (pause) What do you want?

 

Eddie

I want to talk to someone. (before Hunslow can respond) Someone specific.

 

END OF SAMPLE

 

countercultures are suppose to die young