Thursday, August 09, 2018

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Buried

Marcy Green

4/9/2017


              EXT. ROAD, YEARS BEFORE PRESENT - NIGHT

              Swiftly and smoothly, a 1975 Mercedes makes its way down the

              road.



              INT. 1975 MERCEDES - NIGHT

              MALLOCH UNDERKOFFLER drives.  He is a stately 44.  Sharply

              dressed in a tux and well accustomed to the elegance.

              In the passenger seat is PIETRA UNDERKOFFLER, an elegant 44.

              She wears a formal evening gown accented with diamonds.  They

              both have brilliant blond hair and sparkling blue eyes.

              But, the mood is dark, in a subtle way.  Not the kind of

              surface heaviness brought on by a recent argument.  Something

              serious has been eating away at them for a while now.

                                  MALLOCH

                        We don't have to go.

                                  PIETRA

                        I know.

              The comments fall with a familiar weary apathy.



              EXT. MCKENNA MANSION - NIGHT

              An opulent, manicured estate.  The Mercedes pulls up and

              stops.  Two sharply dressed valets, TOM and BILL, exchange

              glances when they recognize the car's occupants.

              Tom opens the passenger door for Pietra and Bill goes around

              to the driver's side.

              Malloch gets out, hands the keys to Bill, who trades for a

              plastic token.

                                  MALLOCH

                        How's it going, Billy?

                                  BILL

                            (ill at ease)

                        I'm fine, sir.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Say hello to your dad for me.

                                  BILL

                        I will.

              Put off by Bill's performance, Malloch takes Pietra's arm.

              With a bit too much show of dignity, they make their way up

              the stairs, past the fountain, to the mansion.

                                  TOM

                        What are they doing here?

              Bill shrugs, gets in the car, and drives away.



              INT. MANSION ENTRANCE - NIGHT

              TOM WILLIAMS, bored from having attended too many of these,

              greets guests.  The warmth drains from his face when he sees

              Malloch and Pietra.  He quickly recovers:

                                  TOM

                        Malloch!  Pietra!

                                  MALLOCH

                        Tom.  How are you doing?

                                  TOM

                        Fine.  Good to see you.  Pietra,

                        you look wonderful.

                                  PIETRA

                        Thank you.

              Big, sincere looking smiles all around.

                                  THOMAS

                        Good to see you, both.

              They pause.  It's all been very natural up to now, but there

              isn't anything else to say.  After a few moments staring, Tom

              gestures for them to enter.

                                  THOMAS

                        Well...  I'll catch up with you.

              Malloch and Pietra pause a moment, smile clumsily, then go

              in, and stroll casually down the hall.  Tom motions to

              Robert, a nearby waiter.  He comes over.  Tom whispers to

              him, then sends him away.  Robert hurries up a hallway.



              INT. FOYER, COAT CHECK - NIGHT

              Malloch hands over their coats and pockets a ticket.



              HALLWAY

              Malloch and Pietra are near the entrance of the ballroom,

              next to a sign which reads: FORTY-SECOND ANNUAL MCKENNA

              FOUNDATION FUND RAISER AND GRAND BALL

              Robert and an elderly man, RICHARD LEWISTON, stride down the

              hall.  Richard recognizes Malloch and Pietra, gestures to

              them.

              Richard says something quickly to Robert, and dismisses him.

                                  RICHARD

                        Malloch.

                            (comes over, too friendly)

                        Good to see you.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Richard.  How are you?

              They shake.

                                  RICHARD

                        Just fine.  Pietra, you look

                        lovely.

                                  PIETRA

                        Evening, Richard.  Everything looks

                        wonderful.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You did a great job.  As usual.

                                  RICHARD

                        Well.  It should be fun.

                            (to Malloch)

                        Could I have a word?

              Malloch was afraid this might happen, but he keeps up

              appearances.  Pietra is not as successful.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Sure.

                            (to Pietra)

                        I'll just be a minute.

              She nods and watches the men step into:



              SIDE ROOM

              Malloch squares off at Richard, who is relaxed but not

              casual.

                                  RICHARD

                        I'm surprised to see you.

              Malloch waits, not wanting to commit to a response.

                                  RICHARD

                        Malloch.  It's a small town.

                        Everybody knows.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Richard.  Is this necessary?

                                  RICHARD

                            (pause, searches)

                        As far as I'm concerned, no.  But,

                        this is a high profile event.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I see.

                                  RICHARD

                        I don't have a choice.  If this

                        were a big city, hell, who'd care?

                        This is a small town.  Conservative

                        town.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I've been a member of this

                        foundation for years.  Do you know

                        how much money I've given--

                                  RICHARD

                        --None of that matters, now.  The

                        decision's been made.  You're out.

              To Malloch, this was inevitable but it still stings.

                                  RICHARD

                        I pled your case.  I did.  I have

                        my bosses.

                            (deep sigh)

                        The members of the board that

                        aren't young and stupid rich are

                        old geezers.  They're stupid, too.

                        And, they're old geezer wives are

                        stupid.

                            (embarrassed)

                        I've been out-voted.  There's

                        nothing I can do.

                            (off Malloch stalling)

                        I wish there was.

                            (beat)

                        Your last donation will be

                        returned.

              With this, the full impact of the situation hits Malloch.

                                  RICHARD

                        I hope there's a way we can remain

                        friends.

              Malloch appreciates the gesture, but realizes it also means

              Richard is serious.  This is over.

                                  RICHARD

                        I'm sorry.



              HALLWAY

              Malloch exits the side room.  He freezes at the sight of:



              BALLROOM

              There is a string quartet playing.  Waiters serve drinks and

              food.  However, the mood is odd.  Everyone is ill at ease.

              They shift and glance at the floor.

              Young couples, old couples, everyone is in on it.  And, now

              and then, a few look.  Quick glances, then away, back to

              their loved ones, to whisper:

                                  WOMAN 1

                        What is she doing here?

                                  YOUNG MAN 1

                        Is that her?

              Two teenage girls giggle.  Some feel bad for her, others are

              embarrassed to be in the same room.  They are looking at

              Pietra:

              She stands there with an odd off-balance posture.  She sees

              old friends look away, young children of friends staring

              openly.

              Malloch comes up quickly.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Let's go.

                                  PIETRA

                        They're staring at us.

              He pulls her away.

                                  MALLOCH

                        We're going.

              Now, that they have their backs turned, everyone stares.

              They're almost out when she whirls around.

                                  PIETRA

                        What are you staring at!

              Her voice reverberates in the large space.  The quartet stops

              playing.

              Malloch grasps her arm.

                                  MALLOCH

                            (whispers)

                        Pietra!

                                  PIETRA

                        How can you stare at me like that?!

              Everyone in the cavernous ballroom is staring at Pietra and

              Malloch.  He pulls her away.  They pass an old friend of

              Pietra's, who flinches.  Pietra is horrified by the response.

                                  PIETRA

                        How can they just stare?

              They get into the hallway.  Richard is there.

                                  RICHARD

                        I'll walk you out.

                                  MALLOCH

                        That's okay.

              Richard stops and watches helplessly as Malloch and Pietra

              make their way, watched by everyone.

              They get to coat check where Robert has their coats.  Malloch

              takes them and leaves.



              EXT. MCKENNA MANSION - NIGHT

              Malloch drapes Pietra's coat over her shoulders and they make

              their way down the steps.  When they get to the driveway,

              Thomas has their car waiting.  He opens the passenger door.

              Pietra looks at him for support and Thomas is as kind as he

              can be, but doesn't know what to say.  She gets in and

              Malloch closes the door.

                                  THOMAS

                        I couldn't do anything.

              Malloch nods his appreciation and takes the keys from Thomas.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I know.  Good night, Thomas.

              Malloch goes around and gets in.  He starts the car and

              drives away.  Pained, Thomas watches.



              EXT. TUDOR MANSION - NIGHT

              This grand house sits next to a lake.  In the backyard, there

              is a greenhouse.  A short pier juts into the lake.  There are

              no neighbors.

              The Mercedes pulls into the driveway.  Pietra gets out and

              goes into the house.  Malloch drives the car to the garage.



              I/E. GARAGE - NIGHT

              The door rises.  Malloch pulls the car into the garage, parks

              it, shuts it off, gets out, exits via a side door.  The

              garage door automatically closes, and the lights turn off.



              INT. FOYER - NIGHT

              Deeply burnished oak floors, antique etched cabinets, genuine

              Persian carpet, molded cornices, engraved teak molding, heavy

              curtains.  Luxury and taste in equal parts.  There is a grand

              spiral staircase.  Halfway up, there is an arched floor to

              ceiling window which looks out over the backyard.  Visible on

              the second floor are the doors of two rooms.  There is a

              TICKING SOUND.

              Pietra stands in the entry way in the dark.  She looks around

              the room, studying the objects.  She looks up at the doors

              visible on the second floor.

              She stares at one of the doors, and is stung by regret. 

              She goes to the library, which is on the far side of the

              foyer.



              INT. LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Pietra enters, turns on the light and closes the door.  It's

              another finely appointed room.  There are book shelves filled

              with expensive volumes.  There is a Grandfather clock.  It

              TICKS - TOCK, TICK, TOCK.



              EXT. BACKYARD - NIGHT

              Malloch stands next to the lake.  He pulls a flask from his

              coat and downs a good swig.  He stares vacantly at the water.

              A heavy fog is forming over the lake.  He has another drink.



              INT. LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Pietra takes a leather-bound book off the shelf.  She regards

              it with tender familiarity, drawing her hand across its

              cover.

              MOMENTS LATER

              She sits in a stuffed mohair chair, and sets the book on the

              desk.  She stares at the desktop.  She is contemplating

              something grave and final.  She opens a drawer, and takes a

              piece of paper and a fountain pen.  She writes.  The CLOCK

              STOPS TICKING.



              EXT. BACKYARD - NIGHT

              Malloch stares at the wall of fog which has settled over the

              lake.  He grins, quick and sharp, just for a second.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Idiots!

              He lifts the flask for a drink but it's empty.  He walks back

              to the house.



              EXT. BACKYARD, NEXT TO HOUSE - NIGHT

              Through the curtains of the library window, Malloch sees

              Pietra writing at the desk.  She is engrossed and very

              somber.  He is concerned and curious.  He reaches for the

              knob on the library's exterior door, but stops.

              He walks up to another door and enters:



              INT. PARLOR - NIGHT

              Decorated in a dark masculine way with earth tones and heavy

              leather furniture.

              Malloch closes the door behind him.  He turns on a small desk

              lamp.  There is a chessboard on a large cluttered oak desk.

              He goes to a cabinet and pours a shot of Scotch from an

              almost new bottle.

              Then, bottle in hand, to a turntable where he lowers the

              stylus.  The record plays - Beethoven's Pastoral. 

              He takes the bottle to his desk and studies a chess game from

              a book and drinks.  He moves a piece and thinks.



              EXT. TUDOR MANSION - NIGHT

              The fog envelopes the house.



              INT. PARLOR - NIGHT

              Malloch has had it with chess...as well as the world.  The

              bottle is half empty now.  He turns off the desk lamp.



              INT. LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Malloch stands in the doorway staring, his expression

              noncommittal.  What he stares at can't be seen.  With unsure

              steps, he walks into the room, never taking his eyes off the

              object. 



              MOMENTS LATER

              He is at the desk where Pietra was writing.  He moves the

              fountain pen off the paper.  He picks up the letter and

              reads.  To him, its content is both tragic and expected.

              He puts the letter down and, again, looks at the object,

              casting his eyes upward now.  Pain and regret fill his eyes.

              He leaves.



              INT. GARAGE - NIGHT

              Dark.  Malloch enters via the side door.  He gets in the

              Mercedes and starts it up.  The diesel engine chugs heavily.

              He lights a cigarette.  He stares through the windshield,

              looking into his past.  He rolls the window down a couple

              inches, leans back, takes a draw, exhales, and waits.



              INT. CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  CHERAMIE UNDERKOFFLER wakes, and gets out of bed. 



              FOYER

              Dark.  The door on the right, opens and Cheramie comes out.

              She is seven.  She has blonde hair and blue eyes.

              She closes the door quietly and tries to sense what is going

              on in the house.

              She comes down the spiral stairs, stopping halfway to look

              out the arched window.  She can't see anything.  A thick grey

              fog presses against the glass.

              She comes down the stairs, passes the parlor, continues to

              the library.  She stands in the doorway staring, her jaw

              slack, her eyes wide.  She enters, and makes her way across

              the room, keeping her eyes fixed.  She goes around the desk

              and comes to:

              Pietra's feet, suspended three feet above the overturned

              mohair chair.  Cheramie touches the feet.

              Pietra is hanged by the neck from a cord tied around a

              ceiling light fixture.  Her eyes are wide, her deep purple

              tongue protrudes, the cord digs deep into her neck.  She

              rotates slowly.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Mom?

              There is no response.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Mom?

              Cheramie lets go of Pietra's feet and watches her rotate.

              She is not sad, confused, or horror stricken.  She is

              focused. 

              Cheramie pulls the feet toward her and lets them go --

              causing the body to swing back an forth. The swinging is

              accompanied by SQUEAKS from the rope.  As the feet approach

              there is a SQUEAK -- as they move away the rope SQUEAKS.



              INT. GARAGE - NIGHT

              The Mercedes' engine chugs.  The air is heavy and grey.

              Inside the car is Malloch.  His staring eyes are covered with

              a thick film, his skin is pallid and looks like plastic.

                                                        FADE TO BLACK.



              TITLE: TEN YEARS LATER



              INT. CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  Cheramie is in bed.  She wakes and sits up.

              She is now a solemn, delicate, sharp-eyed girl of seventeen,

              conventionally beautiful -- except for the eyes.  They have

              the world weariness of someone much older.  There is also

              worry in the eyes, as if the house might be on fire.

              Outside the window is an old oak tree.  Its bare branches

              crooked like gnarled fingers, tap the window quietly.

              She turns on the bedside lamp and gets up.



              MOMENTS LATER

              She is sitting on the floor wrapped in a quilt.

              It's a stark room.  On the wall are several excellent

              drawings.  One is: a woman pushes a little girl in a swing

              while a dog barks at them.  Another: parents sit on a blanket

              with a little girl having a picnic.  They all have similar,

              simple family themes, and are impeccably drawn.

              She admires an elegant doll house.  It's a copy of the Tudor

              mansion - a fine, architecturally correct replica.

              She grasps the outside of the house, pulls it free and sets

              it aside.  The inside of the house is detailed to an

              astonishing degree.  This 'toy' would be a luxury for any

              child, even the most affluent.

              Cheramie leans in close to inspect the exposed interior.  She

              brightens and smiles as she adjusts a perfect miniature

              cabinet, one of the stained and lacquered chairs around the

              hardwood dining table, and the curtains of the arched window

              halfway up the 'grand' spiral staircase.

              At the top of this staircase is small female doll that has

              blond hair.  Cheramie picks it up and blows on it so that its

              hair moves a bit.  With a soft smile, she replaces it at the

              top of the staircase.

              Her eyes flash to a heating vent on the floor.  It's covered

              with a heavy wrought-iron grate.  She crawls to the vent and

              puts her ear close to the grate.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Mom?  Dad?

              She listens but, as always, there is no response.  She sits

              up.  She can't hide her disappointment. 



              MOMENTS LATER

              Cheramie turns her nite lite on - a yellow duck.  She gets in

              bed and turns the lamp off.  It's dark except for the nite

              lite.  She looks at the corner where the light doesn't reach.

              There is the silhouette of a MAN WEARING A HEAVY COAT

              standing in the corner.  He is motionless, facing Cheramie.

              Cheramie pokes her arm out from under the blanket.  Keeping

              her eyes on the Man in The Corner, she turns on the lamp.

              There is no one in the corner.  This doesn't surprise her -

              in fact, she smirks.  With her eyes on the corner, she turns

              the lamp off.  The Man reappears.  Still.  Quiet.  Watching.

              She turns the lamp on.  He is gone.

              Cheramie looks at a framed picture on the table.  It's

              Malloch and Pietra.  They are about forty, happy, and well

              dressed in an old-fashioned way.  Their blue eyes are

              piercing and cold, and their blond hair shimmers brilliantly

              in the sun.  They are holding an infant with blond hair.

              For a moment, Cheramie's expression warms.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I miss you.  Good night.

              She turns the lamp off.  The Man instantly reappears.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (annoyed yet affectionate)

                        Go away!  I'm trying to sleep.

              Cheramie turns on her side and tries to sleep.

              The Man watches her.  Completely still, he might as well be a

              cardboard cutout.



              INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT

              MATILDA JOHANNSON, fifty-four, wipes down a clean counter

              with a clean cloth.  She wears a maid's uniform with pride.

              There is a snap to her movements that comes from working hard

              all her life.  She is not the type that longs for retirement.

              Ceiling racks are filled with expensive cookware.  No sticky

              notes allowed on the commercial stainless fridge.  There is a

              large wood table with six chairs.

              On the floor is a very large drain covered by a heavy grate.

              The drain GURGLES:  low and ugly.  Matilda clicks her tongue.

                                  MATILDA

                        Oh!

              She carefully surveys the immaculate kitchen.  Finally

              satisfied, she turns the light off, and leaves.



              FOYER

              Matilda strides through the arched entry way and passes a

              grand spiral staircase.

              Matilda gets her coat from the closet, puts it on, leaves.



              EXT. TUDOR MANSION - NIGHT

              Matilda exits.  Next to the door is a brass plaque with THE

              UNDERKOFFLERS etched into it.  Matilda notices a smudge on

              the plaque and cleans it with deep respect.

                                  MATILDA

                            (German accent)

                        Oh, I do miss you!  We all do.

                        Well, not all of us.  You know what

                        I mean.

              She gets into a modest, beige Honda, and drives away.



              INT. THE LIBRARY - NIGHT

              SECRIST PERLMANN is a proper woman.

              She sits bolt upright in a high-backed engraved wooden chair

              with mohair upholstery amidst the shelves and stacks of

              leather-bound tomes wearing an archaic evening gown buttoned

              to her neck.

              At fifty-four, she still cuts a fine figure.  Her black hair

              and calculating black eyes are her most distinctive features.

              Especially the eyes - held wide open and narrowed at the same

              time - a direct challenge.

              They follow the fine print not for pleasure but for self

              edification, as if it was her duty to sit in this stuffy room

              reading this obscure volume.  She concentrates despite the

              classical music from the next room.

              A grandfather clock marks time - TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK.

              She shivers, looking up from her book.  Her harsh features

              become even more creased.  She is looking at:



              A PAINTING -

              - of Malloch and Pietra Underkoffler.  Looking old and weary,

              as if they never had a joyful day in their lives.  The plaque

              under the painting reads:



              MALLOCH AND PIETRA UNDERKOFFLER IN WEDDED BLISS

                                  SECRIST

                        It's cold!  I'm cold!  Stuller?!

                        Turn the heat up!

                            (to herself)

                        And turn that execrable music down.

              She looks back at the portrait and her eyes narrow.

              Malloch and Pietra's icy blue eyes glare back, their blond

              hair a shimmering halo around contemptuous expressions.  She

              sneers back at them.  She sneers, then sneers again.



              INT. THE PARLOR - CONTINUOUS

              STULLER UNDERKOFFLER, fifty-four, is trying to enjoy the

              music, Tchaikovsky's 'Pathetique', but she would have more

              heat!  He drags his eyes from the chess position he studies,

              and with a pained expression, appeals to the Gods for relief.

              How can he be bothered?  He is clearly refined, with his silk

              robe, classical music - a vinyl LP, thank you - not one of

              those Cee-Dees.  A fine cigar, snifter of Cognac, his dark

              eyes held carefully to communicate adroit charm.  Even at

              this hour, his thick black hair perfectly combed and oiled.



              FOYER

              Secrist storms out of the library.  As she passes the parlor:

                                  SECRIST

                        Now!  It's freezing!  Stul-ler?!

              She tromps up the stairs.



              PARLOR

                                  STULLER

                        All right!

                            (sotto)

                        Bitch.

              He hauls himself up, goes to the turntable, conducts the end

              of the first movement, lifts the gold stylus.  He polishes

              off the Cognac and enjoys the buzz.



              BASEMENT - MOMENTS LATER

              Dark.  The door opens, Stuller steps into the rectangle of

              light at the top of the stairs and relights his cigar.  He

              flips the light switch.  A single light bulb lights.  He

              ambles down the creaking wooden staircase.

              He passes an old furnace.  It's a beast.  Rusty iron,

              dormant, coal burning, as big as a car, a heavy door covers

              an opening large enough for a person to crawl into.

              Stuller adjusts the thermostat on the wall next to the new

              gas furnace.  The flame ignites with a whoosh.

                                  STULLER

                        Why the hell is it down here?

                                  MALLOCH (O.S.)

                            (whispers)

                        Stuller!

              Stuller whirls and looks at the space behind the old furnace

              then up to the door.  There is nobody there.

                                  STULLER

                            (loud, to Secrist)

                        I turned it up!

                            (sotto)

                        Impatient bitch!

              He trudges up the stairs, turns the light off and closes the

              door.  The gas flame casts dancing blue shadows on the wall.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie is asleep.  The nite lite only lights the area

              around the bed.

              The branches of the old tree tap the window.  Then, they

              scrape the glass, like fingers, slow and purposeful. Unmoving

              and quiet, the Man watches Cheramie sleep.



              EXT. UNDERKOFFLER HOUSE - NIGHT

              Matilda parks her car, goes into house with a grocery bag.



              INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT

              Matilda finishes putting the groceries away.  She takes a

              container of yogurt and leaves.

              She goes down a short hallway near the front door.



              MATILDA'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Much more modest.  There is a small bed, desk with a radio on

              it, a chair in front of a small TV.  Matilda enters, closes

              the door, turns on the TV, sits in the chair, kicks off her

              shoes, and eats yogurt while massaging her foot.



              FOYER - NIGHT

              Dark.  Still, quiet as a tomb.  Except for the ticking.  The

              grandfather clock in the library - TICK, TOCK.  TICK, TOCK.

              Secrist stands at the top of the grand spiral staircase.  She

              comes down the stairs, stopping at the large arched window.

              Her face is vacant, colorless in moonlight.  She is

              sleepwalking.  She looks out the window at the backyard.

              It's a large, well-kept yard.  The lake shimmers in the

              moonlight.  Next to the lake is a squat building.  This is

              what Secrist stares at.

              Her eyes fill with longing and pain.



              EXT. BACKYARD - NIGHT

              The building is made of granite, with thick walls and a

              sturdy iron gate with thick bars.  Above the gate are the

              names carved in the stone:  MALLOCH AND PIETRA UNDERKOFFLER

              The building is a mausoleum.



              INT. LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

              It's dark.  Secrist wanders in, emotionless.  It's so quiet

              her naked footfalls on the hardwood floor can be heard pit

              patting.  She walks across the room, passing the ticking

              grandfather clock.

              TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK...  The clock stops ticking.

              Secrist turns, facing the wall, head cast upward, her eyes

              riveted to something.  She stops.  What she is looking at is

              hidden in shadow.  She turns her head a bit to the left.

                                  SECRIST

                        Malloch?

              She turns to the right.

                                  SECRIST

                        Pietra?

                            (listens, waits)

                        Answer me! Why don't you answer

                        me?!

                            (jerks head right)

                        No! It was him!  I didn't want to!

                        Pietra!  You're my sister!  I

                        couldn't hurt you!

                            (jerks head left)

                        It's the truth!  You know it!  I

                        was young!  I didn't know...

                            (right)

                        But, you were sick!  Always so

                        sick!  Malloch wanted me!  He was a

                        healthy man.

                            (guilty, childlike)

                        He needed me.

              CLICK.  The lights come on.  Secrist has been speaking to the

              wedding portrait:  Pietra, on the right, and Malloch on the

              left, glare down at her.

              By the door, his hand on the light switch, is Stuller.

              He watches Secrist with dull eyes.  This isn't new to him.

              He approaches carefully.

              Secrist doesn't notice him.  She mumbles denials at the

              painting, her eyes filled with pain.

              Stuller touches her shoulders, and gently massages.

                                  STULLER

                        Shh.  Come on.

              Secrist wakes, but not completely.

                                  SECRIST

                        Hmm?  Where am I?

                                  STULLER

                        Let's go.  You've been out for a

                        walk, that's all.

              He leads her gently out of the room and turns the light off.

              The clock starts ticking.  TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK, TICK



              INT. FOYER, TWENTY YEARS EARLIER - DAY

              The house, brilliantly lit by sunlight, is warm and inviting.

              The door opens and Secrist enters with a suitcase.  She is

              young and vibrant with warm, hopeful eyes.  There is a cab

              outside and she waves to the driver, who drives away.

              She surveys the house with a deep breath, and is filled with

              enthusiastic anticipation.  She closes the door and puts down

              her case.

                                  SECRIST

                        Hello?

              With a bounce in her step, Pietra comes out of the library in

              a lovely dress.  She smiles at seeing Secrist, and goes to

              her.  They hug.

                                  PIETRA

                        I didn't hear you come in.  How was

                        the ride from the airport?

                                  SECRIST

                        It was fine.

                                  PIETRA

                        Well.

                            (grand gesture)

                        This is the house!

                                  SECRIST

                        It's wonderful!

              Secrist assesses the house with deep appreciation.

                                  SECRIST

                        Just wonderful.

                                  PIETRA

                        Thank you.  I'm glad you like it.

                        It's the largest house on the lake!

                                  SECRIST

                        I can't believe you.

                                  PIETRA

                        What?

                                  SECRIST

                        Getting married behind my back.

                                  PIETRA

                        Please!

                                  SECRIST

                        I go to Europe for two years to

                        learn how to paint and my sister

                        marries the richest man in town!

                                  PIETRA

                        Come in.  Matilda, our maid, is

                        making tea.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's not going to do.  I'm not

                        letting you off that easy.

                                  PIETRA

                        I couldn't help it.  He's very

                        charming.

                                  SECRIST

                        He's a disgusting pig.

                            (off Pietra's gawk)

                        He's going to have an affair with

                        me.

                            (Pietra's stare)

                        He's going to fuck my brains out.

              Secrist smiles like a lizard, big eyes and lots of teeth.



              INT. SECRIST'S ROOM - MORNING - PRESENT DAY

              Secrist wakes with a start and gasps.

                                  SECRIST

                        God damn it!



              INT. KITCHEN - MORNING

              Matilda makes breakfast.  Just as she has six days a week for

              the last twenty years, moving with the ease and confidence.

              Her face is honest and her movements flowing.  She hides no

              agendas.  As always, her uniform is crisp.

              Stuller comes in wincing, hung over.

                                  STULLER

                        Did you get cream?

                                  MATILDA

                        Having breakfast?

              Stuller snicks.  He prepares tea in a teapot.  Despite his

              condition, his movements are elegant; a well-practised

              affectation.

              He pats Matilda's butt.  She doesn't bother to be offended -

              it's such a tired, old gesture.

                                  MATILDA

                        Don't start.  You should eat

                        something.

                                  STULLER

                        I should drink something.

              He flashes a greasy smile.  She ignores it effortlessly.

                                  STULLER

                        Secrist will be late.

                                  MATILDA

                        Is madame all right?

                                  STULLER

                        'Madame' was out for a walk last

                        night.

                                  MATILDA

                            (sincere, worried)

                        Again?

              Stuller groans, and takes his tea to the table where the

              newspaper is waiting.  Cheramie comes in.

                                  MATILDA

                        Good morning, Cheramie!

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (with love)

                        Morning, Matty.

              Stuller watches expectantly.  Cheramie senses it - as usual,

              she does not address him.  He is amused by the game.

                                  STULLER

                            (loaded)

                        Morning, Cheramie.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (purposefully stilted)

                        Uncle Stuller.

              He can't suppress a grin.  Matilda waits for what follows:

                                  STULLER

                            (too loud, to Matilda)

                        You'd think her father's brother

                        would get more respect.

                                  MATILDA

                        You'd think...

              Stuller lets that roll off his shoulders.

              Cheramie gets orange juice.  Secrist stalks in, everyone

              turns slightly away.  She heads for coffee.

                                  SECRIST

                        Matilda.  Did you remember to get

                        cream?

              Secrist pours herself coffee.

                                  SECRIST

                            (to Cheramie, saccharin)

                        Good morning, dear.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (again, stilted)

                        Good morning, aunt Secrist.

              Delighted by the exchange, Stuller opens the paper with a

              pop.  Secrist spills some cream.  She wipes it up.

                                  SECRIST

                            (re: cream)

                        Damn it!

                            (to Cheramie)

                        Don't call me that!  I've told you!

                        You can call me Secrist, or...

              Her eyes soften, and as if to a baby deer:

                                  SECRIST

                        You can call me 'mom'.

              Matilda clicks her tongue and serves Cheramie breakfast.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Except you're not.  But, thanks for

                        creeping me out.

                                  MATILDA

                        There you are, dear.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (warm, sweet)

                        Thanks, Matty

                                  MATILDA

                            (eyes Secrist sidelong)

                        You're welcome, sweetheart.

              Matilda and Cheramie share a warm smile - realizing this gets

              to Secrist, who watches every move.  It all delights Stuller.

                                  SECRIST

                        Did you hear me?

              Cheramie eats in a hurry.

                                  MATILDA

                        Did you finish your homework?

                                  SECRIST

                        Cheramie!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Yeah, it's done.

                            (bored with the game)

                        Yes, ma'am.

                                  MATILDA

                        That's good.

              Matilda is satisfied and beams pride.  This exchange only

              ticks Secrist off more.

                                  SECRIST

                        Yes!  That is good.  Very good.

                        Good job on the homework.

                                  STULLER

                        Let it go.

              Secrist continues glaring as she takes her first sip of

              coffee - and burns herself.

                                  SECRIST

                        Damn it!

                            (to Stuller)

                        Don't forget to turn the heat down!

                        It's hotter than hell!



              SOUND OF THE FRONT DOOR OPENING/CLOSING

              Secrist let's it all go - she now has a new annoyance to

              attend to:  Cheramie's friend Jane.

              JANE REFERSNAPH ambles into the room: athletic, jeans that

              are snug but not tight, leather jacket, short black hair,

              can-do attitude:  natural power, yet smooth and graceful.

              Stuller looks up from his paper and smiles, watching her

              cross the room.  Secrist stares into her coffee, already

              looking forward to Jane leaving.

              Matilda smiles at her.  Stuller scopes her ass.

                                  JANE

                            (huge, natural smile)

                        Morning, everybody!

                                  STULLER

                        Good morning, Jane.

              Secrist flashes him a sarcastic squint.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Hey.

              Jane has made a beeline for the coffee.  She slides her

              shoulder bag off onto the counter and fills her thermal cup.

              Stuller's eyes continue roaming.

                                  STULLER

                        How are we, today?

              Secrist mocks Stuller; mouthing 'How are we, today?'

                                  JANE

                            (to Cheramie)

                        We're going to be late.

              Cheramie is already up.  She polishes off her breakfast on

              the way to the sink.

                                  MATILDA

                        Finish your breakfast.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm done.

              Matilda takes the plate and puts it in the sink.

                                  JANE

                        Let's go.

                                  MATILDA

                        Don't forget your bag.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I won't.

                                  SECRIST

                        Nice talking to you.

              The girls ignore Secrist and leave.

                                  SECRIST

                        I don't want Jane driving the car!

                        Cheramie?!  Do you hear me?!

              Matilda beams pride and joy as she watches the girls go.  She

              looks at Secrist and Stuller and immediately regrets doing so

              - her smile slowly deflates.  She clicks her tongue quietly,

              turns and does the dishes.

                                  STULLER

                        Jane.  So full of life.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh, go jerk off.

                                  STULLER

                            (reading)

                        In a minute.

              Full of self-pity, Secrist stares at the table and stirs her

              coffee.  Stuller engrosses himself in the paper.



              FOYER - CONTINUOUS

              Jane watches as Cheramie finishes putting on her coat.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (whispers)

                        Every fucking morning.

              Cheramie grabs her shoulder bag and they leave.



              EXT. TUDOR MANSION - DAY

              Cheramie and Jane exit and walk toward a 1975 Mercedes parked

              in the semi-circle driveway.

              Cheramie tosses the keys to Jane, who adroitly catches them.



              INT. 1975 MERCEDES FOUR-DOOR - DAY

              Jane drives.  Cheramie draws:  an excellent pencil drawing of

              a man and woman with a child in front of a pleasant, modest

              home.  The radio is playing.

                                  JANE

                        I hate this song.

              Jane reaches for the radio to change the station.  She hits a

              preset and a Swing Era song plays.

              Cheramie looks up from her drawing:

              Jane's hand has become a man's hand.  Cheramie's eyes flash

              up the arm to:

              Malloch is at the wheel.  He wears a a tuxedo with the tie

              undone.  His blue eyes have a grey film, his face is ashen,

              plastic-looking.  Smoke comes out of his mouth.  It isn't

              blown like a cigarette smoker would, it just leaks, feeling

              its way up past his nose and dull eyes.

              Cheramie jumps and:

              RETURN TO SCENE.  Everything is back to normal.

                                  JANE

                        What's wrong?

              Cheramie blinks and makes sure it's really Jane.

                                  JANE

                        Cheramie?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Nothing.

              Jane checks herself in the rear-view.

                                  JANE

                        Do I have a zit?!

              Jane lets it go and looks at the drawing.

                                  JANE

                        Nice.  Mom and dad?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        This is as close to a normal family

                        as I'll ever get.  Drawings.

                                  JANE

                        See any ghosts last night?

              At this, Cheramie stops drawing.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        It's getting to where I can't tell

                        the difference, anymore.

                                  JANE

                        The difference between what?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        The difference between when I'm

                        dreaming and when I'm awake.

              Jane takes this seriously.  Cheramie resumes her drawing.



              EXT. PARKING LOT - DAY

              Jane and Cheramie have just gotten out of the car.  Jane

              tosses the keys to Cheramie, who bobbles them.  They pass a

              sign which reads:  CARPULENT HIGH SCHOOL

                                  JANE

                        Another day at 'Crapulent' high

                        school.

              They shuffle along toward the building.



              INT. KITCHEN - DAY

              Matilda turns the hot water on.  It runs a deep burgundy,

              then rust red, then brown, then clear.  She waits, bored,

              until the water steams, then turns on the cold water until

              it's just right and scrubs a broiling pan.



              INT. GREENHOUSE - DAY

              It's a fine, large old greenhouse.  The glass is covered with

              the patina of age.  There are only four plants - a mini

              euonymus, two ivy, and a palm.

              Outside, Stuller approaches, stubs out his cigar, pockets the

              butt, enters, and closes the door.  He is wearing a silk robe

              over pajamas, and slippers.  He carries a bottle of water.

              He approaches the plants and, for the first time, his

              countenance brightens.  It's honest, happy, and childlike.

                                  STULLER

                            (as if to puppies)

                        Well!  How are we, today?

              He unscrews the water, takes a swig, and examines the first

              ivy, touching its leaves.

                                  STULLER

                        Hmm!  You're getting big!

              He pours some water onto the plant.

                                  STULLER

                        Yes, you are!  Yes, you are!



              INT. CARPULENT HIGH SCHOOL, CLASSROOM - DAY

              The teacher lectures.  The students listen best they can.  In

              the back is Cheramie.  She sketches:  A MENACING MAN STANDING

              IN THE CORNER OF A ROOM WATCHING A SLEEPING GIRL.  It's an

              excellent drawing.  She makes no effort to hide what she is

              doing.  The teacher sees her and ignores it.



              EXT. BACKYARD, NEXT TO THE LAKE - DAY

              Waves lap the shore.  A few feet from the water's edge is the

              mausoleum.

              Dead, overgrown vines encase the building and almost hide the

              engraved superscript: UNDERKOFFLER.  Its heavy rusted gate

              hasn't been opened in years.

              Inside, barely visible, are two granite sarcophagi.



              INT. CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie is sitting on the floor staring blankly at her doll

              house.  She maneuvers a blond doll (girl) down the staircase,

              moving it gracefully -- like it's floating.

              She blows lightly on the doll, moving its hair a bit.

              SOUND OF VOICES from the heating vent.  She cocks her head.



              LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

              Stuller and Secrist.  Stuller, looped on cognac, smells a

              cigar, preparing to light it.  The door is closed.

                                  SECRIST

                        I deserve it!

                            (reconsiders her choice of

                             words)

                        We deserve it.

                        The money is right there.  All that

                        money!  And, all we get from the

                        estate is...

                            (indignant pause)

                        An allowance!?

              Stuller agrees -- the thought of an allowance is off-putting.

                                  SECRIST

                        Why should we--



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie has her ear to the heating vent and hears:

                                  SECRIST (O.S.)

                        --be cut out?  Stuller?  We've been

                        taking care of her for years.

              Cheramie's eyes narrow, she presses her ear to the vent.



              LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

                                  SECRIST

                        She turns eighteen in a few months.

                        When she does, she gets the estate.

              Stuller finishes lighting his cigar and blows smoke.

                                  STULLER

                        Secrist.  We get our share.

                                  SECRIST

                        The estate is worth twenty million

                        dollars.  We get a half-million.

                        Split between us?  How long will

                        that last?  The way you live?  I

                        don't think she's going to ask us

                        to stay here.

              This cuts through his stupor:  Secrist twitches a smile.

                                  SECRIST

                        Now, let's be honest.  You're far

                        too soft a man to start working.

                        You've never even had a real job.

                        Imagine it.  Nine to five.

                            (beat)

                        Monday through Friday.  Holding on

                        until the next three-day weekend.

              She smiles as Stuller mulls over such a fate.

                                  SECRIST

                        And, I'm too much of a holier-than

                        thou bitch to work in an...

                            (chokes, indignant)

                        Office.  Surrounded by bitches.

              He is lost in thought.  His cigar has gone out.

                                  STULLER

                        Not to state the obvious, but the

                        accounts are controlled.

                        Monitored.  Every penny.

              She was ready for this.

                                  SECRIST

                        But, under certain conditions, the

                        money becomes ours.

                                  STULLER

                        You've lost your mind.

                                  SECRIST

                        You putz!  I'm not talking about

                        killing anyone!  The will clearly

                        states that if the heir, Cheramie,

                        should die--

              He flares.  She motions for him to wait.

                                  SECRIST

                        -- or, become mentally unstable, or

                        otherwise unfit to see to her

                        affairs, the cashola becomes the

                        sole property of her guardians.

                        Us.

              He chews on it.

                                  SECRIST

                        We're already there.

                                  STULLER

                        What do you mean?

                                  SECRIST

                        Her grades.  Her 'visions'.  She

                        hallucinates.  Sees ghosts.

                        She's seeing a psychiatrist.  All

                        we need is for him to say

                        she's...disturbed.  And, honestly

                        she is disturbed.  I could talk to

                        him.  Give him a nudge.

              He is incredulous.

                                  SECRIST

                        She still plays with toys!

                            (beat)

                        Even if it only buys us a few

                        years...  That's a lot of money!

              This makes sense to him.  But, he is still not convinced.

                                  SECRIST

                        She could get worse.  Start seeing

                        flying elephants.

                                  STULLER

                        Flying pigs.  Pink elephants.

                                  SECRIST

                        Could you stay focused?

                                  STULLER

                        Don't you think there's enough bad

                        blood in this family?

              Without thinking, she looks at the painting of Malloch and

              Pietra.  Stuller follows her gaze, his expression sours.

                                  SECRIST

                        They set it up so we would raise

                        their kid, then cut us loose with

                        nothing.

                            (waits for this to sink

                             in)

                        Stuller...  We've already done the

                        dirty work.  The only thing we

                        haven't done is gotten paid for it.

              He considers the cigar, thinking.  For several seconds:

                                  STULLER

                        What would you say?  To her doctor?

                                  SECRIST

                        You don't need to worry about that.

                        If she were committed, we would

                        remain as executors of the estate,

                        even after she turned eighteen.

                                  STULLER

                        For how long?

                                  SECRIST

                        For as long as she was...ill.

                                  STULLER

                        And, how long would that be?

                                  SECRIST

                        Who knows?  Mental institutions are

                        stressful.  And, she's a delicate

                        girl.

              She finishes the thought with her eyes.  To him, this

              actually sounds logical - and he likes it.

                                  STULLER

                        You think it would work?

              She leans back, confident.

              He relights the cigar and glances at her.  Then, glances at

              her again.  After several seconds staring at the floor

              puffing and thinking, he nods, small and quick.  Then, he

              nods again to confirm, and without looking at her again,

              opens the door and ambles out in a cloud of smoke.

              Her smile is a long thin gesture.  She looks at the portrait.

              Malloch and Pietra glare back at her with deep, cool anger.



              INT. CHERAMIE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie still has her ear to the heating vent.  She sits up.

              Her eyes narrow with anger and determination.  But, not what

              you would expect from a teenager.  It's a mature, cool anger.



              INT. FOYER - NIGHT

              Dark.  Cheramie is halfway down the spiral staircase.  She

              looks out the arched window at the mausoleum.  Her eyes are

              serious and longing.  She continues down the stairs.

              She stops at the parlor door and watches Stuller, who is

              going through his nightly routine of chess, Tchaikovsky, and

              cognac.  She moves on to the library door and watches Secrist-

              -who has a contented smirk, which fades as she turns to the

              heavy book in her lap and forces herself to concentrate.



              KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER

              Cheramie gets a creme brulee from the fridge.



              BASEMENT - NIGHT

              Silhouetted against a rectangle of light, Cheramie stands in

              the doorway at the top of the stairs.  She closes the door,

              lights a yellow ducky flashlight, and goes down the stairs.

              She shines the ducky lite at the old furnace, and goes behind

              it.  There is a four foot space between the furnace and the

              wall.  There is a box to sit on and a blanket.

              On the wall are four heating ducts covered by heavy, hinged

              iron doors.  On the old furnace, there is a large duct across

              from the four ducts on the wall, but no connecting piping.

              Cheramie sits on the box and wraps the blanket around her.

              She pushes the spoon through the toasted surface of the

              brulee.  There is a rat trap.  It's been there for years -

              the cheese has turned to a black lump.



              BASEMENT - NIGHT, LATER

              Cheramie - bored but attentive, sits on the box wrapped in

              the blanket, the empty dessert cup at her feet.  The new

              furnace fires up with a whoosh, its gas flames casting a cold

              blue light, and dancing shadows.

              She stands and points her light at the iron grate covering a

              duct.  She works the latch.  It's rusted.  She bangs the

              latch with the flashlight.  Third time, it opens.

              She lifts the grate, loosing a cascade of rust.

              She points the flashlight into the duct: dust and grit as far

              as the light reaches.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (whispers)

                        Mom?  Dad?  I'm here.

              She listens.  Nothing but her echo.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Secrist is being a bitch.

                            (beat)

                        Again.

                            (waits for response)

                        Creme brulee, tonight.  It's good.

                        Matty desserts are the best.

                            (pause, considers the

                             gravity of what she is

                             about to say)

                        Secrist and Stuller are trying to

                        take my money.

                            (beat)

                        The money you left for me.  I heard

                        them talking.

              She listens, hopeful, but there is no response.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        They're ruining everything!  They

                        want to take the house, too!

              SOUND OF A THUMP from within the vent.  There is a puff of

              air from the vent and Cheramie's hair moves a little.

              This fills her with joy.  Then, she becomes serious.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Will you help me?  I can't stop

                        them by myself.

              She waits, but there is no response.  She leaves.



              INT. DOCTOR PALLEGRI'S OFFICE - DAY

              Finely decorated.  Doctor Thomas Pallegri, sixty-five,

              intelligent, sensitive, sits behind his desk.  Across from

              him sits Cheramie.  He waits.  She simply tolerates, staring

              at the floor.

              He looks at a digital timer on his desk.  It shows four

              minutes and is counting the seconds backward.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Time's almost up.

                            (she stares at floor)

                        Are you still having trouble

                        sleeping?

                            (nothing.  then a slight

                             nod)

                        Cheramie.  You may not feel you

                        have a family you can turn--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --I don't have any family.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        You know, you can trust me.

              Obstinate, she doesn't want to show trust.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        We're kind of stuck.

                            (waits)

                        This doesn't help.

                        There's a lot we should talk about.

                            (calculated pause)

                        Your parents' suicide.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Do you have to say that?

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Cheramie, you've  been coming to me

                        for several weeks.  I understand it

                        takes time.  But, by now you know

                        what the carpet looks like.

              She stares at the floor for a long moment, then draws her

              eyes up to him.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I think...

                            (hesitates)

                        My aunt and uncle are...

              He waits.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        They want to hurt me.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        That's fine.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (suspicious)

                        It is?

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Sure.  That's a good first step.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Don't you think I'm being paranoid?

                        Or, whatever you call it?

              His open smile comforts her.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Believe me.  People come in here

                        with feelings of persecution--

                            (off her suspicion)

                        Or, whatever you call it--  All the

                        time.  Except they think the

                        refrigerator and stove are

                        conspiring against them.

              She snickers.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        If you feel a tension between you

                        and your guardians, that's normal.

                        They're not your parents.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (wanting to tell

                             everything)

                        --It's Secrist, mostly.

              He nods benevolently, jots down a note.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Good.

              He checks the timer - 25 seconds.  She sees this.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Sorry, but I have another--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I know.  That little boy.  He's

                        pretty messed up, huh?

              Now, he is the one that's embarrassed - looks at the floor.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        That's a good start.

              They look shyly to each other for support.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Can we start there next week?

              She shrugs and suppresses a grin, and lowers her eyes.  He

              grins big.



              MOMENTS LATER

              He opens the door.  Standing there is Secrist dressed in an

              old-fashioned jacket and skirt.  Dr. Pallegri smiles warmly

              at Cheramie, but the warmth fades when he sees Secrist.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                            (to Cheramie)

                        We'll just be a couple minutes.

              Cheramie nods and slides past Secrist.  Dr. Pallegri invites

              Secrist in and closes the door.



              MOMENTS LATER

              They are seated.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well?

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        We've made some progress.

                            (off Secrist's impatience)

                        There are some feeling of...

                                  SECRIST

                        She hates me!

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        It's normal to go through a period

                        of adjustment after what Cheramie

                        has been through.

                                  SECRIST

                        Her parents killed themselves ten

                        years ago.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        A child's pain takes a long time to

                        heal.  I'm know you understand

                        that.

              She flinches, then:

                                  SECRIST

                        So, you agree.  She's sick.  She

                        should be committed.

              He chuckles.

                                  SECRIST

                        I guess that's not the right word.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        I've thought about your suggestion.

              She brightens.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        There's an excellent

                        facility...Willow Creek, about

                        thirty miles--

                                  SECRIST

                        --Yes, I've heard of it!

                            (quells her enthusiasm)

                        On the internet.  I looked it up.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        Uh-hmm.  It might do her some good.

                        To get away.  I know a lot of the

                        people there.  The counselors.

                        It's a good environment.

              She smiles like a little girl.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  You're right!  Of course!  I

                        could take her--

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        --Let's just keep it in mind.

                            (off her disappointment)

                        For now.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well.  Whatever you think is best.

                            (quickly thinks)

                        If Cheramie is ill...if she needs

                        to be hospitalized.  Well, wouldn't

                        it be in her best interest to start

                        the treatment as soon as possible?

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        If it becomes necessary.

                            (writes)

                        Yes.

                            (she savors it)

                        Cheramie mentioned she's having

                        some trouble sleeping.  That's not

                        good.  This should help.

              He passes the script; she takes it like it was candy.  She

              reads it and is disappointed.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        It's mild.

                                  SECRIST

                        It's a start.

              He finds her comment off putting.

                                  DOCTOR PALLEGRI

                        I'm glad we had this time.

              Secrist holds her nose high.



              INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT

              Dressed in night clothes, Matilda finishes fixing a snack.

              Cheramie enters, depressed.  Matilda is concerned.

                                  MATILDA

                        How was your visit?

              Cheramie gets a bottle of water from the fridge.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Okay.

                                  MATILDA

                        Cheramie!  Give it time.

              Matilda finishes up and puts the food back in the fridge.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Will you tell me about my parents?

              This stops her.

                                  MATILDA

                        You think you're ready?

              Cheramie shrugs, not sure.  Matilda goes to her.

                                  MATILDA

                        I've wanted to tell you.  It's time

                        you knew the truth.  You've been

                        hiding from it.

                            (Cheramie admits it's

                             true)

                        Well, that's okay.  We all have

                        things in our past we'd rather not

                        face.

                            (pause)

                        I'm going to my sister's house.

                        Tomorrow.  For the holidays.  Like

                        always.

                            (beat)

                        When I get back, we can talk.  It's

                        too much to start tonight.  Okay?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        That's fine.

                                  MATILDA

                        I'm just sorry you have to hear

                        about it from me.  I'm just the

                        maid.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        You're the only family I have left.

                                  MATILDA

                        What about your aunt and uncle?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        They suck.

              They giggle, both knowing it's true.

                                  MATILDA

                        Oh!  And, you're mine!  You're my

                        only family, too.

                            (they hug)

                        Except for my sister.  She cooks so

                        much food this time of year and we

                        eat until we're ready to bust.

                        We're just two fat old ladies alone

                        in the world.

                            (pause)

                        Well...

              Matilda gets her snack before the moment gets saccharin.

                                  MATILDA

                        I'm going to eat this and watch TV

                        and get fatter.

                            (heavy pause)

                        I'm glad.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm not a little girl any more.

                        It's time.

              They beam at each other.

                                  MATILDA

                        Good night.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Night.

              Matilda takes her snack and leaves.  Cheramie gets a cookie,

              takes her bottle of water, and leaves.



              FOYER - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie heads for the stairs.  She sees Matilda disappear

              into the hall near the front door.

              Cheramie climbs the stairs.  At the top, she turns the lights

              off and goes into her room.

              A figure emerges from behind the kitchen door.  It's Secrist -

              her eyes narrow, her mind working.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie stares at a bottle of prescription medicine, not

              wanting to take them.  She sighs, pops the top and takes two,

              chasing them with a hit from her bottle of water.  She goes

              to bed and turns off the light.



              SECRIST'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Secrist is sitting on the bed.  She is dressed in an old

              fashioned gown buttoned to the neck.  Her brow furrowed with

              calculation.

              After a moment she pops two pills from a prescription bottle,

              tucks herself in, and turns the light off.



              PARLOR - NIGHT

              Stuller pops two white pills and gulps them down with cognac.

              He lifts the bottle to pour more, but it's empty.



              BASEMENT - NIGHT

              Stuller comes in, turns light on, goes down stairs.

              Next to the new heater, he turns the thermostat up.

              He goes to the far side of the old furnace, comes to:

              The wine rack - where he gets another bottle of Cognac.

              SOUND OF RUSTED HINGES WORKING from behind the old furnace.

              Stuller hears it and, holding the cognac, goes to look behind

              the furnace.

              There's nothing there.  He lets it go and climbs the stairs.

              Now at the top of stairs, he leaves and closes the door.

              After a second, the door opens, Stuller pops back in.

                                  STULLER

                        Damn it...

              He palms the light switch, and glances into the basement.  He

              sees Malloch standing in the space behind the old furnace,

              wearing his tuxedo, leering at him, just for the split second

              before the light goes out.

              Stunned, Stuller flips the lights back on - there is nothing

              there.  He attributes the vision to the booze and pills.

              Silly me!  Then, still staring at the spot where Malloch was,

              Stuller becomes serious and very sober.

                                  STULLER

                        Sorry, old man.

              He turns the light off and closes the door.



              PARLOR - NIGHT

              Stuller enters, starts a record (Mahler's first), sits at the

              table to drink and diddle with chess.



              SECRIST'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  Secrist in bed.  She opens her eyes and sits up.



              GRAND SPIRAL STAIRCASE - NIGHT

              Dark.  Quiet.  Secrist at the top of the stairs.

              She goes down the stairs, mechanical, staring, her face

              blank.  She passes Stuller in the parlor - he doesn't notice

              her.  She walks into the kitchen.



              BASEMENT - CONTINUOUS

              Dark.  The door opens and Secrist is there, silhouetted in

              the dimly lit rectangle at the top of the stairs.

              Robotic, she walks down the stairs and wanders past the new

              heater to the thermostat.  She turns it up - the gas flame

              ignites casting its dancing blue light.

              She is now standing in front of the old furnace, staring at

              it.  The gas flame's light makes the giant iron furnace look

              almost alive - like a face that stares back at her.

              In a trance, she shuffles to the back of the old furnace.

              She runs her finger along its side.  Rust falls to the floor.

              She turns to the vent - the same one Cheramie opened.

                                  SECRIST

                        Pietra?  I can't hear you.

              She leans close, then, lifts the grate and looks in the vent.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm here...

              Several moments go by.  Then, Secrist's hair flies wildly,

              straight back, in a wind that comes out of the vent.  She

              reels backward, dropping the heavy door.  WHAM!

              She bats her eyes, conscious for the first time of where she

              is.  She gets her bearings and is immediately afraid.

                                  SECRIST

                        What...

                                  PIETRA

                            (from vent, whispers)

                        Secrist...

              Secrist backs into the furnace and whirls around.  She

              quickly turns back to the vent unable to understand.

                                  PIETRA

                        I've waited a long time.

                                  SECRIST

                        Who...What's going on?!

              The door at the top of the stairs closes slowly.  It creaks.

              The line between light and dark makes its way across the

              floor to: Secrist -- the darkness advances across her

              shoulder, then her face, then the other shoulder.

                                  PIETRA

                        You never visit.

              The door closes.  It's pitch black except for the dancing

              blue gaslight from the new furnace.

                                  SECRIST

                        Who are you?

                                  PIETRA

                        You've been naughty, Secrist.

                                  SECRIST

                        What?

                                  PIETRA

                        It's time.

                                  SECRIST

                        What do you mean?  Time for what?!

                        What is it time for?!

                            (long pause, no response)

                        Answer me!  WHAT IS IT TIME FOR?!

              Secrist waits, mouth open, eyes wide, surrounded by wild

              dancing shadows.  SOUND OF A SNAP!  Secrist screams.



              INT. LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Cheramie prepares to remove the ancient rat trap from the big

              toe on Secrist's right foot.

                                  SECRIST

                        Be careful!

              Cheramie smirks to herself.  Behind her is Stuller with a

              fresh glass, doing his best to hide his delight.  Matilda is

              both amused and suspicious.

                                  SECRIST

                        Ow!  Watch it, you idiot!

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (keeping a straight face)

                        Sorry.

                                  MATILDA

                        What happened?

                                  SECRIST

                        How dare you!

              Matilda balks.  Cheramie eyes Secrist and removes the rat

              trap.  Secrist howls.

                                  STULLER

                        She was strolling in the basement

                        and stepped on a trap.

                                  SECRIST

                        She left it there!

                                  MATILDA

                        I haven't set a trap for years.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!

              Secrist gingerly massages the offended toe.

                                  STULLER

                            (baiting)

                        Is it broken?

                                  SECRIST

                        Fuck off!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Why were you in the basement?

                                  SECRIST

                        I was turning the heat up!

                                  STULLER

                        Here we go.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well!  It's freezing!  It's winter,

                        you know!

              Now bored and tired, Stuller pours more cognac.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        There's no trap near the furnace.

                                  SECRIST

                        I don't know why the damn thermos

                        thing is down there, anyway!

              Matilda and Stuller get Cheramie's point.

                                  STULLER

                        Where were you--

                                  SECRIST

                        --I don't...know.  Behind the old

                        furnace.

              Everyone exchanges loaded glances.

                                  STULLER

                        Well.  Not to be obvious, but what--

                                  SECRIST

                        --I don't remember!

                                  STULLER

                        Do you want to see a doct--

                                  SECRIST

                        --Oh, shut up!  I'm fine!

              Unsteady, Secrist gets up and hobbles out, struggling to

              maintain her dignity despite being watched by everyone.

              Cheramie forces a straight face as she helps her out.

                                  SECRIST

                        Leave me alone!  I can manage.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (taking her arm)

                        No, you can't!  I'll help you with

                        the stairs.

                                  STULLER

                        Secrist.  Let her help--

                                  SECRIST

                        --SHUT UP!  Drunk idiot.

              Stuller let's it go.  Grudgingly, Secrist accepts the help.



              FOYER

              Secrist and Cheramie climb the stairs carefully.

              Matilda and Stuller come out of the library and watch for a

              few seconds, then Matilda heads for her room, Stuller eying

              her ass.

                                  STULLER

                        Night cap, Matty?

                                  MATILDA

                        Piss off.  Good night, Cheramie.

                                  STULLER

                        All righty, then.

              Stuller heads for the parlor.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Night, Matty.

                                  SECRIST

                            (mocking)

                        Good niiiight, Maaattty!



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie opens the window.  Jane is outside on a ladder,

              grinning ear to ear.  She climbs in, clunking her boots.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Shh!

                                  JANE

                        It's cold as bitch's tit.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Witch's tit.

                                  JANE

                        Shut up.

              Jane checks the ladder then closes the window.



              STAIRCASE TO ATTIC - NIGHT

              Cheramie and Jane tiptoe up the narrow, steep staircase.

              Jane yucks huge, silent laughs.  They come to the attic door.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        She was sleepwalking.

                                  JANE

                        Your family is so fucked up.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (bad Vincent Price)

                        They're not my family.

                            (gestures to attic door)

                        This is where the ghost lives!

              Cheramie opens the door.  It creaks.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Wait.

              She picks up the kerosene lantern sitting next to the door.

                                  JANE

                        You got to be kidding.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        It's an old house.  There's no

                        lights up here.

                            (strikes match)

                        No wiring.

              She lights the lantern, blows out the match and they go into:



              ATTIC

              The room is filled with trunks, boxes, old furniture - all

              covered with sheets.

                                  JANE

                        Jeez.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I know...

              Cheramie goes to a trunk, sets the lantern on a table, and

              opens the trunk.  She looks back at Jane.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Get in here chicken shit.

              Embarrassed, Jane comes in.  Cheramie pulls a wedding dress

              out of the trunk.

                                  JANE

                        Wow.  Beautiful.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (hands it to her)

                        My mom's wedding dress.

              Jane holds it up to her body, checks the fit.

              Cheramie takes a tuxedo jacket out of the trunk.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Who gets to be the man?

              After a second they realize who should be whom.  Jane hands

              the dress to Cheramie.  Cheramie gives the jacket to Jane.



              MOMENTS LATER

              Cheramie is adjusting the dress, Jane has the tux on.

              Jane goes to a full-length mirror covered with a sheet, whips

              the sheet off, adjusts the mirror, checks herself out.

                                  JANE

                        Cool!

                            (in low pitch voice)

                        Oh, dang woman!  I feels like a

                        secret agent in this here fancy

                        jacket.

                            (half turn)

                        I is one good-looking man.  You is

                        lucky to have me.

              Cheramie adjusts the dress and comes over.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (rube drawl)

                        I'm as homely as a possum.

                                  JANE

                        Naw, baby.  That ain't true.  I

                        loves you.

              Jane slips her arm around Cheramie's waist and pulls her

              close.  Cheramie pushes her away.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Dork!

                                  JANE

                        Aw, now baby!  Don't be like that!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Asshole.

              Cheramie turns the mirror so that she can see her reflection.

              When she does, Pietra appears behind her.  She admires

              Cheramie and smiles.

                                  PIETRA

                        It looks good on you.

              Jane turns the mirror back to her (Pietra's reflection

              disappears).

                                  JANE

                        Hey!  I'm not through checking me

                        out!

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (turning mirror back,

                             Pietra's reflection

                             appears)

                        God damn it!

              Pietra's smile fades.  She leans close to Cheramie - when she

              speaks, Cheramie's hair is tossed a bit.

                                  PIETRA

                        She's in danger here.

              Jane moves over next to Cheramie.

                                  JANE

                        I thought I was the man.

              Just to irk Cheramie, Jane angles the mirror a tad - this

              cuts Pietra's reflection out again.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        You are.  Shut up.

                                  JANE

                        We're so married.



              LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

              Wearing a robe over her night gown, Secrist is sitting in her

              chair, reading a book.



              ATTIC - CONTINUOUS

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (to mirror)

                        I do!  Oh, I do!  Till death do us

                        part.

                                  JANE

                        Honey, I promise I won't drink more

                        than a six pack a night.  And, I

                        will never beat you.  I swear!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I won't cut your dick off while

                        you're asleep.



              PARLOR - CONTINUOUS

              Stuller has managed to get the turntable working.  He tosses

              back half a glass of cognac to celebrate.



              LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

              Secrist is sitting in her chair with a book on her lap, but

              she isn't reading.  She stares at the doorway, suspicious.

              She stands, puts the book down, and walks to the door.



              STAIRCASE FROM ATTIC - CONTINUOUS

              Jane and Cheramie tiptoe down still wearing the wedding

              clothes.  Cheramie looks to see if the coast is clear,

              signals Jane and they sprint on tiptoe to Cheramie's room, go

              in, and close the door behind them.



              FOYER - CONTINUOUS

              Secrist is looking out the window next to the front door.

              Her eyes narrow with suspicion, irritation, and confusion.

              She is looking at:



              EXT. FRONT OF HOUSE, SEMI-CIRCLE DRIVEWAY - NIGHT

              Matilda's Honda is parked in the driveway.



              FOYER - NIGHT

              Vexed, Secrist hobbles to the short hallway near the front

              door and comes to:  Matilda's door.  She enters without

              knocking.  She goes straight for a porcelain bowl on the

              dresser and gets some keys, then leaves.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stupid bitch!



              EXT. BACKYARD - NIGHT

              Stuller stands in the yard still dressed in the robe and

              pajamas.  He's buzzing pretty good and doesn't feel the cold.

              He takes a swig straight from his bottle, and swaggers out.



              EXT. FRONT OF HOUSE, SEMI-CIRCLE DRIVEWAY - NIGHT

              Secrist gets into the Honda, starts it, and pulls away.



              INT. CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Jane and Cheramie on the bed watching an old horror movie on

              a small black and white TV which is also on the bed, propped

              up on a stack of CD's.  They each have half a beer.

                                  JANE

                        Married to me--

                            (burps)

                        You'll always have beer.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Better...

                            (burps)



              I/E GARAGE - NIGHT

              Secrist drives the Honda into the garage, parks it next to

              the 1975 Mercedes, gets out, storms out of the garage, and

              closes the garage door.



              EXT. LAKESIDE - NIGHT

              Stuller pulls his foot from his slipper and pushes his toe

              through the thin ice.  The sensation raises a dull grin.

                                  STULLER

                        Woo!  'Cold'.



              INT. MATILDA'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              Secrist replaces the keys in the porcelain bowl and leaves.

                                  SECRIST

                        Dumb, lazy bitch!



              INT. LIBRARY - CONTINUOUS

              The grandfather clock stops ticking.



              INT. FOYER - CONTINUOUS

              Secrist comes out of the hall near the front door and heads

              for the stairs.  On the way she passes the parlor - where

              Stuller's turntable slows down until the music becomes a low

              growl and seems to speak demonically.  Then, it stops.

              Secrist doesn't notice and climbs the stairs.  She looks out

              the arched window and sees Stuller in the backyard.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  Idiot!

                            (continues up stairs)

                        Freeze to death!  Drunk.  Fool!



              EXT. BACKYARD, LAKESIDE - NIGHT

              Stuller selects a flat stone from the beach.  He feels its

              weight and tosses it across the ice the way you do when you

              skip a stone on water.

              The stone bounces on the ice making a QUEER PINGING SOUND

              every time it hits the ice, before hitting the slush where

              the lake has not yet frozen.  Amused, he tosses another

              stone.  It makes the same strange musical sound - PING,

              TWING, PWANG.  He grins and turns around.  His face is lit by

              a strange green-white light.  His jaw drops.



              EXT. BACKYARD, SPRING - DAY

              Stuller and Pietra (years earlier), are in each other's arms.

                                  PIETRA

                        You're so naughty!

                                  STULLER

                        When did he leave?

                                  PIETRA

                        Early.  He'll be in Chicago this

                        afternoon.

                                  STULLER

                        I wonder where I'll be this

                        afternoon.

              They kiss, deep and passionate.  With a twinkle in their eyes

              they run to the house, hand-in-hand.



              RETURN TO SCENE

              Stuller grins, lavishing the memory.  Then, he is shocked by:



              RETURN TO VISION:

              Malloch emerges from the bushes (where the mausoleum is to

              be) and watches Stuller and Pietra trot to the house.  He is

              devastated and furious.  He turns and faces Stuller (in

              present).  As he does, his face turns to a sour mask.  The

              flesh rots and his face becomes a slimy skull.

                                  MALLOCH

                        It's time, old man!

              The vision fades - the bushes are replaced by the mausoleum,

              and the green light fades.



              RETURN TO SCENE

              Stuller reels back stepping into the lake, breaking the ice,

              and soaking his foot.

                                  STULLER

                        Son of a bitch!

              He shakes the water off his foot.

                                  STULLER

                        Goddammit!  Son of a...

              He picks up his soaked slipper and wrings it out.  He

              giggles, embarrassed.  He holds the bottle up and:

                                  STULLER

                        Maybe I've had enough.  Hmm?  What

                        do you think?

              He puts the slipper in his robe's pocket and meanders,

              finding himself in front of the mausoleum.

              His robe flutters in the wind.  He squares off at the gate

              and raises his bottle to the building.

                                  STULLER

                        Here's to the 'Underkof'...

              He happens upon two small white pills in his pocket.

                                  STULLER

                        ...'Underkofflers'!  A sick, sick

                        clan if ever there was!

              He pops the pills like they were candy and swigs them down.

                                  STULLER

                        I'm proud to be member in good

                        standing...swaying.

                            (grand sweeping gesture)

                        Look!  Look at what's mine!  Will

                        be mine!

                            (lurches to gate)

                        Will be mine, Malloch!  Malloch?

                            (sticks face in bars)

                        Can you hear me in there?

              He turns, faces the property, leans back against the gate.

                                  STULLER

                        Try to cut me out.  Both of us!

                        I'm your brother!  Who do you think

                        raised your daughter?  Us.  Not

                        you.  You weren't...around.  You

                        saw to that, didn't you?  Prick.

              He swills Cognac like beer, turns back to the mausoleum and

              peers through the bars of the gate into blackness.

                                  STULLER

                        What did you do?  Kill yourself.

                        Coward!

                                  MALLOCH (O.S.)

                        Yes.  That was a mistake.

                                  STULLER

                            (giggling, looped)

                        Well...  I guess under the

                        circumstances...  I'd do the same.

              Stuller continues giggling and mumbling to himself as:

              Malloch emerges from the shadows and comes to the gate.

                                  STULLER

                        Malloch!  Old man!  There you are!

                                  MALLOCH

                        How have you been?

              Stuller shivers.

                                  MALLOCH

                        It's cold.  Come in.

              The gate swings open.  Stuller enters.  Inside, shielded from

              the wind, it's quiet.

                                  STULLER

                        It is cold...

              Malloch sits on his granite tomb, hands crossed elegantly in

              his lap.  With a graceful gesture he invites Stuller to sit

              on Pietra's tomb.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Please.

              Stuller shakes his head and shuffles to warm up.

                                  MALLOCH

                        That was silly.  Wasn't it?  My

                        killing myself.

                                  STULLER

                        Silly?!  You made a damn fool of

                        yourself.  The papers had a field

                        day!  We were important!  Damned

                        important in this town!

                                  MALLOCH

                        I apologize, Stuller.  I

                        embarrassed you and the family.  It

                        was selfish.  I was selfish.

                                  STULLER

                        Well...that's okay.

                            (stoned pause)

                        It's just so embarrassing.  People

                        still remember, you know.  Can't go

                        anywhere.  The guy I buy cigars

                        from...

                            (searches for and finds a

                             cigar)

                        He remembers.  You should see how

                        he watches me.

                            (lights cigar)

                        Asshole.  I'm not going there

                        anymore...

                                  MALLOCH

                        I'm sure he'll miss your business.

                                  STULLER

                            (puffing cigar to life)

                        You bet he will.  These are

                        expensive.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Now, however, we have this other

                        matter.

              Stuller can't hide his shame.

                                  STULLER

                        You mean Cheramie's...

                            (chokes)

                                  MALLOCH

                        Yes, that.  The inheritance.  Her

                        inheritance.  The money, Stuller.

              Stuller toes the dirt, unable to look Malloch in the eye.

                                  STULLER

                        Well...

                                  MALLOCH

                        I know you feel you deserve some

                        reward.  You don't.   You never

                        provided for her.  You couldn't

                        have--

                                  STULLER

                        --I sacrificed!  I'm not a young

                        man, anymore.  I deserve--

              BAM.  The gate closes.  Stuller jumps, but doesn't understand

              the implication.  Malloch stands.

                                  STULLER

                        I deserve something!

              Malloch steps closer.  Stuller backs into the gate.

                                  STULLER

                        Malloch...  What you did was wrong.

                        But, you were going through a rough

                        patch.  I...  We forgive you.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You've been a weak man all your

                        life.  It won't do, anymore.  Your

                        excuses.  I'm afraid...it's time.

                                  STULLER

                        Wait...  Malloch!  I don't...  I'm

                        sorry!  Really!

                                  MALLOCH

                        You'll like it here.

                            (gestures)

                        There's a space.  For you.

                                  STULLER

                        What?  No, Malloch...  It's not too

                        late!  We can still--

                                  MALLOCH

                            (over)

                        --Stuller.

                            (motions for him to calm

                             down)

                        Listen.

                            (waits)

                        Are you listening?

                            (off Stuller's nod)

                        I've been dead for a long time.

              Malloch waits for this to sink in.  Stuller drops the cigar

              and struggles to understand.  Malloch savors it.  Stuller's

              lips quiver, his eyes plead, and he shivers uncontrollably.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You understand?

              Totally stoned, Stuller nods.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Do you know what I am?

              Stuller twitches and mewls softly.  Malloch grins.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You've picked up a new habit.

                                  STULLER

                        What...what do you mean?

              Malloch reaches out - Stuller flinches, banging his head

              against the bars - hard - he feels no pain.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You're quite the junkie.

              This embarrasses Stuller.  Malloch strokes Stuller's face

              with the back of his finger tips -- where Malloch's fingers

              touch Stuller the surface of Stuller's face is removed - in

              thin, elegant strips.  Stuller doesn't react.

                                  STULLER

                        What do you want?

                                  MALLOCH

                        I've always been impressed how a

                        junkie's mind will fade.  Rot away.

              Stuller examines his face with his hand.  His fingers touch

              the wet tissue.  He looks at his red fingertips and tries to

              comprehend.

                                  STULLER

                        Wha...  It's...  Did I...

                                  MALLOCH

                        You were a lazy man, but you had a

                        sharp mind...  At one time.

              Malloch strokes Stuller again.  This time he slides the palm

              of his hand over the side of Stuller's head, shearing the

              hair and ear away.  Stuller doesn't feel the pain.

                                  MALLOCH

                        What you and Secrist are trying to

                        do is wrong, and I have to stop

                        you.

              Stuller tries to blink away the stupor, but can't.

                                  STULLER

                        It was my fault!  I know that, now.

                                  MALLOCH

                        The only good thing I ever did was

                        to have Cheramie.  I'm not going to

                        let you hurt her.

              Stuller touches the side of his face.  It's a red pulp.  He

              looks at his hands and is shocked by the blood there.

                                  STULLER

                        What?!  What are you...  Malloch!

                        It won't happen again!  I swear!

              Stuller pats the side of his head, feeling for his hair and

              missing ear.

                                  STULLER

                        I can't feel...  My face.  Malloch,

                        I think I'm bleeding.

                            (shows his hand)

                        I think that's blood.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You're the one that brought shame

                        to this family--

                                  STULLER

                            (overlap)

                        --No!  I, we...didn't mean--

                                  MALLOCH

                        Stuller.  I'm your brother.  She

                        was my wife!

                                  STULLER

                        I'm sorry!  I know that!  I knew

                        that!  I'm very sorry!

              Malloch runs both hands over Stuller's face and head leaving

              it denuded, the bone showing through in spots.

              Stuller screams but makes no effort to move or defend

              himself.

              Malloch pushes his hands slowly, up to the wrists, into

              Stuller's abdomen.

              Stuller watches with his wild, bald eyes.

                                  STULLER

                        OH, GOD!  PLEASE!  I DIDN'T MEAN

                        IT!  I'M SO SORRY!  I loved her!

              Malloch's glare softens, and he inches forward.

                                  MALLOCH

                        So did I.

              Malloch pushes his hands deep, up to the elbow.  They emerge

              from Stuller's back and grip the bars of the gate.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Sorry, old man.

              Stuller howls and grimaces, wriggling pathetically.

              POV: Looking into the mausoleum from the yard.  STULLER'S

              SCREAMS ARE MUTED, ALMOST INAUDIBLE.  RETURN TO SCENE:

              Malloch pulls his body close to Stuller.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Checkmate, old boy.

                                  STULLER

                        Malloch!  No!

              Malloch pulls his body into Stuller's.  As his body touches

              Stuller's, it peels back skin and muscle, revealing bone.

              Stuller's innards can be seen through Malloch's ghostly body.

              He screams as his flesh is stripped from his skeleton.



              INT. LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Sitting in her chair with an open book on her lap, Secrist

              stares at the portrait and rubs her hands together.  Her face

              is a jangle of stress, foreboding, and guilt.

                                  SECRIST

                        What have I done?  What did I do?

                        I don't think so.  No!  No!  I'm

                        sure of it...  I couldn't have!

                        I'm sure/I'm sure of it.

              The clock stops ticking.  Secrist doesn't notice and

              continues her confused mumbling.

              Outside, it looks like dawn.  The light grows - too fast,

              much too fast.  Secrist notices, perplexed.  It seems to have

              become day in just a few seconds.  She goes to the door -

              it's made of glass in a heavy wood frame - and parts the

              curtains and is shocked to see:

              The yard is bathed in daylight.  Secrist is horrified to see

              Malloch and Pietra ambling toward the house.  They are young

              and healthy.



              BACKYARD - DAY

                                  MALLOCH

                        It's a lovely day.

              Pleasantly, Pietra nods agreement.

                                  PIETRA

                        Nice to be out again.

              They chuckle.  They walk through the greenhouse door (without

              opening it).



              LIBRARY

              Secrist watches in horror.  Have I lost my mind?



              BACKYARD

              Malloch and Pietra exit the greenhouse (without opening the

              door) and walk toward the house.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Pietra.  I apologize.

                                  PIETRA

                        Malloch.  We're both at fault.  We

                        can put it behind us, now.

              He agrees.

                                  PIETRA

                        There's this new thing to deal

                        with, now.

              They walk past Secrist - who has appeared from nowhere,

              sitting in the middle of the lawn in her favorite mohair

              chair from the library.  Looking stricken, she is naked and

              presses a leather book to her chest and another to her lap.



              LIBRARY

              Shocked, Secrist looks at herself sitting in the backyard.



              BACKYARD

                                  MALLOCH

                        The things people will do.

                            (off Pietra's smile, grand

                             gesture)

                        After you.

              With exaggerated politeness, she nods and enters the house,

              walking through the door (without opening it).

              Malloch looks back at Secrist (naked in the chair) and

              chuckles.  She gawks back at him, embarrassed.

                                  MALLOCH

                        You look silly.

              Malloch turns and goes through the door.



              INT. LIBRARY - DAY

              Secrist reels back from the door.  Pietra emerges through the

              door and does not seem to see Secrist standing there.  She

              walks through the right side of Secrist's body - shearing

              away the flesh down to the bone.  Secrist gapes in comic

              horror at her bony bloody right side.  Malloch enters and

              (without noticing Secrist) walks through the left side of her

              body, shearing away the flesh from that side.

              Now a pulpy skeleton, Secrist rolls her denuded eyes, opens

              her bony jaws wide, and screams.



              INT. LIBRARY - DAY

              Secrist awakens with a start, a dew of perspiration on her

              face, a large leather-bound book clenched to her stomach.

              She looks around, gets her bearings, realizes it was a dream

              and, relieved, leans back and catches her breath.  She laughs

              at herself, embarrassed.

              The clock starts ticking.  Secrist doesn't notice.  She gets

              up, puts the book on the table.

              She takes the portrait of Malloch and Pietra down off the

              wall and leans it against the wall with the canvas facing the

              wall - the back of the painting faces the room.



              FOYER - DAY

              Secrist limps upstairs.  She gets to the arched window and

              does a double-take.  Concerned, she scrutinizes the yard.

              She sees:  green-gray grass.  There is no snow.  There is,

              however, a path.  About three feet wide, composed of a white

              powder.

              It goes from the mausoleum to the greenhouse, and continues

              from the other end of the greenhouse to the back door of the

              main house, where the library is.



              EXT. BACKYARD - DAY

              Secrist gawks at the path as she walks to the greenhouse.

              She opens the door and enters:



              INT. GREENHOUSE - DAY

              Stuller's plants are dead.  Slack-jawed, Secrist examines

              them -- the leaves are brown.  She plucks a leaf off the stem

              - it's crunchy.  It looks as if it were baked in an oven.

              She takes a closer look - the soil is white.  Carefully, she

              prods the dirt - it's a fluffy powder.

              Befuddled, tilts the pot and is surprised when the powder

              pours out, raising a cloud of dust as it lands on the floor.



              EXT. GREENHOUSE (OTHER SIDE) - DAY

              Secrist exits.  She is now on the side of the greenhouse

              which faces the mausoleum.  The path goes from the door of

              the greenhouse to the gate of the mausoleum.

              She walks toward the mausoleum.  She is horrified by the

              sight of:



              INT. MAUSOLEUM - DAY

              Stuller lies on the floor inside.  There are no injuries to

              his body or face.  He looks completely normal except:

              His pallid face has a horrible expression and he lies in a

              pool of frozen urine.  Secrist sees the empty, overturned

              bottle of cognac.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stuller!  You idiot!

              She stalks back to the house.

                                  SECRIST

                        Un-freaking believable!  Drunk

                        idiot!

              She notices something in the path:  two sets of shallow

              footprints, a man's and a woman's, in the white ash, headed

              to the house.

              She follows the prints to the greenhouse.  She enters the

              greenhouse.  The footprints don't show on the concrete floor.

              She goes to where she dumped the ash onto the floor - the

              footprints are highlighted in the dust, like fingerprints on

              glass.  She follows them to the main house.  She scans the

              house, frightened.  She opens the back door and enters:



              INT. LIBRARY - DAY

              She closes the door behind her, quickly locking it.  She

              turns leans against the door and catches her breath.



              INT. CARPULENT HIGH SCHOOL, BATHROOM - DAY

              Cheramie enters, looking haggard.  She goes into a stall.

              Tentatively, she drops her pants, and, after a moment, sits.

              She thinks she hears something from the next stall and looks

              under the wall, but sees nothing.

              SOUND OF A CLUNK from the stall on the other side.  She

              whirls and looks under that wall - again nothing.

              She decides to just hold it, stands and fastens her pants.

              She unlocks the door - but it won't open.

              A tree branch (with a hand of twigs) comes under the door and

              takes a swipe at Cheramie.

              She reels.  Another branch arm comes over a wall and grabs

              her.  She struggles but can't get free.  Another branch arm

              grabs her.  She breaks off one of its fingers - it screams

              and bleeds.

              Several more branch arms grab her.  Slimy seaweed vines rise

              from the toilet and wrap themselves between her legs and

              around her waist.  Cheramie screams.



              INT. LIBRARY - DAY

              Secrist parts the curtains and looks at:

              EMT's take Stuller's covered body away on a gurney.  There is

              a knock at the door.

              Secrist opens the door - just a bit.  There is a COP.

                                  COP

                        Miss Perlmann?

                                  SECRIST

                        Yes?

                                  COP

                        I just wanted to give you my

                        report.

              He passes a piece of paper through the space between the door

              and the jamb.  Secrist snatches it.

                                  COP

                        Looks like an accident, ma'am.

                                  SECRIST

                        Okay.

                                  COP

                        The medical examiner says he died

                        last night.  Hypothermia.

                                  SECRIST

                        Okay.

                                  COP

                        I'm sorry.

                                  SECRIST

                        Okay.

              She closes the door and looks at the report.

                                  SECRIST

                        Idiot.



              INT. CARPULENT HIGH SCHOOL, PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE - DAY

              Jane enters, worried.  A secretary casually points to

              Cheramie, who is sits nearby looking dejected.

                                  JANE

                        Cheramie!

              She goes to Cheramie and comforts her.

                                  JANE

                        Cheramie!

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (staring at floor)

                        I'm okay.

                                  JANE

                        What happened?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        What do you think?

              Jane sighs, concerned but relieved.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        They're everywhere.

                                  JANE

                        Come on.

              Jane takes Cheramie out.



              INT. LIBRARY - DAY

              Jane and Cheramie stare at each other, numb and serious.

              Secrist appears in the door.  She is wearing an old-fashioned

              black dress, long black gloves, and black shoes.  She has an

              old-fashioned hat with a veil.  Her chin is held high.

              The girls look her up and down and force themselves to keep

              straight faces.

              She comes in and sits in the mohair chair.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well.  This has affected all of us.

                        Including you, Jane.  Stuller

                        was...coarse, but he was a good

                        man.  We will all miss him.

              Jane stifles a chuckle.  Secrist eyes flash.

                                  JANE

                        Sorry.  I really didn't know him.

                        It's a terrible loss.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        He was a drunk.

                                  SECRIST

                        Could you behave like an adult?

              Secrist waits for both girls to settle.

                                  SECRIST

                        After a proper period of mourning,

                        we'll make a fresh start.  We'll be

                        a family, again.

              Jane and Cheramie flash a look to each other and cover their

              smirks best they can.  Secrist notices none of this as she is

              calculating her next statement:

                                  SECRIST

                        To that end, I've decided to move

                        the mausoleum.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        What?!

              Jane's jaw drops.

                                  SECRIST

                        I've given it a lot of thought.

                        It's for the best.  In order for us

                        to be a normal family, we have to

                        put the past behind us.

              They stare.  After a long pause:

                                  SECRIST

                        THEY'RE IN THE GOD DAMNED BACKYARD!

              The girls flinch.  Secrist forces herself to calm down.

                                  SECRIST

                        How can we have a normal home with

                        them buried in the God damned

                        backyard?!  And, now...  Stuller

                        died in that place!  I want it off

                        the property.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (still, calm)

                        You can't do that.

                                  SECRIST

                        I only have your best interest in

                        mind.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Then, don't move them.

                                  SECRIST

                        What difference does it make?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        They like it here.

              Secrist barely tolerates this last comment.

                                  SECRIST

                        They'll be moved to a cemetery.

                        I've already talked to some people.

                        They have ways.  They can move the

                        whole...thing. You can visit them

                        any time you--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --They won't let you do that.

                                  SECRIST

                        --The court has no say in this!  As

                        the executor of the estate, I have

                        the right--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --I'm not talking about the court.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh, my God!  You really need help.

              Jane has watched this like it was a ping pong match.  She

              attempts a joke to lighten the mood.

                                  JANE

                        Isn't it bad luck?

                            (off Secrist's stare)

                        I mean, moving the dead.

                                  SECRIST

                        You really don't need to chime in.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Don't talk to her like that!

                                  SECRIST

                        Could we skip this, PLEASE?!

                            (immediately calm)

                        It's upsetting, I know.  But, it's

                        for the best.  I don't want

                        reminders of...

              Secrist glances at the portrait on the wall - and is shocked

              when she realizes it's back: on the wall.

                                  SECRIST

                        Who put that back?

              Jane and Cheramie exchange glances.

                                  SECRIST

                        I took that down!

                            (waits for answer)

                        Who put the God damned painting

                        back on the fucking wall?!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I didn't touch it.  Neither one of

                        us did?

              They remain in this stalemate for long moments - each trying

              to figure who's playing who.  Secrist decides to be as cool

              as possible, realizing she is at a disadvantage.

                                  SECRIST

                        I see.

              Secrist gets up, takes the painting back down, and replaces

              it on the floor, canvas toward the wall.  She sees faint

              footprints in the carpet - they are outlined in white powder.

              She gasps.  Her hat falls off.  She snatches it back and

              replaces it on her head, and forces herself to be calm.

                                  SECRIST

                        I took this down for a reason.

                        This house will be decorated as I

                        see fit.

              The girls would laugh but it's too sad.

              Secrist adjusts her clothes.

                                  SECRIST

                            (quick, robotic, with

                             stiff gestures)

                        There.  As I was saying, we don't

                        need reminders of the past/I know

                        you'll understand/someday, enough

                        bad things have happened/it's for

                        the best.

              Jane finds this delivery queer.  Cheramie storms to the door.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm not finished!

              Cheramie turns back, glaring.

                                  SECRIST

                        A little decorum is in order.

                            (off Cheramie's glare)

                        Could we have some respect for the

                        dead?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I can't believe you.

              She leaves.  Jane levels a cold look at Secrist, then heads

              for the door.

                                  SECRIST

                        Jane.

              Jane freezes, doesn't look back.

                                  JANE

                        Yes, ma'am.

                                  SECRIST

                        Perhaps, you should go home.

              Jane whirls to Secrist, who is lazily confident.

                                  JANE

                        I know what you're trying to do.

                            (this shakes Secrist, Jane

                             enjoys it)

                        I hope you burn.

              Jane is surprised when Secrist's confidence returns - this

              time cold and focused.  Secrist's eyes almost twinkle as:

                                  SECRIST

                        Good night, Jane.

              Jane tries to claim victory but, really, she can't.  She

              pivots and leaves.



              FOYER

              Jane heads for the front door looking at Cheramie, who is

              halfway up the stairs watching.

                                  JANE

                            (without speaking)

                        I'll come by later.

              Cheramie nods and continues up the stairs.



              LIBRARY

              Still as stone, Secrist stares at the back of the painting.



              SOUND OF FRONT DOOR OPENING/CLOSING



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie stares at a bottle of prescription medication.  She

              pops the top, dumps two in her palm, downs them with water.



              LIBRARY - NIGHT

              Secrist turns the lights off and heads upstairs.  At the top

              of the stairs she sees Cheramie's light on under her door.

                                  SECRIST

                        Bed time!

              Secrist goes into her room, closing the door.



              SECRIST'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Secrist takes two pills with water, gets in bed, pulls the

              covers up to her chin, and turns the lights off.



              FOYER - NIGHT

              Dark.  Still.  A FLASH OF LIGHTENING, but no thunder.



              HALLWAY, OUTSIDE CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  The door opens a crack.  Cheramie peeks out into the

              shadowy house.  The clock ticks.  Cheramie sneaks down the

              hall past Secrist's room and down the stairs.  She is halfway

              down the stairs, in a beam of moonlight coming through the

              arched window, when Secrist appears; silhouetted in the

              kitchen entrance.

                                  SECRIST

                        Where are you going?

              Cheramie stops.

                                  SECRIST

                        It's past your bedtime.

                            (beat)

                        You know that?  You do know that?

                            (no response)

                        Do you know that it's past your

                        bedtime?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm seventeen years old.

              She doesn't answer so Cheramie rolls with it:

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Yes.  I know it's past my bedtime.

                                  SECRIST

                        Then, why are you out of bed?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I don't know.

                                  SECRIST

                        You don't know?  Was it because

                        you're hungry?  Did you come down

                        to get something to eat?

              After a long pause, Cheramie nods, almost imperceptibly.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well.  It's too late to eat.  You

                        won't be able to sleep.

              A long moment passes.  Neither of them move, then:

              Secrist limps forward quickly, emerging from the shadows -

              cold, colorless moonlight slams across her harsh features.

                                  SECRIST

                            (striding)

                        I don't think you should get

                        something to eat.  I think you

                        should go back to bed!

              Cheramie doesn't move.  Secrist stops at the base of the

              stairs and glowers up at her.

                                  SECRIST

                        What are you doing?!  Go to your

                        room!

              Cheramie:  slack-jawed, horrified at what Secrist has become.

                                  SECRIST

                        GO!

              Calmly, Cheramie turns and walks up the stairs.

                                  SECRIST

                        RUN!  RUN, RUN, RUN!  GO TO YOUR

                        ROOM AND DON'T COME OUT!

              Cheramie's face is pinched with shame and resentment.  She

              walks up the stairs slowly.  At the top, she looks back.

              Secrist: saucer-eyed, with a bulldog's smile, is panting.

              Cheramie stares back, her expression blank.  She goes to her

              room and quietly closes the door.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              She is in bed.  She turns the light off.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (to the Man in the Corner)

                        Why don't you do something?

              He stares back at her, unmoving as always.



              FOYER - NIGHT

              Dark, empty.  The clock's TICKS.  The TICKING stops.  POV

              floats up the stairs, pause at Secrist's door, turns, goes

              down the hall, and goes through Cheramie's door.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie sleeps in the yellow nite lite's glow.

              The Man In The Corner stands still.  LIGHTENING FLASHES.

              Cheramie, upset - having a nightmare.

              The old tree scratches the window insistently.  It taps

              harder.  Suddenly, the branch comes through the window, but

              doesn't break the glass.  The end of the branch is set on the

              floor and the finger-like twigs take root in the floor.

              The branch grows into a spindly woman and, with a silent

              scream, breaks free from the rest of the tree.  She looks

              like Secrist - her skin is like bark, her limbs are tree

              branches, her fingers are spindly twigs.

              The Tree Woman takes a deep breath and smiles, glad to be

              alive.  She looks at Cheramie and the smile turns to a scowl.

              She steps forward carefully, eyes on the girl.  She raises

              her branch arms high and attacks Cheramie viciously, slashing

              her with sharp twig fingers, hissing like tearing paper.

              With each blow, Cheramie, still asleep, is tossed from side

              to side.  Her comforter, pajamas, and pillow are slashed, but

              her body isn't injured.  She stays asleep.

              The Man in the Corner springs forward.  When he does, he

              morphs into a horrendous monster.  The monster grasps the

              Tree Woman and flings her into the corner where she screams

              and shatters into splinters before disappearing.

              The monster looks at Cheramie.  She morphs into Pietra

              Underkoffler, young and beautiful, bathed in green light.

              Pietra's eyes are filled with a mother's love.  She sits on

              the bed, and folds her hands in her lap.

                                  PIETRA

                        Cheramie!  My little girl!  I've

                        missed you so much!

              Cheramie sleeps easier.  This pleases Pietra.

                                  PIETRA

                        I left you.  I know.  I was

                        confused.  I've caused so much

                        pain.  Made so many mistakes.  Can

                        you forgive me?

                            (pause)

                        I'll always be your mother.  I'll

                        always be with you.  I'll always

                        love you.

              Pietra stands and backs toward the corner, her eyes never

              leaving Cheramie.

              When she gets to the edge of the nite lite's illumination,

              her face loses its features, becoming flat black.

              Then, she becomes a solid silhouette.  She backs into the

              corner and becomes The Man in the Corner.  Still, quiet,

              watching.

              Cheramie wakes.  Her eyes automatically go to the Man.  She

              turns the light on and the Man disappears. She sees that her

              bed clothes are slashed.  It doesn't surprise her.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - MOMENTS LATER

              Cheramie finishes putting on new pajamas.  She inspects the

              old pajamas - they are slashed to ribbons - slashed all the

              way through, front and back.

              She pulls her sleeve up and inspects her arm - normal,

              uninjured.  She looks inside at her chest - normal.  She puts

              the old pajamas, comforter, and pillow case in a garbage bag.

              SOUND OF TAPPING AT THE WINDOW.  Cheramie freezes.  The

              tapping becomes more insistent.  She whirls around and is

              scared out of her wits at the sight of:

              Jane, smiling ear to ear, outside the window tapping on the

              glass.  She pushes the old tree's branches away and motions

              for Cheramie to open the window.  Cheramie sighs, annoyed and

              relieved, goes to the window, and opens it.

                                  JANE

                        It's freezing!

              Jane climbs in, Cheramie looks down - there is a ladder

              beneath the window.

              Jane closes the window a little too hard.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Shh!

              Jane pulls a six pack from her shoulder bag.

                                  JANE

                        Brought supplies.

              Cheramie smiles.



              MOMENTS LATER

              Jane and Cheramie on the bed.  Jane pops a brew and hands it

              to Cheramie, then opens another.

                                  JANE

                        Secrist lost her fucking mind.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        She lost it a long time ago.

                        Tonight was psycho de jour.

                                  JANE

                        Sorry, dude.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        What are you gonna do?  Born into a

                        freak show, you're stuck with it.

                        This is the family that happened to

                        me.

                            (pause, absently)

                        I think Secrist wants to hurt me.

                                  JANE

                        What?

              Cheramie snaps out of it.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Nothing.

                                  JANE

                        Cherie!  Whatever it is I can help

                        you.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I was kidding.  I'm just angry.

              Jane doesn't buy it.

                                  JANE

                        If that bitch lays a hand on you--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --It's just fucked up...  I didn't

                        mean anything.

              Jane decides not to pursue it, but can't let it go.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        'We're so pathetic'.

              This Call and Response is a defense mechanism.  Cheramie

              waits.  Jane does her best but it's half-hearted.

                                  JANE

                        Yeah, I feel sorry for us.

              It comes off pretty fake, but Jane let's it go.  Cheramie

              takes refuge in her beer, Jane joins her to be polite.

              Jane polishes off her brew and puts the empty bottle with the

              others.  She checks the clock - 1:45.

                                  JANE

                        Better get home.

              They get out of bed.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Thanks.

                                  JANE

                        He keeps a month's supply in the

                        basement.  He'll never notice.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Not for the beer.

              Jane can't hide how much their friendship means.  They hug.

                                  JANE

                        I love you. 

                                  CHERAMIE

                        You too.

                                  JANE

                        You'd do the same.

              Jane shoulders her bag.  Cheramie opens the window.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Yeah.  But, I'd use the front door.

              The joke raises a beautiful smile from Jane.  Then, it fades

              as her thoughts become dark. 

                                  JANE

                        You'd tell me.  Right?

                                  JANE

                        Don't be stupid.

              This reassures Jane.  Jane looks out the window not wanting

              to leave.  Cheramie knows.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        You want to stay?

                                  JANE

                        He checks my room every night.  If

                        I'm not there he'll call the cops.

                        He comes home so drunk he forgets

                        to take his shoes off, but he

                        doesn't forget to see if I'm in my

                        room.

              Her last comment strikes Jane as idiotic.  She buckles.

                                  JANE

                        I'm such a freak!   Whose father

                        checks their fucking room every

                        night?!

              Jane is overcome by the rush of emotions.  Cheramie comforts

              her best she can.  Jane quickly regains some control.

                                  JANE

                        This is the family that happened to

                        me.

              Cheramie doesn't know what to do so she kisses Jane.  They've

              been friends for a long time and are used to these episodes.

              They always use the same joke to get over it.  This time the

              Call and Response is heartfelt and sarcastic to the core:

                                  JANE

                        We're so pathetic!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Yeah.  I feel so sorry for us.

              Jane cracks up, Cheramie joins her.  Tears mix with drunk

              laughs.  Jane regains her gung-ho front.

                                  JANE

                        Okay.  This is stupid.  I gotta

                        pee.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Do it outside, bitch.

                                  JANE

                        Good idea.

              Jane climbs out, careful of the old tree's branches.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Be quiet.

              Jane climbs down the ladder.

                                  JANE

                        Roger that.

              Jane flashes her trademark grin.  Cheramie closes the window.

              Now at the bottom, Jane pulls the ladder away from the wall

              and expertly walks it down until she can carry it balanced on

              her shoulder.  One last wave and she is gone.

              Cheramie waves and closes the curtains.



              HALLWAY OUTSIDE CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  Secrist is there, listening.  Her expression is hollow

              and serious.  She goes to her room and closes the door.



              EXT. SIDE OF GARAGE - NIGHT

              Jane comes around the corner and quietly places the ladder

              against the garage.



              EXT. FRONT OF HOUSE - NIGHT

              Jane walks away, disappearing into a heavy fog.



              INT. HALLWAY, UPSTAIRS - NIGHT

              Cheramie sneaks to Secrist's door and listens - snoring.

              Cheramie creeps down the stairs carrying a bundle.  She stops

              in the moonlight coming through the window.  The light

              reveals she is wearing a heavy coat.



              BASEMENT - MOMENTS LATER

              Cheramie puts the ducky flashlight on a table, pointing it at

              the old furnace.  She inspects the torn pajama top.  The

              sleeve has slashes, like a bear or tiger might make.

              She opens the old furnace doors, and puts the shredded

              pajamas, pillow case, and comforter in the furnace.

              She lights a wood match, tosses it in the furnace, and

              watches the clothes burn for a few moments before closing the

              furnace doors.  The fire shines through the slats in the

              doors making it look like the furnace has eyes.

              She gets a bundle from behind the furnace.



              EXT. BACKYARD - NIGHT

              Cheramie crosses the yard carrying the bundle.  She goes to

              the mausoleum and unties the bundle - which unrolls - it's a

              sleeping bag.

              She peers into the dark building.  The gate is locked with a

              chain and padlock.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        It's me.

              She squeezes through the bars of the gate.



              INT. MAUSOLEUM - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie lights the ducky flashlight and looks around at:

              Two sarcophagi: one has Malloch's name over it, the other has

              Pietra's.  She reaches through the bars and pulls the

              sleeping bag into the mausoleum.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Can I sleep with you tonight?

              She puts the bag between the sarcophagi.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I don't want to sleep in the same

                        house with Secrist.

              She gets into the sleeping bag and zips it up.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Too creepy.

                            (beat)

                        I love you.

                            (long pause)

                        Good night.

              She closes her eyes.



              EXT. MAUSOLEUM - CONTINUOUS

              Above the gate is the superscript: UNDERKOFFLER.  CRACK!  A

              crack appears in the letter O, splitting it in half.



              INT. GARAGE - DAY

              The diesel engine chugs along.  There is a heavy haze.



              INT. 1975 MERCEDES  - CONTINUOUS

              Malloch stares at the windshield.  His blue eyes are covered

              in a thick grey film and his face is ashen.  Motionless, he

              seems dead.  He doesn't move for several seconds, then:

              Stiffly, he raises his hand to his mouth.  He is holding a

              cigarette.  He takes a long, luxurious draw, inhaling deeply,

              but his eyes show no pleasure, in fact they show nothing and

              don't blink or flinch from the smoke.  Mechanically, he

              lowers his hand to its resting place on his leg.

              His eyes lose more color and expression.  Smoke crawls from

              his mouth.  Not like when a smoker exhales - it just creeps

              slowly and pointlessly, curling across his face, feeling its

              way like a sea creature's tentacles.



              INT. MAUSOLEUM - NIGHT

              Cheramie, suddenly awake, searches for the flashlight, finds

              it and turns it on. She is relieved to still be in the

              mausoleum between the two sarcophagi - it was just a dream.

              She clicks off the light and goes back to sleep.



              INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT

              Thick black muck rises up through the grate in the floor.



              INT. FOYER - NIGHT

              Secrist is at the top of the stairs dressed in a nightgown

              buttoned to the neck.  She stares at a strange light coming

              from the library.

              She walks down the stairs to the library entrance.

              SECRIST'S POV:  Pietra is hanged by the neck from a cord tied

              to the light fixture in the ceiling.

              Secrist does not react.  She watches calmly as Pietra rotates

              around and faces her.  Pietra's eyes open and:

                                  PIETRA

                        Did you think I didn't know?

              Pietra grins and winks at Secrist.



              INT. SECRIST'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Dark.  Secrist wakes with a start and sits up, clutching her

              chest and gasping.

                                  SECRIST

                        God damn it!

              She turns the bedside lamp on.  Although shocking, it's a

              routine nightmare and she quickly gathers her wits.

                                  SECRIST

                        Damn it!

              She waits for her breathing to slow.  After a few moments she

              wraps her arms around herself against the cold.

                                  SECRIST

                        God dammmit.

              She gets up and heads for the closet.

                                  SECRIST

                        Fucking cold as hell.

              She opens the door and pulls a robe from the closet and puts

              it on.  She looks at something on the floor.  She gasps and

              reels backward.

              In the closet, on the floor, is Matilda - sitting there

              staring up at Secrist.  Slowly, Matilda falls over.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh, my God!  What...   What is...

              She covers her mouth and sobs.  Matilda lies there dead, her

              filmy eyes staring at the pattern on the carpet.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  No!  No.  It can't be!  I

                        didn't...

              She turns as if addressing someone in the room.

                                  SECRIST

                        I didn't kill her!

              She turns to some other imagined person.

                                  SECRIST

                        I didn't!  I swear!  How?!  It's

                        impossible!

              She stares at Matilda, her sanity tipping.

              Then, still staring at Matilda, Secrist's jaw drops.  Her

              eyes widen.  She inhales sharply and covers her mouth.



              INT. MATILDA'S ROOM, DAYS EARLIER - NIGHT

              Dark. Matilda is sitting on the bed.  Behind her the curtains

              part and, in the moonlight, a silhouetted figure approaches.

              Matilda turns to see what made the noise but it's too late -

              the figure loops a length of cord around Matilda's neck and

              pulls her backward off the bed.

              Then, the killer speaks.  Her voice is as calm as could be.

                                  KILLER

                        You won't come between me and

                        Cheramie anymore.

              Matilda scratches at the cord but it's hopeless.   The killer

              yanks the cord tight.  Matilda flails but is already losing

              consciousness.

              Matilda's struggles slow, then stop.  A beam of moonlight

              slices the killer's face - it's Secrist.



              SECRIST'S ROOM, PRESENT - NIGHT

              Slack-jawed and horrified, Secrist stares at Matilda's body.

                                  SECRIST

                        No!



              FOYER, DAYS EARLIER - NIGHT

              Secrist pulls Matilda's body up the steps, seemingly without

              effort.  FLASH OF LIGHTENING, but no thunder.



              SECRIST'S ROOM, DAYS EARLIER - NIGHT

              Secrist drags Matilda's body across the floor, places it in

              the closet, closes the door.  Still in a trance, she gets

              into bed, turns the lights off, goes to sleep.



              SECRIST'S ROOM, PRESENT - NIGHT

              Secrist stares into space.  The shock and realization of what

              she did is gradually replaced by defiance.  That, in turn, is

              replaced by sly resolve.  She looks at Matilda and grins.



              INT. MAUSOLEUM - NIGHT

              Cheramie is asleep.  She exhales pulses of frozen breath with

              even rhythm.  Outside, there is movement.  A hulking shadow:

              It's Secrist.  She drags Matilda's body.  Limping badly, she

              winces and hisses with each step.

                                  SECRIST

                        Fat bitch!

              She drags the body past the mausoleum and is gone.  Cheramie

              doesn't wake up.



              EXT. PIER - NIGHT

              Next to the pier is a large rowboat tied to a stanchion.

              Secrist is wearing a puffy jacket, oversized galoshes, and a

              hat with ear flaps.  She has Matilda's body on the pier next

              to the boat.  Her emotions are now under control and she

              works like a professional killer disposing of evidence.  She

              checks her position and rolls the body off the pier - it

              falls four feet landing in the boat.

              When the body hits the boat, the impact breaks the thin layer

              of ice which had encapsuled the hull.



              EXT. MIDDLE OF LAKE - NIGHT

              Secrist rows out.  Matilda sits in the other end of the boat

              staring at Secrist.  There is no ice here.

                                  SECRIST

                        You think I didn't know?  I knew.

                        You filled Cheramie's head with

                        lies.  'Oh!  You're special!

                        Sensitive'!  What a load of crap. 

                        You came between Pietra and me,

                        too!  Oh, you were busy.

                        Manipulating people.  I knew.  I

                        knew the whole time.

              She stops rowing and catches her breath while the boat slows.

              She looks at Matilda.  After a few moments, she sneers - a

              quick, ugly flash of the teeth.  She sneers again.



              MOMENTS LATER

              Secrist ties one end of a length of rope to Matilda's ankle.

              She's a pro with knots and secures the other end of the line

              to a cinder block.

                                  SECRIST

                        But...  It's over, now.  You won't

                        be interfering anymore.  Cheramie

                        and I will have a nice normal

                        family.  Nice a quiet.  Nobody to

                        bother us.

              Secrist carefully stands and positions herself over the body.

                                  SECRIST

                        Goodbye, Matty.  You were a good

                        maid.  You're fired.

              She rolls the body into the water - so expertly compensating

              for the shift of weight that the boat hardly rocks.

              Matilda falls into the water face down, but rolls over.

              Secrist can't believe her rotten luck.

                                  SECRIST

                        Great.

              Secrist chucks the cinder block into the water.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm so sick of your stupid face.

              The line tugs at Matilda's leg and her feet go under.

              The clouds break and a full moon illuminates the scene.

              Secrist watches as Matilda's body slowly rotates to an

              upright position.  Now, she is vertical and only her head is

              above water.  The water creeps up her face to just below her

              eyes - and she stops sinking.

              Secrist watches, impatiently.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well!  Go down, bitch!

              Matilda's arms rise up from her sides until they extend

              straight out, perpendicular to her body.

                                  SECRIST

                        Sink, you stupid bitch!

              Secrist leans out over the water and pushes Matilda's head

              down.  Her body sinks.

              Secrist puts her face close to the water and watches as

              Matilda's body sinks deeper, until it disappears.

                                  SECRIST

                        Have a good trip.

              She smiles and sits back in the boat.  She takes a deep

              breath and exhales a huge plume of frosty air.

                                  SECRIST

                        Lovely night.

              She giggles - quiet yet enthusiastic.  A heavy fog settles

              in.  She pulls out a flask and has a toot.



              EXT. BACKYARD - DAWN

              Cheramie squeezes through the bars of the mausoleum, picks up

              her sleeping bag, then crosses the yard.  She hears GIGGLING

              and stops, looking at the lake.  She can't see through the

              fog and lets it go, continuing to the house.



              INT. FOYER - DAWN

              Cheramie goes up the stairs.  The clock ticks.



              INT. KITCHEN - MORNING

              Looking haggard, Secrist pours coffee.  She spills some on

              the counter.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  God damn it!

              Furiously, she wipes it up.  She keeps wiping long after the

              mess has been cleaned up - her eyes burrowing into the back

              of her hand going round and round.



              MOMENTS LATER

              Secrist gets a pint of cream from the fridge.  She pours some

              cream into her coffee -- except it's not cream that comes out

              of the spout - it's a dry white powder.

              Secrist gasps and drops the container on the counter - more

              powder spills.  She stares at it - a fury building within

              her.  After a long moment she whirls around, and:

                                  SECRIST

                        THIS IS MY HOUSE!

              She speaks as if to a room full of people - one at a time:

                                  SECRIST

                        It's mine!  Mine!  Mine, not yours!

                        It's mine!  Go away!  GET OUT OF MY

                        HOUSE!  I WANT YOU OUT!  ALL OF

                        YOU!  GET OUT!



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie stares at the doll house.  She is intensely sullen.

              She hears the doorbell downstairs.



              FRONT DOOR - CONTINUOUS

              Secrist takes a pizza from a delivery guy, pays him, and

              closes the door.  She takes the pizza into the:



              KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS

              With total apathy, she tosses the pizza on the table like you

              would yesterday's newspaper.

                                  SECRIST

                        Cherie!  Dinner!

              No response.  She goes to the kitchen door and crows:

                                  SECRIST

                        Cheramie!  Get your ass down here!



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie smirks at a female doll with dark hair.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (mocking)

                        Cheramie...dinner's ready...

              She stands the doll at the top of doll house staircase and

              pushes the doll down the stairs.  It tumbles head over heels

              until it comes to rest at the base of the stairs.

              The doll's black eyes stare at the doll house ceiling.



              GRAND SPIRAL STAIRCASE - NIGHT

              Cheramie goes down the stairs.  She gets to the large arched

              window and is shocked to see:

              Heavy earth-moving equipment parked in the backyard next to

              the mausoleum.



              DINING ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie enters.  Secrist slurps coffee, burning her lips.

                                  SECRIST

                        Damn it!

                            (beat)

                        I got us pizza.  I know you don't

                        like my...I know I can't cook.

                            (off Cheramie's look)

                        What's wrong?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        What are you doing?

                                  SECRIST

                        It's good.

                            (off Cheramie's stare)

                        We talked about this.

                            (no response)

                        I told you I would have it...  Have

                        your parents moved.

              Cheramie stares.

                                  SECRIST

                        Sit down.

              Nothing.

                                  SECRIST

                        It's time.  Your mother and father

                        belong in a cemetery.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm not going to let you do that.

                        You can't move them.  This is their

                        home.

                                  SECRIST

                        This is my house, now.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        It'll never be your--

                                  SECRIST

                        --Okay.  Little girl.  Listen

                        carefully.  I don't give a rat's

                        ass what you want.  Okay?  Got it?

                        Now, sit down and eat.

              Secrist pours a glass of red wine and drinks half of it.  Her

              speech is flat, and doesn't match the sentiment:

                                  SECRIST

                        It's just us, now.

                            (broken pleading smile)

                        You and me...  We have to try to be

                        a family.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Are you kidding?

              Secrist downs the rest of the wine, pours another and swirls

              it.  She makes a show of how bored she is with the exchange.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I heard you and Stuller.  That

                        night.  In the library.  Through

                        the heating vent.

              Secrist's apathy is replaced with veiled concern.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's a very serious accusation.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I didn't accuse you of anything.

                            (off Secrist's surprise)

                        I just said I heard you.

              Secrist puts the wine glass on the counter and assesses

              Cheramie with renewed respect.

                                  SECRIST

                        It was in your tone.

                            (beat)

                        You were hearing things.  Remember?

                        You hear things.  I would never--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --You and Stuller were planning a

                        way to keep me from getting my

                        inheritance.  You planned to have

                        doctor Pallegri say I was crazy.

              Cheramie stares at her with rock-solid confidence.

                                  SECRIST

                        You heard no such thing.  This is a

                        big house.  How can you be sure

                        what you heard?

                            (off Cheramie's stare)

                        It echoes.

                            (tries to let it go)

                        Have something to eat.  It's good.

              Cheramie's stare is dead flat.  It's so calmly intense it

              takes Secrist's breath.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's enough!  Look at me like

                        that...

              Cheramie doesn't flinch.

                                  SECRIST

                        Young lady...  I'm tired.  Let's

                        play this game another time.

                        That's a ridiculous notion.  Do you

                        know what that sounds like?

              Slowly, Cheramie's stare turns to a triumphant sneer.

                                  SECRIST

                        How dare you!  You did not hear...

                        We never said anything like that!

              Cheramie doesn't give an inch.  Secrist can't hold her ground

              - her forehead glistens with sweat, her eyes flicker about.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stop.

                            (off Cheramie)

                        Stop looking at me like that.  It's

                        rude.

                            (long pause)

                        STOP STARING AT ME!

              Secrist is immediately embarrassed and humiliated.  To be put

              on the spot by a damn little girl - it's an outrage!  She

              affects a condescending calm.

                                  SECRIST

                        I can't be responsible for what you

                        think you hear.  You're just a

                        crazy little bitch!  You should

                        know that!

              Cheramie makes a sandwich with two slices of pizza, turns and

              leaves - quiet, unpretentious, calm.

              Secrist stares after her - angry, humiliated, and afraid.



              FOYER - CONTINUOUS

              Cheramie stalks toward the stairs.  Behind her, Secrist

              lurches out of the kitchen, hobbling quickly to catch up.

              Cheramie gets to the stairs and turns around.  She gasps when

              she sees Secrist bearing down on her, snarling.  Snarling and

              lurching like an injured animal.

              Panicked, Cheramie rushes up and the stairs but falls after

              two steps.  Growling, Secrist grabs her, turns her around.

                                  SECRIST

                        You!  Little!  Bitch!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Let me go, you sick bitch!

              She slaps Cheramie's face and hauls her down the stairs.

              Cheramie throws the pizza in Secrist's face, splattering it

              with sauce -- a piece of pepperoni sticks to her face.

              Despite it all Cheramie has to suppress a giggle.  Secrist

              smiles sarcastically, wiping the pepperoni off.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'll teach you the meaning of

                        respect.

              Secrist drags Cheramie across the foyer, stopping at a table.

              Cheramie struggles but Secrist's grip is like steel.  Secrist

              opens a drawer and grabs an old-fashioned skeleton key, then

              drags Cheramie to the closet next to the front door.

                                  SECRIST

                        You don't want to eat dinner with

                        me?  You don't like me?  You think

                        I'm crazy?

              Secrist opens the closet.

                                  SECRIST

                        We'll see who's crazy.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        No!

              Secrist turns her around, eye to eye.

                                  SECRIST

                        Don't you ever talk like that to me

                        again!

                            (slaps her)

                        How dare you accuse me of stealing

                        your goddam money!

                            (slaps her)

                        Who do you think you are?!  Why

                        would I care?

                            (slap)

                        I have plenty.  I don't need yours.

              With each slap Cheramie has become more passive.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Let me go!

                                  SECRIST

                            (slaps her)

                        Who do you think you're talking to?

              Cheramie shrinks.  Secrist's eyes go wild.

                                  SECRIST

                        Who do you think you're talking to!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Let go!

              Secrist draws her hand well back, high above her head.  Her

              eyes burn.  She strikes Cheramie.  Cheramie screams.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        MOM!

              At this, Secrist freezes, hand held high, eyes wild.

                                  SECRIST

                        What?  What did you say?

              Cheramie blinks away the tears, hesitating before:

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I love you.  Please stop hitting

                        me.  I'm sorry.  I'll be good.

                            (calculated pause)

                        'Mom'.

              Secrist's eyes soften and she lowers her hand to caress

              Cheramie's face.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  Sweetheart.  I love you, too!

                        I do!  That's all I ever wanted.

                        My own little girl.

              Secrist is a bad soap opera actor conveying the deepest love.

                                  SECRIST

                        You can be my little girl.

              Cheramie can't keep up the charade.  She recoils from

              Secrist's touch and winces - 'you're totally crazy'.

              Secrist picks it up and the moment is over -- that she has

              allowed Cheramie to fool her enrages Secrist in a quiet way.

              She grips Cheramie's shoulders and pushes her toward the

              closet.  Cheramie breaks free and squares off.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm not going in there again!  I'm

                        not a child anymore!

              Secrist chuckles, very relaxed:

                                  SECRIST

                        Is that so?

              Secrist grabs Cheramie and they struggle, clothes and hair

              gripped between fingers, spit flying, snarling, scratching.

              Cheramie stomps Secrist's bad toe.  Secrist howls, and,

              strengthened by rage, punches Cheramie in the face.  Cheramie

              goes limp, barely able to stand.

              Secrist throws Cheramie into the closet where she falls on

              some shoes and boxes.

              Dazed, Cheramie watches as Secrist swings the door closed and

              locks it with the skeleton key.

                                  SECRIST (O.S.)

                        You'll learn.



              CLOSET

              Pitch black -- except for the key-hole shaped point of light.

              SOUNDS OF CHERAMIE SHUFFLING, MOANING. Cheramie falls against

              the door and looks through the key hole.

              CHERAMIE'S POV THROUGH KEY-HOLE:  Secrist stands a few feet

              from the door holding the key.  She leaves.

                                  SECRIST

                            (fading)

                        You can stay in there until you

                        learn.  Until you learn.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Wait!  Secrist!  Come back!  I hate

                        the dark!  You know that!  Secrist!

                        Please!  You don't have to lock me

                        in here!  DON'T LEAVE ME IN HERE!

                        PLEASE!  DON'T LEAVE ME!  I'M

                        SORRY!  I'LL BE GOOD!

                            (weakens, sobs)

                        Let me out!  Please...  Don't leave

                        me in here.  It's dark.  You know I

                        hate the dark.  SECRIST!

              The light from the key hole falls on Cheramie's eye, giving

              it a panicked, animal look.  Her breaths are ragged.

              Her raspy breaths stop.  She is listening.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Someone's in here!  There's

                        something in here!

              Cheramie screams, inhales deeply and screams and screams.



              LIBRARY - LATER - NIGHT

              TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK.  Secrist sits in the mohair chair.

              She slumps, looking like a teenager copping an attitude.  Her

              face is ashen and there are dark circles under her eyes.

              The clock STOPS TICKING.  It's absolutely silent.

              She jumps at the SOUND OF A THUD.  She whirls and sees:

              The portrait lying on its back on the floor.  It fell over.

              Malloch and Pietra stare at Secrist from the painting.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stupid!



              MOMENTS LATER

              Secrist starts the pendulum swinging and then closes the

              clock's door.  She leaves.



              STAIRWELL LEADING TO ATTIC - NIGHT

              Ill at ease, Secrist stares at the attic door.  She climbs

              the steps, opens the door and enters the attic:



              ATTIC - NIGHT

              Dark.  She picks up the lantern, and lights it.  She holds it

              up, squinting to see.  She takes a deep breath and enters,

              quickly crossing the room.

              She comes to a large chest and sets the lantern down next to

              it.  She looks around - strange shapes, shadows, and beyond

              that, blackness.  She tries to open the latches but they're

              clamped tight.  She finally manages to open one - SNAP.  She

              opens the other latch, hefts the lid up and lets it go.  It

              swings open and CRASHES against the back of the chest.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  Damn it!

              She clasps her chest and catches her breath, looking around

              as if she might have wakened a monster.

              She carefully reaches into the chest as if it were full of

              snakes, and:

              She whips back a cloth that is covering --

              A plastic Christmas tree.  She holds it up and admires it.



              CLOSET

              Pitch black except for the keyhole-shaped light.  SHUFFLING

              SOUNDS.  A flashlight is turned on.

              Cheramie flashes the light around.  It's a walk-in closet

              filled with years worth of old clothes, shoes, hats, boxes.



              FOYER - NIGHT

              Secrist struggles to secure the wobbly tree in its stand.



              FOYER - MOMENTS LATER

              Secrist places ornaments on the Christmas tree at random,

              with no consideration of aesthetics.  TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK.

                                  SECRIST

                        Talk to me like that.  Oh, no you

                        don't!

              She seems on the verge of tears and about to scream in anger

              at the same time.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm your mommy, now.  Why not?  I'm

                        as good as Pietra.  I'm as good as

                        her!  I am!

              She turns as if addressing a room full of people.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm as good as Pietra!  She's not

                        better than me!  Just because she

                        dresses pretty, and all the boys

                        like her!  Just because she can

                        dance and speak French!  I'm

                        learning, too!

                            (turns)

                        Mom!  Dad!

                            (points)

                        Tell them!  Tell them I'm as good

                        as my sister!  PIETRA'S NOT BETTER

                        THAN ME!  TELL THEM!

              Wide-eyed and slobbering, Secrist suddenly snaps out of the

              hallucination.  She looks around the house realizing where

              she is.  She fights for control of her breath and wipes her

              face.

                                  SECRIST

                        It's okay.  I'm okay.

              She goes back to decorating the tree.

                                  SECRIST

                            (sing song)

                        I'm alllriiight.  Just go back to

                        what you were doing, and leave me

                        alooone.  It's okay.  She just had

                        an episode.  This happens

                        occasionally.  It's over, now...

                        Just go back...

              She engrosses herself in the decorating.  The clocks stops

              TICKING.  Within seconds she is lost in memory and fantasy

              again.  She laughs:  a bitter, sarcastic jeer.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm your mommy, now.



              SOUND OF A SHARP CRACK

              Secrist jumps, and looks at the floor.

              There is a crack in the floor at the foot of the stairs.

              It's a foot long and an inch wide at its base.

              She stares in disbelief.



              CLOSET

              Cheramie shines the light on a large leather book entitled:

              UNDERKOFFLER FAMILY MEMORIES.

              She flips to a random page.  There are photos:

              A young Pietra and Malloch posing uncomfortably for the

              camera.

              Malloch and Pietra with a newborn baby with blond hair.

              Malloch and Pietra with Cheramie at age six, looking happy.

              Stuller and Secrist watch from a distance, looking dejected.



              KITCHEN - NIGHT

              Secrist screams.  She is at the sink with a tea kettle.

              Blood flows from the faucet.  The blood thins to rusty water,

              then clears.

              Secrist realizes there was never any blood, the water always

              runs rusty.  Calmer now, and a little embarrassed, and still

              unsure, she giggles at her silliness and fills the kettle.

              The drain in the floor gurgles and a black muck rises up

              through its grate and spreads across the floor.



              CLOSET

              Cheramie flips to the back of the album:

              There is a clipping from a newspaper.  The headline:



              PROMINENT LOCAL BUSINESS MAN, MALLOCH UNDERKOFFLER, INVOLVED

              IN SCANDAL

              Snippets of text:



              WIFE ACCUSING HIM OF HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH HER SISTER...



              WIFE'S SISTER, SECRIST PERLMANN, DENIES...

              Cheramie roots through the clippings and finds another:



              IN A BIZARRE TWIST OF EVENTS, STULLER UNDERKOFFLER, BROTHER

              OF MALLOCH UNDERKOFFLER, HAS ADMITTED TO HAVING AN AFFAIR

              WITH HIS BROTHER'S WIFE...



              ALL FOUR, MR. AND MRS. UNDERKOFFLER AND THEIR BROTHER AND

              SISTER, LIVE TOGETHER IN A MANSION ON THE EDGE...



              RUMORS ABOUND...



              KITCHEN

              Secrist is at the stove holding the tea kettle.  She turns

              the flame on high and is about to put the kettle on when she

              hears a bump.  Her eyes narrow and she places the kettle on

              an unlit eye.  The flame of the other eye is left burning.



              EXT. HOUSE, OUTSIDE CHERAMIE'S WINDOW - NIGHT

              Jane climbs up the ladder she has placed under Cheramie's

              window.

                                  JANE

                            (whispers)

                        Cheramie!  It's me!  Open the

                        fucking window!  It's freezing!

              She cups her hands and tries to see inside.

                                  JANE

                        Cheramie!

                            (beat)

                        Godammit, wake up!

              She taps the glass again.

                                  JANE

                        Cher-a-meee.  It's Miller time.

              Jane waits another few seconds, then gives up.



              EXT. SIDE OF HOUSE, NEXT TO GARAGE - NIGHT

              Jane places the ladder next to the garage and looks around to

              make sure she hasn't been seen.  She walks away, getting two

              steps before:

              From between two large bushes Secrist emerges in front of

              Jane.  Jane stops, shocked.

                                  JANE

                        Hi, Secrist...misses

                        Underkoffler...  I was...

                                  SECRIST

                        It's Perlmann.  My last name.

                        Perlmann.

                            (Jane's stare)

                        My sister's name is Underkoffler.

                        Was Underkoffler.  She was the one

                        that got married.

                            (Jane's stare)

                        I know what you were doing.

              She advances on Jane, who steps back.

                                  SECRIST

                        You're interfering.

                                  JANE

                        Uh...no ma'am.

                                  SECRIST

                        You're coming between us.

                                  JANE

                        I wouldn't--

              Secrist raises her arm - she holds a tire iron.

                                  JANE

                        No!

              Secrist strikes Jane on the head.  Jane falls.



              INT. 1976 MERCEDES, IN THE GARAGE - NIGHT

              Jane moans and squints her eyes open.  Secrist is duct taping

              Jane's right hand to the steering wheel.

              Jane's left hand is encased inside a giant ball of tape on

              the steering wheel.  There is a wide band of tape around her

              torso.  Her ankles are taped to the seat.

              Jane's eye flare with horror.

                                  JANE

                        You've lost your mind!

              Secrist giggles.  She winds the last of the tape around

              Jane's hand, leaving nothing but the cardboard core.

                                  JANE

                        What are you doing?!

                                  SECRIST

                        Well.  That'll have to do.

              Secrist tosses the core of the duct tape in the back and

              cranks the Mercedes.  It chugs along unevenly.

              Jane's eyes flare as it dawns on her what Secrist intends.

                                  JANE

                        Oh, my God!

                                  SECRIST

                        Needs a tune up.  Shouldn't take

                        long.

                                  JANE

                        Secrist.  Stop.  Please, stop this.

                        It's not too late.

              Secrist gets out, closes the door, looks at the set-up.

              Secrist's expression changes to silly embarrassment and she

              opens the door and rolls the window down a couple inches.

                                  JANE

                        You bitch.  You fucking sick bitch.

                                  SECRIST

                        Well...  I'm not going to argue

                        with that.

              The eye contact is searing.  Secrist becomes very honest.

                                  SECRIST

                        It's a family thing.

              She closes the door and heads for the garage exit.  She turns

              back and puts her index finger to her lips in a 'shh' sign.

              She turns the lights off and leaves, closing the door.

              Jane waits a few seconds, then:

                                  JANE

                        HELP!  HELP!  HELLL--



              EXT. GARAGE - NIGHT

              Jane's screams cannot be heard.  Secrist goes into the house.



              CLOSET

              Cheramie looks another newspaper clipping:



              MALLOCH UNDERKOFFLER FOUND DEAD IN HIS GARAGE...



              IN HIS CAR...  ENGINE RUNNING...  BELIEVED TO BE SUICIDE...



              HIS BROTHER, STULLER UNDERKOFFLER, ADMITS HAVING AN AFFAIR

              WITH WIFE...



              INT. PARLOR - NIGHT

              Amused, Secrist checks out Stuller's collection of vinyl

              albums.  Having no clue, she selects one and puts it on the

              turntable and plays it.  It's a Shostakovich symphony - dark

              and intense.  She shrugs, turns it up.



              INT. GARAGE - NIGHT

              Jane's eyes are wide with panic.  She hyperventilates.  She

              tugs violently against the restraints but it's no use.

                                  JANE

                        Help!

                            (sobs)

                        Help!



              INT. PARLOR - NIGHT

              Secrist sits in Stuller's favorite chair, and opens a box and

              selects a cigar.  She lights it, chokes on the smoke.  She

              pours a snifter of brandy and studies the chess position set

              up on the board.  She tosses back the brandy and, after a few

              seconds study, executes a complex four-move combination.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stupid game.



              GARAGE - CONTINUOUS

              There is a blue-gray haze.  Jane chokes and gasps.  She

              vomits.



              PARLOR - CONTINUOUS

              The music slows.  Secrist looks at the turntable, surprised.

              The music becomes a low, frightening growl, and stops.

                                  SECRIST

                        Piece of shit.

              She pours more cognac, leans back and takes a big hit off the

              stogie and chases it with booze.



              INT. GARAGE - NIGHT

              The bluish haze is much heavier.  Jane's face has turned

              milky pale, her eyes drooping, breath rapid and shallow.  Her

              head descends in a jerky motion toward her chest, and her

              eyes close, and her breathing stops.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Mind if I smoke?

              Jane gasps, lifts her head and looks at Malloch.  He sits in

              the front passenger seat wearing a pinstripe suit and lilac

              tie.  He looks to be in glowing health.  He lights up.

              Jane finds his presence both comforting and queer.

                                  JANE

                        Who are you?

                                  MALLOCH

                        Malloch Underkoffler.  I'm buried

                        in the backyard.  Me and my

                        wife...Pietra.

              She smiles, a sick yet charming gesture.  He smiles back with

              a winning charm any woman would fall for.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Charming family.  She, Secrist, was

                        my wife's sister.  Well, still is,

                        I suppose.

                                  JANE

                        Bitch...

                                  MALLOCH

                        Oh!  I know.

              He laughs.  Jane smiles.



              PARLOR - NIGHT

              Secrist's face is a blend of calculation, denial, and

              insanity.  Staring into the past, she lifts her glass but

              it's empty.  The record on the turntable rotates once and the

              speakers emit a low hissing growl.

                                  PIETRA (O.S.)

                        Secrist...

                                  SECRIST

                        Hmm?

                            (remembers something)

                        Oh...yes.

              Secrist rises, a bit unsteady, and hobbles out carrying the

              empty glass.



              GARAGE - CONTINUOUS

                                  MALLOCH

                        Believe me, she's responsible for

                        the worst things.

              Jane chuckles.  The whiteness of her teeth makes her purple

              lips look black, creating a jangle of a smile.  Her eyes have

              heavy dark circles around them which set them in sharp

              contrast against her chalk white face.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I'm afraid I'm responsible for

                        this.  Your being here.  Partially.

              He looks deep into her eyes.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I am very sorry.

                                  JANE

                        People make mistakes.

              She smiles and he is completely disarmed.

                                  MALLOCH

                        I won't let her get away with this.

                                  JANE

                        Can you get me loose?

                                  MALLOCH

                        No, dear.  I can't.

              Jane smiles anyway.  Then, her head droops again.  She closes

              her eyes.  Her smile fades -- but not all of it.  Malloch

              turns away to give her privacy.



              CLOSET

              Cheramie looks at another newspaper clipping:

              IN WHAT HAS BECOME A LOCAL NIGHTMARE...

              PIETRA UNDERKOFFLER FOUND HANGED BY THE NECK...

              THREE YEARS AGO THE FAMILY WAS FORCED TO DEAL WITH

              ACCUSATIONS THAT MALLOCH UNDERKOFFLER HAD AN AFFAIR WITH

              PIETRA'S UNDERKOFFLER SISTER, SECRIST PERLMANN...

              IN AN ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE TWIST...

              ...PIETRA UNDERKOFFLER IS ACCUSED OF HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH

              HER HUSBAND'S BROTHER

              Cheramie can hardly believe what she has read.



              GARAGE

              The door opens, Secrist runs in, face pinched against the

              hazy air.  She opens the driver's door, leans past Jane and

              turns off the engine.  She lifts the main door and steps out,

              filling her lungs with deep breaths.



              KITCHEN

              Thick black muck rises through the grate in the floor.



              CLOSET

              Dark, except for the keyhole-shaped spot of light.

                                  MALLOCH

                        Cheramie.  The time has come.

              Cheramie gasps.  There is a frantic rustle then the

              flashlight turns on.  The closet is normal.  She has put the

              photo album away and has been sitting on the floor waiting.

              She flashes the light around and sees the heating vent.  She

              leans close to it and turns to hear.

                                  PIETRA

                        It's time.

              LOUD CLUNK, the door opens -- it's Secrist.  She glowers down

              at Cheramie.

              Cheramie flashes the light in Secrist's face.  Lit from

              below, Secrist looks ghastly.  She is more drawn with dark

              circles under hollow eyes.

              Cheramie turns the flashlight off, stands and calmly leaves

              the closet.  They square off at each other.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I know what you did.

              Secrist doesn't react.

              Cheramie leaves.  The clock ticks.

              Secrist stares at the spot where Cheramie was standing.  She

              swings the closet door closed - without moving her eyes.



              FOYER, STAIRCASE - NIGHT

              Secrist limps up the stairs.

              She stops, at the large arched window, and looks out at the

              mausoleum.  It's a stormy night.  Frozen rain slashes the

              window.  A flash of lightening highlights her ashen face.

              Looking at the mausoleum, she narrows her eyes.  Another

              flash of lightening reveals Malloch and Pietra in the

              backyard looking up at her.

              Secrist gasps and reels backward, catching the handrail in

              the small of her back.  The rail CRACKS.  Secrist cries out.

              Another flash of lightening - there's nobody there.  Feeling

              silly, Secrist gathers her composure and hobbles up the

              stairs holding her back.  At the top of the stairs she turns

              the lights off and stands in the dark overlooking the place.

                                  SECRIST

                        This is my house, now!

              She raises her nose, pivots on her heel, goes in her room.



              SECRIST'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Secrist pops a couple prescription pills and goes to bed.



              CHERAMIE'S ROOM - NIGHT

              Cheramie, asleep in bed, bathed in the glow from the yellow

              nite lite.  The wind howls.  The tree scrapes its twiggy

              fingers against the window.  TAP, TAP, TIPPITY, TAP.

              She wakes suddenly, her eyes flash to the corner - to the

              silhouette of The Man - it's not there.  Cheramie turns just

              in time to catch a glimpse of a shadow passing through the

              door, leaving.



              OUTSIDE SECRIST'S DOOR - NIGHT

              Pietra walks past, her fingers gliding over the wall and

              door.  Her skin against the wall sounds like a twig against

              granite.



              GRAND SPIRAL STAIRCASE - NIGHT

              Pietra emerges from the shadows at the top of the stairs.

              She glides down the stairs, and stops at the arched window.

              She glances out at her mausoleum, a sad look on her face.

              Pietra turns to face the upstairs as:

              Cheramie leaves her room and tiptoes past Secrist's room and

              down the stairs.  Pietra's eyes fill with joy.

              Cheramie comes down the stairs and walks through the

              apparition of Pietra - when she does her hair is tossed a bit

              as if by a breeze and she senses a presence.  Pietra

              disappears.  Cheramie continues down the stairs.

              Cheramie gets to the base of the stairs and stops.  SOUND OF

              A GROAN as the Christmas tree falls on her.

              She does battle with the tree as if it were alive, but she is

              the only one who provides it with animation.

              She gets out from under the tree.  She props it against the

              wall.  It slides down, she catches it and rights it.



              KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER - NIGHT

              Cheramie is eating a slice of cold pizza.

              Secrist enters.  She looks more drawn and her eyes are sunken

              with darker circles.

                                  SECRIST

                        You're up early?

              Cheramie ignores her.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm sorry.  But, you can't behave

                        that way.  We have to have

                        boundaries.

              Cheramie eats as if alone.

                                  SECRIST

                        I'm doing the best I can.  It's

                        Christmas.  Maybe, we should do

                        some shopping.

              She stares at Cheramie.  After a long moment:

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Can you tell?

              Secrist tries to understand.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        When someone goes crazy...can they

                        tell?

              Secrist chuckles.

                                  SECRIST

                        If you're trying to upset me it's

                        not going to work.

              Secrist tries to let it go.  She fills the tea kettle with

              water and puts it on the stove, turning the flame up high.

              Secrist slices a lemon with a large chef's knife.

                                  SECRIST

                        I know you're upset.  I suppose you

                        have a right to be.  But, how else

                        am I going to--

                                  CHERAMIE

                        --This house is mine.

              At this, Secrist stops and puts the knife down.  She turns

              and looks at Cheramie.

                                  SECRIST

                        Really?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        When I turn eighteen, I'm kicking

                        you out.

              Secrist becomes deadly serious.  Cheramie reads it and puts

              the pizza down.

              Secrist inches toward Cheramie, circling the table.

                                  SECRIST

                        Now...  That's no way to talk.

              Cheramie gets up and keeps the table between them.

                                  SECRIST

                        What are you doing?

              Secrist keeps advancing, Cheramie keeps the distance.

                                  SECRIST

                        What if I put you back in the

                        closet?  Would you like that?

              They stop.  Secrist takes a step, Cheramie takes a step.

                                  SECRIST

                        Who's going to stop me?

                            (smirks)

                        Stuller?

                            (beat)

                        Mommy?  Daddy?

                            (beat)

                        There's nobody here.  We're all

                        alone.

              Cheramie is now next to the counter where the knife and the

              sliced lemon are.  Her fingers slide over the knife's blade

              and handle.  She takes the knife and backs into the:



              FOYER

              Secrist limps from the kitchen.

                                  SECRIST

                        Be careful.  That's sharp.

                            (beat)

                        What do you think you're doing?

                        Come here.

              Cheramie brings the knife up, pointing it at her.

              The tea kettle WHISTLES.  Its pitch rises until it SHRIEKS.

              The CLOCK STOPS TICKING.  The picture of insanity, Secrist

              advances on Cheramie, hobbling like an old cart.

                                  SECRIST

                        Give me the knife.  I need it.  I'm

                        slicing lemons.  Would you like a

                        cup of tea?

              Outside the window is the first light of day.  Sleet slaps

              the glass - TICK, TICK, TICKITY-TICK.

              Secrist advances, wide-eyed and determined.  Her hobbling

              gait and sickly features create a hideous, comic picture.

                                  SECRIST

                        Just put it down and come here.

                        Then, we'll go to bed.  Everything

                        will be all right.  Everything will

                        be fine.

              Cheramie backs up the stairs.  The wind howls.

              Secrist giggles, dry and insane.  A FLASH OF LIGHTENING.

                                  SECRIST

                        You've been so much trouble.

              Secrist is on the first step.  Cheramie is a few steps

              higher.

                                  SECRIST

                        How much I had to sacrifice.  Keep

                        my mouth shut.  Stay out of the way

                        so Malloch and Pietra could enjoy

                        their precious little Cheramie.

              Secrist swipes at Cheramie.  She lashes with the knife,

              cutting Secrist's hand.

              Secrist doesn't cry out.  She looks at the wound with a

              detached curiosity.  She smiles at the sight of her blood

              dripping onto the steps.

                                  SECRIST

                        Pietra was so weak.  She was always

                        so sick.  We had to protect her.

                        Malloch would have kicked me out,

                        if I said anything.

              Cheramie backs up another step.  Secrist stands where she is,

              lost in memories of the distant, painful past.

                                  SECRIST

                        You know what the funny thing is?

                        I got used to it.  I got used to

                        them hating me.  Your mother and

                        father.  Then, they kill themselves

                        and I end up having to raise you.

                            (pause)

                        Can you imagine that?  Raising the

                        child of people who hated you.  Can

                        you?

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I know what you did.  I know about

                        you and my father.  And, Stuller

                        too.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's right.  Stuller fucked your

                        mother.  I fucked your father.

                        It's a dirty little world, isn't

                        it?  What adults will do...

              Secrist advances a step.  FLASH OF LIGHTENING

                                  SECRIST

                        But, you wouldn't know.  You

                        wouldn't know about pain.

                        Desperation.  You've always had

                        everything.  They gave you

                        everything.  You were an only

                        child.  You were only one Pietra

                        ever managed to squeeze out.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Shut up!

              The storm builds.  A bolt of lightening and the lights go

              out.  They are in the pale light coming through the window.

                                  SECRIST

                        Oh!  She got knocked up.  Both by

                        Malloch and Stuller.  But, you were

                        the only one...they could keep.

              Cheramie follows Secrist's gaze to the mausoleum.

                                  SECRIST

                        I loved Malloch.  But, after you

                        came along he wouldn't touch me.

                        He said it was over.  I threatened

                        to tell.  He said he would kill me

                        if I caused any trouble.

                            (sly giggle)

                        Well.  I did cause some trouble.  I

                        went to the newspapers.  They loved

                        it.  I told them everything.  But,

                        I'm still here.  He didn't kill me.

                        He's the one that's dead.

              Cheramie's eyes fill with pity.

                                  SECRIST

                        I was even on TV!

              Hail pelts the window:  TICKITY TICK TACK TACK TACK.  The

              wind and tea pot howl.

                                  SECRIST

                        I loved you, too!  Even though you

                        were theirs.

                            (pleading expression)

                        I did!  I did!

              Secrist takes the next step quickly.  Cheramie backs up just

              as quickly, keeping their distance even.  Secrist's

              expression doesn't change during this fencing match - she

              pleads for forgiveness with her eyes, then:

                                  SECRIST

                        Now, there's just us.  We could

                        still be a family.  Can't you

                        forgive me?

              Cheramie lowers the knife and stares at her in disbelief.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        My mom and dad are dead because of

                        you.

              Now, Secrist flares with anger and she takes the next step.

                                  SECRIST

                        We're all guilty!  What we did...

                        We did it because we wanted to!

                        Your father wanted to be with me!

                        And, what about your mother?  Hmm?

                        Her and Stuller?  I'm sorry.  But,

                        your parents liked to have fun.

                            (pause)

                        So, don't blame me for what

                        happened!  You can't blame me!

                                  CHERAMIE

                        Stuller's already dead.

              Secrist stands tall.  With this last statement, she knows the

              games are over.  Her face drains of emotion.

                                  SECRIST

                        I see.

              Secrist flings herself up and grabs Cheramie's wrist and

              twists it viciously.  The knife falls to the steps.

              Cheramie screams and fights but is no match.

              Triumphantly, Secrist picks up the knife and points it at

              Cheramie - all while holding Cheramie's wrist.

              A LIGHTENING FLASH illuminates Secrist's strange toothy

              smile.  Her leering face green-white, her wild eyes locked.

                                  SECRIST

                        How dare you!  How dare you, you

                        little shit!  Attack me in my home. 

                        Now, what are you going to do?

                        Hmm?

              Cheramie pulls with all her weight and twists her wrist free.

              She can't stop her momentum and falls.

              Secrist lunges at her but the girl is too quick, escaping to

              the side and scrambling up the stairs, clawing and slipping.

              Secrist pursues, snorting and grunting, swinging the knife

              wildly back and forth.

              They both fall as they scramble up the remaining steps.

              Secrist stabs at Cheramie, missing her foot by inches and

              burying the knife's tip in the hardwood step.  She lets go of

              the knife and lunges at the girl and misses, catching her

              weight on her left hand.  The wrist SNAPS and Secrist howls.

              Cheramie scrambles to the top of the stairs and turns as

              Secrist rises and stares at her.  She must go down the stairs

              to escape and they both know it.  Secrist is triumphant,

              Cheramie is terrified.

                                  SECRIST

                        Where are you going?  There's no

                        way out...  Except past me.

              Cheramie looks at her room down the hall.  She is about to

              run for it, when:

                                  PIETRA (O.S.)

                            (whispers)

                        It's time!

              Cheramie understands and doesn't run.  Instead, she waits at

              the top of the stairs, scared but resolved to end this.

              Secrist feels she has won.  Taking Cheramie's hesitation for

              surrender, she wrenches the knife out of the step, breaking

              the tip of the blade off with a SNAP.

              She hobbles up the stairs cradling her left hand.  LIGHTENING

              FLASHES, highlighting the slick black blood on the knife, the

              sweat on her brow, the confident grimace, the narrow eyes.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's a good girl.

              Secrist limps up slowly, her left arm limp.

                                  SECRIST

                        That's a good girl.

                            (sing-song)

                        Don't move.  Mom-my's com-ing.

              Cheramie stands her ground, horrified but also disgusted.

              Secrist is now two steps from the top.  She raises the knife

              and smiles as she wags it back and forth.

                                  SECRIST

                        Stay there.  Naughty, naughty.

              She takes another step.  Her smile drops and her eyes narrow.

              In a flash, she closes the remaining distance and places the

              knife blade against Cheramie's throat - she doesn't flinch.

                                  SECRIST

                        After you're gone, I'll have the

                        place to myself.  Who knows?

                        Maybe, I'll run around naked.

              She rotates the knife until the blade is perpendicular to

              Cheramie's throat - with the tip of the blade missing it

              appears that the blade has penetrated Cheramie's neck.

              Secrist caresses Cheramie's face with her crippled left hand.

              Macabre, with all the warmth of a vulture's beak.

              She draws the blade's broken tip across Cheramie's neck,

              scratching it bad enough to draw blood.  Cheramie winces and

              sobs in pain, but doesn't pull away.

                                  SECRIST

                        Goodbye, Cheramie.



              FLASH OF LIGHTENING, BOLT OF THUNDER

              In the flash of light, behind Cheramie, appear Malloch,

              Stuller, and Pietra.  They are dressed in casual summer

              clothes and enjoy drinks.  They talk amiably and disappear as

              the flash ends.

              Secrist gasps, her eyes riveted on the apparition.  She

              withdraws the knife - it hangs limp at her side.  Cheramie

              doesn't look behind her to see what's there - she keeps her

              eyes on Secrist.



              LIGHTENING, THUNDER

              Malloch, Stuller, and Pietra appear for another instant.

              This time, although still dressed the same and holding the

              drinks, they aren't looking at each other.  Instead, they

              stare flatly at Secrist.  Lit by more lightening, they say:

                                  MALLOCH, STULLER, PIETRA

                        Secrist!  It's time!

              Cheramie's hair is tossed wildly as if by a gale.  She is

              back-lit by a strange green-white light.

              In the following barrage of lightening and thunder, the trio

              appear as increasingly decomposed, living corpses, who stare

              and grin at Secrist.

              Horrified, Secrist takes a half-step down, her foot landing

              awkwardly - she almost loses her balance.



              LIGHTENING, THUNDER

              The three ghosts are horrid visions of decay.  They glare at

              Secrist.

                                  MALLOCH, STULLER, PIETRA

                        It's time...

              Secrist's has lost her hold on sanity.  She stares at the

              visions, horrified and silly at the same time.

              Cheramie draws her fist well back and punches Secrist in the

              face.

              Secrist reels.  She struggles for balance.  She grips the

              rail but, as she is holding the knife, can't get a grip - the

              knife's slimy handle clicks and clacks on the wood rail.

              Secrist loses her balance and teeters back.  She extends her

              gnarled left hand to Cheramie.

                                  SECRIST

                        Help me!

              In a slow-motion ballet, Cheramie reaches to help, but

              decides not to and pulls her hand back.  At this, the

              silly/crazy look drains from Secrist's face and is replaced

              with pure, calculated hatred.

              Secrist quick-steps backward down the steps, actually

              managing them for several steps.  The knife goes flying.

              Secrist can't keep up the backward running and a missteps,

              her foot landing at a sharp angle.  Her ankle CRACKS.

              Secrist crashes down the stairs, rolling head over heels.

              As she passes the large arched window halfway down, she looks

              out at the mausoleum - its gates stand wide open.  Malloch,

              Stuller, and Pietra, looking healthy and happy, and dressed

              for a summer's day out, stroll toward the mausoleum.  They

              are protected from the rain and walk in a small circle of

              sunlight.

              Secrist continues tumbling down the stairs, grunting as her

              bones SNAP, SNAP, SNAP.

              She lands in a heap at the foot of the grand spiral

              staircase.  She looks up and sees:

              Cheramie looking down at her with a flat expression.

              Cheramie comes down the stairs.  She reaches the bottom and

              looks at Secrist, who lies on her back, her limbs in a

              hodgepodge.

              The knife isn't to be seen - perhaps Secrist is on top of it.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'll call for help.

                                  SECRIST

                        No!  Don't leave me!

              Cheramie goes into the kitchen.  The tea kettle's whistle

              stops.  She picks up the wall phone and dials three numbers.

              Secrist can hear Cheramie talking.  The rain and wind stop.

              The CLOCK STARTS TICKING.  It's a piercing sound now that the

              storm is over and the teapot isn't whistling.

                                  CHERAMIE

                            (into phone)

                        Someone fell down the stairs.

              Secrist's breath comes in halting rasps as she listens:

              TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK.  Her eyes roll, searching.

              Cheramie returns.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        I'm going outside.  To wait for the

                        ambulance.

              They look at each other, neither one showing emotion.

                                  SECRIST

                        You bitch.

                                  CHERAMIE

                        You shouldn't take what doesn't

                        belong to you.

              Even in her state, Secrist manages a defiant glare.

              Cheramie leaves, closing the door behind her.



              TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK.

              The lights come back on.

              Secrist is a horrid sight.  A rivulet of blood flows from

              under her head into the crack in the floor at the base of the

              stairs. 

              She stares at the door then turns and looks at the ceiling.

              Her expression softens just a bit -- defiance is replaced

              with regret, which becomes a child's shame.  It's not clear

              whether she is dead or alive.



              TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK

                                  SECRIST

                        It's cold.  I'm cold.

              Her eyes become vacant.  She looks dead.  She must be dead.

                                  SECRIST

                            (whispers)

                        Cold...

              Her eyes lose their defiance and fill with the deepest, most

              biting regret.  She closes her eyes.



              EXT. LAKE - DAWN

              Cheramie stands at the edge of the lake, wrapped in a coat.

              Her eyes are weary and hardened.  She takes a deep breath and

              exhales a plume of frosty air.

              In the distance is the SOUND OF APPROACHING SIRENS.

              A bit more relaxed now, she picks up a flat stone, judges its

              weight and skips it across the frozen lake.

              Every time it lands on the ice, it makes a queer pinging

              sound.  She throws another flat stone - it bounces along the

              ice.  PWING, PWONG, PWING, PWANG

              Cheramie smiles.

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