The Checkerboard Wars

February 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

T H E    C H E C K E R B O A R D    W A R S

Screenplay by Marcus Allen Steele

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Kids’ VOICES, LAUGHING and JOKING. Drawers and cupboards OPENING and CLOSING, the CLINK of a knife in peanut butter and jelly jars. Bread EMANCIPATED from cellophane, PLOPPED in a toaster. Plates and glasses SET on the table. A refrigerator door exuberantly SLAMMED shut.

racism-and-discrimination

FADE IN:

INT. PACER HOUSE – KITCHEN – SAN LUIS OBISPO – 1990 – DAY

A whirlwind of movement. Three children prepare their lunch. SARAH and SAM PACER, 13 and 12, are sister and brother who actually get a kick out of one another. They’re white. KATE, 13, the last of the fearsome threesome, is Sarah’s best friend. She’s black. They all sit down.

SARAH

Sammy, let Kate grab the first one.

Sam is reaching, but stops short.

SAM

I’m starving.

KATE
(to Sam)

You must have worms.

(pause)

It’s okay Sarah, you go first.

SARAH

Awright already. Where’s the juice?

SAM
(enthusiastically)

I got it.

Sam heads for the refrigerator…

FATHER (O.S. – off screen)

Sam! Get your butt in here.

SAM ENTERS THE LIVING ROOM

where his father is watching a baseball game on television.

SAM

Yeah, Dad?

FATHER
(not looking up)

Am I hearing dishes?

SAM

Uh…we’re in a hurry.

The father turns, staring menacingly.

FATHER

Paper and plastic. Right?

In the span of a second, Sam boils and calms.

SAM
(resigned)

Yeah.

FATHER

What!?

SAM

Yes, sir.

FATHER

Tell me the rule.

SAM

Paper plates and plastic forks when Kate eats here.

FATHER

Good. ‘Cause we ain’t eating on plates that a nigger been licking from. No way…

SAM
(to himself)

Asshole…

FATHER

… rather eat from a dog dish. Go on now.

BARGING INTO THE KITCHEN

SAM

Let’s get outta here…

Sarah studies Sam, looks at Kate and nods. They all quickly pack up the food in Sam’s blue knapsack.

EXT. CALIFORNIA COASTLINE – 1990 – SAME DAY

Central California coastline; green cliffs, crashing surf, mountains and windswept trees. Three bicycles and a blue knapsack lying on the ground. The threesome stands in a clearing near a cliff. Sarah is holding a kite.

SARAH

Whose turn?

Sam and Kate point to each other. Sam has a big time crush on Kate.

SARAH
(to Kate)

Make it fly.

Kate takes the kite and runs towards the edge of the cliff. The wind catches it, lifts it off and–

IT SOARS

EXT. AIRCRAFT CARRIER U.S.S. INDEPENDENCE – 2002 – MORNING

A T-45 “Goshawk”, 300 knots, 800 feet above the water, directly over the carrier executes–

AN ABRUPT, HIGH G, 180 DEGREE LEFT TURN

VOICE (O.S.)

Victor two four, you’re number one for landing. Report gear and hook down.

CLOSE on Sam in cockpit.

SAM

This is Victor two four… gear and hook down… abeam for landing.

VOICE (O.S.)

Roger, call the ball.

CLOSE on the “ball”… an electronic visual glide slope indicator on the left side of the carrier. It’s “on” then–

BLINKS UNEXPECTEDLY OFF

INT. AIR BOSS LOCATION – 2002 – MORNING

The AIR BOSS, “God” during flight operations, is perched above the flight deck area. A few feet away is CAPT. JASON “HAMMER” PATRICK, early thirties, the voice on the radio.

SAM (O.S.)

Hammer, the ball is down.

CAPT. PATRICK
(headset)

Roger, two four. Wave off.

THE “BALL” BLINKS BACK ON

SAM (O.S.)

Ah, negative, sir. I’ve got the ball. I’ll continue.

Capt. Patrick looks at the Air Boss who gives a thumbs up.

CAPT. PATRICK
(headset)

Okay, two four. You’re cleared for landing.

EXT. AIRCRAFT CARRIER U.S.S. INDEPENDENCE – 2002 – MORNING

Over the carrier’s wake, First Lt. Sam Pacer is adeptly piloting his T-45. Sam crosses the stern and SLAMS onto the deck, snagging a three wire. Perfect execution.

INT. AIR BOSS LOCATION – 2002 – MORNING

CAPT. PATRICK
(to Sam on headset)

Great job, two four. You’re cleared to the cat.

(to Air Boss, proudly)

My student.

AIR BOSS
(to Capt. Patrick)

Impressive. I couldn’t breathe my first trap.

CAPT. PATRICK
(to Air Boss)

That kid is Sam Pacer.

(to himself)

He was born with feathers…

EXT. AIRCRAFT CARRIER U.S.S. INDEPENDENCE – 2002 – MORNING

Sam maneuvers his jet to the catapult directed by hand signals from a deck hand.

THE BLAST SHIELD RISES UP BEHIND HIM

His jet’s undercarriage is connected to the steam catapult. Sam cycles the flight controls, TAPS HIS HEART TWICE and–

SALUTES THE LAUNCH OFFICER

His head back against the ejection seat–

THE CATAPULT RELEASES TO A FURIOUS NOISE

The jet hurled down the deck. CLOSE on catapult rail, jet fuselage, wheels, and escaping steam… SILENCE when the jet clears the bow.

EXT. CALIFORNIA COASTLINE – PRESENT – DAY

CLOSE on feet standing in short grass. PAN UP TO CHEST as HAND TAPS A CRUCIFIX TWICE and then tucks it under his t-shirt. PAN back to see a man running towards a cliff’s edge and the ocean, a hang glider on his back. A familiar coastline; green cliffs, crashing surf, mountains and windswept trees.

THE WIND CATCHES THE GLIDER, LIFTS IT OFF

And he soars. Riding upwards, leaving earth below. Confident turns, aggressive dives, reaching for the sun and brushing the trees. Cruising the waves, not with a sail but a wing.

SAM TURNS SHARPLY

And dives like a jet fighter coming aboard an aircraft carrier. He approaches the ground, flares the nose and his feet touch the ground. He steps from under the glider… Sam has grown up magnificently.

EXT. MIKE’S SURF AND SAIL – SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA – DAY

A Ford Explorer, a hang glider mounted on top, parks. Sam gets out and enters…

INT. MIKE’S SURF AND SAIL – DAY

A woman finishes her transaction and turns to leave. Seeing Sam, she hesitates. Stunning as a child, she is still terrific looking… her face full of character. Somewhat tentative, she breaks into a soft, wistful smile.

KATE

Sam…

She continues over to a stunned Sam. They hug.

KATE

It’s been a long time.

They break, Sam is still holding Kate by the shoulders looking directly in her eyes.

SAM
(admiration)

What a great surprise. You could have called ya know.

KATE

I didn’t know how long I’d be here. Been wrapping up a few things for Mom.

SAM

It’s been what, a year?

KATE

Kind of a blur. I think so.

SAM

She would have been a great mother-in-law.

KATE

Well that didn’t take you long.

EXT. ULTIMATE COFFEE – DAY

THROUGH A WINDOW, Sam and Kate sitting and talking, easy with smiles and laughter.

INT. ULTIMATE COFFEE – DAY

Pine, soft chairs, burlap bags and local art.

KATE
(laughing)

No, no. It wasn’t my underwear, it was Sarah’s.

SAM

You mean to tell me I was running around with my sister’s underwear on my head? That’s like incest.

KATE

Still think it would be a good wardrobe option for the Klan.

A shared laugh.

SAM

I’ve sure missed that laugh…

KATE

Here we go.

SAM

Can I please explain?

KATE

…it was a long time ago and I’m over it.

SAM

Maybe I’m not.

KATE

It was the wrong time for us… and for a zillion other reasons. Would you just leave it alone?

(long pause)

And besides, do I need to remind you that you’re still white and I’m still black? A checkerboard comes to mind.

SAM
(long pause)

Why don’t you and me go flying tomorrow… like the old days.

KATE

Are you serious?

SAM

Yeah. I’ll take a long lunch. No sweat.

KATE

I don’t know. What if I’m rusty?

SAM

C’mon, you’ll do fine.

KATE
(long pause)

Okay. Twelve o’clock then. Same place, right?

SAM

Yep.

KATE

Don’t you make me wait.

Before Kate can get up, Sam touches her hand. She leans over and kisses Sam on the cheek, and leaves.

EXT. PLATO’S NEWSSTAND – NEXT MORNING

Early fall. The streets lined with picturesque trees and cute shops. Sam stops at his newsstand, picks up the LA TIMES and

PLATO, the proprietor, wanders over.

PLATO

The Weekly Standard isn’t in yet. Why don’t you expand your horizons and try Mother Jones?

SAM

Where’s National Review?

PLATO

On your right….

SAM

How ’bout the American Conservative?

PLATO

Further right.

SAM
(smiling)

Man o man, Plate. Straighten up these magazines. You some kind of anarchist?

Sam reaches into his pocket, takes out a ball of cash and hands it to Plato.

PLATO

I prefer anachronistic.

INT. SAN LUIS OBISPO TIMES – SAM’S OFFICE – MORNING

Small and nondescript. He’s sitting at his desk looking at his Looney Tunes screen saver. “Ping pong” glances at his watch and his piles of paperwork. He leans back in his chair, feet up on the desk.

LAUREN walks in and sits across from him. She’s twenty something and gorgeous. She sees a model of a jet fighter prominently displayed on his desk.

LAUREN

You know what I like about coming in here?

SAM

You’re impressed by inertia?

LAUREN

You do underwhelm… but, no.

SAM

My fanaticism towards work?

He’s almost horizontal.

LAUREN

I wonder what restrained would look like?

(pause)

No.

SAM

I punt.

LAUREN

It’s your socks.

CLOSE ON Sam’s colorful and multi-patterned socks.

SAM

Bought ’em myself.

LAUREN

Almost rainbowish, if you catch my drift. So. I’m confirming our date tonight.

SAM

No rainbow namby pamby from this Marine Corps hardened specimen. I’ll be pounding my chest like Kong.

Lauren gets up and heads for the door. She points to his jet model on the desk.

LAUREN
(smiling)

How come you stopped doing that? I know you miss it.

SAM

Don’t have a good answer. Because I’m an idiot?

LAUREN

Well, don’t cancel on me tonight, big boy. I’ll bring bananas.

Lauren exits. A brief smile and Sam begins to sort his paperwork into three baskets. In, Out, and Don’t Matter. He sticks everything in the Don’t Matter basket. He stands, hesitates, and heads for the door.

IN THE FOYER

He tells JENNY, the receptionist…

SAM

You know where.

He blows her a kiss and leaves the building.

INT. MCCLINTOCK’S BAR – MORNING

Sam’s alone at a table, working on a Corona. Through the door walks JERRY FULCHRIST. Balding, a gut, bad clothes, 40ish.

FULCHRIST

What’s this?

Fulchrist throws some papers on the table.

SAM

Brilliance.

FULCHRIST

You’re a business manager! We went over this last year when you tried this same stunt.

SAM

It’s a good story and you know it.

Fulchrist takes a seat. The barmaid comes over.

BARMAID
(to Fulchrist)

Can I get you something?

FULCHRIST

No.

(looks back to Sam)

“Black rage”? You kidding me? Nobody around here gives a crap about malcontent black folks griping about their life. Hell, just reading about it would piss off our readers. Look around here, pal. This is central California. The only “color” you see is brown… and these guests of our fine country are either working on their tans picking strawberries or polishing chrome at the damn car wash.

(pause)

Listen, times are tough. People are trying to make do with with they got, and what they got keeps getting smaller because a bunch of socialist bastards are running the show. Can you get it through that skull of yours that race relations ain’t on the agenda?

SAM
(deep breath)

Got it.

FULCHRIST

What’s with you and this racial stuff?

SAM

Like you’d understand.

FULCHRIST

Try me.

(pause)

The hell with it. Now. I suggest you get off your ass and start worrying about circulation numbers and ad revenues. Think you can handle that?

Fulchrist gets up. Sam doesn’t move but stares at his beer. Fulchrist leans back down, hands on the table.

FULCHRIST

I got you figured out, pretty boy. I don’t know what kind of baggage you’re trying to unload, but I know your type. The best you can ever hope for, maybe, is to hide behind a pen and write your nigger-for-a-day stories… but you’re still going to live a pathetic little life in this nowhere town. You’re like all of us, Pacer, no better. You’re weak and half ass… with the convictions of a breeze.

(pause)

That’s why you’re working for me… so don’t kid yourself.

EXT. MAIN STREET – DAY

Sam starts to walk back to the office, suddenly stops and looks at his watch.

SAM
(to himself)

Oh crap…

Reaching into his pocket, he takes out his phone, punches in some numbers and…

SAM
(phone)

Jen. Cover for me today, will ya? I’m outta here.

(listening)

Thanks.

(pause)

That’s his problem.

EXT. ROLLING HILLS – DAY

Sam parks at an isolated cattle gate. A Jeep is already parked, a glider cover on the ground. There are green rolling hills, open land and low rise mountains. Beneath the base of the mountains runs a curving train track. Sam begins to run up a gradual trail, occasionally searching the sky for Kate. Curving by eucalyptus trees, cattle watering bins and jutting rocks. He approaches the train tracks and begins to run parallel to them. Eventually–

A SHADOW DRIFTS BY

Sam looks up and sees Kate and her hang glider riding thermals. He YELLS and waves. She waves back.

Comforted by her smooth sailing, Sam watches. Suddenly a POP and then a loud FLUTTERING. The wing collapses. Kate stops flying and falls like a laundry bag. He starts sprinting.

Rocky, uneven ground. Kate wrapped in a folded cocoon of fabric, aluminum and rope. A terrible head wound, a helmet with broken strap is nearby. Sam arrives, quickly takes off his shirt and tries to stop the bleeding. A train WHISTLE in the background.

The WHISTLE again. Lodging his bloodied shirt between a rock and Kate’s head, Sam starts running.

EXT. TRAIN – DAY

A tight curving track, a passenger train proceeds slowly. Sam’s running up the hill, but stumbles on loose ground and falls… hitting his head on a rock creating a nasty gash above his eye. He gets up and continues. Converging on the train, the lead engine goes by.

Sprinting, Sam lunges for the hand railing adjacent to the steps of a passenger car. He has it, and lifts himself aboard.

INT. TRAIN – DAY

Sam enters the passenger car… shirtless, sweating, bleeding and determined. Hustling down the aisle…

SAM

I need a doctor! Anybody. Can you help me?

No answer. He runs for the next car and enters it.

SAM

I need a doctor! Please…

A young woman passenger stands, warily.

DOCTOR

What’s wrong?

He gets close to her, the doctor can see that he’s cut badly. She reaches for his forehead to inspect his wound. Sam puts up his hand to dissuade her, but she’s determined. She pries the skin apart with her fingers.

DOCTOR

This is a good one… but you’ll live.

SAM
(waves her off)

Not me! Don’t move. I gotta stop this train.

Sam runs for the end of the car and sees a placard. EMERGENCY USE ONLY. Underneath is a red phone…

SAM
(phone)

Hello. Hello! Emergency!

ENGINEER (O.S.)

This is the engineer. What’s the problem?

SAM

Stop this train now! Somebody may be dying.

ENGINEER

I’ll send someone back…

SAM

They’re not on the train. It’s a crash for chrissakes. Stop this train!

SCREECHING and deceleration of the train. Sam heads back to the doctor.

SAM

My friend went down a mile back and she’s unconscious and bleeding. Can you run?

DOCTOR

Yes. But I don’t have a med kit.

The train stops. Sam runs toward a RED CROSS near the door, and rips a first aid kit down from the bulkhead.

SAM
(to other passengers)

The engineer is gonna come back here. Tell them we need a helicopter to medevac somebody… one mile back.

A couple passengers nod. Sam practically pulls the doctor off the stopped train.

EXT. ROLLING HILLS – DAY

They’re running along the train tracks and turn 90 degrees down a ridge. Jogging downhill a hundred yards, they arrive. They both try to catch their breath. The doctor kneels down next to Kate, looking her over.

SAM

She hasn’t moved.

The doctor grabs the first aid kit from Sam and starts to rummage inside.

SAM
(with urgency)

What are you doing!?

DOCTOR

I need to examine her.

SAM

Then do it.

DOCTOR

I’m looking for some damn gloves!

SAM

The hell with that.

The doctor is still rummaging, somewhat panicked. Sam reaches over to her and grabs her arm.

SAM

She needs your help!

The doctor pulls her arm away from Sam.

DOCTOR

Let go of me!

(pause)

Look at her, can’t you see!?

Kate’s dead, her eyes wide open, staring past the blue sky.

SAM
(in denial)

No! We can still save her.

Sam kneels down on the other side of Kate and puts his ear to her mouth.

SAM

She’s not dead. I can feel her… on my cheek.

Sam pinches Kate’s nose, opens her mouth and presses his mouth over hers. He blows hard into Kate’s mouth… then raises up.

DOCTOR

It’s too late. I’m sorry.

Sam bends over and again exhales into Kate’s mouth. He raises up and…

SAM
(panicked)

Help me! I don’t know what I’m doing. You’re the doctor… show me!

The doctor doesn’t move. A few more futile attempts at reviving Kate. Nothing. Sam slumps to the ground. Resigned. Time passes.

SAM

You should head back. I’ll wait here.

DOCTOR

Are you sure?

No response. The doctor starts to head back up. Sam is still focused on Kate. He calls back to the doctor.

SAM

The train… you didn’t need gloves with me.

The doctor stops in her tracks and turns to face a tormented man.

DOCTOR
(feebly)

You’re… different.

She starts to say something else, changes her mind and continues back up the hill. Sam watches her briefly, then looks back at Kate. He reaches for her hand. Then holds her in his arms.

SAM
(softly)

No … we’re not.

PAN back to a helicopter landing adjacent the tracks. An emergency crew disembarks with rescue equipment.

EXT. SAM’S HOUSE – NIGHT

An old stable, plenty of character, adjacent a small bridge. It’s raining, the lights are out, except for a continuously flickering pale blue light from the TV inside.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Crate boxes stacked with books by William Manchester and David Halberstam. James Baldwin’s “Another Country” on the floor by the couch. Apple laptop on a side table. Moving boxes in the corner, opened but not unpacked.

A KNOCK at the door. Sam just lies on his couch, remote in hand, channel surfing his TV. A lot of empty Coronas on the floor, a butterfly bandage over his eye.

He stops on an interview. The interviewee, DANI SOLOMON is breathtaking.

INTERVIEWER

Ms. SOLOMON, as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, you’ve gained remarkable access to the various warring gangs in the inner city. How have you done that?

DANI

They trust me to not take sides. And they also know I’ll tell it like they tell me. Listen, these kids are living a life that few people could ever fathom… and for most of us, it’s outta sight, outta mind. I just hope that my stories can spotlight their every day grind. Then, maybe some good will come.

INTERVIEWER

Unfortunately, Ms. Solomon, we’re out of time. Continued good luck on your gang stories… they’re a terrific public service.

Sam turns off the TV and grabs another remote. EBB TIDE begins to play loudly. Sam rises from the couch.

IN THE ATTIC

Sam is rummaging and finds a green canvas bag behind some boxes. He pulls it out and unzips it. Reaching inside, he pulls out a green military flight suit. Looking at the left pocket area, a name tag–

SAM’S NAME, RANK AND NAVAL AVIATOR WINGS

A patch of Marine squadron VMA-315 on the left sleeve.

Sam puts the flight suit over a chair. He stares. Back into the bag, one by one, he slowly pulls out a flight helmet, torso harness, and flight boots. He checks the gear for integrity, but occasionally smells it as if resurrecting a memory.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – BATHROOM – MORNING

Sam wanders in, more asleep than awake. Standing over the sink, he stares at his face in the mirror.

INT. SAN LUIS OBISPO TIMES – FULCHRIST’S OFFICE – MORNING

Sam walks in and somberly mouths “hang up.” Fulchrist abruptly finishes with his caller.

FULCHRIST

Well look who’s here…

(pause)

Where were you yesterday?

SAM

I’m quitting.

FULCHRIST

To do what?

SAM

Not this.

FULCHRIST

Enlighten me.

SAM

I don’t think so.

Sam turns to leave.

FULCHRIST

You’re a prima donna and a crap business manager.

(pause)

And tell Lauren she’s getting a promotion.

Sam ignores the guy and exits.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – DINING ROOM – NIGHT

Gym equipment everywhere. A climbing peg board attached to the wall which goes through the ceiling. Sam is starting another ascent, a peg in each hand, hole by hole. BLARING away is the Moody Blues’ “Night in White Satin.”

P.O.V. (point of view) AT TOP OF CLIMBING BOARD LOOKING DOWN, Sam makes it to the top, arms and shoulders burning. And down he goes.

LATER IN THE DINING ROOM

Doing sit-ups on a reclining board attached to the wall, Sam’s dripping sweat. The front door OPENS and CLOSES, Lauren drifts in and plants herself against the wall.

LAUREN

On some South Pacific islands, a sweating man is supposed to be sexy. Since I’m from Michigan, I don’t get it.

SAM

Eighty-five. Eighty-six.

LAUREN

Early American Indians used to sweat as a part of their spiritual life. Is that what you’re doing?

SAM

Eighty-seven.

LAUREN

Sam. I think you should stop now, or I’m taking my two delightful breasts and leaving.

SAM
(catching his breath)

You can leave them by the front door. I’ll play with ’em later.

Lauren approaches him, reaches for his hand, and helps him up.

IN THE BATHROOM

She starts to undress him. Sam stops her.

SAM

I can’t…

He walks past her into the bedroom.

LAUREN
(unsure)

Sure…

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – BEDROOM – SAME NIGHT

Lauren is curled up around him.

LAUREN

I’m sorry about your friend. Wanna talk?

SAM

Maybe you could explain life to a simpleton.

LAUREN

You want perspective from me? I’m your play thing–you know it–I know it–yet here I am. Yoda I’m not.

SAM

Wanna hear a sick truth?

LAUREN

Not really.

SAM

Suicide takes courage.

LAUREN

Well that’s a cheery thought. Where did that come from?

SAM

I don’t know. Bumper sticker I guess.

Lauren lightly smacks him on the butt. Sam shuts his eyes and starts to fade. Lauren can’t sleep so she gets out of bed, quietly gathers her things and leaves.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – KITCHEN – DAYS LATER

Sam’s kitchen table is covered with maps of the southwestern U.S., his laptop computer is on the counter. You can also see a map of Mexico on the counter, a couple duffel bags and a stack of money. There’s a KNOCK.

IN THE FOYER

He opens the front door.

LAUREN

You don’t answer your phone and you lock yourself in your house.

(pause)

I think I should take this personally.

(no response)

So, can I come in?

SAM

Lauren… it’s not a good time.

LAUREN

Okay. When?

(pause)

Listen, I know we’re not a couple or anything, but… oh, forget it.

(walks away then stops)

People care about you, ya know?

Lauren turns and walks to her car. He presses his forehead against the door and shuts his eyes.

EXT. SECLUDED AREA NEAR BEACH – NEXT DAY

A green car is driving down a dirt road and parks in a secluded spot, close to the Pacific Ocean. Sam gets out, locks up and jogs to the main road leaving the car behind.

EXT. BARBERSHOP – DAY

Sam walks out of a barbershop that should be in a time capsule. Striped barber pole, not real busy. A couple of barber chairs seen through the window. An old barber in a white smock sweeps up. Sam’s haircut is no longer stylish, it’s short, military like.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Bathed intermittently with warmth and gold light from the fire, Sam listens to the Three Tenors RAISE the roof. He is looking through a family photo album. Tough to tell the emotional tenor of his family: Mom, Dad, his sister Sarah, and Sam. Not much frivolity. Sam stops on young Kate’s picture, then continues turning page after page, and finally stops on his favorite picture of Sarah.

INT. SARAH’S HOUSE – STUDIO – NIGHT

A warm, inviting home in Big Basin, New Mexico. Sarah Pacer is sitting at a canvas painting. She’s classy, soft and wonderful looking, eyes smiling, full of wisdom. Her painting is abstract… people, not inanimate things. She answers the phone distractedly, lost in creation.

SARAH
(phone)

Hello.

SAM (O.S.)

Hey, Sis.

SARAH

Sammy. So outta the blue you just call, huh?

SAM

Am I interrupting anything?

SARAH

Painting emotion. Usual stuff.

Silence.

SARAH

Something’s wrong.

SAM
(pause)

It’s Kate. She was killed a few days ago.

Sarah listens. You see a sadness cloud her eyes.

SARAH

What happened?

SAM

She was hang gliding and the thing just broke.

(pause)

I wasn’t able to say good-bye…

SARAH
(eyes welling up)

Come visit. I mean it.

SAM

I will. But I want you to listen to me and don’t ask for an explanation.

SARAH

Sam, what are you up to?

SAM

Promise me.

SARAH

Awright. But I hate it when you do this.

SAM

If you hear anything bad about me, don’t believe it. It won’t be true.

(pause)

I’m gonna fix things, Sarah.

SARAH

What the hell does that mean?

SAM

Trust me on this one, will you? I’ll explain when I have a chance.

SARAH

Which better be sooner than later buster.

(pause)

Whatever this is about, be careful.

SAM

You know me.

(pause)

Gotta go. Love ya.

CLICK.

Sarah slowly puts down the phone and stares at her painting. Picking up a brush, she dips it in a red pigment, hesitates, and then draws a bold “K” on the back of her hand.

INT. SAM’S HOUSE – GARAGE – NIGHT

Sam is lugging bags and loading them into the back of his Explorer. A short board is evident in the trunk. He then uncovers a military type uninflated raft on the garage floor and loads that into the car. Looking around to see if he’s missed anything, he goes back into the house.

EXT. SAN LUIS OBISPO AIRPORT – DAY

A small airport situated in a valley, very little flight activity. The day is sunny and clear, a hefty wind blowing.

INT. FLIGHT OPERATIONS – DAY

Sam is at the operations desk. The flight clerk, KEN CAPITO, is looking over Sam’s logbook.

KEN

Takeoffs and landings. Recent hours. Medical. I think you’re set.

(pause)

Any questions on airport procedures?

SAM

No.

KEN

Yeah, well, just keep an eye out for seagulls west of here.

SAM

Right.

KEN
(checking his clipboard)

Let me see… how ’bout three three nine? Blue doors.

SAM

Fine. Can I park my car out there?

KEN

Why not, been pretty quiet today.

SAM

Thanks.

Sam exits and drives his Explorer into the space adjoining the small Cessna. The car is parked so that no one can see him load the airplane.

INT. CESSNA – DAY

Sam is going through the initial preflight checks for the single engine propellered Cessna. He starts the engine and the radio comes on. We HEAR active runway, winds, barometric pressure, and radio frequencies. Taxiing to the hold short area, Sam is given clearance for takeoff.

TOWER (O.S.)

November delta three three nine.

SAM
(headset)

Tower, loud and clear.

TOWER

Sir, you’re cleared for takeoff.

He throttles up and taxis to the runway centerline. AFTER TAPPING HIS HEART TWICE, he applies full power and the airplane accelerates like an old Chevy in need of a tune-up.

SAM
(to himself)

It’s all about the coefficient of lift.

He takes off in a westerly direction for the ocean.

INT. CESSNA – DAY

Sam is flying the plane north, following the coast. His transponder (an instrument for radar identification) is off. Suddenly, he spots his landmark.

Descending from three thousand feet, Sam levels off over the water at fifty feet, lowers his flaps, reduces power, and expertly trims the airplane for level flight.

He reaches over and opens the starboard door, propping it open with the BOARD he had configured earlier. Pushing the right seat far forward, he reaches back into the rear seat and starts throwing out bags, protected by waterproofed coverings. They’re also connected to the still deflated raft. The raft unfurls when clear of the airplane. He kicks the board free, and the door closes.

Sam then begins a 360 degree turn. Spotting his bobbing raft, he levels out and again trims the airplane, slight nose down. Opening his door, Sam sees his raft approaching–

AND HE JUMPS

No parachute, the Cessna soon crashing into the ocean.

INT. FLIGHT OPERATIONS – DAY

KEN
(phone)

He shoulda been back two hours ago. His sign out sheet doesn’t indicate a cross country and he didn’t file a flight plan.

SEARCH AND RESCUE (O.S.)

As far as you know, it was a local day flight.

KEN

Yeah.

SEARCH AND RESCUE

Have you contacted the other airports in the area to see if he’s landed there?

KEN

Sure. Nothing.

SEARCH AND RESCUE

FAA has no transponder tracking data?

KEN

None.

SEARCH AND RESCUE

Okay. Email me the specifics. This guy could be down.

KEN

You got it.

EXT. BEACH – DAY

Sam is wading ashore pulling the raft filled with the waterproofed bags. On the beach, he starts running down a road.

EXT. BEACH – DAY – LATER

A green car skids to a stop near the raft. Getting out, Sam first punctures the raft, and then loads everything into the trunk. He puts on dry clothes from one of his bags, gets in the car and drives away.

EXT. HILL – YUMA, ARIZONA – DAYS LATER

Sam is strategically sitting on a hill with binoculars near the Marine Corps air station. He can easily see the activity on the AV8 Harrier flight line, in particular, the loading of bombs by the ordnance crew.

EXT. MARINE CORPS AIR STATION – YUMA, ARIZONA – EARLY MORNING

Sam drives up to the main gate wearing his flight suit, sunglasses, and a fake moustache. His hat signifies a rank of Captain. LCPL. MURRAY, the sentry on duty, politely holds up his hand signaling Sam to stop. He leans down towards the window.

LCPL. MURRAY

Good morning. Sir, are you aware you don’t have a sticker on your car?

SAM

Corporal, I advise you to not buy cheap foreign cars… they die. This is a rental.

LCpl. Murray reaches for his clipboard.

LCPL. MURRAY

No problem, sir. I’ll give you a temporary pass. Name and squadron is all I need.

SAM

Capt. Hawkins. VMA-315.

LCpl. Murray enters the information on his clipboard, then stands at attention and salutes. Sam returns the salute.

EXT. MARINE ATTACK SQUADRON VMA-315 – EARLY MORNING

CLOSE on sign which is similar to Sam’s flight suit patch. Sam drives up to the squadron hanger, an imposing facility. Two cars are in the parking lot.

INT. VMA-315 READY ROOM – EARLY MORNING

Adjacent the hangar is the “ready room” building. SGT. DYE has the duty. He’s 30 and very squared away, a poster Marine. Leaving his bags by the door, Sam walks in.

SAM

Good morning, Sergeant.

SGT. DYE
(somewhat surprised)

Good morning, sir. Can I help you?

Sam stops in front of the desk, and appears to be looking for specific information on the flight schedule board behind Sgt. Dye.

SAM

I’m Captain Hawkins, new wing safety officer. There seems to be…

Sam is scrambling.

SAM

Ah, there’s the problem.

SGT. DYE

Sir?

SAM

Ops assigned me tail number 15 but I see it’s been incorrectly scheduled for Lt. Sipes at 0900.

(pause)

Sergeant, if you would, call over to maintenance when they get in and tell them to turnaround 15 for Lt. Sipes after I get back from my hop. You should also inform the duty officer of the schedule change when he arrives. One more thing. Put a note in Lt. Sipes’ box. He owes me an incident report from last week.

(pause)

Questions?

Sgt. Dye ponders the implied orders from this Marine Captain.

SGT. DYE

What kind of turnaround do you want for 15?

SAM

Make it a quick turn. They can do a complete maintenance check tonight.

(pause)

Thanks, Sergeant.

Sam leaves for the flight equipment room and snoops around for gear. He picks up a hand held GPS locator, a kneeboard (small clipboard for a pilot’s knee attached by velcro) and a Harrier checklist.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER FLIGHT LINE – EARLY MORNING

The flight line is deserted except for 750 million dollars worth of fighter jets. Sam sees a young Marine approaching, the lone sentry. Sam’s helmet is on, the visor down and he’s carrying his bags.

SENTRY

Good morning, sir. I thought the first flight wasn’t until 0900?

Sam is walking toward tail number 15. As expected, the Harrier is fully loaded with six, five-hundred pound bombs.

SAM

Schedule change.

SENTRY

I guess it’s tricky flying with those bombs, huh, sir?

SAM

As long as you don’t hit the ground, it’s easy.

Sam looks over the flight line and sees that most of the jets are loaded with bombs. His earlier vigilance paid off. He drops his bags by Harrier 15.

SAM

Marine, load these bags for me, and then pull the chocks.

PFC. BROWN

I’m on it.

INT. AV8 HARRIER – EARLY MORNING

Cool, clear morning, no wind. Sam climbs into the Harrier for the first time in years. He feels moisture on his skin. He’s also pumping adrenaline like a piston.

Looking around the flight line and the airfield, it’s spectacularly quiet. Rearranging his maps and notes on his kneeboard, he connects his g-suit and torso harness but leaves his oxygen mask off. He closes the canopy and is instantly aware of his heartbeat. He sits quietly for a moment taking it all in.

He grabs the checklist. He reaches his right hand down to the panel immediately right of his ejection seat and turns the starter switch to the twelve o’clock position. He pushes the start button and hears CLICK-CLICK and slowly the massive Rolls Royce jet turbine comes to life, shaking the Harrier like it was a drag racer.

One by one the various systems come on line. Starting on the left side of the cockpit and continuing to the right, Sam sets all instruments to their proper setting. The Heads-Up Display, or HUD, comes on line.

Looking out through his canopy, Sam can see the young Marine. He gives him a thumbs up and a salute and taxis forward.

INT. CONTROL TOWER – EARLY MORNING

Sam has just taxied clear of the Harrier flight line and is on the taxiway. He rips his fake moustache off. Inside the tower, controllers HARRY and LEM are a little confused by the Harrier below.

HARRY

Lem, you got anything on your sheet for an early launch?

LEM

No. See, look here at the sheet. First launch is 0900.

Harry double-checks Lem’s schedule sheet that has the day’s flights for all of the squadrons.

HARRY

Did he check in with ground?

LEM

Hold on.

Lem picks up a handset for a quick conversation.

LEM
(to Harry)

Ground hasn’t heard a thing.

HARRY
(over headset)

Whiskey fox flight. Tower.

Sam is on the tower frequency but doesn’t answer.

HARRY
(headset)

Whiskey fox. This is the tower. Do you read?

DETERMINED AND ALERT, SAM SAYS NOTHING

HARRY
(headset)

Harrier flight. If you’re trying to transmit, I do not read. Sir, you are not cleared for takeoff. I repeat, you are not cleared for takeoff.

(to Lem)

This doesn’t feel right. Sound the crash alarm. I want all emergency vehicles scrambled. Tell ’em to block the runway. Now!

LEM

Won’t he take off vertically?

HARRY

No. He’s too heavy with bombs and fuel. Go. Go!

AV8 HARRIER

Turning off the taxi way, Sam goes right through the hold short area and on to the runway. He stops.

AIRFIELD

Crash vehicles and crews from two different locations are all heading for the runway. Lights flashing, sirens blazoning.

AV8 HARRIER

Holding the brakes, Sam runs the power up to 60% and does his takeoff ritual of two taps to his chest. Then he looks up to see yellow and red vehicles coming his way.

SAM

Not good.

Releasing the brakes and pushing the power to maximum, the Harrier’s surge forward is almost alarming. But after a few seconds, he knows he won’t make it, the vehicles are getting too close.

AIRFIELD

The Harrier veers off the runway to the right to avoid the crash vehicles converging on him. They turn to follow. Sam is moving along at fifty knots over uneven ground between the runways and taxiways.

CONTROL TOWER

HARRY
(headset)

Block him in, keep in front of the jet!

AIRFIELD

Sam approaches a mid field taxiway that is perpendicular to the runway. Abruptly turning left, he barely maintains control and is soon on the taxiway heading for the flight lines and hangars. The crash vehicles make the turn as well and follow.

AV8 HARRIER

Seeing his opportunity, Sam again pushes the power to maximum and heads for the hangars. He’s pushed back in his seat by translational G forces. Even with a helmet on, there is a tremendous roar. Got to fly this baby real soon.

Unfortunately, one lone crash vehicle is on this same taxiway, heading towards Sam. Now. Sam moves the nozzles (two on each side of the fuselage, under the wing root, which direct the thrust) to 60 degrees… the Harrier jumps off the ground and leaps over the vehicle, washing it with jet blast. The vehicle CRASHES over on its side.

Airborne now, the hangars loom menacingly close. Raising the nose as his airspeed increases, Sam clears them… barely. No other jet in the world could have managed this takeoff… or even tried.

Airspeed accelerating, the nozzles directed aft, Sam sucks the gear up, and turns back 270 degrees to zoom the tower. 350 knots and accelerating, he puts the tower on his nose and screams by at Harry and Lem’s eye level, missing the tower by just a few feet.

Then, Sam pulls the nose up thirty degrees and executes a graceful aileron roll and then turns south for the border.

CONTROL TOWER

Harry and Lem are picking themselves up off the floor.

HARRY

(to headset)

Station operations, this is tower.

STATION OPERATIONS (O.S.)

Ops. Go ahead.

HARRY
(to headset)

We have an unauthorized flight of an AV8 Harrier. Departed 0545. Very exciting, I might add.

STATION OPERATIONS

Roger that. I’ll take it from here.

HARRY

Lem, buddy, it’s gonna be real interesting around here today.

INT. PATRICK’S HOUSE – EARLY MORNING

Col. Patrick, now mid 40s, imposing, is the group commanding officer, (he was Sam’s jet training officer last seen aboard the aircraft carrier). He commands four squadrons, a group. He’s soundly asleep in bed with his pretty wife. The phone rings just once before Col. Patrick picks it up.

COL. PATRICK
(phone)

Col. Patrick.

(long pause)

Repeat what you just told me.

(pause)

I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.

Col. Patrick hangs up the phone. He quietly sits up and puts his feet on the floor. Next to the nightstand is his two iron. Reaching for it, he gets up and calmly heads for the bathroom. Halfway there, his anger explodes and one swing of his two iron destroys his wife’s favorite floor lamp.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER – EARLY MORNING

Sam’s flying low now, transponder off. Can’t be tracked. He’s in control again… supreme… powerful. Floating on the cool, sweet breath of God. The flying is frenetic, exciting and daring.

Flying near the border town of Somerton, he spots his landmark that will mask his turn to the north. Diving down to fifty feet, he pulls a five G turn and continues north, no one the wiser.

INT. VMA-315 READY ROOM – MORNING

LTCOL. OWEN, the VMA-315 Harrier squadron commanding officer, who works for Col. Patrick, and COL. “BUCK” ZADEK, the air station commanding officer are both present. Col. Patrick walks in.

COL. PATRICK
(To Owen)

Okay, Colonel. Let’s hear it.

LTCOL. OWEN

A Capt. Hawkins showed up this morning claiming to be the wing safety officer. He managed to convince our Sgt. Dye that there was a scheduling conflict. He knew what he was doing.

Col. Patrick is staring hard at Owen.

COL. PATRICK

Who the hell is Capt. Hawkins?

LTCOL. OWEN

Not one of ours.

COL. PATRICK
(to Col. Zadek))

Buck?

COL. ZADEK

Hammer, as you know, this squadron has a heavy schedule of bombing missions this week, and our mysterious Capt. Hawkins just happened to take a Harrier fully loaded with six, five-hundred pound bombs. After takeoff, he headed south. If his transponder’s off and he’s brushing the trees, for the moment there’s no way we can find him… unless he makes a mistake.

LTCOL. OWEN
(to Col. Patrick)

I was thinking that maybe we…

COL. PATRICK
(icily to Owen)

Quiet.

Col. Patrick paces. Thinking.

COL. PATRICK

Let’s recap our morning. Somebody stole a Harrier with lots of bombs. He’s flying as we speak, he can land anywhere he wants… vertically… so he doesn’t need a runway. A doggone cow pasture would be good enough. It’s a single seat fighter so it’s small enough to practically park in my garage. He’s not on radar, so he’s turned his transponder off and flying low… we’re not going to find him, the earth is quite large. Finally… he was last seen heading for Mexico.

(pause)

If this pilot is so inclined, he can bomb cities, towns or the prick who stole his girlfriend in high school. Perhaps a nursery or hospital if we’re real lucky.

(pause)

Or he might crash… sure, and I got tits.

(pause)

Gentlemen. Work up an action plan. Also figure out which military and civilian agencies you need to liaison with. And keep me posted. I’ll coordinate with the wing command. That’s it.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – NORTHERN ARIZONA – MORNING

A Harrier is decelerating at two hundred feet over a natural grass field which sits on top of a mesa. Trees and mountains on one side, a magnificent valley below the mesa on the other side. Nobody within a hundred miles.

Soon it stops in a hover at 100 feet, NOISE crashing through the hills, but no one to hear it. Very menacing.

It starts to lose altitude for landing, the nose comes down slightly as its speed increases to 30 knots. It does a rolling vertical landing so as to not burn a hole in the field. Sam slowly taxis around the trees to a small clearing and stops. There is a natural cover above the clearing. The jet is completely invisible.

Sam shuts down the engine, and the roar subsides to a WINDMILLING of the turbine blades. Sam opens up the canopy and climbs out and off of the airplane. Walking around the jet, he climbs under it and lays down exhausted.

EXT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

An imposing concrete facility is high on a hill overlooking the air station. Flags rustling in the wind, high on the flagpole. Rock boulders in the background.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

Col. Patrick is sitting in his government standard office, not many personal items. In walks CAPT. “BRUISER” EVANS (late twenties, academy grad, Nazi obedient). Wears a ring made from aviator wings, which he fools with from time to time. Capt. Evans is Patrick’s aide.

CAPT. EVANS

All our pilots have been accounted for, sir.

COL. PATRICK

I tell ya, whoever he is, he knows the routine. He knew our security was lax. Hell, it’s always been that way. The public just thinks we’re a fortress.

(pause)

Bruiser, I have a bit of a problem. The promotion board is meeting in three months. Until this action-packed morning, I was a lock for my first star. Now that one of my squadrons is missing a 36 million dollar government asset, how do you think the board is gonna evaluate my command?

CAPT. EVANS

They’re gonna be peeved, piqued, and generally pissed.

COL. PATRICK

You got it. That jet is my star.

(pause)

I deserve to be a general and this mystery man is not going to screw that up.

CAPT. EVANS

What do you want me to do?

COL. PATRICK

The number of Harrier pilots stationed here in the last ten years is finite. I want a full accounting of every one of them within forty-eight hours, or sooner. Whatever information you gather is mine. I’ll tell you when you can release it to the other agencies… clear?

(pause)

Move it.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – NORTHERN ARIZONA – DAY

From underneath the airplane, Sam is unloading his bags. When finished, he walks over to the trees to a partially hidden pickup truck with “lift” rigging (winch and cable) on the flatbed. There’s a padded wheelbarrow on the flatbed as well, sturdy enough to carry heavy objects.

EXT. ROAD – NIGHT

Sam is driving the pickup truck on a deserted road. He passes a sign: Heritage 84 miles.

EXT. HERITAGE MOTEL – NIGHT

Sam pulls into a motel parking lot, part of the “Worst Western” chain. He parks and goes in the office and comes out with a room key.

INT. HERITAGE MOTEL – NIGHT

Sam turns on the TV, and sees that his caper is receiving national coverage on all the news channels.

CLOSE ON:

ANCHOR PERSON

Earlier today, a Marine Corps fighter jet was dramatically stolen from the Marine Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. The identity of the pilot and the whereabouts of the jet remain unknown. The jet has been identified as an AV8 Harrier, commonly referred to as a “jump jet.” A single seat fighter, it is the only jet in the world capable of taking off and landing vertically. We will keep you apprised of any further developments.

He lies on his bed, staring at the waterstained ceiling. CNN DRONES on in the background. Shelling somewhere. More Americans impoverished. School scores down. Racial conflicts. Huge contract for sports star. Corrupt lobbyist. And on and on. Sleep finally comes, fitfully.

Within an hour or two, Sam awakens with a fright. Still facing the ceiling and still thinking about the news in the world. He turns on his side and grabs his pillow like a lover, falling back asleep.

EXT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

Col. Patrick is in the rear yard, sun reflecting off the boulders. His shirt is off revealing a ripped physique. He’s working out with a sledgehammer hammering the ground. Capt. Evans approaches.

COL. PATRICK

Okay, Bruiser. Whatcha got?

CAPT. EVANS

In the last ten years, there have been 187 Harrier pilots stationed here. Twelve are dead and the rest are all accounted for.

COL. PATRICK

We’ve only lost twelve Harrier pilots in ten years? Not bad.

CAPT. EVANS

Actually, Colonel, we’ve lost eleven. The other one was a civilian when he bought it.

COL. PATRICK

Who?

CAPT. EVANS

Sam Pacer.

The Colonel has been hammering away at the ground the entire conversation. He stops and wipes his forehead and torso with a towel. He knows Pacer but elects to keep this information to himself.

COL. PATRICK
(evenly)

What a shame.

EXT. STRAWBERRY FIELD – DAYS LATER

Hot, but there’s no breeze. JOSE is laying a plastic covering over recently plowed land.

The California aqueduct and its massive water pumps at the base of a small mountain are a quarter mile away. Jose has stopped and is securing another section of the tarpaulin. At that very moment, there is a tremendous EXPLOSION.

JOSE

JesuCristo. Que fue eso?
(Jesus Christ. What was that?)

Looking over his left shoulder, a cloud of dirt and dust has formed, the roar still echoing off the far away hills. Jose climbs in his truck and rushes towards the cloud where he finds a large crater in the ground near the aqueduct’s water pumps. No other apparent damage.

EXT. LA TIMES – DAY
Old building, not too impressive but large, in a lousy part of town.

INT. LA TIMES – DAY

Dani Solomon (the beautiful reporter interviewed earlier on TV about gangs) is at her desk working the phone, wearing her best Lakers ballcap. She’s speaking Spanish with somebody about her gang story and hangs up satisfied.

A phone rings on another desk. MAGGIE, a fellow reporter, takes the call.

MAGGIE
(to Dani)

Line 2. He insists on talking to our star reporter. Do you want it?

Dani nods. And picks up line 2.

DANI
(phone)

Dani Solomon.

SAM (O.S.)

Hello.

(pause)

Do you wanna be famous?

DANI

Not really.

SAM

I think I have a story for you. Are you interested?

DANI

Mister, I don’t feel like playing games so I’m gonna hang up now.

SAM

One hour ago, I detonated a bomb.

(pause)

The Mendoza Springs pumping station. I’ll call back in ten minutes.

Sam hangs up. Dani hesitates and considers the possibility of a crank call. A quick exhale, and she dials the Bakersfield bureau.

DANI
(to herself)

Fame? How about a good lunch.

BAKERSFIELD BUREAU (O.S.)

Times Bakersfield. How can I direct your call?

DANI
(phone)

Mack Franklin.

A few moments.

MACK (O.S.)

Franklin here.

DANI

Mack, Dani Solomon. No time to talk, but have you heard anything about a explosion near the Mendoza Springs pumping station… an hour ago?

MACK

Hold on… let me check.

(long pause)

Yep. Just called in. Witnessed by a farm worker… nobody injured… no apparent damage to the pumps or the aqueduct… Cause unknown. It looks like we were lucky.

DANI

How’s that?

MACK

Think water, Dani. The explosion could have taken out a major portion of LA’s water supply. What do you got for me?

DANI

I’m still working it. I’ll get back to you. Thanks Mack.

Dani hangs up and heads toward the Coke machine. Before she gets there, her phone starts ringing. She runs back and picks it up in two rings.

DANI

(phone, anticipating)

Dani Solomon.

SAM (O.S.)

I hope you checked it out.

(pause)

Do you know Bergamot Station?

DANI

Wait a minute.

SAM

Meet me in one hour… please come alone. The Correia Gallery.

DANI

What’s this about?

SAM

Soon enough. If you don’t show, someone else will get the story.

INT. CORREIA GALLERY – DAY

The gallery is sparse and modernistic. This month’s exhibits are for an artist known for neosurrealist images of a seductive sort, high brow stuff. Sam has been watching the gallery entrance from his truck. Right on time, Dani arrives alone. He follows her in.

She is against the south wall looking at a piece, feigning interest.

SAM

Glad you could make it.

DANI

(eyeing Sam suspiciously)

What’s this about? And who are you?

SAM

My meeting, remember? I have an opportunity for you.

DANI

Buddy, will you just knock off this fame and opportunity crap. You got about a minute to make your case.

SAM

All right. I need you.

DANI

This is lame… so does my cat. Bye.

She starts to leave.

SAM

It was a demonstration.

Dani stops.

DANI

Will there be more?

SAM

Probably.

DANI

Am I supposed to be intrigued?

SAM

I hope so.

DANI

This is a sick way to get attention.

SAM

This isn’t about that.

Dani pensively walks over to the other side of the room and then returns.

DANI

You blew up somethin’ for some reason and you wanna do it again. You hope I think there’s a good story here… my ticket to… whatever. You’re also hoping fame is a turn-on for me… so maybe I’m getting just a little horny thinking about all this.

(pause to whisper)

Tell me. Did you get your rocks off when New York City went to hell for a day? You know, people blown to bits… families destroyed.

(pause)

Pound sand. I’m calling the police.

Dani storms out while Sam stands flatfooted. A few beats and he takes out his cell phone and punches some numbers from a slip of paper.

DANI
(recorded message)

This is Dani Solomon. Please leave a detailed message.

SAM
(phone)

I underestimated you. Don’t make the same mistake about me. Here’s my deal. You get exclusivity and I get accurate reporting.

(pause)

You can call me Noah. I’m gonna bomb again, but I’m not gonna tell you why. Not yet.

(pause)

Perhaps stopping the flow of water into Southern California may not be enough of an attention getter. I’ll be more creative with the next one. Oh yeah. The GPS coordinates for the explosion were point 985 north by point 366 south. And note that the cast hardened steel fragments were no thicker than one inch.

INT. LA TIMES – NIGHT

Dani returns to her desk and retrieves her messages on speaker. We hear: I UNDERESTIMATED YOU. DON’T MAKE. She quickly picks the phone up. Taking notes, she listens to the rest of Sam’s message… and then mistakenly erases it.

DANI
(whispering)

No, no, not erase. Crap!

Pissed at this bonehead move, she heads into her editor’s office to talk to ANDY EPSTEIN (mid forties, very skinny, professorial).

DANI

Andy, we need to talk.

ANDY

Whaddaya got?

We see them through the glass partition but don’t hear. Then:

ANDY

Write the story but just what we know. Start checking out his proof and get LAPD and the FBI into the loop just to cover our butts.

DANI

Andy, do you think he’s real?

ANDY

He just might be.

INT. LA TIMES – NIGHT

Dani has returned to her desk and picks up her phone and calls the Bakersfield bureau. The night editor answers.

DANI
(phone)

It’s Dani. I need Mack to confirm two things about the explosion. Could you have him call me first thing tomorrow?

NIGHT EDITOR (O.S.)

Sure thing.

DANI

Is it tough to figure out GPS coordinates?

NIGHT EDITOR

If I remember right… Global Positioning System. You can accurately pinpoint your position on earth by bouncing a certain frequency wavelength off a satellite. You use a little hand held deal. Military uses it, also commercial.

DANI

I see. Thanks.

CLOSE on monitor screen. Dani has typed the small headline to her page six story. It reads: MYSTERIOUS AQUEDUCT EXPLOSION BAFFLES AUTHORITIES.

EXT. NORTH LA COUNTY – MIXER SWITCHING YARD – NIGHTS LATER

Sam is kneeling down over a section of railroad track. On one side of the track is the main control unit which mechanically controls the switching gear for all the tracks in this yard. On the other is a steel utility tower.

A 500 pound green-grey bomb is rigged at the base of this steel utility tower. Sam has also rigged a steel cable to the top of the tower where it drops vertically to the base, is secured, and then runs horizontally beneath the tracks’ steel rails and ties.
Completing the detonation wiring, Sam calmly walks to his pickup truck and then drives out of the yard through the fencing he cut earlier. Stopping on the frontage road, he takes off his gloves, picks up an electrotransmitter and hits the red button.

The bomb’s powerful EXPLOSION topples the tower in an easterly direction towards the main control unit. The attached cable begins to RIP apart rails and ties. What remains when the tower is resting on the main control unit is a mangled mess.

INT. RAILROAD OPERATIONS CENTER – NIGHT

JERRY, the Los Angeles operations night supervisor, and CARTER, the night electrician are playing chess when a warning SOUNDS. There are flashing lights on the console indicating an emergency at the Mixer switching yard thirty miles away. Jerry moves to the console.

JERRY

Carter! Look at this. It’s Mixer yard.

Carter moves to the console.

CARTER

Maybe an elephant crapped on the Mixer black box.

JERRY

This ain’t right. These emergency lights are indicating problems with the track, switches, utility towers… damn near everything.

CARTER

Maybe a bunch of loose electrons.

JERRY

Knock it off will ya, this is really weird. I better reroute everything. What do you think?

CARTER

You’re asking me?

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Dani is sound asleep, her cat at the foot of the bed. Her bedroom is stark but inviting, no frills here. Hanging near the closet is a framed torso silhouette target, riddled with bullet holes. The phone RINGS.

DANI
(groggy on phone)

Hello.

SAM (O.S.)

I’m surprised that your number is listed.

DANI

Who is this?

SAM
(sarcastic)

Nice job of reporting. Mysterious aqueduct explosion? Page six? The mattress sale got more ink.

Dani regains her senses, recognizes the voice and sits up in bed.

DANI

I reported the facts. The story didn’t warrant speculation or the front page.

SAM

You didn’t believe me.

DANI

I couldn’t confirm your facts before the story ran. And no, I didn’t believe you.

(pause)

Listen, terrorists…if that’s what you are…usually have a selfish agenda, like killing infidels, or reuniting Ireland, or ethnic cleansing. They also compel attention by fear. Other than telling me you’re gonna bomb again, you haven’t told me squat.

(pause)

And besides, you missed the damn thing.

SAM

But you believe me now?

DANI

Mostly. Your proof checked out.

SAM

There was another one tonight.

DANI

Where?

SAM

If you leave in ten minutes, it will take you another fifteen to get to Will Rogers Park. When you get to the entrance, look for a flashlight beam. Follow it.

DANI

Are you serious? I wanna hear how you’re gonna convince me to go into the hills at night… to meet someone who could be a Jeffrey Dahmer clone, for chrissakes.

SAM

Good point. But keeping your head in the fridge wouldn’t serve my purposes. Listen, I know you like guns. Bring one if you want and if I make a wrong move, shoot me. And keep the cops out of it. If you’re not alone or if something’s not right, you’ll never hear from me again. You have 25 minutes. And another chance to see that I’m not a monster.

Dani hangs up, ponders a moment and then calls Andy Epstein.

DANI
(phone)

Andy. I know it’s late… but I’m working on somethin’… a little risky. Andy, don’t interrupt. I’ll call you when I can… it shouldn’t be more than two hours. The meeting point is written by my phone. Okay? No, I won’t tell you now. I have to work through this.

Hanging up, she goes to the closet and takes a small hand GUN from a wooden case, loads it, and puts it in her purse.

EXT. WILL ROGERS STATE PARK – NIGHT

Dani arrives at the park entrance and gets out of her car. The waning moon provides enough light to discern the surrounding hills. Standing patiently, a light hits her in the eyes. The source is some distance away and elevated.

After ten minutes of following the ever changing position of the light up a winding trail, it shuts off.

SAM

Keep walking… you’re close.

DANI

I’m armed.

SAM

I’m not surprised. But you don’t seem the type to just shoot someone for grins.

DANI

They need to ask.

SAM

I ask that you don’t shoot me.

Dani has walked up to Sam. They can see each other’s face in the moonlight. She takes out a small cassette recorder.

DANI

Can I record you?

SAM

Doesn’t matter.

DANI

You call yourself Noah. Why?

SAM

It’s catchy.

DANI

You said you exploded another bomb tonight.

SAM

The Mixer rail yard just east of Los Angeles.

DANI

Same motive as the aqueduct?

SAM

Why would it be different?

DANI

So, what is it?

SAM

Be patient.

DANI

Will you stop with the games?

SAM

I’m a rational man playing an implausible game… this isn’t for my health.

DANI

So make a statement.

SAM

You got enough to write a story.

DANI

I tell you what. Let’s write a book, rant to the world and knock off this terrorist stuff.

SAM

Terror invokes more participation than reading does.

DANI

Are you acting alone?

SAM

No.

(pause)

This time, go with a page one story and a byline.

(pause)

That’s it. Your life’s gonna get real interesting, Miss Solomon.

DANI

People are gonna want to know why.

SAM

Soon enough.

He hands the flashlight to her.

SAM

You may need this.

She takes it from him, gazing briefly in his eyes. Before she can turn to leave, he’s gone.

EXT. MIXER SWITCHING YARD – MORNING

There is a lot of commotion as Dani arrives. It looks like a bomb went off. Her press pass gets her through the yellow barriers. She makes an educated guess as to who’s in charge, and picks the guy in a suit, MANNY.

DANI

Anybody hurt?

MANNY

No. Who are you?

DANI
(ignoring)

Is there any law enforcement around?

MANNY

The sheriff… over there.

He points to a toppled tower. Dani walks over to the SHERIFF.

DANI

I’m with the LA Times, Sheriff. Dani Solomon. What happened?

SHERIFF

See this crater? Somebody put a hell of a firecracker in this hole… decommissioned this whole yard. Idiot probably didn’t realize they were dismantling it in a few weeks, anyway.

DANI

Can I look around?

SHERIFF

If you keep out of the way.

Dani wanders a bit and manages to pick up something that could be cast hardened steel. She puts it in her purse.

EXT. FLIGHT LINE – DAY

Col. Patrick and Capt. Evans are in running gear… cooling down, walking and talking along the flight lines. You see AV8’s and F-18’s parked.

COL. PATRICK

Of course, they haven’t found the jet. It’s barely bigger than a Mercedes. If it’s covered from above and in the boonies, no one will ever find it.

CAPT. EVANS

Sir, I’ve gone over the entire list of Harrier pilots. We’re nowhere.

COL. PATRICK

“Nowhere” is not what I wanna hear.

CAPT. EVANS

We’ve checked and double checked, sir. Everybody’s clueless as to this guy’s identity… unless he came back from the dead.

COL. PATRICK

Our guy had his own flight gear, right?

CAPT. EVANS

Yes, sir. We weren’t missing any from flight equipment.

COL. PATRICK

The composite sketch that was circulated. A waste of time?

CAPT. EVANS

A “Marine” pilot with short hair, moustache and sunglasses? A total waste.

COL. PATRICK
(pause)

You didn’t tell me how Pacer died.

CAPT. EVANS

Plane crash off the coast… a few weeks ago. Why?

COL. PATRICK

I didn’t hear about that.

CAPT. EVANS

No, sir. Small, single engine job.

COL. PATRICK

Alone?

CAPT. EVANS

Yes, sir.

COL. PATRICK

(amazed that this guy can’t connect the dots)

Captain. Did your mother commit some immoral act with some Annapolis Admiral to get you a degree?

CAPT. EVANS

Sir?

COL. PATRICK

Send your momma some flowers, clearly above and beyond…

(pause)

Find out what Pacer’s been doing since the military. I know him… I don’t think he’s dead.

(pause)

For my eyes only. Got it?

Evans nods and the Colonel dismisses him with his hand.

INT. LA TIMES – DAY

Dani is meeting with FBI agents WALTERS AND TAMES in her editor’s office. They look like accountants. Her purse is on her editor’s desk, her cassette recorder visible in a side pocket.

DANI

I don’t know what more I can tell you.

WALTERS

So, you’ve only talked to him by phone.

She glances at her purse… and the recorder.

DANI
(lying)

Yeah. He spouts, I listen.

TAMES

Well, I’d like your permission to tap your phones…

ANDY

…wait a minute.

DANI
(to Andy)

It’s all right.

TAMES

It seems that both bombings are related. The fragments you picked up at the Mixer rail yard match the aqueduct fragments. And unlike Oklahoma City, these bombs weren’t home made.

DANI

How so?

TAMES

Both bombings indicate that the explosive material was tritonal eighty-twenty… eighty percent TNT and twenty percent of an aluminum binder inhibitor.

(pause)

Somehow, our guy got a hold of some military bombs… specifically, the Mark 80 series used by the Navy and Marine Corps. He’s also smart enough to rig the nose fuses for detonation.

DANI

So how many are missing? Do you know?

WALTERS

We don’t.

EXT. PLATO’S NEWSSTAND – MORNING

LA Times headlines read: TWO EXPLOSIONS TIED TO TERRORIST. Bold lead-in to story reads: HE CALLS HIMSELF NOAH.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER – NIGHT

Col. Patrick has just finished a night flight and is parked on the flight line. The Harrier’s engine winds down. Capt. Evans climbs up and hands the Colonel a cell phone. GENERAL GALLO, the wing commanding general and Patrick’s boss, is on the line.

COL. PATRICK
(phone)

This is Hammer.

GENERAL GALLO (O.S.)

It seems that a missing jet is the least of our problems.

COL. PATRICK

What are you getting at, sir?

GENERAL GALLO

On my better days, I assumed that our mystery man crashed and burned somewhere in Mexico. We’re not so lucky.

(pause)

The FBI has confirmed that two recent bombings resulted from military ordnance. It seems our five hundred pound bombs are blowing up America.

COL. PATRICK

Christ.

INT. SANTA MONICA LIBRARY MAIN BRANCH – NIGHT

Sam is sitting alone at a computer. No one is near enough to see the screen. Constant changing of images and text.
Then he stops. It’s a old newspaper article headlining that a courthouse, where cops were acquitted of beating Rodney King, is closed for major repairs. There’s a picture of it as well.

The blurred images continue… then stop. Sam reads that an open air convention of skin heads and militia militants was held in LA’s Solana Park last month. There are pictures of the park’s sun like stage and the racist participants. Sam stares briefly, again deliberating.

The blurred images continue and again stop. Sam reads that millions are flowing into the upcoming elections.  Sam smiles slightly at pictures of both George Soros and the Koch brothers but quickly moves on.

Finally he arrives at an article and picture of a huge desalination plant up the coast from Los Angeles. He stares and reads. He’s found his next target.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

Capt. Evans strides into Col. Patrick’s office who’s buried under paperwork.

COL. PATRICK
(doesn’t look up)

I need good news, Bruiser.

CAPT. EVANS

Not today. A reporter with the LA Times has been trying to arrange an interview with the Harrier C.O. about our missing jet. I got word and figured you should take it instead.

COL. PATRICK

Why?

CAPT. EVANS

She wants to implicate the Harrier in the terrorist bombings.

COL. PATRICK
(pause)

Isn’t that dandy. Set it up.

EXT. FLIGHT OPERATIONS – DAY

Two gentlemen in suits leave the Cessna operations building at the San Luis Obispo airport and climb into a drab sedan. As they drive away, Ken Capito, the flight clerk, comes out the front door and watches them leave… and scratches his head.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

Dani and the Colonel are sitting on a couch. Capt. Evans sits nearby fidgeting with his ring.

DANI

The FBI has confirmed that the type of bombs detonated by the terrorist can be loaded on the Harrier. I plan to report this and that the military has kept this information from the public.

COL. PATRICK

How so?

DANI
(ignoring)

Last week, after the Harrier was stolen, there was no mention by anyone that it was carrying bombs. Why not?

COL. PATRICK

That would have been disruptive.

DANI

Bad answer, Colonel.

CAPT. EVANS

Hold on. The United States Marine Corps has…

Col. Patrick glares at Capt. Evans, quieting him.

COL. PATRICK

All right, Miss Solomon. Yes, the Harrier was loaded with six Mark 80’s. We didn’t mention it because we didn’t want to be alarmists.

DANI

So, who’s the pilot? Our terrorist?

COL. PATRICK

Pivotal question, isn’t it?

(long pause)

You’ve met him I understand.

Col. Patrick reaches into an envelope and pulls out a photograph of Sam Pacer. He hands it to Dani.

COL. PATRICK

Ring a bell?

She hesitates, but recovers nicely. Has to be consistent.

DANI

Actually, I haven’t met him, we only talk by phone. Who’s this?

Col. Patrick picks up her subtle evasiveness.

COL. PATRICK

Doesn’t matter.

(pause)

Good luck with your story, Miss Solomon. If I can be of further help, please let me know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play warrior.

He takes the photo back and puts it in the envelope. He dismisses her with a glare.

EXT. DESALINATION PLANT – NEXT DAY

The desalination plant is a picture of beauty as it sits on the coast overlooking the ocean. Gleaming steel, elaborate structures, high tech.

The operational readiness of the facility is in question, however. Chain link fences surround it, with rusted locks at the gates. The service roads are littered with wind blown debris and dirt has filmed the windows.

Sam has located the tallest structure in the plant, a steel tower, which is adjacent the main power room. His truck parked within feet of the intended bomb placement, he is taking the bomb off the truck with the rigging on his flatbed. Stand, pulley and ropes make the process laborious but manageable.

Sam is positioning the bomb so that the main blast topples the tower and it falls on the main power room. He uses a combination of strength and pulleys to position the bomb, then a strap breaks. Loud NOISE, bomb falling back onto him, CLOSE ON Sam’s gloved hand. It partially absorbs impact of bomb weight.

The dust slowly settles. A quiet passage of time.

P.O.V. ON HILL ONE-HALF MILE AWAY. A frontage dirt road leads out of the plant to the south. Sam’s slowly moving truck is heading south, swerving somewhat, then it stops.

TRUCK

At a safe distance, an injured Sam reaches for the electrotransmitter. He hits the red button but nothing happens. Seconds seeming like minutes, he waits.

DESALINATION PLANT

Sam drives the truck back towards the bomb at the base of the steel tower. At a distance of one hundred feet, he stops again to try and summon the courage to inspect what may be a live bomb. He sits, a beat, and the bomb surprisingly explodes which starts the tower falling in the direction of Sam’s truck. Seeing the inevitable, Sam, although stunned, opens the door and scrambles away from the falling tower.

HIGHWAY

Heading north, a trucker is surprised by a quick flash off to the right of the road. A boom immediately follows which drowns out Willie Nelson SINGING on the trucker’s disc player.

DESALINATION PLANT

Now a huge cloud of dust and debris. Sam’s truck is smashed underneath the steel tower and much of the plant is destroyed… like tinker toys.

Off in the distance, Sam is dragging himself down the hill. Heading for the highway and a possible ride.

INT. SAN LUIS OBISPO TIMES – DAY

The two gentlemen seen earlier at the Cessna Operations center are sitting in Fulchrist’s office. They get up, shake hands with Fulchrist and turn to leave the office. We don’t hear anything.

EXT. ROCKS – DAY

Col. Patrick has been rock climbing on the boulders near the headquarters building. Capt. Evans arrives.

COL. PATRICK

I read your report on Pacer. I think he’s alive and well with a hair up his ass.

(pause)

The media reported another explosion earlier today. I bet it was his third.

CAPT. EVANS

What do you want me to do, sir?

COL. PATRICK

I suspect Miss Solomon knows more than she felt compelled to tell me.

(pause)

The FBI is keeping an eye on her and I want you to do the same.

CAPT. EVANS

What makes you think she knows anything?

COL. PATRICK

A hunch.

(pause)

But first, I’m sending you on a little side trip. It’s time we send a message.

Capt. Evans nods, sick excitement in his eyes.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Small, tidy house in West LA, a couple of lights are on, a car in the driveway.

Sam is on foot, hiding and watching. A T-shirt is wrapped around his left hand, it’s bloody. He covertly works his way to Dani’s side window and knocks. He soon feels her eyes on him through the curtains. She opens the window.

DANI

I don’t believe this.

SAM

I need your help. Will you let me in? Please. You know I’m not dangerous… I’ve had plenty of chances to hurt you.

DANI
(quietly to herself)

Oh man…

Dani backs into her living room, thinking, and then points toward the back door.

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Dani is washing and dressing Sam’s wounded hand by the bathroom sink. She’s diligent but dispassionate.

DANI

You need to see a doctor.

SAM

Too risky.

A few beats.

DANI

So?

SAM

The desalination plant north of Santa Barbara. I smashed my hand placing the bomb.

It dawns on Dani what Sam is up to.

DANI

Wait a minute. You’re deliberately picking worthless sites, aren’t you? Like a magician’s misdirection.

Sam smiles.

SAM

No one was around… the place was deserted.

Dani sits down on the edge of the bathtub.

DANI

Christ, how do you know, how do you really know there was nobody around?

(pause)

This is insane. I can’t believe you’ve pulled me into this.

(pause)

No, I can believe it! You sucked me in like a Hoover. You knew I’d give you your five minutes… just enough rope to hang myself.

SAM

This isn’t about you.

(pause)

Like you said, I’ve been blowing up air, for chrissakes.

DANI

What?

SAM

The aqueduct wasn’t touched. Water’s still flowing, isn’t it? They cleaned up my mess with shovels. The rail yard? The contract to retrofit it was signed a month ago. They were shutting it down within weeks just to rip it all up. If anything, I saved them on demolition costs.

(pause)

You know, 400 million dollars. That’s what the desalination plant cost. State of the art, supposedly. It took five years to build, cost twice as much as it should have, and they never opened it. It was high tech pork, courtesy of that nitwit Congressman up there. Hell, they knew the damn thing was obsolete halfway through the project. But they finished it anyway. And there it sits, or at least it used to.

(pause)

I know what I’m doing. Nobody’s been hurt or even threatened.

DANI
(adamant)

Tell me why!

SAM

You won’t understand.

DANI

Try me.

Sam looks at her hard.

SAM

In this country, there’s an attitude… a way we interact with one another. And it’s absolutely, completely poisoned by racism… and I’m sick of it. Notwithstanding black Presidents, we haven’t come very far.

DANI

This is about race? Why do you care? You’re white.

SAM

Racism is mucking up this nation and everyone pretends it isn’t. Listen, people can talk and talk about it ’til they’re blue in the face… but nothing will happen other than bullshit lip service. Hell, they rioted after Rodney King… but how much better is LA now? Tell me.

(pause)

I’m just taking it up a notch… shock tactics to wake this country up.

DANI

So you’re blowing things up because you’re concerned about your fellow man?

SAM

Just think of my campaign as social terrorism. Sooner or later, the government will want to talk. Hell, the people will demand it.

DANI

There’s more, isn’t there?

Dani realizes this is all she’s going to get for now.

DANI

The jet was part of your plan, wasn’t it?

SAM

I shouldn’t be surprised you know.

DANI

How many bombs do you have left?

SAM

Enough.

Dani stands up.

DANI

This has to stop! Can’t you see that your… anarchy may even enrage America and create more of a rift? What if everyone begins to think that a black man is the terrorist? What then, brainiac?

(pause)

Listen, you put the issue on the front page. That’s enough. But stop before someone gets killed.

Sam is listless, becoming very tired. He heads for the couch in the living room and lies down.

SAM
(groggy)

In time.

Dani’s cat comes over to him and rubs against Sam’s good hand which is hanging off the couch. The cat settles.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Back porch, cool air. A beer in one hand, Dani is thinking.

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT (LATER)

DANI
(phone)

Please. I know what I’m doing.

ANDY (O.S.)

I don’t like this. What aren’t you telling me? When did he contact you?

DANI

Never mind, Andy. Give me a little time and I’ll have page one. Okay?

ANDY

Sure, why not.

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – MORNING

Sam is asleep on the couch. Dani is leaning on the kitchen doorway looking at him. On the kitchen counter is this morning’s LA Times with her story. The headlines: NOAH DESTROYS PLANT. The bold lead to her story reads: RACISM IS HIS REAL TARGET. FBI LINKS TERRORIST TO THE THEFT OF A JET FIGHTER.

SAM

I smell coffee.

DANI

I’ll get you a cup.

SAM

Thanks.

DANI

I haven’t brought you the coffee yet.

SAM

Thanks for not calling the police.

DANI

The FBI knows the terrorist is the same guy who stole the jet. With so many people looking, it’s only a matter of time before they figure out it’s you.

(pause)

Which reminds me of how much trouble I’m in.

SAM

Don’t worry, I’m leaving.

INT. SANTA MONICA BUS STATION – DAY

Sam is sitting on an isolated bench in the lobby.

SAM
(phone, frustrated)

Yes. I’m holding for Ms. Kaplan.

(pause)

Thank you.

Ms. KAPLAN works for Sarah Pacer as the assistant principal.

KAPLAN (O.S.)

Yes, may I help you.

SAM

Ms. Kaplan. I’m Doug Holloway, an old friend of Sarah’s. I’ve been trying to get a hold of her but they keep putting me through to you.

KAPLAN

Then you haven’t heard?

SAM

Heard what?

KAPLAN

Ah… Sarah was killed this morning.

Sam sits motionless. Frozen by shock.

SAM

What?

KAPLAN

The police are telling me that it was her car… some sort of explosion.

(pause)

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. If you can, the service is tomorrow… the Catholic cemetery west of town on 58.

Sam doesn’t say anymore and slowly, quietly hangs the phone up. He sits silently and then slowly drops his head onto his hands.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Sam gets out of a red van. He’s being very cautious.

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Sam is rapping on a side window. Dani sees him, is somewhat startled but then nods and goes to the back door. Sam comes in, the TV is on in the background. Noah is the center of attention.

DANI

Why aren’t you… not here, like in Argentina?

Sam says nothing and looks at the TV.

NEWS ANCHOR

As the nationwide search for Noah continues, the reporter Dani Solomon reports that he has been quite selective in his choice of targets…

Sam looks over at Dani while she hits the TV’s mute switch.

Sam is distraught.

SAM

My sister was killed.

INT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Dani and Sam are sitting at the kitchen table.

DANI

How did you find out?

SAM

I called her… and I kept calling her. But no answer.

(pause)

I pretended to be someone else and contacted her school. She was the principal.

DANI

What did they say?

SAM

That she was killed in a car explosion.

DANI

I don’t understand.

SAM

I don’t either. That’s why I came back.

(distracted)

My sister’s name was Sarah. I’m Sam Pacer.

DANI
(awkward)

Was Sarah older or younger?

SAM

A year older.

Dani hesitates.

DANI

What now?

SAM

I’m gonna find my sister’s killer.

(pause)

Will you help me?

DANI

Are you nuts? No, I won’t help you.

SAM

That car explosion must have something to do with me… it has to. Let’s go and investigate this thing… it’s still part of your story.

(pause)

That’s all I’m asking. Please.

DANI

You’re crazy. No, no, no. This has gone too far.

SAM

So, you’re just going to walk away?

DANI

That’s not the point.

SAM

Sure it is. You’ve covered this thing from the very beginning, it’s not over, and you’re quitting. Are you afraid of me?

(pause)

Really. Do you think I’m gonna hurt you?

Dani and Sam look hard at one another.

DANI

No.

SAM

Then stay in. Look at what you accomplished with your gang stories. Heck, you’re gonna be writing a book about this one day. I’m a white guy who risked everything because of racism. Maybe my sister’s dead because of it. But what do I really know?

(pause)

I don’t know what else to say…

DANI
(long pause)

I have conditions. Your bombing days are over… Noah. And you won’t hurt anybody, no matter what. Promise me that and we’ll go… I’ll help.

Sam gets up and wanders around the kitchen. Finally…

SAM

Okay.

DANI

I swear. You screw up… I’m sinking your boat.

(pause)

Since I’m probably being followed, no one can know where we’re going. I’ll tell the paper there’s a family emergency. You’re gonna have to figure a way out of here.

SAM

Don’t worry.

Dani gets up from the kitchen chair and goes to a hall closet. She takes out a blanket and pillow and puts them on the living room couch. Then she heads towards her bedroom.

DANI

No. I like my worrying… who wants to age gracefully? Good night.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – EARLY MORNING

Dani’s car is in the garage. Dani shuts the trunk on Sam who’s in the trunk along with a couple bags. The garage door mechanically opens, Dani at the wheel. She pulls out, punches the garage door opener, the door closes.

EXT. DANI’S CAR – EARLY MORNING

CLOSE on underside of car: tracking device. Dani pulls out of the driveway and follows a meandering course.

EVAN’S CAR

Capt. Evans is blocks away from Dani’s house, so as to not be noticed by the FBI. He arrived late in the night. In his lap is the receiving end of the tracking device under her car. He starts up and follows, but never in sight of Dani’s car or the FBI.

FBI CAR

Agents Walters and Tames have also been stationing themselves near Dani’s house. They have been following her around for days, without the aid of any electronic devices.

WALTERS
(watching Dani pull out)

What do ya think?

TAMES

Grocery run.

EXT. SUPERMARKET PARKING LOT – EARLY MORNING

Dani pulls in to a supermarket parking lot, heading for the employees’ area. She backs into a tandem parking spot, parking next to the red van. The trunk of her car is partially hidden by another car. Getting out, she goes around and unlocks the trunk, pulls a bag out and shuts the trunk. Sam is still inside and doesn’t let the trunk lock. Dani puts the bag in the red van, climbs in and drives away.

EVAN’S CAR

Capt. Evans has been following at a safe distance. His receiver shows that the car stopped. He pulls over and is patient. He can’t see the supermarket.

FBI CAR

The two agents have been keeping Dani in their line of sight. They see her from a distance switch cars and drive away. They follow her.

TAMES

Well, that little move cured my boredom.

INT. VAN – EARLY MORNING

Dani has been driving for five minutes, looking constantly at the rear view mirror.

EXT. SUPERMARKET PARKING LOT – EARLY MORNING

It has been five minutes since Dani left. The car trunk opens and Sam gets out. Staying low, he opens the front door and slides in. Shortly, the car pulls away.

EVAN’S CAR

Capt. Evans notices Dani’s car moving again on his monitor. He starts his car up to follow.

EXT. SANTA MONICA STREETS – MORNING

Dani has been driving for thirty minutes. She’s in Santa Monica now and stops 100 yards from the top of the Fourth Street steps which lead to a street below. Looking at the bag, she leaves it in the van and gets out. It’s full of old newspapers. She heads for the steps.

FBI CAR

The agents are still watching her.

WALTERS

Any ideas?

TAMES

Could be a meeting.

EXT. FOURTH STREET STEPS – MORNING

Dani casually approaches to within ten yards of the steps, she stops and looks out over the bluff.
After a minute, she starts towards the steps again. Reaching them, she heads down. Once out of sight from her pursuers, she starts screaming down the steps.

FBI CAR

TAMES

Go! Go!

Walters starts the car and guns it to the top of the steps. They both get out and see that they’ve been had. The steps lead to a street far below the bluff.

EXT. FOURTH STREET STEPS – MORNING

Dani gets to the bottom of the stairs. Sam is patiently waiting on the street in Dani’s car. She runs for it, climbs in, and they take off towards Pacific Coast Highway.

EVAN’S CAR

Capt. Evans is sitting in his car watching Dani, through binoculars, jump in the car with someone. Her car takes off, Capt. Evans follows.

CAPT. EVANS

Nice job there, troops. Adios, federales.

INT. DANI’S CAR – MORNING

Sam and Dani are on the crowded LA freeway system.

SAM

Why hasn’t my name been mentioned in the media? You said the FBI knew I stole the Harrier.

DANI

They know the terrorist stole the Harrier, they just don’t know who he is. When I was trying to tie the terrorist to the Harrier, I was shown your picture. I was also asked if you were Noah.

SAM

You’re kidding. Who showed you my picture?

DANI

I was interviewing the group commanding officer, a Col. Patrick. He said he didn’t know who the pilot was, but I think he was lying.

SAM

What did you say about my picture?

DANI

That we never met… that we only talked by phone.

SAM

Why did you lie?

DANI

Because I told the same thing to the FBI.

SAM

Why did you lie to them?

DANI

Because I’m too wrapped up in this damn story, that’s why.

(pause)

Maybe you were right about me… you know, the fame and opportunity stuff.

Sam is very quiet.

DANI

What’s wrong?

SAM

What exactly did you say when you were shown my picture?

DANI

He said, “you’ve met him I understand?” Then he showed me your picture and I said, “actually, I haven’t met him, we only talk by phone.”

SAM

Were you emphatic… did you hesitate?

Dani’s thinking.

DANI

I’m not a very good liar. I may have hesitated, but I can’t believe he would have noticed.

Sam continues driving for a while, lost in thought, and then abruptly takes an exit off the freeway. Eventually, he stops and looks at Dani.

SAM

Hammer Patrick is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Certifiable but brilliant. He was my instructor in flight school and my first squadron boss. If you hesitated, he picked it up.

Dani is trying to figure out what this all means.

DANI

Okay. Patrick assumes that you stole his jet and became the terrorist. He suspects that I know that as well…

(pause)

So, he tells the FBI and they follow me as part of their strategy to find you. They’ve already been following me up until this morning. What’s the big deal?

SAM

Don’t you get it? He won’t tell the FBI what he knows. He wants me all to himself.

(pause)

Think about it. There’s no national manhunt for Noah… the FBI doesn’t have a clue as to who they’re looking for… because Patrick is holding back.

DANI

The FBI are not dummies. If Patrick can figure it out… they can.

SAM

Maybe. But add it up. He’s minus a jet fighter… which means his career is about to go down in big red flames. All because of me.

(pause)

Want some trivia?

DANI

Sure.

SAM

Patrick’s a racist… the quiet, careful kind.

DANI

Lovely.

SAM

I decked him once after he spit out some racist crap. Fortunately, we were drinking alone, so no one saw it… and he wasn’t about to press charges. After that… no more buddies.

DANI

Bottom line, please. Are you saying he wants to… kill you?

SAM

Probably. But wantin’ and doin’ ain’t related. Corny, huh?

Sam gets out of the car and climbs under it.

SAM

Surprise.

(yelling)

Dani, get the jack handle out of the trunk.

Dani complies and hands it under to Sam. She gets back in the front seat. A few moments later, she hears a SMASH of something against the pavement. Sam gets back in the front seat and throws a broken tracking device in the seat.

INT. MONTAGE – DAY

Flurry of images. Intensive newspaper coverage. Television shows. News magazine covers. Demonstrations. Vigils. The nation’s attention is riveted, wondering when and where Noah will strike again.

INT. DANI’S CAR – DAY

Sam and Dani have left the busy freeways of Los Angeles behind and are heading east to Big Basin, New Mexico.

DANI

I probably have four thousand questions to ask you.

SAM

It’s a long ride.

DANI

Do you wanna talk about Sarah?

SAM

Not really.

DANI

Okay. So. Why did you pick me?

SAM

I used to work for a small newspaper, so I knew you were a good reporter. Your gang stories were wonderful… factual, objective, and compassionate. I figured you’d do a good job.

DANI

Right… I’m not buying. There are other reporters around who could have done a credible job.

SAM

I also saw an interview you did on one of the local channels.

(pause)

You mesmerized me.

DANI

What does that mean?

SAM

Next.

Dani lets it pass.

DANI

Was stealing a jet the only way to get bombs?

SAM

Yeah. I know jets, I know bombs, at least military ones… and I know the system.

DANI

So, where’s the jet?

SAM

Garboed… no one will ever find it.

Dani puts her head back on the seat. Not planning to sleep, but events have conquered her.

INT. DANI’S CAR – DAY (LATER)

THUMP. A bird hits the windshield and lodges under the wiper. Dead. Dani is still asleep.

SAM
(quietly)

Whoa…

Sam pulls over to the side of this isolated stretch of western road. Turning off the engine, it’s very quiet. Getting out of the car, he barely shuts the door. Taking the bird out from under the wiper, he walks over near a cactus. Digging the soft dirt with a stick, he buries the bird. Dani is watching with hooded eyes.

Getting back into the car, Sam looks over at Dani. She smiles softly, but doesn’t say anything. He’s feeling a little self conscious and says:

SAM

Downed aviator.

(pause)

I’m beat. Do you mind driving?

DANI

Sure.

He gets into the back seat and lies down using a coat as a pillow. He closes his eyes. Dani pulls away.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – NIGHT

Capt. Evans stands across from Col. Patrick who then revolves his chair 180 degrees, thinking.

COL. PATRICK
(talking to the wall)

You’re lucky I know where he’s going. Let me tell you how things are gonna play out.

(pause)

Since our Rambo Lincoln is spending so much time with the reporter, he’ll know soon enough that I’m looking for him. And when he finally finds our calling card you planted on his sister, he’ll come for me.

(contemplative)

I like that. He’s gonna be real angry.

CAPT. EVANS

Colonel. Are you ever gonna give me a history lesson on you and Pacer?

COL. PATRICK

No.

(pause as Col. Patrick revolves his chair)

Go back to Big Basin… if you find Pacer, bring him in. If not, follow the girl. He won’t be far away from that tomato.

INT. DANI’S CAR – NIGHT

Sam wakes and climbs into the front passenger’s seat.

SAM

Where are we?

DANI

Can’t Mr. Jet Pilot read the stars?

SAM

This isn’t a convertible.

DANI
(pause)

Stealing a jet is crazy and for most egomaniacs, that would be enough. But you’ve ventured even further into nutville. You started blowing up things under the guise of social activism. So, your ends justify your ridiculous means. Right?

(pause)

And then you picked racism as your flavor of the month. Are you gonna clue me in or not?

SAM

Man, you’re relentless. How ’bout I ask you one?

DANI

You’re ducking my question… but go ahead.

SAM

Why are you really helping me?

DANI

Your sister’s been murdered, Sam.

SAM

No. Not now. Before, at your house.

Dani collects her thoughts.

DANI

There’s two ways I can go on this.

(pause)

I don’t know why I’m helping you. You could have hurt people and that’s unforgivable.

(pause)

But maybe there’s a twisted nobility to what you’re doing… and I admire it.

(pause)

Or… I’m helping because I have to… for me. I’ve been so lost in my work that I’ve detached myself from the world. Maybe I need to connect again. I’ve been hiding behind global, big picture stuff for so long, that I don’t have a life anymore. I spend Christmas alone, for chrissakes.

(pause)

You’re driven by your heart. Mine has been wrapped in stone.

SAM

I wonder. Sometimes I feel like I’m driven by a brain smaller than a hamster’s left nut.

DANI

Great. I open up and you give me this.

SAM

Sorry. That was stupid.

DANI

So, are you gonna tell me what’s fueling all this?

(no response)

DANI

You told me once that you weren’t acting alone. Was that crap?

SAM

USDA choice crap. I was trying to make an impression. Remember?

DANI

You really are a piece of work.

INT. WING HEADQUARTERS – MORNING

Patrick and Gallo are sitting around a small conference table.

COL. PATRICK

I can guarantee a way out of this.

GENERAL GALLO

You can’t be serious.

COL. PATRICK

Yes, sir, I am. I know who took the jet, I know where he is, and I can bring it back.

GENERAL GALLO

Then why are you sitting here?

COL. PATRICK

You and I both know my career is cooked. The promotion board is gonna make me the scapegoat if and when this thing ever ends.

(pause)

If I don’t tell you what I know, this guy is still on the loose. The danger remains the same. I’m willing to let that happen.

(pause)

Give me one week. Sacrifice the squadron commander… and caress the promotion board so that I’m guaranteed a star. And this crisis will be over. That’s my deal. Good for me and good for you. You only have two stars, I’m sure you want more.

General Gallo weighs the risk-return ratio of going along with this guy.

GENERAL GALLO

All right, then. Get to it.

Col. Patrick leaves. The General leans back in his chair.

GENERAL GALLO

(to himself)

Sick bastard.

EXT. BIG BASIN – MORNING

Sam and Dani are on 58 heading into tiny Big Basin, New Mexico. Scenic hills surround the town, only occasionally marred by mining scars. They pass the cemetery.

INT. DANI’S CAR – MORNING

DANI

What now?

SAM

I’ll drop you off at the police station and then head out to Sarah’s school. Maybe the lady I talked to has more information. Whoever’s finished first can get us a room at the motel we just passed. Use your name. Got money for a cab?

DANI

This is ridiculous. We just don’t have the same resources as the authorities to try and find the killer.

SAM

If you stand naked under a waterfall, you will never hear the whisper of doubt.

Dani considers this throw from right field.

DANI

What kind of Zen BS is that?

SAM

The kind with just a little truth.

INT. BIG BASIN POLICE STATION – DAY

Dani presents herself to the front desk as a reporter covering this story from Los Angeles. She is directed to a SHERIFF GLENN. An initial conversation but we don’t hear it.

GLENN

Miss Solomon, very unusual for these parts, but it was definitely a car bomb.

DANI

Any suspects or leads?

GLENN

None that I’m aware of, but I’m not really in the loop. State police has this one.

DANI

So, you don’t have much to tell me at this point?

GLENN

Would it help if I showed you her personal effects? She was wearing some jewelry.

DANI

It might help my story.

GLENN

Hold on, then.

He leaves and shortly comes back with a small box. He hands it to her and Dani fishes around. Something catches her eye and she pulls a ring out of the box and stares. It’s made from aviator wings. When able, she discreetly hides it in her pocket.

EXT. RUSTED PLAINS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – DAY

Sam has pulled into the parking lot and parks. Before he gets out of his car, two well groomed gentlemen in suits walk out of the administration building. Sam watches them get into a new grey Chevrolet across the parking lot. They drive away, the license plates are government issued. He sits in the car for a few moments, starts it up and leaves.

INT. BIG BASIN MOTEL – DAY

Through the office window, the front clerk indicates to Sam that Dani already has a room. After Sam leaves the office, the clerk suspiciously picks up the phone and starts dialing a number from a business card.

Arriving at the room, Sam knocks and Dani opens the door. Sam walks in the room.

SAM

Did you learn anything?

DANI

No leads, no suspects.

SAM

Damn. So why don’t we take a little side trip?

DANI

Where now?

SAM

To say good-bye.

EXT. CEMETERY – DAY

Sam and Dani are looking at a fresh grave marked by a temporary sign. It says: WE LOVE YOU MISS PACER and is painted with flowers and rainbows and signed by all her “kids.” They both are very quiet. Sam reaches down to touch the lettering on the sign.

DANI

When did you see her last?

(Sam is lost in thought)

Sam?

SAM

It’s been a long time.

DANI

Were you close?

Sam sits on the ground and looks at Dani. He’s fighting his emotions.

SAM

Yeah.

DANI

Sam?

SAM

What? Will you cool it.

(pause)

Not that easy.

Sam’s tracing Sarah’s name with his finger still lost in reverie.

SAM
(pause, to Dani)

She was an extraordinary human being.

(pause, to grave)

I did this. God forgive me…

Sam lays his head in his hands. Emotions wash over him. Dani goes over and sits down beside him… putting her arm around him.

INT. DANI’S CAR – DAY

They are driving back to Big Basin, indifferent to the austere beauty outside the car. Sam is behind the wheel.

SAM

As a kid, every weekend my father and I would go to the car wash. One Saturday, after the car is cleaned up, Dad says we’re not going anymore. He said he was tired of the niggers stinking up the car. I should point out that there was only one black guy working there.

(pause)

Now, he’s looking right at me when he says this… a big smirk on his face… soaking up the moment. And there I am, a kid trying to make sense of his hate.

DANI

And your mother stayed married to this jerk?

SAM

She was smart. She died right after I was born.

EXT. CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY – DAY – 1990

SAM (V.O. – Voice Over)

As we left the car wash, we headed home on this deserted road and passed a car that had pulled over to the side. It looked like some guy was trying to change a tire, so my father stopped.

An old, beat up Buick is up on a jack beside the road. A man, wearing a hat which obscures his face, is trying to change the front tire on the passenger side. Sam’s father drives by, slows, stops, and then backs up.

PACER CAR

FATHER

Well now. Let’s give the boy a hand.

SAM (V.O.)

I remember looking at my father. I was confused, because he never helped anyone.

The Pacer car stops and Sam’s father gets out.

FATHER
(to Sam)

Get out.

Sam complies and both of them walk back to the Buick and towards the man. They stop by the front fender.

SAM (V.0.)

The man looked up and my heart leaped into my throat. He was black. Somehow, I think my father knew that when he stopped.

FATHER
(to stranger)

Hey, buddy. Need a hand?

The black man, who is kneeling, is rather indifferent to this white man and white boy. The flat tire is still on the rim. The black stranger is trying to unscrew a reluctant lug nut with a tire iron.

STRANGER

Nope.

FATHER

Just trying to be neighborly.

STRANGER

We know I’m not your neighbor.

The father’s expression changes. He doesn’t look neighborly but he does look around.

YOUNG SAM
(not liking this)

Dad, can we just go?

FATHER
(pause, to stranger)

Maybe you oughta turn it the other way.

(no response from stranger)

You might just be making it tighter.

STRANGER

Mister. I’ve had three flat tires this year. Changed every one of them. Why don’t you take your boy and just leave me alone.

FATHER

Could it be you’re just too stupid to turn it the right way?

YOUNG SAM
(pleading)

He’s not stupid, Dad.

WHACK. Sam gets walloped by the back of his father’s hand but keeps the pain in… no yell. The stranger slowly stands up, tire iron still in his hand.

FATHER
(to stranger)

Let me try.

Sam’s father and the stranger are staring at each other. Sam’s father holds out his hand. A few beats and the stranger slowly hands the tire iron to him.

FATHER
(to Sam)

Yes… he is.

In a blur, Sam’s father SMASHES the tire iron across the stranger’s head and the stranger goes down. Sam starts to SCREAM but his father again hits the now unconscious man in the face. Sam’s father continues to beat the living hell out of this defenseless man… head, face, body… maybe twenty blows in all, Sam tries again and again to fend his father off, but keeps getting thrown back to the ground.

Then, it’s over. The black man lays dead in a dusty pool of blood. Sam’s father drenched in a killing sweat, gasping. Sam on his knees, sobbing, eyes recording everything.

SAM (V.O.)

He said he’d kill my sister if I ever told anyone.

INT. DANI’S CAR – DAY

SAM

So, until he died, I never did. Then I told Sarah and we buried it… or at least I thought I had.

DANI

Jesus.

(long pause)

Where did your father’s rage come from?

SAM

I don’t really care.

Some moments pass.

DANI

So, you become a terrorist and throw racism in our faces.

SAM
(long pause)

It was the least I could do.

Sam stops at a stop sign. He crosses his arms on the wheel and rests his head. She moves over to him and puts her arms around his shoulders, holding him, and then tears roll down her cheeks.

EXT. BIG BASIN MOTEL – DAY

Sam prepares to turn into the motel’s parking lot, he hesitates. Parked near the manager’s office is the new grey Chevrolet he saw earlier at Sarah’s school. Rather than turning, he continues straight ahead.

SAM

They’re on to us.

DANI

What?

SAM

I saw some government types at Sarah’s school. I just saw their car at the motel.

DANI

Oh, God.

SAM

We’re okay, they don’t have us yet. We just gotta be more careful.

(pause)

Do you like the outdoors?

Dani looks at Sam curiously.

EXT. BIG BASIN KMART – DAY

Sam sits discreetly in the car. Dani walks out of the store loaded with blankets, camping supplies and other essentials.

EXT. BIG BASIN OUTSKIRTS – NIGHT

Sam and Dani are lying on the blanket staring at the stars. Both feeling contemplative. He turns and looks at her.

SAM

I wish Sarah was alive. You’d like each other.

Dani reacts by silently touching his hand. They both stare into one another’s eyes. Tentatively, he leans forward to kiss her, she waits for his lips, and then mutual meltdown. They embrace and make love.

EXT. BIG BASIN OUTSKIRTS – NIGHT (LATER)

Quiet now as the heat of the moment has passed… they’re wrapped around one another. Dani is on uneven “ground” having let Sam into her heart.

DANI

Have you ever thought about the phrase “falling in love?”

SAM

Probably not.

DANI

“Falling”… conjures up an image of a downward journey that ends as a splat on a sidewalk. But “in love” invokes a commingling… of passion, devotion, yearning… which is really uplifting.

(pause)

Don’t ya see? There’s “down” and then there’s “up.” I just think the phrase is kinda contradictory.

SAM

I just had an out of body experience… you lost me after the splat.

(pause)

But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll tattoo your name on both my arms.

DANI

That would be sweet.

Eventually, exhaustion sets in and they fall asleep.

EXT. BIG BASIN OUTSKIRTS – MORNING

Sam is cooking a breakfast over a fire. Dani walks to the car and reaches for her purse and returns holding a ring.

DANI

I kinda stole this yesterday at the Sheriff’s. It was with Sarah when she was killed.

She hands Sam the ring. He takes it curiously… stares at it and stands.

SAM

This isn’t mine… I never had one of these.

DANI

What do you mean?

SAM

I mean Marine pilots sometimes had rings made out of their gold wings… I didn’t.

DANI

If it’s not yours, whose is it?

SAM

Patrick’s.

(pause)

He left it for me.

DANI

Col. Patrick?

Sam continues to look at the ring, shocked at the realization that he now knows who murdered his sister. The slow burn continues and then he explodes, a loud, gut wrenching SCREAM. He kicks at the makeshift grill sending pans and food flying… he smashes the lantern… he destroys the cooler.

DANI

No! You hear me! Stop, Sam. No more!

Dani pulls Sam down to the blanket. They struggle a little.

DANI

Let go of this, Sam! Patrick will pay… the authorities will take care of him.

Many moments pass.

SAM

I don’t think I can.

DANI

You have to.

(pause)

We’ll come up with something. Just let me help.

SAM

I have to think about this.

(pause)

Give me a few days, okay?

Sam reaches to his wallet. They move to sitting positions. He takes a piece of paper out and hands it to Dani.

SAM

Just in case, these are the GPS coordinates for the Harrier. If you don’t hear from me in three days, give this information to the Marines. They probably want their toy back.

DANI

Promise me… nothing stupid.

SAM

You got it.

(pause)

I want you to leave now, without me. I’ll find a way back to L.A. on my own. In a few days, you’ll hear from me.

Dani tries to read Sam’s sincerity.

DANI

I have a question for you.

SAM

Of course, you do.

DANI

What did you mean when you said I mesmerized you?

Sam runs his hand through his hair.

SAM

Awestruck… spellbound…

Dani waits.

SAM

To use your expression, there’s two ways I can go on this. I could say I fell hard for you… like a Sequoia. Or, I could expose my heart.

DANI
(smiling)

I’d like that.

She stares into his eyes.

SAM

Okay. I love you.

EXT. BIG BASIN – DAY

Capt. Evans comes out of a store, having just shown Dani’s picture around. At that very moment, he sees Dani across the street at a gas station filling up her car. He stops and goes back inside the store to watch through a window.

CAPT. EVANS
(to himself)

No Pacer. But you’ll do.

Dani leaves Big Basin to the west, oblivious to Capt. Evans following her.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – NEXT DAY

Cool day, blue skies with scattered cumulus… cotton like. Sam’s sitting against a tree admiring the Harrier… it is powerful and sleek art. A stolen blue Mustang is nearby.

Sam bounces up and moves quickly to his gear. Off with his shoes, his jeans, his shirt. And on with his flight suit.

Back to the Harrier. Reaching into a pocket, he pulls out a black magic marker, and starts writing on the jet, just below the canopy on the side. He writes: SARAH, KATE and DANI.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – DAY

P.O.V. MESA’S EDGE 70 YARDS AWAY. The Harrier is at the other end of the mesa, preparing to launch. The NOISE increases to a deafening level. The Harrier pounces forward. The ground speed increases, then Sam pops the nozzles, the Harrier jumps from the ground at 60 knots.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER – DAY

One last flight for Sam Pacer, in effect a joy ride. Low level and fast, high and acrobatic. Screaming over trees, between mountains, wingtip touching clouds, skimming over lake water creating rooster tails, hovering like a spaceship doing air show dramatics. Complete freedom, from reality, pain and memories.

INT. LA TIMES – DAY

Dani is in her editor’s office, notes in hand. Andy is reading her story.

ANDY

You’re up to your eyeballs in this thing, aren’t you?

DANI

Andy, not now.

ANDY

You shoulda told me you were going there. And who was this mystery man you were seen with?

DANI

How did you hear that?

ANDY

The FBI. They also tell me they’re close to identifying Noah.

DANI

Why haven’t they talked to me?

(pause, she gets it)

Because I’m their bait, right?

ANDY

Yes, you are.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – NIGHT

Col. Patrick is in the rear yard, sledge hammer in hand, working out… his swings are almost violent. Soft light escaping through the windows. He finishes and heads back to his office when the phone RINGS.

COL. PATRICK
(phone)

Yes.

CAPT. EVANS (O.S.)

Nothing, sir. Two days now, and Pacer hasn’t shown his face. Anywhere.

COL. PATRICK

How’s the girl acting?

CAPT. EVANS

Usual stuff. She probably knows she’s being followed.

COL. PATRICK

The Feds?

CAPT. EVANS

Yes, sir.

COL. PATRICK

Captain. I wanna visit with Miss Solomon. Bring her in.

EXT. PLATO’S NEWSSTAND – MORNING

LA Times headlines read: NOAH VOWS TO END HIS TERRORISM. Bold lead: FBI TO ANNOUNCE PRIME SUSPECT.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Agents Walters and Tames have again taken up their positions on the street near Dani’s house. Tames is in the driver’s seat. No conversation. A road flare ignites in the street, twenty yards away.

WALTERS

What?

INT. FBI CAR – NIGHT

Before Tames can answer, Capt. Evans slips into the back seat, wearing a ski mask. A .38 with silencer in his gloved hand… now pressed against Tames’ head.

CAPT. EVANS

(to Tames)

Don’t move.

(to both)

I’m not here to kill you. But I will if you provoke me… so be smart.

Catlike, he moves the gun away from Tame’s head and shoots Walters in the left thigh. PFFT. The gun quickly back to Tames’ head. Walters yells, as wrenching agony sets in.

CAPT. EVANS

I repeat. I will not kill you. Trust me. Now, hand your weapons back with your left hand.

They do.

CAPT. EVANS

Good. You with the bullet hole. Handcuff your left hand to the driver’s right hand.

Capt. Evans throws handcuffs to the front seat. Walters complies.

CAPT. EVANS

Now drive. Both of you look straight ahead.

Capt. Evans direct Tames to a unlit, deserted street where they pull to a stop.

CAPT. EVANS
(to Tames)

Turn the engine off.

Tames complies, PFFT, but different. A dart in his neck fired by a tranquilizer gun in Capt. Evans’ left hand. PFFT again, and a dart in Walters’ neck. Capt. Evans sits back and watches them both struggle like fish on a pier… but only for a moment. Soon, no movement.

Capt. Evans gets out, removing wallets, FBI badges and guns… everything thrown into the trees. He strolls across the street to another car, positioned earlier and drives away.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Capt. Evans in a suit ringing Dani’s doorbell looking very official. She answers, recognizing him through a chained door. We can’t hear what Evans says to her but she lets him in.

EXT. PAY PHONE – MORNING

Sam is on his phone…dialing.

SAM
(phone)

Dani Solomon, please.

LA TIMES (O.S.)

She’s unavailable, may I take a message?

SAM

You told me that earlier. She’s not in?

LA TIMES

Sir, I’m not sure what her schedule is, but I’ll be glad to take a message.

SAM

No… nevermind.

He re-dials another number from memory.

DANI
(recorded message)

Hi. I’ll be back.

BEEP. He hangs up. Perplexed.

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

The house is entirely dark, no car in the driveway. P.O.V. SAM IN HIDING some distance down the street, watching patiently.

INT. DANI’S NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE – NIGHT

A television is on in the living room, Sam can’t see or hear it. An unidentified couple is watching a sitcom in the living room when they’re interrupted by a special report.

NEWS ANCHOR

This report has just come in. The FBI has announced that the terrorist Noah is alleged to be Samuel Pacer, a former Marine fighter pilot who was thought to have been killed in a recent plane accident.

(Sam’s picture is shown above anchor’s right shoulder)

His exact whereabouts are unknown, but the FBI believes him to be in either California, Arizona or New Mexico…

EXT. DANI’S HOUSE – MORNING

P.O.V. SAM IN HIDING. All night vigil. Still perplexed, he eventually meanders back to the Mustang and drives away, unaware that he is now a celebrity.

INT. DENNY’S RESTAURANT – MORNING

Sam is sitting at a booth, phone to ear.

LA TIMES (O.S.)

Features desk. Can I help you?

SAM
(phone)

Good Morning. This is Dr. Lawson. My assistant has been trying to get hold of Miss Solomon now for two days, without any luck. Could somebody there please find her or page her for me. It’s very important.

LA TIMES

Doctor. I’ll be glad to take a message for Miss Solomon.

SAM

I appreciate that, but you don’t understand. I’m her doctor, and she was scheduled for important surgery this morning. She didn’t check in last night, there’s no answer at her house, and I’m extremely worried. If I can’t locate her, I’m calling the police.

LA TIMES

Doctor. May I have your number so I can call you right back?

SAM

Damn it! Give me somebody there who can help me.

LA TIMES
(pause)

I shouldn’t be telling you this, but we don’t know where Miss Solomon is.

SAM

What? Who saw her last? Has she even been there?

LA TIMES

No. That’s what strange. She always checks in… but not this time. I don’t know…

Sam disconnects. He gets up to turn and leave, a wide bodied redneck trucker is standing directly behind him… on a mission.

TRUCKER

Pardner… you seem to be in trouble.

SAM

Nothing I can’t handle.

Sam tries squeezing around the guy, but is stopped by a large, muscular arm. The other arm is holding out the LA Times for Sam’s inspection… his picture clearly evident.

TRUCKER

(smiling)

Tag, you’re it.

The trucker drops the newspaper and attempts to grab Sam. In a millisecond, Sam brings his boot down on the guy’s shin… who then stops thinking about Sam. Sam darts for the front door and exits.

EXT. YUMA HOUSE – MORNING

Outskirts of town is a moderately priced housing development on large lots. Many lots sit empty. An adobe house sits alone at the end of a cul-de-sac.

INT. YUMA HOUSE – MORNING

Dani is handcuffed to a bed in the back bedroom still feeling the effects of the tranquilizer dart. The door opens, and in walks Col. Patrick… in uniform. He’s carrying a small metal box. He pulls a chair closer to the bed and sits and puts the metal box on the floor in plain sight.

Col. Patrick stares at Dani coldly.

COL. PATRICK

Please sit up so we can talk.

DANI
(still groggy)

You can’t just kidnap me.

COL. PATRICK

Miss Solomon. I said to sit… up.

Dani slowly rights herself in bed, her back up against the headboard.

DANI

Why am I here?

COL. PATRICK

Dani, is it? You should know that I’m not stupid. As long as I have you, I’ll eventually get Pacer.

(pause)

You really are beautiful… quite unusual. If I were to guess, Pacer fell for you the very moment he saw your face.

Col. Patrick reaches down and picks up the metal box, putting it in his lap. Reaching in the metal box, he takes out a scalpel and holds it up for Dani.

COL. PATRICK

Miss Solomon. I’m going to cut you. Don’t worry… just your mug.

Putting the scalpel back in the metal box, Col. Patrick takes out a bottle of solution and holds it up.

COL. PATRICK

As you bleed, I’ll pour this acid on your wounds. It will act like a cauterizing agent and sear your skin. The scars will be hideous but at least we won’t get any nasty infections.

(pause)

Then, I’ll slice you again. Within time, you’ll tell me what I want.

Col. Patrick puts the bottle back in the metal box and then gets up. Walking towards the bedroom door, he turns to Dani.

COL. PATRICK

Tah tah.

Col. Patrick closes the door and goes into the kitchen. Capt. Evans has been dutifully standing by.

COL. PATRICK

I’ll be at my office. Let her stew.

INT. LA TIMES – DAY

The phone rings in Andy Epstein’s office.

ANDY
(phone)

Epstein.

SAM (O.S.)

Where’s Dani?

ANDY

Who is this?

SAM

Noah.

ANDY
(pause)

I need more.

SAM

I gave Dani two pieces of information as proof for the first bombing. That hasn’t been reported.

Andy can hear concern in the caller’s voice.

ANDY

I don’t know where she is. She didn’t show up yesterday or today. She’s not home and she hasn’t called in.

SAM

Well, it’s obvious then. They got her. And until they get me, they’re not letting her go.

CLICK. Sam’s wearing a ballcap and sunglasses and is in an old style phone booth… reminds one of an upright coffin for a voyeur.

He smashes his elbow into the glass behind him, it shatters. He kicks a lower glass panel and it shatters. Again and again, out of control.

INT. LA TIMES – DAY (LATER)

Andy Epstein’s office. The phone RINGS and Epstein answers.

SAM (O.S.)

I have two demands. Somebody in this pathetic government has Dani Solomon. I want her released within seventy two hours.

Epstein starts scribbling notes furiously.

SAM

Number two. The President of the United States has seventy two hours to go on television and make a speech… and I’m gonna tell him what to say. If he doesn’t make the speech, or if Dani is not released… I’m going to destroy a nuclear power plant in seventy three hours. Do you understand everything I’ve said?

ANDY

Yes, but…

SAM

The President is going to outline for the American people the following plan. The Unites States government owns more land than God. I want them to sell some of it. Not much… just a little.

(pause)

Now, if they’re real smart and sell the right kind of land, they’ll make a fortune. So, I want them to take this fortune and start buying land back… in and around our cities… and then I want them to build some nice houses and schools and hospitals for the people who really need it… the minorities and poor.

(pause)

Let the pricks in Congress figure out how they’re gonna do this. But so help me, I better hear the President loud and clear on this.

ANDY
(phone)

You can’t be serious. This is crazy. The President will never succumb to this kind of blackmail. Think about what you’re saying.

SAM

I have. But it’s in his lap now.

(pause)

My watch says 10 AM. He has seventy two hours. If I communicate again, I’ll use the words “another country.” I wouldn’t make that public.

Sam hangs up. Andy Epstein is stunned and buzzes for his secretary. She comes in.

ANDY

Do whatever you have to do, but get Mrs. Moore on the phone. Now.

EXT. WHITE HOUSE – NIGHT

INT. WHITE HOUSE – NIGHT

MARK BROOKS, the President’s Chief of Staff, is in his office with three staff members. His secretary comes in and interrupts his meeting.

SECRETARY

I’m sorry, Mr. Brooks. Mrs. Moore, the publisher of the LA Times, is holding on line four. She was quite direct. She said “national emergency.”

BROOKS

What? All right, Jan. Folks, can you all excuse me?

When everyone has left the room, he picks up the phone.

BROOKS
(phone)

Irene. So, what’s this about a national emergency?

He listens on the phone, his expression is somber.

BROOKS

Is that the full extent of his conversation?

(listening)

And I assume you’ll be running this story first opportunity?

(listening)

I understand. Irene, do not tell anyone else about the code “another country” except for my people. Also, keep Andy Epstein available and give my secretary the appropriate phone numbers where everyone can be reached. I’m sure we’ll have some other questions as well.

(pause)

And one more favor. Give me two hours before you do anything with this information.

(listening)

Great. I’ll take it from here. And thank you.

Andy speaks into his intercom.

BROOKS

Jan, cancel my staff meeting, please. I have to see the President.

INT. PATRICK’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Col. Patrick is alone in his study. RING… he picks up.

COL. PATRICK
(phone)

Yes?

SAM (O.S.)

You have her, don’t you?

Col. Patrick recognizes the voice.

COL. PATRICK

I’m sorry. Who are you talking about?

SAM

I’ll forget about Big Basin.

COL. PATRICK

Forgive me. What are you talking about?

SAM

Please, just give her up… I’ll give you whatever you want and I’ll walk away. Forever.

COL. PATRICK

You know, I always thought that the best way to win at chess was to eliminate all the opponent’s pieces. No rooks, no knights, no bishops, no pawns. And then the ultimate move… bury the king and queen together. What do you think?

SAM

You’re not Kasparov, asshole, so you’re gonna lose. I’ll see you soon.

INT. WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ROOM – NIGHT

Present around an oval conference table sits the President, Mark Brooks, the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, the FBI DIRECTOR, the CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS, and the CIA DIRECTOR.

BROOKS

And that, gentlemen, is the situation as it was presented to me. The text of the terrorist’s conversation with the LA Times’ editor is in front of you.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

Well, gentlemen. This missing reporter. Do we know anything?

FBI DIRECTOR

Sir, it does appear that she was kidnapped. We don’t know by whom or why.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

Could this Noah have her?

FBI DIRECTOR

It’s possible, but I doubt it.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

Mr. President. I’m assuming you won’t be making any sort of a speech.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

I don’t think so. Bad precedent.

(pause)

Can this guy really do what he’s threatened?

CHAIRMAN JCS

Sir, he has a Harrier and bombs. If we did nothing, he might get lucky and do some damage, somewhere. But with airborne surveillance, targeted satellite observation and tactical alert fighters looking for him, it would be a miracle if he got through to any potential targets.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

That’s why it doesn’t make sense to tell us when and what he’s going to bomb. We’ll be ready.

BROOKS

Maybe he picks another time to bomb. A week… a month. Or never.

(pause)

I do see another problem. General, can’t he use his jet as a weapon? Maybe this guy’s flipped, and just wants to kill himself.

CHAIRMAN JCS

That’s a consideration, yes.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

Can we find him before 11 AM Thursday?

FBI DIRECTOR

Perhaps. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

That’s encouraging. Gentlemen, the terrorist’s threat will be public very soon. Let’s find him before things get out of hand.

INT. GROUP HEADQUARTERS – DAY

Col. Patrick’s phone rings, he picks up.

GENERAL GALLO (O.S.)

You seem to be having trouble fulfilling your end of our agreement.

COL. PATRICK
(phone)

Part of the challenge, General. I’ll get him.

GENERAL GALLO

You better, because you don’t have much time. I’ve been ordered to put the Third Marine Air Wing on alert. You’ll have the Op Order, shortly. It seems your mystery man is threatening to blow up a nuclear plant.

(pause)

Colonel. This is a legitimate crisis. Get it in gear and find this guy. No more games.

WING HEADQUARTERS

General Gallo slams the phone down, a beat and he punches the intercom.

GENERAL GALLO

Lieutenant. I need to talk to the FBI… now.

INT. YUMA HOUSE – NIGHT

Col. Patrick has changed out of his uniform and is wearing street clothes. He enters the back bedroom, carrying two boxes and shuts the door. He places both boxes on a table, his original metal box and a box of latex gloves.

Dani is sitting up in bed. Both of her hands and legs have been secured. There is some contraption on her head immobilizing it.

COL. PATRICK

Are you ready to unburden your soul, so-to-speak?

DANI
(panicky)

I don’t know anything, I told you.

COL. PATRICK

I don’t believe you.

Col. Patrick reaches for and pulls out two latex gloves and puts them on.

DANI
(panicked)

He was gonna call me… I don’t know where he is… please believe me.

Col. Patrick reaches for the scalpel.

DANI
(crying)

Don’t do this… please.

COL. PATRICK
(sudden yell)

Quiet!

(pause, softly)

Or tell me where he is. He won’t be angry.

Col. Patrick approaches Dani, scalpel in hand.

DANI
(crying)

No… no… wait, I remember now… oh God, please stop… I remember… my purse, please. There’s paper.

Col. Patrick stops and leaves the room, Dani is left sobbing. Coming back in, he has her purse in his hand. He turns the music off.

COL. PATRICK

So what am I looking for?

DANI
(sobbing)

Sam gave me a paper with coordinates on it… the Harrier… it’s in there… I forgot.

Col. Patrick starts emptying the purse and finds a scrap with numbers on it.

COL. PATRICK

Oh, this. Very clever. I wasn’t quite sure what this was. I assume that all these extra numbers mask Pacer’s original coordinates?

DANI

Yes.

COL. PATRICK

I’m going to release your hand so you can write down the correct coordinates. They better make sense.

INT. YUMA HOUSE – NIGHT (LATER)

Dani remains tied up, the contraption remains on her head. Col. Patrick enters the bedroom.

COL. PATRICK

Miss Solomon. It seems that the coordinates Pacer gave you are for a remote spot in northern Arizona. We’re gonna take a trip.

(pause)

Incidentally, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to kill you. So, from this moment on, try and imagine how you’ll die.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – MORNING

Sam is causally walking around the Harrier, just looking. Inspecting. Underneath the Harrier is a puddle of red fluid. He goes under the fuselage and kneels down and puts his finger in the puddle and smells it.

SAM

Hydraulic fluid. Sonofabitch.

Still kneeling, he glances at the wing strut. And down to the tire… almost flat. He moves closer to the tire and plops down on his butt in disbelief.

Sam lies back. Looking at the underside of the wing. Many minutes pass. Sam gets up and walks towards his gear, looks in his bags he finds his computer.

Hooking his computer to a black box beneath a panel, Sam connects to the Internet and then the Library of Congress. He finds information on nuclear power plants and downloads the locations.

Sam finds Internet addresses of Congressmen and anonymously E-mails the following: A SPEECH IS ALL I WANT. TELL THE PRESIDENT TO TALK TO AMERICA. UNITE US. NOAH. P.S. ANOTHER COUNTRY.

Sam logs off. He opens the downloaded file of nuclear power plants and searches the list. Finally, one catches his eye.

GLEN MESA NUCLEAR FACILITY, GLEN MESA, UTAH. Sam closes the file and turns off his computer.

INT. VAN – MORNING

Col. Patrick and Dani are driving east towards the Harrier’s location in a van. She is secured in the rear seat.

DANI

I can talk to Sam. He’ll give you the jet… and the bombs. Go be a general. I’ll forget about all of this.

(pause)

Then live a happy fricking life. Just don’t hurt anybody.

COL. PATRICK

You’re asking me to trust you. And Pacer. That’s just not possible.

DANI

You’re gonna kill the guy because you’re not gonna be a general? Get real.

COL. PATRICK

That’s all the reason I need. But if you want more, I can think of a few.

DANI

Like what?

COL. PATRICK

A lot of people in this country want something for nothing. Look at their faces… they’re black and brown. And their numbers just keep getting bigger… and more stupid.

(pause)

Whites have given up enough without Pacer trying to take more away.

Dani is stunned.

DANI

You’re beyond sick.

COL. PATRICK

Remind me to cut your tongue out.

EXT. HILLTOP NEAR GLEN MESA NUCLEAR FACILITY – DAY

Mountainous area, concrete domes. A generating facility resplendent with electrical transformers and wires.

P.O.V. SAM ON A HILL one mile away with binoculars taking note of access roads and perimeter security.

INT. TOWN HALL – KEOKUK, IOWA – NIGHT

CLOSE ON:

NEWS ANCHOR

If we look back to the tragic days of the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11, this nation knows all too well the horror and pain associated with terrorism. And as we learned, the evil motivation of those bombings was almost as insipid as the deed. However, tonight we will discuss a different motivation. Noah has stirred the national psyche with a multi colored stick to remind us all of racism. He wants to end it. And he’s prepared to do something awful to back up his rhetoric.

EXT. U.S. CAPITOL – NIGHT

INT. U.S. CAPITOL – NIGHT

CONGRESSMAN HUGH SHARKEY, black, mid thirties and powerful looking, is in his office with his white female AIDE. The aide is reading through the E-mail printouts over the last 24 hours.

AIDE

Hugh, you wanna take a look at this?

She hands him Pacer’s message.

SHARKEY

Have we received anything like this before?

AIDE

No. What does “another country” mean?

SHARKEY

It’s a literary reference.

AIDE

What do you want me to do?

SHARKEY

Get me Mark Brooks. If this thing’s real, this Noah is in no hurry to bomb.

EXT. GLEN MESA NUCLEAR FACILITY – NIGHT

Sam in flight suit, flashlight in hand. He’s near the perimeter fence at the farthest point of the facility. A huge crane is 50 yards inside the fence. Sam digs along the base of the fence and then cuts it with a wirecutter, pulls it back and then climbs under.
He runs to the crane and looks at its base with the flashlight. He kneels, a few beats and then purposely leaves his shoe prints in the dirt. He returns the way he came.

Outside the fence, he pushes it down, and fills the hole up with dirt.

EXT. GLEN MESA NUCLEAR FACILITY – MORNING

A Jeep is driving along the perimeter road outside the facility. STAN, the driver, is paying close attention to the fence. He sees something and stops. He takes out his two-way communication set.

STAN
(hand held comm)

Base, this is security two.

BASE (O.S.)

Go ahead two.

STAN

I’m at marker 28. It appears that a section of the fence has been cut at the base. I wouldn’t have seen it except that the dirt is a little darker where it was dug out.

BASE

Anything else?

STAN

There are footsteps leading over to the crane next to generator five. I’ll check it out and report back.

INT. OVAL OFFICE – DAY

Mark Brooks has joined the President.

BROOKS

Sir, the message to Congressman Sharkey appears authentic.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

Why send it? He’s just reiterating what he’s already said.

BROOKS

Maybe it’s a plea. Maybe the idea of bombing a nuclear facility is finally overwhelming him.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

So, he’s bluffing?

BROOKS

I wouldn’t go that far.

(pause)

Mr. President. As you know, because of the Harrier’s fuel capacity, only the western nuclear plants seem to be the logical targets. Well, this morning, the Glen Mesa nuclear facility in Utah reported that somebody had been snooping around. Apparently, one man cut through a fence, and spent time huddled around the base of a very large construction crane. If for some reason, the crane fell, it would destroy a huge power generator.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

Why would our guy do that? He has a damn jet.

BROOKS

Maybe the jet’s broken and can’t fly and this is another ground bombing. Maybe he’s worried about getting shot down. Maybe this a decoy. I don’t know, but whatever he’s up to, we’ll pay special attention to Glen Mesa.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM
(to himself)

So, will he or won’t he?

(pause)

I should make that damn speech. I won’t, but I should.

(pause)

If only he didn’t have a gun to my head.

INT. CBS NEWSROOM – NIGHT

CLOSE ON:

NEWS ANCHOR

It is now 7 PM Pacific Time. The two demands of the terrorist Noah have not yet been met. Miss Dani Solomon is still missing and we have heard nothing from the White House in regard to a speech by the President. We do know that military surveillance aircraft are airborne and have been for sometime. We also know that reconnaissance satellites are paying special attention to the potential target sites. The FBI is also continuing their national manhunt for this terrorist, but they readily agree that their leads are few, and that Noah remains a phantom.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – NIGHT

Sam is sitting beneath the Harrier in his flight suit. Leaning against a wheel strut, he can see the stars and the moonlit vista below the mesa.

Sam turns on his flashlight, double-checks the hydraulic leak. Not much worse. Also checks his flat tire.

SAM
(sarcastic)

Lord, if this is a sign, it’s a lousy one. If you don’t want me to fly, flatten all my tires, not one. Turn the engine into oatmeal. But do something. This ain’t cutting it.

EXT. DESERTED MESA – MORNING

Sam wakes to a vibrant morning. He starts to scramble in and around the Harrier, picking up the site and stowing his gear in the woods, not before putting on jeans and a T-shirt under his flight suit.

Looking at his watch, Sam puts on the remainder of his flight gear… G-suit, torso harness, and gloves. With his helmet in hand, he walks back to the Harrier. Up and into the cockpit to sit and wait.

Eventually, it’s time. P.O.V. ABOVE HARRIER, Sam going through his checklist. The engine starts to wind up, thirty some thousand pounds of thrust. Looking at the hydraulic gauge, pressure is fine.

Applying power, the Harrier slowly moves forward and away from its hiding place. The tire is flat, so it rolls on its rim. Sam rudders the airplane to the left. It follows the curving tree line to the field which is not yet visible.

Sam maneuvers beyond the trees for the last time, towards the field, he sees a van driving towards him. Then the van stops in the middle of the field. The driver’s door opens and Col. Patrick gets out to open the sliding van door. He’s tugging on something, and pulls Dani out.

SAM

Dear God.

Col. Patrick is hastily tying Dani to the front bumper. Sam, instinctively, pushes the power forward. The Harrier starts to move quickly towards the van, sending up a huge plume of dust and debris.

Short of the van, the Harrier stops. Sam shuts down the engine and leaps from the cockpit to the ground, removing his helmet and throwing it aside. Standing, he’s frozen by the uncertainty of what to do next… and Col. Patrick’s .45.

SAM

C’mon, don’t be stupid, that’s not your style.

DANI

Sam… he wants to kill us.

COL. PATRICK
(to Sam)

Oh, I think our loverboy has figured that out already.

SAM

Awright, you can have what you came for. Dani has nothing to do with this.

COL. PATRICK

Oh, but she does. A reporter needs to report.

DANI

No! I won’t say anything.

Sam’s looking hard at Col. Patrick. Measuring the man.

SAM

You’re a coward and a murderer.

COL. PATRICK

In an oblique way, partly true…

(pause)

Do you miss your sister?

Sam struggles to maintain control.

SAM

I’m gonna kill you for that.

COL. PATRICK

I don’t think so.

SAM

So, now you’re gonna kill us both? Then what, you fly the jet back? A hero?

(pause)

They’re not gonna buy it.

COL. PATRICK

No, they won’t. At least your scenario.

(pause)

So, I have to get rid of your bodies. The remaining bombs will take care of that.

DANI

How are you gonna explain finding the jet? A divining rod?

COL. PATRICK

Remarkably, an anonymous caller phoned me with its location. When I got here, I could see that there had been a terrible explosion. Apparently, Noah was not as good with pyrotechnics as we were led to believe.

(pause)

How’s that?

Sam is doing mental gymnastics.

SAM

All this so you can be a general?

COL. PATRICK

Partly. But what you don’t understand is that there’s a natural order in this society and nobody should mess with it.

SAM

Then hurt me, not Dani.

The Colonel’s not baited. So Dani attempts to bait.

DANI

Sam!

(pause)

He knows you were sleeping with his wife.

Col. Patrick glares at Dani with confusion and rage. He vaults toward her, gun raised.

He strikes a glancing blow. Sam converges instantly, knocking the gun free. Col. Patrick expertly counters with a blow to Sam’s jaw and Sam goes down.

COL. PATRICK

Not so tough anymore…

Sam gets up slowly and is immediately leveled with a descending fist. Sam takes a lot of blows and kicks. Tries to defend himself but can’t fight back, he’s senseless.

Col. Patrick continues to pound Sam, Dani manages to free herself from the bumper. She reaches for the gun, but is spotted by Col. Patrick. Leaving Sam on the ground, he runs to her. She hurls the gun towards the mesa’s edge. Sam and the Colonel both see the gun fly and race for it.

Sam is tackled, and the blows intensify from Col. Patrick. They’re perilously close to the mesa’s edge.

Sam scrambles free and is on his hands and knees, breathless and bleeding. Col. Patrick is gathering himself for the next attack.
They start fighting again. A surprising blow from Sam knocks Col. Patrick backwards towards the edge of the mesa… just feet away… one more step and

SAM
(to Col. Patrick)

Watch out!

The Colonel reaches the edge and slips… falling backward. Sam rushes over to the edge, and the Colonel is barely hanging on to a branch. Sam reaches his hand out for the Colonel. The Colonel stares back into his eyes, not reaching… saying nothing. Then, the Colonel’s eyes close slowly… waiting.

And then the branch breaks. The Colonel falls… silently to his death.

Dani runs over to Sam and helps him back from the edge. All at once, they’re shocked, horrified and relieved.

SAM

Did he hurt you?

DANI

No, no. I’m okay.

They are standing. They embrace and hold one another.

SAM

What was that about his wife?

DANI

USDA choice crap, Sam… the truth wasn’t getting us anywhere.

(Sam smiles at her)

Let’s get outta here.

SAM

Ah… we can’t.

Dani looks at Sam curiously. They’re no longer holding one another.

SAM

When I couldn’t find you, I threatened to blow up a nuclear facility…

(looks at his watch)

…in about an hour.

DANI

Seriously, are you insane?

SAM

I’m not gonna do anything, I was bluffing. I was just trying to get you back… and maybe stir it up a little.

DANI

But a nuclear plant?

DANI
(pause)

You can’t do this anymore…

SAM

I know.

(pause)

I want this to end… and I don’t wanna hide for the rest of my life. I think I should turn myself in.

DANI

I guess we both know you have to.

(pause)

We have to…

Sam grabs her again and holds her.

SAM

(pause, letting go)

I have one more thing to do. I’m gonna fly the Harrier and park it somewhere where they can get to it and fix it. It’s leaking hydraulic fluid and it’s just too remote here.

DANI

Great… and how safe is that!?

SAM
(smiling)

Don’t worry. I see anything wrong in the cockpit, I don’t go. And before you know it, we can start trolling for a good, cheap lawyer.

DANI

Forget cheap. The right guy can prove you never hurt anybody. And I’m a witness to what happened with Patrick.

(pause)

They won’t be too tough on you… I know it.

SAM

I’m glad one of us is confident.

Sam takes a road map out of his pocket and hands it to Dani.

SAM
(pointing at location on map)

You can pick me up here.

DANI

I don’t want to lose you.

SAM

You won’t.

They kiss each other good-bye, passionately. Sam turns and heads for the Harrier. Picking up his helmet on the way, he climbs aboard and starts it up. With everything on line, he checks hydraulics… okay. He looks toward Dani and shuts the canopy.

Taxiing back to the end of the field, Sam runs up the power. Dani is standing at the other end near the mesa’s edge. Watching.

TWO TAPS TO HIS CHEST, Sam then applies full power, and the Harrier starts to rocket forward, flat tire notwithstanding. Away from the mountains…towards the mesa’s edge and into the wind. He lifts off and flies over the edge, he dives for airspeed, pushing the nozzles straight back.

Pulling up, he rocks his wings to say good-bye.

INT. NBC NEWSROOM – MORNING

CLOSE ON:

NEWS ANCHOR

With minutes remaining until the deadline established by Noah, the nation waits. The government has emphasized that the danger is remote at best. Last night, the President released a statement, in effect saying that the President of the United States will not succumb to blackmail threats by terrorists. The President also stated that he had the utmost confidence that all nuclear facilities were adequately protected and that all contingencies had been considered.

INT. OVAL OFFICE – MORNING

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

What do you think? We’re approaching the deadline.

BROOKS

I think he got what he wanted. He’s front page. I just pray he backs off.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER – SOMEWHERE SOUTHWEST – MORNING

Sam is a bullet. 500 knots, 100 feet above the ground. The world below is a blur. He looks down to a map on his kneeboard, then checks hydraulics… still okay. Checks fuel… low.

INT. E-2 SURVEILLANCE PLANE – MORNING

Flying aloft is a Air Force multi-engine jet with a huge dome mounted on the top of its fuselage. Inside, sophisticated equipment, monitors, airborne controllers and supervising officers.

CONTROLLER

Sir, I may have something.

OFFICER

Whaddaya got?

CONTROLLER

From our position, 160 miles, 232 radial. No code. Fast mover, lots of ground clutter, probably flying low.

OFFICER

Roger that. It’s our bogey. Release the nearest fighter cap. You have the vectors, so run ’em in.

CONTROLLER

Yes, sir.

EXT. AV8 HARRIER – SOMEWHERE SOUTHWEST – MORNING

Sam’s flying low and fast. A small town is approaching on his nose, mountains are to his left. He checks his fuel… very low.
He looks again at his map. We see a red circle. Sam looks beyond the town and sees an isolated highway. Adjacent the highway is a defunct agricultural packing center, a large concrete parking lot nearby, no cars. Perfect place for a vertical landing.

SAM

Voila`.

Suddenly, a flashing red light on the warning panel indicating a hydraulics emergency, and a loud, intermittent warning HORN.

SAM

Not good!

Sam pulls up for altitude, the town just below. Smoke starts to fill the cockpit, flight controls getting mushy. Sam turns the jet to the left, heading away from the town but he’s losing altitude. Smoke’s getting worse, the cockpit is heating up. A hydraulic fire burns beneath the floor panel.

Now, pointed away from the town, Sam tries to level the wings but the jet is flying like a Steinway piano. A quick glance down at the ejection handle, a small rubber loop between his legs, yellow and black striped, which will initiate the ejection seat sequence.

Smoke, fire, decreasing airspeed and altitude. Flight controls practically worthless, out of control. Sam can’t tell up from down. Time to kiss this baby good-bye.

Sam reaches down between his legs with both hands, finds the ejection handle and pulls.

His ejection seat is rocketed out of the Harrier.

Moments later, the Harrier IMPACTS. The 1,500 pounds of bombs hanging on the wings, along with the jet fuel, explode… atomizing the Harrier. The crash site is an isolated mountain, he’s nowhere near the town or any nuclear facility.

INT. E-2 SURVEILLANCE PLANE – MORNING

CONTROLLER

Sir, it’s gone.

OFFICER

Did the fighters ever lock on?

CONTROLLER

They thought they did, but they’ve lost it, too.

INT. OVAL OFFICE – DAY

Brooks rushes in excitedly.

PRESIDENT GRAHAM

What have they turned up?

BROOKS

First indications are that he crashed into a mountain. Not much left at the impact site, so it will take some time to determine the cause. Strangely, he wasn’t anywhere close to Glen Mesa or any other nuclear facility.

(pause)

No one can really figure out where he was going.

EXT. STATE HIGHWAY 44 – DAY

The sun is low in the sky, soon to set. In the distance, a van approaches. Dani has been driving all day and stops at a historical landmark by the road. Across the street is the agricultural packing center… their meeting place.

The engine is turned off, and Dani gets out. She waits. The sun sets and continues to wait into the early evening and night. Finally, after many hours, she gets back into the van.

INT. VAN – NIGHT

Dani is driving, lost in thought. The radio plays this and that. Suddenly a clear voice interrupts and says

RADIO

… no more than one hour ago, it was reported that the pilot of the Harrier and suspected terrorist Samuel Pacer is presumed dead although his body has not yet been recovered. Authorities for both the military and federal government are convening at the crash site. Furthermore…

Dani’s emotions swell and explode. She pulls abruptly over to the side of the road and stops. She rests her head on the steering… crying… convinced that she’ll never see Sam again.

PAN up and into the distance, miles away. We see the crash site, illuminated by lights, a flurry of activity.

INT. LA TELEVISION STATION – DAYS LATER

Dani is waiting to talk to the same person who interviewed her weeks earlier about her gang stories. We hear THREE, TWO, ONE… YOU’RE ON.

INTERVIEWER

Ms. Solomon. Not too long ago, we had a chance to talk about your gang stories. Since then, you have been directly involved in one of the biggest stories of the past decade. Has your life changed?

DANI

I’m busier. But things will go back to normal… they always do.

INTERVIEWER

I understand that you’ve taken a leave of absence from the LA Times and are preparing to write a book about Noah.

DANI
(a wry smile)

Yes… it’ll take about a year.

INTERVIEWER

What are your thoughts as you begin this project?

DANI

It’s kind of a jumble now… but I think that people will someday realize that Sam Pacer… Noah… is an extraordinary man. He never hurt anybody, and he had good motives. It’s just that he went to extremes, and that’s not so good.

INTERVIEWER

Interesting that you referred to Mr. Pacer in the present tense. So what do you think he’d say about all this commotion in the media about racism?

DANI
(wistful)

He likes it.

(long pause)

You know, before we came on the air, I was thinking about a couple things. I do that a lot now. Anyway. Everybody knows that our national anthem refers to “the land of the free.” In schools, children pledge “liberty and justice for all.” Even the Declaration of Independence proclaims that all human beings are “created equal.” Very impressive stuff, really. And I hope I’m not being too corney.

(pause)

But I think we should ask ourselves. Does it mean the same to all Americans? I think we know the answer… and that should bother us.

INTERVIEWER

Miss Solomon. I’m curious. Do you have something else you’d like to tell our viewers?

DANI

Soon enough. Trolling for lawyers is a full time commitment. Even the cheap ones.

A quizzical look on the interviewer’s face doesn’t deter Dani from smiling and glancing towards the corner of the studio. In heavy shadows Sam leans against a wall. And he smiles back.

FADE OUT: