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DevilsHighway

This project was started in 2004.  I was fascinated by the prospects of aliens infiltrating a rural Rocky Mountain town, and through the generations moulding the traditions and community mind of the entire populace.  It is only after a stranger shows up in town that the strangeness becomes apparent to the townspeople.

It was an interesting story, but I fell away from it.  Doubtless the story will be implemented in some way in the Angels and Dreamers storyline.



FADE IN:

 

INT  APARTMENT - ESTABLISHING

 

Newsprint and articles hang on every available square inch of wall. An open NOTEBOOK sits open on the coffee table.

 

GRETCHEN HOLDIR (26) lies asleep on the worn couch. Her dark hair covers her face.

 

MATTHIAS UNDERWOOD (30) opens one eye to see if Gretchen is asleep. He silently writes a short message in the open notebook.

 

He slips the RING off his little finger and sets it on the notebook.

 

At the door, Matthias stops. He pulls a TURQUIOSE NECKLACE from his pocket. As he studies it, his eyes cloud over.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                I'm sorry, Gretchen. I made a promise to someone else. Goodbye.

 

Then he turns and leaves.

 

EXT  US HWY 666 - DAY

 

One year later.

 

Gretchen drives down the road in her old sedan. The RING rests prominently on her middle finger.

 

Music blasts on the radio. Gretchen's cell phone rings.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Yeah, Gretchen Holdir.

 

On the other end, her boss, NATHANIEL "NATTIE" HAWKINS (50's), grumps at her.

 

                                                NATTIE HAWKINS

                Where are you?

 

Gretchen pulls the map onto her lap and glances down at it.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                About an hour past Shiprock, New Mexico.

 

                                                NATTIE HAWKINS

                Got anything yet?

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'm working on it. I haven't seen anything but sheep and sagebrush for the last twenty minutes.

 

Up ahead, a hitchiker, NEIRA HEXEN (25), waves Gretchen to a halt.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Hold on, Nattie, I'm picking up a hitchiker.

 

                                                NATTIE HAWKINS

                I don't need another reporter disappearing, Gretchen. You and Matthias were the best team we had.

 

Gretchen unlocks the door for Neira. She climbs in and smiles.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Thanks. I've been walking all day.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Look, Nattie, I just picked up a cute girl. I gotta go.

 

                                                NATTIE HAWKINS

                What? What does she look like? Get some pictures. I want -

 

Gretchen hangs up.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Sorry. My boss.

 

Neira looks in the mirror and straightens her blond hair.

 

                                                NEIRA

                It's like an oven out there.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                In here's not much better. Air went out six hours ago.

 

                                                NEIRA

                That's okay. I'm Neira Hexen.

 

Gretchen pulls back onto the road.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Gretchen Holdir. What are you doing out here by yourself? I didn't see any cars back there.

                                                NEIRA

                I'm going home. Been gone a while.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Oh yeah? Where's home?

 

Gretchen hands the map to Neira.

 

                                                NEIRA

                It's not on the map. Just a small mining town a few miles from here.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Oh yeah? Seen any strange things around here? Unexplained phenomena? Cattle mutilations? That sort of thing.

 

Neira rolls her eyes.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Great. You're not one of those UFO nuts, are you? Please say no.

 

Gretchen smiles.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'm a reporter. For The Gray Matter.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Hmm. Haven't heard of that one.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                It's an online newspaper. Nattie, my boss, says if I can get this story, he'll get me an interview with the Weekly World News.

 

Neira laughs.

 

                                                NEIRA

                That's a supermarket tabloid.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                With an incredibly large circulation.

 

                                                NEIRA

                You can do better than that.

                                                GRETCHEN

                Do you know how hard it is to find a paying job investigating weird stuff? Ghosts, UFO's, and freaks are not exactly Pulitzer material.

 

Neira opens up her bag and pulls out an apple. She offers a bite to Gretchen.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                No thanks.

 

                                                NEIRA

                If it doesn't pay, why do it?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I don't know. I just love it. Always have. Probably always will.

 

Neira points to a dirt road off to the right.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Turn here.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What's down there?

 

                                                NEIRA

                Home.

 

Gretchen slows and turns down the faint dirt road.

 

                                                NEIRA

                It's not real big, but it's got an old motel. There's always an open room.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Anything weird ever happen there?

 

                                                NEIRA

                Why?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                This area is supposed to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. You know, Highway six-six-six. The Devil's Highway.

 

Neira shrugs.

                                                NEIRA

                It's just home to me.

                                (smiles)

                But you're welcome to talk to anyone you want.

 

EXT  VALHALLA SPRINGS - AFTERNOON

 

The small town of Valhalla Springs consists of a few buildings, some outlying houses, and a small general store.

 

Gretchen follows the dirt road between two hills and stops when she sees the town.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                This is home?

 

                                                NEIRA

                Welcome to Valhalla Springs.

 

Gretchen drives down and stops in front of the General Store.

 

                                                NEIRA

                I'll introduce you.

 

INT  GENERAL STORE - CONTINUING

 

The store owner, AGNES BARTOLOME (63), peers out over her spectacles at the two girls entering. Her face brightens when she recognizes Neira.

 

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                Neira, honeycakes, you came back. Did you find what you were looking for?

 

Neira glances quickly at Gretchen, and then pulls a worn pair of shoes out of her bag.

 

                                                NEIRA

                I did. Got a couple of new souls.

 

Gretchen looks up at her, startled.

 

                                                NEIRA

                For my shoes. Soles for my shoes.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Oh. Of course. I thought you meant -

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                Who's your friend?

 

                                                NEIRA

                Agnes, this is Gretchen Holdir. She's a reporter. Gretchen, this is Agnes Bartolome, the second oldest person in Valhalla Springs.

 

The door flies open. The local law enforcement, DEPUTY RUFFIN COOMBS (32), swaggers in and cocks his hat at a rakish angle.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I see a car parked in a no parking zone out front. Who's the perpetrator?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                That would be me. Is there a problem?

 

Ruffin sweeps his hat off his head and hooks his thumbs in his belt loops.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                You bet your rosy round bottom there is. We're expecting a supply truck any day now. Right there.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Ruffin, leave her alone.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I'll go easy on you this time, but it'll cost you. One dinner. With me. Tonight.

 

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                And he'll make you cook.

 

Neira takes Gretchen's elbow and tries to pull her away from Ruffin.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Come on, Gretchen.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Ruffin, is it? You've lived here your whole life?

 

Ruffin smiles proudly.

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'll bet you know everything that goes on around here.

 

Agnes and Neira exchange a confused look.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'd love to hear what you know about this area. Dinner would be wonderful.

 

Ruffin's smile nearly splits his face in two.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                But ... I've had such a long day driving. And I'm so tired. Would you be a love and whip up something for us to eat?

 

Ruffin's smile drops.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Well, I s'pose I could -

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Wonderful. We'll get along great. Oh, and don't make anything greasy. Gives me gas. Some poached chicken would be great.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Um.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'll see you in an hour.

 

Gretchen squeezes his hand as she exits.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                What just happened?

 

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                Little girl's got teeth.

 

                                                NEIRA

                C'mon, Ruff. I'll give you a hand in the kitchen.

INT  MOTEL ROOM - EVENING

 

Gretchen's clothing lays out on the bed. She splashes water on her face in the bathroom.

 

A KNOCK at her door.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Just a minute.

 

Drying her face, she opens the door. No one.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Hello?

 

Across the street, a shadowed face peeks around a building. As Gretchen closes the door, Matthias steps out of the shadow.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                You stupid, stupid girl.

 

EXT  MOTEL - ROOF - EVENING

 

Gretchen overlooks the town. A cool breeze ruffles through her hair. Her shirt is unbuttoned over a tank top.

 

She snaps a few photos of the town and the sunset.

 

Behind her, Ruffin sets the food out on a card table. He unfolds two chairs for them to sit.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Food's gonna get cold.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'm here for the conversation.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Well, the food's still gonna get cold.

 

The sun sinks below the distant hills.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Ever wonder if there's really life out there?

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Not no more.

 

Without turning around, Gretchen smiles.

                                                GRETCHEN

                So you've found the truth?

 

Ruffin's eyes glaze over black for a moment.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I found the truth.

 

Gretchen turns around and leans back on the railing.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                And what is your version of the truth?

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Home's where you hang your heart.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Don't you mean, "Home is where the heart is"?

 

Ruffin shrugs. He points to the food.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I made this for you. Y'gonna eat, or what?

 

Gretchen sits down. She accidentally knocks her fork off the table.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Oops. I've got it.

 

As she bends down to grab her fork, she sees Ruffin's GUN loose in its holster.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Got it.

                                (blows it off)

                Good as new.

                                (smiles)

                So, Ruffin, tell me about yourself. Have you always lived in Valhalla Springs?

 

Through a monstrous mouthful of food, Ruffin tries to talk. Bits of food fall from his mouth into his short beard.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Everyone's been here for as long as I can remember.

                                                GRETCHEN

                Have you ever been anywhere else?

 

Ruffin shrugs noncommitally.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Outside of New Mexico?

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Doesn't matter, really. Always come back here. Always come back home.

 

Ruffin points to the chicken on her plate.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I cooked it myself. Try it.

 

Gretchen takes a small bite. The bitter taste burns her tongue. She smiles graciously.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Mmmm.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                I knew it. I knew you'd love it.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Ruffin, dear, could you run downstairs and get me some more water? I'm very thirsty.

 

Ruffin nearly knocks his chair over in excitement.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                You bet.

 

Ruffin disappears down the stairwell. Gretchen searches for a place to dispose of her meal.

 

A SHADOW appears behind her.

 

                                                MATTHIAS (O.S.)

                You shouldn't have come.

 

Gretchen gasps and whirls around.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Matthias!

 

She reaches out to him, but he holds up his hands, stopping her.

                                                MATTHIAS

                I told you not to come. I left a note.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                You wrote that I would never understand, and that I should never try to.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                There's a stiff toll when you drive The Devil's Highway.

 

Matthias picks up the chicken from her plate. he takes a huge bite of it and sets it back in place.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                Leave now. Don't pack. Don't shower. Don't tell anyone. Just go.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Why?

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                When the sun disappears below the horizon ...

 

The sun disappears below the horizon.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                ... too late.

 

He whirls and jumps off the edge of the roof. Gretchen looks down after him, but he's gone.

 

The breeze carries a whisper, "LEAVE A TOY."

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS (O.S.)

                Here we go. Water for the lady.

 

He looks over to Gretchen and smiles. Then his smile becomes much more menacing. His eyes darken slightly.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                You're still here. Good.

 

Gretchen backs up a step and bumps into the railing.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Good, why?

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Eat. You'll need your strength.

 

Gretchen walks quickly past him.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I think I want to go now.

 

He lunges out and grabs her hand, holding her fast.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Stay and watch the stars with me. It'll be very romantic.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I don't want romance.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Oh, but I think you do.

 

His demeanor changes radically. He stands and towers over Gretchen. He takes her by the shoulders and turns her to face East.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Let me go.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Look at all the pretty stars.

 

A STAR winks at Gretchen, then races wildly around in a chaotic dance. Two other stars join it.

 

Then the glowing lights grow huge as they get nearer and nearer.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What is going on here?

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Daddy's coming home.

 

Gretchen pulls away from Ruffin and runs down the stairs.

 

INT  MOTEL ROOM - CONTINUING

 

Gretchen locks the door and puts a chair in front of it. Her breath comes in panicked gasps.

 

She pulls the shades, but it does nothing to block the intense light from just outside.

 

Echoing metallically on the violent wind outside, the word, "TOYS" repeats over and over.

Gretchen digs into her duffel bag and pulls out a BARBIE DOLL. She throws it on the bed.

 

Outside, a high pitched gurgling noise intensifies over the Motel.

 

Gretchen's eyes race wildly as she curls up against the wall, just below the window. Suddenly, her face calms, and she smiles. Her eyelids droop heavily and she slumps to the floor.

 

Intense light penetrates the doorframe and enters the room. The doorknob turns, and the deadbolt clicks open.

 

A gentle wind stirs the hair around Gretchen's face. Her entire skin is bathed with bright light. Her eyes open a crack, then widen in fear.

 

A gray-skinned hand reaches out and touches her face. She slumps down again, completely paralyzed. Her mouth moves in silent terror.

 

An excited chirping / buzzing fills the room. Gretchen's back arches as if in pain, and her mouth trembles in an unheard scream.

 

INT  MOTEL ROOM - NIGHT

 

Gretchen awakens underneath the covers of the bed. She licks her dry lips, finding an unpleasant taste in her mouth.

 

She looks down and sees her clothing on the floor.

 

At the foot of her bed is the Barbie Doll, completely undressed.

 

Gretchen pulls the covers tightly around herself for protection.

 

EXT  MOTEL ROOM - MORNING

 

Gretchen opens her door and looks out into the street. A few children play in the distance. No sign of any of last night's events.

 

Then she looks out to the Motel parking lot. It's empty. Her car is nowhere to be seen.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Hey. What in the ninth level of Gehenna is going on here?

 

INT  GENERAL STORE - CONTINUING

 

Gretchen enters, her clothing disheveled, and her hair a mess.

                                                GRETCHEN

                Where's my car?

 

Agnes smiles good morning at her. But she says nothing.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Where is my car?

 

Neira brings up some cereal from the back room to stock on the shelves.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Good morning, Gretchen. Did you sleep well?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Something really freaky is going on around here. Somebody stole my car.

 

                                                NEIRA

                That's strange. No, you must be mistaken. I would have heard the engine if that had happened.

 

Neira kneels down and stocks her merchandise.

 

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                You look like you've had a rough night. Why don't you take Gretchen for a walk in the hills, Neira?

 

                                                NEIRA

                You'll be okay here?

 

                                                AGNES BARTOLOME

                Go. It's not like I've never kept a store before. Go on. Scat, you two, or I'll make you both work.

 

Neira takes Gretchen's elbow and leads her outside.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Neira, I really need to know what's going on here.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Not here. There's too many people listening. We'll talk out there.

 

Neira looks Gretchen over.

                                                NEIRA

                You might want to put on some new clothes, those ones look a little worn.

 

Gretchen looks down at her clothes. Several perfectly cut holes open up in her shirt and pants.

 

INT  MOTEL ROOM - CONTINUING

 

Neira picks up the Barbie Doll as Gretchen ducks into the bathroom to change.

 

                                                GRETCHEN (O.S.)

                You want to tell me what's up with Ruffin?

 

                                                NEIRA

                What do you mean? He's a little slow, I'll grant you that -

 

                                                GRETCHEN (O.S.)

                He's psycho.

 

Neira holds up Barbie's clothes. Her shirt and pants have identical holes to Gretchen's clothing.

 

                                                NEIRA

                So you like Barbie, huh?

 

                                                GRETCHEN (O.S.)

                It was a present. They said the dark hair was the same color as mine.

 

She emerges from the bathroom.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Close.

 

Gretchen takes the doll from Neira.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Something happened last night.

 

                                                NEIRA

                With Ruffin?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I don't know. I don't even know how to start talking about it.

                                                NEIRA

                If it was Ruffin, I want to hear everything.

 

She sits down eagerly on the corner of the bed. Her excited eyes betray her every emotion.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Sometimes I look at him, and I think he is so hot.

 

Gretchen slips a belt through her belt loops and cinches it tight.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I've interviewed probably a dozen people, but I never thought it would happen to me.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Come on, don't be shy. 'Fess up.

 

Gretchen takes a deep breath and holds on to her doll for support.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I think I may have had a close encounter last night.

 

                                                NEIRA

                With Ruffin?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                No. With something else. Something not of this world. A really CLOSE encounter.

 

Understanding registers in Neira's eyes and she looks around, as if hearing somebody.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Come on. I'll take you someplace where we can talk.

 

EXT  HALCYON FLATS - MORNING

 

Gretchen and Neira overlook a huge bowl-shape, hollowed out of solid rock. A solitary worn path leads from the hollow toward the distant town.

 

Crickets chirp and the breeze blows warm against their faces.

                                                NEIRA

                That's Halcyon Flats. We can talk there.

 

As they step from the dirt onto the solid rock, all sound ceases. Not even a whisper disturbs the stillness of this place.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Whoa. What just happened?

 

                                                NEIRA

                This is a special place. No one can hear us here.

 

Neira takes Gretchen by the arm and leads her to the center of the hollow.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Tell me again what happened.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                It's really hard for me to say. There was a bright light outside. I heard some noises. Then it was like I fell asleep, or something.

 

Gretchen stops and looks questioningly at Neira.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I heard voices in my head. They were telling me that I should not be afraid, that I had been chosen because I was special.

 

Hairs rise on Gretchen's neck as she recounts the horrible memory.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I couldn't talk. I couldn't scream. I felt something pierce into my back and right into my heart.

 

Her voice breaks up as the emotions grab ahold of her again.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                They did something to me. They took something from me.

                                                NEIRA

                What did they take from you, Gretchen?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                That's just it, I don't know. But something's missing. In here, something's missing. I can feel it.

 

Neira rolls up her sleeves to show what appear to be tattoos on her upper arms.

 

                                                NEIRA

                The Toy Stealers always get what they want. Look.

 

Gretchen looks intently at the tattoos on Neira's arm. She reaches her finger out to touch them, but stops just short of the skin.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Go ahead. Feel.

 

Gretchen feels the skin.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                It doesn't feel like a tattoo.

 

                                                NEIRA

                It's not. It's burned in there. I woke up one morning after a horrible nightmare ... and they were there. Branded.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                When I woke up last night, I was ... well, you saw the Barbie.

 

Neira nods slowly.

 

                                                NEIRA

                They chose you.

 

A smile grows on Neira's face.

 

                                                NEIRA

                They chose You.

                                (laughs)

                Oh wow. This is incredible. They chose YOU.

 

Neira hugs Gretchen and laughs.

                                                NEIRA

                Of all the girls here in town, you were the one deemed worthy.  You, Gretchen, are the chosen one.

 

Gretchen steps back, the silence echoing painfully in her ears.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What if I don't want it?  What if I don't want to be the chosen one?

 

                                                NEIRA

                It doesn't work like that.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                But what if it did?

 

                                                NEIRA

                You'll love it.  Queen for a day, they say.

 

Gretchen squints at the sun high in the sky.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Queen, huh?  So that means they do what I say. No questions?

 

                                                NEIRA

                If you get the glory, you'll know the story.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Nattie'll love this. He's my boss.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Go ahead. Call him. Try.

 

Gretchen dials on her cell phone.  It's dead.  No signal, not even the face lights up.

 

                                                NEIRA

                Dead.

 

Neira skips away, giggling. As she passes the edge of Halcyon Flats, she pauses.  Her eyes go black momentarily.

 

She turns and gestures back toward the town.

 

                                                NEIRA

                They like toys.

                                                GRETCHEN

                What do you mean, they like toys? Neira? Come back.

 

Gretchen runs to the top of the bowl, but Neira is already at the bottom of the rise.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I'm going over Nattie's head for this. Weekly World News gets the straight scoop from Gretchen Holdir on this one.

                                (looks at cell phone)

                It's working.

 

Gretchen looks back at the stillness of Halcyon Flats.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Queen for a day. Cool.

 

EXT  GENERAL STORE - EVENING

 

Matthias munches on stale popcorn from an old box.

 

Gretchen emerges from the motel across the street. She shakes out her hair and glances over at Matthias.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What brought you here?

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                                (lifting popcorn)

                The food.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I looked everywhere for you. Why'd you run out on me? I thought we had something good.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                I had other obligations.

 

Gretchen sits down next to Matthias. He squints against the setting sun.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What was her name?  Was she worth it? We were rock solid for nine months. That's serious commitment there. Then I wake up and you're gone.

                                                MATTHIAS

                Did you get the ring?

 

Gretchen holds out her hand. The silver ring glistens on her ring finger.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                Wrong place for it. Not that type of ring.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I would have said yes.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                And now?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Now? I think I'd like some popcorn.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                It's old.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                I would like some popcorn please.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                You wouldn't like it.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Try me.

 

Gretchen reaches into the box. She pulls out some old popcorn, but her hands come out covered in cobwebs and dust.

 

Matthias keeps eating.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Stop it. Matthias, you're going to get sick.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                Hope so.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Matthias, stop this. You're not making any sense to me. You walk out on our perfect relationship without a word -

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                I wrote.

                                                GRETCHEN

                Yeah, one stupid, senseless note saying goodbye. That's not what I mean. You know it.

 

Matthias shakes the box to prove that it's empty.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                Finished?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Yeah.

 

Matthias gets up and walks away.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Wait. I meant no. Where are you going?

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                I'm where I'm gonna be. See ya, kid.

 

Gretchen pulls out her notebook from her pocket.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Fine. Tell me one thing, and I'll leave you alone.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                One thing?

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Just one. Tell me the truth.

 

Matthias looks beyond Gretchen, then steps very close. His voice drops to almost a conspiratorial whisper.

 

                                                MATTHIAS

                The truth? It's all true.

 

Winks, and walks away.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                What kind of answer -

 

She turns around and bumps into Ruffin.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                That fella giving you problems. I can toss 'im in the cooler again. But he'll just get out. Strangest thing. Can never seem to keep him locked in anything.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                He has a way of getting out of things.

 

Ruffin runs his hand through his greasy hair.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Neira tells me you got chosed.

 

                                                GRETCHEN

                Yeah, I wanted someone to tell me what all this business is about being Queen for a day.

 

                                                RUFFIN COOMBS

                Queen for a day? That's a laugh. Well, I guess some girls'll do what it takes to narrow the field.

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