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4. All the Things You Could Have Been if Not for Me
Part 4. A play about people who are tied together for better and worse, by family, love, hate and fate.
DAVID OLDMAN. Mid-fifties, libertarian broadcaster.
JANET SMAIL. Early-fifties, David’s long-time producer.
SOPHIE WILLIS. Thirties, barrister, David’s daughter.
MIKE VAN KLEE. Thirties, well-known actor, Sophie’s partner.
TIA MERCER. Thirties, struggling content creator, Sophie’s best friend.
TAMA THOREAU. Thirties, author, isolationist.
It’s set in the present.
Mike asks Sophie to marry him. She says no, and that throws his life plans into a spin.
Tia hasn’t been able to cash in on the iconic photo she took of isolationist writer Tama Thoreau. She tries to monetize her relationship with old friends Sophie and Mike - and that doesn’t work either.
Tama finds a body in the bush. It’s a woman who’s head has been blown off with a shotgun (kind of like his….)
INT. POLICE INTERVIEW ROOM.
TAMA sits in a chair, facing a camera that projects its live feed.
TAMA If I killed her, why would I ring it in? Why would I walk out of the bush and lead you to her, and cover her body so the pigs didn’t get there first. What? Not you. The literal pigs. Mate. I have no idea. Since that photo came out the place has been crawling with people. I’d get two or three a week. Last month I had a group. A group who came to talk to me about ‘eco-techno-isolationism.’ Some bullshit. They were students. I’m just a guy who wants to live by himself. In peace. Yes, I found it very frustrating, and you know what I decided to do? You wish. No. I decided to move. I decided to pack up and go deeper, somewhere else, fall off the map again. Never met her. She was unknown to me. I’m very sorry about her death. I had to find her body like that. She was shot. No. I don’t think it was an accident. Because a stray bullet doesn’t hit you in the back of the head from point blank range. Because I shoot my tucker, that’s how I know. How do you think I felt? I was shit scared. Because as far as I knew there was someone out there could have been trying to kill me too. Give me some credit, OK. I don’t need to say anything to you. But I am. Because I didn’t think I was going to be interrogated as a suspect. Because I’m not guilty of anything except being a decent member of society. Man. How weird is that?
INT. TIA’S APARTMENT.
Tia sits cross-legged on the floor of her unfurnished apartment, typing on her laptop. Her screen is projected for the audience to see. There is a bottle of vodka within easy reach. Her browser is open, and displaying the contact form of a globally respected periodical
The pre-filled are:
Name: Tia Mercer
Subject: Discoverer of Tama Thoreau Willing to Break Silence
In the ‘message’ box, Tia types.
TIA I am the photographer who discovered Tama Thoreau’s whereabouts and took the iconic image that led to the world knowing his location and starting to visit him on mass. In light of the recent unfortunate incident, I now feel it is in the public interest that I reveal how I came to find him, and what happened during my overnight experience in his house. Please contact me to arrange an exclusive interview and discuss compensation.
She deletes “and discuss compensation.” She replaces it with.
TIA ASAP. I am currently fielding alot of interest from other media, but I wish only to talk to the best.
The anti-spam question asks her 3 + 5 =
She types 9. She deletes it. She types 8.
She presses ‘submit’.
She breathes. She reaches for the vodka.
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM.
TAMA sits in a chair, facing a camera that projects its live feed.
RICHARD (played by David) leads Sophie into a room where TAMA sits in cuffs. A video camera points at him and his face is projected on the back wall.
SOPHIA Thanks Richard.
RICHARD If you don’t mind, I’d like to sit in with you on this.
SOPHIE You remind me of my father, do you know that?
RICHARD You’re very kind.
SOPHIE It’s not a complement. Fuck off and let me speak with my client.
RICHARD Always a pleasure, Ms. Willis.
SOPHIE Take off his cuffs before you go.
RICHARD What’s he got to lose? He’s facing life in jail, he’s got a record this thick.
SOPHIE Do it. Now.
Richard slowly moves across to TAMA and undoes his cuffs. Richard gets close to TAMA and whispers something inaudible in his ear. TAMA doesn’t react.
SOPHIE Goodbye Richard.
Before he leaves...
RICHARD Panic button’s here. I’m checking in every 10 minutes. Suicide watch.
Sophie waits for him to go. TAMA sits looking at her. Sophie turns off the video camera. They’re alone.
SOPHIE I’m Sophie Willis. The court’s appointed me to defend you.
TAMA I don’t want a lawyer. I’m not dignifying this bull-- by participating.
TAMA’s trying not to get angry and trying not to swear.
SOPHIE You’re participating. Whether you like it or not.
TAMA I go as far away from other people as it is possible to go. Then that - - tracks me down and the next week, the next --ing week it’s the most popular hiking trail in the whole country.
SOPHIE Who’s Tama Thoreau?
SOPHIE Who’s Jason Walker?
TAMA shakes his head.
TAMA I stopped being him when I left for the bush.
Sophie places a thick file in front of him.
SOPHIE He’s the one who’s being charged with murder.
TAMA’s head sinks in dejection.
SOPHIE Tama, I’m really, really good at what I do. I’ve been on both sides of this system. I understand your situation.
He smiles and shakes his head softly. She opens her briefcase, takes out a new, red notebook. She places a pen on top of it and slides it towards him. He stares at it.
SOPHIE I know you’re not good at talking. I know how you feel most comfortable expressing yourself. So, this is what we’re going to do. We’re both going to tell your story in one sentence, in our own ways, at the same time. Then we’re going to evaluate to see if we’re a fit. Ready?
He thinks for a moment, then pulls the notebook towards himself.
TAMA (writing) I didn’t kill that girl.
SOPHIE (simultaneous) You didn’t kill that girl.
Tama pushes the pen and notebook away.
TAMA Tell me more.
SOPHIE You never saw her in your life until you came across her body in the bush. But once you did, you knew you were in big trouble. Because in this environment - society - you are known to be a very angry person. You are known to lash out. And when you do, for some reason the people on the receiving end are women. Your mother, teachers, girlfriends, an employer, random people in the street. You don’t dislike women, there just haven’t been many men in your life. Unless it’s boot camp, or a building site, then they’re the ones who are hitting you, but that never makes it into here.
She points to the thick file.
SOPHIE A few years back, in your mid-twenties when you’re on your last, last strike before jail, a psychologist runs some tests and it turns out you have some aptitudes you don’t even know about. Instead of talking, she makes you write, and you write and you write and you never stop writing. For the first time in your life you understand your own mind. You study, you make it into university, psychology, a masters, and it’s good, but you’re still surrounded by people, and you know yourself so well by now that you know you can’t be trusted around other people. You can’t trust yourself. You don’t want to hurt anyone anymore. You can build, you can farm, and you can hunt. You know tech. So, you find your place in the world, and make your life, and it’s perfect. For the first time in your life you’re happy, and your impulse is to share that happiness. And this time you make a different kind of mistake. This time it’s your strength that lets you down. You write about what you’re doing. And people take notice, and they want to know more. They start to look for you. It’s a big country but it’s not big enough. And soon, inevitably, people start dropping by. And just before you know what to do about it, this happens. So, you see? I know all about you. In fact, there’s only one thing I don’t know.
SOPHIE Will you let me help you?
TAMA I’m not sure.
SOPHIE Do you have any questions for me?
He writes. He slides the notebook over to her. She reads it and looks back at him.
SOPHIE Shoplifting, underage drinking, drug possession, suspected DUI.
Richard comes to the door and looks in. Sophie looks over at him, then looks back to TAMA.
SOPHIE Daddy issues.
Sophie and David face each other.
SOPHIE Please don’t leave a message. I don’t check them.
DAVID Sophie. I know you don’t like me. But I am your father, and I need you to hear what I have to say. I love you. I love you, Soppy and if I haven’t been able to prove that through my actions then that’s an enormous failure on my part. But I love you. And I’ll tell you how I know. Because I fear for you. And I know you don’t share my fears. In fact, sometimes I feel like I do all your worrying for you, and it’s the one thing that still connects us. Anyway, that’s... I have had utter peace of mind for... I have slept very, very well for many years because after all that shit, suddenly you’ve had your career. And you’ve had Mike. And I’ve slept like a baby. Until now. Now you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Tama Thoreau or Jason the Slasher or whatever he's called, and your decision to defend him. And I know that you’re going to think this is all about me, that I’m frustrated because I can’t talk about him on my show, but that is not a problem. Even though it’s the only thing people want to talk about, I just tell my listeners, ‘my daughter is defending him, it’s inappropriate for me to offer an opinion, and that is not to indicate my feelings in the matter either way.’ And I could have predicted, I knew you’d do a great job, and give him the best possible defence and that’s... I’m proud of you. That’s my Soppy. For better or worse when you latch onto a cause you do not let go. You’re like an Alsatian. They can’t pull you off. That’s not an insult, by the way, I love dogs.
So that’s great, that’s fine, I slept fine, throughout the whole hearing... but to have him living with you on bail? I mean. I can’t tell you anything you don’t know, I can’t tell you anything. All I can say for sure is that I’m waking up in a pool of myself. Every night. Every single night since I heard, and I’m not a superstitious man, but empirically, whenever that has happened in my life, it’s not long before I get a phone call about you and it’s always terrible news. Please Sop, I can’t face –
VOICE (V.O) Mailbox full.
David is gutted. Sophie keeps looking at him.
SOPHIE Open voicemail.
VOICE (V.O) You have one new voice message. To listen to your message press one.
DAVID Sophie. I know you don’t like me. But I am your father --
VOICE (V.O.) Message deleted. You have no more messages.
Sophie looks her father in the eye.
Sophie brings Tama home to Mike. David confronts Janet about her fading mind. Mike wins an award, and Tia crashes the party.