I made it to Round 2 of the NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge. My assignment? An 8-page mystery with a vandalism and the mayor as one of the characters. This is my interpretation of the challenge.
Disclaimer: Transferring from my script writing software to the blog is horrible on formatting, so apologies!
Witch One Did It?
When Sheriff Dan
Foster receives a call that someone committed vandalism and witchcraft on the
mayor’s property, he must use his investigative skills to solve the crime.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
A man and woman are asleep in a king-sized bed when a cell phone on the nightstand buzzes. The sound rouses DAN FOSTER, an older man with gray hair and a tanned face etched with too many lines for his age. He grabs the phone, looks at the screen, then answers it.
Sheriff Foster here. This better be worth waking me up on my day off, Deputy, or your ass will be patrolling the road to the dump for the next month.
Dan listens to the caller. He sits up and rubs his hand over the stubble on his chin and sighs.
Witchcraft? Tell the mayor I’ll be there in fifteen.
Dan sets the phone down. He turns on the lamp next to him and picks up the pair of pants he had dropped on the floor the night before and pulls them on.
EXT. LARGE FAUX ANTEBELLUM BRICK HOUSE – LATER
Dan pulls his cruiser up to the house. MAYOR SHANTWELL, a balding man in his early sixties with a slight paunch, stands on the steps. The mayor has a bathrobe tied tightly around his waist and old, paint-splattered sneakers on his feet.
JOSIE WHITAKER, a tall woman wearing jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, stands off to the side with her arms crossed.
Dan steps out of his car and walks over to them. Mayor Shantwell looks pointedly at his expensive watch.
About damn time you got here, Dan. I want that woman arrested.
The mayor stabs his finger towards Josie.
What did she do this
time? The mayor’s face darkens
What did she do? She not only vandalized my property, but she put a curse on me, too. The Bible says thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, and it was talking about her! This town doesn’t need her or her granola-eating cronies.
Josie uncrosses her arms and takes a step towards the mayor.
Listen, you pompous little toad! This isn’t the Dark Ages, and no one did jack shit to you! I want you to arrest him for being a stain upon humanity and Mother Earth!
Dan steps between Josie and the mayor. He puts his hands up to stop them from moving closer to each other.
Both of you calm down. I’m not arresting anyone until I find out what happened.
(turns to Mayor Shantwell)
You tell me what’s going on.
Mayor Shantwell gives Josie a triumphant look.
I woke up around 5:30. I like to take a morning swim, so I walked outside to turn on the pool heater. That’s when I saw the Satanic mumbo jumbo. She painted a pentagram on my new pool house! She’s cursed me!
Dan holds up his hand to stop Mayor Shantwell from saying anything else.
Satanic symbol? Did you actually see Josie paint it? Was anyone else at home?
That woman and her dilapidated shack are a menace to this town. She and her kind need to go.
MAYOR SHANTWELL (CONT’D)
Are you going to take care of this, Dan, or do I need to endorse another candidate for sheriff come fall?
My kind? You mean organic farmers? Beekeepers? Or women in general? Which is it, Shantwell?
I was on my property feeding my chickens when you buffaloed your way through, trampled my herbs, and called me a witch. I’ll sue you for defamation of character!
The mayor sputters again and clenches his fists, but Dan pulls him aside before he can do anything else.
Show me the damage.
Mayor Shantwell gives one last glare at Josie before turning and walking towards his backyard.
EXT. BACKYARD – CONTINUOUS
Dan and the mayor walk to the huge swimming pool and pool house. Behind the pool house is a line of oak trees.
Dan looks around at the extensive landscaping. Shrubs are precisely trimmed. The lawn is a lush, almost unnatural, green. There are no weeds visible to the naked eye. PHILIP, a young man in a blue work uniform is trimming the hedges. The mayor stops at the back of the pool house. There is a crudely sprayed black pentagram on it. The mayor gives Dan a triumphant look.
As you can see, that woman spray- painted my pool house with the symbol of Satan. She did that, too.
The mayor turns and gestures to the row of trees behind him. Small, white objects swing from the branches.
MAYOR SHANTWELL (CONT’D)
Witchcraft! What are you going to do about it?
Now, hold on. Anyone else around who might have seen anything? Your wife? The gardener?
Dan nods toward Philip who has been moving closer to the two of them while they spoke.
(shaking his head)
Wife’s been out of town for weeks. She’s visiting some ashram trying to find herself or some other foolishness. Philip got here right after I discovered the damage. He’s a good kid. Punctual. I gave him a job when his daddy died last year. I’m telling you it was Josie Whitaker.
Dan leaves the mayor’s side and walks over to Philip.
Hello, Philip. The mayor tells me you got here early this morning. Did you see anyone or anything?
N-no, sir. I d-didn’t see anything. Miss Whitaker was outside feeding her chickens.
(leans in and whispers)
But I don’t think Miss Whitaker d- did it. She’s a n-nice woman.
EXT. ROW OF OAK TREES – MOMENTS LATER
Beyond the trees is a woven wire fence that surrounds an old farmhouse with peeling paint. There is a small field filled with vegetables and herbs. Beehives line one side of the field. Chickens with funny tufts of feathers at their neckline peck along the fence.
Dan walks over to the hanging objects. This close, he sees they are white eggs with small stick figures wrapped and hung with twine. Dan looks closely at each of them. He walks to the fence and gazes at the farmhouse. After a moment, he squats down and grabs a handful of grass and holds it through the fence to a hen. She snatches it from his hand. Dan puts a few pieces of grass into his pocket then stands.
Dan returns to the mayor.
I think I’ve got all I need from here, sir. Can you tell me why you think Josie is behind this?
That fence beyond my trees marks my property line as well as the town limits.
The mayor points to the fence.
MAYOR SHANTWELL (CONT’D)
She’s pissed off because the council wants to incorporate her farm and the surrounding properties into the town limits. That will change the zoning from agricultural to residential. Great opportunities for new subdivisions with HOAs.
Bigger tax base means growth.
She won’t be able to have her chickens or beehives. Don’t you own the land to the west of her property, too?
The mayor gestures for Dan to walk with him back to the house.
Dan, you have to have vision as a leader. Cedar’s Edge might be a small town now, but it could become a bedroom community for the city.
Bigger and better. It will be great. It could mean new patrol cars and officers for you.
Dan doesn’t respond to the mayor’s thinly-veiled hint. Instead, he looks down at the grass.
You’ve got a really nice lawn.
The mayor beams with pride.
It’s the special fertilizer and weed killer mixture I use. I’d be happy to mix you up a batch.
Hmmm. Probably not good for organic produce or bees.
Listen, I sure could use a cup of coffee while I figure out my next step.
Sure. Come on into the house, Dan.
INT. MAYOR SHANTWELL’S KITCHEN – MOMENTS LATER
The kitchen is a gleaming testament to a designer’s dream of modernism from the stainless steel appliances to the white marble counter tops and black cabinets. It’s spotless.
The mayor opens a cupboard and grabs two black coffee mugs. A state-of-the-art coffee machine sits on the counter. The mayor pushes a few buttons, and moments later, he hands Dan a mug of hot coffee.
You have any creamer or milk?
The mayor gestures towards the refrigerator. Dan opens it and looks around the nearly empty interior. He pulls out a small carton of creamer and places it on the counter, a hint of a smile on his face. Checking to make sure the mayor can’t see, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the tuft of grass.
Oh, hell. I’ve got grass on my pants. I don’t want to track it all over your house. Where’s your trash?
In that tall cabinet to your left. The maid comes today, so no worries about the floor. She’s paid good money to clean it.
Dan opens the indicated cabinet where he sees
a stainless steel trash can. Popping it open, he
looks in, then he drops
the grass into it.
I won’t be pressing charges against Josie.
The mayor slams his cup down on the counter.
Josie Whitaker and her farm are a thorn in my side. If you won’t do it, I’ll find someone who will.
You don’t want to do that. You wouldn’t want the truth about today to come to the attention of the rest of the town, would you?
EXT. LARGE FAUX ANTEBELLUM BRICK HOUSE – LATER
Dan and Josie walk to Dan’s car. Josie turns and shakes his hand.
For just a moment, I thought I was going to jail.
My wife would make me sleep outside for a month. She loves that herbal tea mixture she gets from you.
Helps her insomnia better than those pills from Doc Calvert.
Sometimes the old ways are more effective than the new. Tell Anna to come see me on Saturday at the farmer’s market for a new batch.
Josie starts to leave, but she hesitates. She turns back to Dan.
I don’t get it. How did you know I didn’t do it? The mayor’s a powerful, wealthy man who runs the show, and I’m…well, I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
I never assume guilt or innocence based upon a person’s income or lifestyle.
You’re no more a witch than I am. I know you love your herbal remedies and organic produce, but that makes you more of a hippie than a witch.
It still doesn’t explain how you knew it was the mayor.
(holding up three fingers) One, he was fully dressed under his robe and had his watch on despite saying he swims first thing. Two, I spotted black paint on his shoes.
Three, the eggs were white.
Ah. My flock of chickens saves me from the slammer.
Your Aracauana chickens only lay blue and green eggs, not white. His refrigerator contained creamer and a takeout container of Chinese food. Nothing else, not even condiments, yet he had an empty egg carton on top of the trash.
Why frame me?
Your farm stands in the way of progress as far as he’s concerned. He wanted to discredit you in front of the town council to push through his expansion and rezoning plan.
Dan opens his car door but stops and turns back to Josie.
I guess you can take the lawman from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the lawman.