Witch One Did It?

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.

FADE IN:

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.

DAN

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.

DAN (CONT’D)

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.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

(scowls)

About damn time you got here, Dan. I want that woman arrested.

The mayor stabs his finger towards Josie.

DAN

(sighs)

What did she do this time? The mayor’s face darkens with anger.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

(sputtering)

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.

JOSIE

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.

DAN

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.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

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.

DAN

Satanic symbol? Did you actually see Josie paint it? Was anyone else at home?

MAYOR SHANTWELL

(angry)

That woman and her dilapidated shack are a menace to this town. She and her kind need to go.

(MORE)

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?

JOSIE

My kind? You mean organic farmers? Beekeepers? Or women in general? Which is it, Shantwell?

(beat)

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.

DAN

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.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

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?

DAN

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.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

(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.

DAN

Hello, Philip. The mayor tells me you got here early this morning. Did you see anyone or anything?

PHILIP

(stutters)

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.

DAN

I think I’ve got all I need from here, sir. Can you tell me why you think Josie is behind this?

MAYOR SHANTWELL

(smirking)

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.

DAN

(nods slowly)

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.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

I do.

(beat)

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.

DAN

You’ve got a really nice lawn.

The mayor beams with pride.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

It’s the special fertilizer and weed killer mixture I use. I’d be happy to mix you up a batch.

DAN

Hmmm. Probably not good for organic produce or bees.

(beat)

Listen, I sure could use a cup of coffee while I figure out my next step.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

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.

DAN

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.

DAN (CONT’D)

Oh, hell. I’ve got grass on my pants. I don’t want to track it all over your house. Where’s your trash?

MAYOR SHANTWELL

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.

DAN

I won’t be pressing charges against Josie.

The mayor slams his cup down on the counter.

MAYOR SHANTWELL

Josie Whitaker and her farm are a thorn in my side. If you won’t do it, I’ll find someone who will.

DAN

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.

JOSIE

For just a moment, I thought I was going to jail.

DAN

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.

JOSIE

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.

JOSIE (CONT’D)

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.

DAN

I never assume guilt or innocence based upon a person’s income or lifestyle.

(MORE)

DAN (CONT’D)

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.

JOSIE

(nods)

It still doesn’t explain how you knew it was the mayor.

DAN

(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.

JOSIE

(smiles)

Ah. My flock of chickens saves me from the slammer.

Dan laughs.

DAN

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.

JOSIE

Why frame me?

DAN

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.

DAN (CONT’D)

I guess you can take the lawman from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the lawman.

FADE OUT.

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Character profile: Clint Mason

A reader asked me about my character, Clint, and why he didn’t want a commitment. In my mind, Clint is a character who carries the burden of his youth and his past on his shoulders. It colors how he sees the world and views relationships. His parents had an unhealthy marriage which has now skewed Clint’s view on all romantic relationships. Phee’s flaw is that she thinks she can fix him. She has the rose-colored idea that if she loves him enough, it will fix what’s broken inside of him. I think this is a reflection on many real-life relationships, so I wanted to show it in my characters. The question that I, as the writer, must decide is should Clint change as a character or should Phee change how she views him and love him anyway? Decisions, decisions. We’ll reveal more of Phee and Clint in my next book –

Couple hand by hand at Sunset.

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Eyebrow Cyclops

(Unedited preview – may contain errors.)

A short excerpt from Permanently Deleted.  Phee has rescued a puppy named Fritz.

 

An hour later, I was at Paws n Claws Veterinary Clinic. My parents had been taking our Irish Setter, Hamlet, there for years and Dr. Vicki Betters had squeezed Fritz into her busy schedule.

Dr. Betters ran her hands over Fritz’s shaggy frame. She checked his ears and teeth and listened to his heart. “He appears to be about six months old. I’d guess he’s a mix between a Jack Russell and a long-haired Dachshund. He’s malnourished, but otherwise, he’s in good health. I’d definitely take him to a groomer to get these mats cut and for a good bath. Are you planning to keep him?”

“I think Ferdinand would never forgive me if I didn’t. He meowed up a storm until I went outside and found him.”

“He’s found his forever home,” Dr. Better said and smiled. “I’ll give him his first round of shots and a dewormer. You’ll need to bring him back in a few weeks for the second round of shots and a weight check, but I think he’ll be fine.”

Half an hour later, Fritz and I were back in Velma and heading downtown. He had a bone between his paws. The girls in the front office at the vet’s had insisted he needed a treat for being so brave when he got his shots. I pulled into a parking spot in front of Tinted Love Beauty Salon.  Kimmie and Kristin were the owners of the beauty salon slash dog grooming salon.  Since they were the only place in town that cut hair besides the barber shop, most people didn’t mind that they did dog’s hair in the back of the shop.

I opened the door of the shop and Fritz and I walked in.  Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach blared in the shop. Kimmie, the older sister, sat on a salon chair reading a gossip magazine. She hopped up when she saw me. Her short hair was shaved on one side and sported a bright shade of magenta on the remaining long lock that fell over her left eye.

“What’s up, Phee? Who’s this little guy?” Kimmie asked.

“This is Fritz. I rescued him. Dr. Betters checked him over, and she suggested I have a professional cut out all these mats. Can you fit him in on your schedule today?”

“Sure can, baby doll. Come here, Fritzie Witzie. Give Auntie Kimmie some sugar.” Kimmie took Fritz’s leash and picked him up. “I’ll have him looking like a GQ dog model in about thirty minutes. You want to wait? Kristin’s finishing up a manicure, so she can do something about those caterpillars you have growing over your eyeballs.”

My hand went to my eyebrows. “What’s wrong with my eyebrows?”

“Darling, Brooke Shields is so yesterday with the brows. You need some shaping and some thinning. Kristin will hook you up.”

“Papa, don’t preach! I’m in trouble deep! Papa, don’t preach…tra la I don’t know the rest of the words…la la la la la,” Kristin caterwauled. The woman whose nails she was polishing grimaced at the off key singing.

“Who’s that?” I asked Kimmie. I hadn’t seen the woman in town before, and she didn’t look like one of the protester.

“Her name is Elizabeth Shields and she is with the feds,” Kimmie hissed. “The FBI feds. She’s here helping investigate some kinds of financial hinky dinky going on with some business. I only know this because my cousin Grace works at the hotel where she’s staying. FYI, she knows your man, Clint. Rumor has it they were eating dinner together the other night. Everything alright between you two?”

“We’re fine. It was probably business.”

Kimmie gave me a doubtful look. Heck. The words didn’t even ring true to my own ears. Clint did say he didn’t want a commitment. Guess he was making sure I believed him. Kimmie gestured for me to take a seat and carried Fritz to the back of the salon.  A few minutes later, Kristin put the nail dryer over the agent’s hands and motioned me to a chair.

“What’s up, girl? Kimmie wasn’t kidding when she said those brows could use some love. Not tainted love either!” Kristin let out a loud guffaw of laughter at her own joke. Where her older sister was all eighties glam, Kristin was 1950s rockabilly. Both girls, however, loved karaoke and a good time and their vast array of song lyrics in their head never ceased to amaze me.

“I guess I haven’t been loving my brows. Who knew they were so needy?” I sat down and closed my eyes as she cleaned the area on my brow bone.

“How’s Clint? I bet he’s busy with this latest murder? I heard they were holding Nellie Jo as a suspect.” Kristin applied wax to one brow and seconds later, she ripped off the muslin causing me to jump out of my seat.

“Nellie had to be questioned since she’s his wife. Clint and I are good. Both of us have been busy with work and stuff,” I said nonchalantly.

Kristin applied wax to the other brow. A second later, I felt her arm jostle against me as she went to yank the second strip of muslin. “Oh crap! Oh crap!”

I opened my eyes. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I am so sorry,” Elizabeth Shields said. “I’m such a clumsy person.” She shrugged and gave me a sheepish smile.

“Phee, don’t look. I can fix it,” Kristin squeaked. “I can.” She pressed the muslin back against my brow and frantically patted it.

“Fix what?” I asked. I turned my chair to look into the mirror. I had a unibrow. As in, one eyebrow over one eye. No eyebrow over the other. “Oh my sweet pepper of paella! My eyebrow is gone!”

“It’s my fault. I was looking down at my nails and accidentally bumped Kristin. I really am sorry,” Elizabeth apologized again. If she was so sorry, why did she have a triumphant gleam to her eyes?

“It’s okay. I’m sure Kristin will fix it,” I said smoothly. No way was I going to let this polished, blonde federal agent know that inside my voice was screaming Eyebrow Cyclops!

“Your Clint’s friend, Phee, aren’t you? I’m Elizabeth Shields. He told me about you,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve got to run. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee next time I run into you to make up for this.” She strolled out the shop door.

“That little…!” Kristin fumed. “Phee, I swear she did it on purpose. There’s more than enough room for her to walk past me. I’ll fix it though.”

“How?” I said. “I look like a…a freak!” I wanted to cry, but I knew if I did, Kristin would fall apart. It wasn’t her fault.

“I’ll give you bangs!” Kristin said. “Yeah! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you long bangs that you can wear swooped down over one eye to hide the missing eyebrow until it grows back.”

“Like Veronica Lake?” I said with a small hint of hope that I wouldn’t be a social pariah for the next six weeks.

“I don’t know who that is, but sure.” Kristin pulled out her scissors and began to cut on my hair.  A few minutes later, she twirled my chair around to show me my new hairdo. She had managed to get my unruly red hair to fall into a natural looking swoop over my left eye. Although it didn’t hide the missing eyebrow entirely, it did make it a little less noticeable.

“I can live with it,” I said. “Worse comes to worst, I’ll hide in a dark room for the next month.”

“I am so sorry, Phee. I swear she bumped me on purpose. You can use a pencil to try to draw an eyebrow on if you think it will help. ”

“I believe you. Somehow I think Miss Elizabeth Shields, federal agent, was trying to intimidate me. Well, Ophelia Jefferson is nobody’s doormat!”

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