Monday, August 29, 2011

Andrew & The Vanishing Verkoff (iv)

[Andrew and Gabby are leaving a Mexican restaurant.]

Gabby: So what do we do now?

Andrew: [shouts over his shoulder] Find a BETTER Mexican place! [to Gabby] I can't believe they threw us out!

Gabby: They threw YOU out.


[A pause.]


[They head down the street.]

Gabby: So, Answerman, what the hell do we do next?

Andrew: Well, Gabrielle, what do YOU think we should do?

Gabby: If I knew that, I wouldn't have hired you!

Andrew: You've got a mind of your own. Apparently. You tell me.

Gabby: OK, well, I think...

[A middle-aged man emerged from a chemist and nearly bumps into them. He sees Andrew and freezes. Andrew waves. The man lets out a scream and runs into the traffic, causing much honking of horns and squealing of brakes.]

Andrew: [sighs] Ah.

Gabby: Who was that?!

Andrew: One of my satisfied customers, would you believe?

Gabby: Do all your satisfied customers run off screaming?

Andrew: Not ALL of them. But don't worry, he wasn't a case I investigated.

Gabby: Who was he then?

Andrew: A customer from my day job. [blinks] Speaking of which...

[Cut to outside Toys R Us. Andrew and Gabby approach the entrance.]

Gabby: If you have a day job, why are you trying to be a private eye?

Andrew: Because it's a day job! That's what the day job is for!

Gabby: But it's still daytime!

Andrew: [blinks] Yeah, well, I work on a casual basis. [beat] Very casual. [beat] Borderline comatose if I'm honest about it...

[They enter the store and head wander through the aisles.]

Gabby: How exactly did you get a job here anyway?

Andrew: Oh, excellent qualifications, winning personality, a well-turned trouser...

Gabby: You're wearing shorts. Well, some jeans that have been ripped up.

Andrew: Meh. Details.

Gabby: So how did you do it?

[Andrew suddenly gets interested in some boardgames.]

Andrew: Oh, er, the boss was a bit careless one Melbourne Cup. "Transvestite Orgy"-careless. Meathook convinced him to let me get a casual position without all that tedious mucking about with work experience and motivation... How many versions of Monopoly are there now? Fifty-three? It's the same game, you fools!

Gabby: Who's Meathook? A gangster?

Andrew: Huh? Uh, no. He's my dad. Sort of.

Gabby: Sort of?

Andrew: I got adopted by him a few years back. Lovely guy. He's the Warden at a prison down Campbeltown way. You'd like him.

Gabby: Really?

Andrew: You're Nigel's girlfriend, you'd like anyone.

Gabby: [frowns] What happened to your real mum and dad?

Andrew: Oh, this and that. Mostly that. [eyes widen] Get back!

[The two of them duck into the shade of some overhanging Lego sets. A store worker trudges down the aisle and passes them without looking. Andrew nudges Gabby and they emerge from hiding and creep down the aisle after the worker.]

Andrew: [conversational] Hey, Harry. Long time, no see.

[Harry doesn't turn around, but chats as if this is perfectly normal.]

Harry: Hey, Andrew Formally Known As Maddog. What can I do you for?

Andrew: You're a witness and I need your testimony.

Harry: Oh, doing the whole private eye thing again?

Andrew: Not "again". "Still". Heartbroken dame has put me on the case to find her missing beau, and you happen to have the info the boys downtown can use to put the truth in a game of musical chairs at Sing-Sing with 400 watts of direct current.

Gabby: [to Harry] Do you understand what he's saying?

Harry: Nope. But verbal communication's overrated in my estimation. Hey, Gabs.

Gabby: Oh. Um. Hey.

[They turn left into another aisle and Harry starts searching for a particular toy. Andrew helps him without asking.]

Andrew: So, you're the drummer for Yellow Fever And How To Die From It?

Harry: Used to be, Drew. We broke up.

Andrew: Harry! I told you dating Yoko was bound to have this effect! Look what she did to the Wiggles!

Harry: Meh, like I was happy doing Gangajang cover versions with that egomaniac.

Gabby: That egomaniac is my boyfriend.

[Harry stares at her.]

Harry: I know. [to Drew] What's the prob?

Andrew: Said egomaniac has disappeared and there's strong evidence he isn't just taking a couple of weeks before Denton gets an exclusive interview. Foul play is suspected.

Harry: There's nothing foul about my drumming.

Andrew: Whatever you say, Ringo. Thing is, the Big N has not been seen since your final gig at K-Mart or wherever it was. Wanna tell us what happened?

Harry: Not really, but it passes the time.

Andrew: I ever told you I admire your brutal honesty?

Harry: No. You haven't.

Andrew: [to Gabby] See? Brutal! [to Harry] What happened?

[They have the toy and head off.]

Harry: Not much. We turned up, we told Nigel the party was over, he got slightly emotional, called us all fat-faced sniveling traitors, then the jailbait nun turned up with the bucket of fish and the TNT shop dummy. We legged it. Ain't seen Nigel since.

Gabby: Didn't the police call you in for questioning?

Harry: Course they did. Whole anti-terrorism stuff. But we never saw Nigel and got released that night. Just assumed he was lying low.

Gabby: He wasn't blown up, was he?

Harry: Nope. We all got out of the main floor way before the bomb went off.

Andrew: You saw Nigel escape then?

Harry: We all took the one door through those service tunnels and stuff. But when we got out, Nigel was nowhere. Didn't leave him behind, he didn't go ahead of us. Just assumed he took a wrong turn.

Andrew: You think he could still be hiding in K-Mart?

Harry: David Jones.

Andrew: Enough of the Bowie trivia, Harry, answer the question!

Harry: I don't know. But I think all those swat teams and stuff would have found him. I reckon he found some other fire escape, slipped away into the night and is probably lying low at some science fiction convention. Probably trying to bum a role in Farscape or something.

[Andrew stares at him VERY suspiciously, then grins.]

Andrew: Thanks, man. I'd be lost without you.

Gabby: What? That's it?

Andrew: I'd trust Harry with my soul.

Harry: If you still had one.

Andrew: [shrugs] Admittedly, there is that disclaimer.

Gabby: How do we know he's not in on the conspiracy?

Harry: Well, if I were trying to lure Nigel into a trap, I don't think using someone with a very public hatred for him that he barely liked let alone trusted and then leave that someone behind working minimum wage at a toystore as a reward for services rendered, do you?

Andrew: He's got you there. We'll just have to ask the others in the band. Who are they again?

Gabby: Um, Nigel, Harry, Jadi, Tegan and Lucy.

Andrew: Damn. Tegan went to schoolies week with her girlfriend.

Harry: Lucy's in Tokyo for the next two weeks.

Andrew: [sympathetic] Still obsessed, huh?

Harry: [defensive] Just keeping an eye on her.

Gabby: And Jadi's been missing since school ended.

[Andrew stops, frowning.]

Andrew: [lost in thought] He has, hasn't he?

Gabby: Andrew?

Andrew: [snaps out of it] So Yellow Fever's last performance didn't have a bass player?

Gabby: Oh, no, Jason took over at the last minute.

Andrew: How convenient.

Harry: [to Gabby] You gotta love him when he gets like this.

Andrew: Gets like what?

Harry: All Dirk Wolf. Or was it Nero Gently? You know, the whole Sherlock Holmes thing.

Andrew: Harry, I am many things, but I am not a heroine-addicted homosexual violinist.

Harry: [to Gabby] I remember the last case we sorted out...

Gabby: Oh?

Andrew: [warning] Harry.

[Harry continues to chat to Gabby, totally oblivious to Andrew's discomfort.]

Harry: See, one recess, we were sitting on the stairs to the library, right next to the girls' toilets when there was this horrible screaming noise...

Andrew: We don't need to dicuss this, Harry.

Harry: it turns out that this year ten girl has just fainted from terror inside one of the stalls, so what we do is...

Andrew: Harry, seriously!

Harry: ...break down the door and there she is, unconscious, pants down by her ankles...

[Andrew hangs his head in his hands.]

[Much later, Harry is concluding the story. Gabby is rapt. Andrew bored shitless.]

Harry: ...and when her mum came in and saw her... well, you know, she assumed the worst and totally smacked her in the face! Told her it was very bad and dirty and all that stuff! She totally repressed the memory and became so, like, inhibited about her body the faintest glimpse of her own pubic hair caused a total anxiety attack!

Gabby: Wowwwww. [blinks] How did you find out any of this in the first place?

Andrew: [bored] You DON'T want to know.

Gabby: You don't seem happy you cracked the case.

Andrew: Why should I be? Just because I worked out what was wrong with her doesn't mean I fixed it. No happy endings, because nothing ever ends. [blinks] What the hell am I talking about?

Harry: [to Gabby] We should have that on a T-shirt.

Andrew: Where's Jason? We need to talk to him.

Harry: [shrugs] Probably filming.

Gabby: Filming? Filming what?

[Cut to a bus heading through the city. Andrew and Gabby are sitting at the back.]

Gabby: [righteous indignation] A porno?! He's filming a PORN movie!

[Some other communters glare. Andrew squirms.]

Andrew: I guess this is what it feels like when I'M the one having a rant...

Gabby: Nigel's gone missing, possibly dead, and what's he been doing? MAKING PORN!

Andrew: Well, look on the bright side.


Andrew: Maybe that's where Nigel is? Maybe he's a stunt-double...

Gabby: This isn't "Orgazmo", Drew, this is real life?

Andrew: [sighs] Rub it in. Anyway, you got enough money for a return fare?

Gabby: [checks wallet] Guess so. You know, for someone who works for free, your expenses are piling up pretty quick!

Andrew: Pah! I've been on the case for three hours and already uncovered a huge conspiracy against your beloved! At this rate, you'll be back with the Coconut Bastard by sundown - pretty good, huh?

Gabby: [worried] Wouldn't that count a happy ending?

Andrew: [grins] Not for everyone else. Come on. Our stop.

[They emerge out before a huge park next to a stadium.]

Andrew: FOX Studios! The home of the stars! The place where movies are made!

Gabby: What a dump.

[Andrew looks like he's going to argue for a moment.]

Andrew: Yeah, good point. I'm not even going to try to defend it. Let's go.

[They hurry across the park.]

Gabby: What's this film called, anyway?

Andrew: [embarrassed] Um, well, the title's SORT OF like "The first cut is the deepest". Only not.

Gabby: [rolls eyes] Classy movie.

[Dressing room. Andrew sits before a vanity mirror, squinting at his reflection.]

Andrew: All these lights, I can't see a damn thing!

[He looks for a switch, shrugs, takes off his sandal and smashes all the bulbs. He's still doing it when Jason enters, wearing a fluffy dressing gown and looking sweaty and exhausted.]

Jason: What the hell are you doing?

[Andrew continues to smash bulbs.]

Andrew: Don't mind me!

Jason: YOU! [frowns] Aren't you dead?

[Andrew grins at him.]

Andrew: Three guesses. And the first two don't count. You've gone up in the world. Or gone down on the world. Are those pick-up shots part of the plot or DVD extras?

Jason: Why are you here? You want a job or something?

Andrew: I have got a job!

Jason: [smug] Not as good as mine!

Andrew: Well, sychronized swimming in bodily fluids doesn't appeal to everyone.

Jason: Hey, there are downsides to this job! It's not all multiple orgasms, you know!

[Andrew idly steals random stuff from the dressing room.]

Andrew: It must be very hard for you. So to speak.

Jason: [groans theatrically] Don't I know it? I tell you, it feels like all my muscles have been burned by acid! I feel so weak and raw and it's only the second week of filming!

Andrew: It must be awful!

Jason: Girl after girl after girl! Retake after retake! I swear, I'm running out of precious bodily fluids at this rate!

[Andrew turns around. He's aiming a gun at Jason's face.]

Andrew: And you're about to lose a whole lot more!

Jason: [confused] Wha? Is there a reason for this?

Andrew: [icily] Where's Nigel?

Jason: [just as icy] Dunno. Don't care. And THAT is not even a real gun!

Andrew: I never said it was.

[Andrew fires. It's a water pistol. Jason screams and writhes on the chair.]

Jason: Argh! My eyes! MY eyes!

[Andrew laughs, takes some cable-ties and binds Jason to the chair. The porn star is in too much agony to resist.]

Jason: The salty pain! WHAT IS THAT STUFF?

Andrew: Lighten up, Jase! It's just lemon juice, always good to take your own to Mexican restaurants.

[He squirts some up into the air and catches it on his tongue. Then retches.]

Andrew: Oh, so THAT'S where I put the last chili shot...

Jason: Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!

[Andrew sucks the water pistol until it's empty.]

Andrew: Taste-teeee. Right, Jase.

[He throws a glassful of water at Jason's eyes and he sobs in relief.]

Jason: Thank you!

Andrew: No need for thanks. I'm here today, Jase, to give you a choice of career change.

Jason: Huh?

Andrew: It's simple. I'm going to ask you questions. Knowing your IQ is slightly lower than that velour dressing gown you wear, I'll keep the questions as simple as possible. But if you lie, or even if I think you might be holding back anything at all, there are going to be consequences and repercussions.

Jason: Like?

Andrew: Like you'll never work in the porn industry again. But I dare say you'll do wonders as a male soprano...

[Andrew holds out a mousetrap.]

Andrew: ...perhaps even a CASTRATO!

[Jason swallows.]

Jason: You wouldn't.

Andrew: I don't have to.

[Andrew crosses to the door to the dressing room and opens it. Gabby is waiting outside. She enters.]

Andrew: Jason, meet the very angry and passionate girlfriend of Nigel who will do pretty much anything she has to in order to get him back. Gabby, meet the treacherous scum-sucking bottom-feeding bastard who sold your beloved down the river.

[He hands her the mousetrap.]

Andrew: If you have a preferred testicle, Jase, I suggest you mention it now.

Jason: NO! PLEASE!

[Gabby casually primes the mousetrap.]

Jason: You can't do this to me! I'll be all... lop-sided.

Gabby: Good point. I'll do both. Balance it out!

[She puts the mousetrap on the chair, between Jason's legs.]


Gail: Where's Nigel!

Jason: I don't know! I swear I don't know!

Andrew: [angrilly] I believe you! It's been two weeks, I dare say he could be anywhere now! Where did you last see him!

Jason: At David Jones! The concert!

Gabby: Be more precise!

Jason: After the nun turned up! We ran for it!

Andrew: To the fire escapes?

Jason: Yes!

Andrew: And where did Nigel disappear to?

Jason: He... he... he went ahead of us, went down a corridor! We lost sight of him!

Gabby: [chuckles] Nigel coming first. As per usual.

[Andrew nods, then freezes and turns to look at her.]

Andrew: Wha... no! No, I didn't want to know that! No one wants to hear that! What are you doing? I'm trying to make a perp sweat here and you're trying to make me lose my not-fully-digested Mexican lunch? A bit of decorum, please!

Gabby: So-ree.

Andrew: Ugh! I feel DIRTY!

[Andrew brushes invisible filth off his shoulders, disgusted.]

Andrew: Right. Jase. You know which corridor he took, don't you? Because YOU made sure he went that way. You wanted him to end up in the right exit where someone else was waiting for him while YOU and the others got an alibi!

Jason: [whimpers] Kind of!

Gabby: [eyes widen] You really did it? You betrayed Nigel? He was your friend!

Jason: [furious] He was an asshole! He's treated me like shit since the mid-nineties! Guilt-tripped me for years about a stupid accident!

Andrew: Is that it, Jase? You've been the noble slave enduring everything for the past seven years? Never once bothering to fight back? Taking it all with stoic stoicism?

Jason: [shrugs] Yeah. Possibly.

Andrew: And you never once got any kind of reward from Nigel? Apart from the money and fame and appearing with him on Good News Week all those time? It was all just cruelty without any reward!

Jason: He treated me like a slave!

Gabby: He liked you! When you nearly drowned at Muck-Up Day, he was worried sick! He thought you were his best friend!

Jason: [bitter] Best friend! He has a funny way of treating his best friend.

Andrew: HE never betrayed you, set you up for a trap that might have been fatal. Did he?

[A beat. Jason can't look them in the eye.]

Jason: [in a small voice] No.

Gabby: Is that why you posted that postcard, warning Nigel?

Jason: Wha? What postcard?

Gabby: [shocked] You saying you DIDN'T feel guilty? You DIDN'T try to save him?

Jason: [upset] No I didn't.

Andrew: No, he didn't.

Gabby: How do YOU know?

Andrew: Because I saw who did and it wasn't Jason!

Jason: Look, Gabs, I think you might be interrogating the wrong guy here...

Gabby: SHUT UP!

[The mousetrap snaps shut. Mercifully it wasn't in position. Gabby resets it.]

Gabby: Who put you up to this?

Jason: I don't know. Honest to God. This Aboriginal lady just turned up at my door one day. Said she'd rig it so I didn't have to do the HSC, none of the exams, nothing, but I'd still pass.

Andrew: And you believed her?

Gabby: He's Jason.

Andrew: Good point. But you weren't suspicious at her generosity?

Jason: She said she wanted something for it. She told me that she wanted to know everything about Nigel, what he was doing, where he was going, everything. She already knew most of it, but I'd know all the inside last-minute stuff. Then she says she can get me this job in the porn industry, instant start!

Andrew: And in return?

Jason: She wanted me to make sure Nigel went to David Jones. She said there'd be something wierd happening and everyone would run, but I was to make sure Nigel went down one corridor. The next morning, in the mail, I got all these contracts and a script and everything. I mean, she can't be that bad, can she? If she actually coughed up her part of the deal? Only good people do that!

Andrew: Or very intelligent bad people.

Gabby: Huh?

Andrew: You haven't read Machievelli, have you?

Jason: We've done one of their songs, I think...

Andrew: The point is, you two, that if you want to succeed in this world it's easier to make friends than enemies. Stabbing you in the back, Jason, would only leave you a loose end, someone who might want to betray the deal or just an unidentified body somewhere to gain unwanted attention. This way you stay loyal - at least until the next person comes along and bribes you to betray HER as well.

[Jason looks guiltier.]

Gabby: Why is this happening?

Jason: She never said. Only clue was that, like, she said if I didn't help them, then whatever happened to Nigel would happen to me. Like I was in trouble as well.

Gabby: If they've got a grudge against you, you must have some idea!

Jason: I don't! Even if I did, I've spent two weeks revelling in sin, banging complete strangers in a variety of tasteless methods! I barely remember my own name! You've got to believe me! DON'T MAKE ME A EUNUCH, I BEG THEE!

[A long pause.]

Gabby: [to Andrew] What do you think?

Andrew: [darkly] He betrayed his only friend. The worst level of Hell is reserved for people who do that. Do what you like.

[Jason turns white. Gabby grins and begins to slide the mousetrap towards him as Andrew starts to pace, brooding.]

Andrew: They came after Nigel. [points at Jason] And you.

[He stops.]

Andrew: Just at the same time Jadi disappears. And Phoebe... what kind of gynecologist just forgets to tell her she's having triplets? Come to think of it, what are the odds of triplets anyway? This is the ABC murders, only backwards! THAT is what I call postmodern!

Jason: [stares at him] The ABC?

[Andrew is pacing around the room, frantic.]

Andrew: Agatha Christie. The ABC Murders. You hate someone, you want them to die, so if you kill them, the police are bound to come after you because YOU have a motive. But if they die at the hands of a serial killer, you just get lucky. You hide the death you have a motive for by the deaths you DON'T have a motive for! The most basic smokescreen! The only place you can hide a tree is in a forest!

Gabby: What? You're saying there's a serial killer?

Andrew: It's the opposite, Gabs! The opposite! This isn't one attack hidden by a smokescreen by a smokescreen, it's a smokescreen hidden by one attack! Nigel isn't the only victim, Jason was on the hit list as well! Whoever behind this has a grudge against several people, and we only noticed Nigel!

Gabby: So whatever pissed these people off, it wasn't just Nigel?

Andrew: No. Jason was involved too. And Jadi too. What about Phoebe?

Gabby: She's fine, she's in Prague! Nothing happened to her!

Andrew: She didn't know she was having triplets, Gabs! She could have died in childbirth - it was only a fluke we were all around to help her out. And if her boyfriend hadn't hit the big time, she'd have had to raise three kids when she was barely able to afford one... they were trying to destroy her life! And a week later Jadi's vanished, Jason's blackmailed and Nigel's humiliated and disappeared.

Gabby: [trying to keep up] So what do Nigel, Jason, Jadi and Phoebe have in common?

Andrew: I don't know. But if those two are in the firing lines then it means...

[Andrew freezes. Oh crap. He turns and sprints out of the room.]

Andrew: [over his shoulder] We have to find Dave!

Gabby: [confused] Dave who?!

[Nevertheless, she turns and runs after him. Jason is left alone, still tied to the chair, with the mousetrap poised to neuter him.]


- to be continued...

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