[Nigel sits on the couch, arms folded, looking impressive. Dave and Andrew sit on either side, looking unimpressed.]
Dave: So... basically you had no idea what was going on?
Nigel: That's not a kind interpretation of events, David.
Andrew: But basically correct.
Nigel: Excuse me? I had just been beaten up, mutilated, tortured, drugs and given a fatal dose of radiation poisoning! Forgive me for not being one hundred per cent compos mentis - and yeah, I DO know what that means!
Dave: You were in a hospital bed.
Nigel: Yes. In a warehouse.
Dave: And then you lost consciousness again.
Nigel: Sedatives, Dave. Out like a light.
Dave: So what the hell was the Vault of Horror homage in aid of?
Nigel: Oh, like YOU'VE never had a violent hallucination you were in a cheesy amicus horror anthology film before! Stick to saying you've actually had sex, Dave, it sounds SO much more convincing!
Dave: Hey, just cause I was too pissed to remember both occasions does not mean they don't count. That chick in Manly swore blind it was awesome.
Andrew: Who was the first one with again?
Dave: Well, I was too pissed to remember most of that either.
Andrew: Seems to be a bit of a habit.
Dave: Yeah. I guess I'm too inhibited most of the time.
Nigel: Hang on. Excuse me? Eve? As in, "Eve who now prefers to lie with other women", Eve?
Dave: After you climb Mount Everest, you don't settle for any lesser height, do you?
Nigel: Maybe. But you don't take up potholing either.
Dave: Are you saying that I put Eve off men for life due to a drunken twist neither of us can fully remember?
Nigel: No, I'm saying you put Eve off men for life due to a drunken TRYST neither of you can fully remember. Where did this romantic entanglement occur anyway?
Dave: [smiles to himself] You have a VERY comfortable bed, Nigel.
Nigel: Why thank you, it's a special mattress HOLY SWEET WAVEFORM-COLLAPSING JESUS?!? You got laid ON MY BED?! You knotted and gendered like toads in a cistern between MY mail-order not-entirely-frictionless sheets?! Your disgusting bodily fluids were exchanged in a five-metre radius of MY Cerebus paperback collection?!?
Dave: Meh. I did the washing.
Nigel: That was YOU?
Dave: No need to say thanks.
Nigel: THANKS? YOU PUT THE SHEETS IN WITH THE WHITES! I NOW HAVE MORE RED SHIRTS THAN THE MORTUARY ON THE STAR SHIP FUCKING ENTERPRISE!!!!
[An awakward, unpleasant pause.]
Andrew: Anyone want to hear the rest of my story?
[No one says anything.]
Andrew: So, there we were, Gabby, Simone and myself, on the case which lead us straight back to the Jekkatatve and...
Dave: You're not doing the Cockney patter any more?
Andrew: Nah, I've got bored with that, so...
Nigel: IN MY BED?!?
Andrew & Dave: Shut up!
[Ripple-harp-music-dissolve back to the excuse for a main narrative. Simone's car pulls up outside a tall building in the industrial centre, at night. Gabby sits in the passenger seat, Andrew is sprawled in the back, legs up on headrest, brooding.]
Andrew: Here we are then. End of the line, where all traces end.
Gabby: It's just a building - there's nothing to say Nigel's here.
Simone: Probably won't be.
Andrew: We're not here expecting Nigel to just be conveniently lying around to be found. We're searching for clues about where he might be - carpet fibres, splashes of paint, perhaps a signed confession and a recent photograph...
Simone: Very likely.
Andrew: Yes. You know, I'm really going off this private eye business.
Gabby: You've only been doing it a day!
Andrew: I know, Gabs! Imagine how awful it will be after a week! [sighs] Oh well, as the Almighty Himself once said, I've started so I might as well finish. Come on!
[He bounces energetically out of the car and heads up to the foyer of the building. A security guard sits at a reception desk, reading a book. Andrew casually hides behind a pillar outside the doors. The others join him.]
Simone: What is it?
Andrew: Security guards. How am I supposed to have a good nose around and achieve unprecedented levels of abstract thought with those around?
Gabby: Right, Simone. You distract him while we slip inside!
Simone: What? Why me?
Gabby: I don't want to sound all judgmental, but you are a professional slut!
Andrew: And a rather immoral one at that.
Simone: How dare you!
Andrew: How dare me? Some of my best friends work in the sex industry and they'd be appalled to know what you've been up to - appalled, I say! Mind you, Sherri would probably see the funny side...
Simone: You go and distract him if you're so bugged by it!
Gabby: Yeah, but there's only like a fifty-fifty chance he'd be gay and since there are three of us and two of us are women than that means that the odds are three to fifty or... OK, I have no idea where I'm going with this. Andrew, distract him.
Andrew: Fine! [grumbles] Like I need sex appeal to confuse people nowadays... pah!
[He strides into the foyer and the others follow. The guard glances up at them as they enter but doesn't put down the book.]
Guard: Yes, what can I do for you three?
Andrew: How do you do? I'm James Hazell but you can call me Andrew. I'm not sure if this is the right place, but I was looking for a... well, not so much a "friend"... but Nigel Verkoff. Have you heard of him? Turned out a school bully from the late 1990s beat him and had him dragged here after the nun-mannequin-fish-scandal of K-Mart...
Guard: You mean David Jones?
Andrew: I know what I mean, begorrah! Now, have you seen him anywhere?
[The guard stares at him.]
Guard: No. No I haven't.
Andrew: Fair enough then. Thanks for the help. Ciao!
[Andrew turns to leave. Gabby stops him.]
Gabby: Excuse me, just a second [sotto] but what the hell are you doing?
Andrew: [sotto] He doesn't know anything.
Gabby: [sotto] So you're just giving up and walking away?
Andrew: [sotto] No, I'm trying to act casual and unconcerned and that would be more convincing if you hadn't just grabbed my arm and started whispering in my ears with unusual intensity.
Gabby: [sotto] Oh. Sorry.
Andrew: [sotto] So you should be.
[Gabby lets him go and Andrew grins at the unimpressed security guard.]
Andrew: My purely platonic companion had an idea - could you check your computer records, see if maybe he had an appointment here or something? A contact number maybe?
Guard: Sorry, no sign of Verkoff here. I'd have recognized him.
Andrew: Anything under the name of Magnus, perhaps?
Simone: Because the odds of him using another name are just astronomical...
[Sighing, the guard taps at his terminal for a moment.]
Guard: Nope. Nothing.
Andrew: Aw, you're doing it wrong! Let me have a go!
[Andrew goes around the desk. The guard is harrassed.]
Guard: Hey, excuse me...
Andrew: You're using International Electromatix systems? Seriously?
Guard: Yeah, not everyone is a slave to Bill Gates, you know!
Andrew: But these are the old monolith terminals - they went out with MC Hammer!
Guard: They work!
Andrew: [scornful] "They work"! You know, these things weren't properly programmed at all? Just some shitty freeware installed in sweat shops down in Tempe by people out on day release from certain psychiatric institutions?
Andrew: It's true!
Guard: It is not!
Andrew: It is! I was in an asylum with one of the programmers - do you know every single one of these had Wolfenstien 3d wired into the mainframe?
Guard: [surprised] Seriously?
Andrew: I know. I would have gone for Doom myself, but still...
Guard: How come there's no link to the game on the desktop?
Andrew: Ah, that's easy, just log in again to the security system and then type in "games".
[The guard does so.]
Guard: Nothing happened!
Andrew: Hit ctrl+alt+del.
[The guard does so and there is a loud crackle as the keyboard electrocutes himself and falls over. Immediately a computer game appears on the screen.]
Andrew: There! Knew it would work.
[He notices the smoke coming off the guard.]
Andrew: Oh yeah. I remember now. They put in a subroutine to make sure no one logged into games and slacked off work, so they'd be electrocuted if they tried. Sorry, dude.
[Andrew sits in the empty chair and starts typing. Gabby and Simone exchange looks.]
Gabby: Was that actually part of the plan?
Andrew: [typing] Plan? Who said I had a plan? Ahah... level four, requisitioned for a period of two weeks and two days ending last Saturday, one day after Nigel disappeared, one day after he was brought here. Coincidence? I think not.
[Andrew rises, then notices the smoldering guard and helps him up into the chair.]
Andrew: You'll be all right.
Simone: He doesn't look like he will be.
Andrew: Well, as long as he wasn't too attached to any body hair he had.
[Andrew takes off the guard's hat to reveal his hair has blackened and is now standing on end. Andrew pats some of the hair and it crumbles.]
Gabby: Wow. You sure he won't turn into a super villain or something?
Andrew: As though that would happen. Especially when he's got Wolfenstein to play.
[Andrew starts to head off.]
Simone: We can't leave him like that! What if one of the other security guards find him?
Andrew: Ah. Point.
[A few moments later. Andrew, Gabby and Simone stand in a lift as the doors close. We pan across to see the electrocuted guard has his hat over his head and a post-it-note saying "LEAVE ME ALONE! I AM SLEEPY!" written on it.]
[As the lift ascends, Andrew and Gabby are chatting.]
Andrew: I mean, human beings can take the odd jolt of electricity on their own without real damage. Look at Benjamin Franklin...
Gabby: That American president?
Andrew: Well, he wasn't the president. But that was about the ONLY thing he didn't do. You'd be amazed. He rebuilt the printing press, introduced funny one-liners into newspaper, came up with the concept of central heating, invented bifocal glasses, redesigned the American postal system, mastered vivisecting small animals, got into politics, became a Hugh Heffner playboy with girls a quarter of his age... Hard to believe he was once a little twerp who was stupid enough to fly a kite in a thunderstorm in the first place. It was a miracle he survived...
Andrew: Which is why he didn't.
Andrew: It's obvious. Little Benjamin Franklin must have got fatally electrocuted that day and someone else took over his life - a replacement Benjamin Franklin whose IQ was higher than that of a used teabag! Obviously Franklin was an alien bodysnatcher on a mission to study and infiltrate human society!
Simone: ...and this was your first choice as a detective. That says SO much about you.
Andrew: I know. Why couldn't she be a backstabbing immoral treacherous whore like you? That would REALLY make the world a better place wouldn't it?
[Simone sulks. The doors open. All three leave the lift, and then Simone steps back into the lift before the doors close. She hits the ground floor button.]
[Foyer. The lift doors open and Simone runs back to the reception desk. Ignoring the still-smoking guard, she quickly finds the emergency alarm button built into the floor so the guard on duty can step on it without being seen. Simone stamps on the button and a tiny light on the desk marked POLICE ALERTED flashes. She runs for the exit.]
[Simone runs out of the building, down the steps to her waiting car. She climbs into the driving seat and lets out a sigh of relief. Then she realizes she is not alone - the Sinister Woman is sitting in the passenger seat, arms folded, waiting for her. Simone swallows nervously and tries to think of something to say.]
Simone: Um. Hi.
Simone: I was TOTALLY looking for you!
[Jekkatatve level. Andrew and Gabby are moving through the gloom.]
Gabby: Why don't any lights work?
Andrew: Not sure. I think the power's been disconnected. You know, this place really WAS a lot nicer when I was last here. Not quite so claustrophic and threatening. Mind you, I was shorter then. I think. Would that matter, my height?
Gabby: This is helping us how?
Andrew: Well, isn't it distracting you from the smell?
Andrew: Oh. I'll shut up then.
Gabby: What do you think happened here?
Andrew: Based on my rigorous research and deduction of around three hours of knowing Magnus even existed, I'd say he brought Nigel back here for a gloat. Mocked him, beat him up a bit, taunted him. Nigel probably wound him up and Magnus...
Gabby: [nervous] Yeah?
[Andrew pauses by a bloodstain on the floor, but doesn't draw attention to it.]
Andrew: ...reacted badly. After that, everyone simply left and sealed the level off.
Gabby: Seems like a lot of trouble to hire this place out for a gloat.
Andrew: Magnus is crazy and rich. Things become a lot more possible in that context.
[They approach the control console in front of the wall. Andrew examines it.]
Andrew: This is new. Well, all of it's "new", it has been six years since I was here, but... this is new, even so. They've installed a master control for all the doors and lights. You're right, this is a lot of trouble to go for if they were just going to tie him up and go Reservoir Dogs on his arse...
Gabby: What? They had dogs?
Andrew: No, they... never mind, Gabs, Romper Stomper was a way better film.
[They continue to look around. Andrew hums "Stuck in the Middle With You" to himself. Gabby finds some discarded cable ties on the floor and examines them. Then Gabby realizes something and straightens up.]
Gabby: Where's Simone, anyway?
Andrew: [distracted] No idea. Probably run away.
Gabby: Oh, great!
Andrew: I was getting bored of her anyway. You're much easier as a John-Watson-style-sounding-board-for-my-outlandish-theories. And she really should be taking those antibiotics for her yeast infection.
Gabby: I don't want to know how you know that.
[Andrew takes a bottle of pills from his pocket and tosses them to her. She catches it, not quite comfortable doing so.]
Andrew: Found them in her flat. Apart from anything else, it'll slow down her running, so we can catch her easily if we need more information. Contingency planning!
[Gingerly, Gabby hands the bottles back.]
Gabby: And NOT kleptomania.
Andrew: [shrugs] Meh, bit of column A, bit of column B. Enough of candidiasis, look at this wall.
[Gabby does so.]
Gabby: OK... Candy-di-oasis?
Andrew: Jargon for yeast infections.
Gabby: Oh. I'm never going to hear that song the same way again.
Gabby: "I Want Candy"?
Andrew: Mmm. Yeah, it's there with "Little Prayer" and "I Touch Myself". Now, if I remember rightly - and I almost NEVER do - this was the maze layer between the jungle of tubes and the bit chamber to start with. There's a whole network of twisty-turny tunnels beyond this point, so why is this wall here?
Gabby: To keep the ceiling up?
Andrew: Doubt it.
[Andrew kicks the wall. It wobbles.]
Gabby: It's not a real wall?
Andrew: It's a barrier, a quickly-erected barrier to block off this end of the corridor. Except for this bit. [points] See? Metal. A special hatch. One way in controlled from the outside. Ooh, this is just so... so...
Andrew: I was going to say Greek. Labyrinths. Revenge. Tragedy. And I have to admit if there isn't a half-man-half-bull monster involved SOMEWHERE, well, I'm just out and out disappointed.
Gabby: You think Nigel's in there?
Andrew: Bit odd to set up the door to a maze, drag him here and then not send him through. Then again, "bit odd" sums this case up very well. Let's check, just to be on the safe side. You never know.
[Gabby tries the hatch. It won't budge. Andrew crosses to the console.]
Andrew: Let's see... [hums] slap you on the back and say please... Wierd. Half of these controls aren't even linked up to anything! Ooh, I wonder what this does?
[He flips a switch. Red pulses of light illuminate the chamber.]
Gabby: What's that? An alarm?
Andrew: Nope. Just a button that makes the lights flash red.
[Andrew flips the switch and it stops.]
Andrew: It's like this is a prop for a TV show or something. Half these controls are just for show. There are only two buttons that do anything. One does the lights and the other one, well...
Andrew: Let's find out.
[He presses the button. The hatch slides back. They both retch as a smell hits them.]
Gabby: Oh, that is rank!
Andrew: [coughs] Nasty... though I have eaten worse...
[Covering his mouth with his singlet, Andrew crosses to the door and peers into the gloom beyond. Gabby follows him as he steps through. Not far away is a huddled shape on the ground, clearly a body.]
Andrew: Think we've found what's causing the smell.
Gabby: What is it?
Andrew: At a guess, a corpse that's been left for the last week to decompose.
Oh no. Oh please. Please.
[Andrew crouches by the remains and flips them over. The smell gets even worse. The corpse is hideously deformed and rotting, twisted in death with vacant, blank eyes.]
Andrew: Well, there's good news and bad news.
Gabby: What's the good news?
Andrew: It isn't Nigel.
Gabby: Oh, thank Christ for that. What's the bad news?
Andrew: It's someone else. And they're very, very dead. And this is most likely directly down to your boyfriend. [retches] OK, we have captured the moment. Let's get some fresh air before my sinuses melt...
Gabby: We can't just leave a dead body there!
Andrew: Why not? There's already a precedent...
[As they step out the hatch, they are surrounded by four police officers aiming their weapons straight at them.]
Cop 1: Put your hands up, please, and step forward slowly.
[Gabby does so. Andrew grins, and he does likewise as one of the cops steps through and checks the rotting corpse.]
Cop 1: Dead male - been here for days!
Gabby: Right! Which means we didn't murder him, doesn't it?
Cop 2: Not today, no miss.
Andrew: Let me guess, we're now both suspects in a homicide case?
Cop 2: Pretty much.
Andrew: Go on, say "this is a murder enquiry" in a dodgy Scottish accent, please!
Gabby: [incredulous] You're getting off on this, aren't you?
Andrew: [laughs] My first case and I'm already a suspect! Who said life after high school would be boring?! Let's see those twats in technical drawing get falsely accused of murder on their first day!
[Outside, Andrew and Gabby (now handcuffed) are being put in the back of a police car. There is an ambulance present. Sirens flashing. The electrocuted guard is being carried out on a stretcher. As the doors shut, the police car drives off. Andrew nods to the driver.]
Andrew: Good thing that one was arresting officer. I'd hate to get arrested by a copper who wasn't butch, wouldn't you?
Gabby: Oh yeah. So now we've been arrested as murderers, what is the next step in your amazing masterplan? Does it involve electrocuting ourselves playing computer games or letting people set us on fire...
Andrew: [nods] Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see it makes no sense at all. Is it cool to go asleep on the floor, cause I don't think I can take any more...
Andrew: Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
Andrew: Sorry. Reservoir Dogs again.
[Police station. Andrew is talking to the desk sergeant.]
Desk Sergeant: Name?
Andrew: Andrew Beeblebrox.
Desk Sergeant: Real name.
Andrew: It is my real name. I changed it by deed poll. Probably might have been better to go with "Obviouslyinnocentman" though, huh?
Desk Sergeant: Right, you Douglas Adams freak, turn out your pockets.
Andrew: [innocently] I don't HAVE any pockets.
[The desk sergeant just sighs.]
Desk Sergeant: I am too old for this shit.
Andrew: I don't suppose I could make a phone call?
Desk Sergeant: No.
Andrew: I'm entitled to one.
Desk Sergeant: Actually, no. You're not.
[Cut to a cell. Andrew sits on a bench, watching as the door slams shut.]
Andrew: Learn something new every day. Like, for example, the average desk sergeant is of extremely low intelligence.
[He takes a ball from his pocket and starts to bounce it against the wall, Cool Hand Luke style. Andrew chuckles. The door opens. A police woman catches the ball, then slams the door shut again. Andrew huffs.]
Andrew: All right.
[He takes out a second ball and starts to bounce it.]
Andrew: So, you're a powerful Russian megalomaniac with violent pseudo-sexual sadistic tendencies and an unlimited budget. You want revenge for someone who not only traumatized you but made you look an idiot. You work out an elaborate scheme to have him publically shamed and humiliate him. Then you kidnap him, drag him to a fake maze set with flashing lights, a bit of rough stuff and... kill entirely the wrong person. Without any guns or knives. How does that work? Poison? Did they kill him in front of Nigel to freak him out? Why leave the body there when they'd taken everything else? Why not leave Nigel there? Why not kill him or let him go?
[Andrew lets the ball fall and starts pacing.]
Andrew: Doesn't make sense. There has to be a pattern to it all. Damnit I suck at this...
[Andrew sits down then gets up again.]
Andrew: Of course! A probability square is composed of facts, reasons for those facts or conclusions that might be drawn from those facts. The facts make a logical pattern and the square solves the problem. Keep moving the tiles until it makes sense. Except... I don't have any tiles. Or post-it notes.
[He lies down on the bench.]
Andrew: Think. Think. Of course! Externalization of INTERNAL thought!
[He takes out a pair of socks from his pocket, separates them and shoves one over his hand, making a very pathetic glove puppet.]
Andrew: Right. Ready for this? "Uh huh". He brings Nigel there. Someone else dies. No reason to kill them so... why? "Obvious! They weren't killed!" It was an accident? "Of course. Someone keels over. Not part of the plan." Hence the hasty departure. "They ran for it." Took Nigel with them because they hadn't finished with him yet. But the whole place was chosen deliberately, the Jekkatatve. Where else were they going to humiliate him? And why would a psycho like Magnus care about someone dying of, presumably, natural causes? "It was someone important, you moron." Hey, this is still my first day on the job. "Good thing it's pro bono, you haven't earned a cent!" I can take you off my hand whenever I please, buster. "Won't change the truth!"
[Andrew rips the sock off his hand.]
Andrew: Asshole. Where was I? Oh yes. Someone dies. Someone important, so important the whole plan goes to pieces... [eyes widen] It was Magnus. Himself. Maybe Nigel killed him? Maybe not. Either way, Nigel's standing, Magnus isn't, so his team run for it and take the witness with him. There's been a mysterious death all right, but not the one they were prepared for. So they go to ground somewhere and tell Simone to keep an eye on things to make sure no one goes looking for Nigel, not because they're worried about Nigel being found dead but being found alive and being able to spill the beans about what really happened. Meanwhile, Nigel gets disappeared.
[He rubs his forehead. It's a lot to take in. He puts on the sock.]
Andrew: "And if they've got two brain cells to rub together, they'd be keeping an eye on the Jekkatatve to see if anyone finds the body. Which means they know precisely you went there with Gabby and are now in this very police station and can easily be turned into another death in custody statistic before the truth comes out..."
[Andrew looks at the sock puppet in horror. The cell door opens. Both Andrew and the sock-puppet look up to see the Sinister Woman standing in the doorway, arms folded.]
Sinister Woman: Good evening, Mr. Klyngirophel.
[Andrew surreptitiously takes off the glove puppet.]
Andrew: Evening. Sorry, terrible memory. Have we met before?
Sinister Woman: No.
Andrew: Oh. That'll explain why I don't recognize you. [frowns] Though, thinking about it again, I think I have seen you before somewhere... maybe...
Sinister Woman: We've never met.
Andrew: If you say so.
Sinister Woman: I do.
Andrew: [shrugs] Well, then.
Sinister Woman: My name is Christine Gracelands. I believe you may have met my son.
Andrew: I might met a lot of people, I'm that kind of guy. Who is your son, again?
Sinister Woman: You've spent all day with his girlfriend trying to find him.
[Andrew stares at her in amazement.]
Andrew: ...nope. I still have no idea. Who are we talking about?
- to be continued...