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A Strange World - Part 5

Some people are driven to greatness, some to degradation, and some are just driven




An array of stars flicker in sharp relief, hovering over a landscape of brick and steel—suburbia. A lone vehicle rolls through this bleak landscape, a ‘65 Mustang.


At the wheel is a YOUNG MAN, in his late twenties, grinning contentedly. Good looking and just a little rough around the edges, he gazes out across the highway as he exits the city limits.

JOE: I am so proud of you, Joseph Harding. Do you realize? You’re gonna be famous someday—a regular household name…

He readjusts the rear view mirror, aiming it toward him.

JOE (CONT’D): People are probably talking about you right now. Oh, yeah. All those people with my name on their lips…

Combing his hair with his fingers, he grins at his reflection.

JOE (CONT’D): That’s beauuuuu-tiful. We’re gonna be a legend in our own time…

Suddenly, the BLARING of a CAR HORN stuns Joe back into paying attention to the road. Blinded by headlights, he swerves sharply and barely misses an oncoming car. Its HORN BLASTS past us.

JOE (CONT’D): Ooooo-eeee! What a rush!

Glancing back over his shoulder, he looks into the back seat, but all that is heard are the sounds of ROAD NOISE and the CAR’S ENGINE.

JOE (CONT’D): Don’t be mad at me, princess … You gonna say anything?

Then Joe catches sight of a hitch-hiker—a pretty YOUNG WOMAN, in her early twenties. Immediately, Joe starts to slow the car down.

JILL (O.S.): Her Majesty says: Don’t even think about it.

Startled, Joe looks up into the rear view mirror, where JILL’S face is glaring back at him, her porcelain beauty overshadowed by her intense gaze.

JOE: Damn. Now you show up. That figures.

Jill, also in her late twenties, is sitting in the back seat.

JILL: You can never seem to keep your mind on the business at hand…

She leans forward, breathing down his neck.

JILL (CONT’D): Can you?

Reaching past him, she readjusts the rear view mirror. They continue driving past the woman hitch-hiker.

JOE: What is it with you, anyway? You got something against women? What? And quit telling me how to run this show, will you? I’m the star performer here. I’m the one puttin' my ass on the line every night. I know what’s best for me.

(…you’re reading Part 5 of a 10-part series. If you like what you’re reading and want to continue, please SCROLL DOWN. Or to read this series from the beginning, go to Part 1…)
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Jill leans back a little, giving him some space.

JILL: Wise up, will you? That chick was bad news. You could see it a mile away. Read my lips, Joe, she was attached. She had “trouble” written all over her. Wake up, already. Don’t blow this thing now. Not when you’re so close to pulling it off.

JOE: I don’t need your advice. I sure don’t need you bossin’ me around…

Jill LAUGHS maniacally, tossing herself back into her seat. Her LAUGHTER FADES.

JOE (CONT’D): Don’t push it, Jill.

Looking back over his shoulder, he finds her gone. He returns his attention to the road, shaking his head in disgust.

JOE (CONT’D): And would you quit being so damn temperamental all the time? Relax … and give me a break! I know how important this is. I am not going to blow anything. I know exactly what I have to do. Nothing will stop me this time. No more half-finished jobs. No more failures. From now on, people are going to respect me. You hear?

But when no reply comes, the anger slowly, gradually, starts to leave his face.

JOE (CONT’D): Damn it, Jill, don’t pout…

Still no answer.

JOE (CONT’D): Come on, beautiful… Come back, come back, wherever you are


JOE (CONT’D): Sugar, don’t bail out on me again. You said yourself: We’ve come too far now…

More silence.

JOE (CONT’D): Princess?

Still nothing. Joe settles in behind the wheel.

NARRATOR: Since the beginning of time, human beings have been motivated to do many things for many reasons. Some people are driven by their peers, some by family and friends, some by their consciences. Some are driven to greatness, and some to degradation. Some are driven by the desire to achieve a goal at any cost, driven to make a name for themselves no matter what. And some people are just driven, in … A Strange World


Fifty yards ahead of him in the darkness, Joe sees a young man, in his late twenties, hitch-hiking. Almost to the man, Joe slows down.

JILL (O.S.): Still feel like company, Joe?

Looking up into his rear-view mirror, Joe sees Jill’s face gazing back at him again. Her hypnotic eyes beckon him.

JOE (grinning): Sure. You know I love company.

JILL: This guy looks the type. Why don’t we stop and see if we can help him out.

Joe slows the car down and pulls off to the side of the road. Moving past the young man, the car comes to a complete stop in the emergency lane. The young man grabs his knapsack and starts to run to Joe’s car.

JOE: You really think he’s a drifter?

JILL: Of course, he’s a drifter, Joe. He’s perfect, just perfect.

As the young man nears the passenger door, he starts to reach for the handle.

JOE: Perfect, huh? That suits me just fine.

The man opens the door and starts to hop in just as Joe and Jill let out a venomous GROWL in unison.

JOE & JILL (in unison): Surprise, Darrell, you lose!

Via the young man’s POINT OF VIEW, we see a pistol in Joe’s hand and it’s aimed directly at us. It lets out a single BLAST and a flash of fire.


A fussy make-up man is working over a well-past middle-aged man seated in a chair surrounded by mirrors and bright lights. We hear FOOTSTEPS.

MAN’S VOICE (O.S.): I’m looking for a Detective Callahan.

The make-up man stops what he’s doing, obviously annoyed. The man in the chair gives a nod, and there is one last swipe of the sponge. He swivels in his chair to see a clean-cut news reporter, in his early twenties, donning an over-sized press pass on his lapel. He has his pen and his notepad to go along with his obnoxious smile. As the make-up man exits through an open door, a stage hand sticks his head in.

STAGE HAND: You’re on in ten minutes, Detective.

The reporter’s grin disappears.

REPORTER: Oh … You’re Detective Callahan?

At first, Callahan just sits in his chair, looking as crusty as ever. Casually, he reaches over, pours some sugar into a cup of coffee, and stirs it as he decides how he wants to respond to this fellow.

CALLAHAN: Don’t tell me … You were expecting Clint Eastwood?

The reporter hangs his head, a little embarrassed.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): You must be new around here.

REPORTER (grinning cheerfully again): Yes, sir, I sure am. As a matter of fact, I just moved out here six months ago. I’m going to write for the movies someday, so I thought I’d try my hand at writing for the newspapers first, and work my way up…

Callahan proceeds to take a sip of his coffee, and grimaces.

REPORTER (CONT’D): You know, sir, doctors nowadays are saying that coffee is very bad for your health…

Flashing him a peculiar look, Callahan just grabs the sugar dispenser and dumps even more in.

REPORTER (CONT’D): Of course, it’s still not as unhealthy as granulated sugar.

CALLAHAN: Why are you here, young man?

REPORTER: Well, sir, I’d like to know if there is anything you can tell me about the case you’re working on? I mean, about this person who is killing hitch-hikers in county after county. Is there anything at all that you can let us in on—for my column, that is.

CALLAHAN: I’ll be discussing all that on the program tonight. Everything you’ll need to know about the case will be mentioned then.

REPORTER: Fair enough … but tell me, Detective, are there any extemporaneous facts, any at all? Possibly some special clue that could help break the case wide open.

CALLAHAN: Look, son, this is not some Hollywood cop show you’re writing for prime-time. It’s not that simple.

Callahan sets his coffee down, and pulls himself to his feet.

REPORTER: Come on, Detective Callahan. Even you must have a computer somewhere. What does it say about all this? There must be a profile sheet a mile long by now, from five different counties, I’m told.

CALLAHAN: Computer, huh? I’m telling you, fella, there are no instant answers. Face it, the so-called 'Magic of Science' is as much a myth as the 'Magic of Hollywood.' What do you expect from me?

REPORTER: Something, sir. Anything. Just throw a rookie a bone, will ya?Certainly the computer must have come up with something.

CALLAHAN: Sure. A bunch of jumbled, coincidental facts gleaned from a thousand possibilities. Of course it’s meaningful that all five victims were male Caucasians in their late twenties, and that they were all killed by a single thirty-eight caliber bullet fired from the same weapon. But that all of them were wearing tennis shoes?

Callahan just shrugs his shoulders.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): All of them had chewing gum on their person. Not exactly the most earth-shaking of clues, do you think? Now, all of them were found with sizable amounts of cash still on them, some even had money orders, but what’s so special about that? That tells us nothing specific about the killer other than what we already know about him—he’s obviously nothing more than a homicidal maniac. But there is one statistic that has got to be the greatest McGuffin of all time … uhhh … you do know what a McGuffin is, don’t you, son?

REPORTER: A red herring, I think.

CALLAHAN: Very good. You have done your homework. I’m almost impressed. Anyway, the damn computer came up with the statistic that all our victims were known to have been beating their wives or girlfriends. How do you like that? I mean, you can’t exactly follow up on something like that and expect to track down the real killer.

REPORTER: But couldn’t the fact that they were all wife-beaters somehow account for any of the other facts involved, namely that all these guys were skipping town after having cleaned out their joint bank accounts?

CALLAHAN: Look, son, you’re conveniently neglecting certain all-important facts. These killings have been taking place over several county lines. None of the victims knew each other, and there are no known connections whatsoever between any of them. The computer profile was, of course, just as clear about that. We’re talking pure, unadulterated coincidence here. Believe me, it’s going to take more than a machine to catch this kind of person. A serial killer’s mind cannot be printed out neatly on some computer profile. No, something much more is needed in cases like this.

The detective wearily starts toward the door, adjusting his tie as he goes.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): Yup, just some kind of damned weird coincidence, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.

REPORTER: Coincidence, huh? Maybe … but all these guys really did deserve what they got. Come on, Detective, don’t you believe something like this could ever happen?

Almost to the door, Callahan turns back toward the reporter, flashing him a look bristling with cynicism.

CALLAHAN: Son, do I look like someone who would believe something like that could ever happen?

But the reporter is not exactly paying attention to the detective at the moment.

REPORTER (thoughtfully): Somehow, all these guys are actually getting paid back for beating their wives. I like it. It’s got a nice poetic ring to it. Just the kind of ending everyone loves to read about. Don’t you think?

Callahan shakes his head.

CALLAHAN: Listen, we’re talking about murder here. This person is a serial killer, not a vigilante, for Christ’s sake! Wake up and smell the coffee, boy!

The reporter is brought back down to Earth, returning his undivided attention to the detective.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): I realize justice may be hard to come by sometimes, but don’t delude yourself into thinking what I think you’re thinking … It’s unhealthy, you know.

The detective turns and exits.

So ends this Act of A STRANGE WORLD. To read more, please click on one of the following links:

Read the Next Act of Driven to see the headline: Mad killer strikes again. One more down, one more to go! How many more will die?

Read Snow Madness to meet a man searching for that most sought after prize, power, until one day power dispensed a lesson of its own.

Read The Mirror Man to see that a guardian angel still has a lot to learn about his real subject matter: the human race.

Read A Strange World from the Beginning, to see how we seek the truth, like strangers in a strange land, then when we least expect it, truth finds us.