Paths of Destruction

FADE IN

1.  EXT.  CU police car's blue strobe light, going round and round.  NIGHT.

[Camera pulls back in slow motion and the appearance of the scene is fuzzy to give the illusion of confusion.  Over the deep, BASS-laden score we can hear muffled shouting but cannot make out any of the words.  The camera pans out revealing wet, slick pavement and pans forward over the words "to protect and to serve" painted on the side of the police car. The score swells to a climax and a single gunshot rings out.  Blood splatters over the words "to protect and to serve."  Another gunshot.  Silence except for the persistent cackle of the police radio.  Everything - the lights, music, sound, picture — squelch to black - the effect is that of the picture being crumpled into a ball.  Fade to black.]

[Titles]

2. FADE IN. INT. bright, bustling interior of a hospital emergency room.

[Telephones are ringing, hospital personnel are rushing around, a patient on a gurney is wheeled by and the camera pans along with it to a young, uniformed police officer standing talking with an older man in street clothes.  The officer, TIM O'BRIEN, is about 5'11", lean and extremely fit. he sports a short, conservative haircut. His left hand is bandaged and there is a deep gash over his right eye.  The other man is Police Chief GORDON WESTCROFT, O'Brien's immediate superior.  He is tired because he was pulled out of bed to come down and counsel Tim. Gray and slightly balding, he has an air of experience and world-weariness about him.  He has a friendship as well as working relationship with Tim. They are engaged in earnest conversation.]

WESTCROFT:

You just make sure you fill out that report before you do anything else.  That's the most important thing.  Did he threaten you?

TIM:

Not vocally, no.

WESTCROFT:

But he made threatening advances?

TIM:

Yeah.

WESTCROFT:

Couldn't you have held him off with your baton?

TIM:

[Hesitant, faltering]

I don't know . . .it happened real fast.  He was on top of me, Chief, I had to do something.

WESTCROFT:

Jesus Christ, Tim, that's the last thing you do.  Unless you want Internal Affairs beating you up on this, you'd better have a reasonable explana­tion.

TIM:

He was resisting arrest.

WESTCROFT:

That's not good enough.

TIM:

Look, to be honest, I felt my life was in danger.  He's coming down on me, knocking my head into the pavement, and all I can think is what if he gets ahold of my gun.  My holster popped open and his hands were down there.

WESTCROFT:

Why didn't you say so in the first place?  If he was going for your gun then there's no way this shooting wasn't justified.  How many rounds did you fire?

TIM:

Twice - two.  The first one went in, but he kept on fighting.  The second one stopped him.

WESTCROFT:

I'm going to have to take your gun.

TIM:

Of course.  [He obediently unfastens his weapon and hands it over to Gordon, but there is just the slightest bit of hesita­tion, as though he feels he is losing a part of himself]

WESTCROFT:

I'll submit this to ballistics.  Once your story checks out with Internal Affairs, you'll get it back.

TIM:

I understand.  [He hesitates, then brings up the question he has been dreading]  Will he live?

WESTCROFT:

[Giving a concerned glance over his shoulder toward the ER] He should be okay - abdominal wound.  They'll take care of him.

TIM:

[Relieved]

Good.

WESTCROFT:

[Trying to comfort]

Don't feel too bad.  You're not the first cop that had to shoot somebody.  [A beat]  How's the eye?

TIM:

I'll live.

WESTCROFT:

Good man. [He pats TIM on the shoulder]  I'm off to ballistics. You going to stay here for a while?  [TIM nods]  [Walking away, WESTCROFT shouts] Don't forget to file that report!

[CU on Tim's worried face.  Cut to:]

3. INT.  HOSPITAL E/R.

[Medical personnel rally around a badly wounded man.  Bright lights, beeping instruments.  The patient, Paul Field, is being restrained by nurses and staff s as they attempt to sedate him.  He is in great pain owing to the gunshot wound to his abdomen.  An oxygen mask is fastened over his mouth and nose; only semi-conscious because of a great loss of blood he thrashes out against the hospital staff.  The doctor is looking at X-rays on the board next to Paul.  He recites his findings:]

DOCTOR:

Okay, we've got an entry wound in the lower abdomen; the bullet travelled through the pelvic area and lodged in the upper thigh.  The concentration of damage is here [He makes a circular motion with his pen] in the groin.  [He turns]  Haven't you got those restraints on him yet?

MEDIC:

I'm doing my best. [The medic attempts to bind the limbs of the struggling patient] Jesus, this guy is strong!

NURSE:

No, no . . . hold still!  I can't get the IV in his arm, doctor.

DOCTOR:

Mr. Field, stop struggling!  We're trying to help you!

MEDIC:

He's out of his mind.

ANESTHESIOLOGIST:

Hold his arm, so I can get the needle in.

[It takes two of the nurses and Medic to hold him still enough so that the anesthesiologist can sufficiently slide the needle into his arm.  It takes a lot out of all of them.]

DOCTOR:

How long before that kicks in?

ANESTHESIOLOGIST:

Give it a few minutes.

Doctor: Have you got him down, Jorge?

Medic: [Tying off the last of the restraints] Finally.

Doctor: Good.  We need five units, stat!  He's lost a tremendous amount of blood already.

Nurse: Okay, doctor. [As Paul is now completely restrai­ned, she goes about her work.  Beads of sweat glisten Paul's forehead, his eyes roll back in his head and he loses conscious­ness.]

Doctor: It's just as well.  Let's get him into surgery.

4. INT. NEWSROOM, NORTHEAST CABLE NEWS.  DAYTIME.

[It is an open-area room with groups of desks facing each other in clusters.  At the far end, is the studio, which is sound-proofed, enclosed by glass; in the near end is the assign­ment desk, the center of activity. AMANDA ROSCOE, an African-American woman in her early thirties sits with a nameplate clearly showing her name to the camera, facing a computer terminal, scrolling through stories from UP and API wire services.  The ambience behind her includes people hurrying to and fro, engaged in the business of writing news, televisions screens flicker in every corner of the room.  Amanda is tall and and busty. She is nice-looking, but not glamorous.  She wears her hair in a sleek, conservative pageboy.  CU on Amanda as she finds something on the screen that catches her interest.  She makes a few keystrok­es.  The printer behind her immediately begins clattering.  Retrieving her print-out, she walks out of camera shot.]

5. INT. NEWSROOM. DAYTIME.

[Amanda approaches her producer, BOB PARKER, who is on the telephone in the process of ending his conversation]

AMANDA:

Bob?

Bob: Yeah . . . yup. . . okay.  We'll run that on the six.  Okay.  Bye.  [He glances up at Amanda]  What's up? [He continues banging away on the keyboard in front of him, writing the script for the evening's newscast]

Amanda: I just got this off the wires.  Early this morning, a man was shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Lincoln.

Bob: Really?  Any details?

Amanda: Well, it doesn't say much.  Apparently, this guy was driving a Jaguar, he was pulled over for whatever reason, an altercation ensued, the officer says the man lunged for his gun, so he shot him.

Bob: Is that it?

Amanda: It sounds sort of funny, doesn't it?  I dunno - im­plausible.  I have this feeling there's something more to it.

Bob: The guy was probably into drugs.  If he was going to be arrested, he might've been facing a long jail term.  Maybe he just panicked.

Amanda: Even so, he'd have to be incredibly stupid to go for a policeman's gun.  I think he'd have to be hiding something more, like a murder, or a string of murders.  He could be a serial killer.

[Bob has stopped typing and is looking at her incredulously.]

Bob: This is all speculation, right?  What an imagina­tion!

Amanda: [Decidedly]  I think there's more to it.  This is what, the third or fourth case of police misconduct in the past two months?  Remember the McLean beating?  It's a disturbing trend.  We could do an expose.

Bob: Let's take one thing at a time.  Are the networks running anything on this?  [He picks up the phone] Let me call over to channel 5 -

Amanda: [Groaning] Ooooh, do we always have to check with them?  This organization is never going to build a reputation until we stop trying to be a local news clone.  We're a 24-hour news operation for God's sake.  Just let me cover this.

Bob: [Bangs down the receiver in revolt] Alright!  You've got it.  [Amanda is surprised]  An unarmed civilian being shot by police is news, regard­less; especially in a sleepy little town like Lincoln.  But I'm warning you Amanda, don't throw your heart and soul into this because it might be reduced to a 15-second blurb in the C-block.

[He turns back to his computer screen]  Check the facts before you drag a camera out there.  But if you do go, you can take Chris.

Amanda: [Groans] Chris!  C'mon, give me somebody a little less green.

Bob: How's he supposed to become any good unless somebody uses him?  Go!

Amanda: Okay, okay.

[She exits, end of scene]

[Scene 5.  Ext.  Downtown Boston.  Daytime.  People scurrying about in the financial district.  Shots of tall buildings.  Then pan up on one especially tall elegant one, then [Int.] the outside of the office with the name Morrison, Mahoney & Miller embossed in heavy, oak-paneled lettering.  Through the glass we can see the plush waiting area and we hear the VO of Jack Mahoney - "C'mon in Ed.  Sit down."

[Scene 6.  Int.  Inside Jack Mahoney's large office with its gorgeous view of the Boston waterfront, sits Ed Matule, a fiftyish, bespectacled attorney and Mahoney himself who is about 60, though he looks younger, is fit and well-dressed.

Ed: What's up, Jack?

Jack: I got a call from an old high school buddy of mine about half an hour ago.  Jim Field.  Nice guy.  We grew up in the same Dorchester neighbor­hood.  We haven't run in the same social circle for ages, but still I feel a certain kinship with him.

[Pauses to pour himself coffee from the silver server on his desk]

Anyway, he has a son who's gotten himself into some trouble with the law.

[Ed tsk-tsks, as if recognizing an irritating, all-too-common, situation]

Jack: [Nodding in agreement] Yeah.  Jim calls me up asking "Can I do anything to help the kid out, yada, yada."  Of course, I'll do anything I can.  Trouble is, we're up to our necks already in this Samstone litigation.

Ed: We're billing a good 400 man hours a week on it.

Jack: Well, Ed, are there any first or second year associates whose slates are clean?

Ed: Let's see.  There's Tim Lowenstein, he just settled the McCarthy complaint.  And Brynn Thayer hasn't been on anything meaty in a while.

Jack: Thayer?  She's the blonde on 32?

Ed: Right.  She's a first-year, but very ambitious, looking to get ahead.  Somewhat of an idealist, but she's a capable lawyer.

Jack: Let's give her this.  Here's the deal:  Jim's son, Paul, is being charged with assaulting a police officer.  During the scuffle, the officer shot him.  He's in the hospital now, but it looks like he'll be okay.  [Takes a swallow of coffee]  He's most likely guilty as sin.  He's 30 years old and his dad tells me he's been in and out of trouble in the past.  Jim's worried about him for years - drinking problem, can't hold a steady job - not exactly a model citizen. and I don't have to tell you that assaulting a cop is a big deal.

Ed: They could throw the book at him.

Jack: Yes, but we can use the fact that he was shot to our advantage and play for sympathy.  He's already been punished, so to speak.  I'd say he's looking at five years, two served, the rest suspended sentence.

Ed: Is that best-case scenario?

Jack: This kid's got a prior record, Ed.  He's been arrested for possession.  I think he used to deal.  He's put his dad through Hell. He’s no good.  Plus, the family's got no connections.  These are common, working-class people.  We've got to be realistic.

Ed: I see what you mean.

Jack: [Sighs]  I'm very fond of Jim, but I don't think we can do much more for him - we're running a business here.  He's fortunate to be getting the expertise of a law firm of our caliber.

Ed: I agree. Shall I go brief Brynn now?

Jack: Yes, do that.  Give her all this information. [He hands Ed a yellow legal pad]  I took this while I was on the phone with Jim.  Tell her that all this work is to be done PRO BONO.  Jim wanted to pay, but on his salary I doubt he can afford the retainer.

Ed: [Taking the paperwork]  Uh-huh.  I'll tell Brynn what you want.  You don't have to think twice about it.

Jack: Good.  And Ed?  Tell her not to spend too much time on this.  We do have clients we can actually bill.

Ed: Okay, Jack.

[Scene 7.  Amanda Roscoe and Chris, her young, inexperienced cameraman in the Cable Channel 10 news van.  Chris is driving.  He is a tall, gangly youth, somewhat nerdy, fresh out of college, with dark hair, wire-rim glasses and an upbeat nature.]

Chris: This is so exciting. I've never covered a crime story before. Do you think we'll get to interview the guy?

Amanda: I don't know.  That's what we're going to find out.

Chris: You know, Amanda, I'm glad they've paired me up with you today.  Of all the reporters, I like your style best. You have a way of bringing a human element to every story.

Amanda: [Snorts, laughter] Thanks. But, I don't think this work will ever earn me the Nobel prize.  There's only so much humanity you can stuff into a 2-minute news package.

Chris: But you're reaching people with your stories.  You could never do that without the medium of television news.

Amanda: That's true and at least at NECN, we have to opportunity to cover less mainstream stories.  I mean the network news stations are so structured, aren't they?  Everything needs to be tailored in that ½ hour time frame and relevant to the ever-important 18 - 45 year-old demograp­hic.  There's also so many politics at play as to which news gets air time.

[She pauses, thinking]

I like to expose corruption whenever I come across it.  The best part of being a reporter is that I can do it.

Chris: So then you're not like all the other reporters here - waiting for an anchor position or to be hired by one of the networks?

Amanda: I'm not going to lie to you, Chris.  I'd love the chance to be a network news reporter.  It represents success in this field.  [Wistfully] But I don't know if I belong there.

Chris: Here we are: Mercy Hospital. [Pulling into the parking lot]  Where should I park?

[Scene 8.  Amanda and Chris, carrying video equipment, approach the nurses desk at Mercy Hospital.  A Nurse, about 45, dressed in colorful hospital garb is there to greet them.]

Amanda: Excuse me.  I wonder if you can give me information on a patient named Paul Field, he was admitted here last night with a gunshot wound.

Nurse: [Noticing Chris' camera]  Oh.  Are you from one of the news stations?  We've had several calls this morning from news people, but you're the first ones to show up in person.  [Over her shoulder, she addresses a colleague]  Look, Doris - a camera crew!

[A couple of nurses, Doris and Peggy, curiously gather to gape at Chris and Amanda]

Amanda: You do have a Paul Field admitted here, is that right?

Nurse: Oh yes.  There's been a lot of commotion about it.  He's in ICU under police guard.

Doris: Which station are you all from?

Amanda: NECN-10.

Peggy: Is that the one with Tom Stanton?

Nurse: No, he's on channel 5.

Doris: Do you all know Ted & Dixie?  I just love them.

Chris: No, Ted and Dixie are on Channel 7.

Nurse: Then you must work with Ned and Stacey.

Amanda: [Getting exasperated] No, we're with NECN-10, it's a cable station.

Nurse: [Disappointed] Oh.

Doris: [Sourly] No wonder you don't look familiar.

Amanda: Look, can you just tell me about Paul Field's condition?

[The two younger nurses disperse]

Nurse: He's listed as serious, but stable.  The attending physician, Dr. Hoyt, just left after a 20-hour shift.

Amanda: What room is he in?  We'd like to talk to him.

Nurse: Oh, that's impossible.  He isn't allowed any visitors, except family members.  He's under police guard.

Amanda: [Suspicious]  Yes, you said that already.  What else can you tell me?

Nurse: I can't give out a lot of information.  We have con­fidentiality rules.

Amanda: I know, but it's okay to reveal certain information to the press.  Can I talk to your PR person?

Nurse: We don't have anybody in that position here.  You see, we're not used to having notorious patients.  The heavy police security and the whole bit [she waves her hand, indicating the patrol cars outside] is all new to us.  To tell the truth, we're a bit overwhelmed.

Amanda: [Deflated]  I understand.  Listen, we're just going to do a summation shot outside your doors for the end of my report.

[Scene 9.  Chris and Amanda dejectedly walk to the door.  On the way, they are met by Peggy, the young nurse as she returns from the vending machine with a soda.]

Peggy: [Perkily] Hi!  Did you find out everything you needed to know?

Amanda:  Not really.  But we've got enough for the report.

Peggy: I was here last night when they brought him in.  I've never seen so much blood.  We hardly ever get gunshot wounds here, or criminals.  They had him in handcuffs the whole time.  Boy, was this place crawling with cops.  They were probably afraid he'd run off.

Amanda: [Interested]  What's your name?

Peggy: Peggy DeBorchek.

Amanda: Peggy, did you overhear anything, any odd bits of information from the police about what happened?

Peggy: Well, the cops shot him, so he must've done something bad.  The rumor is he's a drug dealer.

Amanda: Who said that?

Peggy: I don't know.  That was just the rumor.

Amanda: What was his condition when they brought him in?

Peggy: He was pretty torn up.  I mean you had to kind of feel sorry for the guy, whatever he did.  The cops went in and charged him shortly after he came out of surgery.  I don't even think he was fully conscious yet.  Is any of this useful?

Amanda: More than you realize.  We have to go and finish this piece now.  Thanks for the info.

Peggy: No problemo.

[The camera follows Chris and Amanda as they walk outdoors and begin setting up the camera shot.]

Chris: Why were the police hell bent on charging this guy so quickly?

Amanda: I don't know, maybe to get the heat off of themsel­ves.  The best defense is an offense.

Chris: You think they used excessive force?

Amanda: It's possible and it's bad timing.  The BPD is already under fire for police brutality and it’s an election year.  Police Commissioner McNamara has already announced he’s running for mayor.

Chris: [Focusing the camera]  Do you know what you're going to say?

Amanda: I never script it, it just comes out.  I'll tell you one thing, though, I'm going to dig into this a bit deeper.  I'd like to speak to this . . . [she checks her notes] Officer O'Brien personally.

Chris: Are you ready?

Amanda: Ready. [In her professional announcer's voice] I'm standing outside of Mercy Hospital in Sudbury, where the shooting victim, Paul Field is listed in serious, but stable condition.  Police officials declined to comment on what triggered the shooting.  A hospital source revealed that Field was charged as soon as he came out of surgery and that he remains under police guard . . .

[In the far background of this shot we see a solitary young woman walking briskly into the hospital.  The camera follows her inside then cut to:

[Scene 10.  Long shot - Hospital corridor.  Brynn Thayer walks toward the camera.   Brynn is 28 years old, attractive with blonde hair and a good figure.  She reaches the hospital room where an armed police guard is stationed, sitting scrolling through his cell phone.  He rises as she begins to enter.]

Brynn: What is this?

Guard: [In a tough, professional tone]  Police guard.  It's standard procedure when a potential-flight assailant requires a hospital stay.  Who are you?

Brynn: His attorney.

[He looks her over, sizing her up.  This annoys Brynn]

Guard: Go on in.

[Brynn walks past him haughtily and turns to give him a cold glare]

Brynn: Thank you.

11. [INT.  PAUL’S HOSPITAL ROOM. DAY]

[The room is small, the curtains are drawn, but the bright sun outside soaks the room in a warm golden glow.  Paul lies on his back, eyes closed, hooked up to many machines that beep and hum. He is well-built, with brown hair and rugged good looks.  At the moment he is pale, weak and in need of a shave.  He has the look of a manual laborer.  Brynn approaches his bed]

[As he becomes aware of her presence, his eyes open and he stares at her, slightly dazed.  He appears either very tired or drugged]

Brynn: Paul Field?

[He nods imperceptibly]

Brynn: I'm Brynn Thayer - from Gillian, Morgan & Aaronson. [Pause.  PAUL looks confused]  I'm your attorney.

Paul: They sent you?

Brynn: That's right.

[Paul drops his head back on the pillow in despair, as if to say 'I'm doomed.']

[THIS SCREENPLAY WILL BE AVAILABLE IN THE KDP AMAZON BOOKSTORE AT A DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED]