An Original Screenplay
Melanie Anne Phillips
Catch up on previous chapters at the
Dry Spell table of contents
EXT LAKE EDGE EVENING
We start in close on another EPA field sample bag as a shriveled and brittle gull is slipped inside. Donovan lifts the bag and places it in the back of his Land Rover where it joins a dozen others, ranging from the bass we saw earlier to several varieties of field mice and birds. Each animal looks like its skin has been vacu-formed over its bones. Donovan makes a final entry on the label, starts the shiny white jeep and jolts off down the bumpy terrain toward the after-glow of the recently set sun.
INT TOWN HALL NIGHT
An energetic crowd fills every available chair and most of the wall space in the small chamber, which was obviously never designed for this degree of civic interest by the public. Katie sits in the audience next to Frank, watching the proceedings with a visible chip on her shoulder. Engaged in light conversation, as evidenced by the smiles and laughs, are the seven members of the Geyser City Town Council, who sit behind a long desk on an elevated platform at the head of the room. Additionally, Travis sits at the center of the desk next to the MAYOR, who leans over to him with his hand over the microphone.
So, where the hell is the EPA fella? You sure you told him seven o'clock
He was told.
The councilman next to the Mayor taps him on the arm and points at his watch. The Mayor nods his understanding, shrugs, picks up his gavel and slams it down with seriousness, repeating the action once.
Will the gallery please come to order.
The gallery pays little attention, not being finished with the scores of conversations. The Mayor raps his gavel twice more with marginally better results.
Willoughby. . . Shut up!
Willoughby, a scrawny farmer in a front war looks up at the Mayor with a flustered expression, but sits down amid laughs from the gallery, who now quiet down to a mild buzz.
Since tonight's council meeting is largely a formality, I'd like to dispense with the usual dry protocol and open the floor to any interested parties before we give final approval to Mr. Travis here to start up the Geyser City Geothermal Plant.
The crowd cheers as the Mayor says the name of the plant; obviously, the vast majority of the citizens are in favor of the facility..
First up to the floor mike is a middle-aged shopkeeper who, from the tone of his delivery is a plant for the Mayor.
Henry. . .
Mayor, I'd just like to express my thanks and the gratitude of the whole Geyser City Chamber of Commerce for your efforts is securing the contract for this high-tech, pollution-free, generation facility for our community.
EXT TOWN HALL NIGHT
The EPA jeep screeches to a halt, as Donovan double parks it in front of the steps. He fumbles out of the car, checking his watch and trying to straighten his rumpled clothes. He pops open his briefcase, but it was upside down, and the contents spill out all over the street. Donovan sifts through the various forms and bulletins, finds the one he wants, places the briefcase on top of the pile to keep it from blowing away, and darts up the steps to the Town Hall.
INT TOWN HALL NIGHT
Henry is just finishing up with his prepared speech.
. . .and I have no doubt that like me, the good people of Geyser City will see fit to return you to office come election time next fall.
Well, thank you Henry. It's just a small part of my commitment to making Geyser City a showplace for the twenty-first century.
Donovan arrives through the oversize double doors at the back of the room and stops to get his bearings. As Henry steps down Katie starts to rise, but Frank gently holds her back.
It won't do any good, Katie.
You know I've got to try.
Frank shrugs, releasing his grip, and Katie steps up to the mike. Travis leans over to the Mayor with a somber expression.
This could be trouble.
MAYOR (to Gallery)
For those of you who don't already know, this is our own Evelyn Kates, Anabelle's little girl, all grown up and come back to haunt us with Indian spirits.
The Gallery applauds its approval. Katie nods curtly to the Mayor, aware of his game.
That's right, I'm Anabelle's little girl, all grown up. But I'm also a PHD in Field Archeology. And you know, I couldn't have done it without the support a lot of you gave my mom when she was working two jobs to keep me in school. Heck, I was in my second year of college before I saw numbers as big as our account at Mr. Macgready's store.
Everyone laughs as the crowd warms up to one of their own who made it. The Mayor jumps in, displeased with the direction she's taking.
You got a point, Evelyn?
Just this, Mr. Mayor. You all know I love this town. And you know any daughter of Anabelle's is not going to quit until she gets what she's after.
More laughter. The Mayor leans over to Travis.
Here it comes.
Now, we all want this wonderful new plant that'll bring prosperity back to Geyser City. But right now, even at this moment, the water behind the dam is flooding the last of the old Indian ruins, and once that happens they're gone forever.
Now, I know that the economic future of this town is a lot more important that a bunch of old pottery and stone knives, but if we can document these ruins, it'll put Geyser City not only on the map, but in the books.
Katie pauses and looks at the Mayor who slightly shakes his head: he knows he's lost already. Donovan grins, impressed with her ability.
If we can re-open the spillways for just the rest of the week, we can make our own place in history. Sure, there won't be quite as much steam at the opening celebration, but I'm sure if you let Mr. Travis know what you want, he'll be happy to help out.
A quick glance to Travis, who glares at her, covering with a smile.
What do you say?
The crowd roars its approval. Travis leans over and whispers to the Mayor, who nods and raps his Gavel.
I'm pleased to announce that Mr. Travis has graciously agreed to re-open the spillways through the end of the week. And he also tells me if he needs any more steam, he knows where to get it.
Travis nods in concession to Katie, who nods back, and the audience goes wild. Katie leaves the mike and returns to her seat.
Well, I think we've certainly heard from both ends of the spectrum, and rather than keep you all from the spread we have laid out in the lobby, I move we get to the vote and then get on to the food.
Donovan begins moving through the crowd toward the microphone.
All those in favor of approving the application for industrial operation by the Geyser City Power Company signify by saying "Aye". . . .Charlie?
Abner . . .
Donovan reaches the mike and calls into it much too loud, so that the sound squeals from feedback.
The Mayor, interrupted and startled by the sound, first looks irritated, then, recognizing Donovan, flashes a politician's grin.
Dr. Donovan! We were afraid you wouldn't make it, but now that you're here, is there anything you'd like to say before we finalize the vote?
Donovan still gets feedback when he speaks into the mike.
As a matter of fact, there is.
Donovan unfolds the sheet of paper he took from his briefcase, and the Mayor leans back with a beatific smile anticipating another glowing testimonial.
Pursuant to the Environmental Protection Act, Section Four, Sub-section Twelve, paragraph Three, and by the power vested in me by the Federal District Affiliate, I hereby place the Geyser City Power Station and all surrounding aquasystems under quarantine for the next thirty-six hours.
Thank you, Dr. Donovan! Now, I . . . QUARANTINE?!
And you can consider this official notification as well, Mr. Travis.
A shocked murmur grows in the crowd as the Mayor raps his gavel repeatedly.
Order! We will have order!
Travis watches Donovan with a taut face while the Mayor leans to the microphone, his voice rising from normal to a near shout at the end of his words.
Uh . . . Dr. Donovan, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who'd like to know What The Hell This Is ALL ABOUT!
Katie watches intently as Donovan replies, voice controlled but firm. Even so, he comes off as less than experienced at (or maybe just unconcerned with) smoothing rumpled feathers.
The edge of the new lake is littered with scores of dead animals that weren't there yesterday. I'm shutting you down until I can find out what caused it.
Travis leans toward the mike, speaking in controlled tones.
Dr. Donovan . . . Jim . . . I don't want to question your . . . logic . . . but you know as well as I do that you see substantial animal loss whenever you flood an area for the first time. The poor bastards drown in their holes and wash up on shore.
You ever see anything like this?
Donovan pulls out a sample bag containing a dead and shriveled squirrel and drops it unceremoniously in front of Travis on the council desk. The disgusting gnarled corpse stares up at him.
Son of a bitch.
I've brought enough gear with me to analyze anything from a chemical to a disease. Whatever is causing this, I'll find it.
EXT TOWN HALL NIGHT
Donovan pushes open the double doors and heads for his jeep. Katie is next out and half-runs to catch up.
Donovan turns around as he opens the jeep door, and recognizes her.
You're Dr. Kates, aren't you?
Call me Katie.
What can I do for you, Katie?
I just want to verify that this quarantine doesn't apply to our recovery operation.
I'm afraid it does. If there's something toxic out there I can't take a chance on anyone getting hurt.
Donovan stuffs his papers back in the briefcase, slings it onto the front seat, and follows behind it.
If the plant is quarantined, the spillways have to remain shut, right?
And if the spillways are shut, the water keeps building up behind the dam.
That's the idea.
Then in thirty-six hours, it's going to rise far enough to wipe out everything that's left.
Sorry, Katie, I can't make any exceptions.
Katie slams his door shut, barely missing his leg.
Wordlessly, Donovan revs his engine and drives off into the night, as the crowd begins to file from the Town Hall.
Son of a bitch.
Frank, visible in the background, speaking into the microphone on Katie's jeep radio, hangs up the mike and approaches her slowly.
Katie . . .
She turns, her angry face shifting to concern when she sees his pensive expression.
What is it?
Frank hesitates, forestalling an unpleasant task.
They've found Jack and Barney.
HARD CUT TO:
TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER FOUR:
"UNDERWOOD AND THE CORPSE"
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