"You have ten minutes.”

“That’s not a whole hell of a lot of time.”

“Shall I make it five?”

“Well, if you put it that way… I just wanted to say I really appreciate you taking the time to…”

“Tick, tock, Mr. Rogers.”

“Paul. My friends call me Paul.”

“Well, I suppose I should begin.”

“Please do.”

“I’m sure you’ve been pitched hundreds of scripts over the years.”

“Thousands.”

“And you’ve probably bought only…?”

“From a pitch? Four have been optioned.”

“And produced?”

“None.”

“Wow! Better chance winning the lottery and making it on my own.”

“Your story…?”

“Yes, well, it’s sort of like Fatal Attraction meets The Usual Suspects.”

“Interesting comparison.”

“Don’t you think? The main character is named Lenny. He’s your stereotypical nice guy who gets taken advantage of by his boss, his friends, and even his wife.”

“Mr. Rogers, I’m afraid I’m not hearing anything original.”

“Hold on. We’re still in Act 1. One gloomy morning as Lenny is leaving for work he catches the deliveryman tossing his paper into a puddle in the driveway. This event carries him off the deep end. He has a mental meltdown and decides it’s time to get back at everyone who has ever wronged him.”

“All because the newspaper got soggy?”

“It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. His first target is his boss, Sam –– a cruel, overweight man, with a receding hairline and bad skin. The previous winter, Sam, in fearing for his job, had sabotaged a computer program and had the blame cast on Lenny, which in turn gets him demoted.”

“I see.”

“Told in flashback.”

“Flashback?”

“Yes. To augment the suspense. Lenny severs the brake line in Sam’s car. The following morning on the way to the office, Sam crashes into the highway divider and is killed.”

“It sounds like a bad episode of Matlock.”

“I realize it’s a tired way of murder but you have to understand the character. Lenny is a first-time criminal whose mind hasn’t yet had the time to warp and devise more nefarious schemes.”

“Well, I certainly hope he’s a fast learner if you want to audience to hang around to the end.”

“No. He gets better at it. After dealing with his boss he then targets his friends.”

“What did they do to him?”

“Played a prank on him in high school.”

“Wait a minute. How old is this guy?”

“Thirty-nine.”

“It must have been some prank.”

“They stole his clothes while he was taking a shower in the gym locker room.”

“He kills his friends 25 years later for stealing his clothes? You’re going to have to work on the motive for that one a little better.”

“Don’t be fooled. Traumatic grade-school experiences can have lasting effects on kids.”

“But he’s friends with them now?”

“It’s a close-knit community. No one moved out of town after finishing school. Over the years he has maintained his friendships.”

“All right. I’ll play along. What does he do then?

“Well, it involves a car.”

“Back to the car?”

“I know. I’m working on it. You can only have so many car crashes in one town before eyebrows start to raise. Anyway, soon after Lenny’s promotion, his friends decide to take him out for drinks.”

“Promotion?”

“Yes. Now that his boss is dead, someone had to fill the role.”

“That’s lazy.”

“Excuse me?”

“Lazy. Lazy writing. It’s too neat. The underling that murders his boss and is rewarded by obtaining his position. I’ve read it hundreds of times before.”

“Can I get back to the story?”

“Tick tock, Mr. Rogers. You’re not impressing me so far.”

“As I was saying, Lenny goes out drinking. Even though it is supposed to be in celebration of him, his buddies, Tom and Jerry, end up doing most of the drinking.”

“Tom and Jerry? Is that supposed to be some sort of joke?”

“No. That’s their names. I can’t help it.”

“Yes you can. Meet Lenny’s new best friends, Tom and Steve.”

“Fine. Tom and Steve get so drunk that they are barely conscious. Lenny drives to Landing Lane bridge, a turn of the century structure that is barely sturdy enough for cars. Lenny drives the car off the bridge. It’s not much of a drop to the water so he is able to pull himself from the vehicle before it sinks. His friends are too drunk to escape.”

“The End?”

“Not quite.”

“His wife?”

“Exactly. She has been cheating on him, thinking he was too stupid to know.”

“Hold on a moment. That is your Fatal Attraction angle?”

“Yes.”

“Have you actually seen the movie, Mr. Rogers?”

“Well, no, but everyone knows what it’s about.”

“Making cross references to movies you haven’t seen is not the best. I think it’s time for us to wrap this up.”

“I’m about to. So Lenny kills his wife.”

“How?”

“He drops a hair dryer into the tub while she is taking a bath.”

“Oh come on, now! Surely you could have thought of something a little more original! Most hairdryers these days have safety devices built into them. They shut off when they come into contact with water.”

“This was a real old one. Her mother’s.”

“At this point the only people left in theater are going to be the masochists.”

“So now that his wife is dead Lenny expects to feel liberated. All of those who have done him wrong are dead. He should feel great. But he doesn’t. He realizes the wife’s lover, a real son-of-a-bitch, needs to dies as well. Only then will Lenny be able to live in peace.”

“Perfect. Just what the audiences wants to see. The main character killing someone else.”

“I’d like to think of it more as justifiable homicides.”

“The End.”

“Slow down. The clock on the wall says I have one minute.”

“Fine. You mentioned the story is like The Usual Suspects. I fail to see the correlation.”

“The bad guy in that movie. The once Kevin Spacey played.”

“Keyser Soze.”

“Yes, him. Thanks. Now, before you say anything, I did see that movie. Lenny, like Keyser Soze, gets away with all of his crimes. That’s the link.”

“That’s great. The two people left in the theater will be happy to hear that the main character, a serial killer, who is not sympathetic in the least, has gotten away with all of his heinous crimes.”

“So after he kills the lover, Lenny settles back down, finds better friends, a more rewarding job, a new spouse, and lives happily ever after.”

“Roll credits?”

“Yes. Roll credits.”

“There is one thing I am mildly curious about. How does the wife’s lover die? Have you thought of another crafty car crime? A potato in the tail pipe causing the carbon monoxide fumes to overwhelm him?”

“You really want to know?”

“Why not?”

“Are you considering optioning my script?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“All right. The lover – he gets shot. A .45 with a silencer screwed on so that no one will hear.”

“Any special way?”

“No. Through the chest. Dies quickly so he can’t identify the killer.”

“Does it hurt?”

“I’m not sure. I hope not. For your sake.”

Michael Penncavage has been an associate editor for Space and Time Magazine as well as the editor of the horror/suspense anthology, “Tales From a Darker State.” One of his stories has recently been filmed as a short movie. Another short story, “The Landlord,” was recently translated into a play. Fiction of his can be found in approximately 80 magazines and anthologies from six different countries.

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