Episode 2: Fire Code

[SCENE I. The streets of Portland at night. SARAH is walking home, carrying some grocery bags and talking on her cell phone.]

SARAH: Yeah, I’ll be home in like ten minutes. (Pause.) Yeah. Oh, also, I picked up some beer. (Pause.) Great. See you soon. (She hangs up and looks at her cell phone with a smile. At this point, several people in masks sneak up behind her and forcibly haul her off–sticking a gag in her mouth before she can scream. She drops her cellphone and grocery bags and tries to struggle, but her kidnappers outnumber her and are considerably larger. They drag her into a back alley.)

 

[SCENE II. Outside the offices of the Portland Examiner. ERIC is just leaving and locking up when a large man looms behind him and punches him out. He is hauled off with a fireman’s carry, keys still dangling in the lock.]

 

[SCENE III. MELISSA and SARAH’s house. MELISSA is on the phone to the police. She is pacing restlessly.]

POLICE: Sergeant Baker speaking.

MELISSA: Yes, I’d like to report a missing person. My roommate was supposed to be home like three hours ago and–

POLICE: I’m sorry, we can’t file a report until someone has been missing for more than 24 hours.

MELISSA: But she’s missing now!

POLICE: Rules are rules, ma’am. What if we sent out some men to look for her and she turned up in an hour?

MELISSA: Fine. (Hangs up. Pauses for a moment before pacing even more furiously. She is interrupted by a knock at the door.) Oh, thank God. (She begins walking to the door, shouting.) Where the fuck have you–(She opens the door to find SOPHIE standing outside.) –been? The fuck?

SOPHIE: I need your help.

MELISSA: Okay, no. In the last year alone you’ve made my best friend cry, gotten me pressganged, given the New Year to evil fairies, stalked my friend–

SOPHIE: Meow. I didn’t know you were into holding petty grudges, Xenakis. Here’s me, thinking you were above all this, and–

MELISSA: Listen. If you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to beat you with one of Sarah’s art projects.

SOPHIE: And let me guess, Sarah didn’t come home tonight?

MELISSA: Oh my God. Did you take her? I will–

SOPHIE: Relax, I didn’t touch your stupid friend. (She hands MELISSA a cell phone.) But I got this text from Eric.

(MELISSA looks it over.)

MELISSA: ‘Kidnapped by fire department along with Sarah Ames and some others?’

SOPHIE: Yeah. I think maybe it was autocorrect or something.

MELISSA: Why do you even want my help? You hate me. Enough to try to get me pressganged on an Alaskan fishing boat.

SOPHIE: Can’t you just let bygones be bygones? Look, I need someone who’s entirely unprincipled, and you’re pretty much the worst person I know.

MELISSA: (Theatrical sigh.) I just want it on record that the only reason I am agreeing to this is to help Sarah.

SOPHIE: Well, look who’s the altruist? Finds out her best friend’s involved and suddenly she cares. Selfish bitch.

MELISSA: If you keep that up there will be violence.

SOPHIE: Listen, just because you aren’t a good enough person to–

(MELISSA grabs her by the collar and pushes her against the doorframe.)

MELISSA: Don’t push your luck.

SOPHIE: (Clearly in awe, if not actually frightened.) Sorry.

MELISSA: Now. We need to figure out where that text came from.

 

[SCENE IV. The Portland Volunteer Fire Department. SARAH, ERIC, and a handful of other people are on the floor of a featureless dark room. ERIC is typing something on his cellphone.]

SARAH: Are you texting someone to come rescue us?

ERIC: I’m checking in on 4square.

SARAH: Ah. (Beat.) Do you know when the Volunteer Fire Department became evil?

ERIC: Well, there was a new fire chief a few weeks ago. It was kind of a coup. It got a buried-back-on-page-ten one-column story in the Examiner.

SARAH: This is really stupid.

(Just then, the door opens, casting harsh light on SARAH and ERIC. A tall man in a fireman’s outfit walks through, flanked by two slightly shorter–but no less beefy–men.)

FIRE CHIEF: (Sinister.) On behalf of everyone here, I’d like to welcome you to the Portland Volunteer Fire Department.

ERIC: (Aside to SARAH.) Oh, Christ.

SARAH: (Aside to ERIC.) I am pretty sure I would make a pretty bad fireman!

FIRE CHIEF: Your training will begin tomorrow morning. I hope at least some of you survive.

PRISONER: We never volunteered!

FIRE CHIEF: Oh, you will. (He makes a gesture. The two shorter firemen approach and begin beating the prisoner.) I’ll see you all in the morning, bright and early. (He laughs an evil laugh and departs. The room goes dark, leaving only the sound of the PRISONER being beaten.)

 

[SCENE V. The streets of Portland. SOPHIE and MELISSA are retracing SARAH’s steps, and come across her fallen groceries and cell phone. MELISSA kneels to look them over.]

SOPHIE: Did you find anything?

(MELISSA takes out a bottle of beer and opens it and takes a drink.)

SOPHIE: Does . . . the taste of the beer help you find out where she is?

MELISSA: I needed a drink. (She puts the rest of the beers in her bag, along with SARAH’s cell phone. SOPHIE’s phone beeps and she looks at it.)

SOPHIE: Eric just checked in on 4square. At . . . the Volunteer Fire Station.

MELISSA: Huh.

SOPHIE: Only one thing to do, then.

MELISSA: Drive over there?

SOPHIE: I . . . huh. I was just going to burn something down. I guess your idea would work too.

MELISSA: Tell you what. You do that, and I’ll get in the car. (She sets off at a jog back towards the house.)

SOPHIE: (Well after MELISSA is gone.) Yeah, sure, way to chicken out, Xenakis. Leave all the dirty work to me, as usual.

(She gets out a lighter and looks around thoughtfully.)

 

[SCENE VI. The Volunteer Fire Department. A fire alarm calls the two FIREMEN away from beating their PRISONER.]

FIRST FIREMAN: We’ll be back later.

SECOND FIREMAN: Yeah.

FIRST FIREMAN: Just you think about volunteering.

SECOND FIREMAN: Yeah.

(They depart. SARAH rushes over to her side.)

SARAH: I’m so sorry! I should have helped.

PRISONER: It’s fine.

SARAH: It’s not! Are you okay?

(Outside, the flashing red of a firetruck’s lights illuminates the room for a moment, then the sound of a siren trailing off into the distance.)

PRISONER: Really, I’m fine. (He forces himself upright.)

(ERIC, meanwhile, gets up and tries the door, but finds it locked.)

ERIC: Of course it’s locked.

SARAH: I’m sure you have to be very smart to be a fireman.

ERIC: This doesn’t explain why they thought you’d be a good candidate.

SARAH: They admired my artistic vision. Fire engines decorated with murals depicting scenes of bravery in the face of terrible flames.

ERIC: Right. (He notices something out the door’s window.) Hang on, there’s someone out there.

(Very faintly, we can hear MELISSA calling SARAH’s name.)

SARAH: That was Melissa!

ERIC: Really? (Pounds on the door and shouts.) Hey! In here!

(After a few moments, MELISSA briefly appears in the window. There is the sound of the lock turning, then the door opens, once more spilling harsh light into the room. MELISSA enters, silhouetted in the light. SARAH runs up to her and hugs her.)

SARAH: Melissa!

MELISSA: Sarah! Bring your cell phone next time you get kidnapped. I worry.

SARAH: They were going to force us to volunteer!

MELISSA: They were–

ERIC: Wait, wait. Why are you here?

MELISSA: Um, I’m saving the day. What does it look like I’m doing?

ERIC: But–I told Sophie that–

MELISSA: Anyway, we need to set up a trap for the firemen when they come back.

 

[SCENE VII. The fire station. The former prisoners are lurking in ambush, wielding fire hoses and things like that. The fire truck returns with the FIREMEN exulting over their victory over the flames. As they return and disembark, they are set upon with fire hoses from multiple angles, and are soon overwhelmed.]

SOPHIE: Um, help?

(MELISSA signals a cease-fire, and runs up to the firetruck and emerges, carrying SOPHIE, who was tied up in the cab. She frees SOPHIE from her ropes.)

MELISSA: (Turning back to the FIREMEN.) The cops are on their way and there’s plenty more water where that came from.

FIRE CHIEF: Who–

MELISSA: Melissa Xenakis. Remember that–the name of the woman who kicked your ass.

(The police show up, along with some journalists. MELISSA shakes hands with the detective in charge, to a small barrage of camera flashes. Then she leads the injured PRISONER to them, with the help of SARAH.)

SARAH: When he said he wouldn’t volunteer they just started beating him!

PRISONER: If it wasn’t for Sarah’s friend I’m sure they would have killed me.

DETECTIVE: Do you need a ride to the hospital, son?

PRISONER: I–

MELISSA: I’ll take him. Coming, Sarah?

SARAH: Yes ma’am!

DETECTIVE: Very well. Thanks again for your help, Miss Xenakis.

(They make their way to MELISSA’s car–more camera flashes–and drive off.)

DETECTIVE: There goes a real hero.

 

[SCENE VIII. The offices of the Portland Examiner. SOPHIE is looking at the newspaper copy–various pictures of MELISSA in various heroic poses, including accepting an award from the MAYOR, shaking hands with the DETECTIVE, helping the wounded PRISONER, embracing SARAH, etc. Headlines read, for example, ‘Local Hero Stops Crooked Fire Chief’; ‘Xenakis Helps Wounded Prisoner’; ‘Quick Thinking Saves Lives’; ‘Mayor to Honor Portland’s Hero’, etc.]

SOPHIE: This is bullshit. If I hadn’t helped she wouldn’t have gotten anything done.

ERIC: It’s possible holding a petty vendetta against her didn’t help you there.

SOPHIE: I’m not the one holding a grudge! She’s still mad about the incident with the pressgang. And the one with that abandoned house. And the time where I switched out Baby New Year for an evil fairy.

ERIC: Right.

SOPHIE: Ancient history! (Smacks the newspaper.) And now everyone’s talking about how great and selfless and brave she is. What about me? Where’s my adulation?

ERIC: I’m sure your time will come.

SOPHIE: It better. I haven’t put all this work in saving the city for nothing.

ERIC: Life can be so unfair sometimes, can’t it?

SOPHIE: You’re telling me.

(Fin.)

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