[SCENE I. SOPHIE’s house. It is rather a mess of pizza boxes, beer bottles, and other associated detritus of living without cleaning up. She is on the couch eating a pizza, drinking a beer, watching TV, and generally looks a mess: like she hasn’t showered, gotten dressed, or left the house in days. The doorbell rings.]
SOPHIE: Go away!
(The doorbell rings again, followed by a knocking and someone calling “Sophie, it’s me.” She reluctantly gets up and answers the door. ERIC is there, along with a nervous YOUNG MAN.)
ERIC: Hey, sorry to disturb you, I know you’re busy–(he looks around)–redecorating your apartment, but–
SOPHIE: I’m fine. Leave me alone.
ERIC: This fellow here will not leave anyone at work alone until he’s talked to the Sophie Swanson.
SOPHIE: So, Corday is finally begging to take me back, is she? I knew that paper wouldn’t stay afloat long without me.
ERIC: Er, no, we’re fine. But since you’re a friend, sort of, I thought I’d actually put you in touch with a fan.
YOUNG MAN: I’m not just a fan, Mr. Connell, sir, I’m her biggest fan!
ERIC: Right, your biggest fan. I’m doing you a favor here, Sophie.
SOPHIE: Okay, fine. But you tell that Corday bitch I’m not interested. She made her bed, she can sleep in it.
ERIC: Right. I will definitely inform her that you are not interested in the job she isn’t offering you back. (Beat.) Well, I’ll just leave you two alone, shall I? I’m sure you have lots to talk about. I just can’t imagine what. (He departs.)
SOPHIE: So, uh, can I call you John?
YOUNG MAN: Uh, my name is Peter, so–
SOPHIE: Great! What can I do for you, John?
YOUNG MAN: I saw something suspicious down at Portland City Light. I think the new streetlights they’re putting in aren’t just streetlights.
SOPHIE: (Skeptical.) Then what are they?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know, man. But there’s something weird going on down there.
SOPHIE: Look, I don’t really have any money, so even if I wanted to do your investigation–(The YOUNG MAN hands her an envelope. She looks inside and immediately changes her tune.) You didn’t mention it was paid work.
YOUNG MAN: I don’t trust anyone else at the Examiner. You’re the only one with the investigative chops to pull this off.
SOPHIE: Well, I do have some other things lined up this week–
YOUNG MAN: There’s a lot more where that came from when you close the deal, so to speak.
SOPHIE: –but I can definitely cancel all of them and get to work today!
YOUNG MAN: I thought so. (He hands her a business card.) Call me with any developments.
SOPHIE: I will! Thanks, John–I mean, Paul.
YOUNG MAN: Peter.
SOPHIE: Yes, yes. Now go away. I have work to do.
[SCENE II. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. SOPHIE is outside, and cringes before knocking on the door. MELISSA answers, looking a bit ragged in an oversized t-shirt and boxer shorts.]
MELISSA: Didn’t you die or something?
SOPHIE: No, I just–
MELISSA: Could you maybe remedy that? (She tries to close the door, but SOPHIE has put a foot in the way. She yelps as the door slams on her foot, but it remains open.) Christ, what will it take to make you go away?
SOPHIE: I just wanted to ask you some questions about–
MELISSA: You don’t even work for the newspaper anymore, Swanson. What do you care about anything I have to say?
SOPHIE: I’m, uh, starting a PI firm.
MELISSA: (Beat.) What does the PI want with Portland, Washington?
SOPHIE: No, no, PI like private detective.
MELISSA: You mean private investigator.
MELISSA: PI. Private investigator.
SOPHIE: Right, that’s what I said.
MELISSA: And that still doesn’t explain why I should care.
SOPHIE: Look, I didn’t want to talk to you either, so if you just let me ask you a few questions we can just get this over with.
MELISSA: Fine.(She opens the door.)You have five minutes.
(MELISSA leads her inside. They sit down at the dinner table, where MELISSA pours herself a coffee and stares at SOPHIE expectantly.]
SOPHIE: Right, uh. Did you notice that they changed the streetlights on your block?
SOPHIE: Are you sure you haven’t noticed anything suspicious going on?
MELISSA: Well, this crazy reporter came by and started asking me questions about streetlights, but I told her to fuck off.
SOPHIE: Oh, really? The Examiner’s involved in this? I–(She catches the smirk on MELISSA’s face and sags.) Oh.
MELISSA: I don’t know what to tell you, Swanson. The light’s kind of an obnoxious blueish white. Like, seriously headache-inducing. Sarah’s out getting some blackout curtains, actually.
SOPHIE: That’s something, I guess.(Beat.)And apart from the headaches you don’t feel strange or anything?
MELISSA: As much as I hate to provide you with such low-hanging fruit, how am I supposed to know what strange feels like?
SOPHIE: Right, yeah, that was a stupid question.
MELISSA: You’re usually more on top of things than this.
SOPHIE: I’m a little out of practice.
MELISSA: Right. Well, get the fuck out of my house, I got nothing more for you.
SOPHIE: I’d say thanks for your time, but–
MELISSA: (Pointing.) Door’s that way.
(SOPHIE departs and gets in her car.)
SOPHIE: I think it’s time to pay City Light a little visit.
[SCENE III. Portland City Light. There is a RECEPTIONIST at a front desk in an otherwise deserted office. SOPHIE walks up and shows her a very old press pass.]
SOPHIE: Hi, I’m with the Portland Examiner, and I’m working on a story, and I was wondering if I could get a tour?
RECEPTIONIST: I’ll see if there’s anyone around. May I ask what the story’s about?
SOPHIE: Well, you do such a good job making sure everyone gets their electricity and everything, so I thought maybe there’s a story there. About why you’re so great.
RECEPTIONIST: . . . right. I’ll go see if someone’s available to show you around. Be right back. (She gets up and departs, perhaps a little too hurriedly. She returns with a bearded engineer with glasses.) Steven says he can show you around, if you like, miss, ah–
SOPHIE: Excellent. Good to meet you, Steven!
STEVEN:(Showing her into the back.)So, uh, what did you want to know?
SOPHIE: Well, I had a friend telling me about the new streetlights you put in. I thought maybe we’d start there. The changes you make to make our lives a little brighter.
STEVEN: That was a stroke of luck, really. We got a new engineer who went to school right here in Portland, and he said he’d been working on this new design since he took a class by someone named, uh, Fielding, I think it was.
SOPHIE: (Sounding a little alarmed.) Mr. Fielding at Portland High School?
STEVEN: That’s right. I heard he died in an unfortunate accident recently. My sympathies. (Beat.) Anyway, after a few weeks of work, he’d made these new lights. Brighter and more energy efficient than the old ones.
SOPHIE: Do you think maybe I could meet this new engineer?
STEVEN: He’s on vacation this week. I’m sure I could arrange for a meeting next week, though I’m sure I can answer your questions.
SOPHIE: Well, I am very curious about his relationship with Mr. Fielding, but, uh. (Awkward pause.) My friend told me the lights gave her headaches. Maybe that’s something?
SOPHIE: Well, she’s a bit of an alcoholic and a total drug addict and is probably not to be trusted. Nobody really likes her and I’m being generous in calling her a friend. But I mean, she seemed pretty sure. Unless she was just saying that to get rid of me, which, in hindsight, is actually pretty likely.
STEVEN: . . . okay. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to mention to our testing department, right?
SOPHIE: I suppose not. Incidentally, could you direct me to the ladies’ room?
STEVEN: Down the hall on your left.
SOPHIE: I’ll be right back. (She hurries into the restroom and pulls out her cell phone.) Gavin? This is Sophie.
GAVIN: Uh, hey. I thought you were, uh–
SOPHIE: I got better. Listen, do you remember Mr. Fielding?
GAVIN: The one we blew up at the science fair?
SOPHIE: Yeah. I think some evil project of his is going live in the streetlights around the city. I think I need your help.
GAVIN: . . . but didn’t we blow him up?
SOPHIE: Yes. Meet me at the Jaded Old Crone at eight.
GAVIN: All right, I’ll be there.
SOPHIE: Excellent. (She hangs up.) You can’t escape from Sophie Swanson, Fielding. I will find you.