Starlit Trip


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Scene Title Starlit Trip
Synopsis Death is the starlit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.
Date March 26, 2009



The screen door squeaks before slamming shut. Familiar as ever even after years away.

Newspaper and old twigs burn in an old metal drum. In the grass, hidden by nothing but a row of thick evergreens, she drops her overcoat into the snow and begins to strip off the outer layer of her clothes. A sweater - a gift from her mother many Christmases ago, ugly thing. A pair of jeans - new, Levis, not her brand. Expensive black gloves made of leather - peppered with something invisible. Dark tennis shoes so new they haven't had the chance to scuff a floor yet - droplets of thick moisture fade to black. All into the barrel, topped with a shock of golden blonde hair.

Everything burns.

In the end, the pockets of the coat are emptied and it's given over to be sacrificed to a cruel god of popping ember and licks of orange. Everything left to become ash.

A woman emerges from the trees, seen by no one. Heavy flakes of snow rain down from the sky, covering barefoot tracks left behind to whisper her name. There will be no betrayal tonight.

A pair of college mascot-adorned shorts and a tanktop do little to ward off the chill. But the thrill of victory at last radiates heat from the inside out. Snow doesn't cling to dark hair for long.

Silence in the car. The radio is flicked on. Programmed stations come through as white noise. Too far from home to pick up the signal. Buttons are tapped, toyed with. Scanning.

Songs of rehab. Broken loves. Lost lives. Hearts mended. Soulmates found. Nothing feels right. A CD. Panic!

It's the substandard motels on the


corner of Fourth and Fremont — Street

Appealing only 'cause they're just that unappealing -

Any practiced Cath-o-lic would cross themselves upon entering.

The scenery whips by. Trees and houses and road signs a blur.

What should she feel? Triumph? Relief? Guilt? Elation?


It hasn't happened yet.

Welcome to New York

The phone is glanced at. Not yet. Not just yet.

In the cover of night, two identical vehicles are parked side by side. The light in the car park is out. She dresses in the dark. Jeans - her brand, a dark blue tee shirt with white screened lettering - too dark to read its message now - and sandaled heels. The coat was a careless mistake. She'll go without.

With gloves from the trunk shielding her fingers from the cold, she produces a screwdriver and swaps the license plates of the two Buicks. No one sees. She slinks back into the room she's parked outside of. She takes the money left for her off the nightstand and leaves the key she used to get in. The man in bed was easy to manipulate.

Easier to drug.

Solid yellow lines drift past smoothly. She wants to drive faster, but that could spell disaster. She switches lanes. The City will come soon enough. No need for the passing lane. Let others be impatient. No one appreciates impatience as she does.


How much longer until she can pick up that phone?

Five miles? Ten? More?

It happens. The car pulls off the road with a jerk of the wheel and a squeal of tires. She leans her head against the steering wheel. Have to stick to the plan. She sobs. She has to make the call. Just a few more miles. It's a promise.

Just a few miles more.

With the tears wiped away and her eyes back on the interstate, she counts the miles. The minutes. The seconds. She counts slow, even breaths. Finally, it's time. She can do it now.

Speed dial seven.

It begins to ring.

The delay on the pickup is worrisome, just the muffled ringing on the phone against her ear.

It's obvious by the way the girl on the other end does answer the phone, that she didn't check the Caller ID first. In fact, her voice doesn't even chime in immediately, just the rustling of wind over the receiver and the heavy creak of old metal, "Hello? H – lo?"

Her reception is terrible, "Hello, yo — I'm here, hold on a second —"

There's a loud, heavy clang of something metal slamming shut, followed by other murmuring voices. Colette's clearly stands out above them, "No — Bai-Chan, no — Oh Christ just wait a minute— xiao gui! XIAO GUI! Shen me niao!" Mandarin — Why is she speaking Mandarin?

There's a clattering sound of keys on wood, and then Colette's voice far clearer than before. "Hello — Hey, you still there?"

She has to wait for the signal to clear up. A clear channel is required for this. She can wait. Just a few seconds, right? A few scant moments and then she can—


Relief comes as a sob. "Sissy, it's me. It's Nickels. I remember everything. Where are you? I'm coming to get you right now. Just tell me where."

Absolute. Dead. Silence.

Muffled Mandarin is slurred in the background, it sounds like a little boy.

She doesn't respond.

"I— " There's nothing there, choked back and tight, confused, terrified.

Just when she was getting her emotional equlibrium back on track, this comes, this hammer drops and slams atop her head. It's like being shot in the chest, and living to feel every painful moment of it. It's like losing her all over again— but—

The girl on the other end of the phone just breaks down. The ragged, choked sound of uncontrollable sobbing carries over the phone. The line cuts in and out, static and silence mingling with the wavering tones of emotional release.

"I— oh God — " Her words are mixed between mumbles of confused crying, choked sobs and the sounds of a television. "I— I left." That hurts more to say than anything, "I— I thought— Oh God. I— this isn't really— Oh God."

No coherency.

"Left? Left where?" Nicole holds the phone between her cheek and her shoulder, wiping away tears with one hand. She has to hold it together now. It's Colette's turn to be confused and scared. Nicole has to be the big sister again. She's been absent for too long. She has to make things right. "Wherever you are, I will come to you. Just tell me where you are. Tell me where to find you. Please, 'Letty. You have to trust me. You have to tell me where you are." Please, God, let that bullheaded sister of mine listen for once.

"I— " Letty, she hasn't been called that by anyone in— "The Lighthouse." As if that were to make any sense at first, "I'm on Staten Island, a— a shelter, called the Lighthouse." One in the newspapers recently, a shelter that was given a near million-dollar donation by Kain Zarek of the Linderman Group on behalf of Daniel Linderman.

"I — There's no way out here, I mean, you have to— boats. Oh my God," Colette swallows, neck tight, "What happened!? How— you didn't— I— NICOLE!" She breaks down crying again, it's just a static of her sobs on the other end of the phone, voice muffled as the cellphone slides down her cheek and is tucked between shoulder and chin.

"I don't— I— I left Judah's— He— Nicole you can't— I— if they find out about me— " There's ragged, rough sobbing, "Someone's looking for me, I— I don't— " She doesn't have to be strong right now, finally.

"I don't know what's going on— I— I'm so scared. I— I'm safe. This guy Brian— my friend, and Tavisha— they're looking out for me." Tavisha? Sounds like a hooker's name.

"I— Oh my God Nicole— I— I have to tell you I— I'm so sorry— I love you so much, I — I can't— " Another choked, ragged sob, "Oh my God how is it you?"

"Sssshhhh," Nicole soothes after her sister's gotten her babbling out of the way. She isn't sure how she expected Colette to react. She didn't know what to expect. That in itself makes this reaction not entirely unexpected. "The Lighthouse. I can get there. Nothing can keep me away from you, Sissy. I've got a few people I can call. I can call in some favours. I'll be there as soon as I can. I will be there to get you. I will take care of you." She takes in a deep breath, calming her own rising emotions. "Colette, I'll try to make everything up to you. And I'll try to explain what happened as best I can. But I swear to you that the last time we met, I didn't know who I was. But, I remember it all now. I'm fixing everything. I promise you. I'm going to make everything all right. You just have to trust me. You can do that, can't you?"

"Why the fuck did you leave Demsky? Jesus — he was — " Trent rubs the heel of his palm at his forehead, "You've got to get out of here, they know we know each other," pocketing the phone, Trent moves over to the door, gathering up her backpack. "Look, I'm sorry — I — " None of this is going to make sense to her. "The people I work for know your sister, Nicole. Something was happening, I — I'm not sure what. The night the bomb went and fucked everything up. They didn't tell me what when I asked, but they know you, they've been looking for you."

"Who!?" Colette spits out, climbing out of the seat, stomping her foot on the tile floor, "Who, who the fuck is looking for me? Why? I'm just a kid!" Trent's brows lower, eyes narrowed, and then he just holds out her backpack, breathing in a slow, ragged breath.

"Terrible, dangerous people. Look, Colette— " Expression softening, Trent's eyes downcast to the floor of his trailer, "I don't — the more I tell you the worse off you'll be. But, these people they — they have me spying on good people. People I thought were — dangerous, I — I don't know…"

Trent's words from that terrifying night ring in the young girl's ears, taint her responses. "I— " She almost hesitates because of it, "I— I trust you." It's so weak sounding, so fragile, it's the last ounce of hope she has that anything in her life worth having really can exist for more than it takes for it to slip between her fingers like smoke.

"I'll — I promise, I'll be here." There's so much tension in her voice, she's struggling to be strong, not to cry, not to freak out, not to run. "Promise! Promise me you'll— you tell me everything! Tell me where you've been! I—" her words are strangled by static and emotion, "I thought you were dead!"

As harsh as that sounds, she immediately stammers out a follow-up that seems so much softer, "I— please. Please let this be real."

"I will tell you as much as I am able, Sissy. I promise. You just sit tight. I have to call someone so I can arrange my ride, okay? I'll call you right back. I want you to go to the place you feel safest, okay?" It's obvious to Nicole that her little sister is terrified. The best thing she can do is tell her to be somewhere safe. Wherever that is. "I want you to go there and I want you to stay right there and wait for me. How's your battery? I'm not far from the City. If I call you back after I've arranged my passage to Staten, are you going to be able to stay on the line with me until I can get to you?"

The response comes quickly, shaken, trying to remain calm, "I— I'm fine here. I— The Lighthouse is safe, Brian's— Brian and Kameron aren't here, but it's safe, I — I promise." She's almost in shock now, she's talking to Nicole. None of this makes sense, "I just plugged my phone in to the wall charger, I— My battery is fine. I— Don't worry about me, I— I'm safe, I am. Nobody— nobody's going to hurt me here— " Not physically, and the emotional hurt is mostly old scars reopened.

"Just get here, I— I'm right on the coast, it's a fucking Lighthouse." She practically spits those words out, and it's clear she pulls the phone away from her mouth, trying to hide the raw emotion in the choked sobs she gives up to the phone.

"I'm sorry, Colette. I'm going to fix everything. I'll call you back as soon as I have things set up. Wait for me, Sissy. I'm coming."

She pauses for a moment, about to hang up the phone. "I love you. I always have. I always will. I love you. See you soon."

There's a quiet click before the dead silence of a dead mobile line.

Speed dial six.

"Hello, Manny."

The voice on the other end of the phone is rough, tired and disoriented, "Mmnn, who'zat?" The thick Brooklyn accent hasn't changed a bit. From the pause, it's clear Manny Calavera has decided to somewhat blearily check the name on his phone. "Oh holy shit on a shingle — " There's a long, drawn out pause, sounds of rustling blankets and voices. "What— What's goin' on?"

"Yeah. It's really me. I need your help, sweetie." Nicole's always been nice to Manny, even if Mister Zarek isn't. He's never not come through for her in the past. Employees perform better when they feel valued anyway. "I need a ride to Staten Island. My sister's gotten herself mixed up out there. Do you think you can help me?"

"Oh shit sweetheart, I'm on Staten right now. Me and Kain are out here long-term, workin' an angle for the Boss. I'm doin' some side-job bodyguardin' work for this little matchstick of a girl — " There's more shuffling, and the sound of giggling women, followed by what is clearly Manny reorganizing which side of his round face he's pressing into the phone.

"I'm out at the Happy Dagger, I — Man, gal, what's your sister doin' out here? This place is full'a whackjobs and murderers?" Rhetorical as always, he's quick to follow up as the sound of a faucet running joins his words. "I know a guy, name's Jack, he owes Kain about six lifetimes worth'a money, I can send him out to Queens to give you a pickup — pro bono." There's a bit of a chuckle there, "Where the hell you been, anyway?"

Whackjobs and murderers. "I know." Is Colette one of those? The apples don't fall far from the tree, do they? "I have to get to her. I'm scared to death of what'll happen if she's there too long without someone to look out for her." The City comes into focus. She's there. She's nearly there. "How long am I going to have to wait for this Jack character to come and get me? I promised her I'd be there as soon as possible. I don't want to make her wait there. The kid's got to be scared out of her mind. And I tell you, I'm not far behind." She trails off, watching streets carefully. A few days ago, she was hopelessly lost here. Now, it's all coming back to her. "I've been working myself to the bone for Danny, as usual. Things didn't pan out as well as he and I had hoped. At least, that's my guess. You know how much Mister Linderman likes to play his cards close to the sharp lapels of his wicked coat. For all I know, everything went according to plan. I just know I'm back in full force and I've got to take care of my sister." There's a pause before a muffled curse, something far stronger than the follow-up she utters. "Shit, Manny. I thought she was dead. I thought my little sister was blown up to smithereens."

"M'sorry gal, you know how these things are though…" Manny tries to sound apologetic, even though he really can't relate. But the situation, it's a rough one, "Where on the island's she at? I could send somebody out there to keep an' eye on her," There's the muffled sound of women's voices, distant music, and then quiet once again as Manny continues talking. "Hold on a sec, lemmie check my other phone…"

Holding one phone away as he switches to another, Nicole can barely make out what Manny's saying once he starts talking on the other line. A few mumbles here and there, followed by a clear gotcha, and once more Manny's thickly accented voice is on the horn. "Jack's halfway to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, s'where he does pickups. He can meet you there."

"I'll be there in…" Nicole checks the clock on the dash. "Ten minutes. Fifteen if I hit all the reds." Nothing really says she plans on stopping for the reds unless she has to. "I don't want you to send anybody to watch her, Manny. If somebody's going to watch her, I want it to be you personally. I don't trust anybody else with my sister's life. You understand me? She's scared out of her mind. Nobody gets to know where Colette is except you or I. If Kain asks, you don't know nothin' about nothin'. And you can tell him to bite me if he gives you any guff." There's a pause. She trusts Manny, but does she? The situation is tenuous at best, isn't it? "She's at the Lighthouse, Manny. Is she safe there?"

"Holy shit she's — " Manny laughs into the phone, "Doll you ain't got nothin' to worry about. Danny leaned on the owner of that place, he's got it protected six ways to sunday from the thug-life down here, not even Johnny Logan's going to roll up in that place without a gun wedged up his ass so far he'd be spittin' bullets."

There's a moment of pause, followed by a creak and slam of a door. "I gotta' go check up on my little bird-girl, Nic, otherwise I'd head out there, m'sorry. You gimme a call if somethin' goes wrong though? But I tell ya, your sis, if she's at the Lighthouse? She ain't got nowhere safer to be…" There's a pause, a mumbled tone of confusion, "Wait— I… didn't know your sis was Evolved."


Colette is what? "Yeah, well, life's funny that way, isn't it?" Nicole plays it off. "Not a word of this to anybody, Manny. If anybody asks you, I needed directions. And if the police call you up, you tell them to talk to Danny's lawyer." What? "I'll give you a call back when I've got her safe at home. I know you'll worry otherwise." It's their little secret that Manny's a big softy, right? Riiiight. "Thanks for everything, hon. Next time we go out, the cosmos are on me. Mwah!" One air kiss into the phone and she's hanging up so she can ring up her sister again. She promised.

This time, there's no delay between Colette picking up the phone and anything past the first ring.

"Nicole!?" She didn't check the number again.

"Still me, Sissy. Sorry it took me so long. It's hard to get a boat over to that rock, y'know?" Nicole's eyes tear up again and she inwardly curses herself as she lifts her hand from the wheel for a moment to dab away the drops. "Do you remember my friend Manny? Big guy? Head like a cue ball? He's arranged a boat for me. It's going to be about ten minutes before I get there and then however long it takes me to get across and get to you. But I'm coming. Are you all right? Are you hurt? Did that cop… do something to you?" Why else would she have left?

"I— " Colette's voice cracks, then she quickly blurts out, "N-no— no he— Judah— I ran away." It almost makes her break down again, "He— he was asleep, I just— they have tests, they're going to find out about me and— and I can't register." She's trying to sound calm and collected, but this is all just confirming what Manny had guessed at. "I— if someone found out, he— he'd lose everything. They'd fire him and— and he's— hes taken care of me and— he— he adopted me, you know. I— legally."

There's so much she wants to say, so much she can't explain over the phone. "He's— he's a wonderful guy. He's… I'm— he desevres a lot better than me." That much is mumbled into the phone, but as Colette starts talking again, there's some adamancy to her voice. "I'm fine, I— I'm not hurt at all. I was out— down at the Rookery — " Jesus Christ, "My friend, he — there's a lot going on, I— it's hard to explain. I— I'm safe here though, and I'm okay… I— I just— I love you."

"Don't talk like that, 'Letty. Richard made us both feel like the world deserved better than either of us." Richard. He hasn't been 'Dad' in years. "But I'm telling you right now, Sissy, there's no better kid in this whole wide world than you. I love you. And if this Judah guy adopted you," Jesus Christ. Adopted, "then he loves you just as much as I do. Well, almost as much. Nobody loves you as much as I do." The lighthearted teasing is a welcome shift accompanied with nervous laughter.

A choked sob mingled with a laugh is Colette's response, followed by hastily breathed out words, "I never stopped looking for you." It's said with such conviction, such faith, "I never stopped, not once. I— I kept showing your picture, kept asking. People kept disappearing, but I kept asking… I — I never stopped — even when they told me you were probably dead I never stopped." She chokes back another sob over the phone, just breaking down for a few minutes, crying into the receiver.

"I— I always knew— " Her voice is tight, tense with the strain of emotion, "I always knew you'd come back for me. I knew— I knew you wouldn't leave me— I knew."

It hits Nicole square in the chest. Colette never gave up. Her baby sister never gave up on her. Never stopped trying. Nicole had given up on Colette. "H- Honey," her voice is shaky with barely restrained emotion, "there's some people here to be picked up and I don't want them to overhear our conversation, okay? I'll call you as soon as I've reached the other side. I'm almost there, Sissy. I love you." The choked-on sob is unmistakable for what it is. "I love you so much. I'll be there soon. I'm coming."

There's silence for just a few moments, followed by Colette's small and weak affirmation in her meek voice, "I knew you were."

And somewhere, wherever the river has taken her, those incorrectly tensed words might just bring a smile to Tamara's lips.

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