Season 1/Episode 7: Research Project

by Jim McDoniel

Content advisories for this episode can be found below.

This episode features: Shariba Rivers as Lily, Marsha Harman as Dot, Kathleen Hoil as Abbie, Joshua K Harris as Rudy, and Michael Turrentine as Wes.

 Written by Jessica Best, sound design by Anna Rodriguez with Ryan Schile, directed by Jeffrey Nils Gardner, music composed by Stephen Poon, recording engineer Mel Ruder, Unwell lead sound designer Ryan Schile, Executives Producers Eleanor Hyde and Jeffrey Gardner, by HartLife NFP.

Content advisories:

-Jump Scares
-Profanity
-Graveyards
-Mention of serial killers

SCENE 1. EXT. BOARDING HOUSE. WE HEAR BIRDS IN THE DISTANCE. A SCREEN DOOR CREAK SWINGS OPEN.

WES: (LOUD) Dot I’m leaving. Do you need anything while I’m out?

DOT: (OFF) We need toilet paper.

WES: Okay.

DOT: The good stuff. None of that sand-paper off brand nonsense.

WES: Can we afford it?

DOT: Are you asking financially or rectally?

WES: I’ll get the good stuff.

DOT: (OFF) Pick me up some cigarettes too.

WES: (LOUD) I can’t buy you cigarettes. I’m sixteen.

DOT: (OFF) Tell Russ they’re for me. And oh...the store is so far

and my leg. My poor leg.

WES: (LOUD) You’re moving off the crutches tomorrow.

DOT: (OFF) But today my poor leg...

WES: (LOUD) Seriously, do you need anything else?

DOT: (OFF) Beer.

WES: (LOUD) Goodbye Dot.

DOT: (OFF) And porn magazines. Don’t forget my porn

magazines.

FOOTSTEPS DOWN THE PORCH AND ACROSS

THE GRAVEL OF THE DRIVEWAY BECOMING

DISTANT. AFTER A MOMENT. THE DOOR SWINGS

OPEN AND ANOTHER SET OF FOOTSTEPS

STEPS ONTO THE PORCH. WE FOLLOW THESE

FOOTSTEPS AS THEY FOLLOW WES. THEY

FOLLOW ONTO THE GRAVEL. WES’S

FOOTSTEPS (DISTANT) REACH A SMALL IRON

GATE WHICH CREAKS (BUT IN A DIFFERENT

WAY) AS HE PUSHES IT OPEN. IT BANGS SHUT.

THE MAIN FOOTSTEPS LEAVE THE GRAVEL AND

FOLLOW INTO THE GRASS. THE GATE SWINGS

OPEN WITH A NOW CLOSER AND LOUDER CREAK.

LILY: (LOW) Shit.

AFTER A MOMENT SHE FINISHES OPENING THE

GATE MORE CAREFULLY, STEPS IN, AND

CLOSES IT QUIETLY. SHE CONTINUES

FOLLOWING INTO THE GRASS IN SLOW BURSTS

OF STEPS, STOPPING THEN STARTING

(DUCKING BEHIND SOMETHING) AFTER A

MOMENT OR TWO.

ABBIE: Hello Lily.

LILY: (SHOUT OF SURPRISE) Geez, Abbie. What the hell?

ABBIE: I’m sorry?

LILY: What are you doing skulking around the graveyard?

ABBIE: My job. What are you doing skulking around the graveyard?

LILY: I’m not skulking. God...[dammit]! Where did he go?

ABBIE: Wes?

LILY: Yes.

ABBIE: The woods. I thinks he cuts through there on his way home.

LILY: Could you be a little more specific? We’re surrounded by

woods.

ABBIE: Why? Are you following Wes?

LILY: No.

ABBIE: Because it sounds like you’re following Wes.

LILY: Well I’m not. I’m just...don’t you think it’s kind of odd?

ABBIE: That you’re following Wes?

LILY: (ANGRY) That he’s always here. I mean two nights ago he’s

in the pantry in the middle of the night during a

thunderstorm. Today, he’s at the front desk all day.

Shouldn’t he be back in school by now?

ABBIE: Mount Absalom public schools don’t start until after the

Labor Day celery festival. A tradition honoring the use of

children as unpaid labor for the harvest.

LILY: Okay. Fine. But what about my phone?

ABBIE: The one the dove took?

LILY: And just last week, I caught him going over my mom’s bank

statements. The boarding house’s bank statements.

ABBIE: So?

LILY: He’s a teenager. What? Was he doing finances for fun?

PAUSE.

ABBIE: It’s not an uncommon hobby.

LILY: Something’s off...what if...what if he’s spying on her or

something?

ABBIE: Spying?

LILY: Yeah. Like maybe he’s trying to trick her out of money or get

added to her will or...something.

ABBIE: Does your mother have money?

LILY: Ha! Have you seen this place?

ABBIE: Have you considered other possibilities?

LILY: Like...?

ABBIE: You could be one of the twenty-five to fifty active serial killers

in the United States. And you’re following a teenager into

through the graveyard into the woods because he’s your

next victim.

LILY: Haha, Abbie.

ABBIE: Alternatively, seeing a young person in a close, non-

adversarial relationship with your mother, which the two of

you have rarely, if ever, shared, could be causing you to

lash out at what your mind perceives as a rival and/or

replacement.

PAUSE.

LILY: (GROAN/SIGH)

LILY SLIDES DOWN ONE OF THE HEADSTONES INTO THE GRASS.

LILY: I hate this place.

ABBIE: The graveyard?

LILY: This house. This town. It gets in your head. Whenever I’m

here, I just get so...UGGH!

PAPER CRINKLES. THE SOUND OF SOMETHING

(CHARCOAL) BEING RUBBED OVER PAPER.

(CALMING HERSELF) Believe it or not this graveyard is the

only place in Absalom I actually like.

ABBIE: Mmm.

LILY: When I was a kid, there was this girl, Joey. She lived on the

other side of the woods. We used to meet here in the

graveyard and then...we’d wander off down the creek trying

find its source or climb the Witch’s Altar and cast spells on

people we didn’t like or sneak out at night and go swimming

in the Dolan’s above ground pool. You know?

ABBIE: I had the internet.

LILY: She was the only thing that made coming here...fun. The

rest was just...

ABBIE: Adversarial.

LILY: Yeah.

ABBIE: Four in ten Americans never leave the town they were born

in.

LILY: That’s a fun fact.

ABBIE: That is to say...there is a statistically reasonable possibility that your friend still lives here.

LILY: She doesn’t. I checked.

RUBBING SOUNDS.

LILY: What are you doing?

ABBIE: Many of the gravestones have eroded. I’m attempting to

catalogue them.

LILY: Indiana Jones style?

ABBIE: If you mean with rubbings, then yes. The state denied my

request for a digital 3-D scanner and ground-penetrating

radar.

LILY: Ground-penetrating radar?

ABBIE: For graves without markers. They deserve to be catalogued

too, even if only as John and Jane Does.

PAPER CRINKLES.

ABBIE: What do you think that says?

MORE PAPER CRINKLES.

LILY: Theodore.

ABBIE: Spelled?

LILY: Are you serious? (PAUSE) Of course you are. T-H-E-O-D-O-

R-E.

ABBIE: Thank you. (LOW AS THEY WRITE) Theodore Wesley.

LILY: Did you really need my help finding an “e” in a name?

ABBIE: (CONTINUING) 1937-1954. It could have been Theodora or

Theodoric. A second opinion is helpful for corroboration.

LILY: Come across a lot of Theodorics?

ABBIE: Two: Theodoric Standish 1840 to 1863 and Theodoric

Warren 1876 to 1917.

CRINKLE OF PAPER AS THEY SORT THROUGH PAPER.

LILY: Warren? As in Chester Warren’s great, great, something or

other?

ABBIE: I do not care to speculate without genealogical records.

(PAUSE.) Hmm.

LILY: What?

ABBIE: Nothing.

LILY: That didn’t sound like a nothing “Hmm.” That sounded like

an “Abbie had a thought” Hmm.

ABBIE: Keeping in mind that I do not believe for a minute Wes has

any nefarious plot beyond tricking the gullible people who

take his ghost tour...

LILY: Go on.

ABBIE: If he was spying on your mother, it would probably relate to

ownership of the house.

LILY: Because he wants to take his haunted ghost tour national?

ABBIE: Because there have been at least four attempts in the last

twenty years to force a sale through eminent domain.

LILY: What?

ABBIE: I saw it in state filings when I was researching my housing

options. Assemblies in 1989, 96, 97, and 2010. The town

ended up voting against the motion each time.

LILY: There isn’t like...oil or something underneath us, is there?

ABBIE: Not according to any geological survey I’m aware of.

LILY: If the town tried to take the house...that would be recorded

somewhere, right? Like at City Hall?

ABBIE: All of the town’s historical documents are air quotes

“preserved” in the basement of the library.

LILY: Air quotes preserved?

ABBIE: As in the town’s preservation conditions are subpar and worthy of sarcastic derision.

LILY: I know...just, most people don’t say air quotes.

ABBIE: My hands are full.

PAPER CRINKLE.

LILY: The library then...I’ll take a look. Thanks.

ABBIE: You’re welcome.

FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY. RUBBING

CONTINUES. CRINKLE OF PAPER.

ABBIE: Hmmm.

CRINKLE OF PAPER. WRITING.

Josephine Pratt. 1876 to 1889.

END OF SCENE.A THRUMING NOTE TAKES US TO THE NEXT SCENE

SCENE 2. INT. THE LIBRARY.

HUSHED SOUNDS OF A LIBRARY. TYPING ON KEYBOARDS. PAGES BEING FLIPPED. WHISPERED CONVERSATIONS. A HEAVY SLOW MOVING DOOR OPENS. FOOTSTEPS. THE DING OF A BELL. FOOTSTEPS.

HAZEL: Ms. Harper, it is so nice to see you again.

LILY: Ms. Gibbons, hi.

HAZEL: Please, call me Hazel. What can I do for you?

LILY: I was told you keep the town records here. Would you be

able to help me find information about my mother’s house?

(PAUSE.)

HAZEL: Is Douglas with you?

LILY: Abbie? No.

HAZEL: Did they send you to retrieve documents for them?

LILY: No.

HAZEL: (SIGH OF RELIEF) Well then. Certainly, we can help you out. What kind of information are you looking for?

LILY: Honestly, I don’t know. Anything would be a start.

HAZEL: Well let’s see what we can do, shall we? Follow me.

FOOTSTEPS. A DOOR WITH A PUSH BAR OPENS INTO A HALLWAY. DOWN AN ECHOING

STAIRCASE.

LILY: Um...can I just ask? Abbie...?

HAZEL: They’re banned.

LILY: From the library?

HAZEL: Yes.

LILY: Why?

HAZEL: Vandalism. Belligerency. Obscenity. Assault.

LILY: They hit someone?

HAZEL: Very nearly. Threw an Oxford English Dictionary right at

poor Ivan’s head. Could have given him a concussion.

ANOTHER DOOR WITH A PUSH BAR. CLICK OF LIGHTS AND NOT GREAT FLUORESCENT LIGHTING.

If you want to choose a reading desk, I won’t be a moment.

FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY. LILY SITS IN A CHAIR. TICKING OF A CLOCK. TIME TRANSITION.

TICKING CLOCK IS COMBINED WITH DRUMMING OF BORED FINGERS.

HAZEL: I’m sorry about the wait.

LILY: No it’s...is that all you could find?

HAZEL: Unfortunately. Many records have been lost over the

years. Fire, water pipe breaks, squirrels.

LILY: Squirrels?

HAZEL: The infestation of ’96. But everything we have is there. I do

hope it helps.

LILY: Thanks.

HAZEL: If you need anything else, I’ll be upstairs. Just give a shout.

FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY.

LILY: All right. Let’s see. A copy of the deed. Okay. A zoning

permit update from 2012. Not sure how that helps...

ABBIE: It doesn’t.

LILY: (CRY OF SURPRISE)

ABBIE: Please keep it down.

LILY: Abbie! What are you doing here?

ABBIE: I finished my row and had nothing else planned. Looking at

records sounded like fun.

LILY: Hazel...Ms. Gibbons said you were banned for throwing a

book.

ABBIE: An Oxford English Dictionary. Don’t worry about it. (PAUSE)

Truly. If she comes back, I’ll just climb back out the

basement window. Is this all there is?

LILY: The rest were destroyed. By squirrels.

ABBIE: It would be squirrels.

PAPERS RUSTLING.

LILY: Can I just ask? The dictionary?

ABBIE: I was...annoyed. They kept telling me they don’t have

microfiche.

LILY: And they do?

ABBIE: They have a microfiche reader. There is no reason for them

to have a microfiche reader if they don’t also...Here.

PAPER RUSTLE.

ABBIE: It’s the town hall minutes from the 2010 eminent domain

case.

LILY: Does it say why they wanted it?

ABBIE: 7:02: Mayor Lopez honors Anaya Guzman for her award-

winning essay on “What Celery Means to Me...”

7:04: Anaya Guzman reads her speech.

7:10: An encore is called...

...(MUTTERS AS THEY SKIP)...

7:45: Town council proposes registering the Fenwood

House as a historical landmark and turning it into a museum

about Mount Absalom.

LILY: That’s it. They want to build a museum?

ABBIE: That’s what it says. (READING) Apparently the plan was

voted down because people like your mother.

LILY: It does not say that.

PAPER RUSTLE.

LILY: “8:25: Greta Marsden moves that the town recognize

Dorothy Harper as quote “good people.” Motion seconded by

Russel Epstein. 8:26: The motion passes.” Huh.

MORE PAPER RUSTLE.

ABBIE: There should definitely be more than this.

FOOTSTEPS WALKING.

All the architectural plans of the city are filed in the drawers

over here. Maybe if we can...

FOOTSTEPS STOP.

LILY: We can...? Abbie? Are you okay? Say something or blink so

I know you’re not having a stroke.

ABBIE: That door.

LILY: What about it?

FOOTSTEPS RUNNING FORWARD. A DOORKNOB

RATTLING.

LILY: Abbie? Abbie come on. Use your words.

KNOCKING SOUNDS FROM ABBIE ON THE WALL.

ABBIE: Do you hear that?

LILY: Your knocking?

ABBIE: This wall is perfectly insulated.

LILY: So?

ABBIE: When you house records properly, you need to control the

temperature and humidity of where they are stored. One way

to do that is through insulation.

LILY: So if this room has better insulation...

ABBIE: Why are the town records kept out here?

LILY: Do you have a paperclip?

ABBIE: Here.

LILY: No, I need one of the heavy duty ones.

ABBIE: Right. Here.

LILY: Uh...thanks.

FIDDLING WITH A LOCK.

ABBIE: Do you actually know what you’re doing?

LILY: I was an apprentice locksmith for a while. Funny story.

This is what got me fired.

ABBIE: Breaking and entering?

LILY: It wasn’t like that. When people got locked out of their

apartments, I’d pick the lock to save us from having to drill

through it to open the door. Which didn’t sit too well with my

boss because replacing locks is an extra three hundred

dollar fee.

CLICK.

LILY: Got it.

DOOR OPENS. ECHOING FOOTSTEPS AS THEY WALK INSIDE.

ABBIE: I knew it!

CLATTER OF PLASTIC/METAL CANISTERS.

Microfiche.

LILY: Um...why is there a creepy model of the whole town in here?

ABBIE’S FOOTSTEPS.

ABBIE: That isn’t the entire town.

LILY: Sure looks like the entire town. City Hall, the ice cream

shop, the record store... (TO HERSELF) There are even

little people in there.

THE SOUND OF LILY PICKING SOMETHING UP. ABBIE’S FOOTSTEPS WALK AWAY.

ABBIE: (SLIGHTLY OFF) It isn’t the whole town. The diner is missing.

LILY: (YELP)

CLATTER OF A SMALL METAL PIECE ONTO THE FLOOR.

ABBIE: (OFF) Are you all right?

LILY: The little people. In the little town. They look like actual

people in the actual town.

ABBIE: (OFF) Come here. I think I found something.

FOOTSTEPS.

LILY: I hate this place. I really really really hate this place.

FOOTSTEPS STOP.

LILY: What is it?

ABBIE: These appear to pertain to the boarding house.

LILY: Which boxes?

ABBIE: All of them.

LILY: All of them? It’s a freaking wall.

ABBIE: There probably weren’t blueprints for the original

structure but the house was remodeled in the Gothic revival

style so that’s what...late 19th

, early 20th century.

LILY: Seriously, how do you know this stuff?

ABBIE: I...may have taken Wes’s tour.

LILY: The ghost tour?

ABBIE: It was surprisingly informative.

Episode 1.07 Research Project 26

BOX PULLED FROM THE SHELF.

ABBIE: No.

BOX REPLACED ANOTHER PULLED FROM THE SHELF.

ABBIE: Here.

PAPER BEING TAKEN OUT.

1899. Architectural plans of Irena Ungur. Hmm...

LILY: Heard of her?

ABBIE: Strangely no.

LILY: Okay, well...take the box and let’s go.

PAPER BEING CAREFULLY ROLLED UP. BOX LIFTING UP. FOOTSTEPS.

LILY: I’ll go upstairs and pretend like everything’s normal.

You climb out the window.

ABBIE: One moment.

PULLS OUT A DRAWER. THROWS SOME CANISTERS IN THE BOX.

LILY: Can you read microfiche without a reader?

ABBIE: I’ll use the one in Julian.

DOOR CLOSES.

Good luck.

LILY: See you at...[home]. See you at the house.

ABBIE’S FOOTSTEPS WANDER OFF.

LILY: Right. Okay. Here we go.

FOOTSTEPS. FOOTSTEPS STOP.

LILY: (CRY OF SURPRISE.) Hazel!

HAZEL: Lily. I just remembered this entry in Strange Ohio about the

Fenwood House and its supposed “haunted history.”

Thought it might help. Is everything all right? I heard voices.

LILY: Just. Talking. To myself. I do that sometimes. Hey, I’m glad

you’re here. These drawers over here...they have

blueprints in them. Are there any of the boarding house?

HAZEL: Unfortunately no. I looked but they must have been lost.

LILY: Right...darn squirrels.

UNCOMFORTABLE PAUSE.

Well I think I’m giving up. Thanks anyway.

HAZEL: You’re too welcome. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

LILY: Yeah. Oh well? Um...have a good day.

FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY.

LILY: (LOW) Shit. Shit. Shit.

FOOTSTEPS ECHO OFF INTO THE DISTANCE.

CLOSER FOOTSTEPS. TAKE A FEW STEPS. THE

DOORKNOB TURNS AND THE DOOR SWINGS ALL

THE WAY OPEN. MORE FOOTSTEPS. PICKING

SOMETHING UP?

HAZEL: Ms. Cabrera? How’d you get on the floor? You’re supposed

to be in your record store.

FOOTSTEPS. RATTLE OF MICROFICHE.

HAZEL: Douglas!

SOUND OF SMALL METAL PIECE HITTING TABLE.

FOOTSTEPS STORMING OUT.

THE THEME SONG COMES IN- STOMPING FEET, RHYTHMIC GUITAR, AND PRONOUNCED BANJO.

CREDITS:        This episode features: Shariba Rivers as Lily, Marsha Harman as Dot, Kathleen Hoil as Abbie, Krista D’Agostino as Hazel, Michael Turrentine as Wes.

MUSIC BREAK- A HAUNTING SUNG NOTE    

        Written by Jim McDoniel, sound design by Eli McIlveen, directed by Jeffrey Nils Gardner, music composed by Stephen Poon, recording engineer Mel Ruder, Unwell lead sound designer Ryan Schile, Executives Producers Eleanor Hyde and Jeffrey Gardner, by HartLife NFP.

THE STRANGE BASS NOTE RETURNS

The Mount Absalom Graveyard abuts the Fenwood House and contains many

members of Mount Absalom’s founding families including the Lyles, the Warrens, the Oglbys,

the Fells, and the De Boers.