“This is the place,” the Scientologist says. He has his back to the camera but he turns back when he talks. He knows how it works. The audience wants to see your face when you’re talking. The world around him is grainy and lit with a cheap light and neon signs.
The Boxer is in the lead, walking swiftly away from the shot toward the Magenta Building. The Boxer goes inside, calls back “suite on 7th floor” in a thick Eastern European accent and hits the elevator button. The Scientologist and Camera Man crowd into the hallway.
One of Kitty’s neighbors comes up with a load of laundry from the basement. He’s wearing a white t-shirt, short short pink shorts, gold chains and way too much tan. “I’ll take the stairs,” he says.
The elevator dings and they move inside.
“Take camera away from my face,” the Boxer growls. She has washed out gray eyes, pale skin, Marine Corps short blond hair and cauliflowered ears. Her lips are scarred and her teeth are yellow. She grabs the camera and forcefully points it down toward their feet. The Camera Man is wearing cheap sneakers. The Scientologist is wearing three hundred dollar loafers. The Boxer is wearing big dirty boots that I image are stained with giant man eating wolf blood and volcano dust.
“I told you, I don’t like camera,” the Boxer says out of shot. She sounds like a Cold War movie villain or like the fighter that beats Rocky’s daughter to death and brings him out of retirement again. The Camera Man tries to pick up the camera again but is stopped.
“Relax, Sveta,” the Scientologist says.
“You relax,” she says. “I break camera.”
The Scientologist pulls the camera back up to his face. “Focus on me, okay?”
“Should we do a little exposition?” The Camera Man asks. “For the movie.”
“Yeah,” the Scientologist says. “Okay so we’re in Vegas looking for a runaway girl from LA. Teenager.”
The elevator stops on Kitty’s floor. The Boxer takes the lead down the pink hall to Suite 707.
The Scientologist pulls a photo from his pocket and shows it to the Camera Man. It’s me. It’s a bad picture. I look like I’m confused or passing gas. It’s a stupid school picture and I’m in that doofy uniform. Really, they didn’t have a better picture of me? “Name’s Elizabeth,” the Scientologist says. “15. She ran away from home three days ago. We’ve managed to track her here. We find her, get her on a plane home – case closed and money in the bank.”
“How did you track her here?” The Camera Man asks.
“Two things. We found -” the Scientologist starts but is interrupted by the Boxer getting to the suite and shooting him a “shut the fuck up look.” The Camera Man adjusts to shoot the Boxer. She pushes the door and it goes right open. The Boxer takes a gun from inside her coat.
“Is that a pistol?” The Camera Man asks.
“Shit,” the Scientologist says. “Come on,” he says and then he seems to change his mind. He paces back and forth for a beat. “Hang back in the hall a minute.” The Scientologist goes into Kitty’s suite. The camera shoots the hall, the vintage 70’s stained carpet and the broken door.
“Looks kicked in,” the Camera Man observes.
“Fuck,” the Scientologist says inside. “Fuck fuck fuck.” When they air this footage on the news a surprisingly large portion of the dialogue here is just bleeps. You’d think they just talked in robot Morse code.
The Camera Man sneaks closer and looks inside. He’s breathing fast and loud enough it’s on tape. Kitty’s suite is completely fucked up. The couch is cut up and flipped over. Books are tossed onto the floor and bookshelves knocked over. We didn’t do that. That’s post us leaving. Potted plants are smashed. I mean was that really necessary? Why did they have to take it out on the ficus?
Flash back 12 hours and I was sitting cross legged on the floor eating a bowl of crushed up cookies and milk for breakfast, watching “The Little Mermaid” while Bonita gave me a makeover.
“Jesus,” the Camera Man whispers.
“Check the bedroom,” the Scientologist tells the Boxer. She nods and goes out of sight from the camera for a moment. The Camera Man, he’s panning around to take everything in. He’s zooming in on the coffee table flipped over, on Disney VHS tapes pulled out of their cases and thrown around.
“No one,” the Boxer says, returning from Kitty’s bedroom.
“Bathroom’s clear too,” the Scientologist says.
“Clothes are missing from drawer. No suitcases in closet,” the Boxer says.
“What the fuck is this?”
The Camera Man focuses on a dark spot on the carpet just inside the door. Johnny Morningstar. Well, some of him. “Is that…” The Camera Man says. “Are those teeth?”
“Go out in hall!” The Boxer shouts. The Camera Man steps back a bit but stays with an angle inside.
“Fuck,” the Scientologist says and walks closer to the dark spot on the carpet. He leans over to get a better look. “Fuck,” he repeats. “Sveta, check your boots.”
“No blood on boots,” the Boxer says out of the camera’s angle.
“We should call the police,” the Camera Man says.
“Out in hall!” The Boxer shouts and walks toward him, appearing in frame.
“What the fuck is this?” the Scientologist repeats.
Okay – pause the tape right there on the Scientologist. He’s got those boyish good looks, highlights in his hair, sparkly teen idol devil eyes. You recognize him? You’re thinking, “is that Cody from In the Doghouse?” It totally is. The Scientologist in his youth was sitcom sensation, PJ Barnes. If you’re wondering what’s little Cody been up to since he was that rambunctious pre-teen that grew up in front of all of America on Friday nights, then I guess you haven’t heard of the internet. PJ (or Peter as he goes by now) was in a really explicit sex tape that leaked out a few years ago. I’ve been told that for like six months if you were looking for gay porn on the internet you’d find PJ with a mouthful. I remember staying up with jammies on Friday nights to watch little Cody and his best friend, the talking dog Ramsay get into and out of all sorts of trouble. Fast forward a decade and little Cody is giving some hairy dude a tongue bath all over. That’s fucked up, right? I mean apparently Peter Barnes is a private investigator or something now and the King of California hired him out of all of the low lives in his kingdom to track me down. I feel kinda insulted. Other than the sex tape and the sitcom, Peter is only really famous for being a vocal scientologist and for offering to give Shia Lebouf a BJ at the Nickelodeon’s Kid Choice awards. That’s his resume. I’m just saying. This is the guy the King of California thinks of. Liz is missing. She might be on a crime spree with showgirls, having narrowly escaped death at the hands of a real life fucking supervillain with a badass name and everything. I know – LITTLE CODY! Apparently, Ramsay was busy. Dear future therapist – I think we’ve found the root of my self esteem issues. But I digress. Ok, press play. Resume.
“Go out to the car,” the Scientologist tells the Camera Man.
“Those were teeth, right?” The Camera Man asks. “Somebody’s broken fucking teeth in a puddle of-”
“Just go out to the fucking car,” the Scientologist says.
“Peter, Jesus Christ,” the Camera Man says. “Did someone kill that girl?”
“Go to fucking car!” The Boxer shouts and gets between the Scientologist and the Camera Man.
The Camera Man heads back down the hall and goes down the stairs. He’s freaking out. You can hear it. He keeps saying “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ.” The Camera Man stops and braces himself against the wall in the stairwell for like a whole minute. The camera just records concrete. There’s Cydni Lauper playing in the background. The Camera Man tries to slow down his breathing. “What the fuck?” He mutters.
Now, I’m obviously not dead. That’s not even my blood upstairs. It’s not Carl’s either. It’s a crazy drug dealer pimp Charles Manson and Saddam Hussein love child guy that we killed. But he didn’t actually die then. It’s complicated. I’ll get to it. I swear.
The Camera Man gets himself together and makes it down to the ground floor. He runs out to the car and sits in the backseat. He takes out his cell phone and just looks at it. I have no idea why this guy is still recording. It seems to me that film school and all these faux documentary movies are giving guys with digital cameras brain damage. You can stop and start it again, Camera Man. You don’t have to have one continuous take just because you can. Stupid Cloverfield.
“Give me phone,” the Boxer says as she opens the back door and goes for the phone.
“What the fuck!” The Camera Man shouts. “Peter!”
“Dammit, Sveta that’s not…”
“Who you call?”
The camera’s just a blur now until the Boxer gets the Camera Man’s phone. The Camera Man gets the camera under control and watches the Boxer walk away from the car and check the call lists.
“Peter, what the fuck is going on?” The Camera Man asks.
“Nothing,” the Scientologist says. “This is good. You’re filming all this?”
“Yeah,” the Camera Man says. “That blood, Peter.”
“Blood doesn’t mean anything,” the Scientologist says.
“She’s not here. We’ll find her.”
The Boxer throws the phone back at the Camera Man. “Hey – that’s a fucking iPhone!” The Camera Man shouts as he dives to catch it.
“Come on,” the Boxer says and climbs into the driver’s seat. “We go now.”
“You’re going to call the cops?”
“From a pay phone,” the Scientologist says.
“Okay,” the Camera Man says. “What are we doing now?”
“Now we get coffee and pancakes,” the Boxer says. She looks into the rear view mirror and the Camera Man catches her eyes. “It will be long night.”
Dude. You have no idea.