Oct 22, 2021
QUESTIONS IN A DARK ROOM
Written and produced by Julie Hoverson
Carol wakes in a strange dark room, with a man she's never seen before - and when the questions start to fly, there's lives at stake.
Carol - Beverly Poole
Thaddeus - Cole Hornaday
Madame Foulet - Julie Hoverson
Tour Guide - Julie Hoverson
"What kind of a place is it? Why, it's a residential
sometime between the two World Wars, can't you tell?"
QUESTIONS IN A DARK ROOM
Carol (20F), urban songbird
Thaddeus (20-30M), deep south
Madame Foulet (50-60F), calm older lady
Crowd Noise (any)
Tour Guide (any)
OLIVIA Did you have any trouble finding it? What do you mean, what kind of a place is it? Why, it's a residential hotel, can't you tell?
MUSIC CREEPS IN
NOTE: there are no definite "scene changes" in this episode - characters slide in and out of scenes without any break until the very end. Scene changes are marked only when Foulet enters and leaves
SCENE 1. DARK ROOM, SLIGHTLY ECHOEY, NO SPECIFIC ERA. CAROL SPEAKS LIKE SOMEONE FROM THE 1920s, THADDEUS IS FROM THE 1860S DEEP SOUTH
CAROL [waking up noises] Mmm. Oh. [suddenly sitting up] What! [panicking] Where--
THADDEUS Don' you worry none. You safe now.
CAROL Safe? Why--? Who are you? I-I don't know you. [rising hysteria] Is this... your room?
THADDEUS Calm yourself, now, miss. I be all the way over here. No threat to you, I promise.
CAROL But I -- how did I get here? What's going on? [whimper of pain] Ahh! My side. What.. happened?
THADDEUS Probly a bruise. You was attacked, miss. In the stairs. I spect he hit you some. I got you outta there and din't have no other place to put you. You been out cold.
CAROL [calming a bit, but still in pain] You rescued me? [deep breath] Oh, goodness that hurts. Well, thank y-- [sharp] In the stairs, you said?
THADDEUS Yes miss. I heared you start-- Well, I heared it when you screamed. The stairwell, it echoes somethin fierce.
CAROL I guess I'm lucky you were there.
THADDEUS Well, I was kind of listenin fer you, miss.
THADDEUS [aw shucks] I got a lot of time on my hands during days, and one time a while back I heared you singin in there, so sometimes I jest ... wait.
CAROL [pleased and embarrassed] Oh. Thank you. But-- But, do you think -- the creep who attacked me... was...?
THADDEUS I don' see the papers much, miss, but even I heared about that there Stairway Stabber. I'm pretty sure that was the fella, all right.
CAROL They say he's already killed at least eight girls!
THADDEUS That they do. At least.
CAROL Oh! Oh, goodness. I - I could have been murdered!
THADDEUS [quiet] Yes'm.
CAROL You saved me?
THADDEUS I did what I could, miss. You was right out before I done got there.
CAROL I -- I don't remember ... well, anything, really. Um, what should I call you? Your name. I mean.
THADDEUS I understand, miss. You can call me Thaddeus. Tha's my name.
CAROL And you live in my building?
THADDEUS More years'n I care to count. I mostly jest keep an eye on things. Don' you worry now, I don' take up much space.
CAROL I didn't mean to imply--
THADDEUS It's understandable, miss. I don' much look like I belong here.
CAROL Please. I don't want to sound like a snob. I'm really just overwhelmed. And you can call me Carol, if you'd like. I mean, you don't have to call me "miss" all the time.
THADDEUS I'd be right pleased to, Miss Carol.
CAROL [forced laugh] Just Carol, Thaddeus. No miss. Please.
THADDEUS Don' seem quite respectful, miss Carol.
MADAME [filter] Is there anyone here?
THADDEUS By golly, she early.
CAROL What was that?
THADDEUS This lady wanna ask about what happened. She with the police.
CAROL But I don't remember--
THADDEUS And I din't see much, but we gots to talk to her. You gon' be all right? I can hep you.
CAROL [standing] Well, I'm a little wobbly, but I'm game, I guess.
SOUND: SLOW FOOTSTEPS
CAROL But, my head -- it's amnesia. I'm sure of it.
THADDEUS You might be surprised what all come back to you if a body ask the right questions. Come on now.
SOUND Door opens. Footsteps continue.
CAROL Why is the room so dark? I can barely see her.
NOTE: [unless otherwise mentioned, Madame sounds very calm and speaks almost in a sing song voice.]
MADAME Ah. [deep breath] I mean you no harm. Please come and speak with me. Am I addressing Carol Bournemouth?
CAROL Why yes. [to Thaddeus] Did you-- [puzzled] Oh... no, I only just told you my name.
THADDEUS I said she with the police. She know a lot.
MADAME Carol, I want to hear what happened to you yesterday.
CAROL Yesterday? I was knocked out for a whole day?
THADDEUS Shh now, and answer, miss Carol.
CAROL Oh. I really don't.... I don't remember a darn thing. He -- Thaddeus -- said I was attacked in the stairwell. I think I was hit on the head.
SOUND Very distant sound of someone knocking on a door.
CAROL Amnesia. I don't remember a thing! Really!
MADAME Calm down, Carol. There is no need to--
MADAME Ah, good. Everything is all right now. You are safe. It is safe to remember. Think of it like a movie, and you are the projector. The projector can stop a movie, Carol. The projector can simply freeze on a single frame, and the movie never has to reach its end. Have you ever seen that happen, Carol?
CAROL Why is she talking like that?
THADDEUS Can they really just up and stop a movin' picture? That would be somethin' to see.
CAROL Not very exciting, really. It's -- well, it's just a slide, then.
MADAME [sharp] Carol! [calm again] I need you to concentrate. What is the last thing you remember?
CAROL [pain] Oh! [deep breaths]
SOUND Knocking on door again.
THADDEUS Just a minute, ma'am. She got a stitch.
MADAME Relax Carol. Relax. Remember, you are the projector, and the movie can stop long before anything unpleasant happens. Just take it one frame at a time, Carol. Do you remember going into the stairwell? Picture the door for me. You push open the door and step in. There are five flights of stairs below you, but you walk them every day, don't you? You walk them--
CAROL It's slimming.
MADAME You begin to walk down the stairs, just as usual. One step, then another.
CAROL The way she talks--
MADAME You pass the fourth floor door. Nothing there for you.
THADDEUS She just tryin to help.
MADAME One brisk step in front of another--
CAROL [getting agitated] But it's like-- it's like she's trying to hypnotize me!
SOUND Knocking on door, slightly louder.
MADAME Passing the baby carriage the Joneses leave tucked into the corner of the third floor landing--
THADDEUS Don' know nothin 'bout that, but I spect she think it'a help you 'member what happened.
MADAME All the way around to the next set of stairs--
CAROL STOP IT. I don't want to be hypnotized! I don't want to-- [pain] Aaagh! Whatever happened, I don't want to remember it, you hear? Do you HEAR me?
SOUND Muffled and distant: Strange thumping and crashing noises. Particularly, a noise like someone pounding on a door, and a crash of a broken glass.
THADDEUS Shh, listen, miss Carol. Shh.
CAROL What was that? Something broke?
THADDEUS Don't pay it no mind. They's some noisy neighbors in this building.
CAROL But-- It's-- it's gone now.
THADDEUS Yes'm. Never lasts. Just so long as someone done got a mad on. Then it blow over.
THADDEUS You gon' try and answer the lady, now?
CAROL What? No, no Thaddeus, I can't. I don't remember anything, and when I try, oh, it hurts!
THADDEUS Look around. Ain't no one here gon' hurt you, and that there pain in your side - well, a bruise is jest a bruise, ain't it? Whatever caused it, that's all over now, and you safe.
THADDEUS I swear'n I won't let no one touch you. The lady, she jest tryin to find out what you know so's the police can stop this fella.
CAROL Oh. Yes, you said she's with the police.
THADDEUS Since I never saw none of his face, you the only one who can help. You got to help stop this fella.
CAROL She looks -- awfully tired.
THADDEUS [gently] You been wearin her out a bit with your temper.
CAROL Oh. I'll try and do better. You're-- sure it's safe?
THADDEUS She said you the projector, miss Carol, you can--
MADAME [a bit gravelly] Shall we continue? Ahem. [normal, not sing song] Carol. If you will not help, please let me know. I want to work you through this, but your resistance--
CAROL I just don't know what I can do! I'm frustrated too, you know. I can't remember a thing about-- [realizing] Oh.
MADAME Yes? Continue.
CAROL I was in a hurry. On my way to a job interview. Or was that Tuesday?
MADAME Yesterday was Tuesday, yes.
CAROL Oh! So I was dashing down the stairs, quick as I could -- I'm faster than the elevator, you see. That old thing. [chuckles] I swear it's pulled by mice.
MADAME Can you remember how far you got? Did you reach the second floor landing?
CAROL Second floor. Hmm. I -- yes! Little Billy from 203 keeps dropping gum wrappers in there, and I was thinking-- [gasp of pain]
MADAME [gasp of pain]
SOUND distant, barrage of knocks on a door.
THADDEUS Miss Carol? Miss Carol, come on -- you tough. You can do this. No old stitch gon' slow you down. Here, take my hand. Right there, now you squeeze. Squeeze out all that bad old pain.
CAROL No! No, I--
THADDEUS [hiss intake of breath] Good. You keep on squeezin long as you need.
CAROL [several quick breaths, then one deep one] I think -- Thaddeus, I think that's when he hit me. He must have hit me real hard.
MADAME [deep breath] Carol. I need to stop for now. I will return soon. While I'm gone, can you try and remember?
CAROL I'll try...
MADAME Goodbye. [NO footsteps or door]
SOUND brief, vague rumble of voices, nothing clear.
CAROL Are they having a party?
CAROL Your neighbors.
THADDEUS Might could be. You doin' all right?
CAROL Sorry to be such a baby about all this. When it hurts - well it really hurts.
THADDEUS I know. Get myself the same thing in my neck sometimes.
CAROL Oh? [beat, changing subject] So, do you know her? The woman asking the questions?
THADDEUS A bit. She Madame Foulet and work for police, I do know that. Some years back, she asked me a coupla questions.
CAROL About what?
THADDEUS Somethin I seen ... way back when.
CAROL She seems kind of old to be a police matron or whatever she is.
THADDEUS She one of a kind, I guess. they cain't afford to retire her.
CAROL Is she a hypnotist? Was I right?
THADDEUS I don' know nothin about that, miss. I spect you probly mostly right.
CAROL [decisive] Well. If I want this guy caught - and boy do I want him caught, especially if he's the one who killed all those girls - I better get cracking and remember something.
SOUND pacing footsteps
CAROL In the movies, if you hit your head and get amnesia, you can hit your head again to get your memory back.
THADDEUS I don' guess it work that way in real life, miss.
CAROL I have got to stop being a whiny baby about this - after all, I survived, didn't I?
THADDEUS [dubious] Well--
CAROL So, it's all in the past and I shouldn't be frightened. Oh.
SOUND: PACING STOPS
CAROL Unless he decides to come back -- to make sure I can't identify him.
THADDEUS He won't never find you now. I promise you that.
CAROL Really? You didn't...
THADDEUS Din't what, miss?
CAROL No, no. You said you never even--
THADDEUS [amused] You thinkin I mighta kilt him? I know I'm a big fella, but I cain't--
CAROL I meant it as a compliment.
THADDEUS I guess so.
CAROL Did you have to ... fight him off? I mean, to save me?
THADDEUS [distinctly uncomfortable] Nah. When he caught sight a me, he jest run.
CAROL [smiling] You do look pretty intimidating.
THADDEUS Nah. Look, you should be tryin' t'member--
CAROL [sigh] I know, but this takes my mind off it. I figure, it's like a word at the tip of your tongue. When you THINK about it SO HARD that you feel like your brain may be squeezed out your ears, it never comes. Then, the minute your mind is off it, voila! The word tumbles right out.
THADDEUS That sounds 'bout right.
CAROL I need to get into the stairwell. That'll really jog my memory.
SOUND Rapid footsteps. Doorknob turns, but doesn't open.
CAROL What? Why is the door locked?
THADDEUS I reckon it's jest stuck, miss. [worried] But you really don' wanna go into the stairwell. I- I promise you that.
CAROL Open this door! I don't like being locked in here--
THADDEUS With me?
CAROL What? No, no. No-- It's got nothing to do with you, Thaddeus. I like you. I just [SOUND: pounds once on door] don't [pound] like [pound, weakening] being [more of a smack] locked [tap] in [tap].
MADAME [slightly off mike] Good. We can begin again.
CAROL What? Where'd she...?
THADDEUS Madame said she jest needed a lil break. She didn't say she was goin' off no place.
CAROL But she was gone.
THADDEUS It's real dark in here. I never heared her go.
CAROL Then she must have listened to everything we said.
THADDEUS I spect she jest shut up her eyes and her ears and took a lil nap, miss.
MADAME May we proceed?
CAROL [sigh] Yes. [fierce] Yeah, I want this fiend drawn and quartered!
SOUND distant brief chuckle, like several people in another room.
MADAME Now, Carol. We'll start with something easy. I want you to be comfortable. I want you to remember something very pleasant.
MADAME Think back to a time when you were happy.
CAROL [thinking] Oh! No, no - that's too silly.
MADAME The first thing that comes to mind, Carol.
CAROL Well, I was very sick once, when I was little - measles, I think, but I don't remember too well - Just the itching. Oh, how it itched! Mama gave me sweet tea each night she came home and didn't see any scratches on me. If I could just control myself, I could have sweet tea. [pause] Of course, I fooled her - I learned to scratch around.
THADDEUS Scratch around?
CAROL Yes. Maybe it was chicken pox. But anyway, if you scratch around the spots, it stops some of the itch, but doesn't look like you've been scratching.
THADDEUS Your best memory is of feelin poorly?
CAROL No, don't be silly. She just asked me for a memory of a happy time, and it was... oddly enough. I got sweet tea, AND I fooled my mother. [giggle]
SOUND distant chuckles
CAROL Sounds like they're having a whale of a time over there.
MADAME Very good Carol. You sound like you feel better now. I need you to keep this feeling of well-being with you while we try again.
CAROL I still don't think it will work.
CAROL All right.
MADAME Ignore any pain. Ignore any fear. Ignore any interruptions. Ignore any distractions. We must find this man. We must find him and stop him. [beat] You have just reached the second floor landing. What do you see, Carol?
CAROL [breathing rapidly] I see the gum wrappers. Little brat. Then a shadow. I hardly ever see people - oh! - on the stairs. [groans]
MADAME Continue, please.
THADDEUS Take my hand, Carol, jest like before. Thass a girl.
SOUND very distant knocking and shuffling noises.
CAROL [whining gasp, obviously in pain] I turn around, and there's a flash - like sunlight on water.
MADAME Ignore the flash. Look only at the face.
SOUND knocking and shuffling noises get louder, nearer.
CAROL No! No I can't - it hurts too much!
THADDEUS Yes you can. You gots to. You the only one left behind - none of them other girls can say nothin, but you - you got yourself a chance to be a hero, now.
CAROL Are you sure he can't come back and get me?
SOUND glass breaks
THADDEUS Sure as I'm sittin here wit you, miss. He cain't never even touch you - no way, no how.
MADAME Carol! Stop the movie! You need to stop it and look! Break the film in your mind, so there IS NO END. Nothing but the face.
CAROL No, I can't!
SOUND heavy pounding, neighbors getting upset.
THADDEUS Shh. Shh. You takin my hand right off, miss Carol.
SOUND ALL sounds stop abruptly.
CAROL It's a knife, isn't it?
CAROL He's holding a knife, but it's on my right - my right... Oh No! Oh, Thaddeus, I'm--
SOUND distant knocking begins again.
THADDEUS That ain't nothing, miss Carol. You gots to see it's just hysteria.
SOUND Knocking gets louder
CAROL [in tears] But I'm bleeding! I have to get to a doctor!
THADDEUS They ain't no blood, miss. Not a chance of it. It's all in ya' head, see?
CAROL No, look, my side, it hurts--
THADDEUS Shh. I don' see no blood.
SOUND knocking begins to recede
CAROL No blood?
THADDEUS Not a bit of it.
CAROL [deep breath] All right. [realization] Oh! But if I saw a knife in his hand, on my right, then he must be left-handed! That's important, isn't it?
MADAME [very tired] Very ...good. I must have another rest. We shall speak again. Goodbye.
CAROL How does she do that?
CAROL She just -- it was like she just wrapped some of the darkness around her and vanished.
THADDEUS She probly jest turned off a light. You doin all right?
CAROL No. My side hurts. I want to go home.
THADDEUS Got to finish first. This GOT to be done.
CAROL I know, but-- [begins to weep]
THADDEUS I shore do like that song Poor Papa you sing sometimes.
CAROL [surprised] What?
THADDEUS I heared you sing it over and over one day, so I got it near enough memorized myself.
CAROL [sniffs, but no longer crying] I was getting ready for an audition. No one can hear me in the stairwell, so it doesn't bother anyone if I practice there.
THADDEUS And that song -- that song is jest plain funny. When mama gets to ride in the car--
CAROL [cheering up] Oh, yes, when "papa bought a limousine, the most expensive kind, now he wears a chauffeur's suit, and mama rides behind!"
THADDEUS [laughing] Thassa one, thassa one gets me every time. One tough female, mama is.
CAROL You really listen to me?
THADDEUS Whenever I hears you in the stair, I'm there quick as all get out, tucked up high so's not to bother you or, well, make you afeared.
CAROL Oh, I'm not afraid of you.
THADDEUS You probly would be if'n we hadn't talked first.
CAROL [beat] I wish I could say you were wrong. [deep breath] Thank you.
THADDEUS Fer what?
CAROL For the distraction.
THADDEUS [teasing] Is that what I's doin? I thought I was complimentin you on your singin, thass all.
CAROL Don't act dopey.
THADDEUS You up to tryin again?
CAROL Maybe... Should we see if she'll come back?
THADDEUS Nah. Jest try right here. Maybe SHE the one makin it hard fer you to think. You come up with somethin now, you can always tell her when she come back.
CAROL [beat] This is futile.
CAROL [revving up] Futile. Pointless! Hopeless!
THADDEUS You know what you needs? You needs to scratch around.
THADDEUS You cain't scratch the spot what itches, cause that jest get you into trouble. Scratch around.
CAROL [realizing] Thaddeus, you're brilliant! [beat] But, how CAN I think around--?
THADDEUS Mebbe... you ever see them funny pictures with an artist, and he holdin up his thumb? How bout if you hold up ya' thumb - block out the part you gots to scratch around.
CAROL I think I see -- Just look at the edges, because the middle is too scary.
CAROL I see the door to the second floor hallway. It's off to my left. I see the light fixture on the wall.
THADDEUS Don' worry about no lights.
CAROL Right. I see a [deep breath] a hat - no a cap, like a deliveryman would wear. It's [breathes quickly for a moment] blue- I think it's blue--
SOUND Thud, like a body drop.
THADDEUS Calm now, Miss Carol.
CAROL --and hair, blonde? Or maybe light brown.
MADAME Be calm, Carol.
CAROL Yes, a deliveryman. I remember! I was thinking it must have been a small package, since he was coming up the stairs instead of the elevator, when-- [hollow, pained] oh!
SOUND LOUDEST thumpings and rattlings yet. they CONTINUE until noted.
THADDEUS S'all right.
CAROL Oh! No, but Thaddeus--
THADDEUS I understand. I promise you, I do.
SOUND CRASH OF GLASS.
CROWD [reactions - gasps, a scream.]
CAROL But, he ... he killed me, didn't he? [beat] Didn't he Thaddeus?
SOUND Deep creaking & cracking noises.
CROWD [reacts again]
MADAME Carol. I need to end this now. Goodbye.
SOUND Sudden silence.
THADDEUS Yes, miss Carol?
CAROL [calm] I'm right, aren't I?
THADDEUS I spect you'd rather not be, but -- yes. You dead, too.
THADDEUS I wished I coulda stopped him, I truly do - but they ain't nothin much a ghost can do! Jest makin him see me was hard enough, and I was ... too late...
CAROL But, what do I do now? Do I go somewhere?
THADDEUS [rueful laugh] If'n I had an answer fer that, miss Carol, I spect I wouldn't be here talkin wit' you.
TOUR GUIDE [clearly reading] And here we are at stop number 12 on the haunted hotel tour, the Garibaldi Residential Suites -- rumored to be home to a plethora of ghosts, including a baby in the basement, a chain rattling spook in suite 405, a runaway slave, and the poor girl who was the final victim of the stairway stabber - and can sometimes be heard singing in the stairwells.
OLIVIA Now that you know how to find us, you'll have to come back. Maybe next week? Don't be a stranger - we have enough of those already...
"Poor Papa" lyrics by Billy Rose, 1926.