INT. NEARBY OLD LONDON PUB -- NIGHT
A quiet place, leaded-glass windows, dark wood paneling, worn plank floor, empty: “fruit machine” video-gambling console DINGING forlornly in b.g. Harry and Carlyle sit at the empty bar. Each has a half-finished pint, empty glasses of the previous round off to one side. Harry takes a drink.
It’s really not bad for warm beer.
That’s “mister” barbarian to you. You were really his tutor?
Every great university has some bloom of ancient students about it, degreed and undegree’d people who can’t bear to leave, but stay on to learn, and damn the sheepskin. I was one. Like many others of my kind, I took on younger students of other schools for pay and coached them for exams.
And you coached Erickson.
I wish I’d slammed the door in his earnest spotty face the first day I saw him. He was no mathematician, though before God I tried to make him one. A gift for engineering he did have. But none at all for languages.
And therein lay my downfall.
Oh. Is this the ‘porpentine’ part?
Yes, and mine’s a pint.
Harry SIGNALS for new pints, finishes his glass and pushes it away. Carlyle hangs onto his, gazing into it.
He used to go down to Islington, where his parents had a house, and he’d tend their allotment -- that’s a plot in a communal garden -- in exchange for using its shed as a workshop, where he’d put together electronic components and try to swindle the laws of thermodynamics into doing something profitable. One day young Robert was trenching up the potatoes when he came upon a canister, made of lead, with a curious design on top.
Carlyle wets his finger in a puddle on the bar and traces a circle-and-star design which by now is familiar, except that the point of the star is up.
The Erickson logo?
The pentagram major. Known everywhere in ancient times as the chief sign of white magic. Some called it Solomon’s Seal and claimed that the great King had used it to bind mighty energies... jinni and demons and the lingering spirits of the dead.
Harry is surprised.
You believe in that kind of thing? Dead people haunting places?
Many men much wiser than I have believed in it implicitly. Personal survival... sometimes under most strange circumstances. In this world, only a fool would say “impossible”.
Each of them looks slightly haunted now.
So what was in this canister?
Ah. A rolled-up parchment, half a millennium old or thereabouts, written in the hilarious bastard Latin the alchemists used. On the parchment was a diagram of tremendous complexity, all covered with alchemistic signs and scribbles. And there at the bottom, a signature. Johannes Dee, Doctor Mysteriae et Divinitas.
Someone I should know?
He was Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer. Or a mighty sorcerer, or a clever quack, depending on who you talk to. Robert begged me to translate the thing. I couldn’t understand this sudden interest in medieval curiosities, but I translated the scroll as best I could, while Robert copied the design. He took the translation, and thanked me, and went back to his shed to start work on something.
Last thing he ever thanked me for.
Harry, uncomfortable at the growing weirdness of the conversation, DRINKS faster.
So what did he do with it?
I’m not sure. He became very secretive after that. A year later, he came to me and said he needed venture capital for a business he wanted to start. Then he showed me the prototype Erickson chip. Tremendous speed and storage capacity, processor and memory on the same chip, somehow burned in indelibly. Of course I gave him the capital. And of course I saw a resemblance in the chip’s circuitry to the design on that parchment I’d translated. But there was no way to compare them more closely. Robert wasn’t willing to show me his copy...and the original was gone.
Stolen from my house months earlier. Someone tore the place apart looking for it.
Anyway, the company grew by leaps and bounds. Robert bought me out as soon as he decently could: and the rest of the story can be seen in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.
Carlyle reaches for a bar towel and WIPES the design out.
How does the damn thing work, I wonder...?
I don’t know.
He’s grim through his tipsiness. Harry eyes Carlyle, suddenly sure he’s lying.
But I will rue to my dying day that I helped him.
Carlyle gets up, EXITS slowly and a little unsteadily. After a few beats, Harry EXITS too.
EXT. STREET OUTSIDE OLD LONDON PUB -- NIGHT
Harry looks up and down the street for Carlyle: he’s gone. Harry stands thinking, wobbling slightly from drinking too fast. He pulls out his phone, brings up Joy’s number, looks at it: then puts the phone away. Wearing that guilty look again, he heads down the street toward where the computer show’s signs can be seen in b.g. He walks slowly, like a man thinking serious and troubled thoughts.
INT. ORMONDE HOTEL -- EVENING
Joy comes in, unhappy. She stops by the front desk: Doris is there. She turns to get Joy’s key, finds it’s not there.
Good evening, Joy -- oh, you’ve got your key.
I know. I didn’t know I’m supposed to leave it. Sorry.
You look like you’ve had a long day.
It shows, huh? I wish I could get a drink or something.
I can do that for you, dear. What would you like?
At the moment, a double Scotch sounds good.
Down the hall, in b.g., Lorna can be seen walking calmly through the lounge wall and OUT OF SHOT.
Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have a spirit license.
(reacting to Lorna)
You could have fooled me.
We have wine or beer, if you’d like some.
Some red wine, maybe.
You go down to the lounge, dear, and I’ll bring it along for you.
Joy goes down to the lounge, finds Lorna there.
Good evening, madame. Have you been out to the theater?
(too tired to cope)
No, I’ve been having a fight with my husband.
How shocking! Tell me all about it.
Gunter PUTS HIS HEAD IN. Joy is in such mixed mood that she isn’t even particularly happy to see him: he notices.
Oh, hi, Gunter.
Lorna, have you seen Sarah anywhere?
The little one? Not since this morning.
Doris ENTERS with Joy’s wine.
Doris, have you seen Sarah? She usually asks me for a story about this time. But there is no sign of her.
Now that you mention it, no.
(toward the door)
George, have you seen Sarah?
George leans in through the wall.
Not since this afternoon. But she never goes far.
It’s just not like her to be out this late. She’s such a thoughtful child.
Oh, George, I saw your weird TV van again, a while ago, down the road. Does Erickson run them for the government or something? It had their logo on it.
The TV vans? No, they’re just plain, usually.
And you saw this van the other night, too? I wonder what it’s for.
Well, never mind the van. But I will go out and have a look around for Sarah. It is not like her to be missing so late.
He EXITS. Lorna leans in closer to Joy.
You were going to tell us all about your fight with your husband.
Doris and George look at each other with slight embarrassment and take themselves away, leaving Joy drinking her wine and giving Lorna a dry look.
EXT. STREET NEAR ORMONDE HOTEL -- NIGHT
Gunter looks for Sarah. The street is quiet: only a little traffic passes. He walks on.
Then down the street, coming slowly toward him, he sees that van. He’s curious. Gunter slips into the shadows between two houses.
The van stops down the street in front of a late-opening convenience store. The driver and the passenger, the TWO TECHS we saw previously, get out, lock the van and go in.
Gunter makes his way cautiously toward the van, staying out of sight by STEPPING INTO AND THROUGH THINGS. Looking through the van windows into the shop, he sees the guys buying coffee, cigarettes and newspapers, paying no attention.
Gunter glances up and down the street to make sure no one sees, then MELTS THROUGH THE SIDE OF THE VAN, out of sight.
INT. VAN IN STREET NEAR ORMONDE -- NIGHT
In the van, Gunter glances at the technical equipment, also getting a close look at something not visible earlier -- lying flat in a clear plastic box, a foot-wide green pancake of plastic that looks like a computer motherboard. It’s etched in lines of gold and silver metal: GLOWING LEDs and tiny crystalline components jut up from its surface, jewel-like. It HUMS faintly, and a subdued SHIMMER hangs about it. The design of the circuit board’s etching recalls the FIVE-POINTED STAR-In-CIRCLE which is both the Erickson logo (inverted) and the pentagram Carlyle described to Harry (right side up). Off to one side of this portable pentagram, along with a couple of empty fast food wrappers and dry coffee cups, is a well-thumbed paperback manual.
Gunter is drawn to this pentagram -- literally drawn to it, like taffy being pulled. He holds a hand over it, testing the thing’s power the way you’d test the suction of a vacuum cleaner. His ARM IS PULLED OUT OF SHAPE as he holds it closer to the circuit board, and the HUMMING gets louder. Gunter YANKS BACK his arm, alarmed.
Gunter then SPOTS the manual, grabs it and READS a few pages, registers SHOCK AND SURPRISE. He hurriedly LOOKS OUT the van window. In the shop, the two Techs HEAD TOWARD THE REGISTER with their purchases.
With the manual in his hands, Gunter CLOSES HIS EYES and STEPS BACKWARDS out of the van. He goes through the wall, but the manual doesn’t: it BANGS into the inside wall, FALLS to the floor.
He STEPS INTO THE VAN again. In the shop, the two Techs are about to come out. Gunter hastily LEANS THROUGH the front passenger’s seat and ROLLS DOWN THE WINDOW. He fumbles behind him THROUGH THE SEAT for the manual -- PICKS IT UP and MANEUVERS IT around the seats and drops it out the window, then quickly ROLLS UP THE WINDOW and ducks back into the rear of the van as the Techs COME OUT of the convenience store.
VAN TECH 1
Why didn’t you buy a ticket? It’s up to seventeen million quid this week.
VAN TECH 2
You kidding? You’ve got better odds of being hit by a meteor. Too many people in the game right now...
Just as one of them PULLS OPEN the driver’s side door from the sidewalk side (the van is parked pointing the wrong way in its lane), Gunter DROPS DOWN THROUGH THE FLOOR OF THE VAN onto the ROAD underneath it, then GROPES for the manual to PULL IT UNDER THE VAN WITH HIM before the second Tech comes around on the other side and sees. The second Tech GETS IN, and the van STARTS and DRIVES AWAY. Gunter ROLLS to the curb, GETS UP, dusts himself off in grim satisfaction, and MAKES OFF with the book.