COUNTY COURTHOUSE, JERSEY CITY – INT – DAY- ONE WEEK LATER
JUDGE MAUREEN WOOLSEY walks into an office. Also present is Frank Messina, Theresa, their attorney, THOMAS LAURENZANO, FATHER TOM REINBOLD, SISTER MARY LUKE, and US attorney GLENN CLAY, who is behind the only desk in the room. Everyone in the office rises when the judge walks in.
Your honor. (The judge nods to everyone) Your honor, this is Mr. and Mrs. Messina, their attorney, Mr. Laurenzano. (They shake hands) Father Tom Reinbold, pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Hoboken, the children’s parish. (They shake hands) And Sister Mary Luke, who is Mother Superior at the orphanage where the children are staying. (They shake)
Everyone takes a SEAT.
Mr. Clay, would you step from behind your desk and sit somewhere on this side, please?
The judge points to the area in front of the desk, where everyone else is sitting. Clay looks a bit shocked, but complies with the judge’s request. He ROLLS his BIG LEATHER CHAIR around to the front of the desk. The judge takes a standing position against the front of the desk. Before Clay sits, he starts to speak.
Your honor, the issue at hand is…
Mr. Clay, please. I know the issue at hand… Let’s clear the air, shall we…I will not, despite this media circus, sacrifice the interests of those children…(with emphasis) for anything…Are we all clear about that?
Everyone is nodding.
All right. That being said…I have read the preliminary briefs submitted by you, Mr. Laurenzano, and you, Mr. Clay. I have also read the numerous stories in the New York papers and seen much of the coverage on TV. I have spoken to colleagues and child psychologists. (Turning to the Messina’s). Everyone has an opinion on where these children should go. Now I want to hear your opinion.
(now seated) Your honor, before we begin…
Mr. Clay, please.
Clay is a big-time government attorney who thinks he’s more powerful than the judge, who he thinks of as just a lowly family court judge
But your honor…
Not another word, Mr. Clay!
But Judge Woolsey…
Mr. Clay, shut the fuck up!
Clay’s face goes hard. Frank approves, but his look stays sad. The judge turns to the priest and nun, bowing
Excuse me. (turning to Messina's) Excuse me. Now, I’d like to hear why those two children should be turned over to your care.
Frank and Theresa look worn and humble. They look at each other, and Frank yields to Theresa
Your honor, I’m not sure where to start. I’m…
Mrs. Messina, let me make this easy for you. One… do you deny that the father of those children died in a…in an assassination of your father-in-law?
Theresa is surprised by the judge’s directness. She’s speechless at first. Frank is looking down.
Your honor…no one knows what happened that day.
The judge, sighing, looks at Theresa, Frank, and the priest, in turn. The priest looks down.
Two…are you asking me to allow those children to be raised in the home of a maf … of a convicted felon?
Theresa heard it.
Felon? Your honor, tax evasion is hardly a felony that warrants…
(correcting her) RICO tax evasion, Mrs. Messina, and I know you understand the difference. Those RICO laws are written in blood, so please, spare me the speech about how your husband is persecuted.
Everyone is quiet
All three of your felony convictions, Mr. Messina, were RICO convictions - two for tax evasion and one for interstate trafficking in firearms. In my cursory review of your trial records, I noted at least three people who died, one of them a Miami police officer.
Judge Woolsey, Frank had nothing…
Mrs. Messina, please, let me finish…(her anger is increasing) At last count, four people who played material roles in those cases – people both inside and outside of organized crime – have been found dead or are currently missing. The money trail…
The judge suddenly stops. She walks to a WATER COOLER, pulls out a SMALL PAPER CUP, and takes a drink. She moves over to the window. No one is talking.
TO – POV OF JUDGE LOOKING OUT WINDOW – INT - CONTINUOUS
The offices overlook the Jersey City waterfront, Hoboken to the left, New York City to the right, across the river. The judge returns to the front of the desk.
I’ve said enough…Excuse my high emotion…I’m going to say this, and then I’m going to call this informal meeting to a close…(controlled) I am outraged. I am outraged that I cannot do what needs to be done in this case. I am outraged that people who don’t know me, and know nothing about the law, are giving me advice on what to do
The judge runs her hands through her hair, stressed, and walks to the water cooler again. As she’s walking back to the desk, she speaks.
I am outraged that you have left me no choices… Mr. Messina, do you have anything you’d like to say? (subtly sarcastic) This is off the record. I know you worry about such things.
Frank never even looks up
Do you have children, Judge Woolsey?
This question seems ominous. The judge shows the first sign of losing the edge she’s had until now. She hesitates.
Yes, I do.
And have you thought about who would care for them, if something happened to you?
(Flustered but pissed) Are you threatening me, Mr. Messina?
FRANK (now looks up)
Judge Woolsey, I run a multimillion-dollar shipping operation. I negotiate contracts with big companies and powerful unions. I have been in and around the legal system since I was fifteen years old. Do you actually think I would threaten you…in front of my priest, my lawyer, and my wife? I am asking you a simple question…as a father – as a parent. Who would care for your children if you had no family and something happened to you and your husband?
There’s silence for a moment.
Mr. Messina, I am sorry, but I cannot allow those children to live with you.
The Judge waits to let it sink in, then slowly rises from the desk. She begins to walk out of the office
(with a look of pain – stays seated, head down)
Your honor, those children have no one…
The judge stops with her hand on the doorknob. She doesn’t turn. She waits a moment, then opens the door and walks out.
– ON THE HUDSON RIVER - NEW YORK CITY NORTH OF STATUE OF LIBERTY– EXT –
DAY – JULY 4, 1976
The Hudson River is filled with SHIPS of every kind. There are Navy ships, new and old; masted schooners, sailboats, huge cruise ships. Jenny and Nina are dressed in beautiful summer dresses. It’s a very formal party. They are sitting quietly at a table on an outer deck.
Nina, will you come to the bathroom with me.
OK. Let’s go to the one on top.
The children stand up and walk meekly to MEG WALES, a woman in UPSCALE SUMMER ATTIRE. She’s in her late thirties.
Meg, can Jenny and I go to the bathroom?
On a ship, Nina, a bathroom is called a “head”. And , yes, you may go to the head. You’ll stay together, right?
OK. Be careful. Don’t go near the rails, OK?
She watches the children walk up the LADDER to the UPPER DECK. The children walk up the ladder slowly. They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. The WOMAN to whom Meg was talking says
They call you “Meg”?
Yes. “Mother” just doesn’t seem right…Richard has them calling him “Father”. It sounds ridiculous.
They seem well behaved. Are they?
Yes, they are. Excuse me.
TO INT – YAHCT’S CABIN - CONTINUOUS
Meg walks into the cabin, where her husband, RICHARD, is sitting with TWO OTHER MEN. They are all talking loudly. Richard’s BACK IS TO MEG. She walks up to the area where he’s sitting. One of the men who can see Meg coming leans over and whispers to Richard.
Richard looks over his shoulder
Just a minute.
He turns back in his seat to finish a conversation.
TO MEG’S POV – OVERLOOKING RIVER - CONTINUOUS
Meg shows frustration, then goes to the window and looks out over the water. She notices the Statue of Liberty, the celebration of ships, and then she notices a TUGBOAT pulling near. Richard interrupts her.
Where are the girls?
She’s focused on the tugboat, which – dirty and loud - is oddly out of place near the yacht.
They, ahm…went to the bathroom
She snaps her head to Richard and stares for a second
The head…whatever…I’m, ah…I’m going to take the next skiff back and take the girls home. They’re too tired to be here until midnight.
Richard’s eyes are over Meg’s shoulder. She notices this, and looks down. Richard looks back to her
Look, wait a bit longer, then I’ll go with you.
No, Richard. The skiff’s leaving shortly. We’ll see you at home.
Meg turns to leave. Richard frowns. The two girls come into the cabin just as Meg is walking out. Richard sees them, and sips his drink. He watches them gather up to leave. Meg puts one hand on the backs of each of the girls and leads them through the cabin door.
TO AFT END OF THE SHIP – EXT
The SKIFF is pulling up. It’s big enough for about fifteen people. Meg and the girls climb down a steep ladder onto a landing aft of the ship. A DECK HAND from the yacht grabs the line thrown by the skiff operator.
TO POV OF MAN ON TUGBOAT - CONTINUOUS
All the MEN on the tug are in WORK CLOTHES. One MAN, out of place in black slacks and a Hawaiian shirt, watches Meg and the girls get onto the boat.
TO JENNY’S POV
As the skiff heads upriver, Jenny looks to the HOBOKEN WATERFRONT. She sees SIGHTS she knows.
– INT – NIGHT – THREE YEARS LATER - 1979
UPSCALE apartment. TWELVE-YEAR old Jenny comes out of the bathroom. The rooms are DARK. She shuffles into the KITCHEN. She grabs a COOKIE off a PLATE on the kitchen TABLE. There’s a NOTE on the table.
TO JENNY’S POV ON NOTE
which reads “MEG’S NUMBER IN CALIFORNIA – PENINSULA HOTEL 310-464-1234”
POV - CONTINUOUS
A WOMAN, LATE 50’S, is sleeping in front of the TV SET. Jenny shuffles out of the kitchen back into the hallway toward the bedrooms. She sees Richard coming out of fourteen-year old Nina’s room. Richard looks right at us with disregard. He walks right toward us, then turns into HIS BEDROOM and closes the DOOR. Jenny is confused and scared. She walks slowly down the hall, and turns into Nina’s room. Nina is sitting at the head of her BED, with her knees drawn to her chest. She flinches when Jenny walks in, but then relaxes.
Leave me alone – get out.
Jenny stands just inside the doorway.
(jaw clenched but voice firmer)
I said get out!
NJ – INT - BACK ROOM OF DELI – NIGHT - 1979
Frank Messina sits behind a DESK. FOUR MEN stand around the desk, looking at a PLAN SPREAD out on the desk. They are all wearing DARK CLOTHING.
Any more questions? (He looks at each man) Let’s do it.
– CLOSED – INT – NIGHT - CONTINUOUS
The men walk through the CLOSED DELI and out into the street. They get into a LARGE, DARK CAR. Frank gets into a SEPARATE CAR.
TO NEW YORK STREET – EXT – SHORT WHILE LATER
Frank pulls up to a VALET in front of a RESTAURANT.
TO RESTAURANT – INT
Frank walks to a table in the back of the restaurant. A FEW PEOPLE recognize him. Theresa is sitting at a back table. She smiles as he walks up to the table.
Hey. How was the show?
Frank sits – Theresa waits till he’s settled. The HOST leaves a MENU.
(to waiter) Thank you
It was so funny! Although I don’t think my mother cared for it much.
Would you care for a drink, sir?
Double Glenlivet, neat.
I was going to order some wine, too. Will you still have some?
Sure, sure…so tell me, why the Manhattan restaurant?
Frank, we eat in Hoboken restaurants three nights a week. Can’t we try a place without “all-Sinatra all the time”?
Very funny. But, let me give you my theory. (He begins talking lower) You spent three hours milling around this neighborhood hoping to get a glimpse of those kids, didn’t you?
Theresa looks down at her drink, then back at Frank. She’s getting excited.
Frankie, if this guy’s as big a prick as you think he is, well…then…I can’t bear to think of them here by themselves
Calm down, calm down. They are not alone. The wife is OK. She watches out for them. Don’t worry.
She frowns. She knows when he’s trying to placate her.
(now getting excited himself) I am taking care of it, all right! (she’s still frowning) You have five kids of your own to worry about, so knock it off.
(scolding) No, Frankie, you knock it off. And don’t you dare bring our kids into this. (he knows he’s wrong. They’re quiet for a moment. Then, softly…) You’re always telling me – “no women and no children.” Well, then why are those kids suffering?
Frank sits back frustrated because he knows she’s right.
Theresa, we bugged his place – his room, the kids’ room. I’m gonna get the tapes to the judge…
People around them are looking, except for the ones who know who Frank is. Frank gives Theresa a warning look.
What good will that do? Frank, we have to get those children to a safe place!
They say nothing for a moment. Then she takes Frank’s hand.
TO LAS VEGAS SUBURB - GOLF COURSE – INT – DAY – PRO SHOP
Hi. Reservation for Wales - first name Richard.
Ah…yes. The fourth in your group was here, but he had to leave suddenly. So, you’ll have your own cart. The other twosome is outside.
Great! I hear the course is tough?
Well, if you play it close, it’s average. But it’s a doozy of a desert course if you go wide. Rocks, cactus, snakes. Be careful if you’re not hitting them straight. There are markers that tell you what’s out-of-bounds.
TO GOLF COURSE STARTER AREA – MINUTES LATER
Richard is getting into a cart by himself
TO EXT – 1ST TEE
Richard drives off the first tee. OTHER TWO MEN, MID TWENTIES, a bit SEEDY-LOOKING, but good golfers, drive off the first tee
TO EXT – 2ND GREEN
Richard and the OTHER TWO MEN putt out
TO RICHARD DRIVING SLOWLY AROUND A BEND
Richard stops the cart and looks into the STEEP CANYON on the side of the bend. He pulls away, going up the steep grade to the elevated green.
TO RICHARD PULLING UP TO GREEN – EXT
Richard pulls the cart up near the green. The area is ROCKY AND RUGGED, except for the green
TO RICHARD – EXT – PUTTING GREEN – 5th HOLE
He finishes his PUTT.
Nicely done. Good putt.
The other TWO PLAYERS walk off the green in front of him and drive off. Putter still in hand, Richard detours to the small BATHROOM near the green.
TO RICHARD EXITING THE BATHROOM MOMENTS LATER
He walks to the back of the cart to put his putter in his bag.
TO POV OF RICHARD’S FACE AS HE’S PUTTING THE CLUB IN THE BAG
Richard screams in pain and jerks backward from the waist. He screams again.
TO RICHARD’S POV - CONTINUOUS
There’s DOZENS of RATTLESNAKES in the bottom of the bag shelf. The snakes are HISSING and crawling and striking him in the thighs and groin. He gets bit numerous times. He’s screaming.
BACK TO REVEAL – CONTINUOUS
He runs and gets in the cart. There’s ANOTHER BOX FULL OF SNAKES on the floor of the cart. The snakes start jumping out at him, striking him in the calves and ankles. He kicks the box out of the cart and starts driving for the clubhouse, back toward the way he came, as fast as he can go, already feeling the venom. He goes down a VERY STEEP HILL, picking up a lot of speed. He tries braking, but the BRAKE PEDAL has been CUT so that it BREAKS OFF when he presses down on it. The cart crashes through the WOOD RAILING AND THE CART CRASHES FAR BELOW TO THE CANYON FLOOR
Santa Clara, CA 95050