Screenplay: Without a Trace… Part 1

Victor removes his dive gear and boards the boat.  He moves silently across the berber carpet toward the wheelhouse where the empty captain’s chair faces a helm station adorned with switches, gauges, and radar screens.

The British flag twists in the wind above the starboard gunwale.  A generator hums.  VICTOR pulls a DIVE KNIFE from his ankle sheath and descends the STAIRCASE to —

THE MAIN SALON

An L-shaped leather sectional engulfs a lacquered cherry settee near the galley.  He enters —

THE AFT CABIN

He finds an empty double berth with a small television mounted above a hanging locker.  His actions are precise, deliberate as he leaves the cabin and moves stealthily toward —

THE OWNER’s STATEROOM

A bearded man is sprawled face down, naked beside a large-breasted woman.  A diamond tennis bracelet glitters on the night stand by a Rolex watch and an empty bottle of Dom Perignon floating in a silver ice bucket.

The woman opens her eyes to glimpse the shadow of the knife-wielding intruder.  Before she can scream, Victor makes a sweeping incision across her trachea through her jugular vein.

Confused by his wife’s thrashing movements, the bearded man awakens as Victor slices the knife below the man’s chin.  The man cups his hand to his throat.  Blood rushes between his fingers.

LATER

Victor wraps the bodies in the bed sheets and carries them one by one to —

THE UPPER DECK

He ties the victims’ ankles to a diver’s weight belt and shoves the bodies overboard.

AT THE HELM STATION

He raises the anchor, starts the engines, and SETS A COURSE FOR MEXICO ON THE GPS DISPLAY.  He eases the throttles forward and gradually brings the sleek, polished yacht on plane.

INT. HOME OF STEVE AND LESLIE CHAMBERS – DAY

Seated behind a laptop computer on his desk, 44-year-old Navy Diver STEVE CHAMBERS stares out a bedroom window in his Ashburn, Virginia home, watching snowflakes blanket his neighbor’s yard.  A cloud of condensation from dual exhaust pipes swirls above the temporary tags on his neighbor’s yellow Mustang GT.

INSERT – STEVE GLANCES AT HIS LAPTOP SCREEN

The laptop screen shows an Internet site for an on-line travel agency.

BACK TO SCENE

Steve rummages through the closet.  Navy uniforms hang from a wooden dowel rod.  A stack of dive magazines rests above a gun safe.  HE HEARS The front door OPEN from the foyer downstairs, followed by the THUMP THUMP THUMP of footsteps on the staircase.

A bedroom door SLAMS SHUT.  Natalie Merchant music blares inside the bedroom of Steve’s 16-year-old stepdaughter SARAH.  The phone rings.

                      SARAH (VO)

                (shouting)

          I’ll get it.

 

Steve takes a dive magazine and drops it on his desk.

                      STEVE

          Turn the music down.

Steve enters the —

THE HALLWAY

He knocks on Sarah’s door.

                      STEVE

          Sarah!  Turn it down!

He waits outside the bedroom for several seconds, staring at the Britney Spears poster.

INT. SARAH’s BEDROOM – DAY

Sarah, a petite brunette with braces and an angel face, rolls her eyes and adjusts the volume on her boom box.  She keeps the phone to her ear and unlocks the door.

                      SARAH

                (to Steve)

          All right all right.  Don’t go

postal on me.

          (to the phone)

Not you.

Steve points to a pair of wireless headphones on the dresser by a high school tennis trophy and an eight-by-ten photo of the varsity gymnastics team.

                      STEVE

          Are your headphones broken?

                      SARAH

          They hurt my ears.

                      STEVE

          How would you know?

                      SARAH

                (speaking into the phone)

          I’ll call you back.

Steve checks his watch.

                      STEVE

          Did school get out early again?

                      SARAH

          No – I cut class to spend quality

time with you.

Steve smirks at the sarcastic comment.

                      STEVE

          Did you bring the trash cans in?

                      SARAH

          Mom said I didn’t have to.

Steve points to a pack of Marlboros partially hidden behind a box of pink facial tissue.

                      SARAH

          Those aren’t mine.

Steve removes the tissue box and takes the cigarettes.

                      STEVE

          Then how did they get here?

                      SARAH

          They’re Katy’s.

                      STEVE

          Don’t let your mom catch

you smoking.

                      SARAH

          She won’t if you don’t tell her.

Steve shakes his head and closes the door behind him.

EXT. I-495 WASHINGTON CAPITAL BELTWAY – DAY

A blonde hair, blue-eyed LESLIE CHAMBERS sits in gridlock traffic behind the slushy windshield of her late model Camry.  A winter storm pounds the ten mile stretch of cars.

Burning flares lead up to a Virginia State Police cruiser with flashing lights.  An officer in foul weather gear directs Leslie around a fender-bender.

INT. LESLIE’s MOVING CAMRY – DAY

Leslie rummages through her purse.  She keeps one hand on the wheel.  A SEA OF BRAKE LIGHTS covers the four-lane highway.

She dumps the contents on the passenger seat.  Tic-Tacs, loose change, pens, sunglasses, napkins, a gold hoop earring, and a folded vacation brochure topple out.  She checks the glove compartment and finds an empty pack of smokes with a sticky note attached.

INSERT – LESLIE READS THE STICKY NOTE

Nice try.  You’ll thank me later.

BACK TO SCENE

Leslie shakes her head in disgust.  She stuffs her wallet in her purse and unfolds the glossy vacation brochure.

INSERT – LESLIE READS THE VACATION BROCHURE

The brochure advertises Cozumel, Mexico with pictures of bikini models on a white powder beach.  A caption reads, “Come to Mexico, Where the Land of Enchantment Awaits You.”

BACK TO SCENE

Leslie folds the brochure and slides it in her purse.

INT. CHAMBERS’ HOME – NIGHT

A smoke detector beeps as Steve scrambles up the BASEMENT STEPS and enters —

THE SMOKEY KITCHEN

He grabs an oven mitt and opens the oven door.  Smoke blasts his face.  He swats the air with the food-stained mitt.  Inside the oven, the charred remains of a frozen dinner sizzle and pop inside a pan.

He dumps the pan in the sink and turns the water on.  Steam rises with the smoke.

Sarah enters the kitchen wearing baggy jeans and an oversized sweatshirt.  She fans the air.

                      SARAH

          What happened?

                      STEVE

          Nothing.

Steve activates the hood fan.

                      SARAH

          When’s Mom coming home?

                      STEVE

          I don’t know.  She hasn’t called yet.

                      SARAH

          Can we order Papa John’s?

                      STEVE

          Not tonight.

                (beat)

                      SARAH

          But you just incinerated

our dinner.

Steve takes a can of tomato soup from the pantry.

                      STEVE

          We’ll do soup and sandwiches.

                      SARAH

          I had soup for lunch.

Steve grinds the can opener with sharp twists of his wrist.  The lid falls in the soup.

                      STEVE

          I thought you had homework

to finish.

Sarah takes a plastic ladle from the utensil drawer.

                      SARAH

          Don’t forget to add water

this time.

                      STEVE

          I know what I’m doing.

Sarah smirks.

                      SARAH

          I couldn’t tell from the smoke.

Sarah points to the back burner growing red hot beside an empty saucepan.

                      SARAH

          Wrong burner.

                      STEVE

          Homework.  Now.

Sarah twirls her hair.

                      SARAH

          Katy got a new Mustang for

her birthday.

                      STEVE

          The bus is free.

                      SARAH

          We’re not living in the 90s

anymore.  The cool kids don’t

take the bus to school.

                      STEVE

          Do the cool kids pay for gas?

The garage door closes with a motorized hum.  Leslie enters the kitchen and drops her purse on the counter.  She sniffs the air.

                      LESLIE
          Is something burning?

Steve points to the brochure in Leslie’s hand.

                      STEVE

          Where’d you find that?

Leslie glances at the smoldering clump of blackened food in the kitchen sink.

                      LESLIE

          I’ll show you later.  Let’s order

          pizza.  I’m starved.

100 MILES SOUTH OF KEY LARGO

INT. MAIN SALON, VIKING FISHING TRAWLER – DAY

A short, stout DAMON RODRIGUEZ sits behind an L-shaped table.  Acne scars cover his face.  His hair is disheveled.  He holds five playing cards in his callused right hand.  Across from him, a young Latino with long hair and a thin mustache points to the deck of cards.  The men are bored; their faces long.

Damon pours himself a shot of Jose Cuervo and squints at the sunlight seeping through a porthole.

                      YOUNG LATINO

           Draw or pass?

Damon coughs – a wet, raspy cough that brings up phlegm.

                      DAMON

           Draw.

Damon swaps three cards from the deck.  He downs his shot as the wrinkle-faced SKIPPER enters the salon.  Clad in overalls and rubber boots, the Skipper takes the bottle of tequila and screws the cap on.

                      SKIPPER

          The storm is coming.  We

should raise the nets.

                      DAMON

          One minute.

The Skipper slams the bottle on the table, bouncing the ashtray.  Tequila spills from Damon’s shot glass.

                      SKIPPER

          Now!

                      YOUNG LATINO

          The game just started.

                      SKIPPER

          The game is over.

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