‘Guess Who?’

FADE IN:

INT. FAMILY HOME – AFTERNOON

Answer Phone BEEP.

CHRIS’ MOM (V.O.)

Valerie. We’re about to board the flight. Make sure everything is ready for our arrival tomorrow. Give our love to Chris. See you soon.

Val (21), African American woman, sits with her legs crossed on the floor, leaning back against a couch. Chris (10), white, sits on the opposite couch, his feet don’t touch the floor. They’re playing the board game ‘Guess Who’.

VAL

That’s cheating.

CHRIS

My house, my rules Val.

 

There’s a table between them, a filled fruit bowl and brass candles sit on top. Chris rocks back and forward.

VAL

It’s your parents rules. I’m the one who enforces them.

Pictures in gold frames hang above a marble fireplace. Chris in a shirt and tie. The family unit. The pictures are formal.

CHRIS

I’m still going first. Are they wearing a cap?

The sun casts a shadow from the blinds, bars stretching across the white carpet, creeping across a picture of Val and Chris.

VAL No. Is yours a boy?

There’s an empty bowl on the floor with ’Drippy’ written on it.

CHRIS (Groaning)

Yeaaah.

Does yours wear jewelry? There’s trophies on display, like a shrine.

VAL

Uh-huh. How about blonde hair?

CHRIS

No. Big nose?

A potted plant sits in front of a cupboard full of bourbon, vodka and gin, complimented by luxurious glasses and decanters. It’s all for show.

VAL

Damn it!

Chris’ board has six faces remaining. Five black, one white.

CHRIS

Better get the car started.

VAL

We ain’t done yet. Blue eyes?

Chris shakes his head. Val flips more faces down.

CHRIS

Are they black?

VAL

No.

Chris SLAMS all but one face down.

EXT. DRIVE WAY – MOMENTS LATER

The doors of a Toyata Corolla SLAM. We hear the car engine REV. The car takes off down the winding drive way to the giant iron gates at the entrance.

CUT TO:

INT. VAL’S CAR – CONTINUOUS

Chris sits in the back. Seat belt across his red jumper which reads ‘KICKER’ on it. Val turns on the radio.

RADIO HOST

Police are appealing for any witnesses to come forward regarding the disappearance of Georgie Sellars.

Rain spits at the windscreen. She turns the volume down.

CHRIS

Drippy ran away one time.

VAL

Oh? How long for?

Police car sirens WAIL as they drive past.

CHRIS

Over a week.

VAL

How’d you find him?

CHRIS

We put lots of fliers up around the neighbourhood.

The windscreen CREEKS as the wipers swipe.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

I came home after school and he was waiting with Mom and Dad.

Val’s facial expression is skeptical.

VAL

Well, that was lucky.

CHRIS

He was still a bit scared for a few weeks.

The wipers GROAN.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

I hope the same’ll happen with Georgie.

VAL

I’m sure they’ll find him.

INT. SHOPPING MALL – MOMENTS LATER

Chris darts into an open slot in the revolving door separating himself and Val as they enter. He pokes his tongue out as he waits for her to enter. The mall is bright, spacious and HEAVING.

Families and teens, there’s a general RABBLE of conversation, but above that there’s LAUGHTER and SHOUTING. Val SNATCHES Chris’ hand and leads him aside. Hanging on the wall are giant advertising tablets displaying perfume.

VAL

Don’t do that again, little man.

CHRIS

Can we get ice cream first?

The tablet ad changes to a movie poster titled “MISSING”.

VAL

On one condition: you hold my hand at all times.

Chris nods in agreement, trying to drag Val further into the mall. She obliges. They pass a clown making faces at a boy standing with his Mum, WAILING as he holds a balloon.

Chris starts to DRAG Val. Her bag SHAKES. His pace QUICKENS. He leads her FASTER. NIPPING between shoppers. Chris LAUGHS and WHOOPS as he narrowly avoids an elderly lady and her shopping bag. His fingers SLIP through hers.

VAL (CONT’D) (Shouting)

Chris! Get back here!

Chris is ABSORBED into the crowd. No longer visible, only his GIGGLES are audible.

VAL (CONT’D)

Chris!

A MAN dressed in purple steps out from a booth titled: “SECURI-HOME”.

MAN

Mam, can I interest you in-

Val BARGES him aside. She DARTS between people. The sign ‘NARDINI’S ICE CREAM’ is visible. She breaks through a crowd of people. Chris is standing waiting at the entrance with an OLDER MAN. His white beard is bushy and distinct. He’s wearing a blue anorak.

He’s kneeling. One hand rests on Chris’ shoulder, he holds a purple dragon plush toy in the other. He’s speaking to Chris but it’s inaudible.

VAL

Christopher!

The Older Man gets to his feet. They face Val. She notices the teddy.

VAL (CONT’D)

What did I tell you?!

OLDER MAN

Are you his mother?

VAL

His Nanny.

The Older Man’s hand grips Chris’ shoulder TIGHTER. OLDER MAN Keep a closer eye on him. Next time you might not be so… Chris groans and struggles slightly. The Older Man releases his grip.

OLDER MAN (CONT’D)

…Lucky.

VAL

..Right. Well… thanks, sir.

Val motions for Chris to come to her. He waddles over sheepishly. She clutches his hand and leads him away from ‘Nardini’s’. The Older Man watches, the plush toy dangles.

CHRIS

But Val! What about-

VAL

Nuh-uh. Not a chance. If your parents covered fuel we’d be going home right now.

Chris tries to strop but Val is in control, hauling him away.

VAL (CONT’D)

Any more of this and you ain’t getting to the arcade.

CHRIS

But-

VAL

No more buts! Or I’m sending you home with Captain Birdseye back there.

Chris looks up at her, his mouth agape. Val glares at him. He submits. His arm flimsy as she leads him onto the escalators.

PULL BACK to show the Older Man on the escalator. LURKING. Between him, Val and Chris are a family of four and two couples.

INT. ARCADE – CONTINUOUS

BELLS RING. ALARMS. BANGING. POPPING. Claws SNATCH at toys. Kids shoot at screens. Pucks FIRE across air hockey tables. Parents, kids and couples battle. Everyone is with someone. Chris and Val team up on the light gun game ‘Time Crisis II’.

On the console the villain drags his hostage off screen. Chris and Val take control and start shooting. Action shots of them shooting the screen, but from a distance. There’s a sense of voyeurism. Ducking and dodging, they CHEER, SNARL and GROWL at the screen.

Val YELPS. Her screen reads ‘Continue?’ She crouches down – revealing The Older Man, LINGERING behind them – she fumbles for money to continue. Chris tackles the rest of the game. ‘GAME OVER’. Val is too slow. Chris GROANS. The Older Man has VANISHED.

CHRIS

OH! OH! The ball pit play area.

Val CLAMPS her hand around his wrist. Chris tries to run deeper into the arcade towards the ball pit area.

VAL

Cool your jets little man.

Val reaches for her bag, clinging to him as he struggles.

CHRIS (whining)

I want to go to the ball pit.

They draw attention from passers by.

VAL

Stop it or we’re leaving.

CHRIS

You’re not my mom!

The attention grows. Eyes on them. Watching. Concern. Judging. A Mall Security Officer is speaking to the Older Man.

VAL (Hissing)

You’re making a scene.

CHRIS (Louder, repeating)

You’re not my mom! Let me go!

He WRIGGLES and STRIVES. Val is distracted by people stopping. She reaches again for her bag. Mall Security approach. Her grip is broken. Chris runs towards the ball pit.

VAL

Christopher!

She is met by an imposing Mall Security Officer. He’s young, bald and AGITATED. His stare INTENSE. His brow furrowed. His eyes pore over her. Fingers teasing handcuffs on his belt.

MALL SECURITY

There a problem here?

VAL

No, sorry.

She attempts to follow Chris. The Officer doesn’t move.

MALL SECURITY

That your kid?

VAL

No. I’m his Nanny. I need to- Val tries to push past him. His arm stretches and stops her.

MALL SECURITY

Right. His Nanny. I want to see some identification.

VAL

Sir, I need to-

MALL SECURITY

Ma’am, I watched you harassing a child who obviously-

He clears his throat, a smirk crosses his face.

MALL SECURITY (CONT’D)

-is not yours.

VAL

What’s that supposed to mean?

MALL SECURITY

It means that I want to see your ID. Please.

Val, fumbling, hurriedly producers her ID from her bag. He examines it meticulously.

MALL SECURITY (CONT’D)

Can you get in touch with his parents to confirm your position?

VAL

He’ll confirm it. Let’s go ask him.

She tries to push past again. He resists. They struggle.

VAL (CONT’D)

Let me- Chris!

MALL SECURITY

Alright, that’s enough!

The Officer sweeps her to the floor face first. Val screeches. A crowd gathers. The jovial atmosphere turns to hostile whispers.

VOICE IN THE CROWD 1

I saw her grabbing a kid.

VOICE IN THE CROWD 2

Maybe she’s the one.

VAL

Get off me!

He slaps the handcuffs around her wrists. He brushes the sides of his head with his hands. He kneels over her back.

VAL (CONT’D)

I haven’t done anything. He dips his head close to her ear.

MALL SECURITY

I wouldn’t recommend resisting arrest.

VAL

And what about Chris?!

The Officer activates the radio strapped to his shoulder. His brow has dampened.

MALL SECURITY

Requesting support in the arcade. Over. The response is immediate.

THOMSON

This is Thomson, I’ll be right there. Over.

MALL SECURITY

Thanks chief.

Val whimpers. The Officer reaffirms his grip.

INT. BALL PIT PLAY AREA – MOMENTS LATER

The Play Area is built on a ball pit foundation. Rope ladders, climbing frames, slides and polls. Kids dangle and dive, there’s pieces of clothing strewn around. A shoe dangles from a rope bridge, tied to it by it’s laces.

Parents wait around the outside, some chatter, some bark instructions at their kids and others look disinterested on their phones – relieved to have a break. We follow the Older Man’s plush toy as it dangles from his hand.

He walks down the corridor, entering the Play Area. He reaches the Ball Pit perimeter barrier.

OLDER MAN

Christopher?

We see his face now. Beardless. His anorak removed. His face appears friendlier, his demeanor calm, but his eyes glare.

MALE PARENT

Which one’s yours?

He surveys the ball pit. They fix on Chris, sitting up right.

OLDER MAN

That one.

He waves at Chris and jiggles the plush toy at him. Chris clambers out of the ball pit and across to the Older Man.

OLDER MAN (CONT’D)

Come along Christopher, Val’s waiting for you.

CHRIS

Where is she?

OLDER MAN

She’s back downstairs. They wouldn’t let her through here with the ice cream.

Chris looks at the Older Man. The Male Parent has returned to swiping on his phone. The Older Man offers the plush toy and Chris takes it. They leave the Play Area, the Older Man’s anorak left behind on the perimeter barrier.

INT. ARCADE – CONTINUOUS

Thomson pushes his way through the crowd. Answer Phone BEEP.

CHRIS’ MOM (V.O.)

Valerie. We’re about to board the flight.

He staggers through to see the Officer kneeling over Val.

CHRIS’ MOM (V.O.)

Make sure everything is ready for our arrival tomorrow.

The Officer lifts her to her feet. Thomson puts his hands on his hips, his head droops.

CHRIS’ MOM (V.O.)

Give our love to Chris. See you soon.

CUT TO:

INT. ARCADE – MOMENTS LATER

Thomson removes Val’s handcuffs. The Officer opens his mouth to speak. Thomson grits his teeth, purses his lips and holds his finger up to SHUSH him.

THOMSON

Where’d the boy go?

VAL

The ball pit. Through the back!

INT. BALL PIT PLAY AREA – CONTINUOUS

The three rush into the Play Area. Val looks around panicked. She leans on the perimeter barrier.

VAL (Shouting)

Christopher?!

Thomson and the Officer both reach the barrier. Val walks past it, into the play area.

VAL (CONT’D)

Chris?!

MALE PARENT

You just missed him.

Val notices a group of kids playing. One of them wears a blue anorak. The other wears a big white beard, smothering his face. The other kids pull at it playfully. GIGGLING.

THOMSON

Where is he?

VAL

The beard…

Val returns to Thomson and the Officer.

MALE PARENT

He just left with his Dad.

THOMSON

What did he look like?

MALE PARENT I dunno, clean shaven. He had some dragon teddy with him. There a problem?

Thomson turns to his radio.

THOMSON

There’s a missing boy. Suspected kidnapping. Mark all the exits. Keep an eye out for any dragon teddies, get across the cameras and find him.

The trio rush from the ball pit area. The Male Parent looks perplexed. In the background, the kids succeed in ripping the beard off their companion.

INT. ARCADE – CONTINUOUS

Val CHARGES through the arcade. In an almost trance-like state. BARGING past people. A coin cup is scattered, games interrupted, drinks spilled.

INT. SHOPPING MALL – CONTINUOUS

She splutters and pants as she THRUSTS them out of the way on the escalator and dodging in between them. She continues to SCREAM Chris’ name in vain. On the ground floor now. Still no sign of him. People are startled by her panicked screams.

Someone grabs her arm. She turns, coiled, ready to STRIKE. It’s Thomson.

THOMSON

Any sign?

VAL (Distraught)

Nothing!

THOMSON

We’ll find him. Keep looking.

They separate. She’s running. She CLATTERS into a mother and her son. Val and the son hit the floor with a THUD. The balloon he held escapes his grasp, floating away. Free. He erupts into tears.

As she lies on the ground sound is distorted for a moment before returning with the cries of the son. Val blinks. Her cheek sticks to the cold marble floor, her reflection visible. Her eyes catch sight of something, discarded on a metallic chair. People pass by the seats. It’s the plush toy. Sitting alone. Two empty seats alongside. Her eyes widen.

FADE TO BLACK.

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