THE CASE OF THE MISSING STAPLERS: A MYSTERY
by Rory Bradley
INT. OFFICE — DAY
Soft sunlight cuts through dusty blinds creating fractured shadows across an archaic, cluttered desk. Among the clutter is an old fashioned typewriter, a battered looking radio emitting some low, crackled jazz, a deck of cards half dealt out in a game of solitaire, and an overflowing ashtray. A puff of smoke billows out from behind the desk as a dishevelled HAL REYNOLDS leans forward to stub out a cigarette.
A silhouette appears outside the glass door which swings open moments later.
Hal points to the sign on the door which reads “Reynolds’ Stationery Supplies”. Printed underneath in smaller letters is, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword.”
The woman apologises and makes a hasty exit as Hal pulls another packet of cigarettes from his desk drawer. A second silhouette is seen at the door accompanied by a knock.
A small elderly woman wearing thick glasses and an unenthused look enters the room.
Doris coughs from the smoke, shakes her head disapprovingly and walks over to the window.
She opens the blinds, followed by the window. Daylight illuminates the room revealing a seemingly modern day office surrounding the antique desk. In one corner is a photocopier/fax machine. In another, a computer which looks like it hasn’t been used in years.
Doris lets out a sigh of exasperation and opens her mouth to speak.
Doris rolls her eyes, walks over to the computer and switches it on. She then leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Hal starts to light another cigarette but is interrupted, shuddering as the Windows start up theme chimes through the tinny speakers. He sighs and reluctantly rises from his chair.
EXT. ROAD — DAY
Hal’s rickety station-wagon drives through a sparse industrial estate.
EXT. WAREHOUSE PARKING LOT — DAY
The car stops outside a warehouse. A cigarette butt drops out the window. Moments later it’s crushed by Hal’s foot as he steps out. On the side of the warehouse is a billboard advertisement for the new i-Corp computer system.
Hal enters the warehouse.
INT. WAREHOUSE — DAY
The warehouse is a discord of robotic whooshing, mechanical clinking and gruff yelling. Sparks fly from corners where groups of burly men operate heavy machinery. A large sign hanging from the ceiling reads, “Stationery Supplies”. Hal is met by the suit-clad Bramford in an area towards the back, away from the din. They nod to each other in greeting.
Hal finishes writing in his Reynolds’ moleskin journal.
Hal exits from the direction he entered leaving Bramford scratching his head.
INT. BACK AT THE OFFICE — DUSK
The blinds are back down in the dim, smoky office. Hal is standing facing the glowing computer, his hands gripping the seat in front of him. A clock ticks on the wall adjacent to it.
Hal sits down at the computer and begins writing an email, delicately typing with his two index fingers. We watch as letters slowly materialise along the email subject line: “U R G E N T ! ! ! 1 1 !” The clock hand lapses from 4:05 to 4:15. On the computer screen Hal has written about twenty words. 4:15 to 4:20, another twenty words. As the clock moves towards 4:30 Hal is finishing the brief email, “Kind regards, Hal Reynolds”. The mouse cursor hovers over the send button, then clicks.
Hal leans back in the chair smoking. Another hour has passed on the clock when the email notification finally sounds off through the speakers. Hal lurches out of his daze and and fumbles with the mouse, opening the email which appears on the monitor:
Hal sits there for a few seconds, contemplating, then reaches across the desk and picks up the phone.
Doris appears in the doorway.
Doris leaves the room wearily as Hal reverts to deep thought.
Hal turns to some tattered, yellowed photographs, framed on the wall. One shows a proud looking man with his arm around a young grinning Hal. They share a likeness. Behind them is a store front, the sign above it reads “Reynolds’ Stationery Supplies”.
Hal looks at the picture next to it which is almost identical, only the man looks older, smaller. Hal is now a teenager, his grin diminished to a slight smile. The shop sign is missing a few letters and now reads “R old’s Stat nar Sup lies”.
Hal turns back to the computer
He sits down.
Hal slowly types “second hand staplers” into the search engine and hits enter. All at once a wave of information washes over the screen. Hal’s eyes squint trying to take it all in. Second on the list is “Adverts — Staplers”. He clicks on the link and a list of “Staplers for Sale” appears.
Hal clicks through what looks like a hundred adverts as the computer clock lapses from 18:00, to 18:30, to 19:00. He seems at the point of giving up when one in particular grabs his attention.
Hal begins to reply to the ad:
He hits enter, sending the message.
EXT. CITY STREET — NIGHT
Hal sits inside his parked station wagon on the side of an empty city street. Dingy street lamps create pockets of light along the cracked sidewalks, highlighting the dents in his beat up car.
A hooded man appears out of an alleyway and leans against the wall under one of the street lamps. Hal gets out of his car and makes his way across the road.
They briefly size each other up.
Coolguy14 gestures to the kit-bag he is holding.
Hal produces a brown envelope from inside his coat.
Coolguy14’s eyes narrow.
His body immediately goes rigid.
Coolguy14 begins to hand the kit bag to Hal. At the last second he spins swiftly, hitting Hal with the bag, then sets off down the alleyway at a sprint. Hal catches his balance and pursues Coolguy14 down the alley.
Coolguy14 desperately throws a trash can down behind him followed by a pile of boxes, followed by some exponentially more awkward debris, all of which Hal narrowly avoids, steadily gaining on his prey. Coolguy14 takes a sharp corner at the end of the alley causing him to stumble, Hal seizes the opportunity and tackles him to the ground, subsequently pinning him down. Hal is wheezing laboriously at this stage.
Hal reaches for his antique cell phone and inputs three digits as Coolguy14 wriggles beneath him, protesting profusely.
Hal continues to talk on the phone.
Hal lowers the phone, his interest piqued.
A head pokes of a window above them.
Hal distractedly turns his head to the source of the yell. Coolguy14 sees an opening and takes it, flipping Hal off him and jumping to his feet. He is long gone before Hal even has a chance to stand up. Once upright the beleaguered Hal slowly dusts himself off, picks up the bag of staplers and makes his back towards the car.
INT. BACK AT THE OFFICE — NIGHT
Hal enters the office, throws his coat on the rack and walks towards his desk.
He conjures a bottle of bourbon and a glass from the desk drawer and adds them to the clutter. Pouring himself a generous double he takes a long drink and sparks a cigarette.
Hal looks over to the murmuring computer, the Windows screensaver bouncing vapidly around its box.
NEXT TIME: A CASE OF THE MONDAYS