Veronica Cory was first produced at the 18th Street Playhouse, New York City in 1984. First published in The Modern Review. Available through ProPlay Scripts.
__________________________________________ Dramatis Personae
VERONICA CORY mid-late 20s, small and thin, dresses like a rock chick, with the face of an angel.
MALCOLM MARSHALL mid-late 20s, Veronica’s FBI surveillant since two years. Polite, extremely well-groomed.
MADAME SULTRA a bag lady and savant fortune-teller. Close enough in age and temperament for Veronica to befriend. MAN late 20s, mysterious, charismatic.
HEIDI mid-20s, a secretary at the Welfare Department where Veronica works.
MS. BARKER middle-aged, Veronica's new supervisor.
FBI OFFICER middle-aged, Malcolm Marshall's former boss. (The actors playing Ms. Barker and FBI Officer will double for the Professor and Wife in one scene in Act 1. The actors playing Heidi and Ms. Barker will double as Younger and Older FBI agents for one scene in Act 2)
The setting should be suggestive and minimal, and shifts between the Street and the Social Services Department, with one scene in the FBI office. The Street: a bench, large metal garbage can smeared with graffiti.
Social Services Office and FBI Office: a desk and chair.
Time: Late winter, the non-existent present. Note: Try for a unit set.
ACT I Scene One: the Street, late at night, winter. An eerie, low droning sound (much like the sound you hear when you stand under a highway bridge).
(MADAME SULTRA is dragging a garbage bag of empty cans. She's dressed crazily in layers of beat-up clothes in clashing colors. She heads for a garbage can. VERONICA follows behind her. VERONICA's face is bundled up in a tattered scarf. She dresses with a unique flair, but her clothes are torn. She carries a book bag/knapsack.)
VERONICA I spent months trying to get a room for you.
SULTRA I never gave you any encouragement.
VERONICA Everything's paid for. You get breakfast and a hot supper -- and a real bed. You'll be warm. -- You can't last the winter on the streets.
SULTRA (rummaging through the trash, collecting cans) I last so long as I last and no longer than I'm meant to.
VERONICA It's freezing out here tonight, aren't you cold?
SULTRA (finds a half-sandwich and sniffs it, takes a delicate bite, decides it is below par; she tosses it back into the trash can) Nope.
VERONICA We haven't hit the coldest hour yet. It's only one o'clock in the morning - wait till it's four and you're the only one left out here.
SULTRA (suddenly, loud: looking out) "O Lord thou didst give thy angels charge over thee..." (Sultra is quoting the Bible)
VERONICA I didn't see any angels last time I took you to the emergency ward.
SULTRA "And thou willst hear their cries in the shadow of death."
VERONICA Tell me why no one'll hear your cries.
SULTRA 'Cause you talk too much. Shhh!
SULTRA There... You watch. (eating a sandwich she found in the trash)
VERONICA (looking out) Watch what?
SULTRA (wagging her finger at the "shadow") I see you. VERONICA Who. I don't see anybody. SULTRA Don't look for a man...Look for a shadow... a long shadow...
VERONICA Everything looks like a shadow. It's pitch-black out there.
SULTRA If it wanted to be seen, it wouldn't be a shadow. (chuckles)
VERONICA Last night I saw a shriveled-up face full of bullet-holes.
SULTRA (startled) Huh?
VERONICA Yeah— sort of like what happens to people stupid enough to sleep out in the streets - and the face said, "This is what the End looks like -"
SULTRA Oh yeah...?
VERONICA Yeah, and I said, "The End of what?"
SULTRA And the face said, "The end of this dream." And you woke up.
VERONICA (has to laugh) Okay...Is that your final answer? 'Cause I've got to go to work. There's loads of people needing rooms tonight.
SULTRA (looking out) Just stands right there...
VERONICA You remember to take your medication. I'll come by tomorrow.
SULTRA Watch for the shadow. (chuckles and resumes her activity)
(VERONICA starts to leave, then stops, peers out into the darkness, struggling to control her fear; the low droning sound gets louder. Lights fade to black)
Scene Two: The Welfare Department, the next day. A metal desk, piled high with papers and files. Desk phone. Radio. A typewriter. Two chairs. HEIDI is seated, typing reports.
RADIO ANNOUNCER'S VOICE: Last night more terrorist attacks were reported on military installations outside London. No group has claimed responsibility for the—
(phone rings; HEIDI snaps off the radio)
HEIDI (into phone) Morning, Social Services. No, Veronica Cory isn't in yet. Who's calling? ...FBI???
VERONICA's voice: Oh hell. HEIDI Wait a minute! She's-- hello?
(VERONICA enters, dressed the same as Scene One)
VERONICA Pfew, it's getting rough out there... (takes off her scarf - her cheek has a large bruise)
HEIDI (into the phone - the caller has hung up) Hello?... Weird...
VERONICA Congratulate me. (opening her bag, taking out files) HEIDI Veronica! You look terrible! (She hangs up the phone)
VERONICA I spent all night installing forty bag ladies into the George Washington Motel. Could you type up these reports for me?
HEIDI (peering closer at Veronica's bruise) Oh no! - Did they do that to you?
VERONICA No, I bumped into a stop sign. HEIDI Ha! Always a straight answer.
VERONICA (while writing and checking files) What do you think my ladies are dreaming about right now? They're at The George Washington Motel: they can't believe their luck. Puke-colored wallpaper; puke-colored rugs stinking of roach spray.
HEIDI (peering at Veronica's bruise) That is really a nasty bruise... Does it burn?
VERONICA I wish. It'd be the one part of my body that's warm.
HEIDI You should really talk to the new supervisor about giving you easier cases. This is ridiculous.
VERONICA They were authentically terrified. They really thought I was rounding them up to be exterminated.
HEIDI You answer it.
HEIDI Some guy from the FBI has been calling you all morning. And then he hangs up. You deal with it.
VERONICA Tell him I'm not here. HEIDI Veronica, why is the FBI calling?
VERONICA (glancing at her watch) Oh shit, I'm late for the Alvarezes-
VERONICA (leaving) Tell the new supervisor I'll be back this afternoon. I've really got to go—
HEIDI (reluctantly answering the phone) Social Services... FBI??? Hey, what do you want?
(Lights dim and rise as MS. BARKER ENTERS from her office)
MS. BARKER Heidi, may I see Ms. Cory's files again? (sits down to review the huge stacks of Veronica's cases on Heidi's desk) I've heard good things about her. These are very impressive.
HEIDI Veronica is what you call “too enthusiastic”. She's only been here a few months. How long do you think she'll last before she burns out? She's really not cut out for it. She's almost a debutante, probably.
MS. BARKER Is Ms. Cory that rich?
HEIDI Stinking. She gets money from somewhere mysterious. What's she doing here? I don't know why she puts up with this place. She gets ninety percent of the creeps.
MS. BARKER Well! She does excellent work.
(MARSHALL ENTERS, dressed in a perfectly pressed black trench coat, black hat, shiny black loafers)
MARSHALL (clears his throat for attention) Sorry to intrude—
HEIDI (waving him away - mistaking him for a client) We're not seeing anyone today.
MARSHALL Is Veronica Cory here?
HEIDI (showing him to the door) No. She's not here. No appointments today. We're briefing the new supervisor.
MARSHALL I'd like to speak with the new supervisor.
HEIDI Call tomorrow. Goodbye, goodbye.
MARSHALL (flashing an ID) FBI.
MS. BARKER (looks up from the papers) Oh. I'm the new supervisor. Can I help you?
MARSHALL (eyeing Heidi suspiciously) Can we speak freely?
MS. BARKER Heidi is my assistant.
MARSHALL Fine. This shouldn't take long. Does the name Boris Weber mean anything to you?
MS. BARKER Who?
MARSHALL Does Ms. Cory ever speak of her husband?
HEIDI (surprised) Husband!?
MS. BARKER I haven't met Ms. Cory yet.
HEIDI Veronica’s married?!?!
MARSHALL I assume you ran a background check on her when she applied here.
MS. BARKER (to Heidi) Did we?
HEIDI Beats me.
MARSHALL (handing Ms. Barker a red folder) Here's her dossier. You might want to look it over. We've been surveilling her for two years. MS. BARKER You've been surveilling Ms. Cory for two years?
MARSHALL Off and on. Do you recall two years ago there was a bomb explosion in the city university chess club?
MS. BARKER Yes, and...?
MARSHALL I was part of the investigation after the tragedy. Bombs were secretly manufactured in the cellar of the chess club. The bombs accidentally went off. A large chess tournament was going on. Dozens of people were killed.
MS. BARKER What does that have to do with Ms. Cory?
MARSHALL Her husband, Boris Weber, was the ringleader of the students who were making those bombs. He used the chess club as a front. Veronica fell under his influence. So did many other students. Weber was a very charismatic, brilliant, deceptive fanatic.
MARSHALL The official story is that Boris Weber was killed when the bombs went off. But we have solid evidence that Weber escaped and left the country and he is now the ringleader of an international terrorist network.
HEIDI Wow... I always wondered why she gives so much money to bums.
MS. BARKER Quiet! I have a caseworker who is connected to a terrorist network?
MARSHALL Let's just say we have reason to believe Weber is coming back to the States to see her. And we want him. (writes down his phone number on a slip of paper) My name is Marshall. Here's my phone number. I'd appreciate it, if you could keep an eye on Ms. Cory - if you see or hear or suspect anything - anything at all -
MS. BARKER Yes.
MARSHALL And let's not tell Ms. Cory about this conversation. You understand.
MS. BARKER I understand.
MARSHALL Thank you. Have a pleasant day, ladies.
MS. BARKER Not a word of this to anyone, Heidi - Not a word.
(MS. BARKER EXITS, agitated, with Veronica's dossier)Scene Three: The Street, the same day, that afternoon. MADAME SULTRA, is sitting, dozing. VERONICA's voice calls out…
VERONICA Madame Sultra!... Madame Sultra…
(VERONICA ENTERS, calling. She's carrying a grocery bag. She stops at the sight of Sultra and sneaks up to her)
VERONICA Madame Sultra fell asleep one night
and when she woke she got a terrible fright:
chilled to the bone, and her face was white:
(in a high-pitched voice) "Oh no!" she cried, "I froze to death last night!”
SULTRA (opening one eye) That's no way to talk!
VERONICA (joins her, taking oranges from bag) Why? What's wrong with it? It'll happen if you don't take that room I got for you. Unless of course you just want to freeze to death. It's your choice.
SULTRA Yup. It's my choice.
VERONICA It's a nice room. At least it's got walls and a door.
SULTRA (holding an orange up to the light) Nope. Don't look right... The pulp's brown and the seed's shriveled up.
VERONICA (grabs the orange from Sultra, peels it) My we're choosy... If you can see through an orange skin, you can see into your own future...
SULTRA (licking her finger, then holding it high in the air) West...
VERONICA West wind?... Does that mean good or bad?
VERONICA (laughing) "Sometimes!"
SULTRA Sometimes good.
VERONICA Right. Everybody else has taken the rooms I got for 'em, what's your problem? The George Washington. They love it. Snug as bugs in a rug.
SULTRA (coughing) Sounds like heaven.
VERONICA (searching around Sultra) What'd you do with your medication?
SULTRA (glancing around) Swiped....!
VERONICA (drawing out a bottle of pills) Somebody swiped it, huh? Well isn't this your day. I happen to have some spares.
SULTRA Ohhhh… good.
(VERONICA takes out a pill, opens her mouth wide, for SULTRA to imitate)
SULTRA (half-heartedly, sticking out her tongue) Ahhh...
VERONICA (plops a pill on Sultra's tongue) Swallow it! It's just what you need to fight that flu -
(SULTRA gulps loudly, pretending to swallow the pill. VERONICA turns to unpack a bottle of water. SULTRA spits out the pill)
VERONICA I saw that! That's it! That's it! From now on, you can just squat here and wait for the Second Coming to save you! I've had it!
(VERONICA EXITS, stomps off; leaves the groceries with SULTRA)
SULTRA (not turning around) She's going far.
VERONICA (stops) Who? Me?
SULTRA Yup. I got a vision last night. I seen you up there— flying.... O Mother Mary shining with the sun behind her, with her torch held up high, a flame glowing in the clouds (holding her arms up, like the Statue of Liberty).
VERONICA (short laugh, joining Sultra again) You look just like the Statue of Liberty.
SULTRA (chuckles) I seen you under a palm tree.
VERONICA (gives her a wrapped sandwich) Alright. Show your stuff. Guess what's in there... without looking.
SULTRA (feeling the bag for a "vision") Uh... fried baloney on rye ... with melted peanut butter...My favorite.
VERONICA Lucky hunch. But I never trust a fortune-teller with the shakes.
SULTRA (holding out her trembling hand) "His hand is stretched out and who will turn it back..." (Veronica holds out her hand)
SULTRA (reading Veronica's palm, chuckles) Tck tck tck. Very cold. Voices in a grave...
VERONICA That's cheerful news.
SULTRA (tracing a line across Veronica's palm) The shortcut to heaven is through hell... New life. Change...Cross. Uh-huh. Watch for the double-cross... (chuckles, immediately loses interest)
VERONICA (looking at her palm) What "double-cross"?
SULTRA (who's been looking out) Shhh...There it is again.
SULTRA Last night it was the same...
VERONICA (now she sees him) The shadow? Did he come up close last night?
SULTRA Nope. It left when you left... Look: it's moving.
VERONICA Hey Shadow Man! (a song-and-dance, tauntingly) “Put your head on my shoulder... Whisper in my ear, baaaby... words I --”
SULTRA (peering out) Shh! Sidewalk talks, Shadow hides. Copman comes. Shadow runs. It's in a hurry. Someone's made it run away. There: it's in the cab.
(MARSHALL ENTERS from behind them)
MARSHALL Well well well if it isn't our little one-woman Salvation Army.
VERONICA (under her breath) Shit...
MARSHALL Good afternoon, ladies.
SULTRA (starting to say a greeting to Marshall) Hey -
VERONICA (low voice, to Sultra) Don't talk to him.
MARSHALL Whisper, whisper. I hope Veronica isn't keeping secrets from me.
VERONICA If you don't like whispering, try the next street, it's louder.
MARSHALL But not half as interesting. (to Sultra) Now what were you saying about "running away"? I couldn't help but overhear. Have you seen someone who's run away?
SULTRA (chuckling) A shadow on your shadow.
MARSHALL Yes the past casts long shadows... How have you been, Mrs. Weber?
VERONICA (correcting him) Cory.
MARSHALL You look like you've slept in a closet full of rats. (laughs uproariously at his own joke)
VERONICA Thanks, I feel lousy.
MARSHALL So do I. But I've brought something to cheer us up. (reaches in his inside breast pocket, pulls out a photo) Will you look at this photograph for me?
VERONICA (doesn't take it) No.
VERONICA Why should I?
MARSHALL Because you always do when I say please... And if you don't, I will pull you in for questioning.
VERONICA Little Boy Peep plays cop.
MARSHALL I am a cop. FBI. The best.
SULTRA (chuckling, crossing herself) West wind blows the menace in.
VERONICA So why don't you go track down criminals for a change?
MARSHALL (referring to the photo) I've been tracking down this criminal for two years, Mrs. Weber.
VERONICA Cory. And I thought we agreed you weren't coming around anymore.
MARSHALL You might like to know your husband is on file with Amnesty International as a torture victim. But maybe you're not interested. (he pockets the photo)
VERONICA (hesitates, but can't resist) Let me see it.
MARSHALL I'm sorry it's not a pretty picture. But he survived. (hands Veronica the photo) His comrades helped him escape to Syria.
VERONICA (throws down the photo; seething with rage) You've really gone too far now Marshall...
MARSHALL I only try to keep you informed. VERONICA The last Boris you found was in Beirut! and the Boris before that was in Rome, "killing the Pope."...
MARSHALL (pulls out a clipping from a Syrian newspaper) But this time it's really him. Look. Please. It was takenthree months ago. He's training those people in martial arts.
VERONICA (peering at a clipping) What "people"? Looks like a bunch of camels in the middle of a sandstorm.
MARSHALL (prissily) The photo is slightly blurred.
VERONICA Hard to know if they’re camels or dogs with humps on their backs.
MARSHALL If you look closely you can see there are people there.
VERONICA You and your stupid obsession. When are you going to face the fact that he's dead?
MARSHALL Boris Weber is not dead.
VERONICA Boris has been dead for two years. You were at his funeral for Chrissake!
MARSHALL The man you buried was disfigured beyond recognition.
VERONICA (referring to the photo of the torture victim) So is that man. If Boris is alive, show me a photo that looks like him.
MARSHALL(retrieves the photo) I can't. He never looks the same. (pulls out a pile of newspaper and magazine clippings) Here. Rook. (hands her the clippings, one by one)
MARSHALL The Rook. His new alias. Cute, eh? Chess term. Your husband played chess, you recall? He's called The Rook. Here. Carlos. Carlos is his other alias. Carlos, Rook, D.D. That's D.D....More Carlos... Rook... Here's D.D. again... Sahib. Here's Sahib. They're all the same man.
VERONICA They all look diffferent.
VERONICA They're all supposed to be the same person?
VERONICA Not one of them looks anything like Boris.
MARSHALL Exactly. Your husband's a master of disguises. That's why nobody can get him.
VERONICA (giving Sultra a clipping) Okay. What do you think?
SULTRA (holds the photo against her forehead) ...Thou willst turn black to white, mourning to dancing,tears to laughter, widow to wife -
MARSHALL (amazed at Sultra's divination) This man is definitely Boris Weber. He matches the profile.
VERONICA (takes the clipping from Sultra) Profile: the most violent thing Boris ever did was turn thepage of a book.
MARSHALL Cunning and dangerous -
VERONICA ... deadly... slinking across the world to plant the seeds of terror, then moving on, on and on, always in a new disguise, under a new alias, Malcolm Marshall's stalking Angel of Death...
(SULTRA chuckles loudly)
MARSHALL It's no laughing matter.
VERONICA No it's terribly tragic. The FBI's a bunch of necrophiliacs.
MARSHALL We're concerned for your safety.
VERONICA When have I heard that before?
MARSHALL You're going to need my protection.
VERONICA I've never needed your protection.
MARSHALL You've never appreciated my protection. But you will...
(VERONICA lets out a gasp of horror)
MARSHALL (following her gaze) What.
VERONICA You see him? - Crawling out of his coffin? One eyeball hanging down his chin and a mouthful of blood - my god it's The Rook. He's creeping toward us!
MARSHALL (pocketing the photo and clippings) Well, I'll keep you posted.
VERONICA Six months ago you promised me that you were going to stay out of my life.
MARSHALL I have stayed out of your life.
MARSHALL Unless I have information.
VERONICA You never have information. It's been two years you've been hounding me about Boris! When are you going to get off my back for good!
(SULTRA chuckles loudly)
MARSHALL It hasn't been easy for any of us. (takes out a pressed handkerchief, blows his nose loudly) This damn winter... Days like this I dream of La Sarena.
VERONICA (change of tone) La Sarena?
MARSHALL (as if he'd forgotten) Oh! You honeymooned there didn't you... (Pause. He watches the effect on Veronica. Smiles, pockets the handkerchief) Keep yourself warm, Mrs. Weber.
MARSHALL Warm. You have to build up your resistance.
(MARSHALL EXITS, strumming a "guitar", singing, Latino-ballad-style)
MARSHALL La-Sa-Reena... La Sarena Sarena Sarena....
(Lights fade to black)
Scene Four: The Welfare Department, morning, the next day. HEIDI is typing. The radio is on.
RADIO NEWSCASTER’S VOICE: No injuries have been reported in the car bomb in front of the American embassy this afternoon in Berlin, Germany. Authorities believe the bombing is directly linked to recent terrorist attacks in—
VERONICA (shivering from the cold) Whoo! Is it ever murder out there!
HEIDI (shutting off the radio) Veronica! Well it's about time!
VERONICA (overlapping, reaching for the coffee on Heidi's desk) Hey Heidi, how's it going? This coffee? (drinks)
HEIDI Veronica, you're not going to believe what's happened—
VERONICA Hmmm. Tastes like shit. Listen to this, I've got to tell you something—
HEIDI Me too—
VERONICA Ricky Alvarez, remember I told you about that family, right? he's fourteen years old, and he wrote this essay for school on the American revolution, so he was showing it to me this morning - get a load of this opening, he made it up himself: Listen my people and ye shall hearthe story of a revolt by some chump pioneers.They was gentle folk, burdened with toil and woe,but for all their work, they hadn't nothing to showbut log cabins, corn, and maple syrup'cause if gold was found, it was sent back to Europe.Yes, there was gold in the rivers, there was silver in the ground,but Americans did labor under a foreign crown.
HEIDI Will you please shut up!
VERONICA (noticing Heidi's state for the first time) What's wrong?
HEIDI Where have you been!
(MS. BARKER ENTERS, in coat, etc. She has just arrived at work)
MS. BARKER (to Heidi) Ms. Cory?
HEIDI (to Veronica) Our new supervisor.
MS. BARKER (shaking hands with Veronica) Ms. Barker.
VERONICA How do you do.
MS. BARKER I've been looking forward to meeting you (eyeing Veronica's outrageous get-up) I like your outfit. Where have you been?
VERONICA At the Alvarezes. There was a pipe burst at their apartment— boiling hot water gushing through the living room, and naturally the landlord could not be reached so I had to bail everybody out of the place.
MS. BARKER Truth... Dignity... Charity.
VERONICA Excuse me?
MS. BARKER These are our guiding principles, don't you agree?
VERONICA Um.. sure, that sounds right.
HEIDI (interrupts) She's worked wonders with the Alvarezes.
MS. BARKER (not taking her eyes off Veronica) Heidi, could you please get Ms. Cory's file.
MS. BARKER Yes. In my office.
(HEIDI EXITS, MS. BARKER slowly peels off her gloves, coat, scarf, not keeping her eyes off Veronica)
MS. BARKER Have a seat, Ms. Cory - it is "Miss," isn't it? You're not married?
MS. BARKER Never?
MS. BARKER You have several pet projects. Hobbies. Outside interests?
VERONICA Why do I have this feeling I'm being interviewed by a dating service?
MS. BARKER Just getting acquainted.
VERONICA Right. Sorry.
MS. BARKER Never married?
VERONICA (about to confess) Well - actually –
MS. BARKER Yes?
VERONICA (decides against it) Hobbies. I did a little film for the Review Board.
MS. BARKER Interesting.
VERONICA You want to hear about it?
MS. BARKER No I heard about it already. You filmed homeless people living in an abandoned subway tunnel. Everyone says it was very moving.
VERONICA Thanks...In fact... in fact they're right here.
MS. BARKER "Here"?
VERONICA Right under our feet. Imagine: all that life going on. Do you ever have the feeling, when you're sitting up here, there's a whole other life going on, underneath the life you're living, if you only knew where to look for it?
MS. BARKER No, I never had that feeling.
VERONICA Neither did I. Until I saw it. But it's down there. Right below us. I took a camera down there for a couple weeks— I call it the Red X.
Ms. BARKER The what?
(HEIDI ENTERS, with Veronica's dossier, listens)
VERONICA The Red X...um... 'Cause when Madame Sultra first took me down there I gave it one look and I said, "No-go, this is red light for me" - and she said, "That's what you'll call it" - 'cause I'd said, "This is red light" - and she said, "We'll call it the Red X" - Red X, 'cause there was no light down there, you follow? - I mean, you can't get darker if you found the crawlspace to hell. This weird subterranean world and mean motherfuck - excuse me, but they are really mean motherfuckers -
HEIDI (quickly, with exaggerated cheer) Fascinating.
MS. BARKER Why?
VERONICA Why... what.
MS. BARKER Why did you do it? Why put yourself in so much danger?
HEIDI It took an awful lot of courage—
MS. BARKER Do you thrive on danger?
VERONICA No, but you know how it is -- you pass bums on the street, and you don’t look at them -- you probably don’t, right? Well you might, but most people don’t -- but you know there must be something there worth looking at if you're afraid to see it... right? (No response from Ms. Barker) It's hard to describe but there's just some - there's something pure about them - maybe it's because I'm ...blabbing, blabbing, I'm sorry. I had a long night.
MS. BARKER So that's your pet project.
VERONICA Yes, to see it.
MS. BARKER But I think you missed a great deal. Heidi, show Ms. Cory her dossier.
HEIDI (hesitantly) Veronica, we did a security check.
VERONICA (innocently) A what?
MS. BARKER Show it to her.
(HEIDI hands VERONICA the red folder)
MS. BARKER Is anything missing?
VERONICA (scanning the papers) What is this? (finding several photographs of Boris and herself) What are these photos of Boris doing here?
MS. BARKER It's an unfortunate overachievement of technology. When we ask for information about employees there's no telling what kind of trivia the computers turn up.
VERONICA My husband's death wasn't trivial.
MS. BARKER He must be very trivial, since you say you were never married.
VERONICA Ms. Barker, he was killed in a bomb explosion. This is private.
MS. BARKER Not if you have a criminal record.
HEIDI But it's not like she was arrested or anything. The police don't even have her fingerprints.
VERONICA The what?
HEIDI (catching Ms. Barker's eye) The pol - the computer.
VERONICA Did you say police?
HEIDI No I didn't. You just heard what you wanted to hear.
MS. BARKER What were you doing with a man like Boris Weber?
VERONICA Why don't you ask the computer? It knows more about me than I do.
HEIDI He was a philosophy teacher. It says so right here.
MS. BARKER From philosophy to bombs: there must be a lesson in that somewhere. (taking the sheet of paper out of Heidi's typewriter) Heidi has typed up a letter of resignation for you. All you have to do is sign it.
MS. BARKER You don't have to give reasons why you're resigning. You're free to maintain your privacy.
MS. BARKER It's your choice. You can file a grievance with the Review Board and have a trial and be asked unpleasant, personal questions or you can resign. Either way, you won't be a social worker.
VERONICA Ms. Barker, do you have anything against the way I do my job?
MS. BARKER You don’t need this job. It says here you receive large sums of money from an undisclosed source.
VERONICA (after a shocked pause) Ms. Barker -- that has -- that has nothing to do with my work. What I do here. This work means everything to me and no one's ever said I don't do it well.
MS. BARKER (leaving) I'm sorry. With your background, you should never have been hired. If you have any respect for this department, you'll resign. And you'll do it quietly, without embarrassing us.
VERONICA What brought this on?
HEIDI (blurting it out) She can't tell you.
MS. BARKER Heidi, will you join me in my office please. Nice meeting you, Veronica.
VERONICA Same here. I like your face.
MS. BARKER Thank you.
(MS. BARKER EXITS, with dossier)
HEIDI (to Veronica, admiringly) You were great.
MS. BARKER'S VOICE (off stage) Heidi!
HEIDI Ciao, Veronica...It's really tough...
(HEIDI EXITS, leaving VERONICA alone with the letter of resignation. Long pause. She signs it.)
Scene Five: The Street, late that night; SULTRA, in her usual spot.
VERONICA’S VOICE Get 'em. Muck 'em Duck 'em - (entering, very drunk, carrying two bottles of wine. One is open; she drinks from it) Who needs 'em. They got attitude. They give attitude. They got a problem. I don't need their problem. (Sultra watches Veronica, chuckling)
SULTRA You're a nice girl.
VERONICA (joining Sultra, opening the second bottle) I'm a really nice girl when I bring out the booze.
SULTRA You got a clean face.
VERONICA Yeah I washed off the footprints. (handing Sultra the second bottle)
SULTRA You’re tricky.
VERONICA Cheers... (they smack their bottles together, drink, pause) We're ahead of our time, you and I.
SULTRA (drinking) Hmm-mm. That we are.
VERONICA We're so advanced -
VERONICA ...we're already in the new Ice Age. Snow stuck in our teeth, icicles in our hair, eyes bulging from snow blindness. (speaking into her bottle, like a microphone) This is the year Three Thousand Twenty in the City of the Dead... all the smart ones have gone below the equator... (turns the bottle toward Sultra)
SULTRA (speaking into Veronica's bottle, like a microphone) Under a palm tree...
VERONICA (speaking into the bottle) And those of us left are— (slight pause) What are we waiting for? We’re idiots! How come we don’t escape?
(VERONICA and SULTRA burst out in laughter. ENTER PROFESSOR Lachmann and his WIFE, in evening dress)
WIFE We'll never get out of here alive—
(VERONICA and SULTRA burst out in fresh giggles)
PROFESSOR We'll find a cab.
VERONICA (to Sultra) Shhh… (both women stifle their laughter)
WIFE Cabs do not come to this area -- not at this time of night --
SULTRA (shaking her cup of change in their direction) God bless you.
PROFESSOR We'll find a cab.
VERONICA (rises, with dawning recognition) Hey...
WIFE (spotting Veronica; whispers) Oh no! –
WIFE Keep moving – (takes her husband's arm)
WIFE Don't turn around…
VERONICA Hey - Professor Lachmann?
WIFE (stops, to husband) Do you know her??? (Professor gives an embarrassed shrug)
VERONICA Professor? Do you remember me? Boris Weber's wife?
PROFESSOR (he doesn't recognize her) Why ...
VERONICA (grabbing his hand, shaking it vigorously) Veronica.
PROFESSOR Why... Yes.
PROFESSOR What a surprise. Dear, you remember Boris Weber's wife.
VERONICA (grabbing the wife's hand, vigorously) Hi. We met at Boris's funeral.
VERONICA (grabbing the Professor's hand again, shaking it) Oh, it's so nice to see you...
PROFESSOR How is everything, um –
VERONICA Veronica. I'm in social work. Was. I keep busy. Busy as I can.
PROFESSOR Good. You look well. Social work... Boris would be proud of you.
VERONICA (blurting) Oh...I miss him. I miss him awfully.
PROFESSOR Yes. So do I.
WIFE We all do. (nudges her husband to leave)
VERONICA (keeps her grip on the Professor) I don't know how to stop missing him - There's not a day when I don't think of him and want him and miss him and wish I could talk to him and hold him and fuck him and -
WIFE Darling, I'm cold—
VERONICA I'm sorry.
PROFESSOR (gently, to Veronica) Don't be.
VERONICA I've had a lot to drink. It's my birthday.
SULTRA It's MY birthday.
VERONICA Yes. It's her birthday. I got it mixed up.
PROFESSOR (to Sultra) Happy Birthday.
SULTRA (shaking her cup of change) Same to you.
VERONICA Professor Lachmann, Boris always talked about you, he loved you. Did you love him?
PROFESSOR Yes. He was my best student.
VERONICA (desperately) He hasn't contacted you, has he?
(Stunned glances between the PROFESSOR and WIFE)
VERONICA Has he? Please tell me
PROFESSOR Why - um - I'm not sure I know what you—
WIFE Darling, we really must go.
VERONICA Please - I've got to know.
WIFE NOW. I want to go now.
VERONICA (grabbing the Professor) You're not keeping anything from me are you?
PROFESSOR (to Veronica) Give me a call sometime. Let's have lunch. (They start to leave)
VERONICA (holding the Professor back) If Boris was alive, he'd be with me, wouldn't he?
PROFESSOR Yes. Of course he'd be with you.
WIFE (out of earshot) That girl is a drug addict.
(PROFESSOR Lachmann and his WIFE EXIT.
Lights lower, Veronica wraps a blanket around herself, lies down. Lights rise: morning on the street.
SULTRA, sprawled, asleep. Near her, a mound of blankets.
MARSHALL ENTERS. He's carrying a picnic basket.)
MARSHALL Cockledoodle-doo...! (no response. Marshall pumps himself up, imitates the real sound of a rooster)
(The mound of blankets moves, groans, VERONICA's head appears. She groans louder at the sight of MARSHALL)
VERONICA Ohhh... What are you doing here...
MARSHALL (beaming) Protecting you.
VERONICA (sits up, yells toward the street) Help...!
(MARSHALL reaches into his basket, takes out a washcloth)
MARSHALL (peering at Sultra) She sure sleeps soundly. The deep sleep of the inebriate.
VERONICA (drowsily, rubbing her face) Good people sleep good.
MARSHALL I sleep splendidly. How about you? (hands the washcloth to Veronica. She presses it against her face, savoring the warmth)
VERONICA Oh this feels so warm.
MARSHALL Your daddy and mommy must be tossing in heaven seeing you curled up on the pavement like this... I bet you had a grand bedroom, didn't you? As a child?... Like a fairy-tale. Feeling weak? You're not taking very good care of yourself— On the streets!
VERONICA (lowering the washcloth from her face) Why don't you shoot me for it? Then you can spend the nexttwo years tracking down my ghost.
MARSHALL I brought you some muffins. My mother baked them for you. Bran. For fiber. (He takes out a muffin wrapped in a neatly ironed checkered cloth)
VERONICA Your mother? I thought she was dead.
MARSHALL (distractedly unwrapping the muffin: he's spotted something across the street) Is she? ... I'm not sure... (Marshall's eyes never waver from the object)
VERONICA Yeah, that's the problem: it's hard to tell the difference if they're seriously dead or they're just pretending.
VERONICA And if you believe the dead aren't dead, it's 'cause you're dead yourself, right?
MARSHALL (not listening to Veronica) Could be.
VERONICA Good. That's settled then. Hey Marshall, you know what? You're dead.
MARSHALL I am? (hands Veronica the muffin)
VERONICA Yeah you're dead. You're dead and I'm alive. You live in a dead world, world of the dead, expecting a visit from a dead man.
MARSHALL (trying to act unaware of being observed) Don't be alarmed, but that yellow taxi has been circling theblock for the past twenty minutes.
VERONICA Excuse me while I take my pulse.
MARSHALL He's after you.
VERONICA There must be a million yellow taxis in this city.
MARSHALL There are so many perverts... Coffee? (hands her a cup of coffee, speaks out of the corner of his mouth) See it? with the man in back—
VERONICA What man in back?
MARSHALL (affecting casualness, so the man doesn't know he's been spotted) He's looking at you very queerly.
VERONICA I can't even see his face, how can you tell where he's looking?
MARSHALL (surreptitiously consulting the pad where he'd written down the license number) It's always the same taxi. I took the license number.
(Pause. VERONICA stares out. A flash of terror goes through her. SULTRA wakes up momentarily, snorting. The sound startles MARSHALL and VERONICA.)
MARSHALL (referring to Sultra) My god, it's alive! (Sultra instantly settles back into a deep sleep) She looks awfully ill.
VERONICA (trying to shake off the terror) She is awfully ill.
MARSHALL You don't look much better. Why is your face so yellow?
VERONICA Camouflage. So I blend in with the taxis.
MARSHALL Sick, sick, sick.
VERONICA (relieved) Look. He's gone. He stopped 'cause of a red light. And I'm getting my own breakfast. (She hands him back the muffin and gets up to go)
MARSHALL I brought your mail.
VERONICA Thank you.
MARSHALL There's nothing interesting. Just overdue bills. I took the liberty of paying your electric bill. They threatened to turn off your electricity.
VERONICA (glanced over the mail, which includes an airmail letter) Beautiful...
MARSHALL Who's the letter from? Could it be from that disgusting crank? (Veronica looks at him) There’s a hefty check in there too.
VERONICA I should've known.
MARSHALL I took it to the lab to have it verified. It's from Zurich. It's the fourth letter that's come out of Zurich.
VERONICA The fourth letter?
MARSHALL I wouldn't read it if I were you. It's quite filthy. It'll only upset you.
VERONICA Why haven't I seen the other letters?
MARSHALL And you're upset. Which is why I haven't shown them to you. It's from the same crank who's been sending you money for two years. Do you really want to read it? Nothing has changed. Only, now he says he's coming for you.
VERONICA He’s "coming for me"?
MARSHALL Go ahead and read it if you want.
VERONICA Who is he?
MARSHALL A crank, evidently. And he still signs with red, dripping, bloody crosses. I've put a tracer on him.
VERONICA What are bloody crosses supposed to mean?
MARSHALL (shrugs) He writes quite a few stories about himself.
VERONICA Everybody's got a story... Everybody's story sucks...You can keep it. (hands him back the letter)
MARSHALL Thanks. I already made a copy of it. (she pockets the letter) Do you still keep your phone unlisted?
MARSHALL Because he'll try to call you. I wouldn't want to see you alone with him.
VERONICA I've tucked in bums at night. I've been places you don't dare go, Marshall.
MARSHALL "My Madeline! Sweet dreamer! Lovely bride! Say, is he for aye thy vassal blest?"
VERONICA Oh I love it.
MARSHALL Do you remember it? I would read that poem to you... Four hundred lines long... "The Eve of Saint Agnes" - it helped us get through so many hours... What a lovely plot... a boy and a girl... and dragons... and a magician: "O Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine. Cruel! What traitor could thee hither bring?” (Marshall looks at her expectantly)
VERONICA Marshall, you're like a talking migraine.
MARSHALL Trust me. I've always been there. Who else can you turn to? After the bombs went off, and you were suffering so terribly - ...curled up in the corner, like Cinderella among the ashes. You wouldn't talk to anyone, not even the finest psychiatrists. (brings out flowers) But when you saw my flowers you would smile. They said youwanted to die, but I knew you would live. I fed you with my own hands, talking softly, urging you to eat, (handing her the muffin again) "Eat, Veronica, eat. Live. There's so much to live for."
VERONICA Oh what am I going to do with you? I know you mean well, Marshall. You really do. And I'm grateful. It's not that I don't appreciate what you've done for me. But I'm not in the hospital anymore.
MARSHALL (smiling) Come on, let's have a picnic. You have time. I woke you up early. (pats the seat next to him)You shouldn't go to work on an empty stomach. (slight pause, stops smiling) What is it? ...Is it because of that crank? I knew I shouldn't have showed you the letter...
VERONICA (sadly) You really don't know? You know about everything else.
VERONICA I lost my job.
MARSHALL (genuinely surprised) I beg your pardon?
VERONICA They fired me.
MARSHALL (stunned) That's impossible.
VERONICA I'm out of work.
MARSHALL They can't do that. They can't fire a civil servant.
VERONICA They said I embarrassed them.
MARSHALL Embarrassed them! (assuming she'd done something unorthodox) Well what did you do?
VERONICA They wouldn't tell me.
MARSHALL Well didn't they give you any reasons?
VERONICA No. They said I had plenty of money. That was the reason.
MARSHALL But you don't. That's not true. You let your money dribble away. Dribble, dribble, for worthless bums, I warned you. Bums are wasting assets. This is terrible. What terrible timing! Idiots! Idiots! I hate bureaucrats! ...I'm so deeply sorry, Veronica. I never thought this could happen. How could this happen? They had no right to do that.
VERONICA They had photos of Boris. Graduation pictures. Our marriage. They even had a baby photo with his mother. How did they get these pictures?
MARSHALL He has an FBI file.
VERONICA What is he doing there? He's DEAD!
MARSHALL That isn't important right now. You shouldn't dwell on the past. It's over.
VERONICA You're the one who's always dwelling on the past!
MARSHALL (truly upset) I've been wrong. I was wrong. I don't know how it happened they could get rid of you like that. They're fools. Bureaucrats. But you've made wonderful progress. The important thing is, you keep yourself occupied. You musn't slip back.
VERONICA You admit you're wrong about Boris?
VERONICA Yes. He told me he'd found the girl he wanted to have grandchildren with.
MARSHALL Grandchildren? What does that have to do with anything?
VERONICA That's the way he was. He thought ahead. He had his dreams scored out in a blueprint. By now he'd be a tenured professor. Do you have any of that in your files?
MARSHALL You've idealized him beyond recognition.
VERONICA You never knew him, Marshall.
MARSHALL But I understood him. And here we are talking about him, and you say you're not obsessed.
VERONICA (in despair) What am I going to do?
MARSHALL We'll find something to keep you busy. First, I'll take you home. I cleaned it for you.
VERONICA You mean you searched my apartment.
MARSHALL No, I vacuumed and dusted your apartment. You've been neglecting it. (hailing a cab) Taxi! (to himself) They're never around when you need them. (to Veronica) Come on. (He runs off) Taxi! Taxi! (He gets one finally)
MARSHALL'S VOICE Veronica! Get in! The meter's running! I can't wait all day! (Veronica runs off in the opposite direction. Marshall runs on, stops, sees that she's fled) Rats! (He studies Sultra a second, goes up to her) Psst... Psst! (nudges her awake)
SULTRA (groaning) Ohhh...
MARSHALL We can't all be secretive, can we? It doesn't pay. (reaches for his wallet, take out a $1 bill) Ah... what have we here... Washington: never told a lie-- (Sultra ignores him) but: he was a sap. (puts the dollar away, takes out a $10 bill, studies it) Hamilton: bright fellow, bright -- a visionary like yourself (Sultra waves it away, Marshall puts the $10 away, reluctantly takes out a $20 bill) Ah... Jackson: I always thought I bore a resemblance to him - do you? (Sultra grabs the $20 without comment, stuffs it inside her shirt) You mentioned something about a man...
MARSHALL The Shadow? The taxi?
SULTRA (recalling) Shadow on your shadow...
MARSHALL Someone's following her.
SULTRA Someone's maybe going the same way she is.
MARSHALL How long have you been seeing him?
MARSHALL (greatly worried) Have they talked?
MARSHALL Veronica and the man.
SULTRA Never seen a shadow that talks...
(Loud, eerie chuckling from SULTRA. Lights fade to black.)
Scene Six: Midnight by the harbor
VERONICA (pacing, distraught, holding the crank letter in her fists) Bloody crosses, Shadow Man, Crank... “I'm coming for you.” For you - for you- for you.... All along the waterfront -not one ship, not one person, not one car, nobody, nothing -not a sign of life -- (picks up a stone, throws it in the water, "skips" it, hears something, turns around) What do you want? Is anybody there? (She throws a stone in the direction of the sound) Everybody's hibernating. (gathers stones) “I’m coming for you - for you - for you” (throwing stones in succession, looks up at the stars) I, Veronica Weber, presently existing under the constellation Orion the hunter the killer the lover Orion (throws more stones) shoots a shadow in the river! (squints, takes a step forward, peering into the darkness) Boris...? (screams) BORIS!!!! (shrinks back, covering her face, weeps, runs off)
(VERONICA EXITS. MARSHALL ENTERS, stands there. Lights change. Desk comes in view. Dim light.)
Scene Seven: FBI Office, 9:00 the next morning.
(The shadowy figure of an FBI OFFICER, smoking a cigar. VERONICA bursts in, stops in front of the desk.)
VERONICA So: this is the almighty FBI. I love the low lights. I always wondered what it looks like at the source. This big shadowy thing that followed me for two years and treated me like a criminal and now I'm here and it's nine o'clock in the morning and the sun is shining outside and I still can't see anything.
FBI OFFICER (turns on the desk lamp) Is that better? Now, what can we do for you, Miss-um --
VERONICA (shines the lamp on her face) Cory. I go by my family name: Cory. But I'm known by my husband's name: Weber. It’s not his real name. He wasn’t born “Weber,“ did you know that? He took it on because he thought it sounded more “philosophical.” It's German. It means "weaver." Boris told me that. To weave. To weave a web. He liked German philosophy, that's my husband: Boris Weber... The bombing in the university chess club?Ring a bell? You were head of the investigation, then you turned the case over to Marshall.
FBI OFFICER Oh yes yes yes, now I remember. You look changed. How have you been?
VERONICA I lost my job, it's winter, I'm freezing, people are freezing on the streets and I can't do anything about it, I've run out of ideas, I'm doing great. Veronica Cory would like to know when this is going to be over. So does Veronica Weber. I think you can answer that for us. (Pause) Would you like to answer that for me?
FBI OFFICER What is the question?
VERONICA I want to know when this is going to be over. It's been two years. Maybe you can't picture what it's like to spend two years not knowing what's true or not true. But you were there. You saw what was left of Boris’s body. To you it was a body, to me he was the first and only man I ever loved and the only family I had. Veronica Cory Weber is just somebody in your files, but I want you to know it's my life you've been playing with. He was my life. I never wanted to come in here for you to see you're breaking me, but now I want you to see it: You're breaking me. And if that's what you've been after, you've done it, and I don't know why you're doing it—
FBI OFFICER Mrs. Weber—
VERONICA I want you to tell me what you know. Not just rumors and speculation and fantasy I want something real, I want proof. I want proof Boris is alive.
FBI OFFICER Mrs. Weber, I'm sorry it's been difficult for you to adjust—
VERONICA No! No! Don't-! Don't give me that! Don't give me your double-talk! I've been up all night walking the streets in sub-zero waiting for your damn office to open. I want to know if he's alive!
FBI OFFICER Mrs. Weber, no one survived the bombing in the chess club.
VERONICA Is he alive?
FBI OFFICER But we made it clear to you -
VERONICA Is he? Yes or no.
FBI OFFICER No.
VERONICA He's dead.
FBI OFFICER Yes. How can there be any question in your mind?
VERONICA Boris is a terrorist ringleader. He and his friends were terrorists making bombs in the cellar of the chess club and Boris staged it so when the bombs went off it would look like he was killed.
FBI OFFICER Your husband was a very intelligent, promising young man; highly regarded by the university—
VERONICA Why do you say he's a terrorist?
FBI OFFICER We never said he was a terrorist. He had nothing to do with the bombing.
VERONICA Why are you still on the case?
FBI OFFICER Mrs. Weber, I don't know what you want. Your husband was killed in an unfortunate bombing accident. There is no case.
VERONICA Marshall's on the case.
FBI OFFICER (with a slight wince) Malcolm Marshall?
VERONICA You're his boss.
FBI OFFICER Malcolm mishandled the case. He was running surveillance on the student who we suspected was making the bombs. Instead, he tailed your husband. He was obsessed with Boris Weber. He's still obsessed with Boris Weber. We don't know why, but we hear from our secretaries they still get calls from Malcolm about Boris Weber. We ignore the calls.
VERONICA You ignore...? So what is he doing in the FBI?
FBI OFFICER He's not FBI. He was relieved of his job, on my orders. His last case was the bombing in the chess club. (thinking aloud to himself) I don't know what went wrong with Malcolm - He sends us bizarre letters which he’s obviously forged and signs them with huge red crosses...
VERONICA He’s not FBI...?
FBI OFFICER He could have become a
very good agent. (to himself) Now he's a nut, a nuisance, a pest... (seeing Veronica wander off) Mrs. Weber...?