by Tiffany Tillman
A One-Act Play
DETECTIVE: 35, Private detective
SUBCONSCIOUS: Detective’s subconscious thoughts personified.
VERONICA: 29, Archeologist specializing in religion of Europe and Middle East
JAMES: 27, Archeologist specializing in anthropomorphic studies of Europe and Middle East
GOD: Timeless, Nature’s balance keeper and vengeance seeker.
DETECTIVE: Detective is a man of medium height, dark hair. He buries himself in his work because he lost his wife and daughter years ago to a mugging, and he uses his work as a hide-out or escape. He discovers a deeper understanding of how to help people through this particular case, and it gives him a new meaning for his life as he continues on.
SUBCONSCIOUS: This is Detective’s subconscious thoughts personified as a mirror of the Detective and what he thinks: the thoughts going through his mind, and how he really wants to act in a given situation. Sometimes subconscious speaks directly to the audience or acts as narrator.
VERONICA: Veronica DeClure (Dah-kloor) is an archeologist who works as a team with her brother, James. She and James are very close and have a strong and loving relationship. Through their work, she becomes increasingly burdened by the violent nature of the human race. She discovers an obscure, ancient god that, when worshipped, brings peace to humanity. She researches and becomes obsessed with the god, until she is convinced that she can resurrect it and end humanity’s violence. In doing so, she has alienated James. She has collected all the research and materials she needs, but James continues to try to stop her. Now she must turn to Detective to finish what she started.
JAMES: James DeClure (Dah-kloor) is an archeologist that works as a team with his sister, Veronica. He and Veronica are very close and have a strong and loving relationship. Through their work, he sees his sister becoming more concerned with the violence of the past. He realizes that she is becoming obsessed with an ancient god. When he tries to help her, she refuses. He reads her research and discovers that the god she is trying to bring back brings peace to the world by destroying humans. He decides that she must be stopped, so he steals her papers and a key artifact for the ritual and takes off. He is found by Detective, who was hired by Veronica. He tries to get Detective on his side, to stop Veronica from destroying the world and to help him get his sister the mental help she needs.
GOD: God was worshipped in ancient times. She is
very graceful and exudes serenity but is also rage-filled over the effect
humans have had on the world. She discovers a human attempting to find her, so she
decides to twist the human’s mind and turn her into an obsessed, crazed servant
in order to get herself resurrected.
1940s, at night (full dark)
General, unspecified city – Detective’s office, and a park
Act I, Scene I
Interior, Office, 1940’s style
AT RISE: DETECTIVE is sitting at his desk, leafing through a folder. SUBCONSCIOUS is behind him
It was a cool evening, windy with a clear sky. That wasn’t a good sign. For the past two weeks, strange things had been happening around town. No one could explain what was happening. All I knew was that people had gone missing, and my cases were stacking up. I was reading a dead-end file, trying to see if I missed a lead, when she walked in.
(VERONICA enters stage right and slowly walks toward the chair in front of the desk and sits)
I didn’t hear the door open, but I heard her heels as she walked toward my desk. The way she walked reminded me of a cat on the prowl, liquid-like movements but ready to pounce at any moment.
(DETECTIVE puts aside the folder)
Good evening, Detective. I was told you were the best. I need your help.
With baby blues and rose red lips like those, I could help her with a lot. But I thought she might have a case for me.
Well, miss . . .?
DeClure. Veronica DeClure.
Well, Miss DeClure, I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I assure you, if you have a case, I’ll do my best to solve it.
Detective, I’ll be frank with you. My brother has gone missing, and he has some things of mine that I need back immediately.
(VERONICA crosses her legs and DETECTIVE obviously tries not to look. SUBCONSCIOUS does look)
As she took those long legs of hers and crossed them, a chill went down my back. I couldn’t tell if it was from the anticipation of a new case or from the cold look in her eyes. Whatever it was, I knew it was going to make this case one for the history books.
How long has he been missing?
Three days. It is urgent that I find him. Who knows what he may have done this time.
Okay. I’ll need a list of all the places he went that day and the people he was in contact with. What’s your brother’s name?
James. We share an apartment to save on rent. He was going to stay home all day and order pizza for us that night.
(DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS perk up at “pizza”)
(DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS dismiss the pizza)
Ah. Please continue.
(VERONICA crosses her legs the other way and DETECTIVE doesn’t look. SUBCONSCIOUS moves closer to stare)
My eyes were drawn down her body as she re-crossed her legs. It made me wish she had worn a skirt.
Well, I went out to the store for a paper and when I returned, he was gone.
With your items?
What did he take?
Several papers from my research, as well as an artifact.
What kind of research are you doing, Miss DeClure?
The ancient rite of passage of the Egyptians and some Mesopotamian cultures. I’m an archeologist.
(re-crossed her legs)
If she kept crossing her legs like that, I’d fall like the pharaohs to the gods.
(mimes falling to knees in supplication)
Is there any reason he would want to take them? Money perhaps?
No. They aren’t worth a lot unless someone knows exactly what they are.
(waves hand dismissively)
Even then, they are relics and anyone would try to cheat him out of the full price. No, he doesn’t know their value. He doesn’t even know anyone who knows anything about them, except me! He had no reason to take them!
(pounds fist on desk, then regains composure)
As she became more agitated, it was her eyes that drew attention. Her eyes, so cold. I wondered what happened, what she had seen, that would make her eyes like that. This was going to be a very interesting case.
Well, Miss DeClure, this sounds like my kind of case. I just need to get the primary information from you – addresses, phone numbers, etcetera. Your brother’s too, of course. Also, a list of his friends and associates with their contact information and any enemies either of you may have.
Thank you, Detective. I’ll leave everything with your secretary. I’ll have the list to you tomorrow.
(stands up and looks back at DETECTIVE)
Will you be coming by to get it?
Yes, I will.
I look forward to seeing you then, Detective.
(walks toward and out the door)
Watching her, I felt as though I was in a trance and could only stare. Then, she was gone. A sense of relief swept over me, like I barely missed being the unfortunate prey to a hungry beast. Strange things were happening. I wondered what was in store for me this time.
BLACK OUT (3
Act I, Scene II
AT RISE: DETECIVE enters stage right, looking at his notepad. SUBCONSCIOUS is center stage and addresses audience
I followed up on the list that Ms. DeClure had left. Most of his associates were in historical-type employment typical for archeologists. The list of potential enemies was surprisingly short. Financial burdens are usually the go-to motivation for theft. But this James guy seemed to be keeping himself out of monetary troubles. He wasn’t a gambler, he hadn’t pawned the family heirlooms, he didn’t have any mistress to try to impress. This guy had no known motivation for stealing his sister’s things. All I had to do was find him and I could ask him. Last stop on the list: a little sushi joint that he ate at every Thursday night.
(JAMES enters stage left holding onto the bag hanging from his shoulder and looking down)
As I passed the park, I looked up and saw someone matching James’ description.
(JAMES turns to run, in slow-motion)
The kid’s running! Like I’m going to chase him or something. Well, actually, I am.
(DETECTIVE starts running in slow-motion)
After all, I’d been looking everywhere for the guy. I couldn’t just let him go!
(DETECTIVE and JAMES resume normal speed. DETECTIVE grabs JAMES and throws him to the ground, pinning him. JAMES begins screaming. The bag gets tossed aside)
James, stop screaming. You’re fine.
What do you want? How do you know me?
Your sister hired me to find you.
(JAMES screams again)
I said stop screaming!
(JAMES struggles to break free. DETECTIVE loses balance but keeps JAMES pinned on the ground)
No! I won’t let her destroy everything!
James, what are you talking about? Your sister just wants her research back.
Research?! Is that what she told you?
(stands up and offers hand to JAMES, who knocks his hand away and scrambles to the bag.)
Listen, your sister hired me to find you because you took her research and an artifact from her. That’s all I know. Now, let’s get back to my office so I can close the case.
(DETECTIVE grabs JAMES’ arm but JAMES jerks away)
You think this is over some pages of dry reading? No, this is far more important that any museum commission.
James, I just want to close the case. Come on.
(attempts to grab JAMES again but James avoids him)
No, you can’t give these back to her. She’ll destroy the world!
(DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS both frown)
That seemed a bit melodramatic.
(moves closer to JAMES, as though inspecting him)
But his hands are sweaty and his eyes earnest. There may be something…
(skips back from DETECTIVE’s hand but pleads)
Just hear me out. If you go through with this, if you give these back to her, all will be lost.
(gestures for JAMES to calm down, then takes out a notebook)
James, you’re not making any sense. Start at the beginning.
For the past year, Veronica has been doing research on her own, wanting very little help from me. Things like the Egyptian afterlife rite of passage, the Greek myths of Tartarus and Elysium.
(Pulls the scroll and wooden figure out of the bag as he talks, handing them to DETECTIVE)
She went as far back as Mesopotamia. She’s become convinced there is an ancient god waiting for her to resurrect it. It could be Apophis of Egypt, or Typhon of Greece, or even Tiamat of Babylon. It could even be one who answers to all those names. Whoever it is, she is set on bringing him back into our world and getting whatever power it will bestow on its high priestess.
James, do you hear yourself? This sounds crazy.
(hands the scroll and figure back to JAMES, who snatches them and shoves them back into the bag)
I know how it sounds. I just want this to madness to end. I’ve tried to get her to talk to doctors, but the only option I have left is taking her in myself. I just want to get her the help she needs to get past this obsession.
I knew what obsession could do to a person. My work had become mine. When I lost my wife, Helen, and my daughter, Maggie, to a senseless mugging-gone-wrong, it became my refuge, my hideout. James seemed genuinely convinced his sister was up to no good. I had to face it; I can’t hide behind a case anymore. I had to help.
Okay. If what you say is true, I want to help. Let’s get back to my office. Together, we’ll think of something.
(DETECTIVE and JAMES walk across the stage to the office, SUBCONSCIOUS steps into office near the desk.
LIGHTS REMAIN UP)
Act I, Scene III
(DETECTIVE and JAMES walk into the office and to the desk,
SUBCONSCIOUS steps into office near the desk)
Are you sure this is the best place?
(opens a door to reveal a safe and begins turning dial to open it)
We can keep the items locked in the safe here. She won’t be able to get them.
(JAMES places the bag on the desk as he watches the DETECTIVE with the safe)
So, we stash the items and you call Veronica, telling her you found me. When she gets here, we’ll spring on her and take her to the sanitarium.
I didn’t think she was actually crazy, but this whole “resurrecting a god thing” was a bit looney.
(VERONICA enters unnoticed)
(DETECTIVE, SUBCONSCIOUS, and JAMES jump and turn towards her)
Really? You’d do that to your own sister?
I had to give it to the woman. Crazy looked pretty good on her.
(steps toward her, holding out a hand)
You’re sick, Veronica. You need help.
I need to see my god. He’s waiting for me. Soon, you’ll see. You’ll all see.
(VERONICA picks up a lamp off the desk and aims for JAMES)
James, look out!
(DETECTIVE jumps between them. The lamp hits him on the head and he falls to the ground. SUBCONSCIOUS staggers around while VERONICA and JAMES struggles until JAMES falls and hits his head on the desk.)
(staggering around, pointing at nothing)
Look at all the pretty birdies…
(looks out into audience as if seeing a ghost)
(falls to the floor, unconscious, as VERONICA grabs the bag off the desk and runs out of the office. JAMES manages to wake up and get to his feet. He moves to wake DETECTIVE)
James… What happened?
(SUBCONSCIOUS wakes up and staggers around, as if dizzy)
(helps DETECTIVE to his feet)
Veronica knocked you out, then me. When I came to, she was gone, with the artifact. She’s going to resurrect the god tonight!
What are we waiting for? Let’s get down there and stop her.
(DETECTIVE and JAMES rush out of the office as SUBCONSCIOUS staggers behind them)
BLACK OUT (7-10 seconds)
Act I, Scene IV
(DETECTIVE and JAMES walk onto stage from the office and creep towards where VERONICA is set up with an altar, but they don’t see her yet. SUBCONSCIOUS follows them, rubbing his head)
Are you sure this is the park she’ll use?
Absolutely. I followed her here one day. Since she got her stuff back, she’ll do the ritual as quickly as possible.
(looks around, as though searching)
As we made our way through the park, I could feel eyes on us. I wasn’t sure if they were hers or something else. I just hoped we would find Veronica before anything else found us.
(puts a hand to his ear)
What this? A new sound?
Do you hear that? It sounds like… chanting.
I think it’s coming from the next clearing.
(DETECTIVE, SUBCONSCIOUS, and JAMES approach the area with VERONICA and an altar. VERONICA holds a chalice over her head as she chants. The altar has the scroll and wooden figure on it)
(VERONICA spins around and growls)
Veronica, I need you to come here.
Do you hear it? My god is coming. Soon, I’ll be his all-powerful priestess and you will be reunited with your family.
(DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS jerk as if slapped. JAMES slowly moves upstage and creeps his way towards the altar)
Isn’t that what you want, Detective?
How could she have known about Helen and Maggie?
(shakes himself and looks VERONICA over)
I could see the madness and fervor in her eyes. It made her seem more dangerous than beautiful.
It doesn’t matter what I want, Veronica. You need help.
(holds hand out to VERONICA)
Come with us so we can get it for you.
(sneers at DETECTIVE’s offered hand)
My god is coming. I won’t be denied him.
(turns back to altar)
Just a few minutes more.
(Veronica busies herself, adjusting things on the altar)
As I tried to figure out what items she was using, I noticed James had worked his way around to the other side. If I could keep her attention on me, perhaps he would be able to surprise Veronica and stop her.
Veronica, this isn’t going to work. The god you want to bring back will destroy all of mankind. He will destroy everything you love, everything you are fighting to protect.
(VERONICA turns away from the altar to face him)
I know what you want, Veronica. Your brother told me.
(starts calm but ends yelling)
Did he tell you about the mass graves we found? About the millions of murders that have been uncovered throughout history? Did he tell you about the fact that humanity is violent because we are selfish?
(calmer, placatingly. JAMES creeps closer to the altar and moves behind her)
With this god, we can finally be focused on something other than ourselves, and we’ll be peaceful for once in our entire existence. No one will murder or rob anymore. No more Helens and Maggies for others, like there is for you. You can help me, Detective.
(holds hand out to DETECTIVE)
Help me make this world better. All we need is him.
As good as it sounds, I couldn’t believe that. I was about to signal JAMES when something moved behind him.
(GOD rises and everyone turns to stare. JAMES slowly backs up. The GOD roars, and the men cover their ears while VERONICA rushes forward and kneels by GOD.)
The god is a woman. It makes perfect sense.
(GOD notices VERONICA and reaches toward her. VERONICA reaches back. SUBCONSCIOUS and DETECTIVE stare in horror before rushing forward)
DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS
(DETECTIVE grabs VERONICA and pulls her away, then overturns the altar, spilling everything on it. GOD shrieks in pain and begins to de-manifest. VERONICA sees GOD melt way and scrambles back to her)
(almost in tears)
No! No, no, no…
(looks back at DETECTIVE)
What have you done? You’ve ruined everything!
(looks at the altar mess)
I can still do this. I can still do this!
(VERONICA frantically begins collecting things. JAMES comes up and takes her shoulders, but she pushes him away. He grabs her shoulders and starts dragging her upstage. DETECTIVE and SUBCONSCIOUS stare at them as VERONICA screams and cries for JAMES to let her go. JAMES soothingly tells her that he’s got her and that she’ll be okay. Past the curtain, VERONICA wails a final NO!)
I’m not entirely sure what just happened, but I’m positive that James will take good care of his sister.
(DETECTIVE walks around and into office to sit at the desk as SUBCONSCIOUS address audience from center stage)
Veronica may have had a point about humanity being violent and selfish. We are who we are, and our nature isn’t always kind. But we aren’t all bad. Take James, for example. After everything, he still loves his sister and just wants to get her help. That’s not bad, and that’s not selfish either.
(DETECTIVE pulls out a stack of files)
Look at all these files, all the cases I’ve closed. But how many of them still need my help?
(unseen, coming from off-stage, in the direction of the office door)
Good evening, Detective. I was told you were the best. I need your help.