round 2, Murder at India House



TOPHER (24) is slumped over in his wheelchair with a backpack on the back, a wine bottle propped between his scrawny legs.

A beach ball comes flying through the air and bounces off his head.

He pulls himself straight, one eyebrow raised high, smacks his lips and looks around.


Knock it off, guys. Hey Topher - you OK?

Topher whips the wheelchair around, and pops a wheelie - but ends up losing control and tipping backward. The wine in his lap spills all over his shirt and face.

Laughter (O.S.)

Inside the house, Topher sees the shadows of partiers on the walls, movement and dancing.

LEVI, a short guy with a trendy hair, looks down at him, and winds an unlit cigarette between his fingers. Without turning, he gestures for someone behind him

HIRO, expensive digital camera in front of his face, comes to the window. Levi whispers something in his ear.

Hiro lowers the camera, and gives Levi a playful punch.

Levi makes pistols with his fingers and shoots, "bang, bang" - not at Topher, but at someone nearby.

Hiro turns his camera in the same direction.

EMILY comes to his rescue and and lifts the chair back up.


Those guys are jerks when they drink.


Me, on the other hand - I'm an amateur in the drunken asshatery department, but I think I've got a good start.


Epic fail, dude. Next time aim the wine spillage in his direction.

She points up at Levi.


What's your name again?


Oh? I may have to re-evaluate your amateur standing.


Oh come on. We just met. I would've forgot your name even sober.


Well, that's reassuring. Emily.

Levi comes over with a drink in his hand.


Topher my man, you seem to have run dry.


I don't think you could call me "dry."

He gestures to the spilled wine.


One more. My signature cocktail.

Topher accepts the beverage, takes a sip.

Levi crouches down behind Emily, leans his chin on her head.


Now, Em, if you don't get your rest, tomorrow I'm just going to kill you.


Ha. Ha.

Topher nods off again.


Topher is passed out, drooling on a pillow.

A scream somewhere in the building awakens him with a start.



He sits up, and swings his legs over the side of the bed.

Woozy, he sways a moment. The room is dark. In fact, the whole place seems remarkably dark and quiet.

Another scream.


What the fuck? Hello? People?

His chair is parked at the foot of the bed. He scoots down to it, rummages through the backpack hanging on the back, and pulls out a flashlight.

He flashes it around the dorm room. No one is in any of the other beds. Hiro's camera sits on one of them, pointed at a spot in the middle of the floor, on and recording.

Topher rubs his face to wake up, and pulls his wine-stained shirt away from his body. He climbs into his chair, and wheels over to the camera.

He starts rolling, and then suddenly stops. Something wet and sticky on his hand. Something wet and sticky on the wheel.

He takes a deep breath, and shines the flashlight at his hand. Red. Not wine. Thicker. Visceral. Blood.

He shines the light around the room again. Stops on the camera. Looks in the direction it's pointed.

Face down on the floor, in a pool of dark wetness, is a body.


Oh shit.

He wheels to it, shining the light on it.

It's Hiro. And wet tracks lead back to Topher's bed.

Topher pulls his backpack into his lap, and digs through it. He pulls out his phone, flips it open, and gets a black screen.


No. No. I refuse to accept that.

He tried turning it on, and nothing happens. He throws it across the room.

Levi stands in the shadows at the doorway.


Temper, temper.


We've got to call 911.





He shines his flashlight on Hiro.


We've got to call 911, man.

Levi shakes his head. Walks away.


Hey, man, where's your little girlfriend?

He disappears into the dark hall.

Topher's face drops.


Levi making a shooting gesture at someone, just before Emily picked up Topher's chair.


Topher starts toward the hallway, but then pauses, and shines his flashlight around the room, desperately looking for something. He stops, then weighs the flashlight in his hands. It's got some heft. He swings it, then turns it off.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he adjusts to the dark. There is some light coming from outside, so it's not as pitch black as he first thought.

He slowly wheels into the hallway, flashlight in his lap, listening carefully.


A squeak. The faint silhouette of Levi, who seems to be facing him.

He pushes forward.

Levi steps back.


They are in the common area now, with a little more light coming in from outside. Christopher stops and looks around.

There are people here - all sitting quietly, as if waiting, like they are waiting for a bus.

One of the party girls from last night sips a mug of coffee.

A guy nods to him.


Where is she? Where's Emily?


It's her turn to die. I'm next.

No one reacts.

Levi continues to back away, leading him. In the dim light, Topher can see that Levi has another camera.

From under the door of one of the private rooms, a bright light shines.

Topher ignores Levi and rushes to it.

He slams the door open, and floodlights blind him for a moment.


When they adjust, he sees Emily, gagged and tied to a leg of the bed, struggling. Her wrists are raw. Her clothes are slashed and bloodstained.

She sees Topher, and her eyes widen. She shakes her head no desperately.

Topher rushes in, but can't negotiate the small room.

A camera hangs from the ceiling, spinning, recording Emily's struggle.

Topher throws himself from the chair, and crawls to her.

Levi is behind them, recording them.

Emily looks at Levi, confused, then at Topher.

She reaches up, and pulls the gag out of her mouth.


Dude. You ruined my scene.

Levi laughs.

Topher looks confused.

Levi walks over to the dangling camera, and turns it off.

He leans in close to Topher.





So, uh, that competition?
The one I barely managed to complete the assignment for, with zero editing?

Figured I'd do Ok. Top third. Enough so that I could do well in the overall, since the points for each round accumulate.

I placed #1 in my group.


Just a reminder that deadlines are good for me.
Specifically short, tight, non-negotiable deadlines.
Keeps me from over-thinking.


I now have more faith in my country than I ever thought possible.

I have said for several years that what we needed as president was a leader. Not a politician, or a negotiator, or a businessman, or whatever else a president might be - but a leader. Someone who would hold up a vision to inspire the nation, and then encourage us to get there. That to re-invigorate innovation, promote service, and generate real change - we needed someone who could make us see that a) it is possible, still and b) it is our job as individuals, to make it happen - not to rely on the government.

Kennedy was such a leader. Martin Luther King. Lincoln, and Susan B. Anthony.

But I didn't think I'd see such a leader anytime soon. A leader like that requires not only their particular skills and charisma, but the right atmosphere for their message to flourish. I simply didn't think things were bad enough for the public to be motivated in any significant way.

When I first heard Obama speak, knowing nothing about him but the small rumblings that he might run for president one day. I don't remember what he said, I just remember being impressed...but I did not think we were ready to elect a black man president. The more I learned about him, the less chance I thought he had. Bi-racial, African father, raised abroad, hippie mom. I thought his name alone would be his downfall. That his opponents would just have to say "Barak Hussein Obama" a few times, and that while there was little chance the majority of voters would vote for someone with an ethnic name, there was no way they would vote for someone with a muslim name - and not just any muslim name, but one specifically demonized and associated with the worst kind of despotism.

And they tried...

...but we got past it.
Mr. Obama got us past it, but we were ready to go there.

We turned out in record numbers. We got past race, past ethnicity, past the demonization of a name.
And I am so proud, right now, to be an American.