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EXT. CITY STREET – NIGHT
A man and woman walk along a dirty Hollywood street, lit by the glare of passing headlights. Streetlamps here are dim or broken and the sudden flares of light only serve to make the shadows of the buildings deeper. They touch often as they walk and it’s clear that both are very drunk. The man slips behind the woman and kisses her neck, slowing them down.
We close in to see the hungry smile on the face of DAVID (late 20s), a boyishly good-looking rogue with a faded leather jacket and painstakingly mussed hair. He’s dressed for a night of dark bars and noisy clubs, a hunter camouflaged in apathy. His date, SERENA (early 20s) wears a short and sleeveless black dress that reveals more than it hides, but her hair is long and wild and her heavy makeup needed touching-up hours ago.
SERENA leans back against DAVID with a laugh. The pair sway and almost stumble.
She tilts her head to look up at him, suddenly vulnerable.
You really think you can help me?
He doesn’t answer, simply grabs her hand and leads her along. There’s something aggressive in his demeanor, something perhaps a little mean, but he hides it well.
The buildings on this part of the street are dark and windowless, but there’s a light above one of the doors ahead. It sits back from the sidewalk, behind a small, fenced parking lot. The gate to the lot is thick, black, and topped with barbed wire.
DAVID pulls SERENA around to face him and pushes her roughly against the gate. She doesn’t seem to mind. He leans in, not kissing, not speaking, but studying her. Her smile is fearless, full of unspoken promises. They both know how this game is played.
I told you I’d show you something amazing, didn’t I?
Go on, then. Amaze me.
DAVID pulls a heavy ring of keys from his pocket. For the first time we see his demeanor crack as he struggles to find the right one. He finally slips the key into the lock, but the gate won’t budge. He puts his shoulder into it, stumbling as it finally rolls aside.
It sticks sometimes.
He relocks the gate and they make their way across the empty parking lot to the lit door. Up close, the building is as run-down as its neighbors, but the door is new, thick and obviously expensive. It has a gate of its own and two more locks behind it.
SERENA’S eyes widen, impressed. As DAVID struggles again with his keys, she begins to grow bored and giggles drunkenly. Frustrated, DAVID grabs her again for another rough kiss. He keeps a possessive hand on her arm as he returns to the locks.
When the door is finally unlocked, DAVID throws it wide. SERENA gapes and even DAVID has to smile.
INT. RECORDING STUDIO LOBBY
The lights inside come on as they sense movement and DAVID hurries to punch a code into the alarm panel. They are in a snug but posh lobby, dominated by a thick leather couch and a massive receptionist’s desk of artfully carved driftwood. The walls are distressed brick hung with row upon row of framed records, each with a plaque beneath it.
SERENA savors it all as she steps through the door, spinning in a slow circle. DAVID is already behind the desk, pulling out two glasses and a bottle of whiskey.
This... this is all yours?
DAVID slides one of the glasses across the desk, his cool recovered.
All mine. It takes a lot of work to keep this baby afloat but when you realize what your calling is, well, it’s all worth it.
SERENA scoops up the glass. DAVID lets her take a long sip before striding around the desk and pulling her into his arms. SERENA kisses him eagerly, but as they pull apart her eyes stray to the framed records on the walls. It’s her turn to take his hand and lead him.
She follows the rows of records, exclaiming over each in turn. There are more as they turn a corner a venture deeper into the building, dim lights coming to life ahead of them to reveal a long hallway. It really is a lot of records.
Oh my God, I love this one! These were all recorded here?
Every single one.
Oh, wow! This album was, like, my whole childhood. My dad played it all the time. Oh my god, do you know them?
DAVID’s indulgent smile is beginning to falter. He takes her arm and hurries them along, playing nice.
Girl, I’ve got friends you wouldn’t believe.
But, I don’t like to brag. That’s not my style.
Her excitement is palpable as they come to another door, this one opened with by a coded keypad. DAVID has no trouble with this one.
INT. RECORDING STUDIO C – “THE LAGOON”
He opens the door and leads them into the control booth of a large recording studio. The lights are dim and the walls are dark stone, lit from beneath by flickering blue lights that create a rippling effect. It’s an eerie site and gives the studio its nickname: THE LAGOON. But SERENA’s not looking at the lights or the console. She’s looking beyond the glass window to the studio proper.
She shares a look with DAVID and he smiles.
Go on, baby girl. Don’t be shy, now.
He follows her in and takes a single mic stand from the gear still set up from the last session. He sets it up near the glass. The two kiss again as he positions her in front of it and leans around her to turn it on.
You just wait right here.
SERENA can’t contain her excitement. As DAVID returns to the booth, though, she is left alone in the dark and cavernous space. The studio is large enough to fit a small orchestra and the gear pushed into the corners casts strange shadows in the dim light. Sweat breaks out on her forehead and she smears her makeup as she wipes it away. Fear finally pushes its way through the drunkenness.
When DAVID’s voice comes over the speaker, she jumps.
(O.C., through speaker)
Whenever you’re ready, baby.
What should I sing?
He doesn’t answer. She spots the WHISKEY BOTTLE that he left sitting beside the mic stand and picks it up for courage.
INT. RECORDING STUDIO CONTROL BOOTH
DAVID isn’t listening. He’s rummages in a desk and pulls out a box of candles. As he lights them and sets them carefully along the walls far from the console, it’s obvious he’s done this before.
SERENA has finally started to sing, something trite and poppy. DAVID winces. Her voice obviously needs work, but that’s not why they’re here. He lets her finish, though, leaning back in the engineer’s chair with folded arms. When she finally trails off, he lets her sweat for a minute. He watches with a smirk, taking in her wild hair and the whiskey bottle clutched in her hand. He pushes a button and speaks to her again through the speaker.
I love the look. Very Joplin.
DAVID gets up with a sigh. This has gone on long enough. He hides his annoyance as he opens the door between the rooms, slipping back behind his predator’s mask.
SERENA stands waiting for him, looking small in the dark space. DAVID leans against the doorframe, staring.
So... what did you think?
He stares for a moment longer, lets his eyes tell the lie for him.
She does and they fall back into the control room together, getting down to the business that brought them here. DAVID takes THE BOTTLE from her and takes a long pull but SERENA’s already tugging his shirt over his head. He sets THE BOTTLE down on the console.
SERENA laughs as she sees the candles, but it turns to a hiss of pain as DAVID bites at her neck. He roughly picks her up and sits her on the control panel, leaning her back. More clothes come off. Things start getting hot and heavy.
A particularly vicious thrust rocks the control panel and sends the WHISKEY BOTTLE toppling down onto the controls. DAVID makes a distracted grab for it, but SERENA’S hand covers his, pulling it insistently back to her.
Tracking with the BOTTLE, we follow the ALCOHOL down into the console. It slides down wires and across tangled interchanges. There’s a pop and a steadily growing hiss.
The lovers don’t notice. They continue as they were, with SERENA gradually taking control. She pushes herself off of the console and slams DAVID back in her place. As she straddles him, it’s obvious that the position isn’t comfortable.
Close on the knobs digging into his back. DAVID hisses with pain. Then again, louder. Beneath him, the console has started to smoke.
SERENA ignores him. She continues enjoying herself.
(in real pain now)
DAVID pushes her off of him. SERENA staggers away, disoriented.
That’s the idea.
As both watch, a small flame blooms on the console. Then another and another.
SERENA’s eyes light up and she laughs harder. DAVID is openly panicked. He bolts for the door, but she grabs him and presses him against the wall, trying to continue on as they had been.
Are you fucking crazy? Move!
He pushes past her into the hallway and returns a beat later with a chemical extinguisher. Close on his face as he takes aim. He knows that he’s in big fucking trouble.
DAVID sprays the console with foam. Still panicked and not thinking clearly, he sprays the equipment around the walls too. He stands, panting and dreading what comes next.
Pan around him to SERENA. She’s sitting naked and calm in the engineer’s chair, picking at her nails.
(wrinkling her nose)
DAVID gives her a look that says “no fucking shit.”
Well, did you at least save the recording?
END OF TEASER