30.5: Parkdale Haunt Presents “The Big Snow”

It's the holiday season, and the light of the street lamps are dim in the thick snow that blankets the city. Toronto can be cold in the winter, but sometimes you come across a case that makes your blood turn to ice. Everything changed the night she walked into my office, and there's no going back now. The nights just keep getting longer and, sometimes, it feels like they're only getting darker...
CONTENT WARNINGS: Blood, alcohol (mentioned), physical violence, fire, death

[SFX: We’re in a detective’s office. Owen is working at his desk]

OWEN_NARRATION: It was a snowy night when she came through my door. One of the first of the season — just a light December dusting. I like the city when it’s blanketed in white. Everything feels just a little bit quieter, a little softer. Pristine. Pure. But I’m no fool. If you learn one thing in my line of work, it’s that nothing in this world is pure. And the snow in Toronto doesn’t stay pristine for long.

I was writing out my latest case notes when I heard the clack of heels coming down the hallway. Low ones. Probably stacked, by the sound of it. Practical. Worn by someone who knows that, sometimes, the best option is to run. Worn by someone who was probably looking for me. 

Things had been quiet lately, but I was getting that ache in my knee again. The one I always get just before the weather changes, or before a real doozy of a case comes through my door. I hear a lot of fibs in my line of work – big and small – but the knee; the knee never lies.

There was a gentle knock and, before I could say a thing, she was already approaching my desk. She was the type of gal I’d call a dame if my mother hadn’t taught me better. She was tall, with bright eyes and concern delicately etched across her face. A shadow hung around her, dark and looming, like something big stood just out of sight. Looking down, I could see that I was right about the heels.

JUDITH: Excuse me, are you Detective Hopkinson? 

OWEN: The one and only. 

JUDITH: My name’s Judith Antoni, and I’m wondering if you could help me.

OWEN: That depends. What’s bothering you?

JUDITH: I’m here on behalf of a friend.

OWEN: Who’s the friend? Someone I might know?

JUDITH: Perhaps. Depends on what you’re into.

OWEN: I have my proclivities.

JUDITH: Don’t we all.

OWEN: Well, tell me the issue and I can enlighten you as to whether or not I can help you and your… friend.

JUDITH: First, I have to ask, would you describe yourself as discrete? Or are you the kind of private dick who’s going to blab the first interesting thing he hears to the prettiest face at the bar?

OWEN: Miss Antoni, I’m a professional. I never kiss and tell.

JUDITH: I didn’t ask you out on a date, mister. I asked you for help.

OWEN_NARRATION: She was sharp as a tack with a wit just as piercing. This was already shaping up to be an interesting case, and I didn’t even know what I was up against yet.

OWEN: I can’t help you unless you tell me what’s going on.

JUDITH: My friend, Claire Sterback, she’s… someone is trying to hurt her, Mr. Hopkinson.

OWEN: Miss, please, call me Owen.

JUDITH: I’ll call you whatever I want. 

OWEN: Alright then. So what’s happening with this Claire? Is she in immediate danger?

JUDITH: Yes? [sigh] I don’t know. She’s being followed, harassed. There are shapes outside her window, sounds in the night, knocks on the door. Smudges on the wall in places no one should’ve been.

OWEN: No offense ma’am, but this sounds like kid stuff. Are you sure it’s not some youths trying to frighten her for kicks?

JUDITH: I assure you, detective, this is adult in nature.

OWEN: So, who do you think might be bothering her? A jealous lover? An ex-employee?

JUDITH: There’s an ex-boyfriend of hers who’s always hanging around, but he doesn’t concern me. It’s a man-

OWEN: It always is.

JUDITH: [sigh] There’s one man in particular who’s on her case. At first, we thought he would eventually leave her alone, but he hasn’t, and it’s becoming a real problem. But… never mind.

OWEN: Hmm?

JUDITH: It’s nothing.

OWEN: Spit it out.

JUDITH: I’m troubled, Mr. Hopkinson. There is the very real threat of this man and the people he associates with, and that’s why I’m here. But… well, it sounds very silly, but sometimes, it even feels like there’s something not right about the space itself.

OWEN: What do you mean? The foundation’s got cracks? The front porch is falling down? Something unnatural in the walls?

JUDITH: It feels daft, but… sometimes I almost want to say it’s something supernatural that’s putting me on edge.

OWEN: I’m afraid ghost hunting isn’t my line of work, Miss.

JUDITH: I know. It’s just a feeling. I’m only looking for your aid with the concrete issues at hand. I know it’s uncouth of me to dump this task on you during the holiday season, you probably have a little whiskey bottle at home that needs seeing too, but she’s my dearest friend. I can’t leave her to deal with this alone. So… please. I need your help. [SFX: the veil thins] I’m worried, Owen.

OWEN: Alright. Let’s start with what you know. Claire Sterback. Her name sounds vaguely familiar.

JUDITH: You know the club just near Dunn Avenue? Rosemary’s?

OWEN: Yeah, nice little Parkdale haunt, I’ve enjoyed a Manhattan or two there in the past.

JUDITH: Well, she runs the place.

OWEN: That joint’s been around for ages. How old is she? 

JUDITH: She’s not a fragile old lady, if that’s what you’re thinking. The place belonged to her grandparents. Claire took it over after they died, and… well, things have been gradually going off-kilter ever since. Business is booming as of late, but there’s a darkness to it.

OWEN: Right. I don’t mean to be rude, Miss, but why are you coming to me? You seem jittery, and that gets me thinking that this is going to be a big problem for the both of us. If you’re that worried, why not speak to the boys down at the station?

JUDITH: In all honesty, Mr. Hopkinson, the kind of person I’m worried about are the type who like to line the pockets of weaker men to serve their needs. They know who’ll look the other way when they do something foul. Besides, I don’t need the law asking questions about me — or Claire, for that matter. I just need someone who’ll keep digging, and you’re a real dog, Detective.

OWEN: I like dogs, so I’m taking that as a compliment. Alright, where do you want to start?

JUDITH: Let’s head over to the club. I can answer more of your questions on the way there.

OWEN: We’ll get a cab. The snow’s only going to get worse as the night goes on. 

[SFX: They’re in a cab heading over to the club]

OWEN_NARRATION: Thin fingers of trepidation wrapped around my mind and began to tighten as we made our way there, but I knew it was already too late for me to walk away completely unscathed. Miss Antoni and I talked during the ride. I didn’t know if I could trust her, but there was just something in her eyes. Despite myself, her story pulled me in — hook, line, and sinker.

It had all of the usual suspects: a spurned lover, a jealous friend, a disgruntled employee — and a known mob boss, a man by the name of Archibald Bird. I’d heard of Bird before, of course. He was the shadowy figurehead of Toronto’s brutal underworld. But why he was fixated on a club in Parkdale was anyone’s guess. He had plenty of properties all over the city, and I was surprised to hear that he wanted this one — it wasn’t large, and more importantly, it wasn’t on his usual turf. What was he trying to pull? Why focus his energy on such an insignificant spot?

Apparently, Bird had been getting aggressive with Miss Sterback in his attempts to get her to sell Rosemary’s to him. That part didn’t surprise me. As far as I’d heard, he’d never been comfortable with hearing the word “no.” I’d dealt with some pretty unsavoury characters in my time, but after finding out he was involved, I had a bad feeling about what lay ahead. As we exited the cab, the snow came down hard, soaking through the brim of my hat and sending rivulets of icy meltwater down my neck. The snowflakes in Miss Antoni’s hair clung there, looking almost like ashes in the dim light of the streetlamps above. She nodded to the girl at the door and led me inside. [SFX: they walk into the club. Soft talking, sultry music, people are having a good time] Immediately I was hit with the smell of leather and cigarettes, and the irritating knowledge that there was no chance that my hat was going to dry out anytime soon.

JUDITH: How’re you doing, Betty? [to Owen] Well, looks like people are getting into the holiday spirits. Would you like anything, Detective?

OWEN: Scotch on the rocks, please.

JUDITH: Wasn’t sure if you’re the kind of man who’d drink on the job. [SFX: bartender slides him a lowball]

OWEN: In my line of work, sometimes you need to.

JUDITH: Sounds like a line.

OWEN: That’s because it is.

JUDITH: You are a live one.Claire’s over there.

OWEN: In the red dress?

JUDITH: Bingo.

OWEN: Certainly an attention grabber.

JUDITH: Sometimes it pays to be noticeable.

OWEN: Sounds more like a liability as of late. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do for a day job? You don’t seem the type to work nights.

JUDITH: I run a bookstore over on Gladstone. It’s called Bound to Please.

OWEN: Any specialties?

JUDITH: Fantasy, mostly. I can make a few recommendations, if that’s something you’re looking for.

OWEN: I might take you up on that. [SFX: Claire walks over]

CLAIRE: Hey doll. [to Owen] Well, hello there. Judith, who’s the tall drink of water?

JUDITH: This is Detective Hopkinson, I thought he could help us. Wanted to bring him by the club.

OWEN: You can call me Owen. If you have a moment, Miss Sterback, I have a few questions.

CLAIRE: Owen. That’s a swell name. And a detective, huh? I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you don’t seem the type. You seem a little more cinnamon roll than hardboiled — not that I’m complaining. I like my men sweet.

OWEN: Careful now. Cinnamon still has a bite.

CLAIRE: [laughs] Sassy AND sweet. Jude, you’ve always had a good eye for men. And women for that matter.

JUDITH: I try. 

CLAIRE: Although, if you just wanted eye candy, you could’ve just asked me.

JUDITH: Oh I know, but I don’t think the detective here could pull off that plunging neckline.

OWEN: [awkwardly clears his throat] If you’re busy, then perhaps we can talk another time.

CLAIRE: I think I have a moment or two to spare. Come, we can talk in my office. Ears everywhere out here, if you know what I mean. [SFX: they walk over into a small room behind the bar, she shuts the door] So, what do you want to know?

OWEN: Judith here tells me you’re being watched. That things are getting freaky. That Archibald Bird has been flapping his wings around here. I want you to tell me what’s going on in your own words.

CLAIRE: I wish it were all that simple. I’m not just being watched, Detective. I’m being… haunted.

OWEN: Look Miss, I already told your compatriot that I’m not in the business of ghost hunting-

CLAIRE: Now just wait, before you turn heel, let me explain: I inherited the club from my grandmother. It’s been in the family for a dog’s age. First the land, then the building, then the business. We built this place and our blood lines the walls. It’s always had… character, I suppose… but recently, Archibald Bird has been sniffing around. He wants this land, and he wants this building, and he wants what’s inside.

OWEN: What, are you harbouring some sort of rare jewel in the supply closet?

CLAIRE: I have what my grandmother left to me. The space and what’s in it are mine, and they are going to stay mine. But it would seem that the knucklehead with pinstripes where his brain should be won’t take no for an answer. There are shadows passing under my door. There are whispers on the breeze. I hear knocking at my door when no one is there. I open my mouth and I can taste blood, Mr. Hopkinson. The past won’t release its grip on me.

OWEN: And you think this is Archie Bird’s doing?

CLAIRE: Of course. He’s been on my doorstep since the day I took possession. His goons keep coming around and disturbing customers, giving me a pain in my head. He’s trying to scare me off, and I worry that it’s only going to become more… aggressive. It’s definitely taken an uptick in the last few weeks.

JUDITH: I was here one night having a drink when I saw someone go into the office. I came over to see who it was and before I could do anything, they ran out, pushed me out of the way, nearly knocked me out cold. But as they were leaving, I could smell something burning in the air. I checked the office but there was nothing, not even a cigarette, so who knows what they were trying to do.

CLAIRE: The whole thing was very rude. They weren’t satisfied with breaking into my private space, they had to assault my friend in the process? I can’t abide by that.

JUDITH: Claire, you have to tell him about the rest.

CLAIRE: [sighs] To begin, my grandmother was close with Bird’s father.

OWEN: That’s… Arthur Bird?

JUDITH: They do love their A names.

CLAIRE: And she was a bit of an… occultist.

OWEN: What, did she play with tarot cards? Did she see herself as a soothsayer? What kind are we talking about here?

JUDITH: You might as well call her a witch, Claire.

CLAIRE: Nomenclature aside, she was not exactly a… kind woman. But she was a powerful one. Years ago, Arthur approached her and asked if she would help him. He was struggling. His business was failing, he was losing respect, and he knew that she had the… ability to change things. He wanted something tangible, something that would give him a hand in becoming the strong, powerful man he wanted to be. He wanted her to make him something, a talisman of sorts, that would give him and his family that. He paid a lot for the privilege, and she fulfilled his request.

OWEN: I only ever heard of him described as a monster.

CLAIRE: He wasn’t always, but… power comes at a cost. In this case, it cost him his humanity to get the power he craved so badly. It’s a tale as old as time. Once he got a taste, he demanded more — of the world, of my grandmother — and he would try to get it with an increasing level of violence. And so she… took it back. She had given him a helping hand – that’s how she described it – and she took it back and cursed him to wither away, weak and feeble. She said the desire never lost its grip on him, and clearly, he passed that on to his cad of a son. When she left me the building, I was also given a letter telling me to never let anyone take that item, because it would only bring suffering. She hid it away somewhere, and now I’m trying to figure out how to deal with this nightmare, Mr. Hopkinson.

JUDITH: Somewhere in this building, there’s a talisman. Something that holds power, something, that will give whoever possesses it the ability to do whatever they want, by the sound of it. I don’t know, Claire explained this to me before but it still feels fuzzy in my head. I’m not even sure how much of the story I believe, to be honest. But Bird wants it. And that’s a dangerous proposition no matter how real the cursed magic it’s apparently imbued with is.

CLAIRE: My grandmother hid it within this building, and we have to find it before Bird does. I always thought she was exaggerating the power this thing might have, but… well, having someone like Archie pestering me this much means that I should be taking this seriously.

OWEN: Ladies, I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I know when someone’s taking me for a ride.

CLAIRE: I told you whoever you found wouldn’t believe me.

JUDITH: Please, even if you take issue with that part of the story, Bird is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. We can’t let him get his hands on the club or that item, wherever it is, whatever it is. Maybe this is all a wild goose chase, but even if it turns out to be nothing, we have to get him off our backs and out of this place for good. There’s an aggression there lately. It’s radiating off him.

CLAIRE: He’s tired of waiting, and I think he’s done asking. He’s ready to take whatever he can get his hands on. We need to keep an eye on him at all times. We need to find that talisman and destroy it. For good.

JUDITH: I know. Detective?

OWEN: Miss, I’m just trying to wrap my head around this whole story you just wove for me.

CLAIRE: Well work fast.

OWEN: I’ll do what I can. Have you seen anything else out of the ordinary?

JUDITH: Handprints.

OWEN: Handprints?

CLAIRE: That is something that I’d rather show you in person than have to explain. Come with me. [SFX: they walk out back into the club] Ah, speak of the devil.

BIRD: Miss Sterback, how lovely to see you. I see you’ve decked the halls in here, looks wonderful. You can barely see the tacky wallpaper through the tinsel.

CLAIRE: Hello Archibald. What brings you to the club tonight?

BIRD: Oh, just thought I’d look around. Have a nice quiet night with some friends. I thought perhaps I’d even be lucky enough to speak with someone as luminous as yourself.

CLAIRE: What a charmer you are. You know you’re always welcome at Rosemary’s, Mr. Bird, but I’m afraid I’m terrifically busy with my… associates, so I would encourage you and your friends to find a table… [aside] Betty! Please seat Mr. Bird’s party over in the lounge, in one of the large booths. And get them a bottle of champagne, on the house.

BIRD: I understand you’re busy, so let me cut straight to the chase. I’m wondering if you’ve given any thought to my offer. I’m sure I can make it even more worth your while-

CLAIRE: As I’ve told you many a time, the club is not for sale.

BIRD: Ah, but you see, it’s not really about the club, is it?

CLAIRE: No, I guess it isn’t.

BIRD: You know what I want, Claire, baby girl, and I’m going to get it.

CLAIRE: I’d like to see you try.

BIRD: A challenge. I like that.

CLAIRE: You couldn’t take me down with both hands tied behind your back.

BIRD: Miss Sterback, how risqué! But unfortunately, I’m a married man.

CLAIRE: Never stopped you before.

BIRD: You watch that pretty mouth of yours. Have a nice evening, ladies, gentleman. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

CLAIRE: Enjoy the champagne, Archie. [SFX: they walk away] As you can see, he’s a thorn in my side, the arrogant son of a-

JUDITH: Claire, my dear, get out of earshot at the very least. This is what we’re up against, Detective.

OWEN: I can see that.

CLAIRE: In here, please. [SFX: walks into a back room, closes the door] This is what I found after Bird started trying to push his way into my space.

OWEN: A handprint. You were correct. Hang on, what is this?

CLAIRE: Blood, Mr. Hopkinson.

OWEN: Excuse me?

JUDITH: We don’t know if it truly is, but it very much looks like it could be. It seeps out from the walls. You can try to wipe it away, but it never comes off. It just appears again, slowly rising out of the plaster.

CLAIRE: I came across it after one of Bird’s goons broke a window in here.

OWEN: And do you think this ties into the… talisman? Whatever… power this thing might have?

CLAIRE: I assume it does, somehow.

OWEN: Look, ma’am, I’ll help you figure out what to do with Bird, but I’m no magic man, I don’t know what to do with a… cursed object. That kind of ghoulishness is outside my purview. I can tail a crook, though. And I can get him off yours.

JUDITH: That’s what I’m paying you for, isn’t it?

OWEN: Are you paying me? Because we never agreed to a rate.

JUDITH: We need you to run interference with Bird. Keep an eye on him. Find out if he has a weak spot. Give us time to dig deeper in this space while he’s distracted.

CLAIRE: Just head back to the bar, Detective. Betty will take care of you. But whatever you do, don’t let Bird out of your sight. Jude, we have to go back to the basement.

JUDITH: I don’t feel safe down there.

CLAIRE: We’ll never be safe until we finish this.

JUDITH: I know.

CLAIRE: We’ll get through this. We always do. Detective? Do let me know if you see anything. Tell the bartender to come find me if something happens. [SFX: Judith and Claire leave the room and walk away. Owen heads back to the bar]

OWEN_NARRATION: I wasn’t sure what to make of the ladies. The whole thing felt like a fairy tale, but they came at me with such confidence that I felt myself getting wrapped up in their story. There was a bond between them, I could tell that much — the kind that’s only forged through fire. I’d never been much of a believer in anything, but – even though the whole thing felt like a lark – I wanted to believe them. So here I was, more in the dark than ever, waiting for the magic to happen. My wish came true quickly, though, and it wasn’t long before my mark approached me at the bar. [SFX: Bird walks up]

BIRD: At the risk of sounding cliché, may I ask: what’s a nice young man like you doing in a place like this?

OWEN: Enjoying some time to myself.

BIRD: Ah, yes. You’re on the clock aren’t you, Detective Hopkinson?

OWEN: [SFX: gradually turns to face him] I never introduced myself.

BIRD: No, you didn’t. But I’ve got a lot of ears. [waves down the bartender] Betty! Another bottle of champagne, please, for the table. And a… scotch on the rocks, for my friend here.

OWEN: That’s not necessary-

BIRD: Oh, on the contrary! You’ve been working quite hard this evening.

OWEN: I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. I’m only here to speak to my friends.

BIRD: That’s interesting. You’ve been keeping an eye on my table — and the door to the basement as well, I’ve noticed. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t flatter myself into thinking it’s my chiseled visage that’s caught your interest-

OWEN: You certainly do have… a face.

BIRD: You’re a natural born charmer. I see why they brought you on. But please, let’s talk business. I assume the radiant Miss Sterback and her partner have engaged your services. They seem very mistrusting of me and my companions. Completely unwarranted, I’ll have you know. Just because my friends are rough around the edges, doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of respect, even if they have their issues. But us two, we don’t have to have any. All you have to do is answer me one simple question: tell me what the ladies are up to. I’ll make it worth your while.

OWEN: Sorry mister, I’m not here to tell stories. I just want to enjoy my scotch, thanks again.

BIRD: Oh, I love a man who offers loyalty so quickly. How quaint! I’m sure Claire’s friend won you over with her… sparkling wit… or what have you. I have to admit, I’ve never had to try too hard to engender loyalty from my companions. That’s what money is for. And frankly, I would like to enlist your services.

OWEN: Wait, you want to hire me?

BIRD: I can see that nothing gets past you, detective. Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll triple it. Quadruple it, even.

OWEN: What’s the catch? 

BIRD: I assume the ladies enlightened you about a certain… item. It’s something they would like to keep out of my hands, but it’s an item that rightfully belongs to me. A birthright, if you will. Now, if a person close to them were to help find and protect said item, and then return it to its true owner… well, that could be very profitable for all of us.

OWEN: … I see.

BIRD: Do you? Owen, my boy, I’m just hoping that I can count on you to maybe just head downstairs and keep track of something special for me. Once I have it, I’ll be out of everyone’s hair. Even your little friends’. 

OWEN: Mr. Bird, as much as I appreciate a hefty pay day, I’m currently not on the market. I apologize, but-

BIRD: Oh, no reason to apologize! None at all! Why, I should be apologizing to you.

OWEN: And why’s that?

BIRD: Well, you may have noticed that my friend in the hat has been watching us, and you should be aware that he will break every bone in your arms and legs if you try to warn your new friends. He’s a lovely man, a true artist. So, just so we’re all playing fair, I need you to know that he’ll be following your every move. If you want to make it home through the slush tonight, you’ll help me out. There’s a box with a carved hand on the top of it. I need whatever is in it. You get that for me, and you can walk home. I might even spare the ladies. Don’t look so glum, chum! It’s a simple ask. Don’t disappoint me any further, Mr. Hopkinson. It would be such a waste. [SFX: he leaves]

OWEN_NARRATION: I didn’t like this one bit, but Bird had picked the wrong guy if he was looking for some kind of stoolie. He may have had the muscle, but he didn’t intimidate me. Or, well, at least not enough for me to give up and go home and abandon Judith and Claire. I knew his type. All bluster, hired brawn, more money than brains. Still, the bruiser in the corner looked like he could clean my clock and then some, so I’d have to play ball for now.

I walked to the basement door, feeling the prickling sensation of the meathead’s eyes trained on my back. I opened it gingerly and descended the staircase into the dimly lit area below. This was a risky move, but I could feel myself being drawn downwards, like a whisper on the wind calling out to me. 

As I headed down, I could see more handprints, all over the walls. They grew in number as I moved slowly down the stairs into the impossibly deep basement – how could this stairs go on for so long? Much like the one from earlier, these ones were also in a thick, red liquid that I assumed to be blood. My stomach lurched at the thought, but it only stopped when I had a realization that sent chills down my spine: The blood – I still didn’t want to call it blood, but that’s certainly what it looked and smelled like – wasn’t dry at all, in any spot. The handprints glistened and shimmered evilly in the bare bulbed light. My nerve was starting to give. This didn’t feel like Bird’s doings. This didn’t even feel like the doings of something human. But I couldn’t turn back now. I was in too deep, and I could only go deeper. In the basement, I looked around for the two ladies, but saw no one. [SFX: something falls to the floor in the room]

OWEN: Hello? Hello? Who’s there? [SFX: there’s a soft giggle] Miss Antoni? Miss Sterback? We need to talk. It’s about Bird.

NOT_JUDITH: Oh, I’d love a little chat.

OWEN: Ah, Miss Antoni, there you are.

NOT_JUDITH: Call me Judith.

OWEN: Alright, Judith.

NOT_JUDITH: Or better yet, call me Jude. You’ve called me that before, many a time.

OWEN: I don’t believe I have, but if that’s what you prefer-

NOT_JUDITH: Oh, I know what you’d prefer.

OWEN: Excuse me?

NOT_JUDITH: I saw how you looked at me when I walked in.

OWEN: Miss, please, I’m not here for anything unseemly.

NOT_JUDITH: It’s fine, I seem to be a lot of things right now…

OWEN: Uhh-… [SFX: turns and bumps into Claire]

NOT_CLAIRE: Do you want to run?

OWEN: Oh no.

NOT_CLAIRE: You can’t stop her from falling down into hell with me.

OWEN: Get away from me!

NOT_JUDITH: Do you want to burn, Owen?

OWEN: Don’t come any closer!

JUDITH: Detective? [SFX: she comes into the room]

OWEN: What? Hang on… what?

JUDITH: Who were you talking to?

OWEN: I… weren’t you…

JUDITH: Weren’t I just what?

OWEN: You were just here.

JUDITH: No, I was over there, with Claire.

OWEN: … The talisman … the talisman that you’re looking for… could it… look like a hand?


OWEN: The handprints. Could it be a hand? A carving? A piece of jewellery?

JUDITH: I assume it could very well be.

OWEN: … Something’s very wrong here, Judith. This whole place.

JUDITH: Yeah, you’re telling me. Listen, I’m glad you’re here. Claire found a door that leads even deeper behind a shelf and went down without waiting for me. We need to follow her. [SFX: she goes to leave, Owen grabs her arm]

OWEN: Judith…


OWEN: … don’t go.


OWEN: Don’t go. Don’t go with her.

JUDITH: What are you talking about?

OWEN: This is a bad idea. She’s…

JUDITH: She’s what?

OWEN: This thing is dangerous. It’s not safe down there. Don’t ask me how I know, but… I do. I just do. You can’t follow her.

JUDITH: I brought you in to this situation to help, not pass judgement.

OWEN: Judith, please.

JUDITH: Ms. Antoni.

OWEN: Jude- … Ms. Antoni.

JUDITH: She’s my friend, Detective. I can’t leave her. You can either join, or you can go. Either way, I’m going in after her. [SFX: she walks off]

OWEN_NARRATION: I don’t know what it was pushing me forward, but I couldn’t turn back. Not now. All we could do was head deeper into the belly of the beast.

OWEN: Damnit. [SFX: heads after her, heads downstairs]Judith, wait. I need to talk to you about Bird. He’s going to make his move. He’s putting pressure on me to get the object or whatever it might be for him first, but I- … oh.

JUDITH: Claire? Claire? What did you find-

BIRD: Ah, it appears you’ve stumbled across our little meeting! Don’t mind us. Actually, you know what? Stay. [SFX: one of the goons grabs Judith]

JUDITH: [struggling] Let go of me!

OWEN: How did you get in here?

BIRD: Ever heard of a back entrance? Besides, if any of you had half a brain, you would’ve taken a look at the planning documents for this space ages ago. So many lovely little passages to sneak in and out of! Now, I hate to tell you this, Detective Hopkinson, but I’m afraid you’ve been deemed to be useless to me after all. Boys? [SFX: goons block them in further] My apologies, but I can’t have you wandering off when things are getting good! Now, as you can see, we’ve done a little digging, and it turns out that the item I wanted was here all along! Isn’t that wonderful, Miss Sterback?

CLAIRE: Mr. Bird, I’d recommend that you put that box back.

BIRD: Ah, but you see, this is the thing that your grandmother kept from my family all these years. The talisman of power, my father’s heirloom to me, stolen. Pilfered! Kept out of my hands by a jealous woman. She was a devious, I’ll give you that, a loose spark in the woods. Thankfully, you’re not even half the woman she was. So let me enjoy my prize, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll let one of you leave. Who’s your favourite: the private eye, the dame, or your own skin?

CLAIRE: Archie, don’t you dare-

BIRD: Don’t tell me what I dare to do! If you’d been a little smarter, if you’d done the work, you would’ve known where to look and how to take this for yourself.

CLAIRE: Put that back! [SFX: she tries to move but a goon grabs her]

JUDITH: Don’t you touch her! [SFX: still struggling]

OWEN: Listen here, you brute, you let them go or else-

BIRD: Or else what? You’ll have our guts for garters?

OWEN: What are you going to do if I try?

BIRD: I have to admit, I’m personally not one to carry a weapon around. Get my hands dirty? Please. This is a new suit. Now, him, on the other hand… [SFX: goon pushes Judith away, she stumbles over, he cocks a gun, a stupid sound but like whatever, sometimes you have to use shorthand]

OWEN: Ah, right.

JUDITH: I assume you don’t have a weapon.

OWEN: Never wanted to be the kind of man who carries one. You know how they are.

JUDITH: Yeah, I do now.

BIRD: Now, here’s what I’m thinking- [SFX: phone rings]

CLAIRE: The line shouldn’t connect down here.

JUDITH: I wouldn’t recommend answering that.

BIRD: Oh come now, I’m curious as to who would call this decrepit basement. [SFX: picks up the phone] Hello?


BIRD: Excuse me?


BIRD: Who is this?


BIRD: Who did you have call? Who knows you’re down here?

CLAIRE: No one! [SFX: he slaps her]

BIRD: Tell me!

CLAIRE: Go to hell!

BIRD: Well, if you’re going to be insolent, then I will just take what I came here for and go. Whatever my two friends here choose to do once I leave the room, well, that’s for them to decide. [SFX: someone cracks their knuckles]

OWEN: Ladies, get behind me-

JUDITH: [SFX: grabs a pipe off the ground] Alright, you boys want to dance? Then step right up.

OWEN: Or that.

CLAIRE: Bird, give the box back to me.

BIRD: I want to see my prize. [SFX: he opens the small wooden box] Are you… playing some sort of joke on me?

CLAIRE: I assure you, I am not.

BIRD: This… this is a human HAND.

JUDITH: What the…

CLAIRE: Archie, put it down.

BIRD: [SFX: he throws the box to the ground] You FREAK, your whole family are FREAKS, I should’ve burned this place down when your grandmother was alive, the old WITCH.

CLAIRE: Archie-

BIRD: Who did this? Did you? Where did you get this?

CLAIRE: Archie!

BIRD: What?!

JUDITH: It has your wrist.

BIRD: Oh my god-… get it off me! Get it off!

OWEN: We need to get out of here.

BIRD: Don’t let them leave! Get this thing off me!

CLAIRE: Can you feel it?

JUDITH: I can.

OWEN: There’s a charge in the air.

BIRD: [SFX: banging around, trying to get it off, the hand starts to ash away] No, no! What is going on?

CLAIRE: Oh no, oh no, you were never meant to touch that, no, no no no!

JUDITH: Claire, what’s happening?

OWEN: Ladies, we need to run!- [SFX: he’s cut off by a huge deep booming sound from below, the walls start to crack and fall away and the ground breaks beneath their feet. There is screaming upstairs]

JUDITH: We can’t, the floor, the stairs, they’re falling apart! [SFX: a heavy crack]

BIRD: It… it won’t let go! It’s burning! It’s burning my skin!

CLAIRE: It knows you are unworthy! It will not let go until you have burned away!

BIRD: Get this off of me! Get it off!

CLAIRE: You can’t stop it.

BIRD: [SFX: screams horribly as he immolates and dies] [SFX: the floor cracks beneath them, and fire pours out]

JUDITH: Claire, look out behind you!

CLAIRE: [SFX: she screams, slips, falls] Judith!

JUDITH: Claire! [SFX: she grabs her, but she’s struggling] Just hold on! Owen, help! I can’t pull her out of this abyss, the heat is too much!

OWEN: [SFX: he grabs her hand] I got you! [SFX: he struggles to keep upright, the ground breaks away more] Oh, SHIT.

CLAIRE: Judith, don’t let go! Please, don’t let me fall!

JUDITH: I won’t, I won’t! Please, hang on! [SFX: there’s a crumbling sound, and she’s struck by a falling piece of wall. She stumbles] Owen!

OWEN: [SFX: he loses grip on her hand] Jude! Grab my hand!

JUDITH: I can’t reach it! [SFX: the ground cracks further, the fires roar up, Judith loses her grip and Claire falls into the abyss, screaming] CLAIRE! [SFX: the fires pick up around them] Owen, please, please pull me up, please, please don’t let go!

OWEN: [SFX: struggling] I’m trying, just hang on, I won’t let go, I- [SFX: she slips from his grasp] JUDE!

[SFX: she falls screaming into the fiery abyss below, the walls collapse, the fires rage, and Owen burns as well. Voices from the past scream out, the ghosts of a hundred nightmares pound against the broken glass that litters the ground outside the building. The basement is endless. There is no way out, there is no way to escape, there is only the flames and the fear that envelopes everyone as the ground breaks away. The static builds until it turns into a 2-beep, and Owen wakes up suddenly. Joke’s on you, it was a dream all along! Yes, we did this trope! We will not be stopped! Anyway, they’re in a car, driving down the highway. Judith’s gently trying to wake Owen as she drives]

JUDITH: Hey, hey, oh god, why are you so sweaty? You alright there, buddy?

OWEN: Hnngh… what? Man, how long was I asleep?

JUDITH: You’ve been out for a few hours. Thought it would be best to just let you take a little nap.

OWEN: Huh.

JUDITH: You alright there? Sounded like you were having a bit of a stressful dream there.

OWEN: Yeah… was I talking in my sleep?

JUDITH: Definitely more towards then end, but mostly just mumbling.

OWEN: Ah. Yeah, just… had a really vivid dream.

JUDITH: Was I there?

OWEN: Yeah.

JUDITH: Was it weird?

OWEN: Yeah.

JUDITH: Was it scary?

OWEN: Yep.

JUDITH: Horny?

OWEN: I’m not answering that.

JUDITH: Ah, I’ll catch you one of these days.

OWEN: What were you listening to?

JUDITH: Oh, I threw on an audiobook. I forget what it’s called, something I rented before we left, but it’s some detective mystery novel thing. The reader’s got a relaxing voice, though. 

OWEN: You’ll have to fill me in on the plot and let me know what I missed out on. Where are we at?

JUDITH: We crossed into New Brunswick an hour or so ago.

OWEN: Fantastic.

JUDITH: You know, you woke up just in time, the sky out here is amazing.

OWEN: Yeah, that is just… wow.

JUDITH: I have to admit though, don’t know if we’ll make it to Saint John’s before it gets dark.

OWEN: That’s your fault.

JUDITH: Look, I just really wanted to go to Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! because how can one turn down the chance to go to the only place in the world with TWO exclamation points in its name?

OWEN: I’m not saying you were wrong, I’m just saying we spent too long taking pictures.

JUDITH: No regrets.

OWEN: Good. Delays aside, I am glad that we finally got to do this.

JUDITH: Yeah, yeah. I wish Claire could’ve been here.

OWEN: I know. [they sit there in silence for a bit] Did the phone ring while I was asleep.


OWEN: Did you answer it?

JUDITH: No. That’s just something I’m saving for when we get home. For now, let’s put the audiobook back on and maybe we can stop somewhere and get a coffee. That’s my holiday gift to us. No spooky calls. Or possibly telemarketers. I haven’t been checking the numbers, to be honest, so it could just be Rogers again, I don’t know. But… yeah.

OWEN: I like this plan. [pause, looks out the window] Looks like it’s starting to snow out there.

JUDITH: Very festive.

OWEN: Yep. Merry Christmas, Jude.

JUDITH: Merry Christmas, Owen.

[SFX: They keep driving in the gentle snow. They make plans for dinner, discuss their itinerary for the next few days, talk softly about the things that still scare them in the night. They sit there in the warm silence of the car and just enjoy each other’s company, because the darkness still looms, the pain still throbs deep within, and nothing is ever truly over, but maybe it can be put on pause, just for a while, just for tonight.]