Mirage

MIRAGE
A SCREENPLAY





INT. OUT OF THE WAY OFFICE – NIGHT

Smoke pours out of bottom of the door. The handle’s half-broken, and the logo on the window is faded and chipped at. It reads “HARDING INVESTIGATIONS.”

The door opens and reveals the dingy, cramped office of a private detective. There’s papers all over the floor. An ashtray filled with bottle caps and chewed gum. An empty hatrack. The blinding orange streets and blinking rays of the skyscrapers light up the office, but only to just past the window. Everything else is dim, covered in shadow.

MORGAN HARDING’S pupils stick out in the darkness. And that’s when we see our hero. Feet on the desk. Shit-eating grin. Greasy black hair. Morgan looks at the camera. Winks.

MORGAN
Been waiting for a dame like you to come walking in.


Morgan sets down a half-completed crossword puzzle and sits up. A set and a sit, and it’s time for business. Business, with a little bit of pleasure.

She’s a delicate creature, this KARINA KODAMA, curvaceous, cuddle-worthy, brimming with exactly the kind of shivering energy a good client needs. Biting her lip, hand on her forearm, slumped over– she’s downright hysterical.

And Morgan likes hysterical.

MORGAN
So, what’s it? Need me to find a lost item? Get dirt on an ex-girlfriend? Want someone bumped off? I don’t do bumping.


Karina says nothing. Morgan keeps grinning.

MORGAN
Name the job. I’ll name the price.

Morgan pulls out a cigarette from a shirt pocket. Flashes it. Karina shakes her head. It’s flicked away, just like all illegal substances should be.

KARINA
I want to start a band.

MORGAN
That’s nice. Tell me the friggin’ job, dame.

KARINA
Start a band with me.

MORGAN
Start a band… with you.

KARINA
You’re a private investigator, right? Investigate my band.

MORGAN
What’s the pay like?

KARINA
Fifty bucks a week. Contract deal with a major label once we hit it big. Fame and fortune.

MORGAN
And what’s in it for you?

KARINA
Nothing. I’m offering you a deal. You’re a star, I get to see you headline my band. Simple proposition.

MORGAN
I don’t do that kind of thing anymore.


At this, Karina takes a seat in the ratty chair in front of Morgan’s desk. She doesn’t let herself get comfortable, leaning forward with the kind of eagerness you see in a bank robber looking at the teller. Any nervous energy she had before is gone now. The look in her eyes, through her glasses, is positively alluring.

Morgan’s grin folds into a smirk.

KARINA
I watched your show every week, Morgan Harding. The Sage of the Saxophone. You made magic with music, Morgan. We need that back.

MORGAN
Magic’s gone. The Sage and me went our separate ways. We don’t talk these days.

KARINA
Then tell me, where can I find this Sage?

MORGAN
You can’t. The Sage is way outta town. So far outta town you won’t believe it. Oklahoma, maybe.

KARINA
Then what’s your play here?

MORGAN
My play is money. The magic is in the money.

KARINA
And if there’s no Sage of Saxophone?

MORGAN
Well, I always got piano.

KARINA
That’s my Morgan.

MORGAN
We’ve never met, but I can tell this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership.

KARINA
There’s only one condition.


Morgan’s ears perk up.

MORGAN
Broads like you always got a condition.


Morgan leans over the desk. Karina leans in closer to match.

KARINA
Yeah, we do. And don’t call me broad.

MORGAN
Sorry, pretty lady. I won’t call you broad.

KARINA
Nice to hear it.

MORGAN
What I wanna hear about is this condition. I’m intrigued. Interested.

KARINA
Maybe we can do more than condition later. But for now… Let me introduce you to our partner.

MORGAN
Our partner, what do you–


A new figure enters the office. They say three’s a crowd. And this office is already tight.

It’s MARGE EISENHOWER. Fedora and all.

MARGE
Welcome to the band.

MORGAN
Welcome to the– what…

KARINA
Welcome to the band.

MORGAN
No, I’m not… No.

MARGE
Welcome to Fleetwood Peach.


***

“Did I tell you I hate you, Marge?” I ask.

“My goodness, no. Why would you ever tell me that?”

“Because I hate you.”

“Oh, Morgan, you’re such a card.”

“I’m not reading the rest of this this screenplay.”

“What? You’re only five pages in,” she says. “There’s another eighty to go! C’mon, Morgan, you don’t have to sugarcoat it. Give me your honest feedback.”

“I honestly hate it. You are the worst sister I’ve ever had.”

“And the best.”

The real mirage is not this screenplay. It’s my entire existence, which exists to be toyed with by my older sister.

Fleetwood Peach is a pretty good band name though.


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