The second and final part of my ten-minute play that Wily West Productions will stage in June.
THE DUCK, Part II.
The story thus far: In Part I, FBI Agents DeMarco and Fredricksen requested a DNA swab from Hope Judith Hauser in connection with a missing child case. She is an amnesiac with no memory of her life before she woke up in a hospital bed at age 7. Hope snaps, and in a long speech refuses to cooperate, because she has been interviewed hundreds of times and can’t take it any longer.
HOPE: You have a warrant. Your ilk always does. You’ve never needed it before, but you need it now, so shove it in my face and force me. Just do it and get out of my life.
(FREDRICKSEN starts to reach inside a pocket for the warrant, but DEMARCO stops this with a gesture.)
DEMARCO: We prefer that you choose to help. (Pause.) Hope, we said this was an unusual case for us. We did not say why.
FREDRICKSEN: Ms. Hauser, we’ve always investigated homicides.
DEMARCO: No, you’re not a suspect. Unless the evidence is wrong, you might be–we think you’re the murder victim.
(Extremely long pause, take your time.)
DEMARCO: Last month, a piece of slime who name does not deserve memorialization got smoked at San Quentin, California, meaning the gas chamber, for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl near Sacramento. Before he died, he wrote a confession. This drifter crossed the country for 37 years raping and killing 45 girls in 22 states. His eleventh victim, name unknown, kidnapped in Minnesota, transported across state lines into Wisconsin, was raped, then beaten to death with a baseball bat. He threw the body into the Mississippi near Jamestown sometime in July 1975.
FREDRICKSEN: On July 15, 1975, Edward and Samantha Verdi of Winona, Minnesota report seven-year-old Sabina Antonia Verdi has gone missing. Despite an intensive search lasting nearly two months, no trace of her ever appears. No body.
DEMARCO: Fredricksen had an idea. The Verdis live close to Iowa and Wisconsin; maybe the body floated across state lines. Except no dead bodies matching that description were reported. But my partner had a second good idea.
FREDRICKSEN: What if–Sabina Verdi had survived? The states back then were terrible at coordinating efforts, keeping records, sharing records, we had no national database. Which brings us to 20-year-old Thomas James Hauser and his fiancée, Abigail Louise Casper, also 20, of Lansing, Iowa.
DEMARCO: Mr. Hauser and Ms. Casper were walking near Black Hawk Bridge when they hear what the report describes as quote, frantic quacking, unquote. Whatever “frantic quacking” might be. They go down to the river where they find a young girl with a fractured skull washed up on the bank, unconscious and, quote, nine-tenths dead, unquote, somehow clinging to a log. Plus a female mallard standing next to the girl, watching the couple.
HOPE: The duck.
FREDRICKSEN: The unconscious girl has such a death grip on the log they have to carry her and the log to his station wagon–with the duck walking after them. Watching as they leave.
HOPE: I don’t know if it’s a memory-
FREDRICKSEN: They deliver the unconscious girl to the nearest ER, where they swear they see that same duck. Watching them.
HOPE: -I don’t know if it’s a dream-
FREDRICKSEN: The doctors revive the girl and save her life, but cannot help her recover her lost memory. Total amnesia.
HOPE: -or if it was a hallucination.
DEMARCO: Eventually, Mr. Hauser and Ms. Kaspar file adoption papers, and the girl becomes Hope Judith Hauser.
HOPE: I was the ring bearer at the wedding. It was beautiful. They gave me the first slice of cake. I still have the hat they gave me to cover my shaved head and the stitches.
DEMARCO: It would constitute a mind-blowing coincidence if two young girls with fractured skulls ended up in the Mississippi River at the same time.
HOPE: No. I won’t do it.
HOPE: This time the heart I’ll break shall be my own.
FREDRICKSEN: Ms. Hauser, with all due respect, this is mostly not about you. If you are Sabina Antonia Verdi, you have two parents, an sister, a brother, and a bunch of nieces and nephews who want to see you. Plus a 95-year-old grandmother who isn’t doing too well.
HOPE: Ooooh, nice use of pathos.
FREDRICKSEN: Thank you.
DEMARCO: You’re welcome.
(If she has not already stood up, HOPE stands now. She lets her jaw hang down. FREDRICKSEN takes a DNA swab.)
HOPE: I am the worst hypocrite.
DEMARCO: No. You might have made yourself a very happy woman.
HOPE: I might make the Verdis happy. I am a total amnesiac. At best, I will be hugged by strangers.
FREDRICKSEN: Good to go. Here’s my card.
DEMARCO: Here’s mine.
HOPE: I will remain Hope Judith Hauser. I love my parents.
FREDRICKSEN: We will have the results ASAP.
DEMARCO: Thank you for your cooperation, Ms. Hauser.
FREDRICKSEN: Yeah, we appreciate it.
(The detectives await a response. Get none.)
DEMARCO: Fair enough. We got what we came for. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Let’s go.
FREDRICKSEN: Thank you for cooperating. We’re sorry about your loss.
(The agents await a response. Get none. EXIT TAMORO and FREDRICKSEN. Long pause.)
HOPE: I don’t know if it’s a memory, a hallucination, a dream. Lost. The air felt warm, the water felt cold, I floated in darkness. I wanted sleep. I started to sink into the water like sinking into mud. I bumped into a log. I can’t remember grabbing it. Sunrise came. There was a duck. I can’t remember how or when it got there. It paddled next to me. The duck talked to me and I understood it or maybe it was a dream or maybe I was delirious and it was in my head but I understood the duck and I knew what it said.
“Don’t give up. Don’t let go. Don’t give up. Don’t let go.”
The closest I’ve ever come to God was a duck.
(HOPE stands, gathers her bags.)
HOPE: I hope they’re OK with Hope Judith Hauser. But…Sabina. Antonia. Verdi…the name could have been worse.
(EXIT into house. FADE TO BLACK. FINIS.)
The “maybe over 50,000” number is not a fantasy. According to NISMART-2 (the second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children), an October 2002 survey found an estimated 58,200 child victims of non-family abductions during the study year, “defined more broadly to include all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser amounts of forced movement or detention.” These 58,200 victims included 115 victims of “stereotypical kidnappings,” defined as abductions “perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.” The number’s not a fantasy.