FADE IN: "A BLUEBIRD BETRAYED" EXT. CALIFORNIA COASTAL CLIFF -- DAY JESSICA McCOOL, 25, unassuming yet with a keen sense of what is just, and love of her life MATTHEW, 27, climb the cliff face above the ocean. From the crest, Matthew stretches down the cliff to help Jessica. Jessica reaches for his hand, but loses footing; pieces of sandstone crumble and fall, far into the waves below. She regains her footing, and Matthew grabs her hand. EXT. CLIFF TOP Matthew spins Jessica victoriously. They laugh and kiss passionately. EXT. CLIFF TOP -- LATE AFTERNOON Matthew and Jessica sit against a rock, gazing at the ocean. Matthew takes a cigar from his pocket and lights up, assessing it. MATTHEW Good stuff. But today was your day, you shouldnít be buying me gifts. JESSICA Today would never have come without you. MATTHEW I love you so much. He kisses her. MATTHEW If I died right now, I'd have lived a full and perfect life. He jumps up, lifts his collar up and clamps the cigar in his teeth. Assuming a grim expression and a bureaucratic posture he imitates a Congressman: MATTHEW No, Ms. Jessica Justice, Reporter Extraordinaire, Honors-Graduate McCool, I have no comment at this time. Spinning around, Matthew takes the cigar from his mouth and holds it like a microphone in the imaginary Congressman's face, imitating Reporter Jess. MATTHEW Isn't it true, Mr. Bureaucrat, Mr. Beltway-Bandit Politician Man, that you never intended to repay the five gazillion dollar mortgage on your worthless desert sand- land that you borrowed from your conniving, corrupt banker buddy in Oklahoma City, you self-serving sellout? Matthew resumes the posture of the Congressman. MATTHEW Where did you get that from? I never said such a thing. (imitating reporter Jess) Oh but you did, you gutless, greedy, corner-cutting Congressman -- you said it to the water girl behind the 12th hole at Kualihali Maui Waui after you showed her how you could crush a dixie cup with your bare butt. I know you said this; I had the dixie cup wired! Matthew, imitating the scared Congressman trying to get away from the reporter, hurries toward the edge of the cliff. MATTHEW I never said this, I don't remember, I don't know anything about it. It would never stand up in a court of law. (as reporter) Ah, but I'm not going to use it in a court of law, I'm going to use it in a newspaper, and newspapers are allowed to use all facts to expose the truth! (imitating Congressman) Oh God, please don't print that, it'll ruin me. I've got a family, you know! (as reporter) Unfortunately for your family, Sir, you've got no integrity! Jessica laughs uproariously. Matthew, as the triumphant reporter, turns on his heel, chin up, and steps right off the cliff. Jessica wipes tears of laughter from her eyes, looks up to see the cigar bounce on the ground in a flurry of flaming ash, but no Matthew. She laughs once more, subdued, questioning; it doesn't register. JESSICA Matthew? INT. CORPORATE LOBBY, SANTA MONICA -- ONE YEAR LATER -- DAY The lobby is grey, cold, vast. Jessica sits at a reception island that almost swallows her. She peers over the high counter to glimpse out of the darkly-tinted windows. The PHONE RINGS, she answers it. JESSICA Good morning, Hurth Heath Howard & Pister, how may I help you? (pause) Yes, Aunt Peg, I'll find a gift. A short, balding young man in a suit, SNEPP, enters the lobby. JESSICA (phone) Tonight. Have to go now. Jess hangs up and watches Snepp with dislike as he leans on the counter, invading her space. Jessica picks up the phone, dials. JESSICA (phone) Hi, Loretta. Snepp is here to see Mr. Heath. Snepp smirks down at Jessica as she hangs up the phone. JESSICA Have a seat. It'll be just a minute. SNEPP Come on, Jessica, call me Sir, just once. Jessica swivels her chair to work on the computer. SNEPP Well you might want to practice: "Yes, Sir, Mr. Snepp, right away, Sir." Because after this meeting, I'll be Mr. Burt Snepp, Vice President of Operations. And I'll need a good assistant. Did you hear me? There'd be bonuses. Tell me the truth, don't you get bored in this job? Sitting here all by your lonesome, nothing to do but write love letters? The elevator doors open across the lobby. LORETTA steps out. She's forty-something, British, tall, and exudes the hard cynicism of a career executive assistant. LORETTA Mr. Snepp? Mr. Heath is ready to see you, Sir. Jessica looks up at Snepp and he winks at her. SNEPP See? Just takes a little practice. (turning to Loretta) Loretta! How was your vacation? Loretta holds the elevator door for Snepp and steps in next to him. The doors close on her reply: LORETTA Too short, but thank you for asking. Alone again, Jessica stares angrily at the keyboard. The PHONE RINGS, she answers with a strained voice. JESSICA Hurth Heath Howard & Pister, how may I help you? EXT. BEACH BOARDWALK -- LATE AFTERNOON Jessica leans against a wall, smoking a cigarette, glumly watching happy beach people roller and bike by her. INT. BEACH BOOKSTORE -- NIGHT Jessica looks through coffee table books. She picks up a BIRD BOOK, with an illustration of a bluebird on the cover. The bookstore is large, modern and busy. Small groups of people stream past Jessica toward the back of the store, TALKING heatedly to each other and carrying copies of a RED-JACKETED BOOK. INT. BOOKSTORE At the register, Jessica waits for the CLERK to copy her drivers license number on the check. A red sign on the counter catches her eye. The sign reads: "TONIGHT: Hear the author of RedBird Rising speak out against government corruption!" Below the announcement is a PHOTOGRAPH of a handsome man, late thirties, with intense eyes. The clerk sticks the receipt inside the book and slides it across the counter to Jess. Jessica lingers an instant, riveted by the author's photograph. CLERK They're in the back room. It's free. Jessica glances to the back of the store to see the last red-book-toting customer file into another room. She takes her book. JESSICA Thanks. INT. BOOKSTORE BACK ROOM The room is packed -- all the chairs are taken. CARL McGRUDER stands beside a podium at the head of the room, drinking water. A table lined with RedBird Rising books shares the stage with Carl. Jessica enters the room and stands against the back wall. Carl sets the glass on the podium and waits for everyone to settle. CARL If truth is stranger than fiction, I'm sure you'll agree that my story is truly strange. This is a story about murder and betrayal: the murder of a good man and the betrayal of a nation, of your nation, of all of you. Carl drinks water and looks over the audience. His gaze lingers on Jess. CARL Years ago I co-owned a small air- freight service based in New Mexico. My best friend Tommy Danforth crunched numbers, I flew the freight. Mostly to Central America, mostly for the same customers. One day I got curious about what what nature of freight I was moving, so I checked it out: and you guessed it: it was guns and cash going out, cocaine coming in. Members of the audience gasp. CARL That's what I thought. Tommy said, don't sweat it, this is undercover stuff. He insisted on taking the next run himself. Tommy was a helluva flyboy. But on that next run, his plane went down. I know they killed him. INT. BOOKSTORE BACK ROOM -- LATER THAT NIGHT A line forms at the signing table. Carl sits at the table and signs books. As he hands a signed book to someone, Carl notices Jess looking through a copy of RedBird Rising. CARL Should I sign it? JESSICA I didn't buy one. CARL Would you like one? JESSICA That's okay. CARL After listening to me for two hours you've decided you're not interested? JESSICA It's not that I don't want one, I just don't have one. Carl hands her a book. CARL Take this one. It's on me. JESSICA You don't have to do that. CARL (setting the book down) What book did you buy? Jessica lowers the bird book so Carl can see the cover. CARL You prefer bluebirds to redbirds? JESSICA It's a gift for someone. CARL You're smarter than most. Carl resumes signing books. EXT. BOOKSTORE PARKING LOT -- NIGHT Jess hurries through the lot to avoid detection by a group of raucous, partying surfers. She is startled by a hand, from nowhere, grabbing her shoulder. CARL Alone out here, you should be careful. JESSICA This is my car. Still slightly spooked, Jess manages to open the door of her tired-looking but vintage VW Bug. Carl helps her in. JESSICA Thanks. CARL My pleasure. JESSICA Thanks also for everything youíre doing, with the book. I wish I was as brave. She shuts the car door and starts the engine. Carl taps on her window, she cracks it. CARL I could use your help. JESSICA Canít imagine how. CARL On a piece Iím doing for the Washington Post. High level corruption. Sensitive stuff. JESSICA The Post? CARL Okay, you caught me. I do have an ulterior motive. Iíd like to spend some time with you. Whatís your name? JESSICA How could I possibly help you? You donít know me. CARL What is your name? JESSICA Jessica. CARL Jessica, I think Iíd like to know you. Would that be so bad? Take a risk, invest a little time, make a new friend?