AT THE RANCH

BY

HENRIETTE MOUSTAKIS

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

Int. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE – DAY

There is a hallway and a door leading outside. In the office, books fill the large bookcases; A window looks over the desert. A small desk with papers centers the room. On the desk are a calculator and a computer.

An attractive man about 40 years of age is sitting behind a desk. He is wearing a business suit and glasses. This man is J.B. BOGUS. DUKE, the bordello bouncer enters. He is very tall, large and quite ugly. He, too, is dressed in a suit. An elderly man enters and speaks. He is the State Medical officer, lovingly called DOC.

DOC

On October 31st, 1864 the Nevada became the newest member of these here United States of America, and we've been turning tricks ever since.

He exits and action begins.

DUKE

T. Andrews is here.

J.B.

Send him in.

DUKE

It's a she.

J.B.

A woman! What is the agency crazy? They can't send a woman here. Send her away.

DUKE

From the looks of her, she looks like she has no where else to go.

J.B.

All right, send her in. An interview can't hurt.

A shy, desperate plain-looking woman enters. She is TONI ANDREWS. He stands up.

J.B.

Hello.

(Walks over and extends his hand)

My name is J.B. Bogus.

TONI

(taking his hand)

Toni Andrews. The agency sent me.

J.B.

(Motioning)

Have a seat. Would you like some coffee?

TONI

No thank you. I'm nervous enough as it is.

She sits down and he goes behind his desk.

J.B.

I'll be frank with you, MS. Andrews. I'm very surprised the agency sent me a woman. It's just the nature of this work might be considered sensitive to some, in fact to most.

TONI

Since when is accounting sensitive?

J.B.

Let me see you resume.

(She gives it to him and he reads.)

That explains it. I think someone played a trick on you. I see from your resume, you're from Iowa.

TONI

Yes, is that important?

J.B.

This is Nevada. Here, prostitution is legal. You're in a legalized bordello, a house of ill repute.

TONI

I see. From the outside it looks like a plain housing complex.

J.B.

We don't need to advertise to everyone on the highway. Are you staying in town?

TONI

I wish. I've been living out of my car for a week now.

J.B.

I see...I'm sorry, MS. Andrews. You just won't do. You appear to be a nice girl. This position would be better suited for a man. I'm only thinking of you.

TONI

What exactly is the position? I don't believe I just said that.

J.B.

Nothing glamorous. Just the house accountant, debts and credits, bill paying. Just regular office work.

TONI

I can handle that.

J.B.

You definitely are qualified. May I ask why you left Des Moines? You were well vested in the insurance company.

TONI

My life was going nowhere. I wanted a fresh start. Since I have allergies, I thought the desert climate would do me good.

J.B.

So, you chose Nevada?

TONI

My budget did. I ran out of money a few days ago. I really need a job.

J.B.

But at a ranch? We don't raise horses here.

TONI

It's only accounting.

J.B.

Oh, maybe it will work. You sure are smart. Let me tell you about us. You already know what are and from the highway we look normal. Normally, we live in trailers. This ranch is an exception. You see we rent this property from the rancher next door. We are publicly owned. We sell stocks and have our own Board of Directors. I'm only the manager of a glorified barn.

TONI

Now, I see why it's so familiar to me.

J.B.

This is the main house, in fact the office you'll be working in. As you can see from the mess on this desk, the former accountant left in a hurry. I made him. You see, MS. Andrews, I have one strict rule. NO dating between employees. I can't stop friendships, but nothing more. The only ones allowed in the house are the girls and the bouncer. My prior accountant broke those rules. So, I fired him. We are a business here. Since we are legal, we pay taxes and get audited, frequently. Therefore, I have need for a certified accountant.

TONI

The agency mentioned room and board?

J.B.

In back of this building are two smaller ones. One houses our clinic and cafeteria. That was recently built. The other is the living quarters for the non-working staff. Those rooms were once stables. Of course, we've built them up to code. Fires are very dangerous, especially when you're far from civilization. You see, brothels cannot exist in a community of over 100,000 people. They don't like to admit to us. In fact, there is a move to delegislate us. It comes up every year and every year our unions and lobbyists defeat it. We have since 1971. We simply bring in too much money for them to quarrel.

TONI

How many communities are there?

J.B.

At last count, thirty-four. You just can't find us because we're in rural areas.

TONI

How do you get your...staff?

J.B.

You mean the girls? They apply for the job. Some are bored housewives, some have boyfriends. Most go home to someone. It's just a job.

TONI

How would they apply?

J.B.

By filling out employment forms, just like you. You name it, they need it: references, letters of recommendation-

TONI

Resumes?

J.B.

Preferably. Some even get refused. The ones accepted must have work cards certifying health and age. They must be 18 or over to work and can prove it. You would be easier to hire. In fact, I would be refusing you if you weren't an accountant. You're not the type. If you accept my offer, you would be considered a member of the non-working staff only. I think you get my drift. This includes kitchen, maids, our bouncer and you. We all live in the third house.

TONI

Where do you live?

J.B.

I live there too. As you came in, you saw three doors. One is our back door...our back door. Access to regular living quarters can be reached by the other door. There is no need to meet the girls. We have a few that help out, but they basically keep to themselves. It's not good office politics to mix the two. Are you STILL interested?

TONI

All I would be doing is paper work?

J.B.

Yes. Just because you're female doesn't mean you would be...helping out. Frankly, you're not the type. My girls are beautiful. All you would be doing is sharpening pencils.

TONI

I know you meant that as a compliment, but I'm not sure of your phrasing.

She sneezes.

J.B.

Bless you. Allergies?

TONI

A cold. I felt it coming for days.

J.B.

A cold?

(He freezes for a second.)

Your living quarters consist of a large studio flat with limited cooking facilities. It's small but comfortable, but far from the house so you won't be bothered. Your hours are 9 to 5, Monday through Saturday. Wednesday and Sunday are your days off. We close down.

TONI

What type of accounting will I do?

J.B.

Let's call it creative, legal but creative. Each girl gets paid union scale. We accept credit cards. Payroll is very easy. At the end of every week, a check is issued with taxes removed, just like a regular job. These girls average 30 to 70 thousand a year.

TONI

And all that for lying on their backs? I'm in the wrong racket.

J.B.

We both are. You will also pay utilities and our monthly doctor. In short, I may be manager but you would be my right hand person. Many times I won't be here. I have frequent visits to town, sometimes for days. You will take over then. Any problems and our bouncer jumps in. No one questions him and lives.

TONI

I will agree he's large.

J.B.

So, you accept?

TONI

Yes.

J.B.

I don't know, MS. Andrews. I've never hired a woman. They're usually reformers. My girls are my business. None are here by force. If you have any religious or social hang-ups, I don't want you.

TONI

I've never been religious. My parents are.

J.B.

Farmers usually are.

TONI

Not everyone from Des Moines is a farmer. I'm a city girl. That's a misconception.

J.B.

The beginning of many I see. I have to admit your resume is impressive. I've spent hours trying to figure this out. I swear this guy got his degree at Woolworth's.

(picking up a few sheets)

This will take a miracle. I'll try you out for a few weeks. If it doesn't work, I'll pay your trip back home. I've been broke before. I know the feeling.

(rising and extending hand)

Welcome to the ranch. I'll have Lucy show you to your quarters.

TONI

Lucy?

J.B.

She's my eldest..girl. I've only been here for five years. She came with the place.

(turns on the intercom)

Duke, send in Lucy. You'll like her. She's like the girl's den mother.

TONI

Will I see the other girls?

J.B.

Just Sable. She'll be bringing you your meals. Sable is her professional name. All our girls have one, except Lucy.

A middle-aged yet attractive woman enters. She is LUCY.

LUCY

Yeah?

J.B.

(standing)

I'd like you to show MS. Andrews to her quarters.

LUCY

(confused)

She's not quite our style?

J.B.

Ms. Andrews is our new accountant.

LUCY

A woman?

J.B.

I'll explain later.

LUCY

Maria isn't finished cleaning yet. She needs more time.

J.B.

I see. Have you eaten, MS. Andrews?

TONI

Not since last night.

J.B.

You must be starving. Show her to the cafeteria. That should give Maria time.

LUCY

Yes, J.B..

TONI

(standing)

Thank you, Mr. Bogus.

J.B.

Remember my rule. I have no qualms of shipping you off to Des Moines if you break it.

TONI

I won't.

J.B.

I'll try and make sense of these papers. For today, just relax and settle in. Vegas is only an hour drive. Take advantage and enjoy yourself. You won't have time afterwards.

The women leave and enter the hall.

TONI

He always that businesslike?

LUCY

Take no heed of him, honey.

(Toni sneezes.)

Bless you.

TONI

God, I hate colds.

LUCY

Honey, don't say that word around here.

TONI

God?

LUCY

No, colds. Mr. B. is a fanatic about colds. A.I.D.S, V.D., politicians he can deal with, not colds.

TONI

Why?

LUCY

You'll find out soon enough. Let's get some chicken soup in you. The faster that cold is gone, the better.

The women exit.

End of Scene one.

SCENE TWO.

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE—DAY

Toni is trying to make sense of her desk. Papers are in stacks all over the room. A knock is heard and an elderly man enters carrying a doctor's bag. She looks up. This is the Doctor Wilson.

DOC

Are you Toni Andrews?

TONI

Yes.

DOC

I'm Doc Wilson. Call me, Doc. Everyone does.

TONI

All right, Doc. How may I help you?

DOC

I come here every month. The state sends me.

TONI

I'm the new accountant. I'll be paying you. Nice to meet you.

She coughs.

DOC

Nice cough. I see I've come in time.

TONI

I beg your pardon?

DOC

J.B. tells me you have a cold.

TONI

Yes, but I don't need a doctor. I have my Nyquinn.

DOC

That garbage. Wino's drink that to get high. I came to give you some antibiotics. Are you allergic to penicillin?

TONI

No. Look, doctor?

DOC

I said, call me Doc. I hate formalities.

TONI

Why the big deal about my cold? People get them everyday.

DOC

No one's told you.

TONI

I only started today. And by the looks of this desk, I have my work cut out for me.

She sneezes.

DOC

Here!

(gives her bottle and shoves a thermometer in her mouth)

Follow the directions on this bottle and get plenty of bed rest. Drink hot liquids and-

TONI

(taking thermometer out of mouth)

Doc, I've had colds before.

(Doc puts it back. Next line is slurred.)

This isn't my first.

DOC

No, but it will be your last, here at least.

(She starts to speak.)

Don't talk yet.

He takes her pulse.

TONI

(slurred)

This is silly.

DOC

(taking it out and checking it)

At least there's no fever. J.B. will be pleased.

TONI

You act as if he's Howard Hughes. It's only a germ. You don't die from a cold.

DOC

(very serious)

I used to say that. Take some advice. Don't ever say those words to J.B.. Just follow my instructions.

TONI

All right. Thank you, Doc.

DOC

I'll be in next Wednesday for my check-ups.

(starts to leave and turns)

Oh, by the way. What is Toni short for?

TONI

Antonia Alice Marie. Please, call me Toni.

DOC

Got it. I won't spread it around.

TONI

I appreciate it.

He starts to leave and turns again.

DOC

I hear you're from farm country.

TONI

I was raised in the city.

DOC

I take it you ride horses?

TONI

The closest I've been to a horse has been Mr. Ed reruns. Why do you ask?

DOC

Did you see the horse ranch before the turn off? The owner and J.B. go way back. He lets the girls work the horses on their days off. We often go as a group. It relaxes the girls. Plus, the animals are beautiful. Quite a few have won famous races. We try and make a picnic of it.

TONI

I'd be scared to death to ride one.

DOC

Sunday, you join us. I'll make an equestrian out of you. They're really lovely animals.

(She sneezes again.)

First get rid of that cold. Good day, Ms. Andrews.

He leaves and a young girl enters. She is SABLE.

SABLE

I'm Sable. I've brought you your breakfast. Drink you tea. The water's still not. It will help your—

TONI

Cold. This is really getting silly. All right. I'll drink my tea. Your boss must be Howard Hughes.

She pours a cup.

SABLE

Jack sure left you a mess.

TONI

Tell me about it. Mr. Bogus wasn't kidding. I've been checking some of his figures, and they're wrong. This guy couldn't even count. How can I balance books when I can't even trust the figures? It will take weeks to sort this mess out.

SABLE

I could help. I never finished high school, but I took a few correspondence courses. I'm great at filing.

Toni coughs.

TONI

Do you type?

SABLE

With two fingers.

TONI

Well, you could start by putting these in date order. That's if your boss doesn't mind.

SABLE

Our mornings are our own. He doesn't care what we do.

TONI

He mentioned not mixing the two-

SABLE

Services. Don't worry about that. Lucy and I are safe. So, where do you want me to start, Ms. Andrews?

TONI

Please, call me Toni.

SABLE

Mr. B. is very professional. It's better if we stick to our professional names, at least yours.

TONI

It's so cold.

SABLE

I know, but it's better. Well, give me a pile.

This is the end of scene two.

SCENE THREE

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE—DAY

Toni is at her desk. Before her are open books with several receipts lying loose on the desk. Sable is working in another part of the room. Toni looks confused as she peers over the receipts. She looks up at Sable.

TONI

Sable, could you come here please?

SABLE

Yeah, sure. What's the problem?

TONI

I've been trying to match up these receipts with last night's figures and I can't. There's too many abbreviations I don't understand. They seem to have a numerical equivalency but I don't know what they are. Maybe you could help explain them to me.

SABLE

I'll try.

TONI

(grabbing one)

This one says N.

SABLE

Oh, that's normal.

TONI

What is K?

SABLE

Kinky, you know, out of the ordinary.

TONI

KBS?

SABLE

Kinky but safe.

TONI

S & M, don't tell me. I think I know that one.

SABLE

See, you're getting the idea.

TONI

And you girls get paid through itemizing?

SABLE

That's one of the ways.

Toni sits back in amazement.

TONI

Reading this is like being audited by the IRS.

SABLE

It's a business, that's all.

TONI

I don't know what to say. It's not flipping burgers.

SABLE

This is really embarrassing you, isn't it?

TONI

I can see why J.B. wanted a man. It's a little shocking

(She looks back at the slips.)

What does this mean?

SABLE

I better explain that to you.

Sable whispers in Toni's ear as Toni's eyes pop open wide.

TONI

You put a price on that too?

SABLE

We don't, J.B. and the industry does. Let's do another one. Here's-

TONI

I know that one. It's not J.B. backwards.

Toni gets up and walks to the window and turns back to Sable.

TONI

How can you girls live like this? This is supposed to be a private function with feelings. How can you put a price to...everything?

SABLE

It's a job.

TONI

Not a job I would want.

SABLE

You're not going to try and reform us, are you? You won't last too long if you do.

TONI

I guess not. I'm just glad I'm not doing it.

(walks back to her chair and sits down)

There's a few more initials I need to know. Let's get it over with. What does T mean?

SABLE

Twinkle.

TONI

Twinkle?

SABLE

This guy come every payday and brings twinkles for everyone. He's quite harmless. Shame, he's a nice guy, just a little strange.

TONI

And he brings his own sweet tooth. I was wondering why everyone was eating twinkles today.

SABLE

Sad about him. He really is lonely. All he needs is the right girl.

TONI

And a good dentist.

(grabs another receipt)

Now explain this one.

Sable whispers in her ear. Toni sits back in her chair.

TONI

This is gonna be a long two weeks

Toni grabs another receipt. End of Scene Three.

SCENE FOUR

EXT. HORSE RANCH -DAY

This is her first Sunday. Lucy and Sable are sitting on a fence. Both have plates and are eating. They are in riding dress.

SABLE

She still hasn't gotten on a horse.

LUCY

Doc is really trying. I even offered to help. Duke brought out Sunshine. They faced each other and SHE turned white as a ghost. Then, he brought out a pony and she politely excused herself. The girl's a downright coward.

SABLE

All she had to do is show them whose boss.

LUCY

You mean like the priest you had last night. He needed a lay to pray.

SABLE

He did look awful funny with just a dog collar on.

LUCY

And that's before you put the chain on.

(laughs)

He try the confessional routine yet?

SABLE

You mean the one with the nun's habit?

LUCY

I've never seen that one.

SABLE

Which one then?

Lucy motions to her. Sable approaches her head as she puts her hand over her mouth and whispers. Sable starts to laugh.

LUCY

And then he-

(Sable laughs and pulls away.)

He even brings his own wafers.

SABLE

No, I can't say I tried that one yet. Never was a churchgoer.

LUCY

How many times you get him?

SABLE

Just once.

LUCY

Then you don't know. He's not a priest. He fills in the yellow sponge cakes at the factory for a living.

SABLE

Twinkles? I wondered why he had so many in his bag.

LUCY

You always know when he comes. We're eating them for breakfast, lunch-

SABLE AND LUCY

And dinner.

LUCY

God, I hate those things. What name did he use?

SABLE

Father O'Reilly.

LUCY

Last week it was O'Malley. He has this thing for Irish priests, big Bing Crosby fan.

SABLE

Correction, SMALL Bing Crosby fan. Twinkles are bigger than him. So, what do you think?

LUCY

I agree, his twinkles are bigger.

SABLE

No, about Toni.

LUCY

I don't know yet. What do you think?

SABLE

Too pure for this place. Mr. B. was right.

LUCY

You don't like her?

SABLE

I didn't say that. I just said she doesn't fit, no skeletons.

LUCY

That's where you're wrong. She's got one. Everyone does.

SABLE

She appears so...clean?

LUCY

And so do we, when we're not working. Just look at us. We're eating ribs, dressed in blue jeans, sitting on a fence on a real horse ranch. We're just like the Cartwrights. Do they look like hookers? Why today you don't even have make-up on. You look at the most...16.

SABLE

Why should I? It's my day off.

LUCY

Yet, we both have skeletons. And on society's sale, they rate a 10. In your case, a 15.

SABLE

What do you mean by that?

LUCY

Duke.

SABLE

You know?

LUCY

He's your skeleton. Come on, honey. Admit it. We all see it. You're breaking our main rule.

SABLE

It's that obvious?

LUCY

Love is always obvious. It's our biggest flaw and makes fools of us. It gives us strength and takes it away.

SABLE

You're talking about yourself. You very rarely do that. You still love Mr. B?

LUCY

I never stopped. We grew up together. He's my brother, my friend, and my ally. I know I can't be more to him. We're too much alike. We share the same sin. I still don't know who has the stronger offence, the thief or the murderer?

SABLE

Huh?

LUCY

Never mind. Your plate's empty. Why don't you get some more?

SABLE

Good idea.

Sable walks off as J.B. enters. He spots Lucy and approaches her.

J.B.

Great sauce, Lucy. You always could cook.

LUCY

And you could always eat, Lenny. I still remember you chubby. You sure didn't look as good as you do now.

J.B.

It's amazing what jail will do.

LUCY

(patting his stomach)

Jail was good for one thing. Think what you saved on a health club. You know what I will always regret? Never seeing you with those britches off. I know it's not only the suit that makes you attractive.

J.B.

Lucy, don't.

LUCY

Don't worry, honey. I'm not coming on to you. I know it's too late. I'm just an employee. That's all I will ever be.

J.B.

(taking her hand)

You never used to be.

LUCY

That was a long time ago. We didn't know any better.

J.B.

(taking hand away)

We were just kids.

(looking at his hands)

I can still see the blood on them.

LUCY

You're not the only one. I was happy when you had Mary. I used to fantasize I was her, and you loved me.

J.B.

I never realized. Is that why you always had Danny?

LUCY

I wanted him to be mine, ours.

J.B.

What brought all this on?

LUCY

Toni.

J.B.

Ms. Andrews? Has she been reforming?

LUCY

No. I was just surprised when you hired her.

J.B.

She had no where else to go. I couldn't leave her stranded in the desert.

LUCY

Is that the only reason?

J.B.

What else? Course, she is smart. Hell-of-a-lot smarter than me. She has a fine mind.

LUCY

And that's all you see?

J.B.

She's not Miss America.

LUCY

Neither am I, anymore.

J.B.

Nonsense. You're still attractive. If we weren't in business together-

LUCY

Maybe you'd visit the stable?

J.B.

(smiling)

Remember, I never saw you with your britches off either.

LUCY

There was that night a few years back.

J.B.

It was the whiskey. I missed Mary.

LUCY

What stopped you?

J.B.

I don't know. Maybe because love was missing. I'm not proud of where we work.

LUCY

You sound like Toni. That's something she would say.

Toni's and Doc's voices are heard off-stage.

DOC

(coming on stage)

When will you get over that fear?

TONI

I can't help it. Animals hate me. My own dog ran away from home, twice.

LUCY

Still trying to get her on a horse, Doc?

DOC

And failing. I'll succeed yet.

(His beeper goes off.)

I better call at the house.

LUCY

I'll go with you.

Lucy gets off the fence as they exit leaving Toni and J.B. alone.

J.B.

Enjoying the picnic?

TONI

Yes.

J.B.

How's the allergy?

TONI

Fine, I guess. Course, who can tell with a cold?

J.B.

How did you get it?

TONI

You try living out of a car for two weeks. Not every place is warm. Even the desert gets cold.

J.B.

Did Doc give you the medication?

TONI

Yes.

(looking up)

I have never seen so many stars.

J.B.

The nights are beautiful out here.

TONI

There's Orion, and that's the Big Dipper.

(He stares at her as she points up.)

There's the Little Dipper.

J.B.

You know all the stars.

TONI

I love astronomy. You see those three stars in a row?

(He keeps looking at her instead.)

That's Orion's Belt. That middle star is really a globular cluster.

J.B.

A what?

TONI

(facing him)

It's when a whole group of stars are so close together, they appear as one.

J.B.

Just like the academy awards.

TONI

Why do I feel I've lost you?

J.B.

The only stars I've ever seen were in the movies. Real stars don't hold my interest.

TONI

Many people feel the same way, except for Carl Sagan. I guess I'm just different. When you don't have looks, brains help.

J.B.

We all have our disadvantages.

TONI

Even you?

J.B.

Sometimes we talk too much for our own good.

TONI

I get the message, boss.

J.B. stares at the distance.

J.B.

(still staring)

So, what do you think of this place?

TONI

(noticing where he's looking)

It's friendly.

J.B.

(still staring)

Sometimes too friendly.

(turns to Toni)

Just remember my rule.

TONI

I will. It's a good rule. We all have to make a living. What are you staring at?

J.B.

Just Duke and Sable.

She starts to rub her shoulders.

J.B.

Are you cold?

TONI

I feel a slight chill.

J.B.

I'd offer you my jacket if I had one. Let's go into the house. I'm sure I can find you some tea.

TONI

That would be nice, thank you.

The two exit. The stage is barren for a moment till Sable enters. She motions and Duke follows.

SABLE

It's all clear. We're alone now.

DUKE

I was beginning to think we would never be.

SABLE

J.B.'s staring didn't help either.

DUKE

You think he knows.

SABLE

Lucy does.

DUKE

She won't tell. We can trust her.

SABLE

But we can't trust the others.

He walks up and holds her.

DUKE

We'll have to. My size will make them think twice. There are advantages to being big.

SABLE

I can think of one thing bigger.

DUKE

(smiling)

Oh, really!

SABLE

(pulling away)

NOT THAT! Though it is bigger than a twinkle.

DUKE

Then what?

SABLE

Your heart.

(walks up to him)

I saw it the first time I saw you. You convinced J.B. to help me.

DUKE

You noticed.

SABLE

I notice your heart all the time. I saw it first time you took me to my meetings. On our way, we passed an ice-cream parlor.

DUKE

(holding her)

That's when I discovered you love chocolate.

SABLE

With lots of marshmallows. Remember that little boy with his mother? I saw you watching him.

DUKE

I always liked kids, especially when they're wearing their ice cream. It was a banana split.

(laughs)

Often wondered what mine would look like.

SABLE

That would depend on their mother.

DUKE

Be their mother.

SABLE

Duke, what are you saying?

DUKE

I'm asking you to marry me. Mary Beth, I love you.

SABLE

And I love you.

DUKE

Will you do it?

J.B. starts to enter and stops.

SABLE

Yes, I'll marry you. But how? There aren't many cars. We're not exactly close to civilization.

DUKE

I know. J.B. has all the keys.

SABLE

There's Toni. If we asked her?

DUKE

No, let's not involve anyone else. I'll get us married, but we'll have to do it alone. Oh, Mary Beth, if you knew how much I loved you.

SABLE

Then show me, you dumb lug.

He kisses her. J.B. stays for a moment and walks off.

DUKE

One day soon, you'll be free from this. I promise. I think we better get back to the house. They'll start noticing.

The two walk off. End of scene four.

SCENE FIVE

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE—DAY

Doc stands and watches over a frozen Toni and Sable. Sable is looking over her shoulder.

DOC

Time passes by fast when you're having fun. A few days have gone and Toni's work is not done. She's buried in papers, mounted in stacks. But DANG it! You can't get those totals to match.

SABLE

Did you get it yet?

TONI

No. It's always off by the same amount. I don't understand it. It's not a transposition.

SABLE

A what?

TONI

Never mind.

She sneezes.

SABLE

It's getting worse. Did you take your medicine last night?

TONI

Yes, and I got enough sleep. It's just a bad cold.

A knock is heard as J.B. enters. The girls stand up. Toni sneezes again. His eyes flare up.

J.B.

It's worse. I knew you should have stayed home.

TONI

It's just coming out.

J.B.

You belong in bed.

TONI

What?

J.B.

You heard me, Ms. Andrews. Go to bed.

TONI

I beg your pardon?

J.B.

Rest is the best medicine for a cold.

TONI

I am not an invalid!

He approaches her.

J.B.

Do I need to escort you myself? I will.

SABLE

Do as he says. Enjoy the day off.

TONI

But the work-

J.B.

Can wait! Now, go to bed and take care of that cold.

She leaves and enters the hall to see Lucy waiting.

LUCY

We warned you about this.

TONI

Will somebody tell me what's going on?

LUCY

You see five years ago, Mr. B. came with his wife and little boy, Danny. She was a pretty little thing, and I mean little. She looked seventeen but she was an adult. And Danny, he melted all our hearts.

TONI

What does this have to do with influenza?

LUCY

One day Mrs. B. and a few girls went for a long ride. The next day she developed a cold. It would come and go, but never quite go away. She must of caught a chill. The desert does that to you. A few weeks later, she got this big fever. We sent for Doc. He said it was pneumonia. If only you'd seen Mr. B. then? He loved her very much. We put her in the hospital, and a couple days later, she died.

TONI

Now, I understand.

LUCY

Ever since then, he's been as you see him.

TONI

What about Danny?

LUCY

He's with some people in town. That's why Mr. B. disappears alot. He has an apartment and he and Danny play family.

TONI

Why not leave him here?

LUCY

This ain't no place to raise a kid. I sure wouldn't.

J.B. enters the hall.

J.B.

Are you still here? I thought I told you to go to bed?

TONI

I'm going.

He exits.

LUCY

He's only doing it because he cares.

TONI

He could be a little friendlier.

LUCY

He's a good man. A few years back, one of our girls got beat up real bad, put her in the hospital. The sadist broke a few ribs and her jaw. He was a real Mike Tyson. Mr. B. and Duke found him and taught him a lesson. Let's put it this way, honey. It was awhile before he ate solid food again.

TONI

And the girl?

LUCY

(rubbing her jaw)

She can't eat peanut brittle anymore, hurts me every time. This life ain't easy. You got it made with your pencils and papers. J.B. tries to make life as easy as he can.

Toni sneezes again.

TONI

I understand him, I think. Why do you do it?

LUCY

I've often thought about that. You see, I had me a bad marriage, bad family life. When the marriage broke up, I said the HELL with men. I wanted control over my life and my emotions. This is the only way I know how. I ain't had much school cause I got married to a neighbor boy. Actually his daddy and mine were friends. Plus, I had another reason. It's easy money. I've discovered I like being my own businesswoman. Now you bes' get to bed before the dragon returns.

(screams into door)

Sable, it's time for the stable.

The two girls part. End of scene five.

SCENE SIX

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE—DAY

Two weeks later. Toni is at her desk. J.B. knocks and enters.

J.B.

How's work?

TONI

Fine, but I have some questions. I keep having a discrepancy of $235.00 every month. I've tried my figures and they don't work. Plus these salaries average the same except for Sable, and she doesn't complain. I thought you trusted her.

J.B.

I have my reason, MS. Andrews. It's not for you to question me. I've come here for another reason. It's now two weeks.

TONI

Yes, I know.

J.B.

I've come to my decision. Somehow you made sense of this mess.

TONI

I had help.

J.B.

I gave you Sable for two weeks to get you started. You're on your own now. I haven't' seen these books look like this in years. I'm very pleased with you.

TONI

Must be my magic pencils.

J.B.

Must be your brain. You think because I run a bordello I'm a male chauvinist. I thought when I found Duke I had it made. At last there was someone I could trust. I'm beginning to feel that way about you.

TONI

Thank you, sir.

J.B.

I'll be in town for a few days. I trust I leave this place in good hands. Remember, if you have any problems, call Duke. He'll just bite them. I'm on my way. See you in two days.

He exits as Sable enters.

TONI

You look nice today.

SABLE

Duke's taking me into town again.

TONI

I hope it's not a date, remember the rule.

SABLE

He takes me every Wednesday. I thought he was here.

TONI

As you can see, he's not.

SABLE

Maybe he's by the car.

She leaves. Duke enters.

DUKE

You seen Sable?

TONI

She's by the car.

DUKE

Thanks. What did Mr. B. say? Do you stay?

TONI

So far.

DUKE

Thought so. You're good people. Everyone likes you.

TONI

Thanks. Duke, it's none of my business but is something going on between you and Sable? She says every Wednesday you take her out. I thought it was forbidden.

DUKE

It's not what you think. Mary Beth and I-

TONI

Mary Beth?

DUKE

We've become friends.

TONI

So, I've seen. Every time she's with a man, you get a certain look on your face.

DUKE

That obvious?

TONI

Are you in love with her?

DUKE

Yes, and she loves me. We didn't mean it to happen, it just did. You see Ms. Andrews-

TONI

My name is Toni, please.

DUKE

About six months ago, J.B. and I went into town. We were walking back to the car when we heard voices. Sable, Mary Beth, was being attacked by some hoods. She had acquired some gambling debts. J.B. and I recognized one of them as a frequent customer. We asked what was going on. Mary Beth had real bad debts. She looked so scared. So, J.B. called the guy over and arranged to have her debts paid off. Mary Beth wasn't much to look at. She came from the wrong side of the tracks. We all do around her. Her mother was an alcoholic. She'd been on the streets for already two years. Somehow she got the gambling bug and owed money to the wrong people.

TONI

So, he paid off her debts. Then what?

DUKE

I really shouldn't be telling you this. It ain't my place. He made a deal with her. She would work for him till it was paid. He takes three-quarters what she earns. Besides the usual half to the house, he takes half on the loan with no interest.

TONI

She has no money to live on.

DUKE

I've been giving her some now and then.

TONI

It's blackmail.

DUKE

It isn't like that, not at all. Every Wednesday, I take her to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. It's his orders. He only wants to help.

TONI

By making her work?

DUKE

After the debt is paid, she's free.

TONI

You make it sound like a contract.

DUKE

Oh, but it is.

(grabs a key and opens a drawer full of folders)

He's got contracts on all of us.

TONI

He owns you. How terrible.

DUKE

You're the only one free. I'm not explaining this right.

TONI

No, you're not.

DUKE

You see all these files are the Dead Files. Once we leave, we become dead. I'm even in there. J.B. tries to help. He's sent girls to drug rehab, alcoholics anonymous. He tries not to keep them too long, unless they want to stay. Once they're in here, they're free to go. One day, my Mary Beth will be here.

TONI

He has a strange way of caring. Her debt must be very large.

DUKE

Yes. You know when I fell in love with her? It was a Wednesday. J.B. was out of town. So, I took her out after the meeting. We went to see Snow White. You know the part where she sings, "Someday My Prince will come"?

TONI

Vaguely.

DUKE

I looked over at her and she was crying. That's when I fell in love. I plan to be that prince. I just have to wait till she hits the Dead File.

TONI

If you're free, why are you still here? And why do you have the keys to your own file?

DUKE

I don't have the only pair. There's a spare set in the front desk. J.B. has the third.

TONI

That doesn't sound safe?

DUKE

But, it is. We all got stories here.

(takes file and hands it to her)

I have a drug problem. I also spent a couple years in jail. While I was out on parole, I needed a fix. I saw this guy on the strip. He seemed so lost. I didn't care. I beat him up and almost killed him, all for his money, twelve bucks.

TONI

You weren't responsible for your actions.

DUKE

He felt that way. He could of locked me up and threw away the key, but he didn't. He had every right to. Open the file. See who the victim was.

(She does and is stunned.)

J.B.'s wife had just died, and what do I do? I jump him. He took me in, sent me to rehab, and believed in me. I owe him my dignity and my life.

TONI

And all these people?

DUKE

Are people he helped.

TONI

What's this black file and small notebook?

DUKE

(taking file, putting it back and closing drawer)

I've shown you too much already. You've never seen this, right?

TONI

Agreed.

DUKE

I better get to the car. Sable will be waiting. Enjoy your evening. I've always like Wednesdays. I can be me.

TONI

Say HI to Walt for me.

He leaves. Toni stares at the file cabinet. She goes to the front drawer and grabs the keys. She puts the keys in her pocket as Lucy enters.

LUCY

Howdy girl?

TONI

What are you doing here?

LUCY

I was bored. I thought we could hit a casino. We just got paid.

TONI

No thanks, I don't gamble.

LUCY

What about a show? You've been here two weeks and you STILL haven't relaxed. This is Clark County, girl. Let's check it out. I'm hungry. A brunch right now would do me good. MGM has one that's out of this world.

TONI

I'm not that hungry. This desert heat takes away my appetite.

LUCY

I will never understand you mid-westerners. I could eat all day, in ANY weather. Well, suit yourself. I'll catch a lift with Duke.

She exits. Toni takes the keys out of her pocket and heads to the Dead File. She opens the drawer and starts thumbing through. She pulls out a file and opens it as Lucy enters. Their eyes meet.

LUCY

(very seriously)

Two weeks and you're already curious. Who showed you those files?

TONI

Duke.

LUCY

(approaching her)

And who's file do you have?

TONI

(putting file back and closing the drawer)

Yours.

LUCY

You don't need to read it. All you had to do was ask. I have no secrets. Oh, I forgot why I came back. I came to ask if you wanted a doggy bag. Now I'm not sure you deserve it.

TONI

I'm sorry. My curiosity got the better of me. It won't happen again. I've only just discovered it.

LUCY

We're all very sensitive about the Dead File. It's all our lives in black and white.

TONI

(putting key down)

I feel so ashamed. I-

LUCY

(smiling again)

Would like a doggy bag. You're not a special diet, are you?

TONI

No.

LUCY

I'll bring you back some ribs. Course, they won't be as good as mine. See you in a couple hours. Put the keys back. No one else need know about this.

TONI

Thanks.

A car honks outside.

LUCY

That's my call. Can't wait till I sink my teeth into one of these luscious desserts.

She exits. Toni walks back to the desk, puts the keys back and closes the drawer. End of Scene Six.

SCENE SEVEN

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE- DAY

J.B. is at his desk. He is writing a check. Doc comes on stage and J.B. freezes.

DOC

Well, four months have passed and Toni's still here. She's become part of the family. Everything is going along fine, until-

Doc walks off. J.B. comes to life. Toni enters. He sees her and grabs the little book and stands, check in hand.

TONI

Morning, Mr. B.

J.B.

Morning, Ms. Andrews.

(stands up and goes to the Dead File, puts the book away and closes the drawer. She watches with interest.)

How is your flu?

TONI

Better. I don't think the desert air is good for me.

J.B.

I told you bed rest would help.

TONI

And so did the penicillin.

J.B.

We dispense alot of that here. We now supply our customers with condoms. It's a state law. It also helps with A.I.D.S..

TONI

A.I.D.S is scary. You're not sure of anyone anymore. I had a gay friend back home. It killed him.

(He looks at her, check in hand.)

Why are you so surprised? We have our secrets in Des Moines too.

J.B.

I just pictured a town like Des Moines-

TONI

We may be slow by your standards, but we're not dead. Would you like me to process that check for you?

J.B.

No, I will. Thank you anyway, Ms. Andrews. I'm sorry if I scared you about your cold when you first came. You see I lost someone very special to me. It all started with a cold. Ever since then, I don't react normally to them.

TONI

You must have really loved her.

J.B.

What makes you think it was a she?

TONI

You don't strike me as gay, or even bi. If it's one thing I can recognize is a heterosexual male. She must have been a wonderful person to affect you this much. I see your pain.

J.B.

This matter is not work related. You're traveling in dangerous territory.

TONI

I was only trying to help. Sometimes it helps to talk about it.

J.B.

(putting check in his pocket)

Yes, Dr. Freud. What makes you think I would talk to you? You're no more than a stranger to me. If I wanted comfort, all I have to do is go next door. I wouldn't be the first. Most men in my business get their freebies. Most men, except me.

TONI

And why not?

J.B.

My wife showed me there's more to love than sex. I still have a streak of conservatism in me.

TONI

That's no reason to stop loving. Just because she died doesn't mean you have too.

J.B.

Where did you hear this?

TONI

Around.

J.B.

No one has the right to tell you my private life. It is my own. You remember that. Whatever you hear you keep to yourself. I'm a businessman and that's all you need to know. Do I make myself clear?

TONI

Yes, sir.

He storms out as Lucy enters.

LUCY

Oooh, girl! What did you just tell him?

TONI

Just what you told me about his wife. He started screaming about invading his privacy.

LUCY

He's a very private man. At night he goes to his rooms and sits there for hours. His lights don't go out till real late.

TONI

What does he do?

LUCY

No one knows. He reads alot, I guess. Doc always brings him books.

TONI

Is he always alone?

LUCY

He gets no female company if that's what you mean. I know what you're doing. You can be perfectly honest. We all are here. This is the most honest place in the world. We don't hide anything. You know, technically, there's no difference between you and me.

TONI

I beg your pardon?

LUCY

We just have different Johns. Yours is your pencils and calculator. The only difference between us is you work sitting behind a desk. We work up, down and sometimes under a desk. But you wouldn't know about things like that. You've led an innocent life compared to us.

TONI

That's not true.

LUCY

I was right! I knew it the first time I saw you. You can tell me.

TONI

I'd rather not.

LUCY

Honey, I work behind that door, remember. I've heard it all. There ain't nothin' you can tell me that would shock me. All the girls confide in me. Good God, it's time for me to go to work.

TONI

Me, too. I have last night's receipts to log.

LUCY

Tell me something? This place don't make you feel uncomfortable?

TONI

A little, actually alot. I just have to keep thinking of it as a job.

LUCY

We all do. That's why I've been here so long.

TONI

You're right. We are the same. But you have your cooking skills.

LUCY

You're being a reformer. J.B. wouldn't like that.

TONI

I'm only asking questions. Why are you here this long?

LUCY

Truth is, I'm afraid of failure. I always was. Don't think because I work a mattress I hate people. I love them. I'm not afraid when they show me their weaknesses. Why I remember when Mrs. B. died, he cried in my arms. She meant the world to him.

TONI

His eyes are very sad.

LUCY

She was one special lady. You've never seen it but we have a piano next door. It ain't much, but when she played it, she brought tears to our eyes. That's what I remember most about Sunday mornings. The girls and I would be eating breakfast and listening to the voice of an angel. Even J.B. would drop what he was doing and just listen. He'll never find another one like her, not in this place. She was pure love.

TONI

Love is a difficult feeling.

LUCY

Is that what it was for you? Why didn't it work?

TONI

He was married.

LUCY

Thought so. I've heard the story before. I bet you he promised he'd divorce his wife. Right?

(Toni starts to speak.)

Let me go on. By the look on your face I can tell I'm right. When you pressured him, he told you forget it lady. Should I keep going?

TONI

You're going strong.

LUCY

Now the question. Why did you pressure him? Was it the length of time, or was it a smaller reason? A nine-month reason?

TONI

You're very perceptive.

LUCY

And since Des Moines is a small town, you had no choice but to leave. Just between us, you're not plain. Maybe you're not as beautiful as us, but plenty is make-up. We're just actresses on a different stage. Your hair may be dull, flat, and have a few greys, but you're far from unattractive. I can easily see someone having an interest in you. I bet I could open J.B.'s eyes. Maybe one day you'll let me at you. Well, I better go. See you later. Remember, the ugly duckling turned into a swan. Think about what I said.

She leaves. Toni goes to the window, using it as a mirror, and pokes her hair. Sable enters.

SABLE

Excuse me. The agency forwarded your mail to you. I think it's a letter from home.

TONI

(taking it)

Thank you.

(opens one letter)

It's from home, my folks. They are worried sick about me. I haven't written in months.

SABLE

Why not?

TONI

And have them trace the address? I don't exactly live in town.

SABLE

Maybe if you had a different address?

TONI

How? Everyone I know lives here.

SABLE

Not Doc. You write your letter and I'll call Doc. I'm sure he'll let you use his address. They won't have to know.

TONI

I don't know what to write. I don't exactly have a common job.

SABLE

Let's see. You're still an accountant. You have a place to live. Your health in-between colds and flus is fine. You know, just write the usual thing. Just don't add "Wish You Were Here". Got to go. Bye.

(She starts to leave and turns.)

Maybe you could write something to make them proud of you. Lie a little. See ya.

She leaves. Toni sits down.

TONI

I guess a little white lie couldn't hurt. Oh, why not!

She grabs a piece of paper, pen and begins to write. End of Act One.

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE- DAY

Toni is approaching when she hears two male voices. She stops by the door. Inside the office are J.B. and Doc.

J.B.

Well, how are my girls?

DOC

So far so good. I'd keep an eye on Lucy. She's beginning to look tired.

J.B.

This profession does that. There are times I wish she would quit. I've even told her so.

DOC

You always did like Lucy.

J.B.

She's different from the others. Take Sally for example, twenty-six and already bitter.

DOC

And Egypt? What's her excuse?

J.B.

She hates men. If there were a lesbian bordello, she'd be in it.

DOC

All your girls are so...cold. Lucy is the only one who's still human. Even pretty little Sable is cold.

J.B.

It's the business, Doc. People become a service and there goes humanity.

DOC

If only Lucy would take me up on my offer? She has a God given talent, the things she does with food. Maybe if I asked her again?

J.B.

It won't work. She won't leave. A lot of good she does. She hasn't kept up her share of the work. I've been creating fake appointments. I only hope Ms. Andrews doesn't catch it. She's extremely bright. How many times can you write John Smith?

DOC

She's very bright, and pretty in her own way. Reminds me of Mary.

J.B.

I know. It's uncanny. The woman's much older and yet she seems untouched by the world's evil.

DOC

I knew there was a reason you kept her on. I know you, Len. I also know you're keeping her at a distance. It's Mary again with the piano.

J.B.

You're letting your imagination go again. The girl's smart, that's all.

DOC

I'll give her that. She gave me quite a lesson on astronomy last week. She's very intelligent.

J.B.

But you're an avid astronomer?

DOC

Hell, I know that. It was the way she said it. She had a certain twinkle in her eye. I think I'm the only man she can talk to. Duke was lucky he graduated grade school. You ignore her, so she thinks. If only she knew.

J.B.

She's not even beautiful. I didn't hire her for her looks. If she were a working girl, she'd starve.

DOC

I like the girl. And so do you, even though you don't admit it. Course, I wish she weren't scared to death of horses. How's my Danny? I don't see him much these days.

J.B.

He's in kindergarten now. I took him to Circus Circus last week. He told me he wants to be a trapeze artist when he grows up.

DOC

He does have an imagination.

J.B.

Just like his mother.

DOC

Len, you seem worried? What is it?

J.B.

It's Ms. Andrews. She keeps asking me about the monthly discrepancy. Nothing slips by her.

DOC

Don't you think it's time you tell her?

J.B.

I don't think it would be a good idea.

DOC

Why not? It's only fair to her.

J.B.

How long do you think she'd stay working for a murderer? Every time I see Danny's face, I keep thinking some little boy will grow up not knowing his father because I decided to rob a gas station.

She enters.

TONI

Tell me. I want to know. I want to know what type of man I'm working for.

DOC

She's right.

J.B.

Have a seat.

He goes to the cabinet and opens it with his key and pulls out a black folder and notebook.

TONI

The Dead File?

J.B.

Who told you?

TONI

Does it really matter?

J.B.

Not now, saves part of my explanation. My name is not J.B. Bogus. I was born Leonard Pettit. I'm originally from Atlanta.

TONI

I thought I detected the south.

J.B.

When I was younger, I was very reckless. One day I was with this girl. We just got married. It was 17, she was 16. We celebrated by getting drunk. The celebration lasted two days. Then we ran out of money. To make a story short, I took my father's gun, went to the nearest small town, and tried to rob a gas station. He had a gun too. I shot first and killed him. Have you ever seen someone murdered before?

TONI

No.

J.B.

It's a strange feeling. You keep expecting them to wake up. He just lay there. My victim was the father of a two-year-old boy. Eventually the police caught up with us. They let my wife go. When her father found out, he had the marriage annulled and I went to jail. Doc, here, saw me. He put me under his wing. He helped me read better, even corrected my speech patterns. Thanks to him, I walked out of jail with my GED.

TONI

At least you tried to change your life. Give yourself some credit.

J.B.

Have you ever been an ex-con? People don't care.

DOC

He had no place to stay. I let him stay with me. The parole board even liked the idea. My daughter, Mary, fell in love with him. Before I knew it, I was giving her away.

TONI

You're his father-in-law? I knew it was more than professional.

J.B.

I couldn't find work. Can't blame anyone for not hiring me. Mary was pregnant. My parole officer, the man who owns the horse ranch you ride at, suggested this place. So, we came. The rest you know, except for this. Every month I send to his widow, a check for-

TONI

Two hundred and thirty-five dollars. Why that amount?

J.B.

That's what was in the register.

TONI

Now everything fits.

J.B.

All the money in the world can't bring back his father. So, now you know.

(He goes to a locked desk, opens it and pulls out a gun.)

You're looking at the only virgin here. I bought her for protection five years ago.

TONI

You need it out here?

J.B.

We're far from civilization. Care to hold it?

TONI

I don't like guns.

J.B.

(picking up and aiming at wall)

I could send a bullet just where that corner meets with no difficulty at all.

(putting it down again)

But I won't. I swore to myself, five years ago, never to use a gun again.

(puts it away and looks at Toni)

I didn't scare you, did I?

TONI

A little.

J.B.

It's not true, you know. Once a killer, always a killer. Some of us change. Now I find it hard to kill an insect. Well, now you know.

TONI

Thank you for telling me.

J.B.

I expect to see your resignation in the morning. You'd be a fool to stay. Actually, it's quite ironic. You could write a book about this place. You're the only one who doesn't have a skeleton. Duke? Sable? Lucy?

TONI

What did she do?

J.B.

She married a reckless teenager.

TONI

She's your wife?

J.B.

We were married all of two days. I don't have to tell you how surprised I was to see her here. It's a small world. Well, Doc, I think we better give Ms. Andrews back her office. I'll buy you a cup of Joe.

They start to leave.

TONI

Wait. What about your file?

J.B.

Read it. Just remember to lock the cabinet when you're through. Come on, Doc. How do you feel about espresso?

The two exit. Toni picks up the folder and opens it. Doc returns.

DOC

Got a minute, Mr. Hoover?

TONI

That's exactly what I feel like.

DOC

He's not that punk anymore. It took my daughter to show me that. Give him a chance. Don't leave. He tries to help now. He doesn't always succeed. He has a file on those people too. It's bigger than his successes.

TONI

And where's that one?

DOC

Only he knows. Just give him a chance.

She takes the file and notebook and puts it back while slamming the drawer shut.

DOC

Thank you. He needs good people around him, and you're good people. There are times when I look at you and I see my Mary.

He leaves. Toni follows and runs into Sable in the hall.

SABLE

Your mail, Ms. Andrews.

TONI

(taking, reviewing and stopping at one letter)

Thank you, Sable.

SABLE

Anything wrong?

TONI

It's my parents.

SABLE

Well, read it. Maybe they want to see you?

TONI

God forbid.

(She does and shakes her head.)

I'm dead.

SABLE

Why?

TONI

They were so worried about me being alone; I wrote them I was fine. I told them I had a good job, a nice place to live.

SABLE

That's not a lie.

TONI

And that I was engaged.

SABLE

Say that again?

TONI

To Mr. B..

SABLE

Him! Of all people. What else did you tell them?

TONI

I work for a reputable Public Relations firm.

SABLE

I guess you could call us Public Relations, and we are legal. That would make us reputable. So what's the problem?

TONI

Dad's coming here on convention. He and mom want to see me and where I work.

SABLE

Plus, meet Mr. Wonderful. What will you do?

TONI

(folding up letter)

Tell them the truth and hope they understand and don't disown me.

SABLE

Will they understand?

TONI

What do you think?

SABLE

You have a point there. Hey! Maybe if you tell Mr. B., he can help?

TONI

And break his rule. It's a good rule and it's keeps business going well. He, of all people, can't break it.

SABLE

When will they be here?

TONI

Next week. They're staying at Caesars. Dad wants to see a show and have dinner and dancing later.

SABLE

When will they be flying in?

TONI

Monday, why?

SABLE

I have an idea. You go back to your books. Leave it to me.

(Toni exits the outside door.)

And maybe I can even help myself.

J.B. enters with Doc.

J.B.

See you Sunday.

DOC

Can't wait for the barbecue. Be sure to bring Ms. Andrews. I'm determined to get her on a horse.

J.B.

I wouldn't hold your breath. Bye, Doc.

(Doc leaves. Mr. B. turns to see Sable standing there.)

Yes, Sable?

SABLE

Could I talk to you for a moment?

J.B.

Of course, what is it?

SABLE

I know someone who has a small problem. Maybe you could help?

J.B.

Well, tell me.

SABLE

It's Ms. Andrews. It seems she wrote a letter to some SUPPOSED people and lied about her situation here. She told them she has a good job, a nice place to live.

J.B.

So, what's the problem?

SABLE

And a fiancé. She also told them she worked for a reputable Public Relations firm.

J.B.

And I thought she didn't have an imagination. How could I be of help?

SABLE

They're coming to see her. Plus,

J.B.

There's always a plus. Go ahead, Sable. This is getting good. Ms. Andrews is starting to peak my interest.

SABLE

You're her fiancé.

J.B.

ME! Girl surprises me more everyday. Who are those SUPPOSED people?

SABLE

Her parents.

J.B.

That's good. That's really good.

SABLE

They're due in next week with a convention.

J.B.

Well, Sable, thanks for the amusement. But, that's her problem. She wrote the lies. She can straighten them out. Right now, I'm busy.

SABLE

Why are you so hard on her?

J.B.

I'm hard on everyone. I have an image to consider. The least of my concerns is Ms. Andrews's stories.

SABLE

Image! BULLSHIT! We all know you're as soft as cotton candy. Why else do you always help people?

J.B.

I help them till they can help themselves.

SABLE

Why is Toni so different?

J.B.

She always could. She's still responsible for her actions. And it's Ms. Andrews to you.

SABLE

Toni is a person. Try calling her that. What harm would it do if on Wednesday you pretended to be her man?

J.B.

WHAT! Are you crazy?

SABLE

The ranch is closed. Her folks are staying in town. Surely you can act, Mr. Bogus.

J.B.

I have a rule.

SABLE

Damn your rule!

J.B.

Yes, I know you do. If I don't observe it, who will. You obviously don't.

SABLE

It isn't your stupid rule. There's more here. Why don't you admit it? She reminds you too much of Mary.

She exits into the back door. Mr. B. leaves as Toni enters and goes to her office. A drunken man enters the hall supporting a credit card.

DRUNK

Gee! Where are the girls? I thought they were in here.

Toni exits and sees him.

TONI

May I help you?

DRUNK

I came here looking for a dip in the pool.

TONI

You have the wrong door. Just exit the one in back of you.

DRUNK

(approaching her and waving credit card)

What's the matter, honey? Don't want my money?

TONI

The girls you want are through that door. Now, please excuse me. I have work to do.

She starts for the exit.

DRUNK

That's what I want is your work. Now come here.

He grabs her and she screams. J.B. flies into the hall and grabs him, wrestling him to the ground.

J.B.

The girls you want are in there. They will be more than happy to service you.

DRUNK

Okay..Okay..Buddy. She wasn't pretty anyway.

He gets up and exits. J.B. turns to Toni.

J.B.

Are you okay?

TONI

I'm fine.

J.B.

I don't know how he got through. Duke must not be at his post, and I think I know whom he's with. I'll speak to him. This won't happen again. Now you see why I didn't want a woman. Are you sure you're okay?

TONI

Just a little shaken.

J.B.

You've been crying. Is something wrong?

TONI

A small problem, I can handle it.

J.B.

Your parents visit? Sable told me.

TONI

I only wanted them to feel safe about me. I'll tell them the truth.

She starts to enter her office.

J.B.

No. Wait, Ms. Andrews.

(She turns.)

We all have our skeletons here. Until now, you've been free. Granted yours is much smaller in offence, but it's a skeleton.

TONI

What are you getting at?

J.B.

I'll help you out.

TONI

How?

J.B.

If you can arrange to meet them on a Wednesday night, I'll play your game. I can use the morning for my son. You can tell them the truth later, in your own time. You just have to fill me in on the details.

TONI

Why are you doing this?

J.B.

I don't know. Maybe I'm returning a favor. Give me all the info and I'll meet you at the restaurant.

TONI

Thank you, Mr. Bogus.

J.B.

You know what bogus means, don't you? It means fake. We're all fakes here. We spend our whole lives acting. What's one more acting job?

He leaves. She enters her office. End of Scene one.

SCENE TWO

INT. HORSE RANCH - DAY

Toni is sitting on a fence. She is eating. Doc comes in and sits by her.

DOC

Lucy sure knows how to cook. I've half a mind to marry her. You should see what she does to chicken.

TONI

She's that good.

DOC

Good isn't the word. For the past three years, I've been trying to get her to open a restaurant. I even offered to back it financially. I still want to.

TONI

Why hasn't she taken you up on it?

DOC

That, my dear, I can't answer. Toni, Lucy's always been a mystery to me.

TONI

You called me Toni? I'm so used to being called Ms. Andrews, I feel like I should sing "Climb Every Mountain".

DOC

Well, I hate it. I've always been informal and I'll be damned if I call anyone by a title. The Governor, herself, is my patient and I call her by her pet name. I should, I delivered her and her children.

TONI

I can't get over this place. Everyone is so-

DOC

Normal? It's the legalization. We all know what happens here. It's no secret. This house is dead honest, most honest place a person can work.

J.B. walks by rubbing his stomach.

DOC

I see YOU'RE happy?

J.B.

Who wouldn't be after Lucy's cooking?

DOC

You should have stayed married to her. You'd never starve.

J.B.

Who says I'm starving?

DOC

Who says I meant food?

(J.B. shoots a glare. Doc touches Toni's hand.)

You know, TONI, Lucy makes a chili that's out of this world. It comes in three speeds: hot, hotter and hottest.

TONI

Which one is your favorite?

DOC

All three.

(holding hand tighter. J.B. notices.)

And then there are her enchiladas. I tell you, TONI,

(glares at J.B.)

Don't you agree, J.B.?

J.B.

(still noticing hands)

Yes, she is a good cook, runs in the family.

DOC

You cook, TONI?

J.B.

Doc, I would appreciate it if you addressed her as Ms. Andrews.

DOC

(letting go of her hand)

And be a stuffed shirt like you? Hell no! This is a picnic, Len. Lighten up.

J.B.

Doc, please. Ms. Andrews is my employee. I can address her as I wish.

DOC

Well, this young lady-

(grabs her hand)

Is NOT my employee. I will call her Toni, George, or any other name I choose.

(Music is heard in the distance.)

Ah, the music's beginning. Care to dance, TONI? I can still move. How about right here?

TONI

In the middle of the yard?

J.B.

Doc, act your age.

DOC

I am. At least I'm alive.

(holding her)

Yes, right here. Your hand, madam?

She puts her food down. He takes her hand and they begin waltzing. J.B. is confused.

DOC

You're a fine dancer.

TONI

Thank you, doctor.

DOC

I wonder when this young man will butt in?

J.B.

DOC!

DOC

You have to learn sometime. After all you will be her fiancé.

J.B.

Only as a favor.

DOC

Then dance with the girl.

He throws her at him. Both are very shy as they approach each other.

J.B.

Doc, not here. This is crazy.

DOC

Dance with her, damn it! You work in a bordello. You shouldn't be afraid of one solitary girl. What are you, a man or a marshmallow?

J.B.

I have a reputation to consider.

DOC

As a marshmallow. Suit yourself. If I were only 20 years younger, you'd have a run for your money. I'm going for some chili. Care for some, TONI?

J.B.

Ms. Andrews, Doc.

TONI

No thank you.

DOC

Suit yourself. Enjoy the picnic. Remember, don't keep marshmallows over the flame too long. They tend to burn around the edges.

He walks off singing "The Hills are Alive". Toni laughs under her breath. J.B. turns to her shyly. She sits back on the fence and continues eating.

TONI

He's a nice man, a little eccentric though.

J.B.

Yes, he's a good man. What's wrong with him today I don't know? He's normally...normal.

TONI

Still, he's very sweet. He must have been a good father.

J.B.

Any other man wouldn't let me near his daughter. He did. I could never be like him. Children are very special.

TONI

You miss Danny?

J.B.

I miss seeing him grow up. I'm kept so busy here. I don't have time to see him.

TONI

You mean you don't make time.

J.B.

What does that mean, Ms. Andrews?

TONI

I've been watching you. You're not very proud of your work. Oh, you do it well. You have very good business skills. But, you don't like it.

J.B.

Do you like your work?

TONI

All I use is a calculator. It's just numbers to me. I try not to think of it as selling flesh.

J.B.

But that's exactly what it is. Would you give yourself to a stranger for money?

TONI

Women do it every day. It's called love.

J.B.

Love. That's what it all boils down to. I loved my wife. She meant the world to me.

TONI

You can love again.

J.B.

That's easier said than done. I've seen too much. The last thing I expect to see is Cinderella come down the stairs at the ball. They don't make Cinderella's, not twice in a man's life. Why did you do it?

TONI

Do what?

J.B.

Lie to your parents.

TONI

It was Sable's idea. She told me I should reassure them I'm all right. I just couldn't tell the whole truth.

J.B.

But why the engagement?

TONI

(putting down plate)

I wanted them to think I was happy with someone. You were the only man I could write about and stay consistent. I never thought they would check up on me. I'm far from a child. I can take care of myself.

J.B.

They're your parents. Why wouldn't they want to know their future son-in-law?

TONI

It's a long way from Iowa to Nevada.

J.B.

Ever hear of airplanes? It only takes two hours. You wrote a lie, Ms. Andrews. And it's a lie you have to live with.

TONI

I could always tell them the truth. You don't have to help me.

J.B.

Tell them you work in a whorehouse?

TONI

I don't sell myself.

J.B.

But would they understand?

(taking her hands and facing her)

Ms. Andrews, I have always been honest with you, haven't I?

TONI

Yes.

J.B.

I only hired you because you were dead broke. If you could still support yourself, you wouldn't be here.

TONI

Somehow I always suspected that. Then why are you helping me now? All you have to do is ship me back home.

J.B.

Because I don't think you want to go home. You left Des Moines for a reason, and I'm not asking why. This place is only temporary. Just like everything we do here is temporary.

TONI

Does that mean YOU'LL be firing me eventually?

J.B.

I won't have to. You'll move on when you're ready.

(taking hands off and looking in the distance)

They all do.

TONI

All except you.

J.B.

Something has to remain constant.

(holds her hand)

But why does it have to be so lonely?

TONI

It's a price we pay for freedom.

(He turns to her.)

Without it, we can't be individuals.

J.B.

Individuality. Sometimes it's worse than death.

There is a moment of silence as J.B. and Toni get lost in each other. He breaks the silence.

J.B.

I have calls to make. Please excuse me.

He leaves and Doc returns and sits by her.

DOC

(taking her hand)

Sorry, my dear. I have to leave you now. I have some errands in town.

TONI

That's okay.

DOC

What were you and Lenny talking about?

TONI

Freedom and individuality.

DOC

Politics?

TONI

I guess you could call it that.

DOC

Well, I must rush.

TONI

I'll walk you to the car. I could use the exercise.

DOC

I'd rather see you on a horse. But, I guess a walk will have to do. Your arm, my dear?

She gives him her arm and they walk off. The stage is empty for a moment. Duke and Sable run in.

SABLE

I thought they'd never leave.

DUKE

Well, they did.

(He hugs her.)

We're finally alone.

SABLE

Yes.

(looking at him)

We finally are.

They kiss.

DUKE

I love the smell of your hair. It's always so fresh and free.

SABLE

I hate to burst your bubble, but I use conditioner. That's my secret. It's all chemicals.

DUKE

(releasing her)

Chemicals. Mary Beth, are you sure you want to be married to a man with a chemical dependency? I'm clean now, but all I need is one fix. My arms tell the story.

SABLE

And all I need is a pair of dice.

(taking his hands)

Duke, I love you. We're not perfect people, but we're trying. You and I have come a long way.

DUKE

Do our children have to suffer for our sins?

SABLE

We will try. That's all we can do. Besides, after Wednesday, we won't have to worry. We'll be man and wife.

DUKE

(holding her)

If everything works out.

SABLE

It will. You'll get the car. J.B. will hire the limo. And we'll be finally married.

DUKE

And have you thought about what we'll do afterwards? You still owe J.B. a lot of money. How long do you think I can remain silent while another man takes my wife? I'm only human.

SABLE

It's just till my debt is paid. It won't be long.

DUKE

One night away from you is too long. I love you.

He kisses her. J.B. approaches and sees. Lucy comes by him as he starts to say something. She stops him.

LUCY

Don't you dare, Lenny. Leave them be.

J.B.

But my rule-

LUCY

We can't all be robots. Maybe you can, but you're the only one. So you loose one girl. You still have others.

J.B.

I trusted Duke. How could he betray me?

LUCY

Since when is love betrayal?

(Duke and Sable walk off hand-in-hand.)

We all need what they have. Even you.

She walks away. He stares at the blank stage for a moment and walks off. End of Scene Two.

SCENE THREE

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE—DAY

Toni is looking out the window using it as a mirror as Sable enters.

SABLE

Breakfast.

TONI

(turning)

Take it away. I'm not very hungry.

SABLE

What's wrong?

TONI

I can't go through with this. I could never lie to my folks. They'd see through me in a minute. Just look at me. I'm not in love. I'm not even attractive. With my looks and you're profession, I'd starve.

Sable goes to the door.

SABLE

Lucy, get in here. We have a small problem.

(She enters.)

J.B. did a good job in brain washing her. She really believes nothing can be done with her.

LUCY

Oh, does she?

SABLE

SHE is chickening out.

LUCY

Chickening out! No, honey. You can't. Do it for your folks.

TONI

I can't lie to them. I'm a lousy actress.

(Duke enters, car keys in hand. Sable turns to him and smiles. He does not look pleased.)

I'm not even attractive. How can I pretend I'm in love, if I don't even feel it?

LUCY

(under her breath)

Like hell you aren't.

Sable nods in agreement.

TONI

You girls are beautiful, I'm plain. I don't even have a proper dress.

LUCY

We do... in our quarters.

TONI

You know I'm not allowed in there. It's Duke's job to keep the door under lock and key.

SABLE

So it is?

DUKE

I can't help it if I had to leave for TWO moments.

TONI

Two?

DUKE

When you enter and when you leave.

LUCY

(walking up to her and poking her hair)

As for the looks, I'm pretty good with scissors.

SABLE

(walking up)

I'm a whiz with make-up.

DUKE

And I'm blind.

LUCY

(taking Toni by the arm)

Honey, let me get at you. Even your parents won't know you.

TONI

I could never look like you in a million years.

Duke walks up to Toni.

DUKE

Either you go willingly and I pretend to go blind, or I'll carry you in.

TONI

You can't make me look any worse.

LUCY

Then let's get started.

Lucy and Toni exit. Sable and Duke look at each other.

SABLE

What's wrong?

DUKE

He's using the car. He changed his mind about the rolls. We'll have to do it next week.

SABLE

Today was perfect. No one would even pay attention to us.

She starts to cry. He walks up to her and hugs her.

DUKE

Don't worry. It will happen.

SABLE

I feel like I'm in a prison. I want a normal life. Course, when WAS my life normal? Ever since I can remember I've been on the streets.

DUKE

Don't worry. We'll be married soon. I'll give you such a boring life; you'll search for excitement. You have my word. I love you, Mary Beth.

SABLE

And I love you.

They kiss. End of Scene Three

SCENE FOUR

INT. CAESER'S PALACE – NIGHT

An expensive restaurant. J.B. waits with TONI'S PARENTS.

PA

I can't begin to tell you how surprised we were to hear our little Toni was engaged.

J.B.

(under his breath)

Not as surprised as I was.

MA

She was never very popular with boys.

PA

Oh, but she was smart. When she was home, SHE did our taxes. We never went outside. Her talent with numbers can't be surpassed. Nothing gets passed her. Event the president of the company noticed her. She was always in his office.

J.B.

That's why I hired her. I needed someone I could trust. There's alot of crooks in Vegas.

MA

That was our main concern. I can't tell you how relieved we were to find out she worked for a reputable PR firm. At least her work is legal.

J.B.

We definitely are legal.

MA

Her last company was very reliable. What did you say the name of your firm was?

J.B.

I wonder what's keeping her. She's never late.

PA

She's always been punctual. That's another one of her traits.

J.B.

If she's not here in five minutes, I'll call her. It's probably the traffic. We are a convention city.

PA

I'm here on one.

J.B.

What did you say you did?

PA

I sell fertilizer. I guess you could say I deal in shit.

J.B.

Fertilizer, how appropriate?

PA

It's a big business. Our Toni was always stricken with allergies. She couldn't wait to move away from plants. Unfortunately, the plants are moving here. It looks like I'll be visiting here often. I'll be able to see my Toni as often as I want.

MA

Especially around tax time.

J.B.

How convenient. What is keeping her?

MA

Maybe if you tell me what she's wearing, I can spot her.

J.B.

Oh, you know Toni, something plain.

PA

I wouldn't call that plain, son.

Toni enters. She is beautiful. J.B.'s shock is a combination pleasant surprise and anger. Ma rises to hug her.

MA

Baby, you look beautiful. Let me look at you. You've done something to your hair.

PA

You look like an angel.

He hugs her.

TONI

Hi, dad. It's so good to see you.

PA

Have you forgotten someone?

Toni turns to J.B..

TONI

I hope you're pleased. I did some shopping this afternoon.

J.B.

I believe I know where the store is. Of course, I'm pleased. Why shouldn't I be, darling?

PA

Well, you could at least kiss her. You intend to marry her.

J.B. approaches and kisses her lightly on the lips.

MA

Why don't we sit down and chat before dinner?

PA

Your mom and I would like to know everything you've been up to.

J.B.

So would I. I'm very interested. I'll go order our drinks.

He leaves the table.

MA

He's such a nice young man and so polite. You can tell he loves you. Why he couldn't keep his eyes off you?

PA

(looking off to distance for a moment)

And I can understand why?

TONI

So can I.

MA

Honey, it's so nice to see you again. We missed you back home. It was a surprise when you left so sudden.

TONI

I needed a new start.

MA

What was wrong with Des Moines? You had your friends there. Your boss was crazy about you.

TONI

I needed the change.

PA

I bet you don't miss the weather and pollen.

TONI

At least here I can breathe.

J.B. returns with the drinks.

MA

I can't get over how good she looks. That tan appears natural. And you've lost weight. What's your secret?

TONI

Every Sunday I go horseback riding. Everything closes down so I have time.

PA

Do you Mr. Bogus?

J.B.

Please, call me John. I don't ride anymore.

PA

How did you get the name Bogus?

J.B.

It used to be Polish, I shortened it. I wasn't blessed with a name like yours.

MA

Not everyone comes from English stock.

PA

My family has royal blood in it.

MA

That's why we call Toni, our princess.

TONI

Please, don't start that.

PA

Senior year she was Elizabeth R in the school play. You remember her, The Virgin Queen?

TONI

Dad, I couldn't act my way out of a paper bag! I only got the part because I look it,

(under her breath)

In more than one way.

PA

You remember your history?

J.B.

It was never my strong point.

PA

What was?

TONI

Education, dad.

J.B.

Physical education.

PA

You wanted to be a gym teacher?

J.B.

I guess you could say I deal with sports, occasionally. I just avoid horses because of an accident. My hip tends to bother me.

MA

So honey, tell us what you do?

TONI

I said it in my letter. I work for a PR firm. I balance accounts, pay bills, so on.

J.B.

Toni is my right hand...person. She's an old pro at the business.

(Toni kicks him under the table.)

Of numbers.

PA

Do you have many clients?

J.B.

We get our share.

PA

Would I be one of them?

J.B.

It's a strong possibility.

PA

Maybe I could come down to your office and discuss it. My flight doesn't leave till tomorrow.

J.B.

That won't be necessary. Next time you're in town.

TONI

Next time?

J.B.

Your father was telling me he's opening up accounts here. He'll be visiting...frequently. Isn't that convenient...Toni?

TONI

Very.

PA

What other clients do you have? Are the accounts large?

TONI

Some.

PA

How large?

TONI

Enough.

PA

Five, six, seven?

TONI

I guess you could say so.

J.B.

They are expanding accounts.

PA

Eight?

TONI

I don't think we've ever gone over eight.

J.B.

Eight grand is big money, even in this town.

Music is heard in the background.

MA

Honey, they're playing a slow song. Let's dance.

PA

You read my mind.

They leave and dance to the corner of the stage.

J.B.

Where the hell did you get that dress?

TONI

I told you, I went shopping.

J.B.

At Lucy's stable. I know that dress. I've seen her in it often enough.

TONI

And probably off.

J.B.

I have never broken my rule until you came.

PA

Look, dear. He must really love her. He can't stay away from her.

MA

Any closer and they'll have to get married.

J.B.

Who gave you the right to break ALL my rules? There isn't one you haven't touched. I ought to ship you back right now. How else can I keep a business going if my OWN employees don't follow the rules?

TONI

Well, if you had let me tell them the truth, I wouldn't have broken them.

J.B.

Where was Duke?

TONI

With Sable at her meeting.

J.B.

I can't believe it. My whole operation is collapsing around me. First Duke and Sable, and now you.

TONI

You know?

J.B.

I'm not blind. I know he gives her money. I even know about Snow White.

TONI

What else do you know?

J.B.

You think I'm a fool, Ms. Andrews? I know my staff down to the last Mexican maid. You were the only one I really trusted and you pull this on me. If you didn't look so beautiful, I'd put you over my knee. I'm too much in shock right now.

TONI

You think I'm beautiful?

J.B.

Yes. Don't ever dress like that at the ranch. I don't want a repeat of that drunk. Looks like that could turn a man's head.

TONI

Even yours?

Her parents return.

PA

We're surprised at you son. I know music has changed over the years, but even I like to hold a woman near me. How else do you think I got Toni? Ask her to dance.

J.B. looks at her.

J.B.

Dance, Ms. Andrews?

TONI

I'd be delighted.

They go to the dance floor and he is very polite. Her parents are confused.

MA

I've never seen a man so polite.

PA

Probably had a good upbringing.

Pa looks in the distance again.

TONI

They're not buying it. You have to try harder.

J.B.

(holding her closer)

Is this going to be an evening of puns?

TONI

It looks like it.

J.B.

This will be the longest night of my life.

TONI

You think I don't feel the same way.

MA

Something's wrong. They act like strangers.

PA

They're probably shy. Let's help the out.

Pa leans over and kisses his wife. J.B. and Toni watch.

J.B.

I suppose we're next. I really don't want to.

TONI

You think I do?

J.B.

Now I know how the girls feel.

TONI

I'm just a john to you, John. Thanks alot. I know you never really liked me.

J.B.

I did to. I DO! You're a nice girl. I'm an ex-con. I'm trying to protect you from people like me, and you're making it very difficult. If we were alone, the way you look tonight, we wouldn't be standing. I'm still a man, Ms. Andrews. My body functions like everyone else's!

TONI

You better do something soon. They're getting suspicious.

J.B.

What I would like to do, you can't do in mixed company. If I must.

He leans over and kisses her politely. It becomes passionate. He stops and looks at her.

J.B.

That convincing enough?

TONI

(overcome)

I think they got the message.

J.B.

Unfortunately, so did I.

He kisses her again and Pa breaks in.

PA

May I have a dance with my little girl?

J.B.

Be my guest.

J.B. sits down.

PA

You better be careful, honey. I know you're not a spring chicken, but there is something to be said for time.

TONI

I know, dad.

She looks over at the table. J.B. can't keep his eyes off her.

PA

Let's sit down.

They do.

MA

So, dear. Tell us about the people you work with. Is it a large office?

TONI

Not really.

MA

Do you have anyone helping you?

TONI

Just Duke, Lucy and Mary Beth.

MA

Duke sounds interesting. Start with him.

TONI

He handles customers, problem cases, defaults.

PA

He's a lawyer. He makes sure you get all your profits.

TONI

And protects the ones we have.

PA

So the firm is diversified?

J.B.

Very. You're in one of our accounts now. That's why you got a break on your room. Caesars is not cheap. I thought I'd help you out. It was Toni's idea.

PA

I hope you didn't suffer much of a loss on our account.

J.B.

Nonsense. I have more hotels to back it up, and what's three nights. There are already enough package deals in Vegas.

TONI

I logged that entry today.

PA

Do conventions help you much?

J.B.

You'd be surprised how much.

TONI

I'll second that.

J.B.

Our budget fluctuates with different events.

PA

So, you're seasonal?

TONI

The whole town is seasonal. Our business is just one of them.

MA

Tell me about the other two girls.

TONI

Mary Beth is my secretary.

PA

My daughter has a secretary? That's an improvement. You didn't at the insurance company.

TONI

The work warrants it. She's good at filing. I plan to help her improve her typing. Nobody's perfect.

MA

And Lucy?

J.B.

She's an old pro-

(Toni kicks him.)

At typing.

MA

Why don't you have Lucy type?

J.B.

She came with the firm. I need her in administration.

PA

How about the secretarial pool? A young man like you probably took a few dips in it.

J.B.

No, I have a rule, no dating between employees.

PA

But you and Toni-

J.B.

I couldn't help nature. She walked into my life and my rule went out the window. I'm getting hungry. Let's order dinner. Waiter?

Pa's face drops.

PA

Do they have to make a business of that too? When will this town stop?

MA

Stop what, dear?

PA

She's no more than 16 and she's already working.

MA

Working where? Who?

PA

That's Jake. He just picked up a prostitute.

MA

But he's married, and it's illegal.

PA

Not in this town. They even have special houses. I can get used to alot of things in my life, but I can never accept purposely using another person for a cheap thrill.

MA

What brought this on?

PA

All night, I've been watching the door. I've counted at least three girls come in unescorted and leave escorted.

MA

This is a restaurant. It's probably their dates.

PA

Since when does dating involve a third party? The man in the grey suit received an envelope every time. I hate pimps. They should all be shot. He even spoke to John.

J.B.

He was asking the time. There are no clocks in Vegas.

MA

Honey, please. We came here to see our daughter, not give her a morality lesson she doesn't need.

PA

It makes me mad. If my daughter were anywhere near a life like that, I would disown her.

J.B. squeezes her hand under the table.

MA

Anything wrong, dear? Did we say something?

TONI

Nothing's wrong. I'm just a little tired.

MA

Dinner will fix that. I'll call the waiter.

She motions. End of Scene Four.

SCENE FIVE

EXT. OUTSIDE THE RANCH- EVENING

Toni and J.B. walk to the cottage entrance. She turns to him.

TONI

Thanks for helping me. I'm sorry I was unreasonable in the car. I shouldn't have said those things. You never hid what you did here. It was what my father said.

J.B.

I understand. We're just from different sides of the track. You've always been protected. I've always had to protect myself. My rules would naturally be different. Being Lenny Pettit wasn't easy. That's why I dropped him.

TONI

Tell me about him.

J.B.

I'd rather not. He's dead and doesn't exist anymore.

TONI

You can't kill someone who never was.

J.B.

I beg your pardon?

TONI

You were always this way. It just took a little longer to come out. Why did you marry Lucy?

J.B.

That's a good question. I hope I can give you a good answer.

TONI

The truth will do.

J.B.

The truth it is. I was young. I didn't know any better. Lucy was just there. We grew up together. Our fathers were avid hunters, and would go out frequently. We both grew up around guns. I shot my first animal at ten years old. Lucy was by my side. I remember my father telling me to pull the trigger, and forget it's alive. It's just a dumb animal. It deserved to die. So, I did it.

TONI

How did that make you feel?

J.B.

I cried for an hour afterwards. I couldn't see taking a life for no reason. My father's favorite word was KILL. If it moves, kill it. Lucy's father was no better. It was only natural we'd turn to each other. One night we got tired of the abuse and eloped. It was fun at first. We bought some moonshine and went driving around. We were so drunk; we couldn't even consummate the marriage. One of us would always pass out. We spent two days drinking and driving all over the nearest back roads.

TONI

What about her parents?

J.B.

They called the police. It was only a matter of time before they'd catch us. I wish they had sooner. There wouldn't have been a robbery.

TONI

The gas station?

J.B.

We ran out of money faster than we expected. We couldn't even pay for a cheap motel room. That's why I needed the money, to screw my wife in a proper bed. We drove up to a gas station. It was early morning. I stopped the car for a moment and saw the attendant was alone.

TONI

And Lucy?

J.B.

She moved up to the driver's seat while I went inside. I pretended to buy a pack of gum. When I paid for it, I saw the register was loaded. The nightly pick-up hadn't come yet. I'd never seen so much money in one place before. Before he could close the register, I pulled out my gun. He went for his and I kept hearing my father's voice. "Kill it! It's just a stupid animal". I don't even remember pulling the trigger. The next thing I knew he was dead. I just stood there. My, you're silent all of a sudden.

TONI

What happened next?

J.B.

Lucy ran in. She kept pulling me out but I was frozen. It was Lucy who took the money. We had to get away. I was in too much shock. Somehow, she put me in the car and she drove off. We were in the next town when the police finally pulled us over.

TONI

Why did they let Lucy go?

J.B.

I took the full rap. I made it look like it was my idea and she was forced into it. All she got was a scolding. I got ten years. Well, Ms. Andrews, what do you think of your boss now? Still glad I helped you? You spent the evening with a murderous ex-con. There's innocent blood on my hands. I didn't have to pull the trigger.

TONI

But your image?

J.B.

Only works here. This is the only place I can work. In the outside world, you wouldn't admit to knowing me. I've seen your kind before. I married it.

TONI

Mary.

J.B.

She was a pure soul. She always had this smile on her face. She never gave up till she got me to laugh. The fondest memories are the days I had to hold my side. She had the same amount of brains you do. She knew everything about everything. She even played the piano.

TONI

So I've been told.

J.B.

Sunday mornings I would lie in bed and listen to her practicing in her father's study. One morning I watched her from the top of the stairs. The sun came in and hit her hair just right. She looked like an angel. She finished her piece and looked up. She smiled and went right back to her playing. I spent the whole morning watching her.

TONI

Why didn't you come down?

J.B.

It would be sacrilege. I couldn't defile her. She was purity in its true state, like you.

TONI

I'm not pure. I couldn't play the Virgin Queen now. There are certain things a girl doesn't tell her father. I have my skeletons too.

J.B.

You, I find that hard to believe.

TONI

I was involved with someone. I just never got paid. He was married. He kept promising to divorce his wife, but he never did. Des Moines may be the Capitol of Iowa, but it's still a small town. It was hard but we kept it secret for years.

J.B.

What changed?

TONI

I couldn't stand it anymore. I confronted him, I had to. I was pregnant. He said he never intended to marry me. He was only using me.

J.B.

And the baby?

TONI

I had it taken care of and left. That was four months ago.

J.B.

Why this far? Who was this man?

TONI

The president of the company. He fired me and had me black listed. Am I still what you think?

J.B.

Yes.

(putting his hands on her shoulders)

Even with the make-up, and the dress and the story. You still are.

He leans over and kisses her. They embrace.

TONI

You don't have to act anymore. The audience is gone.

J.B.

I'm not acting.

(He kisses her again.)

God, I want to be with you tonight, all night.

(He stops.)

But, I can't. I can't pollute someone else. I polluted Mary and she died.

TONI

She caught a chill. That wasn't your fault.

J.B.

Yes, it was. I killed someone loved and God killed who I loved. It's my judgment. I can never have anyone like you. They'll always be taken away from me. In your next check, include your OWN pink slip.

TONI

You're firing me?

J.B.

Are you going to lie to your parents forever? I don't believe you can. I'll stick to our agreement and help you anywhere you want to go. Get some sleep. It's late.

J.B. walks away, as does Toni. They both freeze looking at the opposite ends of the stage and not each other. She starts to enter the cottage when she heard voices. She sees J.B. stop and watch them unobserved. Duke and Sable enter.

SABLE

How did it go?

DUKE

Pretty well. J.B. pulled it off. We knew he would. There were a few bad moments but he bluffed his way through.

SABLE

What are Toni's folks like?

DUKE

The type we can never be.

SABLE

How did J.B. react to Toni?

DUKE

He couldn't keep his eyes off her.

(holding her)

Like I can't keep my eyes off you. I hate it when you're with someone. I need you by me. I want you be the mother of my children. I want to grow old with you, Mary Beth.

SABLE

You're an ugly puss now. You'll probably be uglier when you're older. I'd like to see you that way.

She kisses him.

DUKE

I wish I could marry you right now. There's no way. If J.B. hadn't taken the company car, we'd be married right now.

SABLE

I feel like a prisoner. This place has become a jail.

DUKE

I wish I could liberate you but you owe so much.

SABLE

So do you. I don't think you could leave him without feeling guilty.

DUKE

The benevolent jailer, just like King Arthur. Don't you worry. I'll find a way to get the car. You'll be married to this ugly puss yet.

J.B. walks up to them with the keys in his hand. They see him and freeze.

J.B.

All you had to do was ask, Duke.

DUKE

J.B.?

J.B.

I never realized till tonight how much of a prison this place was. We're all trapped here, Sable. Take the keys, Duke. Marry the girl.

He takes the keys.

DUKE

Why?

J.B.

You were right. Toni's folks are special. She's a lucky girl. There's plenty of 24-hour chapels on the strip. You should have no trouble finding one. Course, when you come back, there will be a few changes. I don't think Duke will like you working anymore, but there's still the matter of your debt. I want that money.

SABLE

There's only one way I can pay you back? I have to work for you.

J.B.

Agreed, and you will. You will work in the kitchen, as a maid, and also as my new accountant's assistant.

SABLE

New accountant?

J.B.

I'm letting her go. Her kind doesn't belong here. As for you, Duke, as long as you stay big and ugly, you have a job. You two will be free to move on after Mary Beth's debt is paid.

SABLE

You called me Mary Beth?

J.B.

So, I did. Now go to town. I want to see you two bright and early tomorrow.

SABLE

Thank you, Mr. B..

She kisses him on the cheek.

J.B.

GO! And the name is Pettit.

The two leave. He turns and sees Toni standing behind him.

TONI

And you were worried about me being the reformer?

(pause)

What's wrong?

He walks up to her and takes her hand.

J.B.

Just a moment ago, when the moonlight hit you, I almost forgot myself. It was like you came out of a dream.

TONI

Maybe I did. Maybe tonight is one big dream.

J.B.

Then let's keep dreaming.

He kisses her again.

TONI

I thought you didn't want employee relationships?

J.B.

I fired you, remember.

The two walk off hand-in-hand into the cottage entrance. End of Scene Five.

SCENE SIX

EXT. HORSE RANCH - DAY

Toni is sitting on the fence. She is in riding clothes. Duke and Sable approach her. They are holding plates loaded with food.

SABLE

You're not eating. The ribs are great.

TONI

And fattening. Be careful. You'll lose your girlish figure.

DUKE

(putting arm around her)

I wouldn't worry about that. When her figure goes, it won't be because of ribs.

SABLE

Get some before they're gone. Lucy made the sauce. She's mean in the kitchen.

TONI

I'm not very hungry.

SABLE

Well, we're going to find a place to eat. See you later.

They walk off. Doc walks in. He spots her and sits on the fence.

DOC

You're missing lunch.

TONI

I'm not very hungry.

DOC

Sable tells me you haven't been eating well for days. Are you feeling all right?

TONI

I'm fine, Doc. Can't a person loose her appetite occasionally?

DOC

Don't take that tone of voice with me, young lady?

TONI

I'm sorry, Doc. But, I'm tired of people asking me how I feel. That's all I've heard for two weeks. You didn't eat your breakfast, Ms. Andrews. Didn't you like your lunch, Ms. Andrews? Smile, Ms. Andrews. The world isn't that bad, Ms. Andrews. Is it against the law for me to have a bad day?

DOC

No, it isn't. It's just not you. Are you sure you're—

TONI

Don't say it.

DOC

Sorry, MS. ANDREWS, Toni. We're all going to miss you. You brought some sense into this crazy world of ours.

TONI

Strange what an occasional astronomy lesson will do.

DOC

It's not that and you know it. Since you'll be leaving, I have a confession to make. Astronomy is my hobby. It has been for years.

TONI

It figures as much. You're the only person I didn't have to explain a globular cluster to.

DOC

Before you leave, come over to the house. I have a telescope you'd be interested in.

TONI

I'm not in the mood now.

DOC

Still, you will be missed.

TONI

I never tried to reform anyone. I kept my place.

DOC

You brought us back to reality.

TONI

How? I leave everything the same.

DOC

No, it's not. Mary Beth and Alfred are married.

TONI

Who's Alfred?

DOC

Why else do you think he likes the name Duke?

TONI

I don't blame him.

DOC

You even changed J.B.. I see my son-in-law again. You never saw him before. My daughter turned an angry young man into a loving human being. I'd do anything to see him smile, or laugh.

TONI

What was he like in jail?

DOC

First time I saw him, I was sewing him up. He took a knife for someone, pretty bad too. I almost lost him.

TONI

But you pulled him through?

DOC

Yes, I did. You were right. His goodness was always there.

(J.B. enters as Doc stands.)

Well, I'm going to add more cholesterol to my heart and get some ribs before they're gone.

He leaves. J.B. walks up to Toni.

J.B.

If you don't go now, the food will be gone.

TONI

I'm not very hungry.

J.B.

I've been trying to get you alone for days. I have a few things to say. I want to apologize for my behavior this week. I shouldn't have taken advantage of you. It was wrong. I don't want to be like your ex-boss. It wouldn't be fair to you. I guess what I'm trying to say is-

(Doc returns and watches.)

I have no intention to pursue this relationship any further. You deserve better. You want someone who will give you lots of kids, a nice home and respectability. I can't give you that... After two weeks, we don't have to deal with each other anymore. It's only fair to you. Tell whatever story you want to your folks. I won't challenge you. That's all I have to say.

TONI

At least you're honest about it.

DOC

When am I going to get you on a horse, Ms. Andrews? I've waited four months and I'm not waiting anymore.

(walks over and pulls her from the fence)

Now get you butt to the stable and ask for sunshine. She's the gentlest horse there.

TONI

I've never even been on a pony.

DOC

Lucy will show you. She's a born equestrian. Now go.

(He shoves her off smiling and turns to J.B. in anger.)

What the hell is wrong with you? That girl loves you.

J.B.

Don't you think I know that? She IS a lousy actress.

DOC

And so are you?

J.B.

Doc, knock it off. I'm no good for her.

DOC

Do you have to be so harsh?

J.B.

What do you suggest?

DOC

Try respecting her feelings. You know what your problem is? You've been so busy being everyone's benefactor; you've forgotten yourself.

J.B.

Doc, honestly!

DOC

She can't replace Mary. We both loved her, but she's the closest you're gonna get. For God's Sake, Lenny, Mary would have wanted it. You can't live in the past forever. You have to go on with your life.

J.B.

Doc, if I get involved with her, her folks will disown her. She loves them too much to allow that. I'm just a guy. There will be others. I have to set her free and that's final.

DOC

Then why did you make love to her?

J.B.

It was the moment. It's over with now.

DOC

Sorry, I have enough swamp land.

J.B.

You don't believe me?

DOC

That girl's inside you. She always will be.

Sable runs in.

DOC

Doc! Toni's had an accident!

J.B.

Accident!

SABLE

Sunshine threw her.

J.B.

That can't be. She's the meekest horse.

SABLE

Not when she sees a snake, she isn't.

DOC

I'll be right there.

Duke comes in carrying Toni with Lucy behind.

LUCY

Careful how you put her down. If anything's broke, you could make it worse. Where do you want her, Doc?

DOC

Preferably where she fell. This could cause more damage.

TONI

I'm fine, Doc.

DOC

Lay her down gently.

They do. J.B. goes to her.

J.B.

Are you all right? If anything hurts at all, tell us. Duke could take you to the hospital. We'll pay for any tests. Just name it.

Sable and Doc look at each other and grin.

DOC

Let me check the patient first before you start prescribing X-rays, Doctor. Now move and give me room.

(He leans down.)

Tell me where it hurts.

TONI

Only my backside.

DOC

(touching her leg)

How's the leg?

TONI

OW!

DOC

Did you hit your head?

TONI

No.

DOC

(checking reflexes)

Leg's probably scraped. Let me see the hands. We'll have to put antiseptic on those. I'd like some x-rays after a full exam in MY office. Can you stand by yourself?

TONI

I am not an invalid!

She stands, rubbing her backside.

J.B.

Are you sure you're not hurt?

TONI

Only my pride.

She storms off. Lucy and Sable giggle.

DOC

I'm sorry, Dr. Pettit, but your patient will live. Duke, give us a ride to the ranch.

Doc and Duke leave. Sable and Lucy smile and stare at J.B. in silence.

J.B.

(pointing finger at them)

Not one word! Not one word!

LUCY

Of course.

J.B.

Damn females! God should have Adams's rib alone.

He storms off. The girls bust up laughing and leave. End of Scene Six.

SCENE SEVEN

INT. LARGE BUSINESS OFFICE- MOVING DAY

All evidence of Toni has disappeared. She is packing her belongings in a box. Sable is helping her.

SABLE

We're going to miss you. You've become part of the family.

TONI

I'm going to miss you too, Sable. I mean...Mary Beth. I'm going to have a hard time getting used to that.

SABLE

After today you won't have to. Where will you go?

TONI

I have a job at a bank in town. You want to hear something ironic. It's our bank. Apparently Mr. B. bragged so mush about me; they hired me on the spot. Some recommendation, a stable.

SABLE

At least you'll be in town. Maybe we can do lunch?

TONI

Do lunch? An ex-hooker is telling me to do lunch? You sound like a yuppie.

SABLE

Is that a sin?

TONI

There are some people who think it is. I never thought I'd be one of them.

SABLE

He doesn't want you to go. He keeps interviewing but he hasn't hired anybody. You love him.

TONI

That's ridiculous. He's a pimp. How can a nice girl like me be in love with a pimp?

SABLE

The pimp's in love with you.

TONI

What does he want from me? I'm not even attractive.

(Lucy enters.)

What man would look at me? You girls had to dress me up. You performed a miracle.

LUCY

We only brought out what was inside you. You did the rest. All I gave you was a dress and haircut. Sable did the make-up. Everything was store bought. You could have worn a potato sack and had the same effect. That man loves you. Don't fool yourself.

TONI

You're both being ridiculous.

LUCY

That's it. I've had enough. This is going to stop right here and now.

She exits into the hall. Mr. B. is by the door speaking to someone off screen.

J.B.

I'll call you with my decision, Mr. Jones. Thank you for coming.

He turns to see Lucy standing behind him with her arms folded.

LUCY

Another refusal?

J.B.

He didn't have the credentials.

LUCY

Who does? More men have come out of THIS door than the stable, and you STILL haven't made up your mind. You don't want to hire anyone, admit it. You don't want her to go.

J.B.

I asked her to go.

LUCY

But you don't WANT her to go. Damn it, Lenny! We go back too far for you to lie to me. You're acting like a damn fool!

J.B.

Lucy, please. Let it be.

LUCY

I will not!

J.B.

It was a mistake to even hire her. A woman doesn't belong here. She's not the type.

LUCY

Is that what you thought when you made love to her?

J.B.

How did you know?

LUCY

I know you, Lenny. You love that woman. If it's anything I know about you is how you look in love. I saw it with Mary. I see it with Toni. You let her go and you're gonna regret it for the rest of your life.

J.B.

I have no right to destroy her. She needs a new start with new people. She can get it at the bank. She deserves it. I'd only be her jailer. This is a prison, Lucy. Can't you see that? I've built a prison and we're all in it.

LUCY

The only prisoner here is YOU. You've made your own jail. No one's here who doesn't want to be.

(Duke appears in the hall.)

Now, go in there and tell her you love her, Lenny Pettit, or I'll kick you ass!

DUKE

And I'll help her.

J.B. looks at both of them.

J.B.

You're right. I'm going to tell her exactly how I feel.

He goes into the office boldly and motions to Sable. She goes into the hall and then becomes meek again.

J.B.

I see you're almost ready.

TONI

My bags are already in the car. I'm just getting my office supplies. I should be finished in a few minutes.

She picks up the box and heads for the door.

J.B.

Please, don't go. Stay.

TONI

I start at the bank tomorrow. It's too late to change my mind. Besides, I have nothing holding me here.

He walks up to her, takes the box out of her hand, holds her and kisses her.

J.B.

I am.

Duke, Sable and Lucy enter.

J.B.

Ms. Andrews, I'm not letting you of here until we get something straight. I love you. I don't know how it happened but it did and I'm not sorry. I'm not letting you out of my life so easy. You're stuck with me.

LUCY

Bravo! It's about time. We told you, honey. It's your turn, tell him.

Toni is speechless.

SABLE

Tell him. There's no need to hold it in.

LUCY

Honey, it's your choice. The man wants you.

J.B.

I don't want you to go. We need you here. I need you.

LUCY

Damn it, girl! He loves you. Do something. Don't just stand there. Kiss him for God's sake!

He puts his hand under her chin and leans over to kiss her. She kisses him back and the crowd cheers.

J.B.

Now that that's settled, let's discuss your jobs.

TONI

Jobs?

J.B.

My accountant, my lover and maybe my wife. The last is up to you.

TONI

Wife?

J.B.

And probably the mother of my children if I have my way about it.

(He motions to the crowd.)

I'm making some policy changes. Mrs. Pettit and I are moving into town. This is no place to raise children and I intend to have a whole flock, maybe even a baseball team.

TONI

Not at my age you don't.

J.B.

Then we'll bunch them up. Secondly, Ms. Andrew's quarters will be occupied by Lucy.

LUCY

Me, why?

J.B.

Pack your things. You're moving into the cottage. You haven't been pulling your weight for much too long.

LUCY

Are you firing me?

J.B.

Yes. Your quarters are temporary. Doc has expressed to me many times he's willing to back you financially on a restaurant. Well, I'm sharing half of the burden. You've got a God given talent, and you're going to use it. You're going to be MY ticket out of here.

LUCY

What if I fail?

J.B.

At least, you can say you tried. Mary Beth, you've shown interests I've never imagined before. You're going to business school. I'll make a typist out of you yet, maybe even an accountant. The rest is up to you. Besides, once you start working regularly, I'll get my money back faster.

(walking to Toni)

But first, I have a job for you. Come here, Mary Beth.

(She does. He grabs a pencil.)

Take this pencil. It's gotten dull. My accountant will need it.

(He extends his hand to Duke. Duke throws him the keys.)

Last time I used these keys, I lost a girl to a pencil sharpener. This time I GET the girl and the sharpener. I'm properly asking you. Marry me, Toni.

LUCY

Do it, honey. We can't push love away forever.

Sable looks at Toni.

TONI

My parents will disown me.

J.B.

Let me handle them. I won't be here for long either. Even I have to branch out.

SABLE

J.B. will take care of it. Tell him yes.

DUKE

(taking Sable's hand)

Do it.

LUCY

Danny needs a mom.

J.B.

Danny's father needs a wife.

LUCY

Say yes.

J.B.

It's up to her. Don't push her. She knows what will happen if she does.

LUCY

Or doesn't.

J.B.

I love you, Toni. You won't be able to get rid of me that easy. Whatever your answer is, I won't stop trying.

TONI

(taking his hand)

Just try and get rid of me. You wouldn't have a twinkle on you, would you?

The curtain drops. End of play.