Episode 20: “In Absentia”

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CONTENT WARNING: Loud noises, descriptions of a corpse, discussions of death and drowning (including child death), despair, depictions of a natural disaster, some strong language

Tape 0: Waiting for Sam to return to his office, Maria Sol discovers an unexpected cassette hidden amongst Anna Sheridan’s tapes… One that holds many answers, but even more questions.

Starring Amitola Lomas as Maria Sol, Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, Chris Martin as Dispatch, Michael Dostrow as the chief, and Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Trevor Van Winkle, and made possible by our supports at patreon.com/homesteadcorner

For more information and additional content, visit thesheridantapes.com

Script

TST_200904_S020_Thumb

Transcript

CONTENT WARNINGS: Loud noises, descriptions of a corpse, discussions of death and drowning (including child death), despair, depictions of a natural disaster, some strong language

Cold Open

[Quiet, drafty room]

[Footsteps]

[Beeping as someone uses a keypad]

[Buzzer, door unlocks and swings open]

[Footsteps]

[Someone picks up a gun, loads, and cocks it]

[Holsters gun]

[Footsteps]

[Keys rattle, metal door opens]

[Two soft, heavy objects set on counter]

[Beeping as several buttons are pressed]

[Regular, electronic beeping starts]

Sam Bailey

[Sighs]

Allright. That should do the trick.

[Drops bag on counter and unzips it]

[Places beeping objects into the bag, zips it back up]

[Sam sighs heavily]

[Footsteps retreat]

[Cassette player moter whirs, then stops]

[Click]

[Main Theme]

Recording Begins

[Keyboard keys clacking]

[Beep]

Maria Sol

So… Sam left to go get some fresh air about an hour ago, and still hasn’t come back. I don’t know what he’s doing, but he did look pretty freaked out when he left. I don’t know why, I just mentioned Agate Shore, and he lost his shit. I mean, maybe it messed with people out here a little more than I thought, but still…

Anyways, I would’ve just left, but I get the feeling he’d arrest me if I did — as if he wasn’t already slowing me down enough. So I’ve just been sitting in here for the last hour, waiting for him to show up. But, since it doesn’t look like he’s coming back anytime soon, I figured I’d get started on some more tapes. I know he wanted us to listen together, but honestly, screw that. He shouldn’t even have them in the first place, and he can listen to the recording later.

[Shuffles through and pulls out a cassette]

Let’s see, next one is… Huh. There’s no number on this one.

[Flips cassette over]

There’s nothing on this one, actually… No label at all. Or maybe there was — there’s some sticker residue, but it looks like it’s been torn off. Huh. That’s helpful.

Tape… Uh, zero, I guess. Keyword unknown, date unknown, digitized on April 30th, 2019 at 0100 Pacific Standard Time by Maria Sol, Sam Bailey in absentia. Marker.

[Maria claps]

[Click]

Tape 0

[A different, harsher static than usual, then fades]

Sam Bailey

I don’t even… I’m… Sorry. I should’ve written something down before I got started. 

Maria Sol

Is that… Sam?

Sam Bailey

I didn’t think… I mean… God, where to even start?

[Papers shuffling]

I’ve got a hundred pages of case notes here, but even I can’t seem to put the damn things in order. I thought I knew what was going on, but I think I forgot something… Somewhere. Somehow.

This was the ninth. Tenth if you count Richard Seaver, and I do. Most people don’t, but I think…

[Faint static rises]

No. No no no no no, it’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not…

[Static cut out]

Sorry. I… Sorry. Everything’s just… With things like they are, I… Let’s — let’s start from the beginning.

[Click]

Tape Paused

Maria Sol

Okay… What the hell is this? Did Sam put one of his tapes in with Anna’s? Doesn’t sound like him, to be honest. In fact, it really doesn’t sound like him… He sounds even more freaked out than usual. Maybe it’s an old recording he made? But then why would it be in here with all of these? Maybe Anna… What, found it somewhere?

I should probably… I mean, I probably shouldn’t listen to this without…

[Suddenly laughs]

What the hell am I saying? It’s not like he showed Anna the same courtesy.

[Click]

Tape Resumes

[Sounds of voices played in fast-forward]

[Click]

[The sound of a busy office in the backgroun]

Sam Bailey

So, it’s um, January — six? Yeah, yeah, January six, twenty… does this thing auto-datestamp? I think… Let me look at the instructions here.

[Fips through a comically large book]

J[Beep]S. You’ve gotta be f[Beep]ing kidding me. This thing has an auto-censor? Who the h[Beep]l decided that was a good idea? Oh, Mary H. Mother of C[Beep]ist.

Okay. This is Detective Sam Bailey of the Agate Shore Police Department, recording for the first time with this d[Beep]n contraption because Jerry said, ‘oh, it’s easier than typing everything out,’ and I guess that’s right because that computer’s just another d[Beep]n contraption I have to work with on this job, and I might as well save some time for all the other nothing I’ve got to do around here…

[Sighs]

Look, I’m not just getting on this thing to hear the sound of my own voice, is what I’m saying. God knows I don’t like it. But Oslow County’s finally joining the 21st century and accepting audio logs in place of case files, so here we are. Here — we — are…

[Shuffling papers]

[Click]

Tape Paused

Maria Sol

He was in Agate Shore. God, of course he was — no wonder he was so upset about me mentioning it. But if he was there at the end… I mean, it definitely sounds like he was from the first bit. Maybe even after the last drowning. Huh. Wonder if I skip forward a bit…?

[Pop, and voices playing in fast forward]

[Click]

Tape Resumes

[Sounds of a busy office]

Sam Bailey

…and I swear to God if Allen doesn’t stop stapling both copies of his reports together I’m going to take him out back and shoot him myself… it’s an act of mercy.

[Sighs]

Sorry, that’s… that probably shouldn’t be on this tape. “Official business only,” and all that. Jeez, they even wrote that on top of the recorder in big red letters in case I forgot. But who else am I going to talk to about these things? I mean, is it really more professional to complain to a coworker than a machine? And I can’t talk to anybody in town — word travels too quick. I mean, I tell Jim about Allen, Jim tells Mary, Mary tells Abby, Abby tells Jerry and Jerry tells Allen. 

[Sighs]

And if this gets played in county court someday — which I find unlikely — nobody in Agate Shore will hear it. Probably.

I’m… I’m avoiding the issue, I guess. Just don’t want to talk about it. A kid went missing at school today. The Martins’ boy, Pat. Good kid. Too shy for his own good, sure, but smart. Curious. Couple of the other kids saw him wander off into the lake bed… it was an Agate hunting trip. I mean, there were too many kids for Miss Maisey to keep track of, and the volunteer parent bailed at the last second. I saw him at Chuck’s last night — he’s probably still hungover.

[Siren rises behind his voice]

That’s — that’s an ambulance, not a patrol car. God, I hope that’s not…

Police Officer

Sam!

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

Sam Bailey

There’s been another one… J[Beep]s no, another three. Couple of teenagers from Arrowhead, up for Spring break. They were — they were car-camping out on the lake bed, smoking or drinking or… you know. Whatever kids do out there. Allen went out to check on them when he saw their jeep out there. He… It was just like Pat. Just stone dead in the middle of the desert, their lungs full of water. Salt water.

Then Allen tries to tell me that when he got to the car, it was flooded all the way to the windows, and the kids were floating in it, that when he opened the door it all spilled out and soaked into the ground before anyone else got there. I mean, god Allen! People are dying out there…! The least you could do is stop cracking jokes about people who are…

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

[Rain pouring outside]

Sam Bailey

[Strangled breathing, almost sobs]

Allen’s dead.

He… I… It was just like all the other others. Water, in his lungs. His skin colder than it should’ve been out on the lake bed in the sun. The coroner said the said thing he did with the others: that he drowned. On saltwater. In the middle of the desert.

I’m sorry, I – I can’t, I can’t.

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

[Buzz of fluorescent lights]

Sam Bailey

This is the first time I’ve… recorded anything in a while. I couldn’t just — sit in my office. I, I couldn’t — I couldn’t breathe in there. It felt like I was…

[Swallows, sounding choked]

I don’t know why I thought it’d be better here, of all places, but… But it is. I couldn’t get away from them in the office. Oslow sent up a new team of investigators, they… they think it’s a serial killer. Some… Someone with a fixation on the old salt lake. But I…

It took me a while to figure out how to move this thing. They had it mounted to my desk, but I did manage to get it off. But I couldn’t take it home. Maybe it’s quieter there, but I… I couldn’t just tell it to the recorder. I had to — I needed to…

I’m sorry, Allen.

I’m sorry, Allen. I should’ve known what this was right from the start. The signs were there — the lake bed, the drownings, the weather —  hell, even Ms. Miller’s flooded basement. It’s so, g[Beep]n obvious even you could’ve figured it out, if only — if only I told anyone.

I grew up here in Agate Shore. I know, I know, I play the big city cop so well, dragged here against my will… and that’s also kind of true. When I went to school, I never wanted to end up working back here. But no one else would take me, though. Guess I was too bad with computers to actually fit at any other PD. Or maybe… maybe it was Agate Shore, trying to…

Back when I was a kid, there was actually a shore. There was actually a lake. You’re too young to remember it — h[Beep]l I’m almost too young myself. They built the dam when I was in third grade, and the lake was gone by the next summer. But before that, I was always out there with my parents. My mom and dad would swim out in the lake early in the morning, then teach me to swim in the shallows in the afternoon. We went out there as… as often as we could, sometimes three or four times a week in the warm season. I was a pretty good swimmer by the time I started kindergarten, and then I decided I would try to do what my parents did — swim out into the middle of the salt lake and just…  float in the sun. They would never let me go out that far — my dad would jump in and pull me back to shore and tell me it wasn’t safe out there. So one day, when my parents forgot the towels in the car and ran back to fetch them, I… I jumped into the lake and just started swimming.

I was a good swimmer, yeah, but not half as good as I thought I was. It was late February, and the lake was still cold. I made it about twenty yards before my arms started seizing up. I tried kicking to keep going, but my legs were already stiff, and I couldn’t seem to stay afloat. And then my legs froze too. And I was sinking.

You know when you’re swimming in a lake, and you open your eyes? How there’s that kind of… green-grey glow all around you, and you can’t tell which way is up? That’s what it was like. Except I knew I was getting deeper and deeper by the second. I tried to scream before I went under, but that just filled my lungs with water. I was drowning, and stupid as I was I knew there was no one coming to save me. And then I heard it: the voice. I — I don’t know if it was the lake itself talking, or some creature or monster or what. For a long time I thought it was just my own imagination or… Maybe it was God. I don’t think so now.

“What would you do to save yourself?” it asked. “Anything,” I thought. “What would you give to save yourself?” it asked. “Anything,” I said. “Who would you give to save yourself?” I wasn’t thinking clearly, my… my brain just couldn’t get the oxygen. And I was afraid… So, so afraid. “Anyone,” I managed, just before I blacked out.

[Deep, shuddering breath]

When I woke up, I was in the hospital with my parents watching over me. I never did get a straight answer out of them about what happened. They said I made it out of the water just in time, but they never said how I got out… or who pulled me out. But I could still hear the sound of waves in my head — I still hear them now, every once in a while.

[Faint static rises]

For years I thought one of them… swam in and saved me, but didn’t want to say it… That they didn’t want to scare me. Now I’m not so sure. I never really got the chance to ask them. The lake took them both back a few months later.

Restore. Restore. Restore.

Anything. Anything. Anyone.

[Click]

Tape Paused

Maria Sol

Those questions… They’re the same ones Anna heard in Tahoe and Kingstown. God, no wonder Sam was so quick to point out they were in Agate Shore as well.

But then why did he… Why was he so skeptical about all this? I mean, if he had an encounter with this thing when he was a kid, then why would he think Anna was making it all up? And I don’t know what that “restore” thing was about… The questions, sure, but… Restore what?

Screw it, I’m skipping to the end.

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

Tape Resumes

Sam Bailey

…finally stopped raining. I took Russel out for a walk for… I guess it must have been the first time in weeks last night. I was just letting him out on the porch before… Gross, I know, but… I just couldn’t go out in that. But last night I couldn’t sleep, and then the rain finally stopped, so I…

The gutters were still flooded. Nothing drains properly here… I guess it’s ’cause we live in the desert, despite what the weather wants us all to think. I had my boots on, and, of course, Russel was having a blast with all the puddles. He was going to make a mess of the carpets when we got back, but I didn’t care. It’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone, not… not anyway. I was too distracted to really notice, even if it was dark and there wasn’t much to look at except maybe the streetlights. I could smell the water, though. I know it’s impossible, but — it smelled like the ocean. Like salt. Like the way the lake used to when…

I was hypnotized by it all: by the streetlights passing by and the smell and something… and something else. The sound of waves.

[Faint static rises]

And then all the lights went out again.

[Shuddering breath]

Russel started barking right away. I noticed it too. I couldn’t see anything, not then, but… I felt something… someone… watching. Waiting. Considering. There wasn’t a moon last night, and what was left of the rain clouds was hiding the stars. But it still wasn’t dark. Not like it… Not like it should’ve been.

You know how when you’re swimming in a lake and you open your eyes? How there’s that kind of green-grey glow all around you? It was like that, except if you were at the very bottom of the deepest lake you could think of, and there was barely any of that light, but it was still all around you — no up, no down, and no real source that you could see. And you look up to try and find the sun, the way back to the surface, and it’s… gone. And it’s… It’s gone.

And then I felt like there was water in my lungs, and I was coughing and choking on the ground, trying to breath…

Russel — Russel saved me. He was barking at the shadows behind one of the dead streetlights. Then I thought I saw something moving there — something tall and pale, but I only saw it for a second. My eyes were watering — I was crying. And then Russel was licking my face, snapping me out of whatever it was. Then I was crying again — Jesus, crying over the fact I was alive.

Oh yeah. By the way, the profanity filter’s broken. I haven’t tried to fix it. The filter, the lights, the generators — everything keeps breaking down. I guess, except… Everything except the cars. Those are still working. They have to be… people just keep leaving.

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

[A car’s engine starts in the distance, then speeds away]

Sam Bailey

Jerry found the guy. The guy from the bar that night last January. The pale one, with black hair and blue eyes and nice clothes singing in another language. He was… He was murdered behind the supermarket. He was… He’d been dead four days before anyone noticed the smell. There was no one taking out the garbage anymore.

There… There wasn’t any water in his lungs this time. The autopsy says he died of shock, completely unrelated to the other deaths. It could be. He was older than I thought he’d be — 67, if his ID was legit. And he did have it this time… just – just an expired driver’s license from Montana. Maybe it wasn’t another drowning. But he’d been out in the sun for four days. It could’ve evaporated, or drained out, or — something. Anything. I – I don’t know.

His name was Richard Seaver.

[Click]

[Voices in fast motion]

[Click]

Sam Bailey

It’s… It’s over. They’re all gone. Everyone. They were already — they were already leaving, and this was just the last straw. Jim was out on the lake. Nobody knows what he was doing out there, he worked a full night at Chuck’s, he should have just gone home, to Mary…

But someone on the highway saw him wandering out there alone — alone on the salt flat. They couldn’t tell if he was moving away from town or running towards it, but they pulled off and drove over to him. By the time they got to where they thought they’d seen him, they…

It was just like all the others. Almost. But he had a note in his hand. It was pretty well crushed and soaked almost all the way through — it pretty much fell apart the moment I pulled it out of his hand, but… There was only one word on it, written over and over again. Restore. Restore. Restore…

[Faint static rises]

[Clack and clatter as the tape ejects]

Tape Ends

Maria Sol

Restore? Restore — what? The town? The lake? Was the lake trying to… Bring itself back, somehow? Is that why people started drowning? Is that why it all started…

If Sam only found that note right before the dam broke, then… how did he know about it back in the morgue? God, if he made some kind of deal with this thing, and that’s why this all happened — then how much did he know about it? How much of it did he have a part in? Was he…

[Door opens suddenly]

Sam! What the hell are you…?

Jesus Sam, you’re bleeding!

[Door closes]

Sam Bailey

[Slightly delirious]

Am I? Oh, uh… I guess I am. De Witt must have hit me…

Maria Sol

De Witt? I thought you said he was dead?

Sam Bailey

[laughs darkly]

It’s a long, loooong story.

Maria Sol

Is everything okay?

Sam Bailey

No… No, everything is not okay. You were right: It’s the echo. It replaced Anna. And it’s growing.

Maria Sol

What do you mean… Growing?

Sam Bailey

Exactly what I said. It’s using Anna’s face to get people to trust it. It’s learning. It’s trying to make more duplicates. I don’t know how many it’s already made, but we… We need to…

[Sam collapses]

Maria Sol

Sam? Sam, are you okay?

[Scoots chair back]

[Footsteps]

Sam Bailey

Have to stop it… Have to stop it… Not again… Can’t… can’t let it happen again…

Maria Sol

Let what happen again?

[Sam snores lightly]

Shit… I need to get him out of here.

[Footsteps, then stop]

Sorry, it’s just…

[Footsteps go back]

[Maria picks up the tape]

It looks like there’s something on the other side of the tape. I just…

Sorry Sam. I need to know.

[Maria flips the tape and inserts it into the player]

[Click]

Tape 0 (b-side)

[The different, harsher static, then fades]

[Quiet, drafty room]

[Footsteps]

[Beeping as someone uses a keypad]

[Buzzer, door unlocks and swings open]

[Footsteps]

[Someone picks up a gun, loads, and cocks it]

[Holsters gun]

[Footsteps]

[Keys rattle, metal door opens]

[Two soft, heavy objects set on counter]

[Beeping as several buttons are pressed]

[Regular, electronic beeping starts]

Sam Bailey

[Sighs]

Allright. That should do the trick.

[Drops bag on counter and unzips it]

[Places beeping objects into the bag, zips it back up]

[Sam sighs heavily]

[Footsteps]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Thunder and rain]

[A car drives up and turns off its engine]

[Backpack dropped in seat, opened]

[Rummaging]

[A gun loading and cocking]

[Car door opens]

[Car door closes]

[Footsteps moving away]

[BOOM]

[BOOOM]

[Low rumbling sound begins to rise]

[Footsteps return, running]

[Car door opens, Sam climbs in, panting]

[Keys rattle, engine starts]

[Tires squeal, car races away]

[Sam begins coughing violently]

[Semi truck honks]

[Tires squeal]

[The noises of a crash]

[Mic bumps as recorder falls]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Mic handling as recorder is picked up]

[Sound of flames]

[Kicking against window three time]

[Sam grunts on each impact]

[Glass shatters]

[Impact as he lands in loose gravel, then begins to walk away]

[A fire engine’s siren from far away approaches]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Crickets chirping]

[Footsteps]

[Train whistles in the distance] 

[Coyote howls]

[Footsteps stop]

[Handling and cocking of a pistol]

[Footsteps resume]

[Footsteps stop, then Sam collapses with a grunt of pain]

[Silence]

[Footsteps approach, pause, then run over to Sam]

Bill Tyler

5-540 to dispatch, I have an unconscious male just off Kaiser Boulevard, near the Myers intersection — looks like an Agate Shore police officer.

Dispatch

10-4 5-540: EMTs are en route.

Bill Tyler

10-4 dispatch.

[Fabric rustling]

[Mic hits as the recorder falls to the ground]

What is that?

[Mic handling as Bill picks up the recorder]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[A quiet hospital ward late in the evening]

[Heart rate monitor beeping]

[Fabric rustling]

Chief

It’s remarkably lucky that you’re alive right now. I do hope you know that, in whatever way you can. That you know just how fortunate it is that you survived your little… encounter. For both of us. 

[Sighs]

I do wonder how much of it you’ll remember, though. Really remember, that is. Experiences like this… They tend to recede into the realm of the half-remembered. Of dreams and nightmares. And if the doctors are right about the extent of your injuries… Then it might be gone completely.

I do hope it’s only the memory that’s lost. We need the rest of you here: your abilities, your obsession, your drive. If any of this is going to work, then we need all that you have to offer us.

[Chuckles]

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we. Yes… Wait and see what comes out of all this.

[Footsteps]

[He leans closer]

Make it a good one, yes? For your sake, if no one else’s.

[Clack and clatter as tape ejects]

Tape Ends

Maria Sol

Holy shit.

[Beep]

Recording Ends


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