INT. MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE - 850 - (DAY ONE)
A BODY DRAWER is pulled out of a refrigerated wall by M.E.
JUSTIN BURNSIDE. We’re in the cold, sterile morgue. He speaks
into a dictaphone as he unzips the body bag and stares down at--
Justin Burnside performing the
She’s ghostly, the blood drained from her face. Angelic.
--Cindy Strauss, 27-year-old
Caucasian female with a cervical
fracture. This postmortem examination
is performed under the authorization
of the Office of the Chief Medical
Examiner, State of California,
From death observed--
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL CEMETERY - THE PRESIDIO - DAY
--to death experienced.
Rain drizzles out of leaden clouds. Mourners in black gather
around an open grave as Terry’s wife Emily is laid to rest.
Everyone from the homicide unit is in attendance. Emily’s
sister, DR. ALEXIS JOHNSON -- a bright, young history professor
at Northwestern -- is speaking.
They say a person’s relationships are
the best measure of their worth --
the friends they choose, the people
they share their hearts with. In the
case of my sister, never have words
been so true.
She eyes Terry. She meant that for him. But he’s somewhere else
-- looking out across the tombstones -- locked in a thousand-
INT. MEDICAL EXAMINERS OFFICE - LATER - INTERCUTTING
Mid-exam, Cindy’s body face-down on the gun-metal table.
Burnside moves over her body, poking and prodding.
Displaced modified ring type basal
skull fracture with lacerations on
the base of the brain. Protrusion of
the cervical vertebrae column into
the cranial vault. And there is a
flat, round scar on the lower aspect
of the left buttock, approximately
one inch in diameter: unrelated.
From the anatomic findings and
pertinent history I ascribe the death
to acute unnatural traumatic clavicle
injury. The manner of death is deemed
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL CEMETERY - THE PRESIDIO - SAME
A rumble of distant thunder, as the rain lets up. It’s Terry’s
turn to step forward but he stays in place, in the middle, next
to Alexis, surrounded by friends and family.
I remember when I first saw her. New
Years Eve, 1991. She was this light.
Radiant. Almost glowing. And it
wasn’t just how she looked, although,
yeah, she looked good.
(smiles; soft laughter)
No, it came from somewhere deeper. An
inner beauty. A generous soul. I
hadn’t said a word to her but I
already knew I could love her. It
He smiles at the memory. Then the smile fades.
They say things happen for a reason.
But that’s a lie. That’s just
something we tell ourselves to get
through these moments when nothing
makes sense. There’s no reason for
this. But there’s no way to avoid it
Terry takes a handful of dirt and sprinkles it on her casket.
Damn, we had fun, Em.
INT. MEDICAL EXAMINERS OFFICE - SAME
Cindy is face up now, her torso opened by a Y-INCISION.
Burnside swabs her mouth, then picks up his dictaphone.
Buccal swab taken for collection of
oral mucosa and foreign DNA.
(pokes around her organs)
Surgical absence of gallbladder. The
stomach contains 50cc’s of partially
digested meat matter. Holy cow.
(stops, taken aback)
Amending and expanding my
ruling...make that a double homicide.
Victim was approximately two months
SMASH CUT TO:
MAIN TITLE - MURDER IN THE FIRST
INT. 850 BRYANT ST. - HALLWAY - DAY - (DAY TWO)
DA JACQUELINE “JACKIE” PEREZ (42) is mid-press briefing,
surrounded by a gaggle of sharp-elbowed REPORTERS shoving cell
phones and recording devices in her face. Perez is attractive,
ambitious and tough as nails. Standing to her side is her
tightly-wound aide, BROOK (27).
Look, there’s no doubt it has been a
violent month but all indications are
that this is a cyclical uptick and
not a long term trend. It has been a
hot summer and unfortunately, in
urban America, that typically means
an increase in violent crime. But
we’ll get through this. This city is
resilient and we’ve got the best
police department in the nation.
Cynical REPORTERS yell questions at her in a cacophony. LIZ
(45), wins the bark-off.
Madame D.A., how can you say this
city is safe when you have 46
unsolved murders this year? Your
clearance rate for 2014 is on pace
for an all time low.
Last I checked Liz, it was only June.
I’m confident that by the end of the
year we will not only match last
year’s homicide clearance rate, we
Her aide, Brook, frowns: why did she say that? Perez, cool and
confident, turns to CRAIG (50s).
D.A. Perez, Cindy Strauss, the dead
stewardess for Erich Blunt?
Right. Have you ruled that case?
We have. It’s been ruled a homicide.
Liz jostles back to the front.
You guys should know by now that I am
not going to comment on any specifics
related to an ongoing investigation.
SAM GEIGER (30s, short) reaches out from the rear.
Is it true that Ms. Strauss was
romantically involved with Erich
The gaggle gasps at the accusation, and we MATCH--
INT. HOMICIDE BULLPEN - 850 - CONTINUOUS
--A SMALL TV showing live coverage of D.A. Perez, seamless from
the last scene. Terry and Hildy watch from their desks.
PEREZ (ON TV)
The City of San Francisco is not
going to deal in rumor or innuendo. A
young woman is dead. I promise you
the homicide unit will move as
quickly as possible through this
investigation. They’ll get to the
bottom of this. I guarantee it.
Terry clicks off the TV, shakes his head.
Is it campaign season already?
It’s always campaign season.
Especially for Jackie Perez.
Let’s just focus on Strauss.
I’m still thinking about Kevin
Hildy shoots him sideways eyes: really?
I’m just saying, two murders in one
week both connected to Blunt. We
should pull on that thread.
Why? So our case against Walton
unravels? So we end up tied up in
knots? We made a solid arrest. Chris
Walton. We don’t have the bandwidth
to second guess.
INT. BREAK ROOM - HOMICIDE - 850 - LATER
Terry and Hildy continue in the break room.
Appease me. Let’s go over it again.
Fine. So if Erich Blunt killed Kevin
Neyers, how do you explain the fact
that he was in LA the night of the
LA isn’t far. Especially if you have
a private jet.
So you’re saying he snuck out of his
hotel in LA, flew up to SFO, drove
into the city, killed Neyers, and
then got back to LA without anybody
45 minute flight. An hour for the
kill. You’re talking two and a half,
maybe three hours max door to door.
Everyone claims he was in LA,
including Salter. There’s no record
of his plane coming and going. You
can’t sneak around in a 737.
INT. HALLWAY - HOMICIDE - 850 - SAME
Terry and Hildy continue as they walk down the hallway.
Ok, then maybe Blunt hired Chris
We looked into that. We’ve checked
Walton’s financials. There’s no trace
of any pay off. When you asked him if
he knew Blunt he clearly had no clue.
And even if he was lying, which he
wasn’t, there’s no way this guy would
eat a murder charge just to protect
Blunt! Walton’s not an idiot. If he
knew anything about Blunt he would’ve
folded like a cheap tent.
Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of
I’m just saying, two murders, one
common denominator. Coincidence?
Yeah. This time, maybe so.
No such thing as coincidence.
God sometimes you’re annoying.
They head off in different directions.
INT. JAIL CONFERENCE ROOM - 850 - DAY
Chris Walton sits twiddling his thumbs, waiting. A beat, then
his public defender BOB GROFF (40) enters.
Bob Groff. I’m your court appointed
lawyer. I’ve spoken to the
Where’d you go to school?
Stanford. Let’s discuss your case.
You went to Stanford and now you’re a
public defender? What happened?
This murder charge is sticky, Mr.
fingerprints, fentanyl--it’s not
So what’s the plan? Let’s take it to
No. Bad idea. You’d lose a trial. But
the prosecution’s case against you is
a golf course - no weapon, no motive,
shaky time line - full of holes.
Plus, you’re lucky: apparently nobody
gives a shit about Neyers. His body
hasn’t even been claimed. And no one
seems to care about you either.
You’re not a priority, which means
you’re flying under the radar. Add
that to the fact that the DA just got
her ass kicked by the press on her
murder clearance rate and suddenly
it’s your lucky day. They’ve offered
you a sweetheart deal, Mr. Walton,
and you should take it. Admit you
shot him and they’ll get rid of the
murder charge entirely and knock it
down to Voluntary Manslaughter. Six
years. And with prison over
crowding...easy time. Blink and
you’ll be out.
I need to think about it.
Fine. Just know that this offer goes
away at the end of business today,
and if you turn this down they’ll
come after you for the full ride:
Off Walton, thinking.
END OF ACT ONE
END OF SAMPLE