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The Way of Traffick
by Daniel Palensky (danielpalensky@gmail.com)

Rated: R   Genre: Drama   User Review:

An alcoholic over-the-road truck driver crosses paths with a young girl during the holidays who's trapped in the horrific world of the Midwest sex trafficking circuit.

This screenplay is copyrighted to its author. All rights reserved. This screenplay may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.


A FIRE blazes behind glass. Christmas MUSIC plays.

SNOW falls heavy, somehow extinguishing the flames, onto a
windshield. Its worn WIPER BLADES leave streaks and smudges
on the glass.
A BRIGHT BLUE semi-truck barrels through busy holiday
traffic down a slushy roadway. Its fifty-three-foot long,
white dry van trailer displays:

A WHITE SHEET falls onto a mattress. ADRIAN KLEIN crouches
as he makes his bed in his cabin sleeper.

Adrian enjoys his morning routine. Enjoys his leisure winter
attire; a snug flannel winter coat and even more snug blue
jeans. He's the epitome of the grizzly, middle-aged
road-ravaged loner that trucks from points A to B and over
again. A man ruled by time and place that has neither of
much for himself. He continues to

DUST the truck console, WIPE every mirror and SORT papers
into a briefcase. He sits in the driver seat and drinks from
a SILVER FLASK and JOTS DOWN an inventory list. A Bluetooth
headset hangs over his ear.
Less shitty wipers. More wiper
fluid. Couple air fresheners, dash
wipes. Less shitty alcohol.
He wedges the list into the visor above him and drinks from
the flask. His headset BUZZES a call into his ear mid-swig.
Perry, you supreme S.O.B! Yeah,
I've got your freight for tonight.
Few more drops, still. Probably
round seven-eight. Then I'm
Okla-homeward bound. 'Tis the
season, right?


A TRUCK STOP EMPLOYEE throws trash bags into a dumpster.
Eighteen-wheeler big rigs come and go. Snow blows through
the wind. Truck brakes SQUEAL. CUSTOMERS bustle in and out.


parked far back in the lot faces away from the building. Its
engine IDLES. The sides of its cabin POUND.
                       NICOLA (V.O.)
Don't...fucking...kiss me!
Closed BLACK curtains shake. MUFFLED, heavy breathing. A
woman's QUIVERING but subdued cries from behind


A "JOHN" thrusts atop NICOLA, concealed by dark and blankets
damp by his sweat. He's inside of her, one hand bracing the
sleeper wall, the other over her mouth that struggles to
draw in a breath or force out a scream.

She tries to kick underneath it all. The curtains close.
Forklift trucks whiz past tractor-trailers. Air compressor
HISSES, hydraulic BUZZES and lift HORNS drown out Adrian's
conversation with PERRY ENDERS, a fidgety, boisterous man in
his late forties, unkempt even in a tie and khakis.

They stand on a walkway above the warehouse freight
activity. An office door near them reads 'Adrian Klein,
Talent and Acq. Supervisor'.
      (to Adrian)
Dinner break's in twenty. That'll
shut 'em the fuck up. Come on in,
see the old office. Ooh-la-la.
Take a gander.
Perry points out a NEW GIRL operating a pallet truck to
Adrian. Her platinum BLONDE hair and full chest stick out,
surrounded by the mostly male, tattooed and heavyset DOCK
CREW WORKERS. They exit the walkway through the office door.


GUNSHOTS and TIRE SQUEALS emanate from a flat screen TV
decked out with speakers and consoles. Cords trail to a
black leather couch where

Three CHILDREN, all wide-eyed and squishy-cheeked, none
older than ten, grapple controllers, jovially PLAY a violent
video game in a gloomy room littered with toys and clothes.

Obscure sounds and voices come from behind closed doors with
marks and kicked in wood. A door left ajar floods the
hallway with electric blue light.

Computer keyboard CLICKS and camera FLASHES echo throughout
the deserted hall. Around a corner, down a corridor, a
closed door cracks light. A faucet RUNS inside.
                       PAIGE (O.S.)
Come get your ass back in here,
The faucet runs. A door adjacent to the bathroom flies open.
PAIGE, a half-naked sex trafficker pimp, with a shaved head
and tattooed torso, holds a video camera and storms into the
bathroom. Whoever is there is in his house.

A loud WHACK and a faint WHIMPER. The faucet stops.
                       PAIGE (O.S.)
You ever gonna stop not listening,
huh? Wasting fucking water, pill
powder still all over the fucking
sink edge...
Scuffling and aching SOBS. The light shuts off and Paige
pulls CARLY into the hallway towards the adjacent room.
She's young, rail-thin in only her underwear. She shuffles
with a frail gait. Blood falls from her lips.
Why do I have to film, again?
Paige hands her the camera and shoves her inside, but
doesn't follow. His footsteps CREAK the wood floor. Carly's
CRIES and video game GUNSHOTS fill the hall.
Kids? Game's over. Bedtime.


Adrian brushes his teeth in front of a mirror lined with
nude centerfold cut-outs. A plaque protruding deer antlers,
covered in wads of toilet paper, hangs above it.

He wears his headset, his brushstrokes follow every RING.
This is my sixth voice mail, Lace.
Hope you're still not ignoring
your old man. I text you, but
nothing. Just call me, please. If
your Mom'll let you, that is.
Shit, I'm sorry. I love...I'm
sorry, Lace. Okay.
He gazes at the centerfolds and hurls the headset into his
travel bag on the sink counter.
Nicola writhes under a SECOND "JOHN"

who buckles his pants as he fumbles through his sleeper
curtain into the driver seat. He wipes his face with her
t-shirt, tosses it back to her and flips a switch near the
wheel on and off.

Nicola fixes her long, AUBURN hair and slides her jeans up
bruised legs. Her life on the road has aged her to look a
decade older than she is; eyes dead and wet, a body to feel
numb with; paid for. A burn mark sticks out on her rib cage
as she slips on her shirt.
Perry fills up Adrian's flask with a bottle of vodka from
his desk, a mess of fax reports and family photos.
Thank you. I like what you've done
to the place, Per. Really made it
your own. Just take my name off
the damn door, will ya?
Adrian lights a cigarette and peruses pictures on the walls
of his old office space.

One shows him and a woman smiling at a company picnic. He
turns away to see Perry pour vodka into a coffee mug.


Don't think anyone's come through
it to take notice. In here I've
the solitude of the road, the
freedom to drink myself useless,
and one hell of a view on the days
that blonde out there wears
low-cut tops. Oh, yeah. I hired
her a week after I got your seat.
Perry peers out window blinds to the warehouse.
Speaking of chesty blondes, did
Darcy by chance happen to make VP?
Perry, with fingers still between blinds, slyly grins.
FOOTSTEPS sound from the walkway to the office door.
Nicola, easily passing for a trucker, in a ball cap and
ORANGE parka, smokes a cigarette as she sneaks through
dimly-lit rows of semi-trucks that RUMBLE all around her.
She watches


flash its headlights from the opposite side of the parking

She jogs through the rows of trucks to its passenger side
and flicks her cigarette to the snow-covered ground.

She KNOCKS on the door and it opens.
Perry hides the vodka bottle out of the view of DARCY, his
perky and voluptuous, far less lenient superior. She's
dressed out of place, her lips curl in disdain.
Look who's found their way back.
Adrian stamps out his cigarette into Perry's ashtray. He
smooths his shirt and combs his hair back with his hands.
Perry sifts through papers on his desk, pulling some out of
the muck.


Those acquisition reports. Each
shift divided into tiered columns.
Easier to read.
Darcy takes them from him with a weak smile. Perry feigns
sobriety and walks to the bathroom door. Adrian and Darcy
stand in a gawking silence only felt by former lovers.
Darce, you look --
Thanks. How's things?
You're welcome. Things are fine.
Life's fine, road's fine. Always
got a shoulder to cry on. And the
promotion? Congratulations, on
Thanks. Perry bitched and moaned,
as always, but he got over it
quick enough. Had to with the site
to himself after you bolted.
Never bolted. Just screwed.
Darcy's face stiffens, her eyes shoot him daggers. A WHISTLE
and SHOUTS from the warehouse break the tension. Perry exits
the bathroom and peers through the window blind.
Damn effing newbies caught it up
in the railing, again! Fuck it.
Either of you, perhaps, up for my
carpool for dinner?
You know, you really shouldn't --
We're fine, thanks. Thanks, Perry.
Adrian shrugs to Perry, who goes through drawers and grabs a
WHITE ENVELOPE and hands it to him. He slips on his coat.
They hug. Darcy stands impatiently and pulls off a pair of


If you plan on staying a couple
days, Nance and I are having a
helluva time finding a sitter for
tomorrow night. Kids'll love to
see you.
Yeah, maybe. I'll give you a call
tomorrow, alright?
Okey-dokey. Better split before
they fuck more shit up. Merry
holiday's, Darcy. Always nice of
you to grace us with your
'presents'. Keep in touch, Adrian.
Perry gestures to his ring finger, points to Darcy and
mouths to Adrian behind her as he leaves. The warehouse
slowly quiets through the closed door.
Care for a drink?
Adrian downs his flask, finds the vodka bottle in Perry's
desk and refills it. She shakes her head and moves to the
chair. He stands in her way, his breath scrunches her face.
                       ADRIAN (cont'd)
When'd you get sober? When you got
She steps around him and sits at Perry's desk and begins
signing the report papers, ignoring him for work.
                       ADRIAN (cont'd)
This gonna be good or bad?
He waves the envelope from Perry in her face. She suppresses
a chuckle, finds papers in a drawer and sticks them on a
clipboard and slides it across the desk to him.
                       ADRIAN (cont'd)
What is this? Would you just stop
for a fucking second?
He looks briefly at the clipboard and throws it on the desk.
She organizes papers, staples some together and pulls on her
gloves as she hurries out the door. He sighs heavily, arms
propped on the desk, and violently sweeps everything off.


Adrian steers, drunk over the wheel. He reaches to the dash.

The ENVELOPE: A 'Return to Sender' stamp next to an old
address. He pulls out a CARD: "HAPPY TENTH YEAR!" Another
card reads:

A WOMAN, bundled up in fur boots and coat, keeps warm by the
smokestack of a FEMALE TRUCKER's purring big rig.
You CB'd for some company, right,
baby girl? I'm real good company,
honey, but I only talk price in
person, hope you understand.
                       FEMALE TRUCKER (O.S.)
I'm sure you are. I was glad, you
saying you'd been with girls. Must
be freezing your tits off. Come
around, I'll let you in.
Adrian sits in his parked truck and scans CB radio
frequencies. A FEMALE VOICE talks over static.
                       FEMALE VOICE (V.O.)
The name's Nic. I don't really
have time to talk into the void,
man, so make up your mind or quit
wasting my fucking time. Hello?
Adrian holds his CB microphone, about to speak, but the
voice goes static and silent.

He chucks the microphone at the dash and drinks the rest of
his FLASK. He tosses it and yanks down his visor.

His list flutters down. An embarrassed and pained face
stares back at him from the visor mirror.

A PICTURE of his daughter, age eight, smiling from the
bucket seat of a semi-truck, is tucked in a CD holder slot.

He pulls it out and stares. His eyes well up with tears.


Nicola chokes through coughs in the driver seat. A CB
microphone cord wraps around her neck. GREENE, Nicola's
handler, an intimidating man in an elegant peacock coat and
dark, corduroy pants, sits in the passenger seat, tightens
his grip and pulls her towards him.
Quit playing around. I keep
telling you. You keep ignoring me.
Why's it so hard for you?
It's business, Greene. I keep
telling you. You just keep in the
way all the time. Now, let me go.
Greene, moved to anger easily, grips the cord and yanks it
tighter to draw her closer.
Greene! Christ! You wanna strangle
Quit playing around. When I'm out
there, in here, all around, just
stop fucking around. Why's it so
Greene tugs her hand towards his crotch, her face inches
from his.
It's not, Greene. I don't do it
for you, anymore, remember?
She unwraps the cord from around her neck. He presses her
lips to his. She recoils.
You want to smack me, Nic?
She rubs her neck and zips up her orange parka to her chin.
He hooks the microphone back to the CB radio. She reaches
back to the sleeper for a duffel bag. He snatches it from
                       GREENE (cont'd)
You'll get it inside. Go ahead,
I'll be in. Gotta call.


I can make it all right, Greene.
Just let me finish out the night.
Don't make him feel like I can't,
okay? You just gotta let me make
it how I gotta.
He pulls a cellphone out of his coat pocket.
Please, Greene. I swear I can make
it. I need you to trust me, right?
He stares at her and taps the phones screen.
I'll be in.
He holds the phone up to his ear and waves her away. Her
face sinks and she cups her hands and mouths "please". The
call RINGS and he shoves her away. Her eyes sadden and she
opens the door.
Adrian waits at a fuel pump at the FLYING 'J' TRUCK STOP.

He surveys the quiet parking lot. A few trucks parked in a
back row HUM. He watches as Nicola, in her orange coat,
exits the driver side of one of them and runs inside.

His pump clicks off.
A KITCHEN STAFF MEMBER places a meal plate on the server
counter and DINGS a bell.

A thin, mid thirties WAITRESS with BLONDE hair in a ponytail
grabs the plate and a pot of coffee, walks to the only
occupied booth, and sets it in front of Adrian.
Anything else I can get you at the
moment, hon?
Adrian pulls out his list from his front pocket. The smile
she wears fades away.


Nicola fights through hushed SOBS and shaking legs. She
straddles the toilet seat and braces the sides of her stall.

She ruffles through her duffel bag of clothes, glittery nail
polishes and other makeup products. She finds a Ziploc bag
with two blue pills inside.

She shakes them out onto the lid and crushes them with a
child-brand tube of lipstick. She leans down and SNORTS the
                       GREENE (O.S.)
That's gotta burn.
Greene looms over the stall and watches Nicola. His urinal
Not so bad.
She wipes powder from her nose. Greene ZIPS his pants.
I was saying about that UTI thing.
If it's still, you know?
The toilet auto FLUSHES when she walks out of the stall to
the sink. "FOR A GOOD TIME" numbers and scratches of
obscenities fill the mirror.
                       GREENE (cont'd)
Can't have it be a problem, can
Nicola refreshes her lipstick and eye liner. Greene checks a
cellphone from his pocket and washes his hands.
I'm fine now. Is it clear enough
for me to get something to eat?
Greene takes out another cell phone from his other pocket.
Its purple case glitters. He holds it out to her.
I'll text if I hear anything from
the truck, so be checking it. This
is how trust works.
She grabs the phone and hands him her bag. He gives her a
twenty-dollar bill and she darts out the door.


Adrian sips from his steaming coffee cup and stares up at a
flat-screen TV that hangs above his booth, the news channel
banners change with every report.
                       NICOLA (O.S.)
      (to Adrian)
You can turn that up, you know?
He flinches at the sound of her young voice. Nicola sits,
curled up in a booth across from his. They lock eyes.
                       NICOLA (cont'd)
You pick that booth just to see
the news?
He looks around for the waitress.
I don't think I can. Think they
have the remote.
She scoots out of her booth and walks across the squeaky
floor to the opposite side of his and stands up onto it.
Um, I don't--I wouldn't do--What
are you...
She raises the TV's volume. He looks around to see if anyone
saw her. She steps down and listens to the NEWS ANCHOR'S
                       NEWS ANCHOR (V.O.)
From across the state, some
families from Colorado, and even
others as far as Arizona were
reported to have braved last years
blizzard to come rock and roll at
the festival with their families
Nicola plops down on the other side of Adrian's booth. He
chuckles and pulls his half-eaten free meal closer.
Okay if I sit here? Looks like we
could both use some company, huh?
Or are you waiting for someone?


I'm...uh, I'm almost finished,
but, uh...sure, why not. Coffee?
He looks around once again for any sign of the waitress.
No, but thanks. Are you sure this
is okay?
She notices he's nervously fidgeting, looking up at the TV
to avoid conversation and circling the coffee cups rim with
his fingers.
You're fine. I was just trying to
catch what they were saying.
He continues watching the news. She leans over the table to
see what's so fascinating to him.
                       NEWS ANCHOR (V.O.)
Tickets sold out for this
weekend's "Rager in the Manger"
almost four weeks ago, and even as
inclement weather approaches,
ticket holders anxiously await...
I fucking hate Christmas.
Adrian clears his throat in the middle of a coffee sip.
Nicola leans back into her side of the booth and fiddles
with her zipper.
No one hates Christmas. At least
not with such fervor.
The waitress returns with two pairs of wiper blades. She
hands them to Adrian, but stares at Nicola.
These are the only two we have.
You ordering anything?
I'll take a strawberry shake with
whip cream. To go, please. And
could you throw in a couple extra
cherries, please? Thanks.


She walks away. Adrian holds out one of the pair of wiper
I'm not gonna need this pair,
miss. Miss?
                       WAITRESS (O.S.)
I'm not your personal shopper,
Nicola takes them from his hand and looks for the price
sticker. Adrian sits watching her.
Yeah, let her make my shake. I'll
take 'em.
Settled, Adrian eats at the rest of his meal. Nicola sets
the wiper blades down in her booth and peeks at her
cellphone from her pocket under the table.
Didn't see you hauling anything
out there. You private?
Nicola sees no messages. She pockets the phone and plays
Yeah, quite. Of course the only
thing I haul is ass.
He's heard it many times, but chuckles anyway. The waitress
returns with her shake and his bill.
You're pretty funny. Could you put
her blades and shake on my check,
please? I also have this.
He hands her the free meal card from his back pocket. The
waitress pulls out his list from hers.
You don't have to do that.
Here's this back for you. Sure?
Adrian takes the list from her and smiles at Nicola, with a
smile back at him that stuns and beams. It's a rare occasion
for both of them. He nods and she grabs his plate.


Make sure to show the cashier your
gas receipt so they can take off
the meal. I'll be right back.
Nicola swirls the straw in her shake and looks at his list
on the table.
He's making a list...
She hums the tune.
Oh, man. Please don't. The moment
I got in state, I swear it was on
almost every damn station.
It's Christmas, what'd you expect?
Are you not local?
Long story short? Yes, but I'm
currently out of Okie City. Or
was, still might be, I don't know.
How about you? What road's home?
The waitress returns with the new check and hands it to him.
Thank you.
You bet. Happy holiday's, you two.
Be careful out there. Road's are
supposed to be hell tomorrow.
Drive safe and come again.
She walks off. Nicola sips at her shake, pulls off its dome
lid, takes out a cherry and hands it to him. He laughs and
lets her drop it in his cupped hand. He pops it into his
What were we talking about?
She reads off the list of items and eats the other cherries.
Don't bother with the wiper fluid.
I've got a spare gallon or two.


Nicola stands out of the booth with the list. Adrian looks
up at her and she motions him to follow.
What do you drink? Soco, I bet.
Don't worry about it. It's nice of
you to help and all, but --
Sorry. I have to get some things,
too. Just figured if we're both
A young MALE EMPLOYEE on the other side of the restaurant
divider walks up to them. He pushes a hand cart of boxes.
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
Is that your blue truck out by the
pumps, sir? Left your lights on.
Shit. Yeah, it is. Thanks.
The employee wheels the cart into an aisle and opens a box
and takes out PLUSH COLLECTIBLES and arranges them on a
shelf. Nicola eyes them and rushes over to look. Adrian
stands and follows her out of the restaurant.
                       ADRIAN (cont'd)
Hey--you. I know I don't know you
from Adam, but would you mind
holding this while I go save my
Sure. Hey, how much are one of
these? I used to keep a collection
and haven't seen them in ages.
Thanks. I'll be right back.
The employee searches a box for a price sheet. Adrian hands
her his pair of wiper blades and hurries through the aisles
to the door.
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
I did, too. Let's see. 'Julie' in
tie-die is twenty-two ninety-five.
Yeah, they're all the same price.


Nicola holds one and reads its tag. She places it back and
looks at Adrian's list.
Where's your liquor at?
The employee stocks the shelf and glances over the aisles.
He points her to across the store.
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
Over by that rack of audiotapes. I
don't know what all we have,
though. Were you looking for a
particular name?
Not really. Couldn't afford it,
anyway. Thanks, again.
Adrian comes in holding his travel bag. Nicola hands him his
wiper blades and list as they scan aisles.
Thanks. Why didn't you get one?
The price of feeling sentimental.
Besides, who wants to buy their
own Christmas present?
They scan the limited selection of liquor. She pulls random
bottles. One of clear vodka gets him to nod. They walk to
the bored CASHIER who sweeps half asleep and takes Adrian's
check and receipt.
Where's your stuff? Weren't you
gonna get anything else?
Whoops. Almost forgot about our
deal. Back in a sec.
      (to cashier)
Hey, how much for one of those
furry creature things he's got set
up over there?
At the booth, she grabs her shake and wipers and notices
something where Adrian sat. A PICTURE of a young girl in a
semi-truck. She stares up from it to Adrian at the counter
and tucks it in her coat pocket. She ignores her phone BUZZ.


She walks back to Adrian at the register. He unzips his
travel bag and crams the vodka bottle in. The Cashier hands
him his receipt.
Have a good night, you two.
The Cashier finishes sweeping. Adrian leads Nicola to the
shelf of plush collectibles.
Pick out whichever one you want.
Nicola circles the shelf and shakes down Adrian.
He starts to circle around behind her and looks at random
name tags as they stroll.
You don't me pickin'. You'll end
up with Moshi, and you'll have to
treat Moshi as equally as you'd
treat Miss Chievous.
She starts to look for herself. Plush bears, lions,
alligators and other animals all with names and different
colors and features.
So now the deal's you've paid for
my shake and wipers, and now a
truck stop novelty gift. All in
exchange for a free gallon of
wiper fluid?
Sure. Why? Do you feel it's unfair
to me? It's Christmas. No one
should have to buy their own
present, right?
She stops and looks down at his travel bag. He raises it up
and gives it a shake. The vodka bottle sloshes inside
against toiletries.
What, you wanna drink?


She furrows her eyebrows and playfully scoffs at the slight
proposition. He points at a plush green alligator with a
wily felt smile.
I can't--I don't drink. Not with
stranger truckers. And I can't
accept that.
He sets down his travel bag and grabs the alligator in both
hands and thrusts it to her. She stands with her hands at
her sides. He nudges it in her face.
      (animal voice)
Don't reject me, please. Take me
home so I can be free of this
shitty place. Please, please,
She takes it out of his hands to make him stop. They both
smile. She adjusts her wipers under her arm and grabs her
shake with her free hand.
I'm Adrian, and that's all you're
getting from me. I've got nothing
else to give.
She laughs and hesitates to respond. Her phone BUZZES in her
coat pocket. She lets it go on.
                       ADRIAN (cont'd)
You gonna get that?
No, it's okay. I think I'll go
grab your fluid. See if you'll be
in need of a heavy cleaning.
Her phone BUZZES again. She heads to the door.
I'll meet you out there. Just
gotta make a call. You should
answer that. Could be important.
He walks through the aisles to the restroom and turns back
to see her toss the alligator up and catch it with a smile
on her face.

The lights over the restaurant booths shut off. The store is
quiet and dim. Adrian pulls open the bathroom door.


Nicola walks up to Greene's truck, her hands full. She steps
up and peeks inside the driver window. It rattles from the
running engine.

Enough fluorescent parking lot light filters in for her to
see the bottles of wiper fluid underneath the passenger
Nicola's face hangs in the driver window. The CB radio emits
soft static in between frantic VOICES that come in and out.
--westbound I80 at mile marker
342--have her around tomorrow--the
storm won't roll in--
Nicola pulls on the door handle from outside. Locked out.
Her face drops away from the window.
Adrian pisses at a urinal. Greene stands at the other, his
phone between his shoulder and ear.
      (into phone)
Right. Sure. Yeah, okay. No
problem. We'll check it over when
we're there. Yeah, right now. Not
enough that warrants stickin'
'round any longer. Alright, I
Greene zips up and pockets the phone. His urinal FLUSHES.
Adrian glances over.
How much were you wanting, fella?
Greene washes his hands and talks to Adrian into the mirror.
Adrian shuffles in place and turns his head to Greene to see
if he's still on the phone. He's talking to him.
I'm sorry? What? Me?


Don't fuck around. What'll it be?
Greene's phone BUZZES. He answers and briskly walks to the
door. Adrian's urinal FLUSHES. He reaches down for his
travel bag and wiper blades.
What? I'm not sure what you're--
Greene lowers his call and shouts to Adrian on his way out.
Fuck this, man. Fuckin' prick. You
forget about it, whatever she said
you leave it.
Adrian watches the door swing closed in confusion. He
rummages through his travel bag on the counter and pulls out
his toothbrush and toothpaste.
Snow falls. Adrian marches through the snow and smacks his
pack of new cigarettes on his hand on his walk.

At his truck, he sees the plush green alligator and Nicola's
shake spilled on the ground, the strawberry red pools around

He sets his travel bag and wiper blades in the snow and
lifts up the alligator and searches around for her.
                       MALE EMPLOYEE (O.S.)
Hey, sir? Are you Adrian?
Adrian looks to the sound of the man's voice. The male
employee who stocked the shelves walks to his truck from the
gas pumps, garbage bags in both hands.
Yeah. Hey, you happen to see where
that girl I was with earlier went?
Her stuff's just out here, and I
didn't get her name or anything.
The male employee drops the bags at the side of Adrian's
truck and digs into his coat pocket.

He hands Adrian the PICTURE of his daughter. Adrian takes it
and looks concerned as to how he has it.


                       MALE EMPLOYEE
Did you drop this earlier? It
must've got blown in the wind.
Adrian looks out through the beginnings of a blizzard, his
eyes scan the empty parking lot for Nicola.
It's my daughter. Where'd you find
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
It was near the pumps right over
here. I haven't been out here too
You happen to see her get in her
truck? That dark green truck that
was parked right over there?
The employee picks up the shake cup and tosses it into one
of the garbage bags.
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
Like I said, I just got out here a
couple minutes ago. Damn, that
thing is soaked. Want me to chuck
He reaches for the plush alligator. Adrian takes hold of it
and shakes the snow off it.
No, it's fine. Well, thanks. If
you don't mind, since you're going
in, if you could signal out that
window if you see her in there? I
must've missed her somewhere. I'll
wait in my truck. If you could,
                       MALE EMPLOYEE
Sure. I'm swinging around back for
these and I'll look around.
He walks off through the snow. The bags drag through the
snowfall. Adrian sticks the picture in his front coat
pocket, collects everything and opens his truck door and
climbs in.

The truck RUMBLES to life and smoke billows out of its


CHRISTMAS MUSIC plays from inside. Adrian's face watches for
the employee through the foggy, dirty windshield.
Nicola wipes tears from her eyes on the edge of the sleeper
mattress, its curtains tucked behind the two seats.

Greene steers and finishes a call on his cellphone. He
maneuvers the shifter and spins the wheel slightly.
Christ, almighty, it's coming
Nicola pulls her duffel bag onto her lap from behind her and
pulls out clothes. Her feet dangle off the mattress and kick
hard at the bottle of wiper fluid under the passenger seat.
                       GREENE (cont'd)
Would ya fucking stop that? Lay
down or come up here or something.
Quit distracting me.
She inches out of the sleeper and onto the passenger seat.
Greene pulls papers off the seat so she can sit.
Well you fucking distract me. I
had that guy back there. One call
from Paige and you bolt like a
whimpering, wounded puppy.
Greene takes one hand off the wheel and SLAPS her on the
face. She grimaces, her head turned to face her window.
No more of that, girl. You're damn
lucky to've been assigned to me,
because I'm telling you now, none
of the others, you know Mendel's
temper, Jeremy, they all wouldn't
have put up with your disrespect
and lack of gratitude for as long
as I have. Hear?
Nicola says nothing and rubs her soon-to-be-bruised cheek
and stares out at the oncoming storm.

Greene flips on the radio and grips the wheel. A RADIO
ANCHOR tracks new storm developments.


                       RADIO ANCHOR (V.O.)
For the rest of the week. A winter
storm advisory to a storm warning
that is in affect for Thursday
morning and into the weekend...
Fuck us, right? May be having to
get back soon. Fuck.
Nicola's breath forms on the window and she writes "Adrian"
in the lower corner out of the view of Greene.
The highway is dark, the lights of traffic move quickly
through the night into early morning. The sun rises and more
traffic is on the roads.

Rest stops along them fill with families and lone truckers.
People bustle about to cars and trucks.

Snow falls heavy onto everything. The road, its cars, the
roofs of rest areas and a life-size green Tyrannosaurus Rex
replica dinosaur near an exit sign by a rest area.

The building near it is no longer the "Dinosaur Emporium".
The sign is old and covered in snow. It's an abandoned
tourist attraction. Cars HONK from the interstate.
Adrian fits the sheet onto the messy mattress. CHRISTMAS
MUSIC plays from the radio.

He DUSTS the truck console, WIPES every mirror and SORTS
papers into briefcase. He sits in the driver seat and fills
his silver flask with the vodka from the truck stop, takes a
few sips from the bottle and reaches from his seat to the
glove box and sticks the bottle in.

He wears his Bluetooth headset and makes a call.
He listens to the rings and the inevitable sound of her
voice on her voice mail message.
                       LACEY VOICEMAIL (V.O.)
This is Lacey. I'm either working
or stuck in traffic somewhere.
Leave me something to listen to
later. Have a great day.


      (into phone)
Lace, you're dad, again. I'm
leaving today. I'm not even sure
if you know that yet or not. Would
like to hear from you, honey.
Please call.
He ends the call and sticks his flask in his front pocket.
He pulls out his daughter's picture.

He looks out his windshield, the heat from the defroster
fogs it up. There's HAND MARKS in the lower corner.

He flips his visor down and sticks the picture back in the
CD visor. It slips out of his hands and he catches it

There's barely legible writing on the back that wasn't there
before. He brings it closer to his face:

The EXIT 334 sign shakes in the wind.

Cars pass by and some take the exit ramp. A car in front of
a line on the ramp drives slowly and slides on some ice.

The rest area traffic comes and goes. Some kids bundled up
throw snowballs at their parents in front of the building.
MUZAK plays overhead. People take brochures from stands and
check a large map on the wall between two restrooms.

An LCD screen on the wall shows weather updates. A kid walks
up to it and presses its buttons.

Nicola walks out of the women's restroom. She wears the same
orange parka and boots. Her hair falls around her face, her
left cheek swollen.

She stops and stares at the large wall map, places her
fingers on the spot that reads "YOU'RE HERE" and traces a
route that trails the state. Her hand reaches a rack of
folded maps and other materials. She grabs one and leafs
through it.


"Many attractions to be found that
are sure to entertain the entire
family. At exit 281, the Prairie
Wildlife Refuges' Traveling Trail
provides the opportunity to--
Greene pulls the leaflet out of her hand. Kids run around
and stomp off snow from their shoes. Parents take children
into their respective restrooms.
"experience firsthand, the wonder
of the local wildlife."
He flips through it and puts it back on the rack. Nicola
grabs it and stares coldly at him.
What? It doesn't fucking cost
anything, does it? God, Greene.
She digs in her coat pocket and pulls out Green's twenty.
She walks to a candy vending machine and fits it in its
slot. It shoots back out. She tries again. It won't take.
You happen to have change for
this? This machine won't take
Greene snickers, walks over to her and pulls out a wallet
from his front pant pocket. He finds a dollar and hands it
to her for the twenty.
The chips are a buck seventy-five.
I still need nineteen.
He holds the wallet snug and turns it upside down to shake
out a couple quarters. He gets three and puts them in the
slot for her.
You want the Little Debbie's.
He presses the buttons and the machine whirs and drops snack
cakes to the bottom. He reaches down and grabs them. She
throws him a look.


You want the Little Debbie's. Quit
fucking around, I'm hungry.
A few more people come out of the restrooms and stand behind
them. Greene stares her down and fumbles with his wallet and
snack cakes to get her change.

She takes the money and smiles at the people waiting. Greene
pockets his wallet and walks to the map wall. Nicola presses
buttons. She watches the chip bag get stuck in the spiral
dispenser. She shakes the machine and they fall.
Adrian shifts gears and rolls his hands over the steering
wheel. In one, he smokes a cigarette. In the other he works
to unfold a map out on the passenger seat. His eyes stay on
the traffic that slows on patchy ice.

His Bluetooth BUZZES. He looks at his cellphone on the
dashboard. He fidgets in his seat and steers the truck to
park on the side of the highway.

His face beams and he takes a last drag of his cigarette and
tosses it out the cracked window. He rolls it up and the
wind quiets. Cars pass by out the windshield.
Snow falls heavier. Adrian's truck windshield wipers push
some away and sludge streaks across.
                       ADRIAN (O.S.)
Lacey, my oh my. I've been so
worried, thinking about you. Can
you hear me, okay?
LACEY KLEIN, a dead ringer of a younger, life-gone-well
Nicola. A walking snow angel in her early twenties, she
walks down a slushy sidewalk past fancy houses and large,
snow-covered trees, her cellphone held to her ear.
Hello? Dad? You sound far away.


                       ADRIAN (V.O.)
I'm not, though. I'm here. You
haven't gotten my messages? How
are you?
Lacey licks her lips and chooses her words carefully. A man
walks past her with his leashed dog. It stops and barks at
her. She turns to it and stoops down to pet him.
No, I did. Been busy, though, you
know? You still sound distant,
Dad. Is my voice in your ear or
your mouth?
The man tugs his dog to follow. She continues to walk
through the neighborhood. Kids home on snow day build
snowmen in yards and others clear snow off of vehicles.

A maintainer plows through the street. Lacey zips up her
coat more and burrows her face into it as she walks.
                       LACEY (cont'd)
Dad? Hello? I might try and call
you back. They're clearing the
snow off the street and I can't
hear you.
Adrian messes with buttons on his cellphone and switches the
earpiece to his other ear.
I can hear you fine, Lace. I think
I got it now. Is that better?
                       LACEY (V.O.)
There you are. Much better. Where
did you say you were?
He reaches for the map and brushes it open. His finger
trails a path on it. Wind blows the truck cabin slightly and
a car ahead of him SKIDS on ice. He looks up to see it
correct and speed off.
I'm in state. Well, I was. I
passed the line about two hours


                       LACEY (V.O.)
Oh, well I heard you say you'd
like to meet up. You probably
can't turn back now, though.
He flips a switch to turn off his hazards and moves the
truck into gear. He watches out the rear-view mirror for a
break in traffic and rolls back onto the highway.
You kidding? Of course, I can. Let
me get turned around and I'll be
on my way. Are you sure you're
able to? Don't want to get back to
hear your plans have changed.
He bobs in his seat, the truck picks up speed through the
blizzard and traffic. Out the window, he merges into the
right lane to avoid cars parked on the side of the road
ahead. He looks down at the map for the nearest exit ramp.
Mom and pop storefront windows reflect Lacey. She stares at
mannequins and their fashions through the glass. She walks
down the sidewalk to another window, a bustling bakery with
patrons ordering inside.
                       ADRIAN (V.O.)
I've really missed you, Lace.
Me too, Dad. I'm sorry I didn't
get back to you right away.
School's been a nightmare. So has
Mom. Maybe I shouldn't be saying
She walks around a corner and passes a snowy mural on the
brick side of the bakery building. Ahead of her, some
employees on break smoke near the backdoor. She nods and
they wave.
                       ADRIAN (V.O.)
It's okay. So, this is great. I
can be there in a few hours and I
can take you out to that
or whatever that place is you


She stops in front of a brick house with Christmas wreaths
on every door and window. She walks to its steps and sits.
Oh, don't rush, Dad. I can't meet
up today, anyway. I was actually
calling to ask if you're free on
Saturday? You didn't say in your
voice mails what you had going on.
Sickles of ice line the gutters of the house and drip down.
Lacey re-ties her loose shoelaces on the porch steps.
                       ADRIAN (V.O.)
I can do Saturday. Absolutely.
That is if this storm doesn't have
its way with us. This is great.
A MAN, late fifties, in a suit and tie, steps out from the
house onto the porch behind Lacey. He rubs her head on his
way down the stairs. He turns and waves back to her on the
We'll see you later, alligator.
Drive safe, today, okay?
Lacey covers her phone with her hand and lowers it to her
lap. She waves back to him.
I will. You working late, tonight?
He picks up a newspaper from the ground and walks to a
vehicle parked alongside the curb of the house and opens the
driver door. He lifts his arms up in the air as if to say
"What can you do?". The car STARTS and pulls away.
                       ADRIAN (V.O.)
Lace? Still there? What's going on
Yeah, sorry. Um, some friends and
I have tickets to Rager at the
Manger. Remember that? But one of
them can't go now, so I heard your
messages about being back and
figured I'd ask if you'd be
interested in coming along.
The cold and snow make her face red. She stands and kicks
her shoes on the welcome mat and heads inside the house.


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