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(was: How's Thursday?)

TEASER: a dilapidated shack in the woods. It's surrounded by characters straight out of "The Beverly Hillbillies," and they're so dumb they don't even know they're not supposed to be in Canada.

Braving the roaches, termites and cooties, we peer inside the shack, where we see a computer hooked to the internet. At it sits kurtstephenson@fescue.vern.edu, who is really spamming from isdn.net. kurtstephenson--better known to his friend and relatives as "that gosh-danged, gol-darned spammin' fool what has his eyes *way* too close together"--ordinarily resides near Franklin, Tennessee, where he maintains a post office box. However, here he is in Toronto, for the sinister purpose of spamming his schlock under a preposterous title that screams "Oh, puh-leeze, *I'm* not a lying spammer, honest I'm not!"

And away he goes . . .

Familiar music as the sun rises, then sets over Toronto.

Voiceover:
"He was brought across in 1228.
Preyed on humans for their blood.
Now he wants to be mortal again.
To repay society for his sins.
To emerge from his world of darkness.
From his endless forever night."

 

ACT 1: The 27th Precinct. Nick and Schanke are doing paperwork when Captain Stonetree walks in with a report. Nick looks up.

Nick: Trouble, captain?

Stonetree: We should be so lucky. It's spam.

Schanke: Spam? What is it?

Stonetree: You're a fountain of straight lines tonight, Schanke. Someone's advertising tapes that teach you how to be a man.

Schanke: Like anyone needs lessons? There's a sucker born every minute!

Nick raises an eyebrow at that comment, but lets it pass.

Nick: What have you got on it, captain?

Stonetree: A spammer. The address says the spammer's at vern.edu.

Nick: Well, I'll forward the spam to the postmaster at that address and see what happens.

Stonetree hands the printed-out spam to Schanke, then leaves. Schanke leafs through the spam

Schanke: Listen to this drivel, Nick. "Our New Video Can Teach Any Man How to Become A Better Husband, Father & Friend!" And--"Man to Man"? Man oh man oh man!

Nick: What else can you expect from a spammer, Schanke? He's playing on insecurities. Give him money and he'll tell you the secrets you need to know. So he says.

But he sounds oddly tempted. Schanke picks up on this.

Schanke: It's a scam, partner. Learn how to be a man from a tape? Hey, some things you just know by instinct! Right?

And Nick is off to flashbackland . . .

 

France, 1228. The Parisian catacombs. LaCroix and Janette look on as Nick completes the transition from mortal to vampire.

Nick: I'm thirsty.

LaCroix: Yes . . . I know. It's very simple. It's time to kill.

LaCroix and Janette lead Nick to a pallet, upon which lies a beautiful young blonde.

LaCroix: Trust your instincts, Nicholas. You know what to do.

And so he does. Boy. Girl. It ain't complicated.

LaCroix: The *neck,* Nicholas, the *neck!*

Janette: Use your *fangs,* Nicholas.

It's no use. LaCroix shakes his head and turns to Janette, who looks exasperated.

LaCroix: This one will be a problem.

Nick looks a tad flustered as he returns to reality.

 

Nick: Right, Schanke. Some things, you just know. So what is this spammer really up to?

Schanke: No good, if you ask me.

Nick: That goes without saying, so don't. He's selling educational tapes. What is he *really* teaching?

Schanke: What? Reality check, partner! This is a scam. As in, take the money and run, don't deliver the goods. He isn't "teaching" anything.

Nick: But he's talking about selling even more tapes. He has to supply something, or he won't have more takers.

Schanke: Part of the scam, partner. It builds confidence in the suckers. He sells you part one, and leaves you waiting for part two.

Nick: I still think we need to look into this. Something smells wrong, and I don't mean your souvlaki mouthwash.

Schanke: Best stuff in the world. You should try it. As for this--
[he hands the printed-out spam to Nick]
Hey, be my guest, indulge yourself, just don't complain when your caseload stacks up.

 

The trailer in the woods. kurtstephenson, spammer extraordinaire, is reading his mail. He chuckles at the letters, kisses the checks, then gets to "work." Wonder Weenie sticks his face close to a video camera lens and babbles inanely into a microphone. After six hours of ranting he takes the tape and puts it into his tape-duplicator. The hapless machine gags and retches like someone who's dined one time too many at McDonald's, but it begins to churn out copies of kurtstephenson's informative masterpiece.

And what happens next? The fiendish spammer takes the duplicate tapes and puts them in the mail. Of course he sends them off postage due; when it comes to making trouble, spammers are *thorough.*

 

ACT 2: The morgue. Natalie stands by the empty examining table, where she is laying out scalpels and probes, and otherwise setting the table as Nick comes in.

Natalie: Dinner's in the fridge.

Nick looks into the lab refrigerator and takes out a transfusion bag. He looks a bit perplexed as he reads its label.

Nick: Plasma?

Natalie: Think of it as blood lite. Good for your waistline.

Nick drinks, then gestures at the empty examining table.

Nick: Why are you setting up for an autopsy? There's no body.

Natalie: Call me crazy, but I have a hunch one will pop up soon. What brings you here?

Nick: I'm on this weird spamming case.

Natalie: Is there such a thing as a normal spamming case?

Nick: Well . . . this spammer is offering educational tapes on how to be a man.

Natalie: Really? Aside from Pinocchio, who could need that?
[looks at him in disbelief]
Oh, come on, Nick!

Nick: I've been a vampire since the days of Robin Hood. I have a lot of bad habits to break.

Natalie: And falling for scams is one of them. When was the last time--no, when was the *first* time someone offered you a sure-fire cure for vampirism?

And "sure-fire" is such an *appropriate* term . . .

 

Constantinople, May 29, 1453. The capital of the Byzantine Empire is about to come under new management as part of a hostile takeover bid by Mehmet II, CEO of the Ottoman Empire and chief architect of a plan to replace the obsolete Middle Ages with the new and improved Renaissance. The battle rages at the city walls, but deep inside the city business goes on. Nick confronts an alchemist inside a brick tower.

Nick: You're certain this will cure my vampirism?

Alchemist: Ah, have no fears, for I have studied all the wisdom of the ages. And I have shown you marvels! Did I not give you the key to the fetlock? Did I not turn lead into spam? Have I not unscrewed the inscrutable?

Nick: Yes, you are persuasive. What must I do now?

Alchemist: Ah, simple! See the fire that burns in yonder pit? It is of such a nature that it will burn the undead elements from your body, while leaving your mortal flesh untouched.

Nick: But mortal flesh can burn--

Alchemist: The mystical purtity of the gold you carry shall protect you. You *are* carrying a great deal of gold, as I commanded, are you not?

Nick: Yes; I carry my own weight in gold.

Alchemist: Excellent! Quickly, enter the flames!

Nick approaches the fire, and hesitates. Despite the alchemist's assurances, he realizes that he's about as fire-resistant as a California hillside. The alchemist is about to shove Nick into the flames when LaCroix and Janette appear. LaCroix pulls Nick back while Janette grabs the alchemist and tosses him into the fire. He screams as he cooks; Janette torments him with a poker as he tries to keep out of the flames.

LaCroix: When will you ever learn, Nicholas?

Nick: He was going to cure me!

LaCroix: Burn you to a cinder, and then remove your gold from the ashes. You must learn, Nicholas, to never let your good wishes blind your reason. Especially when you are offered a miracle for money.

Nick: Yes . . . yes . . . of course.

LaCroix: And now that I've done my bad deed for the night, I need refreshment. Now could I drink hot blood!

At these words Janette uses the poker to remove the singed alchemist from the fireplace. The three vampires feast on him, then clean up the leftovers.

LaCroix: Mes compliments aux chef!

Janette: Can I cook, or can I cook?

 

And Nick returns to the here-and-now. He'd say something to Natalie, but Grace has just entered; she's pushing a gurney that bears a sheet-covered body.

Natalie: Right here, Grace. I've got a table for one all ready.

Nick: What have you got?

Grace: Nobody's sure. He's--well, have a look. Or a sniff.

She pulls back the sheet to expose the body of a man. It looks dead, which shows that he's come to the right place. And as Natalie wrinkles her nose she describes the unmistakable odor of the cause of death:

Natalie: He was spammed.

 

ACT 3: The morgue. Natalie has finished her autopsy, and as Nick watches she sews up the last incision in the corpse.

Natalie: Knit one, purl two . . .

Nick: So when can you pin down the cause of death?

Natalie: I have enough to give you an answer. He died from hypershrinking of the brain.

Nick: But he was a normal, healthy man! How could that happen?

Natalie: All I can do is show you my results. His brain, or what's left of it, is in the microscope. Take a look.

Nick goes to the microscope and peers into its ocular. He adjusts it to its highest magnification, and we see what he sees: a brain. It has words stamped on it: "Man To Man . . . give money."

Nick: I think this is a clyew . . .

Natalie: The sad thing is that this didn't happen. Just yesterday he was a happy, normal man. Then he watched a tape from these "Man To Man" people and he went berserk. Started bossing people around, giving his money to right-wing causes, and he wanted to elect Pat Robertson president.

Nick: In Canada?

Natalie: When his mind went, it went all the way. He's lucky he died before he could succumb to the ultimate shame.

Nick: You mean he was about to start spamming.

Natalie: Not so loud! You'll embarrass his widow.

Nick's cell phone rings; Nick answers it.

Nick: Knight . . . yeah, Schanke? . . . I see. You've tried everything? . . . okay, we'll have to try something else.

Natalie looks worried as Nick hangs up.

Natalie: It's bad, isn't it?

Nick: Yeah, I'm afraid our investigation of this spammer has hit a dead end. And more people have died from the spam. There's only one thing left to try.

Natalie: I was afraid of that.

Nick: Hey, I'll be all right.

He gives her a kiss and leaves the morgue, but Natalie looks worried. As well she might. When all else fails and Nick needs help with an investigation, he heads for the Raven and Janette.

 

It's a busy night at the Raven. Dancing, music, and blue lights like crazy. Nick walks in and speaks to Miklos the bartender.

Nick: Where's Janette?

Miklos: Go downstairs. Turn left at the first door. Follow the hall to the spiral staircase. Climb up five levels. Walk past the fire escape to the waterslide. Take it to the Hall of Mirrors and go on until you enter the wine cellar. Climb the third rack and crawl up through the trap door.

Nick: You mean she's on the other side of the dance floor.

Miklos: Isn't that where I told you to go? Look, if you aren't going to use your vampiric instincts to find her, I may as well have some fun.

Nick rolls his eyes and walks across the dance floor to Janette. Janette sits at a table where she sips a glass of blood.

Janette: Having trouble with a case, mon cher?

Nick: There's a new spammer on the loose.

Janette: Ah, and you expect me to know its location? You are such a child, Nichola! Why do you expect *me* to know about all the evil of the world?

Nick: Think of it as a tribute. Where is it?

Janette: You mean kurtstephenson@fescue.vern.edu? If you would check the path line you would know this creature is using a fake address; it's spamming from isdn.net. And now, Nichola--
[she holds the glass of blood under his nose]
--care for a little taste?

Nick: What is it?

Janette: Utah Republican.

Nick: No, thanks. I hate decaf.

He starts to get up, then pauses and gives her a kiss. After draining her sinuses and engaging in a quick tonsil transplant Nick leaves the Raven, and gives thanks that Natalie didn't see him. She'd autopsy him bare-handed.

 

Nick drives the Caddy back to his loft. He has the radio tuned to CERK and the Night Crawler's broadcast.

LaCroix: Greed. What a marvelous instinct. It is insatiable, unquenchable, unstoppable. Once set in motion it will not stop. Its demands grow ever greater, leading its victims into deeper and deeper follies, blinding them to the destruction they bring upon themselves. Greed is its own Achilles' heel, for it ultimately consumes even the greedy in the quest for satiation.

Nick pulls into his garage and goes to the loft. He takes a bottle of cow's blood from the refrigerator and drinks. Then he has a idea. He writes a letter, goes out and mails it.

 

ACT 4: The loft. Nick sits at the piano. He looks around furtively, and realizes no one is watching. He starts to play "Chopsticks."

The lift door slides open and he stops playing. As Schanke walks in Nick picks up Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" halfway through the first movement, then stops.

Schanke: Keep playin', partner, nobody does "Roll Out The Barrel" half as well as you do it.

Nick: Glad you appreciate me.

Schanke: I got your message. You said you had a break?

Nick: Yeah, I've got something solid on kurtstephenson. It's in the VCR.

Schanke picks up the nearest remote control and pushes a button. The shutters roll down. He pushes another and the fire lights. On try three, the TV comes on and kurtstephenson appears.

Schanke: Eeek!

Nick: You get used to it. I sent away for his tape.

Schanke: The "Man to Man" thing? The one that claims to teach you how to be a manly man among manly men?

Nick: Yeah, and those who can't do, teach.

Schanke: Well, I'm kinda worried about any man who quotes Proverbs 27:17. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Sounds kinky for a religious guy.

Nick: To each his own. Hit the "Display Subliminal Messages" button on the remote.

Schanke does so, and the hideous visage of kurtstephenson is overlaid by translucent, spam-colored words. "Give this dork money," they say. Schanke hits the frame advance, and a new message appears: "Listen to him, God is his drinking buddy." And then: "Screw thinking, get out and spam!"

Schanke: We gotta stop this guy! He's evil!

Nick: Tell me about it.

The phone rings and Nick answers it.

Nick: Knight--what? We're on our way.

Schanke: You look bad.

Nick: That was Stonetree. There's trouble. Come on.

 

Downtown. There's a crowd jamming a street corner, with uniformed cops trying to clear the area. Nick and Schanke pull up in the Caddy, get out and wade into the crowd, which is making incoherent noises as they hand their money to a geek standing on a soap box. Nick and Schanke grab the geek and pull him aside.

Schanke: Okay, what's the problem?

Geek: No problem! Me and the men are just getting together!

Schanke: Why?

Geek: So's we won't be apart! I mean, if you're a part then you aren't whole, and it's bad being a hole, because what's a hole? It's a whole lotta nothing!

Nick puts the whammy on him.

Nick: *What are you doing here?*

Geek: Making money of the suckers . . . like I learned from Man To Man.

 

The 27th Precinct. Nick and Schanke are in Stonetree's office.

Stonetree: There's a pattern here. All of these guys saw that "Man To Man" tape. Most of them say they want to give money and take orders.

Nick: All except one. He acts like the leader.

Schanke: Well, he's got no connection with kurtstephenson. It's weird.

Stonetree: And we can't hold him any longer.

Nick: Maybe that works to our advantage. Let's cut him loose and see where he goes.

Stonetree: Okay, how do you want to handle this?

Nick: Simple. I'll follow him. Schanke, why don't you check out the local souvlaki action?

Schanke: Sounds like a plan!

 

So they let the geek go. He should find something fishy in this catch-and-release program, but his mind is obviously gone. As he leaves the station Nick takes to the air and trails him. The geek heads for the woods outside Toronto, where he heads for a run-downtrailer that's surrounded by geeks. Nick lands nearby and watches from the shadows.

He sees kurtstephenson step out of the trailer. He steps onto a stump and addresses the geeks who surround him.

kurtstephenson: Yes, all of you have learned well from my first tape! You have absorbed the lessons that others were too intelligent--er, too unfortunate to learn! You have shown that you have the potential to do even more! That you are here and not somewhere else! That you can fork over even more cash! And here is your chance to prove it!

Nick watches in shock as the spammer sells new tapes to the crowd.

 

ACT 5: The loft. Nick is watching the tape of kurtstephenson when LaCroix intrudes just after sunset. Nick's master takes one look at the manic on the screen and deftly sums up the situation.

LaCroix: Eeek!

Nick: I've got to do something about this, LaCroix.

LaCroix: Yes. Record something of greater artistic and intellectual worth over that tape. Say, an episode of "My Mother, the Car."

Nick: I mean this spammer. He's a menace. He's using subliminal messages, finding and amplifying certain instincts to create a horde of zombies to follow him.

LaCroix: What of it? Mortals die. They might find becoming zombies a pleasant change of pace.

LaCroix chuckles and leaves. After a moment Nick opens the window and flies out of the loft.

 

At the 27th Precinct, Stonetree, Schanke and Natalie stand outside in the evening twilight. There's a whoosh and they look around.

Schanke: Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird!

Natalie: It's a plane.

Stonetree: No, it's Superman!

Natalie: It's a damned *plane.*

Schanke: Come to think of it, it looked a lot like my partner.

Natalie: Don't be ridiculous, Schanke. If Nick could fly, he would look a lot better than *that.*

Schanke: Yeah, you're right. My partner has style. But I could have sworn--

He stops as Nick comes around the corner of the building, out of the alley.

Nick: Sworn what?

Schanke: Nothing. It's too ridiculous.

Stonetree: Especially when we have a case that's getting out of hand. There's a huge crowd of "Man To Man" zombies infesting the woods around Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Nick: Isn't that like the truth, just outside our jurisdiction?

Stonetree: We should be so lucky. Get out there and take care of it.

 

Nick and Schanke take the Caddy across town, and end up in the same woods where Nick found kurtstephenson selling his tapes. Once again Superspammer harangues his zombielike lackeys:

kurtstephenson: Greed is good! Brain is bad! You are my chosen fools--er, few! You believe everything I say! And I say do everything to help me spam!

Schanke: We gotta stop this monster!

LaCroix appears from nowhere to join them.

LaCroix: Yes, and I know how. Here.

He hands Schanke a videotape cassette.

Schanke: What's this?

LaCroix: Go to the spammer's trailer and put it in his VCR. When he plays it for his victims, it will destroy him.

Schanke: Yeah? Who're you?

LaCroix: Lew LaQue, of Secret Operations.

Schanke: Never heard of it.

LaCroix: Perhaps that's because we are *secret.* Do as I told you, detective, while your partner helps me prepare the rest of my plan.

Schanke hurries off while LaCroix leads Nick into the woods.

Nick: What is this, LaCroix?

LaCroix: You shall see. I have prepared some signs which we must place in the woods.

 

Meanwhile, Schanke has snuck into the spammer's trailer and loaded the tape into his VCR. He gets out and hides just in time to escape detection. The spammer enters his trailer, takes out his TV and VCR, and sets them up outside for his followers. They all gather around to watch the tape. In moments they look as though they're hypnotized.

Out in the woods, Nick and LaCroix plant signs in the ground. They're just arrows that point along a path. The two vampires speak as they work.

Nick: What's on that tape, LaCroix?

LaCroix: A quite simple message, Nicholas, one well-suited to subliminal brainwashing. These mortals are greedy. The tape will teach them that they can find the ultimate victim by following the arrows. Follow arrows, get rich. Follow arrows, get powerful. It is the basic message behind this "Man To Man" rubbish, which I have boiled down to its essence.
[chuckles]
You must admit, Nicholas, that I learned to manipulate mortals long before this schemer came along. And it will not harm the mortals who were merely fooled into giving this spammer their money, but it will eliminate those who seek to join his greed and lust for power.

Nick is about to say something, but he stops when he sees an arrow set up in the woods.

Nick: I think we're lost. We've doubled back on ourselves.

LaCroix: Patience, Nicholas. Wait and watch.

LaCroix flies up into a tree and perches on a branch. Nick joins him. After a short while they hear voices in the woods. Presently kurtstephenson and his followers appear. They are following the arrows and shouting at one another.

Crowd: This way! I get the sucker first! I get all his money! No, I get it! No, I do! I want it all! You can't have it! It's all mine!

Nick and LaCroix watch as the crowd streams past them. After a while the crowd returns . . . vanishes for a while . . . returns again. Nick slowly catches on.

Nick: Those arrows--they're leading them in a circle.

LaCroix: An endless circle, Nicholas. Their greed will force them to follow this path until they die of exhaustion, because they will always believe their desires are just around the corner. And those who did not believe this spammer's simple-minded offer of knowledge and power are safe from this fate.

Nick: But--they'll all die?

LaCroix: Yes, unless they come to their senses. For the moment--
[the crowd comes back into view]
Waste not, want not.

And LaCroix swoops off to feed on the spammer.

 

TAG: The loft. Nick and Natalie cuddle on the couch.

Nick: It's a shame. It's bad enough that people like kurtstephenson prey on other people's insecurities, but he took it even further.

Natalie: How was that?

Nick: Most of his victims wanted to make the world a better place. That's the only decent reason to seek power. But some of them saw his offer as a way to learn how to make themselves more powerful. He used that hook to recruit them--
[burps slightly]
Pardon me. Once he found people who were motivated by greed, he trained them to succumb to it, and to see him as the one person who could--
[burps again]
Excuse me. He set himself up as the leader who could best satisfy their greed.

Natalie: Until LaCroix turned that against him.

Nick: By turning all of them onto an endless circle.

He belches, and Natalie looks puzzled.

Natalie: Nick, is something wrong?

Nick: I, uh, tried something new today. Only it doesn't agree with me.

Natalie: Something new? Like food?
[absolutely delighted]
What was it?

Nick: Decaf.

 

--fade to end theme and credits

 

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Last modified: April 10, 2006