Payin’ For It

FADE IN

INT. CAR — EVENING

90’s hip hop plays on the radio. JAMES, 35, is behind the steering wheel. His big brother, TONY, 41, sits in the passenger seat.  

JAMES

Look, I know you don’t fuck with this stuff, but thanks for ridin’.

TONY

Yo, dawg, I ain’t trynna walk outta this place cursed or nothing by no voodoo queen. What the hell is this place anyways?

JAMES

It’s a metaphysical shop — or, at least, that’s what folks are callin’ ‘em these days.

TONY

What the fuck is a metaphysical shop?

JAMES

It’s like, uh… I don’t know, man. They got spiritual stuff.

TONY

Like, uh, what kind of spiritual stuff, bro?

JAMES

Man, you goin’ in the store with me — you can see for yourself.

TONY

Yea, yea, yea.

The car is filled with a heavy silence. But soon, it grows awkward.

JAMES

Listen, I don’t want no bullshit — I ain’t lookin’ to get in no trouble up in here.

James briefly cuts his eyes at Tony. Tony frowns with a raised eyebrow.

TONY

You trynna elaborate there, MOM?

JAMES

I ain’t lookin’ to get in no trouble in this store. We gonna go in, get what we need, and get out. Don’t start no shit in here.

TONY

Dammit, I’m not that bad.

JAMES

You ARE that bad, Tony. Shit, man, you just asked me to do a job with you — Jesus, it’s only been two years since you got out and you just itchin’ to get back in.

TONY

I know what I asked you, Jimmy. And you said no, so let’s leave it the fuck there.

JAMES

I agree.

TONY

And you let ME worry about whatever itch you think I got.

JAMES

Yea, well, you just keep whatever itches you got to your damn self. Like I said, no bullshit.                                                                                                          

TONY

No bullshittin’. In and out.

EXT. DOMA’S SHOP — EVENING

The car stops in front of a ramshackle house. Its simplistic beauty is carved into its rich greens, reds, and old English structure.

TONY (off screen)

This the place?

TONY (o.s.)

Yea, that’s what SIRI says.

TONY (o.s.)

Hmmm…This don’t look like-

JAMES (o.s.)

I know. But that’s what SIRI said.

TONY (o.s.)

I guess.

They exit the car, peering at the desolate-looking house.

INT. DOMA’S SHOP — EVENING

They enter a chilly atmosphere once in the quaint shop. There is an assortment of trinkets scattered about on shelves and racks such as crystals, bottles of oils and liquids, candles, etc.

DOMA, middle-aged shop owner adorned in long white garbs, stands in the middle of the foyer with her back turned on her new customers.

JAMES

Hey. You open?

DOMA

Ya come t’rough da door, right.

JAMES

Right.

DOMA

Well, then, welcome. What ya come for?

JAMES

It’s my anniversary and my wife loves this kind of stuff.

DOMA

What stuff ya talkin’?

JAMES

I’m not quite sure. She got shiny rocks and she has cards and I think she mixes potions or something. I really don’t know. I, myself, ain’t quite into it.

DOMA

No? Why ya not?

JAMES

(chuckles)
Well, I think that’s a story for another day.

DOMA

Den it be anudda day. But ya look ‘round first. Let me know what ya see.

JAMES

Thank you.

He and Tony step off and ponder around the macabre shop.

TONY

Bro, what we lookin’ for?

JAMES

I don’t know… She made it seem like I’d know when I saw it.

TONY

(raspberries)
Here we go with the woo-ha shit. That’s how they get you: they get all mystique and oogy-boogy and then they got you buyin’ every damn thing in the store. All the while, the shit ain’t worth a damn.

JAMES

I thought I said no bullshit when we got in here.

TONY

You know I’m right, though.

JAMES

Keep the shit up, then you’ll really be walking outta here cursed with the woo-ha.

Tony rolls his eyes.

James’ attention is captured by a marvelous hand-held  vintage mirror. It is mildly rusted and discolored but its beauty shows through the scratches and kinks on its exterior.

He glares at his reflection, noticing a distortion around his eyes-

Doma swiftly walks up on him; almost charging him like a mad bull.

DOMA

Not dat one.

She angrily snatches the mirror from his grasp.

JAMES

Wait– really?

DOMA

Ya don’t want it. Pick anudda one.

TONY

Look, we got cash. How much you want for it?

DOMA

It’s not fa sale.

TONY

Come on, it’s their anniversary.

TONY (cont’d)

I’m sure you can make an exception… Maybe you could just give us a number?

DOMA

Ya money won’t do me any… Ya not gettin’ da mirror.

She saunters off.

TONY

Yikes– what a scrooge. I didn’t like that. Let’s get outta here, bro.

JAMES

(sarcastically)
No, I thought we’d stay and tip-tap across her nerves one more good time.

The brothers shuffle out of the store. Unbeknownst to them, Doma watches them with disdain as they get in their car.

CUT TO:

INT. BAR — NIGHT

It’s dimly lit, with a few other customers spread out between the bar, booths, and pool table.

James and Tony sit in a quiet booth. 

TONY

Dude you gotta be more assertive. Put ya foot down.

JAMES

You mean, be a bully? Like you?

TONY

I ain’t no damn bully. I just know how to get what I want.

JAMES

All that time in the pen? You ain’t learn nothin’?

There’s a pause. Tony takes a nervous, hard sip of his vodka; after all that time in the pen, he still takes it on the rocks.

He fiddles with the ring on his index finger. It’s a ring that once belonged to their deceased father.

JAMES

Listen, you been out long enough. I know its hard — I know. But I just need you to be the hell still.

TONY

Yea, yea, yea.
(pauses)
You know, sometimes, I feel like YOU’RE the big brother.

JAMES

(under his breath)
Me, too, goddamnit.

TONY

I still think you shoulda got that mirror. I mean, even though Nelley is blind and technically won’t be able to use it, it ain’t about that. It’s ‘bout gettin’ what you want.

JAMES

And money?

TONY

And money.

JAMES

You’re so full of shit, Tone. You know that, right? She’ll be fine with the necklace I got.

TONY

Whatever you say, lil’ brother.

They finish their drinks and leave the bar separately.

CUT TO:

INT. CAR — AFTERNOON

With the empty box in his grasp, James frantically searches his car for the necklace he previously bought Vanelle.

Empty-handed, he enters the house.

INT. JAMES’ AND VANELLE’S KITCHEN — AFTERNOON

James walks in on a purple, velvet box on the counter.

JAMES

What–

TONY

Wassup lil’ brother.

JAMES

What’s this?

TONY

You were lookin’ for somethin’ out there? In the car?

JAMES

(suspiciously)
Yea… The necklace — you seen it?

TONY

Check the box.

JAMES

Check the bo– Look, you know how much Van hates you in the house and I’m not trynna start no shit before tomorrow. What the hell you doin’ here?

TONY

Oh, shut up you fuckin’ nerd. You know you shoulda took HER last name, right?

JAMES

What-do-you-want?

TONY

Just check the damn box. ‘Fore her square ass come down here.

James scoffs then opens the box. He gasps.

The rusted and discolored vintage mirror stares up at him.

JAMES

What the hell did you do, Tone? How the hell did you get this?

TONY

You don’t need to worry about that. But you really don’t have a choice since it appears you have lost the other shit. So, you’re welcome. Happy anniversary, little bro.

Just as James opens his mouth to scold Tony, VANELLE, 38, walks into the kitchen.

VANELLE

I thought I heard you in here, Tony. How ya doin’?

TONY

I’m great, Vanelle.

He shuffles to the door and gives James the peace-out sign.

James scowls at him and slides the purple, velvet box into a cabinet.

TONY

I was just leaving.

VANELLE

Have a good night.

Tony leaves the house.

VANELLE

Do I even wanna know what that was?

JAMES

Not really. Just Tony being Tony.

VANELLE

That’s what I’m afraid of.

JAMES

Ah, don’t be afraid, sweetheart.

He scoops her up in his arms.

JAMES (cont’d)

He don’t mean no harm. Now, how ‘bout we forget ‘bout him and focus on us. We got a big day tomorrow, we should hit the hay.

CUT TO:

INT. CHEY’S DINER — SUNSET

The couple enjoy a romantic dinner at the diner they enjoyed on their first date.

EXT. PARK — NIGHT

After dinner, the couple find a secluded area in a nearby park and make intensely passionate love underneath a shower of bright stars and a plump full moon.

They then lounge in each other’s grasp at the bank of the accompanying lake.

JAMES

Honey, I love you.

VANELLE

I love YOU.

JAMES

I got something special for you — you want it now?

VANELLE

I guess, since it’s that special.

JAMES

Fine, if you gonna beg me.

They share a laugh.

James pulls the mirror from his bag and places it in her hands.

She gasps.

JAMES

I know a hand mirror really ain’t the most… useful for you. But I… It- it’s beautiful and I thought you’d sure fancy it.

VANELLE

James, I–

She fingers its cold, embellished surface. A slight smile turns the side of her mouth.

VANELLE

Baby, I do love it.

CUT TO:

MONTAGE — VANELLE BECOMING POSSESSED BY THE MIRROR

— She stares into the mirror with blank eyes.

— In the reflection, a distortion forms across her eyes.

— An extreme close-up of her distorted eyes reflected in the mirror.

— A close-up of her face. It is angry and crazed.

— She is yelling at James. Back and forth.

— Another extreme close-up of her looming eyes in the mirror.

CUT TO:

INT. JAMES’ AND VANELLE’S HOME — EVENING

Just getting off work, James stands in the front room, peculiarly scanning his surroundings. Something’s missing.

JAMES

Vanelle, babe? You home?

With no answer, he searches the house. No Vanelle.

INT. BEDROOM — EVENING

He plumps down on the bed, his breaths erratic and heart racing.

JAMES

Oh, God… I’m just overreacting. Yea, overacting. I mean, she didn’t say she was going nowhere. Hmmm. I’ll try Dondra.

He whips out his cellphone and makes multiple calls; Vanelle’s job, her close friend, her sister. But they–

JAMES

–haven’t seen her all day?

No one has.

He calls Tony. No answer. He calls again. No answer, again.

He gets up, almost defeated. His attention is quickly pulled toward the bedside dresser.

The purple, velvet box that once contained the mirror hangs on the edge, its shimmering coat taunting him.

JAMES

Son… of a bitch.

CUT TO:

EXT. DOMA’S SHOP — NIGHT

James hovers underneath the face of the old English structure. It is dark and looks empty.

He is ambivalent and teeter-totters on his tiptoes before stepping up to the door.

He pulls the handle and the door creaks open.

INT. DOMA’S SHOP

The foyer is dark, save the candle atop a table in the middle of the room. The purple, velvet box seated atop as well.

Doma sits behind the table, a dark smile on her face.

DOMA

I knew ya come back.

JAMES

You know why I’m here?

Doma smirks and gestures to the chair. James takes it as he eyes the box.

DOMA

O’ course I know, James… Ya brudda, him take what didn’t belong to him t’inkin’ him didn’t have to pay for it. 

DISSOLVE TO:

FLASHBACK — WHAT HAPPENS TO TONY

INT. CAR — NIGHT

With a cool tone, Tony answers his cellphone as he sits outside of the bar he and James frequent.

TONY

Yo. I just got back from my brother’s. What’s up?
(pauses)
I told you he said no, Delmore. And I, also, told you I ain’t goin’ in without him.
(pauses)
I’m just bein’ what?
(pauses)
You done forgot who you talkin’ to? You think I got SOFT in the pen? You think I won’t fuck you up?
(pauses)
Listen, dickhead, you and Gerry are on your own on this one. You claim it’s the last one so it should be a milk run for ya’ll.
(pauses)
Whatever, man. Just don’t call me with this shit again.

With an annoyed upturn of his lip, he hangs up, tosses his phone in the backseat, and squeezes the steering wheel in frustration.

TONY

Goddamn idiot. Do that shit yourself.

Tony attempts to move, but his hands are stuck to the steering wheel. Grimacing and growling, he struggles to free himself from the invisible bond, but to no avail.

Then smoke rises from his body.       

TONY

What the– AAAH!

In a matter of seconds, his body explodes in a thick tuft of purple and black smoke. Only his hands are left, still hanging from the steering wheel.

EXT. BAR PARKING LOT — NIGHT

Doma stands, propped against the side of the building. She watches as purple and black smoke wafts from the cracked driver’s window. She shakes her head with pity.

DOMA

TSK- TSK- TSK. I told ya no.

DISSOLVE BACK TO:

INT. DOMA’S SHOP — NIGHT

JAMES

What the hell you do to my brother?

DOMA

Aye– him shoulda known betta dan to steal.  

JAMES

Look, I ain’t even know he did that–

DOMA

It don’t matta.

JAMES

You right– you’re absolutely right! And me, I went right along wit’ him. But Vanelle– my wife– she’s innocent to all this. It’s just  me, you, and Tony. You wanna make somebody pay, you take it outta my ass — not hers.

DOMA

It’s da mirror, James.

JAMES

Yes — it’s some kind of cursed or somethin’! It– it– it did somethin’ to Van. She– she’s gone. She just disappeared.

DOMA

Da mirror–

JAMES

I heard you the first time ‘bout da damn mirror! I’m telling you: you can have it back! I wanna give it back — pay you for the hard feelings and get Vanelle back. Just please don’t hurt her.

DOMA

Pay me?! I told ya: ya money don’t do me nun… Ya already payin’ for it.

JAMES

What the hell’s that supposed to mean?

DOMA

Remember ya told me ya don’t believe?

JAMES

You full of shit. Where’s my wife?

DOMA

I don’t know where ya wife. It’s da mirror– is cursed. Is not da same in every hand. I told ya no before — ya no listen.

JAMES

Please– please just take the mirror back!

DOMA

I told ya, James– issa curse. Ya brudda broke opened da curse. ‘Em want blood.

JAMES

Fuck you, you voodoo bitch!

In furious vengeance, James leaps up and throws the table aside.

Doma goes to stand but–

JAMES

Sit the hell down, woman.

He walks over to where the box lay, smashed and broken open.

He gags. At his feet, a severed, dark brown male hand.

JAMES

What the-

He looks closer at the hand. There’s a ring on its index finger.

It’s the ring Tony wore, their father’s ring.

DOMA

It don’t matta if ya believe or not, James. I told ya no.

Upon seeing a cold darkness in her eyes, James bolts through the front door and into his car.

CUT TO:

EXT. JAMES’ AND VANELLE’S DRIVEWAY — NIGHT

James pulls up to the house and gets out. He runs up the porch and into the house.

INT. JAMES AND VANELLE’S HOME — NIGHT

Sweat drips down his face, despite the frigid coldness of the house.

He mumbles nearly incoherently to himself in a crazed haze.

JAMES

…curses…bullshit…You don’t want the shit back– FINE! Imma throw that fucker down a goddamn volcano.

INT. STAIRWELL — NIGHT

James reaches the stairs but stops dead in his tracks.

Vanelle stands at the top, her face shadowed, with her arms crossed behind her back.

JAMES

Vanelle?

VANELLE

Good evenin’, husband… Where were you?

JAMES

Vanelle– I looked everywhere for you.

He sighs with shocked relief and drops to his knees.

JAMES (cont’d)

I looked EVERYWHERE for you and you–

He narrows his eyes at her.

JAMES

You– Are you LOOKING at me?

VANELLE

I am, James.

JAMES

But– but– how–

VANELLE

Your gift —

She holds the mirror in front of her chest with a malevolent grin across her lips.

VANELLE (cont’d)

It kept on giving.

JAMES

Van, honey, you give me the mirror.

VANELLE

Why, James? What are you afraid of?

JAMES

Gimme the fucking mirror!

VANELLE

How ‘bout you come and get it, husband.

James leaps up the stairs. Vanelle swings the mirror across his face just as he tackles her to the floor. They tussle, then she smashes the mirror across his head again.

JAMES

FUCK! Don’t-

With blood dripping down the crown of his head, James manages to grab the mirror from Vanelle.

He throws it to the floor. It shatters loudly.

VANELLE

NO!

She crawls to the silver, glinting shards.

VANELLE

What have you done?!

JAMES

Van-

Vanelle dives at him. Blood sprays across her eyes as she slices his throat with a shard of the mirror.

She blinks blood out of her once-again-sightless eyes, as if waking from a dream.

VANELLE

JAMES?! JAMES!

His last breaths gurgle in his throat.

VANELLE

JAMES! No! It wasn’t me… Please, James. It wasn’t me!

Her pain-filled wails fill the silent house.

At the bottom of the stairs, the mirror lays. It is completely intact save a noticeable distortion across its visage.

FADE OUT

THE END