Savage the Comic
Savage the Comic, Issue #1: Goodbyes (almost…)1
Well, this marks a momentous occasion. The cover, inside cover, back cover, and inside back cover to Savage Investigations the Comic, Issue #1: “Goodbyes” is ready for print. Dominique Jones and I, well, her mainly, finished it tonight. And here they are, coming soon to a comic shop (assuming you live in Albuquerque) near you–at least as soon as we figure out how we’re gonna get it printed. Here they are. Lemme know what you think, please. Written by me and Nathan Hendricksen did the artwork.
MEET Drake Savage0
Way back in 2005 when Jake and I went to our very first San Diego Comic Con, I was fortunate to meet and befriend David Lloyd (Google him) and show him the prose version of what I had finished thus far on “Savage Investigations.” He was kind enough to read it and said that he liked it but for the name “Drake Savage.” He did not think that Drake was a very realistic or plausible name. I felt very strong about that name and set about to justify Drake’s name. So I came up with a tale of how his mother dropped him off as a newborn in the wee hours of the morning at The Drake Hotel in Chicago, and Frank Savage, the night manager, would end up adopting him. This is the first four pages of the comic script for “MEET Drake Savage”, which is the back story on Savage. If this works out I might do some more “MEET…” back stories for other main characters in the novel. David also told me that he enjoyed the prose draft of “Savage” (it was only a hundred plus pages at the time–it’s grown since then) and he didn’t recommend that I turn it into a graphic novel. My plan is to release it as both a prose novel and a graphic novel simultaneously, and it is proving to be a trial, but it’s like I always say sometimes, “Tenacity is its own reward…”
Anyway, here it is. I’d appreciate any feedback you’d care to offer, too.
MEET DRAKE SAVAGE
Written by CHUCK LARNTZ
Art by CORY KOOMOA
Page 1-full page EXT: NIGHT: Background is the front of the Drake Hotel in Chicago, with the famous Drake Hotel neon sign at the top of the panel. Foreground silhouette of the back of a girl from the waist up. She’s carrying what appears to be a large basket on her right arm.
CAPTION: 1968, 2:45 A.M.
Page 2: 4 panels, 2 top, 2 bottom
Panel 1: EXT: NIGHT: Same background shot of the hotel as page 1 but the girl has gotten smaller because she is walking across the street.
Panel 2: EXT: NIGHT: Main entrance fills screen. Girl, now lit from behind, back still to us, peering through the door. She is dirty and unkempt, basket is weighing her down. She is hunched over as she puts her hand on the door to open it. We can see rough details of the lobby through the door, table in center with huge flower vase and registration desk across back wall, unoccupied. Lobby is deserted.
Panel 3: INT: See reference of lobby. No clerk at the registration desk at the rear of the lobby. Girl walking towards the round table in the center of the lobby, lifting the basket to place it on the table.
Panel 4: INT: Looking towards entrance from inside the lobby. Basket in foreground. We can see there’s a newborn baby in the basket with a note pinned to the blanket. In background, girl is fleeing the lobby. We never see her face, only her blond hair flying out behind her as she runs out towards the entrance doors.
NOTE: PLEASE GIVE MY BABY A BETTER LIFE THAN I CAN
Page 3: 4 Panels: 1 and 2 across the top of page, panel 1 is a third of the top of page and Panel 2 is two thirds. 3 and 4 side by side, bottom two thirds of page.
Panel 1: INT: The view from directly in front of the registration desk. Two clerks are coming through the entrance behind the desk, one male, the other female, wearing hotel uniforms.
MALE CLERK: Well, I’m glad we got that taken care of!
FEMALE: Yeah, thanks for your help. I couldn’t have done it alone.
MALE: No sweat.
Panel 2: INT: Long shot from side of lobby, registration desk on right side of panel and the table with the basket on the left, emphasizing the distance between the desk and the table in the center of the lobby.
The lobby is dim with a cone of light shining down from the ceiling illuminating the basket on the table, the other light source is on the registration desk. FEMALE is pointing at the basket and has one word balloon.
FEMALE: Bobby, what’s that?
Panel 3: INT: Bobby is standing next to the basket. He has one word balloon.
BOBBY: There’s a note, Sarah. Call the boss.
Panel 4: INT: POV: Sarah is speaking into the phone. She has one word balloon.
SARAH: Mr. Savage, could you please come to the lobby?
Page 4: 4 Panels, quarter page each.
Panel 1: INT: POV: From in front of Frank Savage’s desk. He’s looking down at some paperwork. There’s a nameplate at the front edge of the desk that says “Frank Savage” and underneath, “Night Manager” in the same Old English font as the sign on the top of the building, black background with white letters. He’s holding the phone. He’s about 40 and bald with black hair barely covering his ears (it’s the 60’s) with a round face that says he’s a little pudgy. He’s wearing a wide black tie over a gray shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows over coarse black haired forearms. He’s also got a thick, well groomed moustache barely curling around the sides of his mouth. There’s a black jacket on a hanger behind his desk. Frank has one word balloon.
FRANK: Okay, I’ll be right there.
Panel 2: INT: Frank enters behind desk from the same door that Sarah and Bobby entered in Page 3, Panel 1. He’s wearing a black suit jacket. He’s short, a little taller than Sarah and several inches shorter than Bobby. Frank has one word balloon.
FRANK: I’m here, what’s up?
Panel 3: INT: Half body shot of Sarah, she’s pointing towards the lobby. She has one word balloon.
SARAH: Over there.
Panel 4: INT: POV from Frank looking across the lobby at Bobby standing next to the basket.
End of first installment for string.
Panel 1: INT: Frank, Bobby, and Sarah are standing by the basket. Frank is holding the note. Frank has one large word balloon.
FRANK: I can’t wait to hear how somebody could just waltz in here and leave a baby at the internationally famous, five-star, Drake Hotel, and neither of you saw anything!
Panel 2: INT: Closeup of Sarah and Bobby. She has one word balloon, so does Bobby.
SARAH: It’s my fault, Mr. Savage. I asked Bobby to help me with those boxes. We were only away from the desk for a couple of minutes and we left the door open so we could hear if anybody came to the desk.
BOBBY: And when we came out, there it was.
Panel 3: INT: Closeup of Frank. He is angry and has one word balloon.
FRANK: IT? Bobby, this is a child! A small human being, not an IT!
Panel 4: INT: Bobby, looking embarrassed. He has one word balloon
BOBBY: I’m sorry Mr. Savage. I didn’t mean…
Panel 4: Frank, still angry, has two word balloons.
FRANK: Forget it.
FRANK: Sarah, get Mike from Security down here. We’re going to need his police contacts to keep this under wraps. Wouldn’t do for this to get out. A baby! At The Drake!
More to come. Thanks for reading…
Goodbyes: Issue 1, and Aftermath: Issue 2: 201110290
Issue # 1
Copyright © 2005 and 2008
SPLASH PAGE? IF SO, SHOW THE PARTYING GROUP OF MEN IN MID-PARTY, EATING, DRINKING, POINTING, LAUGHING, AND JOKING. GENERALLY MAKING MERRY. WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE LAYOUT OF THE SPLASH PAGE.
PAGE 1 (five panels, 1st across the top of page and the other four, two across)
PANEL 1 (across the top of the page so you get a good shot of the setting)
POV LOOKING AT SAVAGE’S 7 MAN TEAM, ALL SEATED AROUND A LARGE EIGHT FOOT ROUND TABLE IN A RESTAURANT. THERE ARE DISHES IN FRONT OF THEM, AS THEY HAVE JUST FINISHED A GOOD MEAL. THEY ARE THE ONLY PATRONS. THEIR HAIR IS CUT MILITARY SHORT. THEY WEAR NO OVERTLY AMERICAN CLOTHING, AND THEY ALL ARE OF MIXED ETHNICITIES. SAVAGE IS STANDING, CENTER OF PANEL, ADDRESSING THE GROUP, WHOSE BACKS ARE TO US, AND MATT IS FACING US TO SAVAGE’S LEFT, THE POSITION OF HONOR.
Matt, we’ve been through a lot together in the past five years.
POV CLOSER UPPER BODY SHOT OF SAVAGE AS HE CONTINUES TO SPEAK.
Is there anything I can do or say to make you sign up for another hitch?
POV SAVAGE’S VIEWPOINT, LOOKING AT HEAD AND SHOULDER SHOT OF MATT. HE IS SMILING AS IF HE CAN’T BELIEVE THEY ARE GOING THERE YET AGAIN…
Afraid not, Chief. I just want to go back to Albuquerque and be a good cop, like my brother.
POV OVER MATT’S SHOULDER AT THE MEN GATHERED AROUND THE TABLE.
I’ve only got a week to go and then I’m back home on the APD Bomb Squad.
POV PROFILE TO SHOULDER OF MATT, WHO HAS TURNED TO LOOK AT SAVAGE (ALSO IN PROFILE ON OTHER SIDE OF PANEL). BOTH MEN ARE SMILING GOOD NATUREDLY.
I can’t believe you’re still asking me. You know they’re holding a spot for me.
Come on Matt, you know I have to keep asking. You’re just too good to let go lightly.
PAGE 2 (6 panels, standard 6 panel page)
POV OPPOSITE OF PREVIOUS PANEL WITH MATT ON RIGHT AND SAVAGE ON LEFT.
It’s just that, well, we’ve kinda gotten used to you, and what if your replacement turns out to be a jerk?
What can I say, Chief? I know you’ll straighten him out.
POV CLOSER UPPER BODY SHOT OF SAVAGE. HE’S SHRUGGING HIS SHOULDERS, ARMS OUT TO THE SIDE, PALMS UP.
I keep hoping you’ll change your mind. Albuquerque P.D. had better know how lucky they are to get you.
POV WIDE ANGLE SHOT OF ENTIRE GROUP AROUND THE TABLE, SAVAGE ON LEFT AND THE OTHERS TO HIS RIGHT. SAVAGE IS HOLDING HIS GLASS HIGH, AS IS THE REST OF THE GROUP.
So, as much as it pains me to say it, here’s hoping you have a fulfilling career helping the folks back home.
POV SHOT OF WHOLE TABLE, GLASSES RAISED.
REST OF TEAM:
HEAR, HEAR! (in unison—one sentence, bold type, as if shouted, several tails from speech bubble on right side of panel)
POV FULL ROOM SHOT: TABLE ON LEFT SIDE OF PANEL AND THE RESTAURANT DOOR OPEN ON RIGHT.
POV HALF CLOSER SHOT OF OPEN DOOR AS LIEUTENANT WALKING IN WITH MAJOR CLOSE BEHIND. BOTH WEARING SHORT SLEEVE LIGHT BLUE SHIRTS WITH BLUE TROUSERS, UNIFORM OF THE DAY, AND THEY ARE REMOVING THEIR GARRISON CAPS.
PAGE 3 (5 panels)
POV ¾ SIDE SHOT OF SAVAGE AND MAJOR SPEAKING TO ONE ANOTHER. MAJOR IS VERY CLOSE TO SAVAGE’S EAR AND LT. STANDING A FEW PACES BACK ALMOST OUT OF FRAME.
POV MAJOR WALKING TOWARDS THE DOOR, LT HOLDING THE DOOR OPEN FOR MAJOR. SAVAGE STILL STANDING, NOW FACING FRANCO, RESTAURANT OWNER, WHO IS COMING IN FROM THE KITCHEN AT THE LEFT SIDE OF FRAME. HE HAS AN APRON TIED IN HALF AROUND HIS WAIST AND IS HOLDING A TOWEL. HE WEARS BLACK PANTS AND A WHITE SHIRT, SLEEVES ROLLED UP TO THE FOREARMS. HE’S A LITTLE PUDGY AND HAS A BIG BLACK MUSTACHE AND UNKEMPT CURLY BLACK HAIR.
Gonna have to pack it in, boys. Franco, my friend, I’m afraid we have to leave. We’ve got work to do.
Is okay, Drake. Just be careful.
PANEL 3 (across whole page for the wide shot)
POV OUTSIDE OF FRANCO’S. NIGHTTIME STREET SCENE WITH WINDOWS AND WINDOWBOXES WITH FLOWERS AND CURB AND MAYBE A BICYCLE CHAINED TO A LIGHT POLE—THE TEAM WALKING UP TO AN UNMARKED MILITARY SWAT TYPE BREAD TRUCK VAN. REAR DOOR IS OPEN AND YOU CAN SEE ONE FOOT STICKING OUT THE DOOR AS A MEMBER OF THE TEAM IS CLIMBING IN.
POV FROM CENTER OF REAR DOORS OF VAN. MEN LINED UP ALONG SEATS ON EACH SIDE OF VAN AND SAVAGE FACING THEM SEATED BEHIND THE DRIVER. SAVAGE IS REMOVING AN 8 X 10 PHOTO FROM THE FOLDER HE IS HOLDING (PHOTO IS OF GIRL WEARING C4 VEST—CAN ONLY SEE THE TOP OF PHOTO AND IT’S SIDEWAYS SINCE HE’S PULLING IT OUT OF THE FOLDER—NO NEED FOR DETAIL…).
Okay, here’s what we’ve got so far, Armando Francelli’s daughter was kidnapped from her private school in Rome early this afternoon.
POV WAIST HIGH SHOT OF SAVAGE IN SAME POSITION AS BEFORE AS CAMERA IS ZOOMING IN. HANDS PHOTO TO MAN ON HIS RIGHT.
As you know, Francelli is the Italian Minister of Finance, so all eyes are going to be on this one. By the numbers, gentlemen.
PAGE 4 (6 panels)
POV FINAL ZOOM OF SAVAGE’S HEAD AND SHOULDERS AS HE CONTINUES.
She’s currently standing in front of the entrance gate of the American Embassy in Naples. The gate guard took this picture.
SAME AS PAGE 3, PANEL 5. FIRST GUY IS HOLDING THE PHOTO.
She’s wearing a vest wired with enough C-4 to blow up four city blocks.
That’s right, Mickey, and then some.
POV SHOT OF SAVAGE FROM REAR CORNER OF VAN. FIRST GUY IS PASSING PHOTO TO SECOND GUY TO HIS RIGHT.
Nobody saw anything. She just showed up. Twenty minutes ago, a van pulled up outside the embassy, pushed her out, and drove off.
POV WAIST HIGH SHOT OF SAVAGE.
Since the grounds of the embassy extend to the curb, she’s technically on American soil. It’s our job.
POV SIDE SHOT OF SAVAGE FROM OTHER REAR CORNER OF VAN. SECOND GUY HOLDING THE PHOTO.
The Carabinieri have cordoned off a ten-block area surrounding the embassy. Mostly office buildings and warehouses so there’s not much traffic this time of night.
POV 3/4 shot of Savage from back of the van. SECOND GUY PASSING PHOTO TO MATT.
You’re gonna be on your own, boys. They want me back at the base command post but I’ll be with you every step of the way.
PAGE 5 (6 panels)
POV PROFILE HALF BODY SHOT OF SAVAGE.
Fortunately, nobody’s called CNN yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
POV SIDE SHOT OF SAVAGE, MATT IN FOREGROUND. MATT IS HOLDING PHOTO AND LOOKING AT IT.
Matt, you will disable the bomb.
Chief, how old is this girl?
She’s 15, why?
And she was kidnapped how long ago?
POV OPPOSITE SHOT OF PANEL 2, SAVAGE AND MATT REVERSED POSITIONS AND OTHER SIDE OF THEIR HEADS.
Around 3:30 this afternoon. What are you getting at?
I want to do this without the bomb suit.
POV HEAD SHOT OF SAVAGE, STERN LOOK ON HIS FACE.
Didn’t I just say, ‘by the numbers’? That goes against every regulation on the books. Why?
POV HEAD SHOT OF MATT AS HE EXPLAINS.
Because she’s been a hostage for what, 10 hours, now?
That’s about right.
She’s tired and scared. Probably disoriented.
POV PULL BACK TO HALF BODY SHOT OF MATT, HE’S HOLDING PHOTO IN ONE HAND AS HE SPEAKS.
The bomb suit is a scary thing.
PAGE 6 (6 panels)
POV DRAW CAMERA BACK ON MATT TO ¾ VIEW.
That much C-4 is going to be heavy so she’s gonna be unstable on her feet and any unnecessary movement could set it off. That may be why they just pushed her out of the van and left.
POV SIDE SHOT OF MATT AND SAVAGE.
I’m afraid the suit would scare the bejesus out of her. MAYBE SHOW A THOUGHT BUBBLE FROM MATT OF THE BOMB SUIT. I HAVE PICS IF YOU WANT THEM.
POV OVER SAVAGE’S SHOULDER FACING MATT.
This is a delicate op and needs a personal touch. I want her to be able to look in my eyes and I want to see hers. I don’t want her to see her own distorted reflection in the face mask of the suit.
POV SIDE SHOT OF MATT FACING SAVAGE.
She’s a scared little girl and all it will take is just one false move and that much C-4 is gonna blow the bomb suit to bits anyway, and everything else within a two block radius.
POV MATT FROM OVER SAVAGE’S SHOULDER.
I have to admit you’re right, but you are at least going to wear body armor, helmet cam, and headset. I want to be in constant contact.
POV HEAD SHOT OF SAVAGE, CONCERNED LOOK ON HIS FACE.
SAVAGE (thought bubble):
Matt’s right, the bomb suit is clumsy and wouldn’t afford much protection if the thing went off. Just the same, if this goes wrong…
PAGE 7 (3 panels)
SPLIT PAGE IN HALF AND TOP TWO QUARTERS 1 AND 2 STARKLY LIT HARD BLACK AND WHITE CONTRAST THROUGHOUT THESE TWO SHOTS. BOTTOM HALF PAGE IS PANEL 3, FULLY DETAILED CLOSEUP OF GIOVANNA’S FACE.
POV LONG DISTANCE (ABOUT A BLOCK) OF THE FRONT OF THE U.S. CONSOLATE IN NAPLES. THERE IS A SILHOUETTE OF A HUNCHED OVER FIGURE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE MAIN ENTRANCE GATE, BATHED IN THE HARSH GLARE OF SPOTLIGHTS SHINING DOWN FROM THE ROOF AND MOBILE LIGHTING UNITS SET UP TO ILLUMINATE THE AREA.
POV SAME ANGLE BUT ZOOMED IN TO REVEAL FULL BODY SHOT OF TALL, GANGLY GIRL SLIGHTLY STOOPED OVER FROM THE WEIGHT OF THE VEST COVERED WITH ½ POUND BRICKS OF C-4 IN POCKETS SEWN INTO THE VEST WITH WIRES SPROUTINGFROM EACH BRICK. SHE’S WEARING A SCHOOL UNIFORM OF A PLAID, KNEE-LENGTH SKIRT AND WHITE BLOUSE UNDER THE VEST. ONE OF HER SLEEVES IS TORN AND HER WHITE KNEE SOCKS ARE TORN AND DIRTY. HER ONCE SHINY BLACK SHOES ARE SCUFFED. SHE IS TALL FOR HER AGE AND THAT’S ANOTHER REASON FOR THE STOOPED POSTURE, SHE HASN’T YET GROWN INTO HER HEIGHT. IN TIME, SHE WILL GROW INTO A STAUESQUE BEAUTY BUT FOR NOW SHE HUNCHES OVER TO BE THE SAME HEIGHT AS HER PEERS. SHE STANDS ALONE IN THE HARSH WHITE LIGHT OF THE LIGHTING UNITS.
PANEL 3 (bottom half of page)
POV SAME ANGLE AS PREVIOUS TWO SHOTS BUT A CLOSE UP OF GIOVANNA FRANCELLI’S TERRIFIED, TEAR STAINED FACE. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL WITH HUGE BROWN EYES AND LONG, STRAIGHT BROWN HAIR, HIGH CHEEKBONES AND ALMOST TOO LONG OVAL FACE. THERE IS A BRIUSE OVER HER LEFT EYE AND A TRICKLE OF BLOOD RUNNING FROM IT, WHERE ONE OF HER CAPTORS STRUCK HER.
Dramatic, ain’t it?
PAGE 8 (4 panels- panel 1 across top of page)
POV DISTANCE SHOT OF THE VAN ROLLING THROUGH THE ITALIAN COUNTRYSIDE, HEADLIGHTS CUTTING THE GLOOM OF NIGHT.
FRONT SHOT OF VAN AT THE ENTRANCE GATE OF THE BASE
REAR SHOT OF VAN, NOW ON BASE DRIVING UP TO COMMAND POST.
PANEL 4 (across bottom of page)
POV DISTANCE SHOT OF THE TEAM SPLITTING UP. TEAM CLIMBING INTO TWO MILITARY TRANSPORTS PARKED TO THE RIGHT OF THE STAIRS LEADING TO COMMAND POST, AND SAVAGE WALKING UP STAIRS OF COMMAND POST.
PAGE 9 (4 panels)
PANEL 1 (across top of page)
LONG SHOT OF TWO TRANSPORTS GOING OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF VAN IN PAGE 8, PANEL 1 SO READER THINKS THE TEAM IS GOING TO THE SITE.
AERIAL SHOT (MAYBE FROM ROOFTOP) OF TRANSPORTS GOING THROUGH NAPLES. STREETS ARE DESERTED. GREEN AND WHITE POLICIA CARS AT EVERY CORNER—THE CORDONED LINE.
ANT’S EYE VIEW OF THE TWO TRANSPORTS ARRIVING ON SCENE.
PANEL 4 (across bottom of page)
WIDE SHOT OF TRANSPORTS ON LEFT, GUARD GATE ON RIGHT, EMBASSY IN BACKGROUND AND GIOVANNA IN THE CENTER OF FRAME.
VOICE FROM TRANSPORT:
We’re here, Chief.
SAVAGE: (in static electronic sound bubble)
All right, boys, get everything set up.
PAGE 10 (8 panels)
POV SIDE VIEW SHOT OF MATT, WALKING UP TO GIOVANNA IN FULL BATTLE DRESS WITH A HELMET CAM AND POLYCARBONATE FACE SHIELD. HE IS HOLDING A BOTTLE OF BOTTLED WATER ABOUT TO OFFER HER A DRINK AND HAS A BIG SMILE ON HIS FACE.
MATT: (thought bubble)
I’d like to get my hands on the punk that hit her.
POV MATT, FROM WAIST UP, GIOVANNA’S POV AS HE’S RAISING THE BOTTLE OF WATER. HE IS SMILING BROADLY, AND YOU CAN SEE HIS FACE THROUGH THE FACE SHIELD, EYES WIDE AND NON-THREATENING.
Heck, I’ll bet you speak better than me. Let’s get that thing off of you, okay?
POV MATT FROM GIOVANNA’S POV.
Would you like a drink?
POV GIOVANNA FROM MATT’S POV.
POV HALF BODYSHOT OF MATT. MATT IS STILL SMILING AND TWISTING THE CAP OFF THE BOTTLE OF WATER.
POV MATT RAISES THE BOTTLE TO HER LIPS.
MATT SETS THE BOTTLE OF WATER DOWN ON THE GROUND.
POV SIDE ½ BODY SHOT OF MATT AND GIOVANNA. MATT IS REACHING FOR GIOVANNA’S HANDS.
PAGE 11 (3 panels)
POV MATT HAS BOTH OF HER HANDS IN HIS.
What is your name?
Giovanna. It means God is gracious.
POV ¾ VIEW OF MATT AND GIOVANNA. MATT IS STILL HOLDING HER HANDS.
Yes, Giovanna, He is.
PANEL 3 (bottom half of page)
POV SHOT FROM BEHIND AND TO THE RIGHT OF SAVAGE AS HE SITS AT THE COMMAND CONTROL CONSOLE. A LARGE 21 INCH MONITOR IN THE CENTER, FLANKED BY TWO 17 INCH MONITORS. THERE IS A SLIDER SWITCH ON A CONSOLE FOR EACH MONITOR AND A FEW MORE PUSHBUTTONS AND SWITCHES. THE 17 INCH MONITOR SCREENS SHOW TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS OF MATT AND GIOVANNA HOLDING HANDS. THE RIGHT ONE IS A CLOSER VIEW. ITS SLIDER SWITCH IS TOWARD THE MID RANGE WHILE TO OTHER SLIDER IS ALL THE WAY DOWN AND THE PICTURE IS SMALLER. THERE IS A PIECE OF TAPE ACROSS THE TOP OF EACH THAT SAYS “ROOF EAST” AND “ROOF WEST” RESPECTIVELY. THE BIG MONITOR IS MATT’S HELMET CAM AND IT SHOWS GIOVANNA’S FACE IN ADDITION TO TWO JAGGED LINE READOUTS RUNNING ACROSS THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN, ONE WITH A HEART SHAPED SYMBOL AND THE OTHER A SYMBOL OF A PERSON SPEAKING WITH VOICE LINES COMING OUT OF THE MOUTH. THERE IS ALSO A KEYBOARD AND MOUSE IN THE CENTER OF THE DESK. HE’S WEARING A FUTURISTIC HEADSET WITH THE BOOM ON THE RIGHT SIDE.
Boys, get everybody out of that building, and get the blast screen set up around Matt and the girl.
PAGE 12 (5 panels)
PANEL 1 (across top of page)
POV STREET SCENE WITH THE OTHER TEAM MEMBERS LEADING A FEW PEOPLE OUT THE GATES TO SAFETY ON THE LEFT SIDE AND TWO OTHER TEAM MEMBERS FINISHING SETTING UP THE BLAST SCREEN, A 10 FOOT HIGH BY SIX FOOT WIDE CLEAR POLYCARBONITE OCTAGON WITH STEEL RODS REINFORCING THE SIDES AND ALONG THE GROUND AND OUT IN A 20 FOOT SPOKE PATTERN TO STABILIZE IT. MATT AND GIOVANNA ARE IN THE CENTER, STILL HOLDING HANDS. NEXT TO THE BLAST SCREEN IS THE BOMB DISPOSAL CART. IT LOOKS LIKE A LARGE, HIGH TECH BABY BUGGY WITH SHOCK ABSORBERS AND BALLOON TIRES. [I ENVISIONED A CROSS BETWEEN THE PENGUIN’S BABY CARRIAGE IN THE 2ND BATMAN MOVIE AND NOLAN’S BATMOBILE IN “BATMAN BEGINS”] THE TOP IS OPEN.
POV SIDE SHOT OF MATT AND GIOVANNA STILL HOLDING HANDS, HER FACE IS ALMOST CALM, NO LONGER TERRIFIED.
Now, let’s see if we can get this vest off of you.
POV 1/3 SIDE SHOT OF SAVAGE.
Matt, how are you feeling?
POV HALF BODY SHOT OF MATT, STILL HOLDING HANDS. HE IS SMILING CONFIDENTLY.
Everything’s fine chief.
POV FULL FACE SHOT OF GIOVANNA, FROWNING LIKE SHE’S CONFUSED.
Who are you speaking to?
PAGE 13 (6 panels)
POV MATT ¼ UPPER BODY SHOT, POINTING AT THE HEADSET.
Es mi capo, my chief. He’s in my ear.
POV 45 DEGREE ANGLE SHOT FROM GIOVANNA’S POV. MATT IS TAKING OFF HIS HELMET.
POV MATT’S POV HE HAS PUT THE HELMET ON GIOVANNA’S HEAD. SHE LOOKS RIDICULOUS AND IS ALMOST SMILING.
POV Rear shot of Savage as before except now Matt’s face fills the big screen.
MATT (electronic jagged bubble) from screen:
Say hello, Chief.
POV Close up of Savage as he speaks into headset.
Ciao, Giovanna. Don’ preoccupazione di t. Matt lo proteggerà.
POV Head shot of Giovanna, HER head IS dwarfed by Matt’s helmet. She is half smiling, eyes wide.
Grazie, il signore, capo.
PAGE 14 (6 panels)
POV ¾ side shot of Matt and Giovanna from her side. Matt has put his helmet back ON.
What did you say to her, Chief?
POV Savage from rear so we see Giovanna again on the big screen.
I told her not to worry. That you would protect her. So don’t make a liar out of me and get to work.
POV Matt faces one of the rooftop cameras and salutes with a huge grin on his face.
POV Side upper half body shot. Matt Has taken both of Giovanna’s hands in his AGAIN and is looking into her eyes.
Now Giovanna, I want you to take a deep breath very slowly, and let it out.
POV Closeup of Giovanna’s face, eyes closed AND LIPS PURSED as she exhales. Her face is calm.
Now, let’s get you out of this vest so you can go home and see your Madre e Padre.
PAGE 15 (6 panels)
POV Upper body ¾ shot of Matt pulling what looks like a flashlight out of his side pouch. It has a 3 inch rectangular screen at one end and a black dome at the other and a single button in the center of the shaft.
This is an ultrasonic scope, like they use to see babies in the hospital.
POV Closer shot of scope in Matt’s hand.
I’ll use this to see what is inside the vest so I can disarm it. Then you can go home to your family, okay?
POV Closeup of Giovanna’s face, a half smile.
Oh yes. Grazie. I would like that very much.
POV The screen of the scope in foreground showing a black square blob with several black wires coming off it.
Oh, this will be easy.
POV full body shot ¾ from Matt’s POV as he has LIFTed the vest from her shoulders.
There, that’s better, isn’t it?
GIOVANNA (standing up straight now):
POV ¾ rear shot of Matt placing the vest into to the bomb cart. In the background two men are running up to take it away.
PAGE 16 (7 panels)
PANEL 1 (across the top of page)
POV Side shot of the two men pushing the bomb cart away from the blast shield.
POV Over Matt’s shoulder, half body shot of Giovanna. Hanging around her neck is a lanyard with a small gray box about the size of a pack of cigarettes dangling from it.
POV Side shot, knees up, of both Matt and Giovanna. Matt raising the scope close to the box.
Just one more thing, and then we are finished.
POV Same shot (PAGE 15, PANEL 4) of the scope screen in the foreground. This time there is a black RECTANGLE, THE battery, and half of the box is black with 2 wires coming from the top corners of the square leading to the top of the battery.
POV Savage, from POV of his monitors. The background is dark and the monitor light is illuminating his face.
Matt, that looks like a plate detonator. If you try to cut one of those wires, it will go off.
MATT, a jagged voice bubble from the speaker off screen: Yeah, that’s right, Chief. I’ll pull the top off and check it out.
POV Matt’s hands prying off the cover of the box. Show the cover lifted partially.
Well, at least there’s no pressure switch.
POV Closeup of the inside of the box. A small block of C-4 with a terminal at each top corner and a 9 volt battery, the positive and negative markings scratched off and THE TERMINALS ARE covered in solder. THERE’S A SMALL CIRCUIT BOARD BELOW THE BATTERY WITH A COUPLE OF RESISTORS, An illuminated GREEN LED, AND A TRANSISTOR SOLDERED TO IT. THE TWO WIRES RUN FROM THE BATTERY TO TERMINALS ON THE CIRCUIT BOARD. Both wires are the same color, a muddy brown (OR GRAY IF BLACK AND WHITE). The solder joints on each terminal ARE blobby and uneven.
PAGE 17 (8 panels)
POV HEAD SHOT OF MATT.
Must’ve had a sale on brown [OR GRAY, IF BLACK AND WHITE] wire at the terrorist electronics store. And look at that shoddy soldering work. These boys are real amateurs, eh, Chief?
POV SAME AS PAGE 16, PANEL 5.
Be careful, Matt. I don’t like the looks of this. The biggest danger is over.
POV HEAD SHOT OF MATT
SAVAGE (off panel, electronic bubble):
We can make her comfortable and bring somebody else in.
Aw shucks, and keep this pretty little girl waiting? It’s no problem.
POV HALF BODY SIDE SHOT OF MATT. HE’S PULLING A SMALL METER OUT OF HIS SIDE POUCH.
POV Matt’s hands, IN ONE HAND HE’S HOLDING AN ANALOG MULTIMETER WITH A NEEDLE ON IT, reading 5 volts. THE DIAL IS SET TO DC VOLTS on the 0-10 scale. hE is CLIPPING A TINY ALLIGATOR CLIP TO ONE SIDE OF ONE OF THE RESISTORS. there’s a tiny clip on the other side of the resistor ON THE CIRCUIT BOARD.
MATT (from off panel):
All I have to do find the ballast resistor, there it is! Gotcha!
MATT’S PULLING A SMALL PAIR OF PRECISION WIRE CUTTERS OUT OF HIS POUCH.
CLOSE UP OF MATT’S HANDS HOLDING the wire cutters, jaws obviously open, ABOUT TO CUT THE RESISTOR CONNECTING LEAD.
Now all I have to do is clip this little connection right here and–
POV same shot as panel 7, but on Savage’s monitor, from the helmet cam and further away. the open jaws of the wire cutters hovering an inch above, not touching the RESISTOR.
PAGE 18, FULL PAGE PANEL, Last panel of Issue #1. Long shot of the blast shield as a huge explosion erupts from the center like a geyser of red and yellow and orange and black (OR GRAYS, IF BLACK AND WHITE). Might show silhouette of Matt and Giovanna SKELETONS in the center as it goes up.
This is the first issue of a comic series based on a novel I am writing. Savage gets discharged from the Air Force as a result of this incident, and goes to Albuquerque to offer his condolences to Matt’s brother, Luke, who convinces him to stay in Albuquerque and become a private detective. Savage Investigations is a series of detective novels that I am writing.
Issue #2, AFTERMATH, is the second chapter of the novel. The government wants to blame the incident on Matt and deals with Savage being forced to retire from the military and assuming the blame for the deaths of Matt and Giovanna to appease the Italian government. Savage recommends Matt for the Silver Star medal for his bravery in the line of duty. Reluctantly, Colonel Harding, the Base Commander and Savage’s boss, agrees. Savage takes Matt’s Silver Star, awarded posthumously, in person to Matt’s brother in Albuquerque. The comic script for AFTERMATH has also been written and is in the final editing stages.
Issue # 2
Copyright © 2005 and 2011
PAGE 1 FULL PAGE SPLASH SCREEN
POV Over Savage’s shoulder (show just his shoulder and the back of his head but focus on the video console). The SWANSON heartbeat and voiceprint screens are now straight lines. The big screen is blank and the other two screens show two vantage points of the same scene: grisly bits of body parts and blood all over the inside of the blast screen (the blast wasn’t strong enough to blow up the screen, but it’s smeared with blood and bits of bodies). The smaller screens are displaying the same scene from two angles atop the roof of the consulate so there’s no need for real detail and the main screen was Matt, who is now blown up, hence the blank screen. Show Matt’s helmet a few feet from the blast screen and maybe one of Giovanna’s Mary Jane shoes on its side.
SAVAGE: Oh my God! (big letters as an exclamation or very small letters in a big voice bubble, as if in shock—I’m kinda leaning towards the latter, more dramatic?)
PAGE 2-Three panels: One half page at the top and two quarter panels across bottom of page.
PANEL 1 (¼ page)
POV ¾ full on facing shot of Savage watching the console. His shoulders are slumped, face is devastated, horrified. Savage has one thought balloon and Mickey has one small jagged electronic speech balloon.
SAVAGE: Thought bubble: Should I have ordered him to use the bomb suit to finish the job?
MICKEY (one of Savage’s men, the acting leader on the scene): Chief? (The sound is coming from off screen in a jagged voice bubble)
PANEL 2 (¼ page)
POV ZOOM IN FROM SAME ANGLE AS PANEL ONE for HEAD SHOT OF SAVAGE. He has one thought balloon and Mickey has one electronic speech balloon.
SAVAGE: Did I just kill that kid? Those kids?
MICKEY: Chief? Are you there? (The sound is coming from off screen in a jagged voice bubble)
PANEL 3 (¼ page)
POV Mickey on the scene, holding his finger to the headset in his ear. Full body shot there’s chaos all around him with people darting everywhere. He’s still trying to raise Savage. There’s another man next to him. He’s looking at Johnny. Mickey has one balloon and Johnny has one balloon.
MICKEY: I can’t raise the Chief, Johnny.
JOHNNY: Keep tryin’, Mick. He’s gotta be there.
PANEL 4 (¼ page)
POV ¾ view facing Savage from left side, waist up. Mickey has one jagged speech balloon and Savage has one thought balloon.
MICKEY: Chief? (Same jagged voice bubble coming from off screen)
SAVAGE: Jolts to alertness (I don’t know you’re gonna draw that—maybe show him sitting up straight with action lines around his head?)
SAVAGE: Thought bubble: C’mon man, pull yourself together!
PAGE 3 Three panels, two across the top and one half page at bottom of page.
POV Same as splash screen (over Savage’s other shoulder), except now monitors display men picking up bits of clothing and body parts (DON’T KNOW IF YOU WANT TO SHOW BODY PARTS) and putting them in various sizes of clear plastic ZipLoc evidence bags with a three inch horizontal red band close to the top. Show two small piles of bags, one for Matt (his helmet in a bag is in front of the pile) and one for Giovanna (show the shoe in a bag in front of her pile). (Matt’s pile is larger since he had more gear that didn’t get blown up) Remember the different angle thing. Savage has one speech balloon.
SAVAGE: I’m here, Mickey. Hold on. The secure line’s ringing.
POV Close up shot of the SECURE phone on the desk. Show lower corner of monitor in upper left of frame. One of the lights on the phone panel is lit. Savage’s hand is reaching for it, forefinger extended.
POV FACING Head shot of Savage, phone to his ear. Savage has one balloon and voice has one jagged balloon
SAVAGE: Savage. This is a secure line.
VOICE: Do you know who this is?
PANEL 4 Savage has two linked balloons, and VOICE has one jagged balloon between Savage’s.
POV HEAD SHOT, BUT FACING US FORWARD
SAVAGE: Yes, sir.
VOICE: And you know why I’m calling?
SAVAGE (linked speech balloon): Yes, sir.
PAGE 4 Three panels, one half page across top and two quarter pages below.
POV SILHOUETTE OF A MAN FACING US, SITTING AT A DESK WITH DESK-TYPE STUFF IN FOREGROUND. HIS FACE IS IN STARK SHADOW, COVERING HIS FACE AND NECK. YOU CAN SEE THAT HE IS HOLDING A PHONE. CAN”T SEE ANY FACIAL DETAILS EXCEPT A TIE AND SUIT JACKET. HE’S THE VOICE, with one speech balloon.
VOICE: Savage, get your team out of there. I’ve called in the cleanup crew. Nobody’s there when they show up. Understood? You have 10 minutes.
POV SAME AS PAGE 3, PANEL 3 Savage has one balloon
SAVAGE: Understood, sir.
POV SAME AS PANEL 1. VOICE has one balloon and Savage has one jagged balloon.
VOICE: Oh, and Savage, too bad about your man.
SAVAGE (JAGGED SPEECH BALLOON): Thank you, sir.
PANEL 1 POV Close up shot of the SECURE phone on the desk. Show lower corner of monitor in upper left of frame. One of the lights on the phone panel is lit. Savage’s hand is replacing handset, hovering over the phone handset cradle
SAVAGE: Mickey, you’ve got 10 minutes to get as much evidence as you can and clear out.
MICKEY: Roger that. (Jagged balloon)
MAJOR JOHNSON: (Jagged bubble from phone): Chief? Sorry to hear about Swanson. Have your men clear out with what they’ve got. We’ve gotta keep a tight lid on this. Nobody speaks to anyone. Got it?
SAVAGE: Yes, sir.
POV Mickey is standing next to the two piles of bags holding a clipboard, writing on it. The piles are larger now.
SAVAGE (Jagged bubble coming from Mickey’s earpiece): Mickey? Time to go. Bring everything to Hanger 205. I’ll meet you there.
MICKEY: Got it, Chief. You okay? I know how tight you and Matt are, or were.
POV Same as panel 3 except no phone, just Savage’s headset.
SAVAGE: Yeah. Fact is, he was EOD. We all know what that means.
MICKEY (jagged bubble from Savage’s headset): Yeah, you never know…
POV Street shot of outside the consulate, bird’s eye view, from 20 feet high at an angle. No indication of what just happened except for a small blast hole about the size of the blast shield and a stain on the sidewalk. A small car, an old, beat up Fiat, is careening towards the blast site. Show screeching tires. There’s a transport vehicle parked next to the curb a few feet away. Two men are holding a body, one holding the shoulders and the other the lower legs, arms dangling to show that it’s a dead guy, and another is standing in front of a white cooler. There’s a red cross on the sides of the cooler.
POV The car screeches up, jumping the curb, tires off the ground, to right over the spot where Matt and Giovanna were. Show skid marks behind it. The guys with the body are walking towards the car and the other guy is carrying the cooler.
POV From left rear of car. Driver of the car gets out as the guys with the body are now next to the car. Cooler guy is behind the car.
POV Side shot of the car from about 10 feet, and the two guys load the body behind the wheel. The cooler guy has set it down, the top is open, and he is holding a large plastic bag of blood in each hand.
POV Through the driver’s window of the car. The dead guy is in the front seat, his hands on the steering wheel. Packed around him are bladders of blood and the back seat is full of explosives (boxes with caution signs on them and wires sticking out of them)
POV Long shot (100 feet) and car is exploding. Transport vehicle is gone and explosion has blown down the fence and the gate by the sidewalk. You get to show a car exploding, neat, huh? Hopefully, the reader is thinking, “What the hell is that about?”…
PANEL 17 ½ page
POV Hangar 205, interior. Huge open space with tape lines on the floor, marking off areas where piles of ZipLoc evidence bags and other debris are neatly stacked on long folding tables. Show the same stuff as in panel 6. Savage is surveying the scene with Mickey at his side. Mickey’s holding a clipboard and handing it to Savage.
POV Savage is looking at clipboard
SAVAGE: This is everything you could collect?
MICKEY: Yeah, Chief. There wasn’t much left and we had to leave in a hurry.
POV Savage looking up at Mickey
SAVAGE: I don’t like it either but they were sending in a cleanup crew and I couldn’t have you guys on site when they got there.
MICKEY: I understand.
POV Front shot of Mickey
MICKEY: Chief, the boys and I would like to get together to remember Matt.
POV Front shot of Savage
SAVAGE: I think a team building exercise at my place is in order. Make sure everything is squared away here and we’ll meet up in an hour or so.
POV same as panel 20
MICKEY: We’ll be there, Chief.
Not sure how to transition to the next panel. Show Savage driving his car home or have the car waiting outside the gate to his villa as the gate slides open? Or just go right into his living room. On the coffee table is a tray of cold cuts and rolls, bags of chips and cheese, in the center, etc. and a bar with bottles of San Pellegrino, Fanta, and glasses arranged on it in the background. The team is all seated or standing around, engaged in solemn conversation about what a great guy Matt was and what a shame, etc., etc. Show one of those atomic clocks on the wall with big numbers showing 3:30 AM
POV ¾ shot of Savage, standing with his glass raised.
SAVAGE: To Matt Swanson. I’m a better man for having known him, as are we all. You will be missed, my friend.
POV Same angle, except now the team has raised glasses.
TEAM: To Matt!
POV Savage’s living room. Clock now at 4:45 and the team is up and walking towards the door. Savage is holding it open. Coffee table is covered with bottles of San Pellegrino, and Fanta and other non-alcoholic beverages, glasses and party detritus (half opened bags of chips and maybe a tray of cold cuts and rolls and cheese, mostly empty, in the center, etc.) Can actually make this a couple of panels to emphasize the sadness of the team at their loss. A couple of toasts, that sort of thing. Or not.
POV Savage leaning with his back up against the door. The room is empty and he looks very sad.
SAVAGE: (thought bubble) Oh, Matt, what could I have done to prevent this?
The primer charge went off, instantly killing Matt and the girl. Even if he were onsite, there was nothing Savage could have done.
The logical conclusion was that the timer went off or the charge was remotely detonated before Matt could disarm it. It didn’t really matter any more. Both kids were dead and Savage was wracked with guilt, even though the tragic event was out of his hands.
The reality was, it could happen to any EOD guy. It’s what their nightmares are about. The risk is all part of the job. Many of them do it for the rush of cheating Death every time they go out. But sometimes Death won’t be cheated.
On several occasions Savage had been there to save Matt’s life, and other times Matt had saved his, but he wasn’t there this time. He knew it wasn’t his fault, but he felt responsible.
Always after an op, Savage and his boys would go back and blow off some steam at Savage’s villa northwest of Sorrento. They called it a “team building exercise”, especially when they lost a member of the team. A cloud of solemnity hung over them as they sat around swapping stories and sharing memories of Matt and some even managed a few weak smiles as they shared their favorite anecdotes.
It was near dawn when the last man left and Savage fell into a fitful sleep at about four-thirty, only to be rousted out of bed at six a.m. by the telephone.
“Savage,” he said into the receiver, his voice clouded by sleep.
“Chief? This is Captain Armstrong. Colonel Harding requests that you report to him this morning at seven.”
“Yes sir,” he said, shaking the cobwebs from his consciousness. “I’ll be there.”
He hung up and dragged himself into the shower.
He arrived in the outer office of Colonel Richard Harding, the installation commander and Savage’s direct superior.
“Go right in, Chief,” Captain Armstrong said without looking up from his desk. He wanted to express his condolences about what happened but felt that he would be rubbing salt into a fresh wound so he chose to say nothing.
“Thank you, sir,” Savage said as he passed Armstrong’s desk.
Harding’s door was closed. Savage stopped in front of it for a moment to compose himself.
He rapped once on the door.
“Enter!” came the brusque reply from the inner office.
Savage took a deep breath and let it out slowly before he twisted the door handle and entered.
He noticed that the two chairs that normally were set at angles to each other across from Harding’s desk were gone. They had been replaced by a lone chair, placed six feet away from the front and center of Harding’s desk. This was not to be a social visit. The positioning of the chair said that this was to be a military interrogation.
Savage wasn’t feeling very sharp and squared away when he snapped to attention in front of Harding’s desk at 6:59 with a sharp salute and a curt, “Sergeant Savage reporting as ordered, sir!”
“Sit down, Savage,” Colonel Richard Harding said from behind his huge cherry wood desk. Harding was the base commander and as such, responsible for everything that happened with respect to the U.S. military under his command.
“You want some coffee?” he asked. The tone of his voice was strictly business.
Savage sat at attention in the lone chair across from the colonel’s desk. “No, thank you, sir,” he replied smartly.
“Relax, Drake. We need to talk,” the colonel began.
“I understand, sir.” Savage knew what was coming. The report that Harding was about to reference was the hardest document he had ever filed, especially at three in the morning after the tragedy that took the life of someone he had grown so fond of.
Harding was angry and it flashed in his eyes.
“Your report on the fiasco that went down last night. As you know, the Italian government wants someone to answer for that girl’s death.
“What the hell were you thinking, allowing Swanson to go in without the bomb suit?”
“Sir, as it states in my report, there wasn’t time and in my opinion, the situation warranted the breach of regulations.”
“All right, I’m willing to overlook that for now, but you and I both know Swanson cut the wrong wire. It’s obvious to me that it was a mistake, yet there’s nothing in your report that says so, and you want to give him the Medal of Honor? Why?”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Savage was a Chief Master Sergeant and had achieved as much rank as possible in the enlisted ranks as an E-9. He had five years more experience than the colonel and at age 43, was a year older, but Harding was an O-6 and military protocol dictated that an enlisted person always deferred to an officer, even if he were a wet-behind-the-ears, Second Lieutenant, an O-1, when in uniform. Though an O-1 would rarely question a Chief, if he was smart.
Since they were in uniform and Savage had been summoned to report to the colonel, all protocols had to be followed. Had they been on the golf course or at the club together out of uniform, as was often the case, they would have been on a first name basis. Permission to speak freely took them off the record.
“Of course, Drake.”
Savage rose from the chair and walked up to the desk. He leaned across the desk on his hands, a foot away from Harding.
“Rich, I don’t believe it was a mistake. Matt Swanson was not at fault. I think he is–was–the best EOD guy in the business, with more citations for bravery and excellence than almost anyone I know. He died in the commission of his duty. I’m pushing for the MoH. If we say he made a mistake, he won’t get it. I can’t let that happen. The only conclusion that I can come up with was that there was a timer, and thank God he managed to disable the vest before it blew.
“I’m afraid we will never know the truth, though,” Savage said.
Harding held up a DVD.
“This is a copy of the events as they happened,” he said, sliding the DVD into the computer on his desk. He used the mouse to activate the video display on the monitor. The screen came to life and showed a split screen display of each of the monitors that Savage had seen last night. Harding clicked the mouse again and the displays froze.
“Swanson’s reputation is not the issue here,” Harding said. “Hell, I recommended him for some of those citations. The fact is, somebody is going to get hung out to dry on this. If it’s not Swanson, as the OPCOM, it’ll be you.”
“So be it. I’m responsible. I was the one in charge.”
“Drake, be reasonable. The kid is dead already and you throwing yourself on this sword isn’t going to bring him back.”
“Rich, can I show you something?”
Harding slid his chair away from his desk and Savage walked around behind it and took control of the computer. He sped up the recording to the point just before Matt had tried to cut the wires.
“Now watch this, and listen carefully,” Savage said.
He pressed a key and the static display came to life and Savage’s voice came from the speakers.
““Matt, if you don’t think you can do it, leave it alone. The majority of the bomb has been disabled. We can make her comfortable and bring in somebody else. She’s relatively safe now,” Savage cautioned.
“Aw shucks, Chief, and leave this pretty little girl wired to explode? I couldn’t do that. There’s nothing to it. It’s a matter of pride, y’know? Looks like I just gotta cut this—“.
Savage held up his finger.
“There! Did you hear it?”
“Hear what?” Harding said, confused.
“The click of the dykes that he used to cut the wire with. Did you hear it?”
“I don’t know. Play it again.”
Savage rewound and played the scene again, grimacing when the one screen went blank and the others showed the explosion.
“Now, listen,” Savage turned up the volume on the speakers connected to the computer.
Again the scene repeated on the monitor.
Just before Matt spoke, Savage said, “Now listen for the click of the wire cutters.”
The scene played out and Savage asked, “Did you hear it?”
“I didn’t hear anything,” Harding admitted.
“Exactly!” Savage exclaimed. “You didn’t hear it because he never got the chance to cut the wire. The thing went off before he could disarm it!”
Harding looked thoughtful.
“You might be right, Drake, but it still looks like he cut the wrong wire, and the Italians are going to want someone’s head for this.”
“We can’t let them have Matt’s,” Savage said.
“Look, Matt died bravely and I can’t, in good conscience, let his death go unrewarded. How would I ever sleep at night?”
“We both know what they are going to say happened. He was nervous because she was a diplomat’s daughter and he choked,” Harding insisted.
“I don’t think so. He didn’t seem that nervous to me. I didn’t hear it in his voice. Matt Swanson’s been part of my team for five years, Rich. His voice monitor showed normal right up until he went for the battery wire. In fact, I don’t think he ever had a chance to cut that wire.
“I believe he knew what he was doing and the primer charge was triggered by the timer or somebody set it off remotely. He said it was a poorly rigged device. It might have even gone off prematurely.
“Imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t first disabled the main charge. Instead of a big hole in front of the gate, we would have lost the whole building. For that, he is a hero.
“It was an accident. It wasn’t Matt Swanson’s fault. I want him to get the Medal of Honor. He deserves it. His memory will not be tainted on my watch!”
Savage felt his emotions rise and he realized he had balled up his fists. Harding noticed, too.
“Look, Drake, somebody is going down for this and I don’t want it to be you, Harding pleaded. “You’ve had a long and distinguished career. I heard you tell him to leave it alone. He was being insubordinate.”
“Sir, with all due respect,” Savage said, regaining control and switching back to military protocol to make his point, “neither of us was there and we can’t decide that he screwed up. Everything was going fine until the bomb went off. I could hear it in his voice. He was not nervous or hesitant. He also said that it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. I never heard the click of the snips as he cut the wire. That’s what I want the record to state.
“If the Italians need someone to blame, use me. Give me an Article 15. Take one of my stripes. Force me to retire. I have enough time in.”
The colonel thought for a moment, weighing all the factors. This was going to be a political hornet’s nest unless he could find a scapegoat to give to the Italian authorities. The Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, and the Black Ops boys had already started the cover up, so a long, drawn out, thorough, public investigation was going to be out of the question.
Savage was literally offering his own neck to the chopping block and Harding had to decide whether or not to drop the axe. One of the rights and responsibilities of a high level position in the military such as a base commander is the ability to perform both field promotions and demotions in the form of an Article 15, non judicial punishment. Savage’s offer would be the perfect way out of this mess.
Harding didn’t want Savage to be drummed out of the military, given his spotless record, but he knew and respected Savage well enough to accede to his wishes. He made his decision.
“All right, Chief. If that’s the way you want it. Effective immediately, you are out-processing for retirement. I hate to do it, but I’m going to have to take a stripe.
“I hope it’s enough to satisfy that girl’s father,” Harding added.
“So do I,” Savage said but he knew it would be. One of the less glamorous aspects of being a diplomat was knowing that something might happen to a loved one, which is why they were so well guarded around the clock. A covert investigation would reveal exactly what happened to the girl’s security people, but he also knew that he would probably never know the truth, not being privy to such information any longer.
The official story for the media was that a suicide car bomb blew up on the steps of the embassy. The cleanup crew, whose job it was to rewrite history and cover up what actually happened, hosed down the site, brought in a car, loaded with explosives and a cadaver behind the wheel. Then they blew it up at the front gate right after Savage’s crew left, and swore everyone to secrecy. An hour later, it was all over the major wire services and television.
The world’s televisions all carried the same story, “A new terrorist group, Crimson Jihad, is claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing of our embassy in retaliation for the American air bases and military presence in the Middle East. Fortunately, due to the late hour of the attack, there were no casualties.”
“Crimson Jihad, eh?” Savage thought to himself. “Probably an Army Captain who’s an Arab translator. And why, with all the modern technology and advances in audio in the world, does it sound like it was recorded in a bathroom somewhere?”
He wasn’t wrong by much. The voice of Crimson Jihad was actually an Arab speaking U.S. Army lieutenant, recorded on a cheap cassette recorder his mouth too close to the microphone in a bathroom stall. The tape was sent to the embassy and released to the media. The attack would be viewed as another skirmish in the war on terrorism.
Nothing was ever reported about the abduction of Giovanna Francelli. Neither government wanted anybody getting ideas about kidnapping the daughters of other diplomats. Only a handful of people knew what had actually occurred. The tragic death of the young girl and the brave young man who tried to save her was a story that would forever be shrouded in secrecy.
Savage was fed up anyway.
“23 years in the military, 18 of it in black ops, I’ve lost enough close friends, and have had enough killing and death and subterfuge about cover stories that covered up what really happened,” he thought with bitterness in his heart.
As ordered, he put in his papers to retire. Harding taking one of his stripes meant he would retire as a Senior Master Sergeant, although he would still receive the full retirement pay of a Chief and it would still say “CMSGT / E9” in the “PAY GRADE” field on his blue retired ID card.
Someone else would have to watch over his boys now. They all came over to his place for a somber farewell gathering and each man let him know that they respected and understood why Savage had done what he did. They toasted Matt Swanson one last time as a team.
Savage knew he’d miss the life and the comradery that exists nowhere else but the military, but it was time to move on.
Though unprecedented, Colonel Harding granted Savage’s final request to take Matt’s Medal of Honor to Albuquerque and give his condolences to Matt’s brother, Luke Swanson, personally.
Savage was to complete his final out-processing at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and a few days later, his military career would be a memory. He had about twenty thousand dollars in a 401K, and his future was, for the first time in a very long time, uncertain.