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FUGITIVE SWEETHEART

FUGITIVE SWEETHEART
By Vincent Paterno

GENRE: Thriller, Comedy
LOGLINE:

A newly-hired reporter suspects his copy editor is a former high school classmate with a new identity. They fall in love, her cover is blown and a mob boss just out of prison who was her ex vows revenge for her helping to convict him.

SYNOPSIS:

Duane Llewellyn, 47, an out-of-work reporter, is hired by Francine Wintergreen, editor/publisher of the Bethel (Colo.) Gazette. Duane soon meets its copy editor, Susan Birch. On first glance, Duane thinks of Eloise Kellogg, a classmate at Blair M. Richards High School in Westfield, N.J. She was star guard on the basketball team and the first girl named athlete of the year -- which Duane, school paper sports editor, publicly criticized. Susan denies any link to Eloise, though Duane’s certain she’s the same person. But an online search reveals Eloise died in Brooklyn several years earlier.

Duane becomes friends with sports editor Marco Piriano, who’s seeing Susan’s roommate, six-foot waitress Irina Stepanova. He asks about Susan; Irina denies she’s hiding anything. Duane and Susan attend a movie, then go dining and dancing, without any romantic interest. Susan notes both are from New Jersey, though she says she’s from “West...ville” in south Jersey.

Duane and Susan join Marco and Irina at a Rockies game. Susan purchases tickets in the upper deck in right field, saying it’ll give them privacy. When a long home run is hit, “non-jock” Susan makes a spectacular catch. It becomes highlight-reel footage as Dmitri Volkoff, a Russian mobster out of prison, sees Eloise isn’t dead after all. He vows revenge.

Seven years earlier, Susan and Irina met -- Susan as Eloise, Irina as Svetlana Kosygin, a Russian basketball star promised a U.S. college scholarship by Volkoff, an alleged Russian businessman. Instead, Svetlana was lured into exotic dancing, then sex work. She was to meet a client, “Vladimir,” at Grand Army Plaza. He phones Eloise at her Brooklyn home to confirm the meeting.

Curious, Eloise visits and finds a tall blonde identified as Tanya. She takes Eloise into the subway station minutes before “Vladimir” arrives and asks for help. On a train to Manhattan, Eloise learns Dmitri isn’t a businessman, but deals in prostitution and loan-sharking. Federal authorities give them new identities and move them to Colorado.

Dmitri calls Russian crime associates to track down Eloise. Stills of the catch reveal Svetlana Kosygin sits nearby. Photographs show Marco is next to Svetlana. Dmitri rounds up a team to visit Bethel.

The following Friday, Susan, Duane, Marco and Francine finish the Gazette, as Irina joins them after completing her shift. As the paper is printed, Dmitri, holding a gun, and three unarmed associates enter the office. Dmitri demands answers “from Eloise Kellogg.” Susan discloses her true identity; Irina confesses she’s Svetlana Kosygin.

As Dmitri prepares to shoot his ex-wife, a tied bundle of newspapers is tossed into the newsroom from the production room, hitting him in the back of the head and knocking him cold; the gun lands behind a storage bin. Henchmen carry Dmitri to his car, while Francine, Susan, Duane, Marco and Irina, fearing the bad guys may return, race for the publisher’s SUV and flee town.

Francine calls Monte Bonneville, publisher of the Whitfield (S.Dak.) Daily Telegram, asking if they could stay with him until things cool down. He agrees, and they head to South Dakota.

Early Saturday, the recovered Dmitri and gang stop at the Gazette office, as Francine leaves a message where they’ll hide on the speakerphone. Dmitri begins pursuit, though he’s about 10 hours behind.

En route, Duane feels no vindication, but says he’ll stand by his high school classmate; Marco says he’ll do likewise, as the former Svetlana kisses him. Duane understands why the ex-Eloise won’t do the same.

They arrive at Monte’s house Saturday afternoon, where they have dinner, unaware Dmitri’s gang is drawing closer. After some relaxation, all go to bed -- Monte in his room, Francine in one of the three guest rooms, Duane and Marco in another, and Susan/Eloise and Irina/Svetlana in the third.

Francine sneaks off to chat with Monte, winding up in bed together. Marco goes to the kitchen, where he meets Irina, while Duane uses the bathroom. Marco and Irina return upstairs, see Duane isn’t in bed and, attracted to each other because of tension from the chase, decide to sleep together.

After his bathroom visit, Duane enters the wrong guest room and awakens Susan. He apologizes, but she says not to worry, and has been lonely since changing identities. He’s reluctant to share intimacy since they work together, but gives in. At breakfast the next morning, all confess they had bedded their partners, as Dmitri’s gang arrive.

Dmitri intends to kill Susan and Irina after learning how they created a successful case against him. The couples are locked in the master bedroom, as Dmitri and gang enjoy the house. The six seek a way to escape. Irina -- certain none of the henchmen has seen her before -- has a plan.

She knocks on the door, seductively asking for help. Irina -- hearing Dmitri asleep downstairs, snoring loudly while the TV is on -- persuades the aide to invite his partners upstairs for a stripping game, promising “a tantalizing prize” to the winner. The trio of men, who have put their guns down in the hallway, begin removing their clothes.

When the men are down to their underwear. Irina grabs one of their guns and the captives race downstairs. The henchmen put their clothes back on, but by then Monte has led his partners to his sedan (Dmitri’s car blocks Francine’s SUV) and hands Duane the keys (“I’m not a fast driver!”, the publisher says). They flee the house; the henchmen tell Dmitri they’ve escaped.

Realizing his foes’ head start, Dmitri calls South Dakota state police, describing Monte’s car and alleging a passenger is involved in sex trafficking. But the sedan’s police radio scanner is on, and Duane and cohorts soon realize the APB is about them. Monte calls police to say it’s not true. At a gas station/convenience store, Duane parks to the side, as the mobster’s car pulls in to refuel. The bad guys can’t see Monte’s sedan, so Susan uses her gun to shoot out Dmitri’s tires. Duane races out of the parking lot. Dmitri and his cohorts try to run but are apprehended by police.

Duane and allies return to Monte’s house, where the couples openly sleep together that night. Before the Bethel five head home the next day, Francine announces she and Monte will pool their newspapers’ expenses and then get married, as the other couples plan to do. But when they arrive at the Gazette, they’re greeted by witness protection program officials. Duane, Susan, Marco and Irina are whisked away to southern California and new identities.

FUGITIVE SWEETHEART

View screenplay
Barry A.A. Dillinger

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