Bill Birney Screenwriter
Synopsis - Footsteps
Jessica Henderson (11) is skipping school again. After the bell rings, she runs away from school and down into a canyon to a secret hideout, where she’ll spend the day until it’s safe to go home. Ron Henderson meanwhile searches for the motivation to get his job back at the boatyard. But no matter how much alcohol he consumes, he can’t find the will and storms out of the personnel office. Later, as Jessica’s mother Fran makes dinner for her and sister Connie (9), and then deals with a hospital emergency, Ron has his way with a young prostitute.
When Ron finally returns home, tensions collide. Fran presses him to leave his car for emergencies, but Ron pushes her aside. The argument builds with Fran becoming more insistent and Ron becoming angrier and more abusive. Fran pulls the wire out of the back of the TV, and he lands a punch that leaves her unconscious. Then, he destroys the living room. In bed, Connie cries, while Jessica threatens to kill him. After he destroys the kitchen, he stumbles into the dining room and is surprised to find Fran facing him with a rifle. He wrests the gun from her, shoves her down and finishes the argument by knocking her out completely, destroying what’s left of the living room and driving off.
A woman is crying her heart out in front of a restroom mirror. It’s Jessica Henderson. Fifteen years later, she is an ace agent at Starr Realty. After fixing her makeup, she flies out of the restroom with store-bought charm, greets customers and escorts them to a conference room. Before the meeting, her clingy boyfriend Ed calls to spoil her day. But she bounces right back when a coworker congratulates her on her promotion. Later, she shows up for dinner at Fran’s house, and proceeds to dominate the evening with talk about all her accomplishments. When her cocaine-induced high wanes, she goes back to her car for a pick me up. After doing a line, she looks up to see a strange dark economy car pull up.
It’s Ron. He’s come back to make amends. That night, the three women react to Ron’s return. Fran longs for the old days before kids, Connie becomes frightened and unable to sleep, and Jessica turns icy and distant. In his hotel room, Ron prays to God that they come to terms with the new contrite Ron, who only wants to bring joy to them. Next day, Ron visits Jessica at her open house and shows her an article that changed his life - a piece about Jessica winning salesperson of the year. She reluctantly agrees to come to dinner at Fran’s that evening.
That night, Ron is manic and talkative. Connie tosses him tough questions, but Ron is all smiles and has shiny answers for everything. Jessica shows up late and is shocked to see how this monster has managed to worm his way into their lives again. She explodes, lays into Ron, sweeps a container of Chinese off the table and storms out.
In FLASHBACK, Jessica the child looks deep into Ron’s alcohol-withered soul. She longs for a functional family but after living with Ron’s nonstop dive into physical and psychological abusiveness, has developed an impenetrable iciness. Back in the present, she finds that Ron has ingratiated Bob Starr and manipulated his way into getting a job at the company. Jessica feels the walls closing in. Meanwhile, detective Tougas from Seattle PD, joins with two San Diego detectives to begin searching for a murder suspect they tracked from Seattle. As Ron unpacks in his new apartment, he takes a gun out of his bag and hides it under some papers.
That night, Jessica picks up Ed at the airport. He’s excited to see her, but notices that she is highly distracted and colder than usual. He pushes her to open up about it but goes too far. She explodes in anger, attacks him verbally and storms out of the bar. At the same time, Connie, Fran, and Ron are enjoying themselves at a skating rink, while Garcia is staking out Fran’s house. When Jessica arrives at her condo, she pulls a gun out of a paper sack. In FLASHBACK, a drunken Ron takes advantage of her, and she learns at an early age what life has in store for her.
The next day, Jessica shows a difficult couple, Roy and Nora, the perfect house. Roy is happy, but Nora has issues and walks out. With everything else going wrong in her life, Jessica can no longer contain her frustration. She argues with Nora and shoves her into a bush. Bob Starr is incredulous, but Jessica refuses to give him an explanation and storms out of his office. She is as low as a person can be, appearing to have lost all reason and self-control, as she drives at full throttle down the freeway.
Meanwhile, detectives find Ron’s apartment and feel they have an advantage at last, but Ron is one step ahead of them. Connie comes home to find a drunken and belligerent Jessica waiting for her. Jessica is filled with hate and anger, ready for a fight. Connie tries to help, but Jessica is hopelessly lost in her deep dive into despair. She lashes out at Connie and flies out the door. Meanwhile, some street cops find Ron’s car parked near Jessica’s condo.
When Jessica finally stumbles home, she finds Ron hiding there, waiting for her. He reveals his gun and asks Jessica to help him escape. To show her he means well, he puts his gun away, not expecting Jessica to pull her gun out. She takes his gun and tells him in no uncertain terms she has every reason to use it on him. When Tougas and Dewitt come to the door, she hides Ron in the bedroom. She feigns surprise and tells the detectives she will keep an eye out for him. Ron feels he has lured Jessica to his side, but quickly discovers the opposite is the case. Jessica toys with him, pushes the gun barrel against his eye, pistol whips him. Ron is contrite, but she is relentless. After the game has played itself out, she hands him the gun, and lets him decide the next step, saying, “The only thing in this Goddamn world worse than being you is being me.” She closes her eyes and turns away from him. A gunshot is fired. She opens her eyes. The detectives break in and take charge of the scene. and Jessica is at peace.