Darkness. Then the GLINT of a flashlight. Its beam rocks
crazily to and fro across the inside of a small storage room
as we hear two children arguing.
You’re doing it wrong.
You’re doing it wrong.
It’s hard, but we get a sense of the room in the whipping
beam of light. Huge, dark coats lined up like sides of beef
on steel batons. Bent, stained helmets hung like African
Beneath them BRIAN, 7, and STEPHEN, 12, are trying to struggle
into a pair of the ludicrously massive coats over their
It doesn’t go like that.
Who asked you?
If you do it like that it’ll open in
the fire. Then you’ll get burned and
The door suddenly opens, morning sunlight roaring in. It’s a
fire station storage room full of fire gear. A fireman stands
in the doorway, tall, athletic, their father; DENNIS
Who’s going to die?
Brian. He’s not doing it right, dad.
He never does it right.
(gestures for them to
Well, let’s have a look.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – DAY
The two boys tromp out of the closet. The rubber turn-out
boots are as high as their thighs. The ends of the coats
drag on the floor. They salute, Brian’s arm just an empty
sleeve. Dennis kneels down and re-fastens Brian’s coat.
Your brother’s right. If you don’t
fasten these correctly they could
open and you’d get burned.
You wouldn’t let me die, would you,
McCaffreys are smarter than fire,
(playfully slaps their
How ‘bout lunch, huh?
Hey, what’s with the mouth? Where’d
you grow up, a barn?
— The station suddenly fills with the BELLOW of an ALARM
A young fireman, ADCOX, appears with the dispatch card.
Want to come along, Brian? Watch the
old man earn his keep?
You’ve come along a dozen times,
Stephen, give your brother a chance.
We’ll be back in a few minutes.
How ‘bout it, sport?
Dennis scoops Brian up and loads him into the fire engine
cab. The other three firemen climb aboard and take their
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – DAY
There’s a cough of diesel, a crunch of gears, and the engine
is pulling out of the station.
Hit the button, Brian.
Brian stamps his foot on the siren button. The red light
snaps on, the siren growls and blares, and they’re off down
the street. Brian turns around in his seat and, at the last
instant before the corner, makes eye contact with his older
They stick their tongues out.
EXT. CHICAGO STREET – DAY – 20 YRS. EARLIER
The engine howls its way through the city. Brian, sandwiched
between his father and Adcox, looks out in wonderment at
intersections zipping past like picket fences, at people on
sidewalks holding hands over their ears, at the red emergency
lights bouncing crazily off shop windows.
EXT. BUILDING – DAY – 20 YRS. EARLIER
Lazy smoke curls out the second story of a commercial block.
Medium deal. The engine pulls up and the firemen are jumping
off like ship rats. Dennis opens his door, hops down, and
pauses just long enough to point a serious finger at his
Stay near the truck.
And keep an eye out for us, huh?
We’re short handed today.
Brian nods vigorously, taking the command seriously. Dennis
smiles and is off, dragging a hoseline with his crew toward
a doorway they disappear into. Brian climbs down from the
Don’t stray too far, little man.
Brian smiles to the pumper operator. He just wants a better
look. And he gets it: Smoke turned evil and dark now, taking
EXT. BUILDING – DAY – 20 YRS. EARLIER
There’s a level of apartments above the storefronts. As Brian
watches, a window opens and out steps his father and Adcox
onto a small fire escape. Their attention’s on the next window
over, out of reach, wrapped in leaky smoke.
Suddenly Dennis climbs up onto the fire escape railing, armed
with only an axe, and JUMPS across to the next metal balcony.
A ballsy, dangerous move. He kicks in the window, breaks out
the frame with his axe, and dives in.
A beat later he reemerges on the balcony with a terrified,
smudged little girl. He hands the little girl over the railing
to a fireman now coming up the more traditional way — a
Dennis’s face lifts and grins at Brian; dirty, bigger than
life, invincible. He winks a wink only possible between
fathers and sons and he’s gone again, back into the swirling
darkness. As Brian stands there, full of love, full of pride,
he sees a piece of awning along the roofline crack; releasing
a sickly yellow tongue of flame that slinks over the roof.
The flame seems to pause, to stare at Brian a beat. Shhh,
don’t tell anyone. Brian is transfixed, his little head
staring up in astonishment.
Nobody else has noticed it.
Brian can see his father and Adcox through the window;
probing, looking for the flame lurking just above. Brian
starts to call out in a small, hesitant voice,
He tries to call louder… But suddenly everything is
happening very fast in slow motion:
— Brian can see Adcox testing the ceiling with a pike pole
as Brian steps forward, under the power of a flame that
beckons him as —
Dennis suddenly THROWS his body against Adcox, knocking him
clear just as a flame EXPLODES DOWNWARD from the ceiling
fully against him as — All the building’s windows BLOW OUT
and it’s like the sky’s erupted for Brian, a burning hailstorm
that falls and pelts the ground around him. Plaster, wood,
and something metal that cracks against the pavement and
A fire helmet.
And Adcox is coming out the door now, blackened and torn,
hopeless tears streaming down his face.
Get us some backup! We need some
And, spotting Brian, he runs towards him. And the helmet
spins and spins and Adcox keeps running, and the sky is
raining fire, and the flame on the roof has risen up now to
its full, horrifying size and it’s laughing now, laughing at
the little boy as the helmet finally stops spinning, and we
read the printing on the neck guard.
And Adcox is sobbing and has his arms around the boy,
protecting him from the fire, the world, but it’s like Brian
doesn’t see him. He pulls away from Adcox, walks up to his
father’s helmet, And puts it on.
The scene EXPLODES with a flash as a photographer captures
INT. SEEDY APARTMENT – DAY
Sequence omitted from original script.
INT. BRIAN’S CAR – DAY
Hold on the freeze-frame. Let it become an aged cover of
LIFE. The magazine jiggles and rocks and we see now it’s
sitting atop a box of knick-knacks jostling in the back seat
of an aging BMW. There’s plenty of other boxes here, a live
on the move, and in the driver’s seat, BRIAN McCAFFREY, now
27. There’s piles of empty burger wrappers, Coke cans, and
Florida knick-knacks on the dash board; a little blow-up
palm tree, a cheesy hula girl emblazoned with “McCaffrey
High-End Stereo Sales”.
EXT. HIGHWAY – MONTAGE – DAY
Brian and his battered BMW shoot past prairie, cow country,
nervous suburbs and finally a sign: WELCOME TO CHICAGO.
EXT. CEMETERY – DAY
Wind tugging at his bangs, Brian stares down at the graves
of Dennis and Mary Elizabeth McCaffrey.
INT. CHICAGO GAS STATION RESTROOM – DAY
In a crusty sink he combs his hair, knots a tie around his
EXT. CHICAGO FIRE DEPARTMENT TRAINING ACADEMY – DAY
Brian walks through its sculpted columns, straightening his
tie. He comes to a door, FIRE ACADEMY CHIEF. He takes a deep
breath, steadies his gaze, and enters.
INT. FIRE ACADEMY CHIEF’S OFFICE – DAY
The ACADEMY CHIEF sits at his desk going over a file. Out
the window can be heard a FIRE TRAINING CLASS in action.
Is this a joke?
Brian’s sitting in the seat opposite.
If it was a joke, sir, you’d be
You walked out on this academy six
years ago. One week to graduation.
You think we forgot that? You think
I want another shot, Sir.
Look, everybody remembers your old
man. Being his son, all you had to
do was breathe to graduate here.
Dead Hero Father Rule. But you blew
us off. Why should I take you back?
If you remember, sir, my test scores
were in the top —
— I don’t give a damn what your
test scores were, maybe you could
have been a good firemen, but you
had your shot.
I need another one, sir.
Sorry, but it’s out of my hands. Try
again next year.
No, it isn’t out of your hands or
you wouldn’t even have met me. If I
push you have to let me back in.
Dead Hero Father Rule. Sir.
Even if you graduate this academy,
you’ve still got nine months of
probation. That’s hard duty, son. If
you don’t really love this job, it’ll
See you Monday. Sir.
As we hear the BLOW OF A WHISTLE
EXT. CHICAGO FIRE DEPT. TRAINING ACADEMY – GRADUATION DAY
And everybody lined up at attention in dress blues.
Though the world changes every day,
some things are truly forever:
Courage, devotion, and honor in what
we do. This class is a special one,
for we dedicate it to the three
firefighters that have fallen this
year: Donald Knowlton, Richard Walter
and Michael Petzold…
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with
pleasure that I certify that Candidate
Class number 322, having successfully
completed all academy requirements,
are hereby graduated to the Chicago
Candidates and their relatives CHEER and leap to their feet.
Something struggles inside of Brian. He doesn’t stand at
first. Another Candidate, TIM, 20, looks at him strangely.
So does the Academy Chief, his eyes finding Brian’s. And
Brian’s standing slowly now, joining them…
EXT. BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
An expensive one. We hear a window BREAK.
INT. BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Through the dimness a file cabinet. An AXE SUDDENLY SLAMS
into it, RIPPING it apart. Files crash to the floor. And a
picture. 1970. Four young guys marlin fishing. Time of their
INT. BROWNSTONE BEDROOM – NIGHT
And a GREY PUTTY being SLAPPED along the edges of a door.
INT. PUB – NIGHT
A split-level firemen’s dive; complete with mounted axes and
personalized T-shirts from various engine companies proudly
declaring “LADDER CO. 6 — AXE FIRST, HOSE LATER” and “CHICAGO
FD, 150 YEARS OF TRADITION UNIMPEDED BY PROGRESS”.
Tonight the place is firmly in the hands of an army of
recently graduated candidates. A few on the back patio have
hooked up a charged hoseline and are taking potshots at
balloon targets, each other, the neighbor’s cat. Brian and
Tim, still in their uniforms, enter from the street. Survey
Completely out of control.
What the hell are we waiting for?
As they shoulder their way inside, another CANDIDATE appears
holding proudly a fistful of sealed envelopes.
Hot off the presses, guys. Station
Tim and everyone else but Brian eagerly tear into them. Brian
nonchalantly shoulders up to the bar.
A beer, Willy!
The barkeep turns and smiles.
Well, if it isn’t the littlest
(to candidates with
Hey! You break anything with that
you buy it!
Sorry, there must be something wrong
with my eyes. I keep thinking that’s
a fire department uniform.
It’s in my blood, Willy.
The candidates are ripping open their assignments, exclaiming
to each other: “All right! Engine 117! That’s a slum! They
get cookers every day!”. “Oh no, Engine 10, that’s a nice
Willy turns to the bulletin board behind him and unpins a
stack of business cards.
Really. Well, let’s have a look at
what else was “in your blood”. I
always look forward to getting these,
they make such a nice collage for
the bar… “Assistant Director, Sales,
Aspen Snowmobile Tours…”
Didn’t offer the kinda growth and
challenge I need.
Uh huh. And “Pioneer’s Pride, Mobile
Log Cabins”. That was in your blood
about six months wasn’t it?
Management were pin heads.
“Laguna Jamming, Custom Surfboards”?
And just this year, “Brian’s Sound
Spectrum”. Your own company even.
I was ahead of my time.
You know, I’ve got a perfect little
spot here for “Brian McCaffrey,
Tim holds an envelope marked McCAFFREY out to Brian.
Aren’t you even curious?
Engine 115, right?
(opens it, surprised)
How’d you know? These are supposed
to be sealed.
And a case of scotch to a captain in
You crooked son of a bitch. Why 115?
Lots of fires. They promote faster
there. Take a look at the last Lt.’s
list, half the guys on it came from
that battalion. Gotta think about
your future, Timmy. 115’s the station.
Ah man, if you’re gonna bribe your
way into a station, why not 17 with
me and your brother?
On Brian’s reaction
EXT. STREET – NIGHT
A Porsche knifes through darkened streets. The DRIVER, 50,
is dressed for success. Pulling up to the brownstone we saw
earlier, he gets out and rubs his eyes. Another day in the
Climbing the short stairs, he sticks his key into the lock
and opens the door. It is the last thing he will ever do.
A THUNDERING EXPLOSION ENGULFS the stoop.
INT. PUB – NIGHT
The place is packed now with girls flirting with the
candidates, putting their helmets on, etc. The horseplay
around the bar suddenly stops at the sweet sound of a SIREN.
EXT. PUB – NIGHT
Everyone steps outside, cocks an ear. And here it comes, the
real thing, SCREECHING past in a full-tilt rush. Shouts and
Hey, that’s my cousin’s company!
C’mon! Let’s go!
As Brian turns, he suddenly confronted by an elderly
She grabs his cheeks and rattles off in Lithuanian. Brian
can only smile. Then two attractive jean-clad legs step up.
You look great.
Thanks for calling.
Uh… I’ve been sorta keeping a low
profile… the academy… I graduated
So… I see you’re still in the
Not quite. Just visiting. I live in
Lincoln Park now.
Yeah? What have you been up to?
I work for city hall.
Really? No kidding.
What, you think I just dried up and
blew away when you left? The world
does turn once in awhile Brian, even
without your permission.
Just then, Tim OPENS UP the hoseline, DRENCHING Brian.
Don’t want you overheating, Brian!
Brian ducks the stream and PULLS a length of hose near his
feet, FLIPPING Tim. Brian JUMPS him, shuts off the hose and
pins him to the pavement.
Okay okay! Uncle!
Brian walks back toward Jennifer
You’ve certainly matured.
She turns to leave.
Well, if nothing else, it’s nice to
know we can still be friends.
I don’t want to be your friend, Brian.
Another in a series of fire engines HOWL past. Tim grabs
Brian by the shoulder.
Let’s go, man!
EXT. STREETS – NIGHT
Brian and Tim jump into Brian’s car. They shoot blindly down
the street looking for the fire engine, running down red
lights or anything else that gets in their way. Brian suddenly
hits the brakes, SCREECHING to a stop. They roll down their
windows. Far off can be heard the wind-up of a siren.
EXT. STREETS – FIRE ENGINE – NIGHT
SCREECH. They fly around a corner, down a block, and there
it is, lights flashing up ahead. Brian GUNS it, roars up
alongside the fire engine. Tim leans out the window, shakes
a bottle of beer, and lets loose a foamy eruption in the
truck driver’s face.
Tim! You crazy motherfucker!
But he’s laughing.
Box alarm. Walton Ave.
We’ll meet ya.
EXT. BROWNSTONE – WALTON AVENUE – NIGHT
As Brian and Tim pull up two engine companies are already
dragging lines toward the rolling brownstone we saw explode
earlier. Tim cheers the firemen on like a drive-in movie.
Brian watches the fire with uneasy fascination. Embers
whipping into the night, drifting to the ground around him.
One of the engine companies is entering the doorway now. He
watches as they willingly crawl into a place any sane person
would run for their life from. Jesus Christ. FLASH — Brian
turns at the blinding snap of a camera. Several locals are
gathered around a parked car, some taking pictures. Brian
notices that right away. It takes a beat longer to notice
the CHARRED CORPSE stuffed head-first through the windshield.
It’s the Porsche driver, his legs sticking out at crazy
angles. A dog barks furiously at it.
(also looking at body)
Man. Something sure put a crimp in
The brownstone fire quickly transforms itself into noisy
clouds of dirty white steam. And one of the firemen is coming
back out now, walking toward Brian.
When he’s just a few yards away he pulls off his air mask
and helmet and we shudder with Brian, because the man is a
dead ringer for HIS FATHER.
Well, look what we have here. Nice
costume. Rent it?
I want to thank you for coming to my
graduation, Stephen. It was a great
inspiration to me.
So you’re going to fight fires now,
He pats Brian’s cheeks, leaving behind large charcoal smears.
Doesn’t work on you.
(turns to leave)
See ya around, little brother.
Well, see you’re wrong already. Had
a talk with Chief Fitzgerald, and we
decided in the interest of brotherly
love, that maybe you shouldn’t be
way over on the other side of town.
So starting tomorrow, your assigned
to company 17. My company.
(Brian’s color drops
One case of scotch, you’re getting
cheap in your old age, Brian…
And Stephen turns for his own men, Tim staring at Brian as
clouds of smoke drift past like ghosts.
EXT. BROWNSTONE – ACROSS THE STREET – NIGHT
A flame LEAPS up into the foreground. Touches a cigarette.
The cigarette glows, lingers, then lowers slowly from the
mouth of RIMGALE, fifty-five years old and six and a half
feet of solid granite. Wearing a windbreaker and grey slacks
tucked into fire department rubber boots, he takes another
slow drag. Looks at the body stuffed into the windshield.
It’s twenty yards away from the brownstone. Stephen looks up
as Rimgale drops the cigarette, crushes it with his boot,
and crosses the street to the building.
INT. BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Charred walls hiss and snap in the steamy darkness. Rimgale
is there, gloomy in the beam of his flashlight. He crouches
down, plays his flashlight along the ruined baseboard.
If you stare any longer Stevie, I’ll
start charging you admission.
Stephen is leaning in the doorway, watching him.
Got a cause?
Are the glory boys actually showing
interest in Investigation’s work? I
may have a stroke.
The glory boys just want to finish
their report so they can go home.
Rimgale’s flashlight finds a wall socket that he pries loose
and holds up to the light. He lowers it, takes in the walls,
They’re gonna have to wait a few
days on this one.
EXT. BROWNSTONE – NIGHT
Tim’s talking to his cousin. Brian hangs back, watches the
body-bag people load the Porsche driver into a meat wagon.
There’s a still an audience for this, still stray dogs
circling and barking. Brian walks up, looks inside the car,
and sees on a seat the ragged remains of a FINGER.
(to coroner crew)
Hey, you forgot… this.
They’re already climbing into the wagon. The driver smiles
We always leave something for the
Brian looks across the fireground, sees his brother walking
back to the fire engine. They share a brief, edgy glance.
EXT. HOUSE – DAY
A modest one. South-side Irish old fashioned. Brian walks
up. There’s a little kid, about five, playing with a toy
fire truck on the drive.
Hey, Sean. What’s goin’ on, man?
The kid stares at him without a glimmer of recognition.
It’s Uncle Brian. Y’know.
He makes his hand into a talking puppet.
“Spinach? We don’t need no stinking
The kid drops his toy truck and flees inside.
INT. HELEN’S HOUSE
Brian follows, sticks his head in the door.
A warm looking woman, 30’s, HELEN, comes around the corner.
Hi, Helen. Man, you look great.
You look like… Brian.
She gives him a tentative hug.
‘Bout written you off. How long have
you been in town?
I know, I know, Should’a called.
I’ve been really busy. I joined the
Helen’s expression suddenly saddens.
You guys… you really know how to
put each other through it, don’t
The little kid is peeking fearfully from the kitchen doorway.
That’s Sean? Jeez, he’s a giant.
Yeah, you’d be surprised what three
years can do to a kid.
Sean, come on out, man. What, you
forget your favorite uncle?
Stephen told him you were killed in
a hot tub accident.
Dad was kidding, Mom.
And the kid runs unexpectedly away, angry.
Well that’s two things to strangle
Stephen for. Where is he, anyway?
Stephen’s not staying here now, Brian.
He moved out last April.
An embarrassed sting.
Oh, man, I’m sorry.
You guys ought to try picking up a
phone once in awhile.
EXT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – MARINA – DAY
A small one on the river. Several boats bob peacefully. Except
one. Raised high in dry-dock, it’s an ancient fishing trawler.
Bachman-Turner-Overdrive drifts up from the galley on badly
fuzzed speakers as Brian climbs the ladder.
Stripped to the waist, Stephen’s bent-over cleaning out the
guts of the inboard motor. He looks confused to see Brian.
I talked to Helen…
Wrong thing to say. Stephen turns back to his work.
…Man, I thought dad’s boat was
finally retired to the family
graveyard. Don’t you worry about
falling out of this thing?
Stephen straightens up, his forearms smudged with grease.
Brian admires the unwashed cereal bowls and peeling deck
I like what you’ve done with the
It’s comin’ along… want a beer?
Stephen tosses him a beer from the fridge. As Brian pops it,
he sees the small pile of city-issue gallon size cans in the
corner. Armorall, solvent, extinguisher foam.
Been ripping off fire stations?
It’s old stuff Adcox gave me that
the department was going to throw
out anyway. Still good enough though
for this tub.
Brian winces at the music coming out of shot speakers.
Bachman Turner Overdrive?
(looks through music
…Buffalo Springfield?… Stephen
Bishop? Oh man…
Brian lifts one of the tapes — an 8-track — and holds it
carefully in his palm as if it were a rare and fragile relic.
My God, an actual operating 8-track.
What, you’ve never seen one before?
In the Field Museum once.
It worked when you were in sixth
INT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – DAY
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – DAY
Brian opens the trunk of his old BMW. It’s full of stereo
boxes marked BRIAN’S “SOUND SPECTRUM”.
INT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – CABIN – DAY
Brian’s gutted the speakers and is re-wiring them.
People actually used to pay you for
Millions, Stephen — And sexual
Sheep don’t count.
Yeah? What about Laura —
That was never proved.
Brian moves over to another speaker.
Why’d you come here, Brian?
I wanted to know why you messed with
my station assignment. I mean, is
this really gonna have to one of
those big brother — little brother
“you broke my GI Joe and I’m still
What is it with you, man, huh? How
do you manage to keep coming up with
new and amazing ways to screw up?
That scotch bullshit? Am I really
supposed to believe you came crawling
back home because you suddenly felt
heart strings moan for the family
biz? You were bankrupt, man.
Hey! You don’t know me —
I know you cold, Brian. The scary
thing is, you probably could have
faked it for awhile. But you see, in
this job there’s no place to hide.
Isn’t like selling log cabins. You
have a bad day here — someone dies.
And that’s not fucking good enough.
Want another beer?
So that’s it? Big bad brother’s gonna
ride my ass till I cough blood?
Big bad brother is going to treat
you like any other probie — that I
don’t think is going to make it.
Brian staples the last of the audio cord in place and switches
on the tape player. The cabin fills with sharp, crystal clear —
There’s only so much technology can
(picks up his tool
Thanks for the beer.
Thanks for the speakers.
EXT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – DAY
Brian climbs down off the boat. Looks up at Stephen.
Y’know, I told myself a million times
I didn’t want to be a fireman. I
said bullshit to that line about
tradition and family legacy. I know
I split, and I know how you felt…
Yeah, you know. You know what it
I gotta do this, Stephen. I gotta
I think you’re gonna find out, Brian.
Don’t be late tomorrow.
INT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT – MORNING
A simple one-room walk-up. A stereo blares Chicago blues as
Brian buttons up his uniform in the mirror. He steps back,
looks at himself, — and oh man what the hell am I doing…
EXT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT – STREET – MORNING
Brian climbs into his car, turns the key — nothing. He gets
out, looks under the hood, then SLAMS it down in frustration.
INT. ELEVATED TRAIN – MORNING
A pissed-off Chicago, hauling itself off to work in the
morning snap, passes by Brian’s window. Tough Midwestern
brick. Tough Midwesterners. Heads-down in their 150 year war
with a wind committed to pushing the whole damn thing into
EXT. EL STATION – MORNING
The train clacking away above him, Brian walks down the
sidewalk carrying his fire equipment. He turns a corner and
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – MORNING
Brian stands there. It’s his dad’s station. Turn of the
century abused. Sooty with stone gargoyles and a pair of
faded red doors that suddenly CRANK OPEN as Brian comes up
the drive. Fire engine 17 and ladder truck 46, lights
flashing, pull out onto the apron.
The fireman sticking his head out of the passenger window is
Stephen. One look at the silver trumpet on his collar and we
know this isn’t Fireman McCaffrey but Fire LT. McCaffrey.
You’re too late, probie.
Tim, in ladder truck 46, waves a small bye-bye as both rigs
begin heading down the street.
Goddamn it, Stephen…
Brian bolts full-out for the engine. At the last instant
before he falls on his face a fireman reaches out and drags
INT./EXT. FIRE ENGINE 17 – DAY
It’s Adcox, the fireman from the first scene, now a veteran.
Why baby McCaffrey, how ya doin’?
The Pumper driver, SCHMIDT, pops in a howling ROCK TUNE as
they zoom off.
(re Brian to Adcox)
You know this rug rat?
Know him? I practically raised him.
And he never calls, he never writes…
Brian shouts over the noise to GRINDLE, 35, one more seat
Grindle sticks his nose out the window, sniffs, then begins
buckling up his coat.
Boys, I do believe we have a
As Brian and Adcox fasten up their own equipment —
EXT. FACTORY – DAY
Smoke pours with confused indecision from every window of a
five story factory as the pumper and ladder company pull up.
(staring at confusing
I hate it when we gotta fucking go
look for it.
Call in another alarm. We’re gonna
need some back-up.
Everyone begins strapping on air tanks and masks. Adcox drags
the rig’s suction line to the hydrant. A beautiful illegally
parked Mercedes is blocking the way.
Oh these moments do try me…
Whistling to himself, Adcox SMASHES the brass coupling through
the passenger window, runs the line through and SMASHES it
out the other window before connecting up to the hydrant.
Stephen and Grindle pull hose off the bed and move out.
Brian’s so jacked up he can’t get his air tank on right.
Schmidt calmly helps him into his gear.
It’s only rock ‘n roll, kid.
Stephen, Adcox and Grindle are crouched at the door, ready
to go. Brian takes a hose roll and runs to catch up when
he’s cut-off by dazed Latin workers shouting incoherently at
him in SPANISH.
Hey, probie! How ‘bout it, huh?
Brian pushes past the workers and takes his position on the
hose line. Stephen reaches over and re-adjusts Brian’s air
You’re doing it wrong.
Stephen eases the door open. Thick smoke rolls sickly out
over their heads.
Stay beside me.
And in they go…
INT. BURNING FACTORY – DAY
Inside the smoke is like liquid lead. Going by feel, they
hump the hose up one staircase after another, crawling on
their hands and knees toward a dull red glow. Turning a
corner, they enter
INT. BURNING FACTORY – A VAST ROOM – DAY
Totally ablaze. Brian looks up in wonder at the buffeting
waves of flame in the ceiling, at the SCREECHING timbers
crumbling to the white-hot floor. At the walls HOWLING in
bestial agony. It is the most horrifying, and wonderful thing
he has ever seen.
Wash it to the windows?
No, we’ll hit the son of a bitch
It’s gonna flash, Stevie. We gotta
get behind it.
Nah, listen to it. It’s a pussy.
It’ll just steam on us. It won’t
flash. Go high in the ceiling.
Adcox and Grindle shrug and pull their helmets down tight,
expecting the worst. Adcox opens up the nozzle, turning loose
a high pressure BLAST OF WATER into the ceiling. The fire
SCREAMS in manic anger and HEAVES a cloud of HOWLING steam
that WHIRLS back and BAKES them like lobsters. Brian gasps
for air as swirling ash batters his facemask. A window
somewhere EXPLODES. Somebody shouts. Christ, you can’t see
anything. Stephen HOOPS in victory.
I knew you were a pussy! C’mon! Steam
The chase is on! Going for the throat while the fire’s
confused and defensive, the firemen SCRAMBLE through the
boiling cloud. They hit it in the ceiling, in the walls,
forcing it back and back. It HOWLS and CLAWS in anger,
furiously throwing cinders and broken timbers in their faces.
The walls ECHO with its SCREAMS as it retreats to a corner.
Ya love it, probie?
I’m in heaven, Lt.
Hook us up to a stand-pipe.
Brian runs back to the wall to hook up his hose roll to the
building water system. He goes to unscrew the cap with his
hydrant wrench but it keeps slipping off the nut.
Jesus, how ‘bout man, huh? We’re
gonna loose this!
Brian finally gets it hooked up and runs back.
EXT. FACTORY – OTHER SIDE – DAY
Tim and three guys from his ladder company, come up an
extended aerial ladder, CRASH through a window and
INT. FACTORY – DAY
begin HACKING their way toward Brian’s company as — BOOM!
It’s a sudden, shattering vibration that shakes the building
to its foundations. Then, a sucking sound: RUSH-RUSH-RUSH…
Stephen speaks calmly into his radio handset.
Hey Otis, is it…?
Goddamn it, where’s our backup?
Where’s the second-in companies?
Sorry, man. John Wayne time.
The firemen hesitate. PENGELLY, the Truck Company Lt., looks
at Stephen with concern.
Dig in, goddamn it!
The crews immediately gather in the center of the floor.
They turn over tables, chairs, anything to form a barrier. A
circling of the wagons. — BOOM! rush-rush-rush — BOOM!
Each louder than the last. Stephen and Brian are ducked behind
an overturned desk. Adcox and Krizminski clutch hoselines
like frontiersmen’s Winchesters.
You’re gonna love this.
— rush-rush-rush — CRAAAASH!! On an instant the world comes
apart as all four walls of factory windows EXPLODE in a hail
of glass. A wave of HOWLING FLAME POURS IN after it, SHRIEKING
At the same moment, part of the floor beside a heavy sewing
machine GIVES WAY and a ladderman, SANTOS, FALLS THROUGH,
grabbing the edges at the last minute as flames BELLOW UP
from underneath. He SCREAMS as his grip loosens.
Grindle leaps to the ladderman’s side, grabbing his arms and
coat. Brian hesitates just an instant and Stephen SHOVES him
out of the way to back up Grindle.
Help… Oh God…
Adcox’s taken the hoseline and is opening fire. Water and
flame crash and snarl across the floor in a blood curdling
ROAR. It’s a thrashing, murderous standoff.
Stephen and Grindle have got Santos but the angle’s bad.
Blow it now and all three could take a header. Santos is
panicking, losing his grip. Grindle bores his eyes into the
man’s with the calm and conviction of Moses.
You go, we go.
They may all die, but they won’t leave him. He calms a little,
hangs on till they PULL him out of harm’s way. Adcox continues
with the hose as suddenly, everyone HITS the deck as the
fire EXPLODES over them, BURSTING their coats into flame.
Tim’s company opens up their line, WASHING everybody down
before CHARGING after the fire. A ladderman, NIGHTENGALE,
steps on Brian’s back.
Sorry man, I thought you were dead.
Brian, stunned, sits up, his coat and helmet smoking. Stephen
seems totally unaffected and is already on his feet and over
the top of the barricade, the others backing him as he
mercilessly drives the fire back, trapping it finally into a
corner. The fire hisses, spits, shakes the walls with its
furious anger. But it’s all bluster now, the fire’s dying.
(ladder co. captain)
Stephen! BC’s on the radio. Says
they think a civilian got left behind
Adcox! Take Tim and do a search.
Adcox leads Tim downstairs. Brian looks shaken up. Stephen
helps him roughly to his feet.
Don’t you fold on me now, man.
Brian burns at that and shakes his brother’s arm off.
Clear the hose for me.
Brian’s walking over to clear the hoseline when he hears it.
small voice. Faint. “Help me…”
Hey, I think it’s coming from a
Nobody hears. — Brian takes off down the other steps on his
INT. BURNING FACTORY – DOWNSTAIRS
It’s only the fire’s ghost here, lazy and slow.
Off the corridor are rooms full of commercial sewing machines.
Brian enters one and drops to his knees.
Looks under a table, flashes his light behind a work stand.
Nothing. He turns to backtrack his way out when A TONGUE OF
FLAME suddenly LEAPS up through the floor in front of him,
cutting off the door. Brian lands on his ass as it hisses
and giggles and dances unreally in front of him.
I never forget a face, kid. — That fire from childhood. He
could maybe force his way through but Jesus, the way it looks
at him —
— Brian ROLLS away from it. Looks for another doorway —
And ends up in thick smoke. He drops to a crawl, stays on
his belly where the air’s clear. When he sees it. Behind
some furniture. Something flesh-colored. Shit. It’s a body.
He crawls up closer. It’s a woman. Adrenalin pounding the
top of his skull off, he grabs her and stumbles back down
the hall, makes a turn —
I got one!
EXT. FACTORY – DAY
— And now he’s bursting from the building onto a short fire
escape, shouting at the top of his lungs.
I got somebody! I got somebody!
A sea of media flashbulbs ERUPTS in his face. The press have
arrived in force, crowding the street. Brian pushes through
them to a clear spot on the far side of the engine. Two fire
paramedics rush over as he lowers the figure.
Is she… Is she alive?
The paramedics suddenly stop their efforts. Turn to Brian.
I’m afraid you’re a little too late
with this one.
They step aside. Brian looks down. The woman looks strange.
Mostly because she’s a heavy store DRESSING DUMMY. The
paramedics burst into laughter. Brian, looking pale and
shaken, turns and walks away. He passes Grindle and Tim,
sitting on the pumper’s tailboard helping the REAL woman
that was found inside.
Sorry to hear about the mannequin. I
heard you two were close.
Photographers have appeared and are flashing the woman. Dizzy,
Brian wanders off, tries to help out with the choking clog
of singed factory employees before finally turning quickly
EXT. FACTORY ALLEY – ACROSS THE STREET – DAY
Where he barfs his guts out in private. Doubled-over, one
arm on the brick wall for support, we see the raw terror.
The demons rushing out of him.
Someone else does too. Jennifer. Dressed now in a long
expensive coat, she’s standing at the end of the alley with
a clipboard. Brian, ashes smeared across an ashen face,
spittle on his chin, doesn’t notice her.
(appearing beside him)
You all right?
Stephen isn’t pale. He’s flushed and buoyant. All this hasn’t
taken anything from him. It’s made his day.
Yeah. Fine. I’m a little busy right
Stephen leans against the wall. Folds his arms.
Y’know, you got an awful short memory
for direct orders. I told you to
stay beside me.
— C’mon, Stephen.
— You split the team, man. And what
was that crap with the standpipe?
You’d think you and a hose were never
Stephen turns to leave. Brian yells after him.
Goddamn it Stephen!
— I told you to stay next to me!
— I was doin’ it! I was up there
fucking doin’ it. You don’t know,
man, you don’t know what I did!
What you did was drop the ball,
Probie. Get that right.
(from end of alley)
Hey! Stevie! They’re callin’ for ya.
Stephen turns to walk away. Pauses.
Bet 30,000 dollars a year and twenty
two days a month off sounded pretty
good twelve weeks ago, huh?
As Stephen leaves, we see that Jennifer’s been standing at
the end of the alley, listening to them. She’s turns and
walks as Brian looks up. We register his surprise. He watches
her head toward a dynamic-looking guy in his 40s, ALDERMAN
SWAYZAK, surrounded by reporters.
EXT. BURNED BUILDING – FRONT – DAY
Roger, Paul… How’s it going, guys?
Another fire in this district. Getting
to be Cinder Alley up here.
You used that last week.
She hands Swayzak a clipboard.
(yelling down from
Hey! Probie! We’re still workin’
INT. BURNED BUILDING
Brian and the rest of the company rip open the walls and
beat the last weak flames in a final flurry of dingy sparks.
The moment the smoke clears just a fraction, cigarettes appear
in everyone’s mouth. Was it good for you? The talk is easy
and obscene, the intense camaraderie of shared danger. Ash
clods are thrown playfully back and forth in the afterglow
of having taken on the worst there is and walking away one
Stephen man, what’s going through
that guy’s head? Takin’ it on in the
first room… this shit’s happening
too often. It could’ve flashed.
But it didn’t. Guy knows.
Adcox sees Brian. Smiles.
Hey, baby McCaffrey. First one’s the
clincher. You did okay.
My Lt. might have something to say
Ah, everybody screws up some, Brian.
You’re working for the toughest Lt.
on the job. Saw him once pick up a
probie he thought was moving too
slow and throw him into a burning
building. It’s just bad luck you’re
John, when you’re in there… in the
fire… do you ever see…
(from across room,
C’mon ladies, let’s roll some hose…
— Never mind.
Brian turns and sees out the window Jennifer and Swayzak
standing near Rimgale’s red fire dept. sedan.
EXT. FACTORY – DAY
Rimgale walks up to his sedan.
I need to get in the trunk.
Swayzak’s leaning on it. We sense the dislike between them.
Swayzak steps aside. Rimgale pops the trunk.
Awful expensive shoes to be wearing
at a fireground, Alderman. But then
I guess you haven’t been to too many
I wanted to talk to you about Alan
Seagrave’s death. We still haven’t
gotten a fire report from your office.
You’ll have an answer as soon as I
People are asking how a prominent
taxpayer got stuffed through the
windshield of his own car. They’re
–The point is, Investigator, you
haven’t even told us yet if the fire
was accidental. We’re starting to
get the feeling your office is
dragging out this case to embarrass
the Alderman because of his fire
dept. reorganization program —
— You mean his firehouse closing
program, — Don’t you?
We’d just be very disappointed if it
turned out your office was playing
— Because I’m not. I care about
this city, and I care about this
Rimgale cuts him off with the shutting of his trunk lid.
(calm of a monk)
Alderman, I have a remarkably
uncomplicated job. To decide if a
fire’s arson, and if so catch the
pain in the ass doing it. But to be
honest, if my methodical investigative
methods just happen to muck up the
campaign of certain mayor wanna-bees,
well, I guess I can’t say I sleep
any less peacefully.
And he walks back to the burned building.
I wish I could just fire the son of
Stephen’s leaning out of an upstairs window. As the TV cameras
turn, he drops down onto a fire engine hose bed and pops
right into Swayzak’s face with a murderous grin.
We almost lost a whole company up
there, Swayzee buddy. Isn’t any back-
up since you closed ’33. And we really
appreciate it, the guys and me.
Honest. I know you’ve got my vote
Grindle and Santos start walking for Stephen. Brian’s there,
following after them.
Look Lt., I’m on your side. If there’s
a problem, please, work with our
task force to fix it.
Oh yeah, your famous task force…
three guys have already died this
year because of the cuts made by
your “task force”…
Stevie, c’mon man…
Stephen silences Grindle with an outstretched hand. Swayzak
leans close, out of earshot of the cameras.
You see that funny glow that’s
starting to blink in the corner of
your eye, Lt? That’s your career
dissipation light — and it just
went into overtime.
If anybody’s light’s gonna blink,
Swayzak holds his ground. It’s a tense, out of control moment
between them. Rimgale turns from his work, watches Stephen
with concern. Adcox suddenly inserts himself face-to-face
with Swayzak and we see the raw hatred.
You’re in firemanland now, Swayzak.
Do yourself a favor and just walk
Swayzak holds Adcox’s gaze, then turns for his car. Brian
watches Jennifer climb in beside her boss.
This is your city job?
Jennifer shrugs as they pull away.
INT./EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – LATE DAY
Brian jumps down from the rig as it backs up the driveway.
Across the street a middle-aged woman flashes them from the
balcony of her apartment.
That’s Franny. She likes firemen.
Tim, fill out the alarm card.
Clean the pipe poles, wipe down the
ladders and hang some hose.
Adcox watches Brian and Tim exchange looks. Tim shrugs. Brian
sighs and pulls out the pike poles, starts across the floor
before freezing suddenly at a murderous GROWL. Brian turns
and sees a DOG. Sort of. It has the rib cage of a wild beast,
fangs, long greasy hair. It blocks his way, SNARLING with
That’s The Thing. You can’t stay
unless he likes you.
Slobber drools out of its mouth as it GROWLS.
Have you guys got something against
Brian wipes some of the crusted grime from his face, looks
back and forth between Franny and The Thing, and sighs.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – BUNKROOM
Sequence omitted from original script.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – LOCKER ROOM
Brian enters, strips down his battered uniform, and opens
his locker. The mannequin from the fire SPRINGS OUT, legs
spread. A sign taped to its mouth says: “TAKE ME BRIAN, YOU’RE
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – WASHROOM
Brian and the others scrub the morning’s fire off their bodies
in the station shower. Tim keeps filling his mouth full of
water and launching it upward in a stream.
Do you have to do that?
Could you believe that fire? Man!
First day! There I was, Adcox and
me, pullin’ that lady right out of
the fire’s fuckin’ throat! I love it
here — No surround and drown for
this company. Fighting 17th! Goddamn
Stephen’s amazing. You see how he
took that fire by the balls? I’m
gonna be that good some day, you
Brian compares himself to the praise heaped on Stephen.
Y’know what Stephen said to me, right
when all the shit was coming hard?
“You never know till the moment the
fire stares you down if you’re just
gonna do this job or be great at
Ah man, is he usin’ that line now on
you? What, you think he made that
little gem up? Jesus Christ, I used
to have to listen to my old man use
that every morning.
Brian shuts off his shower and walks out.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – BUNKROOM
Stephen sits alone at his bunk, slowly stretching a strained
and ruined back. He blows out a long, tired breath, and begins
working ointment into an anciently scarred and battered knee.
On the wall is a small glass case full of station memorabilia
through the years. There’s a two battered fire helmets there,
set reverently on velvet. Beside it is a photograph of his
father. Grinning. Top of the world. He’s wearing a T-shirt
proudly stenciled FIGHTING 17th.
Father and son exchange a long, awkward greeting.
In the doorway, Brian stands watching his brother, who not
even 40, suddenly seems an old and broken man.
The ALARM KLAXON suddenly sounds. Brian, just in a towel and
Tim, in boxers covered with little dinosaurs, dash for the
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – APPARATUS FLOOR
Tim and Brian slide down and bounce off the floor.
— C’mon! C’mon! Go! Go!
Brian and Tim rush for their equipment. Grindle grabs their
No! C’mon! This way!
He hustles them across the apparatus floor, through a doorway,
and into the kitchen.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – KITCHEN/DINING AREA
The makings of a meal are laid out on the counter. Brian and
Tim come to a screeching halt. The rest of the station is
sitting calmly at the kitchen table, watching.
What’s going on?
Dinner, Probies. Get started.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – KITCHEN
Tim and Brian, still in their boxers, set down plates of
Better be good.
Or we feed you to The Thing.
Everybody digs in. The table is a craze of half a dozen
different conversations. On the TV mounted above on the wall
are news shots of Seagrave’s body sticking out of the
Adcox stands and tinks his glass with a spoon for silence.
Gentlemen, please… As 17’s official
Thank you, Santos. Did I happen to
mention that you were cut out of my
I think it appropriate that we
recognize the two asswipes — I mean
probationary firemen — among us who
today were baptized officially into
the world of Old Man Fire. First to
Tim, who despite being handicapped
at birth with a rather dull expression
and a really hideous pair of ears,
not only took on the beast but pulled
from its clutches — assisted by a
more famous and brilliant firefighter —
me — a kicking and screaming civilian
that will probably end up suing us
for breaking her fingernail.
And to Brian, who’s own contribution
was both more beautiful and less
likely to sue.
Adcox puts his arm affectionately around the mannequin, seated
with honor at the head of the table. Right beside The Thing.
Y’know, when I heard that both
McCaffrey brothers were going to be
assigned together here, well, my
heart was filled with… a sudden
desire to transfer.
So raise a glass, lads. To funny-
looking Tim, and the McCaffrey
brothers, who despite years of getting
on each other’s nerves have managed
with great effort… to still be
pissed off at each other. Gentlemen!
(together, a toast)
The klaxon suddenly rings. Two bells. The ladder guys groan
and get up.
We’ll keep it warm for you.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – BUNKROOM
Dawn lightens the room as Brian slowly opens his eyes and
sees in extreme, fish-eyes close-up: THE THING GROWLING at
him. Brian turns the other direction and sees Stephen, fully
dressed, standing over his bunk.
Clean the toilets.
INT. APPARATUS FLOOR
Bleary-eyed, the nine firemen line up raggedly in front of
their rigs, dressed like shit but for peaked uniform caps
they wear only at this moment. Stephen stands before them,
does a quick glance up and down the line.
Okay, company dismissed. — See ya
guys tonight at Fitzgerald’s
They shuffle for the door. As Brian passes,
You want a ride?
EXT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT BUILDING – MORNING
Stephen pulls up. Brian opens the door.
(a beat that hangs
— See ya tonight.
INT. RESTAURANT – RETIREMENT PARTY – NIGHT
That’s been cleared out for a huge PARTY in full swing. An
Irish folk band cuts loose a merciless bagpipe beat. City
brass–including Alderman Swayzak — a few reporters, firemen
and their families all mix together for this is a RETIREMENT
PARTY for the Captain Fitzgerald. Brian enters, seeks out a
beer at the bar. Stephen’s there, swaying with what is clearly
not his first drink of the evening.
CHEERS as a one joke gift after another is laid on the Chief.
Stephen sees his ex-wife, Helen, dancing with another man.
He turns away.
I gotta change the view…
Santos and Grindle walk up.
Heard you didn’t make the list for
captain, man. I’m sorry…
Stephen just shrugs.
Brian sees Jennifer across the room. She looks great. Refined
as she expertly works the room, schmoozing and hugging and
calling various politicos by their first name.
As she speaks to one, a waiter offers a drink. As she accepts,
a bottle appears over her shoulder and splashes it with red
With grenadine, right?
When I was twenty.
Oooh, very sophisticated. Having
Her attention broken, the politico has slipped away. Annoyed,
Jennifer leads Brian aside and speaks low, but angrily at
Look, I’m not the same girl who had
nothing better to do than wrap her
legs around you on a Saturday night.
This isn’t about fun. I’m working
Carrying Swayzak’s notebook?
Let me tell you something. Martin
Swayzak is going to be this town’s
Yeah. Swayzak. Humanity’s last hope.
How can you work for that guy?
Why do you think Marty came here
tonight? Because he cares about your
department. You don’t know how hard
he works. You don’t know about his
programs helping West Side —
— All I know is that his programs
are getting firemen hurt.
Bullshit. Marty’s plan is only about
efficiency. I’ve got two cousins on
the job, you think I’d work for him
if I didn’t believe in it?
Jennifer instantly cuts off as a well-dressed COUPLE passes
and switches stunningly into schmmoze-mode.
— Tom, how nice to see you. I know
Marty’ll be very happy you came.
Thanks so much for the donation.
Marie… how’s little Kevin? Really?
Seen the polls? This is the year…
They move away. Jennifer turns to Brian and switches just as
fast back to their argument.
— The thing that really makes me
angry is the way your union has —
Brian can’t help it. He cracks up.
What was that? Oh man, you have picked
up a few moves since John Paul II
Yeah, well I like to think I’m just
a little past hanging out on JP II
watching the Irish pick fights and
Litwalks barf in the planters.
I seem to remember some pretty good
nights on JP II.
Brian turns and walks away.
ACROSS THE ROOM
Adcox is talking with another knot of firemen. He’s brought
a date, SALLY, a hot little number that has a habit of
standing on her tip-toes when she talks.
(looking at Swayzak
Yuck, what a scumbag.
Fuckin’ city transferred Sally three
months ago out of parking violations
into Swayzak’s office. Now I gotta
pay my own goddamn tickets and she’s
stuck with an asshole.
No, but there’s more exercise —
being chased around a desk.
There’s a commotion at the other end of the bar. A group of
firemen have gathered around a weekly magazine.
Aw, I don’t believe this shit.
Somebody get a shovel! You seen this,
As they hold it up to Stephen we see a photo spread titled
DARING FIRE RESCUE.
The first photo shows Brian rushing out of the burning
building with seemingly a woman in his arms. The second photo
shows the backs of Adcox and Tim’s helmets as they
administered aid to the real woman they saved. The implication
is it’s the same woman.
“Probationary Fireman Brian McCaffrey,
on his very first fire, showed the
kind of bravery and courage of a
veteran firefighter when he risked
life and limb to double-check a
burning floor alone, emerging
victoriously with Anna Rodriguez, a
seamstress for the North Shore
Clothing Company… McCaffrey first
gained prominence as the subject of
a 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning
photograph taken at the scene of his
The old photo is there too. Brian and his dad’s helmet.
Whadda we gonna do about this?
Stephen glances over the headlines.
Y’know, I think it’s a union bylaw
that if a guy gets in the paper —
especially if it’s bullshit — he
owes the company a drink. In fact…
(motions to waiter)
…I’ll have a double. On the hero.
The other firemen jump in with drink orders. Dozens of them.
What’s going on?
Tim shows him the magazine. Brian reads with horror as
Alderman Swayzak appears beside him.
Brian McCaffrey, right?
Brian, this is my boss, Alderman
Brian’s a big fan of yours.
Yeah. Big fan.
And I’m a huge fan of what you did
to save that woman, Brian.
Uh, I think there’s been a mistake.
I didn’t save that woman.
No need to be modest, Brian.
No, you don’t understand, I saved a
— That really was incredibly work
you did. You and your brother,
fighting fires together, helluva
image, isn’t it? You must feel lucky
to be assigned under his command.
Every little boy’s fantasy.
Brian, let me come to the point. I’d
like to offer you a job.
I have a job.
This one’s still with the fire
department. One of our best
investigators, Don Rimgale, is working
on a very difficult, visible case
right now. We think he could use
another pair of hands and you’re
exactly the kind of guy I want
representing us: An authentic hero
from a traditional firefighting clan.
Yeah, we got all kinds of traditions —
like dying young.
Not every job in the fire department
comes with a tombstone, Brian. This
could be a great opportunity to
move… beyond a fire engine.
Brian looks at Jennifer, then smiles at Swayzak.
Thanks anyway, Mr. Swayzak, but fire
engines sorta run in my family.
— A man suddenly steps between them to pump Swayzak’s hand.
Brian shakes his head and walks away. Swayzak shoots a
concerned glance at Jennifer. She catches up with him at the
Boy, took you all of thirty seconds
to blow that.
C’mon Jennifer, he’s just another
North-Side jag-off with a mouth.
Brian, do you always have to be so
stupid? Think about your future for
So now you suddenly care about my
Look, I didn’t mean to take a piece
out of you back there, I just thought
you’d call when you came back. You
Don’t blow it just because of this
garbage between us.
Hey, sorry if I made you look bad in
front of your boss. But I’m not gonna
be a poster boy for him, I’m trying
to do something here. There’s five
hundred smoke eaters in this room
that do that stuff for real every
day. Tell Swayzak to talk to one of
Across the room, Stephen’s at the buffet, watching Helen
dance with her fireman date, the drinks hammering him hard.
Aw man, how can she dance with that
I hate that guy. He’s a dispatcher.
I hate his voice.
I mean, I know women have gotta bang
somebody, but why that son of a bitch?
Stephen gives Pengelly an icy, sideways look.
Hey Stevie, he’s an asshole…
Stephen smiles and pushes off the bar — right for Helen as
Uh, Helen, I wanted to talk to you a
second about Sean…
Stephen, I’m kinda busy here, can we
talk about this later?
How ya doin’, Stephen?
Jackson steers her away but Stephen isn’t done yet. He dogs
What’s wrong with right now? He’s
your son for christ’s sake. He’s —
Hey, Stephen, what about that dumb
ass brother of yours, huh?
Savin’ a mannequin… How fuckin’
stupid can a guy get?
Stephen suddenly PUNCHES Jackson.
You can’t talk about my brother like
Here we go…
And Stephen PLOWS into Jackson. Another fireman JUMPS to
Jackson’s aid. And Brian’s there, defending his brother,
PUNCHING OUT a fireman. The crowd finally pulls the two apart.
You’re crazy, man!
Leave me alone!
Goddamn it, Stephen, lay off!
(Stephen calms a little)
You stupid dumbshit, you never know
when to fucking quit, do you? You
ever wonder why your career’s in the
fucking toilet? Why you’re gonna be
stuck a Lt. for life?
I need a drink.
Stephen takes a step for the bar — then suddenly turns and
JUMPS Jackson again. Brian pulls him off and drags him for
You don’t need a drink, man. You
need to get outta here…
As Jennifer watches Brian lead Stephen out the door.
Ah those McCaffreys… just hate
leaving a party with anyone left
EXT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT
Brian leads Stephen toward his car.
I’m okay… leave me alone…
Stephen pushes Brian away and promptly stumbles to the
So you got a ‘roid going with Jackson
Nah, he’s nothin’. It’s just
sometimes… sometimes you just gotta
punch somebody out, y’know?
Brian stands there and folds his arms.
I don’t think I can get up.
Brian lends an arm.
Look, Brian, a photographer. Maybe I
can get on the cover of LIFE magazine,
C’mon, let’s crawl home.
EXT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – NIGHT
Stephen throws an arm over Brian’s shoulder as he leads him
up onto the boat.
…Adcox, those guys…they don’t
get it… it isn’t the goddamn
promotion… or dad… I’m not my
old man, y’know? No fire’s gonna get
me… I don’t give a shit about being
a captain… it’s just… it’s just
they don’t trust me anymore…
(blows out painful
…they don’t trust me anymore…
INT. STEPHEN’S BOAT
Brian’s flops his brother on the bed. Unties his shoes.
If you’d get out of my fuckin’ way.
I could take my own goddamn shoes
He clearly can’t. Brian slips them off.
You’re such a pain in the ass…
You’ve always been a pain in the
There’s just a grim wall lamp above Stephen’s face.
Jesus, it’s too damn bright in here…
Like a goddamn spotlight… I’m goin’
Yeah… too bright…
Brian turns off the dim light. Stephen’s breathing deepens.
They don’t know… they don’t know
what I hear in there…
Brian tucks the blanket around him.
…This boat could be okay, huh?…
Take it out weekends… Sean ‘n me…
Stephen’s voice drifts off into sleep. Brian watches a moment,
the rare look of peace on his brother’s face, then leaves.
EXT. FIRE ACADEMY – NIGHT
Dark and still. Brian, carrying a roll of hose, scales the
EXT. FIRE ACADEMY – EXERCISE GROUND – NIGHT
Is a practice stand-pipe. Brian counts down to himself, then
rushes the stand-pipe, spinning off the cap with a hydrant
wrench and attaching the hose coupling. He does it again,
over and over.
EXT. FIRE ACADEMY – DAWN
The sky’s gone pink and blue as Brian climbs back over the
fence. Adcox, coming out of a donut shop across the street,
EXT. STREET – CHICKEN ACCIDENT – DAY
A truck has JACKKNIFED across the avenue and SPILLED its
contents — several THOUSAND baby chicks. They’re scurrying
everywhere as Brian’s company tries to round them up. It’s
hopeless as the exhausted firemen stuff handfuls of the
cheeping cargo into their turn-out coats. There’s ghetto
kids all around, grabbing at the chicks, grabbing at the
Hey! Knock it off!
Brian stops a beat. Rubs his eyes.
Maybe you should have gotten more
sleep last night.
Brian looks at him. Does he mean what he thinks he means?
Tim is coming out of a small store across the street. He
hands a small bag of groceries to Adcox.
This everything you wanted?
Everyone grows suddenly silent.
EXT. WIDOW’S HOUSE – DAY
A fireman’s without even saying so, “Petzold” on the mailbox,
Engine 17 parked out front. Brian’s alone outside, cleaning
the diesel fuel off his arms. Watching a small kid playing
with a toy fire truck in the drive.
INT. WIDOW’S HOUSE
Tim and Brian are loading the groceries into the fridge.
Stephen and Grindle are fixing a loose cabinet door as Adcox
sits caulking a faucet fitting at the kitchen table with a
Can I help you guys at all?
Nah, we just about got it.
Sally must be finally ironing your
It’s just new. Couple’a shifts and
it’ll be as thrashed as the rest.
The sight of uniform is too much for her. Her eyes cloud.
Adcox reaches out and lets her weep on his shoulder.
I miss him… I just miss him,
EXT. WIDOW’S HOUSE – DAY
Adcox stands out at the fire engine smoking a cigarette,
lost in himself, watching the little boy play with his toy
fire truck. Stephen’s followed him out.
This job… This fuckin’ job
sometimes… To buy it trying to go
the extra yard, man, that’s one thing,
but to buy it just because there
wasn’t any back-up… it’s bullshit…
Stephen leans down close.
Yeah, it’s bullshit. So what? Fuck
Swayzak. Fuck ‘em all. We don’t go
into fires for them. You know that.
Christ, you taught me that.
A beat of understanding between them. Stephen looks back at
You know Knowlton pretty well?
Kind of an asshole, wasn’t he?
Adcox can’t help but smile.
Biggest in two battalions.
We’re gonna be okay, man…
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – DAY
As Brian and Tim scrub down the fire engine, the rest of the
company lies sprawled in
THE STATION REC ROOM
Watching a weepy soap. Schmidt walks through and is snared
by the TV’s glow. He hesitates. Shares the moment.
Is she going to get the divorce?
(sighs with honest
Hell if I know, man.
A ladderman, WASHINGTON, walks in with a memo.
Hey, Pengelly, you made the captain’s
Everybody clasps Pengelly on the shoulder. “Way to go”. “All
right, man”. Brian turns and sees Stephen out on the apparatus
floor, watching. Watches. Pengelly’s younger than him.
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – TRAINING BUILDING/HOSE TOWER – DAY
An expanse of concrete lying out back of the station. Built
in one corner is the concrete shell of a five story training
building, just wide enough for a stairway and room on each
level. Twenty yards away, Brian, Tim and Adcox stand ready
beside a pile of coiled hose rolls.
(looking at watch)
Tim picks up a roll of hose, 50 pounds, throws it over his
shoulder and runs with Adcox to the foot of the building.
There’s a fixed standpipe that Adcox ties into as Tim drags
the other end inside and up a flight of stairs.
Brian lifts another hose roll under his arm and runs for the
That isn’t a football, probie. Get
it on your shoulder.
Brian runs up two flights to meet Tim and connect his end.
Tim heads down for another roll as Brian drags his up another
two flights. It’s a bitch.
Sweating, he barrels back down the stairs, passing Tim coming
up with another roll.
Having fun, fireman?
Tim flips him off. Brian laughs and sprints for another roll.
You’re not breaking any records,
Brian holds it under his arm and takes off. Stephen grabs a
roll himself, hoists it to his shoulder and runs alongside.
Your shoulder. Like this!
Brian lifts it to his shoulder.
Come on! Pick it up!
They come to the doorway. Instead of stopping, Stephen follows
Brian in and runs alongside up the stairs. Without a word
spoken it’s become a race between them.
Brian’s face explodes in sweat. His heart pounds as they go
up flight after flight. The hose rolls weigh a 100 pounds. A
thousand. Neck ‘n neck all the way; grunting, their throats
burning, only one flight from the roof Stephen STUMBLES and
SCRAPES his leg. Brian pauses. Stephen’s already back on his
Run, damn you!
Brian does, Stephen already gaining on him — getting ready
to pass him — when they burst gasping out onto the roof,
Brian the “winner” by a nose. Stephen drops his hose roll,
sticks his face into Brian’s, — And laughs. Unsure, Brian
starts to join in. Stephen stops suddenly.
Roll the hose.
What, are you kidding? By myself?
Adcox and Tim, down below, have already disappeared back
into the station.
You heard me.
We see now what Stephen apparently doesn’t. He was scraped
badly, his pant leg torn and leaking dark circles of blood.
What, is it the stairs? Christ, I’ll
let you win next time.
(in Brian’s face)
You got a problem with drilling,
No, Lt., I don’t have a problem with
drilling. But let’s just have one
drill. Not one for the company and
one for me.
Roll the hose.
Stephen turns and walks away. Brian stands there watching
him in blind fury, finally exploding.
Goddamn you Stephen, I’m not gonna
quit. You hear me!
An awkward beat between them that’s interrupted suddenly by
the station alarm klaxon. Stephen smiles.
Well, thank God for fires…
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – HOSE TOWER – BELOW – DAY
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. LAKE SHORE MANSION – NIGHT
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. LAKE SHORE MANSION – NIGHT
Sequence omitted from original script.
INT. LAKE SHORE MANSION – FRONT DOOR
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. TENEMENT BUILDING – DAY
Smoke and confusion. A MOTHER is screaming hysterically at
Stephen as he jumps down from the engine.
(grabbing his coat)
My baby! My baby’s still up there!
Hang on a sec, Stevie, we got a
Stephen doesn’t even pause and enters the building. Brian
hesitates a beat, then follows.
INT. TENEMENT BUILDING – DAY
Where they bomb up a staircase just as a WALL OF FIRE LASHES
DOWN, KNOCKING them on their ass. Stephen jumps to his feet
with an axe as Brian struggles to get up.
Don’t take that kind of shit from
it! Don’t let it know you’re scared!
Stephen, with just his axe, CHASES up the stairs at the fire,
HAMMERING at the flaming boards. The fire retreats into
another room, SLAMMING the door shut behind it.
Brian struggles up the stairs. The two of them slide up on
either side of the closed door, Stephen cradling his axe
like a SWAT team shotgun. The door breathes in and out and
something animal scratches and snarls on the other side.
Brian can feel the panic rising in his throat. That thing
behind the door, that slobbering, evil thing. It wants out.
It wants… him.
Christ, Stephen, let’s wait for the
Listen to it, Brian… Jump when I
say… It won’t get us.
Stephen HAMMERS the lock with his axe and KICKS the door
open. A WALL OF FLAME ROARS out past their cheeks, then
Stephen picks up the door, and using it as a shield CHARGES
into the flames. Brian tries to follow but the fire WELLS
UP, cutting him off. He hesitates. It’s that goddamn flame
again, leering at him. Daring him. It BUCKS suddenly, DROPPING
Brian to his knee. He GROANS in pain.
— And now Adcox and Grindle are coming up the stairs with a
hoseline WASHING DOWN the room. Clouds of furious steam bellow
out and across the ceiling. Nobody could be alive in there.
Except Stephen. His entire outfit smoldering, he emerges
from the clouds like a fucking god, carrying in one arm a
EXT. TENEMENT BUILDING – AFTERMATH – DAY
Most of the firemen have gathered together for post-fire
coffee and stories. Brian sits off alone on the fire engine
bumper, apart from them. Santos walks up.
They think she’s gonna live…
Stephen walks up. Sits down beside him.
I waited… I would have fucking
That’s not what it’s about, Brian.
The point is there was a kid in there.
And what if there’d been two? I went
in because that’s what I do. It’s my
way. It’s dad’s way. It isn’t
Dad’s way? Where did he tell you
that? In a fucking seance?
You said you wanted to know something,
Brian. What did you learn today?
(Brian doesn’t answer)
What do you say, Brian, huh? Time to
Brian lingers only a moment before standing.
You’re right, Stephen… You win…
You’re the best, man…
Brian hands Stephen his helmet and walks away.
INT. SWAYZAK’S OFFICE – DAY
There’s only six like it in city hall, and this one has a
Brian McCaffrey on line two for
I’ll take it in my office.
(turns to her and
Go get him.
INT. CORRIDOR/CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
Jennifer comes out of Swayzak’s office and walks down to her
INT. JENNIFER’S OFFICE/INT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT – DAY
— It’s a tiny, bleak little rat hole. She picks up the
We see Brian in his apartment.
I’ve been thinking about what you
said the other night… If the offer’s
still on the table, I’d like to talk
…Okay. I’ll arrange things with
your assignment captain.
Marty’s a good man, Brian.
Brian hangs up. He stares at it a moment, then SLAMS it
against the wall.
Jennifer stares at the phone with something almost like
EXT. BROWNSTONE – DAY
Stephen drives past the burned-out brownstone that fried
Alan Seagrave. He parks in the alley behind, walks up the
building, and PULLS OFF a plywood sheet covering a blown-out
INT. BROWNSTONE – DAY
Stephen walks through the creepy, brutalized silence. Back
to where Rimgale had focused his investigation that night.
He searches the floor, the wall, looking for something…
EXT. ARSON HQ/FIREHOUSE – DAY
A crumbling one in Chinatown. Brian checks the address on
his slip of paper. He stands there a beat, hating himself.
INT. FIRE STATION/ARSON HQ
It’s a regular station but for the rear that has been
converted into arson squad offices. As Brian approaches the
office door he can see Rimgale sitting at his desk. Standing
nervously beside it is a fresh-faced, uniformed PROBIE.
…So stop me if I get this wrong…
The fire’s almost out… You’re
upstairs on the unburned floor
checking for heat. You’ve been told
by your Battalion Chief, your Captain,
by me, not to do anything up there
until ordered. But now the itch
starts, and all of a sudden comes
the Glory Boy Flash: Hey, I’m a hero.
Heroes don’t just stand around. So
on your own you decided to punch out
a window for ventilation. Was that
before or after you noticed you were
standing in a lake of gasoline?
The kid is dying a thousand deaths of humiliation.
You could’ve crispered half your
company with that little stunt, but
more importantly you wrecked the
physical evidence I use to prove
it’s arson. You’ve made my day longer,
Probie. Go home and think about that.
The kid shuffles off hang-dog. Rimgale’s angry gaze falls on
Uh, I’m Brian McCaffrey. Your new
Your Dennis’ kid.
I work alone.
And Rimgale walks into his office, leaving Brian marooned in
the doorway. Stepping behind a small partition, Rimgale
changes his shirt. Brian can just glimpse from where he stands
a horrible burn that has consumed most of Rimgale’s stomach.
Rimgale catches the look.
Are you still here?
Get used to me, Inspector. I’m not
Then go find a corner. I don’t want
you in my way.
I think we should get something
straight here. I was assigned to
this office by the city.
Look, I knew your father, he had a
helluva reputation on this job. But
that don’t mean you get any slack.
Swayzak sends you down here, okay, I
gotta eat you, that’s the rules and
I got nothing to say about that. But
Swayzak or no, you live with me.
Step out of line, and I don’t care
who knows you, I’ll swing the hammer.
You think you’re the first?
Rimgale glances at his watch, puts on his coat, and picks up
a small paper bag.
Where are you going?
INT. MAX SECURITY PRISON – DAY
And the face of RONALD, an unremarkable man in his 40s.
Unremarkable but for laser eyes and two heavily bandaged
hands. Go wide and find him sitting in an institutional chair —
handcuffed, actually — in an institutional hall. A uniformed
guard stands nearby as Brian and Rimgale come down the
corridor. Ronald smiles upon seeing Rimgale.
How ya doin’, Ronald. Staying
Didn’t think you’d make it.
Wouldn’t miss this for the world,
(looking at Brian)
He works for me.
Is he a fireman?
I like firemen.
You like everybody, Ronald.
Ronald’s eyes pick up Brian’s name on his prison ID badge.
(eyes light up happily)
Oh this is really a treat. Brian
McCaffrey. Lost a dad to the animal,
Hey, do I know you?
You don’t know him.
I know you.
What the hell are you talking about
Rimgale silences Brian with a threatening hand.
Knock it off. Now.
Tell him about me, Shadow?
Ronald here likes telephones. Used
to tape wooden matches to the bell
striker and wrap it in cotton. Came
up with a whole little thing there,
didn’t you Ronald? When you got bored,
what did you do? You just started
making calls… mostly day care
centers and retirement homes, wasn’t
Did he tell you how we finally met?
Nobody cares, Ronald.
Oh, but it’s a good story, Shadow.
You’re depriving our famous young
VOICE IN CORRIDOR
Okay… Ronald Bowland…
The cop helps Ronald to his feet and all four are marching
down the hall.
It was on State Street, right?…
Just your basic warehouse torch for
the owner. Cakewalk. But the animal…
turned on me… ‘Ol Shadow here, he
shows up — whole place is going
like hell — my hair, my hands…
could’ve just let the animal take me —
but Shadow, he’s a good camper, so
he tries to pull ‘ol Ronald out.
Guess he didn’t notice the tub of
phosphorous next to me…
Notice you’re still a little shy
about rolling your sleeves up, Shadow.
Show him your stomach yet?
INT. PRISON – INTERVIEW ROOM – DAY
Ronald in the hot seat before a parole board, Rimgale and
Brian on the sidelines.
…All right, the parole board has
received Mr. Bowland’s fitness report,
his ID-44, endorsement from his
section warden… Dr. Norris?
As supervising psychiatrist I would
describe Mr. Bowland’s progress as
remarkable. Taking into account his
disability and the six years already
served, I recommend parole.
Mr. Bowland, do you regret your
Yes. I understand now the pain I
If released, will you commit these
Do you consider yourself ready for
The parole board shuffles their papers. It’s a done deal.
Rimgale suddenly stands and approaches Ronald.
Sure Ronald? You’re ready alright.
Excuse me, Mr. Rimgale.
What do you do with little girls?
A tortured look comes over Ronald’s face. He’s holding back.
From the paper bag, Rimgale suddenly tosses a burned baby
doll in his lap.
What do you do with them, Ronald?
Rimgale then lights a cigarette lighter in Ronald’s face.
— Burn them.
And old ladies?
— Burn them.
And the world — the whole world.
— Burn it all.
The parole board stares, stunned. Rimgale stands.
See ya next year, Ronald. Gotta go.
EXT. THEATRE BUILDING – DAY
A pre-war theatre closed with a sign: UNDER RENOVATION —
OPENING XMAS 1991. DAVID BENTON, mid-forties, climbs out of
his car and walks to the entrance with some rolled-up
INT. THEATRE BUILDING – DAY
Benton walks through the vast theatre and up to a beautiful
Art Noveau office door: DAVID BENTON, PRIVATE. He goes to
insert his key. Drops it. As he reaches down, we see a tiny
wisp of smoke SUCK back under the door. Benton sniffs, as if
he smells something, then shrugs and inserts his key. It’d
have been a good story if he’d lived longer.
The moment he pushes the door open It EXPLODES OUTWARD in a
EXT. THEATRE BUILDING – SUNDOWN
Later and engine companies have already knocked down the
building fire as Brian climbs out of Rimgale’s red sedan.
Hey kid, c’mere — At least make
He starts handing Brian handfuls of equipment cases. Loaded
down, Brian follows Rimgale into the building.
INT. THEATRE BUILDING
Fire crews are at work in here, including Engine 17 at the
other end of the theatre. Brian’s surprised to see them, his
eyes locking briefly with Stephen’s. An ENGINE COMPANY LT.
walks up to Rimgale.
We were lucky with this one. Could’ve
taken out the whole complex, but the
explosion blew out most of the flame.
Good for us.
(looks to body)
— Not so good for him.
“Him” is our previous owner, David Benton, just his hands
and a leg showing from under the collapsed door. Rimgale
crouches beside it.
Turn this over.
Brian does. The corpse’s keys are still in the lock. So’s
Benton. Blown with such force he seems fused with the door.
On the door’s edge Rimgale notices a small patch of melted,
sticky goo. With his penknife he scrapes a sample and seals
it in a glass vial, stands, and walks into the office.
INT. THEATRE OFFICE
What do you want me to do with —
Rimgale, now inside, silences him with an outstretched arm.
(after a beat)
What are you listening to?
Rimgale doesn’t answer. His eyes drift over the scorched
walls as he speaks softly to them.
You sneaky little son of a bitch…
Hide and seek… Come on, tell me
what I want to know…
He scratches at some soot. Smiles and lifts a small hand
Heavy smoke stains observed in entry
room. Demarkation line high. Fire
never got hot enough here to cook
soot off. It started somewhere else…
(walks down hall)
Less soot here. More heat.
(they enter back room)
And very little soot here.
Get that couch out of the way.
Brian pulls it aside. The lower third of the wall is
completely untouched by soot.
So you were happy here. Warm and
cozy and in no hurry…
Soot high, clean unburned wall low,
indicates slow burn in thermal
Find me some glass.
Do we have a language barrier here?
There’s some on the sill of a blown window. Brian hands a
shard to Rimgale, who turns it over in his palm.
Glass found in ignition room is in
small, thin pieces, indicating
explosion. Lack of discoloration
indicates a long, slow burn. Explosion
must of come after a slow burn.
(shuts recorder off)
You little tease… What were you up
to you little bastard, huh? What
made you that mad?
(then, an idea)
(switches on recorder)
It started in this room. Took its
time, hung out… but the air ran
out. It couldn’t breathe. So it was
snuffed. But it wasn’t dead… still
all that trapped heat, lying low,
waiting for some sucker to open the
door and give it that one gulp of
— Another backdraft.
Rimgale turns to the wall, a section where the plaster is
severely damaged. He probes with a penknife.
Finish coat burned away… Severe
spawling of rough coat…
Rimgale follows the damaged wall down — down — to a melted
That’s our ignition point. Dig it
Brian chops it out from the wall. Rimgale crouches down,
peels back the melted faceplate and examines the wires. The
copper tip is severely melted. Rimgale sniffs the plug.
Temperature in this room was about
2000 degrees, but copper wire in
outlet is melted, which requires
5000 degrees. An accidental short in
the plug could of created a spark of
7000 degrees, hot enough to melt the
wire and start a fire.
No it couldn’t.
Rimgale shuts off the recorder. Stares down Brian.
I mean you’d be right — with normal
wire. But that’s gauge ten in that
plug — industrial stuff. Who knows
why they put it in here — but it
won’t melt at less than 12,000
degrees. And no natural spark short
of lightning gets that hot.
(Rimgale just stares)
In another life I was in high-end
Rimgale opens a plastic bag and puts the plug inside.
Have outlet analyzed for any traces
of flammable accelerants.
Rimgale stands and walks out.
Don’t mention it.
INT. THEATRE BUILDING – NIGHT
Brian follows Rimgale down from the office into the vast
theatre. Walls hiss and spit. Brian’s surprised to see his
former engine mates there, tromping and crunching their way
through broken glass, their flashlights like dancing
fireflies. Tim passes by.
Everybody turns at the voice and the air suddenly chills.
Check the wall for burn patterns.
And Rimgale’s off to another room. Brian turns and looks at
the wall. It’s endless.
So, you surviving without me?
There’s no replacement ‘cause of
your boss’ cuts, if that’s what you
mean. If someone else goes out on an
injury we’re really screwed.
Swayzak’s not my boss.
Silence. Brian looks over the wall. A dirty puddle separates
him from it.
Ooooh, like the tie. Love the tie.
Grindle, scrape down that wall for
me, huh? I would myself, but the tie
‘n all, y’know…
Grindle stares at him a beat, then wordlessly steps into the
muck and pulls free a section of wall, dropping it on the
ground in front of Brian. Santos and Grindle look at each
Uh, Brian, if you’re lookin’ for
smoke patterns, there’s some good
ones over here.
(as Brian walks over)
Little to the right… further…
further… Right behind there. Hey,
could you hand me that pike pole?
There’s a pike pole leaning against the wall. Brian pulls it
aside. SPLASH — The pole had been supporting a small, sagging
piece of ceiling that instantly collapses, dumping twenty
gallons of murky, putrid black water all over Brian’s civvys.
Sorry, maybe that wasn’t it after
Stephen appears around the corner. Sees what’s happened.
That’s just about enough, guys, okay?
See ya around, Brian.
They leave. Brian stands there, humiliated.
What the hell’s the matter with you,
huh? You’re steppin’ in the shit
again. You could’ve done it. You
don’t want this.
(the suit ‘n tie)
Wake up, kid.
Brian burns with shame and anger as Adcox walks away. Stephen
hands Brian a towel.
Here. Dry yourself off.
Brian snatches it from him. Glares at his brother.
Look, you are sorta making yourself
Thanks for the insight.
Brian, look —
Just leave me alone, okay?
Brian walks away. Stephen calls after him.
Hey, Bri… Rimgale’s okay. I don’t
get half the shit he’s talking about,
but then everybody says the same
thing about me. Who the hell knows?
INT. HELEN’S HOUSE – DAY
Helen, Stephen’s ex-wife, is sitting at her kitchen when she
looks up suddenly at a strange sound coming from the roof.
EXT. HELEN’S HOUSE – ROOF – DAY
On the short, sloping roof, Stephen stands hammering a shingle
back into place. Helen sticks her head out the dormer window.
Stephen, what are you doing here?
Fixing my roof.
It’s not your roof anymore.
He stops and tosses the hammer aside. Looks at his watch.
He’s got piano lessons.
Oh yeah? How’s he doing?
He’s going to be a fireman.
Give up, babe. You can’t fight it.
Believe me, my mom tried…
Stephen, you gotta stop just showing
up on the roof like this.
I just wanted to, I don’t know, not
exactly apologize for the other night —
especially since I don’t remember
much of it —
— You remember.
Yeah… I just thought I should say,
I don’t know, something.
The great communicator.
Sorry I hit Jackson.
He deserved it. He was born deserving
He treats you okay?
I treated you better.
You treated me like shit.
But she smiles.
You want some coffee?
Coffee? Nah, I gotta go.
What’s wrong, Stephen?
(looks at her)
C’mon, you only beat up the roof
when something’s on your mind.
How’s Brian doing?
I know he’s out, but how’s he doing?
Y’know, I treated him better than
any other probie I ever had. He
probably hates my guts, but I did
the best thing for him. I made him
finally look in the mirror.
Ah Stephen, that’s what this is really
about, isn’t it? You always have to
Hey, I’m the first one to admit when
Yeah? When was the last time?
In a fire? Never.
Look, I’m his brother. I care about
him, y’know? He was going to get
himself killed. Maybe not today,
maybe not in a year, but it would’ve
happened. And I couldn’t — I just
You can’t keep being his father…
Stephen sighs deeply.
You know what I realized today? I
can’t remember my dad’s face anymore.
There’s pictures of him staring at
me everywhere I go, but the guy behind
them… he’s gone…
He sighs and hops down from the roof to the driveway.
I’ll see ya around, Helen.
She watches him as he walks lonely up the street.
INT. CITY MORGUE – DAY
A Lab Tech, RICCO, leads Brian and Rimgale through the autopsy
area till they come on two corpses lying side by side covered
Okay, Alan Seagrave and Donald
If you say so. Brian’s stomach does a half-gainer as he’s
confronted by two hideously charred bodies.
…Both deaths due to close encounters
with stationary objects; office door
for Mr. Cosgrove, ’89 Porsche for
Mr. Seagrave. No non-relevant traumas.
No significant blood toxicology.
Attitude of both trajectories
consistent with explosions.
Brian is discreetly avoiding his gaze, whistling quietly to
himself as he looks over specimen jars on a shelf.
They ran the residue you scraped
from both crispers’ front doors.
It’s a combination of plumber’s putty
and rayophene gum. Burns almost
completely away when you light it.
Putty? On both doors?
There’s something else kinda
Ricco lifts Benton’s charred shoulder. Underneath we see
some of his clothes that have melted and co-mingled with his
A credit card has been fried right into Cosgrove’s skin about
where his back pocket should have been.
Guess he didn’t leave home without
Ricco erupts in a honking laugh, then switches instantly
back to a business tone.
Anyway, down here, take a look…
McCaffrey, hold this for us.
Uh, I don’t think that’s in my
I just re-wrote your contract.
With supreme reluctance Brian pulls the crisper’s head and
shoulder away from the table.
Jesus Christ, he isn’t gonna try to
sell you insurance, lift him.
Brian gathers the torso up and hoists him higher.
See that patch of shirt? We wondered
about the discoloration so he ran a
spectro. On a lucky shot we picked
up some traces of Trychticholorate.
Nobody around here had ever heard of
Trychticholorate? Alright, it’s an
absorption catalyst in toxic waste
accidents. It’s pretty rare, they
stopped making it a couple’a years
Probably got in Cosgrove’s clothes
in a gas state from the fire.
What the hell was it doing in the
That’s your job.
At that instant, Cosgrove’s eyes OPEN and his body SIGHS.
Brian DROPS the body in shock and backs away, stunned.
I asked you to hold him, not feel
INT. RIMGALE’S CAR – DAY
Rimgale’s FD sedan. Brian is still wringing imaginary guts
off his hands. Rimgale tosses an open fire chem book in his
“Trychtichlorate is a binary
— Go to the bottom. Under heat
“During heat episodes of 2000 Kelvin
or higher, Trych breaks down and
dissipates. Will consume magnesium”.
Ever burned magnesium? It’s so hot
it takes water molecules and BAMM!
Rimgale CLAPS his hands next to Brian’s head, STARTLING him.
Son of a bitch tears ‘em apart just
to eat the oxygen. Wouldn’t take
much at all to melt ten gauge wire.
Problem’s burnt magnesium leaves a
powder trace — unless you could
find something that would eat its
Trychticholorate. Then Swayzak can
announce Seagrave was a murder.
Rimgale looks at Brian. He’s getting tired of this.
Look, it isn’t proof, okay? Someone
may have put the chemical in the
outlet, but we found it as a vapor
in Cosgrove’s clothes.
And the putty around the door?
Even if it was used to seal the air
off, that doesn’t explain why someone
would go to the trouble of a
backdraft. A gun’s a helluva lot
But the right guess on this is arson.
I don’t guess.
Some people say you don’t do much of
anything when it comes to this case.
I don’t work for them, either.
INT. ARSON HQ – DAY
Brian’s sitting at a desk. He’s finishing up a huge paper
clip Tyrannosaurus. The phone RINGS.
Straightest answer your department’s
given me all week.
We see Jennifer’s calling from her office, she’s busy signing
papers brought to her and okaying campaign posters as she
How’s it going?
Boss and I are up to about three
words an hour.
Green committed to a thousand.
There’s another fund-raising party
tonight. Marty’d really like you to
I don’t know, I’m kinda swamped here.
He tosses a paper airplane.
I could use a date.
Yeah? Well, maybe I can fit it in…
McCaffrey! Come here!
Call ya back.
Brian hangs up quickly and walks back into
INT. ARSON HQ – ANOTHER ROOM – DAY
Rimgale’s there, crouched excitedly beside a trash can that’s
lid’s been sealed closed. He tamps a piece of putty on the
rim and backs away.
Take the top off. Go ahead. Take it
Brian walks over and RIPS OFF the lid. — Instantly a tongue
of flame SHOOTS straight up past his head and BLOWS out.
Rimgale’s grinning like a little kid.
That’s it! Oh, that son of a bitch,
he’s different, goddamn it! You see
what this tells us, huh? Our killer
doesn’t love fire!
(pulls out file)
I got it after we talked to Ronald.
Torches. Want to fry the whole goddamn
world. But the fires that killed
those guys never really burned up
much. — The burns were all lit in
outlets surrounded by double
firebreaks in the walls. And he made
his burns backdrafts.
But he killed these guys.
But he could have killed everybody
there. The firebreaks kept it from
spreading in the wall. The backdraft
blew out the flame. That’s it. That’s
Why backdrafts. Whoever fried Seagrave
and Cosgrove went to a helluva lot
of trouble to make sure they died by
fire, but also made sure the fire
blew itself out.
That’s why the sealant on the doors…
So what have we got, a torch with a
No, we have a stone killer trying to
make a point.
Are you going public with this?
No. Do that and I guarantee you’ll
scare him off. I don’t want him
EXT. PARTY BOAT – NIGHT
A Latin band cuts loose as beautiful people mill about against
a beautiful Chicago skyline. An AIR HORN blows, and suddenly
the skyline is MOVING. We’re on a huge, private party boat.
EXT. PARTY BOAT – NIGHT
Brian’s leaning on the boat railing watching the passing
parade of rich and beautiful. Across the sea of champagne
and brie, he spots Jennifer talking with her boss, Swayzak.
He has his hand on her back.
Jennifer spots Brian. She smile, detaches herself and walks
(eyes on Swayzak)
So are you dating your boss or what?
If you weren’t at least the 300th
person to ask me that, I’d probably
Boy, you sure know it’s a man’s world
Are you dating anyone?
You think that’s really any of your
Well, you did invite me here.
But I wanted you to come to.
Swayzak suddenly appears with his entourage.
It isn’t mine.
Let’s get a picture.
Swayzak swings around and puts his arm cheesily around Brian’s
shoulder. Another staffer slaps a SWAYZAK FOR MAYOR sticker
to Brian’s lapel. Jennifer rolls her eyes to Brian. I’m
(seeing someone else)
(sotto to Jennifer)
What does he do again?
Swayzak leads her off in pursuit. Left alone, Brian turns to
the railing, stares off at the passing city. You can hear
the wind-up of a siren.
And there it is now, an engine company zooming along Wacker
Drive. Something digs and kicks inside of Brian as he watches
How’s the job going?
She’s appeared again beside him.
Boy, Rimgale’s as slow as a snail,
No, he’s more of a dinosaur. Guy’s
not a dummy, though. He’s juggling
alot of balls on this one.
Yeah, but it doesn’t take Albert
Einstein just to figure out if these
guys were killed by accidents or
Jesus, give him a break. There isn’t
enough proof yet to go public. Sure,
we found some chemical shit we think
somebody dumped in the plugs to torch
‘em, and we’ve maybe figured out why
backdrafts, but you can’t rush this
stuff. Not ‘till it’s locked.
But Rimgale’s probably going to come
around to arson.
In a dinosaur kinda way, yeah.
Both of them look up sharply. A woman drunk out of her mind
has tipped over in her chair. She laughs, her fellow
tablemates laugh, everybody laughs. Jennifer takes Brian by
the arm in the opposite direction and smiles.
EXT. PARTY BOAT – NIGHT
The band’s completely cut loose now. A wild percussion rhythm
that has everyone on their feet dancing like madmen. Brian
and Jennifer stomp and sweat and shake and giggle through
hair crazily askew. The lakeshore is twinkling and wonderful
as it slips past. The drums beat faster and harder and the
only thing that isn’t moving now is their eyes — eyes locked
on each other.
EXT. ARSON HQ – NIGHT
Sweaty, flushed with the evening and a few drinks, Brian and
Jennifer pull up in her car.
Thanks for the invite.
Got anything to drink in there?
Oh, there might be something stashed
away for emergencies.
INT. ARSON HQ/FIRE STATION
The regular engine company’s gone to bed and the arson squad’s
packed in for the night, leaving the apparatus floor quiet
and dim as Brian and Jennifer enter.
Brian leads her back past the engine and arson sedan to the
rear where Rimgale has his offices. As they walk Jennifer’s
eyes drift up to the old sculpted parapets, the press-tin
This is one of the oldest fire
stations in the city. Lotta tradition
locked up in here. What do you think?
See that trap door up there? That
used to lead to the hay loft when
they had horse-drawn engines. It was
pretty different then… but kinda
the same, y’know?
Do you miss it?
(he doesn’t answer)
You seem like you do.
When I came back, I knew more than
anything else that I wanted to be a
Then why did you quit?
I wanted to be a good one.
INT. ARSON HQ – BACK OFFICES
They walk into the back arson offices. Brian pokes through a
few drawers, one or two shelves. Finally he lifts a squat,
specialized fire extinguisher. The bottom has been hollowed
out, leaving room for a fifth of bourbon.
Old firehouse trick.
He pours her a glass. Jennifer takes a generous sip of her’s,
turns, brushes past him and breathes,
So show me your fire truck.
INT. ARSON HQ – APPARATUS FLOOR
Brian escorts Jennifer along the side of the behemoth.
Well, our specimen here is your basic
standard issue piece of primary
suppression equipment. This area is
the pumping panel, which controls
the rate of liquid insertion into
Brian lifts a narrow, tapered straight-bore nozzle.
This is a six inch playpipe, cast
bronze to keep it firm during hard
(picks up another
This is our pipe extender, used in
This is our hard suction line… Our
adjustable insertion nozzle…
(comes around back of
…And this is the hose bed.
Beat. The air cracks between them. And is brushed aside. In
an instant they’re all over each other. Tangled lips and
gulping breaths. Jennifer abruptly breaks it off
— And looks mischievously up at the hose bed, with its long
curling rolls of soft cotton.
Brian doesn’t remember this precise scenario being discussed
at the academy, but he improvises admirably, popping up onto
the hose bed and offering a gentlemanly hand to Jennifer. As
they tumble into the soft folds
EXT. HIGH-RISE – NIGHT
Engine 17 roars up, lights flashing, to a high-rise. As the
crew jumps down Tim trips and falls flat on his face.
Jesus Tim, if you’re going to kill
yourself at least wait till the fire,
it’s better P.R.
INT. ARSON HQ – HOSE BED – NIGHT
Jennifer unbuttons Brian’s shirt.
Tell me about the playpipe again…
She pulls the shirt off his shoulder as we
INT. HIGH-RISE – LOBBY – NIGHT
Engine 17 walking up to a frazzled security guard in the
Where is it?
Don’t know. There’s alarms going off
on three different floors.
They climb into the elevator.
INT. HIGH RISE – ELEVATOR – NIGHT
It’s cramped on the way up with the bulky coats, helmets,
hose rolls, and the tangible nervousness that always goes
with this kind of fire. The elevator Musak plays 101 Strings
version of “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree”.
How do we know if the floor’s going
to be on fire?
If the doors open and it’s hot, don’t
INT. ARSON HQ – HOSE BED
Brian pulls off Jennifer’s stockings. As she kicks it away…
INT. HIGH-RISE – UPPER FLOOR – NIGHT
The elevator stops. DING. The door opens. No howling blaze,
not even any noise, but enough hanging smoke that you can’t
see your hand in front of your face.
They fan out gingerly onto the floor, looking for the fire.
Hide and seek in a white fog bank. Everybody stops and
listens. Slowly, carefully, they feel their way through the
On cue something snakes past behind the walls, whispers and
whines and shivers up and over them and then is silent.
Grindle attaches a hoseline to the building standpipe.
These high-rise gigs give me the
Let’s wait for a back-up, Stephen.
We’re early on this one, it hasn’t
even broke out yet. We’re one short
as it is with Brian gone.
But Stephen’s on the hunt now. Obsessed.
Want to learn something?
Stephen and Tim take the lead, their axes gripped like
shotguns. Grindle backs them up with a charged hoseline.
Adcox, go with Pengelly and check
the other side.
It isn’t safe, man. Don’t go splittin’
us up. Not with this one.
— What the hell’s the matter with
you? You always check the other side.
I haven’t got time for bullshit right
now, okay? We got a job here.
Let me take the lead, Stephen…
Goddamn it Adcox! Just do your fucking
Adcox folds. With a stricken look on his face he takes his
crew down the other way. Stephen and Tim slowly feel their
Everybody SPINS around in terror. Nothing. Something inhuman
giggles down ahead of them. Stephen smiles.
(like a mantra)
Oh, you’re so very sly, but so am
…Listen to it… you can tell when
a wall cracks which way it’s gonna
jump… you can hear the doors breathe
if they’re hot…
Tim looks confused. He doesn’t get it.
They come to a side door. Stephen runs his hand down the
jam, feels for heat. Then he steps back, takes a deep breath,
and CRASHES the door down with one AXE BLOW. Quiet inside.
INT. ARSON HQ – HOSE BED – NIGHT
Brian and Jennifer are into the rhythm now, breathing deeply.
On the wall above them are framed photos of dead firemen.
INT. HIGH-RISE – SECOND DOORWAY – NIGHT
Stephen concentrates on the sound of the fire above him, —
then abruptly turns and CRASHES down another door.
INT. ARSON HQ – ALARM KLAXON GOES OFF – NIGHT
Brian and Jennifer lie in a tight embrace, enjoying the
moment, the lull, as suddenly the lights SNAP ON and an alarm
klaxon BELLOWS. Firemen are coming down the pole now.
What’s going on?
They frantically climb into their clothes. The firemen haven’t
noticed them as they climb aboard. They’ve STARTED THE ENGINE.
What are they doing?
EXT. ARSON HQ – STREETS – NIGHT
And before either of them realizes it, they’re suddenly
pulling out into the street and WAILING off down the block.
The wind’s wild in their hair, the siren deafening, the
flashing red lights blinding staccato, And Jennifer loves
it. She kisses Brian fiercely, he lets out a war whoop lost
in the blast of air, and together they hold each other as
the night screams past and…
EXT. HIGH-RISE – NIGHT
Engine 17 pulls up into the parking lot of the high-rise
fire. Firemen leap out of the cab and rush around behind to
pull off lengths of hose from the bed. As the folds curl
away the fireman is stunned to see a woman’s stocking come
out with it.
With equal shock he looks up and watches as a disheveled and
grinning Brian and Jennifer climb calmly down out of the
INT. HIGH-RISE – TIM’S DOOR – NIGHT
Stephen and Tim creep along the hall.
Lotta smoke, but it isn’t rolling…
that means it’s hiding… staying
sleepy… one of these doors…
Tim’s come to one.
Easy… no hurry… you’re not going
Stephen BANGS down another door. Sticks his head in to check.
A little woodpecker toy dips up and down in a glass of water.
Tim readies his axe before his door, gathers his courage as
Stephen comes out of the room he was checking. Sees Tim
lifting his axe.
Did you check the door for heat,
Tim doesn’t hear. The axe is already up.
Tim’s committed now, coming hard at the door. And Stephen
sees it for just an instant — Small tendrils of smoke edging
lazily around the door — then being sucked back in.
He rushes for Tim as Tim’s axe SMACKS the door and a whine
behind it builds and roars and howls and Tim’s all follow-
through now, hitting the door with his shoulder as
The door EXPLODES OUTWARD, HURLING TIM against the opposite
wall and for an instant he’s okay but he freezes in terror
as A SHRIEKING TONGUE OF FLAME SHOOTS OUT THE DOORWAY and
Grindle shouts in horror and opens his hose line as the flames
wrap Tim like a jealous lover as Adcox hears it and screams,
Oh God! Oh God no!
And Tim’s screaming now too, because his helmet, his mask,
his face, it’s all melting and Grindle dives suicidally at
the monster, BLASTING it with his hose as Stephen ignores
the flames and puts his arms around Tim as Grindle DOUSES
them both, killing the flames.
The monster rolls wounded back into the room, into the air
shafts as Tim whimpers incoherently, sliding down the wall
as Stephen tries to help but oh God you can’t tell what’s
face and what’s mask and helmet anymore.
Grindle looks back where the fire came from. There’s a corpse
in there, burned and lying between two doors.
Adcox rushes to Tim’s side sobbing and it’s the end, the end
of the goddamn world…
EXT. HIGH-RISE – NIGHT
Brian and Jennifer are having the time of their lives, when
suddenly a group of firemen pass by rushing someone on a
stretcher to an ambulance and Brian sees — sweet Jesus —
it’s Tim. Jennifer turns away in horror. They load Tim into
the van as Adcox and Grindle jump in to ride along. To hold
Stephen watches the ambulance disappear out into the street.
Frustration and fury tear at him as he takes off his coat
and slams it to the ground. He kicks it, kicks it till his
strength’s gone. He turns, his wounded eyes finding Brian.
INT. HIGH-RISE – NIGHT
Rimgale walks down the smokey corridor. The charred civilian
is there, sitting in the short stretch of hall between two
blown doors. Through the haze Rimgale sees Stephen crouched
in the interior room, picking at the debris. Lost in himself.
Stephen stands and looks around the room, seemingly unaware
of Rimgale. He walks wordlessly straight out past him, his
eyes streaming with tears.
INT. HOSPITAL – EMERGENCY ROOM – NIGHT
Brian shoulders his way through the emergency room. He passes
a small alcove full of vending machines. Adcox is there,
sipping a paper cup, leaning against the machine in deep
INT. HOSPITAL ICU – NIGHT
Further down the hall is ICU. Grindle and Santos are there,
sitting outside the room, raw and weary. Grindle nods to
Brian. Everyone’s still stained and smudged from the fire.
Everyone but Brian.
Brian looks through a door window into the room. There,
surrounded by doctors and physicians, lies Tim. He’s been
cut out of his uniform. Gauze bandages everywhere. As a pair
of forceps peel some away Brian glimpses what used to be a
face, now only reds and browns and leaky whites. He turns
Do they think he’ll pull through?
They’re not saying.
I should have been there.
None of us should have been there,
Voices rise down the hall. Turn to shouts. It’s Adcox and
Stephen, tearing heartbreakingly into one another. Brian
can’t make out the words but it’s ugly, emotional. Abruptly
it ends and Stephen emerges from the alcove, walking toward
You had to do it, didn’t you?
Stephen’s got other things on his mind.
…Not now, Brian.
Had to take on another fire bare-
handed, huh? Had to be fucking myth
man in there instead of looking out
for your probie. Is that what
happened? Is it, Stephen?
I had that fire. He didn’t listen!
He didn’t listen? He was a fucking
candidate! He was your responsibility.
He shouldn’t have been there in the
first place, Stephen.
You burned him.
Brian grabs his arm.
Stephen SNAPS and roughly PUSHES Brian, knocking him against
the wall. Brian comes off it in a flash and is all over
Stephen. They go down and it’s all thrashing and shouting
now. A horrible, endless draw. Grindle and Santos are in it,
pulling them apart, holding them up against opposite walls.
Both brothers glare at one another, tears filling their eyes.
Brian shakes Grindle off and walks away.
INT. ARSON HQ – BRIAN’S DESK – MORNING
Brian sits staring blankly. A newspaper drops in front of
him. FIRE DEPT. SAYS IT’S MURDER. Rimgale stands above him.
Goes on about how the break was made
through the discovery of “chemical
traces” and a “behavioral link”. Oh,
and Swayzak’s quoted saying the chief
investigator is closing in on the
torch and expects an arrest “any
Brian’s eyes wince closed.
Get your stuff and get out.
INT. JENNIFER’S OFFICE – DAY
She’s pouring some coffee as Brian bursts in.
Brian. What’s wrong?
You told Swayzak about our arson
lead. It’s all over the fucking news.
I didn’t know it was a secret. There
aren’t supposed to be secrets between
the city and its investigators —
— Bullshit! You knew what I told
you wasn’t ready for the papers —
Will you please keep your voice down,
there’s people —
— You could have scared the son of
a bitch off. We may never bust him
now. All for a couple’s political
I was doing my job.
(grabs her arm)
Yeah? And just how much of all this
has been “doing your job”?
(shakes it off)
Let me ask you something, do you
really think Marty had you assigned
to arson because of your firefighting
skills? Who the hell are you kidding?
I was there, remember? I saw you and
your brother —
Leave Stephen out of this —
Oh yeah, he’s the real fireman.
Who are you? Just another probie
working for Swayzak —
— I work for the city.
You knew what we were asking you to
do. Don’t suddenly pull out a
conscience now. The fit isn’t right.
Swayzak appears in the doorway. He looks haggard, as if he
hasn’t slept. There’s something haunted in his eyes.
Mr. McCaffrey… Keeping busy?
Yeah. In fact, I just dropped off a
letter to the Times explaining how
yesterday’s arson announcement was a
fabrication by your office. They
loved it. And you know what? You
were right, my family background in
firefighting gave it weight.
Brian shoulders his way past Swayzak and walks out.
INT. HOSPITAL – TIM’S ROOM – NIGHT
Brian walks up to Tim’s room. Stephen’s sitting there, ragged
looking. Inside the young probie lies wrapped in tubes and
gauze and years of wasted promise. An EKG beeps, a respirator
hisses, and Brian gulps down something heavy in his throat.
He’s gonna live. Maybe not much else,
but he’s gonna live…
Stephen walks away.
EXT. ARSON HQ – MORNING
As Rimgale gets out of his car a limousine pulls up. Swayzak
opens the rear door from inside.
INT. SWAYZAK SEDAN – DAY
Cruising through traffic. Swayzak is disheveled, unshaven,
fidgety. A man who hasn’t slept and had a few drinks before
the one he’s pouring now. He offers one to Rimgale.
I usually have breakfast first.
Swayzak apparently doesn’t.
When are you going to catch the prick
that’s doing this, Don?
Don’t you have any leads at all?
No Marty, I don’t.
For the first time, Rimgale sees real fear on Swayzak’s face.
We still haven’t found a connection
between the victims.
Jesus, open your eyes! Seagrave,
Cosgrove, and now Holcomb — fried
in a goddamn high-rise!
Holcomb? I didn’t know the name of
that victim had even been released
The sedan stops back at arson HQ. They’d gone around the
EXT. ARSON HQ – SWAYZAK SEDAN – DAY
Rimgale opens the door, climbs out, lingers.
Is there a connection between them,
Just catch the son of a bitch.
The door shuts and Swayzak roars away.
INT. ARSON HQ – BACK OFFICES – DAY
Rimgale walks back into his offices. He’s surprised to see
Brian there working at his desk.
What the hell are you doing here?
I’m finished with Swayzak. I’ll do
whatever you want me to do. I just
want to help catch the guy that burned
Tim. You gotta give me another shot.
Rimgale stares at Brian, appraises him.
A CLOSE UP of Rimgale POPPING the molding around the door
frame of Holcomb’s burned office. Underneath can be seen
traces of the same white residue from the other fires.
I thought ‘ol Marty was acting a
little strange… And he’s right.
Rimgale rubs the white powder between his fingers.
Rimgale stands at the spot in the short hall where the body
lied between two doors.
The backdraft was set somewhere in
there. It fried Holcomb when he opened
the inner door. But the outer door
held… and waited for Tim…
Brian steps into the inner office.
So find me the fire.
Brian begins searching, probing. He finally stands. Defeated.
You’re thinking too much of the
building and not enough of the ghost.
Brian’s eyes don’t understand. From Rimgale’s coat comes a
plastic flask. He pours out of it a liquid onto the floor
and lights a match.
In a word, Brian, what is this job
Rimgale drops the match.
WUMP. A small flame explodes to life.
It’s a living thing, Brian. It
breathes, it eats, and it hates.
The fire’s climbing a wall, chewing a corner.
The only way to beat it is to think
like it. To know that this flame
will spread this way across the floor
not because of the physics of
flammable liquids or heat convection,
but because it wants to.
FWUMP. It darts west. Licks the ceiling. The fire purrs and
hisses. Stretches luxuriously and attacks savagely.
Some guys on this job, fire owns
them. It makes them fight on its
level. But the only way to truly
kill it is to love it a little, just
Brian stares at the flame. A goblin reaching out for him… —
Woosh! Rimgale hits it with a fire extinguisher. In an instant
the goblin is gone, the genie in the bottle.
What the hell are you guys doin’?
A young woman’s entered.
We’re the fire department, lady.
Well color me stupid, I always thought
the fire dept. put out fires.
You work here?
Till yesterday. What do you think
the odds are that a non-refundable
ticket to Paris survived this?
Somewhere between zero and no way.
Shit. What a mess.
You seem real broken up about Mr.
Jeff Holcomb? The Darth Vader of tax
accountants? He was a sleezeball.
Hopefully a sleezeball that carried
Go talk to the building owner.
He was the building owner.
Our book lists the owner as Dekom
She looks at him like he’s the dumbest human she’s met all
Don’t investigators come in adult
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – OUTSIDE STEPHEN’S OFFICE – DAY
Sequence omitted from original script.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – STEPHEN’S STATION OFFICE – DAY
Stephen’s lying sprawled on his bunk, his hands pressed over
his eyes. There’s a voice outside the door.
Stevie? Rimgale’s here to see you.
He just wants to —
— I’m busy goddamn it, okay?
A beat, then Rimgale himself enters.
What, they don’t knock on your planet?
Rimgale takes in Stephen’s room, the half empty bourbon
bottle. Without a word, Rimgale walks over and pours it out.
He sits down beside Stephen.
I still haven’t gotten your fire
report, Stevie. On Tim.
A wave of pain rolls through Stephen.
I’m working on it.
I deal with this stuff every day.
But a fireman… you never get used
What happened up there? He was a
candidate. Did he pay attention? Was
…He wasn’t listening to the right
What do you listen to, Stephen?
You don’t know… nobody knows…
Stephen’s eyes meet Rimgale’s and hold.
It knows us. This one knows us.
I need that report, Lt.
Stephen takes Rimgale’s notebook out of his lap, rips out a
page, and writes angrily in huge block letters.
Stephen throws the sheet at Rimgale, stands, and walks out.
INT. HALL OF RECORDS
An Escher drawing of a place, endlessly vast racks spun around
an open central core. High up, lost among its rows, Brian is
going through rack after rack of dog-eared record books as
Rimgale enters down below.
(trying to hold it
together in his mind)
Hey boss, Dekom Trust is owned by
Pan Illinois… which is majority
controlled by Lakeside Dynamics…
which is a division of Windy City
Ventures… who’s partners are…
Alan Seagrave, Donald Cosgrove, and
Son of a bitch. They knew each other.
INT. HALL OF RECORDS
More books. Files. Acres of paper.
So Seagrave and Holcomb were
And Cosgrove. Coppers figured he
laundered money for the mob before
getting into real estate. They weren’t
very high on Seagrave, either.
Nice bunch of guys.
Who all ended up wearing candles for
Swayzak’s up to his ass in this
somehow. Guy can barely hold a drink
in his hand, he’s so scared.
A beat, then he looks directly at Brian.
We need to get a look at his files.
EXT. ROOFTOP RESTAURANT – NIGHT
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. LAKESHORE – DUSK
With glowing skyscrapers leaping up in the background, it’s
an unexpectedly quiet, serene place along the lake. Jennifer
sits alone at a bench, watching an ancient fisherman look
for dinner, as Brian walks up.
We still talking?
Look, I’m sorry about the other day —
Swayzak knows something about the
guys that were murdered. I want to
know why he keeps that hidden.
I don’t know anything about it.
You could check. It’d be in his files.
Do you know what you’re asking me to
Y’know, four years ago I was working
in a bakery. Two years ago I was
bringing Marty coffee and he didn’t
even know my name. I run that office
now. Marty believed in me and I
believe in him. You want me to just
throw that away?
Your boss is lying, Jennifer.
And it hangs between them, two people lonely on the edge of
INT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
Sequence omitted from original script.
INT. HELEN’S GARAGE – NIGHT
At a workbench, under a single lamp, Stephen stands amongst
a confusion of tools, wire, And a wall socket.
With a pair of pliers, he tugs at something within the socket,
puts the face-plate back on and screws it down. He stares at
it, and we feel the sudden wave of hopelessness cascading
He sets the socket back down — and SCATTERS everything aside
in a single, furious move.
INT. HELEN’S HOUSE – NIGHT
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. HELEN’S HOUSE – NIGHT
Stephen’s sits quietly against Helen’s back door, lost in
himself. A light comes on. Helen opens the back door.
She sits down beside him.
I’m sorry… I… couldn’t sleep…
It used to be, when I was a kid,
what meant most to me about this job
was there were no ifs. Life and death,
right and wrong. When someone called
the fire department, we came… Those
guys don’t know how much I love
them… You don’t leave people
hanging… cause that’s what it’s
all about. It’s loyalty. It’s ‘till
death do us part. Isn’t that what
you heard?… It’s you go, we go…
Cause without that, it’s the end of
families, it’s the end of the fire
department… and when the fire
department stops coming… that’s
the end of the fucking world…
I’m sorry I came, Helen, it’s just…
it’s just there’s nobody I can talk
I miss you.
The moment lingers, grows heavy and grey.
INT. HELEN’S HOUSE – BEDROOM – NIGHT
Stephen and Helen in bed, holding each other…
INT. HELEN’S HOUSE – KITCHEN – MORNING
Morning, and Stephen dressed, making eggs for three. Sean’s
there, lending a hand, beaming as Stephen tries to show him
how to flip an egg. Helen enters in her robe. He kisses her.
Cook and I are almost finished here.
Have a seat.
Stephen… I… can I talk to you a
Stephen musses his son’s hair and follows her out into the
Look, I’m sorry I —
— No, that’s okay. It’s just Sean…
— He’s gettin’ good on those eggs.
And y’know, he told me he actually
likes the piano.
I don’t want to confuse him, Stephen.
The blow’s so long and hard and deep you don’t even see it.
It’s… It’s just things have
changed… you’re the same, Stephen,
but things are different now… you’ve
got a son… you’re the best at what
you do Stephen, you always were, but
you scare me now…
Just then, Sean sticks his head into it.
Hey… Sean-man, your dad blew it. I
forgot I had to work this morning…
Aw dad, c’mon…
Next time, huh? We’ll do it up big.
Helen’s turned away.
Mom’s crying, dad.
INT. SWAYZAK’S OFFICE – CITY HALL – MORNING
Jennifer enters Swayzak’s inner office. His chair’s turned
away toward the window.
Latest polls came in, Marty.
(he doesn’t answer)
Finally the chair turns, revealing a haunted man. Polls are
far from his mind.
Jesus Christ, Marty, what’s going
Leave me alone.
She sees a fire department file on the murders open on his
We’ve come a long way together, Marty.
I’ve staked my whole career on you.
And now you’re sneaking around this
office, leaking things to the papers
behind my back…
Is there something you’re not telling
me about these deaths?
Swayzak’s eyes are dead metal.
And he turns his chair around again. Jennifer stands there a
beat. — Then turns to the filing cabinets.
EXT. BRIAN’S APARTMENT BUILDING – NIGHT
Brian drives up and parks. He’s half way to the staircase
when he sees someone sitting in the dark in a car.
She hands him a manila envelope.
What is —
Just take it.
That’s a dumb thing to say.
She starts her car.
INT. FIRE DEPARTMENT REPAIR DEPOT
A cavernous hall full of dozens of fire trucks loaded on
jacks. Rimgale’s sedan’s there, the repairman shaking his
head in amazement at the undercarriage.
What the hell do you do with this
Rimgale’s looking through the report Brian’s handed him.
This is the copy of Swayzak’s manning
report that was released. Everybody
on this job knows it’s bullshit but
we could never argue with the numbers.
They’re all airtight.
He dumps three more reports on Rimgale.
I’ve got three different drafts of
the same report — with different
numbers that’re all over the place.
Looks like they were just making it
up as they went along.
Did a little check on the consulting
firm that wrote the report. They did
exactly one job — Swayzak’s manpower
study. It’s not even really a company.
No employees, no directors, just a
Then who wrote the report?
It had to be someone who knows
numbers. Some kind of fancy
accountant. But what’s the connection?
Brian hands him something else. A photograph. Swayzak and
the other three, posing on a fishing boat, 1970. Time of
I think it’s time Mr. Swayzak and us
had a little heart to heart talk.
EXT. SWAYZAK’S HOUSE – NIGHT
The red arson sedan pulls up to wealthy home. Rimgale and
Brian walk up and knock on the door — it creaks open ajar.
They push the door open slowly.
INT. SWAYZAK’S HOUSE – NIGHT
It’s dark as they enter.
Brian and Rimgale split up down different halls. It’s the
HISS Brian hears first. Then the FLASH of an electrical socket
FLARING ice-cold cobalt blue. Suddenly the room’s dimensions
are there in frantic, strobing shadows. Chairs, a couch —
— And a figure that JUMPS Brian. the light from the burning
plug is a fierce strobe as the figure, a confused shadow,
crashes Brian to the floor. They STRUGGLE.
The figure GRABS Brian’s throat. Brian PUSHES him back
— Against the burning wall plug. The figure SHRIEKS in pain,
gets his hand on a crowbar and SLAMS Brian — who crumples,
dazed. The figure stands — just as Rimgale TACKLES him. The
figure CRASHES across a gas space heater, SNAPPING the
connection off. The figure SLAMS Rimgale HARD with the
crowbar, squirms free, and stumbles out the door.
Hissss… Rimgale climbs to his feet as fire eats at the
wall. A baby backdraft wagging its tail. He goes to a dazed
Brian’s side, lifting him by his armpits and
EXT. SWAYZAK HOUSE – NIGHT
helping him outside. Hissss… The ruptured space heater
pumps gas furiously. Rimgale sees that. He also sees a bedroom
door ajar on the far side of the house. And through the door
a couch. And on the couch, A body. Hissss…
INT. SWAYZAK HOUSE – NIGHT
Rimgale rushes back inside. It’s Swayzak, unconscious.
EXT. SWAYZAK HOUSE – NIGHT
Rimgale drags him out on the stoop beside Brian just as the
gas WHUMPS and the doors and windows EXPLODE in a HOWLING
FIREBALL, the shrapnel BLOWING Rimgale off his feet. Brian
slowly shakes his head clear. He looks around, tries to orient
Uh… I sorta got a problem here…
Brian climbs up to his feet and walks over to where Rimgale
lies at a weird angle, a piece of wrought iron fence punched
through his shoulder.
INT. HOSPITAL – EMERGENCY ROOM – NIGHT
Rimgale lies in an emergency room bed.
Well Brian, I guess you can say it’s
How ya feeling?
Did you pull me out?
Did I say thanks?
I hate hospitals. You’re so… so
Rimgale suddenly kicks the bed frame in anger. He kicks it
over and over with frustration till something finally SNAPS
off. Brian waits, let’s him vent his frustration.
So what do you want me to do?
I’ve been lying here hours… just
thinking… We’re close…
We’re not looking in the right place,
Brian. This one knows us and we’re
not looking in the right place…
INT. PRISON INTERVIEW ROOM – DAY
Brian’s sitting alone in a chair. Finally the opposite door
opens and in enters Ronald.
Well, Mr. Life magazine. Come all
this way just to say hi?
Brian hands him a stack of murder files.
I’m close… but I can’t get who it
So you came to me…
Well, this is going to be an
interesting afternoon after all…
As Ronald starts to read the files
INT. PRISON INTERVIEW ROOM – LATER – DAY
Brian still sitting there. Watching Ronald devour the
statistics. The photos of charred bodies. Ronald finishes,
Okay, here’s the deal. I’ll tell you
a story, you tell me one. Fair?
Who’s doing this?
Your first question should be who
isn’t. It isn’t a spark, Brian. Not
enough damage. And an insurance pro?
Where’s the profit margin?
Then who —
— No no, your turn. Tell me a story.
I don’t have a story.
Sure you do.
Ronald drops on the table a dog-eared copy of that 1972 LIFE
magazine with Brian on the cover.
Famous story even. Straight burn.
Just an engine and truck first on
scene. What did you feel, Brian,
when you first got there?
You gotta tell a story too, Brian.
It’s fair. C’mon, don’t think too
I… I thought it was great. I loved
it. It was nothing to these guys…
Right. Light smoke, low roll. Couple’a
civilians hollering — medium deal.
So young fireman Adcox and Captain
McCaffrey, they head up stairs, get
out on the fire escape — McCaffrey
does the ballsy jump across… what
were you feeling, Brian?
(Brian doesn’t answer)
C’mon, you promised. Be honest.
(Brian just stares)
— I wanted to be him. Right then I
wanted to be him more than anything…
Very good, Brian. — About your report
here. The way to a torch’s heart is
through his tools. That’s how you
know him. It’s the way he talks to
the fire. And to you if you listen.
That’s a probie answer. You’re smarter
than that, Brian.
Good. — So our two heroes, Adcox
and McCaffrey, they go back inside.
Only there’s another fire in there
nobody sees. And it took your dad,
didn’t it Brian? Did you see him
In a flash, Brian suddenly reaches across and grabs Ronald
by the collar.
Who the fuck is doing this?
After it took your dad… the fire…
did it look at you Brian? Did it
talk to you?…
And Ronald sees something in Brian’s eyes. He smiles.
You see, our world’s aren’t so
Brian releases Ronald.
Who’s doing this?
The arsonist smiles a creepy, horrible grin.
Think, Brian. Who doesn’t love fire,
but knows it better than anyone else?
Who’s around trychticholorate 24
hours a day?
A cold shock rolls through Brian as he slumps back in his
Oh Jesus Christ…
Not such a far walk after all, is
EXT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – MARINA – NIGHT
Brian climbs up onto Stephen’s boat. Nobody home. He opens
the cabin door, goes inside and hits the lights.
INT. STEPHEN’S BOAT – NIGHT
There’s cereal bowls in the sink, beer bottles on the table,
And a stack of fire department supplies in the corner.
His whole body aching with reluctance, Brian begins looking
through them. Solvents, Armorall, a small specialty can of
fire dept. chemicals. There’s a label of ingredients on it.
Way down at the bottom, Is trychticholorate. Nausea wracks
its way through Brian.
Oh goddamn it Stephen…
Footsteps. Brian spins around in stone shock as Stephen comes
into the cabin.
Hey, what are you doing here?
Just… Just wanted to say hello…
Brian backs away from the chemicals.
Well, long as you’re here you can
help clean up a little. I’ve got a
guy coming to look at this in a few
You’re selling dad’s boat?
Yeah, it’s just another memory in my
life right now. And I got way too
many of them…
I really should get back. There’s…
there’s something I’m supposed to
Yeah? What have you got to do?
Look at you. Look at your face. All
the things you must be thinking.
Man, you must really hate my guts.
Well, you know what? It’s okay.
Look, Stephen, maybe we can talk
about this some other —
— Okay, so you don’t like me. You
don’t like everything I’ve done.
What, because I wasn’t such a genius
the way I raised you? Jesus Christ,
dad was gone, what was I supposed to
do? You tell me, what the fuck was I
supposed to do?!
He KICKS the bulkhead wall.
It’s okay, Stephen, I —
— I tried, y’know? Helen’s right. I
don’t have all the answers, but
goddamn it, I’ve got some.
Look, you’re gonna do what you have
to, and maybe I shouldn’t have gotten
in the way. I’m your brother, not
your father. Go on. You gotta go
Brian turns to leave. Pauses.
I saw it.
When dad died, I saw another fire…
I saw it before it got them. I tried
to yell, but… He asked me to look
out for him. And I didn’t do it. I
let him die.
…Jesus, you been carrying that
around for twenty years? For christ’s
sake, you were seven years old! You
think he could have heard you in
I hate him so much sometimes, Stephen.
You don’t know how hard it was for
me to put that uniform on…
Maybe I do.
…What a fuckin’ mess, huh?
People can change Brian.
Sometimes right when you’re looking
Brian sees the chemicals in the corner again and something
freezes up inside. Stephen catches the look and there’s
horrible silence between them.
Oh God, Stephen, what’s going on
I don’t know, Brian… I don’t know…
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – NIGHT
Brian stands before the fire station. His brother’s and his.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – UPSTAIRS LOCKER ROOM
Brian PRIES the lock off Stephen’s locker. Starts looking
through it. Adcox comes out of the shower with a towel on,
starts shaving in a mirror. He doesn’t notice Brian. Adcox
turns to head for his own locker and the towel slips a little.
And Brian’s universe caves in.
An icy claw tears out his stomach. Gulping breaths, he forces
himself to look at Adcox’s back.
On it is a small, rectangular burn. It’s fresh and it’s the
size of a wall socket. At that moment Adcox turns. The two
of them stare at one another just a beat, then Adcox walks
past him. Just then the alarm bells RING. Brian hesitates a
beat, confused, then turns and runs down to
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – APPARATUS FLOOR
Where firemen are scurrying around, suiting up. Brian looks
frantically for Stephen, sees him out back.
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – BACK OF STATION – SUNDOWN
— Stephen, wait a minute. I gotta
talk to you. It’s Adcox, he’s —
— What are you doing here?
I saw Adcox’s back! I saw the burn!
I put it there! Jesus Christ, Stephen,
he’s been killing people!
How do you know?
I knew when you came looking for the
chemicals. Looking for me.
— What were they doing there?
They were for the fucking boat, Brian.
Grindles sticks his head out the back door.
We gotta roll, Stevie…
I’ll be there.
They’re waitin’ man.
I’ll be there, goddamn it!
Grindle goes back in.
What are we going to do about this?
I’ll handle it.
We gotta go to Rimgale, Stephen.
I’m his Lt. He’s my responsibility.
I’ll handle it. Me.
Stephen turns and walks toward the station.
Brian’s eyes go to a window just above it. There, watching
him, watching the whole exchange between brothers, is Adcox.
Adcox stares at Brian a beat, then finally disappears as
Brian hears the cough of diesel engines.
Oh, Christ. Stephen…
He starts running for the station.
INT./EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – NIGHT
— It’s too late. Adcox climbs aboard just as the engine
company pulls out and whistles down the street.
The ladder company is just easing onto the drive. Brian
hesitates only an instant, then runs to the equipment racks,
PULLS off the hooks his helmet, coat, boots — and jumps
onto the truck as it takes off in pursuit.
INT./EXT. ENGINE COMPANY 17 – NIGHT
As it howls down the avenue, Stephen turns around and stares
at Adcox sitting behind. The glimmer of an understanding…
INT./EXT. TRUCK COMPANY 46 – NIGHT
The laddermen look confused seeing Brian sitting among them.
A CAR Suddenly CUTS the truck company off. The driver SLAMS
the brakes, PUSHING the truck company into a HORRIBLE SKID.
The back fishtails, the wheels JUMP the curb, BASH a mailbox,
and then the whole rig ROLLS onto its side and DRAGS to a
It’s tangled confusion in the rear cab. Firemen, unhurt,
piled atop one another. Brian slides his way out from under
them and looks down the street where plumes of smoke rise
six blocks away.
He starts running.
EXT. WAREHOUSE FIRE – NIGHT
Flames and smoke curl from a huge industrial warehouse along
the river as Brian, panting, runs up. He searches frantically
through the maze of arriving engine companies, looking for
number 17. There it is but nobody’s home. Brian stops a
Where are they? Where’s 17?
On the roof.
Brian looks up at the smoke and whirling firestorm four
stories above him, feels the bile of fear in his throat, the
desperation, — And begins strapping on an air tank.
EXT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT
Brian, now fully suited up, climbs the endless rungs of an
extended aerial ladder.
EXT. WAREHOUSE ROOF – NIGHT
Tongues of flame ROCKET skyward through ragged holes. Black
clouds drift murderously, roofing tars bubble and hiss as
the roof itself GROANS like a comatose dinosaur, reminding
you the whole thing could go any minute — and you with it.
Trudging alone across this alien, spongy surface, Brian looks
for his company. It’s almost impossible to tell anyone apart,
faces hidden behind helmets and masks.
Suddenly a cloud of smoke clears and there’s two firemen
near the edge, “17” on their helmets.
The helmets look up. Stephen and Adcox. Facing each other.
Adcox cradles an axe.
Brian starts to move beside Stephen but Adcox turns, tightens
his grip on the axe, and now all the cards are on the table.
A hissing black cloud drifts through. They’re the only three
people on earth.
Adcox’s eyes are clouded with tears.
Aw man, Stephen, listen to me…
— What the fuck were you thinking,
huh? Burning people? You’re a fireman.
They were killing firemen, man. When
Sally showed me what was in Swayzak’s
files… They were my friends, I had
to do it. I had to do it for the
Did you do it for Tim?
(pain, to Stephen)
That was an accident! Jesus Christ,
why did you have to go in there so
fucking early? Why didn’t you listen
Brian and Stephen are backed up against the roof edge —
sixty feet up. Far below a fireboat has begun pumping a
massive stream at the side of the building.
You gotta let me finish —
Just come down, John. Just —
— Shut up! Your dad would fucking
puke if he saw how you’ve shit on
— Knock it off!
— You can’t let him turn you against
your friends, man —
— He killed people —
— You know what Swayzak would do to
the department if this got out? —
— Stephen, this is bullshit —
— What he would do to your dad’s
department? You gotta let me finish
And there’s a horrible glimmer of confusion on Stephen’s
You’re his Lt., Stephen…
Are you gonna handle it? Are you
…What do you want me to do, Stephen?
Talk to me. What am I supposed to
There’s a fire. We’ve got a job here.
Let’s get on with it.
EXT. WAREHOUSE – ACROSS THE ROOF – NIGHT
The rest of the crews are totally oblivious to what’s
happening through the smoke on the other side. Grindle and
Santos feel the roof go suddenly spongy beneath them.
Shit… It’s going! Clear the roof!
Everybody drops their equipment and runs for the edges as
EXT. WAREHOUSE ROOF – BRIAN ET. AL – NIGHT
Brian, Stephen and Adcox react as the roof HOWLS and GROANS
and huge SPLITS begin racing along it. And then it goes.
The center section DROPS, and in rolling waves of SCREECHING
steel, the hole spreads outward; DEVOURING.
Adcox shoves them aside and runs for his life as the hole
races for them, SWALLOWING roof.
Jesus Christ Brian, run! Run goddamn
And Brian balls-out dashes for the edge. Stephen’s made one
corner, Brian desperately heads for another. At the last
instant — as the HOWLING FLAME BELLOWS UP to his ankles —
Brian LEAPS OFF the roof —
EXT. WAREHOUSE – FIRE ESCAPE – NIGHT
— And falls half a story before CRASHING onto an exterior
fire escape. Flames have cut off the fire escape two floors
below, so Brian climbs down as far as possible, crawls onto
a ledge, KICKS out a window, steps through,
INT. WAREHOUSE – ELEVATOR SHAFT – NIGHT
Blackness and emptiness, two stories of it, before he CRASHES
into a pool of water at the bottom. He’s in a freight elevator
shaft, thrashing madly, drowning. Great SHEETS of WATER are
POURING through an upper doorway and CASCADING down like
EXT. WAREHOUSE – FIREBOAT
We see it’s coming from the fireboat’s rushing stream.
INT. WAREHOUSE – ELEVATOR SHAFT
The weight of his equipment is pulling Brian underwater.
Struggling against the insane swirls and the sheets of water
still POURING DOWN, Brian unhooks his air tank. He leans
back, tries to float on the rising column of water. — His
coat catches on something — YANKS him underwater. He
struggles feverishly — finally tears the coat off.
The building GROANS in earnest. Flaming chunks of plaster
CRASH down around Brian, forcing him to duck underwater. The
place is coming apart.
Ten feet above, one of the falling chunks SMACKS a gas main,
SPLITTING then IGNITING it. A white-hot JET OF FLAME SHOOTS
from one side of the shaft to the other.
Brian’s floating okay, he’s floating right up into the flames.
Brian tries to flatten himself out, to keep everything but
his nose below water, but he’s still moving up — the heat
becoming so intense his face flares and he’s ducking under
water now, trying to stay alive, trying to decide whether to
drown or burn —
— When there’s a CRASH. And suddenly another door on the
shaft is tearing open. There’s a glint of an axe. A
Brian has about two seconds left. In that time Stephen sees
the shut-off for the gas line mounted on the wall opposite.
It’s unreachable, a good twelve feet across a horizontal
curtain of flame. Before we can even assimilate that,
Stephen’s already jumped. A crazy leap over the fire. He
SMACKS the opposite wall, HITS the shut-off, and FALLS
CRASHING into the pool beside Brian.
You crazy son of a bitch, why couldn’t
you stay behind a desk where you
“You never know till the fire stares
you down if you’re gonna be –“
Oh shut up, huh?
I think I broke my goddamn arm…
Brian helps him stay above water. The level continues to
rise, bringing them finally even with an open doorway they
INT. WAREHOUSE – STAIRWAY – NIGHT
It leads to a stairwell that’s become a RAGING TORRENT of
water spilling down it. No way. They push through to the
next doorway and out onto
INT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT
The place is full of hundreds of chemical drums. The fire
has cracked its way into the room as WUMP — drums begin
EXPLODING, SHOOTING UPWARD Roman candle fountains of
glittering FLAME. Brian helps Stephen as they snake their
way past sweating drums — pressure valves hissing madly
with desperation. They duck low, round a corner,
INT. WAREHOUSE – CATWALK – NIGHT
— And walk right into an axe handle that SMACKS Brian’s
throat KNOCKING him gasping flat on his back. It’s Adcox.
Stephen JUMPS Adcox and TACKLES him on the edge of a metal
platform that extends out from the raised flooring.
You stupid son of a bitch! What the
fuck are you doing!
Adcox struggles against him, heaving and sobbing.
Let it go! Goddamn it let it go!
And Adcox releases the axe.
I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…
Brian’s on his feet now, coming toward them, when a chemical
drum below EXPLODES, the shock wave BUCKLING the platform
and DROPPING it several feet before it HOLDS. Brian, cut-
off, is HIT with a wall of debris.
Adcox and Stephen are FLUNG across the platform and THROUGH
the shattered railing. Stephen grabs a piece of broken,
dangling strut and hangs on with one hand.
In his other hand is Adcox. Hanging below him, his grip
Brian’s struggling to get out from under the debris. The
railing Stephen’s hanging onto is slick, his hand SLIPPING
along it. But he won’t let go of Adcox. His eyes bore into
his best friend’s with absolute conviction.
You go, we go.
The towering shots of FLAME from below have begun to IGNITE
Adcox’s pant leg. He’s starting to burn. But Stephen won’t
let go. Won’t let go even as the flames crawl up Adcox’s
back. And Stephen’s hand is slipping and slipping and then
it isn’t slipping anymore because it’s come off.
Adcox and Stephen FALL. There’s a narrow catwalk half-way
down. Stephen HITS with a sickening CRUNCH.
Adcox falls past it, down into the flames.
There’s an exposed I-beam running from the ruined platform
out over the catwalk. Brian climbs up onto it, balances across
over the fire below and jumps down to the catwalk where his
brother lies, battered but still alive.
You’re gonna be all right, man.
INT. WAREHOUSE – FLOOR – NIGHT
Brian looks down and across the factory floor. There, coming
through the doorway, is Pengelly and Nightengale with a
INT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT
Hey! Over here!
They start for him when another drum EXPLODES, FLATTENING
them and launching their hoseline into a crazy, thrashing
arc. The flame has cut them off from the hose. Stephen sees
what Brian’s thinking.
Wait for another hose team…
But Brian’s already moving for the catwalk ladder.
Wait for the goddamn hose team!
Brian puts his feet on the outside rungs of the ladder and
SLIDES down to the factory floor. He’s heading for the
hoseline when WHAM! — The fire cuts him off. Not just any
fire. That same one from so many years ago.
Don’t fuck with me, kid. I’m not in the mood.
Nightengale’s lost his helmet and it’s lying near the flames
spinning slowly upside down — just like his father’s. Brian
stands there, paralyzed, as the fire laughs at him. Same old
little kid with his finger up his ass. Then something
different comes into Brian’s eyes.
No… No more.
There’s a pathetic little wall extinguisher mounted on the
pole. Brian lifts it, approaches the fire. You can practically
hear the flames laugh at him. Brian suddenly turns and SLAMS
the neck of the extinguisher against the pole, BREAKING it
off before HEAVING the cannister HISSING into the flames
where it EXPLODES — a cloud of extinguisher powder that
STUNS the flames just long enough for Brian to dash through
and TACKLE the hose.
The fire shakes off the powder, rises up to kill — Just as
Brian spins and HITS it with the STREAM.
— And it’s like a howling train wreck as the two grapple
with each other — Pengelly and Nightengale have an opening,
and they’re dashing for the catwalk ladder up to Stephen
because the fire doesn’t care — it only has eyes for Brian
— And Stephen sees Brian tackle the monster, and his eyes
fill with tears —
— And the fire’s pushing Brian — pushing him with the fury
of a frightened street bully — but Brian won’t give — and
now the fire’s back’s broken — it’s whimpering, dying.
And Pengelly and Nightengale have climbed up to Stephen now,
pulling him away.
That’s my brother! That’s my brother
And the fire’s just a little gremlin now, sighing sadly as
Brian steps up with the hoseline.
Another time, friend.
And whoosh, it’s gone.
EXT. BURNED BUILDING – NIGHT
Brian rushes up as paramedics load his brother into an
You are such a pain in the ass…
As Brian jumps in with him
INT. AMBULANCE – NIGHT
Paramedics swarm over Stephen as the ambulance screams through
the night. Brian’s right there, holding his hand.
Don’t tell them about Adcox… Don’t
I’m sorry… I’m sorry I thought…
His brother squeezes Brian’s hand, his eyes never leaving
Oh shit, give him some lidocaine,
Who’s your brother?
Stephen’s EKG’s begun to falter. The other paramedic fires
off an injection into his IV.
His pressure’s fading — push some
The EKG’s become erratic. Stephen’s eyes never leave Brian’s.
Oh man, don’t you die… Don’t you
He’s going south… He’s gonna box
They put an ambo bag over Stephen’s face. The eyes never
Goddamn it don’t you die now… Not
They’re breathing for him now. The EKG begins shrieking.
The paramedics begin scrambling to load the defibrillator
pads on Stephen’s chest. But the fireman’s eyes never waver
from Brian. They look into his with complete conviction,
complete acceptance, And then they don’t.
FADE TO BLACK:
Then, FADE UP TO:
EXT. MICHIGAN AVE – DAWN
A silent, quiet street absolutely empty of traffic. Then
over the crest of Chicago’s mightiest thoroughfare, creeps
slowly a fire engine. It’s emergency lights are on but not
the siren. This engine isn’t in a hurry today.
Behind comes another fire engine. And another. Ten, twenty,
all of them creeping slowly along. And behind the engines
now walk firemen in their dress blues. Hundreds of them.
Walking silently in step behind
Loaded in the rear of Engine 17. Santos drives as Grindle,
Brian, and the men of ladder company 46, walk behind. The
silent procession passes under extended aerial ladders crossed
like dress swords. Average people stop, take their hats off.
EXT. LAKE SHORE DRIVE – THE SILENT PROCESSION
Sequence omitted from original script.
EXT. CEMETERY – DAY
Two coffins, lying side by side, draped in the blue and white
of the Chicago flag. A single fire helmet rests atop each
Brian stands at attention beside Helen. He holds the hand of
Stephen’s son Sean, his eyes clouded with tears as a fire
dept. honor guard plays Taps. Jennifer’s there, too far away
Rimgale, still wearing a head bandage, stands stiffly beside
a brass bell and speaks with a voice raw and weary.
In the Chicago Fire Department the
alarm code 3-3-5 signifies that the
company has returned home to quarters.
We will now ring out that code to
welcome home John Adcox and Stephen
With a small hammer Rimgale rings out 3-3-5 on the bell.
The honor guard folds the flag covering Stephen’s casket and
hands it to Helen, who holds it to her breast as we
EXT. CEMETERY – DAY
A sea of blue uniforms drifting across green as the funeral
breaks up. Brian hugs Helen and Sean. Lets them go.
EXT. CEMETERY EDGE – DAY
Rimgale’s there, resting against his dept. sedan as Brian
walks by, pauses, and leans on it beside him. A beat.
Your brother was a good man.
Another couple of good men get burned
up for their city? Is that how it’s
going to read?
(Brian doesn’t answer)
You’re the only one that knows.
Like it never happened…
Rimgale turns to walk back to his sedan. He pauses. Looks
back to Brian.
Want to help me with something?
INT. OFFICE – DAY
An elevator opens as Brian and Rimgale walk quickly out,
down a hall, and BURST into Swayzak’s office.
INT. SWAYZAK’S OFFICE – DAY
The Alderman’s there, giving a press conference from his
Mr. Swayzak! How ya doin’?
Rimgale sits on Swayzak’s desk.
I’m a little busy right now —
This’ll only take a minute. There’s
two cops outside that want to ask
you about this —
Rimgale drops the manning report on Swayzak’s desk.
This is just a guess of course, but
I think they’re gonna want to know
why you secretly paid Donald Cosgrove,
Jeffrey Holcomb and Alan Seagrave to
create a phony manpower study.
You guys’ll wait, right?
The room explodes with questions. Through the din Brian leans
over the desk very close to Swayzak.
See that glow flashing in the corner
of your eye? That’s your career
dissipation light. And it just went
into high gear.
Brian turns and pushes his way out. At the door he pauses
and looks back at Rimgale. The investigator nods and smiles
just a little…
INT. SWAYZAK’S OFFICE CORRIDOR
As Brian walks down it, Rimgale appears and calls to him.
Don’t keep looking over your shoulder
for the ghost. It’s gone now.
And there’s just a beat between the investigator and his
probie before Brian nods and walks away.
EXT. SWAYZAK OFFICE CORRIDOR
Brian walks down the hall. He passes Jennifer’s small office.
She’s in there, surrounded by packing boxes.
I think your boss is going to need
some spin control.
I quit two days ago, Brian.
What’ll you do?
I don’t have the slightest idea…
I’ll see ya around, huh?
It’s a small town.
EXT. FIRE STATION 17 – CITY
And morning breaking across the avenues and up against the
tired brick of firehouse 17.
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – LOCKER ROOM
Brian sits staring into his locker, lost in thought, his
equipment stacked up on the bench beside him. THE ALARM KLAXON
INT. FIRE STATION 17 – APPARATUS FLOOR
And firemen scurrying to their equipment on the apparatus
floor. They’re climbing aboard their rigs now and the pumper’s
diesel is coughing to life.
At the last moment, as it begins to pull out, Brian comes
sliding down the pole in his turn-out gear, bounces off the
floor, and climbs aboard as the engine WHISTLES away.
INT. ENGINE 17 – CAB
There’s a new fireman beside him on the bench. He can’t get
his coat buckled right. Brian leans over does it for him.
You’re doing it wrong.
EXT. FIRE ENGINE 17 – STREET – DAY
And the fire engine slips away from us, down the avenue,
into the city as we
FADE TO BLACK
THE END[amazonjs asin=”B006QJS9H0″ locale=”JP” title=”バックドラフト DVD”]