This is a play I wrote for the 2005 "10 Minute Play" festival in Oxford. It wasn't selected, but I like it a lot. Based on the true story.
A play by:
Randy M. Wadkins
Based on the Douglas County and Sarpy County, Nebraska, 911 transcripts.
Cast of characters:
On stage: DISPATCHER: lone female 911 dispatcher
Off stage: WAMSLEY(Michael Wamsley) and HORNICKEL(Janelle Hornicke)l, who are never seen but only heard over the telephone.
On stage: a desk at center stage, facing the audience, lit from above with a circular floodlamp to form a circle of light around the desk. On the front of the desk: a shield with large letters reading “Omaha Sheriff’s Dept.”. A woman in a 911 operator’s uniform sits at the desk. There is a telephone with a speaker on the desk. The voices from the speaker and the 911 dispatcher are broadcast over the theater sound system. All voices from WAMSLEY and HORNICKEL are static-laced, simulating poor cell phone reception.
Backdrop: a projected image of a snowy forest covering the whole backdrop of the stage.
No other objects on stage.
The image of the forest begins to darken to ultimately yield white trees on a purple background. During the fade, the first 45 seconds of the Handsome Family’s “Last Night I Went Out Walking in the Woods” plays over sound system. The song fades with the lighting in the forest image until we are left with only the purple-lighted trees in the backdrop and the circularly lit 911 desk.
Song lyrics of first 45 seconds of LNIWOWITW(by Brett Sparks):
“Last night I went out walking out on the edge of town, not going no place special, only wandering around.”
The words “12:28 am” fade in and out in white letters on the purple backdrop as song fades out.
The 911 operator’s telephone rings.
DISPATCHER: Omaha 911
HORNICKEL: Hi, um, I'm here to report, um, I feel very threatened, hello, hello, can you hear me, hello, I'm at (garble) the Mandalay apartment complexes.
DISPATCHER: Are you in Omaha?
DISPATCHER: OK, what's your emergency?
HORNICKEL: Hi, I'm in Omaha like in the Mandalay apartment complexes, only like right above them in the trees, the living area, and there's a lot of Mexicans and African Americans and they're all dressed up in like these cult outfits, and they're moving all the vehicles, the Mandalay ones they were above ... They blocked us all up in these trees up above Mandalay on Pacific...
DISPATCHER: Whoa, whoa, your phone's breaking up for one, ma'am. I'm having trouble understanding what you're actually saying.
HORNICKEL: ... They blocked us all in these trees above Mandalay apartments on Pacific.
DISPATCHER: What's the address?
HORNICKEL: Right above Mandalay apartments.
DISPATCHER: What is the address?
HORNICKEL: My address at Mandalay is 7524. The address for this is in the trees right above those complexes... (WAMSLEY in background: There's no power.) There's no power here (crying) ... (WAMSLEY in background: Get an officer here now!)
DISPATCHER: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. 7524 - what street?
HORNICKEL: Poppleton Plaza. Those are the complexes they're taking the cars from.
DISPATCHER: You're not helping me any by not giving me the full address.
HORNICKEL: Omaha Nebraska 68124.
DISPATCHER: That is your mailing address. 7524 what?
HORNICKEL: Poppleton. Plaza. I don't know how to get out of here. They blocked us in here. ... They even have our pickup, and we're trying to find a way we can push through and there's nothing.
DISPATCHER: Is it people moving cars because of the snow?
HORNICKEL: Well, they're hiding them in the trees and breaking them down and stuff.
DISPATCHER: Hiding what in the trees?
HORNICKEL: The cars.
DISPATCHER: How are they getting the cars in the trees?
HORNICKEL: They're ... breaking them down, taking the pieces of cars off, moving the pieces of metal around, and they're going in there.
DISPATCHER: In the trees?
HORNICKEL: In the trees.
DISPATCHER: What's your name?
DISPATCHER: Janelle, how many people are out there?
HORNICKEL: I don't know. (to WAMSLEY: How many do you think are out here?) (To DISPATCHER) There's ton of them. (WAMSLEY to HORNICKEL: There's a hundred, 200.) (To DISPATCHER) Oh, I have no idea there's a ton of them. I don't know...
HORNICKEL: Do I just keep driving back and forth until I can get out? Or - I don't - why won't they let us out?
DISPATCHER: And they're taking the cars apart and putting them in the trees?
HORNICKEL: Yes. ... unless the owner is there moving the car for them. If the person is there they let them. Otherwise they do it themselves. And they they're putting them in the trees. And I can't find my car. I just have our pickup. (groan) They're very native looking - tribal ... They're in the trees and carving them... There's a lot of trails back...
DISPATCHER: Is that north, south, east or west of the apartments?
HORNICKEL: (Asks WAMSLEY: Are they east or west of the apartments, would you say?) (To DISPATCHER:) Straight south. Go down 75th, go straight into them. Yeah, I think I'm just going to have to start running and get out of here. I don't know who else to call. OK, thank you. (plaintively)
DISPATCHER: All right.
HORNICKEL: I just don't know what else to do. I hope we have enough gas to keep moving around until we find a way out.
DISPATCHER: OK. Help's on the way, ok?
HORNICKEL: OK. How long do you think it will be?
DISPATCHER: It takes time to get out there because of the snowy conditions.
HORNICKEL: Can the helicopter go over the trees?
DISPATCHER: The helicopter cannot fly in this kind of weather.
DISPATCHER: They're on their way, OK?
DISPATCHER: OK, bye. (Dial tone)
The words “1:00 am” fade in and out in white letters on the purple backdrop.
911 Phone rings.
DISPATCHER: Omaha 911
WAMSLEY: Yes, my girlfriend placed a call earlier, out by an old sandpit.
DISPATCHER: Out by where?
WAMSLEY: Out by a sandpit, oh, probably around, oh 75th and Poppleton ...
DISPATCHER: (interrupts) OK,, let me transfer you ...
WAMSLEY: (interrupts) ... No, no, no, please, (garble) a chance to, my phone's going to die, I need some help now ...
DISPATCHER: What's going on?
WAMSLEY: (crying) I need someone, please.
DISPATCHER: What's your address?
WAMSLEY: I don't know the exact address here. I just lost my vehicle here. I went to go find it. I couldn't find it, and ...
DISPATCHER: And what's the name of the building again?
WAMSLEY: There's not a building. It's an old gravel pit, like gravel pit, where they pump gravel out of the ground.
DISPATCHER: Where are ... (Silence, then dial tone.)
The words “1:05 am” fade in and out in white letters on the purple backdrop.
DISPATCHER: Omaha 911.
WAMSLEY: Yeah, we ...here, honey, talk to them ...
HORNICKEL: COOOOLD ... Omahaaaa ... freeze ...
WAMSLEY: OK, it's out by an old gravel ... old gravel pond. Oh, please help us.
DISPATCHER: I'm trying to figure out where you're at... Are you pretty close to Omaha?
WAMSLEY: We're right up from Pacific. I mean, we're like not even like three blocks. We're going to freeze to death if we don't get somebody out here now.
DISPATCHER: Are you in a car?
WAMSLEY: No, we're walking right now. We've lost our transportation.
DISPATCHER: I'm going to get you the Omaha State Patrol. Hang on.
WAMSLEY: Come on, honey. Let's walk. (Dial tone)
The words “1:45 am” fade in and out in white letters on the purple backdrop
911 phone rings.
DISPATCHER: Omaha 911
WAMSLEY: We made, I don't know how many calls to you ...
DISPATCHER: OK, you're at 75th and Poppleton?
WAMSLEY: Please, ma'am ... listen to us (garble) ... a lady told us four times that she can't do anything, I, I begged her. (Crying, female voice in background) If you can, please help.
WAMSLEY: Yes, (crying) please, we're somewhere out by a lake.
DISPATCHER: What lake are you by?
WAMSLEY: (female voice in background, unintelligible, pleading) I don't know, it's like an old private something, where they pump gravel...
DISPATCHER: OK, she needs to stop yelling in the back because I can't hear you, and I need to find out where you're at. What lake are you at?
WAMSLEY: I don't know, I'm not from Omaha or area originally.
DISPATCHER: OK, that's fine, but I need you to calm down just a little bit here so I can help you, OK? Um, is it near a gravel, (female voice, pleading in background) she needs to stop, I can't when she yells, I can't hear you she needs to stop. You're near a lake and you're near a gravel pit.
WAMSLEY: It's not in use, does not look like it's been used for a long time.
DISPATCHER: OK, well, I can't trace where you're at, do you understand where I'm coming from? Are you guys out in the country?
WAMSLEY: We don't live in the country.
DISPATCHER: OK,…there's some gravel, there's some sandpits you said?
WAMSLEY: Yeah. (panting, unintelligible) Please help us.
DISPATCHER: I'm trying. What were, what were you trying to get to when you got lost?
WAMSLEY: We were trying to get, to get my pickup back, my pickup got, somebody took it, and then I seen it this morning up here, so I went to come get it and I (garble) it, and...
DISPATCHER: Could you describe to me, like any of the street names that you've come across tonight, the last thing you remember seeing?
WAMSLEY: (Crying) OK, well, ma'am I don't know exactly but I need help. I talked to 'em, I told the lady, and my phone's just about to die. You're my last chance here... I see like a, one little building with a little shack on ... with a light on.
DISPATCHER: OK, how far away are you from the shack?
WAMSLEY: We aren't right in the, that shack is 50 yards, and I think my pickup's sitting right over there, too, but um ... (garble)
DISPATCHER: OK, is there a phone number on that shack at all?
WAMSLEY: I can't tell you, it's too dark. (panting)
DISPATCHER: What brought you to that location?
WAMSLEY: My pickup.
DISPATCHER: Why would your pickup go to that location?
WAMSLEY: I don't know because I - we've - we've noticed a bunch of stuff going ... and we've saw there was a bunch of people coming and going this way, and, um, we're following them.
DISPATCHER: So you thought there might be a party in the area or something?
WAMSLEY: Yeah. I don't know. ... We're going to start walking up that way.
DISPATCHER: Where are you walking to?
WAMSLEY: We're going to start walking over there, like further north.
DISPATCHER: OK, you're probably best if you just go back to the truck so you can stay warm.
WAMSLEY: It's on its top.
WAMSLEY: It's rolled over on its top.
DISPATCHER: Oh, it's on its top.
WAMSLEY: Yeah, I need help.
DISPATCHER: Yeah, you know we're doing the best we can.
WAMSLEY: I understand, ma'am. (woman moaning) I don't know how much I can go -
DISPATCHER: Is there anybody in the truck, or is it just you and your girlfriend?
WAMSLEY: Me and my girlfriend.
DISPATCHER: Did you get off a highway to get into the sandpit, or did you ...
WAMSLEY: No, it's just off of 75th street, far as I understand.
DISPATCHER: 75th Street?
WAMSLEY: Yes, it's like you take 75th straight back here far as I understand.
DISPATCHER: You understand, the only thing we do know is that you're hitting off a cell tower at 216th Street. So can you do the math? 216th minus 75 is …well... so, let's try to forget the 75th Street, because that just doesn't kind of make sense. OK? So let's try to rethink it here, OK?
WAMSLEY: (crying) Help. I don't know (garble) I'm freezing.
DISPATCHER: OK, we're hurrying, we're getting there as fast as we can. We don't know where you're at.
WAMSLEY: I know, just get on to 75th and go south. I went straight into here, there's some just winding little ... (garble) trails.
DISPATCHER: What was the last business you remember seeing? Did you stop and get beer or something somewhere?
WAMSLEY: No-o, ma'am, I don't drink.
HORNICKEL in background: Oh my...
WAMSLEY to HORNICKEL: What's the matter, honey? What's wrong? What's wrong?
WAMSLEY to DISPATCHER: We saw some lights on.
DISPATCHER: OK, try to flag them down.
WAMSLEY: Well, no, no, no, no, it's the people in the shack that are flashing the light on top of the shack.
DISPATCHER: Oh there's people on the shack?
DISPATCHER: Go talk to them. Go to the people in the shack.
WAMSLEY: They don't, we tried, they won't talk, we tried to ask for help, we begged.
DISPATCHER: OK, tell them that the police are on the phone, and hand them your phone. OK? Tell them that the police are on the phone, and hand them the phone. Hand the people with the light your phone.
WAMSLEY: I can't go over there. I can't make it that far. There's no way because they have all kinds of dogs through here.
DISPATCHER: Yell at them and say 'Can you hear me?'
WAMSLEY (yelling): Can you hear me? Oh, please, can you hear us? Can you please help us? I have someone on the phone, just talk to them, I need help! Please! Please! Please anyone help me! Come on! It's too cold. (panting)
DISPATCHER: Are they responding to you?
WAMSLEY: No. I don't think they speak English and I don't know any (garble) other languages.
(HORNICKEL moans in background.)
WAMSLEY to HORNICKEL: Honey, c'mon, get up.
DISPATCHER: Is she starting to lay down?
WAMSLEY: Yeah, she (garbled) breathing. Please (crying) can you send somebody here now?
DISPATCHER: I want to help you so bad, hon, I want to find out where you're at.
WAMSLEY to HORNICKEL: C'mon, baby. (HORNICKEL's talking in background)
WAMSLEY: I'm freezing, and my girlfriend is freezing, and (panting)
DISPATCHER: That's why we want to help you. And the people in the shack don't speak English?
WAMSLEY: They're not in the shack, they're in a little, like, looks like a toll booth style thing, just glass windows all the way around.
DISPATCHER: There's what?
WAMSLEY: We are sitting in like a toll booth looking thing right now.
DISPATCHER: You're sitting in a toll booth.
WAMSLEY: Something like that.
DISPATCHER: OK, what happened with all these 200-and-some people taking car parts?
WAMSLEY: Oh they're all just out (garble) Lot of them are standing out on the pond. And they keep like signaling with lights.
DISPATCHER: Have you done any kind of drugs tonight?
WAMSLEY: No, I haven't done (garble) drugs. I don't do 'em, seriously, ma'am, I just, I really don't.
DISPATCHER: Well, how come all these 200 people that you see, how come they can't help you?
WAMSLEY: Ma'am, I don't think they speak any English.
DISPATCHER: OK, but I speak all kinds of different languages. So I need for you to get one of those people that don't speak English on the phone. They understand hand signals to wave them over to come to you.
WAMSLEY: (Yelling aside) Hello! Could you please talk to her on the phone? Can I get help? Can you talk to her? Please? Help me? Can you please help me? (garble) Our phone's like really going dead. (HORNICKEL's talking in background) It's gonna die, ma'am.
DISPATCHER: No, I've listened to many cell phones that are dying and ...
WAMSLEY: It's beeping like every two seconds.
DISPATCHER: OK, so how many people do you see that aren't moving? I'm talking about people. How many people do you see?
WAMSLEY: OK. Let's see. (counting) 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 -
DISPATCHER: OK, you can stop counting now.
WAMSLEY: OK, I can keep walking back, walk down the road here so I can still tell you more, but ma'am, I just, I don't know (garble) (HORNICKEL's voice in background) (garble) my girl…
The words “4:20 am” appear in white letters fade in and out on the purple backdrop. The last 45 seconds of LNIWOWITW play, the music rising slowly.
Lyrics: “The river's water runs so cool it calms my burning skin. It takes away my aching thoughts and cleanses all my sin. So let it flow on, take me down, to sleep that quiet sleep. And roll my body back to you-my love you may always keep.”.
911 phone rings.
DISPATCHER: Omaha 911.
WAMSLEY: (garble) I've just escaped (garble).
The words “I’ve just escaped” appear in white letters on purple backdrop and stay there.
DISPATCHER: Where are you at? ...
WAMSLEY: (garble) front gate (garble).
DISPATCHER: Front gate of what?
WAMSLEY: Front gate ...
DISPATCHER: We're trying to find you. You were in a shed. You're out walking again? Are there any houses around you?
WAMSLEY: No. No houses.
Circular light over desk fades to black.
Words “I’ve just escaped” fade out.
The following words in white fade in on purple backdrop:
“’Crank’: Slang term for methamphetamine.”