Dead Line

The ghost of a beautiful young woman, murdered by a serial killer, enters a young man's life, bringing chaos with her.

Beautiful, carefree young MEGHAN MANNING is waiting in line with her friends to get into a club, when ALFRED PROBST drives by, staring at her. The bouncer runs him off, but later, as Meghan leaves, Probst kidnaps her from the parking lot—the last we see is him covering her mouth, wrestling her into his car and driving off.

A grimy, empty building in an abandoned industrial park: broken windows, graffiti, chunks of broken concrete and litter everywhere. In a room on a stained, torn mattress, lies Meghan, dead.


Headlines proclaim that Alfred Probst, a serial killer guilty of several murders of young college women, has been caught, thanks to the testimony of the bouncer, who remembers Probst hanging around the club. Meghan’s body has never been found. Probst tries to use the location of Meghan’s and other bodies as bargaining chips to avoid the death penalty, but it doesn’t work.

Alfred Probst is executed by lethal injection. After he is pronounced dead on the gurney, he “hears” his name called and opens his eyes to see shadowy arms reach up from a black hole beneath him and begin to wrap around him. He shrieks and struggles—even though his earthly body remains dead and motionless on the gurney amid oblivious staff cleaning up the execution scene. PRESENT DAY

Young college student NICK BARRETT, 20, is haunted by the death of his drug dealer father, TOM, ten years ago. Nick's mother, TERRI, has remarried the surly and controlling KEN TATUM, who pushes Nick around and taunts him that he will turn out a loser like his dad. Despite these conflicts, Nick lives at home and attends community college. He and his girlfriend, DARBY HUDSON plan to transfer to the University and live together. One night while Nick and Darby's friends are visiting for a party, the front door opens and Meghan enters. She says she is a college student, new in town. Her beauty and air of mystery attract attention. She is welcomed, introduced around etc. Later, when everybody is stoned, Meghan announces that she has a phone number that connects people with the dead. Nick joins the skeptics in poo-pooing this "scam." It's just a way to hustle money out of people who have lost a loved one, they tell Meghan. No, it’s real. Meghan insists. When Nick's mother, Terri, and stepfather, Ken, arrive home unexpectedly, Ken is furious that Nick has had people over when Ken is not home. Nick gets into a fistfight with his stepfather, which his mother breaks up. Nick's friend. REED looks for Meghan to offer her a ride home, but she has disappeared. That night, as Nick nurses a bruised cheek from the fight with his stepfather, he discovers the phone number of the "Dead Line" in his pocket. He impulsively dials the number. A voice answers and commands Nick to reveal a secret—any secret. Nick sheepishly confesses that he is attracted to Meghan. He then asks to speak with his father's long-dead dog, who had been with him at the drug bust. Seconds later, a dog barks over the phone. Nick laughs and jokingly tells the dog to "bite my stepfather on the ass" and hangs up. Early next morning as the stepfather, Ken, leaves for work, he is attacked in his yard and mauled by a feral dog. A short time later, Ken dies. Horrified that he may have "caused" this, Nick keeps his guilty secret and vows to avoid the Dead Line.

He encounters Meghan in town and takes her to coffee, where he confesses that he called the Dead Line and feels guilty about what he said to the dog. Meghan asks him if he thinks that death is permanent and forever. Nick says “of course.” But Meghan says she knows for a fact that the dead can live again. Drawn irresistibly to Meghan and feeling guilty for cheating on Darby, Nick invites Meghan home. In his room, Meghan tells Nick that she can prove death is not forever. The dead have another life.

They dial the Dead Line number together, and this time Nick asks to speak to his dead father TOM.

To his shock, a man who claims to be Tom speaks to him on the phone --- and begs his forgiveness for being a lowlife and a bad father. Shaken, Nick shuts off the phone. Very confused and troubled, Nick makes love to Meghan, who spends the night in his room.

The next morning, as they are leaving, Nick encounters his mother, Terri, on the stairs saying goodbye to her handsome new boyfriend, BRETT, who has spent the night in her room. Now that Ken is dead, Terri is trying her wings and meeting other men. Nick is embarrassed, but Meghan greets Terri enthusiastically. She tells Nick it’s time for his mom to have some fun in her life. Meghan introduces Nick to a crowd of bizarre-looking friends, who arrive to party in his house. Meghan never tells Nick where she goes when she leaves him.

Nick takes Darby to coffee and confesses that he has cheated with Meghan; Darby is heartbroken. She can’t believe Nick would abandon her like this. She is consumed with jealousy. When Nick goes to the rest room, she grabs his phone and finds the number for the Dead Line.

Alone later, Darby calls and on impulse asks to speak with Ken, Nick's dead stepfather. When a voice comes on the phone, Darby tells Ken that his widow Terri is running around with a new lover. Ken ambushes Brett, Terri’s handsome new boyfriend, at his workplace and murders him.

Darby finds out from Nick that Brett is dead. She confesses that she had called the number and spoken to “Ken.” Nick tells Darby that the Dead Line is real, and that Darby is responsible for summoning Ken—and causing Brett’s death.

Now, Ken wants to kill Nick for what he did—commanding the dog to kill him.

Nick and Ken fight.

Just as Nic is getting the worst of it, Nick's father, TOM, appears and fights Ken to protect his son.

In the midst of the battle, Meghan returns and hurls a vial of the holy water used at her own funeral onto Ken. A fierce howl erupts from him, and a glowing circle grows around him. As Ken curls into the fetal position, a huge black shadow covers him. When the shadow disappears, Ken is gone. Meghan breaks down and confesses the truth: that she was once a young, innocent girl who was murdered by a serial killer. We FLASH BACK on Meghan ambushed by the killer PROBST and carried off to the industrial park. We see her terror and futile efforts to escape.

Now, even though Probst was caught and sent to hell by execution, Meghan still wanders the earth as an innocent, haunted soul, unable to accept her death. She still wants to live and love. But now Meghan realizes that she does not belong among the living, and she is only bringing misery to these people. She and Tom return sadly to limbo. Nick and Darby reunite and all is forgiven.

Later at night, Nick awakens and on impulse, dials the "dead line." He gets only a message that the number is disconnected.

Script Excerpt
Written by:
Starring Roles For:
Chris Pine type
a younger Mila Kunis
Younger Hillary Duff
In the Vein Of:
Beneath the Surface
Author Bio:
Author website: Amazon Page:

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in fiction in 2021 and 2016

I wrote the feature film, Murder in Fashion, about the shooting of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The film played at theatres and festivals and was reviewed in the NY Times:

My short story, published in Cornell University's literary magazine, Epoch, is currently under option to Sony and Road Less Traveled Productions.

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