Dr. Death by Jonathan Kellerman–Treatment and selected scenes

Dr. Death could be made into a feature length film but the story and the number of characters make the book more suitable for a crime drama episode.               The main characters are Alex the narrator and his friend and colleague on the homicide squad, Milo. Alex is a physiologist who does consulting work with the LAPD.  A “doctor” Mate resembling Jack Kevorkian has been brutally murdered and cut to pieces and Milo has caught the case.  There are three main suspects in the crime: Richard Doss, a prominent businessman whose wife was killed by Mate. A serial killer called Michael Burke whose existence is introduced by an FBI agent Fusco. Mate’s son Donny, who is a homeless criminal type. The killer is Michael burke, who “discovered” the body of Dr. Mate. He is killed by agent Fusco before being arrested. The story begins with Alex and Milo examining the scene where Mate was murdered, a parking lot on a deserted road. They spend a good deal of time examining the scene where they talk about the mind and motivations of the killer. The scene is chaotic, with CSI type people running around.  They also interview the people who found the body, one of whom turns out to be the killer.  This is a brief interview because the “witness” is not a suspect until near the end.We see the other side of Alex’s professional life after this as he talks to an old patient Richard Doss who needs counseling for his daughter.  Richard Doss is immediately a suspect in the story because Mate killed his wife and he was extremely angry.  Doss is bossy and obnoxious and very happy to hear Mate has been killed.            Since the story revolves around the search for Mate’s killer, it would be effective to have a montage of the research Alex does on Mate.  We discover that Mate was an attention seeker and might have killed for personal satisfaction rather than for moral reasons.There is a growing tension between Alex and Milo concerning Doss because Alex wants to keep his patients confidentiality and Milo thinks he is a prime suspect.The second suspect is introduced by a visit to Mate’s house where the landlady reports a bum sneaking in.  Mate’s previously unknown wife is near the house and tells Alex and Milo about her son with Mate, who might be hostile towards his father. The son Donny is now a suspect and his whereabouts are unknown.An FBI agent Fusco contacts Alex and Milo and says he has something that could help their investigation.  They all meet at a coffee shop where the agent gives the pair a large folder on a Michael Burke.  The FBI man acts strangely and we don’t know why at this point.  According to Fusco, the killer is probably Burke, who has been a serial killer for a long time and many of his victims were similar to the patients of Dr. Mate. Both Doss and Donny Mate become more suspicious as the story progresses. Doss becomes a more suspicious character because of the therapy Alex has with his daughter, who reveals how unbalanced her father is. Donny becomes more suspicious when they find a gruesome painting done by him at his father’s house.During a therapy session with Doss’s daughter, Doss is arrested for hiring someone to kill Mate.  A former employee made a deal with the police and told them that Doss hired him to kill Mate.  The former employee did not go through with it but the detective thinks he may have tried again.Finally looking through the file agent Fusco gave him, Alex finds a clue that makes it seem very likely that Michael Burke is the killer. Alex sees a hypodermic needle in an old crime scene photo that matches one found at the scene of Mate’s murder.Alex has a meeting with Doss, who claims that he did hire someone to kill mate but that when that didn’t happen, he didn’t attempt it a second time. We don’t know if he is lying at this point.Mate’s son appears, beaten up and taken to an LA hospital. The man is mentally unstable and a drug addict but an intense questioning session with Alex reveals that he probably did not kill his father.  He wanted to but he didn’t get the chance.While searching for the elusive lawyer of Mate, Alex stumbles upon the dead bodies of the lawyer and a friend of Mate. They are tied to a tree and are carved up just like Dr. Mate and the victims of Michael Burke.  At this point it is pretty clear that the person from Fusco’s files is the person who killed Mate.  Milo believes that Burke was a covert assistant to Dr. Mate, which would explain why he killed the lawyer also.  There is a problem with agent Fusco because when Alex calls the FBI to talk to the agent, two other FBI agents tell him that agent Fusco has gone AWOL and is under investigation.  It appears that Fusco believes Michael Burke killed his daughter and has taken the case too personally.With this new information in mind, Alex and Milo take another look as Fusco’s file to find a fresh lead.  Through discussions about the motivations of the killer, Alex notices a similarity in the descriptions and statements of the people who found many of the victims.  One statement in particular catches his attention and we get a flashback to the witness at the scene of mate’s murder.  Alex has solved the case but the killer is still out there. Alex and Milo can’t find anything on the killer so they go searching for a lead on the girls he was with. They manage to locate the girl’s sister who tells them how creepy her sister’s boyfriend is and a few places they might be able to locate her.Milo and Alex go on the search immediately because they believe that Michael Burke is planning to kill the girl.  Eventually they trace her car to a remote cabin in the woods and they approach the place with caution.They sneak up and spy on the cabin where they see the killer and the girl.  It appears that the killer is planning another murder and just as Milo is about to jump out and arrest Burke, he is killed by a sniper rifle.  The killer of Burke is assumed to be the renegade FBI man Fusco.

The case has been solved and Alex and Milo return to write their reports on the serial killer Michael Burke. Richard Doss goes to jail for the attempt to hire someone to kill mate and the other suspects are released.  Special agent Fusco has taken revenge and is not captured or proven to be the shooter.

 

Scene I

 

FADE IN:

 

EXT PARKING LOT WITH VAN AND ORANGE CAR   DAY

 

MILO is sitting on hood of orange car and ALEX pulls into parking lot in own car.

 

MILO

Alex.

 

ALEX

Big guy.

Going cowboy?

 

MILO

My Georgia O’Keeffe period.

 

Milo laughs and turns to look at van

 

ALEX

No attempt to conceal.

 

Milo shrugs and walks to the van

 

MILO

We know where the van came from.

The rental sticker traces back to an avis in Tarzana,

Mate rented it last Friday, got the weekend rate.

 

ALEX

Preparing for another mercy mission?

 

MILO

That’s what he uses vans for, but so far

no one has come forth claiming mate stood

him up.

 

ALEX

I’m surprised the companies still rent to him.

 

MILO

They probably don’t. The paperwork was done

by an Alice Zoghbie, a right to die activist who

is out of the country as of Saturday.

 

ALEX

She rented the van and split the next day?

 

MILO

Apparently. I called her and the machine said she

Will be back in a week. She’s on my to do list.

(taps notepad)

 

ALEX

I wonder why Mate never bought a van.

 

MILO

From what I’ve seen so far he was cheap.

He’s got a budget car and a barren apartment,

He used to use cheap motels.

 

ALEX (nodding)

He liked to leave the bodies on the bed for

The maids to find. I saw him on TV defending

 himself, saying the setting doesn’t matter.

 

MILO (suspiciously)

You’ve been following Mate’s career?

 

ALEX

Didn’t have to, he wasn’t exactly media shy.

Any tracks of other cars nearby?

 

Milo shakes his head

 

ALEX

So you’re wondering if the killer drove

Up with Mate.

 

MILO

Or parked farther down the road, or

Left no tracks, or forensics missed something,

I mean no one even noticed the damned

Van and its been sitting here for hours.

 

ALEX

What about shoe prints?

 

MILO

Just the people who found the van.

 

ALEX

What’s the time of death estimate?

 

MILO (looking at watch)

Between one and four am, Mate

was found just after sunrise.

 

ALEX

The paper said the people who

found him were hikers, they sure were

up early.

 

MILO

Couple of yuppies walking the dog,

 they were headed up the dirt road when they

noticed the van.

 

ALEX

Any other people come by? There is a large housing

development nearby.

 

MILO

High-priced development. Guess the rich

get to sleep in.

 

ALEX

There might be someone else we missed.

 

MILO

Its possible but how many cars have you seen

on this road?

 

Alex turns and looks at deserted road

 

MILO

And even if someone saw the van there

is no reason to stop and look inside, it just doesn’t stand out

 

ALEX

It stood out to the yuppies.

 

MILO

Their dog wouldn’t stop barking at it

so they went and looked and I think its

 safe to say they won’t be taking this path

again.

 

ALEX

That bad?

 

MILO

Dr. Mate was hooked up to his own machine.

 

ALEX

The Humanitron.

 

MILO

Yeah I figured the machine would be high tech but

it looks like a failed grade school science project.

 

ALEX

It worked.

 

MILO

It worked fine fifty times and that’s what I

have to go on, fifty potentially angry families.

I have a long list.

 

ALEX

Maybe Mate hooked himself up to

the machine

 

MILO

The machine was just for show, the

killer carved him like a turkey and Mate

probably bled to death during the cutting.

 

ALEX

Lord.

 

MILO

He was castrated and there were eight other cuts

using a scalpel or scissors, Squares, like the killer

was playing around.

           

ALEX

Proud of himself. He preformed surgery

and it sounds like a mess. Are you sure

there’s no blood outside the van? (looking around)

 

MILO

Not one speck, this guy was extremely careful.

 

ALEX

The killer wanted the body to be found, he

left everything in the open, like he is saying look at what I did.

What was the body position?

MILO

Laying on his back head near the front seat.

 

ALEX

Mate prepares the van, the killer uses it.

What a power trip.

 

MILO (after thinking for a minute)

There’s something that needs to be kept quiet,

the killer left a note nailed to Mate’s sternum

“Happy traveling, you sick bastard.”

     

Scene II

 

INT PSYCHOLOGIST OFFICE   DAY:

 

ERIC and Alex are sitting in chairs facing each other.  Eric looks at boards games

 

ERIC

 Hey lets play candyland, see who gets to the

 top of the mountain first.

 

ALEX

Nothing wrong with having a sweet life.

 

ERIC (emotional)

Everything’s a punch line with you, making

your fucking point. Well thanks for the

fuckin insight doc!

 

The intercom buzzes and the receptionist comes on.

 

RECEPTIONIST

Sorry for interrupting you but we have a problem out here.

   

INT WAITING ROOM:

 

RICHARD and STACY are standing next to two cops, KORN and DEMETRI as Alex and Eric enter.

  

RICHARD

These two gentlemen are waiting to take me to the police station

 

KORN

Hey doc, nice place.

 

RICHARD (mad)

You know him!

 

ALEX

What’s going on?

 

KORN

Like Mr. Doss said, we’re taking him in.

 

ALEX

For what?

 

KORN

Questioning.

 

ALEX

In regards to?

 

DEMETRI

This is not your business. We interrupted you

so Eric can take his sister home.

 

STACY

Daddy?

 

Richard looks away and doesn’t answer.

 

RICHARD

First I’m calling my lawyer.

 

KORN (sighing)

Fine.

  

RICHARD

This is Richard Doss, please get max on the line…

Whats that? When?… ok its really important  that

I talk to him…No no I can’t get into it right now,

 just call him in aspen…I’ll be at the west LA police

station.

 

DEMETRI

Let’s get going.

 

Scene III

 

EXT RURAL ROADSIDE WITH ONE CAR PARKED NEXT TO MAILBOX

 

ALEX and MILO are standing next to the car looking up the driveway.

 

MILO

No sense announcing ourselves, lets

 see if we can get a view of the cabin.

 

CUT TO: EXT PATH COMING THROUGH FOREST LEADING TO VIEW OF CABIN WITH TWO CARS IN FRONT

 

Alex and Milo crouch behind some bushes with a view of the cars and the front door of the cabin.

 

CUT TO: SHOT OF CABIN WINDOW WITH TWO PEOPLE MOVING AROUND.

 

MILO

                        Separate cars…

 

ALEX

Maybe she is going to work early.

 

                                                MILO

                       

                        He might have evidence here so I can’t

 mess up the search warrant.  Maybe we

should back off for now.

 

                        ALEX

                        She might be in danger.

 

PAUL ULRICH comes out of the door with coffee in hand. He walks over to the car and pops the trunk, pulling out a black bag.

 

                                                MILO

                        Not good.

 

CUT TO: CU OF PAUL AS HE IS SHOT IN THE CHEST

 

Two more shots and Paul is down on the ground. Milo jumps out of the bushes with gun drawn and looks around franticly.

 

                                                ALEX (whispers)

                        Fusco.

 

FADE OUT

 

 

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