You Will Not Be Missed Ted Danders, Writing a Character Who is Truly Evil

Well, it is done. I finished a feature film script, and still have most of July to get through before line editing on the novel begins. Thus concludes the first half of my two script challenge. With another script underway, it seems a fair bet that I will meet my goal of finishing these up before August.

All I can say is that this script, City of Wolves, was quite an ordeal.

The premise is something I am less than modest about. A secret cult of werewolves has made their home in San Francisco. They consist of radio personality and alpha female Jordan Childs, Kentucky native Ethan Wallace, and college student Kotori. By day they are as normal as anyone else, but by night they change, and prowl the streets in search of their prey to keep their inner beast under control. They feed on criminals.

Of course, San Francisco has bigger problems, a serial killer dubbed the Butcher By the Bay, who has thus far beheaded nineteen young women. After the killer snatches a twentieth victim, a desperate detective named Jennifer Steele encounters Jordan’s pack, and gets the idea that perhaps the lycanthropes have what it takes to find the killer in time, and save this next victim from death.

The premise of City Of Wolves yielded an interesting bind for me as a writer. Being that my heroes are lycanthropes, and are thus nothing to be trifled with…

…just ask Jack Goodman here…

Jack Goodman 2

…the script presented a unique challenge. How to make the audience fear for the lives of three werewolves.

Enter The Butcher By the Bay, or as everyone else calls him, Ted Danders. The most evil son of a bitch I ever wrote.

Before I get into Danders, let’s talk about this guy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 12.00.03 PM

He was raised in a good home, by good people, got good grades in school, and was going to college to study law. This was a man who had great potential and bright career prospects. He was, by all accounts, a very handsome and charming young man. Just look at him. He is so clean. So well kept. So beaming. So unabashedly and perfectly normal.

His name is Ted Bundy, and he killed at least 30 people.

The above photo was taken as his trial, where he was indicted for the gruesome murder of a 13 year old girl. And he is there, wearing a suit and tie, and smiling.

These people are not like what you see in the movies. There are no mask wearing maniacs like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees terrorizing the suburbs and summer camps. Seldom will you find a sophisticated and obviously evil mastermind like Hannibal Lecter. Not many of the crazies are conveniently scarred like Freddy Kruger to show off their evil nature. They are very obvious monsters. Guys like Bundy are the ones who live next door. They look, act and talk just like regular people, but underneath the mask, only one world can describe them.

Evil.

Bundy was the primary inspiration for Ted Danders. The character quickly became larger than life when his first scene was put to script.

I do not know much about Danders. He didn’t tell me a lot when I somehow managed to conjure him up. I know he was raised by two loving parents who adored him, an adoration he returned in the form of a meat clever to their skulls. Ted murdered his parents out of nothing more than convenience. He needed to use their house for his deeds. So cold was he that he didn’t even bury their bodies, instead leaving them wrapped in plastic tarp in an upstairs bathtub in a similar way to how some people forget to put away their toothbrush.

Somehow when Ted was at college, he intimidated his frat brothers into helping him out. You see, Ted is very good at faking emotion, and would have no trouble convincing the authorities that it was his frat brothers and not he who committed the murders. He has such a strangle hold on them, that when one of them displeases him, Ted forces him to commit suicide in this scene below.

Ted walks over to the couch where Kenneth was watching TV. Next to it is a drawer. Inside is a 45 automatic pistol.

TED: Someone saw her. They will be coming. You remember what we agreed to do.

WES: No. No, Mr. Danders. Please…

TED: It is too late Wes.

Wes shies away, tears streaming down his face.

Ted takes the gun and checks the magazine. It is loaded. he holds out the gun. He forces it in Wes’ hands.

WES: I don’t want to die!

TED: The girls didn’t want to die either. You can remember them screaming, can’t you! Begging? You could have helped them.

WES: You told me not to!

TED: You’re an accomplice. You will go to jail, and they will hurt you. Tear you up like you won’t believe!

WES: No!

TED: There is only one way to stop it Wes. Blow your brains out.

WES: No!

Wes points the gun at Ted. Ted’ face twists into a nightmarish face filled with rage and hate.

WES: No! Please, no!

TED: No, not at me. Take the gun and put it in your mouth and blow your brains out. Blow your brains out! Blow your…

A shot rings out. Ted leans away from Wes, a cold smile on his face.

Wes leans against the wall, quivering as a trickle of blood flows out of his mouth. The wall behind him is peppered with his brains.

Alex and Duke stand dumbstruck at the scene.

DUKE: Jesus.

ALEX: Are the cops really coming?

TED: No.

This scene was inspired by a similar moment in Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, where a sadistic rapist forces his drug addicted son to shoot himself. It was chilling there, and it was chilling here.

But things get worse with Ted. Like I said, I don’t know a lot about his past. I would prefer not to. There is no reason behind his madness other than he enjoys it. Obviously he tortured animals when he was a child, which adds some slight poetic nature to his enemies being werewolves. I don’t know when he claimed his first human victim. I know it wasn’t the first girl found in the butcher case. This guy has been killing for a long time, perhaps since he was a child. The most common victims of children who become murderers are other children.

In a scene that made me shudder, leading lady Jordan Childs is captured by Ted and bound up next to Laurie Thompson, the missing girl Jordan and the others sought to rescue. After capturing Jordan, Ted travels to Jordan’s apartment and kidnaps her 10 year old brother Ashante.

When he told Jordan what he intended to do, his words just appeared on the page. They have haunted me since.

TED: I like kids. When someone like you screams, they just scream. But the kids, they always call out for someone. They call out for mommy or daddy, or some imaginary friend who will never come.

Where did that come from, and do I even want to know? I enjoy being around children. In some ways I envy them for they have yet to be exposed to some of the horrors of this world. They are uncorrupted by bigotry, ideology, greed, or politics. They are new and pure. To do something to a child is so unfathomable, I never thought I could write something capable of that.

But somehow Ted made it be, which is why I am glad to let you all know that he is dead. Dead from a combination of a shotgun blast to his face and a fall off the Golden Gate Bridge. The pack got their prey, the detective got her man, and the parents of who knows how many people got their justice. Ted is dead, and he is not coming back.

I still hear many of my characters speak to me from time to time. Zhyx the dragon still deals out some tough love whenever I am feeling down, the Major still tells me things could b worse, and River tells me that I am not alone. But there is no more Ted. He is gone. But to carry him for those three weeks was torture.

All I can say is good riddance. I had to go to some very dark places to conjure up a thing like Ted Danders, but in the end, he served his purpose. He made me fear for the lives of my werewolves.

That was the real point of this story. That for all of our imagined evils, for all the tales of demons, ghosts, goblins and ghouls, for every piece of mythology in art, literature and religion, nothing that we conjure up in our imaginations is nearly as frightening as the evil that lives across the street. City of Wolves is a horror story. It is a monster story. But the monsters here are not where the horror comes from.

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