Cadaverine by Holly Autry Jurbergs | Script Revolution


A rookie crime scene investigator must connect a violent road rage case with two unsolved murders before a serial killer with an experimental drug kills again.



Page Count: 



Age Rating:

Based On: 
Unpublished novel

The story for Cadverine was inspired by a bizarre road rage case in San Jose, California. Sara McBurnett’s beloved Bichon Frisé, Leo, was hurled into traffic by an angry motorist who confronted her after a rear-end collision and then fled the scene. As a dog lover, I wondered what would cause someone to commit such a senseless act of violence. I wanted to explore how forensic science could be used to solve the case. My background as an analytical chemist allowed me to write the science with authenticity. Cadaverine is a character-driven thriller told from the multiple perspectives of a rookie CSI, Kate Vaughn, a serial killer, Dr. Carl Baldwin, a police detective Matt Stevens, and a scientist, Amy Williams.

The film opens with the dramatic inciting incident. A carefree teenage girl drives on the highway, singing along with the radio, and cuddling her cute powder puff Bichon Frisé in her lap. Her cell phone chimes with an incoming text message. As she digs in her handbag for her phone, she rear-ends the car in front of her. The driver, a hulking bodybuilder, approaches her open window with a scowl on his face. As the teenage girl tries to apologize, he berates her and the dog reacts with aggressive barking. He yanks the dog out of the car by its collar and throws it into oncoming traffic.

At the beginning of the film, Kate’s life is at a low point. She has just been dumped by her fiancé, she is unemployed, and her abusive father wants to reconcile with her. Kate is brainy and athletic, but she has a chip on her shoulder and a short temper. She is a recent graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in forensic science. She is also training for a regatta with her rowing team. Because of childhood trauma and her difficult relationship with her father, she struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Kate lands a job as a DNA analyst at the Austin crime lab and is paired with a veteran CSI, Warren Tyler, for training. As Kate and Warren work together on a violent road rage case, they grow closer and begin a secret romantic relationship.

When we meet Carl, he is stalking a woman he plans to murder. Carl’s controlling mother loved the family dog more than him. As a child, Carl was helpless and frail, but as an adult he has become a huge bodybuilder and an angry bully. Carl is a senior scientist at Balcones Pharmaceuticals (BP) working on a high stakes project to bring a new anesthesia to market. Carl is a loner with only one close friend, James Newman, who works in animal testing. James is handsome, manipulative, and a narcissistic sexual predator. Carl fantasizes about a future with James. Carl’s jealousy drives him to stalk and kill James’ other lovers, including James' personal trainer and a dancer at a local gentleman's club. James has manipulated Carl into stealing opioids for a greedy doctor, Nick Abade, who wants to expand his illicit drug business with a new Silk Road website.

Amy is a dedicated scientist at BP working in Carl’s lab. She is smart, talented and a natural leader, but Carl does not see her potential. Amy is also a loving mother with a five-year-old daughter and a husband who adores her. When Carl is demoted for poor performance and Amy is offered his job, Carl unravels and kidnaps her from the company hike and bike trail. Amy is drugged and held hostage in Carl’s bathroom while the police and her family begin a frantic search.

At the crime lab, Kate and Warren investigate two new homicides. A dancer from a local gentleman’s club has been drugged and stabbed to death. Kate identifies the drug as a powerful anesthesia similar to ketamine. When another woman’s body is pulled from a local lake with the same drug in her system, the stakes of the murder investigation are raised. Matt forms a theory that James and Carl are using an experimental drug to prey on women. When Matt arrests James after finding the date rape drug in his car, Abade bails James out of jail. James and Abade make a plan to kill Carl to protect their illicit and lucrative drug business.

Matt follows up on his hunch and visits Carl at his apartment. When he confronts Carl about his relationship with James, Carl attacks Matt and kills him with his own gun. Matt is dumped in the bathroom where Amy is being held hostage. James goes to Carl's apartment with a plan to drug him and discovers Matt and Amy's lifeless bodies in the bathroom. At the crime lab, Kate connects Carl to the road rage case and the two murdered women with a fingerprint and dog DNA. Abade steps in and arranges the transport of Matt and Amy to a seedy motel with a plan to lure Carl there and kill him. When Amy wakes up, she uses Matt's concealed compact pistol to kill James after a showdown with Abade, Carl, and James. She escapes the motel room as the police arrive to arrest Carl and Abade.

The film ends with two emotional scenes. Kate comforts Warren when she learns that Matt has been killed. When Kate's mom visits her for the Heart of Texas regatta, she encourages her to reconcile with her father and attend his wedding. Kate reveals to her mom that Warren has asked her to marry him.

Why This Story Now?

Cadverine is a smart thriller that brings the very successful crime scene investigation concept to the big screen. The screenplay is an adaption of an unpublished novel set in Austin, Texas. Austin consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the U.S. and would make an interesting setting for the film. Women are underrepresented in the thriller genre and the characters of Kate and Amy provide challenging roles for female actresses. As a millennial character, Kate is a role model for young women and her story will appeal to young adults. In addition, the story has an ethnically diverse cast of memorable characters who would be appealing for a sequel. This story also has social impact as a cautionary tale about workplace and domestic violence and the effect of childhood trauma on adults.

Submitted: November 14, 2018
Last Updated: December 7, 2020

Want to read this script? You must join the revolution first. Don't worry, it's free, easy, everyone's welcome, and you can start reading right away.

This Script Is Loved By

Jim Boston's picture
Wilmer Villanueva's picture
Jon Robert Mackenzie's picture
Holly Autry Jurbergs's picture

The Writer: Holly Autry Jurbergs

If my writing were a song, it would be Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science." If you've never heard of that song, you're probably much younger than me. My love for science and music always informs and influences my writing. After completing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin in 1996, I worked as an Analytical Chemist in pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical companies. I play piano, and more recently, I have taken up guitar and songwriting. I enjoy writing crime dramas, and I am interested in strong female characters, family secrets, moral dilemmas, and forensic science. If you are a director or producer considering my screenplays, I want you to take my crude... Go to bio

More Scripts From Holly

Three Graves
A journalist investigates a cold case from her hometown and puts her brother's life in jeopardy when she uncovers evidence of his childhood abuse and their powerful father's involvement in the crimes.
Feature Crime, Drama For sale 114pp
2 readers love this script
The Magician
A dying magician saves his best trick for last and reunites with the love of his life.
Short Romance, Sci-Fi For sale 18pp
1 reader loves this script