by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Fargo, screenplay by Ethan Coen and Joel Cohen
The next day, at Gustafson’s Olds Garage, Jerry Lundegaard stared up, mouth agape, at the underside of a car on a hydraulic lift. Bewildered, he looked about, then asked a mechanic passing by, his voice raised over the din of the shop. “Where’s Shep?”
The mechanic pointed. “Talkin’ to a reporter.”
Jerry looked. “A reporter?”
Lois Kent and Shep Proudfoot faced each other at the other end of the floor in a grimy and cluttered glassed-in cubicle. They silently talked inside. Jerry stared and swallowed nervously.
“Wednesday night?” Lois asked.
Shep shook his head. “Nope.”
“Well, you do reside there at 1425 Fremont Terrace?” Lois asked.
“Anyone else residing there?” Lois asked.
“Nope,” Shep grunted.
“Well, Mr. Proudfoot, this call came in past three in the morning,” Lois said. “It’s just hard for me to believe you can’t remember anyone calling.”
Shep said nothing.
“Now, I know you’ve had some problems, struggling with the narcotics, some other entanglements, and you’re currently on parole,” Lois said.
“Well, associating with criminals, if you’re the one they talked to, that right there would be a violation of your parole and would end with you back in Blackgate,” Lois said.
“Uh-huh,” Shep said warily.
“Now, I saw some rough stuff on your priors, but nothing in the nature of a homicide,” Lois said.
Shep stared at her.
“I know you don’t want to be an accessory to something like that,” Lois said.
“So you think you might remember who those folks were who called you?”
Jerry paced worriedly behind his desk. At a noise he looked up and was startled to see the attractive but very pregnant lady reporter approaching.
Lois stuck her head in the door. “Mr. Lundegaard?”
“I wonder if I could take just a minute of your time,” Lois said.
“What… what is it all about?” Jerry stammered.
“Huh? Do you mind if I sit down? I’m carrying quite a load here.” Lois plopped into the chair opposite him. “You’re the owner here, Mr. Lundegaard?” she asked.
“Naw, I… Executive Sales Manager,” Jerry replied.
“Well, you can help me. My name’s Lois Kent–”
“My father-in-law, he’s the owner,” Jerry said.
“Uh-huh. Well, I’m a reporter with the Smallville Gazette investigating some malfeasance, and I was just wondering if you’ve had any new vehicles stolen off the lot in the past couple of weeks — specifically a tan Cutlass Ciera?”
Jerry stared at her, his mouth open.
“Mr. Lundegaard…? So you haven’t had any vehicles go missing, then?”
“No. No, ma’am.”
“OK, thanks a bunch. I’ll let you get back to your paperwork, then,” Lois said.
Jerry looked blankly down at the papers on the desk in front of him. “Yeah, OK.”
As he looked up at Lois’ retreating back, he picked up the phone and dialed four digits. “Yeah, gimmee Shep… The heck d’ya mean…? Well, where’d he go? It’s only… No, I don’t need a mechanic — oh, geez — I gotta talk to a friend of his, so, uh… have him, uh… oh, geez…”
Carl Showalter was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of a door splintering and then bursting open. The girl he was with was grabbed and flung out of bed. “Shep! What the hell are you doing?” Carl cried in fear and outrage. “Shep! Jesus!”
Shep slapped him hard, forehand, backhand. He hauled Carl up.
“Shep! Don’t you dare hit me, man! Don’t you–” Carl yelped.
Shep punched him and flung him away. Carl hit a sofa, and his bare legs disappeared as he flipped back over it. Shep circled the sofa and kicked at Carl behind it.
“Put me back in Blackgate. Little $%$^.”
There was a knock at the door. “Hey! Come on in there!” a voice called out.
Shep strode to the door and flung it open. A man in boxer shorts stood in the doorway. “C’mon, brother, it’s late — unghh!”
Shep hit him twice, then grabbed both of his ears and started banging his head against the wall.
The girl ran by, and Shep kicked her in the rear as she passed. He spun and went back into the hotel room.
Carl was hopping desperately into his pants. “Stay away from me, man! Hey! Smoke a freakin’ peace pipe, man! Don’t you dare — unghh!”
After hitting him several times, Shep yanked Carl’s belt out of his dangling pants and strangled him with it. Carl gurgled. Shep kneed Carl repeatedly, then dumped him onto the floor and started whipping him with the buckle end of the belt.
Outside of a Denny’s, Carl listened to the phone ring at the other end. His face was deeply bruised and cut. Finally, someone picked up. “Yeah?”
“All right, Jerry, I’m through playing around. You got the money?”
Jerry Lundegaard was at the kitchen phone. In the dining room, Wade Gustafson picked up an extension.
“Yeah, I got the money, but, uh…” Jerry stammered.
“Don’t you but me, Jerry!” Carl yelled. “I want you with this money on the Dayton-Radisson parking ramp, top level, thirty minutes, and we’ll wrap this up.”
“Yeah, OK, but, uh…”
“You’re there in thirty minutes, or I find you, Jerry, and I shoot you, and I shoot your wife, and I shoot all your little $%#$ children, and I shoot ’em all in back of their little $%$%^& heads. Got it?” Carl shouted.
“Yeah, well, you stay away from Scotty now…” Jerry stammered.
“Got it?!” Carl shouted.
“Yeah…” Jerry said.
The line went dead. In the background, a door slammed.
Wade, briefcase in hand, got into his Cadillac, slammed the door, and peeled out. His jaw worked as he glared out at traffic. He mumbled to himself as he drove. “OK… here’s your damn money, now where’s my daughter? Damn punk… where’s my damn daughter…?” He pulled out a gun, cracked the barrel, and peered in. “You little punk.”
Jerry sat in the foyer, trying to pull on pair of galoshes. Scotty’s voice came from upstairs. “Dad…?”
“It’s OK, Scotty,” Jerry said.
“Where’re you going?”
“Be back in a minute,” Jerry said anxiously. “If Stan calls you, just tell him I went to Embers. Oh, geez…”
Snow blew across the top open level of the Dayton-Radisson ramp. A car sat idling. Another car pulled onto the roof. It crept over to the parked car and stopped. It continued to idle as its door opened, and Wade stepped out, carrying the briefcase.
The door of the other car banged open, and Carl bounced out. “Who the $%$^ are you? Who the $%$^ are you?”
“I got your goddamn money, you little punk. Now where’s my daughter?” Wade snarled.
“I am through %^%&ing around! Drop that briefcase!”
“Where’s my daughter?”
“Where’s Jerry? I gave simple ^%&%*& instructions!” Carl shouted.
“Where’s my damn daughter? No Jean, no money!” Wade yelled.
“Drop that money!” Carl shouted.
“No Jean, no money!”
“Is this a joke here?” Carl said, pulling out a gun and firing into Wade’s gut. “Is this a ^%&* joke?”
“Unghh… oh, geez…” Wade groaned, laying on the pavement, clutching at his gut as the snow swirled around them.
“You imbeciles!” Carl cursed. He bent down next to Wade to pick up the briefcase.
“Oh, for Christ… oh, geez…” Wade groaned. He brought out his gun and fired at Carl’s head, close by.
“Ahh,” Carl cried. He stumbled and fell back, then stood up again. His jaw gushed blood. “Owwmm…”
One hand pressed to his jaw, he fired down at Wade several times. “Mmm-mmphnck! He freekem shop me!” He pocketed the gun, picked up the briefcase one-handed, flung it into his car, got in, and peeled out.
Carl tore down the ramp. He took a corner at high speed and swerved, just missing Jerry in his Oldsmobile on his way to the top.
Jerry recovered from the near miss and continued up. “Oh, geez!”
Carl squealed to a halt at the gate, still pressing his hand to his bleeding jaw. “Ophhem ma freechem gaphe!”
“May I have your ticket, please?” the attendant said.
Jerry pulled to a halt next to Wade’s idling Cadillac. He got out and walked slowly to Wade’s body, prostrate in the swirling snow. “Oh! Oh, geez!”
He bent down, picked Wade up by the armpits, and dragged him over to the back of the Cadillac. He dropped Wade’s body, walked to the driver’s side of the car, pulled the keys, and walked back to pop the trunk. He wrestled Wade’s body into the trunk, slammed it shut, and walked back to the scene of the shooting. He kicked at the snow with his galoshes, trying to hide the fresh bloodstains.
Jerry approached the exit booth in the Cadillac. The wooden gate barring the exit had been broken away. The booth was empty. Jerry eased toward the street, looking over at the booth as he passed. If he had looked inside the booth, he might have seen the awkwardly angled leg of a prostrate body.
In the driveway, a man in a hooded parka shoveled snow. He noticed the approaching car and gave its driver a wave. The driver was Lou Olsen, the Smallville police officer.
“So, I was tendin’ bar there at Ecklund & Swedlin’s last Tuesday, and this little guy was drinkin’, and he said, ‘So where can a guy find some action — I’m goin’ crazy down there at the lake.’ And I said, ‘What kinda action?’ and he said, ‘Woman action, what do I look like?’ And I said, ‘Well, what do I look like? I don’t arrange that kinda thing.’ And he said, ‘I’m goin’ crazy out there at the lake,’ and I said, ‘Well, this ain’t that kinda place.'”
“Uh-huh,” Lou said, nodding as the man talked.
“So he said, ‘So I get it, so you think I’m some kinda jerk for askin’,’ only he didn’t use the word jerk,” the man continued.
“And then he called me a jerk and said the last guy who thought he was a jerk was dead now. So I didn’t say nothin’, and he said, ‘What do ya think about that?’ So I said, ‘Well, that don’t sound like too good a deal for him, then.'”
“You got that right,” Lou said, nodding.
“And he said, ‘Yeah, that guy’s dead, and I don’t mean of old age.’ And then he said, ‘Man, I’m going crazy out there at the lake.'”
“White Bear Lake?”
“Well, Ecklund & Swedlin’s, that’s closer to Moose Lake, so I made that assumption,” the man said.
“Oh, sure,” Lou agreed.
“So, ya know, he was drinkin’, so I didn’t think a whole great deal of it, but Mrs. Mohra heard about the homicides out here, and she said I should call it in, so I called it in. End of story.”
“What’d this guy look like, anyway?” Lou asked.
“Oh, he was a little guy, kinda funny-lookin’.”
“Uh-huh… in what way?”
“Just a general way,” the man said, shrugging.
“OK, well, thanks, Mr. Mohra. You’re right, it’s probably nothin’, but thanks for callin’ her in.”
Carl Showalter sat in his car, now parked, with one hand holding the rag pressed to his mangled jaw. He stared down at something in the front seat next to him. His other hand held open the briefcase. It had money inside — a lot of money. Carl unfroze, took out one of the bank-wrapped wads, and looked at it. “Mmmnphh.”
He pawed through the money in the briefcase to get a feeling for the amount. “Jeshush Shrist… Jeshush Shrist!”
He counted out a bundle of bills and tossed it onto the backseat. He opened the car door and emerged with the briefcase. He slogged through the snow, down a gulley, and up the embankment to a barbed-wire fence. He kneeled at one of the fence posts and frantically dug into the snow with his bare hands, throwing in the briefcase and covering it back up.
Standing, he tried to beat the circulation back into his red, frozen hands. He looked to the right. A regular line of identical fence posts stretched away against unblemished white. He looked to the left. A regular line of identical fence posts stretched away against unblemished white. He looked at the fence post in front of him. “Mmmphh…”
Carl looked about the snowy vastness for a marker. Finding none, he kicked the fence post a couple of times, failing to scar or tilt it, then hurriedly planted a couple of sticks up against the post. He bent down, scooped up a handful of snow, pressed it against his wounded jaw, and loped back to the idling car.