by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Fargo, screenplay by Ethan Coen and Joel Cohen
Jerry Lundegaard sat at his desk using a blunt pencil to enter numbers onto a form. Beneath the form was a piece of carbon paper, and beneath that another form copy, which Jerry periodically checked. The carbon-copy form showed thick, smudgy, illegible entries. Jerry hummed nervously.
Glass rattled as someone tapped at his door. Jerry looked up and froze, his mouth hanging open, his brow knit with worry.
Lois Kent stuck her head in the door. “Mr. Lundegaard? Sorry to bother you again. Can I come in?” She started to enter.
“I’m kinda… I’m kinda busy,” Jerry said.
“I understand. I’ll keep it short, then,” Lois said. “Do you mind if I sit down? I’m carrying a bit of a load here.”
“No, I…” Jerry started. But she was already sitting into the chair opposite with a sigh of relieved weight.
“Yeah, it’s this vehicle I asked you about yesterday. I was just wondering…”
“Yeah, like I told you, we haven’t had any vehicles go missing…” Jerry said.
“OK, are you sure? I mean, how do you know? Because, the story I’m investigating, the perpetrators were driving a car with dealer plates. And they called someone who works here, so it’d be quite a coincidence if they weren’t connected.”
“Yeah, I see,” Jerry said.
“So have you done any kind of inventory recently?” Lois asked.
“The car’s not from our lot, Mrs. Kent,” Jerry said.
“But do you know that without–?” Lois started.
“Well, I would know. I’m the Executive Sales Manager,” Jerry said.
“We run a pretty tight ship here,” Jerry said.
“I know, but, well, how do you establish that, sir? Are the cars counted daily? Or what kind of…?”
“Ma’am, I answered your question,” Jerry said.
There was a silent beat. “I’m sorry, sir?”
“Ma’am, I answered your question. I answered the darn… I’m cooperating here, and I…” Jerry stammered irately.
“Sir, you have no call to get snippy with me. I’m just doing my job, here,” Lois said.
“I’m not, uh, I’m not arguin’, here. There’s no, uh… we’re doin’ all we can…” Jerry stammered. He trailed off into silence.
“Sir, could I talk to Mr. Gustafson?” Lois asked. Jerry stared at her. “Mr. Lundegaard?”
Jerry exploded. “Well, heck, if you wanna… if you wanna play games here! I’m workin’ with ya on this thing, but I…” He got angrily off his feet. “OK, I’ll do a damned lot count!”
“Sir? Right now?” Lois said, surprised.
“Sure, right now! You’re darned tootin’!” Jerry said.
He yanked his parka from a hook behind the opened door and grabbed a pair of galoshes. “If it’s so damned important to ya!”
“I’m sorry, sir, I…”
Jerry had the parka slung over one arm and the galoshes pinched in his hand. “Aw, what the Christ!” He stamped out the door.
Lois stared. After a long moment her stare broke. She glanced idly around the office. There was a framed picture facing away from her on the desktop. She turned it to face her. It was Scotty, holding an accordion. There was another picture of Jean.
She pulled a clipboard toward her. It held a form from the General Motors Finance Corporation. Her look abruptly locked as something clicked. “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
Jerry eased his car around the near corner of the building.
Lois’ voice was flat with dismay. “Oh, for Pete’s sake…” She grabbed the phone and punched in a number. “For Pete’s s — he’s taking off!”
Jerry made a left to turn into traffic.
“Dale? This is Lois. Could I speak to Lou, please?”
Lou Olsen moved slowly to the right, pushing his tray along a cafeteria line. Behind him, in the depth of the room, was an eating area of long formica tables at which sat a mix of uniformed and civilian-clothed police and staff. Next to him moved Lois Kent, also pushing a tray.
“Well, so far we’re just saying he’s wanted for questioning in connection with a triple homicide. Nobody at the dealership there’s been much help guessing where he might go…” Lou said.
“Uh-huh,” Lois said, nodding.
“We called his house; his little boy said he hadn’t been there,” Lou said.
“And his wife?” Lois asked.
“She’s visiting relatives in Florida. Now his boss, this guy Gustafson, he’s also disappeared. Nobody at his office knows where he is.”
“Looks like this thing’s higher than we thought,” Lois said. “You call his home?”
“His wife’s in the hospital, has been for a couple months. The big C,” Lou said.
“And this Shep Proudfoot character, he’s real sweetheart. He’s now wanted for assault and violation. He clobbered a guy at a hotel last night and another person who could be one of the perps, and he’s at large.”
“Boy, this thing is really… wow,” Lois said.
“Well, they’re all out on the wire. Well, you know…”
“Yeah. Well, I just can’t thank you enough, Lou. This cooperation has been outstanding.”
“Ah, well, we haven’t had too many around like you. When’re you due?”
“Any day now, they tell me,” Lois said.
Gaear Grimsrud sat eating a Swanson’s TV dinner from a TV tray he set up in front of an easy chair. He watched the old black-and-white television set, whose image was still heavily ghosting and diffused by snow. The audio crackled with interference. Despite the impenetrability of its image, it held Grimsrud’s complete attention. At the sound of the front door opening, Grimsrud looked up.
Carl Showalter entered, his face suppurated and raw. He reacted to Grimsrud’s wordless look with a grotesque laugh. “You should she zhe uzher guy!”
He glanced around. “Wha’ happen a’ her?” Jean Lundegaard sat slumped in a straight-backed chair facing the wall. Her hooded head rested on her chin. There was blood on the facing wall.
“She started shrieking, you know,” Grimsrud said, emotionlessly.
“Jezhush,” Carl said, shaking his head.
He plunked down eight bank-wrapped bundles on the table. “All of it. All eighty gran’. Forty for you…” He made one pile and pocketed the rest. “Forty for me. Sho thishuzh it. Adiosh.” He slapped keys down on the table. “You c’n ‘ave my truck,” Carl said. “I’m takin’ a’ Shiera.”
“We split that,” Grimsrud said.
Carl looked at him. “How do we shplitta freakin’ car? Ya dummy! Widda chainshaw?”
Grimsrud looked up sourly. “One of us pays the other for half.”
“Hold on! No way! You notish ish?” Carl shouted, gesturing to his ruined jaw. “I got shot inna faish! I went’n gotta money! I get shot pickin’ it up! I been up for thirty-shiksh hourzh! I’m takin’ that car! That carzh mine!” Carl waited for an argument, but only got the steady sour look. Carl pulled out a gun and returned Grimsrud’s stare. “Are we shquare?”
Grimsrud said nothing.
“Are we shquare?” Disgusted, Carl pocketed the gun and headed for the door. “%^#%&. And you shee your friend Shep Proudpfut, tell him I’m gonna nail hizh ash.”
Carl bounded outside and walked toward the car. Behind him, he heard the cabin door opening. Carl turned, reacting to the sound.
Grimsrud was bounding out wearing mittens and a red hunter’s cap, but no overcoat. He was holding an ax. Carl fumbled in his pocket for his gun. Grimsrud swung the axe overhand. It was the last thing Carl ever saw.
Lois Kent drove down the treelined road in her minivan. Through her two-way radio, specially installed by Clark, Lou Olsen’s heavily filtered voice was heard. “His wife. This guy says she was kidnapped last Wednesday.”
“The day of our homicides,” Lois said.
Lois peered to one side as she drove, looking through the bare trees that bordered the road on a declivity that ran down to a large frozen lake. “And this guy is…?”
“Lundegaard’s father-in-law’s accountant,” Lou answered.
“Gustafson’s accountant?” Lois asked.
“But you still haven’t found Gustafson.”
“Sorry, didn’t copy,” Lois said.
“Still missing. We’re looking,” Lou said.
“Copy. And Lundegaard, too?” Lois asked.
“Yeah. Where are you, Lo?” Lou asked.
“Oh, I’m almost back. I’m driving around Moose Lake. So the state has it, Lundegaard and Gustafson?”
“Yeah, it’s over the wire, it’s everywhere. They’ll find ’em.”
“Copy,” Lois said.
“We’ve got a–“ Lou started.
“There’s the car! There’s the car!” Lois suddenly exclaimed. She slowed down as she approached a short driveway leading down to a cabin. Parked in front was the brown Cutlass Ciera.
“The car! The tan Ciera!”
“Don’t go in, Lois! Wait for the police!” Lou said. Lois strained to look. “Mrs. Kent?”
“Copy. Yeah, send me back-up!” Lois said.
“‘Back-up’?! Lois! You’re not a cop!”
“I don’t have time to argue semantics with you, Lou.” She switched off the radio.
Lois pulled her minivan over some distance past the cabin. She got out, zipped up her parka, and pulled up its fur-lined hood.
With one curved arm half-pressing against, half-supporting her belly, she took slow, gingerly steps down the slope, through the deep snow, through the trees angling toward the cabin.
She slogged from tree to tree, letting each one support her downhill-leaning weight for a moment before slogging to the next. Lois stood panting by one tree, her breath vaporizing out of her hood. She squinted down toward the cabin’s back lot.
A tall man with his back to her, wearing a red plaid quilted jacket and a hunting cap with earflaps, was laboring over a shovel that his body blocked from view. Lois advanced.
The man was Grimsrud, his nose red and eyes watering from the cold, hatflaps pulled down over his ears. His breath steamed as he sourly went about his work, both hands pressing down a shovel through the snow into the soil beneath. His breathing was loud as he worked.
Lois slogged down to the next tree, panting and looking. Her eyes shifted. A large, dark form lay in the snow next to Grimsrud. He worked on, eyes watering. With a grunt he bent down out of her view and then re-entered, jabbing the shovel down. Lois advanced.
Grimsrud, still turned away, rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Lois closed in, grimacing. Grimsrud’s back strained as he put his weight into the shovel that pushed down into the soil. The dark shape in the snow next to his side was Carl Showalter’s body.
Her hand went into her bag, hoping to latch onto mace or something else she might use as a weapon. It found a gun. Lou, you sweet kid, Lois thought. You could lose your badge over something like this. She hated guns, but was glad to have it, nonetheless. As thoughtful as she thought it was for Lou to try to save her from herself, he would be receiving a lecture later.
Lois drew the gun and moved to within twenty yards. When she bellowed, it sounded shaky and rehearsed as she tried to sound sure of herself when confronted with a murderer. “This is a citizen’s arrest! Turn around and hands up!”
Startled, Grimsrud scowled. He turned to face her. He gave her a cold, deadly stare.
Lois bellowed again. “Hands up!” She gestured with her gun. “Don’t even move!”
Grimsrud stared. With a quick twist, he reached back for the log, hurled it at Lois, and then started to run away. She twisted her body sideways, shielding herself. No need. The heavy log traveled perhaps ten yards and landed in the snow several feet short of her.
The man panted up the hill and was slow going through the deep snow. Behind him, Lois yelled, “Halt!” She fired in the air.
Grimsrud, startled, ducked behind a tree and fired at her, narrowly missing.
What have I gotten myself into? Lois thought. I’m carrying a child! She carefully sighted and returned fire.
Grimsrud slogged farther up the up the hill, turning back as he ran to fire once more.
Lois sighted again. “Halt!” She fired again.
Grimsrud pitched forward. He muttered in Swedish as he reached down to clutch at his wounded leg. The gun flew from his hand as he slipped and fell in the snow.
Lois walked toward him with her gun trained on him. With her right foot, she kicked the gun out of his reach. Her other hand reached around in her bag to come out with a pair of handcuffs. Experience had told her there were times she would need them. She opened them with a snap of the wrist. “All right, buddy. On your belly and your hands clasped behind you,” she said forcefully.
A squad car, lights spinning, punched through the white snow. Lou Olsen jumped out and ran forward. “Lois! Are you all right?” Another squad car pulled up behind him.
“I’m fine…” Lois said, smiling and trying to hide the fact that she was still shaking. “Thanks to your being so sneaky. I… oohh!” She stumbled.
“What is it, Lo?” Lou asked, visibly concerned as he caught her.
“Get me an ambulance! I’m going into labor!” Lois gasped.