The Marksman: Unusual Suspects, Prologue: The Baron

by Doc Quantum, adapted from The Usual Suspects, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie

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A pier in Venezia Porto Marghera in the district of Venice, Italy, on the evening of Friday, April 18, 1986:

The lonely sound of a buoy bell tolled in the distance, while water slapped against a smooth, flat surface in rhythm. The creaking of wood was like clockwork. Off in the very far distance was the sound of sirens.

A single match suddenly ignited, invading the darkness. It quivered for a moment before a dimly lit hand brought the rest of the pack to the match. A plume of yellow-white flame flared to illuminate the battered face of Wolfgang Hurtz, a forty-something man with wet and matted salty-gray hair. His face dripped with moisture, and a large cut ran the length of his face from the corner of his eye to his chin, bleeding freely. An unlit cigarette hung in the corner of his mouth.

Hurtz was on the deck of a large boat, sitting in the half-light with his back against the front bulkhead of the wheel house. His legs were twisted at odd, almost impossible angles.

Looking down, he saw a thin trail of liquid running past his feet and off into the darkness. Hurtz lit the cigarette on the burning pack of matches before throwing them into the liquid, which ignited immediately. The flame ran up the stream, gaining in speed and intensity, beginning to ripple and rumble as it ran down the deck toward the stern.

A stack of oil drums rested on the stern, stacked on a palette with ropes at each corner that attached it to a huge crane on the dock. One of the barrels had been punctured at its base, and gasoline trickled freely from the hole. The flame was racing now toward the barrels as Hurtz smiled weakly to himself.

The flame was within a few yards of the barrels when another stream of liquid splashed onto the gas, and the flame fizzled out pitifully with a hiss. Two feet straddled the flame as a stream of urine flowed onto the deck from between them.

Hurtz heard first the sound of a fly zipping and then the man’s feet moving over to where he rested at the wheel house. This unknown man held onto a wooden crossbow with his left hand, and with his right he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of one pocket and then a strange antique lighter from the other. It was gold, with a clasp that folded down over the flint. Leaning the crossbow over his shoulder to free up his left hand, the man flicked up the clasp with his thumb, striking it with his index finger in a somewhat showy fluid motion. Hurtz looked up at the man, a look of realization crossing his face, followed in short succession by frustration, anger, and finally resignation.

“How are you, Hurtz?” a deep, hoarse voice said.

“I’d have to say my spine was broken, Baron.” He spat the title out like it was poison.

The man put the lighter back in his pocket and reached under his jacket, producing a sharp, silver-tipped arrow, which he used to arm his crossbow. “Ready?”

“What time is it?” asked Hurtz.

The empty right hand turned over, turning the gold watch on its wrist upward. The sound of sirens was closer now, headed this way. “Twelve-thirty.”

Hurtz grimaced bitterly and nodded, turning his head away to take another drag. The hand with the crossbow waited long enough for Hurtz to enjoy his last drag before pulling the trigger.


Hurtz’s lifeless body slumped onto the deck, an arrow through his chest.

On the deck surface, the stream of gasoline still flowed freely, then ignited. The flame ran toward the barrels, finally leaping up in a circle around the drums, burning the wood of the pallet and licking the spouting stream as it poured from the hole.

The pier to which the boat was moored was littered with dead bodies. Twenty or more men had been shot to pieces, scattered everywhere in what could only have been the aftermath of a fierce firefight. On the deck of the barge nearby was a tangle of cables and girders, the mesh of steel and rubber leaving a dark and open cocoon beneath its base.

The sirens were closer now, almost there, as the fire raged out of control. Their sirens blaring, car tires soon squealed to a stop, and their doors opened. Feet pounded the pavement, voices yelled, and new light flickered in the surrounding darkness.

Suddenly, there was an explosion, then silence and total blackness.

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