by Doc Quantum, adapted from The Usual Suspects, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie
Hamburg, Monday, March 17, 1986 — five weeks and four days ago:
Alexander “Mouthpiece” Koda stood in front of an apartment door, hesitating for a long moment before knocking. After a moment, the door opened, and Wolfgang Hurtz stood on the other side of it, wearing a bathrobe and smoking a cigarette. He looked at Mouthpiece without any expression whatsoever.
“What are you doing here? How did you find me?”
“I just asked one of the detectives downtown,” said the cripple. “He seemed pretty happy to tell me.”
Hurtz cursed under his breath and motioned for Mouthpiece to come in. The crippled man hobbled in and sat down on the couch, watching Hurtz cautiously. He looked around the large apartment, beautifully furnished and decorated.
Elsa Schneider walked into the room in a man’s button-down shirt and sweat pants. “Wolfie, who was at the–?” She stopped when she saw Mouthpiece, who stood and smiled nervously.
“How do you do?” he said.
“Mouthp — Alexander, this is Elsa Schneider,” said Hurtz. “Elsa, this is Alexander Koda. He was at–”
“I know who he is,” Elsa said coldly.
Mouthpiece looked sheepish. “I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
“I hope so, too, Herr Koda. Can I get you something to drink?”
“A glass of water would be nice.”
Elsa shot a look at Hurtz on her way out of the room. Hurtz tried to hush his voice despite his anger and said, “What the hell do you want?”
“I wanted to talk to you. The other guys–”
“I did you a favor by standing up for you last night, but don’t think we’re friends. I’m sorry, but I have other things–”
“They’re gonna do a job,” interrupted Mouthpiece. “Three million dollars, maybe more.”
Hurtz was speechless. Mouthpiece sat on the couch again. “They sent me to offer you a cut. We could use a fifth man — a driver. That’s all you’ll do.”
Elsa walked in with a glass of ice water and handed it to Mouthpiece.
“Thank you.” Mouthpiece drank slowly. Elsa stood over him, her face blank. It was an awkward moment. She deliberately made Mouthpiece uncomfortable.
After a long pause, Elsa finally spoke. “So what is it you do, Herr Koda?”
“A hijacker like Wolfgang, here? Or something more creative?”
“That’s enough, Elsa,” said Hurtz.
“I don’t know what you came here for, but we won’t have any part of it,” she said angrily.
“Elsa, please.” Hurtz took her by the arm, trying to guide her toward the other room. She pulled away, anger turning to rage.
“I’ve spent the last year of my life putting his back together again,” she shouted. “I won’t have you come in here and — What makes you think — Get out! Get out of my home! How dare you come here?” Hurtz pulled at her now. She yanked her arm away and shoved him. “Don’t touch me. Just don’t.” She turned and walked out of the room. Somewhere in the back of the apartment, a door slammed.
Hurtz turned and glared at Mouthpiece, who cringed. “Get out.”
“If you’ll just let me–”
Suddenly lunging at Mouthpiece, Hurtz grabbed him by the lapels and lifted him off the couch. He then moved him effortlessly across the room to slam him into the wall next to the front door, which he opened.
“Don’t hurt me,” pleaded Mouthpiece.
“Hurt you, you son of a bitch?” said Hurtz, who was seething with rage by now. “I could kill you.” He started to shove Mouthpiece out the door.
“They’re going to hit the Taxi Service,” said Mouthpiece quickly. Hurtz froze. There was a long pause. Finally, Mouthpiece continued. “Hamburg’s Finest Taxi Service.”
“They — that’s bull$#!^. They don’t operate anymore.”
“McGraw has a friend in a local precinct. They’re coming out for one job on Thursday. They’re picking up a guy smuggling diamonds out of South Africa. Stanton and McGraw have a fence set to take the stuff.”
“What fence? Who?”
“Some Gypsy in Italy. His name is Petulengro.”
“Never heard of him.” Hurtz moved to throw Mouthpiece out, but the cripple grabbed him and held tight.
“You have to come.”
“What’s with you?” said Hurtz. “What do you care whether I come or not?”
“They — they don’t know me,” explained Mouthpiece. “You do. They won’t take me unless you go. Look at me. I need this.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t need this,” said Mouthpiece. “Is this your place?”
Hurtz was unable to answer.
“They’re never going to stop with us, you know that,” said the cripple. “This way we hit the cops where it hurts and get well in the meantime.”
Hurtz let Mouthpiece go and stepped back, thinking.
“As clean as you could ever get, they’ll never let you go now,” Mouthpiece said. “I’m not knocking you. You look like you’ve got a good little scam going with this lawyer–”
Hurtz punched Mouthpiece in the stomach and dropped him to one knee, causing him to cough and struggle to regain his breath. “You watch your mouth,” said Hurtz.
Mouthpiece gasped for breath. “OK, OK. You say it’s the real thing? That’s cool.”
Hurtz reached for Mouthpiece, who flinched. He then gently helped him up and guided him to the couch. They both sat down. Hurtz reached for a pack of cigarettes and lit one for each of them, saying, “I apologize.”
Mouthpiece took one and had a few drags, catching his breath and rubbing his stomach in pain. Finally, Mouthpiece said, “I was out of line.”
“I’ll be all right.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” said Hurtz.
“Forget it.” Mouthpiece paused for a moment, then said, “I’ll probably piss blood tonight.”
Hurtz laughed. Mouthpiece thought about it for a moment and laughed with him. Hurtz’s laughter trailed off. He thought for a moment and finally asked, “How are they going to do it?”
“McGraw wants to go in shooting. I said no way.”
“Stanton and Dyce?”
“They’re pretty pissed off,” said Mouthpiece. “They’ll do anything. Now I got a way to do it without killing anyone. But like I said, they won’t let me in without you.”
“Three million?” asked Hurtz.
Mouthpiece shrugged. “Maybe more.”
“No killing?” confirmed Hurtz.
“Not if we do it my way.”
There was another long pause as Hurtz found himself lost in thought. “I swore I’d live above myself.”
Mouthpiece smiled, knowing he had him.
Hamburg Airport, Germany, Thursday, March 20, 1986 — five weeks, one day ago:
“Hamburg’s Finest Taxi Service was not your normal taxi service,” said Mouthpiece in the present. “It was a ring of corrupt cops in the Hamburger Polizei that had run a high-profit racket, driving smugglers and drug dealers all over the city before the Nazi takeover. For a few hundred dollars a mile, you got your own police cruiser and an escort. They even had their own business cards. After the Nazi takeover in ’85, there was too much scrutiny on the police department, and the taxi service shut down. Ever since then, the SS had been waiting to catch them in the act in an effort to crack down on corruption. Corrupt officers are vulnerable to blackmail, and blackmailed officers are a security risk in the Fourth Reich.
“And that was how we started. McGraw came to us with the job, Stanton got the vans, Dyce supplied the hardware. I came through with how to do it so no one got killed. But Hurtz — Hurtz put on the finishing touch. A little ‘#^@% you’ from the five of us to the Hamburger Polizei.”
Oskar Wilhelm, a tall, gray-haired man in his fifties wearing a white linen suit, came out of the international terminal of Hamburg Airport holding a large suitcase in his right hand. He stood on the curb long enough to light a cigarette. After a moment, a police cruiser pulled up to him. He opened the back door and got in. The car drove out of the airport, and a van followed at a distance.
Sergeant Kurt Strausz, a meaty, imposing-looking cop drove the car. Beside him was a thin, greasy-looking patrolman named Sigismund Fischer. They were two drivers for Hamburg’s Finest Taxi Service.
“How was the flight?” asked Fischer.
Oskar handed Fischer a thick envelope. “Will that get me to Geesthacht?” he asked, referring to a city east-southeast of Hamburg.
Fischer counted the stack of hundred dollar bills in the envelope. “You kidding me? This’ll get you to Switzerland.”
The two men laughed, while Strausz continued to watch the road, expressionless. The cruiser headed toward the heart of Hamburg.
As the police car made its way down a wide abandoned street, a white minivan pulled out behind it and headed the same way. Strausz looked in the rear-view mirror. The white minivan was flashing its high-beams. “What the–?”
“LOOK OUT!” Fischer screamed.
Watching in front of him, Strausz saw a green minivan swerve in front of them from out of nowhere. He slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt, and the white minivan rammed them from behind. Strausz and Fischer were stunned for a moment as two more vans screeched up on either side of the cruiser, boxing it in with only a few inches between them. The cruiser was surrounded on all sides.
Suddenly, two shotgun barrels came through the open windows. They came to rest, one on Strausz’s left temple and one on Fischer’s right. He looked out of the corner of his eye and saw the driver of the van next to him holding the shotgun with one hand; the driver wore a stocking over his head. Strausz looked straight ahead to see that the minivan in front of them was missing a back window. Through it he could see another man aiming a sub-machine gun at them from inside who had a stocking on his head and a twisted right hand holding the front of the gun. It was Mouthpiece. Strausz and Fischer raised their hands without being asked.
The driver of the white van got out with a gallon jug in one hand and a sledge hammer in the other. Moving like lightning, he jumped onto the roof of the police car, then stood on the front of the roof and swung the hammer down.
The hammer punched three huge holes in the windshield and finally caved it in. Strausz and Fischer were covered with pebbles of broken glass. Wilhelm clutched his bag in the back seat, trembling in terror. The man standing on the roof doubled over and stuck a gun in Strausz’s face, the gunman’s own face upside down and looking gruesome, covered from the mouth up in a stocking. It was Red McGraw.
“Wh-who are you?” screamed Oskar.
“Call me Donner, God of Thunder, @$$hole!” McGraw said, holding his hammer up proudly. “Now give me the $#!^!”
“Give it up,” said Strausz. Oskar handed the suitcase up front, and Strausz passed it to McGraw.
Wolfgang Hurtz, at the wheel of the front van, was trembling and sweating beneath his stocking mask, obviously sickened by what he was doing. He glanced up at the rear-view mirror and looked at the scene outside, then looked down at the floor in shame, shaking his head.
“The money,” said McGraw.
Strausz looked at Fischer.
“The money!” McGraw demanded. “Let’s have it!”
Fischer handed the money through the remains of the windshield. Taking the money and stuffing it in his jacket, McGraw stepped back and took the cap off of the gallon jug. He quickly poured some kind of liquid all over the roof of the car.
“Do you know who I am?” shouted Strausz. “Do you know who I am?”
A hand reached into the driver’s side window and ripped Strausz’s badge off of his shirt. Strausz dared to turn his head right at the shotgun pointing at him through the window. On the other end was a masked and smiling Denny Dyce.
“We do now, schweinhund.”
McGraw lit a pack of matches and dropped them on the roof of the car as he jumped off. The liquid then ignited, and the roof of the car was instantly in flames. Strausz and Fischer attempted to bail out, but the vans were too close for them to open the doors.
The vans pulled away, and Strausz and Fischer escaped from the car. Oskar was trapped inside, screaming. Strausz and Fischer stopped, each expecting the other to go let Oskar out, until finally Oskar pushed the door open himself and rolled out on the street, putting the flames out of his overcoat.
“The papers got Hurtz’s call that day and were on the scene before the cops were. Strausz and Fischer were indicted three days later. Within a few weeks, fifty more cops went down with them. It was beautiful. Everybody got it right in the @$$, from the chief on down. Polizei Hamburg has never been the same.”
That night, Denny Dyce, Dickie Stanton, Red McGraw, and Mouthpiece all laughed together in a secluded garage, still in their black clothes from the robbery. Dyce threw everyone a can of beer. Wolfgang Hurtz sat off by himself, watching the others but unable to join in the festivities. The others sat around a cheap card table covered with diamonds — dozens of them. Everyone was in awe.
“There’s more than I thought,” said McGraw.
“When does the fence come?” asked Dyce.
“Petulengro?” said McGraw. “He never comes to see me. I have to go see him.”
“In Venice?” asked Mouthpiece.
“Yeah. It’ll take a few days. Me and Stanton–”
“Hold the #^@%in’ phone,” interrupted Dyce. “You and Stanton? No, no, no.”
“Guys, come on,” said McGraw.
“I’m sure you can understand my hesitation,” said Dyce.
“Then who goes?” said Stanton.
“We all go,” said Dyce. “How about it, Hurtz?
All eyes turned to Hurtz. He came out of his trance and said, “Venice is a good place to lay low for a while.”
“Fine with me,” said McGraw.
Everyone looked at each other, their moment of distrust blowing over. All eyes drifted back to the diamonds on the table. Dyce began to snicker, then McGraw, then Stanton. Mouthpiece joined in at last. McGraw grabbed Mouthpiece and hugged him, shaking him violently. “My boy with the plan! Yeah!”
They all began celebrating, and someone poured beer over Mouthpiece’s head. He laughed as he was drenched in white foam, nearly choking as the others chanted his name.
“Mouth-piece, Mouth-piece, Mouth-piece…”
Hurtz watched from across the room, trying to smile in vain.
Hamburg, Friday, March 21, 1986 — five weeks ago:
The day after the heist, Wolfgang Hurtz and Mouthpiece sat side by side on a sofa in a law office. A sign on the door behind them read: Müller and Hellman, Attorneys at Law.
“We’re going to miss the flight,” said Mouthpiece.
“We’ll make it,” said Hurtz.
“Don’t do this. Send her a card or something.”
“I said we’d make it.”
The secretary told them, “Ms. Schneider will be with you in a moment.”
Hurtz stood and paced across the waiting room, coming to a set of glass doors, which he looked through. He realized he was standing on a balcony overlooking a library below and saw Elsa working in the library with an older woman. He watched the two women talk for a few moments. He suddenly started as he felt a hand tapping him on the shoulder. Mouthpiece stood behind him.
“We’re gonna miss the plane.” Mouthpiece paused for a moment. “She’ll understand.”
Hurtz watched as Elsa smiled and laughed with the other woman, his own face marked with guilt and anguish. He turned and walked out of the waiting room. Mouthpiece took one last glance at Elsa and turned back to Hurtz.
In the library, Elsa turned, seeming to sense something behind her, and looked through the glass doors and up into the waiting room. Nothing was there. She went back to chatting with the older woman.