by Doc Quantum, adapted from The Usual Suspects, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie
Polizia de Stato headquarters, Venice, Italy, Friday, April 25, 1986 — present day:
“That’s heartwarming, really,” Captain Benedict Tarantino said sarcastically. “I’m weepy.”
“Captain, would you mind waiting outside?” said Count Helmut von Stauffen. Tarantino got up from his chair to leave.
“You guys wanted to know what happened after the lineup,” said Mouthpiece. “I’m telling you.”
“Oh come on, Mouthpiece,” said von Stauffen. “Who do you think you’re talking to? You really expect me to believe he retired? For a woman? Nonsense! He was using her.”
“He loved her.”
“Sure. And I’m supposed to believe that hijacking the Taxi Service wasn’t his idea, either.”
“That was all Stanton and McGraw,” said Mouthpiece, shrugging.
“Come on,” said von Stauffen. “Hurtz was a Hamburg policeman for four years. Who else would know the Taxi Service better? That job had his name all over it.”
“You keep trying to lay this whole ride on Hurtz,” Mouthpiece said, shaking his head. “It wasn’t like that. Sure he knew, but Elsa had him all turned around. I’m telling you straight, I swear.”
“Let me tell you something,” said Count von Stauffen. “I know Wolfgang Hurtz. I’ve been investigating him for years, long before the rise of the Fourth Reich. The man I know is a cold-blooded bastard. He was a member of the Gestapo back in the ’60s when I first met him, but when the glorious Third Reich was overthrown thirteen years ago, he was one of the first to turn over everything he knew. He received a slap on the wrist at the same time his fellow officers were imprisoned and executed for their so-called crimes. After that, the traitor joined the Hamburger Polizei. He was then indicted on three counts of murder before he was kicked out, so don’t tell me he had reformed.”
“You’ve got him all wrong,” said Mouthpiece.
“Do I? Hurtz was under indictment a total of seven times when he was a policeman. In every case, witnesses either reversed their testimony or died before they could testify. When they finally did catch him for fraud in 1977, he spent five years in prison. He killed three prisoners inside — one with a knife in the tailbone while he strangled him to death. Of course, I can’t prove this, but I can’t prove the best part either.”
Von Stauffen paused to drink some coffee.
“Wolfgang Hurtz was dead. Did you know that? He died in a fire in 1984 — two years ago — during an investigation into the murder of a witness who was going to testify against him. Two people saw Hurtz enter a warehouse he owned just before it went up. They said he had gone in to check a leaking gas main. It blew up and took all of Wolfgang Hurtz with it. Within three months of the explosion, the two witnesses were dead, one killed himself in his car, and the other fell down an open elevator shaft.”
A Venice hospital:
The room the Hungarian was recovering in was now filled with people. The Red Torpedo of the SS Ubermenschen stood next to Dietrich Metzheiser of Ausland Sicherheitsdienst — the foreign intelligence security service of the SS — and the Italian doctors he spoke with earlier. Police filled the hall, and several people were talking loudly outside. An officer in his mid-twenties pushed his way in.
“Are you the translator?” asked the Red Torpedo.
“Patrolman Leopold Bodi, sir,” said the officer.
“Agent Torpedo, this is getting out of hand,” scolded the female doctor.
“I’ll see to it we’re gone before he blows his porch light, Doctor.” The Red Torpedo gestured to a young woman sitting next to the Hungarian’s bed and told the young patrolman, “This is Ulrika Friedrich. She’s a composite sketch artist.”
The young couple smiled at one another nervously. “Hi,” said Bodi.
Ulrika smiled. “Hello.”
“I’ve got a noon meeting, Torpedo,” said Metzheiser impatiently.
“Agent Torpedo, please,” said the female doctor as the hospital room became crowded. “This is not what we discussed. There are too many people here.”
“Everyone calm down,” said the Red Torpedo, turning to the Hungarian translator. “Ask this man about the shoot-out in the harbor.”
“My name is Bodi,” the translator said in Hungarian. “How are you?”
Arkosh Kovash smiled with relief when he heard his own language. “How am I? You are as stupid as that one, but at least I can talk to you.”
“You’ll be all right,” said Bodi. Indicating the Torpedo, he said, “He is from the SS and is here to help you. He wants to know what happened in the harbor.”
“We were there to buy a man and take him back to Hungary,” said Kovash.
“He says they were buying,” Bodi said in German to the Nazi super-agent. “It doesn’t make sense. I’m sorry, but I’m a little rusty. They were there to buy something.”
“Drugs. We know,” said the Torpedo.
“You don’t understand me either?” said Kovash in Hungarian. “God help me, they are all idiots.” He began speaking more slowly. “We were there to buy a man, you simple boy. A witness. I don’t know his name. A witness who knew the Baron.”
“Not drugs,” Bodi translated for the Red Torpedo. “Something else. Some what? … He doesn’t know what they were buying. But not drugs… people.”
“I’ll tell you everything,” said Kovash. “I’ll even say it slow enough for you to understand it. Just tell this man I want protection. Real protection.”
“Your witness is crazy, Torpedo,” said Metzheiser.
“He says he’ll tell us everything he knows if we protect him,” continued Bodi.
“Tell him yes,” said the Torpedo.
“He says yes,” Bodi told Kovash.
“No, no, no,” said Kovash. “I need a guarantee from the ridiculous man. I am going to be killed. I have seen this devil, and looked him in the eye.”
“No good,” related Bodi. “He needs guarantees. He says… his life is in danger… He has seen the Devil… looked him in the eye.”
“Ah, I’ll be on my way,” said Metzheiser, rolling his eyes.
The Red Torpedo grabbed Metzheiser by the arm. “Tell him to tell this man what he was telling me before. Who is the devil? Who did he see?”
Bodi asked Kovash in Hungarian, “Who is this devil you keep talking about?”
“Baron Povalsky,” said Kovash. “He was in the harbor shooting everyone in sight.” Metzheiser suddenly looked very interested.
“He says this devil is Baron Povalsky, and he saw him in the harbor,” said Bodi. “He was shooting… killing… killing many men.”
“Did he just say Baron Povalsky?” asked Metzheiser. “He saw Baron Povalsky?”
“Baron Povalsky, Baron Povalsky,” repeated Kovash. “I’ve seen his face. I see it when I close my eyes.”
“He says he knows his face,” explained Bodi. “He sees it when he closes his eyes.”
“Ask him what this Povalsky looks like,” said Metzheiser.
The Red Torpedo turned to the sketch artist. “Are you ready?”
Ulrika held up her pad and pencil and nodded.
Tarantino’s office, Polizia de Stato headquarters:
“Six weeks ago,” said Count von Stauffen, “I received an anonymous call telling me I could find Hurtz eating at this restaurant with his lawyer, and there he was. Now, because he never profited from his alleged death, and because someone else was convicted for the murder the police tried to convict Hurtz of, we had to let him go. He was dead just long enough for a murder charge to evaporate, and then he had lunch.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Mouthpiece.
“Oh, I don’t think you do,” said the Black Knight. “But you say you saw Hurtz die. I think you’re covering for him, and he’s still out there somewhere. I think he was behind that whole circus in the harbor. My bet is he’s using you because you’re stupid and think he’s your friend. You tell me he’s dead, so be it. I want to make sure he’s dead before I go back to Berlin.”
“He wasn’t behind anything,” said Mouthpiece. “It was the lawyer.”
“What lawyer?” said von Stauffen. He received no reply. “What lawyer, Mouthpiece?”
The crippled man stammered for a moment, looking around wildly. “Back when I was in that Polka band in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, I used to have–”
Von Stauffen grabbed Mouthpiece’s shirt and yanked him half out of his seat. “You think I don’t know you held out on the prosecutor? What did you leave out of that testimony? I can be on the phone to Rudy Bauer in ten minutes.”
“They gave me immunity,” said Mouthpiece.
“Not from me, schweinhund!” the Black Knight shouted viciously. “There is no immunity from me! You atone with me, or the world you live in becomes the hell you fear in the back of your tiny little mind. Every criminal I have put in prison, every officer, every soldier who owes me a favor, every creeping vermin that works the street for a living, will know the name of Alexander ‘Mouthpiece’ Koda. You’ll be the lowest sort of rat, the prince of snitches, the loudest-cooing stool pigeon that ever grabbed his ankles for the police. Now you talk to me, or that precious immunity they’ve seen so fit to grant you won’t be worth the paper the contract put out on your life is printed on.”
Mouthpiece looked at von Stauffen with utter contempt. “There was an English lawyer. Shillington.”
“Is he the one that killed Hurtz?”
“No,” said Mouthpiece. “But I’m sure Hurtz is dead.”
“Convince me. Tell me every last detail.”
Mouthpiece sighed and continued his story. “We arrived in Verona and met McGraw’s fence, this guy named Petulengro. He had a good reputation in Italy. Despite being a Gypsy, he seemed like a good guy — looked like a cowhide full of thumbtacks. Still, we should’ve known better…”
Verona, Italy, Friday, March 21, 1986 — five weeks ago:
All five men stood in a group at an outdoor theatre just outside of Verona at night. It was utterly quiet. An old but well-kept Mercedes-Benz crept into the lot from the far end and idled up to them, the windows tinted too much to see in. The car passed within a few feet of them and drove on. A moment later, a chrome and leather monster of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle pulled into the lot. The rider was dressed in an almost comical array of leather, silver, and suede. He waved to the Mercedes-Benz as it parked a few yards from Wolfgang Hurtz and the others, sitting quietly, almost menacingly. The Harley pulled up to them and stopped.
“Nice bike,” said McGraw.
“It’s American,” said Petulengro, smiling. “Better than any European motorcycle I’ve had.” The Gypsy fence shook McGraw’s hand and said, “How’ve you been?”
“Good,” replied McGraw. “You?”
“All right. How’s it going, Stanton?”
“Getting by,” said Dickie Stanton.
“You got it?” asked Petulengro.
McGraw held up a briefcase.
Petulengro took it and got off the bike, walking over to the Mercedes-Benz. The car door opened, and the Gypsy handed the case to someone inside the others could not see. The door closed.
“Snazzy dresser, this guy,” Wolfgang Hurtz whispered to the others.
A moment later, the door of the Mercedes-Benz opened again. Someone handed Petulengro a different briefcase, and the Gypsy walked back over to McGraw and gave him the case. McGraw handed the case back to Denny Dyce, who opened it to reveal the stacks of money inside.
“You must be Hurtz,” said Petulengro.
“Geez, I’m sorry,” said McGraw, slapping himself in the head. “Petulengro, this is Wolfgang Hurtz, that’s Denny Dyce, and that’s ‘Mouthpiece’ Koda.”
“The man with the plan,” the Gypsy said to Mouthpiece, nodding. The cripple smiled back. “Are you guys interested in more work?” asked Petulengro.
McGraw moved to answer, but Hurtz cut him off and said, “We’re on vacation.”
“I’ve got a ton of work and no good people,” said the Gypsy.
“What’s the job?” asked McGraw, pretending not to notice as Hurtz shot him a foul look.
“A jeweler out of Switzerland named Conrad,” the fence explained. “He rents a suite at a hotel downtown and does free appraisals. Buys whatever he can. Word is he moves with a lot of cash. I’ll take the merchandise, you keep the green.”
“Security?” asked Dyce.
“Two bodyguards. Pretty good setup,” said Petulengro.
“Give us time to check it out?” asked McGraw.
“I’d expect nothing less.”
“We’ll call you,” said McGraw.
“Take your time,” said the Gypsy. “Enjoy Italy.”
Hurtz spoke up. “A friend of mine in Hamburg tells me you knew Babo Nugent.”
“I hear you did time with old Babo,” said Petulengro. “Yeah, he was a good egg. I used to run a lot of heroin for him. #^@%in’ shame he got shivved.”
“I shivved him,” said the ex-Hamburg policeman. Now it was McGraw who shot an angry look at Hurtz. “Better you hear it from me now than somebody else later.”
“Business or personal?” asked the Gypsy.
“A little of both.”
“Ain’t it a crime? Call if you’re interested.” Petulengro fired up his bike and took off with the Mercedes-Benz close behind.
“What’s your #^@%ing problem?” McGraw said to Hurtz.
“One job, that was the deal,” Hurtz stated flatly.
“Take it as it comes, brother,” said McGraw.
“This is bull!” said Hurtz.
McGraw laughed and walked away, and Stanton and Dyce followed. Mouthpiece turned and asked, “What is it, Hurtz?”
The ex-policeman looked distant. “Something. I don’t know.” He shook himself. “I ever tell you about the restaurant I wanted to open?”
Hurtz walked off, and Mouthpiece followed him in confusion.
“Verona was good for about two hours,” explained the cripple in the present. “We were from Germany. You can’t get sausages anywhere, and the women don’t want to know you if you don’t have a permanent Mediterranean tan. Within a few days, the last of us was ready to go back to Hamburg, but Hurtz wouldn’t have it, so he really didn’t have a choice. After a few days of pestering by McGraw, Hurtz finally gave in. We went to work.”