by Doc Quantum, adapted from The Usual Suspects, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie
An athletic club in Verona, Italy, Tuesday, April 15, 1986 — ten days ago:
Wolfgang Hurtz stood and spoke while the rest sat and listened. “So I need to know if anyone can think of anybody. Somebody with power. Enough to possibly track us from Hamburg.”
“Look,” said Red McGraw. “We’ve been going over it for an hour now. I say we pack up and run. Let’s go back to Hamburg. At least get out of Italy.”
Suddenly, a man cleared his throat behind all of them. Everyone turned to the door behind them to see a tall, slim, well-groomed man standing in the hall. He had a briefcase in his hand and smiled politely.
“Herr Hurtz?” he enquired. Hurtz stood back and let him in, and the man looked them over. “I am Herr Shillington. I’ve been asked by my employer to bring a proposal to you gentlemen. That must be Herr Dyce. I recognize Herr Stanton from his mug shot, as well as Herr McGraw.” He turned to Mouthpiece. “I can only assume that you are Herr Koda. I believe you were the one who disposed of Conrad. My employer sends his gratitude. A most unexpected benefit.” Everyone looked at one another in shock that he would know this.
“What can we do for you?” Hurtz asked.
“My employer requires your services,” said Shillington. “One job. One day’s work. Very dangerous. I don’t expect all of you to live, but those who do will have ninety-one million dollars to divide any way they see fit.”
“Who’s your boss?” asked Hurtz.
“My employer wishes to remain anonymous,” replied the lawyer without a beat.
“Don’t jerk me off,” said Hurtz. “We all know what this is. You don’t work with me if I work with you, without knowing who I’m working for. Now let’s cut the $#!^. Who’s the man?”
“I work for Baron Povalsky.”
A strange look crossed Hurtz’s face. Skepticism, mockery, and just a hint of fear. Denny Dyce, Red McGraw, and Dickie Stanton all shared similar looks. “What is this?” asked Hurtz.
“Who’s Baron Povalsky?” asked Mouthpiece.
“I am sure you’ve heard a number of tall tales, myths, and legends about the Baron,” said Shillington. “I can assure you, gentlemen, most of them are true.”
“Who’s Baron Povalsky?” Mouthpiece asked again.
“Judging by the sudden change in mood, I am sure the rest of your associates can tell you, Herr Koda. I have come with an offer directly from the Baron. An order, actually.”
“An order,” repeated Hurtz.
“In late 1973, Herr Hurtz, you participated in the hijacking of a truck in Berlin. The cargo was raw steel. Steel that belonged to the Baron and was destined for Pakistan to be used in a nuclear reactor, a very profitable violation of Post-Nazi Occupation regulations at the time. You had no way of knowing this, because the man shipping the steel was working for the Baron without his knowledge.
“Herr Stanton and Herr McGraw hijacked a twin-prop cargo flight earlier this year out of Bremen’s airport. The plane was carrying platinum and gold wiring. Also set for Pakistan.” Shillington turned and pointed at Dyce. “One month ago, Herr Dyce — or should I say Herr Horn, for that is your true family name — stole a truck carrying gun parts through Volksdorf–”
Everyone looked at Dyce, who smiled sheepishly. It finally occured to them all that he robbed the truck for which they were all arrested in the first place.
“–guns which were headed for the Eastern Front. They were to be ‘lost’ in a weigh station and rerouted to England and delivered to the British Resistance. Again, the Baron using pawns who had no knowledge. Although the delivery did occur, Herr Dyce cheated the Baron out of his profit on the deal.”
Shillington turned to the cripple. “Which brings us to Herr Koda.” Mouthpiece crumbled under his stare. “Nine months ago, one of the Baron’s less-than-intelligent couriers was taken in a complicated confidence scam by a cripple. He was relieved of sixty-two thousand dollars. Now, it has taken us some time to find you. Our intention was to approach you after your apprehension in Hamburg.”
“You set up the lineup,” Hurtz realized.
“The Baron made a few calls, yes,” said the lawyer. “You were not to be released until I came to see you. It seems Herr Hurtz’s attorney, Ms. Schneider, was a bit too effective in expediting his release. Holding the rest of you became a moot point.”
“What about Petulengro?” asked Hurtz.
“Herr Petulengro knew nothing. The Baron rarely works with the same people for very long, and they never know who they’re working for. One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.”
“So why tell us?” asked Stanton.
“Because you have stolen from the Baron. That you did not know you stole from him is the only reason you are still alive, but he feels you owe him. You will repay your debt.”
“Who is this guy?” said Dyce. “How do we know you work for Povalsky?”
“I don’t think that is relevant, Herr Dyce,” said Shillington. “The five of you are responsible for the murder of Conrad Schumacher and his bodyguards. Herr Petulengro can attest to your involvement, and we can see to it that he will. He is a Gypsy and not of your so-called ‘superior’ Aryan breed.”
“This is a load of $#!^,” said McGraw.
“The offer is this, gentlemen,” continued the lawyer. “The Baron’s primary interest after arms smuggling, as I am sure you all know, is narcotics. He’s been — competing, shall we say — with a group of Afghans for several years. Competing with the Baron has taken its toll. These Afghans are negotiating the sale of ninety-one million dollars in opium in three days’ time. Needless to say, this purchase will revitalize the diminishing strength of their organization. The Baron wants you to stop the deal. If you choose, you may wait until the buy. Whatever money changes hands is yours. The transaction will take place on a boat in Venice. The Baron wants you to get to the boat and destroy the opium on board. Then you are free of your obligation to the Baron.”
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now,” said Hurtz.
Shillington smiled and put his briefcase on the table in front of him. “A gift from the Baron, gentlemen.” He turned and walked out of the room.
Hurtz walked over to the case and opened it, then reached in and pulled out five thick manila envelopes, each marked in bold black letters — Hurtz, McGraw, Dyce, Stanton, and Koda. Hurtz pulled out the files, revealing a map underneath, and handed each man his file, opening his first. He pulled out a thick stack of papers and thumbed through them. “Geez,” he muttered. “Open them.”
All of the men opened their files. Inside were mug shots of each man in his respective file, as well as a printout of his criminal record. But there was more.
“They know everything,” said Dyce.
“This is my life in here,” said McGraw. “Everything I’ve ever done since I was eighteen.”
“They #^@%ing know everything,” Dyce said. “They know how my father died and why my mother took the name Dyce.”
“Everybody I ever worked with, did time with,” said Stanton.
Hurtz pulled out a large black and white photograph of himself and his lawyer, Elsa Schneider. They were laughing arm-in-arm by a fountain in Hamburg. He hid the photo from the others. “This is not right.”
“I don’t know,” said Stanton. “Who was that guy that used to talk about Povalsky in Hamburg?
“Hans Brecht,” said McGraw.
“Yeah,” said Stanton. “He said he did jobs for him. Indirect stuff. Always five times more money than the job was worth.”
“Come on,” said Hurtz. “The guy is a pipe dream. This Shillington is using him for window dressing.”
“I don’t know,” said Stanton. “This is bad.”
“It’s bull$#!^!” said Dyce. “This guy could be SS. I think it’s a setup.”
“The way I hear it, Povalsky is some kind of butcher,” said Stanton. “No pity.”
“There is no Baron Povalsky,” said Hurtz.
Mouthpiece thumbed through his file, containing a long list of names, numbers, and addresses. It was a detailed portfolio of his entire criminal and personal life. He looked up at Hurtz and asked a final time, “Who is Baron Povalsky?”
Tarantino’s office, Friday, April 25, 1986 — present day:
Count Helmut von Stauffen leaned into Mouthpiece’s face, hanging on his every word.
“He’s supposed to be Polish,” said Mouthpiece. “His father was a Polish baron who became a ruthless freedom fighter called the Marksman back when Poland was invaded in 1939. Some say his mother was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Shillington tell it, anybody could have worked for Povalsky. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
“One story the guys told me — the story I believe — was from his days in Poland. This was in 1967, about a year before the Nazis’ mind-control ray was used to end the war and take over the entire world. There was a petty gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that, to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t. After a while, they come to power, and then they come after the Baron. He was small-time then, just operating a gun-running ring and financing his activities by ripping off wealthy Nazis, they say. He did this in disguise, dressing up in his father’s Marksman costume and playing Robin Hood all through Central Europe.
“Posing as a group of Resistance fighters wanting to buy guns, the Hungarians eventually discover the false name the Baron is using and where he lives, and they come to his home one afternoon. They find his wife and kids in the house and decide to wait for Povalsky. He comes home to see his wife raped and his children screaming. The Hungarians knew the Baron was tough, not to be trifled with. So they let him know they meant business. One of them grabbed Povalsky’s youngest boy and slit his throat with a straight razor. He then grabbed another child, the Baron’s six-year-old daughter.
“They tell Povalsky they want all his gun-running business. Baron Povalsky looks over the faces of his family. Then he showed these men of will what will really was. The Baron pulls out a pistol and shoots the two men with guns. He then turns and aims at the third man holding his child. The man threatens to cut the child’s throat, slicing just enough to draw blood. Povalsky then fires his gun, killing his own daughter, then turns the pistol on the next child, then the next and the next. He kills his children one by one in front of the lone Hungarian.
“He tells him he would rather see his family dead than live another day after this. Baron Povalsky walks over to his wife, crying and beaten on the floor, and holds up her head. She gives him the strangest look. One of trust, perhaps, saturated with fear and humiliation. He puts the gun between her eyes and fires.
“He lets the last Hungarian go, and he waits until his wife and kids are in the ground, and he goes after the rest of the mob. With the trademark arrows he used as the Marksman, he kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents’ friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in. He kills people that owe them money. All with arrows so they knew it was him. And like that — he was gone. Underground. No one has ever seen him again. He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. If you rat on your father, the Baron will get you. And nobody really ever believes.”
Count von Stauffen shot the crippled man a look of disgust and asked him condescendingly, “Do you believe in him, Mouthpiece?”
“Hurtz always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m still afraid of him.’ Well, I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Baron Povalsky.”
In the other room, the Red Torpedo and Captain Benedict Tarantino listened to Mouthpiece on the speaker with one ear.
“Do you think there’s any merit in this Baron story, Agent Torpedo?” asked Tarantino, who didn’t believe it any more than the Count.
“I can introduce you to Dietrich Metzheiser from Ausland Sicherheitsdienst. He has a file on Povalsky and his father in Berlin. It’s been a hobby of his for a few years.”
“Had you heard of him before?” Tarantino asked him.
The Torpedo shrugged. “A few times, but only indirectly. Somebody was working for one man who was working for another man who got money through Baron Povalsky. That kind of thing. Could be an old badge, a hex sign to keep people from #^@%ing with you back when a name meant something.”
“But you’re here.”
“Indeed,” said the Torpedo. “I have a Hungarian trying to walk out of the hospital on a leg like a fried drumstick to get away from Povalsky. I’ll test the idea.”
Inside Tarantino’s office, Mouthpiece said, “I came clean. I told it like it happened on the boat. So what if I left out how I got there? It’s got so many holes in it, the prosecutor would’ve told me to blow amnesty out my @$$. You got what you wanted out of me. So big #^@%ing deal.”
“And this is why you never told the prosecutor–”
“You tell me, Herr Count,” said Mouthpiece. “If I told you the Loch Ness Monster hired me to hit the harbor, what would you say?”
“Give us the evidence,” said the Black Knight. “Take the stand on this, and we’ll hear it out.”
“I’ve got immunity now. What can you possibly offer me?”
“If there really is a Baron Povalsky as you believe,” von Stauffen said, a slight grin on his face, “wouldn’t he be looking for you?”
“Where’s your head, Herr Count? Where do you think the pressure’s coming from? Baron Povalsky — or whatever you want to call him — knows where I am right now. He’s got the front burner under your @$$ to let me go so he can scoop me up ten minutes later. Immunity was just to deal with you @$$holes. I got a whole new problem when I post bail.”
“So why play into his hands?” asked the Count. “We can protect you.”
“Oh, gee, thanks, Herr Count,” Mouthpiece said sarcastically. “Bang-up job so far. Extortion, coercion. You’ll pardon me if I ask you to kiss my pucker. The same #^@%ers that rounded us up and sank us into this mess are telling me they’ll bail me out? #^@% you. You think you can catch the Baron? You think a guy like that comes this close to getting caught and sticks his head out? If he comes up for anything, it will be to get rid of me.” He paused. “After that, my guess is you’ll never hear from him again.”
Meanwhile, back in Arkosh Kovash’s hospital room, the man spit out a constant river of Hungarian while the translator, Leopold Bodi, tried to keep up, relaying everything to the sketch artist. Ulrika Friedrich sketched frantically while Dietrich Metzheiser of Ausland Sicherheitsdienst — the foreign intelligence security service of the SS — looked on.
“What sort of nose did he have?” Bodi asked in Hungarian.
Kovash peered at the drawing. “It was smaller than that. Sharper.”
“The nose is sharper,” Bodi told Ulrika. “Smaller, too.” He turned back to Kovash. “And what about the hair? You said something earlier about it.”
“It is longer than that,” said Kovash. “And not so dark.”
“Are you sure?” Bodi clarified.
Kovash had lost his patience with the man. “Don’t be stupid.”
Bodi turned back to Ulrika. “He says the hair is longer and lighter.”
The composite sketch of Baron Povalsky began to take form.
“And that was how I ended up in a Polka band in Ingolstadt, Bavaria,” said Mouthpiece.
“This is completely irrelevant,” said Count Helmut von Stauffen, pacing back and forth as he listened.
“Oh, but it’s not,” said Mouthpiece. “If I hadn’t been nailed in Bavaria for running a three-card monte in between sets, I never would have took off for Hamburg. I never would have met Hurtz, see? That barber shop quartet was the reason for everything.”
“Can we just get back to Shillington?”
“The Polka band is part of the bit about Shillington,” explained Mouthpiece. “The band was in my file, along with every other thing I had done since high school, see? Aliases, middlemen. They knew me better than I did. They knew all of us.”
Count von Stauffen looked at his watch. “You’re stalling, Mouthpiece.”
“Give a guy a break, huh?”
“What happened?” asked von Stauffen, still pacing.
Mouthpiece slumped a bit, realizing his stalling tactic had failed. “We woke up the next morning and Stanton was gone. He couldn’t handle the idea of slumming for the Baron. He left a note wishing us good luck and took a chunk of the money we’d scraped together.”
“McGraw was furious,” said Mouthpiece. “He was talking about tracking him down and ripping his heart out and all sorts of $#!^. That night we got the call.”
Von Stauffen stopped in place and looked at the crippled man. “What call?”
Mouthpiece shrugged. “Shillington told us where we could find Stanton.”