by Doc Quantum, adapted from The Usual Suspects, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie
The man known as Shillington drove Baron Povalsky out of Venice toward an airfield, where a plane was waiting for the two. During the drive, the Baron had discarded the now-useless disguise as the cripple known as Alexander “Mouthpiece” Koda. He would have no need of it any longer.
The Baron exited the car and appeared quite different than he had when he had been picked up as Mouthpiece. He was now dressed in a fine black suede coat with a coat of arms tastefully embroidered above his left coat pocket, and he wore a black suit and a black hat. Expensive sunglasses adorned his nose and a pair of silky leather gloves covered his hands. He walked up the short flight of stairs into the small plane on expensive, tailor-made shoes. If any bystander on the street were to see him now and look at the composite sketch made of him based on Arkosh Kovash’s recollection, he would see absolutely no resemblance between the two.
“Thank you, Perkins,” Povalsky said as he settled into his seat. “It looks like everything’s gone according to plan.”
“Indeed, Herr Baron,” replied Perkins, for that was the true name of Shillington. It was he who had first suggested Baron Povalsky use the nickname of “Mouthpiece” for the false identity of Alexander Koda the Baron had invented several years ago. The English lawyer had a cousin in America named Bill Perkins, who had been a newly elected district attorney in 1941 when he donned a mask and business suit and became one of a number of mystery-men of that era. Long forgotten, the Mouthpiece had been among those who died during the Nazi Occupation, but Perkins was proud that his cousin’s nickname had been of some use to his employer.
“And are they waiting?”
“They arrived this morning, Herr Baron. We have them at your stronghold in the Alps at this very moment.”
“Good. Well, let’s not keep them waiting. I’m sure they’ll be eager to discover what lies in store for them now.”
“Yes, Herr Baron,” Perkins replied, making a motion to the pilot to leave the airport.
“Where the #^@% am I?” Red McGraw muttered as he awoke to find himself in a clean bed in a small, dimly lit room that was completely white. “What the–?” he exclaimed suddenly as he looked down to find himself completely naked beneath the white hospital robe he wore. He instinctively reached one hand behind his head, feeling for the wound he knew he had received. All he felt was a small scar, but otherwise it appeared as if it was less serious than he’d thought. “I could’ve sworn…”
McGraw got up from his bed groggily and looked around his room. As he did so, motion detectors placed at two corners of the room automatically brightened the lights. Looking around, he saw a perfectly white table with a small pile of clothing, obviously meant for him. No door was evident, and the corners of the room were all rounded, so that there were no sharp edges anywhere. Squinting, he thought he could see slight cracks where a door might open.
On the opposite wall of the apparent doorway was a video screen, which suddenly activated moments after the lights turned on. On it a face appeared — the face of Perkins.
“Ah, good to see you’re awake, Herr McGraw.”
“Perkins!” he shouted, angry to see the face of the man responsible for Stanton’s murder. “Where the #^@% am I?!”
“I suppose you must be wondering where you are. Do not worry. Everything will be explained momentarily. The Baron was very pleased with your work, and he’s decided to make you a member of his staff.”
McGraw realized he had shouted at a video-recording, and he now sat back down on the bed and laughed. Despite everything, he was alive.
In another room, Denny Dyce realized he’d been tricked. He hadn’t been shot at all, except with a powerful tranquilizer. The blood he had seen wasn’t his own. He was sure of that much when he checked himself out. The sores on his back and on his head proved only to be from tranquilizer darts.
He had already smashed the viewscreen with his fist and was checking out the electronic parts for salvageability, reasoning that there could be something in here he could rig up in order to escape from this place. There was no way he was going into any kind of confinement at all, not even if this prison provided all the comforts of home.
Wolfgang Hurtz was the only one with serious injuries, and he was still recovering in an intensive care ward in yet another room. He dreamed he was walking hand in hand down a beach with Elsa Schneider.
The plane carrying Baron Povalsky arrived at a hidden enclave in the Swiss Alps, far from the battles and fighting of the new World War.
Exiting the plane, the Baron strolled into a large chateau, which appeared from the outside to be nothing more than a modest ski lodge. Yet most of the space inside was underground, beneath the crust of the mountains it sat between. It was, in truth, a fully-equipped military stronghold able to withstand anything short of a full-blown nuclear attack, although there were measures in place for such an event as well.
The Polish Baron gave a nod to Perkins and walked into a room guarded by two armed guards while the English lawyer spoke to the medical staff that appeared from a far room.
“Have them brought out,” Perkins told the doctor.
McGraw was brought out first, followed by Dyce. Each of them were wearing similar dark gray jumpsuits, the clothing provided for them in their rooms. Looking at each other, they each cracked a brief smile, thankful to be alive. The smiles vanished as quickly as they came as the two looked grimly at Perkins, the man whom they had come to know as their enemy. Whatever he had to say to them, they knew their lives would never be the same again.
“#^@% this ‘gentlemen’ crap, Perkins,” McGraw demanded, his legendary temper boiling over once again. “Where the hell are we, and why are we here?”
“Herr McGraw, I do ask that you save your enthusiasm for the Nazis and watch your language while you are here.” The English lawyer gestured to three burly men in jumpsuits holding sidearms. “These gentlemen do not look kindly upon unwarranted aggression.”
“It was a setup, wasn’t it?” said McGraw. “There was no opium on the boat at all.”
“This is true. Nevertheless, you both performed your functions adequately. The witness who would testify against the Baron to the Nazis is now dead. And now so are you, at least as far as the SS is concerned.”
“So are you gonna explain what the #^@% this is all about?” asked Dyce. “Or should we just stand here in our pyjamas?”
“It is quite simple, Herr Dyce. You and Herr McGraw are now officially dead. Baron Povalsky wishes to offer you both a place in his underground resistance movement.”
“‘Resistance movement’?” said McGraw disbelievingly. “You and I both know Povalsky is a dealer in drugs and arms. He’s nothing more than a criminal kingpin.”
“A most effective cover,” Perkins said, a slight smile on his face. “The Baron’s worldwide operations — while on the surface are criminal in the extreme — are actually quite beneficial to the world and the Allied cause, not to mention profitable. All profits go into the work the Baron is most passionate about — striking down the Nazi blight that has once again inflicted itself upon the world.”
“What does he want with us?” said Dyce. “We’re just a couple of small-time operators. We’re no resistance fighters.”
“What I want to know is,” McGraw broke in angrily, “how the #^@% you think you’re going to make me work for you when you murdered my partner?”
Perkins smirked. “That was a most unfortunate incident. The Baron felt that Herr Stanton was a weak link for the operation you were a part of and had him removed. It proved to be the right decision, as here you both are.”
“Well #^@% you!” McGraw shouted, his red face getting redder. “#^@% you, Perkins, if you think I’m gonna let you get away with–”
McGraw stopped and turned around at the voice. It was Dickie Stanton, and he was very much alive. He was dressed in the same jumpsuit they were wearing, only he wore over it a flashy maroon sport jacket with wide collars. “S-Stanton?!” he said, his eyes as wide as saucers.
“Yeah, man, what the #^@% — you look like you seen a ghost or somethin’.”
“You bastard, you!” McGraw shouted, then grabbed him and gave him a bear-hug, picking him up in the air. “But how–? I saw your body. We buried you!”
“If Stanton’s here, where are Hurtz and Mouthpiece?” asked Dyce.
“As to your question of Herr Stanton’s continued good health, Herr McGraw, you would be amazed at the Baron’s resources when it came to finding a dead ringer for Herr Stanton at the appropriate time.” Perkins smiled at his own pun. “It served to convince you of the importance of your first assignment, did it not?”
“You’ve been manipulating us all along, haven’t you?” Dyce said.
“It is the Baron’s way, Herr Dyce. He had to know whether you were worth the effort he expended recruiting you. Now, as to your question about Herr Hurtz and Herr Koda, I can assure you that you’ll be seeing both of them rather shortly.”
“Man, you guys look sharp in them jumpsuits,” Stanton joked.
Wolfgang Hurtz caught a whiff of perfume as he lay with his eyes closed in his hospital bed. Consciousness had begun to return, however, and he heard voices around him. He finally opened his eyes and found himself in a white room.
“Elsa?” he said weakly.
Standing there by the doorway, like an angel, was the love of his life. She rushed in and sat down by his side, kissing him tenderly on the forehead. “Wolfie,” said Elsa Schneider, “you’re finally awake.”
“What? Where am I?”
“You’re where you need to be, Wolfie,” she said. “In a place where you can really turn your life around. Forget the restaurant idea, forget about all that. You’re here with me now.”
“What do you mean, Elsa?” said Hurtz. “You’re not making any sense.”
A male voice spoke. “Then let me explain.”
Hurtz looked up to see a familiar dark figure walk into his room. “You! You shot me.”
“I had to, Hurtz. I had no other choice.”
“Who are you? I know that’s really Mouthpiece under those expensive clothes, but I can hardly recognize you. I almost thought I only dreamed about you being Baron Povalsky. And Elsa, here…”
“I did as you asked me to, Hurtz,” said the Baron, smiling. “I protected her. And once she fully understood my motives and why I had to use the false pretenses I did, she agreed with me.”
“But — but you killed Stanton.”
“Rest assured, Stanton is alive and well, as is your beloved Elsa, here,” Baron Povalsky explained. “They are both believed to be quite deceased by the SS, though.”
“None of this makes any sense to me. What’s your game, Baron?”
The man known as the Marksman came closer to Hurtz’s bed and pulled back his cloak to reveal his face — his true face.
“My… God…” said Hurtz. “You look almost exactly like me.”
“We are twin brothers, you and I, Hurtz,” explained Baron Povalsky. “Not identical, but twins nonetheless. You were raised by our German mother’s family under our father’s assumed name of Major Hurtz, and I was raised by our father and his allies in the underground to assume the baronetcy upon the death of our father. I regret that I was unaware of your existence until recently. And even then, I had to know whether you could be trusted. I concocted an elaborate scheme to bring together you and the other men for my own purposes, testing all of you. I had to know if you and the others were worthy.
“Our father was the Marksman, a Polish patriot who fought a one-man war against the Nazi blight which invaded our homeland. In doing so, he infiltrated the German army using the pseudonym of Major Wolfgang Hurtz. It was while he was under this guise that he met our mother, a German noblewoman who used her influential position to help the underground. Circumstances of the war separated them shortly after we were born, and they each took one of us to raise, believing that they would soon be reunited.
“It was not to be. Our mother was killed saving your life, Wolfgang, and you were raised by your mother’s family. Meanwhile, our father believed both her and you to be dead and raised me alone. Our father, the original Marksman, died in 1956 while on a mission of sabotage against the Nazi European government, and I became the next Baron, reared by his allies in the underground Resistance.
“You, of course, have heard what happened to my own family in 1967. After the death of my family, I began growing the small arms trade I had developed for resistance movements worldwide into a large criminal empire with unparalleled resources. This was all done in order to put an underground network in place for the inevitable day when the Nazis would return once more. We all knew that Adolf Hitler and the upper echelons of the Nazi Party had never been found and that it was only a matter of time before Nazism reared its ugly head once more. I knew I had to have a network in place for that occurrence. And I wish you to become a part of it, my brother.”
“I-I don’t know what to say,” Hurtz gasped.
Wolfgang Hurtz looked at Elsa, who looked back at him expectantly. Mouthpiece had certainly kept his word. “All right,” he said. “But exactly what do you want from me?”
The Baron looked at him with a serious, businesslike expression. He finally said, “I want you to become what the SS believes you already are. I want you to be Baron Povalsky.”
A few hours later, after McGraw, Dyce, and Stanton had been served a sumptuous meal, they were brought back into the main meeting room. Their spirits had been lifted greatly by the realization that they weren’t going to be led to the slaughter like fatted calves, but they were still edgy as they looked around. The room was full of men and women of various ages, all wearing similar jumpsuits to their own. The three men quietly muttered to themselves as they tried to figure out what was going to happen now. All thoughts of revenge on Perkins and the Baron had evaporated with the revelation that Stanton was alive.
A doorway on the second floor by the balcony opened then, and a dark figure walked out. He stopped at the balcony and looked down at the three men.
“Your lives are no longer your own,” he stated. “They belong to Baron Povalsky. Each of you has been saved from a life of meaningless crime, which was sure to send you to an early grave, and we will expect you to live up to the expectations we have of you.
“Our enemies are Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, as well as their collaborators — the Imperialists of Japan and the Fascists of Italy. They are a scourge upon the world, a persistent cancer eating away at men’s souls everywhere. They must be stopped and brought to swift justice. This is my purpose in life, and now it will be yours as well. Look around you. Each of the men and women in this complex has pledged their lives into my service, and they are each willing to die for our cause. I will ask you to do no less.
“Red McGraw — although your heroic grandfather was an American from Brooklyn and could have lived a life of ease there, he instead chose a life in the military, gaining experience in the Marines. Sergeant Red McGraw was the only U.S. Marine to escape Shanghai when the Japanese captured all foreign military forces in the city in late 1941. McGraw escaped with the help of a band of Chinese guerillas, quickly becoming their leader. They called him the Dragon after the emblem of their country, and for nearly four years he and his band of guerillas fought the Japanese throughout Occupied China in what seemed an almost-hopeless struggle at the time.
“When the Dragon was killed in battle in 1945, he left behind a son — your father — in the United States. Your father, like your grandfather, fought for freedom as a resistance leader first in Europe and then in the U.S., where he was captured and executed in 1968. You were born and raised in Germany, and although you knew neither your father nor your grandfather, you possess the same potential for good as the Dragon had. Should you choose to carry on your family’s heroic legacy and join me, you will be known only by the name of your heroic grandfather. You will be called the Dragon.”
McGraw grinned, obviously liking the idea.
“Denny Dyce — your name, as you well know, is not your own but that of a dead man. Your father was a petty criminal named Jake Horn who happened to be lifelong friends with a man named Daniel Dyce, a promising young attorney. By 1939, Horn had served time for two convictions. Now facing a third conviction that would place him in prison for life, he sought Dyce’s help. His wife Mary was about to give birth to you, their first and only child, and Horn wanted desperately to be around her for the birth. He asked Dyce to take the rap for his crime just long enough for him to visit his pregnant wife. He gave his word that he would turn himself in after his child was born, and Dyce would go free. The young lawyer agreed with little hesitation, knowing how important it was to his friend. None of us will ever know whether Jacob Horn would have gone through with it, because he met his destiny when he was killed in a hit-and-run accident while on his way to see his wife and newborn son. And Daniel Dyce — now known only as convict number 711 — was left in Westmoor Prison, serving a life sentence for a crime he never committed.
“Still, Dyce was a man with great potential, and he readily made the most of his situation, spending the next two years digging a tunnel out of prison. Once he had found freedom, however, he realized that he had been forgotten by the outside world. He was now only number 711, and his place was behind the walls of Westmoor Prison. Once he had accepted that, Dyce realized that he could fight crime and help people even under his trying circumstances, since he could secretly come and go from his prison cell into the outside world using his undiscovered tunnel. He became the mystery-man known as 711, and from 1941 until the end of 1942 he fought numerous crooks and helped many people. That is, until he was gunned down by a racketeer named Oscar Jones. It took another mystery-man named Destiny to bring Jones to justice.
“But things have a way of coming around, and Jacob Horn’s story was not over. You see, while he had been killed in that hit and run in 1939 — and had even been dead long enough to be brought to the morgue — his body went missing and was never seen again. Destiny was a true mystery-man — one who had no past and had long forgotten his own name, who had the occult power to appear anywhere he sensed great danger. Was Destiny an amnesiac Jake Horn finally come around to pay his debt? We may never know, just as we may never know the fate of the mysterious Destiny. But we do know that your father owed that debt to Daniel Dyce, who gave up his life to pay the penalty for Horn’s crimes. If you are willing to repay your family’s debt, from now on you will go by the name of your father, Jake Horn. And your code name will be a variation of that name — the Horned Owl.”
Dyce grumbled something foul to himself. Still, although he tried to hide it, he was obviously moved.
“Dickie Stanton — your uncle, after whom you were named, was also a mystery-man of sorts. Richard Stanton was a wealthy character actor and famous female impersonator who made his fortune in the stock market before the Wall Street crash of 1929. He was also briefly a husband and a father of a little girl who was kidnapped by a man his wife was previously involved with. After the police came up with no leads, his wife died of a broken heart, and Stanton spent the next two decades searching for their daughter. Abandoning his own identity, he submerged himself into the role of an elderly woman known only as Madam Fatal. He had long ago noticed that people often had their guard down around old ladies and usually underestimated them. Because of this he used his male strength and youthful speed against his unsuspecting foes, taking them unaware before they realized the old lady was a threat.
“Knowing that trick only worked so many times, Richard Stanton played his last role as Madam Fatal in 1949 after finally tracking down his daughter. He was fifty years old at the time, and age had caught up to him. Stanton spent the next twenty years in retirement, happily watching his now-grown-up daughter and heir to his fortune follow her own dreams and goals. After Nazi Germany invaded the United States in 1963, he did what he could to assist the Resistance as an information-gatherer but carefully avoided any conflict. He lived to see the Third Reich crumble in 1973 and died in his sleep two years later. You knew him only as an odd but kindly old uncle who smelled of lavender and old lace and who taught you all you know about acting and disguise. But little did your uncle know that his nephew would use these skills as a criminal and two-bit con operator. You owe it to your uncle Richard to finally put your talent for female impersonation to good use in your identity as the new Madam Fatal.”
Stanton broke into a grin, oblivious to the snickering of McGraw and Dyce.
“Each of you may have been criminals in your former lives, but you would not be the first group of criminals to turn your talents to fighting the Axis,” said the Baron. He looked at Red McGraw. “Dragon, among your grandfather’s many allies was a millionaire American inventor named Mortimer Van Dyne. This wealthy genius had an equally wealthy brother named Del Van Dyne, a former airline pilot who was responsible for founding a kind of foreign legion of the air much like the Blackhawks. This group was called the Death Patrol and was an independent squadron of pilots made up almost entirely of American criminals who left their old lives behind to fight the Nazis and Japanese in World War II. Besides the legacies left to you by your families, it is the Death Patrol’s example that I hope each of you will follow.
“As for me, I am the Marksman — the second to go by that name — and I’m giving you a choice. Follow me and offer your lives and your talents in service to the European Resistance, with all the resources and benefits that entails, or leave this place and my protection. This is a one-time offer only, and the choice is yours. I’ve shown each of you enough in order for you to make that decision.”
The three men looked at each other, knowing they would have to be in full agreement in whatever decision they made now. The alternative was too risky.
“What do you guys think?” asked McGraw, quickly taking a leadership role in the trio.
“I think this guy’s a &@$*#^*$#@,” said Dyce, “but if he’s got the G’s, I’m in. I hate the Nazis.”
Stanton shrugged. “I already decided before you guys got here. You in, McGraw?”
Red McGraw nodded and turned back to the Marksman. “As much as I like your cause, Baron, I won’t stay without compensation, and the others agree with me,” he said. “We’re not members of the #^@#ing Freedom Fighters. So what about the money?”
The Marksman gestured to Perkins, who walked up to them with a briefcase.
“Money is, as they say, no object to the Baron, gentlemen,” said the English lawyer, opening up the briefcase to display an assortment of large bills and three bricks of gold. “We shall call this the first installment of your salary. Do we have a deal?”
The three former criminals looked at each other again and agreed. “We have a deal,” said McGraw.
Perkins smiled and shook their hands to complete the agreement. “Welcome to the Resistance, gentlemen.”