Empire State
rating: +27+x

[1928. Midnight.]

[Several miles outside of New York City.]

The stillness of the woods is broken by a distant glow.

The glow approaches. Its source is revealed: The headlights of a 1926 burgundy Ford Model T Coupe. As it growls its way over a winding road, the beams of light briefly flash across blood-soaked chrome.

The automobile slows, halts, then reverses. Gravel pops beneath its well-worn tires. It slinks its way back to the source of that flash, then parks. The headlights flick off; the engine stays on. The driver's side door opens, and a large man emerges.

JIM 'MAD' MUNSLEY resembles a plump, silver-haired viking with a face full of scars. He is dressed neatly: a tweed jacket, flat cap, white cotton shirt, and fancy bow-tie. Although MUNSLEY knows the sensible move is to just keep driving, he is not the sort who lets good sense get in the way of doing right.

He reaches under his seat and pulls out a 12-gauge Winchester and a copper electric flashlight. He props the shotgun against his shoulder, switches on the flashlight, and makes his way toward the chrome.

The clearing dips low; there are three automobiles here, each severely damaged. They are all black, and all of a strange, unfamiliar make. Dead men in sharp suits are scattered around them — like losing tickets at a race-track.

There is doing right, and there is doing dumb. At the sight of the corpses, MUNSLEY turns to go. But before he takes another step, he hears something.

It sounds like someone whimpering in pain.

MUNSLEY sighs.

MUNSLEY

Applesauce.

MUNSLEY works his way down the hill.

MUNSLEY

Whoever you are, you better not shoot me. Mighty tired of getting shot.

He approaches the source of the sound. It comes from one of the cars; a sleek, customized coach. It has slammed into a tree; the force of impact squeezed the trunk, popping it open. When MUNSLEY aims the flashlight into the trunk, something moves.

The GIRL is young; 13 or 14, maybe. She is dressed in a beige slip with a bell-shaped cloche hat that grips her head. Thumb-thick curls of copper hair spill out from the corners, framing her pale, freckled face. She is gagged and bound, stuffed inside of the trunk.

MUNSLEY

The hell?

The GIRL sees MUNSLEY. She proceeds to struggle, making frantic whimpering noises.

MUNSLEY immediately places the flashlight on the ground and slings his shotgun over his back. He raises his hands and approaches the GIRL, moving slowly.

MUNSLEY

Relax. Relax. I'm gonna get that gag off you. Okay?

The GIRL stops struggling. She stares at him for quite some time, then nods.

MUNSLEY

Okay.

It takes some doing, but he works the gag off. It dangles beneath her chin. She has some cuts and bruises, but otherwise appears unharmed.

MUNSLEY

You hurting?

The GIRL hesitates, then shakes her head.

MUNSLEY

I'm going to pull you out, then cut you loose. Okay?

The GIRL nods.

MUNSLEY

Okay.

MUNSLEY reaches into the trunk. Before he makes contact, a bright white tongue of electricity lashes out from the edge of the coach's exterior and licks up his fingers and wrist. He jerks his arm back in shock.

MUNSLEY

Christ! The hell is — ?

MUNSLEY notices the interior walls of the trunk. They contain numerous overlapping geometric markings scratched into the metal. The markings pulse with a dim, barely-visible glow.

MUNSLEY

The hell is this? Why would...

The GIRL insistently thrusts her bound wrists out to MUNSLEY.

MUNSLEY

— right. Sorry.

MUNSLEY crouches down and pulls his knife out from his boot. With it, he slices through the rope binding her wrists, then her ankles. He helps her out of the trunk and on to the ground.

The GIRL rubs at her arms, trying to ward off the night's chill. Without thinking, MUNSLEY shrugs off his coat and drapes it over her shoulders. It looks ridiculous on her; it swallows her from the neck down, like an enormous cape.

MUNSLEY

Alright, so...

MUNSLEY glances around at the corpses. He does not want to linger here.

MUNSLEY

I'll take you some place where you can get some food in you — anything else you might need. Then you can tell me what the hell is going on, okay?

The GIRL nods. She clings to MUNSLEY'S coat, wrapping it tightly around herself.

MUNSLEY

Okay.

As MUNSLEY turns, he picks up his flashlight. Its beam bobs down and atop of one of the corpses. He pauses for a moment, looking more closely at it.

Numerous scorched patches cover the suit; wisps of smoke rise from the remains. Its face — blackened and charred beyond all recognition — is twisted into a silent scream; its teeth and portions of its jaw-bone are left exposed, almost all of its flesh burnt away.

MUNSLEY points the flashlight toward the hill.

MUNSLEY

C'mon. Let's go.

They proceed up the hill.



[1:45 am. Lower Manhattan.]

[Interior of Novak's Deli.]

Traces of cigar-smoke linger in the room. Five men dressed in suits are seated around a large, circular table; they are in the process of eating an extravagant meal. Of these five, only two men are relevant: A lean, pale Polish man by the name of JAKOB NOVAK, and his father — a much older man seated in a wooden wheelchair. His name is OSKAR NOVAK.

When the door opens, they pause and — with the exception of OSKAR — rise to stand.

Two men enter.

The first is lean, young, and hungry. His clothes are expensive, but fit him much like one would expect them to fit a scarecrow. His hair is strawberry blonde, and slicked back; he always wears a crooked smile on his freckled, pale face. His name is WILLY FROST.

The second is a little older; his clothes are moderately expensive, but practical and fit him well. His charcoal hair is short and dense, with deep brown skin that is the shade of burnt umber. He moves slowly, speaks softly, and rarely smiles. His name is MATTHIEU LAPIERRE.

WILLY

Hello, gentlemen.

JAKOB bows his head and gestures to the only other empty chair at the table. Meanwhile, OSKAR's eyes are locked on MATTHIEU.

JAKOB

Mr. Frost. A pleasure. Please, have a seat. Can I offer you anything? Food, drink?

WILLY strides forward and drapes himself across the last chair, leaning back. JAKOB and the others slowly — cautiously — sink back into their seats. MATTHIEU remains silent.

WILLY

Thanks, but no thanks.

JAKOB

How are our friends in the Windy City doing? I've heard many great things about —

WILLY

My partner, though. He might like something. You want anything, Matt?

JAKOB pauses. The others glance among each other. OSKAR's gaze — still centered on MATTHIEU — narrows.

MATTHIEU folds his arms across his chest.

MATTHIEU

No, thank you.

WILLY

Nonsense. Have a drink. Or an apple strudel. At the very least, you ought to have a spot to sit. You don't mind, Mr. Novak, do you?

JAKOB rises from his chair and gestures to one of his men. Another chair is swiftly retrieved from elsewhere and brought to the table.

JAKOB

Of course not. Please, by all means.

MATTHIEU hesitates, but makes his way to the provided chair. As he seats himself, JAKOB follows suit. OSKAR's stare intensifies.

JAKOB

We appreciate you coming out all this way to see us, Mr. Frost. Nevertheless, I'm afraid our answer to Mr. Chappell must remain the same. We currently cannot afford to —

As JAKOB speaks, WILLY reaches for a plate of kielbasa, carving a piece off. He impales it on a fork, lifting the roasted slice of sausage up.

WILLY

If you're not gonna have anything to drink, you ought to at least give one of these a try, Matt. Worth the trip alone.

WILLY offers the fork to MATTHIEU. JAKOB pauses and watches; his expression is neutral. OSKAR begins to breathe hard, gripping the sides of his wheelchair tighter.

MATTHIEU frowns at the offered kielbasa. He looks to WILLY. WILLY grins and nods, holding the fork out for him to take.

WILLY

Go ahead. Give it a try. Tell me I'm wrong.

With clear reluctance, MATTHIEU takes the fork. As he lifts it to his mouth to bite, OSKAR slams his clenched, gnarled fist down into the table.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

One does not feed animals at my table.

JAKOB turns to OSKAR, reaching to touch his wrist and shoulder; he then turns back to WILLY, moving to apologize. One look at WILLY's face, however, tells him that the damage has already been done.

WILLY's joviality is gone. In its place is a cold, calculated calm. His eyes are half open; his expression is unreadable. He reaches for a bread roll, tearing it open with a slow, deliberate force. As he does so, he speaks with a voice that is just above a whisper.

WILLY

I'm sorry, Mr. Novak. What did your father just say?

MATTHIEU frowns, but says nothing. He sets the fork down on a nearby plate; the kielbasa is left untasted.

JAKOB

My apologies, Mr. Frost. My father is —

WILLY

My Polish is a little rusty, but I think — I think he just called Mr. LaPierre an animal. Is that what you heard, Matthieu? Did he just call you an animal?

MATTHIEU takes a long, deep breath.

MATTHIEU

I don't know.

WILLY takes a knife and uses it to slice a pad of butter. He smears the butter into the open, gaping wound of the roll — gouging out its interior.

WILLY

Well, I know what I heard. I heard Mr. Novak call one of Richard Chappell's men an 'animal'.

OSKAR's fists remain clenched; he begins to shake. JAKOB's brow wrinkles, staring intently at WILLY. As WILLY continues to butter the biscuit, the wrinkles smooth away.

JAKOB

Mr. Frost —

WILLY

We travel many, many miles from our home to speak with you, Mr. Novak. We do this because we have heard many good things about you — about your operation. We've heard you are an honorable, respectful man. A man of integrity. A man of honor. A man who would not insult a guest; particularly not one who sits at his table in the spirit of good faith and friendship.

WILLY finishes buttering the roll. His grip on the knife changes. Holding it like a dagger, he stabs it down. It makes a loud thnk; the tip is buried into the table.

Everyone else — OSKAR included — flinches at the sound.

WILLY

Because if there is one thing the Chicago Spirit will not abide, Mr. Novak, it's being insulted with impunity.

No one speaks. OSKAR's anger has dissolved; he now shrinks back in his chair, staring at WILLY with barely disguised fear.

At last, JAKOB releases OSKAR, and nods his head.

JAKOB

Please accept my most sincere apologies for my father's conduct, Mr. Frost. He has grown confused in his old age. No one here would knowingly impugn the honor of Mr. Chappell — nor you or your friend.

WILLY says nothing. He holds the buttered roll in hand, waiting.

Seconds pass. The only sound is the steady tick of a clock on the wall.

Finally realizing he has lost, JAKOB closes his eyes, nods again, and continues.

JAKOB

As a demonstration of our good faith, please tell Mr. Chappell that we will happily agree to the terms he has set.

WILLY smiles. He sets the buttered, mutilated roll down on the table. At once, he's rising to his feet; MATTHIEU reluctantly follows suit.

WILLY

Glad to hear it, Mr. Novak. I'll tell Mr. Chappell the good news.



[2:00 am.]

[Exterior of Novak's Deli.]

WILLY steps out from the doors of the deli, tugging his coat and smiling. MATTHIEU emerges behind him — he does not look happy. He follows WILLY as they move into an alley.

The moment they are alone, MATTHIEU grabs WILLY by the shoulder and proceeds to pin him against the back wall of Novak's Deli.

MATTHIEU

What the hell was that?

WILLY acts shocked, lifting his hands up defensively.

WILLY

What?

MATTHIEU

What's wrong with you? You could have gotten us killed back there.

WILLY snorts, looking indignant.

WILLY

I'm sorry that I stood up for my friend, Matt.

MATTHIEU

Fuck you. You weren't standing up for me. You knew that's how the old man would respond to a black man eating at his table. You used me to make this deal happen.

WILLY's indignance fades. It's replaced with a sly, crooked smile.

WILLY

So what if I did? Chappell wants results, not excuses.

MATTHIEU releases WILLY, stepping back and stalking down the alley in anger. WILLY pauses to dust the front and back of his coat off.

WILLY

This ain't our mom-and-pop numbers racket, Matt. This is the major leagues. This is World Series. You want to win it? You use whatever God gifted you with.

MATTHIEU turns, facing WILLY again.

MATTHIEU

And what if they called your bluff? What if they decided to make us disappear, Willy? You think of that?

WILLY snorts again, tugging and straightening his coat. He walks toward MATTHIEU.

WILLY

We're Chappell's men, now. We work for the Chicago-flippin'-Spirit. You think anyone's got the moxie to fuck with us?

WILLY turns back to the street. He holds his hand out in the pantomime of a pistol; he points it at a man striding past the entrance of the alleyway.

WILLY

We could pull out a pair of gats and pop six of these Yankee fucks right now, and you know what the Johns would do? Ask us if we wanted one of their pea-shooters to drop six more.

MATTHIEU approaches WILLY, reaching out to push his hand down.

MATTHIEU

Imbécile. Come on. Let's get back to the hotel.

WILLY grins at MATTHIEU.

WILLY

Relax. I'm just pulling your chain, buddy. Yeah. Let's go call Mr. 'Derringer' and tell him the good news.



[2:22 am.]

[Interior of Le Fruit Défendu.]

The Le Fruit Défendu is a cozy little speakeasy tucked away in a basement. It has several booths, a long, polished bar, and a wall that has more bottles of hooch than there are stars in the sky.

The speakeasy is currently closed; despite this, it currently has three occupants. One is JIM "MAD" MUNSLEY — the large, plump man sits at the end of the bar, examining an empty shot glass. The other is the GIRL he found on the road. She sits at a booth on the other end, greedily eating a plate of canapés left over from the previous night's festivities. MUNSLEY's coat is still draped across her shoulders. As she chomps on the bite-sized snacks, the bar's third occupant emerges from the back — approaching MUNSLEY.

She is YARA TOMA; a petite brown woman with a head shaved as smooth as glass and a face full of iron piercings. Multiple tattoos snake across her arms and neck, vanishing beneath the collar and sleeves of her expertly trimmed suit. The suit has been cut to fit her small, feminine frame; she also wears a violet bow-tie.

YARA settles on the other side of the bar, opposite MUNSLEY. She does not look pleased.

YARA

(softly)

Jim, does my establishment look like an orphanage to you?

MUNSLEY

Aw, come off it, Yara. She ain't gonna cause no harm.

YARA

You found some little white girl out in the middle of no where and decided to bring her to my very illegal booze joint. I'm not worried about the harm she'll do; I'm worried about the attention she'll bring.

MUNSLEY

Like you'd be worried about a little attention. Just cast a 'spell' or whatever it is you do.

MUNSLEY leans over the bar and reaches for a bottle of hooch. Before he can open it, YARA immediately snatches it out of his hand and puts it back.

YARA

Not while you're on the job.

MUNSLEY scowls, straightening up to his full, intimidating height.

MUNSLEY

Job's done. I brought you your shipment of booze.

YARA stares up, unflinching, into his glare.

YARA

The job is not done. Because there's still a little girl in my bar.

MUNSLEY snorts.

MUNSLEY

You want me to just toss her out on the street?

YARA rolls her eyes. She's about to respond, but she's interrupted by the GIRL, who has finished the canapés and is now walking to the bar to return the empty plate.

The GIRL sets the plate on the bar, steps back, and curtsies. MUNSLEY snorts again, amused by this. YARA smiles to her, taking the plate and setting it aside.

YARA

You still hungry, sweetie?

The GIRL shakes her head.

YARA

Alright, then. You think you're ready to talk to us? Tell us what happened?

The GIRL frowns, and makes several tentative gestures with her hands. MUNSLEY looks puzzled; YARA looks surprised.

MUNSLEY

The hell is that? She trying to cast a spell or something?

YARA

No. It's sign language.

MUNSLEY's eyebrows lift up. YARA makes several gestures in return.

YARA

(in sign)

CAN YOU SPEAK?

The GIRL hesitantly nods her head, then signs back.

GIRL

(in sign)

CAN'T HEAR.

MUNSLEY's surprise mounts as the conversation continues in sign.

MUNSLEY

You know what she's saying?

YARA

Hush.

YARA

(in sign)

WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

ABIGAIL

(in sign)

ABIGAIL. THANK YOU FOR THE FOOD.

YARA

(in sign)

YOU'RE WELCOME ABIGAIL. WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS?

ABIGAIL

(in sign)

GONE.

YARA frowns. MUNSLEY nudges her shoulder.

MUNSLEY

Ask her where her parents are.

YARA

Shut up, Jim.

YARA focuses on ABIGAIL.

YARA

(in sign)

WHO LOOKS AFTER YOU?

ABIGAIL answers with her hands. Immediately, YARA jerks back away from the bar.

MUNSLEY glances between ABIGAIL and YARA, his eyebrow continuing to rise.

YARA signs to ABIGAIL again. ABIGAIL repeats the same answer as before.

MUNSLEY

Uh...?

YARA turns to MUNSLEY.

YARA

(softly)

We need to talk. Now.

YARA turns to ABIGAIL, and smiles. This time, she speaks to her — but as she does, she makes sure ABIGAIL can see the movement of her mouth.

YARA

Hun, I've got to talk to Mr. Munsley for a minute. If you get bored, there's some paper and pencils under the bar — you're welcome to them. Sorry, but I don't have much else you can play with, here.

ABIGAIL nods. YARA tugs MUNSLEY's shoulder, pulling him along the bar and into the back room.

As soon as they're out of earshot, YARA turns on MUNSLEY. She no longer looks displeased; now, she looks flat-out anxious. MUNSLEY — unused to seeing YARA this way — is visibly surprised.

MUNSLEY

What is it?

YARA

I asked her who's taking care of her.

MUNSLEY snorts, folding his arms over his chest.

MUNSLEY

Yeah? So what? You're gonna tell me she's Al Capone's niece or something?

YARA

It's the Foundation.

MUNSLEY's face goes slack. He turns and looks back — ABIGAIL is now in one of the booths, scribbling on a piece of paper she retrieved from under the bar.

MUNSLEY

(softly)

Applesauce.

YARA

You need to tell me everything, Jim. Where did you find her? When? How? Don't leave out a single detail.

MUNSLEY

Christ. Christ, Yara, I didn't know. I honestly didn't know. I wouldn't have — I didn't even know they were active this far north yet. I shouldn't have — fuck. I'm sorry. I'm —

YARA reaches out to touch MUNSLEY's shoulder, then his jaw; the motion of her hand is gentle and reassuring. She turns his head until he's facing her.

YARA

It's alright. We've been preparing for this. Just start at the beginning. Where did you find her?



[3:09 am.]

[Hotel Dolphin. Room 1408.]

The room is lush and expensive; far more than what either inhabitant is used to. There are two beds; WILLY's is thrown in disarray, while MATTHIEU's has been carefully remade.

MATTHIEU lays across the top of his bed, fully clothed; his legs are crossed, with one arm bent atop of his head and the other holding a book. He is reading, brows crinkled in focus. WILLY is on the other side of the room, speaking on a phone; his voice is hushed. As WILLY listens and speaks, he paces back and forth.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Yes, Mr. Derringer.

WILLY stops walking abruptly. His expression becomes notably pleased.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Thank you, Mr. Derringer. I appreciate it. Yes, we'll head back to Chicago tomorrow.

WILLY hangs up the phone, lifting his arms as he turns to face MATTHIEU.

WILLY

We're moving up in the world, Matt.

MATTHIEU does not look up from his book.

MATTHIEU

Mmn.

WILLY tilts his head at MATTHIEU and scowls.

WILLY

Are you still sore over that meeting? C'mon. Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you the plan —

The phone suddenly rings. Both MATTHIEU and WILLY turn to look at it.

WILLY

Huh.

WILLY moves to pick the phone up. As soon as he lifts the receiver to his ear, there's a piercing, ringing sound; both MATTHIEU and WILLY grimace in response. MATTHIEU drops his book, covering his ears; WILLY drops the phone and does the same.

WILLY

Fuck

MATTHIEU

Merde

The ringing sound subsides. Several seconds pass in silence.

Slowly recovering, WILLY moves to pick the phone's receiver up, staring at it. As he does, a voice comes from the other side.

The voice sounds wrong. Mechanical; garbled. Like radio static smashing together until it produces an approximation of a human voice — but only heard from a distance.

VOICE

(on the phone)

Mr. Frost.

MATTHIEU is now sitting up. WILLY lifts the phone to his ear — his hand begins to tremble. He has never heard this voice before, and yet, he knows who it belongs to. There is only one person it can belong to.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Y — yes. Hello, sir. William speaking.

MATTHIEU immediately places his book on the nightstand. He sits on the edge of the bed; WILLY and the phone have his full attention. WILLY's hand starts to tremble.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

Before you return to Chicago, there is another matter which requires your attention.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Yes, sir.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

A shipment of mine was intercepted just outside of New York City several hours ago. You will retrieve this shipment and determine the identities of the party responsible for interrupting it.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Yes, sir.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

A folder providing additional details will be delivered to you tomorrow morning.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Yes, sir.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

The shipment consists of a 13 year old female. You are to retrieve it alive at any cost. Is this understood.

MATTHIEU

William —!

A small trail of blood trickles out of WILLY's ear, crawling down the length of his jaw and throat.

WILLY reaches up to touch the blood, smearing it across his fingertips; he stares at the blood, but does not lower the phone.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

Is. This. Understood.

WILLY

(into the phone)

Yes, sir.

MR. NIGHT

(on the phone)

Good night, Mr. Frost.

The caller hangs up. WILLY numbly drops the phone; when it hits the floor, a portion of it shatters. Webs of frost have crawled out from the receiver's ear-piece.

MATTHIEU steps toward WILLY, reaching to touch him. WILLY shrugs away, shaking his head, still trying to recover.

WILLY

Fff — fuck. Just, just give me a second, alright? Just back off for a second. Fuck.

MATTHIEU steps back and gives WILLY room.

MATTHIEU

What is it?

WILLY walks into the bathroom. When he returns, he's holding a damp cloth against his ear. Despite the pain, he's wearing that crooked grin of his — though it's a little more desperate, now.

WILLY

It's just like I said, Matt. You and me? — we're movin' up in the world.



[4:52 am.]

[Exterior of Novak Deli.]

Five men — JAKOB NOVAK, OSKAR NOVAK, and their three associates — emerge from the deli. One of the men pushes OSKAR's wheel-chair; JAKOB stands in front as they stride down the back alley that leads to their automobiles.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

You should have killed that Negro dog for disrespecting us.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

I think it's about time we started looking into finding a place for you to stay, father. One of those nice country homes. Somewhere you can rest and relax and grope the asses of fat nurses all day.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

I did not build this organization with my blood, sweat and tears so you could roll over on your back and bare your belly to the first —

JAKOB rolls his eyes.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

Where were these brave words when that blonde little shit spat out Chappell's name, old man?

OSKAR grunts and makes the sign of the cross.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

Do not speak that name. Do not —

OSKAR abruptly stops speaking. JAKOB scowls, not turning around.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

Why? Do you piss and shit yourself every time you hear it?

No response. JAKOB stops.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

Did you piss and shit yourself now?

No response. JAKOB frowns, and turns.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

What —

Half a dozen feet away, JAKOB's men writhe in silent anguish on the ground.

Wisps of smoke curl up from their faces. They claw at their own throats and chests as the long threads of soot emerge from their lips, nostrils, and the corners of their eyes. Their torsos heave as they try to breathe. They are on fire, burning from the inside out.

OSKAR is silent, his eyes wide, staring up at his son. A figure stands behind his wheel-chair. She is cloaked in shadows; her head is engulfed by a black, opaque flame. The flame is as featureless as night, pure as pitch — and reveals no trace of her face save for one.

Her eyes. They are silver-green, devoid of pupils or iris — and float in the dark fire that has consumed her.

JAKOB

(in Polish)

Mother of G —

She lifts her .45 to JAKOB's forehead and squeezes the trigger. The muzzle flashes; the bullet strikes — but the pistol does not make a sound.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

— no, no, no —

The woman lowers the still-warm muzzle of the pistol down to OSKAR's shoulder. He cries out in shock, jerking back in his wheel-chair and reaching behind him to claw at her clothes.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

— you fucking mother of a whore, you fucking — you'll burn in Hell, you'll —

When she speaks, her voice is like a deafening whisper.

WOMAN

Konrad Gorzycki waits for you, Oskar Novak.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

— die, you'll die and I'll fucking — I'll — I'll —

OSKAR stops struggling. He now stares up at the woman, arms extended, his expression shifting from rage to shock.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

— I'll... Konrad?

WOMAN

He was your first. You didn't know how to do it properly, then. Not yet. The wire kept slipping through your fingers; your hands were greasy with sweat. It should have been quick, but it was twenty minutes before he stopped breathing.

OSKAR's hands slide down from her.

OSKAR

(in Polish)

...How — would you —

WOMAN

You weighted his corpse down with your boat's anchor and threw him overboard. When you returned, you told them he had suffered a terrible accident. You comforted his family; you comforted his widow. And in time, you took her as your wife.

OSKAR stares, slack-jawed. His arms fall limp at his sides.

WOMAN

You thought no one would know. You thought no one would remember. But Konrad remembered, Oskar Novak. For sixty years, he has been waiting patiently. Waiting and praying for his friend to remember him. Waiting and praying for his friend to come back home.

OSKAR

(in Polish, whispering)

— n — no. No, this isn't — no. What — what — what are you?

WOMAN

(whispering)

Let's not keep him waiting any longer.



[6:11 am.]

[Exterior of Novak Deli.]

The sun is rising; orange blades of light wash across the alleyway behind the deli. They illuminate four corpses in total — all burnt beyond recognition.

At the end of the alley, an empty wheel-chair rests on its side — its wheel lazily spinning in the morning glow. The chair is wet, and currently laying in a large puddle of salt water.

At the edge of that puddle — poking out from a seam between two slabs of concrete, like a persistent weed — is a single human fingernail.

It has been freshly torn from its root.

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