I Looked Over the Ocean For A Time, But Saw No Brothers or Whales
Beaches always stink--the mouths of dead clams splayed wide and seduced the seagulls to their secret flesh. Spineless bottom-feeders were already lost in the sand, to be worn away by the salt, agate and brine. A million little carcasses were carried to and from the sea, and the stink was their funeral dirge. It smelled more like sulfur or wet tobacco or old churches.
Dad’s old shack was barely warmer than the outside. We built a fire in the floorboard gape. Charlie rolled a joint, dipped it in the fire, and sucked it dry. I used dad’s old zippo on dad’s last Marb, and pretended to get some sort of relief from it. Charlie and I never took our eyes off the coals, even long after they’d stopped glowing.

I cracked a beer from the box between us.
‘To dad,’ I said. I cocked back my chin and felt it all fall down my throat.
Charlie shook his head.
‘Fuck that,’ he said. ‘Dad’s dead now.’
Charlie had a real weird way of grieving. He grinned down at the coals. ‘Now that dad’s dead, we can do whatever we want!’
‘I guess you’re right,’
Charlie put his boots on and clomped out the door.

I sat by the ash. Dad lost his sight and his speech, and then he got paralyzed. A tumor up the spinal column will do that. The cancer took his primitive brain all the way up to the frontal lobe. It swelled behind his eyes. He looked wall-eyed, like a cartoon. In his oxycodon confusion, he’d clambered out of the hospital bed and crumpled to the floor. I didn’t hear snoring from his room so I walked inside and hit the light.

A naked man bellyflopped on the carpet. Nose pressed in the shag.
‘Shit! Dad! Are you ok?’
‘Helllp!’ He said.
‘I can’t lift you myself!’
‘Helllp! Charlie!’
‘He’s upstairs, I—‘
‘Get Charlie! Now!’ Spit flew out his mouth.
I was dizzy and confused all the way up the stairs. Charlie was asleep in a fetal position when I shook him. He rubbed his eyes and furrowed his brow but he agreed to help. Charlie and I hoisted dad off the floor while he hyperventilated. We moved him back in the hospital bed. We gave him more pills but he just kept shivering.
‘Where’s Charlie?’ Dad’s eyes stared at a thing unseen.
‘Right here, dad.’ He held his father’s hands, and dad held back.
No one knew what to say. It had to be me that broke the silence.
He turned his eyes to the sound of me.
‘What was the last thing you saw before you went blind?’
Dad cleared his throat but it just came to more coughing. Then he said, ‘I saw the back of my eyelids.’

* * *

The doorknob smacked into the drywall and it made a little fissure . Charlie stood vacant-eyed at the threshold.
 ‘Abe! You’re not gonna believe this shit! There’s this huge fucking—ah, just get your shoes on! Come on!’
‘My shoes are on.’
He waved his hands in the air. ‘I found where that smell is comin from!’
Charlie looked impatient. ‘Just come on, man! Quick!’

I ran after him. My guts swam. The shore was zigzagged and shale bulged  to the sky. The mountains beyond the wet juniper were obscured and foggy with rain.  A bouldered jetty cut into the ocean at an old bay. A man-made cat-walk of agate and shale cut from the shore where a crooked old lighthouse loomed.  The rocks were sharp and green and wet and the tide was coming in quick, but we climbed them anyway. We jumped rock to algae-soaked rock and the tide boiled. Clawed plumes of sea curved to meet us. We shivered in our cotton. It was either sweat or sea on my lips.

A schoolbus-sized shape was stuck in the rocks a hundred yards down the jetty. It thrashed and screeched audibly. It looked like it could have been white at one point, but the dirty shale its massive body was caught on had stained it gray and the blood that poured from its gashed fins and tail stained it black and maroon. The smell had never been worse.

‘It’s a fuckin WHALE, man!’ Charlie said. Then he clambered towards the dying giant, long limbs flailing like an ape’s. I kept slipping on the soaked rocks everywhere. Sometimes I had to jump my body length to get to the next stone. All the while the whale howled and howled.

‘Come on, Abe!’ Charlie said, far ahead. I crawled on hands and knees over the slimy stones, just like a baby. My eyes watered bad from the spume and the stink. It probably looked like I was crying.
I finally rose to my feet by my brother, and together we watched the whale flounder on its bed of stones, every motion cutting into its blubber. There were puddles of gore and ambergris and spermaceti and intestines beneath it.

Charlie and I spoke while the whale screamed.
‘Do we help it?’ I asked.
‘It’s a goner, man.’
‘So we just watch him die?’ I looked into the whale’s big eye. It darted from me to Charlie, then back to me again.
‘Are you kidding?’ he turned to me. I saw the whites of his eyes. ‘Dad’s dead, man. We can do whatever we want!’

With that, Charlie loped toward the whale. He hoisted up a big sharp rock on his way, and he lugged it to the beast’s side Charlie held the rock high above his head and he gouged the rock deep into the blubber. A vomit of gore greeted him. Wiping the blood from his eyes, Charlie grinned back at me.

He tugged the rock right back out, in the same way a cartoon character would. In the gaping hole Charlie had made, Charlie stuck his big black boot inside, and hoisted himself up. He made another hole in the whale’s body, stuck his foot in, and climbed. He did this twice more, until Charlie was seen on the top of the whale, a good thirty feet above me. High on top of this mountain of flesh, his teeth loomed like stars on his blood-blackened face.

Charlie started digging. The pointed rock came down again and again, like a pickax does before a shovel. He was looking for something inside that dying leviathan. I just stood there soaking wet and round-eyed, watching Charlie dig his way to the core of it. He pulled organs and intestines out like roots and tossed them away. Soon Charlie was so deep in the whale’s body, I didn’t see him anymore. He must have been in there somewhere because I heard the wet smack of his rock against bones and blubber and congealed blood. I was so fixated on the scene of it, I’d forgotten about the incoming tide.

I heard the stones on the ocean floor rearrange, a subwoofer rumble that irked my guts. I craned my neck back and saw the wave, its crest high above even the whale’s crippled form. ‘Charlie!’ I yelled at the creature’s mangled top, and heard nothing in return but the grumble of the wave.
‘Get out of there, man! The tide!’

It came right up and swallowed the whale, with Charlie caught in the middle of everything.
The white wall of spume slobbered over the wall of whale, and lifted me from the jetty. The wave forced me down hard into the jagged shale. The  whirling eddies pinballed me between boulders until I toppled headfirst into the sea. My temple bonked a cairn, and pain rose from my knee as a pencil-sharp sliver of agate dug in. The saltwater pulled me down away from the light of the sky. I kicked at the saltwater and stared at the surface from below.

I yelped under black water and the  bubbles rose up and up and up but I didn’t. I sucked in to scream again but thick salty water washed into my lungs and made my vision blur. As I drifted down and down and down I had a dim awareness of a splash near me, and there was a flash of white-gray out the corner of my eye but then it was gone. There must have been blood in the water too, but it was just too dark to see anymore.

I woke to a blank white sky. I coughed up saltwater and vomited until my guts were empty and then I dry-heaved on the shore. There was a thread of drool connecting my lower lip to the shore. The sand swallowed it up like it was thirsty.

 I limped back out to the jetty and my eyes scanned the boulders. I only found a bloody rock, spare whale entrails, and Charlie’s left shoe. I remember taking off my own left shoe, and replacing it with his. I sat there in the soup of gore, one shoe comically larger than the other. I reached into my sopping pocket and tried to light the cigarette I’d started. The Zippo drew no light, so I threw the wet Marb into the water. It waltzed on the waves before it disappeared.

I looked out at the ocean for a time, but saw no whales or brothers.

After a long, weird day of work, Frank strolls to the fridge, pops open a beer, and streams something. Inevitably, Frank must piss. During the hand-washing, he catches a glimpse of himself. He's different. More tired-looking, some of his face-angles have changed. Older. It occurs to Frank that every day, an iota of his being has Deteriorated. Cells that won't regenerate. A smidgen of soul, eroded. An intangible, so-small-you-don't-notice-it little piece of person that has departed. Each and every day.
He imagines all the debris he's left in his wake: milk jugs, paper towels, botched drawings, overflowing recycle bins, toilet flushes, childhood toys, totaled cars, dump runs... He imagines all his waste products stacked in a pile by some impeccable, impossible auditor. A singular monument to each and every regrettable purchase/decision Frank has ever made.
There must be some validating it. The Pile. There simply must be a human value to the waste, a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts sort of unapologetic economic justification for the Pile. For the hardened-sap trickle of debris.
It occurs to Frank that more resources have gone into the Pile than some people earn in an entire life's work. That some person would literally murder for a chance to gnaw at rancid and rusted bits of the Pile, and that surely-existent being is being coerced into much fouler acts than garbage-chewing for less than Frank can fathom.
Surely, Frank's privilege should be checked. Frank should save more. Frank should apologize. Frank is aware that he is entitled, narcissistic, opportunistic, lazy, and aware of just how guilty he should feel for just existing. Frank feels so sorry, so guilty, at something unnamable.
Yet, somehow, he feels like he's gotten a raw deal.
Frank is probably upholding some sort of patriarchal, Puritan, corporate, fascist conspiracy somewhere, but its details elude him. It's a formless behemoth, pacing in an abstract cage, and he'd do anything to slaughter it, if he could only confirm its existence, and there was, in fact, a way to kill it.
By the time this thought reaches Frank's mind, the credits on the stream have begun to roll. He imagines all the boastable achievements he could've reached from the lost forty-seven minutes. A legacy of motivational quotes ignored, neglected.
He feels cheated. He feels the guilt of a cheater.
Frank climbs into bed, and tries to sleep, unsuccessfully, for hours.
Every night.
Crowley pulled the halloween mask off the woman. She had a face like a butcher-board.
“Well there you go. The face of venereal disease!” he said. The children gasped.
Clown makeup smeared by tears, teeth brown and bean-like from the crack-pipe. Mangled frizzy hair somewhere between platinum blonde and chalk-white. It was impossible to determine her age.
“Let me tell you, kids,” he said. He turned to the desks. “Try pot once--” he smacked his meaty palms together--”and BOOM! You're a prostitute, rotting for the inside out, if you catch my meaning.” He winked hugely at a redhead in the front row.
Mrs. Chadwick looked too nervous to tell him to take it down a notch.
“One day you're a straight-A student, the next you're finding a dumpster to take a SHIT in!” He swirled to point a finger at the aging whore. “Debbie here doesn't use the facilities like us decent people do. She chose drugs instead. And when you spend all the money on drugs, you can't pay the toilet bills!”
The prostitute chewed her gum listlessly.
“And you know what started Debbie here off to a life of crime and punishment?” He asked the class. The students knew the answer, but they decided it was better to let him answer the question.
“Marijuana. I've seen it a million times! It turns gentle young boys into killing maniacs, and little girls into...” he snickered theatrically and turned again to the whore. “Well, Debbie here. Were you somebody's little girl once upon a time, princess?”
The prostitute slouched a little, but continued chewing.
“Debbie did Dallas alright. Then she 'did' Mexico City, she 'did' Sheboygan, she 'did'....”
“Mr. Crowley, with all due respect, this is a public school. And these are third graders!”  Mrs. Chadwick was quivering like a rodent.
Crowley's eyebrows went up. “With all due respect, Mizz Chadwick, I'm trying to scare your third-graders STRAIGHT!”
“Well I thought you'd show statistics, line graphs.... I never dreamed you'd bring.... THIS!” She pointed at the sleepy prostitute.
“If you wanted soft, how come you called a detective to teach these kids about drugs?”
“I'm sorry, Mister Crowley, this was a huge misunderstanding.”
“FINE!” roared Crowley. “Come on Debbie, let's get out of here.”
Debbie pulled herself out of the chair. The movement wafted a death-smell onto the gagging children. Crowley slammed the door behind her. The children hopped in their seats at the clatter. Mrs. Chadwick stared in horror at the swinging blinds on the door, then turned back to the class.
“Open your textbooks to page 271!”

“You don't pay me enough for this shit,” said Debbie. She lit a cigarette in the passenger seat.
“Shadap,” said Crowley. He twisted the keys in the ignition. It sputtered to life. “Everyone thinks they deserve more than they get.”
“A blowjob, a lay, AND I have to pull this Scarlet Letter shit?” Debbie took a drag. “For fifty dollars?”
“Fifty dollars and two rocks,” said Crowley. “THAT'S the real draw!” He pulled a sandwich bag with two chalky crack-rocks.
She snatched it out of his hand. “Fuck you, Crowley. Where's the bill.”
“You're a doll,” he said. He fished Ulysses S. Grant out of his bill-fold. Crowley put his arm around her shoulder.

A group of deformed men (HANS, CATERPILLAR CARL, MR. LOBSTER, and DOG-FACED BOY) huddle around a campfire, hands at the flames and shivering against the wind. A mangy mule knickers and a one-horned goat chews a faded beer-can. A crow swirls slowly on a spit above the fire.

HANS:   Carl, get that bird outta the flames. You’ll burn it!
CARL:    I like it crisp.
HANS:   Crisp is one thing, and inedible is another.
CARL:    Relax. We can get by on birds, we’ve done it for weeks. Nothing as small as a crow, though.
(HANS stands up on his short legs, begins pacing)
HANS:   We can’t carry on this way. The birds are thinning out, going south for the winter or something. Dog-face was out for hours with that BB gun, and he’s a crack shot, and all’s we got is one crow.
CARL:    Come on, Hans. There’s on-days and off-days.
HANS:  This isn’t what I thought freedom would be like.
CARL:    I’m thankful the sideshow got shut down. No more beer-cans thrown through the bars, no more children, no more tricks.  I wasn’t born to be a spectacle.
HANS:   Well, were you born to live out in the woods, living off bark and-
DOG-FACED BOY:             BARK!
CARL:    Shutup, boy. Not that kind of bark.
HANS:   Anyways, like I was saying, we can’t go on this way. Especially if you don’t learn how to cook better.
CARL:    Something’s got you awful testy.
HANS:   Maybe I don’t like sucking on bird bones for sustenance.
CARL:    Well maybe I don’t like crawling around a cage getting laughed at.
HANS:   All I’m trying to say is this: if we don’t find work somewhere, we’re going to die out in these woods.  Here it is, not even September, and the snow stacks on us in our sleep! How bad’s it gonna be in October? November?
CARL:    ‘Freak Show Entertainer’ looks great on a resume.
HANS:   Well what do you propose we—get that bird out of the fire!
CARL:    Christ, Hans. Relax. Use your imagination. I don’t have any arms or legs. Or a social security number. Who would hire me, and why? I can’t even pick up a phone. That damn freak show got shut down, and they let us loose. I say we sustain ourselves off the land. Like Steinbeck or something.
HANS:  The circus picked a pretty miserable climate to get shut down in.
CARL:    Exactly. We gotta migrate out of these trees, find a more suitable home.
HANS:   And squat on someone’s property? I don’t think the locals would have a sense of humor about that.
CARL:    I’m not saying we squat. I’m saying we live like gypsies. We keep moving, we scrounge what we can find, steal if we need to.
HANS:   That’s your plan? (scoffs)
CARL:    Well do you have a better one?
HANS:   We find a church. Working class people go to church. We start asking around for labor jobs, or advertising, or…
CARL:   I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Did you just say advertising? Women and children get nauseous just looking at me! I’d make a great real estate agent. I can’t believe you, Hans. I really can’t. We’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime here, and you want to go back into entertaining normal folk? You want to keep being an amusement?
(HANS points at the ruined crow on the spit).
HANS:   You ruined it, Carl. It’s just charcoal and bones.
(CARL removes the spit with his teeth and slides the burnt crow off into the soil. The DOG-FACED BOY sniffs and dismisses it.)
HANS:   Hey! Are you trying to starve us to death?! What the hell are you doing?
CARL:    Reading the future. Toss me those bird guts.
(MR. LOBSTER reaches a clawed hand into a bucket and pulls out a web of crow entrails. He holds it apprehensively and watches CARL with bulging eyes.)
CARL:    Right there. Throw it there. On top of the bird.
(MR. LOBSTER heaves the innards on the dead crow)
HANS:   For Christ’s sake, Carl. You’re insane.
(CARL studies the bird guts.)
CARL:    Hard weather’s coming. From the North.
HANS:   You’re sick.
CARL:    We gotta move South before the storm hits us.
HANS:   That’s it. I’m leaving.
CARL:    The augury promises paradise to the South.
HANS:   You don’t need to spill guts and ruin a perfectly good meal to know that it’s going to get cold. You’re insane. You’re all insane!
(DOG-FACED BOY and MR. LOBSTER watch idly. CARL continues to study the crow. HANS gathers his pack together in a huff.)
CARL:    You know crows have funerals? Somehow they know when one of their own kind’s been killed. They fill up the sky and it’s like nighttime. They got this weird song they all sing at once, it’s the craziest thing. I don’t know if crows learned funerals  from people or people learned it from crows.
HANS:   I know what I learned from YOU, Carl. Once crazy, always crazy.
CARL:    That’s enough. Good luck finding work, you cowardly little shit.
HANS:   Good luck surviving the elements, you fucking torso.
CARL:    Oh, that’s great. Take cheap shots at my deformity. We’re all broken here. You too.
HANS:   I’m not  broken.
CARL:    Oh, yes you are, Hans. You’re the worst kind of broken. You’re the kind of person who can only survive selling out every step of the way. You’ve got no faith in anything.
HANS:   No faith at all beats faith in witchcraft or voodoo or whatever it is you’re doing.
CARL:    Suit yourself. Leave us out here in the cold to die. Dog-Face and Lobster stay with me.
HANS:   Fine. I’ll see you in the obituaries.
CARL:    I’ll see you in Hell, little man.
(HANS takes his pack and saunters away from the camp. Thunder cracks the sky from the North and hail begins to nick the tops of HANS’S ears. HANS stops, dawns his hood, glares back at CARL. Then he presses North.)

Montana woods. RADNER and HANK squat among bleeding horse corpses. Shirts up over their mouths and noses.

RADNER:             That’s eight dead horses in the woods now. Picked clean. Jessup, Scalping Party, Jezebel, Irish, Twinkle, Sparkle, Dogmeat and Petunia.
HANK:                  Well shit, Mike. Was it wolves done it? Maybe a bear?
RADNER:             Ain’t no chance it was a bear.
(RADNER stands and rubs his chin. HANK walks to RADNER.)
HANK:                  What are you down to? Three horses? It’s just a matter of time before it starts picking off the cattle or worse. You ought to set me and the boys on em. We’d make jerky out of the son of a bitch by next Thursday.
RADNER:             Well… They’s more to it than that.

HANK:                  Don’t tell me you’re scairt. If some dumb animal’s stealing livestock, you kill em clean. End of story.
RADNER:             The vet and the coroner said the same thing after they seen the carcasses.
HANK:                  And what’d they say?
RADNER:             It was a man that kilt em.
HANK:                  Bullshit.
RADNER:             Some savage son of a bitch been chewin the meat off of em, raw. You can tell by the toothmarks.
HANK:                  If that ain’t the biggest load of—
RADNER:             Looky there. Back on the haunch.  Indentation from the incisor, here’s a canine mark clear into the bone.
HANK:                  There ain’t no way, Mike. Who in their right mind—
RADNER:             It wasn’t Mexicans, if that’s what you’re thinking. T’ain’t blacks, neither. I got a hunch it was some sort of wild child, like the ones raised up by wolves. Why wouldn’t a human being cook the meat?
HANK:                  Ain’t  no feral child ate your horses. This is America. That don’t happen here. In Africa? Sure. Indonesia? Sure. Vietnam? Absolutely God damn right! But this is Montanny. God’s country.
RADNER:             Hank, you know well as I know they’s perverts all through these woods. Freaks and philistines and brothers and sisters fornicating. Montana ain’t the most civilized state.
HANK:                  I ain’t gonna argue with you on this. Are we buryin all these horses? Or do you plan to make a stew?
RADNER:             I got some plans of my own.
HANK:                  Do you want me to help you or not?
RADNER:             You go ahead and bury the horses.
                                (RADNER walks towards the woods.)
HANK:                  Where the hell you goin?
RADNER:             Gonna catch me a wild boy.
HANK:                  And what do you plan to do when you catch him?
(RADNER stops and turns back.)
RADNER:             I intend to grind up the bastard into hamburger and feed him to the livestock.
HANK:                  I wasn’t jokin, Mike.
RADNER:             I ain’t jokin now.
HANK:                  You bring a police sergeant out into the woods to tell him you’re going to kill someone. You got less brains than I thought!
RADNER:             I didn’t bring you out here for you to arrest me. How far back do we go, Hank? You’re not just a lawman. You’re a lawman and a FRIEND of mine. That means LOYALTY. Now, when the wild boy’s body shows up, you keep my name out of it.
HANK:                  I can’t do that. I’m not losin my job over livestock.
RADNER:             I’m not gonna hurt nobody that don’t have it comin. This is human pest-control. I’m gonna kill that boy, feed him to the livestock, and you keep a lid on it.
HANK:                  What you’re askin me is crazy. I can’t believe you’re puttin’ me on the spot like this.
RADNER:             You know I’d do the same for you.
HANK:                  HAW! Just in case I have to crawl out into the woods and MURDER someone?
RADNER:             It’s called justice. Somethin a house-cat lawman like yourself wouldn’t understand.
HANK:                  Easy, there.
RADNER:             What’s it gonna be? You gonna help me or what.
HANK: I'm not putting my ass on the line for a pissed off local boy. Forget it. You'll get no favors from me. You chop up the 'wild boy' we haul you down to Missoulla, no questions asked.
RADNER: If they took me in, I'd have a thing or two to say.
HANK: Oh, I know would, Mike. You'd cry for momma like every other dumbassed convict in there. Slice you in with the blacks too. Try 'n get a favor outta them, they'd gut you like a fish!
RADNER: If your boys took me in, I'd sing like a bird.
HANK: I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, you ingrateful little--
RADNER: Oh, you might recall a queer getting dragged down in Flathead county. You remember now?
HANK: I can't believe you would--
RADNER: I'd have a little chat with Liutenant Briggs. Tell em Sargeant Hank Hilton was aidin' and abettin' in the crimes.
HANK: I told you about that in confidence, you shit! If you think you can just blackmail me into helpin you out, you're sorely mistaken.
RADNER: Then let's not resort to blackmail then. You scratch my back, I hold my tongue.
HANK:                  Puttin me on the spot. What sorta friend….…..Fine. I’ll keep your name out of it. I doubt you’ll even catch the sumbitch! I’ll do what I can, provided you do this right. If you’re caught red-handed, Jesus Christ couldn’t even save you.
RADNER:             Atta boy. That’s what friends are for!
                                (Radner draws his pistol from his jacket and starts walking towards the woods.)
HANK:                  This is a one-time thing, Mike! Don’t expect any favors from me as a reg’lar thing! You can't hold the dead faggot over my head forever.
RADNER:             All’s I need is to do is make an example of the horse-eatin son of a bitch.
HANK:                  If you fuck this up, I’m going to make an example out of you. Personally. I'm not happy with you, but I'll play ball. Just know that what goes around comes around. Revenge is one hell of a bitch.
RADNER:             You're telling me? Take care of the horses. You're probably gonna need a back-hoe.
HANK: So this is the way it's gonna be? You just gonna walk all over me cause I told you about the dead queer? Shame on you, Mike Radner.  You call the damn back-hoe! This is my day off, God dammit!
RADNER: You're in no position to tell me what to do, Hank. You're burying the horses, and you're covering for me down at the station. And that's final.
HANK: This is such bullshit I can't believe it.
RADNER: No rest for the wicked......officer.
                                (RADNER walks off into the woods. HANK stares off after him, shaking his head.)
 Hank (to himself): Revenge is one hell of a bitch. Yessir.

(HANS shivers and waves a sign reading 25% OFF SPRING AIR MATTRESSES at a roadside. The rain is pounding mercilessly and he leans in the wind. MATTRESS PETE approaches HANS holding an umbrella.)
MATTRESS PETE:              Ok. You’re through.
HANS:                                                   Am I done for today?
MATTRESS PETE:              Yeah. You’re fired.
(HANS drops the sign.)
HANS:                                   WHAT!
MATTRESS PETE:              You’re not much of an advertiser. Pack it in.
HANS:                                   Wait! Wait! Gimme another chance! I did EXACTLY what you told me to do!
MATTRESS PETE:  Well, short stuff, the way I see it, I sell the people a good night’s sleep. And lookin’ at you waggle around in the rain is more likely to keep people awake in their beds  in a cold SWEAT than put anyone to rest.
HANS:                   Please, Pete! I’m begging you! No one else will hire me! I’ll do anything! I haven’t eaten a damn thing in three days!
MATTRESS PETE: That’s not my problem. Just give me that there sign you dropped in the mud and be on your little way.
HANS:                   Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a job in this town?
MATTRESS PETE: As a matter of fact, I do. But I hire on the basis of best man for the job. Not on whoever’s the most desperate. Now give me that sign, or we’re going to have a problem.
                                (HANS hands over the sign)
HANS:                   I don’t know what’s more humiliating, accepting this job or getting fired from it.
MATTRESS PETE:              I’d be pretty damn humiliated too, if I looked like you.
HANS:                   This is SIZISM. Discriminating on the sole fact that I’m a little person.
MATTRESS PETE:              I frankly don’t care about that. Tell the ACLU. Tell your mommy. The fact of the matter is, you can’t sell mattresses for shit.
HANS:                   I don’t know how you sleep at night.
MATTRESS PETE:              I sleep on a Sealy King-size with a goose-down comforter and a cassette tape of soothing whale songs. Now get lost. I got BIGGER fish to fry.
                                (MATTRESS PETE walks back to the store, chortling)
HANS:                   I knew I should have taken that “tasteful nudity” job. Son of a bitch mattress man.
                                (HANS holds his hand perpendicular to the rain.)
                                Carl was right, God damnit. I don’t belong here.
                                (HANS trudges away, shielding himself from the rain with his hands.)
(HANK’s police cruiser pulls up to industrial yard. He exits the vehicle and pulls out a mag-light. He walks around the corner to a dumpster. He shines a light on MR. LOBSTER, who is rooting through the dumpster.)
HANK:                  Hold it right there!
(Mr. Lobster freezes and puts his claws up.)
HANK:                  What the- drop your weapons! I’m armed!
(DOG-FACED BOY springs from the dumpster, carrying CARL)
HANK:                  FREEZE!
(HANK draws his sidearm, alternates aiming at MR. LOBSTER and DOGFACED BOY, who are both frozen in terror.)
CARL:                    It’s ok officer. We mean no harm!
HANK:                  Drop your weapons, big boy!
CARL:                    Those are his hands!
(HANK points the gun at CARL)
HANK:                  I wasn’t talking to you, stumpy. What the hell’s wrong with y’all?
CARL:                   I was born without arms or legs. Dog-face is some sort of autistic or something. I’m not sure what Lobster is, but he’s got claws for hands.
HANK:                  I’m going to need to see some ID.
CARL:                    We don’t have any!
HANK:                  Your friends are awful quiet.
CARL:                    Dog-Face can’t talk. Lobster is German. I think.
HANK:                  This is what we call a Code 63. That’s a criminal trespass. Do we want to add burglary, or resisting arrest?
CARL:                    We haven’t eaten in days, officer!
(HANK shines the mag-light on DOG-FACE)
HANK:                  Does this one eat horses?
CARL:                    Wh-WHAT?
CARL:                    No! Of course not. What is this?
(HANK slowly holsters his gun. He studies the performers carefully.)
HANK:                  You boys hungry?
CARL:                    You think we’re dumpster diving for fun?
HANK:                  How’s a hot meal sound?
CARL:                    What are you getting at?
HANK:                  I’ve got a couple questions to ask you. They’re a little bit off the beaten path. If I take you three to Denny’s will you entertain a conversation?
CARL:                    …..That sounds good to me. We don’t got any money though.
HANK:                  My treat. You boys look hungry.
CARL:                    Aren’t you supposed to arrest us or something?
HANK:                  Ordinarily I would. But I got a particular case the three of you might be able to help me with. Here, I’ll help you.
(HANK places CARL in the passenger seat of his cruiser. DOG-FACE and MR. LOBSTER file into the back. The cruiser revs and pulls out through the mud).

(HANS walks through the dripping pine trees.)
(HANS waits. There is no answer.)
HANS:                   I just KNEW I shouldn’t have walked out on em. Probably dead, or worse: still hungry. I’ll never find em out here.
HANS:                   CAAAAARL! CAA-
                                (HANS cuts himself short when he sees a plume of smoke above the trees.)
                                Holy shit! It’s them!
                                (HANS runs toward the smoke. He arrives at the campfire to find RADNER aiming a pistol squarely at HANS’s face.)
RADNER:             Well, well, well. Looks like I didn’t have to hunt you down after all.
                                (RADNER rises from his seat.)
                                You came to ME instead!
HANS:                   …What is this?
                                (HANS puts his hands up.)
RADNER:             You got one HELL of an appetite for such a little thing.
HANS:                   …I don’t understand!
RADNER:             There ain’t even enough of you to feed to the livestock.
                                (RADNER takes a step toward HANS)
                                Plan B.
HANS:                   What is this? What did I do?
RADNER:             Playing dumb only makes me madder. I suggest you shut the FUCK up and accept what’s comin to you.
HANS:                   Hey! Stop! I-
(HANS turns to run away from RADNER. RADNER holds up the pistol, squints his left eye, and shoots HANS in the back of the knee, mid-stride.)
HANS:                   AAAAAAUUUUGH!
(HANS clutches his wound.)
RADNER:             You ain’t goin’ nowhere, horse-eater.
(RADNER pulls out a full roll of duct-tape. He straps HANS’s mouth shut, hog-ties him with tape. HANS struggles and his eyes bulge.)
RADNER:             There! Much better. I bet now you’re in much more of a listenin state of mind! So listen up! The hens have come home to roost. I’m gonna return the pain SEVENFOLD what you done to my horses.
(HANS’s shrieks are muffled behind the tape. RADNER  pulls a length of rope out of his satchel and begins tying an elaborate knot around HANS’s ankles.)
RADNER:             I birthed and raised those horses myself. Paid the damn vet bills. I gave em tender, loving CARE, you little turd. You can imagine my RAGE when I found em half-eaten in the woods!
(HANS is weeping behind the duct-tape.)
RADNER:             There, there. It’s natural to feel guilty when you steal, kill, and EAT another man’s property. I’m gonna make sure you never terrorize another man’s stables.
(RADNER throws one end of the rope over a tree branch and pulls it taut.)
RADNER:             Up and at ‘em!
(RADNER pulls the end of the rope and HANS is lifted off the ground, hanging upside down.)
RADNER:             Hellfire’s gonna be a RELIEF after what I’m gonna do to you.
(RADNER pulls out an over-sized knife.)

(Interior of Denny's. HANK, MISTER LOBSTER, DOG-FACE, and CARL stand at the front of the store, waiting. A WAITRESS walks forward.)

WAITRESS: Ummm.... Three?
CARL (From LOBSTER'S arms): Four.
WAITRESS: Oh my god! (puts hand to heart in surprise) I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there.
CARL: It's ok, I get it all the time.
WAITRESS: We do have a no-shoes, no shirt, no service policy.
CARL: I don't have feet! Shoes are a non-issue!
WAITRESS: I'm more concerned about this one. (Points at DOG-FACED BOY).
(Heads turn to stare at DOG-FACED BOY. HANK looks angrily at the WAITRESS)
HANK: These men are here on official police business. I'd appreciate it if you didn't harangue them.
WAITRESS: I'm sorry! (leads Hank to the back of the restaurant.)Here! Here's a booth, way in the back so no one will eavesdrop.
HANK: That's a good girl. I want you to lay as much meat and pancakes in front of these boys as your manager will allow. Whatever combo number that would be.
CARL: And a coffee.
WAITRESS: Do you want a straw? Or something?
CARL: No, that's ok. I can get by better than you might think.
WAITRESS: Alright, I'll be back in a few minutes with the food! Thanks guys!
(WAITRESS hurries off.)
HANK: Let's get right to it. (Looks around at the vacant booths.) Alright. I got called on to investigate some horse-killings. Out in the woods.
CARL: You think we did it?
HANK: Don't you interrupt me. No, I know you didn't do it. You'd all be much plumper if you did. The sick bastard that killed em took to eatin em. Raw.
CARL: What?!
(DOG-FACE whimpers)
HANK: That's right. There's a crazy son of a bitch out in the wilds up by St. Regis. A wild boy or something.
CARL: Where is this going.
HANK: I know about the circus shutting down. Here y'all are in front of me. I know there's some right peculiar folk let go to fend for their own in addition to yourselves.
CARL: You think we know who ate the horses?
HANK: All I'm looking for is information.
CARL: We're performers, not schizoids. We do tricks for people. For entertainment. How did you come to the conclusion we would know anything about a “wild boy”?
HANK: Well, by the looks of you, you've been stuck out in the woods for quite some time. Maybe you crossed paths with the perp.
CARL: We never saw anybody out there. A moose, once. When we took to the woods, we kissed city-life goodbye.
HANK: I seen your kind all over town!A little bastard was waving a sign for a mattress store.
CARL: So Hans got a job after all.
HANK: So you DO know others.
CARL: Of course I do. I used to work with these people.
HANK: Which of these 'people' would kill a horse for the sake of eating?
CARL: There's only one guy low enough to eat a horse. 
HANK: 'Low enough?'
CARL: The lowest of the low. He's called 'the Geek.' The ringleader kept a man on staff who bit the heads off chickens, all shock value. Magnifico is old-school. He even kept pickled punks for display.
(The WAITRESS arrives with a platter brimming with eggs, sausage, and pancakes.)
WAITRESS: (Heaving food onto the table) Here you go! 
CARL: Thanks, miss!
HANK: Yeah, thanks. 
WAITRESS: Separate checks?
HANK: All on one, please.
WAITRESS: Alright, boys. Enjoy!
(WAITRESS walks away)
(The performers begin to gorge themselves on the food.)
HANK: If I was to seek out this Geek, how would I do it?
CARL: (chewing eggs) Follow the stink. I never knew him to bathe.
HANK: What else.
CARL: Let's see....he isn't the most predictable guy we know. He always ran to the bushes whenever he got loose.
HANK: This guy sounds like a complete fucking crazy.
CARL: No shit. Mr. Lobster had to put a muzzle on him after the Geek took to gnawing on Zoo-Zoo Bolan.
HANK: The Geek is a cannibal?
CARL: 'Carnivore' is a better word. He eats whatever's in front of him. Magnifico trained him, like a fighting dog. The Geek was not advertised on the bill, mind you. The Geek was a well-guarded secret. Magnifico led a select few customers to see the Geek. He made a fortune off him.
HANK: (Ponders this information and chuckles) 
CARL: What are you laughing about? This doesn't strike me as funny.
HANK: 'Lowest of the Low'. Reminds me of somebody I know.
CARL: I don't have anything else to tell you. Find Magnifico. He knows all about the Geek. He'd bring more to this investigation than I possibly could.
HANK: Another weirdo to find. Where does he live?
CARL: I don't know where he lives. But he spends a lot of time at the Buzzard's Breath since the circus went belly-up. That's a bar off the highway.
HANK: Oh, I know the place. (Pulls wallet out.) Here, this is for you. (Hands DOG-FACE a wad of bills.) This oughtta get you by for a little while. And here's for the check. 
CARL: Thanks, Hank. Sorry we couldn't be of more help.
HANK: You kidding? You've all been very cooperative. I've got to go.
CARL: Where you going?
HANK: I'm off to find Magnifico about the Geek. This ain't the last we speak.
CARL: Goodbye, officer. Thank you for the meal.
HANK: You owe me one.
(HANK leaves.)
CARL: Dog-Face, we should find Hans, now that we're in town. We gotta find the mattress store he's working for. We gotta make this right.

(DOG-FACED BOY leads MISTER LOBSTER, who is carrying CARL, through the woods)
CARL:                    You smell him, boy? You smell HANS?
DOG-FACE:         (Whimpers)
CARL:                    What is it boy? What’s wrong?
(DOG-FACE whimpers up at CARL, then puts his nose back to the ground. He leads the others to the swaying, fly-covered carcass of HANS. The body hangs upside down with a pool of blood beneath)
CARL:                    OH MY GOD! HANS!
(LOBSTER carries CARL to the body)
CARL:                    He’s dead. Oh my god, Hans is dead.
DOG-FACE:         (whimpers)
CARL:                    This is all my fault. I sent him away. Now he’s dead. All my fault.
(CARL begins weeping. MISTER LOBSTER comforts him with a soothing claw.)
CARL:                    (Sniffles) Hans? Hans, if you can hear me, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for this. I never wanted-(CARL’s face screws up and he weeps)
(MISTER LOBSTER approaches the tree and begins climbing. At a few feet above the ground, he reaches out a claw, and cuts the rope. HANS’s corpse drops to the ground and CARL bawls openly.)
CARL:                    He never did anything wrong! He never hurt a fly! Poor stubborn bastard!
(DOG-FACED BOY begins digging in the dirt. LOBSTER carries HANS’s body over to the hole.)
CARL:                    I’m sorry, Hans. This is all my fault. I never should’ve… I shouldn’t have….
(MISTER LOBSTER lowers him into the hole and CARL loses audibility.)
MISTER LOBSTER:             (Thick german accent) He was good man, and good juggler.
(DOG-FACED BOY begins clawing dirt over HANS’s body)
MISTER LOBSTER:             Auf Wiedersehen.
(MISTER LOBSTER sinks a crooked branch into the soil, picks up CARL, and walks away. DOG-FACED BOY eventually follows.)

(Interior of a dive-bar. MAGNIFICO slumps over the counter, visibly drunk, as the BARTENDER wipes a glass idly. )

MAGNIFICO:     You-you know what’s wrong with this country?
BARTENDER:      No, I don’t. Please! Enlighten me!
MAGNIFICO:     This is supposed to be a “FREE” country.  And yet! A man isn’t free at all, is he?
BARTENDER:      No, he isn’t. He’s a slave to his beer mugs and the drunks he pushes them on.
BARTENDER:      Plus he’s gotta listen to every down-on-his-luck asshole that leans over this here bar.
MAGNIFICO:     I had it all. Billboards on the highway! A big-top tent with wonders galore!
BARTENDER:      Oh, here we go.
MAGNIFICO:     I had a troupe of performers, wonderful to see! Sights so strange and awe-inspiring they will haunt your dreams forever!
BARTENDER:      I heard about the bank shutting down the circus. Is that what’s really wrong with this country?
MAGNIFICO:     A bunch of number-juggling, clip-on tie-having BEUROCRATS, I tellya! Took the shirt right offa my back! Made me sell EVERYTHING!
BARTENDER:      That’s how you’re affording all these beers?
MAGNIFICO:     Don’t YOU start with me!
BARTENDER:      Oh, sorry. (rolls eyes and continues cleaning mug).
MAGNIFICO:     I’m ruined! It’s all gone! 4 generations of traveling amusement, repossessed! I’m glad Magnifico Senior isn’t alive to see this, God rest his soul!
(HANK enters bar wearing plain clothes. He nonchalantly takes a seat by MAGNIFICO)
MAGNIFICO:     All is vanity! It even says so in the bible! It’s all just money!
BARTENDER:     Well, I gotta hand it to you, Magneto. Taking a circus to Montana took balls, business-wise.  (turns to HANK). Howdy, Hank. Thirsty?
HANK:                  Howdy. I’ll take a Moose-Piss.
BARTENDER:      Four bucks.
HANK:                  Hold on there. One for the ring-leader.
MAGNIFICO:     Well! Look at this! Charity! Maybe this country isn’t so fucked afterall.
BARTENDER:      Eight bucks.
(HANK hands over the  bills.)
HANK:                  Much obliged.
MAGNIFICO:     So, mister charity-case. What brings you to the Buzzard’s Breath at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday?
HANK:                  Oh, nothing. I get drawn to this place like a fly to dog-shit.
(BARTENDER places beers in front of HANK and MAGNIFICO)
BARTENDER:      Dogshit with class, Hank.
HANK:                  Of course. This place is down-right metropolitan.
MAGNIFICO:     Are you a lover of all things whimsical and extraordinary, friend?
HANK:                  Matter of fact, I am.
MAGNIFICO:     Well, you’re a dying breed, then.
HANK:                  I seen em packing up the circus. End of the road, eh?
MAGNIFICO:     Alas! Our audience disappeared into thin air!
HANK:                  What about the performers? Did they disappear too?
MAGNIFICO:     An even sadder tale! They were unleashed and abandoned, the same way they do at mental institutions!
HANK:                  Another round for Magnifico.
(HANK slaps the bills on the bar.)
MAGNIFICO:     My friend! You are a saint!
HANK:                  Why don’t you tell me about the performers?
(BARTENDER presents MAGNIFICO a beer.)
MAGNIFICO:     Well! There was High-and-Mighty HANS! A dwarf tight-rope walker! His low-center of gravity enabled him to be an acrobat, even at dizzying heights!
HANK:                  Is that right?
MAGNIFICO:     And then there was the Dog-Faced Boy! Born with the keen sensory gifts of a canine, with the anatomy of a man! Truly gifted as a marksman as well!
HANK:                  Now that’s just amazing.
MAGNIFICO:     There’s more! Mister Lobster, born with claws and a vice-grip to beat the band! Stronger than any other man in the world. And Caterpillar Carl! Armless and Legless, but none-the-less self sufficient! He could light a match with his teeth!
HANK:                  Who else?
MAGNIFICO:     The list goes on. There was Tripod the Orangutan, there was Horse-Faced Ethel, Zoo-Zoo Bolan…
HANK:                  What about the Geek?
 MAGNIFICO:    How did you know about the Geek?
HANK:                  Word gets around. I hear he bites off chicken-heads.
MAGNIFICO:     Yes! A truly remarkable savage! He-
HANK:                  How does someone come to find employment biting off the heads of chickens?
MAGNIFICO:     (Sighs) 3 tours in Vietnam. A capable captain until his whole platoon was decimated.
HANK:                  You don’t say. Nother round for the ringleader.
BARTENDER:      You sure?
HANK:                  I’ll clean up after him.
(BARTENDER puts another beer in front of MAGNIFICO.)
MAGNIFICO:     The Geek had a nervous breakdown out in the jungle. Reverted to his primitive brain!
HANK:                  Carl told me about the Geek.
MAGNIFICO:     Caterpillar Carl? He’s still in town?!
HANK:                  The beer keeps coming if you tell me more about the Geek.
MAGNIFICO:     What’s got you so curious?
HANK:                  A hunch is all. What happened to the Geek?
MAGNIFICO:     He took to running around naked, howling mad. They tried everything, but he was beyond repair. Whatever he saw out in the jungle left a hell of a mark.
HANK:                  He was institutionalized?
MAGNIFICO:     Until the budget was cut at the insane asylum. You believe that? They just let him out the front door, crazy as hell!
HANK:                  That’s when you found him and put him to work.
MAGNIFICO:     Yes! I took him in off the streets! The poor man was—
HANK:                  Eating raw animals?
MAGNIFICO:     Yes! He had brushes with the police because he ate a dog, a cow, a whole chicken coop,--
HANK:                  Would this man eat a horse?
MAGNIFICO:     If he could find one.
HANK:                  Christ almighty. How do I find his dental records?

MAGNIFICO:     His name was John Krause. He was wearing dog-tags when I took him in. I don’t know if his dental records would be on file. But I do have a few old chickens in my freezer. You know, without heads.
HANK:                  I’m gonna need to see those birds. I’ll drive.
BARTENDER:      You workin off the clock, Hank?
HANK:                  A man’s work is never done.
MAGNIFICO:     Wait a minute, you’re a cop, aren’t you? You’re not gonna lock up the geek, are you?
HANK:                  I guarantee you, if I don’t find the Geek, someone much more dangerous will.
MAGNIFICO:     What’s he gotten himself into?
HANK:                  You’re gonna have to come with me.
MAGNIFICO:     Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Ok.
(HANK steadies the stumbling MAGNIFICO as they depart.)
BARTENDER (to himself): What’s the difference between a cop and a canoe? (Chuckles) Sometimes canoes tip!

HANK approaches RADNER’S eerily quiet ranch, wearing bandages up and down his arms. He takes notice of the sparse livestock in the fields and continues up to the front door of RADNER’s house. Before HANK knocks, the door opens. RADNER stands before him.
RADNER:             Come to do me in, ole buddy?
HANK:                  I told you, if you fucked up, I’d come for you.
RADNER:             Who says I fucked up?
HANK:                  The dead midget says so. You didn’t even take the time to bury him proper.
RADNER:             I didn’t bury him at all. I left him swingin.
HANK:                  Should I read you your rights then? Or are you gonna throw a piss-fit?
RADNER:             We had a fuckin deal, Hank!
HANK:                  And you violated the terms.
RADNER:             How’s that?
HANK:                  You killed an innocent man.
RADNER:             Nothing innocent about that little turd. He owned up to eating the horses!
HANK:                  The toothmarks didn’t match up.
RADNER:             You cooked the evidence just to do me in! I knew I couldn’t trust you!
HANK:                  I did no such thing. Gimme your hands.
RADNER:             Fine, Judas! Here you go!
                                (RADNER holds up two middle fingers in HANK’s face. HANK shackles his wrists with cuffs.)
RADNER:             You didn’t even have the decency to wear your uniform. Where’s the damn squad car?
HANK:                  Ain’t no squad car. Come with me.
                                (HANK leads RADNER past his truck)
RADNER:             What the fuck is this, Hank! Where you takin me!
HANK:                  This ain’t a police matter. Never was. You took matters into your own hands, and now, so am I! You were itchin to tell Briggs about the dead queer, and I won't play your game any longer!
RADNER:             Fuck this! I want my rights! I want my phone call!
HANK:                  So did the midget. But you didn’t allow him neither. You're in luck, ole buddy. I'm givin you a chance to redeem yourself!
                                (HANK continues to pull the struggling RADNER past the property line.)
RADNER:             I cain’t believe this! HANK! Let me go! We’re almost kin!
HANK:                  I ain’t your kin. I’ll show you to your damn kin!
(HANK shoves RADNER into a cleared patch in the woods. THE GEEK is tethered to a tree and leans on his collar towards RADNER.)
HANK: This is the man that ate your horses. You and him's gonna have a dual: a fight to the death. If you win out over this crazy son of a bitch, I won't take you in.
RADNER: What sort of deal is that! 
HANK: Human pest-control. I don't see neither of you murderin bastards fit to live, but I'm givin the benefit of the doubt to the alpha male.
RADNER: Keep that thing away from me!

(THE GEEK imitates RADNER’S cries and lurches forward. THE GEEK'S collar is just short of reach to RADNER, as HANK holds him back)
HANK:                  I'm giving you a chance to take vangeance
HANK:                   Law of the jungle, Radner.
(HANK shoves RADNER into THE GEEK'S reach. THE GEEK pounces on RADNER, begins ripping flesh off his legs. RADNER screams in agony and kicks THE GEEK in the face)
HANK:                  Eat. Or be eaten.
HANK:                  Keep fightin, ole buddy! No rest for the wicked!
(THE GEEK has begun to gnaw on RADNER’s face. RADNER is muffled.)
HANK:                  You told me to keep the law out of this. That’s exactly what I did. Come on, keep low! You gotta hit him!
HANK:                  That's what you get for blackmailing me, you little bastard!
(A shot cracks the bedlam, and all is still for a moment. RADNER looks up with feverish eyes, THE GEEK continues his gnawing, and HANK looks down at his bleeding belly.)
HANK:                  What in the-
(HANK puts his hands in the gunshot wound on his belly. He turns to see DOG-FACED BOY with a rifle leveled. CARL is perched on top of MISTER LOBSTER, staring on in horror. DOG-FACED BOY aims and shoots HANK through the neck. HANK gurgles and falls to his knees.)
CARL:                    This isn’t what we agreed to, Hank.
(HANK gurgles and shakes his head.)
CARL:                    This isn’t what I had in mind when I said, ‘Bring Mike Radner to justice.’
(RADNER and THE GEEK stare silently as HANK collapses.)
CARL:                    Mister Lobster. Bring out the crow.
(MISTER LOBSTER draws a dead crow from his satchel and tosses it onto HANK’s struggling body.)
CARL:                   This is about the last thing Hans would’ve wanted.
(Crows in the surrounding trees begin to swoop down and croak at the dead bird.)
CARL:                    Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Is that really what holds everything together? 
(Crows fill the sky and soon the clatter of caws is deafening. HANK struggles to get up, and DOG-FACED BOY shoots him through the forehead. HANK’s last breath drains from him and blood pools at his back.)
CARL:                    As for you, Mister Radner.
RADNER:             PLEASE! HELP ME! I—
(DOG-FACE climbs into ring and pulls RADNER out. RADNER is cowering and clutching his wounds.)
CARL:                    You killed my friend Hans. And he didn’t hurt anybody.
RADNER:             DON’T KILL ME! I’ll do whatever you say!
CARL:                    We’re not going to kill you. You’re going to own up for what you’ve done. That means court, with witnesses, and pleading guilty. Manslaughter of Hans Shepherd.
                                (RADNER studies his leg wounds and feels his disfigured face.)
RADNER:             Oh, God. I’m a freak! I’m a fucking FREAK!
CARL:                    Shut it.
RADNER:             I need a doctor! Help me!
(MISTER LOBSTER pulls THE GEEK off of RADNER and restrains him. RADNER shakes and tries to stand. His knee fails him and he slumps into the dirt. MISTER LOBSTER sets CARL in front of RADNER.)
CARL:                    We’ve all made a lot of sacrifices. 8 horses are dead, a midget was bled, a cop was shot repeatedly, and you’ve been pretty permanently disfigured.
(RADNER begins weeping. Crows are landing on HANK’s body, pecking at random.)
CARL:                    We all have to pay for your little revenge scheme. You understand that?
RADNER:             Yes! I get it, god dammit! Help me up!
(DOG-FACED BOY helps RADNER up, and steadies him as he walks. MISTER LOBSTER takes the keys from HANK’s pocket, picks up CARL and they all walk toward the ranch. THE GEEK watches them walk off while blood dribbles off his chin.)
(Detectives CROWLEY and WAGNER stare through a one-way mirror at EDWIN. WAGNER is sipping coffee and CROWLEY is pacing back and forth. EDWIN stares straight ahead, chewing gum, oblivious to the officers on the other end of the mirror.)
CROWLEY: We got a rap-sheet on this asshole?

(WAGNER hands CROWLEY a sheet of paper. CROWLEY's eyebrows descend as he studies the paper.)

CROWLEY: A speeding ticket in 1988? That's it?

WAGNER: That's all we got to work with. He's lived something of a charmed life.

CROWLEY: 'Charmed?' Nobody's this clean. I bet he's got friends in high places.

WAGNER: Don't you get cocky.

CROWLEY: Me? Cocky?

(CROWLEY puts a hand on his heart. WAGNER's eyes roll and he raises his coffee cup to his mouth.)

CROWLEY: He's a marshmallow. Look at this prick! He looks more like a substitute teacher than a--

WAGNER: Jesus, Jack. Don't let Ripkin smell your breath.

CROWLEY (Stunned for a moment): What are you trying to say?

WAGNER: You're on thin ice with the higher-ups as is. You gotta lay off that flask when you're on the clock, I've bailed you out too many times for you to be pulling this sorta shit. Here we got a career case and you're blowing an oh-eight.

CROWLEY (agitated):  Are you done? Because I'm NOT in the mood for one of your lectures. Do I tell you how to do your job? Do I get up in your shit every time you--

WAGNER: Cool it. Let's figure this out before a twenty-fourth body shows up.

CROWLEY: Pressure's on.

(CROWLEY pulls out his flask and takes two sharp pulls. )

WAGNER: Put that shit away! Do you have any idea what Ripkin would do to you if he saw you sucking down Jameson on the clock? Man, you can fuck over your own career, but don't drag me down with you!

CROWLEY: Alright, alright, you uptight prick. (Pulls out a stick of gum) I'll take a breath-mint!

WAGNER: I'm not letting you be “bad cop” this time.

CROWLEY: Fine. I'm tired of that ole cliché anyways. What's the game plan then?

WAGNER: We hit him hard. Tell him how fucked he is, how far down the hole he's gone, you give him the 'stop digging' lecture, then we tell him, in graphic detail, what they're going to do to him in Chino.

CROWLEY(Nodding and gesturing): Yada, yada, yada. That's when we get him to rat on his higher-ups?

WAGNER: If all goes well.

CROWLEY: Candy from a baby! Let's fuck him up. Come on, game faces!

(WAGNER and CROWLEY bust through the door, race to the table, stick the light in EDWIN's face and lean over him.)

WAGNER: You fucked up, bad, little man. You know what they're gonna do to you in Chino?

CROWLEY: They're going to remove your eyeballs and fuck the holes in your head.

WAGNER: That's right. I've seen it a million times. Eye-socket-fuckers! Didn't think you'd get caught, huh? Not so high-and-might now!

CROWLEY: It don't stop there. Once the brains are softened up, they---

WAGNER (to CROWLEY): Hey, come on. That's way too far.

CROWLEY (to EDWIN): They pull your brains out and they smear it on the wall the way a toddler smears shit!

WAGNER: They don't do that. But it's almost that bad, I assure you.

CROWLEY (to WAGNER): You're breaking my momentum here! I---

WAGNER (to EDWIN): We caught on the phone with the wrong guy. You were talking shop with one of the killers MINUTES before the bodies started hitting the floor. The jury sure as shit ain't gonna like that. No one can pull you out of this hole: not your lawyer, not your financiers, not your muscle. You're looking at a life-time sentence here, dumbass. When they wheel your ass out of jail it's gonna be in a body-bag, capice?  

(EDWIN yawns and shakes his head. Crowley chuckles and cracks his knuckles.)

CROWLEY: Strong silent type, huh? Ho-boy. They are gonna LOVE you in Chino. They're gonna put you up in a prom dress and take turns!

WAGNER: So, mister conspiracy-to-murder. What's it gonna be? Skull-fuckers and body-bags, or blue skies and heaven everlasting? It's up to you. All you got to do is spill. I want names.

(EDWIN clears his throat. CROWLEY nudges WAGNER. )

CROWLEY: Oh boy! Here come the waterworks!

Edwin (to CROWLEY): Little Jordan's been spreading shit on the walls? Hmm. 3-years-old. That's a little old for that.

(CROWLEY straightens, his eyes wide.)

CROWLEY: What the fuck is this? How the fuck do you know about-

EDWIN: And how is Maurice? She still got custody?

CROWLEY: I don't know who the fuck you've been talking to, but I'm gonna-

(CROWLEY pulls his jacket back, displaying his gun in its holster.)

EDWIN: I see your gun, Jack. But I also see your flask.

WAGNER: Names, asshole. Who do you work for?

CROWLEY (pointing a hateful finger): If you do so much as touch a hair on that kid's fucking head and I'm gonna-

WAGNER (sighs): Give us a minute.

(WAGNER grabs CROWLEY by the arm and pulls him into the surveillance room.)

WAGNER: You mind telling me what the fuck you're doing in there?

CROWLEY(Rubbing his chin): How the fuck does he know? He knew Jordan is three. He knows Maurice has custody, that BITCH! I thought this guy was supposed to be a nobody!

WAGNER: Forget about all that! You keep this up, Ripkin's gonna take your badge, and that's a fact! He's been looking to rip you a new asshole since that Puerto-Rican fiasco. And what the FUCK was up with that 'Skull-fucking' thing? Where's that from, your porno collection?

CROWLEY: What else does he know, Bill? You think he knows about your little “accident” too?

WAGNER stares at CROWLEY for a long while.

CROWLEY (swaying): I'm just saying he's trying to psych us out is all. Probably paid some snoop to get dirt on detectives. I oughtta beat the shit out of him, little prick!

WAGNER: If you're not sober enough to do this, I'm bringing in Daniels. Or Murphy.

CROWLEY: Murphy? Coffee-bitch Murphy?!

WAGNER: You're a cop, Crowley. Act like one.

CROWLEY: Alright, alright. I start this time.

WAGNER(sighs): Fine. You cool it, or I'm going to Ripkin myself. Understood?

CROWLEY: Yeah, yeah. Let's go.

(WAGNER AND CROWLEY storm back into the room. EDWIN smiles at CROWLEY)

CROWLEY (Trying in vain to look sober): So this little cult of yours was quite a little tax ride-off, wasn't it? Until the cultists start taking the shit you say seriously, and start killing innocent people. Innocent people in MY jurisdiction. You got a rap-sheet so clean I'm tempted to wipe my ass with it and the at-home-in-bed alibi is bullshit. The words “cult-leader” don't do well in court nowadays. I know you'll do life, easy. But you got me curious: how does this little paper-pusher in a clip-on tie know facts about my son and my BITCH ex-wife?! You're not an accountant-turned-Charlie Manson. You're part of something BIGGER! You ain't the head-honcho. Oh, no. I've seen more brains than you got on a butcher's cleaver. You ain't smart enough to be the boss, and you sure as shit ain't strong enough to be anybody's muscle. It begs the question! Who the fuck do you work for?

EDWIN (Smiling): I work for God.

WAGNER: Cut the shit. 23 body bags in 24 hours. I don't like that fraction. I don't think God likes it much either!

EDWIN (shaking his head): Genius is never understood in its own time.

CROWLEY(Raises eyebrows): Does God talk to you?

EDWIN: I am a mere vessel for his word.

CROWLEY(rubbing chin): How do you and God communicate?

EDWIN: I visit him.

CROWLEY (Sits facing EDWIN): Where?

WAGNER: Oh, come on, Jack. This is-

EDWIN (To Crowley): 1417 Grant Street.

(WAGNER and CROWLEY fall silent.)

EDWIN: God has taken the form of a crippled man living at 1417 Grant Street.

WAGNER: What the hell are you talking about?

EDWIN(Raising his hands biblically): God is a man. Born a lowly birth to a diseased woman. He carries the weight of the world on his crooked shoulders.

WAGNER: That's about enough. You think you can just fuck with us? (scoffs)

CROWLEY (To EDWIN): You're telling me some syphiloid in a wheelchair told you to tell your followers to kill all those people?

EDWIN: Genius is never understood in its own--

(CROWLEY grabs EDWIN by the tie)

CROWLEY: Insanity plea ain't gonna cut it. This jury wants BLOOD! WAGNER! Get coffee-bitch Murphy on the horn, get dispatch on 1417 Grant street. See if God lives there.

WAGNER stares coolly at CROWLEY with his hands on his hips.

CROWLEY: Tick-tock, Bill.

(WAGNER exits. CROWLEY and EDWIN stare each other down. CROWLEY unscrews the lid to his flask and takes a pull.)

EDWIN: Ripkin is going to fire you, Jack.

CROWLEY: How do you know all this shit! How do you know who Ripkin is?

EDWIN: I told you, God told me.

CROWLEY: I'm going to ask you one more time, before I start getting mean. How do you know all this shit?

EDWIN: God is omniscient. He sees and knows all. I am simply a commuter of his grace.

CROWLEY: Well then, he must know that you and him are gonna be strung-up in federal prison for keeps.

EDWIN: How long have you lived this way, Jack? Drinking yourself to sleep, drinking yourself out of bed, drinking your way through the work-day?

CROWLEY: That's none of your fucking business.

EDWIN: What would your mother think? Following in your father's footsteps so identically?

CROWLEY: Now you just lay off! I've got half a nerve to--

EDWIN: In a matter of weeks, you will fall down a flight of stairs on a drinking binge, and then Jordan will see his father a little less than he does now. It is-

(CROWLEY leaps up and smacks EDWIN's head into the table.  CROWLEY pulls EDWIN out of his chair and throws him against the wall. CROWLEY wraps his fingers around EDWIN's throat and begins to squeeze. RIPKIN flies through the door and shoves CROWLEY off EDWIN.)

RIPKIN: Pack your bags, Jack. You're through.

(CROWLEY mops sweat off his brow with his elbow. EDWIN slumps to the floor.)

RIPKIN: Gimme your badge and your gun, right now.

(CROWLEY spits on the floor and grudgingly hands over his badge and gun.)

RIPKIN: And the flask.

(CROWLEY hands over the flask.)

RIPKIN: Get out of my sight.

(CROWLEY exits, shaking his head. RIPKIN takes a handkerchief from his breast-pocket and begins wiping blood off EDWIN's face.)

RIPKIN: Are you hurt?

EDWIN: No. All pain is temporary.

RIPKIN: I must apologize for the behavior of former-detective Crowley. He won't interfere with your plans any more.

EDWIN: Excellent. I trust that the recording equipment has been disabled?

RIPKIN: Of course. Detective Wagner is on a wild goose-chase. I sent all the guns we have down with him.

EDWIN: You have exceeded my expectations, my child. Mobilize the armies of the righteous.

RIPKIN: Yes, your Holiness.

(RIPKIN takes EDWIN under his arm and exits with him.)
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