"In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don't ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story." - Ben Bova [ more quotes ]

"REINDEER GAMES"

Screenplay by

Ehren Kruger



FADE IN:

FIGURE IN A SANTA CLAUS SUIT

lies face-down in a nighttime expanse of snow. One of the
body's red-sleeved arms is twisted at a sickening angle. The
white snow beneath the figure is spreading with red.

REVEAL EXT. SNOWY ROAD - NIGHT

The figure in the suit lies motionless. Snowflakes drift.

INT. HALLWAY - NIGHT

Dark, rustic wood, an office with broken windows and whistling
winter beyond. A second BODY in a Santa Claus suit lies dead
in the doorway.

It's a man with a large build. The suit is riddled with holes.
His face is missing.

EXT. PARKING LOT - NIGHT

More snow falling. A handful of cars in the lot. A third
BODY in the same red-and-white outfit lies atop the hood of
an old Pontiac. His head is not visible, having smashed
through the windshield. His suit is charred and blackened.

A halo of broken glass outlines him. His black boots hang
off the front bumper. The parking lot is silent.

INT. ROOM - NIGHT

A floor scattered with shiny silver quarters. Reflections of
neon. There's a fourth SANTA here, face-down in a red pool.
The suit is far too big for him. Not that it matters now.

EXT. SNOW-FILLED RAVINE - NIGHT

where the fifth and final Santa lies at the edge of a ravine,
which plummets a hundred feet down. The man rests precariously
atop the slope, upside-down, eyes closed.

His burned suit is smoldering. He has a sly but tired face,
late-20's, sandy hair, cold and scarred. This is RUDY DUNCAN.

He opens his eyes.

RUDY (V.O.)
I never was much for the holidays.

CUT TO BLACK:

THE SOUND OF A WINTER WIND

rises, as a TITLE appears: "SEVEN DAYS BEFORE..."

And then, to complete the sentence: "...XMAS."

FADE IN:

EXT. IRON MOUNTAIN STATE PRISON - DAY

Snow drifts down onto the stone walls and wire fences of the
Iron Mountain, Michigan S.I.C. Winter's been here awhile.

INT. PRISON CELL - DAY

Rudy Duncan lies in his top bunk, staring at his ceiling --
where a handful of paper-cut snowflakes have been pasted.

The sounds of YELLING INMATES and GATES slamming shut echo
through the fortress. Rudy watches a spider scurry across
the paper snow. It's his excitement for the day.

He turns to the wall, where there's a photo of his teenage
self with some co-workers at an auto body shop. And a family
photo, cheery Midwesterners, with Rudy a scowling Artful
Dodger.

A WALL CALENDAR

Shows the dates have been crossed off up to December 18th.

December 22nd is circled again and again.

Rudy muses at the calendar, then hops out of his bunk. Drops
to the floor, crosses to a desk, finds a chewed-on pen.
Turning back to the beds we reveal --

THE LOWER BUNK

where Rudy's cellmate, NICK MASON (32), rugged, mustached
and well-built, sleeps soundly. In contrast, his bed-wall is
a COLLAGE OF PHOTOGRAPHS, twenty, maybe thirty of them. Almost
a mural.

All of them photos of A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL, mid-twenties,
smiling out from beaches, parties and snowy scenes. Gorgeous
brown hair, heartbreaking smile. Effortlessly sexy.

RUDY

stares at the pictures for a moment, wistful. Nick snores,
turns over. Rudy climbs atop his bunk again, with the pen
this time. And crosses December 18th off the calendar.

CUT TO:

EXT. PRISON YARD - DAY

The two of them, Nick and Rudy, shivering by the fence. Nick
absently whistles some "Silver Bells," then digs for a smoke.

NICK
What's the first thing, man? What's
the first thing you're gonna do?

RUDY
Haven't thought about it.

NICK
Hell you haven't.

RUDY
Get to thinking about it, it won't
happen.

NICK
We walk outta here, we hit that road,
what's the first thing you're gonna
do.

RUDY
Ain't there yet.

NICK
Three days, man.

RUDY
Not yet.

NICK
Fuckin' Christmas, man. Fuckin,
Christmas on the outs.

Dozens of uniformed INMATES wander the yard, stamping feet,
hands tucked away, breath frosting. Nick tries to light his
cig, but the wind plays havoc. Nick curses, tosses it.

RUDY
Hot chocolate.

NICK
What?

RUDY
Get a hot mug of chocolate.
(nods)
First thing I'm gonna do.

NICK
(smiles)
And a slice of pecan pie, right?

RUDY
And some pecan pie.

Nick laughs, stares through the fence at the gates of the
prison's entrance road. Longingly.

NICK
She's gonna be out there, man. Right
there. Right there waiting.

RUDY
Yeah.

NICK
Gonna walk out of this shitstorm and
right into her arms.

RUDY
Yeah.

NICK
Got us a motel out Highway 5, bringing
her own damn sheets, you read that
part? Silk damn sheets. Lock ourselves
in the whole week, drinking wine,
taking baths, man, see if they got
those room service steaks... anything
I want to do. Remember when she wrote
that? Anything I want...

RUDY
Yeah. Fuckin' Christmas.

Nick grins. They stand there, shivering. It's freezing, but
the time they get outside is too precious to give up.

RUDY
All those pictures she's sent...
y'know... you sure they're all of
her, Nick? You hear sometimes they
don't send their real pictures. Could
be her cousin or something.

Nick studies him.

NICK
Why you gotta say a thing like that.

RUDY
I'm just saying.

NICK
Why you gotta. We were gonna give
you a ride someplace, man. Now I
just don't know.

RUDY
I'm just talking.

NICK
Fuck your hot chocolate, Rudy.

They trail off in silence. Nick looks out at the prison road
again. A snowy wasteland.

NICK
I'm gonna marry this girl.

INT. PRISON CELL - DAY

Rudy lies in his bunk, staring at the same paper snowflakes.

NICK (O.S.)
Hey, hey, listen here. "I've made my
list and I've checked it twice, and
as long as you're naughty, it's gonna
be nice. These cold winter weeks
have been killing me, Nick, as I lie
here alone. It's not enough to have
your warmth in my heart anymore; I
need your warmth next to me. Work at
Penney's has been busy because it's
Christmas and that's when we do almost
half of our business for the whole
year -- ", okay, whatever, whatever --
(skipping on)
" -- my manager's still mad at me
for asking for the whole week off,"
whatever, whatever --
(smiles)
Here we go. "And all that gets me
through the day is to close my eyes
and imagine holding you, and kissing
you, and touching you, and tasting
you everywhere because I know at
that moment, I'll feel I've found
the reason for my whole entire life."

Rudy still stares at the stone ceiling.

RUDY
For twenty-five, she sounds pretty
mature.

NICK
Yeah. You grow up in Detroit, you
get matured real quick.

Nick's doing pushups on the floor below, smoking a cig,
reading sheets of pink stationery. With a new photo: of the
same GIRL, in a bikini by a lake. Vamping a childish pose.

NICK
Sure as hell don't make me miss Millie
Bobek. Guess I owe Millie, though.
If I hadn't been rollin, her, I woulda
never ended up here. And I woulda
never met Ashley.
(studies photo)
That's the world for ya.

Nick climbs off the floor, paces back to the bunks, marvelling
at the latest letter.

RUDY
What if she sees you, man, sees what
you look like... and it's not there.
You just don't do it for her.

NICK
Me and her got a connection.
(hands page to him)
Read this part. Read the part about
stuffing her stocking.

Nick drops the page on his stomach. Rudy sighs, picks it up,
brings it to his nose.

RUDY
She's using a new perfume.

NICK
No, I think that's just oranges. She
writes here she's eating oranges.

RUDY
Oh.

NICK
Shoulda written to that magazine,
Rudy. I'm gonna walk outta here,
walk right into a relationship. Not
some one-nighter, man... a
relationship. You? You're gonna walk
outta here with bus fare. Searching
for the drunkest skirt in the room.

RUDY
Mornin', gorgeous. More egg nog?

NICK
Shoulda written, Rudy...

Nick drops back to his bunk, pasting the new lakeside photo
among his collage of pictures. Admiring his pen pal:

NICK
Shoulda got yourself a girl.

Above, Rudy peruses the page Nick gave him. Some lipstick
marks pressed to the paper. He passes it back, closes his
eyes.

RUDY
All I want... is to make it to Sidnaw,
and sit down for Christmas dinner.
Watch some ball with my old man,
sleep in my old bed, and have
leftovers for bout six months.

NICK
Thought you hated Sidnaw.

RUDY
Just taste that Christmas turkey.

NICK
Thought you hate your old man.

RUDY
Five years, Nicky. Five years.
(shrugs)
I just want to go home.

There's the echo of CRASHING metal gates. Prisoners YELLING.
Nick smiles, still staring at his girl.

NICK
Well, man. Me and Ashley. We'll be
thinking about you.

INT. MAIN PRISON FLOOR - DAY

GUARDS monitor PRISONERS as they file out of their cells for
the afternoon meal. Rudy and Nick are motioned out by a MEAN
GUARD, his bitter world etched in his face. They join the
line.

RUDY
Shit. Alamo's back.

Across Broadway, a parallel line is forming. A tall, tattooed
Native American, THE ALAMO, steps out of his cell. His hands
are the size of a man's skull.

NICK
Don't look like he missed the
sunlight.

RUDY
Pinscher told me Alamo thinks I'm
the one ratted on him beating up
Cree. Since I was there, I saw it,
he thinks I got him sent to solitary.

NICK
Aw, Rudy.

At that moment, Alamo glances over. Finds Rudy's eyes. Rudy
swiftly looks away --

RUDY
Count me outta mealtime --

He slaps Nick an the back, heads back for their cell --

MEAN GUARD
GET BACK IN LINE!

RUDY
I'm not hungry, I'm gonna --

MEAN GUARD
SHOULDA STAYED IN YOUR HOLE! GET
BACK IN FUCKING LINE!

The mean guard pulls his blackjack. Another guard's ready
behind him. They want Rudy to give them trouble.

Rudy stops. Slides back into the line of prisoners. Looks
across Broadway. The Alamo's walked on up ahead. Rudy
swallows, heads toward the mess hall.

INT. MESS HALL - DAY

A GLOOPY SPOON of CHUNKY RED AND GREEN JELLO gets splooshed
on Rudy's plate. Same with Nick. It's the cafeteria line.

NICK
What the fuck is this?

UGLY STAFFER
Holiday jello.

NICK
What's this shit in it?

UGLY STAFFER
Swallow and see.

The ugly staffer grins from under his plastic hairnet. Nick
looks to Rudy, then turns back to the help:

NICK
Just so you know, this man and I are
outta here in two days. So while
we're inhaling London broil and
lobster bisque, you're gonna still
be standing here smelling up the
mystery creamfuck.
(nods)
Who's in prison now?

The ugly staffer curls his lip. Nick smiles. Rudy moves on,
taking his tray off the rail and turning --

-- right into the chest of The Alamo. He looks up -- into
the most scarred and vengeful face a man could ever dread to
see. The Alamo's a lifer. Many times over.

THE ALAMO
When you don't expect it.

RUDY
It wasn't me, Alamo --

THE ALAMO
That's when.

The Alamo strides into the cafeteria line. Rudy finally takes
a breath, as if he's dodged death. Nick's at his shoulder.
They share a grave and worried look. Trying to help:

NICK
Two days.

INT. MESS HALL - TABLES - DAY

Rudy and Nick sit at a cafeteria table. Beside Rudy is a
frail, nervous, fiftyish inmate, ZOOK. Zook sits alone, talks
to no one, always has the shakes.

NICK
So maybe after our week beneath the
sheets, we'll head down to Motor
City for New Year's. She says her
roommate's skipping town for a few
days, have the place to ourselves.
Remember how her brother's a truck
driver down there? I'm thinking he
might be able to help get me some
work.

RUDY
What, working security?

NICK
No, I'm through with that shit.
Ashley's right. Gotta start doing
something I got a stake in. Get a
business going.

RUDY
I don't know, I've seen the business
world.

NICK
Hotwiring cars, Rudy, does not qualify
as a small business. Chop shop
consultant; doesn't work on a resume.

Rudy shrugs. He checks across the room, on the whereabouts
of The Alamo. The big Indian has his back turned.

NICK
Ashley's talking about maybe we can
start something up together...

Next to Rudy, Zook has stopped eating. He is still as stone,
staring at his tray.

NICK
Whatsa matter, Zook?

They both watch Zook put down his utensils and reach into
his red-and-green jello with his bare hand.

RUDY
The hell you doing, Zookerman?

Gloppy gelatin drips from his hand, as the frail man lifts a
large black cockroach out. Zook's shaking.

NICK
Just a roach, Zook.

RUDY
Good for you. Protein.

ZOOK
Monsters in the gelatin...

NICK
It's a roach, guy --

ZOOK
There are monsters...
(voice rising)
...in the gelatin...

NICK
Oh, man --

Zook stands up, holding jello aloft:

ZOOK
THERE ARE MONSTERS IN THE GELATIN!

NICK
(shakes his head)
Fuckin, Zookerman --

ZOOK
THERE ARE MONSTERS! IN THE GELATIN!
THERE ARE MONSTERS! IN THE GELATIN!

A GRUMBLING MURMUR sweeps through the cafeteria as inmates
sift through their jello, searching for --

DISTANT INMATE
Sonofabitch!

He pulls something bug-like out of his dessert, holds it
aloft, and then HURLS it at the cafeteria line. A STAFFER
ducks away. The inmates LAUGH and suddenly they're all on
their feet --

ZOOK
THERE ARE MONSTERS! IN THE GELATIN!

-- grabbing handfuls of jello and throwing it at the cafeteria
line. Inmates get errantly SPLASHED, and respond by wheeling
on their fellow inmates -- red and green globs flying to and
fro!

GUARDS
SIT DOWN! SIT THE FUCK BACK DOWN!

As GUARDS immediately rush in to restore order --

NICK
Rudy, don't move --

RUDY
Two days, we got two days! Don't do
nothing. Don't touch nothing --

An INMATE at the end of their table picks up their table and
overturns it, sending food flying. Rudy and Nick stand back,
hands raised in surrender. Jello HITS Rudy in the face.

NICK
Don't move, Rudy!

RUDY
Standing right here, man!

Zook is still SHOUTING until a GUARD clubs him senseless
with a blackjack. WHISTLES are blowing. Guards SCREAM for
order.

NICK
(as a GUARD eyes them)
Ate the jello, jello was fine!

The guard leaves them alone, runs on. The melee's still out
of control. As Rudy turns --

-- and suddenly sees The Alamo charging across the room,
with murderous eyes, a metal shank in his hand! Five feet
away!

NICK
RUDY, LOOK OUT!

Nick grabs him, trying to push him out of the way --

-- and The Alamo's shank plunges deep into Nick's stomach
burying between his ribs. Blood splashes. Nick slumps.

RUDY
NICK!

The Alamo pulls the blade out with a ferocious YELL, pushes
Nick to the floor and spins on Rudy! Rudy blocks with a chair,
stumbling back, cartwheeling over a table as The Alamo roars
over him for the kill --

-- and two GUARDS tackle the big Indian out of nowhere!
Knocking the knife away, hammering him with blackjacks. It
takes another three guards to keep The Alamo down.

Rudy scrambles across the floor. Nick's on his back, blood
pumping freely from his gut --

RUDY
GUARD! GUARD!

NICK
(in shock)
Alamo...

RUDY
GUARD!!!

No one's helping, the guards nearby all subduing The Alamo.
Nick grabs Rudy's shirt, gasping to speak --

NICK
Jesus, Rudy --

RUDY
Take it, man! You're all right!
Hold it in! GUARD!

NICK
Oh, fuck, Rudy... oh Jesus...

RUDY
GUARD!!!

NICK
Ash... Ashley...

RUDY
No, man! No, no, no!

NICK
(choking)
Tell her... I'll be there ...

RUDY
You're GONNA be there! We're getting
outta here! TAKE IT!

NICK
Tell Ashley... I...

RUDY
YOU TELL HER!

NICK
...be with her...

Blood spills out Nick's mouth. His eyes go vacant.

RUDY
NO!!!

NICK
...for Christmas...

RUDY
NICK!!!

And Rudy's suddenly hauled backwards. A trio of GUARDS
descend, grabbing Nick's body as his life fades away. Dragging
his figure out of the melee. WHISTLES are blowing.

GUARDS
GET HIM OUT OF HERE! LOCK DOWN!

RUDY
NICK!!!

Rudy struggles, enraged, and gets blackjacked across the
skull for his trouble. He hits the jello-covered floor.

And the world goes dark.

INT. PRISON CELL - NIGHT

Darkness and shadows. Rudy sits in a corner, holding his
head. The cell block silent for the first time.

Bootsteps from down the row. A SHADOW falls across Rudy's
somber figure. It's the Mean Guard. He stares at Rudy with
distinct pleasure.

RUDY
The man had two days...

MEAN GUARD
Well. Least he won't be coming back.

The guard grins a gold tooth. Rudy looks at him --

-- and then springs to his feet, charges the room, grabbing
through the bars. The guard takes a calm step back. Keeps
the cruel smile.

MEAN GUARD
You need company tonight, Rudy...
you just give a holler.

He puckers a kiss and walks on. Starts whistling "Are You
Lonesome Tonight?" Several shadowed VOICES request that he
shut the fuck up. The bootsteps and melody drift down the
row.

RUDY

turns back, starts toward his bunk. And stops. His eyes on
Nick's empty bed. And the wall behind.

THE PICTURES OF ASHLEY

Smiling, laughing, playing kissy-face. Hearts drawn on the
photos. All colors of stationery taped to the wall.

RUDY

takes a seat on Nick's bed. There's a shoebox at the foot of
it.

Rudy opens it. It's filled with Ashley's letters.

He trails a finger along them, must be over a hundred pages.
He selects the one nearest the front. Surveys it.

NICK (V.O.)
Rudy, man, here we go, here, what
she wrote here: "The car's waiting.
The motel's waiting. And I'm waiting.
I've waited for so long. I'm burning
for you, Nick. My whole body. My
whole heart. I'm burning for you..."

Rudy turns to the wall. To the lakeside picture of Ashley, a
swimsuit siren. Rudy stares sadly.

RUDY
He was burning for you too...

And puts the letter away.

CLOSE ON RUDY'S CALENDAR - NIGHT

As his hand slashes through December 21st. Prison's over.

CUT TO:

EXT. IRON MOUNTAIN PRISON - DAY

Snow swirls. Near blizzard conditions. A heavy steel door
BANGS open, held by an EXIT GUARD. And FIFTEEN CONVICTS,
make that EX-CONVICTS, trudge onto a fenced drive, covered
in snow.

EXIT GUARD
Your world and welcome to it,
dumbfucks! Don't be a stranger now!
We'll keep the lights on for ya!

Rudy stumbles out with the group, shivering in a Goodwill
hand-me-down coat. Thin canvas, wouldn't keep him warm in
summer.

Secondhand shoes. No possessions.

He clutches his sides with his hands, hunched over. All
fifteen huddle and herd toward the gate at the end of the
fenceway.

BEYOND THE GATE

There are a dozen FRIENDS and RELATIVES waiting. A few MEN,
several WOMEN, a couple KIDS. Bundled in winter coats, hats
and hoods. A prison shuttle bus is parked behind them.

The released cons reach the gate, where a GATE GUARD unlocks
the fence to the outside world. Fifteen men are free.

The ex-cons and relatives scan each other's faces. Wives
rush over to embrace their men. Pals nod to ex-cons and trade
slaps on backs. Reunion time.

The snow batters them, wind whipping. Rudy keeps his head
down, leaning forward, keeps walking. Toward the bus. But he
can't help himself -- he glances up --

TO SEE A YOUNG WOMAN

bundled in a silver ski jacket, pink wool hat with a poofball
on top, scarf and mittens. Scanning the released prisoners.

RUDY

drops his head, looks away. Climbs onto the shuttle bus.

INT. BUS - CONTINUOUS

Rudy shakes his arms, basking in the vehicle's warmth. Takes
a seat at the back. A couple other lone ex-cons climb aboard.
Then the cons with relatives start to pile in.

Rudy's window is steamed against the cold. He stares into
his lap, then reaches for his coat pocket. Takes out the
picture of Ashley, in her bikini by the lake. Stares at it.

He rubs his window with his sleeve.

Outside, the woman in the silver coat turns this way and
that, troubled. She's watching the other ex-cons climbing
onto the bus with their loved ones.

The woman looks back to the prison. The guard closing the
gate. The steel door has been shut. No one else is coming.

Rudy watches her sadly.

Aboard the bus, the seats fill up. Ex-cons are feeling up
their wives, kids are climbing on their absent daddies,
buddies are jawing loudly 'bout how the neighborhood's
changed.

The woman outside is now alone. Silver coat, pink poofball.

Rudy looks at the bikini picture again.

Then at the shivering bundle.

RUDY
Don't do it, Rudy...

The bus ENGINE starts up. In the seat beside Rudy, an EX-CON
makes out with his WIFE while his bratty KID punches his
leg.

Out the window, the young woman is scanning the bus windows.
Then the prison again. She turns in a worried circle. Rudy
looks swiftly away. Closes his eyes.

RUDY
Don't do it ...

The bus door closes. It REVS and starts forward. Rudy sighs
with relief. The photo of Ashley falls to the floor.

EXT. PRISON RELEASE GATE - CONTINUOUS

The young woman watches the bus pull away, down the snowy
road. But it doesn't get fifty feet before it suddenly stops.

The door opens. And Rudy steps out.

The bus REVS up again and GROANS OFF into the winter.

The young woman pushes her poofball hat out of her eyes. We
get a look at her face for the first time. Skin pale, lips
turning blue, but it's the girl from the pictures. It's
Ashley.

She watches Rudy's figure trudge back toward her. Snow
obscuring him until he's right in front of her. Both of them
shivering. Both of them standing there.

And finally:

RUDY
You Ashley?

Ashley nods. And Rudy sadly smiles.

RUDY
I'm Nick.

CUT TO:

INT. TRUCK STOP - DAY

Rudy and Ashley sit at a coffee shop booth. Coats still on.
Big rigs bluster by on the highway outside.

Two untouched cups of coffee sit before them.

She's watching him in silence.

RUDY
I like your coat.

Ashley says nothing. Rudy looks at his own:

RUDY
This -- this is just something they
gave me at the door. Wasn't snowing
when we signed up, y'know?

Ashley nods.

RUDY
How's your coffee?

Ashley looks at it, like she's just realizing it's there.
She lifts the cup, takes a sip. Puts it down.

ASHLEY
Good.

Rudy nods. Silence again.

RUDY
Gotta be ten degrees out there.

ASHLEY
Radio said negative five.

RUDY
Negative five?

ASHLEY
Yeah.

RUDY
I don't think it's negative five.

ASHLEY
Radio said.

Beat.

RUDY
Wind chill. That's probably what
they meant.

Ashley nods. Rudy bites his lip.

RUDY
I was scared. Scared you were gonna
take one look at me and change your
mind. Scared I was walking into
heartache. All those words... you
put a picture in your mind of where
they come from and when you see where
maybe it's not the same as your
picture.

He trails off.

ASHLEY
I figured you walked outta there and
saw me and walked right the other
way --

RUDY
No, no --

ASHLEY
Saw my outfit or something, my coat --

RUDY
No, hey, I like your coat --

ASHLEY
Saw me --

RUDY
Ashley, no. That was me, that's what
I was scared of. I mean, be serious...
I ain't exactly looking like Mr.
Universe here.

ASHLEY
You are to me.

Rudy goes silent. Whoa. Ashley considers.

ASHLEY
Thought you wrote you had a mustache.

RUDY
I can get another one going. Y'know,
hey, whatever you want me to --

ASHLEY
No, no, no. Be like you want to be.

Another awkward pause. Rudy picks up a milk dispenser beside
the coffee, puts it to his lips. It gives him a wide white
mustache. He stares straight-faced.

Ashley gives a bashful smile, covers it.

RUDY
Do that again.

ASHLEY
What.

RUDY
Smile.

Ashley smiles again, blushing now.

ASHLEY
No --

RUDY
One more. Smile. One more.

ASHLEY
(trying not to)
No, c'mon --

RUDY
I've been dreaming about that smile,
Ashley Mercer. For a long time.

They stare across the table, drifting into one another's
eyes.

ASHLEY
You're better than the picture in my
mind, Nick...
(softly)
You're real.

Outside, another truck rumbles by, whipping up snow.

SMASH CUT TO:

INT. INTERSTATE MOTEL ROOM - DAY

And Rudy and Ashley SLAM inside, kissing passionately, limbs
intertwined, pawing at each other's coats. Rudy kicks the
door closed. Mouths devouring, hands lost in snowy hair.

They collide with a side table, knocking over a lamp, tumbling
onto the lumpy bed. Rudy tears at her silver coat and sweater
and turtleneck and capilene and whatever else's she got on,
as Ashley's lips explore his neck and body. Writhing and
wrestling and rolling off the bed. Bang.

INT. MOTEL ROOM - LATER

Rudy and Ashley fuck like lovers in R-rated movies.

INT. MOTEL ROOM - DAY - LATER

The bed sheets lie tangled on the floor. Rudy and Ashley
rest naked amidst them. Her pretty young head on his chest,
all their inhibitions gone. Rudy strokes her arms.

RUDY
Tell me something. This the first
time you've ever done this?

ASHLEY
Go to hell, Nick Mason, what's that
supposed to mean --

RUDY
No, not that, no...
(laughs, kisses her)
I mean this, the whole thing. Start
writing to a guy, guy in the bricks.
Get a boyfriend like this. Tell me
the truth.

ASHLEY
Well. You're not the first guy I
wrote to. But you're the only one I
kept writing to.

RUDY
Yeah. Me too.
(considers)
Why? I mean I know why for me, why I
paid for the ad. But you... why start
writing to some guy -- some con --
you don't even know?

Ashley studies his face, smiles in reflection.

ASHLEY
I told you, Nick. Remember?

RUDY
Tell me again.

ASHLEY
All the guys I've ever been with...
they never want to know me. Who I am
on the inside. They just want to qet
inside. When they do, they think
that means they know who I am. That
I trust them. That they know me.
That there's nothing left to learn.
(beat)
A guy like you, Nick -- six months
before you can even touch my face. I
figure a guy in that kind of bind,
he's gonna hafta work to get to know
me some other way.

RUDY
Had some bad relationships, didn't
you.

ASHLEY
Not bad. Just regular.
(smiles)
You wrote me wonderful things, Nick.
Personal things.

She turns to him, kisses his chest --

RUDY
Well, wasn't all me, y'know.

ASHLEY
Yes it was all you --

RUDY
Guy I was in with... he helped
sometimes... some of the romantic
stuff, actually... you'd like him --

ASHLEY
I'm talking about the heart, Nick.
I'm not talking about the words.

RUDY
Y'know, some of the heart mighta
been his too...

ASHLEY
Then he shoulda signed his name.

She turns over playfully, eases herself back atop him. Ready
to make up for lost time. With a kiss:

ASHLEY
And he'd be here right now.

INT. SHOPPING MALL - DAY

Ashley runs through an Xmas-decorated megamall, dragging
Rudy behind her. Both of them laughing, as she hauls him
over to some cookie bakery company:

RUDY
Where the hell are you going?

ASHLEY
Provisions! We are not leaving that
motel room again till after New
Year's: we need ten days worth of
provisions!
(to cookie matron)
What's good?!

COOKIE MATRON
Oh my, we've got a special on our
chocolate crunchie elves, they're
shaped like little helpers --

ASHLEY
THIS MAN... has not had a cookie in
two goddamn years! Get him two of
everything!

RUDY
Ashley, Jesus --

ASHLEY
Can't survive on our bodies alone,
Nick.
(to cookie matron)
Hurry up!

RUDY
Ash... didn't you write me that you
don't eat chocolate?

ASHLEY
Yeah, well you wrote me you were six-
foot-four, baby.
(teasing smile)
So don't talk to me about little
white lies.

INT. J.C. PENNEY'S DEPARTMENT STORE - DAY

Teddy bears with nightcaps, green bows, red ribbons. Ashley's
tearing through men's clothing racks, all love and confidence.

Rudy's got a bunch of purchase bags weighing him down:

ASHLEY
You need a COAT!

RUDY
Ash, you've gotten me enough --

ASHLEY
No boyfriend of mine is going to
walk around in negative-five degree
wind chill without a goddamn good-
looking coat!

She pulls out a hellacious black leather fringe number.

RUDY
Baby, c'mon, all this stuff... I
haven't gotten you anything --

ASHLEY
You got out, Nick. You're here.
You're my Christmas.

She puts the jacket against his chest, smiling. Rudy sighs.

RUDY
It's two hundred dollars, Ash --

She whips a Penney's card from her purse, grins wickedly:

ASHLEY
You forget where I work?

RUDY
(beat)
Beauty and fragrances.

ASHLEY
Fifty percent off, motherfucker. Ho
ho ho.

She runs off with the jacket. Rudy turns to a dressing mirror,
left to stare at his reflection. An ex-con in rags, with a
half-dozen holiday shopping bags. To himself:

RUDY
Just for the holidays, Nick. Then
we'll tell her. We'll let her...
have her holidays...

Rudy nods till he convinces himself. Can't help but smile.

INT. TOY STORE - DAY

Puzzles, Barbies and dinosaurs. KIDS scurrying, PARENTS
chasing. Rudy and Ashley with a scared TEEN CLERK:

TEEN CLERK
You can't find... what?

ASHLEY
Toys for adults. Where are your toys
for adults?

TEEN CLERK
Toys for... adults?

ASHLEY
C'mon. How old are you, sixteen?
C'mon.

TEEN CLERK
We sell children's toys --

ASHLEY
(slams money down)
I got fifty dollars to spend in your
store, Jesus of Nazareth. Can you
help me or not?

The clerk glances around, then, low:

TEEN CLERK
Slinky's in aisle five, Twister's in
aisle one, Moon Mud's in aisle four.

ASHLEY
Thank you.

INT. SUPERMARKET - DAY

CLOSE ON CONVEYOR

As bottles of wine, vodka and rum, cartons of egg nog and
orange juice, and countless prepackaged sandwiches come
scrolling past.

ASHLEY (O.S.)
You know what I was thinking, after
our holiday hideaway? Instead of
going back to Detroit, maybe we could
go gambling. Y'know? Drive up to
that Indian place you worked at.
Wouldn't that be fun? I haven't gone
gambling in forever!

EXT. SUPERMARKET PARKING LOT - DUSK

Light snow falls. Rudy, in his new black fringe eyesore, and
Ashley carry grocery bags across the icy asphalt:

RUDY
Well, I don't know about that --

ASHLEY
Blackjack, Nick, blackjack I am good
at. I mean, they'd give us some free
games or something, wouldn't they?
Since you worked there?

RUDY
Security, Ash, I just worked security.
They wouldn't be rolling out the red
carpet --

ASHLEY
And the slots, slots I'm good at
too. Wouldn't that be fun?

RUDY
We'll have more fun in Detroit.

ASHLEY
We could live it up and --

RUDY
Ashley. We're not going anywhere I
used to work.

It comes out too harsh. Ashley stops, a little hurt.

ASHLEY
I just... I thought you'd have friends
there...

Rudy softens, touches her arms:

RUDY
Hey. I been in prison for two years,
Ash. Believe me. Those guys wouldn't
want to see me.

He kisses her. She nods, dismisses it, kisses back.

ASHLEY
Well, they don't know what the hell
they're missing.

EXT. MOTEL - NIGHT

Ashley's Chevy Nova pulls back into the lot of the roadside
joint. There's an artificial (silver) Christmas tree tied to
the roof.

She and Rudy climb out; she heads for the office:

ASHLEY
Baby, I'm gonna go tell 'em not to
disturb us for the rest of the year.
I get back in that room, you better
be wearing nothing but a candy cane.

RUDY
I'll see what I can do.

ASHLEY
No, lover. I'll see what you can do.

She smiles, sashays sexily away. Rudy watches her go, admiring
his good fortune. Then pops the trunk, collects some of their
shopping score. Gifts and goodies.

RUDY
(sings, sotto)
I have no gifts to bring, parum-pum-
pum-pum. No treasures for the king,
pa-rum-pum-pum-pum...

Loaded down, he struggles to the motel room, balances bags
on his knee, gets the key in the door, and heads inside.

INT. MOTEL ROOM - NIGHT

Pitch dark. Rudy fumbles his way in:

RUDY
...but I got a girl to be with, rum-
pum-pum-pum...

MERLIN (O.S.)
Hi, Nick.

Rudy drops the shopping bags, whirls around, as a stocky
black shadow, MERLIN, all 280 pounds of him, KICKS the door
shut --

RUDY
What the fuck --

-- and SWINGS a baseball bat toward Rudy's chest. Rudy gets
an arm down to deflect the blow, but it still stings like a
mother. Rudy HOWLS. Merlin comes at him again --

-- and this time Rudy slips by. Merlin's bat SHATTERS a
dresser.

Rudy grabs him by the neck, kicks out his knees and wrests
him to the ground. Grabs the bat --

-- and gets DECKED from behind by another shadow, PUG, a
little white guy with a snarl. They go CRASHING onto the
bed, grappling for leverage, and then to the floor --

-- where Rudy grabs a champagne bottle from the groceries
and BASHES it backwards, shattering it over Pug's head!

Pug lets go, as Rudy scrambles up, and Merlin's got him again
in a bear hug. Rudy's struggling, whirling with him, crashing
into one wall, then another, YELLING for help --

RUDY
HEYYY!!! IN HERE!!! HEYYY!!!

-- until he hears the PUMP-LOAD SNAP of a shotgun.

Rudy stops still. A lamp clicks on.

Standing in silhouette, a figure in a leather duster holds a
sawed-off on him.

GABRIEL
Welcome home, Nick.

Another lamp comes on. Rudy, still in Merlin's choke-hold,
gets a look at the gunman, GABRIEL. Weathered face, stringy
hair, early 30's. Handsome in a scuzzy way. He's seen a lot
of road.

Rudy stares, totally thrown. Pug, the little guy, bad teeth,
bad hair, bad skin, gets up spitting blood and champagne.

PUG
I owe ya a drink, ya fuck --

-- and slugs Rudy in the gut. Merlin yanks him back up.
Merlin's a black widebody, wears a goatee and brass knuckles.
Behind Merlin stands a fourth intruder, a stone-faced Indian
in a Grateful Dead longsleeve. JUMPY. Guarding the door.

Gabriel's studying Rudy, up and down. Nods. Merlin relaxes
his choke-hold so Rudy can breathe.

RUDY
You... you don't know me --

GABRIEL
Oh, I know you, Nick. I know you
real well.

RUDY
No, you can't --

GABRIEL
The hell I can't.

As the room's door gets kicked open --

ASHLEY
Watch out, baby! I'm bringing in the
fucking tree!

and the silver fake evergreen fills the doorway, getting
forced through with Ashley's grunts and groans --

RUDY
ASHLEY!

Merlin traps his jaw shut. The tree comes squeezing through,
followed by Ashley, face in branches --

ASHLEY
I'm telling you, we got the best one
in the store... I don't know why
people want their houses smelling
like the stupid woods...

She's GRABBED from behind by Jumpy. Ashley screams, but he
slams her against the wall. The tree hits the ground.

RUDY
NO!

ASHLEY
NICK!

Rudy fights to help her, but Merlin's got him. Pug locks
Ashley's arms. She fights, muffled cries, but Jumpy and Pug
have her held firmly. Her face to the wall --

GABRIEL
(re: the silver tree)
Hope her taste in men's better than
her taste in Christmas.

Ashley's turned to face him. Her eyes widen. Gabriel nods.

GABRIEL
Hey, sis. Happy holidays.

Rudy's jaw drops. He looks to Ashley. Then to Gabriel.

Ashley YELLS, enraged, kicking and clawing. Jumpy slams her
back against the wall for her trouble --

GABRIEL
Jumpy, don't hurt her, now.

Gabriel steps to Rudy. Studies him.

GABRIEL
So. This is the guy you been waiting
for. Man of your dreams.

ASHLEY
Gabriel -- !

GABRIEL
(unimpressed)
Must have a way with stationery.

ASHLEY
Gabriel, what are you doing!

Gabriel raises the sawed-off to Rudy's chest. Rudy flinches,
but Merlin's got him.

ASHLEY
GABRIEL!!!

Gabriel fixes her with a stare. She shuts up. To Rudy:

GABRIEL
You better be here to be good to
her, loverboy. 'Cause she's been
good to you.

ASHLEY
Gabriel, let him go --

GABRIEL
Read a lot about you, Nick.

ASHLEY
What are you doing here?!

GABRIEL
Read you're a man of some knowledge.

ASHLEY
Gabriel!

GABRIEL
A man of some travels.

ASHLEY
GABRIEL, I LOVE HIM!

Rudy's trying to speak, voice CHOKED. Gabriel nods to Merlin,
who again eases his hold. Rudy coughs.

RUDY
I'm... not... Nick...

Gabriel frowns. Rudy turns to Ashley.

RUDY
I'm not him. I...
(then to Gabriel)
You want something from Nick, you
got the wrong guy.

ASHLEY
(hurt)
Nick...

Gabriel looks from her to him, then lowers his sawed-off,
and SWINGS it into Rudy's stomach. Rudy buckles. Panicked.

GABRIEL
Who are you now.

RUDY
You got the wrong guy! She thinks
I'm Nick, I'm not!

GABRIEL
(to Merlin)
Put him in the truck.

RUDY
I was in the joint with him! I knew
about him and her, okay!? I took his
place!

GABRIEL
You what...

RUDY
I got out, Nick didn't! I pretended
I was him! I knew about her letters!
Jesus Christ, whatever you want from
him -- I'm not Nick!
(to Ashley)
I -- I just wanted to be --

A glance of regret amidst his desperation. Ashley stares
back, confused, searching his eyes.

GABRIEL
You're not Nick Mason...

RUDY
I shared his cell!

GABRIEL
But you were saying you were...

RUDY
Yes!

GABRIEL
So you could get with my sister.

RUDY
Yes!

GABRIEL
So you could get down her chimney.

RUDY
Yes!

GABRIEL
And you think telling me that's gonna
help your cause.

Gabriel RATCHETS him across the chin with the gun butt. Rudy
hits the floor. Gabriel spins on Ashley, enraged:

GABRIEL
Is this him!?

ASHLEY
(reaches for Rudy)
Don't hurt him...

GABRIEL
Is this the fucker you been writing
all year!?

ASHLEY
(reaches for Rudy)
Please, Gabriel, don't...

Gabriel puts the gun to Rudy's head.

GABRIEL
IS THIS NICK MASON!!??

ASHLEY
YES!!!

Gabriel doesn't shoot. Studies Rudy.

GABRIEL
Well, he's gonna have to learn to
give you some respect.

Gabriel KICKS Rudy in the jaw. Ashley screams. Gabriel motions
to his boys: Jumpy and Pug drag her outside. Gabriel KICKS
Rudy again. Rudy lies there and takes it.

Merlin lights a cig, examines Rudy and Ashley's grocery bags:

MERLIN
Hey. They got a shitload of cookies.

GABRIEL
Take 'em.

MERLIN
How 'bout the tree? You want the
tree?

GABRIEL
Leave the tree.

Merlin nods, tucks the bags under his arms, leaves the room.

Gabriel drops beside Rudy, with a sick smile:

GABRIEL
I've read your letters, motherfucker.
Don't play no reindeer games with
me.

EXT. INTERSTATE - NIGHT

As we SWOOP DOWN onto a four-lane stretch of winter highway,
arcing into the blackness.

CLOSING ON an 18-wheel tractor trailer, RUMBLING onward,
emblazoned with "Great Lakes Trucking." There's an airbrush
painting on the door to the cab, of a skeleton looking thru
a flaming radial tire, and the legend "Motor City Monster."

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - CAB - NIGHT

Gabriel at the wheel, Merlin smoking, Jumpy eating cookies.
A TRUCK passes; Gabriel waves. A moment later, the CB
crackles:

PASSING DRIVER (OVER CB)
Hey there, Monster! What're you
hauling this far north?

GABRIEL
Hell, Bugeye. How you doin'? Ain't
hauling, man, I'm up for the holidays.
Gonna have myself a holiday... for a
goddamn change...

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - TRAILER - NIGHT

CLOSE ON RUDY

eyes closed, dried blood, head rocking side to side. He
winces, waking, with the headache to end all headaches.

ASHLEY (O.S.)
Shh, Nick, shh. They won't hurt you
now. You're okay...

Her hand strokes his face. Rudy's eyes struggle open.

ON FULL SCENE

They're in the back of the truck. There's some packing mats,
rope, two tall storage lockers, and Ashley's Chevy Nova.

Rudy's head is in her lap. He struggles to sit up, finds his
wrists tied with cord. He looks at Ashley, follows her gaze.

In a corner, Pug sits guard in a beanbag chair. He's dipping
chewing tobacco, reading Road & Track, headphones on. Gives
Rudy a bored glance, then back to his magazine.

ASHLEY
I won't let 'em, Nick. They won't
hurt you anymore.

RUDY
Your brother...

Ashley nods. Rudy looks around, remembering.

RUDY
...the truck driver...

ASHLEY
He's not a bad person, Nick... he's
not...

From the corner, Pug spits some chaw. Ashley wheels.

ASHLEY
You're not gonna hurt him anymore!

Pug doesn't even look up. Still stroking Rudy's face:

ASHLEY
Since Janey moved in... Gabriel...
he's come over more and more. To the
apartment. Janey's the divorced one,
'member, with the tit job --

RUDY
What the fuck is going on.

ASHLEY
He read the letters, Nick. Some day
I wasn't there. He went through my
room. He found your letters.

RUDY
What's going ON!!!

The truck shakes.

ASHLEY
He knows you worked in that casino.

Rudy stares at her. She's scared

RUDY
You motherfucker.

ASHLEY
Nick, no --

RUDY
You sold him out.

ASHLEY
Nick --

RUDY
When'd you decide to do it, Ash?
After which of his letters, huh?
The fortieth? The fiftieth? The
first?!

ASHLEY
Nick, what are you --

She reaches out for him; Rudy scrambles to his knees, tumbles
against the opposite wall of the trailer.

RUDY
I'M NOT NICK!
(raging)
You thought you'd fuck him over?!
Well he's fucked you! I've never
worked at some casino! I can't help
you! Because he's not me!

ASHLEY
Nick, I love you --

RUDY
JESUS CHRIST!

PUG
Watch your mouth, man. It's Christmas.

RUDY
I'M NOT NICK!

Ashley runs at him, wraps her arms around him tightly. He
tries to fight her off. She won't let go.

RUDY
Get the hell off of me!

ASHLEY
(hard whisper)
Nick, it won't work. It won't work!

Rudy stops fighting. She has a terrified look in her eye.
Checks to Pug: he's watching them now, chewing slower. Ashley
turns them away from the little guy's view

ASHLEY
He'll kill you.

RUDY
You're not hearing me here --

ASHLEY
My brother's killed people, I know
he has. Truckers. If you talk him
into thinking you're not you, you'll
only get yourself dead.

RUDY
He didn't "find" Nick's letters, did
he.

ASHLEY
Nick, please, it's me --

RUDY
You told him about Nick's letters.

ASHLEY
No, Nick, no --

RUDY
You're in on this.

ASHLEY
I love you!

Rudy stares at her coldly.

RUDY
Y'know, in a way, I'm glad it's me.
'Cause you woulda broken his heart.

Ashley stares, panicked. Pug's still watching them.

RUDY
Your pen palls dead, lady.

ASHLEY
If you say that, if you keep saying
that, they will kill you. If they
think you're not you, they will kill
you. Don't you see? I know what you're
doing, but it won't work!

RUDY
Nick died for me....

ASHLEY
I won't let him hurt you! He just
wants what you know!

RUDY
(ruefully)
...maybe I die for Nick...

ASHLEY
Just tell him what you know, Nick!
That's all they want! And we'll get
out of this!

Rudy gives her a stone cold stare. Ashley crumbles, touching
his face, shaking her head, tears. Devastated.

ASHLEY
He found them... I swear, Nick...
(helpless)
...he found them...

The truck shudders through downshifts, to a groaning stop.
Ashley embraces Rudy fiercely, holding on for the last.

The trailer gate RATTLES open into the truck's roof.

Ashley shuts her eyes.

EXT. REST STOP/INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - CONTINUOUS

The rig all alone at a snowy rest area. Gabriel, Merlin and
Jumpy climb inside as silhouette sentries. Gabriel surveys,
then lifts a piece of paper:

GABRIEL
"My sweet, sexy Ashy-lashy, I have
been dreaming of you constantly, and
knowing you are out there makes these
walls not seem so close or so strong
or so cold..."
(to Merlin/Jumpy)
Women live for this stuff.
(reads on)
Dreaming 'bout your this, dreaming
'bout your those, gettin' X-rated on
me here, Nicky... where are we...
oh, right, other side...
(turns paper over)
"Someday I'm gonna take you up by
Lake S. Before I went in, before
goddamn Millie, 'fore I had my
situation, I used to work up at this
casino, working security. Used to
watch for people stealing chips,
counting cards, getting piss-drunk,
that kinda shit. Indian place, they
hired this reject outta Vegas to run
it, got about as much business sense
as a buffalo patty. Anyways, it's a
fun place to run some numbers and
play."

Gabriel puts the letter down.

GABRIEL
You're a good writer, Nick. I give
this writing an A-plus.

RUDY
I never worked at no casino.

ASHLEY
(hopeless)
Nick...

Rudy steps out of her hold and stalks forward:

RUDY
That's the guy I was in with, I did
my last ten months with him. He rode
a two-year bit for manslaughter --
split a guy's skull open at a bar
for harassing his girl. That's Nick
Mason. He worked at that casino.
He's the one who wrote her letters.
Me, I'm a damn mechanic, my last job
was a Quickie Lube, I did five for
lifting cars. I don't know shit about
blackjack, I don't know shit about
Indians. I'm not him.

Gabriel stares at him. Then crumples the letter.

GABRIEL
Bury this guy.

Merlin and Jumpy grab Rudy and THROW him from the truck. He
HITS the snowy parking lot on his side, hands bound.

ASHLEY
Gabriel, you promised!

GABRIEL
I promised that when he helped us,
we'd be gone! When he helped us!
Loverboy don't want to play!

Merlin and Jumpy drop to the snow, picking Rudy up.

ASHLEY
You promised me!

GABRIEL
And you promised me you'd get your
sweetheart to help!

Rudy meets eyes with Ashley. She's caught.

GABRIEL
He'd rather die than be with you,
he'd make a fucked-up boyfriend
anyway.
(to Merlin/Jumpy)
Bury him all over the place.

ASHLEY
NO!

She charges at her brother. Gabriel grabs her, spins her
into control and PUNCHES her in the jaw. She goes flying out
of the truck. HITS the ground hard. In shock.

Merlin and Jumpy march Rudy across the lot. A stand of dark
and snowy woods ahead...

MERLIN
Beats prison, I guess.

ASHLEY (O.S.)
NICK!!! NICK!!! NOOOOO!!!

Rudy struggles, desperate but held firm. Jumpy loads a
handgun, as he muses for the very first time:

JUMPY
The problem with prison... is that
it is founded on the fundamentally
flawed perception of rehabilitation
through punishment. A society can't
hope to create a "changed man" by
surrounding him with the worst in
his fellow man; what it
"rehabilitates" is solely a conviction
that if he can survive the inhumanity
of prison, what then, can he not
withstand? He has seen man's darkest
soul and kept his sight: what is
left for such a man? What faith?
What fear?

At the woods' edge, Jumpy gives the gun to Merlin --

JUMPY
Don't get no blood on my boots --

The gun goes to Rudy's head. A bullet fills the chamber.
Ashley SCREAMS. Rudy shuts his eyes tight and --

RUDY
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW!

Merlin and Jumpy stop. Ashley stops screaming. Gabriel turns.

RUDY
About the Tomahawk! What the hell do
you want to know!

His guards look to Gabriel. Rudy nods, sweating.

RUDY
I spend six months writing poetry
and my goddamn pen pal fucks me over.
Thanks for the stamps, Ash. You want
me, you got me. Whaddya want to know.

Ashley gasps relief. Gabriel smiles.

GABRIEL
Everything.

Merlin and Jumpy march Rudy back. Still on the ground:

ASHLEY
I love you... Nick, I love you...

Rudy won't meet her eyes.

GABRIEL
Hey. She says she loves you, Nick.

RUDY
She says a lot of things.

GABRIEL
She's getting you to help us... 'cause
she knows if you don't, you're dead.
You just tell us what we need to
know, you two live happily ever after.
My sister loves you, motherfucker,
and I ain't gonna have you break her
heart.

RUDY
Wish I had a brother like you.

GABRIEL
A girl says she loves you, you say
something.

Rudy looks at Ashley. Her eyes plead forgiveness.

RUDY
I had better sex in prison.

GABRIEL
Heyyy. Be nice, convict. We're gonna
be working together here.
(to his boys)
Get him back in the rig.

Merlin and Jumpy wrench Rudy backward. Ashley reaches out to
him, starts to speak. He looks right through her. She goes
silent, casts her eyes to the snow.

PUG (O.S.)
He's not the guy, Monster.

Everyone looks to the truck. Weasel-faced Pug has sidled
next to Gabriel. Spits some chaw.

It hits Merlin's boots. Merlin growls.

PUG
Whole time you were driving, he was
telling her he's not the guy, he's
not the guy. I know why he'd tell us
he's not the guy. why's he telling
her he's not the guy? What if he's
not the guy?

Gabriel considers, jumps off the truck. Walks to Rudy:

GABRIEL
The man who wrote those letters loved
Ashley, boys. He lived for her love.
(nods)
Let's see him live for love.

Gabriel puts a gun under Rudy's chin. Rudy flinches.

GABRIEL
Where's she work?

RUDY
What?

GABRIEL
(forces gun harder)
Wrote you a hundred letters, didn't
she? Where's she work?

RUDY
J.C. Penney. Beauty and fragrances.

GABRIEL
What's her middle name?

RUDY
(thinking hard)
Samantha.

GABRIEL
What'd they call her in high school?

RUDY
Bam Bam.

GABRIEL
What'd they call her in college?

RUDY
What college.

GABRIEL
Where'd she drop her cherry?

ASHLEY
Gabriel!

RUDY
Canada.

GABRIEL
Be more specific.

RUDY
A station wagon in Canada.

GABRIEL
What's her greatest fear?

RUDY
Her brother.

GABRIEL
Wrong, Nick. It's drowning.

RUDY
No. It's her brother.

Rudy stares him down. Gabriel shrugs.

GABRIEL
That's love.

He puts the gun away. Ashley regains her breath.

GABRIEL
Let's get back on the road. It's
time to start talking, Nick. Time to
start telling tales --

RUDY
Nick don't talk till Nick gets
something.

Gabriel gives a challenging stare. Rudy stares right back.

It's a showdown.

RUDY
Hot. Chocolate.

The trucker slowly smiles. His crew chuckles.

MERLIN
You want that for here or to go?

RUDY
I been in Iron Mountain for two years,
truck driver. I do one more crime,
I'm back there for good, so fuck you
and fuck your sister and fuck your
trucker friends. You want to hear
about some goddamn job of mine? I
want some hot-goddamn-chocolate.

They've stopped laughing.

RUDY
And some pecan-fucking-pie.

INT. TRUCK STOP - NIGHT

CLOSE ON HOT CHOCOLATE AND PECAN PIE

The six of them sit in a booth, Ashley leaning on Rudy's
shoulder apologetically. The four truckers watch him scarf
his pie. "White Christmas" plays over the speakers.

GABRIEL
So when you worked there --

Rudy raises a finger sharply. Silence. He continues eating.
Scrapes the last of his pie crumbs.

GABRIEL
You knew the place --

RUDY
Hey.

Rudy stares hard. Gobbles the crumbs, washes it down with
his hot chocolate. Savors it. Sets the mug down.

RUDY
Y'know, I could really go for some
onion rings.

Gabriel nods to Jumpy, who snaps his arm up, SMASHING his
knuckles into Rudy's face.

ASHLEY
Gabriel! You said talk to him. That's
all you ever said...

GABRIEL
We're talking, aren't we?

Rudy holds his nose. Blood trickles.

GABRIEL
How much money's in that casino?
Day-to-day.

RUDY
I don't know.

GABRIEL
The hell you don't.

RUDY
(sighs, a guess)
Five million?

GABRIEL
You wrote Ash that letter, you told
her that story 'bout working Christmas
Eve, bout how they'd send half the
security guys home, nobody comin, in
that night. And the rest of you got
shit-faced drinking hot buttered
rum. That a true story now?

RUDY
Christmas... Eve...

GABRIEL
You know where the guards are. You
know how to get in and out. You know
where the money is.
(nods)
We're taking down that casino,
convict. You're the guy gonna tell
us how.

Rudy turns slightly pale.

RUDY
Hey, it's... been two years --

GABRIEL
We got faith in you, Nick Mason.
(smiles)
You're our inside man.

INT. TRUCK STOP BATHROOM - NIGHT

Rudy slams in, letting the door smack shut behind him. It's
a tiny windowless closet. Rudy kicks a stall door, pacing.

RUDY
...goddamn it, Rudy... goddamn it...
goddamn girl, goddamn Nick... you're
so smart, so fucking smart...

He stalks a circle, grabs a sink, and stares at his reflection
in the mirror. He looks a wreck. He settles down.

RUDY
Where's your Christmas dinner now...

INT. TRUCK STOP - MOMENTS LATER

A COUPLE leaves the booth behind Gabriel's crew. Pug and
Merlin reach over, steal their leftovers and dig in. Ashley
fidgets.

Jumpy regards the garlands painted on the windows beside:

JUMPY
I've read where the retail industry
does fifty percent of its business
between December 1st and December
25th. Half the year's business, in
one month's time. It seems to me an
intelligent society would legislate
a second such gift-giving holiday,
create, say, a Christmas Two -- late
May, early June -- to further
stimulate growth and prosperity. For
who would protest such a holiday?
Taking the fifty percent model, a
Christmas Two would grow this
country's annual per capita income
by close to one-third.

Everyone stares at Jumpy.

GABRIEL
Christmas Two.

The Indian nods. Gabriel shakes his head.

GABRIEL
Ever since you started night school,
you been givin, me headaches, Jumpy.
Headaches.
(to Merlin/Pug)
Go see what's taking him.

INT. BATHROOM - SAME

Rudy crouches behind the door, a piece of iron pipe in his
grip, ready to strike. Listening... listening...

AS the door SLAMS open, swinging fast and BASHING him in the
head.

Rudy tags the floor, drops the pipe, knocked out.

Merlin and Pug gaze down on him, shaking their heads. Pug
spits tobacco. Hits Merlin's boots again.

INT. TRUCK STOP - MOMENTS LATER

Rudy's back, with a new facial bruise. Ashley reaches for
his hand; he pulls it away. Gabriel unfolds a piece of paper --
it's a crude map.

GABRIEL
Here ya go, convict. We cased the
place in the fall, got the layout
down. What you're gonna do is show
us where each of these doors go,
what the upstairs level looks like,
where they got the alarms, all of
it.

MERLIN
And where they hide the real money.

Merlin exhales some smoke in Pug's face. Pug hacks, shoves
him.

GABRIEL
And Nick? If you even think about
setting us up, giving us some bad
information? We go down... you go
down...
(lets it settle)
Now. Christmas Eve. How many guards
are there gonna be?

Rudy surveys the table. All five waiting for him. Sighs.

RUDY
Hell. Ten?

GABRIEL
And which of these doors here lead
up to the security level?

Gabriel passes the map across the table. Rudy stares at it.

MERLIN
Start talking, Nick.

Rudy's still staring.

PUG
Start talkin

RUDY
Who the hell made this map.

GABRIEL
What?

RUDY
I said, who the hell made the map?

GABRIEL
I did.

RUDY
This isn't the Tomahawk.

GABRIEL
What the fuck are you talking about.

RUDY
This is the front entrance, right?
You get through the slots, you hit
craps here, not blackjack. Blackjack's
here to here -- lined up. What's
this, the cage? Cage is over there,
hard to get to, you got it all mixed
around --

PUG
That's what it looks like!

RUDY
Since when? What the hell is this
room?

MERLIN
Buffet. Whaddya think it is?

RUDY
Buffet is by the goddamn bar! What
the hell kind of map is this?!

Gabriel reaches across the booth, grabs Rudy's shirt, pulls
his face to table level:

GABRIEL
We walked the place for a week.

RUDY
And I worked there. For a year.

Neither man blinks.

PUG
Map is kinda dirty, Monster...

RUDY
They changed the layout.

GABRIEL
What?

Rudy nods, pretending to be dawned upon.

RUDY
They changed the layout -- whadda
they call you? Mr. Monster? They
remodeled the place. When I worked
there -- listen to me -- guy that
managed the joint, guy who ran it--

ASHLEY
Jack. Jack Bangs.

RUDY
Right, Jack Bangs. Uh... guy was
always talking bout fixing the place
up. Maybe get a better crowd. Musta
gone and done it while I was in the
Mountain.
(pushes map away)
I don't know this map, man. How the
hell am I supposed to tell you what
door goes where?

GABRIEL
They wouldn't have changed the
security setup.

RUDY
When I worked there, this was Bangs,
office. Back here. He kept a little
safe in the... uh, the wall, money
held take for himself, skim from the
Indians. Called it the... uh...
(stumbling)
...the Powwow Safe.

JUMPY
The Powwow Safe?

RUDY
His personal safe, he gave it a name.
Now you're telling me they've taken
his office, put the buffet there?
Then who knows what else they changed.

Gabriel stares at him, suspicious.

GABRIEL
So what the hell good are you...

RUDY
You'd have to get me inside.
(carefully)
Get inside, watch where the money's
moving, see where the guards are
going. Then I could work with your
map.

GABRIEL
Wrong, convict. You walk in there,
they recognize you.

PUG
So what?

GABRIEL
They recognize him, they'll remember
him after the job goes down.

RUDY
They won't recognize me.

GABRIEL
Why not.

RUDY
Trust me. They won't recognize me.

GABRIEL
We'll trust you when we're rich. Why
not.

RUDY
'Cause you're gonna get me a disguise.

Rudy locks eyes with Gabriel.

RUDY
I give you the wrong information,
you're gonna shoot me. Well, I don't
know your damn map. So you can either
find a way to get me in there... or
you can shoot me right now.

A WAITRESS comes over, drops their check on the table. It
rests near Rudy. Rudy locks eyes with Gabriel.

And pushes the check his way.

EXT. SNOWY HIGHWAY - NIGHT

The "Motor City Monster" RUMBLES along a two-lane blacktop.
Across barren Michigan tundra. A sign reads "You Are Now
Entering Powahachee Indian Lands. No Littering."

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - CAB - NIGHT

Gabriel drives, with Ashley beside him. Rudy sits in the
sleeper, Jumpy sitting guard.

OUT THE WINDOW

they pass a brightly neon-lit building, with a parking lot
full of cars. The Tomahawk Casino, with a red neon axe
pointing the way.

And a marquee which reads: "10X ODDS ON CRAPS. $5.95 PRIME
RIB. PERFORMING TONIGHT: DAKOTA!"

The truck motors on by. Gabriel nods to Rudy:

GABRIEL
Bring back some memories, Nick?

RUDY
More than you know.

EXT. KNIGHTS INN - NIGHT

A Midwestern castles-and-Camelot-themed chain hotel, amidst
an outcrop of roadside exit civilization: fast food and gas.
The Great Lakes Trucking rig parked in the hotel's lot.

INT. KNIGHTS INN - HALLWAY - NIGHT

Faux stonemasonry and torches. "Regal" purple carpets. Gabriel
and his crew escort Rudy into --

INT. HOTEL ROOM

-- his quarters. Jumpy marches Rudy to the bed, snaps a
handcuff around his ankle --

RUDY
What the hell is this? What happened
to working together?

-- and snaps the other cuff to the bedframe.

GABRIEL
Rather be back in the Mountain?

RUDY
Might as well be.

GABRIEL
Don't have Weather Channel in the
Mountain, Nick.

Gabriel tosses him a TV remote. Merlin rips the room's phone
out of the wall, takes it. They return to the hallway.

GABRIEL
Sleep good, loverboy. Tomorrow you
got singing for your supper to do.

The truckers leave. Rudy tugs at his ankle cuff, sighs,
collapses back on the bed. Ashley has remained.

Rudy sits up, sees her.

RUDY
Get your own room.

She approaches instead. Sits beside. Gently:

ASHLEY
He said he wanted to talk to you.
When he found the letters... he said
"when your boyfriend gets out, I
wanna talk to him." I thought he
meant back in Detroit. I thought he
meant --

RUDY
But you knew why. Knew why, didn't
ya.

Ashley stands her ground, guilty.

ASHLEY
I thought we'd have a few more days.

RUDY
For what? You to talk me into
"helping"? What, he promise you a
share of the winnings?

ASHLEY
No!

RUDY
Well, shit, Judas, you shoulda at
least gotten that --

ASHLEY
Nick! He wants to know how to rob
it, and he'll leave you alone! That's
all he wants!
(breaking down)
I hate him, Nick... you know how...

RUDY
So get him outta your life. Get out
of Michigan. They got perfume counters
in Chicago, don't they?

ASHLEY
Not without you.

She reaches to touch him. Rudy turns his back on her.

RUDY
Since when do some trucker pals start
thinking big, anyway?

ASHLEY
They run routes mostly east, retail
stuff, warehouses. But Gabriel knows
some guys in New York, Miami, guys
he helps get guns to Detroit. Hides
'em with his regular loads.

RUDY
He working for them on this one?

ASHLEY
No. He wants to be working for himself
someday.

RUDY
And I'm his ticket.
(considers)
What's the last place they took down?

ASHLEY
What?

RUDY
Gabriel and his guys. What's the
last place they robbed?

Ashley frowns.

ASHLEY
I don't think they've ever robbed
anything before. I think they've
just driven guns.

Rudy looks at her with new interest.

RUDY
They've never done a robbery?

ASHLEY
(shrugs)
They're truck drivers.

For the first time in a long time... Rudy smiles.

RUDY
Then they do need me, don't they.
They really need me...

ASHLEY
We're gonna get out of here, Nick.
We're gonna get out of this...

RUDY
We? What "we"...

Rudy stares at her. The smile gone.

RUDY
Get your own room, Ashley.

ASHLEY
Nick...

RUDY
Get your own room.

Ashley pulls away, walks to the door. Turns back, wanting to
say something, but Rudy's not even looking her way.

ASHLEY
If I'd told you what he wanted, you'd
have been gone. You'd have gotten on
that bus and stayed on it. And if
that's selfish, I am. If that's lying,
I'm a liar. But I been dealing with
fucked-up brother and his fucked-up
friends for a long time, and I was
stronger than him then and I'm
stronger than him now. 'Cause he
showed up for money. I showed up for
love.
(hard)
And if you're so ready to make me
your enemy... then what did you show
up for, Nick. What did you really
want... with me...

With a fiery look, she strides from the room.

Rudy stands, can't get far cuffed to the bed. Checks the end
table, finds a Bible and a deck of cards.

Out his second-floor window is a view of the rear parking
lot.

Rudy watches as a Chevy Blazer parks and two drunk FISHERMEN
get out. The truck's bumper sticker reads "Ice Fishermen Do
It All Year Long."

Rudy watches the good ol' boys stumble toward the hotel. He
turns back, surveys his new prison cell

RUDY
They've never done a robbery...
(nods)
Christmas is looking up.

INT. RUDY'S ROOM - MORNING

The bed has been dragged to the door to the bathroom, the
comforter and pillow are on the floor, "Miracle on 34th St."
is on the TV, and Rudy lies asleep on the ground, ankle still
cuffed.

Two SHADOWS fall across him.

INT. HALLWAY - MORNING

Rudy is brusquely dragged out by Jumpy and Merlin, passing
Ashley, who lies asleep in the hall, head on a pillow.

MERLIN
Having romance problems, Romeo?

RUDY
Not with you.

They march him onward. Rudy glances over his shoulder at
Ashley.

Who spent the night at his door.

INT. GAME ROOM - MORNING

A wood-panelled room adjacent to a small indoor pool, with
arcade games and a dart board. Gabriel's with Pug, tossing
darts, as Jumpy and a chain-smoking Merlin haul Rudy in.

PUG
Goddamn, Merlin. There any part of
the day you don't smoke?

MERLIN
There anytime you don't got a mouthful
of shit?

PUG
Cancer-sucker.

MERLIN
Acid-chewer.

Gabriel THWAPS a dart into the board, to shut them up.

GABRIEL
Take a look what Pug's bought for
ya.

Pug empties a shopping bag on a pinball machine. Cowboy boots,
spurs, a black cowboy hat, a black rhinestone jacket and a
longhaired wig tumbles out.

RUDY
A cowboy. You're going to send me
into an Indian casino disguised as a
cowboy. Have you thought this entirely
through?

GABRIEL
Put it on.

Merlin and Jumpy shove Rudy toward the merchandise. Gabriel
slams another dart into the board, then turns:

GABRIEL
You're a country-western singer up
from Nashville for the the holidays.
Visiting your Grandma on the lake,
driving into the Tomahawk for some
scotch and slots. You only play the
slots, you got that? Don't want no
dealer friend of yours recognizing
you, you sidle up to shoot some craps.

RUDY
What kind of half-ass cowboy plays
the slots?

GABRIEL
You do.

RUDY
At least gimme video poker.

GABRIEL
Shut the fuck up. You play what your
girlfriend plays. Ashley's going in
with you. You talk to her, otherwise
you don't talk to nobody. You walk
the room as many times as you want,
but the second you come out, I want
to know the run of the place.

Rudy examines his new hair and cowboy gear.

RUDY
Do I get a country-western name?

GABRIEL
You get recognized, convict, You get
a country-western funeral.

EXT. TOMAHAWK CASINO - DAY

The Chevy Nova crunches into the parking lot in the shadow
of the gaudy neon axe.

INT. NOVA - DAY

Rudy's in "disguise": paste-on goatee, tinted shades and
black cowboy gear. Very Nashville Network.

He's wedged between Jumpy and Merlin, wearing handcuffs.
Gabriel, Ashley and Pug in the back.

RUDY
Y'know what, guys? I woke up this
morning, I got a really lucky feeling
going on. I mean it, I'm feeling
that good. I wouldn't be surprised
if I walk in there, pull a handle
and hit jackpot. Hell, we wouldn't
even have to --

GABRIEL
Get out.

EXT. PARKING LOT - CONTINUOUS

Rudy stamps feet, shivering in the cold, as Merlin unlocks
his cuffs. Gabriel reaches to help Ashley out --

ASHLEY
Get your goddamn hands off me --

She edges toward Rudy, then stops. A chill still there.

GABRIEL
You got one hour.

RUDY
I'm gonna need some money.

Gabriel hands a bill.

RUDY
Ten dollars? What do I do with ten
dollars?

GABRIEL
Don't tip.

RUDY
Monster. If we're working together
here, we gotta be working together.
I can't walk in there looking like
the Lone Fucking Ranger with ten
bucks to throw down. You don't want
me getting noticed, right? Not getting
noticed costs a guy at least a couple
hundred.

Gabriel glares, turns to his crew. Mutters, rubs his fingers
together. Merlin, Pug and Jumpy reach for their wallets,
grumbling. Gabriel takes a few twenties from each.

Rudy nods thanks as Gabriel hands him the cash --

GABRIEL
(threateningly)
Don't. Lose.

Rudy pockets the wad, hooks his elbow for Ashley to slip her
arm through. Grins with a drawl:

RUDY
You ready to gamble, darlin'?

She regards him warily, but puts her arm in his.

RUDY
(to the boys)
Y'all take care of my guitar.

He tips his hat, and strides for the casino entrance. Gabriel
and his truckers watch them go.

MERLIN
(grumbles)
Who's robbin' who here, Gabriel...

GABRIEL
Get in there and watch 'em. Watch
their every fuckin' move.

INT. TOMAHAWK CASINO - DAY

The cascade of JINGLING and JANGLING COINS fills the brightly
lit, horrendously-carpeted space. Wooden-beamed ceilings
suggest a rustic theme, but the neon slots, lush green tables
and red wheels of fortune are pure Midwest Vegas.

The Tomahawk is tiny by Nevada standards, about the size of
a large bingo hall. This morning, about FIFTY GAMBLERS mill
about.

Skimpily-dressed COCKTAIL WAITRESSES, most of them Powahachee
Indians, pimp drinks. Bored DEALERS deal.

As the sound of slot machine payoffs suddenly go silent --

INT. JACK BANGS' OFFICE - DAY

CLOSE ON STEREO SYSTEM

And some scattered cassettes, labeled "Big Winners," "Little
Winners," and "Medium Cash." A HAND pops the tape currently
in the system -- "Big, BIG Winners" and flips it over. Presses
play. The sounds of JINGLING and JANGLING return.

ON FULL SCENE

An office overlooking the casino floor through smoked glass.
JACK BANGS, late 50's, silver-hair, capped teeth, shark suit
and high blood pressure, paces his office. He's got the air
of a washed-up gameshow host, Wink Martindale, Peter
Tommarkin, one of those hacks. Right now he's all caffeine.

JACK BANGS
There's an S-word I'd really like to
throw in the discussion here, guys,
cause it's a big part of what's going
on. Big element, 'kay? S-word. It's
a serious issue, serious factor, so
I'm just gonna get it out there,
throw it an out there, so we can
know it, we can talk about it, we
can get things done...
(big pause)
Snow. Are you with me, guys? Snow.
Big time, fucking, grade-A, God-
quality, S-N-O-W-snow.

Two INDIAN GOVERNORS sit before him. Business-dressed, with
overcoats, ponytails. One gray-haired, one jet-black.

JACK BANGS
There's no snow in Vegas, 'kay? They
don't know it, they don't want it,
they got laws against the stuff.
They got Egypt down there, right,
they got Monte Carlo, Hawaii, they
got ancient Rome, but where's the
Winter Castle, right? Where's the
Swiss miss Chalet? Where's the Big
Fucking Igloo?

YOUNG GOVERNOR
We understand you, Mr. Bangs.

JACK BANGS
Capades? They don't do it. Mittens?
Outlawed. Why?

YOUNG GOVERNOR
We're aware of your position.

JACK BANGS
(picks up a chip)
Because down there this is money.
Up here this is heat.
(pleads)
You wanted Vegas quality, I brought
it to you. You wanted Vegas press, I
gave it to you. But guys, please,
guys... I can't get you Vegas
profits... till one of ya does some
spirit dance and does something about
this snow.

The tribal governors stare him down.

OLD GOVERNOR
We understand the Paiutes' casino
saw a net profit of twelve million
dollars last year.

JACK BANGS
The Paiutes, they cook their books.

OLD GOVERNOR
The Waitela reservation made seventeen
million.

JACK BANGS
(sobers)
Seventeen?

OLD GOVERNOR
Perhaps you have researched this,
Mr. Bangs. Is the snowfall on our
side of the lake that much greater
than the snowfall on theirs?

Jack Bangs stares at them both. Considers his next move --

JACK BANGS
I'm bringing in this great showroom
act next week; these three Russian
girls, they look like Meryl Streep,
they can juggle anything.

YOUNG GOVERNOR
Mr. Bangs.

JACK BANGS
Guys. We're doing it right, here.
$5.99 prime rib? Nobody does that in
Michigan. Nobody.

YOUNG GOVERNOR
The tribe is concerned that many of
your... new ideas are not resulting
in any new venues.

JACK BANGS
I'm putting liquor in the drinks,
I'm giving 10-times odds on craps, I
got the girls showing sixteen-percent
more skin! Show me another buffet's
gonna offer you Coke and Pepsi!
Whaddya want me to do?!

YOUNG GOVERNOR
We want to see our casino making
money again, Mr. Bangs. Making money
for our community.

OLD GOVERNOR
Like the Paiutes and the Waitela.

The young man stands, stares Jack Bangs in the eye.

YOUNG GOVERNOR
We want you doing the job... that we
brought you here to do.

INT. TOMAHAWK - DAY

Rudy and Ashley move away from a change booth, with a bucket
of quarters. Rudy messes with his cowboy getup, noting two
SECURITY GUARDS punch a code in a private door, step inside:

ASHLEY
So does it look a lot different?

RUDY
Here and there. Restaurant, uh, that's
the main expansion. Tables've been
moved around; the big man's office,
I dunno, might be upstairs now.

They settle at a slot machine. Another SECURITY GUARD walks
past them. Rudy turns his back. Ashley notices.

ASHLEY
That guy knows you?

RUDY
Yeah, uh. Mike. That's Mike.

At the door, Merlin and Jumpy enter, wandering through the
slots.

Rudy sees them.

RUDY
You start spending your brother's
money. I'm gonna take a circuit around
the joint, check for any new ins and
outs. I'll snag us some drinks.

As he strides away --

ASHLEY
(sotto)
Be careful, Nick...

MOVING THROUGH THE CASINO

with Rudy, ambling among the tables, making a show of checking
out the layout. In reality, he's surveying the GAMBLERS.

Passing the cage, he walks right by Jack Bangs and the Indian
governors. Jack Bangs is all smiles, while the governors
turn their backs an him and storm out.

ARRIVING AT THE BAR

RUDY
Couple rum and Cokes, please.

INDIAN BARTENDER
You want that rum and Coke or rum
and Pepsi?

Rudy gives him a strange look. The bartender shrugs. Rudy
still scans the tables, settling on --

A BLACKJACK TABLE

where a trio of COLLEGE KIDS are forking over chips. One of
them's dark-haired with a goatee, a sweatshirt and jeans.
Rudy studies this kid for moment.

JACK BANGS (O.S.)
Gimme a goddamn bottle of anything.

BACK AT THE BAR

Jack Bangs sidles up, distraught. The barkeep hands him a
bottle. Bangs takes a swig.

JACK BANGS
I can't go back to Vegas, Bear.
They'll fuckin' kill me, 'kay? I
can't go back...

BARTENDER
What does the tribe want?

JACK BANGS
They want gold-paved roads is what
they want. Talking 'bout the fuckin'
Paiutes. Fuckin' Paiutes are on the
interstate. Nothing I can do about
that, man, I didn't pick the spot
for your reservation.

BARTENDER
Neither did we.

JACK BANGS
Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Rudy gets his drinks, as Jack Bangs turns his way:

JACK BANGS
Hey. Hey, cowboy. Jack Bangs, I run
the place. Nice to have you in the
Tomahawk. Tell me something...

Rudy winces, glancing to see Merlin and Jumpy watching him.
Frowns on their faces.

JACK BANGS
...does upstate Michigan need another
roadside casino or does upstate
Michigan need an international gaming
destination?

RUDY
(wants outta here)
Roadside casino?

Jack Bangs, smile falls flat.

JACK BANGS
Well, so how'd you hear about this
place, then. Word-of-mouth? Mass
mailings? Cable TV?

RUDY
Prison.

JACK BANGS
Prison?!

Rudy shrugs, smiles, takes off with his drinks. Bangs looks
sick, turns to a FAT GUY on the next stool over. But before
he can ask, the guy shakes his head --

FAT GUY
I just stopped in to use the can.

Bangs turns to the bartender, puts his head in his hands:

JACK BANGS
I can't go back to Vegas, Bear... I
can't...

From the slots, we hear a JACKPOT PAYOFF.

JACK BANGS
Aw fuck.

THROUGH THE TABLES

walks Rudy, as Merlin sidles up next to him:

MERLIN
What the hell was that about --

RUDY
He didn't recognize me. Back off,
willya? He didn't recognize me.

Merlin eyes him darkly, but lets him walk on into the slots.
As he nears Ashley, he glances to the blackjack table, where
the College Kid has left... heading for the bathroom --

ASHLEY
Hey Nick! We're up fifty cents!

-- and as a barely-dressed COCKTAIL WAITRESS crosses between
Rudy and Ashley, blocking her view of him --

Rudy pretends to crash into her, splashing the rum and Coke
into his own face --

RUDY
Heyyyy!

Reaching Ashley, his goatee is dripping --

ASHLEY
Nick, what happened --

RUDY
There went my... damn... well, doesn't
seem like security's all that
switched... Ash, shit, this mustache
is starting to fall off. I gotta fix
this thing --
(hands her his glass)
-- drink this for me.

He hustles for the bathroom. A moment later, Jumpy storms
by.

Stops at Ashley.

JUMPY
What happened?

ASHLEY
He started losing his hair.

INT. CASINO BATHROOM - DAY

The College Kid is zipping up when Rudy SLAMS into his back,
money in hand, crashing him against the wall:

RUDY
Hundred bucks to wear this jacket --

COLLEGE KID
Jesus, man, don't kill me!

RUDY
Nobody's killing you, kid. Santa's
giving you a rhinestone jacket and a
hundred bucks.

INT. TOMAHAWK SAME

Merlin's at a slot machine, watching the hall to the
bathrooms. A WAITRESS arrives, hands him a beer:

MERLIN
Thanks, sister. How are ya.

WAITRESS
Fuckin' freezing.

MERLIN
Hell yeah. You work here long?

WAITRESS
Five years. Since it opened.

MERLIN
How long ago was your makeover?

WAITRESS
My what?!

MERLIN
No, the place. The remodeling. moving
everything around.

The waitress frowns.

WAITRESS
The Tomahawk's looked the same since
I started, mister.
(shrugs)
Only the losers change.

Merlin stares at her. Then drops his drink to the floor,
charging for the bathroom.

INT. BATHROOM

As Merlin crashes in, seeing the cowboy hat and jacket, back
turned, adjusting a belt. As the figure turns around.

It's the College Kid. Merlin stops in his tracks --

-- as Rudy CRASHES into him from a stall, kicking his legs
out, driving his throat into a countertop. Merlin hits the
ground, gagging. Rudy wears the kid's sweatshirt:

RUDY
GO! GO!

The College Kid, shaking, hustles out the door.

INT. TOMAHAWK - CONTINUOUS

As the College Kid, in Rudy's black getup, strides out of
the bathroom hall, walking for the casino exit.

From the slots, Ashley and Jumpy glance up, seeing him go.
From their vantage, it looks like Rudy. They frown.

As they're watching the Kid hit the door, Rudy darts out of
the hall, heads the other way.

EXT. PARKING LOT/INT. NOVA

Gabriel and Pug sit sentry, seeing the cowboy figure leave
the casino. wandering into-the parking lot... away from them.

GABRIEL
Where the hell's he going?

PUG
Where the hell's your sister?

As the figure unlocks the driver's door of a Trans Am --

GABRIEL
Get him!

Pug REVS the engine, speeds through the lot, cutting off the
Trans Am from backing away.

Gabriel jumps out, HAULS the cowboy from his car and sees
it's the College Kid. Rudy's gone.

COLLEGE KID
(scared shitless)
Oh man. It's your jacket, isn't it...

INT. TOMAHAWK

Merlin stumbles out of the bathroom, holding his throat.
Catches Jumpy and Ashley's eyes from the slots:

JUMPY
Trouble.

INT. CASINO KITCHEN

As Rudy charges toward COOKS, holding a buffet plate aloft --

RUDY
MEDIUM RARE?! You call this MEDIUM
RARE??!!

-- hands them the plate, hurries past them, and out the --

EXT. REAR OF CASINO - DAY

-- to the back of the building. In his stolen clothes, he
charges across the staff parking area and into the snowy
expanse of meadow beyond.

Running for a thicket of winter woods.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Merlin and Jumpy stride out to join Gabriel and Pug. Ashley
follows, stumbling to keep up.

GABRIEL
Where the HELL did he go?

MERLIN
Monster. There never was a structure
change. This place was built the
same from day one.

PUG
That motherfucker --

MERLIN
And Monster... he was talking with
the casino manager. Nick was talking
to him.

Gabriel darkens.

GABRIEL
Get. Him. Back.

EXT. SNOWY MEADOW - DAY

Rudy races as best he can through the waves of snow. He keeps
struggling, losing his footing, fighting his way toward the
cover of trees. From far away...

ASHLEY (O.S.)
Nick! Run! RUN!!!

Rudy turns back to see Merlin, Jumpy and Pug round into view
back at the parking lot. They see him.

And charge into the snowfield.

Rudy breaks into the trees.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Gabriel pushes Ashley into the Nova and peals out of the
parking lot. Onto reservation roads.

EXT. WOODS - ON CHASE - DAY

Rudy darts among barren oaks and brush pines, crunching deeper
into snowdrifts, slowing him down. Stumbling forward,
shivering, breath frosting --

-- as Merlin, Jumpy and Pug reach the treeline. Gaining but
struggling too. With guns held.

Rudy keeps battling through the drifts --

-- as GUNSHOTS start to ring out. Rudy glances back to rest;
the truckers are a hundred yards distant. But as he turns to
struggle on, treebark SPLITS apart beside him.

Rudy keeps running.

INT. NOVA

Bouncing over a snowy dirt road, having found a shortcut
into the woods. Gabriel searches the trees, Ashley too.

EXT. WOODS

Merlin, Jumpy and Pug keep up their steady march. Rudy's
running figure now only fifty yards distant.

MERLIN
You keep running, Nick! Keep running
now! Can't keep warm if you don't
keep running! We'll just be right
back here... keeping track of your
trail.

ANGLE to show Merlin's striding right in Rudy's bootprints.
Pug FIRES off two shots.

They KICK UP snow just behind Rudy, struggling, panting...

MERLIN (O.S.)
Wherever you run... we'll get there.
Fast as you want... we'll be there.
We drive for a living, Nick. Twelve,
fifteen, twenty-hour days.

Rudy's anguished, ducking behind some pines, trying to brush
away his footprints. Realizes it's useless.

A BULLET whistles through the pine branches.

MERLIN (O.S.)
We got nothing but time.

Rudy takes a breath, crashes onward --

-- then stops at the sound of a RUMBLING. Getting louder.
Closer. It's a car's engine.

Rudy spins for the source, focuses, and manages to make out
a snow-covered dirt road fifty yards away, down a swale.
Another BULLET smashes treebark. Rudy runs for it.

EXT. WOODED ROAD - DAY

As Rudy leaps out to wave down the car, as around the corner
comes a Chevy Nova --

-- with Gabriel and Ashley inside. Gabriel's eyes widen, he
floors the gas, RACING right for Rudy.

Rudy scampers toward the opposite roadside, a steep wooded
slope cradling a meadow and frozen river --

ASHLEY
No!!!

-- as Ashley grabs Gabriel's steering wheel, swerving the
other way. Gabriel fights her for control --

-- as the Nova just misses Rudy, who dives off the road,
hits the slope and tumbles head-over-heels toward its bottom,
a hundred feet down, kicking up geysers of snow!

On the road, the Nova skids to a stop. Ashley and Gabriel
leap out, as Merlin, Jumpy and Pug reach the road.

AT THE SLOPE'S BOTTOM

Rudy pops to his feet, a dazed snowball.

BACK UP AT THE ROAD

Gabriel grabs a rifle from the Nova, steps to the slope-top
edge and takes aim --

ASHLEY
RUN!!!

-- as Ashley suddenly slams into him from behind --

Sending the both of them tumbling down the slope! Sliding
and tangled, the rifle flying from Gabriel's grasp --

TO THE BOTTOM

-- where they come to a tangled, snowy halt. Gabriel struggles
to clear the ice from his face --

-- as the butt of his rifle cracks him in the jaw.

RUDY
That's for reading her mail.

He extends a hand to Ashley --

RUDY
Come on.

-- and hauls her to her feet. Ashley beams. As Gabriel howls,
the two of them scramble away from the woods, Rudy with the
rifle, toward the meadow and its frozen pond.

More GUNSHOTS ring as Merlin, Jumpy and Pug slide their way
down the ravine.

EXT. FROZEN RIVER - CONTINUOUS

Rudy and Ashley race out across the ice. The traction's
slippery, but there's no way around. There's a highway bridge
two hundred yards away, with sparse truck traffic.

RUDY
We get to the bridge, we're all right!

ASHLEY
Nick, the ice is --

RUDY
Get to the bridge!
(waving at traffic)
HEY! HEY! DOWN HERE!

He grips her hand tighter, as SHOTS crash into the ice at
their feet. Suddenly, the ground splinters and gives way --

-- and Ashley goes plummeting through to the river! She
vanishes from sight in an instant!

Rudy scrambles back, onto sturdy ice. He stares, stunned, at
the ripples in the freezing water.

Ashley's not coming up.

RUDY

Looks to the truckers in pursuit. Coming down the ridge.

Then the highway. Safety within sight.

But he can't run. Cursing himself, he grips the rifle tightly
and LEAPS into the ice-hole --

EXT. RIVER BENEATH THE ICE

-- plummeting underwater, the temperature hitting his body
like needles. He writhes, spinning around --

-- and sees Ashley ten yards away, desperately pounding at
the ice above her. Strength giving out.

Rudy struggles to her, wrapping an arm around her. She fights,
panicked, clawing at the ice, both of them pulled further
away from the opening.

With Ashley safely in hand, Rudy raises his rifle-arm,
pressing the barrel against the ice above them --

-- and FIRES. A HOLE blasts a shaft of light into the gray-
blue. Rudy FIRES again. Another HOLE caves in. Ashley reaches
for a sheath of ice, splashing --

TO THE SURFACE

-- clutching frozen ground, treading water. Rudy surfaces
beside her, the both of them gasping, facing the bridge.

Instinctively, they spin around --

TO FIND GABRIEL, MERLIN, JUMPY AND PUG

-- standing right behind them. Guns trained.

GABRIEL
(rubs his jaw)
At the rate you're going, Nick...
I'm gonna have a hard time ever
considering you family.

He extends his hand, a gesture of help. But menacing.

GABRIEL
How lucky ya feeling now.

CUT TO:

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - DAY

Pitch black. We can barely make out a huddled, fetal form,
quaking and trembling. It's Rudy. Dripping wet, on the verge
of hypothermia. Trying to stay conscious:

RUDY
I-I-I-I have n-n-no g-g-gifts to br-
br-bring, pa rum-p-p-p-p-p
(struggling)
...pum-pum-pum. N-n-no treasures for
the k-k-k
(waits)
...king.

The trailer doors swing open, crashing harsh light upon him.
He squints into the light, shivering madly.

RUDY
Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum.

INT. KNIGHTS INN GAME ROOM - DAY

Gabriel is hurling darts again, focused, expressionless.
Bullseye.

Merlin and Jumpy haul Rudy in. He collapses at Gabriel's
feet, unable to stand. Still trembling.

A couple KIDS scamper into the doorway --

MERLIN
Game room's closed.

-- and Merlin slams the door in their face. Gabriel hurls
another bullseye, then retrieves his darts from the board.

GABRIEL
A for effort, Nick, honestly, A for
effort and an honorary degree. I'm
surprised you never escaped from the
Mountain.

RUDY
(teeth chattering)
...never... tried...

GABRIEL
Nick, here's what we're gonna do. In
the spirit of the season, I'm going
to give you a chance. I understand
you're unhappy. Right outta the
lockup, here against your will, it's
the holidays and there's reruns on
TV.
(beat)
So we're gonna have a contest.

Gabriel strides back to him, with two darts.

GABRIEL
We're each going to get one of these.
Whichever one of us hits closer to
the bullseye... gets what he wants.
(beat)
You land closer, you get Ashley.
And you guys get to go free. I land
closer... and we start getting your
help.

He lifts Rudy's shaking hand, puts a dart in it. Rudy's
fingers are half-frozen, they don't bend. Gabriel has to
wedge it in.

GABRIEL
May the best sportsman win.

Gabriel turns to the board, ten feet away, and tosses his
dart. It thunks in the "13" wedge of the outermost ring.

GABRIEL
Damn.

He steps aside for Rudy. Rudy struggles to raise his hand,
trembling badly. He focuses on the board, teeth chattering,
tries to reposition his fingers, rears back and throws --

-- except the dart remains in his frozen grip. He brings his
icy hand back, tries to move his fingers. And the dart finally
tumbles out and hits the floor at his feet.

Gabriel smiles, steps close.

GABRIEL
Got something to say to me, Nick?

RUDY
...ttt..tt... two out of three?

Gabriel grabs his jacket and hurls him backward. Rudy CRASHES
into a chair, flanked by video games.

GABRIEL
What'd you tell that casino manager?

RUDY
Nnn... nothing...

GABRIEL
You were talking to him! What'd you
tell him!?

RUDY
Nothing... I promise-nothing...

GABRIEL
MAYBE SOMETHING ABOUT A ROBBERY?

RUDY
NO!

Gabriel spins to the dartboard, pulls out a fistful and
wheels. He whistles a dart at Rudy's head. it SMACKS the
wall beside his ear.

He whistles another. It TRUNKS right above his head. A third
HITS the wall by his chin.

RUDY
He thought I was some gambler... he
didn't know me... he didn't recognize
me!

GABRIEL
I been driving rigs a long time,
Nick. Four, five million miles of
road. Worked for people who wouldn't
keep me on less I was driving fifteen
hours a day. Tell 'em I needed sleep,
I needed rest, shit, they'll hire
someone else...

Gabriel flings another dart. Just misses Rudy's other ear.

GABRIEL
...Dispatcher's screaming for me to
haul ass, he's got a load on the
runback for me. Shipper's making me
wait for the pickup, receiver's
bitching 'bout the count...

Another dart NAILS the wall, right through Rudy's hair.

GABRIEL
...Got the cops at the bottom of
every mountain, got the DOT at the
top. And every day, every day, I see
all those faces in their little airbag
Hot Wheels, moms and pops and jam-
faced kiddies, giving me that look
to go to hell and get off their happy
goddamn highway. Hey. They don't
gotta get two thousand miles by
sundown, or the gang don't eat come
sunrise.

Gabriel strides to Rudy, sitting stock-still, his head ringed
by darts. Stares him down.

GABRIEL
It's time for me... to be working
for me. I want mine, Nick. And I
need you.
(frightening calm)
Did you tell your manager there's
gonna be a robbery?

RUDY
No, Gabriel... no...

Gabriel pulls the darts free. Backs away again.

RUDY
...he... he asked me... how I'd heard
about his place... he didn't know it
was me...

GABRIEL RAISES A DART TO THROW

RUDY
I PROMISE YOU HE DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS
ME!

-- and then lowers it. Believing he's gotten a reprieve,
Rudy relaxes, his shivering coming under control.

RUDY
Man, Monster... just... just don't
start trying to hit me...

GABRIEL
Nick. I been trying to hit you.

Gabriel rears back and WHISTLES another dart. It plugs into
Rudy's chest. Rudy screams. Gabriel FIRES another, skewering
him in the ribs. Then a third, fourth and fifth.

Rudy howls in pain, his body too numb to defend itself. Five
darts protrude from his chest, colorful plastic feathering
and spreading rivulets of blood.

GABRIEL
Maybe that'll help sharpen your
memory.

Gabriel stalks close.

GABRIEL
Tonight we're gonna take another
look at that map. And this time you're
gonna tell me what I need to know.

INT. RUDY'S ROOM - DAY

Rudy gets hurled inside by Merlin and Jumpy. He hits the
floor beside the bed, where Ashley sits prisoner. Pug sits
guard, watching "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" on TV.

ASHLEY
Nick! Jesus, Nick --

She falls to his side. Merlin cuffs Rudy's ankle again to
the bedframe. He and Jumpy head out --

MERLIN
Pug.

Pug's engrossed in the cartoon. They're singing in Whoville.

MERLIN
PUG!

Pug snaps to. Shuts off the TV, spits some chaw on the floor
and gone. Rudy and Ashley are left alone.

ASHLEY
Nick, oh my God, what'd he do to
you? What'd he do?

She touches his bloodied chest. Rudy winces badly.

RUDY
He had some points to make...

Ashley helps pull his shirt off, sees the wounds:

ASHLEY
Jesus Christ, stay here, don't move,
stay right here --

RUDY
(near-delirium)
All I wanted... was to make it home...
for a little of Dad's turkey, and
Mom's stuffing... Aunt Lisbeth's
acorn gravy... Aunt Mary's cranberry
buns...

Ashley has leapt to the bathroom. She brings wet washcloths
back to clean and dress --

ASHLEY
We'll get there, baby... we'll get
there...

RUDY
...Haven't had cranberry buns... in
five whole years...

ASHLEY
Shh, now. Rest now. Two years, Nick.
You haven't had cranberry buns in
two years.

She kisses him softly. Rudy meets her eyes. Staring to get
his bearings back...

ASHLEY
You saved my life.
(beat)
You could have run, but you didn't.
You saved me.

RUDY
You saved me.

ASHLEY
I saved you because I love you, Nick.
(smiles)
Why'd you save me?

Rudy studies her hopeful face, attending to his wounds. still
weak and distant:

RUDY
Guy I was in with... car thief... I
used to read your letters to him. I
know they were private... I know,
but... you spend twenty-four hours a
day with somebody, you gotta talk,
y'know? You gotta share. Or the room
gets even smaller.
(beat)
And sometimes, I'd be reading them,
and he'd close his eyes, get a smile
on his face... and I'd know somewhere
inside he was pretending you were
writing to him -- He'd see your face,
your pictures on the wall...
(beat)
Some nights I think he fell in love
with you, too.

Rudy touches a hand to her hair.

RUDY
You gave a couple guys hope, Ashley.
And with hope, there ain't nothing
you can't survive.

Ashley stares, touched, still kneading the cloth into his
chest.

Rudy struggles up, his face level with hers. She kisses him
tenderly. Lingering.

And this time Rudy responds, mouth seeking, working down her
neck.

Her eyes flutter closed.

ASHLEY
I'm sorry, Nick... I'm so sorry...

RUDY
Don't say my name...

ASHLEY
I love you, Nick...

RUDY
Ash. Don't say it. Don't say my name.

Ashley hesitates. Carefully strokes his chest. He's still
kissing her, softly, still somewhat delirious.

ASHLEY
(a small frown)
I love you...

As he returns to her lips, mouths joining. Ashley's eyes
close again, as they fold into each other...

...and move slowly, tenderly, back to the floor.

EXT. KNIGHTS INN HOTEL - DUSK

A bitter cold sunset. Through a room's window, Rudy and Ashley
lie tangled in sheets on the carpet.

INT. RUDY'S ROOM

Ashley nestles against him. Rudy stares skyward. Hard.

RUDY
They'll have guns.

ASHLEY
What?

RUDY
You said they've run guns, in their
trucks. So they'll have guns. To do
this robbery. They'll have serious
guns.

ASHLEY
I don't know...

RUDY
We'll need one.

Ashley frowns. There's a new look in Rudy's eyes.

RUDY
I'm going to have to be inside that
casino. When it happens. I'll need
to be part of it. I can't just be
drawing some map.

ASHLEY
Nick, what are you talking about?

RUDY
We need to find a way to make me
part of it.

ASHLEY
Part of... with them?

Rudy meets her eyes.

RUDY
If we're helping them with their
robbery, we're gonna be doing more
than just walking away. Like that's
some Christmas bonus.

He nods, scheming the way he's always known.

RUDY
You want him outta your life? You
want a real New Year to look forward
to?
(bravely)
If we're gonna do this... we're gonna
do it to get it all.

INT. KNIGHTS INN RESTAURANT - NIGHT

A medieval-themed biergarten. A happy FAMILY of five sits at
a booth, singing along to "Good King Wencelas."

In the booth beside, Merlin and Pug are holding court.
Merlin's puffing smoke rings. Pug watches dully, chewing:

PUG
Knew a guy in Joliet, smoked ten
packs a day like you. His lungs got
so black they couldn't find 'em with
an x-ray.

MERLIN
That right? Shit. I used to run rigs
for a guy loved your chaw there.
Shit rotted out his tongue, had to
build him one outta silicon so the
poor boy could talk. You ever see a
motherfucker with a silicon fucking
tongue?

The Happy Family stops singing. Pug considers, spits a wad.

PUG
Hell. The guy from Joliet, those
black-ass lungs were the least of
his problems. Got so much smoke in
him his lungs couldn't even hold it.
Got into his system, man. Into his
blood. Coming out his ears, man,
coming out his eyes. Guy'd be walking
the row, smoke'd be puffing out his
skin.

The Happy Family trade discomfited looks. Merlin shrugs,
takes another drag.

MERLIN
This trucker? Met a girl in a bar
one night, she didn't know his
situation. He's drunk, she's drunk,
they get to mackin' hot and heavy
and the woman swallows it. His tongue.
Sucks it right down.

PUG
My guy would walk into a room, set
off the goddamn sprinklers.

MERLIN
His lips went next. You ever see
some silicon-fucking-lips?

The Happy Family flees their booth. Pug and Merlin glance
over. And grab their leftovers. Rifling the grub:

MERLIN
(with disgust)
Vegetarians...

Behind them, Gabriel and Jumpy file into the biergarten,
leading Rudy and Ashley to the booth. Meeting commenced.

Rudy, battered and freezer-burnt, gets shoved in first.
Gabriel throws down the casino map:

GABRIEL
Start singing.

RUDY
I have no gifts to bring, pa-rumpum-
pum-pum

GABRIEL
Sing it in pictures, Nick.

Rudy takes the map, glances at Ashley, and then takes charge.
For the first time, he's giving the orders:

RUDY
What you gotta worry about first is
the guards. Place doesn't look much
richer than when I worked there, so
let's figure you're gonna have to
deal with ten of 'em. There'll be
two on the floor, walking the room,
that leaves eight up above. Eyes in
the sky. They see something up,
they're the ones who'll hit the silent
alarm and you're fucked.

MERLIN
How do we take them out?

RUDY
You gotta get someone upstairs.

MERLIN
How do we do that?

Rudy takes the map, points to the gaming tables area:

RUDY
Across from blackjack, there's a
security doorway. Keypad access.

GABRIEL
What's the code?

RUDY
Uh... they change it every month. I
wouldn't know.
(beat)
If there's trouble on the floor,
you'll get security coming through.
what you gotta do, is get inside
that doorway once they do. You gotta
draw 'em out.

PUG
Without having them hit the alarms.

RUDY
I got an idea on that one. Once you're
up there, you gotta hold those guards
down till some backup can get there.
There's a security camera room that
videotapes everything. You've gotta
destroy every last one of those tapes.

MERLIN
What about the money?

RUDY
You lock down security, you move
behind the cage. You hit the Count
Room. There'll be a guy in there but
he's got no guns; room's accessed by
another code. Cashiers'll know it.
They'll have alarms.

JUMPY
What about the Powwow Safe?

RUDY
What?

JUMPY
The Powwow Safe. The secret safe.
You said the manager's got a safe in
his office where he hides skim money.

RUDY
Oh. Right. Yeah. That's, uh upstairs.
Uh. Here. Powwow Safe.

His confident manner wavers. Gabriel notices, narrows his
eyes. Rudy quickly grabs the map again:

RUDY
So. You're gonna need a man through
here, two men at the cage, one to
cover the count. You're gonna need a
lookout outside, a sweeper through
the back, and a gun guarding the
front.
(beat)
You need six.

GABRIEL
We got five. Putting Ashley outside.

RUDY
You need six.

Gabriel eyes him darkly.

GABRIEL
NO.

RUDY
You go in with five, you're either
leaving an alarm free or an exit
free. Someone hits an alarm, you're
fucked. Someone gets to a phone,
gets outside, 'cross the street,
whatever, you're fucked. You need
six.
(nods)
Six is me.

GABRIEL
No.

RUDY
You guys get caught, I go away for
good. I got an interest in making
sure you don't. You need a sixth man
covering an exit. What're you gonna
do about it.

ASHLEY
Yeah. What're you gonna do about it.

She puts an arm around Rudy, smiles. That's her man.

GABRIEL
I want a map of that security level.
Every room, every guard, every thing.

RUDY
Six men means six guns.

GABRIEL
No way.

RUDY
I'm no threat without a gun.

GABRIEL
No, you're not.

RUDY
There'll be people in that casino.
I can't keep them from leaving if I
don't get a gun. I don't need bullets,
Monster... but I gotta be a threat.

ASHLEY
What's the matter, Gabriel? This is
what you wanted him for, isn't it?

Gabriel's eyes don't leave Rudy's.

GABRIEL
No gun.

RUDY
Well. What you guys have to plan
out, then... is how you're going to
get to that cage and that security
level before anybody realizes
anything's wrong. Running in with
ski masks and bullets flying ain't
gonna do it.

GABRIEL
That part, Nick... was planned out
the day I read your letters.

RUDY
What. We all gonna dress up like
cowboys?

GABRIEL
Not cowboys, Nick. Not cowboys.

Gabriel smiles.

GABRIEL
Not on Christmas Eve.

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG - TRAILER - NIGHT CLOSE ON STORAGE LOCKER

Pulled open to reveal FIVE SANTA CLAUS SUITS, hanging side-
by-side. Red polyester coats and pants, white felt trim and
black buckles, black boots and red caps.

WIDEN TO REVEAL TRAILER

As Gabriel lifts a Santa Claus suit and presses it against
Rudy. Ashley, Merlin, Jungy and Pug look on.

RUDY
You gotta be kidding me.

GABRIEL
'Tis the season, convict.

He puts the suit back in the locker, pulls another. Finding
Rudy's size.

GABRIEL
Can't be attracting attention, right?

RUDY
What, we walking in there and
delivering toys?

He turns to see Merlin open another locker. This one stacked
with rifles, carbines and handguns.

MERLIN
Hell yeah.

INT. RUDY'S ROOM - NIGHT

CLOSE ON SKETCH

of a floor plan, a sheet of paper overlaid on Gabriel's map
of the casino. A pencil draws a boxy room and labels it
"Security Video Room." Then an eraser wipes it out.

WIDEN TO REVEAL RUDY

still cuffed to the bedframe, pulled close to a desk. He's
sitting, working on the security level map.

The door opens; Ashley enters, looking worried:

ASHLEY
He wants to see your map.

RUDY
I'm almost done.

ASHLEY
He says he wants it now.

RUDY
If he wanted a photographic memory,
he shoulda kidnapped one. I'm working
on it here.

Ashley walks over, puts her arms around his neck. Whispers:

ASHLEY
How are we gonna do this, Nick?

RUDY
You're the getaway girl. The money's
gonna get to you eventually. Gonna
be my job to be the guy who walks
outta there with it. But I can't do
that without a gun. Any luck talking
to him?

ASHLEY
Bullets or no bullets, he won't do
it.

RUDY
Is there any way you could get into
his truck?

ASHLEY
No.

RUDY
We need a gun, Ash. We need a gun...

Rudy studies his map, then quickly pencils in the "Security
Video Room," in a totally different place than he drew it
before. Hands the paper to her.

RUDY
Here's the Picasso. Is he in his
room?

ASHLEY
They all are. Football's on.

RUDY
(nods, thinks)
Keep 'em there for a little while.

Ashley takes the map, frowns. Rudy kisses her gently.

RUDY
We're gonna get you out of Detroit,
Ash. Get you out of beauty and
fragrances.
(smiles, then)
Remember that. After all this is
over, when you know me, when you
really know me... remember it was
me.

She searches his eyes, not quite understanding. But smiles.
Rudy smiles back, nods toward the door. Ashley slips out.

When she's gone, Rudy stands and turns to the window. Outside,
the Blazer with the "Ice Fishermen Do It All Year Long" bumper
sticker still sits parked.

Rudy reaches for his jeans pocket, and pulls out-one of the
game room darts, flecked with blood.

HE GIVES IT A SOLEMN STARE

INT. RUDYS ROOM - MOMENTS L&TER - NIGHT

Rudy lies on his back, under the bed frame, dart in hand. He
tears off the plastic feathering, to get at the cross-shaped
end, furthest-from the tip. Four protruding metal edges.

He finds the Phillips screws on the bedframe, and tries to
work the dart-end into the grooves. It scrapes and jags, but
with pressure he's able to do a quarter-turn at a time.

The screw starts spiraling out.

ANGLE ON BEDFRAME

As two metal pieces split apart, and Rudy wriggles his ankle
handcuff off the frame.

ANGLE ON CLOSET

As Rudy's hand grabs a paper-covered wire hanger and rips
the paper off, untwisting the wire.

ANGLE ON ROOM'S WINDOW

As Rudy slides it open, and climbs outside.

EXT. KNIGHTS INN PARKING LOT - NIGHT

Light snow falling. Rudy drops from the second floor window
into some snowy shrubs and an empty parking space. He
stealthily darts ahead to the ice fishermen's Blazer.

AT THE FISHERMEN'S BLAZER

Rudy peers in the windows, spotting fishing rods, tackle and
gear boxes in the back seat.

He takes his wire coat hanger, now stretched straight, and
slips it between the driver's window and moulding, jamming
it around until it trips the door lock.

The lock pops up; Rudy pops in --

INT. BLAZER

-- and raids the gear box. Bait, reels, fishing wire. Boning
knives. A compass. A first aid kit. A switchblade.

RUDY
Gun, gun, c'mon, boys like you gotta
be keeping a gun...

He rustles around in the backseat. Ice cooler, open bag of
pork rinds, another gear box. Nothing.

Some HEADLIGHTS sweep past the Blazer. Rudy ducks down,
pockets the switchblade. Munches some pork rinds.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Rudy scrambles out, heads to try another car, a pickup truck.
And then suddenly drops to the ground, seeing

MERLIN AND JUMPY

stride outside, talking casually, kicking snow on their way
toward the Nova. Voices too low to hear.

ON SCENE

Rudy crouches behind the pickup, slips around the other side.
Merlin and Jumpy walk right by him.

Rudy criss-crosses through the parking lot, hidden by cars,
heading away from his room's window. His window. Rudy glances
back to see if the truckers notice that, but they don't seem
to. They stand at the Nova, talking.

Rudy shivers, waiting. They're not leaving. When their backs
turn, Rudy dashes twenty feet to the cover of the building.
He slips around the corner, out of sight.

AROUND THE SIDE OF THE HOTEL

Rudy hops through snowdrifts, pressed to the wall, moving
toward a side entry --

-- when he stops, hearing a woman's LAUGHTER.

Above his head are a row of windows. Reflections of rippling
water on the ceiling inside. It's the hotel pool behind this
wall.

Sounds of SPLASHES. Murmured VOICES.

Rudy stands absolutely still. His breaths stop frosting.
Because his breathing has stopped.

INT. HALLLWAY TO INDOOR POOL - NIGHT

Rudy creeps down the darkened hall, past a sign that reads
"Pool CLOSED. Open 9 am to 9 pm, No Lifeguard on Duty."

Rudy steps closer, back to a wall, standing in shadow. The
small pool becomes visible, flickering blue water. From an
unseen end, a figure splashes backwards into view --

It's Ashley. Hair wet, naked beneath the surface. Smiling
and splashing someone offscreen --

ASHLEY
...and he's saying "We're not gonna
help him just to walk away. If we're
gonna help him... we're gonna get it
all...

She splashes again. Taunting --

ASHLEY
...he wants to help now, he wants to
rob it now we could probably stay
right here, he'd go on and rob it by
himself --

As Gabriel steps into view, also undressed, moving toward
her in the pool.

GABRIEL
He wants the money.

ASHLEY
No, baby. He wants me.

Gabriel reaches her, puts his arms around her. She smiles.

ASHLEY
He wants... your "sister"...

GABRIEL
...whoever she is.

And they kiss, entwining together, reflections and ripples.
A steamy embrace.

ASHLEY
Nick Mason's gonna help us more than
we ever dreamed.

ANGLE ON RUDY

in the shadows, hearing them. Staring into darkness.

IN THE POOL

Gabriel turns with Ashley, wrapped together. Moving slow.

GABRIEL
All those letters are about to pay
off, baby... all those letters...

ASHLEY
To all those cons...

GABRIEL
Searching for a money man...

ASHLEY
We musta written what, twenty of
'em? And they were before this guy.
One, two letters apiece, ten to the
racetrack guy in Leavenworth --

GABRIEL
-- till he fucked his parole --

ASHLEY
-- plus the forty to Mason... how
many letters is that?

GABRIEL
That's a book, baby.
(presses closer)
That's a book of love.

They kiss again. Gabriel strokes her wet hair:

GABRIEL
I can't take watching you touch him.
I can't take his hands on you.

ASHLEY
One more day, baby. One more day to
Christmas.

GABRIEL
I've been doing good, though.

ASHLEY
Didn't have to hit me so fucking
hard. Didn't have to throw me outta
the goddamn truck.

GABRIEL
Didn't have to send me down a fucking
mountain.

ASHLEY
What, he should see me help you catch
him?

ON RUDY

still in the shadows, welling with betrayal.

ASHLEY (O.S.)
He's shown us the setup, he's drawn
us the map, he's helped us do the
plan. He wants a gun, give him a
gun. Take the bullets out, whatever,
but give him the gun. The more
manpower we've got in there, the
better. He won't try and make his
move till the money's in hand.

GABRIEL (O.S.)
He'll be dead when he does.

BACK IN THE POOL

Gabriel and Ashley rock slowly, coupled, in the water.

GABRIEL
Y'know something, baby? If you were
my sister? I'd still want to wake up
Christmas morning with you...

ASHLEY
Mmm, baby. And I'd still want to be
the tinsel round your tree...

And as their words turn to moans and murmurs...

IN THE SHADOWS

Rudy is gone.

INT. FIRST FLOOR HALLWAY - NIGHT

Rudy strides a corridor, eyes dead ahead, passing a stairwell
on his way toward the "Exit" sign posted above a door. He's
almost there, marching fast --

RUDY
Here's my present to you, truck
drivers --

AS THE EXIT DOOR OPENS

MERLIN (O.S.)
Where the hell's Gabriel?

-- and Rudy dives to the stairwell, out of sight just as
Merlin and Jumpy stride back inside.

JUMPY
With his girlfriend. Making up for
"Nick" time. I'm going down to the
bar, you want something?

MERLIN
Get me a brew. I'm gonna check on
our convict.

They separate, Jumpy down the hall, Merlin to the stairs --

INT. STAIRWELL

Merlin trudges upward, while Rudy steps from hiding one flight
down.

Checks the hall for Jumpy, then races out --

EXT. PARKING LOT - NIGHT

Rudy slams out the side door, scrambling straight for the
same Blazer. He jimmies the lock again, leaps in, tears free
the engine panel and searches for ignition wires like a pro.
Stripping the plastic, trying to spark contact --

RUDY
Catch, dammit, catch! Like riding a
bike, it's like riding a bike!

But there's nothing. The engine won't start.

INT. STAIRWELL

Merlin reaches the second floor, steps into the hall.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Rudy jumps from the Blazer, looks at the lot, the highway,
the woods. His own footprints in the dusting snow.

RUDY
How far you gonna get, Rudy...

Realizing the answer, Rudy looks to his room's window. Forced
to race back. He tries clambering the wall, standing an
shrubbery, but he can't reach. He whirls, desperate.

And his eyes find the Blazer.

INT. SECOND FLOOR HALL

Merlin ambles the corridor. Approaching Rudy's room.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Rudy flings open the Blazer door, slams the emergency brake
down. Forces the gearshift into "Reverse."

INT. SECOND FLOOR HALL

Merlin reaches Rudy's door. Searches his pockets for the
key.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Rudy darts to the front of the Blazer, slipping and sliding
on asphalt ice. He drops to his knees, pushing on the front
bumper.

The wheels start to move.

INT. SECOND FLOOR HALL

Merlin finds a room key. Puts it in the lock. Turns the handle
but the door won't open. Merlin checks the key.

MERLIN
My room.

EXT. PARKING LOT

The Blazer starts to roll backwards, toward the snowy shrubs
ringing the building. Headed for the empty parking space
below Rudy's window. Rudy keeps pushing. The Blazer picks up
speed, rolling on its own.

INT. SECOND FLOOR HALL

Merlin searches his pockets again, finds the right key.

EXT. PARKING LOT

The Blazer rolls toward the building. Rudy scrambles to his
feet, runs after it, leaps his left foot onto the bumper,
the right foot onto the hood, then onto the roof --

-- getting two roof-steps worth of running start --

-- as the Blazer slows to a rest against the snowy shrubs --

-- and Rudy dives into the air, torpedoing himself right
through the window to his room --

INT. RUDY'S ROOM

-- where he crashes headlong to the floor, turning a
somersault and landing sprawled across the carpet.

INT. SECOND FLOOR HALL

The key in the lock, Merlin hears the crash --

INT. RUDY'S ROOM

-- and as Merlin opens the door, he finds Rudy sitting calmly
on the floor, ankle-cuff locked once again to the bedframe.
Spreading a deck of cards out before him.

Starting a game of solitaire. He looks up.

RUDY
Hey.

Merlin frowns, takes a suspicious look around the room. The
window's open. Rudy continues his card game.

Merlin watches him for a long time. Then pulls the door shut.

Once he's gone, Rudy collapses to the floor. Breathing hard,
heart pounding. The cards go flying.

INT. RUDY'S ROOM - MOMENTS LATER

The LIGHTS go out. Rudy creeps back to the window, checks
outside... and stops still. In parking lot...

...a cigarette glow burns inside the Nova. From the driver's
seat. It's Merlin. Now watching.

Rudy steps back into the shadows. Closing window and watches
the falling snow. Caged again, after all.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. RUDY'S ROOM - NIGHT - LATER

Pitch dark. Rudy asleep on the floor, as Ashley creeps back
in.

Seeing he's asleep, she lies beside him, pulls a blanket
over them both, nestles into his body and kisses him.

ASHLEY
Merry Christmas-Eve, my love. My
love, my love. Merry Christmas-Eve...

Ashley closes her eyes. With a smile.

A moment later, Rudy's eyes open. Turning to look at her
smiling, sleeping face... with a convict's vengeful stare...

INT. KNIGHTS INN LOBBY - DAY

CLOSE ON DESK CLERK

In a elfin cap, smiling cheerfully:

SMILING DESK CLERK
Hello, gentlemen. And how can we
help you on this holiday morning?

CLOSE ON GABRIEL, MERLIN AND PUG

Three grim faces.

GABRIEL
Checking out.

EXT. KNIGHTS INN PARKING LOT - DAY

The three truckers stride to the Nova, where Jumpy guards
Rudy and Ashley. In the b.g., the Ice Fishermen are by their
car, wondering how the hell it switched parking spaces
overnight.

Gabriel marches straight to Rudy and SLUGS him in the gut.
Rudy hits the snow --

ASHLEY
Gabriel!

GABRIEL
That's for the hundred bucks worth
of pay-per-view.
(then KICKS him)
And that's for the two hundred you
took outta your minibar.

RUDY
(chokes, pained)
You guys were paying for the room, I
just figured --

Gabriel KICKS him again, then pulls a handgun, points it at
Rudy's head. Ashley screams, rushes him --

-- as Gabriel's gun SHOOTS a thin stream of water into Rudy's
face.

It's a forty-five caliber squirt gun.

GABRIEL
(cruel smile)
You wanted a weapon, convict? You
got one.

Gabriel tosses the water pistol onto Rudy's chest. Jumpy and
Pug haul him up. With venom:

GABRIEL
Merry Christmas-Eve.

EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY

The Motor City Monster cruises the snowy landscape, with
Lake Superior beyond. Pug drives the Nova in convoy.

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG

Gabriel hands copies of Rudy's sketched map to Merlin and
Jumpy.

Rudy and Ashley are in the sleeper.

GABRIEL
Commit this thing to memory. Every
guard, every exit... don't tape it
to your fuckin, wrist: remember it.
That's the Gospel right there. The
Gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke and
John...

Rudy watches them studying his made-up map. Ashley strokes
his arm, gives a loving smile. Rudy stares at her.

He smiles right back.

EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY

The rig and the Nova blow by a roadsign: "Now Entering
Powahachee Indian Reservation Lands."

INT./EXT. TRAILER DAY - PREPARATION MONTAGE

The storage locker with the Santa suits SLAMS open.

Merlin's hands PULL automatics and shotguns from the weapons
chest. Pug's hands UNLOAD ammo.

A red-and-white Santa coat gets PULLED ON and BUTTONED UP.

Jumpy's hands apportion GUNS and AMMO on a picnic table.

Black Santa boots STAMP TIGHT in the snow.

A shoulder-strap ASSAULT RIFLE gets hidden under a Santa
coat.

AMMO CLIPS are taped inside a fat black buckle-belt.

A HANDGUN gets tucked under a Santa hat.

And the rig's trailer doors come CRASHING SHUT.

EXT. LAKESIDE REST AREA - DUSK

Lake Superior shimmers in the dying light. The rig's in the
empty rest area lot. On a nearby bank, four men in Santa
Claus suits and one woman without sit scattered at picnic
tables, guns at their sides. Staring out at the lake.

RUDY AND ASHLEY

sit apart from the rest. Rudy in a red suit, black boots,
cap in hand. Ashley's head is in his lap, watching the sky.

ASHLEY
Where should we go, Nick? When we're
gone from here... where should we
go...

The Nova drives into the lot. Pug gets out, carrying several
fast-food bags. Hurrying to stay warm:

PUG (O.S.)
Okay, who had the cheeseburger with
bacon; what about a roast beef, I've
got two roast beefs here --

JUMPY (O.S.)
Cheeseburger 'n bacon's mine --

MERLIN (O.S.)
I got a bacon too; there another
bacon in there?

PUG (O.S.)
I got a bacon for him and a bacon
for me; there's four cheeseburgers
and two roast beefs --

MERLIN (O.S.)
Somebody better give me something
with some goddamn bacon --

As they continue chow dispersal, Rudy stares over the lake.

Distant. Not even aware Ashley's there.

RUDY
This time right now... Dad's stacking
wood out back, getting ready for
tomorrow. Little blaze in the
fireplace. Mom's setting out the
good silver, hanging her cinammon
sticks, up in the doorways. Getting
out her scratchy old records...
singing along...

Rudy smiles to himself. He's got a faraway look.

RUDY
I don't know where you're going.
But I'm going home.

ASHLEY
We go together, Nick. Wherever... we
go together. Remember?

RUDY
Well. I'm going home.

GABRIEL

sits by the water, staring over the lake too. With a white
cotton Santa beard resting on his chin. He unwraps his roast
beef sandwich, pulls his beard down to his neck, and takes a
savage bite.

Munches away, stares to Rudy and Ashley. She meets his eyes.
Gabriel smiles. And looks again to the water.

ON FULL SCENE

The snowy rest stop, the glistening lake. And the six figures
scattered, watching day turn to night...

CUT TO:

EXT. TOMAHAWK CASINO - NIGHT

The neon axe lit up in full regalia, with Christmas lights
now strung along the building's roof. There are fewer than a
dozen cars in the parking lot.

INT. TOMAHAWK - NIGHT

Filled with the JINGLING, JANGLING slots, but there's only
two FAT WOMEN sitting at them. Three INDIANS at a poker table.
An OLD TIMER in his 90's playing blackjack.

INT. SECURITY LEVEL

A ragged headquarters, looking down to the casino level
through smoked glass. Desks, file cabinets, pin-up
centerfolds. A room with video monitors to one side. Stairs
to a camera catwalk that rings the casino.

Jack Bangs is at a table of wassail and cookies. He opens a
battle of brandy, pours a bit into the punch, and takes the
bottle for himself. Walks over to his HEAD OF SECURITY,
watching the lack of activity below:

JACK BANGS
And all through the house... not a
creature was stirring...
(sighs)
Why don't you go ahead and send most
of your guys home, Ed.

SECURITY BOSS
Thanks, Jack. Merry X-mas.

The boss smiles, heads off. Jack Bangs swigs his brandy,
eyes his high-tech security gear glumly:

JACK BANGS
Hell. Nobody even comes here to
cheat...

EXT. TOMAHAWK - NIGHT

The Nova pulls into the lot and parks. Merlin, Pug and Ashley
inside. On the road, the Motor City Monster slows to an idling
stop. In the cab, Gabriel turns to Rudy and Jumpy:

GABRIEL
Go.

Rudy gives Gabriel a withering look. He and Jumpy climb out.

Gabriel's rig rumbles up the road.

[NOTE: All five men, save Ashley, from now till story's end,
are in their Santa Claus suits.]

RUDY AND JUMPY

make their way across the lot, heading for the entrance.

RUDY
Hey Jumpy, I want to ask you
something. You have any problem with
the fact that we're on our way to
take millions of dollars from an
Indian casino?

The Native American considers. As they walk:

JUMPY
Nick. It's true that Indian gaming's
gone a long way toward restoring
wealth and pride to communities who've
been economically isolated and
enslaved for centuries. Stronger
infrastructure, better schools, higher
employment... they're all the results
of reservation casino success stories.
Still, many natives believe that
these are temples to a godless
materialism and greed that will only
infect the souls of indigenous peoples
until their love of money has
destroyed the spiritual values their
ancestors died to protect and their
homelands have become no different
from any United States suburb,
satellite city or industrial park.
Destroying the Indian legacy once
and for all and leaving behind a
nation of selfish, angry natives, of
which I, it's true, am one --

-- as they hit the Tomahawk's doors --

INT. TOKAHAWK - NIGHT

-- and SLAM inside, stumbling into each other, suddenly
LAUGHING and slapping backs. Surveying the casino:

RUDY
Hey-hey, egg nog for everybody!

Rudy spreads his Santa arms wide and whoops. Jumpy laughs
with him, steadying his balance. Drunken and slurred:

RUDY
Let's win some MONEY! MONEY-MONEY-
MONEY!

The few gamblers inside look up at the commotion. Bear the
Bartender. Two CASHIERS and one WAITRESS. Ed the Security
Boss strides over, smiling tightly:

SECURITY BOSS
How you gentlemen doing tonight?

RUDY
We're out of work tonight, that's
how! Christmas Eve! We're out of
work!

JUMPY
(shakes his hand)
Hi, Santa Claus, how are you. He's
with Sears, I'm with Wal-Mart, twas
the season...

RUDY
We're all outta gifts, boys and girls,
but we got charitable donations!

Rudy grabs a wad of bills from his pocket, drops some to the
floor. Jumpy retrieves them --

JUMPY
...bunch of us got together for the
union party. Hey, how late are you
open?

SECURITY BOSS
(eyes on the money)
All night and all day.

RUDY
I got wampum for the Cocktail Waitress
Civil Defense Fund! Are there any
representatives here present?

A Waitress sidles close; checks with the Boss. He nods okay.

WAITRESS
What can I get ya, Santa?

RUDY
Santa drinks American beer.

SECURITY BOSS
(to Jumpy)
What's your game, guys?

JUMPY
Blackjack. Got a buddy from
Woolworth's out parking the sleigh.

The Security Boss stares him down. Then:

SECURITY BOSS
Good luck, gentlemen.

He steps aside and indicates the tables. Jumpy claps him on
the back, pushes Rudy on through the slots.

EXT. RESERVATION ROAD - NIGHT

Gabriel's truck at the roadside, hazards on, with signal
triangles as if broken down. Gabriel places the last one,
hurries back down the casino road.

EXT. PARKING LOT/INT. NOVA - NIGHT

Ashley sits between Merlin and Pug. Gabriel jogs by the car.

Ashley checks her watch:

ASHLEY
Three minutes.

INT. TOMAHAWK - NIGHT

Rudy and Jumpy sit at a blackjack table, beside the Old Timer.

Jovial ad libs as the Waitress brings Rudy's beer. Rudy
doubles down, busts, and gets belligerent:

RUDY
(to the Old Timer)
That was my card, pop!
My card! You hit for
my card!

OLD TIMER
I... sorry, Mister...

RUDY
That was my king!

OLD TIMER
Well...sorry...

JUMPY
(to the Waitress)
How are you tonight?

WAITRESS
Fuckin' freezing. What can I get ya,
Santa?

JUMPY
Jack and Coke.

WAITRESS
Want that Jack and Coke or Jack and
Pepsi?

Behind them, Gabriel SLAMS through the casino doors.

JUMPY
Woolworth's!

GABRIEL
Hey, Sears! Hey, Wal-Mart!

JUMPY
Saved you a seat, man. Get in on a
hand here!

Gabriel sidles to the table, claps Rudy on the back.

RUDY
(re: Old Timer)
Careful. Watch out for this guy.

They throw chips in. The Waitress circles around:

WAITRESS
What can I get ya, Santa?

GABRIEL
American beer.

The Old Timer hits and stays. Rudy hits and busts:

RUDY
POP! That was My card!

OLD TIMER
But... I had a five...

RUDY
You're hitting for MY cards!

EXT. PARKING LOT

Ashley's eyes on her watch. Nods to Merlin and Pug:

ASHLEY
Go.

INT. TOMAHAWK

Jumpy has left the table, sidling to a change booth, glancing
at his watch. Passes a $100 bill:

JUMPY
Could Fat-Man-With-Flying-Horse get
some quarters, please?

AT THE BLACKJACK

Gabriel slides off his stool, punches Rudy in the shoulder:

GABRIEL
Be back, Wal-Mart. Watch my bank.

Rudy nods, slugging beer. He's becoming an unruly drinker.
The Old Timer motions to hit; but before the Dealer can pull
the card, Rudy slams the table, points to it:

RUDY
That is my card, guy. My card.

DEALER
He hit, mister.

RUDY
He didn't hit.
(to Old Timer)
You didn't hit. You're not hitting.

OLD TIMER
But you don't even know what it is!

The dealer hits grandpa to twenty-one. Then hits Rudy and
busts him. Rudy stares darkly.

IN THE HALL TO THE BATHROOMS

Gabriel walks to the men's room door. Then stops. Adjusts
the rifle under his red coat. And turns back.

AT THE CHANGE BOOTH

Jumpy is handed a bucket of quarters.

EXT. PARKING LOT - SAME

Merlin and Pug march toward the entrance, hands in pockets.

INT. SECURITY LEVEL

The Security Boss returns upstairs, beside Jack Bangs, who's
watching the video monitors. On one screen, a parking lot
cam shows Merlin and Pug approaching:

VIDEO GUARD
There's two more coming.

JACK BANGS
Hell, there we go. That's the spirit.

He drunkenly clinks his battle to the Security Boss, wassail.
The Boss frowns.

SECURITY BOSS
Jack? Is there a union for department
store Santas?

INT. TOMAHAWK - ON BLACKJACK

Rudy bolts up suddenly, sends chips and his chair to the
carpet.

Points sternly at the Old Timer, slurring:

RUDY
Switch seats with me.

OLD TIMER
What? No...

RUDY
You're taking my money. Switch seats
with me. Switch seats with me if
you're not taking my money --

OLD TIMER
I'm ninety-two years old --

RUDY
Then get yourself another table!
You're hitting Santa's cards and
you're taking Santa's money!

OLD TIMER
There is no other table --

RUDY
THEY'LL OPEN ONE!

Rudy grabs the blackjack table and wrenches with all his
might,

OVERTURNING IT, cards, chips, cash scattering --

AND EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT ONCE

Two SECURITY GUARDS at the door (?) rush for Rudy --

Gabriel steps from the restroom, hall, moves toward the keypad
door to the security level --

Jumpy carries his bucket of quarters past the cage --

Rudy tackles the Old Timer, fists and false teeth flying, as
the Guards arrive, trying to wrench him off the poor guy --

RUDY
(hard whisper)
Stay down, pop! Trust me, stay down!

As Gabriel stops just beyond the keypad door --

IN THE SECURITY LEVEL

The Security Boss grabs more men, while Jack Bangs merely
smiles at the sight. Guards wrestling a drunken Santa:

SECURITY BOSS
Help them down there! HELP them!

IN THE CASINO

Three guards CHARGE out of the keypad door --

-- right past Gabriel, who slips deftly inside --

AND UP THE PRIVATE STAIRCASE

-- opening his coat, pulling his assault rifle --

GABRIEL

Right at the top of the stairs, right at the top of the
stairs...

-- charging to the top, starting right and running SMACK
into a wall.

He spins, sees the doorway's on his left --

TO A PRIVATE HALLWAY

with three doors. Gabriel stops at the first, grips his gun --

GABRIEL
Video room, video room --

-- and swings open a closet bathroom. He frowns, confused.
Jumps to the second door --

GABRIEL
Map said video room --

-- and swings open a storage closet. Gabriel grumbles, leaps
to the third door and flings it open,

GABRIEL
Map said goddamn video room!

TO REVEAL THE MAIN SECURITY AREA

-- with two Guards sitting at their posts, and Jack Bangs,
the Security Boss and the Video Guard in the doorway to the
video room. Which is on the far opposite side of the space.

As they turn to see the furious Santa Claus with the AK-47 --

GABRIEL
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??!!!

-- as he SPRAYS the ceiling with GUNFIRE.

INT. CASINO FLOOR

Where the RIFLE sounds, just as Jumpy grips his bucket of
quarters at the cashier's cage and wheels --

-- throwing a fragmentation grenade's worth of quarters at
the two Cashiers! Bits Of metal flying between the bars.
They SCREAM, stepping backwards in defense --

-- and Jumpy whips a sawed-off shotgun from his coat --

JUMPY
Step BACK from the desks!

AT THE BLACKJACK

The five guards wrestling Rudy spin and scramble, pulling
pistols from shoulder holsters as --

MERLIN

CHARGES through the casino entrance, shotgun held --

MERLIN
DROP 'EM! DROP, DROP, DROP!!!

RUDY
(from the floor)
DROP THE GUNS! NOW!

But the guards don't. Whirling on Merlin --

-- who OPENS FIRE, BLASTING two of the guards off their feet.
Rudy stays on the ground, covering his head, holding the
petrified Old Timer down --

-- as the other three guards FIRE back, forcing Merlin to
race behind the slots. BULLETS rip into slot machines --

-- as GUNSHOTS ring out from the casino restaurant. Two of
the Guards spin to look behind them as --

-- PUG storms in, contorted glee, twin pistols BLAZING,
popping a steel flurry into an outgunned Guard.

Merlin spins from hiding behind the slots. He and Pug both
OPEN FIRE, blowing away the two remaining men from both sides.

One of the guards falls in front of Rudy, gun in hand --

-- but as Rudy-reaches for the guy's pistol --

MERLIN
Hold it right there, Nick. Your squirt
gun's all you need.

Merlin steps to him, gun aimed. He and Pug collect the Guards,
weapons.

MERLIN
Cover 'em.

Rudy gets to his feet, pulls the water pistol from his pocket.

Moves to round up the Old Timer, the waitress, the Poker
Players and the Fat Slots Women.

RUDY
Sorry, guys. But what the hell were
you doing here an Christmas Eve
anyway.

INT. SECURITY LEVEL

The two Guards lie on the floor, with Security Boss and Video
Guard. And the ruined Jack Bangs.

JACK BANGS
No... not here... please... mister...

Gabriel storms to the video room's doorway. Slams a new clip.

JACK BANGS
Mister. I'm begging, 'kay? I'm
begging. This is not some card club,
'kay? This is the Tomahawk. We're an
international gaming destination.
We're in guidebooks. You can't do
this... you can't do this to me...

GABRIEL
Show's over.

He OPENS FIRE, BLOWING AWAY the wall of monitors and VCR's
recording the robbery. SPARKS and METAL fly.

EXT. PARKING LOT

Ashley waits in the Nova, checking her watch. Behind her a
RED WRANGLER rolls in and parks. A FIRE CHIEF and his DEPUTY,
just off-duty, stroll toward the casino, laughing.

Ashley sinks low, panicked. Presses her HORN. The firemen
spin around but don't see her. They shrug. Keep walking.

INT. TOMAHAWK

Rudy forces the gamblers and employees behind the bar. Onto
the floor with Bear the Bartender, whispering hard:

RUDY
Get down and stay down, and you're
gonna be fine. Just don't do anything.
My friends are disturbed --

The hostages do as told. Rudy breathes relief, squirt gun in
hand. And then stares at the array of bottles around him.

IN THE CASHIER'S CAGE

Merlin and Pug force the cashiers to the floor:

PUG
What's the security code to the Count
Room?

CASHIER #1
Security code? What security code?
You just use a key!

PUG
NICK SAID SECURITY CODE!

CASHIER #1
Who's Nick?!

Pug bangs the guy's head off the floor, stalks to the Count
Room door. Just a key lock. Pug BLOWS it away with his guns,
kicks the door open --

-- and gets SHOT TO HELL by three COUNT MEN inside, pistols
blazing! Pug puppets, dead. A wad of chaw hits the ceiling.

Stunned Merlin FIRES BACK.

EXT. PARKING LOT

-- as the Firemen hear the GUNFIRE, pulling holstered pistols --

INT. TOMAHAWK

-- while Merlin dives out of the cage, joining Jumpy, taking
cover as the Count Men FIRE AWAY --

-- as Rudy scrambles back from the bar --

MERLIN
You said no GUNS in there! NO GUNS!

Merlin and Jumpy leap up, GUNS BLAZING, firing through the
cage bars at the Count Men. Killing all three just as --

THE OFF-DUTY FIREMEN

storm through the doors, pistols ready --

FIREMEN
DROP IT! DROP THE GUNS!

Merlin and Jumpy are caught. Trade a look. And let their
weapons fall, turning just as --

THE CHEVY NOVA

CRASHES through the casino doors, MOWING DOWN the firemen!

The car SLAMS inside, crashing into slot machines. The slots
send SPARKS showering into the air. Which set off the casino
floor's SPRINKLERS. The room fills with watery spray.

Ashley swiftly climbs out of the mangled vehicle. Rudy stares
darkly at her. She knows he knows. And she doesn't care.

ASHLEY
(wild-eyed)
WHERE'S THE FUCKING CASH, NICK!

RUDY
Yeah. That's love.

She storms on by. The slots pay off behind her.

INT. COUNT ROOM - MOMENTS LATER

Jumpy, Merlin, Ashley and Rudy step inside the Count Room.
There are stacks and stacks of bills.

Ashley smiles wide, throws Jumpy three laundry sacks.

ASHLEY
MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

Merlin, meanwhile, slams Rudy against the wall:

MERLIN
You knew there were guns in here!

RUDY
Merlin, I didn't know --

MERLIN
You got Pug killed! You tried to get
ME killed! You just lost your Get-
Outta-Jail-Free --

RUDY
I promise you, I didn't know!

As Merlin puts a gun to Rudyls head --

GABRIEL (O.S.)
(over casino speakers)
Santa Claus, Santa Claus, and Santa
Claus... would you please bring our...
mapmaker... to the security level?

Merlin stares daggers at Rudy. Shoves the gun away.

INT. JACK BANGS' OFFICE - NIGHT

Gabriel stands at the windows overlooking the watery carnage.
The taped jingle of slots still plays.

Poor Jack Bangs lies on his desk, beaten to a pulp. Blood
runs down his face and shark suit. Tears and shock:

JACK BANGS
I can't go back to Vegas... I can't...
go back...

JUMPY (O.S.)
What the hell is with this place?
Thought the video room was back there --

Merlin and Jumpy lead Rudy in. Ashley follows. They carry
bulging money sacks. Gabriel stares Rudy down.

GABRIEL
I told you not to fuck us with that
map, Nick. I told you not to, and
you did. How am I s'posed to keep my
promises now?
(Ashley joins him)
How's she s'posed to keep hers?

He kisses her hard. Sloppy. Grins.

Then points to Jack Bangs:

GABRIEL
He won't tell us where it is. The
Powwow Safe.

JACK BANGS
I don't know... what you're...

Gabriel hammers him with the butt of his rifle. CRACK.

GABRIEL
THE POWWOW SAFE! WHERE IS THE POWWOW
SAFE!

JACK BANGS
What... Powwow...

GABRIEL
The Powwow Safe where you steal your
money! Where you cheat your Indians!

JACK BANGS
I don't steal any --

Gabriel CRACKS him again. And again. Rudy winces. Gabriel
grabs Rudy, pulls him over.

GABRIEL
We KNOW about the Powwow Safe! We
KNOW it's in here! We KNOW how you
work! Because WE know who's worked
for you!
(smiles)
Remember a guy named Nick Mason!? A
security guard named Nick Mason!?

Gabriel pushes Rudy's head toward the desk. Jack Bangs,
drooling blood, eyes swollen, turns his face to see.

JACK BANGS
Nick... Mason... ?

Jack Bangs stares at Rudy. Rudy stares back.

JACK BANGS
...so where is he?

GABRIEL
(laughs, mocking)
Where is he?! Where is he?!

JACK BANGS
He's not Nick Mason...

The smile fades from Gabriel's face.

JACK BANGS
Nick Mason... worked for me two years
ago. This man...
(a spark of recognition)
...he's some cowboy...

Gabriel grabs Rudy, slams him against a wall. He glares at
Ashley for answers. She stares in disbelief.

Rudy meets her eyes.

RUDY
Fucked the wrong guy, Ashley.
(shrugs)
Story of your life.

BACK TO GABRIEL:

RUDY
I did time with Nick Mason, Monster.
Told you that from the start.

Ashley's putting it all together...

ASHLEY
You... you... YOU --

RUDY
We still gonna spend Christmas
together?

Ashley CHARGES him. Gabriel stops her; Merlin and Jumpy help
hold her back. Gabriel spins on Rudy with his rifle:

GABRIEL
You are lucky, convict. You're
spending Christmas with the birthday
boy himself --

RUDY
Hey! HEY! THERE IS A POWWOW SAFE!

Gabriel hesitates. Doesn't fire.

RUDY
I did time with Nick Mason, remember?
I knew he worked here, didn't I!?
Well, some shit he told me!

Rudy steels himself for the shot. It still doesn't come.

RUDY
Nick told me his manager kept a safe
in his office, his stealing safe.
His Powwow Safe. I swear, please...
Nick told me.
(looks to Jack Bangs)
Behind the liquor cabinet.

Jack Bangs dully meets Rudy's eyes.

Gabriel steps to the liquor cabinet, feels at the shelves.
They split in the middle. And there is a combination safe
mounted in the back. Gabriel turns to Jack Bangs:

GABRIEL
Open it.

He pulls him off the desk. Jack Bangs wavers, struggling. He
looks at Gabriel. Then at Rudy.

JACK BANGS
I can't go back to Vegas...

GABRIEL
OPEN IT!!!

Jack Bangs steps to the safe. Spins the lock. Spins back.
Spins forward. Click. Jack Bangs looks at Rudy.

RUDY
(nods)
Pow. Wow.

And Jack Bangs opens it --

-- reaching inside in the same swift motion, so that as the
safe swings open to reveal it's a rack of WEAPONS that lies
inside, Jack Bangs already has an Uzi in hand --

JACK BANGS
VEEEEGGGGAAAASSSS!!!

BULLETS as he turns back to the room --

-- sending Gabriel, Ashley, and Merlin diving for the floor!
Jumpy can't get down, as BULLETS riddle him dead --

-- and BLOW OUT the smoked windows overlooking the casino --

Jack Bangs keeps turning in a madman's circle --

-- BLOWING OUT the windows to the parking lot, shattering
the liquor, sending Rudy scrambling under his desk --

JACK BANGS
I CAN'T! GO BACK! I CAN'T! GO BACK!
I CAN'T! GO BACK!

GABRIEL
GO!!!

He and Ashley both scramble for the windows, jumping out
with two of the money sacks --

TO THE CASINO FLOOR

-- and landing on poker tables below, overturning them --

Jack Bangs keeps FIRING, into the casino, SHREDDING the tables
but missing Gabriel and Ashley -- as he JUMPS right after
them.

BACK IN BANGS' OFFICE

Merlin scrambles to his feet, whirling with his gun, looking
for Rudy --

-- just as Rudy slams into him. Merlin's SHOT hits the
ceiling.

The two of them CRASH down, wrestling and rolling toward the
parking lot window. Two guns spill to the floor. Rudy grabs
one, just as Merlin kicks out, leaping up --

-- and freezes, seeing Rudy's got a pistol on him.

Before Merlin can make a move, Rudy fires --

-- and a thin stream of water shoots out. Leaving a stain on
his shirt. It's the water pistol. Rudy stares blankly.

As Merlin swiftly snatches the second gun, a real gun, off
the floor. Rudy's dead to rights.

MERLIN
Hell. I'm gonna take pleasure in
this...

With the gun on Rudy, Merlin finds a cigarette in his pockets.

Pops it between his lips, raises a lighter's flame --

-- and hesitates. Sniffing the air. Looking down.

At the stain on his shirt. His lighter still lit --

RUDY
Me too.

-- and Rudy fires the water pistol again, this time catching
Merlin's lighter, which turns the stream into a ARC OF FIRE!
He's filled alcohol in the gun!

FLAMING LIQUOR shoots into Merlin's face and eyes. He drops
the handgun. Rudy keeps squeezing the squirt gun, spreading
the fire down his neck and chest. Merlin howls wildly --

-- and staggers back, blind and helpless, pinwheeling himself --

OUT THE PARKING LOT WINDOW

-- and CRASHING down on the hood of a Pontiac, head through
the windshield, boots on the bumper, dead. Flames flickering.

RUDY
Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

IN THE CASINO

Gabriel and Ashley have scrambled to the Nova, tumbling in
with the money sacks. Jack Bangs gets up, stalking toward
them, still FIRING and babbling.

Gabriel FIRES back, hitting Bangs in the chest. He staggers,
but stays upright. His bullets RIDDLE the car, shattering
the windshield, but Gabriel and Ashley keep their heads down,
slamming it into reverse --

-- and burning rubber backwards out the casino entrance,
into the parking lot, and speeding out of sight.

Jack Bangs stops shooting.

He staggers back toward the bar, totters there, and turns,
gun still raised.

Rudy stands at the base of the stairs to the security level.
He puts his hands up, until he sees the dying look in Bangs,
face. The uzi drops to the ground.

A silence. Even the slots have stopped.

RUDY
I'm sorry.

Jack Bangs stares blankly. Surveys the wreckage of his poor
man's empire. And gives a small shrug.

JACK BANGS
That's why they call it gambling.

He slumps against the bar and hits the floor. Dead.

EXT. PARKING LOT - NIGHT

Rudy ambles out into the snowy night. The lot is quiet. He
takes a few wary steps toward the road --

-- and hears a CLICK. He turns to see Ashley standing behind
him, with a gun. Shaking her pretty head.

ASHLEY
Your turn.

Rudy shuts his eyes for the end.

EXT. RESERVATION ROAD - NIGHT

The Nova drives up a ramp into the back of the truck, in
reverse. Gabriel gets out, pulls shut the trailer. Ashley
collects the hazard triangles. They hurry to the cab.

EXT. MICHIGAN HIGHWAY - NIGHT

The Motor City monster storms through the night, passing a
couple POLICE CARS, sirens wailing, speeding the other way.

INT. GABRIEL'S RIG

Gabriel and Ashley inside, with the money sacks:

GABRIEL
With the wrong fucking guy! We took
the place down with the wrong fucking
guy! Is that Christmas?! Huh?! Is
that Christmas?!

He grabs Ashley, kisses her wildly. Then turns back --

TO THE SLEEPER COMPARTMENT

Where Rudy lies sideways, hands bound with his Santa belt.

GABRIEL
God bless us every one...

EXT. RIDGESIDE ROAD - NIGHT

A winding two-lane road, overlooking a small ravine at a
grassy overlook. The road is dusted with snow; there's been
no traffic here for awhile.

The Motor City Monster steams to a stop beyond the overlook.
Then starts backing up, such that the gate of the trailer is
fifteen feet from the edge of the ridge.

A hundred-foot drop into the ravine below.

Gabriel and Ashley pile out of the cab. They lift the trailer
gate, extend the tire ramps. The ramps run from the trailer
to five feet away from, the ravine drop.

IN THE CAB

Gabriel pulls Rudy out of the sleeper. Marches him back --

TO THE RAVINE'S EDGE

-- and gives him a look. Forces him to his knees. Ashley is
in the truck trailer, splashing the inside of the Nova with
a can of gasoline.

GABRIEL
You almost got away with it, Santa.
Got outta the Tomahawk, got to your
car, got halfway to Canada till you
caught some ice in the road. By the
time you hit bottom down there, whole
car was burning like a comet. Musta
burned up all that money too.

Rudy glances to the trailer. Ashley tosses a couple handfuls
of bills into the car.

GABRIEL
Buncha guys in red suits busted in,
they'll say. Started shooting. They
won't be able to remember... if it
was three, or four... or five. Four
dead Santas and some burned-up cash.
Merry Christmas, The End.

RUDY
Was it your plan, Monster? Or was it
hers.

Gabriel smiles at him.

GABRIEL
She told me 'bout the convict
magazines. Had to figure there'd be
some boys in the pen with some useful
knowledge. With nobody to talk to.
Nobody to listen. So we stocked up
on stationery.

Ashley hops down. Gabriel puts an arm around her.

GABRIEL
Hard life being a trucker's girl.

Rudy eyes Ashley. She stares darkly back.

RUDY
I saved your life.

ASHLEY
You shouldn't have.

RUDY
He did love you, you know. Nick. He
did love you.

ASHLEY
Who wouldn't.

So cold. But Rudy doesn't pause.

RUDY
Maybe this is where you wanted him,
Ashley. At the bottom of a ravine,
dead as ice with a burnt-up heart.
Maybe. But it didn't happen. 'Cause
what you did for him was make him
the happiest held ever been. You
showed him hope and taught him mercy.
And he died a peaceful man. You wanted
to destroy some convict... and all
you did was save his soul. Remember
that. Love your money and remember
that.

Ashley shivers, a touch shaken. But steels herself:

ASHLEY
Merry Christmas, Rudy.

RUDY
I'm glad it was me.

ASHLEY
Merry Christmas.

GABRIEL
Get in the car.

Gabriel hauls him up. Marches him to the trailer. Rudy stops
at the ramp. Gabriel pushes. Rudy doesn't move.

GABRIEL
Get in the CAR!

RUDY
How'd you know my name...

He turns back to Ashley.

ASHLEY
What?

RUDY
Rudy. How'd you know my name?

ASHLEY
What are you talking about?

Rudy looks at Gabriel. He's frowning. To Ashley:

RUDY
You said Merry Christmas, Rudy.

ASHLEY
I... you told me your name was Rudy.
You told me a million times, back in
the truck, telling me you weren't
Nick --

RUDY
No --

ASHLEY
You were screaming you weren't Nick!
And we just didn't fucking believe
you!

RUDY
But I never said Rudy.

ASHLEY
You said it a million times!

RUDY
I never told you my name.

He stares her down. Then stares at Gabriel.

GABRIEL
Ash?

RUDY
How'd you know my name was Rudy.

GABRIEL
Ash?

RUDY
How'd you know my name.

Ashley stares daggers. Shakes her head ruefully --

ASHLEY
Men.

-- and pulls a handgun, SHOOTING Gabriel in the heart.

Gabriel falls to his knees in the snow, his mouth a ring of
shock. Blood spurts through his red coat. He stares at Ashley,
incredulous.

She steps forward and PUTS another bullet in his neck. Gabriel
falls still.

Ashley's breath frosts in the cold.

Rudy watches her. Finally, she meets Rudy's eyes. They stare
each other down for a long moment, before:

RUDY
Where is he.

A silence.

No one moves.

And finally, the CRUNCH of footsteps from around the side of
the trailer. And WHISTLING. "Silver Bells."

A shadow moves across the snow behind the trailer, and soon
steps into Rudy and Ashley's view.

It's Nick Mason.

Alive and well.

NICK
Merry Christmas, Rudy.

Ashley smiles. Her muscles-and-mustache man pen pal is here.

NICK
I missed you, beautiful.

ASHLEY
I missed you too, Nicky baby.

They share a passionate kiss. Ashley malts at the sight of
him, embracing happily. Then turns to Rudy:

ASHLEY
For your information. I never fuck
the wrong guy.

Rudy just stands there, his mind playing catch-up.

NICK
Oh, hey. Have you two been properly
introduced? Sweetness, this is Rudy
Duncan, I did almost a year with him
in the Mountain. Read him all your
letters, talked about you all the
time, made him feel like he really
knew you.
(turns to Rudy)
My friend... wantcha to meet Millie
Bobek. 'Member Millie Bobek, dontcha?
My girlfriend fore I went in? Worked
at that bar in Motor City, where I
manslaughtered that guy? Hell. Didn't
talk about her much once the Ashley
letters started coming, I guess.

Rudy doesn't notice it's started to snow.

NICK
Millie here used to serve drinks to
these gunrunning truckers, real big
talkers, talking bout a real score
one day. I was in the Mountain, man,
what the hell, why not let her get
friendly with 'em? Let her tell 'em
an idea she had, 'bout writing guys
in prison. Getting one who could
show 'em a sure thing.

RUDY
She set them up. All of them.

NICK
Why not have her pretend to find me?
Pretend to write me and reel me in?
Tell her new trucker-man she'd pose
as some sister of his named Ashley?

RUDY
And you set me up.

NICK
Always wanted to rob that casino,
Rudy. Way back when I worked there.
What better way than to get some
guys to rob it for me.

Nick shrugs. Prods Rudy up the ramp. Into the trailer:

NICK
Paid the Alamo ten bucks to put the
shiv in me. He's a lifer, what does
he care. Paid a hospital guard fifty
to put out the story I was dead.
Once the wound healed up...
(notes cash-sacks)
Got out of the Mountain this morning.
And tonight I'm a rich man.

RUDY
How'd you know I'd do it.

NICK
Do what?

RUDY
Walk outta there and tell her I was
you.

Nick looks back at Ashley.

NICK
Because every time I read her letters,
Rudy... you listened.
(to Ashley)
Keep your gun on him.

Nick forces Rudy inside, unties the belt from his wrists and
lashes them to the bottom of the steering wheel.

NICK
Five Santas walked into that Tomahawk,
Rudy. That's what the witnesses'll
say. So we gotta have five Santas
not walk out. Gotta have five...
(working)
This'll burn right away... in the
fire...

Nick gets Rudy's wrists locked to the wheel. He laughs.

NICK
Hell, you never needed to convince
Ashley you were me. Just the dumb
fucking truckers. I figured I'd talked
enough about the Tomahawk in the pen
for you to get by --

RUDY
Talked about the old man's weapons
stash, probably forgot I'd remember

NICK
Hm. Well. They'd have killed you if
you weren't me, Rudy. We knew you'd
start convincing 'em soon enough.

Nick slams the car door, locking Rudy in.

NICK
They had the weapons and the
willpower. We just gave them their
inside man.

RUDY
You gave them me.

NICK
I gave them me.
(shrugs, smiles)
Said some nice things about me, Rudy.
I appreciate it. But don't worry. I
do love her. And she loves me. You
had that right all along.

Nick reaches across him, releases the brake. Puts the car
into "Drive." Turns to Ashley:

NICK
Sweetness! Let's light up the tree!

Ashley steps toward the ramp, taking out a matchbook. Nick
steps further into the trailer, to the back of the Nova.

IN THE CAR

Rudy immediately wriggles his hands, trying to touch his
wrists together. Trying to press together the white cuffs of
his Santa suit. Trying to get the right pressure point --

-- as a BLADE suddenly springs out of the cuff! The
switchblade he'd stolen from the Blazer -- it's lashed to
his right wrist!

Rudy starts sawing his wrist back and forth, cutting through
the Santa belt --

-- his hands at the bottom of the wheel, too low for either
Ashley or Nick to see --

IN THE TRAILER

Ashley is at the hood of the car, LIGHTING her match. Nick
is at the back bumper, ready to push it down the ramp --

NICK
Goodbye, Rudy! Nice spending time
with you!

IN THE CAR

The belt breaks! Rudy snaps his hands free! But instead of
trying to escape, he reaches under the steering column,
RIPPING its panel away and pulling wires free!

As Ashley tosses her match onto the hood, and FIRE races
over the body of the car, TONGUES racing inside, over the
dash, over the seats, lapping at Rudy --

-- who ducks his head beneath the wheel, frantic to locate
the right leads --

IN THE TRAILER

Ashley jumps out of the way, to the snow. Nick pushes the
flaming car to the trailer's edge --

-- starting on down the ramp, the ravine ahead --

-- and as gravity starts to take the metal bonfire --

IN THE CAR

Rudy sparks two wires together, FLAMES eating at him --

RUDY
LIKE RIDING A BIKE, LIKE RIDING A
BIKE, LIKE RIDING A BIIIIIKE!

-- and the ENGINE IGNITES!

Rudy slams the gearshift into "Reverse", grabs the wheel and
looks over his shoulder at shocked Nick behind him --

RUDY
RULE ONE! NEVER PUT A CAR THIEF BEHIND
THE WHEEL!

-- and SLAMS the accelerator.

ON FULL SCENE

As the burning Nova races backwards up the ramp, and back
into the trailer --

Terrified Nick turns to run but there's nowhere to go --

-- and the car SLAMS into the trailer's back, CRUSHING Nick's
legs between metal and metal!

ASHLEY
NOOOOOOO!!!

Then Rudy faces front, pounds the shift into "Drive."

RUDY
RULE TWO!

Ashley stands at the bottom of the ramp, vengeance and rage.
She grabs her handgun, OPENS FIRE --

-- and Rudy SLAMS the gas again, shooting down the ramp --

-- as he flings open the car door, dives and rolls --

-- while the burning Nova COLLIDES with Ashley, throwing her
onto the hood, and sending the tandem inferno speeding off
the ridgetop --

-- arcing slowly as it PLUMMETS into the ravine, a smoking,
blazing shooting star with a woman's figure hanging on.

The shooting star hits Earth and explodes.

SLOW DISSOLVE TO:

INT. CASINO/EXT. SNOWY ROAD - MONTAGE

The same four shots that opened the film. The Santa on the
floor of the cage (Pug), the Santa on the hood of the car
(Merlin), the Santa in the hallway (Jumpy).

And the Santa lying face-down on the snowy road. Gabriel.

EXT. RAVINE'S EDGE - SAME

The last of the opening images. Rudy's motionless Santa
figure, upside-down on the snowy incline, bits of his suit
still aflame. He opens his eyes.

ANGLE ON SNOWY ROAD

Rudy staggers to his feet. Battered and dazed. Looks at
Gabriel's body. Then looks to the trailer.

Inside, Nick is still alive, bones broken from the waist
down.

He's mumbling madly, staring at the ceiling:

NICK
...Rudy... help me... Rudy...

Rudy climbs the tire ramp. And pulls the trailer gate shut.

He climbs into the rig's cab. Starts the engine. Puts the
truck in reverse, taps the accelerator and hops out.

NICK (O.S.)
...Rudy! Rudy! HELP ME!!!

The truck rolls backwards. And into the ravine.

Rudy listens to its TUMBLING SOUNDS all the way to the bottom.
He then looks up the road one way. Then the other.

And notices the two money sacks sitting in the snow.

He stares at them.

A long time.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. RUDY'S JOURNEY - MONTAGE - NIGHT/DAY

In his burnt and battered Santa suit, Rudy's figure trudges
the snowy night. Two sacks over his shoulder. walking empty
roads and highways. And passing a roadsign that reads "Sidnaw --
35 Miles."

He passes rural roads and driveways, and every time he comes
across a mailbox... he puts a stack of cash inside. On the
soundtrack, the STRINGS and RUM-PUM-PUM-PUMS of "The Little
Drummer Boy" start to rise --

With snow falling, he passes a new sign: "Sidnaw -- 27 Miles."

With the sun rising, a PAIR OF CHILDREN huddle at a window,
seeing the man in the Santa suit at the end of their driveway.
Giving them something from his sack and ambling on.

-- and we follow Rudy's march, stuffing presents into
mailboxes. At every-stop on the way.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. A SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD - DAY

A cul-de-sac of Norman Rockwell Michigan homes. Graced with
pines and a pristine snowfall. Christmas trees in windows,
lights on inside, figures of FAMILIES in holiday gear.

No one noticing the man in the Santa suit, his sacks long
gone, walking up the road.

EXT./INT. FIFTIES-ERA HOME - DAY

At cul-de-sac's end. Where a blackened red cuff KNOCKS.

After a moment, the door opens to reveal a smiling MOTHER
and FATHER in their sixties. There's a party going on inside;
a dining table visible beyond them.

The Mother and Father's smiles disappear. Shock. Concern.

MOTHER
Rudy...? Rudy?

FATHER
Son? Is... is that you...?

The Santa Claus shuffles inside, right past them.

The Santa Claus sleepwalks straight for the dining room,
finding a dozen RELATIVES, laughing and eating. A table laden
with turkey and stuffing, gravy and cranberry, wassail and
wine.

The relatives stop still. The room goes silent.

The Santa Claus sits down at the head of the table.

Yes, it's Rudy.

Without a word, he stares at the food before him. And takes
a plate. He stacks it with meat and dressing and trimmings,
and sets it in front of him.

And digs in. Stuffing his face in silence.

His Mother and Father return to the dining room, gaping. The
other relatives look likewise.

All staring at Rudy.

Then, while he eats, without another sound...

...the Mother takes her seat at the table...

...and the Father pulls up another chair.

They touch hands privately, and turn back to their plates.

There's a CLANK of silverware, a SCRAPE of china, a CLINK of
glass, and one-by-one, the relatives resume their meals.
CONVERSATION picks up where it left off, SMILES return to
the table, LAUGHTER slowly rises in the room.

There is Mr. Duncan and Mrs. Duncan, Aunt Lisbeth and Uncle
Ray, Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete, toddler Sasha and teenage
Sam, brother Mike and his girlfriend Jill, sister Stacy and
her husband Bill, Grandpa Walter, little Wendy Sue...

...and at the head of the table...

Rudy Duncan.

Home for Christmas.

CUT TO BLACK.

THE END

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