Genre: action thriller
An insurance investigator with recurring nightmares of his girlfriend’s death, partners with an alluring, but secretive Japanese P.I. to match wits against a wealthy art collector, and his assassin, where deception, murder, and love are the means to control the priceless end of the art market.
Theme: Ultimate greed leads to ultimate loss; no man is an island.
INT. ART AUCTION HOUSE – NIGHT
Flashlight beams cut tunnels through the blackness, fleetingly illuminating their BEARERS and various artworks.
Four light beams arc around and converge on a SECURITY GUARD. He shields his eyes and points.
Here, over here.
The lights swing off the guard, following his extended arm, stopping at the closed door of a walk-in vault. A MAN (30s) dressed in mover’s coveralls with the name "ART FREIGHT" printed boldly on the back, walks into the light and up to the massive safe. He turns back toward the light. His face is beautiful… and cruel.
How long before the alarm re-activates?
(Eastern European accent)
About six minutes.
MAN #3 steps forward, wearing the same type coveralls and produces an electronic listening device, attaches a suction cup with a wire leading from it just above the tumblers, then takes the earphones and hands them to the Cruel Man. He puts them on, rubs his fingers warm and tender on his chest, then leans in to work the dial.
I think I’ll just go back out front to my station if‑-
You’ll go nowhere and you’ll keep your fuckin‘ mouth shut.
The guard swallows hard and stays mute.
In short time, the Cruel Man jerks himself upright, grabs the slide-bolt handle and pulls it up with deference. A subtle smile moves his shrouded features.
As the door pulls open, all the flashlights shine in. The sizable interior is filled with crates, paintings and sculpture.
The crate’s four by six feet by one foot. The lading number is 42-SRL. Be careful with it.
Man #2 and MAN #3, enter the vault and start their search.
Hey! This is it. It’s the first one.
No shit? Let me see.
(outside the vault)
Yeah, it’s it.
Shit, man, what d’ya think? I’m stupid?
No one responds as they drag the crate from the safe. Two men pick it up and the five of them, with the guard leading the way, walk into the darkness.
EXT. AUCTION HOUSE – REAR ALLEY – NIGHT
The men enter a semi-lit alley through a door in a cinder block wall. The guard takes up a position alongside the door, the light from the lone bare bulb above it casting his shadow obliquely across the wall.
As the men and the crate make for a waiting utility van inscribed with the same bold letters on the side, the only other light, strung dangling from a telephone pole, throws their swaying shadows long and lean to the side.
The four men in a row with a crate carried in the middle is monastic and portending.
The doors in the back of the van are opened and the crate is slid in alongside others.
We’ve got less then three minutes– What? Fuck!
The red lights of a scout car arc off the walls and a short burst of the computerized siren cuts the air.
The police cruiser pulls up in front of the van. The POLICE DRIVER and his PARTNER climb heavily from the softness of their seats, leaving the motor running.
The driver continues around the side of the van to the back and confronts the men. His partner stays in the front keeping the men in view, one hand on his gun, the other on his walkie-talkie.
The police driver addresses no one in particular as he looks around.
Hey, my man, what’s goin‘ down?
Oh, nothing officer, just some fuckin‘ overtime. Things go in, things go out. The bosses, they don’t care much about hours.
They’re home in bed slushin‘ the sausage, know what I mean?
(not joining the humor)
Yeah, I know what you mean. I think three in the morning is asking a bit much for overtime, don’t you think?
(looks in back of van)
What’re you moving?
Crates and stuff. Who knows these things?
Okay. Hang on a minute. I’ll just put a call in to make sure no one else bothers you.
As the driver turns to go back to his car, the Cruel Man pulls a silencer-equipped automatic out of his coveralls. He takes one step forward and aims.
The shot to the back of the head takes off a portion of the driver’s face. His body folds to the asphalt in a crumpled heap.
The partner is stunned to momentary paralysis. His face and gun hand react at the same moment, but his moment’s passed.
The Cruel Man takes another fast step forward and fires.
A small hole punctures the officer’s jacket just above the heart and he spins around. Another muted shot and another small hole appears in his back.
He falls heavily on his side, his right hand still on his holstered gun, his left by his side, clutching the walkie-talkie. He convulses, goes stiff for a moment, then rolls over, relaxed, onto his back.
The Cruel Man looks momentarily at his handiwork, then turns back to his men.
Shut up and back the van to the door.
Hey, we gotta get out–
Just do it!
Man #4 climbs in the passenger seat as man #3 hops into the driver’s seat, fires the engine and backs to the door.
The security guard, who had jumped back into the doorway when the first shot was fired, now comes running out, throwing his arms about.
Oh mother, we’re fucked! Fucked!
The men stop as he begins dancing around them, flapping his arms.
SECURITY GUARD (CONT’D)
What’d ya have to– I mean why– What were you– Holy shit! Now what? Now what?
Fuckin‘ shut up, will ya?!
Ooooh, Jesus Christ– look! Tie me up. Tie me up and get the fuck out of here!
I have a better idea.
He brings the automatic up to the guard’s eye and fires. Bone and brain spray from the back of his head and he collapses like a stringless puppet.
Even man #2 recoils from this unexpected event.
CRUEL MAN (CONT’D)
Shall we get on with it?
They start to move when the piercing shriek of a siren echoes down the alley. They freeze.
Another siren cuts in from the opposite direction. Then the building alarm goes off!
CRUEL MAN (CONT’D)
He jumps into the rear of the van, yelling to the driver.
CRUEL MAN (CONT’D)
Get us out of here!
As rubber shrieks off the rear tires, man #2 hops onto the rear liftgate. The van enters the alley in a sliding arc, away from the still idling police cruiser.
The police partner now sits upright in his own blood, feet and arms straight out, walkie-talkie in one hand, gun in the other. A flash, and a shot echoes eerily. He falls backwards, his arms pointing skyward.
Man #2 on the liftgate, plunges forward, then arches back, reaching for purchase, grabbing hold of a crate. As he dies, he slips off the back, bringing the crate with him.
He comes to rest with the crate on top of him. The lading number, 42-SRL, the same as the crate taken from the safe, is on the side.
The van continues down the alley, gaining speed. As sirens fill the air, the Cruel Man hangs at the rear door, looking back down the alley in dread.
INT. ART AUCTION HOUSE – DAY
The auction room is filled with the bustling activity of elegantly dressed men and women of all ages looking at this art work, checking that sculpture, inspecting small things in cases and huge things free standing.
The manager, one ARCHIBALD BECKWITH, stands to the side of the hubbub, relating the horrors of the previous evening to some very exclusive customers.
Thank God, thank God, that’s all I have to say. It’s incredible what people will do to make a fast buck. Imagine, four poor souls lost their lives in such a horror! The police tell me that the burglars probably didn’t even know what they had, just grabbed the first thing they came to and ran when the alarm went off.
His listeners shake their heads in commiseration.
Halfway down the room a sizable group is gathered around something. A shock wave of vocal tremors ripples through them which quickly turns to a brouhaha.
ASSISTANT MANAGER (O.S.)
(from inside the crowd)
Mr. Beckwith! Mr. Beckwith!
Mr. Beckwith turns toward the commotion before he realizes that it’s his name being called.
I hear you, Charles. I hear you.
(to his enrapt audience)
Excuse me, would you please?
He heads toward the annoying fuss, parting his way to the inner circle where exasperated ASSISTANT MANAGER CHARLES stands with SEVERAL wealthy-looking and over-wrought ELDERLY GENTLEMEN.
They flank a glass case, which protects a rare Rembrandt.
MR. BECKWITH (CONT’D)
Mr. Beckwith, these gentlemen say, no, insist that–
I’ll be frank and to the point, Archibald. This Rembrandt is a forgery!
Mr. Beckwith’s eyes snap shut as he goes catatonic!
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO – SKYSCRAPER – DAY
A cab pulls up to the entrance and GIBSON GRIER (early 30s), nicely built, gets out. Impeccably dressed, he holds an expensive leather-bound attaché case.
All and all, a very clean cut and healthy looking package, except for the faint scar that runs across the bridge of his nose and down below his left eye.
He walks in through the doorway, above which is written: AMHURST BUILDING.
INT. AMHURST BUILDING – HALLWAY, FLOOR 57 – DAY
Elevator doors open and people swarm out in a confusion of directions. Among them, Gibson Grier. He walks with determined resignation through the glass doors inscribed:
AMHURST INSURANCE AGENCY
We Ensure the World
INT. AMHURST INSURANCE AGENCY – CONTINUOUS
He passes the reception desk …
Oh … Hi, Mr. Grier. Welcome back.
Thank you. Thanks, Cindy.
… and continues down the low partition-divided corridor to the HAILS and WELCOME BACKS of VARIOUS EMPLOYEES. OTHERS poke their heads into the passageway to get a look as he goes by.
He turns at the end of the corridor, walks to the end and stops at the door of a glass-walled office. His name is on it.
INT. AMHURST INS. – GRIER’S OFFICE – CONTINUOUS
He pushes open the glass door, enters, drops his attaché case onto the chair, and looks the room over. Neat. Clean, but for the fine layer of dust on the desktop that he swipes his fingers across.
His eyes fall on a picture frame facing away. He reaches out, fingers gently touching the frame. A WOMAN, FREDDIE (20s), comes to the door behind him.
Startled, he knocks the picture over– the glass shatters.
Oh, Grier, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to… .
Grier turns around, leaving the picture face down. Freddie, framed in the doorway, is a sweetheart by anybody’s standards. Even in professional attire, she’s still a bit tomboy with her short bob, low key make-up, and unpretentious demeanor.
No, no, it’s all right.
(putting on a smile)
How ya‘ doin‘ Freddie? It’s good to see you.
(working up a smile)
You too. I … I’m so glad you’ve come back. I–
It’s okay, Freddie. Really. I’m back. We all move on, right.
Yeah … Yeah, right.
The static moment passes. Freddie goes to Grier, slips her arms around him and gives a warm hug, lingering. Hesitantly, he returns it.
She steps back, smiles, then turns business-like.
The honor of your presence is requested in the king’s chambers, at your earliest convenience, ie, get your ass in there double quick.
She picks up his attaché case and hands it to him.
He said it with a smile … but it could’ve been a snicker.
INT. AMHURST INS. – IAN MCHUGH’S OFFICE – DAY
IAN MCHUGH, whose age and energy emulate the late Bob Hope and George Burns, and just as feisty, sits at a huge desk, scribbling away.
On his door, under his name it says:
CHIEF INSPECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS
Someone else’s handmade sign, taped there years before and miraculously allowed to stay, reads: KING’S CHAMBERS.
Grier comes to the door in the glassed-in office. McHugh looks up, smiles broadly, and comes around his desk as he motions Grier in.
Come in. Come in, my boy. It’s good to see you.
As Grier puts out his hand, McHugh embraces him in a fatherly hug. Grier is caught with his arms trapped at his sides, surprised, but pleased.
(holding the hug)
Welcome back, son.
Thank you, sir. It’s good to be back.
McHugh releases his captive and steps back, looking Grier over.
Lost some weight, I see, but … but, you look healthy enough.
Ready to bust your ass, son?
(relieved formalities are over)
McHugh takes his seat, motioning at the chair in front for Grier to do the same. Grier sits, straight up, attentive. McHugh poises himself, fingers laced in front of him.
It seems there’s been some tomfoolery in the Art World. You’ve read about it, no doubt?
Well, we’re the insurers, Mr. Grier. We are the insurers.
Eighty million, the paper said.
Luckily, only insured for thirty, the last selling price.
(shakes head in mock commiseration)
Only thirty mil, huh?
Well, as you can imagine, we’re not just going to roll over on this one. Nope. This is from the top. Pull out all the stops. Find that painting!
(perked, but casual)
Yes, sir. Whom am I working under? What’s the team?
Me! You’re working under me. And you’ll put your own team together.
My own … But Mr. McHugh, I–
Don’t blabber on me, son. Why do you think you sit in the office with the glass walls?
Yes, but this … I … I’m not the best qualified.
No, you’re not. Not even the second. Maybe third. Regardless of the fact that everyone else is on assignment, I want you to take it.
Grier looks off, lost in a thought.
You can handle it, can’t you, son?
Grier’s eyes come back to McHugh. He answers with conviction.