FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY
FADE IN: A 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 roomnate'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 stompch 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 handme- 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 poof-ball 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 cockie 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 lem 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 301s. 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 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. Gabriil 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 holidays...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 lem, 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 coing 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 Every-thing. 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 - tellinq 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, truckdriver. 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 c-ve-r. 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 the, 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, Godquality, 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. Past 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 I 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 siliconfucking 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 spiralling 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 offscrem- 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 bandgun, 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 "hat 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. Key, 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 JUMPY (to the Old Timer) (to the Waitress) That was my card, pop! My How are you tonight? card! You hit for my card! WAITRESS OLD TIMER Fuckin' freezing. What I...sorry, mister... can I get ya, Santa? RUDY JUMPY That was my king! Jack and Coke. OLD TIMER WAITRESS Well...sorry... 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 Pat-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 restaruant. 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 hamers 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. Ashleyls 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 colum, RIPPING its panel away and pulling wires free! As Ashley tosses her match onto the hood, and EIRE 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.