Ancestral Passage: a screenplay

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Linda Seger. Quentin Tarantino. Richard Curtis. Joss Whedon. Marguerite Duras. William Irwin. Billy Mernit. Nicholas Knight. Luke Dempsey. Julian Fellowes. Amy Pascale. James Blish. Frank Darabont. Syd Field. Ethan Coen. Lorraine Hansberry. Woody Allen. Harmony Korine. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Marc Norman. Debbie Horsfield. Joel Coen. Martin McDonagh. Christopher Nolan. Claude Lanzmann. Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Two huge windows in the right-hand wall extend from floor to ceiling.

Visible outside on the building's floodlit facade, gargoyles gaze out over the city with their monstrous heads propped on their claws. The centre of the room is occupied by a rectangular block of tinted glass resembling a big black monolith. Vaguely discernible through the glass are shelves filled with antique books in exquisite bindings.

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He gestures at it proudly, soliciting admiration. Very few people have ever set foot in here. This Is my private collection. Some bibliophiles specialize in Gothic novels, others in Books of Hours. All my own rare editions have the same protagonist: the Devil. CORSO is impressed but does his best not to show it.

He goes over to the 'monolith' and punches a keyboard on a control panel, gestures to CORSO to come closer. CORSO puts out his hand.

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Before he can touch the glass, it glides aside with a faint hum. His eyes roam along the spines of the books. That soft sheen, that superb gilding Not to mention the centuries of wisdom they contain -- centuries of erudition, of delving Into the secrets of the Universe and the hearts of men I know people who would kill for a collection like this. You'll never see as many books on the subject anywhere else in the world. They're the rarest, the choicest editions in existence. It has taken me a lifetime to assemble them.

Only the supreme masterpiece was missing. They come to the end of the 'monolith'. As he approaches the lectern, CORSO briefly glimpses the sheer drop beyond the window, the twinkling lights of traffic passing in the street far below. Reposing on the lectern is a black book adorned with a gold pentagram. Venice, The author and printer was Aristide Torchia, burned by the Holy Inquisition, together with all his works. Only three copies survived. You've done your homework, but you're wrong nonetheless.

According to all the sources I myself have consulted, only one is authentic. The author confessed under torture that he'd hidden one copy. Only one. CORSO resumes his inspection of the book. The day before he killed himself. CORSO turns the pages with care. Below it is a caption. Ever heard of the 'Delomelanicon'? A myth, isn't it? Some horrific book reputed to have been written by Satan himself. That book existed. Torchia actually acquired it. He returns to the window overlooking the sheer drop. They're a form of satanic riddle. Correctly interpreted with the aid of the original text and sufficient inside information, they're reputed to conjure up the Prince of Darkness in person.

He continues to turn the pages. I mean, do you believe in the supernatural? I also believe that books grow old and decay like the rest of us Don't you get dizzy, standing there? CORSO changes tack. The other two copies are in Portugal and France. You must find some way of comparing them with mine: every page, every engraving, the binding - everything.

I'm convinced that only one can be authentic, and I want to know which one it is.


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Spend what you need. CORSO seems mildly surprised. He looks at the book again, 'listens' to the quality of the paper by putting his ear to the pages and riffling them with his thumb. It doesn't appear to be. Even the paper sounds kosher. There may be something wrong with it. CORSO continues to examine the book. He smiles ironically. He shuts the book and replaces it on the lectern.

If one of them proves to be genuine, on the other hand, I'll finance you further. CORSO stares at him, then unfolds the check and glances at the amount - a substantial sum, from the way he raises his eyebrows. Do a good job, and I'll double it. He picks up 'The Nine Gates' and holds it out. CORSO, one hand wrapped around a Scotch, uses the other to remove a TV dinner from the freezer compartment of his refrigerator and insert it in a microwave.

He shuts the door, sets the timer, and strolls out into the living room. A bleak bachelor pad: no pictures, ornaments or photographs, just books on every available shelf and surface. Against one wall, a desk with a computer on it. On the desk itself, 'The Nine Gates'. CORSO goes over to the desk. He stares down at the book for a long moment, meditatively sipping his Scotch. The decor, which includes a smiling portrait of Andrew Telfer, is extremely opulent. CORSO is looking up at the portrait when the door opens. His appreciation of her looks is evident.

LIANA whose photoportralt we saw in Scene 1 is a very sexy, thirtyish blonde with milky skin and a figure whose generous curves are far from concealed by her ultra chic black costume. Sorry to trouble you at a time like this. She puts his card down, crosses her lovely legs, and waits. CORSO sits down with his beg between his feet. Opening it, he produces 'The Nine Gates'. LIANA involuntarily stiffens at sight of it.

He holds it out. She speaks with a slight French accent. It was in his collection until very recently. He sold it to a client of mine. I'm trying to authenticate it. How strange.

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It was one of his most treasured possessions. LIANA is fractionally late in answering. CORSO spots her hesitation. It's news to me. Who bought it? We were vacationing at Toledo. Andrew got very excited -- paid a great deal of money for it. He was a fanatical collector. CORSO rises likewise. Then a thought strikes him: swiftly retrieving 'The Nine Gates' and his bag, he stows one in the other as he follows her undulating hips to a door at the far end of the room, which she opens. LIANA cont. She walks on ahead into the library in which Andrew Telfer hanged himself.

CORSO is still eyeing her delectable rear view. He goes over to inspect the bookshelves. In passing he glances up at the chandelier, which is still hanging slightly askew. Too many. He asks the question with an air of spurious innocence, looking around the room as he does so. LIANA frowns. An attempt to conjure up the Devil. Corso, but he wasn't insane. She gives a mournful shrug, every inch the recent widow. He shut himself up in here -- seldom emerged except for meals.

She draws a deep breath, glances at the chandelier. The flippant tone of the last few words sounds rather forced. CORSO smiles at her faintly over his glasses, pats his shoulder bag. This book is designed to raise the Devil. They eye each other briefly. CORSO reaches the sidewalk just as a cab sails past. He raises his hand too late to flag it down, looks around for another. He reaches into the limo and picks up the receiver.

Beside it reposes a large catalog and his notebook. CORSO shuts a catalog and gets up to replace It in the wall of books behind his chair, runs his finger along a shelf till he comes to another fat tome and removes it. The face recedes and disappears. CORSO quickly rounds the end of the bookshelf: no sign of her. He looks both ways, but the aisles are deserted. Puzzled, he resumes his seat and opens the second catalog. Then, sensing that he's being watched, he swings around. He scans the reading-room at large: still nothing untoward. He consults the second catalog, which displays a small reproduction of the same scene with text wrapped around it, and jots something down in his notebook.

Wearily, he straightens and stretches, removes his glasses, pinches the bridge of his nose. By the time he replaces his glasses, she's gone. CORSO trudges up the steps of his brownstone with the canvas bag on his shoulder and a bag of groceries In his arms. He inserts his key in the mortice lock and tries to turn it. Nothing doing: It's unlocked already.

Next, he inserts his key in the second lock and turns it. Not being double-locked, the door opens at once. It takes him a moment to digest the significance of this fact. Just then he hears a muffled crash from inside the apartment: a window has been flung open in a hurry. He bursts into the living room. No one there, but the light is on. Dropping his shoulder bag and groceries, he dashes into the bedroom. The window is open and the curtains are billowing out into the room. CORSO darts to the window, flings one leg over the sill and climbs out on the fire escape.

He gives up and climbs back inside. The only immediate sign of the intruder's presence is that the chair has been pulled away from the desk and one of the drawers is open. CORSO pushes the chair back into place and shuts the drawer. Where did you get this? He wants me to research it. What does he need you for? I don't suppose he plans to sell it. I'm off to Europe. Only one of the three is authentic, he says. Must be worth a million. Take good care of it. I need you to stash it for me.

I'm starting to see things. I don't trust anyone, not even Balkan. You know I'd never screw you without a damn good reason: money, women, business. Anything else, you can relax. CORSO taps the book with his forefinger. You can castrate me personally. These engravings are terrific. He smiles to himself with an air of enchantment. The butt of a small cigar falls to the sidewalk, the LEGS walk on.

They step on the butt and extinguish it. The doorbell rings. Fractionally startled, CORSO straightens up, dumps a handful of socks on the bed and goes out into the lobby. CORSO pauses for a moment, thinking hard, then opens the door. CORSO, rather bemused, steps aside and ushers her in. He shows her Into the living room. LIANA starts to unbutton her coat. He helps her off with her coat and drapes it neatly over a chair.

She's dressed to kill In a black, lowcut cocktail gown. LIANA sinks gracefully onto the sofa, taking in the decor of his bachelor apartment as she does so. Everyone's talking business to me lately. I mean, it really was one of Andrew's favorites. CORSO stares at her, absorbing the lines of her figure, the slim legs sheathed in sheer, black silk stockings. The book isn't mine to dispose of. She sits back, showing off her superb legs to even better advantage.

I'm sure your client is well insured. Mercenaries work for the highest bidder. In the movies. CORSO watches, mesmerized, as she slowly, very slowly, slides her skirt up her thighs to reveal the creamy flesh between her stocking tops and black lace garter belt. Just as slowly, she smooths her skirt down over her thighs. CORSO swallows hard. He rises and goes to his drinks corner, a shelf with an array of bottles and glasses on it.

LIANA sits motionless for an instant, looking up at him. Then, very slowly, she stubs out her cigarette, extends the same hand, and fondles his crotch. CORSO, with the tumblers encumbering both his hands, can only stand there like a bird hypnotized by a snake. His Adam's apple bobs some more. They're only inches apart now. CORSO, in a kind of trance, does likewise.

Then, cupping his face between her hands, she proceeds to eat him alive. CORSO responds. Re pulls up her skirt, she reaches for his zipper and yanks at it. He bears her backward and downward onto the sofa. Their bodies coalesce into a heaving mass. The gown slips down over LIANA's left shoulder, revealing a small tattoo in the shape of a snake devouring its own tail. LIANA's eyes narrow. Then, with an animal cry, she goes for his face with her nails and teeth.

CORSO turns his head away just in time and scrambles to his feet, pulling up his trousers. LIANA, beside herself with fury, flies at him with both hands extended like claws. He manages to grab her wrists and immobilize them, so she sinks her teeth in his chest. With an agonized yell, CORSO releases her wrists, clasps his chest and staggers back - hardly a dignified proceeding, because he's hobbled by the trousers that have slumped around his ankles.

LIANA looks around wildly for a weapon of some kind, catches sight of the Scotch bottle and seizes it by the neck. CORSO, one hand holding his trousers at half mast, the other raised in supplication, comes shuffling toward her. Some blood has trickled down his face. He surveys the room, which is in chaos and has obviously been ransacked.

He goes into the bathroom and inspects himself in the mirror, takes a hand towel and gingerly dabs his scalp. Holding the towel to his head, he returns to the living room, where he picks up the phone and punches out a number. I'm not available right now. If you want to leave a message, please speak after the beep Pick up! No response. He replaces the receiver. The place looks silent and deserted, but a dim glow indicates that a light must be on somewhere inside.

CORSO quits the doorway and hurries across the street. He walks down the steps to the door and tries the handle. The door opens. Only Bernie's desk light is on. No sign of Bernle himself. He listens some more: nothing but the sound of a passing car. He makes his way cautiously along the bookcases and rounds a corner, then stops short with a look of horror on his face. His mouth and eyes are open, and his battered face is streaked with blood. He looks around in an involuntary, apprehensive way. Then, satisfied that he's alone, he starts to climb the staircase.

The staircase creaks and sways. Reaching the third tier of bookshelves, he presses a hidden button. With a faint click, a panel springs open to disclose a recess filled with books. CORSO expels a deep breath. There it is, safe and sound: 'The Nine Gates'. I'm sorry The sun is setting. SO, wearing his overcoat and carrying his suitcase, threads his way through them with the canvas bag on his shoulder. Weary and unshaven, he stares straight ahead with an abstracted expression, adjusts his glasses.

Very few people to be seen. The sun is shining brightly, but there's a strong wind blowing. Rounding a corner, CORSO heads down an alleyway flanked by scaffolding swathed in protective netting and blue tarpaulins. No sound but that of canvas billowing in the wind like a ship's sails. He consults a street sign, turns another corner. He reaches a doorway leading to an inner courtyard, bumps into a BOY who comes running out. We hear the strident cries of a woman. BOY: S! A flight of steps in one corner of the courtyard leads down to the basement.

CORSO descends them and stops outside a door. A grimy window beside it serves to display some old books and religious prints. CORSO opens the door, which creaks. Everything about him is as gray as the cigarette ash that rains down on his clothes and the books he's working on. He's a chain-smoker. Buenas tardes. PEDRO follows suit. CORSO hesitates briefly, taken aback by this dual apparition. Their movements are slow and serene, their expression carries a hint of mockery, and they often exchange knowing smiles. They're so in sync that they communicate by means of glances and finish off each other's sentences.

They nod simultaneously. He produces 'The Nine Gates' from his shoulder bag. PEDRO takes the book with tremulous hands. PABLO quickly clears away some parchments on the workbench to make room for it. PABLO clicks his tongue and blows it off. Very rare. An excellent sale. You are the present owner? CORSO reaches into his overcoat pocket and extracts a crumpled cigarette. He's raising it to his lips when he stops short, produces the equally crumpled pack and offers it to PEDRO, who has just discarded his butt. CORSO lights both of them.

Telfer that bought it. He did not seem particularly PEDRO has finished examining the text. He looks at the spine. You speak too lightly of forgeries. Paper of the period, the right inks Restorers have been known to replace missing pages with pages taken from another copy of the same edition.

Have you never done that yourselves? PEDRO, looking flattered, nods. The brothers eye each other over their glasses. CORSO adjusts his own. Boris Balkan of New York. CORSO detects the hint of a smile that passes between them.

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Senor Balkan is a noted bibliophile. He's no fool. He must know this book is authentic. The printing and binding are superb examples of 17th century Venetian craftsmanship. PEDRO cont. None of your modern wood pulp! If this is a forgery, or a copy with pages restored, it's the work of a master. CORSO contemplates the brothers with a smile. They seem to form a kind of riddle. Come, look closely. A microscopic inscription can be detected in the bottom right corner. CORSO bends over it, looking mystified. PEDRO grows impatient. Only seven of the engravings were signed by Aristide Torchia. CORSO peers through the magnifying glass once more.

Who's that? Torchia was not alone when they burned him alive. You don't honestly believe Even Hell has its heroes, senor. CORSO looks from one to the other, trying to figure this out. He glances over his shoulder. Not a soul in sight. The blue canvas flaps in the wind, the scaffolding creaks and groans. He walks on. He hears a sudden rending sound, looks back and up. There's little time to react: the scaffolding has come away from its mountings. Desperately, he breaks into a run. Behind him, collapsing like a house of cards, the mass of canvas and metal gains on him as he sprints for the end of the alley, summoning up all his energy for a final burst.

The last of the scaffolding hits the ground only inches behind him. He looks back at the tangled mass that has only just failed to engulf him. There's some cigarette ash trapped between the pages. Smiling faintly, he blows it away. Then he reaches into his bag for his magnifying glass, pushes up his steel-rimmed specs, and screws the glass into his eye. He examines the engraving at close range. He enters the next corridor and stops short: there's a lone figure leaning against a window, looking out: it's THE GIRL we saw at Balkan's lecture: short dark hair, catlike green eyes, slim, athletic figure, jeans and white sneakers.

CORSO sets off along the corridor. When he reaches her, they eye each other's reflections in the windowpane. CORSO pauses to look at her, unable to make up his mind. A brief silence. What's your name? What's yours? They look at each other's reflections once more. CORSO terminates their encounter with a diffident little nod. CORSO walks on down the corridor. There's something weird about this chance encounter, but he can't figure out what. CORSO pauses and looks back.

She's still leaning against the window, staring out. He nods. Some birds peer down at him from a branch. The gateposts are surmounted by two mildew-covered female busts in gray stone, one of them with its face obscured by ivy. CORSO contemplates them for a moment, then pushes open the gate, which squeaks protestingly. Beyond it, a neglected drive. Dead leaves litter a gravel driveway flanked by crumbling statues, some of which have toppled over onto the long-neglected, weed-infested lawn.

CORSO's muffled footsteps are the only sound.

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Near the house is a dried-up, dilapidated fountain faced with tiles and topped by a mouldering cherub. The waters of the ornamental pond beside it are dark as molasses and coated with dead leaves and water lilies. The Quinta Fargas is a gloomy, four-square, 18th century mansion. CORSO walks up the steps and tugs the old-fashioned bellpull. A mournful jangling sound issues from the recesses of the house. CORSO waits, glances at his watch.

Echoing footsteps approach. Tall and emaciated as an El Greco saint, he has a drooping white mustache. His baggy trousers and oversized woollen sweater contrast with a pair of old but immaculately polished shoes. His appearance perfectly matches his melancholy surroundings. Puts out his hand How do you do.

Then his face clears. Please come in. By the dim light that filters through their dusty windows, CORSO observes the patches on the walls that indicate the former location of paintings, curtains, pieces of furniture, etc. He goes over to a side table and pours some cognac into two fine crystal glasses. CORSO, meantime, is surveying the room. At the far end, a huge open fireplace.

Two ill-assorted armchairs, a table, a sideboard, some candlesticks, a violin case - and books. They're neatly stacked on the floor and the few pieces of furniture. He puts his bag down and takes one. CORSO looks around the room. He raises his glass in a silent toast.

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CORSO reciprocates. A pity you didn't see them in better times, in their bookcases. I used to have five thousand. These are the survivors. CORSO, runs his fingers caressingly over a book. Not quite as I imagined it. But I keep them in perfect condition, safe from damp, light, heat and rats. I dust and air them every day. I had to sell them to preserve the others. Five or six books a year. Almost all the proceeds go to the state in taxes. There are things you can't be expected to understand.

CORSO continues to survey the books, fascinated. He replaces it. More brandy? He heads for the bottle on the side table without waiting for a reply. I told you on the phone. Forgive me. Of course, 'The Nine Gates'. He looks around several times as if trying to collect his thoughts, drains his cognac, and limps over to some books on a rug near the fireplace. CORSO examines the books, which all deal with magic, alchemy and demonology. These I will never sell. At least tan of them are exceedingly rare. But this is what interests you, no? He picks up a black book with a gold pentacle on the cover - the second copy of 'The Nine Gates' - and holds it out.

CORSO takes it carefully and gets to his feet. CORSO takes the book over to a window. You haven't detected anything unusual? The text is complete, the engravings too. Nine plus the title page, just as the catalogs state - just like the Kessler in Paris and the Telfer in New York. Telfer killed himself, but he sold his copy to Balkan first. If he sets his heart on a book, no price is too high He reflects for a moment, shaking his head and staring at the floor.

He breaks off as If something has just occurred to him. May I see it? CORSO fetches the book, and they go over to a table. Two of the only three that escaped the flames, reunited for the first time in over three centuries. The shadows are lengthening. The same type, the same impression. He turns both copies of 'The Nine Gates' over to reveal their backboards.

If it weren't for this slight discoloration on the back of my copy, one couldn't tell them apart.


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  • Not to be opened with impunity. He repeats the same short piece over and over again, occasionally pausing to take a sip of brandy. CORSO compares the two copies with the aid of his magnifying glass. They look identical. He compares the two copies. Again, no apparent difference. Another seemingly identical pair. Then he stops short and returns to the second engraving. Then he spots it: in Balkan's copy the keys are In the Hermit's right hand, in Fargas's copy In his left! Balkan's reads 'A. Comparison of the two copies reveals that in Fargas's copy one of the doorways is open; in Balkan's it's bricked up.

    The signatures, too, vary: 'A. An old-fashioned telephone bell starts ringing in the bowels of the house. CORSO looks up. He plays on for a bar or two, then pauses and listens with his head cocked. The telephone continues to ring. His chair scrapes the floorboards as he gets to his feet. He puts the violin down and limps out. CORSO has now filled in all the boxes. He studies them for a moment, then rings all the 'L. His breath Is visible as steam In the chilly night air. After a last backward look at the statue-bordered driveway and the neglected garden, he turns up his overcoat collar, settles his bag on his shoulder, and sets off down the road toward the lights of Sintra, which are visible in the distance.

    His footsteps re-echo from the wall that bounds the Fargas property. Then it happens: he hasn't gone far when two headlights snap on behind him. Simultaneously, the car starts up and takes off with a squeal of tires. CORSO spins around. He stands there transfixed for a moment, then dodges behind a projecting buttress as the car hurtles past, missing him by a whisker.

    The car, a big dark sedan, skids to a halt some twenty yards away. Just then we hear a motor vehicle - a noisy one - rounding the next bend. He dives back Into the car and takes off fast. CORSO, trembling with shock, watches the tail lights recede and disappear. The sound of the approaching vehicle increases in volume. CORSO turns to stare at it. CORSO retrieves his bag from the roadside. Visible in the background Is the hotel lounge.

    CORSO, idly scanning the lounge as he makes for the elevator, stops short: a pair of legs In jeans and white sneakers are jutting from an inglenook fireplace in the far corner. He goes over to investigate. He hesitates for a moment. She looks up. You didn't say you were bound for Sintra. CORSO doesn't answer, adjusts his glasses. I never travel without one. CORSO eyes her, intrigued. She uttered the word in the simple, natural way that characterizes all her behavior.

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    In a way. CORSO shakes his head and smiles. He's getting nowhere fast. Phone call. Are you sure? He withdraws. He hands back the book and turns to go. How did you find me? You could call it that. At least it looks that way. Like yours. But there are discrepancies. Like keys in different hands, doorways open In one copy and bricked up In the other. A long pause. Where are you, anyway? Another long pause. A click, and the line goes dead. A knock at the door. He grunts and props himself on one elbow.

    He rolls out of bed and wraps the bedspread around his waist. Then he opens the door and stands there, a tousled figure with Liana's teeth marks clearly visible on his chest. CORSO is at first too bemused to find it odd that she should know the name. I already saw Fargas. Who the hell are you? What do you know about Fargas? I'll wait for you downstairs. He eyes her, mystified, as she strides briskly along with a blue duffel coat over her usual attire.

    The early morning mist is dispersing. He isn't there. So where is he? She points in the direction of the ornamental pond. An empty brandy bottle is floating alongside. Ignoring her, he tries the handle, but it's bolted. CORSO nods wordlessly, too shocked to bandy words with her. Then, with unsuspected agility, she shins up a drainpipe beside the door and climbs onto the balcony above it. One of the French windows is broken.

    She reaches inside, releases the catch, and disappears from view. CORSO waits, casting occasional glances at the ornamental pond and its occupant. He enters the house. His foot crunches on something as he crosses it on his way to the rug on which the occult books were stacked: it's the remains of one of Fargas's treasured brandy glasses.

    He pauses for long enough to identify it, then walks on. The books are lying scattered across the rug: no sign of 'The Nine Gates'. Shit, shit!!! He looks around helplessly. Then he sees it: the last of the fire is still smoldering on the hearth, and lying open among the ashes, charred around the edges, is Fargas's 'Nine Gates'. He picks up,the mutilated volume, looks at it for a moment, ruefully shaking his head, and stows it in his canvas bag. More than I do. Why do you keep following me around? What are you, a groupie or something?

    Who are you working for? We'd better get out of here. There's a flight from Lisbon to Paris at noon. We should just make it. The cabin is bathed in milky radiance, the atmosphere is tranquil and soothing. You're a part of it. Who cares? I could wind up the same way. You're my guardian angel.

    She removes her head from his shoulder, turns away, and snuggles up against the window instead. He glances back at her occasionally. He hands some money through the driver's window and heads for the entrance. A short, squat reincarnation of Erich von Stroheim, he wears his uniform like a Prussian grenadier. Delighted to see you again. Discreetly, he slides a franc bill across the desk.

    A Lucky is smouldering in the ashtray beside them.