Heartbroken over the death of a childhood friend, an NYPD Detective sets up the mob.
|This a selection from my screenplay “The Nightowl,” the darkly comic tale of a police detective who takes on the Mafia using their own tactics against them. In an opening scene, a small-time burglar accidentally killed by a rookie cop is recognized by a detective as his childhood best friend. Understandably, in the next scene, the detective is not too sympathetic to the irate burglary victim . . . .
INT. PRECINCT CAPTAIN'S OFFICE – DAY
A smallish cubicle with a half dozen file cabinets, a rogue's gallery of wanted criminals and a view of a brick wall.
CAPTAIN KUNKLE, a barrel-chested, no-nonsense administrator, and NEVIL FARQUAHAR, short-tempered heir to a financial fortune are seated at either side of a metal desk, as CHARLEY enters.
The Captain politely stands to introduce Farquahar, but the spoiled rich boy sniffs contemptuously and looks away.
CAPTAIN KUNKLE: I was explaining to Mr. Farquahar our policy about keeping stolen property as evidence.
FARQUAHAR: Utter insanity! Why all the damned inconvenience?
CHARLEY: You are aware that a human being was accidentally killed inside your apartment last night, Mr. Farquahar?
Farquahar bolts out of his chair and waves his fists angrily.
FARQUAHAR: Who cares what happens to a bloody thief?
CHARLEY: Me. I'm Detective Charles Cucciolone.
FARQUAHAR: First I'm victimized by a stinking criminal, now I'm victimized by the stinking police! When do I get back my stuff?
CHARLEY: After the case is closed.
FARQUAHAR: And how long will that be?
CHARLEY: Could be months from now.
Farquahar whips a leather bound notebook and a gold pencil out of his jacket and stares at Charley like a maniac.
FARQUAHAR: Don't you dare fuck with me! I'm represented by the biggest and baddest law firm in New York! I'll get your ass canned!
Farquahar looks threateningly from Charley to the Captain, but neither man seems impressed. He goose steps to the door and throws it open.
FARQUAHAR: Up yours!
He exits, slamming the door behind him. The Captain smiles at Charley apologetically.
CAPTAIN: It might take even longer to get back his stinking stuff. Maybe a year or two.
CHARLEY: Maybe never?
The Captain puts on bifocals and glances at a memo before handing it to Charley.
CAPTAIN KUNKLE: The Deputy Commissioner for community affairs heard you were very close to the deceased perpetrator, a personal friend.
CHARLEY: More like a brother. Frankie and me grew up together. My sadness is that he died with his sins still on his head.
CAPTAIN KUNKLE: He will have a proper funeral. We decided you should take a few days off and attend. Make the bereaved widow understand how upset we all are at her husband's passing.
A tear wells in the corner of Charley's eye.
CHARLEY: It won't do much good, Captain. She's gotta raise six small children all by herself now.
The Captain comes around his desk.
CAPTAIN KUNKLE: Take care, Charley. The department sincerely feels your loss.
CHARLEY: Sure, dump it on my shoulders. I know what to do.
EXT. QUEENS CEMETERY – DAY
A grey expanse of headstones and scrubby turf near a highway that ends beneath the towers of Manhattan.
An owl flutters down from above, lands on the head of a marble angel and hoots softly.
Nearby, a funeral is being held under a black awning. A polished ebony coffin covered with flowers lies in an open grave, above which stands a PRIEST with a bible and an ALTAR BOY holding a silver cross.
The mourners include the tearful, fiercely loyal widow, MRS. PAZZO, and her six frightened children, as well as a sad group of neighbors, all of them torn by pity for the grieving family.
Charley, in black trenchcoat and fedora, is the last to arrive. He silently places a handful of black roses on the coffin, stands opposite the widow and bows his head respectfully.
Recognizing him through a torrent of tears, she suddenly throws back her veil and yells in agony.
MRS. PAZZO: Assassino!
She furiously circles the grave, hauls back and slugs Charley in the arm. He calmly turns to face her.
MRS. PAZZO: Lousy, no good cop!
Everyone is shocked but the Priest, who begins the service by calling down into Frankie's grave.
PRIEST: Let the day perish wherein I was born; let that day be darkness!
The widow adopts a fighter’s stance and throws a flurry of jabs and straight rights at Charley's chest. He endures the onslaught bravely, ineffectually blocking the blows.
MRS. PAZZO: I oughta murder you the same way your crooked buddies did my darling Frankie!
A roundhouse punch connects with Charley's jaw.
PRIEST (to Mrs. Pazzo): Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble; he comes forth like a flower and is cut down!
MRS. PAZZO (to Charley): Worthless bum!
She grabs Charley by the throat and chokes with all her might while kicking at his legs.
PRIEST (to the children): God is mighty and despiseth no one; they that hate thee shall be cloaked in shame.
For help with the grieving widow, the Priest appeals to a sinister looking character among the mourners: smooth EDDIE MOMO in a shiny sharkskin suit, a prosperous burglar tied to the mob.
Eddie winks slyly at the Priest, then creeps over to Mrs. Pazzo and gently peels her off Charley.
EDDIE: Stop, sweetheart, your mascara is running all over.
MRS. PAZZO (pitiably): Eddie.
Mrs. Pazzo pulls out a mirrored compact and a hanky and studies her face, wiping away the black streaks. Eddie leads her back to the children. The Priest continues, solemnly addressing Charley.
PRIEST: Be a father to the poor; gird up thy loins now like a man; look on everyone that is wicked or proud and trample them down!
Thunder BOOMS from the clouds above. The Priest pauses significantly. All turn towards Charley as tears fill his eyes and he bows his head obediently. The Priest makes the sign of the cross.
The funeral limousines slowly glide through the cemetery, followed at a distance by Charley and Eddie on foot. Eddie thumps the detective on the back admiringly.
EDDIE: You did the right thing, Charley. She don’t really blame you anymore!
Charley fishes a money order out of his pocket and gratefully hands it to Eddie.
CHARLEY: For the widow from me.
EDDIE: Two thousand bucks! Big spender! It ain’t the end of her problems though. Frankie had no insurance and left almost no money!
CHARLEY: Wish I could be more help.
EDDIE: You do?
CHARLEY: Yeah, but I got a wife and two little kids of my own.
EDDIE: We’ll find a way. Let’s get a drink some place and put our heads together.
Suddenly, the owl dives from a tree, knocks off Charley’s fedora and lands nearby, yakking. Eddie yells at the bird as Charley chases his hat.
EDDIE: Stupid animal, you got no respect!
EXT. PEACOCK BAR AND GRILL – NIGHT
On a broad boulevard, a stream of evening traffic quickly glides by as Charley tries to stop Eddie from entering the garish, neon-signed tavern.
CHARLEY: Wait, this is a mob joint.
Loitering prostitutes in hot pants and gaudy wigs stare at him insolently.
EDDIE: You some kind of snob?
CHARLEY (hesitantly): No.
EDDIE: Then come on.
Eddie throws open the leather upholstered door and they enter to the dulcid sounds of smoothly played jazz.
INT. PEACOCOK BAR AND GRILL – NIGHT
The plush lounge is bathed in colored lights and features waitresses in scanty peacock outfits. A vibraphone combo on the bandstand plays to a packed audience made up of rich mobsters and their ladies, all vulgarly overdressed.
Eddie stops and waves at DON TONY PROVOLONE, a godfatherly gangster with a shaved head and a pencil mustache seated by a fat died blonde wearing a dozen diamonds.
CHARLEY (whispering to Eddie): Tony Provolone, the Mafia boss of all bosses?
EDDIE: Shh! That ain’t how he likes to be referred to. Here, he’s among friends and can relax.
The Blonde smiles lustily at Charley leaning forward to show off her opulent cleavage.
CHARLEY: How’s he gonna relax sitting next to a woman like that?
EDDIE: He’s had a million women. (to Provolone) Tanti auguri, Godfather.
Provolone leers graciously, showing off a mouthful of shining gold teeth.
EDDIE (to Charley): He likes you. C’mon, let’s sit at the bar.
The mirrored wall behind the bar is loaded floor to ceiling with a hundred vials of poisonous potion served by a shapely, six foot tall Afro-American BARTENDER with multicolored feathers sprouting from her satin covered rear.
Eddie and Charley squeeze in between a pair of toughs who glare at them angrily, then leave.
BARTENDER: Eddie Momo. The usual?
EDDIE (winks slyly): Yeah, and one for him too.
The Bartender blows Charley a voluptuous kiss.
EDDIE (to Charley): She’s a genius. Her specialty is a Javanese concoction called tears of the dragon.
CHARLEY: Sounds dangerous.
EDDIE: It’ll cheer you up.
The Bartender brings the drinks, which are frothing with steam. Charley and Eddie touch glasses and each takes a sip. Charley turns ghostly pale and shakes his head convulsively.
CHARLEY: Suddenly, I feel very dizzy.
EDDIE: Get a grip, pal. I wanna talk seriously about poverty and injustice, the real reasons behind Frankie’s death.
CHARLEY (with cotton in his mouth): A senseless waste.
EDDIE: Then does it make any sense to make a living the way you do? How many years you been a cop?
CHARLEY: Ever since I left the old neighborhood in Brooklyn; twenty hard years.
EDDIE: Thousands of burglaries you worked on, in the homes of the wealthy; rich spoiled punks who never learned the value of a dollar, much less what it means to be poor! Every one of them an ungrateful miser!
Charley icily swigs down his drink. The Bartender quickly gives him a refill.
CHARLEY: They weren’t all ungrateful.
EDDIE: Oh yeah? In all those years of protecting the rotten booty of the rich, did one of those high rollers ever offer you a tip or a gift or even once take you out to dinner?
CHARLEY: No . . . I wouldn’t accept it anyway.
EDDIE: Why? Because of departmental rules?
CHARLEY: No, because they usually spit in my face.
EDDIE: You call that gratitude? I say you’re being exploited. You ought to switch sides, Charley. In my world, kindness is repaid by kindness.
CHARLEY (ironically): Oh, the Mafia is filled with saints!
EDDIE: Actually, quite a few of us have a strong code of honor. I never steal from little people.
Charley moans bitterly and sips his drink. For an instant, the room becomes a warm unfocussed blur of color.
CHARLEY: Whooo! This stuff oughta be illegal.
EDDIE: It is!
A sexy WAITRESS wiggles over to Charley with a silver platter under a pink napkin. She indicates Provolone’s table across the room.
WAITRESS: Don Provolone offers one of New York’s finest his sincere compliments.
CHARLEY: Huh? How’s he know I’m a cop?
Charley pulls away the napkin, revealing a big stack of crisp hundred dollar bills still in their wrappers. Eddie peaks over his shoulder and sighs greedily.
EDDIE: Understand what I mean about kindness?
CHARLEY (to Waitress): Send this back.
EDDIE: Don’t be an idiot, Charley, take the money!
CHARLEY: I’m not for sale.
Eddie gestures meaningfully to the Waitress who returns the platter to Provolone and whispers in his ear.
The mafia boss frowns sadly at Charley, then shrugs operatically and grins. Eddie waves reassuringly.
EDDIE: No harm done, he’s not offended. His offer still stands.
CHARLEY: He could be arrested for that.
EDDIE: I wouldn’t try it here. He just wants to make a contribution to Frankie’s memorial fund.
CHARLEY: And what kind of favor would the godfather expect in return?
EDDIE: Only the opportunity of serving the suffering poor with your
CHARLEY: Don’t you think you’re piling on the bullshit a little bit heavy?
EDDIE (passionately): Take from the rich and give to the poor, Charley, that’s what we do! Join the Mafia and live like Robin Hood!
CHARLEY: To a police detective you say that?
EDDIE: You won’t be the only one in our merry band.
CHARLEY: I didn’t hear a word!
* * * *
With Eddie’s help, Charley gets in way over his head. But as they say, once a cop always a cop . . . . If you enjoyed this excerpt and are a motion picture industry professional who would like to read a full-length screenplay written by me, please write to email@example.com.