3-Page 26 - By the Sword
Did I actually write the logline for this one? I actually don't think I did. Oh well. Basically, this is just an idea I head for a first act, and then I came up with the rest of the movie to go with it. Very bottle-episodey, maybe should be a play instead of a movie, but whatever.
By the Sword
Mary is the widow of a former mob boss. Her husband died two years ago in a car accident - but with these things, there’s only really a 50/50 chance it was an accident. And if it wasn’t an accident, it was Julian who did it.
Julian’s the new boss’s right-hand man, and he loves little more than throwing his power around. Mary and Julian hate each other’s guts - Mary’s convinced Julian killed her husband, and Julian hated her husband enough that he had the motive to kill him - so nothing personal to Mary, it’s just sort of spillover hate. Though her attitude towards him doesn’t help.
Julian calls Mary in for a very private meeting - he even kicks his bodyguards out of the room, which is unusual for him. Mary’s uncomfortable - his guards took away her gun, and to be honest, she’s convinced Julian’s about to kill her.
Julian enjoys watching her squirm, comments on it - “You’re so certain of my intentions, but you came here of your own free will. You’re a former boss’s widow, you can do what you want, when you want; I can’t order you around any more than I can my own mother. If I did kill you, after you coming here, giving up your gun... it’d be less murder than suicide.”
But he relents, and tells her the truth: there’s a rat. Everybody knows it, but you obviously can’t act on it in a committee. Certain of their jobs have been getting hindered, cash flows shut down. They need to find him before he ruins everything. And he wants her to do it.
He talks a bit about the rat’s motivation - based on the jobs that have been getting screwed, they’re probably looking for power, maybe working with a rival gang. They’re giving info to the police when it suits them, but it doesn’t seem like they’re an undercover cop. Probably a minor player looking for more power.
“So why me? Why trust me?” Mary asks, and Julian agrees with her. He tells her, far from trusting her with this, he was convinced it was her who was the rat. He’s been feeding her false information, tailing her personally for a month… it’s conclusively not her. She is, as of this moment, the one person in the entire Family he knows is not the rat.
So she asks what he wants. He wants her help. He can’t trust his own guys, and he can’t keep investigating everyone personally. He’s got responsibilities, and his importance makes him noticeable. Mary, on the other hand, is the perfect blend of important enough to do what she wants without being questioned, and unimportant enough to be invisible. She can sit in on meetings, get alone with suspects...
She presses. How can she trust him? If their roles were reversed, she’d at least be trying to set him up as the rat. What better way than sending her on secretive missions, having her look like she’s digging for valuable intel? In fact, she says, if Julian himself was the rat, this would be the perfect opportunity for him.
He’s offended, but willing to play ball. She makes him defend himself - why couldn’t you have done this? How do I know you didn’t do that? He answers honestly - most of the time, it’s just, “I could’ve, you’re right. You just have to trust me.”
So she takes the opportunity to ask. “You want me to trust you. Fine. Then tell me the honest truth. Did you kill my husband?” He laughs it off, but she’s serious. “I understand if you did. It was business, not personal. I don’t have to like you to trust you, but I do have to trust you. Did you do it?”
She takes a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll help you.”
He’s glad, gets up to pour himself a drink. When his back is turned, she pulls out a knife and slits his throat. “Thank you for your honesty.”
She stabs herself in the arm, in the stomach. Twists her sleeve so tight it bruises. Lies down, pulls Julian on top of her, and SCREAMS.
The bodyguards rush in, and, long story short, she manages to convince the family Julian was the rat, and that he tried to kill her because she figured him out. She uses a lot of the things he told her as evidence, and they buy it. Not completely, but enough. Importantly, it’s noted that, should they find a different rat, her story would be assumed to be false.
She was, of course, lying, and so now she has a very pressing need to find the rat before he can screw anything else up.
There’s a huge power void with Julian dead, and Mary starts making use of it. She’s gregarious, easy to like, and she starts taking power for herself by doing favors. Not favors like, “You owe me,” favors, but favors like, “Why don’t you let me handle this job? It’s a milk run, no problem, you’ve got bigger things to worry about.” In particular, the new boss’s son’s wedding is coming up, and while a wedding is an important event where security is paramount, it’s easy for her to take on even some of the more secure duties because she’s a woman, she knows how weddings are supposed to go, she can handle this.
There is one person who notices what’s going on - Leo, a nobody grunt. He also happens to be the rat, but we might not know that yet. He doesn’t know she’s looking for him - far as he can tell, with everyone thinking Julian was the rat, he’s safe as long as he lays low for a bit - but he’s jealous of her. How can nobody see her weaseling her way into power? Nobody but him?
Leo doesn’t have the influence to bring any meaningful competition against Mary, but he’s a funny guy, and while people don’t like him in a way that makes them listen to him, they like him in a way that makes it hard for Mary to force him to shut up. She tries to be friendly with him, but he won’t have it.
A big deal headed by Mary goes smoothly, establishing her pretty firmly. Things are looking up for her. Then she gets picked up by the cops.
It’s very quickly clear that the cops have nothing real on her. It’s also clear they know who she is and that they’re paying her a lot of attention. They don’t want to arrest her, though - they want to flip her. She’s a rising power in the Family, and they want in on the ground floor, so to speak.
She does some fishing of her own; they’re reticent to hand out information, but she manages to trick one of them into letting slip that yes, they had a rat, but the rat is dead now. That’s surprising news; luckily for her, once they let that slip, they’re willing to say a little more. Turns out, the rat was some flunky with big ears. He got himself shot in a botched robbery the week before Mary killed Julian.
This makes Mary’s day. The danger that had been hanging over her head for so long is gone. She’s in a benevolent mood, so she makes a deal with the cops: she’ll share some of the Family’s intel on their rivals. The cops don’t like the idea of making things easier for the Family, but they acknowledge that, by nature of them being cops, they will of course act on any accurate and actionable information she gives them.
Mary leaves in a great mood. Leo sees her leaving and snaps some pictures.
The next week, Mary’s heading up a simple drug deal when the cops show up. There’s a shootout. She makes it out, but she’s one of the only ones who does.
There’s a reckoning. The Family wants to know how the cops caught wind of what was going on. Mary scrapes together enough of a story that they buy it - and then Leo shows up with the pictures. Mary spends all the political capital she’s accumulated to convince everyone she’s clean, but even still it’s agreed that she’s recently taken on more responsibility than she can handle, and she finds herself bleeding power fast.
She follows Leo down a dark alley, puts a gun to his head. “I think you and I need to talk.” Leo’s terrified, pants-wettingly terrified. But he’s also proud and finds her desperation a sign of victory. She wants to know what his problem with her is. He tells her he knows Julian wasn’t the rat, and he’s got proof hidden away - if she offs him now, it’ll get out, and she’ll be dead. When he tries to use this to get her to let him go, though, she says it’s not that simple. “I know you know now. I can’t let you live. And you know I’ll be trying to kill you now, so if I let you go, you’ll flip on me immediately. I might as well just shoot you now and get it over with.”
They’re at a stalemate. She can’t kill him, but she can’t not kill him either. He does his best to convince her that she totally can not kill him - “I’ll bring you right to the info and burn it.” “I’d just kill you as soon as it was all gone, and you know that.”
He begs her - he admits she’s right, he’s basically already dead, so why not let him just run away? She has doubts - how does she know he’ll stay gone? He shrugs. “I’ll probably just blackmail you in a year or two once you’ve got some real clout.” She decides this is a deal she can live with. Besides, this way, it’s really in his best interest that she does better. She lets him go, gives him a thousand bucks, tells him if she sees him in two hours she’ll kill him on the spot.
He leaves. She leaves.
She gets back home, goes to her room. A shadowy figure shoots her. “This is for my brother.” It’s the sister of one of the men who died in the drug deal.
Mary bleeds out. The end.