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(Great music, Mark Snow. Sadly haunting. Santa Monica Pier. A carnival is set up. A man in his fifties, MALEENI, is sitting on the back of his old van. He is wearing a tuxedo. Faded, but ornate lettering on the van proclaims that he is "Amazing Maleeni." He looks rather sad and tired. A young CARNIVAL WORKER comes up to him.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Mr. Maleeni... Hey, guy. You ready to rumble?
MALEENI: (dryly) If by "rumble," you mean "perform..." yes, I am.
CARNIVAL WORKER: Cool. Uh, you know how they said you get $125 for the day? It's going to be $75 instead. The gate's for crap. But, hey, the show's got to go on, right?
MALEENI: This will be my greatest show ever.
(The CARNIVAL WORKER doesn't quite know what to think of MALEENI.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Right on.
(MALEENI is now on a small stage in the foot court of the carnival. People are eating and paying slight attention. One young man noisily slurps a soda. Lets call him HECKLER DUDE. There is also an older couple with a video camera recording the show.)
MALEENI: Ladies and gentlemen, damas y caballeros... I aim today not just to entertain, but to educate. To instruct and inform in the venerable and ancient history of my art. Until Johann Nepomuk Hofsinzer called playing cards "the poetry of magic" a conjurer's skill was determined entirely by his ability to perform one effect. That effect was known as "the cups and balls." The games were known for hundreds if not thousands of years. Perhaps the greatest performer was the Italian, Bartolomeo Bosco.
HECKLER DUDE: Get on with it!
(MALEENI begins the cup and balls trick with very small red balls.)
MALEENI: Bosco's passes with the cups and balls. (makes the balls disappear one at a time) Wah-day... Chubio... Colerader. Three gone... And yet, three return. (reveals the balls one at a time) Bosco had only one contemporary rival a slightly older Frenchman named Conus, who announced in 1795 that he would make his wife, who was five-foot-seven appear under one of the cups. Practice though I have, I have been unable even to get married.
(The HECKLER DUDE laughs in a sarcastic, obnoxious way.)
MALEENI: (placing the small red balls into his pockets) Conus placed one ball in his pocket. He put the second ball away. Putting the third ball in his hand he made it vanish and that's the mystery of the cups... and the balls.
(He tips the cups to reveal two lemons and a lime.)
HECKLER DUDE: Yo. Can't you do anything that ain't a hundred years old? That ain't old school, that's decrepit.
MALEENI: (patient) Young man, shall I come heckle you on your job? Make sure you count out the requisite number of McNuggets?
HECKLER DUDE: Show me something. Come on... show me something!
(Everyone is watching now.)
MALEENI: A callow challenge to be met by experience... and skill. To wit, the Egyptian, Dedi, whose most celebrated feat was to reattach a recently-severed head reuniting it with a still-warm body and no harm done. Western history knows three previous attempts at recreating this Noachian feat... each of the three ending in tragedy. This will be the fourth. May I have complete silence, please?
(MALEENI stretches his neck up and turns his head 360 degrees - completely around. The crowd cheers. The HECKLER DUDE throws his soda cup away and leaves.)
CROWD: Yeah! Senor Maleeni! Woo-hoo!
ANNOUNCER: (voice) Let's give it up for the Amazing Maleeni.
(After the show, the CARNIVAL WORKER is walking MALEENI back to his van. MALEENI, rubbing the back of his neck, looks tired as he gets into the driver's seat.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Guy, you rock! That kicked ass! I mean, it looked completely real! How did you do that? Oh, yeah, right-- magic. Oh, hey, your money-- hold up.
(The CARNIVAL WORKER goes to get the money, then comes back to the van.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Two, four, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75. You earned it.
(MALEENI appears to be asleep.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Mr. Maleeni?
(No response. The CARNIVAL WORKER clears his throat and shakes MALEENI's arm.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Mr. Maleeni.
(The CARNIVAL WORKER gasps as MALEENI's neatly severed head rolls off of his body and falls to the pavement.)
CARNIVAL WORKER: Oh, God...
(Next day on the pier. Handheld picture of MALEENI's van is lowered to reveal the same scene as in the picture. Carnival. Area around MALEENI's van is now a crime scene. MULDER, in shirt sleeves, glances at the picture, then walks over to the open driver's side window. SCULLY looks in the passenger side window.)
MULDER: Neat trick, huh?
SCULLY: I can think of a neater one. How you convinced me to drop everything and get on the first plane to Los Angeles.
MULDER: Come on, Scully. This isn't intriguing enough for you? A magician turns his head completely around 360 degrees to the delight of young and old alike after which it plops unceremoniously onto the pier... see the picture? (he holds up the photo from the file)
SCULLY: Yeah, I saw the picture. And as for this Amazing Maleeni turning his head all the way around, LIKE YOU SAID, MULDER: neat trick.
SCULLY: (crossing to him) But... I'd guess this event was completely removed from the subsequent murder.
MULDER: You think this was a murder?
SCULLY: Don't you?
(MULDER gives her a mysterious little eyebrow wiggle.)
SCULLY: Mulder, his head was cut off.
MULDER: (in an affected presentational tone) Ah, observe the nearly complete absence of blood. Observe the paucity of fingerprints as evidenced by the LAPD's liberal use of lycopodium powder.
SCULLY: Why are you talking like Tony Randall?
MULDER: Know that the Amazing Maleeni was alive one moment and expired the next. Know also that no one saw his fleeing attacker nor heard the dying man's cries.
SCULLY: Mulder, I admit that I don't know how it happened but I still say that it was a murder. So what's your theory?
MULDER: A magic trick gone horribly wrong. One that claims the lives of all who attempt it.
(MULDER turns to a COP holding the camcorder used by the tourist earlier.)
MULDER: Can I see that camcorder again? Thank you. A tourist videotaped Maleeni's performance. Look at this.
(We can see MALEENI performing and the back of HECKLER DUDE's head.)
HECKLER DUDE: (voice on tape) That ain't old school, that's decrepit!
SCULLY: Who's the heckler?
HECKLER DUDE: (voice on tape) Come on, show me something!
MULDER: I don't know.
(MULDER and SCULLY watch the head turn trick.)
MULDER: Neat trick, huh?
SCULLY: Hang on a second. Let me see this. That heckler was pretty hard to impress wouldn't you say? Look, and then he just takes off in a huff.
MULDER: What, you think he's a murderer?
SCULLY: Well, it's worth checking out, don't you think?
MULDER: That'll be a neat trick in itself. You never see his face.
(She rewinds the image to show HECKLER DUDE throwing away the cup.)
SCULLY: Ah, but observe. His discarded soda cup. The hand may be quicker than the eye but it still leaves fingerprints.
MULDER: Provided they haven't dumped the trash.
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
(Old theatre. Silver Taurus, California plate #2PCE357, is parked out front. Inside, the HECKLER DUDE, now known as LABONGE, is alone practicing a card tricks as MULDER and SCULLY enter.)
SCULLY: Mr. LaBonge? We're Agents Mulder and Scully from the FBI.
(They show their badges. LABONGE glances up at them, then continues shuffling his cards.)
SCULLY: Were you at the, uh, Santa Monica Pier yesterday morning?
MULDER: You attended a magic show. The Amazing Maleeni.
LABONGE: Yeah, he sucks. Why?
SCULLY: He's dead, under extremely suspicious circumstances.
LABONGE: He still sucks. How'd you find me?
SCULLY: Your fingerprints. You have a criminal record.
MULDER: A conviction for pick pocketing.
LABONGE: (sighs) Man, that was performance art. And besides, it's ancient history. What are you saying, you think I killed him?
SCULLY: Well, you're on videotape heckling the deceased.
MULDER: What did you have against Mr. Maleeni?
(LABONGE begins working on a disappearing/reappearing coin trick.)
LABONGE: (laughs) First of all... his name's not Maleeni. That's the name of a real magician, a guy at the turn of the century, Max Malini. Ever hear of him?
LABONGE: That's too bad; you should have. Anyway, he steals his name, spells it a little differently and he does some tired crap that wouldn't cut it at a kid's birthday party.
MULDER: What about the trick where he turns his head completely around?
LABONGE: Check it out.
(LABONGE kneels down on the floor and turns his hand 360 degrees on the floor. It looks painful. MULDER and SCULLY are impressed.)
LABONGE: No problem. Did you like that?
LABONGE: Watch. Coin in the hand... blows away. Maybe it's a little bit hard for you to see. Let me make that... Bigger for you.
(He reveals a very large coin in his other hand.)
MULDER: Those are great, but I don't see how they're any different or better than the ones Maleeni did.
LABONGE: (continuing the coin trick) Mozart and Salieri. They sound pretty much the same to a layman. But they ain't. You know what I'm saying? It's about... originality. Style. And more than anything else... soul. Because that's what separates the great ones... from the hacks. We can't do this halfway. We're dealing with powerful forces at work here. Energies far beyond our mere... mortal... understanding.
MULDER: Enough to make a magician lose his head?
LABONGE: Could be. That, and I hear Maleeni racked up some pretty big gambling debts. Who knows who he might've pissed off.
SCULLY: Well, thank you, Mr. LaBonge. We'll, uh... be in touch.
(They start to leave.)
LABONGE: Please do. Oh, and agents...
(LABONGE uncrosses his arms revealing MULDER and SCULLY's badges, one in each hand. MULDER and SCULLY check their empty pockets, then, irritated, take their badges back.)
(SCULLY and MULDER leave.)
MULDER: Mozart and Salieri. Which one's which?
SCULLY: Mulder, I think that professional jealousy is as good a motive for murder as any.
MULDER: If it was a murder. I'm not convinced.
SCULLY: If I can get Mr. Maleeni into an autopsy bay hopefully we can put this issue to a rest as soon as possible.
(Autopsy bay. MALEENI's decapitated body is on the table. SCULLY, in blue scrubs, snaps off one of her bloody examination gloves and turns to MULDER.)
SCULLY: All right, I'm stumped... and I think I'm supposed to be.
MULDER: What do you think?
SCULLY: Well, first of all, and sorry to disappoint you but, uh, Mr. Maleeni's head didn't just magically fall off. It was very carefully sawed. Very slow and exacting work probably with a fine-tooth meat saw. And check out this little detail.
(SCULLY fingers a stretchy yellowish substance around the body's neck.)
SCULLY: Spirit gum, Mulder. It held the head to the body. Just barely, of course.
MULDER: So he was murdered.
SCULLY: Well, no. As far as I can tell this man died of advanced coronary disease.
MULDER: Natural causes.
MULDER: So, basically he died of a heart attack, somebody crept up behind him, sawed his head off and then glued it back on all in the space of 30 seconds. (begins laughing) Does that make sense to you?
SCULLY: No. Which makes it even stranger still because, as far as I can tell this body has been dead for over a month. I see signs of refrigeration.
MULDER: And yet he performed yesterday. What a trouper.
SCULLY: Well, somebody performed yesterday.
(Night. Pool hall. LABONGE enters and goes up to a Latino man with lots of tattoos, ALVAREZ. ALVAREZ is making notes in a small black book.)
LABONGE: Cissy Alvarez.
ALVEREZ: Who are you?
LABONGE: You don't remember me. Ain't that a bitch. My name's LaBonge. I did time with you about eight years ago. You were in for bank robbery.
(There is some history here. ALVAREZ "chooses" not to remember him.)
ALVEREZ: The name doesn't mean anything. What do you want?
LABONGE: I hear you're a poker player. You won big off a guy who calls himself the Amazing Maleeni. Also goes by the name of Herman Pinchbeck.
LABONGE: He's dead.
ALVEREZ: Yeah, I saw in the paper. Something about his head fell off. What's it to you?
LABONGE: I'm the guy that made his head fall off.
(ALVAREZ's two THUGS across the room look up and take notice. ALVAREZ puts his book in his breast pocket.)
LABONGE: You took his marker, right? What did he owe you? 15 grand?
LABONGE: I don't think he was ever going to pay you back.
ALVEREZ: You want to cut to the chase? You know, get a little more of your story out before we stomp you to death?
LABONGE: How would you like to get back what you're owed? Times ten.
ALVEREZ: $200,000. How?
LABONGE: Helping me.
ALVEREZ: Do what?
(ALVEREZ nods to his THUGS. The THUGS start toward LABONGE. LABONGE holds up his hand, then moves it slightly. The hand bursts into flame. He moves his hand again. The flames go out and he is now holding a small black book.)
LABONGE: Want to hear more?
(ALVAREZ slowly checks his breast pocket and finds that his black book is now gone.)
CRADOCK MARINE BANK
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
(MULDER and SCULLY enter the Cradock Marine Bank.A FEMALE EMPLOYEE passes them.)
MULDER: Excuse me. I'm looking for Mr. Albert Pinchbeck.
FEMALE BANK EMPLOYEE: (pointing to an office) He's the gentleman right over there. (shakes her head sadly) The poor man.
(MULDER and SCULLY go over to the office and look in through the window.)
MULDER: He look familiar to you, Scully?
SCULLY: He certainly does.
(PINCHBECK is sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace. He looks just like MALEENI. The nameplate on his desk says "Albert Pinchbeck.")
MULDER: The plot thickens.
SCULLY: He might try and run.
(They knock and enter the office.)
PINCHBECK: Come in. Good morning, Mr. And Mrs...?
MULDER: (quickly as he and SCULLY pull out their badges) Agents... Mulder and Scully. FBI.
PINCHBECK: You're not here for a home loan, I take it.
SCULLY: No. We are investigating the death of a magician who called himself the Amazing Maleeni.
PINCHBECK: Herman Pinchbeck, my twin brother.
SCULLY: Yes, we know. We checked his next of kin.
MULDER: What happened to your neck, Mr. Pinchbeck?
PINCHBECK: I was in a car accident.
MULDER: Car accident. So your injured neck has nothing to do with a magic trick you performed at the Santa Monica Pier two days ago? One which involved you turning your head around 360 degrees?
PINCHBECK: No. That wasn't me. I was in a bad car accident in Mexico.
MULDER: (not believing it) Oh, bad Mexican car accident. (to SCULLY) In Mexico.
SCULLY: Do you know magic, Mr. Pinchbeck?
PINCHBECK: Yes, I do. Back in the '70s, my brother and I performed together.
MULDER: Why did you stop?
PINCHBECK: You never really stop.
(PINCHBECK pulls out a deck of cards from his desk, fans them out in his hands, and holds them out to MULDER.)
MULDER: Pick a card, any card?
(MULDER takes a card. He and SCULLY look at it. The King of Diamonds. He puts it back in the deck. SCULLY clears her throat. PINCHBECK expertly shuffles the cards, then lets them cascade from one hand to the other. The last card he holds up is the King of Diamonds.)
MULDER: Hmm. Very impressive.
PINCHBECK: My brother and I both wanted to do the absolute best magic the world had ever seen. The difference was I knew he'd never get there but he always believed we would. We didn't talk much after I quit the act.
MULDER: I have a theory, Mr. Pinchbeck and I'm going to tell you how it goes. I think that your brother Herman died of heart disease having never made it as the world's greatest magician and I think that hurt you just as your estrangement from him hurt you. And I think what you did was perform his last act for him-- (SCULLY glances at MULDER.) -- one last act for which he'd always be remembered-- one last act that would end with such a shock, such a denouement as would be forever remembered in the annals of magic. That's what I think.
PINCHBECK: I so wish that were true.
(PINCHBECK pushes his wheelchair back from his desk. His legs are cut off at the knee.)
PINCHBECK: It was a very bad car accident in Mexico.
(MULDER and SCULLY have left the office and are heading out of the bank. Clocks says about 9:15 AM. MULDER is VERY embarrassed.)
MULDER: (rubbing his face) Oy.
SCULLY: No kidding. What now?
MULDER: A guy's head falls off. It's the greatest trick in the world. Only there's no discernible point to it. What's the reason for doing that in the first place?
SCULLY: Why do people do magic? To, uh, impress, to delight to gain attention.
MULDER: This one's gained mostly police attention. Maybe that's the point.
SCULLY: Well, maybe we should consult an expert. Someone who knows magic, who's seen the greatest trick in the world. Maybe he can help us figure that out.
MULDER: (with sarcastic disgust) Mozart.
(Police impound garage. MULDER, SCULLY, and LABONGE are standing next to MALEENI's van, now covered with a tarp.)
LABONGE: What's in it for me? I mean, let's say I help you out. What do I get in return?
SCULLY: The feeling of pride that comes from performing your civic duty.
MULDER: How about the chance to root through the professional secrets of your least favorite magician?
LABONGE: Good for a laugh, I guess.
(MULDER pulls the tarp off and he and SCULLY open the back of the van. LABONGE climbs in and begins removing things, including a top hat.)
LABONGE: Man, it's worse than I thought.
(He uncovers the top hat, releasing a couple of white birds, then sets the hat on SCULLY's head. Cute look from SCULLY.)
LABONGE: You got to feed those things, you know.
(SCULLY takes off the hat and looks inside.)
LABONGE: So... Maleeni wasn't murdered?
SCULLY: It would seem not.
LABONGE: So someone impersonated him and his crappy act. It's impressive.
(LABONGE finds a gun. He pulls the trigger. A little red flag that says "Bang" pops out.)
LABONGE: I'd say the twin brother did it but I don't think he's any better a magician than Maleeni was...
MULDER: There's that, and he's got no legs.
(He and SCULLY share a look.)
LABONGE: Yeah. Whatever. Anyway, we're looking for a magician with the same height and build... a good makeup job and the right wig and no one would know the difference.
SCULLY: Not even you, I guess.
LABONGE: I had a couple of Jell-O shots in me.
MULDER: How did this impersonator switch out the dead body?
LABONGE: With ease. You're going to kick yourselves when I show you how he did this, it's so simple. 'Cause magic is all about... (wiggles his hand mysteriously) … misdirection.
(MULDER wiggles his fingers "mysteriously" at SCULLY. She bites back a smile and ignores him.)
LABONGE: Your impersonator simply made sure everyone was looking the other way when he pulled Maleeni's body from its secret hiding place underneath... the floor.
(LABONGE dramatically lifts one of the floor panels up from the bottom of the van revealing … nothing. He pulls up the other panels. Still nothing.)
LABONGE: (surprised) Man, this guy's good.
SCULLY: Thanks for your expert opinion. I guess we're right back where we started.
(A piece of paper has fallen out of the back of the van. MULDER picks it up.)
MULDER: Maybe not. You said that, uh, the Amazing Maleeni had some gambling debts?
LABONGE: Yeah, that's what I heard.
MULDER: Check this out. It looks like a marker. $20,000. Pinchbeck.
(The marker is dated 12/29/99.)
SCULLY: What would this be doing in Maleeni's van?
(MULDER nods at her.)
(Bank. Two COURIER GUARDS are removing money from one of the vaults. As they finish, PINCHBECK rolls his chair forward and locks the vault back using a key around his neck.)
COURIER GUARD: Thank you, Mr. Pinchbeck. If you could sign here for me.
(He holds out a clipboard which PINCHBECK signs.)
PINCHBECK: With pleasure.
PINCHBECK: Anthony, what kind of gun is that?
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: Glock 17. Nine millimeter.
PINCHBECK: I've been thinking of maybe buying one since my accident.
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: Here-- take a look.
(He takes his gun out of its holster, removes the clip and the bullet in the chamber, and hands the gun and the clip to PINCHBECK who looks at it closely.)
PINCHBECK: Gosh, it's, uh... it's heavier than I would have thought. (ANTHONY smiles.) Thank you, Anthony... Marvin.
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: If you ever want I'll take you to the shooting range. Have a good one, Mr. Pinchbeck.
PINCHBECK: You, too.
(PINCHBECK goes back to his office. ALVAREZ enters, closes the door and sits down.)
PINCHBECK: Hello. May I help you?
ALVAREZ: Damn. You look just like him.
PINCHBECK: I'm sorry?
ALVAREZ: Your no-good, malapaga brother died owing me money. A lot of money. You're going to make good.
PINCHBECK: I'm sorry, but my, uh, brother's debts are his own.
ALVAREZ: I said, you're going to make good, 'cause me and my friends, we know where you live.
(PINCHBECK takes close note of the numerous tattoos on ALVAREZ's hands.)
(Downtown Los Angeles. ANTHONY and MARVIN the COURIER GUARDS are in the armored car, MARVIN driving. They hear a thumping from the back of the truck.)
MARVIN THE COURIER GUARD: That sound like the rear diff?
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: Pull over. Stay here and, uh, call it in. I'll check it out.
MARVIN THE COURIER GUARD: (on the radio) We got a problem with the rear diff. Fourth and main, checking it out...
(ANTHONY gets out and goes cautiously around to the back of the truck. He unlocks the back door, then whips up his gun when he sees a man lying among the bags of money.)
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: You! In the truck! Get up where I can see you! Hands where I can see them! Up! Hands up!
(The MAN in the truck stands up and puts his hands up. We cannot see his face, but the hands are covered with tattoos.)
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: All right, get out! Mister, get out...
(The MAN reaches for a gun at his waist. Quickly, ANTHONY fires four times. The MAN falls. ANTHONY darts back to yell to MARVIN. )
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: I got a guy down back here!
(The COURIER GUARDS look back into the truck. The MAN is gone.)
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: It was a guy with tattoos! I shot him four times! I don't understand. He was right here.
(As they stare into the back of the truck, see LABONGE hiding in an alley just a few yards away. He smiles, and takes out a cloth and begins wiping away the tattoos on his hands. LABONGE smiles.)
(Pool hall. MULDER and SCULLY have tossed the marker they found in MALEENI's van onto the pool table where ALVAREZ is playing, interrupting the game. The marker is now in a plastic sleeve.)
SCULLY: It's your handwriting, is it not? Mr. Alvarez please answer the question.
ALVAREZ: (defensive) That ain't mine. I don't know where you got that.
MULDER: Interesting. Yours are the only fingerprints on it.
SCULLY: We ran it through the California criminal history database to which you seem to be quite well known.
ALVAREZ: So it's my marker. So Pinchbeck owed me money. It was a friendly game of poker.
MULDER: Very friendly. $20,000 friendly.
ALVAREZ: Where did you find that?
SCULLY: In Herman Pinchbeck's van. Where were you last Thursday?
ALVAREZ: Here. All day. Ask them. (glances over at his two THUGS) What is it you think I did to Pinchbeck, huh? What's in it for me? If I kill him, he ain't going to pay me.
MULDER: Why did you play with him in the first place? You knew he was a professional magician.
ALVAREZ: I didn't know what he was... and he sure as hell couldn't play worth a damn.
SCULLY: (friendly warning) Don't leave town, Mr. Alvarez.
(MULDER and SCULLY leave the pool hall, MULDER taking the marker.)
MULDER: Don't you find it odd that the amazing Maleeni's a lousy poker player? I mean, this is a guy who's adept at manipulating cards.
SCULLY: Maybe he wasn't so adept. LaBonge certainly doesn't have a high opinion of his skills.
MULDER: There's another possibility. Behold-- an ordinary household quarter. (he holds up a quarter.) I'm going to take the quarter from my right hand and place it into my left hand. (he does with a flourish) Where is it?
SCULLY: It's in your right hand.
(MULDER opens his empty right hand.)
MULDER: Oh, no, no, no.
(SCULLY smiles and taps his left hand open. It is also empty.)
SCULLY: (smiling, impressed) Ah... That's not bad.
(MULDER reaches out and tries to grab SCULLY's nose.)
MULDER: Blow your nose, Scully.
SCULLY: (warning him) Mulder...
MULDER: (holding her nose between his fingers) Blow your nose.
SCULLY: (deadpan) Ah-choo.
(The quarter falls from "SCULLY's nose into MULDER's other hand.)
SCULLY: (amused) Amazing!
MULDER: (proudly) The great Muldeeni.
SCULLY: And what's the point?
MULDER: It's misdirection. That's the heart of magic. I made you look one direction. The quarter went in the other.
SCULLY: And that's what's happening in this case?
MULDER: I think we're being led around by our noses.
SCULLY: By whom? Maleeni is already dead.
MULDER: It certainly would appear so, but then again, you thought the quarter was in the right hand.
(He waves the quarter at her and smiles. They get into their car and drive off. LABONGE watches them leave, then picks up a payphone and dials 911.)
911 OPERATOR: (voice) 911.
LABONGE: (quietly, disguising his voice) Yeah, hello? Yeah, I want to report a man with a gun. H-h- he's threatening to kill somebody.
911 OPERATOR: (voice) Please speak up.
LABONGE: No, I can't speak up. I... No, I can't!
(LABONGE drops the phone and casually walks across the street toward the pool hall.)
911 OPERATOR: (voice) Sir? Hello? Hello?
(Inside the pool hall, ALVAREZ is looking through his little black book of markers. One of the pages from late December has been ripped out.)
ALVAREZ: Son of a bitch.
(LABONGE enters the pool hall. ALVAREZ is not happy to see him.)
LABONGE: (smiling) Hey, partner. Hey, guys.
ALVAREZ: You son of a bitch.
LABONGE: I'm sorry?
ALVAREZ: You tried to frame me. Hijo de tu...
LABONGE: I didn't!
ALVAREZ: Oh, you didn't, huh?!
LABONGE: We've got a deal!
ALVAREZ: We got no deal. I'm gonna bleed you, you little bitch.
(LABONGE pulls out a gun and begins backing up to the door. ALVAREZ and the THUGS stop.)
LABONGE: Back off!
ALVAREZ: You're dead.
(LABONGE gets out the door and begins running down the street. ALVAREZ and the THUGS are about to follow him, but stop when a police car pulls up. They watch as the COPS get out and pull their guns on LABONGE.)
COP: Freeze! Drop your weapon!
(When LABONGE drops the gun, the "bang" sign pops out the muzzle.)
COP: Hands behind your head! Do it! Bring your head down. Spread your legs.
(LABONGE looks very pleased with himself.)
(The bank. MULDER and SCULLY enter PINCHBECK's office where he is working on the computer. MULDER walks around behind PINCHBECK.)
PINCHBECK: Agents. An unexpected surprise. Good afternoon.
SCULLY: We'd like to have a word with you, Mr. Pinchbeck.
PINCHBECK: I'm fairly busy, actually.
MULDER: I'll bet.
(MULDER pulls PINCHBECK away from his desk.)
PINCHBECK: Hey! W-what...?
MULDER: Let's take a little spin, shall we?
(MULDER wheels PINCHBECK out of the office. SCULLY follows, glancing around to see if anyone notices. They enter an empty conference room.)
PINCHBECK: What's this all about?
MULDER: It's about misdirection, Mr. Pinchbeck... or should I say the Amazing Maleeni?
(MULDER dumps PINCHBECK out onto the floor.)
SCULLY: (shocked) Mulder?!
MULDER: It's a trick, Scully. Voila.
(PINCHBECK does, indeed have legs. The pants have been cut away to disguise them. He stands.)
PINCHBECK: (taking off the collar) Had you fooled.
SCULLY: You're Maleeni?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Call me Herman.
(Short time later, MALEENI/PINCHBECK is sitting at the table playing with a deck of cards.)
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: I was afraid for my life. That's why I did what I did. I'm not proud of that... but I owe a lot of money that I can't possibly pay back.
SCULLY: We know. Gambling debts to a man named Alvarez.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: (disgusted) That tattooed psychopath. I've since heard terrible stories about him-- things he did in prison to fellow inmates.
SCULLY: So why'd you play poker with him?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: He runs a good game. I gamble to supplement my income. God knows magic barely pays.
SCULLY: Well, why did you lose? You could have manipulated the cards, right?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Cheat? You're asking why I don't cheat at cards?
SCULLY: Well, you could, right?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Of course I could... (he flips four aces up on the table) … but how would I live with myself? Who raised you?
(SCULLY has a small reaction, thank you Orison 7x07, then continues.)
SCULLY: Well, sir... what does any of this have to do with your twin brother being found decapitated at the Santa Monica Pier?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: I went to my brother for a loan. Just my luck-- and his.
SCULLY: You found him dead of a heart attack.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: His body was still warm. Looking at him lifeless I saw myself-- my own eventual mortality. I saw all the things I meant to accomplish, but didn't. It was an opportunity to vanish-- to become someone else. Like I said, I'm... I'm not proud of what I did.
SCULLY: And so you refrigerated the body...
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: I needed time to figure out how to pull it all off. Impersonating my brother, I called the bank. Told them I needed a vacation week. A trip to Mexico. Then the bank received word that I'd been in a terrible accident. It gave me plenty of time away from work.
SCULLY: And you posed as an amputee to allay suspicion that you weren't your brother.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: That, and I rather enjoyed the sympathy-- especially from the women in our office.
(MULDER sort of smiles and looks down. SCULLY glances at him.)
SCULLY: You, uh, still haven't explained why you left your brother's body at the pier or why you arranged to have his head fall off.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: (indicating MULDER) He explained it. He put it so eloquently when we last spoke. It was my final performance. I wanted to go out with such a shock, such a denouement as would forever be remembered in the annals of magic.
MULDER: That was your last performance.
(MULDER takes out his handcuffs and puts them onto an unresisting MALEENI/PINCHBECK.)
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: What's this for?
MULDER: I still think you've got a few tricks up your sleeve.
(Later, MULDER, SCULLY and MALEENI/PINCHBECK, still in handcuffs, are back in the office talking to the BANK OFFICER.) BANK OFFICER: My god. We gave you handicapped parking. We built you a ramp.
(MALEENI/PINCHBECK hangs his head in shame.)
MULDER: Did he have access to the vaults?
BANK OFFICER: Well, yes, he has a key to the day gate. Several of us do.
(MULDER is looking around the desk.)
SCULLY: What are you looking for, Mulder?
MULDER: Any hint at all as to why Maleeni, here is really impersonating his brother. What about this. (taps the computer monitor) Could he have removed the funds electronically?
BANK OFFICER: Well, he didn't have security clearance for EFTs. Electronic fund transfers.
MULDER: Maybe he got around the security. Can we check the withdrawal records?
BANK OFFICER: It would require your badge number and thumbprint and probably a federal subpoena to boot.
(SCULLY notices and picks up the clipboard that the COURIER GUARD had MALEENI/PINCHBECK sign earlier. )
BANK OFFICER: We're extra cautious with the EFTs. You can understand why. There may be an easier way. If I call up a transaction list for this terminal...
(The BANK OFFICER types some commands on the computer. No transactions are registered.)
BANK OFFICER: No. No, everything's in order.
(MALEENI/PINCHBECK has gotten out of the handcuffs. He holds them up with a big smile at MULDER.)
SCULLY: Mulder, it says here something about a robbery attempt yesterday.
BANK OFFICER: Yeah, that wasn't against us but the armored transport service we deal with. No money was taken, and no suspects were caught.
SCULLY: (looking at the clipboard) Yeah, well, Mr. Pinchbeck was the employee who signed out the truck. He knew the schedule.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: I had nothing to do with that.
SCULLY: Maybe, maybe not.
MULDER: (taking his handcuffs back) We'll hold you till we find out. Make sure you don't pull a vanishing act.
NORTH HOLLYWOOD STATION
(Prison. A HOLDING CELL OFFICER leads MALEENI/PINCHBECK to a cell.)
HOLDING CELL OFFICER: (to a fellow OFFICER at the desk) Hey.
(A buzzer admits them into the cell area.)
HOLDING CELL OFFICER: Paul, I'm putting Mr. Pinchbeck in six.
PAUL THE OTHER CELL OFFICER: Right.
HOLDING CELL OFFICER: Sleep tight.
(He closes the door and walks away.)
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Wait, don't I get a phone call, sir? (no response) Sir?
(The OFFICER is gone. Someone casually taps the first phrase of "Shave and a Haircut" on the wall. Which appears to be made of concrete blocks. Oww. MALEENI/PINCHBECK finishes the phrase with "two bits." Camera pans over to show that LABONGE is in the neighboring cell.)
LABONGE: How'd it go?
LABONGE: (with a smile) Abracadabra, man.
(Next morning. Bank. The BANK OFFICER and the COURIER GUARD open and look into the vault. To their horror, lots of money is missing.)
BANK OFFICER: Oh, Deeaammnnn!!!
(He runs to the phone. Later MULDER and SCULLY are there. COPS are dusting for fingerprints.)
SCULLY: (on phone) Yes... Okay. All right … All right, thank you.
SCULLY: He's still in the city lockup where he's been since we arrested him last night. It certainly doesn't look like he did this. Lots of fingerprints.
MULDER: Yeah. I guarantee you none of them match our thieves. They're too clever to leave clues... except for the ones they want us to find.
(BANK OFFICER walks up to them.)
BANK OFFICER: Excuse me. May I show you something?
(MULDER and SCULLY follow him to a video monitor showing people entering the bank. ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD is reviewing the tapes.)
BANK OFFICER: We thought the security camera footage might show the robbers.
SCULLY: Does it?
BANK OFFICER: No. They all mysteriously went blank from about 3:00 A.M. to 3:20, but that's not what we wanted you to see.
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: This is from two days ago.
(On the monitor, they see ALVAREZ enter the bank.)
SCULLY: Cissy Alvarez. Convicted bank robber.
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: You recognize this man?
MULDER: Yeah. Who is he to you?
(Close up of ALVAREZ'S hands. Number on the screen: 163321)
ANTHONY THE COURIER GUARD: I know those tattoos. That's the man who tried to rob my truck.
(Pool hall. A COP roughly pushes ALVAREZ onto a pool table and handcuffs him. Other COPS, including MULDER and SCULLY are looking around the place.)
ALVAREZ: Ah! What the hell, man! What did I do?! You, FBI, what's up? (MULDER doesn't answer) What's up with this, man? Yo, man, you can't just come busting in here, okay? I got civil rights. I'm going to call my lawyer and then we're going to see what's what.
ANOTHER COP: There's nothing back there.
ALVAREZ: This is harassment, man. This is harassment! Yo, what are they looking for? Come on, man, yo! Somebody talk to me.
(The THUGS are also cuffed.)
COP: Shut up.
ALVAREZ: You shut up. This ain't right. You got the cuffs on so tight. Yo, will you please tell me what he's looking for?
(MULDER notices that one of the ceiling tiles is sagging a little. SCULLY joins him, then MULDER takes a pool cue and pushes on it causing it to crack and let several bags of money fall from the ceiling onto the pool table.)
SCULLY: Well... saving up for a rainy day?
ALVAREZ: (realizing what has happened) Oh, no, no, no, no. We got framed. This is a frame-up! That was the magician.
MULDER: The magician? Maleeni?
(The COPS are dragging a struggling ALVAREZ out of the building.)
ALVAREZ: No. Not the dead one, man. That little cabron! LaBonge! LaBonge set me up! Listen to me...
SCULLY: Billy LaBonge.
MULDER: (to SCULLY) And the Amazing Maleeni. That's a double bill I wouldn't want to miss.
(Prison. The HOLDING CELL OFFICER unlocks the cells.)
HOLDING CELL OFFICER: Pinchbeck. You made your bail. You too, LaBonge.
(MULDER and SCULLY have entered the prison.)
PAUL THE OTHER OFFICER AT THE BUZZER: (to MULDER and SCULLY) Okay.
(The buzzer sounds, admitting MULDER and SCULLY to the cell area just as MALEENI/PINCHBECK and LABONGE are about to leave.)
SCULLY: I think releasing these two may be a bit premature.
MULDER: Give us a minute, will you?
(The HOLDING CELL OFFICER leaves.)
MULDER: Good morning, gentlemen. Did you sleep well?
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Agent Mulder. Agent Scully.
MULDER: Bravo. Really.
LABONGE: What do you mean?
SCULLY: Last night the Cradock Marine Bank was robbed of $1.8 million. This morning that entire amount was found in the possession of Mr. Cissy Alvarez.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Wow. I told you he was bad news. Bravo to you. That was expeditious police work.
MULDER: (smiling) Well, thank you. It was, wasn't it? It's only that Alvarez was so obviously guilty. A convicted bank robber caught red-handed witnessed trying to rob an armored car just two days earlier?
SCULLY: He'll need a good lawyer.
MULDER: Yeah. Yeah, he's up a creek... Just like you two want him.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: I don't quite see where you're headed with this.
MULDER: I have no evidence but I have a theory, Mr. Maleeni and, uh, I'll tell you how it goes. I think that your twin brother, Albert, died of a heart attack at which point you and your young protégé saw a golden opportunity.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: My protégé? I hate this guy's guts.
SCULLY: That's what you wanted us to think.
MULDER: You wanted revenge against the man who made your life in prison a living hell.
FLASHBACK OF LABONGE TALKING TO ALVAREZ:
LABONGE: I did time with you about eight years ago.
MULDER: Alvarez. You and he were in the same cell block eight years ago.
SCULLY: It was a setup from the start. You played poker with him and you made sure that you lost big.
MULDER: Which gave LaBonge and "in" with Alvarez once everybody thought you were dead.
SCULLY: LaBonge planted Alvarez's marker in Maleeni's van and made sure we found it … (Flashback of MULDER looking at the marker) … and then you used Alvarez's greed in order to ensnare him and then orchestrated the attempted bank robbery in order to implicate him.
MULDER: Yeah. That was you in the armored car disguised as Alvarez. (Flashback of PINCHBEK looking at the gun) Somehow, Mr. Pinchbeck got ahold of the guard's gun and switched the clip. Guard didn't know it, but he was firing blanks. (Flashback of GUARD firing into the truck)
SCULLY: And then last night the two of you robbed the bank, and planted the money at ALVAREZ's place. (Flashback of money falling out of the ceiling)
LABONGE: (indicating the cells) Don't you think we have pretty good alibis?
MULDER: You have great alibis. You have the best alibis in the world which is why I think you two got arrested in the first place.
SCULLY: With your expertise at sleight of hand, pick pocketing, and escapology I think you were both able to get out of here by pilfering a guard's key.
MULDER: You could have escaped, stolen the money framed Alvarez and been back here in time for breakfast.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: Scrambled eggs and sausage. That would be the world's greatest trick, wouldn't it?
MULDER: One that would be forever remembered in the annals of magic.
LABONGE: What happens to us?
MULDER: To you? You go free... provided the magic is over.
MALEENI/PINCHBECK: (with dignity) The great ones always know when to leave the stage. (buzzer sounds, MULDER opens the door) Billy, let's get the hell out of here.
(MALEENI/PINCHBECK and LABONGE leave.)
MULDER: They are the world's greatest.
SCULLY: We saw through their magic.
MULDER: Nah, there's more.
(MULDER smiles, shows that his sleeves are empty and wiggles his left fingers up in the air. SCULLY obediently watches the fingers while MUDLER fumbles in his jacket with his right hand, then "magically" whips out a large wallet.)
MULDER: Behold! The Amazing Maleeni's wallet.
SCULLY: (surprised) You picked his pocket?
MULDER: No. I pilfered it from the evidence room to prevent them from completing their final act of prestidigitation.
SCULLY: What are you talking about?
MULDER: I began to wonder, why did they need so elaborate a setup? Why so high profile? Why draw the attention of the FBI in the first place?
SCULLY: We were the last piece of the puzzle.
MULDER: Yes. Framing Alvarez was just another misdirection. This trick was about EFTs-- electronic funds transfers at the bank. Maleeni, Pinchbeck-- he didn't have security clearance for them so he needed a little federal law enforcement intervention-- specifically, my badge number... (Flashback of MULDER's badge - agent number 22791) … and my thumbprint. (Flashback of MULDER taking the King of Diamonds.) With those two items, they could pull off an EFT and steal enough electronically as to make that $1.8 million look like cigar-lighting money. But they can't do it without this. Pick a card, Scully... Any card.
(He pulls the plastic encased King of Diamonds out of the wallet. They walk down the hall to the exit.)
SCULLY: You know, Mulder, there's still one thing that you haven't explained.
MULDER: What's that?
SCULLY: How the Amazing Maleeni was able to turn his head completely around.
MULDER: I don't know that.
SCULLY: I do. I'll show you. Observe.
(SCULLY gets down on her knees in front of MULDER who grins broadly. She places her hands awkwardly on the floor and turns her right arm a full 360 degrees, then gets up and smoothes her sleeve. MULDER is very impressed.)
MULDER: Gee! Very nice. How'd you do that?
SCULLY: Well... magic.
(SCULLY keeps walking down the hall. MULDER follows.)
MULDER: No. Seriously, Scully, how'd you do it? You know, it's not the same thing. It's different with the head. Come on. Look at this.
(He does the disappearing thumb trick that doesn't work on anyone over four years old. She doesn't even look back.)
MULDER: I'll show you - - -
(They are through the door and gone. Bet it's a fun plane ride back to DC.)