The Zero Effect Script - Dialogue Transcript

Voila! Finally, the The Zero Effect script is here for all you quotes spouting fans of the Jake Kasdan movie with Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller.  This script is a transcript that was painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of The Zero Effect. I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and I'll be eternally tweaking it, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. You won't hurt my feelings. Honest.

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The Zero Effect Script





It's his uncompromising standard.



He never meets his clients.



He doesn't speak with them

or communicate directly.



It's his policy.



I'm his sole representative,

he's my only employer...



...and I have full authorization to

speak on his behalf on all his business.



I have with me

a signed letter to that effect.



He doesn't negotiate his fee.



He works at a flat rate.



Under some unusual circumstances

he'll work pro bono. Never in between.



I suppose I don't qualify

for the latter category.



I haven't heard your proposal yet.



I have a feeling that mine

is not a charity case.



Most aren't.



Mr. Arlo, you realize

this is all very strange.



I mean, nobody in your field...



...asks the kind of money

your employer does and nobody...



...communicates via...



...a messenger.

It's all very unusual.



Let me tell you about the case of the

man with the mismatched shoelaces.



Years ago, when I first

came into his employ...



...he was contracted to find a man.



I can't give much detail...



...but believe me, if this man

had not been located...



...our country's good diplomacy

with a certain economic superpower...



...might have a different face today.



Federal, state, local authorities

all over the world...



...searched for a face whose

significance they couldn't fathom.



He'd vanished without a trace.



On the  th morning, a non-political

third party contacted me...



...with an unrelated private agenda.



My employer had never heard of this

missing man, knew nothing about him.



After just one hour of desk work...



...just an hour after accepting

the case...



...he picked up the telephone

and placed a call.



Guess who answered the phone.



The missing man.



The man with the mismatched shoelaces.



Without ever leaving the house.



I'm telling you, he never even...



...leaves the house, okay?



I mean, he's like some kind of recluse.



A complete freak.



No social life.



In fact, no social skills.



Fucking strange. When he works...



...the smoothest operator you've seen.



Brave, slick...








Soon as he gets off work...


           's all gone.



Afraid to go to the dry cleaners.






Too uncomfortable in his own skin

to go out and eat.






...and inept.



Rude too.

Just an asshole.



You could meet him   times

and not realize it's the same person.



He can tell you where you were born,

how old your mother was at the time...



...and what you had for breakfast,

all within    seconds of meeting you.



He can get a criminal to confess without

his realizing he's being questioned.



How does he do it?



He has a deeply nuanced and functional

understanding of human behavior...


            rival the great psychoanalytical

minds of our time.



He understands the criminal mind

as well as the innocent mind...



...the stable mind as well as the

psychotic, sociopathic mind...



...the male as well as the female.



I don't think he's ever...



...kissed a girl.



He's thirty-something years old.



What does he do when he's not working?



Does he just sit around the house?



When private investigation

won its most worthy champion...



...academia and the arts

suffered a loss, a great loss.



In addition to his many scholarly gifts,

he's a terrifically talented musician.



He writes songs.



He's terrible.



His metaphors are thin,

his imagery is cliched...



...and his thematic material is trite

and heavy-handed.



Why do you do it?



I left the firm, didn't know

what I was going to do...



...and I get this message on my machine.



He'd watched me argue a case in court...



...said I was the only person for the job.

I don't know. The guy's nuts, okay?



What's his name?



The mysterious...



...and brilliant Daryl Zero.



Certainly does take himself

seriously, doesn't he?



All right, Mr. Arlo.



I'm sold.



What happens now?



You tell me how my employer

can be of service...



...then I fly home and speak to him.



Where is home?



Not to be coy,

but I can't tell you that.



Of course not.



You know, I'm not used

to being in this position.



Being needy.



I understand.






You know, it's of the

utmost importance...



...what I'm about to tell you

not leave your confidence...



...or that of your...



...inaccessible employer.



That I can guarantee.



Mr. Arlo, I have lost my keys

and I need to find them.



I'm being blackmailed, Mr. Arlo.



It's cost me a good deal

of money and many nights' sleep.



I need the matter resolved.



I need questions answered

and I must know who stole the key...


            my safe deposit box.



Mr. Arlo, good to see you.



Thanks, Rahim. Keep it close.

I'll be    minutes.



We'll keep it up top.



Great. Thanks, Raoul.



If I come a-knocking...



... a-knocking at your door



... on this October day



Would you say, "It'd be a joy



With you, my good boy"



'Cause if you would...



I'd say,



"Let's run off...



... and get married



It's the only thing for us to do



Let's run off and get married



If you love me"



... like I...



... love you'



If I come a-calling...



... on a rainy afternoon



Would you be glad if I called



And whistle a merry tune



And if I'd pop the question



Straight from my heart



Would you say...



..."Let's run away

And be happy and gay?"



'Cause if you would I'd say,



"Let's run off and get married



It's the only thing for us to do



Let's run off and get married



If you love me...



... like I...



... love...



... you"



That's good.



It's really good.



You like it.



I had the first verse a while ago...



...but I just got that second one...



...just a couple hours ago.



- You really like it?

- Yeah.



Where the fuck have you been?



What do you mean?



Where the fuck have you been?



I've been waiting for you.



I came straight from the airport.



I've been awake for three days.






Just love those amphetamines.



Got to love them.



Got to.



Sounds healthy.



It's good for my skin.



If you do enough of that stuff

over a short period of time...


            get these canker

sores on your tongue.



They bleed and...









What'd the guy in Portland want?






- Name?

- Stark.



Gregory Stark, Oregon Timber.



He's a very rich man.



Old money.



Blackmail, huh?



Did he kill somebody

or fuck somebody?



Fucked somebody over.

Sounds like embezzlement, maybe.



Runs in the family, I guess.

His old man, Jordan...



...had a big tax evasion suit

against him in '  .



He was legally exonerated but karmically

convicted because he died right after.



It was a massive coronary.



He just didn't take care of himself.

He ate like a pig.



He was just a fat man.



Gregory Stark is the son of a fat man.



You wouldn't be the first hound

down this trail.



- Who?

- Clearburg.



- Didn't turn a thing.

- Fucking hack!



You know the trouble

with fucking Clearburg?



He has absolutely no fucking tact.



He stinks up the whole neighborhood.

And he's press hungry.



He's just repulsive.



Gregory Stark. How desperate?

Scale of   to   .



Bordering on manic.



Do I need to go there?



You'd want to check it out.



There isn't too much to go on here.



I'd have to go there?



I don't like it.



Fuck it! Sure. Yeah.

Tell him I'll do it.



Wait. Don't you even want

to hear what it is?



What is it today?



What day is it?






I'll get on the plane to Portland...


              :    tonight...



...arriving Portland at  :   am.



You'll give me the details on the way

to the airport tonight.



- Wait a minute. Tonight?

- Yeah.   :  .



Can't it wait till tomorrow?

I can have one night with Jess?



No, you'll go tomorrow...


             :   a. M...



...because I need you to drive me

to the airport tonight...


              :  .



Do you want that low-cal breakfast?



My abilities are seriously impaired...



...maybe even disabled...



...right at the moment.



Because I got to...



...get to sleep right now.



- Daryl.

- I'll see you at   :  .






You're all wet.



I don't care.



- Thank you for the flowers.

- You're welcome.



You want to come in?



I'm glad you're back.



I'm glad to be back.



Where are you taking me tonight?






He wouldn't say what's in the box.



It sounds like some sort of financial

record, but he didn't want to tell me.



So whatever he's hiding,

he keeps it in a safe deposit box.



But then he keeps the key to the box

cleverly hidden on his key ring...



...with his car keys and his house keys?



I'm telling you what he said.



So anyway, about a year ago...

It'll be a year on the   th...



...he loses his keys.

They had a gold-plated...



... Swiss Army knife attached.

A couple days pass.



- He gets a little panicky.

- Flight      to Portland.



Harold Burges.



Then on June   rd,

he gets a letter at the office.



Comes FedEx.

Stamped "Personal and Confidential."



Sender's name marked as

"Past Due Collections."



That's nice.



Laser-printed, not very long.



Starts out: "Mr. Stark, I have evidence

linking you to your crime.



You may entertain notions of impunity.

But in the end everyone is culpable."



There's a succession of

$        payments to be collected.



He gets letters

which lay out a maze...



... and at the end of the maze he makes

the drop. He's done it   times so far.



He gave me copies of the letters

which are in a file...



...that I'm putting in your briefcase

with the case file.



There's a drop tomorrow.

I said he should plan...


            go through with it.






There's a lack-of-information

problem here, and he won't say much.



- What's wrong with these people?

- I said not to lie.



Eventually you always figure it out.

It just slows things down.



You mention the case

of the guy who lied about his age?



Of course.



Was he impressed?



Really impressed?



Fucking flabbergasted.



I think if you look truthfully

you'll see...


            maybe moved in

with her prematurely.






You heard me.

Your problems with Jess...



...aren't my fault.



Could we please

not talk about this now?



You're not ready to get married and

I think you should look at that and...






I'm thinking maybe I should get

in touch with Hodgemeyer for this case.



Reservation for Hodgemeyer...









This guy will be a pain in the ass.



- Try to figure out which bank it is.

- All right.



We got one shot to break through this.

Tomorrow afternoon.



That's about the size of it.



Easy enough.



It's not without serious

reservation that I begin...



... the seemingly impossible task...



... of documenting my own methods.



It always seemed that...



... someone else should do it.



Unfortunately, my faithful

legal representative...



... has shown no interest whatsoever.



And so I am forced

to take on the task myself...



... with no intention...



... of glorifying or aggrandizing

or immortalizing my own memory...



... but rather in the hope...



... that such a memoir might someday...



... be useful to others.



I begin my examination...



... of the method.



I always say my work

relies fundamentally...



... on two basic principles:



Objectivity and observation.



Or the   Obs, as I call them.



My work relies on my ability

to remain absolutely...



... purely...



... objective.






I have mastered...



... the fine art...



... of detachment.



And while it comes at some cost...



... this supreme objectivity is what

makes me...



... I dare say, the greatest observer

the world has ever known.



Observing a subject,

particularly a client...



... in his or her own element

is usually very telling.



Behavior is always more revealing

than language...



... if you know what to look for.



No rain. Would you believe it?



What? You talking to me?



I said, would you believe

it finally stopped raining?



What are you doing over there,

if you don't mind my asking? Level  ?






Are you doing about an  ?









That's funny.



That's what I'm doing.






Nothing. I didn't say anything.



Name's Carmine.



- Nick Carmine.

- Greg Stark.



Real pleasure to make

your acquaintance, Stark.






You're right, but remember...



...since Maxwell's gone,

we don't have a fast break.



No team's gotten to the finals

without a fast break.



The Celtics...



...of the mid-  's...



...had no fast break.



That's true.



They were a slow team.



One of the best shooting teams.

I know. I went to school in Cambridge.



The Starks are a long dynasty

of Celtic fans.



This is my good friend Gerald Auerbach.



Nick Carmine.



How was everything for you, Mr. Carmine?






Daisy, could I book

a massage for tomorrow morning?



Sure, no problem.



Betsy comes highly recommended.



Betsy is excellent.



How about  :  ?



Betsy has an appointment

every morning at  :  .



How about   :  ?



That's the time I wanted.



- Sorry.

- It's all right. You beat me to it.



Are you a paramedic?



Yes. How did you know that?



Just a hunch.



What do you mean, just a hunch?

How did you know?



I'm very intuitive.



Give this lady the   :   massage.



You take it.

You need it more than I do.



What does that mean?



What'd she mean?



Who was that?



Her name is Gloria Sullivan.



She's not married.






Wait at the end.



I really hope you're being followed.



You can't be too careful...



...because we need to talk now.



First of all...


            was your trip?









I just left Stark at the gym.



Some major revelations. Guy's a mess.



Somebody's holding something

serious over his head...



...and I don't think it's about money.



He doesn't move

like a white-collar criminal.



When he walks, his shoulders...



... ride at ear level.



Also, he cut himself shaving

  times in the last    days or so.



These are symptoms

of a deeply ingrained paranoid fear.



Fear of being found out.



I get on the treadmill next to his and I

get my machine going at his exact pace.



I ask him what level he's running at.



I guess  . He says level  .



I'm running at the same speed he is.



Level  .



He'd sooner lie to

a complete stranger...



... than to admit to being

  levels below my guess.



As soon as I talk to him,

he runs the other way.



It's conditioning, though.

A reflex.



He obviously didn't think to connect me

to the blackmail business at all.



If he'd suspected me...



... he would have remembered my name,

which he didn't.



Also, like most lvy League graduates,

he drops his alma mater with...



...almost no prompting whatsoever.



I say Celtics, he says Cambridge.



Oh yeah, the gentleman prefers redheads.

He lusts after his red-haired masseuse.



You can tell by the way

he takes his massage.



It's more than a little eroticized.



He does it every day at the same time

with the same woman.



I found an e-mail message

from Clearburg.



Kind of cryptic. Note said...



..."Thorough check finds no boxer

with the name K. V. "



K.V. Are obviously initials. We have to

figure out what they stand for.



Lets see, what else?



That's the important stuff.



It's Sergio.



Sergio Knight.



Right. Whatever.



Can I ask you a question?



What's that?



Why are we talking on the phone?



I told you. We can't be too careful.



Two guys...


            an airport...






It's a little fishy.



Why are we even in an airport?

Why don't we just leave?



Okay, I see the confusion.



I need more research.



I need you to go back to L.A.

And get in the computer.



Then break into Clearburg's

computer and pull anything pertinent.



I've written elaborate directions.

They're in the phone book.



In front of you. Turn to Rentals.



I'll meet you at the motel tonight

when you get back.



Instead of calling me,

you had me fly up here to tell me...


            go back to the computer

and then fly back again tonight?



It wasn't an emergency. There was no

reason to risk the long-distance lines.



They listen, you know.



Are you still there?



Here we go.



"Transaction instructions

for this Monday night.



$        cash...



... transported in a discreet

black leather bag...



... that you shall provide for yourself.



Wear your business suit

and your gray overcoat.



Carry the enclosed pager set to the...



... inaudible vibrating response.



Go about your day per usual.

Go to the gym, then the office.



Leave the office at   p.m.



Your course is as follows:



Number  :



At  :   p.m., be at the intersection

of Powell and Green with the cash.



 : When the clock

in your car reads  :  ...



... begin driving northbound up Powell.



Number  : Pager will go off,

displaying   digits.



When your vehicle's odometer reads...



... the same overall mileage,

pull over and park...



... ASAP.



Number  : Funds in hand,

walk to the nearest...



... bus stop, same side of the street.



Get on the next bus.






Pager will deliver a  -digit number.



Get off the bus at the next stop,

cross the street...



... get on the train

with the painted number...



... that corresponds

with the pager message.



Sit in the front-most available seat.






Pager will deliver a third

and final message.



Get off the train...



... walk to the corresponding

street address.



 : Upon arrival, enter the building.



Enter the first possible men's room.



Go to the toilet stall

furthest from the door...



... lock yourself in...



... in tank of toilet, find plastic bag.



Transfer cash into bag...



... replace in tank...



... walk outside

and trip the nearest fire alarm...



... then leave immediately.



You have   minutes to get out

of the building from the time you enter.



You are not to be accompanied...



... you are not to be followed.

Your complete cooperation..."



Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.



A few words here

about following people.



People know they're being followed

when they turn...



... and see someone following them.



They can't tell they're being followed

if you get there first.



Okay folks, that's the fire alarm.



Everybody must leave the building.



Please, do not run.



Gloria Sullivan.



You Arlo?



That other guy left this for you.

That Olson?



He has a strange personality.



I can't possibly overstate

the importance of good research.



Everyone goes through life

dropping crumbs.



Recognize the crumbs and you can trace

a path from your death certificate...



... to the dinner and movie

that resulted in you in the first place.



But research is an art...



... not a science.



Because anyone can find the crumbs...



... the wheres, whats and whos.



The art is in the whys...



... the ability to read

between the crumbs...



... not to mix metaphors.



For every event,

there is a cause and effect.



For every crime a motive.



And for every motive, a passion.



The art of research is the ability

to look at the details...



... and see the passion.



Excuse me.



Okay, so, you have to tell me now.



Yesterday, how could you

tell that I was a paramedic?



You really want to know?



I could smell it.



What do you mean?



I could smell iodine.



That's a very specific scent

that's unique largely...


            ambulances and hospitals.



I could see that your hair had been wet,

but dried naturally.



But I smelled iodine,

so you hadn't gone home...


            bathe or scrub down

since your last shift.



Then I assumed you worked

the night before, when it rained.



Then I figured paramedic,

not doctor or nurse.



That's how...



...I just kind of guessed.



You're right about...



...each part.



Do you enjoy that work?









It can be a thrill.



You rush in the middle of something,

some chaotic mess, and get involved...






...maybe help somebody...



...maybe revive their body.



Some of it's just boring, though.



The hours are terrible.



   and   -hour shifts...

I'm rambling now, so...



That's interesting to me.



What about you?

Do you live around here?



"Do you live around here?"



Stupid question.



What difference does that make?



No, that's okay.



I'm only here for

a couple of days on business.



So you're with that conference?



So you're an accountant?



That's pretty exciting, I know.



I don't know how you do that.

All the forms, all the time...



The forms grow on you.



Where do you live?






I know. Nick Carmine.



Daisy, the front desk. She told me.



What did I tell you

about these curtains?



And these over here?



Fucking whales?



Fuck the whales!



I'm a mess.



All that fucking exercise.



Maybe you should

stop snorting that shit.



It keeps my teeth sharp.



I went back to L.A. And got that stuff

that you sent me to get...



...but since you then

went back to L.A. Yourself...


            probably don't need it anymore.



Did you see that poem that Stark

wrote in college, "An Ode to Clarissa?"



Worst I've read since the case of the

shrinking gypsy stripper's scribblings.



Tell me this:



How do you rhyme

'towards' and 'birds'?



"Dropping, falling...



...diving towards...



Two lovers lost.







They don't rhyme.



Maybe it's not supposed to rhyme.





            do you write a poem

about Clarissa...



...and never have the name

in the poem?



If ever a name deserved, begged

to be in a poem, it's Clarissa.



Anyway, I did that phone book-database

cross-reference thing you asked for...



...and there are      men in Oregon...



...with the initials 'K.V.'



And about a million in the United States

that are listed.



How about you?

Have any luck on your end?



I found the blackmailer.



- You did?

- Yeah.



Her name is Gloria Sullivan.



How do you know it's her?



I watched her...



...walk into the bathroom...



...and get the money.



I have to admit I was a bit surprised.



I had a few guesses about suspects,

but I'd never...



I mean, I just didn't even

think twice about that girl.



So what's her deal?



Her deal?



Her deal is that there is absolutely

nothing out of the ordinary about her.



She's a model citizen,

college graduate, good paramedic.



She volunteers at a hospital for the

elderly. She has no criminal record.



I mean, she's very even-tempered.



She's friendly...



...eager to chat.



There's no nervousness about her,

which is odd for a blackmailer.



Even at the pickup yesterday,

she's just...



She's very cool.



She's very cool.



But there's a definite

intensity about her.



She looks you right in the eye.



Sort of a sensual quality.



Very personable.



A nice sense of humor...



...and actually very charming.






Did you just say charming?



Keep looking for that

safe deposit box...



...and then get Stark out of the office.



Make plans for him

to pay you at  :   tonight.



Then maybe you could go home

for a couple of nights.



Couple of nights?



Aren't we done? You found

the blackmailer. He only wanted a name.



We're not done yet.



First I have to find out

what her deal is.



Is this your kid?






Just a rental.



- You got the money?

- It's in the trunk. The first third.



You want a turn?



Does he know who's doing this to me?



Can't tell you anything yet.






Too soon. Could interfere

with the investigation.






Okay, so here's how this is

going to work.



You gave your car

to the valet like I asked?






Now when we get out of sight...



...give me your valet ticket, I'll give

you one. Go back to the restaurant.



Order something.



I had a late lunch. I'm not hungry.



Then order something light,

like a salad.



When you're done,

give the valet your ticket.



He'll bring a car identical to yours.



Follow the map in the glove box.



It'll lead you back to your own car,

which I'll have taken our money out of.



Keys'll be in the visor.



Now is there anything

you want to tell Mr. Zero...



...that might make his job easier?



What do you have in mind?



Like for example...



...what's in the safe deposit box

and where is it?



I told you...



...that is not pertinent to his task.






Now, a few words on looking for things.



When you look for something specific...



... your chances of finding it

are very bad...



... because of all things in the world,

you only want one of them.



When you look for anything at all...



... your chances of finding it

are very good...



... because of all the

things in the world...



... you're sure to find some of them.



And the most important rule:



Often what you're looking for...



... is right in front of your nose.



There he is.



I told you about his thing

for redheads, right?



Guess what color hair his secretary has.






Men are so predictable.



So did you find anything useful?



Gold mine.



First of all, I got a full name on that

boxer that Clearburg couldn't find.



Kragen Vincent.






It was on a letter

from our blackmailer...


            our blackmailee. "I warn you:

Stay away from Kragen Vincent."



He said he gave us all the letters.



He didn't give us that one.



Mr. Stark apparently doesn't want me

to know about Kragen Vincent.



So we'll have to figure out

who he is and where.



I did find one other thing

of interest, though.



Holy shit! Those are the keys.

You found the gold Swiss Army knife.



I know.



And the safe deposit box key.

Where'd you find them?



In the sofa under the cushion.






They were stuck in the couch...


            his office.



Was he hiding them? Is that possible?



No. Not possible.



That's where they fell out

of his pocket over a year ago.



What do you make of this?



I think, just as I feared, Ms. Sullivan

doesn't know a thing about these keys.



The keys are a coincidence?



That's confusing.



Doesn't seem like a...



...good thing.



Sure it is.



It's good because the man has been

looking for his keys for a year...



...and I found them.



Now, I'm going to go home.



So tell me you won't need me tomorrow

because I could check out this Kragen...



I won't need you tomorrow.



I'm trusting you here, Daryl.



Have a nice trip.



It's cold and dark...


            my heart



Said it's cold and dark in my heart...






Look, I know this is totally

inappropriate but...



- Never mind.

- What?



You know what I'm going

to ask you.



Is there any way I can get you to

look over my tax returns?



You can speak   languages

and fly a jetliner...



...but you don't know

how to file a tax return?



It's never come up?



Does this have to happen right now?



No, that's a W- .

WW II was the Second World War.



Here it is.



My humble...






It's very nice.



How long have you been here?






That's something.



You're going to need a calculator?



That would be great.



You're an accountant...


            you would know.



What is the Corrodium   deduction?



The Corrodium   deduction.



That's a very good question because...



...that, in fact, is probably

the most widely misunderstood...



...deduction in the book.









The Corrodium   deduction...


            an incentive used by

large manufacturers...



...who are able to moderate their use

of Class   decay toxins such as...



...Corrodium and...






Anything else?



All right.



Time to get dirty.



About how long is this going to take?



A little while.



If you don't mind, I was

going to take a nap.



Are you sure it's okay?



I'll just...





Just yell if you need anything else.



How's it going over there?



Just another minute.



I'm rechecking my math.



You really ought to try...


            keep all your receipts...



...for everything.



I know. I never remember.



Just put them in an envelope.



That's the thing to do.

I try to keep all my receipts.



It's just a matter of habit now.



I can't thank you enough.



You really helped me out there.






...really my pleasure.



Okay, listen.



Let me make you dinner.



No, you don't have to do that.



I insist.



I'll hop in the shower real quick,

then make us some food.



All right.









Another  -letter word.



   plus   ...



...   points.









It's not quite that simple.



Why is it not that simple, Steve?



Whenever you say that...


            creeps me out.



I told you, it's nothing weird.



I mean, okay, yes. It's a little weird.

But it's nothing creepy...






What do you get out of this?



What kind of a hold does this guy,

whoever he is...



...have on you?



He needs me.



He needs you.



Who needs who?



I need you.



It's time to get away from him, Steve.



I'll do it tomorrow when I get there...





            will marry me.



Marry me.



Absolutely vital:



The ability to blend in.



To very discreetly assimilate.



It's not usually very difficult.



All you have to do is look around...



... see how all the ordinary people

are behaving...



... and try to behave like one of them.



You know, when I was in L. A...


            seemed like such a lonely town.



Everybody's driving in their cars,

nobody talks to each other...



I don't really know,

to tell you the truth...



...about that.



So where are you from?












I've never been there.



Do you go back there much?



You still have family there?



We're not really in touch.






...what are you doing in L.A.?



Oh, I was there twice.



Once when I was little.



I was there with my aunt and uncle.



I was raised by my aunt and uncle.

They adopted me.



Then last year I was there skydiving.






Why do you do that?



Because I love it.



It's the most amazing

thing in the world.



Aren't you afraid you'll die

or something?



I know what you need.



Try again.



Take your time now.

Really set yourself.



Remember to bend your elbows a little.



A little less.



Keep the right arm straight

with the left elbow.



Check your aim again.



Then whenever you're ready.



You do this all the time?



Whenever I can.



I find it deeply satisfying.






You try again.



Take your time.



Don't be afraid. It's safe...



...just as long as you're careful.

It's all about...



...staying relaxed.






It's okay.



Just relax.



Bend this a little.



Keep this straight.



Hips back a little.



Lean into it.



Commit to it.



Check your aim again.






...and fire.



There you go.



Doesn't that feel good?



- Want to try the shotgun?

- Sure.



You want to stay at my place tonight?



I mean, you don't have to.

But the couch folds out.



I just thought it'd be silly

to go to my place...



...then you'd have to drive across town

to some crummy old motel.



That'd be great.






I'll even give you a receipt.

You can write it off.



You know my motto:



Always save the receipt.



You slept at her house?



She thought it'd be easier...



...than driving back to the motel.



I can't believe you slept at her house.



I can't believe,

with all that time with her...



...I couldn't tell more

what was going on in her head.



I couldn't tell what she

was thinking.



That's usually how it is

in the beginning.



Maybe I'll be able to see more

tonight at dinner.



You're taking her to dinner.



What was I going to say, no?



You got anymore on Kragen Vincent?



There's one serving time

at the State Penitentiary.



A life sentence.

Prison records didn't say what for.



We better go find out. Anything else?



What is it?






You the officer in charge of records?



I'm him. Lieutenant Earl Hagans.



- Steve Arlo. Can I come in?

- What is this regarding?



I work for a private...



The Department does not share records

with P.I. S except by court order.



I assume that you do not have

a court order.



I work for a private detective

named Daryl Zero.



Murder One, in     . Single count.



And guess what the victim's name is.



Let me guess.



I don't mean really guess.

No way you could actually guess.






Yeah. Clarissa Devereau.



Of 'plummeting birds' fame.



Seems likely, doesn't it?



Very likely.



Two shots, one to the head,

one to the torso, execution style.



In her motel room.



Sounds professional.



Except he made a complete mess.

A ton of evidence, prints on everything.



I got crime scene photos.



Remember the case of the hired gun

who made way, way too many mistakes?



It's a lot like that. They pick him up,

try him, give him life, no parole.



They think he works for someone

but he won't talk...



...even when they offer him a deal.



And Clarissa has quite

an arrest record for a young girl.



Mostly political, New York and Boston.



Disturbing the peace,

public indecency...



...breaking and entering.



Regular firecracker.



Regular 'plummeting bird.'



And Vincent's still in jail?



No. He was moved for medical reasons

a couple years ago.



Kragen is her father.



She was raised by his sister

because he was in prison.



She blames Stark

for ruining her father's life.



Stark hired Vincent to kill Clarissa...



...for some reason.



Vincent got caught, spent his life

in prison. Now he's dying...



...this slow, painful death.



She's watched her father's life

drip away and she's getting even.



She has something,

some evidence or something...



...that ties Stark to the murder.



I got to figure out what it is

and where she's keeping it.



Take me to the scene of the crime.



It's right up here.



Ready?      .



The bed we just moved

is a full-size bed.



In      there was no size

called full.



They had doubles and queens.



The full was invented

to combine the width of a queen...



...with the space-efficient

length of a double...



...and eventually replaced the double

in North America and Europe...



...except for Quebec and Sweden.



The bed in the picture...


            not a double.



It's too long. It's not a full.

It wasn't invented.



It is a queen.



Which means that that bed then

was longer than this bed...





So sometime in the last    years,

somebody must have replaced the bed.



Hear that?



Secret room?



It's a pipe. There once was a radiant

water heater right there.



Kragen bursts into the room.



Her body was found face up. She must've

been facing him, probably standing...



...close to where you are now.



Right away, before she could scream,

she's down...



...she's dead, it's over.



The only question is,

once she was dead...



...why didn't he get out of there?



Instead he proceeds

to touch the dresser, the sink...



...the doorknob and the nightstand.



What does the bed have to do with it?



In      it was against code...


            have a hotel bed

  feet from a door that opens inwards...



...  feet from a fish tank...



...or a lava lamp...



...or   feet from a radiant...






Imagine if you will,

a bed longer than this one...



...and a heater over here.



Wouldn't clear   feet...



...much less  . And no inspector

would let that pass.



Which means...?



Which means...



...lKragen may have moved the bed.



I see. So you're proposing...



...that he busts in the room...



...sees her standing there,

shoots her twice...



...moves the bed.



Something like that.



Why would anybody do that?




I don't know.



I'm trying to figure out some physical

evidence that Kragen might have taken...



...that he gave to his daughter

so that she could blackmail Stark.



I'm trying to figure out what is absent.



Something happened in here. Something

involving his touching the dresser...



...touching the sink, touching the

doorknob, touching the nightstand...



...and probably...



...moving the bed.






Somebody else could have moved it.



Come on. There were only

two of them. Him and her.






You need to talk to Stark.



We got a few questions for him.



I had a feeling you two

would be a good match.



I'm good at reading people.



Thank you.



Do you want my opinion?



You should try to hold onto him.



How often do you meet a wealthy single

architect from Los Angeles?



Daisy, he's an accountant.



Are you sure?



He's here for their convention.

That's why I asked him to do my taxes.



I swear I thought he said

he was an architect.






- Sorry to startle you.

- Jesus.



How do you pronounce

the word t-o-w-a-r-d-s?



You nearly gave me a heart attack.



I had to contact you right away.



What do you need?



I must ask you some things.

Just drive.



Fasten your seat belt.



First of all, how do you pronounce

the word t-o-w-a-r-d-s?






And things that have wings and fly?



You mean birds?



That's right. They don't rhyme.






Never mind.



The other thing was,

why did you kill Clarissa?



I met her my sophomore year.

I was   ...



...and she was    I think.



From New York, living in Cambridge.



I met her at a demonstration.



I have never seen anybody like her.



She let me walk her home and she

kissed me for the first and only time.



You can skip right to the part

where you decide to kill her.



Watch yourself, Arlo.



Please describe the circumstances

surrounding your contracting her murder.



After that first night, I was hooked.



I was like an addict.



Finally, she didn't want

to see me anymore.



I guess I got a little obsessive.



My last year of graduate school

I met my wife.



And after I graduated, we moved

back here, we got married...



...and I went to work

with my dad at the company.



And I had all but forgotten about...






Then, in     

we'd been back about a year...



...I got a letter from her.



She was here in Portland.



The letter was...



...a threatening letter.



What was it?



I don't think that makes

a thread of difference.



What did the letter say?



She was accusing me of something.






Did she want money?



No, she wanted to ruin my life.



I knew no jury'd convict me.

I was convinced of that.



But I couldn't take this

kind of publicity, nor could my family.



I saw...


            whole future flash before my eyes.



So you hired Kragen Vincent.



He said that for $    ...



...he could solve my problem.



And that's all I know

about the subject, officer.



So what's in the safe deposit box?



A tape.



A tape he made of our meeting.

Audio tape.



My hiring him...



...our names as clear as day.



Why didn't you just destroy it...



...years ago?



Because I don't know where it is.



Go on.



About a week after he gets caught...



...a man comes to my house

in the middle of the night...



...and tells me that Kragen expects me

to bankroll his defense...



...though a middleman, obviously.



And he also...



...wanted money for his family.



Then he played me a copy of this tape...



...and said if I refused he would

turn the tape over to the police.



He then gave me...



...a key to...



...a safe deposit box.



Said at the end of    years...



...when Kragen got out

or if he should die...



...I would be given

the location of the box.



In the meantime...



...I'm to hang onto this key...



...with no lock and our friend

would hang onto his lock with no key.



What would you do if someone was

threatening you like that...



...or blackmailing you like this?

What do you do?



I don't know.



It's never come up.



Imagine it.



Imagine some...






...piece of birdshit...



...has got a way to compromise you.



What do you do about it? You can't

buy silence. You can only rent it.



If somebody has something on you,

they'll always have it.



So the cost has no ceiling...



...and the fear has no end.



That's why...



...some knowledge, some information...


            like a terminal disease.









...and it's fatal.



Passion is the enemy of precision.



Forget the misnomer 'crime of passion. '



All crime is passionate. It's passion

that moves the criminal to act...



... that disrupts the static inertia

of morality.



The client's passion for this dead

woman had facilitated his downfall.



And the blackmailer's passion...



... would facilitate hers.



When you live with no passion...



... other people's passions

come into glaring relief.



Bullshit, bullshit...






Jesus! Would you stop it?



Stop it!






Control yourself, all right?



Control myself?



This is fucking bullshit!



Haven't I been good to you?

Haven't I been fucking incredibly...



...mindblowingly, fuckingly, divinely

generous as a fucking saint...


            ungrateful fuck!



Hey, watch it...



...all right?



Ungrateful fuck!



Shut up!






I told you why.

I cannot live like this anymore.



I can't do it to Jess.

I can't do it to myself...



...and I'm sick and tired of working

for the Starks of the world...



...the lowest scum of the earth, buying

their way out of their own messes.



These people are victims of plots

and they need our help.



This guy is a murderer-at-large

who needs our help.



Their business equals their business.



We're not involved.

It has nothing to do...



...with us.



Do you believe that?



We're the good guys.



What are you talking about?



There aren't any good guys.



You realize that, don't you?



You realize there aren't evil guys

and innocent guys.



It's just a bunch of guys.



What am I supposed to do?



Just start taking meetings with people?



Just start talking with people?






Fuck that.



You know, you'll figure it out.



I mean...


           're probably the best...



Excuse me?



Excuse me. You are the best.



I'm telling you that after this case...



...I'm finished.



I meant...



...what am I supposed to do...



...without you?



You want my honest opinion?



You should take all this money

that you've made...



...and move to Europe.



Meet a girl.



See the world. Really see the world.

Don't observe it. See what it's like.



What do you know?



I'm the greatest private investigator...


            the world.



I'll go check for safe deposit boxes

under the name Kragen Vincent.



I don't know if that's necessary.



What Clearburg probably

meant when he says...



...there's no boxer with the name

Kragen Vincent...


            that there's no boxes...



...with the name Kragen Vincent.

I think it's a typo.



Right. Right.



He probably used a different name.



That's what I think.



Well, then...



...I'll go get a beer

with my friend Bill.



I said, I think.



But you should go and check

just to make sure.






But I really hope that you've heard me.



Sorry to startle you.



What are you doing here?



I followed you.



Back at my car,

this was on the windshield.



Another payment,

due tomorrow morning.



You sure you weren't followed?



I wasn't.



I told you how to contact me.



You should not have come here.



Is he in there?



If I walked in there now,

would Mr. Zero be happy to meet me?



Go home.



Right now. Make the payment tomorrow.

We're very, very close.



I'm sick of cooperating.



It used to be   or   weeks. Now it's

every two days. Why so close together?



Maybe he's nervous. Maybe he wants

to kill me. I should carry a weapon.



No, you shouldn't.



Look, just don't panic...



...all right?



How dedicated are you, really?



Your timing's impeccable.



- How do you mean?

- Never mind.



Maybe you've got some ambition

of your own. Maybe you want...


            have your own firm.



You got me pegged. That's all I want

is to someday be Daryl Zero.



I'll give you $   million

if you sell out your boss.



Just turn over your suspect.



Name and address.



$   million...



...for a name and an address.




We can go to the bank right now.



You'd give me $   million so you

don't have to do this thing tomorrow?



I'm willing to give you $  million.



How much does he pay you?



$  million...


            you can kill someone right away

instead of a day later.



For $  million...


            do it.



- What if I walked in right now...

- He's not in there.



What if I want to find out myself?



What would happen?



I'll shoot you.



Really. I will.



I have a gun and everything.



You're threatening me?



I'm threatening to kill you.






Right before you jump off the plane...


            stand there

with all the equipment on.



You know what to do,

you can't wait.



Is there a time when you think:



"What if it doesn't open? What if this

is the last thing I ever do?"



You're really stuck

on the skydiving thing.



I'm stuck on what it is that makes you

do very dangerous things.



Even dangerous things

can be safe if you're careful.



There's such a thing as

knowing the odds.



Quitting while you're ahead.



Quitting before you're dead.



You know, you, me...



...anyone could walk out here and

get killed by some drunk in a pickup.



I could slip in the shower

and break my neck.



When your number's up it's up.



There's no sense to it.

There's no justice.



Innocent people suffer...



...and murderers get away with it.



So when my number's up,

whether I'm walking down the street...



...or doing something else...



...that will be that.



And until then, I'm just going to do

what I need to do.



What is it you need to do?



I need...


            try to feel right.



Can I get you anything else?



No, I think that's it.



Do you need anything?



I'm okay.



I'll take the check.



You got it. Be right back.



When I was a little girl...



...I used to hope that someday

I'd grow up to look like that waitress.



My mother had hair like that.



My natural mother.






God, I forgot how that works.

Wait a minute.



Can a person be considered

physical evidence? Like in a rape case?



You mean if the guy

doesn't know about the kid?



I think so.



We think so. Why?



You mean...



She is the evidence.



She's not Kragen's daughter.



She's Stark's daughter.



I must admit, I like this place.






You said that you don't

speak to your family.



Why not?



I realize I'm prying...



...but what can I say? I'm prying.



I want to know about you.



Just look me in the eyes and talk to me.



All right.



My father was...


            evil, abusive man.



And he killed my mother...



...when she was sleeping.



And then...



...he slit his wrists...



...when I was...



...  .



I don't talk about that...






I used to when it happened...



...and then one day I woke up...






...I don't know.



Everything was different.



How about that?



What doesn't kill you defines you.



I don't believe in

an interventionist God



But I know darling...



... that you do



But if I did...



... I would kneel down and ask Him



Not to intervene...



...when it came to you



Or not to touch a hair in your head



Leave you as you are



If he felt he had to direct you



Then direct you into my arms



Sometimes what you're looking

for is right in front of your nose.



That's what I've always said.



You just going to stand there watching

or you going to do something about it?



And I don't believe

in the existence of angels



But looking at you...



... I wonder if that's true



But if I did...



... I would summon them together



And ask them to watch over you



I got to get going.



So I'll see you around  :  

at my place.



As soon as I'm done with my meetings.









At this point, you will receive

a final message on the pager.



Get on the corresponding bus

and take it to the end of the line.



Find the nearby bank of outhouses.



In center unit, find pair

of blue plastic garbage bags.



Make your deposit as usual.



When you have done this

get back on the bus.



Do not hesitate. Do not deviate

from the designated course.



You'll be monitored

at every interval.



We are prepared to act.



The words were similar but there was

a new component this time:






When you spend enough time around

the chemistry of desperation...



... you come to recognize the smell.



One desperate element is combustible.



More than one desperate element

is lethal.






Call    . Hurry up.



All right.



Are you okay?



Do you know your name?



Who are you?



That's right, sir. Who are you?

You know?



- What happened?

- Cardiac arrest.



Are you a doctor?



What's the name on that box, sir?



The name is Stark.



Gloria Stark.



According to our records, nobody's

been to that box for more than    years.



She lost the key.



Her father had it.



Hi, it's Gloria. I'll call you back.



Are you there?



I'm here.



I'm about to get on a plane

and be gone forever.



I think that's a mistake.



Yeah, I don't see any choice.



What if I come find you?



You're so sure that you could?



Thai Air. Flight    .

Direct to Bangkok.



Departs in half an hour.



Okay, it's over.



You figured me out.



Nobody else got close.



You know, he doesn't know about you.



He doesn't know he has a child.



I know.



She never told him.



She wanted him to deny

that he'd even touched her.



Then at the last minute, surprise!

Look who's a daddy.



And a rapist. And a murderer.



He hires Kragen Vincent.



Kragen decides to hit her

in her motel room late at night.



He comes in the room...



... shoots her twice.



But he doesn't realize that you,

less than a year old, are in the room.



He doesn't see you at first,

because you're in a crawl space...



...she's made for you by pulling the

corner of the bed closer to the wall.



And even with the silencer on the gun,

and it all happening so quickly...



... you start crying.



He's got to do something.

You're screaming your lungs out now.



So he picks you up.

You stop crying.



And once he's got the baby...



... it's a done deal.



There he is...



... holding the infant.



That's when he decides...



... he'd rather risk it all.



He'd rather risk life in prison

than leave you in that room.



To protect you from Stark,

he gets rid of all the evidence.



Diapers, diaper bag...



...bottles, blankets...



... something on the dresser,

something in the sink...



... something hanging off a doorknob...



... something on the nightstand.



And then he leaves his prints




He leaves the body, takes the baby

and hauls ass out of there...



... because he knows he's got to

get you to his sister.



You grow up thinking

Vincent is your father...



...and you're being raised

by your aunt and uncle.



And then...



... Vincent comes clean.



He told me what happened,

but he would never tell me who it was.



And then about...



...a year ago, I figured that out.

Mr. Stark.



So then you start writing letters.



Stark pays and the rest is history.



You got the whole thing.



You win.



You saved his life this morning.



I know.



I guess a person

can't escape their nature.



How did you know...



... about me?



Couple of things.



And the receipt last night.



I know.



I forgot to take it.



"Passion is the enemy of precision."



I got sloppy.



Are you going

to come looking for me?



Will you tell him about me so he can

have somebody kill me? Because he will.



I know.



So what are we going to do about this?



There's a man sitting on a bench

behind you.



Oh, God!



It's okay.






He has an envelope.



Inside are some fake identification

and some plane tickets.



First Ecuador,

and then wherever you want.



Keep moving, first couple of months.



Stay out of westernized countries

for a while.



Don't carry too much cash on your body.



Give incorrect information...






And never use your real name.



Thank you.



Thank you.



If you knew I was here...



...why didn't you come yourself?



I'm not sure.



I knew you'd be there...



...but I'd hoped you'd be here.



You know, you could join me.



A person can't escape...



...their nature.



That's what I thought.



You're the best I've ever seen.



So are you.



I've never said the words before...





You don't have to.



I love you too...



... Daryl Zero.



So ends my account

of the case that I have named...



"...The Case of the Man Who Got So

Stressed-Out Over His Lost Keys...



... That He Eventually Had

a Heart Attack...



... And It Turned Out

They Were in the Sofa All Along. "



I returned the first installment

of my fee...



... as I had not given

a complete explanation.



Some questions are for answering...



... others are better left

to torture and torment...



... for all eternity.



A nagging itch

for the rest of his life...



... seemed reasonable, especially since

I did solve his problem.



He got the tape he'd been waiting for

for so long.



He wouldn't be throwing anymore

money down the toilet.



And I gave back his keys.



This did, in fact, prove to be

my final work experience...



... with my longtime associate...



... though I have assured him

that when he someday finds...



... that he cannot live without me...



... his position will again

be available to him.



He thanked me and suggested

that I not hold my breath.



I also attended the funeral

of the hit man...



... who died not long after

these events described above.



For some reason, I felt

a certain kinship with this man...



... whose life was forever changed

after he failed to remain objective...



... about the lady blackmailer.



Which brings me

to the other participant.



I never made any attempt to find her.



But if my suspicion is correct, she's

flying through the sky as we speak.



"...plummeting towards the earth

like a falling bird..."



... to quote one of my favorite poets.



After investigating her, I found myself

in better shape than ever before.



To me, she will always be a singular,

unforgettable event:



The only time I ever took leave

of my objectivity.



Perhaps the most able blackmailer

of her time, she was at once...



... the worthiest opponent

and the greatest ally.



And the only woman I have ever...



The only woman.






And though I never would have

have anticipated it...



... in the end she did for me

what I have done for so many.



Helped solve a problem,

first by observation...



... then by careful intervention.



In other words:



The Zero Effect.


Special help by SergeiK