PUNISHER: IN THE DARK WOODS part one
The first chapter of a Punisher adaptation from the work of Garth Ennis
I am a self professed Garth Ennis Punisher MAX junkie, and was infuriated by the train wreck that was Punisher: War Zone. It took some of the best characters of Ennis’ run bastardized them and threw them in to a hack kneed story that robbed them of their color and flare and replaced it with a neon background Schumaucherian nightmare with cheesy effects and a performance so bad I could scarcely believe even Dominic West phoning in a scene chewing excretion of a Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face impersonation.
Three films and still no one gets Frank Castle. So far we’ve had a Coreman level half assed eighties action flick, a mismatched Tampa based western, and a violence for violence sake abortion of a third rate action flick and what will probably be a career ending bomb for Lexi Alexander. The funny thing is two out of three of the men cast as Frank Castle have done a fairly good job of giving life to The Punisher; I am speaking of Tom Jane and Ray Stevenson. Top that off with some truly terrible bad guys in the form of an overacting scenery chewing John Travolta handing in his worst villain since Battlefield Earth, and an unrecognizably bad Dominic West who confused comicbook with cartoon.
No, so far Frank has been quite well screwed by his previous film outings. Cheated by ignorance, I like to say. Ignorance of just who The Punisher can be by directors, writers, and producers who can’t see anything deeper than a shot ‘em up flick with a guy in a black suit with a skull on his chest. I won’t repeat who I think Frank is here, for that I refer you back to my original article. But to do him justice I propose this: If you’re going to make a Punisher film do it right, and of all the creative teams I’ve seen work on Punisher over the years I think Garth Ennis got into Frank’s head best.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS AN ADAPTATION BASED ON THE WORK OF GARTH ENNIS.
The tale I present to you is not one I profess is wholly mine, as a basis for this story I amalgamated two of Ennis’ story arches from the MAX series; “In the Beginning” and “Up is Down, Black is White.” Much of this story is a reshuffling of the events presented by and some scenes and dialog taken directly from Garth Ennis’ stories. So don’t scream plagiarism, I give full credit to Mr. Ennis as the primary source of inspiration for this tale I present you. Some is directly Ennis some is directly me. It is a Punisher film the way I would love to see and one I hope you will all enjoy. So I give you part one of my Punisher FanFic based on the works of Garth Ennis.
Nero’s PUNISHER MAX: IN THE DARK WOODS.
Scene I Prosterno totus sic quo hic malum, tot sic quo hictela enim niteo.
Our story begins with the view of a man walking through darkened trees, with voiceover.
The man walks to a stone balcony overlooking a long low backyard of an estate, a pool is in the midst a hedge maze and arbor to the left.
PWJ: The Cesare Family appeared in New York as a small time racket in the 1920’s, took over Hell’s Kitchen in the 1950’s. The Kitchen has been good to them I see.
He lays down his gear. We see him rummaging through the maze, and the arbor.
PWJ: Almost thirty years of blood and sex and drugs buys a nice spread. Lots of influence. Influence leads to protection from all the right people; cops, feds, anyone who got in their way. No one can influence me. No leverage. There’s only one thing I want from people like the Cesares.
He hears two pair of footsteps approaching, he slides into the shadows.
Two men stop under the arbor. They talk and light cigarettes each flick of the lighter illuminates Frank against the wall unmoving.
In a quick movement we see Frank grab the man on the right in a head lock with one arm while pointing a silenced .45 point blank at the second man’s face. We see his terror.
PWJ: That’s exactly what I want.
Inside we see party goers enjoying a party behind a young woman we see flashes outside the window in the garden twenty yards away. No one notices.
PWJ: When I heard that Donny Cesare was throwing a bash for the old man I could hardly believe my luck. The word was out that family was coming from as far as Kansas City. Too good to pass up.
A large fat man stands up on the landing of the grand staircase. He is Donny Cesare, he is the Don of the Cesare family tonight is the 100th birthday of his grandfather, the old don, Massimo Cesare.
PWJ: Don Donny, the fat [frick] has his fat little fingers in every pie on the west side and racked up quite the body count to do it. Influence, like I said buys untouchability. The old man, Don Massimo Cesare: king of New York in the roaring twenties. The only guy Murder Inc was ever afraid of they say. There were a lot of ways I could have handled this, but there were going to be a lot of women and kids here tonight. So in the end I just said [frick] it. Let them come to me.
The younger man finishes his toast only to see his grandfather’s head burst.
PWJ: Old guy was one foot in the grave anyway, but after all he’s done he didn’t deserve to die in bed with a shity diaper and a smile.
He looks to the back of the room and there at the doors to the grand patio stands the Punisher.
Donny: You cocksucker!
Frank then shoots Donny in the head as well.
PWJ: As for Donny, he’s had it coming for a while.
The crowd erupts in confusion as the soldiers scramble getting their women and children to safer areas. We see Punisher walking briskly, but calmly through the grounds toward the large stone deck.
PWJ: Figure a minute of confusion. Get the women and kids away. A second or two to get pissed and get the guns that they checked at the door.
Two limo drivers appear nearby Frank effortlessly shoots both unarmed men.
PWJ: A few seconds to make the dumbest decision of their lives and come out those doors.
He climbs the stairs and we see him drop the bipod of an M60.
The men begin streaming out of the house.
PWJ: Blind rage. They haven’t even seen me yet. Wise guys are nothing more than retarded children with guns. All balls and ego and no brains. They call themselves “soldiers.”
Frank lets them get within twenty yards and opens up on a group of two dozen. The men are shredded by the steady fire.
PWJ: I debated about bringing “the pig.” Seemed like overkill. But I needed something reliable and belt fed. Haven’t gotten to open her up like this since ‘Nam. For a moment its Picket’s charge, Roark’s Drift, Wounded Knee, the killing fields, the first day on the Somme. World War Three in north Jersey. Its [frick]in’ beautiful. And here pouring lead into a human wall I feel some semblance of peace.
The second group is at the pool and arbor, they take cover as best they can and some fire back, but the 60’s rounds shatter block walls and claim more men. Some retreat for the arbor and the hedge maze.
PWJ: Even amongst wise guys there are some with brains enough to get out of the rain. If any of them were actually soldiers they might be a challenge. They wade right into a world of shit and don’t even know it. The Claymore: one pound of C-4 stacked behind more than 400 ball bearings. Things could rip the legs off an elephant. I used thirteen of them.
Frank lets the men get well into the maze and then sets off the antipersonnel mines and claymores he had laid earlier the arbor explodes in a hail of ball bearings. Wounded and dazed men stager about and dying men crawl toward safety.
PWJ: I could stop now. But like I said, it was all too good to pass up. Fire at moans, at movement. Give them the whole belt just to be sure. [frick] it. I’m only human.
Frank stands reloading the belt and feeds another 100 rounds into the crowd; stopping only when there is no motion or sound.
He picks up his gear and walks towards the trees.
Scene II “Aegri somnia” - Horace
We are now in another wood following a middle aged man stumbling in the darkness. He falls cursing an unseen assailant.
Johnny: You evil [frick]in’ [foo foo]! How could you? Your sisters; they were four [frick]in’ years old! Oh God, my Mary. Oh, baby.
After some time we see a .45 raise held in small untrembling hands, the man screams a final curse
Johnny: Goddamn you, Nicky Cavella! I shoulda’ strangled you when you was [frick]in’ born. Evil little shit!
(Slight homage to Miller’s Crossing) We now see a small boy about of about ten; he fires the gun shattering his father’s skull.
Back at the house some time has passed, the young man watches as mobsters mill about, shaken. In the dining room the boy’s mother and twin sisters lie dead scattered about the room.
Mobster #1: Jesus Christ. Who’da done this? Little kids wit their heads blown open in there.
Mobster #2: Shut it. The boy’s right there. He doesn’t need’ta hear shit like that.
A large woman dressed in gaudy late fifties style bursts in, Auntie Mo. She embraces the boy.
Auntie Mo: Jesus [frick]in’ Christ! Where’s my Nicky? Come here to Auntie Mo, baby.
Mobster#2: We found Johnny, Mo. He’s out back in the woods about a few hundred yards in.
Auntie Mo: Jimmy, that [frick]! He does that with his bumps. Walks ‘em out like that. My own [frick]in’ brother. Did you see who did this baby?
Nicky: I… I was bad. Dad sent me to my room. I heard people downstairs…(sobs)…
They were screaming at dad. Then I hear BAM, BAM, BAM! They just started shooting and the twins were screaming…(crying)… I heard footsteps and I hid, but I saw Uncle Jimmy. It was Uncle Jimmy! He killed Mom and Dad.
Auntie Mo: That sonovabitch. I want his heart you hear me?! Bring me his [frick]in’ heart.
Mobster#1: You’ll have it by morning, Mo. You have my word on it.
When the men have gone the woman leans down and cradles the child.
Auntie Mo: You’ve been a good boy, Nicky.
Nicky: I did just like you said, Auntie Mo. I ditched the gun and everything. I did good didn’t I?
Auntie Mo: You did great, baby. My little Nicky. You should’a been mine. My little soldier. Auntie Mo will take care of you from now on, baby. You’re
Auntie Mo’s now. Now we’re gonna get everything we deserve.
A grown man wakes in a cold sweat. A hooker stirs beside him.
Nicky: I’m not paying you to sleep. Get the hell out of here.
He flips on the TV and sees the news from Don Cesare’s New Jersey estate.
Reporter: Police are still tight lipped about the slaughter here at the Cesare Estate, but we have counted at least fifty, yes fifty, body bags as a steady stream of ambulances arrives through the gates behind me. Sources inside have said that this was the work of Frank Castle, former US Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran, turned vigilante after the murder of his family at the hands of the New York mafia six years ago. Since 1976 “The Punisher,” as he has been dubbed by the media, has racked up a death toll of nearly three hundred people and it looks like after this evening those numbers will be rising significantly.
Cavella leans back and smiles.
Scene III Mors ultima linea rerum est
It is a cloudy cool autumn day, a legion of Cadillacs wind around a cemetery. There are several awnings erected around the grounds; this is one of many burials scheduled that day. Pall bearers bring a large coffin from the hearse, grunting under the strain.
PWJ: One thing you can always count on with these guys it’s a showy funeral. A Don dies and he becomes a saint. Even his enemies pay respect. Vultures circling a carcass, drawn by the stench. Lured by the void to be filled and they always fill it. Someone always steps up. They can’t help themselves. The body can’t stand without a good pair of legs under it. I’ve got the ax; now I just need to keep cutting the legs out from under them. Bleed them. Push them. Never let up.
We see the funeral service through crosshairs. The sites dart from face to face.
PWJ: Capelli; south Jersey. Bruno Stassito; muscle, little drugs on the side. Don Vito Gnucci; runs half the whores and numbers in Brooklyn. Piagee. Regeti. Big Jackie Paladore, Coto, Tony Z, Big John, Bumpy, all there. Now just stay there and compare your dick sizes while the kiddies get to the cars boys.
Frank watches as the service ends and the families walk away. The men linger talking near the graveside. Frank looks to see FBI beyond the main gate; he waits for the archbishop to leave. He has lost three of the mafia heads, but he will not chance hurting the innocent. Finally he raises a detonator.
PWJ: You bring dogs in to sniff for bombs at the cemetery, but you leave the body unattended at a mortuary all night. Easy enough to pick a lock. And after all, who would hide a bomb under a body? He’d have to be a sick son of a bitch.
It explodes shredding the men around it. Frank then raises his rifle and begins finding other targets which had moved out of the blast radius. He quickly drops six men. He packs his gear and we see for the first time he is in an old hotel nearly half a mile away. He walks downstairs dumping his weapon down a trash chute. He proceeds into the boiler room and through a service door into a side area that empties into a small grate under the street from there he accesses a subway utility tunnel where he has stashed a helmet and work vest, he then appears amongst workers in a subway tunnel doing repairs, he walks through the crowd and onto a platform dropping the disguise into a trash bin and calmly waits for the next train.
He exists the train in Hell’s Kitchen and walks to a small tenement in a rough neighborhood. He enters the basement apartment, checking a small piece of tape on the door has not been broken. He opens the door a little and reaches in pulling the string from a stun grenade. He walks in looks cautiously and then goes to the fridge dropping his coat on the counter. He removes a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and flips on the television watching the news report the damage and death he has wrought; twelve more dead.
Scene IV Nullum Gratuitum Prandium
A small restaurant in Queens.
Three men sit at a table. The younger taller man is from scene II he smiles at the waitress as she refills his coffee. Seated with him is Pittsy a very short bulldog of an older man who appears to be fuming. Across from him sits Ink a slightly fidgeting taller gaunt man wearing think glasses and thinning unkempt dark hair, he grunts at the waitress and she looks at his severely lazy eye. They are joined by Larry Barrucci a heavy set balding man that we have seen manage to survive the previous Punisher attacks.
Larry: It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Mister Cavella.
Cavella: Call me Nicky. These are my associates, Pittsy Gazzera and Ink. Please
Larry, sit down.
Larry: How was the trip down from Bah-ston. You have any trouble pah-kin’ the Cah?
Pittsy: What’re you some kinda’ [frick]?
Larry: N-no, Mister Gazzera. I…
Cavella: Easy up, Pittsy. So you finally decided you needed the big guns. Eh?
Larry: Exactly! We got chopped off at the knees by this Punisher [frick]. We lost Cesare, his consigliere, most of the capos. We got plenty’a soldiers left, but no one to lead them. No one worth a damn anyways. That mother[frick]er gutted us; guys visiting from all over. Nobody knows what the [frick] to do.
Cavella: You still got Big Jackie Paladore, right?
Larry: Big Jackie got his legs blowed off at the funeral. He was always more interested on what he could get up his nose than being a good earner anyway, can’t have a guy like that as the new boss. No, the new capos agree, he’s gotta go.
Cavella: I see. Sad when that happens. So you got the bright idea to call me?
Cavella: Let the past be the past. The prodigal son returns.
Larry: Exactly! Ya know I started out on yer dad’s crew, I always thought Donny gave you a raw deal after the thing with the chinks.
Cavella: Don’t ever try to bullshit me Larry. I’m about as welcome in this towns as a fart in an astronauts suit.
The waitress arrives with their food.
Waitress: Steak, medium rare.
Cavella: Thank you, honey. What a doll.
Waitress: Burger, well.
Waitress: And the Chowder.
Pittsy: What the [frick] is this?
Waitress: Chowder. New England Clam…
Pittsy: It’s [frick]in’ red.
Waitress: It’s supposed to…
Larry: That’s how we make it down here. It ain’t like...
Pittsy: You shut the [frick] up. It’s supposed to be white. The menu says New
England clam chowder you make it like in [frick]in’ New England! Now get this shit away from me an’ bring me a bowla chinken soup, ya hear me? An’ try notta have ya [frick]in’ period in it this time!
The waitress walks away beginning to cry. Cavella wipes his lips with a napkin as if nothing has just happened. Larry looks around confusedly.
Cavella: Look, if you want me to run this show and give you Jackie’s head I can do that, but I’m willing ta bet you haven’t said shit about me bein’ here to Jackie Paladore and Big Jackie has no love for me and vice versa. And the fact remains that Jackie is the senior capo. Might make some waves to move him aside.
Larry: Already decided. The new capos agree his fat ass is done. Do whatcha gotta do.
Cavella: [smiling] That’s a long leash you got there Larry. I like that.
That night at the hospital Paladore awakens to see Nicky smiling at him.
Big Jackie: What the [frick] is this? Cavella. What the [frick] are you doin’? Get the [frick] outta here!
Cavella: How long has it been Jackie? Eight years? You seemed taller then.
Big Jackie: [frick] you, you twisted psycho [frick].
Cavella: Be nice, Jackie. You make me mad and things can get ugly real quick. You know that. Your boys don’t like you Jackie, I agree with them. I think you’re a useless [frick]. What d’ya say Ink?
Cavella: I am gonna ask you a question Jackie. Yes or no answer. Give me the wrong one and somethin’ very bad is gonna happen. Will you pass over the chance at boss and play nice with me in charge?
Big Jackie: You?! You? Ya crazy sick [frick]. [frick] you.
Cavella: That’s unfortunate Jackie. Really. Pitts how does that make you feel?
The bathroom door opens and Pittsy is there with a young teen gagged with a miniblind cord tied around his neck.
Big Jackie: Jackie junior, what?
Cavella: Jackie, I never said somethin’ bad was gonna happen to you.
Big Jackie: No, please, Nicky. Please. I’ll do what you want I’ll…
Cavella: Shut up you weepy fat [frick]! I been in bean town for eight years because o’ you high and mighty cocksuckers. The big bad Big Jackie pissin’ his pants. Whata’ya think of this Pittsy.
Pittsy: [frick]in’ faggot [frick].
Cavella grabs the fat man’s check an forces he head over to watch his son. Nicky leans down uncomfortably close. His The last vestige of his smooth veneer which has been fading as the situation progressed and we now see a truer vision of what lurks inside Nicky Cavella, his face is savage, his voice tinged with a vicious glee and seething anger, we see a monster
Cavella: Now you watch mother[frick]er. All actions have consequences. Karma is a bitch Jackie-boy.
Pittsy strangles the boy until his throat bleeds and he slumps over; Cavella holds him down, forcing him to watch the boy die. Ink quickly covers Paladore’s mouth and nose. They hold him down until he suffocates. Pittsy stuffs the young boy into a duffle bag and hoists him over his shoulder. The group leaves the hospital. A few blocks away they stop the car and Pittsy tosses the bag in a dumpster.