The Orient Express

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OUTLINE

With Uri and Alexander on board, the Orient Express stops in Paris where Najwa boards it. Following a short leave of absence, Carla visits her family farm in Emmental before returning to work. Crossing Europe, the train journey traverses time as Najwa's and Carla's minds meander into the past. Feminine insight wins over violence.

Mossad won't be on board, only US operatives tipped by IRN.

How does Uri learns of Alexander's presence on the train? Through Zvi?

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SUEZ CANAL

Pierrot is on deck carefully pulling tiny drawers from the wooden Captain's Box which they rescued from the RMS wreck as Philippe steers the trawler along the El Ferdan Swing Bridge.

He pulls a foggy ampoule and raises it towards the Sinai sun.

Philippe peaks from the cabin.

-Anything interesting?

-Don't know... Can you dip a piece of cloth in gas and trow it to me... I don't want to drop this.

GARE DE L'EST, PARIS

Najwa wears a red hijab as she walks out of a taxi in front the Gare de l'Est and enters the station. She looks around and notices the ticket counter where she addresses the SNCF agent in French.

-L'Orient-Express pour Venise?

The agent replies with a typical Parisian demeanor.

-Les billets pour L'Orient Express c'est en agence mademoiselle.

-Merci, non je rejoint mon mari à bord... J'amerais savoir sur quelle voie s'il vous plait.

-Ben y faut regarder les tableaux alors.

The agent reluctantly looks at his screen as Najwa smiles at him.

-Voie 6 à 21h44.

-Merci...

She walks away then turns back towards the agent.

-Ah si, une dernière information, les trains en provenance de Berlin, il arrivent ici?

-Non l'Allemagne c'est la Gare du Nord.

-Et c'est loin?

-En sortant vous tournez à droite et montez la balustrade de la rue d'Alsace puis à gauche sur la rue de Dunkerque... 10 minutes.

-C'est très gentils monsieur.

-Je vous en prie.

BETWEEN GARE DE L'EST AND GARE DU NORD, PARIS

Rue d'Alsace

Najwa pulls down her veil to fix her black Beats headphones and plugs them to her phone as she walks up an external staircase leading to Rue d'Alsace. She scrolls down the song list until she hits the German version of David Bowie's Heroes. As she wanders around, she stops in front of a bookstore and notices the cover of an Argentinean comic book El Eternauta, which leads her to think of Borges, Anne Frank and her missing father... When she notices a one star hotel down the street, she wonders if that could be where she was conceived. Her minds continues meandering until she gets in front of the Gare du Nord but an incoming SMS interrupts her inner journey.

-WAY

-GARE DU NORD

-IT'S GARE DE L'EST!

-I KNOW. CU IN 10 ;)

-RUN NAJWA RUN

PLATFORM 8, GARE DE L'EST, PARIS

Alexander stands on the platform holding the handle of the Pullman car as the departing whistle resonates through the station. Standing at the window of the bar wagon, Uri notices Najwa running towards Alexander and boarding just seconds before the train's departure.

ALEXANDER & NAJWA'S COMPARTMENT, ORIENT EXPRESS, LEAVING PARIS

Najwa lies on the berth as Alexander sits next to her, caressing her hair.

-Did you sleep on the flight?

-No. Dozed off I guess.

She continues staring out the window not really connecting with him.

-What's up, why are you so moody?

-Sorry, It's just Paris... Takes me back.

-I thought this was your first time.

-It is...

Najwa turns her back to Alexander and the two remain motionless until she continues.

-That's where my parents made me... You know...

-Not in Budapest?

-My mother only told me bits of the story... Apparently my father was this French Canadian kid wayfaring throughout Europe and they met in Berlin, I think. Then they came here. To Paris. Just for one day... one night... The only thing I have left from him is a poem he wrote to my mother... that night. It ends with For ever and ever... But they never met again.

-You know his name?

-It was signed Axel... I think he was even younger than her...

Najwa turns to grab Alexander's neck and kisses him, changing the mood.

-See... I'm not looking for my father!

CARLA'S GRANDPARENTS FARM, MITTELLAND, SWITZERLAND

Both grandparents are sitting at the kitchen table staring at Carla who is contemplating a plate of roesti. They smile at her silently.

-Eat Johanna... You need to get strong my little girl.

Carla gently rests her hand on her grandmother's arm.

-Grosi... I'm not Johanna... I am Carla...

Carla's grandmother stares outside then looks back at Carla who smiles at both her grandparents lovingly.

-Grospapi, how many cows do you still keep?.

He answers giggling between bits of sentences.

-One... Schakal... She's a loaner... doesn't want to die...

-Do you still milk her?

-Every morning... and every night... Schakal...

The grandmother smiles at Carla again.

-Eat Johanna... Eat.

ALEXANDER AND NAJWA'S COMPARTMENT, ORIENT EXPRESS, EAST OF PARIS

Najwa looks around their compartment pulling drawers and opening cupboards as Alexander sits on the berth reading the Financial Times.

-How was London?

-Good.

-Got what you wanted?

-Yes, we launched.

-And...

-We'll see.

-So... Did you guys celebrate?

-Yeah but I was not in the mood. I left early.

-Cute girls?

-As always... But none with a cute ass like yours.

-Right!

Alexander grabs her hand and pulls her towards him.

-Come here baby...

They kiss as Najwa lies on top of him. After a moment she grabs his face and stares at him.

-So why this sudden rush to see me in this "Romantic" decor.

-I don't know. I thought you'd like it. I read the novel in high school... Then I slept so many times on the hard benches of the Tallinnn-Moscow that I promised myself that one day I'd travel on this one... So when I saw the ad in London... You don't like it?

-It's okay I guess. Fancy...

She looks around then straight at him again.

-I thought you fucked some whore, felt disgusted once you were done, then booked this trip to cleanse your soul... And body.

Alexander grabs her tightly against himself.

-You should keep all this wit for your diary.

-It's not mine, I told you.

-Well, still, whoever's it is...

EXTERIOR, CHAMPAGNE-ARDENNE, THREE HOURS EAST OF PARIS

The Orient Express crosses the French countryside, traversing space and time. Its thick white smoke lightens the nightly sky. Najwa stares out through the foggy window as Alexander sleeps, leaning on her shoulder.

BERLIN-PARIS TRAIN, 1982

The overnight train crosses towns and fields. Neda and Axel are the only two passengers awaken in their compartment.

CARLA'S GRANDPARENTS FARM, MITTELLAND, SWITZERLAND

Houses of the Holly

Carla exits her sleeping grandparent's bedroom leaving their door ajar then enter another room at the end of the corridor. It's her mother's bedroom where very little has changed since she died more than 30 years earlier. She pulls objects from boxes stacked in the cupboards. She finds a Led Zeppelin album, opens its double sleeve before pulling the record out. She removes an Afghan textile covering the turntable, turns it on and drops the needle on the 3rd track of the B side. She lies down on her mother's bed sorting through photos to the sound of No Quarter.

BAR CAR, ORIENT EXPRESS

Uri is sitting at the counter of the bar car sips on a lager while reading something on his phone. The barman, a black man with a Jamaican accent looks at him from the edge of the counter.

-Quiet night Sir. Still working... or matters of the heart?

Uri, smirks but doesn't answer.

-Another half? On the house.

Uri raises his eyes away from his phone, empties his glass then slides it towards the barman.

-Why not... Thank you.

The barman fills up Uri's glass. Foam spills over the edge.

Uri notices the barman's clumsiness.

-Vibrations!

-Yes.

The barman looks at the beer barrel under the bar before topping Uri's glass.

-I better check the pressure. Here you go.

-Thanks.

The train slows down. Uri looks out the window trying to figure out where they are.

-Do you know where we are?

The barman pulls a curtain behind the bar's window and notices the station's name plate.

-Troyes... I guess.

-You've done this journey before?

-No. This is my first trip. They called me in last minute to sub for the regular guy who was incapacitated. I come from the hotel business. Same company.

CARLA'S GRANDPARENTS FARM, MITTELLAND, SWITZERLAND

Night has fallen over the Swiss Alps and Carla exits her grandparents farmhouse seeking a better phone signal. She reaches the summer stable and enters quietly as a lone cow appears to be sleeping.

As she notice signal bars on her phone, she is surprised by a loud moo. She approaches the cow which stares at her before launching another moo.

-Schakal... It's ok my baby... Shakal, what kind of a name for a cow my sweaty...

The cow continues to moo...

-What's going on... You want me to milk you...

Carla grabs a stainless steel bucket and kneels down under the cow to milk it as a sound signals an entering SMS. She set her phone on the floor to read the message as she starts massaging the cow's teats.

-ON BOARD ORIENT-EXPRESS WITH GERONIMOFF

Carla continues to milk the cow, perplex about the meaning and origin of the message.

BAR CAR, ORIENT EXPRESS

The train is stopped at the Troyes station as the barman is leaning down behind the counter adjusting the pressure knob on the beer barrel.

-Bloody thing is ass backwards.

-Don't worry... A little foam is no big deal. Just gets a little flat, replies Uri.

-What you mean?

-You're not a beer drinker right?

The barman stands back up wiping his hands.

-Not much, obviously... Not much.

Uri's phone's screen lights up with a new SMS.

-WHO ARE YOU?

-Sorry, I gotta answer that.

-So, matters of the heart.

-Matters of the past.

Uri types back.

-YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL.

At the same moment, both men notice the scarlet veil of a woman disembarking on the platform through the door leading to the other car.

-Hope she's aware that this is only a pit stop, says the barman looking at his watch.

-What time does it leave?

The barman looks at a work schedule posted behind the bar.

-Seven minutes.

-Time for a cigarette... You're joining me?

-Thanks. I'm gonna chill here. Get things in order before breakfast.

TROYES STATION PLATFORM

Uri walks out of the train and lights up. He looks around trying to find the scarlet veil woman but the platform is deserted.

He grabs his phone and starts typing as he notices Najwa wearing her hijab, re-boarding the train through the next wagon's entrance.

OUTSIDE CARLA'S GRANDPARENT'S FARM, MITTELLAND

Carla opens the trunk of a new Fiat 500 which she borrowed from Franziska as her phone buzz.

-U'R OK?

-AT MY G-PARENTS.

-ALL GOOD?

-YES. JUST CHECKING ON THEM.

-KNOW THE FEELING... WILL B IN CH IN THE AM. WANNA MEET?

-TELL ME WHERE.

ALEXANDER & NAJWA'S COMPARTMENT, ORIENT EXPRESS, TROYES

Alexander is not in as Najwa enters their compartment. She grabs her iPad and sits down as she hears a bell signaling the imminent departure.

BAR CAR, ORIENT EXPRESS, LEAVING TROYES

As Uri gets back into the restaurant wagon, he notices Alexander sitting at the counter right where he was previously sitting. The barman looks at him stepping in.

-Think I figured it out. Wanna try a last one.

Then looking at Alexander, waiving a glass.

-Sir, on the house, we're testing the pressure?

-No thank you, another vodka please.

Uri sits two seats apart from Alexander.

-All the way to Venice?

-Is there another option?

The barman serves the beer and vodka.

-Well, I guess one could leave at any stop.

Then looking at Uri.

-By the way did this lady get back in on time?

-Yes, I saw her stepping in further down.

Uri looks towards Alexander.

-You travel alone?

-No, yourself?

-Yes.

-Venice as well, then!

-Not to sure, I might get off in Switzerland.

The barman interjects.

-Siren of the Alps.

-In a way...

-So matters of the heart.

Alexander slides his glass towards the barman for a refill. Uri continues his exchange with Alexander.

-You've visited?

-Switzerland, no... I'm more of a seaman. Not much to do for me in landlocked places.

Uri remains silent for a moment, staring at his beer, then addresses Alexander in Russian.

-Well better like this, then. You shouldn't go.

Alexander looks at the barman who raises his hands as if not affected by what Uri just mumbled. Alexander slides his glass for more.

-Time for vodka... Please pour the man a shot.

Alexander addresses Uri in Russian as the barman pour two shots of vodka.

-So I guess you're the mysterious cyclist...

At the same moment he gets an incoming SMS from Najwa.

-WAY

He puts the phone back into his pocket and continues in Russian.

-As we are here talking man to man, this was not my call. The ones responsible have been dealt with. You're on the wrong track.

-We're all on a different track. Just make sure ours don't intersects again.

-Same goes for you and we'll be fine.

Alexander empties his glass, drops a 50 Euro bill on the counter and stands up.

-Well gentlemen, it was a pleasure...

Alexander exits the restaurant wagon towards his car.

Uri looks at the barman.

-So, you got what you wanted?

-What do you mean?

-Nikitin.

The barman smiles at Uri, then after a bit of a hesitation...

-How did you guess? The foam?

-The foam, the new job, the fake Jamaican accent, the Yankee slang coming out when you screw up.

-So what, you think we're on the wrong track?

Figuring out that the barman understood Russian.

-I see. You guys came in well prepared.

-Somehow.

-And you, what was all this about?

-Personal story.

-Matters of the heart.

SOUTHBOUND ON HIGHWAY E25, CANTON OF BERN, SWITZERLAND

Carla is driving on the deserted Swiss highway.

TRAIN STATION, BRIG, SWITZERLAND

Uri walks along the platform carrying a small shoulder bag as the Orient Express leaves the station. He glances at Najwa who stares at him from her seat, in trance listening to the music of Kraftwerk.

She grabs her iPad and starts writing in French.

LOTSCHBERG TUNNEL, SWITZERLAND

Carla checks her SMS but realizes that she doesn't get a signal as she sit in her car being hauled on a train across the Alps.

FERROVIA, VENICE

A train attendant smiles as he passes by Alexander and Najwa while they wait for the train doors to open as the Orient-Express arrives at the station.

-Excuse-me, is the name of your hotel identified on your luggage. We have a boat which could drop them off for you.

Alexander raises his small dry bag.

-Thanks but that's all we carry.

-Well, have a beautiful stay in Venice.

The train attendant walks away as Najwa smiles at him. The doors open and the couple are the first passengers to disembark.

Najwa sets her scarf around her head and grabs Alexander's arm.

-Where do we go.

-Shower!

-Did you book a hotel?

-No. Thought we'd play it by ear. You have an idea?

-None... Let's walk around a little first.

CANNAREGIO, VENICE, LATE AFTERNOON

Najwa is fascinated by her surroundings as they meander in the small Venetian streets.

-So is this where the novel ends?

-Not really. They never even get to Venice. From what I remember it kind of ends in the Balkans...

-Did you see Death in Venice?

-No, I don't think so. A film?

-Yes, beautiful music while the man wanders around a desolated Venice. Hit by a cholera epidemic. I think I have it.

Najwa scrolls down her song list and splits her headphones to share them with Alexander. They walk around listening to Mahler's Symphony No. 5.

HOTEL ROOM, VENICE

As a vaporetto docks across the Grand Canal, Najwa sits at her room's open window and scrolls through Wikipedia on her iPad looking for Novels set in Venice. She is led from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice to Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees where she focuses on the author's platonic relationship with a young woman. This is the missing link she's been searching for months. Anne>Cuba>Hemingway. She takes notes in "her" diary.

Moments later Alexander walks out of the shower with a towel around his waist. Najwa peaks at him.

-When you'll be like fifty... you think you'll be more attracted by teenage girls, or boys?

-Boys? You're talking to a Soviet Navy officer my Muslim sister. We don't do boys. A woman in every port maybe. But no boys.

-So why do writers when they hit their fifties are so fascinated by youth that they don't really care about the gender.

-Writers maybe, but not us men.

He grabs her by the waist as she remains sitting on the window frame.

-We like real women. With flesh under the cloth.

-But I'm not your sister, you pervert, continues Najwa as she pushes him away with a smirk. Go back to your London whore... and let me work.

-You really are fixated on fiction my love.

ISABELLA'S ROOM, JERUSALEM

A teenage Uri, stands in Isabella's room. He watches himself in the mirror as his grandmother lies in her bed.

-Why didn't you ever go back to Venice.

Isabella suddenly looks as if she was 20. She answers in Italian.

-But we are in Venice my love.

Uri looks back at himself in the mirror and is distracted by knocks on Isabella's door. She continues in Italian...

-The Germans!

HOTEL VICTORIA, BRIG, SWITZERLAND

Uri is pulled from his dream by knocks on his hotel room's door. After a few seconds, he cautiously makes his way to the door where he finds an exhausted Carla standing. She walks straight at him and they start hugging each other until they collapse on the bed.

-Who are you... I can't get you out of my mind ever since I woke up from that night in Moscow. Did you hypnotized me? Did we do it?

Uri smiles as they continue kissing over the bed.

-Not that I remember. You passed out.

They make love.

MOSSAD COMPOUND, HERZLIYA

Aaron is in a meeting with his superiors reporting that what they're now getting from US sources is that Yatom seems to be back on Nikitin's trail.



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