>>/ Cliffhanger

/ Cliffhanger

: / Cliffhanger.

/ Cliffhanger



We are flying -- soaring, wheeling, diving through a range of magnificent mountains. They are the Colorado Rockies and, right now -- in early spring -- it's one of the finest sights on earth: the lush greenery of the valleys gives way to cliffs of sheer rock and towering peaks crowned by snow.

As the CREDITS ROLL, we wheel past a mountain wall -- an abandoned cable ladder is bolted into it -- and soar over the top. A breathtaking place -- a frozen lake, deep and blue like some rare crystal. We sweep across it and now we realize this is the POV from --


as it soars up to circle the tallest mountain: " The Tower". It rises thousands of feet from the ground below, so high that its summit is wreathed in cloud...


Spotter FRANK NEWELL (50s) scans the mountain wall. MAGGIE DEIGHAN (30s) expertly pilots the helicopter. Both wear jackets identifying themselves as members of the Rocky Mountain Park Rescue Ream.

FRANK Got 'em.


that's part of a lower but equally formidable peak separated from The Tower by a chasm two hundred feet wide. HAL TUCKER (30s) and his girlfriend, SARAH COLLINS (20's), are decked out in warm-weather climbing gear. Hal's aplomb suggests he's a veteran climber -- Sarah's worried look confirms she isn't. Hal has a splint wrapped around his lower leg, and a slow burning flare in one hand.


Frank lowers his glasses -- Maggie struggles with the wind.

MAGGIE How do they look?


Hal, aware of the copter starts jerking off the flare.

FRANK (O.S.) He's signalling "okay."

MAGGIE (O.S.) Where's Gabe?

The POV dips down -- there's someone climbing below.

FRANK (O.S.) Right where he's supposed to be.


This is GABE WALKER (30s) -- he's fearlessly, swiftly scaling the tower without safety lines, as if he's done it a hundred times. That's because he has. This is what Gabe lives for.

Almost there, he finds a finger hold at arm's length -- grabbing it, he pulls himself up on the ledge. Winded, he slumps down next to the couple, and tries to light a cigarette. The lighter only sparks.

HAL I know you're my salvation, and all -- do you think you could rescue us before your smoke break?

Hal pulls out a box of wooden matches and lights one Bogart style, one-handed with a thumbnail, cupping a hand to shield it against the wind, Gabe bends down for it -- a familiar routine: they've been friends for years.

GABE (to Sarah; indicating Hal) A twenty dollar haircut on a two dollar head. After three years he finally gets you to go on a climb, and he cracks his ankle -- (into radio) Rescue One -- have located helpless climber, please prepare idiot line for transport, over --

The helicopter dips down towards the ledge -- no way can it land here. Frank lowers a rescue wire to Gabe who swings precariously out from the ledge to grab it -- the wire is just out of reach.

GABE (making grab) Sarah -- we could take off and leave this guy behind --

Sarah smiles as if she's considering it. Hal grabs the radio.

HAL Rescue One -- please be advised Ranger Walker is making advances toward my girl that are liable to get his ass kicked right off this ledge, over --

MAGGIE (O.S.) (through radio) Copy, Hal -- tell Gabe he makes advances to me and no-one else. Otherwise he's walking down the entire three thousand feet, over...

Gabe secures the line to a heavy piton, and hammers it into the wall.


swings over across to the facing mountain -- Maggie lands the copter, in spite of the winds, on a small plateau. Frank gets out to secure the wire -- now a lifeline spans the chasm.


Gabe finishes anchoring the line in the rock. Hal rigs a seat harness around his legs and Gabe clips it to the line.

GABE Remember -- keep your arms and legs within the vehicle at all times --

HAL (laughing) Fuck you --

With that, Hal pulls himself hand-over-hand across the sloping line --


is vertigo defined. 3,500 feet straight down. However --


lets go of the overhead line and claps his hands to his face in mock horror -- he quickly whizzes the last thirty feet of the line. Frank grabs him.

Hal gets out of the harness, signals thumbs-up, and sends it back...


Gabe uses a small attachment line to wind in the harness. Sarah watches as it swings across the yawning chasm. Gabe steals a glance at her -- realizes how frightened she is...

GABE Tell me something - when I'm not around, does he still whine about the time he almost made it up Everest?

Sarah smiles, trying to mask her nerves...

SARAH Not really -- three, four times a week, that's all.

GABE Glad it's nothing serious...

He catches hold of the harness and starts to rig her into it...

SARAH He said you 86'ed his oxygen mask.

GABE You don't believe that bullshit, do you?

SARAH I'm pretty gullible, Gabe. I mean I believed him when he told me this was fun.

GABE Sure it is - it's the best ride in the park. (finishes rigging) Ready?

SARAH What happens if I'm not?

GABE (smiling) We send you anyway.

SARAH (scared but tough) Okay.

Gabe starts to push her out on the line, but at the last moment her nerve fails her. She grabs his arm, dropping her head to look down... Gabe takes hold of her chin, stopping her, making her face him.

GABE Just keep looking at me. Only think about this distance across. Count it as you go: one, two -- by eight you'll be there.

SARAH Can I count as fast as I like?

GABE Sure you can. (smiling) One other thing...

SARAH I know - keep your arms...

SARAH/GABE ...and legs within the vehicle at all times.

Gabe pushes her out -- as he does, he nods across the abyss to Hal who nods back, confident but concerned -- he can't forget that everything that matters to him is suspended by a thread over a 3,500 foot drop.


inching away in the harness, looking more confident now --


signalling "OK" -- "you're doing fine" --


thirty feet out, going fine -- Hal watches, his tension easing -- but --


holding the strap under Sarah's left leg breaks --


The harness completely unravels all at once, its strands shoot through the clips -- what was a seat has become a trap door in half a second -- as the harness shoots out from under her, Sarah falls but grabs the harness strand --

Hal's very worst fears are being realized as Sarah, too scared to breathe, dangles on the remaining strand of what used to be the harness -- she sways from the wind and the jerk of her own weight, her grip loosens --


that is supporting all of Sarah's weight is being seriously tested -- a single knot in the harness has caught there, but it clearly won't last long --

GABE moves back from the ledge.

GABE (in control) I'm coming out.

HAL No! You'll break her loose!

GABE The clip's not gonna hold!

Gabe gently pulls himself up on the line, crosses his ankles on it, and clips himself on with a three foot safety line. He starts smoothly, quickly pulling himself out. Hal can barely watch.

HAL (anguished) Jesus...

Sarah is in trouble -- the bobbing of the line from Gabe's weight and the winds are making her lose her grip even more -- Gabe pulls himself along the line faster, trying not to shake the line -- he looks across at Hal who has dug in to brace the line -- it's not meant for this much weight --

Sarah starts to look down in to the abyss.

GABE No! Keep looking at me... Sarah!

Her eyes slide up to him...


He is only ten feet away --


The knot has worked itself halfway through -- it doesn't make any difference how tight she holds on to the harness, the harness itself is letting go --


who knows it and pulls himself the rest of the way, faster, almost bridging the gap --


staring desperately at Gabe, holding on --


that's keeping Sarah alive surrenders the knot -- it passes through, and


falls --


deliberately lets go of the main line and launches himself at Sarah --


catch -- Gabe's got a tenuous grip on Sarah's upper arm --


Gabe's three foot safety line pulls taut, testing the limits of the line above as it yanks him and Sarah back. They start swinging like a pendulum over the abyss -- with each swing.

Sarah's hand slips further down Gabe's arm -- he frantically tries to tighten his grip on Sarah's arm, but his grip and hers are slipping. Gabe reaches up with his free arm to grab the main line and stabilize them, but their swinging keeps it out of reach --

GABE Use your other hand - grab it!

Sarah is too scared to comply, her other arm flailing as if that might stop the swinging -- with the next arc.

Their grip slides to wrist level and keeps slipping. Gabe's hand digs into Sarah's climbing glove and holds!

Gabe's face is a mask of strained concentration as he tries to grab the main line and maintain his grip on Sarah -- he finally snags the main line, but he can't stabilize them -- with the next swing --

Sarah's hand slides out of her glove! She falls -- her eyes still locked on Gabe who can only look down, swaying helplessly on the wire as Sarah SCREAMS --


Frank and Maggie look down in horror, but neither look as anguished as Hal --


falling -- falling -- falling -- looking very small against the vast mountain range --


from this height takes the longest nineteen seconds you can imagine --


twists from his safety line, clutching Sarah's glove -- he wants to, but can't, shut his eyes -- he locks eyes with


whose horror and grief are even greater than Gabe's --


Sarah is gone. The "safety" harness spirals down after her like a carefree bird. Her scream echoes off the cliffs and through the canyons... fainter, fainter -- until it's almost a memory -- carrying across to:


Tight on Sarah's glove. Tilt up to reveal that Gabe is holding it in his hand. He's sitting alone in his cabin, lost in thought, just staring at it...


A large sign:


Tilt down from it to a web of overpasses in front of the terminal. Speeding down it, a prison van surrounded by police cars and unmarked vehicles.

The convoy veers down a ramp, through a service entrance marked: AUTHORIZED ENTRY ONLY

In to the bowels of the terminal...


Members of a SWAT team -- marksmen -- stand on the roof of the terminal, weapons aimed at the open doors of a large hangar. Parked just inside is the prison van.


Behind a cordon of cops and police cars, the doors of the prison van are open. We catch a glimpse of seven men and two women -- all handcuffed and shackled -- as they are bustled towards the doors of the hangar...


A television news crew stands on an observation deck, scanning the terrace and outbuildings...

The reporter turns -- she sees the line of prisoners being led out of the hangar...


The cameraman spins, swinging the camera onto his shoulder, grabbing a shot of the prisoners as the cops lead them across the asphalt...


An FBI car is parked outside the hangar, close to a chartered executive jet. Standing next to the car is a distinguished man in his 50's. This is WALTER WRIGHT. He watches as the prisoners are escorted towards the steps leading up into the jet...

A voice behind him --

PILOT (O.S.) They said it was a special charter --

Wright turns: the pilot walks up next to him, waiting to board...

PILOT I didn't realize it was this special. (indicating the last of the prisoners) That's Eric Qualen, isn't it -- the drug dealer?

WRIGHT That's right.

PILOT You work on the case?

WRIGHT You could say that -- (smiles) I'm Regional Director of the FBI.

PILOT So -- how come I'm taking him to New York?

WRIGHT Extradition. Him and his friends have a date with the District Court.

As the prisoners mount the steps into the jet, Qualen -- the last in line -- turns. For the first time we see his face clearly: aged about 35, he's handsome, English, very cool! He looks straight at Wright, a moment of acknowledgement between them -- then he turns and goes up the steps.


Men in overalls are loading the last of the luggage into the jet: three metal boxes, completely sealed, each one carrying a warning:


They disappear into the darkness of the cargo section. The door slams shut.


The Pilot and CO-PILOT enter the cockpit, settling into their seats.

PILOT It was on the news last week -- they found about a ton of heroin at a Manhattan car dealership. Not just any cars -- Rolls Royces. You didn't see it?

Together they start to go through the routine of pre-flight checks...

CO-PILOT I've been in Jamaica -- a repair job...

PILOT He's a former member of MI-5 -- the British version of the CIA. They picked him up about ten miles off-shore. Guess what they found on his yacht.

CO-PILOT Elvis Presley.

PILOT Ninety-seven million dollars -- in cash.

The two men look at each other.


An FBI agent stows two large kit bags in a storage bin at the back of the plane. Aged in his mid-forties -- a tough, imposing man -- he's the senior agent in charge. His name is RICHARD TRAVERS.

Slam! He turns as members of the SWAT team push the last of the prisoners -- Eric Qualen -- into a seat. Qualen ignores them, smiling at the FBI agent waiting to handcuff him. This is Travers' younger brother -- Junior.

QUALEN At first I thought you and Travers looked alike because you were brothers -- now I know the secret.

JUNIOR What secret?

QUALEN You're not people at all. The FBI clones you.

JUNIOR That's right -- just shows how smart we are.

QUALEN Not exactly. If the Bureau was smart it would have cloned someone intelligent.

Snap! Junior closes the 'cuffs hard around Qualen's wrists -- securing him to the seat.


In extreme long shot we see the executive jet speed down the runway and take off. As it climbs towards the clouds, we rack focus to reveal the TV reporter on the observation deck, doing a stand-up to camera:

REPORTER (V.O.) Federal agents recovered over $97 million hidden in a pair of false fuel tanks. When asked about the money, Qualen told Federal officials, "Cash is like the American Express card -- don't leave home without it."


REPORTER (V.O.) This is Talia Tornquist...

Pull back from the newsreport to reveal it's playing on a television set in the corner of Gabe's kitchen...

REPORTER (V/O) ... reporting from San Francisco...

The room is deserted but we tilt up to see through the window --


Gabe stands on a bridge outside the cabin, the river roaring and tumbling underneath, throwing spray into the moonlight. But he pays no mind to it -- he's staring up at the mountain: hard and beautiful against the backdrop of a million stars...

The sound of a footfall. He turns: it's Maggie, coming 'round the side of the cabin.

MAGGIE I tried phoning you -- I guess you didn't hear it...

She kisses him "hello"...

GABE (softly) I heard it.

Once again, he glances up at the mountain.

MAGGIE It was an equipment failure, Gabe. A harness clip broke -- it's a million-to-one chance --

GABE That's all it takes -- that's why you check and double check everything, you have safety lines and fail-safe plans; all the things I never bothered about. If you don't -- one mistake, that single million-to-one chance, and someone dies.

MAGGIE I've lived here all my life -- not a year's gone by when someone hasn't died. Accidents happen...

GABE Accidents are avalanches. Face it, Maggie -- this was a mistake.

MAGGIE Then it was a mistake made by all of us.

HAL (O.S.) But only one of us decided to go out on the wire.

They both turn: Hal is approaching through the shadows, limping onto the bridge.

GABE (gently) What are you saying, Hal?

HAL It was the weight that did it --

GABE I made a mistake -- I should have checked her harness. But once it happened -- I'm telling you, that clip was never gonna hold.

HAL I think it would have. You should have thrown her a line.

GABE (certain) There wasn't time.

HAL 'Course there wasn't -- your hands were itching for it! Another chance to play the hero --

Gabe feels his temper flare, but he douses it down.

GABE (turning away) It's a bad time, Hal -- a bad time for everyone.

HAL Yeah, but you didn't love her.

GABE (turning back, angry) And you didn't have her by the hand! You weren't looking in her eyes -- now drop it!

HAL (really bitter) Oh no, buddy -- it was you that dropped it.

Gabe, barely controlling his anger, turns away again but Hal grabs him but the shoulder, turning him back... Gabe, very rough, throws his hand aside. It's the excuse Hal's been waiting for -- he launches himself at Gabe, fists flying!

Ordinarily, no match for a man of Gabe's strength, all the pent-up anger and anguish carry Hal forward... One! Two! He drives his fists into his body... Gabe backs away, blocking, parrying... BAM! Hal drives one through -- straight into Gabe's face... he reels back, then -- WHAM! Collects Hal on the jaw. But still he comes on --

Gabe draws his fist back, ready to knock him into Utah, when -- SLAP! A hand strikes his face very hard: it's Maggie. She grabs Hal's shirt and drags him aside.

GABE What did you hit me for?

MAGGIE You're both stupid -- you just happened to be closest.

She turns to Hal --

MAGGIE Get in the truck, Hal -- I'll give you a ride.

HAL (to Gabe) It's not just me -- -- ask Frank what he thinks of the Head of Rescue.

He and Maggie exchange a glance. Gabe catches it --

MAGGIE Just go, Hal!

He turns and limps off -- toward Maggie's pick-up.

GABE (quietly) What does Frank think?

A beat. He and Maggie look at each other --

MAGGIE He thinks we all panicked.

Gabe turns away -- he's lost the confidence of them all. All except -- Maggie. She puts her hand on his shoulder.

MAGGIE I'll drop Hal off -- you want me to come back?

But he doesn't answer. She stares at his back for a moment -- then she goes. Gabe just stands there, staring up at the mountain -- towering, eerie in the moonlight.


A spectacular sight: great, rolling thunderclouds backlit by the sun.

The sound of an engine -- then a plane appears through the clouds: the FBI's executive jet.


Overhead lights flash on:


An FBI agent -- MILLS -- moves down the aisle, making sure the prisoners have their belts on, cigarettes out. He reaches Qualen's seat.

MILLS Put your seat up, Mr. Qualen.

QUALEN Why -- you're not allowed to be comfortable when you crash?

But Mills isn't listening -- he's looking at the door into the cargo section, swinging on its hinge.


Travers is looking through the windshield -- nothing but cloud.

TRAVERS We passed Denver yet?

PILOT Couple of minutes back. Better put your belt on -- this could get a little rough.

Travers sits on a jump set, just behind the Pilot.

TRAVERS Still on auto-pilot?


TRAVERS Amazing, isn't it? Almost don't need you guys anymore.

CO-PILOT (laughing) That's what the airlines say.

TRAVERS Me too, I'm afraid.

The pilot turns -- straight into the silencer on the end of Travers' gun.

We doesn't even have time to scream. BANG! Blood sprays across the windshield...

BANG! The next bullet kills the co-pilot.

Travers pushes the stick forward -- the plane starts to slowly lose altitude -- then flicks two switches marked:



The tanks on each wing dump gasoline into the clouds as the plan goes into a long, slow descent...


Junior, dressed in his shirt-sleeves, sweating hard, manhandles the three sealed metal boxes out of the piles of cargo and into the center of the hold.

Out of his pocket, Junior takes a flat metal disc, rips off the backing tape and fixes it to the side of the first box. Blip! A red LED light on the front of the disc starts to flash...

MILLS (O.S.) What are you doing?

Junior turns: Mills is standing at the far end of the hold, half-obscured by cargo, watching him.

JUNIOR (smiling) What's it look like -- stealing the cargo.

Casually, he reaches for his jacket...

MILLS (laughing) Seriously.

Junior opens! The muzzle of an Uzi appears from under his jacket.

Bam! Bam! Two bullets hit Mills, sending him reeling, crashing into the shadows.


The prisoners turn, reacting to the sound of the gunshots. Another agent -- BOONE -- scrambles to his feet, drawing his gun, moving down the aisle...


Junior moves through stacks of cargo, eyes roaming, searching for Mills... a flicker of movement! Junior turns...

Bang! Mills, badly wounded, fires... Junior dives... the bullet slams into a crate, splintering it... Mills is on his feet, zig-zagging through the cargo, running for the door...

Junior rolls onto his stomach, firing...

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bullets rip into the bulkhead...


They tears through the storage locker -- into the passenger compartment... Boone ducks... Qualen can't -- he's held by the handcuffs... SMASH! A window shatters, but holds... Wham! Wham! More slugs tear into the fuselage...

The lights go out. A siren sounds. Oxygen masks fall from the overhead lockers...


Mills scrambles to the door, tearing it open... Bam! Bam! Junior nails him with a blast of gunfire. Mills drops to the floor, dead...


Boone, running down the dimly-lit aisle, sees Mills fall. A voice behind him.

TRAVERS (O.S.) Boone!


He turns -- Travers is standing in a doorway, backlit by lights from the cockpit, pistol raised... BANG! BANG! The first shot hits Boone in the chest, the second in his head...

The prisoners just stare as Travers walks down the aisle, stepping over Boone's body, heading towards the rear of the plane. Only Qualen maintains his cool:

QUALEN Back home, the police are in the pay of the criminals. In America things seem much simpler: the police are the criminals.

TRAVERS Keep talking, Qualen -- (looks at watch) Another six minutes, I'd say, and you'll be eating rock.

Travers grabs the plane's emergency exit, twists the handle which seals it and forces it open.

WHOOSH! A mighty blast of air roars through the compartment...


Barely any light at all -- just three red LED lights flashing: one from each of the metal boxes as Junior drags them towards the passenger compartment...


The doors of the storage compartment swing open -- Travers reaches in and grabs the kit bags he stowed there at the beginning of the flight... Junior manhandles the metal boxes into position in front of the emergency exit... working fast, Travers rips open the kit bags, dragging out what looks like backpacks. Except they're not -- they're parachutes.

He and Junior -- working like clockwork -- rig the metal boxes into the harnesses... Qualen, watching them, turns and looks out the window: the plane is plunging through clouds, losing altitude fast...

QUALEN What's the pilot doing?

TRAVERS Not much, I shouldn't think.

Qualen turns and looks at him.

QUALEN What did you do -- offer him early retirement?

The boxes are done. Travers and Junior are rigging themselves into 'chutes.

TRAVERS He couldn't help you anyway... (looks at watch again) You've now got four minutes of fuel left.

He and Junior heave the boxes through the door...


The metal boxes tumble out of the plane -- turning, twisting, falling into the cloud...


The bloodied bodies of the pilot and co-pilot lay slumped over the controls. The plane -- driverless -- spears through the sky...


Junior stands in the doorway, the wind tearing at his clothing. He turns, smiling...

JUNIOR Happy landings, Qualen!

Then he jumps...

Qualen looks out: the last of the boxes disappearing, Junior -- his chute not open yet -- following them down... Travers is at the door now -- about to leap. He looks at Qualen:

TRAVERS I'd like to say I'm sorry -- but you're a drug dealer, Qualen. You're about to get what you deserve.

QUALEN Guess you're right, Mr. Travers -- Junior, too, I think --

Travers -- suddenly worried -- turns, looking down.


Junior -- falling through space -- hits the trigger that releases the chute.

BOOM! The rucksack bursts open -- the chute streams out. For a moment the canopy billows and fills -- just long enough for us to see it's been shot full of holes! It collapses in on itself, twirling into a useless length of fabric, wrapping itself around the ropes like a shroud...

Junior screams as he realizes -- plunging down towards his death.


Travers looks down -- horror on his face.

QUALEN Of course, when the bullets hit the storage compartment, they may not have destroyed all the parachutes. Still, it's a helluva way to find out.

Travers rips off his 'chute -- looking at it: two large bullet holes. Panic in his eyes...

QUALEN How much fuel did you say?

TRAVERS Three minutes.

Qualen turns to another prisoner -- a woman sitting across the aisle. This is KRISTEL -- like her name, beautiful in a hard way --

QUALEN Kristel's quite a pilot -- one hundred and seven successful runs for me. Any ideas, darling?

KRISTEL Three minutes of fuel, in the middle of the Rockies? What do you expect me to do?

QUALEN What I'd expect of anyone in the circumstances -- a miracle.

He smiles at her, cool as ice.


Maggie comes 'round the veranda, opens the back door and steps through...


The television is still playing to itself...


No reply.

She opens the door into the living room...


All the shutters are closed, the room in darkness except for the soft glow of embers in the fireplace. Something catches Maggie's eye. She turns -- it's Gabe, sitting in the shadows by the fireplace. He has barely slept, his eyes are tired, his face haggard and drawn.

GABE Let's get out of here.

Maggie goes to him, ready to offer comfort --

MAGGIE What do you want to do? We can take the horses down the back ninety --

GABE Permanently, I mean.

MAGGIE (sitting down) Permanently?

GABE A lot of things fell apart up there, Maggie -- a harness was just one of them.

MAGGIE Go away together -- is that what you're saying?

GABE That's right.

MAGGIE Three years, Gabe, and we don't even live with each other -- that's how much of a commitment you've made. Of course I'd go with you -- but not like this.

GABE Listen, Maggie -- maybe Frank was right, maybe I did panic.

She gets to her feet, an edge to her voice, not willing to tolerate this much longer --

MAGGIE You don't have to carry it all, Gabe -- there's enough guilt to go 'round for everyone.

GABE I don't think so, I was Head of Rescue --

MAGGIE (turning, angry) And what about, Hal? He's your assistant -- what the hell was he doing up on The Tower with a girl that could barely climb?

GABE (rising) Every weekend in summer that happens --

MAGGIE But we don't pack up and leave because of it!

GABE Nobody's packing up, I'm talking about starting over --

MAGGIE Running, more like it.

He ignores the interruption, trying to be conciliatory --

GABE We can head west, Maggie -- some place like Tahoe. You know, short slopes and fat tourists...

But she's not buying it -- no way.

MAGGIE Believe it or not, I've had dreams of a life together. I've seen a lot of things in them, but I can tell you one place I haven't -- Tahoe.

GABE (angry) Forget Tahoe! We can find somewhere --

MAGGIE (angry back) What are you saying -- we drive 'round in a trailer and audition towns 'til we find someplace you feel comfortable?

GABE I'm not talking about a town -- I'm talking about a home.

MAGGIE This is home!

GABE Aren't you listening?! I'm not staying -- I can't.

MAGGIE I'm hearing you. Now you listen: I'm not leaving. Okay?

They stare at one another. A beat -- then Gabe senses something. He turns and looks... Maggie follows his gaze --

Frank is standing at the door.

GABE Hi, Frank.

FRANK Gabe. Sorry to barge in. I thought I'd find you here, Maggie -- Brett and Evan are up on the spur.

MAGGIE Why are you telling me -- Gabe's Head of Rescue.

Frank and Gabe exchange a look...

GABE (quietly) Not anymore, Maggie. I handed in my notice this morning. Hal's Head of Rescue.

Maggie just looks at him. A beat -- then.

MAGGIE That's a real loss.

FRANK That's what I said.

MAGGIE Not for the Park Service, Frank -- (keeps looking at Gabe) I meant for us.

Now she turns away, putting aside her personal concerns, ignoring Gabe, talking to Frank.

MAGGIE What's the story with Brett and Evan?

FRANK Their wives called -- twice. Hal wants you in the air to find the idiots before the weather closes in.

MAGGIE There's a storm coming?

FRANK So the weather service says...

MAGGIE Screw the weather service -- what do you say?

FRANK (rubbing his foot) Big one. My metatarsals are humming like a high tension wire.

MAGGIE I'll grab my jacket...

She turns and goes.

Gabe and Frank walk out onto the veranda.


A high wind is whipping down the valley, dark clouds start to wreath the mountain tops: the storm is moving in...

FRANK When do you leave?

GABE The sooner, the better I guess. (changing subject) Where'd you say Brett and Evan were?

FRANK On the spur.

GABE Jumping?

FRANK In this weather -- falling, more likely.


Two men -- both in their 20's -- are falling, tumbling through space. This is Brett and Evan.

We pull back to reveal they are plunging, arms flailing, down a huge chasm. The rock wall behind them speeds past, the ground far below races to meet them. Thirty seconds -- maybe less -- and they're dead! First Brett -- then Evan -- punches a metal clasp on his chest. Karwhoosh! Their back-packs burst open -- parachutes stream out and billow into canopies.

Hollering with delight, riding the updrafts like a rollercoaster, the two rock-jocks soar and plunge -- over the lip of another spur and out of sight.

A shadow falls across the chasm as the storm clouds roll in...


A low ceiling of clouds. Suddenly the FBI jet drops through it, heading down...


The bodies of the pilot and co-pilot are dumped in the doorway. Kristel sits at the controls, her face a mask of concentration. Travers and Qualen are next to her, watching every move. She taps the fuel gauges: both are on empty -- the needles don't budge... she checks the altimeter -- they're dropping fast; looks at the horizontal profile -- they're flying level... only now does she look through the windshield --

A plateau, high above the snow line, races to meet them...

KRISTEL This is it. Strap 'em in!

Qualen turns and takes a microphone off its hook...


All the prisoners are free now -- a couple are praying, several just stare out the windows...

QUALEN (O.S.) (mimicking a stewardess) All seats and tray-backs in the upright position, please.

The prisoners fasten seat belts, crouch forward, heads down...


Travers and Qualen slide into their seats, clasping their seat-belts tight... Kristel and Qualen smile at one another -- then she cuts the engines, kills the power. All the dials -- the cockpit -- go dark...

Just Kristel's face visible as she looks ahead: the snow-covered ground racing down, closer, closer... Faster... faster...


The jet plunges down -- straight and level... WHOOSH! A great plume of snow erupts as it hits the ground...

The plane screams across the plateau on its belly, kicking up a storm of ice and slush. Somehow, it stays level -- the problem is the ground itself tilts down towards the edge of a cliff several hundred yards distant. The plane is heading straight for it...

Suddenly one wing dips -- into a bank of snow...

Rip! It's torn to pieces... but the plane keeps sledding -- closer to the edge!


The occupants are hurled around, seats fly through the air, windows implode...


The fuselage rips downhill through a wooded area like a runaway train...


There's nothing Kristel can do except hang-on. She looks ahead: the precipice races to meet them...


Smash! The second wing hits a tree, shattering into a thousand pieces, severing off at the fuselage... the force of the impact spins what's left of the body of the plane, sending it broadsiding into the snow, slowing it down... it slides toward the edge... closer... closer... then wrenches to a halt -- several feet short of the edge. A pall of snow, ice and smoke hang over the wrecked fuselage.

From inside -- a single scream: at least somebody's alive. The high-pitched cry becomes the scream of an aircraft engine --


Closer it comes, closer -- through a mass of swirling storm clouds. Then it swoops out, almost on top of us: Maggie's helicopter, searching for Brett and Evan.


Maggie struggles hard with the controls. She pushes the stick forward -- the chopper swings lower. We see the peaks and valleys of the Rockies in all their glory -- thunder- clouds overhead, shafts of sunlight streaming through...

FRANK (O.S.) Rescue One -- have you sighted them?

MAGGIE Negative. Storm's already moving in, the winds are too strong to stay up. Over.

FRANK (O.S.) Abort, Maggie. Brett and Evan are dumb enough not to log in, but they're smart enough to pack storm gear. Head back to base. Over.

Maggie adjusts the rudder, banking the craft into a turn...


Brett and Evan are holed up in a cave, surrounded by their cooking gear, backpacks, parachutes. They both turn at the sound of an engine. They move fast to the mouth of the cave... just in time to see the helicopter whirl past, spiral down into the canyon and disappear from sight...


Gabe is carrying boxes containing his possessions out of Maggie's cabin and stowing them in the back of his pick-up. As good as his word -- he's leaving...

A great clap of thunder makes him turn and look: the mountain where he lost Sarah looms overhead, partly obscured by clouds, eerie in the darkening shadow of the storm...


The plane is perched precariously on the edge of the precipice -- all silent now, just the howl of a rising wind... Suddenly the front door is kicked open and two near-naked bodies are thrown out into the snow: the pilot and the co-pilot...


Two of the prisoners -- RYAN and KYNETTE -- are crouched near the cockpit pulling on the pilot's uniforms, doing whatever they can to protect themselves from the bitter cold.

Deeper inside the wrecked fuselage another survivor -- an overweight prisoner called DELMAR -- is making sure he won't starve to death. He's emptying the contents of the cocktail cabinet into a flight bag: jars of nuts, packets of candy, tiny bottles of liquor.

All around him, a jumble of seats and twisted metal. From somewhere farther back in the plane, we hear the sound of a man moaning...

We track toward it, past the bodies of at least two dead prisoners, to find Qualen and Kristel crouched over a young man moaning amid the wreckage. This is MATHERS -- he's semi-conscious, his knee twisted at a right angle, an arm broken, his forehead badly gashed...

QUALEN (calling) Kynette? Delmer? Someone find the first aid kit!

With surprising gentleness Qualen lifts Mathers and lays him on the cabin floor, putting a loose cushion under his head, wrapping him in blankets...

Smash! A prisoner, bloodied and bruised but otherwise uninjured, rips aside the wreckage, making his way up to Qualen from the rear of the plane. This is FRANK HELDON -- in his hand he carries the first aid kit. He looks down at Mathers, bleeding hard, moaning on the floor...

HELDON Jesus... We can't take him with us, 'Ric. He'll just slow us down.

Qualen has the first aid kit open, breaking open a syringe and a vial of morphine. He pulls up Mathers' sleeve, looking up at Heldon -- serious now...

QUALEN How long we known each other, Frank -- ten years?

Heldon nods -- yes.

QUALEN Ever known me to turn my back on one of my people?


Qualen slides the needle into Mathers' arm...

QUALEN (smiling) Well -- there's a first time for everything. (sliding plunger down) Like I always say -- it's not drugs that kill people, it's the overdose. Where's the FBI's Man of the Year?

Heldon motions with his head, indicating the exterior of the plane...


Travers has a large tarpaulin laid out on the ground, emptying out the contents of the kit bags: a selection of weapons, climbing equipment, binoculars, warm clothing...

He starts to pull on a parka and ski boots.

QUALEN (O.S.) Phase one seems to have gone off pretty well -- apart from your brother dying, the plane crashing and losing all the money, of course. What's next in the master plan?

Qualen starts to look through the supplies, picking things up, examining them. Travers ignores him...

QUALEN It is the money in the boxes, isn't it? My money?

TRAVERS My money, Qualen. And it's certainly not lost.

Qualen picks up a pair of "nightfinder" goggles, adjusting the luminescence, looking at Travers through them -- a weird, almost surreal figure...

QUALEN I never thought it was. I bet you know exactly where those boxes are. My guess is each one carries a VHF beacon -- that's what Junior was doing in the hold -- and you've got the tracking device. Am I right?

Travers pulls on his rucksack, almost ready to go. Qualen picks up a pack of detonators and a carton -- it could be take-out food but it's not, it's plastic explosive.

QUALEN (admiringly) Cemetek -- now that's a quality product. More bang for your buck than any other explosive. What were you thinking of blowing?

TRAVERS Anything I had to. How the hell did I know what I was gonna run into?

QUALEN You're a real Boy Scout, aren't you?

TRAVERS That's me -- Be Prepared -- for anything.

QUALEN It must have seemed so easy -- sitting in your little suburban house, planning it all.

Travers takes the Cemetek out of Qualen's hand and stuffs it in his pack...

QUALEN Three boxes, three separate frequencies -- just dial 'em in, follow the bouncing ball -- and bingo! Home for Christmas. The only trouble is -- it could take you a month to get from this side of the chasm to the other.

TRAVERS That's a risk I'll just have to take.

QUALEN Not really -- what you need is a guide.

TRAVERS Sure I do. What do you suggest -- we find a phone and I call one?

QUALEN (smiling) Exactly.

Travers just looks at him trying to work it out. Finally:

TRAVERS You must have hit your head, Qualen.

QUALEN Three-way cut. One third to you, one third to me -- the others split the rest.

TRAVERS What do I get in return?

QUALEN We provide the guide.


Hal is working through a pile of paperwork, trying to concentrate as Frank attaches aluminum foil to a little TV to drag in the fading signal of a Broncos game.

The COMMENTATOR'S VOICE is drowned out as the scanner radio barks to life.

KRISTEL (O.S.) (panicky) Can anyone hear me -- please answer --

Hal turns to the radio and keys the mike.

HAL Rocky Mountain Rescue -- come in --


Kristel is sitting on the floor of the cockpit. She's ripped the guys out of the plane's radios and avionics to jury-rig a system of wires, transistors and dials.

Qualen and Travers watch as she starts to "cry".

KRISTEL We need help -- three of us... it just collapsed on us -- (keys mike to garble transmission) -- leg is broken, head bleeding...


Hal turns to Frank.

HAL Rockslide. (into radio) Where are you?

KRISTEL (O.S.) ("panicked") I don't know -- we were heading up... it looks like needles on top --

HAL Comb Bluff. (keys mike) Do you have food, a first aid kit? Over --

KRISTEL (O.S.) ("panicked") No -- Nick and Dave told me we'd be down by tonight -- ("garble") -- please -- get here as soon as --

Dead silence.


Kristel disconnects a couple of wires from the battery. Travers watches as Qualen leans down and kisses her.

QUALEN You never disappoint me.


Hal, running, crosses from the Ranger Station to the equipment storage room where back packs full of equipment -- pre-packed for fast response to emergencies -- are stashed in lockers.

Frank enters as Hal shoves extra supplies into a pack...

HAL (fast) Comb Bluff's above the snow-line. They're gonna be ice sculptures by morning. I'll need tents, thermal clothes, sleeping bags. With a bit of luck I'll be able to keep them warm enough. This weather can't last more than 24 hours...

Frank lays a hand on his shoulder, stopping him...

FRANK That's a hairy climb at the best of times --

HAL There's no alternative, Frank. You heard Maggie -- the winds are way too strong for the chopper.

FRANK I'm not saying you shouldn't climb it -- I'm saying you shouldn't climb it alone.

Hal misunderstands -- he thinks Frank is volunteering.

HAL Jesus, Frank -- you've broken 52 bones in your body; one for every year. I've seen an x-ray of your coccyx, it looks like a bag of marbles.

FRANK (smiling) Any of those things I could have handled -- it was getting struck by lightning that did me in...

HAL I'm not taking someone up there I'll have to bring down in a bag.

FRANK I wasn't thinking about myself -- I was thinking about someone who's done every climb in the park a dozen times -- someone with emergency medical training --

HAL (quiet, angry) Like someone who's gonna leaving town? You don't do a climb like this with someone unless you can trust him with your life. And I don't trust Gabe Walker.

He turns and strides out the door...


The mountains loom huge overhead, the sky dark and full of foreboding...

Frank comes to the doorway, standing there, watching Hal hurrying away. He seems very small, dwarfed by the enormity of the mountains and the sky...


It's freezing cold: everyone wrapped in blankets, bundled up against the cold.

Qualen has Kristel folded in his arms, keeping her warm. Delmer -- the fat guy -- is washing down peanuts and candy with miniature bottles of liquor...

Travers is the only one on his feet -- he's standing at a rip in the fuselage, looking out across the plateau, waiting for their guide...


The chopper has landed almost next to the Ranger Station but its engine's still idling, the rotor turning.

Maggie, laden down with equipment from the storage shed, loads packs and gear into the passenger seat. She turns at the sound of a car engine: it's Gabe in his Bronco, the back loaded down with his belongings. He gets out and walks towards her. She's so busy, though, she pays him no mind...

GABE I came to say goodbye...

MAGGIE Very considerate of you, Gabe --

GABE This morning didn't go the way I meant...

She doesn't respond...

GABE Maggie?

MAGGIE (masking her tears) I really don't have time -- we've got a distress call.

GABE Where?

MAGGIE Comb Bluff.

GABE You're not going up there -- not in this weather?

MAGGIE It's an emergency, Gabe -- (turning away) I'm sorry, I keep forgetting -- those don't concern you now.

Gabe grabs her shoulder and spins her 'round.

GABE (angry) Just drop it, Maggie! Who's on the blitz team?

MAGGIE There is no team -- Hal went alone.

GABE Alone! In this weather?

She slams shut the cargo door, getting ready to swing herself aboard...

MAGGIE There was no choice -- he couldn't go with you, could he? I'm gonna try and pick him up, take him at least part of the way.

GABE One bad decision after another --

MAGGIE I thought you were leaving!

She starts to climb into the pilot's seat but Gabe grabs her, pulling her out --

GABE I'm ditching the job, not my mind -- you can't fly in this!

MAGGIE What's the alternative! We get in the Bronco and drive to Tahoe?

Eyes flashing, they stare at one another. Then Gabe turns away, yelling:

GABE Frank! Frank!

Frank comes to the door of the rescue station. Gabe is at the back of the Bronco, hauling boxes containing his belongings off the back...

GABE (to Frank) Which way did Hal go? Fortitude Valley, then the north wall?

Now we see what he's been looking for in the boxes: his climbing gear.

FRANK He's twenty minutes ahead -- you'll never catch him.

GABE I will if I go up the south face.

FRANK The south face...?

MAGGIE You're crazier than I am.

GABE I'm going to help him, not track him.

He starts to pull on his parka, boots -- suiting himself up for the journey that lies ahead.


A large, imposing building. In the forecourt, a sign:



Walter Wright is on the telephone. Right now he's a very worried man...

WRIGHT (into phone) Area code 415-555-1287. That's the direct line into my office. I'll be here -- the moment you hear anything... Thank you.

He hangs up the phone and swings around in his seat: his executive assistant, PETE DAVIS, and two SECRETARIES are standing in the doorway, listening...

WRIGHT As you heard, that was the FAA -- it's the New York flight...

One of the Secretaries starts to cry...

DAVIS Survivors?

WRIGHT Nothing yet. The weather's closed in -- they're going to have to wait to get a ground crew started.

DAVIS What are they saying -- they know for sure it was an accident?

Wright interrupts, speaking to the women...

WRIGHT Will you excuse us, ladies?

They turn and go, closing the door behind them, leaving Wright and Davis alone.

WRIGHT There was no radio contact, no Mayday. One minute it was on the screen, the next it wasn't. They say it doesn't happen like that, not accidents anyway.

DAVIS Qualen?

WRIGHT I guess it must be. Even so, assume he crashed the plane -- it's one helluva way to escape. How could you know who'd like and who'd die?

DAVIS If it wasn't him -- what else is there?

WRIGHT I don't know, Pete. Maybe it's the normal paranoia but after 30 years in this business you get a feeling -- and this is feeling weird. Check everything -- take whoever you need -- check all the files, the history of the plane, the cargo manifests... everything.


who's now a good way up the wall -- at least 500 feet off the ground. But this part of the wall is sheer and slick. His only foothold is about a half-inch of ledge -- a larger ledge is above him, tantalizingly just out of reach.

He gropes up, stretching, trying to get that extra half-inch reach -- he gets it, and painfully chins himself over


Gabe is sitting on the ledge.

GABE What took you so long?

Surprised, Hal starts to slip back -- Gabe grabs his hand and pulls him the rest of the way up. Panting from this last effort, he leans against the wall next to Gabe.

HAL If you came to prove something --

GABE I'm here for the same reason you are.

Hal looks at him for a beat -- then turns and moves off. Gabe gets to his feet and grabs his pack, taking out a bolt gun -- which fires rope-fastened bolts into rock -- and slings it from a strap on his chest.


are now visible two-thirds of the way up.


is not only higher, it's a lot tougher to climb. Instead of being angular, the wall is now completely vertical. Rough, irregular ledges are all Gabe and Hal can grip. Gabe leads, planting pitons into the rock and threading the rope through them. These steel pins between Gabe and Hal are their only safety net.

Gabe, trailing rope behind him, goes up a sheer face and climbs under a ledge, anchoring the rope with another piton.

GABE (shouting down) Anchored!


The hammering of the piton below causes a rock to CRACK loose. Several ten-pound boulders fall, starting a chain reaction --

Gabe hears the falling rocks and flattens against the wall --

GABE (shouting down) Rockslide!


Hal tries to stay flat, but one boulder painfully CLIPS him on the shoulder, knocking him from his perch --


As Hal falls, his weight on the rope yanks out the nearest anchor piton -- Hal tumbles in space, keeping pace with the boulders, as --

Gabe quickly reaches to the piton he's just anchored, and removes the carabiner clip --


The rope draws taut, yanking out the last piton between he and Gabe -- nothing but a few yards of slack rope now --


has the bolt gun out. He rapidly hooks the rope's carabiner clip to the chambered bolt, and FIRES it at a solid rock ledge above him --


imbeds solidly in the rock.


The line between Gabe and Hal pulls taut, knocking the wind out of Hal and leaving him suspended while -- Gabe is almost dragged down by the jolt -- he painfully takes most of the impact in his shoulders -- but the rope, bolted to the rock above, has held. Barely.

GABE (shaken, voice gone) Anchored -- (shouts this time) Anchored!

Hal, now somewhat recovered, steadies himself.

HAL (breathless too) You're sure this time --

GABE (mock nonchalance) Not exactly. Climb up and check for yourself.

Hal grabs the rope and starts to climb...


From the top of the bluff, someone is looking down through binoculars -- Gabe and Hal are a few hundred yards below.

Ryan lowers the binoculars, and keys a headset radio.

RYAN They're here.


Qualen is wearing another headset. He disentangles himself from Kristel.

QUALEN (to others) Let's go.


Hal and Gabe are tired, but get a second wind from the excitement of being almost on top. Gabe stops, breathless for a second, then goes on. Hal lags a little behind.

GABE Come on -- the hard part's over.

Gabe heads up and over


and helps Hal up. From here, the rest of the range looms large. The storm raging above makes this a spectacular sight -- but Gabe and Hal don't pause to enjoy it. Gabe sees the trees torn from the ground by the plane crash.

GABE (surprised) Holy shit -- some hikers.

Gabe and Hal run into the wooded area, following the wreckage -- felled trees, a smashed wing -- and reach


which sits intact by the edge of the precipice. They stare at it -- then Hal raises his radio, but before he can key it, he gets an earful of gun barrel from Qualen, standing behind him.

QUALEN Welcome to the party. I'm sure you understand -- (grabs radio) -- it's by invitation only.

He motions to Gabe -- signalling for him to hand over his radio. Gabe has no choice but to comply...


Qualen hustles Hal and Gabe inside the plane. Qualen throws Gabe's pack to Ryan and Delmar. Ryan quickly confiscates Gabe's bolt gun and ice axe.

Delmar rifles through Gabe's pack, grabbing his emergency rations and a couple of candy bars -- adding them to his stash of cocktail nuts and miniature liquor bottles. Travers looks at Hal's park ranger badge.

TRAVERS Hal Tucker. (to Gabe) Where's yours?

QUALEN Smoky hasn't got one. Just a wallet.

He starts to leaf through it --

QUALEN Gabe Walker. (notes photo of Maggie) Very attractive. Listen -- you know the airlines, always screwing up. We lost some luggage... Now, I've bet the guys behind you that you'd lead us to it. But they bet me you wouldn't.

Guns are clicked. Gabe and Hal eye each other -- no choice. Qualen grins, mocking himself and the English --

QUALEN Good show! I love winning... Anyway, what we're looking for is three bags.

GABE What's in them?

QUALEN Suits, underwear, 97 million dollars -- the usual stuff. Fortunately Mr. Travers here has a tracking device. Pay attention while he shows us where they're located.

He turns to Travers -- who just laughs at him!

TRAVERS As much as I admire this new partnership -- I'm not totally stupid. I'd hate you to get the idea I might be dispensable.

QUALEN (smiling; totally insincere) Dispensable? The idea never crossed my mind.

Travers glares at him then turns to Gabe, motioning him forward with his gun --

TRAVERS You. In there.

Smack! Delmar shoves Hal hard in the chest, tipping him backwards into an uprooted chair, keeping him out of the way.

Gabe, shepherded by Travers, steps into the privacy of what is left of the cockpit...

Ryan, Kynette and the others start to gather their equipment together... Unseen by any of them, Hal's hand slides into his discarded pack. Silently. Surreptitiously, he finds what he's searching for...

As he slips it into a pocket on his trouser leg, we see what it is: two distress flares.


Tight on a set of maps spread out on the plane's wrecked instrument panel.

Tilt up to Travers keying a set of numbers -- the frequency of a beacon -- into the tracking device...

TRAVERS That's the third one --

Gabe looks at the monitor, then at the maps...

GABE Looks like The Tower. It's the closest -- a terrible fucking climb.

TRAVERS Forget the distance -- what's the quickest? Go for that one first.

GABE The second one. Here --

He points at the map...


Hal and Gabe lead the expedition down a steep, but passable, descent that links Comb Bluff with the next mountain. Gabe stops and holds out his hand to Travers --

GABE The monitor.

He checks the it up against the mountainscape and the map.


The first blip is up a thousand feet -- it's a wall, and obviously not something for a novice. Gabe pauses a little too long -- Qualen nudges him with a gun.

GABE This way.

Gabe, with Hal right behind, leads them up the wall -- it's not a straight climb, but there's a series of zig-zagging natural ledges that cut up the wall. The others follow Gabe and Hal's example.


have led the gang further up the wall, using pitons and carabiner clips to create a guide rope. it's still just a matter of climbing relatively easy ascending ledges...


As Gabe hammers in a new piton, he turns to Hal.

GABE (sotto) We know these mountains -- they don't. If we can get ahead --

HAL Can you climb faster than they can shoot?

GABE You think we'll get a finder's fee after they get their "luggage"?

HAL Sure. All the bullets we can eat.

GABE That's not what worries me. (beat) Once they've got what they're after -- they'll need a copter to get out of here.

HAL (realizing) Maggie.

Gabe nods and keeps moving up. The rest keep pace.


The climbers have reached an easier section of the wall -- the ledge is now two feet wide. Travers takes out the tracer monitor -- it shows the first case is just above them.

Travers and Gabe look up --


juts out of the wall fifty feet above their position. As the rest of the wall above is completely sheer, the case must have landed on top of a ledge. But this isn't easily accessible -- we MOVE DOWN from the overhang to see there are only the smallest of handholds and those are slick with ice. Worse, the wall bulges outward in a curve, making climbing almost impossible.


Qualen holds his gun on Gabe, and motions up.

QUALEN (like he's talking to a dog) Go on -- fetch it, boy.

GABE I need the ice axe.

QUALEN (laughs) I bet you do.

GABE How about some tape?

QUALEN Throw the dog a bone.

Kynette pulls a roll of tape out of Gabe's confiscated pack and throws it to him.

GABE Crampons, too.

Qualen nods. Kynette throws him the iron spikes. Hal bends and starts to help Gabe fasten them to his boots. Gabe looks up -- this is going to be tough, even for him.

HAL The snow's the danger...

GABE What do you mean?

Hal looks up the wall. Gabe follows his gaze --


piled by the ton from the winter storms, lie further above, held back by a great "girder" of ice...

HAL An avalanche'd carry everything away.

Gabe looks at him -- what the hell is he talking about?

GABE Later in the spring maybe, not now...

He takes off his gloves -- that's how small the holds are. Hal helps him tape up his hands and fingers --

HAL I don't know -- that ice could heat up real fast.

Gabe stares at him -- then looks down. Hal is slipping him one of the flares, sliding it inside the sleeve of his jacket.


moves up the wall with some ease at first -- there are hand-sized handholds, and decent footholds -- but twenty feet up, there's nothing. To keep going, Gabe has to wedge his fingers into small cracks, supporting his weight only by several fingerholds at any given moment.


watch Gabe's slow progress.


He is now in one of the worse positions possible for a free climb. Moving up the underside of the overhang he is essentially hanging upside down, knifing his fingers into tiny cracks for support. It's excruciating -- both in terms of muscular effort, and the abrasions that come from continually forcing fingers into ice and rock.

Gabe keeps his hold with one hand and slides the other up, hammering it into a crack wedged with ice -- some of the ice chips whistle past and down -- finally, Gabe gropes one hand over the edge, and pulls himself onto


Exhausted, Gabe slumps prone across the top. Something hard is underneath him -- Gabe recovers and brushes the snow away, revealing the money case.

It's battered from the fall, but is still holding together. Gabe manages to force open the trashed locks -- he looks inside the case, and fingers a band of $100's.

GABE Jesus.


look up. They can see Gabe has made it -- but they can't see him, or the case.

TRAVERS (impatient, shouting) Lower it down -- now!


looks over at a ledge that moves off from it -- and at the ice and snow above.


try to look up and locate Gabe.

GABE (O.S.) (shouting down) I've got a better idea. Come up and get it.

With the case, Gabe scrambles up the wall, towards the girder of ice. From Travers and Qualen's point of view, Gabe can hardly be seen -- since the mountain bulges out as it goes up, Gabe's got a slight edge of cover.

TRAVERS (shouts to Heldon) Shoot!

Heldon runs along the lower ledge, FIRING up at --


who has to flatten against the upper ledge -- bullets howl past at twenty per second, SPARKING against the lip of the rock. It's cover, not much, but enough to allow Gabe to reach the ice girder.

He drives the flare into a crack, rips open the tab that triggers it and moves off fast...


tense, looks up. Suddenly -- a burst of bright orange light as the flare starts to burn.


turn and look, perplexed --


The flare is burning bright, melting the ice. Gabe moves across his thin ledge as Heldon runs across his -- Gabe ducks back and has to flatten even more against the wall, because his ledge is getting smaller --


smiles, seeing Gabe's cover is gone -- Heldon's ledge is getting wider, so it's easier for him to fire up. Heldon moves out to the edge --


There's now nothing between Heldon and Gabe -- Heldon takes dead aim --


looks up, sweating it --

GABE Come on --


above give way, dropping an avalanche on


who drops the case and hugs the wall --


Only now can we see how much snow and ice had been penned up on the mountain top -- tons of ice and snow sweep down the mountainside -- it SHATTERS the case against the wall as it easily swipes a SCREAMING Heldon off the ledge --


are safe at their vantage, but stunned at the sight of the avalanche. Heldon's machine gun FIRES useless as he's swallowed in an explosion of white and a flurry of green as the bills scatter amid the snow --


stares at thirty-two million dollars worth of snow settling far below. He takes his gun, furious, and fires at


where Gabe was hugging the wall -- it's now blanketed with snow. The burst of gunfire causes the snow to fall away, revealing nothing but stark rock.

TRAVERS Where'd he get the flare?

HAL Had it with him, I guess. Dangerous place, these mountains.

Smack! Travers smashes the butt of his gun into the side of Hal's face, knocking him down...

Ryan and Kynette run their hands over his pockets. They find the other flare... Travers -- real rough -- yanks Hal to his feet...

TRAVERS Get us out of here.

Hal, bleeding hard from the head, leads the gang back along the ledge.


Powdery snow is settling from the avalanche. From the cave in the rocks, Brett and Evan crawl out a little timidly.

CRASH! From way above, another small rockslide...

Evan takes a pair of binoculars and looks up --


The figures are small, but it's clear that one is pointing a gun at another figure.


lowers the binoculars.

EVAN Brett -- you're not going to believe this --

BRETT (O.S.) I believe it.

Evan turns to Brett who has found both Heldon's broken body, and his gun, half buried in snow. Evan walks over...

Brett picks up the gun -- this is more of an adventure than he ever dreamed of.

BRETT Let's check it out.

Brett and Evan grab their packs, and hurry onto a trail, as we return to --


where Gabe was. Nothing is stirring. Until a movement ten feet from where Gabe was hugging the wall.

It's a crevice in the mountain, about two feet wide -- a climber would call this a "chimney" -- and it's packed with ice and snow. It's also packed with


his hand gropes out -- and he digs himself out, gasping and coughing. Coated with snow, he leans against the wall. Alive.


Maggie is pacing, as Frank is slumped in front of the radio scanner. Suddenly the radio comes to life.

HAL (O.S.) -- Come in, Rescue Unit -- over --

Maggie bolts over to the radio before Frank can react.

MAGGIE Rescue Unit -- what's going on, Hal? Did Gabe find you? -- over --


Qualen presses his gun to Hal's temple

QUALEN No tricks, no procedural codes, no personal messages -- just tell them everything's under control.

HAL (keys it) Maggie -- Gabe found me halfway up the wall -- we've reached the top of Comb Bluff. So far, no sign of anyone. Looks like a phony call. Over.


Maggie looks at Frank --

MAGGIE Do you want me to come up after you? Over.

HAL (O.S.) Negative, Maggie. Winds are too high. We're going to ride out the storm here. Over.

Maggie looks out the window. The station's windspeed gauge is flying around so fast it looks like it might take off.

MAGGIE Okay. Let me talk to Gabe -- over --

HAL (O.S.) (hesitates) You can't. He's checking around the bluff to see if there's anyone on the other side. I'll check in later -- over and out.

Maggie leans back in the chair and looks out at the storm.


TRAVERS (snatching radio away) Good. You might live longer than your friend. Now -- (takes out monitor) -- what?

Hal checks the monitor -- the next blip is above, almost straight up. Hal motions to the wooded area ahead.

HAL The next one's on top of the peak.

TRAVERS (suspicious) It looks like a winding route -- give me something more direct.

HAL The only faster way up is the East Face. It's smooth as glass. Maybe a dozen guys in the world could do it in good weather. Only a psycho would try it in a storm.


is torn in pain. He's freezing and he's making the toughest climb of his life.


This wall is as wide as it is high -- five thousand feet by five thousand feet -- narrowing to a domed peak at the summit. Worse, it's checkered with ice. Visible on the massive wall is a small dot, moving two-thirds of the way up it. The dot is


and he barely has the strength to hold on, much less go up. He holds himself steady with one hand, gets a foothold, and swings another hand up to SLAM it against the wall.

He's tied a crampon to one hand, but it's as awkward as it sounds. He moves up only a foot or so -- then pulls out the crampon, reaches up, and SLAMS it into the wall, starting the painful process over again.


Wright is sitting at his desk, poring over an array of maps of the Rockies. He looks up as Pete Davis enters.

WRIGHT Any news?

DAVIS Not from the FAA -- they're not receiving any tracer signal from the flight recorder.

WRIGHT Is that unusual?

DAVIS (shrugs) It happens sometimes.

Wright looks closely at his assistant -- something's worrying him --

WRIGHT What is it, Pete?

DAVIS We're still checking -- but it seems all the evidence in the Qualen case was on board the plane.

WRIGHT (heart sinking) What sort of evidence?

DAVIS Ninety-seven million dollars.




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