The Deterritorialisation of Nick Nolte

Does the 1982 Eddie Murphy classic “48 Hrs.” hold up today ...


      Nick Nolte the wildman drunk woke up after a long night of reading, drinking and smoking and [with light storming in] realised he was no longer Nick Nolte.


As he brushed his teeth in the bathroom he further realised he hadn’t been Nick Nolte for a long time.

‘Shit, padre…’

He showered, put his contacts in and tried to figure out some kind of time scale.

Twenty years?


That cop film…the Eddie Murphy thing…was that it?

He walked into his second living room, in the beach pad bought by Nick Nolte the mad scientist in that green monster film, and thought about what he should do next.

A few seconds later he went sideways and thought about why he’d come to think of this in the first place.

There were all those books he’d been reading. The ones Walter said would give him trouble.

But, shit…just fiction and philosophy, he thought.

Cela and the Life of Pascal Dirty. Camus and the third man. Celine and the long journey through the night. Malaparte and…what was it…Virus? Disease? Sartre and the nausea. Takahashi and the Sayonara Gangsters. Hesse and those two guys…Nazi and Goldman.

Shit, just fiction and ideas…

He shrugged and went back to thinking of that other thing, the plan, what he should do next.


Nick Nolte the wildman drunk stood in front of the bathroom mirror and combed his hair. He brushed his teeth again, whiter than white, then smiled to the other.

‘Beautiful,’ he said. ‘A Goddamn Philandropist.’


In the police station the first arrestee smirked and said, ‘no reason, man.’

He was slapped twice then put back in the cell.

The second arrestee smirked and said, ‘fuck you.’

He was given a ‘fuck you’ back, slapped and put back in his cell.

The seven arrestees that came next were all pretty much the same way.


The cop who liked to know why leaned back in his chair, in the open plan office space that was supposedly a police station, next to the cop who liked to slap, near to the other cops who also liked to slap.

‘Next,’ he said.

The next arrestee was brought across the office floor, past the water cooler and the computer terminals and fugitive pictures on the wall, and told to sit down.

He sat down.

‘Why?’ the cop who liked to know why asked.

‘Why what?’

‘Why? Why’d you do it?’

The arrestee understood and tried to think of a clever answer, something about that French guy way back who philosophised about this kind of thing, the thing about people and why they did bad things, the life and stuff around them, but he couldn’t make it clear in his head, not clear enough to say, so he opened his mouth and said:

‘Got no money, man.’


The cop who liked to know why stopped at the water cooler and scanned the whole floor, judging the other cops, the ones who just liked to slap.

Some liked to know why, like him, but not many. Two, in fact, but they were absent.

No, wait…there they were.

The two other cops who liked to know why came onto the floor carrying someone by the arms.

It looked like that guy…the actor…Nick Nolte the wildman drunk. Only not quite so wild.

They brought the man over to a chair and sat him down. He said something and they gave him a cigarette.

The cop who liked to know why walked over and hovered nearby.

He looked closer at the man’s face.

Jesus, it was that guy…Nick Nolte the wildman drunk.



The two other cops who liked to know why asked Nick Nolte the wildman drunk why he’d been trying to strangle a tramp.

‘Where’s the camera, padre?’

They asked him what provoked the attack.

Nick Nolte the wildman drunk reached up and checked his hair. ‘You haven’t taken the picture…’

They asked him if he had some kind of vendetta against the homeless.

‘No…shit, I was trying to help that fucker. He attacked me. Now what about that picture?’

They asked him if it was part of a belief system.

‘The picture, man… mugshot…con-pic…whatever we’re calling it…’

Did he believe the homeless were weak and deserved to die?

‘No…just take the picture, man, come on…’

Had he read something that gave him this idea? Dostoyevsky’s The Devils perhaps?

Nick Nolte the wildman drunk put both hands on his hair, pushing it down. ‘I can’t hold it much longer…’

Or Crime and Punishment? Did he believe he was better than everyone else?

‘Take my fucking picture, man…’

They told him to calm down, just answer the questions.


The cop who liked to know why checked his watch. Lunch time. He nodded at his colleagues and walked off.


Nick Nolte the wildman drunk disappeared under the table after the next question about nihilism.

He pulled at his hair and chipped away at the desk with his fingernails and muttered, ‘I ain’t no fucking nihilist, man, and I ain’t no fucking tramp strangler, and I ain’t no…ain’t no whatever you’re saying I am…I’m…’

Nick Nolte the wildman drunk came back up from under the desk and grabbed a pencil. He tried to lunge at the cop nearest to him, one of the ones who liked to know why, but it was too far to reach.

He said sorry and put the pencil down.

Next to the pencil was a stapler.

Nick Nolte the wildman drunk picked it up and lunged for the other cop, whose hand was flat on the desk, and tried to staple his hand to the wood. Again, too far, and he was too slow anyway.

‘Shit, sorry man,’ he said, and put the stapler down.

He grabbed at his hair, pulling it this way and that…

Another cop, one who liked to slap, came close and asked him for his autograph. Hanging at his waist was a firearm.

Nick Nolte the wildman drunk smiled, took the pen and paper and wrote, ‘Fuck you, inquisitor.’

The cop who liked to slap tried to read it, and as he did, Nick Nolte the wildman drunk grabbed his firearm and shot him in the gut.

‘Got a hole in your gut, padre…’

He stood up, laughed, then shot the two cops who liked to know why point blank in the chest.


Downstairs in the reception hall, the cop who liked to know why heard the gunfire. He dropped his jacket and ran straight for the front door and locked it.

Then he went to a nearby desk and crouched, waiting, not hiding.


Nick Nolte the wildman drunk was a hell of a shot.

He walked slowly, deliberately through the police station shooting every cop he saw. As he did so, he tried to be very careful as to how he behaved.

There would be some survivors, obviously, and they would be responsible for his new change.

More like the Terminator, less like a loon, he coached himself.


When he got to reception he shot the receptionist. Under the desk was another cop, maybe her friend, whimpering like a mutt. He shot her too.

Then he checked the map of the station to make sure he’d covered all the rooms.

There were a couple over the other side of the building he’d missed, but, fuck it, he’d got most of them.

He smiled and walked to the front door.

It wouldn’t open.

He shook the handle and pushed his shoulder against it, but it wouldn’t budge.


He looked around the reception.

‘Who locked the fucking door?’

No answer.

He shrugged and shot open the door.

‘Unlocked,’ he said, then walked outside into the sun.


The cop who liked to know why crouched behind the desk as Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer left the building.

He crouched there for two days.

When he was hungry he thought about getting up and finding something to eat, but was too anxious to move, so instead thought about eating the leg of the desk.

When he was thirsty he made saliva in his mouth and drank it back down.

When the other cops came to clear up the mess, he thought about Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer and wondered why he’d done it.

‘I must find him,’ he said to the bottom of the desk.


He found him on top of a train heading to St. Petersburg.

Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer was clinging on to one of the front carriages, hair branching out like roots over the metal roof.

The cop who liked to know why clung on to a roof four carriages back. He shuffled forward, unnoticed, muttering different versions of his only question, ‘why?’

When they were thirty minutes away from St. Petersburg, Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer looked back and saw his pursuer.


He looked to the left and saw fields of snow, Peter and the wolf.

‘Shit, man…’

He looked to the right and saw a mad professor…a blonde haired bitch in black and white…a plot to steal time.


Behind him, behind his pursuer, he saw Warren Beatty the poet, the crusading ideologue, trying to catch the back of the train, tired after twenty nine straight years of running.

The cop who liked to know why shuffled up next to him.

‘Why?’ he asked.


When the train got to St. Petersburg they were told it was no longer St. Petersburg.


‘I’m not sure,’ said the station master, in his revolution hat. ‘It’s the weirdest thing. A load of people just woke up and thought it was something else.’


On a train to Moscow, in a carriage, the two men talked about the past. The tramp, the drink, the station and the killings.

After an hour, the cop who liked to know why asked ‘why?’

Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer shrugged and said, ‘man…’


In the Moscow that Paul Greengrass made, Nick Nolte the terminator cop killer went into the station toilets and straightened his hair in the mirror.

‘New change,’ he said to the man in the glass. ‘Polite, American character-actor saving the Muscovite poor.’

He went back onto the street, smiling politely at the cop who liked to know why.

‘Why did you change your hair?’

‘No reason, padre.’


The manager came to their table with a grin and told them they were obviously American, and turning to what he thought was Nick Nolte the maverick cop, told him he thought he was beautiful and fearless in 48 hours.

‘I’m not that guy, man…’

The manager smiled, put his notepad on the table and handed Nick Nolte the maverick cop a pen.

‘Ok, man, I’ll write. But I’m not that guy.’

He signed and told the guy he’d have the chicken salad.

The cop who liked to know why ordered the same.

When the manager had gone, Nick Nolte the polite, American character actor saving the Muscovite poor said to the other, ‘shit, this is tough, man.’

The salads came. Both were lettuce and crab.

The two men looked at the manager but said nothing.

The cop who liked to know why played with a crab leg.

‘It’s not chicken…’

Nick Nolte the polite, American character actor saving the Muscovite poor played with his hair, pulling it outwards, messing it up.

‘Are you alright, Mr Nolte?’

‘It’s tough, man. Real tough.’


‘I’m allergic to crab.’

‘Oh.’ The cop who liked to know why held up some lettuce. ‘You could change it…’

‘I’m allergic to fucking crab, man…’

Nick Nolte the polite, American character actor saving the Muscovite poor stood up and rushed to the bathroom, hair trailing behind like electricity.


Scrawled on the wall of the toilet were the first two-hundred and fifty-seven pages of Crime and Punishment, truncated in places.

Nick Nolte the polite, American character actor saving the Muscovite poor read it to the end, where there was a small note saying:

‘There is more, but it’s not really important.’

He sat back against the wall, trousers round his ankles, hair up in the air, and thought about what he’d just read.

‘That man, Rasky…’

Yeah, that man, Rasky. He weren’t no ordinary man, that was for damn sure.

He pulled his trousers back up and walked out of the bathroom, muttering, ‘I am Napoleon’ to the handle of the door.

On the restaurant floor, he walked up to the manager, picking up a knife on the way, smiled, said, ‘Russia ain’t Russia anymore, padre,’ and stabbed him in the neck.

The cop who liked to know why saw what was happening, saw the blood, heard gunshots from the station, and dived under the table.

This time he stayed there for two years.


When he came back up, the restaurant was pretty much the same. The blood from the manager’s neck wasn’t there anymore, but there was a new manager in his place, and a new neck.

A waiter walked over and asked him if he was ready to order.

‘Bill, please.’

He walked outside into the snow, down to the river that Paul Greengrass made.

Russia was still the same Russia, mostly.

By the river he thought of Nick Nolte the neck stabber.

‘God…he could be anywhere by now.’


In fact, Nick Nolte the neck stabber wasn’t anywhere. That one only existed for those in the restaurant of two years previous, and of those, only the cop who liked to know why had entrenched the image.

Nick Nolte wasn’t really anyone anymore. Not to the Russians at least.

To himself, during the last two years as he’d roamed the snow fields of Russia killing tramps, wives, whores, peasants, landowners, grass roots politicos and animals, he had become something else.

Sitting in the snow, drinking the blood of a wolf, he was Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow.

Sometimes, he would remember the restaurant scene and repeat to himself, ‘I am Napoleon,’ but it didn’t happen often.

He was more Goldman than Napoleon now.


The cop who liked to know why stayed in Russia a while longer.

Four years, in fact.

He picked up Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow’s trail in Omsk and followed it round the country to Vladivostok, up across Siberia, back over the Northern fields and into Moscow.

As he went he saw corpses from all walks of life.

In the morgues, he talked to them.

He told them what was at stake.

Asked them for details, any detail.

But none of them could help him. None of them could answer his question, ‘why?’


Back in the Moscow that Paul Greengrass made the cop who liked to know why sat down by the river and read the newspaper.

The killings were reported, but they didn’t say Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow. The police, the reporters, the people of Russia…no one knew anything.

He put the paper down and looked at the Muscovites walking by.

There’s something about Russians, he thought. They never seem to appear the way they should.

He thought of a hundred and fifty million Alec Guinesses in a crowd, a country of one man.


Two months later and the cop who liked to know why had quit.

He sat alone in Moscow airport waiting for his flight, wondering if it was possible for someone like Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow to completely disappear from the world, and whether or not the press back in the US even knew he was gone.

The tannoy told him the flight would be delayed for another twelve hours.

He shrugged and thought a little more, played with his fingers, did a crossword, talked to a hippy girl from Spain, let her stand on his back and massage him with her feet, walked laps of the terminal, sat back down, thought of what he was thinking of before, and then of Gene Hackman and his retirement, the hidden retirement he never knew of until he read that article, with Gene saying he’d been done for five years already.

‘Five years…’ he said. ‘Who the hell knew?’


Five hours in and Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow sat down two seats away from him.

His hair was a little less wild, his face a little more pleasant than the man the cop who liked to know why remembered.

Reformed, he thought, hands shaking a little. Let’s see.


The two men sat looking at the floor.

They didn’t look at each other, but knew each was there.

After an hour Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow turned to the cop who liked to know why and said, sobbed even, ‘I’m done.’


‘No one noticed, man. No one.’


They sat in an Irish pub in Moscow airport and got drunk.

Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow drank faster than his pursuer, and tried to tell as best he could the details of the last two years.

He told everything, with bare honesty.

After he was done, he poured more whiskey down and said he didn’t give a shit how people judged him anymore, but he’d sure cherish it if he could find out what people gave enough of a shit about to judge in the first place.

‘Cause it sure as hell ain’t Goldman Nick Nolte killing in the fucking snow…’

The cop who liked to know why didn’t say anything.

As they drank two tourists watched them and whispered to each other. They whispered loud enough for the two men to hear.

‘It’s Nolte,’ they said. ‘Nick Nolte the wildman drunk.’

Nick Nolte the tired blank drank down what whiskey he had left.

‘Fucking spectators.’


On the plane the cop who liked to know why slept while Nick Nolte the tired blank stared at the other passengers.

The cop who liked to know why woke up and asked him what he was doing.

‘I’m counting them…’


Nick Nolte the tired blank finished the count and checked the math in his head.

‘One hundred and seventy-six people.’


‘That’s less people than I’ve killed, padre.’

The cop who liked to know why remembered the gunfire in the station, the blood on the floor, the knife in the manager’s neck, and pretended to sleep.

Nick Nolte the tired blank picked up the newspaper and read about a town in Mexico. The murder capital of Mexico, it said.

‘Shit, a murder a day…’

‘Everyone in this town has seen a dead body. Kids see them on the way to school, in the park, wherever. It’s not weird to see a dead body anymore,’ one of the townspeople said.

Nick Nolte the tired blank rubbed his eyes and pictured a town in chaos. He added more to it. A saloon, a church, hired guns, men in black…himself.

‘Is there a place for me…?’

He got up and went to the toilet and phoned his agent back in LA.

‘Holy shit of shits…Nick?’

‘Yeah, man, it’s me, listen…’

‘Unbelievable! Six years…the Nolt is back in-…’

‘Shut up and listen, you filthy little grub…’

Nick Nolte the tired blank told him what to do. Phone the press and tell them he was in Mexico, in the murder capital of Mexico.

‘What and what?’

‘You heard me.’


‘Shut up. There’s one more thing…’

He asked why no one noticed he’d been gone the last six years.


The cop who liked to know why was woken by Nick Nolte the tired blank and asked if he knew anything about this actor guy…this actor guy who kinda looked like him, but wasn’t him.

‘What’s that?’

‘This actor guy…he looks like me…he was in…what was he in…the Lamb film…Lector…Silence of the Lambs…the warden guy.’

The cop who liked to know why rubbed his eyes.


‘The fucking warden, padre…’

Passengers woke up, flight attendants stopped mid-aisle. Nick Nolte the tired blank dropped the volume:

‘Do you know the warden from the Silent Lamb film?’

The cop who liked to know why could remember the face, but not the name.

‘Forget it, man. Wipe it. Go back to sleep.’


Nick Nolte the tired blank took the newspaper and went into the belly of the plane, where there was a large, yellow inflatable dinghy. He thought briefly about the mechanics of falling and where he might land, then opened the plane, pulled the chord and jumped out.


Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital landed hard in what was probably the Sonoran desert.

The Dinghy burst on impact, leaving him broken on a shitty yellow blanket under the sun.

He lay there for two weeks, waiting for someone to come along and fix him. But no one did.

Meanwhile, he thought in his yellow grave, my people are dying.


The cop who liked to know why didn’t realise Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital wasn’t on the plane until he was in the queue for immigration.

He also didn’t realise the man was now Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital, and not Nick Nolte the crazed Goldman who killed in the snow.

In fact, to him, he was never that either.

Outside the airport he pulled a taxi over and told the driver to take him somewhere.


The cop who liked to know why phoned Nick Nolte who killed in Russia’s agent and asked him where he was.

The agent told him. He hung up.

‘Mexico,’ he said to the driver.


Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital walked into the town of death and looked for a shop, a gun shop, any gun shop.

He found one and bought a shotgun. No waiting list, no identity check, lots of bullets.

Now he needed a badge.

There was a shop next to the gun shop, a toy shop that sold sheriff badges by the counter.

He ran his fingers over each shitty bit of metal, rubbing them to check for rust, before deciding on the one that looked the most silver.

When he stepped back outside there was a dead body on the steps. A teenager with blood and tattoos.

‘Shot across the bow,’ he muttered.

Badge on, shotgun leaning on his shoulder, he walked onto the dust of the street.


Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital walked the dust for the rest of the afternoon, in the heat of the sun, avoiding the shadows, looking for dead bodies and the ones killing them. He walked down one street and saw no one, and then on the next one found a church, where he was certain there would be some men in black or hired guns, but the church was empty except for an old man sweeping the yard outside, so he shrugged, nodded at the old man and walked down another street and another and another one after that until he was in an area with lots of fences and yards, but no houses, or derelict houses, and he thought, shit, this is where the death is, and he brought his shotgun to his waist and walked past the fences, seeing some kids playing basketball in one of the yards and walking over to them and asking them if they’d seen anything funny happening, and they said something in Spanish back to him which he didn’t understand, and then another kid said some more, and the other kids started laughing, so he grabbed the fence and pushed his face into it and snarled, telling them they had no fucking respect for anything anymore, no respect for nothing, and they laughed again and walked off to continue their game, leaving him against the fence, wondering if this was really a big enough thing to change anything…


The cop who liked to know why arrived in town, in the same taxi, and went into the first building he found.

It was a restaurant, with ten waiters and no patrons.

He sat down and ordered chicken salad.

Two hours later, Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital walked in and asked one of the waiters where the shit was.

Three of the ten waiters shrugged.

‘Where are all the fucking gunmen, padre?’



He sat down next to the cop who liked to know why.

‘Turns out these murders might be happening elsewhere…’


Nick Nolte the sheriff of the Mexican murder capital pulled at his hair a little before making it straight again.

‘Shit, man…I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Control?’


The salad came. In the middle of all the lettuce and tomatoes was a crab. The cop who liked to know why prodded it with his fork.

‘It’s not chicken,’ he said.

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