A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.
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After twenty years of broken bottles and empty hallways, Mort Gleason witnesses his nephew Moo being beaten while in a drunken stupor. The short contact with family brings Mort back to what are left of his senses and he returns to the last home he remembers in Chicago. His sister Eileen lives in their family home now with her sixteen year old son, Abe. Her older son Moo, the now missing nephew, helped spark Mort’s return to his family. Three, four, five weeks pass as Mort waits outside his home and makes a tenuous re-entry into family life. Abe dreams of a sailboat and distant horizons. He saves money and sees an advertisement for the Kathy II. He and his friend calculate a way to buy the vessel from two unscrupulous rogues who make ends meet wholesaling liquor and operating a sometime boatyard.
The non-fiction author Walter falls for the physics student Agnes. He is fascinated by her extreme attitude towards life and her reserved appearance, which is quite the opposite of his quiet and regular life. When Agnes encourages him to follow his passion for writing fiction, he starts to work on a book, a portrait of how he sees her.
A hardened convict and a younger prisoner escape from a brutal prison in the middle of winter only to find themselves on an out-of-control train with a female railway worker while being pursued by the vengeful head of security.