Stage coach stop

 

(This is an expanded film treatment for a classic Hollywood western in the John Hawks or John Ford tradition. As is, this might make an hour-long TV drama, though with the addition of a comic subplot, could become a short feature film. This is also use the flashback technique Steven Spielberg attempted and failed to use properly in Munich. Here it is used correctly. )

 

 

 

SCENE:

 

†A trail of dust through the endless canyons and gullies of south eastern Utah follows a snake like dirt road and eventually appears as a stage coach.

††††††††††† Tom Ė dressed in an old ragged and dusty uniform of the Union Army stands at the top of a hill looking down on the trail of dust, then he makes his way down to a point in the road where the stage coach will eventually reach.

††††††††††† He waves at the stage coach as it approaches.

††††††††††† One of the two men in the driverís seat aims a rifle at Tom as the Driver brings the coach to halt.

 

DRIVER:

†Whoa! (then when coach is stopped driver looks down at Tom)

 

Youíre a long way from nowhere, stranger. Thought you were a bandit. Would have shot first and asked questions later, except we noticed you were on foot.

 

TOM:

My horse broke a leg a few miles back. I had to put a bullet in it

(holds up rifle Ė although he also has a revolver strapped to his belt military style with snap).

 

††††††††††† Iím trying to get somewhere where I can get another horse.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† No much in the way of horses that ainít owned by somebody in these parts. Junction maybe or Salt Lake. We eventually get to both, though in a round about way.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím on my way to Nevada Ė as direct as I can get, which means I need a horse. Mine if I hitch with you until you stop so I can buy one?

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Got a stop ahead for change of horses if thereís horses to be had Ė other wise itís a long stop while the ones we got rest up. Plenty of injuns in this country, but I donít think a white man can ride anything they got.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (Dressed in a light suit with a string tie, with glitter of gold suggesting wealth, he eases open the curtain from the coach, gold cuff links and rings glittering in the sunlight)

†††††††††††

What seems to be the old up, driver?†††

 

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† A manís horse broke a leg. He needs a ride to the station stop.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Then let him in, and letís get on with this. I need to reach San Francisco quickly, and this trip has already taken weeks longer than I planned.

 

DRIVER:

Iíll let him in when Iím satisfied he wonít hold us up.

(he looks back down at Tom)

You have a mean look to you, stranger.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† War and wandering will do that to a man. But Iím no thief.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Maybe you are and maybe youíre not. But Iíd be a darned side more comfortable if I got to hold onto those shooting irons of yours while you rode.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Driver, please! Will you hurry this up.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I let you hold onto the rifle, but Iíd walk before I gave up my revolver. Itís come a long way and through a lot with me, and I would feel naked without it.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† You wouldnít walk far in these parts with or without the gun. The Indians might think youíre sneaking up on you and cut your throat. Then thereís bandits. Plenty of their kind hidden out in these hills.

††††††††††† (Looks around nervously)

††††††††††† But I suppose its okay. You look mean, but not mean in a way an outlaw might. Come on aboard. Weíre traveling light this trip. Only two passengers and no payroll.

 

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Thatís mighty kind of you.

††††††††††† (Tom opens the cab door and climbs in. Inside he finds the southern gentleman (Jim) seated on one bench and a rather shy eastern looking young man ( Ken) seated on the other. Jim ignored Tomís out stretched hand, but Ken grasps it and helps Tom inside.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (speaking out through the gap in the window curtain)

††††††††††† Can we go now?

 

DRIVER:

†Getty up.

(slaps the reigns. The stage starts to move)

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (Looking at Tom with some distain and distrust)

††††††††††† I hope you didnít bring the war with you. I mean Ė that you donít hold anything against The South.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Weathered fingers holding open the curtain on his side as he stares out at the advancing road)

††††††††††† I mind my own business. I donít have any score to settle with you.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Thatís mighty white of you.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Colorís got nothing to do with it.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (Thrusts out his hand for Tom to shake)

††††††††††† My nameís Col. Jim Davis. And yours?

 

TOM: †

††††††††††† (ignores the hand)

††††††††††† Tom Mathers. I dropped the captain when I left service.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Iím Kenneth Baker Ė from Pennsylvania. Iím going west to find some gold.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Lets the curtain drop and looks at Ken)

††††††††††† A little later for that isnít it, boy? The gold rush happened before the war.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† (staring off)

††††††††††† People couldnít have found it all. I hear people are still finding gold all the time.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iíve heard thereís silver in Nevada. But Californiaís old news. But gold or silver, itís not worth the effort to be to dig it up.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† My thoughts precisely. New wealth isnít in prospecting. Itís in commerce. Which is the reason Iím going to San Francisco. I have a shipping interest there to attend to.

††††††††††† (to Tom)

††††††††††† What about you? Why are you going to California?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I never said I was.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Then where are you headed?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Where I go and who I see is my business.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† My apologies. I was just trying to be social. After all, it is a long ride we have to share together.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Not so long a ride as you might think. Iím getting off at the stage coach stop provided someone there will sell me a horse.

 

KEN:

 

††††††††††† Why not stay on the stage? Itís much safer than traveling alone.

 

TOM:

 

††††††††††† Because the stage doesnít go where I need it to go, and goes too slow even if it did.

 

 

SCENE:

 

††††††††††† (As the coach shakes and rattles along the dirt road, weaving through the desolate landscape, Tom nods off. Images of war Ė gray coat killing blue coat, blue coat burning farms. Cannon fire resounds through the thick veil of smoke. Bugle calls sounding charges then retreats. Then, through the smoke, a West Virginia farm house appears, stained by the war, but still standing, though riders in blue uniforms approach it, leap off their steeds, kick down its doors, shooting everything that moves, including the dog, and as it turned out, a young boy who foolishly appeared at the dogís death wail. A woman appears next cursing the soldiers for killing the boy. A tall man dressed in an officerís uniform grins, his gold teeth glinting as he advances on the woman Ö Tom is jolted awake).

 

 

 

SCENE:

 

††††††††††† (The stage arrives at the tiny clutch of gray wooden buildings that includes a blacksmith, stable, general store, other buildings serving as housing, and a tavern with a sign outside saying: rooms to let.)

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Weíre here, folks.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (stepping out of the cab and looking around)

††††††††††† This is a place? Atlanta looked better even after Sherman burned it.

 

DRIVER:

 

††††††††††† Itís all the civilization we got between here and Junction. You three might as well get a bite to eat. It might take me a while to round up fresh horses.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (next out of the cab)

††††††††††† Who do I ask about buying a horse?

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Iíll do the asking. People in these parts are a tad suspicious of strangers Ė especially strangers who look as mean as you. Go inside. Iíll let you know what I find out.

 

 

SCENE:

 

††††††††††† (Tom, Ken and Jim enter a saloon where four men are seated at a round table in the corner playing cards, some old man in a bowler hat tinkles out of tune ivories while a middle-aged woman (Carol) dressed like a woman half her age tries to sing.

††††††††††† At the long bar to one side five dusty cowboys lean over drinks, their heads turning towards the door to watch the three entering from the stage. One cowboy (Billy) Ė a young man with pistol belt hung low like a gun fighterís snarls when Jim enters last.

 

BILLY:† We donít want no Johnny Rebs in here.

 

JIM: Iím only here for the stop over. The driver suggested we might get a meal in here.

 

BILLY: You donít hear too good. Either you get out or somebodyís gonna have to carry you out.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Settling at the vacant place somewhat up the bar from Billy)

††††††††††† Leave the man alone.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Nobodyís talking to you, soldier boy. I donít mind you or the eastern hick. But the Rebís a dirty dog and he donít belong here.

 

TOM:††

††††††††††† Youíve got a chip on your shoulder, cowboy. Letís hope nobody tries to knock it off.

 

BILLY:

 

††††††††††† Whoís gonna do that? You, soldier boy? For a no good Reb?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† The warís over.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Maybe some of us got a long memory.

 

TOM

 

††††††††††† Youíre too young to have much memory at all

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† I remember my old man not coming back.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Maybe I should wait outside.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Maybe you should go back where you came from.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† (sags a little as he turns back to look at Billy)

††††††††††† Thereís nothing left back there that Yankees didnít burn.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† General Sherman should have burned all you Rebs, too.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† This man didnít kill your father, did he?

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† One Rebís as bad as the next.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Drop it, cowboy. There warís over a long time. A lot of people lost people on both sides.

BILLY:

††††††††††† You can take his side when you canít stop even wearing the uniform from the war?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I didnít give up on the uniform; it gave up on me. Now let the man eat and drink in peace. The stage will leave in a couple of hours and you wonít have to look at him any more.

 

BILLY:

†A couple of hours is too long to look at him Ė living anyway

(Billy draws his pistol and aims it at Jim)

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Iím not armed.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† So borrow a gun from your Reb-loving friend.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Put the gun away, cowboy.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Whoís going to make me? You? Itís five of us against one? Donít expect help from the Reb, or that green horn over there shaking in the corner.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Iím not scared of you..

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Of course not. Youíre just shaking like that because youíre cold.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Put away the gun, cowboy.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† And if I donít?

 

TOM

††††††††††† Then youíll drop it when I knock you down.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Big talk from a man who got drummed out of the army.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Advancing on Billy Ė the other cowboys with Billy parting as if wanting no part of Tom)

††††††††††† I didnít get drummed out. I retired. It seems the government needed pimple-faced, hotheads like you to go slaughter Indians because veterans like me no longer saw a point in mass murder.

††††††††††† It takes a certain lack of brains to keep on making people bleed after youíve seen so many bleed.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Are you calling me stupid?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím saying youíre acting stupid.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Take that back or Iíll put a bullet into you as well as the Reb.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (pushes back his jacket so he can unsnap the cover to his holster.)

††††††††††† Youíre a bigger fool than Iíve met in a long time.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Me? Youíre the old man looking to draw on a gun already aimed at your heart.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís not where itís aimed. Itís whether you can hit whatís its aimed at. I saw you canít.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Look, thereís not point of you two fighting over me.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís not over you.

††††††††††† (Tom advances on Billy until the point of Billyís pistol is against Tomís chest)

††††††††††† There, cowboy, Iíll make it easy. Even a fool like you canít miss at this range.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† You son of a Ö

 

††††††††††† (Billy squeezes off a shot, but Tom has already ducked aside, twisting the pistol out of Billyís hand, and throwing it away.)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Why donít we handle this without weapons, cowboy. Youíre young, Iím old. You donít need a gun to handle a middle aged man like me.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Youíre right. I donít.

††††††††††† (Billy charges at him, Tom ducks, punches, retreats. Billyís boys start to move, but the Bartender pulls out a shotgun and lays it on the bar)

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Weíll keep this a fair fight.

 

(Billy charges again like a hot headed bull, and like a cool bull fighter, Tom dodges each attack, the exchange of blows, followed by strategic retreat the brings them outside Ė the crowd following them out to watch -- where they batter each other, but eventually Tom prevails. Then standing over the battered Billy, Tom looks at the other cowboys.)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Cart your friend out of here until he cools off.

††††††††††† (then to the bartender)

††††††††††† How about that grub?

 

 

SCENE:

 

††††††††††† (Tom, Jim and Ken seated at a table in the saloon eating and drinking when the woman singer (Carol) strolls over.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† (To Tom)

††††††††††† Youíre sure gave Billy a lesson he wonít forget soon.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I didnít give him any worse than he deserved.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Deserved or not, heíll get even.

 

TOM

††††††††††† Maybe heíll try. And maybe weíll be gone before he gets a chance. That cowboy wouldnít happen to be your man by any chance?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† (Laughs)

††††††††††† He thinks he is. But heís not my man. In fact, heís barely a man. My man lit ought for Nevada on a rumor of silver, though silver was as good an excuse to run out of me as any.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Thatís hard luck

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Itís luck thatís come in droves. That ainít the first man nor likely the last to up and leave. The quality of man is pretty low in places like this.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Perhaps you should consider leaving here, head for San Francisco or some such place?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Talking about leaving is easy. Itís the getting up and doing it thatís hard Ė especially for a woman thatís alone. A man can come and go as he pleases. But a woman out in this part of the world gets stuck where ever she gets put.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Iíd take you out of here, if you like.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† (Smiles)

††††††††††† Thatís mighty kind of you, boy. But you donít seem to have much in the way of money to keep from starving yourself, without caring for an older woman, too.

 

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Thatíll change when I find some gold.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Gold? Donít tell me youíve bought into that foolís dream, too? The only gold youíre likely to find is what some skinflint business man pays you to break your back working for him, and even then, heíll pick your pockets before you can get out the door.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Thatís not what Iíve heard

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Fools hear what they want. But Iíve seen enough men chase that rainbow to know thereís not pot of gold at the end of it, only misery.

††††††††††† (to Jim)

††††††††††† What about you, Reb? You chasing rainbows, too?

 

JIM:

††††††††††† My rainbow is a San Francisco shipping concern. I intend to make back the fortune I lost in the war.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Considering what the north did to the south in the war, Iím surprised you have anything left for a grub stake.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† I have partners working in my interests. Ė which is why Iím in a hurry to get there.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† (laughing0

††††††††††† Iíve seen those kinds of partners before, too. You and the green horn here might end up starving together if youíre not careful.

††††††††††† (to Tom)

††††††††††† What about you, tough guy? Yu looking for gold in them there hills?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím not going to California. Iím going to Nevada.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† For silver instead of gold?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iíve got business of my own to attend to as soon as I can get a horse.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† You come in on a stage and leave on a horse. Thatís curious.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† The Yankee gentleman joined the stage not far from here in the hills.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† These hills? How on earth did you get there, fly?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I had a horse. But I had to shoot him when he broke a leg.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Maybe you should have saved the bullet. Then youíd still have as good a horse as youíre ever gonna get around here. If you donít know horses in these parts as scarce as a good man.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† The stage changes horses here.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Some times they do. Sometimes they donít. Most times they leave here using the ones that had when they came.

††††††††††† Looks like youíre going out on the stage or walking. But considering whatís out in these hills by the way of critters, injuns and bandits, youíd have to fight a lot more than Billy and his boys. And he and his boys are bad enough. Once he gets over the headache you gave him, heís coming back to get even.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I need a horse to do what Iíve gotta do.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Then youíre not going to do it until you get to Junction or Salt Lake where thereís horses to be had.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itíll be too late by then.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Youíre not going to get a horse unless you steal it.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Then I might have to do that.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† They hang horse thieves in this part of the country.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† They hang a man for killing another man, too. They canít hang me twice. The horse wonít matter once Iíve done the killing.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Now who wonít live up to his own talk. I thought you said killing wasnít the answer?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Thereís killing and then thereís killing. Itís stupid to keep fighting a war thatís already over. People die in war and you have to expect that.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Youíre saying youíre going to avenge someoneís killing?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† It was more than a killing.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Was it a woman who got killed?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Thatís my business. Here comes the driver with news about my horse.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† (enters saloon shaking his head)

††††††††††† No horses. Not for you. Not for the stage. That means weíve got to stay over until our horses rest.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I canít wait for that. Iíll buy one of those youíve got.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Theyíre not for sale

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iíll bring the horse back and you can keep the money

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† You donít hear too well, mister. I got a stage to run, and I canít run it with a dead horse. Theyíre tired, and you ride one of them the way your rode your own, you wonít be bringing me back a horse I can use.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I got to have that horse

††††††††††† (pushes back in his chair to stand, hand poised over his pistol)

††††††††††† I can take it if I have to.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† (taking out shotgun from behind the bar)

††††††††††† No more fights in here, soldier. Fighting cowboys is one thing, messing with my driver is another.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Sagging back into his chair)

††††††††††† Itís a long night.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Donít even think about coming to the stable tonight. Not unless you want a face full of buck shot. I sleep with the horses, and I own a shotgun, too.

 

 

SCENE:

 

††††††††††† (Tom outside staring at the sky full of stars when Jim comes out and offers him a cigarette.)

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Some things are just not worth getting killed over.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† If you mean the horse, youíre fight. I donít mind getting killed after Iíve done what I need to do. But not before.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Perhaps itís fate.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† How do you come up with that?

 

JIM:

††††††††††† I mean us running into each other like this.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís the west. People come and go all the time.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Indeed, but not all of those people you meet have your unique talents.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Meaning?

 

JIM:

††††††††††† You know how to handle yourself in a tough situation.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† So?

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Such a skill can bring you significant profits, if you know how to market yourself.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I still donít get your drift.

 

JIM:

I can make it worth your while to accompany me to San Francisco

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I told you. I have other plans

 

JIM:

††††††††††† What profit can you derive from revenge?

 

TOM

††††††††††† Sometimes, revenge is its own reward

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Even if it gets you hanged?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Everything a man does has its consequences. I heard a lot of talk during the war about there being no justice in the world. Maybe there isnít. But when you do something, something else happens in return. The thing is to know what will happen and accept it ahead of time.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† And you accept being hanged?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† If need be

 

JIM

††††††††††† But why wasted your life on revenge when you could gain so much more by working for me?

 

TOM;

††††††††††† (laughs)

††††††††††† Oh, I get it now. This is about what the woman said in there, about your partners double-crossing you.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Letís say I want to be prepared to take back whatís mine if I get there and find out itís true.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím not a hired gun

 

JIM:

††††††††††† But you know how to handle yourself

 

TOM:

††††††††††† War and life teach you a lot of things you donít always want to learn

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Why not make a living from what youíve learned?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Because Iíve committed myself to something else that isnít in San Francisco.

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Youíre as big a good as that young cowboy

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Maybe. But at least Iím not out to kill you

 

JIM:

††††††††††† Iím sure the cowboy has forgotten about that

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I wouldnít be too sure. Maybe you should lock your door tonight.

 

 

SCENE

††††††††††† (Tom is in his room when Carol knocks at his door. He opens it)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† What do you want?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† I thought you might like some company.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Are you sure you came here for my benefit?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Okay, so Iím lonely. Can I come in for a while? For a drink?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Why not?

††††††††††† (Opens the door wider for Carol to enter)

††††††††††† Although Iím sure the green horn would welcome you better if you knocked on his door.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Heís a boy. Iím hungry for the company of a man.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I hope I wonít disappoint you.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† So what was she like?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Who?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† The woman you would kill a man over

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I donít want to talk about it

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Do I remind you of her?

 

TOM

††††††††††† What makes you say that?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Because of the way you look at me.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Howís that?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Like youíve seen me before. And at the same time, you stay distant.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím distant because I came here to get a horse. Not involved with anybody.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† I never said anything about getting involved

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Call it what you want, it still means trouble. You see me as a ticket out of this place.

 

CAROL:

Thereís more to it than that.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† But youíll still want me to take you with me when I go.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Yes. That much is true.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Here I canít even get one horse and you want me to get two.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† We wouldnít need horses if we took the stage

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I told you. The stage is going the wrong way

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† It wouldnít have to be the wrong way.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís the wrong way until I get the killing done

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Over a woman you once loved

 

TOM

††††††††††† And a woman who loved me

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† And the woman this man killed

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Among other things

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† What happens after you kill the man?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Nothing matters after that

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Nothing?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† It isnít done yet. I donít know what happens after its done. I donít think about anything else.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Donít you ever get lonely?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Sometimes

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† You donít have to be lonely tonight

 

TOM:

††††††††††† And tomorrow?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† As you said, weíll worry about that when it comes.

 

SCENE:

 

(They make love)

 

 

SCENE:

 

(Billy and his boys ride into town after dark, get off their horses, then hurry into the tavern owner/bartenderís room, holding a gun to his head while heís in bed)

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† What roomís the Johnny Reb in?

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Donít shoot. I donít want any part in all this.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Just tell us where the Reb is.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† First room on the right after the top of the stairs.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† And that soldier? What roomís he in?

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† The room at the end of the hall. Only he ainít alone

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† The bitch. Iíll take care of her, too. You stay quiet. If you warn anybody, Iíll come back and put a bullet in your head. You hear?

 

 

 

SCENE:

 

(The officer with gold teeth stands at the corner of the bedroom as his men tie the womanís hands and feet to the bed posts. She is naked. Outside the roar of cannon fire suggests the battle grows nearer. Smoke oozed across the ground like early morning fog, covering and uncovering the dead of both armies.)

 

OFFICER:

††††††††††† Is she secure?

 

SOLDIER:

††††††††††† Yes, sir.

 

OFFICER:

††††††††††† Gag her. And then get out.

 

SOLDIER:

††††††††††† I donít think this is covered in the regulations.

 

OFFICER:

††††††††††† Donít give me regulations. Just do what youíre told. Someone has to teach this rebel bitches whoís boss.

 

WOMAN:

††††††††††† Iím not a rebel bitch. My husband is in the union army.

 

OFFICER:

††††††††††† I said gag her. You hear?

 

 

SCENE:

 

(The sound of shots jolts Tom awake. He is lying in the bed with Carol. Both are naked. He grabs his revolver from the bed stand as the sound of pounding feet comes down the hall. A shot gun blast resounds even before Tom reaches the door. Panicked voices shout ďrunĒ and ďletís get out of here.Ē One sounds like Billyís voice. Ken appears rushes up to Tom when Tom appears in the hall. Then halts, looks at Tom, then looks into the room at Carol holding a sheet in front of herself.)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† What happened?

 

KEN

††††††††††† (After a momentís hesitation)

††††††††††† It was Billy and his boys. They shot Johnny Reb. They woke him up, stuck a gun barrel in his mouth, then wished him goodbye as they pulled the trigger. His brains are all over the room.

††††††††††† Apparently, they were gunning for you, too, but the stage coach driver saw them ride in and came over with his shot gun.

 

(Outside, Billy and his boys ride off hollering)

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Youíre next Yankee.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† That cowboyís a bigger fool than I even took him for.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Arenít you gonna do anything about it?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† What would you have me do?

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Go after him, kill him.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† For killing a stranger? Thatís the job of a law man. Iím not wearing a badge

 

KEN:

The stage coach driver says the sheriff doesnít come out this way much unless someone in these parts asks him to come.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† So heíll send word and the sheriff can take care of the nitwit.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† The driver says he takes word by way of the stage.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Go get some sleep, boy. We can worry about things in the morning.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† But what if the cowboy comes after you before then?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I said go get some sleep.

 

 

SCENE:

 

(Tom closes and locks the door then turns to Carol sitting up in bed)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Fools.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† What are you going to do about Billy?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Nothing. He and his boy were probably drunk. Theyíll sober up and high tail it out of these parts to avoid the sheriff.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Billy will sober up. But heíll still want you dead.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† People have wanted me dead before.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† But heíll make good his promise. He said he would kill the rebel and he did it.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís one thing to sneak in and kill a man while heís sleeping. Itís quite another to kill a man whoís waiting for him to come.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† I know him and the boys he rides with. Theyíre no good all of them. But theyíre also stubborn. They keep after you until they get you. Unless you get to them first.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iíll be gone before they come

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Without a horse?

 

TOM

††††††††††† Iíll get a horse. Now go to sleep.

 

 

SCENE:

 

(In the tavern the next morning where the driver, bartender, Ken, Carol, Tom and a few others are gathered)

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Iím telling you that cowboy is crazy. He threatened to kill me and Iím sure heís gonna come back and do it next time.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† You donít mean half as much to him as I do, if he thinks of you at all.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Then go after him.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† On foot?

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† The horses are rested. You can borrow one to get him.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Five against one with him in those hills? I can guarantee you wonít see me or the horse again unless to bury us.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Theyíll come into town and get you anyway. You donít know that boy. Heís mean. And you didnít see the look in his eyes when he came here last night. You embarrassed him. But he means to kill us all I swear.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I doubt that. Besides. If the horses are rested, then the stage can go on. And you can go get the sheriff.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Iím not moving that stage out of here with his and the boys in the hills. If he sees us, heíll know weíre looking to get the sheriff and heíll ambush us for sure.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† This isnít any of my business. My business is in Nevada where I intend to get with or without your help.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Take care of the cowboy and you can have the horse.

 

TOM

††††††††††† (laughs)

††††††††††† If you give me the horse, how do you know I wonít just head for Nevada anyway.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Youíre not that kind of man. If you agree to take the horse to kill Billy, then youíll keep your word. Otherwise you wonít take the horse.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Sell me the horse straight out and Iíll go tell the sheriff for you.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† And have the sheriff find us all dead when he eventually gets here. You can have the horse only if you agree to kill the cowboy for us.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† I told the reb before he died and Iím telling you. Iím no hired gun.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† What about the reb? Donít you feel sorry for him?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Sure, but not sorry enough to get myself killed for him or for you.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† But heíll come gunning for you anyway.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Thatís his look out then.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Maybe we can talk with the cowboy and make him see reason.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Reason? Heís got a rope waiting for his neck if the sheriff hears about the reb. What can you tell him to make him see reason.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† That none of us will tell the sheriff about the reb. Weíll promise to bury the body and keep quiet about it.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Billy wonít go for that.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Why not?

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Because weíd have someone on him. Heíll always figure weíll want to use it someday.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† It canít hurt to ask, can it?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† And how you going to ask him without somebody going out to that ranch of his in the hills.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† (Looking straight at Carol)

††††††††††† Iíll go if you lend me the horse.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† You? Why would you want to go?

 

KEN:

††††††††††† (Still staring at Carol)

††††††††††† I got my reasons. Maybe youíll take up my offer to go west if I do this

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Donít do this for me. Billy will chew you up.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† It makes sense sending him. Any of us goes, the cowboy will think itís a trap. But he doesnít have anything to fear from a green horn.

 

 

SCENE:

 

(Tom pulls Ken aside once he is saddled up and ready to go)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Donít be a fool, boy. Thereís no reason for you to get killed Ė especially over a woman.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† You should talk.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Look, when you get there. Just ask your question. Get your answer and leave. Donít try and be a hero. And donít shoot at him even if he shoots first. Ride back here if he starts shooting.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† I know how to shoot.

††††††††††† (he pats a large out of date pistol stuck in his belt)

††††††††††† I did a lot of shooting in the woods back home.

TOM:

††††††††††† At squirrels maybe. It takes a lot more to actually shoot a man.

 

KEN:

††††††††††† Iíll be all right.

 

(Ken rides off. Tom watches him until the horse and man vanish from sight.)

 

 

SCENE:

 

(Tom is at a table with Carol in the bar the Driver rushes in)

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Thereís a horse coming. I think its mine.

 

TOM

††††††††††† (rising from his seat)

††††††††††† Is the boy one it?

 

DRI VER:

††††††††††† Canít tell. But the horse is coming this way.

 

(Driver, Tom, Carol, the bartender and a few others go outside to watch the horse riding slowly back from out of the hills. The closer the horse comes the more clearly is the slumped figure riding it. Driver and bartender rush to greet the horse when its near)

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† The boyís dead.

 

BARTENDER:

††††††††††† Shot through the head. Just like the rebel.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† I guess thatís Billyís answer.

 

†BARTENDER:

††††††††††† (to Tom)

††††††††††† So what are you going to do now?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iím going to do what I set out to do. Iím leave money for your horse, and then Iím headed for Nevada.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† I told you the horse isnít for sale. I need the horse to carry the stage

TOM:

††††††††††† You said you were riding light. Now youíre two passengers lighter. So you can make due with three horses just as well.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† I mean it, Yankee. You try and leave with that horse, Iíll put some buck shot in you.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Stares at the driver)

††††††††††† If you canít stand up to the cowboy, youíre certainly not going to be able to stand up to me. Iím going to Nevada to kill a man. Stealing a horse wonít make things worse. Killing you wonít make me hang any higher.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Youíre a damned coward, Tom.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (Tom pauses from pulling the boyís body off the back of the horse.)

††††††††††† I thought as much during the war. Sometimes I was so scared during all that shooting, I thought I would go out of my mind with fear. I thought it couldnít get any worse. Then I went home to my farm and Virginia and I found the body of my wife strung out on the bed where the bastard had left her.

††††††††††† It always gets worse. Thereís always a Billy somewhere who is going to hurt people, not out of need, but out of some deep meanness that doesnít have a reason.

††††††††††† Maybe I am a coward. But I already have a Billy in my life I have to take care of. This oneís yours.

 

(Tom lays the dead Ken on the ground)

 

††††††††††† Give him and the Reb a good burial.

 

(Tom throws his saddle bags over the back of the horse, climbs on, and rides off. All the others watching until he fades from view.)

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† That son of a bitch!

††††††††††† (storms back into the tavern, crying.)

 

SCENE:

 

(Tom is riding along when a rumble of wheels sounds from behind him along the road. He halts. A dust cloud is rushing along the road which eventually shows up as the wagon drawn by three horses, and the driver whipping them madly. Blood is streaming down one shoulder from a bullet wound)

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† Hey Yankee, hold up.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† What do you want?

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† That cowboy came right after you left. He started shooing up the place once he found out you were gone. He killed the bartender. Winged me. But he sent me after you to give you a message.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Which is?

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† He knows you and Carol were together last night. So he took her back up to his ranch. He told me to tell you to come get her. Otherwise, heís going to hurt her bad.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† That fool!

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† He means it, Yankee. Otherwise, he wouldnít have let me go. He knows Iím going to get the sheriff. But he wants you so bad that he doesnít care. And that means he really will hurt the woman if you donít get to her first.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (staring ahead along the road)

††††††††††† I wasnít there when it happened the last time. I was off fighting a war I stopped believing in. She begged me not to go. I didnít listen.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† I donít know about any of that, Yankee. But Carolís stuck on you, and sheís gonna get hurt unless you help her. Maybe the guy youíre after deserves to die like you say. Maybe he did something bad back then. But this is here and now, and if you donít get to Billy, youíre going to be hunting him down later like you are that guy in Nevada, and will always be one step behind him just like you are now.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† (He is silent for a long time, then sighs)

††††††††††† All right. You go get the sheriff. Iíll go do what I can. Whereís this ranch of Billyís.

 

DRIVER:

††††††††††† On the bluff over looking the depot. A far spell, but thereís only one turn off from the road. You canít miss it Ė and they wonít miss seeing you coming either.

TOM:

††††††††††† Canít help that.

 

SCENE:

 

(Tom rides back fast Ė passing the depot at sunset. Smoke is rising from several buildings. He rides until he comes to the bluff and the turn off, but shots ring out as soon as he turns off the road into the narrow pass. He leaps off, and rushes up into the stony side for cover, letting the horse rush ahead into twilight, drawing fire from above, each shot showing the location of the gang in muzzle flash.)

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Hey, Yankee. Is that you?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís me, Billy. Why donít we talk about this. You donít need to die on my account.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Me die? This ainít the barroom, Yankee. I got five guns up here to your rusty old revolver. And better yet, I got your girl.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Sheís not my girl. She doesnít mean anything to me. So why donít you let her go.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† If she didnít mean anything to you, you wouldnít be here.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís me you want, Billy. Let her go and Iíll give myself up to you.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† I want both of you. I want you dead. And for her, well, letís say I got other plans.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† You touch her, Billy, and Iíll cut your balls off.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Youíre too late, Yankee. Me and my pals already had some fun with her, but weíre gonna really have some fun once weíve taken care of you.

 

(as Billy talked, Tom moved, slipping from one pool of deepening shadows to another, using skills he used during the war, moving quickly and quietly, climbing up each ridge, keeping his ears open to the sound of moving rocks his ambushers might let loose or even the sound of their nervous breathing. He moves like a soldier, searching out an enemy that should have already been long dead.

††††††††††† Finally, he comes up on a ridge slightly above one of his bushwhackers, aims his pistol, squeezes off a shot that kills the man instantly, although the echo of the shot and the dying manís shout echo through the canyons.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† What was that?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† One down, Billy. Four to go.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Thatís gonna cost you, Yankee. Iím going to make your girl hurt even more now, make her beg me to stop, but I wonít. Iíll keep hurting her until she thinks she canít be hurt worse, and then Iíll do worse to her.

 

(Tom is on the move again, comes upon another of Billyís boys, shoots him, and then shoots another boy who suddenly pops up from behind a boulder.

 

††††††††††† Stop it, Yankee. Youíre only going to make it worse on your girl.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† How can it get worse? You said you were going to hurt her and keep hurting her.

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† I can kill her. I got her here with me right now. I got a gun in her mouth just like I did with the rebel. You remember what I did with the Reb? Brains all over?

 

††††††††††† (The two remaining members of Billyís gang shout that they want no part of this and flee)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Looks like itís just me and you, Billy.

††††††††††† (Tom is climbing a ridge, pausing at interval to listen, seeming to trace the echoes of Billyís voice to their source)

 

BILLY:

††††††††††† Me and your girl. Iím telling you, sheís dead if you donít get.

 

(Tom appears on a bluff above where Billy is holding Carol. But Billyís back is to Tom. Tom leaps down, hand yanking up the pistol before Billy can squeeze off the shot, they wrestle for a while, the shaken and abused Carol looking on. When the shot sounds, it is unclear as to which of the two men is hit until Billyís body slithers to the ground bleeding.

††††††††††† Tom hurries to the pale and shaken Carol)

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Are you all right?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Not really

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Did he hurt you?

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† Yes, but no worse than some other men did who claimed to love me. Though I was sure he was going to kill me.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Itís over now. Heíll never be able to hurt you again.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† I wish I could say that about the rest of the male population in these parts.

 

TOM:

††††††††††† You wonít have to worry about them either. Help me catch some of these horses.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† For what? So you can hurry off for Nevada?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† No, so we can catch up with the stage.

 

CAROL:

††††††††††† What about the man you wanna kill?

 

TOM:

††††††††††† Iíve decided the war is over. Maybe we can start something new in San Francisco.

 

 

END

 

 

 


Latest pages on this site

monologue menu

Blog menu

Main Menu


email to Al Sullivan

click analytics