James K. Shaffer
Jim Shaffer WINK & NOD PRODUCTIONS Queries? email- firstname.lastname@example.org © COPYRIGHT PENDING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Urban Pirates- WORKING DRAFT
EXT. THE SEA, ABOARD A SAILING SHIP, A MEAN, SNOTTY NIGHT
The wind howls and rain hammers the planks of the wooden deck of an old three-mast sailing ship. There are no sign of life on deck.
The ship pushes hard into the brunt of a wicked storm. Her hull groans under the strain. “HMS Hussar” is printed in faded gold leaf on her starboard bow. Her sails fill and fall, sea spray splashes like ice against the dark. A black jolly rancher flag slaps violently at the mast. There is menace in the air.
CLOSEUP- A flash of lightning illuminates the deck. A man is cowering at the feet of a shadowed figure. A mighty sword slashes down through the light. A heavy THUD.
A blood curdling scream is silenced by crashing thunder. Silence, then pitch black. Bones snap. A feral gnawing snuffs out the panicked gasps of a dying man.
The ship slows. The wind dies and a buoy clangs in the distance. The rain slackens and the air becomes dank, heavy and gloomy.
The proud and ghostly HMS Hussar pushes toward a distant pier. From somewhere deep in the night, a huge black bird has picked up on the smell of blood and swoops across the sails casting a shadow from the moon.
The Keeper steps from the shadows and strides towards the ship’s bridge. His bloodied glove steers the ship to port. He raises a foot and delivers three sharp raps on the wooden deck. A latch is thrown and the cabin door grinds open.
A dozen deformed, ragged, filthy sailors spill out on the deck. They whisper amongst themselves, barely containing their glee. The Keeper slams his sword into the wooden chopping block and the crew snaps to rag-tag attention.
Silhouetted against the rising moon, a man’s body dangles upside down on a rope draped over the yardarm. Three IV tubes drain the blood from the fresh corpse into glass gallon jugs. One is nearly full. The Keeper summons two of the crew and points them towards the jugs. They rush over, cap the full jug and replace it with another. Another sailor comes to carry the full one away.
Tonight we feast!
A howl of joy detonates from the men as some throw their arms to the sky with savage delight.
On the pier, a small man with a hang-dog expression waves a glass lantern back and forth to the arriving Hussar. He sighs deeply as the scene becomes clear to him. The ship slows and approaches the dock.
The ship’s plank smacks hard to the wooden pier. Rats scurry away. The lively, excited crew lashes the ships lines to the dock. Clearance is made for the sailor carrying two jugs of fresh blood.
The Keeper strides back to the chopping block. Human tissue and teeth hang from the bloody block. The Keeper picks up the gory mess with his old leather glove and examines it. He tosses it toward the water.
From above, the black bird dives down and catches it before it hits. She rises and maneuvers the bloody clump, opens her throat and swallows it in one gulp. The massive bird, fed, rises toward the moon, her screech echoing through the night.
The Keeper strides down the plank towards the waiting man.
The trap is set, Fausto. Our return to
England is in site!
We live in hope, dear Captain.
We live in hope.”
Fausto leads the Keeper into the compound, glowing lantern leading the way.
In the distance, the buildings of the modern Manhattan skyline are beige ghosts through the clearing night. Red lights pulse on rooftops. A foghorn blows. Night’s dark grip begins to slip as first light reaches in from the east.
EXT. FIRST AVENUE, MANHATTAN, EAST 70’S- BEFORE SUNRISE
New York is waking and rising. First Avenue is emptying now of night people. Daytime people begin to appear.
Stressed out dog walker- “Rocco, heel or I will freak out”,
A white haired man in a gray suit scoots across the avenue on his way to the subway, a pair of joggers swish past and a few people await seating at the 24 hour diner on the corner.
A NY Daily News truck pulls to the curb in front of an all night newsstand and the driver tosses out a bundle of newspapers out the side door and it bounces onto the sidewalk. The truck driver smiles grumpily and waves, the newsstand vendor waves back, bends over and opens the bundle with a box cutter revealing the top front page.
CLOSEUP- The Daily News headline declares “STORM PASSES, HOT WEEKEND AHEAD”. The photo of a smiling, curvy brunette in a hot red bikini on Coney Island beach graces the cover.
Across the top of the page a red banner screams “5th Bronx Waterfront Murder”.
INT. BEDROOM, MANHATTAN, EAST 70’S – PREDAWN
From the ceiling of a man’s bedroom, we look down at a sleeping shape beneath the sheets.
A sleeping MIKE DUFFY (Irish-American, 30’s, unshaven, a little banged up) tosses, turns and then settles down. On the nightstand alarm clock, three red numbers read 4:59 a.m. Mike’s arm reaches from under the blanket and stops the alarm seconds before it rolls over to 5:00 o’clock. Mike slowly sits up on the side of the bed and rubs his eyes. After a few seconds of gathering himself he rises with purpose. He rubs his belly and walks into the other room.
INT. 1 BR APARTMENT- LIVING ROOM
The small apartment is tidy and masculine, a bit like a captain’s quarters. There are nautical items on the shelves, colorful maps and fishing photos on the wall.
There is a large saltwater aquarium on a table near the door. Mike takes a pinch of food and sprinkles it on the water. The fish eat with gusto ignoring Mike.
Mike walks over his desktop computer and wakes it up. Soon, he is sitting in the glow of the screen pulling up the Doppler radar weather map. The animated map shows a storm rotating out to the east of Long Island and heading out to sea.
Okay. Today we are CATCHING fish.
He logs off smiling, stands up and heads to the shower.
INT. LIVING ROOM- MINUTES LATER
Minutes later, he is dressed and ready to as he hums a jaunty sailor’s tune. He opens a hall closet and removes two fishing rods, a tackle box and a blue backpack. Mike loads up his gear, excited and alive with the possibilities of a day on the sea.
As he reaches for the door to leave, a photo catches his eye and stops him dead. It rocks him. It is a wedding photo of a woman and a younger version on Mike. He picks up the framed picture and holds it for a moment. Mike exhales, puts the photo down, gathers his stuff, kills the light and quietly leaves the apartment.
EXT.UPPER EAST SIDE STREET, EARLY A.M.
Mike exits his building, walks a half a block and loads his gear into an older model Jeep. He gets in, puts on an old beat-up New York Mets hat, starts the car up and pulls out into the soft dawn of an Upper East Side morning.
Mike CRACKS his neck and relaxes a bit and pulls onto the FDR Drive towards the Brooklyn Bridge. He turns on a classic rock station. He is headed towards the ocean.
EXT. OUTSIDE PRIVATE HOME- BAY RIDGE, BROOKLYN- FIRST LIGHT
Mike’s pulls the Jeep up to the curb in front of the small, neat house, with an obvious woman’s touch- flowers, nice entrance and a colorful mailbox. An old rock song soars on the radio and Mike sings in full voice, alone in the Jeep.
The door opens. KEN HOLMES steps out (African-American, 30-something, fit, strong, neat, wearing a clean FDNY shirt and sporting a brand new Yankee hat). He is Felix to Mike’s Oscar. Ken is carrying two travel mugs of coffee and a backpack.
EXT. THE JEEP
Mike is singing and in mid verse when he notices Ken and rolls down the window, taking the coffee from Ken.
Yo, bro! What do you think this is, Woodstock?
(Taking coffee, smiling, shaking hands)
You know me, I am classic rock kinda’ guy! What’s up, my man? You ready to catch?
Oh, I hear you, we’re not fishing today, huh?
No, sir. Today we are catching. You know the difference. That storm from last night is long gone and those stripers are going to be hungry.
30 miles out to sea by now. I followed on the Doppler last night. Slow night at the firehouse.
I hated those kinda’ nights. Those were always the toughest ones. Waiting for that bell to ring…But I did do some of my best online research on those nights. I’ve charted this day for weeks. The tide is with us today.
The tide, huh? Well, you gotta’ have a theory, right?
Oh, I’ve got some theories, my man! Don’t bet against me, bro.
I’d never bet against you. You do have a way of making it happen, my rappin’ Captain.
EXT. THE JEEP, BELT PARKWAY- SUNRISE
They drive silently towards the water. An exit sign says “Welcome to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. “FishingCity USA”.
They drive past the party boats along Eammonn’s Avenue. The barkers call to them as they pass by. Their voices an odd chorus of offers.
…All day bluuuues! Free parking. Half day fluke. Bottom fishing, sea bass porgies. All day, all day….
EXT. SHEEPSHEAD BAY MARINA, DOCKSIDE, MORNING
In the gravel parking lot, the two men carry their equipment from the Jeep. They walk along the docks, the full cooler carried between them. Mike has the poles, Ken the two backpacks.
They stride in synch and they stop next to an older model, semi-banged up Boston Whaler. Mike jumps down onto the deck of the boat. Ken hands the fishing poles and the other gear down to Mike. They work quickly, clearly having done this routine many times before.
EXT. ON THE WATER ABOARD THE BOAT
Mike squints and fires up the engine. Ken unties the last of the lines tied to the dock and signals to Mike. And Mike pulls the boat out into the estuary leading to the bay.
The Dawn passes through the ramshackle madness of Gerritsen Creek, where Brooklyn meets the sea. It is a mish-mosh of oddly shaped homes with docks as their makeshift backyards. A colorful, spirited Tiki bar stands waiting for a party on a crumbling deck, a half-submerged skiff lies in the mud near the marshes on the other side.
An old man peacefully drinking coffee on a wooden deck waves to them. They wave back. The morning is coming to life.
A white egret rises up from the marsh and takes wing overhead. The Dawn passes under the Belt Parkway Bridge, pushing out into the deeper water.
EXT. JAMAICA BAY
Golden sunshine sparkles on the surface of the calm bay. Smaller boats are fishing both sides of the channel. The Dawn slices through the middle of the channel.
EXT. ABOVE THE DAWN
The Dawn falls in line with 6 big ships of the Sheepshead Bay party boat fleet procession. Some of the boats are grand, one-hundred foot plus offshore bluefish boats. Some are older, more modest bottom fishing boats with old timers and kids all waving. It is good day to go fishing.
Chugging past the tower at Kingsborough College, Mike honks to the boats and turns the Dawn to the right. Picking up speed, she flies past Manhattan Beach and Coney Island into New York Harbor. The shining NYC skyline sparkles before them.
EXT. NYC WATERFRONT- HIGH SUN, HOT, LATER
The sun is high in the midmorning sky. The Dawn rocks gently in a channel. The shoreline is urban and gritty with faded, dilapidated structures. Ken cracks open two cans of beer and hands one to Mike. They toast beers and drop lines. They settle into the lazy business of fishing.
EXT. THE DAWN, A BIT LATER
CLOSE UP – Empty beer cans rise halfway in a white plastic bucket.
This is bullshit. The big fish are going to be in the channel.
What channel? You are not saying what I think you’re saying.
Yeah, I’ m talking about Hell’s Gate channel.
Have you stepped outside your damned mind?
We gotta’ get some fish, bro. I am sick of sucking.
Yeah, I hear you, but the first thing your Uncle Pat taught us about these waters- “Stay away from Hell’s Gate.” Remember that rule, Mike?
I do, but that was just to keep two young punks out of trouble. We are grown assed men now. Don’t be scared, Mary.
(Fake pirate accent, slowly)
Remember, Laddie, fate favors the bold. Have ye any sack?
(Bristling, then composed)
It’s not just about sack, Mike. It is about brains. You don’t know these waters, Mike. It is asking for trouble.
(Beat, normal tongue)
Come on, kid. I researched it.
Besides, I can’t afford to go home empty. I’m down to sardines and crackers tonight.
I’ll buy you a Filet ‘o Fish at Mickey D’s.
Screw that. Let’s do this, o. I am ready for some adventure.
(pause, pirating up)
Aye then, let us go seek the whale of your dreams, Captain Ahab.
(Smiling, lighting a cigar)
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Mike starts the boat. It ROARS to life. Ken blesses himself. Mike hoots. They chug across the water.
EXT. HELLS’ GATE CHANNEL
Mike maneuvers the boat underneath a concrete and steel bridge. Ken sets the anchor. Mike cuts the engine. The tide pulls the boat into place. The men bait up and drop lines.
EXT. THE DAWN- A BIT LATER
ANGLE- Time passes. No fish. A beer can ricochets off the side of the overflowing bucket. Mike looks back toward the water.
Shit! I’m snagged.
Mike tugs hard, but unsuccessfully. He tugs harder and something gives as Mike plunks down on his ass with a THUD. KEN laughs. Mike gets up, a little pissed. He picks up his rod and starts reeling.
Yo, Ken, there is something on here. I swear to God. It’s damn heavy, too.
What the fu..
Mike raises his rig out of the water.
CLOSEUP- A SPARKLING GOLD NECKLACE, WITH JEWELS, AN ORNATE CROSS HANGS FROM THE BOTTOM.
MIKE PLUNKS the muck-covered rig onto the deck. Ken grabs the hose and rinses it off. Mike raises the treasure up to the sun and its stunning greens and reds radiate brilliantly in the light. The vibrant colors color the men in a bath of light. Both are slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
Above, the black bird crosses the sun and casts a shadow over them, darkening the glow. She lands on a nearby bulkhead.
EXT. VIEW FROM NEARBY PIER- SHADOWS
On a pier a few hundred yards away something moves in the shadows of the old pier, but the men do not notice. Bright sunrays send slants of light through the darkness. There is movement in the shadows. Rats scurry. Bats fly out.
The Keeper strides into a shaft of light. Fausto dutifully trails behind him.
God have mercy on ye’, lads. You’ll get none from me. I am a vengeful old fucker, mates!
With a theatrical wave of his leather glove, a heavy fog forms and begins to rolls across the water toward The Dawn. The giant black bird flies out of the thick, rolling cloud.