Urban Pirates- an original screenplay by James K. Shaffer- Part Three

EXT. THE DAWN- MORNING, HELL’S GATE

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The Dawn is anchored in the channel. The tide is full and still. The sun rips down. MIKE & KEN are dragging the bottom with big treble hooks. They are dirty and pissed off.

They pull up everything but treasure. Fishing tackle, a boot, Horseshoe crabs, etc…

MIKE slams his gear to the deck. He takes a long swig from a bottle of water.

Mike
Nothing. Shit!

Ken
Come on, Captain. Maybe it was just a one shot deal.

Mike
I don’t believe that. There has got to be more. We ain’t done yet.

Ken
(Resigned)
Yeah, but for today we are. Let’s bounce for now, bro.

Mike
For today.

Mike starts the engine. KEN quietly cracks the first beers of the day. MIKE accepts. They toast and shrug. Through the dirt and grime, a lazy breeze relaxes the tired men as they head to port.

Sunset Harbor

EXT. HIGH ABOVE THE DAWN

Stunning reds, pinks and oranges over New Jersey become a cocktail with a dark splash of tropical blood across the NYC skyline.

EXT. THE PIER- JUST AFTER SUNSET

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Fausto raises a Jolly Rancher flag up a pole on the dilapidated pier. The wind SMACKS the lines against the flagpole in the building breeze.

EXT. THE KEEPERS COMPOUND- STREET VIEW

The front of the building looks like any other industrial building along the waterfront of NYC. The aluminum façade is weathered and faded blue.

EXT. INSIDE THE KEEPERS COMPOUND

It is a creepy, yet quaint palace. It is a captain’s quarters from another century. Candles glow in the old fashioned windows. Incense burns in a brass ashtray. A noose hangs from a gallows.

INT. THE KEEPER’S QUARTER’S

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Exotic, stately furnishing and stunning art hangs along side taxidermy sea creatures. Oils hang beside anchors, sextants, leather-bound books and maps. A portrait of the current queen hangs in a special place.

Gaslights spray long shadows on the rich paintings, bringing them to odd life.

The Keeper, dressed in a smoking jacket, draws on a pipe seated in a stately armchair. Fausto hands him the cell phone.

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The massive blackbird watches obediently perched on a wooden stand.

The Keeper
Joseph, good evening.
(Listening)
The same fee plus five thousand extra.
Fausto will ring you tomorrow with details. Splendid.

The Keeper hangs up throws the blackbird a chunk of raw meat. She SNAPS it down in one hearty gulp.

INT. MIKE’S APARTMENT- LATE NIGHT

An old A/C is blowing hard on a hot summer night. MIKE is in his boxers at his computer, sweating, a document is open.

MIKE exhales and begins to type-

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“Hell’s Gate Treasure” by Michael Duffy…

He pours a neat drink from a bottle of Jamesons. He exhales. Soon his typing picks up speed. His eyes are alive with possibility.

INT. BRENNAN’s OFFICE, LATE NIGHT

CLOSEUP screen- ”The body has been GOUGED deeply through the face, neck and upper chest cavity.

There is significant loss of flesh and musculature.

All blood has been drained from the corpse. Forensic report in the a.m.”

BRENNAN pulls back and exhales.

BRENNAN
Here we go again.

Fade.

INT. UNCLE PAT’S BAR, LUNCH

There is a young redheaded woman working the bar with Uncle PAT. Mike & Ken sit in front of the bar.

Pat
Senor Suarez might be a good man to speak to about this. Trustworthy.
He is a Santeria wise man.

Mike
Oh, this is a brilliant idea.
Voodoo now?

Ken
I know Suarez. They call him the Mayor of Sheepshead Bay. Set it up, Pat.

Mike
I sorta’ remember that spooky old fuck. If he can help us, let’s talk to him. It can’t hurt.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE BAR- A BLACK SUV IDLES

Two men sit in the parked truck watching the bar.

Flaco
(Skinny, twitchy)
What is this shit about, yo?

Ramon
(Calculating, cautious)
Yo no se. The Boss says to watch and take notes. Some shit about an English client. Said to hang back. Chill.

Flaco
I still say we should just roll up blazing.

Ramon
Well it is a good thing you ain’t the boss, you jumpy Red Bull drinking freak. Calm down. Chill.

They watch. Mike and Ken leave the bar and get into the Jeep. Ramon pulls out and follows at a distance.

EXT. OUTSIDE MIKE’S APARTMENT

MIKE parks. The SUV slows and passes close to MIKE as he gets out of the Jeep.

CLOSEUP- Ramon, in sunglasses, lowers his window half way and looks into Mike’s face as they pass. MIKE looks right back. Tough on tough. The window rolls up. The SUV drives on.

EXT- BRENNAN’S CAR

Brennan is watching. He follows at a discreet distance and passes Mike without notice. He follows the SUV.

INT. PAT’S BAR- NEXT EVENING

Mike, Ken and Pat at the bar talking.

SENOR SUAREZ (late ‘70’s, Latino, white mustache, hat, glasses, jacket & tie) enters the bar. PAT walks over, greets the gentleman with a hearty handshake.

Pat
Senor Suarez. How are ya’ this evening?

Suarez
I have the vitality of a bull!

Pat prepares his usual- a neat snifter of Hennessey and a small bottle of soda. They clearly have been doing this routine for years. Pat looks to the boys and then at Suarez. Both nod. They trust him.

Pat
Senor Suarez, you are a wise and learned man.

Suarez
Si. You are buttering me up for a reason.

Pat
You’re right as usual. Please, Mayor, come and see what the boys found in the water.

Pat points to the necklace on the table glowing in the bar’s dim light.

Suarez
Dios mio! Where does this come from?

Mike
It came up from the bottom of
Hell’s Gate channel.

Suarez
Gaaa! You boys should know better then to mess around in Hell’s Gate. Are you stupid?

Mike
No, we are not stupid. Please Mr. Suarez, tell us what you know about the treasure.

Suarez looks at Pat with confusion. Pat shrugs. Suarez takes off his glasses and clears his throat. PAT brings Suarez’s drink down the bar. Suarez takes a sip of the cognac.

Suarez
(A heavier Spanish accent)
During the American Revolution, an English payroll ship, filled with gold sank in Hell’s Gate. The Keeper, her Capitan, is half-ghost/half-man and he watches over her until they return to England.

Mike
Half-a-ghost? Get the fu…

Suarez
Si, it is true.
People say he carries the curse like a knife. He kills anyone that gets too close.

Pat
Mid-‘80’s. Me and Brennan caught this case. Waterfront homicide. All the blood drained from the victims.
They found a body floating two days ago fits the same M.O.

Ken
You got this on good account?

Pat
The best. Brennan, my old partner rang me.

Suarez
(Chiming in)
But wait a second. Something isn’t right. That cross doesn’t look English.

The dazzling cross shines in the dim light of the bar.

Mike
(Realizing)
It looks Spanish, right?

Suarez
Si. It does. The legend never mentions Spanish jewels.
(Beat)
I have a niece, Anna, who is a history professor at Brooklyn College.
She could help. She is very smart.

Mike
ANNA?

Suarez
Si! You remember her.

Mike
Si. I remember her. That’s a blast from the past.

Suarez
I will call her tomorrow and set up a meeting so you can satisfy your curiosity. Si?

Mike and Ken
Si!

They all toast.

Mike
To luck and to treasure!

They click glasses and look around with varying degrees of confidence and concern.

EXT. SECURITY GATE, BROOKLYN COLLEGE CAMPUS- NEXT AFTERNOON

Mike & Ken pass through a gate and park the Jeep. They walk towards the building. MIKE carries a backpack.

EXT. BROOKLYN COLLEGE QUAD- MORNING

BC_campus_quad

Bright morning light bathes the stately Georgian buildings surrounding the Quad. Students stop to talk in the early summer sun.

INT. BOYLAN HALL- DARK LECTURE HALL

ANNA SUAREZ (30’s, a little book-wormy, glasses, serious, lovely) stands before a tiered room of blank-faced students. Students yawn and stretch. Anna inhales and focuses.

ANNA
Dear students, you are historians at a time of great discovery. We are privy to an amazing time of upheaval.
The tsunami, Katrina they are symptoms of a pattern that is changing our world. We need people who can apply what we have learned from history to our future, your futures. Better futures.

A few student listen intently. One student pops a bubble. Giggles rise.

Anna
(Smiles)
Seriously, guys. Each of you could make history. Dare to be great urban archaeologists.

The bell RINGS. The students bolt.

Anna
Good luck on your final this Thursday. Have a fun summer.

INT. BROOKLYN COLLEGE HISTORY DEPARTMENT- Anna’s office

ANNA arrives back at her office after class to find Mike and Ken waiting. They shake hands.

Anna
Hi. I’m Anna Suarez. Am I late.

Mike
No, we are early. Mike Duffy. I’m pleased to meet you. Again.

Anna
You remember me?

Mike
Yes I do. Vividly.

Anna
Mike, you’re the writer. KEN you’re the fireman, right?

Mike
…Well, I’m not a big time writer.

Ken
That’s right. FDNY. And for the record, he is always early by about 10 minutes or so.
Mike
It is a habit. I hate being late

Anna
It is a good trait to be reliable.
(connecting with a memory)
I remember you scribbling away in your notebook sitting on the stoop. Watching the world go by.

Mike
Wow. I still have those notebooks somewhere. Boy, Anna, you really grew up.

Anna
(Regaining her demeanor)
Yeah, well. Whatever.
(Guarded, then smiling again)
So. My Uncle said you had something special to show me.

Mike
You are in for a treat, sister. Have a look.

Mike whips off his backpack, opens it and unwraps the newspaper to reveal the stunning necklace.

Anna
Wow.
(Leaning in)
You found this in these waters?

Mike
Yeah. Last Sunday.

Anna
(Focused)
Let me make a call to see if a lab is available.

INT. LABORATORY

lab

Anna flicks on the lights in the large lab. Various maps, charts and artifacts are on the walls.

Two big aquariums glow in the corner. Computer terminals glow.

Mike
(Looking around)
This is so cool. I’d be a child in a playground with this stuff.

Anna
(Smiling)
I know what you mean. I feel the same way every day. Gentlemen, let’s see this treasure of yours.

Anna snaps on rubber gloves before handling the piece. Mike hands her the necklace.

CLOSEUP- She raises it up into the light, gems sparkling.

Anna
(Puzzled)
You found this in Hell’s Gate?

Mike
Yeah.

Anna
That’s crazy. It doesn’t fit the story.

Mike
What story?

Anna
The HMS Hussar. Wow.
Do you mind if I soak it in a mild detergent. It will help bring out any markings. It will also help get rid of that horrible smell.

Ken
Sure. It stinks like ass.

She places it in a small tub, pours in some solvent and it begins to fizzle.

INT. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAB

Anna walks over to a wall of books and takes down a volume off the shelf. She finger walks to a page and reads.

hussar

Anna
(Reading)
“The Hussar was fleeing lower Manhattan with a French war ship in hot pursuit. She strikes a cannon shot into The Hussars rigging.
(Beat)
The ship is torn apart in the heart of the “Hell’s Gate” channel and sinks to the bottom with payroll and untold millions on board in gold and jewels.

Mike
So no one really knows what is down there.

Anna
A few artifacts have ever been found. Thomas Jefferson was involved in one of the early recovery expeditions. Nothing like this cross has ever been found.
(Beat)
You two Urban Pirates may have scored a place in history.

Mike
What do you mean?

Anna
The Hussar’s officers may have built a “double-hull” filled with millions in illicit jewels, gold, silver. Might be where your cross comes in.
Prove that and you really have made history.

Anna raises the necklace out of the tub. It is even more brilliant after the cleaning.

Anna
The Hussar is a wartime burial site.
It is sacred ground. Some say it is very dangerous.

Mike
(A bit annoyed)
More ghosts?

Anna
I’m just saying. A lot of smart people have passed on digging around in Hell’s Gate for treasure that may not be there.

Mike
I think there is more. My gut is usually right. Professor, do you wanna’ find out if there is more down there? Get yer’ name in the National Geographic.

Anna
Yes. To prove the “double-hull” theory would be an amazing historical discovery. I’m in 100%.

Mike
Cool. We sail at 8 a.m. Shepshead Bay Marina, dock 7. Let’s try and leave this curse crap on the dock, huh?

Ken
(Rolling his eyes)
Welcome aboard. As the new man you bring the breakfast.

Anna
Cool. I got it covered.

INT- POLICE CHIEF’S OFFICE

Brennan sits across from his boss. He has a red folder in his lap.

Brennan
The body is confirmed as local historian, Governalli, Joseph.

CHIEF
Why him?

Brennan
Poking around down by the waterfront? Wrong place, wrong time. But you’ve seen the autopsy. I have deep feelings that our killer is enjoying himself. Nothing random at all.

Chief
What do you suggest we do?

Brennan
If this is what I think it is, I would like to bring in an exorcist first.

Chief
(Smiling)
Whatever you need. Pick your team. I’ll sign off your voucher.

Brennan
Permission to be scared, Chief?

Chief
You should be scared.I’m scared.
Now make this go away, Brennan. It is what you do best.

Brennan
Yeah. I’m on it, Chief. I’m on it.

JKS 12/5/17

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