Apologetic? Part II
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EXT. DESERT - DUSK
Tom makes his way toward a town, a conglomeration of badly built houses and people with not much to do.
Well, Bell, this is the next stop.
EXT. CHEWTON RANGE - LATER
Tom walks Bell, his horse, into town.
Buildings are beginning to light up as chatter and bad music fill the air.
Tom walks past the noise to an inn - the biggest yet quietest building around.
He gets to the corner the inn sits on and begins hitching his horse out front.
A woman in a ragged BLUE DRESS comes out the inn and lights a lamp, seeing Tom hitching the horse.
A stranger. Just what I need. You want a place to stay?
Tom flashes her a smile.
How about a beer?
No thanks. I could do with some food though.
Sure. The name's Clara. Come in.
She walks into the building.
Tom finishes tying the knot then secures the pockets on the saddle bag.
He taps Bell, whispering as he passes:
I'll be out later, but you look after that bag.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN
Tom walks in, pulling at his nose. Clara sits behind the bar looking into a grubby glass. The inn is empty.
So, what'll it be?
Tom takes a seat on the stool in front of her.
What you got?
We got steak, pork, chicken and potatoes--which means boiled or mashed.
There's probably more but you don't want me cooking that for you. In the mornings the chef isn't so drunk. There's more on the menu then.
(exhales a laugh)
Where is he now?
Isn't this the time when these places get busy?
I don't know what kind of place you think this is. There isn't any kind of busy around anywhere the way I see it. People got what they need and more than often won't pay for anything they want on top of that.
Then I want some pork with mash.
He puts a few coins on the table.
Clara smiles, sweeps the coins into her palm, puts two down, then walks through a doorway behind her.
Bell snorts and stomps outside. Tom gets up and goes out to her.
EXT. OUTSIDE THE INN
A SCRAWNY MAN wearing nothing but a scraggly beard has his hand in the Bell's saddle bag.
The door flies open.
The man panics, freezing up.
Tom thunders over and...
... punches him in the face, knocking him clean off his feet.
The naked Scrawny Man lies in the sand looking up at Tom, fear in his eyes, jaw sagging, probably broken.
Tom grabs his beard and lifts him up.
I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please!
Tom lets go.
The man crawls away.
Tom looks at the many faces peeking out of windows and those dumbfounded in the street.
He seals the bag, gently knocks heads with Bell then walks back into the inn.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN
Tom opens the door, Clara jumping back in alarm.
I was just coming out there, what happened?
It's nothing. There was just a naked man.
You didn't hit him, did you?
He's a mad man born of an even madder family that likes their guns.
People tend to not give them a reason to show up here in town.
What kind of family lets one of their own run around naked, stealing from people?
So you did hit him.
Why would you lie?
Tom simply looks at her.
Do you carry a gun?
Let's hope you don't have to use it.
If they come it's on me.
Damn straight it is. Think I'm going to get mixed up in your affairs? Come sit down.
Tom takes a seat on the stool again.
EXT. DESERT - NIGHT
Ben has set up camp, scraping his knife along the flint to spark a small fire. When lit he pulls a few extra twigs out of his horse's saddle bag to add to it.
The fire crackling, Ben pulls his bed closer, sat looking down into the flames.
He pulls the letter from his breast pocket. There are no markings on it.
Ben makes a small rip in the corner, but can only manage that.
Eyes steaming up, he holds he letter over the fire...
With a sigh he puts the letter back into his pocket, just staring at the flames.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN
Tom sits on the stool studying the bar.
Clara steps out the doorway holding a plate and a glass of water.
It's water or beer around here. Both are good, but I assumed you'd want the water.
She puts the plate and glass down. Tom takes a sip. Clara takes a seat.
You're patient. I like that.
Tom tastes the mash.
You make good mash. I like that.
Most people hate lumps. Where do you come from?
(short laugh, eyebrows raised)
That's almost strange.
How about you?
Here. Born upstairs as a baby, played outside as a kid, worked down here the rest of my life. That's the way of things in my family.
Where are they then?
The chef is my cousin. Other than that I've got no one else.
No family of your own?
No family of your own?
Men who don't know where they're from don't tend to settle in places. Let alone settle with people. I have a brother out east though.
He got a family?
I don't know any honest men. No honest women either.
You don't think me honest?
Not yet. You haven't proven otherwise.
You make good mash though, so you got that going for you.
Thanks. You got a name?
Well, what is it?
Tom what, or is it Thomas?
Just Tom. Ain't got no real home and ain't got no real name either. But I go by Tom.
Sane people stay away from your type.
My type, why's that?
Dangerous men with no morals don't give themselves last names.
What's a moral apart from a way of seeing right and wrong? There isn't a person without morals. There might be a fair few who don't share your outlook though.
You don't share my outlook?
You got a last name?
Then what is it?
I've known many Smiths. I say known, I mean I've heard the name a lot.
It's a common name.
So common you might say it's not worth having.
It's your name. I'll leave it be.
A moment's silence.
Any customer that comes in here will never go for the seat you're sitting in unless it's the last one left.
There's a draft running through here. It's keeping me cool.
Why'd you choose it?
You told me to sit.
To keep the conversation going:
Can't pay too much attention to things nowadays.
Too much that can't be explained.
Keep telling yourself that.
After a moment of eating...
You probably meet a fair few people, heard a fair few things. You got a story?
Let's hear something.
I'm no story teller.
Come on, I need you to do some talking so I can eat a little.
She leans forward with a sigh, thinking.
Ok. Here's a fun one. At about the age of six or seven I was so fascinated with the idea of lizards and catching one to keep as a pet. So much so that I would go out for miles in search of them. This was before all the other towns started to pop up around here, so there literally was just desert for miles. I caught a few small things but they all got away within a couple of days. After some time I got a little fed up with the process: catching a pet one day and losing it the next. So I asked my mother what to do. She said she didn't have the slightest clue why anyone would go and catch lizards and that I should go speak to my father. He of course was just as encouraging, he said that there was no way that he'd buy a tank to keep them in or that he'd waste his money on food for any creature that couldn't someday pay him back. I never asked for any of that by the way, I just wanted help finding a lizard. Anyway, almost completely disinterested, my older brother told me about this new kind of lizard from across the seas. Where exactly, I don't know. He said that foreigners brought lizards here but had let them escape into the desert to amass a huge colony. Of course I thought he was lying, but, as a child, still wanted to believe him. And so out into the desert I'd go each day in search of a new lizard. This went on for a few weeks before I realised I didn't know what I was looking for. I wasn't too bright. Maybe just enthusiastic. So, I went back to my older brother and asked him what they look like. He said two words: snake and dragon. He then clapped his hands together, like this...
(claps in Tom's face)
As if the two really cross-bred. Right in my face. He was an asshole. I of course went along with him, again. But I was a little concerned now. I was never quite sure if the lizard was dangerous or even how big it was. Whenever I tried to ask my brother he'd simply tell me it was all right and I should go looking for it. So back out into the wild I'd go in search of the snake-dragon lizard. For months I searched and found nothing. But that meant little to me as a kid. I would forever search, obsessed with the idea of having a lizard the size of me that would obey my every command or even have a small diddy thing that could breathe fire. But, as each day passed I got older and little did I know that I was fast approaching the end of my childhood. My father was the one who'd decide when it was time to stop get dirty in the sand and start cleaning up the house. When I was eight he decided it was time and that I'd have to start working. I had a day every now and then when I didn't have to clean sheets or wipe down surfaces. These were the days that the dress would be put away and the jeans brought back out. After about five years of working all but three or four days out of the month I still hadn't found anything. By this time I was thirteen and had to start acting a little more ladylike, so my time as a kid was truly coming to an end. To this day I can still remember the feeling of just pure heartache as my torn up and worn down jeans were thrown out.
So you never found the lizard?
Pipe down, I wasn't finished.
Tom raises his eyebrows, pretending to be offended. Clara laughs, a friendly hand on his shoulder. Tom shakes his head with a smile.
Anyway, having put on the dress I started running things in and around the bar. There was one time I worked in the kitchen, but take a look at this.
She pulls the left shoulder of her dress down a little, revealing a patch of discoloured skin.
Knocked a pan of boiling oil over. Only a little went on me. The rest killed my mother's cat.
Clara pushes the dress back into place and laughs a little.
I never much liked the thing, but... where was I?
Finding the lizard.
Oh, yeah. So working around the bar back then meant I met a whole bunch of people. Most half crazy and completely boring. But one day there was this one young man in a long coat about ten sizes too big for him who came in. He was turfing around something about half his size and by the looks of it, it probably weighed more than himself. It was a cage covered by this black material. When he sat down I didn't ask him what he wanted but instantly asked what was in the box. He said he couldn't uncover it when around so much noise and that he'd have a beer thank very much. So I got the beer and carried on the night whilst keeping my eye on this character. It got near closing time and he still hadn't left, so I had to try and get a peek at what was inside this covered cage of his. When I asked again he said I could only see it if it were mine and he would give it to me in exchange for a few free beers and a room any time he wanted. Being young and still a little stupid, I took the deal not knowing what was even in the cage. After getting everyone out the inn and letting the overnighters settle, I returned to the cage still on the bar. My brother was sitting opposite the thing when I came down the stairs. He was frozen stiff. Rock solid. Pale face. I asked what was wrong. He said two words: snake and dragon. I tore the cover off the cage and underneath was the biggest lizard I had ever seen. My brother falls off the stool and starts crying. I truly think he shat himself. I mean, he was crying hard. There must have been more to it than fear, sounded like woe and embarrassment.
Anyway, this thing just stands there spitting its tongue out, tasting the cage. It looked pretty harmless to me and, if I'm honest, it didn't really live up to expectations. It looked like someone had took an alligator's body, this muscular, bulky mass and popped on a viper's head. It's crazy thinking back... I think if I saw it again I'd react a little like my brother did. But, soon after the idiot had made his scene my parents come down the stairs - as well as a few customers complaining about the noise. Before long, which means instantly, they all notice the lizard--which to them was like the devil or something. Nobody would go near it apart from my dad. He picked the cage up and took it out back. He shot it in the head and then burned the poor thing. Can you believe that? But then he wanted to know who had brought this abomination into his home... nobody answered. The guy who sold it to me was asleep upstairs, just flat out drunk--I think that's what gave him the idea of our deal--and I wasn't going to get on the wrong side of my dad. I say nothing. I wouldn't even look at him. He saw through me too easy. I make out like I'm still working and have no idea, all innocent and such. So, he let it go until morning...
(exhales, eyebrows raised high)
That next morning was the most nerve wracking experience I have ever had. Bar none. My father was going door to door and all about town asking who had brought in the lizard. But, no one knew exactly and no one ever found out. They said it was a short guy with a big cage. Up until midday I was just counting the seconds, waiting for my father to storm in and God knows what, just sweating buckets, thinking about packing my bags, leaving, never to look back. But, by some tragic miracle, I was saved. The guy who sold it to me checked out early in the morning for some shady deal he had set up and, like his lizard, got himself shot in the head and burned to a crisp--but, by some gang. There you go, what do you think?
Tom by now has done with the food. He finishes the water, eyebrows raised as if to say: 'good story'.
You still like lizards?
I don't know. I haven't thought about it in a while.
Maybe I'll catch you one some day. Another one of those snake-dragons.
Clara just smiles.
You finished here?
She takes the plate and glass through the doorway.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN - UPSTAIRS - NIGHT
Clara opens a door to show Tom the room he'll be staying in.
This is it then.
Clara smiles and turns to walk away.
No, no, it's all right.
Ok, I'll be down the hall if anything comes to mind. Just here.
She points, Tom just nods.
She leaves Tom with another smile.
Tom walks into his room, his saddle bag slung over his shoulder, and closes the door.
A few moments pass...
Clara steps up to the door and knocks.
EXT. DESERT - NIGHT
Ben lies asleep next to the dwindling fire.
His horse stands, surveys the horizon then canters away, consumed by darkness that moves in, secluding Ben.
Ben stirs, turning over in his sleep, his hand falling off his chest resting near the warm glow of the fire.
The dancing flames start growing, the fire crackling louder, a hand extending out from the crimson embers, reaching toward Ben's.
The fiery finger tips lick Ben's palm. He flinches, stirring again.
The fire burns brighter. The hand grabs Ben's wrist.
He doesn't pull away, clearly not feeling the burn.
His eyes open, seeing the blazon hand taking his.
Intrigued, he lets the hand caress his, its index finger circling his palm.
The flames dim, the hand retracting.
Ben sits up, watching the hand run across the sand, back into the embers...
He grabs it.
The fire screams orange and red, roaring.
Ben, feeling no heat, yanks the hand, a whole body being pulled from the fire.
The camp fire dies, a flaming woman stood before him.
Timid, she keeps her eyes on the ground, seemingly naked, rubbing her elbow.
Ben takes her hand again.
The Flame pulls him into an embrace, burying her face in his shoulder.
From the shroud of surrounding darkness emerges another female figure. Ben watches her come over the Flame's head.
The woman stops at a distance, no more than a silhouette.
The Flame lifts her head from Ben's shoulder, staring deep into his eyes - her own almost indistinguishable.
She kisses him, pulling him into a tighter embrace, jumping, wrapping her legs around him, her tongue down his throat.
Ben drops to his knees then lies the Flame down. She kisses his neck, pulling at his belt.
Ben looks ahead. The silhouette is gone.
The Flame's finger brushes his gun.
Anger livens Ben's face, he grabs her wrist, pinning it down in the sand above her head.
She smiles, reaching down with her free hand.
Ben's not having it, he grabs the hand, slams it into the sand above her head and, with one hand, keeps her two there.
The Flame still smiles, she spits a forked tongue his way, hips gyrating below him.
Ben takes another glance to the surrounding darkness.
Ben's face contorts with anger, his free hand clamps down on her throat.
Eyes full of lust, she stares deep into his...
... this soon fades.
She starts squirming, trying to get her hands lose, fear replacing the lust in her eyes.
Ben's grip on her throat only tightens.
She tries to call out, but can manage nothing.
Her enwreathed body turns blue, her light going out.
She splutters purple plasma, trying to speak, only managing a...
T... T--T--T... T-T-...
Ben's grip loosens.
She gasps, coughing, spluttering, breathing again.
Breath back, menace surfaces in her eyes.
He gets two hands around her throat and with every ounce of strength he squeezes, rising up off his knees to pin his entire weight down on her neck.
Her hands flail helplessly, her body taking on shades of blue again, her eyes popping out of their sockets, falling out of her head and seeping into the sand as liquid droplets.
Unflinching, hatred staining his features, Ben refuses to let her go.
She starts losing strength, hands falling onto the sand, limp.
Her blue light goes out allowing darkness to consume all.
EXT. DESSERT - DAY
Ben rides his horse in the blistering sun, half awake.
The horse stops.
(eyes still closed)
Ben tips the rim of his hat up and looks into the distance.
Smoke from a camp fire rises into the azure sky.
Ben carries on toward it.
EXT. CAMP - DAY
Ben steps down off his horse in front of a group of four men, one of which is JOSH, an old associate of his.
Come sit down. We've been waiting all day.
Ben takes a seat.
I'm sorry, Josh, a lot has happened. I won't--
Yeah, I know, so spare me the sob story. I know where Tom is as well. I have a few guys out west. It'll take a day or two, but I can run the message along the desert. I got men all over who'll pass it on.
He killed your wife. There's something to be said. Is there not?
I know you two. You wouldn't want to tread on each others toes without reason. How about I send a message telling him what has happened and that he's got some talking to do?
That'll be fine.
Ben stands up.
Where you headed?
Ben gets back on his horse.
Where he'll find me.
He rides off.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN - MORNING
Tom sits on a stool eating some fried eggs. Clara walks through the doorway from the kitchen.
How is it?
Nice to know. When you off?
When you want me gone?
About half an hour ago.
I'll be off soon. People to see, places to go.
You haven't got any people to see.
Still got places to go.
Well, then, I'll say bye now because I've got things to tend to. I assume I'll be seeing you sometime soon.
She glides off out back.
Tom laughs at himself, finishes the egg and gets up.
EXT. OUTSIDE CHEWTON RANGE INN
Tom comes out, saddle bag in hand, squinting in the blaring sun.
He trudges over to Bell, putting on the saddle bag.
(quietly to Bell)
You sleep all right out here?
He leads her down the street, eyes on the ground.
Tom sighs, lifting his gaze, seeing the town livery stables.
INT. CHEWTON RANGE INN - LATER
Clara sits at the bar, twiddling her thumbs.
The door opens, Tom steps in, saddle bag over his shoulder.
Clara watches him approach the bar, suppressing a smile.
He sits opposite her.
No work to tend to?
Places to go?
I've been and come back. Horse isn't ready to move on out yet.
She just smiles, looking down at her hands.
If you've not got much work to do today then you won't mind me hanging around a little while.
No, I won't mind. Uh...
She starts to get up.
No, I mean, seriously.
What do you mean?
I'm sure you're holding out on stories.
I'm no story teller.
Who isn't? Come on.
With a smile she leans forward, thinking of a story to tell. Tom waits patiently, eyes locked on to her absent gaze.
EXT. TRUSK - DUSK
Ben rides into a busy town.
People cross roads haphazardly, drunk, or just simply don't care for any horses trying to pass.
Ben makes his way down the road with his head bowed. He's been here before.
People give him strange looks, trying to see what's hidden by the shadow of the hat.
An old lady stops in front of him and stares. Ben's horse comes to a standstill, he looks up.
She gasps, running back into her house, sobbing.
Ben carries on.
A younger man bursts out of the house the old lady ran into, rifle in hand, tears of anger rolling down his face.
A girl flies out the door, screaming, grabbing on to the young man.
Please! Please! Just come back inside!
Ben keeps riding with his back to the scene.
The man stands at the door a while, watching him go, hatred piercing through his tears, before letting the girl drag him back in.
The street goes silent. All stare at the Ben. All having recognised him by now.
Ben stops in front of a pub and hitches his horse. He walks in.
People around the pub clear away and a few come out.
INT. TRUSK PUB
Ben walks in, flashes a look at the BARTENDER and takes a seat a corner.
The room is badly lit, all corners are dark, hiding other nameless brooding faces.
The Bartender sets down a glass of beer in front of Ben then gets away from him.
Taken his position behind the bar, the Bartender snatches a look into the darkness shrouding Ben's figure through the corner of his eye.
The door swings open letting unwanted light and people in.
In stumble a DRUNK MAN and DRUNK WOMAN.
Two beers, fucking... now.
The woman chuckles as they both take a seat. The Bartender pours and serves two beers.
Look at this!
That was fast. Never received such service from you...
(holds down a burp)
He gets no reply.
Maybe he just wants us out?
Is that true?
The Bartender tightens his grip on the rag he's holding.
I think it is.
They take a look around themselves, surveying the near empty bar.
A few shady characters in here.
Eh. Who've you got hiding in your shadows today?
Drunk Man stands.
Please, just leave the other customers be.
Why? You afraid I'm gonna get shot--
--stabbed, beaten up, decapitated, castrated--
--just generally fucked over?
He probably doesn't want to clean up the mess.
The Drunk Man picks up a candle resting on a shelf near the bar.
He takes it over to a corner revealing an old grumpy face. Drunk Man laughs but quickly backs away.
He makes his way over to Ben.
The fire lights his corner but all that can be seen is a bowed hat.
I think this one's asleep.
He picks up Ben's beer and downs it.
Drunk Man wipes the froth from his face and smiles into the darkened corner.
Ben kicks the table into his knees causing him to reel backwards, dropping the glass and candle...
... miniscule shards of thick glass gliding across the floor.
Ben emerges from the darkness, throws the table across the room and grabs the Drunk Man by the throat.
He slams him straight down to the ground, winding him.
He's in too much pain and shock to even notice the glass in his back as he lies there, writhing.
Ben kneels on the man's shoulders disallowing him use of his arms.
Get the fuck off!
Drunk Woman looks on amused.
Ben picks up the nearby candle stick.
... screams at Ben.
Shut the fuck--
Ben holds the candle near his face.
Drunk Man's silenced.
Ben waves the candle side to side, the Drunk Man's eyes following.
He puts the candle near to his nose.
Come on... be reasonable. Let me up.
Ben puts the candle even closer, hot wax starts to drip onto his face.
Drunk Man struggles.
Ahhh! It burns, man!
Ben shoves the candle up the man's nostril and--
Ben holds it in place as he screams.
A sadistic chuckle comes from a dark corner.
Ben punches the Drunk Man in the nose, blood, flakes of skin, wax and smoke exploding away from his face.
Ben stands above him.
He rolls over, crying, trying to pull the deformed candle from his nose.
In awe the Drunk Woman lets lose a spurt of laughter.
Ben walks over to her. All amusement drops from her face as she shows her palms.
Ben takes both their beers and stands by his corner.
The Drunk Woman scrambles to get it, stepping over the Drunk Man and bringing it over without a word.
Ben sits down. Drunk Woman places the table in front of him and makes her way back to the bar.
As she goes she slips on the glass, losing her balance, but quickly regaining form and taking a seat as if nothing happened.
The Drunk Man crawls over to a stool at the bar and pulls himself up.
Some bits of glass fall off his back and bounce on the floor, the tinkling filling the vacuum of awkward silence.
He sits at the bar, sullen, wiping blood and candle wax from his face.
For the three beers that'll be--
The Drunk Woman looks at the Bartender and grins.
That'll be eight gold pieces. I know you got it and you know I've got a rifle behind the bar.
The Drunk Woman laughs.
Drunk Man pulls some coins out of his pocket and throws them at the bartender.
Grumbling, he stands.
Drunk Woman gets up, laughing hysterically. She makes her way out with the Drunk Man following.
Close to the door, getting wound up by her laughter he violently pushes her.
She lurches out, no control, falling...
Drunk Man laughs.
But, she comes back in and...
... lays him out with a heavy blow to the jaw.
A sadistic chuckle comes from a dark corner.
I said out!
The Drunk Woman skips out laughing again.
Bartender makes his way around the bar and over to the door.
Stepping over Drunk Man's limp body, he leans out.
Marty, come help me throw this idiot out!
MARTY walks in the bar and takes Drunk Man by the legs. The Bartender takes his shoulders and they lift him out.
There's a thud as they drop him and a moan as they leave him.
A sadistic chuckle comes from a dark corner.
Marty and the Bartender walk back in.
Some whisky for my hard work.
He takes a seat, being wary of the glass on the floor around him. The Bartender pours a glass.
So what happened this time?
He came in with that nut again. You know how they are.
Marty looks over his shoulder.
But you never know about these lot.
A sadistic chuckle comes from a dark corner. Marty laughs along in response.
No, it was her who got at him this time. Well, got at him last.
Good on her.
He looks back over his shoulder.
Quiet in here.
Bartender starts pouring beer into glasses.
Bartender shakes his head in warning, continuing to pour seven glasses of beer.
All is silent apart from the pouring of beer into glasses.
When done, the Bartender puts the glasses on a tray and takes them over to Ben's table.
Ben leans in out of the shadows and nods over to Marty.
Do you remember me by any chance? We must have met near fifteen years ago. You and your brother.
Ben cocks his head, not sure, and then starts drinking.
That's a lot of beer.
It's a good night or it's been a terrible day. Maybe a bit of both?
Ben flashes a smile.
So, how have you been keeping? Last I heard you went out east. But here you are, back central.
Been married the last nine years. She's dead now.
Shit, I'm sorry.
You'd be the first.
How about Tom?
He done it.
Marty looks down at his boots, scratching his eyebrow, not knowing what to say.
Murdered her I mean.
To fill the silence:
He's killed a lot of people.
What are you trying to say?
Maybe you can kill the wrong person is all.
Ben takes a swig of beer.
Maybe you can leave the wrong people alive.
He downs the beer.
You know... I do remember you.
Marty downs his whisky, places a coin on the bar and stands.
I'll be off. Again, I'm sorry, man.
He makes for the door.
Ben grows very annoyed, very quick. He throws an empty glass at him.
Marty ducks, the glass...
... smashes against a wall.
Marty clambers out of the door.
A sadistic chuckle comes from a dark corner.
Ben looks into the corner it came from, unimpressed.