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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2188448
Rated: 18+ · Script/Play · Drama · #2188448
New Orleans, 1811. Intrigue, romance, and colorful characters. An HBO-style teleplay.

LOGLINE: Seven years after the Louisiana Purchase, an idealistic young politician arrives in New Orleans and finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between unscrupulous American authorities and arrogant French Creole planters. Meanwhile, a conspiracy is afoot – one that promises to be an existential threat for some, and a glimmer of hope to others.















CRESCENT CITY

(EPISODE 1: “TWELFTH NIGHT”)

Draft 1

Copyright 2019 Atun-Shei Films























OPENING CREDITS // MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE

FADE IN.


EXT. WHARF – DAY

A dark, overcast day. The masts of MERCHANT SHIPS tower over the RIVERFRONT.

THOMAS (26), a slave, loads bales of SUGARCANE onto the deck of a ship in a repetitive, sure-handed rhythm.

DOWN THE WHARF, SLAVE TRADERS coax a group of chained WEST AFRICANS off a ship and onto the levee.

They are terrified, eyes darting around, breathing heavily. The Slavers CURSE at them in Spanish.

Thomas HESITATES in his monotonous work to watch them – but after just an instant, he averts his eyes and continues hauling sugarcane.

The CAMERA CRANES UP to reveal the PLACE D’ARMES and ST. LOUIS CHURCH just below the levee, and the hustle and bustle of people, horses, and goods through the port city.

We hear SEVERAL LANGUAGES as dock workers shout to one another.

TITLE CARD:

NEW ORLEANS
JANUARY, 1811


As the WEST AFRICANS are whipped into CAGES, we see JOHN HUMBLE (31), a tall, muscular, conservatively dressed American, march down the gangplank of a passenger ship.

His wife PRUDENCE (27) and their daughter MARTHA (11) follow.

SAILORS carry down the family’s LUGGAGE, several crates and innumerable bags – the Humbles are here to stay.

Humble helps his family off the gangplank and onto the wharf. The three TAKE IN the scene around them.

Humble looks hopeful, ready for an adventure.

Prudence continuously PUMPS AIR on herself with a hand fan.

Martha, clearly seasick, is SWEATING BULLETS and green in the face.

Humble catches sight of the AMERICAN FLAG fluttering over the Place d’Armes. A faint SMILE comes across his face, chest SWELLING with pride –

Until a BLOND MAN carrying a big bale of sugarcane BUMPS right into him.

BLOND MAN
Dummkopf! Bist du ein blinder Mann? Wir arbeiten hier!

Humble GAPES at him. The Blond Man HUFFS and brushes past the family.

Martha gags and VOMITS all over her shoes.

Prudence turns to Humble, daggers in her eyes.


INT/EXT. CARRAIGE – DAY

The Humbles are crammed into a tiny carriage LURCHING through the VIEUX CARRE, the Creole center of town.

Sitting with them is THEODORE FLETCHER (38), an unhygienic American aged beyond his years, smoking a pipe.

Humble bats the smoke away as Fletcher exhales.

FLETCHER
As I intimated in my last letter, Mr. Humble, I’ve found you a lovely home in the Faubourg St. Mary. A most desirable neighborhood. All the men of quality live there.

HUMBLE
Very good. And what area of the city are we passing through now?

FLETCHER
The Vieux Carre, the frogs call it. The French quarter of the city. Seventy square blocks of cabarets, theaters, and depravity of which only the Gallic are capable. It’ll only become more raucous over the coming month. Tonight is Twelfth Night, the beginning of Carnival, the season where the Papists indulge in prodigious feasting and drinking. Governor Claiborne is hosting a fete here at the Cabildo tonight to celebrate the occasion.

He POINTS to the CABILDO, a large government building next to the church.

FLETCHER
These Frenchmen are an arrogant lot. Unfortunately, we’re forced to recognize their ridiculous traditions if we’re to maintain order.

On the STREET OUTSIDE, Martha catches sight of a PROSTITUTE on a second-story gallery bearing her enormous BREASTS to a passing GENTLEMAN.

Prudence COVERS Martha’s eyes.

PRUDENCE
It smells awful.

FLETCHER
The heat brings out the stench, I’m afraid. We are much nearer to the sun here than in Boston.

PRUDENCE
Yes, the heat is terrific.

FLETCHER
I would say you grow accustomed to it … but you never really do.
         (to Humble)
Speaking of home, I was greatly distressed to hear of your father’s death, Mr. Humble.

HUMBLE
Thank you, Mr. Fletcher.

FLETCHER
His name will live forever. Etched in stone alongside the names of the founders of this nation.

HUMBLE
He was a great man.

FLETCHER
Do the tipplers at the Wayside Inn still tell the story of how he captured the British color guard at Saratoga?

HUMBLE
To anyone who will listen.

FLETCHER
I love that story. These are sad days indeed, when so many sons of the Revolution are giving up the ghost. I am sorry for your loss, my friend.

HUMBLE
Our fathers founded this nation. It’s up to us to build it.

Prudence ROLLS HER EYES.

FLETCHER
Well said, sir. Very well said.


EXT. HUMBLE HOUSE – FAUBORG ST. MARY – DAY

The carriage PULLS UP in front of a small, newly built cypress wood house.

Humble hops out of the carriage, assisting Prudence down the step.

Fletcher disembarks.

FLETCHER
Here it is. Home sweet home. I’ll send for the rest of your things tomorrow.

He SNAPS his fingers at the black CARRAIGE DRIVER.

FLETCHER
Cornelius! The luggage.

The Driver UNTIES the ROPES keeping the Humbles’ luggage to the top of the carriage. Humble reaches up and GRABS a BAG.

DRIVER
Allow me, sir.

Humble WAVES HIM OFF.

HUMBLE
Take the ladies’ things. Gray bags. Be careful with them.

Humble and the Driver HAUL the luggage toward the house. Fletcher follows, carrying nothing.

FLETCHER
Mr. Humble, you shouldn’t help slaves with their work. Bad for discipline.

HUMBLE
We got along just fine without slaves in Boston.

FLETCHER
         (unimpressed)
This isn’t Boston, John.


EXT. MISSISSIPPI RIVER – DAY

A RURAL STRETCH of the river. THUNDER rolls across the landscape and LIGHTNING crackles in the sky.


EXT. WOODLAND PLANTATION – DAY

RAIN comes down in a TORRRENT.

CHARLES DESLONDES (26), a young mixed-race slave driver, savagely WHIPS a SLAVE tied to a post.

The Slave SHRIEKS in pain with every CRACK of the LASH.

TITLE CARD:

THE GERMAN COAST
FORTY MILES UPRIVER


Above them, sheltered from the storm on the second-story gallery of the big house, is MANUEL ANDRY (56), the master of the plantation. He watches the proceedings without apparent emotion.


INT. PARLOR – DAY

Andry sits near the fire, drinking wine. His son GILBERT (24) is being fitted for a MILITIA UNIFORM, arms outstretched, standing on a STOOL.

A free black TAILOR buzzes around him, making marks and adjustments to the coat.

Charles hovers at the doorway, DRIPPING WET from the rain.

{THE MEN CONVERSE IN FRENCH, SUBTITLED}

ANDRY
Come in, Charles.

CHARLES
I’m soaking wet, master.

ANDRY
My wife won’t rise from the dead if you dribble on the carpet. Come in.

Charles APPROACHES him.

ANDRY
Well?

CHARLES
He’ll work.

ANDRY
Good. Not that any fieldwork will get done in this rain.

TAILOR
         (to Gilbert)
Is that too tight around the waist?

GILBERT
No, that’s comfortable.

TAILOR
Excellent.

GILBERT
         (to Charles)
Deslondes. How do I look?

CHARLES
Like Bonaparte himself, Master Gilbert. You’ll be the best-dressed man in the militia.

GILBERT
Funny. He’s funny, Father.
         (beat)
Tell me, do you know anything about Bonaparte? Apart from his name.

CHARLES
I know he is a great general.

GILBERT
Yes, he is. At Austerlitz he split the Russians and Austrians in two with a glorious charge on their center … do you understand this term? The center?

Charles shakes his head.

GILBERT
Of course. As though a slave would know anything of warfare. Forgive me, I forgot for a moment who I was talking to. You could fool anyone with that light skin.
         (gesticulating)
The center is the middle of an army. Left flank, right flank, center.

TAILOR
Try not to move so much, sir.

GILBERT
I’ll move if and when I like, you blithering black ape!

TAILOR
I have offended you. I most humbly apologize.

GILBERT
Go, get out of my sight.

The Tailor bows and SCAMPERS out of the parlor.

Gilbert steps down from the stool and APPROACHES Charles.

GILBERT
Most generals attempt to turn either flank to achieve an envelopment of their enemy and achieve victory. Napoleon is not like most generals. He goes for the throat. That is why he’s a genius.

ANDRY
And what makes you such an expert? Remind me, how many battles have you fought in, Gilbert?

GILBERT
Don’t be cruel, Father.

ANDRY
When I was your age I was already a captain fighting for Galvez. In ‘79 we smashed the British at Baton Rogue and I killed twenty men. What are your greatest accomplishments? Ravaging a record number of chambermaids?

As they BICKER, Charles’s gaze falls on the MUSKET mounted above the fireplace.

CHARLES
Will there be anything else, master?

Andry holds out his WINE GLASS.

ANDRY
Wine.

Charles lifts a DECANTER and pours him a glass.

ANDRY
You may go, Charles.

CHARLES
Yes, master. With your permission, I would spend the night at the Trepagnier estate.

ANDRY
This is the third night in a week. Your Negress must be quite a beauty.

GILBERT
Nothing like wielding a lash to get a man in the mood, eh Charles?

CHARLES
As you say, master.

ANDRY
Give her a flourish from me, young man.

Charles nods obsequiously and TURNS to leave.

ANDRY
And Charles! Be back at four o’clock to wake the other blacks. Not a moment later or you’ll be the one tied to a post.

CHARLES
Of course, master.

He leaves the parlor.


EXT. RIVER ROAD – NIGHT

Charles RIDES through the rain, his horse at a walk. The LEVEE is to his right, and a thick, swampy cypress FOREST is to his left.

Two BLACK MEN emerge from the trees behind him. Charles pulls the reins, bringing his horse to a HALT.

The men approach. LIGHTNING flashes, revealing the black men’s FACES – they are covered in RITUALISTIC SCARS. This is KOOK (23) and QUAMANA (20).

Charles DISMOUNTS and EMBRACES the two men.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

CHARLES
You weren’t followed?

KOOK
No.

CHARLES
Are you certain?

Kook and Quamana look at each other with WRY SMILES.

KOOK
We’re certain.

CHARLES
Let’s go.

They turn into the FOREST, Charles leading the way, pulling his horse along.


EXT. MAROON CAMP – SWAMP – NIGHT

Deep in the swamp, the three men WADE through brackish water toward the light of COOKFIRES.

It is an encampment of RUNAWAY SLAVES. Men, women and children huddle under simple shelters around their fires, eating supper. A few soaked DOGS run about, barking as Charles, Kook, and Quamana grow near.

A group of BLACK MEN and WOMEN rise to meet them. They are armed with HATCHETS and SWORDS.

Their LEADER (44), a big, bearded man in a tattered old naval hat, steps forward and LOCKS EYES with Charles.

A brief silence – a roll of THUNDER.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

CHARLES
The day after tomorrow. Are you with us?

The Maroon Leader SPITS. He glances back at his WIFE, a hard-eyed woman carrying a SICKLY CHILD. She NODS to him.

MAROON LEADER
         (to Charles)
The day after tomorrow.

Charles is OVERCOME with RELIEF and GRATITUDE, but keeps his composure.

He extends his hand. The Maroon Leader TAKES IT.


INT. MASTER BEDROOM – HUMBLE HOUSE – NIGHT

Prudence is STARING upward, her brow furrowed. She has changed into elegant EVENING WEAR.

A steady DRIP of water falls from a CRACK in the ceiling.

She goes OFFSCREEN. We hear her FUMBLING with pots and pans. She returns, sliding a POT underneath the drip.

ACROSS THE ROOM, Humble is putting on a SUIT and looking at himself in the mirror.

HUMBLE
Prudence? Do you think this is appropriate attire for my audience with the governor?

PRUDENCE
I don’t know, John. Do you think this is an appropriate dwelling for a legislator and his family?

HUMBLE
Prudence, don’t. Not now.

Prudence WHIPS out her hand fan and begins FLAPPING air on herself.

PRUDENCE
From the Massachusetts state senate to … what? “Secretary to the Territory of Orleans.” Seems like a demotion, to be perfectly frank with you.

HUMBLE
My civic duty demands –

PRUDENCE
Ah, your civic duty.

HUMBLE
The President himself gave me a charter. Good men are needed here to govern, men of honor and respect.

PRUDENCE
Men like Mr. Fletcher?

HUMBLE
He’s put on pounds since we saw him last, I’ll grant you. And his disposition is decidedly more … vulgar.

PRUDENCE
He’s looks and smells terrible.

HUMBLE
Perhaps the climate disagrees with him.

PRUDENCE
It certainly disagrees with me. I was happy in Framingham, John. Martha was happy.

Her FLAPPING becomes frantic.

HUMBLE
There are more important things in life than happiness.

PRUDENCE
Like what?

Humble TURNS toward her – gently lays a hand on her arm, putting a STOP to her flapping.

HUMBLE
Darling, my father was a war hero. I’m a country lawyer with a famous name, and that’s all.

PRUDENCE
         (softening)
You’re much more than that, John.

HUMBLE
There are real possibilities for Martha here. Back home, the highest station I could ever hope to reach was Chair of the Budgetary Committee.

PRUDENCE
Nonsense. A man of your talents? You could have worked your way up, become President of the State Senate, Governor of Massachusetts, even.

HUMBLE
If our last name was Adams, or if my people came over on the Mayflower, then perhaps. Otherwise …

PRUDENCE
You underestimate yourself. You’ve always underestimated yourself. For too long, I’ve watched you take orders from lesser men. “Serve here, go there, do this” … I’d like to see you stand up for yourself once in a while.

HUMBLE
Noted.

PRUDENCE
I’m sorry I’ve been so miserable.

HUMBLE
You have a right to be. Change is difficult. But I think that given time, this will truly feel like home.

CUT TO A WIDE SHOT of the cold, bare, unpainted bedroom with a leaky ceiling.


EXT. CITY – NIGHT

We are at a HIGH VANTAGE, overlooking New Orleans. From this perspective, we are upriver from the French Quarter, in the FAUBOURG MARIGNY. We see the wide expanse of the Mississippi left of frame, and the SPIRES of ST. LOUIS CHURCH on the right.


INT. BEDROOM – THERESE’S APARTMENT – CONT.

THE CAMERA TRACKS BACK, through a rain-spattered WINDOWPANE, into an opulent, third-story apartment.

In bed, BERNARD DE MARIGNY (24), a diminutive French aristocrat with muttonchops, is ferociously MAKING LOVE in the doggy-style position to THERESE (18), his mistress, a slender free woman of color with intense eyes.

Both partners are extremely vocal about their pleasure.

A KNOCK at the door.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

BERNARD
Come in!

PIERRE (49), the Marigny family’s head house slave, cracks open the door and sticks his head into the room. He averts his eyes.

BERNARD
Speak, worm!

PIERRE
Mr. Bernard, you asked me to remind you to attend Governor Claiborne’s Twelfth Night ball.

BERNARD
         (remembering this responsibility)
Oh, my God.
         (nearing orgasm)
Oh my God!

THERESE
Yes, put a son in me, my love. Put a son in me!

Bernard EJACULATES. A moment later, Therese also ORGASMS, her limbs twitching.

PIERRE
Shall I send a boy to the Cabildo to inform the governor you have been delayed?

BERNARD
You shall do no such thing. Prepare the carriage. I’ll be downstairs in ten minutes.

Pierre raises an eyebrow and leaves, CLOSING the door behind him.

Bernard and Therese DISENGAGE and FLOP down onto the mattress.

THERESE
Must you go to the kaintucks’ obscene display, Bernard?

BERNARD
I’m afraid so. And worse … I have to bring my wife.

THERESE
Shit.

BERNARD
Yes. Shit.

THERESE
You should put some powder on your face. You look all red and puffy.

BERNARD
Oh, do I?

THERESE
Yes.

BERNARD
Do I?

THERESE
Yes!

They giggle. She KISSES him.

BERNARD
I love you.

THERESE
I love you too. Get dressed.

BERNARD
Soon.

They cuddle.


EXT. STREET – NIGHT

Pierre waits outside, riding shotgun in Bernard’s carriage. Both he and the CARRAIGE DRIVER look suitably miserable as the rain pours down on their unprotected heads.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

BERNARD’S DRIVER
Where the hell is he?

PIERRE
He’s … coming.

Pierre SQUINTS through the storm.

Down the street, beneath a balcony, he sees two male SLAVES talking in furtive WHISPERS.

When they notice Pierre staring, the two men DEPART in opposite directions.


INT. SLAVE QUARTERS – WAREHOUSE – NIGHT

A cramped room PACKED with people, most asleep.

Thomas is sleeping on the floor. Wind HOWLS through an open window nearby, SPLATTERING him with RAIN.

He WIPES his FACE and attempts to get back to sleep.

The wind HOWLS again – and water hits his face, again.

Thomas GETS UP and tiptoes around the other sleeping slaves toward the WINDOW. He grasps the shutters to close them, but takes a moment to peer outside.

This warehouse is right on the river. He can see the Place d’Armes quite clearly. There are LIGHTS in the windows of the Cabildo. He can hear faint VIOLIN MUSIC.

Thomas closes the shutters.


EXT. CABILDO – NIGHT

Humble, Prudence and Fletcher DISEMBARK from a carriage in front of the Cabildo. They RUN inside to get out of the rain.


INT. CABILDO – NIGHT

The Humbles and Fletcher mount the stairs to the second floor and are swept up in the Governor’s TWELFTH NIGHT BALL.

Black FIDDLERS play an enthusiastic QUINTET. White and mixed-race ARISTOCRATS in masks and elaborate costumes dance, drink and rub shoulders.

HUMBLE
I feel underdressed.

PRUDENCE
Do they really go out in public dressed like that?

Fletcher takes Humble by the arm.

FLETCHER
Come meet your new liege lord.

He practically DRAGS Humble toward a CIRCLE of aristocrats.

FLETCHER
Governor Claiborne!

Governor WILLIAM C. C. CLAIBORNE (33), a stern, seemingly sober Virginian, turns to regard him.

CLAIBORNE
Mr. Fletcher, welcome.

FLETCHER
Might I introduce John Humble, the new Secretary of the Territory. He arrived just this morning.

HUMBLE
Governor.

CLAIBORNE
Mr. Humble. Wonderful to finally meet you. I’m a great admirer of your father. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing.

HUMBLE
He touched so many Americans’ lives.

FLETCHER
And ended so many British ones.

CLAIBORNE
He is in a happier and better world.

FLETCHER
And here, Governor, is the lovely Mrs. Humble.

PRUDENCE
Governor, it’s an honor to meet you.

CLAIBORNE
The honor’s all mine. Welcome!
         (turning toward his friends)
Mr. and Mrs. Humble, this is my wife, Suzette.

His wife SUZETTE (19), a stylish young Spanish Creole, curtsies to the Humbles.

SUZETTE
Charmed.

A SLAVE IN A WHITE WIG comes by with a wine tray. The Humbles take DRINKS.

CLAIBORNE
And this droll fellow is Edward Livingston.

EDWARD LIVINGSTON (55), pudgy, balding, pumps Humble’s hand.

LIVINGTON
Welcome, Mr. Humble. As long as we’re introducing wives, here’s mine. Madame Louise Magdaleine Valentine de Castera Moreau de Lassy … Livingston.

LOUISE LIVINGSTON (24), his equally stylish and equally Spanish wife, curtsies as well.

LIVINGSTON
Her name may be short … but her father’s purse is quite long, I assure you.

The circle TITTERS over this wit. The Humbles clearly don’t get the joke.

HUMBLE
A pleasure.

Louise favors him with a FLIRTATIOUS glance.

LOUISE
Likewise.

LIVINGSTON
         (to Humble)
I knew your father in Philadelphia. He was a true warrior, a crusader for the cause. Such vim, such venom!

HUMBLE
Mr. Livingston, your reputation precedes you. Accepting Napoleon’s offer without so much as a letter to Washington … a bold move, sir.

LIVINGSTON
Well, Mr. Humble, fortune favors the bold.

HUMBLE
Perhaps sometime you could tell me the whole story of how you negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.

LIVINGSTON
No time like the present! Governor, shall we men retire to the veranda?

CLAIBORNE
Yes, let’s.
         (to Suzette)
My dear, could you entertain Mrs. Livingston and Mrs. Humble for a few minutes?

SUZETTE
Certainly.

Humble SQUEEZES Prudence’s hand, then DEPARTS with the men.

LIVINGSTON (OS)
Mr. Humble, do you smoke cigars?

HUMBLE (OS)
Can’t say I do…

Prudence stands with Louise and Suzette in a moment of awkward silence.

Then Louise and Suzette begin SPEAKING RAPIDLY to each other in SPANISH.

Prudence SIGHS quietly.


EXT. VERANDA – CABILDO – NIGHT

Claiborne, Livingston and Fletcher PUFF on cigars under the awning of the gallery as RAIN pours down on the Place d’Armes below.

Humble stands by them, drink in hand, not smoking. Livingston is finishing his Louisiana Purchase story.

LIVINGSTON
President Jefferson was ecstatic. For my part, I was completely relieved. If he hadn’t accepted the treaty, then I would have gone down in history as the man who reneged on a fifteen million dollar promise.

HUMBLE
That’s … incredible.

LIVINGSTON
         (bashful)
Ah, well…

HUMBLE
The whole country is in your debt.

LIVINGSTON
Oh, pish-posh. But thank you.

A brief silence as the men SMOKE.

FLETCHER
Fine tobacco.

LIVINGSTON
Mmm, yes.

CLAIBORNE
Mr. Humble, I want to thank you for joining us here in the Crescent City. There’s much work to be done.

HUMBLE
I’m up for the challenge.

CLAIBORNE
Good. It will be a challenge. These French planters … their names are ancient, their wealth outrageous. They’re proud. Haughty. Very difficult to manage.

LIVINGSTON
They despise us, Mr. Humble. French nobility, cow-towing to a bunch of Anglo-Saxon peasants? It’s like the Battle of Agincourt all over again!

CLAIBORNE
As Secretary, you’ll be charged with my most delicate diplomatic missions. You’ll be dealing directly with the Creoles in any and all important matters. It is a post of great honor. God willing, you will be instrumental in realizing my dream.

HUMBLE
And what would that be?

CLAIBORNE
Bringing the promise of America to this troubled land, sir. Admitting the Orleans Territory formally into the Union as the State of Louisiana.

HUMBLE
I won’t disappoint you, Governor.

CLAIBORNE
You come highly recommended, Mr. Humble. Your work back east was exemplary. That you abandoned a promising career in Massachusetts to help civilize the frontier tells me that you are a true patriot. Is that not so, Mr. Livingston?

LIVINGSTON
It is, Governor.

Humble can’t tell if that was an insult or a compliment.


INT. CABILDO – NIGHT

As Suzette and Louise keep CONVERSING in Spanish, Prudence rapidly downs her wine. She flags down the WHITE WIG SLAVE for another.

SUZETTE
Mrs. Humble.

PRUDENCE
         (mid-sip)
Yes?

SUZETTE
What is the English word for … ¿Mamar?
         (off Prudence’s confusion)
You know…

She MIMICS performing ORAL SEX.

PRUDENCE
Oh! Dear me.

LOUISE
She has embarrassed you.
         (to Suzette)
¿Por qué le preguntas eso a ella?

PRUDENCE
No, it’s all right. We call that …
         (leans in, whispers)
… fellatio.

SUZETTE
         (a tad too loudly)
Ah, fellatio!

PRUDENCE
Though … forgive me, I must ask … is this regarded as an appropriate topic of conversation among ladies here in New Orleans?

Louise lays a condescending hand on Prudence’s arm.

LOUISE
Prudence, cariña. It is Twelfth Night. Carnival time. Do you know what that means here in New Orleans?

PRUDENCE
I arrived today, Mrs. Livingston, so … no.

LOUISE
It is a time of merriment, of abandon. Once Lent begins, we must all become good girls, and give up worldly pleasures. But until then, we sin, and we drink, and we eat cake, and we sin some more. This is clearly God’s will, otherwise, why would He have invented Mardi Gras?

Prudence opens her mouth for an appropriately Puritan rebuttal when a LOUD SHOUT echoes through the Cabildo.

The three women LOOK. A CROWD has gathered in a corner of the ballroom.

SUZETTE
         (to Louise)
Dados!

Suzette and Louise RUSH toward the COMMOTION. Prudence reluctantly FOLLOWS.

The Spanish ladies PUSH through the crowd.

Bernard de Marigny is playing CRAPS with some CREOLE GENTLEMEN. He takes up the DICE and turns to his wife, ANNA (21).

BERNARD
         {subtitled French}
For luck.

She BLOWS on the dice. Bernard takes a SIP from his wine glass – he is half in the bag.

Bernard THROWS the dice. They SKITTER to a stop.

A great GROAN from the assembled aristocrats. Bernard has LOST the bet.

PRUDENCE
         (to Louise)
Who’s that?

LOUISE
Bernard de Marigny. A living legend.

PRUDENCE
He doesn’t look old enough to be a living legend.

LOUISE
He was heir to the greatest fortune in Louisiana. His father sent him to England, as a punishment for womanizing, drinking and gambling, when he was thirteen years old.

Prudence CHOKES on her drink.

LOUISE
And when his father died, he lost the family fortune due to gambling debts. He’s been selling off lots on his old plantation to repay them ever since.

PRUDENCE
Sounds like … quite a man.

BERNARD (OS)
He does indeed!

Bernard APPROACHES them, Anna on his arm.

BERNARD
Mrs. Claiborne, Mrs. Livingston, lovely to see you. Who is this rare flower in your company?

SUZETTE
Monsieur de Marigny, this is Prudence Humble, wife of the new Secretary to the Territory. She arrived to the city only this morning.

Bernard takes her hand and KISSES it.

BERNARD
Welcome, mademoiselle, to La Nouvelle Orleans. Might I introduce my wife, Anna Morales de Marigny?

ANNA
Good evening, señorita.

PRUDENCE
Another Spanish wife, very good.

ANNA
Pardon me, what?

PRUDENCE
A great pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Humble, together with Claiborne, Fletcher, and Livingston, approaches them. Prudence is VISIBLY RELIEVED to see her husband.

PRUDENCE
Mr. Marigny, this is my husband, John Humble.

Humble steps closer to Bernard to SHAKE HIS HAND. The American TOWERS over the Creole.

BERNARD
A strong grip, Mr. Humble. I hear you are to serve as a glorified clerk to Governor Claiborne here.

HUMBLE
Secretary to the Territory.

BERNARD
Quite a thankless job, as I’m sure the Governor has told you. Tell me, how is your French?

HUMBLE
It’s fair. I took French at Harvard, along with the classical –

BERNARD
Because, you know, our dear Billy Claiborne here deliberately refuses to learn French, despite the fact that he is expected to administer a territory rich with French language and culture. Isn’t that true, Governor?

CLAIBORNE
As you know, Bernard, I have no ear for languages.

BERNARD
Indeed.
         {subtitled French}
So if I were to call him a cuckold in English, it might provoke a duel, but in the dulcet tones of French, I could call him anything I like. A flaccid drunk, a miserable melancholic, a mere figurehead of government who gladly allows quibbling bureaucrats to wield the power behind the throne. I could compare him to bloody stool and as long as I’m speaking French, there would be no cause for offense.

HUMBLE
         {subtitled French}
French or English, there is rampant cause for offense in your tone, sir. You will not speak to the Governor again in this manner, do you understand?

BERNARD
         {subtitled French}
Your French is excellent, Mr. Humble.

HUMBLE
So is your English.

BERNARD
I was exiled for two years in England as a youth. And I learn quickly.

CLAIBORNE
I’m glad to see you two getting on. You’ll be spending a good deal of time together in future. If you’ll excuse me…

LIVINGSTON
I’ll join you, William.

Claiborne, Suzette, Livingston, and Louise TAKE THEIR LEAVE.

Bernard DRAINS his glass.

BERNARD
         (to Humble)
So, how much have they told you about your new responsibilities?

HUMBLE
As I understand, I’m to serve as an intermediary between the Governor and the landowners of this territory.

BERNARD
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Mr. Humble – John. May I call you John?

HUMBLE
Call me what you like.

BERNARD
John. Do you have any idea … the faintest notion … what a mess you Americans have made of this colony?

HUMBLE
Why don’t you tell me?

The WHITE WIG SLAVE passes – Bernard grabs more wine, SPILLING some on himself.

BERNARD
I shall. It all started when a criminal named Napoleon Bonaparte sold a huge tract of land to an idiot named Thomas Jefferson. Included in that lamentable exchange was the jewel of the continent, the city of La Nouvelle Orleans. At once, a swarm of kaintuck locusts descended upon this fair city. Virginians and New Englanders. People with no regard for our culture, our way of life. People who refuse to even live amongst us. Vulgar, self-righteous Saxons, whose idea of a Twelfth Night ball is bad music, canapés and weak wine.

He DRAINS his glass.

ANNA
         {subtitled French}
My dear, that’s enough.

BERNARD
         {subtitled French}
But I’ve only just begun.

PRUDENCE
         (to Humble)
John, I think we should leave.

BERNARD
A splendid idea. Listen to your woman, John. Take your leave and go back to Maryland or wherever the hell it is you’re from.

HUMBLE
My wife.

BERNARD
Eh?

HUMBLE
Prudence is not my woman, she’s my wife. And you will apologize to her for that remark. Now.

PRUDENCE
John, don’t…

ANNA
He meant no offense, sir.

BERNARD
Yes I did.

HUMBLE
Apologize, sir.

BERNARD
Or what?

Humble reaches out and SLAPS Bernard across the face.

Other REVELERS notice the escalating confrontation – more and more of them stop what they’re doing and TAKE NOTICE.

Bernard’s eyes grow COLD. He SHAKES with rage.

BERNARD
         (to Anna)
Give me one of your gloves.

ANNA
Mon cher…

BERNARD
Donne le moi!

Bernard YANKS one of Anna’s LONG FORMAL GLOVES off her hand and TOSSES IT TO HUMBLE’S FEET.

An audible GASP from the onlookers.

BERNARD
Name a time. Name a place. Name a weapon. My factor will call upon your factor.

Bernard STORMS out of the party. Anna follows, embarrassed.

HUMBLE
         (calling after him)
What’s a “factor?”

Fletcher suddenly POPS UP.

FLETCHER
Humble, you damn fool. What did you just do?

HUMBLE
I was challenged by a man half my size.

FLETCHER
You were challenged by the best duelist in the city. Marigny’s killed a dozen men beneath the Oaks. He’s highly skilled with both pistol and rapier. God help you, sir.

Humble PEERS around. The other revelers look suitably HORRIFIED. He sees Claiborne, who FROWNS in his direction.

Humble locks eyes with Prudence. The ghost of a SMILE flits across her lips.


INT. MASTER BEDROOM – HUMBLE HOUSE – DAY

Humble SLAMS Prudence against the wall and MAKES LOVE TO HER as they stare into one another’s eyes. Both are naked, panting, and filmed in sweat.

Prudence MOANS.


INT. MARTHA’S ROOM – HUMBLE HOUSE – NIGHT

Martha covers her ears with a PILLOW.


EXT. WOODLAND PLANTATION – DAY

Still RAINING. Too wet for fieldwork.

Charles WALKS through the mud near the SLAVE CABINS.

The SLAVES are sitting on the porches making brooms, bridles, dolls … using their day off to make goods that can be sold at market.

Charles passes a young man SEWING what appears to be a bundled up quilt. This is ROBAINE (17).

Robaine catches Charles’ gaze. The two men NOD to each other.


INT. FOYER – WOODLAND PLANTATION – DAY

Charles walks in, past the PARLOR, where Gilbert is asleep next to a bottle of wine, and walks through a CLOSET DOOR.


INT. CLOSET – CONT.

There are tools and dry goods piled high in this musty little space.

Charles digs through the assorted junk until he uncovers a large WOODEN CHEST. He pries it open.

It is full of HATCHETS and CANE KNIVES.

Charles exits the closet, leaving the door UNLOCKED.


EXT. MAIN ROOM – HUMBLE HOUSE – DAY

Humble opens his FRONT DOOR and stares out at the HEAVY RAIN.

HUMBLE
Where’s the damn carriage?

Prudence appears, holding a lady’s PARASOL.

PRUDENCE
Here. If you start walking now, you won’t be too late.

HUMBLE
I cannot be seen with this.

PRUDENCE
You’d rather spend your first day at the Cabildo soaking wet?

Humble HESITATES – then takes the parasol.

HUMBLE
I’ll be back this afternoon.

They KISS and he heads out into the rain.


EXT. FRENCH QUARTER – DAY

Humble walks to work. The streets are EMPTY.

He sidesteps a SLEEPING DRUNK and narrowly avoids plunging a boot into a huge, wet pile of HUMAN FECES.

A CARRAIGE approaches, slowing to Humble’s pace. Pierre sticks his head out.

PIERRE
Monsieur Humble!

HUMBLE
         (immediately defensive)
It’s my wife’s!

PIERRE
What?

HUMBLE
Ahh … no matter. How can I help you, friend?

PIERRE
My name is Pierre. I belong to Monsieur de Marigny. Do you require a mode of conveyance to the Cabildo, sir?

HUMBLE
I’d appreciate that.

He clumsily folds the parasol and HOPS IN.


INT/EXT. CARRAIGE – CONT.

Pierre SLAPS the roof and the carriage LURCHES into motion.

PIERRE
I called upon your house just now. I was surprised to find you gone.

HUMBLE
Why? It must be after nine o’clock by now. I’m running quite late, in fact.

PIERRE
Don’t worry yourself too much. It is the morning after Twelfth Night.
         (beat)
So, to business. Mr. Bernard sent me to inquire about your upcoming duel. As the challenged party, you shall choose the time, the place, and the weapons used.

HUMBLE
Pierre, is all this necessary? I wish your master no harm … truly, I don’t. Perhaps we could settle this without violence?

PIERRE
Mr. Bernard will not agree to that.

HUMBLE
You know, I never actually picked up the glove he threw at my feet. Formally, I have not yet accepted his challenge.

PIERRE
How to put this … Monsieur, what do you hope to accomplish here in La Nouvelle Orleans?

HUMBLE
Whatever the Governor requires of me.

PIERRE
Well, if you hope to accomplish anything at all, you will accept Mr. Bernard’s challenge. Here in the city, we tolerate … nay, we celebrate … the rascal, the brawler, the tippler. But we cannot, we will not, abide the coward.

HUMBLE
I’m no coward. I don’t need to fight a man to prove it.

PIERRE
The people of this city will not see it that way, monsieur.

Humble knows he’s right.

HUMBLE
Very well. I accept.

PIERRE
Excellent. And your thoughts about the time, place, weapons used?

HUMBLE
How about … tomorrow morning. Seven o’clock?

PIERRE
Very well.

HUMBLE
In the shallows of that lake, the one to the north.

PIERRE
Lake Pontchartrain?

HUMBLE
That’s the one. By the by, how tall is Mr. Marigny?

PIERRE
         (taken aback)
Five foot four. Why?

HUMBLE
All right, then let’s fight at the three-foot water mark.

PIERRE
That is … quite unconventional.

HUMBLE
It’s my final decision.

PIERRE
And the weapons?

Humble ponders it for a moment.

HUMBLE
Sledgehammers.
         (glances out window)
This is where I leave you.

He HOPS out, leaving Pierre in STUNNED SILENCE.


INT. CABILDO – DAY

WE SEE Humble approach from THROUGH THE FIRST STORY WINDOWS.

He PUSHES on the door. It won’t budge.

MCNAIR (43), the custodian, shuffles INTO FRAME and UNLOCKS the door for him.

HUMBLE
Hello.

MCNAIR
Good morning.

McNair takes up a BROOM and sweeps the floor.

Humble looks around. The Cabildo is EMPTY.

HUMBLE
I’m John Humble. The new Secretary to the Territory.

MCNAIR
I’m Francis McNair. The custodian.

HUMBLE
Where is everybody?

MCNAIR
Still sleeping off their benders, I expect.

HUMBLE
I was told that the administration convenes promptly at nine o’clock.

MCNAIR
Is that so?

McNair keeps SWEEPING, trying to make an exit – Humble pursues him.

HUMBLE
Is the Governor in, at least?

MCNAIR
More than likely.

Bewildered, Humble heads UPSTAIRS to the second story, leaving McNair to his work.


INT. GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – DAY

Humble KNOCKS on the door.

HUMBLE (OS)
Hello? Governor Claiborne? Are you in there?

He CRACKS open the door.

THE REVERSE: Governor Claiborne slouched over, his head on his desk. He’s wearing his party clothes from the night before.

Humble RUSHES to him. Shakes his shoulders.

HUMBLE
Governor! Governor, are you hurt?

CLAIBORNE
         (slurring)
Get your fucking hands off me.

Humble notices a large EMPTY BOTTLE OF WHISKEY on the desk.

HUMBLE
All right, Governor. Let’s sit you up.

He PULLS Claiborne upright. Drool SEEPS from his mouth.

Humble WIPES his chin with his cuff.

HUMBLE
         (to himself)
You, of all people.

CLAIBORNE
Chamberpot.

HUMBLE
Top or bottom?

CLAIBORNE
Top.

Humble’s eyes DART around the room – he finds the CHAMBERPOT in the corner.

Claiborne PROJECTILE VOMITS into it, splattering his desk, his clothes, and Humble.

HUMBLE
MCNAIR!

Humble rises, opens the window and EMPTIES the chamberpot onto the Place d’Armes below.

MCNAIR (OS)
         (distant)
What?

HUMBLE
GET UP HERE!

CLAIBORNE
Not so loud.

We hear McNair MOUNTING THE STAIRS.

HUMBLE
Do you have a change of clothes on hand, sir?

Claiborne’s ANSWER is SLURRED beyond recognition.

McNair appears in the doorway.

HUMBLE
McNair. The Governor needs help, right away. It is imperative that we get him cleaned up and changed before anyone else arrives.

MCNAIR
         (utterly nonplussed)
I’ll get the mop.

HUMBLE
And McNair … can I trust in your discretion?

McNair just SIGHS and leaves the room.

CLAIBORNE
         (a croak)
Water.

Again Humble looks around. He finds a decanter full of water on a table by the window. Pours the Governor a glass.

As Claiborne takes timid SIPS, Humble sits down across from him.

HUMBLE
This may not be the best time, but I’d like to apologize for my behavior at the ball last night.

CLAIBORNE
         (still slurring)
Think nothing of it. Marigny insulted the woman you love. Your actions were entirely proper.

HUMBLE
That’s very understanding of you, sir.

CLAIBORNE
I would have done anything for the woman I love. I would have died for her.

HUMBLE
You … “would have?” Are we speaking of your wife, sir?

CLAIBORNE
Yes. My wife.
         (muttering)
A happier and better world…

He RETCHES. Humble DIVES for the chamberpot.


INT. HAIRDRESSER’S SHOP – DAY

Suzette Claiborne enters a high-end hairdresser’s shop.

A mixed-race free woman of color, MARIE (16) is sweeping up hair.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

SUZETTE
Where’s Therese?

MARIE
She’s sick today.

SUZETTE
Nothing serious, I hope.

MARIE
Oh, I doubt it. Half the city is sick this morning.

SUZETTE
Very true. So you are…?

MARIE
Marie …
         (beat)
Paris.

SUZETTE
For a moment, you seemed unsure of your own name.

MARIE
I am newly wed. It’s all still a bit strange to me.

SUZETTE
Ah, I see. My name’s Suzette Claiborne.

MARIE
The Governor’s wife?

SUZETTE
Yes.

MARIE
I’ll try not to hold it against you.

Suzette laughs.

MARIE
Would you like to sit, Suzette?

SUZETTE
Therese usually … that is, she’s my … I think I’d rather return some other time.

MARIE
I understand. You have a public life. Your appearance is important. You don’t trust it with just anyone. Can I wash your hair, at least?

SUZETTE
I’d like that.

She SITS in a reclining chair by a BASIN. Marie begins gently WETTING her hair.

MARIE
Are you excited for Carnival, Suzette?

SUZETTE
I am. It’s my favorite time of year.

MARIE
Mine too. The king cake, the parades, the balls …

SUZETTE
The balls I could do without.

Marie applies SOAP, massaging Suzette’s scalp.

MARIE
They must be very stuffy and boring at the Cabildo.

SUZETTE
They are. I miss experiencing Mardi Gras as a child. The wonder of it.

MARIE
Mmm. Before you started drinking, or even liking boys. You weren’t even certain what the whole fuss was about, you just knew that you loved it.

SUZETTE
In one of my earliest memories … I must have been three or four … my father lifted me onto his shoulders to watch some parade or other. My father was a cold man, so that was unusual. Sometimes I wonder if I invented that memory. Perhaps it wasn’t my father. It could well have been one of our servants, and I simply … put my father’s face onto his. In many ways –
         (beat)
I’m sorry. I’m prattling.

{SUBTITLED SPANISH}

MARIE
Not at all. Continue, please.

The massage has lulled Suzette into a MILD TRANCE. She does not consciously notice the language shift.

SUZETTE
It’s so kind of you to listen. In many ways I think I married my father. Is that strange?

MARIE
No, it’s quite normal.

SUZETTE
Sold off by one cold man to another. Like a slave. I was never Father’s favorite, and I’ll never be William’s. I’ll always play second fiddle.

MARIE
To whom?

SUZETTE
Eliza Lewis. William’s first wife. They came here together from Virginia. She died, with their three year old daughter, on the same day of yellow fever. He put up a gaudy white monument to them in St. Louis Cemetery. He brings them flowers every week.

MARIE
How does that make you feel?

SUZETTE
Angry. I hate that tomb. I hate that I’m forced to compete with a pile of bones for his affections. I never asked for this.

MARIE
Do you love your husband?

SUZETTE
I tried to, at first.

MARIE
But he has never loved you.

SUZETTE
No. Never.

Marie RINSES her hair. Suzette BLINKS – the odd trance seems to have lifted.

Marie puts a dab of PERFUME on Suzette’s neck.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

MARIE
Done. Feel better?

SUZETTE
Much. And that soap smells wonderful. Thank you, Madame Paris.

She holds out a COIN.

MARIE
No charge.

SUZETTE
I insist.

Marie acquiesces and takes the money.

MARIE
Please stay as long as you like while you wait for your hair to dry. Will you excuse me for a few moments?

SUZETTE
Of course.

MARIE
Thank you.

Marie heads to the back of the shop.


EXT. BACK DOOR – HAIRDRESSER’S SHOP – DAY

Marie pushes open the back door. Thomas is leaning on the wall outside, waiting for her.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

MARIE
Tell him Claiborne is in love with a corpse.

THOMAS
That is … unnatural. Disgusting.

MARIE
No, you idiot. Claiborne’s still in love with his dead wife. Tell him that. Go, run along.

Thomas is offended, but obeys her and runs off.

Marie DISAPPEARS back into the shop.


INT. CLAIBORNE’S OFFICE – CABILDO – DAY

McNair SCRUBS the vomit out of the floorboards. Claiborne is ASLEEP on a couch in a corner of the room.


INT. HUMBLE’S OFFICE – CABILDO – DAY

Humble sits in a tiny, cluttered office, poring over documents. PHILANDER CHASE (47), a thin, spectacled clerk, stands over him.

HUMBLE
         (picking up a document)
What’s this?

CHASE
Our most recent tax projections.

Humble peruses it for a moment.

HUMBLE
Why would Charles Genois, with twelve arable acres, owe more than Francois Trepagnier, with twenty-seven?

CHASE
Monsieur Trepagnier is a hard man to tax, Mr. Secretary.

HUMBLE
Why is that?

CHASE
He tends to underpay. And when our tax collectors come calling, he’s been known to … fire his shotgun above their heads until they vacate the premises.

HUMBLE
“Been known to?” So this has happened more than once?

CHASE
It has, I’m sorry to say.

HUMBLE
That will stop. This year, send twenty militiamen to accompany the tax collectors.

CHASE
The planters of the German Coast will see that as a direct challenge, Mr. Secretary.

HUMBLE
These men are private citizens, Mr. Chase, not medieval dukes. They’ll pay their fair share or they’ll see the inside of a –

The door BURSTS open. JEAN-NOEL DESTREHAN (56) a manicured planter patriarch, marches straight up to Humble’s desk.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

DESTREHAN
         (to Chase)
I’m told Governor Claiborne is unavailable. Is this the new Secretary?

HUMBLE
This is.

DESTREHAN
You speak French. Good for you. Your name?

HUMBLE
John Humble.

DESTREHAN
Ah, the duelist!

HUMBLE
Actually tomorrow will be my first.

DESTREHAN
Is it true you chose a sledgehammer as your weapon of choice?

HUMBLE
Mr. Marigny and I will both be wielding sledgehammers.

DESTREHAN
You sound quite confident.

HUMBLE
I’m a foot taller than him and my arms are as thick as his legs.

DESTREHAN
For a man named Humble, you certainly are a cocky kaintuck, aren’t you?

HUMBLE
How can I help you, mister…

DESTREHAN
Destrehan. Jean-Noel Destrehan. Here is my problem, Mr. Humble: three of my blacks are missing.

HUMBLE
As I understand, planters are perfectly capable of tracking down their own runaway slaves.

DESTREHAN
We are.

HUMBLE
Is this a matter that merits the attention of the Governor’s office?

DESTREHAN
I believe it is. I’ve been in communication with several of my colleagues who have reported similar disappearances. The blacks are up to something, sir. A plot, a conspiracy of some kind. No doubt of Spanish origin.

HUMBLE
Why Spanish?

DESTREHAN
Claiborne’s dragoons have been stationed in Spanish West Florida for the better part of a month. It’s only natural that those beastly Iberians would seek revenge.

{IN ENGLISH}

HUMBLE
         (to Chase)
How much freedom of movement do Negroes have in this region?

CHASE
Free people of color may travel as they please.

HUMBLE
Slaves, I mean.

CHASE
It depends on a great many factors. The niggers of Louisiana are Catholic, and so rest on the Sabbath. Many spend the day at the Congo Square dances.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

HUMBLE
Mr. Destrehan, if there were a plot, as you say, involving the slaves, would keeping a close eye on the Congo Square dances stand a chance of bringing it to light?

DESTREHAN
Perhaps. Don’t use white men, or they’ll know something is afoot. Send some of your own blacks, the better to blend in.

HUMBLE
I own no slaves, Mr. Destrehan.

DESTREHAN
         (regarding him)
Where are you from?

HUMBLE
Framingham, Massachusetts.

DESTREHAN
And in Massachusetts, do you work your own fields?

HUMBLE
My father did, though he used hired help in his autumn years. There are no large sugar plantations up there. The climate is too cold.

DESTREHAN
Sounds dreadful.
         (rising)
If I could offer you some advice … buy slaves. They’re worth every penny.

With a SWISH of his long coat, Destrehan makes a dramatic exit.

Chase and Humble share a look, then TURN back toward the pile of documents.

{IN ENGLISH}

HUMBLE
Right. What’s next?


INT. MAIN ROOM – HUMBLE HOUSE – NIGHT

Prudence is READING ALOUD to Martha when Humble arrives home, shaking the rain from his parasol.

MARTHA
Father!

She runs over and EMBRACES him.

HUMBLE
Hello, my love!

MARTHA
Look at how much we unpacked.

There are some basic furnishings and decorations, giving the house a bit of life.

HUMBLE
I see, very well done.

MARTHA
Come look at my room!

HUMBLE
In a moment, darling.

He PRIES OFF his wet boots. Prudence rises and KISSES him.

PRUDENCE
You look exhausted.

HUMBLE
Long day.

PRUDENCE
Tomorrow could be longer.

HUMBLE
Are you worried?

PRUDENCE
No. You’ll squash him like a bug.

MARTHA
Father!

HUMBLE
I’m coming, dearest.

Humble follows Martha into her room.

WE STAY WITH PRUDENCE.

She’s definitely worried.


EXT. LAKEFRONT – DAY

Bernard and Humble stand opposite one another on the shores of LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN. The rain has petered down to a DRIZZLE.

Pierre stands behind Bernard. Fletcher stands behind Humble. Bernard’s Driver waits with the carriage and horses on a trail nearby.

Fletcher steps into the neutral ground.

FLETCHER
Gentlemen. Just as honor has brought you to this dueling ground, so honor compels me to avert bloodshed if possible.
         (to Humble)
Mr. Humble. Would you be willing to apologize for striking Monsieur de Marigny across the face, and end this duel before it begins?

HUMBLE
I would…

FLETCHER
Monsieur de Marigny. If Mr. Humble offered an apology, would you then claim –

HUMBLE
…only if Mr. Marigny apologizes for disrespecting my wife.

All eyes turn to Bernard.

He SHAKES HIS HEAD.

FLETCHER
Then there is nothing else for it. The duel must commence.

Fletcher and Pierre hand SLEDGEHAMMERS to Humble and Bernard, respectively.

FLETCHER
         (a whisper, to Humble)
He will kill you.

Humble ignores him.

FLETCHER
         (to all)
You know the stipulations, gentlemen. Proceed to the three-foot water mark.

Humble WADES into the lake.

Bernard begins STRIPPING off his clothes.

HUMBLE
What are you doing, sir?

BERNARD
Getting undressed.

Once he is BUCK NAKED, Bernard wades into the water, GRIMACING as the cold water hits his testicles.

At the three-foot mark, Bernard is in water to his waist. Humble is in just below his crotch.

Fletcher raises a HANDERCHIEF up above his head.

FLETCHER
Monsieur de Marigny, are you ready?

BERNARD
Oui.

FLETCHER
Mr. Humble, are you ready?

HUMBLE
Yes.

A tense PAUSE.

FLETCHER
Begin!

He THRUSTS the hanky DOWN.

Humble SWINGS his sledgehammer down in a POWERFUL ARC. Nimble without clothes, Bernard DODGES easily.

Humble ATTACKS again. Bernard parries, KNOCKING his sledgehammer to the side. The weight of the heavy hammer nearly TOPPLES Humble over.

Bernard’s COUNTERATTACK comes quickly. He jabs the head of his hammer HARD against Humble’s RIBS. He HISSES in pain.

Angry now, Humble ADVANCES on him, SWINGING the hammer from side to side. He drives Bernard back, but his steps are CLUMSY in his waterlogged trousers.

Bernard starts LAUGHING. After a particularly WILD SWING, Bernard deftly CRACKS Humble on the NOSE. Blood SPURTS from his nostrils.

FLETCHER
That’s enough.

With a guttural cry, Humble LUNGES at him, hands grasping each end of the sledgehammer like a quarterstaff, and this time Bernard can’t escape.

Humble SHOVES Bernard off his feet and UNDERWATER.

FLETCHER
Gentlemen, please! Enough!

Humble HOLDS HIM UNDER.

Bernard CLAWS at the hammer’s handle, but Humble is too strong.

FLETCHER
Mr. Humble!

PIERRE
Let him up, sir! It’s over!

Humble doesn’t seem to hear. BUBBLES pierce the surface of the lake.

FLETCHER
Let him up, God damn you!

Humble COMES BACK to himself. He RELINQUISHES HIS GRIP and pulls Bernard, UNCONSCIOUS, to the surface.

Pierre RUNS into the lake.

PIERRE
Monsieur Bernard!

Humble puts his arm around Bernard’s torso and DRAGS him ashore.

Pierre SLAPS his master’s face.

PIERRE
No, no, ne meur pas!

Humble DROPS Bernard on the sand, then COLLAPSES himself.

The impact causes Bernard to COUGH UP lakewater. He takes a long, ragged breath.

PIERRE
Oh, Dieu merci. Louer les saints.

Humble SPITS BLOOD.

HUMBLE
Who won?

FLETCHER
I cannot say. He had first blood.

HUMBLE
But I overcame him.

FLETCHER
True.
         (to Bernard)
Monsieur, in lieu of Mr. Humble sparing your life, do you now claim satisfaction?

Still COUGHING, Bernard waves his ASSENT.

FLETCHER
Excellent. For a moment, I was certain we’d require the services of an undertaker.

He SMILES at Humble. Humble does not smile back.

HUMBLE
Bring the damn carriage around, Fletcher.

FLETCHER
Right. Well fought!
         (to Carriage Driver, OS)
Bring the horses!

He marches off toward the carriage.

Bernard LOCKS EYES with Humble.

HUMBLE
You broke my nose. And a rib or two, I think.

BERNARD
You nearly killed me, kaintuck.

HUMBLE
Isn’t that the point of a duel?

BERNARD
I suppose.

A pause while both catch their breath.

HUMBLE
I feel I should thank you.

BERNARD
What the hell for?

HUMBLE
“Secretary to the Territory of Orleans.”
         (off Bernard’s confusion)
No one else was truly honest with me about the position. Not the Governor. Not Mr. Fletcher, my old family friend. You may be a villain, Marigny, but at least you’re an honest one.

Bernard CHUCKLES at this.

BERNARD
I need a drink.

HUMBLE
It’s half past seven in the morning.

BERNARD
Carnival time is what it is. Care to join me?

HUMBLE
To hell with it.

He RISES, grimacing.

BERNARD
That’s the spirit. There’s a tavern on Bayou St. John, near the Spanish Fort, that’s not too far away. Frequented by hairy, smelly, tradesman types. You’ll like it, kaintuck.

Humble HELPS Bernard to his feet, and the two LIMP off to the horses.

We HOLD on a WIDE and watch them WALK AWAY.

HUMBLE
You keep calling me that. “Kaintuck.” What does it mean?

BERNARD
It means an upriver Anglo. An unrefined, boorish, backwoods American.

HUMBLE
So “kaintuck” as in Kentucky?

BERNARD
Yes.

HUMBLE
But I’m not from Kentucky.

BERNARD
And yet you’re still a kaintuck.


INT. CLOSET – WOODLAND PLANTATION – NIGHT

PUSH IN on the CHEST of axes and cane knives.

A pair of BLACK HANDS comes INTO FRAME, SEIZING the nasty-looking blades and handing them off to OTHERS.


INT. PARLOR – WOODLAND PLANTATION – NIGHT

Another pair of HANDS tears the MUSKET off the wall.


INT. CORRIDOR – WOODLAND PLANTATION – NIGHT

LIGHTNING illuminates the scene.

Charles leads Kook, Quamana, Robaine, the Maroon Leader, and a SCORE OF ARMED REBEL SLAVES up the stairs.

Their eyes are vital with ANTICIPATION and BLOODLUST as they CREEP forward.

They reach a BEDROOM DOOR. Charles motions one group of slaves, including Kook and Quamana, FORWARD and leads another group inside.


INT. GILBERT’S BEDROOM – CONT.

Gilbert is ASLEEP in bed.

Charles’ group silently SURROUNDS him.


INT. ANDRY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Kook and Quamana’s group SURROUNDS Andry’s bed as the plantation owner softly SNORES.


INT. GILBERT’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Charles NODS. His men GRAB Gilbert and hold him down.

Gilbert WAKES UP with a start and sees a collection of black faces above him, MURDER IN THEIR EYES.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

GILBERT
Father! FATHER!


INT. ANDRY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Andry’s eyes SHOOT OPEN. Kook is GRINNING down at him.

Andry does not hesitate. Paternal instinct kicks in and he LEAPS out of bed, PUSHING PAST the slaves, who CUT HIM SAVAGELY as he passes.

Andry THROWS his DRESSER down, momentarily blocking the Rebels’ path, and SCAMPERS out into the corridor.


INT. GILBERT’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Gilbert SCREAMS bloody murder.

Charles swings an AXE down, CHOPPING Gilbert’s right arm CLEAN OFF.

Gilbert looks over at his recently DETACHED BODY PART, gasping in SHOCK.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

CHARLES
Left flank.

GILBERT
Please, don’t –

Charles brings the axe down again, SEVERING Gilbert’s left arm. BLOOD GEYSERS from the stump.

CHARLES
Right flank.

Robaine hands him a long KNIFE.

CHARLES
Center.

GILBERT
No, no, no, WAIT!

He slowly PUSHES the knife DEEP into Gilbert’s chest.

Gilbert exhales, the breath driven from him. Blood GURGLES out of his mouth. He DIES in slow agony.

An ANGUISHED SHRIEK pierces the night. Charles turns.

Andry, CLUTCHING his bleeding side, has stopped at Gilbert’s door long enough to see his son brutally murdered.

Charles and Andry share a LOOK.

CHARLES
Kill him!

He continues to MUTILATE Gilbert’s body as his men run for Andry.

Charles then looks toward a CHAIR near the bed – Gilbert’s MILITIA UNIFORM is laid out neatly there, stained with only a few drops of blood.


INT. FOYER – CONT.

Sobbing and wailing, Andry STUMBLES down the stairs and OUT THE FRONT DOOR, his slaves in hot pursuit.


EXT. WOODLAND PLANTATION – MAGIC HOUR

Andry PUMPS HIS LEGS, running for his life.


EXT. LEVEE – CONT.

He CLAMBERS up the nearby levee and takes a moment to gawk at his numerous wounds.

He looks up. A rickety CANOE is moored in the Mississippi below, just visible in the PREDAWN LIGHT.

A GUNSHOT rings out. Andry forces himself to MOVE, trips, and TUMBLES down the levee toward the dock.

Panting and TRAILING BLOOD, he climbs into the canoe and takes up the paddle. He ROWS – screaming with every stroke – and ESCAPES into the river.

Kook and his men crest the levee and see Andry paddling away.

Kook tisks, disappointed, and turns back toward the house.


EXT. WOODLAND PLANTATION – MOMENTS LATER

About a hundred Rebel Slaves mill around the big house, uncertain. What now?

The FRONT DOOR of the house opens. Quamana turns and looks at something OFF CAMERA – he grins.

The other Rebels notice it too – and their chests SWELL with pride. A slave brings a HORSE forward.

REVEAL: Charles Deslondes, dressed in Gilbert’s fancy militia uniform, SWINGS himself into the saddle.

The Rebels all look up at him.

Charles lifts GILBERT’S GROTESQUE SEVERED HEAD, dripping blood, still wearing a pitiful expression of utter horror and disbelief.

{SUBTITLED FRENCH}

CHARLES
Freedom … OR DEATH!

The Rebels take up the BATTLE CRY.

SLAVE ARMY
FREEDOM OR DEATH! FREEDOM OR DEATH!

Charles TOSSES them Gilbert’s head. They GO WILD.

CHARLES
ON TO NEW ORLEANS!

DRUMS beat; battle cries ring out. Robaine UNFURLS his rumpled blanket – it is a bicolor FLAG, a blue and red field emblazoned with an emblem of a BROKEN CHAIN.

The STORM is finally abating, the RUMBLE of thunder distant now. For the first time in the episode, the clouds part, and SUNLIGHT peeks through.

SLAVE ARMY
ON TO NEW ORLEANS! ON TO NEW ORLEANS! ON TO NEW ORLEANS!

Charles leads the column EAST, downriver, into the gathering light of the rising sun.

CUT TO BLACK.





END OF EPISODE
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