Grim Draw

An early Screen Story by LR Forgues

*Transcribed from lone hard-copy found in storage and edited for pacing and content.

Setting – a prosperous mining town somewhere in the American Midwest, circa the 1870s. People are everywhere but on this particular day, many folks have convened on the dusty Main Street, preparing to witness two notorious gunfighters shoot it out, to death, in a quick draw, over some slight only half remembered.

Their names are ‘Wild Card’ Morton and Dwight ‘Jack Rabbit’ Robinson…and they are pissed.

Cut from Black

Slow motion close-up of a wooden match being struck off the all-metal handle of a long-barreled Colt .44 revolver. It’s steel gleams in the mid-afternoon sunlight. Once alight, we follow it up to a thin cigarillo clenched in the tobacco-stained teeth of a tall, scruffy and sallow faced cowboy wearing a wide brimmed and sweat-stained hat. He takes a slow, deliberate drag off the cigarillo, holding the smoke in and savoring it for a moment, before exhaling. He then lowers his hand, flicking the spent match away.

This is ‘Jack Rabbit’.

Cut

Tight on the match as it spins away in slow motion, trailing a wisp of smoke as we follow it down.

Cut

Tight on the squinting eyes of someone else, ‘Wild Card’, as he follows the match to where it hisses out of existence in a nearby puddle. He looks back up, scowling.

Cut

Wide shot of the busy street, with both gunfighters poised in the middle. Tension is high and the crowd senses it. They are noticeably backing away, fearing the bloody fight will begin soon.

Cut

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’ glares past us, a gloved hand hovering at his side, ready for action. He ‘s shorter than ‘Jack Rabbit’, but more powerfully built. Thick neck and barrel chest. He spits into the dirt, unimpressed.

Cut

Tight on ‘Jack Rabbit’ as he takes another pull from his smoke, calmly inhaling again. Speaking as he exhales…

“OK, son-of-a-bitch…this is what it all chews down to.”

He pauses, nonchalantly pulling an errant piece of tobacco from his lips before continuing…

“You gun down amigos of mine, while hunting me down, like fucking wild game…then a .44 finds ya.”

He gently pats the grip of his gun for effect…

“You think you found me? Not the case, brother…I’ve had you hooked since back East. Since Snakewater.

Cut

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’ brushes aside his duster, revealing a pair of walnut-handled revolvers.

Cut

Ambient crowd shots, cut quickly, as they react with excitement and alarm.

Cut

‘Wild Card’. He growls…

“A .44, huh? Just one?! To tell you the truth…all I see before me is nothin but another two-bit pisss-tolier (hisses snakelike)…that’s moments from dying in the road like a diseased mutt!”

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ pulls the cigarillo from his lips, his cool demeanor slipping.

“You calling me a dog, asshole?!”

His volume increases.

“You ain’t nothin but bark, you wetback-loving bastard! You gunnin…or are you going to keep shooting your mouth off?!!”

Cut

‘Wild Card’ spits again, fury in his eyes.

“Talking? Is that all I’m doin?! When I skin these pistols, you’ll realize my ‘talking’ is the last sound you ever hear…next to your insides snapping your outsides!”

He continues yelling, rage unleashed.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ jabs an accusing finger, his rising voice taking on a menacing tone over ‘Wild Card’s angry jeers…

“I’m going to enjoy dancing a jig on your goddamn body in front of these fine folks!”

He gestures to the crowd, which has noticeably put distance between them and the raging gunfighters.

Cut

‘Wild Card’, practically foaming at the mouth, finishes up his yelling with…

“…and I’ll see you in Hell, you son-of-a-bitch!”

His hands flash down in a blur of movement, yanking both pistols from their holsters.

Cut

At the same moment, ‘Jack Rabbit’s own pistol clears its leather holster, sunlight glinting off metal as he brings it up, the muzzle looming large in our view.

*burst of pure white*

The same main street, only it has undergone a severe change in the blink of an eye. It’s still dusty, but it is now deserted. The buildings are falling apart, full of cobwebs and dust. Tumble weeds and dust devils swirl lazily among the vacant structures. Rats scamper quietly through the streets and vultures soar overhead, their eerie cries echoing. Wind whistles mournfully through the remaining shards that sit frozen in wooden window frames like broken teeth. The sky is dark and ominous…low thunder sounds in the distance as threatening steel-toned clouds roil past overhead.

Cut

Mid-shot. ‘Wild Card’. Both hands whip up, clenching at grips and triggers that are no longer there.

Cut

Mid-shot. ‘Jack Rabbit’. In a classic gun-fighter pose, his finger also squeezes dry, cool air. His gun is gone. And so are his duds. Gone is his duster and prized hat. Gone is his vest and leather boots. He’s barefoot and clad in a cheap dark suit that hangs awkwardly, a long slice in the threadbare fabric opening the back. He looks down in shock, not comprehending.

Cut

‘Wild Card’ is similarly attired now, only in a loose suit of muddy brown material, a similar slice up the back.

The gunfighters are clad in funerary clothes, their former garments nowhere to be seen.

‘Wild Card’ stumbles back, stunned, his empty hands still extended. He exclaims…

“What the hell?!”

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’. Not sure what to do, but seeing his sworn enemy raise his hands threateningly, hisses…

“Shit!”

He suddenly ducks out of frame.

Cut

Ground level. We see ‘Jack Rabbit’ come down hard, his knee raising dust as he hits, trying to duck bullets that aren’t coming.

Cut

‘Wild Card’ stops backing away, having realized that they are both now unarmed and defenseless. He begins to look around, his ferocious expression giving way to one of bewilderment….and a bit of fear.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ also glares about, a disbelieving smirk twisting his features as he scans the area. After a moment, he wrinkles his nose, quietly muttering…

“Jesus…what the hell is that stench?”

Cut

‘Wild Card’. He hears his enemy saying something low and looks over questioningly…

“What?”

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’. He meets the other gunfighter’s eyes, responding…

“I said…what smells so goddamn rank around here?!”

The only answer is the mournful wail of the wind, but then…there’s something else. Something low. Ominous. It sounds like…laughter. Seemingly from all around them, in and among the buildings and streets. The source is unseen, seemingly everywhere…and nowhere. Then…it settles, emanating softly from the shadows of the shuttered and decrepit saloon across the street.

Both men stare at the building as the low chuckle fades away, giving rise to loud, thudding footsteps from within, approaching. Each step is punctuated by the sharp *ka-ching* of sharpened spurs.

Cut

Wide shot. The saloon. Dark clouds drift past in the distance as we slowly zoom in on the dusty facade. The footsteps get louder.

Cut

‘Wild Card’. He stares past us, eyes wide, licking his lips nervously. We slowly zoom in.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit. He also looks beyond us, confusion washing over him. We slowly zoom in.

Cut

The saloon’s entrance, darkness beyond the swinging double doors. Our zoom slows to a stop.

A figure appears suddenly from the shadows and the swinging doors burst open, abruptly forced from within. We pull back as this tall, imposing figure strides out into the murky daylight, marching toward us. We can see that his’s clad in a long, black duster and a wide, black cowboy hat, the brim angled down to obscure his features.

Cut

Wide. Ground level. We see the two gunfighters poised defensively in the street. In the foreground, the stranger’s black boot comes down, barbed silver spur *ka-ching*ing in the dust.

Cut

‘Wild Card’. He stumbles back a step, saying…

“Oh my god!”

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ glares for a moment, before exclaiming…

“Holy shit!”

Cut

We see the stranger’s boots. After a beat, we slowly rise up along his tall, narrow body to his face. His skin is a dead greyish-brown, and it’s fixed tight to his skull, as there is no muscle structure beneath to interfere. His eyes are two gleaming coins that glint in the shadows below the wide brim of his hat. Below those, his sharp teeth are a deep, ugly yellow, with several blackened specimens spread throughout. No lips hide the dental travesty. His narrow skull slowly scans from one man to the next. With a spastic chattering motion, he speaks…

“That pungent aroma you inhale is…”

He wafts air at his cadaverous visage, inhaling like that of a great vintage, before continuing…

“…Death.”

The voice that emerges from behind the viciously gnashing teeth is that of a hoarse and strained young man, morphing into that of a prim young girl.

Cut

‘Wild Card’ throws up an accusing finger, pointing past us as he yells…

“Where the hell are we?! And who the fuck are YOU?!”

Cut

We see the dead figure nod toward ‘Wild Card’, the voice going from the girl….to that of an elderly man, Native accent…

“Who I am is completely unimportant. Where you are is another matter…let’s just say that this is this the place where the spiritual essence of a living thing is judged…and sent for. In this case, here on this lovely day, my job is to decide which of you…meat puppets…exits this realm….and which lives to fight another day.”

Cut

‘Wild Card’ lowers the jabbing hand, concern creeping into his eyes. He looks over at ‘Jack Rabbit’.

Cut

Tight. ‘Jack Rabbit’. He also looks apprehensive now. The wind rises, blowing his tussled hair about.

Cut

The stranger speaks again, the voice going from Native to deep Texan…

“I must say though, boys…you two have managed to keep this working stiff busy, in these here parts. I’ve been sending your kills across for a good while now…you’re both not too shabby at what you do, it must be said. Here’s the funny thing…including Mexicans, you two losers are sitting equal at the polls…exact same number of pine boxes and shallow graves to each of your silly names.”

Cut

‘Wild Card’ starts with a jerk, and looks over.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ feels the look and meets it, giving an ‘aw shucks, how about THAT?’ expression in response.

Cut

Tight, uncomfortably close to the stranger’s corpse-like face as the teeth gnash again, the voice changing from male Texas to female England…

“Surprised, aintcha?! Well, hey…I don’t blame ya. It’s actually quite a nifty coincidence. Sure, quite a few gunners have outdone you fellas in score but the odds of two armed gringos with the same count drawing down on each other is wonderfully tasty.”

Cut

We see the two gunfighters frozen in place, staring at the creature that addresses them.

Cut

Back to the stranger. The jaw chatters again and the voice of a young English girl fades into that of an elderly man…

“Frankly, I like both of you sumbitches, you’ve got that killer instinct that keeps me on my toes.”

Cut

‘Wild Card’ sums up some courage and takes a menacing step toward the stranger, growling…

“Listen…you ugly shit. I don’t know what this is or where we are…but you’re intruding in business that needn’t concern you. I’m here to open that bastard right up for what he did. (gestures to ‘Jack Rabbit’) Now…you should follow your tootsies and slide out of town…before I decide to add you to my score…with my bare hands, if need be!”

Cut

His hands curl into tight fists.

Cut

Tight on the stranger. He hesitates, taking in what ‘Wild Card’ has said. After a moment, he raises his head to the dim sun above, light glinting off his coin eyes. The sharpened teeth chatter again, only this time, a low evil laugh sounds from under the wide hat brim. For a moment, the sound seems to swirl around the two men, seemingly not coming from its source before returning to the stranger as it fades out. He looks back down at the defiant gunfighter. He speaks again, elderly man to young boy shifting in his voice…

“You amusingly stupid little mortal…you oughta be smart enough to know that you can’t kill Death.”

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ also steps forward, a scowl clouding his features as he speaks, his cool and menacing tone returning…

“I don’t care what you call yourself, I can kill anything with a beating heart, pistol or no pistol.”

Cut

He too, clenches his fist.

Cut

Tight. The stranger. The mouth chatters…

“Mortal, I must say today has become very unusual. Never has a soul threatened its guide. Should it make you feel better, I will give you both your weapons…if for no other reason than my own amusement, as I believe my choice has been made.”

Cut

Tight on the stranger’s duster as he pulls it open, reaching into the darkened depths to draw out two holsters, which he tosses toward the two men.

Cut

We see ‘Wild Cards’ holstered gun land at his bare feet in a puff of dust.

Cut

We see ‘Jack Rabbit’ catch his.

Cut

The stranger extends his wide arms, presenting a prominent target. The jaw chatters again…

“OK fellas, here’s your shot. Make it count. You two parasites are about to assail the very agent that made you famous men. Now you must remember that, no matter what happens to poor me…it’s already been decided what happens here today.”

Cut

Tight on ‘Wild Cards’ holster as he picks it up from the dust.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ glances over at ‘Wild Card’, his eyes taking on a familiar squint as he nods.

Cut

Wide-shot. The three figures are poised, but all is still. The tension is palpable. Wind whistles through the scene and a tumbleweed rolls among the trio.

Cut

Tight on the stranger. He cocks his head, asking…

“Well? I don’t have all day, boys.”

Cut

Slow-motion. ‘Wild Card’ yanks his gun from the holster, raising it, the muzzle looming large in our view.

Cut

Slow-motion. ‘Jack Rabbit’ follows suit, bounding to the side and skinning his own firearm, bringing it up as he dashes away, the darkened barrel leveling at us.

Cut

Full-shot. The stranger. He quickly but calmly brushes the duster open again, this time drawing out two sawed-off shotguns forged of pure silver, the barrels glinting in the light.

Cut

Tight on the barrels of his weapons as they rise. We can clearly make out the design of a scythe beautifully engraved along the length.

Cut

Both shotguns are leveled, aiming past us. The stranger squeezes both triggers in the same moment and with a crash like a thunderclap, he fires.

*Our view is abruptly blanked out by another blinding flash of pure white*

Cut

We are back in the same town, only the crowd of spectators has returned, along with the bright sunshine and other signs of life. No time has passed.

Cut

Profile shot of ‘Wild Card’. Slow motion. Blood explodes from a ragged hole blown through his heart.

Cut

Profile shot of ‘Jack Rabbit’. Slow motion. His neck is abruptly torn away by a bullet and his head falls forward before he collapses, crimson spilling down the front of his shirt.

Cut

Wide-shot. The street. We see both gunfighters as they stumble and fall, bursts of blue gun smoke hanging before both of them, snaking from the barrels of each of their pistols as they fall.

Cut

‘Wild Card’ crashes into the dust with a thud, blood blooming across his chest, his gun spinning away.

Cut

‘Jack Rabbit’ collapses to his knees with a gurgling sigh, his eyes wide with disbelief as blood drools from his open mouth. His gun also falls from his fingers, landing before him in the road as he reaches up to clutch at the damage. Seconds later…he keels over, thudding face down, dead.

Cut

The crowd reacts with shock, with women covering children’s eyes and men nodding knowingly, puffing on pipes and knocking back last drinks. The echo of the gunfire crackles into the distance. The group of spectators begins to melt away, going back to their lives, the spectacle of the fatal shoot-out over, the dead bodies now someone else’s problem.

Cut

We look down on the two gunfighters crumpled in the dust (overhead shot), puddles of blood spreading under the hot sun as the shadows of flying vultures pass to and fro over them. We slowly draw up and away. As we move, as though far in the distance, we hear the low evil chuckle of the stranger.

Fade to Black

 

The End

 *This was originally written and submitted as a high school Film Class script-writing project in Courtenay, BC circa 1995