Rebel Treasure fourteenth post

Rebel Treasure fourteenth post

INT. HEMSLEY’S TAVERN KITCHEN – NIGHT
The kitchen bustles with activity. Romeo is seated at a crowded servants’ table. Lon talks with his childhood friend and family slave.

ROMEO
Bless me, but haven’t you grown. And such a gentleman.

LON
I’m not the only one. Look at you, you’re taller than me.

A SERVING GIRL delivers a steaming platter to Romeo. She smiles at him coyly and drops a curtsy before dashing away.

LON (CONT’D)
How are things to home?

ROMEO
Mostly the same. Though Sissy done had her twins.

LON
Twins?

ROMEO
Yes sir. A boy and a girl. And there’s gonna be a powerful cane crop this year.

Romeo takes a bite of food.

LON
I can’t wait to see home again. It’s been a long time since we sat around the sugar house together.

ROMEO
Oh, we’re not a-headed home.

LON
What?

Romeo puts his fork down, realizing that he’s said more than he should.

ROMEO
Now, I shouldn’t have said anything about that. It isn’t my place. Massa Clay–

Before Romeo finishes talking, Lon is on his feet and out of the kitchen.

HEMSLEY’S TAVERN
The CLATTER of silverware and the BUZZ of voices lend a cheery tone to the busy tavern. Mr. Clay occupies a cozy table in the corner by a roaring fire.

LON
What’s going on? Romeo tells me that we are not going home.

Clay eats a spoonful of the chowder while waving to Lon to take his seat. Without ceremony, Lon plops down and tries to wait for his answer, but loses patience.

LON (CONT’D)
Did my father send you to encourage me to resign?

Clay looks around for eavesdroppers.

CLAY
Please, Mr. Turner, a little discretion.

LON
Are you going to answer my question?

CLAY
First, let us eat. I am famished.

LON
And I, sir, am famished for the truth!

Clay drops his spoon into the bowl and pushes it away.

CLAY
All right then. No. Your father did not send me to influence you. But he did send me–

LON
For what?

CLAY
I see another uniform in your future, Mr. Turner.
(pauses as his words sink in)
I am authorized to offer you a commission, when the time is right, in the Navy of our new Southern nation.

LON
And why would I not be going home, then?

CLAY
Quite simply, we have a mission for you.

The interest and excitement on Lon’s face glows almost as bright as the fire behind him.

LON
Where?

CLAY
We think you should take a tour of the Caribbean. There are some sons of the South serving in the U. S. Army down in Panama, and we want you to contact them and make a similar offer.

Lon grows thoughtful, dropping his eyes to stare at his bowl of chowder.

LON
Would this new nation have an interest in acquiring a shipment of gold?

Clay’s eyebrows rise in surprise, and he leans forward.

LON (CONT’D)
I have heard that every spring a shipment crosses Panama on the way to New York from California. I could keep my eyes open.

CLAY
Do that! A nation runs on the yellow metal. I shall contact my fellow “knights” and we’ll see what they can do to help. I have a feeling that you are going to go far in your profession.

The blaze from the fireplace illuminates the pin on Clay’s lapel – a golden circle.

[next pt 15]

Rebel Treasure thirteenth post

ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – QUARTERDECK
LT. UPSHUR, a naval officer of 20 years, turns his eagle gaze from the work party to the approaching midshipman.

LON
(saluting)
Acting Midshipman Turner, reporting, sir.

LT UPSHUR
At ease, Mr. Turner. The Commandant has asked to see you.
(notices his sudden discomfort)
This is not about demerits.

An older naval officer, the COMMANDANT OF MIDSHIPMEN arrives on deck with ROMEO BROWN in tow, a handsome black man about Lon’s age, and CONGRESSMAN CLAY, a florid faced gentleman. A flicker of anticipation rises in Lon’s eyes.

COMMANDANT
(in answer to Lon’s salute)
Good afternoon, Mr. Turner. Getting right to the point you have a letter from home.

ROMEO
(with a grin, hands him the letter)
For you, Massa’ Lon.

Lon grins too and hurriedly breaks the seal and opens the letter. His grin fades and his face grows grimmer with each passing second.

COMMANDANT
I have a letter from your father also. He’s instructed me to receive your resignation, if you so desire.

LON
If you please, sir, would you accept my resignation?

COMMANDANT
(with a sigh)
Have it on my desk in the morning. Mr. Clay here, has requested the honor of asking you to dinner.
(hands him a pass)
So you are excused until the evening gun.

Mr. Clay steps forward and in a bit of a daze Lon shakes his hand. For his part, Mr. Clay pumps his quite approvingly.

ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – NEAR THE ENTRY PORT – LATER
The work crew of plebes struggles to bring up a howitzer barrel in their sling from the dock below. Lon and his new companions wait nearby for them to complete their task and for the way to clear.
Louis and Jimmy arrive to pepper Lon with questions.

JIMMY
So, what did he want?

LOUIS
(whispering)
Did he see us in the tops?

JIMMY
We’ve all got demerits, right?

LON
No. I got a letter from home.

LOUIS
You’re resigning, aren’t you?

LON
(nodding)
My father put it simple enough, “Resign or be disowned.”

Shouts of alarm erupt from the plebes behind them. Before Lon can look around, Louis rushes by and launches a flying tackle, sweeping two plebes from the path of the falling howitzer.
Romeo catches the tipping end and by raw strength arrests its fall. Lon recovers the loose end of the sling and slips it back in place. And Jimmy helps the plebes stabilize the spar, bringing the heavy iron cannon safely down to the deck.

LT UPSHUR
(coming up)
Well done, gentlemen, well done!

[next pt 14]

Rebel Treasure twelfth post

Rebel Treasure twelfth post

ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – THE MAIN TRUCK
Fifty feet up on the main mast, Lon drapes his chest over the furled mainsail while walking the footrope that sways beneath it. Beside him his fellow midshipman JIMMY TRUEBLOOD mirrors his movements. In contrast to Lon, Jimmy is fair-haired and a little on the skinny side.

JIMMY
So far, I haven’t seen anything that I haven’t seen before.

LON
Yeah, things are just bigger than we’re used to.
(becomes serious, lowering
his voice)
So, are you resigning?

JIMMY
No. No reason to. My state ain’t got no slaves.

LON
Yeah. I guess California will stay put. Sometimes I think the rest of the country has gone crazy though.

JIMMY
Mississippi has gone out, are you resigning?

LON
No. I don’t want to. I’ve got four years invested here. Way I figure it what else am I fit for?

Jimmy looks about, then edges closer with a conspiratorial air.

JIMMY
If I couldn’t be in the Navy, I think I’d be a pirate.

LON
A pirate! You’re crazy. What could you steal these days?

JIMMY
(with a wink)
Haven’t you heard of the California gold ship?

Lon looks up with interest.

JIMMY (CON’T)
Once a year the San Francisco mint fills up a ship with the fruits of the California goldfields for transport across Panama to New York.

LON
Some fruit!

Lon’s gaze drops to the busy deck below. Little knots of plebes are scattered about performing various duties.
Acting midshipman LOUIS TOUSSAINT, a stocky young Creole with a massive tangle of jet black curls stops below them, sketch book in hand.

LON (CONT’D)
Hey, there’s Louis.

Jimmy hunkers down, trying to lower his profile.
No good. Louis looks up and catches sight of him. He shakes his fist, tosses his sketch-book to the deck and bolts for the ratlines. Jimmy moves as quickly off the yard as they can, warily eying the approach of his nemesis, and Lon follows.
They reach the cross-trees just as Louis does. Being first off the yard, Jimmy grabs a back-stay, leaps off into space and zips down the line to the deck below.
Lon coolly stays where he is, while Louis screams after Jimmy.

LOUIS
I’ll get you!

LON
(bars the way with his arm)
You’re making a mistake.

LOUIS
No! He did! I’m calling him out.

LON
Just what did he do to you?

Louis turns his furious face to him, plucking his knife from the small of his back.

LOUIS
Out of my way, I’m getting even…

LON
And I’m calling it even.
(pointing to his jaw)
For this.

With a finger, Lon traces a scar along his jawline.

LOUIS
That was an accident.

LON
And I’ll remind you that you said you’d make it up to me.

A sly smile splits the Creole’s face. There is a HALE from the deck. Louis returns his knife to its sheath.

LOUIS
You’re a brave man, Lon.

LON
Well, if you think so, I want another favor.

LOUIS
What’s that?

LON
Come join us, we’ll work together.

Louis bows his assent.
Lon returns the bow, then follows Jimmy’s route and zips down to the deck. Louis steps to where he had been and looks after him. He hesitates a minute, then returns via the ratlines.

ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – FORWARD DECK – LATER
The trio of Lon, Louis and Jimmy are mounted on the bulwark, sketching the arrangement of the chains. Just down from them a crew of plebes work the sling on the makeshift crane, bringing kegs of gunpowder on board.

JIMMY
(pointing to the kegs)
What do you suppose is the meaning of that?

LON
I heard it was just for practice.

LOUIS
Humpf! I think they mean to arm the ship and us.

JIMMY
(laughing)
You mean “Repel boarders” and “pass the ammunition?”

LOUIS
Go ahead and laugh. I hear two of  the forts down in my state were seized.

LON
That’s just a rumor.

LOUIS
If not now, for sure later. Maybe even here.

JIMMY
Are you going to resign?

LOUIS
Not yet. But as soon as my state goes…

JONAH, a burly petty officer steps up to Lon and puts his
knuckle to his forehead.

JONAH
By your leave, sir. The Lieutenant wishes to see you on the quarterdeck.

[next pt 13]