THE GREAT PLOT
EXT. BUSY STREET - DAY
SUPER - NEW YORK, MARCH: PRESENT DAY
A typical, congested work day... SOUNDS of HONKING CAR
HORNS... FUSSING... RUNNING MOTORS...
A CABBIE, stuck in traffic, sticks his arm out the window,
BANGS on the door... YELLS at drivers before him...
Come on, move ya’ selves! Come on.
Leaving a coffee shop, a MAN IN THREE PIECE SUIT bites into a
donut. The jelly-filling releases from the bottom, spills on
his white shirt. Pissed and embarrassed, he spews a heavy
sigh. Checks to see if anyone’s looking.
Blazing past the man, a BUSINESS WOMAN, dark sunglasses and a
sloppy corporate ponytail, gruffs on her cellphone.
You idiot, we closed at three and a
quarter. Why did I hire you,
numbskull? Three and a fuckin
She passes a
where a HIP-HOP GUY (jogging suit and oversized headphones)
receives his morning paper from the VENDOR. The youngster
bobs his head to a funky beat while standing at the corner of
Green light... A WOMAN in sedan (beautifying herself in a
portable mirror) speeds past a
SLEEPING HOMELESS MAN
wrapped inside a garbage bag. His peeking grey hair and the
apparent shape of his body serves evidence of a human being.
A NEWBIE PROFESSIONAL jams to his personal music player...
pulls a bill from his pocket... slips it inside the homeless
The high-spirited fellow spins once, feels the heavy tones of
some hair metal group. Waits at a crowded crosswalk...
GREEN LIGHT... the CROSSING GUARD sounds his WHISTLE... gives
pedestrians the “okay” to proceed.
NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE BUILDING
Executives and professionals, men and women, flats and heels
through the revolving doors, a nonstop display of mechanical
EXT. ROADWAY - NIGHT
SUPER - NEW YORK, SAME LOCATION: MARCH 1799
Ashy feet, both Negro and Caucasian, scamper over a, now,
dirt ground. Pairs of half eaten shoes with the toes and
heels exposed run silently with their barefoot counterparts -
quiet enough to hear only a tiny SCUFFLE.
The angry and sweat provoked militia of roughly 25 “poor
folks” (as the locals call them) bear axes, shotguns, and
clothes tied to the ends of branches.
The frontrunner, CECIL, husky black man scarred from whip
marks, hears a KEY LOCK in motion -- halts in place.
Everyone else stops, too.
From a distance, an OLD WHITE MERCHANT closing shop adjusts
his coat, places his foot in his horse’s saddle. Pauses
under the sound of a RUSTLE. No one there. Hops on his
horse -- disappears into the dark of night.
When Cecil and his gang can no longer see the merchant, the
group huddle in a circle. A SHORT, STOCKY SLAVE floods a
pail of kerosene on the clothed branches.
An AGED WHITE MAN (shaky hands) lights his allies’ torches
while a MUSCLED SLAVE places a lit torch to the white
merchant’s rather low rooftop. He SHATTERS the window and
tosses a piece of burning cloth inside.
The angry mob reach wood homes. Cecil smiles at his
accomplices, his teeth chipped and unclean.
We are human, just like you!
A MALNOURISHED FEMALE SLAVE carrying an axe, delivers a
bright glow to her teary eyes. Her mouth in sync...
We are human, just like you.
The others turn around; a smile ascends their faces.
We are human, just like you!
Buildings ignite in bright orange glow over a block of area.
HOWLING DOGS -- louder CHANTS...
We are human, just like you!
In one of the torched homes, a WOMAN IN NIGHTGOWN behind a
curtain looks on, her horrified hand over her mouth.
INT. BURNING HOME - CONTINUOUS
The woman runs with a lantern through her dimly lit living
room. At the top of the stairs, her HUSBAND looks on, rubs
his eyes. Places his glasses on.
What’s the matter?
Grab the children.
Why, what’s --
Just grab the children --
A CRASH from outside.
EXT. ROADWAY - CONTINUOUS
SCREAMS of terror erupt through the CHANTING.
We are human, just like you!
A MAN darts behind the stampede with a shotgun. He FIRES at
a POOR WHITE WOMAN. The bullet lunges into her back. She
tumbles to her death.
The mob chases the terrified man back into his home, clawing
and BANGING on the door. Cecil zooms his shotgun toward the
A stampede of confused and frightened slave owners, carrying
armaments, march toward the poor people.
CECIL’S OWNER, honestly sees integrity and greatness in his
own character, quivers his lips. Close to tears. His
fearful WIFE holds onto his arm.
After my family’s been good to you,
Good? You call this good?
The fed up slave owner raises his gun to Cecil. Muscled
slave’s aim shoots more precisely, BLOWS Cecil’s owner in the
head. His wife SHRILLS, falls to his body.
People scatter; duck -- random SHOTS fly in all directions.
Cecil falls to the ground, rolls in the shadow of a nearby
horse buggy. Peeps out into the mayhem.
A WHITE MAN WITH RIFLE drowns out the woman’s cries, close-up
SHOT to Muscled Slave’s back.
-- face of terror, watches Muscled Slave topple to the ground
and shake uncontrollably.
Cecil points his gun to the shooter, but a stray bullet
STRIKES the buggy. Caught off guard, he falls to his butt.
EVIL-EYED SLAVE (pugnacious, enjoys the sight of blood) runs
behind the shooter and buries his axe into his back.
Finishes Cecil’s job.
An ELDERLY WOMAN hides behind her door, her OLD HUSBAND
behind her. He tightens his robe and inches from the house
onto the porch for a closer look.
In the background, their two slaves, a BEEFY MULATTO GIRL
(19) and her BROTHER (14) inches toward the door.
Dear, God, please help us.
The beefy girl pulls the woman by her hair, SLAMS her tiny
body to the ground. The elderly woman SCREAMS.
Her husband turns around. The young boy bolts the man,
knocking him to his back. The man holds both hands to
surrender to the child.
I beg of you, son. Don’t do it.
Without hesitation, the boy WHACKS the man in the face.
The boy’s sister CRUNCHES her owner’s face into the cement...
no more struggle. The rough-housed girl shows no pity, blood
all over her hands.
Cecil, now standing from his hideaway, aims at a PANICKY
WHITE MAN. A BULLET pierces through Cecil’s leg, and he
lessens to the ground.
Unstoppable Cecil rises, a slight limp but no real visual
pain. FIRES his rifle at the elite white people. One more
CLICK of the gun -- no bullets.
Coming into town, the SHERIFF and three LAWMEN gallop on
their horses, FIRING randomly at anyone with dark skin tone.
A SLAVE WOMAN plummets from a straight fire... A moment of
silence as a TEENAGE SLAVE holds his hands to the lawmen --
no weapon in his hand. SHOT in the chest, anyway...
Unaware of the poor white alliances, one of the lawmen
reaches down to help a fellow poor CAUCASIAN MAN to the
horse. The poor man KNOCKS the officer to the ground and
rides to the aid of his friends.
POOR WHITE MAN
Come on -- Let’s go!
The sheriff helps his man to his feet, but all the lawmen are
confused by the townspeople running amuck.
A group of frightened, desperate people, all trying to fit on
one horse, emerge from behind trees... houses... horse
What the hell is going on here?
The sheriff and his men aim at the rowdy flock... multiple
SHOTS... no regard for color of the skin, now.
Dead locals scatter the small town, some white some black,
some privileged some not. The lawmen cease fire, stare at
the monstrosity of bodies, still befuddled.
Hiding underneath a porch’s stairs, the beefy mulatto girl
shields her brother’s ears from the gunfire. She grabs his
hand. They run opposite of the commotion.
The sheriff catches the two. Points toward the runaways.
One lawman FIRES two shots, one for the young girl, one for
her brother. The children collapse dead on their cheeks.
Malnourished Slave and Evil-Eyed Slave, bearing no weaponry,
run toward the law enforcers, SCREAMING.
Cecil flinches, still hiding behind the buggy. He trembles
in place and tries to keep his attenuate whimpers to a
The sheriff, seeing nothing but the bottom of Cecil’s shoe
behind the buggy, points his gun in his direction.
Get out from there -- I’ll blow you
straight ta’ hell.
Cecil gradually rises from the ground, limps toward the
officers on his wounded leg.
Well, if it ain’t Cecil -- again.
Immediately, Cecil sees Malnourished Slave, a bullet in her
Evil-Eyed Slave, shot in the chest, still alive, on his last
breath. Cecil drops to his knees, raises his arms...
Innocent and unaware locals hurry to the scene. PIPER, 10,
watches the policemen intimidate Cecil... their guns targeted
directly in his face.
INT. COURTROOM - DAY
A spacious white room of benches with oriel windows... a
miniature gallery, but all the occupants are on the ground
Whites sit on the benches while Negroes and indentured
servants stand along the walls...
Cecil awaits his verdict before a hostile faced JUDGE in a
long black robe. Reads from a paper in his hand.
Cecil, you are sentenced to death
by public hanging on the thirteenth
day of April, 1799.
LOUD SIGHS of sanction amongst the whites. A few SNIVELS
from the suffered in the back room... hunched grief stricken
heads... a NEGRO WOMAN and her HUSBAND grab hands -- quiet
moan of distress.
EXT. PUBLIC HANGING - DAY
Upright and horizontal beamed gallows high on a wooden
platform. The platform large enough for six convicts, at the
Cecil, escorted up the steps by an OFFICIAL OF THE LAW, holds
his head high. The EXECUTIONER grabs him by the arm, almost
flinging the burly man. Total disrespect.
The HANGING JUDGE displays Cecil to the crowd he once
betrayed. The executioner places the noose around his neck.
Amongst the mirthful and the doleful, the elder and the
youth, the prosperous and the penniless, the mahogany and the
pearly, one face... just one melancholy soul catches Cecil’s
interest -- Piper.
We are human, just like you! We
are human, just like you!
White people BOO and SPIT at Cecil. The executioner removes
the ladder - the chanting ends with GAGS... RAGING SHOUTS...
APPLAUDS amid the town’s upper crust.
Piper, inexperience to such torment, watches Cecil’s body
jolt, blood pours from his mouth but refusing to take a last
Cecil’s eyes gyrate to the back of his head and the gagging
ends severely. His muscular physique dangles limp -
The townspeople walk away in conversation, joy and
enlightenment on their faces; mourning on the impoverished.
Very inquisitive, Piper pushes his way opposite the
residents. He stands before Cecil, his eyes strengthening
EXT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - DAY
SUPER - NEW YORK, APRIL 1809
A sunny, spring day, atypically warmer than usual.
Piper, (now 20) TIMMY and GOOSE dig crop holes into their
Timmy, 32, thickset and dreadfully lazy, throws his shovel on
the ground, takes a seat on the porch stairs. Lies his arms
upward, his head back, enjoys the morning breeze.
His dim-witted counterpart, Goose, 30, bearing no true
identity, stops shoveling, monitors Timmy’s every move.
Rests his folded hands on the shovel’s handle.
Piper, the only logical intellect, shakes his head in
contempt for the pair.
Timmy, you learn to read yet?
Timmy and Goose shrug their shoulders at one another.
I’s got no time for that.
Well, you’s better learn to.
Timmy rolls his eyes, waves Piper off as a non threat. Goose
smirks the situation off.
A filthy white boy, WEBBY JONES, 13, friendly but a bit of a
trouble maker, places his fingers to his mouth. Blows a
Timmy leaps from the stairs, back to his shovel. Scared of
even the most menial of white people. Piper seethes to the
...I overheard my paw talkin’ ‘bout
some place called Canaday --
Timmy waves to Webby, petrified by the meek youth.
Hey, there, Webby. You sho’ll look
mighty fine today. How be yo
Webby opens his mouth to speak, but Piper seizes the child’s
First of all, it’s Cana-duh, and
second of all, you’s got no
business gettin’ into grown folks
WILLIAM HIGGINS, 56, a “friend to all” slaveholder, steps
onto the porch, tucks his hands in his pockets, takes a whiff
of the air.
Down the road, the local MAILMAN rides toward the Higgins’
home on his horse. Piper, though threatening, fears for
Webby’s well being.
Now you shoo before you gets in
trouble. Gone now.
The misunderstood child passes the mailman, his head
Good morning, Mr. Higgins.
The mailman hands William a telegram. Interested, William
reads on -- his worry-free demeanor replaced by a troubled
wrinkle on the forehead.
The mailman moves closer to William and lowers his voice.
Looks like there’s another private
Timmy eyeballs William and the mailman, a pitiful puppy dog
peep. Goose pays more attention to Timmy’s reaction.
I’ll look into it, there.
Good day, Mr. Higgins, sir.
The mailman rides off, leaving William fixed to the letter.
William walks back into the house. Doesn’t speak a word.
The slaves turn to one another. Piper destroys the whole
thing with a nonchalant shrug.
Timmy, on the other hand, throws the shovel on the ground...
enraged... storms into the home behind Higgins.
INT. HIGGINS HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
A small, very quaint living room... overdone flower patterns
on the couch and window curtains... pictures of THREE HIGGINS
CHILDREN ranging from childhood to their adulthood on a
William, in his personal, worn chair, ponders over the
telegram. Timmy walks in, closes the door gently -- much
Uh, Mr. Higgins, sir. Is
William never removes his eyes from the telegram. Timmy
fidgets his fingers.
I’s thought you liked having me and
Piper and Goose working for you.
William now sees his overgrown helper’s eyes tumble from
William and back to the floor, over and again. A timid
quaver. A look of desperation.
I wouldn’t trade you, Piper and
Goose for no other help, Timmy.
William’s wife, MARY JO (motherly, hair tied back in a bun,
apron) enters with a hot cup of tea. Carefully hands it to
Hello, Madame Mary Jo.
How are you this fine morning,
Fine, ma’am. Everything’s fine.
Mary Jo wipes her hands on her apron. Notices William’s
concern for the telegram... Timmy still yearns for
There’ll be another law enforced
upon the Negroes.
William hands the telegram to Mary Jo.
Negroes are to be inside before
dusk. Looks as though Wilson’s
shop was robbed on Sunday.
Mary Jo takes her own personal seat adjacent William. A look
of sincere woe for Timmy.
What about Jane, sir?
Don’t you worry. We’ll work
something out for you two.
William escorts Timmy to the door, pats him on the back...
total confidence in his words.
Thank you, sir.
Mary Jo MUMBLES to herself. Condemns this idea.
Timmy? Can you read?
Uh, no sir, Mr. Higgins.
Now may be the time to learn.
Uh, yes, sir.
William closes the door. Mary Jo lowers her eyebrows to her
husband. William takes his seat, lights a match for his
William, you’re behaving strangely.
There’s something in the air, Mary
from William’s mouth gently blows into the air. An unsettled
gaze out the window, into the blue sky.
...there’s something in the air.
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
Mary Jo and LOUISE, a pale-skinned indentured servant (15)
carry two trays of kettle tea and glasses. Mary Jo studies
the bordello girls across the room. A SNARL slips out.
Timmy’s mistress, JANE FRANKLIN, white woman in a long
socialite dress, holds Timmy’s hand...
Timmy, an elegant tuxedo shirt and a pair of dress pants,
gleams naively at his accomplishment...
Goose and two giggly, white whores, FAT GIRL and IMMATURE
FACED GIRL, both no older than sixteen, stumble in drunken
Piper, alone, close to a window, quiet and attentive. A SHY
WHITE WOMAN watches Piper from afar, mildly inches toward
him. Louise ogles the guests, frozen in place.
Louise, don’t be rude, now. Offer
our guests some tea.
William walks downstairs, a cigar in mouth. Mary Jo silently
fulminates her guests with her eyes alone. Jane extends her
hand to Mary Jo.
Madame Higgins. It’s a pleasure
being in your abode again.
Mary Jo examines Jane’s outfit thoroughly. Doesn’t bother
with the pleasantries.
Good evening, Jane. A bit
overdressed for booze?
Jane raises her eyebrow. Pulls her hand away and takes back
to Timmy’s side. Mary Jo disregards Jane.
Hello, Timmy. Martha and the
children are doing well, I take it?
Uh, yes ma’am, Madame Mary Jo.
They be good.
Mary Jo leans into William’s ear.
William, may I speak with you --
Mary Jo fumes in anger. William confused.
What’s the matter?
The matter is that I don’t want
these brothel girls in my home.
William turns away from Mary Jo. MOANS...
Why do Timmy and Goose have
girlfriends when they both have
wives? Why do you condone this?
I don’t condone it, but I can’t
tell the boys how to live.
Mary Jo tightens her face... clinches her mouth.
Why? Do you have a Jezebel?
She takes a deep breath and turns in the opposite direction.
Listen, dear. Surely you
What I understand is... you’ll be
the one to explain which merchant
sold them the fancy clothes.
She leaves a distressed William in a loss of words, rubbing
EXT. SALOON - NIGHT
William unlocks the door, suspiciously looking behind for
INT. SALOON - CONTINUOUS
In the dark, William runs to the back door. Outside, Goose
canoodles his two unscrupulous minors...
Jane rests her head gleefully on Timmy’s shoulder -- Timmy
whispers sweet nothings (literally... nothing) in her ear...
Poor Piper, sickened by the entire ordeal, (apparently
annoyed by Shy Girl’s eagerness to stand beside him) pushes
his way through the door before everyone else.
Okay, now. Quietly... quietly...
Everyone’s in... No sound... Fat woman GIGGLES... Goose
covers her mouth.
William closes the door, turns the lights on... They are in
Okay, now we all have to keep quiet
or they’ll be hauling my ass into
William pours shots of whiskey for his friends. Observantly,
Piper watches William’s actions, the giddiness and
foolishness in his smile.
Timmy and Jane grab hands...
I don’t know about this, Timmy. We
could all get in a lot of trouble.
It be worth it, Jane. I’s in love
A blush on her pale skin... looks away bashfully. They kiss.
At a nearby table, Goose glides his fingers through the
immature looking girl’s long hair. The fat girl sits on his
lap. He speaks obscenities in their ears. Both girls
William introduces a viola case from behind the bar. Places
the instrument under his chin. Serenades his friends with a
With anger prevalent, Piper tightens his mouth, downs his
shot of whiskey.
Mr. Higgins, sir?
William glances at Piper, a foolish smile on his face.
Oh, sorry, Piper.
William places the viola back in its case. Shy girl sits
alone, waves at Piper. Piper angles himself in the opposite
direction of the flirtatious woman, closer to the bar.
William notices the girl’s attraction to Piper.
You’re only young once, son.
Piper turns to the shy woman. She waves at him. He turns to
Goose, swallowed by the two whores... Timmy engulfed in Jane.
(lowers his voice)
Listen, Mr. Higgins, sir... I came
here for one reason, only...
William rubs his hand on his paranoid head. Wipes away a
bead of sweat from his brow.
...If this isn’t serious to you,
I’s go ahead and stick with my
original plan --
Let me talk to some people, Piper.
I can’t guarantee anything, but
I’ll do what I can.
Piper’s disciplined eyes, never blinking, burn deep into
William. Pressured, William pours himself a drink and takes
a shot. Looks away from Piper. Had nothing arranged for a
INT. HIGGINS’ BARN - DAY
A brown, timber framed lumber building with a gambrel-roof.
The mow holds dozens of pounds of hay.
Underneath the hayloft, OBNOXIOUS LAUGHTER and asinine jokes
between Timmy and DR. BOOTS, 65, simple, stereotypical “Uncle
Tom” slave... grossly distinctive limp...
Goose, LAZY EYED IMP (bearing about ten of his teeth) and
SNICKERING SLAVE (straw hat and a pair of dirty suspenders)
join the uneducated festivities.
Piper uses his strength to tightly secure the windows. Timmy
points at Dr. Boots’ shoes.
Damn, Dr. Boots -- You shine Master
Walker shoes, but yourn look like
they fell in the swamp?
The men burst into LAUGHTER, Dr. Boots as well. Piper stands
before the uneducated buffoons, irritated.
Ooh-wee -- They said you’s ‘spos to
be working on the pig fence, not
playing with the pigs --
I’s was gon’ start on yo’s face,
Timmy, cuz you’s one ugly, black
Snickering Slave places his hand to his mouth, a raspy LAUGH
escapes. Piper closes his eyes and huffs, inaudible to the
Is you done?
I is not playing with the pigs, you
I says is you done?
The men turn to Piper and their laughter ceases. They
position themselves, without care, around Piper. Timmy HUFFS
We’s planning a move north.
The confused and surprised slaves drop their jaws. Look to
We ain’t gon’ do what Cecil and the
others did... We gon’ be peaceful.
Piper, is you crazy? If they find
out, we’ll be hanging from them-
Dr. Boots swats in Piper’s direction, limps toward the door.
I’s not doing it. I’s not doing
Piper grabs him by his arm with force.
Think, will ya! Think!
Piper gets ahold of himself, releases Dr. Boots’ fragile,
bony arm. Piper sympathizes with the fright in their timid
Listen... there’s this place in the
north called Canada, and they --
The men cut Piper’s speech short, migrate toward the door.
Lazy Eyed Imp flags Piper off with his hand, not wanting to
hear anymore. Piper rushes in front of the non-believers.
You fools -- what is you scared of?
Mr. Higgins been good to us. He
supply us with friendship, food --
White women and booze...
Timmy, apparently taken offense, defends his honor.
I ain’t puttin’ my family in
danger, Piper. I has a wife and
Two of thems ain’t even yourn,
Timmy. Don’t pretend you care,
Timmy closes in on Piper, clinches his fist. Snickering
Slave grabs Timmy by the arm. Shakes his head “no.”
The white man done got ahold of
Martha, spoiled her, and got’s you
so upset, you out here kissing all
over Ms. Thin Lip.
Now holds on, Piper --
No, no, Goose. We can’t even stand
up to the white man for our own
women, so we avenge him by taking
The illiterate slaves turn to one another. No idea of
Piper’s extravagant vocabulary. Lazy Eyed Imp shrugs his
I’s want no part of that plan.
Piper storms to the door. Clinches his teeth in anger.
Turns back to the brood.
Oh, Mr. Higgins offered to help,
but I’s just go in and tell him
y’all like being servants.
The bulge of their eyes... the wide open mouths... assurance
of their slave owner...
Mr. Higgins? You be serious,
Free from slavery? I’s can’t wait.
I’s told y’all Mr. Higgins was our
Piper shakes his head. A KNOCK from outside. Piper gives
the “quiet down” wave of his hand. Opens the barn door.
EXT. HIGGINS’ BARN - CONTINUOUS
Piper’s eyes shift downward to his “below eye level” visitor,
Webby. Piper shoves the child away from the barn, closes the
Webby, how many times do I’s got to
tell ya not to hang around here?
Webby slumps his head. Immediately perks back up.
If you go to Canada, can I go, too?
Angrily, Piper drags Webby by the sleeve of his shirt, away
from the barn.
Who told you that, boy?
Nobody, Piper. Honestly! I just
...well, we poor people need to
Listen. I know’s yo’ family fo’ a
long time. Yo’ mammy was killed
years ago, taken away from you and
Right... Cecil taught her to be a
No, Cecil got everybody killed.
Piper thrusts Webby. Webby, now, close to tears.
I just thought --
Stop thinking... ‘fore you’s get
both of us killed.
Piper walks from both the broken youngster and the barn.
Webby, with a long face, heads for the road, kicks rocks.
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
Mary Jo paces the living room, taps her fingers together
nervously. In his favorite chair, William eyeballs his
wife’s annoying behavior. Doesn’t understand her doubt.
William, I just cannot believe you
promised the Negroes that you would
lead them to freedom.
Now, I didn’t promise them freedom,
Mary Jo. I promised I’d help.
What’s the difference? We could be
in a lot of trouble either way.
Mary Jo stops pacing, stunted breaths. William holds his
hand out for her to sit. She flops into her personal
chair... stares at him for a rational clarification.
There is a pathway that leads to
Canada? What are you talking
William places his head down. She won’t give him a chance to
What is this, like some great plot
against white people?
White people are involved, too.
I’ve already had this talk with
Her lips quivers, tears roll down her cheeks.
They will kill us, William. They
will find out, and they will kill
She storms to the window, physically avoids her husband.
No one’ll be hurt this time. There
are plenty of people taking part in
this, Mary Jo. John Gallagher...
Mary Jo, swiftly, turns to William. GASPS.
John Gallagher? John Gallagher?
John Galla --
(closer to William)
John Gallagher is a catholic
priest, or did he forget?
William places his head inside his folded hands...
...Christopher McCormick, Thomas
Stanford, Angeline Whitmore --
William, these are our friends and
Mary Jo, I know this sounds absurd,
Louise quietly walks in, drying her hands on a piece of
cloth; startles William and Mary Jo.
Will there be anything else, Mr.
and Madame Higgins?
No, Louise. Why don’t you go help
yourself to whatever’s left.
Thank you, madame.
They remain silent until Louise is gone.
What about Louise? Is she apart of
this, as well?
Of course not. Louise will be free
of her work papers in six years.
Mary Jo flops hopelessly in her chair. She slowly sedates,
makes a low MUTTER, rubs her head. William holds her hands.
What does the pathway look like,
I haven’t seen it, but --
She snaps back from him.
It’s worth trying.
I just can’t believe you’re willing
to risk your life for a legend,
William -- a legend.
She SOBS in her hand. He falls to his knees beside his
Mary Jo, I love you and the kids,
and I make a vow that I’ll never do
anything to harm you... but if
there’s anything a good Christian
man can do for these people...
honey... I have to try.
Mary Jo wipes her tears. Hopes he’s right.
Very well, then. A woman’s place
is beside her man... so beside my
man I shall stand.
He gives her a hug, a mite of doubt very prevalent on her
INT. MILLER’S BARN - NIGHT
Timmy’s wife, MARTHA, (30-ish) stout, head wrap around her
hair, sits in the hay. Feeds her YOUNGEST CHILD (2), a baby
of both black and white racial backgrounds.
Martha dips her index and middle fingers into a bowl of mush
concoction. Places it into the child’s mouth.
A KNOCK on the door. A protective Martha stands in front of
her child, guards him with her life. Closes her eyes...
How ya’s doing?
Martha sighs with relief and simpers.
(clutches her heart)
She sits back in the hay, feeds the baby. Piper fills with
joy watching the youngster nibble food from his mother’s
He sure is getting bigger by the
Yeah. It’s hard to try and raise
them on my own. Ain’t seen Timmy
in four days, now.
He looks at her, his smile vanishes.
I’s figured Master Higgins had him
busy doing other things.
A silenced anger takes hold of Piper... he had no clue.
Martha’s beautiful brown eyes awaits his validation.
Swiftly, he gains composure.
Yeah -- lots of spring planting.
Martha smiles in assurance. Goes back to the baby. Piper
rolls his eyes... hates lying to his friends.
Elizabeth should be back any
Actually, I’s was here to see you --
He takes a seat in the hay beside her.
We’s planning a move...
(gives eye contact)
Her pleasantries morph to doubt.
Like Cecil and the others?
Cecil and the others planned to
destroy white man’s homes and
businesses. We’s just want to be
free... just wants to be free.
I’s heard people in town talking
about Indians and Mexicans being
killed in some place west... You
can read... Is it true?
Piper sinks his head low.
You think this place in the north
is gonna be better for us?
Piper holds his head in his hands... Can’t sugarcoat the
truth, but what to say?
How do Timmy feel?
He don’t want you and the chillins
to get hurt.
A relieved smile on her face. She places her hand on Piper’s
shoulder, sincerely proud of his effort.
What if there’s some place out
there? Would you want a better
life for you’s and ya family?
She looks at her precious baby, pure and perfect.
Piper, I can’t risk my chillins
lives on some fantasy.
Generously, Piper nods. He understands the love and
protection of a parent.
I’s gonna show you all a better
life, Martha. I’s walk forever and
a day, but I’s promise... I’s won’t
let you down.
Fighting the crevices of her mouth from rising, she beams
delightfully, anyway. He takes hold of her hand, stands from
the hay floor... leaves as quietly as he arrived.
EXT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - DAY
Sweating and breathing hard, Piper, Timmy and Goose dig holes
in the dirt with their shovels. Timmy stops, stares at the
sky. Takes a moment to wipe his brow. His usual laziness
takes over and he grabs a seat in the dirt.
Goose stops, as well, mocks Timmy’s uselessness.
Sure could go for a cool lemonade
Goose, moronic nod and smirk, imitates his slave God. Piper
rolls his eyes. Continues to work.
How’s Martha, Timmy?
Timmy’s eyes evasive. Makes sure Goose isn’t looking at him.
And ya’ chillins?
Timmy lunges from the ground; steps up to Piper.
I’s know you been with that Jane
Franklin all the time. Was just
wondering if you remembered you had
a wife and kids.
Come on with that, Piper.
Timmy nudges Piper in the shoulder blade, ready for a brawl.
I’s take care of my chillins just
Funny, I’s just saw Martha
yesterday, and she ain’t seent ya
in four days.
Timmy tightens his lips, PUNCHES Piper in the jaw. Piper,
off balance, regains stability and football charges Timmy to
the grass. He HITS Timmy in the ribs with full velocity.
Mr. Higgins, help... Piper, stop --
Piper POUNDS Timmy. William runs onto the porch and pulls
Piper off the giant crybaby. Timmy holds his stomach, his
lip busted, wipes the tears from his face.
What in the world is going on out
here, Piper? Timmy?
Mr. Higgins, Piper been checking up
on Martha without me knowing --
Elizabeth is my girl. You know I’s
wouldn’t do that --
Alright, now calm down, Timmy --
Piper, if I’s ever see you around
my wife again, I’s swear to God,
I’s kill ya’ --
Up the pathway, MR. MILLER, a beet faced slaveholder, (father
of Martha’s two youngest children) waves with a suspicious
sneer at William. William waves back, turns to a guilt-
ridden scratch on the head.
Everything fine there, Higgins?
Fine, Miller... Everything’s fine.
Timmy, could you get yourself up
and grab that shovel, there?
William takes Piper into the house. Goose assists Timmy to
muster strength from meeting the ground. Timmy tumbles
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
William takes a cigar from a table drawer beside him; lights
a match; pulls out a chair for Piper across from his seat.
Have a seat, Piper.
Piper sits. He prepares to place his hands on the armrest,
but notices dirt on his fingers. He rests his hands on his
Martha told me she ain’t seent
Timmy in four days, sir. She be
having a hard time raising them
kids by herself.
William lies back in his sofa chair, blows a puff of smoke,
focuses out the window.
She all by herself, and Timmy out
there messing ‘round with Ms.
“Round the Way” Franklin. He been
mad ever since Martha had Mr.
You know I like Martha, Piper... I
like Martha a lot, but right now, I
can’t allow fighting between you
Piper breathes heavier... fists involuntarily secures.
I’m sorry about what’s going on
with Timmy and Martha, but another
fight like that just might make
some people suspicious...
(raises his eyebrows)
...might even make Timmy leak some
information he shouldn’t.
Piper’s claws unravel, his brows lift upward from a strain.
He comprehends, now.
Timmy won’t believe me about
Martha. What should I do?
Don’t worry about Timmy. He
listens to me.
Not surprised or offended, Piper shrugs his shoulders, almost
smiles. He heads toward the door.
I knew you were the smartest...
that’s why I picked you, Piper.
An unintentional insult, but Piper wants no pat on the back
from the white man... leaves with a silent animosity.
EXT. MILLER’S FARM - DAY
Martha and ELIZABETH, 21, Piper’s girlfriend, (lofty,
delicate and physically compatible with Piper) pick cotton on
MISSY, thin, sickly slave, dark bags around her eyes, COUGHS
wretchedly. Two other FEMALE SLAVES pick cotton beside her.
Piper taps Elizabeth on the shoulder. She jumps.
Missy COUGHS again, loud and dry. Elizabeth peeks at the
house and lowers her voice.
Piper, what’s this about Canada?
What ya’ doing?
Mr. Miller steps onto the porch, folds his arms in an
authoritative way, a glacial expression upon Piper.
You shouldn’t be here. Meet me in
the barn tonight, okay?
Piper challenges Miller with an even meaner grin. His face
softens on Elizabeth.
Like a frightened puppy, Elizabeth glances upward at
Miller... then back to the cotton.
Missy COUGHS again, wipes moisture from her eyes.
You’s take care of that cough,
Missy waves at him, but soon afterwards, grabs her chest...
EXT. DIRT ROAD - LATER
Piper sees Dr. Boots and three MALE SLAVES painting a pig’s
sty on their master’s barn.
EXT. WALKER’S BARN - SAME
Piper stands on the opposite side of the fence.
Dr. Boots --
Dr. Boots makes his extremely slow way toward Piper on his
damaged foot. A MULATTO SLAVE GIRL sweeping the porch,
apprehensively keeps her eyes on Piper and Dr. Boots.
Piper, is you still talking
Foolishness? I’s thought you was
all for it when you found out Mr.
Higgins was in charge.
Well, I’s need to hears it from the
Dr. Boots sticks his bottom lip out (ugly face), limps away
from Piper. Piper, belligerently, grabs him by his shirt,
causes him to wobble. Dr. Boots trembles in fear.
The mulatto girl drops the broom, runs into the house.
You old coon... You stay here, put
Mr. Walker fence up for his damn
Dr. Boots struggles to get out of Piper’s tight grip. Piper
buries his claws into his shirt, brings his mouth to Dr.
We’s gon’ be in Canada, living
free. Don’t try and find ‘yo way,
cuz I’s tell the white man to put
the lid on the tunnel so yo’ black
ass don’t get through.
The mulatto girl runs back to the porch escorted by MR.
WALKER, a black, Caribbean slave owner. Deep accent. Calls
out to Piper.
Piper -- Get away from my barn!
Piper releases Dr. Boots and pushes away from his ignorant
chum. Dr. Boots grabs his arm as though it’s been injured.
INT. MILLER’S BARN - NIGHT
Martha’s THREE CHILDREN, asleep on separate cots. The two
eldest, a GIRL (8) and a BOY (6) rest side by side. The next
in line, a curly-haired MIXED RACE BOY (3).
In Martha’s arms, the youngest sleeps. She places him inside
a blanketed tin pan disguised as a bed.
Elizabeth, further down, hands a languid Missy a glass of
yellowish well water. A KNOCK on the barn door.
Excuse me, ladies.
Piper, come in.
Elizabeth runs to Piper.
What’s wrong with Missy?
She sicker than we’s thought.
Don’t know what it is, though.
He steps closer... the perspiring woman’s eyes barely able to
Did somebody call a doctor?
Mr. Miller said if she ain’t better
tomorrow, he will. Tonight, she
just be sick.
Piper sits beside Missy.
She reaches for his hand, but is unsuccessful. Piper, upset,
storms toward the door.
I’s tell Mr. Higgins to call a
Elizabeth and Martha turn to one another. Shamefully,
Elizabeth’s head drops downward; her eyes fearful.
Piper, confused. Martha looks to Elizabeth, gives her the
Mr. Miller don’t like Mr. Higgins --
says he a nigga lover.
There be words going around about
Mr. Higgins plotting to set us
Overwhelmed by this revelation, Piper paces the room.
Somebody around you is leaking...
Could be anybody. Mr. Miller been
keeping his hawk eyes on us girls.
He almost don’t want us to be
nowhere near any of y’all.
After deliberation, Piper puts on his game face. Shows a
I’s know it sounds like nonsense,
but I’s get you all outta here.
Elizabeth smiles, stares down at her folded hands;
unconvinced but loving.
Just keep doing what ya’s been
doing. I’mma stay away for awhile,
and I’s tell Timmy to do the same.
Think you could get Timmy here --
just to see the chillins?
I’s get him to come by, Martha.
When will you be back, Piper?
Piper and Elizabeth secure hands; he looks at her, much
Don’t know, but I’s promise -- no
matter haw far it is, no matter how
long it takes -- nothing will keep
me from coming back to you.
Elizabeth snatches Piper, a woman very intent. Piper, caught
off guard by her boldness.
She embraces him, a tear rolls down her cheek. He closes his
eyes. A tear escapes, as well.
INT. GENERAL MARKET - DAY
A totally random place of housing necessities...
On the floor, barrels of sugar and flour...
Containers of rice, boxed bread, coffee on the shelves...
In the back, saws, wrenches, hammers... some hung, some
rummaged through... thrown around...
Another room with a closed curtain supplies whiskey and
tobacco, kept out of sight...
William slips in, overhears an elderly SENILE WOMAN, in line
before the merchant, CHRISTOPHER McCORMICK (35), headstrong,
very sarcastic expressions.
William makes his way toward the back of the store. Picks up
a box of screws. Pretends to be interested.
I assure you, ma’am, everyone who
comes to my shop leaves happy.
Mr. McCormick, I reckon I don’t
care to be hassled about happy
customers. My sugar had bugs in
it, again, and I just want my money
Well, we’ve never had that
complaint before, except on
Wednesday. Oh, and look... it’s
Should I ask to speak with the
manager of the shop... your father?
Christopher takes the damaged sugar from the woman. Rolls
Very well. Are you certain you
wouldn’t like anything else?
Son, be rational. Wilson’s shop is
just down Henry Road. You get
quality sugar and no back talk.
He refunds her money in exchange for the damaged sugar.
That’s a good idea, ma’am. I hear
they had looters vandalizing their
shop. Maybe next time...
(smiles and winks)
...you will be a witness...
Trying to figure out if it was an insult, the woman looks
around... thinks. She twists her head, her nose upward...
leaves with a HUFF...
William progresses to the counter, box of screws in hand.
I hope when I become a fossil, I
have better manners.
William smiles, hands Christopher cash; looks behind his back
So, any news?
Christopher peeps around William’s shoulders. Bags the boxed
Not here... maybe a meeting of some
sort... Friday night.
My place, perhaps?
Christopher hands change to William.
After shop... keep the change.
William smiles, again. Knows Christopher’s erratic sense of
TWO FEMALE CUSTOMERS walk in as William heads for the door.
Christopher cleverly wipes the counter with a towel like no
discussion ever took place.
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
A rather dim, mysterious mood... curtains closed. William,
in his favorite chair, taps nervously against the table
closest to him...
Mary Jo across from him, fighting hard not to bite her nails.
Now, this is all real to her - scary...
On the sofa, JOHN GALLAGHER (67), the family doctor and a
catholic priest. Pretends to scratch his forehead, but is
really hiding... skeptical about the whole thing...
ANGELINE WHITMORE (40), the neighborhood seamstress. An
eerie woman, always in black... too much make-up...
capability of not being very sane...
Angeline stares at Piper with compassion. Piper (like
performing on stage at Carnegie Hall) observes the audience
of unknown faces and demeanors.
Beside Angeline, Christopher looks at the dumbfounded plea of
sorrow on her face. A real head case. He shakes his head
and shrugs at William -- Why?
Trying to be suave, a pipe in his mouth, THOMAS STANFORD
(clumsy mediator) BUMPS his hand on the edge of a table.
Angeline scoots closer to the front of her seat.
Piper, I can’t imagine what you and
your people must be going through.
It’s very hard, Ms. Angeline. We
just want freedom. We don’t wanna
An understanding Angeline reaches her hands out to Piper.
Christopher and John look to one another... what a drama
Thomas’ pipe falls from his mouth, onto his trousers, causes
smoke to arise.
Thomas runs to the window for a better view. Mary Jo pulls
the drapes back, enough to allow a smidgen of the moonlight.
Oh, Thomas -- not again.
Mary Jo, if I had two coins for
every time I’ve done this --
John, embarrassed by what seems like a charade, places his
hand over his face again.
Oh, can we get on with this show
Louise enters with a tray of drinks. John hides his face
behind his scarf, now.
Louise, can you be a dear and just
set the tea on the table.
While John knocks ashes from his pants, Mary Jo leaves him to
fend for himself. Everyone watches as Mary Jo follows
Louise wipes down the counter. Mary Jo sneaks up on her...
Uh, Louise, don’t worry about those
dishes, there. As a matter-of-
fact, you’re done for the evening.
Are you certain, Madame Higgins?
Yes, thank you. You can run along
to your quarters, now.
Louise wipes her hands on a piece of cloth. Anxiously, Mary
Jo waits until Louise leaves. A whisper of relief.
Angeline sips her tea, sets the cup on its dish in her hand.
Mary Jo enters, takes her seat. Everyone stares at her...
Louise has gone to her quarters,
Now, everyone understands. Even a smile and nod from ol’
Piper, Christopher has some news
Piper, there are people in Canada
that’ll be able to help you all.
Piper’s eyes widen, positions himself upward, eagerly.
I’m sure William has told you about
the pathway to Canada. You and
your friends will be given a map --
Sir, I’s going by myself... see if
things are as promised.
The guests look around, baffled.
I don’t understand. I thought the
Negroes wanted a better life.
Oh, they do, madame. Some of the
women are scared they chillins
might get hurt. The men just
scared... they don’t want to end up
A roomful of nods...
Alright, Piper. If you wish to go
alone, I’ll let my friend know.
Wait a moment, now. How do we know
this is real? What if this is a
Mary Jo turns to William, her eyebrows raises. Her exact
Has anyone ever seen this pathway?
No, John. It’s an imaginary path,
and Canada is a fictitious land at
the bottom of the sea --
John erupts from his seat. Stares angrily over Christopher.
Christopher shows, not even, a minute bit of worry.
Listen, you little contemptuous
piece of sludge --
If you weren’t feeling confident,
you could’ve stayed home and hid
behind your hands, for heaven’s
Please, settle down, gentlemen.
This is helping Piper none.
Shamefully, John sits; looks at the other guests.
Christopher pulls a piece of paper from his suit jacket...
hands it to Piper.
This is the name of the fellow
who’ll be waiting for you. It’s
Everyone very impressed. William and Mary Jo like proud
Right, Piper -- Charlie Armstrong.
So, what’s next for Piper?
EXT. BATTERY PARK - NIGHT
An open promenade overlooking the bay. Dark with a tinge of
early moonlight. Piper steps off of a horse carriage with a
white CARRIAGE AGENT, dressed in black.
Piper, you have to be ready by
dusk. This will allow enough time
to be on your way by morning... An
agent will be waiting.
Both Piper and the Carriage Agent search hastily behind one
another. Piper straps a bag to his back.
Well, here it is.
No sign of an end past the huge body of water. Piper frowns
What is this?
You have to pass the bay before you
can get to Canada.
Piper looks at the humongous water; his face tightens.
The agent leads Piper to the bay. Another AGENT sitting in a
small, wooden canoe awaits Piper’s arrival.
Here’s the rest of your route, son.
You’ll be taken to Newark.
Wait -- how do I know it’s even
Mr. McCormick and his family have
friends out there. Hope that
Piper contemplates the bay. Stands majestically.
Thank you, sir.
Piper steps into the canoe, takes a seat, prepares for his
journey. Both agents observe Piper’s bravery as he never
flinches and never looks back. The boat set sails.
EXT. A NEWARK HARBOR - NIGHT
Fairly quiet with docked ferries. A few canoes left
unattended. Nearly 100 BRITISH IMMIGRANT SETTLERS piled in
a 25-30 seated canoe, headed for the harbor. Their faces
The canoe agent pulls up, and Piper hops onto the landing.
Piper stares at the harbor in awe. Then, at the settlers
unloading onto the dock.
Are you able to understand the map?
Uh, yes, sir. I’s think I got it.
Canoe agent hands Piper a money bag from his pocket.
It’s six pence per ferry -- You
stick with that map, and you won’t
Thank you, good sir.
Piper scans the map and looks back past the trees to where
he’s going. Canoe Agent reverses his boat, rows back toward
A family of deprived immigrants stare blankly at Piper while
other immigrants are helped onto the land.
Piper, like a crazed lunatic, runs opposite the bay, into
Dear Elizabeth... The pathway is
real, just like they said. It was
cold, though, and I’s been walking
EXT. FOREST - NIGHT
REMAINS OF HUMAN BONES, a bit of flesh still present. Piper
walks closer, concludes a runaway slave family...
...a man, two women, and two small children huddled under a
tree. A woman holds a baby tightly in her arms, its stiff
body cold and dry. Piper bends for an accurate look.
...I’s didn’t know how long I’s was
walking, and the road to Canada is
dark. I’s saw families on the way,
those that didn’t make it.
Piper places his head down and closes his eyes. Quietly
MUMBLES a silent prayer.
EXT. NEWARK BAY - DAY
gathering people before takeoff. A CONDUCTOR stands beside
the ferry and collects money from passengers, helping them
Piper, just in time, sees the last few people boarding. He
gains enough strength to run toward the ferry.
Six pence, please...
Piper digs in his bag, hands the money to the conductor and
INT. FERRY - MOVING
Looking out at the bay, Piper gently closes his eyes and
smiles. Breaths a whiff of fresh freedom air...
EXT. WOODS - DAY
Piper sits by a tree, and eats a piece of stale, CRUNCHY
bread from his bag.
EXT. PATHWAY - DAY
A well lit, quaint house before piper...
A sharp beam of light projects from an upstairs room. Worn
and physically surmounted, Piper’s red, droopy eyes
...afraid to step closer to the residency... more afraid to
continue the path with a painful shiver --
CLARENCE, white man with rifle, steps onto the porch. Piper
places both hands up... honestly has no vitality to escape.
The men look into each other’s eyes -- two deer in the
headlights of a tanker truck.
Clarence walks off the porch, inspects Piper from head to
foot. Piper’s body shakes furiously.
You a runaway?
Piper, too cold and frightened to speak. Clarence breaks a
breath of solace.
Come in for a warm wash and a grub.
Not expecting his response, Piper slowly places his arms
down. Clarence walks to the house, turns and finds Piper
still dumbfounded in one place. Clarence looks behind Piper,
toward the woods.
Well, don’t just stand out here.
Come on in, now.
Clarence opens the door wide. Piper inches in, still
INT. CLARENCE’S HOUSE - DAY
A diminutive layout with cracked walls and poor sunlight, but
a very hospitable feeling. The house of abolitionists.
Clarence and his wife, ABIGAIL, her long bone straight hair
hangs well below her shoulder... her face timeworn.
The couple watches a clean and well rested Piper devour
potatoes and chicken on his plate... like he hasn’t eaten in
Been gone a long time, Piper?
Yes, Ms. Abigail, but I’s can’t say
how long. All’s I know is I’s been
moving day and night.
He scoffs his food, stays focused on his plate.
Headed towards Canada?
Yes, sir. You wouldn’t happen to
know how far away I’s be from
Ontario, would you?
Shouldn’t be too far. This is
Buffalo... maybe a few hours away?
Clarence turns to Abigail for confirmation.
Longer, on foot. Perhaps another
day or two of travel.
Piper wipes his mouth on a towel beside him.
Thank you -- for the warm bath, the
food and the clothes on my back --
I’s should be heading out, now.
The sun’ll be going down soon.
Clarence and I would be more than
happy to have you stay awhile.
We have spare rooms.
BARKING DOGS from afar. Abigail and Clarence look to one
another. Piper jumps from his seat.
I’s gotta go.
Piper, in a hurry, fastens his pack to his back. Abigail
wraps some chicken in a cloth and hands it to Piper. Piper
stops his busy cycle for one crucial moment of sincerity.
Thank God... for beautiful people
Choked up, Abigail’s eyes fill with tears. Clarence beams...
nods... leads Piper to the door.
EXT. CLARENCE’S HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
The door opens and Clarence’s head peeps. When the coast is
clear, Piper darts back into the gloomy woods...
THREE WHITE MEN and their leashed bloodhounds run about the
timber, close behind Piper. Not direct enough to see him.
Piper rushes through trees and bushes, his feet at a maximum
speed. The ferocious slave-eating BARKS... the mutts lead
their owners on Piper’s trail.
Piper, with the folded cloth in hand, pinches a piece of
chicken from the bone; places it on the ground. From there,
he runs to his right, bypassing the route.
The dogs suspend their journey with a sniff, hungrier for the
meat than for Piper. A GRUMPY FACED MAN pulls his dog’s
leash closer to him.
GRUMPY FACED MAN
What you got there, boy?
He grabs the chicken from the dog’s mouth, shows it to his
friends. All three men look out into the woods. They didn’t
catch him, but they know he’s out there...
EXT. SMALL POND - DAY
A potpourri of colored butterflies flutter in sway. A soiled
Piper pauses to watch their dance against the string of light
on the water. A butterfly lands on his finger. He smiles.
I’s met some good people on the way
-- good white people. After
everything we’s been through, it
was good to know everybody ain’t as
hateful as what we used to.
EXT. LAKE ONTARIO - NIGHT
Trembling with chills, Piper looks at the massive water. He
sees no canoes, no ferries, and he panics, then unfolds his
map for confirmation.
He breaths a sigh of relief and continues along the outer
parts of the lake.
The walk is cold and long,
Elizabeth. Most of the time, feels
like ya’ legs is dead.
EXT. LAKE ONTARIO - DAY
Another few days pass. From a distance, sounds of FAST DRUMS
and smoke rising to the clouds behind trees.
Piper’s weary eyes struggle to see in front of him. Now, the
sounds of NATIVE LANGUAGES in conversations.
A mass of aboriginal people in breechcloths and leggings
buying and selling maize, beans and squash at various mini-
markets. Some markets consist of everything from hominy and
raspberry jams to tea-dyed bones and porcupine quill...
THREE NATIVE MEN beat on an elkskin hand drum, SINGING in
their land language...
Lived in tepees, wigwams, even a couple of hogans behind the
Along the lake, turned upside down on land, hundreds of
birchbark and spruce bark canoes...
Indigenous people smoke hand made calumets; some sit around,
making peace pipes. Unprejudiced white people buy from the
markets and intermingle with their crafty friends.
Piper, completely mesmerized by the Canadian life, stands
silently -- tries to relish the whole thing. A NATIVE CHILD
with innocent eyes begs for Piper’s money in exchange for a
Piper digs in his bag and hands the kid a couple of coins.
Once the child runs off, Piper studies the uniqueness of the
A tall, handsome, predominantly white looking Native man
slowly walks to Piper. Too busy admiring the mask, Piper
doesn’t even see him: CHARLIE ARMSTRONG (25).
Startled, Piper quickly turns to the big gent. Now confused,
Piper squinches his face up.
Are you Piper?
Piper steps away from Charlie.
What if I is?
Charlie extends his arm to Piper.
Then I’m Charlie -- Charlie
Calls me what you want, but you’s
sure ain’t Indian.
Piper examines Charlie, hat-to-shoe.
Ain’t no white man ever called me
I am part Iroquois.
Iro - what?
An apprehensive Piper doesn’t understand - the long straight
hair... thin nose... thin lips... spiffy suit...
How long you been here?
Not too long. According to the
time you were leaving, I gave you
enough time to walk the pathway,
through the waters, to the safe
Piper releases facial tension. Another hint of doubt paints
What if I’s didn’t make it?
Christopher spoke very highly of
you. I knew you would... Come,
Charlie leads Piper to his own tepee and two horses, one for
each man. Piper stares at the beast... hesitates...
It’s okay, Mr. Piper. He won’t
As Charlie prepares to take his temporary home down, Piper
remains doubtful at both man and beast. Charlie walks back
to Piper, offering a friendly hand, but Piper pushes off from
Piper struggles to place his foot in the saddle, seats
himself the wrong way... faces the rear end of the creature.
Charlie shields his face with his hand, tries not to laugh.
Piper turns to Charlie, hopelessly.
Uh, I’s think I’s need some help,
Both men burst into LAUGHTER. A friendship has formed.
EXT. AN ONTARIO STREET - DAY
Piper, an uncomfortable gallop of his horse, rides beside
Charlie through a predominately white area.
A few Natives sweep shop fronts, clean windows, drive white
people in carriages.
A WHITE LADY arrogantly sticks her nose up at Piper. Curious
WHISPERS among crowds of people, but they keep distance.
Is there some law that I’s
shouldn’t be here?
No. Why you ask?
FOUR WHITE CHILDREN point towards Piper, speaking words of
fear into the ear of their MOTHER. She looks away from
Charlie and Piper like a carnival freak show.
You mean because of the harshness
in their eyes? They don’t
understand us. They’re just as
afraid as we are.
Why would they be afraid of us?
The pale skin man wants to keep
wealth and knowledge to himself.
Imagine a world of no slavery... no
hatred... no fighting...
Piper’s eyes wander freely. Brings a satisfying smile to his
...Everyone would be parallel. Why
would a dominating group of people
The thought pulls Piper’s smile to an unsettling sulk.
EXT. TORONTO TOWNSHIP, ONTARIO - DAY
An affable underdeveloped town. A mixture of people with
different racial backgrounds, different religions... same
love for humanity and mankind...
Piper, all cleaned up, rides his horse more confidently...
the constant slow gallop of the animal not posing a problem.
A look of confusion surfaces Piper’s face upon the small
Charlie and an elderly NATIVE WOMAN beside her fruit stand
greet each other with a respectable nod and smile.
This is Toronto Township, Ontario.
This is how we live.
Down the road, THREE MEXICAN and NATIVE CHILDREN (aged 6)
quiet their barefoot game of kick the rocks... greets Piper
and Charlie with a smile and wave.
I’s never seen a place like this
On a porch, two elderly WOMEN (an American Negro and a
European immigrant) drinking water, reminisces on a rocking
bench... in the yard, a NATIVE MAN on his knees, plants tulip
bulbs along their fence.
I’s still don’t understand why
white folks brought ya’s over here,
then allowed ya’s to build homes
I’m a native of Ontario, even
though this is considered Ojibwa
Piper, baffled by this revelation... Charlie, even more
astonished by Piper’s reaction.
This land, the land where you once
stood, and many other lands
belonged to different tribes. It
was taken from all of us... I’m
sorry my cousin hasn’t spoken with
you about this.
Piper, able to control his horse by the rein of its harness,
His father’s brother married an
Iroquois woman, who is my mother.
I’m Charlie Armstrong McCormick.
Piper breaks solace; astonished by Christopher’s tight
When Christopher is here, it’s
easier for the locals to address me
as Armstrong... He and Thomas
Stanford are highly regarded in
this part of the world, you know.
Thomas Stanford... the clumsy one?
He almost burned down one of his
own developments a few years back.
Piper LAUGHS. The men continue down the dirt road.
So, we were all gathered for a
night of good music and food...
(voice slowly vanishes)
...Stanford and his pipe decided to
have a better time without us...
AZUELOS’ FRONT PORCH - LATER
A drab, navy blue and white colonial cape house... spotty
grassed yard... mud patches... a handful of CLUCKING chickens
and small pigs randomly roam with their dog counterparts.
Sounds of a BANGING HAMMER inside the home... cracked wood
stairs and an unsecured handrail... chipped paint on the
porch... children’s toys scattered along the steps...
A RED GRIZZLE BORDER TERRIER in a corner by a rocking bench,
very obedient... another corner, a WINDOW with an off-white,
Charlie KNOCKS on the wooden door, stands with his hands
Is you sure these people okay with
me staying with them?
Not to worry. You’ll stay in my
house once the builders rid the
A SMALL FIGURE peeps from behind the curtain - closes it as
soon as Piper notices.
A short Mexican woman, ponytail to her mid back, GUADALUPE
(Lupe), opens the door in a long, floral gown. She delivers
an ardent smile to Charlie.
Charlie removes his hat. Piper (doesn’t know much etiquette)
mocks his chum... removes his hat, too.
Ah, Charlie --
A sincere hug. Guadalupe SMOOCHES Charlie on the cheek. She
looks at Piper.
Señor Piper... Bienvenido a Toronto
(confused by the language)
Uh, yes ma’am... It’s a nice place.
She embraces Piper no differently than Charlie.
Friends of McCormick and Stanford?
Yes, ma’am. They supplied me with
the map to get here.
Guadalupe opens the door wider for the two to enter.
Come. We have plenty to eat and
No thank you. I must be on my way.
There are more coming from the
Lupe clutches her folded hands close to her heart.
Help them, Señor Charlie, but
please beware for yourself -- and
take more with you.
I will. I promise.
I’ll be back soon. Make yourself
The men shake hands.
I’s be seeing you real soon.
Lupe gives Charlie a tighter squeeze. She and Piper watch as
Charlie hops on his horse. So much bravery...
She grabs Piper’s hand.
Come on in, Piper. Meet the
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
Minimum sunlight in a very humble living room/dining room
Guadalupe’s husband, RODRIGO stands behind the racket...
HAMMERS a long, uneven piece of wooded board over a partial
hole in the floor.
Their children, JUAN (9), ESPERANZA (7), and MIGUEL (4), at
the dinner table eating... mischievous LAUGHTER; mannerly
youngsters. They smile at Piper.
No, no, Rodrigo -- Señor Piper está
aquí para su primer día, y él no
quiere ser molestado con este tipo
de ruido --
Usted me hizo la promesa de fijar
el suelo antes de volver a las
Guadalupe and Rodrigo, great companionship, but slightly
irritated with each other sometimes... a couple who has known
each other since childhood. Lupe pats Piper on the shoulder.
We have a rodent problem, but I
promise to have peace and quiet for
It’s no problem, ma’am. I’s can
sleep through a hurricane.
See, Lupe -- He can sleep through
a hurricane. This little noise
Señor Piper is a guest in our home,
and he has just traveled many miles
to get here.
Rodrigo, apologetic for his selfishness, wipes has hands on
his pants... shakes Piper’s hand.
I’m sorry. Bienvenido, amigo.
Rodrigo extends his hand to Piper. Piper, no idea what
Rodrigo said, improvises... shakes Rodrigo’s hand.
Nice to meet you too, sir. Uh, I’s
be happy to give you a hand.
(smiles to Guadalupe)
I think I’ll take you up on that
Guadalupe raises one stern eyebrow. Rodrigo places his
shameful head down.
We’ll get you cleaned up, first.
She directs Piper to the children.
Piper, these are our children,
Juan, Esperanza, and Miguel.
Esperanza GIGGLES, shies away. She has a crush on Piper.
Juan and Miguel wave. Piper kneels on one knee for a better
look at their delightful faces.
Well, it’s nice to meet you all.
Hope we’s can all be good friends.
Esperanza GIGGLES again, bashfully hides her blushing face
inside her hands. Lupe shakes her head... recognizes her
daughter’s puppy love.
Ya’s some handsome chillins.
All the children LAUGH now. Brings a beam to both Guadalupe
and Rodrigo, as well.
Let me show you to your room,
An already made bed with white sheets and two white, fluffed
pillows... An unlit kerosene lamp sits on a nightstand...
partially opened window allowing a cool spring breeze to
gently blow the curtains.
This is where you’ll be sleeping.
She opens a closet door where three suits hang, a couple
pairs of dress shoes on the floor. Guadalupe pulls a couple
of fuzzy balls from a suit jacket... doesn’t realize Piper’s
delight upon the hospitality.
Check to see if the suits fit. If
not, I’ll take you to town for a
He touches the suits... tears well in his eyes. He presses
the jacket’s sleeve to his face and sniffs it.
Señor, are you well?
He smiles, turns to her, tears already surfacing.
Yes, ma’am -- Thank you.
Guadalupe, sensitive and sympathizing smile, leaves Piper to
Ya never know how important life is
until ya get to live again. I’s
living to make certain you all feel
the way I’s do today.
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
The Azuelos family and Piper at the dinner table. Esperanza
gives Piper giddy eyes. Piper, too indulged in his plate to
Lupe nudges Rodrigo; points her head for him to observe the
Juan, we have a guest. Be polite.
Can I have some mo’ bread, please?
Yes. Now, you may have bread.
Esperanza slouches in her seat, her youthful eyes waiting for
Piper to notice her.
Esperanza, sentarse en la silla --
Esperanza straightens up, fearful of her father’s harsh
Is you people natives, too?
No. We’re from California -- now
Baja, to be exact.
What about your family, Piper?
I’s don’t really know where my
peoples is from, ma’am. We’s only
know what the white man and some
Caribbean slaveowners want us to.
Guadalupe looks to Rodrigo for support. Rodrigo peers from
his plate, saddened.
But I’s hear the west is even
Yes. The land... it’s so
beautiful, they would rather fight
for it. Everyday is worse than the
An uncomfortable silence around the table. The children’s
innocent, fearful eyes toward the adults. No one touches
their food. Guadalupe lightens the atmosphere with a smile.
But it is pointless to dwell on
things we have no control over,
Miguel nods, bringing joy back to the table. Playfully,
Rodrigo rubs his hand across Miguel’s hair, completely
messing it up.
Oh, paw --
This what it’s all about... family
and good friends.
EXT. BONFIRE - NIGHT
ABORIGINAL PEOPLES, some MEXICANS, WHITE IMMIGRANTS, and
NEGROES gather for a celebration. An OLD NATIVE MAN, long
grey hair, beats on a cow hide drum. Smacks his hands,
adroitly on both palms and backsides...
...a NATIVE GIRL (early teens) sits beside the man, plays
along on a double headed drum with powwow beaters...
...SMALL CHILDREN, different cultures and ages, create dances
of their own, fluidity of their arms and legs -- all over the
Natives in a tribal twirl... SONGS SUNG in DIALECT... grown
people passing around a large pipe.
Piper enjoying himself, taps his fingers against his leg,
trying to keep up with the syncopation of the drums.
Impressed by the rhythmic meters.
A BEAUTIFUL NATIVE GIRL (19) extends her hand to Piper. She
moves her body to the music in an almost Hawaiian sway.
Piper makes an unsuccessful, stiff attempt at the dance.
Both laugh. She places a small peck on his face, thanking
him for the amusement. Piper takes his seat on the grass.
A VERY DARK COMPLEXIONED NATIVE WOMAN, band around her head,
two long feathers in her hair, passes Piper a Lakota peace
You are imbalanced. This will
relax your nerves.
Piper inhales an enormous puff, and hands it back to the
woman. He COUGHS... catches his breath... a simmered smile.
The lady LAUGHS heartily, her mouth bearing few teeth.
There’s this thing the Natives call
a peace pipe...
She contains herself and offers the pipe to Piper again.
He’s indecisive -- takes it anyway.
...it makes you feel good. Ya’s
just gotta be careful cuz ya’s
think you seeing things that ain’t
He tries to stand from the ground but stumbles to his butt.
Uncaring, and still intoxicated, he lies on his back... gazes
gracefully at the plentiful stars in the sky.
INT. PIPER’S ROOM - NIGHT
Quiet and dark, the light of the kerosene lamp burns. Piper
writes with a feathered quill pen against a piece of paper.
A glass of inkwell beside the letter.
You will love it here, Elizabeth.
Ain’t nothing like what we used to
in New York. People on this side
of town don’t look at you strange
cuz you a Negro.
A content beam takes over his face.
I’s promise to be back for you’s
real soon. You can’t read yet, but
they got schools here. One day
this note will make sense.
He dips the pen into the inkwell.
When everything is right, I promise
to marry you and we’s can have a
family of our own. I love you,
Elizabeth... Love... Piper.
He folds the letter in half and places it inside a drawer on
the table. He picks up the lamp, and moves it to his bedside
on the nightstand. He gets into bed. Blows out the light.
EXT. TORONTO TOWNSHIP STREET - DAY
Meat and fish markets all along a fairly narrow road. Locals
pick fruit from outside vendors...
A classy Piper, top hat and fitting three-piece suit, rides
his horse into the town. To his right, a store, ‘Mike’s
Emporium’ selling tailored suits. TWO CHILDREN run in and
out of the shop, playing a game of tag.
To his left, a YOUNG WHITE GIRL sweeps the porch of a meat
INT. FISH MARKET - CONTINUOUS
Maritime decorations plastered over the walls... a display of
both chinook and Atlantic salmon, and rainbow trout laid on a
long fish cart...
MR. WINSTON (Negro fishmonger) and his help, ANTON and
STEEPTOE behind a counter waiting on, at least, five
customers examining the catch by finger pinching.
On their aprons, all three fishmongers covered in blood and
fish guts... same as the fillet table set directly behind
Piper removes his hat and lifts tension from his brow upon
seeing a fellow Negro man.
Good morning, sir. Is there
anything I can get for you?
Piper just stares, still dumbfounded.
Good day, sir. Uh, was wondering
if you needed some help here.
You know how to cut fish?
No, sir... but you’s show me how,
and I’s won’t disappoint you.
Mr. Winston nods; likes Piper’s eagerness. Winston turns to
his colossal Russian and Native fellows. All seem to be
impressed by Piper’s determination.
The name is Piper, sir. I’s used
to work on a farm, but I’s do have
some experience in the kitchens.
Nice to meet you, Piper. I’m
Winston, and these are my boys,
Anton and Steeptoe.
The big boys nod at Piper. Piper back to them.
Well, when can you start?
Piper gleams a vivacious glow... He’s ready!
SERIES OF SHOTS
A) Steeptoe slices trout on the fillet table while Piper
(already in apron) watches.
Cut the fish parallel to the spine.
B) A shipment of fresh fish comes through a back door. Piper
studies as Anton and Steeptoe choose between the good and bad
ones. Anton picks a fish to show Piper.
This salmon is no good. It has a
Anton throws the fish into a pile of other unused salmon and
C) A MAN stands in line with a large smallmouth bass, still
on the hook.
I want this bass filleted, please.
D) On the fillet table, Piper cuts the bass rather quickly
and precisely. Steeptoe, Anton and Winston look to each
other and smile. Winston nods.
Is there anything else I can do for
END OF SHOTS
EXT. TORONTO TOWNSHIP STREET - DAY
Piper holds Esperanza and Miguel’s hands, Juan skips in front
Piper stops and gapes at BUILDERS working on a half finished
two-story home. He’s captivated.
What you looking at, Uncle Piper?
What you gon’ do about it?
Piper stares at the children and back at the house with his
head lifted to the heavens.
Piper and the kids approach a “hard at work” MEXICAN BUILDER.
Excuse me, sir. Who is this house
being built for?
You have to ask Mr. Ruskin.
He points out MR. RUSKIN, a middle aged white man, red,
wrinkled face. Ruskin attempts to move a steel pole by
With all confidence withering away, Piper’s eyes fall to the
He’s in charge of the buildings
Uh, thank you... sir.
Piper turns away with the kids. Esperanza tugs his arm.
Where we going, Uncle Piper? I
thought you wanted the house.
He looks down at her hopeful, bright soul, Miguel and Juan’s,
also. He contemplates the house... then Ruskin... back at
the house... down to the kids.
Piper, still threatened by the looks of Mr. Ruskin, slouches
his head, but takes the kids’ advice. He stands behind
Uh, excuse me, sir.
Mr. Ruskin turns around, his harsh face intimidating.
I’s was, uh...
He looks down at the children again, happiness in their eyes.
...I’s was wondering...
Piper mounts with pride.
...I’s was wondering who this house
was being built for.
We’re hired under Mr. McCormick -
whoever wants it, it’s theirs.
Just keep up with them crops. Let
us know if varmints come back.
Piper and the kids look to one another, too excited for
Really -- really?
Yeah. Should be finished in
another week or so. You can move
in by then?
Miguel and Esperanza hug Piper.
Can I see inside, sir?
Sure thing, sir.
Piper stands in a quiet, overwhelming silence. Can’t believe
a white man called him sir.
INT. UNFINISHED HOME - MOMENTS LATER
A spacious living room occupies WORKERS painting the walls
and ceilings... two workers put a banister around the stairs
leading upward... one gentleman places a door on hinges.
There are four rooms in this house.
Piper rubs the walls as though he was dreaming. Ruskin
stares at Piper.
Uh, is this fine, sir?
Yes, sir -- This is better than
Piper shakes Ruskin’s hand.
...We’s gotta deal.
EXT. ROADWAY - LATER
Piper, practically bouncing, WHISTLES. Holds Esperanza and
Miguel’s hands; Juan, in front of them.
Why you so happy, Uncle Piper?
I’s ain’t never been this happy in
my whole life. Everything’s
Miguel turns around to Esperanza. They both GIGGLE.
Don’t laugh at Uncle Piper.
The two LAUGH harder.
What you’s laugh at? I’s say
I thought you said you could read.
Why you talk like that?
What I’s say?
Juan rolls his eyes. Piper looks to Juan for answers.
They’re being mean, Uncle Piper.
Why do you say funny words? You
shouldn’t put an “s” at the end of
What you mean?
Don’t say, “I’s going to the
store.” Say, “I am going to the
Piper shrugs his shoulders.
I am going to the store.
Miguel CLAPS; even Juan smiles.
That’s good! That’s good! Now,
every time somebody ask you a
question, you can say “I” or “I am”
or “I will.” Okay?
(points to himself)
EXT. PIPER’S HOME - DAY
Divine greenery... yellow, white, pink and violet tulips in a
neatly cut yard. Piper WHISTLES while he nurtures a baby
tree upright in a hole. He moves back, examines its
Back on his knees, he pats the soil and rotates the tree
forward, straightens it out.
Guadalupe and Rodrigo pass by, groceries in hand.
Piper -- Oh, Piper?
Hey there, Madame Guadalupe -- Mr.
Rodrigo. How ya’ doing?
The place is coming along nicely,
Yes, sir. Been working day and
Well, make sure you’re not too busy
for dinner tonight.
Yes, ma’am. I -- I am -- I will be
Piper, maybe you can help me with
that leak in the ceiling. I
noticed a small crack --
Guadalupe backslaps Rodrigo on the arm. Piper smiles,
already grown accustomed to Lupe’s feistiness.
Don’t ask him to help with that
leak -- He’s trying to prepare for
his family and friends.
No, it’s fine, ma’am. Right before
Rodrigo directs his face, insultingly, in front of Lupe’s.
She gives him no acknowledgment.
We’ll see you tonight -- for
They walk off, prolonging their argument within ear length.
Oh, estoy tan avergonzado de ti.
¿Qué hice, Lupe? Usted dijo que
quería que el fijado por el goteo
final de la semana. Que se quejan
No debe molestar que los pobres
sobre una fuga. Se podría haber
pedido o Pedro Steeptoe, estúpido.
Piper smiles and shakes his head. Tends back to perfecting
EXT. PIPER’S HOME - NEXT DAY
Piper, on his knees in the grass, paints a white picket fence
around his new property. He turns to the blue and white
abode, still in disbelief -- the home of a former New York
slave... not a slaver.
VISION OF ELIZABETH on the porch before Piper. She waves at
him, usual head wrap tied around her hair, long maid’s dress,
broom in hand.
Piper... Piper --
Up the roadway. Miguel and Esperanza holding Charlie’s
hands, heads toward Piper; Juan beside them. Elizabeth’s
voice slowly fades into Esperanza’s.
Piper... Piper --
The men shake hands. Charlie stares at Piper’s new home,
nods his head, impressed.
You’ve done very well for yourself.
Thank you, sir. I’m glad to see
I’m glad to be back. May I see the
rest of the house?
INT. PIPER’S HOME - MOMENTS LATER
A newly remodeled upstairs bedroom. A double bed against the
wall close to the corner... single chair underneath a double
hung sash window... blue and white wallpaper to match the
outside of the house.
And this the room me and ‘Lizabeth
gonna take. I figured it be
smaller than the ones we give to
Cecil, Bertha and their chillins.
It be a lot of them.
And the other rooms?
Well, we has so many friends, I
just think it be best to stuff
everybody here until I fix up that
other house Ruskin gave me down the
Seems like you have it all planned.
I’s do, and after I save my
friends, I go back and bring others
-- till there be no more slaves
left in New York.
Charlie smiles at Piper’s sincere determination. Piper walks
to the window, watches Juan and Esperanza chase each other
around the baby tree.
You people has been nothing but
nice to me -- I love’s this place
so much I really hate leaving.
Charlie’s smile vanishes as Piper turns around to him.
I been waiting for you so I’s can
get ready to head back -- to New
A fallen disposition extrudes from Charlie.
I do believe I’s gon’ need some
What do you need, Piper?
I going to bring the women and
chillins back first. I needs some
men -- a lot.
That will be done, Piper. When
will you be returning?
I come back with the mens...
...men. I feel a lot safer knowing
the women and chillins got out
Charlie, not wanting Piper to leave, nods... SIGHS...
You will be fully supplied with
everything you need.
Now, Piper smiles... watches the children again... how to
tell them he’s going back to the war zone...
EXT. AZUELOS ROADWAY - DAY
Piper, in a more relaxed get up (no three piece suit and top
hat) kicks rocks, WHISTLES.
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
Esperanza hears the WHISTLING, runs to the window. She peeks
out the curtain, flushed with a child’s passion. Lights up
when Piper approaches the house from the roadway.
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - LATER
Dinner winds down. Piper, muted in thought, at the dining
table with Lupe, Rodrigo and the children. Miguel, trying to
impress Piper, rests his foot on the table.
Foot off the table, Miguel.
Don’t want to --
Miguel, quickly, places his leg back onto the floor,
Maw, can I have more corn, please?
Guadalupe adds two spoonfuls of corn to Juan’s plate. Looks
to Rodrigo, everyone noticing Piper’s unusual silence.
Everything well, Piper?
Yes, sir. I did want to thank you
all for your hospitality.
Piper, you know you’re always
welcome in our home.
Piper turns away from the family, closes his eyes, regrets
I’m leaving tonight.
Everyone silences, halts in place. Even the youngsters
I’m going back to New York.
The plate FALLS from Lupe’s hands onto the table... a few
kernels on the cloth.
Tonight? You’ll be back right
I’s be back.
Piper catches a glance between Guadalupe and Rodrigo.
Esperanza’s eyes shift frightfully... a problem even her
parents can’t solve.
It’s been a pleasure having you
here. We can’t wait until you
Lupe tries to replace her disillusion with a smile.
Hey, I live just down the pathway
from you, now.
The children, completely quiet. Guadalupe folds her hands on
the table, jittery and anxious. Piper wipes his mouth on a
piece of cloth.
Well, I’s guess I better get ready
for my long trip so I can get back
Piper stands from the table. Guadalupe, Rodrigo, Juan, and
Miguel right behind him. They walk with him to the door,
uneasiness on all their faces.
Now, I don’t want y’all to worry
about me. Charlie and a bunch a’
others do this all the time.
Guess you’re right -- Before you
She runs back into the kitchen. Rodrigo and Piper before
each other; neither want to officially say farewell.
I guess we’ll have to finish those
squeaky stairs when you get back,
Yeah -- guess so... Don’t start
Rodrigo pressures himself to smile. Shakes Piper’s hand.
Vuelve pronto, friend.
(not very fluent)
Muchas gracias, Señor.
Piper bends down to give Juan and Miguel a hug.
Now, you two be nice to your
parents, you here? No
...and keep ya feets off the table.
JUAN AND MIGUEL
Lupe hands Piper a bag; wipes her wet eyes on her shirt.
Just a little something for your
trip. I can’t imagine how long it
Piper hugs Guadalupe. She straightens his shirt collars,
tries to keep her tears at a minimum.
You come back to us, Piper.
I will, ma’am.
A waterfall runs down her cheeks. She steps away, continues
to towels her tears on the sleeve of her shirt.
Piper opens the door. Esperanza runs behind him; grabs his
arm; her face pouring with tears, as well.
Esperanza. How could I’s forget to
say goodbye to you?
Piper kneels for a hug. She clings tightly to him.
Guadalupe tries to pull her away by her waist.
Come now -- Piper has to go so he
can hurry back.
Guadalupe moves away -- allows the girl her goodbye.
(silently; in his ear)
Please, Piper. Don’t go.
Piper smiles. Wants the child to feel assurance.
Listen to ya’ mother. You think I
wouldn’t come back to a place like
Esperanza continues to cry, silently but harder, an
unrestrained bounce of her shoulders.
He grabs her hand and walks her to the window. Points at the
You see that road there?
She nods her head, her crying, somewhat, slowing down.
Well, you keep looking up that
road. Real soon, on a light, windy
Ontario evening, you gon’ see me
walking -- whistling, and I want
your face to be the very first
thing I see -- okay?
She doesn’t respond.
I wants you to run out the house,
and you give me the biggest hug you
can. Then I know that I’s home --
Hesitantly, Esperanza nods; wants to make Piper happy.
That’s what I’s...
(smiles; corrects himself)
... I want to hear...
Piper walks to the door, turns to the five dispirited faces.
He waves... they wave back, skepticism on their faces.
Piper, gone... as quietly as his arrival...
EXT. PORT CREDIT - NIGHT
Piper runs toward Charlie, Anton and TWELVE VOYAGERS
strapping their packs tightly to their backs.
Here he is.
Piper, very impressed by the number of help supplied by
Charlie, dips closer to Charlie’s ear.
Thanks... these guys are giants.
When should I expect you, Piper?
I have Mr. Christopher send you a
Piper looks to the mammoth sized men, their war faces on.
Anton, like a little brother, waits for Piper’s signal.
All the men, their warrior stances, ready for battle...
Charlie walks to Piper; extends his arm to him.
...I’ll see you soon, comrade.
They shake hands. Piper smiles, reveals one last calmness
before the storm.
Thank you for everything you’s
Charlie watches as the heroic group set forth into their dark
INT. MILLER’S BARN - NIGHT
Elizabeth sweeps a corner, Martha on the other end asleep
with her four kids. No sign of Missy.
A RUSTLE from outside startles Elizabeth. She runs to the
window. Nothing. Continues to sweep. Now, a KNOCK. Piper
at the window looking in.
Her mouth drops and she tosses the broom to the floor and
clutches her heart; runs to the door.
Immediately, the lovers hug, wasting no time with a dramatic
reunion. She carries no concern for his filthy clothes all
Elizabeth, we got no time. I’s
gettin’ you all out, now --
Well, wait --
Piper runs to the side of the barn where Martha and her four
Piper? That really you?
Martha, wake the chillins!
What’s going on?
I wants you to pack clothes and
everything else you need, but not
too much cuz it’s a long trip.
Piper rushes back to the front of the stables... tosses
whatever clothes he finds into his backpack.
Yeah, y’all get Missy.
Martha and Elizabeth look to one another.
Piper, still too busy packing their belongings.
Martha, wake the chillins --
’Lizabeth, gotta help me, girl... I
don’t know what you’s need here.
Piper -- Missy dead.
He swiftly turns to her.
Missy died -- two nights after you
left, as a matter-of-fact.
Piper takes a better look at Elizabeth, now notices she has a
Who did this?
He walks closer to her. She shields him with her hand.
People asking ‘bout you. Mr.
Higgins lying for you -- saying you
been sick in bed. Mr. Miller and
others think Mr. Higgins lying.
Should I still wake the chillins?
Yeah... I gotta get y’all outta
EXT. BATTERY PARK - NIGHT
Piper, Elizabeth, Martha, Martha’s four children, and THREE
OTHER SLAVE WOMEN with THEIR THREE CHILDREN approach the
Carriage Agent and the Canadians. The Canoe Agent waits
patiently for everyone to board.
Martha backs away from the men, her youngest child in her
arms. She shields her children, pushing them behind her.
Piper, who they?
These guys is gon’ make sure you’s
get to Canada safely.
Elizabeth and Martha grab hands, a thrilled bulge of the
Webby, from practically nowhere, runs to them. Mouth drops
upon seeing the gigantic Canadian men.
They’re from Canada, ain’t they?
An upset Piper grabs Webby by his shirt.
Webby, what the hell you doing
Piper, I think I might be in
trouble. Can I go? Please?
Piper turns Webby around, raises his arm to give the child a
thrashing on the butt.
Piper, stop! He’s just a child.
Piper, respecting his lady, releases Webby.
Go on, boy... and don’t be causing
no problems -- I see y’all soon.
Wait a minute -- where you going?
I got to go back for the mens... I
be there as soon as I can.
No -- you ain’t said nothing about
letting us go by ourselves, Piper.
Elizabeth, I be right behind you --
Piper, come on! Forget them --
Piper -- don’t do it. I’s don’t
think you should --
Tears pour from her eyes.
Piper, I love you.
He squeezes a hug out of her.
I love you too, girl. Just wait
for me, okay? I have houses for
all us out there.
All the women turn to Piper, surprised.
I left something for you. I read
it when I get there, okay.
(to his crew)
I don’t want their feets to touch
the water, understand?
You got it, Piper.
You bring Timmy back with you,
Don’t worry about nothing.
Martha gives Piper a big hug. Webby grabs Elizabeth’s hand,
and she looks down. They have a secret.
(in his ear)
Piper watches as his Canadian crew place the women and
children onto the canoe. Elizabeth turns to Piper, tears on
her face. They wave to each other.
Piper runs back to the grounds of slavery -- his friends, the
waters of freedom.
Anton turns around to Webby.
Come, son. Let me help you.
Webby ignores Anton; watches Piper disappear behind the trees
of New York.
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - LATER
Piper enters through the kitchen door. He and Louise catch
eyes. She looks down at his filthy pants and shoes. He
walks past her.
MUMBLING between Timmy and William. Timmy’s long, pathetic
face consoled by William. They look up and see Piper in the
doorway. William (excited) jumps from his seat.
Piper, you’re back!
Timmy’s face frozen in a gloom... furious.
I told the boys you’d be back.
Good to see you, son.
Piper’s eyes linger on Timmy. Timmy looks away from him.
Thank you, sir.
What was it like?
Beautiful, sir. Real beautiful --
the peoples was real nice.
Piper still can’t take his eyes off of Timmy.
Sir, should we get ready to go?
Well, here’s the thing, son.
Timmy, now, listens closely... turns back to Piper. William
moves in on Piper.
People been asking about your
whearabouts these past few months.
You’ve been deathly ill --
Timmy addresses Piper with a roll of his eyes.
Perhaps you can just show face
tomorrow on the farm. That way we
don’t look suspicious, you know?
Yes, sir. Tomorrow night will be
Piper walks back to the kitchen. William turns to a, still,
rough faced Timmy.
EXT. HIGGINS’ FARM - DAY
Piper, Goose and Timmy plant flowers in the yard. Piper
peeps (from the corner of his eye) at Timmy and Goose staring
Mr. Miller passes by on his horse, inspects Piper; a smirk on
Piper, I see you’re back.
Piper stands from the ground.
I ain’t never went no where, sir --
just been bed ridden for awhile.
Mr. Miller looks around at the house, suspiciously. William
steps onto the porch.
Good morning, Miller. Anything I
can do for you?
Oh, I was just telling Piper, here,
how well he looks for a,
practically, dead man.
Yeah, well, Piper bounces back
Mr. Miller LAUGHS, shakes his head.
Two months? I don’t know if I’d
call that a quick recovery,
Mr. Miller begins towards the road. Comes back.
Oh... anybody happen to know what
happened to my girls Elizabeth and
Timmy drops his shovel.
Just noticed both girls was gone --
and the kids. Couple of Jackson’s
girls and they’re kids, too --
Mr. Miller stares directly at Piper. Piper looks down at the
Still good to see you back, Piper.
If my girls happen to come this
way, can you see them back to my
William, just as concerned as Timmy.
Miller rides off. Timmy panics.
Mr. Higgins, where is my wife?
Where could she be?
I don’t know, Timmy, but I promise
we’ll find her, okay. Now, just
Piper waits for Mr. Miller to leave, walks closer to William
My kids? Where my kids be? Oh,
Lord! Where be my kids?
Piper huffs -- the drama act too much for him.
We’ll find them, Timmy.
I know where they is. Calm yo’self
Timmy directs himself like a bull in front of Piper.
They on they way to Canada.
Timmy clinches his fists.
You sent my family to Canada
I thought you’s be happy they
struggle is over.
Timmy PUNCHES Piper -- knocks him to the ground.
You sent my family off without me?
William and Goose grab Timmy. Piper holds his jaw, his mouth
bloody. Piper looks up at Timmy, quite confused.
Timmy? You got to calm down.
Goose, help me take him in the
TWO LAWMEN on horses, (one, the SHERIFF) speak briefly to Mr.
Miller. Miller points toward the Higgins’ home.
Stop, Timmy. Pretend like you got
some sense, now.
Piper stands from the ground. Timmy gets a grip, straightens
The lawmen approach William and his boys, William smiling
Good morning, sheriff.
Good morning, Mr. Higgins. We need
to ask your Piper, here, some
Uh, what’s this about, sir?
Piper’s been extremely ill... just
got out of a coma.
Both lawmen examine a very healthy Piper.
Piper looks fine enough to answer a
William fidgets his fingers.
Uh, what do these questions pertain
to, sir? I can guarantee you
Piper’s been in bed for the past
couple of months.
Mary Jo creeps onto the porch from the house, overhearing the
Why, you can even ask John
Gallagher, our family doctor.
William, what’s happening?
These officers wanna ask Piper some
questions, Mary Jo.
Richard Smith’s shop was robbed
last night. Mr. Miller and Mr.
Jackson told us some of their
Negroes came up missing this
The guilt between friends as the five look around at each
other, deciding who will speak.
Why is Piper being questioned?
Apparently, some of the locals are
telling us they ain’t seen Piper in
a real long time. Elizabeth was
your girl... right, Piper?
Yeah, but I been real sick. Maybe
she got tired of waiting.
And what about the other? Wasn’t
she your wife, Timmy?
Timmy looks at Piper. Piper’s eyes hit the ground.
Yes, sir. I’s don’t know where she
It comes as a surprise to all of
The lawmen look at one another, unconvinced.
We’ll take Piper in, anyway --
Mary Jo runs hysterically off the porch.
Piper didn’t do anything wrong --
Piper, we’re taking you with us --
Sir, you think we’re lying about
Piper being sick? Sir?
The sheriff grins at William.
Yeah -- we just might.
Mary Jo runs in front of the lawmen’s horses; a desperate
Sir, we didn’t do anything...
William grabs his wife by her arm... his breathing rapid... a
tinge of fear in his forced smile. The lawmen smile,
devilishly. Their suspicions unravel before their eyes.
Follow us, boy.
Sandwiched between the lawmen’s horses, Piper turns to
William and Mary Jo. The couple hold each other -- Mary Jo
sobs in William’s arms.
Timmy and Goose, silent as two mice during the daytime (and
just as frightened) watches...
INT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
Mary Jo’s foot taps at an accelerated speed... bites her
nails... takes long, deep SIGHS...
William paces the floor... stops by the window and pulls the
curtain back... paces again.
A KNOCK on the door. Mary Jo springs from her chair, William
runs behind her. An anxious Piper stands in front of them.
They let me go. They said there
was no way I robbed that market.
Mary Jo pulls Piper in and shuts the door.
Piper, you listen to us. You have
to leave -- now.
William follows behind the two. Mary Jo hurries to an empty
bag, tosses bread and fruit inside. Piper, confused by her
overreaction, turns to William.
Piper, do you remember that route
Of course, sir.
Mary Jo hands the packed bag to Piper. This time, both her
and William shove Piper out the door.
Listen, son, it’s quite a long
story, and, well --
Timmy may have gotten himself into
William shakes his head at his wife’s blurted words...
What kind of trouble?
She saddens her eyes for William to finish.
Piper, you have to trust us. Don’t
worry about them. Just save
yourself. We’ll handle everybody
EXT. HIGGINS’ HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
Sir, I can’t leave my friends --
Piper, you have to -- please trust
us... save yourself.
Piper rubs his forehead... Contemplates...
Promise us you’ll be okay.
Piper looks at the two.
Yes, ma’am... I promise... I be
on my way.
A released breathe; stress lifted from their shoulders. Mary
Jo smiles, still a nib of nerves present. William extends
his hand to Piper.
Be safe, son.
Piper grabs and holds a grip on William’s hand. Alas! A
trust... one that was never there before. William smiles.
All bars have been broken as he watches his friend off.
INT. WALKER’S BARN - LATER
A distressed Timmy sits on a pile of hay, his hands folded
under his chin... Jane rubs the back of his neck, trying to
keep him temperate...
...Goose stands over the two, no words, just a bleak
expression -- waits for his own personal master to speak...
...Dr. Boots trembles in a corner across from everyone else.
THE BARN DOOR
remains closed. No sign of salvation for any of them...
Piper bursts through the door. Goose runs to him.
Piper, they let you go?
Yeah, and we gotta go -- Come on --
Piper holds the door for his crew. Timmy grabs Jane by the
Is we going to Canada?
Yeah, let’s go --
Now noticing Jane on Timmy’s arm, Piper drops his brow.
Timmy and Jane reach the door. Piper places his arm between
the two lovers, stopping them.
Piper moves his hand and stands face-to-face with Jane. A
sudden cockiness appears. Finally, a chance to confront the
Where you going, Ms. Jane?
I’m going with you all, Piper. I
thought it would be --
Jane turns to Timmy for help.
Piper, Timmy and Jane been together
for two years... Don’t break them
Timmy a married man. I rescue us --
not that bitch.
Everyone caught completely off guard. Jane, near tears.
Timmy clinches his fist, this time, Piper stands still, dares
him. Goose grabs Timmy’s arm.
Naw, we ain’t got time for this,
We gots-a-go --
I rather die a slave than live with
a chippy. Ms. Jane... you is on
I’s ain’t going without Jane.
Piper squinches, taken back by the lovestruck nincompoop.
Timmy, who’s more important to you?
Timmy says nothing. With confidence, he grabs Jane’s hand.
Opens his mouth to speak...
The CLICK of a shotgun... Mr. Walker aims at the group,
finger on the trigger. One eye closed, positioned for a
You dirty niggers got some
explaining to do to the sheriff.
They slowly erect their arms. A soft WHINE emerges from Dr.
Boots, barely able to stand straight.
INT. COURTROOM - DAY
An unethical, prejudiced judicial system already in
Piper sits alongside Timmy, Goose, and Dr. Boots. Behind
them, William and Mary Jo, in their support.
Among the faces in the crowd, Jane (looks at Timmy from afar,
hides behind a huge touring hat)... John Gallagher peeps the
room suspiciously, taps his nails against the bench’s
Thomas Stanford (an unsettling look on his face)... Angeline
Whitmore (her eyes glow; a loose canon ready to explode)...
Christopher McCormick shakes his head at Angeline.
Piper pivots toward the court. The faces along the back walk
full of misery; the ones seated around the court display
unforgivingness and bitter. A white man frowns and shakes
his head in disgrace at Piper.
Piper turns around, places his head down humbly. His
friends, fearful and uptight.
The JUDGE takes out his glass monocle from a storage pouch
and scans the paper before him. He turns to MR. GEORGE, a no
nonsense, arrogant attorney.
Mr. George, please continue.
Your Honor, I’d like to call Piper
to the stand.
Piper takes a deep breath; proceeds to the witness chair.
Takes the hot seat.
Piper, where were you on the night
of July the eighth, 1809?
I was recovering from being ill,
Is that right?
Piper do you know where Mr. Miller
and Mr. Jackson’s slaves are?
No, sir. I do not.
Mr. George storms angrily to Piper.
You sure about that, boy?
Piper tightens his face from the unmelodious tone of his
Yes, sir. I is sure about that.
On the night of July the ninth
1809, were you and the other
Mr. George points at Timmy, Goose and Dr. Boots.
...trying to escape to Canada?
Piper, a look of bewilderment by the question.
Is there some reason you had a
packed bag of food when Mr. Walker,
found you and your friends in his
Piper hesitates to answer. Sees the crestfallen eyes of
William and Mary Jo.
Maybe you ain’t understanding the
question, boy. Why was you
carrying a bag of food when Mr.
Walker found you in his barn?
Piper looks to his extremely fearful friends. Dr. Boots’
eyes shuffle nervously. Timmy, with his eyes shut tightly,
begs for Piper’s devotion.
Answer the question, boy...
Piper’s lips quivers, his eyes teary, but never allowing the
sorrow-thirsty white man a drop.
I was running away, and I was
trying to get them to go... but
they’s didn’t wanna.
The sound of CHATTER around the court -- a sigh of relief
crosses Piper’s friends’ faces. Timmy smiles at Goose and
Dr. Boots. The Judge SLAMS his mallet against the table.
Come to order in the court...
Slowly, everyone quiets. Christopher and William, upset by
Piper’s plea, look to one another.
So, you’re saying that after you
came out of your sickness, you just
woke up, robbed a store, and helped
a bunch of slaves to freedom?
I never said nothing about robbing
no store or helping nobody escape --
After being ill, what made you want
to run away to Canada?
Why you keep saying Canada?
Mr. George runs up to Piper, ferociously.
I’m the one asking the damn
questions here, boy --
I never said nothing about running
away to no Canada. I just wanted
to run away. That’s all.
You’re saying you never heard of
Canada mentioned in the Higgins’
Mary Jo and William turn to each other, baffled and
frightened. William grabs Mary Jo’s hand.
No, sir. I, maybe, heard the name
before in my entire life, but
Mr. George about-faces toward the court.
Piper, you sure you not protecting
anybody in this court who was
scheming with your plan to get to
Piper, not understanding the question, lowers his brows.
Let me rephrase the question. Were
there other people involved in this
plot, but you won’t tell because
they’re your friends?
No, sir -- It was just me.
Thank you. That’s all I have, your
Piper walks back to his seat. His “so-called” chums smile at
each other, confidently.
Anyone else you’d like to call, Mr.
Yes, your Honor. I’d like to call
my next witness -- Ms. Louise
Total silence. All confident faces drop drastically. Mary
Jo and William suspended in time. Not one breath...
Louise walks in from the back of the court, keeps pace.
Ignores eye contact with everyone.
Ms. Burden, can you tell the court
who you are?
Yes, sir. I’m the indentured
servant of Mr. and Mrs. Higgins --
Louise Burden is the name, sir.
Ms. Burden, I’m going to cut to the
chase... ask only the important
questions -- What type of
relationship does the Higgins’ have
with their slaves?
They’re all friends.
The court becomes outraged. TALK around the room. The judge
BANGS his mallet twice.
Come to order, please --
The room quiets.
They’re all friends, you say. The
night of July eighth, when Mr.
Smith’s shop was robbed, was Piper
involved in that?
Piper exhales lightly.
Piper was a runaway while the store
was being robbed.
Piper’s short-lived relief intensifies in his eyes.
Piper was a runaway? Well, wasn’t
he in bed, deathly ill?
No, sir. He was in Canada.
GASPS around the room. Piper calmly, yet resentfully stares
into Louise’s soul. Her head slouches in dishonor.
Quiet -- Quiet --
The room silences.
So, Piper was in Canada? For how
For a couple of months.
Mr. George uses the courtroom as his stage, keeps a content
pace from one side to the other.
So, if Piper was in Canada as a
runaway, do you know who robbed the
(taps her fingers)
...Timmy and Webby Jones, sir.
Timmy ejects from his seat.
Your honor, that is a lie -- I’s
ain’t never robbed a store in my
Quiet in the court! Quiet in the
SHUSHES across the room. When everyone silences, Mr. George
Ms. Burden, who was apart of this
Mary Jo’s eyes plead for Louise to protect them... her head
gently shakes “no.” Louise directs her eyes toward Mary Jo,
a personal vendetta.
Mr. and Mrs. Higgins...
The court WHISPERS to each other. Mary Jo grabs hold of
...Timmy, Goose, Dr. Boots,
Dr. Boots trembles in fear.
...Jane Franklin, John Gallagher,
Angeline Whitmore, Christopher
Christopher places his head down. Mary Jo clutches her
Don’t you bring my wife into this --
I’s ain’t got nothing to do with
this! She a liar! Piper already
said he done did everything! He
sent everybody to Canada --
Piper surveys Timmy, hurt and befuddled. The judge BANGS his
Quiet! No more outbursts, or
you’ll all be removed from the
Timmy and William take their seats. Timmy turns to William
and Mary Jo for saving.
There was someone else, but I don’t
Ms. Burden, would you recognize his
face in this courtroom today?
Her eyes scales the room for a familiar face. Thomas
Stanford sits quietly, sweats profusely. A tremble of his
No, sir. I’m sorry. It was fast
and fairly dark in the room.
That’s fine. Can you tell the
court what part each individual
took in this plot?
Yes, sir. Piper ran away in search
of a better life for him and the
A nonchalant smile of failure from Piper.
Mr. and Mrs. Higgins brought
Christopher McCormick and all the
Mary Jo closes her eyes, WHIMPERS.
I told you I didn’t like this idea,
He grabs her hand... What can he say...
Christopher McCormick has friends
in Canada to help free the slaves.
Christopher wipes away beads of sweat from his forehead with
a handkerchief. MUMBLES obscenities.
Jane Franklin is Timmy’s mistress,
and Mr. Higgins allowed them night
time trysts in his saloon.
The white people in the room shake their heads. MOANS and
GRUMBLES. Total disgust on their faces.
Jane hides her face behind her hat.
While Piper was away, Timmy plotted
to kill all the white men and take
the white women for himself.
Piper swings toward Timmy, total shock. Timmy’s head droops,
WHISPERS a prayer to himself. Jane’s face turns to revolt at
And the night Piper came back,
Timmy talked Webby Jones into
helping him rob Mr. Smith’s shop
for weaponry and food...
Piper looks back at his friends; their faces sinful.
...Timmy felt that Piper had
betrayed them, and he kept plans to
try to deflower Ms. Elizabeth...
Timmy gulps in fear. Goose’s eyes scuffle between Timmy and
Piper. Piper, with numb intensity, stares at Louise. His
pain and infuriation won’t allow him to see Timmy.
...and Dr. Boots was to supply them
with arsenic to kill themselves,
just in case they got caught.
Dr. Boots shivers in fear. Piper closes his eyes, very
subdued by this revelation.
Is there any other information
you’d like to tell the court, Ms.
A tiny smile escapes her cruel face. She nods.
John Gallagher is a catholic
Now, the room fills with GASPS and CHATTER. John places his
head down, nothing to be said. His eyes focuses upon William
and Mary Jo; his face very unforgiving. William turns away
from John, consoles his weeping wife.
Well, that sounds like everything
we need right there... Thank you,
You may step down, Ms. Burden.
Louise, escorted out the door by TWO OFFICERS, keeps her eyes
well away from everyone.
Angeline jumps from her seat, an outraged woman, points to
the judge, enraged.
You’re wrong! You can’t treat
people like this! You can’t!
Everyone in the court turns to the demented voodoo queen.
Her voice becomes eerily gruff and brutal.
You will all burn in hell! You
can’t treat people like this!
Two officers grab the deranged woman out of the court,
yelling and kicking.
You’re all evil! You’ll burn in
Piper, with tears welling in his eyes, remembers the voice of
Piper -- don’t do it. I’s don’t
think you should --
Then, a somber Esperanza...
Please, Piper. Don’t go.
Another OFFICER of the law positions himself over Piper and
his friends. Mr. Boots CRIES like a baby.
Dear God! Please -- save me --
EXT. PUBLIC HANGING - DAY
William, Mary Jo, Christopher, Angeline, John and Jane stand
between two LAW OFFICERS escorting them onto the platform --
the same platform that finalized Cecil.
William and Mary Jo Higgins, John
Gallagher, Angeline Whitmore, Jane
Franklin, Christopher McCormick,
Timmy, Goose, Dr. Boots, and Piper -
- you are sentenced to death by
public hanging on the seventeenth
day of July, 1809.
A HANGING JUDGE, white man in a bow tie and long black suit
jacket waits until the nooses are tied around the necks of
the convicted by an EXECUTIONER.
Mary Jo, insuppressible tears, looks at the CHEERING crowd...
LAUGHING, CLAPPING at the group. The six convicted step onto
individual carts underneath their individual ropes. Their
arms and legs banded together by rope.
The slaves: Piper, Timmy, Goose, and Dr. Boots stand on the
otherside of the steps, watching the tortured from behind;
their hands binded behind their backs.
Piper, I’s should have obeyed ya’
when ya’ said --
Don’t talk... I die a most happy
man if I know I never spoke to you
Angeline CHANTS a spell of words, voodoo gibberish.
Christopher stares at her, deep fear in his eyes.
Keeping a sense of humor through even the worst of times,
Christopher turns to the executioner.
Can we hurry this up, my friend?
Mary Jo, her eyes sealed, tears down her cheek, speaks softly
How could you let them do this to
us, William? How could you?
William’s torture stricken eyes drip a single tear.
I’ve failed you, Mary Jo. Can you
ever forgive me?
She opens her eyes -- no mercy left.
The executioner moves the carts from underneath the felons’
Their bodies swing helplessly on the ropes. Their faces turn
blue... sounds of GAGGING.
A YOUNG WHITE GIRL turns away, places her head in her
mother’s bosom... white people APPLAUD LOUDER, their sneers
While the bodies are being removed, Piper stares directly
into the sunlight. Timmy (sniffling tears), Dr. Boots (still
tottering)... Goose quietly eyeballs Piper’s bravery from a
TWO LAWMEN push the slaves up the stairs toward their
termination. CHEERS from the crowd as they spit in their
direction, covered in the blood
Piper closes his eyes and steps onto his ladder, tunes out
the angry civilians. A noose around their necks; their arms
and legs binded together, as well.
From behind the crowd, another LAWMAN approaches the platform
carrying Webby. Webby squirms and SCREAMS in his arms.
Piper’s mouth drops, his entire calm disposition in uproar.
WEBBY’S FATHER in the mass of people, tries to run to his
son... held in place by the townspeople...
No! Not my son! Please!
Piper, in disbelief, watches the lawman mistreat the child as
severely as the adults.
(under his breath)
No, damn it -- no -- no.
Piper looks into the eyes of the beasts, starving for his
blood all over their wretched bodies.
Throughout the vicious faces, a YOUNG BLACK BOY (13), his
face grief stricken, his eyes express personal woes... begs
for something from Piper... reminds him of Cecil, all over
Piper looks at him and smiles... the biggest, brightest smile
he could ever erupt from his miserable, tortured face. Tears
fall from his eyes like running water.
Piper’s mouth opens, his smile turns to a pain so lively the
sound is muffed by hurt.
We are human... just like you!
Everyone watches... goes totally silent, actually identifies
with this cruelty... A reminder of the words behind Cecil and
his group ten years prior.
We are human, just like you! We
are human, just like you...
The grin of a LITTLE BOY diminishes, bringing a
misunderstanding of the situation to his face.
No laughing, no applauding -- no smiling.
We are human... just like you!
Goose, Timmy, Dr. Boots and Duck watch their friend bring
justice to an inhumane situation. Their fight, not as strong
as Piper’s. They place their heads down in shame. Webby
looks on at Piper, proudly.
The executioner hesitates to remove the ladders; turns to the
hanging judge. The hanging judge lifts his eyebrows sternly.
With guilt, the executioner pulls the ladders from underneath
the guilty’s feet.
GAGGING... Blood rushes to Piper’s face, causing him to
almost turn blue. The young slave watches Piper, powerless
on the rope. Completely unbearable to look at.
Webby’s tiny body goes into convulsion. His father SCREAMS,
but he’s in inaudible pain. Collapses to his knees.
Webby’s legs shoot upward... his head slumps over...no breath
Dr. Boots and Goose already dead.... Timmy’s husky body
ceases to battle the strangulation.
Piper can still see the young slave, this time more desire in
his face. Piper struggles one last time before releasing
himself from the physical world. His body refrains from the
fight -- his eyes fall short of existence...
People walk away, but the young slave fixes his eyes upon
Piper’s hanging body.
FADE TO WHITE:
INT. PIPER’S HOME, TORONTO TOWNSHIP - DAY
In the bedroom, Charlie folds a telegram in half and turns to
Elizabeth and Martha. Elizabeth bursts into tears, Martha
holds her in her arms.
Charlie walks to the window, wistfully looks down at the
beautiful yard Piper built for his friends. A purple leafed
tree already starting to bloom.
Charlie, I regret to inform you
that your cousin and my friend,
Christopher McCormick was sentenced
to be hung, along with William and
Mary Jo Higgins, Piper, and a few
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - DAY
Guadalupe holds Miguel in her arms, silently fighting her
tears. Rodrigo, Juan and Esperanza almost motionless on the
couch. Already received the bad news.
The slaves were convicted of trying
to runaway. The white men and
women were convicted for helping.
Included was a young boy trying to
rescue his family from poverty.
INT. COURTHOUSE - DAY
Louise collects her money from an OFFICER.
There you are, Ms. Burden.
That will be enough for you to pay
off your indentures.
Thank you, good sir.
EXT. COURTHOUSE - CONTINUOUS
The bright sun reflects in Louise’s eyes as she lifts her
head to the sky. She ascends into the street, counts her
I’m writing this to you solely
because the girl didn’t remember my
face that night.
Louise breaths easily, disappears into the day...
INT. FISH MARKET - DAY
Mr. Winston just barely smiles while handing a CUSTOMER a
wrapped rainbow trout. With knowledge of Piper’s execution,
his smile fades out as the customer leaves the shop.
Steeptoe, speaking no words, cuts a piece of fish on the
For her service, the girl was paid
her entire indenture...
Anton wipes a counter with a towel, slowly easing toward a
window. He stares out and looks into the sky...
...and some believe she has left
town, in fear for her own life.
INT. AZUELOS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
Esperanza alone on the couch in the living room, glances at
her beaten shoes, deep in thought.
Once again, I’m very sorry for your
loss, Charlie, and if there’s
anything that can be done, let me
know... Thomas Stanford.
A familiar WHISTLE from outside. Esperanza stands from her
seat and runs to the window.
Piper struts toward the house on the distant pathway, his
usual three-piece suit and top hat, a bag strapped around his
She races to the door, unable to unhook the latch, excited.
The WHISTLE continues. She finally opens the door, but no
Piper on the pathway... the WHISTLE SLOWLY FADES until it’s
in the doorway, her face -- confused gloom.
She closes the door and sits on the rocking bench.
Dolefully, her head topples inside her hands, cries silent
tears. She holds herself tightly, imaginatively hugging her
best friend in the entire world... on a light, windy Ontario