Bed of Ashes

By R. Earle Harris
All rights reserved (c) 2015 (rearleharris@tuxfamily.org)


FADE IN:

EXT. ASHES - NIGHT

Blackened page in dying fire. Running red lines of embers turn it to white ash.

EXT. BURNED TRAILER - CONTINUOUS

JOE LON Trueno, fit, sixties, Chicano- or Indian-looking, watches the fire. Water hose, from well-pump, is in his hand. Old pickup with camper is nearby.

EXT. ASHES - CONTINUOUS

As black ashes turn white, they reveal Joe Lon's and Magdalena's marriage certificate.

EXT. BURNED TRAILER - CONTINUOUS

Joe Lon on dark South Texas hillside. Down by gate, old Buick sedan with a woman beside it. Joe Lon notices the woman.

JOE LON
Imelda.

EXT. GATE - ALMOST DAYBREAK

Joe Lon joins IMELDA, his dead wife's sister.

IMELDA
I was worried about you, Joe Lon Trueno.

JOE LON
I'm alright.

IMELDA
Oh, yes. you are fine. You just burned your Magdalena's house down.

JOE LON
I couldn't live in it without her, Imelda.

IMELDA
You could have sold it.

JOE LON
Didn't need the money.

IMELDA
You never need much of anything, qué no? Who you going to live with now, Joe Lon? With your son, Miguel?

JOE LON
Can't live with him. I'll live in the truck.

IMELDA
You don't make no sense.

JOE LON
You drove out here in the dark to tell me that?

IMELDA
I came to tell you your nephew needs your help.

Joe Lon is silent.

IMELDA (CONT'D)
Salvador, my son, is in trouble.

JOE LON
Where is he?

IMELDA
In jail, Joe Lon, in Secaro. They say it is murder.

EXT. COUNTY JAIL - DAWN

Arroyo County's sorry facilities in Secaro, a dried-up town of 12,000 on I-10, east of San Antonio.

INT. COUNTY JAIL - CONTINUOUS

Joe Lon and DEPUTY walk back to cellblock.

DEPUTY
So you used to be a Texas Ranger?

JOE LON
Used to be.

DEPUTY
Boy's still eating breakfast. Cook got here late this morning.

JOE LON
What time you usually feed them?

DEPUTY
Three. They got to sleep in this morning.

They come to black-mirrored bullet-proof entry to jail.

DEPUTY (CONT'D)
We ain't dressed him out yet. He's still in holding.

Deputy waves into dark mirror. They pass through opened access gate.

INT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

TATTOOED MAN sleeps on long bench, set in wall. BILLY Dillon, black, sits on open toilet. SALVADOR, in 'Brown Pride' T-shirt and too-baggy pants, sits on floor eating reconstituted eggs, pale toast, powdered milk. All are beltless, no shoes.

EXT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

Sound of bowels evacuating loudly.

BILLY
Sorry.

JOE LON
Open it.

Two-hundred-pound barred door of cell jumps open. Tattooed Man turns in his sleep.

INT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

Joe Lon enters.

DEPUTY
Holler when you're ready, Ranger.

Door bangs shut. Joe Lon squats beside Salvador.

SALVADOR
Tío Joe.

JOE LON
Salvador.

Silence.

JOE LON (CONT'D)
So who'd you kill, Salvador?

SALVADOR
The Pope's only child.

JOE LON
About what I figured. You're not the type.

TATTOOED MAN
I am. I'm that type.

Tattooed Man raises himself onto one elbow.

TATTOOED MAN (CONT'D)
Did I hear somebody here say 'Ranger'?

SALVADOR
My uncle used to be a Texas Ranger.

TATTOOED MAN
Did he now?

INT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

Tattooed Man comes up off bench at Joe Lon. Joe Lon meets him halfway, catches Tattooed Man's right fist, locks it down. Pivoting, Joe Lon pushes against Tattooed Man's elbow so he pivots too -- face impacting steel bench. Joe Lon eases unconscious body to floor.

EXT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

Applause from Deputy outside bars.

DEPUTY
Been wanting to put a nightstick up that boy's head ever since he got here. Take care, Ranger.

Exit Deputy.

INT. HOLDING TANK - CONTINUOUS

Joe Lon squats back down beside nephew.

SALVADOR
You can't bail me out yet. I just got here.

JOE LON
I didn't come to bail you out.

SALVADOR
Porqué no?

JOE LON
Last person bailed you out, lost her taquería. And that was only for delinquent child support.

SALVADOR
I never have the money for that shit, Tío Joe. But I didn't kill nobody. I won't run off on you.

JOE LON
No, you won't. You'll stay here.

SALVADOR
Chingao! I didn't ask you to come here anyway.

JOE LON
Your mother asked me to help you. I'm helping your mother because she's my Magdalena's sister.

Salvador looks at his uncle.

JOE LON (CONT'D)
You going to help her tambíen?

Tattooed Man groans but doesn't wake up. Salvador nods.

JOE LON (CONT'D)
Who're you supposed to have killed?

SALVADOR
Huevo Jim. They found him dead in the furnace -- in the brick kiln where I work.

JOE LON
And who is this Huevo Jim?

SALVADOR
That's what all us Mexicans called him -- Huevo -- 'cause he was round and white on the outside and yellow on the inside.

JOE LON
So why are you the one gets arrested?

SALVADOR
'Cause I was the only one on second shift, late last night, with Huevo Jim. And 'cause I already split his lip for him, tambíen.

JOE LON
They didn't fire you for that?

SALVADOR
I hit him for being a racist pendejo and had six or seven Mexican brothers there for witnesses.

BILLY
I thought the brothers were black.

Salvador holds up the two words on his T-shirt.

JOE LON
What kind of racist?

SALVADOR
Huevo Jim always talked to the other Anglos 'bout the day when black and brown people would walk down the streets throwing white people out of their houses and taking whatever they wanted.

BILLY
I ain't heard about this.

JOE LON
Me neither.

SALVADOR
Hey. Since when did Mexicans ever get together with blacks and march around doing anything.

BILLY
Only one place I ever heard of. And they wasn't marching together.

Joe Lon waits. Billy is silent.

JOE LON
Where was this?

BILLY
In prison. Mexican gangs, black ones too, take what they want from whoever standing alone.

SALVADOR
And when Huevo Jim wasn't talking his racist shit, he was putting his hands on you and telling you he wasn't a racist.

JOE LON
What do you know about this man's death?

SALVADOR
Somebody stuffed him in the kiln -- is all they told me.

Joe Lon stands. Billy, patient look on his face, still on toilet.

JOE LON
You alright?

BILLY
I'm just waiting for you to go.

EXT. BRICK PLANT - DAY

The Southern Brick plant is bustling.

INT. BRICK PLANT - DAY

Joe Lon just inside huge corrugated-iron-covered area. MAN IN HARDHAT comes over.

MAN IN HARDHAT
Are you with the police?

JOE LON
Ranger.

MAN IN HARDHAT
You have to have a hardhat, sir.

JOE LON
Get me one.

Joe Lon looks around. Man in Hardhat comes back with safety glasses and bump-cap.

MAN IN HARDHAT
You have to put these on, sir. Does the super know you're here?

JOE LON
Take me to him.

EXT. KILN - CONTINUOUS

Joe Lon follows Man in Hardhat to firing kiln where plant supervisor WHITMORE and a black state trooper are standing. All shout to be heard.

JOE LON
Joe Lon Trueno. Ranger. This where the body was found?

INT. KILN - CONTINUOUS

Sweltering kiln. Air coming out so hot it hurts to look inside. Far doors, two hundred feet away, are open. Air in between dances so violently as to be almost opaque.

EXT. KILN - CONTINUOUS

Same.

WHITMORE
The body was in there. Sheriff and the DPS have taken everything they could away.

JOE LON
How did the Sheriff go in there?

WHITMORE
He didn't. When the kiln broke down, the operator pulled the last few cars back out to see what was the matter. The body, or most of it, came out

Screenplay truncated at 500 lines.