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TAKE THE A
First Draft Treatment

Sept, 26, 2020

 By Bill Milling

EXT – DRONE OVER HARLEM – NIGHT

Drone floats serenely over the buildings. Lively JAZZ MUSIC swells on the soundtrack. We hear the VO of a warm, totally charming, Irish voice.  This is Connor, our narrator. He is an older, mysterious, sophisticated antiques collector and expert.  He is the human or perhaps magical connection between the artifacts at the core of all our stories and the people whose lives are altered and illuminated by their possession of said objects.

CONNOR VO

There is rumored to be a fine line between the purely coincidental and the truly magical. 

(beat)

In my experience, that line is occasionally erased.

(beat)

Case in point, a young musician and his antique saxophone.

CUT TO:

INT. SMALL HARLEM JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Close up on CLARKE, a tall, muscular, intense black man. Very good looking.  Haunted expression. A lot of road dust on him.    He sits alone at a table half in the shadows.  Saxophone case next to him. His hand on the case. A talented jazz group plays to a very small and less than enthusiastic audience.

The performers are:

TERRY, a beautiful, quick-witted, smart, elegant, young, charismatic black woman.  She owns the club and leads the band.  She plays an old upright Baldwin piano. 

DOC, a large, black, highly cultured trumpet player.  Skilled musician and quite intelligent.  Doc is a history professor at Columbia University.  He loves jazz and  historical research. The  Sugar Hill district of Harlem fascinates him as it was the focus of the Harlem Renaissance.

Doc loves Terry but as a father figure. (Perhaps he actually is her father.)

SUGARBOY: Young, white, hyperactive, talented drummer. Addicted to sucking on sugar cubes.  He will come to admire Clarke and look up to him as an older brother.

LEO: Alcoholic Bass player 

GEORGE: Guitar player

Angle on Clarke

Eyes only for Terry.

Doc notices Clarke’s singular focus on Terry. The intensity of the stare is a bit disturbing.

The set ends. 

Doc glides over to stand behind Terry, looming over, putting his well muscled arms protectively on her shoulders, all the while staring down at Clarke.

Terry notices Clarke as the two are now eye to eye. 

Doc steps off the bandstand and approaches Clarke.  

Terry watches intently. 

DOC

(seeing the sax case)

I see you here every night. Lookin’ hard at the lady.

Are you a jazz lover or…

(beat)

Or something more?

(sees the sax case)

A Selmer?… woah! What do we have here?!  

(not unkindly)

I started with the sax myself. Had my own Selmer VI back in the day.

(beat)

You figure yourself to be a sax man?

CLARKE

(softly)

I play a bit.

DOC

(opens the sax case)

Mind if I have a look?  Been some time since I…

CLARKE tries to stop him but is not in time.

DOC can see what’s inside, but we can’t.

Doc is puzzled but pours the contents of the case out onto the table.

The BAND, except for TERRY and DOC erupts in LAUGHTER.

We see the contents are only personal effects and dirty laundry.

A pill bottle falls out, rolls across the table, but Doc catches it as it just rolls off.

He looks briefly at the label, frowns. 

DOC

(kindly)

Sorry.  I understand.  I once had to pawn my own sax.

Clarke looks at TERRY, humiliated.

They lock eyes. She feels his pain.

CLARKE turns quickly, picks up the empty case and moves unsteadily toward the door.

CUT TO:

EXT. – HARLEM JAZZ CLUB STREET – NIGHT

Rain

Clarke oblivious.  Walking aimlessly.  

CUT TO:

EXT. – NYC STREET – MORNING

Close-up of the side of a yellow cab as it clears the frame.  Reveal Connor entering an art gallery.  

CUT TO:

INT. – DAY-  ANTIQUE/PAWN SHOP

SteadiCam follows as he gracefully moves into a large, dimly-lit interior filled with a myriad of mesmerizing artifacts. 

We see a large painting with a dramatic image of a rising sun marred by a violent splash of black paint smeared across it.   

The concept here is to exhibit a prefigurement of a variety of fascinating objects each to be at the center of our subsequent shows. 

The space is resplendent with lovely antiques but manages to transcend the ordinary and almost segue into the magical.

We linger briefly on several such objects.

Connor carefully removes a vintage Selmer saxophone from its case.  He holds it reverently and begins piecing it together while walking even deeper into the darkened space

… past more interesting artifacts both familiar and strange.

CONNOR 

I am a cultivator of antique artifacts.  

Special items playing a pivotal role in the lives of those fortunate few worthy to possess them.

He lifts a sax from the fitted case and carries it lovingly toward the back of the gallery.

CONNOR  (VO)

Objects of utility… of beauty… of desire… My special items are avidly collected and often hauntingly meaningful.

A LOUD RUMBLE fills the track. The darkened rear area of the shop is briefly illumined by an approaching intensely bright light.  

Without warning and totally incongruously, a New York City subway car enters frame and SCREECHES to a stop inside the shop.

The door HISSES open.

Connor walks calmly into the car, turns and sits serenely… facing us.

CONNOR  

(Softly)

Companions to both tragedy and triumph. Stripped of sentimentality they alter the compass of our lives and celebrate what is most human in us all.

The door HISSES, closes and the train moves on.

NOTE: Above shot is done in such a way (a lap dissolve)  that we can’t be really sure if the train was actually in the store or if it was just a filmic transition from one scene to the next.

CUT TO:

INT. SUBWAY CAR – DAY

Clarke is a ragged mess, curled on the seat, sleeping.  The Selmer case at his feet.

A young, well dressed couple looks at him with a mixture of disgust and pity.  

Train pulls into the station and the couple leaves.

Angle on Connor, sitting opposite Clarke. 

Connor cradles the Selmer in his arms.

CUT TO:

INT. SUBWAY STATION – DAY

The train SCREECHES to a stop.

SCREECH cross fades into the soulful SOUND of a sax playing.

Angle on the front of the car.  

It’s the A train.

Connor emerges without the Selmer.

The deep silence is disturbed by the plaintive wail of ”Take The A Train” on a cheap sax.

CARMEN, an exceptionally lovely, young Latina softly plays the sax. She wears cheap clothing, but her beauty beckons. A tattered hat for donations lies at her feet.

Angle on Connor as he steps from the train.  He looks at this ravishing creature, pauses and drops a twenty dollar bill in the hat.  

Connor turns and continues to walk towards us. 

CARMEN

Hey, twenty bucks! Thank you! My lucky day! 

Connor continues to walk toward camera. In the background we see Clarke emerge from the car opposite Carmen.

CONNOR

(smiles to himself)

You have no idea.

Angle on Clarke. Sees Carmen. Then feels the added weight in the sax case… Opens it and reverently removes the Selmer.

He’s both surprised and awed.

Clearly shaken.

CARMEN

You okay, dude?

CLARKE

(looks down carefully at the gleaming Selmer in his hands)

Never better.

(beat)

The crazy thing is I lost this same sax years ago in Memphis. Am feeling like I’m in another world!

CARMEN

You “misplaced” a Selmer?

Flirtatious small talk between the two.  Carmen is obviously drawn to him.

CARMEN

So, you got it back! Don’t ask why!  But, thing is… Dude, can you actually play it?

Clarke raises the sax to his lips and plays.

The sound is electrifying.

Passengers turn and stare in appreciation.

Clarke finishes and puts the Selmer back in the case. As he’s still not quite awake, he doesn’t notice that he is near the edge of the platform.

Another A train ROARS in.

Carmen sets down her sax. Cheap one. Doesn’t compare!  

Gives Clarke a long look.

CARMEN

You’re good! Real good. Teach me to play like that.

CLARKE

(Turns on his megawatt smile)

And why would I want to do that?

Carmen smiles back her face displaying pure sexuality and moves rapidly toward him.

He falls backwards towards the tracks. 

Oncoming train.

LAP DISSOLVE:

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – NIGHT

Clarke continues his fall onto a bed.  

Carmen continues her forward momentum to land on top of him.

Clarke and Carmen in white hot sex scene.

Afterglow small talk.  

Then…

CARMEN

Woah, seems like the sax isn’t your only skill.

CLARKE

And I might reply that your sax, needs work, your sex is beyond amazing.

CARMEN

(laughing)

Ok so we’re good together.

(eye to eye)

  But…

CLARKE

But?

CARMEN

Dude, you have a great body but…

(laughs)

Shower’s in there.

CLARKE

Thanks, it’s been a while.

Clarke exits into the shower as Carmen picks up the Selmer and begins to play.

She is not Clarke.  

But damn good.

As she finishes, the front door opens and a gorgeous blonde, fashion model enters.  It’s her roommate, Cheyenne. Their hug and kiss suggest an intimate relationship.

We will learn that Cheyenne pays the rent.

CARMEN

So how did the Ibiza shoot go?

CHEYENNE

Slowly,and not much fun without you. 

Cheyenne and Carmen are still hugging as Clarke exits the bathroom wearing only a towel.

CHEYENNE

And just who the hell are you?

EXT. HARLEM MONTAGE  – DAY

Various iconic locations.

Clarke teaches Carmen to play.

CUT TO:

INT. – SMALL HARLEM JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Terry and her band finish the final tune in their last set.

The audience’s response is polite but not enthusiastic.

A beat of silence.

Then from the darkness at the back of the room, we hear a saxophone begin to softly, almost imperceptibly, play SING SING SING.

The sound is pure and captivating.

It grows in intensity.

The audience begins to come alive.

Terry picks up the tune on her old Baldwin.

Sugarboy takes up the beat.

One and then another couple moves to the floor and dances fluidly in the foreground.

Soon the entire band is into it… full throttle.

Big, big finish as the audience is on its feet with huge APPLAUSE.

Close on Terry at the piano.  

Back to Clarke.

A connection.  

He’s handsome. 

Confident.  

Master of the universe.

Doc and Terry join Clarke at his table.

Introductions. 

Small talk. 

DOC

My dad came home from the war with a Selmer VI just like that.  May I see it?

CLARKE

Sure.

Terry and Clarke continue to chat.

There is a viable connection.

Doc in the background examines the sax more closely.

DOC

Not possible. No way could…

(amazed)

Damn.  This is mine.  It’s my damn sax! 

CLARKE 

You are mistaken, my friend. I’ve had that…

DOC

(dialogue overlaps)

Look at the serial number! My dad would tell me stories about the crazy Irishman who just… just gave it to him in Berlin after the liberation.

Clarke looks at him in astonishment.

CLARKE

No way, I got this from a pawn shop in Memphis seven years ago.

(beat)

From this eccentric antique dealer…

(softly)

Who I remember was… Irish.

TERRY

There are a lot of Selmers in the world. And a lot more Irishmen. Don’t make too much of what’s obviously a coincidence.

DOC

And the serial number?  I remember…

TERRY

Doc, you are the smartest man I know, but you were a kid. Numbers get misremembered.  I have trouble with seven digit phone numbers.

CLARKE

But, it’s just that it’s… 

TERRY

It’s time to consider the big picture here.

DOC

Meaning?

TERRY

You saw what just happened.  Together we were on fire.  Together we have a real future.

(turns to look directly at Clarke)

So, where are you working now?

CLARKE

Nowhere.

TERRY

Wrong answer.

(straight in the eye)

You work here now.  You work for me.

Angle on Doc.  

CUT TO:

INT. CARMEN’S APARTMENT – DAY

Clarke teaches Carmen to play.

He goes into the provenance of the Selmer.

The arrangement:  He sleeps on the couch in return for lessons.

CUT TO:

INT. HARLEM JAZZ CLUB MONTAGE SCENES – NIGHT

Clarke is the new headliner.

Montage of the club growing in popularity.  

CUT TO:

EXT. VARIOUS ICONIC NYC LOCATIONS – DAY

Montage of Clarke teaching Carmen to play.  

She is intensely interested in learning from Clarke…

We don’t know exactly how he feels about her.  Perhaps at this point he doesn’t either.

CUT TO:

EXT. SIDEWALK RESTAURANT – DAY

Clarke and Terry getting to know one another.

And the appreciation is mutual.

CUT TO:

INT. HARLEM JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Larger and larger and more enthusiastic crowds.  

SRO

Terry likes Clarke a little more.

The other guys are a bit oblivious. A bit drunk. Hey, they’re the band!

Except Sugarboy.  He looks up to Clarke.  He sees him as a role model and father figure.  This develops in the background as our story moves on.

Final song.  Big Finish.  Huge applause.

Clarke

(to Terry)

So what do you think?

TERRY

I think I need a bigger club.

CUT TO:

INT – CARMEN’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Clarke enters and finds Carmen and Cheyenne in bed.

CHEYENNE

Don’t stare. You can leave.  

CARMEN

Or… you can…

CLARKE

(Flashes his dazzling smile)

Tempting… But it’s opening night at the new club.  I’ll be late for work.

CUT TO:

INT – VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

DOC

Opening night in the new club and you’re late for work.

(Gestures toward the back room)

Get back there and get dressed.

Clarke rushes into the back room to dress.

CUT TO:

INT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – BACK ROOM – NIGHT

Clarke rushes to find Terry half into her sequined gown.

A tense moment while they each assess the situation.

TERRY

You going to just stand there?

(beat)

Or come over here and help a lady zip up? 

He does exactly that.

She poses in the dress.

Close-up on his smile.

CUT TO:

INT VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

We see the extent of the new club for the first time.

Terry’s new club is bigger, better… hotter.  The band is better dressed and double the size.

Terry and Clarke have come a long, long way.

She rocks it out behind her new Steinway Grand.

He is on stage… 

ON FIRE

The Selmer, a living miracle in his hands.

CUT TO:

EXT. UPSCALE SIDEWALK RESTAURANT – DAY

Terry and Clarke continue to get to know each other. 

We learn that Terry cut her wrists some time in the past.

They grow closer.

Serious.

CUT TO:

INT. CARMEN’S APARTMENT – DAY

Carmen finishes her lesson.  Looks intently at Clarke.

CARMEN

Just realized that I know next to nothing about you.

CLARKE

Trust me.  Knowin’ ‘bout me won’t make things any better.

CARMEN

You’re strange. Secretive.  You hardly eat.   I see you takin’ those pills.

CLARKE

(smiles)

Without the pills, I’d really be strange.

CARMEN

And you don’t sleep.

CLARKE

Sleep is where the ghosts are.

CUT TO:

EXT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB ROOF – DAY

Clarke and Terry look out over the Village.

They are clearly falling in love.

CUT TO:

INT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB  – AFTERNOON

Band rehearsal.

TERRY

OK, let’s take it back to the break. More soul.

Carmen enters the club with her sax.

CARMEN

Hey Clarke.  We on for later?

CLARKE

Yeah, later.

CARMEN

I hate to wait. See you at the apartment.

Angle on Doc.  Looks from Terry to Carmen and back.  This is not a pleasant surprise.

Angle on Terry who quickly follows Carmen out the door.

CUT TO:

EXT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – AFTERNOON

Terry catches up to Carmen.

TERRY

Hey.

(embarrassed)

This may be none of my business but I need to ask…

CARMEN

If you think it’s none of your business, it probably isn’t.

TERRY

What’s going on? What do you want from Clarke?

CARMEN

(realizing the import of the question)

Not what you think.  Nothing.  Nothing but sax lessons.

(beat)

And his baby.

Angle on Terry’s face.

Carmen realizes she has just deeply wounded Terry.

CARMEN

I mean…  I’m aware that he loves you.  Trust me, this can work out so we both get what we want.  We could be friends, Terry.

Angle on Terry, dazed and confused.

TERRY

(under her breath)

Friends?  With you? No way in hell.

CUT TO:

EXT.  STREET: SUGAR HILL SECTION OF HARLEM – DUSK

It’s magic hour. The beautiful amber Western light bathes the historic buildings.  

Our drone establishes Doc and Clarke as they walk the silent streets.

CUT TO:

EXT. STREETS OF SUGAR HILL – DUSK – MAGIC HOUR

DOC

Thanks for some “alone time”.  A jazz club is not exactly the place for a private conversation.

CLARKE

Private?  Why do we need privacy?

DOC

Well you’re part of the family now and we actually know so little about you.

CLARKE

And by family.. I assume you mean Terry?

DOC

Yes, but I also actually mean family.  We have all moved beyond your virtuosity with the sax to feel you are now part of something more.  Sugar Boy looks up to you like a big brother.

CLARKE

I love that kid.  If I had a family I’d want a son just like him.

(beat)

Look… I just left a lot of bad shit behind in Memphis. I just need to clear my head and get my act together.

DOC

And the pills help?

CLARKE

(startled)

You saw the label.  I’m afflicted with severe bipolar depression.  I’m down.. Then up, way up. Manic. Freaking off the wall.

DOC

I’m not here to judge you… or your past. Past is past.  I know you are a good man. We all know that. Just need to look out for Terry. 

CLARKE

Do we have a problem here?

DOC

I see you two getting closer. 

CLARKE

And you think I might break her heart?

DOC

(smiles)

Musicians have been known to do exactly that.  As a former sax man myself, I…

CLARKE

I don’t know what to say. 

(beat)

I’m a real work in progress.  Self admitted screw up.  But I know this…

(beat)

I really love her.

DOC

That’s good to hear, son.  But if the “screw up part of you ends up getting the best of the “lovin’ her part”…

(very serious now)

I would hurt you.  

Hard.

Long pause as then the two walk ahead silently.  

Then.

DOC

(continues)

Do you know where we are?

CLARKE

Yeah, Harlem. 

DOC

That and more. This is the famous Sugar Hill District. It’s between Edgecombe and Amsterdam, 155th to the North, 145th to the South.

CLARKE

Another history lesson, Doc?

DOC

I believe it’s critical that we understand who we are and who are the giants that have some before us.  Those who helped make us who we are.

CLARKE

All I see are some nice buildings.

DOC

Beautiful, important architecture.  

(beat)

Son, you are standing at the center of the Harlem Renaissance.  Greater men than you and I once walked these streets.  And many still do.

CLARKE

Like?

DOC

Like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Erskine Hawkins, and Count Basie, to name a few.

CLARKE

Damn.

DOC

Fact is, when Billy Strayhorn was first coming uptown to meet the Duke, the directions he got were to “Take the A Train” and that was the origin of the song Strayhorn wrote!

(musing)

Lots of important black political leaders lived here.

Clarke is now fully engaged. 

CLARKE

Why did they all come here?

DOC

Well, It was and, as you see, still is a lovely neighborhood, with historic, well-maintained buildings and homes. 

(musing almost to himself)

…Thurgood Marshall, first black justice of the Supreme Court, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. very important Congressional leader.. Roy Wilkins, president of the emerging NAACP.

CLARKE

I had no idea.

DOC

WEB DuBois, founder of the NAACP lived right over there. 

CLARKE

You know this stuff, ‘cause you’re a Columbia Prof not far from here?

DOC

Yeah, I teach this stuff there, and believe it or not, there are lots of so-called brilliant Ivy League students of all backgrounds, who are as ignorant as you are about this subject!

CUT TO:

EXT. DRONE OVER SUGAR HILL STREET – MAGIC HOUR

The drone is close over the two men and pulls up to show them walk off down the street.

We hear the dialogue continue and then fade out. 

CLARKE

(smiling)

So you think I’m stupid?

DOC

(smiling back)

Not stupid.  Just uninformed.

(beat)

And speaking of information we started this chatting about you and Memphis and the weird coincidence with my old sax landing in your capable hands.

CUT TO:

INT. CARMEN’S APARTMENT – DAY

Carmen approaches Clarke.

CARMEN

Clarke, look, you know how close we’ve become.  I mean more than just sax and sex.

(beat)

And speaking of sex I know you’ve been putting in long nights at the club  but… it’s been quite a while since we…

(smiling)

So you think I’m stupid?

DOC

(smiling back)

Not stupid.  Just uninformed.

(beat)

And speaking of information we started this chatting about you and Memphis and the weird coincidence with my old sax landing in your capable hands.

CUT TO:

INT. CARMEN’S APARTMENT – DAY

Carmen approaches Clarke.

Clarke is afraid she may be falling in love with him.

CLARKE

(nervous)

I… I don’t know how to tell you. I…

CARMEN

(laughs)

You don’t have to tell me. I know.  Women know how to read a man.  You and Terry.  I get it.  Knew before you knew.

(beat)

What I want from you…  

Cheyenne steps through to the next room.

CHEYENNE

What we want from you is…

CLARKE

As hot as I find the two of you. I don’t…

CARMEN

No, you idiot.  I don’t want to marry you and we were joking about the three-way.

(beat)

Since Cheyenne got back things got clarified.  She and I…

CHEYENNE

Are in love.  And getting married. And…

CARMEN

We want a baby.

CHEYENNE

Your baby.

Angle on Clarke’s ashen face.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNTRY SHACK – NIGHT

FLASHBACK

Camera reveals the extended belly of a pregnant woman.  As the lens tilts up,  it reveals a face that looks just like Terry.

Not exactly… but hauntingly close.

CUT TO:

EXT. NIGHT DRONE OVER WEST VILLAGE – NIGHT

Our drone moves close over the rooftops of the West Village to reveal Terry and Clarke on the roof of the club.

CUT TO:

EXT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – ROOFTOP – NIGHT

CLARKE

You see right through me.  There are a lot of demons in my past.  I’m trying hard to overcome them.  But you and me.

(beat)

I just know it’s right.

TERRY

(smiles)

So, now I’m your therapist?

CLARKE

(smiles back)

Whatever it takes to keep you in my life.

TERRY

One night at a time.

She melts into his arms.  

Long passionate kiss as our drone moves up and over the rooftops.

CUT TO:

INT –  VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Clarke and Terry are having an intimate conversation at the back of the club.

Doc bursts in shattering the mood.

DOC

Terry, you know me.  When I get a hold of a problem I don’t rest ‘till I get answers. 

TERRY

Problem?

DOC

(glancing at Clarke)

Him. 

TERRY

This isn’t the time…

DOC

It’s past time, Terry. Listen to me… He’s an ex con.  Did two and a half years for manslaughter.

Terry is puzzled, stunned, hurt, confused.

DOC

(continues relentlessly)

And married. 

(beat)

Four years ago in Memphis.

Terry is devastated.

Close angle on Sugarboy at the door in the background.  Hearing all of this… crushed.

TERRY

(To Clarke)

Is this true?

CLARKE

(quietly)

Yes. 

TERRY

All of it?

CLARKE

(in a whisper)

All of it.  

(beat)

Here’s how it all went down. I’ve wanted to tell you – just never found the right time.  

As Clarke tells his backstory we see it enacted before our eyes.

CUT TO:

INT. RURAL CHURCH – MEMPHIS  – DAY

Close angle on Clarke and his young bride.  

She bears an uncanny resemblance to Terry. This is the woman we saw in Clarke’s flashback.

CLARKE (VO)

I was married in Memphis five years ago to Sally Thornton, a true Southern belle, a wonderful woman.

(beat)

It didn’t end well.

Close Angle on Terry’s face.

CUT TO:

EXT. BUBBA’S BAR – NIGHT

A run down, back country bar.  The neon sign reads “BUBBA’S EAR”  That’s because the left side of the neon “B” has long ago burnt out so the word “BAR” now reads “EAR”.  Locals call the place “Bubba’s Ear”.  And that’s just fine with all the good ol’ boys who drink there.

CUT TO:

INT BUBBA’S BAR – MEMPHIS – NIGHT

Bubba runs a seedy, money laundering operation for the mob.

Clarke performs. The Selmer magical at his lips.

CLARKE (VO)

I performed in a run down club owned by the local mob boss, Bubba Blake.

(beat)

Loved blowin’ the sax, but the only thing I hated more than the club was Bubba himself. 

Angle on Bubba, a redneck, degenerate thug.

Angle on Clarke playing his heart out for an unresponsive audience of backwoods mob types.

CLARKE (VO)

For more than a year I tried to get a better gig.  But the stench of Bubba and the mob meant no respectable club would even give me an audition.

CUT TO:

INT. SMALL CABIN – NIGHT

We see a very pregnant Sally clearly upset with Clarke.

Sally and Clarke argue.

SALLY

Please. I need you here.  

CLARKE

Honey, I gotta go. You know we need the money.  It’s for the baby. And Saturday night is when I make more in tips…

SALLY

Babies come anytime, when they’re ready, not just when you are… even on a good tip night.

CLARKE

You’ll call the Ear.  I’ll come immediately.  Please don’t worry.  

(Flashed his killer smile.  The smile that says “trust me”.)

When you need me, I’ll be here and I’ll get you to the hospital in time.

(that smile again)

I promise!

CUT TO:

INT. BUBBA’S BAR – NIGHT

Clarke (VO)

And so it was that Saturday night… I was on the bandstand. 

Clarke is playing brillianty out to an obnoxious audience.  

The band behind him is… well…  pathetic.

So, Clarke treats the pain with another drink.  And turns to Bubba.

CLARKE

My wife may call.  She’s due any time.

BUBBA

Whatever you say, boy.  She calls.  I’ll come getcha. You got Bubba’s word.

CUT TO:

INT. CABIN – NIGHT

CLARKE (VO)

And then her water broke.

Sally just stands there frozen in panic and confusion.

CLARKE (VO

She calls the bar.

(beat)

And gets Bubba.

CUT TO:

INT. BUBBA’S BAR – OFFICE – NIGHT

Close on Bubba’s face.  Fat cigar in his mouth. Phone in his ear.

BUBBA 

(on the phone)

Don’t give a damn if you’re his wife, his mother or his ho.

SALLY

(on phone)

Please! I need him! Gotta get to the hospital! 

BUBBA

(on the phone)

Ain’t no Clarke Logan here.

Bubba turns his swivel chair so he can see the stage.  

Front and center is Clarke.

SALLY

(on the phone)

Please, please. I’m having our baby.  Now!

BUBBA

(on the phone)

Yeah, boys in the band get a lot of that here.

Bubba hangs up the phone.

Camera moves out to frame Clarke.

CUT TO:

EXT – COUNTRY ROAD – NIGHT

CLARKE

So, my Sally set out in the night.

Sally walks along the two lane blacktop.  Tries to flag  down a car…   

They don’t stop.

CUT TO:

INT. BUBBA’S BAR – NIGHT

CLARKE

Did my wife call?

BUBBA

No calls, boy. Now get yer ass back to work.

Angle on Clarke’s face in shock as he looks beyond Bubba.

There, framed in the open door, stands Sally.

Clarke rushes to her.

In his haste he knocks over the sax case.  

The pill bottle rolls to a halt next to Bubba’s foot.

BUBBA

You leave me on a Saturday night, I ain’t never takin’ you back.

CLARKE

I can live with that.

Clarke sees his pills on the floor and moves to pick them up.

Bubba looks down at the bottle at his feet.  He knows the pills are important to Clarke and sadistically shatters the glass with his foot grinding the medication into the filthy floor.

BUBBA

(grining)

Oops.

Clarke, enraged, manic, rushes toward Bubba.

SALLY

Clarke.

Clarke overcomes his rage and leads Sally out into the rain.

CUT TO:

EXT. HIGHWAY – NIGHT

Clarke drives like a man possessed.  

Much too fast.  He’s totally manic.

SALLY

(in terror)

Clarke. Slow down.  Please! Please. You’ll kill us!

CLARKE

Trust me. We’re close. Hospital’s not far.  Be there in just a few…

A truck pulls out from a side road.

Clarke speeds up to go around it. 

SALLY

Don’t, please! 

Bad decision.  

Bad CRASH.

DISSOLVE TO:

Over the smoking wreck of the car, we hear Clarke VO.

Clarke (VO)

I was the sole survivor. But, in my heart, I think I died as well that night.

We see Clarke crawl from the wreckage.  He looks to heaven and emits a long plaintive CRY OF ANGUISH.

ClARKE

I’d been drinking a little bit. My blood alcohol wasn’t that high. 

But Bubba’s brother was the Sheriff…

DOC

Serious crime in Memphis.

TERRY

What?

DOC

Driving while black.

CLARKE

(nods)

…and that was enough to get me forty-eight months of hard time.

CUT TO:

 

INT. BUBBA’S BAR – NIGHT

CLARKE (VO)

Day I got out. Straight to 

the Ear.

Clarke enters… a demonic fire in his eyes.

CLARKE

Where is he?

Bubba comes out of the back room.

BUBBA

Git the hell outta my bar, boy.  I don’t hire me, no wife killers.  So get your sorry…

Clarke stops and looks back.  Sees the Selmer case at the edge of the bandstand.

Picks it up. Turns to leave.  

Opens the case.

Empty.

CLARKE

(enraged)

My sax?

BUBBA

Pawned it.  You won’t need it, boy. You just broke parole.  You goin’ back inside now.

 (laughs)

And my kin goin’ to be takin’ real good care a ya.

CLARKE

Why Bubba?  You promised me.  She called. Begged you to send me to her.

BUBBA

(From the floor)

Woman calls.  Man’s not here.  Man’s never here.  That’s Bubba’s rule. Don’t matter who the hell she is.

CLARKE

She’s dead, you son of a bitch!

BUBBA

Nobody here poured the booze down your throat.

CLARKE

I had a few beers but wasn’t drunk.  You know that.

BUBBA

Yeah, I know that. And you know that. And the whole goddamn band knows that…

(moves closer)

But ya see… Billy Bob’s the sheriff here and he say you a drunk driver who killed his wife and child. An Billy Bob’s my kin and this is still the South, boy.  So…

(leans even closer to Clarke and violently puffs cigar smoke in his face)

Wake up and smell the burning cross.

Clarke raises his fist and hits Bubba.

Hard.

Bubba falls to the floor like a sack of dirty laundry.

CUT TO:

INT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

TERRY

So, I was just a memory of your dead wife?

CLARKE

At first, perhaps…I honestly don’t know.  But now more. So much more. You have to believe me.

Her face is expressionless.  She rises and walks back in her office closing the door behind her.

CUT TO:

CUT TO:

EXT – STREET – NIGHT

Heavy rain

Clarke exits the bar.  

The drone follows him down the street and hovers as he disappears down into the subway.

CUT TO:

INT. SUBWAY STATION – NIGHT

It’s late and the station is virtually empty.

A ragged kid on a skateboard cruises along the platform. His T Shirt reads “Thrasher – Skate or Die!” He eyes the few passengers as potential prey.  

Angle on a woman with a baby carriage… an expensive purse on her arm.

The sound of his wheels grinding against the floor echo menacingly throughout the cavernous space.

Clarke walks along the platform. Unsteady, deep in thought.  Regret.  Self pity. 

Too close to the edge.

The A train roars in.

Clarke finds himself next to the MOTHER and baby carriage.

We see through his eyes that the mother looks to him like Sally/Terry.

This for him in his present highly agitated, manic state… is a very unsettling image.

He moves towards her.

She is startled.  Backs away.

Rack focuses on the kid in the background, pounding hard on his board, eyes on her purse.

She turns, at the approaching SCREECH of the skateboard, seeing the kid almost on her.

MOTHER

Get away from me!

In slow motion now. 

Skate kid grabs the purse strap.

Clarke moves in to protect the mother.  He instinctively swings the sax case to break the kid’s hold on the bag.

The kid loses control and slams into Clarke. The sax case tumbles from his hands into the carriage.

Now, the baby is CRYING loudly.  

As he falls, Clarke’s forward momentum pushes the carriage and sends it rolling towards the edge of the platform.

MOTHER

SCREAMS.

 

The carriage nears the edge of the platform and is still rolling.

The A train ROARS in.

It’s like the classic scene in Potemkin where the unattended baby carriage rolls down the steps.

Clarke rushes forward to grab the carriage.

Too late.

The carriage goes over the edge of the platform spilling the sax case onto the tracks.  

The lid pops open revealing the gleaming brass of Selmer VI.

Mother is on her feet. SCREAMING  Without the slightest hesitation, she climbs down after her child.

Clarke gets up… and jumps down onto the tracks. 

The A train closer by the second.

Clarke scoops up the baby and puts it safely back on the platform.

The train is almost on him.

Mother is desperately trying to climb up… but is just not strong enough.

People are SCREAMING.

Clarke is half back up on the platform when he sees the mother struggle.

He jumps back down and helps the mother up.

The headlight of the A Train now starkly illuminates the scene.

CUT TO:

INT. TRAIN ENGINEER’S COMPARTMENT – NIGHT

CU Face of the Engineer not paying attention.

Engineer’s POV – the strong headlight reflects off the Selmer’s bright brass back into the conductor’s face.  

Alert now to the danger, he hits the brakes.

Train brakes SCREECH.

CUT TO:

INT. SUBWAY TRACKS – NIGHT

The skate kid pulls up the mother as Clarke helps from below.

The train is still rushing forward.

It stops just a foot or so from Clarke.

SKATE KID

Your horn, Dude!

CLARKE

(Addled, befuddled)

What?

SKATE KID

Dude!  Give me your horn and  I’ll pull you up.

The kid takes the Selmer and smiles wickedly. 

CLARKE 

Help me.

SKATE KID

So long, sucker!

The kid turns, pops his board and skates away.

CUT TO:

INT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Title Card  “Three Months Later”

This is reminiscent of the scene where Clarke first played his Selmer in the club.

Band is playing to an unresponsive crowd.  Without Clarke the group has lost its groove, its soul.

They’re playing SING SING SING.

Badly.

From the shadows we hear a sax.

It’s Carmen.

As before, the band comes alive. Her sound is so much like Clarke’s, her mentor.

Sugarboy picks up the beat.  

Soon all are playing and the crowd is on their feet.

The song ends.

Clarke moves out of the darkness and shyly over to Terry.

She just stands there immobile.

Then draws him toward her and kisses him.

DOC

But, he broke your heart!

TERRY

(softly)

No, he filled my heart.

They kiss again.  More deeply.

Crowd CLAPS.

CUT TO:

INT. ANTIQUE/PAWN SHOP – DAY

Skate kid enters carrying the Selmer  case.

Connor sees the case and reaches under the counter to press a concealed button.

CONNOR

How can I help you?

SKATE KID

Got me this cool horn. Dude,  what’s it worth?  You give me a hundred?

Kid hands the case to Connor.

CONNOR

What’s it worth?  That’s a very metaphysical question.  Connor opens it and we see the Selmer.

Connor looks at the Selmer and smiles enigmatically.

CONNOR (CONT’D)

This bad boy’s got a lot of magic left in him.

KID

I see your face, old man.  I can read people, real good.  It’s worth a lot. I can tell.  I want a grand.  

CONNOR

A grand? Yes, for what it’s worth, my thieving friend, stealing something that valuable is “grand larceny”.

SKATE KID

Yeah?  And exactly what you gonna do about it old man?

(starts picking up whatever seems to him to be valuable.)

You gonna turn me in? Arrest me?

We hear Police sirens approaching.

Connor presses another concealed button.

We hear the door lock CLICK 

SKATE KID

That’s my song.  I’m gone!

(tries to open the door. It’s locked)

Open it. Open it.  I’ll kill you.

Kid turns and opens a knife.  He rushes towards Connor.

Connor smiles and easily disarms the kid.

A policeman appears at the door.

Connor clicks the switch letting him in.

SKATE KID

(To the cop)

He tried to stab me. Take my horn! 

COP

(smiling)

Hey, Connor!

CONNOR

Hey, John.

Cop spins the kid around and cuffs him.

COP

(To Connor)

Tapes in the usual place?

Connor looks over to the surveillance camera.

CONNOR

Right next to the camera.

CUT TO:

INT. CHURCH – DAY

Scene is a clone of the earlier shots of Clarke and his new wife.

This time, of course, it’s Terry.

CUT TO:

INT – SUBWAY PLATFORM – DAY

Angle on, Moojig a young, Asian boy, dressed in tatters, playing a cheap sax. 

But playing it very, very well.   

From the train steps Connor, the Selmer case in his hand. He walks purposely toward Moojig.

Connor drops money into the boy’s hat and moves on toward the camera.

MOOJIG

Hey thanks, Mister.  A twenty! Awesome!  My lucky day!

Connor places the sax case at the boy’s feet.

CONNOR

You have no idea.

Connor walks off.

CONNOR VO

I am a bringer of necessary things.  

Antique artifacts which alter and illuminate the lives of those fortunate few truly worthy to possess them.

The plaintive sound of “TAKE THE A TRAIN” cross fades into the HARSH RUMBLE of the subway train as it lurches forward.  

Our camera arcs out onto the track in front of the oncoming train.

FREEZE FRAME on final shot of the “A” on the car.

Credits roll over the still frame of The A Train.

FADE OUT:

Credits continue to roll over black.

FADE IN:

INT. VILLAGE JAZZ CLUB – NIGHT

Credits continue over…

Terry is at the piano.

Angle on a baby next to her.

And next to the baby is Clarke, a new Selmer at his lips.

And next to him…

Carmen stands at the head of the band… a goddess, in a pillar of white light dancing off the sequins in her gown… her new Selmer sax rising to her lips.  She’s both sensual and sophisticated moving sinuously with the intense BEAT.  

  

DRIVING, RHYTHMIC JAZZ  played fiercely on the sax.

Dazzling visuals.  

Hot, hot dancers.

And best of them all… Cheyenne.

Angle on Terry at the Steinway.  An ethereal look on her face.

She and Clarke share a magical moment.  

As the band plays on.

FADE TO BLACK

END

 

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