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A play by Jerry Hansen

Early Fall, 1823. Near what will become the border between the Dakotas. FADE IN

EXT PRAIRIE - EARLY MORNING The High Plains. The sky crushes down: few clouds, fewer trees.

EXT RIVERBANK A small river gouges the plains. Dense brush conceals the rivers' edges. The thicket rustles. Someone walks through it slowly. AN OLD RIFLE is the first thing we make out through the tall bush: short (4' long), sturdy burnished hardwoods, and hand-carved iron well-polished. HUGH

is advanced middle age - the roughness of the times add years to his age. Glass wears LEATHER from head to foot, a KNIFE and PISTOL holstered in a belt, and a buffalo HORN on a leather strip draped about his neck. Glass stops, listens intently, then sniffs the air. A young man comes up behind Glass. Dressed mostly in COTTON, carries a pistol. JAMIE

BRIDGER's GRIMEY baby-face belies his older age.

BRIDGER The fruit in these parts is delicious, Hugh. (beat) I hear. Glass ignores him, keeps moving. Bridger stumbles along behind Glass. Bridger, hands fidgeting with something, drops his pistol. THUMP. Bridger picks the pistol up. Glass glowers at him.

Treat that little iron like your one true friend, Jamie Bridger.

BRIDGER Huh? My only --



POV STRAIGHT AHEAD A deer runs through a clearing far ahead and stops behind a tall bush. The deer can be made through the bush.


Glass aims and - Bridger SNEEZES. Glass fires.

EXT DEER A close shot errs. The deer runs off.

BRIDGER (OS) Sorry, Hugh.



BRIDGER Glass glares severely at the kid.

BRIDGER (half-wretches) These berries aren't that good. Bridger grimaces and holds up purple berries; his face is smeared with berry.

Looks like another day without meat. Makes 4 days. Jamie, it's best if you'd stayed behind.

BRIDGER I'm sorry, but I'm bored. I want to learn to hunt. Glass lightens up - laughs.

You'll wanted you stayed behind too. The first thing not to hunt is the purple berries. Bridger, his mouth grimey-purple, glances at his purple covered hands holding purple berries. Drops his pistol again.

BRIDGER They're poison?

They give you the shits. Bridger tosses the berries. Spits out purple remnants. Glass laughs - plucks a red berry from a bush.

The wild raspberries are tasty. Bridger grabs his pistol, points ahead.


BRIDGER'S POV - OF A LOW RIDGE The closest thing to high ground: a rainy season highbank.



BRIDGER Bridger moves ahead.

BRIDGER I'll shoot for game up there. Glass stops the kid.

Not with your little pea shooter.

BRIDGER Huh? Glass uncorks the buffalo horn lid and pours powder into his rifle. He pulls a lead ball from a pouch, puts it in his mouth, swishes it around, and spits it into the rifle barrel.

You've got no range. No knock down power. Bridger stares at his pistol. Glass laughs, stamps his rifle butt into the ground (thereby packing the shot hard against the powder). Glass cautiously moves ahead.

Game abounds here, kid. But it expects experience to kill it. Glass stops to inspect ground signs.

EXT CLOSE ON GROUND Fresh TRACKS: TWO SETS. HUGE PAW prints and a SMALLER pair. Glass respectfully runs his hand over the paw print; it dwarfs Glass's hand.

(OS) (under his breath) Jesus.



BRIDGER Glass sniffs at the air - gets an odd look.

BRIDGER steps up.

BRIDGER What made that?

Bear. A mother with young. Let's back out of here, boy. They like berries too - and can have'em.

BRIDGER How's bear taste? Glass gives him a look.

You don't want to know. Bridger shrugs, turns around and FREEZES.



BRIDGER POV A LARGE BEAR CUB ambles around a thicket of brush.



Bridger panics, stutter-steps backward into Glass. Bridger falls, his pistol FIRES, and hits sky. The frightened bear cub ROARS and runs off.

(angry) Jamie, next time you want to help me, stay back with the group. Glass puts a hand out and helps a sheepish Bridger up.

BRIDGER Sorry, Hugh. It's not my day.

(laughs) Never is, Jamie, never is. Let's move out. And with expedition.

Nature's to be respected. A tough school yard this. A RUSTLING BUSH distracts them. They look up. Bridger is visibly shaking. A FLOCK of birds FLY out of the bush. Bridger looks at Glass - and laughs nervously. Bridger leans down for his pistol. A HUGE BEAR ROARS, dives from the bush - right for Bridger. Glass pushes Bridger out of the Bear's way and brings his rifle around. Its too late. The Bear claw-slashes Glass's face and throat, sends him off his feet. Glass lands on his back. His rifle thrown clear. Glass crawls backward, his face, neck, and jaw shredded and bleeding.

Run, Jamie. Get away. Bridger gets up and runs away. The Bear pounces on Glass, bites into Glass's face and chest. Glass CRIES out in agony. Bear claws-slashes Glass again - and again. His upper body is a bloody mess. Glass works his knife loose. He slashes and stabs. The Bear GROWLS in anger and pain. Claws slash at Glass's hand - rips his flesh and sends the knife flying. The Bear mashes its teeth, and bites into Glass's shoulder. Bear RIPS a piece of flesh from the shoulder. Glass SCREAMS in pain. Bear eats the shoulder flesh.


BRIDGER Bridger, runs through bushes, hears Glass's AGONY and the bear HOWLS. Bridger stops, looks for his pistol - he doesn't have it. Bridger freezes. Bear GROWLING, MAULING in distance. Bridger runs cautiously back towards Glass.


Bridger runs up - sees Glass and the bear - and the RIFLE. The bear towers over Glass. Glass crawls backwards - twists his body to aim his holstered pistol. BLAM. The bear HOWLS in pain. It pants heavily. Bear growls and lumbers after him. Pounces on him. The Bear bites into Glass's left leg. Eats a mouthful. BLAM - a shot rings out. The BEAR GRUNTS and collapses on Glass's lower legs. Bridger drops the RIFLE and runs to Glass.

BRIDGER Hugh! Hugh? Oh God. Oh God.


- LOWER BODY A huge fur blob across his feet and calves. Left thigh mauled, the flesh mangled to the bone.


BRIDGER He's never seen ABJECT HORROR like this. Bridger bursts into tears, and collapses near Glass.


- TORSO Left hand and arm are bloody, shredded. Right hand and arm slashed. Left shoulder splayed open. Chest partially mauled, snapped ribs exposed.


BRIDGER Bridger controls himself. Steadies. Reaches to apply aid - stops. Stares. Tears well up in his eyes. He starts to shake - forces himself to maintain.


- HEAD Face has long gashes from the bear claws. A rectangular flap of skin, folded open, bares his skull. Throat gashed open. Blood pours from every wound. Glass is still. Eyes closed.


BRIDGER IN BACKGROUND A small, meandering line of men rush along on foot.
MAJOR WILLIAM HENRY in front, blonde, blue-eyed, stately.
JEDEDIAH SMITH, ramrod-built, beside the Major.
"FITZ" FITZGERALD, reddish hair, tall and lean.
MIKE "BULL" FINK whose squat build displays his nickname.
"CARP" CARPENTER, tall, lean-muscular.
"SHORTY" TALBOT, a smallish erudite man. Behind them several other men, who lead pack horses and mules packed with supplies, eventually arrive.

EXT HENRY / SMITH POV Henry and Smith see Bridger sit beside a LARGE FURRY BLOB.

HENRY Finally, there's the kid. Where's Hugh? What the --




Bridger sees them.

BRIDGER HELP. Major Henry. Jedediah. HELP.



HENRY Smith runs ahead to Bridger.

SMITH Jamie! Killed yourself a bear! Smith makes out Glass under the Bear carcass.

SMITH Lord Jesus. Bull, Carp get up here.



Bridger, his hands bloody, sits beside Glass. Bridger has done a schoolboy job of dressing the wounds, but the bleeding is mostly stopped. Glass is still. Smith comes up.

SMITH Jamie, what -- Smith gets a better look at Glass.

SMITH (CONT'D) - happened. Smith kneels to Glass - checks for a pulse. Bridger begins to sob; tears well up.

BRIDGER Jedediah, I'm sorry. He saved my life. I didn't mean -- Smith makes a cross symbol across his chest, mumbles a quick, inaudible prayer, and turns to comfort Bridger.

SMITH Jamie, Jamie, settle down. It's OK now. We're here. Bull and Carp arrive. Together, Bull, Carp, and Smith roll the bear carcass off Glass. Bull and Carp regard Glass. Major Henry steps up.

HENRY Damn it. Damn it, Glass.

BULL What we gonna do 'bout meat? Glass was our best hunter.

CARP Glass was our only hunter besides Jed. Bull gives Carp a sharp look.

BRIDGER It came out of nowhere. He never set his triggers. Bull glowers to Bridger.

BULL What about your triggers, boy?

BRIDGER Hugh told me to run.

CARP So you ran.

SMITH Leave the kid alone.

BRIDGER No. No. I came back, I shot-- Henry separates Bull and Carp from Bridger.

HENRY Leave him alone. Somebody get a shovel.

SMITH Exit, pursued by a bear.

BULL Whadyasay, Bible-hugger?

SHORTY Wrong. Winter's Tale. Shakes -- Bull gives a look to Shorty. A MOAN fills the silence. Like a DEATH GASP. The bickering ceases momentarily.


Breathing. Tortured, gurgled breathing. The blood trickling from his throat has air bubbles.

EXT BACK TO SCENE Bridger, in shock, leans in beside Glass. The men step around Glass.

HENRY What the --


SMITH Jesus he'll be meeting soon.

BULL There's our best hunter. Dead.

CARP Prairie dog soup from here out.

BULL God be damned if I'll eat more snake or boiled thistle roots.

SHORTY We got the mules and pack horses.

BULL I'll not eat pack animal.

SMITH Unless you have too. For now, we have bear.

HENRY We won't starve, but we're weeks behind getting to the Fort - and winter's fast approaching.

CARP We been snake-bit since St. Louis.

BULL Henry, you're a born loser.

HENRY A couple of you, get busy. Butcher that carcass before it goes bad. Henry stands over Glass. Looks down on him sadly. Bull slams into Henry, knocks him down. Shorty and Carp jump in and restrain Bull. Smith leaps between Bull and Henry.

CARP Bull, not the Major.

BULL Now what's your plan? That's the third man since we left the Missouri River to get killed.

SHORTY The Arikara took 13 before that. Bull glares at Shorty. Shorty shrinks from Bull's intimidation.

SMITH Hugh's not dead yet, Bull Fink.

BULL He is to us. Henry gets up, dusts himself off.

HENRY I'll take only that one, Mr. Fink. You knew the risks when you signed with the Company to trap beaver. Henry turns to everyone, and points in the direction they came from, down the river. (Note: Kiowa rhymes with Iowa).

HENRY You all did. Fort Kiowa is 200 miles back that way as the eagle flies. You're free to go - if the Arikara, Sioux, and coyotes don't find you. Smith, with a pack, kneels down beside Glass and Bridger. Smith pulls shreds of bark from the pack; gives some to Bridger. Smith applies the bark to Glass's wounds.

SMITH These clot blood. Aid healing. He won't bleed to death now. The bark saturates with blood. Smith covers up exposed bones. Around the shoulder and at the thigh, Smith "packs" the flesh back into place. Glass squirms.

HENRY (OS) We can still make the fall trapping season - and you'll all be richly rewarded at the Spring Rendezvous. Bridger drops the bark, turns away, and wretches.

SMITH It's OK, Jamie. Smith pulls strips of leather from the pack. Bridger helps wrap the strips around Glass's thigh. They lay patches of leather across the wounds and tie them securely.

CARP (OS) Meantime, we have hundreds of miles to go to reach your Fort.

SMITH Now cover and tie the wounds.

BRIDGER You done this before?

SMITH Not to a man ripped like this. It's tough to see a man of Hugh's experience torn apart like this. Fitz approaches Henry. FITZ How do we split up his possibles? Fitz reaches down for the rifle. FITZ This rifle is mighty - Henry kicks Fitz's hand from the rifle.

HENRY The man isn't dead yet, Fitz. Carp smiles, and puts an arm around Henry.

CARP Only a matter of time, Major. Only a matter of time. Glass: his head moves. His face frozen and twisted. Through a delirium his eyes focus and, for an instant, it seems he could get up and take a piece off his "buddies."

EXT NEW ORLEANS - BOURBON STREET People party and frolic.


carries the RIFLE and walks with an OLDER MAN. Glass even now is not youthful. He carries an undefinable weight in his bearing and in his face. The older man, dusting off a hat, is Glass' OLDER BROTHER, and bigger brother,



SAM puts the hat on - the hat of a SEA CAPTAIN. They approach a schooner, the ORLEANS, as it fills with a cargo of cotton bales. Glass hands the rifle over to Captain Glass.

You'd better take this back - at least for now.

SAM Why? You're better suited to Dad's Long Rifle than I'll ever be.

I'll be up to my elbows in paint pitch for the next couple weeks. (indicates rifle) Don't want to stain that wood. Captain laughs. CAPTAIN Sorry I couldn't get you any job better. I'm looking forward to finishing this trip. Pay off some bills. Start working for myself for a change.

You'd never settle down anyway. I've never fallen prey to seafaring like you have. The Captain laughs and puts his big arm around Glass.

SAM Takes time, Hugh. Did for me.

EXT ORLEANS AT SEA Gale force winds knock the boat about. The Captain and Glass are on the decks with all hands.

SAM Loosen up those riggings men. Give her slack. Glass, his hands and arms stained red, drops a pail of thick, gooey red paste: VERMILLION. Glass pitches in to help loosen ropes as best he can - which isn't very good.

SAM Don't be a hero, Hugh. These men know their jobs. Know yours as well - and your limits. Glass backs off.

SAM This is a team effort, Hugh - we entrust our lives to one another.

You're better at that than me.


SAMe seas. The men are ragged from wear, but hanging in. Everyone is drenched. Glass - and

SAM - pitch in with rope and tackles.

EXT ORLEANS AT SEA - LATER Calm seas. The deck is silent. The ship appears fine - having weathered the storm.

EXT CROW'S NEST High above the deck, a lookout scans the horizon.

EXT HORIZON - LOOKOUT'S POV Endless seas. The storm clouds recede.

EXT CROW'S NEST - LATER The lookout slumps forward - SOMETHING slips from his hand. A bottle SMASHES on the deck below.

EXT HORIZON - LOOKOUT'S POV Endless seas. The sky lightens - and ANOTHER SHIP bears down on the ORLEANS.

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