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Josie's Vigil (WIP)
by Larry Boodry (thebearsays@yahoo.com)

Rated: PG-13   Genre: Westerns   User Review:

This screenplay is copyrighted to its author. All rights reserved. This screenplay may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.


A typical Texas cattle town in the 1870's, a railroad depot
at one end and a ferry landing at the other.
The wide main street cuts the town in half, with side
streets and alleys branching off haphazardly to the
residential areas.
It is midday, and TOWNSPEOPLE bustle about their business.
A small frame building next to a saloon called Elijah's
Emporium...On the door of the restaurant, a handwritten sign
reads 'Closed, Back in One Hour.'
Two cowhands ride up and dismount, tying their horses at the
RILEY SACKETT, about twenty, with long hair and a well-worn
Colt tied down low on his left thigh, notices the sign.
Damn, an' I was hungry, too--
His partner, NATE SANDERS, grins around a chew of tobacco.
When ain't you?
      (spits tobacco
Hell, let's go have a beer, we'll
eat later.
They head for Elijah's.
There is a dining area, a kitchen, and two sleeping rooms in
JOSIE SPENCER, a pretty fifteen-year-old with tousled blond
hair, hums to herself as she does dishes...She is barefoot,
wearing a short, tattered dress.


STANLEY DUNN, a large, dirty man wearing two tied-down guns,
rides up and dismounts awkwardly, tying his horse next to
the other two...He lumbers up onto the boardwalk.
      (seeing the sign)
Well, ain't that a bitch...
He angrily jerks open the unlocked door and goes inside.
Josie, still at the sink, hears the front door SLAM o.s.
Stanley enters, a cigarette between his lips, looking hard
at Josie.
Where the hell's your Ma? She's
losin' customers.
She shrugs, not looking at him.
She ain't here.
Stanley comes over next to her, pretends to inspect a dish,
then dunks her head in the dirty water.
I didn't ask was she here. I asked
where the fuck she went.
He holds her head under a moment while she struggles, then
lets go.
There, next time you'll answer me
with some goddam respect.
He sits at the table, ash from his cigarette falling onto
his shirt...Josie stares at him, angry and afraid, breathing
Damn, girl, you look good
wet...Come here.


Josie doesn't move...Stanley flicks his lit cigarette at
Goddamnit, I said come here!
She edges closer...Stanley reaches out and pulls her roughly
into his lap.
You always was a pretty little
thing, just like your mother--
He tries to kiss her, but she jerks free of his grasp.
I'm not her, damn you! Leave me
She runs out.
Riley and Nate stand at the bar, nursing their beers...The
cartender, ELI, is busy polishing glasses.
Scattered RANCHERS and TOWNSMEN sit at tables enjoying a
meal or a bottle.
Well, amigo, we should be gettin'
back, the old man'll have our
hides if we're late.
      (downing his beer)
You ain't lyin'...
The batwing doors slam inward and Stanley stands there,
surveying the room, then enters like he owns the place.
      (to Eli)
Gimme a bottle, Eli, and buy a
round for--
      (gestures at Riley
       and Nate)
--these gents, also.
Eli sets a bottle of whiskey on the bar, starts to refill
the glasses belonging to Riley and Nate, but Riley stops him
with a gesture.


      (to Stanley)
Maybe next time, thanks, right now
Nate an' me have to head for the
Listen, kid, I just bought you a
drink, so drink!
      (eyes narrowing)
'Less of course you're too
high-an'-mighty to drink with the
likes of me--
The other patrons grow quiet, sensing a confrontation. Riley
gives Stanley a cocky grin.
Hell, friend, I'm not too
high-an'-mighty to drink with
anybody, 'specially when it's
free, but we just ain't got the
      (to Nate)
C'mon, pard, let's go--
He and Nate move to leave, but Stanley reaches out and
roughly grabs Nate's right arm.
How 'bout you? I ain't heard you
say no--
I'm sayin' it now...And me, I am
sorta particular who I drink with,
so please get your hand offa my
Like hell, cowboy, I--
Nate hits Stanley with a left jab to the jaw, and the big
man goes down, out cold.
      (to Eli)
Sorry about that, the man was
trying my patience.


Ol' Stan likes to push
sometimes...Matter o' time 'til
someone pushed back. Y'all better
go afore he comes to.
Yeah, we're goin.' See you next
trip in.
He and Nate head for the doors.
It is late, after hours, the front of the restaurant dark
and silent.
Josie's mother ABBY, in her thirties, sits at the table
cutting up beef for the next day's stew, while Josie
You've been awfully quiet this
evening, Josie...What's on your
Girl, I know you too well...Is it
Stanley again, givin' you grief?
      (blurting it out)
Why do you put up with him, Ma?
All he does is drink and boss you
      (laughs nervously)
Oh, honey, he's not that bad--
You don't know, Ma! You don't see
the way he looks at me when you
ain't around...Hell, earlier he
dunked my head in the sink an'


                       JOSIE (cont'd)
tried to kiss me--
Conflicting emotions on Abby's face...She sighs wearily.
Well, that settles it...When he
comes back from next door I'll
tell him to pack his things and
God, it's about time...But maybe
you should wait 'til morning, you
know how he gets from whiskey--
You're right about that...
She grins, mussing Josie's hair.
                       ABBY (cont'd)
Morning it is.
Abby stands facing Stanley, arms folded across her chest,
not intimidated by his anger. He is drunk, with an ugly
bruise from Nate's earlier punch.
You? Kicking me out? Whatever that
little bitch told you, she lies!
I believe her, and that's what
matters. I've put up with a lot
from you, Stanley Dunn, but I will
not see my daughter threatened,
you hear? Now get your filthy gear
and get out!
Stanley stares at her, his words deceptively soft.
Alright, damn you, I'm goin,' but
you an' that smart-mouth wench of
yours ain't seen the last of me,
not by a damn sight.
He turns and walks out.


The room is dark, illuminated occasionally by lightning.
Josie lies tense on her cot, sweat-soaked in spite of the
breeze that billows the curtain of the open window.

A far-off train sounds its WHISTLE, and she shivers.
After a moment, Abby enters and sits on the edge of the cot,
absently smoothing Josie's hair.
Lord, girl, you're soaking
wet...Did you hear all that?
Josie nods.
                       ABBY (CONT'D)
I'd have rather spared you that,
but the words needed to be said--
Is he really gone?
Yes he is, but somethin' tells me
he ain't the type to stay gone, so
we still need to keep our eyes
      (wrinkling hers)
And our noses, too.
Abby laughs...After a moment, she stands, kisses Josie's
forehead, and looks down at her.
Rest well, daughter mine...I am so
sorry you've had to deal with that
man and his hateful ways.
      (getting sleepy)
Not your fault...G'night, Ma.
Good night.
She goes out.


Josie and Riley have just finished painting the front of the
diner...Josie is barefoot as usual, hair tied back loosely
with Riley's bandanna, wearing jeans and an old shirt.
Riley's hat and gunbelt hang on a nearby chair.

She steps back to admire their work.
We did it, Riley...Thanks for
helping, it woulda took me forever
by myself.
Hey, no problem...Least I could do
to help a pretty girl--
Even if she is dressed like a boy.
A boy--!
She pulls off the bandanna, then shakes her head violently
to return her hair to its usual tousled state, then glares
at Riley.
                       JOSIE (CONT'D)
Do I look like a boy now, Riley
Never said you looked like a boy,
just that you were dressed like
Like that's supposed to make me
feel better...So what are you
gonna do now? I could fix you a
plate of food--
They're holdin' supper for me at
the ranch, I best get goin'...
He goes to the chair and puts on his hat and gunbelt.
When will I see you again?


How 'bout you ride out tomorrow
with the doc? You could sit with
her and read...I think it helps
when you read to her.
And don't worry, we'll have
someone bring you back to town.
      (looking ready to
Oh, Riley, thank you...
She kisses him impulsively on the lips.
                       JOSIE (CONT'D)
...for everything.
You ain't gotta thank me...Just be
there tomorrow, okay?
During this exchange a group of unkempt riders pull up in
front of the diner. Their leader dismounts, grinning
insolently at Josie...This is FREDDIE DUNN, not as big as
his younger brother, but just as mean and with the same bad
Well, well, ain't you the grown-up
little miss...Not like the last
time I seen you.
Josie turns sharply, and she and Freddie stare at each other
a moment, and it is obvious there is no love lost between
What do you want, Freddie?
Heard about your ma, wanted to pay
my respects.
      (shaking back her
If you heard about my ma then you
also heard what was done to her,
and who done it...Your respects
don't mean shit to me.


A small CROWD has gathered around, and a few matronly women
frown at Josie's language.
Stan always said you had a really
smart mouth for such a no-account
little girl...
      (shakes his head)
I never did figure out why he took
a shine to your ma--
She wasn't a whore, that's why!
You wouldn't understand.
Freddie looks confused for a moment, then his anger flashes
as he figures it out.
Why, you little--
He raises a hand as if to slap her, but a voice stops him.
                       RILEY (O.S.)
Go ahead, mister, hit her.
Folks'll start callin' you Lefty.
Freddie, focused on Josie, is startled to see Riley standing
there, gazing at him.
Who the hell are you? This ain't
none of your affair!
Yeah, it is.
      (to Josie)
Who's your friend?
Freddie Dunn, but I'd sooner kiss
his horse than call him a friend
of mine!
Horse prob'ly smells better.
      (to Freddie)
Mr. Dunn, I don't know what hole
you crawled out of, but you'd best
get back to it...And if you see
Stanley, you tell him to look me
up, y'hear?


I will, damn you! And when he
comes, I'll ride with him, and
some of the boys, too.
Freddie mounts his horse, and flashes Josie an ugly look.
                       FREDDIE (CONT'D)
As for you, by the time lover boy
here gets his hand out from under
your shabby little drawers, he'll
be shot to doll rags! And then--
In a sudden flash of anger, Josie snatches Riley's gun from
its holster and aims it two-handed at Freddie.
And then what, Freddie? Y'all
gonna beat me bloody, like Stanley
done to Ma before he cut her? Or
maybe you want me all for
yourself, since no real lady will
have you.
      (cocks the gun)
Now you get, and take these rabble
with you...Your kind ain't wanted
As Josie confronts Freddie, it is apparent that his riders
hadn't known of Stanley's attack on Abby, and these men now
back their horses away from him, and out of the line of
What the hell? You cowards gonna
let this little tramp back us
One of his men, a young puncher named REESE, spits in
Not us, Freddie, just you...Matter
of fact, looks to me like she
already backed you down, sure
enough, and called you for the
kind of man who would harm a
little girl.
      (spits again)
But now, if she shoots you, me an'
the boys'll be plumb out of a job.
      (grins crookedly)
So I figure we'll just quit now,
while you're still alive to pay


                       REESE (cont'd)
Pay you? I be damned if I will!
You'll be shot if you don't.
Seeing that several of his men have their rifles carelessly
pointed at him, Freddie looks around at the crowd, but finds
no friendly faces.
This is robbery! These men have no
money coming--
Reese turns to Josie, who has returned Riley's gun to him
and is watching wide-eyed.
Ma'am, I trust you, and you got
sand...I want you to go in
Freddie's saddlebag, in front of
all these nice folks, and tell me
what you find.
Freddie, looking trapped, starts to protest, but Josie is
already rummaging in his saddlebag.
There's envelopes with money in
'em, and names on each one--
Is there one with Freddie's name
on it?
Yeah, there is.
Give it to him, and bring me the
Josie does as instructed...Reese looks around, sees Eli on
the porch of his saloon.
Eli, you know me and the boys,


Sure do, Reese, an' Freddie, too.
Been watchin' him pay you every
month with envelopes just like
Reese tosses him the saddlebag.
Hold that while I go fetch the
Sheriff, so we can do this all
legal and proper.
Sheriff's out of town, but you
boys come on in and spend your
money. Ain't a man here will
begrudge it, nor the Sheriff,
      (turns to Freddie)
I'd invite you in, too, but
suddenly your stink ain't just on
the outside.
Ah, go to hell, all of you!
      (to Reese)
And you, when that money's gone,
don't you come around beggin' for
your jobs back, y'hear? I'll shoot
you on sight!
Ain't likely...And I'll remember
you said that.
Freddie reins his horse around violently and rides off...His
former riders head for Eli's, as do some of the townsmen
who'd been watching...Reese tips his hat at Josie.
                       REESE (CONT'D)
My name is Josie, okay? Quit
calling me ma'am.
Reese dismounts and ties his horse at the hitchrail.


Well, Josie, folks call me Reese,
and I'd offer to buy you a drink
if it wasn't for you bein' so
young, and a girl and all...
I've got a better idea...C'mon,
let's go inside.
She goes into the diner...Riley and Reese look at each
other, then shrug and follow her inside.


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