VIII. TIM 

 THE WHARF 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim

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(The next morning. TIM sits on the edge of the wharf, fishing. Beside him is a brass radio unit of original construction, playing music through a set of headphones: “Nights In White Satin” by The Moody Blues.)

 

(TIM fishes while he listens to the music. Time passes. The radio signal waivers, static. TIM picks up the unit, turning the dial.)

 

No, no, no you don’t… Why’s it every bloody time I get a good one…

 

(The static resolves into a voice: Winston’s Churchill’s iconic wartime address.)

 

Well that’s just lovely, that is… Melodious as treacle.

 

(He turns the dials again. More static. Snatches of sound, too fast to identify. The static resolves into a voice again.)

 

(VO) Listen. Please. Listen to me. The man is a good man, kind, he is industrious and hard working, and his reward is the home he has built for himself, a house he built with his hands, for the love for his wife, with devotion for his son, for the sweat of his brow and the back that he breaks with the weight of his fears, that pull him down into blackness of infinite space, the voice in the dark that names all his doubts / (Static)

 

What in blue Christmas…?

 

/ and his reward is the pride that gilds his new name, a name he gives his wife and child so that a piece of him goes with them even in the dark, into death and beyond, to the sky, to the stars, to the heart of the sun, and further, into dreams, into mornings, into their hopes, into their fears, the fear of losing their names, themselves, each other, until…

 

Until…?

 

Until they’re forgotten. And then they truly die.

 

Blimey. That’s grim.

 

Grim?

 

Yes, it’s grim, it’s gloomy.

 

Who…? Who’s there? Is there someone there?

 

Eh…?

 

Am I still alone? Is there someone there? Can anyone hear me? Hello?

 

Hello?

 

Hello? Are you there?

 

Yes, I’m here. Where are you then?

 

Where am I? Am I not there with you?

 

No. Not that I can see. So where are you?

 

I… I don’t know.

 

What d’you mean, you don’t know?

 

I don’t know. I don’t know where I am.

 

Well look around you. What can you see?

 

I see… I see… everything.

 

No you don’t.

 

Yes, I do.

 

No, no you don’t. Come on now, no malarkey: what’s in front of you?

 

The stars.

 

The what?

 

The stars. I see the stars.

 

Oh mate, you must be blind bloody drunk t’be seein’ stars, ey? What else you see?

 

The colour.

 

Colour? What colour?

 

The colour. The colour in the stars.

 

The colour in the… Mate, you don’t make a bog-bag of sense, do ya? Hang on a tick… who’m I talkin’ to ’ere? Where’d you get yourself a Transistor? Master Black only built the one I know of, and I know that on account of me having the key to his closet of forbidden do-dads. Who is this?

 

I don’t… I don’t…

 

Don’t?

 

I don’t…

 

You don’t what?

 

I don’t want the stars to die.

 

(Static. Music plays again. TIM looks at the Transistor thoughtfully. After a long stillness, he puts the headphones on again and resumes fishing.)

 

(OTIS enters with coat and briefcase, reading directions off a scrap of paper. Lost, he sees TIM.)

 

You there! I say, you there! Boy! (Approaching) I say, you there! Hallo! Boy! Ha-llo!

 

Hey, keep your voice down, why don’t you? You’ll scare away them flounder, won’t you?

 

Flounder? Off London docks?

 

A boy can dream. And who you calling “boy” anyway, mate?

 

Well, I just thought --- I mean to say, you looked --- Look, I don’t mean to linger, but I’m in need of some direction. As I’m sure you can appreciate, I don’t make a habit to frequent locales such as… vis a vis… et al… here, and I’m afraid the portmaster’s cursive is somewhat atrocious, and the ship-hands hereabouts of a rather unapproachable stripe, to put it mildly…

 

They can be a frightful lot at first glance, I’ll grant you, but every one of ’em has a heart o’ gold, you mark my words. Kindest bunch o’ lads I ever played cribbage with.

 

Except Gulliver. He’s a right mean bastard.

 

Indeed. As I said, the portmaster’s cursive seems to have eluded me, so perhaps you’d be so kind as to give me some assistance…

 

(Looking at the note) Ahhh, see, now that is atrocious cursive. Mine ain’t a sewn patch on that. Master Black should count his blessings and lay off the aspersions.

 

Black, you say? Would this be Henry Black, by chance?

 

(Suspicious) Maybe. Why’s you want to know?

 

I’m looking for Wharf Six, as a matter of fact. According to the registry, the good Doctor lets a warehouse there…

 

(Standing) Ah, you see, now there’s what’s got you turned about. I’m sorry to say, sir, but you’ve been told a mischief. It’s them no-good sailor types, all of them a right scurvy dog, to a man. See, this end of the Wharf is private property. I shouldn’t even be here by rights, y’know, only I’m in the portmaster’s good grace, on account of his wife taking a shining to my youthful joie de vivre and parochial good looks. Still, if we’re both quick on our way, I wont’ tell no one if you won’t, eh?

 

(TIM goes to leave. OTIS steps in his way.)

 

Hang about, please, it’s a matter of some import.

 

Afraid I can’t help ya.

 

I’ve something of an… appointment… with Doctor Henry Black.

 

He’s not that sort of Doctor.

 

I never said I was a patient.

 

Look. I’ll make it worth your while… (He produces a coin)

 

I’d have a care, sir – a gentleman such as you flashing coins at a supple youth such as I? There are less charitable eyes about a wharf than mine. I won’t have meself besmirched, if you please, as some loose harridan, I’d never hear the end of it at cribbage…

 

(TIM goes to push past. OTIS stops him with a hand to his chest. OTIS’S coat opens, a pistol clearly visible inside. TIM stops.)

 

I concur, a London dock is hardly the place for gentlemen and youths alike to frequent, even in the good spirit of fellowship… or fishing. As you can see, I’m not so charitable as to leave my charity open to exploitation… if you take my meaning.

 

(Not intimidated) Please, sir. Folks will talk. I’ve a reputation to uphold.

 

(TIM stares at OTIS. OTIS meets his eye. A silence. OTIS registers recognition.)

 

I say. You’re his assistant, aren’t you?

 

I’m in no habit of assisting myself, let alone anyone else /

 

Henry Black’s boy. No – the other one. I’ve seen your face in print. Now what was it…

 

Oh, I get ya – it’s the nose, isn’t it? It’s a dreadful nose. Honestly, everyone has it. Not a day goes by without someone comin’ up to me and sayin’ /

 

Gale, that’s it. You’re Timothy Gale. Orphaned in infancy to the Sisterhood of St. Alia, taken in by the Black household at the age of nine on the behest of Mrs Jessica Black. She was an adept, wasn’t she, in her girlhood? Back in her days before she was Mrs Black. Makes her choice seem strange, doesn’t it? A bride of Christ, wedded to secular science. The wimple for the asbestos gloves, eh what?

 

(Angry now) You know, sir, I think you got me at one of those disadvantages one alludes to being poor form, in polite society, that is…

 

Ah yes, introductions. Fairweather. Otis Fairweather. Charmed. (Extends a hand)

 

(Taking it, shakes) Likewise. But I meant the other disadvantage, sir, what with you having yourself a pistol at hand, and me only havin’ this here paring knife. On account of them flounders. You see?

 

(TIM does indeed have a knife at OTIS’ groin.)

 

I rather take your point, yes…

 

Now just so’s I take your meaning – with no confusion, you understand – I’d rather gladly know what business you’d have with Master Black? Only seeing as no one wants his business, I’d bet me long-dead mother (bless her soul to heaven) you’re wanting something owed in money, or else something owed in blood.

 

What do you mean, “blood”?

 

There are some, I’m sad to say, who wish some harm upon the Doctor. Hold him accountable for debts he’s long since up and paid. And then, of course, there are those who seek repayment for the holders of accounts. The Doctor has his debts, you see, though he pays for all in kind. He’s been out of his sorts of late, you see, and I’m not inclined to bother him with either. So if you’ve no objections, sir – and I’m hoping that you’ve none – I’d kindly like to know which is it you’re after: is it money… or blood?

(TIM nods at the knife in his hand. OTIS looks down at the knife against him, then back at TIM. OTIS swallows visibly. A beat.)

 

Help! Help me! I’m being murdered!

 

Hey, now what you ---

 

Murder! Help! Police! I’m being killed!

 

(Alarmed) Now that’s a lie that is, I ain’t done nothing of the killing sort! I’m just threatening you, aren’t I?

 

Help! Help!

 

(HENRY appears on the balcony above, wrapped in a blanket, quickly woken from sleep.)

 

What the hell is going on down there?

 

Help me!

 

Tim?

 

Master Henry?

 

Fairweather?

 

Thank God! Help me, Doctor Black! Help me, I’m being killed!

 

What?

 

He’s raving, sir! I was collecting up my fishing things and he thinks I’m out to gut ’im…

 

Help me, Doctor Black! I’ve been accosted by a villain!

 

Tim, what are you doing? Let him go!

 

(Releasing OTIS) You know this mad bastard?

 

This man is my banker.

 

Good God, Doctor Black, this hooligan has a knife!

 

It’s a paring knife, you loon! Couldn’t cut a potato skin, could ya? Bloody blue Christmas… I told him, sir, I had a right to be fishing, but he accosted me just the same. Typical toff…

 

Accosted? Fishing? I’ve never heard such ludicrous lies!

 

Mister Fairweather, what’s this about?

 

As I have been at pains to stress, I’ve come on a matter of personal business. If you’ll recall, the provision of your latest loan is subject to an impartial assessment of your assets. I believe I made my intentions abundantly clear to your young thug servant here…

 

Oi, that’s assistant, I’ll have you know /

 

Tim…

 

Never mind, Master Black, I’ll just endure this slander, shall I? It’s only my pride…

 

Tim, if it pleases you, kindly show Mister Fairweather inside.

 

But Master Henry /

 

I shall be down momentarily. (He exits)

 

(A cold silence between OTIS and TIM. TIM gestures OTIS inside with a great show of courtesy. They enter the warehouse.)

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