Death of a Mercenary: Act 1 - Scene 2


ACT I - SCENE 2


PANAMA CITY, PANAMA -- LA TASCA CLUB -- FALL OF 1977 -- EVENING

THE CLUB is a cavernous space with a high ceiling spotted with fans. TRAVEL POSTERS from Latin American sites adorn the whitewashed concrete rendered walls. TROPICAL PLANTS and SMALL PALMS planted in large TERRA-COTTA URNS completes the decor.

The MAIN ENTRANCE opens to a balustrade-veranda from which a stairway leads down about four feet to the main dance floor. SMALL TABLES covered in white cloth are positioned along the walls leaving the centre clear for dancing.

The club is packed with a mixed crowd of animated REGULARS and TOURISTS. Some are standing in the veranda chatting or looking towards the dance floor. Others drink at their tables, the rest dance salsa to the beat of 'Ruben Blades'.

Passed the dance floor, to the left, is a BAR surrounded by high stools. Across the bar, to the right, is a smaller room, which is an open-view extension from the main area. From here, the bar is visible but not most of the dance floor or the entrance. This semi-private area is reserved for small gambling parties who enjoy playing card games or dominoes.

CAMACHO (42) is playing 'briskas' (Spanish cards) with his friends.

CASIANO (32), FREDDIE (26), and CHEWY (early 20's). They pour drinks from a bottle of Don Q and smoke cigars. They are dressed in Latino tropical semi-casual attire (which excludes jeans, tee shirts or shorts).

JIM (39), dressed in colorful civvies and a wide-brim Panama hat, dances with a pretty girl while holding a piña-colada in one hand, the other around the girl's waist.

HELENA (25) enters through the main entrance. She is dressed in dark-color slacks, ladies boots, and a low-cut pastel-colored blouse. A ladies bag is strapped around her shoulder. Her hair is long and worn loose. When she enters, she stops at the veranda and looks down at the dance floor. She spots Jim, waves at him and he -noticing her, waves back. Smiling, she walks down to the dance floor, gives her bag to Jim's dancing partner, and takes over.

Helena, who is an excellent dancer, dances seductively around Jim, who remains moving on the same spot while still holding his drink in one hand. As the song concludes, Jim gallantly bows to her and Helena returns the courtesy with a warm hug. Then Helena gets her purse back, takes Jim's arm, then goes and sits at the bar.


CAMACHO
(Noticing Helena)
Helena, Mi Chula! Come over here and keep me company!
(Then, pointing at a Band-Aid on his neck)
Maybe we can finish what we started last night, eh?

HELENA
(With naked hatred and cool disdain)
Go fuck yourself, Camacho! When I need company I like to have a man with big 'cojones'! [balls]

THE PEOPLE around the table laugh; those who knew better tried not to.


CAMACHO
(Cursing under his breath)
¡Cállense! [Shut up!] (The people comply immediately) Puta pendeja... [You fucking bitch...]

HELENA, visibly upset, orders a 'Cuba Libre' [Bacardí rum and coke drink] and then places her bag on the table. JIM stares serenely into his piña colada. He is a thoughtful, controlled man of calm disposition and easy manner who misses nothing and seems to be intimidated by even less.


JIM
(Trying to sound uninterested)
Mi amor, what was that all about?

HELENA pulls a pistol from her bag, checks the clip, and puts it back.


HELENA
(Murmurs with venom)
I'm going to kill that son-of-a-bitch!

JIM
(Placing his hands on her)
Take it easy.

JULIO (49), the owner of the Club, takes over from the bartender, and brings a bottle of rum, a can of Coka-Cola and a couple of glasses with ice. JIM smiles at him in recognition. Julio is a small but elegant middle age man with thick moustache and push-back snow-white hair, impeccably groomed like Humphrey Bogart in 'Casablanca'.


JIM
(Mixing her a drink)
Here. (then) What's bothering you?

HELENA
(Swallows her drink, then)
I had to work with that slime for the last two weeks.

JIM
(Pouring her another drink)
You where out in the jungle with him?

HELENA
(Distant look)
Yeah, we just got back. (then) Every fucking day he would try something on me, but last night, he went too far.

JIM
(Looking into his drink, expressionless)
Go on.

HELENA
(Sipping at her glass)
He waited until I went to sleep. I woke up when I felt someone touching me. He had a knife to my neck and was working his way down my clothes.

JIM
(Calmly refilling her glass)
Did he...?

HELENA
(Snapping out of her trance)
No! Agustin taught me to sleep with a gun under my pillow. (then) I took his knife and put a mark on him. (spitting bullets) I should have shot the bastard while I had the chance!

JIM
(Placing an arm around her)
He's not worth it. Forget about it, -at least for now. We'll deal with it later. (Pushing the bottle away) And you better take it easy with this.

HELENA grabs the bottles and pours two drinks. She gives one to Jim.


HELENA
(Feeling better)
I'm okay. You're the only one who ever gave a damn about me.
(She picks up a napkin to clears her nose)


JIM
(Turning towards her)
To friendship!
(They have a toast and drink. Then)
And speaking of friends, have you seen Agustin?

HELENA
(Shrugging)
I thought he was here.

JIM
(Shaking her head)
I haven't seen him all day. (then) Does he know you're in?

HELENA
No. We come and go. You know how it is.

JIM
(Teasing)
You mean, between you and Agustin? Oh yes! I know how it is.

HELENA
(Smiles)
Don't you start with me. There is nothing between us.

JIM makes a face that says, "Oh, right. Sure!"


HELENA
(Wearily)
Agustin is incapable of love. All we do is fuck!

JIM
(Philosophically)
Well, that's a start! And... how good is he?

HELENA
(Big laugh, big tease)
Very creative.

JIM
(Really interested)
Oh, come now! Really? (then) I knew there had to be something about him.

HELENA
(Mouth opened in disbelief)
Excuse me?

JIM
(Playing the innocent)
I'm surprised you two got together. He is not your type.

HELENA
(Challenging him)
Oh. Really?

JIM
Querida, you always go for tall, dark, and stupid. I mean, there's nothing wrong with Agustin, but he doesn't fit the pattern. (conspiratorial) So tell me, what's the secret?

HELENA
(Defiantly)
The secret? Indifference! (sighs shrugging away all pretences, then with a distant look) He doesn't want me! Can you believe that?

JIM
(Exaggerated response)
A dish like you? Never! The nerve of that man!

HELENA
(Trying to sound uninterested)
Of course, I never wanted him either.

JIM
(Maintaining the pretence)
Of course you didn't. (a beat, then) But...?

HELENA
(Trying to save face)
It's the principle of the thing!
(Shaking off goose-bumps)
...very sexy!
(Shrugs)
I like a challenge.
(Jim gives probes with a look, then she sighs, hopelessly lost)
To tell you the truth, I don't even know what happened. One night I was bored; hot; lonely; so I took a walk to cool off, have a smoke. And there he was, laying on the ground, gazing at the stars -like an idiot! (then) It was so corny! So I said to myself -"Oh, what the fuck," and walked to him -you know, to say -"Hi, what you looking at"? Then he looked at me and gave me one of his crooked smiles, and I was... gone!
(Recoiling)
The man's got a pact with the devil or something!

JIM
And...?

HELENA
(Blank look)
Nothing! I just sat next to him and... we just talked until the sun came out. (a delightful smile forming) There was this strange beauty about him.

JIM
(An inquiring look)
Strange beauty?

HELENA
(Her old self again)
That's what I call it. Magnetism, charisma, the evil eye! (sigh) I just know that I have never met anyone like him! (then) But he makes me feel... invisible!

JIM
(Grinning)
Then why you keep seeing him?

HELENA
(Grinning back)
I keep seeing him because he is one hell of a lover! That's all.

JIM
(Knowing there is more)
That's all?
(He sips his drink, collects his thoughts and, with a piercing look)
Girl, you got it bad!

HELENA
(Afraid to go there)
What? What are you talking about?

JIM
(Taking a deep breath)
Helena, you are not fooling anyone. You're in love with him!

HELENA
(Feeling vulnerable and angry)
Oh please, Jim! Get real! (then, snapping back angrily) Besides, what do you know about love between a man and a woman? (immediately feels sorry for the remark)

JIM
(Understanding smile)
I know that love is love; I know how it feels when it hurts; and I know we all need a little bit of it. (then) Could you live your life without it?

HELENA
(Softly)
No! Not anymore.

JIM
(Wanting himself to hear it)
Then just say it!

HELENA
(Scared)
Say what?

JIM
(Pressing)
How you really feel!

HELENA
(Mortified)
I don't know how to do that.

JIM
Just say it! Are you in love with Agustin?

HELENA
(Turning to face him, anger)
Yes! Damn you, I am! I love him! Are you happy now?

JIM
(A beat, then softly)
Yes.

JIM simply stares into his drink and, for the first time, HELENA realizes Jim's feelings for Agustin. With a tender look of understanding, she puts her arms around him and kisses his cheek.


HELENA
Oh, Jim... I'm so sorry. He doesn't give a shit about either of us, you know.

JIM
You should tell him how you feel, before... (thinking better of it, he stops before confessing what Agustin has already confided in him)

HELENA
Before what?

JIM
(Half smiling)
Before you miss your chance.

HELENA
(Rolling her eyes)
That'll be the day! (then, wondering aloud) Confess to a man that I love him? (scoffs) Never! (a beat, with deep sadness) Unless...

JIM
Unless what?

HELENA
(Feeling miserable)
-Unless he tells me first.


END OF ACT I - SCENE 2




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