Taboo (2017) s01e01 Episode Script

Shovels and Keys

1 [thunderclap.]
[thunder rumbles.]
[thunder rumbles.]
[thunder rumbles.]
[church bell chimes.]
[women chatter.]
[he intones unknown language.]
Forgive me, Father for I have indeed sinned.
[sea birds caw, church bell tolls.]
[men shout in distance.]
[cockerel crows.]
[shouting and chatter.]
[coarse laughter.]
MAN: Behold! A witness! Took the cursed Bonaparte and threw a rope around his neck CHILDREN: Threw a rope around his neck Behold! A good man! Behold! A man of his calling! Behold, a witness to God's deep love for us all.
[church bell tolls.]
[low choral singing.]
Geary, I do not wish to be indelicate, but did you pay the grave-diggers the extra shilling? What extra shilling? To bury your father deeper in the ground.
Resurrectionists pay extra to be buried two feet deeper than the rest.
That way, the grave-robbers can't dig down to their meat before the sun comes up.
My wife has no business with the grave-diggers.
Her father will rest at the regular depth.
[doors open.]
[doors close heavily.]
Dear God.
There walks a dead man.
[she gasps.]
Who is that? Is hell opened up? Dear Lord Almighty, is that your brother? Before we begin, may we bow our heads in prayer? Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
- Thy kingdom come - [congregation murmur along.]
thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread [church bell tolls.]
For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother, here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground.
Earth to Earth - [he mutters in unknown language.]
- ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
In sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.
[he mutters in unknown language.]
We will change our vile body [he continues muttering.]
according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.
[whispering in unknown language.]
[he grunts.]
Sir? Mr.
Delaney, is it? Sir? - James Delaney, is it? - Who are you? - They said you were dead.
- I am.
Such a shallow grave they dug for my father.
Are you short of a couple of shillings? He was buried to the depth of my love.
Last years, he disgraced me.
Disgrace? Hm.
[woman laughs flirtatiously.]
Were those Negro words he said over the grave? Madness comes out through the umbilical cord.
The pox in Africa goes directly to the brain via these-- these worms.
They-- they crawl through your veins.
- Where is he? - He went to piss.
Any business with him will be conducted in my presence.
See, I have the advantage, I have read the will.
Meaning what? Meaning I need to piss and need no-one to hold my cock.
Begging the lady's pardon.
[horse neighs in distance.]
[gunshot, horse neighs.]
How came you to know that your father was dead? I heard he was sick and I boarded a ship.
Yes, he was sick from madness.
Hear that? Bile and bitterness.
Not a single tear from anyone at the graveside.
I didn't hear any piss at the leather.
Perhaps you had no need, or perhaps you came out here with-- With a purpose? CHUCKLING: James - Who are you? - I'm Thoyt, your father's lawyer.
Smallpox butchered me down to the bone and, yes, I have other business than pissing.
You know, in all of London, only your father believed you were still alive.
It was a symptom of his madness.
But he would talk to you, stand on the north bank of the river and call out to you on the other side.
Yes, I know, I heard him calling.
I'll speak plainly.
Your father drew up a will of which I am executor.
In it, you are his only heir.
But, James, if you came home expecting fortune, there is none.
The only legacy is a poisoned chalice.
Talk to me of poison.
Well, it's a small strip of coastline, directly on the other side of the world, which your father held by treaty with the Nootka tribe.
A wasteland.
If America were a pig facing England, it is right at the pig's arse.
Just rocks and Indians.
The land in your father's will is not only useless, it is dangerous to any who owns it.
They're my rocks now.
James I can arrange the immediate transfer of this particular asset.
[gunshot, horse neighs.]
I'll send you a formal proposition in writing.
[laughter and chatter.]
[they sing mournfully.]
Good day, sir.
These girls arriving are all whores.
They attend the funeral of a widower 'cause they know there'll be lots of old men.
And that animal from Africa is here to pick at an old man's bones, too.
Perhaps we should let Thoyt deal with the matter.
Let's call our carriage.
[he puts down glass.]
One thing Africa did not cure is that I still love you.
And if you are ever short of two shillings, please do not hesitate to ask, as Africa also served me incredibly well.
Well, then you will have no need for legacies now, will you? We were just leaving.
[women laugh flirtatiously.]
[laughter and chatter distorts.]
So, gentlemen, let's begin.
A clerk will record every word that's said, except when a fellow raises his hand.
Words from a raised hand will not enter the record.
Now, the issue today is old man Delaney.
- May he rot in hell.
- [men chuckle.]
The death of that mad old bastard was welcome and, as we thought at the time, beneficial for the honourable East India.
But things have changed.
Thoyt, welcome.
Give us the bad news.
As the late Mr.
Delaney's lawyer, I attended the funeral, and a ghost appeared-- a son we all thought dead in Africa.
James Keziah Delaney.
Wilton, I asked you to do some digging.
Which I have done, sir, and most entertaining it has been.
In temperament, he takes after his mad mother.
She was committed as a resident of Bedlam.
Just stick to what we know about the boy.
So, at the age of 11, his exhausted father and new bride put his son in as a cadet at the East India Company military seminary in Woolwich, the year of our Lord 1798.
Delaney's son was a company boy? And, Sir Stuart, odd to relate, the records show he was once in your own regiment.
Well [he chuckles.]
I commanded so many of the little bastards, I forget.
There is a copy of his attendance record and the year-end report.
Yeah, year end record too.
My God! Corporal James Keziah Delaney.
Musket, shipcraft, leadership.
" But, sir, then along came the year of our Lord 1800.
Exceptional in different ways.
I would guess that confidence allowed his true savage nature and mother's madness to emerge.
The necks he broke always belonged to officers.
And then there is the setting ablaze of a Navy boat in an experiment with oil - and mashed potatoes while drunk.
- [laughter.]
And a fight with a bear in Chancery Lane, a rebellion against the cooks for bad custard, started by him, and he raved about fortunes and hidden treasures.
He tried to recruit other boys to go down the river to India, to trade with Red Indians, to take gold from the Aztecs.
And more necks, more whores and more custard.
And finally I am almost exhausted in the telling of it.
Finally, in the year of our Lord 1802, he took himself off to Africa.
Well, now he is returned.
And Delaney's will leaves him everything.
Including Nootka.
Do we have a copy of the Nootka Sound treaty yet? Where perhaps our lawyers could pick it apart? It's yet to surface, Sir Stuart.
And I believe only the original exists.
So, our lengthy negotiations with the daughter were in vain.
If the will has not been read and Nootka is so strategic to us, why don't we just burn it? Even if I did, the son would have natural priority over the daughter, according to God's law.
And his return was purposely in a public way.
Hardly the action of a savage.
Thank you, Mr.
Thoyt, you may leave us.
Pettifer, I hope the report from the Africa desk is as thorough as the one from Mr.
Wilton in the records office.
According to charter records, he went to Cabinda aboard a ship called Cornwallis, then boarded a ship called the Influence, bound for Antigua.
It was a slave ship.
It sank off the Gold Coast, and it was assumed Delaney was dead.
Then the rumours began.
There have been rumours about James Keziah Delaney these past ten years but in the file I have put only the facts, sir, not the rumours.
[he snorts quietly.]
What are the rumours? Awful, and unnatural, and, I'm sure, untrue.
What fucking rumours? [birdsong, men shout in distance.]
Who's there? This pistol is loaded.
My God.
Perhaps by ship and by carriage.
Hm? Come here.
Ah! Where's your propriety, Brace? Servant and master? Get off me.
- Begging your pardon, sir.
- What, why? Begging your pardon, but what the hell are you doing here? Oh, no, there will be no pardon for you because you are the captain of the mutineers.
And you will hang.
For being a pirate, you vagabond! How's the leg? I broke my left knee swinging from a tree, being an ape for you.
- You needed a brother.
- Still do.
But a broken down, bent, buckled old butler will have to be sufficient.
You look the same.
I'm not.
Not tea, brandy.
Two glasses.
Sir? Fetch two glasses.
They should have invited you.
To the wake, at least.
Serving stew in the backroom, to hell with that.
In all of this dirty city, there is no-one that I can trust, do you understand? Apart from you.
Ah! [brace coughs.]
You can spare me the old maiden splutter, Brace.
I know that you polish off at least half a bottle of Delaney Company Brandy every night.
- [they chuckle.]
- Hm? James You could have written to your father just once.
In the end, he was calling for you.
I know.
I'd say, "Come on, come in.
Before the tide gets your shoes.
" And he would light these fires on the shore, call out your name and talk to you.
Is that grief, James? Is what grief? And all the while, these gulls hovered around picking at him.
Gulls only come if there is meat.
Oh, aye, meat there was.
Men of affairs, they call themselves.
Don't you want to know what it is they wanted, these gulls? I know already.
I doubt that.
A base of land called Nootka Sound.
Nootka was my mother's tribe.
No, no, James.
Your mother came from Naples.
He bought some land and he bought a wife.
And he bought them both for gunpowder.
He told me never to speak to you of buying her.
And yet he told me everything.
When? When he lit his fires on the foreshore.
Nothing you could tell me about that man would surprise me.
He was half human at the end and he would squat right here and make deals with ghosts in the flames.
And he would speak in a language that was like It was like ravens fighting.
And he would talk to you, James.
And he would talk to Anna.
My mother's name was Salish.
You know things only he and I knew.
And it's best we never talk of her when we've had brandy.
[he mutters.]
See, when you live alone with a madman, you-- You become half mad yourself.
But here's the thing, James.
This Nootka Sound is a curse.
It will bring the King and Empire down upon your head.
Please don't talk to me of sense, Brace, because if it is you, I might believe it.
And I have sworn to do very foolish things.
[door opens.]
[she cackles.]
If you're looking for money, those accounts are ten years old.
Where are my father's inventories and his shipping logs? He burnt them all.
The only reason these accounts survived was because I hid them in case the taxman came knocking.
That was delivered at 6 AM this morning by a servant of Mr.
Robert Thoyt.
Thoyt has been trying to buy the Delaney Shipping Company from your father for three years.
Each time, your da would go into the street, scoop up some horse shite and package it up by way of reply.
I imagine the envelope contains a financial offer.
I imagine it does.
Do you have any horse shit on you? Listen, the accounts told me that we have a leasehold of 50 years on the offices in West India docks, 32 years left to run.
Your father hadnae been up there in eight years, sir.
They're all locked up.
Then I will need the key.
Oi! What are you doing with the door? You want a bush, you come through me.
That is private property.
Helga, it's so good to see that you're still working-- even still alive.
You know that I lay with you when I was just a little boy.
Where did you get the key? This key? This is my father's key.
Horace Delaney.
Mmm? Shit.
Yes, shit.
Your father stopped coming.
It was empty.
It was wasted, so close to the docks.
You want tea? No.
Do you want to fuck? - No, I want my family offices back.
- Oh, God.
[she mutters.]
How much do you make here? With the workers in the yard and the boats that moor at the wharf we make £10 a day.
I can give you five and whatever you like.
Boys, girls, suck, fuck You have two hours to get out.
You say I took your cherry.
Where have you been, little boy? - I have been in the world.
- Oh.
I have girls, but I also have men.
[she chuckles.]
They're not very good men.
- You understand? - Mm-hmm.
They have rocks for hearts.
They have knives and ropes.
If you have any sense People who do not know me soon come to understand that I do not have any sense.
Now, please do not misunderstand the situation.
You send me 12 men, I will return you 12 sets of testicles in a bag, and we can watch your little whores devour them together, before I chop off your trotters and boil them.
Two hours.
You I remember you.
I remember you.
Heard the stories.
If I give you a girl, I will never see her again.
You heard right.
Be punctual.
- They've brought the carriage up.
- Yes.
I'm coming.
You're not imploring him to relinquish his deed, you're insisting that, for his own welfare, he submit his claim to you.
Implore is a more feminine word.
And why must you be a woman to him? The offer of £50 should be conditional on him leaving England.
Why? Because if he does not leave England, I will kill him.
Why? That is a very good question.
Why would I feel that way about him, after meeting him only once? The son of the same father as the woman I love Why does a soldier know that a nigger bowing low has a dagger in his shoe and is reaching for it? Delaney is nothing more than a nigger now.
You know that, don't you? I have talked with seasoned merchants who could barely bring themselves to repeat these stories.
Among Christian soldiers, it's customary to bury the bodies of your fallen enemy and shoo away the dogs and crows that come for the carrion.
Not kneel down beside them.
Try again, this time reflecting the disgust you naturally feel now you know the truth.
Hmm? The dogs here live off the flesh from suicides jumping off Blackfriars Bridge.
Never known one go tamely to a man's hand.
Must be some witchcraft you picked up somewhere.
What do you want? You think your father's kid feeds himself.
I heard you done a lot of evil over there.
Now it's time for you to do some bleeding good among your own.
Me and my wife have looked after that boy for ten years with not one penny from you and nothing but threats from the mad old bastard you just put in the ground.
Now you're back, I want payment.
If it wasn't for us, that kid would be sucking cocks in St.
Ibbotson, I've been meaning to pay you a visit.
You're a liar just like your father.
You're a Delaney.
Tell you what You get me an address, and I will get you payment in the form of a banker's draft.
- How much? - Enough.
Good day.
You don't even ask how your own blood fares.
If you don't approve of me steadying my nerves with Madeira, then perhaps you should consult the directory of the Royal College of Physicians, see you know many others of them will agree to carry out this kind of work.
I intend to mix the contents of his stomach with potassium oxide, calcium oxide and nitric acid.
I'll know in 20 minutes.
Come back when the church bell chimes.
[woman screams.]
ECHOING VOICE: You did this.
- You will pay for this.
- No.
No, because I have no fear to feed you with.
No fear to give you and I will prove it.
Sing for me like you once did as the river caught your tongue.
Ee neem sea wo ha ha.
That will teach you not to steal, won't it? Ee neem sea wo ha ha.
Ee neem sea wo ha.
You're not here.
You are not here.
I have no fear for you and I have no guilt for you.
I did as others did and as others had me do, and we are all owned, and we have all owned others so don't you dare stand there and judge me.
Today, I have work to do.
[bell tolls.]
The horizontal chamber contains the gas from the stomach contents.
Now the moment of truth.
As you see, the flame has formed a reflective surface on the glass, what is known as an arsenic mirror.
Your father was poisoned.
From the density of the mirror, I would say heavy doses over a short period, and, yes, it would have affected his mind in the later stages.
You want him reburied? Yes, and sewn back up into one piece.
I would recommend they dig a bit deeper this time.
If this body is used for any other purpose, I will find you and I will kill you.
You tell every member of your profession I know things about the dead.
And I will know.
Do you want any words said over him when we put him back? No-one is listening.
[door slams.]
He's meeting with the East India.
Apparently, they're happy to deal with the devil and leave us penniless.
The letter, it seemed, did no good.
He was never one to be told.
Well, we have legal rights, and it's time that savage was made aware.
- I know he's your brother but - Half-brother.
he leaves me no choice.
[she laughs.]
[he chuckles.]
- I'm going out.
- Good.
I'm tired of these empty threats you keep bandying around.
Empty? I'm your husband and you are my wife.
And I will protect our interests by whatever means necessary.
And as for him, well, he should have stayed where he belongs, in the jungle, dancing naked and screwing wild pigs, and his slaves in their chains.
He will leave soon.
You're quite right, he doesn't belong in this world.
[he bangs the door.]
I decided to bring it in person.
Now, this is for the past, the present and the future.
Take me to the boy.
I want to see if you're lying to me or not.
Yes, sir, Mr.
Do you want to talk with him? No, I'm not a fit man to be around children.
Fate can be hard, so you put money aside for his future in case he grows up to be rash, like me.
Will you wish to see him again? No.
Not ever.
John Pettifer, East India Company, Africa desk.
James Delaney.
Benjamin Wilton, records, Abraham Appleby, our delegate from Christ, and this is Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the Honourable East India Company across the surface of the entire Earth.
You don't remember me.
One remembers those one looks up to more readily than those you look down upon.
I believe you were a cadet.
Yes, you were my commander.
Oh, well, blame brandy and old age, hmm? Please, sit.
- Brandy? - No.
To begin, may I offer our sincere? Please understand-- hypocrisy I hate most.
- Indeed.
Let us not pretend-- - No, do not pretend.
I wonder if Mr.
Appleby might be allowed to finish a sentence? We are told that in your father's will, you were bequeathed a piece of territory which lies just here.
As you will see, the small piece of land your father bought off the Indians is now by virtue of geography a point of contention between His Majesty's Government and the cursed United States.
So Hmm? Ah, Mr.
Delaney, you've been in Africa for a number of years, so you may be unaware that Britain and the United States are currently at war.
I know.
Ah, well, you will understand, then, that private ownership of the Nootka Sound landing ground represents an opportunity for our enemies who dispute its sovereignty when the time comes to draw the border.
I know.
Yes, I know.
I also know that the British and American Government are preparing to begin their secret peace talks in Ghent, aren't they? And negotiators are preparing depositions to draw the Canadian-American border for when the current hostilities end.
And because of the strategical position of Nootka Sound, whoever owns it has legal entitlement to the entire island of Vancouver, which is Well, which is the gateway to to China.
Hmm? So this This small piece of land that my father bought for beads, bless him, and gunpowder, some 30 years ago, actually will be very, very valuable to the Crown and to the East India, but also incredibly valuable to the Americans.
Delaney, as a British subject, you owe a debt of loyalty to your King and country.
If patriotism is not in your motivation, perhaps money can be.
Before your unexpected return, we had agreed a figure with your half-sister.
Her husband drove a particularly hard bargain.
I'm sorry, no.
Nootka Sound is not for sale.
Open the envelope.
Are you deaf? - Oh, Mr.
Delaney - Mr.
Delaney, perhaps The Leviathan of the Seas, is it? The terrible shadow? The beast with a million eyes and a million ears? Conquest? Rape? Plunder? I studied your methods in your school.
And I do know the evil that you do because I was once part of it.
- Are you sure you won't take a brandy? - Yes.
Please take a moment to consider the consequences of your refusal What consequences? What consequences? Perhaps we should adjourn.
Delaney I'll give you one last chance to behave like a loyal subject of His Majesty and the lawful crown of England.
Sell this land for a reasonable price.
Hmm Please.
The balance of your father's mind was, well, unstable but you have no such excuse.
Now, why don't you just open the fucking envelope? Mmm? Hmm Good day.
[door closes.]
Well [he laughs.]
The son is as unstable as the father.
Perhaps the rumours about him are true.
I'd hoped to settle this matter in a modern way, but that's not going to be possible.
He's all yours.
Dear James, the letter I sent to you this morning was written under the supervision of my husband, to whom I am happily married.
It is more than ten years since you went away, and at the time I was grateful that you had decided to leave England, for both of our sakes.
Whatever happens with this business of inheritance, and no matter if it results in a dispute, I hope I can trust you to keep the secrets of the past buried, buried in a deeper grave.

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