There's No Place Like WENN


By Emma Redmer

Rated: PG

Disclaimer: As with before, all characters (except for Giselle Bedeux) are the property of Howard Melter Productions and Rupert Holmes. No infringement is intended.

Italics denote thoughts and French words

March 26th, 1942 - the Reception Area, WENN, 6:50 AM

"OUCH!"

Gertrude "Gertie" Reece had just pricked her little finger on a garland of fragrant yellow roses as Betty Roberts entered WENN. The ginger-haired receptionist muttered several words she'd learned from her husband Harry, most of them curses he picked up working at the New York docks. She calmed down when she caught sight of Betty.

Betty was practically floating. The cream-colored bridal gown that she carried on her arm swished on the polished floor. "Hello, Gertie!" she said happily. "How's the wedding decorating going?"

Gertie couldn't help smiling herself. Betty's delight was infectious. "Oh, it's going all right, as long as I'm careful with the roses. Those things bite!"

Betty nodded dreamily as she gathered her mail and then headed for the writer's room. Gertie watched her. It wasn't every day that the small Pittsburgh radio station she worked for hosted a real wedding, but in the past few months, it hosted two. October saw the (legal) second marriage of Mr. Jeff Singer and Miss Hilary Booth. If Jeff and Hilary getting together again wasn't enough, today's wedding was the union of the most improbable lovers in Pennsylvania - Scott Sherwood and Betty Roberts.

******

Betty Roberts was settled comfortably behind her typewriter, but she couldn't concentrate on Amazon Andy and Brent Marlowe's perpetual amnesia today. She was getting married to Scott Sherwood, of all people. She hadn't thought it would ever happen. No one had. They had been an odd couple from the start, him with his scams and cynicism and her with her scripts and idealism. Odd couples fell for each other all the time in the movies - just look at that MGM movie "Woman of the Year" - but Pittsburgh wasn't the movies.

"Bonjour! Do you have today's schedule?" asked a heavily French-accented voice. Giselle Bedeux timidly entered the writer's room, breaking Betty's reverie.

Giselle was the new station engineer. She had replaced C.J when he was drafted by the US Navy. The diminutive Frenchwoman's slender figure, golden blonde hair, and soft blue eyes recalled Celia Mellon, a young actress who had once worked at WENN. However, where Celia had been brassy and bold, Giselle was quiet and soft-spoken. She spoke precious little, although she was as fluent in English as in her native language. Her Jewish family had fled to America from Marseilles, France, when it became occupied by the Germans. Giselle had learned about radio and radio equipment from her father, who had owned a small radio station not unlike WENN in Marseilles. She had been hired in late January, and while her accent and use of French words was had taken some time to get used to, her ability with the microphones and other technical aspects of the station was commendable. The young woman was as dedicated to her job as C.J had been. Betty handed the girl the requested schedule. "Here you go, Giselle."

Giselle laughed. "I am so happy, Mademoiselle Roberts. You would think that I was the one getting married! I do love weddings! 'Bridal Bouquet' will be tres exciting!" The little French refugee looked over her shoulder and beat a hasty retreat to the control room. Betty wondered who or what had frightened her so much.

"Betty," snapped an annoyed voice, "I know that you're getting married today and that you must be very happy and all, but it would be nice if Jeff and I could have the scripts for 'Bedside Manor' before Eugenia finishes the show's theme song!"

Hilary Booth stood at the doorway, already dressed in her maid-of-honor's gown and wide-brimmed hat. The expression on her face would curdle the sweetest cream. Betty now understood what frightened Giselle. Hilary intimidated the newcomer to no end, although Jeff had yet to make so much as a pass at the girl.

Betty sighed and handed Hilary the scripts. Hilary looked much happier as she left. Hilary's demand had reminded Betty that she had better get going on the scripts. She didn't want to be writing while she and Scott were on their three-day honeymoon in Atlantic City. How Scott had managed to find an open hotel in March that they could afford Betty would never know. Then again, she probably didn't want to know.

Scott's proposal came on Christmas day, the culmination of five months of dates and movies and time spent together, getting closer to one another. Between Pruitt's betrayal and Victor's disappearance, Gloria Redmond's rehiring Scott as station manager on short notice, and Hilary and Jeff re-marrying on "Bridal Bouquet" in October, WENN had been hectic. Then came Pearl Harbor, and everything changed. Scott and Jeff were rejected by the war department due to wounds that were inflicted on them in the Spanish Civil War and in London. Wartime travel restrictions kept Betty sadly but patriotically in Pittsburgh for the holidays.

Spending Christmas together was Scott's idea. He knew that she didn't like to spend holidays alone and figured they could keep each other company. They decorated a small tree with cheap ornaments at his apartment and went to church together, although Scott claimed that he hadn't been in a church since he was about four. They exchanged what presents they could afford after church.

Just as Betty had thought they were finished with the gift-giving, Scott removed a little velvet box from his pocket. Inside was a gold engagement ring with a real - albeit very small - diamond. It was then that he hesitantly asked her to marry him. She agreed. He'd been wonderful these past few months, and though she missed and loved Victor, she couldn't wait for him forever. Scott had kept the cons and scams to a minimum since his re-hiring. Oh, there'd been some schemes, and a few that she didn't exactly approve of, but she couldn't deny her love for him. She loved Victor too, but he hadn't been heard from since Pearl Harbor and was probably still after Pruitt.

The next three months went by in a blur of bridal showers and preparations. It was a wonder that she got any scripts written at all. Their families and many of their friends had send gifts, and some of the sponsors had even offered to help with the wedding. Scott had made a deal with Broomes Brothers; if they loaned Betty and him bridal outfits and tuxedos, he'd create a weekend show for them that had Maple, Hilary and Eugenia describing the latest fashions for ladies from their store. Flowergrams sent Betty's bouquet and the rose garlands that Gertie was hanging all over the station. Even Gloria Redmond agreed to perform at their wedding.

A knock at Betty's door brought the scriptwriter back to reality. "Come in. It's open." she said.

Scott Sherwood stood in the doorframe in his shirtsleeves. His untied bow tie was draped around his neck, and he hadn't buttoned the last two buttons of his shirt. His black-silver hair was attractively tousled and his brown eyes shined. "Betty, Betty, Betty!" he said with a grin. "How's the future Mrs. Scott Sherwood?"

Betty met him at the door. "Scott! What are you doing here? It's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding!"

Scott gave her a Look as she tied the tie and buttoned his shirt. "I need to talk to you about something important in my office."

"I'll be there in fifteen minutes, Scott. I just have to start these scripts, or all I'm going to do while we're in Atlantic City is type soap operas," Betty replied.

He leaned over and kissed her. "I love you, Betty Roberts."

She kissed him back. "I love you too, Scott Sherwood. Just let me get going with the scripts."

He left and she began the script for "Amazon Andy". She was starting "Home Sweet Home" when the door was flung open again. Gertie rushed into the writer's room, followed by Giselle, Mr. Foley, and Mr. Eldridge. The tiny girl looked flustered and the others seemed anxious.

"Betty, there is a man in the storage closet! I do not know him..." Giselle began breathlessly.

Gertie interrupted her. "I saw him too! I was getting more tacks to hang the garlands up with and Giselle was walking back to the control room with her mail when we saw a head peek out of the air ducts. If I didn't already know that Victor was in London tracking down that horrible Mr. Pruitt, I would have thought it was him!"

"It was him!" Mr. Eldridge insisted. "I met Victor when I was coming here to do whatever I do here and he told me that he needed to talk to Betty and Scott and I wasn't to reveal this to anyone but them!"

Giselle frantically turned to Mr. Foley. "Monsieur Foley saw him! He told me that he spied him in the alley next to this building!" Mr. Foley opened his mouth to reply when Gertie interrupted again.

"This is ridiculous!" she shouted. "I know what I saw! It was Victor Comstock in a mustache and a fake hairpiece!"

"His eyes were brun and quite sad," recalled Giselle. "His hair was also brun and did not seem real to me."

This was too much. Betty stiffly got up, walked past them with an unusually brusque "Excuse me, please," and headed for the storage closet. She made sure that Gertie was in the green room and the others were in Studio A before she cautiously opened the door.

A familiar voice whispered "Come in, Betty. We've really got to talk." Betty was pulled in the closet by a long arm.

******

Where is she? thought Scott Sherwood. His bride to be was never late for anything and chided him when he was. Well, this is a fine kettle of fish! He was the one with secrets to reveal for once. He was aware of the fact that Victor was back in Pittsburgh. He saw him at a waterfront tavern he frequented. Victor was disguised with a mustache and a (bad) toupee, but Scott spotted him and waylaid the Allied agent outside on the docks.

Victor refused to admit why he was there, only to tell Scott that he and Betty were in terrible danger and that he would come and reveal more at WENN in the morning. He took off before Scott could ask any questions.

Scott couldn't begin to guess what Victor's highly confidential information was. He also wasn't sure of how he was going to react to the union of him and Betty. He knew that Betty and Victor were in love before he came on the scene, and that Betty still had some feelings for him. Scott couldn't begin to count the times that he looked at Victor's photo in the hallway and was reminded of the man who represented the barrier between him and the woman he loved, the man who set the standard for managing WENN and felt immensely jealous and, yes, even a shade inadequate.

Victor's the one who gave her up, Scott thought obstinately. He chose to leave. I chose to stay here. Years ago...who am I kidding, two years ago...I would have taken off from Pittsburgh without a second thought. WENN was just another con until we received the news of Victor's death. I couldn't abandon Betty or the station after that. They both needed me.

A knock at the door broke Scott from his musings. He jumped up from his desk with a loud "It's about time, Betty Roberts!" and went to the door. He stopped when it was halfway open and stared at the face in front of him. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the person standing in the doorframe.

"You're not Betty! You..." A damp rag clamped itself over his mouth and nose before he could complete his cry. The odd chemical scent threatened to engulf him. His head spun. He struggled weakly a few times before passing out on the floor of his office.

******

Victor Comstock snatched Betty into the storage closet at WENN. It was awkward, but she finally managed to turn to face the man whom she would have given her life to three years ago. At least he's not dressed as a police officer again, she thought. He wore a simple, everyday suit and hat. He also wore a mustache and a none-too-convincing toupee. Victor spoke before she could. "Betty, what I have to say is extremely urgent. It could be the difference between life or death for you, me, Scott, and everyone at this station. Pruitt has come back."

Betty felt her heart leap into her throat. "Back to Pittsburgh?"

Victor nodded. "Yes. He went to London for a few months, but apparently the Nazis thought he'd be more useful in his native country." His voice became grave. "Betty, he's out for blood. The FBI intercepted orders from the Nazis to Pruitt to bring you, me, and Scott back to Berlin dead or alive. It would be best if you and Scott left the city until Pruitt is apprehended by the government."

Betty's voice trembled. "Scott and I were going to Atlantic City on our honeymoon today. We have tickets for the 5:00 train."

"Honeymoon?" Victor said, surprised. "You're getting married?"

Betty nodded. "I love you, but I love Scott, too. Scott has stood by me for more than two years. You have your work with radio and the Allies."

"So, you're marrying Scott Sherwood. He seems like a nice enough man. He'll make a wonderful husband for you," Victor said politely, although he felt as if his heart was snapped in two. "Congratulations to the both of you. When's the ceremony?"

"Today at two o'clock on 'Bridal Bouquet.' Hilary's the maid of honor, Jeff's the best man, Maple's the flower girl, Gertie's the bridesmaid, Mr. Foley will be our ring bearer, and Mr. Eldridge is going to give me away, since my family can't get down from Indiana," explained Betty.

Victor cautiously poked his head out of the closet. He could see the silhouettes of Mr. Eldridge and Gertie hanging up rose garlands in the green room. They'd have to be careful. He didn't want anyone but Betty and Scott to know he was here yet.

"Victor, what..."Betty began. Victor put a finger to his lips and quietly pulled her out of the closet and across the hallway to Scott's office.

******

They entered the office together. "Scott?" Betty asked carefully. A groan answered her.

"Miss Roberts, how are you," asked a menacing but familiar voice. "Or should I call you Mrs. Sherwood? I heard about your wedding on the radio. I'm rather upset at not being invited to the ceremony. After all, I was GLOBE's financier until Gloria Redmond fired me after last summer's little scandal and rehired your dear rogue to manage this hole-in-the-mud station." Rollie Pruitt sat in the desk chair smirking at the scriptwriter and the spy. "Why, Mr. Comstock, what a surprise. We haven't seen each other in several months, since London, I believe." Pruitt pointed a pistol at Betty and Victor. He was slimmer than he had been last August, but the arrogant sneer and the ugly countenance hadn't changed at all.

"Betty? Is that you," mumbled a hoarse voice. Betty's heart leaped. She slowly turned to face the left corner. Her groom had been bound to the visitor's chair. His face was ashen. He gradually opened his eyes and squinted at the couple in the doorway. "Victor?"

"Scott!" exclaimed Betty. "Pruitt, what did you do to him?"

Pruitt held up a rag. "I drugged him, Miss Roberts. He'll be coming to Berlin with me." Pruitt reached in his pocket and pulled out a silencer. "As will the two of you. The Nazi cause could use bright folks like you."

"What if we refuse to return with you to Berlin?" asked Victor. Betty had never heard him sound so angry.

Pruitt aimed the pistol at the drugged station manager in the corner. "Then Miss Roberts will become a widow before she becomes a wife."

Betty started toward Scott, but Pruitt fired the gun. It lodged in the wall near Scott's head. "Keep that up, Miss Roberts, and Mr. Sherwood will be dead before he can say 'I do' at the alter," Pruitt threatened icily.

"Pruitt," Victor said desperately, "I'm the one you want. Let Betty and Scott go. They're just two innocent people who would never have gotten involved in this mess if I hadn't come here last year and told Betty about me."

The Nazi agent narrowed his eyes. "My instructions were to bring the three of you back to Berlin dead or alive. I have no intention of failing my superiors again."

"No, Pruitt," snapped Betty through clenched teeth. "I'm not going to Berlin. Victor and Scott aren't either. We don't subscribe to your cause, and you can't force us to."

"Atta girl, Betty," Scott said with as much brightness as he could muster. His head was still swimming from the chemicals Pruitt employed on him. "I knew you had it in you."

Pruitt sighed. "What a pity. I was looking forward to having some company on that long flight to Berlin." He swung the pistol back to Scott. "It's a shame your fiancÚ will have to pay for your defiance, though. You might have had a lovely life together."

Betty couldn't take it any longer. She rushed at Pruitt and grabbed the hand that clutched the gun, trying to deflect it to the wall or the ceiling, anything that wasn't human flesh.

"Take the gun from him, before he fires it again," shouted Scott. He struggled with the twine that held him fast to the chair.

A shot rang out. Betty was certain that it hadn't come from Pruitt's weapon. He slumped in her arms and collapsed onto the floor. A large red patch blossomed on his shirt where the bullet had entered.

Victor Comstock returned his gun to his jacket pocket as Gertie Reece and Tom Eldridge came rushing into the office. Victor took Pruitt's pulse, but it was a useless gesture. The Nazi spy and former GLOBE accountant and WENN station manager was dead.

******

The future Mrs. Scott Sherwood stood in the green room as Gertie Reece and Maple LaMarsh fussed over her. She spent most of the morning and a great deal of the afternoon being grilled by Pittsburgh cops and FBI agents who seemed to be convinced that she was the one who did the shooting. They'd released her earlier in the afternoon but had kept Victor for additional questioning. Scott had been sent to the nearest hospital to be treated.

Her husband-to-be announced in Studio B that WENN staff members had caught the notorious Nazi spy who had alluded them last summer. It was actually a repeat of Mackie's earlier news broadcast. Scott still sounded a little subdued, but the hospital had reassured her that the drug Pruitt had used on him wasn't very strong and that he would be fine for their wedding.

Gertie took a small, intricately carved wood box out of her purse. She opened it and removed a beautiful ivory cameo. "My first husband gave this to me as a wedding gift," she explained. "It had belonged to his mother, who wore it to her wedding. Now, I want you to wear it to your wedding. I think Harry would have wanted it, too."

Betty was shocked. "Gertie, this is gorgeous. This must mean a lot to you."

"It's priceless in both senses of the word." Gertie leaned over and hugged the younger woman. "That's why I'm giving it to you. I want you and Scott to have all the happiness in the world." She smiled and pinned the cameo to Betty's collar. This was a rather difficult task, as Gertie had been wiping her eyes and her fingers were slippery with tears.

Maple was attaching the veil to Betty's thick pile of brown curls. "There we go." she said soothingly. "I'm finished."

The two women looked the lovely bride over. Betty was a vision in cream satin and ruffles. Her veil was made of French lace that was imported before the war. She carried a small bouquet of cream-colored roses in her hands. Gertie and Maple's outfits were similar to Hilary's. Maple carried a wooden basket of yellow roses, and Gertie held a single yellow rose.

"Now I know what I've missed in all these years of not having children," Gertie said.

"Gosh, it's too bad our listeners can't see you, 'cause you sure look swell," added Maple.

"Your guests and your co-workers can see you, however, and you do look quite beautiful, dear," noted Hilary Booth as she entered the green room. "In fact, Jeff and I have a little wedding present for you. You know the old adage, 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue'? Well," she thrust a messily wrapped package into Betty's hands. "Here's something new - sort of, since Gertie beat me to the something old and Broomes Brothers provided the something borrowed."

Inside the box were two tickets to see Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" at a small but prestigious theater in downtown Pittsburgh. "It's only running for a few days next month," said Hilary proudly, "but the way I figure things, a chance to perform Shakespeare for any amount of time is better than arguing over whether a amateur playwright's script is comic or tragic."

Giselle entered next. The small Frenchwoman held a fat box in her trembling hands. "All we are missing is le something blue. It is not much," the young refugee blushed, "but I hope that you and Monsieur Sherwood will like it. I am fond of the both of you and I want you to be happy."

Inside the box was a plump, blue porcelain teapot. Betty ran a finger over a small chip in the spout. "I bought it in an antique store in Marseilles. It makes magnifique tea et chocolate."

Betty felt overwhelmed. She impulsively hugged the girl. "Thank you, Giselle. It's beautiful. And thank you all. I don't know what I'd do without you folks."

"May I speak with the bride alone?" asked a quiet voice. Victor Comstock, looking haggard and pale, came into the green room.

"Of course," replied Hilary Booth. She and Gertie ushered the other four women out. Giselle stopped at the door and studied Victor for a moment.

"So," she said curiously, "that is the Monsieur Victor Comstock I have heard so much about. He seems tres nice." The young woman smiled and waved good bye. "Au revoir, Monsieur Comstock," she added before closing the door.

"Victor..." Betty began, but Victor stopped her.

"Don't, Betty. It'll only make this harder than it already is for me. I'm leaving for good."

"What? What do you mean?" asked Betty.

"The US government and the Allies want me to move to California under a different name. I could have turned them down, but I chose not to. I'm going to start over there and create a whole new identity. I love you, Betty Roberts, and I always will, but I can't keep dragging you into my problems. I don't want people like Pruitt to constantly threaten you and Scott. Just my returning here today endangered the lives of two people who had nothing to do with the government or the war or the Axis or the Allies."

"What about us?" Betty exclaimed. "When you supposedly died in London, I went insane mourning for you. I was worried sick the entire time you played Jonathan Arnold."

"Betty, I'm a wanted man. There's a five thousand-dollar price on my head in Berlin. The lives of everyone who knows me are in danger as long as I remain in Pittsburgh." He gently kissed Betty's red lips. "I'll never forget you, Betty Roberts." He walked out of the green room and down the hallway. Betty followed him. Gertie looked up from the radio as Victor opened the main hallway door.

"Thank you for saving our lives, and well, for everything you've done for the staff, Scott, WENN, and me," Betty told him.

Victor smiled and nodded. "You're welcome." He left, and was gone. It was the fourth and probably last time that Victor Comstock would walk out of her life. Betty sighed and rubbed the cameo on her neck to comfort herself.

"Don't worry, honey. Nobody ever falls out of love completely," Gertie assured her. "Lord only knows that I still have feelings for my husbands."

Mackie came running out of Studio A dressed in the tux that Broomes Brothers had provided. "Hilary is announcing 'Bridal Bouquet' as I speak," he ranted nervously. "Gloria Redmond will sing first, followed by Eugenia with 'Here Comes the Bride'. Maple goes in first, then Hilary and Gertie, and last of all Eldridge and the bride. The priest is ready to go and Giselle is flooding the control room. I never saw a girl cry so much over a wedding." He gave Betty a worried look. "Is everything okay, Betty?"

Betty gazed over her shoulder at the door one last time and sighed, "Yes, Mackie, everything's wonderful."

Old Tom Eldridge took her arm as the procession lined up in the hallway. "Now, now, don't be sad. You heard what Victor said. He's going to start all over again. I think that's a good idea. People ought to start over again more often. You have Scott and everybody at this station."

Mr. Eldridge is right, and so is Victor, Betty thought as they waited for Gloria Redmond to finish her song. It's time for everyone to make a new beginning.

******

Betty Roberts entered Studio A to the strains of Eugenia's organ and Mr. Foley's chimes. Her handsome groom and his equally handsome best man stood near the control room. Giselle dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. Gloria Redmond beamed like a proud matron. Maple handed Eugenia a well-used handkerchief and then produced one for herself.

Betty smiled and took Scott's hand. He seemed a mite shaky from the drug, but his face had regained its color. The rest of the procession sat down or stood in front of microphones. Scott was grinning that cockeyed grin of his. His white and black tuxedo looked perfect on him.

What a change from her first day at WENN, when she couldn't get a decent meal - or any respect from the skeptical staff. This had eventually become a home to her, as much as Elkhart and possibly more. There's no place like home! she thought joyfully as she and Scott took their vows. There's no place like home. There's no place like home....

******

Epilogue

Victor Comstock drove away from the station and the girl who had once been his life. He knew that they were both in good hands. Scott would take care of Betty and WENN, and Betty would keep Scott out of any serious trouble. They would be good for each other.

He had his car radio tuned to the "Bridal Bouquet" program. The priest was reciting the vows. He could hear sobbing and nose blowing in the background. He had mixed feelings about the event himself. Part of him was reminded of all the danger his presence had caused Betty, Scott, and the rest of the staff. Pruitt would have murdered them all in cold blood, given the chance. The staff and the station would be safe now, with him gone, Pruitt dead, and the rest of the saboteurs who plagued them since last year dispersed. Part of him, however, remained helplessly in love with the beautiful, brilliant Betty Roberts. That part was terribly jealous of Scott Sherwood and resentful of the Allies and the new life he agreed to embark on.

It hurt, but he knew that he made the right decision. The military had new I.D.s and other papers ready for him at the train station. Victor Comstock no longer existed. His new name was James Morrison, a broadcaster looking for a job on the west coast. The hairpiece was fake and would come off as soon as he got on the train heading west, but the mustache was real and would stay. He kind of liked it. It made his thin face appear fuller.

"I now pronounce you man and wife," declared the priest. "You may kiss the bride." Mr. Foley rang his chimes and Eugenia, half-singing, half-sobbing, reprised 'Here Comes the Bride'." The man who was now known as James switched off the radio as Mackie announced the next episode of "The Hands of Time" and Elizabeth Marlowe questioned her husband Brent about the blonde he'd married during his latest bout of amnesia.

The End

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