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You Can't Pin A Murder on Nevada

 

Week #1 of 3.

 


The original script is by Carlton E. Morse, copyright 1986/1992 with excerpts from the original

The synopsis is written by Brian Christopher Misiaszek, original material copyright 1999.


Episode 1: Monday May 15th, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 10

ANNCR: Ten oíclock at night, in the chilled pine-scented rarefied air of Immigrant Pass on Highway Forty, somewhere between Sacramento, California and Reno, Nevada!

SOUND: Of motorcycle...with plenty of zip, back-fire, etc.

(Drop to background for announcer)

ANNCR: The motorcycle left San Francisco at five-oíclock this afternoon!...At six-thirty, it passed across the M Street bridge and entered the precincts of Sacramento, avoided the state capitol grounds, and by 7:15 was in Roseville. It was going through the towns that slowed them up, but by eight-oíclock the two-wheeled demon reached Auburn and the first scent of the High Sierra forests. From then onto Colfax the air began to have the feel of icy finger so that the boyish figure of Judy French huddled lower over the handlebars and Jack Packard in the seat behind, pulled his knees in against the iron horse and wondered if that were a mask of ice forming on his face. At Colfax, Judy cut the motor (Motor out) let the machine roll up in front of a dim-lit nondescript shack of a building marked cafe.

SOUND: Of wheels rolling on gravel...sound of brake and skidding stop.

JUDY: (Grunts) There...get off.

JACK: (Groans) If Iím not frozen to my seat.

JUDY: Why didnít you bend down and hide behind me...protect you from the wind?

JACK: You arenít big enough to hide a good sized midget...(grunts) (exhales). There (grunts) legs stiff--do you realize weíve come all the way from San Francisco without a stop...

JUDY: (Little boy laugh) Oooh come on...youíre just putting on that grampa act...youíre a big important detective, remember?

JACK: (Grunts) I suppose you realize youíve kidnapped me?

JUDY: (Gurgles) Really?

The teenaged Judy French, garbed in overalls and a leather jacket, parks her machine. Together she and Jack enter the darkened cafe, seemingly empty. Judy finally introduces herself to Jack (she had literally shanghaied Jack as he left the hospital Doc was recovering in from injuries sustained from their last case, "I Am the Destroyer of Woman"), and tells them theyíve stopped here for some hamburger sandwiches, the best this side of the Sierras. She calls out, and from the back, wiping his hands on his apron, comes the cafeís cook (an old friend of Judyís), a black man named Windy.

Judy orders hamburgers for herself and Jack from Windy, and asks for some extra burgers for the road, as well as a few bottles of milk and such. Windy, curious at her sudden appetite, asks what the food is for, and Judy hurriedly mentions hearing about a landslide up in the pass ahead, and wanting to deliver some food for the road crew working the site. Windy rubs his head in puzzlement; *he* hasnít heard of any landslide up ahead...

Judy convinces him she heard it earlier on the radio, and for Windy to start frying up the burgers; the road crew would be hungry! She looks sidelong over to Jack Packard, who isnít buying any of her obviously contrived story.

JACK: I donít go on cases until I know what things are about...

JUDY: (Protests) But...youíve come this far and--

JACK: And I can refuse to go any further...(pause)...what are these extra sandwiches for?

JUDY: (Hesitates) Nevada!

JACK: (Puzzled) Nevada?

JUDY: He...Heís my uncle...

JACK: (Grunts) So thatís why you said, "Theyíd never pin a murder on Nevada,"?

JUDY: Yes...and thatís what you are for...you arenít going to let them...

Jack is still left in the dark. Who is Nevada? Who is he supposed to have murdered? How is Judy involved? How is he supposed to help? Judy interrupts:

JUDY: Look, all I can tell you now is that Nevadaís partner in the Silver Bear Mine was murdered, and they think Nevada did it and they put him in jail and he broke out...and Iím hiding him back here in the hills...

At Jackís urging, Judy grudgingly lets some further items of information. She and Jack are heading towards Cisco a small town fifteen miles outside of Reno. Cisco is somewhat a tawdry town, with the folks running things being as crooked as a dogís hind leg. The tomboyish Judy spends much of her time with her uncle just outside of town here, despite having her familyís home being inside Reno itself. With her motorcycle, she is fairly free to roam about at her hearts content; her family is resigned to her outlandish ways.

Judyís favorite uncle and favorite friend is Nevada French (but known more often as just "Nevada"), a grizzled prospector who roamed the west in search of gold and other mineral riches. Heís also Judy Frenchís fatherís adopted brother. But Judyís father and Nevada never got along, and when Nevada got to be a desert rat, with a mule and a grub stake and all, the French family disowned him entirely. Judy is the only one of the family who gets along famously with Nevada, both being kindred spirits who enjoy their independence and freedom more than anything. But now, Nevada was in trouble, accused of killing his partner in a new gold strike, Rudy McNamara. Only Judy, with the help of someone she wonít name, is trying to keep him from being railroaded to the death house; everyone else seems convinced of his guilt.

Judyís story is interrupted by the arrival of Windyís hamburgers, along with the bottles of milk and other sundries that Judy ordered for take away. Temporarily short of cash, she asks for and gets an amused Jack to pay the bill for the sack of food. As they are about to leave, Windy suddenly remembers that someone from Cisco dropped off a letter addressed to Judy. Eagerly, she tears open the anonymous letter, as Windy shuffles back to the kitchen to relax from the strenuous cooking ordeal he has just endured.

JUDY: (Excited) Listen to this!...(reads) The posse is on to you...at least they are suspicious...theyíll be watching you every minute...look out for a trap or a roadblock somewhere on Immigrant Pass.

JACK: (Tense) And Immigrant Pass is just ahead...

SOUND Organ, "Valse Triste."

Episode 2: Tuesday May 16th, 1944

SOUND Clock Strikes 10

The announcer recaps the events of the preceding chapter, that Judy Frenchís uncle Nevada is a desert rat, and that his partner, Rudy McNamara, was murdered. Judy is convinced that someone is making him the goat. Someone else is trying to help Nevada too, someone the 17 year old Judy wants to keep secret. At a small diner where Jack an Judy stopped for food, Judy finds a note waiting for her:

JUDY: (Excited) Listen to this!...(reads) The posse is on to you...at least they are suspicious...theyíll be watching you every minute...look out for a trap or a roadblock somewhere on Immigrant Pass.

JACK: (Tense) And Immigrant Pass is just ahead...

JUDY: Yes...are you afraid?

JACK: 17 year old infants should ask important questions...get on that motorcycle.

JUDY: (Eager) Oh yes...(exhales) There...you on?

JACK: (Grunts) Yeah...

JUDY: You want to known something...youíre wonderful...a girl could fall in love with a man like you.

JACK: (Grim) Get that motorcycle started.

JUDY: (Laughs)

SOUND: Explosion of motorcycle...gets underway...down for dialogue

In the darkness, their motorcycle climbs Immigrant Pass, and the two of them catch shadowy glimpses of the breath-taking scenery as their machine climbs higher and higher up the steep mountain pass.

They roar past a sedan parked by the side of the road. Looking back at it, Jack notices with alarm that it has suddenly flashed its headlights on and off. Looking ahead again past Judyís crouched shoulder, he sees the signal returned as someone on a high ridge flashes back. Judy informs Jack with a turn of her head that she recognizes the car. It belongs to Easy Fortuna, owner of the Silver Dollar Gambling Resort. Could this be the trap?

Jack suggests a trick to avoid any possible danger hinted at the warning letter that might have just been sprung. He has Judy turn off the motorcycleís night lamp and the machine races along the moonlit mountain road like a shadowy wraith. At the first good location he spots, Jack motionís Judy to run the vehicle off the road and cut the motor. With the silence of the crickets, and the scent of pine trees in their noses, they lie still for a few moments.

The sedan they have earlier passed noses forward slowly on the road. Just as it passes, Jack motions Judy to gun the throttle of their motorcycle. Instantly the machine leaps past the sedan, and hurdles recklessly into the night. Minutes later, the sedan is nowhere in sight, left miles behind.

Having lost their pursuer they turn off on an old logging road and soon come across an abandoned and dilapidated tool shed in the moonlight. An old mine-shaft is seen nearby. They leave their machine hidden behind some trees, and Jack and Judy hike over a rocky hillside. Over the ridge, they are challenged in the darkness by a mysterious voice, one dusty and raspy with age (think of the voice of Jumpiní Dick from "Bury Your Dead, Arizona.").

Judy calls out; itís her uncle Nevada! Certain now that itís safe, Nevada comes out of the darkness, a grizzled figure with piercing eyes and a strong chin hidden by a dense shrubbery of whiskers. Judy French introduces Jack Packard to her uncle.

JUDY: This is Nevada, my uncle, Jack.

JACK: Yes, Iíve heard a lot about you Nevada...give me your hand.

NEVADA: (Uneasy) Iím accused of murder...

JACK: Give me your hand (pause) (grunts) That doesnít feel like the hand of a murderer to me...

NEVADA: That horny old corned and callused paw! Why, say, that hand ainít been lifted against man nor beast in forty years.

JACK: I believe you.

JUDY: (Eager) You hear that, Nevada...did you hear what he said...he believes you...

NEVADA: Yep...yep, I heard...glad you come, friend...glad you come...

Formalities over, and sitting down on a convenient moonlit boulder, Judy shows Nevada her bundle of goodies; a bottle of milk and several of Windyís famous hamburger sandwiches. As Nevada starts to dig in to this unexpected feast, Jack has a few questions for the two of them. Mainly, why is it that the authorities are accusing Nevada of killing his partner Rudy McNamara?

Around mouthfuls of food, Nevada starts to explain. The day before his partner Rudy had been found murdered, the two of them had struck gold. And not just any strike, this was the real McCoy.

NEVADA: As rich a gold vein as a maníd ever dream of...

And with his partner dead, now only Nevada knows where the gold is hidden!

 

Episode 3: Wednesday May 17th, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 3

The scene opens as the clock strikes three-oíclock in the morning as Jack Packard and Judy French's "desert rat" of an uncle Nevada are seated more comfortably around a camp-fire. Judy has earlier departed, to contact the unnamed "someone" who has taken an interest in helping Nevada keep out of the gas chamber, for reasons of his own. Nevada starts to fill Jack in on his situation, and the hidden background of the town of Cisco.

NEVADA: Yep...a stranger come to Cisco and he wouldnít see nothiní different from any other Nevada town...all the law and order a man could ask for on the face of it...city hall...court house...police station and a mayor and a judge and uniformed police to go with them...yep...canít get around that...Ciscoís got all the paraphernalia of law and order a man could shake a stick at...only trouble is...they're just puppets...yep, that's the word for it, puppets.

Jack learns from Nevada that the mob is run by Derby Stone, a man who earned this unusual nickname because of his unfailing habit to be never seen on the streets of Cisco without his trademark hat, a silver grey derby hat. Boss Derby Stone is the power behind the town of Cisco. At the same time, itís been just over a year that Derby has been seen in public in Cisco, preferring to stay at his ranch outside town (for reasons which will be explained below).

Ironically, while Derby Stone is the power controlling such legal authorities as the Mayor, the Police Chief and the rest of the police department, it was none other than Derby Stone who had sent Judy into San Francisco to enlist Jackís help to save Nevada!

Musing over that mystery and setting it aside for the moment, the topic veers to the matter of Nevadaís personal history. Jack hears that Nevada was adopted by Judy Frenchís grandfather, when Nevadaís parents were killed in a freak dynamite explosion. Nevada *is* legally a member of the French family, and had been raised as one of the family until his adopted fatherís death. Only thing is, he is estranged from his half-brother (and Judyís father), Arthur French, when Nevada announced his plans to become a prospector and roam the state looking for gold. Nevada and Arthur French are not currently on speaking terms, but as to his half-brotherís daughter, "But Iíve always been awfuly fond of Judy..."

Jack learns that Judyís parents are well represented in Reno, and are numbered among the pillars of Reno society. But even their wealth and political power cannot contain their daughter Judyís tomboyish and vagabond ways, including her habit of riding her motorcycle around the countryside at all times of the day and night. They even tried once to shut her up in a convent, but both the nuns and her parents were sorry after only two days...

Jack next directs the conversation to the topic of the murder of Nevadaís partner, Rudy McNamara. Jack learns from Nevada that after both he and Rudy had made their big gold strike, Rudy had spilled the news of their exceptional discovery (if not the location) while drunk in a local Cisco tavern. And now folks think it was Nevada who did the killing, if only to shut Rudy up. When Jack asks him to explain what he meant by this, Nevada told Jack and Judy his unusual story.

After running some small errands, Nevada had come into the very tavern where the drunk Rudy was spinning his tale of a rich gold strike to the enthralled crowd inside. Refusing to remain quiet when Nevada asked his belligerent (and very intoxicated) partner Rudy, Nevada knocked him out with a single mighty haymaker. Hoisting Rudy over his shoulder, Nevada dumped his snoring partner on the bed of his rooming house digs safe and sound.

Only thing was, when Nevada returned several hours later to check in on his partner, he found Rudy McNamara dead with his throat cut!

As Jack digests this news, Nevada continues with some of his speculations. The grizzled desert rat wonders aloud that perhaps the real reason that Derby Stone was willing to help him get of this current jam was to get a share of the gold claim. The latter strike still hasnít been registered with the claims office...

At that point of Nevadaís tale, Judy returns in the company of a stranger. He is soon revealed to be Soapy Cochrane, the foreman from Derby Stoneís ranch. Soapy, with a Texas accent as wide as it is broad, is acting as a messenger for Derby Stone, since his boss is immobilized with his severe gouty arthritis. He also reveals that with his boss laid up at the ranch and unable to check in on his affairs in town, that members of his organization in Cisco, such as the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and Judge Dupre are taking sides and are carving up the town for their own!

SOAPY: Iím gonna let Derby himself tell you what heís gonna do and what he ainít gonna do...but you can bank on one thing...Derby Stone ainít gonna let them pin a murder on Nevada!

MUSIC: (Organ "Valse Triste.")

 

Episode 4: Thursday May 18th, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 4

From the announcerís intro we find the scene has changed to four in the afternoon of the next day. Jack and Nevada cooling their heels at the Silver Derby Ranch, having answered Boss Derby Stoneís summons. Derby Stone is the political boss of Cisco, the "Mr. Big" in gambling, graft and protective mobs in town. He is also the power behind the mayor and other forces of law and order. Strangely enough, he also wants to help Nevada beat his murder charges!

As Jack and Nevada are talking over the situation they are in, and the mystery why Derby Stone is on their side, Judy French comes roaring up on her motorcycle. Her machine skids to a stop in front of them, and after parking it, she joins in the impromptu bull session.

Jack declares to Nevada and Judy that he has a few questions for Soapy Cochrane. Why is it that part of Derby Stoneís gang is bent on helping Nevada, and why is the other half out to get him? Is Soapyís boss, Derby Stone, playing both ends against the middle? Jack also wonders about Soapy himself, a man who openly carries a gun--one filed to a hair trigger! Is Derby Stoneís personal and private trigger man up to no good? While Judy and Nevada can tell Jack the reason for Soapy's unusual nickname (when riding the range with the other cowboys on the ranch in his earlier days, he was never without a bar of soap to keep clean, and was able to remain fastidiously clean even with the smallest sliver of it and a bucket of warm water), they have no good answers to these other more important questions.

Jack next clarifies his position for the others. He is not Soapyís man, nor is he Stoneís man. Nevada is his client. When both Nevada and Judy exclaim that they cannot pay him, Jack shrugs off their protests. Heís their man, only he has a few ground rules for the two of them:

JACK: Just remember two things from now on...we donít trust anybody, no matter how much he seems to be on our side...and Iím working for nobody but Nevada. Nobody...is that clear?

As they two nod their agreement, Soapy Cochrane returns from inside the ranch house. Sullenly, he tells them that Derby wants to meet them in his bedroom inside. Soapy ushers them up to the house, leads the three of them--Jack, Judy and Nevada--them to Derbyís room, and leaves them.

Jack and Nevada, finally meet the infamous Boss Derby Stone, a large, gruff, and very grumpy older man. The power behind Cisco has a very large gout swollen foot, one heavily swabbed in dressings and fitted with a carpet slipper; it is ample reason for his irritable mood. So too is the presence of Judy French!

Derby greets the trio, but first demands and then manages to have Judy leave the ranch with a bit of emotional blackmail. Itís not safe here, Derby explains, and if she wonít leave on her own accord, how will she explain matters to her folks in Reno? And how can he help Nevada if heís worried about her parents? Anxious to help her uncle Nevada, she angrily storms out, although not without blinking her eyes furiously.

Alone now with the others, Derby Stone lays his cards down on the table. Heíll help Nevada all right, but for two considerations. The first is that Nevada gives up half his stake in the new silver strike. The second is that Nevada will allow Derby to use him as his goat, a tool to trim Derbyís wayward boys at City Hall down to size.

Surprised, Jack presses Derby to explain that last point. Derby offers to let Jack and Nevada go into town. If they are unmolested, then its certain that Cisco is still Derbyís town. If not...well, thereís nothing more for Nevada to lose, including his life!

 

Episode 5: Friday May 19th, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 6

The announcer recaps the situation Nevada is in. If Nevada walks into the town of Cisco, the absentee mob-boss Derby Stone will fight his battles. If Nevada refuses, heíll be turned over to the authorities and most likely sent to the gas chamber! If Nevada comes through from his visit to Cisco with a whole skin, heíll be a free man.

Jack urges Nevada not to agree with this plan, but the desert rat, eager to make a deal, accepts Derby Stoneís offer. As Derby motions Jack and Nevada out, he hands Nevada a loaded automatic. In answer to Nevadaís exclamation of surprise, Derby mutters, "You might be gonna need it..."

Derby Stone's right hand man, Soapy Cochrane, leads Nevada and Jack outside the ranch house, and after leaving the Silver Derby Ranch, they head towards town. Along the way as they walk, along with the usual small talk, Soapy tells Jack and Nevada that he has a soft spot for Judy French, and when ever she gets a little older, he's planning on asking her hand in marriage. As Nevada and Jack digest this piece of news, they arrive on the outskirts of the town of Cisco. As Jack and Nevada walk along with him, Soapy glumly hints that there may be trouble ahead for all of them at City Hall. Down the dusty main street of Cisco they travel, Nevada in the lead, followed closely by Jack Packard and Soapy.

It is a tense and disquieting walk. Cowboys on the street catch sight of Nevada, and shy off. A couple of local pedestrians double-take at the site of Nevada, and stare at him and the others as they uneasily walk on by. Nevada recognizes one passerby, a local businessman of his acquaintance; after an uneasy "Howdy," the man seemed awfully anxious to get out out the way. Looking at one another, they shrug and keep on walking.

They next run across Maggie Steers, Police Chief Herrickís girl friend. She is astonished to see Nevada openly roaming the streets of Cisco. Taking Nevada by the arm, Maggie quickly tries to warn him away:

MAGGIE: ...if you donít want them to nail your hide to a fence...

Soapy protests; they wouldnít dare arrest a man under Derby Stoneís protection! This town still belonged to Derby Stone! Maggie cryptically and curtly replies, "It ainít no more!" Jack in particular is curious why she is warning them, if her boyfriend is the local Police Chief. Maggie Steers ignores his question, and hurries off. After looking at one another, the three head on down the street towards the police station, anxious to speak to Chief Herrick himself. If his girlfriend is, is Herrick is still sympathetic to Derby Stone and is still his man?

As they approach the Cisco Police Station, Jack spots Judy Frenchís motorcycle parked outside a nearby cafe. Taking a small detour to see if Judy is inside, they are waylaid by the police. Namely, by Police Chief Herrick himself! As cold and business-like gun is held pointed at Nevada!

HERRICK: Wup! Stand right where you are...and keep your hands up high.

The three protest--what have they done wrong?-- and a small crowd starts to gather. Herrick cuts them off with a snarl, and chases off the crowd:

HERRICK: Start walking...and remember I never was squeamish about shooting a criminal in the back!

SOUND: (Organ: "Valse Triste")


This is the end of the first week--five episodes in total--of the ILAM serial, "You Can't Pin A Murder on Nevada" The remainder two weeks, or 10 episodes, follows.