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You Can't Pin A Murder on Nevada

 

Week #3 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 11: Monday May 29th, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 10

The announcer recaps the steadily climbing death toll in Cisco in the war between Boss Derby Stone’s men and the City Hall gang. First, two City Hall men were shot dead from a shotgun blast on the Reno Road, then Maggie Steers was dragged to her death, and her boyfriend Police Chief Herrick was run over by her death car. Soapy Cochrane avenged the Chief’s death by killing the driver and wrecking the death car, killing two more City Hall men. A police officer who was secretly a City Hall man was killed outside the Cisco Jail before he could kidnap Judy French. Herrick’s successor, Weaver was shot dead soon after he showed his sympathies as being a City Hall man by someone they have dubbed the "Phantom Shot-Gun."

Moments ago, Spanish Joe, a hardened Mexican Bandit, convicted killer, City Hall man, and all around bad guy has just surprised our friends in the office of the Cisco Jail, and has hinted at unpleasant death for all of them. After giving instructions to his two unsavory companions who leave for parts unknown, Spanish Joe grins sadistically at the group of them, and hefts his twin pistols. Is this the end? Suddenly:

JUDY: (Fear....whisper) The Phantom Shot-gun...it’s coming through the door!

SPANISH: (Amused) Ha, what is this Phantom Shot-Gun?

JUDY: (Whispers) Right behind you...right behind you...

NEVADA: (Awed) By Christmas, there she is...

SOUND (Gun shot in hallway)

JUDY: (Horror) Oh no...oh no...

SOUND: (Body fall)

NEVADA: He got him...another mobster...

Spanish Joe is shot dead! The Phantom Shot-Gun strikes again!

Jack darts out the room in search of the killer. Again the hallway is empty. Discouraged, he returns to the shell-shocked group, and snaps them out of their stupor with some brisk orders. Nevada and Judy are to mop up the room, and Soapy will help him in ridding the room of one surplus corpse. The two of them drag out of the room the latest victim of the Phantom Shot-Gun, leaving the others alone.

While straightening out the room, Nevada and Judy speculate on their recent rescue and on the nature of their Phantom killer cum angel, as creepy as it was. They also wonder what happened to Spanish Joe’s pals, Jose and Billy. Were they still lurking about the empty corridors of the jail? Menacing footsteps approach, and the two of them fearfully duck down behind the room’s desk, peeking out to see who is coming.

Luckily, it’s only Jack and Soapy back from their quick trip. An empty storeroom off the main hallway was the new home for Spanish Joe’s dead body. During their brief trip, they found no evidence of the late Spanish Joe’s two companions. At the same time Jack is puzzled from the recent events. Just how does the Phantom Shot-Gun know when to appear at the last moment to save them from certain death?

Jack then tells Soapy that he wants to call Boss Derby Stone on the telephone, to tell him about the recent turn of events here in the bloody town of Cisco. To his amazement, he hears from Soapy Cochrane--the mob boss’s own lieutenant and right hand man--that Derby has explicit instructions never to be bothered after 9-o’clock at night. No telephone calls, no telegrams, no messages; in short, no interruptions at all! Jack ignores the warning and tries to contact Derby through the town operator. To his double surprise, he learns that she has orders never to call the ranch after 9 PM, and Jack bangs down the telephone receiver in disgust.

Stymied, and at a loss for the moment on long term plans, Jack mind roams about on another idea, and asks a surprised Soapy for the load of his ten gallon hat. To find out if snipers are still surrounding their building where they are all trapped, Jack holds up Soapy’s hat up on a stick near the window. This time, no one fires at the bait. Have the City Hall gang been frightened off by the Phantom Shot-Gun?

Suddenly the telephone in the office rings piercingly, and Jack hurries over to answer it. After a brief conversation which the others cannot hear but can only see the startled expression on his face, he hangs up, and turns to them.

SOAPY: What’s the matter, Packard?

JACK: That was the switchboard operator at the telephone office...she wants to see me, RIGHT NOW.

SOAPY: What for?

JACK: She’s been listening in on a telephone conversation. Somebody’s stabbing somebody in the back!

MUSIC: (Organ, "Valse Triste")

Episode 12: Tuesday May 30th, 1944

(Note: This episode is the only one known to to have a circulating recording)

SOUND: Clock Strikes 11

Kitty Devoe, the night telephone operator for the town of Cisco, has some secret knowledge that she says she’ll only tell in person to Jack. Even though it may be a trap, Jack is determined to find out what she knows, and what she means when she says, "Somebody’s stabbing somebody in the back!" Recognizing it may be a planned ambush of the Enemy’s, he only takes Nevada with him, having Judy stay with Soapy in the relative safety of the Cisco jail.

Jack and Nevada stealthily make their way through the late evening streets of Cisco. Other than an encounter with a Mexican lady of the evening (played with suppressed hilarity by Mercedes McCambridge herself!), they soon make it over to the little telephone office unmolested. They find the rear office door open, and they quickly slip inside.

The hallways inside the telephone office are dark, but there is one office door with a lit transom nearby. Listening, they hear a woman’s voice, speaking with the stereotypical dialect of all telephone operators. They hear her administer to several calls from her switchboard. Jack and Nevada move quietly forward, but the same voice calls out, "Who’s there!?" fearfully from inside, also warning them she’ll call the police if they don’t answer.

Jack calls out to the unseen woman, identifying himself and Nevada. After a moments hesitation, Kitty Devoe (for that’s who the mystery voice belongs to) opens the door of the office and lets them in. They talk briefly for a moment, then Kitty says:

OP: Look...you know I’m sticking my neck out a mile...

JACK: Yes, I’m interested in that too...why?

OP: What do you mean, why?

JACK: Just that...why are you sticking your neck out a mile to give me, a stranger in fact, about the town of Cisco...your town!

OP: Maybe because it is my town...maybe because I lived here all my life and I like it and I DON’T LIKE what’s going on now.

JACK: But why me?

OP: Because you are an outsider...because you’re the only person in this whole set up who hasn’t an ax to grind.

JACK: But if I’m working for Derby Stone...

OP: I also heard another side to that...

JACK: Yeah?

OP: (Sure) Yeah...I hear you don’t give a whoop about Derby Stone...in fact the only interest you got is to see that Nevada, here, isn’t sent to the gas chamber in Carson City...and that Judy--...and that Judy French keeps out of trouble.

Kitty goes on to say that with her job as the night operator, she hears many a queer story through her headphones plugged into her switchboard, snippets of conversations, discussions, and so on. She has heard of the Phantom Shot-Gun, which has been steadily knocking off members of the City Hall mob. But she astonishes Jack when she says:

OP: What if I should tell you they ain’t any war on in Cisco between the City Hall men and Derby Stone. Maybe somebody’s pretending two factions are fighting to cover something else.

JACK: Such as?

OP: (Whisper) Murder.

Jack is stunned at the implications of what she has said. Why, he asks?

OP: Because of Nevada’s rich gold strike.

JACK: What?

NEVADA: Hey now; what sense is there to that?

OP: You can take my word for it...half the important men in Cisco are gonna get bumped off, on account of Nevada’s new gold claim.

MUSIC: (Organ, "Valse Triste")

Episode 13: Wednesday May 31st, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 4

The announcer recaps the most recent events. The night operator of Cisco is convinced that the war between the mobs is nothing more than a cover for Murder! Kitty admits she doesn’t know who is behind it all, but that Nevada’s gold strike is in back of it all. Jack didn’t get it at first, so Kitty explained:

KITTY: Because Rudy McNamara talked too much...because everybody in that saloon had a good idea where the bonanza was...because somebody didn’t want all those people to have all this information, on account he wanted the claim all to himself.

Keeping this in mind, Jack turns to Nevada himself, and questions him further about the night when his partner Rudy was killed. It came out that many of the persons in the saloon who heard Rudy’s boasts and claims of a gigantic gold strike had been those most recently killed! Chief Herrick, his girlfriend Maggie and Weaver had been there. So too had Adams and Richter along with other members of the City Hall gang. Soapy had also been there that night, but curiously Spanish Joe had been absent. Despite these omissions, there was much in what Kitty had to say...

Jack warns Kitty not to talk to anyone, and that her very life was in imminent danger. As he is warning her, a light suddenly appears on Kitty’s switchboard for an incoming call. She listens in, and all at once gives Jack and Nevada the high sign to listen in on the extra set of headphones. They jam them on, but just a little too late, for the line just then went dead. Kitty tells them about the intercepted conversation, though. A whispering voice had been on the line, coming from Derby Stone’s Silver Derby Ranch!

JACK: The Silver...was that Derby Stone on the phone?

KITTY: No...I couldn’t recognize the voice...it was kind of a whisper...I’m sure it wasn’t Derby...they wasn’t no Irish in it at all.

NEVADA: Well, what was anybody at the Silver Derby doin’ callin’ the City Hall, anyway?

KITTY: (Uneasy) That...that’s the queerest part...this...this whispering voice said, "Call the boys off for the rest of the night...they’ve done a good night’s work!"

A good night for murder, Nevada adds! Jack ignores him, and knowing that the head is now off, again tells Kitty to keep mum. He and Nevada bid Kitty farewell, and leave her manning the switchboard, heading back to the Cisco jail where they had left Soapy Cochrane and Judy French alone.

As they tip-toe back through the dark streets of Cisco, Nevada suggests they check out the City Hall, to find out who was the recipient of that recent telephone call they intercepted. Jack agrees, only first asking that they look in on the Judy at the Cisco jail, to ensure that everything is okay with her before moving on.

Jack in turn asks Nevada who Derby Stone’s private doctor is. When Nevada asks why, Jack suggests that perhaps Derby Stone’s gout isn’t as bad as he may be pretending it is! It would make an awful good alibi, Jack hints, if his feet were not swollen like cabbages, but instead had lots of cotton wadding and bandages over stuffed bed socks.

They arrive at the building housing the combination Cisco Police Station, Jail, Red Cross Station and Morgue, this time through the small ER ward of the Red Cross station. It’s busy inside, with several nurses helping a white coated figure apply first aide to a person on a stretcher. Nevada recognizes the physician working over the bandaged patient as being Doc Stebbes, coincidentally Derby Stone’s private M.D.! Doc Stebbes moves, and Nevada instantly recognizes the patient; it’s Judy!

NEVADA: Judy, Honey...

JUDY: (Dazed) I’m all right...two men of the City Hall mob got in the Chief’s office...they...they took Soapy Cochrane prisoner.

NEVADA: They took Soapy prisoner?

JUDY: (Slow) Yes...and...and then they knocked me out with the butt of a revolver...

MUSIC (Organ, "Valse Triste")

Episode 14: Thursday June 1st, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 6

Dawn is just breaking over the Derby Stone ranch, and finds Jack, Nevada, and Judy--sore head and all--sneaking along the side of the main ranch house. The night before, Nevada and Jack had returned from their private tête-à-tête with Kitty Devoe, Cisco’s night operator. She had some startling revelations about the true meaning of the current political mob battle. On returning to the Cisco Jail, however, they find that Judy French has been slugged with the butt of a revolver, and that Soapy Cochrane, Derby’s right-hand man in the mob he rules, has been kidnapped!

Jack wants to talk to Boss Derby Stone alone about the kidnapping, and the rest of the ghastly events of the night before. Since Derby would not allow messages to be forwarded to him last nigh, Jack will sneak through a window to meet the mob boss! Nevada warns Jack that Derby sleeps with a revolver under his pillow, but Jack can’t be dissuaded from his mission.

Derby, sleeping like a heard of elephants, doesn’t hear or notice Jack as the A-One detective slips into the room, and quietly removes a pistol from under Derby Stone’s pillow. Judy also slips in unheard. Derby does hear Nevada as Judy’s adopted uncle stumbles when he clumsily clatters against the sill as he tries to move his ungainly frame through the bedroom window.

DERBY: (Off slightly ) What in dad-blamed blazes is goin’ on in my bedroom...put up your hands all you ?

JUDY: Derby, it’s just us.

DERBY: I can see who it is...put up your hands before I shoot through the covers.

JACK: Don’t be asinine, Derby...I’ve got your gun.

DERBY: Why you thievin’ no count, house breakin’ son of coyote...

Jack interrupts the stream of insults and says he wants a private word with Derby Stone, and more importantly, a private look at Derby’s feet! Doc Stebbes had told Jack last night that Derby was not pretending to have gout stricken feet, but Jack trusts no one now, and wants to see for himself.

With Judy and Nevada nervously looking on, Jack unwraps the bandages encasing Derby’s stone’s feet. Sure enough, a bad case of gout, with both ankles, "...as ripe as a couple of plums," as Jack put it!

More confident now, Jack tells Derby what has happened that past terrible night in Cisco, at how Derby’s friends and colleagues--Police Chief Herrick and his girlfriend Maggie Steers, the assistant Police Chief Weaver--were all dead! So too were six members of the rival renegade City Hall gang, including Spanish Joe.

Grimly, Derby keeps listening to this listing of death. He grumpily says he thinks the tale of the Phantom Shot-gun is "silly" at first. He is surprised when he learns that Jack thought Derby could have been the killer...that is, until he saw the evidence of Derby’s gout swollen feet just now acting as his alibi.

Judy also tells Derby that Soapy himself was grabbed by two "tough talking gaspers", and that she was knocked out by one of them the butt of her own gun. Next thing she knew, she was in the Emergency Ward of the little Red Cross station attached to the police-department/jail, being worked on by Doc Stebbes.

Jack now drops the bombshell that there is no political war on between Derby and the City Hall gang. Derby protests, "...look at all the people killed!", but Jack said that somebody with a lot of specialized information was wanting some killing done. And that’s what bothered Jack. Jack adds that everyone killed was in the Silver Dollar Saloon the night Rudy McNamara blabbed about his and Nevada’s gold strike. And now somebody’s out to shut all their mouths...permanently!

Suddenly, there’s a short, sharp knock at the door of Derby Stone’s bedroom, and in staggered Soapy! He looks like he’s been dragged sideways through a keyhole; all scraped and bruised, like he’d been on the losing side in a fight. Only thing is, he’s awfully unfriendly to Jack and the others, and shouts out at Derby not to listen to Jack and the others!

DERBY: Why not?

SOAPY: They’re a couple of killers...

NEVADA: Hey now, you lop-eared...

JACK: Quiet, Nevada...Soapy, you know that’s foolish talk.

SOAPY: (Sullen) Is it?...Do you deny you and Nevada just came from the telephone office?

JACK: (Tense) What about it?

SOAPY: And that you were with the night operator, Kitty Devoe?

JACK: (Angrily) I said, what about it?

SOAPY: Kitty’s just been found murdered...

NEVADA: Hey...

JUDY: (Sorry) Ooohh, Soapy...

SOAPY: Yeah...with her throat cut!

MUSIC (Organ, "Valse Triste".)

 

Episode 15: Friday June 2nd, 1944

SOUND: Clock Strikes 6

The announcer recaps the previous scene with everyone in a tense situation in Boss Derby Stone’s bedroom. A few minutes ago, Jack, with Judy and Nevada providing back-up, had exposed Derby’s feet as being too swollen and painful with gout for the mob boss to be the killer with the Phantom Shot-Gun. Also, the mob war was a fake, with someone manipulating both sides in order to somehow win the prize of Nevada’s rich gold strike. Suddenly Soapy has burst into the room--dirty and disheveled-- accusing Jack and Nevada of killing Kitty Devoe, the night operator of Cisco!

Soapy claimed that the night before, two masked men had slugged Judy French, and pulled a gun on him, forcing him to come along with them. He had luckily escaped from his captors, and just managed now to make it back to the Silver Derby Ranch. Derby Stone, sitting up in bed and facing the others, is instantly suspicious of Soapy’s story. Soapy never ever had anyone get the drop on him before! If Soapy wasn’t slowing down, well...the implications are ominous!

A shouting match breaks out in the bedroom, with Soapy lashing out at Judy to keep quiet when she tried to interrupt, and Derby telling Soapy not to talk to her that way. Judy herself lashes out verbally against her adopted uncle Nevada, calling him, "...a silly old desert rat." Stung by these words, Nevada sulks, and Judy, appalled by her harsh words, is instantly apologetic.

Jack manages to pour oil over these troubled waters, and stops the verbal fisticuffs. He asks Soapy about the events surrounding his capture the night before. Soapy doesn’t want to at first, but at Derby’s thundering demand, grudgingly tells of having two gunman grabbing him after knocking Judy out, having had been held a prisoner overnight in a house in town. He managed to escape to the streets of Cisco, only to run into his kidnappers again! He managed to dodge and evade them by ducking in the side entrance to the Cisco Telephone office, remembering that Jack and Nevada had announced earlier in the evening that they were headed there. Instead, inside the telephone office he found Kitty Devoe, murdered!

Jack insists neither he nor Nevada is the killer. Jack instead tells Soapy what they had learned from Kitty. That the Phantom Shot-Gun is killing folks to cover his true reason for murder. That the current gang war is fueled by someone after Nevada’s rich gold strike. A man with brains...

SOAPY: ...speaking of the sawed off shot-gun Packard...is the Phantom Shot Gun supposed to be the brains behind all of this?

JACK: He may be...it’s possible.

SOAPY: Well, that clears everybody in this room, doesn’t it?...Nevada, you and I were together when the Phantom blasted somebody...and Derby here’s got tender hooves for feet...

JACK: I’m saying it could be that way...I’m not saying it was...

SOAPY: Well, how do you figure it, Packard?

Jack says he’s been doing a lot of thinking about everyone who has been killed so far. Especially significant is the murder of Kitty Devoe. He asks if the others knew of her at all, and learns from Derby and Judy that Kitty and Soapy had once had been an item. That the two of them were, "...always falling in and out of love."

Jack realizes the information he learned from Kitty--that she liked Cisco, liked living there, wanted things to go back they way they used to be--only someone was instigating a political war in her home town. Only this wasn’t a war, it was murder! She kept listening in on conversations until she got the whole set up.

JACK: Somebody was (as Soapy put it) manipulating the town. Somebody had primed Derby Stone’s feud with the City Hall mob was in behind...then this same somebody whispered around City Hall that Derby Stone doesn’t like the present regime and was fixing to throw the whole lot of them out...by now everyone in town is sure there is a fight on between the City Hall and Derby Stone, so now the killing can begin. So Mr. Somebody put his own private mob to work.

Jack is sure that his mob was behind the killing of both Maggie Steers and Chief Herrick. There had to be at least several of them; the two killed the car wreck by Soapy Cochrane after their car had dragged the girl to her death and ran over the Chief. The Phantom Shot-Gun was part of this gang, and likely Spanish Joe, too. Only the brains behind it all was not known. Or is he?

Jack backs up the story, giving them all the big picture as he saw it.

Somebody had killed Rudy after Nevada had dragged his unconscious partner back to the boarding house. That same someone ran out to the desert to try and discover the rich gold strike for their self. Nevada was thrown in jail, framed for the murder, but at the same handy in case Mr. X couldn’t find the strike. Only Nevada’s escape complicated matters. And when Derby sent Judy into San Francisco to get Jack, Mr. X got worried, so he started the mob war in Cisco to confuse everyone and at the same time, kill off everyone who knew any details about the gold strike.

Derby Stone asks Jack if he learned all of this from Kitty Devoe. Jack says no, stating he figured it out himself. But he did get his lead on Mr. X from her...

JUDY: You know?

JACK: I think so...Kitty would tell me everything except the name of the man himself...she pretended she couldn’t recognize the voice, but I know better than that...

JUDY: But why wouldn’t she tell you?

JACK: Because that man meant something to her...maybe still did...she couldn’t bear seeing innocent people murdered , but she couldn’t bring herself to name the man.

SOAPY: You’re talking about me, ain’t you, Packard.

JUDY: (Sorry) Oh, Soapy...

JACK: I’m afraid I am, Cochrane.

Soapy Cochrane is head of the killer gang! Jack explains to the group that when Derby got gout trouble and couldn’t leave the ranch, Soapy began to take advantage of his boss (note that this explanation was very abbreviated in this particular episode; it was only in the first episode of "The Corpse in Compartment C, Car 76" did the rest of these details come out, but I thought they’d be better placed here). He organized his own little gang and pretended to the people of Cisco that it was part of Derby’s organization. Soapy was making pretty good graft out of that, but when he got wind of Nevada and Rudy McNamara’s gold strike, he thought he was onto something big.

All the deaths were arranged not only to make it appear as if it were a full fledged gang war, with Soapy continually tipping off his man who wielded the Phantom Shot-Gun with such brutal effectiveness. The series of murders were arranged in this fashion in order to conceal his true intentions--to kill all those in the saloon where McNamara blabbed about the gold strike--leaving Soapy to profit by himself. The soul exception was the death of Spanish Joe, who had been a member of Soap’s private gang. Spanish Joe tried to cut in on Soapy’s profits by threatening to give the whole show away unless Soapy split bigger. Since Soapy could only operate as long as Derby Stone was kept in ignorance, as soon as Spanish Joe made his demands, his days were numbered. On Soapy’s orders, the Phantom Shot-Gun was also working to protect Judy French, whom Soapy carried a torch for. Soapy’s sullenly agreed that all of Jack’s guesses were shrewd and on the mark.

Finally, Jack went on to say, it was also Soapy himself who cut Rudy McNamara’s throat while he lay sleeping, in order to throw guilt in Nevada’s direction. It was only after his own efforts to find the gold strike had failed did he plant the seed of an idea to get Derby Stone to help Nevada in return for a half share in the gold mine. Of course, when the location of the gold claim was finally known to Soapy, Derby too would no longer be needed and would have to be disposed of...

During this tense debriefing of the situation and Soapy’s grudging admission of guilt after his plans have blown up, Derby Stone, propped up in bed, was progressively turning as white as his very bed sheets that covered his concealed hands. Suddenly:

SOUND (Three shots in hallway...Bang...Bang Bang...)

SOAPY: (Hoarsely) DERBY...Derby you shot me!

DERBY: (Grim) I’d a shot my own son if he done to me what you’ve done.

SOAPY: (Whispers) You shot me...(groans)

SOUND (Body falls)

NEVADA: (Awed) Shot him from under the covers...

JUDY: He’s dead...he’s dead.

JACK: I thought I took your gun out from under your pillow, Derby...

DERBY: ...You don’t think I took only ONE gun to bed with me, do you...and take that dead body out of here...I don’t want to be in the same room with it.

MUSIC (Organ, "Valse Triste")


This sudden piece of rough frontier justice abruptly concludes the final episode of the *lost* "I Love A Mystery" story, YOU CAN’T PIN A MURDER ON NEVADA! 

The loose ends of this story were subsequently tidied up in the following episode, The Corpse in Compartment C, Car 76. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed reading this story of gang wars, Phantom Shot-Guns, Western mystery and typical Grade A Carlton E. Morse adventure!

::Brian::