The Ghost With Nine Fingers", a THREE LOVE A MYSTERY radio play, is copyright 1999/2000 by Brian Christopher Misiaszek.
SOUND (Wind and Bells Effect)
ANNCR: Old-Time Radio presents, "Three Love A Mystery"
SOUND (Siren Here)
ANNCR: A new Brian Christopher Misiaszek mystery-adventure thriller; THE GHOST WITH NINE FINGERS
SOUND (CLOCK STRIKES FOUR)
SOUND (Rain falling, with occasional thunder rumbling. In the background, the soft susurration of street traffic, occasional horns, cars hissing past, etc.).
ANNCR: It is a wet and dismal Wednesday afternoon deep in the heart of November, and the streets of downtown Hollywood are sodden and blind with rain. Pedestrians on the sidewalks drift pass each other like hurried shadows, rain coats and umbrellas shrouded with icy sheets of water. Taxis hoot and other cars lurch and halt with blaring horns through the slippery streets. It has been raining for seven straight days now, and the relentless cold and wet has seeped into bones and souls of everyone. Everyone including Reggie York, hunched over a small mountain of correspondence at a desk, and Doc Long, who is busy rubbing small circles of condensation off one of the closed windows of the Triple A-One Detective Agency, whose second floor office overlooks the street below. Itís only been two weeks since they, along with their third member of the Agency, Jack Packard, have returned from their adventures in Central America, and already the sun and heat are only a dim memory now.
SOUND (Thunder cued at this moment, and a brief rise and fall of rain sounds)
DOC: Honest to Grandma, is that rain a-falling down, or what, Reggie?
REGGIE: ĎTis somewhat of a deluge, isnít it Doc?
DOC: Man oí man, it gots me to a-thinkiní of that awful soak we all had in that jungle clearing in Nicaragua, before we hid out in the Temple of Vampires down there.
REGGIE: (Agreeing) That was certainly a cloud burst worth remembering. The entire sky seemed to fall on us before Sunny and I ran up those giant stone steps and reached the shelter of the Temple.
DOC: And then all our adventures in that pile of rotten rock with Sunny and little Hermie--a-climbin' ledges, a-swingin' on ropes, a-fightin' vampires in the dark...WHOO-WEE!
SOUND (Thunder cued at this moment, and a brief pause)
REGGIE: To be honest, Doc, the phrase, "Any port in a storm," no longer has much enthusiasm for me any more. All those beastly vampire worshipers...
DOC: Angelina and Manuel...what a way for those two hombres to end up. What a rotten deal for a purty she-female like her, even if she were a vampire...(sigh).
REGGIE: You mean vampire bat worshiper. (Sigh) All buried under that great pile of stone and rubble after that earthquake flattened everything. Except for that high priest Manuel, who was killed by his own native worshipers by an arrow through his heart.
SOUND (Door opening, the sound of rain falling for the few seconds it takes for a person to pass through, then door shut.)
REGGIE: (Calling over) Is that you, Jack?
JACK: (Sound of wet umbrella being shook, then footsteps as approaches mike) Yeah. Hi Reggie, Doc. Itís simply miserable outside today. (Sigh) Look at me...Iím all cold and wet and Iím soaked clear through to my skin.
DOC: (Chuckles) Son, donít you know any better than to get out of the rain?
JACK: (Snort) Someone had to go to the bank, and clear up two months worth of checks and receipts. By the way, how is it going there with the backlog of mail, Reggie?
REGGIE: I think Iíve sorted out all our mail from the time we were away. I threw out almost all the advertising circulars, but there was still quite a bit of material to go through. You know, job offers, gas bills and the like. There was even a letter from Sunny and Hermie, telling me all the red tape for his adoption has finally gone through.
JACK: I think thatís swell. Theyíll be good for each other.
DOC: And that pretty little armful of fluff and feathers invited me over for dinner tonight at Eight just like she promised, too, Jack!
JACK: (chuckle) Just you, Doc?
DOC: (Agreeable) Well, all of us then. Probíly just being polite, and all.
JACK: (Deadpan) Uh huh...Did you give Reggie much of a hand, Doc, instead of thinking about both girls and your stomach? You donít look very busy over there.
REGGIE: Oh, look here, Jack. It was a one man job. I didnít mind doing it alone...more efficient, even.
JACK: Uh huhÖ(pause)Öwhat are you doing over there by the window anyways, Doc?
DOC: Jess drawiní me some circles on the glass here with the back of my hand.
JACK: (Patiently) But why are you drawing circles on the window pane, and not helping Reggie?
DOC: Shucks, Jack, you know you canít see out a window with all this fog and wet on it, until you make a lilí port-hole with your hand first to peep out through. I wanted to look down onto the street, thatís all.
JACK: (Sigh) Okay, okay. What are you looking at, then?
DOC: Well, if you have to know, down over yonder at that lucky policeman on the street corner down there.
REGGIE: Lucky policeman? I donít get you, Doc?
DOC: Well, look down there at him, you two.
JACK: I donít seeÖOh!
DOC: There he is, all trucked out withÖwith his big rubber rain slicker carrying giggling young she-females over big puddles in the rain from over from that modeling agency yonder. (Big drawn out sigh) Only time I ever wanted to be a cop, too.
JACK: (Disgusted) Oh, nuts. Do you ever stop thinking about women, even for a second?
DOC: (Surprised) ĎCourse I do. When Iím eatiní, or detectiní, or or playiní poker, and more!
JACK: (Under breath) Not even then...
REGGIE: (Chuckles) Quite!
DOC: (Hurt) Hey, jess because I can admire and turn the heads of some of the most bee-yoo-tiful women and Hollywood (and Man-o-Man, is Hollywood full of them!) while yer all soured on the female sex, Jack...
JACK: (Tersely) Never mind that. You remember I still owe you a sock in the jaw for what you did on that ledge in the Temple of Vampires.
DOC: (Surprised) You arenít planning on collecting at this very moment, Jack, are you?
JACK: No. But if you continue these lines, I give you it to you now, and with interest.
DOC: Okay okay. Though son, if you donít get used to those pretty she-fillyís, some day, much to your surprise, youíll end up married to one of them. And with babies and all, where would you be?
JACK: (Deadpan voice) You tell me; where would I be with babies and all?
DOC: Why...(Sudden awed hush)Öwell spank me for a baby...HEY! HEY FELLERS!
SOUND (Running feet, a door opening and slamming shut with the sound of rain, then running of feet down stairs)
JACK: (Startled) Doc! DOC!....Reggie! What happened! Where did Doc go?
REGGIE: (Surprised) Why, I donít know, Jack. Docís eyes bugged out at something he saw outside the windowÖit must have been something interesting enough to make him forget his hat and coat.
JACK: One of those curvy Hollywood models being carried in the rain, no doubt.
SOUND (Low rumble of thunder)
REGGIE: Quite. We both know Doc. He has a penchant for anything in a wisp of silk or a hank of lace.
JACK: (Snort) His wandering eye will be the death of him yet.
REGGIE: Remember the time we were up the coast in Roxy, fighting those two gangs of crooks, one run by the City Attorney, the other by the Mayor?
JACK: That was when we were trapped in the Mayorís house because of that Mexican secretary. What was her name?
REGGIE: Dolores. Dolores Lopez. Even though you told him not to, Jack, he carried her off on his back, all the while being chased by a hail of machine gun fire. He could have been killed because of that girl, but he didnít care one bit.
REGGIE: Doc took it pretty hard, too, when she was killed by that gangsterís stray bullet.
JACK: (Second grunt).
REGGIE: (Speaking aloud to himself) No, Doc doesnít seem to give women a second glance, unless they are the mysterious or dangerous type. You know, like that spitfire in Yolo County, Miss Jack Dempsey Ross. That pretty Chinese girl we had to smuggle up into Canada. Jerry Brooks, when we first met her on that resort island. The handmaiden to the Jaguars on the Island of SkullsÖwhat was her nameÖoh yes, Sunya. The high priestess of the Temple of Vampires, Angelina, the...hello!
SOUND (Clattering of footsteps running upstairs, door opening, the sound of rain falling, then silence at the door closes)
DOC: (Panting) Jack...Reggie!
JACK: Well, speak of the devil...
REGGIE: I say, you're soaking wet, Doc!
DOC: (panting) Nevermind that...(panting)...Fellas...you wonít NEVER believe what I just saw.
JACK: (Deadpan) Rita Hayworth in a long black limousine.
REGGIE: (Laugh) Though she wouldnít be too impressed seeing you now standing there in that growing puddle, Doc.
DOC: (Still panting, but slower now) No siree. It was the MAESTRO, (Panting) with Nasha by his side!
REGGIE: The Maestro! But thatís impossible, Doc!
JACK: (Quickly) Doc, youíre crazy! You know as well as I do that the Maestroís sent to prison for life, with no chance for parole. It couldnít have been him you saw!
REGGIE: You must have be mistaken, Doc. What with the distance and the rain and darkness and all...
DOC: (Panting slowed) Jack, Reggie, Iím not kidding. I NEVER EVER forgot that evil fat tub oí lard, and that sweet dark haired she-female Nasha. (Pause to catch breath)...But it was them, bold as brass, getting out of a yella cab kiddy-corner from our office, and him stumpiní off across the street with her prancing by his side.
JACK: (Enrgetically) But donít you realize how ridiculous you sound, Doc? After that railroad detective shot the Maestro in his gun hand in that box car when we left Bury Your Dead, Arizona, he surrendered himself to the authorities, and was tried in court for the murder of his ex partner!
REGGIE: His middle finger was shot completely off, Doc. It was even my handkerchief used to wrap the wound up!
DOC: I know, fellas! I know! But--
JACK: (Still energetically) You know as well as I do, Doc, that the Maestro was sentenced by Judge McLarty to spend the rest of his life in prison. It was by the sheerest chance he wasnít sent to the gas chamber for killing his ex-partner.
REGGIE: And Doc, remember that Jack got Nasha that job in San Diego as a dancer in a chorus line. So it couldnít have been her either, let alone her and the Maestro together up here in Hollywood!
DOC: (Angry now) Skeptics! Just a bunch of skeptics, both of you. Doggone it fellas, I saw what I saw! I didnít a soakiní for nothiní! It was the Maestro and Nasha who got out of that yella down on the street! (Deep breath) And I can blamed well prove it, too!
JACK: Okay then. Prove it!
DOC: Jess look at this poster I ripped off the door of the Or-pee-hum Thee-ay-ter, you two smart guys, nears to where I saw the two of them disappear.
JACK: Thatís ORPHEUM, not Or-pee-um.
REGGIE: Iíll read it, Doc. (Reading) "Mephisto, the Masked Magician. Houdiniís successor. Fifty Startling Mysteries of India, China, Russia and Arabia. Coming in person at the Orpheum for one week only with his amazing dancer, Nasha".
SOUND (Loud rumble of thunder)
DOC: Donít you get it, fellers, itís him! Even with the mask on, itís the Maestro painted there on that ol' poster! Even with that tuxedo, cape and mask, thatís his pudgey hand a-wavin' that magicianís wand!
REGGIE: (Slowly, then with awe)That girl...that girl in the picture floating above that coffin does look a great deal like Nasha, Jack!
JACK: (Energetically) But itís the wrong name, you two! Mephisto is the name of this some garden variety stage magician, not the Maestro. This is a fly-bill from some other visiting stage performer.
REGGIE: Jack, that still doesn't explain why he looks so much like the Maestro.
DOC: Derned tootin'! And another thing, Jack, if that ain't Nasha a-floatin' in that picture like a fluff o' Texas dandelion dander, Iím a one eyed hipponauserous!
REGGIE: Shouldnít we still check this out, Jack? Even if it isnít the Maestro, just someone dressed to look like him who calls himself Mephisto, it still doesnít explain Nashaís name and picture on that poster. It strikes me as being too much of a bally coincidence.
JACK: WellÖ(pause, then slowly) No, youíre right, Reggie. It is too much of a coincidence.
DOC: (Angry again) Reggieís right?? Doggone it, Jack, what about ME being right!
JACK: Never mind that , Doc. Tell me exactly what you saw on the street from the window, and all about this theatre poster you found.
DOC: Justa sec. I want to wipe off some of this November rain off my face first.
JACK: That can wait, canít it?
DOC: Hold your horses, son! First you donít believe me, then you want to make me catch pee-nomia! Throw me that towel, woudja Reggie?
JACK: Okay, Okay already.
REGGIE: There you go, Doc.
DOC: Thanks, Reggie Kid (pause and deep draw of breath). Well, while we was a talkiní, and I was looking down at the street below, I saw a yella taxi pulled up at the corner. Well, two folks sort of fell out of it. The first was a big butterball of a man with grey hair and stumpy legs, and the second was a real looker, a pretty dark haired she-female. Well, you known how I never ferget a pair of legs, Jack...
JACK: We know, we know! Go on.
DOC: Well, as I was a-sayin', I thought the girl looked kinda familiar, you know, with those scrumptious long legs and all? Then the light of a flash of lightning kinda caught her face as she turned, and I saw that it was Nasha! And the manís face was all lit up too, jest as he opened his umbrella, but I saw it was the Maestro! So I let out a yell, and tumbled right downstairs after them not stopping to get my hat or anything!
REGGIE: Weíd thought romance was working overtime again, Doc.
DOC: (Hurt sound) Reggie!
JACK: (Impatiently) Go on with the story, Doc!
DOC: Well, anyways, the time I got out downstairs and on the street, the two had crossed over to the Or-fee-um the-ay-ter there. I had a wait for a break in the traffic, before I could cross but by that time they were gone! Up and down I looked, but nowhere in sight. Soís here I was , getting wetter than a box of a drowned rats I was, so I ducked under this thee-ay-ter marquee for a second to get a breather, when I kinda did a double take at this poster someone had tacked to bulletin board of upcoming the-ay-ter shows. So I grabbed it, and high-tailed it back here to tell you fellers!
JACK: Was the theatre open, Doc?
DOC: No, it wernít. I thought maybe the two had gone on inside, but the front door was a-locked, and there was a closed sign at the ticket window, too. I banged and knocked and hollered, only nobody answered.
JACK: Well, letís all of us take a gander over there in a few minutes. But first, I want to make a quick telephone call.
REGGIE: Who are you going to call, Jack? The Orpheum Theatreís manager?
JACK: No, someone else. I want to clear up something once and for all. Iíll call from my own office, where I have the number. Just a second.
SOUND (Inner door, a light one, closing)
REGGIE: (Awed) Doc, this is bally well incredible! I knew that the Maestro had incredible powers. It still makes me shiver to think he was able to hypnotize me as easily as he did in the box car. Only now, he's managed to escape out of prison!
DOC: Thinkin' about the Maestro gives me the willies, too, Reg. Hypnotizn' Nasha so she looked dead to the world. Why do you think I bolted after those two when I saw them across the street jest now?
REGGIE: (Pause) Do you really think it was the Maestro and Nasha you saw?
DOC: Reggie, I swear to my Grandma it was the two of 'em I saw.
REGGIE: Well, you said you recognized Nasha first by her legs and then by her face, Doc. But how do you know it was really the Maestro? Could it have been any other person?
DOC: Shucks, Reggie, you know I--
SOUND (light door opening, and shutting)
REGGIE: Well Jack? What did you learn from your call?
JACK: (Heavily) Plenty.
DOC: So, spill it, son! Whatcha find out!
JACK: (Firmly)Well, first of all, it wasnít the Maestro you saw, Doc.
DOC: (Incredulously) But I saw him, Jack! Doggone it, I saw!
JACK: But you couldn't have, Doc. And I have proof now. Proof that must convince even you.
REGGIE: Who was it you called, Jack?
JACK: Someone I know from Police Headquarters down town. Someone who was involved in the Maestroís partner's murder case.
DOC: So, what did he say, Jack, that makes you think it wasnít the Maestro? Is he still in prison or sumthiní?
JACK: Doc, the Maestro is dead.
DOC/REG: (Ad-lib) DEAD? What!
REGGIE: (Pause) Jove, you arenít joking, are you Jack?
JACK: No, Iím not, Reggie. The Maestro stopped eating the day he entered prison to serve his life sentence for murder. Wasnít anything the prison officials could do to make him eat, other than putting a rubber tube down his throat and force feeding him. Over the weeks, the pounds just melted off him, until he was only skin and bone. And the, one day, he was just found dead in his cell...from what I heard it happened just a few weeks ago, while we were down in Central America.
SOUND (Low rumble of thunder, and then a pause)
DOC: Looky here, Jack. Couldnít the Maestro been a-pretendin' to be dead? Sorta like the hypnotizmí he did with Nasha in the coffin back in "Bury Your Dead" Arizona?
JACK: Well, I wondered the same thing. Only the prison doctor confirmed it. And, according to my source at police headquarters, the Maestro was cremated too! It would be some trick for the Maestro to resurrect himself from dust and ashes.
REGGIE: Not unless...
DOC: Not unless what, Reggie?
REGGIE: Not unless it was a ghost you just saw, Doc. A nine-fingered ghost!
SOUND (BELLS AND WIND) (PAUSE)
ANNCR: Closing commercial here.
ANNCR: You have just heard the opening chapter of "The Ghost With Nine Fingers." The further adventures of the Three Soldiers of Fortune-- Jack, Doc and Reggie--will come to you tomorrow at this same hour.
"Three Love A Mystery", by Brian Christopher Misiaszek comes to you Monday to Friday through the courtesy of Old Time Radio. This is the Unusual Broadcasting Company.