The Ghost With Nine Fingers", a THREE LOVE A MYSTERY radio play, is copyright 1999/2000 by Brian Christopher Misiaszek.
THE GHOST WITH NINE FINGERS:
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!
SOUND (CLOCK STRIKES FIVE)
SOUND (Rain fall, with occasional thunder rumbling, etc., with the sound of street traffic)
ANNCR: It is early evening on a wet November day in downtown Hollywood, and along with the damp weather, the sudden chill from the past coming has come trickling down the spines of the three partners of the Triple A-1 Detective agency--Reggie York, Doc Long, and their leader, Jack Packard. From their second story office window, Doc has recognized an old enemy of theirs, the Maestro, somehow miraculously free from prison where he has been serving a life sentence for murder. Doc had also seen Nasha, the Maestroís former assistant by his side. Nasha, she of flashing black eyes, blue-black hair, (and an ever handy knife!), had been last seen working in San Diego as a dancer, part of her court release conditions. But now the two were seemingly back together in Hollywood, and likely up to no good!
After spotting the duo, Doc had rushed out into the storm to intercept them, but had lost sight of the two in the darkness and rain. But he did find a poster on the front of a nearby theatre suggesting the Maestro was back at his old career of stage magic, only this time under the name of Mephisto! Docís story is greeted with incredulity by his two friends, despite his proof of the poster. Even worse for Docís claim is Jack having just learned from a telephone call to police headquarters that the Maestro is dead, having starved himself to death in prison some weeks before! And now, Reggie is wondering if the only way for Doc to have seen the Maestro, is if he had seen his ghost!
DOC: Not unless what, Reggie?
REGGIE: Not unless it was a ghost you saw, Doc. A nine-fingered ghost!
JACK: Rubbish! I canít believe you are telling me you believe in ghosts now, Reggie!?
REGGIE: Well, I donít know now, Jack. Weíve seen some pretty strange things during our years banging around the world together...werewolves...frozen corpses that walk...vampire worshipers...and our encounter with the Maestro was one of our more peculiar adventures.
DOC: Reggieís right, Jack!
REGGIE: Quite! Our first meeting him in the box car with Nasha, the illusion of her transformation into a tigress in the blackened box-car. The Maestro playing that trick with you Jack with the dead man with the knife in his heart, before spiriting him away. And then all those grisly events in Bury Your Dead, Arizona with Nasha and the wolves. When the Maestro is around, weird things happen!
JACK: (Disgustedly) But ghosts! I expect this from Doc, Reggie, but not from you!
DOC: (Angrily) Hey..! I donít like the sound that, Jack!
REGGIE: Oh but look here, Jack---there IS a way to find out once and for all if Doc is right...
JACK: You mean by checking out the Orpheum Theatre.
REGGIE: Thatís exactly what we should do. Weíll go right this minute to where Doc thought he last saw Maestro and Nasha, and satisfy for ourselves if he is still alive and has teamed up with Nasha. If Doc was simply mistaken, well no harm done. But if he ISNíT mistaken, well...
JACK: Well, Iíve heard of wild goose chases Reggie...but wild ghost chases! Look, this man Doc saw from the window canít be the Maestro, heís dead! The Maestro starved himself to death in prison where he was serving a life term for that murdered man I found the box car. According to the police detective I spoke to, it happened when we were down in Central America. And the body was claimed by a relative, and then cremated.
DOC: Ya mean like his sister, or brother, or mama or pop? What a sad piece of unclaimed luggage to pick up.
REGGIE: Yes, Jack, but the Maestro didnít strike me as the type of man who would simply do away with himself. He had a sense of vitality, of magnetism, as dark his soul was. Also, who claimed the Maestroís body? Thatís something else I want to know.
JACK: Well, thatís something the police detective didnít say. I suppose we could ask at the prison, or even see if the Judge who presided over the case, Judge McLarty, knows. And it did bother me, too, that the Maestro committed suicide...
DOC: Jack, I know you think this is nothing but a wild ghost-berry chase, but would it hurt just to go down to the Or-pee-hum thee-ay-ter all the same?
JACK: (Patiently) Orpheum, Doc, not Or-pee-hum. After the greek god, Orpheus.
DOC: (Irate) Orifice? Now, who in blazes would name their god after a hole in the ground, I'll ask you? Sometimes, Jack, I think you're making all this history stuff up!
REGGIE: (Chuckles) No, he's right, Doc. I learned that in school, too. Only he's pronounced ORPHEUS, not orifice. Orpheus really was the greek god of music.
DOC: Huh...it's times like these I wish I paid more attention to my schoolbooks than to girls...
JACK: Well, well make that our beautiful thought of the day, "Doc wishes he spent less time thinking about girls..."
REGGIE: (Still chuckling) I'll second that...though you haven't said anything about visiting the theatre tonight, Jack.
JACK: All right, all right (sigh). Weíll check it out; Iíd never thought the Triple A-1 Detective agency would become spook chasers, but there you are....hmm...there IS an idea, though nibbling, at the back of my mind...
REGGIE: What do you mean, Jack?
JACK: Never mind, just a wild hunch...well, if we are going to go, lets go.
SOUND (Rumble of thunder)
SOUND (Clock striking SIX)
SOUND (Pause, then rain falling on asphalt, with street traffic sounds in the background; the sound is first raised, then it is diminished. Wet leather footsteps are heard for a few seconds splashing through puddles).
JACK: Is this the side entrance of the Orpheum, Doc?
DOC: Yeah. No one answered us at the front doors of the thee-ay-ter despite all that hammering we did.
JACK: (sigh) Theatre, Doc. Theatre. "Not thee-ay-ter."
DOC: Yeah, what you just said..
REGGIE: Itís a pity you couldnít have tried your lock picks on the front entrance, Doc, what with that that uniformed police officer standing there on the corner opposite.
DOC: Shucks, it wasnít so much that I dassnít dare use my tools there, Reggie Kid, but that when I looked at those big front doors, I could see she was a-barred from the inside. That means someone is still inside this here thee-ay-ter. And Iím a-aiming to find out if it was the Maestro and Nasha who barred that door.
JACK: Well, letís stop talking and get that door open, Doc. Weíre getting wetter by the second our here, and I donít want that beat patrol officer wandering down this side alley.
REGGIE: Quite! There are no more giggling models for him to carry over puddles now...
DOC: Okay feller. Quicker than you can say Jack Jehosphat that there dooríll be yawning open.
SOUND (metal against metal, clicking faintly)
REGGIE: Do you need a light, Doc?
DOC: Nope, I can open this with the tang in my belt buckle while standing on my noggin (pause). Yeppers, I always a-wonder why folks they make such a-fuss with the expensive fastenin's and locks on the front doors of buildin's they wants to keep secure, and then these same folks they go and hang a hunk o' junk like they did here on the back doors. Just plain inviting trouble, if you ask me.
JACK: Doc, for Peteís sake, just open the door and save us the Texas campfire sermon...
DOC: (Grunts) ...and there she is, feller! Even easier that I thought.
SOUND (creaking door)
JACK: Okay, lets get inside.
REGGIE: Just a second, Jack. What if someone catches us inside? This is technically breaking and entering.
DOC: Why Reggie, Iím ashamed of you! Whereís your spirit of adventure?!
REGGIE: That still doesnít answer what weíre going to do if we get caught, Doc!
JACK: Itís easy, Reggie. For anyone who finds us, weíre detectives with our office nearby, and we found the side door of the theatre unlocked. Being good neighbors, we decided to check it out. If the police go and check us out, we still have our credentials with the insurance company and our connections at police headquarters.
REGGIE: Well, thatís not what I meant. What if we really DO find the Maestro and Nasha inside, what are we going to do?
JACK: For the love of Mike, Reggie! The Maestro is dead, with his ashes sitting in a mausoleum or on someone's mantle piece. Weíre checking out why someone else is pretending to be the Maestro.
DOC: Huh?! Wadja mean, Jack!
JACK: Never mind that now. (Urgently) Hey, I think I see someoneís shadow crossing in front of the alley way. Lets get inside, fast!
SOUND (quick shuffle of footsteps, and the sound of rain diminishes even further)
JACK: (whisper) Okay, now that weíre all in, lets shut this door quick, and be quiet for a second. And that goes double for you, Doc.
SOUND (Heavy door shuts, and sudden silence)
JACK: (whisper) Make sure you wipe your feet. No point in being too obviousÖ
REGGIE: (whisper) Frightfully dark in here, Jack...
DOC: (louder whisper) Yeah, darker than the inside of Jonah inside the whale...
JACK: (whisper) Quiet, both of you. (pause) Itís not completely dark in here once your eyes adjust.
DOC: Yeah; I can see thereís a faint blue light a-comin; out from underneath that door over there yonder to our left.
JACK: (Faint snick). I have my pencil flash out now (under breath) hmm...the batteries must be old...(back to normal whisper)...it looks like we are in the rear vestibule back behind the main curtain of the theatre. Behind that door must be the back stage proper.
REGGIE: (whisper) So, where now, Jack? Look for signs of either the Maestro or Nasha? And what did you mean about there may be a good reason someone is pretending to be the Maestro?
JACK: (whisper) I have a hunch, Reggie, but Iím going to keep it to myself for the moment. Just stay close with me, the two of you. Weíre going over towards that door. And keep as quiet as you can.
SOUND (Quiet footsteps on a dry stone floor for a few seconds, then a sudden crash of boxes).
JACK: (harsh whisper) Thatís just great, Doc..enough noise to wake the dead!
REGGIE: (whisper) Iím sorry, Jack, but blame me, not Doc. I just couldnít see dark. I must have knocked over a barrel of floor sweepings or something.
JACK: (low voice) Well, it canít be helped now. No point in whispering, now. Just keep your voices low, would you both? And please, no more noise!
DOC: (low voice chuckle) Looks like your in Jackís bad books now, Kid.
REGGIE: (Low voiced chuckle) Quite!
SOUND (Further footsteps for a few seconds, then stop)
JACK: (Low voice) Weíre at the door, now. Now be quiet; maybe thereís no one really there, or if there is, maybe they didnít hear us.
DOC: (low voice after a pause) Do you hear anything feller?
JACK: (whisper) Not a whisper. Iím going to open it a bit. I canít see anything through the key-hole except a blurred blue glow.
SOUND (Slight metal on metal sigh as a doorknob turns. A brief creak of a hinge followed by a brief pause).
JACK: (Low voice) Okay, the coast seems clear. And thereís enough light so we can do without my flashlight. The batteries' failing, anyways.
DOC: (low voice) Well, spill what youíre seeing, Jack. We canít see through you, feller!
JACK: (low voice) It's a big open area...the theatre stage itself. I can see the curtain, half open, to my left, with the length of the main stage stretching out ahead of us. Thereís a blue spot light aimed at the middle of the stage over a long rectangular box on wooden sawhorses. Thatís the light I saw through the keyhole and under the door.
REGGIE: (low voice) Anything else, Jack?
JACK: (low voice) Just some painted back drops on our right against the wall with some props, and a bunch of ropes hanging down from the ceiling tied near the side of the stage near them. Hmmm...they much be attached to the curtains and the backdrops. The other end is in darkness, and thereís a solid brick wall behind the backdrops and stuff.
DOC: (voice slightly raised) Do you see the Maestro or Nasha, anywheres Jack?
JACK: (impatient, but low) Doc, not so loud. (low voice), No, I donít see anyone, not even your friends the Maestro or Nasha, not that I think they are anywhere near here. Itís as quiet as the grave out there.
DOC: (urgent low voice) Then what are we waiting for? Doggone it, this isnít like you Jack, a-tip-toeing and pussyfooting around. And gosh all, why are we whispering if there ainít anybody around. Let's bust about; they must be around here somewheres!
JACK: (low voice) Doc, you know better than stir up trouble, before we get the lay of the land. We may be playing with dynamite, and you think this is a just a game!
DOC: (low voice, hurt) Okay okay already...I can take a hint...
JACK: (low voice) Letís head across.
SOUND (sound of footsteps on a echoing wooden stage)
JACK: (Low voice) Great big empty stageÖ
REGGIE: (low voice) The seating area is empty, too. At lease, I donít see anyone out in the rows out there.
DOC: (low voice) Kinda dark and shadowy, ain't it though? You couldnít see anybody out there if they just ducked down low justa little.
SOUND ( Echoing footsteps continue)
JACK: (low) Lets check out that box under the blue spotlight. It rather reminds me of something...
SOUND (footsteps, somewhat quieter, continue, then suddenly stop)
REGGIE: (Breathless with awe) Jove!
DOC: (Awed) Well, spank me for a baby! Jack, is it what I think it is?
JACK: (Grimly) Itís a coffin. A black wooden casket with silver handles resting on two draped saw horses...
REGGIE: A large black wooden coffin, lacquered and polished until you could almost see your face in it. What do you think it means?
DOC: Kinda a funny place for a funeral par-loor too, isnít it?
JACK: (mirthless chuckle) Isnít it obvious, fellows? Itís just part of the magical paraphenalia for this Mephistoís act we saw advertised in the poster Doc found.,,
DOC: Act, huh?
JACK: Sure. This magician must use it to either disappear from or appear from. Either himself or his assistant, that is.
REGGIE: Brrr...kind a creepy bit of magical hocus-pocus to find in here. Especially here in a darkened theatre with the storm outside and all.
DOC: (Chuckles) Some of those magician assistants are quite the lookers (low whistle) what with their little costumes, and long long stockingíd legs and--(loud voice) HEY! What happened to the lights?
REGGIE: Jack! Doc! I canít see a thing! The blue spotlight went out!
JACK: (harsh, urgent whisper) Keep your voices down. And donít move an inch.
DOC: (low voice) Thereís some nasty varmints in this thee-ay-ter, Jack, just like I said! And theyíve doused the lights so those ciffy cats can sneak up on us in the dark!
JACK: (low voice) Never mind that. (snick) I have my flashlight out now.
REGGIE: (low voice) I can see you now, Jack, but only barely.
DOC: (low voice) Yeah, youíre over there to my left.
JACK: (low voice) Letís bunch up, backs against the coffin facing towards the audience seating. Whoeverís in here with us, canít very friendly.
SOUND (footsteps on wood, that shuffle and quickly stop)
REGGIE: (low voice) Itís a shame we donít have fresh batteries in your electric torch, Jack.
DOC: (low voice) Itís a bigger shame weíre so gun pure, feller. Iíd feel A LOT better with a six-shooter heavy in my right hand right now.
REGGIE: (low voice) At least no one can sneak up behind us. Weíd hear their footsteps on the wooden floorboards here.
JACK: (low voice) Quiet for a second. I thought I heard something.
SOUND (breathing for a few seconds)
REGGIE: (whisper) Well Jack?
JACK: (Grunt, then whispered) I thought I heard something moving off to the side.
SOUND (again, sounds of breathing, and nothing else).
REGGIE: (whisper) Doc...
DOC: (whisper) Yeah...?
REGGIE: (whisper) Do you hear what Iím hearing?
JACK: (Pause, then whisper) What do you hear, Reggie?
REGGIE: (whisper) Well, call me over imaginative chaps...(pause)... but I think thereís something IN this coffin behind us. Something breathing...
DOC: (pause, then whisper) Reggie Kid, stop tha! Yer makiní the hairs on the back of my head stand on end like a porky-pine!
REGGIE: (whisper, urgent) I canít help it, Doc. Thereís something inside this coffin!
JACK: (low whisper) Iím afraid Reggieís right, Doc. Turn around, gang. Weíre going to open that coffin.
REGGIE: (whisper) Iím ALREADY turned around.
DOC: (whisper) Me too, Jack.
JACK: (whisper) On the count of three, Iím going to open the lid of the coffin with my right hand, and point my flash inside with my left...(grunt)Ö let me find the catch...(sound of snick)...there. (Pause). One ...(pause)...two...(pause)... Three--
SOUND (A loud, creaking as that of a heavy coffin lid lifting slowly)
DOC: Well, spank me for a baby.
REGGIE: I say! Itís empty! Nothing but white silk ruffles lining the inside.
JACK: Let me shine my flashlight in the corners (pause)Öhmm, nothing.
REGGIE: (warning) Your lightís fading fast, Jack.
JACK: I know, I know...Maybe if I give it a good shake (grunt).
DOC: Now that did it Jack. Itís ENTIRELY dark now. Iím a-flip-flappiní my hand in front of my face, and I canít even catch a glimmer of it!
JACK: (sigh) Well, it couldnít be helped. (Pause) Iím still wondering about that noise I thought I heard. Be quiet for a moment.
REGGIE: Let me feel inside the coffin, JackÖthereís something here that doesnít make senseÖmaybe if ÖI sayÖ(suddenly frantic) JACK, DOC!
SOUND (violent rocking of a box, heavy panting, shouts of alarm, etc.)
JACK: Reggie! REGGIE! Whatís wrong!!
REGGIE: (Frantic) JACK, DOC! (panting) SOMETHINGíS GRABBED ME! SOMETHING WITH STRONG ARMS AND CLAWS INSIDE THE COFFIN JUST GRABBED ME!
SOUND (The sudden crash of a heavy wooden case falling, then silence)
SOUND (USE RECORD BELLS AND WIND, then PAUSE)
ANNCR: The Three Soldiers of Fortune Jack, Doc and Reggie in their adventure of "The Ghost With Nine Fingers," will come to you tomorrow at this same hour. "Three Love A Mystery", by Brian Christopher Misiaszek comes to you through the courtesy of Old Time Radio. This is the Unusual Broadcasting Company.