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The Ghost With Nine Fingers", a THREE LOVE A MYSTERY radio play, is copyright 1999/2000 by Brian Christopher Misiaszek.


THREE LOVE A MYSTERY: THE GHOST WITH NINE FINGERS

EPISODE FIVE:

SOUND (Wind and Bells Effect)

ANNCR: Old-Time Radio presents, "Three Love A Mystery"

SOUND (Organ Theme...VALSE TRISTE)

ANNCR: “Three Love Mystery,” presenting latest adventures of Jack, Doc and Reggie, specialists in Crime and Adventure, trailing a killer from beyond the grave!

SOUND (MUSIC UP TO FINISH)  (TRAIN WHISTLE)

ANNCR: The Ghost with Nine Fingers. A new Brian Christopher Misiaszek mystery-adventure thriller!

SOUND (Organ Theme...VALSE TRISTE)

SOUND (CLOCK STRIKES EIGHT)

ANNCR: It  evening in room 407 of the hotel where Lester Brown, and his  assistant, Nasha are staying, in Hollywood California.  Jack Packard, the head of the Triple A One detective agency insisted they come here by taxi cab to recover from their misadventures early this evening inside the Orpheum Theatre, where they had been rehearsing their magical stage act.  Jack and his two companions, Doc Long and Reggie York (both elsewhere at the moment), had intruded on the rehearsal, and it was a good thing they did, for they thwarted an attempt on Nasha's life.  How they arrived at the Orpheum was a little complicated, as Jack can explain.   

JACK:   Yes, we were on what I thought at first was a wild goose chase.  Doc had spotted from our office window someone who appeared to be an old and dangerous enemy of ours, a man known only as the Maestro.  The Maestro was a stage magician, one both incredibly obese and ugly, who nonetheless controlled amazing powers of illusion and hypnotism.  His partner then was a young foreign woman named Nasha, who was completely and utterly in his power.  With Nasha's unwilling help, the Maestro had plotted to steal twenty-five thousand dollars of ours, and to kill myself, Reggie and Doc to obscure the crime. With luck, we managed to turn the tables on the Maestro and have him arrested by the authorities and sentenced with life imprisonment for the earlier murder of one of his partners in crime. 

Early this evening, however, Doc thought that he had seen the Maestro outside a local vaudeville theatre and to placate him I called police HQ, and learned to my surprise that the Maestro had perished some weeks before, seemingly having starved himself to death.  Only half convinced of the necessity, I allowed Doc and Reggie to take me along to look inside the Orpheum, where we found Nasha along with a man who appeared to be the Maestro inside.

BROWN:  (Hearty laugh)  That was myself, though I am known as Mephisto, certainly a name that would conjure more mystery and glamour than my real name, Lester Brown! I am a stage magician by trade, and after hiring the late Maestro's stage assistant, Nasha to be my own partner, I had adopted a stage appearance very similar to that of the late but unlamented Maestro. With Nasha's help, and with some of the Maestro's old equipment, we came up with an impressive act which gathered critical acclaim down in San Diego.  (Hearty laugh again) I'm only lucky that I have all 10 of  my fingers, unlike the Maestro, otherwise things could have been a little sticky!

ANNCR: And tonight, after Mehphisto had received several threatening letters by someone who signed themselves impossibly as the Maestro, disaster struck.  A mysterious gunman, shot at Nasha from a catwalk high in the theatre.  Luck held with the Maestro's former assistant, for the bullet only grazed her, but the gunman himself was less lucky with the Three Comrades being on the scene!  Fleeing from the theatre, the would-be killer darted out into traffic without looking, and was struck and killed by a passing taxi cab.  Unable to ignore this very real manifestation of threatened death, Mephisto has tonight hired the Triple A One Detective agency to guard both himself and Nasha and find out who is behind everything. 

 SOUND (Rain fall, with occasional thunder rumbling, etc.)

ANNCR:          It's now eight o'clock. And while Doc and Reggie were attending a previous engagement with their friend Sunny Richards and her new ward, Hermie Richards, Jack was both acting as bodyguard and questioner to Lester Brown, alias the Maestro.  Nasha, already bandaged by Jack, is resting in the next room, with the adjoining door open.  

SOUND (Loud roll of thunder rumbling and gobbling)

JACK:  You need to think harder, Brown.  I don't know enough about the situation we're dealing with…threatening notes supposedly signed by a dead man…hired gunmen…What I need is some hard facts.  Real information, if I am to help you and Nasha. 

BROWN:  (Wearily)  What kind of information would you need from me  Mr. Packard?

JACK:   Well, first of all, lets go back to the beginning. Just how did you get the Opheum Theatre engagement here in Hollywood?

BROWN:   (Doubtfully)  I don't know how that can help you about these death threats signed by the Maestro, or tonight's events for that matter…

JACK:  Just humour me for the moment, if you would.

BROWN:    (Still doubtful) Well…if you insist…

JACK:   (Firmly) I do.

BROWN:  Alright then…(SIGH)…I was approached by the man who eventually became my business partner and manager, Burt Harvey, down in San Diego, after he saw my show there.  He saw my act, loved what he saw, and said he knew a theatre owner up here in Hollywood whose stage would house my show beautifully, so here we are!

JACK:   (Sharply) Eventually became your manager?  You mean, you didn't have a manager before this.

BROWN:  Oh no.  I let my former manager, Nathan White go.

JACK:   (Even sharper) May I ask why?

BROWN:  Certainly.  White didn't care for the way I was restyling myself as Mephisto, and changing the act to accommodate Nasha, and everything she taught me about the Maestro's old act.  (PAUSE)…To be honest, he felt I showed bad taste in essentially taking over the stage persona of a convicted killer.

JACK: And do YOU think you are showing bad taste?

BROWN: (Flatly) No.  I believe you can separate a man from his art.  The Maestro may have been a ice-hearted killer, but he WAS a genius at his craft. 

JACK:  Okay, okay…was there any other reason for dropping your old manager?

BROWN: To be honest, I felt he was holding me back from my true potential.  He in turn thought I was being too ambitious, especially when I learned from Burt Harvey that I had a chance for fame as an entertainer her in Hollywood.  Nonetheless, we parted more or less amicably.

JACK:  Mmm…Let's put that aside for the minute. What can you tell me about Burt Harvey, your current manager, then?

BROWN:  Not a great deal, to be honest.  He's a tall middle-aged man, balding, with only a fringe of dark hair left. I'm afraid I don't know much about him, since we work on a strictly business basis. 

JACK:   Is he an established entertainment promoter or impresario then?

BROWN:  (Slowly) No…from what I gather, he is merely a Hollywood businessman, one with interests in real-estate and automobiles.  I rather felt that by sponsoring me he was gaining a foothold into the entertainment industry. 

JACK:  Hmm…What exactly is the nature of your business relationship, if I can ask?

BROWN:   Well, Burt Harvey has arranged with the theatre owner, Max Greenway, to rent the Orpheum at a reduced rate for a two week period.  Greenway will pay for stage-hands, arrange the orchestra, hire ushers, etc, in return for 20% of the ticket sales. 

JACK:  And what does Mr. Harvey contribute?

BROWN: He arranged the ticket sales, newspaper and radio advertising, sent out press releases, paid for our hotel rooms and meals up front,  and also paid for renting the Orpheum itself, in return for 40% of the ticket sales. 

JACK:   That doesn't seem like a lot left for you, Brown.

BROWN:  On the contrary, it's better than I made while in San Diego.  Despite my recent popularity in San Diego, I am an unknown element here in Hollywood, Mr. Packard.  Burt Harvey is taking a chance, even though I know I will succeed…And, as you can see when I remove my padded suit and make-up, I am still a relatively young man.

JACK:  (Slowly) Yes, you look to be in your early thirties without your "Maestro" disguise…

BROWN:     You have a keen eye, Mr. Packard.  I am 34 years old.

JACK:          Thanks, but we're getting sidetracked here…what happens if you obey those threatening messages, and  cancel your show here?

BROWN:    (Flatly) It would be an unmitigated disaster.

JACK:          How so? 

BROWN:      My blossoming magical career would be ruined, and I would be forced back to performing small magical tricks table to table in nightclubs, just to pay the rent.  I would be forced to realize that my dreams of the big time would stay only that, dreams. That's why, as scared as I am, that I'm willing to go on.

JACK:          And that's why you wanted to hire Doc, Reggie and me.

BROWN:      Right.  I CAN'T give up this opportunity for success, Mr. Packard.  It is only through the Burt Harvey's help have I had a chance to have such a spacious venue to show my hard earned magical skills to the world.  If I lost this chance…I don't know what I would do.

JACK:          Would you lose a great deal of money if the show was cancelled.

BROWN:      I have no real money to lose, Mr. Packard, (Hearty laugh)  But have no fear, I have enough to pay you and your firm, at least for a week.  No, my sole contribution to the venture was the magical act Nasha and I have come up with, along with all my magical equipment and--

SOUND (Telephone rings)

JACK:  That must be my reply from Police Headquarters. (Off mike)  Let me get it,…and don’t go near that window, whatever you do!

SOUND (Click of phone receiver)

JACK:  Jack Packard here.  (Pause)  Why, hello Captain Dane.  Thanks for getting back to me so promptly.  (Pause)  So you have a positive ID of that man who was run over by the taxi near the Orpheum, hey?  (Pause)  Only a tentative one?  (Longer Pause)…What?  You can't be serious, can you Dane?  (Pause)  I see…I can see why you are so upset, I would be too in your shoes.  (Pause)  Yes, I'll be down tomorrow morning to sign my statement.  (Pause) Judge McLarty wants me to call him, too?  (Pause) I didn't know he had retired (Pause)  Stroke…I see…Yes, I will. Good-bye, Captain Dane.

BROWN:    You look…surprised, I suppose is the word, Mr. Packard.

JACK:          (GRIMLY)  That isn't the half of it…(Pause)…Is Nasha still sleeping:

BROWN:      (Surprised, lower voice)  Why, let me get up and look.

SOUND (Footsteps, and creak of door)

BROWN:          Yes, she's asleep.

JACK:          Are you dead certain she's asleep?

BROWN:      (Lower voice) Yes, I could see her lying on her side on the bed with the covers up, breathing easily and slowly.  But what did you learn just now?

JACK:  (Grimly, lower voice)  Keep your voice down, I don't want to wake her. They've identified the man, all right.  The same man who shot Nasha, then ran out and got himself killed tonight after Doc and I chased him.

BROWN:  (Lower voice) Yes, go on.  Who was he?

JACK:  (Lower voice) His name was Gus Norman, known as "Scar" because of an acid scar disfiguring his face.  He was a hired thug, with a record of violent crime as long as your arm.  Mostly cowardly crimes against women…(Pause)…He was also a felon, or rather was.

BROWN:  (Puzzled, but still in a lower voice) Was a felon?  I don't get you, Packard. 

JACK:  I say WAS a felon, for he supposedly died six days ago in the very same prison the Maestro died in…

SOUND (Thunder rumbling, then PAUSE)

SOUND (CLOCK STRIKES NINE) 

SOUND (Rain fall, with occasional thunder rumbling, etc.) 

ANNCR: It is now Nine-o-clock in the evening at Sunny Richard’s house, the very beautiful and very rich heiress well known to the three members of the Triple A-One Detective agency. Dining with her late this evening as promised are two of the three members of the agency, the lanky legged and red headed Doc Long, and the young tow-headed English Hercules, Reggie York. The two, along with their absent partner, Jack Packard, had met the blonde heiress on a previous trip to San Diego, where they had uncovered and destroyed a terribly conspiracy surrounding the young woman. Later on, Sunny and the young stowaway Hermie traveled with the boys down to Central America, where they experienced murder and mayhem in the Temple of Vampires down in Nicaragua before finally repairing their crashed plane and returning again to the United States.

Doc and Reggie had arrived late for dinner, but there was good reason.  They have delayed their explanations to the curious Sunny, and her even more impatiently curious ward Hermie until after dessert has been served.

DOC:          Boy-o-boy, was that a delicious meal.   And now, Strawberry Short-cake, mmm mmm! My favorite!

SUNNY:  And that’s my cake, too!  While Jackson’s wife prepared the rest of the meal, that cake was courtesy of myself and Hermie here.

HERMIE: I helped frosted it, too,  fellas!  I’m good at frosting cakes, ain’t I, Sunny?

SUNNY:  That’s "frost" and “aren’t I” Hermie, not "frosted" and "ain’t I".  But you did help a great deal, just like I said!

SOUND (clatter of forks against plates, etc.)

REGGIE:  I say, (swallowing) This is delicious!  But strawberries in November?  Isn’t that a little extravagant, Sunny?

SUNNY: Well, they're just hot-house strawberries.  And I have to spend some of the money I finally control on the good things in life.

DOC:  And Sunny, as the only red-blooded Texan in the room, I have to say that you’re one best of the good things in life!

SUNNY: (Delighted laugh)  But you aren’t the only Texan in this room, Doc.  Little Hermie here’s from Texas too, aren’t you Hermie.

HERMIE:  I sure am!  (confused) At least, I think I am, aren’t I?

DOC:  Hermie, after all you went through with us down south in Central America, I’m sure that Texas would be proud to have you as one of her own, even if you weren’t born in the Lone Star State!

REGGIE:  And I agree with Doc, Young Hermie fella-me-lad! 

HERMIE:  Thank's fellas!  Gee, you're a bunch of right guys!

SOUND (Laughter all around, then a pause)

DOC:    (Yelp of surprise) Hey…!  What in tarnation!!

SOUND   (Clatter of cutlery on plates).

SUNNY:    Doc! Doc, what is it?

DOC:   (Frantic) I dunno!  There's something (Exertion) under the table grabbing my pant-leg.

SOUND:  (Tearing of cloth)

REGGIE:  Here, let me duck under the table.

DOC:       It's not human!  Hurry, Reggie. It's gnawing on my shin now!

SOUND:  (Clatter of chairs being thrown back)

SUNNY:     Careful, boys!  What is it?

HERMIE: (Yelling) Wait, Doc! Wait Reggie!

REGGIE:  Here, wait…a second, it's dark under here…

DOC:  (Off mike) Reggie?  I'm free now!  'Kin you get a swing at it,

REGGIE: (Groans)  Oh Doc…it's only…

SOUND    (A puppy barking)

HERMIE: SCRAPS…here boy!…that's my puppy, Scraps, Reggie!  Please don't hurt him Doc.  He didn't mean to scare you!

DOC:    (Unbelieving) A puppy?

SUNNY: (Threateningly) Hermie…

REGGIE: (Soothingly)  Don't worry Hermie.  And don't worry Scraps, you're safe in my arms…(AMUSED) Look here, Doc, here's your attacker.

SOUND   (ARF ARF!)

DOC: Was that what was a-fightin' me?

REGGIE:  Yes, that's what was chewing on your pant leg!

DOC:       (Silly laugh)  Funny ain't it!  Scared of a little puppy dog!

SOUND   (Puppy barking happily again)

SUNNY:   (Contrite)  Oh, Doc, your poor pant leg is all torn… (Threatening) What did I tell you about Scraps, Hermie?

HERMIE:  (Solemn) Sunny, I'm sorry…you're not mad at me, are you?

DOC:  But where did Hermie get his dog from?

SUNNY:    Scraps has just been here a few weeks.  Hermie and I were passing by the front window of a pet store, and saw him there (faltering) and he looked so adorable and Hermie wanted him so…

REGGIE:   Oh, look here, Sunny. Don't holler at the little shaver; he was just afraid his puppy would get lonely over dinner.  You have to admit the two of them had been  awfully good throughout the meal.

DOC:     Yeah, Sunny…Don't blame the kid…I was just wound up about tonight…though I didn't know that Hermie had a new friend living here.

SUNNY:          (Trying not to laugh)  'Course I'm not mad at you, Hermie, but look what Scraps did to poor Doc's trousers.  You should have left Scraps down in the cellar like I told you too.

HERMIE:      (Earnestly) I'm sorry, Sunny.  And I'm sorry about your clothes, Doc. Scraps is my new dog, and he still has to learn a lot about big people.

DOC:             Don't worry about that, Hermie.  It serves me right for being on edge and all. I'm just glad Jack wasn't here to ride me, too!

SUNNY: And that's another thing.  I know it’s too bad that Jack couldn’t make it tonight.  Why wouldn’t you tell me until after we finished dinner, boys?

REGGIE: On account little pitchers have big ears, if you catch our meaning, Sunny...

SUNNY:  Oh!  (Pause, then comprehension) I see.  Hermie...Hermie!

HERMIE:  Yes Sunny?

SUNNY:  You remember what I said earlier; as soon as dessert was over, up you’d scoot into bed.  I think with our adventure with Scraps here tonight that you've had enough dessert for one evening, don't you think?

HERMIE:  Aw, gee-whiz, do I have to go to?  I want to stay up with Doc and Reggie!  I want to hear what they have to say!

SUNNY:  No buts about it young man,  up you go.

HERMIE:  (Reluctant) Aw, Sunny…Doc hasn’t had a chance to really see the tricks that I've taught Scraps to do, even...

SUNNY:  Hermie...you heard me.  Doc can see the rest of Scraps on some other visit.  It’s way past your bedtime, and I only let you stay up so late since it wasn’t a school night.

HERMIE:  Oh, all right…(pause, then off mike) Goodnight Doc.  Goodnight Reggie.

DOC/REGGIE:  Goodnight Hermie/’Night pardner.

HERMIE: Goodnight, Sunny.

SUNNY: 'Night, Hermie.  You march right up, and before long I’ll be in to tuck you in.

HERMIE: 'Kay, then. (off) Night...

SOUND (Footsteps scamper off, then a Pause)

SUNNY: Whew!  And if you thought fighting vampires is tough, trying being the mother to a over active eight year old little boy and his new puppy!

REGGIE:  (emphatically) Nursemaid to a bally infant...brrr!

SUNNY:  Reggie!  Shame on you!  You watch what you say!

REGGIE:  Sorry (dirty laugh).

SUNNY:  (Grimly) And I know what that dirty laugh means, too!

DOC:  Oh, don’t mind Reggie, Sunny. The Kid’s barely out of the egg himself.

REGGIE:  And that’s something I’ll be happy to drink too, staying young, unblemished and in the egg.  Cheers, everyone!

SOUND (tinkle of glasses, gurgle of liquid, then three sighs)

SUNNY: Can I freshen up anyone’s drink.

DOC:  Sure thing, sugar; here’s my glass.

REGGIE: Not for me, Sunny…I'm taking over guard duty from Jack tonight.

SOUND (pouring liquid into glass)

REGGIE: So Sunny; you mentioned you’re flying again?

DOC:      Yeah, tell us, sweet-stuff, about how you've been doing with your very own air-eo-plane!

SUNNY:  Oh no you two don’t.

REGGIE: (surprised) I say, whatever do you mean, Sunny?

SUNNY: (Firmly) It’s as plain as the nose on your face...trying to change the topic all evening about why Jack isn’t here, why Doc and you arrived hours late, and why Doc was soaking wet and had a skinned knuckle when he did get here with you... 

REGGIE: (back-peddling furiously) I don’t know what you mean, Sunny.  Naturally I’m curious about your adopting Hermie, and how well he’s doing at school, and the new puppy you bought him last week and...

SUNNY:  Oh, you two are impossible.  Are you going to tell me what happened tonight, or am I going to explode with the suspense. (pause)  Well, don’t just look there at each other like goggle-eyed fish.  You start telling me, Doc, what got the two of you excited and distracted tonight--

SOUND (Telephone ringing)

SUNNY:          Oh bother…I forgot that I had let Jackson and his wife off for the night (Off Mike)  I'll be back in a minute, boys.

SOUND (Footsteps, telephone ringing, then both stop together)

REGGIE:    Whew, saved by the bell

DOC:           Reggie Kid...

REGGIE:   What?

DOC:            It’s like I told you before, you’re just a sucker for women...

REGGIE: (Miserable) Quite.

SOUND          (High-heeled footsteps returning)

SUNNY:          That was Jack on the telephone, boys.  And he wanted me to pass on a message to the two of you.

DOC:    So, why look so serious, sugar-foot? Spill what you have to say?

REGGIE:   Yes, what was Jack's message, Sunny?

SUNNY:  I wrote most of it down. (Reading)  "Reggie is to leave immediately to take my place to guard Mephisto and Nasha at room 407 of the hotel."

REGGIE:          I say, that means an early end to our evening, Sunny.  Did Jack say why he changed his plans?

SUNNY:          (Peculiar voice)  No, he didn't.  But that's not the end of Jack's message.  He also said, (Reading) "Tell Doc to head over at once to Judge McLarty's place at 1034 West Canyon Road, I'll meet him there at ten o'clock.  The Maestro's written another death threat from beyond the grave!"

SOUND (Organ Theme...VALSE TRISTE)

SOUND (WAILING LOCOMOTIVE, followed by SCREECHING CAR)

ANNCR: You have just heard the fourth chapter of "The Ghost With Nine Fingers." The further adventures of the Jack, Doc and Reggie and the A-One Detective Agency 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.