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THE GRAVES OF WHAMPERJAW, TEXAS

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 February 18th, 1952.


SOUND: (Clock Strikes Five)

ANNCR: Five o’clock in the afternoon of a dry, smoldering, sun-scorched day on a south-bound passenger train, somewhere in the vastness of Texas. As this modern stream-liner throws itself across the wide open spaces of the Lone Star State, Jack Packard and Doc Long laze and loaf drowsily in Compartment G, Car Ninety-Six. Seated across from them is Jerry Booker, “The cutest secretary in Hollywood.” Jack is rumpled and bored and a little sleepy-eyed. Doc’s red hair is mussed, his shirt unbuttoned, his trousers are twisted from squirming and his long legs are sprawled grotesquely. But Jerry! Jerry sits pretty, neat, sweet, cool and lovely. For Jerry has that touch of magic that is given to some women...a sort of enduring freshness.

SOUND: (Click of rails start to fade in)

ANNCR: And Doc’s heart is as light as Jerry’s laughter...for now, at last, after years of wandering most of the world, he is “ridin’ along” over that part of earth that he loves best...Texas!

SOUND: (Click of rails swells briefly. Distant train whistle then rails fade to sustained background)

JERRY: (Little fade in) But Doc, there’s so much of it!

DOC: So much of what?

JERRY: So much of Texas...we’ve been zooming through Texas now since...

DOC: Oh Honey...you ain't seen nothin’ yet! This here is a BIG state! And the only thing wrong with it is that is ought to be bigger...

JERRY: Bigger? Why?

DOC: Then they’d jest be that more of it to love!

Jack, irritable at being hot and tired, and having difficulty reading his newspaper, tries to tell the others to hush. This being a vacation for the three of them, Doc and Jerry ignore him. They marvel at the countryside passing by outside their window for several minutes, when there is a knock at the door of their compartment, and a stranger enters.

BUCK: (Bad Man...Texan...Humorless...authoritive) (Slight fade In) Howdy, I’m Buck Bradley. Thought you Boys might like to set in a little poker game. My drawin’ room is right down in the next car and I thought...

Jack, ever wary for a scam or a card-shark, tells him to buzz off; they aren’t interested. Bradley gets sore at this perfunctory treatment and accuses both Jack and Doc of being yellow. Bradley’s challenge makes Doc sore, and he says *he’ll* play in their poker game. Jack tries to convince him not to, but Doc ignores him. Yes, Doc knows the game is likely crooked, “...yes...but as the feller says, it’s the only game in town!”

Doc leaves with Bradley down to one of the other rail way compartments, and Jack and Jerry are left alone. Jack still tries to read his paper, but Jerry starts talking again about the scenery of the Texas oil fields just outside the train window. Jerry thinks the derricks and all the jump-start towns are picturesque, but Jack cautions her.

JACK: This part of Texas is as wild and colorful as you can find. Oil hits and towns grow up overnight. Like a gold rush. And it’s pretty wild until the law takes over.

He reads on in the paper, and suddenly finds something of interest which he shares with Jerry.

JACK: But listen to this, “Whamperjaw, Texas, Jan.______. The murder of Squire Hootin remains a mystery. No trace has been found of the murderer. The Squire was shot in the back over three weeks ago and died without ever regaining consciousness. Until the time of his death, he had steadfastedly refused to sell his farm land to any of the numerous oil men who made him attractive offers. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Arabella Hootin."

Jerry is disgusted; can’t he ever think about relaxing, even on vacation? Jack sheepishly replies.

JACK: Sometimes I think it’s a disease.

JERRY: What is?

JACK: This business of mixing in crime...adventure...you know.

Jerry shakes her head, and time passes with the clatter of rails chattering in the background. Doc at last returns to the compartment, and relates what happened with Bradley’s poker game. At first, Bradley tries to intimidate Doc by pulling a revolver out and placing it by his elbow, “just in case.” Doc just shrugged, and pulled out *his* pistol, a pearl-handled nickel-plated beauty which he placed by his elbow, “just in case”.

They started to play, and others soon joined them. As he told the others, Doc realized when he started losing money that the game *was* crooked. He soon noted that the others were marking the playing cards with their fingernails, leaving creases and other marks in which to aid their play. Doc started to put his *own* creases and other marks on the playing cards that first confused then baffled the schemes of the other sharks. But not before Doc won back all his losses...and more! He pulls out a thick bank roll of $4000 which the Jerry marvels at and Jack scowls at, before the door of their railway compartment suddenly bursts open!

It’s Buck Bradley and his pals! And they have guns held on Jack, Doc and Jerry; it’s a hold up! Pointing to the thick fist full of dollars in Doc’s hands, he spits out:

BUCK: (Hatefully) I’ll take that...and I’ll take every...single...red...copper...cent...there is...between...you!

Episode 2: Tuesday February 19th, 1952.


Jack, Doc and Jerry, riding a train on their vacation together in Texas, have just been robbed! Buck Bradley, western bad man, not only took back the money Doc won in a crooked poker game, but also liberated Jerry and Jack of all their money! Buck even took Doc’s pearl handled pistol! As soon as the modern-day bandits left the compartment (and having Jerry no longer threatened), Doc when kiting through the train after them. As Jack and Jerry talk about their predicament, the train stops and Doc comes racing back; the crooks who have his $4000 and his pearl handled pistol were getting off here!

They all get off the train and find the station is little more than a shack, with the words “Whamperjaw, Texas” scrawled on a board. Doc rushes into town ahead of the Jack and Jerry in the gathering gloom, trying to trail the train robbers. Dejectedly, he returns to the others, having lost Buck Bradley, his men, and all their money.

They all realize by this point that not only are they broke, but they are hungry. They enter the jumped up shack of a town that is Whamperjaw, with its low storied shanties, shacks and quagmired streets crisscrossed with boards for avoiding the mud. The first restaurant they see looks too rough for the likes of Jerry, so they head across to a small Mexican Cafe. Jerry wonders what they will do for money, when Doc brazens it out; he has a plan, he says with a grin and a twinkle. Jerry turns to Jack, who only smiles, and says if Doc has a plan for getting free food, they should follow it...

They enter the Mexican cafe, and meet the proprietor, a beautiful black haired woman named Mercedes Rodriquez who speaks with a soft Spanish accent. She asks for their order, and when Jerry hazards a small one, Doc overrides her and orders the works, with huge portions of Mexican food all around. He also starts laying on the famous Doc Long charm on Mercedes as she starts to bring out the large platters of steaming food.

Only the famous Texas charm isn’t working as well as intended; Mercedes is simply too worried. On questioning, she tells an odd little tale about experience her 17 year old brother, Ramon, had today, while walking past the little cemetery up behind the cafe. When walking past the miniature “city of the dead” early that morning, he had noticed a new open grave and tombstone.

JACK: Somebody’s dead, huh?

MERC: That is the bad thing, senor! No has died. NO ONE.

Mercedes goes on with her story to the surprised trio from the A-One detective agency.

MERC: On the tombstone, Ramon says, is painted with white paint very crude writing. This is what it say, “On January 25 a man will not be alive. He’ll fall like a sparrow...that is hit by an arrow!

JERRY: Some sentiment.

JACK: The 25th of January...why, that’s today!

MERC: Si...that is today, and I worry senor. I think could it have been meant for my little brother Ramon...I try to keep him in with me tonight, but he will not stay...

Mercedes explains that the reason she thinks that the deadly poem is aimed at her brother is because he has made certain enemies in town, enemies about a certain gang and its leader, a man named Buck Bradley who is “...the mos' evil man in all Texas!” 

As she explains her fear for her absent younger brother, Jack is suddenly tense; he hears a man prowling outside the cafe. A man with a gun, for suddenly a shot rings out and the cafe window is shattered!

Episode 3: Wednesday February 20th, 1952.


Jack is unhurt from the gun shot. They duck and cover, and cautiously look out the door. There’s no one there. Mercedes speculates that it may have been someone out to get her brother Ramon, while the others wonder if it is members of Buck Bradley’s gang trying to scare them off after the robbery on the train. They also speculate on the meaning of the open grave in the Whamperjaw cemetery and the odd piece of verse.

Mercedes suddenly realizes that the three have no money, since the others have just told her that Bradley has just robbed them on the train. Doc, the red head, “...with the Big Mouth,” is singled out by Mercedes for her ire at the unpaid for meal, and he is dragged out to the kitchen to face a Herculean pile of dirty dishes he has to wash and dry, much to the suppressed hilarity of Jack and Jerry.

She does feel sorry for the trio, injured by her brother’s enemy. She offers to lend space in her cabin for Jerry to spend the night, while Doc and Jack and sleep in the same lean-to her brother Ramon has been using. They are about to retire (after first admiring the Texas relics covering the walls, brightly covered Indian blankets, spears, and arrows), when Jerry and Jack notice an odd figure prowling outside the cafe. A tall, plain woman, with odd sparkles in her hair, walking as if she was in a trance. “A diamond tiara!” Jerry gasps, until the figure disappears from sight around the corner of the cafe. They return to the table to chat some more, and speculate on the weird figure. Doc, having finished up in the kitchen (much to his disgust), calls out asking where Mercedes is, when they all hear the sound of a body falling on the boardwalk outside!

They unbar the cafe’s door, and find that body! 

A body of a man with an arrow through the heart!!!

Episode 4: February 21st, 1952


The clock strikes 7 am. Jack and Doc, having spent the night in the lean-to next to the cafe, scratch and yawn and wonder where Ramon had spent the night. Having the night before re-barred the door (not wanting to involve themselves with the dead body very late the night before), they unbar the door and discover the body is gone, seemingly washed away in the rain from a storm the night before! And now, with the body gone, even fewer clues!

After Doc goes in to find the girls and scare up some breakfast, Jack stays outside, trying to figure out where and how the missing corpse had been shot. After roaming about for a few minutes, Mercedes’ younger Ramon shows up. Ramon a handsome lad who speaks with a soft and nasal Mexican lilt, is at first suspicious, then friendly to Jack. He says he hid out in Squire Hootin’s haymow overnight. Jack asks why, and Ramon’s story unfolds.

Ramon used to work for the Hootin’s, the Squire and his peculiar wife, Arabella. General chores on the farm, that sort of thing, and ever watchful of all the various oil men disappointed at their attempts to purchase the Hootin farm. Suddenly all is changed when the Squire was murdered, shot in the back! And Ramon has been fearful ever since, certain that the Squire’s killer is out to get him for reporting his suspicions to the authorities. Jack asks what these are, and Ramon relates that he is convinced that the murderer is Buck Bradley!

Ramon admits on questioning from Jack that he has no proof of Buck’s guilt, but he is certain that Whamperjaw’s resident bad man has his dirty finger in this pie. He also tells Jack that he has heard of last night’s murder-by-arrow in front of the Cafe as foretold by the graveyard verse.

More importantly, when coming in through the little Whamperjaw cemetery early that morning, Ramon found a SECOND empty grave, with a SECOND deadly verse on it! This one read, “On February 5th, a man will not be alive. Because he was so dirty smart, he fair broke a bein’s heart. He’ll be pumped full of lead, right square in the head!”

Timed with new revelation, Doc returns from the cafe, and Ramon scurries off on some unknown errand. Since breakfast will take a few minutes, Jack and Doc decide to look over the town a little. Things aren’t improved much in the light of day. Grey sun-scorched wooden structures, ramshackle buildings, nothing taller than one-and-a-half stories, muddy streets, shacks, shanties, lean-tos, and surrounding them all the ubiquitous oil derricks.

Jack and Doc hear a repetitive clanging sound coming from the town, and following the noise they find themselves near a blacksmith’s shop, with the overall garbed blacksmith hard at work. Only this blacksmith is a woman!

Red-haired, raw boned, and wearing dirty britches, Doc nonetheless recognizes her. Over Jack’s better judgment, he slips a hot horseshoe from the forge into her rear pocket (he never could stand seeing women in pants, he whispers to Jack), and she jumps and howls and spins around. Furiously, she digs out the unfriendly pocket intruder, and turns to her tormentor. She glares at the howling-with-laughter Doc, then suddenly brightens and bursts out with...

WINNIE: Well, graaaacious living!!! Doc Long!! Cousin Doc!!

DOC: Winnie-Mae! Dad-gummet, honey, how are ya!

WINNIE: I’m so glad to see ya, I could bust my belly band! Where have you been these last hunnerd years, y’ol’ hoss-thief?

DOC: Been EVERwhere! Jack! Jack, this here is Winnie-Mae, my cousin on my mamma’s side! Ain’t she wonderful?

JACK: Well! I’ve been hearing about you for years. It’s nice to see you...

WINNIE: Thank ya. Me an’ Doc growed up together.

Doc and Winnie-Mae play catch up for several minutes, with Jack eying Doc’s famous “cousin on my mamma’s side.” Jack’s eyes wander from the folksy Texas gabfest...and he suddenly spies up the street their nemesis--Buck Bradley!

When he points this out to the others, Winnie-Mae comments, “...that feller’s as treacherous as a ground rattler.” They see Bradley head over to a slightly more ornate shack which Winnie-Mae says belongs to one “Judge” Abernathy. Abernathy is no real Judge; he’s little more than a sleazy town lawyer with a bad reputation. As the three watch, they see Bradley first head in and then leave Judge Abernathy’s shack. They also notice Ramon unexpectedly arriving on the scene, turning a corner of the street and run smack into his enemy, Buck Bradley!

With sadistic delight, Bradley lays viciously into the kid with a quirt. Doc, seeing Bradley flailing away at the defenseless kid, wades in to the rescue, and knocks Bradley “kitty-wampus” with a single haymaker blow. As Jack and Winnie-Mae rush up, to the shaken Ramon and the victorious Doc, Doc turns the unconscious Bradley over and notices with surprise a silver star pinned to his vest! Winnie-Mae explains the facts of Whamperjaw life to Doc.

WINNIE: Why shure! Didn’t you know? He’s the law in these parts! Marshal Buck Bradley!

Episode 5: Friday February 22nd, 1952.


After knocking out Bradley, and giving hasty regards to Winnie-Mae, the boys make themselves scarce from the unconscious (but soon to revive) Bradley. They aren’t so much afraid of him, but what he stands for--the law, crooked as it may be. Doc and Jack head over the Mercedes’ Cafe, discussing their most recent predicament while Ramon hides elsewhere; Bradley, while a known thief and alleged murderer, is also the local law in these parts!

Jack and Doc arrive finally at the Cafe, and both breakfast and the girls are waiting. Jack warns Doc that they'd better get moving soon as Doc starts to dig in. Jerry and Mercedes learn that Doc has saved Mercedes' brother from a severe beating. Mercedes turns to Doc breathlessly and says:

MERC: Oh, senor Doc. For a man who have red hair and talk too much and make too many...passes... you are so pretty!

DOC: See? I tole y’all I had a way with wimmin!

Hushing the smug Doc aside, Jack has some more questions for Mercedes, especially about the body found on the steps just outside her Mexican Cafe. Mercedes had recognized the corpse as being from a member of Buck Bradley’s gang, another bad man who was no friend of Ramon’s. They also discuss the two verses written on the tombstones, verses prophesying murder, with one prophecy already having come true. The second verse is repeated again to the others, “On February 5th, a man will not be alive. Because he was so dirty smart, he fair broke a bein’s heart. He’ll be pumped full of lead, right square in the head!”

Jack asks Mercedes who in town of Whamperjaw could be the “dirty-smart” one referred to in the verse. “Judge” Abernathy’s name comes up again. They all learn that the “Judge” is in fact a disbarred lawyer, a snake of a man who has cheated and tricked farms out from under their owners for the rich oil underneath the land. Yes, Mercedes says, it must be Abernathy who is intended as the mysterious gravedigger, poet and killer’s new victim.

All of a sudden, a strange woman enters the cafe. It is the same very tall and plain woman who had been prowling the night before outside the cafe just before the dead body with the arrow in his heart fell down in front! Mercedes whispers to Jerry and the others that the woman in the plain dress, men’s shoes and diamond tiara is Squire Hootin’s widow, now known as Miz Arabella Hootin! In a raspy and time roughened voice, she addresses the others.

Mrs. H: Yes Ma’am. I am Miz Hootin. I was Mrs. Hootin...Squire Hootin has gone to glory. He’s up yonder...with the stars in his crown.

Mrs. Hootin takes a shine to the suddenly uncomfortable Jerry Booker, repeating over and over, “She shore is purty...” and little else, learning Jerry’s name. When asked about her diamond tiara, she simply answers, "It won't do it!", before leaving as suddenly as she came, after one long lingering glance at Jerry. Mercedes tells the amazed others that yes, the diamond tiara is real, and it suddenly appeared soon after Squire Hootins' death. A true local eccentric, much of the time Mrs. Hootin is seen wandering the streets of Whamperjaw at all times of day and night, and attends the local church with great zeal for the religious hymns she croaks out.

Suddenly, as they are talking about the peculiarities of Mrs. Hootin, Buck Bradley jumps into the cafe! The boys had lingered too late after knocking him out!

With the drop on everyone in the room, Bradley handcuffs Jack. As he moves to do the same to Doc, Doc slugs Bradley as Jerry simultaneously kicks up Bradley’s gun hand. The gun explodes...harmlessly into the ceiling of the room! In the confusion and chaos, Doc ducks out the window and escapes. Bradley turns and snarls at Jerry.

BUCK: Alright smart girl. Will get him later...and as for you, Mr. Wise Guy--

JACK: I’m listening.

BUCK: A man was shot through the heart with an arrow last night...

JACK: Yeah?

BUCK: Yeah! An’ I got a warrant for your arrest...for MURDER!

MUSIC: "Valse Triste"


 

This is the end of the first week--five episodes in total--of the ILAM serial, "The Graves of Whamperjaw, Texas." 

The remaining two weeks, or 10 episodes, of "The Graves of Whamperjaw, Texas." appear in synopsis format.  Simply follow these two links:    Week 2  Week 3.