This story is an adaptation of the original screenplay by William L. Stuart. This episode is noted for not having the Black Beauty in it and not having any fight scenes. This is my idea of what the "true" story might really be, something that gives even Britt Reid nightmares. I have the highest respect for the writers and creators of these characters and lay no claim to them except for those of a fervent fan.
Alias the Scraf
The True Story
"Just the facts, ma'am." That's what Sgt. Joe Friday always said on Dragnet. Just the facts. That's what I've always lived by. Collecting facts, information. The Truth. That's what I've always done as a newspaperman. A newspaperman. Not a lot of us left these days, but as a third generation newspaperman, I've always been proud to call myself one.
Even though the written word, even words themselves were the tools of my trade, I have always dealt with the facts they represented. I never indulged in the world of fiction. Some would have called that a weakness; that I am not a creative person. Perhaps that's true, I don't know. All I do know is that words are not only tools, but weapons; weapons that can destroy through lies and innuendo. Throughout my life I have dedicated myself to revealing those lies, to expose the truth, to put way those who used smiling faces and slick words to victimize others.
Sometimes, sadly, we are all forced to lie, perhaps to save the feelings of another, to avoid embarrassment or perhaps, more tellingly, because the truth would not be believed. The copycat Scarf murders of a few years ago are a case in point. On the surface, the facts look plain enough. James Rancourt becomes so obsessed with The Scarf that he goes on a murder spree until he is finally stopped. Obsession, murder, capture; what could be simpler? Would that it was true.
It began simply enough. It was late fall, a time when the fog rolls in late every afternoon and stays for the night, snarling traffic and chilling everyone to the bone with its cold dampness. Mike Axford was at the Willman Wax Museum covering their newest addition to the Chamber of Evil, the Green Hornet and his masked companion.
The figures were based on Mike's descriptions in the Daily Sentinel. Which since I didn't think resembled us one bit goes to show you why Mike never clued into the fact that I was the Green Hornet. Willman, who was giving Mike a personal tour, was pleased with his work, as was Mike. The one person who didn't seem very happy about it was James Rancourt, Willman's partner.
Rancourt was a bent and frail man, thin almost to the point of emaciation, with a narrow ascetic face and the thick-lensed glasses of a scholar. Willman told Mike that Rancourt knew more about the figures in the Chamber of Evil than even the authorities, especially the former star of the Chamber, The Scarf.
"Identity unknown," Rancourt said of the Scarf to the other reporters as he squired them around the exhibit, "For years before the arrival of the Green Hornet, the star of the Chamber of Evil. Urbane, ruthless, contemptuous of the police, he killed by using a white scarf as a garrote. He was never captured. Then more than twenty years ago, he simply vanished."
The wax figure of the Scarf stood next to an ornate, throne-like chair. He was dressed like a gentleman going out to the opera with a black hat, black cloak and a black suit. He was depicted as a slender man wearing a van dyke beard and a white silk scarf draped around his shoulders.
"But even the greatest can be replaced," Rancourt continued as he brought the reporters before the Chamber's newest exhibit, "As will the Green Hornet himself will be one day."
Then he dismissed himself, telling Willman, "I will be at the library pretty late tonight. I am revising my lecture notes considerably to relate our guests to our new star."
Willman acknowledged Rancourt's leaving and then had, Paul Garrett, his assistant, escort Mike and the other reporters out of the museum and lock up behind them. Then he set about tidying his workroom. The workroom was filled with all the detritus of that went into making wax figures. Cauldrons of hot wax bubbled in the dimly lit room. Hands and feet hung from the ceiling while an assortment of heads filled shelves and half constructed bodies lay on worktables. Not a place where most people would feel comfortable in the middle of the night, but Willman was in his element. He felt safe.
Later that night Mike brought in a young lady who had just gotten off work. She had a strange and, to me, an entirely unbelievable story.
"He was about four or five feet away from me," she said, still distraught from her experience, "And then he started coming at me with this scarf. He walked kind of strange, funny and stiff-like. And his face, what I remember, what I could see, it was kind of glossy-like…"
"Like wax, you mean?" Mike asked pointedly.
"Yes," she said, "Yes, it was kind of shiny like that."
Bill came into my office and I introduced him to her, "Mr. Graham will take you to the photo gallery. I'll have a reporter take your story."
"It's impossible," I said to Mike after the girl had followed Bill out of my office.
"Not to Willman," Mike answered, "He isn't given much of a chance to live."
"She couldn't have made the story up," I said, thinking that the girl's story was too far-fetched for anyone to make up and expect to be believed.
"I was in the squad room of the 21st passing the time of the evening with Sergeant Doyle when she came in," he explained, "Her story sounded on the up and up to me. I thought you might want to hear it."
Casey had just gotten off the phone with some new. "Mike," she said, "The desk wants you. A parked policeman spotted a bearded man, he lost him in the fog, but he found a dead man lying beside a park bench. He said he'd been strangled."
Mike bustled out of my office, leaving me to wonder what the hell was going on.
The next night Frank Scanlon arrived in my townhouse through the secret elevator to discuss the attacks with me.
Casey called as we were examining what few files we had on the Scarf. "Mike just called from police headquarters," she said, " The Scarf was just interrupted during an attack. One of the officers thinks he might have wounded him, probably in the left shoulder, and then he lost him in the fog."
I asked her, "How are you coming with the research?"
"Well, there isn't very much, so far," she answered. "Do you still want me to come by after I finish?"
"Since the man is still at large, yes," I replied. I hung up the phone, puzzled by the whole thing.
"Still at large…" Frank commented with a tired sigh.
"The police made contact with him," I said, "Shot at him. They lost him in the fog, but they think they wounded him."
"That should ease the panic," Frank said, "Convince people that there isn't a waxen dummy running around wild."
"What is running around wild, Frank? And why?"
"Yeah, that's a good question."
"The first person attacked was Peter Willman," Kato commented thoughtfully, "What does that do for us?"
"That gives us a direction," I answered.
I called Casey, "What's the latest report on the condition of Peter Willman?"
"Critical," she answered, "He's still unconscious."
"Anything else?" I asked her.
"A man named James Rancourt wanted to reach Mike. He said that he heard the news when he left the library earlier. He was Willman's partner. I referred him to police headquarters. "
Great, I thought, a dead end. "There's got to be an answer somewhere," I said in frustration as I hung up.
"Well," Kato said, "It started in Willman's museum."
"Yeah, maybe that's where it will end," I said, thinking that it's time for the Green Hornet to step into the investigation.
The museum was temporarily closed for the duration, but Kato easily kicked the museum's locked doors open. The inside of the museum was dark and I asked Kato to look for a light switch. Kato found it and flicked it on.
I half expected the Scarf figure to be missing, but it was still in its accustomed place. I checked it out. There was a spot of red on the figure's white scarf.
"Blood," Kato said in surprise.
"Yes," I said, "And the clothes are damp."
"There are many legendary figures of evil in the orient," Kato said thoughtfully, "Some people say that they are often driven back to action by their own malevolence."
"No," I said, "That's not possible. There's a flesh and blood reason behind those murders. We just have to find it."
A side door in the Chamber of Evil led into Willman's workroom. We searched there for any clues that could tell us anything about his attacker, but found nothing. However we found pay dirt in a back room just off the workroom, a locked steamer trunk. A short burst of the Hornet sting blew the lock open. Inside was a large manuscript about the Scarf written by Rancourt.
I called Frank to meet us at my townhouse. Shortly after we had put the Black Beauty away he joined us in my office. Kato and I were still in our costumes. I had a feeling that the Green Hornet was not done for the night.
"Who is this James Rancourt who wrote this?" he asked.
"He's Willman's partner at the museum," I answered, "He does research and lectures on the tours. There's one piece of information in there that interests me. Vina Rose the burlesque queen the Scarf used to date."
"Finding a stripper who used to work this town fifteen years ago is like finding a wide open back entrance to Fort Knox."
"But I found her," I said with a smile, "Our entertainment editor called a booking agent. He remembered her. Her real name is Hazel Schmidt. She lives in a small apartment in the Chelsea District."
The Chelsea District. Fancy name, brings to mind gentlemen and ladies, high hats and carriages. Nothing at all like reality. Small walk ups and narrow brownstones with small efficiencies and one-bedroom apartments. Best thing you could call it is shabby gentility. It was a place where a lot of performers and artists live because of the low rents. Maybe down, but not quite out.
Just like Vina Rose aka Hazel Schmidt. She was probably beautiful fifteen or twenty years ago, but now in her late forties, she had left her best days behind her. She still had the moves though. Dressed in a pink dressing gown with a feather neckline over a lacy negligee she coyly swept her hennaed hair over her shoulder as she spoke. "What do you want to talk to me about?" she asked in a soft drawl, seemingly unsurprised that the Green Hornet would pay her a visit.
"Who is the Scarf?" I demanded. "What was his real name?"
"I don't know," she answered like it was a dumb question, amazed that anyone would even ask it. "You see he would just sorta show up. He never made no passes."
"Then why did he keep coming back?"
"Beats me," she said with wide innocent appearing eyes, "Unless, maybe, because I was a good listener, you know. I used to walk into my room, see." She smiled dreamily, recalling her youth. "And there he'd be, just sittin' in the dark. He had a great big bottle of cold champagne and caviar as black as the inside of your pocket and those little tiny crispy crackers. And then he'd start to talk," She gave a light laugh. "I tell you he could just talk your arm right off your shoulder and you loved it."
"About completely ruthless murders," I said sharply.
"No, never, we never talked about that, I never believed he did those things," she said heatedly, "He always treated me just like a queen."
"He was a murderer once. He could be again," I pressed, not believing how she could be so blind to the truth.
"No," she said close to tears, "Anyway, I know he's dead. I know it. But he would have come to see me if he hadn't been dead, and he never did."
"Have you ever been to the wax museum to see the figure they have of him there?"
"No, I couldn't stand it."
"When was the last time you saw him?"
"Well, I was leaving the burly house, when I was going to go to the hamburger joint to get a hamburger. It was after the midnight show, so it was late. It was always late when I seen him. And when I come out of the stage door, there he was. He was outside, outside in a car waiting for me. He said he was goin' away. 'Cause he was gonna be immortal so people would never forget him all those years. That what he wanted, he said, and then he dropped me by the hamburger joint and he… that was it."
"And you still couldn't believe about the robberies and the murders.
"I tell you he treated me like a queen!" she shouted desperately, "Like a queen!"
I thought it was time that I meet James Rancourt in person to see what kind of man he was. In the morning I had Casey make an appointment for him to see me in the afternoon.
As I poured a glass of brandy for him and myself I asked if he would like to make a thousand dollars for a day or two of work.
"I'd like to make a thousand dollars, Mr. Reid," Rancourt said in a doubtful voice, "But I'm not aware of anything I could do to earn it."
"Mr. Axford," I explained to him as I handed him his glass, "Says that you're a researcher at the Willman Museum."
He refused the glass with a gesture, then said, "Yes, I'm his partner. It has been a long and fruitful association."
"And you've made a thorough study of the Scarf."
"Yes, I had hoped to publish a book on the man. I found him fascinating. He was quite peculiar in his invincibility. "
"How do you feel about the Scarf being at large tonight?"
"I shudder, but I fear we will have to accept what people have seen."
"Good, make that the tone of your article. Is your research material readily accessible?"
"The main body of it is at the museum."
"Fine, I'd like for to you to go through the Sentinel's files to add some pictures to go with your article, then you can pick up your research material. It's always good to give photographic proof to your readers."
"Mr. Reid, unfortunately I'm not a very fast typist."
"Mr. Rancourt, we have a lot more typists here than we have researchers."
With that Rancourt seemed satisfied with the deal we had made and left soon after.
The plan had been set in motion.
Rancourt arrived at the museum and finding that the door lock had been destroyed, rushed through the Chamber of Evil, through Willman's workroom and on to the back room. There he found that his steamer trunk's lock had also been destroyed and his manuscript missing. He headed for the front door, again passing through the Chamber of Evil. He paused in his headlong rush. Something strange had caught his eye.
There seated at a small table covered with a white tablecloth, place settings for two and candles was Hazel Schmidt. She was expectantly gazing at the wax figure of the Scarf. He couldn't believe his eyes. He drew off his glasses and she was still there. He moved closer. She didn't move when he waved his hand in front of her eyes. He reached out a hand and touched her cheek. She flinched, seeming to come out of a daydream.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded with an authority in his voice I hadn't heard before.
"They told me he'd come to life tonight." She looked up at him, half pleading, half defiant. "I wanted to see if it was true. If he remembered. But he don't remember. He ain't immortal, like he… like he promised. He's just made of wax." She sighed, her dreams crushed. "I guess I'll go now." She moved to rise out of her seat.
"No! Stay!" Rancourt ordered.
She turned to look at him, remembering perhaps the voice from another time.
"You remembered. That's what important," Rancourt said, drawing himself straight to his full height. There was a mad gleam in his eyes. "A part of immortality is that one is remembered. Don't you see that, my dear?"
"I don't know. I…"
"Attila the Hun is immortal!" Rancourt declared. "Jack the Ripper! Bluebeard! Captain Kidd! The great intellects wrestled with the problem of what impelled them to their greatness. And now Vina," he continued, pulling the scarf off the wax figure's neck. "The Scarf joins that exalted company. "
"You're the Scarf," Vina said in wonder.
"No," Rancourt said, pointing to the wax figure, "That is the Scarf. I am the vessel of his immortality. The Boswell to his Johnson. "
"You called me Vina." She rose to her feet, shaking her head. "You wouldn't have known who I was, if you wasn't. I can hear it in your voice. I can see it in your eyes. You're the Scarf."
"And now you have gained a sort of immortality of your own because you will be his last victim."
Vina looked at him in surprise. She had waited a long time for the Scarf to return, and now…
Rancourt twisted the ends of the scarf around his hands, stretching it between them.
"In a few weeks when we have put in place the new scene based on what the police will find here tomorrow you will not appear as you do now but as I recall you then. I promise it, Vina."
Her dream had become a nightmare. Hazel screamed as Rancourt twisted the scarf around her throat.
We had seen enough. The charade was over. Kato's dart sliced through the air, burying itself into the table between to Rancourt and the struggling Hazel. Kato and I leapt over the velvet ropes. We had replaced the wax dummies of ourselves and had waited for Rancourt to reveal himself.
Rancourt pulled the scarf off Hazel's throat, rewinding it between his hands. "It can't be. It musn't be. Only the Scarf is immortal. Only the Scarf!" he screamed, charging at me, trying to wrap the scarf around my neck. I caught it with the Sting between my hands. Kato grabbed Rancourt in a headlock, and pulled him away.
"Only the Scarf!" Rancourt screamed frantically, "Only the Scarf!"
I heard Hazel scream in terror. I looked up to see the wax Scarf figure moving toward us, its hands out like grasping claws. Kato spun to his feet, leaving Rancourt still blubbering in his insanity. The Scarf was moving very slowly, and stiffly. Kato launched himself at the figure in a flying kick. It was worse then hitting a sand bag. The Scarf just stopped and stood there, unaffected by the force of Kato's attack. Kato knifed a series of gung fu strikes at the Scarf's midsection. I have seen men double under those blows, but with the Scarf there was nothing. No response whatsoever. Kato stopped, stunned by his surprise. Suddenly the Scarf swept out a hand and sent Kato flying into the air. He landed across the room up against a rack in one of the exhibits. He didn't move.
I have never used the Sting against a human being except as a glancing blow. This time I used it full blast into the figure's chest. Whatever that thing was I knew it was not human. There was no effect. A popgun would have been just as effective. I fired the Sting again, its sonic whine climbing up the scale into earsplitting range.
Steel doors, concrete walls, iron gates, everything has given way before the full force of the Sting's sonic beam. Still the figure remained unaffected. It kept on coming, slowly, inexorably. I always thought it was stupid to see bad guys throw their guns at Superman after seeing that their bullets had no effect. So what did I do? Something equally stupid. I rammed the butt of the Sting into the advancing figure. I should not have been surprised when that didn't work either. I didn't have long to regret my actions. The Scarf had gotten the silken scarf around my throat. I pulled at the scarf. I grabbed at the cold, stiff hands with hands that were growing stiff too. Blackness crabbed around the edges of my vision as a roaring filled my ears.
Suddenly a cannon blast filled the air. The Scarf's grasp around my throat loosened, then fell away. I gasped for air through a badly bruised throat. The wax figure lay next to me, unmoving, as if it had never moved.
Hazel was kneeling on the ground, sobbing. In her hands was a .45. "He treated me like a queen," she kept on saying between her sobs, "He treated me like a queen."
I wrapped my arms around her, trying to comfort her. "He treated me like a queen," she sobbed against my shoulder. Then she looked at the still figure. "I loved him," she said very softly.
The next morning Frank had Rancourt in his office at the Justice Center. A public defender was there and a police officer stood guard. "Since you have refused the services of a lawyer for this interrogation, Mr. Daniels here has been appointed to protect your interests."
In a voice as lively as a dead battery, Rancourt replied, "I no longer have any interests."
Frank rose from his desk, thumbing through the paperwork in his hands. "My department however, has a great many interests. Do you wish to make a statement?" he asked Rancourt.
"There's a book. I wrote it. I will attest to its authenticity. But I don't know where it is."
"I think it will turn up," Frank said.
"When the police found me was there a woman there?" Rancourt asked meekly, "A rather pretty one?"
Frank shook his head. "There was no woman."
Rancourt looked downcast. "Then it was a dream."
Frank motioned for the waiting police officer to take Rancourt back to his cell.
Frank had allowed Mike and me to watch the interrogation through a one-way window in his office.
"One of the cops told me that when Rancourt came to he insisted that he had been attacked by the wax figures of the Green Hornet and his man."
"That could have been a dream too," I replied.
"Maybe," Mike said, "But when the police searched the museum they found those two wax figures sitting in chairs in the studio workroom."
Mike didn't mention that the police had also found the Scarf figure with a very large bullet hole in it. It was something everyone preferred not to discuss.
So was it the dream of a madman? Or a nightmare? I leave up to you, dear reader, to decide.
Perhaps now, my dreams will no longer be haunted by The Scarf.