This next Charlie Chan Family project is an uncompleted SERIAL from the year 2002-2003, entitled, Charlie Chan’s Toughest Case. The original concept was that of Steve Rhodes, who wrote our first installment, the Prologue for this continuing story, and who was overseeing this project. As this serial progressed through the completed four chapters, it will be noted that the style of this project was somewhat different from the previous effort, the script entitled, Charlie Chan at College. As was the case in earlier serials penned by a number of Charlie Chan fans working as a team, each chapter bore the writing style and personality of each subsequent writer. The only real changes that were made to each person’s work were to correct typographical errors and to format each chapter to visually match that of its predecessor.
And now, dear visitor, it is hoped that you will find some amount of enjoyment of our humble efforts, although incomplete…
Charlie Chan’s Toughest Case
By Steve Rhodes
Scene opens with the night view out through a modern car windscreen with wipers struggling to clear heavy rain hitting it out of the dark night. Lightning flashes occasionally light up the road ahead… the headlights hazy beams disappearing into the rain. The street lighting seems to be blacked out…
John Baker, brash twenty-something journalist, strains to see the road ahead, Rock music on his car radio crackles with interference from the lightning.
BAKER : (Sighing to himself in frustration) Oh great… it’s getting heavier. Even if I can find this place I’m still gonna get soaked…
(He leans forward trying to tune in a clearer sound from his radio )
Great assignment this one… some old guy who MIGHT have some bits to add to an old story. Real Pulitzer Prize stuff… yeah right.
He’d done a little research on his next interview. Lee Chan, 88, a well-known artist in former years until arthritis undermined his ability to hold a brush steady. Married for 33 years to Iris, 10 years his senior and an artist in her own right, widower for some 10 years now, no children…lives alone in the old Chan family home on Punchbowl Hill… Brother of James Chan the industrialist (Petrochan)… Eldest son of the legendary Honolulu detective Charlie Chan… traveler… minor poet in several languages… etc… etc.
As Baker turned this data over in his head he muttered under his breath:
BAKER: …And probably as nutty as a fruitcake. And for this, I’m out on a night that would have Noah reaching for his blueprints!
As he says the words, a letterbox looms in the car’s headlights. The word CHAN is faintly visible on the front, just readable through the downpour. The car with the license plate of DOZEN splashes to a halt beside the gate in the picket fence. A few pickets are missing here and there, the fence a little overgrown with shrubbery.
A light glows in the front window…
BAKER: (Muttering to himself) Looks like the old guy is still awake at least, even though I’m an hour late.
The front door opens and light from inside the house spills out onto the porch. Silhouetted against the light was the stooped shape of an old man with a cane, his arm raised waving at his guest.
LEE: (Shouting against the noise of the heavy rain) Run between the drops and you won’t get wet!
BAKER: (Muttering to himself) Oh yeah… nutty as a fruit cake
Slamming the car door and running with his head bowed he runs for the shelter of the porch. He reaches it and finds himself face to face with the wrinkled smiling face of old Lee Chan.
LEE: Mr. Baker I presume. Come on in and dry out, I’ve put the kettle on for some tea.
BAKER: I’m late… this weather is unbelievable.
LEE: Ahh, rain and sunshine are two sides of the same coin… And Pop could add some pithy ending to that sentence but I never could get the hang of that. (Chuckling). Come in, this damp air is bad for these old bones.
Baker steps into the entry hall and looks around. The walls seem to be covered, nearly to the ceiling, with photos and paintings.
LEE: Go and sit by the fire, I’ll bring in the tea. (Lee shuffles off down the hall)
Entering the sitting room, Baker looks around the old-fashioned room, and again notes the proliferation of photos and paintings covering the walls. He flops down in an overstuffed armchair next to a blazing open fire.
Lee enters shortly balancing a tray with a small teapot and two small cups.
LEE: I hope you like Chinese tea Mr. Baker
BAKER: What ? …Oh, yeah, sure. (He takes the tray from Lee awkwardly and looks around for somewhere to put it down.)
LEE: You can be mother and pour, as they say.
BAKER: Umm, yeah…Ok. (Placing the tray on a small side table and fumbling with the undersized crockery.)
BAKER: Mr. Chan, do you mind if we get straight down to business. The Punchbowl Manor business that is, you know.
LEE: Ahh, indeed, the “Punchbowl Manor business.” You did mention on the phone that that was why you wanted to visit me. You want to know about Pop and Punchbowl Manor?
BAKER: (Gesturing with his index finger at Lee) Spot on.
LEE: (Settling back into the armchair with his tea) Very well, …drink your tea while it’s hot.
LEE: Pop had actually been employed at the manor when he was a young man of 18 or so, as a houseboy… must have been around…er… (Thinking hard )… 1898. Not the most glamorous of starts, but fortuitous as it turned out. Pop was a quick learner and a keen observer, even at that age. A sort of embryonic detective and indeed it was with the apparent murder of the master of the household, the disagreeable Mr. Chaney, that Pop got his first taste of police procedure.
Lee pauses to sip his tea
LEE: Mr. Chaney had made his money in a variety of dubious ways in his travels around Polynesia. It was in those travels he collected the weird array of native war clubs that eventually lined the walls of Punchbowl Manor… and it was one of those that his killer used…
…to smash his skull. But there was insufficient evidence to arrest anyone and so the case remained unsolved. He also added a young wife to his ‘collection’ prior to his demise. Nobody lamented his loss, his drinking and violence drove away nearly everyone who came into contact with the Manor. And with his demise, the property and its occupants settled into a sort of obscurity. Pop moved on, with some influential assistance, to better things.
LEE: (Sighing) But all that was nearly 100 years ago, before even my time.
BAKER: So some 24 years after old Chaney got whacked, Charlie Chan goes back up the hill to his old employer to help with another problem… (Scribbling some notes) …then what?
LEE: (Smiling patiently) What a unique way you have of distilling facts to their essence, Mr. Baker. What you say is essentially correct. Pop did indeed receive a phone call that stormy night in 1922, just before we were to sit down to dinner. Mom was quite a cook you know and she’d been making Pop’s favorite…
BAKER: (Interrupting Lee) Yeah, I’m sure, but getting back to what happened when your Pop got that call.
LEE: (Sighing at Baker’s brusque manner) Very well. Go over to that window and look toward the top of the hill.
BAKER: This window back here? (Gesturing over his shoulder with a jerk of his thumb)
Lee nods and Baker strides over to the window facing the street. Heavy velvet curtains of an old-fashioned type hang at the sides of the glass. Large drops of rain beat against the window and occasional lightning lights the dark outside scene…
LEE: The trees are bigger now than they were that night but you may still see the shape of Punchbowl Manor if you look carefully… about half a mile away…up the hill.
Lee turns to face the warmth of the fireplace, speaking now more to himself than to Baker…
LEE: Pop stood right where you are after getting the call…
His back to Lee, Baker stares out the window trying to see more of the old house through the rain…glimpses of its crenelated towers sometimes outlined against a lightning-flash-lit night sky…
BAKER: (Still with his back to Lee) How’d YOU get involved with the case?
Lee stares into the crackling fire, a slight smile creeps across his face, the firelight reflected in his eyes…he murmurs to himself as the memory comes back of that evening
LEE: (Whispering to himself) Can I come too Pop?
Camera shows Baker’s back framed by the window as he continues to look out into the night…
Unseen, Lee’s voice repeats the question…but it is his voice as it was aged 10.
LEE: Can I come too Pop?
The color fades to black and white and the figure at the window turns around… it is Charlie Chan ( Warner Oland ) and the year is now 1922… and the lightning flashes brightly in the window behind him... with accompanying thunder…
CHARLIE: Please to repeat question, sound of nature is…competing with honorable sprout.
LEE: (Now seen as a ten-year-old) I said can I come too. I wanna help with the case.
CHARLIE: And what case…might that be…?
LEE: I heard you on the phone to old Mrs. Chaney from the big house up there (Pointing out the window). She wants you to help her with something, sounds like a case to me.
CHARLIE: Not every ring of phone…or request for assistance…mean a “case.” Honorable lady…merely asks old friend Charlie Chan…for little help. No excitement for…chip off venerable block.
LEE: So why did you look so worried, and why have you been frowning out the window at the old house since the call.
CHARLIE: (Raising eyebrows in mock surprise) Oh, so now… I am suspect! You better…arrest now (Holds out his wrists for imaginary handcuffs).
LEE: (Sulking) Aw, you’re always making fun of me.
CHARLIE: You can help by asking honorable mother for…big umbrella…to keep rain from father’s head. Also raincoat and galoshes…for walk up hill.
As Lee leaves reluctantly to do as his father has asked, Charlie’s face turns serious and once more his gaze turns to the window and Punchbowl Manor in the rain-shrouded distance. Lightning and thunder…
He already knew some of the members of that household, Morgan the surly butler, Mrs. Purly the housekeeper and Mrs. Chaney. In Charlie’s days as a houseboy in the manor, he had been bullied by Morgan whose violent streak had, at first, made him a suspect in Mr. Chaney’s murder. The case was dropped and for some reason, Mrs. Chaney had kept Morgan employed as butler ever since. Mrs. Purly was a chubby good-natured housekeeper, very protective of Mrs. Chaney and Punchbowl Manor, a sort of mother hen to the household.
Apparently Mrs. Chaney’s lawyer and her nephew and niece were up at the manor tonight as well, for it was some problem with her last will and testament that had prompted her to call in a favor from her former houseboy, and now rising Honolulu police detective, Charlie Chan. Her voice on the phone had been strained and she had spoken in a hushed tone when asking him to come at once. The line had gone dead before Charlie had been able to ask that she send a car for him. Perhaps the storm has damaged the wires, thinks Charlie…
Mrs. Chan brings Charlie’s protection against the rain and, standing with him by the door helps his rug up against the elements.
MRS. CHAN: (Worried) Husband, must you go…up there? (Nodding in the direction of Punchbowl Manor)
CHARLIE: I am in the lady’s debt and honor commands that I assist. (Patting Mrs. Chan on the cheek and smiling) But wife…need not worry, you are married to…a careful Chinaman. Go and have your dinner with our sprouts and I will return…as soon as I can.
Charlie, holding his umbrella tightly, steps off the porch and into the rain, and sets off at a brisk pace up the road toward the Manor as it is lit by lightning flashes a half mile distant up the hill.
End of Prologue
The Door to the Past
By Terri Heitz and Rush Glick
Charlie Chan’s hand is seen, using a large iron door knocker which seems to belong more in the Scottish highlands than in the tropics of Honolulu.
Through a strange peephole, a round iron device shaped like a Moorish keyhole in the imposing door, an unwelcoming eye is seen. The curiously devised keyhole has the uncanny feature of making the observer’s eye look twice its size.
VOICE: (In a croaking tone, somewhat condescendingly) Oh, yes. I remember…you.
The thick wooden door creaks slightly on its hinges as it slowly opens.
CHAN: (In a low tone, to himself) Sighing door offers glimpse into very sad past. Much thankful for present familial bliss.
As the door opens further, the gaunt, unsmiling form of Morgan, the butler of the Chaney household is revealed in the shadowy interior of Punchbowl Manor. He is stiffly dressed, and his white shirt is crisply starched. He wears a bow tie that scrapes his bulging Adam’s apple which protrudes from his thin neck.
MORGAN: Did you say something…sir…?
Charlie Chan shakes off his ample umbrella, much to the obvious discontent of Morgan.
CHAN: Simply recounting humble past services of former Chinese houseboy.
MORGAN: Yes. I seem to remember this…houseboy…leaving suddenly for greener pastures. (Still eying the umbrella in Chans hand) May I take…that…please?
Chan hands the wet umbrella to Morgan whose expression reveals his revulsion at his being “beneath” a former houseboy.
CHAN: (Smiling) Thank you so much. Yes, seems insignificant services were of more urgent need elsewhere. Even the humble donkey enjoys an occasional taste of sugar after steady diet of oats.
MORGAN: (Not bothering to make eye contact) Quite. This way…please.
CHAN: (Smiling and bowing slightly) Thank you so much.
Morgan, ever the model of efficiency, wastes no time in leading Charlie Chan up the manor’s grand staircase and to the second-floor bedroom of Rose Chaney.
Reaching the door, Morgan seems to coolly take a small measure of delight in hesitating slightly, making Chan wait a moment, before reaching for the doorknob.
After an uncomfortable moment, Chan himself reaches for the knob.
Morgan instinctively reaches out, grabbing the fledgling detective’s wrist.
MORGAN: (In a harsh tone, belying any slight affection that the butler may have held for his protégé, a young Charlie Chan, those many years ago) Whatever you do…sir…dont upset the madam. She’s been through more than…you…could appreciate…
CHAN: (Showing slightly the effects of Morgan’s stinging comment for a moment) Have no intention of disturbing madam of house more than is necessary. Have come simply at request of former employer who suspects, not to be of doubt, that present skills, courtesy of Honolulu Police training, may be of some small service.
Morgan opens the door, announcing Chan.
MORGAN: …Mis-ter…Charlie Chan, madam…
Charlie Chan bows politely, and enters the room, with a big smile.
Rose Chaney sits amidst an incongruous scene: The light from a roaring fireplace, so much out of place in the tropics, sheds a strange, flickering light throughout the room. Although the noble-looking woman before Charlie Chan is not too much over fifty years old, she appears much more advanced in years and somewhat enfeebled, probably due to illness. Her wheat-colored hair may have faded over the years, but was worn with meticulous care in an upswept manner.
CHAN: (Extending his hand, gently grasping that of Rose, and giving a heart-felt bow) So happy to see Mrs. Rose after too many years. Former servant, now neighbor, offers humble hand to kind wife of former employer.
ROSE: Charlie! How good it is to see you again. The years have treated you much more kindly than me, I’m afraid. And neighbor, you say! Yes, I had heard that you lived close by, and that’s why I thought of you today. Although I have some very real concerns about my will, the real reason I telephoned you, perhaps goes far beyond this petty concern. I didn’t wish to be too specific, as I suspected the privacy of my call. When my call was cut short because of…the storm… Well, I am so happy to see you, Charlie!
CHAN: Humbly offer grateful thanks for honored thoughts of kind lady. Much pleasing cooking by honorable wife has added inches to present waistline, I fear. Stomach much happier than straining suspenders.
Rose chuckles and offers Chan a settee near her. Her ways reveal the gracious manners and rules of social etiquette of a grand woman who seems now to live clutching to a bygone era.
CHAN: (Continuing, perhaps to ease some of the shock of seeing his former employer in such a state) And on meager salary as member of Honolulu Police Department, was able to place enough in funds bank by-and-by to purchase humble but adequate home for growing family nearby on slope of present hill.
ROSE: Oh, that’s delightful! But, Charlie, as I said, it’s so good to see you again. And I apologize for the heat in this room. Mr. Chaney added a number of fireplaces just prior to his…death. He has always loved the look and feel of the Scottish countryside, a love that he felt compelled to express even in the heat of the Islands, it seems. However, this is fortuitous for someone in my condition, I am afraid. I find that I absolutely require the heat of a fire these days…
CHAN: Yes, remember well flurry of construction during unfortunate Mr. Chaney’s final days. Abundant warmth of room only exceeded by even more abundant warmth of kind heart of Mrs. Rose.
ROSE: Oh, Charlie! Your English has certainly improved after all these years, but even back then you were such a flatterer! Even in my younger years, as you know, I was in frail health. My, how you used to care for me, even with those bitter Chinese herbs, the smell of which so upset Mr. Cheney!
CHAN: (Smiling, trying to ignore the intense heat in the room) Intervening years have not softened humble former houseboy’s concern for health of one-time benefactor.
Charlie Chan ponders for a moment. His eyes show that he is delving into the past.
CHAN: (With caution, yet with the boldness of one who has worked the streets of Honolulu to uphold the law) If this former employee may be so bold, even many years ago, humble boy-servant could see that Mrs. Rose’s need of warmth was not met by cool personality of honorable late husband.
ROSE: (Taking Chan’s statement in stride) Yes, Charlie, you were observant even then, it seems. Your growing reputation suits you well. Yes, Mr. Chaney was rather…reserved, shall I say? It seems that we have spent more time apart within this big, cold-feeling house, than we spent in each other’s company.
CHAN: And what rose does not require the blessing of an occasional rain to properly thrive?
ROSE: Ah, so sweet, yet so true, Charlie. Well said. Yes, Mr. Chaney’s inattention had, over the years, to be sure, done little to improve my health. When we first moved to Honolulu from San Francisco, I thought that the welcome change of climate would better suit my condition. Indeed, at first, if I may borrow your analogy, this Rose did thrive in the tropical warmth.
Rose Chaney seems to drift off with a smile as she recounts a piece of her past to her onetime houseboy…
ROSE: Mr. Chaney busied himself with a large sugar cane plantation a good number of miles from here. Oh, how I loved the life we lived then! The native workers singing near our smaller but very comfortable home after a hard day in the fields. The moon rising over Diamond Head in the distance.
Rose’s expression begins to change from that of bliss to one of pain and sadness as she continues:
But then, Mr. Chaney…and others…were not satisfied with their more than ample fortunes. The monarchy here had treated us all with such gracious kindness, Charlie. Yet, my husband, and so many of the others who were living in Hawaii as honored guests, wanted more. They eventually used cunning previously unknown in these peaceful islands to strip the Queen of her power, and in essence, place her under house arrest, thus ending a long line of proud Hawaiian monarchs.
CHAN: Yes, was not too old when this person came to Islands with venerable parents from China, but hold very fond thoughts of same Queen Liliuokalani whose gentle rule is still much missed by many.
ROSE: (Still musing in sadness) Yes. Now the native workers were forced to work even harder than they had before. Mr. Chaney and the other plantation owners increased their holdings, buying land at unreasonably low prices from the poor natives, some of whom worked on the plantations. With more wealth, Mr. Chaney decided that we should build a more “suitable” home. And that he did. He has always been, as I mentioned, very fond of the Scottish countryside. He has also envied the Scots their large castles and manors, so when it came time to build a home, Mr. Chaney commissioned an architect from Europe to build his idea of a Scottish manor house.
CHAN: Yes, seem to recall the local enthusiasm when same manor was under construction.
ROSE: (Laughing through her sadness) Oh, the stir my husband caused! And he so hated the sea, Charlie, that he had purchased a tract of land on this, the north, mauka, side of Punchbowl Hill, so that he could, if for a just few moments each day, imagine himself the lord of some manor in the highlands of Scotland. All this in the tropical heat of Honolulu! Imagine!
CHAN: I remember Mr. Chaney to be a man of very strong will. Such a monument as this manor, built where it is, is testament to his nature to struggle even against climate and lush landscape of this Pacific island.
ROSE: (Realizing that Charlie Chan is more her “equal” than she had before seen) Yes…Mr. Chan…Mr. Chaney…Paul…was always a…strong…person. Since we first moved to this huge house that my husband came to call Punchbowl Manor, our lives became, like those distant Highlands, become colder and gray. So opposite from the wonderfully warm and colorful palette of life that this beautiful island has to offer…
Rose Chaney’s story is interrupted by a loud knock at her door.
ROSE: Please…come in.
The door opens slowly revealing a disgruntled Morgan who has a dripping wet little Lee Chan in tow.
MORGAN: I’m sorry, madam, but this…child…has just arrived, asking to see his…”Pop.”
CHAN: (Angered) Aiee!!! What do you do coming here?? I told you – stay home!!
LEE: You might need some help, Pop! This house is big, and I can help you look for clues!
ROSE: (Laughing) Oh, please be easy on the boy, Charlie! This old dark lonely house can use some youthful energy!
LEE: Gee…it sure is hot in here! Hey…what’s that? (Looking at the fireplace) Willikers! Bet Santy Claus comes in that way on Christmas!
Rose continues to laugh as Charlie Chan is much less amused.
CHAN: (Crouching down to speak to little Lee face-to-face) Please, please! On islands, Santa brings bad boys only single coconut…empty!
ROSE: (Unable to control her laughter) I must say, Mr. Chan, your little son is a chip off the old block!
CHAN: Or, in case of disobedient offspring, chip off of quickly aging chopstick!
The scene fades as Rose is convulsed in laughter, and even the straight-laced Morgan cannot hold back a grudging smile, as Charlie Chan waves a fatherly finger at his naughty number one son.The scene opens with Lee doing his best with his father’s help to towel himself off a bit.
CHAN: Would take you back home to arms of mother, but would probably be waste of time! You come back again, I know!
LEE: Aw, Pop!
CHAN: And is very fortunate that this house is so well heated, otherwise you catch death of cold.
ROSE: (Smiling, and gesturing toward the small hearth of the fireplace) Here…Lee. You will dry off fast in front of this fire.
ROSE: My story is nearly finished, Charlie. When the monarchy fell, there was a big commotion amongst the natives that made its way quickly to the local press. It seems that there existed a treasure, made up of valuables given to the great King Kamehameha by early explorers in hopes of gaining favor for their respective nations. This treasure, rumored to be of inestimable value, veiled in mystery and handed down from monarch to monarch, had suddenly disappeared.
CHAN: Yes, have heard of same.
ROSE: Suspicion focused immediately on those responsible for overthrowing the Queen, and Liliuokalani herself warned gravely that a curse would befall those responsible for the theft of the treasure. One by one, calamity has seemed to dog the heels of the usurpers of the throne, Mr. Chan. Over the years some have died gruesomely, as was the case with poor Paul, as you well know, while some have passed away of apparently natural causes.
CHAN: (With a pained expression) Indeed was very mysterious and tragic demise of late Mr. Chaney – still unsolved – that prompted young Chinese lad to take up honorable work of police officer, and now detective.
ROSE: And if some small bit of good can come out of such a dark tragedy, you are it, Charlie!
Mrs. Chaney holds up a card for Charlie Chan to see. It is an invitation to a formal dinner that evening bearing the names of the guests.
ROSE: Charlie, tonight I will be entertaining the last persons alive who might have knowledge of the missing treasure of King Kamehameha. I want the mystery of the death of my husband…Paul…to reach a conclusion before I myself retire to the grave. I am confident that this mystery can be set to rest once and for all tonight.
Rose hands the card to Chan.
CHAN: (Looking at the card) Many notable names on this invitation, Mrs. Rose.
Close-up of the card which reads:
“You are cordially invited to attend a formal dinner at Punchbowl Manor as the guest of Mrs. Paul Chaney and Mr. Alfred Peers, Esq. Dinner is served promptly at 8:00 P.M.
Mr. Phillip P. Milton
Mr. and Mrs. J.G. Sloane
Mr. and Mrs. Alan M. Baynes
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Mayfair
ROSE: Of course, none has refused the invitation, Charlie, no doubt realizing that to avoid the “summons,” as it were, would only point the finger of suspicion in their direction. My attorney and trusted friend…Paul’s old friend…Mr. Peers, and I were very confident that all would readily agree to attend for this very reason, and it seems his assumption was correct.
CHAN: Seems you and honorable Mr. Peers have great influence over circle of associates.
ROSE: That we do – a testament to my late husband’s power and influence, it seems, Mr. Chan! And even with me in my frail condition… Perhaps this is partly as a result of his putting on the trappings of mock royalty here at Punchbowl Manor, and my carrying on the “tradition” if you will. Mr. Chaney always did exert a strong-willed influence over everyone whom he had had contact with over the years, going back even to our days in San Francisco, and it seems that, through myself and Mr. Peers, Paul’s iron grasp has reached beyond the very grave itself.
CHAN: (Taking out his pocket watch and looking at it) Time now nearly seven o’clock.
ROSE: Yes. Now, Charlie, my request. Mr. Peers and I require your assistance, if you should be so kind, to help us solve this nagging puzzle! Not only do we want to find the whereabouts of the missing treasure, but, to be quite frank, I am afraid…Mr. Chan…
CHAN: How so, please?
ROSE: Since Mr. Peers and I sent out this invitation, and following the quick acceptance of all concerned, it seems that two of our guests, Mr. Sloane and Mr. Baynes have reported receiving small carved Hawaiian tiki figures which were mysteriously delivered to their respective residences.
CHAN: Ah? Ancient Hawaiian god, often symbol of taboo or curse due to broken law of gods or king. Hmmm. Did I not read in paper of automobile accident involving both gentlemen yesterday?
ROSE: Yes, Charlie. Both men were fortunate to have been only slightly injured when the car that was taking them both to their club suddenly ran off the road near Diamond Head. A coincidence? Who knows. But, as I said, I am afraid. And now…this.
Rose Chaney produces a small carved stone tiki which she hands to Chan.
Chan holds the small figure.
CHAN: (closely examining the tiny figure) When did you find this and where, please?
ROSE: Mrs. Purley, my housekeeper, found it this morning on my nightstand when she awoke me for my medication. This is why I called you today.
Close-up of tiki figure in Charlie Chan’s hand as the light from a brilliant flash of lightning momentarily floods the room, followed by a load report of thunder.
As the sound of thunder fades, the hand holding the tiki fades to color. It is that of the elderly Lee Chan.
BAKER’S VOICE: Is that the same tiki your father held?
LEE’S VOICE: Correct, Mr. Baker. The same.
LEE: (Continuing) This convinced my father of the seriousness of the situation.
Lightning flashes. Fade from an elderly Lee in color to Charlie Chan in black and white as thunder is heard.
CHAN: How may insignificant detective be of service to kind Mrs. Rose and honored friend, Mr. Peers?
ROSE: Charlie…Mr. Chan…Mr. Peers and I would greatly appreciate your help this evening at our dinner. Your noted skills can be of great assistance tonight, I believe. Yes, I have read of your not-unimpressive work with our police department, especially your masterful solution to the “Hilo Affair” last month. Surely, your keen instinct and sharp eyes might detect the slightest gesture of comment of one of our guests that may prove decisive in solving this mystery which has seemingly cost the lives of so many of our friends over recent years.
CHAN: Thank you so much for kind compliment. Murderer himself assisted clumsy efforts of Chinaman. In the end, it is always small stumble that leads to big fall. However, will happily offer meager services, but, as you can see, am not properly attired for formal dinner affair…
ROSE: (Interrupting) This is not to be a concern, Mr. Chan! How would you feel about resuming your former position here at Punchbowl Manor for this one night?
CHAN: You suggest, maybe, grown bird returns to same nest where once he learned to fly?
ROSE: If you would be so kind…
CHAN: For bountiful kindness expressed by Mrs. Rose in years long past…okay! But (Turning to his almost dried-off son, Lee) you must leave now!
LEE: But, Pop…
ROSE: Little Lee can stay, if you like, Mr. Chan! In fact, we still have the clothes that the little son of our servant and cook, Yen How, who had had to return for a month or so to his family in California, wore when he helped his father around the manor.
CHAN: Thank you, but little piece of family puzzle belongs back in box down the road!
ROSE: Actually, I think that your little son will be of some help tonight. Many of our guests will remember Yen How and his son, and, if I may say so, you do bear a similar appearance, and little Lee is about the right age…
LEE: See, Pop? She said I can help!
ROSE: And if anything is needed during the dinner, your son can assist Mrs. Purley, affording you the opportunity to better observe the evening’s proceedings.
CHAN: (Smiling) Who am I to dispute decision of such a lovely lady as Mrs. Rose? Very good, then. (turning to Lee) You have very important job to do! Can you keep secret of true identities of detective father and number one son?
LEE: Sure, Pop! It’s in the bag!
CHAN: (Shaking his head as he looks toward Rose) So sorry! Am afraid that eldest son, even at tender age, has passion to read cheap police novels. (More seriously, continuing to speak to Rose) You mention housekeeper, Mrs. Purley, honorable lady of Hawaiian decent who worked here even before young Charlie Chan arrived on scene here at manor house. She knows of plan to replace Yen How and his son with imitations? Butler Morgan also?
ROSE: Oh, I have already spoken to her and she is tickled to be working with you and Lee. And, Morgan, don’t worry about Morgan! He’ll be in on our little charade, too, as will my nephew and niece who were both children when you worked here.
CHAN: Ah… Miss Elizabeth and Master Robert…
ROSE: Yes. Also, I should mention that one of our guests tonight, Mr. Peers, is also our family lawyer of long-standing. Mr. Chaney and I have known him for many years, and he is here, in part, to protect out interests.
CHAN: Very good, then. Perhaps time for father and son to don costumes for “stage” debut.
Scene fades to guests arriving at Punchbowl manor. A limousine pulls up at the large front door as a heavy rain falls. A flask of lightning momentarily lights the dark scene, punctuated by the crash of thunder.A gentleman and a lady, both of middle age, are quickly escorted into the manor underneath an umbrella held aloft by Morgan.The scene shifts to the foyer of Punchbowl Manor as Morgan takes the hat and coat of the gentleman, J.D. Sloane and the wrap from the lady, Sloane’s wife, Edith. Sloane is rather gaunt and tall with jet-black hair and a thin moustache. His wife is elegantly dressed. She has blond hair, showing traces of gray.
MORGAN: (Still holding the articles of clothing belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Sloane, announces their arrival in a loud voice, imitating that which may have been heard a century earlier at a gathering of European blue-bloods) Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Sloane!
Alfred Peers is seen walking toward the Sloanes in a slow, purposeful gait, not wanting to seem anxious.
PEERS: (Shaking Sloane’s hand) Ah, Jasper… (Looking toward Edith Sloane) …and Edith. So nice of you to come out in spite of the bad storm. A veritable typhoon out there tonight, eh, old man?
SLOANE: Quite! I…
PEERS: (Interrupting) Heard about the accident. Lucky break for you and Baynes!
SLONE: (Glaring at Slone with a serious expression) Yes…
EDITH: (Hoping to break the obvious tension) Come on, honey! Let’s go see the others! We’re late, and I haven’t seen this much of the old gang in ages!
Edith grabs Sloane’s hand and pulls him toward the nearby large sitting room where all of the guests have gathered. The room is outfitted with medieval European shields and weaponry, mixed with a collection of traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian spears and war clubs. Also, in fitting with the needs of Rose Chaney, there is a crackling fire in the fireplace.
Seated are Alan M. Baynes, a jovial, gray-haired gentleman of late middle age and his wife Catherine who is of about the same age, also gray-haired; Phillip Milton, who bears the self-assured look of a wealthy sugar cane plantation owner of just over fifty years of age; Doctor Frederick Mayfair, a heavy-set gentleman of middle age and his beautiful young wife, Marilyn, who looks lost amidst the group of old friends; and Elizabeth and Robert Chaney, both in their late 20s, the niece and nephew of Rose Chaney and her late husband, Paul, both of whom are seated by themselves, rather aloof, appearing to have been rather spoiled over the years by their doting aunt.
PEERS: (Standing) Morgan!
MORGAN: Yes, sir?
PEERS: Go see if dinner is ready.
MORGAN: Very good, sir.
As Morgan leaves the living room, Frederick Mayfair walks up to Peers, taking something out of his pocket, and shows it to him.A small, carved tiki figure, matching the others is seen.
MAYFAIR: See here! What is all this about? I heard that others of us, including Sloane and Baynes, have had these turn up unexpectedly. Supposed to spell our doom, I understand…
PEERS: (Interrupting) Yes, yes! Rose…Mrs. Chaney…and I have each received one as well! What of it? You don’t take any stock in these old Hawaiian taboos, do you, Fred?
MAYFAIR: Well, after what has happened to so many of our associates over recent years, and what happened to Sloane and Baynes the other day on their way to the club…
PEERS: (interrupting) Nonsense!!!
MILTON: (Leaving his seat and approaching Peers and Mayfair) Hear, hear! We’ve all gotten one of these little fellows (Holding up his tiki) and I agree with Peers…bunk! That’s all it is! Someone is pulling some sort of prank…trying to scare us, that’s all! Could even be the work of a disgruntled worker on my plantation!
MAYFAIR: Yes, but what about all the others before, and then…
PEERS: (Interrupting) Rot! As Milton here said, probably just a prank of some sort.
MAYFAIR: (Looking at both men) Well, I, for one, am not so sure of that. Too much has happened recently to suit my taste!
Morgan re-enters the living room.
MORGAN: (Announcing, ringing a bell) Dinner is served.
PEERS: Well, then, shall we all retire to the dining hall? Mrs. Chaney will join us there.
Everyone who is still seated rises from their chairs and couches, following Peers as he leads the procession out of the massive sitting room, amidst flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.
End of Chapter One
Food For Thought
By Virginia Johnson
Scene opens as they enter the dining room. The table is heavy with silver, linen and crystal. Light comes from candles in the chandelier and on the table. Warmth comes from the fire in the grate behind the head of the table. Place cards show jet black ink on snow-white stock at each place.
Rose Chaney heads to that end of the table, her hand in the crook of Philip Milton’s arm. She playfully leans towards him.
ROSE: Would you like to bet how long it takes Elizabeth to completely bore Alan?
MILTON: (In mock horror) Do your good children know about this awful habit of yours?
ROSE: (Grinning and batting her eyes at him) No, and they won’t unless someone truly wicked tells them. Even if they did, I’d just tell them to go butt one of the stumps — er, trees outside!
Milton laughs at the thought of the large trees surrounding the house being described as “stumps.”
ROSE: (Pretending to pout) Are you wicked enough to tell on me?
MILTON: (Feigning relief) Aha! I have delivered you safely to your place!
He pulls out her place as they share a laugh. Edith Sloane is sitting down on the right of Alfred Peers at the other end of the table. She’s leaning forward to Catherine Baynes across from her when they are startled by a large cracking sound. It sounds like part of the house is trying to tear away from the rest by a wind that howls in pain.
They sit, stunned.
EDITH: Maybe it’s Little Orphan Annie beating up on Daddy Warbucks!
The group is plunged into darkness as a wind blows down into the room with a loud moaning that rasps on already taut nerves.
ROSE: (Rising to her feet) Here I am, child!
MORGAN: (He pulls out matches to relight candles as he moves through the door) If madam will excuse me, I’ll see–
BAYNES: (Stands up) Morgan, the clubs–Just in case.
PEERS: Please, everybody. Just settle down.
ROSE: Alfred, that awful sound upstairs. (She sits down, breathing with difficulty)
PEERS: You ladies stay here while we go with Morgan and see what’s what.
ROBERT: (Indifferently sitting down and picking up his napkin) I’ll stay and look after the women.
PEERS: (Walks over and grabs his arm and pulls him to the door) Over my dead body.
ELIZABETH: (Horrified) Aunty, are you going to let that… that…
EDITH: (Shaking out her napkin) Better them then us, child.
They see the pantry door opening and wait with bated breath until they see Chan in his houseboy guise, carrying a candle and with Lee in tow behind him.
CATHERINE: Rose, dear, reinforcements have arrived.
CHAN: (Seeing the other men leave the room, he stops by Rose Chaney)Should humble house boy help in finding source of tremendous noise?
ROSE: No… (She glances around at the other women as if trying to think of a reason to keep Charlie with the ladies but unsuccessfully) Well, maybe you had better. (She turns to smile at Lee and reaches a hand to draw him closer)
ROSE: (In a whisper, trying not to smile) Do you mind being protector while your father is with the other men? You can serve the plates and watch for clues here.
LEE: SURE! (He gulps, though, seeing his father leave the room after the other men)
LEE: (In a much older voice, husky now) Sure!
BAKER: You were really sure?
LEE: A ten-year-old kid? Sure? I was torn between wanting to be with Pop and wanting to prove that I was man enough to help out in a case. And not knowing what might be there in the house that we couldn’t see…
Lee shifts in discomfort in his chair until he can an easier position for his arthritic joints.
LEE: Have you ever heard the cry of a banshee, Mr. Baker?
BAKER: A bans… I can’t say as I have and I’m Irish.
LEE: Some things don’t matter…
Lee’s hands shake slightly as he stares into his cup of tea.
Fade to black and white as the other men have grabbed Chaney’s clubs off the wall as they make they way to the stairs which divide at the landing to two sets of upper stairs, giving it a crab’s claw effect.
MILTON: (Looking at Peers and pointing to the left) Peers, you take the second floor and we’ll go up to the third. Baynes and Mayfair, stay with me.
PEERS: Fine. Sloane, Morgan, you come with me. You, too, Robert.
ROBERT: (Whining) But somebody should stay with the women.
CHAN: (Coming up behind him so quietly that Robert almost loses his balance on the stairs) Mrs. Chaney wishes miserable servant to help to protect house by securing it against intruders. Humbly beg to be of service and help search party.
ROBERT: (Whining) But…
MORGAN: (Cuts him off brusquely) Fine, fine, we need everybody. You can come with us. (He turns to the upper stairs and starts up) Standing around here jawing is not getting us anywhere.
Another, colder, wind hits them, wailing, from upstairs. Its moaning becomes fiercer in intensity as they climb the stairs even faster.
PEERS: (Calls to Milton) The third floor–you men take the west wing and we’ll take the right.
MILTON: Will do!
In the dining room, the ladies are trying to decide whether to wait on eating while each is wondering what might be going on upstairs. Rose Chaney finally turns to Lee.
ROSE: Would you go in the kitchen and ask Mrs. Purly to come in here for a moment, please?
LEE: Yes, ma’am.
He scurries through the door and returns with the Hawaiian housekeeper, her plump body clad in a rather subdued muumuu with an apron over it. She approaches Mrs. Chaney with concern, especially when she sees all the men gone.
MRS. PURLY: Is everything alright, Miss Chaney?
ROSE: Yes and no… (She gestures to the ceiling). The men have gone upstairs to see if they can find out what that loud noise was all about. They might want something stronger to drink when they come back down. I believe Morgan has something ready for later in his pantry.
EDITH: (Leaning toward Catherine) So will we. Now. And I don’t care what’s up there!
MRS. PURLY: I see. (She looks at Lee) I’ll need some help.
Lee grins and follows her out.
MARILYN MAYFAIR: I’m all for going upstairs to see what’s going on if they don’t hurry up with whatever they’re–
A scream and a crash grabs their attention. The kitchen door flings open as Lee tears through the room to the stairs.
EDITH: Hey! (She looks at Rose) You check on Mrs. Purly. I’m after our little friend!
Marilyn and Elizabeth follow her out to find where Lee was off to. The others go with Rose only to be confronted by Mrs. Purly gripping the countertop. She is staring at a tiki covered in blood on the floor near an ice bucket.
ROSE: Mrs. Purly, are you all right?
Edith walks over to pick up the tiki and ice chest.
MRS PURLY: No! Don’t! It’s a curse!
ROSE: But surely you don’t believe–
The housekeeper whimpers slightly and looks up.
MRS. PURLY: Still it was a sh–shock seeing it there.
ROSE: (Picking up the bottle of Scotch as she nods to the housekeeper) Let’s go back into the dining room and have some old-fashioned fire-water.
MARILYN: (In an undertone) First dibs.
She and Mrs. Purly realize that Rose Chaney is beginning to tire out. They led her back to her chair in the dining room. Marilyn opens the bottle as Mrs. Purly pokes the fire back up.
Edith, Elizabeth, and Catherine have reached the landing, listening. Their heads jerk up as they hear shouting upstairs. The women follow the sound to find Peers and Sloane flinging questions at Morgan.
PEERS: Well, he didn’t just disappear, did he?
MORGAN: Of course not…sir.
SLOANE: Then what happened to him?
MORGAN: We were searching these rooms like Mr. Milton said when Mr. Robert went into the next room to start looking in there–
ELIZABETH: You let my brother go off by himself? He didn’t even want to come up here–
PEERS: (Sternly) Elizabeth, stop that right now. You going on like that isn’t helping the situation any.
MORGAN: (He is visibly restraining himself from turning surly in front of the Chaney attorney and Mrs. Chaney’s niece) What was I SUPPOSED to do? I was hurrying as fast as possible to finish searching that room so I could follow Mr. Robert.
CATHERINE: (Cutting in) Where are my husband and Mr. Milton? Do they know what’s… (She stops suddenly, glancing at the girl) I’ll go look for them.
SLOAN: Want me to go with you?
Catherine hesitates, fearing to leave Elizabeth but they hear Baynes, Mayfair, and Chan coming down. Elizabeth hurries over.
ELIZABETH: Have you seen Robert?
BAYNES: (Chuckling) What? Lose the poor boy?
PEERS: (Sternly) Alan, this is serious.
BAYNES: (Smirking) Then he’s seriously lost?
CATHERINE: Alan, this really is serious. Can’t you see how upset this poor child is?
BAYNES: (Flinging his hands in the air) All we found was where a tree had come in through a window–
MAYFAIR: It was all we could do to keep from cutting ourselves in all that cut glass (He smiles at his wife) but we managed.
CHAN: Good thing storm has passed. For moment.
Peers’ eyes shoot over to Chan.
PEERS: We have another problem. We broke up to search on this floor. Sloane with me and Robert with Morgan. (Dryly) Except Robert is missing now.
Morgan steps up to Peers; he’s flustered, breathing heavy.
MORGAN: You can’t blame this on me! I was trying to do what you told me AND keep an eye on the kid but–
CHAN: (Raising his voice to catch their attention) Am sure butler is doing very able job.
MORGAN: (Snidely) Thank you so much.
Elizabeth looks around and notices that Phillip Millton hasn’t come down with the rest. She starts off by herself, unsure of whether to try to look for him. Her eyes glance up the stairs to the third-floor landing… Her hands go up as if to stop the sight.
She screams until Dr. Mayfair pulls her around and shakes her.
PEERS: What is it, child?
CATHERINE: It can’t be that bad–
They all turn to where she’s staring…at a hand hanging down from the third landing, blood beginning to drip down each tread. Mayfair shoves Elizabeth into Edith’s arms. He reaches the top of the steps as Chan does. The Chinese detective has his official air about him now, holding a hand up to stop the others.
CHAN: (Forcefully) Please to stay back!
MORGAN: (Snarling) Just who do you think you are to tell these people–
Chan fumbles in the recesses of his clothes and pulls out his detective badge.
CHAN: Humble servant is from Honolulu Police Department on private duty case. (His other hand pulls out a steel gray gun as Mayfair waves a hand up the stairs) Honorable guests will please cooperate with lowly detective.
MORGAN: Stupid… And Rose Chaney trusted you to be protection…
CHAN: Bitter truth must be accepted but does not change fact that crime scene is now of most importance. (He turns to Morgan) Please to call fellow police to come to house of venerable House of Chaney.
Morgan hesitates and the hand on Chan’s gun tightens its grip, ever so slightly. He nods his head and turns toward downstairs.
CHAN: (Catching Mayfair’s eye) Will honorable doctor assist…in investigation on landing?
Dr. Mayfair tries to bolster his courage as he nods and follows Chan carefully up the stairs.They steel themselves at the sight of Phillip Milton, head nearest them. Or what is left of his head. A gaping hole has been hacked above his right ear, leaving the surrounding area matted with what only Dr. Mayfair could identify. Blood has poured out to start spreading on the floor and has found its way to drip down towards the horrified group below. One of Paul Chaney’s own native clubs lies nearby and is drenched in blood.Chan turns to Edith and Catherine.
CHAN: Unfortunate victim is Mr. Milton. Mr. Peers, please to take young ladies down to dining room and look after unfortunate mistress of the house?
Peers’ face jerks toward Chan until he realizes that Rose Chaney is downstairs, not knowing what is going on in her own house.
PEERS: Of course.
CHAN: (To Mayfair) Can give preliminary opinion of unfortunate friend?
MAYFAIR: (Looks around him in despair) What can I say, Inspector Chan? A massive blow to the head was fatal, probably killed him instantly. No other apparent injures that I can see without a full autopsy.
He closes his eyes as he runs a hand over his head.
MAYFAIR: I don’t think he suffered any.
CHAN: (Steps to the doctor and puts a comforting hand on his arm) Realize how difficult present situation must be for good doctor. But please remember–Help at this time is greatest help in bringing about killer of good friend of long standing. (Looking at Morgan) Please to find sheets for distressing sight and then join others.
Mayfair starts and looks at Chan, pain clearly in his eyes. He nods to Morgan.
MAYFAIR: Go on, Morgan. (The butler hesitates) Go on.
ELIZABETH: But what about my brother, Inspector Chan?
CHAN: (His free hand waves to the other men) Please be assured that beloved brother is not forgotten. These gentlemen will be big help to emergency. Am sure they will volunteer to look for honorable son of kind patroness of this humble policeman.
They murmur consent at the girl’s look and start discussing who will look where.
EDITH: Please, Catherine, you must come down. Your aunt will need your strength.
CATHERINE: Yes, do, child.
Elizabeth nods and allows herself to be steered down the stairs.
Chan waits until they are well out of sight of the gruesome landing. He turns to the other men.
CHAN: Please to not touch anything.
He carefully walks to the club, minimizing any contamination of the crime scene, waving for Mayfair to follow him.
CHAN: Please to notice handle where hand gripped it. See smudging?
MAYFAIR: Yes, but it doesn’t tell us anything.
CHAN: No? Could small hand even pick up such heavy weapon? Or make such big smudge on handle.
MAYFAIR: (Grimly smiling) I see what you mean. (He slaps Chan on the back) Whoever did…this…certainly doesn’t know he has a bloodhound on his trail.
CHAN: Humble detective only hopes to come near success of noble animal. Thank you so much.
An older Lee is leaning back in his chair, murmuring, “Thank you so much.” His voice trails off.
Baker wonders if the old codger has gone to sleep. He waits for a few moments and reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a hip flask. Baker takes the top off the teapot and pours some brownish liquid in and replaces the cap.
LEE: Is that high-octane?
BAKER: What? Yeah, it is, as a matter of fact.
LEE: Then would you be kind enough to pour me another cup too?
Baker sees the wicked grin that must have been quite the delight of young ladies over the years. He begins to realize that Lee Chan, even at 88, is someone who has the stories to tell the person smart enough to listen.
BAKER: Sure, Mr. Chan. (He leans over and pours liberally into Lee Chan’s cup until the older man holds up a hand to stop)
LEE: Knock off that “Mr. Chan,” please. Just call me Lee (He sighs) Mr. Chan was my Pop.
BAKER: Only if you honor me by calling me John.
Lee takes his cup and sips. He smiles and nods appreciation to the young reporter. He leans back and stares off into space again.
BAKER: (In a low voice) So what did your Pop do then?
LEE: What did Pop do then? What Pop usually did…
Chan looks up at hurrying footsteps and sees Morgan coming toward them with a sheet and towels. He takes the sheet to unfold as Morgan shakes out a towel as he walks over to the puddles of blood.
MORGAN: I’ll just wipe up this mess.
CHAN: NO! Must not alter crime scene.
MORGAN: But the sheet.
CHAN: Must use to cover honorable friend’s body.
The doctor pulls himself together to help cover the body. He reaches for part of the sheet, glad to at least give his friend the dignity in death that murder had so cruelly stripped from him in life.
MAYFAIR: Here, Chan, I’ll help. (He breathes more easily now that he doesn’t have to look at him)
They both realize that there is nothing else to do for Milton.Chan turns to the two men to give new orders but they hear high heels running up the stairs.
Young Marilyn Mayfair is breathing heavily as she gets to Chan’s side.
MARILYN: Mr. Chan…Inspector Chan…Have…have you…seen your son since you came up here? (She gasps for breath)
CHAN: No. Number one son is downstairs in–
MARILYN: No, he isn’t, Mr. Chan. (Her breathing is more even now) They said that he tore upstairs to see you and they haven’t seen or heard from him since…
End of Chapter Two
Ready or Not
By Paul Helman
BAKER: Looks as though things were beginning get a bit rough Mr. Ch… er Lee.
LEE: Yes, John and what had begun as a private favor for Rose Chaney had become an all too public tragedy. Shall I continue?
SCENE IS THE GREAT DINING HALL OF PUNCHBOWL MANOR.
CHAN: (Standing beside Rose Chaney who is seated near the crackling fireplace) Must regretfully beg forgiveness for my failure tonight.
ROSE: You are not to blame, Charlie. Perhaps we are all cursed for our dishonesty and greed.
CHAN: Must disagree. Hand which held deadly weapon tonight more substantial than revengeful spirit. Suspect motive more earthly as well.
PEERS: (Standing nearby) Rose, I’m afraid I have to agree with Charlie in this case. In the law we encounter a great deal of greed and viciousness but revengeful spirits are few and far between.
MORGAN: (Enters from the pantry way) I have informed the authorities, madam.
CATHERINE: I hope Alan and the others have been able to locate Robert and Lee.
SLOANE: (Coming halfway down the stairs and calling) Mr. Chan, I think we’re on to something can you come with me.
CHAN: (Moving toward the stairs) Please to all remain here together and disturb nothing!
Second floor hallway Alan Baynes is standing beside a closed bedroom door.
Sloane and Charlie approach.
BAYNES: There you are. I didn’t want to force entry into the room until reinforcements arrived. I heard noises in there again, Jasper.
CHAN: What sort of noises?
BAYNES: Hard to be certain. They were muffled at best and what sounded like a door knob being rattled.
CHAN: (Taking his small service pistol out o his jacket pocket) Will now make investigation.
Chan knocks on the door without immediate reply. He then tries the handle with no luck, as he continues:
Will now make use of detective’s best friend.
SLOANE: What would that be Mr.Chan?
Chan bends over to peer through the hole, continuing:
Ah, most interesting.
BAYNES: What is it you see?
CHAN: See familiar eye starring back at
CHAN: Open, please!
Sound of a latch being turned. The door handle turns and the door begins to open with an audible creak. Lee’s head appears from behind the door.
LEE: Hello, Pop. Am I glad to see you!
CHAN: (Embracing him then kneeling down to look into his face) Will please explain absence from kitchen and presence in this room?
LEE: Gee Pop, I came up to help investigate that big crash. Then while I was walking along this hall I thought I saw someone go into this room. Sure enough when I followed I did locate someone.
LEE: Gosh, I don’t know, yet. But, whoever it is is still in that closet. I was trying to get it open but whoever it is kept pulling the door shut, I guess he is stronger than me when it comes to door wrestling.
CHAN: (Pistol in hand) You will please come out now. This is a police order!
VOICE: (From closet) All right. I’m coming out. Please don’t be angry.
SLOANE: Robert! What the devil are you doing in there?
BAYNES: I knew you were lily-livered. But this. Hiding like a frightened child.
ROBERT: I was terrified. First that crash and then the screaming and commotion. I felt I had to hide. Please don’t tell the others.
CHAN: Happy to find you safe. Let us rejoin group downstairs.
Scene in main hall. Charlie, and his companions are coming down the staircase.
ELIZABETH: (Becoming animated as she sees her brother) Oh Robert, Robert you’re safe! (she runs forward to greet him)
ROBERT: I’m all right, Beth. I was just doing some investigating on my own.
LEE: What do you mean, inves…?
Lee is distracted by his father who has embraced him round the shoulders.
CHAN: No need for further explanation. Number one son will please return to kitchen and assist Mrs. Purly.
Lee: Okay, Pop… (He heads out to kitchen)
CHAN: Now my duty to warn you all that there is great danger in this house. Unfortunately all must remain confined here until further notice.
General murmuring of the assembled guests.
MARILYN MAYFAIR: You can’t be serious, Mr. Chan. For one thing, I have nothing to wear.
EDITH: Nor I!
FREDERICK MAYFAIR: I agree with my wife. Isn’t all this a bit highhanded? We all have business to conduct. My practice for example.
PEERS: With all due respect to the Doctor here, I think we must all put aside our personal interest for the sake of bringing Philip’s murderer to justice.
ELIZABETH: Murder, murderer. How can one capture a malevolent spirit? We will all be dead by the time this ends.
SLOANE: Try to calm yourself, Beth. We are safe enough if we cooperate and stay on our guard.
CHAN: Humbly regret neccesity to inconvenience all of you. But, murder most serious imposition of all.
ROSE: I understand, Charlie. I will see to it that my guests are comfortable. Rest assured all your needs will be met. You will see to it, Morgan.
MORGAN: Yes, madam.
CHAN: It is now nine-thirty, Suggest we all meet here in one hour. Advise that no one be left alone at any time till we meet back here in one hour.
They begin to gather their personal items before going upstairs when Edith Sloane utters a sudden cry of alarm as her purse falls to the floor.
J.D. SLOANE: What is it my dear?
EDITH: (Pointing to the fallen purse) There in my purse. One of those horrid…things.
Chan picks up the purse and with his handkerchief takes out a tiki figure.
He carefully wraps the figure in the handkerchief and places it in his pocket.
CHAN: Mute figure of ancient taboo may have tale to tell when checked for fingerprints.
There is a loud knock from the front door momentarily startling the assembly.
MORGAN: I will get that.
CHAN: Expect knock indicate arrival of fellow police. You will excuse me until we meet in one hour.
Scene shifts to library. Charlie is conferring with Chief Faraday.
FARADAY: What do you make of all this, Charlie?
CHAN: Vicious attack on unfortunate Mr. Milton indicate murderer harbor great anger. An anger approaching madness.
FARADAY: Then the motive was some pent-up grudge?
CHAN: Possibly. But, other actions suggest careful premeditation.
FARADAY: You mean the tiki dolls?
CHAN: Just so. All guests here tonight have been in Islands long enough to be familiar with local superstitions.
FARADAY: They certainly hold great power over the minds of the natives. But, these folks are mainlanders, too sophisticated to be drawn into such nonsense.
CHAN: Contradiction, please. Power of ancient taboos difficult to resist for anyone who has lived on these islands for longer than brief visit. Long tropical nights under moon and stars of this enchanted land cast its spell on all. Witnessed tonight powerful reaction of Edith Sloane when she found the figure in purse.
FARADAY: I suspect you are right, Charlie. Unless someone is hiding out Mrs.Purly is the only real native in the house. Since she hardly seems the murdering type we are left with the local “Blue Bloods.”
CHAN: Seems most probable.
FARADAY: And that presents a real problem. We are most probably sitting on the most volcanic scandal to hit this island in years.
CHAN: A warm potato.
LEE: (His voice piping up from behind a corner chair) You mean “hot,” Pop. A hot potato.
FARADAY: What the devil he he doing here?
CHAN: Presence of number one sprout long story. Too long to explain at present. (Turns to Lee) Will kindly sit on chair and imitate silence of companion floor lamp.
LEE: Okay, Pop…
FARADAY: What I am getting at is that this is no ordinary case. We must try and keep it low profile. If the press gets hold of it … Well, you can
CHAN: I understand.
FARADAY: Charlie, you are my best detective…
Charlie begins to demure…
FARADAY: Your modesty does you credit, but hear me out. I want you to continue to handle this case as much as possible on your own. We will give you all the support you need and will quietly keep watch on the house from the outside. But, the last thing we need are swarms of police drawing the attention of the press.
CHAN: Like flies to honey.
FARADAY: That’s the idea. Can you do it, Charlie?
CHAN: Will do humble best.
LEE: Good for you, Pop. We can work together.
CHAN: (Smiling) Boastful floor lamp in danger of popping fuse.
FARADAY: (Grasping Charlie’s hand) We are all counting on you. Keep me informed. I’ll have that tiki figure dusted and if anything turns up I’ll let you know. I’ve already asked Kelly, our best prints man, to take a set from everyone in the house.
Kelly enters carrying a briefcase.
KELLY: All set, Chief.
CHAN: Did everyone cooperate freely?
KELLY: Reasonably so, although the women were more or less miffed over getting their pinkies dirty.
CHAN: Anything else?
KELLY: Yeah. That butler Morgan. Nothing he said exactly, but he seemed pretty nervous. Got sweaty and I thought his bow tie was going to spin off.
CHAN: Most interesting. Suggest checking prints, especially Morgan’s against known criminal records.
FARADAY: Good idea, Charlie. It looks as though you may be on to something already. Well, I’ll say good night and good luck.
CHAN: Thank you so much.
Scene shifts to kitchen. Lee is helping Mrs. Purly arrange some platters of food.
MRS. PURLY: Now Lee, I want you to put one slice of pineapple on each plate just so.
Lee: Gee, m’am, this looks swell. (He yawns)
MRS. PURLY: I certainly do appreciate an extra hand on a night like this. But, I can see you are getting sleepy.
LEE: Well…maybe just a bit.
MRS. PURLY: I should guess you’re around 10 years old and it’s getting past your bedtime.
LEE: Say, we detectives sometimes have to work really late. Like eleven o’clock…or maybe even midnight.
MRS. PURLY: My my! You must be a great help to your father?
LEE: You said it, why sometimes…
They are interrupted by the entrance of Morgan.
MORGAN: Isn’t that food ready yet. The guests have reassembled and seemed to have regained there appetites. They all disgust me, and if it weren’t for Mrs. Chaney I’d…
MRS. PURLY: Hush! Can’t you see the boy is here?
MORGAN: Oh…yes. (Sarcastically) Well, young master Chan, you can help me serve.
MRS. PURLY: Fine, and then to bed with you. Detectives need their sleep, too.
LEE: Yes ma’am. (He picks up a platter and follows Morgan out into the dining room)
BAKER: And so the guests ate a hearty meal, no doubt?
LEE: John, I can remember that grim repast as if it was yesterday. My father working alone in that house of death with fear gripping everyone present. Well, almost everyone.
BAKER: Why do you say “almost,” Lee?
LEE: I was the exception, John. To me it was the greatest adventure of my life, and I had that youthful feeling of invulnerability.
BAKER: What a story. Charlie Chan alone against unspeakable danger, revenge, and murder.
LEE: John, I believe you are getting an inkling of what was felt in that house those many years ago.
End of Chapter Three
Body, Body, Who’s Got The Body?
By Virginia Johnson
(Chan and Faraday stand to one side as several white-coated men carried a large covered basket, containing the body of Phillip Milton, went out the front door to a waiting ambulance.)
FARADAY: I had a chance to know Milton, non-professionally.Wonderful person!And to die like that!
CHAN: (Looks down at the floor) Must admit failure to honorable mentor and friend. (He quickly put up a hand to stop Faraday from arguing the point)
CHAN: Must admit truth.Humble self can only make amend by solving case as quickly as possible. (He looks at the walls surrounding them) Have seen Chaney collection of Polynesian war clubs?
FARADAY:(Smiles grimly at the walls)Can’t get away from them, can you?Looks like an old-fashioned armory to me.(He glances at the door muting the conversations of Rose Chaney and her guests in the dining room)Think one of them could have used one of these cute little weapons?
CHAN: Do not know if–
FARADAY: Surely, Charlie–
CHAN: Must build case from scratch.Cannot take anything for granted. Mr. Milton separated from humble self, Mr. Baynes and Mr. Mayfair saying he just remembered something about Morgan. What was “something” he just remembered? (He glances at a few of his fellow policemen waiting for new orders) House has been searched but no death weapon found.Perhaps new search could be made while I question suspects?
The pocket doors to the dining room open.Rose Chaney leans on the arm of Alfred Peers as the others followed. Morgan is carrying a coffee service.
ROSE: Charlie, I thought we could go to the library…?
CHAN: (Smiling and bowing deeply) Good place to start questioning, with permission of lady of house. Will be brief as possible.
The last in line is Mrs. Purly, who has stopped at the door to catch Chan’s attention.
MRS. PURLY: I sent little Lee up to bed, after serving them and gave him a nice big sandwich and milk! You two have the room next to mine on the third floor.
CHAN:(Bows deeply and then follows her into the library) Thank you so much on behalf of miserable parents of wayward son.
MRS. PURLY: He looked like he was almost walking in his sleep–!
Robert’s voice breaks in on her, pouting over her shoulder.
ROBERT: Really, mother, why are you still letting these servants to run things?
ROSE: (Sharply) Please remember that Inspector Chan is with the police and is here at my request.
Chan steps forward, smiling at her.
CHAN: Greatly appreciate lofty title of Lieutenant, and was so honored earlier this evening, but at present moment am still regarded by Honolulu Police Department superiors as humble detective, receiving much smaller paycheck of same, much to grief of honorable wife and growing family.
ELIZABETH: See, Aunt Rose, he admits–
FARADAY: (Breaks in) Hrmph…let’s get to work here.
He looks around to be sure he had everyones attention and turns to Mrs. Chaney.
FARADAY: If it’s alright with you, ma’am, Ill let Chan take over the questioning since he’s been here from the get-go and knows the low-down.
CHAN: (Bowing, still wearing his house boy’s uniform)Thank you so much.
FARADAY: (His hand waving vaguely to the rest of the house) Well be…
CHAN: (Smiling) Understand completely.
Chan closes the library door as Faraday takes several of the other policemen who spread out over the house.
ROSE: (Holding out a cup of coffee) Charlie, first things first.
Back in the present, an older Lee stares into his cup, sighing at the memory of his “Pop” as a young detective. Baker waits and fidgets.He pulls out his flask to pour and finds it empty but catches Lee’s attention.
LEE: (His grin returns) Sorry! You’ll find a bottle on the kitchen counter. It might do as a substitute for what you’ve been kind enough to share with me.
Baker goes into the other room and whoops with delight at the sight of bonded bourbon. He’s grinning as he comes back and sees Lee holding out an empty tea cup.
BAKER: Want a refresher cup?
LEE: Certainly! Pop would not have approved, though…But, on a night like this…and with this flood of memories…
A fresh crash of thunder rattles the windows and Baker hurriedly pours the bourbon for both of them.
BAKER: Just how did you know what went on after Mrs. Purly tucked you into bed!
LEE: (Laughing like the ten-year-old he still is deep inside) Did you always stay in bed?!
BAKER: But weren’t there cops crawling all over the place?
LEE: They didn’t know all the places to look. I decided to do a little investigating on my own before they got going again…
Thunder crashes in the present, fading to a roar decades in the past as a door creaks open. Two big brown eyes peer out and the door widens. Little Lee tucks his shirt into his pants.
LEE: I gotta get going again.
He tip-toes out and listens. He takes two steps…two more…he reaches the third-floor landing. A flash of lightning, followed by the roar of thunder is heard.
LEE: Maybe I should have dropped crumbs from the kitchen.Unless some crumb ate them.
He notices a framed part of the wall next to the narrow stairs at the back of the staircase. It is square, about four feet by four feet, with a knob on the right side. Lee taps it and heard a hollow sound.
LEE: What in the…?
He takes the knob and twists it.It shifts slightly to the left.Lee pulls the knob harder to find a blank space except for two ropes right behind where the knob had been.He takes them and starts pulling up and down as he realizes that they make the floor of the box move, like a miniature elevator, not really realizing what it is used for.
LEE: I bet Dad could use this at work!
He looks further into the “silent butler.”He catches his breath as he leans in and reachs to the back to find one of the clubs that were on the walls downstairs…except that the big end Lee finds that it is…sticky!
He suddenly hears voices on the floor below, coming closer to the servants’ wing. He jumps into the box and manages to close the door just as he hears steps on the bottom of the stairs.
EDITH:(Leaning over to Marilyn Mayfair and whispering) No wonder those two are orphans–I certainly wouldn’t own up to them either!
Marilyn muffles a laugh as she glanced at Robert and Elizabeth fuming behind their aunt.
MARILYN: (Whispering back) Makes you wonder why they weren’t “dun in” first!
Chan catches their attention, with the hint of a grin to his mouth.
CHAN: So grateful for cooperation on behalf of humble self. (He looks over at Morgan who is stiffly standing beside the coffee service) Must ask question about Mr. Milton. Left us upstairs before unfortunate demise saying he remembered something about you.
Morgan glares and starts to say something but decides not to.
CHAN: As venerable father once ask, “Better to say nothing and be thought a fool then say something and prove it?”
ALFRED PEERS: (Standing up) Robert, Sloane, and Morgan were with me.We decided to split up once we were on the second floor, Morgan going with Robert. The others went on up to the third floor.
A terrific flash of lightning suddenly illuminates the room so brightly that they have to cover their eyes, followed immediately by a horrendous crash of thunder.It takes several seconds for the group to recover enough to realize that the only light came from the library fire.
MORGAN: (Walking closer to her with a cup in hand) Yes, ma’am?
ROSE: I think you might need to go check on where that tree hit earlier this evening.
Chan moves forward to block Morgan’s leaving the room.
CHAN: So sorry, but must question Morgan–
MORGAN: (Sneering) Madame needs–
PEERS: Rose, I can go.
Baynes gets up to start to the door.
BAYNES: I’ll go with you.
Marilyn leans toward Edith’s ear while slipping a small flask out of her purse.
MARILYN: (In a whisper) Three guesses where Robert stays!
EDITH: (Holding her cup nearer Marilyn, whispering loudly) Easy guesses! Andtea me, friend!
As Marilyn pours a brown liquid into her cup, Baynes and Peers leave the library door behind them. Charlie turns back to Morgan.
CHAN: You and Robert search where on second floor, please?
MORGAN: We took the guest wing. We checked the Yellow Room, the Mahogany Room,and the Blue Room. It was while we were going through the Bird’s Eye Maple Room…
ROSE: (Looks at Chan with a wry look, leaning back in her chair) Maybe we should have numbered the rooms.
Mrs. Purly looks sharply at Rose Chaney and turns to Chan.
MRS. PURLY: Mr. Chan, does Mrs. Chaney really need to stay up?
Chan crosses to his patroness and old friend in concern. He gets Elizabeth’s attention.
CHAN: Old friend must have rest to help in investigation. Please to let honorable niece and Mrs. Purley take you upstairs for rest.
ROBERT:(Jumping up) If anyone needs a rest–
He stops suddenly as Dr. Mayfair gives him a dirty look as the doctor goes over to Mrs. Chaney.
MAYFAIR: Rose, let us take you upstairs so I can check you over. (To Chan) I’ll be back to answer any questions you have for me. (Turning to Elizabeth) Elizabeth?
Elizabeth and Mrs. Purly help Rose Chaney up as Dr. Mayfair gets his medical bag.As they pass Chan, the housekeeper leans toward him.
MRS. PURLY: I’ll check on Lee while I’m upstairs, Detective Chan.
CHAN: Thank you so much!
Chan follows them to the door and slowly closes it as they go upstairs. He turns to find Morgan collecting cups and saucers to take back to the kitchen.
CHAN: Excuse, please, but have not finished with former co-worker.
MORGAN: (Barely hiding his surliness toward the former houseboy) I’m busy.
ROBERT:When you come back from the kitchen, Morgan, bring me a sandwich.
Joseph Sloane’s baritone booms from a dark corner of the room, causing the butler to almost drop the coffee tray.
SLOANE: (Loudly) Morgan will stay put and answer Detective Chan’s questions, Robert, and if you have any problem with that, you can–
EDITH:(Equally loud) JOSHEPH SLOANE, don’t you dare!
Their attention is caught by a rush of feet from the kitchen to the library doors which are flung open by Faraday.
FARADAY: Where is Lee, Charlie?
CHAN: Put to bed by Mrs. Purly in servants’ wing on the third floor.
FARADAY: Do you know where?
FARADAY: (Looking for the housekeeper) Where is she?
ROBERT: (Standing up, trying to take charge) She’s upstairs with my aunt and sister.I am head ofthe house in her absence.
Faraday returns, an anguished look on his face.
CHAN: What is problem, please?
FARADAY: (Pity and hesitation in his voice) I hate to tell you, but we found a room up there with your kid’s clothes thrown around and the bed messed up. (He hesitates again)Charlie, one of my men found one of those “silent waiters” near his room with sticky palm prints of a small boy. A boy about Lee’s age. The palm prints were sticky, and…bloody…
End of Chapter Four