I am going through an old radio kick. A few weeks ago, I wrote an episode of the Jack Benny Program as if it was still on the air today (you can check it out here); now I am doing probably my favorite old-time radio show, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (I wrote about my love of the show here and here). Honestly, I’m really happy with how both of these little creative “time capsules” turned out.
It is Monday night on the Mutual Broadcasting System, time for…
The Singular Affair of the Assassin’s Knife
HARRY BARTELL: Petri Wine Brings you…
MUSIC: Dramatic organ sound!
BARTELL: (Quickly) Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
MUSIC: Organ plays the theme
BARTELL: Now, let’s visit the good friend of Sherlock Holmes, our own beloved Doctor Watson in his California cottage. Dr. Watson? Hello? Are you in?
WATSON: Oh, come in my boy. Why Mr. Bartell it has been quite a long time since you have visited my home. It is lovely to see you.
BARTELL: It’s good to see you too. How are the puppies?
WATSON: When you are a man of a certain age, like myself, you need to think of your health. I’ve been doing what the young people are calling “counting their steps.” I decided to take the puppies with me today on one of my longer walks. While I feel great, the puppies are right now fast asleep on my bed.
BARTELL: (Light laugh), Well, I hope you still have the energy to share an adventure of Sherlock Holmes with us tonight. We’ve been waiting for quite a long time for this.
WATSON: Of course, and I am very ready for you. Sit down and make yourself comfortable. That’s it. I named this adventure “The Singular Affair of the Assassin’s Knife” and there are few tales I know that were more dangerous for Holmes and myself.
BARTELL: Assassin’s knife? I would say get to the point, but I wouldn’t recommend that with a knife like that. It certainly sounds exciting.
WATSON: Our story begins in the summer of 1881. It was an unpleasant time to be in London with a heatwave that seemed to be never ending. Most of London, those who could not escape for the coasts or countryside, were hiding in their homes; and it was rare you saw a soul on the streets when the sun was still blazing. I was married at the time and living away from Baker Street and very busy in my medical practice which was starting to actually draw some much-needed financial attention. I was only occasionally seeing my friend, the great detective, but I did take part in his adventure of the Red-Headed League.
BARTELL: I remember that one. That was the mystery with the secret tunnel into the bank vault and you and Sherlock Holmes captured the culprit right at the scene of the crime.
WATSON: Yes, Mr. Bartell, that crime was orchestrated by the wicked Professor Moriarty. Before that escapade, it could be said that Sherlock Holmes was merely a nuisance to Moriarty, but with the loss of that fortune, Moriarty finally saw Holmes for the arch-nemesis he was. He had his focus now set on my good friend, but I did not know any of this at the time. My part in this adventure began when Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard appeared at my Doctor’s office.
SOUND: Door opening
LUCY: Doctor Watson?
WATSON: Yes, Lucy? Is it my next appointment?
LUCY: No, doctor it is an inspector.
WATSON: An inspector?
LESTRADE: Doctor Watson?
WATSON: Inspector Lestrade! How nice to see you! Thank you, Lucy, you may go.
SOUND: Door shutting.
LESTRADE: Hello Doctor Watson. I’m sorry to say this is not a social visit.
WATSON: Oh really?
LESTRADE: Have you seen Sherlock Holmes?
WATSON: Holmes? Not in weeks. Have you tried at 221B?
LESTRADE: Yes, many times, but he is never there. Mrs. Hudson says he arrives at random times in the evening and is usually gone by the time she brings up breakfast in the morning. I have left him two notes. Two, and not a single word in reply. It’s not like him.
WATSON: Maybe he is working on a case?
LESTRAE: But what is a bigger case than the Parliament murders?
WATSON: The Parliament murders?
LESTRADE: Have you not been reading the papers, doctor? Two members of Parliament have been found dead in their offices. The first was the honorable Mr. Rupert Shakes. He was found a week ago with a knife wound in the head, right between the eyes. There was a note which the papers unfortunately got their hands on threatening that a member of Parliament will be killed once a week and there was nothing Scotland Yard could do about it. The next week, this week mind you, another member of Parliament was found in the exact same fashion.
WATSON: Are there any clues? Any witnesses?
LESTRADE: No witnesses, but there was a clue in the last murder that the papers didn’t hear about. I was hoping to show it to Mr. Holmes and see if he could get anything from it and…
SOUND: Door opens.
WATSON: I’m busy right now Lucy.
LUCY: I’m sorry Doctor, but there is a strange gentleman at the door. He doesn’t have an appointment, but he is most urgent to see you.
WATSON: Can you tell him to make an appointment or wait…
SOUND: Stepping forward
STRANGER: (French Accent, speaking fast). Excuse me. Excuse me. I can talk for myself. Please make room. I believe you are talking about me. I am the stranger here. Yes, that is me. Are you the doctor?
WATSON: I am, but Mr….
STRANGER: (Quickly) Mr. Lupin, Mr. Lupin, sir. Are you the doctor?
WATSON: Yes, I am, but Mister…
STRANGER: (Quickly) Lupin, I said. Please pay attention. Are you sure you are a doctor? You don’t look like a doctor. Not at all. No, I would say no. You look more like a befuddled teacher. The kind that teaches history and keeps forgetting the dates.
LESTRADE: (Chuckling) He is right.
WATSON: Don’t encourage him, Lestrade. (To stranger), If you want my help, Mr. Lupin, I would recommend you keep a civil tongue.
STRANGER: Have you taught? Or taken a class? Where did you get your degree?
WATSON: Why the impertinence! I have half a mind to…
HOLMES (Formerly Stranger): (Laughing) No need to throw me out Watson. It is only me.
WATSON: Holmes! What are you doing? You can go Lucy.
LUCY: Thank you doctor. (Mumbling to herself) I cannot… people coming and going and… (Stepping out)
SOUND: Door shutting
HOLMES: I had no choice, no choice at all. It is the only way I could safely get out of Baker Street. Hello Lestrade.
LESTRADE: It is good to see you, Holmes.
HOLMES: I have had two attempts on my life since our little adventure with the red-headed gentleman.
WATSON: Two attacks?
HOLMES: One in an alley, you can see the gunshot hole in my coat here. The other tried to get in through the window, luckily for that one I was up early reading the papers and I could stop him with a simple… push. By the time I got downstairs and outside he had gotten away. But if I was sleeping, things might have not ended so well for me.
WATSON: But what is behind all of this? Who is trying to kill you?
HOLMES: The most fiendish man in the country; no, the world’s greatest criminal. The spider at the center of all crime in England. Professor Moriarty.
WATSON: Professor Moriarty?
LESTRADE: Are you sure, Mr. Holmes?
HOLMES: Moriarty. Moriarty. The cancer in our society. The villain in every darkest corner. He wants me out of the way and he will do anything to get me. I have to always stay on the move. I am always moving. Maybe, if I am lucky I will find him first. But who dares play with a dangerous animal in its own cage, yet that is what I am doing every day since so much of London is in his clutches. I am always followed by Moriarty’s thugs, no matter how late or early I escape my rooms. So now I am being followed as well by my Baker Street Irregulars.
LESTRADE: Baker Street Irregulars?
HOLMES: Street boys and urchins under my employment. They are my eyes and ears on the streets. If they notice something is amiss they are to immediately run to Scotland Yard for help. But enough of that. Lestrade, you wanted to see me? I got your notes. Do not fear, I’m here to help.
LESTRADE: Yes, the Parliament murders.
HOLMES: I have seen the stories.
LESTRADE: But what you didn’t see in the stories was this.
SOUND: Ruffling of something taken from a bag.
HOLMES: Is that?
WATSON: (Gasps) The knife from the second murder!
LESTRADE: The very same, and still bloody.
HOLMES: Lestrade? Can I see the knife?
LESTRADE: Certainly, Mr. Holmes. Here.
WATSON: What is it, Holmes? What do your keen eyes see?
HOLMES: This is not what I was expecting. The accuracy of the knife attacks shows an assassin who is an expert at throwing a knife at a great distance. Yet…
LESTRADE: You believe he is throwing the knife?
HOLMES: How else could he succeed in his murders and not draw attention? If it was a physical attack, someone, probably an assistant of some sort, would hear the struggle from another room. But with a knife and a carefully aimed throw from a distance, the deed is done before even the victim knows what has happened.
LESTRADE: (Pause and then) I think you’re right, Mr. Holmes. Each of these offices had opened windows, because of the summer heat.
HOLMES: (Speaking carefully while examining the knife). My first thought when I read the accounts was to consider a circus artist or a freak show performer that works with knives of some sort, but look! Do you see? Look there!
LESTRADE: What is it? I don’t see anything.
WATSON: I don’t either, Holmes. It’s just a knife.
HOLMES: You see, but you do not observe. You would expect for a knife thrower’s knife to have a sharp point, a well-taken care of tip. But the edge is what makes it stand out. The edge! Look how it is dull from use. Why would that be? Why would a knife thrower ever use the edge like this?
WATSON: For slitting throats?
HOLMES: How morbid you have become, Watson. You must be reading your own exaggerated tales. No, that is not correct. This killer doesn’t work like that as I said. An assassin that can throw a knife with such accuracy as this killer never needs to get that close, except to collect his knife after the event, which is easy to do when you can simply enter from a window. This knife’s edge is worn with use, and not just any use.
LESTRADE: What are you saying, Mr. Holmes?
HOLMES: I am saying, Lestrade, our killer is a butcher.
LESTRADE: (Pause) I don’t believe it.
HOLMES: Look at the edge, Lestrade. This is a knife that has known bone as well as the wood of a cutting board. It has seen something equal to years of wear and yet the handle shows it to be quite new. Few occupations would wear down a knife this quickly like butchery. Lestrade, I can assist if you wish.
LESTRADE: Certainly, Mr. Holmes, it would be a relief. The papers are having a field day with us because of these murders. what do you wish to do?
HOLMES: Watson, can you spare a few moments from your practice?
WATSON: I’ll clear the rest of the schedule with Lucy.
WATSON: But what are we doing?
HOLMES: We’re going shopping… for a butchery and a killer inside. The game’s afoot!
MUSIC: Organ, and then playful to show the passing of time.
SOUND: London street. Crowds. Horse and carriage noises. Police whistles.
WATSON: Holmes, I am tired. We’ve been to dozens of butchers so far. I never had any idea there are so many. And the smell in this heat! It is enough to make a person ill. Even Lestrade has given up the search.
HOLMES: Yes, I am disappointed by that. He’s getting lazy in his old age.
WATSON: Lazy, pah. It’s hot and I think he believes this to be a wild goose chase and he is too kind to say something.
HOLMES: Maybe you’re right, Watson, maybe you’re right. I’ve certainly not had a moment’s rest since Moriarty has been on the attack. Maybe my brain is muddled. Let’s try two more butcheries and call it a day. Wait a minute. Look here. This one looks promising.
WATSON: This little hole in the wall? Are you certain?
HOLMES: All of the other places we visited so far were somewhat busy with people hiding from the sun and business transactions going on. Yet, here no one seems to be inside, even though it is clearly open.
WATSON: It looks unwelcoming.
HOLMES: Which is welcoming for us. Let’s go in.
SOUND: Door opening and a bell over it rings.
WATSON: There is no one here. Hello! The smell, Holmes. It is worse than the others. Has some of this meat been out for a while? This cannot be sanitary.
HOLMES: And yet the walls are clean and free of dust. Normally this is a business well taken care of. Something has obviously changed here recently, and not for the better. (Calling) Is there anyone here?
SOUND: Grunting noise in back. Something struggling on a ground, a dragging noise.
WATSON: Did you hear that?
HOLMES: (Fast) Watson, quickly.
HOLMES: Back here, Watson and…
SOUND: Running stops
WATSON: The poor man. Move aside, I’ll take a look.
HOLMES: The butcher has been butchered, Watson. And look! The knives match the ones used in the murders, look at the handles. This is our man, but how did this happen to him?
WATSON: He has lost a lot of blood. There is nothing I can do for him, Holmes. He…
BUTCHER: (Gasping, struggling to speak)
WATSON: He’s still conscious. How?
HOLMES: Who did this to you? Tell us and we will get justice. (Dramatic pause) What do you have to say?
BUTCHER: (Struggling… struggling… and then intensely) Run.
SOUND: Body collapsing.
WATSON: Did he say, run? Why did he…
SOUND: Three people walking up from behind them.
MORIARTY: Hello Sherlock. It took you long enough to get here.
HOLMES: Professor Moriarty!
MORIARTY: Yes, Mr. Holmes. Thank you for being so punctual for your doom.
MUSIC: Organ plays suspensive music.
BARTELL: Well you certainly left us at an exciting part in your story, Doctor Watson. You and the great detective in the back of a butcher’s shop, a deceased assassin at your feet and Moriarty nearby.
WATSON: And it wasn’t just Moriarty, but two of his deadly followers with guns pointed at us. I didn’t have my revolver, Mr. Bartell. It was a trap with one purpose in mind, our deaths.
MUSIC: Organ suspense music, leading back into the scene.
HOLMES: So, we meet again, Professor.
MORIARTY: Lock the doors.
THUG #1: Right professor.
SOUND: Steps and door lock clicking.
MORIARTY: It was not easy to get you out of hiding, Holmes. You certainly kept my men and even me guessing. I had to create a puzzle worthy of your interest. A puzzle so great that you couldn’t help but pay attention.
WATSON: You killed those innocent people just to get our attention?
MORIARTY: There is nothing innocent about conservative politicians, Doctor. But what are those lives to me? They were former employees and each had lost their usefulness to me. Now they take on greater roles for me as examples of what can happen if someone turns against me… and they together brought you to me, Holmes.
HOLMES: I guess you can say you are killing two birds with one stone.
WATSON: Is it time for that joke?
MORIARTY: I guess that is true, I get rid of spent accomplices and I get to finish off my greatest enemy in one stroke.
HOLMES: You are a genius.
MORIARTY: Thank you.
HOLMES: What do you plan to do to us, Professor? Guns seems far too simple for us and our history. And in a neighborhood like this? The sound will draw attention.
MORIARTY: That’s true, but why would I need guns except to hold you at bay. I have more than enough items that can cause pain around me. Look at all of these sharp knives I have to play with? I can make this as easy or as painful as I would like.
HOLMES: So you plan to do this yourself? Isn’t that beneath you?
MORIARTY: Why wouldn’t I? I am done trusting to others, Holmes. A quick slice and I no longer have to deal with your meddling.
WATSON: This sounds like the end, Holmes.
HOLMES: Afraid so. I seem I will need to owe your wife an apology.
MORIARTY: Oh, no one will find your bodies. A butcher shop like this has many ways for packaging and getting rid of bad meat.
WATSON: You fiend!
SOUND: Moriarty is pacing
MORIARTY: No, doctor, I am efficient. Everything I need is right here. Every step is taken care of for me. It will be over before either of you know, and then you will be gone. Because of your fear and your feeble mind, you might not realize how well this has been planned. And because of the weather and how this shop looks right now from the outside, I have all time in the world to enjoy my victory. (Pause). Did you really think you could stop me, Holmes?
HOLMES: You’re right Professor, I can’t stop you. You have succeeded in every way. I have met my match.
HOLMES: I’m sorry, my old friend.
WATSON: Well, if I have to die I am glad to have you by my side.
MORIARTY: For me, I am sad that you are here, Doctor. I have enjoyed your stories and I am disappointed that you will not be around to write this final chapter. It would have been nice to have my success in print for the world to see.
WATSON: The world would never have stood for it.
MORIARTY: No more talking. I am ready for this to be done. Turn around, Holmes and I will make this quick. I can’t promise painless.
HOLMES: No, if I am to die, I would rather do it facing you, looking into your dead eyes.
MORIARTY: I won’t be the one with dead eyes soon. Hand me that knife.
THUG #2: Here you go, Professor.
MORIARTY: Thanks. Hold him.
SOUND: Of two thugs grabbing Sherlock. There is some struggling.
MORIARTY: Please don’t struggle, Holmes, it is beneath you. Punch him.
SOUND: Of a punch.
MORIARTY: There, that stopped some of the struggle. Ah, this knife is sharp. This should be easy.
WATSON: Please stop.
MORIARTY: I will get to you in a moment, Dr. Watson, but first I want to get rid of Sherlock Holmes.
SOUND: Loud bang noise on door.
MORIARTY: What is that!
LESTRADE: (From behind a door) Open up! Scotland Yard!
THUG #1: Professor, it’s the Yard!
MORIARTY: No! No, it can’t be! I have him! Holmes in my grasp! Keep holding him! We can be fast.
THUG #2: We’ve got to run, Professor!
MORIARTY: No! I can’t let this happen again. We still have time!
SOUND: Of door breaking
MORIARTY: (Screams in anguish and then says) I will see you again, Holmes! Mark my words, you will meet your end at my hands. I will see you again!
HOLMES: I’m sure you will.
SOUND: Of people running.
LESTRADE: Who was that? Stop them!
OFFICER: Right, Inspector! (Shouting) Stop! Stop you!
SOUND: Blowing whistle, running; doors slamming.
HOLMES: Thank you, Inspector.
WATSON: Yes, thank you, Lestrade.
LESTRADE: Who was that? Was that the assassin?
HOLMES: Yes and no. You just missed meeting Professor Moriarty.
LESTRADE: Moriarty? Here? In this butchery?
HOLMES: And this corpse below you, is our assassin. He was hired by the Professor to take out some of his accomplices in Parliament. The ultimate aim was to draw me here, but luckily you arrived just in time.
WATSON: A dastardly and deadly plot.
HOLMES: And strangely flattering.
WATSON: But Lestrade, how did you know we were here and needed us?
LESTRADE: Oh that. (Chuckles) That wasn’t me, Doctor. Come on in, boys!
SOUND: Door opening and bunch of young footsteps walking in.
BOY 1: Hello, Mr. Holmes. Did we do good?
WATSON: The irregulars!
BOY 2: We followed just like you said, Mr. Holmes.
HOLMES: Yes, you were excellent, and you will see the merit of my appreciation the next time you stop at Baker Street
BOY 1 and BOY 2: Thank you, Mr. Holmes.
WATSON: I don’t understand.
HOLMES: I did tell you back at your office that I had them following me, Watson. All I had to do was keep Moriarty talking, and lucky for us, he likes to talk. (To boys), Boys, did you see where the professor ran off to?
BOY 1: No, we stayed outside the door, like the Inspector told us.
HOLMES: Too bad. (To Lestrade) Well, Lestrade, it may not be the ending any of us wanted, but you can at least be assured that the Parliament murders have stopped.
LESTRADE: Yes, but he got away.
HOLMES: No, the killer is below us. The mastermind doesn’t need to be mentioned in the paper.
LESTRADE: I guess that is true.
HOLMES: And if we mention that Moriarty was behind it, it might stir fear in his followers, something he might use to his advantage. For the time being, silence might be better. Lestrade, you don’t even need to mention me in the papers. The papers have been far too cruel to the Yard recently. You can have this victory.
LESTRADE: That is most gracious of you, Mr. Holmes.
HOLMES: Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I really feel like a salad. Care to join me?
MUSIC: Organ plays triumphant theme.
BARTELL: Well, doctor that was quite an exciting story.
WATSON: It was quite a while before I felt comfortable around butcher shops and the smell of meat. But as you can see by my waist, it didn’t take too long (Laughs).
BARTELL: Can you tell us a little about next week’s episode?
WATSON: Next week, I will be telling you a story that took us to Germany before World War I. A story involving spies, a theatrical company, an escaping ambassador and two murdered dogs. I call it “The Mystery of the Single Bark.”
MUSIC: Organ plays theme.
BARTELL: Tonight’s Sherlock Holmes adventure was written by Scott D. Southard and was suggested by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The Final Problem.” Mr. Rathbone appears through the courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Mr. Bruce through the courtesy of Universal Pictures where they are now starring in the Sherlock Holmes series. The Petri Wine Company of San Francisco California invites you to tune in again next week, same time, same station. Sherlock Holmes comes to you from our Hollywood Studios. This is Harry Bartell saying goodnight for the Petri family. This is the Mutual Broadcasting System.
MUSIC: Organ fades out.
I will read the Sherlock Holmes, but I had to go right to the Jack Benny script. Very well done. I don’t think any radio show from that era was funnier, and you captured the characters and the pacing. Nice update!
Thanks so much! Writing one of these episodes (and pulling it off), was definitely on my writing bucket list. I grew up listening to these to these shows as a kid. Now the trick is figuring out if I want to write more episodes of these two shows, find other shows, or go on to do something else on the blog. It was a lot of fun writing these two posts.