Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Escape
Show: A Shipment of Mute Fate
Date: Jul 07 1950

Escape
A Shipment of Mute Fate
Jul 7, 1950


CAST
Chris, a young zoologist
Captain, of the ocean liner Chancay
Sanchez, native guide
Willis, stewardess
Bowman, chief steward
Mate
Woman
Man
Natives
Officers
Passengers
Clara

PAUL FREES:

Tired of the everyday routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all?

ANNOUNCER:

We offer you ...

MUSIC:

ACCENT

ANNOUNCER:

... ESCAPE!

MUSIC:

CONTINUES IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

ESCAPE! Designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure!

MUSIC:

CYMBAL CRASH!

ANNOUNCER:

ESCAPE! Brought to you by your Richfield gasoline dealer and The Richfield Oil Corporation of New York, marketers of Richfield gasolines with Xylene, Rich Lube All-Weather Motor Oil, and other famous petroleum products. Look for the Richfield eagle on the cream and blue pumps.

MUSIC:

THEME ... "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN" ... THEN OUT

PAUL FREES:

Tonight, we escape to a tropic harbor in Venezuela and the story of a grim voyage of impending death which started from there, as Martin Storm tells it in his exciting story, "A Shipment of Mute Fate."

MUSIC:

FOR AN INTRO ... THEN IN BG

CHRIS:

(NARRATES, GRIM) I stopped on the wharf at La Guaira and looked up at the gangplank, toward the liner Chancay, standing there quietly at her moorings. The day was warm under a bright tropic sun, and the harbor beyond the ship lay drowsy and silent. But all at once in the midst of those peaceful surroundings, a cold chill gripped me, and I shivered with sudden dread -- dread of the thing I was doing, and was about to do. But too much had happened to turn back now. I'd gone too far to stop.

MUSIC:

OUT

SOUND:

WOODEN BOX SET ON WOODEN WHARF

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) I set the box down on the edge of the wharf, placed it carefully so as to be in plain sight -- and within gunshot -- of the Captain's bridge. Then I turned and started up the gangplank.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS ON GANGPLANK, THEN IN BG

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) I knew what I was going to do -- but I couldn't forget that a certain pair of beady eyes were watching every move I made. Eyes that never blinked and never closed -- just watched -- and waited.

SOUND:

CHRIS BUMPS INTO WILLIS ... FOOTSTEPS OUT

WILLIS:

Oh!

CHRIS:

Pardon me.

WILLIS:

You startled me, sir! I didn't hear-- (WITH RELIEF) Oh, why, it's Mr. Warner!

CHRIS:

(FRIENDLY) Hello, Mother Willis. How's the best-looking stewardess on the seven seas?

WILLIS:

(A BIT EVASIVE) Oh, I - I - I'm fine, Mr. Warner. Uh, it's nice to see you again.

SOUND:

WILLIS STARTS TO WALK OFF, BUT IS STOPPED BY

CHRIS:

(JOSHING) Wait a minute! That's a fine greeting after two months.

WILLIS:

Well -- it - it's just that I'm so busy.

CHRIS:

Aw, I don't believe a word of it. Sailing day's tomorrow. You're simply avoiding me, that's all.

WILLIS:

Oh, no. No, really I'm not.

CHRIS:

And on the trip down from New York you said I was your favorite passenger.

WILLIS:

But I'm only--

CHRIS:

Here, here -- what's that you're carrying in your apron?

WILLIS:

(NERVOUSLY) Oh, it - it's nothing. It's, uh, er, just supplies.

CHRIS:

Supplies, huh? Let's have a look.

WILLIS:

Oh, no! Please! I--

SOUND:

(MEOW OF A CAT)

CHRIS:

Why, it's a cat!

WILLIS:

It's Clara, Mr. Warner. Mr. Bowman said I had to leave her ashore, but I just couldn't!

CHRIS:

Who's Mr. Bowman?

WILLIS:

The new Chief Steward. Clara's been aboard with me for two years and I just can't leave her here in a foreign country. Especially with her condition so delicate and all!

SOUND:

(MEOW OF A PREGNANT CAT)

CHRIS:

Uh, yes, uh-- (CLEARS THROAT) I see what you mean. Well, I hope you get away with it.

WILLIS:

You won't tell anyone, huh?

CHRIS:

Not a soul. Matter of fact, Mother Willis, if I don't get my way with the Captain, you and I may both end up smuggling!

MUSIC:

BRIEF TRANSITION ... FADES UNDER

CAPTAIN:

(FADES IN) Most happy to have had you aboard on the trip down two months ago, Christopher, and I'm very glad you're coming along with us on the run back to New York.

CHRIS:

Thanks, Captain Wood. There is one thing, though.

CAPTAIN:

Oh?

CHRIS:

I'm having a little trouble with the customs men here and I - I wondered if you--

CAPTAIN:

I can't do it, Christopher. I just cabled your father this morning -- told him I'd have done it for you if I possibly could. He sent a request from New York, you know.

CHRIS:

Yes, I thought he would. I - wired him from upriver last week.

CAPTAIN:

Well, I hated to refuse, but it's absolutely out of the question.

CHRIS:

Captain Wood, I'm afraid I don't follow you.

CAPTAIN:

Responsibility to the passengers, son. We'll have women and children aboard -- and, on a liner, the safety of the passengers comes ahead of anything else.

CHRIS:

But with proper precautions, Captain--

CAPTAIN:

Something might happen. I don't know what, but something might.

CHRIS:

You've carried worse things, Captain.

CAPTAIN:

There isn't anything worse, Christopher. And any skipper afloat'll bear me out. No, I simply can't take the chance. And that's final.

MUSIC:

ACCENTS HARD AND SUSTAINS UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Final! It wasn't final if I could do anything about it. I hadn't come down here to spend two months in that stinking back country and then be stopped on the edge of the wharf! Two months of it -- heat, rain, insects, malaria -- I'd gone clear in past the headwaters of the Orinoco; traveled through country where every step along the jungle trail might be the last one ...

MUSIC:

FADES OUT

SOUND:

JUNGLE NOISE ... IN BG

CHRIS:

(UP A BIT) Oh, Sanchez?

SANCHEZ:

(COMING IN) Si, Seņor Warner?

CHRIS:

Better tell the men to start looking for a place to camp. Be dark in a little while.

SANCHEZ:

Si, Seņor -- very soon we turn to river, camp on rocks by water. This very bad country.

CHRIS:

(ANNOYED) This very bad country! You've been saying that for ten days now. Very bad country.

SANCHEZ:

Si, Seņor Warner -- this very bad country.

CHRIS:

(DISMISSIVE) Ah, skip it, will ya? For all the luck we've had so far, it might as well be Central Park.

SANCHEZ:

"Central Park"? I no understand.

CHRIS:

Never mind, never mind. But if we don't find something--

NATIVES:

(EXCITED CRIES)

SOUND:

SCRAMBLING

CHRIS:

(TO NATIVES) Here -- what's the matter?! Quiet now! (TO SANCHEZ) Sanchez -- what's wrong?

SANCHEZ:

There in the path! See? Bushmaster!

MUSIC:

ACCENTS, THEN SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES, INTENSE) Bushmaster. The deadliest snake in the world. Bushmaster -- its Latin name was Lachesis mutus -- mute fate. It lay there in the center of the path -- an eight-foot length of silent death -- coiled loosely in an undulant loop, ready to strike violently at the least movement. Here was the one snake that would go after any animal that walked -- or any man. It lay there and watched us -- not moving, not afraid, ready for anything. The splotch of its colors stood out like a horribly gaudy floor mat, lying there on the brown background of the jungle, waiting for someone to step on it. Here was what I'd come two thousand miles for -- a bushmaster.

MUSIC:

BUILDS UP, THEN OUT SHARPLY AS--

SOUND:

PISTOL SHOT! ... NEARBY ANIMALS REACT TO SHOT, IN BG

CHRIS:

Sanchez! I didn't want that snake killed!

SANCHEZ:

He no killed, Seņor -- he gone. Bushmaster very smart, very quick. See bullet in time to dodge.

CHRIS:

(FRUSTRATED) Anyway, he's gone! The only one we've seen in five weeks!

SANCHEZ:

Oh, we find other. This very bad country.

CHRIS:

Well, lay off that gun next time. Don't shoot, do you understand?

SANCHEZ:

Why you say no shoot? You want bushmaster.

CHRIS:

Sure, but I want it alive!

SANCHEZ:

(DISBELIEF) Nombre sacristo! Seņor Warner, you tell me you want bushmaster, but you no say "alive"!

CHRIS:

You're getting two hundred dollars for it.

SANCHEZ:

For dead man, what is two hundred dollars? Tomorrow we go back to Caracas.

CHRIS:

I'll make it five hundred, Sanchez.

SANCHEZ:

I catch water snake, rattlesnake, any other kind; but I no catch bushmaster. (MOVING OFF) We go back to Caracas.

CHRIS:

Sanchez, I'll give you a thousand dollars!

MUSIC:

ACCENTS, THEN SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) It cost me fifteen hundred. But three days later Sanchez brought me the snake in a rubber bag. He was shaking so hard I thought for a moment the thing had struck him.

MUSIC:

OUT

SANCHEZ:

One thing you make sure, Seņor Warner. No turn him loose in Venezuela. Because he know I the one who catch him -- and he know where I live.

CHRIS:

All right, Sanchez -- I'll keep an eye on him.

SANCHEZ:

Tambien, he know you pay me to catch him. All the time he watch and wait for you, too. You no forget that, Seņor Warner, because - he no forget -- not ever!

MUSIC:

ACCENTS SHARPLY, THEN UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Well, after going through all that trouble and danger, I wasn't going to let a pig-headed ship's captain stop me at the last minute! At least not as long as the cables were still in operation between La Guaira and New York.

MUSIC:

SWELLS FOR TELEGRAPHIC TRANSITION, THEN OUT AS--

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES AND STEPS COME IN

CHRIS:

(COMING IN) Morning, Captain Wood. The boy at the hotel said you wanted to see me.

CAPTAIN:

Yes, that's right, Christopher. Um, sit down.

CHRIS:

Thanks.

CAPTAIN:

Well, it seems you weren't willing to let matters stand the way we left them yesterday.

CHRIS:

I was sorry to go over your head, Captain, but I had to. The museum sent me all the way down here for it, and I'm not gonna be stopped by red tape. Don't you realize this'll be the only live bushmaster ever brought to the United States?

CAPTAIN:

Well, if I had my way-- (RESIGNED) Ah, orders are orders. Got a cable from the head office this morning. All right. Suppose we talk about precautions.

CHRIS:

I'll handle it any way you say.

CAPTAIN:

Well, it's got to have a stronger box. That crate's too flimsy.

CHRIS:

It's stronger than it looks, Captain -- and that wire screen on top'd hold a wildcat. But anyway, I bought a heavy sea chest this morning. We'll put the crate inside of that.

CAPTAIN:

Oh? Well, that sounds all right. Got a lock on it?

CHRIS:

Heavy padlock. It's fixed so the lid can be propped open a crack without unlocking it. The snake's got to have air, you know.

CAPTAIN:

But in dirty weather, that lid stays shut. I'll take no chances.

CHRIS:

Fair enough.

CAPTAIN:

We'll keep the thing in my inside cabin, where I sleep. Can't have it in the baggage room. And nobody on board's to know about it, understand?

CHRIS:

Whatever you say, Captain. But we won't have any trouble. After all, it's only a snake. Doesn't have any magical powers.

CAPTAIN:

Yeah. You know, Christopher, I saw a bushmaster in the zoo at Caracas once. Had it in a glass cage with double walls. It'd never move -- just lie there and look at you as long as you were in sight. Huh. Gave a man the creeps!

CHRIS:

I didn't know they had a bushmaster at the Caracas Zoo.

CAPTAIN:

They don't now. Found the glass broken one morning and the snake gone; the night watchman was dead. They never found out what happened.

CHRIS:

Well, the watchman must have broken the glass by accident some way.

CAPTAIN:

(POINTED) The way they figured it, the glass was broken from the inside. (PAUSE) We sail in four hours.

MUSIC:

TRANSITION, THEN SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Into the Caribbean -- with perfect weather, and a sea as smooth as an inland lake. The barometer dropped a little on the third day, but cleared up overnight, and left nothing worse than a heavy swell. But in spite of the calm seas and the pleasant weather, I was becoming possessed with an ominous anxiety. I was developing an obsessive fear of that snake. I stayed clear of the passengers pretty much -- got the habit of dropping into Captain Wood's quarters several times a day.

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES, TWO OR THREE STEPS AND STOP

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) He kept the heavy box underneath his berth. I'd approach it quietly and shine my flashlight through the open crack. Never once could I catch that eight-foot devil asleep, or even excited. He'd be lying there half-coiled, his head raised a little, staring at me with those beady black eyes -- waiting. He'd still be like that when I'd turn away to leave.

SOUND:

SLOW STEPS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Maybe that's what bothered me -- that horrible and constant watchful waiting. What in the name of heaven was he waiting for?

MUSIC:

OUT

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES

WILLIS:

(PLEASANT) Well! Hello there, Mr. Warner!

CHRIS:

Oh -- how are you, Mother Willis?

WILLIS:

My, but you and the Captain spend an awful lot of time around this cabin. I'm beginning to think the two of you must have some guilty secret.

CHRIS:

(CHUCKLES) Naw, nothing like that, Mother Willis. I don't know about Captain Wood, but - I certainly don't have any guilty secret!

MUSIC:

TRANSITION TO SOUND, THEN OUT

SOUND:

OPEN FOREDECK OF LINER BUCKING A SWELL

CHRIS:

Well! She's running quite a swell out there, Mr. Bowman!

BOWMAN:

Yeah -- it's a little heavy all right, Mr. Warner. Guess a storm passed through to the west of us yesterday when the glass dropped.

CHRIS:

Think it missed us then, huh?

BOWMAN:

Yeah -- that's what the mate figures. Sure stirred up some water, though.

CHRIS:

(LAUGHS) This'll put half the passengers in their bunks.

BOWMAN:

Makes it great for my department. Two thirds of 'em will want a steward to hold their heads!

CHRIS:

They'll keep Mother Willis so busy she'll-- Hey! Look at the size of that wave!

BOWMAN:

Wha--? Great Jehosaphat! We're gonna take it on the port bow! Hang on!

SOUND:

HUGE WAVE SWEEPS THE FOREDECK ... AND SUBSIDES

CHRIS:

Wow! That was a freak if there ever was one. Not another wave that size in sight.

BOWMAN:

You see 'em like that sometimes -- even in a calm sea. I gotta get topside, Mr. Warner. That water probably did some damage on the officers' deck.

CHRIS:

Yeah, I suppose-- Hey, wait a minute!

BOWMAN:

Yeah?

CHRIS:

What did you say?

BOWMAN:

The wheel companionway was open on the port side -- bridge cabins must've taken a pretty bad smashing. They're right below-- Something wrong, Mr. Warner?

CHRIS:

No. No, nothing at all, Mr. Bowman. At least, I hope not.

MUSIC:

ATTACKS AND SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Of course I knew it was only one chance in a thousand. But the chances against that freak wave were one in a thousand, too! I stumbled up the companionway and along the passage to the Captain's cabin.

MUSIC:

OUT AS--

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS

WILLIS:

Oh -- come on in, Mr. Warner.

CHRIS:

Mother Willis!

WILLIS:

My, isn't this cabin a mess? I'm tryin' to get some of these things out to dry.

CHRIS:

Yeah. I just wanted to check-- Where's that box that was under the Captain's bunk?

WILLIS:

Oh, that! Well, I just threw it out on deck here.

CHRIS:

(STUNNED, WHISPERS) What?!

WILLIS:

Well, the desk over there slid into it. It was all smashed.

CHRIS:

But the small box inside of it! What happened to it?

WILLIS:

Oh, they were both splintered, Mr. Warner -- broke wide open.

CHRIS:

Oh, no.

WILLIS:

Why, Mr. Warner -- you're white as a sheet.

CHRIS:

Mother Willis -- will you go find Captain Wood? Tell him to come down here immediately.

WILLIS:

Well, of course, Mr. Warner. (GOING) I'll go tell him right away.

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) I pulled open the top drawer of the bureau beside me ...

SOUND:

DRAWER OPENS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) ... and took out the Captain's flashlight ...

SOUND:

FLASHLIGHT CLICKS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) ... and a loaded pistol.

SOUND:

DRAWER CLOSES ... SLOW FOOTSTEPS AROUND THE CABIN, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Mother Willis had left a mop standing by the door. I put my foot on the head of it and snapped off the handle.

SOUND:

WOODEN HANDLE SNAPS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Every move I made turned into slow motion. I could hear my own heart beating. Slowly I started to search the cabin.

SOUND:

OUT

MUSIC:

SUSPENSE MOTIF, CONTINUES UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Sodden heaps of clothing were scattered around on the wet, black floor. I punched at them one at a time -- holding the gun cocked -- the flashlight pointing along the stick. Nothing! I worked around the room, throwing the light into the dark corners -- back of the desk, under the bunk. And wherever I turned I could feel those cold, unblinking eyes at my back -- watching and waiting. Using the stick, I pushed open the closet door and threw the light inside. Carefully, I poked at the boxes and the junk on the floor. The snake was not in the closet. Inch by inch, I covered the entire cabin. And then I realized the horrible truth.

MUSIC:

UP AND OUT SUDDENLY

SOUND:

DOOR OPENS

CAPTAIN:

Mother Willis just told me, Christopher.

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES

CHRIS:

Captain--

CAPTAIN:

So it's happened!

CHRIS:

That's right, Captain. It's happened.

CAPTAIN:

I see you found the gun. We'd better start searching the cabin.

CHRIS:

Captain Wood ... I just finished searching it.

CAPTAIN:

Then--? (EXHALES) Women, kids -- and that thing loose on board. Thousand places to hide. Heaven help us, Christopher!

MUSIC:

FOR A BIG FINISH ... THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER:

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MUSIC:

DRUM ROLL

ANNOUNCER:

... ESCAPE!

MUSIC:

TRANSITION TO DIALOGUE

CAPTAIN:

There's no use starting to blame anybody now, gentlemen. I didn't call you officers in here to pass judgment. The thing's done, and that's that.

MATE:

Well, you're right there, Captain.

CAPTAIN:

What we have got to do, is make up our minds how we're going to handle it.

BOWMAN:

It'd be easier if we didn't have to tell the passengers and crew, sir. I've seen panics aboard ship before.

CAPTAIN:

Yes, I agree with you, Mr. Bowman, but I don't quite see how we can avoid it.

MATE:

They've got a right to know! As long as that snake's loose, everybody on board's in the same danger -- and they all ought to know about it.

CHRIS:

Captain Wood, that thing is eight feet long. It can't simply crawl into a crack. Why don't we make a quick search of the whole ship before we spread any alarm?

CAPTAIN:

Yes, I've thought of that, Christopher.

BOWMAN:

As far as I can see, the only place it couldn't be is in the boilers or on top of the galley stove.

MATE:

It might've crawled overboard.

CAPTAIN:

We can't count on that. We've got to assume it's on the ship somewhere.

MATE:

Yeah. And that could be anywhere. In a coil of rope or in a pile of clothes.

BOWMAN:

Yes, or under some woman's berth -- or a baby's crib.

MATE:

Or even in--

CHRIS:

You've already said it! That bushmaster could be anywhere. We've got to do something! We've got to do it fast!

CAPTAIN:

All right, gentlemen, I think the best idea's to follow Mr. Warner's suggestion and make a quick search first. You agree to that?

BOWMAN:

Yes, sir.

MATE:

I do.

CAPTAIN:

Then if we don't find it, we'll have to warn the passengers.

CHRIS:

Captain, we've got to find it.

MUSIC:

UP, THEN SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Alone in the dim baggage room, I went through the same movements as I had earlier in the Captain's cabin -- gun in one hand, flashlight in the other, poking into every dark corner, behind every trunk and every box. Since there was no one in the baggage room, I could keep the gun cocked and ready. The rest of those poor devils were having to do the same thing -- barehanded. All over the ship the search went on.

MUSIC:

OUT

WOMAN:

(INDIGNANT) Here, now, Steward! What on earth are you doing, rummaging through my cabin?

BOWMAN:

Just checking up, ma'am.

WOMAN:

Well, I'm quite sure there's nothing in here that has to be checked.

BOWMAN:

Sorry, ma'am -- Captain's orders. It'll only take a few minutes.

WOMAN:

Well, I never heard of such a thing! A passenger simply doesn't have any privacy at all! (FADING BACK INTO MUSIC) I've traveled on a lot of different lines, but I've certainly never heard of anything so completely high-handed before!

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN OUT

MATE:

I'm sorry, sir. I wonder if you'd mind moving over to the other rail? I'd like to look through these lockers.

MAN:

Yeah, sure -- go ahead. What's the matter -- you lost somethin'?

MATE:

No. No, just looking things over.

MAN:

Nothin' in there but life preservers.

MATE:

Yeah -- that's right.

MAN:

(CHUCKLES) Must be gettin' ready to sink the boat, huh? (LAUGHS) Gonna collect all the insurance, eh? (FADING BACK INTO MUSIC) Gonna send us all to the bottom, huh? (LAUGHS)

MUSIC:

UP AND BACK UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) But not one of us could find that deadly shape -- perhaps coiled in some dark corner, or outstretched along a window seat. Not one of us caught a glimpse of that horrid head, with its beady, black, watchful eyes. It was nearly dark when we met again together again in the chartroom.

MUSIC:

OUT

CAPTAIN:

Well, gentlemen -- there's no other way around it. We've risked all the time we can. We've got to warn the passengers.

MATE:

But how'll we do it, Captain? Call 'em all together in the lounge?

CAPTAIN:

No. If we did anything like that, we'd be asking for a panic.

BOWMAN:

We'll get one, whether we ask for it or not!

CAPTAIN:

Uh, pick a few men and go through the cabin decks. Tell 'em individually -- inside their cabins. Watch for any that act like they might cause trouble and we'll keep an eye on them. Handle the crew the same way.

MATE:

Yes, sir.

BOWMAN:

Right, sir.

CAPTAIN:

Now, as soon as you're finished, arm all the deck officers and start searching again. Our only chance of preventing a panic is to find that snake!

MUSIC:

CRASHES IN, SETS GROWING TENSION, THEN SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) The slow nightmare that followed grew worse by the hour. None of us slept. All the ship's officers not on duty kept on with that endless search. Passengers locked themselves in their cabins, or huddled together in the lounges -- knowing all the time that no spot on board could be called safe. Fear was a heavy fog in the lungs of us all -- and every light on the vessel burned throughout the night. Morning came and brought no relief. Terror and tension mounted by the hour.

MUSIC:

SWELLS, THEN OUT

WOMAN:

(SOBBING AND GIBBERING WILDLY)

WILLIS:

(REASSURING) There now, Mrs. Crane. Go back to your cabin. The horrid thing's probably crawled overboard anyway.

WOMAN:

(HYSTERICAL) No! You're just saying that! You're paid to say it! You don't know! Nobody does!

WILLIS:

Now, now. Everything's gonna be all right.

WOMAN:

Oh, if we could only get off the ship, they could fumigate it. Yes! Yes! That's what we've got to do! (FADING FROM MIKE) We've got to get off the ship!

WILLIS:

(LOUDLY) Mr. Bowman -- she's gonna jump!

BOWMAN:

(IN DISTANCE) No you don't, lady.

WOMAN:

(IN DISTANCE, SOBBING) Let me go! Let me go!

CAPTAIN:

(COMING IN) Nice work, Mr. Bowman, nice work. Now, get her down to her cabin. And whatever you do -- don't turn her loose!

MUSIC:

UP AND BACK UNDER

SOUND:

STIR OF FRIGHTENED CROWD ... IN BG

MAN:

I'm tellin' ya, you don't know where it might strike ya! Why, you can't put on a coat or move a chair without riskin' your life! Somethin's gotta be done! Why, it might be right here in this lounge!

MATE:

(COMING IN) All right, mister -- you better quiet down and take it easy.

MAN:

Take it easy, huh? You're a great officer! Why don't you do something about it? That thing might be crawling around here right under our feet somewhere!

SOUND:

EXCITED VOICES

MATE:

I said shut up! Are you trying to start a panic?

MAN:

I've got a right to talk! I don't want to die! Nobody's gonna tell me what, I--

SOUND:

SOCK IN JAW ... BODY FALLING

MUSIC:

UP AND BACK UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) The second night passed, and morning came around again -- a gray and rainy day that dragged by with leaden hours; and then night came down again -- third night of the terror. Again every light burned, and the whole ship seethed in the throes of incipient panic. Faced by a horror they'd never met on the sea before, crew and officers alike were on the verge of revolt. Passengers huddled in a trance-like stupor, ready to scream at the slightest unknown sound.

MUSIC:

FILLS A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) At seven bells, I made my way forward to the chartroom and found Captain Wood bent over a desk.

MUSIC:

OUT

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES, STEPS ENTERING

CAPTAIN:

(WEARILY) Oh, hello, Christopher. Come on in. Sit down.

CHRIS:

(ON EDGE) It's got to be somewhere, Captain Wood! It's got to be!

CAPTAIN:

Well, I don't know. You could search this ship for six months and never touch all the hiding places aboard. Eh, if we can only hold out for two more days, we'll be in port.

CHRIS:

What's your home office say?

CAPTAIN:

Here's the latest wireless from them. Hm! "Keep quiet -- and keep coming." Well, what else can we do? (BEAT) You want a cigarette?

CHRIS:

Uh, yeah, yeah, thanks.

CAPTAIN:

Here. How is it below, Christopher?

CHRIS:

It's pretty bad. Anything could happen.

CAPTAIN:

Yeah. That's why I took the guns away from the men. One pistol shot, and we'd have a riot on our hands.

CHRIS:

The whole thing's my fault, Captain Wood. That's what I can't forget!

CAPTAIN:

Oh, take it easy, son.

CHRIS:

If there was only some way I could pay for it myself. Alone!

CAPTAIN:

No. Now, I know how you feel. But it's no more your fault than mine, or the man who asked you to bring that snake back alive. Nobody planned this. Now, look, Christopher, I think you'd better try to get a little sleep.

CHRIS:

No. (SCOFFS) Sleep!

CAPTAIN:

Mr. Bowman made some coffee down in the steward's galley a while ago. You'd better go down and get yourself a cup and then rest for a couple of hours.

CHRIS:

Rest -- I can't rest!

CAPTAIN:

(STERN) Christopher -- it's not going to help any if you stumble through a hatch half asleep and break your neck. (GENTLER) Now, go on and get some coffee. One way or another, we've got to hold out for two more days.

MUSIC:

TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES, STEPS UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) The light was on in the steward's galley. Coffee pot was standing on the stove. It was still warm so I didn't bother to heat it.

SOUND:

POURING, STEPS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Poured out a cup. Carried it over and set it on the porcelain tabletop in the center of the room. I started to light a cigarette. The door of the pan cupboard beneath the sink was standing slightly ajar. I happened to glance toward it. I dropped the cigarette -- and moved slowly backward. I'd found the bushmaster.

MUSIC:

ACCENTS AND CONTINUES UNDER VOICE; MOVEMENT SLOW AND TENSE

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) As I moved, the snake slid out of the cupboard in a single sinuous slide and drew back into a loose coil on the galley floor, never taking his eyes off me. I backed slowly away -- waiting any moment for that deadly, slithering strike. How had he known it was me? He'd stayed quiet when Bowman was here. How had he picked the first time in five days that I was without a gun? My hands touched the wall behind me, and I stopped in terror. The call button and door were on the far side of the room; I'd backed into a dead end! I stared at the snake in fascination -- expecting any moment the ripping slash of those poisoned fangs. The lethal coils tightened a little -- then were still again. Ten million years of evolution to produce this moment! Homo sapiens versus Lachesis mutus -- a man against mute fate. And all the odds were on -- fate. I knew then that I was going to die.

MUSIC:

LONG CHORD ... THEN CONTINUES UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) I could feel the sweat run down between the wall and the palms of my hands pressing against it. My skin crawled and twitched, and the pit of my stomach was cold as ice. There was no sound but the rush of blood in my ears. The snake shifted again -- drawing into a tighter coil -- always tighter. Why didn't the devil get it over with? Then for an instant his head veered away. Something moved by the stove. I didn't dare turn to look at it. Slowly it entered my line of vision. It was a cat -- that scrawny cat Clara that Mother Willis had sneaked aboard in La Guaira!

MUSIC:

OUT

SOUND:

LOW, THREATENING GROWL OF CAT ... CONTINUES UNDER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Its back was arched, and every hair stood on end. It moved stiff-legged now, walking in a half-circle around the snake. The bushmaster moved slowly and kept watching the cat. He tightened -- he was going to strike at any second.

SOUND:

THUD OF STRIKING SNAKE, AND SCRAPE AS IT RECOVERS ... CAT SNARLS AND SPITS ... THEN BACK TO THE LOW GROWL

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) He struck and missed! The cat was barely out of reach. Now she was walking back and forth again. She was asking to die.

SOUND:

THUD AND RECOVERY. SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL.

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Missed again -- by a fraction of an inch! He was striking now without even going into full coil!

SOUND:

THUD AND RECOVERY ... SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Missed! Again and again -- always missing by the barest margin. Each time the cat danced barely out of reach -- and each time she countered with one precise spat of a dainty paw -- bracing her skinny frame on three stiff legs. And then suddenly I realized what she was doing!

SOUND:

THUD AND RECOVERY ... SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) The bushmaster was tiring -- and one strike was just an instant slow. But in that split second, sharp claws raked across the evil head and ripped out both the lidless eyes. The cat has deliberately blinded the snake!

SOUND:

SNARL, SPIT ... REPEATED THUDS UNDER THE FOLLOWING

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) He didn't bother to coil now -- but slid after her in a fury -- striking wildly but always missing. And every strike was a little slower than the last one. Until finally, as the snake's neck stretched out at the end of a strike, the cat made one leap ...

SOUND:

CAT HOWLS SAVAGELY ... THE THUDS CHANGE TO THE FRANTIC SCRAPING OF A HEAVY SNAKE IN AGONY ... THE CAT'S SUSTAINED GROWL IS MUFFLED ... SHE'S GOT A MOUTHFUL OF SNAKE

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) ... and sank her razor-sharp teeth just back of the ugly head -- sank 'em until they crunched bone. With tooth and claw, she clung, as the monstrous snake flailed and lashed on the floor -- striving to get those hideous coils around her, trying to break her hold, to shake off the slow and certain paralyzing death ...

SOUND:

THE STRUGGLE SLOWS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) ... that gradually crept over him, and at last -- stilled his struggles forever.

SOUND:

THE STRUGGLE ENDS

MUSIC:

SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) I took a deep breath -- the first in minutes. The cat lay on her side on the floor, panting -- resting from the fight just over. Well, she had a right to rest. That mangy, brave, beautiful alley cat had just saved my life -- and maybe others as well. But as I turned toward the stove, I suddenly became very humble, and I knew all at once what a small thing a human being really is. There were three reasons why that cat had fought and killed the world's deadliest snake.

SOUND:

MEOW OF THREE KITTENS

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) And those three reasons came tottering out from under the stove on shaky little legs -- three kittens with their eyes bright with wonder and their tails stiff as pokers. Up on the decks, hundreds of passengers were waiting for the news that the days and nights of terror were ended. Well, they could wait a little longer. I pulled open the doors of the cabinet and found a can of milk and a saucer.

SOUND:

CLINK OF CAN AND SAUCER

CHRIS:

(NARRATES) Then I dropped down on my knees ... on the floor of the galley.

MUSIC:

SWELLS TO CURTAIN ... THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER:

In summer heat, when the old sun beats down and the thermometer goes up and up, your car's motor gets really hot. And that can mean trouble. Because that searing heat is mighty hard on your motor oil. In summertime especially, you need the protection of oil that holds its body under the toughest driving conditions. You need Rich Lube All-Weather Motor Oil. Rich Lube is refined one hundred percent from the costliest Pennsylvania crude obtainable. Rich Lube is tough. It protects your motor by drawing excess heat away from moving parts and by its great lubricating qualities. Moreover, it contains special chemicals that combat carbon and harmful deposits. It cleans your motor as you drive. So get real motor protection this summer. Ask the Richfield gasoline dealer to change your oil to Rich Lube All-Weather Motor Oil. Keep your motor clean; keep your motor young.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

ESCAPE is produced and directed by William N. Robson. And tonight has presented "A Shipment of Mute Fate" by Martin Storm, adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. David Ellis was Chris; Bill Conrad, the Captain; Sarah Selby was Mother Willis; and David Light was Clara the Cat. Others in the cast were Verna Felton, Ted de Corsia, Harry Bartell, and Paul Frees. Special music arranged and played by Ivan Ditmars.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT, THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

Next week...

PAUL FREES:

You're running a chartered fishing boat in the waters off Nicaragua until one day, a client suddenly offers to shoot you in the leg and throw you overboard to the ravenous sharks and barracuda ... from which there can be no - escape.

MUSIC:

THEME ... "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN" ... THEN OUT

ANNOUNCER:

Next week at this time the Richfield Oil Corporation of New York invites you to escape to Central America with a story of murderous intrigue along the tropic coast, as Antony Ellis tells it in his exciting story, "Shark Bait." Be listening! Goodbye then, until this same time next week, when once again we offer you ... ESCAPE. Tom Hanlon speaking over CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

MUSIC:

CLOSING MARCH