Three Skeleton Key

(MUSIC ... A SINGLE NOTE ... AND THEN:)

WILLIAM CONRAD: 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 ... AN ACCENT ... DRUM ROLL)

ANNOUNCER: Escape!  

(MUSIC ... THEME ... UNDER)

ANNOUNCER: "Escape" -- designed to free you from the four walls of today for a 
half hour of high adventure.

WILLIAM CONRAD: Tonight, we escape to a lonely lighthouse off the steaming 
jungle coast of French Guiana and a nightmare world of terror and violence as 
George Toudouze describes it in his hair-raising tale, "Three Skeleton Key."

(MUSIC ... NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN ... IN AND OUT)

--

JEAN: (NARRATES) Picture this place. A gray, tapering cylinder, welded by iron 
rods and concrete, to the key itself: a bare black rock, a hundred and fifty 
feet long, maybe forty wide. That's at low tide. At high tide, just the light, 
rising a hundred and ten feet straight up out of the ocean. And, all about it, 
the churning water -- gray-green, scum-dappled, warm as soup, and swarming 
with gigantic bat-like, devil fish, great violet schools of Portuguese man-of-
war, and yes, sharks, the big ones, the fifteen-footers. And as if this wasn't 
enough, there was a hot, dank, rotten-smelling wind that came at us day and 
night off the jungle swamps of the mainland. A wind that smelled like death. 

Set in the base of the light was a watertight bronze door ...  

SOUND: (DOOR OPENS) 

JEAN: (NARRATES) ... and in you went. 

SOUND: (DOOR SLAMS SHUT ... FOOTSTEPS UP STAIRS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) And up. Yes, up and up and 'round and 'round, past the tanks 
of oil and the coils of rope, cases of wicks, racks of lanterns, sacks of 
spuds, and cartons and cans - and up and up and up. Round and 'round. 

Over the light storeroom was the food storeroom. And over the food storeroom 
was the bunk room, where the three of us slept. And over the bunk room was the 
living and cooking room. And over the living and cooking room - was the light.

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS STOP)

JEAN: (NARRATES) She was a beauty. Balanced like a ballerina on the glistening 
steel axle of her rotary mechanism.

SOUND: (SLOW, STEADY CLICK OF MECHANISM ... THIS IS HEARD IN BG OF ALL THE 
NIGHT SCENES IN THE LIGHTHOUSE GALLERY ... UNDER)

JEAN: (NARRATES) At night, you'd lie there on the stone deck of the gallery 
with the light revolving smoothly and quietly over your head, easing her 
bright white eye three hundred and sixty degrees around the horizon. You'd lie 
there watching to see that the feeders kept working, that everything ran 
right. It wouldn't be bad. 

The other two fellows snoring in their sacks two levels down.  You'd smoke 
your pipe to kill the stink of the wind. And it wouldn't be bad. 

About those other two, Louis and Auguste. (CHUCKLES) What a pair. Louis, he 
was head man, was a big fellow from the Basque country. Black beard, little 
hard black eyes -- and a pair of arms that -- I tell you, those arms were as 
big around as my legs. Yes, head man he was - and what word he let go was law. 
Silent fellow, and although I spent my first two weeks trying to strike up a 
real conversation, the most I could ever get out of him was...

LOUIS: Jean, I took up this profession beause I don't like people. They talk 
too much. It's quiet work, light-tending. Let's keep it that way. You're 
getting to be as bad as Auguste. I thought maybe for once they'd send me 
somebody who could keep his mouth shut... (FADES) 

JEAN: (NARRATES) That was Louis. And when he accused me of becoming like 
Auguste, I quieted down - because Auguste was the talkingest man I'd ever met.  
The talkingest and the ugliest. He was hunchbacked, stood four feet high, had 
red hair and big blue eyes. It seems he'd been an actor in Paris.

AUGUSTE: (FADES) Played in over two hundred different productions, dear boy.  
At the Grand Guignol. Oh, but it was monstrous, horrible, the way we used to 
scare the audience. I-I was hated. Yes, yes. They used to throw things and 
hiss and bare their teeth at me. Finally, it got too bad. I couldn't stand it 
any longer! I gave up the theatre. My nerves, you understand. Yes, gave it up 
completely, I really did. I couldn't stand it any longer... (FADES) 

JEAN: (NARRATES) It all started one morning at two-thirty. I was on watch, 
lying on the cool stone deck, pulling on my pipe, staring out at the 
blackness, the phosphorescent combers and the big yellow stars, when - out of 
the corner of my eye, I noticed something show up for a second -- something 
the light had touched, far off. I waited for her to come around again - and 
when she did, there it was. 

A three master. A big one. About a half mile off and coming down out of the 
north-northwest, coming straight for us. You must understand, our light was 
where it was for a very good reason. Dangerous submerged reefs surrounded us 
and ships kept clear. But this one, this sailing vessel, was coming straight 
on.  

SOUND: (JEAN'S BRISK FOOTSTEPS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) I went over to the gallery door and yelled down. (YELLS) 
Louis! Louis! 

LOUIS: (YELLS FROM BELOW) Huh?! What is it?!

JEAN: Ship! Headed for the reefs!

LOUIS: (YELLS FROM BELOW) I'm coming right up!

JEAN: (NARRATES) I had the glasses out now. I couldn't read her name - but I 
could see her quite plainly. All sails set, the foam creaming away under her 
bow, her beautiful lines. A Dutch ship, I guessed her. But why didn't she 
turn? Every time it passed, our light hit her with the glare of day.

SOUND: (LOUIS' FOOTSTEPS APPROACH) 

LOUIS: Ship? Where?

JEAN: North-northwest. The light will touch her in a moment.

LOUIS: Eh? Well, can't she see us?

JEAN: Look at her. She just keeps coming on.

LOUIS: (DISGUSTED) The squareheads.

SOUND: (AUGUSTE'S FOOTSTEPS APPROACH) 

AUGUSTE: What is it? What is it?  

JEAN: Watch! North-northwest. 

AUGUSTE: (AFTER A PAUSE) Ah. I know! I know what it is!

LOUIS: What?

AUGUSTE: The Dutchman! The Flying Dutchman! We did a play about her once. Oh, 
what a performance! "You ghastly galleon, hag-ridden, curse-driven, must on 
and on--"

LOUIS: Aw, shut up, will you?! (AFTER A PAUSE) Eh, she's luffing.

JEAN: Yes.

LOUIS: It's a sloppy way to come about. (REALIZES) She's derelict, that's it.

JEAN: Derelict?

LOUIS: Abandoned. Crew left her for some reason or another. But instead of 
sinking, she's gone on, running before every wind.

AUGUSTE: She'll not run long. Not with these reefs to break her up.

LOUIS: A beautiful ship. Now, why would men leave a beautiful ship like that?

JEAN: (NARRATES) She didn't ram us although we all expected it. But as we 
waited for the crash, she luffed again. Caught some odd gust and went about.  

We watched her the rest of those black hours, heeling and rocking, pushed and 
pulled by every stray wind, every freak current. Watched her until the dawn 
came. Till the sea turned from black to pearly gray. And on she came again, 
heading for us. We all had our glasses trained on her now.

LOUIS: Auguste? You can kill the light.

AUGUSTE: Right, chief.

JEAN: She doesn't look so good by daylight. Think she'll ground this time? (NO 
ANSWER FROM LOUIS) I say, do you think she'll ground this time? 

LOUIS: (STUNNED) Hm, this is impossible. Absolutely impossible.

JEAN: What?

LOUIS: Here, take my glasses. They're better than yours.

JEAN: All right. What is it you're--? 

(AFTER A PAUSE, NARRATES) I had to focus, and then - my breath froze in my 
throat. The decks were swarming with a dark brown carpet that looked like a 
gigantic fungus, but undulating. And on the masts and yards, the guys and all, 
were hundreds, no thousands, no, mill-- I don't know, an inestimable number - 
of tremendous rats.

LOUIS: See them?

JEAN: Yes. I see them.

LOUIS: Now we know why she's derelict.

JEAN: Yes, now we know.

AUGUSTE: (APPROACHES) What are you two doing? Here, give me a look.

LOUIS: (TO JEAN) Yes, give him the glasses. (TO AUGUSTE) Take a good look, 
chatterbox. Give you something to talk about.

JEAN: She's still heading for us.

LOUIS: Yes.

AUGUSTE: (WHIMPERS IN FEAR)

JEAN: If she's going to turn, she'd better turn soon.

LOUIS: Suppose she doesn't? 

JEAN: You mean suppose she piles up on the key?

LOUIS: It's low tide.

JEAN: Yes. Yes, it is.

LOUIS:  Well, where's all the conversation, Auguste? Huh? Here, ya want the 
glasses again? Ya want another look?

AUGUSTE: No! No!

JEAN: She's still coming on.

AUGUSTE: (TO THE SHIP) Go away! Go away!

LOUIS: (TO THE SHIP) Turn, will ya?! Turn, I say! I pray you, turn.

SOUND: (THE SHIP BREAKS APART ON THE REEF)

JEAN: Cracked up.

AUGUSTE: The rats! Look! On the water! Like a carpet!

JEAN: They're swimming.

LOUIS: Sure they're swimming. Those are ship's rats.

JEAN: But they're swimming for the rocks!

AUGUSTE: The door below! It's open!

JEAN: Eh? Well, come on!

SOUND: (THREE SETS OF FOOTSTEPS RACE DOWN THE STAIRS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) And down we went, racing down the stone stairs, taking them 
three and four at a time. Scared? You bet we were scared.

LOUIS: Auguste! You get the windows. Maybe they can climb. We don't know.

AUGUSTE: Right, chief. But hurry! Hurry!

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS SLOW TO A STOP)

LOUIS: Look! You see them?

JEAN:  No.... Oh, yes, I do. Up at the other end of the rock.

SOUND: (MILLIONS OF SQUEAKING RATS, GROWING LOUDER AND CLOSER EVERY SECOND)

LOUIS: Look at them.

JEAN: (AWED) Millions!

LOUIS: Ah, they smell us. Here they come. 

SOUND: (DOOR GROANS BUT DOES NOT CLOSE)

LOUIS: Well, close the door!

JEAN: (STRAINS) I can't. It's stuck.

LOUIS: Here, let me...

SOUND: (GRUNTING, THEY STRUGGLE WITH THE GROANING DOOR, FINALLY SLAMMING IT 
SHUT ...  MUFFLED SQUEAKING CONTINUES)

JEAN: Made it.

LOUIS: Holy-- That was close.

SOUND: (A SINGLE RAT SQUEAKS)

JEAN: Look! One got in. Look. There.

LOUIS: Well, get him!

SOUND: (THEY CHASE THE RAT, HOLLERING AND KICKING)

JEAN: Watch it! He--! Kick him! 

LOUIS: What a brute!

JEAN: (NARRATES) He was as big as a tomcat. Bigger. And his eyes were wild and 
red. His teeth, long and sharp and yellow. He went for us -- starving, 
ravenous -- and we fought him, fought that one rat all over the room. It 
was -- oh, believe me, I don't exaggerate, it was like fighting a panther!

SOUND: (FINALLY, AFTER A DEATH BLOW, THE RAT SCREAMS AND DIES)

LOUIS: I got him.

JEAN: We'd better get aloft.

LOUIS: Yeah.

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS RUNNING UP)

JEAN: (NARRATES) As we ran up the winding staircase, we passed the tiny 
windows of the various levels and at every one was a thick, wriggling, 
screaming curtain of brown fur. I was ahead of Louis and I dreaded each 
successive level. Suppose they had found a way in?

SOUND: (MILLIONS OF SQUEAKING RATS ... IN BG)

AUGUSTE: Look at them! Oh, will you look at them?!

LOUIS: It's a nightmare.

AUGUSTE: Will you look at them?!

JEAN: (NARRATES) The air of the gallery was thick and fetid with the stink of 
them. The light was dim - brown - filtered through the crawling mass that 
swarmed over the glass - all about us! We couldn't see the sky. Nothing.  
Nothing but them. Their red eyes. Their claws. Their wriggling, hairy snouts. 
And their teeth. The rats. They screamed and howled and threw themselves 
against the glass. They were starving. And we three-- (LOWERS HIS VOICE) We 
stood - very quietly. Oh, very, very quietly in the center of the glass room - 
under our beautiful light. And we waited.

AUGUSTE: (PANICS) What can we do?  What can we do, chief?

LOUIS: Take it easy. Take it easy.

AUGUSTE:  I-I-I can't! I - just can't!

JEAN: Won't do any good to-- It won't do any good to stand here and shake.

LOUIS: That's right.  

AUGUSTE: (TO THE RATS) Go away! Go away, do you hear me?! Go away this 
instant!

LOUIS: (DARKLY) They won't go away. Not until...

AUGUSTE: Finish it, Chief. Not until -- what?

LOUIS: Not until they've been fed.

JEAN: (NARRATES) You can take just so much horror and then you get used to it.  
And they were interesting to watch, you know. They couldn't understand the 
glass. They could see us and they could rush at us but that thin invisible 
barrier held them off, stopped them. From time to time, we caught a glimpse of 
the rocks below. More rats down there. Swarming brown velvet in the bright 
tropical sunlight. And then the tide began to rise. 

(TO AUGUSTE, WITH A SIGH) If only it'd drown some of them.

AUGUSTE: Ship's rats don't drown. (CACKLES NERVOUSLY) No, sir. You can't drown 
one of them. They're all climbing up the tower.

LOUIS: This bunch around us is getting thicker.

JEAN: Yeah. Say, what's the time?

AUGUSTE: Quarter of six.

LOUIS: You've got first watch, Jean.

JEAN: Right.

LOUIS: Wake me at ten.

JEAN: I will.

LOUIS: Come along, Auguste.

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

JEAN: (NARRATES) It was getting dark. One side of the room was lit a soft 
filtered red. Sunset - through the rats. Oh, very pretty. I set the wicks, 
checked my fuel - and then lit the lamp.

SOUND: (THE RATS PANIC)

JEAN: (NARRATES) It caught them, lit them in their gigantic wriggling web of 
pale, hairless bellies, twitching red tails, bright eyes. And then I started 
the rotary motor.

SOUND: (MOTOR STARTS ... MECHANISM CLICKS ... THE RATS' SHRIEKS rise up and 
down, like the Doppler effect, as the rotating light hits them)

JEAN: (NARRATES) The light drove them mad. As she swung slowly and smoothly 
about, she blinded them in the fierce, stabbing bar of light, moving 
continually about, ever turning, ever touching, ever moving around and around.  
And they, twitching and shuddering, eyes flaming when they were struck by the 
light, the bright light moving. And, behind, on the dark side of the room, so 
close -- so close I dared not turn my back. But you can't help turning your 
back when you're in a room made of glass. On the dark side of the room, you 
couldn't see THEM -- but only their eyes. Thousands of points of blank red 
light, blinking and twinkling - like the stars of hell.

And when I came up into the gallery early the next morning, there stood 
Auguste, his back to me. He was bowing to the rats, waving his arms and making 
a speech.

AUGUSTE: (FADES IN) My dear, dear audience. I am going to play once again that 
magnificent role which made me the toast of the Paris theatre. Praylatte, the 
evil genius of the medieval underworld. I am he who did guide the dark soul of 
de Rochelle into the nether parts. (CACKLES MANICALLY) Do not be frightened, 
little children. I will not hurt you. Much!

JEAN: (NARRATES) He kept turning. I stood, staring at him, horror-struck. But 
he didn't notice me. The man had gone mad. He kept turning, telling his 
stories to all the rats, leaving no one out. (TO AUGUSTE) Auguste! Auguste!

AUGUSTE: (TO JEAN) Ah! Another one. A latecomer. Take a seat on the aisle, 
dear patron.  

JEAN: Auguste! Stop it! Stop it!

AUGUSTE: (CONTINUES HIS SPEECH UNDER) [Jinjuray?], the blood-stained monster 
was my partner in iniquity. Together, we disembowled over four hundred little 
children, leaving their warm, blood-spattered-- ...

JEAN: (NARRATES) But he didn't stop. He went on, bowing and scraping to the 
rats. His big blue eyes rolling and winking, his wild red hair waving about 
him. I grabbed him by the arms and...   

SOUND: (SLAP IN THE FACE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) ... slapped his face. He looked at me like a child. And then 
his face screwed up. He looked as though he were about to cry. (HARSHLY, TO 
AUGUSTE) Go below! Go on!

AUGUSTE: (CASUALLY) Oh, very well, then. (TO THE RATS) Later, my dear 
audience, later. Matinee today!

JEAN: (NARRATES) Sure, he was crazy. But I guess we all were. A few hours 
later, he came back up and caught Louis and me teasing the rats. Yes. Sounds 
horrible? It was fun.  

We would get right up against the glass and make faces at them. It drove them 
crazy. They would scratch away, trying to get at our eyes. Louis was even 
cuter about it. He'd pull a piece of bread out of his pocket and press it 
against the glass. 

LOUIS: (LAUGHS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) The rats would scramble into a solid ball, biting each other, 
clustering like grapes. From time to time, a whole knot of them would slip and 
fall the hundred and ten feet to the surf below.

LOUIS: Look! Look at the sharks.

JEAN: They're eating them.

LOUIS: Those sharks are our friends. Ah! Here, here. I'll get another bunch 
together. (LAUGHS, TO THE RATS) Here, my beauties. Ah, that's it. Pile up!  
Kill each other! Eh?  (LAUGHS)

SOUND: (RATS SHRIEK AND SCRATCH LOUDLY ... THEN SUDDENLY FALL AWAY)

LOUIS: There they go!

JEAN: (NARRATES) Auguste joined in, too. Very ingenious, Auguste. He learned 
that if he spread-eagled himself against the glass, they'd bunch and bundle 
against his figure. Then he'd leap back--

AUGUSTE: Look! My portrait - in rats!

JEAN: (NARRATES) It went on all day. And then... 

I was lying in bed. It was about midnight.  I was very tired and I was just 
beginning to fall off to sleep when I became conscious of a new sound.

SOUND: (AN ODD CRUNCHING NOISE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) Couldn't figure it at first. I got up, lit the lamp and went 
to the window. Even as I looked out, I saw one of the panes begin to sag in.  

They had eaten the wood away! 

JEAN: (YELLS) Louis! Come quick!

LOUIS: What? What is it?

JEAN: They've found a way in! 

(NARRATES) I held the glass with my hand. Now, they were all going crazy and, 
assured of the success of this maneuver, were all nibbling away at the wood.  
Louis ran below and then returned with a large sheet of tin.

SOUND: (HAMMERING NAILS) 

JEAN: (NARRATES) We spread it against the window and hammered it into place.  
Even as we did so, we felt the heavy bodies thudding against the other side as 
the window gave way.

SOUND: (HAMMERING STOPS)

LOUIS: There! That ought to hold. If it doesn't, we're done for.

JEAN: Rats can't eat tin?

LOUIS: No. They can't.

SOUND: (DISTANT CRASH OF GLASS)

JEAN: What was that?

LOUIS: I don't know. It came from below.

JEAN: The storeroom window.

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS ON STAIRS ... RATS SHRIEK LOUDLY)

LOUIS: They're in! They're swarming up the stairs!

JEAN: Drop the trap.

LOUIS: Right.

SOUND: (WOODEN TRAP DOOR DROPS ... TWO NOISY RATS SHRIEK)

JEAN: Two of them got in.

LOUIS: Let's go after them.

SOUND: (TWO MEN FIGHT WITH TWO RATS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) We didn't have to go after them. They came at us. I leaped to 
one side and grabbed a marlin spike, swung, and smashed one in mid-air.

SOUND: (A RAT IS SMASHED)

LOUIS: (HOLLERS IN PAIN)

JEAN: (NARRATES) I whirled to see Louis with the other. It had ripped his hand 
open and the blood was pouring out. He held his hand aloft and kicked at the 
snarling rat. I stepped and swung and got him.

SOUND: (ANOTHER RAT KILLED)

LOUIS: Oh, my hand! He got my hand!

JEAN: That's both of them, Louis. I'll get you something to tie that up.

LOUIS: Blood! Look at it! My blood! I'm bleeding!

JEAN: Don't worry about, Louis. Here, I'll wind this kerchief around it. It'll 
be okay.

LOUIS: (WHIMPERS) Blood...

JEAN: (FINISHES TYING) There. There, that's not bad. Just the flesh.

(NARRATES) And then I became conscious of a new sound.

SOUND: (A QUIET MUNCHING NOISE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) They were gnawing their way through the wooden trap door. I 
watched the wood, fascinated. And even as I did, it began to give way. And a 
bristling, whiskery nose showed through. 

(TO LOUIS) Louis! We've got to go up!

SOUND: (SCRAMBLING FOOTSTEPS UP THE STAIRS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) The next level was the living quarters and kitchen. I slammed 
the trap door.

SOUND: (ANOTHER WOODEN TRAP DOOR SLAMS SHUT)

JEAN: (NARRATES) But it, too, was wood.

LOUIS: (WHIMPERS, TO HIMSELF) My blood. (TO JEAN) What are we going to do?

JEAN: I don't know. They'll be through this one in a minute.

LOUIS: The gallery. The trap door in the gallery is metal.

JEAN: Good. Come on.

SOUND: (FOOTSTEPS RUN UP STAIRS ... METAL TRAP DOOR SLAMS SHUT)

JEAN: We made it!

SOUND: (SQUEAKING RATS)

(NARRATES) We lay across the trap door, exhausted, while below us, the rats 
took over the entire tower. I could hear them howling and fighting over our 
food supply, our water, our leather. And all about us, the others screamed and 
glared in at us, swayed in a tangled mass, hypnotized by the ever-turning 
light. 

By morning, the air in the little room was horrible. Until now, we'd been 
getting air from the tower below. Now that was sealed off. And so was all our 
food and water. We lay exhausted, panting, waiting, waiting. And the hours 
crawled on. I was almost dozing from fatigue when I saw a sight that brought 
me to, fast.

AUGUSTE: (TO THE RATS) Would you like to come in, my beauties?  Would you?  I 
hold the powers of life and death and I can let you in, you know.

JEAN: (NARRATES) Auguste was standing by the glass and in one hand he held a 
big wrench.

SOUND: (WRENCH TAPS ON GLASS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) He was tapping the glass gently. Not quite hard enough to 
break it. I eased myself to my feet and slowly, very slowly, tiptoed toward 
him.

AUGUSTE: (TO THE RATS) All I have to do is tap just a little harder and--

SOUND: (JEAN TACKLES AUGUSTE AND KNOCKS HIM UNCONSCIOUS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) I found a coil of wire in the tool kit and I trussed him up.  
Fastened him to a stancheon in the center of the room. Louis was of no help.  
He lay on his side looking at his bloody hand, weak and sick as a baby. So 
there I was, a lunatic and a coward for company, and all about, watching our 
little drama, the rats.

The day dragged by. The supply boat wasn't due for another twelve days. I 
don't know what they could have done if they HAD come. And we had only one way 
of summoning them. That was to shoot off distress rockets. But the rockets 
were four floors below. And even if they'd been right there in the gallery, I 
couldn't've opened a window to fire them.  

That night, I tended the light, but its flame was devouring our oxygen. The 
following day, we lay thirst-tormented, starving, waiting. And the following 
night, I again tended the light but the small supply of spare wicking we kept 
in the gallery had become exhausted and quite suddenly, at about midnight, the 
light went out. 

SOUND: (SQUEAKING RATS)

JEAN: (NARRATES) There was nothing I could do. Wicks were stored three levels 
below. Nothing I could do. Nothing. From time to time, I'd strike a match to 
see the clock.

SOUND: (MATCH STRIKES ... RATS REACT)

JEAN: (NARRATES) And when I did, it lit up the million red eyes about us. All 
about. Watching. Waiting. Below, it had grown quiet. They'd cleaned us out and 
now they, too, were waiting. All waiting. Then the rats -- quite suddenly -- 
were silent.

SOUND: (A LONG MOMENT OF SILENCE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) And then I heard it.  

SOUND: (DISTANT ... CORNET PLAYS A MOURNFUL, PLAINTIVE TUNE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) And then I saw the sky. And the stars. The rats were gone. I 
went to the glass. Out there, on the water, a small freighter -- a banana boat 
-- showing a few lights, came softly and innocently towards us. 

Our light was out. They didn't know. I - I wanted to open the windows to call 
out to them, to warn them somehow. But I was afraid. What if the rats were 
hiding from me? Tricking me? So I waited. 

SOUND: (DISTANT ... BOAT GROUNDS ON REEF)

JEAN: (NARRATES) She grounded very softly on a reef not two hundred yards from 
the key. Grounded so gently that the man playing the cornet -- was he a 
passenger, crewman off watch? -- didn't even stop playing. They tried washing 
her back off. I could have told them to save their fuel. The tide was rising, 
would've floated her free. 

And I waited.

SOUND: (CORNET HITS A SLIGHTLY SOUR NOTE ... A LONG MOMENT OF SILENCE)

JEAN: (NARRATES) That's all. That's the story. The sun came up and there 
wasn't a rat on the whole key. Every last one of that terrible army had left 
us, gone back to sea - on their new ship.  

Auguste? Insane asylum. He never recovered. And Louis? They took him into 
Cayenne where he died of blood poisoning from his bite. 

(YAWNS, STRETCHES) Yes, that's the whole of it. And if you'll excuse me now, I 
must go set my traps. 

(CHUCKLES) No. No. Mouse traps. No rats in this lighthouse, I should say not. 

Life in the lights isn't bad. But sometimes, when I see a strange vessel 
approaching, I get a little nervous.

Sure. Somewhere on the seas, there's a little banana boat without a crew. That 
is, without a human crew.

(MUSIC ... TO A FINISH)

ANNOUNCER: Escape is produced and directed by William N. Robson. Tonight we 
have presented "Three Skeleton Key" by George Toudouze, adapted for radio by 
James Poe. Featured in the cast were Elliott Reid as Jean. Bill Conrad as 
Louis. And Harry Bartell as Auguste. Special music was arranged and conducted 
by Del Castillo. 

Next week...

WILLIAM CONRAD: You are standing on the deck of a ship headed on an illegal 
mission to Central America. Before you, holding a gun in your stomach, is a 
desperate man who has just given you the choice between - being killed or 
becoming a murderer yourself.

ANNOUNCER: Next week, we escape with John and Gwen Bagni's exciting tale of a 
murderous trio of gun runners in Central America, "Maracas." Good-bye then, 
until this same time next week when once again, we offer you - "Escape"! 

(MUSIC ... NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN)

ANNOUNCER: Stay tuned now for "Life with Luigi" which follows now over most of 
these CBS stations. This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

==================================================
Broadcast date: 15 November 1949


1