Phoenix Lights 4 – A Woman’s Work
Pal and Emma start to talk through more of the details of the scientific phenomena the Blaise team was investigating when Allan Blaise vanished. But their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of General Hillibrand, who’s determined to shut down Pal’s investigation for good.
Phoenix Lights is written by Kitt Keller and features the voices of Ryan Jenkins as Pal, Jamie Haas as Emma, William Crook as the Announcer and Jimmy, Ricco Machado-Torres as the the General, and Kitt Keller with the Joyce Cigarette jingle.
Music by Cody Hazelle, Conrad Miszuk, and Kitt Keller, and sound effects by Cody Hazelle.
PHOENIX LIGHTS, EPISODE 4: A WOMAN’S WORK
MFX 1: INTRO MUSIC
ANNOUNCER: Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining us tonight for the Joyce Cigarette Radio Hour. Joyce Cigarettes, the smooth smoke that 9 out of 10 doctors recommend. Rejoice with Joyce!
MFX 2: Joyce jingle:
It’s the one for everyone:
They’re Smooth! Fresh! Mild!
A real smoke that’s not a joke
And never dulls your smile.
Joyce! Joyce! Joyce!
The doctors’ choice!
ANNOUNCER: Yes, Joyce Cigarettes are America’s favorite cigarette and they bring you America’s favorite entertainment.
ANNOUNCER: Let’s journey tonight to the dusty desert streets of Arizona for the mysteries hidden in the heart of a little town they call Phoenix, to the offices of a rakish private detective with secrets of his own, Pal Vargas…
MFX 3: Vargas theme
ANNOUNCER: Last week, Detective Vargas and the beautiful and secretive Mrs. Blaise found themselves on the run from a mysterious government agent.
PAL: Come with me, Mrs. Blaise. I know someplace safe.
SFX 1: Door bell jingling.
JIM: Welcome to Jimmy’s Diner, how can I—well, if it isn’t my old friend Pal…and a lovely companion.
PAL: Good to see you, Jimmy. Any place where the lady and I could talk in private? We need to go over a few things and…well, we’re expecting company any minute. Unpleasant company.
ANNOUNCER: During a discussion of the mysterious happenings in the Phoenix night sky, Mrs. Blaise seemed to have other thoughts on her mind.
PAL: Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting.
EMMA: Never been kissed by a grateful client?
PAL: Not like that.
ANNOUNCER: But before long, Detective and client found themselves face to face with the secretive man who’s been after them. Mrs. Blaise may have sent him packing, but further trouble—and a military confrontation—are quick on their way.
PAL: That was quite a performance Mrs. Blaise. Now what do we do?
EMMA: We wait.
ANNOUNCER: So Pal and Mrs. Blaise wait, with a question looming over them: Who, or what, will join them at the diner? Find out tonight…
MFX 4: Vargas Theme
MFX 5: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: There’s nothing like being surprised by a dame, especially when you been in the game as long as I have. Though come to think of it, everybody’s playing a game of some sort, even if it ain’t much fun.
PAL MONO: Take me, for instance. There’s nobody in the whole world but my brother and Minnie who knows how may games I’m playing any given day, and I guess Mary Ann too, if she’d have made it out of that German interrogation camp.
Sherlock Holmes thought of detection as a game, or crime I guess…it was never clear to me which one he thought the game was, but I like that too. Him and his best pal running through the foggiest streets of London looking for shadows sounds like a hell of a game to me. Sometimes I wonder if they were playing the same game I played with Mary Ann: two people from different walks, dug in together trying to make the world work the way it’s supposed to. Two people who know each other so well it’s like they share a sense. Two people who become just the halves of one great game, tearing up the world til sunrise.
[shaking off the memory] But I got too many things need dealing with in the present to keep thinking about the past. There’s nothing like being surprised by a dame. Mrs. Blaise is…surprising.
MFX 6: End monologue underscoring.
PAL: How we doing on those eggs?
JIM: I’ve been distracted, or did you forget the fancy thug in a suit who just came in here threatening to bust up my place?
PAL: Sorry, sorry!
JIM: Well, here’s some coffee, at least. Keep your minds sharp.
PAL: Jimmy, I told you a hundred times, I don’t drink that diner mud you brew up.
JIM: Nah, Pal, this is the good stuff. From my private stash. Not customer brew.
EMMA: You have a secret stash of…coffee?
JIM: Sure do. You work with the public all day you’d understand.
EMMA: I suppose I do. You have cream?
JIM: I got milk.
PAL: I’ve seen women from every walk of life with every problem under the sun, but I never come across what you’re dealing with, Mrs. Blaise.
EMMA: We’ve been on the run from the United States government together. Call me Emma.
PAL: All right, Emma. I must admit, your story is quite a puzzler.
EMMA: I don’t think so. It’s all perfectly clear if you ignore the unusual phenomena.
PAL: Right. We’ll just table that for now.
PAL: And I guess you should call me Pal.
EMMA: Not Detective Vargas? In my experience, men usually prefer to be addressed by their grandest title.
PAL: Oh, well, men. Call me Pal.
JIM: Milk. And here’s the whole pot.
SFX 2: Clinks as the coffees are set down.
PAL: Thanks Jimmy.
EMMA: Well, Pal, what do you propose we do while we wait for the suits to rouse General Hillibrand from his hopefully unpleasant sleep.
PAL: Let’s keep talking. Before we were so rudely interrupted by the gentleman in the suit, you were telling me about your husband’s work. Your husband’s and yours, that is.
EMMA: Right. We were brought on by the Air Force to examine these events…we had a stack of files the size of a Sherman tank to read through, as well as talking to anyone who’d witnessed what happened.
PAL: I thought the pilots had all died?
EMMA: There were some witnesses from the ground. A couple farmers, Johnson and Tybee, and a hitchhiker, Matt Backer. Johnson was a country gossip, the type to exaggerate everything. Tybee didn’t really see much, and Backer was drunk.
PAL: Not the best witnesses.
EMMA: I’ll admit, their stories varied wildly. But they all agreed on a few points: there was a period of extreme light and sound for about 6 seconds. Both the light and the sound seemed to originate at a point in the atmosphere, fairly high up. And there was a feeling of serious physical disequilibrium for the duration.
PAL: Sounds a lot like shell shock. Something happens and then suddenly everything is happening at once; you’re right in the middle of the worst day of your life.
EMMA: But it wasn’t in their heads, Mr… Pal. It was all around them.
PAL: Let me tell you, when it happens, it doesn’t feel like it’s in your head.
MFX 7: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: The first time I felt it, it was like I was dying. A car backfired
SFX 3: Car backfires in the distance
SFX 4: Distant war ambiance joins under the music
PAL MONO: and suddenly I was back in France, bombs all around me, even closer than they’d really been. I wasn’t supposed to be here, with bombs and bullets and blood and screaming. I was a spy; I worked with words and codes; if I was gonna get killed, I was supposed to get killed by one man as he looked me in the eye and I’d prepared for that. That was the game I’d thought I’d be playing.
PAL MONO: Things…things didn’t turn out like I pictured.
And then, once the game went wrong it stayed that way. It didn’t take much to jolt me out of reality—firecrackers, breaking glass, the fire and roar of close-by lightning, and time stretched out and melted. Sounds didn’t make sense. It was like…the world you live in in a nightmare, when everything is normal but everything is wrong in some hideous, unknowable way. Nobody who ain’t felt it can imagine.
And I mean felt, too…my whole body, top to tail, felt the heat coming off the bombs, felt the blood hitting my skin. I was stretching and melting too. You know what it was like? It was like Alice in Wonderland. Only nothing was okay. Nothing was safe.
SFX 5: End war ambiance
For months after the war ended, every little noise would make me jump half outta my skin. I went home to Chicago, slept in my old bed, tried to get my feet under me and Mami would have to wake me up ‘cause I’d be screaming…I’d wake up and she’d be stroking my shoulder, Calm down, Mija, calm down, calm down. It’s all over.
MFX 8: End monologue underscoring.
EMMA: I guess I didn’t think of that.
PAL: Well, if you ain’t gone through it, you don’t know.
EMMA: I’m sorry.
PAL: Anyway. You got these stories, you reviewed the files, and then…
EMMA: The maps I showed you. The events, whatever they were, were moving west and increasing in frequency. Allan got the lab assigned out here with the idea that we’d be ready to monitor and collect data before an event happened, rather than having to investigate after the fact.
PAL: What was the plan?
EMMA: The five of us spent months devising a set of machines that could measure everything we knew or suspected was happening during these events…the lights, the sound.
EMMA: The change in physical perception that the witnesses described usually correlates with disruptions in atmospheric pressure, so we planned to measure that as well, at the ground and at altitude, along with a host of other measurements. We initially built five monitoring stations and installed them in empty locations across the desert that bore similar topography to the original sightings, with the plan to build more equipment if time and budget allowed. The first station went active six weeks ago; as of three weeks ago, all five were operational.
PAL: And Dr. Ji and your husband were doing their overnight experiments at the stations?
EMMA: Yes. A few nights a week, the three of them (Harry, Allan, and Edgar) would head out to one of the stations to check the equipment and collect data. Allan or Harry usually brought along their field telescope and observation books as well to take note of anything they noticed happening a little further from home. They really looked at it as sort of a night out with a little work thrown in.
PAL: What were you and Miss Botkin working on while they were out?
EMMA: Data synthesis, mostly. I’ve been looking over crash debris from the North Carolina events.
PAL: That got anything to do with black holes?
EMMA: I was lucky to be hired on at all; I think someone thought they were doing Allan a favor by bringing ‘the little lady’ along.
PAL: Beggars can’t be choosers, huh?
EMMA: That’s not exactly how I’d like to think of it, but…[sighs] more or less. I know, it’s not my field exactly, but I can’t help but think there might be an answer there. And it was what needed to be done. Besides…it’s an enigma, isn’t it? I’ll admit to a good deal of curiosity even if atmospheric phenomena aren’t exactly my field of study.
PAL: What about the night Allan disappeared? Major Holloway was with him; how did he go missing?
EMMA: I don’t know.
PAL: How about the good Major? He have any ideas?
EMMA: Both of them were at the station, but Edgar…he doesn’t have any memory of the night. So he says. And I believe him. He came home the next day bedraggled and confused—he’s never been either before, as long as I’ve known him.
PAL: Which is how long?
EMMA: 4 years. He’s meticulous about his appearance and demeanor. Nothing ruffles his feathers and he’s always poised. Allan wasn’t with him and he was too uncertain of anything even to panic. He was nauseated and dizzy; I couldn’t believe he’d managed to get himself home.
MFX 9: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: And there it is. All that mystery and science and what it comes down to is nothing. Sounds to me like they woke up with a world class hangover. Dollars to doughnuts Blaise drank himself into a ditch somewhere and the Air Force wants to cover up that they’ve hired a bundle of drunks to work on top secret nonsense.
MFX 10: End monologue underscoring.
PAL: Mrs. Blaise…
EMMA It’s Emma.
MFX 11: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: Sure, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s not to call a woman by her first name when you ask her if her husband was a drunk.
MFX 12: End monologue underscoring.
PAL: Mrs. Blaise, what you’re describing sounds like the aftermath of a long night of, let’s say, contemplation, not the morning after a disappearance.
EMMA: [frustrated] I know how it sounds. But I think you ought to know me enough to take my word for it when I say that Allan and Edgar weren’t drinking or drunk that night. They didn’t simply overdo it. Something happened out in that desert; I know it.
SFX 6: Car engines pull up
EMMA: Would the Air Force have taken the recorded data from all 5 stations if this was just a case of drunken revelry gone wrong?
SFX 7: Car doors close
JIM: Hey, I hate to interrupt, but I think your company’s about to make an entrance.
EMMA: Well. Here we go.
PAL: Haven’t had to tango with top brass in awhile. Should be interesting.
SFX 8: Door jingling.
SFX 9: Footsteps.
JIM: Welcome to Jimmy’s. Can I get you folks some coffee?
PAL: (to Jim) Not the good stuff, right?
JIM: (to Pal) Of course not. The enemy of my friend drinks my worst-brewed muck. (to General) Let me grab ya some menus.
GENERAL: No need. We won’t be staying.
GENERAL: Mrs. Blaise.
PAL: Detective Vargas.
GENERAL: I understand you wanted to speak with me, Mrs. Blaise. I’m not usually one to cater to civilian requests.
EMMA: I hope I haven’t disturbed you too unduly.
GENERAL: Nothing disturbs me, Mrs. Blaise.
MFX 13: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: If you’ve ever seen a dog stare down a snake, you know how this goes. Eyes on eyes, and the first one to blink gets bit. I don’t know that I’d care to put my money on either party at this point, either. Emma’s a tough cookie, maybe the toughest I ever met. But this Hillibrand is stern stuff too.
On the other hand, I know the type. He’s spit and polish, tight-laced. He probably doesn’t know how to deal with anyone who either ain’t afraid of him or doesn’t respect him. My old CO worked with a guy like that. Taught me a lot. Guys like this don’t like if you refuse to play good little army man. I’m not very good at playing, it turns out.
MFX 14: End monologue underscoring.
PAL: [playing it sarcastic but also dumb as a box of rocks] Not to interrupt your conversation, but I would love to know what we’re all doing here.
JIM: Hey, here’s your food, Pal. Hash browns, three eggs, toast and a couple fried tomatoes.
SFX 10: Plate clanks down.
11: Silverware on plate randomly throughout the following lines
PAL: Why thank you, Jimmy. Now [she takes a bite] what exactly brings you here to Jimmy’s?
GENERAL: I assume Mrs. Blaise has—
PAL: Assume nothing. You know General [bite] you know what they say about making assumptions. Aw, Jimmy, you’ve outdone yourself; this is fantastic. You here for the eggs, General?
GENERAL: Mr. Vargas. I am here to speak with Mrs. Blaise about the —
PAL: Oh, yeah, go ahead and talk; don’t mind me.
GENERAL: About her flagrant disregard for the rules and regulations of the United States Air Force and her undeniable disobedience of orders.
EMMA: You forget, General. I’m a civilian. I don’t take orders.
PAL: Hey, you want a bite?
GENERAL: Mrs. Blaise! By coming here and involving this…”detective”…in Air Force business—
EMMA: My husband’s disappearance!
GENERAL: —you have compromised national security and put your husband’s life in further danger.
PAL: So his life is in danger, huh?
GENERAL: I’d encourage you to leave, Mr. Vargas. This isn’t your business.
PAL: Yeah, but these are my eggs, so I ain’t goin’ nowhere.
EMMA: General, I will find my husband with your help or without it. I have spent ten days doing my damnedest to work through official channels, which you have closed to me at every step, so I have taken matters into my own hands, and you will not, no matter how much you threaten and bluster, stay my purpose or steer me off my path; do you understand?
GENERAL: Mrs. Blaise, you are digging into things you cannot possibly understand.
EMMA: Need I remind you, General, which of us here is the scientist? Which of us here has the clear and studied understanding of what has been going on these past several months? Which of us was hired for the express purpose of understanding these events?
EMMA: You’re no expert in anything but giving orders, General, and you’re certainly good at it, but I am a fully qualified and credentialed researcher with years of work under my belt.
GENERAL: You’re a little girl in a man’s world, Mrs. Blaise, and all the diplomas in the world aren’t going to change that.
PAL: Hey, Jimmy, can I get some ketchup over here? Look, General…
GENERAL: This does not concern you, Mr. Vargas.
PAL: Right right right. Yeah. But look. Uh, Mrs. Blaise is worried about her husband. Just let her look for him huh? What harm could it do?
GENERAL: The Air Force and NACA have spent years working on Project Sign and we will not have a low-level researcher’s wife tear down what’s been built. There are more factors at play here than you can comprehend.
PAL: Then we can’t possibly figure it out, can we?
GENERAL: I am ordering you—both of you—to stop this inquiry.
PAL: Ooh, “inquiry”.
GENERAL: And Mrs. Blaise…if I find out you’re still engaging in this pursuit, there will be consequences, for you and for your colleagues.
EMMA: [this is a command] Good night, General.
GENERAL: Very serious consequences. You’re still a civilian, but Dr. Ji, and Major Holloway are airmen first, scientists second. Take care to remember that, Mrs. Blaise.
EMMA: Good night, General.
PAL: Yeah, it was nice meeting you. Try the eggs next time.
GENERAL: (under his breath) Buffoon.
SFX 12: Door jingles and closes.
SFX 13: End silverware noises.
PAL: Let’s get you another drink, Emma. And a Joyce cigarette.
EMMA: Thank you.
SFX 14: Cigarette lights.
PAL: That went better than I thought.
EMMA: [inhale/exhale of cigarette] I assume you acted like that for a reason?
PAL: It never hurts to be underestimated. Plus, now we know your husband’s alive; or, at least, that the General thinks he is.
PAL: We know that there’s something going on that centers on your research—the work itself is supporting a larger project. And what’s more, we have a name. What’s Project Sign? I thought your outfit was the Alpha Team.
EMMA: It is. I’ve heard of Project Sign. It’s a sister program to ours; same department… Studying weather events, I think.
PAL: “Weather events”, huh? I bet. You ever meet anyone working for Project Sign?
EMMA: Just once. A Dr. LaPaz, in New Mexico.
PAL: And what’s his story? Or hers, I guess?
EMMA: His. He’s…well, honestly, Pal, I thought he was a bit of a… kook.
PAL: Hm. How exactly?
EMMA: He talked a lot about…[she takes a breath to figure out how to say this without sounding ridiculous]… visitors.
EMMA: I don’t know what else to call them. He had a whole system of classification. He had a theory that what we were registering as unusual atmospheric phenomena were actually interstellar devices interacting with the ionosphere.
PAL: …All right, let’s put a pin in that. What’s NACA?
EMMA: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. They’re interested in aeronautical science, but they’ve been shifting focus to studying the feasibility of traveling outside of the atmosphere.
PAL: [beat] [deadpan] Space travel.
EMMA: Yes. It’s all theoretical, of course.
PAL: Of course. And Project Sign and NACA and the Air Force and the President would definitely let people know if it had moved from theoretical to experimental to actual.
EMMA: I take your point. But if the Air Force or NACA had evidence that these occurrences were extraterrestrial in nature, why wouldn’t they tell us? The researchers?
PAL: Is it possible they told your husband and he didn’t tell you?
EMMA: No. We’ve always been real colleagues, ever since we started working together at Harvard. He’d never keep anything about our work from me.
MFX 15: Begin monologue underscoring.
PAL MONO: She doesn’t talk about him like a husband. She seems to think of him and the others at the lab as a circle of trusted friends and peers, but he doesn’t seem to stand out—or maybe I’m imagining things. Maybe I want her to seem less like a wife missing her husband and more like a woman missing a co-worker. It’s not like I haven’t known plenty of women who had a husband for the look of it rather than the love, but damned if I don’t also know I might be reading more into this than is there. What kind of game is she playing? For that matter, what game am I?
MFX 16: End monologue underscoring.
EMMA: The truth is… Allan and I are symbiotic, in a way. We thrive in each other’s work and company. We share each other’s knowledge and use that knowledge to drive further into our work. I wouldn’t have made half the discoveries and insights I’ve had without Allan, and he’d say the same of me. And of Harry, too, I suppose. The three of us; it’s always been the three of us. Musketeers.
PAL: You know that whole book is about how there’s a fourth guy, right?
EMMA: You’ve read it?
PAL: Eh, saw the Walter Abel picture about 10 years ago.
PAL: The book’s 800 pages of impossible French prose. I’ve tried, but…
EMMA: [she laughs] I haven’t read it either. And, well…Walter Abel was never really my favorite screen idol.
PAL: No? At least there were three other Musketeers on the marquee.
EMMA: And [she thinks a moment] Martha Graham and Rosamond Pinchot.
PAL: Good memory.
PAL: Do scientists have good memories?
EMMA: This one does.
ENTER JIM, MOMENT-RUINER
SFX 15: Clunk of ketchup bottle on table.
PAL: Uh, thanks. So, the Air Force…
EMMA: Oh. I guess you’re right…the Air Force has a vested interest in keeping the more sensational details from the public, and with civilians in the lab…
PAL: They would only tell you those three magical little words: what you “need to know”.
EMMA: What I need to know right now is where Allan is.
PAL: Well, let’s go find him.
PAL: I guess the best place to start is the desert. Even if the Air Force swept things up, there might be something there.
PAL: At the very least we’ll get an idea of the lay of the land…that’ll have to be worth something. Then, to the base. If the General is sure Allan’s alive, then I’d bet there’s some kind of evidence on base somewhere.
EMMA: If nothing else, the missing records must be somewhere.
PAL: Let’s go. Jimmy?
PAL: Cash is on the table. If anyone asks, Mrs. Blaise and I have stepped across to the Westward Ho, but make ‘em drag it out of you, real embarrassed like.
JIM: Hiding a secret with a lie. I like it.
pun at me; get outta here.
SFX 16: Door jingles closed.
me get the door for you.
EMMA: I’ll drive. I know where we’re going.
SFX 18: 2nd car door.
SFX 19: Car engine starts.
EMMA: Interesting choice of a cover story.
PAL: Well, after that kiss, it just sorta came to me.
EMMA: I hope you didn’t mind.
PAL: I only mind if you’re trying to manipulate me.
EMMA: Just what kind of girl do you think I am?
PAL: Quite frankly, every time I think I’ve figured it out, you surprise me. [beat] So where are we headed?
EMMA: You said you wanted to see where Allan disappeared. It’s miles out in the desert. We should be there in about an hour and a half. This rust bucket got a radio?
PAL: Sure does.
EMMA: All right then. Let’s go.
SFX 20: click that turns on the radio.
SFX 21: Static that quickly tunes in to…
MFX 18: Short clip of 40s music. It fades into…
MFX 19: Outro music
ANNOUNCER: Will Pal Vargas find Allan Blaise, or is the vast and lonely desert empty of answers? Will Pal’s detective skills be enough to break through the Air Force’s wall of silence? Join us next time on the Joyce Cigarette Radio Hour for more adventures with Det. Pal Vargas out under the Phoenix Lights.
MFX: Ending fanfare