Outside the wind howled and bats flew around the old cottage. Silas Ridgeway, drunk and afraid, slumped in his chair. Outside shadows loomed behind the old barn, trees shook and blew, thunder rolled and electricity flashed its evil signs across the heavens and bats screeched and sang sad songs as they lost their way in the dark.
The Red Scorpion, made his evil way through the thunder, lightening and rain. He raised his fist at the heavens. ‘I will win this battle,’ he cried, ‘all you puny creatures will become my slaves. I will rule the world. A day and a night and I will be in Otaki where my moated castle, The House of the Blue Sapphire, gleams through the stygian darkness of Tasman Road.’
Maria moaned, ‘Where am I?’ she whispered weakly. ‘Oh dear heaven, what has happened?’
‘I have you in my power,’ laughed The Red Scorpion, ‘you thought you could defy me but I am too strong and too evil for any human being to overcome my power, especially a weak, feeble, woman.’
Marta removed her shoe dealt him a heavy blow with the long black heel, right where the rubber hits the road.
‘Oh – oh – oh,’ yelled the Red Scorpion.’ He dropped Marta and jumped up and down in agony. ‘You will pay for this,’ he screamed.
Marta quickly replaced her shoe and raced down the hill and across the fields, the Red Scorpion in quick pursuit. Behind them, slumped outside the cottage, the black form raised its head. ‘Oh God, where is she?’ The black figure got to its feet and with a loud yell ran after the Red Scorpion. ‘Stop, you treacherous cur, stop.’
Down the hill the river weaved its way across the field. Marta dived in and swam across, chased by the Red Scorpion, cursing as he swam. Running up the bank, Marta tripped and fell and with an evil yell The Red Scorpion grabbed her, ran to the railway line, lay her on the track and tied her there with a strong chain.
‘Now, my pretty,’ he yelled, ‘that will teach you to defy the Red Scorpion. ‘The midnight train is due here in five minutes.’
‘Oh help, help,’ screamed Marta.
Round the corner, lights flashing, chimney belching smoke, came the heavy steam train. Wooo…ooo…
‘Help, help,’ screamed Marta. The screeching flash and the hissing lights of the train were coming closer. Thunder pealed and forks of lightning shot across the heavens. One hundred yards away the train stormed towards the woman tied to the tracks. ‘Help,’ cried Marta, ‘help….’
‘Coming,’ cried the black figure.’
The train screamed closer….
Will Marta be saved? Will the Red Scorpion win his evil way? Who is the dark figure? Read the conclusion of this gripping tale next week…
Kia ora Kotou, I was thinking about the fact that I’d never written a melodrama. Not intentionally anyway. This style of theatrical presentation went out of fashion as a regular dramatic offering some time on the 1930s as the film industry, to a large extent, took over that area. Theatres still presented them on their programmes from time to time as historical pieces, to make audiences laugh and gasp, and to display individual talent. Marlon Brando’s almost inaudible one word three minutes silence one word three minutes silence style worked because of cameras, music and lighting, and of course because his personal charisma got very high viewing at the time. Close–ups of expressions caught on camera often said more than words so words, which had been the basis of melodrama, went out of fashion. It began to be realised that the fewer words you used, especially in a dramatic scene, the better. This was the exact opposite of melodrama where words, actions, music and dramatic sound effects, revved up the audience’s response to what was going on on stage. The same thing is done with films and TV now.
Anyway its Lockdown. Time, I decided, to write a melodrama. It will run over three Busks starting now.
MARTA AND THE RED SCORPION (A melodrama in three parts)…
SCENE: Interior of a small cottage on the edge of Haitaitai, Naseby, Kaitaia or Remuera – you choose… It is a dark and stormy night. Eerie music is heard, plus swirling wind sounds and the moaning whine of wild dogs calling their mates. Inside the old wooden draughty but scrubbed clean kitchen sits EARNEST RIDGEWAY an old man of 55, no teeth, white beard, blind, barely able to walk. He sits at the small wooden table in the centre of the room. In front of him is a half full glass of whisky and a glass jug nearly empty, also of whisky. MARTA RIDGEWAY (16), his beautiful granddaughter (long lustrous dark hair, large lustrous dark eyes, red lustrous lips), is standing by the stove stirring something in a big pot.
MARTA: Grandfather, how could you buy whisky? You know the mortgage is due today. You know Silas Murgatroyd alias The Red Scorpion, will come and if you do not pay the overdue rent he will throw us out into the cold cold snow.
EARNEST (TREMBLING, SHAKY, HALF–CUT): Ah bah, girl. (TAKES ANOTHER GOOD SWIG) Oh why did I have to be saddled with only a weak girl to look after me, why? (LIFTS ARM UP TO CEILING) Oh God of my fathers, why hast thou deserted me?
MARTA: You are very pleased to eat the food I cook and sleep on the bed I keep clean –
EARNEST: Bah, I’m sick of stewed wild dog, sick of it I tell you, oh for a roast chicken…
THERE IS A THUNDEROUS KNOCK AND THE DOOR OPENS. SOUND OF A CELLO…THE RED SCORPION, STRIDES IN. HE IS TALL, BLONDE WITH AN EVIL STREAK OF RED IN HIS HAIR AND AN EVIL EXPRESSION ON HIS FACE PLUS AN EVIL SMILE SHOWING EVIL TEETH.
MARTA: Oh no – the Red Scorpion.
SILAS: Yes, my pretty one, it is I, and like my namesake I sting fiercely when my will is crossed.
MARTA: Grandfather – oh God, will no–one save me?
SILAS: Earnest Ridgeway, I am waiting. The money or the girl.
EARNEST: Do your worst, you villain. You keep raising the rent, I cannot meet your demands. My lifetime savings, all gone because of your outrageous demands.
SILAS (EVILLY): And you insatiable thirst for the demon drink. You have three seconds…
EARNEST: Very well… (HE SWIGS DOWN THE REST OF THE WHISKY IN THE GLASS)… take her.
MARTA: Oh Angels in Heaven, save me..
SILAS:Come Marta. We will go to my castle where there the priest will marry us and there will be much heavy drinking and lavish feasting to welcome The Red Scorpion and his Bride, the beautiful Marta. I have had twenty turkeys killed for the feast and there are three barrels of Red Iris Shiraz, worth a million dollars a barrel, waiting.
MARTA: Oh heaven – is there no–one to save me?
THERE IS A SOUND AT THE DOOR AND A MASKED FIGURE ALL IN BLACK RACES IN.
MASKED FIGURE: Stand back from her you evil wretch –
SILAS, THE RED SCORPION, HAS MARTA BY THE ARM: Never – I have waited a long time for this moment and now she is mine – HE WHIPS OUT A WOODEN STAKE AND DEALS THE MASKED FIGURE AN EVIL BLOW. THE MASKED FIGURE DROPS TO THE GROUND. Come girl –’ THE RED SCORPION GRABS MARTA IN HIS EVIL ARMS AND STRIDES OUT.
MARTA SCREAMS, GIVES HIS EAR A HARD BOX AND HE DROPS HER.
SILAS THE RED SCORPION STAGGERS BACK RUBBING HIS EAR: You shall pay for that Marta, no–one attacks Silas the Red Scorpion and lives to tell the tale…HE ADVANCES THREATENINGLY.
MARTA: Oh oh, will no–one save me?
To be continued next week…
Aha – aha – you thought I would be deceived by your tale of illness and theft – but I am too quick for the likers of you. it is rent day Silas Ridgeway and if you do not pay then I take your granddaughter, the beautiful Marta, to be my bride.