Below we present the complete text of Strange Happenings Beneath the Bridge; episode 1 of Predator’s Row.
EPISODE #1 – STRANGE HAPPENINGS BENEATH THE BRIDGE
by Philip Craig Robotham
Cover Illustration by Miyukiko
Edited by Margaret Wilkins
Copyright 2013 Philip Craig Robotham
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Edition.
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Serial #1: Predator’s Row
A reporter for the Star City Tribune, Claire Templeton, uncovers a pattern of grisly murders that look like the work of a strange new predator and presents her findings to Detective Tony Wells. When Tony finds a seven-year-old witness to one of the murders, her unbelievable story sets him on a path that will shake his hard-boiled certainty about the nature of reality to its core. Caught in a web of intrigue between faery courts, a nightmare world where Trolls fight for scraps beneath the bridges of the modern world, and a magical sword that has an agenda all its own, Wells must work to uncover a murderer in order to prevent a war among the immortals from spilling over into the mundane realm. Can he solve this mystery in time before the world of nightmares becomes a reality for all humanity? Tune in to “Predator’s Row” and marvel at a world of magic and intrigue that lies just beneath the surface of the world you know.
Episodes in the Host Your Own “Old Time Radio Drama” series are designed to provide a fun dinner party experience for 6–8 participants. Read along, taking on the role of one or more of the characters in the story, and listen as the exciting drama unfolds. This is the theater of the mind, where the special effects are only limited by your imagination, and your participation will build a memory that you’ll treasure for years to come.
TONY WELLS: Detective
CLAIRE TEMPLETON: Reporter
SUPER: Apartment Superintendent
LIEUTENANT: Police Lieutenant of Detectives
LAWRENCE JACOBY: Police Detective
CASEY: Police Department Stooge
SFX: SFX operator (1 required)
SCENE 1: INT. POLICE HQ — DETECTIVE WELLS’ OFFICE (TONY, CLAIRE)
1. MUSIC:  OPENING THEME — LET IT FINISH
2. SOUND:  (WALLA) TYPING, DISTANT CHATTER
3. TONY WELLS: (NARRATING) I was throwing darts at the board on the wall when she walked into the room. The Commissioner’s face had been taped to the board’s front and so far I’d managed to score one dart in each eye. I was about to move on to the nostrils — fancying myself something of a crack shot when it comes to throwing pretty much anything — when the door opened with a crash. Now, I’m as inclined to turn my head after a pretty girl as any man with a pulse working the graveyard shift at Star City P.D., but some dames spell “bad news” in any language, no matter how blonde and leggy they are. The minute she walked into the office I knew I was in trouble. Claire Templeton was a skirt on a mission and she didn’t like to take “no” for an answer. As a crime reporter, she was one of the best, and I’d had the misfortune to be caught in her headlights on more than one occasion… more than enough experience to teach me to be wary.
4. CLAIRE TEMPLETON: (NARRATING) Tony may have been all mouth-breather but underneath the bruiser exterior was a whole lot of smarts and a streetwise attitude that made him one of the best detectives on the force. While I could use my, ahem, feminine charms on a lot of the guys around the precinct, Tony wasn’t one of them. With Tony, it took something a little extra.
(BEAT) Hi Tony, feel like some Chinese?
5. TONY: Claire, whatever you want, the answer’s “no.” It’s two in the morning and there’s another… Did you say Chinese?
6. CLAIRE: Uhuh. Direct from Jimmy Chang’s. Still hot.
7. TONY: (SUSPICIOUS) Chang’s closed an hour ago.
8. CLAIRE: Yeah, but I’m special. You want some or not?
9. TONY: Gimme, and talk fast. (BEAT)
(NARRATING) I shoulda known better than to even let her in the door but, well, you have to know Jimmy Chang’s… If the apple in the Garden had been a box of Jimmy Chang’s Chow Mein I’d a grabbed my fill and waited for judgment to fall without a squeak.
10. CLAIRE: (NARRATING) Yep, with Tony Wells it took a little extra. Charm and a good pair of nylons could only get you so far, but hand the man some Jimmy Chang’s and he’d become putty in your hands… or at least you could get in a hearing while the food lasted.
(BEAT — TO TONY) So, I’ve got a friend over at the university by the name of Tully Bing. Smart guy, if a little wet behind the ears. He studies herd behavior or some such. Anyway, we’re talking about how big predators and the like in Africa thin the herds, picking off animals around the edges, just enough to live on without threatening the viability of the herd, and he mentions something interesting. He tells me that the number of people who go missing in big cities each year matches the pattern of predation you see in large game herds almost exactly. I’m skeptical and so I ask him, “Are you saying there’s something out there feeding on people?” and he laughs.
“No”, he says. “The human species is the only one I know that predates upon itself. We’re mean enough on our own that there’s no call for looking for bogeymen.” Anyway, I’m really interested at this point and he starts telling me about how he uses maps and migration patterns and the like to help identify where the predators have their territory. I ask him if he thinks something similar could be worked up to help police find where the human predators are operating. He says that he thinks so and that he’ll get back to me. That was a week ago.
11. TONY: (WITH A MOUTH FULL OF NOODLES) So what do you want from me? Call missing persons.
12. CLAIRE: I already have and there’s not a lot they can do.
13. TONY: Wait a minute, you’re saying he’s gone missing?
14. CLAIRE: Haven’t you been listening?
15. TONY: Sorry, the crack about missing persons was a joke. How long’s he been gone? What did missing persons say?
16. CLAIRE: They went to his apartment; he’s paid up for the rest of the month; no sign of a struggle. They figure he just left town for a while.
17. TONY: And you?
18. CLAIRE: I know it’s a bit thin but one minute he’s working on a way to identify predators that are disappearing people and the next he disappears himself. I’m worried.
19. TONY: Alright, we’ll head over there and take a look… but only because the noodles were so damn good.
20. CLAIRE: Deal.
21. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
SCENE 2: EXT. TULLY BING’S APARTMENT (TONY, CLAIRE)
22. SOUND:  (WALLA) OCCASIONAL NIGHT TRAFFIC; A GUST OF WIND OR TWO; BUZZ OF A STREET LAMP ETC.
23. SOUND:  CAR PULLING UP AND COMING TO A HALT; DOORS OPEN AND CLOSE; TWO PEOPLE GET OUT — LET IT FINISH
24. TONY: (NARRATING) By the time we arrived at the apartment house it was three am. Frankly, I haven’t the slightest idea what we were doing there. Bad coffee, four night shifts in a row, and a bag of Jimmy Chang’s can seriously mess up a guy’s judgment. As for the dame? I was still trying to figure out whether or not I was being played for a sap.
25. CLAIRE: You know, it’s like to hurt a girl’s feelings when you look at her that way. There’re plenty of guys who’d be happy to be out at this time of night in a car with me.
26. CLAIRE: Seriously, I’m considered quite the catch in some circles.
27. TONY: So’s a rattlesnake. It don’t mean I’m looking to get cozy with one, though.
28. CLAIRE: Cute. Tully was on the third floor.
29. TONY: Ever been up there before? Did Tully move in those circles you were talking about?
30. CLAIRE: No. I met him doing research for an article and only saw him at the university. (BEAT) He did ask for my number though.
31. TONY: How’d you find out about this place?
32. CLAIRE: The guys at missing persons.
33. TONY: Hmpf. You like to think you can handle people, don’t you?
34. CLAIRE: Ahuh!
35. TONY: Alright, let’s roust the super out of bed. He won’t be happy, but what’s the point of a badge if you can’t wave it about at three in the morning and get people out of bed.
36. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
SCENE 3: INT. TULLEY’S APARTMENT (TONY, CLAIRE, THE SUPER)
37. SOUND:  JINGLING OF KEYS IN A LOCK; DOOR OPENS — LET IT FINISH
38. SUPER: (YAWNING) There you go, detective. Why this couldn’t wait till morning I don’t know.
39. TONY: Thanks buddy, that’ll be all.
40. SUPER: Hey, ain’t you supposed to show me a warrant or some such?
41. CLAIRE: Here.
42. SOUND: SOUND OF RUSTLING PAPER — ESTABLISH AND UNDER
43. CLAIRE: All the fine print your tax dollars could desire.
44. SUPER: Yeah, well… I guess that’s okay.
45. CLAIRE: Yeah, see ya, toots!
46. SOUND:  SOUND OF DOOR CLOSING — LET IT FINISH
47. TONY: What was that you showed him?
48. CLAIRE: Old parking ticket.
49. TONY: You like to take chances, don’t you?
50. CLAIRE: Comes with the job. Besides, no one’s gonna look too closely at a piece of paper with the city’s crest on it at three in the morning.
51. TONY: (NARRATING) Heh. I had to hand it to her. She had moxie. We looked around the apartment and I got a new respect for the pittance that was paid as a policeman’s salary.
(TO CLAIRE) Not living too rich, was he?
52. CLAIRE: He’s a grad student. What do you expect? One room all to yourself’s not too bad as these things go, and a desk of your own with a lamp is the lap of luxury.
(BEAT) (NARRATING) I watched as Wells gave the room the once over. When he was on the job the slovenly pit-bull routine gave way to something much sharper and more dangerous. There was something predatory, almost feline about him. I’d never tell him this, but when he was on the job, he looked like every woman’s dream of a lantern-jawed hero. Of course the illusion only lasted until he opened his mouth.
53. SOUND:  PAPERS BEING SHUFFLED — LET IT FINISH
54. TONY: Well, I’ll be hung up and left to…
55. CLAIRE: What is it, Wells? What have you found?
56. TONY: Your friend was working on mapping street predators, you say?
57. CLAIRE: Yeah?
58. TONY: I think he may have succeeded.
59. CLAIRE: What do you mean?
60. TONY: Over here. On his desk. These are old missing persons reports, notices in the newspapers, and such.
61. CLAIRE: Yeah, so?
62. TONY: So he’s plotted them on this map. Most of it’s a fairly random spread but…
63. CLAIRE: But there are concentration points… here, here… and here.
64. TONY: Yup. And he’s circled them. (BEAT) How much did this kid want to impress you, Claire?
65. CLAIRE: What do you mean?
66. TONY: I mean, was he stupid enough, having gotten this far, to want to play the hero and go poking around in those neighborhoods alone?
67. CLAIRE: Oh, I see. Well, given that nobody’s seen him in a week, I’d say there’s every chance he’s just that stupid.
68. TONY: Okay, I’m sold. Help me gather up this stuff and get it back to the precinct. I’ll open a file on your friend Tully.
69. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
SCENE 4: STAR CITY PRECINCT POLICE HQ (TONY, CLAIRE, CASEY, LIEUTENANT)
70. SOUND:  (WALLA) TYPING, LOW CHATTER
71. CLAIRE: You know I always feel at home in here. It sounds just like a newsroom.
72. TONY: I’m sure we could make it even more comfortable for you… down in the cells.
73. CLAIRE: (SARCASTICALLY) Ha Ha. I’ll take a raincheck.
74. TONY: Of course we’d have to confiscate that little necklace of yours. Couldn’t have you hanging yourself in the cell.
75. CLAIRE: You wouldn’t get much for it at the pawn shop.
76. TONY: Heh!
77. LIEUTENANT: (YELLING) Hey, Wells, I got more orders for you from the Commissioner.
78. TONY: Aw, hell, lieutenant. When’s he gonna leave me alone?
79. LIEUTENANT: Not today obviously! Now get over here!
80. CLAIRE: (NARRATING) Wells had caused the Commissioner some embarrassment some months back, by allowing some vigilantes to take part in an investigation he was running. They’d saved my life and gotten the bad guys, but some other people had died and Commissioner Doogan liked to hold a grudge. Today’s grudge-inflicting, weapon-of-choice was obviously the lieutenant.
81. TONY: I’m gonna be a little while, Claire. You want maybe I should call you when I get some news on this.
82. CLAIRE: Sure. In the meantime…
83. TONY: (WARNINGLY) Don’t do anything stupid, Claire.
84. CLAIRE: Don’t worry. You know what a cautious gal I am!
85. TONY: Yeah, that’s what’s bothering me.
86. LIEUTENANT: (SHOUTING) Wells!
87. TONY: (SHOUTING BACK) Keep your hair on! (TO CLAIRE) Gotta go! I can’t stop you from looking into this further so, for the sake of my blood pressure and future supplies of Jimmy Chang’s, keep me informed… and don’t go down there alone.
88. CLAIRE: Sure, Wells… (TO SELF) Yeah, right.
89. TONY: (NARRATING) I headed into my meeting with the lieutenant. A half hour of being shouted at later and I was back at my desk, stuck with the graveyard shift for another two weeks, and talking with Officer Bill Casey, probably one of the dumbest cops on the force. There was no sign of Claire except the empty bag of Jimmy Chang’s and the map.
(TO CASEY) C’mon Casey, just go down and pull the files for me.
90. CASEY: Look, boss, you ain’t supposed to be working homicides no more… at least not until the chief takes you off probation. You could get in a lot of trouble if I do this.
91. TONY: (NARRATING) Don’t let Casey’s tone of false concern fool you. He’s a full-time stool pigeon for the lieutenant and has no special love for me.
(TO CASEY) I’m sending you so’s I don’t get into trouble. I can’t show my face down there, but you can. Besides, it’s not like I’m looking into an active homicide. I just wanna know what they’ve got for these three locations and whether the death rate’s any higher there than is normal.
92. CASEY: I wouldn’t even know how to begin to calculate…
93. TONY: Just get me the files, genius. I’ll do all the number crunching.
94. CASEY: Okay, you’re the boss.
95. TONY: (NARRATING) Casey was as much a part of my punishment for my indiscretion a few months back as was the desk job, expulsion from homicide, and the repeated night shifts. I didn’t expect he’d succeed in getting what I wanted from homicide but I still had a lot of friends around the precinct and, if I let it be known I had an interest in those sections of the street, any news regarding them would find me if I was patient. Telling Casey to keep my interest on the down-low was as good a way of ensuring the word got around quickly as I could think of. He couldn’t keep a secret if his life depended on it.
96. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
SCENE 5: WELLS’ APARTMENT (TONY, JACOBY)
97. SOUND:  (WALLA) MUFFLED TRAFFIC; THE OCCASIONAL RUMBLE OF AN ELEVATED TRAIN, DISTANT — COMING THROUGH THE WALLS
98. TONY: When you’re working the graveyard, you fight for what sleep you can get. To say I was a little cranky when I got woke by someone pounding on the door at two in the afternoon understates things a little.
99. SOUND:  LOUD BANGING ON DOOR — LET IT FINISH
100. LAWRENCE JACOBY: Wells? You in there, Wells?
101. TONY: (BLEARY AND SLEEP DEPRIVED) Keep your hair on, I’m coming.
102. SOUND:  DOOR OPENS — LET IT FINISH
103. TONY: Jacoby? What the hell do you want at this hour?
104. JACOBY: It’s two in the afternoon.
105. TONY: So? You know I’ve been doing the night shift?
106. JACOBY: Yeah. And I’m all broken up over it… but I think you’ll want to take a look at this one.
107. TONY: Yeah? Does the lieutenant know about you stopping by?
108. JACOBY: Let’s just say that what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.
109. TONY: Yeah, well. Remember how that turned out for me. Still, I appreciate the thought. Is this about…
110. JACOBY: Yeah. That was a neat trick, you giving out what you were after through Casey. (BEAT) There’s been a death in one of those neighborhoods you’re interested in. I thought you’d like to ride along.
111. TONY: Like I said, I appreciate it. Which one?
112. JACOBY: Predator’s Row, underneath the Western Suspension Bridge.
113. TONY: Give me a second to get into some clothes.
114. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
SCENE 6: BACK ALLEY KNOWN AS PREDATOR’S ROW (JACOBY, TONY)
115. SOUND:  (WALLA) DISTANT STREET SOUNDS, CAT YOWLS, AND TRASHCAN LID UPSET ETC.
116. SOUND:  CAR WITH SIREN PULLS UP — SIREN DIES AND DOORS OPEN AND CLOSE — LET IT FINISH
117. TONY: Have you ever noticed how these places are always empty when a crime happens but once the reporters show up you’ve hardly room to heave a brick?
118. JACOBY: Yeah, well. You might want to brace yourself for this one. It’s messy. C’mon.
119. SOUND:  PUSHING THROUGH THE PRESS OF REPORTERS, CAMERA NOISES ETC. — FADE
120. TONY: I hope the press didn’t get any snaps of me or your boss is gonna be pretty sore.
121. JACOBY: They ain’t interested in you. What they want to see’s round this corner. And I reckon once they saw it they’d be regretting it.
122. TONY: How messy is it? You don’t usually push a cordon back so far for a stiff.
123. JACOBY: This one’s the messiest I ever seen.
124. TONY: Okay, I’m warned. Let’s… Holy cow!
125. JACOBY: I told you.
126. TONY: (NARRATING) This wasn’t normal killer behavior.
(BEAT) This was the kind of thing that gave a man nightmares — even in a job that routinely dealt with the stuff nightmares were made from. The alley was strewn with an old man’s body parts. The internal organs had been spread about and the arms, legs, and head torn from the torso. It was all so haphazard. No rhyme or reason to it. Like whoever had done this had set to with the abandon of a child pulling the stuffing out of a cushion. Just flinging it everywhere.
(TO JACOBY) How many you think were in on it?
127. JACOBY: Can’t tell. The M.E. says the victim was pulled apart. No sign of knife or cutting.
128. TONY: But that’d mean…
129. JACOBY: Tell me about it. Our perpetrator was damn strong. Or attached the limbs to a car or something and pulled him apart.
130. TONY: Any sign of chains or ropes?
131. JACOBY: Nope.
132. TONY: Well, so much for that theory. Anybody see anything? I reckon whatever happened would have been pretty loud.
133. JACOBY: Unless the victim was unconscious when it happened.
134. TONY: Was he?
135. JACOBY: Nope.
136. TONY: So, did anyone see anything?
137. JACOBY: Nah, everyone was “asleep.” Nobody saw a thing.
138. TONY: Figures. What about up there? That looks like a kid’s bedroom. It’s right over where it happened.
139. JACOBY: Yeah. We already tried that. Nothing helpful.
140. TONY: Nothing helpful or nothing at all?
141. JACOBY: Nothing helpful. There was a kid alright. Seven, eight years old. She reckons she saw something but I reckon its trauma or some such.
142. TONY: What do you mean?
143. JACOBY: The kid claims she saw a monster.
144. TONY: What?
145. JACOBY: You heard me. A troll. Like in one of those fairy stories. Claims she saw it rip a little old man with a sword to shreds.
146. TONY: She thought the victim had a sword?
147. JACOBY: Yup!
148. TONY: And I take it there’s no sign of said sword.
149. JACOBY: Do you even have to ask?
150. TONY: I guess not. How old was the victim?
151. JACOBY: Early sixties by the look. It’s hard to tell. You want to take a closer look?
152. TONY: Nah! You’ve seen everything I would have. Could it be one of those ritual things?
153. JACOBY: Like that business last month with the Alligator Cult?
154. TONY: Yeah, something like that?
155. JACOBY: You like the weird ones, don’t you?
156. TONY: Just covering all the bases. Will you let me know what you find?
157. JACOBY: Yeah, sure. But you better take a look at this before you go.
158. TONY: What’s that?
159. JACOBY: It might be your cult connection.
160. TONY: (NARRATING) I stood looking down at a large white circle surrounded by odd symbols and drawn with chalk on the floor of the alley. At its center was something I’d seen somewhere before. A small gold locket identical to the one that Claire Templeton liked to wear, and an envelope with the words “Mr Frost” and “Coblynau’s pig sticker” scribbled on it. The left-hand side had been torn away.
161. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) NEUTRAL SCENE ENDER — LET IT FINISH
162. MUSIC:  (BRIDGE) CLOSING THEME — ESTABLISH, FADE UNDER, AND CREDITS.
CASTING SHEETS — MAJOR CHARACTERS
TONY WELLS: I’m a detective in a city full of liars, cheats, killers, and con-men. You’d think that would have made me a cynic. And I guess it has a little. But underneath the hard-boiled exterior, I actually give a damn. I do this job because I want to keep people safe from the animals and predators who roam the dark side of the city. I believe in heroes, or at least I want to believe in them. Right now I’m not the most popular detective on the force — the Commissioner’s got it in for me — but I would never have guessed how much more complicated my life is about to become.
CLAIRE TEMPLETON: I’m the crime reporter for the Star City Tribune. I know everyone in this town from the mayor down to the guys who pick up your garbage at four in the morning. I’m good at my job too, which is why I get myself into so many scrapes and tight corners. I’m fearless, determined, and always get my story — even when there’s no one with the courage to print it!
LAWRENCE JACOBY: My name’s Jacoby and I represent the law. As a detective I don’t make the rules but I do enforce ’em. And in a town full of lowlifes and creeps — some of whom carry a badge — that’s saying something. I’m also a friend of Tony Wells. He cuts corners and that gets him in trouble, but he’s good people and I’ll have his back when he needs it.
CASTING SHEETS — MINOR CHARACTERS
APARTMENT SUPERINTENDANT: I hate being woken up. I hate cops. So being woken up by a cop at three in the morning is not my idea of a great time. Best just to cooperate and get it over with.
LIEUTENANT: Heh! Wells is an okay guy, but the Commissioner has got it in for him. It’s my job to make his life as miserable as possible until the Commissioner says otherwise. I like Wells, but not enough to take a bullet for him. The Commissioner says Wells isn’t pulling enough night shifts and who am I to argue.
CASEY: I’m Casey, that’s what everyone calls me. They all think I’m stupid, but I know which side my bread is buttered on. The Commissioner and I are friends, yes we are. I tell him what’s going on with Wells and he promises I’ll get my pick of postings around the precinct. Not bad for a junior guy, no sir!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip Craig Robotham grew up in a house full of books and has held numerous jobs as a teacher, computer programmer, graphic and web designer, an e-learning consultant and, most recently, writer. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and two sons. When he was younger and fitter he enjoyed martial arts, but in recent years his hobbies have tended towards more sedate fare (board games, movies, books, and role-playing games).
He is extremely grateful for the encouragement he receives from his biggest fans — his wife and two boys — all of whom read and enjoy his scripts and in general make his life worth living.
You can contact the author regarding performance rights (or simply to say hello) through his website: https://www.weirdworldstudios.com.
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