Ruthe Wheeler.

Janet Hardy in Radio City





The trio had lunch together that noon, and returned immediately to the studio, where rehearsals continued into the afternoon and at the close of the day the director rather grudgingly conceded that the company had made excellent progress.

Be here tomorrow sharply at nine, he cautioned as he dismissed them for the day.

Members of the company scattered quickly, some of them hurrying away to catch trains for their suburban homes.

Janet, Helen, and Curt Newsom walked slowly toward the elevators. The corridor down which they walked was practically deserted for none of the studios flanking it were in use. They entered the main lobby of the World Broadcasting Company office. From a loudspeaker on the reception desk came the voice of a world-famous crooner which Helen recognized instantly.

Thats a program Id like to see, she told Curt.

Come on, then. Now that we are members of a radio company, we ought to be able to crash the gates.

The cowboy star inquired the way to the proper studio and they turned and walked down a long corridor to Studio A, the largest and most costly of all of the broadcasting rooms of the World Company. It was like a little theater, with sloping seats and a stage upon which the performers worked before the microphone. At the back was a large orchestra, while up to the front of the stage the famous crooner was singing into a mike.

Why, he doesnt look at all like I thought he would, exclaimed Helen as they peered through the plate glass windows which flanked one wall of the studio. Hes much older.

Many of us are disillusioned about our heroes and heroines, said Curt quietly. Lets eat. Id like a steak.

Sounds good to me, agreed Janet, and even Helen was willing to leave the studio after another minute or two of gazing at the crooner.

They ate in a small but attractive restaurant off Sixth Avenue and after a leisurely meal Curt hurried away to keep an appointment and Janet and Helen, though tired from the long days grind of rehearsals, strolled over to Fifth Avenue to look into shop windows. After half an hour on the avenue, they started back to their Times Square hotel, heading west on one of New Yorks dark and little-frequented cross streets.

They were halfway down the long, dimly lit block when Helen seized Janets arm.

Someones following us! she whispered.

Chapter Twenty-two
SHADOWED!

Despite Helens whisper of warning, Janet never missed a stride. If anything, she quickened her pace.

Keep up with me, she replied, and dont look around.

From somewhere behind Janet could hear steady footfalls that quickened as they walked faster.

Are you sure someone is following us? asked Janet.

Positive, replied Helen. There was someone back of us on the avenue and he turned onto this street right after we did.

But it must be coincidence, insisted Janet.

But remember what Curt said about our knowing too much of the mysterious events that went on during the last days of the filming of Kings of the Air, said Helen.

He warned us to watch out.

There was no answer to that for Curt had warned them and Janet was glad that they were near the bright lights of Broadway. She felt safer now. As the noise of that great artery of traffic deepened, they slowed their pace and Janet turned and looked around.

There was no one on the street behind them. She grasped Helens arm and both girls stopped.

Theres no one following us, smiled Janet. It was just imagination.

It wasnt imagination and you know it, declared Helen. Whoever it was could easily have slipped into a doorway. Maybe hes watching us this very moment.

Janet felt a shiver of nervousness race along her spine. It was not pleasant to think of being shadowed, especially in New York where there were so many people and so few friends.

They turned into Times Square and entered the lobby of their hotel. At the desk they inquired for mail and each received letters from home.

Once up in the privacy of their rooms, they undressed, slipped into comfortable pajamas and dressing gowns, and read their letters. There was little actual news from Clarion, but just hearing from their fathers and mothers was nice.

Dad is anxious to hear the first part of the program, said Helen as she finished her letter. He says theyll all be over at our house grouped around the radio when we go on.

Nervous about it? asked Janet.

Not particularly about the program, but theres something about the whole thing that has me uncertain. The company seems to be on edge as though there was some danger hanging over the heads of everyone.

Perhaps talk about the trouble on the coast has reached them, suggested Janet.

That may be. But Im so anxious for the program to be a success. This picture has meant so much to Dad; its the air epic that he has wanted to do for years. If it goes over in a big way, the Ace Company will renew his contract for a substantial time and give him a big increase in salary.

Shortly after that they retired and both girls slept soundly.

Next day at the studio the pressure was on again and Director Adolphi whipped them through the rehearsals at a terrific pace. Several changes in script were necessary and the director sent a page to the scenario department on the run. He returned in a few minutes with Jim Hill, the writer who had handled the continuity for the radio play.

Listen, Jim, he snapped. This sequence is punk. It will fall flat on the air and too much money is being spent on this program. Get some punch into this or Ill see that another writer gets the job.

Jim Hill was tall, lean and pleasant, with dark eyes that shot back sparks at the directors criticism.

You okayed this script once, he reminded Adolphi, but Ill see what I can do about it.

Dark, pretty Rachel Nesbit stepped forward.

Im pretty good at that sort of thing, she declared, flashing a winning smile at Jim Hill. Perhaps I could help on the rewriting.

The continuity writer looked at her glumly.

Your stuff is all right for lighter things, but this is straight action drama, he said shaking his head.

But I can at least try, insisted Rachel, and the worried continuity writer finally acceded to her insistent requests. He left the studio with Rachel accompanying him.

Janet turned to Curt Newsom.

I thought all of the work on this script was being handled with the utmost precaution and that no one outside was to do anything on it?

I guess thats right, but Rachel can hardly be called an outsider since she belongs to the studios stock company.

But she sells some of her radio skits free lance, insisted Janet.

Thats right, agreed Curt. I hadnt thought of that.

He hastened over to Director Adolphi.

No one with any outside contacts is supposed to work on this script or in the company, he told the director.

Thats right, replied Mr. Adolphi. Theres an iron-clad contract with the Ace Motion Picture Corporation to that effect.

Then youd better get Rachel back here. Shell read the rest of the script and know what the final broadcast will be.

Oh, but Rachels all right. Of course she does a little free lance stuff, but she can be depended upon.

Im not arguing that point, said Curt firmly. Im just telling you to get Rachel back here unless you want a violation of your contract reported to the Ace Company.

I didnt think youd stoop to such a dirty trick, sneered the radio director.

You dont even need to think, snapped Curt, his eyes flashing. You just live up to the agreements of that contract and youll have no more trouble.

With his temper considerably ruffled, Mr. Adolphi left the studio and other members of the company stared wide-eyed at the husky cowboy star for most of them held their director in awe, but Curt had spoken firmly and there had been nothing else for Adolphi to do unless he violated the contract.

He returned to the studio in less than five minutes with Rachel Nesbit at his heels. The minute she entered the room, she rushed toward Janet, her hands clenched and her eyes snapping sparks of anger.

Youre responsible for this insult, she stormed at Janet. Id like to step on you.

Oh, calm down, Rachel, said the director. It was this skinny cowboy who started the trouble.

The radio actress and continuity writer whirled toward Curt Newsom.

Go ahead and step on me, he grinned, and a titter of giggles ran through the rest of the company.

Rachels dark cheeks flamed anew with anger, but she kept her tongue and turned away in silence.

The rehearsal continued. They were getting well along in the production and Janet felt that it was going smoothly. It was a condensed version of the real story of Kings of the Air and so to Janet and Helen it was familiar material.

Promptly at noon the director stopped the rehearsal.

Half an hour for lunch, he announced and the company scattered at once.

Janet and Helen walked down the long corridor to the reception room where a hurrying figure almost bumped into them.

It was Jim Hill, the continuity writer. He stopped suddenly and his face lighted up as he recognized them.

Just the girls Im looking for! he exclaimed. Lunch time?

Janet nodded.

Then have lunch with me, and before they could remonstrate, he hurried them toward the elevator and they dropped downward with a suddenness that always unnerved Janet.

Chapter Twenty-three
JANET PINCH HITS

Janet and Helen found that Jim Hill was extremely pleasant and likeable, but he appeared to be laboring under some severe nervous strain and Janet noticed that his hands shook when he picked up a glass of milk.

This script for your broadcast has about got me down, he confessed. Ive got to keep lots of punch in the action and yet I cant give away the actual plot of the film. On top of that old Adolphi is a regular crab and it doesnt seem like anything will suit him. This whole show of yours has to be okayed Saturday night by the Ace film people and if they dont like it they can cancel out and give it to another company.

Is there any danger of that? asked Janet.

Ill say there is. This is a juicy contract and two other chains would like to get it on their networks. Believe me, there is some intense rivalry in getting big contracts like this. Why the Acme and the Sky High chains would be willing to pay a large sum just to see us fizzle the rehearsal Saturday night.

Janet was silent for a time. She had sensed the tension in the studio without knowing exactly what was behind it. Now she knew what was wrong.

Jim Hill was speaking again.

Both of you girls are from the original film company on the coast, arent you? he asked.

Helen nodded in agreement.

Then perhaps you would have some suggestions that might help me out of this tangle, suggested the continuity writer.

Mr. Adolphi suggested that several days ago and I worked one whole afternoon on it, but someone stole the manuscript I had finished out of my room, explained Janet.

Jim whistled softly to himself.

So thats how it stands. Janet and Helen werent sure whether he was talking to them or to himself.

The continuity writer pushed back his chair and stared at them appraisingly.

I wish youd help me and Ill promise that your script wont be stolen from your hotel room. What do you say?

Janet looked at Helen, and her companion nodded approvingly. The decision was easy to make for Jim was likeable and both of the girls wanted the broadcast to be a success.

All right, well do it, said Janet.

You mean youll do it, Helen corrected her. Im not good as a writer and you can fairly make a typewriter talk. Ill just hang around and give you whatever advice I can and try not to be a nuisance.

Say, thats great, said the continuity writer. When can you begin?

As soon as we are through rehearsing this afternoon, promised Janet.

How long will it take?

I dont know, she confessed. Radio continuity is something new for me. Ill simply do the rough stuff and youll have to smooth it over.

Then suppose you come to my office as soon as youre through and you can work right on into the evening. Helen and I will see that you are well supplied with coffee, sandwiches and whatever you want in the way of eats.

Ill be there, promised Janet. Now weve got to get back to the studio.

At rehearsal that afternoon neither their director nor Rachel Nesbit were in a good mood and Rachel made it obvious that despite Curts explanation she still blamed Janet and Helen for being taken off the continuity work on the script.

It was the chance of a lifetime, Janet overheard her telling another girl in the company. What if there is a clause about keeping the script secret. Id know it as soon as the final chapter is placed in the hands of the company for rehearsal.

But we wont get the final chapter until Saturday afternoon, replied the other. Theyre taking no chances about any leaks on this program so any of the other companies can interfere with their contract for this big film broadcast.

Janet had no idea just how much the broadcast of their program would mean to the World Broadcasting Company, but from all the talk in the studio, she knew that it must be an exceedingly large sum. The vice president in charge of programs dropped into the studio that afternoon and watched them work for over an hour. At the end of that time, when the director called a brief recess, Janet saw him conferring with Mr. Adolphi. Whatever passed between them evidently was not pleasant to the director for he called them back at once and they started all over again, the director driving them with an intensity that approached a white-hot fury.

At last the rehearsal was over and most of them were completely worn out. Janet, fortunately, had been spared most of the directors criticism while poor Helen had come in for several bitter attacks from him.

Im going on to the hotel, take a shower and crawl into bed, said Helen. Another day like this will put me in bed for a week.

Ill be along later, said Janet. Get the mail at the desk and if there are any letters for me, leave them on my bed.

They parted, Helen taking the elevator down and Janet turning toward the suite of rooms where the continuity writers worked. At the end of a long corridor, she found Jim Hills office, a tiny cubby that contained only a desk, chair and typewriter stand.

I thought youd forgotten all about this writing date, said Jim, looking up. Ive patched up the sequence that Adolphi objected to this afternoon, but Im still in a mess over the last episode. Its got to carry a lot of punch and this is the chapter weve got to guard until the last afternoon of rehearsal. There are more leaks in a big studio like this than you can shake a fist at.

But who would give away this information? asked Janet.

Thats not hard to guess, replied Jim. It could be someone jealous of another member of the company, or someone who wanted a job with another broadcasting outfit and who figured that by double crossing his or her present employer, a better job could be obtained.

Jim stood up and motioned for Janet to take his place at the typewriter. Briefly he explained what he had been trying to work out and Janet thought his ideas sounded good. But somewhere the winning punch was lacking.

She scanned the last pages of script which he had written. Then she rolled a fresh sheet of copy paper into the typewriter and started work. A new interest took possession of her and the fatigue of the day dropped away as she got into the swing of the writing.

Chapter Twenty-four
NIGHT ON THE TWENTY-SEVENTH FLOOR

Jim Hill peered over her shoulder for a time. Then satisfied at the work she was doing, he slipped away and went in quest of a basket of lunch. It was nearly half an hour before he returned and by that time Janet had completed two pages of manuscript.

Jim laid the lunch out on his desk and while Janet munched a thick, cold meat sandwich and quaffed a glass of cold milk, he read the pages with real care.

Say, this is just the stuff my script lacked, enthused the continuity writer. My gosh, Janet, you ought to be on the staff here. We pay money for fresh ideas like these.

Janet stopped munching the sandwich and looked at Jim Hill with real interest.

You actually think it is good? she asked.

Ill say its good. Of course a lot of work has to be done to put it in finished form, but youve got the meat of it here. Im going to take this down to McGregor. Hes still in his office.

Before Janet could ask about McGregor and who he was, Jim Hill picked up the manuscript and his own work and fled down the hall.

When he returned ten minutes later a square hulk of a man, who had thick pompadour hair and peered through thick lensed glasses, followed him into his office.

Janet, said the younger writer, I want you to know Mr. McGregor, who is head of our continuity department. I showed him your manuscript and he agrees with me that it is just what we want for the final episode in the program for Ace Pictures. Can you go on working tonight? Weve got to have the finished draft in the morning.

There was a dire appeal in young Jim Hills eyes. Janet couldnt have ignored that and then Mr. McGregor spoke.

It is extremely important that we have the Ace contract, he said in his slow, precise way. Other companies are also anxious for it and if our dress rehearsal Saturday night fails to meet the approval of the Ace officials, we may lose the contract, which would then go to one of our rivals. We are none too sure but what they have certain people within our own staff who might sell them some of our secrets about this program.

I know the situation, said Janet. Im tired, but Ill keep on until I either go to sleep or am through.

Mr. McGregor smiled approvingly and Jim Hill felt like shouting.

Thats splendid, said the continuity chief. Im going to send Jim along to bed. Hes to report here early tomorrow morning to start the rewriting of your story. You keep on as long as you can. When you are through you can lock the script in the right hand drawer of Jims desk. Here is a key for you and Jim has one already.

The head of the continuity department departed and Jim Hill lingered on for a minute or two.

Want some more lunch? he asked.

Janet, who had turned back to her typewriter, shook her head.

How about a cup of coffee to keep you awake a while longer? I dont want you to go to sleep before you get this material hashed out for me.

Go on, Jim. Ill get along all right. It wont take long now if Im not interrupted.

Jim Hill took the hint and departed quietly and Janet continued with her work. It was something she thoroughly enjoyed doing. This writing was creating something out of whole cloth. Of course it would have to have a special revision by Jim tomorrow to work it into the script, but when it finally went on the air there would still be a lot of her material in the radio play.

Janet worked for more than half an hour and then leaned back in her chair for her arms ached and her eyes were blurred.

The studio was strangely silent. From somewhere at a distance came the soft strains of an orchestra but there was no sound in the corridor where the writers offices were located.

Janet picked up the sheets of copy she had written and scanned the material. She smiled a bit as she read it and admitted that it did real well.

Placing the sheets back on the desk, she inserted a fresh page of copy paper into the typewriter. She would be through in a few more minutes. She glanced at her wrist watch before she started in again. It was eleven-forty. By midnight she would be through.

Janet was about to resume her work when a queer sensation started at the base of her spine and shot up her back. It was a feeling she couldnt quite describe and she sat perfectly motionless for several seconds.

Through her mind shot the thought that someone was watching her, peering at her from the darkness of the long corridor.

Janet turned suddenly, but there was no one behind her. She got up and went to the door where she could look down the corridor, but there was no one in sight. The office across the corridor from Jims was dark and the windows only mirrored the shadowy depths.

Despite the fact that she saw no one, Janet was not wholly reassured and she looked about Jims office. There were shades at the windows and the door which could be pulled down and she closed the door and drew all of the curtains. Before returning to the desk, she snapped the spring lock on the door. That done, she went back to the typewriter, but it was hard to concentrate now.

Janet forced herself to the task. She knew she must finish and at last got into the mood of her script again, working now at high speed and wholly forgetful of the strange feeling which had alarmed her.

Somewhere in the distance a bell tolled midnight as she finished the last page and pulled it triumphantly from the typewriter. The job was done and she felt that it was well done.





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