Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sandman Mystery Theatre #19 (Oct 1994)

Sandman Mystery Theatre #19: "The Scorpion" Act Three
Written by Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle
Art by Guy Davis
Colors by David Hornung
Letters by John Costanza
Edited by Shelly Roeberg and Karen Berger
Cover by Gavin Wilson

Curtain up.

Judge Thomas Schaffer visits District Attorney Belmont's home, only to find the D.A. is away while his daughter, Dian, is home reading Chaucer.  Dian and the Judge chat about their mutual friend, Wesley Dodds, with Dian assuring Schaffer that her boyfriend is a perfectly normal person.

At the same time, Perfectly Normal Wesley Dodds is ambushed in his bedroom by the masked murderer known as The Scorpion!

While the Scorpion continues to monologue about why Wesley deserves this awful death, Wes makes a desperate run for the secret door leading to his lair.  Alas, he's too slow the the Scorpion's poison-tipped whip lashes over Wesley's shoulder and tears into his chest.

The Scorpion bids his latest victim "happy trails" and escapes out the window.  Wesley collapses to the floor as the fast-acting toxin works through his system.  He frantically fumbles with his jacket, feeling the pain and fear of encroaching death.  He regrets not telling Dian the truth about everything while scrambling for a vial of the scorpion venom antidote we saw him create last issue.  He manages to inject the antidote into his arm just as his faithful manservant Humphries enters the room.

The next day, Cassandra Cutler goes to the office to speak to her father.  She's suitably concerned for her father after two of his business partners have been murdered in the last week, and because the deal they worked so hard to lock down seems to be falling apart with Wesley Dodds' investment.  At that point, Cassandra's partner and suitor, the Texas-born Terry Stetson, joins the meeting.  Terry had stormed off the night before, furious that Dodds pulled out on them.  When he comes back the next day, he says he met with Dodds later the night before and considers him a "dead end".  Hmm... that's a little suspicious.

Before they can decide on a new course of action, Police Lieutenant Burke comes in to ask Cutler some questions about his company regarding the dead partners.  Picking up on the western theme of the killer, he's looking into the company's oil fields in the southwest--the same area that Terry hails from coincidentally.  Burke asks them about the Scorpion brand on the wall, and Terry seems a bit disdainful of the lieutenant.

Wesley makes up yet another lame story for his infirmity, this time blaming it on indigestion from bad oysters.  But when Dian notices the dressing covering wounded chest, he doubles down on the lie, saying the oysters made him pass out in the shower and he cut himself on the faucet.  I would expect Dian to be a lot less credulous than she is in this scene; I guess, perhaps, because she is in love with him she's more willing to believe a ludicrous story.  But lest we forget Dian's fierce curiosity and budding detective skills, she does notice the brand of the Scorpion on the windowsill.

At the Cutler business offices, Terry Stetson stops by Cassandra's office to ask for another date.  She says she's way too busy in light of the murders and Wesley pulling out of their deal, but then her assistant tells her that Wesley called her office.  Terry is quite surprised by Wesley's call.

Cassandra returns the call and hears Wesley say that he wants another meeting with her father.  He'll arrange the time and place later when he comes back from Philadelphia. As Cassandra relates all of this back to Terry, the Texan's displeasure grows more visible.  Other than Wesley's apparent flakiness, why would Terry object to Wesley and Cutler taking another meeting?  Unless something else is bothering Terry.

Elsewhere, Dian Belmont goes home and finds her father, the D.A., asleep on the couch.  To pass the time, she reads the newspaper and learns about the murders of Dechert and Rummel, two of the businessmen she met a few nights earlier at the fundraising benefit featuring Wild West star Buster Calhoun.  Dian's father wakes up and joins her in the kitchen, filling in some of the details about the murder mystery, but the mention of the Scorpion piques her interest.

Lieutenant Burke returns to where his men are running surveillance on the last of Cutler's partners.  They overhear a drunken Buster Calhoun calling and threatening Lane.

Meanwhile, Dian calls Wesley only to have Humphries tell her that her boyfriend has gone to bed.  She's a lot more incredulous now that's heard about the Scorpion.

At the Cutler offices, Cassandra advises her father to sound less pushy and desperate when he meets Wesley than Terry Stetson did when they met.  Cutler and Cassandra exchange enough little notes about Terry to reveal that he's actively trying to learn the time and place of the Dodds meeting, despite being all-but told not to get involved.

Across town, Lieutenant Burke and one of his detectives follow Buster Calhoun to his apartment.  Burke tells his man to climb up the fire escape and find out what's going on.  The detective sees the shadow of Buster whipping someone inside and they spring into action.  Burke races up the stairs and kicks in the door.

In his secret lair, Wesley uses his audio surveillance to listen in on the cops at Calhoun's place.  They realize he's got some problems but he's not the Scorpion.  As he prepares his Sandman costume, he agonizes over the lies he must tell Dian to keep this part of his life secret.  He doesn't think he can maintain the facade for much longer.

Cassandra Cutler finds Terry Stetson coming out of her father's office.  He makes up a story about dropping off some reports, but she doesn't look like she's buying it.  When she leaves to speak with her receptionist, she bumps into Dian Belmont waiting outside her office.

Without saying more to compromise her position in the company, Cassandra does admit to Dian that she has some suspicions about the murders.

That night, the elder Cutler is met outside his office by Humphries, who drives him to the hotel to meet Wesley.  Cutler pours himself a drink and tells Wes all about the day's annoyances, including Burke's questions.

This issue seems to eliminate Buster Calhoun as a suspect while doing anything and everything to make Terry Stetson look shifty and suspicious.  If he's not the Scorpion--and I don't know who else could be that won't be completely out of nowhere--he's definitely got some skeletons in his closet.

Wesley is feeling the guilt and weight of lying to Dian, which is good because she's seeing through his deceptions.  The collision course of her sleuthing and his vigilantism is coming to a boil and hopefully, the climactic chapter of this story arc will bring their relationship to a new level, both as lovers, and as crime fighters.

Come back next week for the final act of "The Scorpion"...


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