216-“Cage at McNaab”

 

Directed by
Gary Nelson
Writing Credits
Gene Roddenberry     …     (written by)

Lon Chaney Jr. as O’Connor
Jacqueline Scott as Nora Larson
Christopher Dark as Brian LarsonBRIAN LARSON
Ford Rainey as Warden
George Keymas as First Guard
John Harmon as Trowbridge
David Fresco as Jose
Joe Yrigoyen as Second Guard

NORA LARSON
Can’t you say something? You just keep sitting there, reading it and reading it.
Can’t you say whether you can help us or whether…

PALADIN
Well, Mrs. Larson, I…I certainly don’t want to appear unsympathetic, but there’s nothing in these papers to indicate that your husband’s anything but guilty. He says the murder was committed by three other men. He refuses to identify them or describe them.

NORA LARSON
My husband is a fine man. He thought he was protecting friends.

PALADIN
You have made five appeals, all of which have been turned down finally.

NORA LARSON
And Brian’s been waiting 16 months to hang, thinking every day is going to be his last. If you’ll just talk to him, Mr. Paladin, you’ll know he’s telling the truth. You see…we have three weeks. Now, if someone can get those descriptions from him and find those men, there’s still time for a pardon.

PALADIN
Mm.

NORA LARSON
And you’re our only hope.

PALADIN
You sure I can see him tonight?

NORA LARSON
Mr. Trowbridge said he’d wait for you at the gate. He’s been the guard on Brian’s cell block ever since he was admitted. He knows he’s telling the truth. Would you like your thousand dollars in advance?

PALADIN
No, I think I’ll talk to your husband first.

EXT. PRISON – NIGHT

TROWBRIDGE
You keep them dogs quiet, Breed. Now, you get out of here. Go on, now.
Silencio, amigos!

PALADIN
Your name Trowbridge?

TROWBRIDGE
And supposing it was?

PALADIN
I’m here to talk to Larson.

TROWBRIDGE
The warden’s escape dogs. If you ever seen what they can do to a man, you’d be nervous, too.

PALADIN
Wait a minute. You taking me directly to the prisoner? Isn’t it customary to go through the warden’s office?

TROWBRIDGE
Well, now, that’s all been arranged.

PALADIN
How?

TROWBRIDGE
You listen to the prisoner’s story, and then you tell me if what I’m doing’s wrong, hmm? Well, I’ll go down and bring Larson up from solitary.

PALADIN
Oh?

TROWBRIDGE
Well, that’s, uh, prison regulation. All condemned prisoners are kept in solitary till the day before they hang.

PALADIN
Well, that does keep the staff from having to think about them, doesn’t it?

TROWBRIDGE
Now, now, it ain’t just that. It also stops chances for trouble. Once a man’s been checked in, nobody sees him again until he’s ready to be strung up. Course, with his wife fighting it like she has, Larson’s been locked up longer than most. Well…I’ll, uh…
Light! Light! Light!

TROWBRIDGE
Uh, now, talk quiet, Larson. No hollering, no yelling, nothing. After this long down in them dark holes, poor devils hardly know what they’re doing.

PALADIN
Larson…listen to me. Your wife has asked me to come here and…
I’d feel safer if he looked a little like me.

TROWBRIDGE
After near two years behind that beard, ain’t nobody gonna remember what you looked like. There’s a razor and water in that bucket there. Now, shake a leg.

PALADIN
Guard!

FIRST GUARD
Chop-chop, Larson.

PALADIN
Larson escaped last night with the aid of a guard, a guard named Trowbridge.

FIRST GUARD
Do you want this slop or not, Larson?

PALADIN
Do I look to you like a man who’s been in solitary confinement for over a year?

FIRST GUARD
You can save your breath. When Trowbridge quit this morning, he admitted everything to the warden.

PALADIN
What?! What did he admit?

FIRST GUARD
Look, do you want this slop or not?

PALADIN
No, I don’t want this slop! And if you don’t know what Larson looked like, then find somebody…Guard! Guard!

FIRST GUARD
Eh, they never quit trying, do they?

SECOND GUARD
Well, I got something out here that’ll keep him well occupied.

WARDEN
Larson hangs first, so we’ll get rid of him first.

FIRST GUARD
Mind your manners in front of the warden.

PALADIN
Warden…

SECOND GUARD
Shut up and stand there.

WARDEN
All right, prisoner…sit in the chair here.

PALADIN
Warden, my name is Paladin. I was hired by Mrs. Nora Larson to try and prove her husband’s innocence.

WARDEN
Quiet, please. Hmm. No malfunctions. Neck much heavier than average. Uh, tell them to figure the scaffold for a…seven-foot drop. Now, we’ll do all we can to make it easy for you, but we’ll expect you to cooperate. Those who do usually get a good stiff drink to steady their nerves. Oh, fear not.

PALADIN
Warden, last night at 9:00 I came into Larson’s cell. I was knocked unconscious!

WARDEN
Sit down!

PALADIN
Last week the Liberal Republicans nominated Greeley for president and Brown for vice president!

WARDEN
It won’t work, Larson.

FIRST GUARD
Sure do get desperate their last day, don’t they, Warden.

PALADIN
Mrs. Larson told me that this execution was not scheduled to take place for three…three weeks!

WARDEN
You know your appeal was turned down. Now, don’t start trying to fool yourself.
It’ll just make it all the harder in the morning. Harder on your wife, too.

PALADIN
Last May 22, the Amnesty Act for Confederate Soldiers was signed. Now, how would I know that? And a hundred other things I could tell you if I’ve been solitary confinement for over a year!

WARDEN
Sit down! Aim that at his legs! Now…we can carry you up those steps tomorrow if we have to. I must say, it was a clever plan, Larson…pretending to be an outsider, tricked into coming here.

FIRST GUARD
Trowbridge admitted to helping you plan this, ever since Warden Menlow here
came in new five months ago.

WARDEN
Since then you’ve been memorizing the information Trowbridge gave you. Your wife paid him to sneak extra food to put flesh on you. He even furnished you with a razor, helped trim your hair. Well, he confessed the whole story. Unusual plan. Yes, it was clever, but it didn’t work. Now, you’re going to hang in the morning, and you’ll feel much better if you just accept it like a man!

PALADIN
It was a clever plan, Warden. It was a clever plan, but it wasn’t mine. I believe I fully understand for the first time what MacKay meant when he said that those who try
to turn other human beings into senseless brutes end by being brutes themselves.

NORA LARSON
Brian? Brian, I…I tried so hard.

PALADIN
What do you want me to do? Want me to cry? Plead? You tell me what you want me to do, and…and I’ll try to do it.

NORA LARSON
I’m so sorry…that our plan didn’t work.

PALADIN
That’s not important. What is important is…conscience and memory. You will remember me, won’t you?

WARDEN
Oh, I’ve been through it so many times, Mrs. Larson. There seems to be so much to say, but, when the time comes, you find the right words just haven’t been invented.

PALADIN
Well, on that particularly apposite note, shall we part?

WARDEN
Well… I’m sorry you didn’t make it. My dogs have so little pleasure. Oh, with all this exercise, I guess we’ll just concede that O’Connor will take a big rope and a long drop, and let it go at that.

O’CONNOR
I know you ain’t Larson. What’s your real name?

PALADIN
Paladin.

O’CONNOR
Well, you ain’t very smart, Paladin.

PALADIN
No, I’m not.

O’CONNOR
Well, neither am I. I suppose they told you already, they’re gonna hang me tomorrow morning, too. Well, they ain’t got no right to hang me. That fella I killed…he robbed me. He done it on purpose. He knew what’d happen if he robbed me! They know it, too! They said I’m dumb. I heard ’em. Well, you ain’t even the right man, and they’re so dumb, they don’t even know it! I know it! They ought to know it, too! It ain’t right! It ain’t right, I tell you. I tell you, it ain’t right! It ain’t right! Warden! Do you hear me?!

PALADIN
They can’t hear you, O’Connor. If they could, they wouldn’t pay any attention.

O’CONNOR
Well, I ain’t gonna let ’em do it. I ain’t gonna let ’em hang me. I ain’t gonna let ’em hang me. I…I ain’t gonna let ’em. I…

PALADIN
What’s out there?

O’CONNOR
Now… now you can see what happens when…when I get riled. Maybe they ain’t so dumb…keeping me locked in here…where people and things can’t rob me. It ain’t that I like it that way. All I want to be…is outside, where the wind is fresh and clean, and everybody just let me be.

PALADIN
What’s out there?

O’CONNOR
Outside…where the wind is fresh… clean. Oh, it-it’s…It’s only about a 12-foot drop.

PALADIN
Come on. Come on!

O’CONNOR
I just wasn’t built to go through a little place like that. And besides, with these things on, I couldn’t make much speed. And I ain’t gonna be a square meal for them hounds.
I think you better hurry. You got to get a lot of distance between you and here
before they find out you’re gone. Why, them hounds would tear you to pieces.
Now hurry up. And good luck, Paladin.

PALADIN
O’Connor…I thank you.

BRIAN LARSON
Ah…Oh…It was you. When I heard them dogs, I started praying it was you
that got out.

PALADIN
You killed Trowbridge, and now you do this to your wife… why?

BRIAN LARSON
Why? All of a sudden, she turns soft. She wanted to send word to them in time to save you from hanging. It would have spoiled everything. I tried to explain to her that…that you had to die. That way, I’m safe. Safe forever!

NORA LARSON
Brian, please…

BRIAN LARSON
If you loved me, if you really loved me, you’d have been happy to see ten men buried in my place, but no. She was fidgety, like Trowbridge. Weren’t you? Weren’t you?! Weren’t you?! Yeah. Yeah, see, the way it works out now, you couldn’t have helped me more than by getting out. They’ll figure that you killed Trowbridge to shut his mouth, and then, you killed your wife, because, well, because, uh…For whatever reason they want to come up with! And me? Well, I’m just a stranger that chanced by in time to kill you, a convict and a…and a murderer. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Perfect, huh?

PALADIN
Larson, you hear those dogs? You hear ’em? If those dogs get in here, you’ll die with us.
My scent’s on those clothes that you’re wearing, and that’s what they’re trailing.

NORA LARSON
Run!

NORA LARSON
I guess…I loved him too much. How can a thing that…that seems so good turn out to be so bad?

PALADIN
I don’t know, Mrs. Larson. Maybe it’s that love itself is neither beautiful nor ugly.
Maybe the answer lies in how we use it.

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