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Firefall Recap

"It was here that began one of the most terrifying experiences of my life." Carl says, dictating from the back seat of a car. Reminiscing about the penny arcades, he then tells the tale of Frankie Markoff, convicted arsonist.

September 3, 1 a.m.: Markoff is shot by two thugs at Rabino's Arcade while playing a game of pinball. We then see a funeral procession. Ryder Bond, "musical prodigy at 14, internationally respected conductor at 40, a gifted man with a nearly fatal devotion to punctuality," cuts across the path of the procession.

September 7, 6:40 p.m. George Mason, First Violinist and Concert Master of the Great Lakes Symphony, is taking a pre-concert nap in his lakeshore apartment. As he dozes off, clouds of smoke erupt and Mason is reduced to a blackened corpse. Outside the apartment, Miss Sherman and her dog Randall are startled by the appearance of a ghostly figure who looks like Ryder Bond.

Kolchak is driving through Chicago when he hears of Mason's death on the police scanner. Other reporters are already there, but are being given the runaround by Sgt. Mayer. Mayer says Mason died because he was smoking in bed, then clears the room. Kolchak sees Miss Sherman entering with her dog, and barges in. Miss Sherman is giving her statement that she was outside Mason's apartment at exactly 6:45. Kolchak attempts to butter up Miss Sherman by expressing interest in her dog. Randall can't stand him, but Sherman warms up. Before Carl can get more information, Mayer has him escorted out of the apartment. However, Carl delays long enough to overhear Sherman say she can describe a man she saw outside the apartment. He waits for her outside. She is initially slightly leery of him because of Mayer. "He certainly takes a dim view of you." "Well, he's a little dim witted anyway." Sherman identifies Ryder Bond as the man she saw.

Kolchak heads for the concert hall where Bond is performing, trying to get to the conductor before Mayer. Going to Bond's dressing room, Kolchak breaks the news of Mason's death. Bond appears genuinely upset, but initially refuses to tell Carl his whereabouts at the time of Mason's death. Bond is further confused when a stagehand informs him he gave Bond the call about Mason's death fifteen minutes earlier. Bond says he was in his dressing room for the last two hours with his protégé, Felicia Porter. However, the stage manager, Philip, says plenty of people saw him give Bond the message. Before Carl can investigate further, Mayer arrives, interrupting the exchange.

At INS, Monique Marmelstein is working on the crossword because Miss Cowles is out sick. Vincenzo is upset that Carl is still on page one of his assigned story on home owner's fraud. Carl is disturbed because the fire that killed Mason should have incinerated the apartment. Tony launches into a tirade on home owner scams. Much to Carl's amusement, Vincenzo eventually admits he was taken in by a fumigation scam. Ron Updyke is upset about hearing of Bond's possible involvement in a murder, and feels he should be called upon if anything happens, noting, "Remember, I have a musical background. I played French horn." Carl mutters, "I would have guessed that."

September 8, Patterson Tower Apartments, Felicia Porter, Bond's protégé, is swimming in the rooftop pool. She catches several fleeting glimpses of Ryder Bond, then dozes off in her pool chair and is incinerated. A couple comes out and sees her charred body. Kolchak arrives at the scene, where Mayer is talking to the couple. The woman says she thought she caught a glimpse of a man matching the description Carl gives her of Ryder Bond. Mayer is angry at Carl's interference, but can't account for the flaws in his theory that a drunken Porter dropped a cigarette and immolated herself while somehow leaving the pool chair's mattress untouched.

Back at INS, Ron convinces Tony to confront Carl over the unassigned piece he is doing on Bond. Carl's story all but accuses Bond of murder. Tony says Carl should know better. Carl is unable to account for the discrepancy between the eyewitnesses who place Bond at the scenes of the deaths, and the testimony that accounts for Bond's presence elsewhere at the same times. Tony rips up the story, saying, "When you get back to the swindle and fraud stories, tell them about your employment here, which is one of the biggest swindles in memory!"

Carl goes to a fire-safety laboratory, and talks with a Mr. Cardinale. After listening to a discourse on the flammability of Christmas trees, Kolchak asks Cardinale what temperature is required to incinerate a human body in 10 15 seconds, and what substance could generate such temperatures. Cardinale is unable to account for any such substance except for the possibility of a top-secret experimental military chemical.

September 9, 5:30 p.m. Kolchak goes to confront Bond during an afternoon performance. He sees Bond leave in a car driven by Philip Randolph Rourke, treasurer and secretary of the Great Lakes Symphony. Carl follows, only to fall behind at a stoplight. He catches up to the car, finding the police already there. Rourke is incinerated, but Bond has vanished. Carl returns to the concert hall, only to find Bond well into the performance.

That evening, Carl goes to Bond's apartment. Bond silently lets him in. Carl expresses his condolences then starts to ask some questions. When he isn't looking, Bond vanishes. The only place Bond could have gone is into the bedroom. When Carl enters, the doors slam shut and the room bursts into flames. Carl just manages to escape.

In voiceover, Carl relates how he visited with academicians, who told him he could be dealing with "a doppelganger, the destructive ghost of someone dead who takes on the appearance of one who is alive." After looking through some parapsychology books, Carl meets with Maria, a gypsy fortune teller at a tea room. She is "in conference" with two women, but notes to them as Carl arrives, "Should your paths cross that of a lying reporter, don't tell him anything, particularly about any robberies you may have seen. He will quote you, then mysteriously police will arrive at your door." Carl apologizes, noting that he got her off the hook with the police. Now he needs a favor, telling her about the doppelganger. Maria is amused, then reiterates the explanation Carl already has, noting the spirit takes over someone it envies. She wonders, "What spirit would envy you?" Maria explains that the doppelganger can only take final control of Bond when he sleeps, and it will kill Carl as well when he dozes off. She notes the spirit can't operate on sanctified ground. She vaguely recalls that one can destroy a doppelganger by finding out who the spirit is, getting the earthly remains, and forcing the body and spirit together. Carl wants more details, and Maria says she will have to check with her grandmother for more information, and wants $200 to do so. Carl is down to $5, and she notes, "It's just terrible to be broke and superstitious at the same time." If Kolchak doesn't pay, she'll put a gypsy curse on him involving her brother Vincent and his karate lessons. "That kind of curse I understand."

At the recital hall, Bond is practicing on the piano. Bond sees Carl in the shadows and at first thinks Carl is the ghost. Carl explains about the doppelganger, but Bond is skeptical. Carl relates a series of deaths by spontaneous combustion. Bond reluctantly accepts the truth, and is further convinced when the piano comes to life and begins vibrating wildly. The two flee to a church. In voiceover, we're told how Kolchak and Bond go over the conductor's path on the day of Mason's death, and how he crossed a funeral procession which could have come from only one cemetery.

At INS, Carl goes through the records, having come up with Frankie Markoff's name from the cemetery. Despite Ron's filing system (Markoff's file is under A, for Arson), he manages to locate the information he needs indicating Markoff's occupation, where he lived, and how he died.

Next, Carl meets with Markoff's widow. She doesn't know what her husband did for a living, despite having been married to the man for six years. She does know his one interest was not his son, but rather classical music. She relates how he liked to pretend he was a conductor. Carl departs while Markoff's son, taking after his father, starts setting small fires in the apartment.

Carl visits Rabino's Arcade. The owner notes Markoff was the "Jim Thorpe of Pinball." Carl eventually convinces the man to show him where Markoff died. As he leaves, Carl spots Markoff as Bond and beats a hasty retreat.

At INS, a sleep-deprived Carl is desperately breaking into the petty cash box for Maria's $200. Monique interrupts him, offering to loan him the money or at least the services of her brother, a rabbi. Kolchak gets the box open and tells Monique to get the money to Maria. She hides the money as Tony and Ron arrive. Carl has been up for 52 hours, and is now rifling Ron's desk for caffeine pills. He collapses, and his co workers try to get him to go to sleep on Tony's couch. A phone call from the father at the church just stops him from dozing off. Carl leaves just before Tony discovers the missing petty cash.

Carl arrives at the church. Sgt. Mayer and a uniformed officer look on as Bond's physician, Dr. Shropell, tries to convince the conductor to leave. The doppelganger (only visible to Kolchak and Bond) is lurking outside the church windows, keeping Bond awake. Mayer has no reason to arrest Bond, and Kolchak warns the conductor that if he goes to a hospital, they'll give him a sedative. Bond chooses to stay. They try to get some rest.

Carl gets some fitful rest, but eventually leaves to dig up Markoff's body. Kolchak takes the body to the closed arcade. Breaking in, he dumps the body at the spot where Markoff was shot. The lights come on, and Markoff as Bond appears. As the arcade ignites into flames, Carl tells the spirit it will never be Ryder Bond, and commands it to return to its body. The doppelganger reverts in appearance back to Markoff, then merges with its body. As Carl escapes the burning arcade, a policeman takes him away as the place explodes. As the fire engines arrive, we return to Carl recording his story in the back seat of a police car. The police are holding him on an arson charge, and eventually he'll have to get Vincenzo to bail him out. However, for now, "I think I'll just spend a nice good night's sleep in the slammer."

Written by Gadfly on Nov 30, 2015

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