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Title: Lady in Danger
Author: Malcolm (Max) Afford
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1203991.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2012
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Lady in Danger
Author: Malcolm (Max) Afford


*


LADY IN DANGER
(A comedy-thriller)
by Malcolm (Max) Afford

1942



BILL SEFTON A journalist
MONICA, his wife (also a writer)
MRS. IDAMAE LAMPREY their landlady
DR. GILBERT NORTON a neighbour
SYLVIA MEADE (hat and gloves)
ANDREW MEADE (thin, untidy man in his mid-thirties, fellow journalist to Bill)
DETECTIVE DENNIS MARSH
CONSTABLE POGSON
CHIEF INSPECTOR WILLIAM BURKE (fifties, formal)
CORPSE (non-acting)
CAT (soft toy)


*


ACT ONE

SCENE 1

The entire action of the play takes place in the living room of the flat
of BILL and MONICA SEFTON in South Kensington, London. This is a
comfortable and well-furnished room on the ground floor. The rear wall
has two windows, curtained in chintzes and overlooking a small back
garden. Under the left-hand window is a dining room table and chairs.
Under the right window, a small desk on which stands a portable
typewriter and reference books. Centre stage, between the windows, a
tall built-in cupboard. Entrance to the flat is in the right-hand
corner. Curtains screen a small entrance hall. Down right stands a TV
cabinet and top a telephone. Up left an entrance to the bedroom. Up
right the entrance to the kitchen. Other necessary furnishings are an
old-fashioned sideboard with drawers, a divan, and several chairs. On
the walls are a number of good prints.

When the curtain rises, the room is empty. It is about nine o'clock of a
warm summer's evening. Both windows are partly open and a breeze
flutters the curtains. At the desk, a piece of paper has been placed in
the typewriter and the chair is pushed back as though someone has risen
hurriedly. After a pause, the hall door opens. BILL SEFTON, a stocky
athletic young man in his mid-twenties enters the living room. He is
carrying a number of small parcels, some in brown paper, some in tissue.
He crosses to the table and puts them down.

*

BILL (calling): I couldn't get any milk! (No answer. He begins to unwrap
the parcels, revealing a loaf of bread, half-pound of butter, a jar of
fish paste, and a packet of paper serviettes. Then, realizing he has not
been answered, he calls)

BILL: Monica...(No reply. He looks puzzled, then crosses into the
kitchen, taking the groceries with him. Returning, he looks around,
frowns, and crosses, peering into the bedroom.)

BILL: Monica--are you in the bathroom? (Still no reply. BILL stands
irresolute for a moment, then he notices the chair pulled back from the
desk. He starts toward it and stumbles over something on the floor.
Muttering, he bends down and picks up a broom. He calls to the empty
room) Can't you put things back in their place! (He moves to the
built-in cupboard and swings open the right hand door. The figure of a
young woman is revealed...it falls forward into his arms. BILL gives a
yelp of mingled dismay, horror, and surprise.)

BILL: (surprised) Monica! Darling, for God's sake--I (He glances
frenziedly left and right then carries the limp figure to the divan.
Kneeling beside it, he begins to massage the girl's hands, helplessly
and almost in-coherent with alarm.)

BILL: Monica...! Darling...! What happened? Monica--speak to me!
Monica...! (He gives another helpless, frenzied glance around the room.)

BILL: She's still breathing, thank God! Brandy! Brandy's the thing. (He
rises and starts for the sideboard. MONICA SEFTON on the divan suddenly
sits upright, revealing herself as an attractive and vivacious young
woman.)

MONICA: Bill darling...(As he wheels, staring wide-eyed at her.) What's
the matter?

BILL: Monica! You're all right?

MONICA: Of course I'm all right. Did I frighten you?

BILL (almost shrilly): Did you...? (His voice deepens.): Look here, what
the hell's your game!

MONICA: Darling, it's no game. It's a deadly serious business. But tell
me--what was your reaction? Ringing the police or calling a doctor? What
flashed through your mind--suicide, murder, accident--(She stops
abruptly at the expression on his face and jumps from the divan.) Easy
now, old boy...easy...!

BILL: Easy be damned! You hid in the cupboard to scare the living
daylights out of me!

MONICA: Bill darling--if I'd known you were going to be so upset, I'd
never have done it! Honest! But I just had to know--

BILL: Know what?

MONICA: The emotions of a husband who stumbles on a situation like that!
You see, I'm on the wretched third act...where Henry Maltravers finds
the body of his third wife stuffed in the linen basket--

BILL: Of all the utter drivel!

MONICA: It's only by personal observation I can get Henry's true
emotions down on paper! That's why I have, to know how you feel--

BILL: Like turning you over my knee and spanking some sound commonsense
into you!

MONICA: That's fine encouragement when I'm trying to write the crime
play of the ages...

BILL: Sure! The ages between four and six!

MONICA (shortly): Sell those bright quips to the Light Entertainment
Programme!

BILL: I'll stick to honest newspaper reporting. Honest, Monica--I can't
think what's come over you! Three weeks ago, you were a sane normal
woman.

MONICA: Three weeks ago you had a job, my pet. Through no fault of your
own, you lost it.

BILL: So what!

MONICA: Now it's up to me to do something!

BILL: By taking nose dives out of cupboards? The only writing you'll do
is on a free medicine form! Anyhow, what happened to your mystery novel?

MONICA: I've decided to try the drama.

BILL: Why?

MONICA: Some plays make a lot of money...

BILL: So do some poker machines! But always for the next chap!

MONICA (warmly): You can't say my writing interferes with your comfort.
You still get three good meals a day.

BILL: After what happened this afternoon, we mightn't have those much
longer.

MONICA: Oh, Bill...! Bad as that?

BILL: Worse!

MONICA: I thought you seemed mighty quiet over dinner this evening.

BILL: I felt too rotten even to talk about it. Mops, I've had one hell
of a day! It didn't take Digby-Smith long to start spreading his
poison--there wasn't an editor who'd even see me!

MONICA (gently): Never mind...

BILL: We've got to mind! Thirty quid in the bank and we're three weeks
behind with the rent!

MONICA: Mrs. Lamprey will just have to wait.

BILL: I hate owing money--rent particularly. Kind of shabby pride, I
suppose.

MONICA: Perhaps I could get a job somewhere...

BILL: I'll earn the salary in this family! You stick to play-writing!

MONICA: Bill! I might even sell something to television!

BILL: Not even when they sell soap on it!

MONICA: Darling, I'm serious. Goodness knows they need new
stuff--instead of filling out their programmes with ten-year-old films.

BILL: So that's where you got the idea for the cupboard stunt! That old
Gracie Allan film we saw! And it wasn't funny even then!

MONICA: I've told you I'm sorry. It's just that I didn't think...

BILL: That's the trouble with you--you're always leaping head first into
things!

MONICA: Such as?

BILL: Well--this nonsense about wanting a Kensington address--and
signing a long lease for this apartment!

MONICA: When I signed the lease we could afford a Kensington address!

BILL: Not any longer! (He prowls the room, a restless unhappy young
man.) Of course, there's one way out of this mess...

MONICA: Tell me.

BILL: I could always pocket my pride and apologize to Digby-Smith.

MONICA: You couldn't possibly do that! It would admitting his charges
were right!

BILL: I see all that.

MONICA: And you'd let yourself be humiliated?

BILL: Damn it all, Monica, do you think I'd enjoy crawling to that clot?
But if we don't earn some money very soon, we'll have no more home than
a banshee!

MONICA (after a worried pause): What makes you think you'd get back the
job?

BILL: Coming out of the bank today I met Andy Meade. He says Marden felt
pretty rotten about being ordered to fire me. Marden hinted to Andy that
if I made a statement, saying I'd misreported Digby-Smith, the paper
would take me back like a shot!

MONICA: You musn't do anything so foolish! Besides, everyone knows how
unreliable Andy is!

BILL: You've got a stupid prejudice against him...and all because he
happened to take a few drinks at our wedding!

MONICA: He was too tight to stand! And look at the life poor Sylvia
leads...disappearing for days on end!

BILL: Andy Meade's a crime reporter. You can't expect him to lead office
hours! What's more, he's the best friend we've got!

MONICA: Speak for yourself!

BILL: If that's the way you feel, you'd better take yourself to a movie
tomorrow evening ..

MONICA: Why?

BILL: I've asked Andy and Sylvia to dinner.

MONICA: I like Sylvia, but Andy...! Really, Bill, you are the limit!
This morning you make a ridiculous scene because I'd asked Dr. Norton in
for supper--yet without even mentioning it you ask people for dinner!

BILL: I'm mentioning it now, aren't I?

MONICA: Anyhow, what's the idea?

BILL: Andy's coming around to discuss what's to be done about an
out-of-work reporter! They're trying to help me because they're
friends...which is more than I can say for that pill juggler next door!

MONICA: Now Bill...

BILL: How did we ever come to get on his visiting list?

MONICA: A few days ago I cut my hand opening a tin of soup. I was on my
way to the chemist's for some plaster when I met Dr. Norton in the hall.
He took me into his flat and dressed the wound.

BILL: Touting for business in the corridor, eh?

MONICA: Don't be ridiculous!

BILL: Your hand's all right now?

MONICA: Quite.

BILL: Then why is he coming here this evening?

MONICA: I want some information from him.

BILL: What about?

MONICA: Poisons.

BILL: Poisons? Good Grief, we're not back on the play again?

MONICA: We are.

BILL: But when you were fooling around with that detective novel, you
collected enough drivel on poisons to fill several garbage bins!

MONICA: But this is a completely new plot. Now I've got to have expert
medical advice. I want to know just how a certain poison takes to work.

BILL: For Pete's sake...

MONICA: All right--you can sneer! But I've worked out what looks to be
the perfect murder. And for two pins, I wouldn't mind trying it out on
Mr. Digby-Smith.

BILL (shortly): And finish up with a rope around your neck.

MONICA: Not this girl! You just wait till you read my third act! It's
all a matter of finding the right kind of poison--something that the
police would never suspect being--

(She stops abruptly as BILL makes a warning gesture and glances out into
the hall. He crosses and pulls aside the curtains.)

BILL: Mrs. Lamprey!

(MRS. IDAMAE LAMPREY enters. She is in her late sixties, an untidy
grey-haired woman exuding an air of gone-to-seed gentility. She has the
dreamy, vaguely resentful expression of one completely out of her
generation and her pinched, refined speech is studded with archaic
phrases. She stands blinking just inside the curtains)

BILL: What is it?

MRS. LAMPREY: Dear Mr. Sefton...I'm afraid little Susie has been saucy
again...

BILL: Oh, for Pete's sake!

MRS. LAMPREY: Now now, you musn't scold the thought-less fribble--

MONICA: But after what she did yesterday...

MRS. LAMPREY (quickly): That was very, very brazen of the little romp
and I gave her a serious talking-to! But on this occasion, it is but a
very minor indiscretion and I've wiped it up...every tiny trace of it!

BILL: Why can't that dog stay upstairs where it belongs?

MRS. LAMPREY (plaintively): No matter how many times I rebuke her, the
minx simply cannot comprehend. In the times past, before my husband was
taken, all this residence was hers...I've tried to explain to Susie that
we have fallen upon evil times.

BILL: And you've had to convert your ground floor into two flats.
Yes--we know all about that!

MRS. LAMPREY (vaguely): So difficult to make Susie comprehend that we've
had to take in...lodgers. So very, very humiliating, you understand?
When I was a gel, papa would not let us even walk past a lodging house--

BILL (interrupting): Times have changed, Mrs. Lamprey! And now, if you
will excuse us...

MRS. LAMPREY (hesitating): To be sure. But there is one small,
distasteful circumstance...

MONICA (bluntly): If it's the rent...

MRS. LAMPREY: It does so distress me to mention money...so very, very
vulgar, don't you think? Oswald always attended to such gross
necessities...Papa brought us up never to acknowledge that coinage even
existed...

MONICA: Very handy! But we'll settle our account at the end of the week,
won't we Bill?

BILL: Sure thing!

MRS. LAMPREY (who has been staring vaguely at BILL, says to MONICA):
He's got a vastly fine head, hasn't he? Papa always impressed us that
you could tell a gentleman by the way he held his head. It's
just...something! (She nods to herself.) Dogs have it, too, mark my
words...

BILL: We'll do that!

MONICA: And sometime later, we'd love to have a talk about it. But right
now, we're expecting Dr. Norton...

(MRS. LAMPREY leans toward them, hand to mouth. She speaks in a
confiding whisper.)

MRS. LAMPREY: HE hasn't got it! He may call himself a professional
gentleman, but I take leave to disagree. Papa would have conned him at a
glance...a nonde-script leech...a quack...(She pauses and gives an
ingratiating little smile.) Could either of you young people obleege me
with a cigarette?

MONICA: Of course.

(She produces a packet and hands over a cigarette. MRS LAMPREY takes it,
saying)

MRS. LAMPREY: I trust it isn't one of your poisoned variety, my dear ..

MONICA (startled): Poisoned?

MRS. LAMPREY (archly): I could not help but overhear your
conversation...Such strange and wild romancing. I do trust it was merely
some odd kind of jesting...

(She gives them a meaning look and exits, leaving BILL and MONICA
staring at each other. As the outer door shuts.)

MONICA: Now just what did she mean by that crack?

BILL: Listening, eh?

MONICA: I hope she doesn't go around spreading that kind of talk!

BILL (uneasily): Don't worry--no one would take her seriously. Poor old
duck's halfway round the bend, anyhow. It's my fault for not closing the
door when I came in.

MONICA: You can't. The lock's on the blink.

BILL: Since when?

MONICA: This morning. It's jammed or something.

BILL: You know, I'm getting heartily sick of this place. We've had
nothing but bad luck ever since we moved in here!

MONICA: So what do we do?

BILL: Look around for something else.

MONICA: But there's the lease...

BILL: We might get someone to take it over. How about phoning
Sylvia--she might know--(A tap on the outer door interrupts him. MONICA
glances quickly at her wrist-watch.)

MONICA: Dr. Norton!

(She glances around the flat, sees a broom propped against the wall. She
moves across and puts this in the tall cupboard centre. She returns and
begins to punch and shake out the cushions. Her eye falls on BILL.)

MONICA: Darling, straighten your tie! And just look at your hair!

(BILL grunts something uncomplimentary and goes into the bedroom. The
tap on the door sounds again. MONICA gives a last glance into the
sideboard mirror and then goes into the hallway. We hear her open the
door.)

MONICA (offstage): This is very kind of you, doctor...

NORTON (offstage): Pleasure, Mrs. Sefton--downright pleasure!

(He enters with MONICA. DR. GILBERT NORTON is a plump, pink faced,
genial little man in his mid fifties who peers through rimless
glasses. While he is neatly dressed there is somehow a suggestion of
soiled linen underneath. His manner has a kind of professional
heartiness that would be frowned on in Harley Street. He pauses and
peers short-sightedly around the flat.)

NORTON: Nice...very nice. But the pictures are yours, am I .. right?

MONICA: Yes. Mrs. Lamprey's taste rather ran to Holman Hunt and the Stag
at Bay. You should have seen the examples that were here!

NORTON: I have. She shifted 'em into my flat!

(There is a slight awkward pause. MONICA says quickly)

MONICA: Doctor, I hope you won't think it's like my cheek,
but...well...this is a kind of professional visit.

NORTON: Oh?

MONICA: Please sit down. My husband will be here in a minute.

NORTON (sits): Your husband's not feeling up to scratch?

MONICA: Bill? Oh, no--he's got a constitution like a horse! Never a
day's illness in the twelve months we've been married. No...you
see...I'm the one who wants your advice.

NORTON (his eyes twinkling): Something on your mind, am I right?

MONICA: And only a doctor can help me.

NORTON: Generally a worrying time--the first twelve months. But it might
be better if you came into my flat...

MONICA: Oh, no, I don't want to put you to any trouble--She stops as
BILL enters from bedroom. Bill--this is Dr. Norton.

NORTON (rising and shaking BILL'S hand): How d'you do, Mr. Sefton. Your
good lady's just been telling me--

BILL (interrupting): I know. It's ridiculous taking up your time like
this.

NORTON: Ridiculous? But that's what we're here for, you know. But you'd
both better just pop next door...

BILL: What for?

NORTON: The examination.

BILL: What examination?

NORTON: My dear fellow, you both want an end to your worries, am I
right? So--(He stops, sensing the embarrassment and seeing the rising
dismay in their faces.) I say, I'm NOT right!

BILL: By God you're not!

MONICA (quickly): Oh, no, doctor. It's nothing like that!

BILL: I'd better explain before this business gets more complicated. You
see, doctor, my wife's trying to write a play.

NORTON: Really now?

MONICA: It's a play all about murder and crime. That's what I meant by
professional advice, doctor. I want some help on poisons and their
effects on the body.

NORTON: What kind of poisons?

MONICA: Well, aren't there certain kinds that leave no trace?

(NORTON stares from one to the other. It is plain he can't quite make up
his mind whether MONICA is serious. He takes off his glasses and
polishes them with a handkerchief as he speaks.)

NORTON: Now look here, Mrs. Sefton--you're a pretty intelligent young
woman. But you ought to know better than to ask a question like that.

BILL (to MONICA): I told you so!

MONICA: Darling, go and put the kettle on...

BILL: But it's--

MONICA (firmly): Bill--please!

(BILL turns to NORTON, gives a helpless half-shrug and goes into the
kitchen.)

MONICA (rather awkwardly): I'm sorry if I've been--what do you call
it--unethical.

NORTON (replacing glasses): Ethics have nothing to do with it. It's
plain commonsense. If we doctors went around broadcasting that kind of
information, we'd find our-selves in Queer Street! Now, don't take me up
the wrong way when I say this, but after all...we're more or less
strangers now, am I right?

MONICA: I suppose so.

NORTON: Except that you cut your hand on a tin-opener, I don't know a
thing about you.

MONICA (impetuously): I'm an only child, doctor--my parents were killed
in the blitz. I'm all alone except for Bill--

NORTON (interrupting): Hold on there--hold on! I don't want your
personal history. But what about this writing you're doing?

MONICA: WHAT about it?

NORTON: If you'd said it was some kind of lovey-dovey romantic thing, I
could understand it. But murder! What's put that idea into your head?

(MONICA hesitates and gives a side-glance at the half-open kitchen door
before she goes on.)

MONICA: Do you know Alistair Digby-Smith?

NORTON: The politician married to Lord Cookhaven's daughter?

MONICA: That's the man!

NORTON (frowning): Something in the press recently...he stood for
Democratic Independent, but was licked by the Liberals...am I right?

MONICA (nodding): Bill worked on the Echo--about a month ago, he went
around to interview Digby-Smith. The old boy was half-tight although
Bill didn't realize it until he came out with some pretty dangerous
state-ments.

NORTON: How dangerous?

MONICA: Well, among other things he said that Britain's only hope of
avoiding total bankruptcy was to ally herself with Red China. In that
way, the nation could salvage some of its investments in that country.

NORTON (impressed): Digby-Smith said that?

MONICA: That was mild compared with other nonsense. Anyhow, when Bill
got back to the office he showed his notes to Marden, the sub-editor.
Marden got such a shock, he rang Digby-Smith who'd had time to sober up...

NORTON: And he denied the whole thing, I suppose?

MONICA: Worse than that!

NORTON: Indeed?

MONICA: He accused Bill of a deliberate frame-up. So that when I tell
you Lord Cookhavcn owns the Echo--From the kitchen comes a warning call.

BILL: Monica!

MONICA (calling back): There in a minute, darling! (To NORTON.) Now
Digby-Smith has fixed it, so Bill can't get another job on a newspaper
in London.

NORTON: Victimization, eh?

MONICA: But it gave me the idea for my murder play. If only you knew the
slow, lingering deaths I'd planned for that precious politician--From
the kitchen, BILL calls in growing alarm.

BILL: MONICA!

MONICA (calling): If it's boiling dear, make the tea! (To NORTON.)
That's why I need medical advice.

NORTON (after slight pause--fatherly): Mrs. Sefton, you surprise
me--bless me if you don't! But surely you need a lot of other knowledge
to write a crime play?

MONICA: Oh, I've got that!

(She moves to the sideboard, opens drawer, and takes out a large book.
Brings it across and opens it before NORTON.)

MONICA: Months ago I started a detective novel. So I began collecting
cuttings on famous crimes. A reporter friend of ours helped me. He spent
some time in the States.

NORTON (shaking his head): I'd never have believed it, honestly! And I
suppose your husband helps you?

MONICA: Bill? Oh, no--he'd like me to chuck the whole thing! Only this
morning he complained you couldn't pick up a piece of paper without
finding a formula for poison scribbled on it.

NORTON closes the book as BILL enters from kitchen with crockery on a
tray.

NORTON: Your wife's a very interesting young woman, Mr. Sefton.

BILL: She talks too much!

NORTON: I'd no idea I had such a bloodthirsty young neighbour...

BILL: Bloodthirsty? Don't make me laugh! One peep at a real corpse and
Monica'd pass out like a light!

MONICA: Oh, you know everything!

BILL (cheerfully): I know that you've been handing the doctor a lot of
mouldy cock in here, You and your perfect murders! You can't even see a
stray dog in the street without practically bursting into tears and--(He
stops as from somewhere in the room a distinct tapping sounds.) What's
that?

MONICA: Someone at the door?

BILL: I thought it came from the window...(They turn and look.)...might
be the wind...

MONICA: There isn't even a breeze tonight...(She stops as the curtains
move slightly.) Bill! Someone's out there!

BILL: I'll find out!

MONICA: Darling, be careful...

(He puts her gently aside and crosses to the window. He jerks back the
curtains. A large black cat sits on the sill, staring into the room.)

BILL: Good Grief, it's a moggie! Scat...! Get away, you black brute!
Shoo!

MONICA: Bill--don't you dare! (She runs to the window and gathers the
cat in her arms, crooning to it as she returns.) Poor pussy--poor, poor
darling. Bill, how could you? You've almost scared the life out of it!

BILL: That makes it mutual! He damn near scared the daylights out of me!

MONICA: He didn't mean to--he's just terribly, terribly sweet.

BILL: Don't put your face near him--he's probably mangy!

MONICA: He isn't--is he, doctor?

NORTON: Looks in the pink to me!

BILL: Healthy or not, he doesn't stay here.

MONICA: Why not?

BILL: Because it's in the lease! Mrs. Lamprey won't have a cat about the
place, because of that menace Susie!

MONICA: Mrs. Lamprey just isn't going to know! I wonder if he's hungry?
(She moves into the kitchen and we hear her voice offstage.) I want a
saucer...ah, yes...now, my precious, down you go. And drink that! (She
emerges, watching through the door.) Bill, do come and look at him. You
never saw such an expression of pure bliss!

BILL: Monica! Once and for all--

MONICA: Darling, don't be difficult. You know I've wanted a pet ever
since Master died.

BILL: Master was a dog! And this ugly brute doesn't even belong to us.
What's more, we'll be kicked out of this flat if--

MONICA (interrupting):--But we were going to give notice in any case!
(She turns to NORTON.) Doctor, don't you think the cat should stay?

NORTON: I say, Mrs. Sefton--that's the second curly one you've asked me
this evening.

BILL (to MONICA): You ought to have more sense than to ask a thing like
that!

MONICA: You don't want the doctor to give his opinion because you know
he'll agree with me!

BILL: I've got too much regard for his commonsense!

NORTON: Tell you what I'll do. Let's have pussy and I'll turn him loose
out in the street.

BILL: By all means! Take the brute now!

MONICA: Bill! That's downright dishonest! How can we possibly give
something away which doesn't belong to us in the first place! Why,
that's close to larceny!

BILL: Oh, my God!

NORTON: You've made up your mind to keep the cat, am I right?

MONICA: Yes!

NORTON: Then that seems all there is to it.

MONICA: There now, see? Everybody's happy!

BILL: Not if I bed down with fleas tonight! Oh, let's forget the brute
and have supper. (He turns to NORTON.) Er...do you have milk in your
tea, doctor?

NORTON: Never touch it! Supper, I mean. Eat three regular meals a day
and you'll sleep your seven hours at night. That's a bit of free medical
advice for you! (He holds out his hand to them.) It's been quite a treat
to meet you, I must say.

BILL (as they shake hands): Sure we can't offer you anything? What about
a sherry?

NORTON: Wouldn't dare risk it--not with my stomach. Got to pamper it,
you know. All right for you young bloods--eat and drink what you want.
But you wait till you're my age...Now, don't come out...I'm only next
door, you know. Good evening to you...good evening...(He exits and the
door closes in the hallway.)

MONICA: Well! I hope you're satisfied!

BILL: Now what have I done?

MONICA: Ruined the entire evening...

BILL: If you're beefing about your cock-eyed play, he never intended
giving you any information!

MONICA: I could have talked him round. But you had to place him in such
an embarrassing domestic situation that he left at the first
opportunity!

BILL: It'd have been a damn sight more embarrassing if he HAD stayed!

MONICA: Why?

BILL picks up the milk jug and inverts it.

BILL: Empty!

MONICA: But I told you to buy some...

BILL: And I told you I couldn't get any. But you were too busy nose
diving out of cupboards to listen to me!

MONICA: But there's half a pint in the fridge.

BILL: And it's staying there! I've got to be up bright and early looking
for a job. I need some breakfast before...(But MONICA has suddenly
clapped a dismayed hand over her mouth.) What's the matter?

MONICA: Bill darling, you're going to be absolutely livid. You see, I
was certain you'd bought some milk. And that poor lost creature looked
so hungry...

BILL: Monica! Oh, no...no...You haven't given my breakfast milk to that
mangy horror...? (MONICA, staring wordlessly, just nods.) That settles
it! (He strides for the kitchen.) That bag of fleas goes out of the
window on his ear--right this moment!

MONICA: Bill! Are you crazy! Touch that cat and you're tempting fate!
Don't you ever want to get another job?

BILL: What's that got to do with it?

MONICA: Everything! It's a black cat, isn't it? And everyone knows how
lucky it is for a black cat to cross your path!

BILL: Not when it takes the milk out of my tea!

(MONICA goes to him and slips her arms around him.)

MONICA: Bill darling--let me keep him, please. I'll promise I'll never
ask you for anything else...ever!

BILL (weakening): Hang it all, Monica--you can't want a pet as much as
that!

MONICA: It's not so much a pet as...a kind of omen. A lucky omen. And we
do, need luck, Bill, so very badly! You, especially, darling! I want you
to have all the luck in the world! Please, Bill...let me keep him...may I?

BILL: I knew you'd load the dice somehow. All right. You win.

MONICA (happily): And you'll see how right I am, darling. You'll never
regret it. Bill, I've got the strangest hunch about that cat. Something
seems to tell me things are going to be quite different--(There is a
loud crash of crockery from the kitchen. MONICA and BILL spring apart in
alarm. MONICA rushes to the kitchen door and looks in. She stands
appalled.) My, dinner set! Your mother's wedding present...! Oh, Bill...

(The cat scuttles through the open kitchen door and darts across the
stage as the curtain falls quickly.)


ACT ONE

SCENE 2

(The scene is the same. It is about six o'clock on the following
evening. The flat is lit by the dying light of the afternoon sun which
fades as the action proceeds. The hall door opens and there is the sound
of voices offstage.)

MONICA: Go through, Sylvia.(SYLVIA MEADE enters followed by MONICA.
SYLVIA is a smartly dressed young woman, brittle and sophisticated in
manner and speech. As MONICA switches on the light, she stands looking
around the room.) What do you think of it?

SYLVIA: Looks all right from here.

MONICA: Of course it's in a perfect mess...

SYLVIA: Darling, don't apologize. I know nothing dis-concerts a woman
more than having her friends drop in and find the place looking as it
usually does! Is it clean?

MONICA: We haven't scratched yet.

SYLVIA: Where's the kitchen?

MONICA (gesturing): Through there. Bedroom there and bathroom beyond.
Sylvia, do you think your friend will take over the lease?

SYLVIA: It's possible. The rent seems reasonable...

MONICA: Not to us!

SYLVIA: Any pests? It's not haunted or anything?

MONICA: Only by Mrs. Lamprey--she's the old duck who owns the place. She
lives upstairs.

SYLVIA: Aren't you nervous living on the ground floor?

MONICA: Oh, no ..

SYLVIA: I'd be scared some of Andy's thick-ear gangster friends might
come around peeping in my teepee!

MONICA: Darling, the way we are at the moment a burglar wouldn't make
his bus fare! Slip into the bedroom and take off your hat while I look
to the dinner.

(SYLVIA starts for the bedroom and enters, switching on light. MONICA
takes off her hat and gloves and is moving to the kitchen when her
friend's voice halts her.)

SYLVIA (coming from bedroom): What's this--animal week?

MONICA: Why?

SYLVIA: There's a cat the size of a Landseer lion curled up on your bed!

MONICA: That's Rameses. But I shut him in the kitchen...

SYLVIA: Then it is yours?

MONICA: Well, it is and it isn't. The poor darling wandered in here last
night and I gave him some milk. Bill was furious, particularly as he
wreaked havoc with our dinner set.

SYLVIA: Bill?

MONICA: No, no--the cat! That's why I christened him Rameses the
Wrecker, you know. Ever study Egyptology?

SYLVIA: Good heavens no. I never got beyond recognizing Cleopatra's
Needle on a foggy afternoon...(A knock sounds at the door.) Is this
Bill?

MONICA: He wouldn't knock--Pull that door shut. (SYLVIA closes the
bedroom door and MONICA goes out into the hall.) Oh, hello Mrs. Lamprey...

MRS. LAMPREY (offstage): Could I have a few minutes civil conversation
with you, Mrs. Sefton?

MONICA: Of course...come in.

MRS. LAMPREY enters, obviously ill at ease but stiff backed and tight
lipped.

MRS. LAMPREY: I am rather nonplussed as to how to handle this situation.
It is times like this I greatly miss Oswald. Papa always brought us up
to avoid any suggestion of a SCENE...so very undignified and common...

MONICA: But...what's wrong?

MRS. LAMPREY (bracing herself): I...I really must ask you to vacate
these premises at the end of the week! One of the circumstances made
most plain in our agreement was that we could not have a pussy-cat in
this dwelling.

MONICA (wide-eyed): But whatever makes you think we're keeping a cat in
here?

MRS. LAMPREY: Aren't you?

MONICA: Of course not! How ridiculous!

MRS. LAMPREY: Then, pray, how do you explain the extraordinary event
that happened this afternoon? I was lying down with Susie at my side
when all un-expectedly, the minx became vastly discomposed. Such
sniffing and growling and scratching--la, it was most alarming! Then I
had a notion that perhaps she wished to pay a wee visit, so I let her
free. She ran helter-skelter down the stairs to your door where she
began her fantastic motions all over again...

MONICA: I hope you jolly well stopped her in time!

MRS. LAMPREY: I was too dismayed! For within this very room, it was as
though bedlam had broken loose! Such commotion as to be near
indescribable...and a hissing and spitting and caterwauling fit to raise
the very hair upon your head! And there was Susie, acting like something
demented! There were sudden heavy foot-steps and then an outburst of
words in some outlandish foreign tongue...

MONICA (amazed): Oh, no...

MRS. LAMPREY: Yes, indeed! I was trembling from head to foot. But I took
my courage in both hands and knocked a loud summons on the door...and
abruptly, like a miracle, every sound in here ceased! It was so silent I
could hear my fluttering heart...

MONICA (firmly): I'm sorry, Mrs. Lamprey, but you must have dreamed it...

MRS. LAMPREY (stiffly): I assure you--

MONICA: And I assure you this apartment's been empty all the afternoon.
My husband's out and I've just come in from a matinee with my friend.
Could the noise have been out in the alleyway? Sounds carry, you know ..

BILL (entering with two wrapped bottles): What's the trouble?

MONICA: Hello darling. The funniest thing. Mrs. Lamprey thought she
heard a cat in here. You haven't noticed one around, have you?

BILL (shortly): No.

MONICA (begins shepherding her out): You see, you must have been
mistaken. Now, as we have guests for dinner, I must get busy...

MRS. LAMPREY: But there is Susie...SHE knows there's something strangely
amiss. This evening, she wouldn't even look at the fine serving of
plaice I'd bought especially for her...And DOGS KNOW...they have a sixth
sense...(She exits, bewildered. BILL waits until MONICA returns.)

BILL: I told you something like this would happen!

MONICA: You haven't said hello to Sylvia.

SYLVIA: Let's skip that. I want to know why you publicly disown a
cat...when it's in there larger than life and blissfully flexing itself
on your bed!

BILL: Is it, by God! (He leaps into the bedroom and we hear his angry
voice offstage.) Scat, you brute! Get off--get away--shoo!

(A door slams offstage and he appears somewhat dishevelled.) I've shut
the brute in the bathroom and I hope it drowns itself in the cistern!
(He proceeds to unwrap the bottles of sherry and place them on the
sideboard)

MONICA: Does Andy carry on like this?

SYLVIA: Does he? My dear, I had a canary once--for company while Andy
was away! The rows we had over that poor bird! Andy did everything
except sue it for alienating my affections.

MONICA: Bill--weren't you calling for Andy?

BILL: I missed him at the office. They said he'd gone out on a story.

SYLVIA: Don't be at all surprised if he forgets about the whole
arrangement.

BILL: Not Andy!

SYLVIA: You haven't seen him since he stopped drinking!

MONICA: Andy has?

SYLVIA: Doctor's orders! He came home one night last week, sat down in a
chair and couldn't get up again. I don't know who was scared most--Andy
or me. It was some kind of alcoholic paralysis.

MONICA: Whatever did you do?

SYLVIA: Phoned the doctor. He called another and they took Andy off to
hospital. Did all kinds of odd things to him. Now he's on some ghastly
diet of grated carrots and orange juice. (As MONICA moves into the
kitchen.) Can I help, dear?

MONICA (exiting to kitchen): No. But I'll leave the door open so I won't
miss anything.

BILL (grinning): Poor old Andy! How is he now?

SYLVIA: Never looked better--except that the paralysis seems to have
worked upward! At the most in-convenient moments, his mind goes blank...

BILL: No kidding?

SYLVIA: Cross my heart! He gets bushed on the silliest things. Last
night he went to introduce me to some people and couldn't think of my
name!

BILL: You'd better look after him. It's probably over-work.

SYLVIA: Over-work my eye! It's his boozing. A system that's been
hardened to double whiskies for a decade can't be expected to adjust
itself to pure orange juice without complications.

BILL: But what if he gets one of these temporary amnesia attacks while
he's away from home?

SYLVIA: He's got his name and address on all his underwear.

BILL: Now, Sylvia--what kind of situation would have him rambling around
in his underwear?

SYLVIA: The kind of situation he's always in...when he doesn't come home
to me!

(MONICA enters from kitchen carrying a cloth.)

MONICA: Bill, if Andy isn't drinking, you might as well serve some
sherry now.

BILL takes a bottle from the sideboard and goes into kitchen while
MONICA lays the cloth.

SYLVIA: Doing anything interesting lately?

MONICA: Didn't you know? I'm writing a play.

SYLVIA: Why?

MONICA: We hope to make some money.

SYLVIA: Darling, I hate to dis-illusion you. But the only certain means
of making money out of a play, is to do it in a double bed in a Brighton
hotel!

(BILL enters with decanter and glasses on a tray.)

BILL: That's what I tell her.

MONICA: I'm still going on with it.

SYLVIA: Watch your step, Monica. This writing business is like the love
urge. You decide to dabble, just for fun's sake. Before you know where
you are, you're up to your eyes in it. I know! I've been keeping a diary
for years!

BILL: True confessions?

SYLVIA: Four blushes to the page!

BILL: Monica's effort is much less exciting. A child's essay on murder.

MONICA: How do you know! You've never seen it.

BILL: I'm psychic!

SYLVIA: Now now, you two! (To MONICA.) How much have you done?

MONICA: Finished the first two acts. I'll show you...

(She crosses to the desk)

SYLVIA (quickly): I'll take your word for it, darling. I'm sure it's
frightfully good because--(She stops as MONICA, after opening a drawer,
turns a puzzled face to them.)

What's the matter?

MONICA: That's funny. It isn't here.

BILL: So what?

MONICA: You haven't taken my manuscript, have you?

BILL: Of course not.

MONICA: Then where is it?

BILL: Maybe the cat ate it!

MONICA: Very funny, I'm sure! (She resumes her search of the desk,
getting more flustered and angry.)

SYLVIA: When did you have it last?

MONICA: I was working on it this morning. I'll swear I put it away in
this drawer.

BILL: No one ever goes to that drawer except you.

MONICA: I'm not so sure! It would be like you to hide it...just to be
funny!

BILL: That's not my idea of being funny!

MONICA: Then where is it?

BILL: Just where you put it!

(MONICA gives him a "look" and, turning, rummages through the drawer a
third time. Then she turns to him...)

MONICA: Bill--a joke's a joke but this is carrying things too far! I've
spent valuable time on that play! Think of all the trouble I've gone to
on research ..

BILL: Like falling out of cupboards and giving me heart failure! I'd
like to know how you'd carry on if I did a thing like that!

MONICA: You wouldn't! Because you've neither the wit nor the imagination
to think of it!

BILL: Is that so! Well, two can play at that game! (As they stand
glowering at each other, SYLVIA crosses to the sideboard.)

SYLVIA: In between rounds, can I help myself to a sherry?

MONICA: Oh, Sylvia, I'm sorry...

SYLVIA: Don't worry about me. It's all so nice and homely...

MONICA: Now, Bill, for the last time--

BILL: For the last time, I haven't touched your infantile play because I
haven't seen it! If you say you put it in the drawer it must BE there!

(A knock is heard at the hall door but the angry contestants do not hear
it. SYLVIA cocks an ear as she sips her sherry.)

MONICA: But I've searched--

BILL: Then you've probably left it lying around and it's been thrown out
with the rest of the rubbish. In which case it serves you right!

MONICA: SERVES ME RIGHT?

BILL: You need a sharp lesson. Look at the way you scribble those notes
on poisons on anything that comes to hand! God knows what anyone would
say if they found them!

MONICA: They'd say that there was at least one person in this family
with intelligence!

BILL: Ha-ha-ha!

(The knock is repeated. SYLVIA, unnoticed, moves into the hall.)

MONICA: All right, my boy! You'll laugh on the other side of your face
when my play's produced!

BILL: When your play's produced, I won't be here to laugh! Nor will any
other members of this present generation!

MONICA: You'll eat those words, my boy! I swear to you that one day I'll
be famous! I'll be written up in every newspaper in this city! I'll be
interviewed--and photographed--and pointed out as a Personality! I'll be
NEWS--and you'll be darned proud to be my husband!

MEADE (entering): SO THERE!

BILL: Andy!

(ANDY MEADE is a thin, untidy man in his mid-thirties. He has a tired,
experienced, rather droll face lightened by a pair of sharp intelligent
eyes. A highly strung person, he moves quickly and illustrates his
speech with quick nervous gestures.)

SYLVIA: I just let him in--does anybody mind?

BILL: Could you hear us out there?

MEADE: Hear you? You were coming at me from all sides--like Cinerama!

MONICA: Oh Gosh--what will Mrs. Lamprey think?

BILL: Bit late to worry about that now! Andy, let's have your hat.

MEADE: No dice, Bill. I can't stay.

SYLVIA: Why not?

MEADE: I've just run up against the juiciest assignment since the
Christie murders. Supposed to be on the job right now, but I grabbed a
taxi and came around here to let you all in on the Stop Press news.

BILL: Something big broken?

MEADE: I'll say it's big! Your buddy, Alistair Digby-Smith just handed
in his pail.

BILL: Andy...!

SYLVIA: Not dead?

MEADE: Stiff as mutton! In a private hospital at four o'clock this
morning.

MONICA: Oh...(Distressed, she turns away. BILL slips his arm about her
and there is a short awkward silence.)

BILL: This wouldn't be another of your cock-eyed jokes...?

MEADE: I don't pull faces over a corpse. I'm giving it to you straight.

BILL: Four o'clock this morning?

MEADE: Sure!

BILL: But how did the afternoon papers come to miss it?

MEADE: There's an elaborate game of hush-hush going on my boy! Don't ask
me why. But if one of the ambulance men hadn't hit the hops and blabbed,
it'd still be a secret. Forced into a corner, the hospital guys are
hinting about a heart attack.

SYLVIA: What's the truth?

MEADE: I've been a newspaper man for so Iong I wouldn't know the truth
if it slapped me on the back! But my guess is that someone's put the
finger on this Digby Smith character--and pressed hard!

SYLVIA: Oh, you've got murders on the brain!

BILL: You know something, Andy?

MEADE: Just this. The C.I.D. are swarming all over Digby-Smith's house.
And the top brass at the hospital won't let anyone see the
body--gentlemen of the press .. are especially taboo!

SYLVIA: You don't seem actually in the dark!

MEADE: Trouble with me, I'm no gentleman! Mind you, I played square with
that little nurse--boy, was she curvaceous! Even told her I was married.
But not until she came across with the information that Digby-Smith was
wearing pyjamas when he was brought in. And his face and body were
covered in scratches.

SYLVIA: What kind of scratches?

MEADE: Take a look at those talons you're wearing on the ends of your
fingers, sugar! (He sees the sherry decanter and begins to casually veer
toward it.)

BILL: But that doesn't even start to make sense, Andy! Digby-Smith was a
husky six-footer. A fingernail scratch couldn't cause the death of that
big ox!

MEADE: Agreed (He has casually reached for the decanter, but SYLVIA
slaps his hand.)...and to cock it up still more, the chauffeur's
missing.

BILL: Who's he?

MEADE: His name's Frederick Smith and I figure he's something they work
with mirrors. Been with Digby-Smith only two weeks. No one knows
anything about him.

BILL (after a pause): Any ideas yourself, Andy?

MEADE (shrugging): Just guess-work, laddie. But Digby-Smith's got a
dirty record. I think he's been horsing around with some woman. When he
ticks her off the list, she gets sore and lets him have it.

SYLVIA: And the chauffeur?

MEADE: Could be in the know and gets out before the cops start taking
him apart. (He takes a photograph from his pocket and passes it around.)
This is a street snap I hoisted from the chauffeur's room while the
master minds were sampling the old port. It's Smith out of uniform. Take
a good look. If you see anyone like that, ring me first and then the
police.

SYLVIA: You think this is the killer?

MEADE: I think he's a red herring. Scratches--fingernails--cherchez la
femme! (He glances at his wrist-watch and starts for the hall Holy
bells! As for me, cherchez la taxi! Not a syllable of this to a soul,
remember!)

BILL: All right. I'll come out with you.

MEADE: Sorry about the chow, Monica...some other time...

SYLVIA: I've got the car outside. Can I drive you?

MEADE: Not on your life, sugar. When the road turns the same way as you
do, it's sheer coincidence! (He exits with BILL. SYLVIA turns and looks
at MONICA. She is sitting on the divan, rather white and shaken.)

SYLVIA: So it caught up with him at last! How do you feel about it?

MONICA: Quite sick in the stomach!

SYLVIA: But I thought you'd be dancing in the street--

MONICA: Sylvia...don't!

SYLVIA: But it's turned out just as you planned ..

MONICA: That's the horrible part. It's one thing to wish but it's
different when it actually happens. It's almost as though I...I had
something to do with it ..

SYLVIA: But that's crazy!

MONICA: I know. But it doesn't make me feel any better.

(BILL enters from hallway and he, too, is looking rather subdued.)

SYLVIA: Anything new?

BILL: Only that Andy's impressed on me again that we hold our tongues.
It might mean his job.

SYLVIA (tapping her chest): Meet the sphinx!

BILL: Before this mess is cleaned up, he's got a hunch there's a pile of
dirty linen to be washed--

MONICA: Don't let's talk about it any more, Bill. Do you mind?

BILL: Suits me. How about a sherry?

SYLVIA: Do us all good!

(BILL pours and hands three glasses around. He sits on the divan with
MONICA. SYLVIA, senses that they would prefer to be alone)

SYLVIA: Anything I can do in the kitchen?

MONICA: You might take a look at the meat. It's probably black by now.

(SYLVIA takes her drink into the kitchen. There is a pause. BILL,
watching MONICA, gives a half smile and raises his glass.)

BILL: Bung-ho, darling. (MONICA forces a worried smile but makes no
attempt to drink. BILL reaches out and takes her free hand) Sorry I blew
my top about that manuscript, moppet. After dinner, we'll all look for
it.

MONICA: No, Bill. I never want to see it again.

BILL: What about all the work you've put into it?

MONICA: I don't care. After this, I do all my creating over the stove.
I've learned my lesson.

BILL (gently): No more thinking out complicated murder plots?

MONICA: Never again!

BILL: Or scribbling down formulas for poisons?

MONICA: After dinner, I'm going to find all those silly pieces of paper
and burn them.

BILL: But don't you want to be a famous playwright--written up in every
newspaper?

MONICA: I must have been very angry to say such a stupid thing!

BILL (smiling and raising his glass): Bung-ho?

MONICA: Bung-ho, darling. (She smiles and they drink. BILL gives her
fingers a squeeze as they rise.) I'll go on with the table. Would you
give Sylvia a hand in the kitchen?

(BILL exits to kitchen. MONICA picks up her hat, together with SYLVIA's
hat and gloves. She goes into the bedroom. The stage is empty for half a
minute.)

MONICA: (returns and crosses to the table. On the way, she brushes against
an ashtray on the arm of the divan and scatters the ashes to the floor.
She gives a little gasp of irritation.) Where's the dustpan...?

(She crosses to the tall cupboard and swings open the door. The figure
of a man is revealed inside, standing rigid with his back to MONICA.)

MONICA (irritably): Now listen, Bill. I'm in no mood for this kind of
nonsense...Come out of there!

(She grabs impatiently at his shoulder. The figure crumples at his knees
and begins to fall outward as BILL enters from the kitchen.)

BILL: Were you talking to me--?

(He sees the falling figure and yelps.)

Bill: Monica!

MONICA: Bill! Oh, Bill...!

(She runs to him. They both stare transfixed at the figure on the
floor.)

BILL: How the blazes...?

MONICA: I don't know...he was in the cupboard...thought it was you,
Bill...I touched him ..

(SYLVIA comes from the kitchen. BILL gives the half-fainting MONICA to
her then he moves to the body and turns it over on its back.)

SYLVIA: It's that chauffeur!

MONICA: What's wrong with his face?

BILL: Covered in deep scratches! We'd better get a doctor.

MONICA: Next door! Dr. Norton...

SYLVIA: Will you be all right?

BILL: I'll look after her. (SYLVIA exits quickly. BILL helps MONICA to
the divan.) Better sit down, old girl. Take it easy. You don't want to
go passing out or anything.

MONICA: I...I'm all right now.

BILL: Good!

MONICA: But...the man in our cupboard...his face so scratched...

BILL: Easy, darling. He can't hurt you. Besides, I'm here.

MONICA: Yes...(She glances at the figure and shudders.) Hadn't we
better...cover him up...

BILL: I'll get a sheet from the bedroom. Sure you're all right to be
left alone for a minute?

MONICA: Yes...

BILL (going toward bedroom): If you feel like going off, take deep
breaths and put...put...(Suddenly he gulps and grasps the back of a
chair.) Funny...but I feel kinda...swimmy...myself ..

MONICA (realizing): Oh, no...Bill...no...don't...(But BILL turns, looks
at her glassily for a moment, and then slides down to the carpet. MONICA
runs to him, is bending over him when MRS. LAMPREY enters...a very
dignified, angry MRS. LAMPREY who talks as she enters.)

MRS. LAMPREY: Oh, la, miss...and what a deceit! What a gross romancer!
To say you had no pussy-cat here when the animal itself just leapt
headlong from the bathroom window! And to terrify poor Susie so she let
out one wild scream of surprise and...

(Her voice trails off taking in the extraordinary tableau of the room.
MRS. LAMPREY blinks, focusses.)

MRS LAMPREY (vaguely): But surely that's your husband?

MONICA (almost overcome): Yes ..

MRS. LAMPREY: Bless me now...what ails the lad? Is he sick?

MONICA: No...he...he just fainted.

MRS. LAMPREY: Sal Volatile! I have a special potion of my own...And what
of the other gentleman? Is he swooning, too?

MONICA (gulping): No, Mrs. Lamprey...he...he's dead...

MRS. LAMPREY (a weak smile): Another of your foolish, idle jokes--?

MONICA (nerves tight with hysteria): Listen, you stupid old woman! Get
yourself down to earth for a minute! This chap's dead...what's more, we
think he's been murdered! Murder, do you understand--here, in your
house...That's going to mean police...and reporters and newspaper
headlines and...

(But MRS. LAMPREY, staring at her with dropping jaw, has in turn started
to sway dangerously. She rolls up her eyes and pitches forward into
MONICA's arms)

MONICA (calls wildly):...Bill...Sylvia...doctor...someone come and help
me...help...help...help...

The curtain falls rapidly.


ACT TWO

SCENE 1

(The scene is the same. It is about seven-thirty on the following
evening. The setting is unchanged, except that on the floor before the
linen cupboard pieces of stamp paper are seen roughly marking the
position occupied by the mysterious body. At the table, DETECTIVE DENNIS
MARSH sits writing in a note book. He is a fresh-faced, worried looking
young man in his mid-twenties. Presently the telephone on the sideboard
rings. MARSH jumps to his feet as though galvanized and crosses to the
instrument, jerking the receiver from the hook.)

MARSH (eagerly): Hello...yes, yes, this is Marsh speaking! Who...? (His
face falls.) Oh, all right...let him come up...

(He replaces the receiver, pulls out a handkerchief, and mops his face.
Then he heaves a worried sigh and looks at his wrist-watch. Resignedly,
he returns to the table and picks up his notebook as, offstage, MEADE's
voice is heard.)

MEADE (offstage): Evening, Pogson!

POGSON (offstage): Evening, Mr. Meade...I say, sir, you can't go in
there!

MEADE (offstage): Relax, Poggie. You know I never go where I'm not
invited...

(He enters, cigarette in mouth, as untidy as ever. By this time, MARSH
has crossed and is poking through MONICA's desk. MEADE pauses just
inside the door.)

MEADE: Have you got a warrant to do that?

MARSH (turning): All right, Andy, what is it?

MEADE: What's what?

MARSH: You told the constable on guard outside that you had an urgent
message for me. Is it about the wife?

MEADE: Your wife or mine?

MARSH: Mine!

MEADE: Denny boy, you surprise me! I always believed you bedded down
with the Manual of Balistics!

MARSH (hotly): So that's it! Just a cheap trick to get your nose inside
here? (He jerks a thumb at the door.) BLOW!

MEADE (soothingly): Now now, Denny...

MARSH (hunching his shoulders): Listen, smart guy...get out of here
before I--(He stops abruptly as the phone makes a ghostly tingling.)

MEADE: What's the matter?

MARSH: Sssh! (He continues to stare at the now silent phone.) I thought
that was going to ring...

MEADE (curiously): What's got you so strung up?

MARSH: Never mind!

MEADE: If it's something new on this case...

MARSH: Now, get this, Andy! You don't worm as much as a syllable out of
me. All information comes from the inspector.

MEADE: But I thought old trout-face was up to his ears in the
Digby-Smith case ..

MARSH: This IS the Digby-Smith case!

MEADE (triumphant): So there IS a connection! (He drops his
facetiousness, glances quickly around the room and his eye lights on the
bedroom door.) Do me a favour, will you? Let me move in there and listen.

MARSH: Not on your life! If they ever found out, next week I'd be back
pounding the pavement!

MEADE: Just what's the big conspiracy around here? On other murders, I'm
welcome as pay day! But mention the Digby-Smith affair and the iron
curtain comes down with a clang!

MARSH: Look here, Andy--I'm worried enough as it is.

MEADE: That makes it unanimous! Open the book!

MARSH: I've told you--we've got orders from way up top! As far as you
vultures are concerned, Digby-Smith died of a heart attack following a
stroke.

MEADE (gesturing to cupboard): And the boyfriend fell dead in sympathy?

MARSH: Have it any way you like!

(He turns back to the desk. MEADE crosses to the divan. Lighting a
cigarette, he lolls back on the cushions. Hands behind head, he
addresses the ceiling.)

MEADE: Jesus, it's been a lousy day! Eighty-nine at three o'clock and
hotter tomorrow! I pity those poor bastards on the beat...Just think of
it...some of them might be detectives with cushy inside jobs...if they'd
had a pal in the reporters' room...

MARSH (short): Get going, will you?

MEADE (reminiscently): What was the line I used in the report on the
Colchester snatch? Oh, yes, "The initiative and resource shown by
Constable Dennis Marsh..." Then there was that cat burglary when we ran
your photograph on the front page.

MARSH: I know all about that, Andy.

MEADE: And when I heard about your promotion, I must have been one of
the first people to ring you. Funny how certain phrases stick in your
mind! "Andy," you said, "this is your work and if ever I have a chance
to put a favour your way..."

MARSH: Damn it all, man! I can't do it! It's too big--too risky!

MEADE (on his feet--dynamic): Let me stay in that bedroom and so help me
Caesar, if newspaper influence can do it, they'll be painting Inspector
on your door!

MARSH: But if they find you!

MEADE: I'll stay so quiet you'll hear my dandruff drop!

MARSH (after slight hesitation): All right, but on one condition.

MEADE: Name it!

MARSH: You print nothing until it's been sieved by Security!

MEADE (impressed): Security, eh?

MARSH: You heard me. (He crosses and throws open the bedroom door.) God
help us both if they find you in here!

MEADE: Security can't hurt me.

MARSH (doubling his fist): No! But I can! (He slams the door shut behind
MEADE and moves back to the table as POGSON's voice, very respectful,
is heard offstage.)

POGSON: Good evening, sir.

BURKE (offstage): Evening, my man. Marsh inside?

POGSON: Yes, sir.

(CHIEF INSPECTOR WILLIAM BURKE enters. He is a heavily built man in his
mid-fifties. He carries a small attache case and his manner is curt,
brisk, and official. His deep voice has a slightly adenoidal edge.)

BURKE: Evening, Marsh.

MARSH: Evening, sir.

BURKE: Everything in hand?

MARSH: Yes, sir.

BURKE (crossing to table): Glad to hear it. So far, the only thing I've
caught is a cold! That mausoleum of Digby-Smith's has more draughts than
a monkey house!

MARSH: Bad show, sir. You tried eucalyptus?

BURKE: Eh?

MARSH: Old-fashioned, sir, but my wife swears by it. Few drops in
boiling water--wrap your head and inhale the fumes.

BURKE: Messy, too. I'll stick to the antibiotics. (He looks keenly at
MARSH.) You don't look too chipper yourself, my boy. Anything wrong?

MARSH: Not with me, sir. It's the wife. She's in hospital.

BURKE: Too bad. Anything serious?

MARSH: Yes...no...that is...it's her first, sir.

BURKE: Well, well! Congratulations!

MARSH: Yes, sir--thank you, sir. But it hasn't arrived yet. Oh!

MARSH: I know there's no danger, sir, not with all these modern aids.
But all the same, a chap can't help worrying.

BURKE: Fine way to start a murder investigation! I'm going to have the
flu and you're going to have a baby!

MARSH: Er...the wife, sir.

BURKE: Amounts to the same thing! Look here, you'd better cut off to the
hospital. I can phone through to the Yard and--

MARSH: I'd rather you didn't, sir. I'd rather be doing something to keep
my mind off it.

BURKE: Please yourself. They know where to get you?

MARSH: I've given them this number. They'll ring here. That's another
reason I'd like to stick around.

BURKE: All right! (He takes a small phial from his pocket and shakes out
two tablets.) Where's the kitchen?

MARSH: There.

BURKE: Find a glass and bring me some water. I've got to get these
things down. (MARSH exits to kitchen. BURKE stands looking around the
apartment. MARSH re-enters. BURKE takes water, swallows tablets, and
drinks.) That's over for another hour! Now, how long have you been here?

MARSH: Since four o'clock.

BURKE: Got your report?

MARSH: Yes.

BURKE: Let's have it boiled down small!

MARSH: How much do you know, sir?

BURKE (consults notebook): At seven-forty-five last night, constables
Timmins and Hart were summoned to this apartment by the owner, a Mrs.
Lamprey. They found a man paralysed on the floor. There was a doctor
already in attendance...

MARSH: Name of Norton. G.P. Lives next door.

BURKE: He's standing by?

MARSH: Ready whenever we want him!

BURKE: Good! (Glances at notes again.) Taken to hospital, the dead man
was subsequently identified as Frederick John Smith, chauffeur to
Alistair Digby-Smith. Later, Smith died of curare poisoning introduced
through scratches on his skin. That was at ten o'clock this morning. He
was moved to the morgue where one of our men noticed the injuries and
commented on their similarity to Digby-Smith's...(Shuts his notebook.)
carry on.

MARSH: I came here with Donlin and Armstrong. We made enquiries and
discovered such evidence as to enable us to return with a warrant to
search this apartment.

BURKE: Find anything?

MARSH: In the dustbin were several pieces of charred paper--recently
burnt. They're down at headquarters being photographed under the
infra-red camera.

BURKE: Anything else?

MARSH: No, sir.

BURKE: Nothing resembling a weapon?

MARSH: Well...(He hesitates a moment and crosses to the sideboard,
opening a drawer and producing an object.) Only this, sir.

BURKE: An automatic!

MARSH: No, sir. Fooled me in the beginning. You watch...(He presses the
trigger and a cigarette pops out of the barrel.) Trick cigarette case...

BURKE: Huh!

MARSH: Several gadgets about like this. (He returns the object to the
drawer.) Property of the young lady here. I believe she used to work for
a toy manufacturer.

BURKE: Young woman occupant of this flat?

MARSH: Mrs. Monica Sefton.

BURKE: Where is she now?

MARSH: With her husband under guard. We've put them in the owner's
living room while--(The telephone shrills abruptly and MARSH leaps
toward it. BURKE watches with a sardonic eye.) Hello...yes,
speaking...(Deflated.) Oh, yes, he's here. Hold the line. It's for you,
sir.

BURKE: And they say the mother has the worse time! (Takes receiver.)
Burke here. Yes. (Sharply.) All of them? Good...good...(Hangs up and
turns to MARSH.) That was the lab report on your charred paper.

MARSH: What was it?

BURKE: Data on a number of well-known poisons. Curare among them. (As
MARSH reacts, he delves inside his attache case and turns with a framed
photograph in his hand.) When you searched this place, find anything
connected with this chap?

MARSH (surprised): That's Oscar Sneddon!

BURKE (grimly): One of the most dangerous subversive agents this country
ever spawned! He's the man behind the attempted sabotage of the naval
base and that disastrous fire at the docks six months ago!

MARSH: But he was never caught...

BURKE: Security has the answer to that! They swear that Sneddon was
planning his biggest coup--something that made those other acts look
like child's play! They were giving him rope...hoping they would step in
at the right moment and grab the whole gang! But somehow, Sneddon must
have got wise! Almost over-night, he vanished!

MARSH: McLean and Burgess all over again, eh?

BURKE: Just like that!

MARSH: Where did you get this photograph, sir?

BURKE (heavily): From a drawer in Alistair Digby-Smith's private
study...Now, take a look at the inscription at the bottom. (He hands the
photograph to MARSH, who squints at it then looks up in amazement.)

MARSH: This is dynamite!

BURKE: Security thinks the same. That's why they've clamped down on this
dirty business. They realize that if the newspapers got as much as a
breath of the truth, it could mean another election!

MARSH: Y...yes, sir.

BURKE: We're sitting right on the edge of a volcano, my boy. And this is
no time to be having babies!

(MARSH gives a wild, despairing glance at the closed bedroom door.
BURKE, returning the picture to his case, does not notice it. He looks
up as MARSH speaks again.)

MARSH: Where does the girl fit into this?

BURKE: Girl?

MARSH: Mrs. Sefton.

BURKE: That's what we're here to find out! Any proof she knew
Digby-Smith?

MARSH: She knew him all right. Hated his guts!

BURKE (sharply): Eh?

MARSH: Pretty expert at this poison business, too.

BURKE (staring at him): What are you talking about?

MARSH: It's true, sir! What's more, she was heard to boast about it!

BURKE: Heard by whom?

MARSH: The owner of this place--Mrs. Ida Lamprey.

BURKE (slowly): You know, I think we might start with this woman. Get
her in here.

MARSH (crossing to hallway--calling): Pogson! Ask Mrs. Lamprey to come
here.

(He returns as BURKE closes the attache case. Suddenly he wrinkles his
nose, stiffens. His head goes back and he draws a deep breath to sneeze.
Then he relaxes and grunts.)

BURKE: No...dammit!

MARSH: Looking at a bright light is supposed to help, sir

BURKE: Pshaw!

POGSON (at door): Mrs. Lamprey, sir.

MRS. LAMPREY enters, looking even more vague and out-of-touch than
before. She stands looking from one official to the other with a little
frown of perplexity.

BURKE: Mrs. Ida Lamprey?

MRS. LAMPREY (correcting): Ida MAE. (She quotes dream-ily:) "Ida Mae,
Blithe and gay, Spreading joy the livelong day..." I can still hear dear
sweet nanny telling the other children--

BURKE (interrupting): Yes yes, of course! Now, about this tragedy that
occurred here...

MRS. LAMPREY: So very, very vexatious!

BURKE: We'd like to know something about your tenants--this Mr. and Mrs.
Sefton.

MRS. LAMPREY (vaguely): Oh, there were others before them, sir. I had a
coloured gentleman here, but he made the most distressing smells in the
kitchen. He said he was in the diplomatic service, but his head was
quite the wrong shape...

BURKE (patiently): We're only interested in Mrs. Sefton.

MRS. LAMPREY: Such a sweet, sweet face...but you never can tell.
Although Susie knew! Dogs do, you know! Susie never took to her, not
from the very beginning. I shouldn't be surprised if she'd KICKED
Susie...

BURKE: Yes, but--

MRS. LAMPREY: Mind you, she could be so very kind! She gave me a
cigarette last night...not that I dared smoke it after all that
outlandish talk about poisoning people...

BURKE: That's what we want to know! What exactly did this girl say?

MRS. LAMPREY: Such odd talk! I tried to put it right out of my head ..

BURKE: It's very important that we know, Mrs. Lamprey. Try to remember!

MRS. LAMPREY: Now...let me think...(She places her hand on her forehead
and closes her eyes.) I remember. She said that she knew all about
poisons and that she could commit a crime no one would suspect.

BURKE (grimly): She did, eh?

MRS. LAMPREY: Then she mentioned a name...some person she appeared to
dislike. Oh dear, I'm such a dunce at remembering names...

BURKE: Was it...Digby-Smith?

MRS. LAMPREY: I don't know ..

BURKE: But if you heard the other part of her conversa-tion...?

MRS. LAMPREY (with faded dignity): I trust you don't think I was
eavesdropping, sir! If so, I find the suggestion most distasteful! All
my life--

BURKE (quickly): Nothing like that was meant at all, Mrs. Lamprey! But
how did you feel about this girl's remarks?

MRS. LAMPREY: I thought she was just being a tease. Because she didn't
always speak the truth. She had a pussy-cat in here yesterday and if it
hadn't been for... I would never have known--(The telephone rings
abruptly. MARSH half-rises from chair where he is taking notes but BURKE
is before him. He lifts the receiver.)

BURKE: Hello...yes speaking. But hold on for a moment, would you? (To
MARSH.) Would you take Mrs. Lamprey back and ask Mr. Sefton to come
here?

MARSH: Thank you, Mrs. Lamprey.

MRS. LAMPREY: It was a black pussy-cat and it jumped out of the bathroom
window. Susie was DEMENTED--it terrified the poor, wee romp...

MARSH (as they exit): Very interesting, Mrs. Lamprey, I'm sure...

BURKE (turning to phone): Right. Let's have it! (His tone sharpens.)
Actually inviting him to the apartment? Of course I want to see it! Send
a man over with it at once! He hangs up as MARSH re-enters. Better luck
next time!

MARSH (worried): If anything went wrong, I suppose they'd let me know?

BURKE: Nothing's gone wrong!

MARSH: They're taking a devil of a time...

BURKE: Might mean a double issue! What's Mrs. Sefton's first name?

MARSH: Monica.

BURKE: Got a specimen of her handwriting?

MARSH: There's a grocery list in the kitchen...

BURKE: Get it.

(MARSH enters and emerges from kitchen with a scribbling pad. BURKE
glances at it, tears off the top slip, and is putting it in his notebook
as BILL, far from amiable, enters from hallway.)

MARSH: Ah, Mr. Sefton?

BILL: Look here, what's the idea of locking us up like this? We're not
criminals!

BURKE: Just a formality. Sit down...(As BILL obeys reluctantly.) You
told Detective Marsh that the man found in the cupboard was a complete
stranger to you?

BILL: That's right.

BURKE: And to your wife?

BILL: Naturally!

BURKE: Naturally. Mr. Digby-Smith...was he also a stranger?

BILL: No.

BURKE: A friend?

BILL: Far from it. The blighter was responsible for me losing my job on
the newspaper. Said I'd misreported him.

BURKE: In what way?

BILL: He gave out some dangerous political state-ments...not that he
meant them--he was drunk as an owl at the time!

BURKE: What did your wife think of your dismissal?

BILL: She took it pretty much to heart.

BURKE: She...disliked Digby-Smith?

BILL: We both did. Heartily!

BURKE: But your wife's dislike was scarcely strong enough to
inspire...personal injury?

BILL (on his feet--incredulously): Monica? Injure Digby--Smith? Are you
crazy?

BURKE: We have a witness, Mr. Sefton, who alleges over-hearing your wife
make certain curious statements. The young lady was heard to say that
she was an expert on poisons and could commit a perfect murder that
could baffle--(BILL has been listening incredulously. Now he sits
back with abroad, relieved chuckle.) You find this amusing, Mr. Sefton?

BILL: For Pete's sake, inspector! You surely haven't been wasting time
taking down that tripe?

BURKE: Wasting time?

BILL: Yes...because it's all about Monica's play! You see, my wife's got
a maggot in her mind she can write a detective play for television.

BURKE: Indeed?

BILL: We used to talk over the plot together. Sometimes she'd come out
with the craziest things!

BURKE (after slight pause): This work...is it finished?

BILL: I don't think it ever will be. Monica gets a kick out of playing
with these ideas. That's why she borrowed that scrapbook of unusual
crimes.

BURKE: Scrapbook?

BILL: It's in the sideboard...(BURKE crosses, opens sideboard drawers
till he finds a. large book. He returns with it as BILL continues.) It
belongs to a friend of mine--a crime reporter. He's been collecting
those cuttings for years.

BURKE (flicking through pages): Curious hobby, I must say. (Closes the
book and asks almost casually) Has Mrs. Sefton ever been out of England?

BILL: Oh, yes!

BURKE: Where?

BILL: To the Continent.

BURKE: What part?

BILL: West Berlin. She went there on business.

BURKE: What kind of business?

BILL: She was private secretary to a Swiss importer of toys and
novelties. Chap named Vogel.

BURKE: Where is Mr. Vogel now?

BILL: I haven't a clue. Some months ago, the import restrictions
knocked him out of business and Monica found herself without a job. But
I say, what's all this leading up to?

BURKE: We have to ask all kinds of questions. Sometimes they don't lead
anywhere.

BILL: Can I go back to my wife now? She's still a bit upset...

BURKE: We'd prefer you didn't worry her just now. (He breaks as
CONSTABLE POGSON enters with an envelope.)

POGSON: Just arrived from headquarters, sir.

BURKE: Thank you. (He slits the envelope and extracts a sheet of paper.
Glances at it then slips the paper into his notebook. Nods to POGSON. No
answer.) Would you take Mr. Sefton back and ask his wife to come here?
Keep the young lady with you until we call.

POGSON: Yes sir. (To BILL.) This way, sir.

BILL (to BURKE): I don't understand the half of this!

BURKE (gravely): Neither do we, son. Get along now. (BILL gives him an
angry puzzled glance and exits with POGSON.) How do you feel about him?

MARSH: Sorry!

BURKE: Because he happens to be in love with his wife?

MARSH (nodding): And because he's got a nasty shock coming to him!

BURKE: Then he's in the clear?

MARSH: Why else would he give us the motive for Digby-Smith's murder so
pat?

BURKE: Talking too much...yes! (Slight pause.) You know Marsh, if we
could establish a link between the chauffeur and this girl, we might
almost say they were chosen to shut Digby-Smith's mouth between them.

MARSH: But why this particular girl, sir?

BURKE: This particular girl had connections in West Berlin, remember!

MARSH (doubtfully): Yes, but--

BURKE: Remember what Hastings told us this morning? These agents no
longer go around in false beards and pockets bulging with bombs! They're
ordinary bluff workmen like that foreman at the Darlington Steel Mills
or short-sighted clerks or servant girls...

HARSH: Or nice little housewives like Mrs. Monica Sefton, eh?

BURKE: Who knows all about crimes and poisons because she happens to be
writing a play! Funny you didn't run across the manuscript when you
searched the apart-ment.

MARSH: Nothing like that here, sir.

BURKE: So...if it doesn't exist, we might assume that it was just a
smokescreen to cover her researches into obscure methods of murder! Any
idea how she might have committed the crime?

MARSH: Well...if it wasn't too far-fetched, I'd say she might have
painted her fingernails with curare and just let both those men have it!

BURKE (grunting): Before this case is finished, that might be the least
fantastic thing about it. Did you check up on the estimated time
Digby-Smith was attacked?

MARSH: Approximately ten o'clock on the night before he died.

BURKE: I wonder if Mrs. Sefton has an alibi for that time?

MARSH: Ready for her now, sir?

BURKE: Yes.

(MARSH exits. BURKE reaches into his vest pocket and takes out a small
thermometer. He thrusts this into his mouth. Then he takes out his
notebook, extracts the folded piece of paper and compares it with the
grocery list. Then he takes the thermometer from his mouth, holds it up
to the light, and grimaces.)

BURKE: I'm practically a dead man myself! He returns the thermometer to
his pocket as MARSH enters with MONICA. She is not yet aware of the
danger in which she stands and, although her manner is worried, it is
still fairly self-possessed.

MONICA: Inspector Burke?

BURKE (nodding): Sit down, Mrs. Sefton. We're sorry to trouble you after
your nasty experience yesterday, but there are a few points we'd like
straightened out...

MONICA: What is it you want to know?

BURKE: What made you go to the linen cupboard at that particular time?

MONICA: I wanted some serviettes...we use part of the cupboard as a
linen press.

BURKE: The man concealed inside--you'd no idea how he came to be there?

MONICA: None whatever.

BURKE: Did you recognize the man?

MONICA (she hesitates a moment): Well...just how do you mean?

BURKE: Come, come, Mrs. Sefton--surely the question is simple enough!
Had you met this man before?

MONICA (promptly): Oh, no!

BURKE (pressing the point): The fellow, then, was a complete and utter
stranger to you?

MONICA: Y...Yes...

BURKE (watching her closely): You don't seem exactly certain on that
point...

MONICA: But I can assure you, inspector, I have never met nor spoken
with that man in my life--never!

BURKE: I see. (He pauses.) There is, of course, an alternative...

MONICA: I don't understand.

BURKE: You might have known this man through some...correspondence?

MONICA: If by that you mean I might have written to this stranger--the
answer is no, never!

BURKE: You're perfectly certain of that, Mrs. Sefton?

MONICA (half amused, half angry): Of course I'm certain! (BURKE gives
her a long, searching look. Deliberately he takes out his notebook and
extracts the folded paper. Keeping one part folded back, he shows her
the other. BURKE: Is that your hand writing?)

MONICA (after slight pause, nods): Yes, it looks like mine. What is it?

BURKE: You don't know? (MONICA puts out her hand to take the paper but
BURKE withdraws it swiftly.) I want you to listen to this note...(He
reads slowly.) "I must see you at once. Something HAS GONE WRONG. The
same address. Urgent--don't fail me!" (He looks up.) It's signed with
the initial M. (He pauses and watches MONICA's puzzled expression.)
Well, Mrs. Sefton?

MONICA: Well what?

BURKE: Did you write those words?

MONICA: Of course I didn't!

BURKE: Yet you admit they are in your handwriting!

MONICA: It...it looks like mine, but...Inspector, where did you get that
note?

BURKE: It was found in the pocket of the man hidden in your cupboard!

MONICA (she stares at him, utterly bewildered): But that's quite
impossible ..

BURKE: Nevertheless, it's true, Mrs. Sefton.

MONICA: But how could it possibly...? May I see the note?

(BURKE hesitates a moment and then passes it over. MONICA frowns over
the words for a few seconds then her face clears.) But this is part of
my play!

BURKE (glancing at MARSH): Indeed?

MONICA: That's how it comes to be in my handwriting. I'm writing a
detective play. In it a man called Henry Maltravers murders his wife for
her insurance money, hoping to make it look like an accident...(She
pauses, catches an expression of open incredulity on BURKE's face, and
hurries on nervously.) Suspicion is aroused when Maltravers bungles the
job. He writes to his accomplice--his mistress. That's why. it's signed
like that...M. for Maltravers...(She stops and hands the paper back
to BURKE who receives it in, stolid silence.) You...you believe me,
don't you, Inspector?

BURKE: I think you've overlooked the circumstances under which this note
was found.

MONICA: I haven't overlooked them. It's just that I can't understand
them.

BURKE: Neither can we, Mrs. Sefton!

(He turns away. Relieved, MONICA rises.)

MONICA: Is that all?

BURKE (turning): Not quite. This...er...play you were writing.

MONICA: Yes?

BURKE: Could we see it?

MONICA: Of course! I keep it in--

BURKE (as she stops): Yes?

MONICA: Do you want to see it at this moment?

BURKE (steadily): If you please.

MONICA: I've just remembered. It's been...mislaid ..

BURKE (with a glance at MARSH): Mislaid?

MONICA: Last night I wanted to show it to...to some-body. When I went to
get it, it wasn't where I'd put it. But I'm certain it will turn up.

BURKE (drily): No doubt. Was it a large manuscript?

MONICA: Fairly. I'd already finished the first two acts.

BURKE: Not a very easy thing to...mislay, Mrs. Sefton?

MONICA: No--that's why it must be around here somewhere.

BURKE: Mrs. Sefton, before you say anything more, I should tell you that
three detectives have searched this apartment very thoroughly. So that,
if any manuscript such as you describe existed, it could not have
possibly been overlooked.

MONICA: Inspector...

BURKE: I suggest my men didn't find the manuscript because it doesn't
exist and never has existed!

(For the first time, MONICA begins to sense the net closing about her
and from now on her manner becomes more desperate.)

MONICA: But that's ridiculous, inspector! Of course I was writing the
play. That's why I collected all that data on poisons!

BURKE: Oh, yes--your data on poisons...We're rather interested in that.
How long did it take you to gather that material?

MONICA: About six months.

BURKE: A difficult task, I should say?

MONICA: I had to wade through all kinds of medical books and
encyclopaedias--I certainly wouldn't care to do it all over again.

BURKE: Had you used this data?

MONICA: Oh, no. I didn't need the information until the last act.

BURKE (abruptly): Then why burn the notes?

MONICA (caught off guard): Burn...? How did you know I'd burnt them?

BURKE (snapping): Answer the question! You admit you went to
considerable trouble to collect the information--yet without waiting to
use it, you burn the papers! WHY?

MONICA: Because--(She is about to say something else but obviously
changes her mind.) Because I'd finished with them!

BURKE: Meaning that it had served its purpose? A purpose quite
unconnected with the writing of this so far purely hypothetical play?

MONICA: Yes--no--(She looks around desperately.) Why are you asking me
all these questions?

(BURKE does not answer. He walks across to the desk and begins to tap
idly on the space bar of the typewriter.)

BURKE: Is this your machine?

MONICA: It belongs to my husband, but I use it.

BURKE: What for?

MONICA: Typing what you call my hypothetical play!

BURKE (almost casually): Don't you find that long fingernails interfere
with your typing? MONICA: I don't wear my fingernails long.

BURKE: Do you mind if I see them?

(He puts out his hand. MONICA is about to extend her fingers--indeed, is
in the act of doing so when abruptly she pulls them back, staring at
him.)

MONICA: So that's it! You think I'm the mysterious woman who scratched
Digby-Smith's face--(realizing she has been told this in confidence, she
stops. There is a moment's pause, then BURKE speaks very quietly.)

BURKE: How did you know that the face was scratched?

MONICA (cornered): I--I--

BURKE: Go on, Mrs. Sefton.

MONICA: I--must have read it in the newspapers ..

BURKE: No newspaper printed that information and you know it! Isn't it
time you stopped lying? You were lying, weren't you?

MONICA: Y--Yes...

BURKE: Then how did you know?

MONICA: A...friend told me.

BURKE: Why not say so in the first place?

MONICA: Because it was told to me--in confidence. If it ever came out,
he might lose his job.

BURKE: And what's the name of this obliging friend?

MONICA: You've no right to ask me!

BURKE (disgusted): So...you're still lying?

MONICA: Not.

BURKE: I say you are, young woman! I say that the friend who told you
how Digby-Smith died was the man to whom you wrote that note--the man
hidden in your cupboard and whom you discovered only when he was as
good as dead!

MONICA, almost speechless, stares at him in terror. Then she whispers.

MONICA: You can't believe that--you can't!

BURKE: Mrs. Sefton...

MONICA: I've told you over and over again! I didn't write that note! I
never knew the man! I didn't dream he was in the cupboard...(Her voice
breaks and she is very near tears.) Oh, what's the use? I can see you
don't believe me. (She sinks back into her chair, very white and
shaken. BURKE watches her for a few moments before continuing.)

BURKE: On the evening before last, where were you?

MONICA: Here.

BURKE: ALL the evening?

MONICA (wearily): Yes...yes ..

BURKE: You didn't leave for an interval of say...half an hour between
ten and half-past?

MONICA: No, no. I was here--all the time!

BURKE: Alone?

MONICA: No. Bill--my husband was with me.

BURKE: Anyone else?

MONICA: No...yes, yes! Dr. Norton was here. He lives next door and he
came in for supper.

BURKE: I see...(He calls.) Pogson! (POGSON enters.) I'll want to talk
with you again, Mrs. Sefton. Meanwhile, I must ask you to wait with the
constable.

MONICA: But I've told you all I know...

BURKE (coldly): Please! (MONICA gives him a despairing look and exits
with POGSON. BURKE stands looking after her. He takes out his
handkerchief, blows his nose, and wipes his eyes. Turns to MARSH.) This
is one hell of a business!

MARSH: Your cold or Mrs. Sefton?

BURKE: Both! But she's giving me the worst headache!

MARSH: Seems pretty straightforward to me, sir...

BURKE (grunting): Really?

MARSH: Notice how she sidestepped producing the play manuscript?

BURKE: True.

MARSH: And she gave herself away properly over Digby Smith's injuries...

BURKE: Yes. If it wasn't for two things, Marsh, you could pack up and go
off to the hospital and leave me to finish the case.

MARSH: Two things, sir?

BURKE: There's the chauffeur...why did she want him so urgently? Why
kill him? And having killed him, why reveal the body in that way?

MARSH: As the note said, something went wrong. Mrs. Sefton bundled the
body into the cupboard since it was the only thing to do!

BURKE: And I suppose she couldn't hope to keep it hidden
indefinitely...Then there's the actual METHOD of murder...

MARSH: Those scratches surely mean personal contact with Digby-Smith?

BURKE: Then the woman's lying when she says she never left this
apartment?

MARSH: The husband would know...

BURKE: I'm afraid we can't place much weight on his testimony. But
there's this doctor fellow...

MARSH: Norton?

BURKE: Yes. Ask him if he'd mind giving-us a few minutes. Don't send
Pogson. Go yourself. (MARSH nods and exits. BURKE stands irresolute for
a moment, then takes a phial from his pocket. He empties two more
tablets into his hand. He goes into kitchen and emerges with a glass of
water. Is about to swallow the tablets when DR. NORTON enters with
MARSH.) Dr. Norton?

NORTON: That's right.

BURKE: I suppose Detective Marsh told you...?

NORTON: Oh, yes, inspector.

BURKE: Sorry to bother you, doctor, but I think you can help me.

NORTON: In a professional capacity?

BURKE (seeing his eye on the glass and tablets): Oh, no. This is rather
more serious than a flu attack. Excuse me...He takes the tablets with
the water.

I've got to do that to stop my head falling off.

NORTON: Bad as that, eh? Better let me prescribe something for you.

BURKE: Later perhaps. (He gestures to a chair and NORTON sits.) You
know, of course, what happened in here last night?

NORTON: Extraordinary business!

BURKE: You attended the man found in here?

NORTON: Well--attended is hardly the word...You see, a young woman burst
into my apartment to say there was a dead man in this place. My first
thought was that something had happened to Mr. Sefton. I hurried in here
but the fellow was a complete stranger to me.

BURKE: You examined the body?

NORTON: The fellow was rigid with some organic paralysis...His condition
was so serious I ordered him to hospital, right away.

BURKE: Do you know the Sefton couple very well?

NORTON: We're just neighbours.

BURKE: And before you were called in last evening, had you visited this
apartment before?

NORTON: Once.

BURKE: When was that?

NORTON: Mrs. Sefton asked me in for supper on the evening before last.
She...wanted some medical information.

BURKE: On what branch?

NORTON (after slight hesitation): Poisons...(He adds quickly.) It was
for some kind of play she was writing.

BURKE: Oh? You saw the manuscript?

NORTON: No. But--

BURKE (as he stops): But what, doctor?

NORTON: Nothing--nothing.

BURKE (watching him closely): Doctor, while you were in this room, did
you hear Mrs. Sefton mention either directly or indirectly a man named
Digby-Smith?

NORTON: Why?

BURKE: Because Digby-Smith was murdered, doctor--in a manner identical
with the man found in Mrs. Sefton's cupboard!

NORTON (obviously shocked): Oh Lord no--she wasn't serious! I'm certain
she wasn't ..

BURKE: Serious? Serious about what?

NORTON (uncomfortably): Look here, inspector, I don't know that I want
to be mixed up in all this...

BURKE: Doctor...

NORTON: Well?

BURKE: Your reluctance is understandable. On the other hand, we have a
difficult job to do.

NORTON: But surely this girl's childish threats--

BURKE (interrupting sharply): Then she DID make threats? Threats against
whom?

NORTON (uncomfortably): Look here--

BURKE: Was it Digby-Smith?

NORTON (after a pause): Yes.

BURKE: Why?

NORTON: She appeared to think the man was responsible for her husband's
dismissal.

BURKE (watching him): I believe you said you were just a casual
acquaintance, doctor?

NORTON: True.

BURKE: Surely this was rather a...personal subject to discuss with a
comparative stranger?

NORTON: It came out in connection with her play ..

BURKE: Yes?

NORTON: I'd asked the young lady why she chose a crime motif. She said
she'd got the idea after brooding on...on punishing Digby-Smith for
his persecution of her husband.

BURKE (softly): Great Scott!

NORTON: But I'm certain it was just a lot of silly nonsense! You've only
got to look at Mrs. Sefton to realize she wouldn't harm a living soul!

BURKE (aside): That's why they chose her...

NORTON: Beg pardon?

BURKE: I was just thinking aloud.

NORTON: Is that all, inspector?

BURKE: Bear with me just a little longer...(He takes his notebook from
his pocket and flicks through it.) What time did you come into this
apartment?

NORTON: Sometime after nine o'clock.

BURKE: And you left?

NORTON: Possibly fifteen minutes later.

BURKE: Then you weren't here around ten o'clock?

NORTON: Oh, no.

BURKE: But I was under the impression Mrs. Sefton had asked you for
supper?

NORTON: That's right. What's more, I might have stayed if it hadn't been
for that wretched cat.

BURKE: Cat?

NORTON: Mrs. Sefton brought it in. Her husband told her to get rid of
the animal, but she refused. So I decided it was time for me to leave.

BURKE: You don't like cats?

NORTON: I loathe them!

BURKE: They affect some people that way--something to do with an allergy...

NORTON: Not in my case! It's just pure funk. I had a nasty experience in
Edinburgh just after the war.

BURKE (politely): Really?

NORTON: I was house surgeon at a hospital and pretty ragged from
overwork. I'd been yarning with some of the other doctors and the talk
turned to murders. One chap told a particularly ghastly story about a
cat--I think some of the students overheard what we were saying. That
night, after I'd dropped off to sleep, one of them dropped a cat through
my bedroom window. It landed smack on my chest. I awoke with a yell,
thinking I'd been scratched by its poisoned claws--

BURKE (sharply): Poisoned claws?

NORTON (a little surprised at the bark): That's right. I suppose I must
have been dreaming about the crime.

BURKE (slowly): What crime, doctor?

NORTON; It happened in Rouen--a woman took a cat, painted its claws with
poison and dropped it on a sleeping man suspected of being a
collaborator...(He shudders.) Now, the very sight of a cat gives me the
creeps!

(BURKE has recovered his poise. Behind NORTON's back, he makes a warning
gesture to the excited MARSH.)

BURKE (smoothly): Quite understandable, doctor. Now, you've been
extremely patient with us. I don't think we need keep you any longer.

NORTON (shaking his head): You know, it's extraordinary how we're
made...

BURKE: After your experience in Edinburgh--

NORTON (interrupting): I wasn't thinking of myself, inspector. It's the
young woman. I judged her as .. well...rather scatterbrained. I never
dreamt--(He breaks as BURKE buries his face in his handkerchief to check
an abortive sneeze.) Look here, are quite sure. I can't help about that
cold?

BURKE (shakes his head): Don't worry about me, doctor. I'll soon be home
in bed.

NORTON (grunting): Best place for you! (He nods and exits. MARSH watches
him go then rises excitedly.)

MARSH: That would be the cat the landlady saw jumping from the bathroom
window!

BURKE: Of course!

MARSH: Certainly something new in weapons, sir!

BURKE: That's why she used it.

MARSH: And the chauffeur?

BURKE: Came here to get the cat. Either by accident or design, he got
himself scratched.

MARSH: What's the next move, sir?

BURKE: I'm going to talk to Security. Give me three minutes and then
bring Mrs. Sefton back in here.

MARSH (starts to exit): Very good, sir.

BURKE: And close the hall door after you!

(MARSH exits and the hall door closes. BURKE stands thinking for a
moment then he crosses to the telephone. Dials a number, waits, and when
he speaks his voice is lowered.)

Section Eight-O. One-four-one, please. (Pause.) Yes, sir--reporting from
South Kensington. We've struck a very broad lead on the Digby-Smith
affair. Young married woman--Mrs. Monica Sefton. You'd better have
someone check, sir. (Pause.) Too involved to tell you over the phone,
but I suggest you talk to the woman yourself. (Pause.) Oh, no sir--just
a minnow, I'm afraid. The big fish are still at the bottom of the pool.
(Pause.) I'd say in about twenty minutes...yes, sir...thank you,
sir...(He hangs up and stands looking around the room. Then he picks up
MONICA's scrap book. Opening it he begins to check each item carefully.
Suddenly he stiffens, nods, folds a page in the book, and is closing it
when a tap sounds at the door.) Come in! (MARSH enters with a pale and
worried MONICA. BURKE addresses her abruptly, his manner much more
official than before.) Mrs. Sefton...

MONICA: Yes?

BURKE: We've been talking with Dr. Norton. He said that while he was in
here the other evening, you brought a cat into the room.

MONICA (wearily): I didn't bring it. I found it curled up on the window
sill.

BURKE: Weren't you afraid?

MONICA: Afraid?

BURKE: Afraid the creature might have scratched you?

MONICA: It never entered my head!

BURKE (smoothly): Strange...! Have you any idea what happened to your
cat?

MONICA: It wasn't MY cat! It strayed in here. Because was half-starved,
I gave it some milk.

BURKE: Yet you denied any knowledge of the animal to your landlady!

MONICA: Only because I was afraid she'd send it away!

BURKE: And naturally you wouldn't want this particular creature falling
into strange hands...(As MONICA stares at him, he picks up the cutting
book and begins to turn the pages.) Quite an amount of dangerous
information here, Mrs. Sefton...

MONICA: I...I suppose so.

BURKE: Information like this, for example! (He stabs a finger at a
cutting. MONICA looks at his tight, stern face and then at the cutting.
Her own face is a study in bewilderment.)

MONICA: Where did that come from?

BURKE: Are you trying to tell us you've never seen this before?

MONICA: Never--never! What is it?

BURKE (heavily): An account of a murder committed at Rouen...a woman
painted the claws of a cat with poison. She used it as a murder
weapon...just as you murdered Alistair Digby Smith! (MONICA is staring
at him in horror. She speaks huskily)

MONICA: You're making a dreadful mistake...

BURKE: No, Mrs. Sefton! You're the one making the mistake! In fact, you
made two! You didn't imagine the cat would find its way back here...and
you should have destroyed this press cutting along with your notes on
curare poisoning!

MONICA: Inspector...

BURKE (interrupting quietly): Who's the top man in your group?

MONICA: What are you saying?

BURKE (stern): Mrs. Sefton, you've made two mistakes! Don't make a
third! We're asking you to cooperate with us...giving you your last
chance!

MONICA: But I've done nothing wrong...

BURKE: Mrs. Sefton--

MONICA: This is just crazy, inspector...I've never harmed anyone! I took
the cat in because it was homeless and hungry...because I wanted a pet
more than anything...I...I...

She sees BURKE's rigid face and her voice trails away helplessly. BURKE
stares at her fixedly for a moment.

BURKE: That's your answer?

MONICA: There's no other answer...

BURKE: Very well! I must ask you to come with me.

MONICA: What for?

BURKE: We have reason to believe that you're deeply involved in murder
and treason against Her Majesty's Government. On these charges, you're
to be questioned by an agent of Security Intelligence!

(MONICA gives a shuddering sigh and drops back into her chair, looking
from right to left, a little trapped movement.)

MONICA: I...I want my husband...

BURKE: Sorry!

MONICA (cracking): I want my husband...(She screams hysterically.)
Bill...Bill, where are you? Bill...!

BURKE: Now, Mrs. Sefton...

MONICA: Bill...! Help me...help me...!

She collapses sobbing. There is a sudden scuffle in the hallway and BILL
enters, pushing past POGSON doing his best to restrain him.

BILL: Monica...

MONICA: Bill...oh Bill...

(He runs to MONICA, who slips into his arms. BILL soothes her, glaring
over his shoulder at BURKE.)

BILL: What the hell are you doing to her? (He touches MONICA's hair
gently.) Darling, for God's sake ..

MONICA: They've been saying terrible things to me...They want to take me
away...

BILL: Just let 'em try!

BURKE: We're taking your wife along for further questioning, Mr. Sefton.

BILL: Does this mean she's under arrest?

BURKE: Not yet.

BILL: Then she doesn't have to go!

BURKE: There's no compulsion, sir. It's merely a question of
cooperation. If your wife has nothing to hide ..

BILL: Nothing at all!

BURKE:...then there's no reason why she should refuse to come with us,
is there?

(BILL, plainly nonplussed by this, turns to his wife.)

BILL: Monica...

MONICA: I'll have to go, darling. It's just too silly...they can't hold
me for anything. I'm sorry I went to pieces just now...But I'm all right
now...really I am.

BILL: You look anything but all right to me!

MONICA: The sooner this thing's straightened out, the better for
everyone. Would you get me a hat from the bedroom...oh...and my bag ..

(BILL gives her a helpless look, then pushes rudely past BURKE.)

BILL: EXCUSE ME!

(He exits into the bedroom. The telephone rings. BURKE answers it.)

BURKE: Hold the line, please. (To MARSH.) Your call, I think.

MARSH leaps for the phone.

MARSH: Hello...yes...speaking...(His face falls.) Another HOUR? Oh
well...thanks...thanks...(He replaces the receiver as BILL re-enters
carrying a hat and handbag. Hands these to MONICA and wheels on BURKE.)

BILL: I'm coming, too!

BURKE: We'd rather you didn't, sir. You'll have plenty of time to talk
with your wife later on.

MONICA (to BILL): Yes, darling. I'll be back soon.

BILL: You bet your sweet life you will!

(He takes her in his arms and kisses her. MONICA clings to him for an
instant, then she walks steadily from the room. MARSH, who has been
gathering the scrapbook and other evidence, exits behind her. BURKE
picks up his case and moves toward the door. There he turns.)

BURKE: Believe me, I'm very sorry about this.

BILL: You can go to hell!

(BURKE shrugs and walks through into hallway. We hear him sneeze loudly.
BILL, a picture of bewildered misery, stands looking after him. The
bedroom door opens and MEADE enters.)

MEADE: Bill...

BILL (wheeling): Where did you come from?

MEADE: The bedroom.

BILL: But I was in there!

MEADE: Ever heard of a bathroom? But never mind the whys and wherefores!
Monica's up to her bridge-work in trouble...

BILL: I know. But they can't DO anything to her.

MEADE: Stop kidding yourself, Bill. I was in that room for the whole
show. Digby-Smith's a member of a commo cell. The rest of the red noses
rubbed him out because he talked out of turn. But those cops think
Monica did the job!

BILL: But Monica only has to explain ..

MEADE: Get the wax out of your ears--they've framed her prettier than an
old master! If I didn't know Monica...if I was on a jury and presented
with the evidence I've been hearing--

BILL: Circumstantial evidence!

MEADE: Sure--sure! But 90 per cent of murderers are hanged on
circumstantial evidence!

(BILL, horrified as much by the futile anger in his voice as by MEADE's
words, stares at him, then drops into a chair.)

BILL: Andy...I'm lost...Monica, why Monica...of all people?

MEADE: That's the nut and kernel of the mess! Why Monica? Tens of
thousands of people packed into this corner of the city--yet they choose
her! Why? Then there's the chauffeur...

BILL: The blighter in our cupboard?

MEADE: I've a feeling he's the key to the whole puzzle. What's more, I
could prove it, if only--

BILL: If only what?

MEADE: I could remember his name!

BILL: His name's Smith!

MEADE: And mine's Danny Kaye! I'm not clowning, Bill you know I never
forget a face! Somewhere during the past year I've seen that ugly
pan--and it didn't come under the heading of the Smith family!

BILL: Smith--Brown--Jones! Does it matter WHAT he called himself?

MEADE: Does it matter if you ever see Monica free again? It makes just
that subtle difference!

BILL: Then think, man...think!

MEADE: I can't!

BILL: And you're the master mind! What's got into you?

MEADE: Orange juice! I've got acidity of the brain!

BILL: Can't you be serious?

MEADE: This is serious! I can't think because I'm too sober!

BILL: Then get drunk!

MEADE: Eh?

BILL: Get drunk! Roaring, stinking drunk!

MEADE: You know, you've got something there...What's in the house?

BILL: Sherry.

MEADE (shuddering): Holy bells! I couldn't think of my own name on that!

BILL: I'll slip down to the local...

MEADE: No, wait! (He crosses to the telephone and dials a number.) I
want you here, Bill--you've got to be wise to the whole affair. It's
much deeper than we think, because...(Breaks--curtly into phone.)
Hello honey...yes...I'm ringing from Bill's apart-ment, so don't ask any
questions but just do as you're told for once. Get the car out, call in
at the club, and pick up a quart of scotch--yes--you heard! And listen,
Syl...bring along that diary of yours...Why? Because I want to read it!
I'll tell you why? A pack of treasonous rats have tossed a noose around
Monica's neck and unless we're smart, they're going to pull it
tight...What's that? Am I drunk? No...BUT I BLOODY SOON WILL BE!

Black out. Quick curtain.


ACT TWO

SCENE 2

(The curtain rises almost immediately on the same scene. MEADE, in his
shirt-sleeves, lies full length on the divan, an empty glass in his
hand. A pint of scotch has been emptied, the second is half full. BILL
is pacing restlessly backstage. SYLVIA sits in one of the chairs reading
from a small leather bound book.)

SYLVIA: June 25th, Andy and I had a row because he swore. I hadn't given
him the money to pay the telephone. Had hair set in morning. In
afternoon went to charity matinee Uncle Tom's Cabin. The bloodhounds
were poorly supported by the rest of the cast...She turns a page. June
26th...

BILL (shaking MEADE): Here...listen! Don't go to sleep!

MEADE: Not sleepin'...just thinking with my eyes closed. Go on, Syl.

SYLVIA: Do you want everything read out?

MEADE: Everythin'!

SYLVIA (sighs--reads): June 26th--still not speaking. Ella Perkins rang
me all in a flap. Was it true Cecily Rankin was having a baby in
December? Rang Cecily, who was so vague about dates I'm certain it must
be true. Rang. Ella but she'd gone. Felt awfully miserable. Went to
Abbott and Costello film and had a good cry. Felt;':.: better.

Turns page. How am I doing?

MEADE: Lousy!

BILL: Oh, this is hopeless! We've been messing around like this for more
than an hour!

MEADE: Patience, caddie. You can't hurry nature.

BILL: But I want to be doing something!

(MEADE holds out his empty glass. BILL glares at it then, during the
next reading, fills and hands it back.)

SYLVIA: June 27th: Last night, Lover Boy didn't even arrive home. Tried
to ring EIla this morning re Rankin scandal but phone was dead. Found to
my horror it had been cut off...Andy still hasn't paid that account! Had
lunch with mother who was deeply sympathetic--said she warned me at the
altar that Andy was a complete mess...

MEADE (muttering): The old battle-axe!

SYLVIA (turning page): June 28th, All is forgiven! The beast that walks
like a man not only came home sober but brought a present for me. The
sweetest little canary he'd bought at a pet shop--(She stops as MEADE
sits upright with a sudden ejaculation.) Have I struck uranium?

MEADE: Quiet! (He rises and begins to pace the floor, muttering
to himself) Canary...canary...a pet shop...that's right...the pet
shop in St. Saviour's Lane...it had a glass door with gilt
lettering...(Suddenly he wheels, his face alight.) That's the Joe!
The proprietor! Peter...Peter...Peter something...Peter
Rose...no...Ross...Ross...Rostov...(Snaps his fingers.) Got it, by
cracky! That's the name he was using! Peter Rostov! Well...congratulate
me!

BILL: What for? Smith's real name was Rostov and he once kept a pet
shop! Good! But how did he get into our cupboard?

MEADE: He came to get the cat!

SYLVIA: But Andy--

MEADE: Back to bed, Mrs. Pepys!

SYLVIA: No, listen Andy--how did Rostov know the cat was here?

BILL: Yes! Answer that one!

(But MEADE is staring at them, a curious expression dawning on his face.
Suddenly he beats his forehead with his fist and speaks slowly.)

MEADE: Holy bells! Just how dumb can you get...(He wheels on BILL.) This
doctor from next door...

BILL: Norton?

MEADE: What d'you know about him?

BILL: Nothing...except he's a neighbour Monica got friendly with. Why?

MEADE: There's a fish-like smell about good neighbour Norton! Tell me,
when Monica found the cat on the window-sill, you and the doctor were
the only other people in this room?

BILL: That's right!

MEADE: So you didn't tell Rostov the cat was here...nor did Monica...Two
from three leaves one, Bill!

BILL: Norton! Oh, no--it couldn't have been Norton! He made a voluntary
statement that the dead man was a complete stranger to him!

MEADE: Yes...that's why it looks all lopsided to me!

SYLVIA: From where I sit, it looks even worse! Why should Rostov leave
the cat here in the first place?

MEADE: Norton lives next door, doesn't he? In the darkness--particularly
if one was jittery and in a hurry to get rid of dangerous evidence--it
would be easy to confuse the two windows. Particularly when Norton was
actually IN this room!

BILL: But...that would mean Norton was hand in glove with Rostov?

MEADE: So the puppy's opening its eyes at last! Don't you see,
Bill--when Norton realized what had happened, Rostov got orders to
rectify the mistake--before pussy got to prowling...

SYLVIA (on her feet): Objection!

MEADE (growling): Sit down!

SYLVIA: If this gang wanted to frame Monica, why not leave the cat as
additional evidence?

MEADE: Because the plot wasn't hatched then! Listen, Norton orders
Rostov to get the cat from this apart-ment. Peter makes an entrance
through the window, gets himself scratched and starts to stiffen up.
Norton, waiting for him, decides to investigate. But the damage is done.

BILL: Then Norton hides the body in our cupboard?

MEADE: Sure! After which, it must have occurred to him that with a
little dirty juggling, Monica could take the rap for the whole thing! To
remove her play manuscript and plant that French news cutting in my
scrapbook could be done in a few minutes.

SYLVIA: But what about the note found in Rostov's pocket--he couldn't
have had that prepared!

MEADE: Oh, no! He had several hours to select that from the manuscript!
And you played slap into his hands by asking him in to examine the body!

BILL (with slow angry realization): Doctor Bloody Norton!

MEADE: It's the only answer to the question...why Monica! Because she
was the one person in this city with a ready made motive and a set of
circumstances that stank to high heaven!

BILL: Well? What are we waiting for?

MEADE: Relax, laddie...

BILL: Relax? With Monica getting the works at head-quarters?

MEADE: Sure! And if you take my advice--that's where you'll leave her!
Before this case is finished, the most important witness is going to be
Monica herself. Backed by this fresh evidence, her statements could bust
this Red group sky-high. But remember this--those babies aren't exactly
shy when it comes to shutting people's mouths...SYLVIA: And what do we
do in the meantime? Sit in a corner and sew a fine seam?

MEADE: No...we three are going to have a quiet little pow-wow with Dr.
Norton...

BILL (moving to hallway): I'Il get the swine in here now...

MEADE: Ah-ha! But no rough stuff. We've got to be subtle about this.
(BILL exits. SYLVIA picks up MEADE's coat and holds it as he slips into
it.)

SYLVIA: Know something, Andy? This just about establishes a record for
us.

MEADE: Eh?

SYLVIA: We've been together a whole hour without scrapping!

MEADE: I've had something else to think about.

SYLVIA: You've always had a wife, you know.

MEADE: What's this? Sentimental session?

SYLVIA: No...just a change.

MEADE (after slight pause): You think I'm a lush, don't you?

SYLVIA: They don't come any wetter--or lower. But then you do some
crazy little kindness and slip right past my guard.

MEADE (mocking): In spite of what mamma says?

SYLVIA (quietly): In spite of what anyone says...that's the hell of it!

(MEADE presses her hand awkwardly and turns away as BILL runs back into
the room.)

BILL: He's not there! When he didn't answer the door, I went outside.
There's not a light in the whole apart-ment!

MEADE: We've got to get to the Yard. Tell Burke what we've nosed out and
get him to round up Norton. Then we can pick up Monica...

BILL: But she may not be at the Yard! Burke talked about Security. Not
that they'll get anything out of her...

MEADE: Security might release her under watch...in which case she might
come back here. (He pauses an instant.) Sylvia, you'd better wait...

SYLVIA: In this place--alone? Oh, no!

BILL: I'll stay.

MEADE: No. I want you down at headquarters for corro-boration. And it's
going to need both of us to convince them. But Monica's got to know the
truth about Norton...

SYLVIA: Surely there must be someone among us who can write? Why not
leave a note?

(BILL crosses to the desk. He takes a pen and paper from a drawer and
begins to scribble a note. He looks up.)

BILL: I've given her the low-down on Norton...what else?

MEADE: Tell her to lock the door and keep it like that till we get back!

(BILL scribbles, then folds the paper, slips it into an envelope, and
addresses it. He holds it up.)

BILL: Where's somewhere she's sure to see it?

SYLVIA: The sideboard? (As BILL crosses and props the letter up against
an ornament.) Just to make certain Monica knows where we are, we'd
better mention it to Whistler's mother as we go out!

MEADE: Right! And the sooner we get down to Scotland Yard, the quicker
we wrap up this affair and cook--(He breaks as the telephone rings
abruptly. They all freeze for an instant, exchanging puzzled glances.)
Answer it, Bill!

(BILL crosses and takes up the receiver--speaks cautiously.)

BILL: Hello? No, she's not here. Who is--? (Then sharply.)
Hello...hello...hello...

MEADE: What is it?

BILL (slowly replacing receiver): A man...asking for Monica ..

MEADE: Recognize the voice?

BILL: Maybe I've got him on the brain...but I'd lay a fiver to a penny
it was Norton. Probably ringing to find out the lie of the land...

MEADE: And we've played right into his hands by letting him know that
the cops have picked up Monica! Now...I wonder what the blighter's next
move--

BILL (interrupting): Never mind Norton! Let's get Monica back here safe.
Come on...

(The three start across for the hall door when the telephone shrills
again. It brings them to a halt. BILL, after a moment's hesitation,
starts toward it. But MEADE waves him back. He crosses to the instrument
and lifts the receiver.)

MEADE (strained): Hello...yes...yes, this is the Sefton apartment...Eh?
What's that?

(He listens with a look of blank amazement. Then he replaces the
receiver and turns slowly.)

BILL: Andy...?

MEADE: Everything certainly happens to me! Now I'm the father of goddam
twins!

Quick curtain.



ACT THREE


The scene is the same, between ten and fifteen minutes later. When the
curtain rises, the stage is in darkness. Presently, we hear the sound of
a key fitted into the lock. The door opens and a figure enters, reaching
and turning on the light. MONICA is revealed. She still holds the
doorkey in her hand and then puts it back into her bag. The living room
is exactly as in the last scene. The bottles are on the floor, ashtrays
are filled with butts, the cushions of the couch crumpled and awry. The
envelope stands propped up against an ornament on the sideboard. MONICA
looks haggard and almost at break-ing point. She stands just inside the
hallway and calls.


MONICA: Bill...Darling, where are you? (She waits. There is no answer.
She looks wearily around the apartment then, crossing to the bedroom,
opens the door and calls.)

Bill...Bill. I've come back...(Still no answer. She turns and surveys
the untidiness of the room and, as if this is the last straw, she sinks
into a chair and buries her face in her hands. There is a knock on the
outer door. MONICA jumps to her feet, dabbing hastily at her eyes. She
runs across to the curtains of the hallway, crying out)...

Bill! Oh, Bill...(She sweeps the curtains aside and her tone drops to
disappointment as NORTON is revealed.) Oh...doctor...!

NORTON: I saw your light come on--I naturally thought that your
husband...(He stops as his eye takes in the litter of the apartment.) I
say! Someone's been here!

MONICA (bitterly, shredded with nerves): Oh, yes! Quite a merry party!
(She crosses and sinks into a chair.) This is all I needed to complete a
perfect evening! You think at least Bill would be here to welcome me
home...

NORTON: But you musn't blame your husband too much.

MONICA (deep in self-pity): Soaking up scotch almost as though he was
glad to be rid of me!

NORTON: On the other hand, he might have been drowning his troubles...

MONICA: But why not wait for me?

NORTON: Well, you know how it is. He could have gone on to the local.
Look here, I'll see if I can find him for you...(He starts toward the
hallway but MONICA detains him.) MONICA: Doctor...

NORTON (turning): Yes?

MONICA: Would you mind staying a while?

NORTON: As long as you wish. I've got a free evening--not a local call.

MONICA: Just until Bill comes back. I don't think I could face being
here alone. I...I've had just about as much as I can take. You don't
even have to talk...just stay with me...(NORTON, very sympathetic in
manner, comes back and sits opposite her.)

NORTON (gently): It's been pretty sticky for you, eh?

MONICA: Yes.

NORTON: Nasty business being mixed up with the police...

MONICA: If only that was all!

NORTON: But surely--

MONICA (interrupting): Doctor, I've got the frightful feeling I'm going
off my head...

NORTON (soothingly): Now now now...

MONICA: You've no idea what those men said to me down there! First
one--then another! "Did you kill Digby-Smith?" The same question--and
then, "Who gave you instructions? Who's your head man?" Over and over
and over again...!

NORTON: Tch tch tch!

(Now wound tight with nerves, MONICA is talking only for release from
strain.)

MONICA: The terrifying part is that after the same question has been
fired at you time and time again, you begin to doubt your own mind! And
they all seemed so certain I could answer their questions! It was like
some awful nightmare where you know the things happening to you aren't
true, yet you can't wake up to prove that they're not! (She stops, then
almost desperately.) Doctor, I...I haven't done anything like they say,
have I? Tell me truly!

NORTON: Of course you haven't, my dear.

MONICA: You're only saying that to be kind--because you don't really
know, do you? But Bill knows! That's why I need him so much just
now...(Her control slips and she cries again, fumbling for her
handkerchief.) I...I'm sorry to make a fool of myself...

NORTON (after a pause--gently): Mrs. Sefton?

MONICA: Yes?

NORTON: They've let you free--free to come back here. Doesn't that
prove they believe that you're innocent?

MONICA: I don't know...

NORTON: Try to look at things sensibly, my dear. If they thought you
were guilty, they would never have let you go. You'd be
arrested...charged...

MONICA: But that makes it only more confusing...

NORTON (patiently): In what way?

MONICA: Between questioning me, they said they had all the evidence they
needed to convict me. I couldn't understand why they didn't arrest me.
But I remember that the telephone in the room rang and one of the
detectives answered it...

NORTON: Yes?

MONICA: Then the other men got together and went outside, leaving me
quite alone. I thought it was some kind of trick...I didn't know what to
do. But presently one of the detectives came in and said I was quite
free to go. I couldn't understand it at all. There was a police car
waiting outside...they drove me back here ..

She passes her hands over her face. One minute they were accusing me of
murder and treason and all kinds of horrible things...Next they just
turned me loose as though nothing had happened. Nothing seems to make
sense any more, doctor...

NORTON watches her distress for a few moments, then...

NORTON: Mrs. Sefton--may I give you a little advice?

MONICA: Of course.

NORTON: Put the wretched business right out of your mind. Lie down and
try to relax.

MONICA: I couldn't sleep...

NORTON: Don't try. Just make yourself comfortable here on the sofa...(He
rearranges the cushions at one end.) I'm sure you'll feel so much
better.

MONICA: All right. (She rises, picks up her handbag, and takes off her
hat.) just get rid of these things.

NORTON: And don't forget...your oldest and most comfortable pair of
slippers...

(MONICA smiles and exits into the bedroom, leaving the door partly open.
NORTON frowns and stands irre-solute as though uncertain just what to
do. He looks idly around the room and his eye encounters the`envelope on
the sideboard. More out of curiosity than anything he crosses, picks it
up, notes the name on it, and weighs it in his hand, still frowning as a
tap sounds at the hall door. NORTON lies the envelope flat on the
sideboard. In this position it is naturally less con-spicuous. He is
moving toward the hallway when the curtains part and MRS. LAMPREY
enters. She is dressed for the street and stops in surprise at seeing
NORTON.)

MRS. LAMPREY: Why, Dr. Norton...but how very strange! I thought the
young woman had come back.

NORTON (quickly): Mrs. Sefton is in the bedroom. I'm just waiting with
her until her husband returns...

MRS. LAMPREY: Oh...! But he's gone journeying to Scotland Yard!

MONICA (coming from bedroom): Scotland Yard? (She has changed into smart
slacks but she is still wearing her shoes.) Mrs. Lamprey...how do you
know?

MRS. LAMPREY (a trifle stiffly): The young gentleman mentioned this ..

MONICA: When?

MRS. LAMPREY: About ten minutes ago...it could have been longer...I'm so
very nonplussed about time. But I was dressing when all at once there
was such a wild commotion in the hallway I was certain a herd of wild
blackamoors had been let loose! Then came a loud tattoo at my door and
there was your husband, all agog with the news that they had discovered
some fresh evidence about this wicked murder...

NORTON (sharply). What's this nonsense you're saying?

MRS. LAMPREY (tightly): I am passing on the communica-tion exactly as it
was given to me. Such alarms and excursions I've never seen...and there
was poor wee Susie hiding under the bed and wailing in her terror. I
don't know which of us was the most upset...

NORTON: Thank you, Mrs. Lamprey. And now we musn't keep you. I notice
you're going out.

MRS. LAMPREY: Oh, not far...just across the square. A dear friend of
mine has discovered the most remarkable woman...and we are hoping for a
manifestation...

NORTON (rudely): I've got no time for that rubbish!

MRS. LAMPREY (archly): You're too, too worldly, doctor...all you medical
gentlemen are the same. Now I must go and give Susie her sleeping
tablet...

MONICA: What for?

MRS. LAMPREY: Oh, I always take Susie with me. Usually she sleeps under
the table as good as gold. But last time, I forgot her tablet and the
wee romp did something quite, quite outrageous to a gentleman's leg It
was sheer nervousness, you understand. So, just to be on the safe
side...now it's a sleeping pill...(She exits.)

MONICA (slowly): Fresh evidence...? Now, whatever can Bill have meant by
that?

NORTON: We'll know very soon.

MONICA: Do you think I ought to ring Scotland Yard?

NORTON: I think you should change into your slippers and wait until your
husband comes back. If this evidence is so important, he'll want you to
be among the first to know.

MONICA: I'll give him another five minutes...She goes into the bedroom,
closing the door. (NORTON waits only until the door shuts then turns and
looks at the letter on the sideboard. He crosses to it and puts out a
hand to take it when the door opens and MONICA emerges in her slippers.
NORTON pulls back his hand, moving away from the sideboard.) NORTON:
Now...that's much better!

(MONICA curls herself up on the sofa. NORTON surveys her for a few
moments.)

MONICA: What's the matter?

NORTON: I'm still not sure you wouldn't be much better tucked up in bed!

MONICA: I'm all right now. Besides, doctor, I want to talk to you.

NORTON: What about?

MONICA: The new evidence Bill's discovered...I don't suppose it could
have anything to do with Mrs. Lamprey?

NORTON (astonished): OUR Mrs. Lamprey?

MONICA: Yes...I don't suppose she could possibly be mixed up in this
affair?

NORTON (staring at her): You're joking, surely?

MONICA: No...

NORTON: My dear child...whatever put an idea like that into your head?

MONICA: Several odd things...

NORTON: What were they?

MONICA: You remember the scrapbook I showed you the first night you came
here?

NORTON: With all those cuttings in it? Yes, I recall it very well.

MONICA: In it the police found an account of a murder that paralleled
the Digby-Smith case...

NORTON: Good gracious!

MONICA: But I'd never set eyes on it, doctor...it was completely strange
to me. Someone had put it inside the book...deliberately put it there
for the police to find...so that I'd be involved and suspected!

NORTON (very firmly): Mrs. Sefton! Now, once and for all, this must
stop!

MONICA: But I'm trying to work out--

NORTON: Then leave it until the morning! How do you expect to relax when
you keep churning this thing round and round in your mind?

MONICA: I suppose it's all pretty useless...

NORTON: Not only useless but downright stupid! What you want is
something to take your mind right off the business.

MONICA (a half-smile): What do you suggest, doctor?

NORTON: A good old-fashioned remedy! A nice hot cup of tea!

MONICA (doubtfully): Well...

NORTON: I assure you it'll do us both the world of good!

MONICA: I thought you didn't drink tea...

NORTON: There's an exception to every rule, you know. Now, do you feel
up to putting on the kettle?

MONICA (rising and smiling): I'm not paralysed, doctor, only very tired.

NORTON: Then tea's the answer!

(MONICA exits into the kitchen. NORTON stands stockstill for a moment
then moves slowly across to the sideboard, keeping his eye on the open
kitchen door. He reaches the sideboard and stretches out his fingers to
take the letter when the telephone rings sharply. NORTON jerks back his
fingers as MONICA flies out of the kitchen.)

MONICA: Bill...it's Bill...(NORTON, suddenly tense with suspicion, moves
away from the sideboard. MONICA has picked up the receiver and is
talking into it.) Bill! Is that you, darling...? (Her elation fades.)
What? No! No, this isn't the Cumberland Hotel! No, no--it's a private
apartment...(Patiently.) You're on the wrong number...WRONG NUMBER.
(Pause.) I don't care how many sheep your father owns...No, no, I
certainly will NOT have dinner with you! No, I did not call you darling!
NO...CERTAINLY NOT! (She hangs up and turns.) Some Australian--full as a
boot!

(Some of her old nervous excitement has returned. She takes a packet of
cigarettes from her dressing gown pocket and takes a cigarette, talking
as she does so.)

MONICA: I hope I wasn't too hard on him, but I was so certain it was
Bill. And all I get is a lot of drool about the price of wool...(She has
picked up a matchbox and opened it but her fingers are shaking so much
she spills the contents on the floor.) Oh dear...!

(She is about to drop on her knees when NORTON comes forward with a
lighter.)

NORTON: Here ..

MONICA: Oh, thanks...(She lights her cigarette.) I must be worse than I
thought.

NORTON: The tea will help...

(MONICA goes back into the kitchen. NORTON moves to the sideboard. This
time he picks up the letter. He fumbles with the flap when, abruptly,
from the kitchen comes a loud crash of crockery. NORTON, tight with
nerves, wheels and drops the letter. He bends to pick it up as MONICA
comes out holding the fragment of china.)

MONICA: It happened again...this was the teapot that Bill's mother--(She
stops as she sees the letter on the floor.) What's that?

NORTON (with an effort at steadiness): It...must have fallen from the
sideboard...

MONICA: It's for me...from Bill! I KNEW he wouldn't go away without some
explanation. And just fancy it being there all the time!

(She drops the piece of china and rips open the envelope, extracting the
message. As she reads it, her face tightens. She raises her eyes to
NORTON and quickly drops them again. NORTON stands watching her. There
is a long stretching silence...When she can maintain it no longer
without embarrassment MONICA slowly folds the paper and slips it into
the envelope.)

NORTON (watching her): Bad news...?

MONICA (huskily): Oh, no...no ..

NORTON: Something good?

MONICA: Yes ..

NORTON: You don't actually look like a person who's had good news...

MONICA (stung into retaliation): You can't always judge by outward
appearances, can you, doctor?

NORTON: True enough...(There is another pause. Now something watchful
and rather dangerous has crept into the atmosphere.) Just what does Mr.
Sefton say?

MONICA: Say...? Oh...well, it's not much more than Mrs. Lamprey told us.
Bill says he's uncovered fresh evidence and gone to Scotland Yard with
it...and...and he wants me to join him there.

NORTON: But why go to the trouble of leaving you a note when he'd
already told our landlady?

MONICA: I suppose...just in case she forgot...(She tucks the note in her
pocket.) I'm afraid I must ask you to excuse me, doctor...

NORTON: But surely you're not going racing across the city now?

MONICA: I must!

NORTON: In your present state of hypertension, anything might happen to
you!

MONICA: I can take care of myself!

NORTON: As a medical man, I disapprove most strongly. However, if you've
made up your mind ..

MONICA: I have!

NORTON: Then I can only say that you're being very foolish. Good
evening, Mrs. Sefton.

(He makes a stiff-backed exit. MONICA waits until she hears the outer
door shut. Then she brings out the note and re-reads it, obviously
uncertain what to do. Then she comes to a decision and, crossing to the
phone, dials a number, glancing at her watch as she waits.)

MONICA: Hello...Scotland Yard? Would you put me through to Inspector
Burke, please? My name is Mrs. Sefton...Monica Sefton...Yes, I'm sure
he'll talk to me...but hurry...please...(She puts BILL's note down by
the telephone and sits drumming impatient fingers until...)
Hello--inspector...? (From eagerness, her voice dies to disappointment.)
Not there? Oh dear...Do you know where I'd find him? Yes, it's so very
urgent...Thank you...I'll try there.

(She dials another number and waits, gnawing a thumb. The telephone
rings and rings. Finally, she gives an impatient shake of her head and
hangs up.) I could get there quicker in a taxi! (She crosses into the
bedroom. In her haste, she leaves the letter by the phone. She emerges a
minute later, her slippers changed for shoes and carrying a top-coat and
a silk scarf She moves to the entrance and throws back the curtains, to
recoil with a gasp of dismay. NORTON, twinkling and smiling, stands
there. He holds a small glass containing some dark coloured liquid.)

NORTON: So you were serious when you said you were going out?

MONICA: How long have you been there?

NORTON: I came back to bring you this.

MONICA: What is it?

NORTON: A simple nerve draught...twenty grains of chloral hydrate...ten
grains sodium bromide...

MONICA: What else?

NORTON (frowning): I don't understand...

MONICA: Do you imagine I'd drink anything you gave me?

NORTON: Frankly, Mrs. Sefton, from your attitude I'd say you were very
much in need of something like this.

MONICA (shrilly): I don't want it! Isn't that enough? (She has been
retreating slowly as NORTON advances into the room. She drops the coat
and scarf on the sofa.) Now, will you please go away and leave me alone?

NORTON (injured): Look here, you're giving a pretty poor return for what
was a simple neighbourly gesture. However, if you want to run yourself
ragged, that's your affair. I'll leave the mixture here and hope that
you come to your senses...(He has reached the desk and he puts down the
glass. At the same time, his eye falls on the note by the telephone. He
whips this up and runs his eyes over it as MONICA gives a gasp of dismay
at her carelessness. She makes a movement toward the hallway but NORTON
steps in front of her.)

NORTON (quietly): Sit down, Mrs. Sefton. (MONICA drops back onto the
sofa.) We've got to have a little talk.

MONICA: You haven't much time, doctor...

NORTON: No?

MONICA: My husband's down at Scotland Yard...

NORTON: Probably reporting the crazy notion he's written in this note.
No wonder he's finding it so hard to convince them!

MONICA: Convince them?

NORTON: Your husband and his friends have been gone almost half an hour.
Do you imagine that if the authorities placed the slightest importance
on his statement they wouldn't have been on my track long before this?

MONICA: But--

NORTON: The police aren't fools, Mrs. Sefton. They realize your husband
would go to any lengths to save you. Can you see them accepting a
fantastic theory like this without substantial proof? Because it is
quite fantastic.

MONICA: If you didn't kill Digby-Smith yourself, you know, who did!

NORTON (gravely): Scotland Yard believes you're responsible...

MONICA: Then why did they let me go?

NORTON: They need additional evidence...

MONICA: They'll never get it!

NORTON: Oh yes they will! We're going to give it to them.`

MONICA: What do you mean by that?

NORTON: Rather than give up the names of the rest of the group, you're
going to commit suicide. It will be a martyr's death...and quite
painless...(He rubs his hands, once again the affable twinkling little
man.) Oh, quite painless, I assure you. Just a prick with a needle...and
your body found floating in the Thames. No marks...not a sign of
violence. Only a letter bearing your signature...a suicide note
explaining that you prefer to take this Way out...

MONICA (huskily): You...you'd kill me...?

NORTON: Don't blame me, Mrs. Sefton. Blame this state of society that
demands an eye for an eye! Someone has to pay for all this and I can
assure you it's not going to be me! Besides, all our plans have been
made to--(He breaks suddenly as a noise sounds in the hallway. NORTON
stiffens, staring at the curtains. They part and MRS. LAMPREY enters.
She stands blinking vaguely at the tableau before her. Before she has
time to speak, MONICA, now on the edge of hysteria, gives a cry of
relief and runs to her.)

MONICA: Mrs. Lamprey...thank heaven you came back!...You've got to help
me! This man's a murderer--he's planning to murder me! Call the police!
Get help...

(As MRS. LAMPREY gives a helpless gasp and blinks at her...) Don't you
understand what I'm saying to you? We're in terrible danger! This man's
responsible for every-thing...he's the murderer the police are looking
for...

(And now two things happen. NORTON gives an amused little chuckle and
turns away. MRS. LAMPREY brushes MONICA's entreating hands from her. The
vague, dreamy manner drops like a cloak, she seems suddenly to gain in
stature. Her face hardens. Abruptly her hand comes up and she slaps
MONICA who-recoils with a cry.)

MRS. LAMPREY (with slow bitterness): You little fool...!

(MONICA, almost bemused with terror at this fresh revelation, backs away
as NORTON turns to the woman.)

NORTON (snapping): Where the devil have you been?

MRS. LAMPREY: It took longer than we expected. You can't do a perfect
forgery in a few minutes.

NORTON: But you got it?

MRS. LAMPREY: Here...(She opens her handbag and produces a folded sheet
of paper, passing it over.) Peter copied her signature from the
lease...it's perfect! Fool any handwriting expert in Whitehall!

MORTON (examining it): The confession's got just the right note of
hysteria. (He nods to typewriter.) You did it on that machine, of
course?

MRS. LAMPREY: Only a few minutes before she got back here!

NORTON: Very nice work, Ida. His nibs is going to be very pleased with
this.

MRS. LAMPREY: I've got final instructions...

NORTON: Well?

MRS. LAMPREY: Peter brings the car around in ten minutes. After we've
got rid of her, we drive on out to Harrow. There'll be a private plane
waiting for us...

NORTON: Good!

MRS. LAMPREY: We're expected at the usual place in Montmartre at ten
o'clock tomorrow morning. We'll get passports for Switzerland. Orders
are to lie low for the next few months.

NORTON: Then we musn't waste any more time. You've brought the things I
need? (MRS. LAMPREY takes a tin box from her handbag. NORTON opens it
and extracts a hypodermic syringe and a glass ampule. With careful
deliberation, he breaks the ampule and begins to fill the syringe...as
MONICA, sidling desperately around the room, makes a sudden break for
the hallway. But MRS. LAMPREY leaps forward, grasps her, and pulls her
back into the room.)

NORTON (sharply, looking up): Careful now! We don't want any brusies!

MRS. LAMPREY: I know my training, doctor!

MONICA (struggling): Why do you do this to me? I've never harmed you.
How can you be so cruel! Please don't hurt me...please. (MRS. LAMPREY
claps a hand over MONICA's mouih` but the girl still struggles.)

NORTON (sharply): Hold her still! If she breaks the needle...(MRS.
LAMPREY pins MONICA across the arm of the sofa with one hand. With the
other she slips back the sleeve. NORTON bends over and lowers the
syringe...A shot sounds from the window. NORTON gasps, drops the
syringe, and clasps his arm with a grimace of pain. MRS. LAMPREY starts
upright, releas-ing MONICA as the hallway curtains are swept aside and
BURKE enters with MARSH. The latter carries an automatic. BILL enters,
goes to MONICA, and gathers her in his arms.)

MONICA: Bill...oh Bill...

BILL: It's all right, darling. Everything's all right now...He leads her
to the sofa as BURKE raps to MARSH.

BURKE: Take 'em outside and turn them over to the boys. Then come back
here.

NORTON (whimpering): You've broken my arm.

BURKE: Pity!

MARSH: Get going...(NORTON walks through the hallway, but MRS LAMPREY
stands her ground. She addresses BURKE.)

MRS. LAMPREY: Nothing is changed. We allow this kind of...margin for
error. But the work goes on just the same. We have so very many
friends...(Abruptly, she turns and exits, followed by MARSH.)

BURKE shrugs, then crosses to the window. Pulling back the curtains he
reveals a small tape machine. From it he lifts a reel of tape.

MONICA: How did that thing get there?

BURKE: Part of our routine. That was why we let you go. We thought we
might pick up something...a conversation, perhaps a telephone call. But
we never dreamt of uncovering a cosy communist cell.

MONICA: Then you were outside...all the time?

BURKE: We have to take dangerous chances like this. The hardest part was
keeping your husband quiet out there. Once or twice I thought we'd have
to gag him.

MONICA: Bill...! You let them keep you out there--knowing what was
happening in here?

BILL: We didn't get here until five minutes ago, darling...The rest of
the time we were down at Scotland Yard, trying to sell them the truth
about Norton. But they wouldn't believe us--they said no one person
could ever have laid all those false clues. Now we know that Norton and
Mrs. Lamprey worked it between them.

(During this conversation, MARSH has returned. He crosses to one of the
pictures on the wall and removes a small microphone from behind it.
BURKE hands him the reel of tape.) BURKE: Take care of that! It's much
more precious than your twins! (MARSH grins sheepishly and exits. BURKE
comes forward to MONICA.)

BURKE: Mrs. Sefton...

MONICA: Yes?

BURKE: If it's any consolation, the government's going to be very
grateful over what's happened this evening. And I'm going to suggest
they show their appreciation in something more useful than words. (He
pats her shoulder and smiles.) And incidentally, I think you've quite
cured my cold...(He nods to BILL and, turning, makes for the hallway. On
point of exit, he stops, screws up his face, and sneezes violently.
Grunts.) Hmm...spoke too soon!

(He exits. MONICA and BILL look at each other. Then they smile and BILL
laughs and holds MONICA closer.)

BILL: All right now?

MONICA: Yes, darling.

BILL: Tough day ahead, you know.

MONICA: Why?

BILL: When this story breaks in the press

MONICA: Bill, no!

BILL: But it's just what you wanted...

MONICA: Never!

BILL: Oh, yes! Right here in this room only two days ago! You were going
to be famous .. written up in every newspaper--photographed--pointed out
as a personality ..

MONICA: I didn't mean it, Bill--honestly! I don't want anything like
that...not now--(There is a sudden flash from the hallway. ANDY MEADE
enters, carrying a small camera and a flashlight.)

MEADE: Hold it!

MONICA: Andy...no...please...(But a second flash has gone off.)

MEADE: Remember what old De Rochefoucauld said? Never wish too hard for
anything in case it comes true! So for the pictures...now for the news
story of the year!

(He crosses and picks up the receiver of the phone, starts to dial. The
curtain falls slowly.)



THE END


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