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Title: Mischief in the Air
Author: Malcolm "Max" Afford
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1300401.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: January 2013
Date most recently updated: January 2013

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Mischief in the Air
Author: Malcolm "Max" Afford

*

PRODUCTION NOTE:

SQUARE BRACKETS [ ] INDICATE ITALICISED TEXT IN THE PAPER BOOK.

*

Mischief in the Air
(A comedy-thriller)
A stage play in three acts
by MALCOLM "Max" AFFORD
First performance 1944, Sydney.

*

Characters

CLARENCE PARSONS, a radio actor
MURIEL PARSONS, his wife
ARNOLD VICKERY, studio supervisor
FERN SUTTON
CLAY TUTTLE
LARRY CARLSON, general manager
CHARLES McGINNIS, a visitor
MRS. JANET VAN LEYDEN
JOSEPH MANDELBERG, a businessman

*

The action of the play, which is continuous, takes place in the audition
room of the Rex Broadcasting studios, Sydney

*

=======

ACT ONE

=======

[The curtain rises on a stage completely dark. Only in the left-hand
corner does a chink of light suggest the closed door of a lighted room
beyond. Next moment, from this room comes a piercing scream. Then a
woman's voice is heard, vengeful, hard, malevolent.]

WOMAN'S VOICE: Scream your head off, dear Emily--no one's going to hear
you above the music. It's your requiem, my dear! Just five seconds more
and then--

MAN'S VOICE [harsh and authoritative]: Drop that gun, sister--go on,
drop it! That's better! Now turn around...

[At that moment, the stage is abruptly flooded with light. ARNOLD VICKERY,
a willowy young man in a dinner suit, stands just inside the right-hand
door, his fingers still on the light switch. With an outraged manner, he
walks across to the closed door and throws it open.]

VICKERY: Whatever's going on in here!

[As he crosses, we see the set. It is the audition room of the Rex
Broadcasting studios. No expense has been spared to make this room as
theatrically luxurious as possible. There is the very latest in
concealed lighting. It is bright with mirrors and flowers. The centre
back wall has a television screen and beneath this a concealed
loudspeaker. The whole effect is one of garish commercialism.]

[Four doors open into this room. The main entrance, through which VICKERY
has entered, is upstage right. This communicates with a corridor and is
the only door leading directly out of the room. It has a key in the
lock. Down right is a door leading to a wash room. Up left is the door
from behind which the voices were heard. This is the effects room. Down
left is the fourth door and this opens into the private office of the
general manager, LARRY CARLSON. The doors are labelled in small shining
chromium letters: "Washroom", "Effects", and "Mr. Carlson--Strictly
Private." On the door of the main entrance are the words "Audition Room"
but, as we look at the back, this inscription is only visible when the
door is open.]

[Between the two left-hand doors is a smart modern: desk
with a chair behind it On the desk is a telephone, inter-office phone,
silver box containing cigarettes, ink and pens. On one end of the desk
is the push-button control of the TV screen and the loud-speaker beneath
it. Centre back, against the wall, is a chest. While it does not actually
harmonize with the surroundings nor does it intrude. Between the two
right-hand doors is a smart glass and chromium liquor cabinet. Left and
right are two armchairs, right centre a couch with a small table behind
it The time is seven forty-five on a Saturday evening.]

[And now to return to VICKERY. In answer to his question, two people
emerge from the effects' room. CLARENCE PARSONS is a middle-aged balding
actor with a spiteful mouth. His wife MURIEL is a hard faced blonde in
her early forties. Both carry radio scripts.]

PARSONS: It's all right, Vickery.

VICKERY: Is it, indeed?

PARSONS: We were just having a final run through.

VICKERY: But this is no place to be doing it!

[MURIEL PARSONS is lighting a cigarette. Now she turns.]

MURIEL: How right you are! God knows I've done some bad things in my
time, but right next to infanticide I'd put this.

VICKERY: Now now, Mrs. Parsons...

MURIEL: What's more, if Clarry had the guts of a louse, he'd walk right
into that office and tell Carlson so to his face!

VICKERY: Oh, don't be so silly! You know very well that he's having a
most important conference with Mr. McGinnis in there!

[As MURIEL flicks the ash from her cigarette to the carpet, he utters a
yelp of dismay.]

And don't DO that!

[He produces a handkerchief from his sleeve and, bending, flicks away the
offending ash. MURIEL shrugs. As VICKERY rises, her husband asks
curiously...]

PARSONS: Trying to land the Mandelberg-McGinnis contract, eh?

VICKERY: Yes. And you're not helping the situation by screaming the
place down with your rehearsals.

PARSONS [waspishly]: He's not doing too badly at all, is he?

VICKERY: Who?

PARSONS: Larry Carlson. Arrives here from London scarcely knowing a
soul! In six months, he's teamed up with this American and talked
himself into managing a radio station.

MURIEL: It's our food and our sunshine, Clarry. Acts like a shot of
adrenalin!

[She goes to flick ash again, but VICKERY leaps forward and thrusts his
hand under her cigarette.]

He's even got himself engaged to some Australian girl he met coming out
on the ship...highbrow dame...she'd gone to London to study some kind of
medicine.

[VICKERY is standing tapping one foot, staring with pursed lips
at his wrist-watch.]

What's biting you?

VICKERY [measured]: I really must ask you to go! In fifteen minutes,
there's an audition of the Mandelberg-McGinnis beauty programme--right
here in this room! [His tone takes on a touch of awe.] And in the
presence of Mr. McGinnis himself!

MURIEL: What are we supposed to do! Salaam?

[VICKERY strides to the entrance door and throws it wide open.]

VICKERY: Please!

[MURIEL jerks her head toward her husband and saunters across to the door.]

MURIEL Come on, Sir Laurence!

[She exits with him, saying...]

And remember, as soon as Carlson's free, you speak your mind about
this Academy Award!

[She thrusts the script in VICKERY's face as he shuts the door behind
them. He pauses for a moment, surveys the room with satisfaction. His
eyes fall on a bowl of flowers and he frowns. Crossing, he begins to
rearrange them. The centre support slips and the blooms fall in all
directions. VICKERY is attempting to save them when the telephone rings
sharply. Flowers in hand, he turns, dithers then, dropping the flowers,
crosses to the phone.]

VICKERY: Hello! Of course this is the Rex studio! Who do you want? The
manager? I'm sorry--you can't speak to him! Mr. Carlson is busy with a
most important client and...

[From waspish irritation, his manner suddenly softens to eager servility.]

Why, Mr. Mandelberg! I'm so very sorry, sir...I didn't: recognize your
voice...Mr. Carlson isn't here at the moment. He's with your partner,
Mr. McGinnis. Yes, sir...I'll tell Mr. Carlson the very moment he comes
in! Yes, Mr. Mandelberg...certainly, Mr. Mandelberg...of course, Mr.
Mandelberg...yes, sir...yes...yes...yes...

[He hangs up, produces a handkerchief from his sleeves and mops his face.]

Dear, dear, dear! What a night! If it isn't one thing to
me, it's another! Sometimes I wonder why I: ever left the ribbon
counter!

[He crosses and, picking up the flowers, begins to replace them
in the bowl. This time he is more successful. He steps back, surveys
his handiwork, and is flicking specks away when the main entrance of the
audition room opens. Two people enter. FERN SUTTON comes in with CLAYTON
TUTTLE. FERN is about twenty five; well but quietly dressed. Her face is
perhaps too intelligent to be beautiful, but she has charm,
friendliness, and a sense of humour. CLAY is perhaps two years older, a
fast talking, quick moving, young man with a keen, alert manner. He
betrays his American origin in his speech and he is talking as he
enters.]

CLAY: In here, Fern.

FERN [as she enters]: You know, Clay, I'm certain I've turned up at the
wrong time!

CLAY: Nuts! As Larry's fiancee, we should have laid down the red carpet
for you!

[FERN is looking around the room and she smiles.]

FERN: Well, you've got practically everything else--

[She stops as she sees VICKERY hovering left.]

Oh...!

CLAY [to FERN]: This is Mr. Vickery, our studio supervisor. Miss Fern
Sutton.

FERN [smiling]: How do you do?

VICKERY: How do you do, Miss Sutton. I've heard about you. You're not in
radio, are you?

FERN: I'm so terribly ignorant I can't even guess what a studio
supervisor does...

CLAY: I'll tell you in one word. Nothing!

VICKERY: Now, Mr. Tuttle...

CLAY [gesturing to the chest against back wall]: What's that box doing
out here? It should be in the effects room!

VICKERY: Mr. Tuttle--I am not Superman! I've only one pair of
hands...and I've just worn myself to a shadow getting everything
ready for tonight.

CLAY: Cigarettes okay?

VICKERY [pointing to desk]: In that box!

CLAY: And the scotch?

VICKERY: I found the very brand Mr. Carlson ordered. A fine time I had
getting it, too! If this Mr. McGinnis were royalty itself, I couldn't
have gone to more trouble!

CLAY: Listen bud! That guy's more than royalty to this outfit. He's a
sponsor...with a fifty grand contract balanced right on the end of his
nose! And we're sticking to him tighter than a sarong!

[At his vehemence, VICKERY raises both hands in agonized remonstrance.]

VICKERY: Sssh...

[With reverential softness.]

He's in there now...

[He stabs a finger in the direction of the office.]

CLAY: McGinnis?

VICKERY: Yes! Do you think Mr. Carlson would be Very: annoyed if I
interrupted them?

CLAY [pleasantly]: Oh, no. He'd just about cut your throat that's all!

VICKERY [plaintively]: But I've just had Mr. McGinnis's partner on the
telephone...

CLAY [sharply]: Mandelberg?

VICKERY: Mandelberg himself! And he wants Mr. Carlson to ring
him...urgently! Oh dear...I do hope there's no trouble...

CLAY [uneasily]: Could be! I don't trust that sawn-off Shylock further
than I can heave a horse!

[He rubs his chin worriedly.]

He might want to step in right at the last moment and change the whole
programme...

VICKERY [aghast]: But he couldn't do that!

CLAY: Sonny-boy...in this game a sponsor can do anything but pay his
income tax.

[He pauses for a moment, obviously coming to a decision, then
he snaps his fingers at VICKERY.]

Listen! You couldn't find Mr. Carlson, so you couldn't give him any
message! Savvy?

VICKERY [ominously]: There'll be trouble!

CLAY: Say...don't you know any other word?

VICKERY: Well...don't say I didn't warn you...that's all.

[With a shrug of his shoulders he exits. CLAY turns to FERN who has been
standing in the background listening with quiet amusement.]

CLAY: Sorry...Fern.

FERN: No, I should apologize.

CLAY: Why?

FERN: Dropping in on my fiance out of the blue like this! And Larry tied
up in a business deal. But I'Il be staying at the Midway Hotel...

[As she speaks she picks up her handbag and gloves from the small table
behind the couch. But CLAY takes them from her.]

CLAY: You can't walk out on us like this!

FERN: Oh yes I can!

CLAY: But Larry might get sore...and blame me!

FERN: Larry doesn't get sore at his friends. Please, Clay, let me go.
I'm sure I'm in the way here.

CLAY: Who says so?

FERN: Well...judging by your Mr. Vickery's attitude...

[But CLAY waves a hand.]

CLAY: Forget it! That guy always goes around as though his slip's
showing! Now...sit down.

[He gestures to the couch. Rather uncertainly, FERN sits. CLAY brings the
cigarette box from the desk and offers a cigarette to FERN. She takes
one. During the following dialogue, CLAY returns box to the desk, comes
down, lights FERN's cigarette and his own.]

Where've you been this past month?

FERN: Up north.

CLAY: You bug-hunters certainly get around! If you haven't got your nose
pushed into a microscope, you're off somewhere east of Suez!

FERN [smiling]: Only as far as New Guinea this time. Dr. Haywood wanted
some help in trying to locate the cause of scrub typhus...

CLAY: How did you make out?

FERN: Ask me that after I've seen the lab tests next week. But how about
you...and Larry? [Anxious.] Does he still get those frightful headaches?

CLAY: He's taken to wearing glasses now. Says they help. But half the
time he forgets to put them on! [Laughs.] You know, I get quite a kick
out of Larry.

FERN: Why?

CLAY: I guess it's because he's so different. You could take his entire
sense of humour--and put it under a thimble! But that doesn't mean he's
not regular.

[She looks admiringly around the room.]

FERN: Very regular!

CLAY: And can he handle those financiers! The way he got the Mazuma to
buy into this joint was like taking candy from a baby!

FERN [looking around]: It certainly looks prosperous!

CLAY: Don't let the facade fool you, honey! We're up to our back hair in
debt over all this! That's why we've simply GOT to land this Mandelberg
and McGinnis contract!

FERN: And will you?

CLAY [grinning]: Trust old Winston Churchill in there! Once he turns on
that quiet British charm, they just melt and run through his fingers!

FERN [smiling]: You don't have to tell me, Clay...

[She stops abruptly as CLAY holds up a warning finger. Quickly, but
quietly, he crosses to the entrance door and throws it open.]

CLAY: Come right in, Mr. Parsons.

[PARSONS, revealed, carrying a typewritten script, stands for a moment
embarrassed and rather dismayed. Then he comes in, sees FERN, and stops.]

PARSONS: Oh! I beg your pardon, old man!

CLAY: What for?

PARSONS [with a suspicion of a leer]: I didn't realize...I thought you
were talking with Mr. Carlson...

CLAY [nodding to office]: Chief's in conference with a sponsor.

PARSONS: Still there? Oh, never mind--I'Il come back later.

CLAY: What's on your mind, bud? Anything I can do?

PARSONS [quickly]: Oh, no, no! It's just...something I want to discuss
with Mr. Carlson personally.

CLAY: About the programme?

PARSONS: Naturally!

CLAY [frowning, shortly]: Listen, bud--don't worry Mr. Carlson--not
tonight! If there's anything wrong, see Vickery. Because we're going to
be mighty busy in here in a few minutes.

PARSONS [shrugging]: Very well! If those in authority are completely
indifferent to the reputation of this studio--why should I worry?

[He exits through main entrance. As the door closes behind him, FERN
says uneasily...]

FERN: Clay--shouldn't you have told Larry? It might be something
serious...

CLAY [worried himself, but brushing it aside]: That guy's an actor! He'd
dramatize his mother-in-law's funeral!

FERN: All the same, you can't afford to take chances with Joseph
Mandelberg...

CLAY [surprised]: What, you know the guy?

FERN [nodding]: I've an uncle in the beauty business. He gave Mandelberg
his start...

CLAY: No kidding? Is that so?

FERN: Yes. Six years ago--when Joseph arrived from Europe with little
more than the clothes on his back. And now he's one of our most
dangerous business rivals!

CLAY: You know, you can't beat some of these refugees! Give 'em a door
knob and a window blind--and in six months they own a block of flats.

[He pauses, then...]

Know anything about this partner--Alex McGinnis?

FERN: I've never met him.

CLAY: Nor had we--before tonight! Guess he's the big shot who makes all
the important decisions. Rumour says Mandelberg won't even change his
underwear without a nod from McGinnis!

FERN [nodding to office]: And he's in there with Larry now?

CLAY: Sure! Mandelberg is listening to the programme at home. I guess
McGinnis came in here to give the studio and its personnel the
once-over.

FERN: Do you think he's impressed?

CLAY [shrugging]: Search me! The guy never talks! Last time he opened
his mouth, three moths flew out!

[The main door swings open and VICKERY enters looking worried]

VICKERY: Mr. Tuttle...

CLAY: Hello...more trouble?

VICKERY: I'm afraid so...

CLAY: Come on--break it gently!

VICKERY: It's Mr. Parsons...

CLAY: He was in here a few minutes ago. What's on his mind?

VICKERY: It's the script of that thriller they're doing tonight. He's
playing up again...

CLAY: Why?

VICKERY: He wants some of the lines altered--right at the very end of
the play where the detective arrests the woman. Parsons says they're
melodramatic and completely unconvincing!

CLAY [ominously]: Now, listen, bud...I wrote that script!

VICKERY [shrugging with smug venom]: I cannot help that. I'm merely
delivering a message. Parsons considers his entire part revolting!

CLAY: So what? It's just tailored to his personality!

VICKERY: Well, I'm just warning you! He means to show the ending to Mr.
Carlson. And you know what will happen then?

CLAY [sourly]: Yeah! There'll be trouble!

[VICKERY tosses his head and walks to the door.]

VICKERY: I suppose that's the famous American sense of humour!

[He exits as CLAY turns to FERN.]

CLAY: When it comes to news, that guy's like my wife! Always first with
the worst!

FERN [laughing]: Tell me, Clay...does this go on all the time?

CLAY: Hell, no! Sometimes...the studio burns down!

[The door of the manager's office opens and LARRY CARLSON enters with
ALEC McGINNIS. CARLSON is a pleasant faced young man in his late twenties
and in manner the direct antithesis of CLAY. He gives an impression of
extreme dependability. He speaks quietly weighing every word. LARRY does
not smile easily, but when he does we see evidence of the potent charm CLAY
has spoken of. ALEC McGINNIS is a small, nondescript, middle-aged person
who somehow tends to sink completely into the background. Yet this
curiously negative personality is belied by a pair of extremely sharp,
shrewd eyes that dart here and there, missing nothing. He speaks with a
slight Scots accent.]

LARRY [talking as he enters]:...and this is the audition room, Mr.
McGinnis. We'll feed your programme through--

[He sees FERN, stops, and his face lights. He turns to McGINNIS.]

Excuse me, sir...

[He crosses and puts out his hands.]

Why, Fern...!

FERN [smiling]: Hello Larry. Surprised?

LARRY: Delighted! But I didn't expect you until the end of the week!

FERN: Your telegram had me intrigued, darling. I just couldn't wait.
This morning I was offered a seat on the plane...

[LARRY nods and turns to McGINNIS.]

LARRY: Mr. McGinnis...this is my fiancee, Miss Sutton. Fern this is Mr.
McGinnis, our sponsor.

FERN: How do you do?

McGINNIS: How do you do, Miss Sutton.

FERN [quickly]: Larry, if you want to talk business, I can see you later
on.

LARRY: No. I'll be free in a minute...

[He nods to office.]

Wait in there.

[He gives her hand a squeeze. FERN smiles and exits into office. As she
goes, CLAY turns to McGINNIS.]

CLAY: Has Mr. Carlson been showing you how the wheels go round?

McGINNIS: That's true.

LARRY: I've been explaining how we make the sound effects for our radio
plays...

CLAY: There's a box of noises out here.

[He crosses to the chest.]

Everything from an elephant stampede to a teething baby with colic! I'Il
show you...these are what we call manual effects, worked by hand.

[He opens the chest and produces a bulb motor-horn with a shrill, almost
effeminate squeak.]

A taxi in what was once Gay Paree!

[He squeaks the horn, tosses it back, and produces the cowbell, jangling
it.]

Calling the cattle home! Radio version!

[He drops the bell back, produces an alarm clock and a tambourine.]

These are only a few of them...they do the work behind the scenes!

[As he drops them back into the box and closes the lid, LARRY, who has
been hovering with the silver box from the desk, proffers it to McGINNIS,
who takes a cigarette and observes...]

McGINNIS: Very interesting, Mr Tuttle. But what about when you get
television?

LARRY [lighting McGINNIS's cigarette]: Oh, we'll start out in a small
way at first. Talks, for instance! Something on the lines of Mrs. Van
Leyden's address tonight.

McGINNIS: And would that be Janet Van Leyden, the authoress?

LARRY: Yes. D'you know her?

McGINNIS: No. But I've read a few of her travel books Wasn't she the
lady who discovered a lost valley in New Guinea a few years ago?

LARRY: That's right. She's talking on New Guinea and the native customs
tonight. It's good topical stuff.

McGINNIS: She sounds very interesting.

LARRY: If you'd like to meet her, she's probably in the talks studio
now.

CLAY: I could take Mr. McGinnis down before the programme starts.

LARRY [looking at his wrist-watch]: Yes, you've got just eight minutes...

CLAY: Plenty of time! This way, sir.

[He goes up to the main entrance with McGINNIS following. As CLAY opens
the door, McGINNIS glances down at his cigarette.]

McGINNIS [doubtfully]: Can I smoke out there?

CLAY: I'll say! You're the sponsor!

[They exit. As the door closes, LARRY crosses to his office door and
throws it open.]

LARRY: Fern...

[FERN comes out.]

FERN: Coast clear?

[He smiles and taking her in his arms kisses her, then steps back a pace,
holding her hands.]

LARRY: Now, let me look at you!

FERN: Darling, it's only been a month...

LARRY: That's a long time when you're missing a person every day. So
many times I've needed you, Fern...to help me straighten things out. I'm
still a stranger here, you know.

FERN [smiling]: My poor lost lamb!

LARRY: No, honestly, Fern--it IS different!

FERN: I know, darling, I know! We're a rough, uncultured babe straining
at an umbilical cord twelve thousand miles long...

LARRY [quietly]: Oh, no you're not. But you'd like the world to believe
all that. You're building up a national fallacy...like the Scot's
thrift, the Irishman's wit, and the American's hustle...

[They cross to the sofa and sit.]

FERN: Talking of American hustle, you and Clay seem to be an ideal
combination.

LARRY: Yes! We teamed up shortly after I landed. Between us, we got
together a group of business men and persuaded them to finance this
studio. [Wryly.] NOW all we have to do is convince them it's a paying
proposition!

FERN: That should be simple enough! You and Clay seem to be working very
well together.

LARRY: Yes, but...after this week Clay may have to carry on alone.

FERN: Why?

LARRY: Doctor's orders. It's that old war wound of mine. Those damned
headaches have come back. And it's starting to affect my speech...

FERN: Oh, Larry.

LARRY: Yes. I find myself stuttering--can't get words out especially
when I'm excited or upset.

FERN: Then you mustn't let yourself get excited or upset.

LARRY: That's what Dr. Willis told me.

FERN: He's treating you?

LARRY: Tells me I've got to get away from business for at least a month
that's why I wired you to come down. I thought you'd arrive next week
and by that time this business would have gone through and...

FERN: Yes.

LARRY: I...I thought we might make it our honeymoon trip.

FERN [smiling]: Oh, Larry...

LARRY: What's the matter?

FERN: Modern romance! Proposing in the middle of a business deal!

LARRY [gently]: I know I've been some time getting round to this but
until now I've had nothing to offer you.

FERN [touched by his sincerity]: Oh, my dear...

LARRY: Now it's different! All those things we've dreamed and planned
look like coming true.

FERN: You've found a good fairy?

LARRY: We've found two! Mandelberg and McGinnis! Once we get
Mandelberg's name on the contract we do a little contract signing
ourselves.

FERN [gently]: That's a promise, darling...

[She smiles and presses his hand. Rising, she crosses to the desk
speaking as she moves.]

You're sure of this contract, Larry?

LARRY: Near as dammit! Why?

FERN: This thriller going on the air tonight...is THAT part of the
Mandelberg programme?

LARRY [somewhat surprised at the question]: Oh, no. It's later. Just
before Mrs. Van Leyden's talk...why?

FERN [relieved]: Then it's all right.

LARRY: But Fern...

FERN: It's just that I know Joseph Mandelberg...and he's terribly
nervous of violence in any shape or form. It goes back to something that
happened when he first came to Australia...

LARRY: What was that?

FERN: He was so poor he took a job in a hospital--cleaner in the
post-mortem room. One night a student removed a body from the p.m.
table, and took its place. When Joseph came in, the lad sat up, looked
at Joe, and put out his tongue. [She chuckles.] It took them half an
hour to bring Joe back to normal!

LARRY: But what a brainless thing to do!

[FERN looks at him, smiles, and shakes her head. She crosses and takes
his hands.]

I suppose my sense of humour doesn't run that way. Clay is always kidding
me about not seeing jokes.

FERN: Now...that's where we ARE different, darling! [She reaches up and
kisses him.] Good luck tonight, Larry!

[They move apart at a sound from outside. CLAY enters with McGINNIS. CLAY
is looking at his watch.]

CLAY: Sorry! Guess we cut it a bit fine! We were waiting for Mrs. Van
Leyden...

LARRY [to McGINNIS]: Did you meet her?

McGINNIS [shakes his head]: No! The lady wasn't there.

LARRY: Too bad! But she must be around the studio somewhere.

CLAY: If I see her on my way down I'll send her in here.

LARRY: Good!

[He glances at his watch.]

Now we've just time for a drink. Care for a whisky, Mr. McGinnis?

McGINNIS [dryly]: Ever known a Scotsman who wouldn't?

[CLAY crosses to the liquor cabinet and begins to pour drinks. He looks
at FERN, who shakes her head. LARRY takes one of the chairs and pushes
it upstage near the speaker above the mural.]

LARRY: If you sit here, you'll get perfect reception. [He gestures
upward.] There's the speaker, over the mural. It's controlled from a
button on this desk...

[He moves to the desk and presses the remote control. After
a few seconds, soft background music floats into the room.
CLAY comes forward with three glasses on a silver tray. LARRY takes a
glass and hands it to McGINNIS, then takes one for himself CLAY keeps
his own glass, returning the tray to the cabinet.]

McGINNIS [looking at FERN]: And how about the little lady?

FERN [smiling]: Not just now.

CLAY: Well...here's buck teeth and bung eyes!

[They drink. McGINNIS speaks with obvious appreciation.]

McGINNIS: It's a very good taste in whisky you have, Mr. Carlson.

LARRY: Let's hope you'll say the same thing about our programme!

McGINNIS [seriously]: Gentlemen...it's only fair to tell you this. The
final decision about buying this programme must come from Mr. Mandelberg
himself! I can't take any responsibility...one way or the other.

LARRY: If you're pleased, that's all we ask.

[CLAY puts down his glass and glances at his watch.]

CLAY: Uh-huh! Tempus is fugitting! I had better go down the studio.

[He crosses to the main entrance.]

LARRY: Keep an eye out for Mrs. Van Leyden...

CLAY: Like a hawk!

[He exits, leaving the door PARTLY OPEN. LARRY gestures to the chair.]

LARRY: Now, Mr. McGinnis...

[McGINNIS, still holding his glass, seats himself in the chair. LARRY
crosses and turns up the volume, then comes around and stands before the
desk. FERN, on the couch, smiles and holds up crossed fingers. The
chimes of eight o'clock are heard and from the speaker comes the
following announcement...]

LOUDSPEAKER: This is Station 2RX. The time is eight o'clock and
Mandelberg and McGinnis, the famous firm of beauty specialists,
present...BEAUTY PARADE.

[There is a fanfare of trumpets. Behind the next announcement, an orchestra
plays softly.]

LOUDSPEAKER: Beauty in music--in poetry--in colour--and beauty in women!
Womanly loveliness that has swayed empires and caused thrones to totter!
The beauty of the idols of stage and screen that has enslaved millions!
Women! Don't envy them...be like them! It's no magic...beyond
remembering the magical names...Mandelberg and McGinnis...who have
chosen this number to open their programme...

[On cue in the commercial, the half-open door is pushed wide and MRS. VAN
LEYDEN enters. She looks rather surprised at the rapt attention in the
room. LARRY sees her, puts a warning finger to his lips, and gestures to
the couch. MRS. VAN LEYDEN nods and sits beside FERN. She is a big
woman, handsome and commanding, but there is nothing masculine about
her. Her power to dominate stems from her intense personality and charm.
Her movements are graceful, feminine, and easy. She smiles at FERN and,
sitting beside her, feels in her bag and takes out a case. Lighting a
cigarette, she leans back and surveys the room, obviously seeing it for
the first time. A slight clatter takes her attention. The glass has
dropped from McGINNIS's fingers. LARRY moves to pick it up, saying
softly...]

LARRY: Don't worry, Mr. McGinnis. I'll get you another.

[He touches McGINNIS lightly on the shoulder and crosses to the liquor
cabinet. As he goes, McGINNIS slumps forward, his knees fold, and he
pitches to the floor. FERN jumps to her feet with a cry of alarm.]

FERN: Larry...look!

[LARRY wheels from the cabinet, sees McGINNIS. Horror flashes across his
face. He rushes to the fallen man, but FERN is there before him. She
bends over the body, feeling the pulse. MRS. VAN LEYDEN is on her feet,
uncertain just what to do.]

FERN: Turn off that thing!

[LARRY crosses and switches off the remote control. He turns and looks
helplessly at MRS. VAN LEYDEN.]

LARRY: I didn't see...what happened?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [shrugging]: Could be a heart attack! Saw a friend of
mine collapse in the same way! Sir: Edward Digby...in the Saguaro
Forest...

LARRY: I'll call a doctor.

[He reaches for the telephone as FERN rises.]

FERN [quietly]: It isn't a doctor you want, Larry. It's the police...

LARRY: Police?

FERN: I can't feel any pulse...

[The entrance door is pushed open and CLAY enters, rubbing his hands with
excitement.]

CLAY [as he enters]: Brother, it's a honey--a lulu...[He sees their
stricken faces then the body of McGINNIS.] What's happened to him?

LARRY [huskily]: We...we think he's dead...

[He turns and picks up the telephone. CLAY goggles at them.]

CLAY: Jumping catfish!...But how--?

FERN: We don't know. That's why Larry's ringing for the Police...

[But in one swift move, CLAY has cleared the distance: He jerks the
phone out of LARRY's hand.]

CLAY: Brother are you crazy?

LARRY: But we've got to get the p-p-p.

[As he stands stuttering, CLAY gives him a resounding slap on the back.]

LARRY: Thanks! We've got to get the police in on this!

CLAY: Ring the police and they'll swarm all over this studio like
ants...maybe even stop the programme--

LARRY: Not if we explain...

CLAY: Okay--we explain! And the cops ring Mandelberg--tell him his
partner's flopped dead in here! Swell! Can't you see Mandelberg breaking
his neck to sign that contract?

LARRY: Oh, Lord!

CLAY: Larry, whatever happens, we've got to keep this quiet until the
programme's finished and Mandelberg signs!

LARRY [on edge]: How can we keep a thing like this quiet? Suppose
someone walks in here?

CLAY: Uh-huh! Vickery will scream the joint down!

[Swiftly considering.]

Hide it! That gives me an idea...

[He almost runs into the effects room. MRS. VAN LEYDEN moves forward,
addressing LARRY. FERN, during this dialogue, has dropped on her knees
beside the body, examining it for any signs of life.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Seems I'm only in the way here. I'll be treading
grass...

FERN [rising]: Not a word outside about this...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [a fleeting smile]: My dear, people have called me some
ugly names in my life...but never a gossip!

FERN: I am sorry!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Forget it. I hope everything turns out alright.

[She exits. As the door closes behind her, CLAY emerges from the effects
room, wheeling a stretcher.]

FERN: Where did that come from?

CLAY: Part of our first-aid equipment...We keep it in there. [Nods to
effects room.]

LARRY: But what's the idea?

CLAY: Mobile transport! Come on...give me a hand!

LARRY [uneasily]: Clay, I don't like this one little bit...

[Rather unwillingly, he helps CLAY lift the body of McGINNIS onto the
stretcher.]

CLAY: Now...where do we put him?

FERN [pointing to effects room]: In there?

LARRY: Good Lord, no! There's a thriller going on tonight. People in and
out all the time!

FERN: What about your office?

CLAY: Swell! No one ever uses that except you, Larry...Come on.

LARRY [a last attempt]: Clay, wait...don't you think we'd...

CLAY [interrupting]: No, I don't! Get behind this hearse!

LARRY: I say--can't we cover him with something?

CLAY: Where's that dust cloth that goes over the piano?

LARRY: In studio B.

CLAY: I'll get it! You stay here and keep the undertakers away...

[He crosses to the main door, flings it open, recoils, and shuts the door
quickly.]

Clear the decks!

LARRY: What's wrong?

CLAY: Vickery! And coming in here!

[LARRY and CLAY spring for the stretcher. FERN pushes open the door of
the office. They wheel the stretcher inside. Scarcely has FERN closed
the door on them when the main door opens and VICKERY bounces in. He
stops, surprised at seeing FERN alone.]

VICKERY: Oh...hello!

FERN: Hello.

VICKERY [looking around]: Where is Mr. McGinnis?

FERN: He just left.

VICKERY: Oh dear!...In the middle of the audition. No trouble, I hope?

FERN [dryly]: Oh, not Everything's fine!

VICKERY [confidingly]: I'm so glad, Miss Sutton. You know, he should be
very pleased! Programme's going splendidly...absolutely running on oiled
wheels!

FERN [glancing at the office door]: Seems to be a habit around here!

VICKERY [frowning]: I beg your pardon?

FERN: Nothing. Did you want to see Mr. Carlson?

VICKERY: Yes. Where is he?

FERN: In his office.

VICKERY: Oh...

[He takes a step toward the office, but FERN stops him.]

FERN [winningly]: If I were you, Mr. Vickery, I wouldn't go in there
just now.

VICKERY [stiffly]: Miss Sutton--as studio supervisor, I have a perfect
right to go where I please!

FERN: I know, Mr. Vickery. But, between ourselves, I wouldn't disturb
Mr. Carlson at the moment. It might be wiser to wait until he came out.

VICKERY: Why?

FERN [gesturing to office]: Big negotiations!

VICKERY [with a knowing leer]: Oh...! So MR. McGINNIS is in there?

FERN: Definitely!

VICKERY: Then naturally I couldn't intrude at a time like this when...

[He stops as LARRY comes out of the office, shutting the door quickly
behind him. His face is drawn and worried, a fact that VICKERY does
not overlook.]

Oh, there you are, Mr. Carlson!

LARRY [snapping]: Well?

VICKERY [surprised at his tone]: Why...is anything the matter?

LARRY: No!

VICKERY: But you look so upset!

LARRY: Never mind about me! Why aren't you down in the studio looking
after the programme?

VICKERY [affronted]: Well! There's no need to bite my head off, I'm
sure!

LARRY [after a slight pause--softer]: I'm sorry, Vickery. I'm just very
tired...

VICKERY: If it comes to that, Mr. Carlson, so am I!

LARRY: What is it you want?

VICKERY: Mrs. Van Leyden asked to see you.

LARRY: Why?

VICKERY: No one ever tells me anything! She just said it was extremely
urgent.

LARRY: But I can't see her now!

VICKERY: She said it would be better for all concerned if you did! I
left her striding up and down the talks studio like a frenzied Cossack!

[He moves to the main door and holds it open. LARRY stands uncertain.]

FERN: You'd better go, Larry.

LARRY [with a glance at the office]: But, Fern...

FERN [quickly]: Clay and I can attend to Mr. McGinnis

LARRY [after a slight hesitation]: All right..

[He exits, followed by VICKERY. The door closes after them. FERN stands
irresolute centre stage--it should be obvious that she is worried about
the death of McGINNIS. Suddenly she snaps her fingers.]

FERN: Dr. Haywood...and I can trust him!

[She crosses to the desk, picks up the telephone. Waits, then...]

Would you get me--

[A knock at the door. It opens and PARSONS puts his head inside. Quickly
FERN says...]

Oh, it doesn't matter, thanks.

[She replaces the receiver as PARSONS enters, and comes round to meet him
centre.]

PARSONS: I'm still looking for Mr. Carlson.

FERN: You've just missed him.

PARSONS: Confound it!

FERN: He's gone down to the talks studio with Mr. Vickery You'll
probably find him there.

PARSONS: Oh.

FERN: Mrs. Van Leyden wanted to see him rather urgently

PARSONS [rather bitterly]: Naturally, she couldn't be kept waiting!
That's what a reputation does for you!

FERN: How do you mean?

PARSONS: A few weeks ago, I suggested to Mr. Carlson that I do a series
of talks on New Guinea. I was refused--yet this novelist woman is
welcomed with open arms!

FERN [noncommittal]: Really?

PARSONS [quickly]: Mind you, don't think I'm complaining! But I have
spent five years in the islands. Mrs. Van Leyden, I believe, visited the
place once!

FERN: I understood she'd written a book...

PARSONS [witheringly]: My dear, any superficial observer can write a
travel book! Real colour can only come from someone like myself--who
knows the place and the people intimately!

FERN: I suppose so.

PARSONS: But you mustn't start me on that subject. Did Mr. Carlson say
how long he would be?

FERN: No.

PARSONS: Then I'd better go and find him...my business is just as
important as Mrs. Van Leyden's...

[He exits. FERN turns away as the office door opens and CLAY thrusts out
his head.]

CLAY: Who was that?

FERN: Mr. Parsons again. He's still hunting Larry.

[CLAY emerges from office, patting his face with a handkerchief. He looks
a little pallid.]

CLAY: I'm sure glad to get out of that room...

FERN: What's the matter?

CLAY: I've been sitting in there watching my flesh creep!

FERN: But you've seen dead men before...

CLAY [sits on chair in front of desk]: Yeah, but they didn't make faces
at me!

FERN [sharply]: Clay!

CLAY: I'm telling you...his face is all screwed up like he's got a tummy
ache...yeah, and it's turning a queer kind of purple...

[But FERN is already in the office. She emerges almost immediately,
her face set.]

FERN [crisply]: Clay--we're in a mess!

CLAY: But--

FERN: It's not heart failure...the man's been poisoned!

CLAY: Yes, that's what...[He does a sudden horrified double-take and
jumps to his feet.] Did you say poisoned?

FERN: Yes.

CLAY: Have a heart, sister! It was bad enough before, but now...Are you
certain?

FERN: Quite certain!

CLAY: But I don't get it...

FERN [worried]: Neither do I. We've got to think...[She looks around.]
It must have happened right here in this room!

CLAY: Can you tell?

FERN: By the rate of contusion, it's a quick-acting poison. Now...in
other circumstances, we might suspect that whisky or those cigarettes...

CLAY [protesting]: Now, listen...

FERN: I said...in other circumstances! Because I had cigarettes from
that box.

CLAY: Sure you did! Just as Larry and I had a drink of that whisky!

FERN: The police will say that doesn't mean a thing. The might have been
introduced after the whisky was poured...

CLAY [in dismay]: Say, listen! Who's side are you on?

FERN: I'm only trying to sort this thing out.

CLAY: Then you're doing swell! I poured that whisky for McGinnis!

FERN: Yes...and Larry handed it to him...

CLAY: See where that gets us? Five minutes ago we were doing a stretch
as accessories! Now you've got us halfway to the electric chair! That
guy McGinnis was worth fifty grand to us!

FERN: So the only two people who had opportunity to kill McGinnis are
the two people with the strongest motive for keeping him alive!

CLAY: Larry's going to stutter for three months when he hears about
this!

FERN: Larry mustn't hear about it--not yet!

CLAY: But sooner or later...

FERN: Make it later! Because I've got to find out more about the poison.
Tell me--do all calls from this room go through the switchboard?

CLAY: Sure!

FERN: Is there any other place I can telephone--quietly--without being
overheard?

CLAY: There's a call-box in the next block.

FERN [crisply]: Give me some change...

[CLAY fishes in his pocket and brings out some coins--hands them to
her.]

FERN [as she takes them]: I want Doctor Haywood's advice on all
this...and sometimes switch-girls have very long ears!

CLAY: You're telling me! My wife was a hello-girl once--and the
hush-money she collected looked like the national debt!

[FERN exits. Left alone, CLAY glances uneasily at the office door then
around the room. His eye falls on the whisky decanter. He crosses and
pours a generous tot, is about to gulp it down when he remembers. He
gasps.]

Poison!

[Claps a hand over the glass and hurriedly puts it down. He
comes down and sits on the couch, visibly shaken. At that moment, the
door opens and VICKERY enters, delighted as a young colt in a spring
meadow.]

VICKERY: Hello there!

[And CLAY jumps like a startled hare.]

CLAY [sourly]: You again!

VICKERY: Yes! Isn't it wonderful!

CLAY: What is?

VICKERY: The great news!

CLAY: I know--I know! You've got leprosy.

VICKERY: Oh, don't be silly! It's Mr. Mandelberg...he's here!

CLAY: Oh, is that all...[Abruptly he does a double-take and leaps in
horror.] Mandelberg!

VICKERY [smugly]: Yes! Indeed, yes! When Mr. Carlson and I were on our
way down to see Mrs. Van Leyden, the commissionaire stopped us to say
that Mr. Mandelberg was in the reception room!

CLAY [groaning]: Mandelberg...here in the studio!

VICKERY: Flashing his diamond rings right and left!

CLAY: Great gophers--that's torn it!

VICKERY [staring at him]: Torn what?

CLAY [sitting]: Oh, never mind--never mind!

VICKERY: But aren't you pleased?

CLAY: Sure--sure! I'm just hysterical! What's he doing here, anyway?

VICKERY: I think he's come here specially to sign that contract...that's
why he rang up earlier this evening.

CLAY: But he wouldn't sign if he hadn't heard the show?

VICKERY: Well...if Mr. Mandelberg isn't going to sign the contract why
should he ask to be shown up here to Mr. Carlson's own private office!

CLAY [on his feet]: But he can't go in there!

VICKERY: Oh, don't be ridiculous!

With sudden fussy impatience, he walks across to the office.

And I'm sure the place must be in a dreadful state...

[But CLAY springs forward, grabbing him forcibly swinging him round
just as he reaches the door.]

CLAY: Just where d'you think you're going?

VICKERY [pointing with extreme dignity]: In there...to tidy up.

CLAY: I'll do all the tidying up that's necessary! You run along to the
studio.

VICKERY: But I've just come from there!

CLAY: Then go back!

VICKERY [stiffly]: Mr. Tuttle, I don't mind telling you I have my
suspicions that something very odd is going on here tonight!

CLAY: All right--all right! Now run along!

VICKERY: In view of the position I hold here, the very least thing you
can do is to confide in me!

CLAY [desperately]: I'll confide this much, buddy! If you're not out of
this room in five minutes, you'll have no more future than a cake of
ice!

VICKERY [drawing himself up--his trump card]: Very well! I resign!

CLAY: Okay! But resign out there in the corridor!

[VICKERY turns and marches to the door--turns.]

VICKERY [bitingly]: Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be better
off...under the Communists.

[CLAY makes a leap towards him, but VICKERY exits and slams the door.
CLAY stands looking wildly around the room. His eye falls on the
washroom. He crosses quickly to the office, wheels out the stretcher,
and pushes it into the washroom. The door closes behind as the main door
opens and LARRY enters with JOSEPH MANDELBERG. He is a plump middle-aged
Jew, very well-dressed, and on the fingers of his right hand a large
diamond ring is conspicuous.]

LARRY: Now, Mr. Mandelberg...are you sure you wouldn't rather wait down
in the studio?

MANDELBERG [waving the suggestion aside]: No, no! [He looks around,
openly admiring the room.] Very nice, very nice! Eh? Always I am
thinking that the radio advertising is it a. lemon, yes? But even a
smart businessman can be wrong!

LARRY [gesturing to couch]: Sit down, Mr. Mandelberg.

[As MANDELBERG seats himself, LARRY picks up the handbag from the couch.
He takes it across to the desk.]

MANDELBERG [noticing this]: So...we have the ladies present with us
tonight, eh?

LARRY: This? It belongs to my fiancee, Miss Sutton.

MANDELBERG: Fern Sutton?

LARRY: Yes, I think you know her.

MANDELBERG: She's a nice lady. But I don't trust that low-life uncle of
hers...between you and me, Mr. Carlson...a cut-throat!

LARRY: Oh, no...

MANDELBERG: Oh, yes, Mr. Carlson. Already I am smelling the rats! Why
does Miss Sutton come here tonight? Now I can't have a radio programme
without a business rival! Maybe my omens was right after all!

LARRY: Omens?

MANDELBERG: You don't believe in the omens, Carlson?

LARRY: Well...

MANDELBERG: Listen! Tonight, just before my wireless machine breaks
down--like a flash in the pan it comes to me! And now, here's the proof
of the pudding, ain't it?

LARRY [puzzled]: Proof of what?

MANDELBERG [shrewdly]: Dumb as the fox he plays, eh? Well...that's good
business!

[LARRY is about to speak when the washroom door opens cautiously and
CLAY backs out. He is nervous, flushed and a trifle dishevelled.]

LARRY: Oh, Clay...

[CLAY gives a terrified gasp and wheels sharply, to confront MANDELBERG
staring at him curiously Quickly he smoothes his hair into place,
straightens his tie as LARRY continues.]

LARRY: Mr. Mandelberg, I'd like you to meet Mr. Tuttle. He looks after
the entertainment side of our business.

CLAY [with forced heartiness]: Well...we're sure glad to see you here
tonight, sir!

MANDELBERG [with sudden suspicion]: Now, what's all the sudden gladness
about, eh? [To LARRY.] You're glad!--now he's glad! What's there to
be glad about, I'd like to know? If it ain't the government that's
robbing you, it's the charities--and if the charities don't, the unions
do! And where the unions leave off, the relatives begin! You got
relatives, Mr. Carlson?

LARRY: A few.

MANDELBERG: Me...I got 'em like the Israelites! [He feels in his pocket
and produces a cigar case.] And if supporting my own ain't bad enough, I
got to marry a woman with hundreds of them! And not one of 'em with an
extra pair of pants to his name!

CLAY: You should put them to work in your factory!

MANDELBERG [sourly]: Don't give me jokes, Mr. Entertainments Partner!
The day one of those schemals does an honest day's work...that's the
time I should drop down dead!

CLAY [in wild alarm]: No, no...No!

MANDELBERG [rising]: What's the matter with you?

CLAY [gulping]: Nothing...nothing...

[MANDELBERG puts the cigar in his mouth, feels for matches. CLAY produces
a box, but in his haste and nervousness he drops it. As he bends to pick
it up...]

MANDELBERG: What for you got the shakes, Mr. Entertainments Partner? You
been lighting the candle at both ends, isn't it?

LARRY [producing a box of matches]: Oh, no! Mr. Tuttle's just a little
excited! Big night for us...the Mandelberg programme!

[CLAY has by this time recovered the matchbox. He strikes a match
simultaneously with LARRY. Both look at each other, blow out their
matches. MANDELBERG is left with the unlighted cigar in his mouth. This
he shoves back in his pocket.]

MANDELBERG: So...the shakes he gets for putting on the Mandelberg
programme, eh? And for the privilege of paying for it, what should I
get? St. Vitus' Dance, maybe?

LARRY: Mr. Mandelberg...

MANDELBERG: Don't give me no foolishness! [To LARRY as MANDELBERG begins
to walk towards the office.] You got my contract in there?

LARRY [blocking his way]: Well...you see...

[He stops and looks helplessly at CLAY, who points furiously in dumb
show to the office and the washroom. MANDELBERG, watching LARRY's
astonished face, wheels suddenly and confronts a highly embarrassed
CLAY.]

MANDELBERG: Is this the excitement you still have?

CLAY: No, I...[Desperately.] Larry...

MANDELBERG [wheeling on LARRY]: What goes on here? LARRY: I think Mr.
Tuttle's just telling me he's going down to the studio.

MANDELBERG: What is he, then? A jitterbugger?

LARRY [to CLAY] That's all right, Clay...you can run along...

CLAY: But...I want to talk to you.

LARRY: Not now, Clay! Later!

CLAY: But listen...[A last frenzied effort.] Oddybay otnay officenay.

MANDELBERG [sharply]: What is this? What goes on? Why...don't he speak
the good English like me?

CLAY [gulping]: Mr. Mandelberg...

MANDELBERG [striding up to CLAY, taps his chest] You're the
Entertainments Partner, eh? [CLAY nods helplessly.] Then go away and
entertain! No one's stopping you, is it? [CLAY shakes his head.] You got
your health and strength, ain't you? [CLAY nods dumbly,] Or maybe you'd
like me to take my programme to some other studio where they put the
entertainments in the right place?

[He wheels and strides toward the main door. LARRY: after him.]

LARRY: No, no, Mr. Mandelberg...Clay, for heaven's sake...!

CLAY [resigned to the inevitable]: Okay...okay...

[He exits. MANDELBERG, very suspicious, watches him go. Then he wheels
and strides back into the room.]

MANDELBERG: Now...maybe we talk some business! You got my contract in
that office?

LARRY: Yes. But if you'll sit down out here.

MANDELBERG: Mr. Carlson...an office is the place to do the business. Not
out here.

LARRY: Well, what about the studio

MANDELBERG [advancing to him]: For the last time I am telling you. When
I want the entertainments, I ask entertainments! When I do business, I
do business! Tonight, I do business, not entertainments! Come on, please...

[He walks to the office door and is about to throw it open when LARRY
interrupts desperately.]

LARRY: Wait a minute...

MANDELBERG [wheeling]: What now?

LARRY: I...I've just remembered! That contract isn't in my office...

MANDELBERG: Where is it?

LARRY: I...I think I left it somewhere...yes, that's right! I left it
down in the studio...

[MANDELBERG crosses slowly to him, watching him shrewdly.]

MANDELBERG: You THINK you left it?

LARRY: Yes.

MANDELBERG: Now...don't give me that stuff, Mr. Carlson. A contract
worth that much...you leave it lying around like it was a piece of
cheese? You're too smart a fella...you don't get no radio station that
way!

LARRY: But--

MANDELBERG: For three months you make the nuisance of yourself with this
business deal! Did I come to you to buy a programme?

LARRY: No, but--

MANDELBERG: And don't give me no bluffs, young fella. Some monkey
business goes on here! And what for does your entertainments partner do
the nanny nonny nonny behind my back to your face?

LARRY: I told you...

MANDELBERG [shrewdly]: When I want the fairy tales, I will buy them
ready printed at cut rates! Now...if a better price someone offers you
for the programme...that's okay...I'm a businessman...I don't pare no
cheese!

LARRY: What makes you think we've been offered more money?

MANDELBERG: Tonight I get the omen--just like that! To come along here
it is important...eh? And what do I find? I find that your fiancial is
already here to buy the programme for that schema! her uncle!

[LARRY: suddenly realizing, he turns and walks to desk]:

Well...naturally it's a very popular programme, Mr. Mandelberg.

MANDELBERG: I knew it Not for nothing was that mummer so polite to me in
the street yesterday! But don't you do no business with him, Mr.
Carlson! You'll be sorry before you're born!

LARRY: Would you be willing to make that sum free of income tax...that
is, you pay your end?

MANDELBERG [slowly]: So that was his terms, eh?

LARRY: Business is business, Mr. Mandelberg. I can't say more than that!

MANDELBERG [after slight pause--shrugging]: Well, well...for the
sheep as the goats I might as well be plucked! [He crosses to the desk
and sits in the chair.] But I'm telling you...all my life I regret what
I do here tonight!

LARRY: Oh, no you won't...[He moves behind desk.]

MANDELBERG: Listen! This way I figure it! Already my wife's cousin, she
got the culture, so what do I do? Support an orchestra. A shareholder
in some pitcher business I become, since my daughter Irma she's a greet.
actress, she says. So what's it to me if I go bankrupt over the radio!

LARRY: You'll make five times the amount in advertising...[He opens a
drawer and pulls out a sheet of paper] now I'll write out a formal
agreement about that income tax and...

[During this speech, he moves the blotter on the desk pushing it
forward as he sits. The edge of the blotter catches his glass--left on
the edge of the desk half filled with whisky--and tips it across into
MANDELBERG's lap. MANDELBERG jumps to his feet with an angry exclamation,
brushing at his trousers with a handkerchief. LARRY jumps to his
feet.]

I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Mandelberg!

MANDELBERG: Sorry he says! Listen, young fella I can make a mess of
myself for nothing! I should pay you thousands of pounds for the
privilege!

[LARRY has pulled open a drawer. Now he comes around holding a small
hand-towel.]

LARRY: Here's a towel...and you'll find hot water in that washroom...

MANDELBERG: And what about the suit? Maybe you got a pants presser on
the programme, too!

He marches indignantly into the washroom. As he goes, LARRY starts toward
the office door.

LARRY: Now for that contract...

[He flings open the door, halts in amazement. At that moment, CLAY
enters.]

CLAY: Where's Mandelberg?

LARRY [turning]: Never mind Mandelberg! Where's McGinnis?

CLAY: I put him in the wash--

[He is interrupted by a strangled cry from the washroom. The door flies
open and MANDELBERG rushes out, wringing his hands in anguish.]

MANDELBERG: Oi...oi...tragedy...a tragedy!

LARRY: Mr. Mandelberg...

MANDELBERG: Don't give me no soft soap! For two pins I sue you right
now! Get a lawyer...ja...get a policeman...

LARRY: That's no good.

MANDELBERG: What?

LARRY: Getting a policeman here won't bring your partner back.

[MANDELBERG stares at him.]

MANDELBERG: My partner?

CLAY: That guy in there...

LARRY: Mr. McGinnis!

MANDELBERG [waving this aside]: McGinnis? What foolishness is this?
There's some fella in there so drunk he lies down on a stretcher. But
that's not my partner!

LARRY [staggered]: Not...not McGinnis?

MANDELBERG: But ain't I telling you...that mummer's a Complete stranger
to me, I never saw him in my life!

[LARRY gives a gasp, drops limply into the chair staring at MANDELBERG,
as the curtain falls.]


========

ACT TWO

========

[When the curtain rises, no time has elapsed. The scene is the same, with
LARRY sitting staring at MANDELBERG. CLAY is standing near him.]

LARRY: You have never seen that man before?

MANDELBERG: Well...all over again do I have to explain it...or maybe you
surprise me...and do something!

CLAY: But...what happened in there? What was the tragedy?

MANDELBERG My diamond ring...my ring...my ring!

CLAY: Well?

MANDELBERG: Listen, Mr. Entertainments Partner...I am washing my hands!
And my ring...my precious diamond ring...it slips off my finger and down
the drainpipe!

LARRY [with infinite relief]: Oh, your ring!

MANDELBERG: Two hundred pounds it cost me--with the sales tax extra! I
should be mushugga and see it vanish with the soap-suds! Well, what are
you going to do about it?

LARRY [rising]: Don't worry, Mr. Mandelberg. We'Il get your ring back.

MANDELBERG: So easy he says it? Where's the ring now, might I ask? Or
maybe you got a plumber's man here in the studio?

LARRY: It's a very simple operation. It's happened before.

MANDELBERG: Not to me it aint!

LARRY: Now, if you'll just relax, I'll get that contract and--[He starts
for the office, but stops as MANDELBERG speaks quickly.]

MANDELBERG: Not so fast, Mr. Carlson! I aint signing no contract yet!

LARRY [turning, dismayed]: But a few minutes ago...

MANDELBERG: I got a right to change my mind! It's a free country aint
it? Else why do we pay the income tax? And anyway, a few minutes ago,
and now, are birds of a different colour!

LARRY: Why?

MANDELBERG [significantly]: It's the omens!

CLAY: Omens? Say, what have they got to do with it?

MANDELBERG: Everything! How do you think I make the fortune if it isn't
by the stars and the omens? I'm telling you...tonight my radio machine
she goes sick on: me. Tonight I lose my diamond ring. That is two
tragedies...

LARRY: But...

MANDELBERG [sweeping him aside]: And where there is two there is three!
Maybe it's the third tragedy for me if I sign that contract with you
tonight!

CLAY: Mr. Mandelberg, you're a businessman...

MANDELBERG: What of it?

CLAY: You're not going to let superstition stand in the way of making
the best deal of your career?

MANDELBERG: Here tonight my career aint been so good so far! For the
first time I do something without a talk with my partner. It don't look
so good to me. I want his advice.

LARRY: Mr. McGinnis isn't here just at the moment.

MANDELBERG: But you said he was!

LARRY: Well...you see, he was here, but...but...

CLAY [with sudden inspiration]: He went out to make a long-distance
call!

MANDELBERG: Then I wait for him. [He sits.] It's a nice night I got for
it, anyway.

LARRY: But, you see, Mr. Mandelberg, Mr. McGinnis isn't coming back
here. [As MANDELBERG looks at him] He...you...he's going back to the
sponsor's box in the studio.

MANDELBERG [rising]: Then that's where I wait for him.

LARRY: In the meantime, I'll get my studio supervisor to tap that pipe
and take out your ring. How's that?

MANDELBERG: At once would be too soon! Now, where is this box that I
wait?

LARRY: Mr. Tuttle will show you.

CLAY [eagerly]: Sure...this way, sir...

[He shepherds MANDELBERG to the door and throws it open. But to their
dismay, MANDELBERG halts on the threshold, turns, and comes slowly back
into the room.]

MANDELBERG: Just a minute...just a minute...

LARRY: Yes?

MANDELBERG: In all the confusion, out of my mind it goes. [He points to
washroom.] That fella in there was mighty drunk, wasn't he?

LARRY: Oh, no! We never have drunks in the Rex studio.

MANDELBERG: Then what's the matter with him?

CLAY [quickly]: He...he's very sick!

MANDELBERG: Then why don't you get the doctor to him?

CLAY: A doctor's coming up right now! That's why we put the guy in the
washroom. It's...it's nice and quiet in there.

MANDELBERG: Bit unhealthy, too, aint it?

CLAY: He won't be there much longer. We're moving him to a hospital.

MANDELBERG [to LARRY]: Bad as that, eh? What's the trouble?

LARRY [cornered]: Er...appendicitis!

CLAY [simultaneously, helping LARRY out]: Gallstones!

MANDELBERG [looking from one to the other]: Make up your minds,
boys...make up your minds...

CLAY [desperately]: Well, Mr. Carlson things it's appendicitis...and
me...well, I think its gallstones!

MANDELBERG: Me...I think it's just another bad omen! [He turns and walks
to door.] More and more I want to talk to that partner of mine!

[He walks out, hesitates, turns, and comes back. Eyeing them, he says
slowly, significantly...]

Too many things are happening here tonight...like the niggers in the
woodpiles!

[He turns and walks out, finally this time, followed by CLAY, who spreads
his hands helplessly as he exits.]

[LARRY, left alone, crosses to the desk and picks up the inter-office
phone--speaks into it.]

LARRY: Is that you, Mason? Is Mr. Vickery with you? No? When he comes
back, would you give him a message? Tell him to borrow a pipe-wrench
from one of the mechanics...yes...a pipe-wrench! He's to bring it up
here...to the audition studio...thanks!

[During this conversation, FERN has entered. When LARRY hangs up,
she speaks.]

FERN: Why on earth do you need a pipe-wrench?

LARRY: Mandelberg's dropped his diamond ring down the washbowl!

FERN: Oh, Larry!

LARRY: That's only part of our troubles! You know that chap who passed
out here tonight...?

FERN: McGinnis?

LARRY: It's not McGinnis! It's some complete stranger!

FERN: How do you know?

LARRY: Clay moved the body into the washroom. When Mandelberg went in
there, we thought it was all up! But Mandelberg swears the man's a
complete stranger to him!

FERN: But why should anyone want to come masquerading as Mandelberg's
partner?

LARRY [sits in chair in front of desk]: The whole thing's utterly beyond
me, Fern. I wish you'd let me call the police!

FERN: But what about the contract?

LARRY: We can kiss that goodbye! I had Mandelberg all set to sign, but
now he's cooled off again. He wants to talk to his partner.

FERN: Then he believes the real McGinnis came here?

LARRY [wearily]: It's all such a hopeless tangle. I don't know where to
start...

FERN: I do! Is that body still in the washroom?

LARRY: Yes...[As FERN starts for the washroom door.] What's the idea?

FERN: I'm going through that stranger's pockets. He may have papers to
identify him!

[She moves to the washroom door. LARRY is about to say something when a
tap sounds at the main door. FERN exits and LARRY calls...]

LARRY: Come in!

[The main doors open and MURIEL PARSONS appears. She carries a script in
one hand and in the other a cigarette in a long holder of curious design.]

MURIEL: Excuse me barging in, Mr. Carlson, but Clarry's been trying to
nail you down all the evening...

LARRY: Why?

MURIEL: It's about this script we're doing tonight. Now, you've got to
be fair, Mr. Carlson...we don't often kick about the lines we've to
read! But there's a limit to everything...

LARRY [frowning]: It's Mr. Tuttle's script you're talking about?

MURIEL: Yes!

LARRY: I read it. It seems quite all right to me.

MURIEL: But those final lines--you had enough brute strength to wade
through to the climax?

LARRY: What's wrong with the climax?

MURIEL: Speaks for itself! Listen...

[She crosses to the desk and puts down the cigarette holder then, turning,
flicks the pages of the script to the end and reads sardonically.]

There is a long sustained burst of music that ends abruptly. Into the
silence, Inspector King barks Drop that gun, sister! Go on, drop it!
We've got you covered from this doorway! We're going to put you right
where you belong...behind bars!

[She pauses and looks up.]

LARRY: Well?

MURIEL: We can't do it, Mr. Carlson...After all, we are the top team in
Australian radio--our reputations would never stand it! That kind of
thing may be alright for the cheap cinema! But it has no place in drama!

LARRY: It's not supposed to be drama...It's an American crook play.

MURIEL: We've both worked our brains to the bone. We've tried it
fast...we've tried it slow! Gielgud couldn't make that speech sound
convincing!

LARRY [sighing]: Mrs. Parsons, I'm very busy...

MURIEL: I know. All we want is your okay for Clarry to rewrite that
ending...

LARRY: Certainly not!

MURIEL: But listen--

LARRY: Mrs. Parsons, you know as well as I do that the script has been
passed by the sponsor! We can't alter a word without his permission.

MURIEL: But surely...

LARRY: If you feel so unhappy about the speech something could possibly
be cut...But you've left it very late.

MURIEL: I keep telling you! Clarry's been trying to see you!

LARRY: You could have spoken to Vickery...

MURIEL: Fat lot of help we got there! We asked him to show you this
script...

LARRY: And why didn't he?

MURIEL: He's too busy with his own little mystery!

LARRY [sharply]: Mystery?

MURIEL [viperishly]: It's none of my business, perhaps, but as manager
of this studio...I think I should enquire just what Mr. Vickery does each
lunch time...when he goes into his private office...and locks the door...

LARRY: If I know Vickery, he sleeps!

MURIEL [shrugging]: I'm not one to make trouble but why does he take in
that curious electrical gadget that makes all those humming, buzzing
noises?

LARRY: What kind of gadget?

MURIEL [thoroughly enjoying the part]: What's more, when I asked him
what it was he became positively furtive...and almost ran away from me!

LARRY: Very well, Mrs. Parsons, when I see Vickery I'll mention this to
him!

[MURIEL moves toward the main entrance.]

MURIEL [quickly]: But keep my name out of it, would you? If there's any
nonsense going on here, I'd rather not be drawn into it.

[At door.]

Sure you won't change your mind about this?

[She holds up the script.]

LARRY: I'm sorry. No.

MURIEL [bitterly]: Well, I've done my best! I only hope the critics are
as tolerant!

[She exits. FERN comes from the washroom as the door closes.]

FERN: Larry...I couldn't help hearing...

LARRY: About Vickery?

FERN [nods]: What do you think he's up to?

LARRY: If I know the Parsons, they've put two and two together and made
six. [He notices the wallet and letters she carries.] What's that? Are
they his?

[Nods to washroom.]

FERN: Yes...the stranger's wallet...and I found these letters.

[She hands LARRY the wallet and begins to open the letters. At the first
one, she pauses, frowning.]

What was McGinnis's first name?

LARRY: Alec.

FERN: This is a tailor's bill...addressed to CHARLES McGinnis...

LARRY: Charles?

[FERN nods, goes on opening letters.]

FERN: Here's a circular from his club...same name! [She puts it aside.]
An account from his wine merchants [Puts it aside and looks at the
fourth letter.] Now, this may give us something...[She skims through the
letter and looks up.] Larry! This letter starts..."My dear
brother"...and finishes with the signature...Alec McGinnis!

LARRY [staring at her]: Then the stranger...this Charles is Alec
McGinnis's brother!

FERN: The brother of Mandelberg's partner...yes!

LARRY: But what the deuce was he doing here?

FERN: Open the wallet!

[LARRY does so. He extracts a slip of pasteboard Opening it,
he gives a gasp of surprise.]

LARRY: Fern...look at this!

[She stares at the folder, reading.]

FERN: Commonwealth Investigation Officer...Charles Edward McGinnis...

LARRY: It's the same man all right! There's his photograph in the
corner!

[He looks at her.]

But what would bring a Commonwealth investigation officer here?

FERN [quietly]: What else is in there?

[LARRY delves into the wallet again. This time he produces...a number of
folded papers held together with, a clip. The top one is a newsprint
clipping. He detaches this, unfolding it.]

LARRY: Woomera...Isn't that the site of the rocket range?

FERN: Yes. Up in the centre. Why?

LARRY: Here's a newspaper account of the whole project.

[He passes it to her and FERN takes it, frowning.]

[LARRY unclips the next paper and unfolds it.]

Fern...what do you make of this?

FERN [looking at it]: A map of the New South Wales coast...

LARRY: But look here! Small red circles marked "possible points of
landing". Landing for whom...for what?

FERN: Let me see that last paper!

[LARRY unclips it and smoothes it out--a sheet of paper closely
typewritten. He frowns over it.]

LARRY: It's a police description of three people...

FERN: Men?

LARRY [reading]: "Victor Golovnia--Ivan Koslovski--Peter Gomotov..."

FERN [frowning]: Gomotov...Peter Gomotov...? I've' heard that name
somewhere before...

LARRY: Sure you're not thinking of Molotov?

FERN [impatiently]: No, no!

[Suddenly she snaps her fingers.]

Darling, I know! Wasn't there an agent of that name mixed up in the
Canadian business--when the atomic secrets were stolen?

LARRY: By Jove, yes! But all that is ancient history! And anyway,
Russia's got the bomb now...

FERN: And so the race is to the swift! Perhaps that's the very reason
she's taking an interest in other defence weapons...like those
experiments up there at Woomera!

LARRY [incredulous]: You mean that these men are agents...secret
agents...trying to land here?

FERN: Not if national security can stop them!

LARRY: But what's all this got to do with us?

[FERN has been refolding the papers. Now she returns them to the wallet.
She speaks very quietly.]

FERN: Larry...during the war, you were flying a Spitfire in the Battle
for Britain.

LARRY: Yes, but--

FERN: Here in Australia, another war was going on...a secret, bloodless
struggle...a fight against espionage. Every radio station was carefully
monitored by the military authorities...to prevent enemy agents
broadcasting in code.

LARRY: But surely all that stopped years ago!

FERN: Espionage never stops. Not while important military information
can be stolen! In the next war, rocket projectiles will be linked with
the atom bomb. On that range in central Australia, the best brains in
the world are conducting secret experiments that may revolutionize
defence!

LARRY: But Fern--

FERN: We know that at least one of these men is an enemy agent. That
explains why Commonwealth security wants to keep them out of this
country! But perhaps they're too late...

LARRY: These chaps have already landed?

FERN [quietly]: Yes...and someone is already in communication with
them! And what safer means than in code...from a radio station!

[LARRY stares at FERN for a long moment, then he smiles.]

LARRY: Oh no, darling, no! It's too fantastic!

FERN: Why?

LARRY: Not here in Australia!

FERN [crisply]: Famous last words! It can't happen here!

LARRY: But why choose this station?

FERN: For two reasons, Larry! First, you're new here...new and
comparatively unknown! Because you're new, you're more likely to be
unsuspicious of this kind of dirty business! And because you're
comparatively unknown...

LARRY [as she pauses]: Yes?

FERN [slowly]: If anything went wrong...if ever the police were brought
into this...an unknown person is much more likely to be suspected than
the established owners other stations...men with solid connections built
up through years...

[She pauses and looks steadily at him.]

And already these pleasant people are responsible for much of the
anti-British sentiment in this country...

[LARRY, now more perturbed than he cares to show attempts to brush this
aside. He says with an attempt at lightness.]

LARRY: No, darling! I'm certain we're just raising ghosts to scare
ourselves...

FERN: You think so?

LARRY: We've got to be sensible about all this After all, the whole
thing is merely surmise. We've no real evidence...

FERN: A man is dead!

LARRY: But surely heart failure isn't a crime...

FERN: No. But murder is!

LARRY [aghast]: Murder!

[He grasps her shoulders.]

For God's sake, Fern! What are you saying?

FERN: Charles McGinnis didn't die of heart failure, Larry...he was
poisoned!

[As he stares at her in horror.]

I've been talking to Dr. Haywood on the phone, explaining the symptoms.
There's not the slightest doubt about it!

LARRY [huskily]: But why...what...?

FERN: We've got to face it, Larry. Someone's been using this studio to
transmit information to these agents. National security got wind of
it--and sent McGinnis down here to investigate. So as not to arouse
suspicion, he pretended to be his brother!

LARRY: And that's why he was so interested in the studio!

FERN: Yes...and remember how he warned us he had nothing to do with
Mandelberg buying your programme?

LARRY: Very clever...

FERN: But not quite clever enough! Because someone saw through
McGinnis's masquerade--and stopped it in a most efficient way!
Someone--right here in this studio!

[An anguished LARRY rises from the couch.]

LARRY: Now we must call in the police!

FERN: Larry--wait.

LARRY: What for? Until the government cancels our licence and closes us
down? Even if they don't, how can we carry on in face of a treason case?
Mud like that sticks a long time!

[He slumps back onto the couch.]

Just as everything was going so well...this has to happen!

[FERN takes his hands and her voice is very gentle.]

FERN: Larry...

LARRY: Well?

FERN: Remember how we talked of national characteristics a while ago? I
think you'll find we have two outstanding traits. The first is a rooted
dislike of anything that's false or underhand...anything that isn't--as
we say--fair dinkum.

LARRY: I know.

FERN [smiling]: The other is a strong sense of independence,
Larry. That's the natural development of being isolated in a huge
continent, thousands of miles from the heart of the world. We get it
from our first pioneers, who conquered this country with nothing save
their own courage and initiative...

LARRY: If you're suggesting we can handle this business ourselves...

FERN [firmly]: That's right! We can!

LARRY: No, Fern--it's too dangerous!

FERN: You bet it is! But you're not one to side-step danger...

LARRY: You know I'd battle to the last ditch for this place...

FERN: I'm not worried about all this...

[She waves a hand to the surroundings.]

I know that if it WAS taken away, you could soon build it up again!
But I'm not prepared to wait that long! You see, darling, I'm
thinking of ourselves...our future...That's more important to me than a
dozen radio stations!

LARRY [slowly]: If only we COULD keep the police out of it...

FERN: Just until we've found the truth, Larry. And already we've one
pointed.

LARRY: Vickery?

FERN: Yes.

LARRY: All right

[He rises.]

We'll start by getting that chap up here straight away! I want to know
about that electrical apparatus...

[He starts toward the door, but FERN restrains him gently.]

FERN: Darling, you'll get nowhere acting like the wild colonial boy!
That can wait! First we must know more about McGinnis's death...

LARRY: How do we start?

FERN: By finding the weapon that killed him!

LARRY: Weapon? But you just said he was poisoned!

FERN [gently]: There's more than one way of poisoning. In this case, I
think it was done with a thorn or a tiny dart...

LARRY: How do you know?

FERN: Doctor Haywood suggested I look for marks on the exposed part of
the body. On the left side of the neck, I found a' tiny puncture...

LARRY: But there was no one near him!

FERN [quietly]: A poison dart ejected from a blowpipe can carry fifty
feet...

LARRY [incredulously]: Blowpipe? Oh, no...

FERN: Look it up in the Brittanica...

LARRY: But...a blowpipe! I've read of such things in books,
but...here...in the heart of Sydney.

FERN [crisply]: I see you'll have to be convinced, my boy!

[She moves to the chair, examining the covering then, pushing the chair
aside, begins to scan the carpet. Suddenly she gives a sharp breath of
discovery. She is about to pounce on something when, abruptly, the main
entrance door opens and MRS. VAN LEYDEN comes in. FERN has stretched out
her hand when MRS. VAN LEYDEN says sharply...]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Don't touch that!

[LARRY and FERN look up, surprised. MRS. VAN LEYDEN moves to small table,
puts down handbag she carries, extracts a pair of tweezers, and returns
behind chair. Bending, she deftly picks up a tiny feathered dart. She
holds it up and speaks without looking at LARRY.]

Would you get me an envelope, Mr. Carlson?

LARRY: What's all this?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: The envelope first! This little devil's too dangerous
to be left lying around!

[There is subtle command in her tone, so that LARRY obeys without further
question. He goes to drawer and takes out an envelope. Holding it open,
he lets MRS VAN LEYDEN drop the dart inside. She folds the envelope and
hands it to him.]

You'd better seal that down and keep it for the police. They'll probably
call it Exhibit A.

FERN: How did you know the dart was there?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Miss Sutton...it is Miss Sutton? [FERN nods.] I brought
that dart here this afternoon with five others. A newspaper photographer
wanted some publicity pictures...

LARRY: That's true.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: While I was in this room earlier, the darts and the
blowpipe were stolen...from the talks studio!

FERN: Stolen? But why didn't you report this?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I did! When I discovered they'd gone I sent that studio
supervisor for Mr. Carlson!

LARRY: We were going down when our sponsor arrived. That put everything
else out of my head!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: That sudden collapse began to look rather ominous. [To
LARRY.] So when you didn't come down, I came up...to find Miss Sutton
groping around the floor!

FERN [comes down to couch]: Your hunch about McGinnis: was right.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [she shakes her head]: Are you calling the police?

FERN: Not yet.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I suppose you know your own business best, but...murder's
a different proposition from natural death.

Neither LARRY nor FERN answer. MRS. VAN LEYDEN looks from one to the other,
taking in their set, worried faces. She says gently...

You two seem to have got yourselves into a lot of trouble!

FERN: That's putting it mildly!

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN comes down and sits in chair in front of desk. She says
simply...]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I've been in tough situations myself before now. I know
just how it feels! So if there's any way I can help...[She smiles.]
Sometimes, three heads are better than two.

FERN: You're right. Because we're trying to get out of this mess under
our own steam...and it isn't easy...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Well?

FERN: Perhaps you wouldn't mind telling us something more about those
weapons?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I brought them back with me when I returned from Dutch
New Guinea--they belonged to the Bele tribe. I traded them for the tops
of four jam tins...

LARRY: What was that blowpipe like?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Tube of bamboo--roughly a foot long. The end they put
in their mouth was discoloured with betel juice.

LARRY: And the darts?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Thorns from the bushes, tipped with feathers. Small but
deadly. I've seen a wild pig drop as if the beggar were poleaxed! It's
the poison they use...

FERN: You know what it is?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Sap of the antiasis tree.

FERN [on her feet]: Antiasis!

LARRY: What's that, Fern?

FERN [quietly]: One of the deadliest of the vegetable poisons. Even in
its weakened state, it can cause temporary paralysis. Once...during a
test...Haywood injected a guinea-pig with pure antiasis...and it was dead
before the syringe was withdrawn!

[There is a slight pause. It is as though FERN's statement has brought
something sinister into the room. LARRY is first to break the silence.]

LARRY [to MRS. VAN LEYDEN]: Who knew you had those darts here this
afternoon?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Practically everyone! I was photographed in the main
studio downstairs. There were some actors there--and engineers--even
some of the little typists were looking on.

LARRY: And Mr. Vickery?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Yes. He was there. But you couldn't get that man near
the darts!

LARRY: He knew they were poisoned?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Everyone did! I warned them not to handle the
thorns...and told them why!

LARRY: You see, Fern. It might be anyone in the studio!

FERN: With three exceptions, Larry: Mrs. Van Leyden, myself, and you

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [drily]: Can you convince the police of that?

FERN: Yes. The dart struck McGinnis in the left side of. The neck. It
was fired through that doorway...by someone standing outside in the
corridor!

LARRY: Then at least we're out of it!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [rising]: Speak for yourself, Mr. Carlson. I was standing
out there in the corridor. [She smiles.] But I can assure you I didn't
use that blowpipe. I know too much about the habits of the Bele tribe,
wouldn't put that thing to my lips for a fortune in gold!

LARRY: What were you doing out there?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Powdering my nose. Mr. Vickery told me an important
sponsor wanted to meet me. I thought...I'd better make a good
impression.

LARRY: Anyone else outside that door besides Vickery and yourself?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: There was an actress I'd met in the studio--she came up
with some papers in her hand: When she saw we were waiting to come in,
she went away.

LARRY [spreading his hands]: And there we are!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [she has crossed to couch, sitting] Mr. Carlson--this is
your studio and you're at liberty to run it any way you please. But I
think you're making a great mistake not reporting this.

FERN: To the police?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Yes. Sooner or later, you're going to have to answer a
lot of awkward questions.

FERN: And what about the publicity--the harm it may do this studio?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: The public memory is very short. In three months this
affair will be forgotten.

LARRY: You don't know the whole story.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [quietly]: I know this, Mr. Carlson. The weapons used to
cause this man's death are my property. I brought them here--I know
all about their use! I'm likely to be the first person suspected!

FERN [smiling]: Oh, nonsense!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Is it?

FERN: They'd know a person like you couldn't commit murder!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Oh yes, I could! [As they look at her.] As a matter of
fact...I have!

LARRY: Killed a man?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Yes.

FERN: When?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Some years ago...on my first expedition through Java. I
wanted to photograph some of the ruined temples in the interior. I set
out alone, except for a Balinese guide, Lenu, and ten native boys...

FERN: Yes?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: On the third night out, we camped in the rain forest--a
terrifying place. I was just about to turn in when Lenu came to my tent.
He wanted more money. When I refused, he said he'd desert and take the
rest of the boys with him.

LARRY: What did you do?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I refused him. Then he ran away and started calling to
the other boys. Five minutes more--and I'd have been alone and
helpless. I called to Lenu...and when he turned...

LARRY: Yes.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I shot him dead!

FERN [turning away]: Oh...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [suddenly harsh]: It was his life or mine!
Self-preservation's very strong! In similar circumstances, I might do
it again!

[There is a rather strained pause. It is LARRY who breaks the silence.]

LARRY [he goes to the desk]: Very well, Mrs. Van Leyden, we'll do as you
suggest.

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN [rising--her charm evident again]:]

That's very sensible of you, I think. [She crosses to the desk and picks
up the envelope containing the dart.] And I'll keep this for the police
when they arrive.

LARRY: Why not leave it here?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Well, I feel it's my responsibility, Mr. Carlson. [She
glances at her watch.] I'd better be getting back to the studio...

[She crosses and halts near the door, turns.]

For all our sakes, I'm glad you've decided to call the police. Believe me,
it's the wisest thing!

[She smiles and exits. LARRY reaches for the telephone.]

FERN [sharply]: Larry, you weren't serious.

LARRY: We're plunging deeper into this with every step! It's proving too
dangerous...

FERN: But it was dangerous from the start!

LARRY: No! Somewhere in this studio is a murderer with five poison
darts! He killed McGinnis! He won't hesitate: to kill again if--

[The telephone rings sharply. Both LARRY and FERN stand looking at it,
almost afraid of what it may mean.]

FERN [at length]: Go on. Answer it.

[Rather nervously, LARRY picks up the receiver.]

LARRY: Hello...yes, Carlson speaking...[Pause...his face lights in sudden
excitement.] Why, yes, Mr. McGinnis!

[FERN turns and reacts.]

You liked it? Why, sir...splendid! That's great news:'...[Pause, he nods
his head.] So that's what happened? We wondered why you didn't come...No,
sir, that's quite all right. If you're willing to sign up...[Pause,
then...] Yes, he's here. Hold the line a moment...

[He jiggles the receiver bar.]

Would you put this call through to Mr. Mandelberg he's in the sponsor's
box. Thank you!

[He replaces the receiver.]

FERN: Larry...?

LARRY [he comes from the desk, nods, his face alight]: We've done it!

FERN: The real McGinnis?

LARRY: Yes. At the last moment, he changed his mind about coming to the
studio...some urgent business, he says. He listened to the programme at
home...

FERN: And like it?

LARRY: He says it's one of the finest things he's heard on the air!

FERN: Oh, Larry...darling!

[In sheer excitement, she hugs him.]

You mustn't think of calling in the police until Mandelberg signs that
contract!

LARRY: I'll get it out straight away...

[He goes into his office and returns with the contract which he spreads
out on the desk. Then he reaches for the inter-office phone.]

Now for Mandelberg...

FERN: But what about his diamond ring!

LARRY [replaces receiver]: I'd forgotten all about that! Where the
devil's Vickery?

FERN: You've forgotten something else. [She gestures to washroom.] The
stranger's in there!

LARRY: Well?

FERN: Mr. Vickery isn't going to take it quietly!

LARRY [grimly]: It might not be such a surprise to Mr. Vickery as we
think!

FERN: Darling--we can't afford to take chances--not now! We've got to
move it!

LARRY: Now, Fern...

FERN: Couldn't we put it in your office?

LARRY: Good heavens, no! Not with Mandelberg coming in!

FERN: What about the effects room?

LARRY: It's too risky!

[FERN looks around the room. She sees the effects chest. Walking up to
it, she throws it open.]

FERN: If we move the effects, there's room in here!

LARRY: No, Fern...

FERN [crisply]: Larry, I don't like it any more than you! But it's
this...or lose the contract!

[LARRY hesitates a moment, shrugs, and goes into the washroom. FERN leans
over the effects chest, takes out the bulb motor-horn, and holds it
while she pushes the other effects into a corner. She drops the
motor-horn beside them. LARRY comes out wheeling the stretcher. Together
they lift the body of McGINNIS into the chest. While LARRY pushes the
stretcher into the room, FERN closes the lid. LARRY comes out.]

LARRY: I feel we're going to be sorry about this!

FERN: Nonsense! Now, I'm going down to keep Mandelberg talking while you
get that ring! Good luck, darling.

[She smiles and exits. LARRY gives the effects chest a doubtful glance,
then crosses to the desk, takes up inter-office phone.]

LARRY: Hello...Peters...did you give Mr. Vickery my message? You did?
All right...that's all...

[He hangs up as CLAY enters, looking rather drawn.]

Hello...is anything the matter?

CLAY [wanly]: I'll say! I think I've gone troppo!

LARRY: Why?

CLAY [sits on couch]: You know I was down there in the sponsor's box
with Mandelberg? Well, a few minutes ago the phone rings...and the
call's for him.

LARRY: Well?

CLAY: He talks a space, then he rings off and tells me he's going to
sign that contract...[A deep breath.] Because he's just been talking
with his partner, Alec McGinnis!

LARRY: That's right!

CLAY [pointing wildly to the washroom]: But the guy's dead!

LARRY [smiling]: That's what you think! Come here...

[He walks to the washroom door and throws it open. CLAY follows him, peers
inside--reacts.]

CLAY: Troppo! I knew it'd catch me up...

LARRY [sobering]: No, Clay. There was a body in there, but we've put it
in the effects chest.

CLAY [with infinite relief]: Great gophers--you just about scared the
pants off me! Say...then who was the guy we put in there? [Gestures to
washroom.]

LARRY: McGinnis!

CLAY [wailing]: There you go again!

LARRY: No, listen Clay. We've identified that body as CHARLES McGinnis,
BROTHER of Mandelberg's partner. He was a Commonwealth investigation
officer...

CLAY [staring]: But...

LARRY: Business kept Alec McGinnis at home, so brother Charles came
along in his place.

CLAY: Why?

LARRY [quietly]: Because we've every reason to believe someone in this
studio has been broadcasting defence secrets to agents trying to land
off our coast! Charles McGinnis came along to investigate...and the
guilty party killed him...with a poison dart shot from a blowpipe!

[CLAY stares at LARRY for a long, long moment. Then, very deliberately,
he goes to him. He taps himself on the chest and says quietly...]

CLAY: Me...I'm Margaret O'Brien...remember?

LARRY: Don't clown, old boy...

CLAY: Then I'll put it in words of one syllable! Who's crazy...you or
me?

LARRY: Neither...

CLAY: Blowpipes...poison darts...for Pete's sake, Larry where would
anyone get things like that?

LARRY: From Mrs. Van Leyden! She brought them here..and they were stolen
from the talks studio sometime this evening!

[CLAY'S expression slowly changes from incredulity to horror. He runs
anguished fingers through his hair.]

CLAY: Oh! Brother...is this trouble!

LARRY: The worst kind, Clay! Because the dart was fired from outside
that door during the audition...

CLAY: Say! I was outside that door!

LARRY: During the audition?

CLAY: No...just as it began...

LARRY: Anyone else out there with you?

CLAY [considering]: Vickery...Oh, and Mrs. Van Leyden. She was doing a
re-paint job on the old pan.

LARRY: So she told us. Clay...what about Vickery?

CLAY: He was just--Larry!

[He stops and stares at LARRY.]

But you surely don't suspect...? Oh, no, no...not dear old Trouble!

LARRY: Don't let Vickery's manner fool you, Clay! It might all be a very
clever piece of acting.

[He eyes CLAY for a moment then.]

When you've been around the studio, have you noticed Vickery with a kind
of box?

CLAY: Come to think of it...I have!

LARRY: People say it makes curious humming, buzzing noises...

CLAY: What people?

LARRY [reluctantly]: Well...Mrs. Parsons...

CLAY: That dame? She lies like a rug! No, Larry...you're right off the
rails. I'd say that Old Trouble was just about the last possible person.

LARRY [interrupting quietly]: Perhaps that's why he was chosen!

[The main entrance door opens and VICKERY enters. His manner is an odd
mixture of nervousness and defiance. LARRY turns on him.]

Well! You certainly took your time!

VICKERY [waspish]: And why not, Mr. Carlson? My time is my own...now!

LARRY: Since when?

VICKERY: Oh? Didn't Mr. Tuttle tell you? I've resigned!

CLAY [sourly]: Horsefeathers!

LARRY: Now what's all this?

VICKERY: Frankly, Mr. Carlson, I don't think I'm appreciated in this
place! Heaven knows I don't ask for praise, but I do object to being
spoken to like a Lackey!

LARRY: Who did that?

VICKERY: You...and Mr. Tuttle!

[Disgusted, CLAY rises and walks upstage. LARRY speaks soothingly.]

LARRY: Now, look here, Vickery. Surely you've been long enough in radio
to know you mustn't take what people say too seriously. This has been a
wearing night for us all...and sometimes, tempers get a little frayed...

VICKERY: I've considered all that!

LARRY: If Mr. Tuttle and I have been a little short with you, we're both
sorry. There now, we can't say any more than that, can we?

VICKERY: Well...it's not only that, Mr. Carlson.

LARRY: Oh?

VICKERY [waspish]: I've been giving this matter a great deal of thought.
It seems to me that there's no future in this place.

CLAY [stung]: No future!

LARRY: Now, Vickery...do you realize that, in a few minutes, we're signing
one of the biggest contracts ever given to radio?

VICKERY: Mandelberg?

LARRY: Yes. But there's been a slight accident. While Mr. Mandelberg was
washing his hands, his diamond ring fell into the drainpipe of the
washbowl. Naturally, he's rather anxious about it.

VICKERY [shrugging]: Naturally!

LARRY: And since Mr. Tuttle and myself will both be busy on this
contract, I was wondering...as a personal favour...if you'd mind getting
it out.

VICKERY [staring at him]: Good heavens, Mr. Carlson! I'm not a plumber!

LARRY [patiently]: It isn't a job for a plumber. Just a matter of
unscrewing a nut at the bottom of a pipe.

CLAY: Two minutes work!

VICKERY: Then let one of the engineers do it!

[Behind VICKERY's back, CLAY clenches both fists. But patient LARRY draws
a deep breath and tries again]

LARRY: We don't want to do that, Vickery...

VICKERY: And why not?

LARRY: This happens to be a diamond ring worth hundred pounds. We'd
like someone...well...responsible to do it.

VICKERY [thawing]: Oh.

LARRY: Once that ring is found and returned to Mr. Mandelberg, naturally
I'll see that you get the credit for the job!

VICKERY hesitates, then.

VICKERY: I'm weak, of course...just weak! [He reaches inside his coat
and extracts a pipe-wrench.] But since I've gone to the trouble to bring
this thing up...

LARRY: Thank you, Vickery.

[VICKERY takes off his coat and lays it on the couch. Very carefully, he
places it in position, folds it over, folds the sleeves, brushes a speck
of dust from it, and gives it an affectionate little pat. Then he rolls
up one sleeve and, carrying the pipe-wrench in the manner of a flag,
turns...]

VICKERY: Now then!

[He exits into the washroom. LARRY picks up the coat.]

CLAY: What's the idea?

LARRY: I don't like doing this, but I think we're justified...

[He feels through the pockets and finds a folded piece of paper. Tossing
the coat carelessly on the couch, he opens the paper.]

I wonder what this is!

CLAY [coming down to him]: Probably advice to the lovelorn

[LARRY has unfolded the paper. His eyes suddenly dilate and he swallows
excitedly.]

LARRY: L-l-l...

[CLAY slaps his back.]

Look at this! [He reads.] "Here are final details on big draft Magyar
line. Remember to start scarlet flare at inlet marked on chart. Chart
also gives plan, but if a storm, use no flares. Suggest you use bell
instead..."

CLAY: Well--here...lemme see that!

LARRY: Read it yourself!

[CLAY takes the paper and sits on the couch, ruthlessly crushing
VICKERY's coat under his weight.]

CLAY: "Big draft Magyar line...start scarlet flare at inlet...chart
also gives plan"...[He looks up.] Well, tar and feather me! What d'you
make of this?

LARRY [grimly]: I'd say it's obvious! Three enemy agents are trying to
land off our coast possibly by submarine...

CLAY: And here's Vickery's instructions in black and white! [He peruses
the paper again.] Magyar line...Ever heard of it?

LARRY: No.

CLAY: Not that it means a red cent! It's probably a code-word to cover
the real name!

LARRY: Give me that!

CLAY: What are you figuring to do?

LARRY: He's not getting away with this! No wonder Commonwealth
investigation suspected the place. Here's absolute proof that Mrs.
Parsons was right!

CLAY: So help me--so help me! It looks like it!

[He moves upstage as VICKERY emerges triumphantly from the washroom,
holding the ring which he is wiping on his sleeve.]

VICKERY: Here you are!

LARRY [grimly]: Hand it over!

[VICKERY hands him the ring. Without a word more, LARRY thrusts it into his
pocket.]

VICKERY: Well? Is that all you have to say?

LARRY [quietly]: No, Mr. Vickery! We've got quite a lot to say to you!
What's in that box you've been using downstairs?

VICKERY [starting]: That's my business!

LARRY: It also happens to be ours, Mr. Vickery! You can't do that sort
of thing in this studio!

VICKERY: So that's it! Someone's been spying!

CLAY: Listen, bud! You got in first!

VICKERY [wheeling on him]: I don't know what you...

[He stops as his eyes fall on his crumpled coat. He points dramatically.]

Who did that?

LARRY: I did!

[VICKERY moves to couch and snatching up his coat, turns in fury.]

VICKERY: Now, Mr. Carlson, if there's one thing I detest, it's people
touching my clothes!

CLAY: You bet!

VICKERY [to CLAY]: Now what do you mean? [To LARRY] What is all this?

LARRY [opening the paper and holding it out]: Is this yours?

[VICKERY takes one look at the paper, then makes a vicious grab, snatching
the paper from LARRY'S hand.]

VICKERY [panting]: How dare you!

LARRY: Hand that back!

VICKERY: I'll do no such thing! You stole it out of my pocket! You've no
right to touch my private possessions!

LARRY: Vickery, I'm warning you! We've read what's on that paper! We
know just what you're doing!

VICKERY: It's an outrage!

CLAY: There's another name for it, too!

VICKERY [wheeling on him]: Mind your own business!

LARRY: When we find one of our men doing a thing like this, it is our
business! Vickery, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!

VICKERY: So you might think! But let me tell you this! It takes all
sorts to make a world!

LARRY: Not your sort!

VICKERY [shrilly]: My sort! And what about you? You're the one to be
ashamed! I come up here to do you a favour! The moment I turn my back,
you rifle my pockets! On top of that, you insult me right and left! This
is the last straw...I'm leaving!

[He turns and, quivering with anger, starts for the door when LARRY'S
voice stops him.]

LARRY: If you take one step outside this studio, we'll have you
arrested!

VICKERY: You wouldn't dare!

LARRY: Try it and see!

VICKERY [pale with anger]: You can't bluff me! I'd simply deny the whole
thing! And what a couple of fools you'd look then! All right--go ahead
and have me arrested...if you dare!

[He exits, slamming the door behind him. There is a silence.]

LARRY: Well...are you satisfied?

CLAY: If ever I saw Mata Hari wearing trousers, it just went out that
door.

LARRY: The paper's gone, too.

CLAY: Without that, we haven't enough evidence to cover a mustard seed!

LARRY: There's that box of Vickery's! We've got to get hold of that!

CLAY: Leave it to me!

LARRY: If you're going down to the studio, you'd better give this to
Mandelberg...[Hands CLAY the ring.]

CLAY: Sure! And after this, he'd better wear it through his nose!

[He exits. LARRY stands still for a moment, pressing his hands to his
head. Then he rubs his eyes and, feeling in his breast pocket, pulls out
a pair of spectacles which he puts on. He crosses to the couch, sits,
and holds his head in his hands. FERN enters through main door. She sees
LARRY and her face shadows.]

FERN: Larry...

LARRY [looking up]: Oh, hello...where's Mandelberg?

FERN: I left him talking to Clay. But darling, those glasses...

LARRY: I just put them on. My head's splitting.

[FERN sits beside him.]

FERN: Can I do anything?

LARRY [putting out his hand to take hers]: No...

FERN: Darling, you're not well...

LARRY: It's just nerves...

FERN: Why don't you go down to the chemist and get a draught?

LARRY: I can't be away from the studio--not with Mandelberg coming up
here to sign that contract!

FERN: Clay can look after him. Or Mr. Vickery...

LARRY: Vickery! Why, he's our man!

FERN: You're sure?

LARRY: He was here a few minutes ago. Do you know what we found in his
pocket?

FERN: The blowpipe?

LARRY: Something just as incriminating! A paper containing detailed
instructions for signalling a landing party!

FERN: Larry!

LARRY: Everything written down...orders to put scarlet flares at
certain points marked on a chart!

FERN: Good heavens! Have you got the paper?

LARRY: No. He snatched it out of my hand!

FERN: But what did he say about it?

LARRY [slowly]: Not quite what I expected...I thought he'd either be
scared...or attempt to bluff the whole thing out but Vickery seemed more
embarrassed than frightened. I can't make it out; Fern.

FERN: Where is he now?

LARRY: I told him not to leave the studio. That's all 'I COULD do.
Without that paper, we've no evidence at all...unless we find the
blowpipe...

FERN: Larry, I've been thinking...

LARRY: Well?

FERN: The actual pipe need not have been used at all...It might have
been stolen just to put us off the scent.

LARRY: But--

FERN: Any kind of tube could propel that tiny dart.

LARRY: Then it's looking for a needle in a haystack, Fern! The more I
think of it, the more my head aches!

[He presses his hands to his head. FERN watches him anxiously for a
moment.]

FERN: Darling, I do wish you'd get that draught! If Mandelberg comes up
here, I won't let him leave till you come back.

LARRY: Yes, but...

FERN: You won't be more than five minutes. Please, Larry...

LARRY: All right! It's hopeless trying to carry on like this. I can't
even see straight.

FERN: Run along, darling.

[LARRY presses her hand and exits. FERN goes across to the desk, looks
over it, and sees the contract. She smiles, then checks pens, ink, etc.
She sees the blotter missing.]

Blotter!

[She looks toward LARRY's office, nods, and exits inside. As she goes,
the door opens and PARSONS enters rather uneasily. He comes inside and
stares around the room for a moment. Then his eyes go to the desk. He
crosses and picks up a long cigarette holder from the ashtray. He is
halfway across the room when FERN comes out, holding a roll blotter.]

FERN [surprised]: Why, hello, Mr. Parsons.

PARSONS [turning]: Oh...hello.

FERN: Don't tell me you're still looking for Mr. Carlson?

PARSONS: Oh, no. I came up here to get my wife's cigarette holder. She
left it here a while ago.

FERN: Oh...? Do you mind if I see it? It's rather unusual...

PARSONS [quickly]: Look here, would some other time do? I'm on the air
in a few minutes.

FERN: Of course! Your play.

PARSONS: Such as it is! I still think it's very foolish not to change
that last scene, but then my opinion doesn't count! Now, you'll excuse
me, won't you?

[He exits rather hurriedly. FERN makes a move as though to stop him, but
he has gone. She turns and looks at the ashtray on the desk. She
stands thoughtful for a few seconds then walks to the chest. Standing
with her back to the door, she opens the lid and looks down.]

FERN: If you could tell me one thing...

[As she speaks, the door opens noiselessly and MANDELBERG enters. He
stands looking at her, his shrewd little eyes narrowed.]

MANDELBERG [sharply]: What goes on here!

[FERN gives a gasp of surprise and drops the lid, wheeling.]

FERN: Mr. Mandelberg!

MANDELBERG: What have we in there?

FERN: Nothing. Nothing at all!

MANDELBERG: So...you are holding soft conversations with a nothing? Come
now, Miss Fern, you don't pull no wool out of my eyes that way! Some
monkey: business goes on here tonight!

FERN: Nonsense!

MANDELBERG: Such nonsense that smells like a herring! Tonight, I ring
up here on the telephone--my partner is with Mr. Carlson they say. Then
when I come in, my partner they tell me is ringing up on the long
distances. Now my partner calls me up and, by Gollus, he aint been near
this studio at all he tells me! Now what goes on, Miss Fern?

FERN: Mr. Carlson will explain!

MANDELBERG: No, Miss Fern. You will explain! What have you got in that
box?

FERN: A few effects for the plays...

MANDELBERG: Now now, please! Am I a schema? Do I believe you are
talking with the effects for company? For the last time...what you
got in that box?

FERN [desperately]: You really want to know?

MANDELBERG: For why do I waste the breath?

FERN: All right! You asked for it!

[She turns and throws open the lid. MANDELBERG looks in--recoils.]

MANDELBERG [pointing to washroom]: That's the mummer that was in the
washroom...

FERN: Yes.

MANDELBERG: And for why do they put him in with the effects?

FERN: He's dead.

MANDELBERG: Dead? But they told me he was only sick?

FERN: He was dead when you saw him in the washroom.

MANDELBERG: Oh, by Gollus! The...the appendicitis or the gallstones?

FERN [closing the lid]: Neither!

MANDELBERG [slowly]: What do you mean?

FERN: That man didn't die a natural death, Mr. Mandelberg. He was
murdered!

MANDELBERG [goggle-eyed]: Murdered? Murdered! Oh, by Golly, let me out
of here!

FERN [standing in his way]: No...wait!

MANDELBERG: Let me pass.

FERN [pointing to desk]: Not until you sign that contract!

MANDELBERG: Stop talking through the hats, please! I don't sign no
contract with murderers!

FERN: Mr. Carlson had nothing to do with this!

MANDELBERG: That is for the police to say!

FERN: The police know nothing about this.

MANDELBERG: What? What? You got a murder here and you are not telling
the police? What's the reason?

FERN: You are!

MANDELBERG [jumping]: In Rachel's name, what's it to do with me?

FERN: Everything! You're in this mess just as much as we are, Mr.
Mandelberg!

MANDELBERG: Oi...oi...what is she saying! Never before in my life have I
seen that mummer!

FERN: Listen! That man came here tonight masquerading as your partner!
When he was killed, believing him to be Alec McGinnis, Mr. Carlson hid
the body!

MANDELBERG: Why?

FERN: He was afraid you wouldn't sign the contract! And that contract
means everything in the world to him!

MANDELBERG: About all that I wouldn't know...

FERN [hotly]: You're right--you wouldn't know! It's nothing to you that
Larry's gone almost grey with worry trying to keep this man's death a
secret! Because once it was made public, the police would be all over
this studio--ruining your programme! That programme which is the finest
thing your partner has heard!

MANDELBERG: Maybe so, Miss Fern, but...

FERN: Anyone else would have given up--let the programme slide! But not
Larry! With everything against him, he battled on! And that's what you
call Mr. Mandelberg--resource, courage, initiative!

MANDELBERG: Maybe this fella of yours is a smart businessman! I take off
the hats to him for that, yes But, being mixed up in murders...that aint
so good...

FERN: You won't be mixed up in it!

MANDELBERG: No, by Gollus, because I'm getting out of this place like
you wink an eye...

[He turns and strides for the door.]

FERN [desperately]: Mr. Mandelberg...wait!

[So urgent is her tone that MANDELBERG stops and turns slowly.]

MANDELBERG: Well?

FERN: Where would you be now if my uncle had said that to you six years
ago?

MANDELBERG: What's this?

FERN [quietly]: Have you forgotten how you came to Uncle John begging
for a start? Where would you be now if he'd refused?

MANDELBERG: By Gollus, Miss Fern...

FERN: I'm asking you to give Larry Carlson his chance just as you were
given yours!

MANDELBERG [watching her]: So...it's the return favour you want, eh?

[FERN, feeling she is persuading him, walks quickly to the desk, dips the
pen in the ink pot, and holds out the pen toward him.]

FERN: This is no favour, Mr. Mandelberg! It's a watertight business
deal! You're putting your money into a gilt-edged proposition! Larry
Carlson!

[There is a long pause. Then MANDELBERG shrugs and, walking across, takes
the pen from FERN's hand and, sitting at the desk, takes up the
contract.]

MANDELBERG [grumbling]: That fella Of yours got his head screwed on the
right way after all!

FERN [smiling]: You bet he has! That's why he's marrying me!

MANDELBERG [looking up from contract]: When?

FERN: Practically as soon as you sign that contract!

MANDELBERG: So...so...so...Now it's the fairy god-mother I am, too, aint
it!

[He dips the pen in the ink. With a flourish he signs the contract. He
blots and folds it, then presses it into FERN'S hand.]

That's a mighty expensive match I make for you two, but no one shall
ever say that Jo Mandelberg had a stone in his heart...

FERN: Joseph, you're a darling!

[She kisses him on the top of the head.]

MANDELBERG [irritably]: Oi...oi! Keep your affections for that other
fella!

FERN: I mean to...but first I must show him this!

[She starts across the room with the contract. She has her hand on the
door when MANDELBERG calls.]

MANDELBERG: Oi...wait...please!

[FERN turns. MANDELBERG rises to his feet and moves to the chest. He stabs
a finger at it.]

What about him?

FERN: Oh...he's all right!

MANDELBERG: Maybe he is. But...what about me? I don't stay here with
no dead fellas...

FERN: Why not?

MANDELBERG: Now, Miss Fern...no foolishness, please! Once before that
happen...it aint so good! I am still getting the nightmares!

FERN: That's just silly! You know a dead man can't hurt you!

MANDELBERG: Sure I know it...but does he know it!

FERN [laughing]: Don't be a coward! You stay right here till I get back!

MANDELBERG [as she exits]: Oi...wait...please...

[But FERN has gone. MANDELBERG stands looking uneasily around the room.
Then, nerving himself with an effort, he crosses to the chest and very
gingerly lifts the lid, peering inside. He gives a convulsive shudder.]

Just like the other one he looks...only more so! I've got to get out of
here...

[He closes the lid and turns, walking quickly to the door, But, as
he puts his hand on the knob, the motor-horn within the chest gives a
gasping, wheezing groaning honk! MANDELBERG jumps as though stung and
wheeling, surveys the room. His eyes rest on the chest says slowly,
suspiciously...]

Something it goes on here behind my face, by Gollus.

[He crosses the stage slowly, still staring at the trunk. Braving
himself, he puts out one hand to touch the lid when the cowbell inside
jangles abruptly. MANDELBERG backs downstage with a gasp. Now he is
beyond the desk when suddenly the lid of the chest moves...It opens
slowly, perhaps six inches. From inside, a white hand appears, clutching
spasmodically at the empty air as MANDELBERG screams.]

Mr. Carlson! Oi...Mr. Carlson...he comes to the life...he comes to the
life...Mr. Carlson' help--help...

[He rushes from the room screaming as the curtain falls quickly]


=========

ACT THREE

=========


[When the curtain rises, the scene is the same. No time has elapsed. The
hand is still protruding from the lid of the chest. Then the lid is
pushed up and slowly, painfully, CHARLES McGINNIS rises to his feet. It
is obvious from his pallid face and feeble manner that he is a very sick
man. He sways unsteadily in the chest, then with a great effort steps
out and moves weakly to a chair. Supporting himself with one hand, he
passes the other over his face, then shakes his head in an effort to
recall his surroundings. At that moment, the main entrance door bursts
open and LARRY and CLAY rush in. They stand in the doorway, chained in
astonishment at the sight of the resuscitated McGINNIS.]

CLAY: Great balls of fire! It's a ghost!

LARRY: McGinnis! We thought--

[McGINNIS turns painfully toward them, then abruptly his legs sag and, as
LARRY and CLAY leap forward, he drops limply into their arms.]

CLAY: What's the pay-off?

LARRY: Don't know! Help me...

[Together they support the sagging figure of McGINNIS to the couch and lay
him down. FERN enters quickly.]

FERN: Larry...?

LARRY [looking up]: Seems your first diagnosis wasn't so good, Fern!

FERN: Let me see...

[She bends over the body, feeling the pulse, then she places her ear to
the heart. As she straightens.]

We've got to get this man to hospital! Bring out that stretcher, Clay...

LARRY: It's in the effects room...

CLAY exits, leaving the door open. LARRY turns to FERN.

Then he wasn't dead?

FERN: No. But his pulse was feeble enough to have fooled an experienced
medical man.

LARRY: But you're a doctor?

FERN: Darling, I'm a bacteriologist. There's a difference! And this is
my first experience of vaso-motor paralysis!

LARRY: Whatever's that?

FERN: Vegetable poisons--antiasis among them--paralyzes the respiratory
centres. Heart, lungs, and pulse.

[During this dialogue, CLAY has returned wheeling the stretcher.]

LARRY: But you said this antiasis was deadly!

FERN: In full strength, yes! But in its weakened state, it can cause
temporary coma like this! [Nods to body.]

LARRY: But listen--

FERN: Larry, don't you understand? How long since Mrs Van Leyden brought
those darts back from New Guinea?

LARRY: Some months.

CLAY: I got it! The dope was deadly when it was first put on, but since
then...

FERN: Action of time and exposure to air weakened the poison! But the
murderer wasn't to know this! He believed the weapons still deadly!

CLAY: Then it's not too late to save this guy?

FERN: No. They'll inject with picrotoxin. But there's no time to waste!

[CLAY wheels the stretcher to the couch and they lift McGINNIS onto it.
CLAY wheels the stretcher to the door.]

CLAY: I'll bring up the elevator...

[He exits, pushing the stretcher. LARRY turns to FERN.]

LARRY If this isn't murder, there's no reason why I can't call in the
police.

FERN [smiling]: When you get down to hospital, they bring the police to
you!

LARRY: All the better! I want to ask them to arrest Vickery as quietly
as possible. Now, what about an ambulance?

FERN: I'll ring through to Westlake they know me there.

CLAY [offstage]: Larry...

LARRY [calling]: Coming...!

[He smiles at FERN and exits. FERN, at desk, picks up the telephone.]

FERN: Would you get me Landseer doubleone-doubleone, please?

[Receiver in hand, she waits, straightening the objects on the desk then.]

Hello, Westlake? Casualty room, please. [Pause.] Hello...is that you,
Mike? Fern Sutton here. Listen, can you get an ambulance around to the
Rex studios at once? Is Dr. Roberts on duty? It's just his cup of
tea--severe vaso-motor paralysis! Thanks, Mike Oh, I'll be round there
one of these days Goodbye, Mike.

[She hangs up as LARRY enters, carrying a polished wood box, some two
feet long by one foot wide. It is obviously heavy and is locked with a
padlock. FERN stares at it.]

Whatever's that?

LARRY [grimly]: Clever Mr. Vickery's box of tricks?

[He sets the box down on the desk.]

FERN: Where did you find it?

LARRY: In the cloakroom. We put McGinnis in there--had to move a few
things to make room for the stretcher. And tucked away in a corner, we
found this...

[He walks around and opens a drawer of the desk, taking out a
screwdriver.]

Vickery must have hidden it in case we searched his office.

FERN: Is Clay with McGinnis?

LARRY: No. He's with Mandelberg. Poor chap's had a nasty shock. Clay had
to give him brandy!

[Screwdriver in hand, he approaches the box and begins to force the
padlock.]

FERN: Whatever is it, Larry?

LARRY [grimly]: Shortwave set--you bet your boots! Now, if I can only
force this damn padlock...

FERN: Wouldn't it be better to leave it for the police?

LARRY: If it's a transmitter, I want to know first [There is a click.]
That's got it! Now, stand back, Fern...

[FERN retreats nervously across the stage. LARRY runs his screwdriver
around the crack in the lid.]

No concealed wires, anyway...

FERN: Darling, be careful!

LARRY: Trust me! [He draws a deep breath and grasps the lid.] Now then!

[With a swift movement he whips back the lid. A smart electric sewing
machine is revealed. A piece of paper is jammed in the flywheel.]

FERN [laughing from sheer relief]: Oh, Larry...!

LARRY [staring at it in amazement]: Why...it...it looks like a...a sewing
machine!

FERN: No wonder it hummed and buzzed! Poor Mr. Vickery.

[But LARRY has taken the folded paper from the flywheel. He opens it
and crosses to FERN.]

LARRY: Poor Vickery nothing! Here's the paper we found in his pocket.
Read that!

[He hands it to her. FERN takes it, glances through the wording, and
turns away, shaking with laughter. It is a few seconds before she can
speak.]

FERN: Oh, Larry...Larry...

LARRY [irritably]: Well, what's so funny about it!

FERN: Darling, put the lid back on that machine and take it back
to Mr. Vickery's office. You owe that poor man a profound apology...

LARRY: Apology! But you read those instructions?

FERN: Clearly!

LARRY: And...they make sense to you?

FERN [nodding]: I took a dressmaking course myself once!

LARRY: D-d-d-d...[FERN slaps his back.] Dressmaking!

FERN [smiling]: It's all here. Instructions for making some kind of
costume. [She glances at paper.] Start scarlet flare at inlet means to
insert a piece of scarlet material! Sailor and storm are types of
collars...just as bell refers to a certain kind of sleeve...

LARRY: But but what's all this about the...the Magyar line?

FERN: Magyar is a type of blouse. The line refers to the cut...and the
chart mentioned is merely the stock dressmaking chart with the design!

LARRY: So that's what Vickery was doing? Dressmaking!

FERN: I'm afraid so.

LARRY: No wonder he was so hostile! But why this camouflaged cover? Why
couldn't he explain?

FERN: He was probably a little shy about it. Well, darling so much for
your chief suspect!

[The inter-office phone buzzes suddenly. LARRY crosses and answers it.]

LARRY: Hello? Yes, Clay...thanks. I'Il be right down.

[He hangs up and turns to FERN.]

The ambulance is here.

FERN: You'd better run along.

LARRY [coming to her]: Dash it all, Fern, I don't like leaving you here
alone...

FERN: Why?

LARRY: That enemy agent's still in these studios. And if it isn't
Vickery, God knows who it might be!

FERN: But why should this man want to harm me?

LARRY [seriously]: He might think you're getting too inquisitive. No, I
mean it, darling! This isn't a research laboratory--you can't put a
potential murderer under a microscope!

FERN: I'm quite capable of taking care of myself. Clay will be within
screaming distance!

LARRY: This room's so isolated--it isn't part of the main studios.
And if you go acting like a policeman, you may get treated like one!
They didn't hesitate to shut McGinnis's mouth!

FERN: That's true.

LARRY: And you won't go nosing round the studio as soon as my back's
turned?

FERN: All right. I'll stay here in this room.

LARRY: And when I'm gone, you'd better turn that key in the lock [Nods
to entrance door.]

FERN [laughing]: Oh, no! I might lose the key.

LARRY: I always carry a duplicate. [He takes her in his arms.] It's for
your own good, darling. Now that I've got the contract I don't want
anything to happen to the girl.

[He kisses her fondly.]

Bye-bye, Fern...

[He moves to the door. FERN turns and sees the machine.]

FERN: Oh, Larry...[As he turns.] Would you like me to speak to Mr.
Vickery about this? [Nods to machine.]

LARRY [grinning]: Yes...would you?

FERN: I'd better. It's a situation that's going to need a lot of tact!

LARRY: All right. But remember--he comes up here! I'Il tell him myself.
Bye-bye...

FERN [smiling]: Good luck, Larry

[FERN crosses to machine, and closes the lid. She looks around the room
and at that the inter-office phone rings. She crosses to it and answers.]

Hello...yes, Clay...he just left...few seconds ago Clay, tell me, has
your play gone on the air yet? It's started? Then how long before Mr.
Parsons is through? I see...Clay, could you come up here--I want to talk
to you...

[She hangs up and, crossing to the chest, closes the lid. At that
moment a knock sounds at the door. It opens and VICKERY enters. He has
calmed down considerably, but his manner is still angry and defiant. He
walks into the room and then his eyes fall on the box on the desk and he
stops dead.]

FERN [gently]: Yes, Mr. Vickery. I'm afraid there's an apology due to
you.

VICKERY [stiffly]: Oh, really.

FERN: And an explanation. Mr. Carlson has asked me to make both on his
behalf.

VICKERY: I'm afraid this has gone too far for apologies Miss Sutton!

FERN: I'm sorry you think that because...the police may not be so kind...

VICKERY: Police?

FERN: Sit down, Mr. Vickery [She gestures to a chair.]

VICKERY: Thank you. I prefer to stand!

FERN [sitting]: As you wish. I mentioned the police because, very
shortly, they're going to be all over this studio. [She is watching
him.] You see, tonight there's been an attempt at murder!

VICKERY [aghast]: Good heavens!

FERN: The attempt was made on the life of a national security officer
who came down here because he believed some person in this studio has
been broadcasting information to enemy agents in this country...

[VICKERY stares at her horrified. His legs give way under him and he
sinks down into the chair.]

So you see any attempt at concealment must naturally appear suspicious.
That was the reason for Mr. Carlson's behaviour toward you earlier in
the evening.

VICKERY [on his feet--horrified]: My gracious! He thought that I...I...

FERN [quickly]: We were all equally under suspicion, Mr. Vickery. But
let's forget about that! Somewhere in this studio is a potential killer!
You can help us lay hands on that person!

VICKERY: Oh, no...no!

FERN: Why not?

VICKERY: I'm not a policeman!

FERN [quietly]: Perhaps not. But if, between us, we could bring this
agent out into the light, it would be quite a feather in your cap, don't
you think?

VICKERY: Well

FERN: Certain people might be quite surprised--they'd have to
acknowledge how wrong they'd been about you...

VICKERY: That's true enough!

FERN: Then you will help me?

[There is a slight pause. Then VICKERY steps forward.]

VICKERY: Yes, Miss Sutton, but...it isn't that I mind, but I can't go
running into any danger. I...I'm not an independent part...I have to
support my mother...

FERN [gently]: Yes?

VICKERY: She...she's crippled with arthritis...can't move her
hands...That's why sometimes I have to do things for her that...that
other people might not understand...

[He pauses, embarrassed at this confession.]

FERN [very gently]: Why didn't you explain this to Mr. Carlson?

VICKERY: And be laughed at?

FERN [quietly]: Mr. Carlson isn't the type to laugh at decency. Nor is
Mr. Tuttle. But I'd like to explain, if you don't mind.

VICKERY: Miss Sutton, I...

FERN [smiling]: Leave it to me

[She nods to the box.]

Now, I suggest you take that downstairs again...out of sight--out of mind,
you know! And then come back...

[VICKERY picks up the box and begins to exit. He is halfway across when
CLAY enters. He sees VICKERY with the box and grins sheepishly.]

CLAY: Larry told me about that. Guess you think we both stink?

VICKERY [stiffly]: Oh, I'm not one to bear malice, Mr. Tuttle.

[CLAY claps him on the back.]

CLAY: Attaboy! Everyone makes mistakes...

[As VICKERY exits with the box he turns to says disgustedly...]

Maybe next time Mrs. Parsons will keep her dainty trap shut! That dame
knows more about other people's business than Dorothy Dix! So...we're
right back where we started!

FERN: Not quite! Clay, tell me something. Does everything that is
broadcast go before a censor?

CLAY: Sure!

FERN: Even the plays?

CLAY: You betcha!

FERN: And the Parsons would know that?

CLAY: Yeah! But what's on your mind?

FERN: Just what do we know about Mrs. Parsons?

CLAY: Actress least likely to win academy award!

FERN: No...seriously, Clay. I'm trying to find out why she's so
insistent on changing those last lines in your script.

CLAY: Shakespeare couldn't satisfy that dame--artistically, I mean!

FERN [working it out]: But if she interpolated words of her own...who
would know?

CLAY: Everyone--including the producer, the sounds effects boy,
and...[He stops.] Say...what's on your mind?

FERN: Someone's been doing it, Clay!

CLAY [staring at her]: And you think that Mrs. Parsons...? Hell, no! What
would she know about blowpipes?

FERN: Her husband told me he'd spent five years in New Guinea...

CLAY: Now I come to think of it...she was pussyfooting outside that door
when the audition started...

[He starts for the entrance.]

That settles it!

FERN: Where are you going?

CLAY: To cut their show off the air--

FERN [sharply]: No, no--wait! We've made one bad slip with Vickery!
This time we MUST be sure! If only I could get a closer look at that
cigarette holder she Carried...

CLAY: Mrs. Parsons?

FERN [nodding]: You see, Clay--I believe Mrs. Van Leyden's blowpipe was
stolen as a bluff! The real weapon is some kind of tube...disguised as a
simple object one could use without arousing suspicion!

CLAY [slowly]: Like a cigarette holder...

FERN: Now...if we could only get our hands on that...even for a few
minutes.

CLAY: It's practically there!

FERN: But be careful!

CLAY: It's a push-over! They're both too busy kissing the mike...

[He throws open the door and in walks VICKERY.]

Say, what is this? Musical chairs?

[He exits. FERN nods to VICKERY.]

FERN: Would you close the door?--and come over here and sit down.

[VICKERY does so.]

VICKERY [nervously]: Well?

FERN: Mr. Vickery, I believe you were out in that corridor just before
the audition began tonight?

VICKERY [nodding]: With Mrs. Van Leyden.

FERN: And you'd just come up from the talks studio?

VICKERY: That's right. Mr. Tuttle told me Mrs. Van Leyden was wanted in
this room. I brought her up...

FERN: Did you notice anyone else outside the door?

VICKERY: Mrs. Parsons was there!

FERN: What was she doing.

VICKERY: She wasn't DOING anything. She was waiting to catch Mr. Carlson
to complain about the script.

FERN: Did you speak to her?

VICKERY: No I was talking with Mrs. Van Leyden. She was smoking and I
pointed out that smoking was forbidden in the corridors. She crushed out
her cigarette on the floor saying, "That's the waste of a good
Club...Castle" Then I remember she began doing up her lips...

FERN [slightly impatient]: Yes, yes. But I'm more interested in Mrs.
Parsons. SHE was smoking, too, wasn't she?

VICKERY: Certainly not!

FERN [slightly taken back]: Not a cigarette in a long holder?

VICKERY: I've just told you, Miss Sutton. Smoking outside is forbidden!
When Mrs. Parsons heard the audition start, she walked away...

[FERN measures him with a worried stare.]

FERN: When the audition started? You're sure of that?

VICKERY: Positive. I was watching her all the time!

FERN: I see...all the same, I'd like to get a closer look at
that holder...

VICKERY [complacently] [complacently]: Then you shall!

[He feels in his pocket and produces the identical holder. FERN blinks
as he holds it out.]

FERN: Where did you get it?

VICKERY: I found it in the rehearsal room a few minutes ago. That
woman's ALWAYS leaving it lying around...

[FERN takes it and examines it closely as VICKERY goes on.]

You'll see! Presently, she'll come raging in here saying someone's
stolen it! Just as if we haven't trouble enough!

[FERN, dismayed by this casual refuting of her theory, hands back the
holder. During the next conversation, the door of the audition room
opens slowly.]

FERN: But Mrs. Parsons was outside in the corridor? And she did have
this holder?

VICKERY: But she went away after a few minutes. I waited with Mrs. Van
Leyden. Since the audition had started, she was nervous about going in.
But Mr. Tuttle appeared and nodded to her to enter.

FERN: Leaving you out there alone?

VICKERY: Only for a moment. Then Mr. Tuttle came...He sent me to the
musicians' studio with that clarinet...

FERN: Clarinet?

VICKERY [twiddling his fingers]: Thing you blow through! He'd found it
lying around somewhere. We walked to the end of the corridor, then he
went on to the main studio.

FERN [quietly]: I see. Thanks, Mr. Vickery--that's all.

VICKERY [rising]: Have I helped, you, Miss Sutton?

FERN: I'm afraid not...

[She walks with him to the entrance door, talking as she goes.]

You've completely ruined a very good theory that I...

[She stops suddenly, seeing the door half-open.]

Mr. Vickery! Didn't you close this door?

VICKERY [staring at it]: Of course I did! I...Oh, Miss Sutton what's
going on here?

FERN: Nothing you need be afraid of. Would you tell Mr. Tuttle to come
here? He's somewhere in the studio.

VICKERY [nervously]: Yes...yes, of course!

[He goes out, closing the door behind him. FERN stands motionless for a
few seconds, her face thoughtful, worried. Then she gives an uneasy
little shrug of her shoulders, as though dismissing an unpleasant idea.
Crossing to the desk, she picks up her handbag and returns to the couch.
She sits then, feeling in her bag, produces a compact. Opening it, she
holds the mirror up and twists her head to the light. Then suddenly she
stiffens. In the mirror she sees what is taking place behind her...the
door of the audition room opening slowly and the fingers of a hand
appearing round the edge. She leaps to her feet.]

FERN: Who's there?

[The door swings wide. MANDELBERG stands in the entrance, eyeing her
curiously. FERN gives a sigh of relief.]

Oh, it's you!

[MANDELBERG closes the door and comes downstage.]

MANDELBERG: What's the matter?

FERN: Coming in like that, so quietly, you startled me...

MANDELBERG: So I am not the only one getting the shocks tonight, eh? [He
looks around.] And where is Mr. Carlson?

FERN: He's gone to the hospital.

MANDELBERG: Why?

FERN [nodding to chest]: We had a very sick man on our hands.

MANDELBERG: Miss Fern...tonight I do for you the favour. Now you do one
for me. What is going on here?

FERN [sitting]: It's a long story, Mr. Mandelberg. We all believed that
man was dead. But it was a coma, caused by poison.

MANDELBERG [shrewdly]: Someone tries to commit the murder on him?

FERN: Yes.

MANDELBERG: Who?

FERN: That's what I'm trying to find out!

MANDELBERG: So now you're a policeman lady, too?

FERN [shaking her head]: I'm a scientist.

MANDELBERG: All that I know. But that aint finding out a murderer.

FERN: I think it is.

MANDELBERG: What do you mean?

FERN: When we want to discover the particular type of germ causing a
disease, we isolate the types of bacteria present in the body. We
identify these types. If one remains unclassified...that is the suspect
germ...

MANDELBERG: Above the belt all this talk goes...

FERN: Here we have a studio filled with people. I'm trying to classify
them until I find the person causing all this trouble.

MANDELBERG: And what if he finds you first?

FERN [quietly]: That's a risk the bacteriologist takes every day!

MANDELBERG [shaking his head]: Not one little bit do I like all this.
Now, you put on your hat and come home...

FERN [shaking her head]: Sorry...

MANDELBERG [seriously]: Miss Fern, you take my advice. Don't you be no
fly in the ointment--not tonight.

FERN: Why?

MANDELBERG: It's the omens!

FERN [a worried smile]: Oh!...

MANDELBERG: It's no smiling matter, this one...

[He feels in his inside pocket, producing a small paper-covered book
which he thumbs through. Finding a page, he looks up.]

Listen to this, Miss Fern. A mixed week, it says. Do not take people at
face value. Watch out for unseen enemies. On the fifteenth, avoid taking
chances of personal danger--especially after eight p.m. [He looks up.]
That is now!

FERN [smiling]: Do you honestly believe in that nonsense?

MANDELBERG [stuffing the book in his pocket]: Nonsense she says!

FERN: Isn't it?

MANDELBERG: Nothing is nonsense that makes for me the fortune!

FERN: Can you name me one time when that kind of advice helped you?

MANDELBERG [meaningfully]: And what about the Breath of Passion?

FERN: Whatever's that?

[He takes from his vest pocket a small lipstick in a gold case.]

MANDELBERG: This is that! Breath of Passion lipstick! Fifty thousand of
these we put on the market last week--ahead of your uncle! We sweep
the market...and all because the stars are saying it is time to make the
deal! You mean to say you aint heard of this?

FERN: I've been away...

MANDELBERG: Young girls cry for it! Wives rob their husbands! Here--you
take it, Miss Fern--you try it sometime!

[He puts the lipstick on the desk.]

FERN: Thanks. I will. But you still haven't convinced me about the
stars.

MANDELBERG: Maybe something else convince you--in a way you don't like!
Nor me, neither!

FERN: I'll be quite all right. Larry is bringing the police here...

MANDELBERG: When?

FERN: As soon as he gets back from the hospital--

[The inter-office phone buzzes sharply. FERN crosses and picks up the
receiver.]

Hello...yes, he's here. Yes, very well--thank you.

[She hangs up and turns to MANDELBERG.]

Your car is down below. They've been ringing all over the studio for
you. Goodbye, Mr. Mandelberg...[She puts out her hand.]

MANDELBERG [taking it]: Maybe I ought to wait here...

FERN: No, please! You've helped us enough tonight. And I'll never to
able to thank you as long as I live!

MANDELBERG [he walks to the door and turns] That's just what I'm worried
about!

[He stands looking at her for a second, then he shrugs and exits, closing
the door. FERN, leaning against the desk, stands for a few seconds, then
she picks up the lipstick, examining it idly. She takes the top off the
case and is about to raise it to her lips when she stops, struck by a
thought. She takes the lipstick away, turning it slowly over in her
fingers.]

FERN [slowly]: Very clever...! No wonder we never guessed!

[She stands stock still, working it out in her mind. Then she looks
around the room and crosses to the cocktail cabinet, taking from the
ashtray a half-smoked cigarette. She examines the brand and nods to
herself. Suddenly she stiffens and turns, facing the door, thrusting the
cigarette end behind her.]

FERN [looking at door]: Come in!

[There is no reply. Still holding the cigarette end behind her, FERN
advances to the door and throws it open. There is no one there. She
closes it again, walks quickly to the desk, opens a drawer, and takes
out an envelope. Dropping the cigarette end inside, she seals it down,
all the time watching the door. She has barely returned the envelope to
the desk drawer when the door is flung open. FERN wheels sharply as
VICKERY enters.]

Where's Mr. Tuttle?

VICKERY: He's busy in the play studio...

FERN: Oh...

VICKERY: Is there anything I can do, Miss Sutton?

FERN: No [She stops, then says quietly.] Yes, Mr Vickery. Just how brave
are you?

VICKERY [blinking]: I...I don't know.

FERN [going to him]: Remember I told you there's an enemy agent loose in
this studio? I know the name of that person. But I need to find one more
piece of evidence...

VICKERY: Good heavens! But what do I do?

FERN: That person has made one mistake! They may come up here to cover
it! Whatever happens, you must keep that person talking till I come
back! Can you do this for me?

VICKERY [after a moment's hesitation--gulping]: I...I'Il try!

FERN [she presses his arm and smiles]: Good man! I knew you wouldn't let
me down!

[She exits quickly, closing the door behind her. Left alone, VICKERY
gives a little shiver and looks apprehensively around the room. He
crosses to the room door and peers inside, then does the same with the
door of the office. Returning to the centre stage, he sees the effects
chest and, crossing, lifts the lid and peers inside. A slight noise at
the main entrance attracts his attention. He wheels...to see the door
opening slowly. VICKERY gulps and croaks:]

VICKERY: Who...who's there?

[There is no answer, but a hand slips through the partly open door,
feeling for the light switch. Even as VICKERY stares in horror, every
light in the room goes off. From a completely black stage comes VICKERY's
horrified voice.]

Who did that? Who put out--?

[The words are suddenly choked on his lips. There is a brief struggle,
then silence. Somewhere a door closes softly. After a few seconds the
room is flooded with light again. FERN stands at the door, her hand on
the switch. She stares around the empty room.]

FERN: Mr. Vickery? [She comes in.] Mr. Vickery...!

She waits, then shrugs, a motion dismissing VICKERY for cowardice.
She looks around the room, her glance stopping at the small table behind
the couch.

It was here all the time!

[She crosses and picks up the handbag left by MRS. VAN LEYDEN
in the second act. Bringing it centre stage, she opens the bag and
begins to rifle through it as...the effects room is flung open. MRS. VAN
LEYDEN is revealed. FERN has not heard the door open. MRS. VAN LEYDEN
speaks quietly.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Is that my handbag?

[FERN wheels with a sharp breath of surprise, dropping the bag on the
floor. MRS. VAN, LEYDEN comes forward and picks it up.]

It seems I came just in time.

FERN [fighting to recover her poise]: What do you mean?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Do you usually go through other people's handbags?
That's what you were doing, wasn't it?

FERN: I suppose it must look rather odd...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: How else did you think it would look? Just what were
you after? Money?

FERN: No.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Well?

FERN [quietly]: I was looking for your lipstick.

[A sudden tightness contracts MRS. VAN LEYDEN's body. Her tone is soft,
dangerous.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: What possible interest could you find in my lipstick,
Miss Sutton?

FERN: I wanted to use it.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Use it? But haven't you one of your own?

FERN: I must have mislaid it somewhere. Stupid of me!

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN looks at her, uncertain. Then, with something of her
old charm, she feels in the bag and takes out a lipstick.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: It's share and share alike these times I suppose. Here
you are.

FERN [taking the lipstick]: It's very good of you. Some people might
have been very annoyed...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [a warning]: People who peer and pry into the affairs of
others never annoy me, Miss Sutton. I can usually handle them without a
fuss...

FERN: Yes. I should imagine you could!

[She has opened the lipstick and rubbed a little on the back of her hand.]

Oh...?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: What's the matter?

FERN: It isn't indelible?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [rather shortly]: No.

FERN [smiling]: Oh, well beggars can't be choosers! But I was hoping
you'd let me use your own lipstick.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: That is my own lipstick...

FERN [she shrugs, as a good natured person not prepared to argue]:
Oh all right!

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN watches her closely as she crosses to one of the mirrors
on the wall and proceeds to make up her lips.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Miss Sutton...

FERN: Yes?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: You doubt my word?

FERN: Oh, no! Obviously, I've made a mistake! Though I could have sworn
you used an indelible lipstick...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Why?

FERN [still busy at mirror]: Just before you came into this room, when
the audition was on, Mr. Tuttle and Mr. Vickery noticed you making up
your lips outside that door...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Anything wrong in that?

FERN [turning]: Not wrong, Mrs. Van Leyden. Just puzzling...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: I don't understand...

FERN [quietly]: Nor do I, Mrs. Van Leyden! Because, when you came into
this room a few seconds later, you lit one your own cigarettes--a Club
Castle! The half-smoked butt I found in that ashtray...WITHOUT A TRACE
OF LIPSTICK ON THE END!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [after a slight pause]: You are a very observant young
woman, Miss Sutton. Why should you take the trouble to examine the
cigarette end so closely?

FERN: I think Mr. Tuttle and Mr. Vickery were both wrong...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: They're reliable witnesses!

FERN [smiling]: Men? Reliable where make-up is concerned? I don't think
you were making up your lips at all.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: My dear...they saw me!

FERN [quietly]: Or perhaps they saw you using a small blowpipe...disguised
as a lipstick!

[A pause. MRS. VAN LEYDEN stares at her. Very calmly she speaks.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: You realize what you're saying?

FERN: Quite!

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN: You accuse me of trying to murder this man--a complete
stranger to me! My dear child...think back! If I were guilty, am I likely
to bring suspicion on myself by reporting the loss of those darts?]

FERN: It put us off the scent for quite a while.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: But I wanted the police brought here!

FERN: Not at first! You thought you'd fooled us with your talk of heart
failure! Then when you discovered I knew something about poisons, you
were afraid I might find out too much! So you wanted matters taken out
of our hands!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [slowly]: You'll have to think out a much better story
than that to keep your Mr. Carlson out of prison...

FERN: Prison? Larry?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: My dear, it was plain to me from the beginning! Why
else should you want to hide that body?

FERN: But Larry had no motive! He believed McGinnis was an important
sponsor!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Stop lying! Carlson wanted to stop the government from
finding out what was going on here! They would have closed this
station--ruined him! He tried to kill McGinnis because he was a national
security off--

[Abruptly she stops. There is a pause. FERN says quietly...]

FERN: Go on, Mrs. Van Leyden. [As she does not speak.] We didn't know
McGinnis was a government officer until we searched his clothes. But you
knew from the start! Because you are the person McGinnis came here to
arrest! The person selling defence secrets--

[Abruptly the inter-office phone rings. Without taking her eyes from
FERN, MRS. VAN LEYDEN reaches out hand and takes up the receiver.
Calmly she speaks.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Hello? Yes, speaking. Very well--at once.

[She replaces the receiver.]

At any other time, Miss Sutton, I should enjoy listening to your fairy
tales. But I am on the air...

FERN: With another message for Moscow? You're not getting away with it
this time!

[She runs to the entrance door, but MRS. VAN LEYDEN is there
first. The woman turns the key and puts it in her pocket. As she turns,
FERN puts out her hand.]

Give me that key!

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN moves into the room. She stands without moving.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Come here, Miss Sutton...

[FERN hesitates. MRS. VAN LEYDEN has not taken her eyes from her. There
is a clash of wills and FERN is first to capitulate. Against her will
she moves slowly to where MRS. VAN LEYDEN stands.]

Miss Sutton...you are a very intelligent young person. Surely you must
realize that if I am stopped from doing: certain work tonight, someone
else will merely take over. We are a very efficient organization.
[Slight pause] we can also be extremely...generous...

FERN: You surprise me.

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: To save the face of an agent in an embarrassing
situation, we have been known to pay as much as a thousand pounds...

FERN [pleasantly]: A little bribery?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: My dear, why ever should I want to bribe you? You're
quite helpless. This studio is isolated...and completely sound-proof. The
one entrance door is securely locked. If I cared to be melodramatic, I
could kill with the utmost ease--

[The inter-office phone buzzes again. FERN makes a quick movement and
reaches the desk. She is about to stretch her hand to the instrument
when MRS. VAN LEYDEN whips out a tiny automatic.]

Keep away from that!

[FERN freezes, and speaks slowly.]

FERN: So it is melodrama?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said that life follows art?
And life can be a very precious thing...

FERN [slowly]: You wouldn't dare...

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Remember that native guide?

FERN: This isn't the jungle!

[Over her next line, the telephone stops.]

Any moment the police will be in this room!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: Through a locked door?

FERN [desperately]: Larry has a duplicate key!

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: And that's why you're playing for time! [She nods to
the effects room.] You've got to be kept quiet, my dear...

FERN [backing in terror]: What are you going to do?

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [with her free hand she takes an envelope from her
pocket]: Antiasis is very quietening...

FERN: Not if I scream--

MRS. VAN LEYDEN [interrupting]: You'll never be heard!

She reaches forward still holding the envelope and presses the remote
control button on the desk. As FERN backs to the effects room door,
music from the speaker on the wall swells into the room. FERN realizing
the futility of screaming against the noise, has backed to the door.
She is feeling for the door knob when the music stops abruptly. Into
the silence, like the staccato rattle of a machine gun, a man's voice
barks.

LOUDSPEAKER: DROP THAT GUN, SISTER! GO ON--DROP IT! NOW, TURN ROUND!

[On the first word, MRS. VAN LEYDEN starts. She is not fooled so much as
completely taken off her guard by this sudden sharp command sounding in
what she knows is a sealed room. She half turns her head for an instant,
but it is enough for FERN, who leaps forward, knocking the gun from her
hand. FERN leaps on the gun and picks it up as a burst of music follows
the words from the loudspeaker. Then, as MRS. VAN LEYDEN turns and looks
up at the speaker on the wall, the following comes over...]

And so concludes "MURDER IS EASY", a radio drama written by Clayton
Tuttle and starring Clarence Parsons in the role of Inspector King--

[FERN, automatic in hand, reaches out and switches off the speaker. At
that moment, the door handle of the entrance door is rattled.]

LARRY [offstage]: FERN!

FERN [calling, her eyes on MRS. VAN LEYDEN]: You'll have to unlock it,
Larry. I'm busy! A key turns in the lock. The door is flung open. LARRY
and CLAY enter quickly, taking in the tableau at a glance.

LARRY: Fern...!

FERN [calling, her eyes on MRS. VAN LEYDEN]: You'll have to unlock it
Larry. I'm busy!

A key turns in the lock. The door is flung open. LARRY and CLAY enter
quickly, taking in the tableau in a glance.

LARRY: Fern!

FERN: There's your agent, Larry! But be careful, she's got the dart!

[CLAY takes the automatic from FERN and, crossing to MRS. VAN LEYDEN,
digs her in the ribs with the weapon.]

CLAY: Okay! Get going, please, Honourable Madam Poison Ivy.

[MRS. VAN LEYDEN walks to the door. All her old poise and charm have
suddenly returned. At the door, she turns to CLAY.]

MRS. VAN LEYDEN: We don't really need the automatic, Mr. Tuttle. It
isn't loaded!

[She exits, followed by a rather startled CLAY. LARRY takes FERN in his
arms, but they both wheel as a muffled groan sounds from the chest.]

LARRY: Whatever's that?

FERN: Look!

[She points to the lid of the chest which rises slowly. VICKERY raises
himself upright--a very dishevelled VICKERY, with a gag handkerchief
round his neck. He is pale and trembling with rage. He sees LARRY and
FERN and folds his arms, drawing himself up in outraged dignity.]

LARRY: Vickery!

VICKERY [he steps out and with a voice quivering with passion]: Mr.
Carlson! This time I really mean it! I RESIGN!


[The curtain falls.]



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