(Slide of outside of a 40s super department store on a scrim, sound of traffic. Lights change to inside of store, slide is gone. Classy place. ACTPOT, the George Sanders type, not clone, with silky grace and English accent, is looking at rings with head bowed. The WOMAN behind the counter has head bowed too, trying to pick out a good one. Every woman in the world is in love with this man, he's too charming, yet there's sincerity in there too. WOMAN looks at rings as if she's the recipient. Sound of a large, loud crowd of shoppers in this big city establishment)
ACTPOT. What's this one here? (Points it out)
WOMAN. (Gets ring) That's quite an eye you have, sir.
ACTPOT. (Always the flirt) Yes. It was given to me by my mother.
WOMAN. (Tries it on) No woman could resist something like this. (Hint, hint)
ACTPOT. (Winces) When does it expire?
WOMAN. What did you say?
ACTPOT. It's for the little lady. An.... engagement ring. How long do they last before you must get the next in the series?
WOMAN. (Rigid) I really couldn't say. Sir. (Tries to get ring off)
ACTPOT. (Notices her change) Would you care for a pound of chicken fat?
GREENS. (Enters. Tough guy, Brooklyn accent, but loyal) Say, boss, I've been circling that block so many times now it's gone oval.
ACTPOT. Oval, my dear Greens, where do you pick up such invidious phonation.
GREENS. Yeah. (Looks around at mammoth place)
ACTPOT. (To WOMAN) I believe, that one. (Points) A beautiful little number, for a beautiful -
WOMAN. (Still miffed, trying to get ring off) You know, lawn furniture says it best. (ACTPOT smirks)
GREENS. Come on, boss, I'm gonna get a ticket. And it ain't to a dance.
ACTPOT. Why, where did you park?
GREENS. I only parked - whoa! Boss, I'll see ya later.
GREENS. House dicks, and they ain't walking the dog.
ACTPOT. How can you tell -
GREENS. I'll be waitin' in jail, I mean outside. Pick a rock and blow, huh? (Walks swiftly out)
ACTPOT. Charming. (Looks in opposite direction)
WOMAN. Friend of yours?
ACTPOT. (Innocent) Who? (On comes TABBY, beautiful, young, fearful. Bumps into him) Oh. I beg your pardon.
TABBY. That's quite all right. (Looks behind her)
ACTPOT. Is it? My name is Actpot. I don't believe I've ever seen you in my life. How long have I been alive?
TABBY. (Looks back, then realizes she has a chance) Nice to meet you.
ACTPOT. Isn't it. (She gives him her hand, he kisses)
TABBY. How you do question.
ACTPOT. Well, it just depends on the answers, doesn't it? Won't you join me?
(Tries to move her to counter. TABBY slips a jewel in his coat pocket) I'm trying -
TABBY. (Afraid) No.
ACTPOT. (A keen sense) What's wrong?
TABBY. It's nothing.
TABBY. Please.. (She runs away. He looks after her. 2 STORE DICKS push through)
STORE DICK. 'Cuse me.
ACTPOT. (Still confused) Yes, of course. (Watches them go, pause. Notices WOMAN giving him an evil look. He smiles) You're lovely. You are the equinox of a virtue of forbearance that knows no bounds.
WOMAN. You're cute too.
ACTPOT. (Closes eye, picks a ring, and likes the choice. Grandly hands it to WOMAN. She "smiles") Do you accept cash?
WOMAN. Aren't you an old fashion?
ACTPOT. Actually, I'm a gin and tonic, thank you.
(Digs into pockets as he speaks, so that he's preoccupied and can't remember where he had his wallet. Finds jewel. Looks at it with surprise. WOMAN is busy putting the ring in a box, luckily. He looks at her, then runs in TABBY's direction)
WOMAN. (Turns back while speaking) Now, we have an interesting selection of wrap for your - (Smirks. Puts hands on hips, then waves him away and sees the ring still on her finger) Oooo... (Lights out here, and up on a street. Street noises. ACTPOT looks around, mind alert. GREENS quickly comes in)
GREENS. All set?
GREENS. Got the rock?
ACTPOT. I got it all right. (Gives him jewel) What can your roving eye tell me about that?
GREENS. (Whistles) You didn't sell the car, didja? Hey. There's no ring on this one. How's she gonna -
ACTPOT. Is it real?
GREENS. They wouldn't sell ya a bum steer, would they? (Looks at it)
ACTPOT. A certain young lady slipped me that, and slipped out on a couple friends. Did you see -
GREENS. (Getting scared) Hey now, boss, you got one at home, ain't that numbers enough for ya -
ACTPOT. (More firmly) Did you see a beautiful young lady come out, being tailed by -
GREENS. I didn't see nothing on nothing, I had me eyes peeled for anything in blue!
ACTPOT. Then you should have seen her. The most beautiful blue eyes...
GREENS. (Bad taste in mouth) You would know. - And I know one thing further.
ACTPOT. What's that?
GREENS. If you don't get that rock back to the place, you're gonna be doing doornail impressions six ways from five o'clock.
ACTPOT. Yes.... - Obviously. (He goes off. GREENS doesn't trust him, but follows)
Scene 2 (Scenes are immediate and flow) (Sound of a door closing. ACTPOT has in fact just stepped into his lush apartment. COLLEEN is smiling, with eyes closed, one hand over her eyes for good measure, and one hand outstretched)
COLLEEN. (Excited) Oh, Julian! I hope you didn't spend a lot of money.
GREENS. (Comes forward) Sister. How many stars fell last night?
ACTPOT. (Kisses her open hand) My darling.
COLLEEN. (Opens eyes, reacts) Well, you might at least have spent your life savings.
ACTPOT. (Devoted to her. Devoted to whatever's female and in the room) Darling....! You know I want to marry you more than life itself.
COLLEEN. I could take that two ways.
ACTPOT. The simple fact was, when I reached for my wallet. It wasn't there!
GREENS. Yeah. (Sits on chair) The dame probably took it.
COLLEEN. What dame?
ACTPOT. (To GREENS) Don't you have peace talks to give? (GREENS shakes his head)
COLLEEN. What is this?
ACTPOT. My wallet must have been stolen.
COLLEEN. Oh, Julian. I always told you, you mustn't keep your wallet - (But she finds it in his coat pocket. She waits)
ACTPOT. I can't believe it! Where did you find it?
COLLEEN. I can't believe it either. Oh, darling. - Why can't you -
(Doorbell rings. ACTPOT kisses her, she melts. Doorbell. They look at GREENS, who forces himself up)
GREENS. Just because you're in love, you can't face the doorbell. It's any loud noise, I know....
COLLEEN. Oh, darling.
ACTPOT. You're the only woman in the world for me.
COLLEEN. What a world.. (They kiss)
GREENS. (Opens door while the couple coo. It's TABBY. GREENS is concerned) Yes?
TABBY. I want to see that man, Actpot.
GREENS. Never heard of 'im, he ain't here.
TABBY. Don't give me that. I've seen his face in the papers. He helps people that can't help themselves.
GREENS. Well, I can't help ya.
TABBY. Don't shut the door! I'm in trouble.
GREENS. I tell ya, you got the wrong party.
TABBY. I must see him.
GREENS. Look -
TABBY. (Pulls gun) No, you look.
GREENS. And I can't believe my eyes.
TABBY. Get out of the way.
GREENS. Have a heart, lady. He's with his girl. She was Ms. Fencer 1940 down in Mexico and she'll cut him more than to the quick if you get me.
TABBY. - I get you. Call him over.
GREENS. Okay. (Closes door) Somebody at the door wants to see you.
ACTPOT. Who is it?, better still, I've died and gone to heaven's arms. Forward nothing.
GREENS. It's important.
ACTPOT. So is this.
GREENS. (Comes to ACTPOT's ear) It's the dame, boss. (ACTPOT turns)
ACTPOT. (Nervous) I don't care who it is.
GREENS. (As before) Packin' enough heat to melt your heart.
ACTPOT. (Decides) - Excuse me, dear.
COLLEEN. Mr. Actpot! You get back here and finish what you started.
GREENS. Lady, you've got a lotta guts. (COLLEEN sticks her tongue out at him)
ACTPOT. (Opens door, goes out. TABBY is steady with gun, but weak) I assure you. I am quite harmless. Unless you get to know me.
TABBY. I have no intention of doing that in the least. Where is it?
ACTPOT. That depends on what you mean. There happen to be a lot of things in this madcap world of our making. I for one -
TABBY. Shut up. (Comes close, and carefully watches him while searching his pockets with one hand)
ACTPOT. (After a moment) You know, guns really make frightening introductions. Suppose you start. - And such lovely hands, too.
TABBY. All right, where is it?
ACTPOT. I'm sorry?
TABBY. That may be true, but I need that jewel.
ACTPOT. Assuming I had such a thing, to quote Sheridan, what's it to you, my girl?
TABBY. You're not so tough, you know.
ACTPOT. Oh, I know it, it's getting the rest of the world to agree.
COLLEEN. What's going on out there? (Heading for the door)
GREENS. (Cutting her off) Sister, you don't wanna know.
COLLEEN. My name just Happens to be Colleen, sir, and if we were related, I'd know it!
GREENS. (Smiles) I feel that way too.
COLLEEN. Oh! (Moves to door, she's stopped)
TABBY. I'm going to give you until five.
ACTPOT. That's very kind. Perhaps in half an hour, all this can be cleared -
ACTPOT. At least tell me your name, unknown killer.
ACTPOT. Good evening, Miss Three, (Sticks out hand for a shake) I'm - (He grabs for the gun, it goes off, but he has it now)
COLLEEN. What was that?
GREENS. That was nothing. (She opens the door) With powder traces yet. (TABBY faints, and ACTPOT catches her and eases her to the floor. COLLEEN is seething)
ACTPOT. Greens! (GREENS comes out)
COLLEEN. My those Christmas crackers are giving out bigger and bigger prizes.
ACTPOT. Help me get her inside. (They carry her in)
COLLEEN. All right, who is she, swoon river?
ACTPOT. I promise, darling, it was the gun that made her faint.
COLLEEN. Oh, that's all right, then.
ACTPOT. (Gives GREENS gun) Here. (He searches TABBY's purse) Go through her pockets, would you, darling?
COLLEEN. (Sick smile) Of course, sweetheart. We wouldn't want to make some poor pen an orphan.
(ACTPOT finds a few things: handkerchief, various make-up items, two tickets which he considers then puts in his own pocket, a short slip of paper with numbers which he likewise pockets, some change, and a glass case. He considers these, then puts them back in purse. Through half of this, has been said..)
GREENS. (Smells gun) Hey! This gun has been fired.
ACTPOT. (Still going through purse) How very astute.
GREENS. I got a nose for these things.
COLLEEN. I wish you'd keep it clean.
GREENS. Don't you worry about me. I wouldn't carry a gun no more if my death depended on it.
COLLEEN. All right now, Julian. You've had your fun through the lady's purse, now tell me, who is she?
GREENS. It's obvious, she heard you two was getting married, she couldn't live without him, so she comes over here and -
COLLEEN. Get more descriptive, Greens, it pays by the word.
ACTPOT. (In thought) Yes... - How is she?
COLLEEN. I don't know, I came in late.
GREENS. Ah, she's all right. Skirts are always gettin' ruffled.
COLLEEN. Is that why they're wearing them high this year? (GREENS flinches)
ACTPOT. (Pats GREENS shoulder) Come on, my lad.
GREENS. Where to?
ACTPOT. Why, darling! Your safety! A strange woman comes over here, threatens us both with life and death, we must follow this through to its logical conclusion. We must find the truth!
COLLEEN. (Skeptical) Did she threaten you, Julian?
ACTPOT. (Points to gun) That is not mine. Furthermore, it isn't smoking a Camel. (Haughty) Now. I love you. I cannot let this go on.
COLLEEN. (Runs to him) Oh, darling. Be careful!
ACTPOT. Come, Adrian!
GREENS. Ah.... you forget like me own mother...! (They leave. COLLEEN is happy, then looks at TABBY)
COLLEEN. Please. Make yourself at home. (Lights out here)
GREENS. What's the gag?
ACTPOT. (Quietly, urgently) The gag is, get yourself back to that store with wings upon your soft feet, and secure some information about that woman.
GREENS. What am I gonna say? Who is she?
ACTPOT. That we don't know. (Thinking) That's the odd part, she had no identification on her at all. She must not drive a car. But.... Say you have information about the woman.
GREENS. But boss!
ACTPOT. Trap them into giving out more than they're taking in. Say you won't talk until the bills start coming.
GREENS. They're liable to throw me into the wash just for withholding taxes!
ACTPOT. Don't give in. Don't give out anything.
GREENS. Okay, boss. Where will you be?
ACTPOT. I. I am off to the races. With luck, I won't be alone.
GREENS. (Groans) Not another one!
ACTPOT. Who knows what this day will bring.
GREENS. This half of it.
ACTPOT. We'll meet at the Saddle Club.
GREENS. (Less than rejoicing) Okay. (Grabbing his arm to stop him) Set yourself a limit, wouldja? Even fishermen pack up the hook once in a sunshine. (Lights out as they separate)
Scene 3 (Scrim is lit with slide of an automobile race track. Scrim opens on ACTPOT arriving. He stands watching. Sounds of a great race in progress. He hands tickets to a MAN at ticket box. ACTPOT watches some more, enthralled. MAN and ticket box disappear. ACTPOT walks. He's being followed by a GUY in dark clothes; we can't see who it is. ACTPOT can feel the tail, and suddenly ties his shoe. GUY hides like a pro. ACTPOT makes his way cautiously to the pit where there's a little guy, SAM, in coveralls watching the race noises with interest. Suddenly he holds up a sign reading "Ease it up!", then goes back to worrying. There's a large MECHANIC around here also, fiddling with engine parts. ACTPOT surveys the situation, then steps in)
SAM. If you're sellin' perfume, bud, we don't want any.
ACTPOT. And such a shame at my prices.
SAM. (Surprised at the way he talks. To MECHANIC) Get this log!
MECHANIC. Hey, you ain't s'pose to be in here, you know.
ACTPOT. Somebody is.
SAM. Is that right?
ACTPOT. About five feet one, auburn hair, beautiful blue eyes.
SAM. I see you been stock takin'.
ACTPOT. Well, she's not missing a thing, I can tell you.
SAM. (Still on the race) That's my niece. She's a good kid.
ACTPOT. Yes..... - I see she isn't so important to you.
ACTPOT. (Serious, wants his attention) This girl hasn't eaten for days, she's weak as a kitten in the sleet, and you don't seem to care that I show up with her ticket.
SAM. (His attention is on) Say.... (Sizes him up) Who are you? (MECHANIC comes over)
ACTPOT. Less importantly, who are you? I already know who I am.
SAM. Get how this kid talks! I'm Sam. Milhouse is my last name. Where's Tabby?
ACTPOT. Your cat?
SAM. My niece.
(Someone's fired a gun. SAM goes down. MECHANIC looks for the culprit, but gets picked off with the second shot. ACTPOT has his gun out and is behind the nearest cover. He looks up, but there's another shot. He waits, looks at his watch. Comes out blasting. No return fire. ACTPOT investigates the near surroundings. SAM opens one eye)
Is he gone?
ACTPOT. (Returns) Are you hurt?
SAM. I won't say no. (Chuckles) That was fun, wasn't it?
ACTPOT. (Quickly goes to MECHANIC, feels pulse) Hardly the good, clean stuff. This man is dead.
SAM. (Shocked, comes over) Dead?!
ACTPOT. Who would want to kill you, Mr. Milhouse?
SAM. I can't believe this! He's.... Are you sure?
ACTPOT. I'm more certain than he'll ever be. - What's the set up?
SAM. (Sits slowly) I can't believe it....
ACTPOT. (Eyes him suspiciously) - What's your connection with a certain Brybase Stores?
SAM. (Still in shock) I don't know what you mean.
ACTPOT. ...That could well be..... Who's trying to kill you?
SAM. (Back to ornery) Nobody. Now... get out of here, I've got a race to see about.
ACTPOT. I don't know what your particular "beef" is with certain men with ammunition and the guns that go a very loud bang, but I know one thing, Mr. Milhouse.
SAM. Sam, I ain't ever been a mister.
ACTPOT. (Stern) But while your niece is in my apartment, I believe a fast family reunion is certainly what's called for. She's mixed up in this too, and -
SAM. (Gets binoculars, looks at race) Oh, go away.
ACTPOT. You don't seem to care!
SAM. I don't know what she's mixed up in, but I've got a race to win. I can't just leave, and what happened here is nothing but a prank. Forget about it.
ACTPOT. My but these children are rough. - Let's see if the police can send them to bed.
(He starts to leave. SAM considers for a moment)
SAM. Wait. - Do the cops really have to come into this?
ACTPOT. Sam, a murder has been committed. Despite the astrology you have set for yourself, someone means business. Mean business. Now, who were they?
SAM. I - I don't know.
SAM. - Wait for me. The coffee shop.
(ACTPOT reluctantly agrees, bows head, and goes. He walks until he finds a pay phone, then dials. Lights up on a desk and misc. of a precinct. The big, wise but dumb looking MACULIC answers the phone with a ham sandwich)
ACTPOT. Maculic? Where's Keach?
MACULIC. Out on a beer run. Who's this?
ACTPOT. This is your fairy godfather.
MACULIC. Yeah? I didn't know I had one.
ACTPOT. Giving you the gift of kings, if you can get you and New York's thinnest down to claim your own personal dead body.
MACULIC. (Starts to write something) Yeah?
ACTPOT. Walshy's race grounds, pit eleven, don't wait for Keach, there's someone out here.
MACULIC. Your voice sounds familiar...
ACTPOT. I was recently on the radio.
MACULIC. Yeah? Which program?
ACTPOT. Oh, just sitting down. And get that ham sandwich out of your mouth, it's Tuesday. (Hangs up, checks watch, hurries away. MACULIC hurries out also)
Scene 4 (Brybase Dept. Store. GREENS comes through a door marked "Personnel". A MAN, and 2 WOMEN are grilling BOB who sits in a chair. He's often trying to sit up straight, but it looks as if he's not eaten or slept for days, and the MAN and WOMEN, all common NYC types much like GREENS, are browbeating BOB for some unknown reason. GREENS isn't daunted)
MAN. Are you gonna talk?
WOMAN 1. Come on... we can't waste time with this wise guy.
WOMAN 2. (To GREENS) Well, what do you want? This is restricted.
GREENS. (About BOB) Only to this guy.
MAN. (Mean, turns on GREENS) Can't you read signs, or did your mother leave you off in traffic?
GREENS. I don't see what one's got to do with the other.
WOMAN 1. We're busy, scram..!
WOMAN 2. (To BOB) Come on, Bob. Say it! Say it. You know you wanna get it off your pacemaker. (BOB struggles with words)
MAN. Come back tomorra, we'll be closed then.
GREENS. Look, bud. You can do whatever ya want with anybody that ain't me. But I come here lookin' for information. I go downstairs, they tell me come up here.
MAN. (To BOB) Talk! Say it! (To GREENS) Look, you gonna pull a run or do I have to belt ya like big pants?
GREENS. I'd like to see you breath on me shoulders and get away with it.
MAN. Let me take a Good breath. (Close to GREENS)
WOMAN 2. Come on, Bob, don't you have something you want to say?
GREENS. Listen, friend. I ain't contracted no childhood diseases yet, and I sure didn't ask for you in my face.
WOMAN 1. (Had enough, comes between the men) Let me handle this mug. What do you want here, can't you see we're working on something sweet?
GREENS. This much is obvious.
MAN. (Wants to poke GREENS) Ah... (WOMAN 1 restrains him)
WOMAN 1. What do you want?
GREENS. Mr. Gehill in here?
MAN. Do I Look like Mr. Gehill?
GREENS. Well how should I know!
MAN. I'm gonna cuff ya like a suit!
GREENS. What are you, a dry cleaner?
WOMAN 1. Through there. (Points. GREENS goes, but not quite from scene)
MAN. (Back to work, and BOB) What do ya think, Bob? Something you just Gotta say? Huh?
WOMAN 2. What is it you say? What do you say?
WOMAN 1. Come on, Bob. Talk!
BOB. (Can stand it no longer. Stands, talks perfect English) I think this line of fabric is among the Best of the season!
MAN. Attaboy, pal!
BOB. (Back to common NYC talk) Ya think so? Did it really sound -?
(The others tear their hair out, utterly frustrated. BOB is upset. GREENS doesn't like it, then shrugs, and moves away. He moves into a sort of hidden office, gives a knock on the nearest wood he can find. GEHILL is careful; a businessman)
GREENS. Mr. Gehill?
GEHILL. - Yes?
GREENS. Permit me to introduce myself. I'm Mr. Greens. Official guy on Mr. Actpot's behalf. Wanted me to have a word with ya.
GEHILL. Actpot? - Didn't I read something about he and trouble out west?
GREENS. Ah, that waddunt trouble. He took care of that enough.
GEHILL. I seem to recall the police didn't think so. Said if he hadn't meddled -
GREENS. Yeah, well when you're wearin' the cuffs yourselves, they get kinda jealous when the boss can do some stuff that Has to be done. Know what I mean?
GEHILL. (Smiles) As a businessman, I think I do. What can I do you for?
GREENS. Got nothin' to do with me. Say... it's kinda dark in here.
GEHILL. Do you know how much lightbulbs cost?
GREENS. No. Anyway, my boss would like some background on your jewelry department. What's missing, what's up, basically the whole ten yards.
GEHILL. (Sits back, like a businessman) And...?
GREENS. And maybe he can help you get it back. You never know.
MAN. (Comes in from other room) It's no good, Mr. Gehill. We gotta start all over at the beginning.
GEHILL. What's the matter? (Stands)
MAN. That guy! He ain't got no class. He had it. I was all set to say by George, when the hot head loses it. It's like the hangin' gardens on Jerusalem, it's just got me stumped.
GEHILL. - Get this man here...
GEHILL. Whatever he wants.
MAN. Hey. You sure about this, Mr. Gehill? This mug's pretty ugly.
GEHILL. (Hits desk) Do what I say? (Smiles to GREENS) I wouldn't want it said that I never cooperated. Free service is hardly a gift horse.
GREENS. You said it. Whatever it was.
MAN. (Underjoyed) This way, poyson.
GREENS. You're too kind, Sir Galahadn't. (Goes out)
MAN. For two bits I'd.... (Starts to go)
GEHILL. Ethan. (Quietly) Eye him.
MAN. Aye aye. (Goes, leaving a content GEHILL. But GEHILL thinks, and dials phone. Lights out here. In hall..) This way, buddy.
GREENS. Look, chum. You an' me. We come from different backgrounds. What's the charge on this fella Gehill?
MAN. He's just the sweetest thing in years, that's all.
MAN. Beat the track in France for a couple G's, legs out, and he's settin' up shop here just on the interest alone. Dames, women, prestigious. Class comin' outta his coffee cup.
GREENS. You don't say.
MAN. He hired me, didn't he? (GREENS makes a face, and they walk out)
Scene 5 (Small coffee shop on the racing grounds. Announcements, cars, talk, everything is alive. ACTPOT comes over to a worried SAM at a table) ACTPOT. My apologies, Sam, but I had to inform the police. Then I went back to the murdered man. I found this shell casing. And something interesting. (Shows SAM piece of paper with numbers on it) Mean anything?
SAM. Looks like numbers.
ACTPOT. You didn't by any chance inVent the wheel, did you, Sam?
SAM. All right, stop the clownin'. I'm gonna tell you. I've had several threats on my life. I didn't think much of it.
ACTPOT. Your nerves have more nerve than mine.
SAM. I've dealt with these people. I know them! They're not capable...
ACTPOT. (Alert) You know who it is?
SAM. I thought I knew them.... (Pause to look at ACTPOT)
ACTPOT. But you don't know me.
SAM. How do I know?
ACTPOT. You should know whether you know me or not.
SAM. I meant -
ACTPOT. Yes, yes. (Lights a cigarette) I believe you're forgetting your niece. She's at my place right as we mistrust. (Signals to off WAITER) She came to me for help.
SAM. I didn't want to get her involved.
ACTPOT. I didn't think you cared. (WAITER comes) Telephone, please. Oh, and... bottle of gin with a short glass of water, if you please. (WAITER nods and goes off)
SAM. I'm sorry. I do care. But it's just.... well, her parents died..... you see. And I've been around race cars all my life....
ACTPOT. And it's easier to get close to a vehicle whereas young girls...
SAM. I don't know nothin' about them!
ACTPOT. You should've come to me. I've written several dozen books on the hearts of many a young lady.
SAM. Smug, ain'tcha?
ACTPOT. (Considers cigarette) I don't believe in running away from the truth. Now what's your excuse? (WAITER brings phone) Thank you. (WAITER goes)
SAM. I wanna talk to her.
ACTPOT. Fancy that. And me requesting a phone. (Dials. Lights up on a stalking COLLEEN at the apartment)
COLLEEN. (Answers phone violently) Well, what do You want?
ACTPOT. Why, only you my dear, and God bless all orphans.
COLLEEN. (Smug herself) Oh, it's you! (A recuperating TABBY is seen there) Do you realize we've got guests in and I'm just one idiot short?
ACTPOT. Has Greens got back with the infor-
COLLEEN. I mean YOU! (ACTPOT removes the phone from his ear, vaguely upset. Doesn't want TABBY to hear) And the next time you bring home some of your leftovers, my dear Julian, you can just finish them off before you come into the apartment. If! you don't mind?
ACTPOT. Why, anything you like, my dear.
COLLEEN. What?! (Seething, clutches at phone, wishes she could choke it) Where are you? Where are you Now??
ACTPOT. Well, there's been one murder already. I'm not sure if two would -
COLLEEN. What? (Concerned) Are you all right?
ACTPOT. Darling, the uncle of the young lady would like to talk with her.
COLLEEN. Oh, darling..!
ACTPOT. I love you too. I do.... Put her on, will you?
COLLEEN. At once, my love. (Dreamily, she hands TABBY phone without a word)
TABBY. (Uncertain) Hello?
ACTPOT. Tabby. This is Actpot. Your uncle is here. There's been an attempt on his life. I want to help. You've got to tell him to trust me.
TABBY. Why should I?
ACTPOT. Well... he doesn't seem to know. But I can think of one sparkly little reason why all of us might benefit... Now... (Hands phone to SAM)
TABBY. Oh, unc.... what happened?
SAM. Never you mind it now. What do you know about Mr. Silk Voice here?
TABBY. (Pause) I don't know.
SAM. Well. Do ya trust him?
TABBY. (Pause, a worried conclusion) Tell him everything, unc. It's the only way. I'm worried about you.
SAM. (Laughs) Don't you worry about me. You just stay away from the course a few days. Take care of this. I'll get myself a replacement for you. Don't you worry.
TABBY. I won't. Be careful. (They both replace phones thoughtfully)
ACTPOT. (Pause. Stabs out cigarette) Why not here? - You've been sitting alone all this time. A perfect target. So one would assume... What do you know of your mechanic?
SAM. Mike? He's a good kid. Been with me for years.
ACTPOT. Tell me about him.
SAM. Tore a string in my right leg one night, practicing. I know you've never heard of me, but I used to win some. Course, all that came to a stop because I wouldn't trust myself to work the pedals anymore. I'm all right, but I couldn't really stay away from the track. I know engines. Set myself up in a company called Milhouse Rotations. Mike, Mike Verensky, joined me up early on. Lotta business. See, I know everyone around here. Came from out in Iowa or Milwaukee, Mike did, I think. He'd always hang around the dropouts for the guys that couldn't make it. Liked to hear stories. I had plenty to say. Look here. (Close to ACTPOT) You really think my niece is in danger?
ACTPOT. It's a close possibility. What's her last name?
SAM. Well... Smith. It really is. But see here. I've been getting notes. But we all do. To fix a race. Whether you're driving or working on it.
ACTPOT. Do you have any of these notes?
SAM. Heck, I threw 'em away ages ago.
ACTPOT. When was the last one?
SAM. Just this morning.
ACTPOT. What did it say?
SAM. - Stop it. Or else.
ACTPOT. A race?
SAM. Shoot, there's nothing important around here at the moment. Not that I can see.
ACTPOT. And you say you know who they're from. What this is all about.
SAM. (Pats ACTPOT) It's beyond just the two of us, Mr. Actpot. I'm old. I've got my work. If I die with grease on my hands, I'll be happy, as corny as it sounds. But Tabby. She's just a kid. If I thought for one minute they'd harm her...
ACTPOT. Listen, you've Got to tell me what this is about. This is serious. Murder.
SAM. Take care of her, Actpot. I like you. You an' me. We understand each other.
ACTPOT. Well, I don't understand! How can you -!
SAM. (Rises) I gotta go. I'm not worried. The numbers are all down. I'm finished. You hear what I say? I'm finished with it. It's outa my hands now. (A shot. This time SAM gets it. ACTPOT kicks over the table, but there's no more firing)
ACTPOT. (After checking for life signs) It's not finished yet, Sam. (Stands, looks around, walks away. Lights dim here)
Scene 6 (The Saddle Club. ACTPOT enters, dressed in spiffy duds now. There's music playing and the sound of people enjoying themselves. He smells his flower, then walks through the evening wear people. There's the sound of light gambling also. It's a classy joint. GREENS meets his boss, and talks to him as they make their way to a table. ACTPOT's got a SHADOW, but he disappears into his own tabl soon enough. The two men sit, there's a break in the music)
ACTPOT. How very interesting.
GREENS. I thought you might be interested. Say, did you know you sprouted a tail since you been in here?
ACTPOT. However did you guess?
GREENS. I can smell 'em like coppers with me nose closed.
ACTPOT. What's the rest of it?
GREENS. Can't figure him out, Gehill. Stingy guy, I figure. Even takin' low Joes off the street an' passin' 'em off as models and people of high class. I was standing around the men's department, doin' a little nose divin'. Up comes one of these guys from 43rd, that's the way I read his accent. He stands next to me, tries to get me to buy by sayin' how great the display looks. What a dope. Don't he know pinstripes is like confessing?
ACTPOT. Perhaps the dope wasn't given.
GREENS. Given what? Anyways, here's the sheets. (Gives ACTPOT papers) I couldn't see anything wrong with the place. 'Cept that I got my own tail.
ACTPOT. Really? Is he in here now?
GREENS. Nah, I shake these guys like cocktails. Forget it.
ACTPOT. I know one thing I can't forget. Sam Milhouse. He was murdered today.
KEACH. (Up comes the inspector in charge of detectives, on duty. Tough little guy) Yeah... Right next to you in the middle of coffee and talk. What's the matter? In between you and the view of a good lookin' dame?
ACTPOT. How many times do I have to tell you, Keach, dames don't happen to inhabit my particular planet in the universe. Now, if you'd care to listen to the rules once more -
KEACH. Trade it in for war bonds, eh? What's the idea of leaving the scene of a murder?
ACTPOT. It just so happens I was trying to locate the murderer. Lost in the crowd, I'm afraid. (MACULIC comes in)
KEACH. Is that a fact? I wish you'd get lost in the ocean of your choice.
MACULIC. No sign of the dame, chief.
ACTPOT. And what feminine pearl might this be?
MACULIC. Say, do they make poils boy and girl?
ACTPOT. In your case, they'd make an exception. (MACULIC smiles)
KEACH. Why don't you go arrest somebody
GREENS. Yeah, I hear there's a couple guys in Europe up for grabs.
MACULIC. (Mean) Care to show me the way?
GREENS. No thanks, I don't play blackjack.
KEACH. Look, Actpot. I know you're in this. Up to your ears and eyes in this. I want that girl, and I want her now! She needs protection.
ACTPOT. Really, my dear fellows, you overestimate my humble superpowers. If I had any spare women, you'd be the first police I'd call.
KEACH. I like that.
ACTPOT. I thought you might.
KEACH. What do you know about Sam Milhouse?
ACTPOT. What do you know?
KEACH. Oh, it's cute. I don't suppose you knew that he was living it out in the Marshan Arms for the past three weeks.
ACTPOT. Didn't he have a house of his own? He told me he's been around this track for years.
KEACH. Yeah? What else did he say before you bumped him off? (To MACULIC) Stay around the entrance.
MACULIC. Right, chief.
ACTPOT. You don't seriously suspect a pauper motive like mine, do you, inspector? I was merely trying to help.
KEACH. Yeah, help get him killed. Put his niece in danger for her life. (Leans over) I've got two dead bodies and two connections between 'em. You and the girl. Now, if you were me..
ACTPOT. If I were you, I'd put a tail on me, my house, my associate. My fiancée. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
KEACH. Oh.... think you're smart. Get this. You produce that girl, or I'll lock you up so fast it'd beat Greens' record! (Leaves hotly)
GREENS. That guy's in the Bible. Right under locusts.
ACTPOT. And yet, he has a point. I fail to see the connection myself. Let me see... (Looks through papers) What else did you get?
GREENS. Nothin'. What else is there?
ACTPOT. I need to talk to this Tabby as soon as possible. Then you and I are going out to the Marshan Arms and see what exact magic this place contains to keep an uncle in it for all this time...
(GREENS finishes his drink, and they start to rise. But in comes COLLEEN followed by an anxious TABBY)
COLLEEN. (She's worried) I'm sorry, darling. (Kisses ACTPOT long, with love) I had no idea.
ACTPOT. (At a loss) I'm afraid my ideas are fresh and full of life.
COLLEEN. I didn't know that this woman's life was in danger. That you were just trying to help. Oh, her story is just awful.
ACTPOT. Let's have it.
TABBY. I'm sorry about the gun, Mr. Actpot. You don't know how sorry. You do still have the jewel?
ACTPOT. Call me Julian. How did you get past the police?
COLLEEN. Greens called, said you'd be here. We got in just before they posted the guard. I think they're still out there.
ACTPOT. Undoubtedly. - I have some news for you. But first, I want to hear all about this. What's the connection between you and this jewel?
TABBY. It's mine. It always has been. I decided long ago to sell it. For about three-quarters of it's value.
GREENS. It can't be worth much for six bits. (ACTPOT smirks)
TABBY. Do you know the Alabaster Amalgam?
ACTPOT. Not personally.
GREENS. Hey, that's that rock.
TABBY. Coined by a certain newspaper man because there was no other word for it. A ruby, an emerald and a diamond. My step-mother, she loved my father very much. She had three gorgeous precious stones given to her by her family, handed down. She got the bright idea of fusing the three together; something no other woman had. (GREENS whistles) Her name as Victoria Alabaster. When she died, it passed to my father.
ACTPOT. Your father?
TABBY. He was wealthy, but handled everything badly. After my mother..... I don't think he was in his right mind. He lost most of it. But the jewel. He died in his sleep not too long ago. Oh, if only you'd known him when he was younger.
ACTPOT. For that, I am sorry.
TABBY. But recently. I needed the money. My uncle, Sam Milhouse. He's run into a lot of trouble recently. And since then, I've received a much better offer. I'd torn up the check from that Mr. Gehill. He had the stone in his possession, and I told him I didn't want to go through with the deal. He refused to give me my jewel back. I broke in, and got it. I just barely got away. But it's mine, you see. I can't think of what law I've Really broken.
ACTPOT. The law of averages, my dear, I'm afraid. - Brace yourself. I have some not pleasant news. I'm sorry. Your uncle is dead.
TABBY. ...Dead..? But -
ACTPOT. I don't want to tell you about it now. My only interest is in your safety. You have nothing to fear from the police. From what I've heard, they know nothing about this deal of the stone. They're concerned for your safety, it seems, and that's all.
TABBY. But -
ACTPOT. But someone Is after you. The same people who killed your uncle, and a mechanic named Mike.
TABBY. Mike is dead?
ACTPOT. Yes. Did you know him well?
TABBY. (Nods, pause) We were engaged. I've known him for several months now. We worked together. I - know a lot about cars... I - I can't believe...
COLLEEN. It's all right. Don't you worry. If there's one thing I know, it's my Julian. He can get to the bottom of anything.
GREENS. Yeah, if he don't get no broken bones from the fall.
ACTPOT. Why was your uncle staying at the -
KEACH. (Enters, with a smile) Welllllll, well, it seems I forgot my hat, and what a great thing it was I came back for it.
GREENS. The hat's on your head, flatfoot. (MACULIC comes in too)
KEACH. Would you like to be arrested for grand larceny?
GREENS. I ain't stole nothin'!
KEACH. You're breakin' my heart, that's breaking and entering too.
ACTPOT. My dear Keach, this unfortunate woman has just -
KEACH. I know, I know, you ordered steak and they sent you this dish instead, I know. Well, get this Actpot, it'll be on Your head if anything happens to her while she's on your private beat.
MACULIC. Hey, he ain't even a private cop.
KEACH. Say..... that's right. Come on, sister. (Gets TABBY up)
ACTPOT. Just a few more questions, Keach.
KEACH. Sorry, deposit another dime. Take her downtown. (Gives her to MACULIC who takes her out)
ACTPOT. All right, then tell me this much, my public benefactor. What makes you Think this lady is in danger?
KEACH. (Smiles. Brings out paper) I don't know why I'm showing this. To gloat? Or just to tease. You've helped us a couple times on things, maybe you can make somethin' out of this thing. I keep my options open.
ACTPOT. How sane of you. (Reads) "If you know what's good for you or your family, you'll stop work at once." Did he have any other family?
KEACH. Just the dame.
ACTPOT. Really, Keach, you -
KEACH. Awright, the great lady!
ACTPOT. Any idea what he was working on?
KEACH. Nah. Yourself?
ACTPOT. I haven't a clue.
KEACH. I got the clue.
ACTPOT. Where did you find it?
KEACH. On his person. Where else? (Tips his hat as he smiles and leaves. ACTPOT's silent for a minute)
COLLEEN. What's the matter, darling?
ACTPOT. He lied to me. He lied!
GREENS. Who lied?
ACTPOT. (To GREENS) Come on! We're going over to Sam's place.
COLLEEN. Hey! What am I supposed to do?
ACTPOT. Your ever charming and lovely self. I suggest you sit in constant and loving magazine cover poses and try to remember you love me.
COLLEEN. That's getting harder to do every day.
ACTPOT. Ah, but... (He kisses her, and leaves. GREENS shakes his head, doesn't believe this worker)
COLLEEN. (Cools down, then..) Waiter! I'm on the rocks. I mean - scotch... (Thinks, then runs out)
Scene 7 (A dark apartment. If there's music, the sinister kind plays here. Enter ACTPOT in the shadows, close behind is GREENS, slightly unnerved by sneaking around. They speak with lowered voices. The place is nice, but sparse. A woman's touch has laid a few fingers on this place)
GREENS. What are we doin' here, boss?
ACTPOT. I would say, a motive for murder. (Begins to look around, in desk, etc)
GREENS. I believe the killer takes it with him. Say, boss, if I'm caught sneakin' into a joint -
ACTPOT. Oh, Greens, don't be so combustible. You've been legit for two years now. Isn't it time you fell off the wagon?
GREENS. Yeah, but I'm liable to get run over by it.
ACTPOT. Consider me your bump.
GREENS. Just so I don't get bumped off is the trouble.
ACTPOT. (Looks at checks he's found) Hmm..
GREENS. You found something?
ACTPOT. A find is a find -
GREENS. Is a find, I know.
ACTPOT. How much did you have to tip the doorman?
GREENS. Oh, that's easy. Practically under nothin'. He ain't here.
GREENS. Yeah. You gotta open the doors yourself. Go figure.
ACTPOT. Let us retrace, on onion skin. What would a man in Sam's position be doing here? Some of those car mechanics make fine livings. (The apartment:) While it may be above two bits, that is the proper way to describe it.
GREENS. Maybe it's like the Bible says. Dust to dust.
ACTPOT. Regardless of what you've said, there could be truth there. On the other hand. (Pockets checks) I want you to dig up all the dope you can on Squire Hawkins.
GREENS. Is that a man's name?
ACTPOT. What did you think it was?
GREENS. I thought you were just bein' cute.
ACTPOT. He is the owner of this gallant establishment, and I should like to know why Sam finds himself paying such a price for this fabulous suite.
GREENS. Sure thing. You find somethin'?
ACTPOT. Checks. Canceled. Check the rest of the place.
(Does just that. While, ACTPOT looks around. He takes out a flashlight and examines the floor. There are a few papers and newspapers scattered around, but it's not quite a mess. ACTPOT looks carefully, but the papers are nothing. He looks at the newspapers, then jots a few things in his little black notebook. While he's doing this, a FIGURE comes in the window, silently. ACTPOT doesn't notice. It's impossible to tell who this person is, even what sex. GREENS is in the bathroom, so he can't see. The FIGURE holds a gun. Now ACTPOT can see the ghost of a shadow on his notebook. He doesn't turn)
ACTPOT. May I help you?
FIGURE. (Muffled voice) Stay right where you are. Don't move. I wouldn't mind shooting you. (Looks through desk)
ACTPOT. You're too kind.
FIGURE. (Doesn't find "it") Stand up.
ACTPOT. (Does as directed) If you'd like to tell me what you're looking for, perhaps I could loan you my reading glasses.
FIGURE. You think you're so smart.
ACTPOT. Don't ask me. Ask the woman who owns one.
FIGURE. Stay there. (FIGURE searches through ACTPOT's pockets. And GREENS enters unseen) If I were you, I'd stay away from this case. Tabby Milhouse is as good as dead. You could suddenly drop six feet if you're not careful.
ACTPOT. My dear murderer, we're in an apartment building.
(GREENS throws a book or small lamp close to him. It lands in front of the other two. FIGURE turns and fires, ACTPOT seizes the time to struggle for the gun. GREENS comes in, wanting to help, and gets the first connected punch of the night. He falls into a plain chair, trying to shake it off. The gun goes off 3 more times. ACTPOT lands a punch, but is butted by the gun in a moment. He goes down, but not out. FIGURE cleans out ACTPOT's pockets and hurries away by the window. ACTPOT makes his way up when he can. He looks out window, shaking the fight off. He goes over to GREENS who still looks like he's in shock. He waves his hand in front of GREENS who groans. Pause)
GREENS. (Groans again, then..) What happened? (ACTPOT is thinking. Lights out here)
Scene 8 (ACTPOT's apartment. He paces in his lovely robe; smoking. GREENS sits on the couch while COLLEEN tries to apply an ice bag to this clunk's head)
GREENS. Ow! Hey!
COLLEEN. Are you gonna hold still, or do I have to belt ya?
GREENS. You'd give a falling man a book to read.
COLLEEN. Oh... here. (Slams it on GREENS, treads, worried, to ACTPOT) Really, darling, are you sure you're all right?
ACTPOT. (Preoccupied) Hmm..? Yes. Yes. Fine.
COLLEEN. You can't just take a gun to the head and walk away.
GREENS. Lady. It's spongy like 4-leaf clovers.
ACTPOT. Please, darling. (Wants to think)
COLLEEN. (Gives up) Well, I don't see. You're left a bump and a lunk (meaning GREENS), and still you go on. If it's as you say, that man wanted to kill you, I don't see -
ACTPOT. That was a last act of desperation. He had to get those checks. Or that Amalgam. And I still have it. When - (A sudden thought. Grabs the phone) Fifth precinct, please. Greens, what did you find?
GREENS. Huh? Oh. You mean in my previous life. Nothin'. No clues, no papers, no sharp weapons or feet prints. Clean. Which was crazy for that place. Just a lotta water around the sink. Only - well, maybe it weren't water. I mean. Smelled kinda funny. And towels. Boy, towels! The man musta had a problem.
ACTPOT. How very interesting. Hello, Keach?
KEACH. (Lights up on him in cop's office) Oh, no. No.
ACTPOT. You have a coterminously negative view of this whole affair.
KEACH. What do you want? A medal? If I give it to you now, will ya lay off?
ACTPOT. I would, inspector, but I fear for my life. If only there were great big strong coffee and officers around to protect me.
KEACH. What are you sellin'?
ACTPOT. Perhaps a few answers, but first, the questions. What has Ms. Milhouse told you?
KEACH. She don't know nothin' from nothin'. Interesting math, huh? But get this. She's just Dying to get back to you, Mr. Actpot.
ACTPOT. (Glad COLLEEN can't hear) Yes, that's very interesting.
KEACH. Don't you have one on the hook now? Isn't there some law -
ACTPOT. Yes, that's relatively fascinating, but I must tell you, the hour draws in on us, and I'd like to help. Do you have your scratching arm poised?
KEACH. I gotta warn you, I got a Very itchy back. Okay, what's the dope?
ACTPOT. Someone, distinctly disguised, came along and tried to brain me. Are you going to let that happen in this, your fair weather city?
KEACH. You gotta have a brain first. What's the dope?
ACTPOT. First, I need for you to get robbery detail on my credentials and identification. The man we're looking for took all that I had, along with several checks made out to Squire Hawkins, and yes, it's his real name. You try the normal channels, I have given Greens here the abnormality.
KEACH. Right, we'll stay out of the dives and crooked corners.
ACTPOT. I'm glad to hear you say that, my friend! Get back to me with what you find.
KEACH. Right. (Hangs up) Maculic!
MACULIC. Yeah, chief?
KEACH. So the bright boy finally gives out with some information. (Lights down here)
GREENS. What's the idea of tipping those lead weights off on us?
ACTPOT. Greens, my lad, we're going to need all the help we can get on this one. I just hope that young lady is safe.. (Starts to get dressed, discreetly; there's a lady present) Protective custody was never the end all, I can tell you.
GREENS. You can tell me where to go. (COLLEEN opens her mouth) No cracks. (Gets up) I don't feel right about the law having the first foot on me.
ACTPOT. They must count to ten before you're out.
GREENS. I'm out the door if you just gimme a starting place.
ACTPOT. Look at this. (Shows GREENS the paper MECHANIC had) Mean anything to you?
GREENS. - Just a buncha numbers and a couple letters. It could be Latin.
ACTPOT. Hardly. Or it could be the start of a formula? A code? I've heard about men who make up their own alphabets and chronological charts so that no one may read them but the authors. A numerical system that... (Thinks, starts copying piece of paper. Gives copy to GREENS) You take that, you've still got a stooge in the Federal building?
GREENS. Sweetheart, I've had more Fed knuckles than you've had hot pastramis.
ACTPOT. (How could he eat that?) Please!
COLLEEN. (Clears throat) Hi. Remember me? Would you like to buy an ice cream?
ACTPOT. Oh, darling.... (Kisses her) I shall return.
COLLEEN. (Grabs him) Oh no, you don't! You ran out on me once, and I couldn't catch you! There's no invalid here now. I'm single and I'm going with you on this one. Where Are you going?
ACTPOT. WE, it seems, are going for a steady walk 'round about the Brybase Department store. A limitation of suspects, and priority demands. (They start to go)
GREENS. That reminds me - can you deduct for life insurance?
COLLEEN. No, but it can deduct you. (They open the door)
COP. (Smart guy, steps in) All right, where's the fire, chief?
ACTPOT. In his fire station, I would presume. Just who might you be?
COP. I might be the lock on your door for now. (Flashes badge)
GREENS. I knew I smelled something on a hook.
COP. You be wise. Maybe you'll learn something.
GREENS. Yeah? Let's see the lesson plan?
COLLEEN. What's the gag?
COP. Don't laugh, but you're stayin' right Here. Till Keach or Maculic arrives.
ACTPOT. Duty bound lads.
COP. Police protection, radioed it in, I just happened to be in the neighborhood... and besides. You ain't tellin' all you know.
ACTPOT. You compliment me, constable.
COP. Cut the sandwich meat.
GREENS. You want I should part his collar for him, boss?
COP. You do it!
ACTPOT. Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. You're upsetting the young lady. And she, in her condition.
COP. Condition, what condition?
COLLEEN. (Dizzy broad) Oh... oh...
ACTPOT. Oh dear... now you've really upset her.
COP. What's the matter?
COLLEEN. Water... water...
COP. Is she drowning?
ACTPOT. She needs air.
GREENS. There's a lot of it around the ocean, basically.
COLLEEN. (Still swooning) Oh.... oh..... please...
ACTPOT. Would you please bring her some water?
COP. (Suspicious) My orders were to stay right -
ACTPOT. Oh, very well. Greens... help me...
(They take COLLEEN in the other room. COP doesn't get it. COLLEEN makes her sounds from the other room. ACTPOT silently opens a window and the three of them start down the fire escape)
COP. I didn't think those two'd got hitched up yet. (Pause) Say... (Goes off. Pause. He hurries back to the front door)
MACULIC. (Enters with KEACH) Where is he?
COP. Well -
KEACH. Oh, fine. Fine! Get on to all the boys, this mug's comin' downtown fingernails first.
MACULIC. He knows more than he's tellin', chief.
KEACH. Say..... you're a pretty sharp ball o' wax.
(MACULIC smiles, then it fades, he hurries out after KEACH. Lights out here. Up on the street. COLLEEN is just coming down, the last of the fugitives)
ACTPOT. Greens, the Federal building.
GREENS. Right. (Goes off)
ACTPOT. Darling, how are you at a wink and a nod?
COLLEEN. You surprise me, Mr. Actpot.
ACTPOT. How jolly for me. Here. Instead. (Hands her address) All I want you to do is get the information. If, that is, you're determined to stay underfoot.
COLLEEN. You just watch my feet. What am I looking for?
ACTPOT. Anything that makes noise. Any connection between the Alabaster Amalgam and this man.
COLLEEN. You got it. (He pulls her to him. A kiss) Do that just once more! (Smiles, leaves. Sounds of COPS shouting. ACTPOT beats it. Lights out)
Scene 9 (The police station. In walks ACTPOT, pulling his brim low, and affecting a grumble like KEACH to get past the COP AT DESK) COP AT DESK. Evening, inspector. (ACTPOT waves, then rushes a little since he knows he's made it. COP AT DESK turns to look, then just scratches his head. Scene changes from here to the jail. ACTPOT enters as carefully as ever. He acknowledges some cop who must've clanked open a door for him. He KEACH-grumbles again, and passes through. He finds TABBY, who sits up as soon as ACTPOT shows his eyes)
ACTPOT. (Keeping voice low; tough guy) Hello, baby.
TABBY. (Runs to bars) Mr. Actpot.
ACTPOT. (Normal but low voice) Why won't you call me Julian? Don't you love me anymore?
TABBY. What in the world -!
ACTPOT. (Opens up cell with keys) I happened to borrow these from the good officer. When he's pounding a beat, I don't think he'll mind very much. (Comes in) Come on. I've got to get you out of here.
TABBY. (Melancholy) What's the use? There are people out there who want to kill me. For no reason at all! I might as Well be locked up.
ACTPOT. Hardly, my girl, for no reason at all. Some of the best reasons out there. I'm not precisely sure what they are yet. But I do know that some of them will most certainly wind up in here if you're still around to wind up.
TABBY. Come again?
ACTPOT. Come away with me, you fool. I'll explain on the way.
TABBY. (Gathers scarf and coat) I don't understand.
ACTPOT. There is a funny thing about jails. Often the occupants will wind up hanging themselves, For no good reason. They have somehow stabbed themselves with no visible means of support, or perhaps colorfully set fire to themselves just with dirt and elbow room. The uninteresting thing about my dear friend Keach is that he obeys orders, and right now. (Closes door once they're out) Unknown custody I venture to bet is your Best bet. Here. Do your hands as if they're cuffed. (She does) Walk along. Head down. (Secreted, they walk out this way. Now they're on the street. They walk) I want you to tell me everything you know about your uncle. What he did. What his hobbies were. What sort of bathsoap he enjoyed.
TABBY. (Trying to think) Well. - I don't know. All he did was work on the cars as they came in. He loved his work. It's all I ever saw him do.
ACTPOT. You worked with him.
TABBY. Yes, I've always had a fondness for the automobile. I can work and no one bothers me.
ACTPOT. (Signals for a cab) Did you ever see your uncle making notes of any kind? Like - writing things down? Was he into any kind of experimentation?
TABBY. (Tries to think; she's tired) I don't know. No. Not that I can think.
ACTPOT. Think! (A cab arrives. They get in) Start for the south side.
ACTPOT. Think. Tabby. This is important. - Why are you called Tabby?
TABBY. (Smiles) Isn't it obvious? My father loved cats. I think they kept his mind occupied after my mother died. Something to take care of. Motion around the house. He was so lonely.
ACTPOT. I'm sorry. - But if we're to fight this thing, we've Got to work a few things out. Think. Anything?
TABBY. (Slow) Well.... maybe - I did see him write sometimes. But I thought it had to do with the numbers on the cars.
ACTPOT. What do you mean?
TABBY. Checking the gauges. Making sure the fluid levels were up and secured. Mileage. Time. The usual checks.
ACTPOT. Hmmm.... (Gets out paper, shows it to her) Like this?
TABBY. - What's this?
ACTPOT. Can't you tell me?
TABBY. I have no idea.
ACTPOT. Wonderful. I am in sixth heaven. (Thinks, pause) How did you know to get mixed up with Gehill? He's a department store person. Hardly a legitimate fence for heirloom jewels.
TABBY. Well. Mike said he might know - (Pause) Would that have anything to do with why he was killed?
ACTPOT. It might. We can't assume all along it was Sam they were after. Things have been odd. And yet - (Pause) Have you ever heard of a man named Squire Hawkins?
TABBY. He? He's my uncle's landlord. What's he got to do with this?
ACTPOT. - Look. None of the usual places are safe for you. The trick is, to go somewhere you've never been before, private or public, make sure it's accessible to a phone, and plenty of exits. Say..... The Old Mill Gallery. No one ever goes there, yet by rights, it is a public place, the proprietor's a friend of mine. He also lives there. (To DRIVER) Turn here. Tabby. You'll be safe. That I promise. The Old Mill Gallery. Promise me you'll stay there.
TABBY. I promise.
ACTPOT. Until I return.
ACTPOT. You're in great danger. Very. I'm still not certain what they want from you. But they must go through me first.
TABBY. I don't.. know.. how -
ACTPOT. Shh.... Let us figure that out together later. Shall we? (She smiles. To DRIVER) Left here, then up to the end. - My lady. I still have the Amalgam. I'm going to hang onto it just a little while longer if I may. I believe it just may be the key for us. Even though I have no idea where the door is.
TABBY. (Cab stops) When you find it - you'll let me know?
ACTPOT. (Kisses her hand) I hope to find you on the other side, in the midst of a Very happy ending.
(TABBY gets out of the car, but then swings around and plants a good- sized kiss on a surprised ACTPOT. She runs away, leaving ACTPOT to wonder about her. DRIVER is smiling like a cad. Pause. ACTPOT smells the flower in his buttonhole)
DRIVER. Do we have a destination, or have you just reached it?
ACTPOT. Drive on, spy.
DRIVER. (Still smiles) You said it.
(He drives on. In a moment, ACTPOT takes the Amalgam out of his pocket and looks at it, but so that the DRIVER can't see. He considers it, pause)
ACTPOT. (Decisive) 24 East Noam. (DRIVER nods, and lights fade as the route's changed)
Scene 10 (By now, it's night. The Brybase Dept. store. There is a GUARD out front. At last, the GUARD moves on to routinely check another area. ACTPOT takes this opportunity of forcing the front door open. He gets inside. Lights change to an office. Gently, ACTPOT opens this door too, but it's not locked. He looks around. It's dark in here. There's a connecting door, to another office. He listens at this door, then decides it's safe enough to turn a lamp on in here. A thief has been here already. The drawers of the desk are open, papers are scattered, pictures moved. ACTPOT considers all of these, then starts looking through the desk. He finds nothing. But he hears a sound and quickly turns off the light. He hides behind desk. In comes a MAN in Arab dress. He goes for the desk, but stops, suddenly alert. He looks at the papers on the floor, going through them fiercely. The connecting door slowly opens. A gun is in a HAND. The gun is fired, and with a yell and a clutch at the papers, the MAN falls. ACTPOT jumps up immediately. The HAND drops the gun into the room, and the door closes. ACTPOT runs for the door, but it won't open. He grabs the gun, then starts out the front door. But he's interrupted by GEHILL who then enters, with his own gun. A few steps behind him, huffing to catch up, is ETHAN. ETHAN is so tough he doesn't need a gun)
GEHILL. Well. Mr. Actpot. We meet at last.
ACTPOT. (Raises hands. Meaning gun..) You like to keep yourself well-stocked.
GEHILL. This is a department store, after all. What do you mean by this.. onset?
ACTPOT. (Shows dead body) That isn't my unmade bed over there.
GEHILL. Oh dear. Oh dear. Mr. Actpot. You realize - I could Shoot you for breaking into my store. Killing a man. I have owner's rights.
ACTPOT. That's not all you have, if you're letting a killer get away!
GEHILL. Oh. Forgive my manners. Mr. Actpot? This is Ethan. My right hand.
ACTPOT. I can tell you're left handed.
ETHAN. Why you -!
GEHILL. Ethan, please. Show the dead a little respect.
ACTPOT. I assume all this has to do with a little thing called the Alabaster Amalgam.
GEHILL. How clever you grown-ups are.
ACTPOT. Well, it doesn't take Much cleverness to spot a 300 pound potato sack following you every other mile.
GEHILL. Only every other?
ACTPOT. Go easy on him, his feet are flat and the top of his head isn't yet fully -
GEHILL. We can dispense with the pleasantries of wit.
ACTPOT. Really? But that's my favorite part of criminal investigation.
GEHILL. I'm sure it is. The rock. If you will.
ACTPOT. - If I would not..?
GEHILL. (Pause. Smiles) You are an intruder.
ACTPOT. Ah. That would explain it. (Starts to move hand) May I? (GEHILL motions his permission) You could clear up one thing for me.
(As ACTPOT goes for something in a pocket, he sees someone else stepping, only halfway, into the room. ANOTHER MAN clad in Arab garb is coming silently in from the front door, behind GEHILL and company. ACTPOT bides his time, but speeds his speech a little because he'd like some answers)
What's your real interest in the stones?
GEHILL. What do you mean? It is a breathtaking piece of art. A one of a kind.
ACTPOT. So if Ethan has tagged me for the prize, his aim is getting pretty low to insert bullets into two other men.
GEHILL. What are you talking about?
ACTPOT. Ethan, didn't you -?
(He stops because ANOTHER MAN springs and ACTPOT must move to avoid being shot when GEHILL's gun goes off. GEHILL struggles. ETHAN fumbles for his gun. ANOTHER MAN takes his knife out and plunges it into GEHILL who screams. ETHAN stops trying for the gun and goes for ANOTHER MAN. The gun drops to the floor. ACTPOT takes out his own gun and shoots. ANOTHER MAN dives for the gun on the floor and shoots back, forcing ACTPOT to take cover behind the desk. ETHAN comes up behind him and they struggle over the weapon. GREENS enters, and quickly joins the fight, fighting both since he's not sure what side to be on. ACTPOT tries to shoot, but now sees another figure in on it and isn't sure who it is)
GREENS. Boss! Hey! Boss!
ACTPOT. Greens! Over here!
(But GREENS takes a bad hit to the stomach from ANOTHER MAN and goes down. ANOTHER MAN would shoot him, but ETHAN comes back. ACTPOT runs over, but suddenly ANOTHER MAN gets the gun, and shoots ETHAN who tries to escape through the connecting door. He falls to his knees. ACTPOT tries to tackle the shooter, but only tears some of his robe off before the intruder shoots again and runs off. ACTPOT runs over to GREENS, snaps him out of it. ACTPOT runs after the killer. There are a few more shots. GREENS gets up, sees ETHAN crumpled on the floor)
GREENS. Brother, I see you sell farms here too.
ACTPOT. (Rushes back in) He got away. Put the other elevator out of commission as well. What are you doing here?
GREENS. I thought you'd need help. Was I far from wrong?
ACTPOT. (Looks over the sheik's body) You may have helped halt a massacre. I got the distinct impression there were quite a few of them. They didn't expect me to be here. What did they want....?
GREENS. I don't know, and I don't care.
ACTPOT. (Looks at sheik's face) You should care.
GREENS. Why is that? You know him?
ACTPOT. No. I've never seen him before. (Looks at the still ETHAN) That's what worries me. All our leads, seem to be dying.
GREENS. Yeah. (Bends over) I'm a bit of a lead myself.
ACTPOT. No identification. Nothing. (Pause) Now what do we do? (Lights fade from this pleasant scene)
END ACT 1
|Go on to Act II|