A Blight of Stars by Michael Legge


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


    ACT I Scene 1

            The 1920s

            William Davis Tainter comes downstairs, a glass of wine in his hand
 
            He sits on the sofa, sees a handkerchief on the cushion and picks it up

            He smells it, then laughs

            He picks up a bottle of white powder on the table beside him and wraps
            it in the handkerchief

            Peterson, the chauffeur, enters from the kitchen door.

      PETERSON
        Do you need anything else, Mr. Tainter?

      TAINTER
        No Peterson, not tonight. Is it all cleaned up out back?

      PETERSON
        Yes. All cleaned up and locked.

      TAINTER
        Good, Henry. Thanks.

      PETERSON
        Iíll be going to my room.

            He exits. The phone rings. Tainter answers.

      TAINTER
        Hello? Oh good. I thought you might be Carla. Yes, I
        still have it here. I havenít gotten rid of it yet.
        Maisey, I didnít make you give it to me just so you
        could take it back. Iím going to throw it in the toilet
        right now. No! Donít come over here! I canít have
        people seeing you coming around at all hours. Weíll
        talk tomorrow. Good night.

            He hangs up the phone. He shuts the lights off and
            exits upstairs. The door bell rings. Tainter comes
            back out.

      TAINTER
        Who in Godís name…
            He goes to the door, irritated with handkerchief
            in his hand. he opens the front door. There is no
            one there.

      TAINTER
        Who the hell? Is that you? Come out. I can see you in
        the bushes. I told you never to come here at this
        hour…

            A hand with a gun is seen beyond the open door. It
            fires once as Tainter tries to run away. He is hit
            in the back and fall behind the couch on his back.

            The door closes.

      Scene 2
            The time is now the mid-60s

            The living room of the former film director, William Davis Tainter

            It has been kept in the 20s motif since his murder

            There is a door SL to the kitchen and SR to the
            outside. At the rear is the beginning of stairs
            leading to the second floor

            Enter Mrs. Fiorini followed by Sandy Kendell.

      SANDY
        I really appreciate this, Mrs. Fiorini.

      FIORINI
        Oh, I think itís kind of exciting. Plus it wonít hurt
        business to have the publicity.

      SANDY
        Everyone is always interested in unsolved murders.
        Especially a Hollywood murder.

      FIORINI
        Now you said you wanted the albums with all the
        newspaper clippings in them?

      SANDY
        Yes, but before you get them, can you give me little
        background on yourself?

      FIORINI
        Oh surely. My husband and I bought this house about ten
        years ago. From the Tainter family; his surviving
        brother owned the house. But he had closed it up after
        the murder. Sometimes it was almost bought out by a
        business but the deal always fell through. No private
        party wanted it: it disturbs most people to live in a
        murder house. Then my husband and I thought to buy it
        and make it a museum and give tours since thereís still
        a lot of interest in the murder.

      SANDY
        Kind of like the Lizzie Borden house.

      FIORINI
        Exactly! Thatís the east coast attraction for crime
        fans and this is the west coast one. Weíve done well with it.

      SANDY
        There are still people alive associated with the case, right?
      FIORINI
        Oh yes. All quite old, of course. One of the police
        investigators some Hollywood people…

      SANDY
        So this is the room where it happened.

      FIORINI
        Yup. Hereís where his body was. And this is the
        original furniture. No replicas.

            Sandy looks at the portrait on the wall.

      SANDY
        Nice painting of him.

      FIORINI
        Yes. We had the painting restored after we bought the
        house to use as a museum.

      SANDY
        And who is this?

            She points to a smaller photo of Mindy Mae Winters.

      FIORINI
        That is Mindy Mae Winters. She was a teenage star of
        the time. She was in quite a few of Mr. Tainterís
        movies. I think she is 15 years old in that picture.

      SANDY
        Pretty kid.

      FIORINI
        Wasnít she? Sheís still alive too.

      SANDY
        Iíll have to try to talk to her.

      FIORINI
        Good luck with it. Iíve tried to talk to her but sheís
        hard to get ahold of. She rarely answers her phone. The
        maid does and I think she has orders to shoo people
        away.

      SANDY
        She must want to forget the past. I know she was
        involved in this case either directly or indirectly.

      FIORINI
        Again, thatís whatís so fascinating about this case.
        There are so many people involved, some many theories.

      SANDY
        Well, I guess if you can get the albums for me, I can get started.

      FIORINI
        Do you have a deadline?

      SANDY
        Oh no. This is my baby, the book Iíve wanted to write
        for a while. No others writers really explored this
        case so my book will be breaking new ground. I hope.

      FIORINI
        It seems kind of unusual to me to have a woman
        interested in such a lurid subject. If you donít mind
        my saying so.

      SANDY
        Things are changing and anyway, what intrigues me about
        the case is not just that itís unsolved, but itís the
        mix of all the colorful and even tragic people.

      FIORINI
        Iíll get the clippings. I brought out that little table
        for you. I hope itís good enough. Donít you have a
        typewriter?

      SANDY
        No, Iím the worldís worst typist. I dictate notes into
        my recorder and have someone type it out for me. Itís
        one of the newer ones with the built in microphone.

      FIORINI
        Technology is moving too fast for me. Iím sorry you
        canít take the albums and documents out of the house,
        but my husband insisted they donít leave the premises.

      SANDY
        Oh, thatís fine.
            She exits. Sandy takes out her cassette recorder,
            notes books and a thermos. She turns on tape
            recorder.

        The Tainter house resembles the set of a drawing room
        comedy of the flapper era. The rug has still visible
        blood stains. A portrait of Tainter hangs on the far
        wall. He looks handsome and distinguished, even
        prudish, but what set of circumstances precipitated his
        death? Did it have anything to do with the angelic
        looking girl whose portrait looks up at the grand
        painting of him?

            Fiorini comes back with the books.

      FIORINI
        Whoops. Am I interrupting your recording?

      SANDY
        Oh no. Iím just recording my preliminary impression of
        the house. Nothing earth shaking.

      FIORINI
        Quite a lot of info here.

      SANDY
        Thanks! I really appreciate your letting me in here to
        write. After hours. Itís great for atmosphere.

      FIORINI
        Itís like I said. The book will help the museum, so
        weíre helping each other. Just make sure you lock the
        door on the inside when you leave and whenever you want
        to write here, just come in little before our closing
        time. Iím always here. If you need to call me at home,
        hereís my card.

      SANDY
        Thanks so much.

      FIORINI
        Good luck with the book!

            She exits

            Sandy puts her stuff on the table

            She opens up the first album, turns on the cassette recorder.

      SANDY
        Very nice. The clippings are in order of occurrence. At
        first glance it seems to be a straightforward account
        of what happened that night. The police arrived at
        12:33 AM and found Peterson, the chauffeur, standing in
        the living room. Also present were Edward Meers, the
        head of publicity for United Masters Studio. The corpse
        was on the floor face up behind the sofa. The investigating
        officers were Lt. Frank Ober and Sgt. Vincent Maloney.

            As she sets up the scene verbally the characters
            take their places.

                          LIGHTS TRANSITION TO THE PAST

      OBER
        Alright, who called this in?

      PETERSON
        I did.

      OBER
        What are you doing here?

      MEERS
        Peterson called me after you phoned you. After all, the
        studio should know about this.

            Maloney has been looking at the body.

      MALONEY
        Look at this, Lt. This handkerchief was clutched in his hand.

      OBER
      M.
        (Looks at monogram)

      Maisey Nolan comes in from upstairs. She is a
      faded ingenue and light comedian for the studio.
      (To Meers)

      OBER
        Well, well, Maisey Nolan.

      MAISEY
        Iím afraid I donít have the pleasure.

      OBER
        Lt. Ober, and this is Sgt. Maloney.

      MALONEY
        How do.

      OBER
        And what are you doing here?

      MAISEY
        I was with Eddie when he got the call. I thought I
        could help.

      OBER
        Why were you upstairs? Were you dusting the furniture
        or sweeping the floor?

      MAISEY
                (Laughing)
        We could have used you in some of our one reeler
        comedies, Lt. No, I just went to see if there were
        anyone else in the house.

      OBER
        Someone who would stay upstairs after hearing our
        sirens and pulling up to the house?

      MAISEY
        They could have been frightened. Bill had many lady
        friends.

      OBER
        I take it no one was up there.

      MAISEY
        Just memories.

      OBER
        Hereís an interesting item. Is this yours?

            She examines handkerchief.

      MAISEY
        No, Iím afraid not. Besides all my handkerchiefs are
        monogrammed.

      OBER
        Isnít that nice? Well this one is. See M? Could that be
        Maisey?

      MAISEY
        I assure you that isnít mine. Besides I donít use such
        cheap perfume.

            Ober hands Maloney the handkerchief and he places
            it on end table near the corpse.

      OBER
        Now how about the truth this time around? What were you
        doing upstairs?

      MAISEY
        Please, well…itís rather embarrassing.

      OBER
        Whatís so embarrassing?

      MAISEY
        Mr. Tainter had some very personal letters I had
        written to him and I just didnít want them to get out.
        You know what I mean?

      OBER
        Yes, I do. Did you find them?

      MAISEY
        No, but if youíll let me…

      OBER
        Miss Nolan, I think you and Mr. Meers should leave.
        Right now. Maloney?

            Maloney starts to escort them out.

      MEERS
        Really, thereís no need for the strong arm stuff. My
        studio has a lot of pull with your boss…

      MALONEY
        Yeah, sure. Outside.

      OBER
        You I take it, are Peterson?

      PETERSON
        Yes, sir.

      OBER
        You found him and called it in?

      PETERSON
        Yes.

      OBER
        When did you find him?

      PETERSON
        About a half hour ago.

      OBER
        Why didnít you call us right away?

      PETERSON
        I thought he might still be alive. I tried to see if he
        was. Then I called…
 
      OBER
      Who?

      PETERSON
        The studio. To let them know.

      OBER
        You called the studio before you called us?

      PETERSON
        Yes, sir. I guess I wasnít thinking right.

            Maloney enters with man.

      MALONEY
        Hey, Lt. This man says he a doc.

      OBER
        Youíre a doctor?

      DOCTOR
        Yes, I was seeing a patient down the street and I saw
        the police cars here. I thought you might need some
        medical assistance.

      OBER
        Ah huh. Well, you can take a look at the body, Doc. We
        just got here. but we donít what heís dead from.

            The doctor examines the body. Maloney spots wine
            glass on table.  He nods toward Peterson.

      MALONEY
        You been drinking?

      PETERSON
        No, sir. That was there when I came in.

      DOCTOR
        This man appears to have died from a stomach
        hemorrhage.

      OBER
        Okay, Doc, thanks.

            As the doctor leaves, he snatches the handkerchief
            off the end table.

      MALONEY
        Should I call the coroner now?

      OBER
        Yeah, but…

            He has walked over to the body and looked down at
            it.

      OBER
        Wait a minute. Thereís blood seeping out from under
        him. Help me turn him over.

            Maloney comes over and turns him.

      MALONEY
        Stomach hemorrhage, my ass. Heís been shot in the back.

      OBER
        Peterson! You said you found him?  You didnít hear a gunshot?

      PETERSON
        My room is way in the back of the house. I wouldnít
        hear a bomb go off.

      MALONEY
        Iíve seen you before, havenít I?

      PETERSON
        No, sir. I donít think so.

      MALONEY
        Yes, I have. You were at the station. I remember now.
        Morals charges. You were arrested for bothering boys.

      OBER
        Oh, you like boys, Peterson? Huh?

      PETERSON
        Those charges were dropped.

      MALONEY
        Yeah, after the DA got a phone call from who knows who?

      PETERSON
        I called you! Why would I shoot him and do that?
            (Understanding)
      One of those calls, eh? You look like youíre in a tough
      spot now, Peterson. I donít know if anyone can pull you
      out of this one. Take him downtown.

      OBER
        Iím not worrying about that now. Letís go.

      LIGHTS GO BACK TO PRESENT

      SANDY
        Okay, so thatís the first go around. A few days later
        Peterson made a statement which got leaked to the
        press.

 

[end of extract]


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