Arbitrating Murder by Frank Swacker

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author’s prior consent

      ACT I
      Scene 1

    Place
    Cynthia Largoís New England College Dorm Room

                                    Time
        Early Spring - About Noon


    SETTING:      Student dorm bedroom with college pennants on wall.  Door
    entry is on left side of stage next to small fridge.  Room furnished
    with one lounge chair and a chair facing a study desk with lamp and
    two books piled on desk and a single size bed. Small Fridge is near
    door.

    AT RISE:      EDís daughter, CYNTHIA, is seated on her bed.  ED knocks
    on the door to the room.  He is wearing a sport jacket, with an open
    collar shirt and slacks.  Daughter CYNTHIA has on jeans and a
    sweatshirt with a big ďYĒ.


                                    CYNTHIA (opens the
    door and hugs Ed.)
    Iím so glad to see you, Dad.  I hope you found a place to park
    within a mile of this dorm.

                                    ED (seating himself in lounge chair)
    The exercise did me good.  I want to tell you about my arbitration.

                                    CYNTHIA (indignantly)
    How could you possibly allow an arbitrator decide if you killed my
    Mom?

                                    ED
            You donít understand, it is that, or wait years for the
    two million dollars thatís mine.

                          CYNTHIA
    Then itís all about money.

                                    ED
    itís your           Itís your college bills and a lot more.  You will have
    to trust me on this one.

                                          CYNTHIA
    Try me.

    I-1-2

                                    ED
    A hell of a lot more is involved than just my insurance claim.
    Before your Mom died, she stole a batch of the secret computer disks.


                                    CYNTHIA
    You told me those disks were tightly secured in a vault across the
    hall from your office. Whatís the big deal?

                                    ED
    They contain the only copy of a complex collection of data and
    drawings for an advanced anti-submarine warfare detection system.

                                CYNTHIA
    Donít you guys have back-up disks?

                                    ED
    The missing disks are the back-up disks.  The originals were deleted
    for security.

                                CYNTHIA (sarcastically)
    Some security!  Mom didnít study advanced communication here at
    Yale to become a spy.

                                ED
    What gives you that crazy idea?

                                    CYNTHIA
    Her public relations business could be a natural cover.

                                    ED
    Forget it. Just because your Mom was hired as a lobbyist for a few
    foreign governments didnít make her a part of the CIA.

                                    CYNTHIA
      Any of them would have been delighted to get their hands on the
    disks.

                                    ED
    Again, with you itís always the money.

                                    CYNTHIA
    You canít deny she could have sold those disks for a bundle of
    money.

      ED
    Your Mom worked at one of the best Madison Avenue PR firms.  I assure
    you they didnít groom her to be a spy.

                                                                 
                                    CYNTHIA
    When Momís lips parted, we knew she would be sucking in a lot more
    than foul air.

                                    ED
    True. However, she has always been a good Mom.  You must admit that.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Also true.  At least most of the time!  Sorry, I thought you hired
    that private eye primarily to protect Mom on her overseas trips that
    so often involved her meeting alone with strangers.

                                    ED
    Exactly right.  However, I also hired a detective to find out if Mom
    was having an affair.  I didnít know at the time she was trying to
    sell our disks and really needed a body guard.


        KNOCK ON DOOR Ė CYNTHIA ADMITS DELIVERY MAN

    DELIVERY MAN (to Cynthia with PIZZA)
    Where shall I put your breakfast, lady?

                                    CYNTHIA (to Delivery Man)
    Please put it on that table and charge it to my account.

                    DELIVERY MAN (taking box to table )
    Believe me itís hot, Ms.  You guys better eat it right away.

          CYNTHIA (handing tip to delivery Man)
    This is for you.

                                    DELIVERY MAN
    Cool.

        DOOR SLAMS AS DELIVERY MAN EXITS LEFT

                          ED
    Itís afternoon.  Is that really your breakfast?

    CYNTHIA (offering ED a piece of pizza)
    I forgot you were coming.  Have a piece, Dad.

                                    ED
    Not for me. Iíve had my bacon and eggs long ago. I donít see how
    you can eat that stuff.


                                    CYNTHIA
    How is JAMESís testimony in your case to collect Momís life
    insurance will help?
                                                                     
                                    ED
    Iíve read his reports.

                                    CYNTHIA
    What did they indicate?

                                    ED
    Your Mom took a lot of risks.  I never dreamed she had put herself at
    risk for murder.  It is now clear that she did.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Why not?  As I remember, Momís only regret was that none of the
    media took her picture when she rode that alligator in Florida for a
    commercial, denouncing alligator shoes and bags.

                                    ED
    She loved to support worthy causes.  She was a Republican, but became
    an Independent when she learned a Republican was holding tea parties
    in the Whitehouse and serving coffee instead of tea.

                                    CYNTHIA
    As long as Mom got a fee, sheíd take risks.  I thought of her
    soaking in bourbon to outdo the milk bath craze.  That was too much,
    even for Mom.

                                    ED
    That deal got us free whiskey for the rest of her short life.

                                    CYNTHIA
    You never liked any food or drink that was good for your health.
    Returning to the subject, you said Royal National Insurance also hired
    an investigator who followed Mom.  Why do you think they did that?

                                    ED
    The insurance company plans to use him and his reported observations,
    to try to prove I arranged to have your Mom killed, so it will not
    need to pay me.

    CYNTHIA
    Whatís their theory?

                                    Ed
    That out of sense of guilt or patriotic duty I arranged for your Mom
    to be murdered.  It was to prevent the disks from falling into hostile
    hands.

                                CYNTHIA
    Thatís horrible. They should know grads of MIT and U. VA., never
    murder anyone.
                                                                 
                                    ED
    God bless the Honor System.  That was a long time ago.  If you
    remember, my 48th birthday was last year.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Mom told me you two married, right after you finished your MBA at
    U.VA.

                                    ED
    Thatís right. It seems so very long ago. We married in a small
    church in Cambridge.  As I look back, I recall the young man who
    married us was embarrassed at being, and looking so much younger than
    we were.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Why did you go back to Massachusetts to get married?

                                    ED
    We first met on the Boston Commons.  Your Mom had been studying at
    Boston College.  She loved Boston and Cambridge.  On weekends we ate
    Parker House rolls and drank tea.  On Sundays,  we often enjoyed an
    evening of Boston Pops.

                                    CYNTHIA
    I can just imagine.  All six feet of you, under that dark black,
    thick head of hair you once had.  I guess, she no doubt saw you then
    as quite a hunk.

                                    ED
    Iíve shrunk a bit and my hair is disappearing.  I miss those casual
    campus outfits we wore.  Even worse, I miss my having my own teeth.

              CYNTHIA
    Except for weekends, you remind me of a Madison Avenue ad showing the
    latest in executive attire.  You do a good job of concealing your
    vintage.

                                    ED
    Speaking of dress, now that your Mom is dead, next time you come
    home, I want you to look over the stuff, in what was your Momís
    dressing room closet.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Mom had some great clothes in my size.  In particular, I like the
    blue alligator shoes and matching bag.

                                    ED
    I never thought you noticed.  Iíll never forget her striking
    figure, blue eyes and blond hair.  Did you know she was often
    mistakenly taken for a professional model?

            I-1-6
                                    CYNTHIA
    Dad, as long as I can remember, you have always been very secretive.

                                    ED
    What makes you say that?

                                    CYNTHIA
    Every time I would ask you about your work or someone connected with
    it, you would either say that you couldnít talk about it or change
    the subject.

                                    ED
    Please allow me explain about my case.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Iím all ears.

    ED
    This morning I signed what is called an Arbitration Submission
    Agreement on the advice of Attorney David.

                                    CYNTHIA
    What do you know about Davidís trail abilities, Daddy?

                                    ED
    Iíve checked him out?

                                    CYNTHIA
    What exactly did you find out?

        ED
    He is an example of a man who achieved the American dream, from a
    very modest beginning. The ďCĒ in his middle name stands for
    Catching-Bull.

                                    CYNTHIA
    He may be a very good lawyer, but with a name that includes
    ďBullĒ Iíd think twice.

                                    ED
    David Catching-Bull Totten, is an all American Indian.  He grew up
    living on a Reservation.
                                    CYNTHIA
    Whatís that got to do with his legal skills?

                                    ED
    I checked on that too. He graduated from NYU Law School with high
    honors and he practiced litigation law for five years in the US
    Justice Department.  While it takes awhile to fire someone in
    government, it rarely takes five years.

    I-1-7

                                    CYNTHIA
    Mom always said, she would never hire anyone who worked for the
    government.  As an outside contractor, she had ample opportunity to
    observe those working inside the beltway.

                                    ED
    David was a criminal prosecutor in a number of outstanding federal
    criminal cases before opening his own law firm.

                                    CYNTHIA
    What did David say to you, if anything, about your entering into the
    Submission Agreement he induced you to sign?

                                    ED
    We previously reviewed the submission agreement and discussed it at
    length.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Does David think the insurance company is right, in refusing to pay
    you?

                                    ED
    He said he would not take the case on a contingent basis if he
    didnít think he would win.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Did you tell him you were several days late filing your insurance
    claim?

                                    ED
    I did.  He said the impartial arbitrators only decide if I had any
    part in causing Momís death.  The insurance carrier waived my late
    filing.

                                    CYNTHIA
    You had told me after the mediation failed, that a court would make
    those decisions.  Now, itís arbitrators.

                                    ED
    Unexpectedly, the insurance company lawyer called David, and asked if
    I would agree to arbitrate the issues.

                                    CYNTHIA
    What made you decide to agree to arbitrate your claim?

                                    ED
    For one reason, your college expenses keep going up. The arbitration
    will only take 6 to 8 months and the award is final so I need not fear
    an appeal if I win.

   
                                    CYNTHIA
    Itís just the thought that if the arbitrators could by some quirk
    find, even remotely, that you contributed to Momís death that I
    canít stand.

                                    ED
    Your Momís last trip had absolutely nothing at all to do with any
    of my activities.

                                    CYNTHIA
    I suspected Mom was involved in a lot of dangerous undertakings.
    Will the arbitrator have to establish who committed the crime?

                                    ED
    No.  the arbitrator need only find the probability is greater that I
    was not in any way involved, than that I was involved, in causing her
    death.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Do you mean to tell me in all honesty Dad, that you did not know what
    Mom was doing?

                                    ED
    We were both sworn to secrecy.

                                    CYNTHIA
    But you must have known about her mysterious phone calls followed by
    sudden trips to God knows where!

                                    ED
    If I knew and could tell you, I would.  Your Mom didnít tell me
    about each and every trip she made.

                                    CYNTHIA
    I overheard you talking to your office last evening about the Sinup
    Project. Wasnít Mom also involved in that project?

                                    ED
    I canít imagine that she even knew about that project.  The person,
    with whom I was talking, is in the Head of the Underwater Chemical
    Naval Surveillance Group.

                                      CYNTHIA
      Why not?  Mom wasnít stupid.  You know, she owned her own PR
    firm.

    ED
    UCNS Group does high tech research.  Your Mom had enough difficulty
    with your VCR.
    .
                                    CYNTHIA
    Okay, Daddy, I accept that you have probably made the right decision
    agreeing to arbitration.  What is next?
                                              I-1-9

                                    ED
    Under our submission agreement, we appointed Robertís Arbitration
    Association to administer the case and provide an arbitrator.

                                    CYNTHIA
      I have never heard of them. I hope you also checked them out.

                    ED
    The RAA is a Not-For-Profit organization. It is operated by retired
    insurance executives.  It only administers insurance claims.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Then how in the world, do you have any chance of winning?

                                    ED
      It has a roster of independent impartial arbitrators.

                                    CYNTHIA
                Are you saying thatís all they do?

                                    ED
    No.  They their roster includes, accountants, retired judges, lawyers
    and others.

                            CYNTHIA (takes a beer from fridge and     returns to
    her chair)
    Excuse me, Dad.  I need a COLD BEER before you start explaining how
    RAA will administer your arbitration.  Please keep it simple.

                                    ED
    The RAA has its own set of Rules that will govern the procedural
    aspects of the arbitration and enable us to agree upon selection of
    one or more arbitrators.

                                    CYNTHIA
    Thatís enough, Dad.  My Pizza is cold.  Letís get you some lunch
    at the Student Union.


    BLACKOUT

          ACT I
          SCENE 2

          Place

            Law Office of DAVID TOTTEN, ESQ.

            Time

          2 Weeks Later


    SETTNG:            Ed is seated at one of the FOUR CHAIRS at a SMALL ROUND
    CONFERENCE TABLE, in the same room as Davidís OFFICE CHAIR and DESK.


    AT LIGHTING:  David picks up a copy of a LETTER from his desk and
    hands it to Ed.  David joins ED at the table to review candidates.

                                    DAVID (showing LETTTER to ED)
    This is it. This is the letter from the RAA with its list of five
    potential arbitrators.

                                    ED
    At last; I thought it would never come. May I keep this copy?

                            DAVID (pointing to paragraph in letter)
    Certainly you may. Tell me, Ed do you know this ROBERT MASS.?

                                    ED
    I do. Bob and I were in grammar school together.  He married my
    cousin and left her for a show girl. Now he now lives with her
    sister.

                                    DAVID
    How long ago was that?

                                    ED
    Over 10 years ago.  His idea of justice, in my opinion, would be to
    watch a baby starve while enjoying a Thanksgiving turkey.

                                    DAVID (picking up PEN to scratch MASS)
    Say no more. I have stricken him from our list.

                                    ED
    What happens if we and Royal National fail to agree on an acceptable
    candidate?

[end of extract]

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