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
Cynthia Largo's New England College Dorm Room
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
AT RISE: ED's 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 "Y".
CYNTHIA (opens the
door and hugs Ed.)
I'm 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.
How could you possibly allow an arbitrator decide if you killed my
You don't understand, it is that, or wait years for the
two million dollars that's mine.
Then it's all about money.
it's your It's your college bills and a lot more. You will have
to trust me on this one.
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.
You told me those disks were tightly secured in a vault across the
hall from your office. What's the big deal?
They contain the only copy of a complex collection of data and
drawings for an advanced anti-submarine warfare detection system.
Don't you guys have back-up disks?
The missing disks are the back-up disks. The originals were deleted
Some security! Mom didn't study advanced communication here at
Yale to become a spy.
What gives you that crazy idea?
Her public relations business could be a natural cover.
Forget it. Just because your Mom was hired as a lobbyist for a few
foreign governments didn't make her a part of the CIA.
Any of them would have been delighted to get their hands on the
Again, with you it's always the money.
You can't deny she could have sold those disks for a bundle of
Your Mom worked at one of the best Madison Avenue PR firms. I assure
you they didn't groom her to be a spy.
When Mom's lips parted, we knew she would be sucking in a lot more
than foul air.
True. However, she has always been a good Mom. You must admit that.
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.
Exactly right. However, I also hired a detective to find out if Mom
was having an affair. I didn't know at the time she was trying to
sell our disks and really needed a body guard.
KNOCK ON DOOR 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 it's hot, Ms. You guys better eat it right away.
CYNTHIA (handing tip to delivery Man)
This is for you.
DOOR SLAMS AS DELIVERY MAN EXITS LEFT
It's afternoon. Is that really your breakfast?
CYNTHIA (offering ED a piece of pizza)
I forgot you were coming. Have a piece, Dad.
Not for me. I've had my bacon and eggs long ago. I don't see how
you can eat that stuff.
How is JAMES's testimony in your case to collect Mom's life
insurance will help?
I've read his reports.
What did they indicate?
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.
Why not? As I remember, Mom's 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.
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.
As long as Mom got a fee, she'd take risks. I thought of her
soaking in bourbon to outdo the milk bath craze. That was too much,
even for Mom.
That deal got us free whiskey for the rest of her short life.
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?
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.
What's their theory?
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
That's horrible. They should know grads of MIT and U. VA., never
God bless the Honor System. That was a long time ago. If you
remember, my 48th birthday was last year.
Mom told me you two married, right after you finished your MBA at
That's 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
Why did you go back to Massachusetts to get married?
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.
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.
I've 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.
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
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 Mom's
dressing room closet.
Mom had some great clothes in my size. In particular, I like the
blue alligator shoes and matching bag.
I never thought you noticed. I'll never forget her striking
figure, blue eyes and blond hair. Did you know she was often
mistakenly taken for a professional model?
Dad, as long as I can remember, you have always been very secretive.
What makes you say that?
Every time I would ask you about your work or someone connected with
it, you would either say that you couldn't talk about it or change
Please allow me explain about my case.
I'm all ears.
This morning I signed what is called an Arbitration Submission
Agreement on the advice of Attorney David.
What do you know about David's trail abilities, Daddy?
I've checked him out?
What exactly did you find out?
He is an example of a man who achieved the American dream, from a
very modest beginning. The "C" in his middle name stands for
He may be a very good lawyer, but with a name that includes
"Bull" I'd think twice.
David Catching-Bull Totten, is an all American Indian. He grew up
living on a Reservation.
What's that got to do with his legal skills?
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.
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.
David was a criminal prosecutor in a number of outstanding federal
criminal cases before opening his own law firm.
What did David say to you, if anything, about your entering into the
Submission Agreement he induced you to sign?
We previously reviewed the submission agreement and discussed it at
Does David think the insurance company is right, in refusing to pay
He said he would not take the case on a contingent basis if he
didn't think he would win.
Did you tell him you were several days late filing your insurance
I did. He said the impartial arbitrators only decide if I had any
part in causing Mom's death. The insurance carrier waived my late
You had told me after the mediation failed, that a court would make
those decisions. Now, it's arbitrators.
Unexpectedly, the insurance company lawyer called David, and asked if
I would agree to arbitrate the issues.
What made you decide to agree to arbitrate your claim?
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.
It's just the thought that if the arbitrators could by some quirk
find, even remotely, that you contributed to Mom's death that I
Your Mom's last trip had absolutely nothing at all to do with any
of my activities.
I suspected Mom was involved in a lot of dangerous undertakings.
Will the arbitrator have to establish who committed the crime?
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
Do you mean to tell me in all honesty Dad, that you did not know what
Mom was doing?
We were both sworn to secrecy.
But you must have known about her mysterious phone calls followed by
sudden trips to God knows where!
If I knew and could tell you, I would. Your Mom didn't tell me
about each and every trip she made.
I overheard you talking to your office last evening about the Sinup
Project. Wasn't Mom also involved in that project?
I can't 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.
Why not? Mom wasn't stupid. You know, she owned her own PR
UCNS Group does high tech research. Your Mom had enough difficulty
with your VCR.
Okay, Daddy, I accept that you have probably made the right decision
agreeing to arbitration. What is next?
Under our submission agreement, we appointed Robert's Arbitration
Association to administer the case and provide an arbitrator.
I have never heard of them. I hope you also checked them out.
The RAA is a Not-For-Profit organization. It is operated by retired
insurance executives. It only administers insurance claims.
Then how in the world, do you have any chance of winning?
It has a roster of independent impartial arbitrators.
Are you saying that's all they do?
No. They their roster includes, accountants, retired judges, lawyers
CYNTHIA (takes a beer from fridge and returns to
Excuse me, Dad. I need a COLD BEER before you start explaining how
RAA will administer your arbitration. Please keep it simple.
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.
That's enough, Dad. My Pizza is cold. Let's get you some lunch
at the Student Union.
Law Office of DAVID TOTTEN, ESQ.
2 Weeks Later
SETTNG: Ed is seated at one of the FOUR CHAIRS at a SMALL ROUND
CONFERENCE TABLE, in the same room as David's 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
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.?
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
How long ago was that?
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.
What happens if we and Royal National fail to agree on an acceptable
[end of extract]
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