Dead Men Don't Itch by John Arco


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


The lights are dim

We can barely make out the figure of a MAN - gun in hand

We hear laughter and jazz music nearby

The MAN takes out a crumpled pack of smokes, sticks one in his mouth, searches for a match

Finds a box in his pants pocket

To open it, HE puts the gun in his pocket.

HE takes out a match and is about to strike it when we hear footsteps slowly approaching

HE turns to the sound, match in hand, cigarette still unlit

Suddenly three gunshots ring out

The unlit cigarette drops from his lips

HE slowly topples to the ground, rolling over to his back

The footsteps move away, fading into the night.

Pause as we gaze at the tableau of the dead man

A pin spot comes up on a man dressed exactly like the recently departed

His name is JAKE CHAPEL

This is his story

JAKE: You've all just witnessed a murder. An honest-to-goodness bang-bang that's-all-she-wrote murder. And murder, as we all know, is a pretty tragic experience. Well, this one is even more tragic than most. Y'see, the poor sap laying there with the three holes in him just so happens to be me. Yeah, there I lie, deader than last week's gossip. Now why the hell would someone wanna give me a one-way ticket to the Pearly Gates? Damned if I know. Was I making somebody nervous? Did I know too much? Did I know too little? Or did somebody object to me smoking in public with my hat on? I know you're just as much in the dark as I am. So why don't we go back to the beginning, when I jumped on this white knuckle ride that ended with me cashing in my chips in the big casino in the sky. Don't worry. It won't take long. Besides, I've got nothing better to do. And, from the looks of it, neither do you.

The lights fade on the dead guy, leaving only the spot on JAKE

In the shadows, a MAN plays the bluesy smoky theme on a sax

Lights up on the office.

From outside we see red flashes from a nearby neon sign

The MAN with the sax vanishes in the dark

JAKE: Los Angeles. The City of Angels. But if you ask me, all the angels blew this burg years ago. And the ones who stuck around got their wings clipped somewhere on the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams. My name is Chapel. I'm a private eye. They say there are over eight million stories here in the city of fruits and nuts. This is one of 'em. It's not pretty. There's no Hollywood type ending here, so don't waste your time looking for one. Like most of these stories, this one starts with a blonde. And not just any blonde. This blonde had plenty of curves in all the right places, a pair of gams that went on forever, and a face that could knock a hundred monks off the celibacy wagon.

JAKE moves to the desk, takes out a shot glass of whiskey

GRACE WALFLEUR, a stunning creature with platinum blonde hair, enters.

SHE wears a skin-tight black dress, black stockings and heels

GRACE looks to the door fearfully

GRACE: I think some men are following me.

JAKE: How come that don't surprise me?

GRACE: Mr. Chapel, I need your help. I was told the only one who can help me is a shameless like you.

JAKE: Shamus.

GRACE: That's what I said, wasn't it?

JAKE: No. You said shameless. That's a whole other thing. An adjective. Meaning impudent. Brazen. Without shame. I'm a shamus. A private eye. Gumshoe. Dick.

GRACE: Oh. Forgive me. I'm not up on the current vernacular.

JAKE: Skip it. How can I help you, Miss—?

GRACE: Walfleur. (pronounced "Wallflower) Grace Walfleur. It's French.

JAKE: Walfleur. Well, this is one case where the name definitely don't do justice to the party concerned. Sorry I can't offer you a seat, Miss Walfleur. Times are tough. I had to hock most of the furniture. On Tuesday, they'll be coming for my spare set of pants.

(GRACE sexily sits on the desk.)

GRACE: I'll just sit here. If that's okay with you.

JAKE: Slick, you can sit there till the cows come home. Care for a drink?

GRACE: I shouldn't.

JAKE: But you will.

GRACE: Of course. I have to warn you. Alcohol has a powerful effect on me. Makes me do things I usually regret in the morning.

(JAKE opens a drawer, pulls out two full shot glasses.)

JAKE: I'll keep that in mind ... Well, here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women.

(THEY both throw down their shots in one gulp.)

GRACE: You use that old line on all your clients?

JAKE: Just the ones who boil my blood.

GRACE: And I boil your blood?

JAKE: Can't you see the steam?

GRACE: I thought that was the smog ... Mr. Chapel, I need you to take on a job for me. Money is no object. I can pay. (crosses her legs) Quite well.

JAKE: Sunshine, you keep on crossin' your legs like that and I'll pay you.

GRACE: You're fresh. I like that in a man. (HE takes out two more full shot glasses from the drawer.)

JAKE: I'm about as fresh as two day old bread. Care for another?

GRACE: I really shouldn't.

JAKE: But you will.

GRACE: Of course I don't know whether it's the drink, or your rumpled yet strangely attractive face, or the fact that you smell like you haven't bathed in a decade ... but my heart is beating ever so fast. Care to have a feel?

JAKE: I'll take your word for it.

GRACE: C'mon, put that big strong hand of yours on my little ticker.

JAKE: Look, Cupcake. I don't know what kinda wild ideas you got about guys in my line of work. But I have a rule. I don't mix business with pleasure. (to us) I know. It's a dumb rule. One I'll probably change in the near future. But, for now, I'm stuck with it.

GRACE: Sure you don't want a feel? I won't bite.

JAKE: No. But I might. And before I do something that'll get me hauled to the slammer on a vice rap, what say we cut to the chase. What's this job you got for me?

GRACE: Well, what do you know? A private eye with morals. You're one in a million.

JAKE: Yeah. I'm a regular Boy Ranger.

GRACE: Now I'm certain you're the man I need. To find my sister.

[end of extract]


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