Death Duty by Charles Garland

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 ONE

02.30 THURSDAY 20 OCTOBER 2005 : TRAINING CAMP

The scene takes place at a fictitious British Army Training Camp.
Two shadowy figures appear by the perimeter fence in army combats.
They are PTE. KEVIN WALKER and PTE. STEVEN LUCAS, eighteen year old
recruits at the training camp on guard duty for the first time.

They both carry L85 Individual Weapons. (Often referred to simply as
"L85s or "IWs"). These are the high velocity assault rifles
issued to all members of combat forces. The rifle can be set to fire
a single round (shot) or set to automatic, where it fires at an
average rate of about 680 rounds per minute. Each recruit also carries
an ammunition magazine attached to their belts, which contains twenty
live rounds. LUCAS hangs back, looking around nervously.

WALKER : Come on then.

LUCAS : I thought I heard something.

WALKER : Your knees knocking.

LUCAS : Did you imagine it would be like this?

WALKER : What, cold and boring? Yeh.

LUCAS : It's great though, eh? Armed guard after five weeks.
Fucking loaded weapon. Magic.

LUCAS aims his weapon at an imaginary assailant a couple of times.

WALKER takes out a cigarette.

WALKER : But it's not loaded, is it.

LUCAS : It can be at a moments notice. (LUCAS pats the ammunition
magazine on his belt.) Ready for action.

WALKER shakes his head in silent despair, and lights his cigarette.

LUCAS : Got a fag?

WALKER : It's my last one. Sorry.

WALKER crushes the cigarette packet and throws it into the bushes.

WALKER : (cont) My last fag.

LUCAS : You giving up?

WALKER : Yep.

LUCAS : Do you mind if I nip back to the guardroom and get mine Kev?
(pause) Kevin?

WALKER : What? Oh yeh, whatever.

LUCAS wanders off to the guardroom. WALKER watches him go. He hears
the crack of a twig and turns sharply, looking into the darkness. He
takes the ammunition mag off his belt, and attaches it to the rifle.
He turns again, although there is no sound, and peers into the darkness.

He exits.

After a few seconds LUCAS reappears, holding a pack of cigarettes in
front of him, ready to take one out.

LUCAS : Kevin? Kev?

LUCAS looks around nervously. After some seconds of silence there is
a shot from an L85, then silence. After three or four seconds there is
a crescendo of noise. Shouting from off stage - some lines can be
heard. "That was a shot" "Who fired that shot" "Call out the guard"
vehicles started, a motorbike backfires repeatedly, "Someone call
the RP's"

The noise gets louder.
Two soldiers run across the stage, and past LUCAS. One of them shouts at
LUCAS as he passes.

SOLDIER : You the guard? Come on then!

LUCAS follows them off. A motorbike roars close by, still
backfiring. Further calls of "Someone call an ambulance" "Get
the MP's" "Over Here!" "Give me some light!" "Don't
touch anything!" and so on. The off stage (pre-recorded) sounds
fade.

Blackout.

SCENE TWO

SEVEN WEEKS EARLIER.

11.00 THURSDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 2005: TRAINING CAMP C.O.'S OFFICE /
BASINGSTOKE RECRUITMENT OFFICE

There are two similar desks each side of the stage. The scene
locations alternate.

There are bundles of papers on each desk.

CO's OFFICE: SERGEANT DENNIS McINTOSH is standing to attention in
front of the Colonel's desk. COLONEL ROBIN REED-JONES is sitting at
the desk and the RSM, WO1 MICHAEL LATCHFORD is standing beside him.

BASINGSTOKE RECRUITMENT OFFICE: KEVIN WALKER is sitting in front of
the desk. MAJOR ALAN KNIGHT is sitting at the desk and the
recruitment Sergeant, SGT. ROBERT BROOK is standing beside him.

CO's OFFICE:
R-JONES : I'm going to ask RSM Latchford to summarise the events
that took place in the Sergeant's Mess yesterday evening, Sgt. McIntosh, and I want
you to confirm that what he says accurately reflects the facts. Do you understand?

McINTOSH : Yes, Sir.

R-JONES : Mr Latchford?

L'FORD : Thank you, Sir. (reading from a clip board) At approximately 22.45 hours
yesterday evening, Tuesday 13th September 2005 Sgt. Dennis McIntosh was in the WO
and Sergeant's Mess and involved in a heated discussion with Sgt. Peter Finbow. Voices
were raised, and it was obvious to the mess that Sgt. McIntosh had been drinking heavily.

R-JONES : Is that correct, Sgt. McIntosh?

McINTOSH : Sir.

L'FORD : Both men stood up and Staff Sgt. Bolton has reported that
Sgt. McIntosh called Sgt. Finbow, excuse me Colonel, an "effing dickhead", and
struck him several times about the head with the right fist. Staff Sergeant Bolton
intervened and instructed both men to leave the mess.

R-JONES : Is that correct?

McINTOSH : Yes, Sir.

R-JONES : Did Sgt. Finbow make any attempt to retaliate?

L'FORD : No, Sir.

R-JONES : Sgt. McIntosh?

McINTOSH : No, Sir.


BASINGSTOKE RECRUITMENT OFFICE:

KNIGHT : My name's Major Knight, and I'm the Selection Officer.
I'm just going to run through a few things with you, with Sergeant Brook adding a few
details as we go along. Is that clear?

WALKER : Yes.

KNIGHT : Very well. Would you like to introduce this session Sgt.
Brook?

BROOK : Thank you, Sir. Now then, Mr. Walker. You've come through
your BARB test, and your medical was fine apparently. We don't see that of
course. It's confidential between your doctor and the army doctors.
They gave it the green light, so we were able to proceed. You spent
your two days at ADSC and they did some tests on you, got you to
run a mile, and so on. Did that go well for you?

WALKER : Yes, thanks.

BROOK : So Major Knight here is going to ask a few questions, nothing
to worry about ok? Any questions so far?

WALKER : No.


CO's OFFICE:

R-JONES : Do you wish to deal with this matter internally Mr Latchford?

L'FORD : No Sir.

R-JONES : Is it your intention that this matter be referred to a Court Martial?

L'FORD : That's correct, Sir.

R-JONES : On what grounds?

L'FORD : Sgt. McIntosh has been repeatedly warned about inappropriate
behaviour in the mess on various occasions, Sir. This incident was the
worst in a long line of incidents stretching back over two years, Sir.

R-JONES : Do you accept that statement as correct, Sgt. McIntosh?

McINTOSH : Yes, Sir. I'm sorry, Sir.

R-JONES : Sorry too late I'm afraid, Sgt. McIntosh. I would have
preferred to deal with this through Summary Proceedings, but the
circumstances leave me with no alternative but to refer the matter
to Court Martial. You understand the implications of that?

McINTOSH : Sir.

R-JONES : I cannot pre-judge the outcome of a Court Martial, so
unless the RSM has any reasons why I should alter this decision, you will continue in
your current post, and remain a member of the mess until such time as the Court Martial is
convened. Mr Latchford?

L'FORD : No objection, Sir.

R-JONES : Very well. I have to warn you, Sgt. McIntosh, that during
the intervening period, if there is any question over your behaviour, I shall have no
option but to remove you immediately. Is that clear?

McINTOSH : Yes, Sir.

R-JONES : Dismissed.

McINTOSH : Thank you, Sir.

COLONEL REED-JONES nods coldly in reply to a salute from McINTOSH.
The RSM also comes to attention and salutes. McINTOSH does a smart about turn
and exits.

BASINGSTOKE RECRUITMENT OFFICE:

MAJOR : Sgt. Brook has brought us up to date so far. We'll get you
in to the training depot that's right for you, and the moment you step through the
gate, we start paying you. So how does that sound ?

WALKER : All right.

MAJOR : You're off back to training camp next week, aren't you, Sgt. Brook ?

BROOK : That's right, Sir. Small arms instructor.

MAJOR : You could tell Walker what he can expect.

BROOK : Yes indeed, Sir. There's a lot to learn Walker, but it's
great fun. You'll make new friends, and have a great time. We might end up at the same
training camp. I can't wait to get back there myself.

MAJOR : Well done you. Jolly good. Now Walker, there's one or two
matters arising from your first formal interview with Sgt. Brook here. You had some
trouble with the local police during the last year didn't you, and we had a report
from Social Services.

WALKER : That was all back before like.

MAJOR : Would you like to summarise for us, Sgt. Brook?

BROOK : Very good, Sir. There was a bit of messing around with drugs
and getting drunk, and some petty theft, but it never went to court. Isn't
that right?

WALKER : That's right.

BROOK : So your mum and the social worker got together with your head
teacher and they suggested that you come and see us and put your cards on the
table.

WALKER : Yes.

MAJOR : Good. As you know the army takes a dim view of people
getting into trouble with drugs and so on, we don't tolerate anything like that.
We'll be expecting you to prove to us, that all of that is way behind you, and that you are
going to start your new life with a clean slate.

WALKER : Yes Sir, thank you very much.

MAJOR : I'm sure Sgt. Brook will sort out your attestation right
away. In no time at all you'll be getting your army pay, and joining your new mates in the
NAAFI for a pint, eh?

BROOK : You'll be looking forward to that part.

WALKER : Yeh.

MAJOR : Well done you. Right, so off you go with Sgt. Brook.

MAJOR KNIGHT stands up and extends a hand for WALKER to shake. He
does so and exits with Sgt. BROOK.

CO's OFFICE:

COLONEL REED-JONES sits down and motions RSM LATCHFORD to
do the same.

R-JONES : What sort of man is Sgt. McIntosh, Mr Latchford?

L'FORD : Not easy to get along with Sir. No kind of social graces.
Single man who finds it difficult to behave appropriately.

R-JONES : Alcohol a problem?

L'FORD : Afraid so, Sir. And he can take a lot. Until the last one
that puts him over the top.

R-JONES : I see. Does he recognise that he has a problem?

L'FORD : I don't believe so, no Sir.

R-JONES : How long's he got to go?

L'FORD : Only about eighteen months. We should have transferred
him out long ago. These old school training sergeants don't do us
many favours, Sir.

R-JONES : There's more to this than the incident in the Mess
isn't there.

L'FORD : Yes, sir.

R-JONES : Go on.

L'FORD : Excessive beasting sir. It gets out of hand from time to
time, with the NCO's thinking up new ways of punishing a recruit.

R-JONES : And McIntosh has been doing this?

L'FORD : He generally sticks to the traditional push ups and
running round the square, but if there's a new platoon sergeant around
an element of competition creeps in.

R-JONES : And is that the case now?

L'FORD : No, sir. But it's happened in the past, and I need to
make sure it doesn't happen again. Once Sgt. McIntosh has gone it will serve
as a useful lesson for the others. I assume he will be going?

R-JONES : Oh yes. No doubt in my mind. You agree?

L'FORD : Indeed, sir.

R-JONES : The Court Martial may well tell him to see his twenty-two
out. As far as I can see his career's pretty well over, wouldn't you think?

[end of extract]

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