The Scavenger's Daughter by Gary Earl Ross
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
(Darkness. The ringing of a telephone.)
Nine-one-one. What’s the nature of your emergency?
Please! I need help!
Ma’am, if you’ll—
I need help! My parents have been shot!
Ma’am, my screen shows you’re on a mobile phone. I need to know
I need to know where you are so I can send help.
So much blood . . .
(Flashing red and blue lights. Dark-clad MAXINE TRAVIS is upstage
between the two sets. She moves downstage center as lights rise to
dimness and answers her cell phone.)
Travis. Yes, sir, the ambulance is here now and the M.E.’s office is
on the way. That’s right, sir, a couple in their eighties. Their
daughter found them. Yes, I’ll bring her in. I’m just waiting for
her brothers to get here.
Yes, sir, I’m bringing them all in. I’m not buying murder-suicide
just yet. Until I know different, to me this is murder.
(Clicks off and walks back into the shadows.)
(Lights rise on the interrogation room side. ALAN, BRIAN,
and CONNIE are there. Standing, ALAN wears a cheap sports jacket.
BRIAN, pacing, wears a black leather jacket. CONNIE, in modest top and
jeans, is seated, a small purse on her lap. She wipes her eyes with a
tissue from time to time.)
What’s taking them so long? It’s obvious what happened.
Nothin’ is obvious to cops, Alan. That’s why they took our
licenses. They need to check us out, to make sure.
Make sure of what?
To make sure this ain’t murder.
Murder? It’s plain as hell what happened. Ruthie got Pop’s gun,
pointed it at him—
You mean, they think we did this?
Least one of us. Maybe all of us. That’s why we’re in this room.
But how? Daddy and Ruthie—
Damn it! None of this would’ve happened, Alan, if you’d done what
I told you. If you’da taken that old gun when I told you to.
Maybe you forgot, genius, she threatened to shoot me if I came near
Man, I told you to call her and make up. I told you to swallow your
pride, for Dad’s sake. Ain’t no sense feudin’ with a Froot
(Turns to CONNIE.)
And I told you too, Connie. You weren’t banned from the house. You
went all the time.
Two or three nights a week, but she watched me like a hawk. I
couldn’t go past the kitchen, except to the bathroom. Then she
waited by the door. I don’t even know where the gun was.
Shoulda tore up the place myself when I had the chance. I’da found
it. Crazy old bitch.
What? Don’t speak ill of the dead? She was a crazy old bitch. Long
time ago she was a crazy young bitch. She was always crazy and we all
(Moving downstage and grimacing in the “mirror.”)
And I suppose they’re looking at us through that.
(Following and sneering in the “mirror.”)
Course they are, but in my line of work I know their limits. They
ain’t got dick to hook this on none of us. This is just what it
looks like. Ruthie set out to shoot Dad and then herself.
Alan, should we get a lawyer?
I guess we—
What’d you ask him for?
I just thought—
When was the last time you been in a police station, Alan? Huh? When?
That has nothing to do—
I go to jails every damn day, not classrooms. Ask me if we need a
Do we need a lawyer?
We gotta wait and see.
(Looks at the mirror.)
When their questions start feelin’ like accusations, then we tell
‘em we want a lawyer and they have to stop. Understand?
Good. If it gets to that point, I’ll call Benefield.
(TRAVIS, holding a notepad and files, enters.)
At this point nobody needs a lawyer, especially one like Rudy
Benefield. All I want is information.
What kind of information?
About your parents. About how and why something like this could
(Glaring at TRAVIS.)
Then how come you took so long, and why are we in the box instead of
at your desk in the squad room?
(Meeting BRIAN’s gaze.)
Everybody’s got their own way of doing things. This is mine.
Besides, you know our limits. We don’t have dick, so you got nothing
to worry about.
(TRAVIS glares at BRIAN until he sits. ALAN sits.)
Murder, accidental death, suicide—it doesn’t matter. Everything
gets a full investigation.
Can’t we do this later? In the morning maybe? We’ve got to take
Things might have gone faster if you hadn’t deleted the voice mail
she left you. That could have told us a lot about her state of mind.
(As her brothers comfort her, glaring at TRAVIS.)
She said they were too old and tired to go on. And wouldn’t. I hit
delete by mistake. Sorry.
I need to know what drove your mother to do this.
Ruthie wasn’t our mother. She was our stepmother.
And she snapped because she couldn’t deal with Daddy’s
(Looks at them a moment, then begins to write.)
How long were she and your father married?
Twenty-seven, twenty-eight years.
But they were together longer than that, since I was six or
seven—more than forty years.
That wasn’t the question, Connie. Just answer the question they ask.
You too, Alan.
Ruthie pulled the trigger, Mr. Pickett—Brian. I need to figure out
why—and if she had help.
The faster I get through my questions, the faster you get out of
(Pausing as if in thought, looking at each of them.)
So, oldest to youngest, Alan, Brian, Connie—A, B, C. Was that on
It was our mother’s idea . . . according to Pop.
Is your mother still living?
She died in childbirth. Pop didn’t talk much about it, except to say
twins must have been too much for her.
They didn’t make it either.
I don’t remember her much. I was only three.
I was six. None of us remember her that good, ‘cept Alan. He was
So three or four years after your mom died your dad got together with
Did she move in?
Not till they were married . . . after I moved out.
And it took him almost fifteen years to marry her?
What’s that got to do with what happened?
Maybe everything. This kind of shooting usually comes from something
that builds up over time. Did you have any idea your stepmother was
reaching her breaking point?
(ALAN, BRIAN, and CONNIE exchange looks.)
I’m not surprised. Lately, she had a lot of trouble accepting
reality, Pop’s and her own.
(TRAVIS and ALAN look at each other for a moment.)
All right, Alan. I’ll speak with you first.
(Gestures toward the exit.)
Brian, Connie, please wait outside. There’s a bench down the hall,
and a coffee pot if you get thirsty.
Thanks, but squad room coffee sucks everywhere, especially this time
(Gestures CONNIE ahead of him.)
Remember what I said, Alan.
(BRIAN and CONNIE exit.)
Okay, Alan, let’s see if we can make this quick. Why don’t we both
(TRAVIS and ALAN take seats.)
I should apologize for my brother. He can be kind of . . . abrupt.
(Opening a folder and looking at papers.)
He can apologize himself, later. For the moment, let me go over some
background with you.
(Opens another and slides a card to him.)
(Slipping the card into a wallet, which he pockets.)
You’re a teacher at Franklin High School. History. Divorced. Two
adult sons. You own a home on the north side. In the past twenty years
your problems with the law have been six parking violations, one
speeding ticket, and a citation for a faulty brake light. That about
As far as I know.
You and your brother are different as night and day.
(Shrugging at the obvious.)
Alan, I’m curious about something. For someone banned from the house
you seem to know an awful lot about what Ruthie could and couldn’t
Brian and Connie have kept me informed. This past year was extremely
hard for Ruthie, taking my father out of the nursing home and caring
for him herself. I disagreed with her.
Is that why she filed a report with the police to keep you away from
She did that for spite.
(Pauses as if waiting for a question that doesn’t come.)
I guess I better begin at the beginning. It’s kind of a long story.
Goes back almost two years.
I don’t have a date. Do you?
Would it matter if I did?
(ALAN sighs as TRAVIS freezes. Interrogation room lights
dim. Lights rise on the residence side of the stage. JOHN
PICKETT, in a worn bathrobe, is lying on the floor in front of
the couch. Shaking, he looks confused. RUTHIE PICKETT, in
housedress and apron, enters from upstage and moves down,
followed by ALAN. She points to JOHN.)
(Both angry and fretful.)
I been done wrong.
(Crossing to his father and kneeling.)
Pop, are you all right?
I been done wrong, Alan.
(Looking at her.)
I got mad and we tussled. He fell off the couch and couldn’t get
You . . .tussled?
I told you, I been done wrong!
Yeah, Pop. It’s me. Will it hurt if I pick you up, or do I need to
call an ambulance?
No, no, no. No ambulance. I’m all right. Just gimme a hand.
(ALAN struggles to get JOHN up on the couch. ALAN
wrinkles his nose.)
Been down there ‘bout a hour. Musta peed hisself.
Pop, I’m gonna give you a minute to catch your breath. Then I’m
gonna take you to the bathroom so we can get you cleaned up.
(Turning to RUTHIE.)
Now what do you mean you were done wrong?
All the years I been with your father, puttin’ up with him. Not
going nowhere ‘cause he want to leave everything to you kids. After
all that, now he gone and got a girlfriend.
Ain’t got no girlfriend. Stop all that nonsense.
(Pulling a greeting card from her apron pocket.)
Then what’s this, John?
(Waving it in his face.)
Happy birthday . . . from Lucy. Lucy Westbrook.
The Westbrooks from church?
(RUTHIE reluctantly surrenders the card.)
Yeah. She the big shot of the family, all them years in California.
Husband left her and now she back. Rejoined the church ‘bout six
(Pointing at JOHN.)
She got eyes for your father.
This says, “The Hospitality Committee, Lucille Westbrook,
(Snatching the card back and pointing.)
Why she sign her name to it? She wrote Lucy, right there. Didn’t do
that with my birthday card.
Ruthie, I think they grew up together. Miss Lucille, right? She’s
got to be about Pop’s age.
I tell you, she got eyes for your father.
(Pulls a photo from her pocket.)
Look right there. They in this picture together. See that, right
there? She got her hand on your father’s arm. Now that’s not
What is this, a Sunday school picture? Neither one of them is more
She been likin’ him that long, ever since then, and now she back.
Jesus, Ruthie! Of all the—
Alan? You gon’ live a long time, son. I was just thinking ‘bout
you. Where you come from?
Pop, I just picked you up off the floor.
(Smiling as if seeing the joke.)
No, you didn’t.
Ruthie, you better call 9-1-1.
[End of Extract]