A Play for Peaches and Crime
By Charles Berman and Daniel Schwartz
(Enter PAIGE and DONALDSON)
PAIGE: Good evening, ladies!
DONALDSON: And Gentlemen!
P: You would bring that up, wouldn’t you?
D: For completeness’ sake, if nothing else.
P: Indeed. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
D: And most of the audience.
D: We are Donaldson and Paige.
P: Paige and Donaldson!
P: He is Donaldson.
D: He is Paige.
P: Our business is murders!
D: The solving thereof!
P: If you have been murdered, we will find the culprit!
D: If you have not been murdered, please keep us in mind should the occasion arise!
BOTH: (running over each other) Paige and Donaldson - (overelaborate ‘after you' gestures, until in unison) Paige and Donaldson; we always know whodunit.
P: Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a treat tonight. There is going to be a murder committed, but since you are the audience none of you is eligible to be the victim.
D: That would discourage attendance.
P: But, ladies, and gentlemen, we are going to show you how to take on a murder and ALWAYS know who did it. Which means, of course, we will be showing you a path to fast profit.
D: Other than making a theatrical piece about the murder and charging curious rubes to come see it.
P: Other than that, yes. A way to accept a commission as a detective, and NEVER fail to produce the criminal.
D:Let us begin, then. Of course, ladies and gentlemen, society has a word for those who obsess over killing and violence.
P: Paperback customers!
D: Those are two words.
D: That is a compound that is only marginally one word.
D: Precisely. We are not “cops.”
P: Policemen are bogged down with concerns of procedure.
D: Red tape.
D: We are private investigators.
P: We are never bogged down.
D: Our tape is clear.
P: Laissez Faire.
D: How rare it is to hear a public outcry against the scourge of private investigator brutality.
P: Corruption among the private investigative force.
D: Ladies and gentleman, the motives of the police are bound up in the desire to exercise the state’s monopoly on violence.
P: The motives of a private investigator are clear.
P: Seeing the future!
D: The other kind.
P: Seeing the bottom line!
D: And so, friends, Paige and Donaldson are gumshoes to the well-heeled. (beat), And that was pretty good!
P: I liked it.
D: So did I. .
P: And so we ply our trade, the solving of murders for money, to those who have money but not the solution to murders.
D: A natural partnership.
P: A mutually beneficial arrangement.
D: The simplest of possible exchanges.
P: And if we’re here tonight, that means we’ve got a murder!
D: Is that the only reason?
P: Well, I can’t juggle.
D: Neither can I.
D: Not well.
P: Play the stately glockenspiel?
D: If only.
P: Murder it is then!
D: The game is afoot!
P: The foot is a limb!
D: The limb is a branch!
P: The branch is a path!
D: To the murder!
P: And its solution!
(Very Happy Polka)
D: The stately glockenspiel? Is there a non-stately glockenspiel?
P: Perish the thought!
D: Our victim -
P: THE victim!
D: The victim of our story is Thomas Dalton, age 45 years, unless he’s a dog.
P: They’d have mentioned that.
D: Probably. He’s the owner of Dalton’s Department stores.
P: They have that jingle, don’t they? “Dalton’s Department Stores...something about value.” Can’t quite remember it.
D: “Dalton’s Department Stores...we have things for sale!”
P: Little on the nose.
D: I might be misremembering.
P: But that’s certainly the gist.
D: Precisely. He was also alive, at least until this evening.
P: No longer!
D: A moment of silence...might be appropriate at some point.
P: We shall solve this murder, on the condition that we are paid!
D: And so we must find a client.
P: Which we have, in the form of the deceased’s sister.
D: Simone Dalton, ladies and gentlemen, aged 42 human years, give her a hand!
S: Good evening. You must be Paige and Donaldson.
D: Respectfully, yes. Good evening, Miss Dalton. You called us to address the matter of your brother’s demise.
S: Yes, indeed. Though I had hoped you would resolve the matter...discreetly.
D: Discretion is the better part of valor!
P: Valor is my middle name!
D: Is that so?
P: Family name. My great-uncle.
D: I see.
P: Well, Miss Dalton, you may rely on us to settle the issue at hand with all due confidential haste.
S: Good. My brother’s loss is a tragedy, not only to me, but to the business our family built.
D: Thomas inherited the stores, if my memory serves?
S: Yes. Our father founded it, and Thomas has been a good steward of the family’s interest.
D: But it is not his life that made you call us here tonight, Miss Dalton.
P: Charmed though we are to meet you!
S: No. My brother was found dead here, at our flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
D: And you’re certain it was murder?
S: (emphatic) Yes.
P: Our specialty! Solving them, I mean.
D: Focus, Mr Paige.
P: Digressions are the lesser part of valor.
D: Indeed. Please continue, Miss Dalton.
S: ...I must insist upon the secrecy of what I am about to tell you.
D: Rest assured, Miss Dalton, what you say will not leave this room (indicating theater)
S: Very well. My brother was found...strangled.
P: Good heavens!
S: With a garter.
D: To clarify: he was IN THE PRESENCE of a garter while being strangled, or the garter itself was the METHOD of strangulation?
D: Well, that makes sense. How unlikely would the second be without the first?
P: Indeed you are right, Donaldson.
D: The method of murder is...unconventional, Miss Dalton, but hardly unheard of.
S: He was found in a woman’s changing room.
D: Well, that’s more the place of the - what?
S: The woman’s changing room. In the...intimates section.
S: Precisely. You see now that the popular press cannot be told of this matter.
D: We shall not even tell the unpopular press, for the same reasons.
S: We need someone who can find the killer quickly and before its sordid details are revealed to the public. If people were to hear about the details of this crime they might… well, they would immediately know about our fine selection of women’s lingerie. But they also might draw inconvenient conclusions about my brother.
D: And that could be bad for business. And his reputation.
S: I knew you would understand.
P: We do!
S: Then you’ll take the case?
P: To its logical conclusion!
D: We shall need to inspect the...scene of the crime.
S: Naturally! Right this way.
(all three exit)
(Never Be A Good Girl)
(P + D re-enter)
D: Well, that was a sordid scene, Paige, now that we’ve inspected the scene of the crime.
P: Indeed, Donaldson. We’ll spare you folks the sight. It’s full of women’s lingerie.
D: Everywhere. On shelves and racks and mannequins. One only need look up to see it.
P: Now, the first thing we do at a crime scene is find the dead body.
D: And find it we did!
P: Only the one!
D: More’s the pity, really.
P: Then we search for clues. A smoking gun, as it were.
D: Such as a smoking gun.
P: A bloody knife.
D: Or in this case, a tasteful lacy underthing.
P: You didn’t taste it, did you, Donaldson?
D: Before I’d even bought it, Paige? What sort of man do you take me for?
P: Hardly matters, given the sort of man people would take the late Mr Dalton for.
D: And THAT hardly matters, given we’ll take them for. I mean… the price people would take this lingerie for.
P: A growth industry.
D: In some areas.
P: But yes, a frightful scene indeed.
D: What do you make of it?
P: Very little. Given the temperature of the body, Mr. Dalton probably died between ten and midnight. The ligature marks indicate strangulation, as Mr. Dalton the living said. From the angle of the injuries the culprit was probably two to four inches shorter than the victim, uncannily strong for his size, between the ages of twenty-two and sixty-one, had an apple with breakfast, and had recently spent some time at the seaside. Beyond that, mere speculation.
D: You always talk so quickly about dead bodies.
P: It seems rude to linger.
D: I’ve never seen one get offended.
P: Then clearly my technique is working. None of this was anything we didn’t already know, but it sounded very impressive when said quickly.
D: The next thing we do when attempting to locate a criminal is to ask if the victim had any enemies.
P: Fortunately, he had several enemies to ponder over.
D: Such as Stanley Finlayson of Finlayson Department Store, whose only alibi was being on vacation in Spain at the time of the murder.
P: Or Davis Horton of Horton and Fink’s, who lives as a hermit in California.
D: What about Fink?
P: Dead for years.
D: But were they enemies?
P: Not at this point.
D: The peace of the grave.
P: Which piece?
D: The one they rest in.
D: But none of these men would be likely to kill Mr. Dalton in his own department store.
P: Not themselves.
P: Come now, Donaldson, the possibility of an assassin cannot have escaped you.
D: Being as he wasn’t in the room, it’s possible he has.
P: Do be serious, Donaldson.
D: I’d prefer not to.
P: Then focus! We must learn more if we are to determine the culprit and, by extension, get paid.
D: Well, what are we waiting for? Let us see who else Miss Dalton has been able to scare up!
D: Fortunately, the manager of the Dalton’s flagship store has been able to join us.
P: Arthur Auerbach, everybody, a round of applause!
A: Hello. Mr. Dalton told me you were the detectives?
D: Precisely, Mr. Auerbach. We’ve been hired to determine who was responsible for the late Mr. Dalton’s tardiness, as it were.
A: I’ll help any way I can. This is awful!
P: How long had you known the late Mr. Dalton?
A: Fifteen years, ever since he took over the store from his father.
D: We understand you were with him this evening?
A: We had terminated the contracts of some employees this afternoon. When I left at eight he was finishing the last of the paperwork.
D: A common practice of his?
A: Mr. Dalton liked being in control of major decisions; very little happened without his signature.
D: Those will be your responsibility now, of course.
A: I imagine. Though I imagine until the murder is solved there won’t be much business.
D: We ARE keeping his extraordinarily embarrassing death a complete secret from the public.
A: The store is closed.
D: Hmm. That COULD affect business.
P: Mr. Auerbach, murder IS our business!
D: And we take it (suppressing a laugh) seriously! In a manner of speaking. We know you couldn’t survive without your business.
P: You should be prepared to open the store tomorrow morning!
A: You seem quite confident.
P: Because we ARE quite confident! We are nothing if not men of confidence. Now. To the best of your knowledge you were the last person to see Mr Dalton alive.
A: Well, I saw him last night, so yeah… I guess I must be,
P: Ha! The last person to see him alive must logically BE the killer!
A: No! I’m not the killer!
P: Make up your mind!
A: I’m PROBABLY the last person to see him alive, EXCEPT THE MURDERER.
P: Mere speculation! (takes out paper) We found this on the body of the deceased! Do you recognize it?
A: (taking paper, examining) It seems to be a page from the financial books.
D: Indeed. Now, I’m no Bertrand Russell, Mr Auerbach, but I know when a column of numbers doesn’t add up, AND THIS IS PRECISELY SUCH AN OCCASION!
A: The rest of the column’s on the next page.
D: Then how do you explain these red marks here, here and here, indicating inconsistencies?
A: Inconsistencies in what?
D: The arithmetic! The owner was clearly on to your shenanigans!
A: I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.
P: He means you’re lying!
A: I’m not lying! I never said I wasn’t embezzling!
D: Well. (beat) Perhaps you should go consult with Miss Dalton. Arrangements and such.
A: Yes, of course.
D: Not much of a liar.
P: Except for the embezzling.
D: Still, a little short for your culprit.
P: That hardly proves anything.
D: It means he didn’t kill Dalton.
P: It means he was not the strangler. Or that he was standing on something..
D: Or sitting down. Your mysterious assassin?
P: The position of the body seemed deliberate. Similar methods are used by hired killers of the East.
P: Further east.
P: Little further.
D: (Under breath). Hmm. Ocean. (Aloud) Europe?
P: Eastern Europe, to be precise. A foreign syndicate, or a member of same, may be responsible.
D: All of this is fascinating, Paige, but as usual you have overlooked the most important point.
P: To whit?
D: At the time of his death Dalton was in a scandalous location.. Had Auerbach known him to be there, it would be more expeditious to blackmail him, one secret sealing away another. Whoever killed him wanted him dead, and ALSO wanted him found in a compromising position. This is why I never compromise.
P: But who stands to gain from Dalton’s humiliation?
D: They always say to follow the money. Who profits from this death?
D: No, I mean directly.
P: Oh. His...heir?
D: Yes. Who’s his heir?
P: His wife?
D: He has a wife?
P: I know, I was surprised too. But there’s a softness on the left ring finger where a wedding band was removed.
D: Or some other kind of ring.
P: Honestly, Donaldson, a bachelor with a left-hand ring, what sort of man do you imagine we’re investigating?
D: A man who was found dead amid the undergarments of ladies!
P: Surely even such men have standards!
D: Wonder what that must be like. Very well. Let us see if the widow Dalton can yield any new information.
(You and Me)
P: Given the number of marriages that end in death, I cannot in good conscience recommend the institution.
D: I know many people who’ve been in institutions, they do not recommend them.
P: I presume you drove them there?
D: I called a cab. But please, everybody, welcome Lucinda Dalton, recently bereft!
(LUCINDA enters, visibly mourning)
L: Thank you so much for helping bring the person who did this terrible thing to justice!
P: Which terrible thing?
L: Killed my husband!
D: Did you?
L: Of course not! Thomas meant the world to me!
D: Were you aware of his...tendencies?
L: Oh, Thomas didn’t play tennis.
D: I mean his predilections.
L: To not play tennis?
D: Have you ever noticed him going through your drawers?
L: When he needed the scissors or something, why?
D: Not exclusively then, no. Have any items of clothing belonging to you ever gone missing?
L: Yes, I used a terrible washing service last year, what are you talking about?
P: We’re talking about your underwear!
L: Are you REALLY detectives?
D: We are!
P: We paid a licensing fee!
L: Then why in the world are you asking these horrible questions?
D: Do we seem the sort of men who would ask women about their underwear for kicks?
P: She isn’t wrong, Donaldson-
D: I am aware, Mr Paige!
L: Wait, you’re Paige and Donaldson, the famous detectives?
P: We are famous.
L: I’ve heard of your talent! (taking out her checkbook and a pen) Name your price!
P: But we’ve already -
D: OUR PRICE, as Mr Paige was just mentioning, is enumerated in this contract.
(hands contract to L, whose eyes bug out on reading)
L: This is a considerable amount.
D: If you choose not to pay it, we will be happy not to find your husband's killer.
L: (reaching a decision) For Thomas, it is money well-spent! (writes out a check and hands it to D)
D: (pocketing check) Thank you Mrs. Dalton. Let’s return to the subject of your underwear.
L: What has that to do with my husband?
D: Ah, madam, there’s the rub!
D: Your husband was found in the women’s changing room in the intimates section.
L: Oh gracious! Perhaps...perhaps he was looking for something for me.
D: Impossible. The wrong size.
L: Oh. Perhaps his mistress?
D: Oh, I don’t think - his what?
L: (enunciating) MISTRESS.
P: It’s like a spare wife.
D: I know what they are! But Mrs. Dalton, you know that your husband had been unfaithful to you?
L: Oh, it’s so much harder to work a mistress into married life when she’s a secret.
D: You’ll pardon me, Mrs. Dalton, I hadn’t expected the conversation to go this way.
L: When you asked about the underwear I thought that it might.
D: Then you were aware of his infidelity that you just mentioned?
L: Oh yes.
D: And what...was that...like?
L: For him, I imagine it was quite pleasant. Carrying on like that for years with some lovely young lady after I’ve given him the best years of my life.
D: And...how did...you...feel?
L: Oh, furious. Carrying on like that for years with some lovely young lady after I’ve given him the best years of my life.
D: And now he’s dead.
L: So you said.
P: This looks bad for you.
L: Goodness, you can’t think that I did it!
D: We’d be hard-pressed not to, given what we know now.
L: Thomas wasn’t a perfect husband, certainly, but murdering him would be no kind of solution! I’d go to jail and lose all of his money!
D: (thoughtful) That is true.
P: Was your husband a cross-dresser?
L: A cross-dresser? (laughs) Mr Paige, my husband could barely dress himself in men’s clothes! The idea of him developing fashion sense of any kind is comical!
D: Now that he’s dead I assume you get his fortune?
L: That was basically the arrangement. Spending his money is the only thing I loved more than having it.
D: Do you know who would have wanted him dead?
L: Probably someone who’d heard that silly jingle one too many times on the radio. “Dalton’s Department Store, Where The Price Is Right!”
P: That’s it! I’ve been wondering all night.
L: Beyond that, the man ran some department stores his father left him. Hardly the sort that makes enemies.
D: Unless he were a ruthless business man.
L: There was plenty of ‘Ruth’ to him, I assure you.
D: Was that the name of his mistress?
L: That was the joke, yes.
P: Oh, hey, that was a good one!
L: Thank you. What else would you like to know?
P: Well, who killed him, for starters.
L: I wonder that as well. When you’ve discovered him, I look forward to your findings!
(He Done Me Wrong)
P: I like her!
D: Don’t be sentimental, Mr Paige. Mrs. Dalton’s demeanor may belie a criminal mastermind steeped in thoughts of revenge.
P: Well, she didn’t do it.
D: How do you know?
P: You didn’t notice when she signed the check? She’s right-handed. The killer was a southpaw.
D: Or she’s ambidextrous.
P: You made that word up.
D: You got me. Perhaps she can use both hands equally well.
P: The evidence on the body was unmistakable. Whoever killed Mr. Dalton clearly favors the left hand over the right.
D: Well, I thought it was a good hypothesis.
P: It was actually a very solid deduction, Donaldson.
D: Thank you.
P: Were you an idiot.
D: I am not.
P: Then I rescind the compliment.
D: I decline your rescission.
P: You can do that?
D: I just did, so yes.
P: Very well. I accept your decline.
D: Thank you. Hey!
P: This is getting us nowhere, Donaldson. The killer has failed to materialize.
D: Quite inconsiderate, frankly.
P: Though not surprising.
D: Indeed. If murderers revealed themselves easily there would be no market for our talents.
P: We would have to get jobs.
D: Collating things.
D: Raising chickens.
(Saving Up My Money)
P: Could it have been a suicide?
D: Mr Paige, what sort of man garrotes HIMSELF with a pair of women’s...drawers?
P: A clumsy carpenter, Donaldson!
D: Possible, and yet unlikely when spoken aloud.
P: True. How would he remain a carpenter?
D: A good and completely irrelevant question, Paige. Let’s get down to Stamp Act.
P: Brass tacks?
D: Grey slacks?
P: Knick knacks?
D: Fast tracks?
P: You know what? Sure.
D: That doesn’t rhyme - oh. Well then, let’s get down to fast tracks.
P: A murder!
D: A thieving employee!
P: A jilted wife!
D: A jilted mistress!
P: A jilting husband!
D: A jilted lover!
P: Was the mistress jilted?
D: If they had any plans tonight, surely.
D: The only thing we need now… is a culprit!
P: Just once I’d like some formal experimentation; a murder WITHOUT a culprit.
D: We need more suspects. Or to make better use of the suspects we already have.
P: Well, between a theoretically jilted lover, a practically jilted wife, an obviously thieving employee, and a hypothetical fourth person, who would be most likely to have committed this murder?
D: It seems like a toss-up.
D: Yes, you can hardly have a toss-up of one.
P: (as BETTY enters) On the contrary, Donaldson, you can toss up one of almost anything! For instance, that night at the Ficus Club -
D: (spotting B) Wait.
P: (as B runs off) But I like this story!
D: Look! A suspect!. After her!
(P+D enter, breathing heavily)
P: Well, ladies and gentleman, the art of detection sometimes requires the physique of an athlete!
D: Now that chess is considered a sport, it certainly does!
P: But we managed to pursue and persuade to appear a new and exciting suspect, Miss Betty Childress!
(B enters to applause)
B: I’m sorry. The store is supposed to be closed, I thought you were burglars.
D: I assure you, madam, we have never burgled a day in our lives!
P: What about theft of time, where you’re paid but don’t work?
D: Baseless speculation, Mr Paige!
B: Who are you?
D: And Donaldson!
B: (nonplussed) Hi?
P: We are detectives!
D: We solve murders!
P: For money!
D: And sometimes justice! Now, you are the cleaning lady, is that correct?
B: One of them, yes.
D: Then you are here late at night when all other employees have left?
B: Sundays to Thursday, sure.
P: Today is a Wednesday!
D: Miss Childress, did you see Mr Dalton at all tonight?
B: I think so, around eleven.
D: Then you were the last person to see him alive!
D: Mr. Dalton has been murdered!
P: In the intimates section!
B: Oh my God!
P: Yes, I’m surprised you didn’t sweep there.
D: I’m not. The dead body would have obstructed the broom.
(Offstage, a police whistle)
P: That noise!
D: Our greatest fear!
D: The other one.
P: The whistle!
D: At least we’re not in a theater. It’s bad luck to whistle in a theater.
(Enter INSPECTOR OAK)
O: Police! Nobody move!
(P+D freeze in awkward positions)
O: Well well well -
P: We are, thank you for asking!
O: Paige and Donaldson.
D: Inspector Bolton Oak of the New York Police Department, what an unexpected surprise!
O: Why unexpected? There’s been a murder here. Solving murders is the job of the police.
P: Not all of it.
D: There’s also stopping thefts.
P: Punishing jaywalkers.
D: Blowing whistles. Shooting poor people.
O: Okay, enough with the comedy. Someone’s been killed, and I’m gonna find out who killed him.
D: You certainly will!
O: Yes, I - wait, I will?
P: Once we tell you!
O: That’s very insulting!
D: We already know who the culprit is!
O: Wait, what? (as curtain falls) That’s withholding evidence!
(Got A Light)
D: Welcome back, audience members!
O: I’ve been here the whole time!
P: No, you got here after we’d solved this case!
D: Very police-like of you. Positively Lestradian!
D: But fair!
O: Who’s Lestradian?
D: You are, keep up! And now, we were about to tell you who killed Thomas Dalton.
P: We were?
D: Put that way, it seems anticlimactic.
O: Wait, you made us stand here behind this curtain for fifteen minutes just so you could say who it was and we could be on our way.
D: I hate to admit it, but he has a point.
P: Then don’t admit it.
D: A good idea! (To O) You have no point. Of course not! Let us lead you through the thought processes that ended in us solving this case for our client.
P: And you, secondarily!
D: First we thought, “Well, if we solve this case our client will pay us.”
P: We followed up with, “Money buys us the food and other luxuries that keep us at the forefront of polite society!”
D: To which we appended, “Where should we have lunch once this case is solved?”
P: I was thinking Delmonico’s.
P: I know what I like.
O: We’re getting off-topic.
D: You never got ON topic! What’s you opinion of Delmonico’s for lunch?
P: You can’t seriously be thinking of inviting him!
D: If he’s buying?
P: You MUST join us, Inspector!
O: I ain’t buying nobody lunch, except for the murderer, courtesy of the Department of Corrections!
P: A murderer? In Delmonico’s?!
D: A table for four is very difficult to reserve.
O: I wouldn’t have lunch with you two yahoos!
P: Yahoo! More lunch for us!
O: Start talking! What’s the story with the murder?
D: Having ascertained that the murder had occurred and that its solution would profit us, we proceeded directly to consider the pool of our suspects. Then, upon examining the evidence, we deduced which of them was responsible. It remains now only to collect our fee and, after a morning’s sleep, proceed to lunch. Would you be willing to try the Waldorf?
P: I’ve never been there.
D: I’ve heard the salad is excellent.
P: So they say.
D: Are we not private investigators? Should we not privately investigate this salad?
P: Not if nobody’s paying us.
D: Delmonico’s it is.
O: So who did it?
P: Delmonico, obviously, the restaurant is named for him.
O: No, who’s responsible?
D: Not us -- we are far from responsible!
P: Nor you, standing around talking about lunch when you could be asking us about the murder!
O: I’m trying to ask about the murder!
P: Not with any success, we’re evading every question.
D: Typical of the public servant!
P: Whereas we are private servants.
D: We are mostly concerned about lunch, now that the case has been solved! If we allowed the police to go around solving crimes we’d be eating away at our own client base. Instead of Delmonico’s food..
O: I think you clowns haven’t solved anything. You’re just having me on.
D: If you’d like we could escort you off.
P: There’s the door.
D: Or the window, if you don’t have the manners to use the door.
P: Or the chimney, if you’re feeling athletic.
D: We doubt you are, given your appearance.
O: What’s wrong with my appearance?
P: Nothing at all. It takes a gentleman of confidence to appear in public as you do.
O: Are you just insulting me for no reason?!
D: No, we’re insulting you so you can leave and we can report our findings to the client!
O: Why don’t I just have the client brought here?
P: Finally! The police do something useful!
(ALL Players enter)
D: We have been known, ladies and gentlemen, to disparage the police in the past.
P: On occasion.
D: Quite rarely.
P: Barely ever at all.
D: Far less than they deserve, certainly.
P: But when it comes to corralling people into one place, they are all but unmatched!
D: Except by sheep dogs.
P: And some setters.
D: And almost all cats.
O: Don’t both thank me at once.
D: We hadn’t even planned on thanking you separately.
P: We begin with Miss. Simone Dalton.
D: Sister to the deceased.
P: Second banana to the one who split.
P: Too soon?
P: Very well. Sororial survivor.
S: Thank you.
D: Naturally her culpability entered our mind.
P: We are very suspicious!
O: You got that right.
D: But the nature of her concerns were quite telling.
P: You remember, Miss Dalton, your strong desire that we exercise discretion?
S: Yes. I see that plea fell on deaf ears.
D: Deaf ears and blind eyes, which we trained on the circumstances surrounding your brother’s demise!
P: This begs the question.
D: Are you still misusing that phrase?
P: I’m honestly not sure. I keep forgetting.
D: Well, it does make one wonder; why would a woman murder her brother in a way that she fears would shed bad light on herself?
O: Worse light than having murdered her brother?
D: Obviously, Inspector. How our knees ache from stooping to your level.
O: I don’t appreciate that suggestion.
P: It means we think you’re dumb.
D: Now, having eliminated Miss Dalton the living as a suspect, our minds turned next to Arthur Auerbach, the store’s manager.
A: During which you made no shortage of outrageous accusations.
P: You were outraged?
D: Mr. Auerbach has for years been embezzling from the store.
P: Everyone’s outraged today.
A: You have no proof of this absurd allegation!
D: Au contraire!
P: We could not help but notice in your account books, Mr. Auerbach, a distinctive graphological idiosyncrasy.
D: We speak of course of that perfidious portent of peccadillous propinquity in penmanship.
P: (brandishing paper) THE FELON’S CLAW!
(All but A gasp)
L: You monster!
S: Thomas trusted you. My FATHER trusted you!
A: This is preposterous!
O: Tell it to the judge, you creep. (handcuffing A) Theft and murder, you’re going away for a long time.
D: As always, Inspector, you’re jumping to conclusions.
D: You’re right. We don’t know much about his home life.
P: Except his impending divorce.
D: And his dubious taste in friends.
P: And his propensity to drink.
O: Some of that isn’t true, and I don’t always jump to conclusions.
D: That’s right, sometimes you don’t reach conclusions at all.
P: Our point, Inspector, is that while Mr. Auerbach is clearly a thief and a deviant menace to society itself, he did not commit this murder.
D: Should he commit others, we will of course stand ready to condemn him.
P: Our normal fees apply.
D: Fortunately, we had other suspects in mind.
P: Mrs. Lucinda Dalton, the widow!
L: Gracious, that makes me sound ancient.
P: You barely look ancient at all, Mrs. Dalton!
L: The soul of tact, Mr. Paige.
P: Nobody’s ever told me that before.
D: Nor shall they again. Mrs. Dalton had spent years nursing a grudge against her husband for his infidelity.
S: My god, Lucinda, I had no idea.
L: Further proof, Simone, that Thomas was the brains of the family. But I brought that up in confidence, Mr. Donaldson.
D: And a good thing too, Mrs. Dalton! To make such an accusation without confidence would be very reckless.
P: Wives have murdered adulterous husbands before.
O: So it was the wife?
D: Of course not, Inspector Oak. Were you born incompetent, did you achieve incompetence, or did you have incompetence thrust into you?
P: I don’t think anyone is born competent, technically.
D: Then you are to be commended, Inspector, for leaving your virgin state untainted.
O: Okay, wise guy, why isn’t she responsible?
P: Well, she didn’t kill him, for starters.
O: How do you know?
P: Because somebody else did, and you can’t die twice. Thicko.
D: Consider, Inspector, that Mrs. Dalton had known about her late husband’s affair for some time.
L: I did.
O: Then why did you stay with him?
L: Because he was RICH, Inspector. Why does anybody stay married?
P: Because they can’t afford a divorce.
O: I know that feeling.
D: The tragic collapse of your marriage notwithstanding, Inspector, Mrs. Dalton had more to lose from killing her husband than she had to lose by letting him live.
L: By a significant margin.
O: Well, there’s only one more person here, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume it was her.
D: You, Elizabeth Childress, cleaning lady at Dalton’s.
P: She knows who she is!
D: Then she knows that I mis-stated her occupation!
L: You did?
D: I did! Betty Childress is a FORMER cleaning lady at Dalton’s!
S: I’m sorry?
P: That’s all right. The reason for the confusion is that Mr. Auerbach and the late Mr. Dalton had just finished firing her when they left for the day.
A: It’s true! Miss Childress’ was one of the contracts we were terminating!
D: Stay out of this, criminal menace! As we were saying, Miss Childress’ was one of the contracts they were terminating.
P: Miss Childress was struggling to maintain herself on a salary already too small.
B: How did you know?
D: You’re a cleaning lady.
P: As Mr. Dalton prepared to leave, she begged her former employer to reconsider.
D: But… he didn’t.
P: Instead, he attempted to evade her by detouring through the women’s apparel.
L: Typical of him.
D: Finally, desperate and seized by rage at Dalton’s indifference, she seized a garter belt and proceeded to throttle him to death!
B: No I didn’t!
O: What proof do you have?
P: Are you left-handed, Miss Childress?
B: Yes, why?
D: We had previously established that the killer was left-handed.
D: And we have just established it again. Miss Childress is your culprit, Inspector. This case, as they say when they close cases, is closed.
O: Actually, I need to arrest them.
P: Well, enough shilly-shallying, then, Inspector! Arrest them!
O: Fine, fine. (Handcuffing B), Come on, honey. You too, Auerbach.
(A, B, O exit)
L: I’m very grateful to you, gentlemen, for bringing my husband’s killer to justice.
P: Of course, Mrs. Dalton. Here, take my card. Do keep us in mind when murder strikes your social circle again.
L: ...Of course. Good day, Mr. Paige, Mr. Donaldson.
S: I have to admit that when I called you gentleman I had not expected such quick results.
D: Speed is our watchword, Miss Dalton!
P: Which is appropriate in this situation.
S: Indeed. And to have unearthed an embezzler in our midst as well.
P: Efficiency is also our watchword!
D: Don’t oversell it, Paige.
S: (taking out checkbook) Improbably, gentlemen, your reputation has been understated. (tearing out check, handing to P) You’ll find an extra gratuity for such performance.
P: You’ll find our gratitude evident in our acceptance, Miss Dalton! Now, no doubt you’ll want to get to bed. It’s been an eventful night.
S: Why yes, yes it has. Good evening, gentlemen.
P: Quite generous, Donaldson.
D: Indeed she is, Paige. Especially in conjunction with Mrs. Dalton. (produces her check)
P: If there’s one thing better than getting paid, it’s getting paid twice.
D: And if there’s anything better than getting paid twice, I’ll be quite surprised.
(Cuando Yo Escapo)
D: Well, gentlemen.
P: And ladies.
D: Also, yes.
P: We, Paige and Donaldson, have finished our job and received our money.
D: Which is our favorite part, of course.
P: Yes indeed!
D: That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you seem to solve a murder.
P: Yes, we certainly put the pieces of that cleaning lady’s background together cleverly, in a way that fit the circumstances of the murder.
D: We did. Although I think perhaps you may need to be reminded that we didn’t just promise the audience we would show them who SEEMED to have committed the crime.
P: We never promised we would show them who ACTUALLY did it.
D: No, but we did tell them we would show them a foolproof method of always knowing who is responsible.
P: Yeeees, but we’ve just found a suitable culprit. They can hardly still be interested in that.
D: A good point. You’re not, are you?
(Audience cheers that they are).
P: Well, they are.
D: Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Hold on to your hats, because wearing them is inappropriate in a theater. We are about to reveal our most valuable trade secret -- and only because as fictional characters our finances can’t be damaged by your taking advantage of it. The first thing you need when getting hired to solve a murder is a client.
P: And the first thing a client needs in order to hire you is money. Preferably a lot of it, the better to pay your exorbitant fees.
D: So you find someone rich. Say the sister of a wealthy department store owner.
P: An excellent example. The perfect client. All she needs is a reason to initiate a murder investigation.
D: So, of course, you murder someone close to her in mysterious circumstances.
P: Say, her brother the wealthy department store owner.
D: But wait, Mr Page! I must disingenuously object! Why would she be compelled to hire overpriced, insouciant, and handsome private investigators instead of going to the police.
P: Very simple, really. She needs to have a reason that she would want the circumstances of the death kept quiet-- such as for instance if her brother had been killed surrounded by women’s underwear. You produce the criminal and there’s no time or reason for a lengthy and embarrassing police investigation.
D: Produce the criminal? Surely you don’t mean to turn yourself in?
P: Of course not. That would prevent any check-collecting from going on. No, you must pin the crime on someone else, and have them go to jail instead, thereby concealing your own crime, satisfying the family, and, naturally justifying your outrageously high rates.
D: I take it as read the patsy must be someone fairly low-class.
P: Of course. Makes the rich clients feel better, prevents the police from investigating thoroughly, makes it less likely that an expensive defense attorney will take interest. Everything easier all-round.
D: So, for instance, a member of the janitorial staff likely to be released from employment?
P: Precisely the sort of person one might use.
D: Salt of the earth.
P: Grist of the mill.
D: From there, the steps are simple.
P: Collect check.
D: Two if available.
P: Deposit checks.
D: Take nap.
P: Have lunch.
BOTH: Paige and Donaldson; We Always Know Whodunit!