The Caress of Delphi

You know me well enough to know what's going to be in this. next time, don't rely on the blurb box to give you a summation of the story. If stories were supposed to be summed up, nobody would bother telling them. Cover by Secrets Unfold.

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4. Act 1 - The Questioning

ACT ONE

- THE QUESTIONING -

 

Scene 1.

 

In retrospect. To be shown in black and white.

In the middle of a street in London. There are ambulances and police cars parked on the pavement. Their lights are still flashing.

By-standers are whispering in wonder. There are a selected few WITNESSES, who are all quite shaken, being questioned by an OFFICER, whilst bodies covered in white sheets are being carried away on stretchers into ambulances. There is a prominent building in the background, which appears to be sealed off at all entrances and exits.

 

OFFICER [holding a notebook and pen, writing as the witnesses speak]: So you are sure that you never saw the murderer? You just heard him or her?

WITNESS 1: Yes, sir.

WITNESS 2 [raises hand]: I think I saw her.

OFFICER: ‘Her’, you say? [jots down in notepad] Can you tell me what she looked like?

All WITNESSES turn to WITNESS 2.

WITNESS 2: Well, um… [Hesitation] she had a dirty white dress on.

OFFICER: Dirty, how? With blood? Soil? Anything other than that?

WITNESS 2: With soil, sir. I didn’t see any blood on her dress. Her dress was plain. It had no sleeves. It fell around her knees… She had no shoes on, I think. And she couldn’t have been very old. Not past twenty, I don’t think.

OFFICER [having finished writing all this]: Well, that’s all well and good, but what did she look like? [Notices WITNESS 2 hesitates] Her face, her face!

WITNESS 2: She… she had no face, sir.

 

END OF Scene 1.

 

---

 

Scene 2.

 

Twenty years after the murders.

Detective inspector JOHNSON is seated in his office, reading a newspaper tediously. He is a man, perhaps in his thirties, though he looks much older. He appears to be waiting for someone.

The office is well-furnished. There is a door directly to the right of him, and a single square window to the central back of the room. There is a wooden chair in front of it. His desk is aligned to the right wall – which has a large green board on it, pinned with notices and newspaper articles – and he is seated behind it on a chair similar to the one by the window. The floor is covered with a green rug over the brown carpeted floor. The walls are painted a similar brown to the carpet.

 

JOHNSON [humming to himself]: …And if only:

The oyster of the earth,

Could produce but one pearl,

I would have never doubted her intent!

But is to fade such joy, such mirth;

And quickly, quickly does evil unfurl –

Thus, we have much to lament!

 

[Enter LEWIS, his assistant, hurriedly, with a sheaf of papers in his hands]

 

Ah! Lewis! Finally, you’ve come. Do tell me you have some–

LEWIS [looking up from the papers]: Blimey, Inspector, I’ll never understand why you took up this bloomin’ case again! It’s been twenty years! For goodness’ sake, by the tail of Beelzebub – there’s a reason they call it a mystery!

JOHNSON [aside]: Where do they find people like this? [aloud] Come, come, Lewis. It’s a crime that cannot go unpunished. A whole building attacked by a single murderess.

LEWIS: Yes, but so is the murder and defilement of fifteen prostitutes! You gonna go and hunt down Jack the Ripper?

JOHNSON [curtly]: If there were any possibility he was alive, then perhaps. [Pause] Show me what you have, my boy.

LEWIS: Jus’ got these back from the records of the officers that held the interrogations [he passes JOHNSON the papers], if this doesn’t get you to drop the case, Inspector, nothin’ will.

JOHNSON [reading to himself, with some amazement]: This… This can’t be right.

LEWIS: We’re looking for a ghost, Inspector!

JOHNSON: No identity? No fingerprints? No hair-samples? [he puts the papers down and rises from his seat] But how can this be?

LEWIS [shrugging]: The officers said that the witnesses said that she had no hair on her head, and her face was a mask of red, with the eyes and teeth still in place. Like the skin had been peeled off. They said her fingers were weird – didn’t have no tips. Like they’d been cut off, or something. Whatever evidence there is, is that people were actually murdered. The blood is theirs, not hers! But there’s not been a whisper of evidence anywhere.

JOHNSON [thinking]: So everyone in that building was just killed?

LEWIS: Well, yes. [pause] Well, maybe not everyone.

JOHNSON: Go on.

LEWIS: Occupant of the top most apartment wasn’t in. When they searched the place, all they could find were ashes. Everywhere, like. And the fire-alarms in that apartment had been put out, so no-one would know if a fire had been started there. No-one recalls a fire or smelling smoke. But the forensics say that there was a fire started the night of the murders or the day before.

JOHNSON: So it could have been her then? The resident of the top-most apartment? She could have been the murderess?

LEWIS [shakes his head]: Witnesses say she’d been taken into care, three weeks prior to the murders. Apparently, she wasn’t right in the head. Poor love lost her parents, and she lost her mind over it. Or that’s what they’ve said anyway.

 

[Pause]

 

JOHNSON: Where is she now?

LEWIS: Oh, come on! You can’t be–

JOHNSON [angrily]: I said: Where is she?

LEWIS [sighs and is resigned]: In a lunatic asylum, just up the street.

JOHNSON [walking around the table and passed LEWIS]: Onward, then.

 

[Exit LEWIS and JOHNSON]

 

END OF Scene 2.

 

---

 

Scene 3.

 

In BREE’s mind bedroom.

She is seated on the floor, cross-legged, in her unitard.

NIGEL is leaning against a wall – looking bored as always, listening to BREE rant.

 

BREE [angrily]: …Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth – all over-ridden by human flaw. All swerved to err. All destroyed by their desire to meet fatality. Such is the end of all lives!

NIGEL: You mean, besides the fact that they are all fictional characters?

BREE: What does it matter? Same was for Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony, and Cleopatra! What does it matter, fiction or fact? You are not fact, Nigel – do I disregard you?

NIGEL [sounding hurt]: But I am fact. I am real.

BREE: Yes. Just keep telling yourself that.

NIGEL: And anyway – not all humans succumb to some evil and die there. Look at the righteous men of old.

BREE: We are not speaking of those that may or may not have been divinely inspired. We are referring–

NIGEL: Bree, I’m sick of this anti-people nonsense you keep rambling about. You don’t even live with people anymore. You live by yourself, in your room – with little but ‘non-existent’ me.

BREE: Well, I have to live myself, don’t I? I don’t exactly like being what I don’t like! And then there is you, imagination though you might be. You annoy me to my wit’s end.

NIGEL [nonchalant]: Well, maybe I wouldn’t – if you liked what you currently don’t.

 

There is a knock.

The scene changes back to the padded-cell, with BREE in a strait-jacket and a fencing mask.

Enter JOHNSON and LEWIS.

 

BREE: Oh, shut it, Nigel! [Pause] Make me, Bree. [Pause] Stick a sock in it! Real people are here to see me!

[She takes notice of JOHNSON and LEWIS] Oh, Hello.

JOHNSON: Um… Hello.

LEWIS [aside to JOHNSON]: Smooth.

JOHNSON [ignores him]: I am Detective Inspector Johnson. I am here to ask you a few questions.

BREE: Regarding?

JOHNSON: The Murders of Merrick House.

BREE: Merrick House? Where I used to live? [pause] Nigel, I cannot talk to you now. Go away! [Pause] But I haven’t finished talking to you! [Pause] I don’t care! You aren’t real. [Pause] Well, are your real people decent enough to let us finish? [Pause. BREE looks expectantly at JOHNSON.]

JOHNSON: Er… of course. [Draws LEWIS to one side]

LEWIS: Blimey, Inspector, you look mighty shaken.

JOHNSON: Hush, [whispers] this may take more time than I thought.

LEWIS: Or no time at all, given we leave now.

JOHNSON: But questioning–

LEWIS: Oh, stuff questioning. She’s bleedin’ bonkers, she is! Won’t get a single scrap of decent information out of her without playing Twister whilst singing nursery rhymes!

JOHNSON: Lewis, old chap, up you manners!

LEWIS: For what purpose, eh? She probably couldn’t tell you the good from the bad. She’s a loony.

JOHNSON [looking offended]: Yes, well, this here ‘loony’ would have been held in higher regard in another time and place.

LEWIS: What the blazing hell are you on about, Inspector?

JOHNSON: In Ancient Greece, such people were regarded to be touched by Delphi (or Apollo, whichever you fancy). Divinely inspired by a god. People used to pay them heaps to read their fortunes.

LEWIS: You don’t believe in ghosts, but you believe in Greek gods? Perhaps they ought to enroll you here too. Might just work out for you.

JOHNSON: Lewis! [He catches himself and coughs lightly] I did not say I believed it, I’m merely mentioning a historical point of view. This poor dear should be held with some respect – if not as a fortune-reader – and not some animal that you despise.

LEWIS: Yeah, well, maybe if I was an Ancient Spartan king, I would’ve considered it. But I’m not, you see, so I’ll continue my despisin’. You’re not going to get an inkling of something useful from here.

JOHNSON: Yes, [he sighs] you certainly aren’t a king. [To BREE, who appears to be muttering to herself and rocking from side to side] Hello? Are you quite finished, dear?

BREE: [to JOHNSON] Are you a parrot, sir?

LEWIS [aside]: More than he knows.

JOHNSON: No.

BREE: Your speech is much attuned to parrot-fashion, sir. Like you’ve orchestrated it aforehand.

JOHNSON [dropping the subject]: Anyway, the Murders of Merrick House. The incident took place about twenty years ago. What do you know about them?

BREE: What is there to say, sir? Murders happened in Merrick House, by a murderer – who I assume has not as yet been caught or discovered for about twenty years – and you have come asking me – who no-one dares ask anything for fear I may run in circular speech – and that is that.

LEWIS [aside to JOHNSON]: Told you.

JOHNSON [ignoring him]: But–

BREE: But I have a feeling that – of she’s still alive – Sally might know. She was always getting herself into trouble – if my memories aren’t as corrupted as my mind.

JOHNSON: Sally Kink?

BREE [singing]: To what should I owe the favour,

Dear darling buds of spring?

That I should never see you ever,

But of you I ever sing?

Never, never show your bloom,

For fear I might pluck you;

And then you might quickly wilt,

And quickly turn black and blue.

LEWIS [suppressing laughter]: I think she’s lost interest in you, Inspector.

JOHNSON: I think so. [He sighs] Let us go to meet this Sally Kink, then. Perhaps she has some answers that our poor Enlightened Mind does not. [Exits]

LEWIS [shaking his head]: How, on God’s green earth, did a people like the Greeks miss that these ‘enlightened minds’ were senile? [Smiles sadly in BREE’s direction and follows JOHNSON out]

 

END OF Scene 3.

 

- END ACT ONE -

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