Sleuth (1972) Script

"Here, of course, it is the same, apparently, without rational explanation.

"But it's quite easy, when you come to think of it logically, in fact.

"Doctor Grayson was never in London at the time of the murder.

"In fact, the good doctor stayed at a small hotel in Melksham

"on the night in question

"and then returned to Broughton Gifford on the 2:40 train, "disguised as Sir Mortimer Turret's valet, Burton, "making sure his arrival was noted by the ticket inspector.

"From then on, his plan was simplicity itself.

"Knowing it was Burton's day off, "he had no difficulty in entering Hellrate Hall unobserved

"and murdering Sir Mortimer with the arrow from the astrolabe, "which he had previously sharpened on the stone-knife grinder

"by the scullery window.

"Remember my query about brass knives, at the time?

"I was worried about those metal shavings. "

"By Jove, Lord Merridew, sir. You don't miss a trick, "but since you appear to know so much, sir," continued the Inspector, humbly, "I wonder if you could explain just how the murderer managed

"to leave the body of his victim in the middle of the tennis court

"and effect his escape without leaving any tracks behind him in the red dust.

"Frankly, sir, we in the police force are just plain baffled. "

St John Lord Merridew, the great detective, rose majestically, his huge Father Christmas face glowing with mischievous delight.

Slowly he brushed the crumbs of seedy cake from the folds of his pendulous waistcoat.

"The police may be baffled, Inspector," he boomed, "but Merridew is not. "

"Thirty years ago, the murderer, Doctor Grayson, "was a prominent member of the Ballet Russe, "dancing under the name of Oleg Graysinski.

"Though the years had altered his appearance somewhat, "yet his old skill had not deserted him.

"He carried the body to the centre of the court, "walking on his points

"along the white tape which separated the service boxes

"and from there he threw it seven feet into the court, "close to the base line, where it was found, "and then, with a neatly executed fouetté, "he faced about and went back the way he had come, "thus leaving no traces.

"And that, Inspector, is Merridew's solution. "

Hello?

Are you there?

Mr Wyke?

Mr Wyke?

Who's there? It's me, Milo Tindle.

I think you're expecting me.

Yes indeed, so good of you to come. Won't you join me?

Well, I have been trying to do exactly that for quite some time.

Here we are.

Yes, my outdoor inner sanctum. I designed it myself.

Provides for me just that extra bit of privacy that an author requires.

I must say you're not an easy man to drop in on.

Just so. So, you're Milo Tindle. I'm Andrew Wyke.

Welcome to Cloak Manor. Thank you.

I found your note when I came down from London this afternoon.

Oh, good, yes. I hoped you'd be here this weekend, so I pushed it through your letter box a little earlier today.

Well, now, what will you have to drink?

Vodka and tonic, please. Of course.

How are you settling in here at Laundry Cottage?

Very well, thank you.

Using it for weekends and that sort of thing?

Yes, that sort of thing.

Vodka, I don't seem to have any out here. Is...

Gin will do. Good.

Yes, a charming little place, Laundry Cottage.

IdeaI for relaxations of all kinds.

Unfortunately, I don't have time for them myself.

As a matter of fact, I've just dictated the dénouement of my new book, Death by Double-Fault. I must say it's gone extremely well.

Now then, soda, soda, soda...

Dear.

I don't seem to have any tonic here either, it's awfuI.

Here, shall we go indoors? Whatever you like.

Good.

Tell me, do you agree that the detective story is the normaI recreation of noble minds?

I'm afraid I don't know very much about noble minds.

Is it supposed to be?

I'm quoting from Philip Guedalla, a biographer of the '30s.

The golden age when every cabinet minister had a thriller by his bedside and all detectives were titled.

Before your time, I expect. Somewhat. Let me carry that.

Thank you so much. Very good of you.

Yet, you know, even today, I still set my works among the gentry and a great many ordinary people seem to enjoy them in spite of our classless society.

I imagine they do a great deaI of your stuff on television.

God forbid, I'd never permit it. And, incidentally, it's not "stuff".

No, television is not my line of country at all.

That's detective fact, not detective fiction.

And therefore, no recreation for noble minds?

You have it in a nutshell, my dear Milo, if I may so address you.

You might as well, we're all on first name terms these days, Andrew.

Of course we are, and you and I do need to be friendly, do we not?


How would you like your drink? With ice?

With ice?

Yes, please.

What does he do?

That's Jolly Jack Tar, the JoviaI Sailor.

He and I have a really splendid relationship.

I make the jokes and he laughs at them.

Here, mein freund, put that behind your necktie.

He didn't laugh. No, he wasn't meant to.

I thought you were trying to be funny. No, you'll know it when I am.

I see.

Cheers. - Prost.

What's this? That is an intensely complicated

4th Dynasty blocking game, called Simera.

I've been studying the thing for months, but I'm still only a beginner.

I wonder if you'd mind putting that back.

It's taken me rather a long time to get it there.

That's the centre column, fourth from your right.

Well, now, I understand you want to marry my wife.

Forgive me raising the matter, but as Marguerite is away for a few days in the North, visiting relatives, I thought this might be an appropriate moment for you and me to have a little chat.

I see.

Well, is it true?

Yes, with your permission, of course. Why not?

You seem to be a personable enough young man, nicely spoken, neatly dressed in brand new country gentlemen's clothing.

I'm sure you won't mind me asking you a few questions about your background, parents, and so forth.

My mother was born in Hereford, a farmer's daughter, and my father is an Italian, who came to this country in the '30s from Genoa.

In the '30s? Is he Jewish? No, Catholic, very devout.

Of course, I'm not religious at all myself.

My dear boy, you don't have to excuse yourself to me.

We're all liberals here. I have no prejudice against Catholics.

Not even the lapsed Catholics.

In fact some of my best friends are lapsed Catholic.

Tell me about your father, was his name Tindle, too?

No, his name was Tindolini, but if you had a name like that in those days you had to "make-a the ice-a cream-a".

He was a watchmaker and he wanted us to become English, so he changed it. Become English?

Was he a successfuI man? No, as a matter of fact, he wasn't.

You can't expect to make a living these days just repairing watches.

He went broke in the end. I always told him he would.

That must make him something of a burden to you.

Yeah, it does a bit.

He never went back, you see.

He's still in Soho, still thinks he had it good all those years.

And you, what do you do?

Don't you know?

I have a hair dressing salon in South Kensington.

Casa Tindolini.

You can use that word these days, can you?

People don't take it for an ice cream salon?

No, the birds... The ladies seem to like the continentaI touch.

English too wholesome for them, eh? Yeah, well, it's not chic, you see?

We found that it pays to provide the Latin lover atmosphere.

Of course, we lay it on a bit thicker in the Brighton shop, they're less sophisticated down there.

I mean to say, in London, half of them have actually got...

Latin lovers?

And where do you live? Above, behind or below your shop?

I lease a mews house nearby. It's convenient and attractive.

It's Georgian, actually.

From Genoa to Georgian in a single generation, eh?

Not bad.

But I doubt whether an 18th century architecturaI gem in South Kensington whispers quite the same magic to Marguerite as it does to you.

She adores old houses. She can't wait to live in it.

I understood she was already living in it, once or twice a week at least.

I'm not mistaken, am I?

And that your motive in renting the cottage down here was to increase the incidence of this bi-weekly coupling.

Is that what you've asked me over here to chat about?

Never speak ill of the deadly, eh?

If I choose to say that my wife converses like a child of six and makes love like an extinct shellfish, I shall.

And I don't need to ask her lover's permission to do so either!

Thank you for the drink. Oh, now, now.

I thought you were brought up in England.

Surely you know it's not done to be rude.

You were being rude about a woman I'm in love with.

On the contrary, I was reminiscing about my wife.

It comes to the same thing. Things mostly do, you know.

I'll wager that in a year's time it'll be you who'll be being rude about Marguerite and I will be being rhapsodic, and have quite forgotten how intolerably tiresome, vain, spendthrift, self-indulgent and generally bloody crafty she really is!

Can you afford to take her off my hands?

Afford to? Support her in the style to which she was not accustomed before she met me, but now is?

Well, I'm not a millionaire, but I'm not starving either.

The shop in London's doing all right, the one in Brighton's almost breaking even.

By this time next year... This year, next year, sometime, never.

What you're really saying is that, at present, you're skint.

We'll survive. SurvivaI is scarcely the point.

Presumably, when you're married to Marguerite, you'll want a place on the Riviera, a fast car, couple of mistresses.

Presumably? Just because you need those things?

Oh, no, just this fading mansion, the slowest Bentley in Wiltshire, and only one mistress, I'm afraid.

Tea, the Finnish bird, who runs the sauna in Salisbury.

You know about Tea, do you?

Marguerite and I have no secrets from each other.

Not even mine, it seems.

Tea is a Grelian goddess.

Her golden hair smells of pine and her cobalt eyes are the secret forest pools of Finlandia.

I hear that she's a well-scrubbed blonde with all the sex appeaI of a second-hand jeep.

Not so, dear boy, you can take it from me.

Tea is an engaging little trollop and suits me mightily.

Mind you, she takes a bit of keeping up with.

It's a good thing I am pretty much of an Olympic sexuaI athlete.

Yes, I suppose these days you are concentrating more on the sprints than on the long distance stuff.

Not so, dear boy, I'm in the pink of condition.

I could copulate for England at any distance.

Red.

Well, as they say in the Olympics, "It's not the winning, it's the taking-part that counts. "

Are you going to marry her?

Oh, no, no, no. I just want to live with her.

So, what's stopping you?

Basically, the firm of Prurient and Pry Ltd, whom you and Marguerite have seen fit to employ.

Now, now, don't be so innocent.

Those nicotine stained private detectives have been camping outside Tea's flat for the last week.

It was an insurance policy to keep you from changing your mind about the divorce.

How did you know I wasn't having you watched?

Why not? Afraid of what you might find out?

Or didn't you think that was possible? Now, don't start doing a fertility dance.

Of course I knew that they'd find you and Marguerite rutting away like crazed weasels, but why should I pay good money to have something confirmed which I'd known for months?

Black.

And, if you knew, why didn't you do something about it?

Of course, I had to assure myself that you and Marguerite were going to be a fixture.

You see, I want to lose the dear girI for life.

Not just a two week Tindolini perm, set and touch-up.

Good shot. Yes, it was. Yellow.

You see, you don't know her as well as I do.

You think you do, but you don't.

If you faiI her, by which I mean cancelling the account at Harrods, or short-changing her on winter in Jamaica, she'll be back to me in a jiffy, mewing for support.

And guilty wife or no, she may be entitled to get it.

Green. Money isn't everything.

And what if she is used to luxury? Whose fault is that?

It's not a fault, if you can afford it, but can you?

Knowing you to be hard up. Brown.

Has she shown any signs of mending her ways in these last idyllic three months?

Blue.

When, for instance, did she last turn down a Dom Perignon in favour of, no offence, mind you, the persuasive charms of Dago Red?

Black.

No, I'm not joking.

How much has this brief liaison cost you, so far?

And that old dad of yours in Soho, when did you last send him any money?

We have talked about money. Often, I've told her we spend too much.

She takes no notice?

None.

A silvery laugh, a coquettish turn of the head.

Something like that.

Well, it's to solve this little problem that I've invited you around here tonight and this, as they say, is where the plot thickens.

What plot?

Whatever are you doing with that cue in your hands?

I was waiting for you to miss. Foolish boy.

Once upon a time, my dear Milo, there was an Englishman called Andrew Wyke, who, in common with most of his countrymen, was virtually castrated by taxation. To avoid totaI emasculation his accountants advised him to put a considerable part of his money, some £250,000, into jewellery.

His wife, of course, was delighted.

Marguerite never told me that you had given her any jewellery.

Nor did I, of course, it's still mine, as well she knows.

We just thought it would be more amusing for her to wear it than for me to bank it. After all, it's fully insured.

I see what you mean by the plot thickening.

I'm glad you follow me so readily.

You see, I want you to steaI that jewellery.

Tonight a choice, with Marguerite away, it's an admirable opportunity.

What about the servants?

I've sent Mr and Mrs Hawkins away to the seaside for a 48-hour paddle.

They won't be back till Sunday night, so, you see, the house is empty.

Cheers.

Well, what do you say?

It sounds distinctly criminaI. Well, of course it's criminaI.

All good moneymaking schemes in England have to be these days.

Now, the jewellery, when it's not in the bank, lives in an ingeniously hidden safe somewhere here in the study.

Where, for instance, would you look for it?


A good likeness, would you say? Of course, it's 17... No, 18 years ago.

I don't think you'd hide your safe behind it.

I've seen that in too many movies.

Good thinking! All right, then where? Are you up to finding it?


There are certain skills best acquired in public bars, I suppose.

But whatever made you think? You and your games.

That is the only game in this room.

Very clever. Anyway, the jewels are in there.

All you have to do is steaI them, sell them abroad, and live happily ever after with Marguerite.

AII I have to do is claim the insurance and live happily ever after with Tea.

Is that what you asked me over to hear?

A grotty little plot to defraud the insurance company?

I'm sorry you found the plot grotty.

Personally, I thought it was all rather nicely clear and simple.

Look, supposing I do as you say and nick...

SteaI the jewels. If I sell them under my own name, I'll get picked up the moment you report the loss.

If I sell them to a fence, always presuming I could find one, he'd carve me up, I'd get a fraction of their value.

Not with the fences I know. What fences would you know?

The finest in Europe. Prudent, yet prodigaI.

I first met them when I was researching for The Deadly Affair of the Druce Diamond. Surely you've read it.

Pity. It was an absolute corker.

In any case, on your behalf, I have already contacted a certain gentleman in Amsterdam.

He'll treat you very well.

You won't get the full amount for the jewels, of course, but you'll get about two-thirds, say, £170,000.

You'll get it in cash.

A hundred and seventy thousand quid? Cash.

Why should this fellow pay so much?

Because he will get what no fence ever gets, title to the jewels.

You see, in addition to stealing the jewels, you have also to take the receipts I got for them.

Now, what does my insurance company discover as it swings ponderously into action, antennae pulsing with suspicion?

It discovers that someone impersonating Andrew Wyke sold the jewels for £170,000 cash, but they still have to pay me.

Hard cheese!

Think it over. Take your time.

Look, I know this sounds stupid, but have you had any experience?

I mean, have you ever actually committed a crime before?

St John Lord Merridew would have a pretty lean time of it if I didn't think up any crimes for him to solve.

St John Lord who?

You're joking. What about?

Who is St John Lord Merridew?

Why, even Marguerite, when I first met her, knew and adored him.

He's my detective, known to millions throughout the civilised world.

With a nose for smelling out eviI superior to anything on the force.

Oh, yes.

The police are always stupid in the kind of books you write, aren't they?

They never solve anything.

It's always the amateur sleuth who knows what's going on.

But that's detective fiction. This is fact, this is reaI.

I'm well aware of the difference, my dear Milo, but I'm also aware of my own not inconsiderable capabilities.

Of course, if you doubt them or don't trust me...

I'm not sure that I do.

That's why it's a very difficult decision to make.

Not at all difficult, perfectly simple.

You have an expensive woman and no money.

Yeah, but why don't you steaI the bloody jewels and simply hand them over to me?

I should have thought that was obvious. The burglary has to look reaI.

This house has actually to be broken into.

Then why don't you break into it?

It's a question of agility for one thing, dear boy.

Milo, baby, hey, do me a favour.

Let me handle this, you know what I mean?

Crime is my bag. I got this caper all worked out to the last detaiI.

£170,000.

Cash, tax free.

It'd take an awfuI lot of Tindolini's tonsoriaI teasing to raise that kind of money.

All right, I'll do it.

Where do you want me to break in? Oh, no, no. Not so fast.

You've got to get disguised first. What for?

Well, suppose somebody saw you climbing in?

Here? In the middle of nowhere?

I could hardly find this place with a bloody map!

You never know.

A dallying couple, a passing sheep rapist.

Besides, dear boy, don't forget the clues we've got to leave for the police and the insurance company.

We don't want your footsteps in the flower beds, or your coat button snagged on the window sill.

No, no, no! You must be disguised!

All right, how?

Please to follow me, number one son.

You know, my dear Milo, in the good old days, before television, that is, people constructed the pleasures of life for themselves.

They amused each other and were in turn amused.

They didn't just sit and stare.

Why, in this house there was scarcely a weekend without its treasure hunts, charades, games of infinite variety, make up and dress up.

There was virtually no end to the concealment of identity, but surely Marguerite has told you.

Actually, she never mentioned it.

It was all some time ago.

A few scenes from some of my books, lovingly recreated by an artist friend.

The necrophilic barber of Tunbridge Wells and the doltish pie poisoner from the Simple Simon murders.

And here's my favourite. Now, this really is ingenious...

Andrew, we were looking for a disguise.

Quite so, dear boy, so we were.

Now, here we are, the old dressing up basket, our old treasure chest of make-believe. Let's see what we've got.

This should suit. Item, one black face mask, one black flat cap, a striped jersey and a bag marked "swag".

Why not a neon sign with "burglar" on it?

You may have a point.

One of my favourites, the ecclesiasticaI house breaker, Brother Lightfingers.

Perhaps we shall never know the identity of the cowled figure seen haunting the grounds of the old Manor House on the night of the terrible murder.

If living identity had happened.

There are those to this day who claim to hear the agonised screams of the victim echoing through the chimney pots!

For Christ's sake, Andrew, stop mucking about!

Haven't you just got an old pair of sneakers, a raincoat and a sock I can pull over my head?

Old pair of sneakers and a sock? Milo, where's your sense of style?

We must give our crime the true sparkle of the '30s, a little amateur aristocratic quirkiness.

Don't you feeI the need to give your old arch enemy, Inspector Plodder, of the Yard, a run for his money?

Monsieur Beaucaire. Milo, this is you.

A full-bottomed wig, lots of beauty spots

and all the snuff you could want.

Groovy!

Look, I might even do the whole thing in drag.

Kiss me, you fooI.

I can fight it no longer, darling.

If you must go, don't look back, Andrew...

Jesus Christ! Who's that?

So that's where you've been, Auntie Borden, naughty girI.

Shall we decide on the dress, then? No, I don't like it.

Well, you are a choosy one, aren't you?

There doesn't seem to be a very great deaI left.

We'll just have to settle for Joey.

Joey. Now you're talking.

A clown!

Can't you see it all?

The sawdust ring, the tinseI, the glitter, the lights!

The elephants, the high wire, the roar of the crowds.

There is Milo Tindle, the kiddies' delight!

Now, this is all right. Off with your jacket!

That's right, your shirt and your trousers.

What for?

We don't want the police to find any fibres from this beautifuI frock.

You've no idea how clever they are in those laboratories of theirs.

We won't take any risks, you and I.

That's right, down to your smalls. Don't be shy.

I know a well brought up boy when I see one.

Folds his trousers at night, huh?

Hey, slap shoes. Do you know I've always wanted a pair of these?

Yes, my boy.

My father took me to the palladium when I was a kid.

I might have caught on in show business, you know?

You never know, a lot of my friends did.

They got to the top. You know how? They danced their way through.

You know, I guess vaudeville's loss was hairdressing's gain.

Talking of gain, are we ready? Yes!

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.

The grand parade.

Make way for Tindolini!

The kiddies' favourite. Crazier than Kelly, greater than Grock!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, in the centre ring, the king of the clowns, Milo Tindolini!

He thinks I'm funny. You are funny. Turn it off!

Now then, one glass cutter for breaking in with, one piece of putty for holding on to the cut piece of glass so it doesn't clatter to the ground and awake the ravenous Doberman Pinscher you suspect lurks inside and one stethoscope.

Stethoscope? Safe breakers for the use of.

The theory is you tried to pick the lock of the safe by listening to the tumblers, you failed and had to resort to dynamite.

Dynamite? What for? Safes for the blowing open of.

But you can leave all that to me. Now, how about a bizarre touch?

Perhaps a tear-drenched pom-pom impaled upon a splinter of glass.

Why not take a full page ad in The Times and sell tickets for the cops to come and watch?

Pom-poms.

Well, I was only trying to lighten Inspector Plodder's day for him, but if you don't like it...

There is no such animaI as Inspector Plodder outside your detective stories.

It'll probably be some sharp-eyed bloke who knows his job down to the last detaiI!

You can bet your bottom dollar on that!

And I can't move in this outfit! These bloody boots are ridiculous!

But you loved them so. Do keep them on! Can't you see the headlines?

"Wiltshire paralysed, police baffled, where will Big Boots strike next?"

Right in the arse, that's where, mine.

All those boots will tell the police is that a true professionaI realising that the flower beds would carry footprints, decided to disguise his own.

Now, do come along. Now, have you got everything?

Glass cutter, putty and...

Yes, yes, yes... I've got everything. And the stethoscope?

Milo, you are maudlin. You are the complete clown.

Thank you.

Very clever!

Now, come along with me and listen carefully.

Go around the house to your left, and cross the lawn diagonally.

In the far corner you'll find a shed, in the shed you'll find a ladder.

Bring it back here and lean it up against the great window in the main room, so that you can break in on the upper landing.

Understanding?

Upper landing? Yeah.

I suppose you couldn't come and hold the ladder steady for me, could you?

Certainly not. I don't want my footprints in the flower beds.

I'm not very good at heights. Well, don't look down.

Concentrate instead on thick bundles of crisp pound notes, 170,000 of them in cash, tax free.

Good luck, Milo.

Don't forget your gloves.

What a way to make a living.


Did you hear a noise, puss?

And was that a footstep in the garden?

No, no. I must be mistaken. There it is again.


What's that?

Someone outside, prowling around the grounds. I'm certain of it.


Now, now, now. We mustn't imagine things.

Who would harm a kindly old spinster like me?

The front door's locked and the windows, too.

Hey, no one could possibly break into our snug little home.

For Christ's sake, Milo, they couldn't have made more noise on D-day!

The bloody glass came out, my bloody boot got stuck, and I fell down the bloody ladder!

Well, the bloody police must've heard it all the way to bloody Salisbury.

I'm sorry!


Somehow, I thought you'd be better than that at climbing ladders.

Now for the jewels. Not straight away.

You're not supposed to know where they are.

You'll have to hunt about a bit first, disturb a few things.

If you'll be good enough to follow me Miss Rebecca...

A turnstile to the bedrooms?

One way or another, one always pays to get in.

The mistress' bedroom, or would you know your way about?

The mistress or her bedroom? It's irrelevant.

Now, Milo, where to begin?

The bottom drawer, the trousseau drawer, the frillies!

Take them out, vandalise them.

Come on, Milo, you're a burglar, not a lady's maid.

Don't pat them, ravage them.

Come on, Milo.

Excellent. Now, tear that.

That's better.

Now, where would m'lady hide the trophies of her skilled accomplishments?

Her rubies, emeralds, diamonds, sapphires interleaved among her lace-edged underclothes, stuffed into the false bottoms of hat boxes, sewn into the hems of always the latest, had-to-have, at-once-discarded Parisian dresses, or perhaps secretly concealed in the back of this?

What better safe deposit for deceit?

How often has it reflected the bright eyes that betray?

The mouth that lied and kissed and lied again!

I thought it was me who was supposed to be doing the ravaging?

So it was. So it was. Merely demonstrating, I was.

Be a good fellow. Stamp on that, will you?

Why me? I'm afraid if I broke it I'd get seven more years of Marguerite.

Thank you.

Now, where's your bedroom? My...

It's my turn to demonstrate. My dear Milo, having failed to find the jewels among the lady's personaI possessions...

It'd be a bit suspicious, a professionaI burglar playing favourites.

No, on the contrary, an intelligent burglar would immediately look for the next most likely hiding place.

Which is where? The inevitable safe.

Just blow it open and steaI what's in it.

Come on, Milo.

Right.

What kind of charge you got here? Enough for the job.

I learnt about explosives for The Diary of the Dynamited Duchess. Ready? Stand by for the countdown.

Five, a four, a three, a two, a one, a blast off.


I've got it. I've got it.

What are you shaking it for? It's a jeweI box, not a maraca.

I thought it might have a secret catch. It's locked, you see?

Well, smash it open.

Jesus, you have all the killer instinct of a 20-year-old Sealyham.

It's a very pretty box, it seemed such a waste.

Dear God. Moses looks upon the Promised Land.

They're fantastic.

Look at this ruby necklace. Never much cared for it myself.

Always thought it made Marguerite look like a blood sacrifice.

I wish my old man could see these. He never knew what it was all about.

Sitting there, every night, hunched over those watches of his.

Squinting his eyesight away, and for what?

To give me an education at a second-rate public schooI.

I suppose he thought he had to.

That he owed it to me and the brand new Anglo-Saxon world he'd adopted.

Silly old bugger.

Never thought his son would be tucking a fortune away into his pocket, eh?

Family reminiscence, no matter how touching, is something we just haven't got time for at the moment.

Do you mind?

Now, this is the fun bit, where the householder, wrenched from his dreams by the sound of the explosion, surprises the burglar, and in the ensuing fight, the house is sacked.

Why is it necessary for you to surprise me at all?

Because, if I've seen you at close quarters, I can always describe you to the police, wrongly.

"Did you get a good look at the intruder's face, sir?"

"Yes, Inspector, I did. I don't know if it was a trick of the light, "but somehow, his face seemed not wholly human... "

How much sacking do you want done?

A decent bit, I think. A few chairs upturned, ornaments put to the sword, that sort of thing.

You know, convincing but not Carthaginian.

You surely don't call that convincing.

Milo.

Let the literature fly to the four winds, let the contents of drawers be strewn like autumn leaves.

Hey, that's my new manuscript!

Let my secretary sort it out.

Enough? For a starter.

Now, let's see what accident does to artifice, seconds out of the ring.

What seconds? What for? The ensuing fight, remember?

Hey! Well, you're the underdog, aren't you?

You got the support of the crowd, haven't you? What more do you want?

You've asked for this. Don't let me out.

My wife's gonna have a baby.

Now, listen, tiger, don't get all het up.

This fight is fixed, remember? This is where I take a dive, and you knock me out cold!

For reaI? Naturally.

When the police come, I'll have to show them a reaI lump.

Yes, I thought you'd like this bit.

You're dead right.

Now, what shall I use?

Not my opaline, if you don't mind.

There it is. The originaI blunt instrument.

The poker.

Right. Now, where do you want it? Now steady.

Now, don't get carried away.

It's not a murder weapon you are talking about, you know?

No? No.

We're discussing an object from which I receive, in the classic formula, a glancing blow, which will raise a lump without actually cracking the cranium.

Why don't I just keep tapping you lightly on the head with the poker, untiI a lump comes up?

Quite frankly, I've rather gone off the whole thing.

Now, I know, you can always tie me up and gag me and leave me to be found by the cleaning woman.

"Lords of mercy, Mr Wyke!

"Whatever do we be doing there all trussed up like a turkey cock?

"God bless you, sir. You're trying out something

"for one of them creepy new books of yours.

"I know, now don't you mind me. I won't disturb thee.

"I'll just be getting on with me dusting. "

Andrew, if I don't knock you out, how have I tied you up?

That's a very good question.

Come to think of it, you could always hold a gun on me.

We professionaI burglars don't fancy firearms much.

We are English, after all.

You could always conquer your Anglo-Saxon scruples.

Besides, it will be my own revolver, which you had taken from me during the struggle.

Is that loaded? Well, of course.

What would be the use of it, otherwise?

And I think it ought to go off once or twice as we tussle, blowing to smithereens the usuaI priceless heirlooms.

Why? To lend credence to my story of your holding it on me, while you gagged me and tied me up.

All right? Yeah. Yeah, I suppose so.

Right. Now, what to sacrifice?

What about this old codger up here?

Put that down at once!

That's my Edgar Allan Poe award, given me by the Mystery Writers of America for one of Merridew's greatest triumphs, The Slaying of Jack Sprat. Ironically enough, for one who would eat no fat, he was murdered by an injection of concentrated cholesteroI.

Now.

What do you say to the demolition of that gaudy, old Swansea puzzle jug?

Puzzle jug?

To solve the puzzle, pour some water out of it.

Very funny. Marguerite thought it clever.

Which ought to tell you something about Marguerite.

Let us expose its shortcomings.

Well, you might've said good shot.

You bloody maniac! You could've killed me!

Tut. Not dead-eyed Wyke, the demon gunman of Cloak Manor.

Now, what next?

The last tender memento of our Venetian honeymoon.

I will not resist the temptation.

Shucks. Gosh darn, if I ain't missed the dog-gone critter.

You hit what you were aiming for, all right.

Now don't be peevish, Milo.

There's nothing like a little bit of mayhem to cheer one up.

Did you ever know Charlie Begby? You know damned well I didn't.

He was the very finest shot I ever did see.

I once saw him bag six ducks with one shot, when he was blind drunk.

The only thing was, they were china ducks in his auntie's drawing room. And I said, "But Charlie, you can't do that. It's the closed season. "

Told you he always laughs at my jokes.

Even the bad ones.

True, not as funny as all that.

There's an open season all the year round for some creatures.

Seducers and wife-stealers, for example.

Now, that's a bad Italian joke.

You should know, it's your country of origin, is it not?

No, actually, I'm English. I was born here in England.

Were you now? Actually?

Born in dear old, cradle-of-the-parliamentary-system who-screws-my-wife, merits-a-large-pink-gin, England?

Sense-of-humour, fair-play England, I mean.

Don't you believe it. That's the way a foreigner talks.

What he really thinks in private is, "Filthy, wet country!

"Ugly, red, cold men

"who don't know how to treat their pale, pink, cooI women. "

And what brought all this on, then?

What are you doing with that gun? Pretty obviously pointing it at you.

I can see that, but why?

Because I'm gonna kill you.

You are gonna kill me?

Jesus, here we go again with another one of your games.

Another one? No, it's the same one.

We've been playing it all evening. It's called, "You're going to die, and no one will suspect murder. "

You... You mean all that steaI the jeweI stuff was just...

I invited you around here to set up the circumstances of your own death.

The break-in, the disguise, jewels in your pocket, the house-holder aroused, grappled with the thief, and gun going off during the struggle and then the finaI fataI shot.

Knock it off, Andrew, for God's sake.

It ain't funny no more. It ain't, ain't it?

Can you find a flaw in it? Marguerite.

The cops'll trace a connection between Marguerite and me.

What nonsense. They'll know that's why you did it.

How was I expected to know who you were?

The law will have every sympathy for me.

Property's always been more highly regarded in England than people.

Even Marguerite will assume that you were, after all, just an adventurer after her jewels.

A petty sneak thief, who, in the end, found larceny less burdensome than matrimony.

The way you're finding murder less burdensome than alimony?

Wit in the face of adversity. Good!

You've learnt something from the English.

And here's something else, a sporting chance.

Why don't you make a run for it?

And give you the chance to shoot me down in cold blood?

Hot blood, you mean. But I'll tell you what I'll do.

I'll close my eyes, and count up to 20 slowly.

That should give you a reasonable chance. Go on, Milo, off you go.

One.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and a 20.

You left them in that beautifuI coat. Oh, my God.

Let's have you out of that car, shall we?

Those lovely boots back on again, please.


Now, of course, the only question left to be decided, is where the police shall find you.

Of course, you could be Iying sprawled over the desk in the study, like countless colonels, in countless studies, or propped up in the log basket like a rag doll.

Which do you fancy, early Agatha Christie or vintage S.S. Van Dine?

For Christ's sake, Andrew, you're talking of a murder!

Of killing a reaI man! Don't you understand?

I shouldn't use a gun at all. Perhaps best of all, a reaI 1930s murder weapon, the mashie niblick.

I've got one in my golf bag.


Dear, old mashie niblick.

I think you'll be found in the fireplace, in a fair old mess.

The body lay on its back.

Its limbs, grotesquely splayed like a broken puppet.

The whole head had been pulped as if by some supernaturaI force.

"My God," breathed the Inspector, blanching.

"Thompson, you'd better get a tarpaulin.

"Excuse me, sir, but was all this violence, strictly necessary?"

"I'm sorry, Inspector.

"I'm afraid I lost controI of myself when I saw him

"handling my wife's intimate garments. "

It's too bloody elaborate. I'll tell you what.

I think the scene the police find is simply this.

After the fight, you flee up the stairs, back to your ladder again.

Go on, Milo, flee.

Up you go.

Up you go.

I catch you on the landing, and in the renewed struggle, I shoot you.

Nothing succeeds like simplicity, don't you agree, Milo?

On the morning of his execution, King Charles I put on two shirts.

"If I tremble with the cold," he said, "my enemies will say it was from fear.

"I will not expose myself to such reproaches. "

We must also attempt this Anglo-Saxon dignity, as you mount the steps to the scaffold.

Look, I can't give anything back, can I?

I mean, if it hadn't been me, it would've been somebody else.

Please.

I'll go away.

You won't never hear of me, no more.

Why, Andrew?

Why me?

Don't sniveI.

I must know why!

I'm amazed you have to ask.

I hate you.

I hate your smarmy good looks, and your easy manner.

I'll bet you're easy in a ski lodge, easy on a yacht, easy on a beach.

I knew you'd wear a gold charm round your neck.

And I'll bet your chest is hairy, and in summer, matted with sun oiI.

Above all, I hate you because you're a cowing, blue-eyed wop.

And not one of me.

A creeping, hairdressing seducer of silly women.

A jumped-up pantry boy, who doesn't know his place!

Did you really believe I'd give up my wife and jewellery to you?

That I'd make myself that ridiculous?

Why not?

You're not in love with her.

Whether I love her or not, I found her.

I've kept her.

She represents me.

Once, she was in love with me.

And now, she's in love with me.

And that's what you can't forgive, isn't it?

And after me, there'll be others.

You're gonna kill them, too?

You're mad! You're a bloody madman!

And you are a young man, dressed as a clown, about to be murdered.

Put the mask on, Milo. No, no.

Put it on. No, please.

Put it on.

Finally, at your moment of dying, you are yourself.

A snivelling, dago clown.

Farewell.

Puncinello. Please!


Good evening, sir.

I was beginning to think there was no one at home.

Indeed. And who might you be?

Detective Inspector Doppler, sir, of the Wiltshire County Constabulary.

I'm sorry to be calling so late, but I need to have a few words with you on a very important matter.

Better come in.

Wiltshire County Constabulary, you say?

That's right, sir. I'm normally based in Salisbury, but your locaI man here asked me to pop over and give him a hand.

Those were the days, sir. Tunes you could hum.

There's a time for humming, Inspector. Would you care for an aquavit?

No thank you, sir. I've had my supper. Well, perhaps you'd prefer a brandy, or are you going to tell me you never drink on duty?

No, sir. I always drink on duty.

I can't afford to on my own time.

Caviar.

So that's what that looks like.

I've often wondered.

Can't say I care for it all that much, sir.

Tastes like fish eggs.

Fancy.

Now, let me take that nasty taste away with a splendid brandy.

Do follow me, won't you, Inspector?