A Blight of Stars by Michael Legge


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


ACT I Scene 1

The 1920s

William Davis Tainter comes downstairs, a glass of wine in his hand

He sits on the sofa, sees a handkerchief on the cushion and picks it up

He smells it, then laughs

He picks up a bottle of white powder on the table beside him and wraps
it in the handkerchief

Peterson, the chauffeur, enters from the kitchen door.

PETERSON
Do you need anything else, Mr. Tainter?

TAINTER
No Peterson, not tonight. Is it all cleaned up out back?

PETERSON
Yes. All cleaned up and locked.

TAINTER
Good, Henry. Thanks.

PETERSON
I'll be going to my room.

He exits. The phone rings. Tainter answers.

TAINTER
Hello? Oh good. I thought you might be Carla. Yes, I
still have it here. I haven't gotten rid of it yet.
Maisey, I didn't make you give it to me just so you
could take it back. I'm going to throw it in the toilet
right now. No! Don't come over here! I can't have
people seeing you coming around at all hours. We'll
talk tomorrow. Good night.

He hangs up the phone. He shuts the lights off and
exits upstairs. The door bell rings. Tainter comes
back out.

TAINTER
Who in God's name…
He goes to the door, irritated with handkerchief
in his hand. he opens the front door. There is no
one there.

TAINTER
Who the hell? Is that you? Come out. I can see you in
the bushes. I told you never to come here at this
hour…

A hand with a gun is seen beyond the open door. It
fires once as Tainter tries to run away. He is hit
in the back and fall behind the couch on his back.

The door closes.

Scene 2
The time is now the mid-60s

The living room of the former film director, William Davis Tainter

It has been kept in the 20s motif since his murder

There is a door SL to the kitchen and SR to the
outside. At the rear is the beginning of stairs
leading to the second floor

Enter Mrs. Fiorini followed by Sandy Kendell.

SANDY
I really appreciate this, Mrs. Fiorini.

FIORINI
Oh, I think it's kind of exciting. Plus it won't hurt
business to have the publicity.

SANDY
Everyone is always interested in unsolved murders.
Especially a Hollywood murder.

FIORINI
Now you said you wanted the albums with all the
newspaper clippings in them?

SANDY
Yes, but before you get them, can you give me little
background on yourself?

FIORINI
Oh surely. My husband and I bought this house about ten
years ago. From the Tainter family; his surviving
brother owned the house. But he had closed it up after
the murder. Sometimes it was almost bought out by a
business but the deal always fell through. No private
party wanted it: it disturbs most people to live in a
murder house. Then my husband and I thought to buy it
and make it a museum and give tours since there's still
a lot of interest in the murder.

SANDY
Kind of like the Lizzie Borden house.

FIORINI
Exactly! That's the east coast attraction for crime
fans and this is the west coast one. We've done well with it.

SANDY
There are still people alive associated with the case, right?
FIORINI
Oh yes. All quite old, of course. One of the police
investigators some Hollywood people…

SANDY
So this is the room where it happened.

FIORINI
Yup. Here's where his body was. And this is the
original furniture. No replicas.

Sandy looks at the portrait on the wall.

SANDY
Nice painting of him.

FIORINI
Yes. We had the painting restored after we bought the
house to use as a museum.

SANDY
And who is this?

She points to a smaller photo of Mindy Mae Winters.

FIORINI
That is Mindy Mae Winters. She was a teenage star of
the time. She was in quite a few of Mr. Tainter's
movies. I think she is 15 years old in that picture.

SANDY
Pretty kid.

FIORINI
Wasn't she? She's still alive too.

SANDY
I'll have to try to talk to her.

FIORINI
Good luck with it. I've tried to talk to her but she's
hard to get ahold of. She rarely answers her phone. The
maid does and I think she has orders to shoo people
away.

SANDY
She must want to forget the past. I know she was
involved in this case either directly or indirectly.

FIORINI
Again, that's what's so fascinating about this case.
There are so many people involved, some many theories.

SANDY
Well, I guess if you can get the albums for me, I can get started.

FIORINI
Do you have a deadline?

SANDY
Oh no. This is my baby, the book I've wanted to write
for a while. No others writers really explored this
case so my book will be breaking new ground. I hope.

FIORINI
It seems kind of unusual to me to have a woman
interested in such a lurid subject. If you don't mind
my saying so.

SANDY
Things are changing and anyway, what intrigues me about
the case is not just that it's unsolved, but it's the
mix of all the colorful and even tragic people.

FIORINI
I'll get the clippings. I brought out that little table
for you. I hope it's good enough. Don't you have a
typewriter?

SANDY
No, I'm the world's worst typist. I dictate notes into
my recorder and have someone type it out for me. It's
one of the newer ones with the built in microphone.

FIORINI
Technology is moving too fast for me. I'm sorry you
can't take the albums and documents out of the house,
but my husband insisted they don't leave the premises.

SANDY
Oh, that's fine.
She exits. Sandy takes out her cassette recorder,
notes books and a thermos. She turns on tape
recorder.

The Tainter house resembles the set of a drawing room
comedy of the flapper era. The rug has still visible
blood stains. A portrait of Tainter hangs on the far
wall. He looks handsome and distinguished, even
prudish, but what set of circumstances precipitated his
death? Did it have anything to do with the angelic
looking girl whose portrait looks up at the grand
painting of him?

Fiorini comes back with the books.

FIORINI
Whoops. Am I interrupting your recording?

SANDY
Oh no. I'm just recording my preliminary impression of
the house. Nothing earth shaking.

FIORINI
Quite a lot of info here.

SANDY
Thanks! I really appreciate your letting me in here to
write. After hours. It's great for atmosphere.

FIORINI
It's like I said. The book will help the museum, so
we're helping each other. Just make sure you lock the
door on the inside when you leave and whenever you want
to write here, just come in little before our closing
time. I'm always here. If you need to call me at home,
here's my card.

SANDY
Thanks so much.

FIORINI
Good luck with the book!

She exits

Sandy puts her stuff on the table

She opens up the first album, turns on the cassette recorder.

SANDY
Very nice. The clippings are in order of occurrence. At
first glance it seems to be a straightforward account
of what happened that night. The police arrived at
12:33 AM and found Peterson, the chauffeur, standing in
the living room. Also present were Edward Meers, the
head of publicity for United Masters Studio. The corpse
was on the floor face up behind the sofa. The investigating
officers were Lt. Frank Ober and Sgt. Vincent Maloney.

As she sets up the scene verbally the characters
take their places.

LIGHTS TRANSITION TO THE PAST

OBER
Alright, who called this in?

PETERSON
I did.

OBER
What are you doing here?

MEERS
Peterson called me after you phoned you. After all, the
studio should know about this.

Maloney has been looking at the body.

MALONEY
Look at this, Lt. This handkerchief was clutched in his hand.

OBER
M.
(Looks at monogram)

Maisey Nolan comes in from upstairs. She is a
faded ingenue and light comedian for the studio.
(To Meers)

OBER
Well, well, Maisey Nolan.

MAISEY
I'm afraid I don't have the pleasure.

OBER
Lt. Ober, and this is Sgt. Maloney.

MALONEY
How do.

OBER
And what are you doing here?

MAISEY
I was with Eddie when he got the call. I thought I
could help.

OBER
Why were you upstairs? Were you dusting the furniture
or sweeping the floor?

MAISEY
(Laughing)
We could have used you in some of our one reeler
comedies, Lt. No, I just went to see if there were
anyone else in the house.

OBER
Someone who would stay upstairs after hearing our
sirens and pulling up to the house?

MAISEY
They could have been frightened. Bill had many lady
friends.

OBER
I take it no one was up there.

MAISEY
Just memories.

OBER
Here's an interesting item. Is this yours?

She examines handkerchief.

MAISEY
No, I'm afraid not. Besides all my handkerchiefs are
monogrammed.

OBER
Isn't that nice? Well this one is. See M? Could that be
Maisey?

MAISEY
I assure you that isn't mine. Besides I don't use such
cheap perfume.

Ober hands Maloney the handkerchief and he places
it on end table near the corpse.

OBER
Now how about the truth this time around? What were you
doing upstairs?

MAISEY
Please, well…it's rather embarrassing.

OBER
What's so embarrassing?

MAISEY
Mr. Tainter had some very personal letters I had
written to him and I just didn't want them to get out.
You know what I mean?

OBER
Yes, I do. Did you find them?

MAISEY
No, but if you'll let me…

OBER
Miss Nolan, I think you and Mr. Meers should leave.
Right now. Maloney?

Maloney starts to escort them out.

MEERS
Really, there's no need for the strong arm stuff. My
studio has a lot of pull with your boss…

MALONEY
Yeah, sure. Outside.

OBER
You I take it, are Peterson?

PETERSON
Yes, sir.

OBER
You found him and called it in?

PETERSON
Yes.

OBER
When did you find him?

PETERSON
About a half hour ago.

OBER
Why didn't you call us right away?

PETERSON
I thought he might still be alive. I tried to see if he
was. Then I called…

OBER
Who?

PETERSON
The studio. To let them know.

OBER
You called the studio before you called us?

PETERSON
Yes, sir. I guess I wasn't thinking right.

Maloney enters with man.

MALONEY
Hey, Lt. This man says he a doc.

OBER
You're a doctor?

DOCTOR
Yes, I was seeing a patient down the street and I saw
the police cars here. I thought you might need some
medical assistance.

OBER
Ah huh. Well, you can take a look at the body, Doc. We
just got here. but we don't what he's dead from.

The doctor examines the body. Maloney spots wine
glass on table. He nods toward Peterson.

MALONEY
You been drinking?

PETERSON
No, sir. That was there when I came in.

DOCTOR
This man appears to have died from a stomach
hemorrhage.

OBER
Okay, Doc, thanks.

As the doctor leaves, he snatches the handkerchief
off the end table.

MALONEY
Should I call the coroner now?

OBER
Yeah, but…

He has walked over to the body and looked down at
it.

OBER
Wait a minute. There's blood seeping out from under
him. Help me turn him over.

Maloney comes over and turns him.

MALONEY
Stomach hemorrhage, my ass. He's been shot in the back.

OBER
Peterson! You said you found him? You didn't hear a gunshot?

PETERSON
My room is way in the back of the house. I wouldn't
hear a bomb go off.

MALONEY
I've seen you before, haven't I?

PETERSON
No, sir. I don't think so.

MALONEY
Yes, I have. You were at the station. I remember now.
Morals charges. You were arrested for bothering boys.

OBER
Oh, you like boys, Peterson? Huh?

PETERSON
Those charges were dropped.

MALONEY
Yeah, after the DA got a phone call from who knows who?

PETERSON
I called you! Why would I shoot him and do that?
(Understanding)
One of those calls, eh? You look like you're in a tough
spot now, Peterson. I don't know if anyone can pull you
out of this one. Take him downtown.

OBER
I'm not worrying about that now. Let's go.

LIGHTS GO BACK TO PRESENT

SANDY
Okay, so that's the first go around. A few days later
Peterson made a statement which got leaked to the
press.

[end of extract]


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