A Blight of Stars by Michael Legge
ACT I Scene 1
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.
Do you need anything else, Mr. Tainter?
No Peterson, not tonight. Is it all cleaned up out back?
Yes. All cleaned up and locked.
Good, Henry. Thanks.
I'll be going to my room.
He exits. The phone rings. Tainter answers.
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
Who in God's name…
He goes to the door, irritated with handkerchief
in his hand. he opens the front door. There is no
Who the hell? Is that you? Come out. I can see you in
the bushes. I told you never to come here at this
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.
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.
I really appreciate this, Mrs. Fiorini.
Oh, I think it's kind of exciting. Plus it won't hurt
business to have the publicity.
Everyone is always interested in unsolved murders.
Especially a Hollywood murder.
Now you said you wanted the albums with all the
newspaper clippings in them?
Yes, but before you get them, can you give me little
background on yourself?
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.
Kind of like the Lizzie Borden house.
Exactly! That's the east coast attraction for crime
fans and this is the west coast one. We've done well with it.
There are still people alive associated with the case, right?
Oh yes. All quite old, of course. One of the police
investigators some Hollywood people…
So this is the room where it happened.
Yup. Here's where his body was. And this is the
original furniture. No replicas.
Sandy looks at the portrait on the wall.
Nice painting of him.
Yes. We had the painting restored after we bought the
house to use as a museum.
And who is this?
She points to a smaller photo of Mindy Mae Winters.
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.
Wasn't she? She's still alive too.
I'll have to try to talk to her.
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
She must want to forget the past. I know she was
involved in this case either directly or indirectly.
Again, that's what's so fascinating about this case.
There are so many people involved, some many theories.
Well, I guess if you can get the albums for me, I can get started.
Do you have a deadline?
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.
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.
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.
I'll get the clippings. I brought out that little table
for you. I hope it's good enough. Don't you have a
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.
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.
Oh, that's fine.
She exits. Sandy takes out her cassette recorder,
notes books and a thermos. She turns on tape
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.
Whoops. Am I interrupting your recording?
Oh no. I'm just recording my preliminary impression of
the house. Nothing earth shaking.
Quite a lot of info here.
Thanks! I really appreciate your letting me in here to
write. After hours. It's great for atmosphere.
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.
Thanks so much.
Good luck with the book!
Sandy puts her stuff on the table
She opens up the first album, turns on the cassette recorder.
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
Alright, who called this in?
What are you doing here?
Peterson called me after you phoned you. After all, the
studio should know about this.
Maloney has been looking at the body.
Look at this, Lt. This handkerchief was clutched in his hand.
(Looks at monogram)
Maisey Nolan comes in from upstairs. She is a
faded ingenue and light comedian for the studio.
Well, well, Maisey Nolan.
I'm afraid I don't have the pleasure.
Lt. Ober, and this is Sgt. Maloney.
And what are you doing here?
I was with Eddie when he got the call. I thought I
Why were you upstairs? Were you dusting the furniture
or sweeping the floor?
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.
Someone who would stay upstairs after hearing our
sirens and pulling up to the house?
They could have been frightened. Bill had many lady
I take it no one was up there.
Here's an interesting item. Is this yours?
She examines handkerchief.
No, I'm afraid not. Besides all my handkerchiefs are
Isn't that nice? Well this one is. See M? Could that be
I assure you that isn't mine. Besides I don't use such
Ober hands Maloney the handkerchief and he places
it on end table near the corpse.
Now how about the truth this time around? What were you
Please, well…it's rather embarrassing.
What's so embarrassing?
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?
Yes, I do. Did you find them?
No, but if you'll let me…
Miss Nolan, I think you and Mr. Meers should leave.
Right now. Maloney?
Maloney starts to escort them out.
Really, there's no need for the strong arm stuff. My
studio has a lot of pull with your boss…
Yeah, sure. Outside.
You I take it, are Peterson?
You found him and called it in?
When did you find him?
About a half hour ago.
Why didn't you call us right away?
I thought he might still be alive. I tried to see if he
was. Then I called…
The studio. To let them know.
You called the studio before you called us?
Yes, sir. I guess I wasn't thinking right.
Maloney enters with man.
Hey, Lt. This man says he a doc.
You're a doctor?
Yes, I was seeing a patient down the street and I saw
the police cars here. I thought you might need some
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.
You been drinking?
No, sir. That was there when I came in.
This man appears to have died from a stomach
Okay, Doc, thanks.
As the doctor leaves, he snatches the handkerchief
off the end table.
Should I call the coroner now?
He has walked over to the body and looked down at
Wait a minute. There's blood seeping out from under
him. Help me turn him over.
Maloney comes over and turns him.
Stomach hemorrhage, my ass. He's been shot in the back.
Peterson! You said you found him? You didn't hear a gunshot?
My room is way in the back of the house. I wouldn't
hear a bomb go off.
I've seen you before, haven't I?
No, sir. I don't think so.
Yes, I have. You were at the station. I remember now.
Morals charges. You were arrested for bothering boys.
Oh, you like boys, Peterson? Huh?
Those charges were dropped.
Yeah, after the DA got a phone call from who knows who?
I called you! Why would I shoot him and do that?
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.
I'm not worrying about that now. Let's go.
LIGHTS GO BACK TO PRESENT
Okay, so that's the first go around. A few days later
Peterson made a statement which got leaked to the