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Written by Dahl Clark, acted by those whose names follow
Claudia Sheffard, private investigator Mandy DíEredita
William, the mailman and accused killer Chris Flowers
Zora Andrea Matthews
Julius Smith, lawyer and Min Namkung
Elizabeth, private investigator and Claudiaís partner April Klaussen
The Killer Dahl Clark
Act 1, Scene 1
[This story takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana in the year 1865. It is Sunday night.The first scene is set within a large house. The front door is positioned at the rear left part of the stage behind the curtains. The living room is the entire stage. Footsteps are heard behind the door, and then Julius appears from the curtains. He spends only a few seconds walking to the other side of the room, front right, to get a glass of water on the table when he hears a knock at the door. And again. And again. Julius walks back to the door.
Julius: "Whoís there?" he says calmly. [No one answers. He opens the door (slides back the curtain) and staggers back when he sees a large figure with a blade in its hand lunge toward him. He collapses onto the ground, pinned by the weight of the killer. He utters a scream, and then it fades away as the blade sinks into his chest. Death is immediate. The killer runs to the door, accidentally dropping the murder weapon next to the body. As the curtains close behind her, all is silent.
Act 1, Scene 2
[Several hours later, in the early morning, William the messenger walks towards the door. Footsteps are heard as he walks up. Julius is still on the floor when William knocks on the door.]
William: "Hello, Julius. Itís William. I brought your letter youíve been waiting for for the past two weeks." [No one answers.] "Julius, itís William! Get out of bed!" [Again, no answer. He decides to come inside to see where he was.]
William: [coming through the curtains] "Julius, hello! Answer me! I hope this is not one of your tricks a---[He freezes as he catches sight of the body.] (gasping) "Oh my God, Julius!"
[He runs towards the body and leans over it, dropping the letter beside it. His face shows a gruesome expression. Then he reaches for the murder weapon next to the body and holds it up in the audienceís direction. He mutters under his breath very lightly something that cannot be heard.]
[Just then, Zora walks to the door. Her footsteps cannot be heard. She walks in since she and Julius are very close friends. William turns to see her, and they both stare at each other.]
Zora: "No, no, Julius! My God, what did you do?!" [She pauses for a moment with a frightened expression on her face, then continues.] "You murdered him! You killer!"
William: [stands up, holding the murder weapon in his hand] "I didnít kill him! He was---"
Zora: [screams terribly loudly] "Help! Help! Murderer!"
William: "Silence, woman! I tell you, he was already dead when I arrived. I didnít kill him!"
Zora: "Then what is that in your hand?"
William: [looking at the murder weapon] "No, itís my letter opener, but I didnít do it. It was right next to the body this whole time. I just picked it up!"
Zora: [backing up toward the door] "Yes, your letter opener. I donít know what to believe, William. But I am not getting involved in any of this. Youíve got the murder weapon in your hands, and you were here with the body for I donít know how long. As far as I know, you are the murderer! Youíre responsible!" [She turns and runs out through the curtains.]
[Down the street (behind the curtains), Zoraís screams can be heard. She just frantically screams to no one in particular. Footsteps get fainter as Zora moves farther away from the house.]
William: [letting the letter opener slide out of his hand onto the floor] "Yes, I am. But no one will know. Julius, if only you could tell me who did this to you. You were a good friend. Farewell."[He stands up and briskly walks to the door.]
[Just then, when William has reached the door, faint footsteps are heard coming. William runs out through the curtains.]
Claudia: "Stop where you are! Stop!" she cries. [William and Claudia are both behind the curtains. Williamís footsteps fade as Claudiaís become louder.]
[Claudia enters through the curtains. She looks at the body and around the room (at the audience). At first sight, she turns and calls out the door.]
Claudia: "Elizabeth! Come quick!" [Footsteps approach. Then Elizabeth appears. Both are standing next to the door.]
Elizabeth: "Yes, Claudia. Oh! Someoneís been killed!"
Claudia: "Obviously." [Together they approach the body and stand over it.] "Heís been stabbed in the chest. He died on contact."
Elizabeth: "What can you tell? Thereís not much. The killer did a good job on hiding the evidence."
Claudia: [reaching for the murder weapon] "You cannot say there isnít much here. The killer left fingerprints and this letter on the floor. Thereís blood on it. And also, I saw this man---he was leaving this room before I came here. He looked like a messenger, and he could be a suspect."
Elizabeth: "What did he look like?"
Claudia: "He had light-colored hair, and that was the most I could see of him. But I feel certain that I know him from somewhere close."
Elizabeth: "Blond-haired messenger, I know him! William, we call him. He delivers letters to us every week or two or so. Iím sure about it."
Claudia: [standing back up with Elizabeth] "Would you do me a favor? Call the coroner and tell him to get this body out of here. Itís starting to go stale."
Elizabeth: [going to the door] "Okay. Meet me at Williamís home at an hour past noon. Heíll be home then, and weíll be able to question him."
Claudia: [following her partner] "I will. This is one of the worst murders I have ever seen. Iíd certainly want to know who killed Julius. I knew him very well."
[Claudia and Elizabeth walk out through the curtains. Their footsteps fade as they walk away from the house.]
Act 1, Scene 3
[Stage clears. This scene now takes place in Williamís house on Monday afternoon. The door is at the right rear section of the stage. A chair is placed at the front left corner, opposite the door. The scene begins with William sitting down on the chair reading a book (a magazine or a small book). It is one in the afternoon, and footsteps are being heard coming toward the door.]
Elizabeth: [knocking on the door] "William? Itís me, Elizabeth. Can I come in?"
William: [laying the book down on the floor and standing up] "Wait. Yes, come in."
[Elizabeth comes through the curtains with a letter in her hand. She smiles at William, who looks at her and then walks over to him.]
Elizabeth: "Hello. I apologize for visiting you at this time of day, but I do have some very important questions to ask you."
William: "What kind of questions?"
Elizabeth: [pauses for a moment] "My friend Claudia saw you leaving Mr. Smithís home early this morning around six or seven. And moments later, she walked in and quickly called me. Julius has been murdered."
William: [wearing a shocked expression] "Oh my goodness. He has?"
Elizabeth: "You sound like you already know about it."
[Just then, Claudia appears from the curtains. No footsteps were heard. She appears slightly out of breath and walks over to Elizabeth.]
Claudia: "Iím sorry Iím late, Elizabeth. I had to meet with someone. Whatís going on?"
William: "Thatís nice. Everyone just walks in when they feel like it. Nothing much, except for you."
Elizabeth: "Well, I was about to ask William about the murder. William, were you in Juliusís house this morning?"
William: [appearing surprised] "I had to---well, I stopped by to visit. He was alive then."
Claudia: "You had to do what?"
William: [becoming nervous] "I told you, I stopped by to visit. Who are you to be asking me that question?"
Claudia: "Elizabeth and I are private investigators. I have evidence that you were there at the house early this morning. You are a suspect."
William: [shocked and enraged] "A suspect! How can you accuse me of Juliusís death! What kind of god-forsaken evidence do you have!"
Elizabeth: [holding up the letter in her hand in front of Williamís face] "You are a messenger, arenít you?"
William: [not recognizing the letter] "Why, yes! Where did you get that from?"
Claudia: "It was found next to the body. Thereís blood on the back."
[William takes the letter from her hand and looks at it. He turns away from the two and gives the letter back to Elizabeth.]
William: "It was sent to Julius. I tell you, I didnít do it! Zora was there before I was. She could have done it!"
Claudia: "How do you know?"
William: "She left before I did. I can prove it! Ask her!"
Elizabeth: "Do you know where she is now?"
William: "Iím not sure, but she might come home later on around eight or nine for the night. I wouldnít wait for her; sheís rarely on time."
Claudia: "I want you to know that right now, you are the only person that we can point to for committing the murder. Just donít do anything else that may incriminate you like leaving town or going back to the murder scene."
William: "Now why would I do something like that?"
Claudia: [backing up to the door, followed by Elizabeth] "Just donít." [Claudia and Elizabeth walk through the curtains. William walks slowly over to the chair and sighs as he sits down.
Act 1, Scene 4
[Stage clears. Setting is now at Zoraís living room, ten oíclock at night. The door is at the middle left section, and there is a chair on the middle right facing towards the door. A table is at the very corner of the right rear section. It is night. Zora walks in through the curtains, looking tired, over to her chair. She is going to take a short nap.]
Zora: [in a sigh] "Oh, this has been a busy day."
[She lays back on the chair and closes her eyes. The lights grow dim as she does so. Then suddenly, there is a sharp knock on the door. And another. And another. She does not answer immediately. The knocks repeat themselves in succession, again. And again.]
Zora: "Wait! Iím coming." [She slowly rises from the chair and walks to the door.] "Who is there?" [No one answers her. And so she opens the door.]
Zora: [breathless] "No! Please donít, whoever you are! No!"
[She backs away in terror toward the middle right of the stage. She unknowingly backs into the chair and turns to the front right portion of the stage. The killer, who cannot be seen as well, walks toward Zora with a letter opener in her hand. And finally, as she reaches the wall, the killer lunges toward her. But oh! she makes a quick move to the front center of the stage.]
Zora: "Stay away from me! Leave me alone! I beg of you, please!"
[Running away wasnít enough, though. The killer stands only two feet away from her, and she collapses on her knees. The killer raises the weapon, and stabs her in the chest. She screams, but not loud enough. She holds onto the letter opener still in her chest, clutching the killerís hand.]
Killer: [poised above her] "Shhh, soon it will all be over. Arenít you happy? I thought you were."
Zora: [saying silently] "No, it wasnít me. You know who it was. It was Claudia."
[She had no more to say. She drops to the floor, limp and lifeless. Zora has been murdered.]
Act 2, Scene 1
[The stage clears. This scene takes place inside a private room within a popular cafe downtown. It is Tuesday evening. The door to the room is at the middle right part of the stage, and there is a table at the center of the room (center stage). There are two chairs at opposite ends of the table. Outside the door there are the sounds of people constantly talking (persons not acting now talk loudly to each other) and footsteps walking back and forth. Claudia and Elizabeth both walk through the door, each carrying a cup of coffee (empty cup). They sit down at the table.]
Claudia: "Elizabeth, I hope that this case will end very soon. The killer still hasnít been found yet. There has to be a few leads somewhere around town."
Elizabeth: [drinking from cup and then placing it down on the table] "I know exactly how you feel. Itís good that we went home and got some rest last night instead of going over to that womanís house."
Claudia: "Zora. I used to know her very well. We were really close. But one day she just changed. Never was the same Zora I used to know."
Elizabeth: "Maybe we should pay her a visit soon. Maybe Williamís right. Maybe sheís involved in this somehow. Iíve never known William to lie before."
Claudia: [drinking her coffee] "Thereís a first time for everything, you know. But I understand your advice. Letís finish our coffee first, though."
[A short moment passes while they drink their coffee. But suddenly, someone runs through the curtains. It is William, out of breath. The two women swing around to see what was happening. William stands at the front right section of the stage.]
William: "Iíve been looking for you! I had to ask some people, but Iím terribly glad I found you! Zora---sheís dead!"
Claudia: [drops her cup on the table] "Dead?"
[Claudia and Elizabeth jump up from their seats, leaving their coffee behind. They run out the curtains, followed by William. The talking slowly silences as the scene comes to a close.]
Act 2, Scene 2
[The scene clears. Again we are at Zoraís house. It is late in the night, around midnight. The door is at the middle left, and the chair is at the middle right. A table is at the rear right corner. Zoraís body is at the front center of the stage. Standing over it, the Coroner examines the body.]
Coroner: "This has to be one of the worst. I guess killers prefer midnight for some reason." [At that moment, Claudia and Elizabeth run in.]
Elizabeth: [looking at body] "Another letter opener." [She walks forward, followed by Claudia, and looks closer at the murder weapon. "Itís the same killer that killed Julius."
Coroner: "Youíre those investigators, arenít you?"
Claudia: "Yes, we are. Who found her?"
Coroner: "This man that came in. Says he didnít do it, and then runs off. Here, you want to look at the body? Sheís been dead. You can tell from the glare in her eyes. Call me when youíre done." [he walks out the door]
Claudia: "I donít know. I just donít know. One minute sheís alive, and the next, sheís dead. I should have talked to her last night. I could have saved her."
Elizabeth: "You did what you thought right. Itís not your fault. Itís whoever is killing these people. We have to find a lead."
Claudia: "Letís go home. Weíll talk to William in the morning. He has to know something about all this. Call the coroner."
Elizabeth: [standing up] "Coroner, weíre finished. Thank you."
Coroner: [walking in] "Oh, it wasnít a problem. The problem is trying to prepare her for the funeral. Thatís a pretty big hole in that womanís chest, you know."
[Claudia and Elizabeth head for the door. The coroner leaves first, followed by the investigators. The footsteps fade as they walk away into the distance.]
Act 2, Scene 3
[The stage clears once more. It is past midnight, and the two women have left each otherís company to retire for what was left of the night. This scene takes place in Claudiaís living room. There is a door at the rear center curtain and a chair at the front center facing the door. The back of the chair is turned toward the audience. Claudia sits on the chair, asleep (head cocked to the side). A table is on the right of the chair, and she leans on it. The lights are dimmed. After a while, she hears a knock on the door. She awakens immediately and stands up.]
Claudia: "What? Whoís there?" [She slowly but hesitantly walks over to the door. Nobody answers her. There is a deafening silence as she calls again.] "Whoís there!" [Again she listens for some response, but there is none. So she decides to open the door. She looks from one side to the other outside the curtains and sees no one. All is quiet.]
Claudia: "Must have been the trees knocking."[She turns, facing the audience, to return to her chair when from nowhere a dark-clothed figure silently appears from behind the curtains with a letter opener. Claudia is unaware of the intruderís presence as she walks slowly back to her seat. The killer quietly follows behind her and then before she turns to sit down, the killer grabs her mouth with a gloved hand.]
Claudia: [screaming in short, muffled bursts] "Help! Help!" [She struggles to free herself from the killerís grasp, but after a short while, she calms down and controls herself. The killer is now positioned on the left side behind the chair, both facing the rear curtains.]
Killer: "Hello, Claudia. Nice to see you again. I---have a secret to tell you, if I may."
Claudia: [speaking from under the glove] "What!"
Killer: [stressfully saying] "Itís relatively important. I just wanted to tell you---youíre too close. Thatís why, tonight, youíre going to die."
[Claudia wriggles free of the killerís glove, but not screaming. If she did scream, the killer would certainly finish her off then and there. So she spoke faintly but firmly and loud enough to be audible.]
Claudia: "But why? Why me? If youíre going to kill me, then tell me before I die why you killed Julius and Zora. For what purpose!"
Killer: [laughing] "Oh yes, Claudia Sheffard, the great private investigator. The townspeople say youíre good. But Iím better. I just happen to know that if I tell you the real reason I murdered those people and you, only by chance, happen to escape from this room, I will be caught. Now any good killer shouldnít get caught, just like any good private investigator shouldnít be exposed to the public, right?"
Claudia: [having no idea what the killer was talking about] "Exposed? What do you mean, exposed?"
Killer: "You know exactly what I mean. All of the little thoughtless shortcuts you took at the expense of your other clients to hide the fact that once---no, more than once---you were directly responsible for the deaths of innocent people. And you call that justice."
Claudia: [silent for a brief moment] "Justice! I had to---there was no other choice. They died for a purpose, and a good one at that."
Killer: "You have no idea how much searching I have done to find you. I killed Julius thinking that he was the one, and then Zora. Youíre wondering why? I knew everything that was going to happen. I was listening to your every conversation. I knew. Zora was too close to telling you what happened."
Claudia: "But how? She wasnít even there when Julius was killed!"
Killer: "Oh, I thought you would be smart enough to reason. Zora was involved all this time! Didnít you read the letter William dropped? Matthews. Matthews is Zoraís last name. She knew Julius was going to die that day. She knew everything and started to feel guilty about it."
Claudia: "Zora Matthews?"
Killer: "Precisely. So I thought she would be happier if she didnít have to feel guilty any more. Now she feels much better."
[Troubled by the killerís words, Claudia decides that she cannot take any more of this. She makes a quick jump out of the chair but is held back by the killerís arm around her neck.]
Claudia: [screaming] "Let me go!"
Killer: [stooping over her and speaking closely] "Iím terribly sorry, but you just broke the rule. Timeís up. Now youíre going to die."
[The killer raises the weapon above her head, ready to kill her, but suddenly Claudia gives the killer a quick jab in the side. The killer drops to the floor as Claudia runs to the door. She turns back to see the killer stare deeply at her.]
Claudia: "Thanks for telling me everything. You wonít get away with anything. Youíre caught. You can kiss your future good-bye." [She then turns and runs out the door. The scene closes.]
Act 3, Scene 1
[The stage clears. It is early morning, right before sunrise. The scene takes place in a grassy field nicknamed Klasserís Sea for its lack of everything except grass. She had already ran to Elizabethís house to tell her about her close call with death. Now they were running from the killer who was following in close pursuit. The stage has nothing on it; it is empty. Claudia and Elizabeth emerge from the right center portion of the curtains, out of breath. They cannot run any more after running for half an hour.]
Claudia: "God, please help us!" [They sluggishly walk to the front right.]
Elizabeth: "We cannot go on any further. Weíre in the middle of nowhere! Klasserís Sea doesnít end for another five miles or so. We have to stand and fight!"
[They stop at the front center, catching their breath.]
Claudia: "How can we? Sheís got a knife. Sheíll stab us to death!"
Elizabeth: "Get in control of yourself! Claudia, weíll make it. I promise. Itís only a little while longer."
Claudia: [sarcastically speaking] "Till we die."
[Rapidly footsteps race up to the curtains and then the killer appears. She holds the letter opener in her hand and then slowly walks over to the two.]
Killer: "Itís nice of us to meet once more. Thereís three of us here. Only one will leave. And I have an appointment tonight at the restaurant."
Claudia: "Youíre wrong. Gravely wrong."
Killer: "Well, weíll just see about that."
[The killer lunges at the two investigators, but they move apart and she misses them. Again, the killer repeats her move, facing the front right stage. She raises the weapon up, ready to strike Claudia, but miraculously Claudia knocks the killer down onto the ground with both fists interlocked. Claudia now faces the audience and the killer is below her. The murder weapon slides out of her hand and toward the far front left portion of the stage. The killer rises up, but Elizabeth hits her back down.]
Elizabeth: "I canít hold her for long! Get the knife! Get the knife!"
[Claudia runs over to the letter opener, grabs it, and returns quickly. The killer had succeeded in throwing Elizabeth off of herself onto the ground and was preparing to kill her. But she needed the knife. The killer stands and heads toward Claudia, looking for the murder weapon (in the grass). Claudia has hidden the weapon behind her back, out of the killerís sight.]
Claudia: "Stay back! Stay away from us!" [The killer ignores her. She approaches Claudia]
Killer: "If I had that letter opener now, Iíd stab you so many times that theyíd have to rename this place the ĎDead Sea.í But there are always other ways of killing people, as you should know already. Iíll just have to experiment until I find the best way, right?"
[She ran for Claudia. But unknowingly, Claudia pulls out the knife. The killer does not see it in her wild fit of rage, but Elizabeth stands up and watches. She is silent. The killer had frozen in her steps, advancing toward Claudia but stopping about six inches away from her body. The entire scene freezes.]
[Claudiaís face shows a blank expression as she gazes into the killerís eyes. Neither of them move until a few seconds later the killer slowly and dramatically collapses to the floor. The knife remains in Claudiaís hands. The killer, on her knees, drops on her side facing the audience. She appears stiff and her eyes pierce the stillness around them. Elizabeth looks up high to the rear center stage at the rising sun, and at that moment the killer forever closes her eyes. It is all over.
Claudia drops the knife, now a murder weapon, and looks at the body. Elizabeth runs up to her partner and hugs her. Claudia silently cries.
Elizabeth: "Itís over! Itís all finally over!"
Claudia: "I killed her. Just like I killed all of those people eight years ago. In the name of justice. I just canít go on living like this anymore. I just canít!"
[Claudia reaches down and picks up the knife. She looks at it in her hand.]
Elizabeth: "Everythingís going to be all right! Trust me."
Claudia: " No, you donít understand. You canít even imagine what I did eight years ago! I wasnít the person you know now."
Elizabeth: "Well, I donít care what you did. All I care about is you. Thatís all that matters now."
[Claudia turns away from the audience and Elizabeth. She slowly but steadily lifts up the knife to herself.]
Elizabeth: "Claudia, What are you doing?"
[She does not answer.]
[Claudia stabs herself. Her back juts out a bit as she drops the knife onto the grass. She collapses to the ground.]
Elizabeth: [worried] "Claudia! Claudia!" [She now realizes what Claudia has done.]
Claudia: [muttering silently but still audible] "Iím sorry, Elizabeth. So sorry. But---but you wouldnít---understand."
Those were Claudiaís last words as she laid on the ground, peacefully dead. She had committed suicide to spare the troubles of having to live with the fact that she was no better than the others that she had thoughtlessly murdered in cold blood. No one would ever have to know or find out the truth about Claudia Sheffard, indeed the greatest private investigator in New Orleans. Even though she had ended her life, she did it for a good reason and for a just cause. She was a murderer and that was it, then and there. At least now she would rest in peace.
Elizabeth stood alone on that glorious new day, amidst the bodies of two people she felt she knew for a lifetime. Yes, it truly was all over. Today was a new day, and she would have to bend her schedule a bit to find a new partner. Or maybe she should work alone. Better work and better pay. After all, what good was there in being a private investigator if you didnít work privately? Well, there was plenty of time to think about that issue. Right now she would have to call the coroner and answer a few questions about what happened. And when that was over with, what was that idea? Private Eye Investigators---no, Private Eye Services. She always liked that name for the business.Yeah, that was it. Private Eye Services. Next case?