Murder at the Manor Crone

A PLAY IN ONE ACT

An elaborate, expensively furnished sitting room. Filled with grand furniture, antiques and jewels. A coffee table sits in the middle, with two leather couches facing each other on either side.
Sitting on one couch is a wrinkled old woman (MRS CRONE) wearing many jewels and an extravagant hat. Holds a walking cane, appears to be very unpleasant. Beside her a younger, dark-haired woman (CAMILLA) is draped across the couch. Wears velvet gloves, fur scarf and a magnificent diamond ring on her left hand. Both women look uneasy.

On the opposite couch is a tall man (DETECTIVE) in a long trench coat and matching hat. His face is unseen under his hat and high collar. Legs crossed, looking calm. Beside him, a shorter, stouter man (POLICEMAN) in a policeman’s uniform. He is also calm. Standing over the table is the mousy-haired maid (VICTORIA). She is the most nervous of all the company.

DETECTIVE: Your home is lovely, Mrs Crone. (admiring room longingly)

MRS CRONE: (stiffly) Yes.

VICTORIA: Sugar, sir?

DETECTIVE: Ah, no thank you.

(VICTORIA places a teaspoon of sugar in his tea anyway, begins to apologise shakily.)

MRS CRONE: Victoria!

(VICTORIA begins to cry.)

DETECTIVE: No, no, it’s perfectly fine! (drinks whole cup in one sip) Very good, very good.

(VICTORIA leaves the room. CAMILLA sighs loudly, drapes a hand across her forehead.)

DETECTIVE: Yes, right! Constable! (claps POLICE OFFICER on the back. His tea splashes on his lap. DETECTIVE does not notice.) Good man.

CAMILLA: So, about my husband, detective? I –

DETECTIVE: He’s dead, ma’am.

(CAMILLA gasps and goes into a small fit. Clutches a hand to her heart before passing out. Everyone notices the ring on her finger as her hand goes limp.)

DETECTIVE: Quite dramatic, isn’t she?

MRS CRONE: (shocked) Dead?

(DETECTIVE looks from MRS CRONE to POLICE OFFICER, who shrugs.)

DETECTIVE: I’m afraid so.

MRS CRONE: No, my son can’t be dead. Impossible! He asked you to come today to protect us! You see, a stranger warned him that two heartless men were going to break into our home and steal our family treasures! We’re in danger! That’s why you’re both here.

DETECTIVE: Oh. (leaning close to POLICE OFFCER) Are we at the right house?

(POLICE OFFICER shrugs again.)

DETECTIVE: Well, terribly sorry, terribly sorry. Your son is indeed not dead, Mrs Crone, nor is this lovely woman’s husband, I’m sure.

MRS CRONE: They’re the same person!

DETECTIVE: Of course they are. Right, we’ll be off then. Delightful tea, Mrs Crone.

(DETECTIVE and POLICE OFFICER stand up.)

MRS CRONE: But you can’t go! You’ve not done what you’re meant to do!

DETECTIVE: (laughing) Oh, I’ve done exactly what I was meant to; just afraid I’ve done it in the wrong house.

(DETECTIVE leans in and kisses MRS CRONE’s hand, then CAMILLA’s. CAMILLA does not move. DETECTIVE makes it obvious to the audience that he has taken CAMILLA’s diamond ring. MRS CRONE looks at CAMILLA strangely.)

DETECTIVE: (seeing POLICE OFFICER’s trousers) Good god, man. Have you wet yourself?

(MRS CRONE lets out a sudden terrified scream. DETECTIVE and POLICE OFFICER jump in alarm.)

DETECTIVE: Good god, woman. What are you screaming about?

MRS CRONE: You’ve killed her! (drops her teacup on the floor, VICTORIA rushes back in the room to clean up.)

DETECTIVE: What! I have not! (pause) Killed who?

MRS CRONE: My daughter-in-law! Camilla!

DETECTIVE: I most certainly did not!

MRS CRONE: She’s dead! You killed her!

DETECTIVE: No, I didn’t!

MRS CRONE: She had a weak heart –

DETECTIVE: I highly doubt that!

MRS CRONE: – And you’ve just scared her to death!

DETECTIVE: Nonsense.

MRS CRONE: Oh! (slumps forward, face in her hands, and begins to cry.)

(DETECTIVE walks over to the couch and feels the pulse of CAMILLA.)

DETECTIVE: Good god.

MRS CRONE: What!?

DETECTIVE: She’s dead.

(MRS CRONE begins to sob again. VICTORIA pats her shoulder.)

DETECTIVE: There’s a murderer in this house, Constable! Find him!

(POLICE OFFICER’s eyes narrow, he begins to search the room.)

DETECTIVE: Mrs Crone, I don’t want you to worry. I’ll find this murderous fiend if it’s the last thing I do!

MRS CRONE: I don’t understand…

VICTORIA: (unsure) It’ll all be alright, Ma’am.

DETECTIVE: (sitting down next to MRS CRONE, ignoring the body of CAMILLA) I’ll need you to ask some questions.

VICTORIA: Don’t you mean answer some questions, Detective?

DETECTIVE: No. (looks behind the women to where POLICE OFFICER is visibly placing expensive objects and jewels in his pockets. MRS. CRONE continues to sob loudly.) Now now, Mrs. Crone would you please calm down. I have a suspect in mind; I just need to gather some evidence and alibis to determine his guilt or his innocence.

MRS CRONE: Alright… Where was the suspect at the time of the death?

DETECTIVE: (amazed) Why, he was here in your lovely home, Mrs Crone!

MRS CRONE: Did he, or she, witness the death (pauses and sobs) of my daughter-in-law Camilla?

DETECTIVE: (even more amazed) Why, yes! Yes, the suspect did witness the death! I say, you’re quite good at this aren’t you.

MRS CRONE: I don’t know what else to ask… (eyes land on CAMILLA’s hand, lets out another shriek.)

DETECTIVE: Good god, woman. What is it now?

MRS CRONE: Camilla’s ring! Her ring, it’s gone!

DETECTIVE: (looking at CAMILLA, gasps) A murder and a robbery! Never fear, Mrs Crone. I know exactly who did this. His criminal prowess isn’t enough to get past my quick wits. (reaches into his trench coat pocket and pulls out CAMILLA’s diamond ring.) Good god, I knew it!

(MRS CRONE and VICTORIA stare at him in horror.)

DETECTIVE: You! (pointing to POLICE OFFICER) You killed the lady! You stole her ring and hid it in my pocket! Oh, you’re a sly devil, you are. (grabs POLICE OFFICER and puts him in handcuffs.)

MRS CRONE AND VICTORIA: But…

DETECTIVE: Don’t worry, ladies. You are in danger no longer. I have the confessed criminal in custody!

VICTORIA: But he’s confessed to nothing! He hasn’t said anything!

DETECTIVE: I know a crook when I see one, ma’am. (reaches into POLICE OFFICER’s pockets, pulls out MRS CRONE’s jewels and artefacts. MRS CRONE and VICTORIA gasp.)

DETECTIVE: (to POLICE OFFICER) You crafty scoundrel! (places CAMILLA’s ring and treasures back into his and POLICE OFFICER’s pockets.) Well, terribly sorry, terribly sorry. Policemen! Can’t trust ‘em.

(And with that he and POLICE OFFICER exit, leaving MRS CRONE and VICTORIA distressed and confused, body of CAMILLA beside them, in a now very empty sitting room.)

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