by Jacquelyn Wells
Franklin Dial, M, 40s - 60s, a private eye
Betty Nicholson, F, 30s - 50s, an anxious wife
Agnes Reece, F, 30s - 50s, a widow
Mildred Meadows, F, 30s - 50s, Agnes Reece's secretary
Thomas Nicholson, M, 30s - 50s, Betty's husband, singer &
for the movie
Edward Marten, M, 30s - 50s, dancer and a grip for the movie
Lola Seabright, F 30s - 50s, owner of the River View Inn
Time and Place
Act I Scene 1: Santa Barbara, Calif
The rest of the play takes place in Monte Rio,
ACT I SCENE 1 - JANUARY 15, 1942 - SATURDAY
DIAL enters from the bar, crosses stage left to the dining room
and nods to the audience. He takes off his hat and trench coast
as he talks. He sits on a bar stool near the front of the room.
This can be his station (mostly) when he talks to the audience.
What was supposed to be a simple tail job, turned into a murder
yesterday. It all started a week ago, on Friday night, around
6 oclock, just nine days after 41 rolled into 42.
Id had the kind of week that dogged my heels. Id spent
all that day working the phone at my office in Santa Barbara,
trying to collect on a few past-dues. No luck. I was tapped. I
was tired. My eyes were as scratchy as a 78 after the 103rd play.
I needed a holiday. I needed a scotch rocks--a half a dozen of
them. I needed a dame--just one. I was almost out the door, tongue
directing feet to that whisky, when I heard it ring. Some wiser
part of myself told me I shouldnt answer it, but I never
listen to that know-it-all. The voice on the other end of the
phone told me she wanted me to follow her no-good husband. She
had a few more choice things to say about him, none of them nice.
My heart wasnt in it, but my wallet was. Hell, Id
never had good luck with dames.
ACT I SCENE 2 - JANUARY 9, 1942 - FRIDAY NIGHT
B. NICHOLSON enters from stage right, the kitchen side and stands
waiting, as if outside DIALs office
She must have been calling from down the street, because she was
there in less than five minutes. Inspecting her form was the perfect
balm for my tired peepers. She had more curves than Lombard Street
in San Francisco. She didnt look like the kind of doll a
man would want to cheat on, but then I guess it takes all kinds.
Maybe he wasnt too bright or maybe she wasnt too kind.
Trying to figure out what makes a couple stay together can be
like walking in quicksand. Marriage: highly overrated.
DIAL stands, crosses right and makes B. NICHOLSON welcome
Betty Nicholson. Your office isnt very big.
I like it that way... . Mrs. Nicholson-
Call me Betty.
You seem like a nice woman-
I am. A nice woman. I didnt think they had offices this
small on State Street.
Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.
I prefer to stand. Will you help me?
Suppose you tell me more. You say your husbands in ... what
was it? Monte Rio?
Thats right. In the Russian River Valley up in Sonoma County.
Theyre filming a scene for a movie. Holiday Inn with Fred
Astaire and Bing Crosby. Tommys a singer with Paramount.
Youre a long way from home. What are you doing up here?
(pause, shes been caught in an omission)
Hollywoods only a couple of hours away. My folks live up
here in Santa Barbara, ... ah Montecito, and I didnt want
Tommy to find out I was having him tailed. He can get pretty mean,
especially when hes been drinking.
Lots of private dicks in Hollywood. He cant know them all.
Cant take the chance on making him mad.
So, will you help me, Mr. Dial? I can pay. I have my own money.
Franklin. That depends, Betty. What is it you want me to do exactly?
Find out what hes up to.
That sounds wide open. Can you pin it down a bit.
I know Tommys got another woman, the two-timing louse. Women
always fall for him; hes a handsome brute. I know he took
her with him. He can talk women into anything. He can talk Eddie
Edward Marten. Hes a dancer on the film. He does whatever
Tommy says; I wish hed stand up for himself. Theyve
gone up there together. I dont trust them together. Eddie
acts like a gentleman; talks real polite, ... but
Sounds like a real desperado.
... still I wonder if hes hiding something.
Who am I tailing? Eddie or your husband?
Oh! My husband.
Are we talking divorce? Do you want pictures?
No! Yes. No divorce, but I do want pictures.
What makes you think your husbands cheating?
Its what he does best. That and drink.
DIAL offers her a handkerchief
(to the audience)
Never know what to say when a dame cries.
(to B. NICHOLSON)
Betty, its going to cost you plenty of dough for me to go
up to Sonoma County-- just to take pictures of your husband with
another dame. You can hire a man up there much cheaper.
I can afford it. How much?
Thirty bucks a day, plus expenses. Why dont you just go
on up and see for yourself?
How about if we make it twenty-five a day and you pay your own
(to the audience)
She fluttered her lashes at me.
Thirty bucks with expenses.
Twenty-five dollars ... and ... expenses, and Ill give you
another fifty if you get it done fast.
Ill need some dough to start.
A century should do it.
Take this ... fifty dollars. Its all Ive got right
now. Ill get you the rest later.
B. NICHOLSON hands him cash
DIAL doesnt take it
Im good for it. I have money. Listen, my parents have plenty,
they live in Montecito. I just dont carry around that kind
DIAL reluctantly takes the cash
Expenses can mount up pretty fast. Ill need some dough for
Let me know where youre staying and Ill send you some
How can I contact you? You living here or down in Hollywood?
B. NICHOLSON hands him a card
Heres my folks number. Ill be here for awhile.
Just find out if theyre playing around?
B. NICHOLSON exits kitchen side
Screwy broad, who was she worried about, her husband or Eddie
DIAL crosses left
ACT I SCENE 3 - SATURDAY MORNING
DIAL, grabs his luggage by the stairs and moves to another part
of the room to indicate scene change
(to the audience)
You can see how it was. I was hungry and she was a looker. Next
morning, I took my .38, my one good suit--blue, and my Brownie
camera and we headed north in my Packard convertible. Around Santa
Maria the rain hit my windshield like the spray from a machine
gun. My car rumbled along the El Camino Real. Got lost in the
fog in San Francisco. I finally found the Golden Gate Bridge and
piloted the Packard up the Redwood Highway to the Russian River.
Dropped in at the Notty Room in Monte Rio. Notty: n-o-t-t-y. The
locals clued me in about their town, and yes, they had all met
Thomas Nicholson and Edward Marten and knew all about the movie
being made. Being filmed right down by the river near the bridge.
They pointed out this joint, where some of the stars are staying.
SEABRIGHT enters from bar or moves
Welcome to the River View Inn, Mr. Dial.
~that's all - just a few scenes~
Jacquelyn Wells dot com