Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Suspense
Show: The Burning Court
Date: Jun 14 1945

CAST:

The Suspense Team:
ANNOUNCER, Truman Bradley
THE MAN IN BLACK
ELSA MAXWELL, renowned hostess

Dramatis Personae:
GAUDAN CROSS, snobbish author
BRENNAN, police captain
TED COVINGTON, editor
MARIE, Ted's wife
FREDDIE, police lieutenant
MRS. HENDERSON, housekeeper

NOTE: Another version of this play aired 17 June 1942 on SUSPENSE. This transcript includes material from the '42 broadcast in brackets.

ANNOUNCER:

Now, the Roma Wine Company of Fresno, California presents--

MUSIC:

SUSPENSE THEME ... THEN, IN BG

MAN IN BLACK:

SUSPENSE! Tonight, Roma Wines bring you the suspenseful play called "The Burning Court," starring the distinguished actor whose current performance you have admired in the picture "Laura," Clifton Webb.

MUSIC:

UP AND OUT

ANNOUNCER:

SUSPENSE is presented for your enjoyment by Roma Wines. That's R-O-M-A, Roma Wines, those excellent California wines that can add so much pleasantness to the way you live, to your happiness in entertaining guests, to your enjoyment of everyday meals. Yes, right now, a glassful would be very pleasant as Roma Wines bring you a remarkable tale of suspense.

MUSIC:

THEME BEHIND--

MAN IN BLACK:

And with the strange events detailed in John Dickson Carr's novel, "The Burning Court," and with the performance of Mr. Clifton Webb as its urbane narrator Gaudan Cross, Roma Wines hope indeed to keep you in--

MUSIC:

KNIFE CHORD

MAN IN BLACK:

SUSPENSE!

SOUND:

FLAMES CRACKLE IN FIREPLACE

MUSIC:

A BRIEF WEIRD INTRODUCTION ... THEN OUT

SOUND:

FLAMES CRACKLE IN BG ... CLINK! OF DRINKING GLASS

CROSS:

A pleasant fire, charming company, and a hostess who realizes that tea served in the Russian manner is the only manner in which tea should ever be served. Yes, a heartwarming evening, Mr. Covington, in an extremely gracious setting. How fortunate that your uncle had the wealth to satisfy such an exquisite taste. And what a pity I have so little time to tell you which one here-- (DRINKS, EXHALES)

SOUND:

GLASS SET DOWN ON TABLE AGAIN

CROSS:

--murdered him just last week.

MUSIC:

ACCENT

CROSS:

Now, I believe we're all here. Ted and Marie Covington. Mrs. Henderson, the housekeeper. Captain, uh, Brennan, I believe?

BRENNAN:

Yes. And incidentally yourself. Just who did you say you were?

CROSS:

No wonder you police have had so much difficulty with the case. My name is Cross, Gaudan Cross, the writer.

BRENNAN:

(IMPRESSED) Well! Well, why didn't you say so? That book, "A History of European Murder" -- that's yours, isn't it?

CROSS:

Extraordinary! A policeman who reads. As a matter of fact, captain, it's because of my latest book, "Poisoning Throughout the Ages," that I happen to be with you now. Ted Covington there is a member of the firm which publishes my work. I'd never seen him until tonight, when he himself told me what happened. He went back to last Friday afternoon, for it was then that he began reading my manuscript for the first time--

MUSIC:

GENTLY IN AS--

SOUND:

COMMUTER TRAIN RUMBLES ALONG

CROSS:

(NARRATES) He began it on the train; the commuter's train which every afternoon deposits him safely and soundly in this charming suburb of Crispen. That is, if you care for suburbs. At any rate, I imagine he was almost home by the time he finished the first chapter. And then he turned the page.

SOUND:

PAGE TURNS

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Attached to the following leaf was a picture -- and, looking at it, the young man stiffened suddenly -- and all but cried out his shock. It was a picture of a woman. Under it was printed, "Marie Du Brauniche, Convicted of Arsenic Poisoning, St. Petersburg, Russia, Seventeen Thirty-One." Ted Covington was looking at a picture of his own young wife!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

CROSS:

(NARRATES) His twenty-five-year-old wife in an early eighteenth-century costume. The face, the features, were identical. Even the name, Du Brauniche, was his wife's maiden name. No, no, no, it was ridiculous! This woman in the picture was one of his wife's ancestors. Simply an amazing family resemblance. He wondered why Marie had never told him about-- [(CHUCKLES) Well, but you don't discuss such an ancestor, do you?] Ted Covington glanced down at the chapter to which the picture had been attached. It was entitled "The Affair of the Non-Dead Woman."

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

TRAIN SLOWS AND ROLLS TO A STOP BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) By then, the train was approaching the station and he rose and walked out to the platform. Standing there for a moment, his eyes ran down the page. Marie Du Brauniche, it appeared, was quite the Continental charmer in her day. With the beneficent assistance of arsenic, she had disposed of half a dozen husbands before she'd been caught. But caught she was. She was sentenced to death, the chapter concluded, and then beheaded -- and burned.

SOUND:

TRAIN DOOR BANGS LOUDLY, FOR PUNCTUATION ... EERIE RUSH OF STEAM FROM TRAIN ENGINE

CONDUCTOR:

(HOLLERS) Crispen!

MUSIC:

TRANSITION

SOUND:

CAR HORN HONKS BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) And there, waiting for him at the curb by the suburban station, was the wife he knew so well.

MARIE:

(FROM OFF, CALLS) Ted?!

CROSS:

(NARRATES) She was leaning toward him now to open the door, smiling in that way he knew so well.

MARIE:

(CLOSER, AMUSED) Ted, what on earth are you staring at?

TED:

(ENTRANCED) The soft fire in your eyes. (EXHALES, RECOVERS) It's the street light, I guess.

MARIE:

(LIGHTLY) Oh, darling, you're silly and overworked. Come on, get in the car.

SOUND:

TED CLIMBS IN AND CAR DOOR SHUTS

MUSIC:

TRANSITION

CROSS:

(NARRATES) And thus, like a thin wisp of smoke, it was gone -- the unspeakably foolish concept. Laughable, that's what it really was.

SOUND:

CAR DRIVES ALONG ROAD

TED:

(LAUGHING TO HIMSELF)

MARIE:

All right, let's hear it. What's so funny?

TED:

Oh, nothing, nothing at all, darling. I guess I just feel good.

MARIE:

Oh? A fine mood for dancing tonight.

TED:

Dancing?

MARIE:

Now, Ted, you promised. You said if Uncle Miles showed a noticeable improvement, we could go to the club.

TED:

You mean he's really better?

MARIE:

Well, there's no comparison. The doctor agreed with me. Darling, there's no reason in the world why we shouldn't let Mrs. Henderson stay awake for a change.

TED:

None. Do her good the old wi--- (LAUGHS)

MARIE:

What is the matter with you?

TED:

Oh, it's just that I started to call her a witch. It's a private joke, darling.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) A private joke. And, by the time they were home, it was even less than that.

SOUND:

LIVING ROOM DOOR OPENS ... MARIE'S FOOTSTEPS IN

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Ted was sitting in the living room when Marie entered and moved toward the fireplace. He studied her as she struck the match on a hearthstone--

SOUND:

MATCH STRIKES

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --thrust it to the little rolls of newspaper, stood back to watch the licking flames catch the charcoal, then the logs.

SOUND:

FLAMES CRACKLE, IN BG

CROSS:

(NARRATES) As the light rose, illuminating her face and the lips barely parted in that ineffably curious smile, he was reminded again of her fragile loveliness -- and his absurd reaction to the manuscript. He glanced around. There it was on the table where he'd placed it when he had come in. Deliberately, he turned from it. And then back again.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN OUT

CROSS:

(NARRATES) The manuscript had been moved! Only an inch or so, but moved. Keeping his back to his wife, he thumbed through that early chapter and discovered -- just as he was afraid he would -- that the picture itself was gone.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) For a long moment, he thought of what to do. Then, slowly, he turned around.

TED:

This, uh-- This book of Cross's I brought home--

MARIE:

Yes, dear?

TED:

There was a story of a poisoner in it. It's funny, her name happens to be the same as yours. Your maiden name, that is. Look, darling, was she a relative of yours?

MARIE:

Why, Ted! You're serious!

TED:

In a way, yes. I - I don't mean it's really important. It's just that-- Well, when you run across a person who was a top-flight poisoner a couple of hundred years ago and who's a dead ringer for your own wife, you - you want to hear about it, that's all.

MARIE:

Ted, what on earth are you talking about?

TED:

Darling, be honest with me. Didn't you look at this manuscript when I was out of the room?

MARIE:

No.

TED:

You didn't take out a picture of a poisoner named Marie Du Brauniche?

MARIE:

I most certainly did not!

TED:

Somebody took that picture out of the manuscript.

MARIE:

Oh, but who could it be? Mrs. Henderson has been in the back ever since we came in. And Uncle Miles-- Well, he's in bed, in his room.

TED:

(EXHALES) I'm sorry, darling. It'll turn up. Forget it. Maybe I am overworked. I guess a little dancing is just the thing I need tonight.

SOUND:

SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

CROSS:

(NARRATES) When they returned home, it had happened.

MUSIC:

ACCENT

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Mrs. Henderson met them at the door. Ted's uncle had taken a sudden turn for the worse.

MRS. H.:

(URGENT) Hurry, as fast as you can.

TED:

We'll be right there.

SOUND:

THEIR HURRIED FOOTSTEPS UP THE STAIRS

MUSIC:

VERY BRIEF TRANSITION

SOUND:

BEDROOM DOOR OPENS ... THEIR FOOTSTEPS IN

MARIE:

(GASPS IN HORROR, STARTS TO WEEP)

TED:

(GENTLY) Marie, if you don't mind, I-- I--

MARIE:

(RECOVERS) Yes. Yes, Ted. Come, Mrs. Henderson, let's go into the living room.

SOUND:

MARIE AND MRS. HENDERSON'S FOOTSTEPS AWAY ... BEDROOM DOOR CLOSES

MUSIC:

BEAUTIFUL, ETHEREAL ... THEN IN BACKGROUND

CROSS:

(NARRATES) He had wanted to be alone in the room. Not because of his great attachment to his uncle -- who, save for Ted himself, was the last of his branch of the Covingtons -- but because he had seen something. It was the silver cup under the edge of the bed -- the cup the late patient had used for his medicine.

SOUND:

TED'S FOOTSTEPS TO CUP

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Ted moved over to it, stooped down. There was still a few drops at the bottom. Then, just as he was rising to his feet--

SOUND:

TED FUMBLES SILVER CUP

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --his heart seemed to miss a beat. He had seen the other thing -- Uncle Miles' cat -- two feet away from the cup, further under the bed. She was lying on her side. Fearfully, he extended his hand. The cat was still warm. But quite dead.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A GRIM ACCENT

CROSS:

(NARRATES) No one must know. Not yet. There would be a funeral, a normal, official interment in the family crypt on the grounds. Meanwhile, the cat must be buried, disposed of. And the contents of the cup. The next day, at the chemist's, he was told it contained --- arsenic!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A CURTAIN ... THEN IN BG--

ANNOUNCER:

For SUSPENSE, Roma Wines are bringing you as star, Mr. Clifton Webb whom you have heard in the first act of "The Burning Court" by John Dickson Carr, which is Roma Wines' presentation tonight of SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

FOR A FINISH ... OUT

ANNOUNCER:

Between the acts of SUSPENSE, this is Truman Bradley for Roma Wines. We now quote a brief word from the renowned hostess Elsa Maxwell.

MAXWELL:

I've found that one of the smartest ways to entertain during warm weather is to serve tall, iced, thirst-quenching Roma refreshers, made with distinguished Roma California wines.

ANNOUNCER:

And it's so easy to enjoy frosty, satisfying Roma wine and soda. Simply half fill tall glasses with Roma burgundy or sauterne. Add ice cubes and sparkling water -- and sugar, if you wish. For a decorative touch, garnish with cherries and slices of fruit. And be sure to use Roma, for Roma wine is always uniformly good, the happy result of selected grapes, carefully picked at the very peak of character in California's choicest vineyards, gently pressed, then guided unhurriedly to perfection by the ancient skill of Roma's famed wineries. Yet, good as it is, Roma wine costs only pennies a glass. Remember, because of uniformly fine quality at reasonable cost, more Americans enjoy Roma than any other wine. R-O-M-A, Roma Wines.

MUSIC:

THEME, IN BG

MAN IN BLACK:

And now, Roma Wines bring back to our Hollywood sound stage Clifton Webb as Gaudan Cross, writer and authority on murder through the ages, in "The Burning Court," a play well-calculated to keep you in--

MUSIC:

KNIFE CHORD

MAN IN BLACK:

SUSPENSE!

MUSIC:

FADES OUT

BRENNAN:

Now, let me understand one thing, Mr. Cross. You're simply relating what Mr. Covington here told you?

CROSS:

Yes. Less than fifteen minutes ago.

BRENNAN:

Then why not have Mr. Covington tell it himself?

CROSS:

Primarily because I can tell it more beautifully. Uh, Mrs. Covington--?

MARIE:

More tea?

MRS. H.:

(MOVING OFF) I'll get it for him, madam.

CROSS:

You're very kind, Mrs. Henderson, but I'd rather you didn't miss even one facet of this story.

MRS. H.:

(OFF) Oh, well, I'm not leaving, sir. The samovar is right over here.

CROSS:

Excellent. (TO ALL) I think that you should know that earlier tonight, just three days after his uncle's burial, Ted Covington sat alone in this room, contemplating some astonishing plans.

MUSIC:

IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) This very night, long after Marie would retire, he himself would open the vault and exhume his uncle's body. A chemist had been engaged for a private autopsy. He was to look for traces of poison. Yet Ted Covington wasn't so sure he could go through with such a plan. The door opened--

SOUND:

LIVING ROOM DOOR OPENS ... MARIE'S FOOTSTEPS IN

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --and Marie came into the room, walking now quite softly, across to the great fireplace. He studied her closely as she struck the match--

SOUND:

MATCH STRIKES ... FLAMES CRACKLE BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --and then touched it to the crumpled scraps of paper.

MARIE:

(SEES TED STARING AT HER) Oh. I thought you might be a little chilled.

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Chilled! If only she knew the chill that was wrapped around his heart. If only she-- (BEAT) He stopped short in his thoughts, for now the glow had risen against that somewhat childlike face, and suddenly he saw for the first time, the faint wrinkles of age at her eyes. Now the light was higher. And there. There it was. The thin light crease, like an almost invisible scar, that encircled about her neck.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Marie Du Brauniche! Beheaded and burned in Seventeen Thirty-One!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Yes, he was sure of it now. He had to go through with his plan.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG--

SOUND:

BANGING! AS TED HAMMERS ON TOMB BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) So, by the dim light of a lantern, he set about his task, pounding his way through the thick concrete that now covered the family tomb--

SOUND:

CREAKING! AS TED OPENS TOMB DOOR

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --drawing open the great subterranean door--

SOUND:

TED'S ECHOING FOOTSTEPS INTO TOMB

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --descending to the ink-black chamber below. He found the coffin--

TED:

(GRUNTS WITH EFFORT AS--)

SOUND:

HE DRAGS COFFIN AND PLACES IT ON STONE FLOOR

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --wrested it from its crypt--

SOUND:

TED PLACES COFFIN ON STONE FLOOR

CROSS:

(NARRATES) --placed it on the floor.

SOUND: COFFIN LID UNCLAMPED AND OPENED

CROSS:

(NARRATES) He unclamped the lid, opened it, and then--! Then--!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) The word of shock leapt from his throat.

TED:

(ECHO, IN HORROR) Empty! Empty!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A BIG ACCENT ... THEN OUT

BRENNAN:

(FROM OFF, CALLS) Empty? Empty, you say?

TED:

(ECHO, STARTLED) Huh? Who's that? Who said that?

BRENNAN:

(OFF) I did, Mr. Covington. Up here.

TED:

(ECHO) Who are you?

SOUND:

BRENNAN'S FOOTSTEPS TO TED ... ECHO ON BOTH VOICES

BRENNAN:

(CLOSER) I'm Captain Brennan, from the office of the Commissioner of Police.

TED:

Police? How did you--? Who sent you here? Who told you about this?

BRENNAN:

Why, your housekeeper, of course. You didn't think Mrs. Henderson saw the dead cat, did you? But she did. She also saw you bury it. That, as you know, was three days ago, so I've had a chance to do some delving. I must admit, Mr. Covington, that when I learned your wife's maiden name was Du Brauniche--

TED:

(SLIGHT GASP)

BRENNAN:

--Marie Du Brauniche, I was really quite intrigued.

TED:

Oh, I-- What difference does that make?

BRENNAN:

Oh, perhaps you don't know it, but that's a rather important name in crime history.

TED:

Oh, but the same name, that's all. It's coincidence, captain.

BRENNAN:

Yeah, isn't it? The case is full of 'em. Learned most of her poison tricks, for example, from a lover of long standing -- a fella by the name of Crosidov. Gaudan Crosidov.

TED:

Gau--?

BRENNAN:

Gaudan Cross, let's say. Er, hasn't your firm published books by a man by that name?

TED:

Cross? This is some kind of a joke.

BRENNAN:

But what's even more interesting, Mr. Covington, is the fact that the name of the judge who sentenced Marie Du Brauniche to death by the Burning Court just happened to be Covington.

TED:

Covington?

BRENNAN:

Sherman Covington. An ancestor, wouldn't you say, of the man who just died? Or was murdered? An ancestor of yours, I might add.

TED:

Well, but you can't believe any of this - this nonsense about a longtime lover and-- (CHUCKLES) And a "vengeance through the ages"? Why--

FREDDIE:

(CALLS, FROM OFF) Oh, captain? Captain Brennan?

BRENNAN:

Yeah? Down here, Freddie!

SOUND:

FREDDIE'S FOOTSTEPS INTO TOMB BEHIND--

FREDDIE:

Oh. No luck, sir. No answer at all. Place seems to be vacant.

BRENNAN:

The Covington house?

TED:

(ALARMED) What?

FREDDIE:

Yes, sir. Couldn't wake a soul.

SOUND:

TED'S FOOTSTEPS SCRAMBLE OUT OF THE TOMB BEHIND--

TED:

Get out of my way!

BRENNAN:

(CALLS) Hey, Covington! Come back here!

TED:

(MOVING OFF) Something's happened to my wife!

FREDDIE:

Want me to stop him, captain?

BRENNAN:

Ah, let him go. We'll follow him.

MUSIC:

TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG--

SOUND:

TED'S RUNNING FOOTSTEPS TO FRONT DOOR WHICH OPENS ... HIS FOOTSTEPS THROUGH THE HOUSE BEHIND--

TED:

(CALLS) Marie! (NO ANSWER) Marie?! Where are you?!

SOUND:

LIVING ROOM DOOR OPENS

TED:

(CALLS) It's me -- Ted! Marie, what have you done?! What--?! (STARTLED GASP)

MUSIC:

OUT

CROSS:

Oh, good evening, Mr. Covington.

TED:

(BEWILDERED) Who are you?

CROSS:

My name is Cross. Gaudan Cross, the writer.

TED:

Cross! (ACCUSING) My wife--? What have you done to her?

CROSS:

(CHUCKLES, CONTINUES BEHIND--)

TED:

You fiend! What have you done to my wife? Stop it! Listen to me! Why are you here?

CROSS: (STOPS CHUCKLING) Why am I here? Because your wife, reading my chapter on Marie Du Brauniche, realized I knew more about the family than even she did; because she found my phone number on the front cover of the manuscript; and because I know an exceptional case when I hear one. Does that answer your question?

TED:

No, and you know it doesn't. Can't you see I've got to--? I've got to know whether--

CROSS:

I see. Whether your wife is really Marie Du Brauniche who was burnt by order of the Burning Court. (CHUCKLES) You're quite sure, no doubt, that I'm Gaudan Cross, who first wooed her. No, my boy. [No, my real name happens to be, of all things, Tom Simpson. Most unsuitable for a distinguished writing career. And] Marie Du Brauniche is no more your wife's real name than mine is Gaudan Cross.

TED:

What?

CROSS:

Your esteemed wife, Mr. Covington, was adopted by people named Du Brauniche, remote members of the real family of poisoners.

TED:

I can't believe it. Why didn't she tell me?

CROSS:

Because until I told her half an hour ago, she didn't know it herself. I'd learned it through my research.

TED:

(RELIEVED) Oh, that's - that's too wonderful.

CROSS:

For years, Mr. Covington, that young woman has been haunted by the fear that she might be a poisoner by -- blood. You can see, can't you, why she was willing to lie, steal a picture--

TED:

(REALIZES) Yes!

CROSS:

--do anything to hide her past from the man she wanted to hold?

TED:

Yes. Yes, I can see that now.

CROSS:

(CALLS GENTLY) Oh, Mrs. Covington?

SOUND:

MARIE'S FOOTSTEPS IN BEHIND--

TED:

You mean she's--?

MARIE:

Yes, Mr. Cross?

TED:

(PLEASED) Oh, Marie -- darling, you're all right.

SOUND:

KNOCK AT THE FRONT DOOR

CROSS:

Oh, that'll be our old, old friends, the police. Will you take them into the front room, Mrs. Covington? (TO TED) Meanwhile, you, my friend, will tell me everything that's happened up to now. (DRY) Having just delivered your wife from the Burning Court, I'll see if I can't save her from the electric chair.

MUSIC:

TRANSITION

SOUND:

CLANK OF SUGAR BOWL AND GLASS, ET CETERA

TED:

Sugar?

CROSS:

Just pass it, please, Mr. Covington. (BEAT) There. Thank you.

SOUND:

CLANK OF SUGAR BOWL AND GLASS

CROSS:

Ah, yes. (EXHALES WITH SATISFACTION) Truly excellent tea. Don't you agree, Mrs. Henderson?

MRS. H.:

(SOMEWHAT TAKEN ABACK) What? Oh, yes. Yes, it's very nice.

CROSS:

Yes. Well, that, Captain Brennan, completes Ted Covington's personal account of the events leading up to the present. Let us now consider that supernatural hocus-pocus of the body that walked out of the sealed-in tomb. That body, let's agree, that never was in that tomb.

TED:

Never in that tomb?

CROSS:

No, Mr. Covington. It was disposed of long before.

TED:

But who could have done it? Who could have kept that body out of the tomb?

CROSS:

Who, Mr. Covington? Why, you, sir.

MARIE:

What are you saying?

BRENNAN:

What are you driving at?

TED:

I don't understand what you--

CROSS:

Look, it's very simple. You had to get rid of the body, Mr. Covington. You knew that eventually there was going to be an investigation.

TED:

(CHUCKLES) This - this is a joke, isn't it?

CROSS:

A rather bad joke -- on your wife. From a few historical coincidences you built a murderess in your own wife's image.

MARIE:

I - I won't listen to this any more.

BRENNAN:

(AGREES) Why should you? (TO CROSS) Look, Cross, why would Covington here spend an hour smashing into a crypt for a body he knew wasn't there?

CROSS: Obviously, my dear captain, to induce you to ask such a question. To impress you with his own innocence -- and his desperate concern for his wife's guilt.

MARIE:

No. This isn't true. It can't be true!

TED:

Of course not. Cross, just how, for example, could I have been in this house to poison my uncle and also at the dance that night?

CROSS:

Easily. You simply left the dance that night.

TED:

I left the--?! It was Marie who-- I explained how I looked for her.

CROSS:

So you did. And you didn't see her, Mr. Covington, for the very good reason [that] you weren't there.

TED:

Now, wait a minute--!

CROSS:

You were here, my friend, in this house, just as you had planned.

TED:

No. No, you--

CROSS:

Who but you -- the nephew -- could so naturally have handed his uncle a cup; a cup presumably of medicine?

TED:

(INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) Don't listen to him!

CROSS:

And who but you, of all those here, would have the strength to carry that body to the furnace -- where it's now probably nothing but ashes?

TED:

Lies! All lies! Why should I do such a thing?! Why would I murder my own uncle?!

CROSS:

For the best reason that ever existed -- a fortune.

TED:

No! Stop!

CROSS:

You were the only heir. You'd get the estate, the money, the independence.

TED:

Oh, please! Marie, Brennan -- he's making this up! He - he's--

SOUND:

CLINK OF GLASS PICKED UP

CROSS:

Now, now, now. It isn't as bad as all that. Why, the police can never touch you.

TED:

(BREAKS DOWN AND WEEPS)

CROSS:

After all, where's the body? Where's the evidence? (DRINKS, EXHALES)

SOUND:

CLINK OF GLASS SET DOWN

CROSS:

A truly delightful beverage. Yes, Mr. Covington, I'm sure you'll be quite comfortable in an asylum for the insane. And that is--

SOUND:

SAMOVAR KNOCKED OVER

CROSS:

(GASPS, CHOKES, WHEEZES, DIES HORRIBLY)

SOUND:

CROSS' BODY COLLAPSES TO FLOOR ... SCURRY OF OTHERS' FOOTSTEPS IN AGREEMENT WITH--

MARIE:

Mr. Cross?! What is it?

BRENNAN:

Here, stand back. Stand back, let me get to him. (TO CROSS) Mr. Cro--?

MARIE:

What--? What's the matter, captain?

BRENNAN:

(BEAT) This man's dead.

MARIE:

(WHISPERS) Dead?

BRENNAN:

And from poison, if I know anything. Poison from that glass of tea!

MARIE:

(GASPS, SHUDDERS) Ted--? You--?! Ted!

BRENNAN:

That glass was right beside you, Covington, and nobody else. Nobody else was near.

MUSIC:

SNEAKS IN, BUILDING TO CLIMAX DURING FOLLOWING--

TED:

(IN HORROR, REALIZES) No. No.

BRENNAN:

Too bad he didn't drink it as soon as you hoped--

TED:

I didn't do it, I tell you.

BRENNAN:

--because, a second ago, Covington, we had no evidence, no body to use against you. But we have now, Mr. Covington. We have now! I arrest you for the murder of Gaudan Cross!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR CLIMAX ... TRANSITION ... THEN INCREASINGLY EERIE, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--

SOUND:

MARIE'S FOOTSTEPS TO FIREPLACE ... MATCH STRIKES ... FLAMES CRACKLE AND GROW SLOWLY LOUDER AS THE SCENE PROGRESSES

MARIE:

Gaudan? (NO ANSWER) Gaudan?

CROSS:

(GHOSTLY, SLOW) You're much too far away, my love.

MARIE:

(PLEASED TO HEAR HIS VOICE) Gaudan--

CROSS:

(GHOSTLY, SLOW) Much too far from the flames.

MARIE:

(SATISFIED) So you've come back. (BEAT, LOVINGLY) Dear Gaudan. Back within the hour.

CROSS:

(GHOSTLY, SLOW) Back for you, Marie. (CLEARER, FASTER) For, with all the Covingtons disposed of now, with the old score settled at last--

MARIE:

I know. There's no need to tarry longer. You were brilliant as ever, Gaudan. (GHOSTLIER) Superb in building the case against him. Magnificent in the suicide. (CHUCKLES) I never even saw you take the poison.

CROSS:

(CHUCKLES) And I thought I taught you all the tricks. (HYPNOTIC) Closer now. Much closer.

MARIE:

(AS IF IN A TRANCE) Yes.

CROSS:

Closer to the flames, Marie.

MARIE:

(QUIETLY ECSTATIC) Yes. Yes, Gaudan.

CROSS:

Closer to me, my love.

SOUND:

CRACKLE OF FLAMES HITS A PEAK

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A FINISH

MAN IN BLACK:

(GRIM) That night, the Covington house burned to the ground. The body of Marie Du Brauniche Covington was never recovered. (LESS GRIM) And so closes "The Burning Court," in which Roma Wines have brought you Clifton Webb as star of tonight's study in--

MUSIC:

KNIFE CHORD

MAN IN BLACK:

SUSPENSE! SUSPENSE is produced, edited, and directed by William Spier.

ANNOUNCER: Before Mr. Webb returns to the microphone, let me say a word for Roma Wines, the sponsor of SUSPENSE. Elsa Maxwell makes this timely suggestion for Father's Day next Sunday.

MAXWELL:

Show dad how much you really appreciate him by making next Sunday's dinner a festive occasion. Serve glorious golden amber Roma California sherry at first call for dinner. Dad will enjoy the light, nut-like flavor of this distinguished Roma Wine. Serve cool.

ANNOUNCER:

Miss Maxwell has made a grand suggestion. And why not further delight father with a gift package of delicious Roma Wine? Good Roma Wines -- always delightful, always uniformly delicious -- are reasonably priced. And the next time you use vermouth, choose Roma vermouth. Zestful, full-flavored Roma vermouth -- blended and developed with all the traditional winemaking skill of Roma wineries -- is made and bottled in the heart of California's famous vineyards, yet surprisingly low-priced. Try Roma vermouth soon, won't you?

WEBB:

This is Clifton Webb. And now a serious word. This great Seventh War Loan Drive must be a success if our war against Japan is to be a success. Our fighting men are depending upon you to put your job over. It's up to you to buy bigger bonds, and more of them, than ever before. So, please, do it now.

MAN IN BLACK:

Ladies and gentlemen, next Thursday, same time, Ann Richards will be your star of--

MUSIC:

KNIFE CHORD

MAN IN BLACK:

SUSPENSE!

ANNOUNCER:

Presented by Roma Wines, R-O-M-A, made in California for enjoyment throughout the world.

MUSIC:

CLOSING THEME ... TILL END

ANNOUNCER:

This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.