Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Suspense
Show: The Burning Court
Date: Jun 17 1942

Here's a new transcript for you. SUSPENSE did this story twice but the scripts are very different. This 1942 version seems more faithful to the novel than the 1945 version.

CAST:
NARRATOR
GAUDAN CROSS, author
BRENNAN, police captain
TED STEVENS, editor
DR. WELDEN, professor
CONDUCTOR (1 line)
MARIE, Stevens' wife
MARK DESPARD
GRAY, police lieutenant
CORBETT, nurse
LUCY, Despard's wife (1 line)
RADIO (1 line)

MUSIC:

THEME ... THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

The Columbia network takes pleasure in bringing you--

MUSIC:

ACCENT

NARRATOR:

-- SUSPENSE.

MUSIC:

THEME ... THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

SUSPENSE -- stories from the world's great literature of pure excitement; a new series frankly dedicated to your horrification and entertainment. Week by week, from the pick of new material -- from the pages of best-selling novels, from the theater of Broadway and London, and the sound stages of Hollywood -- will parade the most remarkable figures ever known. CBS gives you--

MUSIC:

ACCENT

NARRATOR:

-- SUSPENSE.

MUSIC:

FILLS A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

Tonight's presentation is one of the finest of the contemporary stories of mystery and terror, John Dickson Carr's famous novel, "The Burning Court."

MUSIC:

CRASHING ACCENT ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

SOUND:

FLAMES CRACKLE IN FIREPLACE ... GLASS SET DOWN ON TABLE BEHIND--

CROSS:

(DRINKS, EXHALES) Ah! A glass of sherry by the fireside of a beautiful suburban home. What could be more comforting? You're an admirable host, Mr. Despard, and it's really a shame our first meeting is under such a cloud. It's also a shame I have so little time to tell you which one of your guests here-- (DRINKS, EXHALES)

SOUND:

GLASS SET DOWN ON TABLE AGAIN

CROSS:

--murdered your uncle last week.

GUESTS:

(REACT WITH CONSTERNATION)

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN BACKGROUND GLOOMILY--

CROSS:

Now, let's see now, I believe we're all here. Your wife. Your friend Mr. Stevens. Captain Brennan.

BRENNAN:

Yes, and incidentally yourself. Just who did you say you were?

CROSS:

Well, no wonder you've had so much difficulty with the case, captain. My name is Cross, Gaudan Cross, the writer. As a matter of fact, it's because of my just-completed book, "Poisoning Throughout the Ages," that I happen to be here now, and Ted Stevens there happens to be a member of the firm which publishes my work. I'd never seen him until tonight, but I've been told what happened. This afternoon, he began reading my manuscript for the first time -- on the train, the commuter's train which every afternoon deposits him safely and soundly here in Crispen.

MUSIC:

GENTLY OUT AS--

SOUND:

COMMUTER TRAIN RUMBLES ALONG

CROSS:

(NARRATES) I imagine he was halfway home by the time he finished the first chapter. Then he turned a 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 young woman, and under it had been printed, "Famous Poisoner Marie D'Aubray, Sixteen Seventy-Six." Ted Stevens was looking at a picture of his own wife!

MUSIC:

ACCENT

SOUND:

COMMUTER TRAIN RUMBLES ALONG

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Imagine! Imagine his twenty-five-year-old wife in seventeenth-century costume. The face, the features, even the wistfulness of expression were identical. Even the name -- D'Aubray was his wife's maiden name. But no, no, no, that was ridiculous! This woman in the picture was, well, one of his wife's ancestors. Yes, that was it, that was it. Simply an amazing family resemblance. Marie would be waiting for him at the station and he'd have to tell her about it. He wondered why, however, she'd never told him about-- (CHUCKLES) Well, but you don't discuss such an ancestor, do you? Ted Stevens 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 OUT BEHIND--

SOUND:

COMMUTER TRAIN RUMBLES ALONG

WELDEN:

Hello, Ted.

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Stevens was almost jolted from his seat. It was Dr. Welden, Professor of English at the college, an old friend of his.

SOUND:

RATTLE OF PAPERS

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Quickly, he thrust the picture beneath the manuscript and moved over.

STEVENS:

(UNNERVED) Hi, I didn't see you, doc. Oh, here, have a seat.

WELDEN:

Oh, I though maybe you were giving me the, uh-- What do they call it? The "brush-off"?

STEVENS:

Oh, no, I-- Er, say, as a matter of fact, doc, you're the one man I do want to see.

WELDEN:

Yeah? Very flattering.

STEVENS:

Remember those discussions we used to have about murders?

WELDEN:

(CHUCKLES) Better than bridge, any time.

STEVENS:

Well, I got the idea that you'd made sort of a hobby out of the old cases, the historical ones.

WELDEN:

Well, I've studied quite a number of them, yes.

STEVENS:

Ever hear of a woman named -- Marie D'Aubray?

SOUND:

TRAIN SLOWS AND ROLLS TO A STOP BEHIND--

WELDEN:

Marie D'Aubray? (THOUGHTFUL) Marie D'Aubray-- Oh, yes! That was her maiden name of course. One of the finest specialists in arsenic poisoning you could ever hope to find. Oh, we're almost at our station, Ted. Let's get to the door. Yes, a real charmer, Marie was. Must have disposed of half a hundred husbands, lovers, suitors, and just plain friends, before she was caught.

STEVENS:

Er, what happened to her, doc?

WELDEN:

She was beheaded -- and burned.

SOUND:

TRAIN DOOR BANGS OPEN LOUDLY, FOR PUNCTUATION

CONDUCTOR:

(HOLLERS) Crispen!

MUSIC:

SOLEMN ... THEN BEHIND CROSS--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Oh, absurd. Laughable. Ted Stevens kept saying this to himself, and yet what he knew was a foolish dread followed him straight through the small suburban station and clung to him as he reached the street. And there, in the roadster, was Marie, leaning toward him a little to hold the door open, and smiling at him.

MARIE:

Oh, Ted, what on earth are you staring at?

STEVENS:

That street light shining on your hair. I like that!

MARIE:

Oh, you're tight. Come on, get in the car.

SOUND:

CAR DOOR SHUTS ... ENGINE REVS AND CAR DRIVES OFF

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Then, like a wisp of smoke, it was gone -- the whole ridiculous fear -- the delusion.

MUSIC:

SOLEMN ... THEN IN BG--

SOUND:

FLAMES CRACKLE IN FIREPLACE

CROSS:

(NARRATES) When at home, Marie brought the cocktails into the living room; the logs were burning brightly in the fireplace, throwing a soft dancing glow upon a room that was darkening with dusk.

STEVENS:

To you, Marie.

MARIE:

And to you, dear.

SOUND:

GLASSES CLINK ... THEY DRINK ... GLASS SET DOWN BEHIND--

CROSS:

(NARRATES) As Stevens placed his glass down, he noticed the manuscript of my book. It was there on the table, right where he'd placed it when he first came in.

MUSIC:

GENTLY OUT

CROSS:

(NARRATES) Deliberately, he turned from it. And then turned back. The manuscript had been moved! Only an inch or so, but it had been moved. Keeping his back to his wife, he thumbed through that early chapter and discovered -- just as he knew he would -- that the photograph was gone.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT

CROSS:

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

STEVENS:

This book by Cross I brought home--

MARIE:

Yes?

STEVENS:

There was a story of a poisoner in it. Rather funny, her name happens to be the same as yours-- Oh, your maiden name, that is.

MARIE:

Oh, that is odd, isn't it?

STEVENS:

Darling, was she a relative of yours?

MARIE:

Why, Ted! You're serious!

STEVENS:

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

MARIE:

What on earth are you talking about?

STEVENS:

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

MARIE:

No.

STEVENS:

You didn't take out a picture of a poisoner named Marie D'Aubray?

MARIE:

I most certainly did not! Oh, Ted, what is this all about? What are you getting at?

STEVENS:

Just this. Somebody took that picture out of that manuscript since I've been home--

SOUND:

KNOCK AT FRONT DOOR

STEVENS:

Now, who's that? Well, I'll take a look. (MOVING OFF) I'm afraid I don't feel like-- (OFF) Why, it's Mark Despard!

MARIE:

(TENSE) Mark? Ted, wait a second.

STEVENS:

Yes?

MARIE:

Ted, whatever it is he wants -- promise you won't do it.

STEVENS:

Promise I won't do what?

MARIE:

I mean, promise you won't get yourself involved. Please, Ted, don't go out tonight.

STEVENS:

Say, what in the world is--?

SOUND:

KNOCK AT FRONT DOOR

STEVENS:

Well, anyway, we can't let him stay outside.

SOUND:

STEVENS' FOOTSTEPS TO FRONT DOOR WHICH OPENS

STEVENS:

Mark! How are you? Come on in!

DESPARD:

Thanks, Ted.

SOUND:

DESPARD'S FOOTSTEPS IN ... DOOR CLOSES

STEVENS:

Just thinking about giving you a call later.

MARIE:

Oh, let me have your hat.

DESPARD:

Oh, thanks, I-- (APOLOGETIC) Marie, I - I hope you'll excuse me for popping in like this, but-- Well, I wanted to talk to Ted. It - it's rather important.

MARIE:

Why, I don't mind at all.

STEVENS:

Come on, Mark, we'll step into the library. Do you mind, dear?

MARIE:

Of course not, Ted. I'll be making the sandwiches for us.

SOUND:

MARIE'S FOOTSTEPS AWAY BEHIND--

STEVENS:

Well, grab that chair in the corner, Mark.

SOUND:

LIBRARY DOOR CLOSES

STEVENS:

Well, let's hear it. What's the trouble?

DESPARD:

(LOW, GRIM) Ted, my Uncle Miles was murdered!

STEVENS:

Murdered?

DESPARD:

Oh, the talk hasn't reached you yet. But it's already started. Nothing definite, of course. Just that there was "something wrong" about Uncle Miles' death.

STEVENS:

But I don't-- Mark, are you sure of this? Do you know he was murdered?

DESPARD:

I don't know, of course I don't. I just don't see how it could be any other way. Uncle Miles, you know, had been sick for quite a while, but last Saturday he seemed so much better that Miss Corbett -- that was his nurse -- decided to take the day off and-- Well, you know all this; you and Marie were over that afternoon. Anyway, Lucy and I went to the club that night, to that masquerade party, and we left the old boy completely alone. I've cursed myself a thousand times since--

STEVENS:

But what about your housekeeper, Mrs., er-- What's her name? Henderson? Wasn't she around?

DESPARD:

Oh, sure. In that little house out in back. We told her to look in now and then, but-- Well, that wasn't good enough. It was after midnight when Lucy and I got back. Uncle Miles was dying.

MUSIC:

SINISTER, SNEAKS IN--

DESPARD:

Ted, it looked exactly like one of his regular attacks. But then later, after he was gone, I happened to glance under the chest of drawers in his room. There was a small silver cup under there, almost drained. And Uncle Miles' cat. The cat was still warm, but quite dead.

STEVENS:

Oh.

DESPARD:

I managed to get the cat out of the house and buried without anyone seeing me. Next day, I had the contents of the cup analyzed.

MUSIC:

OUT

STEVENS:

It was poison?

DESPARD:

Yes. Arsenic.

MUSIC:

BIG ACCENT

STEVENS:

Well, what do you want me to do?

DESPARD:

Help me open the crypt.

STEVENS:

What?

DESPARD:

I want to have a private autopsy performed. Help me get Uncle Miles' body out of that vault. Oh, I know it's a tough job -- the thing is sealed solid -- but we can do it.

STEVENS:

You mean without the police knowing about it?

DESPARD:

Without anybody knowing about it. Mrs. Henderson's visiting her sister and I managed to send Lucy over to the club.

STEVENS:

You must be crazy! You're playing with dynamite, Mark. This is something you've got to tell the police now.

DESPARD: I can't take that chance!

STEVENS:

But they'll have to know sometime. You're only delaying the--

DESPARD:

I've got to know first, I tell you! You don't understand, Ted. There was somebody in Uncle Miles' room that night, handing him something -- in a silver cup. Mrs. Henderson was on the porch by the window. She saw her.

STEVENS:

(TENSE) She saw -- "her"?

DESPARD:

Ted, she thinks it was -- my wife.

STEVENS:

(EXHALES) Oh. Lucy.

DESPARD: It doesn't mean anything to Mrs. Henderson yet, because she doesn't suspect anything, but, well-- Ted, you've got to see why I've got to be sure -- why I've got to know how Uncle Miles died. Because it wasn't Lucy, Ted; I know it wasn't.

STEVENS:

Of course not, Mark. She had an alibi. Well, she was with you at the club, wasn't she?

DESPARD:

Yes. (BEAT) Except for half an hour.

STEVENS:

I see.

DESPARD:

You'll help me, won't you, Ted?

STEVENS:

When do we start?

DESPARD:

As soon as you can make it.

STEVENS:

Okay.

SOUND:

LIBRARY DOOR OPENS

STEVENS:

Come on, now. I'll get your hat. You trot on ahead and I'll come over as soon as I can see Marie.

DESPARD:

You're not going to tell her about this?

STEVENS:

Why, of course not. I'll think of something; don't you worry about that.

DESPARD:

Thanks, Ted. Thanks a lot.

SOUND:

DESPARD'S FOOTSTEPS AWAY ... LIBRARY DOOR CLOSES

STEVENS:

(CALLS) Er, Marie?

DESPARD:

(OFF) I'm coming.

STEVENS:

Uh, darling, Mark asked me to, er--

MARIE:

(WARM, SYMPATHETIC) I know, Ted. Here, you'd better take these sandwiches with you. You'll be hungry.

STEVENS:

But-- You knew I was going out?

MARIE:

Yes. I knew.

STEVENS:

You listened to us?

MARIE: I couldn't help it, Ted. I had an idea what Mark's visit was about -- the talk about his uncle's death. There's a lot of gossip about it in the village. That's why I tried to tell you, why I didn't want you to get mixed up in it. But it's too late now, isn't it? I mean, you're going; I can tell by the way you look. Ted, wait a second. There's just one thing I want to tell you before you leave -- and that is that no matter what happens, no matter what you find or think or believe -- I love you. You'll remember that, won't you?

STEVENS:

(SLOWLY) I'll remember you - said so, Marie.

MUSIC:

BIG ACCENT

CROSS:

(NARRATES) By the light of a dim kerosene lantern, Mark and Ted Stevens pounded their way through the thick shelf of rock that covered the Despards' ancestral tomb, pried open the great slab of stone which lay across the subterranean door, and then, at last, descended to the dank, ink-black chamber. They found the coffin.

SOUND:

THE MEN GRUNT AND GROAN WITH EFFORT AS THEY DRAG COFFIN AND PLACE IT ON STONE FLOOR ... ECHO ON VOICES AND EFFECTS DURING TOMB SCENE

CROSS:

(NARRATES) They dragged it from its crypt and placed it on the cold stone floor.

SOUND:

COFFIN LID UNCLAMPED AND OPENED

CROSS:

(NARRATES) They unclamped the lid and opened it.

STEVENS:

Mark! It's empty!

DESPARD:

What? That's impossible. It can't be.

STEVENS:

But it is, Mark.

DESPARD:

Do you know what this means? That body wasn't in this coffin when it was placed here. Ask where it was, Ted. From the time that coffin was closed on Uncle Miles, somebody -- the undertaker or Lucy or me -- somebody was with it until it was buried. And the crypt was sealed right after.

STEVENS:

Then somebody beat us to it. Somebody's broken in here ahead of us.

DESPARD:

Broken in? Listen, Ted. Lucy and I have hardly left the house since the funeral. Do you think anybody could break in here, smash through that stone and cement without our seeing them? Without our hearing them?

STEVENS:

Well--

DESPARD:

(BEAT) Well? What?

BRENNAN:

(OFF) Well, you might as well come on out, then.

DESPARD:

Wha--? Who is that?

BRENNAN:

(OFF) Me, Mr. Despard. Up here.

SOUND:

STEVENS AND DESPARD TAKE A FEW FOOTSTEPS TOWARD BRENNAN

BRENNAN:

(OFF) My name's Captain Brennan. I'm from the office of the Commissioner of Police.

DESPARD:

(STUNNED) From the--?

BRENNAN:

(OFF) Like to talk to you, if you don't mind, Mr. Despard. Here, uh, follow my flashlight up.

SOUND:

STEVENS AND DESPARD'S FOOTSTEPS TO BRENNAN DURING FOLLOWING--

DESPARD:

But-- I don't understand. How did you--? How did you know about this?

BRENNAN:

(CLOSER) By listening, mainly. Do you mind if we go up to your house, Mr. Despard?

SOUND:

NO MORE ECHO ON VOICES

DESPARD:

Why, no, not at all.

BRENNAN:

Oh, thank you. (TO ANOTHER COP) Oh, Freddie--

SOUND:

THEIR FOOTSTEPS TO HOUSE DURING FOLLOWING--

DESPARD:

Look here, captain, I--

BRENNAN:

Uh, Freddie, this is Mr. Despard. Lieutenant Gray.

GRAY:

Glad to know you, Mr. Despard.

BRENNAN:

And Mister, er-- Ted Stevens, isn't it?

STEVENS:

Why, how did you--? How did you know my name?

BRENNAN:

Very simple. I got the names of everybody who was here at the Despards' the day the old man died. You and your wife were included. Oh, here we are.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS OUT

DESPARD:

But I don't-- Captain, who gave you those names?

BRENNAN:

Why, your housekeeper, of course.

SOUND:

DESPARD HOUSE DOOR OPENS

DESPARD:

Mrs. Henderson?

BRENNAN:

You didn't think Mrs. Henderson saw the dead cat did you, Mr. Despard? But she did. She also saw you bury it. And we've been interested in the case ever since.

SOUND:

DESPARD HOUSE DOOR CLOSES

BRENNAN:

Well, nice place you have here, Mr. Despard. Now, let's see. According to Mrs. Henderson, your wife was wearing some kind of a masquerade costume that night. What kind of a thing was it?

DESPARD:

Well, it was a-- Oh, there, you can see it. It was copied from the dress in that old painting over there.

BRENNAN:

Oh, yes. (BEAT) Mmm. Funny, where's the woman's face?

DESPARD:

It's always been that way; long as I can remember. Somebody must have thrown acid on it or something. Can't blame them much. She was a poisoner.

STEVENS:

A poisoner?

DESPARD:

Yes. The story goes that one of my ancestors was responsible for her execution. Marie D'Aubray her name was.

BRENNAN:

Oh, yes. I've read about her. Learned all her poison tricks from one of her lovers. Guy by the name of Gaudin Ste. Croix.

STEVENS:

(SHOCKED) Gaudin Ste.--?!

BRENNAN:

(AMUSED) Oh, yes, Mr. Stevens. We cops read now and then.

STEVENS:

Did you say Gaudin Ste. Croix?

BRENNAN:

That's French. We call it Cross. Ha! Absolutely no limit to a cop's education is there? (LAUGHS) But to get back to your wife, Mr. Despard-- She was dressed like the famous Marie. Now when Mrs. Henderson looked through that window--

DESPARD:

(UPSET) Just a minute, captain! Mrs. Henderson can't prove she saw a thing and you know it!

BRENNAN:

What do you mean?

DESPARD:

I mean you haven't any right to insinuate that my wife was in that room!

BRENNAN:

Well, who's insinuating? I'm trying to say that Mrs. Henderson, after thinking it over, realized that she was tricked by the costume. The woman she saw in the funny clothes, handing the cup of poison to your uncle, wasn't your wife at all.

DESPARD:

What?

BRENNAN:

Because your wife is an unusually tall young woman. And the one Mrs. Henderson saw was fully half a head shorter. More on the order, let's say, of, er, Mr. Stevens' wife.

STEVENS:

My wife?!

DESPARD:

Captain, this is absolutely ridiculous!

BRENNAN:

Well, I don't know-- Why, what's the matter, Mr. Stevens? You're trembling like a leaf. Tell me now, just for fun, where was Mrs. Stevens that night?

STEVENS:

She was home. With me.

BRENNAN:

The whole evening?

STEVENS:

Certainly.

BRENNAN:

She retired early?

STEVENS:

Yes, we both did.

BRENNAN:

You, I suppose, were sound asleep by midnight?

STEVENS:

Yes, I was!

BRENNAN:

Then how do you know where your wife was?!

STEVENS:

(TAKEN ABACK) Well, I-- I--

BRENNAN:

Look here, Stevens, she had to have a costume that would match Mrs. Despard's. How did she manage that? Where did she get it?

STEVENS:

Well, she - she - never had one. She never had a dress like that.

BRENNAN:

And what about her motive? Why did she poison him?

STEVENS:

(STAMMERS) I don't know.

BRENNAN:

Not for money certainly. Then what was it? Hate? Did she hate Miles Despard?

STEVENS:

Yes, yes, she--

DESPARD:

Ted!

STEVENS:

No! (STAMMERS) Oh, I don't know. I don't know, I tell you.

GRAY:

Brennan?

BRENNAN:

Yes, Freddie?

GRAY:

I phoned and got hold of Mr. Despard's nurse all right. That Mrs. Stevens -- couldn't reach her. Her phone won't answer.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN EERIE, IN BG

BRENNAN:

Okay, have her picked up.

STEVENS:

(UPSET) I'm going home!

BRENNAN:

Stevens, come back here.

STEVENS:

I'm going to get my wife!

SOUND:

STEVENS' RUNNING FOOTSTEPS AWAY UNDER--

GRAY:

Want me to stop him, Brennan?

BRENNAN:

No, let him go.

MUSIC:

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

SOUND:

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

STEVENS:

(CALLS) Marie! (NO ANSWER) Marie, where are you?! It's Ted! Marie, what have you done?! Marie--?! (STOPS SHORT AT SIGHT OF CROSS) Oh.

MUSIC:

OUT

CROSS:

Oh, good evening.

STEVENS:

(BEWILDERED) Ah, who are you?

CROSS:

I? My name is Cross. Gaudan Cross.

STEVENS:

Cross! (ACCUSING) Where's my wife? What have you done to her?

CROSS:

(LAUGHS)

STEVENS:

You fiend! What have you done to my wife?

CROSS:

Why, nothing at all, young man. Here, here, here, sit down.

STEVENS:

(HYSTERICAL) You're lying! Something's happened to her. The police just phoned. There wasn't an answer. Why are you here?

CROSS: Why am I here? (CHUCKLES) Well, because your wife, reading my chapter on the D'Aubrays, 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?

STEVENS:

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

CROSS:

Yes, I see. Whether your wife is that Marie D'Aubray who was burnt; burnt by order of the high tribunal for all poison cases, "The Burning Court of France" -- witchcraft, black magic, the world across the threshold. You're quite sure, no doubt, also, that I am Gaudin Ste. Croix, who first wooed her. No, no, my boy. Heh, heh. No, my real name happens to be, of all things, Tom Simpson. Most unsuitable for a distinguished writing career. And Marie D'Aubray is no more your wife's real name than mine is Gaudan Cross.

STEVENS:

What?

CROSS:

Your esteemed wife was an adopted child, Mr. Stevens -- adopted by people in Canada named D'Aubray, remote members of the real family of poisoners.

STEVENS:

(STAMMERS) I can't believe it. Why--? Why didn't she tell me?

CROSS:

Why? Because until I told her half an hour ago, she didn't know it herself. You see, in the course of my research on the family, I found out about it. And, in the course of talking with your wife, I found out something else. How for years she was haunted by the fear that she might be a poisoner by inheritance -- by blood. And you can see, can't you, why she never talked about it -- her past -- to you?

STEVENS:

(REALIZES) Yes. Yes.

CROSS:

And yet, Mr. Stevens, you had all but made her forget that past. You. And that's why she was willing to lie -- to steal a picture, do anything -- in order to hold you to her.

STEVENS:

(RELIEVED) Yes, yes. I - I see that now.

CROSS:

You know, young man, I - I rather think she loves you. But as you will see, though, she comes only when I call her. (CALLS GENTLY) Er, Mrs. Stevens?

SOUND:

LIBRARY DOOR OPENS

STEVENS:

You mean she's--?

MARIE:

Yes, Mr. Cross?

STEVENS:

Marie, it's you. You're all right?

MARIE:

(HAPPY) Oh, yes, dear. We're both all right now. And nothing can change it, ever.

STEVENS:

Marie, listen--!

MARIE:

Don't say Marie, dear. Say Maggie.

STEVENS:

Maggie?

MARIE:

Well, that's my name, my real name. Maggie McTavish. And it's a lovely name, dear. The most beautiful, gorgeous--

STEVENS:

Darling. Darling, please, you don't understand. The police, they think you had something to do with Miles' death.

MARIE:

They think I did?

CROSS:

So. Now, Mr. Stevens, before we go back to the Despards', don't you think you'd better tell me everything that's been said and done up to date? Having just saved your wife's soul from "The Burning Court," now I'll wrest her body from the electric chair.

MUSIC:

TRANSITION

CROSS:

(EXHALES WITH SATISFACTION) Yes, Mr. Despard, truly excellent sherry. Don't you think so, Miss Corbett?

CORBETT:

(SOMEWHAT TAKEN ABACK) Yes. Yes, it's very nice.

SOUND:

GLASS SET DOWN ON TABLE

CROSS:

Well, that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I happen to be here. So let us consider first that supernatural hocus-pocus in the crypt. That body that walked out of the sealed tomb. That body that never was in the tomb.

DESPARD:

Never was in the tomb?

CROSS:

No, Mr. Despard. The murderer knew that very soon Mrs. Henderson's story would bring about an investigation. He had to get rid of the well-known corpus delicti.

DESPARD:

Yes, but who could have kept the body out of the tomb?

CROSS:

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

GUESTS:

(REACT WITH CONSTERNATION)

DESPARD:

(CHUCKLES NERVOUSLY, STAMMERS) I don't understand.

CROSS:

Well, it's very simple. You had the opportunity. I believe you said yourself you were alone with the body before the burial. And you had the strength. I dare say you carried it down to the furnace -- where it's now probably nothing but ashes.

BRENNAN:

Ridiculous! Why would he spend an hour smashing into a crypt for a body he knew wasn't there?

CROSS: Why, captain? Hmmm. To impress Mr. Stevens, his witness. And also, apparently, you.

LUCY:

Oh, that's perfectly fantastic!

DESPARD:

Fantastic? (LAUGHS) No, Lucy, just comic. And I suppose, Mr. Cross, that I also put on a woman's masquerade costume, went into my uncle's room, and handed him a nice cup of arsenic?

CROSS:

No. No, no. That had to be done by a woman. Your accomplice, as a matter of fact. (BEAT) Oh, now come, come, come, you mustn't all look at Mrs. Despard, because Mark Despard's one noble act was his frantic effort to prevent his wife from being charged with the crime. A crime which he and nurse Myra Corbett committed.

STEVENS:

Myra Corbett?

CORBETT:

Why, you--!

CROSS:

Yes, sir. Yes, Mr. Stevens, this quiet little lady beside me.

CORBETT:

But why would I do such a thing?

CROSS:

Money, Miss Corbett. A cut out of Mark Despard's inheritance. Payments for services rendered.

DESPARD:

That's an absolute lie, Cross!

CROSS:

You see, ladies and gentlemen, Captain Brennan never bothered to check Miss Corbett's whereabouts on the night of the murder. Why even think of the nurse? She was the custodian of the old man's health.

CORBETT:

You're crazy. You're crazy!

CROSS:

And yet who but a nurse could so naturally offer the old man a cup? A cup he was sure contained medicine.

CORBETT:

You're making it up. The whole thing, you're just making it up, that's all!

CROSS:

And who but Miss Corbett, living right here in this house, would know what kind of masquerade dress she must copy? Would know when Mrs. Henderson would pass the window that night? Pass and see her, and accept her -- she hoped -- for Lucy Despard.

CORBETT:

No! No, that's not true! (SOBS, OVERLAPS WITH CROSS) I didn't do it! I didn't do it, I tell you! (WEEPS UNCONTROLLABLY IN BG)

CROSS:

Oh, yes, Miss Corbett. Yes, Miss Corbett! That dress was the touch that wrecked you. That was your own idea, wasn't it? Not Mark's. You weren't content with a mere murderer's share of the profits. You wanted a wife's share -- half of the whole estate. You wanted Lucy Despard convicted and out of the way for good!

CORBETT:

(STOPS WEEPING BEHIND--)

CROSS:

Hmm. Well, I give you a toast, Miss Corbett, with Mr. Despard's excellent sherry. To a particularly ruthless poisoner. [(DRINKS)] And yet, you know, on the whole, I'm rather partial to female poisoners. Why, only tonight, I - I-- (GASPS, CHOKES, WHEEZES, DIES HORRIBLY)

SOUND:

CROSS' BODY COLLAPSES TO FLOOR

GUESTS:

(GENERAL CONSTERNATION)

BRENNAN:

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

STEVENS:

What's the matter, Brennan?

BRENNAN:

(BEAT) This man's dead.

GUESTS:

(REACT WITH SHOCK, GASPS, "DEAD?" ET CETERA)

BRENNAN:

And from cyanide, if I know anything. Cyanide from that glass of sherry. Cyanide that a nurse could get quite easily. That glass was right beside you, Miss Corbett, and nobody else was near it. Too bad he didn't drink it as soon as you hoped. A second ago, we had no body to use against you, but we have now, Miss Corbett! We have now! And I arrest you for the murder of Gaudan Cross!

MUSIC:

TRANSITION

RADIO:

(FILTER) --now close to five months ago that the prominent author was murdered, and tonight Myra Corbett pays with her life for that crime. The former nurse, at first protesting her innocence, in recent weeks has grown--

SOUND:

RADIO SWITCHED OFF ABRUPTLY BEHIND--

MARIE:

(CALLS) Oh, Ted?

STEVENS:

Yes? I'm in here, dear.

MARIE:

I thought you might-- What did you cut it off for?

STEVENS:

Huh? What do you mean?

MARIE:

The radio.

STEVENS:

Oh. Well, I thought you wanted to talk.

MARIE:

Poor Ted. Don't you think I know you better than that? What was on the radio?

STEVENS:

Well, there wasn't--- (EXHALES) Okay. It was about Myra Corbett. She goes to the chair tonight.

MARIE:

Oh.

STEVENS:

I didn't think you wanted to be reminded.

MARIE:

I don't really. But making such an effort to hide it only keeps it alive, doesn't it? Oh, all right, darling. Know what I came in to ask? If you wanted a cocktail before dinner.

STEVENS:

The largest one you've got.

MARIE:

Fine. I'll get out the ice cubes--

STEVENS:

I know! If I'll fix up the fire. Okay, Marie, it's a deal. Where are some papers to start it?

MARIE:

Right there by the bookcase. And the name's not Marie, it's Maggie. Because, darling, Marie's dead and gone forever.

SOUND:

STEVENS' FOOTSTEPS TO FIREPLACE WHERE LOGS ARE STACKED AND PAPERS LIT ... CRACKLE OF FIRE BEHIND--

CROSS:

(GHOSTLY ECHO) Oh, no, Marie. We're never dead. Neither of us. It was your hand that touched that glass. I know that now. And I could return the favor. But instead, I shall ask that you dispatch your husband -- this one, like all the others. Now. Just a little bit of poison in the drink, Marie. Any kind of drink.

MUSIC:

EERIE, IN BG

SOUND:

STEVENS' FOOTSTEPS RETURN

MARIE:

What kind, Ted?

STEVENS:

Hmm?

MARIE:

What kind of a cocktail shall we have?

STEVENS:

Oh. (CHUCKLES) Any kind, darling. Any kind at all.

MUSIC:

FOR AN OMINOUS FINISH

NARRATOR:

You've just heard "The Burning Court," from John Dickson Carr's famous novel, the first in Columbia's new series of outstanding classics and chills by world-famous authors.

Tonight's play, ladies and gentlemen, has one rather special significance we think you'd like to know about. As you perhaps have heard, every fine comedian is said to cherish a secret desire to do an abrupt about-face. He pines for the part of a blackguard. Well, tonight you witnessed the fulfillment of one such desire. The role of that literary and quite infamous diehard Gaudan Cross was portrayed by none other than Hollywood's expert provoker of laughs, Charlie Ruggles, here in New York for the world premiere of his latest screen success, "Friendly Enemies."

The role of Marie? Well, that was enacted by a young lady who long ago won national acclaim as one of Broadway's most accomplished dramatic actresses, Miss Julie Haydon. Thank you, Charlie Ruggles and Miss Julie Haydon for your splendid performances.

The play tonight, as all plays in this series, was produced and directed by Charles Vanda, written by Harold Medford, and scored by Bernard Herrmann. Next week, we bring you an intensely exciting and moving drama, "The Life of Nellie James."

MUSIC:

CLOSING THEME ... TILL END

NARRATOR:

This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.