Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Ellery Queen
Show: Mr. Short and Mr. Long (a.k.a. The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore)
Date: Jan 14 1943

"Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M. D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine. ... Among these unfinished tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world."



The Characters

MR. JAMES PHILLIMORE. . who disappears
BIGGS. . . . . . . . . .his man
COAL MAN. . . . . . . . briefly
TELEGRAPH MESSENGER . . briefly
NIKKI PORTER. . . . . . Ellery's secretary
INSPECTOR QUEEN. . . . .Ellery's father
SERGEANT VELIE. . . . . the Inspector's subordinate
ELLERY QUEEN. . . . . . who solves a difficult case, perforce, on his back

and

SHERLOCK HOLMES. . . . .present in spirit only

SCENE 1:

The Queen Apartment

(ELLERY is in bed with a cold. NIKKI is firmly ministering to him.)

NIKKI:

Drink the rest of your orange juice, Ellery.

ELLERY:

But Nikki, I don't want orange juice. I want to get out of bed. (He has a coughing spell)

NIKKI:

With that cough? Drink it.

ELLERY:

Nikki, it's just a cold and we've got a lot of work to do on my novel

NIKKI:

You're staying in bed, Mr. Queen, until you stop coughing. You can dictate from bed.

ELLERY:

(Grumpily) All right. Get your notebook.

NIKKI:

Never knew a man yet who didn't act like a puppy with a sore nose when he was sick. (Door opens off) Inspector?

INSPECTOR:

Yes, Nikki. How's the sick man? (ELLERY coughs) Say, that's a bad cough, son --

NIKKI:

And he wants to get out of bed, Inspector!

INSPECTOR:

(Grimly) Oh, he does? Well, he's not going to. (Chuckles) It's a shame, too.

ELLERY:

What's a shame? What are you looking so gay about, Dad?

INSPECTOR:

It's a great day, son. Yes, sir! I've got a rendezvous with Velie to close the book on the career of a bird who should have been in jail years ago.

ELLERY:

Who's that, Dad?

INSPECTOR:

Little Jim.

ELLERY:

Little Jim? (Groans)

NIKKI:

Who is Little Jim, Inspector?

INSPECTOR:

James Phillimore, Nikki -- The 20 Per Cent King.

ELLERY:

And I have to be laid up! I'm getting out of --

INSPECTOR:

You're staying right where you are. (Wickedly) We were tipped off that Little Jim made a reservation on this morning's plane to South America. So I threw a squad around his house last night and we'll grab Mr. Phillimore when he leaves with that satchel full of John Q. Public's dough.

NIKKI:

What's his racket, Inspector?

INSPECTOR:

He "invests" your money for you. Guarantees 20 per cent interest.

NIKKI:

But how can he keep paying 20 per cent?

ELLERY:

It's very simple, Nikki. Little Jim takes your $100, pays out $20 -- that leaves him $80.

NIKKI:

But Ellery, he can't do that indefinitely!

INSPECTOR:

There's always a fresh crop of suckers, Nikki. The new money keeps paying off the old interest.

NIKKI:

But eventually a lot of people must want all their money back.

ELLERY:

When that unhappy moment comes, Nikki, Little Jim packs up the remaining assets and departs hastily for cooler climes. Same old story, Dad. Remember William F. Miller and his "Franklin Syndicate" in 1899?

INSPECTOR:

Yep. Well, this time Little Jim waited too long. So we're going to recover the sucker money and wrap Mr. James Phillimore up for immediate delivery to the D.A. Nikki, take care of Ellery.

NIKKI:

I will, Inspector. (INSPECTOR exits)

ELLERY:

Blast it. ... Dad! Let me know how you make out!

SCENE 2:

Exterior of the Phillimore House

(SERGEANT VELIE is skulking behind a bush. INSPECTOR QUEEN approaches surreptitiously.)

VELIE:

Hi, Inspector.

INSPECTOR:

Morning, Velie. How goes it?

VELIE:

Smooth as a baby's neck, Inspector. Not a soul's left the house since we checked Little Jim in last night. I've been watchin' from the front gate here. Huh . . . Here comes Little Jim now!

INSPECTOR:

Marching out of his front door with his black bag, cocky as an Irish cop. Down, Velie! Let him walk right into the arms of the law.

VELIE:

What a runt.

INSPECTOR:

Five-foot-one of pure cussedness. Wait a minute -- why's he stopped? What's he looking up at the sky for?

VELIE:

(Intently) Says to himself: "Looks like rain. So I'll turn around and go back into the house for an umbrella --" and there he goes, Inspector!

INSPECTOR:

Where, Velie? I've lost him under that portico in front of the door! Let's get closer -- I want to make sure he doesn't pull a sneak. (They hurry towards the house, dodging from bush to bush)

VELIE:

That little twerp is li'ble to pull anything. There he is, Inspector! See him now?

INSPECTOR:

Yeah. Back into the house. (Front door slams) We'll wait right here, Velie, till he comes out again. Got to nab him with that bag on him.

VELIE:

Inspector, if Little Jim gets outa this house without us or the boys spotting him, he ain't a fraud artist -- he's a magician!

SCENE 3:

Same, Fifteen Minutes Later

(INSPECTOR QUEEN paces in front of the Phillimore house restlessly. SERGEANT VELIE appears from the side driveway.)

INSPECTOR:

Well, Velie? What do the men say?

VELIE:

They say nobody's left the house, Inspector. So Little Jim's still inside.

INSPECTOR:

Fifteen minutes to get an umbrella? Use your head, Velie! Phillimore spotted us -- he's up to something. I'm not waiting any longer! (They run to the front door) Ring that bell, Velie!

VELIE:

(Rings bell) I tell ya, Inspector, it's O.K. (Door opens) Uh, uh. Who's this beanpole ?

BIGGS:

(A very tall thin man) Yes, sir?

INSPECTOR:

Where's Little Jim?

BIGGS:

Beg pardon, sir?

INSPECTOR:

James Phillimore! Where is he?

BIGGS:

Oh. Mr. Phillimore is not here, sir.

VELIE:

Now, listen, Daddy Longlegs, Little Jim came outa here fifteen minutes ago, ducked right back in -- and he ain't been out since.

INSPECTOR:

I'm Inspector Queen of Police Headquarters. Quit stalling! Where's Phillimore?

BIGGS:

But you must be mistaken, sir. Mr. Phillimore did leave fifteen minutes ago, but I didn't see him return --

INSPECTOR:

Well, we did. Velie, search the house. I'll wait here in the foyer with this man.

VELIE:

(Going) Phillimore's last stand, huh? Playin' hard to get -- (He disappears up the front staircase)

INSPECTOR:

So you're covering up for him. Who are you?

BIGGS:

Mr. Phillimore's man, sir, Jonathan Biggs, sir.

INSPECTOR:

(Chuckling) Quite a team, aren't you? Phillimore's a five-footer and you're six foot four, Mr. Biggs, if you're an inch.

BIGGS:

Yes, sir. Mr. Phillimore wouldn't engage anyone but a very tall person. He's so sensitive about his height, sir.

INSPECTOR:

Yes, these little guys cause all the trouble.

BIGGS:

I wouldn't know about that, sir. But Mr. Phillimore gets furious if you refer to him as "little." That's why he wears a beard, sir. (Confidentially) I believe it makes him feel bigger and more masterful.

INSPECTOR:

Well, he'll get a quick trim in Sing Sing. (Calling) Velie! What's taking you so long?

VELIE:

(From upstairs) I guess Jimmy-boy wants to play peekaboo, Inspector!

INSPECTOR:

I'll peekaboo him. Biggs, why's it so cold in this house?
Run out of oil-ration coupons?

BIGGS:

Oh, no, sir. We burn coal.

INSPECTOR:

Then why don't you burn some? The temperature here would discourage an Eskimo.

BIGGS:

I was about to go down to the cellar, sir, when you arrived. We're expecting a coal delivery this morning -- I was going to put the last few shovelsful in the furnace . . .

INSPECTOR:

Don't let me keep you. But come right back. (Biggs leaves) Brr. (Calling) Velie, how long does it take to find one man in one house?

VELIE:

(From upstairs) You tell me, Inspector! I'm still lookin'!

SCENE 4:

Interior, Phillimore House, Later

(INSPECTOR QUEEN is still in the foyer; BIGGS has returned from the cellar. SERGEANT VELIE appears, shaking his head.)

INSPECTOR:

What's the matter, Velie? Where's Little Jim?

VELIE:

Inspector, I'm baffled.

BIGGS:

I told you, sir -- Mr. Phillimore isn't here.

INSPECTOR:

Then you didn't cover everything, Velie.

VELIE:

Izzat so? I looked my eyes out! Every room.

INSPECTOR:

Velie, I'm in no mood for gags.

VELIE:

(Hotly) Who's gaggin'? I'm not gaggin', Inspector. He ain't here.

INSPECTOR:

Did you look in the basement? The attic? All the closets?

VELIE:

I tell ya I looked every place, Inspector.

INSPECTOR:

But -- Velie, you stay here in the house. I'll send a few of the boys in to help you make another search. Meanwhile, you -- Biggs -- don't leave this house. Is that clear?

BIGGS:

Perfectly, sir.

INSPECTOR:

Velie, keep your eye on this long drink of water. He's too smooth to suit me. Another thing. I'm giving strict orders to the men on duty outside that no one leaves this house except you and me, Velie, unless he's got one of my cards as a pass -- and signed by me, to boot!

VELIE:

But Inspector, I tell you Little Jim ain't here.

INSPECTOR:

(Angry) He must be here! Biggs, get out of my way. I'm going home and talk to Ellery!

SCENE 5:

The Queen Apartment

(INSPECTOR QUEEN has returned home and told ELLERY, still sick in bed, the astonishing story of the man who went back into his house for an umbrella and vanished. The INSPECTOR, NIKKI, and ELLERY are in ELLERY'S bedroom.)

ELLERY:

You've got it all down, Nikki?

NIKKI:

Yes, Ellery. Full description of Mr. Phillimore's house and all the rooms.

ELLERY:

Now Dad. You and Velie saw James Phillimore come out through the front door. You saw him pause, look up at the sky, and . . . you unquestionably saw him go back inside?

INSPECTOR:

How many times do I have to tell you? He went back in!

ELLERY:

Then that's a fact. (He reflects earnestly) After Little Jim went back into the house, no one left it, you say?

INSPECTOR:

My men had every possible exit covered, son.

ELLERY:

Obviously, then, Little Jim is still in there.

NIKKI:

But Ellery, Sergeant Velie and the other detectives searched every nook and cranny!

ELLERY:

That's what makes this such an interesting problem, Nikki. Dad, let's start at the bottom of the house and work up. How about the cellar?

INSPECTOR:

Solid concrete. Floor, ceiling, walls all tapped.

ELLERY:

Any packing cases in the cellar? Old trunks?

INSPECTOR:

No. All we found down there are two coal bins. One empty, the other with a couple of shovelsful of coal in it. The basement's out, Ellery.

ELLERY:

The ground floor --

NIKKI:

Three rooms -- living room, study, kitchen.

ELLERY:

Living room first. Dad, how about the fireplace?

INSPECTOR:

Thoroughly investigated. Also all the walls, floor, ceiling -- not only in that room but in every room in the house, Ellery.

ELLERY:

Does the living room have a grand piano?

INSPECTOR:

By Jove, yes! I wonder if Velie looked in there.

ELLERY:

Note, Nikki: Search interior of piano. (NIKKI makes a note) Now -- the kitchen. Closets? Pantry?

INSPECTOR:

All covered.

ELLERY:

Refrigerator? Remember, Phillimore's only five foot one and skinny as a spindle.

INSPECTOR:

I'd better check with Velie on that, son.

NIKKI:

(As if noting) Check . . . refrigerator.

ELLERY:

The study. Is there a safe?

INSPECTOR:

Yes. Phillimore's man, Biggs, opened it for us. Nothing in the safe but unimportant papers.

ELLERY:

What about the foyer, Dad?

INSPECTOR:

Suit of armor.

NIKKI:

I'll bet that's it!

INSPECTOR:

You'd lose, Nikki. We looked inside.

NIKKI:

I suppose all the closets were searched, too?

INSPECTOR:

Every one in the house, upstairs and down. And the bathrooms. And the attic -- and the roof --

ELLERY:

That's the whole house, then. No! The garage --

INSPECTOR:

We went through it.

ELLERY:

Did you search the car?

INSPECTOR:

I left that to Velie. However, I'd better check it personally. Note car trunk compartment, Nikki.

ELLERY:

Nikki, go back to Phillimore's house with Dad. When Dad's checked the piano, refrigerator, and car, phone me the results.

NIKKI:

I can see it coming, though -- Mr. James Phillimore isn't hiding in any of those places, Ellery!

ELLERY:

I'm inclined to agree, Nikki. Toughest case all winter, and I have to investigate it on my back!

SCENE 6:

The Phillimore House, Later

(INSPECTOR QUEEN, NIKKI, VELIE and BIGGS are in the lower hall. A doorbell rings from the rear of the house.)

INSPECTOR:

Biggs, what's that bell?

BIGGS:

The rear door, Inspector. (They all troop into the kitchen)

INSPECTOR:

Velie, unlock it and slide the bolt.

VELIE:

Uh-huh. (He obeys and opens door. A workman with sooty hands and face stands outside) Yeah?

COAL MAN:

Coal company. Got two tons to deliver.

NIKKI:

It's about time. It was warm here for a while, but now it's getting cold again.

COAL MAN:

Well, if it's O.K. . . .

VELIE:

Now, now. Don't step inside, fella.

INSPECTOR:

Velie, go outside with this man. Let him run his coal chute into the cellar window to the bin, but he's not to set foot in any part of the house.

VELIE:

Yes, sir. Anybody with you, my anthracite friend?

COAL MAN:

I got a helper.

INSPECTOR:

Stick with both of 'em every second, Velie. (VELIE leaves; INSPECTOR locks and bolts the door) Now, Nikki, let's you and I search those places Ellery mentioned!

SCENE 7:

The Same, Later

(The rear doorbell rings. INSPECTOR QUEEN unlocks and unbolts the door.)

INSPECTOR:

Oh, Velie. Well? What's about the coal?

VELIE:

It's in, Inspector.

COAL MAN:

(From behind VELIE) Hey, this big guy says I gotta have a pass to let me and my helper out. What goes here, anyway? (The INSPECTOR makes out a pass and signs it)

INSPECTOR:

Here's your pass. Velie, go out with 'em -- and better examine that truck, just to make sure. (VELIE and the COAL MAN leave, and the INSPECTOR refastens the door) Nikki! Where are you?

NIKKI:

(From another room) In the study alcove off the foyer, Inspector!

INSPECTOR:

Whom are you talking to, Nikki? (He joins her in the study alcove)

NIKKI:

Ellery -- on the phone. He's furious.

ELLERY:

(On the telephone throughout) Nothing in the piano, Nikki?

NIKKI:

Only strings and sounding board, Ellery.

ELLERY:

Don't be cute! Refrigerator?

NIKKI:

Filled with goodies. Which reminds me. I'm starved.

ELLERY:

(Groaning) A man vanishes like the Cheshire cat and she's hungry! What about the car in the garage?

NIKKI:

He's not in it, Ellery. Now what shall I tell the Inspector to do?

ELLERY:

Blessed if I know. Anything new happen?

NIKKI:

A coal truck just delivered two tons of coal.

ELLERY:

What! (Excitedly) Let me talk to Dad!

NIKKI:

Your celebrated son wishes a word with you, Inspector. (She hands the telephone to INSPECTOR QUEEN)

INSPECTOR:

Now Ellery, keep your shirt on. I kept the two coal men from entering the house and Velie was with 'em every minute. So Little Jim can't have sneaked out through the cellar window.

ELLERY:

I realize that, Dad. But don't you realize that he may be playing hide-and-go-seek with you?

INSPECTOR:

Come again?

ELLERY:

While you were searching one part of the house, Phillimore may have been hiding in another part. When you came to his part, he slipped off to still another place! How do you know he wasn't in the coal bin when the coal started sliding down the chute? How do you know he isn't buried under the coal at this moment?

INSPECTOR:

I'm ready to believe anything.

ELLERY:

You'd better check, Dad. And call me back.

INSPECTOR:

All right. (He hangs up)

NIKKI:

What's Ellery say, Inspector?

INSPECTOR:

(Groaning) As soon as Velie gets back into the house, Nikki -- we start shoveling coal!

NIKKI:

And for goodness' sake, Inspector, while you're at it, put some in that furnace.

SCENE 8:

The Same, Later

INSPECTOR:

Well, Velie?

NIKKI:

(Giggling) Sergeant, you look like an end man in a
minstrel show.

VELIE:

Shovel coal! Keep the furnace going! What else do you gotta do on this job? Look at me! My wife'll have a fit.

INSPECTOR:

Never mind your wife. Did you transfer all that coal to the other bin?

VELIE:

Yeah! (Cunningly) And guess what we found under that coal, Inspector.

INSPECTOR:

(Biting eagerly) What, Velie?

VELIE:

(Bellowing) Coal dust! (The telephone rings)

NIKKI:

I'll get it. Hello? Just a minute, Ellery! Inspector, it's Ellery and he's all agog.

INSPECTOR:

(Taking the telephone) Hello, son.

ELLERY:

Dad! Was Little Jim under the coal?

INSPECTOR:

He was not! Any more bright ideas, Mr. Queen?

ELLERY:

Mmm. Well, the coal was a long shot. But we had to
eliminate it. Dad, I know where James Phillimore is!

INSPECTOR:

(Belligerently) Where?

ELLERY:

In the only place left for him to hide.

INSPECTOR:

I'm still listening.

ELLERY:

You said Phillimore's study is off the foyer. You listed all the study furniture. But Dad, you left out one thing.

INSPECTOR:

You're lying there in bed halfway across town and you're telling me I left out something? What?

ELLERY:

A study usually has a desk. You didn't mention one.

INSPECTOR:

I didn't? Well, it's a fact there is a desk here ... By thunder, Ellery, you're right! And it's one of those old-fashioned rolltop desks at that! Hold on. Velie! Ellery's solved it.

NIKKI:

He has, Inspector ?

VELIE:

Where's he say Little Jim's hidin'?

INSPECTOR:

In that rolltop desk, Velie. Search it!

VELIE:

Say, we did miss that before. (Grim) Phillimore, come outa there. (He slides the top open) Huh?

NIKKI:

It's empty.

INSPECTOR:

Solved it! (He barks into the telephone) Ellery! You were wrong, my son. The desk is empty . . .

ELLERY:

But it can't be -- (The front doorbell rings)

INSPECTOR:

Hang on a minute, Ellery. Velie, answer the front doorbell.

BIGGS:

(Appearing) But I'll answer it, sir.

INSPECTOR:

Biggs, you'll stay where you are! Velie, who is it?

VELIE:

(Off) Telegraph boy, Inspector, with a wire for Biggs.

BIGGS:

(Eagerly) I'll take that, sir --

INSPECTOR:

You will not. Don't move. Velie, grab that wire.

ELLERY:

(Through the telephone) Dad, who's that wire from?

INSPECTOR:

Wait, this phone has a long cord -- I'll take it out into the foyer. Hold on, son. Nikki, take the phone. Velie, give me that wire.

VELIE:

Here you are, Inspector. Biggs, stand still.

BIGGS:

But it's my wire, sir.

NIKKI:

(Into telephone) The Inspector's opening the telegram, Ellery.

ELLERY:

For pity's sake, what's it say, Nikki?

INSPECTOR:

(Spluttering) But -- but it can't be! It's impossible!

MESSENGER:

Can I please have a pass or somethin' to get outa here? The guy at the gate says I gotta have a pass. I got other telegrams to deliver, you know.

INSPECTOR:

Here, Velie. Give him this pass.

VELIE:

Now scram, squirt. (The MESSENGER exits, front door closes) What's the wire say, Inspector?

INSPECTOR:

Nikki, hand me that phone. Ellery, listen to this! I can't believe it --

ELLERY:

(Shouting) Can't believe what --

INSPECTOR:

It's from James Phillimore! Yes! It's addressed to his man, Biggs, and it says: GOT OUT OF HOUSE AS PLANNED. BRING CLOTHES AND PAPERS TO MEETING PLACE AGREED ON. -- Signed -- JAMES PHILLIMORE.

BIGGS:

(Snarling) Out of my way!

INSPECTOR:

Velie, grab that man. Don't let Biggs get away.

VELIE:

Oh, no, you don't, flunkey -- (He grabs BIGGS and they struggle)

NIKKI:

Sergeant -- look out --

VELIE:

Oh, yeah? (He tries vainly to get BIGGS down on the floor)

ELLERY:

Dad, for heaven's sake, what's going on there?

INSPECTOR:

Biggs tried to beat it. Velie's wrestling with him trying -- to get him down on the floor, but he can't. (Sarcastically) What's the matter, Velie -- didn't you have your vitamins today?

VELIE:

(Panting) I can't get this guy off his feet. O.K., brother, I'll cut you down to size! (He punches BIGGS on the jaw. BIGGS crashes to the floor)

NIKKI:

What a fall was there, my countrymen.

INSPECTOR:

Velie's got Biggs, son. But how did Little Jim get out of the house? I'll swear nobody left here!

ELLERY:

Yes . . . (Chuckles) . . . Yes, of course!

INSPECTOR:

Yes -- of -- course what, Ellery?

ELLERY:

Of course I know where Little Jim is!

INSPECTOR:

Is that so? You thought you knew once before, Ellery, and you were wrong!

ELLERY:

Dad, this time I'm positive. I've solved the problem of James Phillimore -- the man who stepped back into his own house to get his umbrella and was never more seen in this world!

THE SOLUTION

SCENE 9:

The Same, Immediately After

INSPECTOR:

You've solved it, son? But what -- where -- how?

ELLERY:

Never mind now, Dad. Did you ask the telegraph messenger the obvious question?

INSPECTOR:

Did I-- What obvious question?

ELLERY:

Oh, lord. Dad, maybe it's still not too late. Where's the boy now?

INSPECTOR:

He just left. Wait a minute -- I still see him through the foyer window. Piggott's examining the pass I just gave him, at the front gate.

ELLERY:

Good. Hold the boy, Dad, and bring him to me here. I'll ask him that question myself!

SCENE 10:

The Queen Apartment, Later

(They are grouped around ELLERY'S bed.)

VELIE:

O.K., so we've got the messenger boy outside your bedroom, Maestro. Now what?

ELLERY:

Fine, Sergeant. Keep the boy there for a moment.

INSPECTOR:

What I want to know, son, is -- where's James Phillimore?

NIKKI:

Yes, Ellery -- how did he get out of the house with a dozen detectives watching every possible exit?

ELLERY:

Elementary, Nikki. Dad, just answer my questions. Is Little Jim in that house now?

INSPECTOR:

No, son. I'll stake my shield on that.

ELLERY:

If he isn't in the house, then he must be outside the house. Right?

NIKKI:

Naturally.

ELLERY:

How many people left the house during the day, Dad? Not including yourselves or the detectives.

INSPECTOR:

I told you a dozen times, Ellery. _No_body left that house.

ELLERY:

Oh, but that's not so, Dad. Three people left it.

VELIE:

Three? Inspector, he's delirious.

ELLERY:

Come, come, didn't the coal men come to the house and then leave it? That makes two --

INSPECTOR:

But they never stepped into the house, Ellery!

VELIE:

And I was with 'em every second while they sent the coal down the chute from outside the house, Maestro. I even examined the truck before they left.

INSPECTOR:

So Little Jim wasn't in the truck, and he wasn't one of the coal men, Ellery.

ELLERY:

Oh, you're quite right about that. So that eliminates two of the three persons who left the house. Therefore, the third person must be Little Jim.

NIKKI:

(Excited) I've got it! Ellery, you're wrong! Little Jim never left the house at all, Inspector!

INSPECTOR:

But Nikki, we searched it from top to bottom. If he was in the house all the time, where was he?

NIKKI:

He was in front of your eyes, Inspector. Little Jim was . . . Biggs, the servant!

VELIE:

He played two parts? Say . . .

INSPECTOR:

Phillimore is five foot one, Nikki. Biggs is six foot four!

NIKKI:

(Airily) He faked the extra height, Inspector. Used stilts, or something.

ELLERY:

Stilts? No, Nikki. Velie actually wrestled with Biggs and couldn't even get him off his feet! If Biggs were on stilts, no matter how strong he was, you could have pushed him over, Nikki. No -- call in that telegraph boy, Sergeant, and I'll ask him the obvious question Dad forgot. (VELIE brings in the MESSENGER)

INSPECTOR:

(Exasperated) What obvious question, for Pete's sake?

VELIE:

Here's the boy, Maestro.

MESSENGER:

(Fearfully) What -- what do you want, mister?

ELLERY:

I want to ask you a question, sonny. (Chuckles) Here it is: you're James Phillimore, aren't you? (There is a moment of complete silence)

INSPECTOR:

(Spluttering) He's Little Jim, Ellery? This boy?

ELLERY:

What makes him a boy, Dad? His small size. His clean-shaven cheeks. His messenger's uniform. His high-pitched voice. No, no, he's not a boy -- he's a man. James Phillimore, in fact. He must be. He's the only other person who left the house.

MESSENGER:

(Backing away) Think you're clever, don't you?

VELIE:

Stand -- still!

INSPECTOR:

(Softly) I get it.

NIKKI:

But Ellery, how did he leave the house in the first place in order to come back as the messenger?

ELLERY:

He didn't leave at all, Nikki.

INSPECTOR:

Now I see it! He prepared his escape in advance. He had this telegraph messenger's uniform ready. And a telegram, which he'd sent to himself some time ago. All he had to do today was change the date and reseal the envelope.

ELLERY:

Yes, Dad, and when he spotted you this morning waiting for him outside the house, he quickly went back in, shaved off his beard, put on the uniform, told Biggs to play stupid, and then hid in the only place you did not search --

INSPECTOR:

The rolltop desk!

ELLERY :

Precisely. Just before I phoned about the desk, he saw that the coast was clear -- nobody was in the study or foyer. So he jumped out of the desk, ran to the front door, opened it, went out and stood in the portico --

VELIE:

Then why didn't Piggott at the front gate see him, Ellery?

ELLERY:

He couldn't, Sergeant. Remember when you and Dad first saw Little Jim re-enter the house this morning, Dad said you'd "lost" him -- couldn't see him in the portico until you got closer to the front door? ... So then Phillimore rang the bell, delivered his "telegram," and calmly asked for a pass to get him off the premises!

VELIE:

Makin' this little devil sneakier than a Jap. Come along quietly, Phillimore, or I'll break you in little pieces. (INSPECTOR QUEEN, SERGEANT VELIE, and JAMES PHILLIMORE exeunt)

NIKKI:

That was a mighty clever plot, Ellery.

ELLERY:

Wasn't it? I especially call to your attention, my dear Nikki, the brilliant wording of Little Jim's spurious telegram. It convinced Inspector Queen that this daring criminal had escaped, when all the time he was in the house waiting for a pass from the Inspector himself to get him out!