The Method

TESTIMONY: Subject, male, age 54, name Harold Jareth Springfield, under interview as eyewitness. No outstanding criminal record; accused of voluntary manslaughter but acquitted by virtue of self-defense. Note: anecdotal evidence suggests subject is likely to exaggerate or omit details to further self-image. However, anecdotal evidence also suggests that inconsistencies or flaws in detail may be due to subject's reputedly poor memory.

Recorded by Mark Sterling, local sheriff.

Alright, Officer, I'll talk. Now I won't say that this is the way things happened. I might be getting my facts mixed around. You understand, this was all a while back, and I wasn't there to see it all. I couldn't have been. Still, sir, I'll do my best to fill you in, given the circumstances.

In the theater, there was a certain room. In the room there was a round wooden table, roughly two feet in diameter and maybe about three feet tall. The table held some blood, a gun, and a bomb, I believe it was.

Please, Officer, don't be alarmed. Just my way of setting the stage, you know, making things a bit dramatic. Well, more dramatic, anyway. The blood, gun, and bomb on this table all had one big thing in common, which I tend to find rather amusing, given the nature of this story. I'm sure you're familiar with it; it's made all the papers, and come to think, I suppose it's why you're here, isn't it? Anyway, what I'm saying is that what these three important objects all had in common was that they were props. Set pieces to be used in this year's Halloween production of the great Bard Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus".

Now, Officer, you and I are somewhat familiar, and no offense, but I'm aware that you're no great connoisseur of the theater arts and more than a bit new around here, so I guess I'll have to fill you in. "Titus Andronicus," you might be interested to learn, is Shakespeare's bloodiest play, and it's always a big hit round here come Halloween time. People seem to get amusement from the carnage. Anyway, the local theatre company had decided that this year's production would be done in a sort of 1920s gangster theme, with fedoras and Tommy guns and pinstripe suits. The upshot of this being that the gun on the table looked just like a real Colt .45, but in reality was more like a glorified cap gun: made a lot of noise, but nothing came out of the business end, if you know what I mean.

Let's see…what was I talking about again? Right. The blood and the bomb. Well, the blood was fake, looked just like what's inside you and me both, but wasn't actually the bona fide juice of life, and put inside a little balloon so it would make a goodsplatter effect when it was time to set it off. Which brings me to telling you about the bomb. It was this little tiny explosive contraption, a squib I believe they call it, that you can blow up right next to your skin without taking a lick. The actors would wear the blood balloon underneath their clothes and the squib underneath that, and when it came time for their death scene, they would set the squib off. It made a nice show for the Halloween crowd.

Well, this room with the table also happened to have a mirror, nice big classical oval style, and a wardrobe. I guess it was a bit more like what the French call an armoire, all flowers carved in mahogany. Anyway, this particular room was in fact the dressing room of an actor with whom you're no doubt familiar, considering you're working on this case and all. I didn't know him personally, don't get me wrong; in fact, I only knew him by his stage name, Eric Arlington. From what I'd seen of his acting, Eric had more of a flair for the dramatic than most of his profession. He was bald, with a big, deep voice; come to think of it, he had a bit of a Patrick Stewart aesthetic about him. The kind of person who can hold an audience's attention for more than a little while, and I can respect that, because I was, in my younger days, an amateur actor myself. I'd also read in his interviews that he was what some theatrically-inclined individuals call a "method actor," which basically means he would put himself in the mindset of his character. Because that is something I could never really do, I harbored certain amount of… I'd hesitate to say professional respect, because I could never qualify as a professional, but you get the idea. Well, not that it really matters for your case, of course.

Now, this Arlington fellow, as fits an actor of his caliber, was set to play Titus Andronicus, which, you might have guessed, was the leading role of the play. Not that anybody really knew at the time, myself included. This town's theater company, you recall, does "Titus" once a year, opening on Halloween, and it's somewhat of a tradition that they don't let anybody who's not actually involved in the production know anything about it, as a way to sort of build suspense among the community. Well, as always, it worked. I still remember the first scene on opening night. Halloween was Saturday this year, and so on a Saturday night, the theater was packed. More than packed, in fact, it was standing room only, with nearly the entire town come to watch, and the atmosphere was what those with a more literary bent than myself might describe as "electric".

In fact, when Arlington first came onstage decked all out in that charcoal pinstripes suit and matched fedora, the audience broke out and gave him a standing ovation so loud that he had to wait before delivering his opening monologue regarding his return to Rome and the death of his sons. After that, we gave him a bit of quiet until he got to the part of the monologue when Titus asks himself, "Why suffer'st thou thy sons, unburied yet,/ To hover on the dreadful shore of Styx?" at which point we all burst out into applause without even giving him a chance to continue. Of course, he just kept on going like nothing happened, because now he was Titus, and nobody stops Titus. I suppose a character in a play such as this very well shouldn't notice his audience, and the actor has his job cut out for him just keeping a straight face.

Anyway, Officer, I hope you don't mind if I spare you the details of the play. I could probably describe fairly well what happens, I'm familiar enough with characters and the storyline, but I'd surmise you're not particularly interested in hearing a testimony regarding Shakespearean tragedy when we have such a real tragedy as this on our own hands. That's perfectly understandable; you can read the play when you get home. Still, I believe the late Mr. Arlington deserves all the credit due to him, so before I recount to you my version of what came up in the news, allow me to say that the play was, to put it simply, excellent in every possible respect.

I guess now it's time for me to give the more significant portion of my account of the story. Please bear with me, Officer; I know you've been investigating this rather thoroughly, and I'm aware that you must've heard what I'm about to tell you fifty times already at least, but I'd hate to bore you. Here goes.

So, Officer, remember the gun, the blood, and the bomb? I know you may have mistaken my purpose at the beginning of this interview, but I wasn't just being theatrical. I was simply giving you a bit of background information so that the important part of my testimony made sense. I wouldn't want to mislead you, and I'm as much for helping a good, reliable officer of the law as the next man. You see, it happened in the last scene in the play, the scene in which Titus…okay, and most everybody else, dies. Let me think for a second about the order things happen in…let's see, Titus kills his daughter Lavinia out of pity; in this version, shoots her in the head, quite convincingly I might add. He then reveals to Tamora that he's baked her sons Chiron and Demetrius into a pie as revenge for what they did to Lavinia. Titus pulls his gun and shoots Tamora, and her husband Saturnius pulls out his gun and shoots Titus. We, that is to say the audience, all see a great big splatter of blood. At that point Titus, I mean, the actor Eric Arlington, slowly fell over in that controlled stage death actors work so hard to do right, just like expected. Nobody, not me, not the rest of the audience, not even the cast as far as I could tell, noticed a thing. Well, that is until he didn't get up when the scene was over.

As it turned out, when the character Titus was shot, so was the actor. Shot with a real bullet, right in the chest, straight through the bomb and the blood balloon. As best I can tell, either it was the actor who played Saturnius killed Arlington, or some incredibly talented murderer got in and somehow impersonated him, did the whole show in his place…either way, he was gone by the time anybody noticed. And-and don't go asking me for a motive. I don't know. Maybe they thought this whole thing would be funny, maybe ironic or something. I just…I just don't know.

Still…it seems a bit odd to me. I know we've both been in a few scrapes, Officer, you and me both, and both of us know what it feels like to get shot. I mean, it hurts; it hurts a lot. The bullet hits you faster than you can ever imagine, with all the force of a tiny little freight train, pushes you back, but what you really don't expect is that it's hot. That little piece of metal sticks in you and seethes, and you can feel it burning you up from the inside and you can't do anything about it. And think, Arlington got shot in the chest. It must have broken at least one rib on the way in, probably damaged more than a few of his vitals as well, given how quickly he died. Now, I'd guess this fellow had never been shot before – so how did he manage, I wonder, to go through the whole tragic stage death routine?

You know, maybe it was because he was a method actor. That actually doesn't sound a half-bad theory, now that I think about it. A method actor tries to become their character totally…so, for him, this would be his most real performance ever, his magnum opus you might call it, given to him in the form of a bullet. It doesn't even seem that far-fetched to imagine that Arlington could have, in his last moments, seen the wound as…as a gift. Strange…but I'm starting to think that this Arlington fellow might have been in league with the murderer. What do you think, Officer? Does that sound reasonable?

ADDENDUM: Those reading this testimony should also note that the subject's personal history with the interviewing officer may have colored his report. Recommend psychiatric evaluation of subject and further interview. – Mariel Rutherford, external investigator