The Detective, or I.P. Knightly

The Detective, or I.P. Knightly

By Malia Marie

Cast of Characters:

I.P. Knightly: Quirky, overconfident, and supposedly brilliant. I.P. is the Sherlock Holmes from New York and the protagonist of this story.

Gertrude: Early to mid twenties; the beautiful vixen I.P. falls head over magnifying mustache for. She appreciates the beauty in life. While seemingly sweet, she tends to have a temper.

Undertaker (Willy): The town undertaker who emigrated from London to America with his wife, Molly, and is happiest puffing on his pipe and watching life go by.

Midwife (Molly): The town midwife and wife of the Undertaker; she is a kind but firm woman who is the voice of reason throughout the play.

Setting:

A small southern village.

Time:

Late 19th century.

Production Notes:

The stage is divided into three sections: the Undertaker's parlor; Gertrude's living quarters; and a street in the village. Everything and everyone in this world is a bit off-kilter, a little too extreme.

Scene 1: The Detective Arrives

(The stage is in blackout. There is a loud knock on a door.)

UNDERTAKER

Welcome sir, it's so lovely to see you…

(The lights rise on the UNDERTAKER'S PARLOR. The décor is modest; 2 chairs are seated opposite one another, atop a table sits a wooden coffin, a spice shelf on one wall, and a large salt jar sits in a corner. A sign that reads UNDERTAKING MIDWIFARY is visible. The UNDERTAKER, himself, stands affable, smoking a pipe. I.P. surveys his surroundings, and then clears his throat.)

I. P.

Undertaker, I have come from my post in New York to call upon you because I wish-

(I.P. steps forward, stumbling into a chair, toppling it over. He glares menacingly it, daring it to trip him again. The Undertaker sits the chair upright.)

I.P. (cont'd)

Ahem… as I was saying, I have called upon you because I wish to-

(The Undertaker holds up a hand.)

UNDERTAKER

You don't have to say, I'm already aware. (He takes a puff of his pipe.) You want to know about the murdered townspeople.

(I.P. nods; he notices Undertaker's pipe and removes his own from within his coat.)

UNDERTAKER (cont'd)

It would be my pleasure! What is it you need from me?

(I.P. takes a puff of his pipe, which sends him into a terrible coughing fit.)

I. P.

(Recovering.) Well… (Starts to pace the floor.) I already know that the citizens of this town have been dropping like flies, left and right, for three months now and that the total population has been reduced to a mere handful. I also know that in each of the murders, the victims' bodies were greatly mistreated. The severity worsening with the age of the murdered as well as their profession and rumored hygiene. Furthermore, I have noted that not once in these past few months has a detective had the incredible skill necessary to detain the demon responsible for these heinous atrocities. (Pause.) That is why I am here.

UNDERTAKER

(Chuckling.) Well I'm not sure what you need from me then… you seem informed enough.

MIDWIFE

But of course he is!

(The MIDWIFE enters, holding a tea tray. She is a kindly old woman, if not a little work worn.)

Otherwise why on earth would he have come? It's a pleasure to meet you dearie!

I. P.

I.P. Knightly. (He bows.)

MIDWIFE

Oh… well… that's…You do?

(The Undertaker claps I.P. on the back.)

UNDERTAKER

Good to hear! (To Midwife.) He's not shy, this one…

MIDWIFE

Good heavens… uhm… my name is Miss Molly, the town midwife. This is my husband Willy, the Undertaker.

(The Undertaker raises his pipe in greeting. I.P. nods his head, removing his magnifying glass. He suddenly drops to all fours and crawls about the room, looking for evidence. The Midwife and Undertaker look to each other, confused, and then hesitantly climb on top of the chairs to get out of I.P.'s way.)

I. P.

(Looking up.) Now, tell me, Undertaker… is there any way I could examine the victims? Or see a certificate of death?

UNDERTAKER

If you have the stomach for the first, then certainly.

I. P.

Sir, no offense, but I do not become squeamish so easily. If you've seen half of what my eyes have seen…

(I.P. crawls around the room until he reaches the coffin, then stands.)

I. P.

Is this… one of the…?

UNDERTAKER

Mhmm.

(I.P. lifts the lid, screams, and then slams it shut.)

UNDERTAKER (cont'd)

(Laughing.) Oh, I can tell you're not the squeamish type.

(I.P. turns around and removes a small vial from the spice shelf. He pops it open and takes a whiff. The Undertaker and Midwife step down from the chairs.)

UNDERTAKER (cont'd)

I wouldn't do that if I were you!

I. P.

And why not?

UNDERTAKER

That's poison. Lethal stuff… kill you in one drop… supposed to be tasteless too…

I. P.

I think I can tell if something's poisoned, my good sir! (Staggers a bit.) Whew! I feel a bit lightheaded. (Closing the vile.) Why on earth would you have this here!?

UNDERTAKER

(Leans against the coffin.) Just in case I have a customer with some spunk left. Call it my dirty little secret.

I. P.

That's barbaric!

UNDERTAKER

That's business.

(I.P. puts the vile on the shelf and tucks his magnifying glass away.)

I. P.

Tell me my dear fellow and fell-ess… (Takes a puff of his pipe, and then coughs.) How long have you lived in this quaint, little village?

MIDWIFE

Oh… decades now! Isn't that right, Willy?

UNDERTAKER

Mmm… moved here from London. Looking for work for Molly.

I. P.

No work in London?

MIDWIFE

Midwives are not too highly thought of anymore back home. Women prefer a real doctor now… more schooled hands. Well, that's what they told me at least.

I. P.

So you ended up here?

MIDWIFE

Unfortunately…

I. P.

Why unfortunately?

MIDWIFE

We thought that this New World would be a fresh start, full of life! Instead we landed in this nightmare of death…

I. P.

Nightmare?

MIDWIFE

Err… the murders…

I. P.

Ah, yes, but of course! (Puffs his pipe; coughs.)

UNDERTAKER

Bittersweet really, another death's another dollar.

I. P.

Right… right… Now, why is it that an undertaker and a midwife would choose to get married to begin with? A little ironic, don't you think?

UNDERTAKER

Well that's precisely the point, lad!

MIDWIFE

You see, dearie, in this house, every day… well, until recently… the circle of life is in motion.

UNDERTAKER

Molly brings up the sun with a gift of hope, the aiding in the entrance of a miracle… of a life.

MIDWIFE

And as the sun sets, Willy humbles us all as he tucks an old life to sleep.

UNDERTAKER

It's all very deep when you think about it.

I. P.

Indeed… well, not to be rude, but I've dilly dallied enough! I must begin my investigation!

MIDWIFE

Don't worry dear; I'll help you find what you need.

I. P.

Thank you, madam. Believe me when I say this: the perpetrator will be punished and the sanctity of this town salvaged. And NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING will stand in my way. After this is over, you all will remember… (Drags from his pipe.) I.P. Knightly. (Coughs.)

(The Undertaker and Midwife make eye contact.)

UNDERTAKER

Is that really relevant?

I. P.

Of course it is! Now, come along madam, it is time for this killer's plot to unfold.

(I.P. trudges off, determined. The Midwife and Undertaker linger back, a bit bewildered by I. P. The Undertaker shrugs and ushers a hesitant Midwife off stage as the lights fade.)

Scene 2: Arousing Suspicions

(The lights rise on the UNDERTAKER, who is heading back from a funeral with a shovel thrown over his shoulder. He is in a cheery mood, whistling a tune. GERTRUDE, the village sweetheart, saunters on but, upon seeing the Undertaker, quickly tries to run the other direction; however the Undertaker notices her first.)

UNDERTAKER

G'day Lady Gertrude!

(Gertrude grits her teeth and turns around.)

GERTRUDE

Why hello there Undertaker, another funeral?

(Nodding, the Undertaker plants the shovel on the ground, leaning upon it.)

UNDERTAKER

Never fails… Isn't it great! Another funeral, putting bread on the table!

GERTRUDE

(Attempting to leave.) Well, that's just wonderful! It was so good to see you…

UNDERTAKER

Certainly… (Gertrude starts to exit.) Too bad it's all about to end.

GERTRUDE

(Freezes.) Excuse me?

UNDERTAKER

Oh yes… I'll be just a humble Undertaker again before long. A detective came in from New York this morning… strapping young man.

GERTRUDE

Another one?

UNDERTAKER

Ah, yes, however… I believe this just might be the one to stop this murderer.

(Gertrude begins nervously fanning herself.)

GERTRUDE

Is that… Is that so?

(The Undertaker nods, pulling out a pipe from within his coat.)

UNDERTAKER

Says he's the absolute best at what he does… I must admit… he's something else.

(Gertrude fans more vigorously, yet still manages to force a coy smile.)

GERTRUDE

Well, we'll just have to see about that… won't we?

(The Undertaker laughs, hoisting his shovel back over his shoulder.)

UNDERTAKER

(Tips his hat.) It was so good to see you, Lady Gertrude, but I must be off. The next funeral will be mine if I'm late for supper again! Good day Madam!

GERTRUDE

Yes…Well…

(The Undertaker exits; Gertrude is left alone, brooding. Her wrists start to ache from all the fanning. She scoffs, and puts the fan away. She exits as the lights fade.)

Scene 3: What Do We Have Here?

(The lights rise on the UNDERTAKER'S PARLOR. I.P. is knelt down with his magnifying glass, studying several pieces of evidence. The UNDERTAKER is sitting in a chair beside I.P., observant. The MIDWIFE enters with a tray of tea.)

MIDWIFE

How's it going dear?

I. P.

(Without looking up.) Madam, you're more than welcome to call me by my name.

MIDWIFE

I'd rather not, if you don't mind.

(A pause. The Undertaker cracks a smile.)

I. P.

Well, seeing as there are only six living people in the town, including the present company, my suspect list is relatively small.

MIDWIFE

Then perhaps this mess will be over with soon.

GERTRUDE

(From offstage.) Yoo-hoo! Oh! Yoo-hoo!

MIDWIFE

Oh bloody heck, no!

(GERTRUDE enters dressed in a luxurious coat. She flaunts about for the audience- until she notices I.P.)

GERTRUDE

My, my… Who do we have here? Why, you must be the devilishly handsome detective I've heard so much about!

(I.P. slowly rises, observing the length of her body with his magnifying glass, finally resting at her bosom.)

I. P.

He… Hello there Miss…

GERTRUDE

Call me Gertrude, darling.

(I.P. lowers his magnifying glass and looks deep into Gertrude's eyes.)

UNDERTAKER

(To Midwife.) Uh oh…

I. P.

(Smitten.) Lovely! Like the beautiful Shakespearian queen! (Taking her hand for a kiss.) I. P. Knightly is my name miss.

GERTRUDE

Like… urine?

I. P.

(Halting the repeated kissing of her hand.) Pardon?

GERTRUDE

You're in a tough spot Mister. Countless detectives have come down from their fancy, rich towns. Tailored suits and black books in hand, attempting to stop this place from becoming the next Roanoke! What makes you any different?

I. P.

(He removes his pipe, gloating.) Well madam, while your suspicion is certainly certifiable, I must assure you that my credentials are credible and that this killer will soon be captured and brought to justice. (Leans to Gertrude, winking.) I'm world renowned. (He takes a puff; again he coughs.)

GERTRUDE

(Coyly.) I've never heard of you.

(I.P. stands love struck, watching the damsel sashay about the room, the evidence under his feet soon forgotten. The Midwife looks beyond irate.)

MIDWIFE

Gertrude, may I help you with anything?

GERTRUDE

Some tea would be nice.

MIDWIFE

Of course… but I do believe, for the time being, that you should leave. (She looks to a drooling I.P.) You're distracting the detective.

GERTRUDE

Oh Molly, you're so funny! Now, tell me, how's business been going?

MIDWIFE

(Handing Gertrude a cup of tea.) Not well… without any living women, you can't very well bear babies can you? Any living men too, for that matter…

GERTRUDE

Ah, granny, you always have been so logical.

MIDWIFE

Granny!? Why you…

(Gertrude turns away and the Undertaker grabs the Midwife before she can attack the young woman. Gertrude examines the contents of the spice shelf for a time, then walks back to I.P.)

GERTRUDE

(Pointing to the evidence.) What's this?

I. P.

Ah, madam. This is the information I've gathered whilst gallywhomping about town. Alibis, family connections, as well as death certificates from the Undertaker.

GERTRUDE

Have you come up with anything?

I. P.

Actually… yes.

(Gertrude begins nervously fanning herself.)

GERTRUDE

Oh…?

I. P. (cont'd)

I've deduced that the murderer probably lives alone, which would account from a lack of suspicious reports.

GERTRUDE

(Fanning more vigorously.) Oh that's… I… um… really?

I. P.

Probably is very vain, for the murders were carried out in such a way that the perpetrator would not have made too much a mess of them self.

GERTRUDE

(Shuffles nervously.) Oh, well, I'm not sure vain is the best way to-

I. P.

Also, I suspect the killer might be a woman.

GERTRUDE

A woman!? Why on earth would you say that!?

I. P.

Because all the men's hearts were ripped straight out of their chests!

(I.P. and the Undertaker laugh uncontrollably for a moment, the Midwife rolls her eyes and Gertrude stands, awestruck.)

GERTRUDE

My, my PP… you really are amazing! You got all that from a few little pieces of paper.

I. P.

But of course! That is exactly the reason why everyone yearns to know… (Poses with his pipe.) I.P. Knightly.

(The Undertaker makes eye contact with The Midwife.)

MIDWIFE

(To I.P.) Honestly dearie, you really should see a doctor about that.

UNDERTAKER

(To Gertrude.) See M'lady, I told you these murders would come to a close.

GERTRUDE

Well, this is just wonderful!

(Gertrude thrusts open her arms, excited. In so doing, she drops her tea cup, spilling tea all over the papers on the floor, leaving them illegible. The Midwife cries out, grabbing a mop.)

MIDWIFE

Oh no! Look what you've done! What are we going to do?! (Pushes Gertrude out of the way.) Get back! Get back!

(While the Undertaker, Midwife, and I.P are cleaning up the mess of tea and ruined evidence, Gertrude sneaks behind the coffin to the spice shelf. She opens her coat, stealing several different bottles from the shelf. When she is done, she rushes to a devastated I.P.'s side.)

GERTRUDE

Oh darling! How could I be so clumsy! I'm so sorry! I… I …

(Gertrude is close to tears. I.P. takes this opportunity to wrap his arms around the lovely lady.)

I. P.

There, there m'lady. It's only pieces of paper after all… you did nothing wrong.

(The Midwife throws down the mop, infuriated.)

MIDWIFE

Nothing wrong! She just deliberately poured tea all over…

GERTRUDE

SHUT YOUR MOUTH OLD LADY! (Pauses.) Uh… I mean… I had better go. I think I've caused enough trouble for one day.

MIDWIFE

Indeed!

I. P.

(Dramatically.) But…will I ever see you again?

GERTRUDE

Oh, you can count on it.

(Gertrude blows a kiss and I.P. catches it and taps his heart; Gertrude exits. The Midwife looks suspiciously after her. I.P. plops down in the chair, gazing dreamily into space.)

MIDWIFE

I tell you detective… there's just something about that woman that rubs me the wrong way.

I. P.

What a beautiful name…

MIDWIFE

(Sarcastically.) Gertrude? Really?

I. P.

Guhhhh-trrroooood… just rolls off the tongue…

MIDWIFE

Oh, you aren't seriously falling for her "pretty lady" act are you!?

I. P.

(To Midwife, annoyed.) Madam, just because she's young, vibrant, completely unaffected by the fact that the village is dropping like flies, OR that she fits my killer's profile perfectly does not mean that I should hold her under cleavage…

UNDERTAKER

(Interrupting.) Here, here!

I. P.

I mean… under suspicion.

(The Midwife throws up her hands and storms off, pulling an amused Undertaker behind her. I.P. kneels down, new life springing into his step, and begins deciphering the destroyed pieces of evidence. Lights fade. )

Scene 4: Ignorance is Bliss

(The lights rise on I.P. who is standing outside of GERTRUDE'S HOUSE, nervously adjusting his coat, and smoothing down his hair. He knocks. No answer. A moment later screams are heard, followed by the sound of running footsteps. GERTRUDE throws open the door, flustered; she stands beautiful in her night gown.)

GERTRUDE

Oh detective, dear, this is uh… a bad time.

(She's hiding an absurdly large knife behind her back. I.P. remains oblivious to it. Someone cries for help from inside her house. I.P. tries to look behind her but she blocks his sight. He attempts to see from the other way, but she guards there too.)

I. P.

What was that?

GERTRUDE

Oh, nothin' sugar… (Another scream.) Just listening to the phonograph.

(Another scream, this time higher pitched.)

I. P.

Interesting… well I've just finished up for the night and I'm on my way to the Inn. Something just told me I should stop by and check on you, make sure you were… you know… still alive.

GERTRUDE

Well, isn't that just the sweetest thing I've ever heard!

(Gertrude smiles and moves to grab his hand, dropping the enormous knife. Before I.P can notice she points somewhere in the distance.)

GERTRUDE

Oh my heavens! What is that!?

I. P.

Where!?

(Gertrude picks up the knife, and throws it into her house, causing someone inside to scream out in pain. I.P. turns to her, confused; Gertrude only shrugs.)

GERTURDE

Must have been a deer over in the woods. Now, TT, is there something I can help you with?

I. P.

Actually I wanted to ask you if, after this case is solved, you wouldn't mind taking a stroll with me?

GERTRUDE

A stroll?

I. P.

Yes… or maybe you could come back to New York with me for a time; See what it's like in the big city.

GERTRUDE

So you still think you're going to solve this case do you?

I. P.

Madam, surely by now you have noticed nothing can get past my keen sense of perception.

(Another scream is heard from inside the house that sounds peculiarly like, "for the love of God man get me out of here".)

GERTRUDE

(Viciously.) SHUT UP BAKER!

I. P.

Baker?

GERTURDE

(Quickly recomposing herself.) My…uh…parakeet! Silly thing won't shut up!

(Gertrude laughs nervously and steps outside, shutting the door behind her. She leans to I.P. seductively.)

GERTRUDE (cont'd)

Now, don't you think you better scurry along? You'll never get this case solved standing here under the Lord's silver moonlight with little ole me.

(I.P. sweeps her into his arms.)

I. P.

Not until you say that you'll come to New York with me! I know this is sudden, but what a beautiful love we could have!

(He tries to kiss her just as another scream comes from within the house, which could be confused with "Dear God what are you doing! What kind of a detective are you!?" Gertrude hums loudly, covering up the noise.)

GERTRUDE

Oh, I love this song! Can you hold on just a second?

I. P.

Of course, my sweet.

(Gertrude goes back into the house.)

GERTRUDE

(From inside the house:) I SAID SILENCE!

(She comes back out to I.P., composed.)

GERTRUDE (cont'd)

Listen darling, I'm a little busy at the moment. But I'll tell you what, if you actually solve this case… (Narrowing her eyes.) I'll make sure you can't get away.

I. P.

Oh Gerdie! You mean it!?

GERTRUDE

With all my heart. Now if you don't mind, I…

I. P.

Of course! You need your rest! Good night my kind lady, perhaps the next time we meet it will be at the chapel! (Pauses.) That is… if the reverend is still alive…

GERTRUDE

(Laughing.) Oh you wicked man!

I. P.

Something funny?

GERTRUDE

Never mind. Go on darling, I'll see you soon!

(I.P. bows gallantly, and then rushes off stage. Gertrude pulls a handkerchief out of her cleavage and stands waving after him, as if to a soldier headed off to war, until he's out of sight. She then leans back onto the door with a sigh of relief. Lights fade.)

Scene 5: The Invitation

(The lights rise on the UNDERTAKER, who is busy at work on an unseen body in a coffin. He pauses, and smokes his pipe while the MIDWIFE searches the shelves, muttering under her breath.)

MIDWIFE

I can't seem to find the pepper or thyme or…

(The Undertaker scoops some salt out of the jar.)

UNDERTAKER

Here's some salt.

(I.P. enters, black book in hand. He notices the body and respectfully removes his hat.)

I. P.

Another one?

UNDERTAKER

Came in just this morning, found not far from the river. It's the Reverend Johnson.

I. P.

I see. That's unfortunate … (Pause.) May I?

(The Undertaker steps aside as I.P. takes out his magnifying glass and surveys the body. The Undertaker stands behind I.P., puffing his pipe. I.P., lost in thought, removes his own pipe from his coat.)

MIDWIFE

This is dreadful! But you know…

(I.P. takes a puff of the pipe.)

All the screams were reported…

(I.P. goes into a terrible coughing fit.)

Around Lady Gertrude's house…

(I.P. looks accusingly at the pipe, recomposes himself, and then looks to the Midwife.)

I. P.

I'm sorry madam, what did you say?

(A woman is heard screaming from outside.)

MIDWIFE

What in the world?!

(Everyone jumps, rushing to the door. GERTRUDE enters, frazzled and breathless. She sees I.P. and throws herself into his arms, sobbing. The Midwife stomps her foot, crosses her arms, and tries to get as far away from Gertrude as possible.)

GERTRUDE

Darling, there's someone outside the door! A body… I… I…

(The Undertaker rushes outside. A moment passes. When he comes back he looks awestruck.)

UNDERTAKER

Dear me! It's the baker!

I. P.

Like the parakeet?

UNDERTAKER

What?

MIDWIFE

(To Gertrude.) WHAT DID YOU DO!?

GERTRUDE

(Venomously.) You pipe down, old woman! I didn't do a thing.

MIDWIFE

That was the last living townsperson! There's no one left now! It's just us! (Storming to Gertrude.) What are you hiding!?

GERTRUDE

(Pushing I.P. away) Hiding? I'm not hiding anything!

(An enormous knife drops from her coat, stained red. I.P. kneels down, picks it up, and examines it with his magnifying glass.)

MIDWIFE

There's blood on it!

I. P.

(To Gertrude.) My Lady?

GERTRUDE

Oh, WeeWee, that's not blood! It's um… uh… from my heirloom tomatoes! I was making…stew?

MIDWIFE

Stew! You don't actually believe that do you, detective!?

GERTRUDE

But it's true! That's actually why I came over… Why don't you all come over tonight? I do believe we can find safety in numbers.

MIDWIFE

Unless one of us is the killer!

I. P.

Oh pish posh! What are the chances that out of the only 4 people left alive that the killer would actually be one of us! (To Gertrude.) We accept, kind lady.

MIDWIFE

No we don't!

GERTRUDE

Oh, lovely! I'll see you all tonight.

(Gertrude kisses I.P. on the cheek and then rushes out the door. The Midwife tries to attack her as she exits, but the Undertaker catches her, lifting the struggling Midwife to flail in the air. All of this goes unnoticed by a love struck I.P.)

UNDERTAKER

(Whispering.) Whoa, there missy!

MIDWIFE

(Calming down.) Alright, dearie put me down! She's up to something, I can feel it…

I. P.

Oh, nonsense! Now if you'll excuse me, I must go… ahem… freshen up.

(The Midwife tries to protest, but the Undertaker puts a hand over her mouth, shutting her up. I.P. exits, leaving the Midwife and Undertaker uneasy. Lights fade. )

Scene 6: The Last Supper

(The lights rise on GERTRUDE'S DINNER TABLE. The UNDERTAKER and the MIDWIFE are seated, waiting to be served their stew. GERTRUDE is busy filling up their bowls, followed closely by a badgering I.P.)

I. P.

My lady, please! Let me do that, you need to rest your gorgeous feet.

GERTRUDE

(Annoyed.) I'm already done, sweetie… you can just sit down now.

I. P.

Are you sure because I can-

GERTRUDE

SIT!

(I.P. rushes to a seat but just before he could sit down he runs back to Gertrude, pulls out her seat for her, and then quickly sits back down. The Undertaker puffs his pipe, complacent as usual, and the Midwife sits sour, refusing to even look at her bowl.)

GERTRUDE

(To Midwife.) Well, eat up! You don't want it to get cold.

MIDWIFE

I'm not about to eat this! It's probably poisoned!

I. P.

Hold your tongue madam!

MIDWIFE

Really!?

(The Midwife looks to the Undertaker for help.)

UNDERTAKER

Now, now love calm down. We mustn't be rude…

I. P.

(Flustered.) Now, let's just bow our heads and say thanks for this wonderful meal that this smoking hot babe has prepared for us.

MIDWIFE

Absolutely not! Why on earth would we thank God for her!? She killed the reverend! She killed everybody!

I. P.

Nonsense! (Pulls out magnifying glass.) I see absolutely no traces of poison in this stew.

MIDWIFE

(Rolling her eyes.) Well that's a relief. Besides, don't you mean brew.

I. P.

Undertaker! If you wouldn't mind, would you please demonstrate to your wife the pureness of this… (Cuts his eyes to Midwife.) Untainted dinner?

(The Undertaker freezes, wide eyed.)

UNDERTAKER

Me?

I. P.

Yes you!

UNDERTAKER

(Pauses.) Why can't you do it?

I. P.

Because she won't listen to me!

MIDWIFE

Darling, don't eat it! The witch will kill you too!

GERTRUDE

I'm still here, you know…

I. P.

Go on…

(The Undertaker looks nervously at each face, resting the longest on the Midwife's. Finally, he puts down his pipe and picks up a spoon. The room is dead quiet as he takes his first bite.)

UNDERTAKER

Delicious!

(Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. A moment later the Undertaker's face drops into the bowl.)

MIDWIFE

WILLY!

(The Undertaker suddenly sits back up, well and alive.)

UNDERTAKER

Ha, ha! You should see your faces!

(The Midwife slaps his arm as he dabs at his face with a napkin. They all laugh.)

I. P.

See, madam, (He looks to Gertrude lovingly.) This damsel could never hurt anyone.

GERTRUDE

My heavens! Of course not!

(The Midwife smiles, apologetically.)

MIDWIFE

Maybe I was wrong about you… (Cuts her eyes to I.P.) Gerdie.

(The Midwife then prepares to take a bite. Before she can put the spoon to her mouth, the Undertaker's face drops back into the bowl. He dies. The Midwife jumps out of her chair, devastated.)

GERTRUDE

Oopsies! Must have been a bad tomato.

MIDWIFE

I KNEW IT! (Points to Gertrude.) YOU'RE THE MURDERER! Oh, Willy! You're really gone! Detective, please! Hurry up and arrest her before she kills us too!

GERTRUDE

Shut up, Grandma!

(Gertrude pulls the absurdly large knife out from under the table and chases the Midwife, who takes off screaming. I.P. pulls out his magnifying glass and observes the Undertaker, oblivious to the ruckus going on behind him.

The Midwife's hand is seen waving behind the table as she begs for I.P. to help her. Gertrude reaches up and jerks the Midwife's hand back down.

After a moment I.P. straightens up, victorious.)

I. P.

My god! I think I've got it! (Paces.) When I first came into this town, I was baffled, if not behooved, to discover that the trail to the killer would be a rocky one. Nevertheless, I trudged forward...

(Puffs his pipe; coughs.)

Upon entering the Undertaker's parlor I discovered a small vile of lethal, tasteless poison on a SPICE RACK! (To Midwife.) Honestly woman, couldn't you have found a better place? Then upon my collection of evidence I discovered key facts including the killer's personal profile AS WELL AS the key assumption that the murder-ESS was a female.

(Puffs his pipe; coughs.)

Furthermore, the night that I so-so, sort of proposed to the gorgeous Gertrude, the town reverend shows up dead. That was nothing more than a stern act of jealousy! All this calculated and deduced, I claim that the culprit is none other than…

(I.P. turns to the Midwife.)

YOU! THE MIDWIFE!

GERTRUDE

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?

(Gertrude, infuriated, runs to I.P., shaking the enormous knife in his face.)

GERTRUDE (cont'd)

YOU IGNORANT PISS POT!

IT'S ME!

I. AM. THE. MURDERER!

COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE ANYMORE DIMWITTED?!

I. P.

(Heartbroken.) But... but…Gerdie… how could you? Is this true?

GERTRUDE

Of course it is! Do you have any idea what it's like… being the only attractive one in the town!? Every Single Day, having to cope with insolent people who look like… like… like that! (Points to Midwife.)

MIDWIFE

Now, I've about had it with you!

(I.P. observes the Midwife with his magnifying glass; she kicks him in the shin.)

GERTRUDE

(Crying.) You…you just don't understand! It's so hard being so…so… so… indescribably beautiful! And everyone else is just… well… they're …they're… so NOT! I mean look at me! (She moves to a mirror.) I AM A GODDESS!

(Gertrude looks at I.P.)

GERTRUDE (cont'd)

(Motioning at his physique.) And I mean really?!

I. P.

(Posing.) Well, I have tried to be better about taking jogs in the morning…

GERTRUDE

(Holding the knife above her head.) And so now PP… (Attacking.) It's your turn!

MIDWIFE

NO…!

(I.P. sidesteps Gertrude, without noticing his impending doom. He is terribly confused.)

I. P.

But wait… (Plops down in a chair.) Then that must mean…

(Gertrude turns to attack I.P. again, but the Midwife intervenes, clocking her over the head with a pot. I.P. stands up, triumphant.)

I. P.

I think I've got it! It's suddenly all so clear to me now! The fiend, behind these murders, is none other than… LADY GERTRUDE!

MIDWIFE

OH SWEET HEAVENS! You think!?

(I.P. places a hand on the Midwife's shoulder.)

I. P.

Don't feel bad madam, it wasn't your fault. (Stares dramatically into the distance.) She fooled us all…

MIDWIFE

(Dumbstruck.) You let this… this… hussy distract you from what you came here for in the first place! Everyone died! You didn't solve anything! What kind of a detective ARE YOU?!

(I.P. crosses to the table, scooping up a spoonful of stew.)

I. P.

A damn good one miss. (He takes a bite.) A damn good one.

(A moment later I.P. falls down, dead. Gertrude starts to wake-up. The Midwife looks at the body of I.P… then to the stirring Gertrude… And slowly inches her way offstage. Blackout.)

END OF PLAY

29.