A 40s era Daily Bugle front page. The headline reads ‘Starlet Found Dead In Locked Dressing Room’. A stock photo of an attractive blonde starlet accompanies the story. We can read the first paragraph of the report, as follows…
Popular star of stage and screen, Camille Dahl, was found dead yesterday in her Broadway dressing room. Miss Dahl, 31, who famously fainted at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony when a small rodent scampered onto the stage, had been appearing in Cole Porter’s latest…
CAP (BLONDE PHANTOM): WHO KILLED CAMILLE DAHL?
Backstage at a Broadway theatre – inside the star’s dressing room. There is a taped police body outline on the floor marking where the actress was found dead. PI Mark Mason is questioning the theatre manager, a squat balding man in his 50s with milk bottle bottom spectacles. Mark’s assistant, Louise Grant, is standing to one side, examining the crime scene. The sole door to the room is shattered, having been kicked in.
CAP (BP): THE POLICE SAID SUICIDE, BUT CAMILLE’S AGENT SUSPECTED FOUL PLAY… WHICH IS WHERE MY BOSS, PI MARK MASON, CAME IN…
MANAGER: I WAS TALKING WITH SANDRA, THE UNDERSTUDY, WHEN WE HEARD THE SCREAM FROM CAMILLE’S DRESSING ROOM…
Flashback (wavy panel border). Sandra the understudy, a less glamorous version of the starlet, crouches beside the body. Camille wears a scarlet dress, slightly darker in colour than the one worn by the Blonde Phantom herself. Her body is lying on its side, facing away from the manager so he / we can only see it from behind. Sandra wears ordinary clothes and has a handbag hanging from her shoulder. She turns back to shriek at the stage manager, who's standing stunned by the broken door he’s just kicked in. There is no visible blood. In the top corner of the panel, the manager’s talking head continues his account.
MANAGER: …THE DOOR WAS LOCKED, SO WHEN CAMILLE DIDN’T RESPOND, WE HAD TO BREAK IT DOWN. SHE WAS JUST LYING THERE… I FROZE – I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
SANDRA: SHE’S DEAD, JACK! CALL THE POLICE!
While Mason continues to listen to the manager (in the background / off-panel), Louise crouches down to examine something she’s noticed on the floor. Small black droppings. On one side of Louise’s face we see half of the Blonde Phantom’s Domino mask, reminding the reader of her secret identity.
MANAGER: I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY CAMILLE WOULD STAB HERSELF IN THE CHEST LIKE THAT, BUT WHO ELSE COULD HAVE DONE IT?
MANAGER: THERE WAS NOBODY ELSE HERE AND NO OTHER WAY INTO THE ROOM.
LOUISE (THOUGHT BALLOON): …MOUSE DROPPINGS?
Later that night. A shadowy corridor backstage at the theatre. The Blonde Phantom holds Sandra at gunpoint. Sandra, realising the game is up, bursts into tears.
CAP (BP): THIS WAS CLEARLY A CASE FOR THE BLONDE PHANTOM…
SANDRA: HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WAS ME?
BLONDE PHANTOM: I SHOWED YOUR PHOTO TO THE OWNER OF THE LOCAL PET STORE. YOU BOUGHT THE MOUSE THAT VERY MORNING, LEFT IT IN CAMILLE’S DRESSING ROOM, THEN WAITED TILL YOU HEARD HER SCREAM...
Another wavy flashback panel, similar to panel three… except in this one the stage manager has turned away to fetch the police… while Sandra pulls a dagger from her handbag… and the mouse scurries across the floor towards the bag. We can see Camille from the front this time – she hasn’t been stabbed… yet.
BLONDE PHANTOM: YOU KNEW SHE’D FAINT – THEN WHILE THE STAGE MANAGER WAS AWAY CALLING THE POLICE – YOU TOOK YOUR CHANCE…
The Blonde Phantom watches as police lead Sandra away in handcuffs. BP is holding the cute little mouse in the palm of her hand.
BLONDE PHANTOM: YOU MIGHT HAVE GOT AWAY WITH IT TOO – IF YOUR FURRY COLLABORATOR HADN’T LEFT BEHIND A FEW TELL-TALE CLUES…
SANDRA: SHE SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THE STAR – I PLAYED THAT ROLE BETTER THAN SHE EVER DID…
Ha, I am in awe that you fit so much into just the one page. You kill someone and solve the mystery all together, great.ReplyDelete
Sandra's final Scooby Doo style dialogue is ripe (in a good way) and I love the half-mask for BP, Spidey style.
Love the tone, completely.
I was inspired by the old Mike Mist One Minute Mysteries that used to run in the back of Max Collins and Terry Beatty's Miss Tree. It always impressed me how they could set up and solve a murder in just 1 page - though by necessity, you do need to keep the dialogue largely to exposition (down to the Scooby Doo line you mention which confirms motive).ReplyDelete
Pretty good one page story, Rol.ReplyDelete