Leonard Stephen Vole: a handsome young man of about thirty, who is
accused of murdering Mrs Emily French
Christine Vole (Helm): Leonard Vole's wife, a good-looking woman of
over thirty, of Austrian origin
Sir Wilfred Robart: Leonard Vole's Counsel for the Defence, one of the
finest and most experienced barristers in London
Mayherne: Leonard Vole's solicitor
Myers: Counsel for the Prosecution
Hearne: Chief Inspector of New Scotland Yard
Carter: Sir Wilfred's office clerk
The judge (in court)
Court Clerk (in court)
(In Sir Wilfred's Office. Mr Mayherne and his client, Leonard Vole, come to Sir Wilfred's office. Mr Mayherne urges Sir Wilfred to take the case of Leonard Vole, who may be arrested any minute on the charge of murdering Mrs Emily French. Mrs Emily French, a wealthy widow, was murdered two days ago. Mrs French left L80,000 to Leonard Vole. Leonard Vole had visited Mrs French earlier in the evening on the night of the murder. It is quite obvious that he is regarded as the principal and logical suspect in the case.
Sir Wilfred hesitates – he has not yet recovered from a serious heart attack, with which he has been laid up in hospital for two months. The doctors have forbidden him to take up criminal cases. Miss Plimsoll, a trained nurse, sees to it that he follows the doctors' instructions. Therefore Sir Wilfred refuses to take Leonard Vole's case. He starts to go to his bedroom – he has to have an after-lunch nap. Suddenly he sees two cigars in Mr Mayherne's vest pocket. He is tempted – he is not allowed to smoke. He returns and invites Mayherne into his study, saying he would like to give him a word of advice.)
Mayherne: It's the case of Mrs Emily French. You've probably seen the reports in the press. She was a middle-aged widow, rather well-off, living with a housekeeper at Hampstead. Mr Vole had been with her earlier in the evening. When the housekeeper returned from her day off, she found her mistress dead, struck on the back of the head and killed.
Sir Wilfred: I see.
Mayherne: Vole seems a harmless chap caught in the web of circumstantial evidence. Perhaps if I were to give you more of the details you might suggest the strongest line of defence.
Sir Wilfred: Probably I'd think better if you gave me one of those cigars.
Mayherne (giving him a cigar): Of course. There are no previous convictions naturally. He's a man of good character with an excellent war record. You'd like him a lot.
Sir Wilfred: Give me a light, please.
Mayherne: I am sorry I haven't got any matches. Let me get you some. (Starting for the door): Mr Vole may have some matches.
Sir Wilfred: Lord, no. You don't know Miss Plimsoll. This will take all our cunning. (Opening the door, to Leonard Vole): Young man, come here, please. Your solicitor and I feel you may be able to enlighten me on a rather important point.
(Vole comes in.)
Sir Wilfred: Give me a match.
Vole: Sorry, I never carry them.
Sir Wilfred: What? (To Mayherne): You said I'd like him.
Vole: But I do have a lighter.
Sir Wilfred: You are quite right, Mayherne, I do like him. (Returning the lighter): Thank you. Can you imagine Miss Plimsoll's face if she saw me now!
Vole: Then let's make absolutely sure that she doesn't. (He turns the key in the lock.)
Sir Wilfred: Splendid! All instincts of a skilled criminal.
Vole (smiling): Thank you, sir.
Sir Wilfred: Sit here. Young man, you may or may not have murdered a middle-aged widow, but you've certainly saved the life of an elderly barrister.
Vole: I haven't murdered anybody. It's absurd! Christine, that's my wife, she thought I might be implicated and that I needed a lawyer. That's why I went to see Mr Mayherne. Now he thinks he needs a lawyer and now I have two lawyers. It's rather silly, don't you think?
Mayherne: Vole, I am a solicitor. Sir Wilfred is a barrister. Only a barrister can actually plead a case in court.
Vole: Oh, I see. Well, I saw in a paper that poor Mrs French had been found dead with her head bashed in. It was also said in the papers that the police were very anxious to interview me since I visited Mrs French that evening. So naturally I went along to the police station.
Sir Wilfred: Did they caution you?
Vole: I don't quite know. They asked me if I'd like to make a statement and said they'd write it down and that it might be used against me in court. Were they cautioning me?
Sir Wilfred: Well, it can't be helped now.
Vole: They were very polite. They seemed quite satisfied.
Mayherne: They seemed satisfied. Mr Vole, you think you made a statement and that's the end of it. Isn't it obvious to you, Mr Vole, that you will be regarded as the principal and logical suspect in this case? I am very much afraid you'll be arrested.
Vole: But I've done nothing. Why should I be arrested?
Mayherne: Relax, Mr Vole. I am putting you in the hands of the finest and most experienced barrister in London.
Sir Wilfred: No, Mayherne, let's get this straight. I may have done something unethical. I've taken your cigar. I am not taking your case. I can't, it's forbidden. My doctors would never allow it. (To Vole): I am truly sorry, young man. However, if you'd like the case handled by someone of these chambers I recommend Mr Brogan-Moore. (To Mayherne): You know Brogan-Moore?
Mayherne: Yes, I do, a very able man. I second Sir Wilfred's recommendation.