The Trouble with Maggie Cole

The Trouble with Maggie Cole – it’s for you mum. who is it? didn’t say. says it’s personalwell you should have told them to ring back. you know it’s my day for the hospitalstupid girl. Dame Lettie Colston here. who is this?VOICE: remember you must die. ah Taylordid you have a nice afternoon at the pictures?there is no Taylor here. pull yourself together. come and get warm Godfrey dear.

Lettie had another of those extraordinary phone callsI’ve asked her to come and stay with us for a day or so. – oh dear. – it’s damn worryingI had a phone call the other daythat young man from the papers who wrote those thrilling things about my books. that was five years agothank you Taylor. that is not Taylor that is our housekeeper mrs. AnthonyTaylor is in the hospitalhas been for the past yearhospital?

The Trouble with Maggie Cole

– I must go – no now now my dear Charmiandon’t be so silly. you know perfectly well you’re not up to going anywherebesides from what Lettie says she probably won’t remember you- and she never even mentions my name? – never. I know how fond you were of her Taylorbut I’m afraid Charmian has gone quite gaga. such a trial for my poor brother. I’ve told him she’d be far better off in a private nursing homemr. Godfrey’d be heartbroken. still I suppose if she’s that bad- Bob’s your uncle. – I beg your pardon we are having a private conversation- and how are our bowels today granny Wallis? – Fanny’s your aunt. that’ll be enough from y ou granny Barnacle. or someone else will be getting an enema. must they address you as granny all the time?well I expect they find it easierI’m sure I’ve seen that woman somewhere. perhapsshe used to sell newspapers at the Elephant and Castle.

I have never been to the Elephant and Castle in my life. no but you were a prison visitor for many years dame Lettie. do you mean -Oh surely they don’t allow people like that in here!- this is a national health hospital. – well that’s no excuse. I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut them out of my will. have you heard any more from your mysterious telephone caller?several times. it was the same message. remember you must die. you really should tell the policeand have them prying into my private affairs?besides have you seen the sort of policemen they employ nowadays?

not even sure some of them are entirely white. but then they could intercept your calls. been having them obscene phone calls have you dearie? oooo. it must be an enemy. nonsense. I have no enemies. Lettie: lights!please don’t tell me how to drive Lettie. I have observed the lights. some chap has lost his faculties. stupid bitch! – there’s a bit here about Eric. – who’s Eric?Eric is your son Charmian. what does it say?

it is a pity that Eric Colston has not inherited even a small spark of hismother’s literary genius. his cheerless offering has all the style and polishof a lump of pumice stone. that’ll do Godfrey. don’t know where The Times gets their critics from these days. well I couldn’t read the damn bookall about some motor car salesman having it off with a communist librarianin some ghastly hotel in Leeds.

who wants to read about that?anyway the fella is quite rightEric can’t hold a candle to Charmian. thank you deardon’t know what you’ve got against Eric. you never did like the boy. just because he’s sensitive and artistic. boy. he’s over fifty. fifty two. did I tell you that young man from the papers rang and wants to come and see meoh good morning Taylor. that is not Tayloryou haven’t heard of that journalist fellow for years. pardon me sir but Madam’s quite right. the gentleman phoned.

I answered the call myself. the young gentleman told her books was being rediscoveredand she’d be famous all over again. really? I want to know who’s in the obituaries. how can you be so gruesome?alright dear I’ll read it to you. telephone for you dame Lettie. I see who it is. I would like to hear the war news. the war has been over for 10 years Charmian. if indeed it’s the last one you’re referring to. oh dear. has there been more than one?well?same messagehow did they know where to find me?

I didn’t tell anyone. I’m glad I took a call. at least the police will know now that you’re not making it up. police? have we been robbed?I am being molested by a voice. when you get home you better have someone to come and stay with you. why not ask Lisa Brooke?Lisa Brooke be damned. good lord!I only hope God didn’t take you too literally. very odd cards here I must sayin memory of those wonderful nights: Tony. what does he mean wonderful nights?so I should like to know. what about this one?passionate love Sidney. Sidney who?she never mentioned a Sidney to me. Lisa had a lifelong dedication to the arts. and artists.

I remember. from my housekeeper mrs. Pettigrew. must’ve cost a fortune. the least she could do. Lisa seems to have left her one. Oh miss Pettigrew. a very touching sentiment. a few words of my own. I didn’t think they were Shakespeare’s. I believe you know the Sidebottomes. Tempest and Ronaldmrs. Pettigrew has been kind enough to ask us to a little tea party at the Beehive. a few close friends of mrs. Brookes. perhaps dame Lettie you and your brother would care to join us?what for? we can have tea at home. thank you. we’d be delighted.

I wonder. if you’re wrong about the will Pettigrew might need a new position. she might be interested in taking care of Charmian. she seems a little bit forceful wouldn’t you say?Charmian needs a firm hand. there’s that little rotter Guy Leet. pretend you don’t see him. Lettie: really Godfrey. who are all these people? can they be Lisa’s brothers and sisters?Lisa had no living relativesbut perhaps you didn’t know her very welloh I wouldn’t say that. Charmian not with you?no we thought it would be too much for her. oh really?I think she might quite have enjoyed it.

why can’t I see the ashes? hush now grandfathergood morning Percy. Olive. what does he want with Lisa’s ashes?he wants to see if they’ve gone gray. and of course they’ll be gray. must have lost his faculties. some people. nothing is sacred. on the contrary. the ashes of Lisa Brookes will always be sacred to me. are you coming to mrs. Pettigrew’s bone fide? yes looking forward to it. where’s that cleric? he’ll have the ashes. and I desire to see the ashes and kiss them. . . if they’re cool enough. can not stand that fellow Guy Leet. sets himself up as some sort of literary critic. just an excuse to take liberties with the lady novelists of course. tried it on with Charmian in the old days.

I soon saw him off. never got much change out of me. he wasn’t after you. yoo hoo. dame Lettie. over here. come and sit near medamn snob that Pettigrew. I suppose she thinks that Lettie’s somebody. a poetic geniustake Dylan Thomas. . . hahaDylan Thomas?he didn’t know the meaning of the word poetryI told Lisa so. that’s not poetry I saidoh it’s a leg pull. a hoaxmr. Mannering. if you please. this is a solemn occasion. if Dylan Thomas were here in this room you know what I’d say to him? I’ll tell him totake his so-called poetry and stick it – excuse me sir but I cannot permit thatsort of language in my establishment. pretty strong for you ladies eh?

hush now grandpa or I’ll have to take you home. What did he say? what did he say?he was talking about some gentle -he was talking about some gentleman. . . indelicately. when you’ve dropped him off will you’ll be going back to your flat?I do appreciate – I appreciate your offer dame Lettie but in view of my expectation. . . yes I quiet understand. bear it in mind just in case. such a boon to my dear brother. and what is your feeling about the service mr. Colston?satisfactory on the whole. they do quite a good tea too. she means the funeral service you fool.

well she should have said. naturally when you said service I assumed – I thought it was rather cold. the last cremation that I attended -I have quite decided to be cremated myself when my time comes. far the cleanest wayall those dead bodies uh contaminating everyone’s waterdamaging people’s facultiesdoesn’t bear thinking about. well anyway you should have said funeral service to start with. Lettie thinks you should have someone to take care of youstuff and nonsense. anyway I already have Taylor. you do not have Taylor. we have mrs. Anthony and she’s only really a daily. besides she’s no spring chicken herself. didn’t you enjoy the funeral dear?it was a cremation. no I didn’t. for one thing that little squirt Guy Leet was there showing off as usual. has to hobble about on two sticks these days. ha! serves him right. oh what a clever man he was and so charming tooI’ll be off home now if there’s nothing else. I’ve left a casserole in the oven for your suppers. thank you. how old are you now Taylor?I’ll be 70 next birthday madamoh good. then you’ll be one of us. where are you going?

for a walk yes this is Charmian Colstonare you a reporter?then how may I help?VOICE: remember you must die. thank youat my age there are many things I don’t rememberbut that is not one of them. goodbyegoodness. it’s you. I said I’d be dropping in tonight. you didn’t actually. nevermindI’ll just go and change. who was that I just saw leaving? no one special. would you like a drink?not if it’s that filthy Cyprus sherry again. not this time as it happens. it’s rather good stuff actuallypresent from a friend of mineyou heard anything from Eric?

poor manhe must be feeling dreadful after those reviews. no more than he deserves. haven’t got much timeCharmian is alone in the house. I hate to remind you but well. . . you did forget last time didn’t youthe cost of living these daysohah hahah hah ohhhof course mr. Willoughby I do understand the will still has to be probatedI’m afraid it’s not quite as simple as that. and why not pray?the will was quite clear. she showed it to me herself. oh uhhheverything was to come to me. unless of course her husband outlived her and I know for a fact he was killedin the first world war. that’s it you see. major Brooke did indeed die. . . uh. . . in 1915but her second husbandher what?is very much alive I’m afraidmr. Guy Leetyou still receive the 50 poundsthe sum that she specified you were to receive50 poundsI spent almost that much on a sodding wreath. that lying two-faced cow!well I still think that mrs. Pettigrew is not at all the right person forlooking after miss Charmian. in my opinion she’s ideal. I heard she was very domineering towards mrs. Brooke. it’s precisely because she is domineering that we’ve decided to employ her. Charmian needs to be bullied. she might even enjoy it. we had a sister here who bullied the grannies. – they certainly didn’t enjoy it. – not the same thing at all. they’re all senile.

I don’t mean you of course. but you’re always telling me that Charmian too is virtually senile. yes well. . . so she is. I must say I sometimes wonder if she isn’t putting it on. oh maybe she is. I suppose mrs. Pettigrew needs the money now that mr. Leet -never did trust that Guy Leet. he didn’t say one word about it at the funeral. not one word. quite wicked of him. as I recall he could be very wicked. mind you he probably won’t last long. rheumatoid arthritis you know. – like me.

– what? oh!yes well I’m sorry Taylor but well it’s best to face facts. – it’s a bit like wartime really. – hmm?being over 70. so many friends going and goneit’s like being a lone survivor amongst the dead and the dying on a battlefield. oh come now Taylor. you’re beginning to sound like Charmian. well I was with her for so many years it’s not surprisingthere! didn’t I tell you?indeed you did. now this is grannie – this is madam Valvona. she was a professional clairvoyant. in your horoscope it was like I said. Virgo. a brisk day for business entertaining. and here’s you with a visitor! ha!he’s telephoned again twicesame words each time. it’s hard for people of our age to remember about dyingperhaps we should’ve really got into the habit when we were youngsometimes I don’t understand a word you say. I’m simply saying that perhaps you ought to listen to what he says.

I refuse to be told what to think!besides I’m not the only victim. the Sidebottomes have had calls too. and Charmian! he’s spoken to Charmian? I think it was hearing that this man telephoned you that really worried Jean. – uh Miss Taylor that is. – dear Taylor. it’s such a relief to know that she’s not nearly as bad as Lettie would have me believe. I suspect Dame Lettierather enjoys making other people unhappy. now I know why you’re such a good detective the best years of my life I gave her mrs. Antonyand to be cast out into the street. penniless. hardly peniless dear50 pounds is 50 poundsI should have had all of itinstead of that Guy Leet crawling out of the woodwork like a bad penny. and what sort of a marriage was that anyhow I’d like to know?it takes all sorts is what I always say. – have a fag. – no thanks. here’s another thing. when I was with mrs. Brookeshe always asked me to meet her visitors. who’s that with her nibs now?inspector Henry Mortimer from the police. least he was. got to know madam years ago when her jewels was pinchedquite a fan of hers he waswell I’m going in there anyhow whether she likes it or not. the Gates of Grand Dell was Taylor’s favorite. the one I like best of all was To Thine Own Self. Oh Godfrey would never admit itbut he read all my books and loved them. Taylor told me. oh! I didn’t know you had company. I thought you might be feeling tiredyou may take the tea things away.

I. . . I don’t think I had the pleasure. Henry Mortimeroh of course Oh inspector Mortimer isn’t it?I don’t think I’ve met a police officer before. you do surprise me. Oh actually I retired from the force some years agoI rather enjoyed the work but -I know I remember I had a cousin whose ambition it was to be apoliceman of course he he was only 6 years oldjust a moment mrs. Colston. the inspector’s telling us about his career. by all meanstell us about your career Eric. not Eric. . . Henryit is Henry isn’t it?thank you Taylordear dear. I think we’re having one of our little turns. now you know mrs. Colston that isn’t Taylor. Taylor’s in hospital rememberI miss herahhhhplease mrs. Pettigrew. you’re hurting me. what you need is a nanny. I am NOT a nannyoh dear. . The Trouble with Maggie Cole

I think mrs. Pettigrew. . . do call me Mabel and be friendly. I think mrs. Pettigrew in future. . . it will not be necessary to come into the drawing room when I have visitorsunless I ring for you. good night mind you Charmian has always let her imagination run away with her. Mortimer: so you don’t believe she ever did receive a phone callI’m only saying she doesn’t like to be left out of the limelight. well as to that I don’t think she needs to worry do you?I believe her books are enjoying quite a renaissance. your posts mum. in any case they’ve also been other victims. your friend Tempest Side-bottom. Sidebottome. and her brother and I believe the late Lisa Brooke. do get to the point inspector. I’m a busy woman. I alas am no longer actually an inspector. the point is Dame Lettie that the caller appears to confine hisactivities to your immediate circlewhich could indicate that he may be. . . well. . . one of you. nonsense. I have an excellent ear for voices and would certainlyrecognize the voice of someone I knew. ah but would you nowleaving that aside for the moment . . .

I’ve had a chat about your nephewmr. Eric Colstonyou’ve been talking to Godfrey haven’t you? always picking on the boy. I’m sorrybut it does seem rather a coincidence that the phone calls startedat just about the time he returned to London and you yourself say the callsare all local. well if that’s all you have to go on let me tell youmy nephew is in the country and has been for three months or more. that’s not quite so I’m afraid. I happen to know he came back some time agoin fact he’s been staying with a. . . friend you might say. in Fulhama hairdresser I believe. Marion May died yesterday at her home in Knightsbridgeon the eve of her 92nd birthday. I remember her. a gaiety girl wasn’t it?you’re in good form this morning. mustn’t forget our pills.

I already had my pills with my morning tea. don’t you remember?there’s nothing wrong with my memory. she did well for herself. married twice. made money both times. wonder how much she left. take your pills dear. she was introduced to us at Cannes wasn’t she?yes that’s right. about 1910. and she stood on the chairand looked around herand shouted: Christ! the place is stinking with royalty!we were all so embarrassed. hang on a minute I think you’re wrong. I think it was one of the Lilly girlswho stood on the chair at Deauville. oh come on now. there’s a good girl. I’ve not been a girl for a long time mrs. Pettigrew and I doubt I was ever a good one. I have taken two pills already. . . any more might be dangerous. Godfrey: for god sake Charmianwhat is the point of paying these exorbitantdoctor’s bills if you won’t take your medicine. but I have taken it Godfrey. and I refuse to be poisoned in my own house. poisoned! oh really. Taylor, when you brought my tea tray this morning what was on it?mrs. Pettigrew brought it down there was a cup and saucer and -of course there were no pills. I put them back in the bottle. Godrey dear. I know I took them.

I really don’t wish to take any more. oh well if that’s the way you feel. I can only say that it makes life damn difficult for the rest of usif you go on like that. especially meyou want to get rid of me. there there now. nobody wants to get rid of you. I don’t know where she gets these ideas. well all I can say is it’s not right the way you keep on nagging her all the time. it’s no wonder she gets a bit confused. she’s just old that’s all. you’ll be like that some day. I beg your pardon. one thing I do know. she’s not as feeble as she makes out. she can get around quite easily when she likes. no not when she likes. when she feels like it. nobody understands her like me. not now Jean Taylor’s gone. she’s mad if you ask meOh! accusing me of trying to poison her. a woman in my position. if I’m gonna poison someone I’d go about it better than that I can tell you. I bet you would. mind how you speak to me mrs. Anthony. all I can say is we got along perfectly when all these years withoutyou interfering and making trouble. I shall speak to mr. Godfrey about your rudeness to me. see if I don’t. go aheadI dare say it’s easy enough for your sort to get around the likes of him. and what exactly do you mean by that?work it out for yourself. he’s gone out. left her all alone. and her feeling so poorly. I’ll go and sit with her for a while. I don’t fancy the company in here anyway. it’s always the same. whenever I lower myself to be nice to the servantsI always end up regretting it. that one’s Godfrey. this one was taken at Ascot. Charmian: Oh! there’s Godfrey. doesn’t he look dashing!Godfrey: what the -mrs. Anthony: ohhh! god help us! the oven!my pie! my pie!oh my god my pie!oh dear. do I smell burning?I do hope it’s not your dinner. manners of young people nowadays. I was very nearly knocked down just now. by one of the staff too. – well they’re in a hurry. it’s granny Duncan. – it’s no excuse for rudeness. how are you today Taylor? I’ve had some very upsetting news. did you know that Eric has been here in town all this timeand never once contacted me?oh dearI’m afraid she’s gonegone? gone where?whatever is happening?well nurse Lucy is telling the porter he’ll be needing to move the bodyLucy lucky lost her pot!now granny Barnacleyou know better than that. they’re going to move the body now while we’re watching?oh no no no they’ll wait a little whilein respect for the dead. you see granny Taylor. just like it said in the paper. Sagittarius. afternoons best for embarking onlong-distance travel and granny Duncan gone smack in the middle of December!fancy that now. do pay attention Taylor. I really am most disturbed about Eric. well perhaps he’s working on a new book. just making excuses. no no I’m afraid this isn’t the first time. of course I’ve cut him out of my will. Taylor this is too much. I don’t know how you put up with it Taylor! I really don’t!she’s just frightened that’s all. – it’s her way of making a protest. – against what I’d like to know!perhaps against death. come along now granny. do take your hands off me. I’m capable of getting to my own two feet by myself thank youand don’t call me granny! listen to this. Charmian Colston, one of the greatest novelists of our timeis despite her age. . come on Eric. I want you out of here. . . . is despite her age is still vibrantly aliveand ready to rekindle the flame that once set the whole literary world ablaze. my bloody mother. her books were very popular. any way I’m glad for her. – now get going please! – I told you I’ve nowhere to go. – Bobby and I had a row. – you’re not staying here again. what about your aunt Lettie?I’d rather stay with an alligator. I meanif you’d just let me have a couple of quid to tide me over. oh for pete’s sake. don’t bother to say thank you. well why should I when I can make a pretty good guess where that came from perhaps I’ll stick around after allhave a few words of daddykins. I’m in the mood to tell him what I think about him. and my sainted mother too. not just them. and their boring geriatric friendswhat the hell do any them know about real life?probably a good deal more than youfor God’s sake you’ve got your money now go christ he’s herebedroom I was surprised when you rang me. I don’t usually see you so early in the day. I had to get away from Lettie. she arrived on the doorstepsome god-awful hour this morning. blabbing on about Eric. what about Eric?Oh apparently he’s been up in town for some time and never got in touch. well he’s done for himself this time. she’s cut him out of her will. good thing toopoor Eric. . . he’s in rather a bad way you knowGodfrey: he’s always in a bad way. how would you know?oh he popped in the other day. to scrounge as usual I suppose. I hope you didn’t give him anything. – I don’t suppose you could. . . – no I certainly could not. Godfrey: I’ve done quite enough as it is. he’s a fool and a wastrel. and that so-called book of his was the last straw. trying to cash in on Charmian’s name. huh! fat lot of good it did him. my my. . . you are in a bad mood today aren’t you?let’s see if we can think of something to cheer you up. Photographer: if you could just hold it up a bit more. good. now if you could just. . . one more like this. what the hell!do you mind sir. isn’t this fun?what do you think of the younger generation today mrs. Colston?they are rather attractive aren’t they?such a pity they’ve forgotten how to enjoy themselves. Interviewer: perhaps your books will remind them. do you really think so?oh I do hope you’re right. don’t get the wrong ideahe’s a dear old thing. . . Godfrey. and it doesn’t do anyone any harm. quite the oppositehow do you mean?well the bit of money he gives me I give to my grandfatherPercy Mannering. you know. . . the poet. he lives all by himself in a nasty little attic in Battersea. I’ve tried to get him to move in with me but he won’t. stubborn old foolin your way you’re a very. . . kind personwhat do you know about mrs. Pettigrew?the new housekeeper companion?not muchbut from something Godfrey let drop. . . I wouldn’t be surprised if she were blackmailing him. what about for god’s sake?something to do with Lisa Brooke. some letters I think. she’s dead. what would it matter?I think he’s afraid Charmian will find out and be hurt or something. he really adores her you know. . . under all that bluster. sugar?hello mr. Mortimer. got you back on the beat again have they? Vendor: lord bless you inspector Mortimer. how does he feel about Eric?Godfrey?can’t stand him and vice-versa. – could he be going making the calls? – no not Eric. he just wishes he thought of it first. and if he had he’d be boasting about it. – has Godfrey had any calls himself? – he hasn’t said so. I think he has an idea who’s making them. who?a man called Guy Leet. but I shouldn’t take much notice. Godfrey hates him for some reason. and you? what do you think?I rather like him. at least he’s got some life left in him. Voice: is that mr. Godfrey Colston?it is. Voice: remember you must die. you’re making a mistake. dame Lettie isn’t here. perhaps you want to talk to my wife. Voice: there’s no mistake. the message is for you mr. Colston. I told you. there’ll be no more of that until -the voice. on the phone. rubbish! the phone hasn’t rung all evening. how would you know listening to that trash?how dare you!listen to mehe saidwell what he always says. to remember I must die. well what’s wrong with that?it’s just what I’ve always been telling you. what?I think you should phone your solicitor in the morningand make an appointment about your will before it’s too late!oh I don’t really think that – lucky your dear wife didn’t get that phone call. in her state of health if she’d heard something. or shall we say perhaps. . . read something to upset her. ohhhwho knows what would. . . all righttomorrowI promiseGuy: over here. mr. Leet?who wants to know?Henry Mortimer. I spoke to you on the phoneah the copper of course. right. how do you do?I expect you’re wondering what I’m doing out here. uh. . . gardening perhaps?no no old boy. the fact is I’m being. . . harrassed by a homicidal maniac called Percy Mannering. the old fool’s been banging on the door all the morning,yelling and threatening about god knows what. I just slipped out here you seebut he’ll be back. oh my dear fellow. what am I thinking of?come on inside and have a quick one. why don’t you call the police?no I can’t really do that. not to old Percy. anyway you’re the police aren’t you?well not exactlyI’m afraid my man’s off today. do sit down. whiskey do you?it’s a good thing you turned up actually. if old Percy comes back. . . you will see him off the premises won’t you?. . . like a good chapwhy is mr. Mannering besieging you?well. . . he used to be a poet you see. he thinks he still isand he’s incredibly prickly about his work. anyway, a couple of weeks ago,I brought out a volume of memoirs. I don’t know if you uh. . . noactually it was quite decently reviewedumm. . . . uh. . . ah! here we are. another frequent visitor at Marigolds in that magical summer of 1911was Percival Mannering. a charming fellow and a quite competentversifier. does that sound like an insult to you?well – Guy: no no. of course not!completely barmy. says he’s gonna sue me now over besmirching his reputation. good health!now what did you want to see me about?it’s this man who keeps bothering people on the telephone. old lady Colston’s phone pal you mean. the famous voice. well he’s rung me a couple of times. could you describe how he sounded?youngish. educated. bit like an undergraduate actually. what exactly did he say?the same thing both times. remember you must die. I mean he was quite civil about it. Open up! Oh God. I know you’re in there!come out and take your medicine like a man! open up you prat!I warn you Percy. I’ve got the police with me. liar! come come sir. pull yourself together. who the hell are you!I told you. this is inspector Mortimer of the Metropolitan police. looks more like a bloody bank manager to me I – no no come come!stop it you maniac! Mortimer: what’s all this about? that man. . . that man has ruined my reputation!to whom? what reputation?I suppose you want a drink. yes. brandy. and you?he had the temerity to refer to me in his grimy little memoirs,not that anybody would ever read them of course. . . as a quite competent versifier. you’re lucky I didn’t say incompetent. well thanks. I’ll have you knowthat no less a poet than Ernest Dowsonhe referred to mymy first book of sonnets as exquisite. no one I know has ever heard of Ernest Dowson. nor you. oh is that so?really. . . nobody alive? what about Lisa Brooke? mm-hmmdear Lisaand they wouldn’t even let me kiss her ashes you know. oh she was amost extraordinary woman. extraordinary great perception and and and sensitivity – oh go awayyes that’s me. oh bollocksyes as I was sayingoh the eveningsLisa and I spent reading Ernest Dowson -look if you must insist on answering my phone you might have the common courtesy -nothing to do with you. it it it was for me. I mean the fellow asked for me by name. mr. Percival Mannering he said. yes. . . yes he was very courteous. I said -my god!it was himthat chap Lettie’s always on about. remember you must die. that chap. but I mean how on earth did he know I was coming here?hey? but I. . . I didn’t even know myself until I got to Waterloo. may I help you madam?I’m waiting for a friend. doesn’t look like he’s coming does it?I beg your pardon. I’ve been watching you for the past hour. I’d move along if I were you. Oh what a lovely surprise for Godfrey. Godfrey: I don’t know what’s come over you. all these people fawning over you. it’s ruined your faculties. Charmian: there’s nothing wrong with my faculties and I did make my tea. Godfrey: that’s absolute nonsense. you know that’s impossible. Charmian: I did. I promise you I did. she insists that she made her tea all by herself. who else could have done it?you know it’s mrs. Anthony’s day offand mrs. Pettigrew’s been out all afternoon. haven’t you mrs. Pettigrew?may I pour dear?so you see. . . I’ve been here all by myselfand I made my own teaand it’s right there in front of youbut Godfrey still won’t believe meI don’t know what you’re talking about. I made your tea and brought it in to you before I went out for a walk. ah there. you see. now now old girl. don’t worry about it. you’ve just been dreaming that’s all. no dearI seem to be getting feeble in mind nowas well as body. I shall go to that nursing home. oh now – I’m sorry my dearbut I’m quite decided. perhaps it would be for the best. now come. there’s no need to talk like that. nobody’s suggesting — aren’t they?I’m going to bed. oh dear. a supper tray. I don’t need any supper thank you. I had an excellent teagood nightGodfrey: well I I think I’ll go up and -and where were you this afternoon may I ask?ah umm well. . . because I know where you were not. you are not at your solicitor’s office. nono he said. . . his secretarywho said that he’d been called awaywon’t be back until next week. urgent case. urgent case?he’s a solicitor! not a bloody brain surgeon!feeling alright?want anything?nothing. thank you. pleasedon’t go to that nursing home. I did make my own tea. . . truly. yes yes all rightof course you did. don’t go. Godfrey please. can’t we get rid of mrs. Pettigrew?I don’t like her. I really don’t care for her at all. better get some sleep. what a nice little house is thisthe room’s on the top of this pretty little shack. the front’s on the front and the back’s in the back. what a nice little house. I can see that you have a very exciting social life. you’re not thinking of going to Ascot by any chance?not just now. thank you. madam Valvona. very much. oh!that was very kind of you. no trouble. I’m getting rather fond of your granny’s. have you made any progress? not a great deal I’m afraid. one thing though. you were right aboutmrs. Pettigrew at least. she some very odd friends. for instance there’s a man in Camberwell who makes keysfor people who want to get into places they shouldn’t. our mrs. Pettigrew called on him the other day. how’s Charmian getting on with her?not well. mr. Colston he’s quite worried. do you think she could have anything to do with the man on the phone?perhaps. don’t see how. anyway next Saturday I’m getting the whole bloomin lot of them togetherat my house face to face. Oh madam Valvona was right. you’ve got an exciting social life ahead of you. oh! Henry!where will we put them?don’t worry dear. we’ll manage somehow. Charmian can’t get out until you do!just don’t pull me. come on!oh Godfrey!you should be helping your elders. not laughing at them. now get out an pick up your aunt’s things. she is not my niece! she is my maid!yes all right!and you! stop telling me what to do. I hope you haven’t offended her. maids are very difficult to get hold of these days. Oh! lovelygot a bit lost. you relied on that old idiot to navigate. the map was wrong! I told you!I intend on suing him as a matter of fact. look look. just down there. is that a new outdoor game?no I don’t think I’m quite up to it. I enjoyed the drive. my first in years. don’t be absurd Charmian. nobody could possibly enjoy Godfrey’s driving. I think you’ll find it’s all there. Woodbinesoh!ewwwwe really weren’t quite expecting so many of you. we’ve all suffered from this telephone maniacs attentions. I for one rarely travel anywhere without my maid. how can you live out here in suburbs?you don’t have to come inside. there’s a brand-new addition out here and selling like hotcakes. you and Taylor were always my greatest fans. oh Godfrey. isn’t it wonderful to get out of the house?come along. we mustn’t excite ourselves our first day out. Charmian: what a charming house. how lovely. I’m sure you’re all dying for – I mean you’d all like a nice cup of tea. if you care to leave your things -my God these people live by a whole different set of social rules. you go and see to the tea. I’ll take over as Good Shepherd. – can I give you a hand? – oh! if you would I would be so grateful. they can be a bit overwhelming. is it time to go home?Mortimer: I must first commend Dame Lettie for her diligencein tracing and bringing together today so many of her immediate circle who havealso been plagued in this way. so apart from myself and theyounger members of our groupeveryone here has received a telephone call of the kind I have described. needless to say I will consider everything you tell me to be instrict confidence. you sure you’re comfortable?oh yes I’m having a lovely time. we’re not supposed to be having a lovely time. we’re supposed to be discussing this telephone fella. well I never mind what we discuss as long as it’s not my private life. you never had a private life. everything you ever did was spread about the gutter press. oh not everything old boy. so long as someone has mentioned the pressI think you should know — who is that fellow?don’t ask me. thought he was a friend of yours old man. have you quite taken leave of your faculties?now if we’ve all settled downperhaps we can continue. Oh careful Dame Lettie. don’t take too much now. as I was about to say. . . I have had some rather disquieting news. what did he say?I think we should all try listen to what Henry –uh Mr Mortimer has to tell us. ha! Charmian: yes you too Godfrey dear. please continuethe fact is I heard only today that someone hasrevealed the story of your mysterious phone caller to the press. one of the less selective papers I’m afraid. Eric. that bloody little snake. Oh surely not dear. always so hard on the boy Godfrey. I’m sorry but it does seem to have been your son. I gather he asked for quite a substantial sum of money. what for?to keep half the hairdresser’s in London in silk ties and socks?be that as it may the result is that the police have had to be informed. so the whole matter is therefore now no longer in my own hands. am I to understand you are in service to dame Lettie?not much longer if I can help it. crazy old bat. perhaps I might be able to find you something more suitable. aye. but I don’t do no heavy work. of course not. if we can come up with some sort of description of the perpetrator. Dame Lettie. there’s one important point that you might help to clarify. you told me that the man’s voice sounded middle-aged rather deep and sinister. All: no no no no nohe was quite a young chap. a decent sort of chap I thought. yes I’ve found him extremely civil. civil?how could you call him civil when he keeps ringing people up and threatening them?anyhow you’re all wrong. he sounded like an illiterate looney to me. nonsense! quiet!please!that’s the whole point. it seems that while he always says the same thinghe uses a different voice each time. good lord! a master of disguises. master a vocal disguise at least. mr. Sidebottom. huh?I mean mr. Sidebottome. but what puzzles me iswhy should anyone go to the troubleof disguising their voiceand telephoning a particular group of peoplejust to tell them to remember they must die?perhaps he thought that we needed reminding. didn’t Tennyson say a man he thinks he was not made to die and isn’t that what we all think really?nobody gives a damn about your old Tennis-any-ones. if hadn’t been for your old queen. who’s an old queen? I don’t think anything works up there. Mortimer: oof! all the same there’s. . . something about them. I don’t know. . . a sort of stubborn gallantry. echoes of a romantic and glamorous past. you didn’t tell them them what you suspect?I couldn’t somehow. not when it came to it. anyway they wouldn’t have believed me. some of them might. perhaps that’s why I couldn’t tell them. thank you for a lovely tea party mrs. Trubshaw. our name is Mortimer. then this isn’t theover 70s happiness group?noin that casemr. Mortimerall I can say is you have some very peculiar friends. lullabye lullabye Nightingale. oh yes doctorsister will see to your instructions. in my opinion your Mr Mortimer is nothing but a mountebank. I like him. he’s kind and clever and he understands people like us. I’ll be off nowit’s a lovely bit of salmon in the fridge for your suppers. Thank You mrs. Anthony. that is not Taylor. of course not. Taylor’s in hospital. you know I really think I might be well enough to go and see her soon. I did so enjoy my day. that’s more than I did. damn charlatan. we had all that out yesterday. let’s not go into it again. you only like him because he flatters you. that smarmy chitchat about your books. as for you. fluttering your eyelashes at him. . . like some young flapper. I tell you I didn’t know where to look. if you’re going to be in one of your moods dear, I think I’ll go up and have my afternoon nap. moods? moods what moods?did you want something mrs. Pettigrew?just a word with mr. Godfrey if you don’t mind. you better start getting ready or we’ll be late. I don’t think I got quite. . . 10 minutes. I didn’t hear you knock mrs. Pettigrew. Mabel. no you didn’talways knock!when I was with mrs. Brooke I had the run of the houselike a close friend. and confidante no doubt. I don’t think I shall go into the nursing home after allmuch as I would like to. Godfrey needs me here. that’s where you’re wrong. you’re nothing but a hindrance to him a thoroughgoing -if you’ll excuse me I’d like to take my nap nowI came to talk to you about mrs. Anthony. she’s really not capable of cooking anymore. leaving a cold supper again tonight. it’s bad for my digestion going to bed on a cold supper. you could heat something up for yourself in the kitchen. Godfrey and I like cold salmon. and the way she lets the food burn and the milk boiling over?she’s really becoming quite dangerous. in that case perhaps you should keep an eye on her mrs. Pettigrew. after all you’ve nothing else to do. very well. don’t blame me if someone gets poisoned. poisoned? oh really now mrs. Pettigrew. oh it’s quite easy to poison someone you know. think it over. I don’t see why I can’t come in with you. because the fellow would think it damned odd. that’s why. stop!if we’re gonna stop every five minutes we’ll never get there. I’m not sitting around waiting for hours with nothing to read. look! at Kirkson Hall todayworld-renowned critic mr. Guy Leet, 80, married miss Olive Mannering30 year old granddaughter – how dare he? filthy old lecher!of courseOlive ManneringI’ve seen the way you look at her. well well you old devil. I don’t know what — so that’s who you were seeing all those times you went out and left your poor wife on her own. mrs. Pettigrewhow about that. one on top of the other. that will give her quite a turn: now look out! stop! stop. and tell him to send you the draftso we can check it together. make sure it’s right. I kept thinking it might be one of her friends. why was that?sounded old and grizzly like one of them. did you notice anything else about him?there was one thing. he never seem to ring when she weren’t home. like he always knew. funny that. dame Lettie herself. what was her reaction?if you ask me she’s gone right round the bend. poking about the house at all hours. falling over things. why would she do that?oh she’s scared. it could be a burglar casing the joint. like in the movies. I said to her why don’t you call the police I said. she would hear of it. got quite nasty. well that’s when I quit. you mean you’re no longer with dame Lettie?a girl has to better herself. how will she manage on their own?she can always get someone else. it’s not like she lost all that jewelry and stuff she’s got. you know her family don’t you Jeff. Custom Breweries. that’s who. Jeff: fancy. bet they never go short of a drink eh?where’s the whiskey?never any damn whiskey in the houseperhaps mrs. Anthony’s been drinking it. bloody womanI can’t find the whiskey. then you’ll have to have brandy won’t you my dearthere’s something I have to say to you. I have decided that after all it will be best for me to go into a nursing home. I’m sure you’re doing the right thing dear. but you can’t!I’m sorry Godfrey. my mind is made up. I shall be leaving in three days time. why?why now?is it because of the phone calls?- in a way. – but you don’t mind about themyou said you don’t care about them at allof course she minds about them. don’t you dearthere’s no need to make any arrangementsI did all that when you were both out. and now mrs. Pettigrew if you’ll excuse us. oh and be kind enough to shut the door behind you. at least in the nursing homeI shall have all of freedom and privacy I need. no please don’t go. I’ll do anything. you won’tyou won’t get rid of that Pettigrew womanI’ve asked you often enough. and you know how much I dislike her. perhaps. . . if you tried. pleasedon’t be sad my dearfor once I agree with mrs. Pettigrewit really is for the best. for both of us. good afternoon dame Lettie. I remember you. you’re a Pisces. my old man was one of them. very fishy people. . . Pisces. very slipperywhat’s wrong with dame Lettie?oh she thinks you could be the one making the phone calls. some sort of master criminal. head of a sinister gang. no don’t laugh. she’s even cut you out of her will. I never knew I was in it. we’ve all been in it from time to time. they’re send me to one of them convoluted homes tomorrow. at the seaside. Mortimer: oh that’ll be nice. didn’t dame Lettie tell you?the police are putting a tap on the phones. I’m just going to the bank. I hear that Charmian has gone into a nursing homeleaving poor mr. Godfrey alone with that dreadful mrs. Pettigrew. why doesn’t he get rid of her?because she’s blackmailing him. someone else thought that too. something to do with Lisa Brooke. well there’s no harm in telling you. it must be Oh 40 years ago I suppose. Charmian had gone into the country to get some researchfor one of her booksand Godfreyand mrs. Lisa Brookewell she was a very handsome woman in those days. but surely after all this time. . . perhaps you don’t really understand them at all. you see to a man like Godfreybetraying Charmianwas as shameful as betraying one’s own country. or worse perhaps. and that’s what mrs. Pettigrew has been trading on. Nurse: now granny wasn’t that a nice trip to the bank. Granny Barnacle: her and her hoity toity bank. why can’t you go to the post office like the rest of us?you won’t forget me back in Speek tomorrow will ya. or I do like to be beside the seaside. I do like to be beside the sea!it’s a hospice they’re sending her to really. where they send one when. . . when there’s no hope. she doesn’t know of course. I hear they’re very kindbut she doesn’t know I love her soand I shall miss her terribly. I’m truly sorryyes I know you are. and that’s whyI want you to do something for me. of course Jean. anything. it’s been a very difficult decisionbecause it means breaking the promise to Charmian. that I made so many years ago. are you sure?she’d brought it on herself. I’ve never thought much about mr. Godfreybut it’s very selfish of her to abandon him like that. I want you to give him this straightaway. see that he reads it at once. I’ll do it first thing in the morning. the voice on the telephone. . . you know who it is don’t you. do you?oh yesI’ve known from the beginning. you! it’s you!it’s you! it’s mrs. Pettigrew isn’t it ?Eric Colston. the author. I like your hairdo. I gather you’ve quite taken over my papa these dayslock stock and barrel as you might say. I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. oh I think you do. you see I just had a long chat with our solicitor. why don’t we have a chat over a cup of tea and a bun. just the two of us. I have slaved my fingers to the bone for your mother and father. right to the bone. and no thanks for it either. it depends what you call thanks doesn’t it?excuse me. now don’t get me wrong mrs. Pettigrew. Mabel isn’t it?I am entirely on your side. you see I know all about the old man’s little. . . shall we say. . . peccadilloes?I can well imagine what you’ve had to put up with. a woman of your taste and discretion too. what exactly do you wish to say to me mr. Colston?Eric. please. Eric. . . Mabel. sounds like a song and dance act doesn’t it?and the two of us together could make quite a fee. I can manage very well on my own thank you very much. can you?suppose I decided to take a trip into darkest Sussexand tell my darling mother about her dear hubby’s indiscretions?where would you be then Mabel dear?up the creek would be my guess and quite without a paddle dear. wouldn’t you say?you haven’t got any evidencenot like I have. not letters. a word from me and dear mama and it’sbye-bye Mabelwhatever way you look at it. how about it?what’s in it for you?never know the old man could outlive us all. whereas a spot of the old ready cash never comes amiss. don’t you agree?so?we face him with itboth of us. today. he’s gone down to see her at that smart nursing home of hers. all right so we’ll wait till he gets back. he was a bit odd today. he was all right till that Mr Mortimer came to call. after that off he went chuckling to himself. not a word to me. I really thought he’d come over queer. oh I do beg your pardon. nonsense Guy dear. of course I’m delighted for you. I’ve always thought her as the most charming girlyes but sadly I’m unlikely to make her a phrase with any. . . amazement. as it says in the marriage service. what I can do for her. . . what she really wants. . . is to give a hometo that old rascal of a grandfather of hers. probably one of the only reasons she married me. well a little added spice to life does no harm at our age. or at any age as I recall. easy to see marriage doesn’t agree with you Leet. you look worse than ever. lost your faculties eh? ahhhI see you’ve had a visitor. Guy Leet. yes. wasn’t it kind of him?when he has such difficulty in getting around these days. a bit different from uh. . . the way he got around in the summer of1902at uh. . . Lake Geneva and uh. . . Hyde Park gate in. . . 1907 was it?and Scotlandand Biarritz. that was when you couldn’t come home because you caught pneumonia. I remember thinking it was a strange place to catch pneumonia. Taylor. I think I should like a drink. you don’t drink. I used to and now I’d like to again before I die. nonsensethere’s whiskey over there on the table. I ordered it in for you but now I. . . I think I should like one too. not too much soda please. as to Guy Leet dear. . . I hardly think that you’re in a position to pass judgement. don’t try and fob me off. I’m talking about Lisa Brooke that time I was down in Devonshire for instance. only of course. . . that was not the only occasion. you knew!you knew all the time. I’m afraid dear you’re not really cut out for infidelity. perhaps because you don’t really enjoy it. not like that little rotter Guy Leet. oh my dear. . . why do you think I always come back to you?come back to me now. no not this time. is it because of mrs. Pettigrew? I’ll get rid of her. it’s not just mrs. Pettigrewalthough I hope you will indeed get rid of her. she’s an extremely unpleasant person. do you know. . . you’ve never once called her Taylor. how very odd of me. still wish you’d change your mind. think about it. you’ll be much happier on your own- with just mrs. Anthony to take care of you. – mhmmmand you can come see me as often as you like. it’ll be like our old courting days. you could bring me flowers. I can take you for drive. yes when I’m up to it. but there is one thing I would like you to do. it’s about Taylor. oh of course. she’s betrayed you and. . . and you want to get your own back well tell me what you -dear dear Godfrey. you’ll never change. I really think it’s your most endearing quality. what? that I know you so well. but you don’t know me at all. what? where the hell is he?it’s after nine o’clock. he’ll be back. meanwhile why don’t you and me have a nice cozy little chatjust the two of us. about the future there he is. and I was the only boy. . . good evening have a drink. oh I see you’ve got one. Oh mrs. Pettigrew. where have you hidden the whiskey?we were waiting for you. never mind that where’s the whiskey? ah there it is. Eric would like a word with you. well now. mrs. Pettigrew and I are in this together father. in what?the question of your new will. meanwhile I expect all my financial needs be taken care of. you’re growing a paunch. I haven’t got a paunch. otherwise we shall have to inform mother of certain facts. oh?please try and be reasonable Godfrey. would you mind getting the hell out of my house Eric?I’ll give you 10 minutes and then I shall call the police. we’re a little bit over-tired aren’t we? just a teensy bit overwrought. and you can leave in the morning. first thing. oh by the way. . . there’s nothing you can tell Charmian that she doesn’t know. and perhaps you’d like to keep Eric amusedby showing him your thighs. oh?mr. Godfrey Colston. we are police officers. I mean I was going to call you. it’s about your sister dame Lettie Colston. that’s right isn’t it?I’m afraid we have some rather bad news. Taylormy dear Taylormiss Taylor I thinkas I’m no longer in your employ. . . . or you could of course call me Jean. we’ve checked and rechecked and there’s nothing wrong with our equipment. never for a moment thought there would be. look Henry you know these people. you think they’re playing some sort of upper-class joke?or perhaps they’re mad. either way it beats me. let’s have another listen Godfrey ColstonI told you beforeit’s not me you want. it’s Lettie. Detective: who the hell is he talking to?there’s nobody – Mortimer: shush. go on. yes?oh it’s you again. no. sorry old chap but I have promises to keepand miles to go before I sleep. what’s that? yes? this is Charmian Colston. oh yes. you did phone the other day. it’s very kind of youbut at my age I don’t need reminding. I’m afraid my memory’s sometimes. . . hello?hello?goodbye yes?no. no pleaseplease don’t. what do you want from me?money? anything. please!just tell me. I can’t stand anymore please!we got the chap who killed her. caught him red-handed trying to flop one of her rings. amateurs. it was the maid’s boyfriend. she’s in the clear. all she did was shoot her silly mouth off once too often. they never learn. a funny thing though. . . what was that?well the maid swore the old girl never saw him in her life. wouldn’t have known him from Adamand?the boyfriend says the reason he got in a panic and killed herwas she woke up and recognized him. I’m inclined to believe it . what exactly did he say?according to him she screamed out. . . it’s youah yes that explains it. she thought he was the man on the phone. of course in a way. . . she was right. he was death after allwasn’t he? for her. are you trying to tell me that the voice they all heard was. . . death himselfyou heard the tapes. why do you think they can hear his voice but we can’t?but. . . even so. . . why them?because they are vulnerable and that’s what death feeds on. think about it Tom. it’s the only answer. and to my shame I can think of at least one old lady who got there before me. and when they found poor Lettie’s willshe’d made so many changes it was invalid. and being next of kin of courseGodfrey inherits everything. and what’s he going to do with it?he says he’s going to take flying lessons. I do hope you’ll be happy here. well at least the nurses don’t call me granny. I should hope not. do you remember Jeanhow you used to read aloud to me?I wondered if you’d like – no I wouldn’t!I used to read to you because you asked me to because I was your servant. but I’m not your servant now. but Jean dear, I was hoping you’d let ME read to YOU. well I can’t stop you I suppose. now what would you like?I think I’ll have the – one of yours!how about the Gates of Grandella?of course. it was always your favorite wasn’t it? the Gates of Grandellaby Charmian Colstonchapter one I’m sorry to interrupt mrs. Colston but there’s a telephone call. oh dear. I’m so sorry. I expect it’s another of those reporters. it’s not for you mrs. Colston. is for your friend Miss Taylor. a gentleman. he wouldn’t give me his name. said it was personal. please tell the gentlemanthat I can’t come to the phone now. just tell him we’re far too busy to talk to him. please Charmian carry on. chapter oneand there. . . in the distance. . . as I said earlier this was a novel originally by Muriel Sparkand it was written I noticed when she was 41 and able I imagine to contemplate ageriatric ward of octogenarians as theatrically speaking a fun place to be. well I ungallantly noticed that she’s now in her seventiesand I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that she’s changed her mindAlistair Cooke masterpiece theater good night