(A police Constable and a police Inspector are in a police station. There is a knock at the door.)
INSPECTOR: See who that is, will you Constable?
CONSTABLE: It’s a Mr Prone, Inspector.
(Enter Mr Prone)
PRONE: Mr James Prone, Inspector, of Hawkchurch. I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour.
INSPECTOR: Not at all. Won’t you come in? What can we do for you?
PRONE: I’d just like you to ask me a few questions.
INSPECTOR: Questions? What about? There’s nothing wrong, is there?
PRONE: It’s purely a matter of routine, Inspector. There’s no need for you to feel alarmed, but you are in fact investigating a murder.
CONSTABLE: Murder? But this is horrible!
PRONE: Yes, Constable. Murder is an ugly thing. That is why I should be extremely grateful if you would help me bring the culprit to bear by asking me one or two simple questions.
INSPECTOR: But I don’t understand, Mr Prone. What kind of questions?
PRONE: Like ‘Did I know Mrs Tallow well?’
INSPECTOR: Only slightly. You used to play bridge together, but you don’t mean to say…
CONSTABLE: Is she? he’s not! She can’t be! She isn’t?
PRONE: I’m afraid so. She was found stabbed this morning at 11.31 between the third and fourth rib.
CONSTABLE: Poor Annie! Why did it have to be her> She never hurt a soul!
INSPECTOR: There, there Constable. You mustn’t upset yourself. You must excuse my Constable, Mr Prone. You see, he was much closer to her than I was. But I still don’t see what this horrible thing has got to do with you.
PRONE: Where was I this morning between eleven and twelve?
INSPECTOR: You were… you were… now look here Prone, you’re not suggesting…
PRONE: I’m not suggesting anything Inspector. I only want you to get the facts. Now, where was I this morning?
INSPECTOR: I expect you were in the garden - gardening the beds.
PRONE: And did anybody see me gardening?
INSPECTOR: How the devil should I know? Now see here Prone, I don’t like your tone.
PRONE: I’m only trying to do your job, Inspector. It isn’t always a very pleasant one.
INSPECTOR: I’m sorry. I’m sorry about that. It’s just that you got me on the raw. Of course we’ll do all we can to help you.
PRONE: And now the Constable would like to ask me a few questions.
CONSTABLE: I… I… Oh dear, I don’t know what to say.
INSPECTOR: Can’t you see the Constable’s overwrought? He’s not himself.
PRONE: Let me see your shoe, Constable. Just as I thought. This speck of gravel is identical to the gravel in Mrs Tallow’s drive. You were there this morning, weren’t you? Come clean now, Constable.
CONSTABLE: Oh, what’s the use? You’re too clever for me.
INSPECTOR: Is this true, Constable? Why didn’t you tell me?
CONSTABLE: I thought you’d be angry.
PRONE: And what were you doing there?
INSPECTOR: Look here, Mr Prone - you’re not implying that the Constable is in some way implicated in this affair?
PRONE: I am implying that at 11.15 precisely, he looked in through the large bay window and saw the murder done - correct, Constable?
CONSTABLE: I’m sorry, Inspector. I couldn’t help it.
PRONE: Yes, Constable. I’m afraid the game’s up. You looked through that window and saw me stab Mrs Tallow.
CONSTABLE: Yes, yes. I confess.
PRONE: In that case I’m afraid you have no alternative but to arrest me for wilful murder, and of course to caution me.
INSPECTOR: But this is absurd, Mr Prone. We can’t possibly arrest you on such tenuous evidence as that. There’s no proof.
PRONE: The Constable saw me do it.
INSPECTOR: I don’t see what that’s got to do with it. He’s not a reliable witness. He’d soon break down under skilful cross examination.
PRONE: My fingerprints are all over the murder weapon.
INSPECTOR: But this is all purely circumstantial evidence. Besides, we haven’t found it.
PRONE: Look in my pocket.
INSPECTOR: I haven’t a search warrant. No, no. I tell you, Mr Prone, we haven’t got enough to go on. For instance, what motice did you have?
PRONE: Money. She left me all she had. It’s no use, Inspector. You must arrest me.
INSPECTOR: Are you threatening me, Prone? I warn you, I have influential friends in the force.
PRONE: Constable, take me into custody.
INSPECTOR: You’ll never get away with this.
PRONE: I’m coming quietly, Inspector. You always get your man in the end.
INSPECTOR: Alright, you devil Prone. You win. But let us have one last drink before you go. Won’t you join us?
PRONE: Not while I’m on duty, thank you. Wait, what were those white crystals you put in those glasses? Give them to me!
INSPECTOR: Too late, Prone. We’ll never live to run you in. You see, that was cyanide we drank.
(The Inspector dies)
CONSTABLE: Oh no, Mr Prone - you’ll never hang.
(The Constable dies)
PRONE: Damn, damn, damn. I’ve slipped through their fingers again. I should never have allowed them that last drink. I thought it was the perfect crime, but like all murderers, I made on fatal mistake.
(First performed by Peter Cook, David Johnson and Ray Mitchell)
(Published in Tragically I Was An Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook Edited by William Cook, 2003)
(text copied from http://www.jgthink.com/2009/05/guilty-party-by-peter-cook-1959.html)
Derek and Clive in ‘65. Grubby boys.
Alice in Wonderland (Jonathan Miller, 1966).