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The Case of the Slaughtered Santas

The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe

The Case of the Slaughtered Santas

Dec 22 1950



CAST:

ANNOUNCER

ARCHIE GOODWIN, breezy

NERO WOLFE, cultured

TURNER, the first Santa; Irish

OFFICER, friendly beat cop

MIKE, the second Santa; poor

PEG, Mike's lady

BARTON, the third Santa; wealthy eccentric

MR. B., the bum; tough guy, at first

INSPECTOR CRAMER, of the NYPD; irascible

1ST REPORTER

2ND REPORTER

3RD REPORTER

LAURA, Barton's niece; sympathetic voice

WAYNE, Barton's half-brother; deep voice

and a small crowd of REPORTERS




SOUND: PHONE RINGS


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the ringing of that phone bell means mystery! Adventure! 


SOUND: RECEIVER UP


ARCHIE: (INTO PHONE) Nero Wolfe's office, Archie Goodwin speaking. -- Yes. -- Yes, I know that in forty-eight hours it's going to be Christmas, but-- -- Who is this? -- Who?! -- Look, I'm a big boy now, so-- --- Okay. Tonight at eight. Goodbye. 


SOUND: RECEIVER DOWN


WOLFE: What the devil was that? 


ARCHIE: This may come as a shock to you, Mr. Wolfe, but that was Santa Claus.


WOLFE: You've been drinking.


ARCHIE: Uh-huh, the usual: milk. He's coming to see you at eight. He's got a problem.


WOLFE: Indeed? 


ARCHIE: It seems that some low, not to mention murderous, character is going around slaughtering Santa Clauses.


MUSIC: THEME ... THEN BEHIND ANNOUNCER--


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, it's the bulkiest, balkiest, smartest, and most unpredictable detective in the world: that chairborne genius, Nero Wolfe, created by Rex Stout and brought to you in a new series of adventures over this NBC network in the person of Mr. Sydney Greenstreet.


MUSIC: INTRODUCTION ... THEN BEHIND ARCHIE--


ARCHIE: (NARRATES) It began earlier than eight, however, "The Case of the Slaughtered Santas." It began, to be precise, on the corner of Thirty-Fourth Street and Carlisle. The hour was close to six, the weather cold, the sky dark.


SOUND: DURING ABOVE, WIND BLOWS, HAND BELL RINGS, CITY TRAFFIC BACKGROUND ... OFFICER'S STEPS APPROACH


OFFICER: Hey, how you doing, Turner? 


SOUND: HAND BELL STOPS


TURNER: Sure, I'm freezin' to death, officer. 


OFFICER: It's a cold day. Packin' up? 


TURNER: Yeah, I guess so. Not many people around any more. All headin' for home and dinner. 


OFFICER: How was the collection? 


TURNER: Well, I don't need no armored car, but a few dozen kids are gonna have somethin' for their Christmas stockin's.


OFFICER: Your competition, the guy on the opposite corner, has already scrammed.


TURNER: (CHUCKLES) Probably got low blood pressure. Well, give me a hand to get the collection pot off the chains there. 


OFFICER: Sure. Here you go.


SOUND: THEY GRUNT WITH EFFORT AS POT IS LIFTED FROM CHAINS


TURNER: There, thanks. 


OFFICER: Yeah, I'll just walk you down the block. Gotta phone in.


TURNER: Okay, fine. 


SOUND: THEIR STEPS ON SIDEWALK, IN BG


OFFICER: One Santa's still left. Wonder what he's waitin' for. 


TURNER: (CHUCKLES) Santa Claus.


OFFICER: (CHUCKLES) Well, watch yourself goin' down those chimneys tonight. 


TURNER: Sure, sure. Well, I'll cut across the avenue here. (MOVING OFF) Be seein' ya!


SOUND: TURNER'S STEPS INTO STREET ... THEN SPEEDING CAR APPROACHES BEHIND--


OFFICER: (EXCITED, YELLS TO TURNER) Hey! That car comin' down the street! Got its lights out! Look out!


TURNER: (OFF, SCARED) Hey! Stop! (SCREAMS BEHIND--)


SOUND: SPEEDING CAR HITS TURNER WHOSE BODY THUDS TO STREET ... THEN TIRES SQUEAL AS CAR SPEEDS AWAY 


MUSIC: BRIDGE


MIKE: (EXHALES, WARMLY) Hey, Peg? 


PEG: Huh?


SOUND: SPOON ON BOWL AS MIKE EATS SOUP, THEN IN BG


MIKE: D'I ever tell you I love ya?


PEG: (AMUSED) Aw, it's not me you love. It's the hot soup. 


MIKE: Ahhh, now, you're not the only woman who can cook a dish of soup.


PEG: Huh? 


MIKE: It helps, though. I'm just beginning to thaw out. 


PEG: Yeah, that's a cold corner you play Santa Claus on. 


MIKE: Well, it don't hurt to make a few bucks. I ain't done so good this past year. Well, maybe the next year will be-- Oh, well. 'Sides, I kind of like it, you know. Kids askin' questions all day long. 


PEG: Yeah.


MIKE: You know, I wonder how they figure the other two Santas at the intersection.


PEG: Ah, kids think of only one thing at a time. (CHUCKLES) More soup? 


MIKE: Sure, Peg. You know, uh, one of them other Santas got hit by a car tonight. 


PEG: Oh?


MIKE: Yeah, he packed up few minutes before I did, started crossin' the avenue, and bang! You know -- hit-and-run driver?


PEG: Oh, gosh, that's too bad. Was he hurt?


MIKE: Yeah, he was killed. 


PEG: (QUIET DISMAYED EXHALATION) Here's your soup. 


SOUND: BOWL SET DOWN


PEG: Ah, with traffic the way it is nowadays, it-- (MOVING OFF) Well, I better take a look at the stew. 


SOUND: CHEAP DOORBELL RINGS


MIKE: Somebody at the door. I'll get it Peg.


PEG: (OFF) Okay.


SOUND: MIKE RISES


MIKE: (SINGS WORDLESSLY TO HIMSELF BEHIND--)


SOUND: MIKE'S STEPS TO DOOR, WHICH OPENS


MIKE: Yeah? What - what is it?


SOUND: TWO GUNSHOTS!


MIKE: (GROANS TWICE)


SOUND: MIKE'S BODY THUDS TO FLOOR


PEG: (OFF) Michael?


SOUND: PEG'S RUNNING STEPS TO MIKE ... THEN STOPS


PEG: (ON, HORRIFIED) Mike!


MUSIC: BRIDGE


ARCHIE: Mr. Wolfe?


WOLFE: Yes, Archie? 


ARCHIE: I've been thinking. 


WOLFE: Good heavens.


ARCHIE: Oh, I admit it won't bring about a national emergency, but, Mr. Wolfe, Christmas is only a couple of days away.


WOLFE: If you're hinting about your present-- 


ARCHIE: No, no, no, I was just imagining you behind a team of reindeer.


WOLFE: Your imagination is morbid.


ARCHIE: You'd make a wonderful Santa Claus. 


WOLFE: Pfui!


ARCHIE: You've got the perfect build for it. Of course, as for character-- 


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) Archie? 


ARCHIE: Yeah?


WOLFE: (CHUCKLES) Can you picture me scrambling down a chimney? 


ARCHIE: (CHUCKLES) Well, they might have to build a bigger chimney. But-- 


WOLFE: (SHARPLY) Bah! 


ARCHIE: Well, there's that, too. However-- 


SOUND: DURING ABOVE, WOLFE'S FANCY DOORBELL BUZZES


WOLFE: (BEAT) That is the front door.


ARCHIE: True. I was thinking-- 


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) You might see who it is.


ARCHIE: Well, if nobody's been lying to me on the phone, that'll be Santa Claus. 


WOLFE: Let him in.


SOUND: DOORBELL BUZZES AGAIN BEHIND--


ARCHIE: But I haven't decided what I want for Christmas yet, Mr. Wolfe. For example, should she be blonde or brunette, tall or short--? 


WOLFE: (IMPATIENT) Archie.


ARCHIE: On my way.


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS TO FRONT DOOR, WHICH OPENS, OFF ... ARCHIE AND BARTON'S VOICES OFF


ARCHIE: Good evening.


BARTON: I dislike dawdling on anyone's doorstep. 


ARCHIE: Well, stop dawdling. Come in, please. 


SOUND: STEPS IN, DOOR CLOSES ... THEIR STEPS TO WOLFE, IN BG


BARTON: Mr. Wolfe has been warned of my arrival?


ARCHIE: He has. Through here, please. (ON) Uh, Mr. Wolfe, this is, er-- (TO BARTON) Santa Claus? 


BARTON: My name is Barton; John Barton.


WOLFE: How do you do, sir? 


BARTON: I have no time for the social graces, Mr. Wolfe. I am about to be murdered. 


WOLFE: Not in my house. I have objections. 


BARTON: I'm a frightened man, Mr. Wolfe.


WOLFE: Indeed? 


BARTON: This - this costume you see me in is responsible for it all.


WOLFE: Why are you in it? 


BARTON: I had a notion it might be-- Well, entertaining to play Santa Claus in public. I'm a wealthy man, sir; I can afford to have whims. Therefore, I have assumed this masquerade. However, it apparently-- (CHUCKLES DARKLY) --is going to be the death of me.


WOLFE: Mr. Barton, you have adequately conveyed an atmosphere and an emotion. I suggest you concentrate on facts now. 


BARTON: Very well. I have been acting as Santa Claus for the Tuberculosis Fund. My station is the corner of Thirty-Fourth Street and Carlisle Avenue. I might add, the northeast corner.


WOLFE: Why?


BARTON: Because at that intersection there have been two other Santa Clauses: one on the southeast corner and one on the southwest corner.


WOLFE: Three Santa Clauses then, on three corners? 


BARTON: Yes. Now, then. Earlier tonight, the man on the southwest corner started home. He was crossing the avenue when he was run down and killed by an automobile.


WOLFE: A regrettable accident.


BARTON: The car was running without lights. It deliberately ran the fellow down and then vanished. Not an accident, Mr. Wolfe. 


WOLFE: You saw this yourself? 


BARTON: I did. One Santa Claus dead. The man on the southeast corner got home all right. According to the radio news flash, that's where he was killed -- by bullets. 


WOLFE: Coincidence. 


BARTON: Possibly. But I wouldn't want to risk my life on the chance. 


WOLFE: This is Friday night. In the nature of things, you would have made two more appearances. Very well, Mr. Barton. 


BARTON: I'll write you a check as a retainer, then hurry along home. I'm late now.


WOLFE: No. 


BARTON: I beg your pardon? 


WOLFE: You will neither hurry home nor notify anyone at your home of your whereabouts. 


BARTON: But-- 


WOLFE: You'll remain here until such time as I think it's safe for you to leave. The house is well guarded. 


BARTON: (UNEASY) I - can't do that. 


WOLFE: In which case, I cannot accept you as a client. 


BARTON: I fail to understand.


WOLFE: Mr. Barton, it is very easy to murder someone. Avoiding the consequences of such an action is something else again. However, I'm assuming that you're not primarily interested in what happens to your murderer after you're dead.


BARTON: Of course not. 


WOLFE: Therefore, you will remain here. Archie? 


ARCHIE: Yep? 


WOLFE: First, the corner of Thirty-Fourth and Carlisle; a complete report.


BARTON: But that's nonsense. The corner will be deserted now.


WOLFE: Mr. Barton, you're hiring my intelligence. You will therefore permit me to use it as I see fit. (TO ARCHIE) A complete report, Archie. 


ARCHIE: Right, sir.


WOLFE: You will then visit Inspector Cramer at headquarters. You will, in whatever manner you find effective, collect all the police information about the two already murdered Santas. 


ARCHIE: Fine. The manner, I think, will be applying a blowtorch to the inspector's toes.


WOLFE: Your levity is ill-timed.


ARCHIE: The inspector is likely to throw me out on my ear.


WOLFE: Your problem.


ARCHIE: My ear. 


WOLFE: And on your way home, you might stop in at Mr. Barton's place. 


BARTON: I don't see any purpose in that. 


WOLFE: Mr. Barton, there is a basic problem to which we must find an answer: whether those two men were murdered because they were Santa Clauses -- or because their deaths were merely preliminaries to yours. Archie, I suggest haste. 


ARCHIE: Yes, sir. 


WOLFE: And avoid blondes. 


ARCHIE: Hm?!


WOLFE: (CHUCKLES) I would like you to be home in time for Christmas. 


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: VERY LIGHT CITY TRAFFIC BACKGROUND ... ARCHIE'S STEPS ON SIDEWALK


ARCHIE: (HUMS TO HIMSELF)


MR. B: Hey, bud?


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS STOP


ARCHIE: Yeah? 


MR. B: Got the price of a cup o' coffee? 


ARCHIE: (CHUCKLES) You sure you mean coffee? 


MR. B: Either you're gonna dig it up or you ain't. Never mind the questions about my personal affairs, see? 


ARCHIE: Oh, I apologize. (HANDS OVER COIN) Here.


MR. B: Two bits? Heh! Thanks.


ARCHIE: You're welcome.


MR. B: Don't let me keep ya. 


ARCHIE: You're not. (MUSES) Thirty-Fourth and Carlisle, huh? During the day filled with milling throngs-- Hey, that's a nice phrase; I'll have to remember it. (SAVORING IT) "Milling throngs." (RESUMES) And now desolate and deserted. Well, that's life. 


MR. B: (UNIMPRESSED) Is that a fact?


ARCHIE: That's philosophy.


MR. B: Yeah? For two bits I don't have to listen to no philosophy, see? (MOVING OFF) Good night, bud. 


SOUND: MR. B'S STEPS AWAY


ARCHIE: (CHUCKLES) 


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: DOOR OPENS ONTO NOISY CROWD OF REPORTERS QUERYING CRAMER ... ARCHIE'S STEPS IN


ARCHIE: (TO HIMSELF) Uh-oh. The inspector's got company. 


SOUND: REPORTERS GROW QUIET FOR--


CRAMER: If all you reporters'll shut up and ask your questions one by one, I'll answer 'em.


SOUND: REPORTERS MURMUR BRIEFLY IN REACTION


1ST REP: Inspector Cramer, it's true a couple of Santa Clauses have been knocked off tonight? 


CRAMER: It's true that two men who have been employed as Santa Claus by charitable organizations have been murdered, yes. 


2ND REP: Any connection between those two guys or does somebody just hate Santa Claus? 


CRAMER: Well, so far as we know, there is no connection.


3RD REP: That means it could be maybe some kind of maniac who decided he doesn't like Christmas or Santa Clauses, is that right? 


CRAMER: The department is investigating along those lines.


2ND REP: Like how? 


CRAMER: Well, we're checkin' all the local asylums for possible escaped lunatics.


1ST REP: Yeah, but, inspector, suppose this nut has never been in an asylum? 


CRAMER: That'll be all, boys. 


1ST REP: (DISMAYED) Oh, but listen-- 


SOUND: REPORTERS MURMUR UNHAPPILY AS THEY FILE OUT OF ROOM IN BG--


CRAMER: I said that'll be all! Now, anything new comes in, you'll get it, understand? (DISAGREEABLE, BECKONS TO ARCHIE) Hey, Goodwin? 


ARCHIE: (APPROACHES, CHEERFUL) Hello, inspector. 


SOUND: DOOR CLOSES AS LAST REPORTERS EXIT


CRAMER: Yeah, I spotted you coming in. What happened? You decided to reform and got a job on a paper? 


ARCHIE: Nope. I'm a public-spirited citizen, that's all. 


CRAMER: Yeah, I can add a few things to that description with practically no strain at all. 


ARCHIE: Mr. Wolfe and I are very sentimental about Christmas. We object to Santa Clauses being killed.


CRAMER: Nuts.


ARCHIE: Oh, inspector, aren't you in favor of Christmas? 


CRAMER: (ANNOYED) I'm in favor of Christmas, I'm in favor of motherhood, I'm in-- 


ARCHIE: (INTERRUPTS) Leave motherhood out of this. Neither of us are mothers; our chances of becoming mothers aren't too good, either; and furthermore-- 


CRAMER: (INTERRUPTS) Okay, okay, you're not giving. So get out of here. 


ARCHIE: (CHUCKLES, MOVING OFF) Thank you, inspector.


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS START OFF BUT STOP WITH--


CRAMER: Er, but, Goodwin--?


ARCHIE: (OFF) Yeah? 


CRAMER: In case Wolfe decides to send me something for Christmas, you know what I wish he'd send me? 


ARCHIE: (OFF) What? 


CRAMER: Your head!


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: BARTON'S DOORBELL RINGS ... DOOR OPENS


ARCHIE: (IMPRESSED) Well! 


LAURA: (THE SAME) Ohhh! 


ARCHIE: (HALF TO HIMSELF) Now I know what I want for Christmas. 


LAURA: What did you say? 


ARCHIE: I said my name is Goodwin and it's cold on your doorstep.


LAURA: Oh. Oh, I'm sorry. Come in.


ARCHIE: (GLADLY) Mm hm.


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS IN ... DOOR CLOSES ... THEIR STEPS THROUGH HOUSE, IN BG


ARCHIE: Uh, you didn't mention your name. 


LAURA: I'm Laura Barton.


ARCHIE: Mrs. Laura Barton?


LAURA: No. 


ARCHIE: Fine! Fine-- That is, what relation are you to John Barton? 


LAURA: His niece. Why do you ask? 


ARCHIE: (ENTRANCED) Oh, you've got a beautiful voice. (RECOVERS) Uh, all this marble and no butler? 


LAURA: I don't know where Pleasant is. He should be here. 


ARCHIE: Have him shot at sunrise. 


WAYNE: (OFF, SEES LAURA) Oh, Laura--


SOUND: THEIR STEPS STOP ... INNER DOOR CLOSES ... WAYNE'S STEPS TO LAURA


LAURA: Wayne, this is Mr. Goodwin.


WAYNE: Never heard of him. What does he want? 


LAURA: Well, I don't know.


ARCHIE: Wayne what? 


WAYNE: Stevens.


ARCHIE: Uh-huh. Friend of Mr. Barton's? 


WAYNE: Half-brother. But we seem to be doing all the answering. How about your answering some questions, Goodwin? 


ARCHIE: I'll try.


WAYNE: Come into the library.


SOUND: THEIR STEPS TO LIBRARY DOOR, WHICH OPENS ... STEPS IN, DOOR CLOSES


WAYNE: What do you want? 


ARCHIE: For Christmas? Uh, erase that. I would like to see Mr. Barton. 


WAYNE: He's not home.


ARCHIE: Where is he?


WAYNE: Don't you know? 


ARCHIE: I wouldn't have come here asking for him if I did, would I? 


WAYNE: I suppose that's true. What did you want with him? 


ARCHIE: Conversation.


WAYNE: About? 


ARCHIE: Anything. You see, I like to talk to rich men. Are you rich?


WAYNE: (LAUGHS) I can't play the piano, either. 


ARCHIE: You could always learn. But being rich is harder. I've found that-- 


LAURA: (INTERRUPTS, CONCERNED) Mr. - Mr. Goodwin? You must have some reason for coming here. Some reason concerning uncle. 


WAYNE: (REASSURING) Laura, you're being imaginative. 


LAURA: Well, uncle is late. 


WAYNE: He's probably still on that street corner playing Santa Claus. He enjoys it. Why bother about what--?


LAURA: I don't know, except-- 


ARCHIE: --he's never been as late as this? 


WAYNE: (CONCEDES) Well, no -- not since he started that masquerade of his. 


ARCHIE: Would you happen to know where the butler is? 


WAYNE: Out getting drunk, I suspect. He was in the kitchen a little while ago. Disappeared. Pleasant likes to look on the wine when it's red. Or even when it's white. Er, no, I take that back.


ARCHIE: Oh, you do? 


WAYNE: He prefers Irish whiskey. We don't stock it, therefore-- 


ARCHIE: Too bad. I better run along. Good night, Mr. Stevens; Miss Barton. 


WAYNE: Good night.


LAURA: (TO ARCHIE) Uh, I'll see you out. 


SOUND: LAURA AND ARCHIE'S STEPS THROUGH LIBRARY DOOR, THEN TO FRONT DOOR, IN BG


ARCHIE: Prettiest butler I ever saw. Blonde. Old Dr. Titmouse always said, "Beware of blondes, because--" 


LAURA: (WORRIED) Mr. Goodwin, I--


ARCHIE: (BEAT) Well, I'm waiting.


LAURA: Well, I-- Mr. Goodwin, you must know something about uncle. Something you didn't want to tell us.


ARCHIE: What makes you think so?


LAURA: Well, otherwise your visit was just pointless.


ARCHIE: Let's suppose I know. Now, I might be a kidnapper--


LAURA: (DISAGREES) Oh, no. 


ARCHIE: My honest brown eyes?


LAURA: Your first name is Archie, isn't it? 


ARCHIE: Archie? "Archie Goodwin." Hmm. Goes together nicely, don't you think? 


LAURA: You work for Nero Wolfe? You're going back to him now? 


ARCHIE: I might be. But then again I might be going to the movies. 


LAURA: I recognized you. Your pictures have been in the papers. Take me with you to see Mr. Wolfe. You can trust me. 


ARCHIE: I never trust blondes.


LAURA: That's unfair. 


ARCHIE: Well, no. I don't trust brunettes, either. Furthermore, I'm not sure Mr. Wolfe would want to see you, so I, er--


LAURA: So--?


ARCHIE: So why don't you, er, trail me home, hm? 


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: WOLFE'S FRONT DOOR OPENS ... ARCHIE'S STEPS IN, DOOR CLOSES


WOLFE: (OFF) Is that you, Archie? 


ARCHIE: (YES) Archie. 


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS TO WOLFE


ARCHIE: Where's Santa Claus? 


WOLFE: Guest room. He was tired. What, er--? 


ARCHIE: (INTERRUPTS) I've been trailed home.


WOLFE: Indeed?


ARCHIE: By a blonde. 


WOLFE: Pfui. 


ARCHIE: All right, I admit I didn't make any strenuous effort to shake her off, but she trailed--


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) Where is she? 


ARCHIE: Outside.


WOLFE: Good. Your report. 


ARCHIE: Oh, but she might freeze to death out there. 


WOLFE: That's her problem. Your report, Archie. 


ARCHIE: It's short and simple.


WOLFE: It would be simple. 


ARCHIE: I haven't got time to resent that; a blonde is dying. As for the report, corner of Thirty-Fourth and Carlisle is a very quiet spot at night. No one was around but a bum who got into me for a quarter. For coffee, he said


WOLFE: You will not put that quarter on the expense account. 


ARCHIE: Stop worrying; that was a private gesture. (RESUMES) There were four corners. Corner Number One had a dress shop on it. Corner Number Two, a drugstore with a beautiful redhead in the window making with a hair rinse. The ad said her name was Noreen, but it didn't give her phone number. 


WOLFE: (IMPATIENT) Archie.


ARCHIE: (CLEARS THROAT) Third corner was devoted to a shoe store and the fourth corner had a bank on it.


WOLFE: A bank? Hmm. 


ARCHIE: Uh-huh. Kind of thought we'd have a pause at that point. Mean something? 


WOLFE: Inspector Cramer's information consisted of--? 


ARCHIE: Oh, you're being coy. Cramer furnished the information the police could find no connection between the two murdered Santas. 


WOLFE: Except for the fact that they were both playing Santa Claus.


ARCHIE: Well, isn't that a little on the obvious side?


WOLFE: This is an obvious case. The Barton home, Archie. 


ARCHIE: Uh, marble and old lace. A butler -- his name is Pleasant -- was among those missing. Among those present: Laura Barton, the old man's niece, and Wayne Stevens, his half-brother. 


WOLFE: Ah! 


ARCHIE: Yeah. Only for Laura. Stevens was not at all pretty. 


WOLFE: It was Laura Barton who followed you here?


ARCHIE: (YES) It was Laura. 


WOLFE: Archie, er, go upstairs and--


ARCHIE: Hm? Oh, no, wait a minute! The girl, the weather, common humanity demands that you have--


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) Pfui! You speak for yourself, not humanity. 


ARCHIE: I'm human.


WOLFE: On occasion a debatable point. Very well. Let her in.


ARCHIE: Oh, thanks. 


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS TO FRONT DOOR, WHICH OPENS, OFF ... ... ARCHIE AND LAURA'S VOICES OFF


ARCHIE: Laura? 


LAURA: Yes?


ARCHIE: Come in. 


SOUND: STEPS IN, DOOR CLOSES ... THEIR STEPS TO WOLFE


ARCHIE: (AN INTRODUCTION) Laura Barton, Mr. Wolfe.


LAURA: How do you do?


WOLFE: (SHARPLY) How much money do you inherit on the death of your uncle? 


LAURA: (TAKEN ABACK, SLIGHT GASP) What? 


WOLFE: That is known as the shock treatment. However, I need an answer.


LAURA: (TROUBLED) Uncle isn't dead, is he? 


WOLFE: That, for the moment, is irrelevant. How much? 


LAURA: Half his estate. 


WOLFE: The other half? 


LAURA: Wayne -- uncle's half-brother. 


WOLFE: Very well. Archie, will you go upstairs and inform Mr. Barton that his niece is here?


LAURA: (SLIGHT GASP, PUZZLED) Uncle is - here


ARCHIE: (TO WOLFE) On my way. (HUMS TO HIMSELF BEHIND--)


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS THROUGH HALL DOOR ... UP STAIRS ... TO GUEST ROOM DOOR ... KNOCK ON DOOR


BARTON: (BEHIND DOOR) Yes? 


ARCHIE: Archie, Mr. Barton. 


BARTON: (BEHIND DOOR) Come in.


SOUND: GUEST ROOM DOOR OPENS ... ARCHIE'S STEPS IN


ARCHIE: Mr. Wolfe would like you to come downstairs. 


BARTON: I suppose he has a reason.


ARCHIE: (YES) Mm hm. A blonde reason; your niece. 


BARTON: (UNEASY) My niece? 


ARCHIE: That's right. She-- (SEES SOMETHING, DEADLY SERIOUS) Hey, where'd you get that?


BARTON: (GRIM) A man of my wealth finds it safer to carry a revolver. 


ARCHIE: Yeah, but it's not safe to point it at people, especially for the people. 


BARTON: Turn around, Goodwin.


SOUND: ARCHIE'S STEPS AS HE TURNS AROUND


ARCHIE: (FACING AWAY) But, Mr. Barton, we're protecting you.


BARTON: By letting that girl into the house? If I had the time, I'd be amused. (WITH EFFORT) As it is-- 


SOUND: BARTON HITS ARCHIE ON HEAD WITH GUN


ARCHIE: (GROANS)


SOUND: ARCHIE'S BODY THUDS TO FLOOR


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: HALL DOOR OPENS ... ARCHIE'S STEPS STAGGER IN


WOLFE: (OFF, ANNOYED) Archie, you've been drunk. (ON, DISMAYED) Good heavens. 


LAURA: (THE SAME) Oooh!


ARCHIE: (YES) Uh-huh. Santa Claus came early. 


WOLFE: Your head! 


ARCHIE: Which one are you referring to? My own or the one Santa gave me?


WOLFE: You had better sit.


ARCHIE: No. No, I had enough trouble getting up a little while ago. I'm staying out of any positions in which I might have to do that again. Mr. Barton is among the missing.


WOLFE: Indeed? 


ARCHIE: (YES) Mm-hm. Hit me on the head and used the back exit. I checked with Fritz in the kitchen on the way here.


WOLFE: He offered a reason for his peculiar behavior? 


ARCHIE: Laura Barton.


WOLFE: (THOUGHTFUL) So. 


LAURA: (PUZZLED) I - I don't understand. Uncle wouldn't do--


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) Uncle apparently has. He also, it would appear, fancies himself in costume.


LAURA: Well, he used to be very much interested in the stage. He - he acted for a while, a long time ago, till the family objected.


SOUND: PHONE RINGS


WOLFE: Archie? 


ARCHIE: Got it. 


SOUND: RECEIVER UP ... CRAMER'S VOICE ON FILTER


ARCHIE: (INTO PHONE) Nero Wolfe's office, Archie Goodwin speaking. 


CRAMER: You recite very nicely, Goodwin. This is Cramer. Let me have Wolfe, huh? 


ARCHIE: (HANDS PHONE TO WOLFE) Mr. Wolfe? Inspector Cramer. 


WOLFE: (INTO PHONE) Yes, inspector? 


CRAMER: The papers haven't been carrying it, Wolfe, but you're workin' on the Santa Claus case, aren't you? 


WOLFE: A possibility.


CRAMER: You didn't send Goodwin down to headquarters on a possibility! Well, never mind. We're workin' on a line down here, Wolfe. Now look, er, if it doesn't strain your professional ethics, you might be able to help. 


WOLFE: How?


CRAMER: There's a bank on the corner of Thirty-Fourth Street and Carlisle. We got the thought that suppose a gang was preparin' to take that bank tomorrow morning. Those Santa Clauses have been on the corner for nearly a week now. They might have noticed something about the bank's routine -- guards or what-have-you -- that could interfere with the gang's plan.


WOLFE: A mighty ingenious and imaginative thought, inspector. 


CRAMER: You didn't say yes or no. 


WOLFE: I have, at the moment, no opinion. 


CRAMER: That's all you're gonna give us? 


WOLFE: At the moment. However, inspector, in a very little while I shall give you-- (CHUCKLES) --the murderer.


SOUND: RECEIVER DOWN 


WOLFE: Archie? Miss Barton will remain here. As for you--


ARCHIE: Yeah? 


WOLFE: You'll return to Thirty-Fourth Street and find our coffee-loving friend. 


ARCHIE: Hm? What?


WOLFE: You will persuade him, in whatever manner you think best, to return here with you.


ARCHIE: (FLABBERGASTED) Huh?! 


WOLFE: Yes. (CHUCKLES) You know, I think it's possible you may be able to put that quarter on the expense account after all.


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: LIGHT CITY TRAFFIC BACKGROUND ... ARCHIE'S STEPS ON SIDEWALK TO MR. B


ARCHIE: You! 


MR. B: What? Oh. Why, I seen you before.


ARCHIE: Yeah, I've learned to love the neighborhood. That's why it's going to break my heart.


MR. B: What is? 


ARCHIE: Leaving it -- with you. 


MR. B: With--? (GRUNTS AND STRUGGLES, IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH--)


SOUND: SUDDEN SCUFFLE AS ARCHIE GRABS MR. B. ... THEN IN BG


ARCHIE: (WITH EFFORT) I'm sensitive about having guns pulled on me tonight. 


MR. B: (WITH EFFORT) Let go of me, will you?


ARCHIE: (WITH EFFORT) Not until I-- (EXHALES) There.


SOUND: SCUFFLE ENDS


MR. B: (RELEASED FROM ARCHIE'S GRIP, BREATHES HEAVILY)


ARCHIE: Gun looks in a lot better shape than you do. You're coming with me.


MR. B: Where? 


ARCHIE: Mr. Wolfe would like to see you. 


MR. B: Nero Wolfe? 


ARCHIE: Yeah.


MR. B: Well, why? 


ARCHIE: (LIGHTLY) He's trying to salvage a quarter.


MUSIC: BRIDGE


SOUND: WOLFE'S FRONT DOOR OPENS ... ARCHIE AND MR. B'S STEPS IN ... BRIEF MURMUR OF LAURA AND WAYNE'S VOICES IN WOLFE'S OFFICE ... VOICES FALL SILENT BEHIND--


WOLFE: (PLEASED) Ah, Archie.


ARCHIE: (YES) Uh-huh. Complete with, er-- He wouldn't give his name. He did have a gun to it, though. This one. 


WOLFE: Yes. Archie, you know Miss Barton, of course?


ARCHIE: (DREAMILY) Hi. 


WOLFE: And Mr. Stevens? He joined us a moment ago. Miss Barton thought she'd be happy if he were here. 


ARCHIE: Hello, Stevens. 


WAYNE: That's not the only reason I came. My brother is still missing. I'm concerned. 


WOLFE: Yes. (TO MR. B) You, sir. Will you sit down? Watching people stand makes me uncomfortable. 


MR. B: (GROUCHY) I don't have to.


WOLFE: You do. Archie is stronger than you are. 


MR. B: (GIVES IN RELUCTANTLY) Oh, all right. (EXHALES AS HE SITS)


WOLFE: That's better.


WAYNE: If you don't mind, Mr. Wolfe, I have never been here before, never met you. But you look as though you could handle things. I think my brother's been kidnapped.


WOLFE: A possibility we shall have to consider. Miss Barton, perhaps you have a theory, too? 


LAURA: Well, I don't know. Uncle's been behaving strangely for weeks now. 


WOLFE: In what way? 


LAURA: Well, I'm not sure. (APPEAL FOR HELP) Wayne--? 


WAYNE: Well, of course, John's always been a little peculiar, but I'm afraid I saw nothing especially strange -- outside of this Santa Claus stunt, of course. 


WOLFE: I see. Miss Barton, your uncle played Santa Claus all week on one of the corners of Thirty-Fourth Street and Carlisle. 


LAURA: I know.


WOLFE: On two other corners, two other men indulged in the same activity. Those two other men are now dead. 


LAURA: (GASPS, QUIET DISMAY) Oh, no.


WAYNE: Well, wait-- Mr. Wolfe? You mean they were killed by mistake -- for Barton? 


WOLFE: It is true that one man made up as Santa Claus looks very much like any other man similarly costumed. But the answer is no. One of the two men was shot in his home after he had removed his costume.


WAYNE: Well, then what connection--? 


WOLFE: Miss Barton, in the event that you wanted to hide a tree, where would you hide it?


LAURA: Hide a tree? Why, I wouldn't even begin to know.


WOLFE: If you were very clever, you would hide it in a forest. If you wanted to hide a murder and were very clever, you'd adopt the same principle. 


LAURA: Wait! You mean that if someone wanted to kill uncle and didn't want to be suspected, he'd--?


WOLFE: --go about murdering several people with an ostensible if lunatic reason. He would, let us say, go about killing Santa Clauses. 


WAYNE: I get it. Then people would think the man he really wanted dead, for a special and private reason, had been killed for something that didn't point to him.


WOLFE: True. That was why two Santa Clauses were murdered tonight. The third Santa Claus, however -- the real object of the murderer's attention -- was luckier, or suspicious. He fled. 


MR. B: Aw, do I have to hang around here and listen to all this?


WOLFE: You do, my unwashed friend. (RESUMES) Mr. Barton fled and the murderer was in a quandary. He had, so to speak, invested in two murders merely to make the third one confusing. But he found himself unable to commit that third murder. He couldn't find his victim. Could he ask the police to do so? Hardly. But he might try to inveigle a private detective such as myself into the job.


WAYNE: (A LITTLE UNEASY) Er, that makes sense, Mr. Wolfe, but, er, why would my brother have deliberately fled from your house? I - I mean, he was protected here, so what--? Do I make myself clear?


WOLFE: Very clear, Mr. Stevens. Archie, that gun you took from the dirty gentleman -- you still have it? 


ARCHIE: I still have it. 


WOLFE: Then would you mind pointing it at Mr. Stevens here until the police remove him? 


MUSIC: BRIDGE


CRAMER: All right, come along, Stevens.


SOUND: CRAMER AND WAYNE'S STEPS TO FRONT DOOR, WHICH CLOSES


ARCHIE: Well, that's the end of Mr. Stevens. Inspector Cramer will take good care of him from now on. But now, Mr. Wolfe, Laura and me and the refugee from a washcloth over here would still like to know how and why and who was involved--?


WOLFE: (INTERRUPTS) I knew two people had a motive for John Barton's death: Laura Barton and Wayne Stevens. One of them proceeded to kill Santa Clauses in the hope that the police would assume those killings to be the work of a lunatic. 


ARCHIE: The papers certainly hopped on that assumption. 


WOLFE: Yes. However, John Barton, aware that his life was in danger, escaped his murderer and hid. 


ARCHIE: In this house. 


WOLFE: No. A man in a Santa Claus costume came here and said he was Barton. However, he was an obvious impostor. He proved that by his flight when his niece came here.


LAURA: You mean, he could fool you, but he knew he wouldn't be able to fool me, so--?


WOLFE: Precisely. Therefore, it was not Barton. Who was it? Who else had disappeared at the propitious moment?


ARCHIE: (REALIZES) The butler -- Pleasant. 


WOLFE: True. I distrust coincidence. Stevens needed an accomplice, hence he sent Pleasant here.


ARCHIE: And Pleasant would give you a song and dance about Barton's danger and then scram. You'd start investigating, discover Barton was missing, try to find him, and lead Stevens to his victim, huh? 


WOLFE: I frustrated that part of the plan by insisting on Pleasant's remaining here, which he did until--


ARCHIE: (INTERRUPTS) That part of it's fine, but how did you choose between Laura and Stevens?


WOLFE: It was Stevens who knew, without being told, that Barton had been in this house and had fled from it. 


ARCHIE: (REALIZES) Yeah! Yeah, you yourself mentioned that Stevens had only been here a moment, so you hadn't told him. 


WOLFE: Obviously the butler phoned him as soon as he had hit you over the head and escaped. Furthermore, the butler, masquerading as Barton, had attempted to throw suspicion on Miss Barton. That convinced me of her innocence. 


ARCHIE: (DRY) Well, you've done it again, Mr. Wolfe, except for one minor detail.


WOLFE: You're not very successful at irony, Archie. What minor detail? 


ARCHIE: Where is Barton? 


WOLFE: In this house.


ARCHIE: Huh? When did that happen? 


WOLFE: When you arrived home, with the gentleman sitting near you.


ARCHIE: The bum? Wait. Wait a minute. This I ought to be able to figure out myself. Laura said Barton used to be an actor. That's Item One, huh? 


WOLFE: Yes, Archie? 


ARCHIE: Also, why is a supposed tramp hanging around a deserted intersection for handouts? The answer is: he wasn't. He was keeping an eye out for trouble he knew was after him. Oho! So it turns out I gave a quarter to a millionaire. 


LAURA: (REALIZES, TO MR. B) Uncle! You're uncle! Well, that is, I-- 


MR. B: (NO LONGER A TOUGH GUY, WARMLY) I know, my dear. Yes, I'm uncle. 


LAURA: (GASPS WITH RECOGNITION AND RELIEF)


MR. B: I did rather a decent job, didn't I? 


LAURA: (CHUCKLES) 


MR. B: No one recognized me. Er, except, of course, you, Mr. Wolfe. 


WOLFE: Not recognition, Mr. Barton -- logic. Archie, open some beer for us.


ARCHIE: (GLADLY) Yes, sir. 


SOUND: ARCHIE OPENS BEER BOTTLES, IN BG


MR. B: Logic, eh? Well, whatever it was, Mr. Wolfe, I owe you a good deal. How can I ever repay you?


WOLFE: Oddly enough, the answer is simplicity itself. (CHUCKLES) Make out a check. (GUZZLES BEER, THEN EXHALES WITH GREAT SATISFACTION) 


MUSIC: CURTAIN 


ANNOUNCER: You have been listening to THE NEW ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE, starring Sydney Greenstreet. 


MUSIC: LIVELY BRIDGE ... THEN OUT BEHIND--


ANNOUNCER: Tonight's transcribed story was based on the characters created by Rex Stout. This is an Edwin Fadiman program, produced and directed by J. Donald Wilson. In the cast were Larry Dobkin as Archie Goodwin, and Howard McNear, Grace Lenard, Vic Rodman, Herbert Butterfield, Bill Johnstone, Jeanne Bates, and Bob Bruce. Next week at this same time, Nero Wolfe and Archie will bring you "The Case of the Bashful Body." Don Stanley speaking.


Three chimes mean good times on NBC.


MUSIC: NBC CHIMES


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