Play The Game

Creative writing submission from the Rest Less community – submit your entry here.

Play The Game

Peter, Lisa, Niel, Sandra, Terry and Carl, all mates around 40 years old, have been very close neighbours for over 20 years. They visit each other’s house every Thursday evening to play a game of pontoon and get drunk. Mainly to get drunk.

It’s Peter’s turn to host this Thursday. Peter is laying the table in the lounge with cards, vodka, gin and Mars bars.

Scene One

Peter’s house (the lounge)

// Peter hears knock on the door and goes to answer it //
PETER Come in Terry, you are always first to arrive.
TERRY Hi Pete, we sure are.  (‘We’ being Terry’s hand in a sock. The sock is Terrys way of  practicing his ventriloquists act.)
TERRY PETER, I see you and your sock have spotted the booze. Help yourself – as if you need telling.
// Terry pours a large gin and tonic and starts mumbling to his sock //
PETER Played any good gigs this week Terry?
TERRY I was doing ok at the Legion on Tuesday until my dummy’s head fell off.
PETER Did you put it back on?
TERRY Eventually, I had my face in the opposite direction. I was drinking a glass of water, so never noticed it until I heard the laughter.
PETER Have you glued it back on?
TERRY Sort of. I got more laughs from it falling off. I am going to keep it in the act. I’m arranging to let his legs drop off – eventually his arms and even his body. Just need a script to go with the bits leaving the head. Got any suggestions?
// a quick knock, and in walks Niel //
NIEL Hi Lads and sock. How are we all?
PETER Hi Niel.
TERRY Hi Niel, how’s things?
NIEL Great, get that G&T poured. I’m gagging.
PETER Terry’s dummy’s head fell off during a gig on Tuesday Niel. Was it singing,“I aint got no body?”
// the lads laugh //
TERRY No, but it made everybody laugh and I’m keeping the gag in the act – and eventually I’ll make all his limbs fall off. I just need a good excuse. What do you think lads?
// Another tap on the door and in walks Carl our fourth for cards tonight //
CARL Hi Gang, how are we all tonight? Get the Vodka poured. I’m ready for it.
// Peter, Terry, Niel all shout to Carl saying, “okay”, and raising their glasses. The four are sat at the card table knocking back vodka and G&Ts //
CARL Sold one of my paintings this week.
PETER Well done. Online, or someone local?
CARL Local vicar. That’s what I do now – take a picture of all the churches within a 20 mile boundary, come home, convert it to watercolours, and then go find the vicarage and try and sell them the painting. While I’m there I tell them what a lovely hallway they have, and keep him chatting until the vicars wife comes to the door. And I always go on a cold windy night, as this guarantees I’ll be invited in, and I tell them I’m also a home designer and decorator, and look around their lounge. They always ask my opinion. I tell them it’s a bit dull, needs brightening up a bit. I suggest brighter curtains, an uplifting splash of colour on the walls, etc etc. Before you know it, I’ve got £40 for the painting and a decorating job, with an estimate of £2,500. I’m what you call a talented artistic business man.
NIEL You’re a con man.
CARL No more than you are telling their so-called fortunes.
NIEL I’m not a con man. I get messages from the spirits.
TERRY The spirits are near you. Get ‘em poured
// everyone’s drinks are topped up //
CARL The customer gets a quality watercolour. You know they’re good when you all have one somewhere in your houses, and the business side of me grabs an opportunity to redecorate their home or vicarage.
NIEL Actually a lot of these vicar’s wives invite me to their coffee mornings on Saturdays. They get a collection up at the end of it for me. The more interesting and mysterious I make it, the bigger the collection is.
CARL See, you’re as bad or as good as I am.
TERRY I’ll have to get invited to the coffee mornings.
PETER Knew you would be in somewhere. You would have to clean up your act. No swearing, and a doll that falls apart isn’t exactly coffee morning material. I think you will have to work on your sock material. Does your sock have a name?
TERRY Yeah. Sock. It goes down quite well at the legion and Darby and Joan clubs.
PETER How do you make people laugh at a sock Terry?
TERRY Silly little puns really. For one, I have a hole in it. When I get a laugh, I show the hole and say, “Darn it”, and that gets another chuckle.
// Peter, Niel and Carl sat there totally bemused, nodding their heads sideways… //
TERRY I sometimes say, “I’ve put my foot in it”, but generally I just stand there and talk to it.
// Terry’s sock looks at the other three guys and nods.
TERRY Why don’t you have a go Pete? It’s for a good cause and you get paid for it.
PETER Nah, I just do card tricks, and people at the back of the hall won’t be able to see me anyway.
NIEL Get some bigger cards then.
PETER Nah. People just wouldn’t appreciate the dexterity and hard work that goes into this act.
NIEL What’s that memory act you do? You showed us about eight or nine years ago. I can’t remember how it went.
TERRY Must have been a good memory act. We’ve all forgotten it.
CARL I haven’t. Well not completely. Remember he taught us the trick with half a bottle of Gin inside us. Didn’t we have to remember 10 items?
PETER Yeah, that’s right. I still use it to remember the Wife’s shopping list.
PETER Get some paper from that table over there Carl. Rip it up into four squares and give a square to the lads. I’ll get four pencils.
TERRY What about our card game?
NIEL Shut up Terry.
// Terry’s sock is looking and nodding at Niel and Terry //
PETER Are all your glasses topped up?
TERRY Yes, get on with it.
PETER Aww, put a sock in it.
// the lads laugh. All are sat around the table //
PETER Right lads. Do as I ask and we’ll have some fun. I’m only going to use five subjects this time. Last time we did it, we were all too drunk and forgot what we were doing. This method will help you remember things for the rest of your life.
TERRY’S SOCK // Terry throwing his voice // I’m bored already.
PETER Is that you or the sock talking?
TERRY God I’m good. You thought the sock was talking.
PETER Terry, do you want to learn this or not?
TERRY Sure, let’s go. // his sock shook his head as if to say, “no” //
PETER Right lads. Write one, two, three, four, five down the page. // shows example // All done? Yeah? Now next to number, one write bun, yeah? Now next to number two, write shoe, yeah? Now next to number three, write tree, yeah? And next to four, write door. Okay, now lastly, for number 5, write knife.
NIEL They almost rhyme, don’t they?
PETER That’s the idea. Now I want you to repeat those words to yourself. One bun, two shoe, three tree, four door, and five knife. I’ll just test you Terry. What’s two?
TERRY Shoe.
PETER Brill. Now Carl, what’s four?
CARL Door.
PETER Yeah, well done. Niel, what’s three?
NIEL Gin time. Let’s top these drinks up.
PETER No, come on. What’s three? // as he tops up the lads drinks //
NIEL Tree.
PETER Great. If you just remember the object five, I’ll be happy. Normally I do 10 in my act, but we’ve all had a few and to remember five is good. Now, here’s the secret to remembering the five objects. I’m going to give you five objects to remember. I’ll make ‘em easy for tonight, and the first object is a worm.
TERRY Worm? Worm?
PETER Yes, worm is number one. This is how you remember. Picture your bun with a big fat red and yellow juicy worm, wearing a black top hat, and sat on your bun.
TERRY You’ve flipped.
PETER No, the more obscure you make it, the more you will remember it. Infact, before you all go tonight, I will ask you to recall all five objects and I bet you all do it.
CARL Carry on. We’ve all got worm for number one. What’s two?
PETER Two is shoe, so I’m gonna make two paper clip.
CARL Paper clip?
PETER Yeah. Trust me. You can put a big paper clip around the top of your shoe. You can make paper clips look like a zip on the side of your shoe, or even put your shoe on a pile of pink paper clips. The more imaginative the better.
NIEL I’m getting the hang of this now. What’s three?
PETER Remember three is tree, so I’m gonna say object three is a sugar cube. So you can picture a sugar cube on every leaf, or sugar lumps screwed to a tree trunk – it’s up to you… Ready for number four? // all the lads nod // Number four on your list is door, so my object for four is dart board. You can have a bright red door with a real thick dart board on it right in the middle, and it’s held up by a gold chain. Lastly, number five, which is knife… let’s have erm, apple pie. That should be easy for you.
NIEL Talkin’ of pie, I’m off for the sandwiches. // collects food from kitchen //
CARL Good, I’m starving.
TERRY Me too. You hungry Sock? // sock nods //
PETER Before you get your laughing gear around the grub, let’s just test you all, Terry. What’s two?
TERRY Two… erm… shoe. But I pictured rusty paper clips around my best trainers.
PETER Yeah, well done. Niel, what’s four?
NIEL Four is door, so I pictured the door to number 10 Downing Street with a flashing dartboard. So four is dartboard. Now can I eat?
PETER Yes Niel. Put your nosebag on.
CARL What’s five? That’s easy. Five is knife, and I imagined painting a 10-foot long canvas, and with a tiny craft knife, cutting up a giant apple pie.
PETER Phew, you all did it. Well done, proud of you – but let’s see who remembers the one to five when you go home.
// All the lads are eating, drinking, and playing cards //
CARL Pete, are you in the magic circle?
PETER Yes, well at least the local one.
TERRY Did you have to take a test or anything?
PETER I did actually. They let me visit for a few weeks, which was great. I saw a few visiting magicians – they just blew me away.
TERRY What test did you do? Are you allowed to tell us?
PETER Yes, I can tell you what I did, but not how I did it. They first sat me in a room with six very serious looking magicians, and asked me lots of questions on things like my favourite magician, my favourite trick, things like that. Then I was asked to leave the room while they talked amongst themselves, presumably checking I had a genuine interest in magic.
TERRY I presume you passed the test.
PETER With flying colours. They wanted me to do a final test, which was to perform on stage for 15 minutes with my basic tricks.
TERRY And did you?
PETER Yes, but I insisted I only had 10 minutes worth of material at the time. So for two months I practiced and practiced. I learned three tricks inside out, and made up the rest of the time with magic gags.
TERRY Can you remember the gags?
PETER I told the audience of around 30 magicians that I need some old well worn playing cards. So, I went to a charity shop in town, and as soon as I walked in, the lady behind the counter looked me up and down with a slight disgust on her face. Ithought, “Cheek, I’ve got a £90 pair of jeans on, and a £120 shirt.” I was fuming, so I thought, “I will get you back lady.” I picked up this pair of shoes, walked over the counter, and said, “Excuse me? Have you got these in a size nine?” // the lads laughed // The cards were 50p. I threw a 50p coin on the counter and walked out.
TERRY Did you buy any other props to use in your act?
PETER Err, yes I did actually. All of you sit tight, back in a minute.
// Peter goes into his bedroom and comes back with a carrier bag //
TERRY Looks a big prop.
// Peter pulls out a Shrek doll and screams //
PETER Look, I’m a nervous Shrek.
// the lads laugh //
PETER This went down well with the younger magicians. The older ones hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Anyway, I did my 10 or 11 minutes and was asked to leave the stage and go and stand outside. This I was told, was for a show of hands. If more than 50% of hands went up, then I was to be accepted. If not, I would be asked to leave… Within three minutes, I was asked to stand at the bottom of the stage, and they told me I was accepted. They all stood in a line, shook my hand and said, “Welcome.” Three of us joined that night, and all three passed with flying colours. I even got a certificate from the club chairman.
PETER What about you Niel? Did you have to pass any tests?
NIEL Every night is a test. I do have a following that believes everything I say, and I know who they are and I find nice comforting things to say to them. Firstly it keeps them happy – plus every visit from them I’m guaranteed to get £5. That’s what I charge at the door. The one at the upstairs room at the Red Lion. I give the landlord £20. That keeps him happy. Plus my clients have a drink half way through a meeting, and I get a free pint of lager.
TERRY What do you talk about? Do you go in a trance?
NIEL Yes, I ask the spirits to make themselves known to me.
CARL Who? Johnny Walker and Ron Baccardi?
// the lads laugh //
NIEL Shut up. I tell the people at the meeting to form a circle, hold hands and close their eyes. I ask them if they would like me to contact a loved one from the other side. I get at least one, sometimes two or three. Then I ask them to be seated, not to cross their legs – simply to keep their knees together. Now that I’ve logged who wants to be contacted, I concentrate on that person. Bearing in mind they have been following me for years, I know most of their history. I just put a twist on what I say to them. I always make it positive. I see their faces light up when I tell them their deceased relations are happy. Two weeks ago, one of my regulars asked me to contact their grandfather, who passed away five months earlier. Now, I knew this guy. He was a bit of a lad – in fact robbed the garage two months before he died. It was only a few quid, so the police weren’t involved. He was always skint, suddenly, he had the best back garden in the village, paved most of it himself and had the rest Astro turfed. So I took a chance and said to my client to look out for a possible loose paver. It worked. She noticed a loose paver, lifted it, and found nearly £500.
TERRY Phew, that was taking a chance.
NIEL I know. The part I enjoy during my meetings is when I tell them I’m getting a message from a person with the letter M. I think it’s Mary. Someone is bound to shout out to me and say, yes, Mary was my sister. Then I swiftly rabble on about how nice it is to see them all, and then I go straight to that person and say, “Mary has passed over hasn’t she?” The punter is gobsmacked at what I just told her. She forgets that earlier she told me Mary was her sister, meaning she had died. This new client thinks I’m the bee’s knees, and will follow me for years. She will also tell all her friends how clever I am, and will probably want a one-to-one session, but this young woman was talking funny to me. I can’t explain it.
PETER Bees knees. I haven’t heard that said for a long while, but it reminds me of a quick trick. Are you all up for it? // all the lads say, “yes” // Good, while you still have a pencil and paper, I want you to write something. But, before you do, let me write a prediction on my piece of paper, and I’m going to put it under this plate, so I can’t cheat. Ready? // all nod // Okay then, think of a number between one and nine. Okay? // all nod // Brill, now multiply your number by two. Then, add eight to your number. The number you have now, divide it by two. Simply halve it. All okay? // they all nod again // The number you have now – take away the first number you thought of.
TERRY This is complicated. What do you think sock? // sock nods //
PETER Give over. My 10 year old did this a few weeks ago. Now where were we? Oh yeah, have you taken away the first number you have thought of? // all lads say yes // Right, you all should have a single number, yeah?
TERRY I have.
NIEL Me too.
CARL Yup.
PETER Now, focus lads. If A=1, B=2, C=3, 4=D etc etc, your number will correspond to a letter, yeah? // all lads say yes // Now think of a European country beginning with that letter // all lads say yes //
PETER Now you have that country, what is the second letter of that country? Don’t tell me, just write it down, okay? // all lads say yes // Think of an animal beginning with that letter. All got an animal? // all lads say, “yes” // I can tell you now, the animal is an Elephant. // the lads gasp, and say, “yes” //
CARL Wow, how did you do that?
PETER Mainly mathematics. Just check my prediction from under that plate.
TERRY My head hurts. Get that booze poured. // his sock agrees with him //
PETER Vodka’s gone, I’ll get another bottle. Carl, have you got one of your business cards I can borrow?
CARL // reaching into his wallet // Yes, how many do you want?
PETER Just one. // walks into the kitchen for the vodka. He walks out back into the lounge with the vodka and the business card held high in his left hand. Now, shouting over to Carl… // Carl, give me a number between one and 99.
CARL Ermm 37.
PETER // turns the business card round and 37 is written on it // How’s this for magic?
CARL Never. Don’t believe it – wow.
TERRY You two collaborated.
CARL We never Terry. I promise you.
NIEL Well that was a trick and a half. Are you going to show us how you did it?
PETER Nah, that’s my favourite trick, thousands of magicians. Mainly mentalists love that. // then passes the card back to Carl // Thanks, here’s your card back.
PETER The last time I performed that trick was actually in the spa bath at the village hotel a few weeks ago. I mentioned to someone that I could do it, and they nagged me for weeks until I showed them.
NIEL What’s it like in their pool? Is the water nice and warm?
PETER // remembers a gag about the pool and puts a serious face on // It’s ok actually, except that they put a dye in the pool // he has the lads’ attention // If a man pees in the pool, it turns blue, and if a woman pees in the pool, it turns pink. // the lads all have their mouths open // Last week me and the Wife was swimming up and down like the red arrows. // a slight pause, then they all roar with laughter //
NIEL You had us there Pete. I’ll use that one when I go to work.
TERRY Yeah, I’ll add that to my act.
PETER We have some laughs at the pool. Usually, in the spa bath, there’s a good night – six of us winding each other up. But I must tell you about this crazy guy who joined us a few weeks ago – and this is genuine, I’m not kidding. Listen to this… There was three of us in the spa, just chatting, and in jumps this young chatty kid. I say the kid must have been around 20. Well, he just sat down and took over the conversation – similar to what you do Niel. Only kidding… Do you lads remember the floods a few years back? Well, this kid sat there nodding his head from left to right, and looked us in the eyes – and for no reason brought up the floods. He said, “Do you lads remember the floods?” I do. I was on duty that night from RAF Arron. I remember having to go near the next village and save this cow that was up to his belly in mud, as I was chief winchman. I remember being lowered down from the helicopter and putting strops around the animal. As soon as I did that, I signaled my captain in the chopper to lift it up, and guess what? His legs came off, and all we rescued was the body of the cow. Us three howled with laughter. He got up presumably embarrassed and practically ran out of the swimming pool. And that’s only one of the characters we’ve had in there.
CARL Did you ever see him again?
PETER No, I think he was on one of those free guest passes.
TERRY You certainly see lots of weirdos.
PETER I’ve got three of them now, sat at my table // everyone laughs //
CARL // a bit tipsy // That’s a nice amaryllis over there. Do you want me to paint it for you, Peter?
PETER I think not. I wasn’t going to mention it, but you so-called painted my Auntie’s amaryllis – Joan Simms, from Froom Garth.
CARL Oh yes, I remember her. Didn’t know she was related to you.
PETER You did a fantastic job painting that flower in watercolours.
CARL // looking apprehensive // Erm, thanks.
PETER You do right saying erm, because you didn’t paint it. Did you?
CARL What do you mean?
PETER John from the camera shop in town told me you had amaryllis mounted on a canvas straight off a USB stick. You photoshopped that flower didn’t you?
CARL Well, actually I did. But I didn’t rob her. I only charged her £5 more than the cost of the mount. I was very busy at the time.
NIEL Talking of robbing. Did you see on the news? The true story of Robin Hood, and how he actually died?
PETER Wait for it.
CARL I can see a story coming on.
TERRY Sock wants to hear it. Carry on Niel.
NIEL Well, as I was saying… Robin was sat there minding his own business when suddenly the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men circled Robin’s camp.
PETER Camp! He wasn’t in camp was he?
NIEL Ok his campsite in Sherwood forest.
PETER Campsite. Did they have those outside showers?
NIEL Shush. As I was saying, there was lots of arrows flying about.
PETER They should’ve been wearing aftershave.
NIEL What aftershave?
PETER Aramis // groans from the lads //
NIEL As I was saying, an arrow hit Robin in the chest and Robin turned round to Little John who was close by, and said, “Hey up, Little John.”
PETER Hey up? Hey up? Was he from Yorkshire?
NIEL Don’t know, but it got Little John’s attention. Robin told Little John he was dying, so Little John laid him on the bed. Pass me my bow and arrow Little John.
PETER Did he say please?
NIEL Would you if you only had seconds to live?
PETER Carry on.
NIEL Robin, with all his might, pulled back on the bow, and whoosh… that’s where they buried him. The gap on top of the wardrobe… // the lads laughed //
PETER I never saw that coming. Well done. So Robin never really got buried with full honours then? The merry men were a bit tight, weren’t they?
TERRY Tight? Tight. Not as tight as my old boss.
PETER Greenbank?
TERRY Yeah, I’ve told you about him before. My favourite story about him was when he cycled to town every Thursday and looked for bargains. He felt good handing over those coupons from the Sun and Mirror, which incidentally he pulled out of the waste bin after everyone had gone home. Right or wrong, he would get a few quids worth of coupons out of them.
CARL I couldn’t be bothered, could you? // looking at the other lads. Lads just shook their heads //
TERRY Anyway he bought some tinned peas because they were half price, plus a further 10p of using the coupons and a pound of lamb’s liver. In those days, it was only 25p a pound. He got to the cashier. She hated him – she had to count out all the coupons. This created a queue of people, and eventually, she had it all counted. Greenbank left the shop looking carefully at his receipt and shouted back to the cashier that the total was wrong – only by 5p, but it was wrong. Fortunately, nobody was at the till, and he rushed back insisting she check the receipt. Eventually, the owner of the shop intervened and simply gave him his shortfall of 5p without checking the receipt. They apologised to Greenbank who still wouldn’t let it go, and told the owner of the shop, “It’s the principle, not the 5p.” Then Greenbank left, the owner was fuming, the cashier was distraught, and when Greenbank went to pick his bike up for the journey back to work, someone had nicked it. // the lads laugh //
CARL Isn’t he the guy who would also look for those Smiths crisp packets, the ones with the blue packet of salt in them.
TERRY Yeah, every evening. Papers and salt packets didn’t waste a thing. The papers were made into papier mache logs, and used to light his coal fire every evening, along with any broken pallets he was allowed to break up from the factory next door. He did it right, he got permission to take them, he wasn’t stealing. He told me he saved pounds and pounds. I couldn’t do what he was doing. I don’t think many of us could. He never drank or smoked, and that was another story. Every Xmas we had the staff party. We all got dressed up and went into the boardroom for drinks and nibbles like you do. But our Greenbank one Xmas went to the charity shop – got a tweed jacket and some industrial shoes for the do, and all for a fiver, he told me. During the little get-together, the manager would come round with cigars. Greenback would grab two or three and put them in his top pocket. We all knew he would do this, and to be honest, we was all watching him and would feel disappointed if he didn’t do it.
PETER What happened to him?
TERRY He retired a year early. He confided in me – telling me he had accumulated over £150,000 being frugal, or careful as he put it. So who is right? Be tight and get a reputation and or spend, spend, spend and just live on your state pension when you retire?
CARL How’s he doing now? Riding around in a big Jag laughing at us all.
TERRY Not too sure. Heard a rumour he had died a year after retiring, and his wife and family are reported to have been seen on a couple of cruises around the Caribbean.
CARL It might have been the stress of losing his bike. Things like that affect people.
PETER We will never know. Talking of transport, what do you lads think of British rail?
CARL Hardly use it.
NIEL Same here. Why?
PETER I was just thinking of my weekly journeys to Manchester on my days off last year.
CARL What about them?
NIEL I feel a story coming on here.
PETER You’re not wrong there my old mate. I found it funny when I went to the loo on one of those new carriages. The ones with the sliding doors.
CARL And?
PETER And as I approached the door, it automatically opened with someone sat on the throne.
CARL Was it a he or a she?
PETER It was an old guy, reading a newspaper. I don’t know who was more surprised – me or him.
CARL I thought they automatically locked when you were inside.
PETER I did too. Must have been a glitch.
TERRY Did you wait till he had finished?
PETER Nah, went to the next carriage, fortunately, it had a proper wooden door.
NIEL Why did you go to Manchester all those times?
PETER Someone bought me a pass where I got a third of the price. Plus if I went on Northern rail, they would even halve that price for some reason. I couldn’t afford not to go. I remember, on the day the loo was playing up. We had to change trains at Stalybridge because of a cow on the line.
CARL Why didn’t the driver or guard shoo it off?
PETER Dunno, probably unions. It was sod’s law. The minute the replacement train arrived, the cow just strolled off the line.
CARL And did you change trains?
PETER Yes, we got into Manchester 40 minutes late. Didn’t bother me, but a few were flying that day, and you could see the panic in their faces. Me, I loved it, when you jump off the train and there are three free buses to take you around Manchester. Number one, two, and three. One bus takes you to the museums, another takes you to the sporting places, and my favourite takes me to the big shopping centre. By the time you’ve been round all the shops, markets, and the odd church, it was time to come home. Your feet was killing you. The return train was on time. I think it was around 90 minutes, and Lisa was at the station to meet me and bring me home. To me, I had had a good day out for around £23 quid, and a good night’s sleep. Talking of Lisa, she should be home soon. Will she be bringing Sandra here or be dropping her off Niel?
NIEL Not sure, probably find out in ten minish.
PETER Minish? Minish. Those G&Ts are taking effect I think.
CARL Ahh, can’t take it Niel. You’ve only had about four.
NIEL Four trebles, but who’s counting?
// Lisa and Peter’s wife Sandra walks into the lounge //
LISA I see you have been enjoying yourselves.
PETER How was the film?
LISA Crap. There was no sex, no swearing, no car crashes.
PETER What did you go to see?
LISA Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
// the lads looked up then howled with laughter //
TERRY You’re as bad as your husband.
LISA Hi Terry, how’s your sock?
TERRY We’re ok thanks, aren’t we sock? // sock nods //
LISA Silly bugger. And what about you Carl?
CARL Ok thanks, and Julie, well you know Jules, shell be in bed with a book and a drink.
LISA Great. Pour us a small G&T Carl, please.
CARL You want one Sandra?
SANDRA No thanks. I will be driving this drunken slob home soon. Who won tonight by the way?
CARL None of us. We’ve been chatting most of the night. Lisa Watch this, Carl. Remember the one to five. What objects did you remember?
CARL Err, 1 was er worm, two was shoe, paper clip, three was easy, that was sugar lump. Four door, er dartboard, and five was easy again apple pie, yeah?
PETER Well done Carl, proud of you.
LISA Did you only do one to five? You realise you’re gonna get roped into six to 10 next week? That’s almost guaranteed.
CARL I don’t mind actually. I enjoyed it. Pete, can you write down the six to 10 that we have to remember for next week? // Peter writes six to 10 for Carl //
TERRY Yes, I agree, it was fun. I’ll have the six to 10 please. // Peter writes six to 10 //
NIEL Well, I don’t want to be left out. I’ll have the six to 10 as well, please.
PETER Told you you would enjoy it. You will remember these one to 10 for the rest of your lives.
NIEL And at about that number on the business card. We must have that.
PETER Nah, that really is a magic secret.
LISA Did he do the Elephant gag? // all lads look at her and nod // He never stops. He told me yesterday we had won a year’s supply of marmite. // she has everyone’s attention // One jar. // the lads laugh //
NIEL The old ones are the best.
LISA He has told you he’s got me practicing a long-distance prediction trick. It’s where I might be sat on a bus or in McDonald’s, and I presume one of you lads pick a word out of any chosen book and I tell you what the word is.
PETER Shush Lisa. Don’t say anymore. I want to surprise the lads. I also want to show the magic club because it’s a brand new method, or at least I think it is of finding a word where I actually say nothing throughout the act. I point to three books, the volunteer picks a book, I gesture to pick a word, the volunteer rings you at a selected time, and you reveal the word. It’s a devilish method, and I would like to use the lads as guinea pigs sometime in the future.
LISA My lips are sealed. A scooter engine screams away from the house.
NIEL Listen up ladies and gents. I feel the spirits calling me to tell you something. Please make yourselves comfortable // all sit comfortably // The spirits are saying you are all lovely people. You have had a hard day. Your eyes feel sleepy. You can’t keep awake. Your head is heavy. Let it rest on the table or chair. Your eyelids are heavy. You are dreaming of being on a beach, sitting in a deck chair under an umbrella. You are snoring. You are in a deep sleep. A deep deep sleep. Are you all asleep? Nobody answers. // Niel begins to rob his best mates, taking their wallets and the ladies purses from their handbags // See ya later // he then leaves the room where everybody is totally hypnotised //

THE CURTAIN FALLS ON THE FIRST HALF…

…CURTAIN UP

Scene Two

Peter’s house (the lounge)

 // Niel walks back into Peter’s house and heads into the lounge where everyone is still hypnotised //
NIELIt’s time to wake you from your lovely sleep. Very shortly, I am going to count down from five to one. Your eyes will begin to open, and you will feel refreshed. Five… Four, your eyes are beginning to open… Three, you are wide awake…. Two, take a deep breath… One, you are back to normal. You all fell asleep on me. Am I that boring?
PETERListening to you makes Ken Barlow sound interesting. Only kidding Niel, but I do feel a bit funny. What was in those sandwiches? 
TERRYMe too, pass me that Gin bottle. // pours everyone a drink //
LISAYeah, I feel as if I’ve been asleep for ages. Must be getting old.
CARLI too feel as if I’ve been asleep for ages.
PETERLisa, watch this. I’m gonna pretend to take a big long yawn. Watch everybody because it’s infectious. // Peter yawns. Everyone in the room yawns. Lisa and Peter laugh. Lisa makes her excuses and goes to bed //
LISANight everybody. I’ll ring you in the morning Sandra. We’ll meet for lunch.
SANDRAOkay. // pointing to Terry // Don’t you be late. I’m taking the car. See ya later. Night everybody. // Sandra goes home //
 // The lads continue to chat, and within five minutes there’s a knock on the door. Peter answers it //
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSGood evening sir, are you Peter Egan?
PETERYes.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSHello sir. My name’s Inspector Williams. I believe you have had an incident here tonight.
 // Peter looks at the lads and shrugs his shoulders //
PETERIn what way Inspector?
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSI believe some items of yours have been stolen – mainly credit cards.
 // all four lads check their wallets and Lisa checks her handbag //
PETERYes, my credit and debit cards have gone.
TERRYMine too. But the cash, £60, it’s still there.
NIELI don’t know what to say. // looking to see his cards are still in his wallet, and then looking bemused //
CARLInspector, what’s going on? What’s just happened?
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSDid you all start to feel funny? Like being tired, earlier on this evening? // all the lads nod //
PETERYes we did. We were talking about it earlier this evening.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSAnd did any of you hear a scooter or motorbike engine earlier?
PETERErr, I think we all did Inspector. We all began to feel tired when we heard it.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSThen I think these belong to you gents. // opens an envelope that contains everybody’s credit/debit cards, except Niels //
PETERThese are mine Inspector. Oh and these are Lisas – my Wife’s.
CARLAnd these are mine Inspector.
TERRYYup, mine and Sandra’s too.
PETERWhere are yours Niel? You are missing two Inspector.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSActually, no sir. Not quite. You see it was Mr Niel Moore who stole your cards. // the lads gasp and shake their heads //
TERRYNever, he’s one of our mates. We’ve known him for years. // lads agree // He wouldn’t, and more to the point couldn’t. We have our cards tightly zipped in our wallets.
CARLWe did feel funny earlier on though, didn’t we?
NIELIt’s true. It’s hard to explain, but I remember opening your wallets and your wives’ handbags, and taking out the cards. I can still see myself doing it. It seemed natural to do it. I also wanted to take the money, but something was stopping me. It felt surreal. I can’t explain it. // the lads are dumbfounded //
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSEasily explained gentlemen. Don’t take it out on Mr. Moore – he was simply hypnotised by a woman at one of his meetings. Remember the lady who said she knew someone called Mary? Well, she made sure you gave her a private reading later that show. You chatted and mentioned about the card game and the booze. You even gave her Peter’s address just before she hypnotised you.
Mr. Moore did exactly what was expected of him – and that was to take all your cards, leave the cash, and put them into a bag behind the front garden wall, so they could be picked up by the lady who hypnotised you on her scooter. We had been watching her for weeks. Last night we stopped her for speeding and asked her to empty her pockets. She confessed to taking the cards, and we have her in a holding cell at the station. She’s waiting to see her solicitor. So you see gents, Mr. Moore is totally innocent. You all have your cards back, and all I can say is be vigilant. // turns to Peter // Mr. Egan, do you have a safe in the house?
PETERYes, it’s behind the painting on the wall over there.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWould you like to show me, sir?
PETERSure. // moves the painting shows the Inspector a combination safe //
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSDo you know your combination sir?
PETERWhy, yes – obviously.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWe get lots of people saying that. Might be a good idea to lightly pencil it in the back of the canvas.
PETERI have. Just there Inspector. // points to a faint four-digit number //
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSVery good sir. And you Mr. Moore, do you have a safe?
NIELNo officer. We’re not as wealthy as Peter over there; we simply have a Biscuit tin under the bed. A bit of cash and our insurance policies in it.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSNot too much cash I hope, sir.
NIELAbout a couple of grand. It’s our holiday money – it’s the cash I make from the meetings.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWhat about an alarm, sir?
NIELNo, nothing worth pinching really.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSVery good sir, and you Mr. White, do we call you Terrance or Terry, sir?
TERRYMy friends call me Terry, Inspector.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSDo you have an alarm at all sir?
TERRYNo, bit like Niel. We have nothing worth pinching. What bit of cash we have is in a jewelry box in a drawer in a bedside table.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSMuch cash sir?
TERRYAbout a thousand, but my wife’s Rolex is usually in there too. We have a special lock on both outside doors. There are only two keys for each, and it cost us about £90 per key.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSMay I see this key? // Inspector Williams walked over to Terry with his hand coming out of his pocket in a clenched position as if he’s going to hit someone // I see sir. Very good. // turns his back, walks towards the window, and walks back with the key. He then returns it to Terry and puts his hand back in his jacket pocket // And you Mr. Smith. Any alarms?
CARLNo. Just a big dog, Inspector.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWhat kind of dog, sir?
CARLA big ex-police Alsatian, Inspector. Why do you ask?
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWell sir, some thieves find out what dog it is and buy a muzzle for it. // the lads are surprised to hear that // And I presume you don’t have an alarm.
CARLThe dog’s our alarm, Inspector.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSMmmm, and any cash floating around in your house Mr. Smith?
CARLI’d rather not say Inspector, but a considerable sum.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWell hidden I hope sir.
CARLLike I say, we have a big Alsatian.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSWell gentlemen, you all have your cards back. It only remains for me to say, keep your doors and windows locked and keep vigilant – especially near hypnotists. If there are any questions please do not hesitate to call me on this number. // he hands official-looking business cards out to the lads //
PETERI’ll see you to the door Inspector.
INSPECTOR WILLIAMSThank you. Night all.
PETERNight, Inspector.
 // Inspector Williams heads towards the door, escorted by Peter //
TERRYSorry Niel, if we thought you had taken our cards.
CARLMe too.
PETERYeah, me too. Just shows how easy it is to hypnotise someone. I’m sure the Wife hypnotised me at the church all those years ago to say I do. Let’s have one more drink // Peter tops up all the glasses // That was nice of the Inspector, bringing our cards – didn’t know they’d gone. If she’d used the cards, she wouldn’t have got very much. Now the Inspector knows we have cash in the houses, and he knows where it is.
TERRYI’m hiding mine when I get home. Well, that was an educated evening. Certainly taught me a lesson. // the lads laugh // Tell you what lads, we’ll dine on this for years.
PETERSomething’s not right. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just doesn’t feel right.
NIELApart from me making a fool of myself, I agree Pete
TERRYI’m with you lads. Something stinks, and it’s not my sock, which you may have noticed is now in my pocket. I can’t understand why we should have heard a scooter’s engine. I mean, if you are pinching something, your getaway vehicle should be nice and quiet I would have thought.
PETERBang on Terry. That was bugging me too.
TERRYIf I had something naughty on me, I wouldn’t be speeding, would you?
PETERThat’s true, and how many of us have been caught speeding? Especially in our tiny village. None of us.
NIELA lot of this is making sense.
TERRYWhen you gave her a reading, was there a fella with her? Or was she alone?
NIELI honestly didn’t take much notice, but I would put money on it she was alone that afternoon.
PETERWe all nearly had money on it. Let’s backtrack a minute. She knew we were playing cards. She knew we were playing here. She knew we were having a drink. She roped Niel into this, and Niel later in the night hypnotised us. That means a hypnotised person, can still hypnotise others. First time I’ve heard of something like that. Niel, on some sort of cue, woke us all up, and within minutes, a policeman is at the door. I mean if you’ve robbed somebody you’d keep quiet until a solicitor arrives I would have thought.
TERRYThat was a bit lively for that Inspector to be knocking on the door.
PETERToo lively, and to me was asking all the wrong questions. All he seemed interested in was the word cash, and where it was in the house.
NIELPETER, are you saying this Inspector is in with this theft?
PETERLooks very much like it, don’t you think?
TERRYHe could have been one of those crime prevention officers, just being inquisitive and trying to protect us.
PETERNah, did you see his hands clench around Terry’s key? It might be me, but what if he was squeezing it into some kind of plasticine? Making an impression of it.
TERRYI’m quite impressed you should be thinking like this Pete.
PETERIt’s the magician in me, misleading people. I mean he could have been making an impression. Let’s have a look at that key, Terry. He gets his key out. // all the lads look at it. There is a bit of plasticine on it //
PETERLook. What’s that on the tip of the key?
TERRYTo me, it’s a bit of a dark gold putty. You might be right – he may have taken an impression. Hey, I’m sweating here. I’m just gonna ring Sandra and tell her to make sure the door’s locked and it’s bolted. Just in case. // he rings Sandra // Hi Babe, there are some lads in the village trying doors. Just make sure ours are locked and bolted. I’ll ring you when I’m home to let me in. //trying not to worry her //
NIELSo where do we go from here?
CARLHe gave us his card didn’t he? Why don’t we ring a few police stations and see if he’s genuine? Something tells me it isn’t.
PETERI’ll ring our village and Weelton village police station just up the road. You lads Google the other villages and find their local police station numbers.
 // all the lads ring the local police stations. No one has heard of inspector Williams //
PETERRight lads, what do we do now? Ring the City police station, or what?
NIELWell, yes as soon as possible, I say.
TERRYMe too – and you Carl?
CARLYeah. Let’s get the big boys in quickly.
PETER

// rings the City police station // Hello, yes can I speak to someone about a theft? Well, our credit cards were taken earlier this evening and brought back by someone pretending to be an Inspector Williams. It’s 22 Park Street, Heddon.

Oh, that’s what was bugging me all evening. That Inspector Williams – he just barged in and never showed any ID, or said which station he was from. // to the lads after hanging up the phone // Well, we’re in for a long night. Let’s play cards.

 // within minutes, a police car pulls up outside Peter’s house. // Peter peers through the curtain // It’s a big jam sandwich. Someone is coming down the drive.
 // knock on the door. Peter answers it //
PETERHello.
SERGEANT STRONGSir. // showing his ID // From City police station. I believe you have had something stolen, then returned by a potential bogus police officer. May I come in?
PETERSorry Sergeant, please come in. Only one of you?
SERGEANT STRONGYes sir, cutbacks etc. Would you like to explain what went on? I’ll just make some notes. Is there anywhere quiet we can chat about it?
PETERYes Sergeant, follow me. // takes sergeant into the kitchen for few minutes //
NIEL// shouts towards the kitchen // I’m going home if that’s okay.
SERGEANT STRONGEr, just a few questions before you go, sir, please.
 // Niel enters the kitchen and Peter leaves //
TERRYWell what a night. We’ve been fed and watered… entertained. Can’t wait to tell Sandra and the lads at work.
NIEL// Niel returns from speaking with the Sergeant // Right lads, I’ve told the Sergeant everything I know and I’m off to bed. Night Terry, night Carl. See ya Pete, and thanks for an interesting evening.
 // the lads say good night and Niel exits the house //
SERGEANT STRONG// popping his head round the door of the lounge // Mr. White, just you now sir. A few questions in the kitchen if you wouldn’t mind?
 // A few minutes later Terry re-enters the room, followed by Sergeant Strong, and sits back at the table //
SERGEANT STRONGThat leaves you, sir. Carl isn’t it?
 // Carl goes in the kitchen, and the other lads play pontoon, not saying a word. He comes back in a few minutes later followed by Sergeant Strong //
SERGEANT STRONGWell, I’ve got all the information I need. Must say all your descriptions of the Inspector were bang on. You have all been very helpful.
 // Suddenly bushes seem to be rustled outside. A faint yelp of a dog can be heard //
PETERSergeant, that’s someone outside. We never hear those bushes, and it sounds like Carl’s dog.
 // they run outside towards the bushes, including Sergeant Strong. They hear the neighbours shout something about a burglary, and Sergeant Strong heads over to investigate. Peter stands in his doorway watching. A policewoman walks down Peter’s drive //
WPC NORTHGood evening sir. I’m Police Constable Sarah North from City police station // shows ID // I believe you have one of our officers here.
PETERThat’s right Constable. He’s gone next door with two of my neighbours. They think someone is breaking in.
WPC NORTHBit chilly sir. May I come in?
PETERSure. // everyone steps into the house and walks into the lounge // The Sergeant has taken our statements. Now they think there is someone breaking into my neighbour’s house. // Peter looks through the curtains // In fact, if you look over there Constable, I’m sure someone is hiding behind that jam sandwich – I mean police car. This is all very exciting.
WPC NORTHWhy not stand in your driveway, sir? He may give himself up.
PETERGood idea, Constable. // heads out to stand in driveway //
WPC NORTHI’ll just use your loo, sir, and I will join you as soon as possible.
PETERNo problem, the downstairs loo is just on the right, the blue door.
 // WPC North calmly walks over to the safe behind the painting, confirms the four-digit number written on the inside of the painting, and opens the safe. She takes the cash out and calmly walks out of the house. A few seconds later, Sergeant Strong and the two lads along with Peter from the driveway all sit in the lounge //
SERGEANT STRONGSorry lads we didn’t get him. I think we frightened him away. I’ll radio in from the car. I’ll have forensics down in the morning. Thanks again for your help. Good night all.
PETERHang on Sarg. What about your WPC North? // sound of scooter screeching away //
SERGEANT STRONGWe don’t have a WPC North, sir. Good night.
 // All three lads shout, “goodnight”, to the Sergeant //
PETERWell who was I talking to earlier? // looks at the open safe // Oh no, is this night ever going to end? // everybody flops onto the couch and chairs //

 The End

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