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Dead Giveaway
Dead Giveaway
Dead Giveaway
Электронная книга196 страниц2 часа

Dead Giveaway

Автор Simon Brett

Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд



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A brief appearance on a TV game show, 'If the Cap Fits', means a day's pay, a few interesting contacts and a chance to visit the West End Television bar - not the least of incentives for a man of Charles Paris's thirst. But murder? Even for game shows where they'll try almost anything once, murder is going too far.
ИздательSevern House
Дата выпуска1 нояб. 2012 г.
Dead Giveaway
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Simon Brett

Simon Brett worked as a producer in radio and television before taking up writing full-time. He was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Year's Honours for services to Literature and also was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2014 he won the CWA's prestigious Diamond Dagger for an outstanding body of work.

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  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    Kept me guessing until the end. Another triumph for Mr Paris - and Simon Brett.

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Dead Giveaway - Simon Brett

Chapter One

‘MR . . . PARIS DID you say?’


The girl on the desk at West End Television’s main Reception looked dubiously down at a list. Charles Paris’s name didn’t seem to leap out of the page at her.

‘For what show did you say?’

‘If The Cap Fits.’

This title did not dispel her scepticism. ‘No show of that name down on my list.’

‘It’s a pilot of a new game show. Something to do with hats.’

‘Hats. Ah.’ Comprehension dawned slowly. ‘That might be what I’ve got down here as Hats Off!

‘It could be. Maybe the title’s been changed. As I say, it is only a pilot. Studio A,’ Charles added helpfully.

‘Yes, that’s where Hats Off!’s booked in.’ The girl was forced, regretfully, to accept his bona fides. ‘All right. If you like to sit down over there, someone will be down shortly.’

‘Thank you.’

Charles started towards the low upholstered sofa she had indicated, when the girl’s voice stopped him. ‘That is, unless you’re one of the celebrities. If you are, they’ll send someone down specially.’

He turned to look at her.

‘No,’ she said. ‘No, of course not. You go and sit and wait over there.’

He had to confess it hurt. Charles Paris was not an actor with an excessive amount of pride, but to have his non-celebrity status identified so immediately was a little galling. It rubbed in the humiliation of his very presence at West End Television that afternoon. As his agent, Maurice Skellern, had told him with considerable glee, the booking had only been made late the previous day.

‘Just had a call from W.E.T.,’ Maurice had announced over the phone.

‘Oh yes?’ Charles had replied eagerly. The shock of his agent’s actually ringing him had given way to exciting fantasies of leading parts in long-running television series.

‘They’re doing this new game show.’

‘Really?’ The fantasies shifted to produce a new, suave Charles Paris on a panel of celebrities, quipping away with the best of them.

‘Yes. Thing is, one of the rounds they have people from different professions and the contestants have to guess what they do from what they look like.’


‘For reasons best known to themselves, they want one of the people to be an actor.’


‘Obviously, though, they can’t run the risk of having a face the punters are going to recognise.’


‘So they rang me to see if I’d got any actors on my books who the public were very unlikely to have seen.’


‘I thought of you immediately, Charles.’

Some actors might have reacted to this backhanded insult, some put the phone down, some bawled out their agent, many turned down the job. But Charles had been in the business too long, and been out of work too long, to afford such luxuries as pride. A job was a job. He’d agreed to participate.

The sofa on which he sat was extravagantly low, in keeping with the glamour of television. It was also extravagantly uncomfortable. It might have been all right for someone lying flat on his back, but any normal-sized adult trying to sit on it had to fold like a bank-note. Charles looked at the other people waiting in similar discomfort on similar sofas, and wondered whether any of them was involved in If The Cap Fits. Maybe they too were representatives of professions which had to be identified from their appearance. He tried to play the game, and came up with a bank cashier, an estate agent, a professional footballer, a dental nurse and a test pilot. But he didn’t feel confident that he had scored very highly.

One of the lifts swished open and a girl emerged. She wore a khaki flying-suit, the television uniform of that autumn, and carried that symbol of television authority, a clipboard. Her hair was cut in the rigid shape of a crash-helmet and dyed the colour of copper beech. Her poise was daunting.

The pale-blue eyes went straight to the girl at the Reception desk, who nodded with something not far removed from contempt towards the sofas. The pale-blue eyes flickered upwards in a gesture of mock-prayer before joining her mouth in a professional smile as the girl moved towards her quarries.

‘Good afternoon. Which ones of you are for If The Cap Fits?

Charles, two other men and one girl rose with difficulty from their sofas. He’d been wrong about the estate agent and the test pilot, who did not stir.

‘Hello. Welcome to West End Television. My name’s Sydnee Danson.’

Why, thought Charles, not for the first time, why do girls in television always have silly names?

‘I’m one of the researchers on If The Cap Fits. The producer and everyone else is delighted that you’ve all agreed to take part in the show, and we think you’re really going to have a fun day. If you like to follow me, we’ll go down to the studio and then you’ll see what you have to do.’

A certain amount of mutual introduction and feeble joking ensued as the four followed the unnerving Sydnee to the lift doors. She pressed the button to go down, then looked back for another covert (but not quite covert enough to be unseen by Charles) grimace of mock-despair to her friend on Reception.

Her expression changed sharply as she saw someone coming through the main doors. ‘Quick,’ she hissed, like a demented sheepdog, hustling her charges towards a door marked EMERGENCY STAIRS. ‘In here!’

They scrambled through in confusion and found themselves on a small concrete landing. Sydnee leant panting against the door after she had closed it.

‘Sorry,’ she replied to the four quizzical expressions. ‘That was one of the contestants coming in. They mustn’t see you till the show or the game’s ruined.’

‘What, so you’ve got to keep us apart all afternoon?’

‘Yes,’ said Sydnee, and then added without great enthusiasm, ‘that’s my job.’

The set for If The Cap Fits was a geometric confusion of red, blue and silver. Against the backdrop tall triangles of blue provided an Alpine horizon, in front of which was mounted a wheel of red, around whose perimeter the title If The Cap Fits was picked out in large letters of silver. Another blue triangle, this time tapering downwards, provided a lectern in the centre of the area, and to one side a long rectangular blue desk was set in front of four red chairs. On the desk were four red-and-blue-striped drinking glasses; another stood on the lectern beside a red-and-blue-striped carafe. Across the front of the desk and of the lectern the show’s name was again printed in silver, lest the viewing public should at any time forget which programme they were watching (a very real danger in the world of game shows).

As Sydnee ushered her four ‘professions’ into the studio, a young man with a raven-black Mohican haircut and black leather bondage-suit was anxiously checking the spin of the red wheel. Over the studio loudspeakers a jingle was playing. Falsetto voices at high speed sang the deathless lyric,

If the cap fits,

If the cap fits,

If the cap FITS!

The noise was, to Charles’s mind, nauseating. But the jingle, and the set, raised interesting questions about the show’s title. ‘It is called If The Cap Fits then?’ he asked Sydnee, who was standing at his side.

She turned her incurious pale-blue eyes at him. ‘What?’

‘The show is called If The Cap Fits?’

‘Yes. Of course it is.’

‘At Reception they said something about Hats Off!.’

‘Ah, that’s the title of the American version. There was some thought of keeping that for here . . . until quite recently.’

‘Not very recently.’

‘What do you mean?’ For the first time there was a glint of mild interest in her eye.

‘Well, it must have taken time to get the set built and the music recorded.’

‘Yes.’ She nodded slowly, recognizing with a degree of surprise that she was talking to someone who knew a little about television. For a second Charles saw in her eyes that there might be a real person somewhere behind her professional exterior.

The moment passed as she raised her voice to address her charges.

‘This is the set where you’ll be performing. Shortly you’ll be meeting the show’s host.

‘Oh, who is it?’ asked the one female in the party.

‘Barrett Doran.’

‘Ooh,’ she intoned with a wide-eyed giggle. ‘My lucky day. I think he’s dead sexy.’

To Charles, who was not a student of television game shows, the name meant nothing.

Sydnee continued her routine. ‘You’ll actually be standing over here when you do your bit, which is incidentally in the First Round . . .’ She led the little group across the floor towards a blue-and-silver-striped flat. The black-leather Mohican turned as they passed. His face was white and anxious.

‘This is Sylvian, who’s designed the set.’

‘Ooh, well done, Sylvian,’ said the one female in the party. ‘It’s really lovely.’

The designer gave a twitchy nod in reaction to the compliment and turned back to his red wheel.

Before Sydnee could give more instructions, her attention was caught by the entry of a dumpy woman with blonded hair, on whose contours a khaki flying-suit hung less flatteringly. The new arrival carried not only a clipboard, but also a stopwatch, suggesting that her authority was that of a Producer’s Assistant. She gave an imperious gesture and Sydnee scuttled across towards her.

A whispered conference ensued, and the researcher returned with her professional smile screwed back in place. ‘I’m sorry. I’m afraid Barrett won’t actually be able to come down to the studio for the moment, but the Executive Producer, John Mantle, should be along shortly and. . . .’

She stopped on another gesture from the dumpy woman and crossed over for another quick whisper. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ Sydnee apologised as she returned, ‘John Mantle’s still tied up in . . . er, an important meeting, but the Producer, Jim Trace-Smith, will be here in a minute and he’ll be able to brief you. Meanwhile, perhaps we ought to sort out the actual hats that you’ll be wearing for the show.’ Pitching her voice up, she called to the studio in general, ‘Is there anyone from Wardrobe around?’

Her plea produced a tired-looking girl in a silver flying-suit and a limp-looking bald man in a pink flying-suit.

‘I wondered if you’d sorted out the hats for the First Round . . .?’ asked Sydnee with diplomatic diffidence.

‘More or less,’ the girl replied, and then revealed the reason for the researcher’s tentative approach. ‘But we’re still not happy about it. I mean, Wardrobe is about costumes that people wear. Hats for a game show I’d still have said come under Props.’

‘Yes, I see your point, but the hats are actually going to be worn,’ Sydnee cajoled. ‘These people here are going to wear them.’

The girl’s sniff showed that she remained unconvinced. ‘Well, I’ve talked to Head of Wardrobe and she says we should do it for today – under protest, mind – but if the show goes to a series, alternative arrangements may well have to be made.’

‘Yes, yes,’ the researcher agreed readily. ‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. But can we see what you’ve got for us today?’

The bald man in the pink flying-suit was grudgingly despatched, and soon came back with a selection of hat-boxes. ‘But we would like to make it clear that we’re still not happy about it,’ he insisted.

‘Yes, I understand.’ Sydnee reached eagerly towards the boxes.

‘Do you mind?’ said the girl shirtily. ‘You’re not Wardrobe, are you?’


‘Well, handling hats is a Wardrobe job.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Sydnee withdrew, her poise momentarily threatened, while the girl from Wardrobe demanded, ‘Right, who wants what?’

Sydnee stepped forward again. ‘Now you see, each one of them has to wear a hat which symbolises his or her profession. Did you get the list of professions?’

‘No,’ the girl replied stonily.

‘Well, Charles Paris here, for instance, is an actor . . .’

‘Oh yes?’ The girl in silver battle-dress reached into a box, pulled out a floppy Tudor bonnet and thrust it at Charles. ‘Try that.’

He put it on. It was too big. ‘I’m not sure that this actually says actor. . .’ he began.

‘That,’ the girl hissed in a voice that brooked no disagreement, ‘is what actors wear. That is your hat. That is what you will wear. You are now responsible for it. You will look after it. You will see that no one else wears it.’

‘Ah,’ said Charles. ‘Right.’

‘Erm . . .’ Sydnee interposed. ‘I’m afraid that won’t quite work. You see, the point of the game is that they don’t wear their right hats.’

The girl from Wardrobe looked at her pityingly.

‘No, you see, they have to wear the wrong hats, and it’s up to the punters – er, the contestants to change them round and get them wearing the right ones. That’s why the game’s called what it’s called. If The Cap Fits,’ Sydnee concluded lamely.

‘Look, you wanted hats to fit four people. Now you tell me you don’t want them to fit those four people – they’ve got to fit four other people. What is going on?’

‘No, they’re not meant to fit four other specific people. The contestants may move them around. They’re meant to fit any of them, all four of them.’

The girl from Wardrobe folded her arms over her silver flying-suit. Her tired mouth took on an even harder line. ‘I am not in Wardrobe to supply hats that don’t fit. I am trained to supply costumes that do fit.’

Sydnee looked fazed. It was not clear how she was going to get out of this one. But, before she could attempt any solution, her eye caught movement at the side of the studio and was once again lit up by sudden panic. ‘Quick, quick!’ she cried. ‘Someone’s bringing the contestants in! Come on – this way!’

And again she did her sheepdog routine, bundling the four ‘professions’ out of Studio A.

Sydnee’s party came through double doors out of Studio A and started up the corridor which led towards the lifts. As they approached, the lift doors opened and their leader saw something which made her reverse promptly, shepherding her flock back the way they had come.

‘What was it?’

‘Just getting out of the lift. Nick Jeffries.’

‘Ooh,’ squealed the one female in the party. ‘You mean Nick Jeffries, the boxer?’

‘Yes. He’s on the panel for the show.’

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