If I Were You
By Douglas James
Gerrard, a playwright, is the subject of this play. How he avoids being killed by an intruder who wants to steal his identity and live happily ever after. Gerrard fools the intruder, confines him in a cupboard, and finally surrenders him to the sergeant.
Gerrard was a writer of plays. He had to leave his house in order to deliver props for a rehearsal. An intruder had just broken into his house. He was armed with a gun. He desired to assassinate Gerrard and live off of his identity. The intruder had murdered someone and was wanted by the police. So he considered stealing Gerrard's identity in order to live peacefully. He wanted to learn everything he could about Gerrard before killing him so that he could accurately imitate him.
Gerrard said that he, too, was a thief and that if the intruder stole his identity, he would be pursued by the police. He'd murdered someone, and the cops had evidence against him. He went on to say that he was carrying fake moustaches and other props in order to disguise himself and hide from the cops. He had a feeling the cops were going to raid his house that night. He had placed an accomplice on the road to warn him of impending danger. Gerrard duped the intruder into believing him by threatening to kill him if the intruder suspected Gerrard of lying.
Gerrard warned that it was time to leave as the phone rang. When the intruder did not believe Gerrard, he asked him to peer out the garage door and see the cops for himself. The door was, in fact, that of a cupboard. Gerrard pushed the intruder inside the cupboard and locked it as he bent forward. He then summoned the sergeant as he ready to hand over the intruder to the police.
SCENE: A small cottage interior. There is an entrance back right (which may be curtained). Another door to the left must be a practical door. The furniture is simple, consisting of a small table towards the left, a chair or two, and a divan rather upstage on the right. On the table is a telephone.
(When the curtain rises Gerrard is standing by the table making a phone call. He is of medium height, and wearing horn-rimmed glasses . . . He is dressed in a lounge suit and a great coat. His voice is cultured.)
The play takes place in a small cottage. The room has a curtained entrance on the right hand side. Another door on the left side of the room is currently in use. The room is furnished simply, with a small table to the left, a chair or two, and a small bed to the right. A telephone is kept on the table. Gerrard is discovered standing by the table, making a phone call, as the stage curtain is being rolled up. He is of medium height and wears spectacles in the shape of horns. He's dressed in a lounge suit and a fantastic coat. His voice reveals that he is well – educated and cultured.
GERRARD : … Well, tell him to phone up directly. I must know … Yes, I expect I’ll still be here, but you mustn’t count on that … In about ten minutes’ time. Right-ho. Goodbye.
(He puts down the phone and goes to the divan on the left, where there is a travelling bag, and starts packing. Whilst he is thus engaged, another man, similar in build to Gerrard enters from the right silently — revolver in hand. He is flashily dressed in an overcoat and a soft hat. He bumps accidentally against the table, and at the sound Gerrard turns quickly.)
Gerrard is currently on the phone. He suggests that the individual contact him directly. He adds that he'll be there in ten minutes, says 'goodbye,' and replaces the receiver on the phone. Then he goes to the divan and begins packing his belongings into a travel bag. While he is packing, a man who resembles Gerrard enters the room quietly from the right side. He's holding a gun in one hand. He's wearing a brightly coloured dress, an overcoat, and a soft hat. Gerrard turns around as he collides with the table.
GERRARD : (pleasantly) Why, this is a surprise, Mr— er—
Gerrard greets the stranger cheerfully and expresses his surprise at seeing him.
INTRUDER : I’m glad you’re pleased to see me. I don’t think you’ll be pleased for long. Put those paws up!
The intruder expresses his delight at finding Gerrard pleased to see him. He goes on to say that when Gerrard learns of his plans, he will be unhappy. Gerrard is asked to raise his hands by the intruder.
GERRARD : This is all very melodramatic, not very original, perhaps, but…
Gerrard perceives the intruder's behavior to be dramatic and unnatural.
INTRUDER : Trying to be calm and —er—
The intruder says to be trying to remain calm and..... (he is short of words to complete the sentence)
GERRARD : ‘Nonchalant’ is your word, I think.
- Nonchalant: not showing anxiety, interest or enthusiasm
Gerrard continues, "I want to say that I'm trying to be calm and nonchalant, not to show anxiety or enthusiasm."
INTRUDER : Thanks a lot. You’ll soon stop being smart. I’ll make you crawl. I want to know a few things, see.
The intruder thanks Gerrard for finishing the sentence and promises that he will stop acting smart soon. He goes on to say that he will torture him and make him crawl.
GERRARD : Anything you like. I know all the answers. But before we begin I should like to change my position; you may be comfortable, but I am not.
Gerrard says that the intruder could ask him anything, but he first wanted to sit comfortably.
INTRUDER : Sit down there, and no funny business. (Motions to a chair, and seats himself on the divan by the bag.) Now then, we’ll have a nice little talk about yourself!
Gerrard obeys the intruder's command and sits on the divan. He wants to discuss about the two of them.
GERRARD : At last a sympathetic audience! I’ll tell you the story of my life. How as a child I was stolen by the gypsies, and why at the age of thirty-two, I find myself in my lonely Essex cottage, how …
- Gypsies: nomads
Gerrard says that he has finally found someone who cares about him and wants to know about his past. He adds that he would tell him about his life, how he was kidnapped as a child by a group of nomads, and why, at the age of 32, he was living alone in this small cottage in Essex. By saying this, he created a sense of suspense around him.
INTRUDER : Keep it to yourself, and just answer my questions. You live here alone? Well, do you?
Gerrard's words did not intrigue the intruder's interest. He was looking for answers to his questions and didn't care what Gerrard had to say. He inquired as to whether Gerrard lived alone in the house.
GERRARD : I’m sorry. I thought you were telling me, not asking me. A question of inflection; your voice is unfamiliar.
Gerrard says that the intruder's tone of voice gave him the impression that he was telling him that he lived alone rather than asking him if he did. He went on to say that the intruder's voice was unfamiliar, implying that he was curious about him.
INTRUDER : (with emphasis) Do you live here alone?
The intruder asked Gerrard if he lived alone and repeated his question with emphasis.
GERRARD : And if I don’t answer?
Gerrard asked as to what the intruder would do if he did not respond to his question.
INTRUDER : You’ve got enough sense not to want to get hurt.
The intruder warned Gerrard that if he didn't want to be hurt, he should follow his orders.
GERRARD : I think good sense is shown more in the ability to avoid pain than in the mere desire to do so. What do you think, Mr— er—
Gerrard responded intelligently, saying that his good sense was reflected in his ability to avoid pain rather than his desire to avoid it. He inquired about the intruder's thoughts and addressed him as "Mr – er –" to indicate that he wanted to know his name.
INTRUDER : Never mind my name. I like yours better, Mr Gerrard. What are your Christian names?
The intruder responded that he didn't need to know his name, but he did ask Gerrard his Christian name (i.e. the name he was given when he was baptised in the church).
GERRARD : Vincent Charles.
Gerrard responded by stating that his Christian name was Vincent Charles.
INTRUDER : Do you run a car?
The intruder then inquired as to whether Gerrard owned a car.
GERRARD : No.
Gerrard gave a negative response.
INTRUDER : That’s a lie. You’re not dealing with a fool. I’m as smart as you and smarter, and I know you run a car. Better be careful, wise guy!
Gerrard, according to the intruder, was lying. He stated that he was not a fool. He knew he had a car because he was smarter than him. He cautioned Gerrard not to fool him.
GERRARD : Are you American, or is that merely a clever imitation?
Gerrard asked the intruder if he was truly American or if he was impersonating an American accent.
INTRUDER : Listen, this gun’s no toy. I can hurt you without killing you, and still get my answers.
The intruder became angered and stated that his gun was not a toy. He could injure Gerrard and still get a response to his questions.
GERRARD : Of course, if you put it like that, I’ll be glad to assist you. I do possess a car, and it’s in the garage round the corner.
Gerrard expressed his fear and stated that he would be delighted to assist the intruder. He admitted to having a car and stated that it was in the garage.
INTRUDER : That’s better. Do people often come out here?
The intruder then inquired as to whether the place was frequently visited by a number of people.
GERRARD : Very rarely. Surprisingly few people take the trouble to visit me. There’s the baker and the greengrocer, of course; and then there’s the milkman — quite charming, but no one so interesting as yourself.
Gerrard responded that he had few visitors. He went on to say that only a few people bothered to pay him a visit. No one else came to see him except the baker, green grocer, and milkman.
INTRUDER : I happen to know that you never see tradespeople.
The intruder stated that he had learned that Gerrard did not meet with tradespeople.
GERRARD : You seem to have taken a considerable amount of trouble. Since you know so much about me, won’t you say something about yourself? You have been so modest.
Gerrard remarked that the intruder had gone out of its way to obtain information about him. He added that since the intruder knew so much about him, he should reveal some information about himself as well. He went on to say that the intruder had been reserved and hadn't said much about himself.
INTRUDER : I could tell you plenty. You think you’re smart, but I’m the top of the class round here. I’ve got brains and I use them. That’s how I’ve got where I have.
The intruder stated to have a lot to say about himself. If Gerrard thought he was smart, he was mistaken. He had intelligence and used it to accomplish things.
GERRARD : And where precisely have you got? It didn’t require a great brain to break into my little cottage.
Gerrard remarked that the man had simply broken into his small cottage, which was not a big deal and did not necessitate much intelligence.
INTRUDER : When you know why I’ve broken into your little cottage, you’ll be surprised, and it won’t be a pleasant surprise.
The intruder stated that the reason for his intrusion into Gerrard's cottage would surprise Gerrard.
GERRARD : With you figuring so largely in it, that is understandable. By the way, what particular line of crime do you embrace, or aren’t you a specialist?
- Embrace: accept
Gerrard responded that based on the intruder's behaviour, he knew the reason for breaking into his house would be shocking. Then he inquired about the intruder's specialty crime.
INTRUDER : My speciality’s jewel robbery. Your car will do me a treat. It’s certainly a dandy bus.
The intruder responded by saying he specialised in jewel robbery. He went on to say that Gerrard's car would be a gift for him because it was so stylish.
GERRARD : I’m afraid jewels are few and far between in the wilds of Essex.
Gerrard remarked that jewels were hard to come by in Essex. He wanted to say that the intruder's visit to the area would be pointless because he would not find any jewels.
INTRUDER : So are the cops. I can retire here nicely for a little while.
The intruder went on to say that, like jewels, cops were scarce in Essex, so he could live there peacefully.
GERRARD : You mean to live with me? A trifle sudden isn’t it; you’ve not been invited.
Gerrard inquired as to whether the intruder wished to live with him. He remarked that the decision had come unexpectedly and that he had not invited the intruder to live with him.
INTRUDER : You won’t be here long; so I didn’t trouble to ask.
The intruder responded that he didn't bother asking Gerrard for permission because he wouldn't be there for long.
GERRARD : What do you mean?
Gerrard inquired as to what he meant by that.
INTRUDER : This is your big surprise. I’m going to kill you.
The intruder responded that he surprised because he intended to kill Gerrard.
GERRARD : A little harsh, isn’t it?
The man sounded harsh, according to Gerrard.
INTRUDER : (with heavy sarcasm) Yeah, I’ll be sorry to do it. I’ve taken a fancy to you, but it’s just got to be done.
The intruder replied sarcastically that he was sorry to do so because he had grown fond of him.
GERRARD : Why add murder to your other crimes? It’s a grave step you’re taking.
Gerrard stated that murder was a serious crime and advised the intruder not to commit it.
INTRUDER : I’m not taking it for fun. I’ve been hunted long enough.
I’m wanted for murder already, and they can’t hang me twice.
The intruder stated that he was being pursued by police because he had already murdered someone. If he killed another person, the punishment would remain the same because he could not be hanged twice.
GERRARD : You’re planning a gratuitous double, so to speak. Admitted you’ve nothing to lose, but what have you to gain?
Gerrard concluded from this that the intruder intended to murder him for no apparent reason. He agreed that the intruder would not lose anything, but he questioned what he would gain by killing him. He was curious as to why he want to kill Gerrard.
INTRUDER : I’ve got freedom to gain. As for myself, I’m a poor hunted rat. As Vincent Charles Gerrard I’m free to go places and do nothing. I can eat well and sleep and without having to be ready to beat it at the sight of a cop.
The intruder responded that in exchange for killing Gerrard, he would be granted freedom. He was being pursued by the police because he had committed a murder and was hiding like a rat. He would live a free life after assuming the identity of Vincent Charles Gerrard. He could go places, eat, and sleep without fear of being caught by the police.
GERRARD : In most melodramas the villain is foolish enough to delay his killing long enough to be frustrated. You are much luckier.
Gerrard observed that in many dramatic plays, the villain is shown to be a fool. He would put off being killed and eventually became frustrated as a result of the delay. Then he'd do something stupid and end up trapped. However, the intruder was more fortunate than such villains.
INTRUDER : I’m O.K. I’ve got a reason for everything. I’m going to be Vincent Charles Gerrard, see. I’ve got to know what he talks like. Now I know. That posh stuff comes easy. This is Mr V.C. Gerrard speaking. (Pantomime of phoning, in imitation cultured voice.) And that’s not all. (He stands up.) Get up a minute (Gerrard stands.) Now take a look at me.
The intruder responded that he was fine because he was there for a reason. He desired to live under the name of Vincent Charles Gerrard. He imitated Gerrard's speaking style, which he had picked up from overhearing Gerrard on the phone. The intruder impersonated Gerrard and inquired about his performance.
GERRARD : You’re not particularly decorative.
Gerrard remarked that the acting was unappealing.
INTRUDER : No! Well, that goes for you, too. I’ve only got to wear specs and I’ll be enough like you to get away with it.
The intruder commented that it wasn't because of Gerrard's behaviour. He went on to say that he only needed spectacles to look like Gerrard.
GERRARD : What about your clothes? They’ll let you down if you’re not careful.
Gerard inquired of the intruder what he intended to do with his clothes. His fashion sense was out of character for him and could land him in trouble.
INTRUDER : That’ll be all right. Yours will fit me fine.
The intruder responded that this would not be a problem because he would be dressed in Gerrard's clothes. They'd be a good fit for him.
GERRARD : That is extremely interesting, but you seem to miss the point of my remark. I said, you were luckier than most melodramatic villains. It was not a tribute to your intelligence. You won’t kill me for a very good reason.
When Gerrard said that the intruder was luckier than most melodramatic villains, the intruder did not understand. He went on to say that he was not praising the intruder's intelligence, but that the intruder would not kill him unless he had a strong reason to do so.
INTRUDER : So that’s what you think.
That's what Gerrard thought, according to the intruder.
GERRARD : You’ll let me go, and thank God you didn’t shoot sooner.
Gerrard said that the intruder would not kill him. He thanked God that the man hadn't shot at him up until that point.
INTRUDER : Come on. What’s on your mind! Better be quick. This conversation bores me.
The intruder demanded that Gerrard act quickly and reveal everything that was going on in his mind. The lengthy conversation was starting to bore him.
GERRARD : Your idea is to elude the police by killing me and taking on my identity?
- Elude: escape
The intruder's plan, according to Gerrard, was to escape the police by killing Gerrard and stealing his identity.
INTRUDER : Yes, I like the idea.
His plan was confirmed by the intruder.
GERRARD : But are you sure it’s going to help you?
Gerrard asked the intruder if he was certain that this plan would help him escape the cops.
INTRUDER : Now listen here. I’ve got this all planned. I did a job in town. Things went wrong and I killed a cop. Since then I’ve done nothing but dodge.
The intruder stated to have planned everything. He worked in the town. Something went wrong, and he killed a policeman. He had been on the run since that day.
GERRARD : And this is where dodging has brought you?
Gerrard stated that the intruder had finally arrived at his cottage while fleeing from the police.
INTRUDER : It brought me to Aylesbury. That’s where I saw you in the car. Two other people saw you and started to talk. I listened. It looks like you’re a bit queer — kind of a mystery Man.
The intruder said that while on the run, he arrived in Aylesbury. He saw Gerrard and overheard two men discussing him there. Their conversation revealed Gerrard to be strange and mysterious.
GERRARD : A mystery which I propose to explain.
Gerrard went on to say that he could explain the mystery surrounding him.
INTRUDER : (disregarding him) You phone your orders and sometimes you go away suddenly and come back just the same. Those are just the things I want to do. Hearing about you was one of my luckiest breaks.
The intruder ignored Gerrard's request and continued speaking. Gerrard, he said, would place orders over the phone, then leave and return unexpectedly. He, too, desired to do such things. Getting to know Gerrard was the best thing that could have happened to him.
GERRARD : Apparently you haven’t the intelligence to ask why I am invested in this cloak of mystery.
Gerrard remarked that the intruder was not intelligent enough to figure out why he was shrouded in mystery.
INTRUDER : (preparing to shoot) As I said before, this conversation bores me.
As the intruder got bored with the conversation, he prepared to shoot at Gerrard.
GERRARD : Don’t be a fool. If you shoot, you’ll hang for sure. If not as yourself, then as Vincent Charles Gerrard.
Gerrard cautioned the intruder not to act stupidly. He would be hanged if he fired a shot at him. He went on to say that even if he stole Gerrard's identity, he would be hanged.
INTRUDER : What is this?
Hearing this, the intruder became excited.
GERRARD : This is your big surprise. I said you wouldn’t kill me and I was right. Why do you think I am here today and gone tomorrow, never see tradespeople? You say my habits would suit you. You are a crook. Do you think I am a Sunday-school teacher?
The game’s up as far as I’m concerned. Things went wrong with me. I said it with bullets and got away. Unfortunately they got one of my men, and found things the fool should have burnt. Tonight I’m expecting trouble. My bag’s packed ready to clear off. There it is.
- Sunday-school teacher: used to indicate an honest man
According to Gerrard, the intruder was shocked by this. Gerrard's secrecy, lack of visitors, and activities that were suitable for the intruder were all due to the fact that he was also a bad man. He was not a trustworthy individual, such as a schoolteacher. When he had to kill someone with a gun, his game was over. Following that, one of his accomplices was apprehended by police. Gerrard provided them with evidence against him. Gerrard was expecting the police to raid his house that night in order to arrest him, so he packed his belongings and prepared to flee.
INTRUDER : It’s a bag all right and this is a gun all right. What’s all this?
All of this had to be evident to the intruder. He agreed Gerrard had a bag and a gun, but why was he carrying strange items like fake moustaches, wigs, and props?
GERRARD : That’s a disguise outfit; false moustaches and what not. Now do you believe me?
Gerrard responded that he was carrying these props so that he could hide himself. He was hoping the intruder would believe him.
INTRUDER : (musingly) I don’t know.
The intruder was still doubtful of Gerrard's words.
GERRARD : For God’s sake clear that muddled head of yours and let’s go. Come with me in the car. I can use you. If you find it’s a frame, you’ve got me in the car, and you’ve still got your gun.
Gerrard asked the intruder to trust him and accompany him in his car. He went on to say that the intruder could assist him in escaping and that if he thought Gerrard's words were false, he could kill him with his gun.
INTRUDER : May be you’re right.
The intruder believed Gerrard and stated that he was most likely correct.
GERRARD : Then don’t waste time.
(Goes and picks up hat and bag.)
Gerrard was short on time. He retrieved his hat and bag.
INTRUDER : Careful, boss, I’m watching you.
Gerrard was warned by the intruder that he was watching his every move.
GERRARD : I have got a man posted on the main road. He’ll ring up if he sees the police, but I don’t want to leave … (telephone bell rings) Come on! They’re after us. Through here straight to the garage.
Gerrard stated that one of his accomplices was stationed on the road to warn him if he saw the cops. The phone rang, and Gerrard announced that it was time to leave. He headed for the intruder to exit through the garage door.
INTRUDER : How do I know that you are telling the truth?
Gerrard's words were questioned by the intruder.
GERRARD : Oh, don’t be a fool. Look for yourself.
(Gerrard opens door and steps away. Intruder leans forward to inspect it, with his side towards Gerrard, but with the revolver ready. As he turns his head, Gerrard gives him a push into the cupboard, knocking the revolver out of his hand. He slams the door and locks it, picks up the revolver and goes to the phone, where he stands with the gun pointed at the cupboard door.)
Gerrard advised the intruder not to be foolish. He invited him to come and see for himself. He opened the door and took a step to one side, allowing the intruder to see outside. The intruder leaned forward, his gun still aimed at Gerrard. Gerrard pushed him into the cupboard as he turned his head, and the intruder's gun fell from his grips. (The door was not a garage door, but rather a cupboard door.) Gerrard closed and locked the door as he pushed the intruder inside the cupboard. He took up the revolver and walked over to the phone, the gun aimed at the cupboard in case the intruder tried to flee.
INTRUDER : (rattles door and shouts) Let me out of here!
The intruder shook the cupboard door and shouted to be let out.
GERRARD : Hello. Yes, speaking. Sorry I can’t let you have the props in time for rehearsal, I’ve had a spot of bother — quite amusing. I think I’ll put it in my next play. Listen, can you tell our friend the Sergeant to come up here at once? You’ll probably find him in the Public Bar.
Gerrard answered the phone and explained that he would be unable to deliver the props in time for the play's rehearsal because he had been bothered by someone. He went on to say that he would incorporate this incident into his next play. This demonstrates that Gerrard was a playwright. He requested that the sergeant be sent to to his home. He went on to say that the sergeant was most likely to be found in the public bar.
Douglas James (1888-1946) was a British colonial administrator who served as Governor of North Borneo, Sierra Leone, and the Leeward Islands. Administrator of a British colony. More languages are available. Spanish. He was appointed Secretary to Administration in "British Somaliland" in 1916, a position he held until 1921.