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‘Heavens woman, yesterday was 24 hours ago!’

An ex-KGB spy has bought the Evening Standard. If only this were 1969, not 2009…

[AFTERNOON. INTERIOR. A CAVERNOUS OFFICE LINED WITH GIANT PORTRAITS, MURALS AND LANDSCAPES; A CHANDELIER HANGS FROM THE CEILING. AT ONE END, A HUGE MAHOGANY DESK. TO ONE SIDE, A FIREPLACE BLAZES. BAY WINDOWS OVERLOOK LONDON’S SKYLINE. THERE IS FADED CARPET ON THE FLOOR. A GRANDFATHER CLOCK TICKS. A MAN SITS SILENTLY IN A SWIVEL CHAIR BEHIND THE DESK, HIS FACE OBSCURED.]

[THERE IS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR]

PATRICK WYMARK: Enter!

[THE DOOR SWINGS OPEN. AN ENORMOUS MAN IN A FUR COAT AND TALL HAT STEPS INSIDE, WAITS, THEN WALKS VERY SLOWLY INTO THE ROOM. HE STOPS IN THE CENTRE. HE CRACKS HIS KNUCKLES, THEN CLEARS HIS THROAT]

PATRICK: Can I…help you?

PETER USTINOV: That…depends.

[PAUSE]

PATRICK: Yes?

PETER: Excuse me, may I have the pleasure of knowing to whom I am speaking?

PATRICK: For now it is enough that you know I am who you believe I am.

PETER: Then let me extend the same courtesy to you.

PATRICK: [SWINGING ROUND IN HIS CHAIR TO FACE HIS VISITOR] That will…not be necessary.

[PETER SHUFFLES OVER TO THE WINDOW]

PETER: Oi-yoi-yoi. London in January is so beautifully decadent, my Western comrade. Why, I think I can ever see from here the, how do you say, the dolly bird?

PATRICK: Come come, I never put your sort down for coyness. Why start now?

PETER: Things…are different now…

PATRICK: Yes…Yes…

[HE PICKS UP A FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH AND, SIGHING, PLACES IT FACE DOWN ON HIS DESK. HE SHAKES HIS HEAD]

PATRICK: The days of the true imperialist are, I fear, long gone.

PETER: [LIGHTING A CIGAR] But I think you will agree that some imperial habits die hard, comrade? [CHUCKLES]

[PATRICK RISES FROM HIS CHAIR AND WALKS TO THE FIREPLACE, WHERE HE POKES AT THE EMBERS DISCONSOLATELY]

PATRICK: My dear fellow, there comes a point in any man’s life when even the most imperial of habits have to be broken…

PETER: …Yes, yes…

PATRICK: …If only to…

[HE PAUSES]

PETER: See what is left amongst the pieces? [HE SETTLES INTO A HUGE ARMCHAIR AND DRUMS HIS FINGERS ON THE ARMREST]

PATRICK: I believe you have a proposition, and I would be grateful if you would state it, then get out.

[A KNOCK ON THE DOOR. A WOMAN ENTERS]

BARBARA MURRAY: It is customary the world over to stand upon the entrance of a lady.

[PETER RISES, SHEEPISHLY]

PETER: Madam. One hundred apologies.

BARBARA: For your remiss etiquette or for your country’s outdated cultural barbarism?

PETER: What creature is this, that doth have such a barbed tongue?

PATRICK: The one who fixed up this whole damn deal. Now let’s get to business – the Secretary of State is keen to have this settled before the US market opens.

PETER: Ever the kindly thought for our American cousins.

BARBARA: A few more kindly thoughts from your country, sir, and they would be your cousins too.

PATRICK: Steady!

PETER: What…are your terms?

[PATRICK PACES AROUND THE ENTIRE ROOM, HANDS BEHIND HIS BACK, CHIN SUNK INTO HIS STOMACH, BEFORE SUDDENLY STOPPING AND POINTING AT PETER]

PATRICK: The whole operation. Every last printing press and stencil. Yours to do what you like with.

BARBARA: But…

PATRICK: No! Hear me out! My mind is made up.

BARBARA: Surely you…

PETER: Control yourself my dear. You heard the man!

BARBARA: I just don’t think…

PATRICK: No. No, no, no. I’ve decided. There’s just too much to lose, what with the Congo, American Tobacco, that ghastly foul-up in Laos…

BARBARA: But yesterday you…

PATRICK: Heavens woman, yesterday was 24 hours ago!

PETER: I congratulate you on your grasp of metaphysics, if not your sense of realpolitik.

BARBARA [FALLING TO HER KNEES, SOBBING] I beg of you…please…think of…

PATRICK: Think of what? Think of Oxford after the war? Think of the Isis in the moonlight, lying in each other’s arms while discussing the putative decline and fall of neo-fascist totalitarianism?

PETER: You have to admit, my lady, he does make a powerful case.

PATRICK: Please believe me. I have no choice. It’s just…it’s just…a matter of expediency…

[THE DOOR FLIES OPEN]

MICHAEL JAYSTON: Stop! Don’t sign! You mustn’t! I’ve…

[A SHOT RINGS OUT]

PETER: Expediency, you say?

[MICHAEL COLLAPSES ON THE FLOOR]

PETER: Hurry now. Name your price.

[PATRICK WALKS BEHIND HIS DESK, OPENS A DRAWER AND PULLS OUT A PIECE OF PAPER. HE SCRIBBLES SOMETHING ON IT, THEN WALKS OVER TO PETER AND HANDS HIM THE DOCUMENT]

PATRICK: My final offer. And believe me, I’ve sacrificed far more for far less.

PETER: I…I…

BARBARA: [HYSTERICAL] What’s the matter? Lost for words, you filthy man?

PETER: One English pound sterling?

PATRICK: Hand it over!

PETER: You will not regret this, comrade.

[HE HANDS OVER ONE POUND NOTE, THEN, CASTING ONE LAST GLANCE AT BARBARA, HURRIES OUT OF THE DOOR]

[INSTANTLY, ANOTHER MAN RACES IN]

PETER BARKWORTH: [PANTING] Was that who I think it was?

PATRICK: Alas, yes. That was the new owner of…the London Evening Standard.

CLIFFORD EVANS [STEPPING OUT FROM BEHIND A PILLAR, WHERE HAS BEEN SECRETLY WATCHING THE ENTIRE SCENE]: And may God have mercy on our capitalist souls.

[CUT TO BLACK]

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Claire

    January 21, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Loved this! But couldn’t help visualising Fry and Laurie performing it…

  2. Tony Currie

    February 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

    In order to make it complete, a couple of the close-up shots of Patrick are rather out-of-focus and at one point we see a shaky and unframed long-shot of Barbara followed almost instantly by the turning of a lens turret…..

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