Besieged : A Psychologcal Thriller in One Act


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                        The first floor room of a detached house with much of the furniture removed or pushed to one corner. On one side, or directly facing the audience, is a French window perhaps with a small balcony on it. The curtains are drawn in the room and a machine-gun is set-up close to the window ready to fire. Two men of middle age and a young girl are watching from the window. One of the men is tall, well-built and vigorous but nervy. The second man is slighter, calm and steady. The girl is about twenty.  She looks somewhat the worse for wear and holds her hands awkwardly together — her wrists are in fact tied together with Elastoplast.

                        Sound of car starting up and garage doors being raised.

 

McGee.   He’s driving out, not too fast, he’s got no reason to be in a rush, remember.  Two police come up to tell him to stop and there’s a second car behind them. Kevin looks really fed up as well he might, he’s just an ordinary bloke just come back during the dinner hour and he doesn’t particularly like policemen. He starts arguing with them, that’s the stuff, Kevin… Then he gets out after all and hands over his papers. He’s playing it A1, couldn’t have done better myself. He looks a bit nervous by now as any ordinary citizen would do because the very fact of being stopped by the law and told to get out of your car makes you nervous, bound to  — some bloody raw recruit sent down by Higher Command would overdo it and start talking about football… (Grandly) An’ just like I said, they’re handing him his papers back and everyone becomes friendly. One of the specials makes a joke and looks up in our direction.  Kevin smiles a bit and shrugs his shoulders…

Carol.  (To the other man) And you said, David, —

David.  (Curtly) Shut up.  

McGee. What’s happening now? One of ’em’s crept up behind Kevin while he’s chatting and he just whips out his revolver and hits Kevin at the nape of the neck! He’s down! They’re all over him, all four of them, kicking and punching him… The filthy scum! (Lurches around) I’m not standing here watching Kevin being beaten up…

 

                        Sudden burst of gunfire from McGee.

 

David.  That was a damn fool thing to do. Now they know we’re armed.

McGee.  (To himself) Trouble is I fired at the whole bunch — should have aimed at one in particular… That’s cleared the decks anyhow. Cover the right side, David. (David does so.) Here, better have a scarf in case they use tear gas. (Throws him one and the two of them put them on.) You checked the back to see if it was mined, didn’t you, David?

David    Yes.

McGee     No sign of life out there… I know them lot, no guts, they don’t mind —  

David    (Raising voice) You should never have opened fire. Could have been just an ordinary patrol —

McGee.   No, no. They were looking for us. 

David.    You don’t know that. And now they’ve got Kevin.

McGee.   Kevin won’t tell them anything. He’s one of the old school. Anyway, he’s a got a dumb-dumb tablet. If they start knocking him around too much, he’ll put himself out.

David.    I would never have let him go. God, between the two of you…

McGee.   Thing is, David, I’m not like you, I just can’t sit here watching a good man being massacred. What do you think they’ll do now?

David     Nothing special. Just keep us pinned down and phone for reinforcements.

McGee.   Cowardly bastards. It’s early days yet, David… Those buggers don’t know who they’re up against, they don’t know who’s in command here. In fact I feel sorry for them…. I really do… (Looks out) Come on out, you bloody load of creeps.

 

                        David gets up and pulls McGee back from the window.

 

Voice Over     Whoever you are, come out with your hands above your heads. Nothing will happen to you. All of you inside the house, come out with your hands above your heads.

David  Don’t say or do anything. Our only card is they maybe still don’t know who we are.

Voice Over     Come out with your hands above your heads and nothing will happen to you. Do you hear me? Come out with your hands above your heads.

 

                        Pause. Dead silence.

 

McGee.   Look, you stay here, David, and man the front, I’m going to check up on the back and get some more weaponry.  We’ll give ’em something to remember us by, David, I promise you that…. Blow up half the damn county if I have to. I’ve been in spots worse than this…

                       

                        McGee goes out hurriedly. David, frowning, examines the front and checks the machine-gun.

 

David  (Without looking at Carol) When things start hotting up, just run out with a white flag — O.K.?

Carol     Yes…OK … (Gathering courage) But… they won’t shoot me since I’m  just a girl hostage —

David    (Raising voice slightly)  Grab a towel or something and wave it above your head and go out — do you hear me?

Carol   Yes, but… Anyway, I’m quite sure it won’t come to that —

David  What’s the matter with you? You want to be put under?

Carol   The, well, the thing is…we’ve been together for some time already… I sort of feel part of it…I want to stay to the bitter end — well, the end whatever it is…

David  (Shrugs) Please yourself.

Carol   Anyway I couldn’t hold up a white flag.  (Holds up her hands and we see that they are tied together)

David  Oh, if that’s all it is. (Takes out knife and cuts the elastoplast.) 

Carol   (Surprised)  Thanks.   (Slight pause) You aren’t afraid I’ll do something against you and Julius now that I’ve got my hands free?

David    No.

                        Pause while David examines gun.

Carol   But what I can’t understand is why you don’t phone through for reinforcements — you’re not exactly strong on numbers, are you?

David  Not exactly, no.

Carol  Well, why don’t you phone through? Too proud — that it?

David   (Abstractedly, while doing something with gun) No — that might bother Julius but not me.  (Pause) We can’t phone. They’ve changed the wave-length.

Carol      You get given a wave-length for each operation? (David nods)  Yes, but when we were in the car you were speaking to Higher Command, I heard you, they told you to come here…

David  Yes, but then we got separated from the other car, I wonder why, and since then…

Carol   They’ve changed the wave-length?  But it was your lifeline….  You mean they changed it deliberately…? But they couldn’t have… you’re their men… Julius was put in charge of the operation…

David    (Violently) Yes, but it’s the other car that has McCann. That’s who everyone’s interested in — not you. You should never have got picked up at all. It was just because you happened to be on the premises. Bloody girl — what the hell got into you? You couldn’t have picked a worse time.

Carol   (Coolly) Oh, we don’t pick the time and place — we really don’t. 

David    (Gestures to Carol to keep back. Looks out) Hello, what’s this?  No, it’s all right. (Turning to face Carol)  From the point of view of Higher Command, it couldn’t have turned out better. If the police follow us here all to the good. They’ve got time to put McCann away somewhere special.

Carol   So… you don’t think Higher Command will do anything?

David    I’m dead sure they won’t. They may even have planned this. 

Carol   But that means you’re…

David  Yes, it does. Like calves in a cattle-truck. Listen, why don’t you go into the kitchen and make us some tea?

Carol   Oh, all right.

 

                        McGee comes back into the room his arms full of weaponry. He selects a Kalashnikov and checks it.  

 

McGee     Yes, David, we’ve got a fairly good defensive position here, David, there’s enough semi-automatics and Stens down there to stock a small army. 

            Trouble is…

David  We’re not a small army.

McGee   You know, David, even if we had got through to Higher Command they wouldn’t have sent us anyone. Higher Command isn’t what it used to be. If I was on Higher Command and I knew good men like Kevin and yourself were in some sort of trouble, I’d throw in all I’d got. I’d start a bloody war if need be. You listening to me, David?

David   (Picking up one of the semi-automatics) God, this is a Larsen FN — I thought this model went out at the time of the Falklands.

McGee   It’s still a pretty good weapon, David. It’s what I’m used to. I’ve been handling guns like that since I was in short pants. (Slight pause)  You know, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t make a dash for it before anyone else gets here. We drive the girl in front of us at the end of a Sten –what about that?

David   You’ve seen too many Westerns. Could have her dash out to cause a diversion, I suppose, and then we make a run by the back.

McGee   What — through the minefield?

David  There’s supposed to be a safeway. Once we’re through we blow up the whole property.

McGee    Hum, too dicey. Anyway it’s not my style.

David  Not your style!

McGee   Julius McGee doesn’t show his back to anyone. And he’s in command here.

David  (Looking hard at McGee) We’re not using the girl as a shield — get me?

McGee (Shakes his head)  I don’t understand you, David, I really don’t. Where is she now by the way?

David  Making tea. 

McGee  How come she’s making tea with her hands tied?

David     I untied her.

McGee   You what? Listen, David, I don’t mind telling you there’s people in the Organisation — hey! what’s that? There’s some movement to the left —

David  No, it’s nothing.

 

            Carol comes back in but the two men do not see her.  She has a tray, which she puts down on a small table. She has a megaphone in one hand, holds it to her mouth and makes a noise. McGee and David turn round abruptly. She salutes with one hand.

 

Carol   Higher Command just spoke to me on the radio and asked me to make you two men a cup of tea.

 

                        McGee and David look at her with annoyance. David takes his tea but Julius waves it away.

 

McGee   (Looking out) They’re all as good as gold. Wonder what the hell  they’re doing at this minute.

David   Playing cards probably. Time’s no object to them.

McGee   Filthy scum! Doubt if they know one end of a gun from the other. (Raising voice) You still out there or you had enough already? Didn’t they teach you how to hold a rifle in the School Corps? Be careful of the kick — might break yer bloody arm off yer shoulders.

David   (Leading McGee back) For God’s sake, keep back, can’t you?

McGee   If I was in charge out there I’d make ’em move double-quick. Reminds me of when I smoked out that nest of Loyalists — I didn’t waste time sitting around, I got right on with it.

David     (Coldly) If I was out there I’d do just what they’re doing. They’re trying to wear us down and you’re falling for it. You never heard of strategy?

McGee  Strategy my arse — my strategy is blasting right into ’em.

David    How the hell you’re still alive after all these years beats me.

McGee   Oh, don’t you worry about me, David, Julius McGee will still be in command of operations in ten years time. They can’t get members of the Organisation to lead from the front like I do, it’s pathetic what these recruits are like these days, I wouldn’t let ’em in — we’ve got a fighting tradition to keep up. Barring the SAS and maybe the Legion, we’re the best fighting men in Europe, if they had a war on their plate, they’d come to people like Julius McGee on their hands and knees begging him to take a commission. Hey! come up here, David — you reckon that’s the corner of a man’s uniform behind that tree on the right there?

Carol   (Coming up) Here, let me look — I’ve got eyes like a hawk.

 

                        David pushes her away roughly.

 

David    No, it’s a bit of blue plastic.

McGee   Yes, so it is, I can see that now. Bah! you know what, when it comes to the point they probably won’t attack at all, they don’t mind setting on Kevin five to one but making a frontal attack on the Regional Headquarters of the Real IRA, that’s a very different sort of ball game. .

David  They’re waiting for the SAS, there’s no need for them to attack. Actually, they might not be police anyway — could be Provisionals.

McGee   In that case we’re all right.

David  Don’t know about that. If they’re Provisonals they won’t have their hands tied … And there won’t be any negotiation.

McGee  I’m glad to hear that. Because I’m not negotiating with anyone. Julius McGee is not a negotiating sort of fellow. Everybody who knows me knows that. I’m an all or nothing man.

David   Yes, yes. 

           

                        McGee walks about looking more and more agitated.   

 

David  Can’t you keep still, for God’s sake?

McGee   I’m not like you, David, I can’t just sit there. I’ve got to be doing something. (Slowly, glancing at Carol) Do I take it what you said a few moments ago is your last word on the subject?

David  Yes.

McGee  Well, so is it my last word. We’re not going out by no back door. That’s running away.

David  Seems a bit like a stalemate, then, doesn’t it?

McGee   That’s as may be. I shan’t forget this, David.

 

            McGee goes out. David shakes his head.

 

Carol   I hope I’m not causing you any trouble… Julius didn’t seem too pleased…

David  Wouldn’t have been much difference if you hadn’t been here. (Sound of gunfire.) What the hell’s that? Seemed to come from underneath.

Carol  (Rushing up to the window) It’s…

David  My God, I can’t believe this. He’s gone out, the bloody idiot’s gone out.

 

                        Further shots in the air.

 

 McGee  (From floor just in front of stage with a spot on him) Any of you still out there? Just thought I’d show you who’s in charge of operations here, Julius McGee — that name mean anything to you?  Listen to me carefully, folks, because I shan’t repeat this. I want the whole lot of you to come out of your rabbit burrows and thrown down your weaponry and walk right out into the middle of the drive with your hands above your heads. This is Julius McGee speaking, don’t ever forget that. Even though you can’t see them at the moment, you’re surrounded on all sides by picked men of the Real IRA. I can just by holding my hand up signal to one of our men to blow up the Town Hall, the local Ulster Constabulary, not to mention a couple of hospitals and a Primary School. And don’t imagine that you can negotiate with Higher Command because they’ve changed the wavelength ha! ha! didn’t expect that, did you? — any negotiating you want to do from now on you’ll have to do right here with Julius McGee, the greatest operational commander of the lot. Julius McGee is responsible to no one but himself, he doesn’t take no orders from Ulster, London, New York or Brussels, he’s right out on his own is —

 

                        Sound of a single shot and someone falling. Then dead silence.

           

Carol   Well, aren’t you going to at least go out and get him under cover?

David  No point. He’s dead. I can see that from here.

 

                        Rather mechanically he makes the sign of the cross.    

 

David     (To himself)  McGee dead! That man’s conducted scores of missions, kidnappings, gaol break outs, bank robberies… and then a single shot…from someone behind a tree.

Carol   Yes, I know — it seems somehow unfair. But life’s often like that, you know.

David    (Ignoring her) And all because he couldn’t stand waiting around!

Carol   Oh stop it — he’s paid for his mistake, hasn’t he?

David    (Still to himself) What the hell got into the man?

Carol   (Decisively) Oh it was an inner urge. There’s nothing you can do about things like that.

 

David looks out, then goes over to an armchair and slumps down.     

         Pause.

 

Carol   So…what are you going to do now?

David    (Smiles grimly) Nothing. They won’t attack just yet and before they do there’ll be announcements and things. (To himself) And to think the bloody man…

Carol   Who says you’d have done any better if you’d been operational commander in his place? Don’t you ever get uptight in a siege situation?

David    No, I don’t. I can wait them out. And then when they don’t expect it I make my move.

 

                                    Slight pause.

 

Carol   You’re a strange fish, aren’t you? Not at all like the other two. Why did you join the IRA in the first place — you don’t look like an IRA man to me.

David    Oh same sort of reason as everyone else. I saw Paisleyites beating up someone I knew.

Carol   But there must have been more to it than that — didn’t you believe in the cause?

David    Yes, at first I did.

Carol   But you don’t now?

David    Not particularly.

Carol   Well, hadn’t you better be making some plan of campaign?

David    No point. I just want to bring one or two of them down with me. With six men and as many hostages I could do something. But alone.

Carol   I’d say you give up too easily. Obviously you’ll never get out of here alive by brute force — so use guile instead. (David shrugs.) Of course, you could always give yourself up — you haven’t killed anyone yet. I’d say I was well-treated. You’d only get a couple of years.

David    No, no, my mind is made up. I’m not going back inside. Once they’re in here, I’ll blow up the house. (Shows control panel) They won’t take me alive.

Carol   But why? Because you feel you owe it to the Organisation?

David    I couldn’t care damn all about the Organisation.

Carol   So what’s the reason?

David   Oh, you couldn’t understand. I’m just, well, tired of everything. It’s in my bones, in my sweat, even in my piss. After twenty years of this kind of life you either go off your rocker like McGee or you’re washed up. (Violently) I wish I was in some place where you never even hear an Irish accent.

Carol   But if you feel like that, why didn’t you get out years ago?

             More dangerous to get out than stay in. They track you down.

Carol   Oh well, I’d say you’d have done better to have enlisted in the Foreign Legion, you can get out of that after five years.

David    Just stop talking about it, will you?

 
Carol goes to the window and sits down alongside the machine-gun.

 

Carol   Well, since you’ve decided to throw in the sponge I think I’d better stand guard in your place.(Looks out)  Nothing much going on out there, I must say. No sign of life at all. I doubt if there’s even an ant. Perhaps there’s nothing left alive! That would be a laugh, wouldn’t it! You wouldn’t have to go to prison because there aren’t any. Yes, I’m sure that’s it. We’re the last two people in the universe. And it’s a beautiful day, brilliant sunshine for once. It must be about three o’clock in the afternoon.

David  It’s the most dangerous time of the day.

Carol   Why do you say that?

David  I’ve often noticed it.

Carol   You’re just imagining it. There’s no particular time.

David  Yes, there is. In the morning everyone gets up full of high hopes about what might happen during the day, perhaps something that will change the whole course of your life, even the whole course of history. But then by about the middle of the afternoon — a bit before the middle of the afternoon — it’s quite obvious to everyone that nothing will happen at all, that you’ll be staring at the same stupid faces and the same dirty brick walls that you’ve stared at all your life. Now that’s a very terrifying thought and if at the same time the sun is shining and there’s a sort of promise of better things, just sending you up, and you’re beginning to get hot and tired and impatient, that’s the moment when you do something stupid and self-destructive for no reason at all.

Carol   Like Kevin making a run for it or McGee going out onto the balcony?  

David  Maybe, yes.
Carol   Oh, stop it, I don’t like the trend of this conversation.

(To be Continued) 

If you want to know what happens to David and Carol in the apparently hopeless siege situation, go to http://www.plays4theatre.com   and order “Besieged” by Sebastian Hayes, New Theatre Publications. You’ll be surprised at the ending!     

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