San Francisco, 1941…
The tall woman hung up the phone and sighed; shaking her head. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror by the front door; a very pretty if serious looking woman wearing a grey-green knee length shirt-dress. Brigid, on the other hand, wore a very seductive looking satin skirt and jacket and fox stole. She sat on the arm of the wing chair in the corner, looking nervous.
“They'll sing about us when they get rounded up. We only have minutes to get ready for the police. Give me all of it fast!”
She glanced at the door, wondering if in all of this her secret would be exposed. A secret only Brigid might have guessed up to that point; especially if things had gone further. She bit her lip and continued.
“When you first came to me, why did you want Thursby shadowed?” She leaned closer and the woman pulled away in response.
“I thought he betrayed me. I needed to find out.”
“That’s a lie! You knew you had Thursby already! You wanted to kill him...” Brigid stuck her lip out in a pout; looking as if her feelings were hurt by the woman’s doubt.
“...before Jacoby came with the loot so you wouldn't have to split it with him. Right? If he knew someone was following him, he'd be frightened away. But Miles wasn’t stupid or hasty enough to be spotted that first night. You told Thursby he was being followed.”
“I told him,” Brigid practically sobbed.
“I told him. Yes, but please believe me.”
She batted her eyelashes; an almost surefire way to convince the woman she was sincere. But Sam wasn’t buying what she was selling; even if the package was convincing, the contents were false.
“I wouldn't have if I thought Floyd was going to kill him,” she protested. Sam nodded, but it wasn’t in agreement. Everything she had hoped for all along; replaced sadly with every bit of what she had feared about the woman in front of her.
“If you figured he wouldn’t kill Miles, you were right. Miles wasn’t very smart but he had too much experience...” Sam sighed at the memory of her partner; the only one beside her secretary that actually understood her…someone who got her, and he was gone.
“...found out so easily by someone he was tailing...up a blind alley with his gun still in the holster?” Brigid winced.
“But he'd have gone up there with you, angel dear…” She rarely used endearments but the contrast between what she had just said and just who Brigid O’Shaughnessy was remained too ironic not to speak out loud. Maybe to convince her once and for all that things would never be what she had hoped they would be. Not then and not for women like her.
“Miles was stuck on you…from the minute he saw you…He was just deluded enough for that. He'd have looked you up and down, figuring he just got lucky ...grinning from ear to ear.”
Brigid shook her head and turned away slightly as Sam continued.
“You could have stood as close to him as you liked...and shot him with a gun you took from Thursby that night,” Sam sighed, hoping Brigid would say something to prove her wrong.
“Oh Sam, darling…Don't say that!”
"Last chance, sweetheart. The police'll be here any minute! Spill!”
“Why do you…how can you say that?”
“It's not the time for that innocent hurt little girl act! We're both sitting under the gallows! Now, why did you shoot Miles?” It was now or never; Polhaus and Dundy were probably trudging up the five flights even as they spoke.
“I didn't mean to at first, really, I didn't.” Brigid stared at the open window; almost hoping for something...anything…that would help her explain the unexplainable.
But when I realized Floyd couldn't be frightened...”
“Face me…you owe me that much….tell me the truth,” Sam sighed. Brigid had begun to cry and Sam’s eyes began to mist as well. She hated herself for it and she hated Brigid for proving her right with every new word out of her mouth.
“I just can’t look at you and tell you this!”
“Let me help? You thought Thursby would go at Miles and one would go down.
If Thursby died, you were rid of him.
If it was Miles, just well since you'd see Thursby was caught.” Sam folded her arms in a self-hug; one final moment to breathe in hope while waiting for reality to set in.
“Right? - Something like that. When Thursby didn’t go after him...you took his gun and did it yourself, right?” Brigid shook her head weakly, as if she had no more strength. She wanted for Sam to be wrong just as much as she did.
"And when you learned that Thursby was shot, you knew Caspar Gutman was here!
And you knew you needed another protector...someone who would...take Thursby’s place, so you came back to me. Gutman could no more resist me than I could resist you, right?”
Sam bit her lip again; the betrayal was doubly painful since she never thought she’d find someone quite like Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and now that was gone.
“Oh yes! Sam, but it wasn't only that! You have to believe me.” She cried.
“I'd have come back to you….eventually… Can’t you see? From the very first instant I saw you, I knew.” The sad part of it all was that she really meant it. In the midst of all the hurt and deception, Brigid cared for Sam.
“Well, if you get a good break, you'll be out of Tehachapi in a few years...” Sam looked away, trying to hide the tears that fell from her face almost freely. She took a deep breath, trying not to be sarcastic, but the betrayal had destroyed all hope and left a cynical woman behind; at least for that moment.
“...and you can come back to me then.”
“I hope they don't hang you….” She stammered; still in love even to the last.
"Oh Sam…no…You're not...”
“Yes, angel, I'm going to send you over,” Sam choked back a sob. She hated herself for it but she’d hate herself and Brigid even more if she backed down.
“The chances are you'll get off with life,” she repeated.
“If you're a good girl, you'll be out in ten years,” Brigid could no more be a good girl than Sam, she felt. She sighed.
“I'll be waiting for you…you know that…” She didn’t wait for a reply. Nothing Sam could say would make a difference at that point. Her love might have not have been blind, but it was too star-struck until that look crossed Brigid’s face; the look that apologizes only for what she brought upon herself.
"If they hang you, I'll always remember you,” Sam said bitterly, turning away.
“Don't, Sam! Please don't say that, not even in fun!” The look of panic on Brigid’s face was enough to show that she knew it was too far gone to retrieve… too many hurts to rescue, but she continued.
“You scared me there for a minute…I thought you were serious,” she laughed nervously, trying to convince herself that what she hope for was true when every bit of her realize it wasn’t. She pled once again.
“You do such crazy and unpredictable things,” she smiled wryly, stepping closer to Sam.
“Now, don't be silly,” she said as she place her hand on Sam’s cheek, preparing for a convincing kiss
“You're taking the fall,” Sam said flatly, but her heart was pounding. Nothing could change things; that feeling that no matter how hard she tried or prayed or hoped or cried, she was entirely right about Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and that was as heartbreaking as it gets. Brigid placed her hand underneath Sam’s blouse and went to lean into a kiss, but Sam pulled back and pushed her away.
“You've been toying with me...acting like you cared to trap me like this! You never cared at all!” Brigid turned away for a second and turned around once again.
“You don't love me! You never loved me!” She almost felt confident; that as much as she wanted to love Sam, she convinced herself that her own duplicity and greed and treachery was enough to push the woman away. But the look on Sam’s face wasn’t one of eager confidence, but of sad; devastating regret that she was right about Brigid.
“I won't play the sap for you!” Sam shook her head, as if she had to apologize for Brigid’s betrayal.
“Please, Sam…You know it's not like that!”
“Really? You’ve never played square with me since the moment we met!”
“But darling….You know in your heart that in spite of anything I've done, I love you.”
“It doesn’t matter who loves who. I’m not going to walk in anyone’s shoes. Not Thursby’s or anyone else.” Brigid’s eyes widened at the finality of Sam’s words.
“You killed Miles and you're going over for it,” Sam said with a sigh; what little emotion was left was a banged up mix between sadness and doubt.
“How can you do this to me, Sam?”
“I’m sorry….Listen, please….” Sam had begun to cry, but she kept looking at the door; waiting for the police to walk in any second.
“I…this won't do any good, but I have to try. You'll never understand me, but I'll try once and then let it go.” She blinked back tears as Brigid stood helpless to reply.
“When …when my partner is killed, I’m supposed to do something. It doesn’t make a difference what I thought of him. He was my partner, and I’m supposed to do something about it...” She paused; reaching for words that might convince without revealing how she really felt.
“...and it just so happens we're in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it's...it's bad business to let the killer get away with it...” Her attempt at sardonic barely made a difference.
“...bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.” She could hardly convince herself about the last part, much less Brigid, but she was telling the truth.
“You don't expect me to think that’s enough for ….turning your back on me?” Brigid failed to hear the irony in her own words.
“I’m not finished…Wait'll I'm through. Then, you can talk. There's no earthly reason to think I can trust you. If I turn my back and let you get away with this, you'll have something on me...
“...that you can use whenever you want to.” As bad as that was, it paled in comparison to the anticipation that betrayal stood only a heartbeat away.
“And since I've got something on you...I couldn't be sure that you wouldn't turn around and betray me all over again…maybe even kill me.” Brigid winced.
“All those are on one side. Maybe some of them aren’t as important as I think they are….But look at the number of them. What have we got on the other side? Honestly?” Sam waited for a response but Brigid remained silent.
“All we've got is that maybe you love me and that maybe I love you.” Like the arguments, everything was stacked on one side. Brigid maybe did love Sam, but Sam definitely loved Brigid, which made what she had to do all the harder.
“You know whether you love me or not. And maybe I do, too. I'll have some sleepless nights but they’ll pass…eventually.” She looked nervously again at the front door; Brigid’s eyes tracking her glance nervously.
“But it’s just this. I want to turn a blind eye…but I won’t even though every bit of me wants to no matter what happens….because you know me and….” She paused and choked back a sob.
“Because you counted on that… it’s not just about being used, but about having the only thing between us have no substance because you knew you could count on my love….” Sam sighed again. She grabbed her purse and grabbed the 38 inside, having no assurances at all.
“...the same as you counted on it with all the others. As if my love for you was equal to the greed and selfishness of everybody else.”
“Would you have done this if everything had worked out and you got your money?” One last attempt to force guilt between them and manipulate her one more time.
“Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be,” she shook her head, feeling entirely guilty.
“That sort of reputation might be good business...bringing high end jobs and doing the wrong thing be that much easier ...but more money would have been one more item on your side of the ledger.”
“If you'd loved me, you wouldn't have needed any more on that side.” Brigid protested; failing one last time to appreciate how much she had lost even before the night had begun. A knock came at the door.
“Come in.” Sam’s voice was almost melodious. She let go of the revolver and placed her purse on the table next to the sofa.
“Hello, Tom. Got 'em?” She smiled at her friend; almost flirting in a never-go-anywhere way.
“Got 'em.” Tom smiled back and Lt. Lundy rolled his eyes.
“Okay… Here's another one for you. She killed Miles,” Sam said as every chance to change her mind was gone. She looked at Brigid and half-frowned; relieved at least that her tears were gone now that the police had showed up.
Oh, and I've got more: the boy's guns, one of Cairo's...
...and a $1000 bill I was supposed to be bribed with...
...and this black statuette here that started it all.” She smiled and looked at Lundy, who glared back.
“What's the matter with your playmate? He looks like a sad puppy. I bet when he heard Gutman's story, he thought he had me.”
“Cut it out, Sam….you know I have to work with this guy, and you do know he’s in the room, right?” Tom said sarcastically.
“Well, shall we be getting downtown?” Tom watched as Lt. Lundy ushered Brigid into the hallway. The look on her face was sad; not over what was, but what could have been. Sam tried with some success not to mirror the same look as she turned her attention to the statuette in Tom’s hands.
“It's heavy. What is it?” Tom looked into Sam’s eyes even as she followed Brigid’s path down the hallway to the stairs. She sighed and blinked back some tears and said finally,
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
Adapted from the Warner Brothers motion picture, The Maltese Falcon; screenplay by John Huston from the novel by Dashiell Hammett.
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