The Mysterious Hand

by Crystal Jones
© 2013 All Rights Reserved - 6963 words

There was a faint tap at Daisy’s office door. As she was on the telephone at the time with a client, Daisy Hamilton, private investigator, could only call out to come in. The conversation was very important as it concerned the disappearance of a young girl. The phone went dead suddenly and Daisy was undecided whether to ring back or not, when she remembered someone was probably still outside the door. Daisy got up, opened the door and saw a man apparently just about to go away down the stairs. He had a hunched stance and thick-rimmed glasses. When he saw Daisy, he mumbled something.
“Did you knock?” asked Daisy unable to understand what the man had said. Again he mumbled something but seemed to want to come into the office. He looked about thirty-five with long hair going grey, held together with an elastic band. He was wearing an out-of-date brown chequered jacket with the collar turned up.
“Please come in,” Daisy said. The man blinked and followed her into the office.
Daisy sat down at her desk indicating the chair in front for her guest. The man sat down on the chair as though he were sitting on a bed of nails. He cleared his throat and in a rather faint voice replied, “I’m sorry. Er... Euan Robard recommended you to me.” Daisy hadn’t heard this name for six years or so. He had been accused of something vile and Daisy had found the evidence which saved him from a long prison sentence.
“We... we need you to solve a mystery which is ruining us all. My name is David Lewisson. I’m the director of a soap opera - you may have seen it - Brides and Grooms To Bee, you know, bee with two e’s.
“No, I haven't,” replied Daisy. "Please go on.”
Daisy thought that the way Mr. Lewisson was dressed would have been called rather modern once. Now it looked just terribly out-of-date.
Mr. Lewisson explained, “Someone - or something mysterious is interfering with the filming of our soap. Strange and unusual things happen continuously. We are beginning to feel frightened. ‘The mysterious hand is at work again’ is what is being said on the set!”
Mr. Lewisson became very agitated.
Daisy thought that she should sidetrack this nervous man, “Please tell me something about the soap itself.”
“Well, Brides and Grooms To Bee... er... it's spelt bee because they are as busy as bees, which is sung about in the signature tune, and is set in the brideswear section of a big department store. Basically it’s a different story almost every week, always about someone who is getting married. We spin it out - bring in her fiancé, drag in relatives and friends etc. Occasionally there are cameo parts played by well-known actors or actresses. Er...” Mr. Lewisson started choking.
“I'll get you a glass of water,” said Daisy getting up from her office chair.  Mr. Lewisson gulped down his water, nearly choked again and then recovered. “The thing is that our filming of the episodes is being sabotaged! This leads to last minute work and the episodes risk not being filmed at all. I'm afraid our sponsors are beginning to get wind of all this. You know, this is my first chance in a soap and I want it to be a success.”
Daisy’s seventh sense told her this was going to be a very interesting case. “Please take your time but tell me exactly what has happened.”
“First it’s one thing, then another, Miss Hamilton. To begin with, the actress playing the part of a young carefree girl who worked in the bridal department became pregnant in real life, so we had to kill her off by marrying her suddenly to a man who works in Guatemala. The newcomer is an actress called Lucy Keith-Hammond, who has taken her place, a rather more serious and innocent-type young woman. Strangely enough, as soon as Lucy set foot in the studio, unusual things began to happen. For instance, after a couple of days her costume couldn't be found, and then later turned up in a props basket.”
Mr. Lewisson spoke so quickly and nervously that it was difficult to follow him. He continued, “One time the actor Zac Summerstone, who plays the part of the store detective, was telephoned by someone saying that the script had been changed, so we didn’t need him any more that day. As he didn’t turn up, my wife, the scriptwriter, had to change the story for that episode at the last minute. Naturally we checked afterwards and absolutely nobody from the studio had phoned him! On another occasion Zac’s tyres were slashed outside his flat. He was also stalked by someone for days - this even got into the papers! And two days ago someone stole his script so he was late learning the part for the next day.”
The anxious soap director winced as he spoke. “What on earth can we do?”
Daisy thought for a moment, “Well, I suppose the only thing is for me to come onto the set for a while and pry around.”
David Lewisson nodded energetically. “Would you? Oh, wonderful!”
“I must have a good excuse for being there, of course,” remarked Daisy.
Mr. Lewisson sat thinking for a moment. “Euan told me you are good at dressing up as different characters, couldn’t you actually act in the soap - a small part of course? I can get Heather, my wife, to create a small role for you where you'll be chiefly listening to others, so that it's reasonably easy for you to do.”
Daisy was thrilled to bits at the thought of taking part in a soap while attempting to solve a strange case, but remained apparently very calm and collected in front of Mr. Lewisson. “Yes, I think I could manage that,” she answered, “but I’d like to bring my camera along, it’s such a useful tool in cases like this. You could explain I’m a friend’s daughter who’s an aspiring on-set photographer to whom you owe a favour...”
David Lewisson looked confused but nodded in agreement.

They made their arrangements and Daisy went up to the studios near Manchester. Mr. Lewisson had found her a small flat but sufficiently comfortable just a bus ride away.
“Please call me David,” said the soap director. “This is Heather, my wife.” Daisy thought Heather must be from the Caribbean. She wore very vivacious colours which suited her generous smile admirably and looked a friendly and practical sort of person. 
“David told me to write you into the script. You are to be Iris, the temporary store assistant. Here it is, Daisy, and I’ll help you all I can. Anyway if you forget something you can more of less make up your own lines, as many actors do. So don’t worry and see you tomorrow.”

The following morning Daisy arrived at the studios as had been arranged. She had told David and Heather that she didn’t want them to introduce her to the actors so that she could keep a low profile and study their reactions better.
David and Heather were already on the set looking at the script in a corner. Daisy merely said, “Hello,” and had a look around. 
Suddenly Zac, the store detective in the soap, bounced onto the set clearly convinced that he was God’s gift to women. He was rather tall, dark and very handsome, but in spite of all this his real winning point was his smile. He had a very appealing smile - relaxed and well used. Even though he didn't have an athletic physique he was a natural model - his clothes looked wonderful on him. Zac noticed Daisy who was trying out her brand new digital camera. “Hello honey, you new here? What’s your name?”
“Daisy,” she answered pretending to be rather shy, “I’ve got the part of Iris, the temporary sales girl. I'm so proud to be working with all of you - I hope you don't mind my taking a few photos. I know I’m just a beginner but my dream is to become an on-set photographer!”
“Please go ahead star in the making, with a beautiful flower name – and a photographer to boot – how could we refuse you anything? My name is Zac and I’m the store detective no one can hide from,” he quipped. “Oh, here comes Jeanette Milbridge, the owner of the department store in the soap. She’s rather formidable even when she’s not acting, to tell the truth.”
When Jeanette came over to say hello to everybody Daisy noticed that she had a wonderfully modulated voice. “Oh, you must be - er - Daisy, the new sales assistant. Welcome to our little happy family.”
Daisy couldn't help noticing that when she said ‘happy family’ there was irony in her voice.
Jeanette proved to be a woman in her fifties who cared not at all for fashion or any other obvious conventionality - she was just herself, which seemed to reinforce her strong presence. Jeanette wore a dark mauve blouse and dark-coloured jeans well, as she was quite slender. Her amber-coloured eyes missed nothing but she certainly wasn’t a chatterbox. Daisy saw later on that it was not until she changed into her costume, which made her much stouter, and started acting, that she became a garrulous loudly-spoken domineering store owner. In the soap Jeanette had to make everybody afraid of her and render life difficult for them as the store was losing money. However, Daisy observed that when she wasn't acting she had quite a sad expression.
Zac was looking at himself in the mirror on the set, straightening his tie. “It’s my birthday today!” he said as though it were of great importance to the world.
“Oh, really. So that makes you Leo the lion, doesn’t it?” Jeanette remarked with a certain sarcasm. Her voice was that of an actress of time ago who had performed every possible role. Daisy could imagine her as Hedda Gabler or Miss Julia, then remembered seeing a television recording of one of the angry young men's plays. Yes, that horrid frowsy woman was Jeanette. Whew, what an actress!
“Yes, indeed, Leo’s my sign,” confirmed Zac. “What’s yours, dear Jeanette, Scorpio?”
Jeanette wasn’t perturbed even a bit. “Actually it is. How clever of you.”
Now Zac turned to Lucy, the new young actress, who had arrived a bit late, and eyed her as though she had been won over already. “And you, my dear. What delicious sign were you born under?”
“I’m a Pisces, actually, but I don’t really like my double sign,” said Lucy. She had a rather naive expression but was a young modern woman who delighted in skimpy jumpers which showed her midriff and tight trousers with a rather garish chain belt around them.
Jeanette observed Lucy carefully but said nothing.
“Hello slaves, hello,” this was Ben Skittleworth. Daisy recognised him as the rather mature, famous and extremely lovable, very humane comic actor she had seen on the television screen many times. She had watched him time and time again as Perce, the reliable Cockney garage mechanic, with his tragic yet humouristic outlook, or as Stan, the rather high-principled workman from Lancashire, always dressed in a boiler suit. But now Daisy observed that he wore, surprisingly, smart clothes with tasteful colour combinations and had no regional accent whatsoever. She also noticed that he seemed to be quite a different person from the humane comic characters he had impersonated.
Zac stood up as though he were about to make an important announcement. “Now we're all here, everybody is invited for a drink at the King's Horse this evening as soon as we've finished, as it's my birthday.”
“When are we going to start, David?” Ben called out to the director ignoring Zac. He seemed quite irritated, and wasn’t even interested in asking who Daisy was.
David came over, “Oh Ben, there’s been a mix-up!” David seemed rather nervous at speaking to him. “I’m sorry but you’ve been cut out of this scene. I telephoned you but your mobile was apparently switched off.”
“Whaaat! You mean I’ve come early for nothing?”
Ben threw down his script and stormed out.
“No, no – er – you’ll be needed in a couple of hours’ time! No need to get upset, Ben!” called out David, picking the script up again and running after him.
The actors had to have their make-up put on and their hair combed into the style of their characters in the soap. Daisy never liked having her hair done by others but she rather enjoyed being made up as Iris with a blond wig and kohl on her eyelids. Daisy’s character was a chirpy talkative young woman with a short skirt and high heels. There were walk-on actors as well, who rarely had close-ups and weren’t even made up.
It was quite tiring acting in a soap even though there were few takes, as everything was done strictly to budget, so Daisy didn’t really feel like going to the pub that evening to celebrate Zac’s birthday, but she knew she had to, so as not to miss anything.

The King's Horse proved to be quite a pleasant pub just around the corner to the studios. When Daisy arrived with her camera in her shoulder bag, Jeanette, Lucy and Zac were already there. Soon after an anxious-looking David arrived with Heather who was carrying her scripts. They sat down still discussing the day’s shooting amongst themselves whilst Zac prattled on about the acting profession, which almost made Jeanette smile.
Heather handed Lucy, who was looking, as usual, admiringly at Zac, her script for the next day. “The best people in this business are Leos of course - and those born on the first are especially talented,” boasted Zac. Strangely enough he was able to get away with it. He had charisma and people just smiled at his extravagancies.
Lucy asked, “And what about those born on the third of March?”
“If they look like you they are born lucky!” Zac smiled his toothpaste smile.
Lucy blushed happily.
Having asked the cast if they objected to her taking pictures of them, Daisy clicked away trying to look like an on-set photographer. Nobody minded and Zac even seemed to like it.
Daisy saw that Jeanette was more than a little quiet. Something was causing her some sort of a problem. She was sitting in a chair alone, without saying anything - without even looking at anybody, but her hands were twitching. Daisy sat down next to her. “Jeanette, if you can give me any tips or anything, I’ll be glad to hear them. You know, I’ve never been in a soap before.”
Jeanette seemed to wake up from a dream, “Of course, I’d be happy to give you any hints I can.”
“Keep close to me and I’ll protect you, little one,” Zac was still making up to Lucy. She reacted to this, “Well I’m not so little, really - I was twenty-six last birthday,” but still giggled at him.
Daisy saw that Jeanette turned pale. Did she fancy Zac?
At this point Ben, the famous comic actor, wobbled in. He had certainly had more than enough to drink but was ready for more. “Hi, battleaxe,” he was looking at Jeanette and waved to her, “who are you trying to dominate now?”
Jeanette simply ignored him.
Seeing he had no reaction from her, Ben changed his tune, “Zac, are you still trying your charm on the little Scouse?” Ben was referring to Lucy, who of course had a Liverpool accent. “What about my drink?” At this point the publican came over and swiftly marched him out of the door. He clearly knew him well and was determined not to have any trouble in his pub.
“Come on my dear,” Zac seemed a little old-fashioned in his approach to Daisy. “What are you having?” he asked her.
“I'd prefer a soft drink please,” Daisy replied.
Now Lucy’s script accidentally slipped off her lap and as she leaned down to pick it up, Zac fell to his knees.
“And you, dream girl, what nectar can I tempt you with?” he purred giving Lucy her script back.
Jeanette now turned her attention to the conversation between Lucy and Daisy.
“Ben is always being nasty to someone,” Lucy explained. “Well, I may have a Liverpool accent, and I’d love to have an airport dedicated to me, but actually I was born in Glasgow. What about you, Daisy? I can't make your accent out. Where do you come from?”
Daisy mumbled something about being born nearby.
She observed Jeanette again. “Why does she look so tense when Lucy is in her company?” Daisy asked herself. “Is she secretly in love with Zac herself and jealous that Lucy has stolen Zac away from her?”
Every now and then Daisy took photographs of the actors when they were too absorbed in their work to notice what she was doing. Jeanette didn’t seem at ease and looked completely lost in thought. Realising this and not wanting to draw attention to herself she suddenly joined into the conversation. “Heather, I wanted to ask you about a couple of lines in tomorrow’s script. I really think they should be modified a bit.”
Daisy exchanged chairs with Jeanette so that the two women could huddle up together to discuss the changes
Later that evening Daisy looked at the whole series of photos she had taken using her laptop. She tried to sum up the expressions in the photos. There was Ben behaving in a truculent manner, Zac, who was very pleased with himself, Lucy obviously in love and then there was… Jeanette. What did the different expressions on her face mean? Sometimes she looked very intense, other times she showed no reaction whatsoever, or even looked wistful.
Clearly Ben hated Zac. Lucy looked almost completely inexperienced and naïve but there was something else in her expression that Daisy couldn’t quite put her finger on. Something she had seen before. But... what was it?

The next morning the mysterious hand struck again. Everybody was in the canteen for coffee. Zac had already drunk half a cup when he suddenly felt ill knocking the table over and then rushing to the bathroom to vomit.
“David, help, Zac is ill - someone has tried to poison him!” Lucy started shouting hysterically, “David, please, go and help him!”
David was not the type of person one should call in an emergency and hesitated. Heather pulled him by his arm and they both followed Zac into the bathroom.
Ben looked at Jeanette strangely pleased, “Well, well, well!” and went on to quote in beautiful English, “I have given suck, and know / How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.”
Lucy seemed scandalised, “Ben, how can you quote Shakespeare at a moment like this?” she said.
Soon after, David and Heather managed to get the white-faced Zac to the first aid centre which was in the front of the building.
When David returned to the canteen he was terror-stricken and Heather was trying to reassure him that Zac was going to be all right. “If he really had been poisoned he would have been much worse, Dave. Calm yourself!”
Also Lucy looked less worried now while Jeanette merely watched what was going on.

At the four o’clock tea break everything was back to normal and Zac was already putting on his charm for Lucy's sake. Everybody was having tea and cakes when Ben began to attack Zac. “You think you can have just any woman - but what about your wife and family. Do you think you can get away with all this forever?”
Zac turned to Ben, and for the first time Daisy saw him angry. “What the hell are you talking about? You know damn well that we divorced eight years ago. You’re a disagreeable old clown...” Ben suddenly dealt Zac a right hook. The younger man fell off his chair onto the floor and put his hand to his bleeding face.
Members of the crew dragged Ben away and helped Zac to his seat again. Lucy rushed over to Zac. She pulled a pack of tissues from her bag to wipe the blood away from his face and sat down next to him. “Whatever has got into Ben? How can he be so vicious?”
“OK everybody. Let's stay calm.” Pale-faced David tried unsuccessfully to take charge of the situation.
Even in these difficult circumstances Zac brought out his old bag of tricks to charm Lucy, “Well, if I need a transfusion, I’ll get you to give me one, I'm group O,” he said as though it were a sign of nobility.
“ 'fraid not, I've got a rare blood group - AB. I already donate blood, but only to those who have the same group as me,” Lucy quipped cheekily bending over to kiss him on the forehead. Jeanette stared at Lucy but Daisy couldn’t interpret the expression on her face. Jeanette looked as though she was suspended in time. Was it jealousy or something else? The make-up girl did some magic on Zac's face as soon as it stopped bleeding, and David made an announcement, his voice still shaky. “Heather has rearranged the script and Iris will mention the fact that Zac had a slight car accident which will account for the sticky plaster on his cheek. Let's all get back to work!”

Daisy breathed a sigh of relief when the filming broke up for the evening. Lucy and Zac walked off together hand in hand and the others didn’t even say good night and just went their separate ways.
That night Daisy dreamed that Ben was trying to strangle Jeanette, who changed into a bird-like figure armed with a knife and was threatening Lucy telling her to leave Zac alone. Then Zac appeared masqueraded as a woman. When she woke up, Daisy felt very confused. Then suddenly… she had an idea. Maybe things were just the opposite of what they seemed - or were they?

The next morning there was a lot of tension on the set. Lucy clung to Zac protectively and Ben sat in a corner sulking. The filming began and Ben acted a scene with Zac. Daisy noticed that Ben was a great professional and seemed completely convincing when he smiled at Zac benevolently, patting his hand affectionately, and even Zac acted extremely well, inspired by Ben’s performance. One would have thought that the two were very fond of each other and so by lunchtime everybody began to feel that maybe the feud between them had come to an end. Then it happened. They were filming a scene and Zac, who was just going to adjust his tie in a mirror in the bridal department, stepped back suddenly. There it was. Someone had stuck a photograph onto the mirror with cellotape.
Zac grabbed at the photo but not before Lucy, who was standing beside him, had managed to see who was in it.
Lucy began shrieking, “Oh no! Zac!”
Zac looked embarassed and said nothing. His silence was more than eloquent.
Lucy began to cry, “How could you? You monster!”
Zac stammered out something.
“What’s wrong Zac?” shouted David getting up from behind the television camera.
Lucy snatched the photo from Zac and tore it up. “You bastard, don’t you ever come near me again!” and rushed out crying.
Daisy picked up the pieces of the photo and put them together again with some cellotape. It was a snap taken at the London Eye recently as proven by the date printed on it. Zac was kissing a pretty young woman with a small baby in her arms just as a doting husband and father would.
David looked over her shoulder and nearly passed out. “Break for one hour everyone!” he bleated and looked really desperate.
“Could I have a word with you, David?” Daisy asked. “Do you think you could persuade the cast to come to the canteen now, as something very important has come up. Tell them there is a crisis and the sponsors who have put up the money for Brides and Bridegrooms to Bee are pulling out of the project.”
“All right, Daisy,” David looked completely exhausted. If Daisy had asked him for a return ticket to Mars he would have replied automatically, “Yes, I’ll get you one.”

David, Heather and the four principal actors in the soap all arrived at the canteen and went into the inner room reserved for the kitchen staff. The actors were surprised to see that Daisy was taking charge of the situation as she had placed the chairs into a semi-circle around her and a laptop on a small table to her right and asked everybody to sit down.
“What the hell is going on?” Ben asked David who looked panic-stricken.
Please sit down! We are here to discuss a very serious situation,” Daisy declared. “But before we start, let me clear the air a bit. I want you to know that you have all been deceived - by me, by David and by each other. As for me, I am not an on-set photographer student nor an actress - at least not a professional one. I’m a private detective!”
The four actors stared at her and began protesting. Daisy paid no attention to their protests and continued talking over them. “It’s not true either that the sponsors are withdrawing their funds - yet - but they will surely do so if all this cat and mouse situation is not cleared up.”
David looked as though he were about to faint, but Heather seemed a bit relieved.
“David hired me to investigate the strange events happening around this soap. Luckily he did so when the things which occurred were relatively harmless. His intuition had told him to act before it was too late!”
David goggled at Daisy. Heather looked at him as though to say, ‘I told you so.’
Daisy pulled herself up to make an announcement, “I’m about to suggest what has been going on. I don’t expect all I say is exactly what really happened - maybe you will see fit to correct the details. Anyway, what I’m certain of is that the mysterious hand that struck was not a single hand at all, but several different hands!”
This remark seemed to create a small earthquake and nearly everybody started raising his voice and turning to his neighbour to see if they could guess what was meant by this statement.
Daisy refused to let her audience interrupt her, “Well, first of all, let’s go over the things that happened on the set and after. David told me that Lucy’s costume disappeared. Then there was the mysterious telephone call telling Zac he wasn’t needed for the day. His tyres were slashed, he was stalked and his script went missing. Things got even worse when - to top it all - Zac was, shall we say, poisoned! Ben attacked Zac – well, that wasn’t mysterious really, but even then it hadn’t finished because a photo of Zac’s present family was found stuck onto the mirror!”
“It’s clear that someone wanted to kill me and the police had better be informed,” said Zac rather pompously, but nobody heeded him.
“I asked myself,” Daisy went on, “what type of action had been taken and it came out like this: one was perhaps just an accident, one never actually happened, four were extremely unpleasant and one could have been fatal. I’ll go further, one at least was a typical male action and one a typical female action.”
Zac broke in indignantly, “Why don’t you just get on with telling us who the criminal was who tried to poison me? That’s the most important issue as far as I’m concerned!”
“Well, Zac, if you want a quick answer you’ll just have to wait! But in the meantime let me tell you that a plausible explanation of the stalking thing is, that it was invented by you. In fact, it got you wonderful coverage in the tabloids!”
Zac’s face turned red.
Heather remarked, “I thought as much!”
“I can see that at least one of my ideas was right!” noted Daisy. “Let’s continue. When Lucy lost her costume, which I believe was just mislaid, this gave someone – one of the mysterious hands – the idea of creating havoc. The mysterious hand working against Brides and Grooms to Bee seemed rather romantic to you, Ben, didn’t it? Whereas it could have caused the end of the soap! Of course, you didn’t really want to destroy the soap, but it was an opportunity to ruin Zac whom you dislike intensely. The very handsome, charming and lucky Zac, who in your eyes isn’t even a real actor, was beginning to become the star of the soap. That’s why you stole his script and slashed his tyres.”
Ben's bleary eyes gave nothing away.
“You have great control when you are sober,” Daisy continued, “you were a famous comic actor once, highly respected for your art in the profession, but also well-known to insiders for your bad temper and difficult character. You started losing work and had to accept what, for you, was a downgrading in your career: acting in a soap!”
Daisy explained, “I discovered this from a theatrical agent I know. Then you were jealous of Zac’s success which you felt he certainly didn’t deserve. Even Jeanette, whom you call a battleaxe, would not have upset you so much if she had become the star of the show, as she too is a real artist, a thing you admire.”
Ben looked down for a moment, still without saying a single word. 
“So one day you telephoned Zac telling him he wasn’t needed, using a disguised woman’s voice. Doing a woman’s voice is one of your specialities: I recall seeing you some years ago in a TV show where you were imitating working women’s regional accents effortlessly.”
“You bloody rogue!” exclaimed Zac.
Ben almost smiled as though what Zac had said was a compliment.
David gasped at Daisy’s analysis and started mumbling to his wife who was obviously enjoying it all as if it were a stage show.
“Then something else happened,” Daisy continued. “There was a birthday party, and this almost led to tragedy the next day when something was put into Zac’s coffee which, as you all saw, made him very ill. I don’t think it was a lethal substance at all but we will never know as the cup he drank from disappeared.”

On hearing this, David dropped his glass of water which broke into tiny fragments. Everybody turned and stared at him with questioning eyes.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions!” warned Daisy. “We have a supposed poisoning. But whatever it was, did someone really try to harm Zac or was it self-inflicted in order to get more publicity?”
“Self-inflicted? How dare you! I really was ill!” Zac was astonished that anyone should think that He, the Magnificent Male, could hurt himself deliberately.
Daisy brushed this remark aside, “Okay, this means two problems still remain unanswered: the poisoning of Zac and the episode of the photograph stuck on the mirror. We have already got our male culprits, now let’s turn to the ladies!”
Daisy swivelled her chair towards Heather. Heather looked astonished. “Yes, Heather, I took you into consideration as well as David. But excluded you both when I discovered what was really going on.”
Heather looked relieved.
“If Zac’s poisoning wasn’t self-inflicted, then somebody wanted to poison him - or teach him a lesson. Now it’s time to sum things up. We have Zac - a charmer - a man famous for his smile who wants to be popular with women, a man who enjoys being admired for his handsome face and manner and will play any sort of game to win over his prey. No, he would hardly do anything which would show himself to be vulnerable. Then there is Ben, a very troubled person who clearly isn’t the baddy he would like people to think he is. The person who once interpreted the lovable Perce and Stan characters cannot possibly be a really bad person at all.”
“Well, maybe you’ve got a point there,” said Ben bowing ironically.
Daisy continued with her analysis, “Now there is Lucy, a rather credulous young woman who pretends to herself not to recognise a Don Juan for what he is.”
Lucy looked rather like a small child who had been told off.
“She is – or rather was, madly in love with Zac, that alone makes me think I can exclude her from my list of possible culprits. And what about Jeanette? I was surprised how antagonistic Zac was to Jeanette when they talked about zodiac signs. Zac always courts women, why not Jeanette? Later I realised why. He sensed that she didn't like him at all and felt uneasy about it as he was used to women falling all over him. So, Jeanette: a formidable lady but still a woman at heart. Rather kind actually - but you’d better not attack the most important person in her life.” Daisy stopped to drink some water.
“And who is this ‘most important person’?” Heather broke in.
“I’ll come to that in a minute,” Daisy replied.
Abruptly Jeanette got up to leave. “Jeanette, wait!” Daisy called to her. “Can’t you see - we must get all this out into the open. Things have gone too far. The ‘most important person’ may need you, you know.”
Jeanette sat down again and bit into her lower lip.
Daisy continued with her reconstruction, “Jeanette, you probably guessed that Ben was behind the attacks on Zac, which gave you the copycat idea of the mysterious hand which strikes yet again. Poison is a woman’s weapon. You put something in Zac’s coffee, didn’t you?”
Everybody started talking all at the same time. Jeanette shivered and looked like a trapped animal.
“You didn’t want to kill Zac, you probably just wanted to give him a nasty lesson,” Daisy suggested. “Ben, you worked out that Jeanette was the one who had put something in Zac’s coffee and made that quotation from Macbeth - you knew that Jeanette had made her name in the part of Lady Macbeth.”
Jeanette’s eyes were those of a petrified animal about to be ripped to pieces. “Now we come to the last incident,” announced Daisy. “It was rather a clever psychological trick, a woman’s trick. Jeanette, you have been a famous actress for a long time. I don’t suppose it was difficult for you to telephone an old friend who works for a tabloid and just ask if there was any recent scandal on Zac or if he really was divorced. Luckily your friend came up with something quite spectacular. Zac had married again and there was even a photo of him with his second wife and child, taken in recent times at the London Eye. Naturally you asked for a copy to be sent to you.” Daisy held the famous photo up, which she had pieced together, and showed everybody what was written on the back of it: copyright The Sunday Loudspeaker.
Zac protested, “Please, my reputation...!”
Ben laughed, “As a lady’s man - you haven't got one any more. You'll certainly lose a few female followers now – and unless you learn how to act you’ll soon be out of a job!” Ben almost spat this out to Zac, then looked approvingly at Jeanette.
“Jeanette, do you prefer to tell us about what you did?” asked Daisy gently.
Lady Macbeth had not cracked yet but when Daisy asked her this, she shook her head slightly and her expression was of one who is about to be beheaded.
Daisy went on, “The conversation that was to change everything for you was about astrology. Lucy was born on the third of March and later it transpired that she was twenty-six years old.”
Jeanette’s hands twitched violently.
“Well, go on Daisy. Tell us everything. Don’t leave us in suspense,” urged Heather.
“As you all know I took quite a number of photos with my camera. Now I would like you all to look at some of them and, I hope, all will be
Daisy pushed her laptop round towards her audience. “Notice the frozen expression on Jeanette's face when she learns that Lucy has an AB blood group, as if the whole world had turned upside down.”
Daisy clicked again at her computer. “And here is another photo of you, Jeanette, when Ben quoted those famous lines of Lady Macbeth I have given suck, and know / How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me. You had an expression of infinite pain! But there was something else, even though I couldn’t work out what it was until I heard your character getting angry in the soap. Your wonderful brazen Cockney accent became slightly Scottish... and Lucy was born in Glasgow!”
“Whatever are you getting at, Daisy?” Heather was feeling the tension rising in the canteen.
Daisy ignored her question and carried on, “Here is another photo I took  accidentally. Jeanette and Lucy were sitting on a divan watching Ben who was on my right. They have exactly the same expression!”
Everybody looked at the photos and gasped. “It's true!” Heather remarked, “Lucy doesn’t actually look like you, Jeanette, but…”
Lucy looked at Jeanette with astonishment, “What does all this mean? I don't understand.”
Jeanette took a deep breath and in a stage whisper said, “It’s true, you are my daughter - I...” but she couldn’t continue.
Lucy stared around the canteen as though she didn’t know where she was. “I’m your... daughter? I always knew I had been adopted but...”
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Jeanette pronounced these words as though she should not have spoken at all.
Ben stared at Jeanette and nodded to himself as though he understood Jeanette’s pain.
Daisy took over again, “You hated to see your daughter deceived by Zac, whom you saw as such an obvious fake. The thing is, Lucy wanted to believe that Zac was sincere with her. If you had told her what he was really like she would never have believed you and would have defended him. The sticking of the photo on the mirror was a very spectacular and clever trick.”
Nobody spoke for a moment.
“But you say you're my mother – how do I know it’s true?” A bewildered Lucy asked of Jeanette.
Jeanette looked upset, “When you said that your birthday was on the third of March and that you were born twenty-six years ago in Glasgow I began to realise that you might be my daughter. Then you said your blood group was AB, which was my daughter’s too, and is quite rare...”
Ben interrupted, “It certainly sounds very convincing but...”
“There’s something else,” added Jeanette. “You’re right, I wasn’t completely sure until the moment when Lucy kissed Zac after he had been ill. Her cotton jumper rode up… and I could see a scar. It was quite visible in the light because it was paler than her sun-tanned skin. It was the scar of the removal of her spleen when Lucy was a baby.”
Lucy touched where the scar was. "It's true, my spleen was removed when I was a baby.”
It was like being at a funeral, nobody said anything for a few moments. Finally Heather broke in, “So, what are we going to do now?”
“Well,” continued Daisy, “as I said at the beginning, my explanations can be all wrong! If you want the soap to go off the air you could carry out your individual vendettas and tell this tale to the newspapers - or – you could forget everything that has been said and get on with your work.”
Daisy switched off her laptop and got up. “It’s your choice!”

Naturally it was in no-one’s interest to spread all this gossip, so nobody said anything to the press and the soap continued.
Three months later Daisy watched Brides and Grooms to Bee on television and saw herself acting in a couple of brief scenes. She also watched the following episode, the day after, which was the triumph of the great comic actor Ben playing the part of good old Vic, the store doorman, who heroically steps out into the street to pull a small child out of the way of a car, and is himself knocked over. Zac, as the store detective, was acting better than he ever had and looked really concerned when he visited his old friend Ben in hospital. On screen, Jeanette and Ben were exceptionally moving when they declared that they were both very fond of each other and, who knows, in the future…
A week later, the character of Lucy had changed rather drastically, as happens in many soaps. Instead of the naive girl she was before, she now wore skimpier clothes and much more heavy make-up and had become a spiteful young woman trying to get her best friend’s boyfriend away from her! Daisy hated this but had to admit that Lucy was acting better and better, maybe learning from her great actress mother!
In the new year Daisy watched the soap awards. Jeanette and Ben were awarded as the best comic couple, Zac as the sexiest male actor and Heather Lewisson as the best script writer. In Jeanette’s acceptance speech she spoke about the extraordinay affection there was amongst all the actors in the soap. Ben confirmed this with tears in his eyes and spoke of the wonderful family unit they all were on the set. Daisy thought that Ben actually looked younger and healthier as if something had changed for the better.
Zac looked extremely handsome receiving his award and announced that he would be taking the lead in a new crime series about a Scotland Yard police inspector, so he would be leaving the soap. Daisy thought that now Zac would be even more convinced he was the bee-all and end-all of television!


Finished on 16th June 2013.