A Detective Calls

Based on J.B. Priestly’s 1945 play, “An Inspector Calls.”


“Grandma,” seven-year-old Edie Croft shouted as she walked from the front door. “There’s a police man who wants to talk to you.”

Sybil Birling stepped in from outside where the family had gathered around the barbecue grill and picnic table to celebrate her nomination to the state’s highest court. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Sorry to bother you, Judge,” said the police man, “but it’s rather important I talk to you about a woman you’ve had dealings with in the last few months.”

“Okay,” she said, “and you are?”

“Sergeant Detective Goole, ma’am.”

“And whose this about?”

“A young woman named Eva Smith.”

“I know her. What’s she done now?”

“Nothing. She was found dead and I’m trying to get a clearer picture of her.”

“Dear, god. She grew up with my kids and live down the block. What happened?

“Suicide,” Goole paused, “But I’m more interested in knowing the facts surrounding her appearance in your court.”

As Sybil sat down, her husband Art came in asking, “What’s going on?”

She looked up, “Eva Smith killed herself.”

“Oh, dear god,” Art half-whispered.

“You knew her then?” Goole asked Art.

“Yes. She grew with our kids up right around the corner and was a classmate of our daughter, Sheila.”

“Wasn’t she also an employee at your construction company at one time?”

“Why, yes. But I also had to fire her. Why?”

“I’m trying to get a complete picture of Ms. Smith before I file my report.”

Sheila Croft and her husband, Jerry came in to see what drew her parents away from the backyard outing. “What’s going on?” Sheila asked.

“The detective here is investigating a suicide,” Sybil stated.

“It’s routine,” Goole added. “Suicides are treated like homicides until ruled otherwise, so I’m collecting information.”

“Whose dead?”

“Eva,” said Art.

“Well I can’t say I’m not sorry,” Sheila said bitterly.

“How and when?” Jerry asked.

“Last night or early morning, by hanging.” Goole said. “I take it you both knew her.”

“Yes,” Sheila answered. “I went to school with her. We used to walk home together, even played together. But that was before she tried to ruin our marriage.” She glanced at Jerry.

“Ruin your marriage,” Goole frowned.

“She claimed Jerry had sexually harassed her when she work for my father.”

Goole looked at Art, “Is that why you fired her?”

“Yes. She was my receptionist and damned good at it too. But then she accused Jerry of forcing her to have sex with him. I knew it wasn’t true, so I let her go.”

“So, you didn’t have sex with her, Mr. Croft?” Goole asked.

“No!”

“What if I were to tell you she kept a diary and she claims over and over that you did?”

“Then she’s lying.”

Sensing that Jerry was hiding something, the detective stepped closer to him, and calmly asked, “Are you certain you’re not lying, Jerry?”

Jerry stepped back and looked down.

“Jerr?” Sheila asked. She could tell by her husband’s body language that he was uncomfortable with the Goole’s questioning. “You did! You had sex with her, didn’t you?!”

“It wasn’t like that,” Jerry tried to explain, “It…”

“You lied to me!” she shouted. “You lied to Dad. To all of us! And I…”

“And you what?” Goole turned his attention to Sheila.

Crying now, “I got her fired from the lumber yard where she was working.”

“You what?” Art asked.

“Yes! I got her fired. I thought she was trying to destroy my marriage. I told them that either they get rid of her or I’d have you close your account with them.”

“How could you do that, Sheila?” her mother asked.

“I was pissed. I thought she was a bitch and deserved what ever she had coming to her.”

“But we taught you better.”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

Sheila looked at Jerry and snarled, “I want a divorce,” as she pulled off her wedding ring and threw it him. “You’re not only a rapist, but lying piece of..!”

Suddenly the front door opened and in stepped Eric, the Birling’s son and younger sibling to Sheila. “Sorry, I’m late but traffic is…what’s going on?”

“Eva Smith killed herself, Eric,” Sybil answered.

“No…I…,” he stuttered.

“No, I – what?” Goole asked him.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“This is Detective Goole,” Art stated.

“Well, I saw her two nights ago,” Eric responded. “In fact I gave her a few bucks and paid for a motel room because she’s been living in the street.”

“You, what?” Jerry nearly shouted.

“Hey, she might have accused you of harassment or whatever but it didn’t mean I could’t be nice to her. Besides she was my friend. Are you sure it’s Eva?”

“Afraid so.”

“I knew something like this would happen,” Sybil said.

“And why’s that, Judge?” Goole asked.

“She’d been in my court three times in two months. The last time I had her locked up for 30 days hoping she’d straighten up and to maybe scare some sense back into her.”

“Were you aware of her accusation?”

“Yes, but that had no baring on the sentence I imposed on her.”

“What was she charged with the last time she came into your courtroom?”

“Prostitution.”

“No! That’s not true!” Eric interjected.

“It is, Eric,” his mother returned.

“Is that all?”

“And for giving a false name to the arresting officer.”

“What was that name, your Honor?”

Sheepishly, Sheila looked at Art and answered, “She used the name Daisy Birling.”

“Good god!” an astonished Art said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t say anything to you because she claimed that it was the only one she could think of while being booked.”

Eric stepped back and leaned against the wall, slowly sliding to the floor. “I can’t believe that she’s gone.”

“Momma,” Edie said as she came in from the back yard, “I’m bored. Are you guys coming back outside?”

“We’ll be there soon,” Sheila said. “Go out and play on the swing set or something.”

“But mommy…”

“Edna, I said outside…now,” Sheila pointed. The little girl obeyed.

“So, let me get this straight,” Goole said. “Eva accused you, Jerry, of raping her. Which we now understand, did happen.”

“What?! You son-of-a bitch!” Eric shouted as he sprung up towards Jerry. Art intercepted him, forcing Eric back across to the wall where he’d been sitting.

“And you, Mr. Birling, not believing her, sided with your son-in-law, firing her. Next, your daughter, Sheila, had her fired from another job by threatening to pull business from a local mom-and-pop operation.”

“I didn’t know,” Sheila sputtered as she tried to stop crying.

“Then you, Judge Birling had her in your court not once, but three-times, and you ended up throwing the book at her. Am I correct?

“Yes,” she answered, “But I’m not happy with the tone or direction you’re taking this.”

“Understood. I’m jus’ doing my job, ma’am.”

Still being restrained by his father, Eric remained pressed against the wall, sobbing. “It’s not fair. She was getting her life back together. I was helping her. It’s jus’ not fair!”

“What do you mean you were helping her?” Sybil asked.

Detective Goole interrupted, “Think about it, ma’am. What did she give as her last name?”

She stared at Goole for a few seconds than looked at Eric, who looked at her and said, “Yes! She was pregnant! Pregnant with my baby – your grandchild and you couldn’t see your way to help her!”

“Oh, my…no…” the Judge stated as she leaned back on the couch. “I thought she was lying about that, too.”

“I’m afraid not,” Goole calmly said. “And finally, you Eric, you were using for sex, but you didn’t plan on falling in love with her or for her to get pregnant, did you?”

“No,” Eric admitted.

“Technically then, you misled her,” Goole announced.

“Yeah, but then I told her and I apologized.”

“But never once did you considered that it still left her wounded, did you?”

Eric looked at Goole, “I…I…I never thought about it.”

There was an awkward pause, the long silence held the room in place like wet cement. Finally, Goole broke it, “Fine. I think I have a pretty complete picture of this woman’s death.”

“What do you mean?” Judge Birling asked as she stood up from the couch. “You’re not blame us – this family – for her suicide are you?”

“No. No, I’m not,” Goole answered. “However, if the shoe fits.”

Art turned, fists clenched.

“Don’t even think about it, sir,” Goole warned as he turned towards the door. “I think you and your family have enough to worry about. Goodbye.”


Across town, Goole stood-by, unable to do anything as she slipped her head through the knotted scarf she’d attached to the metal grate in the wall than sat down, forcing the knitted material to tighten around her throat. All he could do was watch in great sadness as Eva Daisy Smith gasped for her last breath.

He knew however, that at some point soon, she’d be beside him as he escorted her desperately injured soul into the great healing, where he’d offer an accounting for why Eva had taken her life. After all it was his God-given task as an Angel of the Lord, the one named Goole, to do so.

So Goole waited.


The Birling’s doorbell rang.

“Judge Birling?” the man in a well-worn suit asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m Detective Alvarado and I’m investigating death of an Eva Smith.”

Sybil frowned, “I know who you are, Detective. But there was a Sergeant Detective Goole who was just here asking about Eva.”

“Goole?” Alvarado asked, adding, “We don’t have a Gould in the detective division.”

“No, no…Goole, no ‘d.'” she corrected the Detective, before asking, “Then who is he?”

“I have no idea. Maybe a private-eye or something. I’ll look into it, ma’am.”

“So what do you need from me, Detective?”

“We found your business card in her diary and thought you should know that she been found hanged this morning and we’ll be investigating her death.”

“I already know.”

“You already know? How?” a puzzled Alvarado asked.

“Detective Goole,” she answered.

“How did this — Goole, was it — know when I didn’t know about it until half-an-hour ago?”

“When you find Goole, you’ll  need to asked him. Now, if there’s no more questions, I have a family that I need to get back too.”

“Very well, ma’am,” Alvarado said, “We’ll be in touch.”

As he and his partner returned to their car, Alvarado’s partner replied, “Kinda hinky, that they’d already know.”

“Yeah,” Alvarado responded, “And I’m betting this Detective Goole or whatever, is all part of a cover-story.”

As he opened the passenger-side door, Alvarado looked down and saw a large white feather in the gutter, near his foot. He picked it up, slipping it into his binder.

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