The Art Class
An O Line Mystery #14
by M. Saylor Billings
ACT I SCENE 1
AMBIENT SOUND: Jazz music in the background. Annie and Lorna painting.
OK Annie, tell me the truth does
Tim care that we turned your living
room into a painting studio?
He said he likes the change, he thinks
it gives him free to spill food on the floor.
I should just start over - look at this.
Oh. Dear. That looks like a…
I know. I know.
Just don’t use anymore black.
Try some pink.
You know how I feel about pink.
Then start over.
Your painting is so lovely and mine
is complete TURDS. I’ll never get chosen
to be in the showcase.
Lots of artists were rejected when they first
start out, that’s no big deal.
I think it’s so sophomoric to chose only
5 people from the class, makes everyone so
judgemental and edgy.
I’m about ready for some lunch.
…have my own showcase and call it
“The Outsiders.” And Dr. Twittle won’t
be invited with his little naked people. Is
I like bologne every once in a while.
How about some velveeta with that,
complete the disgust factor.
You know there is a whole art movement
called Outsider Art, I think it may have
started in the south.
Okay, I’m starting over.
Don’t you want a sandwich?
No, maybe if my blood sugar is low
I’ll do something brilliant.
It’ll just be a line that starts from the top
and sorta meanders down and off the canvas…
Those naked people do through me off a little.
OK, can WE just talk about that for a minute?
I thought it was me! I didn’t want to be immature.
Right! Okay here’s the thing the models should
be the only naked people in a class
When Dr. Twittle said get comfortable
I thought he meant get a chair.
The whole thing was staged! Every person
who shucked their drawers were in the back of the
room, did you notice that?
Not till I turned around and was looking for
a towel. How do you take a towel from a
And they’re so righteous about it!
He should split the night up, y’know
those with and without modesty.
Y’know, I can’t help but look. It’s like
hitting the snooze alarm, I know I shouldn’t
but I can’t help it. You put that stuff out there
and it’s like my brain loses control of my eye
muscles for a minute.
I hate to admit it…
And that Jack fella, the one with the scarf?
That’s one way to get a date.
He could use that scarf…
SOUND: DOOR BELL
Oh those are my new paints, I ordered them online.
Maybe I’ll paint Jack’s scarf.
Let me see.
Ohhh there all so new and not used.
Here it is, this is the color I was waiting for.
What do you think Roberta thought about
Roberta’s a cop. I’m sure she’s seen worse.
Her stuff is surprisingly good. I’m sure she’ll
be picked for the showcase.
I’m glad she’s taking the class, I think it’s
helped her, mentally.
You think she needs mental help?
I think we all need mental help. But I mean
I’m glad she’s doing something for herself.
Ok, I’m done. I’ll pick you up like 6:45?
It’s just a giant black dot! You’re not
Ya’ huh, I’m calling it ‘Ricochet’ and it’s brilliant.
See you tonight.
ESTM-this was scene change music
ACT I SCENE 2
AMBIENT SOUNDS: A PAINTING CLASS. (room movement, hollowed room)
SOUND: RUSTLING AND SETTLING IN.
See Roberta, isn’t this class better
than an old stuffy book club.
I thought it was suspicious that it happens
to be on the same night as the book club.
Not suspicious, completely on purpose. Sally
joined the book club and Lorna freaked.
I didn’t freak.
She did and they had a big fight. I think
that’s the only fight they’ve ever had.
It’s true. And it’s your fault y’know. You
should have never called her “The Lesbian Librarian.”
I hope you apologized for that. It’s kinda hateful.
(whispery, frantic, conspiratorily)
Roberta, there are naked people in the room,
what do you think of that?
I’ve seen better bodies in a morgue.
OK everyone, by the end of the class tonight
you will all know who has been chosen for the
showcase this weekend. That doesn’t
give you a whole lot of time and I would
suggest that you work on a painting you’ve
already begun. Usually we start with an object
but tonight I just want you to work on your
paintings that you’d like to showcase and I’ll come a
around, individually and work with you.
Yes, Jack in back. (ah ha ha)
How do we know which painting to choose
for the showcase?
Use your best judgement and we’ll talk about it.
Think about last week when we did the
revues of the works in progress.
This showcase, I know I’m new here, but is it
just an open house?
Ah, Roberta, my newest shiny start, no no dear
your work will be for sale. The starting bids for
the pieces run about 18 hundred dollars and
generally go up to 36 hundred.
Well, it’s not paint by numbers.
But who would pay that money in this economy?
People who don’t have to ask about the price.
The point being – it’s a nice start for our
beginner artists and an incitive for those who have
persevered with our studio.
How many have sold?
Several, let’s get started shall we?
Thank you. What are you working on?
My husband and I went were deployed to
Afganistan in 2001,
SOUND: DOOR SLAMS
that’s where I saw this woman get
EXCUSE ME EVERYONE! I need you
to put your hands high in the air where I can see
them! Oh my God your naked! -
Put your hands up. You with the scarf – cover
I’m not afraid.
Do it Jack! …love of God….
I need people on the floor wallets
and jewelry next to you.
Roberta, do something.
Shut up and do as he says.
But this is Tim’s grandmother’s ring.
Shut up! And GET DOWN. You, where are
Where’s your bag? Get it out. All of you naked
ones get out your wallets out of your bags–
the rest stay down!
Roberta, I think I can…
Shut it. Annie, turn your ring…
SOUND: A EASEL FALLS
Oh my paints.
HEY, STAY DOWN! Put your wallets
in here. Rings ladies. You - the ring, in here!
Oh my paint. My favorite…
Look it’s stuck on my finger, it’s just a
crappy silver coated ring. Seriously. Here’s
…here’s my watch. Take it. I can’t get this ring
Wallets! Let’s go…Now stay down and count to 25.
All of you.
SOUND: DOOR SLAMS
SOUND: DOOR Opens
Quick! 911 someone!
SOUND: FAST FOOTSTEPS AND SCURRYING
He was on a bike! Roberta and Jack
are still chasing him.
Please I need everyone to stay inside
until the police arrive. Please.
oh, what am I going to tell Tim?
Annie, Tim won’t mind. Really, it’s
okay, this stuff is usually pawned off.
They’ll find it. Here, let’s get your stuff
back up here.
oooo, He stepped in my paint.
It’s okay we can get you more.
Dr. Twittle (distant)
Please, Mrs. van Ess, stop crying and put your
clothes on before the police arrive.
They should be glad he didn’t take thier
clothes. I guess Jack really wasn’t afraid.
Yes, are you okay?
She’s fine. What did he grab off the counter up
front, what was that, a pouch?
SOUND: SIRENS APPROACHING
Yes, it was my jewelry I take it off for class.
SOUND: SIRENS NEAR
QUICK OUT AND BEAT AND
ACT I SCENE 3
AMBIENT SOUND: UP to ROOM CHATTER
Where did Jack end up?
I had the squad car take him home.
They thought he was a streaker and
by the time we explained - the thief
was outta there.
I’ll get his clothes for him then. Where
does he live?
He lives over by the West Shore
I can get the address for you.
Roberta, I have to tell you a couple of things.
Everyone! Just real quick. I’d like to open
the studio for you to work in for the next couple
of days. ---In light of tonight’s events I think it
appropriate to welcome everyone to the showcase
this weekend. This has just been an awful night
but we made it though and we’re all okay. Please
make it home safely and I’ll be happy to meet with
all of you before the showcase…
Roberta? Where’d she go?
I didn’t see her. I don’t know.
You gave your statement already?
Okay, well let’s get outta here.
Let me just get Jack’s stuff here.
ACT II SCENE 1
AMBIENT SOUND: The Studio
SOUND: Door shuts quietly. Footsteps.
There you are. I tried calling you.
I know I was in traffic and couldn’t pick
up. I just got here a little while ago.
I had to go into the city to get my color.
Ladies please, conversations outside.
Come on. Real quick.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS.
Oh, here’s Jack and Roberta.
Roberta, can I talk to you real quick?
SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS.
SOUND: OUTDOORS STREET.
Why are you out of uniform?
I took a couple of days off.
That’s probably a good idea. You
I’m doing great. Had a good morning with
the kids, got them off to school. Y’know. Got all
my credit cards canceled in time.
(this should be awkward your holding back)
Right, that was kinda big last night. uh thanks
Thanks for taking off after him like you
did. That was kinda great.
I was running after Jack.
Wait a second. Your not in hot water –
on suspension for being robbed are you?
No. no. It’s not really good for my
record…what did you want to talk about?
I need to tell someone something about
last night and I don’t know who to talk to now.
Do I burden you with it? I can’t tell Annie,
she’s so sad about the ring, she despondent.
Well? What is it?
Okay, two things. First the thief grabbed
Dr. Twittles little purple satin pouch off his table.
How’d he know to look there? Did you ever
notice it before? And wouldn’t you just think
there was paint inside?
I did notice it before but that’s because I
like the color purple.
Second, the thief stepped in Annie’s paint.
Her favorite color that weird burnt yellow stuff.
And when I was on the floor I saw it squirt all over
his pant legs, sock and shoes.
So you think the thief has been here
before and he left a paint trail.
Yes. I do.
Then why was he shocked at the naked
Who said he was a student? And this is a
mixed class advanced and beginners. Maybe the
other beginning classes don’t have the nudists in them.
Look, think about this.
The economy is bad crime is up everywhere obviously
he had to combine his classes together here.
Did you ever see Dr. Twittle put
his jewelry in that pouch? What’s his insurance
claim? What did he say was stolen? And he got away
on a bike? A BIKE? I think this thing was planned.
What are you saying Lorna?
I’m just saying I think we need to talk to Dr. Twittle.
See who knows about the jewelry in the pouch.
There’s no “we” here. I’m out of it, this is for
another unit. But I’ll relay the message for you.
Roberta – edgy frustrated
To the investigating unit.
What you did last night, even if you say
it was to stop a man from streaking was
brave. You did the right thing, I think.
Right, okay then, thanks for listening.
We should get back, I need to finish my painting.
(changes gears emotionally)
Right, that’s what we’re here for.
NEW SOUND ELEMENT: something kinda touching? 5 seconds from “playground”
SOUND: DOOR SHUTS
ESTM: MUSIC SWELLS UP.
ACT II SCENE 2
SOUND ELEMENT FADES OUT.
Uh, Lorna. Grab your canvas and let’s
move you over to where we can
work for a few moments together.
I’ll get your easel here.
Just there, that’s right. I was looking through
Is this for the showcase?
Well, that or maybe the ‘ricochet’ piece
The black dot…This one.
Oh dear. It’s more of an egg
It’s a movement form.
It’s a blob.
What else do you have here?
Oh it looks like…
I know. Too much brown.
Oh your stokes are just so irratic dear.
It’s staccato and uneven – are you medicated?
It’s okay, art is very theraputic. Lots of
I don’t need medication TWITTLE!
It’s okay sh sh now, just calm, breathe.
Take a breath for me. Calllllm. okay?
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you need
medication. I’m just trying to get a feel for your
abilities. Either you have a brilliant mind or
you’re stark raving mad, dear. I think we can rule
out the latter. I think we just need to harness your
energy. Your like a wild horse aren’t you?
But I’m going to tame you and we’ll make art.
What do you have there? Let me see.
What was in the purple pouch from your desk?
My jewelry. Watch, rings.
I wear my late wife’s wedding bands on
Who knew they were there?
I have no idea. Anyone who took
a class I suppose.
Did you recognize the thief?
Of course not. Do you suspect me?
I think who ever robbed us knew exactly
what he was doing. And I think it was
It did seem that way. I thought so last night,
before I went to bed. But just the threat of violence,
with that gun, it threw me off. Like I was having
an out of body experience. My equilibrium was
Your nudists have their clothes on.
Yes, their safe place was violated.
Look Dr. Twittle, I don’t want to
ruin your showcase with my crap.
Honestly, I’m not a painter. I don’t
want to be a painter. And I don’t want
to look like the fool with my ass paintings.
I took the class because I didn’t want my partner
to join a book club. I’m not talented, I’m not
kidding anyone here.
May I see what you were working on?
Up on the easel, yes.
Mmm, mhmm you were
just hiding this from me weren’t you.
I may have been wrong about the stark
raving mad part.
This is. This is… Bold and thoughtful. It’s
sad - no. No, it’s just honest. Painfully, so.
My goodness. It’s not even reflective
of…okay put your paints away. Don’t
touch this painting. This is a brilliant
first painting. I want to talk with you more.
Excuse me. Roberta, Jack and I are going for
tea. Would you like anything Dr. Twittle?
No thanks Annie.
I don’t want anything, but thanks.
Becareful, Dr. she has outbursts. Like
a rabid dog with the turrets.
I’m sure she does. Great artists are very
prone to them.
Come on Lorna, we need to talk.
ACT II SCENE 3
AMBIENT SOUND: LORNA’s HOUSE.
SOUND: A CELL PHONE MESSAGE RING.
Oh crap, I missed Annie’s call.
Hi Lorna, I’m sorry to leave this in a
message. But I guess it’s easier. Look,
I need to take a breather from hanging
out so much. I’ve got a lot going on and
need to work through some stuff here. Y’know
I want to be honest with you, you’re kind
of draining to be around and I think it’s
better just to see each other in small doses.
I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, you’re really
a great friend and I do like you – I want to stay
on friendly terms but in little steps from now on.
We can talk more about this if you need to but
I’m just saying what I need right now. I’ll see
you at the studio later. Bye.
Oh my fucking GOD that’s so fucking HARSH!
That is bullshit! I got robbed too ya know!
Fuck you fucking fuck face! God damn son of a bitch
fucking shit asshole cock sucking mother fucking hell
hole shit fire to save the matches!
SOUND EDITS: EVERYTHING UNDERLINED REPLACE WITH BEEPS.
This doesn’t have anything to do with me, it’s because of
this stupid showcase. And Twittle thinks I’m his pet now.
She’s just jealous. I don’t even like this stupid painting
(Mocking Annie) “We’re going to go get tea would you
like anything DR. Twittle.” “We’re going to go en masse
and lick our wounds together.”
That makes me sick. (DEEP BREATH and sigh)
Calm down. Calm down. (DEEP BREATH) Just go
and get your paints – you don’t have to talk to anyone.
ACT II SCENE 3.5
AMBIENTS: THE ART STUDIO – milling about.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS and SHITS.
There she is, star of the show.
Where’d you pull that one out of?
Beginning student gets the pole position
for the showcase. This whole season just
leading us along with your black
blobs. Was it some kind of joke to you?
Can we step outside for a moment? Please.
After you – I’m not afraid.
I’m glad for that - c’mon.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS
What is going on with you people?
You are what’s going on. We know about
you accusing Dr. Twittle. And you’re buddies
told me about your past run ins with the law.
SOUND: DOOR SHUTS
Roberta, Annie. Hello.
(sarcastically) Guess ya’ll come out ta run me
outta town. Huh?
We just came out to check on you guys.
Whew wee! Roberta’s the new Sher-reef in
town - don’t take no kindly ta people
askin’ questions of the town folk.
‘Specially of the brave young gents who
like ta go a streakin’ thru the streets.
Enough? Really? Because I see three scared
little people in front of me. You don’t want
to get your stuff back you just want to lick
your wounds because that’s comfortable
and it gives you an excuse.
An excuse for what?
What ever meets your needs? Right Annie?
Excuse me I’m need to pick up my paints.
I’m done with you people.
SOUND: DOOR SHUTS
Ah! There she is, my prized piggy.
Come here, hug me. I have several
other gallery owners coming tomorrow
to see your work.
Dr. Twittle. I just came to get my paints.
Oh that reminds me, I just got some coupons
from Fanny’s Crafts for canvas’s for my students.
Here, take two.
Thanks, what price are you putting on it?
Well, we need to talk about that.
Are you sure you want to sell it?
Oh why not?
Well, let’s start the bidding at
It’s 50/50 of course you know that.
No, I didn’t. But okay.
Listen, before these greasy dealers get
their hands on you promise me you’ll let
me handle you for a while.
Handle me. Okay. Good luck with that.
What about some prints?
I don’t know.
Don’t worry I’ll handle it. I can explain it
all later to you.
I need to clear out my station.
Why don’t you just leave it, we’ll take it
in back and store it there.
I thought we needed to clear out for
the showcase and your incoming class.
Well, we can hold your stuff, it won’t take
up too much room.
Oh no. I couldn’t put you out, let me just
gather it up here and be done with it.
Thank you Dr. Twittle, I’ll see you tomorrow
SOUND: DOOR SHUTS.
Lorna, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have come
at you like that.
No, you shouldn’t have.
Wait. It’s just that I’ve been working
at this a while now. And it felt so unfair.
That has nothing to do with me. That’s
a horrible apology. You’re a very selfish
No, you turned on the Lorna. You get one
chance to turn on the Lorna and you’ve used
that up. You used it up for jealousy. That’s
stupid and I don’t have time for stupid. But you’ll
see the Lorna again when I come back tomorrow
to see my piece be front and center and all your
hard work as supporting pieces.
Don’t take this out on Annie, it’s my fault.
I got her all worked up. It was my father’s
wallet and her husband’s grandmother’s
And you lied about having a silver coated ring
and you got to keep yours.
Your damned right I lied. I was being
Okay you guys.
And you. I turned to you for help and you
blew me off. I did some of my own checking,
Roberta the cop, I find it vastly interesting
half the crime here in town is not
reported in the local paper. That’s kinda
like listing murders in the unsolved crimes
docket so it doesn’t get reported. Just exactly
how legal is that to do? (Beat) Guess we’ll find out.
I was trying to help you get your stuff back and
Lorna got the boots.
Did you even check your secret records to see
if this place has been robbed before?
Fine, take your misery elsewhere.
Should, we, be, worried about her?
SOUND: ESTM BEGINS TO UNDERSCORE
I’m not a selfish person, at all.
ACT II SCENE 4
Ambient sound: The Gallery – Milling chatter, glasses clinking. Muted liveliness.
Hi Lorna, I’m glad you made it.
Doesn’t your painting look great?
Now I see why he has the showcase in
the late afternoon, the light is perfect.
LORNA: NO RESPONSE
Okay. We put the living room
Ah here she is. Lawrence, meet a very
promising young artist. Lorna Tollison. Lorna
this is Lawrence Rugburn he’s a dealer from L.A.
he owns the Rue de Paris gallery. And next to
him here is the effervescent Coco Crownly one
of the curators of the MOMA San Francisco. Lorna
is the artist without champagne. Come on darling
lets go get you some bubbly.
I just wanted to get you away from Lawrence, listen
there are some reputable people here that will be
well on your level for right now. If I was a beginning
artist they are who I’d want around me, they’re local
and they’re supportive. We’ll get to them later. Hang on
let me get a couple more bottles out here.
Lorna, I’m glad you came.
I know you don’t want to talk to me
but I need you to know that Roberta said she’d
be late and she really wants to talk with you. She
left you some messages... But I think she wants to
talk with you about the robbery, she said some
stuff turned up…
Here you go, now then there are
a couple of blokes here, I don’t know,
they look just seedy enough to be dealers
but they haven’t introduced themselves.
One of them has that heroin look and the
other ah there’s the other one talking to
oh dear not Mrs. van Ess. No no,
I’ll be right back.
LORNA: NO RESPONSE
There you are. I thought about what you
were saying. I think we might be able to
put something together here. When people
get mugged most of the wallets end up in a
post office box, y’know the ones on the
streets? Well ours have been turning up
all over San Francisco. We got a call about
it today from a manager, over in the Mission.
I’ve got a call in about the surveillance camera’s
see if they picked up anything.
What are you looking at? What’s Annie doing?
Do you know that guy? She’s waving us over.
Come on. Lorna. Come. On.
Roberta, Lorna, this is Jan O’Tooley. He’s opening
a gallery in San Jose and is interested in new
artists works…Oh dear, I keep dropping that –
Lorna, my back, can you get that?
I got it. Here.
It’s nice to meet you all. I love new artists work, it’s
like springtime. Of course not all of it (hahaha),
but that’s the beauty of it. Discovery. I’m looking
for fresh and bold, unapologetic.
Thanks, Lorna and I had a very funny
conversation about our painting socks.
If you’ll excuse me for a minute. I’ll be right back.
See, Jan, we had turned my living room
into a painting studio and although barefoot
and painting was fun it was getting too cold
for our feet…
This conversation is boring. Jan, I’d love to talk
with you about your gallery. I love San Jose
y’know. Sally and I talked about moving there
because of their thriving arts scene. Let’s go in
back, and I’ll show you my other pieces.
They didn’t make it into
the showcase of course.
Jack, Jack - excuse me –that’s him. That’s
With Lorna? How do you know?
The socks, he had my favorite
color splattered all over them.
He’s the right size. Are you sure?
She left, she went out front.
What do we do?
I don’t know. Okay. okay.
Does Lorna know he’s the thief?
I don’t know, she’s acting so weird.
She hates us.
Jack, be a love and keep an eye on
Ms. van Ess for me. Annie there are
some people I need you to mingle with.
Have you two seen Lorna?
She’s…no, where is she?
She was talking to the heroin chic guy.
I wouldn’t say chic, Jack really.
His name is Jan. Jan O’Tooley, he
said he owned a gallery in San Jose.
O’Tooley? San Jose? Must be a neuvo
riche vanity project. I’ve never heard of him.
Annie, thinks it’s the guy who robbed us.
My God. Really? Returned to the scene of the crime.
(Gasp) That’s so bold…and horrible.
We need to find Roberta.
I saw her go outside. No, we need to find
Lorna. What if something happen? This
is tragic, it’s just tragic.
There’s Roberta. Here she comes.
Dr. Twittle, I’ve got some police officers
coming – I told them to meet me on the
side of the building. There’s a back door
Through the storage room, by my
Annie, you’re my positive i.d. on this guy.
So, you’ll have to come in to the station
tonight. Fill out more paperwork, give another
statement. We have to charge him tonight, before
he gets off the island again. Where is he?
We don’t know.
What? Annie, how could you lose him?
I lost Lorna too.
They were together?
Last we saw.
Dr. Twittle, you keep your guests mingling
and distracted. Like nothings happening.
Jack, you go out front and around the building.
Annie, come with me.
Let’s just hope he didn’t wander too far.
They might be in the storage room
through this door.
SOUND: SWINGING DOOR
ooh it’s dark.
Grab that light.
Lorna? oooh I don’t…
Annie, just stay right there by the door.
SOUND: Scuffle footsteps. Very muffled mumbles.
She’s hog tied him! Left him in his socks!
ha ha! Lorna? Come out.
She’s gone, probably left through the back
door…Help me get him cleaned up before
the cops see this.
Get me out of here, that woman is crazy
Oh shut up. Fool, you should have changed
ACT III SCENE 1
AMBIENT SOUND: ANNIES KITCHEN
--- It’s Strained ---
So that’s that.
Roberta thinks it’s possible you
won’t even come into it. They found
all the stolen stuff, even some of the money
in his apartment in the Mission. He wasn’t
even from San Jose. Creep.
How long will they hold your ring in evidence?
Roberta said she’d let me know,
I’m sorry your painting didn’t sell.
Oh who cares? No one has money for that
sorta thing right now. And if they do their not
going to buy my painting. Anyway, Sally said
she really liked it so when Dr. Twittle is done
showing it off we’ll hang it in the house.
Oh, you don’t think it’d look good here in my
It’s too much. You don’t
need that big piece dwarfing your office.
I don’t know, I haven’t talked to him. I guess
he’s taking Dr. Twittles class again.
And your not?
I got some sponge cake and some
No, it’s a nice hobby, but I can’t dedicate
that much time to it.
---releiving some strain---
You should fix Jack up with someone,
someone you owe a big favor too.
(Giggles.) Oh guess what the book club
is reading next?
A Confederacy of Dunces.
Oh that’s my favorite book. Have you
read it before?
---And their back to friends---
I just got started, but I love it.
I read it’s his only work….