Later that morning (presumably) …
… the tiny tape recorder has found a new home on somebody’s coffee table. Not Mr. Steele’s, I think.
No, they seem to be in someone’s office. Charlotte seems to have adopted the traditional garb of mourning. Has she run out of strawberries to molest?
“As I was explaining to my associate, Miss Holt, I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for all of this,” Steele says as Mitchell’s voice drones from the recorder. “From these tape recordings, it would almost appear that Mitchell Knight is the writer.”
“You got us, Steele!” Publishing Kingpin Russell (PKR) admits with surprising glibness. “Mitchell was the writer. We had this machine made. He could dictate, and then when you played it back on a regular machine, the voice was higher, sounded like a woman – hopefully like Charlotte. So you got us, Steele. Damn, you’re sharp!”
NOTE: If all these players were in on the scheme, why did they need to disguise Mitchell’s voice? To fool the office transcriptionist?
Mystery solved, Mr. Steele seems prepared to nap (he didn’t get much sleep last night). But Laura looks disappointed. “Then you didn’t write any of the books?” she asks. Charlotte admits it was all Mitchell’s lurid imagination. Laura is bereft. It’s hard when your idol lets you down.
Suddenly Dennis Baker jumps in with more exposition. “I represented Mitchell Knight for 17 years,” he explains. “If he made three thousand dollars a year, it was a banner year. Then, seven years ago, I sent Russ Mitch’s manuscript for Twice Nightly.”
Russell discloses that the manuscript stained his fingers. Before we’re allowed to let our minds wander deep into sordid territory, he explains it was because the book was garbage. He threw it away. But at a cocktail party, sweet Charlotte used her powers of persuasion (ahem) to convince him to publish the novel.
“Out of his mouth, it sounded like pornography,” Mitchell says as the camera drifts to Mitchell’s alter ego. “But out of her mouth, it was…. erotica.”
Oh, come on. As if anyone would accept blatant porn as “acceptable” literature.
“So you created a fictitious person to sell the books to the public,” Laura intuits.
Hm. That sounds familiar. In virtually every episode, Laura and Steele encounters someone who isn’t who they pretend to be. Something of a theme, eh?
The publisher, agent and widow hope Steele and Laura will keep quiet about what they’ve learned. “Charlotte Knight is more than just a lady who writes acceptably dirty books,” Baker says. “She’s a whole industry. Loose talk could put an awful lot of people out of work.”
“Look, isn’t there something we can do to help you see your way clear to, ah, forget all this?” Charlotte suggests, suggestively.
Suddenly Tony the Gardener pipes up.
Isn’t this guy a little puny to be a gardener? Given Charlotte’s lusty nature, I’d expect something a little more like this:
Hello, Mr. Greenjeans
Anyway, puny gardener guy has a hypothetical question to soliloquize: “Does it really matter whether or not the Charlotte that we see on television or read in the magazines is the same person who writes the books? Of course not. What’s important is the myth. I’ve heard a rumor that Thomas Edison didn’t really invent the light bulb.”
As Laura begins to look a little uncomfortable, Tony goes on to describe the ideal Charlotte Knight reader: “If lonely people, all over the world, prefer to think that this beautiful, sensuous woman writes those vividly evocative books …”
“… then I say, what a beautiful secret to be asked to keep.”
Aw. That’s heartwarming.
Laura and Steele both listen to this inspiring story with crossed arms. I wonder if that means they’re TOTALLY buying all this. (Hint: no.) Still, Laura admits that they can understand the position the posers are in. Still, there’s just one little problem, she notes: “Mr. Steele is convinced that someone murdered Mitchell Knight.”
Steele seems a bit confused by this. “I am?” he starts to say.
Laura reminds him with another well-aimed stomp to his instep. Ouch!
For me, the most interesting aspect of this scene is the parallel between the Charlotte/Mitchell deception and Laura/Steele. Charlotte is even dressed in a kind of parody of Laura’s look: the tailored suit – albeit rather low cut – and fedora. Once again Laura is confronted with a situation very much like the one she created … and once again, the ruse gives off a rather rancid odor. Does Laura wonder how much she is like these seedy characters she encounters who are playing her own game? Or does she see her situation as entirely different – indeed, the flip side of the coin. Is her subterfuge acceptable because it’s in a “good cause?”