Following a cold, windy March day, Cliff and Marie have settled on the floor by the fireplace, aware only of popping logs and each other, waiting for the phone to ring, which it does a little after midnight.
Cliff picks up the phone and says, “Sally?”
"Yes, Dad. I’ve got the big news you’ve been waiting for. At this moment, on March 12, 1972, your kid brother is the toast of New York."
“Great! The play is a hit.”
“A colossal hit. Everybody says so. Listen while I read a few lines from one of the early reviews?”
Sally reads into the phone: “A Thousand Clowns was never better than it was in the brilliantly produced revival which opened last night. In his warm, eccentric, and funny portrayal of out-of-work writer Murray Burns, newcomer Lew Walker proved that he is destined to shine as the brightest star on Broadway during this limited engagement.”
“Mother would be proud and happy tonight--as I am.”
“Me too. Lew had so many curtain calls that my poor hands are still sore from all the clapping. I thought they’d have to carry the poor man to his dressing room.”
“I should have been there.
“And Mom too.” Suddenly Sally is sobbing.
“Put away the tears, Sal. This is Lew’s night to celebrate.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I’ll be all smiles at the opening night party. It’s at Sardi’s! Judd and I have been invited as special guests of Broadway’s new shining star.
“Swell! By the way, what’s this limited engagement?”
“Phil says the play is scheduled to close in July. Apparently he‘s supposed to direct a Hollywood movie later in the year.”
“Good for him. Well, give Lew a big hug for me. When you return home, you can tell Marie and me about all the showbiz celebs you met."
"I will. Right now I'm so excited that I could dance down the middle of Broadway."
"Be sure to obey the traffic lights."
Sally laughs. “For a change I’ll let Judd do the leading.”
“Smart girl. Goodbye, Sal.”
Cliff hangs up the phone and says, “Marie, we’ve got a star in the family.”
“I know,” she says, “and it’s high time he gave me a kiss.”
Cliff pulls her close, cups her lovely face in his hands, and kisses her hard until Marie finally breaks away to catch her breath. “Hey, you don’t kid around. You‘d better give me a drink to cool off.”
“Hell, honey, that defeats the purpose of the kiss.”
“Ok, forget the drink,” she says as she slowly begins to remove her clothes. “Just lie down. I’ll get around to you in a minute.”
Marie tosses her clothes aside and begins to remove Cliff’s shirt.
“I think I can take it from here,” he says.
“I know you can, Tiger.”
Later that morning, while Marie is in bed sleeping and Cliff is seated at the kitchen table pouring a second cup of coffee, there is a sharp rap on the front door. Cliff utters a low curse, tightens the belt to his robe, and opens the door. He is facing two Cincinnati police officers.
“Good morning, officers, how can I help you?”
“Sir, we’d like to come in and ask you a few questions.”
The two enter and look around the room, as though expecting to see someone. They identify themselves as Officers Clark and Roberts.
“Are you Cliff Walker?” asks Clark.
“Yes. What’s the problem?”
“Do you know a Jack Walker?”
“Yes. He’s my nephew. Why do you ask?”
“When did you last see him?”
“About two to three months ago. What’s wrong?”
“Has he tried to contact you in the mean time?"
“No, he’s in a New Jersey jail. He’s supposed to be going through some sort of court procedure.”
“Well, he was in jail until two days ago.”
“You mean they released him?”
“I’m afraid not,” says Roberts, the younger of the two officers. “He skipped out while at the courthouse. It happened when he was supposed to be in the men’s room.”
“You mean he was in the men’s room alone?”
“Yep. He broke a window and dropped two stories to the ground.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t break a leg,” says Clark.
“What surprises me is the carelessness of the Jersey police.”
“So you haven’t heard from him?” says Roberts as he walks toward the bedroom.
“Wait!” says Cliff. “Don’t open that door. My fiancee is in there asleep.”
“Will you ask her to come out, please.”
“Is that really necessary?”
Cliff goes into the bedroom, wakes up Marie, and explains the police situation. He then asks her to get dressed and join him in the living room.
“Don’t I get a wake-up kiss?
Cliff kisses her lightly on the lips and returns to Officers Clark and Roberts.
“She’ll be right out, but I don’t know why you need to talk to her.”
“Just routine,” says Officer Roberts.
When Marie joins them, Officer Clark checks out the bedroom.
To Officer Roberts, Cliff says, "This is Miss Marie Manning."
"Sorry to disturb you, Miss Manning."
Officer Clark whispers to his partner, “He’s not in the bedroom."
“Mr. Walker,” says Officer Roberts, “didn’t your nephew try to break into your house last year?”
“Yes, it was while I was in California on business. The police department has a full report. I tried to get the kid an attorney, but he skipped town. The next thing
I heard, he was in jail in New Jersey.
“You haven’t tried to talk with him?”
“No, not since his father hired a New Jersey attorney.”
“Well, Mr. Walker,” says Officer Clark, “your nephew may try to pay you another visit. If he does, be sure to give me a call.” He hands Cliff his card.
“Believe me, Officer, if the kid shows up, you’ll be the first to know.”
“One more thing. The boy’s home is in Virginia, right?”
“Yes. Watertown, Virginia. That’s where his father, Matt Walker, lives, but go easy on him. He’s in poor health.”
“Thanks,” says Officer Clark with a smile. “We’ll be gentle.”
When the two police officers leave, Cliff says to Marie, “I’d better warn Lew that he may be seeing his nephew soon.”
“Do you think the kid would risk it? The New York police must have been alerted.”
“You’re right, but I know how reckless Jack is. To get some money, he’s willing to take the risk.”
“I hate to say it, Cliff, but I hope the New Jersey police catch him.”
“I do too, as long as they don’t hurt him or vice versa.”
Cliff picks up the phone to call his brother. “Why do I have to be the one to ruin Lew’s celebration?”
“Better you than young Jack.”