Simon Brett

Dead Giveaway

Chapter One

‘Mr. . Paris did you say?’


The girl on the desk at West End Television’s main Reception looked dubiously down at a list. Charles Paris’s name didn’t seem to leap out of the page at her.

‘For what show did you say?’

‘If The Cap Fits.’

This title did not dispel her scepticism. ‘No show of that name down on my list.’

‘It’s a pilot of a new game show. Something to do with hats.’

‘Hats. Ah.’ Comprehension dawned slowly. ‘That might be what I’ve got down here as Hats Off!

‘It could be. Maybe the title’s been changed. As I say, it is only a pilot. Studio A,’ Charles added helpfully.

‘Yes, that’s where Hats Off!’s booked in.’ The girl was forced, regretfully, to accept his bona fides. ‘All right. If you like to sit down over there, someone will be down shortly.’

‘Thank you.’

Charles started towards the low upholstered sofa she had indicated, when the girl’s voice stopped him. ‘That is, unless you’re one of the celebrities. If you are, they’ll send someone down specially.’

He turned to look at her.

‘No,’ she said. ‘No, of course not. You go and sit and wait over there.’

He had to confess it hurt. Charles Paris was not an actor with an excessive amount of pride, but to have his non-celebrity status identified so immediately was a little galling. It rubbed in the humiliation of his very presence at West End Television that afternoon. As his agent, Maurice Skellern, had told him with considerable glee, the booking had only been made late the previous day.

‘Just had a call from W.E.T.,’ Maurice had announced over the phone.

‘Oh yes?’ Charles had replied eagerly. The shock of his agent’s actually ringing him had given way to exciting fantasies of leading parts in long-running television series.

‘They’re doing this new game show.’

‘Really?’ The fantasies shifted to produce a new, suave Charles Paris on a panel of celebrities, quipping away with the best of them.

‘Yes. Thing is, one of the rounds they have people from different professions and the contestants have to guess what they do from what they look like.’


‘For reasons best known to themselves, they want one of the people to be an actor.’


‘Obviously, though, they can’t run the risk of having a face the punters are going to recognise.’


‘So they rang me to see if I’d got any actors on my books who the public were very unlikely to have seen.’


‘I thought of you immediately, Charles.’

Some actors might have reacted to this backhanded insult, some put the phone down, some bawled out their agent, many turned down the job. But Charles had been in the business too long, and been out of work too long, to afford such luxuries as pride. A job was a job. He’d agreed to participate.

The sofa on which he sat was extravagantly low, in keeping with the glamour of television. It was also extravagantly uncomfortable. It might have been all right for someone lying flat on his back, but any normal-sized adult trying to sit on it had to fold like a bank-note. Charles looked at the other people waiting in similar discomfort on similar sofas, and wondered whether any of them was involved in If The Cap Fits. Maybe they too were representatives of professions which had to be identified from their appearance. He tried to play the game, and came up with a bank cashier, an estate agent, a professional footballer, a dental nurse and a test pilot. But he didn’t feel confident that he had scored very highly.

One of the lifts swished open and a girl emerged. She wore a khaki flying-suit, the television uniform of that autumn, and carried that symbol of television authority, a clipboard. Her hair was cut in the rigid shape of a crash- helmet and dyed the colour of copper beech. Her poise was daunting.

The pale-blue eyes went straight to the girl at the Reception desk, who nodded with something not far removed from contempt towards the sofas. The pale-blue eyes flickered upwards in a gesture of mock-prayer before joining her mouth in a professional smile as the girl moved towards her quarries.

‘Good afternoon. Which ones of you are for If The Cap Fits?

Charles, two other men and one girl rose with difficulty from their sofas. He’d been wrong about the estate agent and the test pilot, who did not stir.

‘Hello. Welcome to West End Television. My name’s Sydnee Danson.’

Why, thought Charles, not for the first time, why do girls in television always have silly names?

‘I’m one of the researchers on If The Cap Fits. The producer and everyone else is delighted that you’ve all agreed to take part in the show, and we think you’re really going to have a fun day. If you like to follow me, we’ll go down to the studio and then you’ll see what you have to do.’

A certain amount of mutual introduction and feeble joking ensued as the four followed the unnerving Sydnee to the lift doors. She pressed the button to go down, then looked back for another covert (but not quite covert enough to be unseen by Charles) grimace of mock-despair to her friend on Reception.

Her expression changed sharply as she saw someone coming through the main doors. ‘Quick,’ she hissed, like a demented sheepdog, hustling her charges towards a door marked EMERGENCY STAIRS. ‘In here!’

They scrambled through in confusion and found themselves on a small concrete landing. Sydnee leant panting against the door after she had closed it.

‘Sorry,’ she replied to the four quizzical expressions. ‘That was one of the contestants coming in. They mustn’t see you till the show or the game’s ruined.’

‘What, so you’ve got to keep us apart all afternoon?’

‘Yes,’ said Sydnee, and then added without great enthusiasm, ‘that’s my job.’

The set for If The Cap Fits was a geometric confusion of red, blue and silver. Against the backdrop tall triangles of blue provided an Alpine horizon, in front of which was mounted a wheel of red, around whose perimeter the title If The Cap Fits was picked out in large letters of silver. Another blue triangle, this time tapering downwards, provided a lectern in the centre of the area, and to one side a long rectangular blue desk was set in front of four red chairs. On the desk were four red-and-blue-striped drinking glasses; another stood on the lectern beside a red-and-blue-striped carafe. Across the front of the desk and of the lectern the show’s name was again printed in silver, lest the viewing public should at any time forget which programme they were watching (a very real danger in the world of game shows).

As Sydnee ushered her four ‘professions’ into the studio, a young man with a raven-black Mohican haircut and black leather bondage-suit was anxiously checking the spin of the red wheel. Over the studio loudspeakers a jingle was playing. Falsetto voices at high speed sang the deathless lyric,

If the cap fits,

If the cap fits,

If the cap FITS!

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