Spies/Pulse

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Hugh enters Control's office. Stephen appears to be taking his own pulse.

Hugh Hello, Control. (No reply) Control? Are you all right? You appear to be taking your pulse.

Stephen I am a Russian spy, Tony. That's what I am.

Hugh I beg your pardon?

Stephen I plan to overthrow the Queen.

Hugh Control, this is a bit of a surprise. All the more so because you're actually the head of the British Intelligence.

Stephen I aim to undermine the entire Western way of life.

Hugh Mmm. Before you do that, I'll go and telephone the relevant authorities. And as a precaution, please don't open any more letters.

Stephen No, it's all right Murchison. I'm not really a Russian spy.

Hugh Now Control. You mustn't say that just to spare me the paperwork.

Stephen No honestly, Tony, I'm really not a Russian spy. And you were right, by the way. I was taking my pulse.

Hugh I thought as much. Because you were gripping your wrist lightly but firmly and counting to yourself.

Stephen You see, our American counterparts have invented a new machine called a lie-detector, that let's you know when people are telling you fibs.

Hugh Surely that would be rather useful for people in our line of work, Control?

Stephen Exactly, Tony. The machine works on the well- known scientific principle that when someone's telling you a fib, their pulse speeds up.

Hugh Gosh, Control, how incredibly ingenious but at the same time how quite simple.

Stephen Sadly however, these machines are rather expensive to buy.

Hugh Oh dear. Our American counterparts do often seem to have lots more money to spend than we do, don't they, Control?

Stephen Yes, but what they have in money, I like to think we make up for in British know-how.

Hugh I'm not quite following, Control.

Stephen Well, Tony, at a fraction of the cost I have come up with this lie-detector. Indicates (stop-watch).

Hugh A stop-watch, of course! It cuts out the need for expensive and cumbersome equipment.

Stephen When I told you I was a Russian spy, I was telling a deliberate fib.

Hugh Ah. You wanted to see if your pulse got faster?

Stephen That's right.

Hugh Did it?

Stephen No.

Hugh Oh dear. If your pulse didn't speed up, that must mean ...

Stephen Yes. When I said I was a Russian spy, I must have been telling the truth.

Hugh Mm. So on the very first try of this technique you've discovered that you, the Head of British Intelligence, are a Soviet agent.

Stephen That's right. And Tony?

Hugh Control?

Stephen The 9.50 that it cost me to buy that stop-watch turns out to have been money well spent.

Hugh Gosh, Control. The implications of your discovery are considerable.

Stephen Aren't they, Murchison? The Minister will be ever so pleased.

Hugh Mmm. Don't you think we ought to test the technique again, just to make sure?

Stephen Good idea. We don't want to go round boasting that we've discovered that I'm a top level Russian spy unless we're absolutely certain.

Hugh My thoughts exactly, Control.

Stephen All right, Tony, you tell me a fib, and I'll see if your pulse goes up. Stephen takes Hugh's pulse.

Hugh Hmm. Let's see if I can think of something that isn't true. Oh yes, I know. My name is Susan Donovan. Pause. Stephen counts and then withdraws his hand.

Stephen Well, that seems to prove it.

Hugh Really?

Stephen Yes, Susan, really.

Hugh Mm. (Pause) Control?

Stephen Yes, Susan?

Hugh Why don't we go back to our old way?

Stephen You mean ... ?

Hugh Yes. The good old British Secret Service method of finding out if someone is telling you a fib or not.

Stephen All right. You first. Is your name Tony Murchison?

Hugh (Holding up hand) Yes. Cub's Honour.

Stephen My turn.

Hugh Are you a Russian spy?

Stephen I am not a Russian spy, cross my heart and hope to die.

Hugh Phew!

Stephen Glad we're all sorted out again.

Hugh Me too! You know what, Control?

Stephen What, Tony?

Hugh I'm going to bring you a cup of nice coffee now ... Makes to leave. Stops and smiles at Control. ... and that's the truth!

Stephen Boh!

Vox Pop

Stephen (As woman) I've always loved that story.

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