Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962): Season 5, Episode 36 - Letter of Credit - full transcript

Henry Taylor visits the town of Kirkland where 3 years before a bank employee, Arnold Mathias, had been convicted of stealing $200,000 from the bank where he worked. None of the money has been found and Mathias always maintained his innocence. It would appear that Mathias had recently been killed in an attempted prison escape and Taylor visits the bank manager telling him he's an author researching a book on the robbery. It turns out that Taylor is after something altogether different and all is not altogether what it seems.

Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for that heartfelt

and technically
augmented cheer.

Will the delegates
please clear the aisles?

Return to your seats, please.

I have an announcement.

Will the delegate
from Yugoslavia

please report here at once?

The credentials
committee suspects

you may have made a mistake.

And now, ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to place a nomination,

a friend of,
a steadfast champion for,

and a man who...

I'm certain you have already
guessed his identity.

If not, I shall
give you a hint.

He is the producer of the
following television play.

Hey, can you tell me
where I can find a taxi?

I think there's one uptown.

Nobody comes to Kirkland
as a rule,

unless they got folks
here to fetch 'em.

Say, have there been
any other strange men

coming on the train
in the past two days?

No, sir, and it's safe to say I see
everybody that gets off at this station.

It's yours if you can
remember to do one thing.

If a strange man does
come in on the train,

you're to call the Grand Hotel and
ask for Henry Taylor. That's me.

If I'm out, you leave word with
the clerk, you understand?

Yeah. Henry Taylor.

Well, don't worry, Mr. Taylor,

I never forget
a name or a face.

And you needn't
mention this to anyone.

Not to anyone.

Not a soul, Mr. Taylor.

Is there something
I can do for you?

I'd like to arrange
to open an account.

Mr. Kern handles new accounts,

but he's in conference
just now.

Won't you wait?

Mr. Spengler will do nicely.

Mr. Kern is in conference
with Mr. Spengler.

If I didn't
come in now and then

to keep a check
on you, William,

you'd have my
bank in receivership.

You can take me out today, Sam.

All right, sir.

I should have
left you in charge here

instead of my idiot son-in-law.

Don't jostle me now!

I can't stand being jostled.

All right, young lady,
open that gate!

You're not an employee.

That's right, I'm not.

Couldn't be an employee, too.
Wide awake.

You must be a customer.

I hope to be.

New account?


Come out here and take
care of this gentleman.

Fifty-five years I was
president of this bank.

And in all that time I never
failed to shake hands

with every new account.

That's one thing folks could
always say about Josiah Wingate.

All right, Sam,
roll me out to the car.

Miss Foster, if that
gentleman wants to see me,

don't keep him waiting.

Josiah Wingate. My father-in-law.
He founded this bank.

They get difficult
as they grow older.

Yes. Yes, they do.

He can't seem to
adjust to retirement.

Won't you sit down, Mr...

Taylor. Henry Taylor.

I have a letter of credit
from my bank in Chicago.

I'd like to deposit
some funds in your bank

while I'm here doing
some research.

Oh. Research in
what field, Mr. Taylor?

Perhaps I can be of assistance.

I'm sure you can.

It's for a book I'm doing on
the subject of unsolved crime.

And you came here to
Kirkland to do research?

That's right. If you've seen a
newspaper in the past two days,

you must know that
Arnold Mathias is dead.

He was shot down while attempting
to break out of State Prison.

His cell mate, Thomas Henry,
escaped but Mathias was killed.

I, uh, I did hear a newscast.

And this is the bank where Mathias
was employed in December of 1957.

You didn't have to come
to Kirkland to learn that.

No, I didn't, but there
are a few things

I did have to come
to Kirkland to find out.

Let's go over a few
points, Mr. Spengler.

Arnold Mathias was
an employee here?

Hired by my father-in-law prior to his
retirement, and against my advice.

Because Mathias had
a criminal record?

A juvenile record.

Let's not make matters worse
than they are, Mr. Taylor.

You see, my father-in-law
has a philanthropic streak

where young people
are concerned.

Mathias came from
a broken home.

Usual story.

Mr. Wingate wanted
to give him a chance.

And I wanted to
protect our depositors.

But you kept him on after
you succeeded Mr. Wingate.

There was no reason
not to keep him on.

He was a willing worker,
apparently honest.

Then in the summer of '57,

the Dire construction company
transferred $500,000 in cash

from their St. Louis bank
to meet the local payroll

on the flood control dam
at the basin.

We had it placed in the vault.

Mr. Spengler, can I see
you a moment, sir?

What are you doing here? You know
you're not allowed in the vault.

Besides I thought
everyone had gone home...

Well, they did, sir, I had to
stay and check these reports...

You know the rule
that no one is permitted

in the vault area
but Mr. Kern and myself.

I just wanted to see you about my cash
reports, I can't make them balance.

Well, then, go back
to your cage

and recheck the figures
until you do.

Try it again, son.
Try it again.

This is the first time Mathias has
worked late since you hired him.

Just a coincidence.

I hope so.

It was only a few weeks later

that my father-in-law
suffered the stroke

which necessitated
his retirement.

I was left with
full responsibility.

We were all busy, Mathias
worked late more frequently.

Particularly on Friday
when the Dire payroll

had to be checked out
against the remaining funds.

There were two keys to the box,

Kern kept one,
I kept the other.

Sam Kern's son was playing
his first basketball game

for State U that night.

Sam's wife had telephoned
three times

to remind him that they
needed an early start

if they were going to
make it over icy roads.

Naturally, he thought it was
his wife calling again.

Sam returned with tragic news.

It had been my telephone
ringing, not his.

It was our housekeeper
saying that my wife

had suffered
a severe heart attack.

I left at once.

Well, there are
four checks here

that aren't covered, Mr. Kern.

Are they in the same account?
Yes, sir.

Let me see them.

Arnold, I can't get
my car started.

Can you give me a push?
Certainly, Mr. Spengler.

It will take me a few minutes to get
my car and bring it around front.

You told me not to leave that
old heap of mine on the lot

where the customers
could see it.

Can I do anything, Will?

Yes, will you call Dr. Clinton

and have him get over to
the house right away?


Mathias did bring
his car around

and gave me the necessary push.

he went back inside.

Naturally, I didn't return.

You've studied
this case, Mr. Taylor,

you know that that
night my wife died.

And nobody locked
the strong box?


Not even Sam realized
he'd left his key in it

until he opened the bank in my
absence, the following Monday.

And he saw the box was empty.

Mathias was arrested.

He never admitted
to taking the money?

But he was convicted,
Mr. Taylor.

This may be a small community

but we don't observe
the lynch law.

Arnold Mathias was
defended by Ira Casey.

One of the finest defense
attorneys in the state.

And I hired him.

Mathias was convicted

The jury was only
out 45 minutes.

You know what Mathias
did while he was in prison?

He obtained a set of court
records of his trial

and he went over every
word of the testimony

till he found what
he was looking for.

He marked it off,
then he drew a map.

How do you know this?

A writer can't reveal his sources
of information, they might dry up.

Then why should I believe you?

Because I'm in possession
of those records and the map.

I thought you might like
to go over them with me.

If you really are
interested in my book.

Do you really believe there's
a market for such a book?

Yes, I do.

You see, there's one very
interesting point about this case,

if Mathias did take the
$200,000 from your vault,

what did he do with it?

Not one dollar of it
has ever been found.

Is something wrong with my
letter of credit, Mr. Spengler?

Oh, will you excuse me
a moment, Mr. Taylor?

I want to see
if Mr. Kern's back.

Arnold Mathias, 24,
convicted of stealing $200,000

from the Kirkland Mercantile
Bank three years ago,

was shot and killed
this morning by a guard

while attempting to
escape from State Prison.

A cellmate, Thomas Henry, 40,

made good his escape
in a laundry truck.

Are you a sailing man,
Mr. Spengler?

Never been to sea, Mr. Taylor.

It's too bad Mathias
tried to escape,

he might have been paroled.

Well, parole boards are
notoriously slow in this state

and Mathias had no friends to
work for him on the outside.

Now that's not true.
I hired Ira Casey.

Who was a college
classmate of yours

and a friend
of almost 30 years.

What's wrong with that?

Nothing. I would have considered
myself lucky to have such a friend

if $200,000 had
disappeared from my bank.

I hired Casey
to defend Mathias.

And the Kirkland
Mercantile Bank.

You know, that's a very beautiful
model you have there, Mr. Spengler.

I don't suppose you bought
it here in Kirkland.

I'm not chained to Kirkland.
I get out occasionally.

Out. You know that's a
very apt word, out.

That's what Mathias wanted. Out
and a chance to clear his name.

Or to recover the $200,000
from wherever he'd hidden it.

Yes, but where could
he have hidden it?

Now, suppose Mathias did take
the money from the vault

but wasn't convicted,
what could he do with it?

He couldn't spend it
without creating suspicion

because after all he's a bank
teller on a fixed income.

Just as your Mr. Kern is a bank
officer on a fixed income.

Mmm-hmm. And just as I'm a bank
president on a fixed income.

That's my point.

Now the man who took that
money out of the vault

would have had to do
one of three things.

First, he could leave Kirkland,

which Mathias didn't.

It's here in the records.

Mathias made no attempt
to leave Kirkland.

Instead he went to a movie
on Friday night, alone.

He caught cold. And according
to his landlady's testimony,

he stayed in his room all
day Saturday and Sunday.

I know what's in the record.
I was at the trial.

Here's one of the sections
that Mathias bracketed.

The district attorney questioned
your housekeeper, Mrs. Holmes,

and she explained exactly what she had
done following your wife's attack.

She gave her the medicine prescribed
by Dr. Clinton. Question.

"Was Mrs. Spengler
subject to such attacks?"

Answer. "Yes, sir."

"We knew it was only
a matter of time."

"I gave her the medicine, got her
to bed, then called Dr. Clinton."

"He asked me to call
Mr. Spengler right away."

Mmm-hmm. "That's what I did."

Yeah. And what
are you trying to prove?

I'm not trying
to prove anything.

I'm just trying to discover what
Mathias had hoped to prove.

Now, here.

A few pages further on,

another bracketed
section appears.

This time it's Sam
Kern's testimony

where he tells of your difficulty
in getting your car started.

This part is underlined.

"Mr. Spengler came back
into the bank."

"He asked me
to call Dr. Clinton."

I wonder why Mathias
would underline that.

You said whoever took the money

could have done one of
three things with it.

What's the second one?

The second thing that could
have been done with the money

was as you suggested,
to hide it.

But where could Mathias
have hidden it?

His room was searched
at the time of his arrest.

His car was completely
torn apart.

Where did he hide it,
Mr. Spengler?


Mr. Spengler, you said you wanted
this report the minute it came in.


Has Mr. Kern returned yet?

Mr. Kern went to lunch.

At this hour?

It's after 11:00, Mr. Spengler.

Mr. Kern always goes
to lunch at this hour

in order to be back
for the noon rush.

I was just going myself
if you don't need me.

No, no, no. That's quite all right.
Go ahead.

Where did he hide it,
Mr. Spengler?

Mr. Taylor,

you've quoted
Ira Casey's summation

to the jury almost verbatim.

The only thing you've omitted

was his sentimental reference
to Mathias' tragic childhood.


Does that denote disapproval?

Oh, I hired Casey.

Unfortunately for Mathias,
Ira Casey was a friend

with a friend's loyalty
and a friend's blindness.

Didn't you know that Mrs. Holmes
had called Dr. Clinton

before she called you?

After all, your wife was his patient
and had been for some time.

Yet, you asked Mr. Kern
to go to the telephone

at the opposite end of the bank

and make a call which had
certainly been made already.

As a result, you were alone in
the vault for several minutes.

What was your
third possibility?

You told me
a very interesting story

a few minutes ago,
Mr. Spengler,

and an accurate one, except
for some important details.

I'd like to
point them out to you.

The Dire deposit must have been

a temptation to you
from the beginning.

Your marriage had been
an unhappy one,

and your father-in-law
was a domineering tyrant.

You had a readymade suspect
working right in the bank.

Record is a tough thing
to live down,

even a juvenile record.

Public is seldom forgiving when someone
has made off with a bank deposit.

Strikes too close
to the paycheck.

That's what you were
really thinking that day

when a half a million dollars
moved into the vault

of the farmers
and merchants of Kirkland.

And then,
on the day of the theft,

the day when Sam Kern was
anxious to get away early,

and Mathias was working late,

your wife suffered
another heart attack,

which gave you the chance you'd
been waiting for all these months.

You must have
recognized it instantly.

All you needed to do was clear the
vault area for a few minutes.

And then,
when the job was done,

be able to go home
to your stricken wife,

while Mathias was still at
work in the last tellers cage,

and while the vault with the
unlocked strong box inside

was still standing open.

The first step was to get
Mathias out of the bank.

That was a little tricky.

It's a small matter
to flood an engine.

And on a cold and
miserable December day,

no one would be likely
to question your story

that the car
just wouldn't start.

You knew Mathias would be
gone for several minutes.

His car was a good
200 yards away

according to the map
in this case.

That left only Kern
to get out of the way.

Leaving you alone,
only a few steps away,

from $200,000.

And no one in all this
time has thought to look

for the Dire funds in that
third and only possible place.

That $200,000 was
never found, Spengler,

because it never
left this bank!

It's here now. In the vault.

In your own deposit box.

Is that what Mathias told you?

When you were cellmates,
Mr. Henry?

The name is Taylor.
Henry Taylor.

You didn't think a small-town
banker would be clever enough

to check on that letter
of credit, did you? Huh?

Well, I did.

When I went outside I had Miss
Foster call that bank in Chicago

and that bank in Chicago has no
record of a letter of credit

having been issued
to any Henry Taylor.

Do you think you can come in here
off the street and blackmail me

with marked records
and a ridiculous map?

I don't care what
a dead convict suspected!

We're not discussing what
a dead convict suspected!

There's one thing
you don't know

about the convict
who didn't die.

He wasn't serving time for
anything as petty as grand theft.

Thomas Henry's a killer.

Thomas Henry is a convicted
murderer with nothing to lose.

All I have to do is
to dial that phone!

And Henry's rough.

He can make the Sphinx talk

if it would lead him
to $200,000.

Now go ahead and dial it!

The number for the
police station is 116.

No. Now don't be a fool.

Have you ever been worked over by
a really desperate man, Spengler?

Look, why should you be
concerned with Mathias?

Everybody thinks
he took the money.

Besides, he's dead.

But he didn't take it, did he?

It's in the vault, isn't it?

Yes. Most of it.

Now, be reasonable.
We can make a deal.

Thank you, Mr. Spengler.

We already have.

You made a mistake thinking
I was that escape convict.

I'm not Thomas Henry.

But I was certain that I could
ring a confession out of you

if I got here before Henry.

Lucky for you, I did.

My name is Lowden.
It's Henry Taylor Lowden.

I was the guard at State Prison

that shot Mathias when
he tried to escape.

I didn't know he was innocent.
That's why I'm here.

Kirkland Police Station.

I shall never again accept
a political nomination

without knowing the identity
of the office involved.

I like being a collector

but I rather hoped
it would be taxes,

not rubbish.

Perhaps I can resign next time

when we reassemble
at this same hall.

Until then, good night.