The Actress is a short story, written by Agatha Christie.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Jake Levitt can’t believe his luck when, one evening at the theatre, he recognises Olga Stormer, the lead actress, as Nancy Taylor. He knows Nancy has a guilty secret and he decides that he is going to blackmail her.
The next day a letter is delivered to Olga’s dressing room and she discusses it with her agent. She decides to set up a plan of action starting with an invite letter to Levitt to meet at her house at 9 o’clock that evening.
Levitt knocks on the door and, realising it was open, he walks into the empty flat where a note from Olga is on the table saying that she would be back in about ten minutes.
The silence of the flat make Levitt restive and he begins pacing about the room. Suddenly he sees an arm sticking out from behind the curtains! There is a woman lying there that he thinks is Olga. He holds the outstretched arm of the woman and there is no pulse. He then tries to untangle the cords of the curtain which are round the neck and her purple bloated face turns towards him. He realises that it’s not Olga and this is murder!
Suddenly a maid appears behind him and accuses him of murder as she has seen him with both cords in his hands! He thinks he has been set up – Olga has killed her rival and he is getting the blame. He is stuck – but as the maid reaches for the little revolver on the table he makes a run for it and gets away. He leaves the country without delay.
Olga had doped her understudy at the theatre and set the scene with the girl’s face painted purple and a tourniquet on her arm so there would be no pulse! Olga was the maid who had come in and accused him of the murder!
- Jake Levitt
- Olga Stormer
It was first published in The Novel Magazine in 1923, under the title A Trap for the Unwary. It was not published in a short story collection until 1997 when it appeared in the U.K collection While the Light Lasts and Other Stories and the U.S. collection The Harlequin Tea Set.