When one of his colleagues, Arthur Wilson (Maurice Good), has his pay-packet stolen, Frank Marker is the obvious suspect.
The legacy of his criminal record and how it colours other people’s opinions of him is the main thrust of this episode. Although his criminal past should have been a secret at the firm (only the owner, Kendrick, knew officially) somehow it’s public knowledge – which places him firmly in the frame.
While the police, in the form of Detective Constable Broome (Leslie Lawton), are making enquiries, Frank is totally oblivious to the oncoming storm. He’s enjoying an afternoon off and has decided to do some shopping. He passes by an antiques shop and is rather taken with a china figure he sees in the shop window. It’s absolutely the last thing you would expect Marker to be interested in, and his reason for being drawn to it allow us to explore some previously unknown facets of his character.
He tells the shop’s owner (Susan Richards) that his family had something similar when he was a child. “Must have been the only thing we had that was worth anything.” She presumes that it must have been a happy family, since he has an attraction to this object. Frank tells her, matter-of-factly, that no, they weren’t particularly happy and he’s not able to articulate fully the reason why this figurine appeals to him. This is a lovely character moment for Marker and it seems to exist in the story purely for this reason – to shine a little light on this incredibly private man.
Frank has a visit from Broome who accuses him of the theft. Marker vehemently denies it. “And I’m favourite? Yes, of course. Well go on, search the place. Take the bed apart, take the carpet up.” The indignity of being visited by the police and having his room searched obviously affects him (he eats little at dinner time). It’s then interesting to see how Mrs Mortimer and Enright (who, like Marker, is an ex-con lodging with Mrs Mortimer) react.
When Broome calls, Frank is out and although Mrs Mortimer agrees he can wait, it’s clear from her tone that she views the police officer with hostility. Enright turns down Frank’s offer of a drink at the local pub, claiming he’s got some work to do, but since he’s coming towards the end of his probation no doubt he’s reluctant to get involved with anyone who’s attracted the attention of the police.
Later, Mrs Mortimer brings Frank a whisky in his room. They then have a heart-to-heart discussion, which is a major step towards developing their friendship. She tells him that she believes he’s innocent and goes on to explain that contrary to Frank’s surmise, she isn’t a widow – her husband is alive and (sadly for her) well. Frank, as he so often is, is more of a listener than a talker, but it’s another well crafted character-based scene from Roger Marshall.
Next day, Frank has to face the accusing stares of his work colleagues. He approaches Wilson and tells him that he didn’t steal his money and although Wilson says he believes him, from the tone of his voice it’s apparent there’s still considerable doubt. Alfred Burke, once again, is on great form here, crackling with anger as he faces down Wilson. “You lost eighteen quid, I could lose eighteen months.”
He does have some supporters though. Kendrick’s secretary, Jenny (Tania Trude) believes him and she does assist in clearing his name. Wearing a selection of ridiculously short skirts, Trude was a very appealing presence in both this and the previous story. She only has a handful of television credits, of which Public Eye was her penultimate one. Where she is or what she’s doing now is something of a mystery, but she’s one of those actresses that managed to light up the screen and therefore leaves you wondering why she didn’t have a much longer career.
Thanks in part to Jenny, the truth eventually comes out. Wilson’s money was stolen by his friend Starkie (Brian Croucher on fine form as a loud-mouthed yob). Starkie says he only took it as a joke, in order to teach Wilson a lesson (Starkie’s miffed that Wilson never wants to go out anymore, instead he prefers to stay at home with his family).
That should be that then, but Kendrick is forced, reluctantly, to let Marker go. He says he doesn’t want to, but he’s been advised that Frank’s continued presence would be a “disruptive element”. Again, Burke’s first-class here, railing against the injustice of it all. But it’s all to no avail, and so the episode ends with Frank walking out of the yard for the last time.