Red-Hot and Hunted by Fredric Brown
Source: Homicide Sanitarium, Detective Tales (Nov 1948)
Story Number: 82
This story utilizes one of Brown’s favorite themes: the madness or the apparent madness of either the protagonist or another main character. This story also has the quality of maintaining a high quality of suspense till the end.
Wayne Dixon is the actor whom no producer wants to cast. Adrian Carr is a producer who is thinking of doing a play called Bluebeard: a play which has 3 acts – the first is about a man committing a murder; the second act is about that man convincing everyone that he killed his wife and the third act yet to be decided. Wayne ends up meeting Carr in a bar and tells him that he killed his wife. Carr thinks he is just acting – trying to get the role in the bluebeard. The conversation continues in a bizarre way where Wayne is trying to convince Carr but Carr is having none of it. A few hours later, Carr is contacted by the police asking for Wayne’s whereabouts. Carr lies knowing about his whereabouts and goes back to the bar where he had left him earlier. Wayne confirms that he did kill his wife and that only a miracle can save him from going to the chair. And that miracle shapes up to a fitting finale where the ending could serve very well as the third act of the play.