Edgar Allan Poe reads his poetry to his wife and cousin Virginia, and she holds her black cat Pluto as she listens. Once he finishes, Virginia says that his poem is beautiful, and assures him that it's his best one yet. When he reaches for Virginia, Pluto scratches his hand. Edgar shoves the cat out of the room, undresses, and joins his wife in bed. However, as they kiss Virginia begins coughing up blood. She dismisses it as nothing, but Edgar sees the blood on her pillow.
Later, Edgar shows his poetry to his editor, George Graham. George says that he'll print it on his society page and pay a small rate for it, and Edgar insists that it's gold. The editor points out that the poetry is mostly popular with the female readers, and that he'll only accept them if Edgar writes more of his fantastical tales. Edgar imagines strangling George and tells the editor that he's working on a story at the moment. He assures George that he will have it for his October issue and asks for a small advance. George gives him a bill and wonders where the money goes.
Edgar goes to a bar to get drunk. When he calls for another bottle, the barman points out that Edgar hasn't paid him for the first one. Edgar loudly protests and the barman escorts him out. Another poet, Rufus Griswold, comes in and Edgar asks for a loan to pay his debt. Rufus points out that Edgar reviewed his last book and savaged it, and Edgar proposes that they wager on a cryptogram of the barman's creation. He then says that he can stand on one finger and puts up his pocket watch as the stakes. The barman agrees and Edgar has him point to a spot on the floor. When the man does so, Edgar steps on it and says that he didn't say it had to be his finger. Everyone bursts into laughter and the barman tosses Edgar out into the street.
When he staggers home, Edgar finds Virginia with a man, Fordham. Pluto winds his way around Edgar's legs, tripping him. Virginia explains that Fordham has been wondering where Edgar was, and Edgar says that he was detained by admirers. He offers to recite poetry, and Virginia reminds her husband that Fordham is there to buy their piano. Edgar refuses to sell his wife's piano, and Virginia points out that they discussed it and they need the money. She wants to do it for them, and Edgar tells Virginia to play for Fordham and for him one last time. Virginia does so and sings, but breaks into a coughing fit. Blood spews from her mouth, and Edgar has Fordham bring her a drink. She drops the glass and coughs blood everywhere. Edgar yells at Fordham to bring a doctor, while Pluto laps at the blood.
Later, the doctor checks Virginia and then tells Edgar that she must be kept no matter what. He warns that Virginia is consumptive and the hemorrhage could have killed her. The doctor advises Edgar to move Virginia to a milder climate and asks for $12 for his visit and the medicine. Edgar objects and finally tells him to send a bill to George. When the doctor points out that Edgar hasn't paid in the past, Edgar reaches for his pocket watch only to discover that it's gone. The doctor tells him to find another physician and leaves.
Furious, Edgar takes an axe to the blood-covered piano and smashes it to pieces. He sees Pluto trying to get at the parakeet in its cage and shoos it away, Edgar then turns and sees Virginia cleaning the blood from the intact piano, and she says that they have to sell it. He escorts her back to bed and gives her the sedative, and she figures that his taking care of her drives him to drink. Virginia tells him not to destroy his talent, and to write for her. Edgar says that he will.
At his table, Edgar stares at a blank piece of paper but the words don’t come. He looks at the parakeet and then the goldfish in its bowl, and Pluto tries to get at the fish. Edgar brushes it away and tries to write, and hears Virginia coughing in the bedroom. He snaps the quill tip and resharpens it, and cuts his finger. As Edgar sucks on the wound, he realizes that the goldfish is gone. The writer calls to Pluto, demanding to know what it's done, and orders it out. Virginia keeps coughing and when Edgar storms in to tell her to stop, he finds her covered in blood.
Edgar sits with his wife into the night, and dozes off. Pans crashing in the next room wake him up and he goes to investigate. Lighting a lamp, Edgar finds the bird cage tipped over and the parakeet on the floor. Bracing himself, Edgar finally brings himself to pick it up, apologizes, and crushes it. Pluto meows from the bedroom and when Edgar goes in, he finds the cat on a sleeping Virginia's chest. Edgar reaches for it and the cat claws his hand. He grabs it and takes it to the living room, and it fights its way out of his grasp. Edgar grabs his pen knife and then grabs Pluto from atop the piano, and gouges the cat's eye out.
Pluto runs off and Virginia comes out. She asks her husband what he's doing, and sees the one-eyed cat. Edgar says that Pluto must have gotten into a fight and he found it like that, and Pluto ate the goldfish and the parakeet. Virginia doesn't believe it and figures that Edgar has been drinking, and Edgar apologizes for his urge to do violence. His wife collapses in shock and tells Edgar not to leave her before dying.
Later, Edgar looks at his wife in her coffin at their home. Rufus and George are there, sharing a drink and talking about how Virginia was Edgar's cousin. Fordham and his wife offer Edgar their condolences, and George offers to advance Edgar a small sum so that Virginia can have a proper burial, He tells Edgar that they all have to go on, and Edgar says that he no longer wishes to write. Shocked, George wonders what else he will do, and hands him money and says that it will ease the pain. Furious, Edgar orders him and the others out.
Edgar takes a rope out of the drawer and prepares to hang himself. However, he sees Pluto on Virginia's chest and says that the cat killed Virginia. Edgar grabs Pluto, wrapping the rope around its neck, and strings it up from the rafter. He then pours the lamp oil on the floor and drinks the rest of the sedative, then picks up a candle and finally drops it into the oil. The room starts to burn, and Edgar turns to his wife's body. He says "Nevermore" and leans over to kiss her... and Virginia gasps in a breath. Edgar picks her up and carries her out of the burning room.
Later, the barman throws a drunken Edgar out of the tavern. As Edgar starts to walk away, he hears a cat yowling behind him. As Edgar continues walking, the shadow of a cat follows him. Edgar goes to his and Virginia's new apartment, where she is in bed coughing. She begs him not to leave her alone again, and Edgar says that he has failed her. As he promises to never take another drink, they hear a screeching noise at the window. Virginia insists on opening the window... and a black cat comes in. She realizes that it's not Pluto because it has a white patch around its neck like a collar. Edgar says that it can't stay, but Virginia says that she needs a companion. When she calls it Pluto, Edgar insists that it's not Pluto and storms out.
Edgar goes to the building cellar and removes a bottle of alcohol from where he hid it in a hole in the brick wall. He takes a drink despite his promise to Virginia, and hears a cat growling in the darkness. Edgar turns and sees the cat, breaks the bottle, and tries to stab the cat with it. Pluto runs off into the shadows and Edgar goes after it. He finds an axe and picks it up, and Virginia comes down the stairs. She realizes that he's drunk and reminds him of his promise, and Edgar mockingly says that she always believes him. He wonders how she can love him when he can't take care of her, Edgar admits that he can't write, and Virginia tries to take him upstairs to their apartment.
As they go up the stairs, Pluto yowls and Edgar goes after it with the axe. He swings and misses as it runs off, and he goes after it. Virginia grabs the cat and Eddie swings at it... and embeds the blade in his wife's head. Screaming in agony, Virginia pulls the axe from her head and then collapses as Edgar stares in horror. People upstairs call out, hearing Virginia's screams, and Edgar closes the cellar door. He finds a shovel and tries to dig a hole, only to find a concrete foundation.
Looking around, Edgar sees the whole where he kept the bottle. Reaching in, he realizes that the space behind the bricks is quite large. Using the axe, Edgar breaks open the wall and then puts Virginia's corpse inside. After kissing her hand, Edgar mortars the bricks back into place and bids her farewell.
Two nights later, Edgar tries to write without success. He hears a piano play a few bars but dismisses it as his imagination, and then a rocking chair in the room rocks by itself. Edgar reaches for it and it stops, and someone knocks at the door. Assuming that it's Virginia, Edgar yanks open the door and finds two policemen there. One of them, Sgt. Booker, says that several of his neighbors heard screams two nights later. Edgar says that he was too busy writing to notice anything, but invites them in to look. Booker says that they were there a day ago when the complaint was first made, and Edgar didn't answer the door. Edgar says that he was drinking and offers Booker the bottle.
Edgar wonders why the neighbors didn't ask him about the disturbance, and Booker says that they're afraid of him. The other policeman reports that there are no signs of violence, and Edgar says that Virginia is visiting relatives in Baltimore. As they go, Edgar suggests that they search the basement. He leads them downstairs, assuring them that the walls are well constructed. Booker figures that there is nothing there and says that they must be going... and a scream comes from behind the bricks.
The two policemen hear the screams as well, come back, and see the troweling tools on the floor. They break down the wall and see Virginia's corpse... and Pluto standing on it, screaming. Edgar runs upstairs, screaming, and runs into his apartment. Gasping for breath, he slams the door shut behind him... and hears Virginia coughing in the next room. Edgar looks in and Virginia rises from her bed and steps into the light. She's unharmed, and Edgar hugs her in relief. Pluto slinks out of the shadows, unharmed, and Edgar says that he can give George another of his fantastical stories. The next day, Edgar finishes his new story: "The Black Cat."
Written by Gadfly on Aug 23, 2016