Our scene cuts abruptly to …
… a crotch shot of a man in a suit?
Ah, it turns out to be a team of high-powered-looking businessmen – Gruff and Reston, I presume! Albie watches the parade, looking … nervous? Pleased? Perhaps he’s out of sorts because he forgot to unbutton his shirt this morning!
Albie wonders where Steele is. If he doesn’t show in five minutes, all is lost!
Laura assures him there is new evidence forthcoming. It just hasn’t arrived yet.
Gotta say, I’m not lovin’ Laura’s outfit here. Ruffled blouses and shoulder pads were the height of fashion in the 80s, but they didn’t age very well. And that bun! Schoolmarm much, Laura? Fortunately, I predict Laura’s sense of style will begin to improve soon.
Here comes someone! Is it Mr. Steele?
Nope. Just good old Murph. He tells Laura that “Bernice is still out looking for her.” (Who’s her?) But Murphy has surprising news: There’s a message on the agency machine from you-know-who, telling them to wait for him. “He says he’s found George!”
Just then …
“Don’t look so shocked, Laura,” Steele protests. “I told you I have an instinct for this sort of thing!”
(Take that, Murph!)
Steele explains he’s been occupied …
… locating a pair of bolt cutters. He notes that they’d better get into the meeting, which has been called to order. He’s brought a friend.
Emery! Looks like the businessman has brought his luggage (he doesn’t travel light).
Murphy and Laura are nonplused. “So much for our theory,” Murphy remarks. It’s all too much for Laura’s sidekick.
He’s got places to go! People to see! Meanwhile, in the conference room …
… Mr. Steele is laying out his case! (The businessman next to him looks riveted!) Steele explains that he couldn’t refuse Albie’s desperate plea for help.
“By all accounts, George was a good friend,” Steele continues, patrolling the room. “A trusted colleague and a vital part of Ratooi.”
Back so soon, Murphy?
Steele continues his soliliquoy. He notes that some people thought George absconded with the company funds, but “proceeding from Mr. Fervitz’s belief that George was in grave danger, I followed an increasingly intricate trail of clues to uncover …”
“… this trunk!” Which, he regrets to inform them, contains ….
“No George!” Steele seems surprised.
Albie doesn’t get it! “What’s that?”
Steele seems lost for words. Laura seems … mortified.
Time for the real detectives to step in?
“The missing $5 million in assets, plus Ratooi’s new Deep Water game,” Laura explains.
“And George Kaplan?” asks Mr. Gruff. Or Mr. Reston. Or some random bit player.
“I believe Mr. Steele has been true to his word and delivered George as well,” Laura assures him. Steele looks pleased! He graciously declines Laura’s suggestion that he explain.
“Please, Miss Holt. Carry on!” She does!
“Gentlemen, if I may introduce Mr. Kaplan’s condominium manager, Miss LaTrelle!”
Mr. and Mrs. Fervitz look disturbed!
Murphy escorts Miss LaTrelle in. Aw, they make a cute couple, no?
Miss LaTrelle seems glad to see Steele. Fickle!
She sees the group gathered around the table. “Congratulations, Mr. Kaplan!” she says. “When they told me about your promotion, I’m not surprised about how wild the party was.”
Albie insists he’s never seen this woman in his life!
“If only you could have kept your stinking hormones to yourself!” Sheila snipes.
“Shut up, Sheila. They can’t prove a thing!”
Gruff/Reston/Whoever is at a loss! “Can you explain, Mr. Steele?”
Of course he can!
“Please, Miss Holt. Carry on.”
No glory hog, our Mr. Steele!
Laura is happy to oblige. “You see, ladies and gentlemen, when Mr. Steele said George was here, he was referring to the people who created George.”
“He was?” Arnoch seems surprised.
So does Mr. Steele! (I’m more surprised by the sudden reappearance of Mr. Steele’s pocket square. It wasn’t there a second ago!)
“About six months ago,” Laura continues, “Albie Fervitz, his wife Sheila and the late Izzy Webster realized Gruff and Reston intended to take over their company …”
“… and that in the end, they would be powerless to stop it.”
Wait a second. Who’s that chick behind Laura, and where did she come from?
Suddenly there’s a whole crowd of people in the conference room.
But we digress.
Laura explains that the Ratooi Trio concocted a plot to strip the company of all it was worth.
“Fascinating!” Arnoch declares.
“They invented a fourth executive: one George Kaplan. Gave him an office, credit card account, a condo …”
Mr. Steele seems to find this revelation a little uncomfortable.
Laura tells the crowd that they summoned the most reputable of detective agencies to declare that George had vanished: “along with their newest video game and a sizable amount of liquid assets.”
They knew the detectives would fail to find the non-existent George, and they’d split the booty.
“But there was a critical flaw in their plan,” Arnoch notes. “The girlfriend?” Yes, Mr. Arnoch!
“It seems Mr. Fervitz decided to take advantage of the condo to have an extramarital fling.”
Guess who’s sleeping on the couch tonight?
“But when Mr. Steele found her, Fervitz was forced to kill her before she exposed his dual identity and discovered the plan.”
So Mr. Steele is once again indirectly responsible for somebody’s death. That’s three for three, isn’t it? (Ben Pearson, Wallace, and now Cynthia.)
Mr. Arnoch is getting into this whole detective thing! “And when Izzy Webster discovered that their little plan had suddenly turned into murder -“
“He wanted out, and was killed by Fervitz before he could confess his involvement.”
“This is a matter for the police,” intones Gruff Reston, “and a brilliant piece of detection!”
“Thank you,” Steele demurs, “but I owe so much to t excellent support of my staff.” Murphy doesn’t look convinced of his sincerity, but I think Arnoch is a fan!
I’ll stop here. What do you make of this rather long denouement? I think Hitchcock may have done this plot a little better. Still, there are some nice moments here. Steele, believing he had the body, was very funny when he found he was mistaken. But he never lost his aplomb, smoothly handing off the case to Laura. For her part, Laura gave Mr. Steele credit where credit was due: It didn’t turn out quite as he had thought, but he definitely contributed to the solution of the case. I think Mr. Steele’s admiration for Laura’s brilliance and panache grew in this scene. He’s on his way to being smitten!
Next up, the tag!