Back in NYC Fletcherfans, where Our Heroine is attending a political fundraiser on the invitation of Theo Wexler, who is introducing her to all the attending bigwigs as her new literary agent.
Turns out that’s a bit of an overstatement – what’s actually happening is that her agent retired and he’s taken over the business, and is desperate to keep her at the agency (and isn’t doing a great job of it so far).
Among the other guests at the party are Axel Weingard and his wife Marta, who don’t seem to be enjoying each other’s company, Miles Hatcher, a real estate broker, and this guy.
Meanwhile I don’t think JB is having such a great night.
JB is saved by the Andy the waiter from South Carolina, who brings coffee and lots of admiration. Turns out Andy is a budding writer himself, and if she had a second, he could really use her advice. Alas his boss spots him chatting and he scurries off again just as JB gets a visit from the mysterious Dennis Stanton requesting the pleasure of the next dance. JB accepts, but not before confirming that he’s not another literary agent.
“Not at all. My motives are highly personal and only moderately selfish.” Says Dennis.
After a brief but dominating waltz…
…JB retires for the evening, but her night ain’t over yet.
“Hello again Jessica, I was in the neighbourhood so I thought I’d sort of drop in.” Says Dennis. He thanks her from saving him from no end of embarrassment and departs – only to return a second later saying “on the other hand, there’s no sense in rushing off, care to offer me a nightcap?”
JB demands an explanation but Dennis says he has to be discrete and would JB do him a favour and tell anyone who knocks at the door that he’d been in her room for the last half an hour?
“Then you’d rather see me shredded like a cabbage by an irate husband?” Says Dennis.
Huh. I see how this is.
Dennis decides the coast is clear and bids JB good night, saying that meeting her was a delight he will cherish forever.
As JB dwells on this, Dennis the Menace departs the hotel, carefully avoiding the crowd out the front and the swarm of police cars that just arrived. SHADY STANTON.
The next morning JB gets a visit from Andy the waiter who bribed his way up with her breakfast so he could continue the conversation they were having the previous evening. Unfortunately for Andy Jess has just noticed an article in the paper about a jewellery theft that happened the previous evening. Someone stole Marta Weingard’s necklace between 12 and 12:30am – the same time Dennis the Menace was acting all shady in Jess’s room. Apparently Mrs Weingard was very upset – but noone knows what Axel thinks about it all, as he’s disappeared. Jess asks Andy if it’s possible that the Weingard penthouse could be above her hotel room, and it turns out that it is. JB has an inkling she knows who the burglad is, and departs, telling Andy she’ll talk to him later about his book.
Downstairs JB finds Lieutenant Alffano studying the newly discovered body of Axel Weingard, who had been dumped in a maid’s laundry basket and taken down to the basement. Alffano listens to JB’s description of Dennis Stanton the previous evening while across town Theo Wexler is telling Miles Hatcher that he’s not investing in his condo development, as he heard Axel Weingard was about to pull out of the project. Miles concedes he’s having a problem with Axel but points out that Theo hates Axel just as much as Miles does. Their meeting ends with the arrival of JB, who is set to tell Theo that she’s going to find another agent. Theo begs her to stay, saying they’re in a bit of a mess financially, and Weingard’s publishing company dropped four of Theo’s clients for no reason. JB informs Theo that Weingard has ceased to be, and Theo gets on the phone to his broker immediately to dump his stock in Axel’s company.
Leaving Theo’s office (and presumably on the hunt for a new agent), JB bumps in to Dennis the Menace loitering outside. He remembered she had an appointment at Theo’s office and to show there were no hard feelings about her sicking the police on to him he’s decided to take her to lunch at a Burmese restaurant. JB is not swayed and demands answers, like what’s this she hears about an alibi for the theft/murder? Dennis tells her that as far as the police know he was playing gin rummy with councilman Wellington Kendall until the wee hours, and yes that was techincally a lie but the lady he was visiting was married.
“Don’t you mean was?” Says JB.
“What an opinion you must have of me.” Says Dennis, scandalised. He’s already moved on to bigger and better ideas though, like having JB for dinner that night. She tells him she’s going back to Boston on the 5pm flight, but that next time she’s in town they’ll have a date.
Back in her hotel room JB is packing up ready to go when she gets another unexpected visitor on her balcony – this time it’s Shannon McBride, special claims investigator for Sasquahana Fire and Casualty insurance company. Her company holds the paper on the missing necklace, and she has some questions for JB after learning that Dennis Stanton was in her room the previous evening. JB confirms that he was but says she’s having trouble getting people to believe her. Shannon does, saying that Councilman Wellington Kendall is Dennis’s brother in law, and that he’s been alibiing Dennis for years. She can’t prove it, but she thinks Dennis the Menace is a cat burglar, and tells JB to tell Dennis there’s a hundred grand reward for the return of the necklace, and fifty for JB if she talks Dennis into returning it.
As Shannon deprats JB gets a call from Lieutenant Alffano. They’ve arrested a suspect – but it’s Andy the waiter and he’s not asking for a lawyer he’s asking for JB.
It turns out Andy sent his book to Axel’s publishing company the previous year, and while they didn’t publish it they did rip it off and put out a similar book. JB is perplexed as Andy explains the plot and wonders how he can be so angry Weingard stole his idea when Andy stole it from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Andy tells her he didn’t steal it, he adapted it, and it was his idea first.
JB has some followup questions for Lieutenant Alffano, namely how did the thief get the necklace off the neck of Marta Weingard. Alffano explains that she took it off following a fight with her husband and threw it at her husband before going off to get some air/sober up. JB tells him it makes absolutely no sense that Andy would steal the necklace if he wanted revenge for the book situation. She’s convinced Dennis is involved, and has an idea for proving it. She calls him and says her plans have changed, and he is delighted to hear she’ll be coming for dinner. Off the phone, Lieutenant Alffano is impressed with her nerve, but JB has more important things on her mind like getting her hands on the case report.
That night, Alffano drives her to Stanton’s apartment and gives her a transmitter so they can listen in on their conversation. JB asks him about a couple of points in the case report, namely a red carnation petal with a drop of blood on it, which wasn’t the victims, and the scratches on the victims hand. Alffano confirms they think the carnation belonged to the killer but that they aren’t sure what caused the scratches on Axel’s hand.
Upstairs, Dennis asks what caused JB’s change of plans and she tells him she has a message for him from Shannon McBride. He correctly assumes it’s about the reward and tells JB that Shannon has been after him for years, convinced of his guilt. JB charms him into playing a ‘what if’ and the truth comes out – Dennis is a cat burglar, but only steals high end items from people who can afford it, and are insured with Sasquahana Fire and Casualty – the company that wouldn’t pay his late wife’s medical bills and left him in debt a quarter of a million dollars in debt. He exacted revenge by stealing items insured by the company – he made his money back years ago, now he’s just sticking it to the man. But he didn’t kill Axel Weingard, and he regrets to tell her that he didn’t even steal the necklace. When he went up to steal it he heard Axel Weingard arguing with someone and retreated to the bedroom. He went back for a second look after about 20 minutes and found the room (and the safe) empty. The arrival of Mrs Weingard saw him retreat to the balcony and drop in on JB.
JB asks him if he didn’t go into the lounge room like he claims then how did a red petal get in there as it says in the police report. Dennis asks her if she’s in the habit of reading police reports, finds the transmitter and legs it off the fire escape before the NYPD burst through the door.
Back at the precinct Shannon McBride is convinced of his guilt and tells them her report will be the same way. JB convinces Lieutenant Alffano that Andy is innocent and Alffano releases him. Later, he calls her to tell her that Dennis is almost certainly guilty, and that he’s just called his brother in law to say he’s leaving town but that once he’s sold the merchandise he’ll send him a piece of the action.
JB and a red carnation say differently.
Miles admits to everything, strangling Axel when he refused to stay a partner in the business deal, dumping the body and stealing the necklace in order to make it look like a robbery.
And what of Dennis? Thanks to some slick lawyering, a suspended sentence and some probation. But his thieving days are over. So he says. I think this isn’t the last we’re going to hear of Dennis the Menace.
And on that note