Jessica is very sad today girls and boys. One of her idols, Lady Abigail Austin, has just passed away aged 101. Or possibly older. She’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma and she is no more.
Reading the obituary, Jessica was reminded of something she’d forgotten – that Lady Abigail was once caught up in a real life mystery, “and as you know, that’s something I’m familiar with.” It was not quite the same for Lady Abigail.
It was two years after World War 2 had ended and Lady Abigail was sailing on the Queen Mary, one night away from docking in New York City.
*CUE TRAVELLING BACKWARDS IN TIME MUSIC*
On the Queen Mary, we find a man looking distinctly concerned/beaten over the head, rushing about the corridors until he staggers into the pursers office. He asks to see the captain but the purser has no idea where he is, instead suggesting a trip to the ship’s hospital to fix the cut on Mr Danikan’s head. Mr Danikan hands him a note, orders him to have it telegraphed immediately and rushes off.
Up in the ship’s bar, Lady Abigail herself is kicking back with a champagne while Edwin Chancellor (played by Robert Vaughn whom as we all know in my head was in BASEketball, this episode of Murder, She Wrote and some things that weren’t BASEketball) sucks up and begs her to come and write for his detective radio show, a thing she seems disinclined to do.
They are soon joined by Captain Oliver, who is cruising about the bar making sure everyone is nice and boozed, probably. Before he can partake, there is a crash through the doors – it’s Danikan and he’s been stabbed. He shouts “Kapitan” a few times then collapses, dead.
Back in New York word about the murder has reached a certain newspaper office where Christy McGinn is trying to convince his boss to let him write more than just the crossword puzzles. Krumholtz wants nothing to do with him – until he finds out that the detective in charge is Christy’s father Martin McGinn, and that the ship is currently sitting in quarantine at the docks in New York.
On board, people are somewhat displeased at not being allowed off the ship. One such passenger, Arthur Bishop, begs the officer standing guard but the officer is unmoved. Orders are orders and all that jazz. Down below, Lieuteneant McGinn is getting the pursers statement (inexplicably with Edwin Chancellor) when words trickles down that Christy is trying to get on board the ship. Martin tells the captain to let him on. Christy is excited to tell his father about his new assignment covering the case but Martin is less enthusiastic, until Edwin offers to escort Christy to the gangway at which time Martin declares Christy stays. Edwin tells them all about how he’s a material witness due to seeing Danikan collapse in the bar with Lady Abigail, and on hearing about Lady Abigail’s presence on the ship Christy takes off to the A deck to meet her.
Up on deck Paul Viscard wheels his father Henri around, while Eleanor Cantrell and Daniel Maguire pretend like they don’t know each other while dealing with the fact that their affair is continuing a little longer. Christy finds Lady Abigail sunning herself, and confesses himself a huge fan of her books. Upon learning his name Lady Abigail declares herself to be a massive fan of his crossword puzzles and is delighted that they will be working together to solve the case. She tells him what the purser told Martin McGinn, with the added bonus of knowing what the message was that Danikan wanted sent – it was a note to his wife saying he was under the weather but that Sikorsky says hello and that they met him in Vienna in 1937.
Christy doesn’t see the significance until Lady Abigail tells him that CLEARLY Sikorsky is Andrei Sikorsky, legendary chess player presumed killed during the war. She shows him a book containing details of the match between Sikorsky and another player Von Richter, in which Sikorsky won after pulling a stunt that became known as Sikorsky’s Ploy. CLEARLY, Abigail explains, Danikan is Sikorsky! Or Von Richter! Or someone else being pursued by Sikorsky or Von Richter!
Christy is summoned by his father so he escorts Lady Austin inside, while unbeknownst to either of them Edwin Chancellor lurks on the gangway above them, eavesdropping on their entire conversation. Martin McGinn has already made progress on the motive and introduces them to US Treasury Agent Lennihan, who is less than enthused about sharing state secrets but informs them that Danikan was not Danish, but German.
“By the name of Von Richter I believe?” Says Lady Abigail.
“His name was Otto Krietzmann and he was an ex Gestapo officer.” Says Lennihan.
According to Lennihan, Danikan/Kreitzmann was part of a Nazi operation during the war to print millions of counterfeit US dollars to debase the currency and plunge the country into chaos. Before they could enact their Evil Plan of Evil, the war ended. The plates were presumed lost until word got out two months earlier that the plates were going to be smuggled into America by a gang of ex-Gestapo officers including Danikan and his wife. Scotland Yard were on the case and had trailed him as far as Heathrow but lost him. They only learned of his presence on the Queen Mary a day after it had sailed. Christy asks the captain if there were many people who booked to sail at the last minute. The captain says he believes so, and will check the books.
Meanwhile, Edwin Chancellor has taken it upon himself to start investigating passenger rooms below decks before being busted by passenger Nicholas Crane. Martin McGinn and the captain are called, and Chancellor informs them that despite knowing noone on board Danikan had been seen playing chess with Crane. Crane tells them he doesn’t know anything and they let him go, much to Chancellor’s horror. He tells them they are making a big mistake, that Crane is CLEARLY an alias for Von Richter and Danikan is really Sikorsky but the captain informs him that Danikan’s real name is Otto Kreitzmann and is about to start telling him about the counterfeit plate when McGinn shushes him and orders Chancellor to bugger off (or something to that affect).
The purser appears with the list of people who booked after Danikan/Kreitzmann, and they note that Nicholas Crane was one of them. Another was Arthur Bishop, the man trying desperately to get off the boat earlier. They interview him and he reveals he is a fashion designer and in his portfolio are designs for the New Look and he has to get off the ship.
“The New Look? What happened to the old one?” Asks Martin.
Christy asks the not altogether ridiculous question, if he was in such a rush to get to America why didn’t he fly?
“Because I’m not convinced the Wright Brothers got it right. Call me a skeptical coward.” Says Arthur.
They let Arthur return to his cabin, amid his protests that if his clothing line was affected he would be suing (much to the interest of the man working behind the bar). Martin McGinn calls for the next late booker to be brought forward, but Paul Viscard and his father are currently arguing with Agent Lennihan. The captain, Marty and Christy go to investigate, but Lady Abigail declines, saying she would speak to another late booker, Eleanor Cantrell,
Henri and Paul Viscard are strongly objecting to having their things searched, although since Paul Viscard did not come aboard with luggage it’s not really affecting him all that much. He tells the McGinns that he came on board at the last minute to ensure his father’s safe passage to Baltimore, where he would stay with his daughter. Henri tells them he was in his cabin with his son at the time of the murder, and that he was in fourth class due to first class being sold out.
Out on deck Lady Abigail’s cunning interrogation of Eleanor Cantrell manages to establish she is a nurse in the army, travelling alone on a week’s furlough and is returning on the next crossing back to Lancaster. She spots Daniel McGuire at the rail and excuses herself to go and talk to him – there’s a small matter of the steward delivering her six hundred bucks (the fare for the journey), which Daniel has given her since she can’t afford the trip.
Edwin Chancellor pops up just in time to critique Lady Abigail’s interrogation techniques when Arthur Bishop throws himself, and his suitcase, over the side. Daniel shouts man overboard and dives in after him. They manage to retrieve Daniel, who they expect will make a full recovery, but the fate of Arthur Bishop and his suitcase remain unknown. Eleanor stops in to see how Daniel is, but declines Edwin Chancellor’s invitation of a visit, and rushes away when he starts questioning her. Edwin excuses himself, saying he has something to check on. Christy reappears and confirms Abigail’s suspicion that Eleanor and Daniel were having an affair. The murderer, she was convinced, was someone else.
Christy goes to talk to Henri and Paul again and Henri confesses that he didn’t get a first class cabin because he is completely broke, and that he is emigrating to America, not seeing his daughter. His daughter, along with one of his sons, were killed in the war, leaving nothing for him in Europe.
Abigail reappears with the startling revelation that she’s solved the murder. She leads him out on deck with Nicholas Crane and tells him Crane knows all about the chess game referred to in Danikan’s note – Sikorsky sacrificed his bishop to lure Von Richter into a false sense of security and the game was mate in seven. A scream from the other end of the ship reveals that body of Arthur Bishop has been found. Christy tells his father that Abigail has solved the case, and gets him to gather everyone in the forward drawing room. Christy himself goes to get Edwin Chancellor from Stateroom 7, where he finds Chancellor on the phone, the door unlocked. Christy asks him if he always keeps the door unlocked and he says he has nothing worth stealing.
In the forward drawing room, Edwin Chancellor takes the floor. He’s convinced that the reason Danikan was shouting kapitan at the time of his murder was because he was murdered by a captain – Daniel Maguire. He might not be a captain now, but he was at the time he would have come across Otto Kreitzmann during the war when Maguire was part of an advanced company that took Gestapo headquarters, and he wasn’t in his cabin at the time of the murder like he says he was.
Eleanor comes clean with the truth – he was in her cabin. They were in love after she nursed him back to health during the war. Couple that with the fact that Kreitzmann wasn’t in Berlin when Daniel’s company took the Gestapo HQ.
Abigail takes over – CLEARLY Chancellor was wrong. OBVIOUSLY Bishop killed Kreitzmann, it was all in the note Kreitzmann sent, about BISHOPS and IAN BISHOP WORKED FOR MAJESTY FASHIONS. SO MANY CHESS CLUES GUYS IT WAS OBVIOUS.
Case seemingly closed, and with the missing plate at the bottom of the river, the passengers are free to go. Christy asks his father and Lennihan to accompany him down to Chancellor’s staterooms, where he lifts the carpet to reveal the missing plate. Because MATE IN 7 and FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER clearly means THE MATE OF THE COUNTERFEIT PLATE IS IN STATEROOM 7 UNDER THE CARPET BENEATH THE BAROMETER.
Whatever guys. That does leave the small matter of who killed Kreitzmann, since clearly Arthur Bishop had nothing to do with it. Fortunately the killer has just come forward to confess.
Paul recognised Otto Kreitzmann as the man who killed his brother, so bought a ticket and killed Kreitzmann. Game over. Captain Olliver vows to take him back to England, where he will stand trial for killing a Nazi scumbag and presumably get a slap on the back rather than a slap on the wrists.
Case closed. Daniel Macguire discovers that his wife has left him for a lumberjack and so is free to be with Eleanor, and more importantly, Christy never writes the story for the newspaper, so Lady Abigail Austin never finds out that her solution to the mystery was wrong. Because presumably noone reports on the fact that Paul Viscard gets tried for the murder of Otto Kreitzmann?
Oh never mind. Here’s a picture of Our Heroine being amazing as always.