We’re in San Francisco this week Fletcherfans, where there’s a dead guy on the pavement, another guy looking close to death on the pavement, a gaggle of theatre people looking very sad/hungry
Also at the scene is Jerry Stiller being a cop, Our Heroine being Our Heroine and a ghost from Christmas past who I will get to in a minute.
The gang all adjourn to the nearest hospital to wait for updates on the condition of the not dead guy, while hurling accusations around about who’s fault it is.
Meanwhile, JB is chatting to Lieutenant
Jerry Stiller Birnbaum who wants answers, and since everyone else is hysterical, it’s up to JB to fill in the blanks.
Turns out, the story only begins that morning, when JB is at her hotel having breakfast when she gets a phone call from a mysterious stranger who turns out to be sitting not far from her.
You may remember Dennis the Catburglaring Menace from such times as this one. He’s back, much reformed, and he has PLANS for JB. No, not those plans, operatic plans. Renowned opera singer Rosanno Bertolucci is in town and Dennis wants to take JB not only to the performance, but to meet the singer himself.
Rosanno Bertolucci is delighted to meet JB and even more delighted to tell her about how Dennis has helped to raise over $200,000 for orphans from the takings of that night’s performance. I only mention this because it never comes up again and I don’t know whether Dennis Stanton is a reformed cat-burglar or a hallucination. It’s too hard to tell.
Rosanno’s wife and aunt appear from a morning’s shopping with a new jacket for Rosanno and the news that the production’s tenor has been badmouthing Rosanno and his protege Maria in the newspaper. Rosanno, it would seem, can take insults directed at him but is outraged that anyone is having a go at Teresa. JB and Dennis, on the other hand, are more interested in the gun they’ve just spotted tucked into Rosanno’s pants (not code).
Rosanno explains that while they were on tour in Japan and Hong Kong an unsavoury gentleman by the name of Faraday was hanging around with some shifty looking associates, and so he got the gun for protection. Rosanno Bertolucci has no time for American gun laws, despite JB’s friendly advice.
Jerry Stiller Birnbaum is rather interested to hear about the gun and the shifty associates but Jessica’s not done yet. That night, she explains, she got to the theatre an hour before curtain and was backstage with Dennis The Menace. The place was a madhouse, with people and sets and props everywhere. Maria the protege was having her hands full trying to keep fellow singer Giorgio’s hands off her while her actual boyfriend, a journalist named Barry, sneaks out before Rosanno can catch him with Maria in her dressing room. While Jessica and Dennis deal with Hodor launching a tirade against critics, a shady character slinks backstage before being caught in Maria’s dressing room – it’s Lou Faraday. Rosanno hurls him down the stairs and tells him if he’s caught near Maria again, Rosanno will kill him.
Jerry Stiller Birnbaum is even more interested to hear this, but JB still ain’t done. The show went ahead with everyone performing brilliantly, except Maria. After the performance, JB and Dennis went backstage to congratulate everyone, but are cut short by screaming coming from Maria’s dressing room. Rosanno breaks down the door and finds Maria freaking out that Lou Faraday had been in her room, and had just left via the fire escape. Dennis the Menace orders someone to call the police and goes down the fire escape after them. JB and Rosanno’s wife Sylvana rush to the alley, they hear two gunshots and find Rosanno on the ground, having a heart attack. He tells them Lou Faraday shot at him so he fired back in self defence.
That’s all well and good, says Birnbaum, except that Faraday was almost certainly shot while he was lying face down, there was no gun found on Faraday, but there were two spent cartridges in Rosanno’s gun. A kerfuffle outside erupts when the doctor informs them that Rosanno wants to speak to his aunt Teresa and that’s it – not his wife and certainly not the cops.
The next morning JB pays a visit to Lieutenant
Jerry Stiller Birnbaum to ask him what happened to Lou Faraday’s windbreaker – he was wearing it when he first went to the theatre, but wasn’t when his body was found. Fun fact – some outrageously awful overdubbing happens in this scene, I had to skip back about 5 times to see whether I was going nuts or not. But that’s neither here nor there. JB also asks about the angle of the gunshot – a 45 degree angle. Lieutenant Jerry Stiller Birnbaum is unconcerned about all of that though – he’s got the case pretty much locked down, he just needs proof. He’s keen to find out what Rosanno told her in the hospital the night before but Teresa ain’t talking.
A call comes in for JB – it’s Dennis the Menace, offering to chauffeur her around for the day. He makes plans to meet her at the opera house, hangs up and grunts (trust me, watch the episode). As he leaves, he notices a car tailing him and tries to evade them in a car chase through San Francisco but never mind that because I’VE WORKED IT OUT DENNIS STANTON IS A SHAPESHIFTER.
Dennis Stanton. Dennis Stand-in. Something something funny.
Over at the theatre JB is filling in Maria and her boyfriend Barry on Rosanno’s condition – he’s much better, but won’t be performing for awhile. JB wonders how Lou Faraday got into Maria’s dressing room again, but Barry tells her the stage guard always watches the performance, so it wouldn’t have been difficult. JB also asks Maria about the windbreaker, but Maria knows nothing, just that he must have changed his clothes – he wasn’t wearing it when he was in her dressing room that night. Jess thinks that’s odd considering Rosanno’s threat. Rosanno made no effort to hid his jealousy. Hint hint.
Maria informs JB that Rosanno is only a friend, nothing more.
Dennis arrives with the news he’s being tailed and offers to take Jess over to the hospital to chat to Rossano, who has just woken up and is expected to make a full recovery. She runs into Birnbaum and tells him her new theory – that someone dressed as Faraday, shot the real Faraday and made Rossano think he was shooting at Faraday. Birnbaum thanks her kindly for passing her theories along, and that she has an enjoyable flight back home to Vermont.
Back at his apartment, Dennis has just discovered his home trashed and a customs agent with a gun pointed at him. It turns out that there are some missing emeralds that he believes were smuggled into the country via the opera company, and since Dennis’s record was – noteworthy – he became the target of the investigation, although they are keeping tabs on everyone hoping that the emeralds will be recovered.
Over at the hospital, Sylvana and Rossano are arguing about Maria when the phone rings – and it’s Maria. Sylvana listens in but only hears Rossano say he will take care of it. He tells her he is tired and bids her goodnight. As soon as she leaves, he sneaks out of the hospital (after clocking his police guard on the head and stealing his uniform) and heads to Maria’s boyfriend Barry Sanderson’s apartment. Inside, he finds the apartment trashed, Maria unconcious and Barry lying dead in the courtyard below the fire escape. He goes to Maria just as the police arrive.
My GOD the melodrama.
Down at the police station Birnbaum won’t let JB near him or Rossano, but Dennis has been able to ferret out some information, the most interesting of which is that the missing emeralds were found in Barry’s pockets. The new theory is that Rossano found out Barry was double crossing him and so killed him, which seems plausible until Rossano’s aunt butts in – Rossano, she says, is only guilty of being a devoted father.
UGH SO DRAMA.
Long story short, Rossano had an affair, found out later that a baby resulted, and when that baby turned up on his doorstep with letter from her now dead mother asking for Rossano to put the girl in the company how could Rossano say no? So he didn’t. Teresa swears Sylvana knows nothing about it.
Birnbaum still doesn’t buy it, but he has time to tell JB and Dennis that they found the missing windbreaker before kicking them out of his office. That seals it for JB as to who the killer is, but hasn’t got a clue how to prove it.
Cue suitably melodramatic trap.
Through a cunning use of Sylvana being jealous of her husband’s daughter, they get her to reveal she’s not really Rossano’s daughter, she and her boyfriend Lou Faraday had to get the emeralds into the country, blah blah double cross etc.
What I want to know is, when are we going to talk about Dennis Stanton’s shapeshifting ways?