Apologies for the break in transmission Fletcherfans but there was shenanigans a-plenty this summer, including the safe arrival of my nephew Harry James Williamson as you can see by this incredibly Youtube recreation of our meeting.
On second thoughts, not so accurate. My brother doesn’t have that much hair. I am definitely a hornbill though. And my sister-in-law is basically Nala. And I’m almost certain my brother’s puppies bowed.
I should also mention, the blog appears to have accumulated some new followers so if you’ve just wandered onto this omnishambles of a blog I say welcome! And sorry! And I hope you enjoyed Breaking Bad because that comes up way more often than you think.
But never mind all of that, because we have business to attend to and by business I mean bookends. Our Heroine has just received a cassette tape letter from her old pal Dennis
The Menace Stanton and while it was adequate, she can’t help but think of an earlier cassette he sent her about a case he’d worked on. Because as it turns out, Dennis The Menace has retired from being a cat burglar and is now a..er…consultant to insurance companies.
Would you like to hear the tale?
Imagine, if you will, a cafe in San Francisco called the Pepper Pot Cafe. Now imagine that the owner, a Mr Langston ‘Lanny’ Douglas has squandered his family fortune including the cafe.
Also, you probably aren’t imagining Lanny properly, so let me help you out a little:
Now imagine a mysterious stranger called Mahmoud Amini wanders in offering Lanny a lifeline – 10% of 2 million dollars. $200,000 grand easy money, as long as he convinces his mother to sell Amini a priceless Stuart Silver dollar that Lanny’s father bought not that long ago for a whopping five hundred grand.
(Bless the 80s. You can’t buy an apartment for that in Melbourne).
Lanny’s mother, Monica Douglas, is less impressed, mostly because she already has 2 million dollars and a great deal more besides. In fact, Andrea is furious that these foreigners insist on coming over and buying up her heritage. Her husband loved that coin and she won’t be parted from it.
More on Pedro later.
To make Lanny’s day just that little bit better, his wife Andrea saw the whole failed shambles and is toasting him with a 2pm whiskey.
Andrea’s got bad news for Lanny – she talked to her father about borrowing more money from him and while it amused him no end, the money ain’t coming. Lanny announces he won’t be home that night, he has to “work” in the city to which Andrea retorts that she knows how to play too. As Lanny departs Andrea realises someone has been eavesdropping.
Later that night, Lanny hatches his DIABOLICAL SCHEME.
Lanny sneaks into the study, opens the safe, steals all the jewelry inside, closes the safe, puts gelignite on the safe and blows up the safe closes the door to the patio, smashes the glass in the door for good measure and is promptly busted by Pedro the gardener, whom Lanny promptly stabs to death with a pitchfork.
Guys, Lanny is an arsehole. Who apparently has access to mild explosives. But apparently we shouldn’t dwell on that.
The next morning, the cavalry arrive in the form of Lieutenant Catalano (being played by Ken Swofford, because always). Catalano gets the low down from Mrs Douglas before noticing a familiar figure gazing at a painting in the next room.
Dennis informs Catalano that his bosses are the insurers of the magical silver dollar, and he’d like a word with Mrs Douglas if he might. Catalano can’t think of any objections so Dennis heads on in to see Mrs Douglas, now joined by her sister Grace Lambert (aka the woman overhearing arguments the previous day). Dennis gently interrogates them about the other occupants of the house, which Grace sees through in about 5 seconds. She asks him why he’s so interested in the fact that Lanny spent the night at a hotel in the city.
Why? Because Dennis smells a rat, that’s why and he says as much to his assistant back in the office. The timeline of the theft is all wrong. If Monica heard the bang and rushed straight downstairs as she claims, there would hardly be time for a thief to ransack the safe, smash the door, kill Pedro and flee the scene. And let’s not forget dear old Lanny’s been harassing his mother to sell the coin. Dennis gets his assistant to track down the mysterious Mr Amini, while he pays a visit on Lanny.
On arriving at the Pepper Pot, Dennis nearly crashes into a hastily departing vehicle being driven by someone who isn’t Lanny. Dennis receives some resistance from Lanny’s associate on the desk, but after displaying the fact that HIS UMBRELLA HAS A SWORD IN IT (WTF?) Dennis convinces the man to stand aside, leaving the doorway clear. Inside, the office is empty but Dennis notices a small pool of blood, and a photo of Lanny and his wife posed in the office next to a ridiculously over-sized golf trophy, now missing. Dennis bids Lanny’s minion good day and returns to his office to fill Lieutenant Catalano in. Catalano is surprised to hear that Lanny Douglas is almost certainly deceased, and probably at the hand of the mysterious driver of the car. When pressed for more information, Dennis simply says “I’ve given you my pearls, don’t ask me to string them for you too”.
Almost definitely code.
Dennis’s next visit is to Mr Amini, who is Mr Affable until Dennis confronts him about the coin. He denies all knowledge of anything ever in the history of time, but after being informed the likely sentence for murder he comes clean. He did receive a coin from Lanny, paid for in 2 mill in cash, but it was a fake. Amini was outraged, but not as outraged as Lanny was when Amini got him on the phone. They had made plans to meet later that day to sort the matter out, so to hear Dennis’s theory that Lanny is now dead is worrying for Amini.
Later that night, the old guy in the car pulls up beside a ditch, pulls Lanny’s body out of the trunk of the car and throws him in it.
The next day, Dennis’s expert confirms that the coin is a fake and demands her payment be dinner with Dennis that Friday. Dennis looks unhappy at the prospect.
Dennis’s boss is curious though. Who has the coin? Lanny? Dennis thinks not, and here’s another thing – where’s the 2 million dollars?
Dennis returns to the scene of all the crimes, and on the way in passes the mysterious car driver leaving the Douglas family driveway. Inside, Grace Lambert informs Dennis that Monica is too worried about her son to see him right now. It’s clear that Grace doesn’t like Dennis very much. (Possibly wise.) Dennis asks about the mysterious man in the car, and Grace tells him that that was Lanny’s father -in-law, Ray Bascomb.
THIS PLOT IS THICK FLETCHERFANS.
As Dennis departs he runs into Lieutenant Catalano, who tells him Lanny Douglas’s body has just been discovered. Back at the office Dennis is filled in by his assistant about the body, and that Lanny still had his wallet, cash and ring on him, so it probably wasn’t robbery. Except the silver dollar and the 2 mill are missing so it almost definitely was. Dennis tells his assistant to find out all she can about Grace Lambert while he pays a visit on Ray Bascomb.
Ray is hard at work overseeing a photoshoot involving a model and some pigeons but takes time to inform Dennis he was shocked by the news of his son-in-law’s death.
“Was that before or after you killed him?” Dennis inquires.
Bascomb doesn’t take very kindly to this, and refuses to say another word. Not when Dennis explains that he knows Ray went to see Lanny. Not when Dennis informs him that it’s impossible to remove all evidence of a dead body from a car. Not when Dennis tells him that the police are at the site where the body was dumped taking plaster casts of the car treads. Not even when Dennis takes that back, as the sirens grow louder, and he tells Ray he thinks they’ve finished.
At the police station, Ray tells Dennis and Catalano that he went to see his son-in-law to not give him money to his face, but that he didn’t kill him. Catalano gets called away, but Dennis isn’t done yet. He asks Ray if it’s true that he only went to see Lanny after a hysterical phone call his secretary remembers he got at work. Dennis thinks Andrea killed Lanny and got her father to cover it up but Ray ain’t talkin.
Dennis returns to House Douglas but is refused entry by a super-apologetic housekeeper who tells him Monica is out and Andrea is not to be seen by anyone. Dennis gallantly responds to this news by jumping into the nearest hedge.
Dennis might not have quite achieved high level ninja status but he has achieved boss level cat burglar status and so climbs the nearest drainpipe to see Andrea for himself. Inside, Andrea comes clean.
She went to see him and they fought. He told her he didn’t need her any more so she lashed out. She doesn’t want her father to go to prison for her crime, and asks Dennis to take her to the police station. Dennis agrees, but has one last question – does she remember seeing a brown briefcase in the office when she was there with Lanny?
Andrea does, but wants to know why that’s important. Dennis tells her it’s terribly important – the briefcase was gone by the time her father went round to move the body.
Oh yeah, that whole burglary business.
Back at the Pepperpot Cafe, Lanny’s minion (whose name, it turns out, is Joey Freeman) has just closed up for the night and is set to kick back in the freezer room with his briefcase full of money when Dennis sneaks up on him. Joey pulls a gun and warns Dennis not to come any closer, he knows about Dennis’s magical umbrella/sword. Dennis informs him is umbrella isn’t also a sword, aims the umbrella AND SHOOTS A TRANQUILIZER DART INTO JOEY’S NECK DENNIS STANTON WHAT EVEN ARE YOU??
Dennis delicately steps over a now comatose Joey, retrieves the money and departs. The next day, Dennis goes to explain the whole story to Monica Douglas who is naturally devastated by the whole situation. Dennis isn’t done though – he thinks he’s worked out why Grace doesn’t like him. He thinks he reminds her of someone she once loved – Jerome Woodward.
Monica is surprised – that was ten years ago, who told him about that? Dennis makes it his business to know who he’s dealing with. Monica says it was a difficult time in their lives, but Grace returns and says it wasn’t for her. It was, for awhile, a wonderful time. She offers to show the grounds to Dennis who cheerfully accepts.
As they stroll, the story comes out. The story about how Grace was wooed by a rogue who went after her money, and how he convinced her to swap the original Stuart silver dollar for a fake, and who ran off with it.
Dennis is outraged and promptly invites himself to lunch to cheer Grace up immediately.
And so ends the Case of the Silver Coin.
Keith Michell passed away just before Christmas so in honour of everyone’s favourite reformed cat burglar: