Let’s head back to San Francisco Fletcherfans, where our heroine is on a tour promoting her newest book about a gentleman thief. The readers love it, but one person has some complaints.
Dennis has a hell of a story to tell JB, she can tell because he’s flirting outrageously. He points to a book on the shelf – it’s a recently discovered and never previously published story by Mark Twain. Jess remembers it well – the manuscript was stolen, and there was an insurance policy and –
“Who’s story is this anyway?” Says Dennis.
Once upon a time a while ago, a man named Lawrence Erlich announced that a previously unpublished story of Mark Twain’s had been discovered and authenticated by renowed scholar Professor Chandler Fitzpatrick. The owner, Anna Louise Barlow has generously allowed it to be published for the first time, and Lawrence is simply there to help ensure Anna gets what she is owed.
Naturally there is only one place where such a treasure can be insured, as Dennis discovers when he waltzes into work. He is rather surprised to hear that the person applying for the policy is Lawrence Erlich, and decides to take a closer look at the manuscript by setting a fire in his rubbish bin and filching a page while no one is looking.
Dennis decides to head down to the Mark Twain convention where the manuscript is to be unveiled and runs into Lawrence, who it turns out is a master forger and second only to Dennis in the con game (according to Dennis). Lawrence assures him he was better but that he’s been legit for the last 10 years (and is amused to hear that Dennis is now working for an insurance company). Dennis doesn’t believe a word of it, but Lawrence says surely Dennis can appreciate a man turning his life around?
Professor Fitzpatrick finds Dennis in the lobby, and informs him that if Dennis doesn’t stop with his insinuations that the manuscript is a fake then there will be consequences.
Undeterred, Dennis takes the filched pages to his friend Konstantin Stavros to get a second opinion regarding the authenticity. Constantin is unsure – recently discredited by Fitzpatrick he tells Dennis his opinion is worthless.
“Not to me,” says Dennis, and tells Constantin that the professor was the one who authenticated the book in the first place.
Back at the Twain convention Anne and Lawrence are watching people with magnifying glasses examining the book through the glass and Ann is worried. Lawrence shrugs it off and tells her he will see her later. Anne’s daughter Lindsey arrives from London, freshly broken up from her aging rock star boyfriend but coping okay now that a priceless manuscript has turned up in her family’s possession.
At home, Dennis is telling a photo of his late wife Elizabeth everything that’s happened, especially the tearing pages out of a priceless manuscript part. If he’s right, it won’t matter. If he’s wrong he’s sure he can find another job with his qualifications, although what that job might be he’s not sure. He clicks the TV on just in time to see a news report that a fire at the Fairmont Hotel has resulted in the destruction of the Mark Twain manuscript.
Dennis rolls on down to the hotel to suss things out and finds a cop who says the fire was started by an electrical fault. Dennis wonders if it could have been arson and the cop says he hopes so, he hasn’t had a good arson case in months. Lawrence pops up and swears he wasn’t involved – he was at a costume party and still has the giant fig leaf he wore to prove it. Dennis tells Lawrence he’s going to catch him and Lawrence smiles. He believes Dennis is going to try.
At the office, Dennis finds his boss Robert Butler having a breakdown, and casually asks what the reward might be if someone could prove that the manuscript was a fake. Robert blows his stack, but Dennis isn’t after money – he just wants his CD player that Robert confiscated returned to his office so he can blast Mozart at anyone who wanders past.
Dennis goes to check on Constantin’s progress uncovering the fraud and is frustrated. Constantin wonders why Dennis has a bee in his bonnet about Lawrence and what it has to do with Dennis’s late wife. Lawrence, it turns out, made a play for Elizabeth when she and Dennis were going through a rough patch. BOOOOOOOO. Constantin tells Dennis that for now at least, the paper is genuine, the ink is genuine, the writing appears genuine – but not to worry, a warning bell has gone off in Constantin’s mind and until he can work out what that bell is, he can’t be of any more use right now.
Next stop on Dennis’s list is Anne Louise Barlow, but he instead finds her daughter Lindsey at the door, who takes his coat and flirts her little head off. Dennis asks when her mother will be home, and is told she is at the publishers office with Lawrence getting the transcribed manuscript ready for a bidding war with the publishing companies. Ah, so there is a copy, Dennis notes. Lawrence has thought of everything. Lindsey asks Dennis if he’d like something to eat, or drink, or to have dinner with her that evening.
Anne arrives home and is not entirely pleased to see Dennis, but he assures her he’s just there to confirm that the company will pay out on the policy as long as there is absolutely no chance that the fire was started deliberately. Lindsay tells him she will see him at Otto’s Grotto for dinner at 8:30, but Anne declines Dennis’s invitation to join, saying she has somewhere to be.
That night, Dennis blows a kiss to the photo of his wife and heads out to dinner, unfortunately missing an excited phone message from Constantin, who has worked it out. As he hangs up the phone, a car pulls up outside and Constantin peers through the blinds, worried. At the restaurant, Dennis is about to declare himself stood up when Lindsay and Anne both appear in the restaurant, Lindsay having convinced Anne to come, and Anne taking ages to get ready.
After a presumably successful dinner, Dennis goes home, hears the message from Constantin and heads around to his house only to find the place crawling with police led by Lieutenant Catalano who figured Dennis had to be involved with a rare book dealer being shot. Inside, Catalano tells Dennis that Constantin was shot at his desk but managed to crawl over to his bookshelf and retrieve a copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Catalano’s theory – it’s got something to do with *whispers* adultery. Dennis examines the book but finds nothing.
Back at his office, Rhoda fills Dennis in on large discoveries of old paper – the most recent of which occurred in London earlier that year, but doesn’t know how they will ever prove that the book is a forgery, or if/how it is connected to Constantin’s murder. Dennis decides the only thing he can do is say ‘The Scarlet Letter’ to himself over and over until inspiration hits.
Armed with inspiration and his umbrella (which has a lockpick in it, he has Macgyvered the hell out of his umbrella), Dennis returns to Constantin’s house. He sees a figure searching the shelves and turns on a light – it’s Lawrence. Dennis tells him he’s looking in the wrong section and Lawrence pulls out a gun. He swears he didn’t kill Constantin but figures it doesn’t matter now.
And then the truth comes out – Lawrence has always hated Dennis for marrying Elizabeth, and for being rejected by Elizabeth even when she and Dennis were having problems. Dennis smirks, Lawrence goes to pull the trigger and Dennis shoots him with a dart from his umbrella. YES. They struggle and Lawrence manages to get away.
Dennis calls in the cavalry and Lieutenant Catalano is delighted to think that he is finally putting Dennis under arrest. He’s unconvinced by Dennis’s story that he didn’t know the page was still missing until Lawrence turned up looking for it, or that Dennis has only just worked out where the missing page is thanks to the clue left by Constantin. (It was hidden in Gone With The Wind – the Scarlet Letter was actually the Scarlett letter and was to do with a case Constantin worked on something something moving on).
Dennis goes to see Professor Fitzpatrick and tells him everything he knows about Constantin’s research. Fitzpatrick tells him he can’t see anything dodgy about the page. Catalano arrives to tell Dennis they found Lawrence at the hotel and points out the window. Dennis peers out and sees Lawrence’s body on top of an air conditioning unit.
Cut to Dennis clearing out his office on account of being fired. Rhoda is heartbroken but Dennis tells her as soon as he finds another job he’ll send for her, he won’t be sent back to prison. While he’s waiting for the lift he takes a closer look at one of the books in his box – the pages have red binding on them.
Dennis goes back to Professor Fitzpatrick and tells him he knows all – that Lawrence bought the paper from the people in London and forged the book, that Fitzpatrick authenticated it so it would appear genuine. Dennis doesn’t care about that though, he wants the professor’s help to catch Constantin’s murderer, Anne Barlow, the reward for Fitzpatrick being avoiding having his name attached to the scandal. All he needs to do is go to Anne’s house and find the gun that was used to kill Constantin.
Fitzpatrick has lunch with the Barlows and tells them they need to steal the manuscript page back from Dennis. Anne is horrified, does he expect her to go over and seduce Dennis? God no, Fitzpatrick says, Lindsay should do it. Lindsay sighs and says she’ll take one for the team.
That night, Lindsay drives away from her mother’s house and someone breaks in. The gun is retrieved from the pocket of the killer…
The police swarm in and Fitzpatrick puts a gun to Dennis’s head.
Fitzpatrick’s escape is foiled by a well executed thrust of the umbrella that sends he and Dennis tumbling down the stairs, but Dennis is pleased to report that rumours of his death are greatly exaggerated.
Newly reinstated back at the insurance company, Dennis sets off for a date with Anne Barlow, who agreed to withdraw her claim for the definitely faked manuscript.
And they all lived happily ever after.