This week Fletcherfans Our Heroine has gone to London
(Home of Dangermouse) to have meetings with her publishers, get some shopping done at Harrods (naturally) and have lunch with her old friend John Thurston, who works at the embassy. Never mind all that though because he is just about to introduce her to someone called Nigel Atkins but the actor’s name. You guys.
Nigel Atkins, who works at the Home Office, is delighted to meet JB but is clearly running late for something and excuses himself. This suits John just fine – he has two tickets to the new Stephen Sondheim musical, would Jessica be interested?
While John and JB have lunch, across town a man and woman are saying goodbye to each other. He seems annoyed at her constant shopping, she seems annoyed at his constant working. As she leaves him, a man in a bowler hat emerges from an alleyway and begins following the woman, while the man looks on smugly.
I only mention this guys because a short time later, back at the hotel, JB collects her shopping and her room key from the front desk and heads to the elevator and WHAT WERE THE ODDS THE MYSTERY LADY AND THE BOWLER HAT GET IN TOO AND GET OFF AT THE SAME FLOOR I MEAN REALLY WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING.
JB and the mystery woman go into their separate rooms (next door to each other, really the coincidences are just astonishing) but before Jessica can even put her shopping down there is a scream from next door. She rushes to the hallway and sees the mystery woman, who then turns tail and flees. Jess goes to investigate, obviously, and to her surprise finds
Clement von Franckenstein dead on the couch. She looks up to see the bathroom door gently closing.
Jess dashes back to her room to phone the police, forgetting all about her shopping in the process. The police arrive and take Jess back to the hotel room – but the body is gone.
Inspector Stillwell and his sidekick are not impressed by Jessica’s insistence that there was a dead body, and less impressed by Jess’s ability to describe him, and not at all by the fact that she met him in the hotel lobby. “Should be careful of strange men in lobbies, even in the best hotels.” Stillwell’s sidekick says.
Thanks to the police and their lack of assistance, Jess decides to take care of business herself. She calls John but he’s not back in the office, so she goes downstairs to ask Albert at the front desk for the name of the “publishing agent” she met who was staying in the room next to hers. Albert remembers the man but is puzzled when he checks the book and discovers there’s no-one meant to be staying in that room.
Jess has already moved on though, she’s just spotted the Bowler Hat going through the lobby and so she follows him out through the kitchens to the back of the hotel. She walks past the service elevator and spots one of her shopping bags and a familiar looking shoe poking out of the garbage. Jess calls for help but there is no answer. She grabs the dead man’s wallet and goes to call Stillwell again. Stillwell’s posse arrive and find Jess’s other shopping bag but wouldn’t you know it the body’s gone again.
Stillwell politely asks Jessica if she’s taking medication.
Stillwell promises to return the wallet to the owner, and before Jess can go nuclear Albert appears to tell the police there’s been a nasty incident out the front of the hotel. Everyone heads out to the front where a small crowd has gathered – a man has just jumped from one of the windows according to these two witnesses.
Jess’s reaction is amazing.
John Thurston meets JB at Scotland Yard to try and make Stillwell see sense but Stillwell has become rather agreeable. Apparently it’s all been straightened out – Nigel Atkins lost his wallet in a bathroom at Heathrow and is delighted to get it back as he was due to board a flight to Australia. The man who committed suicide was a Mr Brown from Birmingham, and it was definitely suicide move along nothing to see here.
In the taxi later, JB laments how frustrating it is not to be believed, and John says he believes her…
…”but the police seem so sure!”
Jess gets back to the hotel to find the Bowler Hat at the front desk asking about Nigel Atkins. Albert gives him nothing but JB tells him she’d like a word and he says likewise. Over tea in the dining room the Bowler Hat reveals himself as Archie Potter P.I – he’s looking for Nigel, if JB has any knowledge of where he is, could she get in touch?
Jess is called away by a telephone call – it’s John with a curious invitation to a Home Office shindig, but he has only been invited if JB comes too… Outside the hotel, Archie is off going about his PI business when he runs into local toughguy Mickey Dawks demanding to know what Archie knows about Nigel Atkins, and who Archie was talking to at the hotel.
At the party that night JB is introduced to Julian Fontaine, Home Office who is delighted to meet JB, but not as delighted as I was when I realised who it was.
Fontaine is surprised to learn that JB had met a colleague of his that very morning, and quickly excuses himself. He returns after a moment with two people – Edward and Penelope Caldwell, aka the couple who were really awkward at the beginning of this episode, and the woman who went rushing out of the hotel room. JB says to Penelope she’s sure they’ve met before – just that day in fact, at her hotel – but Penelope says she must be mistaken and rushes her husband over to meet someone else.
Fontaine asks John to excuse himself and JB, he wants to show Jess some first editions, but JB doesn’t want first editions she wants answers – why was she invited to the party, was it to see if she’d recognise Penelope Caldwell? Fontaine did work with Nigel Atkins didn’t he?
Fontaine suddenly remembers how he knew JB was in town – Nigel told him that morning on the way to the airport before his flight to Australia. JB isn’t barely paying attention, she’s just spotted something…
Fontaine is still giving her nothing about Atkins, so she tells him the police might like to know that the people who witnessed Atkins’ ‘suicide’ are also working at his party, to which Fontaine scowls and says that would be a very bad idea. Nigel Atkins is dead.
Back at her hotel room that night, JB is kicking off her shoes when she gets a knock on the door – it’s local tough guy Mickey Daws, wanting to know what Jessica knows about the location of Nigel Atkins. It turns out Mickey is a moneylender, and Nigel owes him ten thousand dollars.
JB tells him that the police told her that Nigel had gone to Australia.
Mickey suddenly decides he didn’t need the ten grand back anyway and departs.
The next day, Jess goes back to see Inspector Stillwell and lays it all out for him – she knows about the affair and the money. He promises there is no coverup and he will look into all of her allegations most carefully. Jess says she hopes so, otherwise she’s going to visit her friend on Fleet Street and this little yarn will be on the cover of every paper in town.
After she leaves, Stillwell gets on the phone to Fontaine, who himself gets on the phone to another man in a suit. He tells the man Jessica is threatening to go to the public, does the man authorise the radical solution?
The man says he’ll get back to him on that.
JB, clearly the only person doing anything about this murder, decides to visit Nigel Atkin’s apartment to see what she can find. The door is locked, but she overhears a delightful exchange between the landlord and his neighbour Daisy Collins about Daisy’s back-rent, which she has just decided to pay with a bonus, she’s moving to Mayfair.
The landlord disappears in a huff, and Daisy comes round to find JB loitering in the corridor. Daisy doesn’t seem to surprised, and says Nigel’s not usually back until six. She opens his door and goes in to feed his cat.
On the pretense of looking for a letter she’d sent Nigel, JB gets chatting to Daisy and learns that she feeds Nigel’s cat sometimes but the poor thing is going to the pound the next day, as she’s moving out. JB comments on the dress and Daisy tells her it’s new from Selfridges.
As JB leaves she bumps into Fontaine, who offers to give her a lift back to her hotel. JB soon realises that’s not where they are driving to but Fontaine only smiles and starts blaring Ride of the Valkyries. Her constant demands for a explanation/telephone go ignored, and it’s only when JB is shown into a room of an old manor house that answers are forthcoming. Jess is introduced to the man Fontaine had spoken to on the telephone, who tells her that after extensive enquiries about Jessica, they have decided to tell her the problem with Nigel Atkins.
“He was some sort of agent – a spy?” Asks JB.
“I see your deductive abilities live up to your reputation.” Says the man.
Anyway, long story short Nigel Atkins was a double spy for England and China and there’s a dicey diplomatic situation involving the handover of Hong Kong back to China (remember when that was a thing) but guys. HOW DID THEY NOT KNOW WHO JESSICA WAS, MICHAEL HEGARTY HAS BEEN GETTING HER INTO TROUBLE FOR AGES I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
It is revealed that Fontaine arrived at Atkins’ hotel room after the murder and before Penelope Caldwell, but was unable to do anything of about it on account of JB turning up. They staged the suicide and it almost worked apart from JB’s constant questioning.
On the way back to London Jess tells Fontaine about the loan shark and how Nigel had promised to repay him the next day. No money was found on him, so they interview Mickey again. He swears he didn’t kill Nigel, and that Nigel had told him the night before he died that he would have the money for him that day. They tell him he’s off the hook for the time being. Jess wonders if Penelope Caldwell’s husband knew about her affair with Nigel and Fontaine tells her he didn’t even know until he saw her in the hotel room after the murder. Jess tells them about the private investigator, and they look uncomfortably like they knew nothing about that. Fontaine handles it by going to see Archie and giving him a bit of an incentive to go on holiday.
Cut to Penelope Caldwell stress drinking vodka while her husband tells her all about how Nigel Atkins went to Australia on short notice.
JB and Fontaine are sitting in the park watching pigeons going about their business…
Jess suddenly remembers Nigel’s attache case (go on, scroll right up – I KNOW! I nailed it today!) but Fontaine says it wasn’t in Nigel’s apartment when they searched it. Except when JB went to see it, it was there (seriously, go and scroll up again I AM A GOD OF SCREENCAPPING HELLFIRE).
Now how can that be?
The same reason a certain cat was about to be impounded.
What happens when a girl hears about ten thousand dollars and knows just what to do with it. Naturally JB worked it all out and convinced Inspector Stillwell to let Mickey Dawks go in wearing a tape recorder to record Daisy’s confession. But they don’t arrest her just yet – apparently the world needs to think that Nigel Atkins is still alive for a little while yet.