A semi-drunk man and his blonde companion are waiting impatiently in the lobby for the elevator. He tells her "stick with me, baby, I'll take you straight to the top" and she replies "promises, promises". The elevator seems to be stuck on the 7th floor. He suggests walking, but her feet are killing her. Finally the elevator slowly descends, stopping on every floor on the way down; a crowd gathers. When the elevator finally arrives, the man says "make way for the thundering herd". The door opens, but the elevator contains only one man who falls out of the car, dead. The gal screams; as everyone clusters around the body, a man comes down the back stairs, looking briefly at the scene, and exits the hotel.
Burke is at the club Garden of Eden, right around the corner from the hotel, with Cindy, his girlfried, being waited on by a brunette in a scanty outfit. Cindy ask if Burke is ever going to feed her and he tells her to be a good girl. She sighs and says there's always a catch. Burke turns and comes face to bosom with buxom Ventura Jones, Hypnotist A La Mode. Ventura asks if he has been hypnotized lately; it's good to relieve tension. She informs him it's "on the house". Burke orders a third chair brought to the table, which Cindy doesn't like at all - she now wants to leave.
NEVER BE IMPOLITE TO THE HOST - BURKE'S LAW
Ventura tries to hypnotize Burke, but as they have gotten to the "you are getting sleepy, sleepy" part and he is nodding off, the call comes through about the murder. Burke is disappointed, but has to leave; when he calls Cindy, they find that she has gone under from the hypnosis. Burke tells Ventura to wake Cindy gently, feed her, give her his regrets and send her home. As he leaves he tells Ventura to keep her trancer warm.
At the hotel, Tim is flirting with the female newstand clerk. The dead man is wealthy businessman, corporation raider and "influence peddler", Buddy Jack Cook, who is registered in room 711. His picture is currently on all the front pages. Cook was to have gone on trial Monday. He had absconded to Brazil, but returned to cut a deal. All the witnesses subpoenaed in the case are registered in the hotel. Tim figures all the buttons on the elevator had been pushed as a stalling tactic for the killer's escape. Cook was shot with a .38 with a silencer, the bullet going right through him. No gun has been found.
Hotel manager Pepe Van Heller is flustered and upset because of all the police presence in the hotel. He tells Burke no one appreciates his life, there's always some nuisance. Pepe tells Burke to take his "clutter" and get out; he officiously snaps to a bow, clicking his heels. Burke says his clutter is Pepe's clutter, and apes the bow and heel click. Pepe tells Burke he was in the Starlight Tower charming guests when word came through; it was a very exclusive party. Pepe decrees that Burke may be an epicurean type, but Les and Tim are strictly hamburger types. By the door to Cook's room, Burke finds a length of cord; two drinks, scotch and water, are untouched in the room. Cook traveled light, so there's not much else in the room. There are no papers, checkbook, money, anything usable on the body; his pockets completely empty except for a business card for one Harold Harold (Burke remarks "well, well"). Pepe tells him that Harold Harold is Cook's accountant and is registered directly below in room 611; he escorts them there. Pepe is still fluttering around, worrying that the police presence gives the hotel a bad image. They knock on 611; Harold stutters out a greeting and an alarm goes off, but the door stays closed. Pepe opens the door with a passkey and tells Burke that if they must shoot, do it quietly. He snaps to his bow and clicks his heels again. Burke sends Pepe back to his exclusive party guests.
Harold Harold is in the room tinkering with a complex Rube Goldberg machine. Bongs and various other noises emit from it. Harold Harold ("my mother had no imagination - that's a family joke") says his mother's name was Myrtle Myrtle and that may be why he stuttered. He dons an even thicker pair of glasses than the ones he had been wearing, and tells them that doesn't s-s-stutter any m-m-more. Burke asks him to turn the machine off and Harold says he takes it with him wherever he travels. He has an even larger one at home; it's his therapy and he's still perfecting it. It doesn't do anything, that's the beauty of it, it's his rebellion against efficiency. He also says he works puzzles a lot. Harold seems confused when Burke tells him that there will be no trial on Monday. He had been subpoenaed for the trial and has brought Cook's account books; he insists he never does double entry bookkeeping. Burke asks him where he was at 7:10 (when Cook died) and Harold says every night at exactly 6:55 he goes for a walk for exactly 15 minutes, comes back and washes his hands before going to dinner. Burke notes that they're not very clean and Harold blames it on his machine; Burke says it looks a lot like soil and grease. He shows Harold the business card found on the body, but Harold says he never saw Cook tonight. Burke says he never asked about tonight; just then Tim finds a matching piece of cord on Harold's balcony. It's ends match those on the cord in 711. Harold dismisses it and says he uses cord to tie all sorts of things. Tim notices peat moss on the floor and, after a search, in the balcony planter, under peat moss, the murder gun is located. Harold protests his innocence and denies all knowledge of the gun, but Burke has him arrested. Harold Harold, this is murder murder.
Lab tests report that his prints are on the gun, and nitrate (which could have come from the peat moss) is found on his hands. Tim and Les think Harold is guilty; there were no witnesses to his walk and the trial would have resulted in a jail sentence for Harold for doctoring Cook's books. Harold claims he found the gun on the balcony when he returned from his walk; when Burke knocked on the door, he panicked and buried it. The gun appears to have been lowered on the cord from 711 to 611, then the cord was cut. Burke is inclined to think Harold may have been framed. The gun belonged to Cook, why not leave it with the body? All the elevator buttons were pushed, but there were no fingerprints on the buttons. He shoots down Tim and Les - did Harold shoot Cook without wearing gloves and then use gloves to push the buttons; did he use gloves to shoot Cook, lowered the gun on the rope from 711 to the 611 balcony, then take off gloves to bury the gun? No, the whole thing is too pat - Harold's been framed, matted and hung. He gives Tim and Les 48 hours.
Burke wants Pepe to hire Tim and Les to work undercover as waiters in the hotel; Pepe thinks he's crazy - policemen have no class. Just then, Clarissa Benton, a businesswoman, walks by poolside for her luncheon reservation and calls out "captain". Burke turns around and she mistakes him for the wait-captain. Burke keeps up the impression. adopting a French accent and fawning demeanor as he takes her order for luncheon for 4 (including her three male assistants). After a good look at Burke, Clarissa leaves everything in his hands. Burke turns to Pepe and rubs it in about the "no class" remark. Pepe grudgingly agrees to hire Tim and Les, but insists "no squeaky shoes".
Clarissa suddenly decides to dine in her suite and insists that Burke serve her. When he starts to leave, Pepe insists that he follow through with his impersonation. She is a wealthy industrialist and will go to another hotel if she's displeased. Burke refuses to wait on Clarissa, until Pepe mentions that she is one of the subpoenaed witnesses in the Buddy Jack Cook case. At Clarissa's suite, Burke presides as Tim and Les, disguised as waiters, wheel in a fabulous meal. Les is already griping. Clarissa is in the process of chewing out the three assistants for being unable to make decisions, like a bunch of office boys. She asks them what they think she keeps them around for? When she sees Burke, Clarissa becomes all sweetness and light, but throws the assistants out, ordering them to get all the current reports immediately and informing Burke that "Tom, Dick and Harry" will dine in their own rooms. She looks askance at Tim and Les and comments that Burke will serve her, alone. Burke sends them off and puts on some music. Clarissa tries to dance with him, but he eludes all her tricks and he tries to change the subject to the murder. She finally corners and caresses Burke, who asks one too many questions about Cook that let her know he's a policeman. She's furious that he's a cop and refuses to eat, saying if he likes it so much, he can eat it and pay for it too. She repeats her mantra - I don't carry any dead weight; Burke asks if that includes Cook. Clarissa tells him Cook was the greatest con man that ever lived. He almost stole her company out from under her; it cost her $2 million to get control back and put the firm in shape. Clarissa says Cook deserves whatever happens to him. Burke says murder and Clarissa replies good - Monday's trial and subpoena will be lifted. Burke reminds her nothing will happen before Monday. Clarissa says Burke is trying to take advantage of her; he implies that that would be impossible. She tries sweetness again, but when it doesn't work, she throws him out. Burke tells her to make up her mind whether she's Samson or Delilah and Clarissa flings the dishes at the closing door.
Burke goes over Harold's account books. Sgt. Ames informs him that Cook had left the country with $4 million and come back supposedly penniless. But, she says, he must mint money, in the last 3 weeks he has spent $19,000 (including a $15,000 check to his attorney, Sam Atherton). Sgt. Ames also tells Burke that Tim and Les want "out" of their waiter jobs, but he says no dice.
Tim and Les are in the kitchen complaining, and sampling all the food that passes by. They want to know why they have to keep up the charade, now that Harold has been arrested; Burke says to keep the other suspects off guard. As soon as the subpoenas have been lifted, they'll all disappear. Tim swipes more food. They report that Sam Atherton leaves the hotel every night, taking the same cab, and doesn't return until the next morning. Clarissa, it turns out, is Cook's ex-wife, and has no alibi for the time of the murder (Burke suggests they talk to any head waiter). The girl who worked as Cook's assistant, Aurora Knight, sleeps all day, so they haven't seen her yet to check her fingerprints. Tristram Corporal, who they refer to as "big money, small tips", had an argument with Cook in room 711 the night of the murder. They've traced an appointment from his room note pad and give Burke the address. Tim swipes more food.
At the address Tim gave him, the Bill Williams Dance Studio, the receptionist directs Burke to Studio A, where Corporal is in the midst of cha-cha lessons. He's a truly lousy dancer; he bumps into the door when Burke enters. He refuses to talk to Burke because he's in the middle of a lesson that's been paid for. Burke identifies himself as Captain Burke; Corporal is not impressed - he was a Brigadier. Burke mentions homicide; the dance lesson stops and the music is turned off. He has two teachers; when one tires out the other one takes over. Corporal tells Burke that Harold is definitely the killer; Harold used to work for him, he says, and is a crook (double entry style). Burke looks at the instructors and asks for privacy, but Corporal says not at these prices. His secret of success is to make every minute count. He goes back to dancing as Burke talks (the "spare" instructor dances with Burke). Corporal tells him he didn't fire Harold Harold, he "quit quit". Burke wonders if Corporal's practicing the cha-cha in preparation for a trip to Brazil. From Harold's books, Burke has determined that Corporal is up to his neck in a phonye stock issue. Corporal insists none of that was his responsiblity, he's not a broker. Burke also notes that Corporal's room is right next door to Cook's; and finally, there's the fight the two men had. Corporal stops dancing, and angrily says that Burke is costing him money by interrupting his lesson.
MURDER'S ALWAYS EXPENSIVE - BURKE'S LAW
Burke also mentions the untouched drinks. He's an angry man; he tells Burke to get lost. Burke says it's likely that Corporal killed Cook and framed Harold - a case of "two birds with one stone". Corporal is furious, Burke is costing him money. Burke says don't leave town cha-cha-cha.
Back at the hotel, Pepe wants to know if Burke is working or not (after all, he's only the manager); if he is, Pepe complains, Burke is late and will have his pay docked for his "long coffee break". He tells Burke that Tim and Les are "serving, you should bite your tongue" in the Happy Room, where all they can break is the glassware. They don't even know the difference between a Napoleon and a tart - no, not that kind of tart! Pepe also reminds Burke that he's tying up two rooms and please release them. Burke asks him about Cook's hotel bill; Pepe says there is no bill, everything has been paid in cash to date. He also informs Burke that Sam Atherton is a permanent guest of the hotel for many years. He can't quite remember his room number at the moment; Burke will have to check at the desk, Pepe's not an electronic brain. He repeats that he needs 611 and 711 for a convention. Just then Pepe says hello, Mr. Atherton, to a passing man, who we see is the man who came down the back stairs when Cook's body fell out of the elevator. Burke calls to Atherton who ducks away. Burke chases him. They run into the bar, where Sam ducks down out of sight, then dashes out the back way and into a waiting cab. When Burke realizes he's lost him, he's told by the doorman that that's the same cab Mr. Atherton always takes. The doorman can't, or won't, say where it was going; Burke tells him to give Atherton a message when he returns - call Burke.
At the bar, Tim and Les are still slaving away, disguised now as bartenders. Les has kept his barman's union card for years. Tim points out Aurora Knight when she enters, and tells Burke she only dates musicians. Burke says to let Pepe know he's back on salary, goes over to the bandleader and whispers to him, then sings "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", paying particular attention to Aurora. She's cool as the audience applauds. When Burke sits down, she tells him goodnight, copper, your brass buttons are showing. She tells him that she and Cook were history and lets Burke buy her a drink. When Burke calls Tim over, Aurora orders a Bloody Mary and he orders a Blue Horizon, just to make things difficult for the "bartenders". Tim and Les can't figure out what a Blue Horizon is, so Les gives Burke a glass of water. Tim has completely forgetten what Aurora wanted. Aurora says she was Cook's "confidante" and refuses to tell Burke how Cook succeeded at his scam. When Burke asks where he got the $19,000 from, she says Santa Claus. Aurora tells Burke she liked him better singing than questioning. Burke asks about the $4 million in Brazil and notes that Aurora is currently wearing about $50 thousand in jewels; she says don't forget the sable. When Burke asks how she got them, she replies "overtime". Tim brings the drinks, Burke's water and a cognac for Aurora in a balloon glass. Well, he knew it was something in a large glass. Aurora says Burke needs to understand that she flies free. She calls Harold a hungry sparrow, Cook a vulture. Burke asks her to sing him a song of murder; she says she's one bird who won't sing, but she does dance. They dance; Aurora says he reminds her of a trumpet player she used to go with. Burke wonders who she goes with now - decides Corporal is not her type, plus he can't dance, so that leaves Sam Atherton. Burke says for $4 million maybe she did it all alone. Aurora says Burke's got the sparrow, he should be satisfied. Burke replies that, to a vulture, a lady vulture is beautiful. She tells Burke off and says the next time he brings cops along, make sure they can serve a drink. She hurls the Bloody Mary Tim delivers; Burke tells Tim to clean up the mess as Aurora storms out.
Burke speaks to Atherton's cab driver, who says he's not supposed to tell when he takes Atherton every night - Atherton's a good regular customer. Burke threatens to him with loss of his license. Pepe stalks up to inform Burke that the city will have to pay for all the breakage; Burke waves him off. The cabbie makes Burke promise not to let Atherton know where he got the information and sends him to an alley address - 1440 Mason St. Burke sells him two tickets to the policeman's as payment. Pepe calls after Burke not to forget about the breakage.
In the alley, Henry directs Burke to the third window. Burke wonders how Henry knows - it's the bakery where Henry buys pumpernickel, the best in town. Through the window, Burke sees Atherton in his hideaway kneading dough. Atherton is not surprised to see him. He tells Burke that this is his hobby, and helps to take his mind off his law practice. Someone was trying to get him thrown out of the hotel. He avoided Burke because he wanted to keep his private life private. Burke asks where Cook got the $15,000 he paid him; Atherton replies that he didn't ask. When Burke implies the DA will be interested in Atherton, he tells Burke to try the pumpernickel. Plus, he reminds Burke, his affairs with Cook are privileged information. He suddenly picks up a pistol; Burke, startled, pulls his gun. Atherton says Burke is awfully jumpy and shoots - or squirts - it's a water pistol he puts into a birthday cake and covers with batter. The cake will read "Happy Birthyday, Little Joe". What a gift for a 6-year old, he says; the boy's mother insisted. Burke asks if Atherton is familiar with Brazil; he knows that, as a long-time resident, Atherton is familiar with the ins and outs of the hotel. He could have killed Cook and framed Harold. Atherton tells Burke he has no case; besides, Harold has hired him as his attorney. He laughs at Burke for picking the "hungry sparrow" as the killer. Burke notes the words and says Atherton must speak to Aurora a lot. Atherton tells Burke to keep Aurora out of the case; he's in love with her and Cook didn't know how to handle her. When Burke suggests he and Aurora killed Cook, framed Harold, arranged it so Atherton could railroad Harold in court, and then planned to take the money and split to Brazil, Atherton threatens to get Burke's badge pulled if he repeats that in public. Burke says he's had better pumpernickel and leaves.
In the alley, as Burke walks to his car, someone takes a shot at him. Henry runs to him and the two of them duck out of sight. There is no sign of the shooter, and when Burke runs and looks in the bakery window, Atherton is still working at his oven. On the ground, Burke finds a key to 711.
At the hotel, Burke decides Sam couldn't have done it and it was too careless of someone to drop the key. Tim and Les tell Burke they're in a hurry because they're an hour late delivering breakfasts. And, Les says, Burke wouldn't want them to get fired, would he? Burke experiments with the elevator buttons, then goes to room 711. He closes the door and phones room service for a big order for a "party in Buddy Jack Cook's room" and tells them to be sure to have Tim and Les serve. Next he calls the front desk and tells the desk clerk to invite all the suspects for a wild "farewell party" for Cook. Burke waits, looking through the books. There's a knock on the door and Pepe lets himself in with his passkey, complaining about the party. Burke tells Pepe he wasn't invited, but Pepe says all the others called him to complain and demands to know what Burke is up to. Burke says he's glad Pepe came, because now he won't have to mail back the key he found (holds it up) where Pepe dropped it last night. Pepe says what is Burke talking about, he had no time at all to leave the hotel. Burke accuses Pepe of paying Cook's bill and of Cook's murder. Pepe says Burke is crazy - he's a worse detective than he is a head waiter. Burke replies that dropping the key was supposed to lead Burke away from the only person in the place who didn't need a room key, because he had a passkey. Pepe planted all the clues against Harold, led them directly to his room and knew the hotel better than anyone. He immediately knew Harold's room but claimed not to know Atherton's room after he had lived there for years. Cook's books showed big outlays to Pepe for years; what was he trying to hide? Pepe kept Cook's secrets and his business deals in the hotel quiet. $200,000 in untaxed income over the years is a good motive for murder; all in jeopardy if the trial started on Monday. When Burke says Pepe's prints are on the elevator buttons, Pepe replies, of course, I'm the manager. Pepe was the only one who knew Burke had gone to see Atherton at the bakery; Burke is sure the slug in the alley will match the bullets in the gun he knows is now in Pepe's pocket. Pepe pulls a gun on Burke and says murder in the hotel gives a bad image, but he must do it again. Just then, Tim and Les barge in with the party order and the door slams into Pepe, forcing him to drop the gun. As he's being led away, Pepe yells at Tim for not carrying the tray properly. Burke agrees - policemen have no class. He puts the gun on Tim's tray and takes a piece of toast.
In the Garden of Eden, Ventura is hypnotizing Burke. She tells him that when he wakes up and hears the proper phrase, he will kiss her on the nose. She snaps her fingers, Burke wakes. Ventura gives the phrase, Burke kisses her on the nose, then grabs her and gives her a big kiss on the mouth. She realizes he was never hypnotized; he says he is now. Burke "hypnotizes" Ventura - he kisses her.