Aboard a yacht moored in the harbor, the captain is searching for someone. The ship's mate can't find him, and has searched everywhere; the person's stateroom has not been slept in. The captain says they can't wait any longer to lower the launch to take the missing person ashore. His orders are to set sail at seven bells, no matter what. He orders the mate to raise the anchor. As the winch pulls the anchor out of the water, we see the body of a man draped over the anchor.
Burke is at KDTV, being made up for an appearance on Pandora Shriner's TV program. Pandora oversees the makeup job, insisting that Burke keep the cute little curl that's been teased over his forehead. She asks, when he hears the cue "This is Pandora Shriner, your Come-Alive Girl", what will he say. Burke replies: "I want to go home". Burke wonders how he gets himself involved in things like this; Pandora says it's his civic duty. Burke hates that curl; he's more and more nervous and really doesn't want to do the show. Pandora turns her back on him for a second, as she rattles off sample questions, and Burke makes a break for the door. Too bad, she catches him. The Pandora Shriner Let's Live Show begins. She introduces Burke and tells the TV audience that he's there to answer all callers' questions. When the phone rings, Burke answers and is thrilled to find that there has been a murder. As he flees, he tells the TV audience he leaves them with two words - Don't Leave Town.
At the harbor, Burke passes and startles a beat cop chatting up two girls in swimsuits. The yacht belongs to the victim, shipping magnate Davidian Jonas. The watch on his wrist stopped at 12:15, probably when his body struck the water. McLeod tells Burke that Jonas has a dent in his skull, but he hasn't determined yet whether it happened before or after death. Burke notes that the killer had a sense of humor - Davidian Jonas, now alias Davy Jones. Tim, meanwhile, has tried every language he knows to question the yacht's captain and mate, with no luck. Burke tells Tim he'll try. He says, in English, that murder was committed onboard ship, on a ship with the three-mile limit. the captain gives a "no understand" shrug. Burke, still in English, tells Tim to book the captain on suspicion of murder. In perfect English, the captain yells "now just a minute". He swears he knows nothing, he just works for Jonas and obeys orders. There is currently no one on board but the crew. There had been a party on board the night before; afterward everyone went ashore. The captain says maybe Jonas went ashore as well, who knows. Tim and Les have the mate take them to see the crew. Burke warns the captain not to hoist anchor unless he wants to race the Coast Guard. He then speaks to the captain in his native language, flawlessly; the captain is stunned.
Below, in Jonas' cabin, Burke finds a sheet of paper with a globe-like diagram, with longitude and latitude markings surrounded by Jonas' initials repeated over and over, and notes in the margin. By the door, he finds a hoop earring on the floor.
In the passageway, hearing Morse code coming from a nearby cabin, Burke goes toward the sound. He finds a cabin filled with nightgowns being hung on a clothesline by an attractive blonde. In a Scandinavian accent, she tells him the captain doesn't let her hang them on deck. Burke says he understood there were no passengers on board; she says, no she is crew; she introduces herself as radio operator, Ulla Swenson, and shows Burke the radio equipment hidden behind the laundry. Burke sends Ulla a message: . - - , - - - , . - - Ulla laughs and says WOW to you too. She says poor Mr. Jonas, he was terrible man. She offers Burke coffee; he says he'd prefer information. Ulla tells him she is 24, born in Stockholm, has saved 1000 krone and her dowry includes 100-year-old goosedown quilt. She tells Burke she sent messages for Jonas for a year, but never understood him; he always said he was there when he was someplace else, like a small boy playing games. Burke says Jonas was a tycoon and Ulla says, yah, like a big storm. This morning, for example, they were to sail to Acapulco and back and pretend Jonas was on board, but he wasn't. Only the captain, mate, and Ulla knew this. Burke asks if she is sure; Ulla says yah, they do it many times. She asks if Burke has a girl; he asks her who was at the party. Ulla tells him millionaires, movie stars; Mister Jonas he doesn't know them but they come anyway. She radioed all the invitations and gives Burke a list. Burke asks if there were any permanent guests on board. She says yes, but they all went ashore after the party; that was the way it always happened when Jonas was playing cat and mouse. The permanent guests are staying at the Squire House; Ulla made the reservations. They include Milhew Court, the Maharanee of Kushipoo (Ulla is sure Burke wouldn't like her), Putzi Voltran (when Burke asks who she is, Ulla says it a 'he', silly), and Harvey Haight (Ulla assures Burke Mr. Haight loves everyone). Ulla is getting cozier and cozier with Burke.
Tim and Les arrive and tell Burke they've interviewed the whole crew. Burke points out that they've missed one. Tim starts to ask how every time, Burke manages to....but Les says it's built-in radar. Ulla tells Burke she will find him if he needs her. He checks the hoop earring against her ear and decides she's not the type. Tim and Les tell him they only discovered from the crew that Jonas had enough boats to form his own navy. Burke shows them the diagram he found; Tim says the doodle is just the world with Jonas' initials around; he says you don't need a psychiatrist to figure out what that means. The notation in the corner reads International Airport Hangar 17 9:30 AM. Burke sends them off to investigate.
At the Squire House, the desk clerk informs Burke there is no answer at Putzi Voltran's room and Voltran may have checked out. The Maharanee definitely checked out and left no forwarding address. Haight checked out; Burke guesses without asking that Court also checked out.
At the station, Burke goes through Jonas' papers. Tim and Les enter, bearing a huge smorgasbord on a silver tray, which has been delivered to Burke by Ulla. Before they dig in, they tell Burke they've found Haight at the airport, ready to board a chartered flight to Marseilles; they figure they've earned some of the smorgasbord. They tell Burke he has to earn his as well. He tells them McLeod's report indicates that Jonas was killed at the height of the party, but with a blunt instrument and then drowned. Tim and Les say that's no good, that's department business, not Burke's work. Burke produces the earring, and supposes that it belongs to the Maharanee. Also, he has found that the papers in Jonas' briefcase indicate a potential shipping line merger that would have forced Milhew Court out of business. Before Burke can eat anything, the phone rings and there is a report that Putzi has returned to the Squire House. Burke leaves, wishing he had a doggie bad; Tim and Les start gorging themselves.
At the hotel, Burke and Putzi try to negotiate around other guests in the lobby; Putzi carries a huge load of climbing and photographic equipment, which he unloads on a hapless bellboy. Burke helps him pick up the items he's dropped and Putzi invites Burke into the hotel bar, saying the drinks are on him. Burke identifies himself; Putzi examines the ID and says the photo doesn't do him justice at all. Burke is surprised, as he's always liked that picture. Putzi orders two tall gins, but Burke changes his to coffee. Putzi snaps a picture of Burke, blinding him; Burke tells Putzi that his people always take two shots, one full-face and one profile. Putzi complains that the photo of Jonas that appeared in the paper was just terrible; they should have used his talents. He tells Burke that he accompanied Jonas all over the world and photographed him at all his events. He hopes the newspaper killed that negative. Burke reminds him someone did more than that, they killed Jonas; he asks if it was Putzi. Putzi tells Burke he only shoots film; Burke points out he never said Jonas was shot. Putzi avoids the issue by taking a photo of a sexy blonde passing by. Putzi describes himself as Jonas' historian, saying that Jonas liked to look at himself and Putzi's lens was always there. It was strictly forbidden to publish any photos of Jonas while he was alive; Haight's job was to keep Jonas a man of mystery. Putzy says he wasn't on Jonas' payroll. Putzi, you see, doesn't work, he just lives. He tells Burke his camera takes him anywhere, but only on the fringe. Putzi polishes off his drink and orders another. He says they all tied one on last night at the party and Jonas had a terrible row with his brother, Gregorio. Gregorio, he informs Burke, was Jonas' only relative and lives somewhere in town; Gregorio had shown up at the party uninvited. Burke shows him the earring. Putzi says gypsies wear those and calls a waitress over to model it for him, snapping her photo. He then manages to con Burke into tipping the waitress. Burke now understands how Putzi "just lives" and says he'll pick up the tab; in that case, Putzi decides to have another. The bartender returns with a huge balloon snifter of aquavit and hands it to Burke, indicating that it is from "the lady". Ulla waves from the doorway, then joins them, saying she told Burke she would find him. She says she's glad to see Putzi in better shape; last night they were so drunk, she never thought he and Jonas would make it. Burke points out that Jonas didn't make it. She thinks Putzi is so funny. Ulla kisses Putzi on the cheek and tells him she's going to take "the captain" home and cook him an anchovy omelet. Burke tells Putzi to send him some glossies if the photos turn out. When Burke has left, Putzi pockets the money left for the drinks and tells the bartender to put the bill on his "tab".
Harvey Haight, Jonas' PR man is in the police psychiatrist's office, eagerly making his own inkblots. Thinking Burke is the doctor, he thanks him for letting him stay there. He calls himself Jonas' "magician", making people believe Jonas was where he wasn't. Burke almost sits on "Anxiety", a textbook, along with "Compulsion" and "Psychosomatic Symptoms"; Haight has been busy studying and analyzing himself. Burke asks him about "Murder" and Haight says that's in "Paranoia". He complains to Burke that his name makes people wary; Burke asks what's wrong with the name "Harvey". He says no, "Haight" has colored his whole life; he really likes people. Haight is surprised that Burke could think he could have killed Jonas; he says he's going to clearly have to free-associate and do something about his negativism and latent aggression. He pulls "Doctor" Burke over to the couch. Burke plays along. Burke says boat, Haight says Jonas; Burke says power, Haight says Jonas; Burke says escape, Haight says Milhew Court. Court, it seems, tried to hire him away from Jonas, but Haight says he doesn't sell secrets. He asks Burke, if he killed Jonas, why was he waiting for him at the airport?; Burke suggest maybe it was to cover-up. Burke says secrets, Haight starts to say "murder", then chokes and changes the word to "merger". Burke says Marseilles, Haight says power play; Burke says earring, Haight says gypsy; Burke says party, Haight says trick. Haight is totally thrilled that this analysis is going so well. Burke says career, Haight says Jonas; Burke says jump, Haight says Jonas; Burke says kill, Haight yells Jonas!! Burke says end of test. Haight asks if Burke likes him.
Court is found by the lake at the local park in yachtsman's full dress, playing with several little kids, racing radio-controlled toy boats. He creates a gale and a storm for the kids to combat by stirring up the water with an oar; he tells Tim and Les not to interrupt. They point out that his office told them he was in conference; Court asks who sent them to his office. When they tell it was Haight, he recognizes that they are the police and sends the kids home. Tim asks if the kids aren't going to take their toys; Court tells him the boats are his. He calls them all that's left of the Court Shipping Co. and works the electronic controls to bring them back to shore. He says he used to have a fleet of 16 ships, but now only has 7, thanks to Jonas. Court says he was a guest on Jonas' yacht like Jonah was a guest in the whale, except in the bible, the whale spit Jonah out and Jonas would never do that. Jonas wanted to swallow the whole seven seas, Court says. Jonas ruined Court by constantly underbidding him; each time Court sent out a ship, Jonas had three on the horizon. Court tells them that Jonas tricked him into coming onto the yacht by saying he wanted to talk about a deal; all the time, Court says, Jonas was planning a merger behind his back that would completely break him. He says he last saw Jonas between 11 and 11:30. He had wanted to talk business but couldn't because Jonas was arguing with his brother Gregorio, who lives somewhere in town. Court gets highly insulted when Les refers to his "toy" boats and says they know nothing of the sea. He gives them each one and tells them to put the boats in the water. He tells them of his dreams. Court says Jonas wanted to grab his last seven ships, so he made an offer to Haight to spy for him. He had to fight back somehow, but they'll have to prove he killed Jonas. Though he knew of the merger, he didn't know where or when it would occur. Tim informs Court that it was to happen in Marseilles tomorrow. Now that Jonas is dead, Court says, it won't take place at all; the storm is over and the biggest fleet in the world has no captain. Court takes an oar and slowly, determinedly, forces one of the boats under the water.
Burke figures that someone is on Court's payroll, even if Haight isn't. Les has found the Maharanee, so Burke tells him to look for Gregorio Jonas. He asks where Les found the Maharanee. Where else, Les says, but the Taj Mahal? Burke asks how they found her and they reply: Diligence. Burke smiles and tells them
JUST LISTEN TO YOUR CAPTAIN AND YOU'LL LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY - BURKE'S LAW
At the "Taj Mahal" restaurant, a sinuous dancer performs with veils. Burke briefly admires her, then asks the maitre d' to ask the Maharanee at his table. She arrives heavily veiled carrying a tray, the "maharanee" is the restaurant's new cigarette girl, a blonde "tough broad". Burke asks her where Kushipoo is; she tells him it's a little place she used to call home, midway between Japan and the South Side of Chicago. She was a hoofer in Paris and "he" liked her dancing, but she says it get cold in the mountains of India. Burke says let him tell her his story. The Maharanee says she knows his story, he has a Rolls and a mansion and he's lonely; she tells him to get lost. Burke shows his badge and she says she's glad of the chance to sit down; she's not used to working any more. This is just a fill-in job until she gets to Vegas. The "gem" on her forehead is glass. She tells Burke not to believe all that stuff about maharajahs; she says a maharajah is anyone with two goats and a mountaintop. Her maharajah divorced her because she couldn't get used to living in tents (she says she kept waiting for the trapeze act). Now, she's flat broke. She tells Burke he doesn't seem like a cop, and hints that she'll be in town for a while. Burke tells her she'll have to be. The Maharanee met Jonas in Rangoon and hitched a ride back to the U.S.; it took her two years to do it. She says no one left Jonas; every time they touched port, he fixed it so she couldn't get ashore. Finally, she saw her chance to make a break last night. The Maharanee wonders why she didn't meet Burke in Paris. When Burke asks, she describes the other guests. Putzi she calls a leech; Haight is a big man with a secret in his ear and out his mouth; Court, well, big fish eats little fish. Just then, the maitre d' brings Burke the phone; Gregorio has been found. The Maharanee tells him Jonas and his brother hated each other. Burke shows her the earring he found; she tells him she probably has a dozen like it. She tells him she wasn't in Jonas' stateroom last night; Burke says that's interesting, because that where he found the earring. When Burke leaves, she knocks back her shot, then drinks Burke's as well and heads back to work.
In an 'exotic' gypsy camp outside of town, a party atmosphere reigns, with wrestlers, flamenco dancers and kissing couples. A girl approaches Burke, but he tells her first he has to see Gregorio. She says oh, the king. She asks if he is Gregorio's friend and he replies that he hasn't decided yet. He finds Gregorio downing a huge meal, with lots of wine, surrounded by beautiful gypsy girls, who he nuzzles. Gregorio tells Burke that at a gypsy feast, everyone is welcome; he says whatever he has is Burke's, and offers him a girl. When Burke identifies himself, Gregorio tells all the women but one to leave. He tells Burke that even after he's dead, his brother spoils his fun. Gregorio says that although Jonas was his only relative, he deserved to die. Just then, a sword and dagger fight breaks out nearby. Burke and Gregorio watch. Gregorio smiles when Burke tries to stop the match as it becomes more vicious; he shows Burke that the daggers are rubber and the tips on the swords are dull. He says they are all only remembering their past glories. Burke notices the gold hoop earring in Gregorio's ear. Burke points out that Jonas did not invite his brother to the party; Gregorio says Jonas was ashamed of his gypsy heritage. When Burke asks why he went, Gregorio says Jonas did send for him, but not to mingle with the guests. Jonas needed Gregorio; he was planning a merger, there was to be a new stock issue, and Gregorio was Jonas' broker. He tells Burke he has a seat on the exchange; he sarcastically adds that he also has a three-button suit and a homburg. An old woman with a crystal ball calls Gregorio over and tells him it is clear that tomorrow he should sell. Gregorio tells Burke that the ball has made him a fortune. Burke suggests that perhaps he wasn't satisfied with one fortune and wanted his brother's as well. Gregorio says Burke insults his hospitality; he spits on Jonas' money. Burke asks if he went to the stateroom last night, but Gregorio says that, being a mere gypsy, he was denied that privilege. Burke wonders if he wore a suit or an earring last night. He angrily tells Burke that since his brother was ashamed of him as well, he crashed the party dressed in full gypsy finery, with earring. Burke tells Gregorio not to break camp. As Burke walks away, a thrown dagger imbeds itself in a tree, just missing him. Gregorio laughs and Burke says he could take him in for that. Gregorio says that he only did it to show Burke that if he had wantged to kill his brother, he would have merely.... Burke says he has a point, then hurls the dagger back, coming even closer than Gregorio had and pinning his vest to the side of a wagon. Burke suggests that next time they play darts.
At the station, there is still no report from the lab about Jonas' stateroom. Ulla can't be located; Burke has left five messages. She calls him; he asks where she is and she stands in the doorway, holding the phone receiver from the outer office. Ulla is dressed up, ready for a date; in Burke's car, she asks about dinner. Burke tells her they have to do a few things first and asks if she saw anyone head toward the stateroom during the party. Yes, she says, the Maharanee went in that direction, as did Court and Gregorio...but maybe not Gregorio. Ulla tells Burke that Putzi and Jonas were so drunk they had to help each other all the way. Burke asks if she keeps a log of both all incoming and all outgoing messages. When she says yes, he realizes that it would have been easy for someone to read the message about the merger. Ulla kisses him and says she supposes so. When he asks, she informs him that Jonas was in cabin #1 (kiss), the maharanee in #2 (kiss) and Putsy in #3 (kiss). Burke tells Henry to drive them to the yacht.
As they reach the dock, Burke receives a call and Ulla goes ahead up the dock. The lab reports blood scrapings on the carpet in the stateroom, but no blunt instrument. The scrapings showed a blood alcohol count of zero. Just then, Ulla screams. Burke has Henry turn on the cars bright beams and they see her lying on the dock. Burke and Henry run to her, and Burke notices someone run onto the deck of the yacht. Ulla is OK, but Burke tells Henry to take her to the hospital to get checked, then rushes off toward the yacht.
In the passageway below decks, Burke encounters Putzi coming out of stateroom #1. He tells Burke he just came back for his camera equipment. Burke points out that the heavy camera in its case is a blunt instrument, and tells Putzi he really should have thrown it overboard last night. Putzi says, what, my camera? Burke says surely it must be broken after Putzi used it to club Jonas. Burke holds out his hand and says he has something belonging to Putzi. Putzi looks and says but that's a gypsy's earring. Burke says he thought so too, but saw that Gregorio had pierced ears. He accuses Putzi of stealing this one from the Maharanee's stateroom. Putzi says he doesn't understand, he thought Burke seemed so friendly. Burke tells him Jonas wasn't drunk last night and neither was Putzi. He was holding Jonas up because he had just knocked him unconscious. Putzi tells Burke he's being ridiculous and asks what he would have gained by killing Jonas. Burke says a big payoff from Milhew Court for spying and helping to sabotage the merger. Putzi, enraged, slings the camera by its strap and tries to club Burke. They fight in the passageway, into the stateroom, and back out again. Putzi grabs a fire ax from the wall and starts swinging. Burke grabs the fire extinguisher and empties it into Putzi's face until he is subdued, and completely covered in foam. Just then, Tim and Les arrive.
Back home, Burke and Ulla kiss; she tells him she bets he never thought he would be kissing a sailor. Ulla reminds him that in Sweden the nights are six months long. He divides 365 by 2 and asks her what they do with the 1/2 night. She tells him they have many sports in Sweden. Henry announces dinner; it's lasagna. Burke throws Henry out and says tonight it's smorgasbord. He and Ulla kiss at the fadeout.