Late at night, a man is seen walking with only the light from a flashlight. A sign is illuminated that reads "closed for private party". The man throws a switch and suddenly an amusement party is garishly lit and a huge group of kids run screaming onto the merry-go-round. As the merry-go-round starts up, the kids try to catch the rings as they pass, but something seems wrong. Suddenly a little girl screams and we see the body of a man lying nearby.
Burke is hosting a huge outdoor party at his home. A southern gal insists he join her at her table or she'll do something drastic; he tells her he has to see other guests first. So she throws herself into the pool to get his attention, and Henry has to fish her out. The call from the crime scene comes and Burke tells a surprised Henry they're off to a merry-go-round.
WHEN DUTY CALLS, WE HORSEMEN HAVE TO RIDE - BURKE'S LAW.
The dead man has been shot in the back with a .38. He was wearing an expensive suit, but all labels have been removed and there is nothing to ID him. On the body is found a matchbook for the Crystal Pier Ballroom (which burned down in 1930)with a phone number on it. When an eager Tim has anticipated all Burke's instructions and questions, informing him that the only person in the vicinity was a man walking his dog and they got the man's name, Burke asks if he got the dog's name, too. Tim says, "Yes, sir. Prince". Burke realizes, from the lack of bloodstains, that the man was shot elsewhere and then moved. Tim and Les are embarrassed that they didn't notice this
ONLY CAPTAINS ARE PERFECT - BURKE'S LAW
The lab report indicates the man has been dead for 3 days; his fingerprints are not found in any file. The phone number is tracked down to a home where actress Stacey Evans lives. When Burke sees her photo, he decides to interview her alone.
Stacey answers the door in a negligee and immediately she and Burke begin to spar. She tells him her friends call her Stacey, but police captains call her Miss Evans. She says she's surprised that she isn't nervous being questioned, but does want a drink and offers Burke a martini.
NEVER DRINK MARTINIS WITH BEAUTIFUL SUSPECTS - BURKE'S LAW
Stacey says she stays home every night, she has no friends in L.A., and realizes she has no alibi. She never leaves home, Mr. Flood wouldn't like it. Emory Flood, lumber and steel millionaire, owns a film studio and has Stacey under exclusive contract. She receives a $500 check every week, but in four years has never met Mr. Flood. Since her number was on the matchbook cover, Burke asks her to come down to the station to see if she can ID the body, and Stacey takes a huge gulp of martini. On the way to the station, Stacey admires the Rolls and wonders what bank Burke robbed. He tells her he robbed his rich daddy. She asks if it's really necessary for her to ID the body.
THEY COME IN AND THEY'VE GOT TO BE IDENTIFIED. THAT'S THE WAY THE BODY BOUNCES - BURKE'S LAW
After she sees the body and says she has no idea who it is, Burke offers her coffee. She wants something stronger, since she's never been in a morgue before. Burke puts an APB out on Flood (to see if he knows the dead man), since Flood is notoriously reclusive - no one has seen him in five years. As Burke takes Stacey home, she tells him she's never lonesome - has a dog and a TV. He offers her protection, which she declines, and tells her not to leave town.
Mr. Gregory, a clerk at Flood's offices, compulsively cleans and straightens Flood's office, telling Burke that everything must always be ready and in good shape, even though Mr. Flood has never used his desk or chair and was last in the office 13 years ago. Burke accidentally leans on the desk and Gregory has a fit about finger prints - Mr. Flood is very particular. He uses Burke's jacket to wipe off the desk, telling him there would be hell to pay if Flood saw fingerprints. Gregory shows Burke the office nerve center, tape, teletype, and a green phone for direct orders from Flood. Gregory says he has no way of contacting Flood; besides, Mr. Flood couldn't help Burke - he doesn't approve of murder. Gregory tells Burke there's no one above him to complain to, until Burke threatens to take him downtown. Then he says the Henry Geller is his superior.
Henry Geller is taking care of his huge private aviary. His talking Mynah bird, Edward, is giving him stock quotes. Geller and Edward bicker. Geller is very officious with Burke and tells him Flood would never concern himself with murder. Edward yells "He's a nasty, watch out!" Geller says Flood could be almost anywhere and won't help Burke at all. Burke threatens to put Flood's connection to the murder in the papers. Edward says that won't do any good.
Stacey visits Burke at home, bearing martinis. Burke sends Henry off to change out his garish new robe, telling him to go shoot the man who sold it to him and Burke will get Henry off. Stacey wants to make up, Burke says he wasn't mad, Stacey says she was. She wants to know if he suspects her, and wants to go to Palm Beach with him for lunch. Les arrives (having been tailing Stacey, which she was aware of) and tells Burke Flood's attorneys are at the station. Stacey wants to come along. When Burke says no, she threatens to tell Les that Burke seduced her. Burke caves, but won't let her into his office. Flood's four lawyers, acting almost as one, are there to protest the material witness warrant Burke has put out for Flood. They insist on seeing the body, to avoid having to call in Flood. They return and tell Burke they're dropping all charges - the dead man is Emory Flood. Tim reports that several actresses are under contract to Flood besides Stacey. Burke is worried for Stacey. He suggests she get an apartment closer to town, then breaks the news to her about Flood.
Tim suspects Stacey, but can't come up with a motive. Gregory or Geller could have been dipping into the till.
Geller calls and asks Burke to pick him up downtown. He has just bought a pair of lovebirds, who are constantly fighting. He tells Burke he wants to avoid a scandal and demands that Burke come up with a suspect immediately. When Burke hints at his guilt, Geller tells him that there is someone above him in the chain of power, Harold Mason, a major stockholder in the Flood empire.
At Mason's beach house, Burke discovers that Mason is out of town, but a friend (another actress), Alison Grahame, is there, drunk (apparently a habitual condition). Alison flirts with both Burke and Tim and tells them she wouldn't be Mrs. Mason "if he owned the jar". When Burke asks where Mason is, she "searches" under the sofa cushions and in the liquor cabinet. Suddenly she embraces and kisses Tim. Alison tells them she saw Flood once a year - they were "inseperable". The king is dead, long live the crown prince (Mason). Alison tells Burke that when they catch the murderer, she wants to get the person's name spelled right, so she can build a memorial to them.
In Mr. Gregory's outer office, an elderly woman calls Tim over and begs him to give a note to Mr. Flood when he sees him. She says "they" never deliver her messages; she's there every morning. When Tim accepts the note, she offers him a lady finger. In the office, Tim accidentally leaves fingerprints on the desk and Burke scolds him, using Tim's jacket to wipe off the desk. Mr. Gregory stuffily tells Burke that he had nothing to do with any of the actresses and can't tell Burke where they live. But when Burke threatens to take him downtown, Gregory admits he knows about Barrie Coleman. He tells them that the woman in the waiting room is Annabelle Rogers, Flood's first flame (over 30 years ago). Flood hasn't seen her since; Gregory says she's lost in her memories and comes by every day. Flood has given orders that she's to be treated well. Gregory says there's no way to tell her that Flood is dead and she'll probably continue to come until the day she dies. Burke is surprised that Gregory is still cleaning the office. Gregory says that Flood was a very determined man - he might come back.
Burke gives Annabelle a ride home. As they chat, Tim lights Annabelle's cigarette, in a long old-fashioned holder, and absent-mindedly pockets the matches. Burke assures Annabelle that Flood is not in the office that day. She invites them up to her home - she's lonely and never has visitors. They kindly decline and watch her pick a rose and put it behind her ear before she climbs the steps to her house.
Burke learns that Mason has returned from Texas, where he was selling office blocks of Flood stock. Burke decides to interview him and sends Tim to interview Barrie Coleman. Tim is shocked that Burke didn't take the girl and leave him to Mason. Barrie is a very bitter woman, he finds. When he asks if she knew Flood, she laughs and says no, she doesn't think she did. Barrie says everything belonged to Flood; she'd go to the funeral, but she has to do her nails. No one was permitted to hate Flood, he did so much. He bought one actress a huge collection of Dresden china. One night he called and the girl wasn't home, waiting for his call. So he dumped her and moved Barrie in and she inherited the china. Barrie takes up a fire poker and begins to smash all the china, telling Tim she doesn't deserve it. She always stayed home every night, waiting for Flood's call. But there was never a call, and never any acting work. She started going out days and picking up me and bringing them home. She was lonely for contact. She made contact with the men right in front of Flood's portrait so he could watch. Barrie smashes the poker into the portrait, then smashes a mirror and tries to slash her wrists with the broken glass. She tells Tim she can't stand to look at herself, as he grabs the glass from her and tries to call an ambulance.
Mason is found caring for his pet pirhana. He feeds his other fish to the pirhana. He tells Burke he believes in survival of the fittest. The meek inherit nothing, he says; he's for the "upperdog". He offer Burke homemade fudge. Burke suggests Mason sold stock because he knew Flood was dead. Mason says he wants to cop a plea and wants Burke to sign a contract protecting him if he gives him information. He offers Burke jelly candy. Mason finally admits that Flood called him Tuesday night and said he was wounded. When Mason went to where Flood was staying, Flood was already dead. Mason moved the body to the merry-go-round. He insists he didn't kill Flood, just transported the body. He says he doesn't believe in using murder to get ahead in business. Burke is going to bring him down to the station, but Mason says they have to wait until his homemade divinity cools.
Burke drives Stacey to lunch - she still wants to go to Palm Springs. He begs her to confess if she's involved and Stacey gets mad, telling Burke that yes, she killed Flood because he kept sending all those checks to her and didn't take out any social security tax.
Tim shows Burke a matchbook he has for the Cafe Monmartre, which went out of business in 1929. It belongs to Annabelle and Tim had gotten it when he lit her cigarette.
At Annabelle's home, they find everything looking straight out of 1929 - the calendar, an old Victrola, signed photos of old-time movie stars (Clara Bow, Monte Blue, Mabel Normand, etc.), and a picture of a very young Emory Flood. The Victrola plays "I'll See You In My Dreams". There's one out-of-place, newer picture, unsigned, of Robert Mitchum. Behind it, Burke finds a bullet hole from a .38. Annabella enters, expecting to see Flood. When Tim asks about the Cafe Montmartre, she tells Burke that they'll go to the Crystal Pavilion for dinner and dancing - the cafe was only for lunch. It's clear she is living in the past. She becomes very upset when they mention Mitchum's photo and show her the bullet hole. She refuses to talk and tells them to leave so Flood won't be upset. They mention the other actresses and Annabelle says she's the only one Flood truly loves. She says no one must know because it would destroy Flood. They finally convince her to talk . An old man came into the house Tuesday, when the servants were off, using a key. He tried to kiss her - she was shocked and disgusted. She ran upstairs and got the gun she says Emory gave her to protect herself. When she came down, the old man was acting like he was right at home and acted as if he knew her. He wouldn't leave, so she shot him. He looked surprised, staggered out and drove away. Annabelle says he was an awful old man - imagine trying to kiss her like that. Burke tells her they will take her where no one will hurt her and Annabelle goes to get her coat. Burke tells Tim that Annabelle is still living in the past and didn't recognize Flood when he arrived, only knowing the young Flood. Who knows why he picked that night to come by. Flood obviously loved her enough to try to not implicate her in the shooting, by driving away. Burke says he hopes wherever Annabelle is taken she never sees any newspapers so she will never comprehend who killed Emory Flood.
Burke gets in his car to bring martinis to Stacey, only to find her already in the car with two martinis for him. She tosses them out the window as they drive off.