At Valentina's restaurant, a posh if somewhat raucous banquet is in full swing. It is the 10th anniversay company banquet for The House of Cards, known as "The Greeting Card Center of the U.S.". An attractive young blonde serves as hostess and tries to quiet the diners in order to formally present the evening's entertainment. Tableau vivants recreations of the company's 10 best-selling cards will be presented enacted on a revolving stage as the blonde narrates. For the most sentimental day of the year, Mother's Day, the card reads "Man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done". We see an apron-clad man slaving over a stove, while a woman in a slinky cocktail dress, holding a martini and a cigarette in a long holder, lounges nearby. The blonde announces that the sales for this card were 7,009,000. Next is a get well card: "I'm trying, I'm trying, can't you see? Won't somebody please untie me". The scene is a hospital room where a heavily-bandaged man with his limbs in traction slings is desperately trying to reach a voluptuous nurse; it sold 9,083,000. The crowd roars its approval. Happy Anniversary: "I've never lost my taste for you" shows a cave woman biting the arm of her mate" in a card that sold 14,825,000. Now the blonde presents the master of ceremonies for the evening, the man who pays all the bills, "The Card, Himself", Mr. Valentine Holliday. The stage revolves once again, displaying Holliday slumped up against a target with an arrow in his chest. The crowd gasps, the blonde is stunned, and Holliday's body slides to the floor, as a woman screams.
Burke is found in 1920's costume, complete with raccoon coat, singing "Rosie, My Little Rosie" on a small stage, accompanied by a three-piece combo. Sgt. Ames, dressed as a flapper, gets up on the edge of the stage and tries to attract his attention, but Burke is really into his song. He finishes and calls out, "You're on, boys!" A mob of cops in 20's gear, some in very bad drag, crash up onto the stage from the audience, with one "chorus girl" falling flat on his face, griping. Burke reminds him that the show they're rehearsing is for the annual policeman's charity. Burke grabs Sgt. Ames and they go into their dance number, complete with chorus line backup. As they hoof, she whispers to him, through clenched teeth that he has an urgent call from Les. He says, in the middle of the number? She tells him it's murder; Burke stops, tells the chorus to "keep practicing, not that you need it" and heads off to solve another crime.
At Valentina's, he encounters Tim carrying the caveman's huge club. Les is standing on stage with an arrow piercing his body. It's a trick arrow, the very one that seemed to be sticking out of Holliday's body when he died. Burke says it wasn't the arrow, it wasn't the club, what was it? McLeod has determined that Holliday died of convulsions and has ordered an autopsy. The official cause of death is unknown, but poison is suspected. The victim was president and founder of The House of Cards. Everyone at the banquet been processed and sent home; no one else got even slightly sick. Tim and Les tell Burke they've taken care of everything; he says, OK, who did it?
The next morning, Burke and Henry, both exhausted, are driving to work. Tim calls to report that Holliday was murdered by arsenic poisoning. He says that toxicology had to be absolutely sure it was arsenic before they were willing to issue a statement. Burke replies
MURDER WON'T WAIT - BURKE'S LAW
Burke says he's off to The House of Cards to find out who printed "Happy Murder's Day". In a jumbled, seemingly deserted waiting room, Burke calls out "greetings!" and a voice replies "that's our business". He finds a receptionist sitting behind a stack of boxes on the floor. She explains that the office is being reorganized. Burke asks for whoever is in charge and she directs him to Miss Mellon. As he reaches the door to the inner office, Burke finds a handyman removing a sign which reads Valentine Holliday, President. Inside, another workman is busy scraping off fancy wallpaper, while a third is painting. Miss Mellon, the blonde m.c. from the banquet, is selecting the paint color she wants for the office. Burke tells her she looks awfully young to be in charge. She tells him that Vassar got dull, and asks who he is. He identifies himself, notes that they certainly work fast around here, and asks who the new name on the door will be. She tells him Mr. Holton Rockett, who is their top salesman. Burke notices Miss Mellon has been doodling, a sketch of a painter falling off a ladder; she tells him it's just an idea for a new card. He asks if that's what she does. She tells him to call her Ambrosia and says she's indispensable, being the survey expert on greeting cards for the teenage market. Ambrosia says she's finally getting over Holliday's death; Burke points out that it's only been 14 hours. Ambrosia tells him that Holliday practically lived in this office; if she hadn't brought him his food he wouldn't have eaten, since he only thought about the business. Burke still thinks she's awfully young. She's 19, but says she's been old since she was 12. The workmen continue to steam off the wallpaper. Ambrosia had attended the dinner with Rockett; she looks around the room and says she sees Rockett's office more in gold. Burke asks if her color is sable. She tells him the room decor wasn't right for Holliday either; she thinks it suits Burke more - rich green, sophisticated and earthy. He's flattered and takes a sample of the wallpaper for his study. Burke locates and pockets Holliday's diary/appointment book. Ambrosia says can tell him so much more than the book. Burke asks where he can find Rockett and wonders why Ambrosia never asked how Holliday was murdered. She tells him he will find Rockett in front of the nearest mirror.
At Holton Rockett's suite, Rockett is indeed preening. He tells Burke that he came up the hard way, step by step; Burke asks over how many bodies. He calls himself a self-made man; Burke hopes they threw the mold away. Rockett wonders if all civil servants are like Burke and Burke warns him not to let the word "servant" fool him. To show how bright he is, Rockett demands Burke test him on any subject; Burke suggests they discuss murder by arsenic. Rockett replies that he worked for Holliday, he didn't have time to feed him. He says he's busy with the takeover and a lot of little people depend on him; Burke is touched by his modesty. Rockett insists his needs are few, as he opens a huge closet; he claims to hate ostentation, as he dons a garish sports jacket. He claims the garb is all his selfless way of sacrificing for his clients; Burke assumes that it's no doubt all tax-deductible. The wardrobe has to be huge, because a good salesman has to dress specifically for each customer. Rockett demonstates his theory and tells Burke he alone built Holliday's business for him. In order to keep him, Holliday had to give him stock options; he now owns the largest single block of stock in the company. He says he was always better than Holliday. So what if he was at the diner when Holliday was killed, so were lots of other people. Rockett admires himself in yet another mirror and says he was meant to be the head of House of Cards; Burke warns
A STRONG WIND, ALL FALL DOWN - BURKE'S LAW
As he leaves, Burke suggests Rockett should just line his office with mirrors.
When Burke leaves, he spots an envelope in the back seat of the Rolls; Henry had just stepped away for a moment to get coffee and has no idea where it came from. The envelope contains a hand-made greeting card, with a picture of a big-game hunter, which reads: "So you're going hunting?" Inside is a drawing of a laughing line, and the hunter's head mounted: "You'll look good on my wall."
At the station, Sgt. Ames brings in the afternoon coffee. Tim reports that Holliday had been unwell lately, debilitated. He had refused his doctor's advice to enter the hospital for observation, saying he didn't have time. Sgt. Ames points out that none of them have eaten, and she just happened to make coffee for herself. Burke says he didn't realize she was the domestic type; she replies that he just hasn't been paying attention. She gives him the M. E.'s report. Every organ in Holliday's body was saturated with copper arsenite, even the bones and hair; he was poisoned with twice the lethal dose. McLeod has indicated that he had to have been was poisoned by minuscule doses over a long period of time. Burke ponders the fact that Ambrosia was close enough to have been feeding Holliday on a regular basis. Burke reexamines the names in Holliday's detailed diary again. Only four people were close to him over an extended period of time: Ambrosia, Rockett, Simeon Quatrain, and his psychologist, Heresford Handy. Burke tells Tim and Les to check if any of them may have purchased arsenic, and to get warrants if necessary. Before they leave, he tells them they should also see Lt. Ellison. Tim and Les are puzzled; Lt. Ellison is not on this case. Burke repeats that Lt. Ellison needs to see them both.
At room 501 of an office complex, Burke enters the waiting room and rings a bell on the desk. An attractive redhead enters and tells Burke that they are there to help, but Mr. Handy is engaged. Burke says he hopes Mr. Handy will be very happy, but he's Capt. Burke from Homicide. She eyes Burke, flirts a bit, and says that's funny; Burke says it never got a laugh before. She means that a note came that day to the office addressed to Burke. Burke opens it; it's another card. Large eyes stare out from the front with the caption "I'm watching you". Inside is a drawing of a man pushing a car up a steep hill and the lines "But you'll never make the grade". The redhead returns to say that Mr. Handy will see him now.
In Handy's office, the psychologist is sitting in a two-seater lawnswing, rocking back and forth. Burke thanks the redhead and tells her it's a private conversation. Handy says anything Burke has to say; the redhead breaks in a finishes his sentence, saying "Goody can hear". Handy tells Burke that she's his; again she interrupts and says "wife". Handy invites Burke to join him on the swing, but Burke declines, saying he's subject to vertigo. "Goody" makes eyes at Burke again. Handy starts to tell Burke how interesting vertigo is, on the psychological level, but his wife interrupts and reminds him that Burke is there for a different reason. Goody then directs Burke to ask his questions; she tells him Heresford has nothing to hide. Handy says Burke really should join him, as the swing releases the subconscious. Goody, like a mother with a small child, gets Handy back on track. The questioning continues, with Handy starting every sentence, only to have Goody finish it, until Burke doesn't know which way to look. "They" proceed to tell Burke that Holliday's death was tragic, he and Handy were friends for many years, and Holliday has a great sense of humor. Burke cracks "so he was a card" and gets only a tight smile from the Handys. Burke wonders why Holliday employed a psychologist. "They" both manage to tell him it was a matter of human relations. Handy's ideas built up the company; he analyzed every card and was able to tell Holliday which cards would sell. The Handys were both at the dinner. Heresford says it was very nice; Goody contradicts him and says it was miserable. He says, "it was, dear?"; Yes. Goody tells Burke they certainly didn't feed Holliday any arsenic. When Burke tells them that Holliday wasn't poisoned at the dinner, Handy looks surprised. Burke explains how Holliday was poisoned over a long period of time; Handy says that's very interesting, on a psychological level. Goody tells her husband to go back to his deep thinking and she'll answer any more questions Burke has, in the outer office. Handy asks Burke "Isn't she wonderful?" Burke replies, yes, she's quite a man. Goody practically drags Burke back to the outer office. Handy's last words to Burke are that he doesn't understand Rockett, Rockett' has a problem; Burke says so does he.
Once outside, Goody tells Burke she had more to lose than anyone; she and Holliday were intimate, but it was over long before she met Heresford. Now, she says, they're both finished at The House of Cards. Rockett won't have them around because he's jealous of her husband. Goody was already working at The House of Cards when Handy arrived to run personality tests on the staff. After he studied her test results, Handy married her. She gets close and sultry with Burke, telling him she has "special qualities". Burke asks if her test results are included in the packet they have in the office; when she says yes, he says he'll take them all. She reminds him the tests are private and confidential; he replies that he'll read them with the shades down. Goody gets the test results from the files; as she hands them to Burke, she reminds him she's available, if he needs to...talk. Burke says "goody,.....Goody".
Burke tells Tim and Les to check out the information on the test results, and then to check to anonymous cards for prints and to find the typewriter used to type the addresses on the envelopes. They haven't yet found any records of arsenic purchases. Tim and Les did see Lt. Ellison and tell Burke he has to be kidding. Bureke tells them he's off to study Greek mythology. Les purrs "Ambro-o-o-sia" and Burke tells him he may still get that promotion before he retires.
At Burke's home, the doorbell rings; there's no sign of Henry so Burke answers the door, only to find another card on the doorstep and no sign of anyone. "Are you overworked, underpaid, overtired? Take a vacation". Inside, the card continues "You're fired!" Henry enters and, overhearing Burke reading out loud, thinks he means him. Burke is peeved that the killer seems to think he/she has it made.
Later, at dinner, Ambrosia says her problem is she wants everything.
TOO MUCH AMBITION IS MURDER - BURKE'S LAW
She plays up to Burke and says why does he have to ruin their date. Burke says's he's not her date, he's old enough to be her...Ambrosia warns him that if he says "father", she'll scream. She just wants the moon; Burke tells her it isn't on the menu. Later still, in the Rolls, as they eat popcorn, Ambrosia tells Burke she adores a man with imagination; Burke asks if that includes Rockett. She asks why he thinks she would poison Holliday; he was nice to her. Burke agrees and says she was nice feeding Holliday his lunch, too. Time passes again, and they are dancing to gypsy violins at a club. Burke asks Ambrosia if Rockett is the man of the future. Also, he wonders how Holliday liked his lunch; she says, on time. Burke asks if they are going to go on playing games all evening. If she doesn't start answering his questions, he threatens to hand her over to the Juvenile Division. Ambrosia tells Burke Holliday and Goody were an item. Burke says he understood that was in the past; Ambrosia says obviously he spoke to Goody and that's her version. Ambrosia claims Holliday kept trying to dump Goody; Burke asks if it was because he had Ambrosia around now. She says she never thought of it that way before. Ambroisa starts to tell Burke that Simeon Quatrain was the one who really, really hated Holliday, but Burke accidentally knocks Ambrosia's bag off the table. As he picks it up, Burke finds a greeting card addressed to him sticking out of the bag. Ambrosia blushes and says he wasn't supposed to find that, because she was going to mail it as a surprise. He opens the envelope; she pouts. A drawing of a Keystone Kop with a pie flying toward his face is on the front. Ambrosia is disappointed that Burke doesn't seem to like it and reaches for the envelope. Burke grabs it first and says he's saving envelopes for a paper drive.
The envelope for Ambrosia's card and the one delivered to Handy's office were both addressed on the same typewriter, Ambrosia's typewriter, with the letter "e" noticeably filled in. Burke, Les and Tim discuss who knew he was going to Handy's office and who could have planted all the cards. Les and Tim give Burke a rundown of the psychological tests: Goody is a barracuda; Rockett and Ambrosia are in the same league, strong on ambition and drive. Burke answers the phone, looks peeved, and hangs up, telling them that Lt. Ellison has just reported Tim and Les "won't". Burke says he knows they "will". They protest. Burke orders them to comply, but first to see Simeon Quatrain.
Quatrain, a truly terrible stutterer, is writing music when they arrive. He says Holliday's murder proves his point that the trouble with the world today is that there's no respect. He was one of Holliday's top freelance writers. Quatrain tells them that he was the one who came up with Send Your Barber a Greeting Card Week; he reads them a dreadful sample card. He takes a pill and complains that the cynical times have passed him by. He says his problem is that he's gone out of style; Les remarks that murder is never in style. Quatrain gets upset and asks why he should have killed Holliday, just because Holliday took advantage of him, picked his brains, wrung him dry and only paid him $5 per rhyme. Now, he says, he has to be a songwriter. Tim says all that is reason enough. Quatrain moans that nowadays everyone is buying "gargoyle cards"; it's all Insult Your Neighbor Week. He was at the dinner, but says Holliday just wanted to give him a handout; he claims he never even got to talk to Holliday. He used to sit right at the head table. Quatrain says he only saw Holliday once or twice a month at meetings, but Tim points out that the diary shows it was twice a week. Les adds that each time the two of them had a drink together; Holliday, after all, was poisoned over a long period of time. Quatrain says he liked everyone, but admits he hated Holliday's guts. Quatrain was the guy wrote the first card that sold 2 million. It was a card about Mother; he wrote another Mother Card and, can you imagine!?, Holliday turned it down! It went "Your mother is your friend/Your father is too/Why should you hate your mother/When she loves you?" Tim says he can't believe anyone would turn that down. Quatrain tells them he may even have to go back to his old profession of handyman. He had just done that until he got discovered. He admits he had been at House of Cards the day after Holliday's death but he didn't stay, only picked up some cards. Tim looks at one that shows a fish and a large hook and reads "You're trying to catch me, but you'll never make it". Les says it looks a lot like the ones Burke got. Quatrain claims he was trying to get inspiration, so he could get on to the new "Hooray, you broke your leg" style of writing. Before Tim and Les leave, Quatrain tells them he loves cops and will write them a song on the spot. After equally dismal tries, he settles on the following: "You've got to like a policeman/You've got to know where he's at/The reason that he walks all day/Is because his feet are flat". He looks up for approval, but Tim and Les have left.
Henry is driving Burke and complaining about all sorts of domestic problems, but Burke barely listens. When Henry mentions the bad wallpaper in the study, Burke asks if he didn't order the new paper Burke liked. Henry has no idea what Burke's talking about. When Burke says he gave him a sample, Henry bets a 6-months raise that he didn't. Burke finds the sample in his wallet, and OK's the raise.
At a posh decorators shop, Burke tries to get the sample of green wallpaper matched. The affected interior decorator oohs and aahs over the sample, saying it's very unusual and old. She checks in the files, commenting how the paper is powdering; she says she hopes they're not tearing down another fabulous old building. She's sure it's French paper, but then informs Burke she can't help him, no one can. The paper was declared illegal in the U. S. years ago. The unusual green shade is due to the fact that it was made with Paris Green dye - very poisonous, containing copper arsenite. Burke thanks her and tells her he did find what he wanted, after all.
At the station, McLeod confirms that the wallpaper is the murder weapon. Holliday because he spent hours alone in that room, absorbing arsenic day after day. The paper was declared toxic after years of use in the U.S. Sgt. Ames has gone through the entire phone book; every decorator got rid of the paper years ago. Burke wonders if perhaps Quatrain hung the paper, back when he was a handyman.
Quatrain says that just because they didn't like his song is no reason to accuse him of murder. He says his song may be lousy but his rent is paid. He does admit he hung the wallpaper; he had just stopped off at the office to give Holliday a "Miss You" card ("You're far away and I do find/That you are always on my mind"). He complains that Holliday didn't even pay union scale for hanging the paper. But, Quatrain reminds them, he didn't order the paper; Ambrosia was the one who asked him to hang the paper.
Les says he told Burke so, it's Ambrosia. Burke reluctantly returns to The House of Cards. The receptionist is glad to see him, saying her boyfriend doesn't appreciate her.
Inside, Ambrosia is sitting in Holliday/Rockett's chair; Burke asks if she's keeping her eye on the future. Ambrosia laughs when he tells her the wallpaper killed Holliday. She insists that anyone could have had access to her typewriter to address the card envelopes; it was out in the hallway during the office renovations. She admits it was her idea to have the wallpaper removed. She tells Burke that Holliday brought the paper back with him after he and the Handy's took a trip to Europe to get new ideas for the company. Burke is puzzled that it was Holliday, after all, who chose the paper. Ambrosia says Holliday hated the paper, but he could never say no to Goody. Burke tells Ambrosia he'll pick her up for dinner, and leaves, an idea clearly forming.
At Handy's office, Burke again rings the bell in the waiting room. Inside, Handy gets up and goes to the wall; moving a painting, he peers through a peep hole at Burke, then gets a gun from his drawer and loads it. Handy goes out to greet Burke and tells him he knows why he's come - because of his wife. Burke says that's right, and goes into the office to wait for Goody. Handy says he knew Burke would come back; he tells him it's happened before. Burke says, it has? and Handy says yes, every man who meets his wife falls in love with her. Burke remarks that Goody is very attractive, after all. Handy agrees, but points out that she "belongs" to him. Holliday, he says, thought he could get her with his money. Burke says Goody chose Handy to marry, though. Handy, with a gleam in his eye, says yes, and she'll stay married to him as long as he lives. Burke asks when Goody is returning; Handy says it doesn't matter, because Burke won't be there when she does. He adds that Burke shouldn't think he can meet her in secret, either. Burke finally understands and asks where Handy bought the wallpaper; Handy says Holliday thought he was smarter than him. Handy says he built the company and Holliday repaid him by trying to steal his wife. Burke says now he understands the motive for the murder. Handy continues to stew, saying Holliday kept him on as a consultant, thinking he didn't notice what was going on. Only a man of his superior intellect deserves a wife like Goody. Burke proceeds to flatter him, telling him how clever he was sending Burke a card right in his own office; Handy liked that touch too. He also thought the wallpaper was a brilliant idea, and in good taste, too. Handy sighs that when Holliday didn't like the paper, he had to get Goody to persuade him; but, he tells Burke, Goody is not mixed up in the murder, she's too beautiful to be clever. When Burke suggests they go down to the station and discuss it all, Handy whips out the gun. He claims Burke is just trying to get rid of him in order to steal Goody. He had been waiting for Burke to arrive so he could kill him. Just then, Goody walks in, assesses the situation, and, in her best firm schoolmarm tones, tells him to put the gun down. He says: "Yes dear, I'm sorry", and does. He docilely goes with Burke. When Goody tells Burke that she'll accompany them to the station, Handy says again "Isn't she wonderful?". Burke tells him that he's a very fortunate man.
Burke and Ambrosia arrive for the final rehearsal for the charity show. Lt. Ellison calls everyone on stage, and tells Burke that Tim and Les are there, but need discipline. Burke assures him they'll get it right after the show. He tells Ambrosia to have a seat and he'll introduce her to her date. She says she thought Burke was her date; Burke tells her no, it's Tim and Burke is sure she'll like him. But she says she really does like Burke and never really cared for anyone before him; she's worried that Tim won't like her. Burke reassures her and heads for the stage. This time, he's the one who trips and stumbles getting onstage. Disgruntled Les and Tim, in 20's outfits, join him, along with Sgt. Ames in her flapper outfit. Les grumbles that Burke has no respect for old age, Tim worries what his mother will say, and Sgt. Ames makes catty comments about "pretty...young" Amborosia. Burke, in raccoon coat, launches into "Rosie, My Little Rosie", backed by his ragged chorus line as Ambrosia beams from the front row.