Burke's Law

Season 2 Episode 31

Who Killed the Grand Piano?

Aired Friday 8:30 PM Apr 28, 1965 on ABC

Episode Recap

At the Los Angeles Concert Center, pianist Artur Bachner performs to riotous applause. The emcee announces that Bachner's final selection will be his newest work, "Bachner's Rhapsody", a masterpiece which Bachner has stated that only he, of all the pianists in the world, can play. Bachner begins to play; a few moments into the Rhapsody, he plays a sustained bass tremolo and raises his right hand high to strike a huge treble chord. As he strikes the keys, the piano explodes, with a huge blast and great cloud of smoke.

At the airport, Burke and his girlfriend Patience are late to meet Burke's uncle Patrick Harrigan's plane, arriving from Ireland. They were late leaving the restaurant because Patience had to have two desserts; she just loves Cherries Jubilee. Burke says he hasn't seen Patrick since he was a little boy; Patience tells him he never was a little boy and kisses him. Burke nervously extricates himself from her embrace, worried what Uncle Patrick will think if he sees them like that. Patience imagines he will be a real square, but when he arrives, Patrick is a spry old roue who bears an uncanny resemblance to Burke. A feisty son of the "old sod", Patrick takes an immediate shine to Patience (and vice versa). He tells her he's ready for the bar, and they go off, leaving Burke in their dust. Patrick tells Patience that none of the women in Ireland are as fine as she is. When Burke receives the call about the murder, Patrick and Patience ignore him. Burke tells Les that he didn't interrupt a thing. When Burke goes to work, Patrick is telling her an old story and they don't even notice Burke's departure. Henry reassures Burke that he loves him.

The M.E. tells Burke that it's wild - Bachner, "the world's greatest pianist", was making his first L.A. appearance (and his last, as someone notes). All that McLeod knows is that the piano contained some kind of bomb. Alfred Algernon, Bachner's personal manager, offers his assistance. He presents Burke with his white-gloved left hand for a limp handshake while affectedly keeping his cigarette clutched in his right. Algernon tells Burke that it's a terrible loss to music lovers of the world. He had been with Bachner for 25 years, he was his life; Algernon considers it a rare privilege to serve genius. "The Maestro" (Bachner) was unusual in that he always gave a party before the concert in order to show everyone that he wasn't nervous. Algernon gives Burke the guest list - 75 people. The party had been held in Bachner's dressing room just offstage, so everyone had access to the piano. Algernon says Bachner and his ex-wife Maria Groovy had a terrible argument. He clearly doesn't think much of her since she's a nightclub singer, at Jazz Heaven. Bachner and his bitter rival, Wilhelm Kasimer, had also had an argument; Kasimer of course considers himself to be the world's greatest pianist. Algernon informs Burke that Kasimer's self-opinion is a "ridiculous assumption". Algernon informs Burke that "we artists" are prisoners of ego, whose interpretations shape the world's music. He says the new rhapsody was very beautiful, and assures Burke that he will be easy to find, as he has a temporary office at the Concert Center.

At Jazz Heaven, Maria Groovy is singing "So Cool", to much applause from Burke and the rest of the audience. A bit of wordplay on "groovy" takes place and Maria tells Burke that they don't get many class guys at Jazz Heaven; she immediately takes a fancy to Burke. She asks Burke who Bachner is, but Burke confronts her with what he already knows of the relationship. Maria then says so she was married to the conceited jerk; it should be a crime, but it isn't. She says she had nothing to do with the death of "Mr. Ego". She went to the "stupid" party because she was curious, not having seen the old fink in years. They said hello and she left; Maria says so they fought, so what. She admits she has no alibi, insists she didn't kill him, and tells Burke she's leaving, 'bye. Burke asks how she'd like a trip downtown; he wins the duel of wills. Maria tells him that every time Bachner performed in a city where she was singing, he had to see her. She says she went one last time to remind herself what an arrogant fool he was. She tells Burke he wasn't still in love with her, and had a "mother rabbit" to keep him company. Burke guesses correctly that when she left their marriage, it hurt his ego, and now he thought she was going to come back to him because she came to the party. Maria admits that and says that the fight began when he realized she wasn't coming back. Burke asks why she would leave a millionaire like Bachner to sing in a dive like Jazz Heaven. Maria's tells him her real last name is Pallas; he might remember her. She came up from the slums of New York to start an opera career; she debuted and flopped, and ended up in "Heaven". She first met Bachner while she was working as a secretary; he fell in love and took her with him on his European concert tour. When he heard her sing in the shower, he convinced her to sing in a small opera company. Maria tells Burke she had no training at all, but heard a lot and caught on quickly. The problem was, she was an amateur with a bad case of stage fright. At first Bachner encouraged her; when she developed a reputation, she got a debut offer in Vienna. On opening night, with everyone important around, Bachner needled her so much about the awful things that would happen if she flopped, Maria got so terrified she couldn't even speak, let alone sing. His publicist saw to it she was ruined. She says she should have killed Bachner. Burke addresses her as "Miss Pallas" and asks if she did. Maria says no, but thanks for the "Miss Pallas". Burke wishes her well.

Back at the station, McLeod informs Burke that Bachner was killed by a vibration bomb, explosives detonated with tuning forks triggered by a certain sound. Very little knowledge of explosives is needed to create one; it was modeled on one used in WW II to blow up factories - when the lunch whistle blew, the plant went up in smoke. In Bachner's belongings, Burke finds a rabbit key, membership entry to the Bunny Club. Burke remembers what Maria said about a "mother rabbit" and notes that is what the woman who trains the "bunnies" for the club is called. In the newspaper, he also finds from a movie notice that the heir to Bachner's $1 million is his brother, Morgus Ghoul, the world's most famous monster actor, who now plans to produce his own pictures using his inheritance. Sgt. Ames is a huge fan of Ghoul and his films, but Les notes that Ghoul has been out of work for a long time, so this comes as quite a boon to him. Also in the paper is a notice that Wilhelm Kasimer will have a concert in L.A. the following week, so Burke knows he's not going anywhere soon. Burke leaves the station, saying that he's off to hunt the most dangerous beast in the jungle - the "bunny".

At the Bunny Club, we see a Playboy-like logo on the door. The "door bunny", Spring, asks to see Burke's key, and tells him she can't admit anyone to the club without a key, not even the police. The manager comes over as Spring tells Burke that it's impossible to see the Bunny Mother right now, since she's teaching a class. When Burke turns to the manager he remarks "Don't look at me, I just work here". He finally escorts Burke into the club, poining out Penny Allen, the "mother rabbit". Penny mistakenly thinks Burke is the model "customer" for the bunnies to practice on and tells them all that it will be just like regular "combat experience". Burke finds a tail lying on the floor and Penny chastises Bunny Petunia, telling her that losing a tail is very serious - 50 demerits. When Penny tells Burke to sit at a table and act like a customer, he pretends to pass out. He asks Bunny Misty her last name and she tells him that they're not allowed to give that information and practices her Bunny Dip to serve him. Penny commends Burke for asking a good question. Burke flirts with Penny but she tells him that the bunnies and bunny mothers are not allowed to date the customers. Burke is served by three bunnies who approach with trays loaded with "Rabbit Punch", which turns out to be colored water. Burke says he can't handle that. Burke finally identifies himself and Penny sends the bunnies off to practice while she talks to him. She thanks him for not mentioning Bachner in front of the girls; she loves her job and would hate to lose it because of Bachner. She says she knew Bachner enough to hate him. She lives in West Hollywood, but met Bachner in Chicago a couple of years ago. She handled his fan mail and dated him a couple of times; but when she rejected his proposal of marriage, he began following her everywhere. Penny began working in Bunny Clubs around the country. Whenever Bachner was in a city where she was working, he made her life miserable. Her bosses began getting annoyed. Bachner had called and threatened Penny that if she didn't come to the party before the concert, he would get her fired. At the party, he was OK at first but later got fresh, started pawing her and she slapped him. She went home, using the back entrance so no one would see her crying. Burke believes her but warns her "don't hop out of town".

Sgt. Ames, Tim and Les go to Ghoul's home, a creepy faux haunted house. A raven answers the door, there are skulls on the table. A gong rings, curtains open and Ghoul appears in full garish monster makeup. He says he hopes didn't scare them, he was just practicing for his next movie. Thinking that they are reporters, he tells them he promises the rebirth of "real" monsters. Ghoul complains that TV monsters hardly ever kill anyone any more and don't even drink blood. He says Sgt. Ames reminds him of the girl he loved and couldn't have in his first picture. He does manage to scare Sgt. Ames, laughing hysterically and looking almost insane. Les tells him to knock it off. He thanks them for the compliment and says it's nice to know he still has that special something that made him a star - and shrieks another laugh. He offers them all drinks and says no, it's not blood, just beet juice. Complains that his brother's death wasn't exciting; a bite on the neck or a rusty axe would have been better. Ghoul hated his brother because Bachner wouldn't lend him any. Ghoul has squandered his earnings and was desperate to renew his career under his own banner. Bachner looked down on his brother for being a movie monster; Ghoul insists Bachner simply couldn't understand that they were both artists. When Sgt. Ames points out that Bachner was, after all, a concert pianist, Ghould screams that it takes years of preparation and practice for his job. Since a child, while other kids played cops and robbers, he played Wolfman meets Frankenstein. While Bachner practiced the piano, he practiced monster walks and diabolic laughs. It took years to perfect makeup; he was once offered $100,000 for his makeup secrets by a studio head. Tim says how convenient it is that his brother is now dead. Ghoul says he wanted to kill him but didn't. He had crashed Bachner's party because Bachner called and told him that if he ever spoke to him again, he'd have him arrested. Ghoul tells them he would never have killed his brother so quickly as to use a bomb. They argued over money as usual. He has no alibi. When Les tells him not to leave town, Ghould replies that he can't because he's currently recording a new Watusi album " I Wanna Bite Your Neck", on the Dracula label. The gong sounds again and he exits grandly.

A butler shows Burke into Wilhelm Kasimer's presence but tells him to be sure to make no noise, as the "maestro" is having a manicure. In Kasimer's room, the scene is much like that in an OR, with Mr. Farrell and his assistant in scrubs and masks ("scalpel", "scalpel"). Burke tells them that Ben Casey would be proud of them. Kasimer is unimpressed with Burke's badge and orders him to get out; when the manicure is finished, he dons protective white gloves. Kasimer tells Burke that each finger is insured for $100,000. He finally agrees to talk - briefly. He says Burke can't possibly suggest he has anything to do with the murder; he'll threatens to have Burke's badge. Kasimer begins reading sheet music and cavalierly dismisses any question he doesn't want to answer, telling Burke he chooses not to discuss unpleasant subjects.


Kasimer admits to having had an argument with Bachner, but says he wouldn't dirty his fingers by touching Bachner's piano, let alone placing a bomb in it. He lowered himself by even going to the party. When he refuses to talk any further, Burke suggests they go downtown. Kasimer scoffs at the idea that he, the great Kasimer, could be arrested, until Burke grabs his hand to go. He asks how dare Burke attempt to arrest him; Burke tells him "we policemen are not partial". He had hated Bachner ever since Bachner stole his greatest pupil and ruined the pupil through carelessness. Bachner said that Kasimer didn't have the guts to come to the party, then embarrassed him in front of all the guests by giving him an envelope containing Bachner's Rhapsody and telling everyone Kasimer couldn't play it. Bachner insisted he was the only pianist in the world who could play this masterpiece. Burke comments that both Bachner and Kasimer's humility gets to him. Kasimer agrees that modesty is one of his best qualities. Burke asks if Kasimer played the rhapsody; Kasimer sneers that didn't even open the envelope. He didn't need to prove anything, says "I am the Greatest". He tries to give Burke two tickets to his concert, but Burke declines. He tells Burke he doesn't know what he's missing, and almost gets his fingers caught in the door as Burke exits.

Les insists that Ghoul is the killer, but Tim favors one of the women. Burke notes that Kasimer gets to be the undisputed #1 now. Burke's uncle Patrick says he's a great student of criminology and that the Harrigans comes from a long line of detectives. "We're real artists in our profession!" Burke picks up on the phrase and tells Patrick he's a real Sherlock Holmes, then calls Alfred Algernon.

When Burke calls the Concert Center, Algernon is "conducting". Algernon informs Burke that there were only two copies of the Rhapsody in existence. One was given to Kasimer and the original blew up with the piano. Algernon has tried to get the copy back, but Kasimer refuses to return his calls. He tells Burke that no one else has even seen the music. Burke asks Uncle Patrick to take Patience to dinner in his place.

Back at Kasimer's, "the Maestro" asks them to leave as soon as they arrive. Burke asks him to play and is told that would be impossible, since Kasimer has just finished eight hours of practice ("just to limber my fingers, I don't need to practice"). Burke, Tim and Les shamelessly flatter him. Burke tells him he has all his records and none of Bachner's, who he considers a nobody. He agrees to play whatever they request. Burke says no, it would be too much to ask and too difficult. Kasimer takes the bait and tells them he'll play anything. Burke says he wants to hear Bachner's Rhapsody. Kasimer tells them the playing the rhapsody is impossible, but Burke pricks his pride by telling him he's afraid. He takes the dare and begins to play; when he reaches the big chord, he can't do it. He tries again and again, then breaks down and goes into a childish tantrum. Kasimer wails that Bachner was right, he was the only one who could play it. He shows them that the chord (C-C-A) is a finger spread of 13. Bachner was the only person who could physically make that reach because of his huge hands; Kasimer calls them "apelike". He calls the chord a cheap trick. Burke agrees that Kasimer is not the killer and leaves him to his frustration.

Algernon is at the Concert Center doodling at the piano with one hand. The right hand is in a black glove. Burke asks him why he killed Bachner and reminds him of his comment about "we artists". Burke notes that this is not the normal comment of a business manager; he thinks that Algernon once dreamt of being a concert pianist and is the student Bachner lured from Kasimer and ruined. Algernon laughs it off, then finally admits he was Kasimer's star pupil and was great, even then. Bachner heard him play and told him he could do more for him than Kasimer could. Algernon began studying with Bachner and in return served for a time as Bachner's part-time chauffeur. One night, Algernon drove them to a party. The weather was terrible with sleet. On the way home, Bachner, drunk, insisted on driving. Algernon protested but it did no good. They crashed; Bachner was unscathed but Algernon lost his right hand. The person in the other car was killed. Kasimer coerced Algernon into taking the blame, rather than damage his own carerr. In exchange, he gave Algernon a life-long job as his business manager. Algernon wrote the rhapsody; Bachner was no composer but put his name on it. Algernon tells Burke that the important thing was not to have his name on the music but to hear it played. Two days before the concert, Bachner rewrote the music and inserted the impossible chord. It had no place in the Rhapsody, but Algernon says it suited Bachner's purpose. Algernon kept hearing Bachner gloating about other pianist's "small, incapable hands", which of course included him. He says he considers it was poetic justice that the chord should have killed Bachner, since he was the only one who could play that chord. His only regret is that Bachner died at the piano, a privilege that should be reserved for the truly great. He laughs hysterically as they arrest him.

Henry calls Burke his "ex-boss" when Burke returns home. Uncle Patrick has taken over Burke's house and Patience. He wears a loud plaid coat and has ordered an elaborate dinner for two. He romances Patience a la Burke; she remarks that "Amos never says lovely things like that". Patrick tells her Burke is too young. He and Patience cross arms to drink, then smash the glasses in the fireplace. Burke heads up to bed, leaving them to it. Patience runs after him and says she's glad he's jealous. Burke insists he's not, and Patience tells him she only loves Patrick "like an uncle", but Burke.... She kisses Burke as Patrick looks on smiling and remarks "The luck o' the Irish".
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