With "Leave it to Beaver" type music playing underneath, we see a paperboy and his buddy covering the collection route. The buddy thinks its dumb - they could have snuck off to the beach. Herbie, the paperboy, says there's no money at the beach; he loves collection day and says "Doc" is always good for $5. Herbie's buddy asks can't he think of anything but money - there's girls at the beach. So what, says Herbie; well, they're different, says the buddy. My sister isn't, says Herbie. Herbie decides he wants to be a millionaire when he grows up; his buddy wants to be a playboy. At the next house, there's no answer when Herbie rings the bell. No problem, Herbie says, he and "Doc" have a system - if the doctor's not home, he leaves the key under the mat and Herbie can go in and collect the money which is always on the desk. When they get to the desk, the boys find the doctor slumped on the floor behind the desk, shot to death. The boys yell and run out, passing a photo of a beautiful woman.
Francesca is sketching a nude; Burke appreciates her work. Francesca is a cartoonist, creator of "Beulah Banks, Girl Detective"; but this piece is for the cover of a new book on dinosaurs. She tells Burke you've got to hype sales somehow. Burke agrees, asking, after all, how many dinosaurs read books. "The call" comes; Tim apologizes for ruining Burke's day.
WHEN YOU'VE SEEN ONE DINOSAUR, YOU'VE SEEN THEM ALL - BURKE'S LAW
Burke leaves Francesca to her work.
The dead man, Dr. Arthur Holt was a well-established general practicioner who lived quietly with his wife, Gina Landers Holt. The couple kept to themselves. He was shot three times at close range, maybe with a .38. No gun has been found, and there were no signs of robbery. No forced entry noted and his supply of morphine was still untouched in the medical cabinet, so the shooting probably wasn't drug related. The maid informs Burke that Mrs. Holt, who was 20 years younger than the doctor, is missing, she went to the movies and is long overdue to return. Burke puts an APB out on Mrs. Holt, Tim notes that her clothes are still in the closets; Les is to start digging into the couple's background. A call comes to Burke from Capt. Cal Donahue of Missing Persons saying he may have information about Burke's case. Tim asks where Burke intends to look for Gina. Burke replies that if he knew what she'd do, he'd go where she was and arrest her.
Capt. Donahue is an old friend of Burke. When Burke arrives, he is giving orders on another case and taking calls about yet another. He tells Burke that this is calm compared to most days. He saw the APB notice on Gina Landers Holt and it triggered something in his memory. Four years ago, a man called, almost hysterical, to report a woman had run away. He said "just a little argument, then, bang, that's all she wrote". Donahue tried to get the man's name; he started to give it - Dick something - and then hung up and never called again. He did give Donahue the name of the "rabbit" (what Missing Persons calls any runaway), however - Gina Landers. And now he sees that a Gina Landers Holt is missing. He doubts that Gina is a killer; "rabbits" usually run, but seldom kill. He says Missing Persons is a whole other thing from Homicide; he shows Burke a huge cabinet full of files, which he calls the "rabbit hutch". What makes someone run? - everything and anything. Donahue tells Burke the real reason is buried deep, so it only leaves the police with patterns of behavior to work with. Rabbits' seldom run off just once; he wishes Burke a "happy rabbit hunt".
In the fourth house above Holt's lives a man with telescope and other astronomy equipment (his hobby). He's told Tim that there was always a better show at the Holt house than in the sky, especially when the doctor was away. Gina had lots of male visitors and never drew her blinds. Les' financial check turns up the fact that Gina had such a spending habit that Holt had begun cancelling all her accounts across town.
MONEY, MONEY - IT MAKES PROBLEMS - BURKE'S LAW
Halsey's pawn shop calls about the APB; they took in a piece of jewelry matching that on the list. It was pawned by a man, but it sounds exactly like jewelry belonging to Gina. Burke confirms the id of the pendant. It was pawned by a man who called himself "John Smith" says Barney Halsey. He describes "Smith" as a huge, rumpled man, a wino. Halsey says he knew the jewelry was hot, but wasn't about to argue with someone that big. So he offered him a couple of bucks, figuring he wanted money for drinks. Sure enough, "Smith" went straight across the street to Cody's Bar.
Cody is wiping down the bar when Burke enters; he stalls, doesn't want to tell Burke anything, then makes Burke promise not to tell who told him. Finally, Cody admits that "Smith"'s real name is Maddox, a long-time sponge and a real mean character. He once broke a man's arm for 10 cents. Cody gives Burke the address of a flophouse where Maddox stays.
At the flophouse, manager doesn't want any trouble because he just cleaned the place up. You'd never know, because it's a dump. He nervously points out Maddox. Burke wakes the drunken Maddox, who won't get up and refuses to answer him. Burke pulls him to his feet; Maddox slugs Burke. They fight, wrecking the place. The manager keeps yelling at them to watch the furniture. Burke finally karate chops Maddox into submission. Later, at the station, Maddox first claims he found the pendant. He says he fought Burke because he was scared, he can't stand cells. Burke finds that amusing, since Maddox has a long rap sheet, including lots of assault charges. When Burke shows him Gina's photo, he finally admits he mugged her. She had come stumbling down the street, not drunk or doped, and never put up a fight. She just stared at him. He also took her purse and threw it in the trash somewhere on Main Street. Les is sent on a dumpster search.
Burke learns that Holt had made several big payments to Art Sanders at the Sun Burst Casino in Las Vegas. Tim wonders if Holt's murder was a mob hit. In Vegas, they speak to Sanders, who runs the casino. Sanders says Holt was a nice man who didn't owe as much as he paid. Holt knew nothing at all about gambling; says Gina the high-stakes player. She liked the tables but wasn't compulsive; in fact she showed no emotion at all. She would tense up and walk right by Sanders as if he wasn't there, after a big loss. The next night she returned, acting as if nothing had happened. Les reports that he's found Gina's purse at 63 Main Street, after much searching. A notebook in her purse contains only a few names.
At the amusement park at Ocean Park Pier, Doris Landers, Gina's sister, works at the food and cotton candy stand. She tells Burke that Gina was too gentle to kill, and never fought back with anyone. She never even hit back, Doris says. Burke asks against what. Doris says she and Gina had a cruel father, big, stupid and mean. They grew up on a lettuce farm in Imperial Valley. Two things always stayed the same - read a chapter of the Bible every day and get that lettuce crop in. Doris hates the lettuce farm almost as much as she hates their father. He lost the farm when Doris was 8 and they moved to the amusement park, where he opened a corn stand on the pier. But it was the same thing - read a chapter every day and sell corn. Doris says only the vegetable changed. She calls their father a mean, strict, little iron man trying to bring the world down to his size. Anything the girls liked was out - boys, movies, even the amusement park. Doris says Gina was the strong one; Doris stayed with their father until he died, but Gina ran off with a boy. Burke says it seems there were lots of boys. Doris comments that if you don't let a kid have ice cream, she'll gorge herself the rest of her life. Doris says she never met Holt and doesn't recognize any of the other names in Gina's notebook. Gina sort of keeps in touch; Doris says she gets a call from Gina every few years. She says she can't blame Gina - who'd want to be reminded of the bad times. She writes her home number in the book for Burke and asks him to tell her if he finds anything.
At a mansion, the butler escorts Burke into see hypnotist "Leonardo". Burke knows and dislikes him as a real fake and con man(his real name is Lennie Krull). The two men verbally spar. Krull sneers that the lay mind can't comprehend the benefits of hypnosis. Burke calls him a buck-hungry parlor comic. Burke says he has a huge file with bunco from Des Moines and all points east, not to mention the phony seances and wallet switches. Krull insists he's "clean"; Burke says he's not clean, just sharp. Burke says Krull knows better than to use the word "doctor", so he calls himself "Leonardo, Hypnotic Consultant by Appointment Only". His name appears in Gina's book. Krull says he hasn't seen Gina in 3 or 4 years. He had just arrived on the coast and was playing the fairs doing a "hidden code" mind-reading act with a girl assistant. Gina came backstage and asked him to help her with her headaches. They fell in love. She then worked in the act for 6 or 7 years. Krull ditched Gina when he realized the possibilites in Beverly Hills - the wealthy women clients don't like a female assistant hanging around. Krull says Gina had a fierce temper; they had a small tiff, she would disappear for three days, then would later show up and act like nothing ever happened. But one wrong word, or if he asked where she had been and - boom - off she'd go in hysterics.
Burke gets a call that Gina has been spotted on the pier and leaves Krull in disgust. When Burke arrives at Ocean Park, the cop watching Gina had lost her near the Haunted House. Doris hasn't seen Gina, but watches Burke and Les with concern.
Aboard a freighter at the docks, Tim interviews Bullock, who wields a mean cleaver. As he vehemently chops meat, he complains about its quality and butchers in general. He's the ship's cook who wants to be a fancy chef (and is good enough to be one). The "slobs" on board don't appreciate his cooking; he can do coq au vin, artichokes duchesse, bordelaise, but all they want is just steak and potatoes. He says he knew Gina but only casually. Tim says Bullock's landlady says differently. Bullock punctuates his opinion of his landlady with another cleaver chop and says she sees life through a keyhole. He admits he and Gina had a romance; he found her face down in the harbor one day. He hauled her out and she got mad at him - she was trying to commit suicide. They "got friendly" for 3-4 months, then he sailed back from sea one day and she was gone. He never saw her again. Bullock tells Tim he couldn't blame her; after all, he's no Cary Grant. He thinks she might have killed Holt, because she had a bad temper. Bullock gets mad and, wielding the cleaver, says Gina is the dirtiest, cold-blooded gouger who ever live. All he ever wanted was his own restaurant; he scrimped, saved and hoarded for years, and signed notes to borrow more cash. When she left, Gina took every penny with her; he'll be paying off his debts for the next ten years. His gives the cleaver one final whack into the butcher block.
Les finds one number in Holt's phone directory with no name listed; it's not a patient. Checking with the phone company, the number is traced to Cupid's Messenger Society.
Outside the house, the sign reads "Cupid's Messenger Society, The Home of Love and Friendship, Clara Lovelace, Operator", with a little cupid hovering over the top. Inside, it's a sweet, old-fashioned looking place. A record player plays dance music, older couples are having a quiet party. Clara Lovelace oversees it all with a gracious smile and an armful of her Pekinese, Leticia. She tells everyone that to think young is to be young and we are young. She thinks Burke is trying to join and asks Leticia if they've ever had a policeman before. She tells Burke that Tuesdays and Fridays are really the nights for his age group. Burke comments that she seems to get all kinds and Clara says loneliness is no respecter of age. They all come to her and she reaches out her hand in love. Burke notes that the palm is up. Clara immediately switches from the sweet old lady to a cold, calculating harpy. She brings Burke over to her private desk and tells a nearby couple to "beat it". Clara insists Holt was never a member; maybe he was considering joining and was shy. She says she never knew Gina. Burke asks to see her books and Clara snaps, "You should live so long, Charlie". She says subpoena or not, this is a legit business. Then she quickly switches back to the "sweet" act and tells Burke her files are sacred, like a doctor's. Burke flat out calls her a fake.
Burke goes to the track to interview Lew Dixon, an ex-jockey who is now a groom. Dixon says he just had a couple of dates with Gina. He says they were just friends and he hasn't seen her in 3-4 years. Dixon tells Burke he couldn't afford Gina. He was never a star jockey but, he was climbing. Then came the accident when his leg was ruined, "and that's all she wrote". Burke takes him downtown. Burke realizes that the name the man who called Missing Person's 4 years ago was about to say was not Dick-something but Dixon. Dixon denies it but Burke presses him. He finally admits he was in love with Gina since he was eleven. They grew up together at Ocean Park. Says Gina was funny - she was up in the clouds one second and down and hysterical the next. There never was any logical reason; she'd just go away mentally. He knew even then that she was going to be beautiful when she grew up (so did she, he says). She spent all her time in the Haunted House's Hall of Mirrors. He and Gina ran off together once; they broke up, then got back together, then broke up, and so on. The the army took him for 2 years; when Dixon came out of the army, he had a medal, a bad leg, and no girl. Gina was going off to marry Holt. Dixon says he didn't blame her, Holt could take care of her and he couldn't. He says he still loves her and didn't kill the doctor. Dixon insists Gina said she met Holt at Cupid's Messenger Society.
Burke lets Clara Lovelace know she is faced with going to jail for obstruction of justice, withholding information, etc. She's leary, so she admits that Holt was a member, but not Gina. She had kept quiet to avoid bad publicity for the service. Clara says the newspapers would play up the Lonelyhearts Club aspect of the case. She's got a good business and makes a good buck, who needs the aggravation. She's willing to let Burke check her books and tells him she'll give him a free introduction if he finds anyone interesting, as a professional courtesy.
Burke has been trying to figure out how to read Gina's behavior patterns. Dr. Benjamin Schneider, police consulting psychologist at the County Department of Mental Health, goes over the case with him. Burke kids Schneider, saying that's psychiatry for you - Burke does all the talking and Schneider nods and says, "very interesting". Schneider confirms Burke's theory that the reports of Gina's father, the men and the booze would indicate she goes into an amnesiac or disassociative state; she can't stand pressure of any kind. In effect, she becomes a different person, a little girl. The "house of safety" she would head for could be the Haunted House at the amusement park. She'd return to it like a homing pigeon. Schneider also says that if all the information is true, Gina still could have been the one who killed Holt.
At Ocean Park, Gina walks, trancelike, bumping into people without noticing, and goes into the Haunted House. Doris notices her first, then Burke and company see her and follow her. Wandering past the various "scares", they find Gina standing in front of the mirrors talking to her "father" like a child, saying "which image is really me, papa?". Bullock comes out of the shadows brandishing a knife, unseen by Burke who is on the level above. Gina rambles on. Just as Bullock is about to stab her, Tim notices him and leaps from the ledge. Once subdue, Bullock admits he was going to kill her. He figured the authorities would call her "mentally ill" and that there'd be no justice for what she did to him. She needed punishment. He insists he didn't kill Holt and, indeed, had never met Holt in his life. He had known Gina was at Ocean Park from an anonymous note slipped under his door. Burke notices that the writing on the note is familiar and compares it to that in the notebook. It's Doris' handwriting, the same as when she wrote her phone number for Burke.
Doris steps away from her stand and sees the police return with Gina and Bullock in tow. She runs; Burke ducks around back and cuts her off at the end of the pier by the sea wall. He accuses her of slipping the note under Bullock's door, knowing that he hated Gina and would try to kill her. Burke asks why she did it. Doris tells him that all her life, Gina smiled and men jumped, while Doris smiled and got nothing at all. But that wasn't enough for Gina. If a man even looked at Doris once, there Gina was, always, stepping in and taking over. The same thing happened with Holt. He and Doris didn't meet at Cupid's Messenger Service; she first saw Holt at the amusement park, when he stopped for a drink. Doris says Holt was such a nice man, they got to talking and discovered they liked each other. Holt proposed to Doris and they were due to be married. Then Gina came to borrow $2, and it all ended as usual. Doris killed Holt specifically so Gina would find his body, go into one of her states, wander off, be caught and blamed and punished. Doris breaks down, crying, asking why did Gina do it, why did she make Doris kill Holt? Burke is stunned - why did Gina make her do it?.
Francesca serves champagne and caviar. She has just finished her book cover - a dinosaur with a nude woman in his jaws. Burke thinks it will appeal only to the young. Francesca says everyone has to be young once. Burke says if you play your cards right, once is enough, and they kiss.