A small passenger plane is seen flying through a clear sky. It suddenly explodes in midair. We see headlines - "Wade Walker Killed in Plane Crash". Henry takes the paper and wraps it around a bottle of champagne. Burke and his date, Laura are out in the country at Burke's cabin at Willow Lake for a weekend together and Henry is setting out a picnic. Burke gets a call that Walker's death was not an accident. Laura asks why, with all his money, he has to be a cop. "A man has to have some sort of profession" he replies. Laura says Burke is just an overgrown boy, playing at cops and robbers, and asks when he's going to grow up.
NEVER GROW UP; YOU'LL GROW OLD - BURKE'S LAW.
He leaves Laura at the cabin, promising to return as soon as possible.
At the station, Bill, the desk sergeant, sees Burke in his grungy camping clothes and cracks that he always knew Burke would go from riches to rags. He asks how it happened and Burke replies "fast living". Bill offers to buy the Rolls for $40 down and $10 a week, maybe he can go as high as $11. Burke says pick up the keys.
Walker took off at midnight from his own private landing strip on his way to Salt Lake City. Powder burns were found in the luggage compartment, indicating the presence of a bomb. Walker has no family. His closest friend is ex-college chum Kelly Rogers, who is also the attorney for the Walker Boat Company. When Burke changes clothes to go to see Rogers, Bill acts disappointed that Burke hasn't lost his wealth. Burke asks Bill if he minds if Burke uses "his" car.
At the offices of the Walker Boat Company, Walker's secretary Jill Stacy is crying in the outer office and sends them in to see Rogers, who asks for a minute of silence as they enter Walker's office. He then makes a chip shot into a waste basket and points to the black band on his sleeve, telling them that other than that, this is the way Walker would have wanted things. He says he was Walker's friend, lawyer, and pigeon. Walker was fun first, work later, and had no enemies. Burke finds a vitamin bottle at the bar and Rogers says that was Walker's only concession to clean living. Burke finds Tim in the outer office, with Jill figuring out his astrological sign. Tim is obviously taken with Jill. Rogers tells Burke the terms of Walker's will. He says he profits, but not like the others and turns over four plaques on the wall. On the back of each is the photo of a gorgeous woman - Suzanne Foster, Iris Marlowe, Jerri Vaughn and Cathy Summit. Each one gets $1 million in the will, Rogers as executor gets $120,000. He says Walker had decided it was time to marry and held a 40th birthday party for himself, inviting all four, where he was to decide which one he was going to marry. He told Rogers after the party that he still hadn't decided. As Rogers talks to Burke, he fills his pipe from an dinstinctive-looking tobacco pouch. Rogers tells Burke that anyone at the party could have planted the bomb, even himself. He says Walker would have loved Burke's style. As they are leaving, Tim gets advise from Burke on the proper way to get a date with Jill, but he blows it and she calls all the shots. Only Walker, Rogers and Jill knew the contents of the will. However, Jill says that on the day she was typing the will, she had to step out for a moment, leaving the will in the typewriter. When she returned, she found a cigarette with lipstick on it in the ashtray on her desk. The date was August 2.
Tim brings Burke up to date - Cathy is a society woman who breeds horses, Jerri is a nightclub singer, Suzanne a model who is currently Miss "something", and Iris a nurse.
In the hospital store room, Burke interviews Iris, who is very starchy and very British and insists they keep the door open - he's probably like "all the others" who think nurses are pushovers. She's obsessed with the idea that all men are after her. When Burke asks, she says she doesn't smoke - on duty. She had been with Walker for about a year and says he was a gentleman who knew how to treat a lady. All other men are animals. Iris says Walker had no enemies; as she is telling Burke how grabby the interns are, one of them rushes in to say he can't make their date, sees Burke, and rushes out. She's not wearing lipstick - says she doesn't on duty - it would only encourage the men even more. She takes Burke to see a sleeping patient, and says how grabby the man is when awake. She calls the other three women at the party "refugees from the Chapman report". Burke asks why she's a nurse if she doesn't like the men - she asks him if he would be a policeman if he didn't need the money? Burke says well, every bit counts. As he leaves, Iris closes the door, props a chair under it, pulls a screen around the bed, takes off her cap and climbs on her patient to "take his temperature", kissing him wildly. Outside Tim tells Burke of the good recommendation Iris has gotten from the staff head, Dr. Kalmus. When Burke tries to figure out if Iris was on duty on August 2, Tim immediately knows what day of the week it was.
Tim wants to join Burke on the interview of Suzanne, Miss International, as "protection" if she gets violent. Burke goes alone, to Tim's disappointment. Suzanne is mixing a health drink, dressed in a negligee, when Burke arrives. A good ol' county gal, she thinks Burke is a reporter at first then tells him he's too good looking to be a policeman. She says she keeps the room dark because the sun is bad for her complexion. She gives Burke a health drink (yuk - he gets rid of it when she's not looking). She says she thinks everyone should be good looking, but doesn't think she's really beautiful. She says she was shocked when she won over all the really beautiful girls and asks Burke if he thinks she's beautiful. He says no, she gets mad and then realizes he's teasing. She met Walker 6 months ago when she was the queen of a speedboat regatta. Suzanne says being Miss International is the best thing that could ever have happened a little girl from Riverville, Alabama. Burke notices a photo of Suzanne and an older man on the wall and asks if it's her father. She says it's Mr. Cathcart, her sponsor. He owned the local shopping center and did community service, sponsoring the Little League and stocking fish in the local lake. She used to work in his drug store, then one day he paid for her gown and entry fee in her first competition. Suzanne accepts a cigarette from Burke, and asks why would Walker invite all four women unless he wouldn't be seeing them again - maybe it was a suicide. After all, she says, he can't have much to look forward to after he turned 40. Burke winces. Burke tells her a suicide in a plane wouldn't need a bomb. She says everyone went out to see the new leather upholstery in the plane, so anyone could have smuggled the bomb on board. She offers to model the dress she wore, so Burke can see that she couldn't have smuggled anything. As Burke leaves the apartment, he bumps into Mr. Cathcart, who is getting off the elevator, flowers and candy in hand.
At Cathy Summit's stables, Cathy admires Burke's car and tells them that she and Walker were just good friends. Walker may have thought they were in love, but she was just a friend. She misses Walker and says the other 3 women were afraid of their own shadows. Cathy says she and Walker met one day when she shot at him. She was out hunting and his speeding car had nearly hit her horse; she took a shot at the car with buckshot. He drove back and spanked her (she says she deserved it) and then sent over his prize stallion for stud for free, along with asking Cathy to dinner. Cathy says Walker let her drive his speedboat and she let him beat her at skeet shooting (she's state champion). She says never beatr a man in riding or shooting. Cathy accepts a cigarette from Burke and strikes a match on the seat of her jeans. Burke notices a keg of gunpowder. Cathy shows them where she makes and loads her own shells - as a competitive shooter. When they leave, Tim asks why Burke let her off so easy. Burke replies that if they had gotten a confession from Cathy, they wouldn't have seen the 4th beautiful suspect.
At Chez Charles, Jerri Vaughn is singing "I'll Never Smile Again". She begins to break up during the song and it becomes clear she's drunk. She excuses herself with a "cold" and leaves the stage, staggering into a table on her way out. Tim joins Burke, telling him that Jill understood he had to break their date because the case was important. Burke wonders why he never finds a girl like that. In her dressing room, Jerri smokes and opens another bottle, hiding it behind a dressing screen when Burke enters. She knocks over the screen staggering, then offers them a drink. Jerri wears lipstick, but there's no trace on the cigarette. She says that blotting lipstick properly was one of the important things she learned at the Wellington Finishing School. She's taking Walker's death hard. Jerri tells Burke that Walker asked her to marry him the night he died and told Rogers his decision. When Burke asks, she says she has no idea why Rogers said Walker hadn't made up his mind, but it was probably because he thought she wouldn't go through with it - she used to date Rogers. Jerri says she didn't love him, but Rogers loved her. She insists Rogers couldn't kill Walker, then tries unsuccessfully to kiss Burke. Walker saw her sing once and tried to date her, but she told him she was waiting for a knight on a white charger. The next day, Walker rode to her hotel on a white horse in full armor. Jerri says Rogers always "bowed out gracefull", about her and everything else. She tells Burke she's in mourning, drinks a whole glass of booze and passes out.
Tim finds out that Rogers, while in college, worked for a munitions firm that made hand grenades. At the office, they find Rogers emptying the safe and packing. He claims he's going to South America on company business. He calmly packs his pipe from his tobacco pouch. Rogers admits that he knew how to make a bomb, but then so did a lot of people. A lab report comes in just then, that bomb fragments were identified as being housed in a hand-loaded shotgun shell. Rogers says Walker and Cathy fought a lot. The last fight he hit her so hard she was in the hospital for 3 days. As they leave, Burke warns Rogers not to spread his wings.
Burke confronts Cathy, who says she's not the only one to make her own shells. She demands to take a lie detector test and claims they're trying to frame her. She says she loved Walker and liked it when he slapped her around. She'd rather be hit by him than loved by any of the other "suits" who wooed her. Walker was a wild animal and was too alive to kill. Just then Burke notices a tobacco pouch just like Rogers'. Cathy says it was found outside the workshed two weeks ago. Rogers had visited the gun work room a year ago and Cathy had showed him everything.
Rogers is arrested and charged with Walker's murder. Burke assumes he planned to frame Cathy. He tells Rogers that his fingerprint was found on one of the detonator fragments. Rogers gives up and is booked. (The fingerprint he showed was actually Burke's). Bill announces that Laura is on the phone and Burke tells her he's on his way back to the cabin, now that the case is solved. Just then, M. E. McLeod comes in and tells Burke that Walker was dead 3 hours before the plane exploded - of massive morphine poisoning (12 grains). Burke realizes Rogers' bomb is not the murder weapon after all.
YOU CAN'T MURDER A MAN WHO'S ALREADY DEAD - BURKE'S LAW
The plane must have been on autopilot. The morphine couldn't have been in the food Walker ate at the party or he never could have walked to the plane. But, McLeod explains, if it were in a vitamin pill, the pill wouldn't have dissolved until the plane was in the air. Burke cons Bill into calling Laura at the cabin and giving her the bad news, and prepares to go see the one person who surely had easy access to morphine. Just then, Les enters and announces that Rogers has committed suicide in his cell. As Burke leaves, Bill realizes what he's about to unleash and drops the phone back onto the receiver.
At the hospital, Dr. Kalmus calls in Iris. She confirms that Walker toasted them with a glass of water and a vitamin B1 just before he took off. Burke tells her that Walker's houseman reported that she and Walker had a huge fight and she was screaming obscene language. Iris says she doesn't remember but was drunk, and drinking loosens her inhibitions. When Burke suggests she had access to morphine, Dr. Kalmus says poisons are so regulated at the hospital that they never have 12 grains at one time, getting it from the pharmacy as needed. He says a regular drug store would have more morphine on hand than the hospital. He vouches for Iris' morality again. As Burke and Tim leave, they see the shadow of Iris and Kalmus in a passionate kiss on the glass door of the office.
The report comes in that Cathcart left Alabama for L.A. the day before the murder. Burke figures he supplied the morphine and orders him picked up. He then invites Suzanne to a party, where she can model her gown. Instead he brings her to the station (she loves his car), where they confront Cathcart. Cathcart babbles when Tim reports that 12 grains of morphine were discovered unaccounted for in the records in Cathcart's drug store. Cathcart swears he didn't know what Suzanne wanted it for, she asked him for a favor and promised to marry him. Suzanne tells him to shut up. Suzanne says she couldn't go back to being a nobody after being Miss International and she couldn't wait for the $1 million from Walker until she was an old hag. She remembered hearing about a drug addict who died of an overdose when she worked in the drug store. She says Cathcart was an old hypocrite who couldn't keep his hands off her, even following her to Venice. She agreed to marry Cathcart; it wouldn't be for long - he had a bad heart. Burke sends her to be booked and "mugged" - Suzanne is pleased when she realizes she's going to have her picture taken. Burke orders that there be a mirror in her cell.
Back at the cabin, Burke arrives to find Laura in ratty clothes, with a mudpack on, her hair in curlers, painting her toenails. She's appalled that he see her like that. Burke flinches only briefly, then chases and kisses her anyway.