Sean Brantley owns a men's magazine called "Bachelor's World." The "playmates" are called nymphs. He lives in a massive mansion in a park-like setting called the Chateau where it's non- stop parties with a lot of exposed flesh. His business partner (who owns 51% of the company) is drop-dead gorgeous Dian Hunter. They're a real high-tech pair including wearing matching bracelets which are really paging devices. Sean's current romance interest is Tina; one of the many nymphs inhabiting the Chateau but has a promise of marriage in her eyes.
Dian wants to sell her interest to a Brit and leaves the Chateau in a limo for an airplane flight to London. However, she never arrives.
Columbo is called into investigate and gets to work in his usual pesty way. The security tapes at the airport show the overly clothed "Dian" as pouring cream into her coffee when Dian never uses cream. On the way to the airport, the stretch limo had stopped at restaurant. The driver heard a shot but found nothing unusual. But, Columbo finds a shell casing in the alley. He also finds hair samples matching Dian (and Tina) under a seat cushion in the limo. He soon comes to believe that Dian was murdered on her way to the airport. stashed in the limo, and a substitute made the airplane trip only to disappear and return as someone else.
Suspicion lies heavily on Sean as the culprit/mastermind. Columbo begins having the grounds of the Chateau dug up to find Dian's body. This creates a great deal of publicity with the media swarming over everyone. Columbo also starts pestering Tina to tell where she was during a 28-hour absence.
Just as Columbo is about to take Tina in for questioning, the usual format of the series changes. The "dead woman" shows up. It was all just a publicity stunt to boost circulation. And, from Dian's point of view, she can now get even more money by selling her share of the company. She tells Sean she intends to do this and he kills her for real.
Sean tries to get Columbo to once again look for the missing Dian but Columbo refuses. However, he does place a phone call and then they hear a beeping coming from behind one of the bathroom walls. Opening the wall, Columbo finds the dead body along with the paging bracelet with the single word "Gotcha" on the message screen.