Returning from his interview with Sarah Jaffe, Archie is depressed that he didn't find out anything useful and is asked by Wolfe to type up a report verbatim. When he has finished 3 and a half hours later, Albert M. Irby, a lawyer who is representing Priscilla's former husband Eric Hagh, shows up at the doorstep. He is ushered in to Wolfe's office where he tells him that he has the document in which Priscilla signed over half of her property to Eric. Perry Helmar accused Hagh of forging it and Irby wants Wolfe to testify that Priscilla did indeed say she had signed it. Upon learning that Hagh is coming to New York, Wolfe invites him to come to his house at 9 PM the next day with Irby and everyone else involved in the case. With this, Irby leaves.
In the morning, Sarah Jaffe calls Archie. She says that since he helped her get over the loss of her husband she will do anything he asks. Archie makes the offer again about a filing a claim preventing the Softdown officers from getting the money until it is proved that one or more of them did not get it by the commission of a crime. She agrees, and Archie tells her that Wolfe's lawyer, Nathaniel Parker, will be acting on her behalf. Then, Wolfe, Archie, Parker, and Sarah meet to discuss the case, and Parker calls up Perry Helmar to explain what Sarah is going to do. He is angry and declares Wolfe put her up to it. Nevertheless, he invites Helmar to the meeting at 9, and all are confident he will be there.
At 9 o'clock, everyone is assembled: Sarah Jaffe, Perry Helmar, Oliver Pitkin, Jay Luther Brooker, Viola Duday, Bernard Quest, Eric Hagh, Albert Irby, Nathaniel Parker, and of course Wolfe and Archie. To start things off, Helmar reads a prepared statement. It denounces Wolfe for supporting an "unwarranted attack on us" (the claim that Sarah Jaffe is filing) and requests that the Softdown officers may speak with Sarah privately before discussing things with Parker and Wolfe. Wolfe says he has every right to do so but to ask Sarah how she feels about it. She does not want to and also claims that she was not coerced to do this by Wolfe or Parker, but that she is doing it because she wants to, and "Archie Goodwin made me want to."
Wolfe then states that his sole interest is to investigate Priscilla's death and that he has a client, but he refuses to tell that that client is Archie. After arguing with Pelmar about the document that gave Hagh half of Priscilla's property, he begins to question each of the Softdown officers as to how they can discredit the suspicion that is on them. First, Viola Duday says that the way she stands now in the company, any of the men could kick her out. But if Priscilla had lived, she would have been made president, so why would she kill her? Helmar and Viola get into an argument in which Helmar claims he was going to tell Priscilla that she was incompetent. After this has settled down, Jay Luther Brooker defends himself against accusations of murder and being intimate with Daphne O'Neal with a story. When she was five years old, she was so fond of Jay that she persuaded her father not ot fire him. "I loved Priscilla Eades," Jay says, and declares that there would be no way he could have killed her.
The next to defend himself is Bernard Quest. He says that Nathan Eades had promised him a large amount of money, but when he died and his will was read he had broken his promise. Quest was so furious that he decided to strangle Priscilla. But then he says that was 10 years ago and he eventually came to his senses. "I didn't kill her then and now, what's the point?" he asks rhetorically. When Wolfe turns to Pitkin and asks if he was capable of deliberate murder, he says that he is not because of the way he looks at things. He says he looks at things from "the standpoint of profit and loss...You apply that to murder, and what do you get? Profit....and loss." Wolfe then says that he is done with the meeting, and makes one commitment. Parker will take no action on behalf of Mrs. Jaffe until he hears from him in the morning. With that, Archie dismisses everyone.
Wolfe tells Archie that he knows who killed Priscilla Eades and Margaret Fomos, but there is a contradiction. He tells Archie to have Sarah Jaffe at his office at 11:00. In the middle of the night, Sarah calls and asks Archie if he found any keys, since she lost the ones to her apartment, and the nightman had to let her in. Concerned that someone might have taken the keys and might be in the apartment, he gives her careful instructions on how to leave it. She begins to follow them, but Archie doesn't hear the bang of the door.
Archie goes down to her apartment and breaks in because the nightman won't let him in. By gunpoint he makes him take him to Sarah Jaffe's room, where they find her dead on the floor. She had began to follow the instructions, but never made it to the door because an intruder came out of her closet and struck her down. Archie calls Sergeant Stebbins and soon enough he arrives. For four hours Archie is interrogated and in return asks Cramer that he can sit in on the interrogations of the suspects. For several hours he listens to them and returns the next morning.
When Fritz tells Archie that Saul Panzer was there the previous day, Archie is curious as to what Wolfe wants with him, and then he finds a check to Saul for $2,000. Archie is summoned to the commissioner's office, where he is told that there are a lot of men working on the case, and it hasn't led anywhere. Therefore they tell him to ask Wolfe if there can be a re-enactment of the meeting of the suspects. Wolfe accepts.
The next day everyone is gathered, but before the re-enactment even takes place Wolfe explains the mystery. Why was Margaret Fomos been killed?, Wolfe asks. He says it is because the killer knew he couldn't recognize her. The man that everyone thought was Eric Hagh in fact wasn't him. Wolfe had given Saul money to find photos of the real Hagh, and it proved not to be him. The impersonator, whose real name was Siegfreid Muecke, was Hagh's friend, and had witnessed his death in a snowslide. He knew about the money, and decided if he could impersonate Hagh, he could lay his hands on a fortune. But Priscilla Eades and Margaret Fomos knew the real Hagh, so they had to die. The contradiction that Wolfe had mentioned was that if Sarah Jaffe knew it wasn't Hagh, why didn't she speak up? He declares that it was not in her character, and she would not have wanted to get tangled up in it. But Hagh realized the danger he was in, stole her keys, and murdered her. After finishing the explanation, Muecke tries to attack Wolfe, but Archie punches him straight in the face and he is taken away by the police.
At the end we are back where we started: Wolfe writing checks. But Archie decides that since technically he was his client, he should be paying Wolfe. Wolfe says he doesn't have to, but when Archie begins to tear up the check, he has second thoughts. "Archie!" he yells and tries to grab the check away from his hands.