Columbo (1971) s04e01 Episode Script

An Exercise in Fatality

Janus' office.
Hi, Jess.
Did I catch him in? You did, but he's on the other line.
When he gets off, have him call me at the Chatsworth place.
And, Jess, it's kind of important.
Critical important or urgent important? It's both.
Arnold don't tell me about mark-ups.
These people paid a lot of money for a Milo Janus franchise and they're going to pay a lot more to operate them.
What are you telling me? I'm telling you to raise the price to $288 a gross.
Two gross minimum.
Two gross? Where do you want the money? That's right, Arnold.
I want the money deposited in my New York account.
And, Arnold, my accountant is checking the books, so don't be late.
All right.
All right, Arnold.
I'll talk to you on Friday.
Yes? Mr.
Castle called, Mr.
He's at the Chatsworth spa.
He'd like you to call him right away.
Call him back for me, will you? And Jessica, don't record this one.
Yes, sir.
Hi, Mr.
Hey, Charlie.
How's it going? Not bad.
Say, you're looking good.
He still in the office? He's got files all over the place.
You want me in there with him? No, I think it's better if I talk to him alone.
Milo, talking is not gonna help.
We'll see.
Hello, Gene.
Milo Janus.
Milo you're a thief.
Now, what kind of a greeting is that? Did your boy Castle tell you to come up here? I thought he would.
I should have torn his head off.
Calm down, Gene.
Stress is bad for your blood pressure.
There's nothing wrong with my blood pressure.
It's my bank account that's worrying me.
You've got a nice racket going, Milo.
So smooth.
Gene, why don't you please tell me what's bothering you? This is what's bothering me.
An invoice from the Green Eagle Gym Equipment Corporation.
And I can buy the same stuff from a discount house half-price, retail.
But not the same quality.
Get off my back, Milo.
You own that company.
And Sentry Office Supplies.
And Lewis Furniture Company.
Gene, I told you when you bought this franchise that you were going to have to deal with certain suppliers.
Now, I told you that, Gene.
All owned by you.
My mark-up is very small but I have to maintain quality.
That's what gives me control.
You've got control, all right.
In the meantime I'm being bilked.
Me and all the other suckers who plunked down $150,000 for one of these second-rate operations.
Where does the money go, Milo? What happens to the money? Advertising.
Every cent that I make is reinvested in the company.
When I grow, Gene, you grow.
Now, you may be able to fool those other suckers, but not me.
No chance.
I didn't spend 18 years as corporate controller for nothing.
And I can smell flim-flam right down to the paper clips you make me buy.
And I'm gonna prove it.
It's here someplace.
And I'm gonna stay at this desk till I find it.
I don't care if it takes a weekend, a week, a month but I'm going to find it.
Gene, I don't know what you're talking about.
I have no secrets from you.
Oh, really? How about Bolingbrooke Travel Corporation, Bristol, England? I stumbled on that almost by accident.
That's how you're getting the funds out of the country, isn't it, Milo? I can smell it.
I really don't know what you're talking about.
All right.
But when I get things put together you can explain it all to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In the meantime I'm gonna get the rest of these suckers together and we're gonna start a class-action case against you.
And between the SEC and us I'm gonna hook you, Milo.
Gene, you're working too hard.
That's what's wrong with you.
You need some rest.
I'm serious.
Have a nice day.
Well? Don't worry about it.
Look, he said he's working late, after closing.
You want me to stick around, keep an eye on him? No, let him work.
He won't find anything.
And in eight months, I'm gonna be in my villa overlooking the Adriatic with two million in Swiss francs to keep me warm.
Buddy, relax, will you? You worry too much.
To show you how much that guy bothers me let's throw a little party tonight at my house.
Invite that little girl.
What's her name? Frieda.
Invite Frieda.
Yeah, Charlie's got us a horror film.
X-rated and uncut.
See you at my place, huh? Hey, young lady, what are you still doing here? I thought you'd be home by now.
I didn't know if you'd still be needing me, sir.
You usually call if I can go.
Well, I didn't call, actually, because I'm a devious man and I wanted to talk to you.
I'm having a little get-together at my place and if you don't have any other plans I won't by 6:30.
I have to go and see Howard Parker around 7:30.
I don't know how long that's gonna take.
So I think it would be a good idea if you filled in for me until I get there.
You don't mind driving yourself out to the house, do you? I think I can handle that.
You know, there's one thing that bothers me about you.
What's that? You're a little unsure of yourself.
I'm very unsure.
But I'm encouraged by your response.
Key? It's in the mailbox by the door.
I think I'll file today's tapes.
That's all right, let me do that.
I want you to get to the house by 8:30, okay? How's 8:15? Hi, Jessica.
Gene Stafford.
Can I speak to him? Hi, Jessica.
Gene Stafford.
Can I speak to him? Hello, Gene.
How did you get in here? Well, I thought I'd stop by and try and help you answer some of those questions.
Well, I'm doing just fine without your help thank you very much.
How did you get in here? With the master key.
I have one to all my franchises.
Sometimes it comes in handy.
Well, you can just help yourself right out the door.
Bits and pieces.
That's all I had a week ago.
Nothing really damaging.
But now, it's starting to all fit together.
You're sharp, Milo.
Oh, you're sharp.
But once you wipe away all that camouflage it still adds up to grand larceny.
Grand larceny? Come Monday morning this neat little world of yours is gonna come crushing down on your skull.
And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
That stuff will kill you, Gene.
Oh, I'm afraid not.
I plan to live for a long, long time.
I'm afraid not.
So, anyway Lennie gets me off to the side and he says to me, "Buddy, what are you trying to do to me?" He knew what you were trying to do.
He just wanted to hear you admit it.
Listen, if I had any scruples, you think I'd be in this racket? This is worse than that real estate deal in San Diego if you can believe that.
Hey, host! It's about time.
Hey, I'm really sorry I'm late.
How're you doing? When does the show start? Hey, Buddy was telling me how much trouble you had getting this print.
Hey, listen, I'm sorry I'm late.
But you know that creep Parker? The automobile dealer? Yeah, well, he said he wanted to talk to me about opening a store so I drove all across this town and the creep is closed.
Can you imagine? Driving across the town for nothing? I'll be with you in a minute.
Hey, you thirsty? Yeah, could I have some orange juice? Please.
Some Vitamin C.
Hi, Jessica.
Gene Stafford.
Can I speak to him? Oh.
Oh, yes, Mr.
Just a second.
Who is it? Gene Stafford.
Thank you.
Hello, Gene.
Where are you? Still at the gym? Don't you know what time it is? You can exercise anytime.
We're having a party.
Of course you're invited.
Change clothes and come on over.
We'll be going till dawn.
Okay, suit yourself.
Are you alone? Well, take it easy.
Don't do anything too strenuous.
I don't want you to pass out.
Okay, you know what's best.
I'll see you on Monday, huh, Gene? Bye.
That guy is crazy.
He's been working in the office all day you know what he's doing now? He's working out in the gym.
He's a walking testimonial for the Milo Janus health program.
With his gut? Are you kidding? Morning.
Morning, Lieutenant.
Good morning.
It happened last night.
The place was closed.
He decided to work out alone.
His name is Stafford.
All right.
Now, let me have my coffee first.
Hey, Nolan.
You got this thing dusted yet? Yeah.
All finished.
Let's go.
What did you say? You said that he was here alone he decided to work out? His name was Eugene Stafford.
He owns the place.
The janitor said that he worked late last night.
Could've been an accident, a heart attack, anything.
You know, before coffee, I'm up, I'm walking around, but I'm not awake.
Sure, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant telephone call for you.
You can take it right through that door.
Telephone? Who the hell's calling me this hour? There's a call for me.
Where can I take it? Well, there's a phone in Stafford's office.
Straight ahead.
First door to your right.
What are you doing up? You know what time it is? It's Does anybody have the time? It's 6:30.
It's 6:30.
I'm not yelling.
Who's coming? Wait a minute.
Harry and Ethel, Norman Uncle Gene, and the twins.
Well, how would I know what to feed them? What did you feed them the last time? You want to give them spaghetti, give them spaghetti.
Who's on a diet? Oh, that's ridiculous.
Wait a minute.
Would you be quiet for two seconds? I got an idea.
I'll bring something back.
Chinese, okay? You decide what you want, you call the place and on the way home, I'll pick it up.
That's right.
Look, I gotta go back to work.
I'm gonna hang up.
You can keep talking, but I'm gonna hang up.
Hey, you.
Hey, Charlie, what are you doing? Oh.
Excuse me, no, I was just looking at these marks on the floor.
This floor is recently waxed, isn't it? You're damn right.
Lieutenant Columbo.
I'm from the police.
What do you do here, sir? I'm the custodian, Murphy.
I'd appreciate it, Lieutenant, if you could keep these guys off the floor.
I spent an hour last night waxing up to get rid of marks like this.
Oh, yeah? What kind of marks are these? They're heel marks, Lieutenant.
You cops don't care how hard a guy has to work, do you? You don't have to clean this floor.
I do.
Look, I'm sorry about that.
What time did you say you waxed the floor last night? Right after closing.
Are those reading glasses? Yeah.
May I borrow them? You say no one walked on this floor after you waxed it? Nobody except you guys and maybe Mr.
He was working in his office last night when I left.
Only it wasn't him, because he was wearing sneakers like you're supposed to.
Well, listen, you're absolutely right.
I'm gonna tell the guys to be more careful.
Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Oh Mr.
Murphy could I look at your shoes? My shoes? Yeah, the bottom of your shoes.
Oh, yeah, sure.
Thank you very much.
Oh don't wax that until I tell you.
Wait a minute, fellas.
Excuse me.
You find something, Lieutenant? May I see your shoes? My shoes? Yeah, the bottoms of your shoes.
Yeah, sure, they're black.
Black heels.
A lot of fellas in uniform, they wear black shoes, right? They all better.
Why? Newly waxed floor, there's a bunch of brown heel marks in there.
So? Anybody here have brown soles or brown heels? No.
Check your shoes, fellas.
Any brown heels? No.
No, Lieutenant.
Murphy? Yeah.
Stafford have a locker? Sure.
I'd like to see it.
Right this way, Lieutenant.
Okay, take him on out.
This is it.
It's locked.
How come it's locked? Maybe he didn't want nobody to take anything, Lieutenant.
But you said he was here alone.
He was.
He was certainly a very careful man.
Can you open it? Sure.
I got a master key right here.
I guess because Mr.
Stafford was working late last night you didn't clean his office? No, I figured since he was still here when I left that I'd get it in the morning.
The stain on his rug, the rug in his office what is that, coffee? What stain? That rug's only five weeks old.
Be careful, don't touch anything.
I want to dust these for prints.
Brown heels.
Brown heels.
That's very good, Lieutenant.
They're brown, all right.
Oh, Lieutenant, we checked all the windows and doors and everything.
There's no sign of forced entry.
Did you find a key on him? Yeah.
Locker room key next to his body on the floor.
Doc, you got a minute? How did he die? Strictly unofficial? On my mother's eyes.
I'd say he was probably exercising with that barbell it slipped, came crashing down on his neck and crushed his windpipe.
You're sure? Well, I'm sure his windpipe was crushed.
But who knows? Maybe he died of a coronary first.
Maybe he was poisoned.
Poisoned? He sent out for some Chinese food last night.
Yes, well, maybe some local tong had it in for him.
Or the delivery boy.
Or maybe he just died of overeating.
What are you trying to tell me? Yeah, well, I'm trying to tell you to wait for the autopsy.
Yes? I'm looking for a Milo Janus.
Are you sure? Am I sure what, ma'am? You sounded as if you weren't sure who you were looking for.
Milo Janus.
Oh, yeah.
Well, this is his house.
No, I was just thinking about something else.
Lieutenant Columbo, Police.
I see, Lieutenant.
Come in.
Milo's not here right now.
He's down at the beach, running.
Running? Oh, sure.
He must do a lot of that.
Janus? I'm Jessica Conroy.
Janus' secretary.
Ah, yes.
I see.
Can I ask you a personal question? You don't have to answer.
So, ask.
How old is Mr.
Janus? 'Cause I got a friend, he swears he's 51.
He's 53.
Fifty-three! Oh, that's fantastic.
And that's from the exercising? Yeah.
I would've bet he wasn't 35.
Oh, hi.
Milo, this is Lieutenant Columbo.
How do you do, Lieutenant? Pleasure, nice meeting you.
We were just I was remarking to your secretary what fantastic shape you're in.
Oh, thank you very much.
Anybody can do it, if they're willing to put some effort into it.
Fresh air, exercise, proper diet that's the key to good health and long life.
I gotta tell you what a pleasure it is to meet you.
Your television show saved my marriage.
Oh? My wife, always a very happy woman last summer, she suddenly started getting depressed.
Started to think she was getting too fat.
And when she's depressed, that's bad because all she wants to do is eat.
And the more she ate, the fatter she got.
Now, a couple of months ago, she started watching your television show the one with the exercise.
She got involved every day.
On her back kicking her legs.
You know, from the waist, down, up down, up.
Now she's thin again.
Well, she was never exactly thin.
I wouldn't let her because I happen to like a woman that Well, you know, that's something else but the thing is that she got all wrapped up in these exercises so she forgot to be depressed.
So she didn't eat so much.
But, you know, I gotta tell you this the things that she's been buying I wouldn't eat much of that, either.
Those soybeans, the wheat germ not that it's not good for you.
You know, I'm sure it's terrific but, see, I happen to like a bowl of chili I like a rare steak now and then Lieutenant, I'm sure you didn't come all the way out here to discuss your eating habits.
Hmm? No, sir.
As a matter of fact, I didn't.
Maybe I'm just trying to avoid it because I don't have pleasant news.
I believe you knew a Mr.
Eugene Stafford.
Knew? Yes, sir.
I'm afraid he's dead.
Oh, no.
I'm sorry, ma'am.
Gene, dead.
How, Lieutenant? He was alone last night in the gym and He had an attack.
I knew it.
What do you mean? I said to him last night not to try to do too much too quickly without supervision.
You spoke to him last night? Yeah.
He called me last night from the gym around What time was it, Jessica? I don't know.
A little after 9:00, I think.
I better write this down.
What time did you say that was? A little after 9:00.
And what did he say, exactly? Did he sound as though he were alone? As a matter of fact, Lieutenant, he said he was alone.
You know, this is all so senseless.
I warned him against working out heavily without proper supervision.
A man his age, you know, it's not a good idea.
I asked him to come over to the party but he said he'd already changed into his gym clothing.
He was gonna work out for about a half hour and then go home.
A man his age sitting around for years, getting fat and flabby and then he suddenly realized how he's abused his body tries to correct it just like that.
That's why he had that heart attack, Lieutenant.
Well, we're not sure of that.
All we know is that he was working out with a barbell.
He could've collapsed.
Or it could've slipped.
But it fell on his neck and crushed his windpipe.
Oh, my God.
I'm sorry, ma'am.
Perhaps you'd like to sit down.
Oh, no, I'll be all right.
Why don't you change clothes? We have to be at the office at 10:00 anyway.
All right.
Yes, I'll do that.
I won't take up any more of your time, sir.
Thank you very much.
Boy, that must have hurt like the devil.
What's that? That burn mark.
That is a burn mark, isn't it? Yeah, that's a burn mark.
Yeah I accidentally put my hand under the hot water this morning while I was shaving.
Yeah, they hurt like the devil.
Yeah, the last time that happened to me I spilled some hot coffee on myself.
That's what happens, you know.
You don't think what you're doing.
Oh, one more thing, sir.
I went out to see Mr.
Stafford I understood he was married, but there was no one else there in the house.
Gene and Ruth have been separated for months.
She's living at the Crestlane Apartments in Beverly Hills, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant, I really don't know how I can help you.
First I knew about Gene's death was when a man from your department came by this morning.
Yes, ma'am.
And I'm terribly sorry for your loss.
Well, I'm not so sure I lost Gene last night.
I mean maybe it was a few months ago, a few years ago.
You see, last September, when our son Robbie went off to school it was the first time that Gene and I had been alone together in 18 years and we found that we didn't really have a lot to say to each other.
Well, that happens.
It does.
You're sure that Sit down, then.
Thank you.
Well, now what can I do for you? I was wondering, ma'am did your husband have any health problems? Blood pressure heart condition anything like that? I mean, not that I know of.
Lieutenant, I'm really curious.
When one of your men came by this morning he said that Gene had been killed by a weight falling on him or something.
Well, we'll know more after the autopsy.
I was wondering, do you know of anybody that your husband had problems with? Personal problems or business problems? Oh, yes.
I mean, between Milo Janus and me, he didn't have anything but problems.
And what kind of a problem did he have with Mr.
Janus? Business.
I mean, he was just very upset by the way business was going.
And our lawyers were negotiating a property settlement and when talk came up about the health spa I understood Gene was gonna sell it as quickly as possible.
Why are you asking me all this? Gene's death was accidental, wasn't it? Well, it certainly appears that way, yes, ma'am.
But you don't think so, huh? Oh, I don't think anything at this point.
It's too early.
Well, if you're looking for a motive I certainly had one.
I gave Gene everything.
He gave me nothing back.
I should be bitter.
I'm not.
I loved him.
And I don't have an alibi for last night.
Well, I wasn't gonna ask you anything like that, ma'am.
Well, thank you very much.
You've been very helpful.
Oh, there is one other thing.
How did your husband get involved with Mr.
Janus? I don't know what you mean.
Well, how did they meet? Have they been friends long? No.
No, they haven't, and they met just a few months ago at a party given by Buddy Castle.
He's a mutual friend.
Thank you.
Oh, I almost forgot.
Maybe you can help me.
Who is Lacey? Lacey? Yes, I noticed several entries in your husband's calendar.
"Speak to Lacey.
Call Lacey.
" But there was no phone number.
No? Wait, yeah.
When Gene was working for Tricon Industries there was a man named Lacey.
Lewis Lacey.
Lewis? L-e-w or L-o-u? I don't know.
I mean, might not even be the same man.
Lewis Lacey.
Thank you.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack Throw the dog a bone This old man is going home Oh, this old man, he played two He played knick-knack on my shoe With a Mr.
Janus! Mr.
Janus! Mr.
Janus! Mr.
Janus I stopped by your place.
Your housekeeper told me you were down here swimming.
Twenty minutes a day.
You ought to try it, Columbo.
I'm afraid not, sir.
I can't swim.
I don't even like a deep tub.
What can I do for you? Well, I just want to check a few things out, sir.
We found that the autopsy report confirmed what we originally thought.
There's no question about it that Mr.
Stafford died of suffocation when his windpipe got crushed.
That doesn't surprise you, does it? No, sir.
But they did find out something else and that bothers me.
It seems as though Mr.
Stafford sent out for a large meal around 7:30.
Chinese? Yes, sir.
He ordered some egg foo yung and he had some egg rolls barbecued spare ribs pork fried rice.
Slow poison.
I guess he was hungry.
He told the delivery boy he was hungry.
Apparently, he'd been working at his desk all day and he skipped lunch.
So what? Well I happened to be reading this book of yours The Milo Janus Guide to Health and Fitness and Incidentally, it is a terrific book.
But it says in here somewhere that strenuous exercise after you eat is very bad.
That's right, Lieutenant.
Don't you think that's strange, sir? That Mr.
Stafford would eat a huge meal and a half hour or so later work out with a huge barbell? No, not really, Lieutenant.
Not knowing Gene.
That's how he was.
He wanted to do everything right now.
Forget about the rules.
Lieutenant, look, I've got an appointment in about an hour.
Well, there's just a couple of other things that I'd like to ask you.
All right, well why don't you ask me the questions while I continue my workout, huh? Yes, sir.
Come on, Lieutenant.
Get those knees up.
That's it.
Come on.
That's all.
You'll be a new man.
I'm out of shape, sir.
No question.
And those cigars you smoke they're gonna kill you.
Yes, sir.
I tell you, that's how I feel right now.
Said you had some questions.
Yes, sir.
I I just want to catch my breath.
Well, you go ahead.
I can split my concentration.
So whenever you're ready you just go ahead, huh? Well yes, when I'm ready.
Oh, I wanted to ask you about a Mr.
Who? Mr.
Buddy Castle.
Oh, Buddy.
You must have known him a long time.
Yeah, Buddy and I go way back.
He's quite a character, isn't he? How's that, Lieutenant? Well, what I mean, sir, is Well, I understand he's got quite a reputation.
What do you mean, "reputation"? Well, what I mean, sir, is he has a record.
A criminal record.
You knew about that? Yeah.
Three years' probation for a fraud conviction in Florida.
Eleven years ago.
I know everything I'm supposed to know about people I deal with, Columbo.
Let me tell you something.
Buddy is no thief.
He's a victim of circumstances.
Well the circumstances, sir, at least as far as I understand them are that he and his partners, they stole nearly $400,000 from some unsuspecting investors.
It was an oil speculation.
Some partners.
They're the ones that should have gone to jail.
Buddy was an innocent bystander and I'm happy to have given him a break.
Well, that's wonderful.
I mean, wonderful that a man in your position would take that attitude.
I don't care what people think.
Buddy is as honest as I am.
Yes, sir.
You want a shoelace or something? Oh, no, sir.
I think this will I'll get this, thank you.
It'll be good if I can get the knot through the hole.
I got the knot too low.
I don't know if I can get it through here.
Yes, sir? Can I ask you a question? Yes, sir.
Why are you here? Sir? Why are you here? Why are you sitting there in that chair asking me these questions? Gene Stafford slipped.
He fell.
He died.
Unfortunate, yes but just an unfortunate accident, nothing more.
Well, you see, sir, we're not really certain of that yet.
Oh, you mean that maybe the egg foo yung he ate just before he exercised? No, sir, it was the scuff marks, really.
Scuff marks? Yes, sir.
You see we found these scuff marks there on the I'll be a son of a gun.
I remember when I was a kid, my grandfather he had a piece of furniture, it was exactly like this.
Your grandfather must have been a very wealthy man.
This piece is over 200 years old.
Well, that sounds right.
My grandfather, he only had old furniture.
You know, he didn't believe in buying new.
Just like this.
There was a mirror here and on this side Would you like to sit down? Oh, yes.
And a mirror on that side.
What about those scuff marks? Oh, the scuff marks.
Gee, I almost forgot.
What about them? Oh, yeah on a newly waxed gym floor, scuff marks.
Yeah? Brown ones.
Stafford's shoes had brown soles and brown heels.
You mean that Gene walked over the newly waxed gym floor? Walking, I'm afraid, wouldn't create these particular kind of marks, sir.
No, he would have to stop short or turn abruptly you know, something like that.
As a matter of fact, I had some of the boys from the department come down there and try to duplicate those exact marks.
That's what they had to do.
I mean if he was chasing somebody or somebody was chasing him scuffle struggle.
You get my point? No, I don't, Lieutenant.
Have you had breakfast yet? No, sir.
Would you care to join me? Well, I don't want to put you out.
No, it's no trouble, really.
Here, put your hand out.
I just take these, and Yeah, that's breakfast.
That's breakfast, huh? Are you having any? Sure.
The same thing? Same as you.
Say, there's something wrong with this orange juice.
It's carrot juice, Lieutenant.
You mentioned something about a struggle? Yes, sir, the struggle.
The heel marks Just put this down for the moment.
The lab definitely established that the heel marks belong to Mr.
Stafford's shoes.
And I got to thinking, "Under what circumstances would a man "run on a newly waxed floor with shoes on?" After all, he's got his own sneaks in the locker and he should know better.
So you think, you know, if somebody was chasing him or if somebody was trying to harm him.
Trying to harm him how? Well, I don't know.
Just a thought but if somebody was chasing him and they caught him then whatever happened that's when he could have had his neck broken.
It's possible.
Of course, the problem there is that he had his shoes on when the guy was chasing him but when we found the body, of course he'd changed into sneakers and gym clothes.
So this is just speculation on my part but it is possible that if someone did this to him they would have changed his clothes to make it look like an accident.
Lieutenant, you have my statement and I've already told you when I talked to Gene, he'd already changed into his gym clothing.
Right, you did say that.
Well, thank you, sir.
Thank you very much for your time.
I appreciate everything you've done.
Pleasure, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant, your pills.
Yeah, I'll save these for lunch.
Thank you very much.
Remember, fresh air, exercise Yeah, and diet, I remember.
Right, good diet.
Excuse me.
Hello? Oh, hi, Buddy.
Listen, can I get back to you in a little while? I have somebody here with me.
I'll meet you in the office sometime after 10:00.
You got a light out.
What? I said, you got a light out.
When a call comes in, isn't the button supposed to light up? Oh, I hadn't noticed.
I'll call someone and have them fix it.
Thank you again.
Excuse me, no smoking.
Oh, this is not lit.
In the ashtray, please.
Is it all right if I just hold it? Company policy, no smoking on the premises.
Full name.
Last name first, first name last.
Fill out boxes "A," "B," "C" and "D.
" "E" and "F" are for company policy.
Ma'am? And you can step over to the table when you're finished.
You'll find all the pens you want on the table.
I'm a police officer.
Why didn't you say so? Applications for security position are in room 502.
Right down the hall.
I'm not here for a job, ma'am.
I'm on official business.
I want some information.
Lieutenant Columbo is my name.
I'm trying to locate a Mr.
A Mr.
Lewis Lacey.
I understand that he's employed here.
Lacey? Is that L-a-c-e-y? I think so.
And Lewis.
With and an "E" or with an "O"? Not sure.
What department? I don't know.
I'll be with you in one moment.
Ma'am? Excuse me.
I'm a little pressed for time, so when you get done with that machine I'd appreciate it if you took care of my request.
Our EDS is preparing you a hardcover copy to your coded request.
Oh, that is my request? Yes, sir.
Oh! Just want to know where he works.
You'll have all the information you need in one moment.
Anything you want? Are you sure you put the right thing in? I mean Well, we seem to be getting an awful lot of information there.
That's why I asked.
You think we could just do it on the phone? Oh, I'm sorry, sir.
A phone call would be much too complicated.
You sure that's not stuck? No, sir.
It's not quite finished.
What was this Mr.
Lacey? Was he the president here? No, he must have been very important because Forget it.
I think it's over.
Thank you.
Lacey, Lewis.
He's a GH-84.
A what, ma'am? He's been terminated.
You mean he doesn't work here anymore? That's what I said.
Well, do you have a home phone, or a home address something like that? Sir, the Tricon Delta 214 is a total spectrum retrieval system.
You'll find all the information you need right there.
Oh, thank you very much.
You're quite welcome.
Tricon is always happy to cooperate with the authorities.
Yes, I can see that.
Excuse me, ma'am, is there a phone here that I might use? Yes, sir.
Right over to your right.
Thank you very much.
Hello, this is Lewis Lacey.
Yeah, Mr.
Lacey, this is Lieutenant Columbo, and the reason I'm calling I'm away from my desk now, but expect to be back shortly.
Please leave your name and number and I will return your call as soon as possible.
You may start talking when you hear the tone.
This is Lieutenant Columbo.
I am from the homicide department of the police.
I would like to speak to you as soon as possible.
You can reach me at the main precinct.
The telephone number there is You can look that up.
I am usually there in the mornings.
Thank you very much.
Stafford? Yes, I'm Ruth Stafford.
Lewis Lacey, Mrs.
I'm not sure you remember me.
We met at a Tricon party some years back.
Sure, I do.
Come on in.
I feel so awful about Gene.
He's been very good to me, giving me this work to do ever since Tricon terminated me.
My profound sympathies.
Thank you.
Come on in.
Sit down.
Can I get you a drink? No.
No, thank you.
Well, how about some wine? No.
Are you sure? I'm having some.
Stafford, I'm afraid I don't know quite what to do.
Do about what? Well, Gene paid me several hundred dollars to do some research for him and I haven't been able to get very far.
And what kind of research? Well, my field is corporate law and I've been doing some checking on a Mr.
Milo Janus.
Will you have some? No.
What kind of checking you been doing? Well, I was following the corporate trail, so to speak.
I was working on tax records, corporation charters to find what business interests Mr.
Janus has.
Financial worth of companies that sort of thing.
Gene hired you to find out if Milo's a thief, right? Yes, that was his intention, I believe.
Well? Is he? I don't know.
Janus is a very shrewd businessman but everything I've found seems totally proper.
In a legal sense, of course.
Stafford promised me some further names to run down.
A couple of overseas companies where Mr.
Janus has been funneling money apparently without notifying the Internal Revenue Service.
I don't suppose he mentioned the names to you.
No, he didn't.
I really don't know what to do.
I can't go any further without them.
I mean, I'm not even sure you'd want me to continue.
I don't really feel as if I've earned the money.
No, don't think about it.
Don't worry about that.
These are my notes.
You should have them.
Thank you.
I'll look at them.
Thank you.
I liked your husband very much, Mrs.
I'm terribly sorry.
Thank you.
So am I.
Thanks for coming by.
Castle? Trying to talk to you for a couple of days.
Lieutenant Columbo.
You want to talk to me, Lieutenant? I'm investigating the death of Mr.
Well, I can't tell you anything.
I wasn't there.
The custodian Do you have a pencil? No, I don't.
The custodian, Murphy he says he left the building at 7:00.
Did he? You got to Mr.
Janus', at what time was that, sir? Something like that.
Would you mind telling me where you were between 7:00 and the time you arrived at Mr.
Janus' house? I was home getting dressed.
I left about 7:30.
I picked up Miss Frieda Berk and we went directly from her place to Milo's.
B-e-r-k? Yeah, it's German.
Frieda Berk.
What is this all about, Lieutenant? Gene Stafford died accidentally.
You make it seem as if he were murdered.
I didn't say that.
Well, it's either that or you like to waste people's time by asking a lot of foolish questions.
I have an appointment in seven minutes.
So may I please be excused? One thing, sir.
You a stockholder in Mr.
Janus' enterprise? A minor one.
I was trying to find out a little bit more about the business.
I spoke to a Mr.
Who? L-a-c-e-y.
I finally talked to him this morning.
I don't know any Lacey.
Look, if you want to know something about the business you talk to Milo.
He handles everything himself.
Now, will you excuse me? Excuse me.
Yes? Oh, Lieutenant Columbo.
We met a couple of days ago at Mr.
Janus' house.
I remember, Lieutenant.
I was wondering, do you think that I could Excuse me.
Janus' office.
No, I'm sorry, he's not here right now.
He's at our Chatsworth spa for the next week or two.
Yes, that's right.
Sure, you can call him there.
Thank you.
Well, you just answered my question.
What's that, Lieutenant? No, I was wondering whether I could see Mr.
Janus but I heard you say that he's up at the Chatsworth spa.
Yes, until we find somebody else.
You know, that's very interesting.
What do you do, you record all calls on that? Mr.
Janus seems to think it's a good precaution.
You get some pretty strange people with some pretty strange ideas.
Oh, you mean lawsuits.
We've had our share.
So this way you protect yourself.
You record all calls.
Along with a log.
Can't be too careful.
Very smart.
Excuse me.
Janus' office.
Oh, yes, Mrs.
I'm sorry, he's not here right now.
He's at our Chatsworth spa.
He'll be there for a week or two.
Perhaps you'd like to call him there.
Stafford? Well, this is fascinating.
You don't suppose I could hear how this works? Certainly, Lieutenant.
Janus' office.
This is Ruth Stafford.
I want to speak to Mr.
Oh, yes, Mrs.
I'm sorry, he's not here right now.
What do you mean, "not there"? Where is he? He's at our Chatsworth spa.
He'll be there for a week or two.
Why wasn't I told? Who gave him that right? Perhaps you'd like to call him there.
What's the number? 555-9214.
Stafford? That reminds me of my sister-in-law.
Does she always sound like that? How's that, Lieutenant? You know, a little smashed.
Well, I wouldn't know.
I seldom speak to her.
Oh, you spoke mostly to him.
Yes, that's right.
Then I suppose you have a lot of recordings with his voice.
Yes, Lieutenant.
I think I'll run over to the Chatsworth spa.
Oh, one more thing.
The night that Mr.
Stafford died you went over to Mr.
Janus' house.
What time was that? Around 8:15.
And Mr.
Janus wasn't there at that time, is that right? Yes, that's right.
He had to go see a prospective buyer.
He didn't get back to the house until a little after 9:00.
And that's when Mr.
Stafford called? More or less.
Janus came home and then he went into the study to start the film projector.
That's when Mr.
Stafford called.
May I borrow a pencil? Sure.
Are you certain it was Mr.
Stafford that was on the line? Yes.
You're sure? I recognized his voice, Lieutenant.
What did he say? "Hello, Jessica, this is Gene Stafford.
" What was his attitude? How did he sound? Businesslike, as usual.
Then I take it it's not unusual for you to be in Mr.
Janus' house in the evening.
Yes, Lieutenant.
As a matter of fact, that was the first time I was ever there.
What are you driving at? Nothing to do with you, ma'am.
No, I was just wondering if Mr.
Stafford was used to having you answer the phone in the office why wasn't he surprised when you answered the phone in the house? May I keep this? Sure.
Now, Mr.
Janus, he's got two telephone lines into his house.
That's right.
Do you remember which line the call came in on? No, I'm sorry.
Oh do you remember when the call came in did the light under the button light up? Yes.
As a matter of fact, Lieutenant it was the second line, 6902.
Thank you very much, ma'am.
You've been very helpful.
Good evening.
Good evening.
Chianti for the gentleman? Thank you.
Would you like some wine? Sure? No, I want to keep a clear head.
Thank you.
You know, stress isn't good for you, Ruth.
Why don't you relax and try and enjoy yourself? I know you still love him.
I never tried to hide that.
He was a wonderful guy.
You know, much more than just a business associate.
Oh, come on, Milo, cut it out.
Don't pretend with me.
I know what you're doing.
Doing? I don't understand.
You're moving in on the spa already.
You're taking it over.
That's just temporary until I can find a buyer for you, Ruth.
Suppose I don't want a buyer.
Suppose I want to run the business myself.
Well, you don't have any experience.
I could learn.
I could get a good accountant someone who understood the books.
But you might not approve of that.
That's what Gene was doing.
Before he died.
He was working on the books.
But you knew that, didn't you? No, I didn't.
Milo, let me ask you something.
Let me ask you something about the M.
That broken-down pill factory where you manufacture health food and then sell it for six times the cost.
Now, look, Ruth Okay, I won't ask you about that.
I'll ask you about the Green Eagle Manufacturers where you manufacture Milo Janus gym equipment.
Damn it, Ruth, I have to maintain quality.
What do you do with all that money, Milo? Reinvest it.
In the franchises.
When I grow, you grow.
I don't think so.
And Gene didn't think so.
What Gene thought or what Gene could have proven that's a different matter.
Let it be, Ruth.
You can live comfortably for the rest of your life.
I will sell your franchise.
But if you keep making these wild accusations the value of your investment's gonna go down, Ruth, way down.
A threat? No.
Not a threat.
Just sound advice.
You don't know anything about the business world.
The real business world.
And for that matter, neither did your husband.
He lived in that ivory tower of Pentagon bureaucrats, pushovers.
It's a lot tougher selling apples on the street corner.
That's what I do, and I do it successfully.
And no one's gonna spoil it, Ruth.
No one.
Understand? Have some wine.
Actually, it's very good.
Later we'll go over to my place.
Where are you going? Out.
Can I do something for you? What do you say, Buddy? Hi, Milo.
Hey, did you set up that appointment with Parker? I think he's ripe now.
Yeah, I got a call and I booked you lunch at the club.
We've got another small problem.
If it's a little problem, you handle it.
I don't think I can, not this one.
What's he doing here? Well, you know that introductory 30-day offer we've been pushing on television? Yeah.
What he's doing here.
Hey, Mr.
Janus, how you doing? Listen, I gotta tell you, this is terrific.
I'm starting to feel like a new man already.
Fine, fine, Columbo.
Of course, you know, I've only been on it for about 20 minutes but you know what it is? It's a whole different attitude.
I mean, I believe that this is gonna make a new man out of me.
I'm skipping beer, giving up the cigars no more chili.
That's fine, Columbo.
You'll have to excuse me.
I've got some paperwork I have to take care of.
I understand.
Just a few more questions that I want to ask you.
Columbo, I don't have the time.
Excuse me, sir.
I gotta get back to work.
I thought I'd pop in.
It's about the barbell.
What? The barbell, sir.
I was talking to some of the people around here.
It weighs 180 pounds.
It's a heavy thing to lift.
I understand that Mr.
Stafford never lifted anything heavier than 150 pounds.
That's right.
When he tried to lift Yeah, it certainly did.
But you know I guess there's not a lot of people around here Do you mind if I come in? Lieutenant, I don't mean to be rude but I told you in the gym I'm really very busy.
I'm pressed myself, so I'll make it fast.
Where was I? Oh, yes.
I guess there's not a lot of people around here that could press Outside of yourself, of course.
Me? Well, I understand that you once pressed 250 pounds.
I wanna tell you, that's a lot of weight.
Listen, I got a little confession to make.
You know, I tried to lift up that barbell.
I couldn't get the damn thing above my knees.
I mean, it shows you the kind of shape I'm in.
Would you please get to the point? Oh, yes, sir.
Well, you know some of my thoughts on this case, and You know, the possibility in my mind that maybe the barbell didn't kill Mr.
You know, that someone either struck him or choked him or something like that.
And if that is the case, whoever staged it to make it look like an accident he'd have to be strong enough to lift up a 180-pound barbell and place it on Mr.
Stafford's neck.
Are you accusing me because I once pressed 250 pounds? Oh, no, sir.
Oh, no, I wasn't accusing anybody.
No, let me explain.
No, what I'm trying to do here is I'm trying to figure out how many people around here are capable of lifting 180 pounds.
Lieutenant, I can tell you in the gym right now there are at least a dozen men that could lift up that bar and put it on Gene's body if that's what happened.
But why don't you accept the fact that it was an accident? Well, it's also about the shoes.
Shoes? Yes, sir, Mr.
Stafford's brown-heeled shoes.
Oh, yeah, you mentioned something about a struggle.
Well, I wasn't thinking exactly about that, sir.
No you see, the shoes weren't untied.
The shoelaces.
They were still tied.
And it seems funny to me that a man would take off his shoes without untying the laces.
Unless, of course, he was in a hurry.
But I don't know where he was rushing to.
He was just gonna go work out.
You see, that bothers me.
You know what bothers me, Lieutenant? Your constant insinuation that I know more about Gene Stafford's death than I've already told you.
Is that the impression that I give? Yes, that is the impression that you give, Lieutenant.
I'm sorry, sir.
If you recall, I was at home with friends when Gene died, remember? Yes, sir.
You certainly were.
Let me see.
You got home a little after 9:00 and Mr.
Stafford called a few minutes after that.
That's about right.
That's what I have written down.
See? It's right there, sir.
Well, thank you very much.
There's one other thing, sir.
Your secretary she said she left the office around 6:00 that night to go home and change and when she left, you were still in the office.
That's right.
Would you mind telling me, sir I don't want to sound like I'm accusing you but it's a question I really have to ask.
Where were you in those three hours from 6:00 until 9:00? What difference can it make? Oh, it probably doesn't make any difference but I'm gonna tell you what my problem is.
I got a new boss.
He's a nice man, but he's a little young for the job.
So he's a stickler for details and I have to be very thorough.
All right, Lieutenant, if you must know I was in my downtown office until 7:00 and then I drove to Pasadena.
May I? Certainly.
Is that with two "N's"? Well, what's the difference? I'll know what it is.
One "N," Lieutenant.
Thank you.
What were you doing in Pasadena, sir? I went to Parker Motors.
Parker, the owner, was interested in talking to me about a Milo Janus franchise.
So I thought I'd drive out there and discuss it with him.
How'd you make out? I didn't.
When I got there, the place was closed so I turned around and I drove home.
He wasn't there.
What time is it, sir? Almost 11:00.
I gotta check into the headquarters.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, sir.
Oh, Mr.
Janus, just one more thing, please.
I thought you had a clock to punch.
I do.
I'm leaving right now.
It's about Mrs.
I understand that you and she had a little disagreement in a restaurant last night.
Have you been following me, Columbo? No.
What happened was this.
Stafford came down to headquarters this morning.
She spoke to some of the fellas in the other division.
What other division? Bunco.
Bunco? Yes.
Made a lot of wild accusations about you, about your operation.
Now, it's clear Mrs.
Stafford is a very inexperienced businesswoman.
How's that, Lieutenant? The way you run your business operation.
I spoke to a Mr.
He's somewhat of an expert on business.
And I suppose he called me a crook? No, sir, he never said that.
He said, and he repeated this he said technically, you're within the law.
Of course, I can understand how Mrs.
Stafford and even Mr.
Stafford how they could get upset over some of the things that are going on around here.
That's enough, Columbo.
I'm tired of your accusations and your innuendos.
All I'm trying to do is determine the facts, sir.
If you have anything to say to me you say it through my attorney, is that clear? Yes, sir.
And be damn sure you know what you're talking about.
Nurse Colburn, please.
EKG to 447.
Nurse Colburn, please.
EKG to 447.
Excuse me, Lieutenant Columbo.
I understood they brought a Mrs.
Stafford in.
Oh, yes, she's in ICU.
Freeman's with her now.
It's down the hall to your left.
Golden, call seventh floor, please.
Excuse me.
How is she? Well, she'll live, but it was close.
What happened? Booze, pills.
A deadly combination.
A neighbor found her.
You're gonna be all right.
I knew he was cheating Gene.
And I told him I knew.
He just laughed at me.
All right, take it easy.
Guess I had too much to drink.
And then I couldn't sleep.
His face just kept going around and around laughing and laughing.
I'll be in the waiting room.
You get some rest.
Dormer check with x-ray lab, please.
How is she? They won't tell me a thing.
What do you care? Ma'am.
What's that supposed to mean? May I have that magazine? You don't care whether she lives or dies.
As a matter of fact, she's drinking because of you because she thinks you're responsible for the death of her husband.
And you want to know something? So do I.
I warned you in my office.
Don't you I checked your alibi for the time before you got to the house.
It doesn't wash.
First of all, I don't need an alibi and secondly, I was at Parker Motors.
You said they were closed when you got there.
The fact is, they've been open every night until 9:00 for the past month.
May I have that magazine? Have they? That's right.
Got a match? Your health program didn't last very long, did it? Long enough.
You know something, Columbo? You're a devious man.
That's what they tell me.
I'm gonna tell you something.
What I meant to say was that I drove out to Parker Motors but when I got there, Parker's car was gone.
So I assumed that he left for the day.
And since my original statement to you was verbal you must have misunderstood what I said.
Now, if you claim otherwise, I'm gonna deny it.
Is that clear? That's very clear.
I don't care what you think.
I don't care what you suspect.
I don't care what visions you see when you look at your cigar ashes because I'm innocent.
I have an alibi for the time Gene Stafford died.
And you can huff and puff on that rotten cigar until next July and you'll never prove otherwise.
I wouldn't count on that.
Columbo if you are smart I won't be seeing you again.
Stand still, Johnny.
Stop moving! Good morning, Mr.
Morning, Susan.
Milo, what are you trying to do to me? I just got a batch of invoices from Green Eagle and I gotta tell you, pal you've got a lot of guts charging prices Columbo, what the hell are you doing? Oh, just a little phone demonstration, sir to show how a man who's already dead can appear to be alive.
Well, your little joke was not funny.
It wasn't meant to be funny, sir.
Oh, no.
No, you see this tape, this is tricky stuff.
The other day, I'm in the employment office.
I call the phone of Mr.
Lewis Lacey.
Now, he gets on the phone, and he says "Hello, this is Mr.
" Now, I get out a whole sentence before I realize I'm not talking to him.
I'm talking to a recording.
A thing like that, it makes an impression on you.
This tape here this is a tape of a conversation you had with Mr.
Stafford two months ago.
I clipped out a piece of it and I played it back on the phone.
I hope you don't mind.
But I do mind.
What the hell gives you the right, Columbo? This, sir.
This is a warrant.
This gives me the right.
I also found the spot on the tape that you clipped out before.
The tape that you used to convince your secretary that Mr.
Stafford was alive and working out in the gym.
It came from this reel.
But when you play this reel back, it skips from the end of the previous phone call to the point where your secretary tells you that Mr.
Stafford is on the phone but in between there's a splice mark.
You see it? Now, I figure what's been clipped out that's the part where Mr.
Stafford said "Hello, Jessica, this is Gene Stafford.
Can I speak to Mr.
Janus?" Something like that.
You see how easy it is to fool people.
Columbo you've got some imagination.
Even if someone did clip out a section of that tape it could have been anyone that knew about those files.
But it wasn't anyone, sir.
You carried on a lengthy conversation on the phone with him didn't you? I'll tell you how you did it, if you're interested.
Go ahead, it's your fairy tale.
When you came home, sir after you murdered Mr.
Stafford you went into your study and you pushed down line 6901.
Then you dialed 6902 knowing that your secretary in the living room would answer the phone.
She picks up the phone.
Naturally, she recognizes Mr.
Stafford's voice.
Now you come out of the study, you take the phone and you stage this imaginary conversation.
Even to the point of planting the idea that he was working out with exercise equipment.
Did I? Yes, sir, you did.
And you did something else, and this was smart.
And I give you credit for this.
You removed the bulb on the phone in the living room so that the line wouldn't light up.
Because if 6901 lit up the people there would know that you were talking from the phone in the study.
Guess work.
More cigar ashes.
What you need, Lieutenant, is proof.
That's what you need, proof.
It didn't take me till July but I got the proof.
Right here.
Your sworn statement regarding the telephone conversation that you claim you had with Mr.
But I did talk to him.
I talked to him.
And he was at the health club? Yes.
And he was working out with the barbell? He said he was about to work out.
Here's your quote.
"He already changed into his gym clothes.
" "He said he was going to work out for about a half an hour" "and then go home.
" Is that what he said? Yes.
Are you sure? Yes, damn it.
That's what I said.
That's impossible, Mr.
Oh, that's just not possible.
Lieutenant, that's a very expensive desk.
Oh, excuse me.
If you'd just bear with me for a moment.
Because this is very interesting.
Watch this carefully.
I tie my shoes like most right-handed people.
I make my first loop and you'll notice that the loop is over my arch.
It's on the same side as my big toe.
Is that true? That's right.
Just bear with me, sir.
Oh, that's my lunch.
That doesn't mean nothing.
Here we are.
This is an old sneaker of mine.
Now I turn that sneaker around just like I was gonna tie somebody else's shoe.
I do the laces the same way and I make my first loop.
You'll notice that the loop is now on the opposite side.
It's on the side of the little toe.
Here, it was on the side of the big toe.
This is the exact reversal of this.
Is that true? Yes, Lieutenant, that's true.
You see, I knew there was something about these shoelaces that was bothering me.
I just couldn't put my finger on it.
Oh, yes.
Look at this photograph.
This is a picture of Mr.
Stafford's sneakers.
It was taken when the body was discovered.
You'll notice that the first loop which you can always identify it's the top loop the first loop is on the side of the little toe.
Now look at this shoe.
This is Mr.
Stafford's shoe.
I found it in his locker.
Now, this is the interesting point.
When I tie my own lace the first loop is on the side of the big toe.
When Mr.
Stafford ties his own laces the first loop is on the side of the big toe.
This matches with this.
However when I tie somebody else's shoe the first loop is on the side of the little toe.
And this matches with this.
There's only one conclusion.
Stafford did not put on his own sneakers.
Somebody else did.
And that somebody was you.
You changed his clothes.
Now, you wait a minute, Lieutenant.
I'll tell you something.
Your little demonstration proves one thing and one thing only.
That somebody else put on Stafford's gym shoes but the fact remains you can't prove that I did it.
It could have been anybody.
It could only be you.
By your own admission, it had to be you.
Stafford was last seen around 7:30 wearing his business clothes.
Now, he's alone in the building the building is locked and the next morning, he's found dead in his gym clothes! And at 9:00 the previous evening nine hours before the body was found you and you alone knew that he was in his gym clothes.
You said so.
You swore to it in front of five witnesses.
How did you know he was in his gym clothes if you didn't change the clothes? You tried to contrive the perfect alibi, sir.
And it's your perfect alibi that's gonna hang you.