Columbo (1971) s07e02 Episode Script

Murder Under Glass

Good afternoon, this is Paul Gerard, and once again, the world is my kitchen, a world of fine dining in the restaurant and in your home.
In Japan, it is said, meals are prepared for the eye, as well as the palate.
This is not true, however, of an eating ritual known as Odori, the dance of the flesh.
In a country where most people like their seafood fresh and raw, there are those who prefer it lively.
The shrimp is still wriggling as it is quickly dipped into the sauce and eaten with gusto.
You can never say he allows himself to be blinded by good taste.
Only by money.
Still, he's done all right for us.
Not me, not anymore.
In the case of fugu, the Japanese blowfish, this is quite literally true.
The tiger fugu, considered to be the most delicious variety, is also the most deadly, a remarkably potent poison unless the highly toxic liver and other organs are removed with great skill.
I'm getting out.
Ah, when? Tonight.
Tonight? He's finished.
Or a tiny residue of the poison.
A taste of eternity.
Paul, we need a couple with just the package, now.
Life would be unbearable without my daily portion of Bon Snax.
Yes, yes, my anchovies would weep and my pâté would be desolate and my Camembert inconsolable.
Am I breaking your heart, Charlie? Keep it up, you're doing great.
How many more, fellas? Oh, just one more, please.
Always just one more.
If you gave a photographer he'd still ask for just one more.
Bonjour, and Bon Snax.
Thanks, Paul.
This way, gentlemen.
Eve, we'll have the proofs and we'll get them back to you in a couple a days.
The check would be even nicer.
My notes for the Restaurant Writers' dinner? Notes.
Did you call the airport? Mr.
Ozu's flight will be on time.
You are flawless.
A gem.
What kind of gem? A sapphire.
Too cool.
I'd rather be an emerald.
Consider it done.
Paul, can I ask you a question? Certainly.
Are we having an affair? I would say a prelude to an affair.
That's terrific, Paul.
Why do I have to do that stuff at the bank? Because you must.
I hate it.
Banking is part of your job.
It's underhanded.
Are you an accountant, Eve? No, I'm not.
And I'm not Irene DeMilo, either.
Why do I have to pretend to be Irene DeMilo? Because we're having an affair.
I thought it was just a prelude.
The prelude is almost concluded.
The affair is about to begin.
You flatter my poor restaurant, Mr.
Come on.
We both know your restaurant is superb.
Let's dine together and we'll be friends again.
We'll dine.
You invited yourself and so we will dine.
Albert, my favorite chef Italiano.
What have you been concocting for us here, hmm? My antipasto.
Rosemary, shallot, a touch of juniper.
Very good, very good.
Anything else, Vittorio? No, that's it, Alberto.
You've done very well.
It seems you do not take seriously what I told you on the phone.
I do not require your praise anymore.
Not your radio, your television, no more newspapers, no magazines.
As you please.
It's your restaurant.
I'm finished with our little arrangement.
Not one penny more.
Capisce? This is very good.
So it's no more Mr.
Paul Gerard.
Famous Paul Gerard.
I'll tell the world what you are.
Haven't you forgotten something? Proof? I have proof.
No, you forgot the wine.
May I suggest a cabernet? May I suggest a Margaux, maestro? Fine, fine.
When I'm finished with you, you'll starve like a beggar in the streets.
What a pity it has to end like this.
What'll you write? Vittorio's is a rotten restaurant? What a pity.
Well, ciao, old friend.
Now, wait, wait.
Tonight I gave you a lesson.
Paul Gerard? Yes.
I was called.
I'm Sergeant Burke.
You wanna wait here a minute, please? The police asked me to get in touch with Paul Gerard.
He's here now.
Gerard? Mr.
Paul Gerard? Yes.
Ah, forgive me, sir, for eating this way, but I didn't have a chance to go home and Chef Albert, he was good enough to prepare me a bowl of his cioppino.
It's terrific.
He uses a freshly grated lemon peel to give it that extra zing.
Well, I don't have to tell you that, sir.
Gerard, this is a real pleasure.
I never miss one of your columns.
My name is Lieutenant Columbo, Homicide.
Lieutenant, I came immediately as soon as the police called.
I can't believe, Vittorio dead.
Poison? Well, that's the medical examiner's opinion.
Please, sit down, sir.
Thank you.
My God, poison.
I ate the same meal.
Albert prepared it.
Ah, yes, sir, that's what he told me.
May I ask, sir, how you feel? I don't know.
I'm not sure.
I was at the airport, then home.
No ill effects.
And then you came directly here, sir? Yes, I You said Albert cooked that? Delicious and it's all in the basil and the garlic.
Oh, I see what you mean, sir.
Albert, the poison.
Oh, I doubt that very much, sir.
When we brought him in to question him, he became very indignant.
He grabbed a knife and fork, he started to eat everything in sight.
He's in perfect health, sir.
And the boy? Mario? As I understand it, he didn't eat.
I wonder why the mussels that you buy in the store never turn out this way.
Oh, I do a little cooking, sir, nothing fancy.
Columbo, she's a remarkable woman.
She has lots of interests.
But cooking isn't one of them.
She gives me plenty of encouragement.
Feeling better, sir? Yes, yes, thank you.
Well, what I was going to ask you, sir, didn't the Did you say you went to the airport tonight? Yes, to meet a friend.
And then you came right here? No, Lieutenant, the call from the police didn't reach me until I returned home.
And how long would you say it took you to get from your home to here? I came immediately.
From the phone call to my arrival, about eight minutes.
Is this important, Lieutenant? Not at all, sir.
Just for my report.
What I wanted to ask you, did the victim show any signs of being in trouble? No.
Certainly nothing like that.
Are you sure, sir? Nothing you might have forgotten? Lord knows you'd be entitled if something slipped your mind.
All this stress, all this poison flying around.
What makes you think Vittorio was in some sort of trouble? Mainly because he was murdered, sir.
The two, trouble and murder, they seem to go together.
At least that's been my experience, sir.
Albert, can all this be true? Mr.
Gerard, Vittorio was a fine man.
You're a food critic, a great critic.
I'm a simple chef, but I'm sure I speak for chefs everywhere when I say I wish it was you dead in there.
Oh, Albert.
Lieutenant, the boy, Mario, you can speak to him now.
I'm going home to finish getting drunk.
Thank you, Albert.
We'll be in touch, Albert.
Poor man.
He's overwrought.
Well, I guess we're all overwrought.
May I help with Mario? Certainly.
You want to hear a coincidence, Mr.
Gerard? I was listening to your program on my car radio one day last week, and I go through this tunnel and I missed the end of a terrific recipe on some kind of sauce.
Do you remember the name of that? Could it be béchamel? No.
This is something I'm gonna spring on Mrs.
Rémoulade? Hollandaise? I'm gonna think of it in a minute.
It's some kind of a French name.
May I ask who called the police? He did, sir.
But he doesn't speak a word of English.
Well, he's a very bright boy, sir.
As Sergeant Burke understands it, he called his mother in Genoa and she called the police here long distance.
He's remarkable.
As I understand it, sir, you left without finishing your dinner.
Yes, fortunately.
And before the victim showed any effects from the poison.
Well, yes.
I'll just question the witness.
He says he loved his uncle.
I believe him.
Why would he kill his uncle? What else did he say? He said his uncle was very angry.
Slamming drawers.
Why would he be slamming drawers? I mean, why would he even open drawers? He put the tray there.
Nothing has been put away.
Why would he open drawers? Have to think about that.
Look at those beautiful pots.
The boy said something about an argument and a lot of shouting.
What was that about, sir? It was a trivial matter.
Yes, sir.
Most arguments seem to start that way.
Every year the restaurant writers have an awards dinner.
For the past three years we've held it here, at Vittorio's.
This year the committee decided to have the dinner at Chez Duvall.
Vittorio saw it as a slight, an insult.
I'm on the committee and he accused me of suggesting the change, of influencing their choice.
Did you do that, sir? Yes, sir.
In all honesty, I must confess that I did.
Gerard, I want to thank you for your help.
Oh, I'm pleased to do what I can.
Oh, there's just one other thing.
The victim's appointment book.
He had you down for dinner at 8:00.
And the entry before that at 4:00 was for a meeting with an M.
Choy and an M.
Do those names mean anything to you, sir? M.
Choy would be Mary Choy, She owns the House of Choy.
And M.
Duvall? Who would that be? Max Duvall, the owner of Chez Duvall.
Vittorio knew them both.
But I don't see how this meeting could be of any importance.
Well, it probably isn't, sir, but Vittorio thought it was.
He has the entry heavily outlined with four exclamation points after it.
That's odd.
Well, what's even odder is he did the same thing with your name.
And he drew a circle and an arrow.
That's bizarre.
Linking your name to theirs.
That's pretty bizarre.
Do you know, sir, any reason that he might have marked his book that way? No.
I must say it's very strange.
Lieutenant, it's very late.
It's been a harrowing day.
Good night.
Sorry, Mr.
Gerard, but I can't let you get away with it.
What? Your recipe.
You didn't think I'd remember, did you? It's onion sauce.
Then it was Soubise.
Sauce Soubise.
It's a simple recipe.
I'll get it for you.
I'd certainly appreciate that, sir.
Good night, sir.
Good night.
Nobody lives forever, but poison? Who can figure poison? Who could imagine a thing like that? Vittorio Rossi.
We were apprentices together.
Hotel school, Switzerland, just boys.
As I understand it, sir, you had a meeting with him yesterday, and I was wondering Is that what I think it is? Is that galantine of duck? Yeah, this is my galantine.
You know, I've read about these in a cookbook, but I have never actually seen one.
And those black buttons, are they real truffles? Why, of course.
And the green mosaics here, pistachios.
And there's another kind of meat there, inside.
It's a real work of art, sir.
What I wanted to ask you, you had a meeting with Mr.
Rossi at 4:00 yesterday.
Can you tell me what that was about? Well, it was social.
Cocktails, shop talk, gossip among old friends.
Since you were one of the last few people to see him alive, can you Do you suppose Could I try to do that? This? Oeufs en Gelée? Eggs in aspic.
I'd really like to try to get the feel.
The way you garnish a dish like this.
Yes, go right ahead.
Thank you very much.
What I wanted to ask you, sir, it has to do with the victim's frame of mind.
Lieutenant Columbo, I am Louis, the chef.
Well, it's a very great pleasure, sir.
Vittorio was my friend.
I wish you luck.
And I've prepared a little something for you.
Stuffed mushrooms.
Champignons farcis au crabe.
Are those made with a béchamel sauce? Exactly.
Well, I'm going to enjoy this very much.
Merci, monsieur.
Thank you, sir.
We all loved Vittorio.
We'll miss him, Lieutenant.
Tell me something.
In your last meeting with Vittorio, did he express any fears? Did he mention anything about a death threat? No, not a thing.
In fact, I found him preoccupied, withdrawn.
He was strangely silent.
A lot on his mind? It was all bottled up inside, ready to explode.
No, there was nothing to suggest that he was a potential victim.
On the contrary, he seemed like a man about ready to commit murder himself.
And you got all that through his silence? You're a very perceptive man, Mr.
Would you care for some chartreuse, Mr.
Gerard? Thank you.
Light lunch today.
Well, this is quite a coincidence.
I had no idea you were here.
Would you care to join me? Well, I'm really not hungry, sir.
I just polished off three mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat.
But I'll join you anyway.
If you're anything like me, you're not too crazy about eating alone.
I'm beginning to regard you as an old acquaintance, Lieutenant.
Well, thank you very much, sir.
I'm beginning to know you pretty well, too.
Would you care for some champagne? No, thank you.
I know you're going to be very glad to hear this, sir.
I got the poison report back from the lab.
They still don't know what kind of poison it was that killed your friend Vittorio, but they found out it wasn't in the food.
It was in the wine.
The wine? That's extraordinary.
Why should I be glad to hear that the poison was in the wine? Well, don't you see, sir? That immediately strikes you right off my list of suspects.
According to the boy, Vittorio didn't even open the bottle until after you left.
I wasn't aware that I was on your list of suspects, Lieutenant.
I must say I find all this very puzzling.
It is puzzling, isn't it, sir? I mean, here's this boy, Mario, sent to the wine cellar for a bottle of Margaux and he picks it at random and it's laced with poison.
How do you explain a thing like that? Lieutenant Columbo, I was a friend of Vittorio's.
With my compliments.
Caviar? Smoked Salmon? And fois gras.
Well, thank you very much.
This is a sensational layout.
Good luck, sir.
Gee, this reminds me.
Columbo said to pick up something for dinner.
Now, I know this isn't my area of expertise, but I have a theory.
Now, please, don't laugh.
I wouldn't consider it, sir.
It's just that it could have been an accident.
An accident? The poison got into the bottle by accident? It could have happened at the chateau, where the wine was bottled.
Some insecticide, perhaps, it spilled, wasn't noticed.
The wine was corked and shipped.
Well, that's a very interesting notion, sir.
But the World Health Organization has no record of any outbreak of poisoning in the French vineyards.
I see.
Does this feel ripe, sir? I don't think it's squishy enough.
It's ripe.
Sorry about your theory, sir.
But there is another possibility.
That Vittorio might have been planning to murder somebody himself.
And he did have that dinner date with you, sir.
You mean he planned to murder me? Well, let's examine it.
Suppose it was Vittorio who put the poison in the wine bottle thinking that you would drink it.
And when you walked away, he made the fatal mistake of drinking it himself.
I can see how that could be possible.
You can, sir? Well, maybe you can explain it to me.
I mean, how could a man make a mistake like that? I don't even understand why Vittorio would want to kill you.
Can you think of a reason? Of course not.
You're perfectly right.
The whole idea is ridiculous.
Well, it was my idea, but I'll think of better ones.
How did the poison get into the wine? That's the question.
But don't worry about it, sir.
I'm gonna write that out on a card and I'm gonna paste it up on my shaving mirror and that's all I'm gonna think about.
I've been a fool.
How long have you been a fool? Since I forced you into that damn business with the Irene DeMilo account.
It wasn't fair.
Did you say affair? Eve, go to the bank one last time.
Oh, no.
Close out the account and go home and pack your things.
I'm moving in? You will need a passport.
A passport? Your next assignment.
Go to Paris.
Why? A new book.
It's time to revisit the great restaurants of Europe.
I'm tied up, so you eat the food of the gods.
I'll meet you in one month.
And then we'll travel the Mediterranean, Spain Oh, and the Greek islands? Yes.
How selfish I am.
You have so much to do and I keep you in my arms.
It's all right.
To sum up, first the bank, an end to the DeMilo account, then France, Italy, Spain And Monte Carlo.
You will never forget Monte Carlo.
You have the bank book? Yes, it's in my bag.
Hurry back.
I'll have your itinerary.
You leave tomorrow.
Oh, Paul, I need at least three days.
Three days.
Wait, what about the dinner? Europe is calling.
Go, go, go.
Mario, come ahead.
Gerard is still sitting here.
Vittorio, he's over here, he's putting his plate on the sink.
Yelling, carrying on.
Gerard gets up and leaves.
The bottle is still corked.
Mario goes after him.
Here's where Vittorio had to open the bottle.
Mario comes back.
Mario! This is depressing.
This is very depressing.
Vittorio picks up the tray, takes it to the sink.
Slams a couple of drawers.
He turns around.
"What's this?" he says.
All right, enough of that.
What was he doing slamming drawers? Like he broke the drawer? Cancelled checks drawn from Vittorio's bank.
$5000, $8000, $4000, $6000.
Holy Toledo.
Must be $100,000 worth.
Restaurant Developers Association.
They're all made out to the Restaurant Developers Association.
Here's their stamp on the back.
What's the Restaurant Developers Association? Never heard of it.
Nevertheless, you'll observe I'm taking these into police possession.
They gonna tell you how the poison got into the wine? All right, now, we do it all over again.
Not with me.
This is too depressing.
Wait a minute, Albert.
How does this thing work? I know there's some kind of cartridge.
This Another clue? If there's poison in that cartridge, then that's a clue.
I want to take this down to the police lab.
We'll see if the boys there find any poison.
You're a good detective.
Leave no stone unturned.
You want me to fix you anything else to eat before I go? No, thank you very much, Albert.
The poached scallops will hold me just fine.
See you later, kid.
That's the kind of man Vittorio was, tough when it was good to be tough, generous when it was right to be generous.
Now let me tell you something I don't think you know yet, how generous he was to me and to his nephew, Mario.
In his will, Vittorio left us his restaurant.
To both of us.
With one condition, that I train Mario the way Vittorio would have trained him.
To me that means just one thing.
That I train Mario to be a great man like his uncle.
A great chef and a great manager.
Tough and generous.
Okay, Vittorio, I make you this promise Now, friends, before you go I know you all want to get back.
You're all busy people.
But I want you to know that the man in charge of investigating Vittorio's murder is here today.
The man who is going to catch that murderer, Detective Lieutenant Columbo.
Lieutenant, we're behind you, all of us.
And I want you to know this.
As long as you're on this case, you'll never go hungry.
Arrivederci, Vittorio.
Lieutenant, the opener, the cartridge, what did the lab say? Well, it was just a cartridge.
We still haven't figured out the poison.
Sir, if it'll make you rest any easier, I think those checks are gonna be a very big help.
That dim sum reminds me of the kind I used to have at home.
At home, Lieutenant? Right around the corner from Chinatown was an Italian neighborhood.
When I was a kid I bet I had more egg rolls than I had cannelloni.
Do you recognize this, ma'am? It's a cancelled check.
I noticed that you tore it up at Mr.
Rossi's grave.
But that's all right, ma'am.
I've got a lot more.
$100,000 worth.
I only passed that around to see who would react to it.
Only two people did.
You and Mr.
How very clever of you, Lieutenant.
I've been in touch with the Department of Corporations, ma'am.
I know that Mr.
Rossi was the treasurer of the Restaurant Developers Association.
I know that Mr.
Duvall was the vice-president.
And I am the president.
Exactly, ma'am.
Why was the Association formed? To help develop certain promising restaurants into commercial successes.
And it's been a smashing failure.
Do you know why Mr.
Rossi made out all those checks? I haven't got the vaguest idea.
We never received the funds and our commercial account consists of $175.
Well, that's quite a spread, ma'am between $175 and $100,000.
What happened to the rest of the money? You don't think poor old Vittorio was up to something nasty? Ma'am? I'd hate to believe he committed suicide.
Oh, no, ma'am, that's the furthest thing from my mind.
Never even thought of that.
I want to thank you very much for this tea lunch, ma'am.
I enjoyed it immensely.
I'll have somebody come by and pick up the Association's books.
Yes, of course.
Lieutenant, you forgot your fortune cookie.
To tell you the truth, ma'am, I could use some good news.
"Cheer up.
" "There is more than one fish in the sea.
" That's the kind I always get.
Once I would like it to say I'm gonna be rich and go away on a long trip.
Just once.
Goodbye, Lieutenant.
Join us, please.
You're a most welcome part of this surprising evening.
I wanted you to have one last taste of Tokyo before you begin your tour of American restaurants.
They won't believe this when I send back the story.
They think I'm eating hot dogs and grits.
Have you ever eaten grits? No, not yet.
Don't bother.
And now, the pièce de résistance.
Fugu sashimi? Incredible.
This cannot really be fugu? I did it myself, exactly the way you taught me.
Is it authentic? I can't believe it.
Fugu sashimi in Los Angeles.
I'll get it.
I'm definitely not home.
To anyone.
Good evening, ma'am.
My name is Lieutenant Columbo, Homicide.
I'd like to speak to Mr.
Is he home? I'm not sure.
Is it a big place? Or is he just out to the police? Paul, Lieutenant Columbo is here.
Good evening, Lieutenant.
Oh, I beg your pardon, sir.
The young lady didn't tell me you were eating.
It's quite all right.
How may I help you? Well, I expected to Sorry.
I expected to see you at Mr.
Rossi's funeral.
I guess you couldn't make it.
I never go to funerals.
I prefer to remember my friends as I saw them last.
I believe Mr.
Rossi was yelling at you when you saw him last, isn't that right, sir? You mustn't take me literally, Lieutenant.
Have you eaten? Yes, sir.
It seems I've been eating quite a bit lately.
It's terrific.
A pity.
You could have joined us.
Well, that's very good of you, sir.
Maybe a small bite.
I'm delighted.
A new setting, please, for our latest arrival.
Sit down, Lieutenant.
I'm Eve Plummer, Mr.
Gerard's assistant.
Pleased to meet you, ma'am.
My distinguished colleague from Japan, Kanzy Oz How do you do, sir? The two modest maidens are professional entertainers.
Are you a lieutenant with the American Army? No, sir.
Los Angeles Police.
Right, Lieutenant? That's right, ma'am.
There was a murder movie on the plane.
I'm afraid I bore Paul with the detail all the way from the airport.
That must have been the night that Vittorio was murdered.
The very same night.
Do you have a hot suspect? Well, I've got my eyes on one.
Gerard, this is a lovely place you have here.
Thank you.
Oh, that's quite a dish.
I've never seen a dish like this before.
What is that called? Raw fish.
In Japanese, it is fugu sashimi.
A delicacy.
Why don't you try it? It's a developed taste.
I think the Lieutenant would prefer one of the cooked dishes.
Oh, I am sure there is nothing wrong with his taste.
Allow me.
Fugu for the Lieutenant.
Gee, that's funny.
I thought that the fugu was gonna taste like tuna fish.
Did I say something wrong? Not exactly.
Shall we tell him? I don't think our guest is interested in fish stories.
Eve's off tomorrow night on a trip to Europe, to visit every major restaurant on the continent.
Lieutenant, they're having a little joke at your expense.
The fish you have just eaten, what you call a blowfish or puffer fish, is deadly poison.
Is it? Except when it's prepared by a master chef.
Then it's heavenly.
In Japan, the chef must be licensed by the Department of Health.
Every year hundreds of people die trying to prepare fugu themselves.
Holy mackerel.
Excuse me? I was just thinking about a fortune cookie that I read today.
Gerard, this has been educational, but I really have to be running along.
Ma'am, enjoy your trip.
Sayonara, sayonara.
Oh, one more thing.
Gee, I almost forgot what I came here to ask you.
Fortunately you remembered.
As you're an expert on restaurants, sir, I wanted to ask you, do you know anything about the Restaurant Developers Association? I don't know anything about it, Lieutenant.
I've never heard of it.
Have you? No.
No, Lieutenant, I'm sorry.
Well, that's all right, ma'am.
As the Chinese say, there's more than one fish in the sea.
Vittorio and I had a binding agreement.
He didn't lend money and we didn't make lasagna.
This was his favorite coffee cake.
I used to serve it every time he came by to talk.
Oh, my, oh.
Oh, this is sensational.
We always used to think so.
Restaurant Developers' commercial account.
Oh, thank you.
Let me help you, ma'am.
This is the best cake I have ever eaten.
As you can see, Mr.
Crawford, a balance of $175.
As I told you, Lieutenant.
Then we have the savings account.
Say what? Account, what? The Restaurant Developers also has a savings account at the bank.
You know that's what Mrs.
Columbo said? She said there's probably two accounts and somehow they got mixed up.
I beg your pardon, Lieutenant, these accounts are not mixed up, but a corporate savings account is a little unusual.
This savings account, excuse me, is where Mr.
Vittorio's checks were deposited.
Also the checks from Chez Duvall and the House of Shanghai.
Who has access to this account? Just one person.
A Mrs.
Irene DeMilo.
I would like to speak to Mrs.
Her only address seems to be a post office box.
She came in two days ago and closed out the account.
She asked me to draw up a cashier's check for everything in the account.
Except $3000.
She took out $3000 in cash.
In travelers' checks.
In travelers' checks.
This is the best cake I've ever eaten.
Would you say this looks like me, Lieutenant? I'd say it doesn't do you justice, Miss Plummer.
You're an angel.
I'm sorry about Mr.
I know, ma'am.
He's busy at the Chez Duvall.
He's getting ready for tonight's Restaurant Writers' dinner.
I'll be thinking about you on the plane.
You are going to the dinner, aren't you? Oh, certainly, ma'am.
Columbo and I, we appreciate the invitation.
Wouldn't miss it for the world.
You should've been there last year.
It was terrific.
Oh, Mrs.
Yes, Lieuten The bank.
The bank, Miss Plummer.
Only in this case, it's more like a laundry.
I have a feeling I just blew a trip to Europe.
I suppose there'll be questions.
Let's begin with where Mr.
Gerard buys his fish.
His fish? His fish, ma'am.
How did the poison get into the bottle? The banquet, I know.
How did the poison get into the Who's been here? Nobody's been here.
Now we're going to the banquet.
Now we're gonna get something terrific to eat.
No Mrs.
Columbo this evening? Oh, well, sir.
It's her night school.
Final exam in accounting.
She was dying to come here but at the last minute she decided she'd better take the exam.
Once again, dear friends, we are dining together on the finest cuisine, drinking the best of wines.
And once again we, the restaurant writers, are about to bestow our coveted Award of Merit.
But this is not the happy occasion we had so eagerly anticipated.
One who was very special to us all is no longer here.
For three years in succession, we have held our annual dinner at Vittorio's.
This year the awards committee decided that it would be more appropriate to meet somewhere else.
Lieutenant Columbo, perhaps I should have told you the reason before, but it was a closely guarded secret.
I couldn't even tell Vittorio.
Ladies and gentlemen, I now present our coveted award posthumously to the great Vittorio Rossi.
And I call on his nephew, Mario DeLucca, to accept.
Mario? Bravo, Mario! Bravo, Mario! Bravo! Thank you very much.
Tenente Columbo.
Hi, lover.
What are you doing here? You're supposed to be on a plane to Paris.
That was Irene DeMilo.
Eve Plummer's been grounded.
I'm Tenente Columbo and this is my friend Mario.
He doesn't speak much English yet.
So I want to say this.
I know the two things that he wants more than anything in the whole world.
One is to be a success here in America.
You've given him a start with that.
The other is that the murderer of his uncle be punished.
I think I can help with that.
By this same time tomorrow, the person who murdered Vittorio Rossi will be under arrest and that's a promise.
Oh, that was a lovely speech.
Would you like to hear mine? I quit.
Gerard, sir.
Yes, Lieutenant.
Now that this case is almost over, this might be our last opportunity to cook something up together.
Who knows when our paths will cross again? Vittorio's will still be closed tomorrow.
Maybe we could get to use all those terrific tools and that beautiful stove.
What do you say, sir? Would you join me around noon? Lieutenant, if you hadn't brought it up, I was about to suggest it myself.
Lieutenant, I'm late.
I'm sorry.
I'm just chopping up some shallots.
Two should be enough.
For what? A recipe from my pop.
He used to cook for us kids when my mother was in the hospital having a baby.
That was about once a year for a while there.
Veal scallops.
Slightly seasoned with salt and white pepper.
Somehow it looks better on veal than black pepper.
The dried fresh mushrooms, sir, they're diced and they're soaking in a dish on the counter.
Now could this dish of yours possibly be escalopes de veau aux cèpes? Well, pop just called it scaloppini.
Let's see if we can find a good-sized pan.
This is fine.
I'm just gonna heat up some sweet butter.
About a tablespoon or so.
And a dash of olive oil.
Olive oil first keeps the butter from burning, Well, this is the way they did it where pop came from.
He was from the old country, like Vittorio.
Oh, I'll prepare the dressing for the salad.
You know, I've been thinking about the murder, sir.
We were all wrong about the poison.
It wasn't in any of the bottles down in the wine cellar.
So the only other possibility is that the killer brought it with him.
But why? I'm gonna start browning up the veal, sir.
Just a few at a time.
Yes, I think you're gonna be interested in the killer's motive.
He was a silent partner in the Restaurant Developers Association.
You remember I mentioned that to you.
Yes, you did.
Vittorio and the others were paying the killer a lot of money for many years.
You see, he was someone in a position to publicize their restaurants and make them successful.
Or else he could print a few bad items and demolish them.
What it was, it was a form of extortion.
Would you like some wine, sir? There's an open bottle on the table, help yourself.
Thank you.
Would you care for a glass, Lieutenant? Yes, sir.
Coming up.
I could also use about a half a cup for my scaloppine.
Please, please, go on with your explanation.
I'm fascinated.
It went on that way for some time, sir, with Vittorio paying off along with the other people.
But after a while, he didn't want to pay anymore.
He might even have made threats on his own.
And that was the motive for the murder, sir.
You're right.
That's very interesting.
But But it's only conjecture, of course.
Oh, yes.
We have no way of knowing for certain.
No, unless we got a lot of cooperation from the other people in the Association.
I forgot your wine.
I'll open another bottle.
I'm taking out the veal, sir.
Then I'm gonna add my shallots and my mushrooms and let 'em bubble around in the pan for a minute or so.
You look perfectly at home in a kitchen.
It's amazing.
When I was growing up, sir, that's where we spent most of our time.
We had a living room that was mostly for visits from the teacher and funerals.
I'm adding the wine, sir.
Your wine.
Oh, just set it down for a moment, sir.
I want to stir this around for a minute or two.
By the way, the night Vittorio died, you never did intend to eat his whole meal, did you, sir? What makes you say that? Well, the appointment book, sir.
Rossi had you down for 8:00.
I arrived at 8:00.
Well, then you went to the airport later on.
To pick up Mr.
Ozu says that he came in on the movie flight and according to the airline schedule, sir, the only movie flight arrived at 8:55.
And since you planned to meet that plane, Mr.
Gerard, there is no way that you could have enjoyed an entire meal and still got to the airport in 55 minutes.
So, you knew that you were going to leave early, sir.
You never intended to eat Vittorio's dinner.
Lieutenant, guilty.
I was going to make some excuse to Vittorio.
As it turned out, I didn't have to.
You're doing very well.
Very well.
What else have you learned? I'm adding the veal to the pan, sir.
Oh! The boys at the lab finally got a fix on that poison the killer used.
It was Japanese blowfish poison.
Fugu? You can't be serious.
Fugu? It's a terrific poison.
The killer knew we couldn't trace it.
And between you and me, he had access to that kind of fish.
There's a fish store in Little Tokyo that buys them off a couple of fishermen.
But how did the murderer get the fugu poison into the bottle? Excuse the outburst, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant, Vittorio was alone when he opened the bottle.
Right, sir.
Vittorio was indeed alone.
Ah, that's the point, sir.
Now, a very odd thing happened here the other day, when I was recreating the crime as they say.
Just before you arrived here at Vittorio's kitchen, Albert took this apart for me because I wanted to take the cartridge down to the lab to have the boys check it out.
And what did they find? Not a thing, sir.
But, and here's what's odd, Albert put a nice, fresh, new, full cartridge into the opener for me.
And nobody used that opener until last night when just before the banquet, I myself, sitting right here, tried to open a bottle of wine and the opener was empty, sir, flat out.
From which you concluded? I asked myself, I asked myself, how does a full cartridge become an empty cartridge without opening any bottles? And the answer was, somebody's been switching bottle openers around here.
Switching? Switching more than once, sir.
That's my opinion.
And then there's this.
You see this, sir? Yes.
Well, this hollow needle could also hold a tiny bit of poison, probably injected with a hypodermic syringe.
And that's what the killer prepared, sir.
He took an opener identical to the one that Vittorio used and he put poison in the needle.
And he took that opener with him to the dinner and at an opportune time, he switched the openers.
So when Vittorio was by himself in the kitchen, and the boy was showing you to the door, Vittorio used the switched opener to poison his own wine.
You understand, sir? Lieutenant, I regret to tell you that I understand all too well.
It was a terrific scheme, sir.
Your only mistake was coming back the next night so that you could switch back the openers so we couldn't find any trace of poison and that was right after Albert put in the fresh cartridge.
Brilliantly deduced.
Shall we drink to your successful solution of the case? I couldn't have done it, sir, without your help.
On the other hand, there remains a matter of proof.
Oh, I can't prove any of this, sir.
But it did bother me that there was a poisoned opener around the exact twin of this one.
So when I came in here today, I took the trouble of putting a little nick in the top.
Right there, sir.
But you'll notice there is no nick.
See? Yes.
It must be a different opener.
No question about it.
Ah! I wouldn't, sir.
Don't drink.
You switched the openers again but I switched the glasses.
That's the poisoned glass, sir.
The glass I was supposed to drink.
I'll just keep this for the boys down in the lab.
That's what they call proof.
You must try this, sir.
I'm really interested in your opinion.
You're a very able man, Lieutenant.
I respect that.
But I really don't care for you very much.
You know, sir, I was thinking the same thing about you.
I respect your talent.
But I don't like anything else about you.
The dressing is perfect.
Thank you.
When did you first suspect me? Well, as it happens, sir, about two minutes after I met you.
That can't be possible.
Oh, you made it perfectly clear, sir, the very first night, when you decided to come to the restaurant directly after you were informed that Vittorio was poisoned.
I was instructed to come here by the police.
And you came, sir.
After eating dinner with a man that had been poisoned.
You didn't go to a doctor.
You came because the police instructed you.
You didn't go to a hospital, you didn't even ask to have your stomach pumped.
Gerard, that's the damnedest example of good citizenship I've ever seen.
I see.
I see.
What do you think? Lieutenant, I wish you had been a chef.
I understand, sir.