The Rockford Files (1974) s02e19 Episode Script

The Italian Bird Fiasco

I want you to pick up the second cormorant for me.
I think you're trouble.
I also think you're crooked.
A minimum bid has been set at $5,000.
Sold to the gentleman.
Now, I can hit your bonding company and that will put you out of work.
Why did they break it? They were trying to steal it.
You realize, of course, that's blackmail.
It's business.
This is Jim Rockford.
At the tone, leave your name and message.
I'll get back to you.
Jim, Sally.
Hey, I just found out you're an Aries.
Listen, if you have Virgo rising, give me a call.
ITA Flight for New York and Los Angeles.
Thank you, sir.
Have a pleasant flight.
Sir? Barrows.
Flight 129 to Los Angeles, round trip.
Yes, Mr.
That will be £663, please, sir.
Thank you.
I'll carry this one.
I'm sorry, sir, I'm afraid it's too large.
You'll have to check it.
All right.
Boarding at Gate 6, sir.
Have a pleasant flight.
Your attention please Overseas operator? I want to place a person-to-person call to a Mr.
Thomas Caine in Los Angeles, California.
That's right.
The number is Yes, thank you.
Yes, operator.
Yes, this is Thomas Caine.
Who's calling? Barrows.
This is Barrows.
Is it on its way? It is.
James O'Brien But I'm Mr.
Hello? Hello? If you want a doctor, tell me where you shipped the box.
Where? Campbell Galleries, Los Angeles.
All right, I hear you.
Stop it! Try your horn! Hello.
Rockford, please.
What do you want? Well, we can start with a touch of civility.
Civility is out of the question.
My name is Thomas Caine.
You were recommended to me by a business associate, Howard Coleman.
How Howard Coleman never paid the final invoice I sent him.
I want to hire you, Mr.
Rockford, if you can get here within an hour or so.
You'll be finished by 11:00.
I have a $200-a-day minimum.
Since you were recommended by Mr.
Coleman, I'll need half of it in advance.
Well, that's acceptable.
I'm at the Delman Motel on Santa Monica.
Come directly to Suite 12.
And as inconspicuously as possible.
Wait a minute, Paolo.
Is that you, Rockford? Yeah.
Caine? Come in.
I'm on an overseas call.
Now, give it to me again, Paolo.
Well, did the curator from Venice fly down and look at it or what? No, no, no! Wait for him.
Don't buy it until he looks at it.
It's cheap insurance.
Kiss Gabriella and the kids.
Sit down.
It's 85 degrees in Florence.
Doesrt often get that hot in northern Italy this time of year.
I don't like Florence when it gets that hot.
Ah, but that's life.
Well, we had a hot April here last year.
I had a friend who said it got up to but I don't believe him.
I mean, it always just seems hotter in those little towns next to the freeway.
I get the message.
You in the art business, huh? Yes.
All right, Mr.
Caine, what can I do for you? Do you have a card? Well, I keep meaning to reorder them, but, you know, I've been so busy I just haven't had a chance.
Well, what I want you to do for me is to act as my purchasing agent.
It's a relatively simple assignment.
I don't think you'll have any trouble.
She's beautiful, isn't she? Hmm? Yeah, yeah.
I bought her from a private collector in Denver yesterday afternoon.
Christian Moreau did that in his African period.
There were 18 of those originally.
Some experts think that there were 24, but he was only in his African period for 17 months and I know how slowly he worked.
So 24 is out of the question.
18, maybe 19.
He was a funny man.
Sometimes he gave those away.
To his models.
He drank too much.
It killed him.
That's too bad.
I'm sorry to hear that.
You said you wanted a purchasing agent.
Caine, I don't do clerical work.
There's an auction at the Campbell Gallery on Melrose this morning.
Are you familiar with it? Oh, no, no.
You're not an art lover? Well, let's just say that I've let my interests wander in other directions lately.
Too bad.
There is a cormorant, that's a sculpted bird, that's being auctioned at the Campbell Gallery this morning.
Now, most people think that it is a duplicate which was made for the Glovester collection, and who knows? It may very well be a duplicate.
But I was in Madrid last week and the curator of the Madrid Institute thinks that it might be one of the three original Lambrini cormorants.
So I thought I would gamble 10 or about pesos or francs or something? What? American dollars.
Oh, okay.
But why me, Mr.
Caine? Why not go yourself? Yes.
Well, I'm a fairly well-known art speculator.
If I were to turn up at the auction and start bidding on the damn thing, the price would go through the roof simply because I was there.
I normally use Terry Fielder to buy for me in L.
, but he's in Europe this month.
Do you know Terry? No.
Well, I have written out a blank check to the Campbell Gallery.
Now, if the price should go over $12,000, you let it go.
I will pay you your $200 fee.
The whole thing should take about an hour and a half including driving time.
Are you interested? I don't know, Mr.
Well, it seems the risk is all mine.
I'll do it under two conditions.
You give me $100 in advance.
And? And you tell me where I can find Howard Coleman.
He's in Prague.
Czechoslovakia? I'm afraid you'll have to wait for your fee for a while.
Okay, Mr.
Caine, I'll pick up your bird for you.
Oh, by the way, the address of the gallery is on the envelope.
I'll be waiting right here.
The original three cormorants were sculpted in 1753 by the great Jacopo Lambrini.
In the early 1800s, the Lambrini estate in Verona burned and the priceless originals were never found.
In 1812, Lambrini's grandson sculpted the Lambrini duplicates.
In themselves great works.
A minimum bid has been set at $5,000.
Do I hear $5,500? $6,000? Do I hear $6,500? $6,500.
Do I hear $7,000? $7,500? $8,000? $8,500? $9,000? $9,000.
$11,000 once.
$11,000 twice.
Sold to the gentleman.
Excuse me.
Oh, hi.
May I? Oh, sure, sure.
It's a hen, I think.
Of course, with cormorants it's hard to tell.
Beg your pardon? Joke.
That's a little joke.
Oh, of course.
It's just that I hadrt expected anyone else to bid so high.
I didn't bring a large enough check.
Are you with one of the local galleries? Oh, my name is Jim Rockford.
I took Terry Fielder's job.
He's in Europe.
Prague, I think.
I'm Evelyn Stoneman.
Terry got very interested in Gustav Kruger.
Personally, I think his earlier work was magnificent, but lately he's been turning out absolute rubbish.
But I suppose if you're with Terry, you have a preference for Kruger, too.
Not necessarily, no.
What is your field of study, Mr.
Rockford? Oh, well I like Moreau.
Particularly, the things he did in the African period.
Oh, I see.
Which theory do you support? Well I think 18, 19 at the most.
I think 24 is just out of the question.
Well, you see, I know how slowly he worked and I just don't think he could have ever done 24.
However, if he worked late and, you know, worked like a little beaver, he might have turned out 20, 21.
Who knows? He might even have done I've written five papers supporting the 24 theory.
But, of course, you knew that.
Oh, of course, of course.
I was just fooling.
Hmm? I suppose you're a very entertaining gentleman and I'm a little bit off my game.
You see, I was sent down here on an airplane from Canada where I was buying paintings for the National Gallery.
Now, the curators from the gallery were horrified to learn that one of the cormorants was shipped out of England.
They expected me to buy it.
I'm afraid they'll be quite put off with me.
Well, do you think this is one of the originals? Oh, I don't have the foggiest, but that is part of the Glovester collection and the entire collection was promised to the National Gallery.
We want to preserve it intact.
Well, I'm sorry, but Oh, give me half an hour and I'll cable London for additional funds.
I'll pay you $15,000.
Well, I can't.
I'm acting for someone else.
Maybe he would consider it.
Who is it? Well, do you have a card? If he's interested, I'll have him call you.
Where are you staying? At the Hilton.
Let's get out of here.
Why? Why did they break it? They were trying to steal it.
Well, you shouldn't have fought them.
It's much better to let them have it than to break it.
Look, honey, it is my business what I do or don't do.
Of course.
I'm sorry, I wasrt thinking.
Yeah, well, forget it.
Hey, look, I may need a statement from you for my bonding company about this.
Bonding company? Why on earth would you have a bonding company? Yeah, well, in a day or two, I may not.
Do you want us to call the police, sir? No, no police.
They may be copies, but they're still irreplaceable.
I think you should inform the police.
"They?" Yes, "they," the three of them.
You didn't know that? Of course I knew that.
Who are you? You don't work for Terry.
All right, Miss Stoneman, you're right.
I don't work for Terry.
I'll even go you one better.
I don't even know Terry.
But anybody who'd go all the way to Prague to look up a no-talent like Gustav Kruger can't be won'th working for.
Excuse me.
Well, Miss Stoneman, if this place wasrt so close to my gallery and I didn't have something else on my mind, you'd never have gotten away with tailing me.
Can I help you folks? Oh, just visiting friends.
Oh, well, this suite is empty.
Caine has checked out? Caine? Are you working for Thomas Caine? Sir, I run this place.
I can assure you this suite has been empty for several days.
Well, now, wait a minute.
Let's start all over again.
This is Number 12.
My name is Jim Rockford.
A man named Thomas Caine called me from here and then I had a meeting in there less than two hours ago.
There were sculptures and paintings all over the place.
The bed had been slept in.
Don't tell me he wasrt living here.
Rockford? There have been no calls through our switchboard from this suite.
So if you and your friend were in there, you're guilty of illegal entry.
Maybe this is a matter for the police.
Oh, he doesn't want to call the police, do you? No, no.
Look, could I look inside, please? Come on, what's it gonna hurt, huh? Well, everything appears to be in order.
Of course, if something turns up missing, I have your name.
Well, you know something I don't know.
Well, Thomas Caine has been buying and selling objets d'art for years.
His dealings have been barely legal and usually totally unethical.
Misrepresentation, bogus signatures on paintings, falsified certificates of authenticity.
Well, his check was good.
They ran a credit check before they accepted it.
A man just doesn't lay out 11 grand and disappear without picking up his merchandise.
Such as it is.
If you have any idea where I might purchase the other two cormorants, will you call me? Look, I'm tired, my client is missing I'm just not interested.
Are you always this friendly? Under the circumstances, I think I'm doing pretty well.
You have my card.
I thought you were only interested in antiques.
Hey, Jimbo.
How you doing? Well, I'm not sure.
A little overdressed, wouldn't you say? Take a look at this, will you? What is this? Or, was this? It's one of the Lambrini cormorants.
You mean from the Glovester collection? Yeah.
A man named Caine had me buy that for 11 grand.
Thomas Caine? Hey, you know him? I know of him.
Rumor is he's been in Prague the last couple of weeks.
Terry Fielding is in Prague.
You want some coffee? Yeah, black.
You know Caine? A Miss Stoneman from the London gallery told me that he was a crook.
Jimbo, the art world is full of kooks.
Evelyn Stonemars fiercely dedicated.
Caine's a fast-buck artist.
It's all in your point of view.
What happened to that thing anyway? Oh, a couple of art lovers tried to take it away from me.
Things got rough.
And now Caine has disappeared.
Oh, at least you're finally getting interested in the art world.
I told you it was lively.
Caine asked me to buy this on the off-chance that it wasrt a copy but the real thing.
That would be some find.
The copies are won'th maybe $5,000 to $10,000 a piece.
The originals are priceless.
You think this might be an original? No.
I think the originals were lost in the early 1800s.
What about that spectro-dating process you were telling me about? Want me to put your bird in the machine? Yeah.
While I look for Caine.
Pretty, isn't it? I hope you helped yourself to whatever's in the icebox.
I'm rather adept with passkeys, Mr.
I was one of the few Americans assigned to British intelligence during the war.
Good show, that.
Do you mind making yourself a little less at home? I was outside the gallery when the two men attacked you.
I saw the bird get broken.
Oh, well, thanks for jumping in and lending a hand.
Oh, there wasrt much I could do.
It all happened so fast.
And once the bird was broken, I seemed to lose all interest in the whole affair.
Then you saw Miss Stoneman.
Evelyn Stoneman is one of the art world's small curses.
She runs about from gallery to gallery and she almost has enough money to pay for the things she's bidding for.
Unfortunately, she's always just about $1,000 short, so all she manages to do is drive up the prices.
She isn't too well thought of in the right circles.
Neither are you.
All right.
Neither am I.
I never claimed sainthood.
Where there's money, you'll find operators.
And I'm an operator, but then so are you.
You just operate on a smaller scale.
Overseas? No.
Yes, that's for me.
Cancel the call.
How many of those things did I buy? I don't suppose it bothers you, the loss of the cormorant, but it bothers me a lot.
So I made a few phone calls.
There's been another cormorant shipped into the country.
You know, when Lloyd's of London insures items of this value they rather like them to be shipped on separate airplanes.
I want you to pick up the second cormorant for me.
Oh, that really makes my day.
And don't be so flip, Mr.
I'm through working for you.
I think you're trouble.
I also think you're crooked.
So I'm not working for you, Mr.
Do you mind leaving? I've been through your desk.
I found that you're bonded by the What is it? "Averill Insurance Group.
" I phoned Mr.
He's about to drop your account, if there are any more large claims against it.
The way he explains it, you "barely float.
" Now, I can hit your bonding company.
And it seems to me if I hit them too hard, they'll drop you and that will put you out of work.
We're not getting along too well, are we? On the contrary.
Now, here's the $100 that I owe you.
And because of the added risk, I'll pay you, say, $500 for this afternoors work.
The second cormorant will be taken to the Winslow Gallery on Alvarado.
The bidding starts at 2:00.
Do you mind, Dennis? I gotta be over there by 2:00.
Let me see.
Come on, Dennis.
Do you know what happens if Captain Highland finds out I'm letting you use this department as a branch office? Who's gonna tell him? We got rules.
You don't worry whether I get my buns in a sling so long as you get what you want.
Me, what do I get? Last Christmas, I think it was a case of Scotch.
Dennis, what's wrong with you? Listen, Jim, this has got to stop.
I mean, I don't mind helping you out, but you got to stop coming down to pick up the results.
Why? Because it embarrasses me, that's why.
They don't understand.
They don't like Pls.
And it's hard on my image around here.
Well, if we're supposed to be friends, why don't you tell them to buzz off? You tell them.
I work with them.
Dennis, may I see that, please? No, it's official police business.
Well, then why did you run it if you're not gonna show it to me? Force of habit.
Dennis, I am in some trouble.
I'm about to get tagged by my bonding company, which will put me out of business.
And this guy Caine's got me up a tree.
I'm about to get shafted.
Get out of here, will you, Jim? Not till I get the information.
Thomas Caine, no convictions.
Scotland Yard and Interpol are having a pick-up-for-questioning tag on him.
Not enough to extradite.
Now get out of here.
Questions about what? Things.
Dennis, I'm not leaving till I hear it.
The disappearance of a Lloyd's of London agent.
A guy by the name of Barrows.
That's it, nothing else.
Thanks, Dennis.
Thanks a lot, old buddy.
Get out of here, Rockford, and don't come back! Sold to the man in the brown coat.
Please pick up the cormorant at the cashier's window.
You owe me $500, Mr.
Did you see those two men? Anybody give you any trouble? I get the feeling this auctioneer didn't like me either.
But I'm getting calluses.
Doesrt bother me as badly as it did this morning.
Hello, Ted? Jim, I've been trying to reach you.
I've got some good news for you and some bad news.
Give me the bad news first.
I did the spectro-analysis.
The cormorant is The cormorant was an original Lambrini.
You're putting me on.
For once in his life, Caine was on the level.
Give me the good news.
Look, I can grab some prestige for myself if I can display the other two cormorants here for a while.
If Caine has them, I'll pay him a nice piece of change for it.
If you help me convince him, I can get the museum to pony up $1000 for you.
I'll get back to you.
Hey, Dennis, old buddy.
How's it going? Jim, where are you, buddy? Oh, I'm in a phone booth.
Yeah? Whereabouts? It's under a tree.
Jim, you better come in.
Did you send those blue suits out to my place? Yeah.
Why? Jim, you come on down, we'll talk it over and we'll get the whole thing worked out.
Well, I'd like to do that, Dennis, old buddy, but, you know, I'm trying to stay away from the Department.
You know, I hurt your reputation when I come in there.
Jim, you get your butt in here or I'm gonna put out a warrant on you.
Well, what's the matter, Dennis? Can't you ask nice? You got to send one of those Batmobiles to pick me up? That was Highland's idea.
What's going on? Dennis, if you don't tell me, I'm not coming in.
All right.
I'll give you this much.
We got a follow-up on that telex.
They found that Lloyd's of London agent that was missing.
Barrows? Right.
He's dead.
It looks like he was pushed off the roof of one of the buildings at the London airport.
Now, Lloyd's of London is sending over an agent to question Caine.
They think that he and Barrows may have been involved in a jewel heist.
A jewel heist? I thought we were working on an art swindle.
A jewel What do you mean, a jewel heist? Where did that come from? There's more, but you got to come in if you want the answers.
Okay, Dennis, I'm on my way.
Put out a warrant on Rockford.
He said he was coming in.
He's not coming in.
How do you know? Because I know, that's all.
It's amusing.
Curators are sort of stuffy.
Especially Mr.
The English get that way when they're dealing with their national heritage.
I love art, but it should be fun.
We shouldn't take it or ourselves too seriously.
I usually don't command such avid attention.
You're trying to decide something.
What is it? Okay, Evelyn, I'm trying to decide whether to take a chance on you or not.
Oh, that's quite chauvinistic.
You see, I might not let you take a chance at all.
I haven't decided we're a workable couple yet.
Oh, well, that's sweet and terribly current, but it's not what I had in mind.
What did you have in mind? Well, you want to recover those birds, right? The Lambrini birds? Of course.
That's why I'm here.
Maybe I can help you.
I dearly hope so.
I'm not sure of the timetable, but I think I can get hold of the third bird within 24 hours.
Third cormorant? What happened to the second? It didn't.
It did.
How? Well, I'm more interested in why.
You really don't give a damn about any of this, do you? Well, I have a rooting interest.
Don't you understand? These birds are irreplaceable.
The man who sculpted them is long dead and single-handedly you managed to break two of them in two days.
I have just about reached my threshold of abuse.
Now, you told me to call you if I needed any help.
Well, maybe that was a mistake.
I'm sorry.
I'm upset.
Then control yourself.
I'll try.
You said something about recovering the third piece.
If you can, I'm prepared to go as high as it takes to get it back for the National Gallery.
Okay, Miss Stoneman, but you should be where I can reach you.
Now, you stay at your hotel, and when I recover the third bird I'll call you.
What makes you think you're going to get it? Oh, I have a hunch about it, that's all.
You'd better not break this one.
I'll wear a catcher's mitt.
I kind of figured you'd call me again.
There is a third bird to be auctioned at the Murchison Gallery.
I want you to pick it up for me.
Here's your check.
There's a condition this time.
What condition? Yeah, well, Ted Haller, at the Upstairs Gallery would like to display the cormorant for a week or two.
He'll pay you well and I can pick up $1000 if I can convince you.
Our dealings were supposed to be secret.
Well, you see, a friend of mine, a Sergeant Becker down at police headquarters, and then there's an agent from Lloyd's of London, who are looking for you.
Something about a dead man named Barrows.
What are you implying? I'm just telling you we're gonna start doing things my way from now on instead of yours.
You realize, of course, that's blackmail.
It's business.
Now, Mr.
Haller has a spectro-dating process and he'll test your Lambrini to make sure it's genuine before he'll make a deal.
Very well.
Sold to the gentleman in the fourth row! Original Lambrini.
Well, you'll be wanting to run a test, of course.
Of course.
Same as the other two.
Other two? Yeah, I had Mr.
Haller run a test on the remains of the one that I broke and the one you broke.
And they both proved to be original Lambrinis.
I guess I forgot to mention that.
That's impossible.
Oh, no, no, no.
The process is foolproof.
Hello, Jim.
Oh, you're early.
We're not quite finished yet.
Who is this? Oh, I'm sorry.
May I present Miss Evelyn Stoneman of the National Gallery of London.
That's not Evelyn Stoneman.
I know Evelyn.
I was afraid you were gonna say that.
Hello, Tom, how's everything in Florence? It's hot, Margret, 85 degrees.
And how's Gabriella? Listen, Maggie, we can make a deal.
Barrows is dead and there's room for a partner.
I'm sure.
Well, I'll have to consider it, Tom.
Nice seeing you all.
Evelyn Margret Whatever.
Don't break the bird.
It happens to be one of the original Lambrinis.
It is not a copy.
Don't take all this art jazz too seriously, dear.
It ruins your sense of humor and it clogs the sinuses.
He's telling the truth.
Please, don't hurt it.
It's priceless.
I'll be very careful.
I'll get the cops.
Here, you hold that.
I'll get the cops.
I know, I know, but it's quicker.
Dennis, don't argue! I followed these clowns to the airport.
Now, get a couple of cops and get out here on the double.
They're on Concourse B.
Flight for Chicago and New York.
Transglobal Flight 402 is now boarding at Gate 33 for Chicago and New York.
Yes, I'd like to page a London passenger, please.
Would you ask Mr.
Edward Barrows to call the customs luggage claims office, please? Yes, Edward Barrows.
Thank you.
It's $3.
90, please.
Thank you.
London passenger Mr.
Edward Barrows, please pick up the black courtesy phone.
Edward Barrows.
Answering the page for a dead man.
It wasrt in any of the three birds.
Luggage? Miss Diane Harper to the VIP lounge.
Miss Diane Harper.
Come on.
You'll miss your plane.
I might not have to take it.
Skycap, please report to the baggage loading area.
Skycap, please report to the baggage loading area.
Oh, thank you, Mr.
I really do appreciate it.
Glad to help, Mr.
Thank you.
CAB Flight 292 is now ready for boarding at Gate 41 for Dallas, New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia.
CAB Flight 292 is now ready for boarding at Gate 41 for Dallas, New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia.
I'll take the bag, Rockford.
I beg your pardon? I'll take the bag.
Why not? Drop it! Drop it! Now, hold it! You okay? Yeah, I'm fine.
One of you want to tell me what this is all about? Well, I'll tell you.
It's all about jewelry.
The Glovester jewel heist.
Okay, let me get this straight.
Evelyn Stoneman is really Maggie Donnegan? Miss Donnegan was an executive secretary of the Glovester estate.
She helped Caine set up the theft of the jewels.
But the stuff was too hot to fence in Europe and he didn't want to give good old Margret her share.
Oh, so he put them in the birds.
You see, customs agents rarely uncrate valuable art objects, especially when they're insured and shipped by a reputable firm like ours.
The trouble is Maggie and her chaps caught up with Barrows before he could make the switch.
So, he jammed the duplicates into his suitcase and tried to run for it.
Of course, he died before he could tell Caine that the real Lambrinis were being shipped from Lloyd's.
Apparently, they had been in the Glovester estate all these years.
It's quite an art find.
At least, it was.
Yeah, well, I think I got it.
It's given me a little bit of a headache.
I'll see you in the morning and we'll get extradition started.
Yeah, whatever.
Are you gonna take care of the bill? Oh, yeah.
My pleasure, old buddy.
Cryder, I don't want to seem anxious, but I was wondering about my 5% recovery fee.
Oh, yes.
I called my people at Lloyd's.
They agreed.
won'th of jewelry.
That's $50,000, isn't it? Yes.
Unfortunately, each of the cormorants was insured for $15,000, making a total of $45,000.
What has one got to do with the other? Well, they feel that since you were hired to protect them, and since all three were destroyed, that you should bear the loss.
That's preposterous! Unfortunately, that is how they feel.
So $45,000 from $50,000 leaves $5,000.
Well, I didn't break the damn things.
I've been doing some preliminary figuring.
Now, from the $5,000 there's, of course, English ineritance taxes and English income taxes.
Oh, yes, we shall have to, of course, inform your IRS.
And there's the rate of exchange to consider.
Oh, yes.
And then there's One minute.
Yes? Do you think there is going to be enough left for me to pick up this tab? Well, I really don't know, Mr.
That rather depends.
Do you intend to keep on drinking?