Mildred Krebs enters a seedy, run down looking circus, which the banner over the entrance tells us is "Cordaro's Fabulous Fun Time Circus" It's night time, and the carnival is busy a she seems to be heading for a specific destination.
She passes a booth, where a man named Guy Nickerson watches her for a moment before telling the midget with him, "Hey, hold down the fort for a second will you?"
"Ok, Boss, don't worry," he little man assures him.
Guy follows Mildred, who also attracts the attention of Max, a young black man who is operating the Ferris wheel. He looks away nervously.
Outside a building which holds the sign, "Fresco Zapata, World's Greatest Seer," a blond woman dressed in a harem costume with a boa constrictor around her neck tells Fresco, "Crank up the charm machine, lover boy. The live one's back."
Fresco, a dark haired man with a pencil thin mustache, tells her, "Get shills, Cupcake. Whoever's not working." He points to the snake. "Except him." Cupcake, whose name we will find to be Delilah, moves off, leaving Fresco to greet Mildred with a leering smile. "Ah, Miss Krebs. That glamorous private detective." He kisses her hand as Mildred giggles. I knew tonight would be lucky for me."
"I just thought I'd try another night in the beyond," she explains.
"A respite from your world of dangers and deceptions?" he suggests.
"Oh, well, more or less," she laughs nervously.
He leads her into his parlour as Guy watches them thoughtfully.
Inside, Fresco seats Mildred at a found table that looks like a Ouija board. "I shan't be a moment," he promises, leaving through a curtained doorway.
Mildred looks at the woman across from her. She's Delilah, but now has long dark hair and looks like a biker. "You've been here before."
"No," Delilah responds. "First time."
In the other room, Fresco opens a trunk and turns a selector knob to the name "John", then removes his jacket.
The front door opens to admit Max and a thin, unsmiling, pale young woman in a wheelchair. "Good evening," Mildred says.
"Good evening," the woman replies as Fresco returns, now wearing a robe and turban.
He goes to Mildred and whispers, "My heart beats faster already. Is it you my lovely? Or is it the stars?" He kisses her hand.
Across the table, Delilah tells the younger woman in a quiet voice, "If she's a private detective, I'm Jane Fonda."
Fresco sits down. "Since we are all strangers here today, let us join hands- and direct our inward karma to those powers greater than ourselves." He closes his eyes and hums as Delilah rolls her eyes and the younger woman hides a smile. "Come to us, oh Rupert!" he calls, looking up. "My guide to the spirit world! Come, oh, guardian of all that is-" he looks at Mildred, "vibrant and flowering. Send down a sign that we may know who it is you seek to address!" He hits a knee button and the lights go down, the wind blows the candles out. He touches the control on the floor and the crystal ball in the center of the table is illuminated. Mildred gasps.
Fresco steers the crystal ball to a spot in front of Mildred. "Rupert wants me?"
"Rupert sees a man in your future," Fresco tells her. "A man with insatiable thirsts that only you can quench."
"Please, Senor Fresco. Tell me, quick. What's his name?"
"His name is-" Fresco closes his eyes for a moment. "Is unclear to me." Delilah smirks. "Rupert knows. But it is you and you alone Rupert wishes to address."
"Shoot, Rupert. I gotta know," Mildred says to the table.
Fresco presses the control. The ball stops at "T". "T", Mildred says. Fresco frowns. "U". The others are uncomfortable, too. "R". The globe stops at "K". "Turk," Mildred says, not noticing the reactions of the others. The younger woman gives Fresco a sign to get rid of Mildred. "Sounds so strong and so exotic. I can't wait to meet him," she says.
Fresco rises and pulls Mildred to her feet. "Yes! Miss Krebs, don't!" He pushes her toward the door. "Hurry to meet your destiny!"
"Will I meet him tonight?" she asks, confused.
"When romance beckons," Fresco warns, "only the foolish linger."
Mildred waves at the others. "Good night."
"Hurry, hurry," Fresco urges. She leaves.
Fresco closes the door behind her, not seeing Guy come from the back of the building.
And above it all, another man watches the scene.
Inside, Delilah removes her wig, furious. "Are you out of your mind?" she asks Fresco.
"ME? Do you that I'd bring up Turk?"
"Well, if you didn't," Max asks, "Then who did?"
"Rupert?" Delilah suggests snidely.
The younger woman speaks quietly. "Or perhaps it was Detective Krebs," she suggests.
The next morning, Steele arrives at the office, and is surprised to find the door open. "Laura?" he calls. "Mildred?" Realizing that they're not there, he laughs delightedly and glances into his office. "Ah, the early bird catches the-" he grunts, hit from behind, and falls to the floor as a dark clad figure steps over him.
Laura surveys the tossed offices in disgust as she carries an armload of papers into her office. Through the open doors, we see that the rest of the offices are in the same shape. "Whoever they were," she comments as Mildred tries to inspect Steele's head, "they were certainly determined. Or sloppy." "What were they looking for?" she wonders.
"Let me put something on that, Boss," Mildred offers.
"Oh, you're a truly nurturing woman, Mildred," Steele tells her, wincing and eyeing Laura. "Miss Holt, of course, is a DETECTIVE first." He lets her lead him toward his own office.
"I asked if you were all right," Laura reminds him. "If you start to feel faint, holler."
In his office, Steele yelps.
Laura finds something in some papers and picks it up as Steele comes to the doorway with Mildred. "A rigging needle," she says. "The kind they use in circuses."
Mildred's attention is caught as Steele comments, "The encyclopedic nature of your knowledge never ceases to amaze me, Laura."
"I wonder if they used it to force the door?" she says as Steele joins her. "But what does THIS," she indicates the needle, "have to do with THIS," she wonders, indicating the mess.
Steele takes the needle. "I haven't a clue."
Mildred's response is sheepish. "I do." Steele and Laura look at her, curious. "You promise you won't laugh?" she asks.
"I'm not in a laughing mood, Mildred," Steele tells her darkly.
"Well, every once in a while, I get this uncontrollable urge to- go to a séance- Please don't laugh," she begs. Neither so much as smile. "Well, I've been going to one called the- um, Fabulous Fun Time Circus- and I told the Seer there that I- work for the Steele Agency-"
"Oh?" Steele questions. "What did you tell them you do?"
She smiles, hesitating. "Well, I wanted to feel important-"
"Mildred," Steele says, growing impatient.
"Exciting. I wanted an air of mystery-"
"Yes?" he prods.
"I- told him I was a detective."
Laura frowns. "Mr. Steele, I think you just took Mildred's lumps for her."
They corner Mildred, and Steele threatens to sew up her mouth with the needle, saying, Do you see this, Mildred? Close your mouth, and I shall insert this... while Mildred is trying to say something in her defense.
Laura and Steele arrive at the circus. Being daytime, it's practically deserted, except for the carney people who are cleaning and repairing. Guy is on the Ferris wheel, watching them.
"Cordaro," Laura muses and laughs. "Cordaro. It has to be."
"Has to be what?" Steele asks.
"The Flying Cordaros. One of the great high trapeze acts. Seems to me they had a terrible accident awhile back."
Steele looked amazed. "Laura, you're an encyclopedia of circus lore."
She smiles. "Mildred's a séance freak, I'm a circus freak."
"Professionally speaking," Steele comments as he holds open a tent flap, "I seem to be surrounded by freaks. Somehow I feel at home."
Guy is still watching them, as is the dark clad man from the night before.
The young woman from the séance is sitting at a desk when Steele and Laura enter the office. "Can I help you?" she asks in a monotone.
"Ah, yes. We're looking for the owner, Miss-"
"Cordaro," Laura finishes, smiling. "Christy Cordaro."
"Is my face on a post office wall somewhere?" Christy asks.
"It was all over my room when I was growing up. I wanted to BE you," Laura tells her, holding out her hand.
But Christy sets her electric wheelchair into motion, taking her the other way around the desk. "Lucky you weren't lucky," she comments. "Who are you two?"
Steele shakes her hand. "Remington Steele. Of Remington Steele Investigations? This is my associate, Laura Holt."
Laura shakes Christy's hand. "How can I help you?" Christy asks.
"Early this morning, someone assaulted our files, and my cranium," Steele tells her. "We have reason to believe that someone is connected with your circus."
Christy shows more animation than she has up to now as she says, "My people are no angels, Mr. Steele. But they don't knock over offices- or detectives."
"Our secretary, Mildred Krebs, attended a séance here last night," Laura informs her.
"Your- secretary?" Christy repeats.
"Secretary," Steele confirms.
"Apparently the séance ended abruptly at the mention of the name 'Turk'," Laura points out.
Christy moves away, then turns the chair to face them. "I was there. The séance ended because Miss Krebs was getting bilked."
"Are your people always so considerate of their marks?" Steele asks.
"Miss Cordaro," Laura tries again, "Someone here must assume we're investigating them. Considering what they did to our office- not to mention Mr. Steele's head, you could be in danger."
"Danger is an old acquaintance of mine," Christy says as there's a scream from outside.
Steele rushes out to see Guy hanging by his jacket from the Ferris wheel. The car has broken and is hanging as well. Steele rushes to the controls, but they won't budge. "It's jammed!" he yells. "I'm comin' up!"
"Hurry!" Guy calls back. "I'm loosin' it!"
Laura follows Christy out, and calls, "Hold on!" as Steele climbs up the wheel.
"That's it," Steele says. "Okay. Give us your hand."
Guy's jacket gives way, and he starts to fall, but Steele easily catches him, then swings him over to the other wheel. Both men climb down safely as the gathered crowd applauds. Steele and Guy grasp wrists. "That was a great catch," Guy tells him.
"I'll say," Laura agrees, awed.
"Glad I was here," Steele tells him.
"Yeah," Guy agrees.
Max comes up and tries to start the wheel, but finds a crowbar wedged in place. He takes it out and starts the wheel up. Laura holds out her hand. "May I see that for a minute?" She hands it to Steele.
Christy tells Max, "I thought I told you to grease those bearings?"
"I did," he assures her nervously. "The safety pin should have held."
Laura reaches down and picks up the end of the pin in question. "The pin's been cut," she announces.
"Cut?" Christy questions.
Laura hands the pin to Steele as Max slinks away.
In her office, Christy says, "Sabotage and attempted murder are two things I can live without. Insurance companies have closed down circuses for less. I do need help."
"Who was the man on the wheel?" asks Remington.
"Uh-huh," remarks Remington.
"What's his job?" Laura wants to know.
"Here at the Fabulous Goodtime Circus, we all do a variety of jobs. Up in the air, Guy is a flier. Down here, he works booths, does maintance..."
"And the husky young man who disappeared so quickly?" he asks.
"Max's been with me since before my accident," Christy explains. "I know Max is gruff, but he's a pussycat."
"Sometimes pussycats can be dangerous," Laura points out.
"Not Max. Take my word for it."
"Uh huh," Remington says. "For the moment, we'll have to. Uh, tell me, Miss, uh, Cardaro, I think it's time you told us about the mysterious Turk."
"Might as well hear it from me," Christy says as she drives her electric wheelchair across the room and takes a photo of a man from the wall and hands it to Steele. "Turk was a catcher, rouster, all around man."
"Was?" Steele questions, handing the photo to Laura.
"A couple of weeks ago, during a break in the storm, Turk decided to go deep sea fishing. An empty dinghy was washed on shore. The police figure the storm must've come back up again suddenly.."
"And Turk?" Laura asks.
"They never found him. The police called it an- accident."
Laura frowns. "But there was reason to believe otherwise?"
"Turk never won any popularity contests around here," Christy confides. "And like I said, murder could put this little place away. Most of us have- no place else to go."
Outside, Laura looks around, takes a deep breath. Steele is holding his jacket, redoing his tie as she comments, "Even the air feels different." She's practically glowing with contentment.
Steele sniffs uncertainly, then eyes Laura. "Sober, rational, Laura Holt with a secret desire to join a circus Who would have guessed?"
"Well, when you're eight years old and the father you adore calls the circus Dreamland, it's not hard to buy into that dream. We went to every circus we could find. Big ones, seedy ones, right until the time he left. There've been times when I've imagined he ran away to someplace like this."
"Well, for his sake, I hope that he didn't," Steele comments, putting his jacket back and checking his cuffs.
"You speak from experience, Mr. Steele?"
"For the better part of nine months," Steele admits, "I was a fire breathing dragon. The Great Savini."
"You ate fire?" Laura asks, sounding like a little girl.
"BREATHED fire, Laura," he corrects. "An illusion. Treated paraffin laced with alcohol and- a little stupidity." She takes his arm.
"What else haven't you told me? For example, that save you did on the Ferris wheel. Hmm?"
"I did a little catching," he admits.
"You did trapeze?"
He indicates that he did a little, yes.
Laura gets a thoughtful look on her face, her eyes lighting up. "Mr. Steele, I think I've just figured out our M.O. on this case," she tells him, smiling as she pulls him toward the big tent.
The dark clad figure is still up on the catwalks, watching.
In the big tent, and incredulous Steele asks Laura, "Are you serious, Laura? I mean, we are dealing with an apparent murderer! An attempted murder, AND whoever cracked my skull- a murderer who very likely knows that I'm Remington Steele! Do you honestly think it's wise to try trapeze work?"
"We've got to have some cover," Laura tells him, smiling, her eyes sparkling with the idea of being in a circus.
"Popcorn vendors!" he suggests. "Im sure the Fabulous Fun Time Circus needs Fabulous Pop Corn Vendors!"
"It's the logical choice," Laura insists. "Now that Turk's gone, Christy will have to hire a new aerial act-" she looks up at the high trapeze. "I was a gymnast in college-" Steele turns to look at her in disbelief. "And I did some trapeze work in the Homecoming Circus-"
"For how long?" he asks.
"Three nights," she admits.
"Oh, I see. An old pro, eh?"
"We'll ask for a day's rehearsal. And I'll have the Great Savini to teach me," she reminds him.
"If I'd known the lure of the circus was going to turn your head around completely, I wouldn't have spent a small fortune on champagne and flowers."
Laura puts her arms around his neck. "You wouldn't try to exploit a girl's secret desire, would you?"
"Only if I were desperate," Steele admits, looking up uncertainly.
Mildred is carrying an armload of files from Laura's office as they return. "Any clues on Freddy the file fouler?" she asks.
Laura, who is exercising her hands with spring grips, shakes her head as Steele answers. "Uh, not yet, I'm afraid, Mildred."
"Oh, well, when YOU get your hands on him, *I* get my hands on him."
"Meanwhile, Mildred," Laura says, still fighting with the grips, "I want you to check out a man named Guy Nickerson. It seems someone tried to send him over the Ferris wheel this morning."
The follow Mildred to the doorway of Laura's office, and Steele adds, "Once you've initiated that, we have a proposition to make."
Mildred looks interested. "Proposition?"
"Mr. Steele wants to expand your duties in this case," Laura tells her with a smile.
"After I got you into this?"
"Because you did, as a manner of
speaking," explains Remington. "Ah...We're going into
the circus undercover, and you're the only one of us who knows
who did what at the seance...We want you to
come with us."
Mildred is thrilled. "Undercover? Me?! Ohhh!! Oh, boss, what have you got in mind? Harem dancing...Bare back riding...Lion taming..."
"I believe Mr. Steele has in mind something more...sedentary," Laura says.
"Oh, what is it, Boss?"
"I have to warn you, Mildred," he says. "We may be dealing with a murderer."
Mildred pauses while she considers this, then says, "How far undercover can you put me?"
Remington uses his hands to indicate it's *very* low.
Mildred, now wearing a full black beard and mustache, her blonde hair covered by a dark wig, is standing in a prize booth. She looks a bit like a gypsy as she tosses a ball in her hand while Fresco announces the side show acts.
"Hurry, hurry, hurry! Come one, come all! See Mona! The fat lady! Her girth will amaze you! Seherazade! See what's behind those seven veils! See Delilah and her charming snake, Boris! Our lovely dancing girls! Uncle Sam, the tallest man in the world!" He climbs to another stage where Steele, now made up as a "fire breather", complete with thin mustache, oiled hair and spit-curl is breathing fire. "The Great Savini! He breathes fire like a dragon! The hottest act in town! Grey Otter and his flashing tomahawks! Hurry, hurry to Cordaro's Sideshow! The greatest in the world!" Above the midway, the watcher stands. "For fifty cents! One half of a dollar!"
Steele finishes his act with a flourish, and douses the sticks in his mouth as Laura strolls the midway, dressed as a clown.
Mildred gives a woman a teddy bear as a sailor comes to the booth, yelling. "I won! I won!"
She smiles at the sailor. "Hey, you win with me, cutie," she tells him, combing her beard and mustache with a long fingernail.
"The brass ring, lady," the sailor informs her, holding up a ring. "I win the grand prize!"
"And fortune has smiled. I give you the grand prize," she says, turning to pick up the jewel encrusted treasure chest. Laura rushes into the booth to stop her.
"Hold on, Matilda!" She smiles at the sailor. "I'm afraid you misunderstand, sir." Taking the ring from Mildred, she explains, "This ring entitles you to a CHANCE at the grand prize. But until you've won five of these, I'm afraid the vault must remain closed." She hands him a stuffed animal. "Do try again."
He grabs the toy. "I thought the clowns were supposed to make the customers happy," he complains as he leaves.
"I'm sorry," Mildred calls after him.
"Matilda, you're rattling our cover," Laura warns. "The treasure chest is the lure. It stays. Forever. No carney who's been in business more than an hour would ever DREAM of giving it away."
"I'm just not at my sharpest in a-" Mildred stops as Fresco appears. She smiles. "Beard."
"Miss Woolsey?" he asks Laura.
"Fresco Zapata. Clairvoyant extraordinaire, at your service. Perhaps you've heard of me? Tarot? Seances?"
Laura smiles. "Believe me, Mr. Zapata. Your reputation precedes you."
"I'll say," Mildred confirms with a wink.
"Ahh, my bearded beauty! I'm told you are the mother of this delicate petal!"
"Mother," Mildred repeats, obviously a bit put out. "But I'm still a girl at heart," she assures him, to no avail as he turns his attention back to Laura.
"When shall I have the pleasure of exploring your- future?" he asks with a leering smile.
"Just as soon as I can get off the midway," she promises.
"Really?" he asks, surprised.
"You know, your presence is overpowering-" Laura tells him.
"Yes, yes, well-" he laughs, and takes Laura's hand. "I await you at my establishment." He leaves.
Mildred is upset. "Miss Holt, you're not serious! He just two timed me with my own daughter!"
"I'm serious, Matilda. It's one way to get into his parlour. Somebody may have left a clue at that séance."
Mildred shakes her head in disgust. "Oh, boy. When duty calls "
"Sometimes," Laura agrees with a frown, "I wish it'd hit a wrong number."
Steele is coming from the stage as Delilah, Boris around her neck, calls out, "Love your flame, Wonder Buns."
"How'd we get so lucky?" she questions.
"Didn't we work the circuit somewhere before?"
"Oh, no. I'd never forget that face. Delilah's the name," she points Boris in his direction, bending at the knees, making Steele just a BIT nervous. "Excitement is the game."
"I believe it," Steele comments, and walks away.
As Fresco leads Laura toward his establishment, she tells him, "I've worked seances before. Show me your lay out. Maybe I can work with you sometime."
Fresco moves ahead slightly to open the door. "I shall bear my most treasured secrets," he promises.
Laura screams softly as Delilah places Boris around her neck. "I got news for you, Miss Woolsey. I don't cotton to homewreckers. And neither does Boris."
"It was a professional conference, Blossom Girl," Fresco insists as Laura stands there, trying to breath as Boris tightens around her neck.
"You and your- bimbos. Doesnt fidelity mean anything to you?" She turns to Laura. "You come near my husband again," she warns, looping Boris over Laura's shoulder, "And Boris will reduce you to a size one."
Laura carefully removes the snake as she says, "Excuse me- but- I do believe-" she drops the snake into Fresco's arms, "the show must go on." She starts rapidly away, only to turn as Delilah hisses at Fresco.
"What're you trying to do? Pay me back for Turk?"
Steele, still in costume, is walking when he hears someone call out. "Woolsey."
"Yes?" he looks around, then seems relieved when Guy comes from behind a trailer. "Ah. Nigel Woolsey." They shake hands.
"Yeah. I just wanted to say thanks again for the rescue."
"Feeling all right?" Steele asks.
"So- Nigel. Christy tells me you and your sister are gonna be working the wire with me?"
"Looks that way."
"How'd you hear about the job?"
"Well, we've been out of work for awhile. You know, you hear about these things."
"That's funny, though," Guy continues, not wanting to give it up. "Christy didn't exactly put it in the want ads."
"We've got a lot of friends."
"You've got an accent," Guy points out. "Your sister doesn't."
"I'm adopted. Uh, tell me something. Is the job safe? I mean, after what happened to you this morning, we're a little nervous."
"An accident? A cut pin? I understand my predecessor- someone named Turk, is that right?- he had an accident a few weeks back."
"look, if you're nervous," Guy suggests, "Don't go up." He turns to walk away, and almost walks into Christy's wheelchair. Max holds out his hand to protect her. Guy pauses, then leaves.
Christy glances momentarily at Steele, as does Max as they pass him. "So this guy Woolsey," Max asks Christy, "Is he here because of what happened to Turk?"
"Not as far as I know," she tells him.
"If you did know, would you tell me?" he asks.
Christy doesn't answer.
Late that night, Laura, Mildred and Steele break into Fresco's parlour. Mildred slams the door, causing the other two to shush her.
"Where was Fresco during the séance?" Laura asks her.
"Right where Mr. Steele is standing," Mildred tells her. Steele goes down to inspect the table.
"Where was Guy?" Laura asks.
"Guy wasn't at the séance."
Steele comes back up. "What've you got?" Laura asks.
"Magnets," he tells her. He pushes the knee button and the wind blows. Another - the crystal ball lights up.
"So that's how Fresco does it," Mildred says.
"My guess is," Steele says, getting down to search again, "An Electro magnetic relay, connected to the crystal ball- by a magnet." He traces the wires to the trunk, finds the switch with the names. Returning, he tells Laura, "Turk's name isn't even programmed on the dial." He thinks for a moment. "Laura- when does a magnet lose its draw?"
"When there's a stronger magnet," Laura tells him. They point their flashlights to the floor.
"The basement," Steele decides. He and Laura get up. "Mildred, watch the table."
"Watch the table," Mildred repeats.
Under the Watcher's eyes, Laura and Steele find the door to the basement and cautiously open it. When it seems deserted, they enter and Laura asks, "Is there a light somewhere?"
Steele finds the switch, and turns on the lights as water drips slowly somewhere nearby. Laura shines her light at the ceiling, revealing more magnets and switch. "Ah," Steele comments, "the better mousetrap."
"If Guy wasn't at the séance, he could have been the one down here rigging it," Laura tells him.
"Guy's an odd one. I had a strange round of cat and mouse with him this evening. If he's the murderer, what did he hope to gain by conjuring up Turk's name, eh?"
Laura shrugs as someone closes the door and bolts it, locking them inside.
The Watcher turns a valve, and water begins to pour into the basement through a broken pipe that is running through it. "Oh my God!" Steele shouts, trying to hold the pipe together. "I can't hold it!" he tells her, and the pipe gives way. "Mildred!"
"Mildred!" Laura joins in. "We're in trouble!!!!"
Upstairs, Mildred is at the table, hears them banging and calling. "I can't hear you, Miss Holt! But nothing's happened yet!"
"MILLLLDREDDD!!!!!!!!!" Steele yells desperately.
They are still yelling and that water is rising fast. Mildred gets on the floor. "I still can't hear you! What are you DOING down there? WHAT??"
The water is almost to Laura's shoulders.
Mildred gets up, frustrated.
Laura points. "The better mousetrap!"
"Good thinking, Miss Holt! Good thinking!"
"Drowning always inspires me!"
"Likewise, I hope. Likewise." He lifts her up to the controls and she turns them.
Mildred watches the ball move. S. O. S. "Sos," Mildred says with a frown. "S-O-" her eyes widen. "S! S-O-S!" She takes off.
Laura and Steele are treading water, when a thought occurs to Laura. "Electromagnets! They're ELECTRIC! We'll be fried! Parboiled! Basted!" she goes under and Steele turns to help her.
"Spare me the recipe, Laura," he pleads.
Mildred opens the door and steps back as water pours out
At Laura's loft, Mildred stands on the couch, which hias been pushed back against the bar, as Laura tells Steele from the kitchen, "If he tried to drown us, we must be onto something."
Steele is swinging on a trapeze slung from the ceiling. "On to what?"
"Well, at the very least, we've asked someone too many questions."
"Well I wish they'd just answered 'No comment'. What've you got there, Mildred?"
"The word on Guy Nickerson," She tells him, showing him the paper in her hand. "He just finished four years in prison," she says as Laura mounts the trapeze across from Steele's.
Steele takes the paper. "Guy Nickerson. The High Wire bandit. Apprehended while hanging by his feet from the prestigious Conover Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. A Gutenberg Bible was missing."
"Fancy stealing," Laura comments.
"Guy didn't have the Bible and the police never found it," Steele continues. "You don't end up hanging by your feet from a museum ceiling without someone's help."
"An accomplice," Mildred suggests.
"A trapeze man," Laura agrees.
"A good bet. A good bet he also got away with the Bible- leaving his partner- hanging."
"What was the date of that robbery?" Laura asks, taking the paper from Mildred. "Christmas Eve, 1979."
"Does that ring sleighbells?" Steele asks.
"It happened the same night, in the same town as Christy's accident," she tells him.
Steele tells Mildred, "Circus freak," as he points to Laura.
"Mr. Steele, as a man of- experience, what would you say a Gutenberg Bible might go for?"
"Well, one sold recently for around two million dollars. That was a legitimate sale. IN this case, the vanishing accomplice would have to vanish for quite awhile before he could turn the Bible over."
"Meanwhile, Guy was an exemplary prisoner. Four years in a maximum security prision without one infraction of the rules."
"Um hmm," Steele agrees. "And also without revealing his accomplice."
"Would you say he was racing with the clock?"
"But- probably to Turk's surprise, he beat it. Four years of extraordinary patience."
"Figuring if he got out fast enough- if he could find said accomplice-"
"And get his hands on his share of the booty," Steele finishes.
"Guy Nickerson is a very determined man."
Steele leaps from his swing to grab Laura's legs. "And possibly a lethal one."
"And we fly with him on the high trapeze."
Mildred sighs. "Show business."
They set their respective swings high above the floor. Wrists are taped, hands chalked. They grasp wrists and go up. Laura makes an attempt- and misses. Steele joins her on the mattress below. Laura laughs, until Steele points back to the ceiling.
Finally, they get it right, much to Laura's delight.
Laura is with Christy as they go through a trunk, looking for a costume for Laura. "Who here was with the circus in Fort Worth?" she asks.
"Max, Fresco and Delilah. Turk," Christy answers.
"Was Turk the catcher in the act?"
"In those days? THAT was the big time. No. Turk was a rigger. He was just learning to catch."
"He may have learned more than he let on," Laura suggests. She sees a costume that Christy is about to put aside. "Oh, this is beautiful."
"It's the one I wore that night."
"I'm not superstitious," Laura tells her. "May I?"
With a slight shrug, Christy hands it to her, smiling slightly.
"Did you know Guy Nickerson in those days?" Laura wonders.
"Only by reputation. He was a comer." Laura goes to the mirror and holds up the costume. "But I only met him a few weeks ago."
"Did you know he had a prison record when you hired him?"
"Everyone's got a past on this circuit. I don't think there's any connection between this- theft you're talking about and my accident. Everyone was working their stations that night."
"How can you be so sure? The accident had to traumatize you. Can you even remember what you were doing the week before?"
Christy shakes her head. "No. I- guess I'm just telling you what people told me."
"People who may have had a vested interest in lying to you. Whoever was at their stations that night- and whoever wasn't is still a mystery to us, isn't it?"
Delilah carries a cup of coffee over to Steele. "Had I known you were gonna stop by, I would have changed into something a little more- flattering," she tells him.
"Actually, I came by for a chat."
"I like a man that has more than one dimension," She assures him. "Besides, my ball and chain might be back any minute."
"Tell me, Delilah, have you known Christy a long time?"
Delilah looks surprised at his question. "Sure. Consider me Old Faithful, honey."
"Were you and Fresco there the night she took her fall?"
"Yes. Why?" she asks, becoming wary.
"Just curious. Anything-funny happen that night?"
"like what? Is this a game?"
"No game. You just- hear these things on the circuit."
Delilah sits up, angry. "Forget it, Wonder Buns. You think cause you got a great profile and flat stomach I'm gonna spill my guts to you?"
"That wasn't quite what I had in mind."
She rises, head held high. "Consider the coffee- take out." She stalks to the door as Fresco comes in, wearing a robe over pajamas. She pauses, uncertain.
He smiles gently, kisses her tenderly on the cheek. "Don't fret, Cupcake." She leaves them alone. "I don't know what you heard on the circuit, Woolsey, but Delilah's trying to protect me. You see, we care about each other very much. I suppose that seems like a joke to someone as young and vital as yourself."
"Love is never a joke, Fresco. Was I- was I prying about Christmas Eve?"
"Yes. I flew with Christy," he admits. "I was her catcher. And her teacher. When she fell- my nerve fell with her. If it hadn't been for Delilah, her loyalty, her indulgence, I'd be on the bum somewhere. Live while you can, Woolsey. Luck runs out fast."
Max is setting up the nets when Laura and Steele enter the big tent. He pulls a post down. "Net post doesn't look too good. I'm gonna get another one."
Laura watches him go as Steele starts checking the rigging. "I'm beginning to suspect everyone around here," she tells Steele. "Anyone of them could have been Guy's accomplice. Fresco was a catcher, Turk was learning to catch. Who knows what Max was learning."
"Christy fell because her rigging was faulty," Steele points out.
"Anyone of them would have been responsible for that, too," Laura frets.
"Whoever the accomplice was, when he got back to the circus that night, he was way off his game, knowing that he left Guy handing from that museum ceiling." Max is returning, and they move off slightly, as Steele continues his inspection.
"So far off his game that he never checked the rigging so Christy fell."
"Uh, huh," Steele agrees.
"If Turk was the accomplice, why is Guy still hanging around?" Laura wonders. "He MUST have the Bible."
"Well, if he does, he's killed for it. He may be hanging around to avoid suspicion."
"By staging that business on the Ferris wheel?" she asks as Guy runs up to them.
"Ah, Nickerson. A true star. Late for rehearsal. "
"You're good with the words, Woolsey. I hope you're as good up there." He goes to the ladder. Steele and Laura clasp wrists and then Laura follows Guy as Steele shimmies up a rope to his trapeze.
Max holds the ladder for Guy and Laura. Part way up, she slips. Max looks up, scared. "Careful," Guy warns. She recovers. "Nice. We'll do well together."
"Thanks. I hope."
Steele mounts his bar. Laura and Guy reach the stand. "Now just relax," Guy tells her.
"Okay?" Steele calls out.
"Okay," she replies.
Steele starts to turn away, then stops, calling out, "Laura! Look out!"
Laura and Guy manage to drop to the net just before a loose pulley crashes into the stand. Steele drops to the net, going to a breathless Laura. "You okay?" he asks. She nods. "How the devil did that happen?" he asks Guy.
"I don't know. I guess you had a good reason to be nervous," Guy agrees and they look at Max, who takes off.
"You okay?" Steele asks Laura again. "Breathe."
Outside, Steele is still worrying as Laura gasps for air. "You okay?"
"Yeah," she insists.
"Okay. All right. Just relax. Relax."
"I'm fine. I'm fine. I just- need some air."
"Well, nevertheless, before we go back in there, I wish you'd rest those lovely bones of yours while I've a showdown with our rigger."
"Mr. Steele," Laura says, stopping him, "We don't have the same murderer anymore."
"Because he was on the ladder with you? Well, maybe, or maybe he's just keeping us guessing. Let me go find Max, okay? I'll be right back." He leaves her.
Laura moves away, thoughtful until she hears Max's hesitant, "You okay?"
"Yes," she tells him. "Max."
"You sure?" She nods. "I checked that equipment out this morning. Everything was ias it should have been. Do you believe me?"
"If that's what you're telling me. Why'd you run away when it happened?"
"With all the things that's been goin' on around here, I figured I'd get the blame."
"If that were your real reason, I think you'd stay to defend yourself. Did it bother you to see a woman take a fall?"
He hesitates, frowning. "Sure."
"A lot, I think," Laura muses. "Christmas Eve, Max. What happened?"
He slams his fist into a railing, causing Laura to jump. "If I'd known what I was doin' that night, Christy'd still be flyin'. I was nineteen. Turk got me a job with the circus. Cleanin' up, settin' up tents. Every now and then, he'd let me help him rig the net."
"And that night? Christmas Eve?"
"Turk was late. He called, told me to start settin up."
"You rigged the performance alone?" Laura asks as Steele comes up behind Max.
"Go on, Max," Steele says. Max turns, scared. "You're with friends. Easy. Easy. It's okay. You're with friends. Go on."
"By the time Turk got there, the show had already started. I asked him to check things over. He said he would. But-"
"He didn't?" Laura asks.
"I don't know. His head was in someplace else that night. Afterwards, Turk said he'd cover for me- as long as I kept my mouth shut."
"And you've obliged ever since," Steele says in disbelief.
"What else could I do?"
"Max, a few weeks ago, when Guy Nickerson joined up here, did he have much to do with Turk?"
"Guy was only here one or two days before Turk's accident. I saw them together a coupla times. They weren't yelling or anything, but I could tell, something was going down between them."
The Watcher is still above the circus as Laura and Steele walk away from max. "Lovely fellow, Turk," Steele comments. "Let's a 19 year old kid take an extended guilt trip, leaves his partner hanging like Peking duck for the police to discover-" he glances at Laura's frown. "Am I boring you?"
"This case that never made sense STILL doesn't."
"If Turk was the accomplice, and he was trying to get away from Guy, WHY go by water? Why kind of market is there for wet Bibles?"
"Pious mermaids?" Steele suggests, tongue in cheek.
"Why wasn't Turk's body washed ashore? The dinghy was."
Steele stops, looks at Laura. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Miss Holt?"
"I think I am, Mr. Steele."
"We have a brand new suspect."
"Indeed we do," she agrees.
"No matter what. Free falling pulley blocks-"
"Ouija tables with minds of their own- Tonight-"
Steele offers her his arm. "Must go on." They walk away toward the big top.
That night, Guy enters the ring to the applause of the crowd. Fresco, now in his Ringmaster's clothes, calls, "Ladies and Gentlemen! May I direct your attention high above the center ring to the aerialists of the flying trapeze! Woolsey, Woolsey, and Nickerson!"
Guy does a flip from the bar and Steele catches him easily. Mildred, still wearing her disguise, watches nervously.
"Now," Fresco announces, "Watch our daring aerialists as they attempt the over and under passing leap- whereby two flyers pass each other in mid air! Watch them!"
Guy tells Laura- "It's our turn, Miss Woolsey." She takes the bar, swings out to Steele.
"How does it feel?" he asks as she swings beneath him.
"I could get addicted," she tells him. She jumps back as Guy swings out and Steele lets her go to catch him. Then Laura returns, Guy joins her and they return to the stand together.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Now watch as Miss Woolsey will perform a splits across and halt turn to the bar! Silence! Please!"
Laura does the maneuver perfectly, and Steele catches her easily. "So far, so good," he comments.
"I hope we're not going through all of this for nothing," she replies.
"Our man's got to be getting desperate," Steele tells her as something comes loose. Laura grabs the end of a knotted rope, dangling. "Matilda!" Steele calls out. Mildred lowers a looped rope to Steele, who slips his foot into the loop and swings to rescue Laura. He drops her safely to the net, then joins her there. The look up to find the Watcher standing there, looking down from above.
"It's Turk!" Steele calls out.
"He's alive!" a shocked Delilah says to Fresco.
"Oh my God," Christy says.
Turk slides down the rope and glances at Max as he takes off.
Steele helps Laura down from the net and they run after him.
Turk grabs the treasure chest from the prize booth and dashes onto the carousel. Steele catches up with him. "You staged your own death, but you were serious about ours. Am I right, Turk, old man? Come on. Speak to me. I can't hear ya! Speak to me! I suspect I can also thank you for a crack on the skull!"
"AND an electric night in Fresco's basement!" Laura accuses, distracting Turk long enough for Steele to use a wooden pony to knock Turk from the carousel. The treasure chest shatters, revealing the Bible that was hidden inside. Turk grabs it, and Laura grabs it from him as Steele jumps on him.
But Guy grabs it from Laura as she watches Steele and Turk, who are joined by Max, who's holding a crowbar. Laura turns to chase Guy, and Steele, seeing it, leaving Turk to Max.
"Don't be a fool, Guy!" Laura calls out. "You'll never get off the midway! Why spend more time in maximum security?"
Guy stops, hesitating. "It's the lure you're after," Steele reminds him. "You should know better than that. Come on, Guy."
"Guy looks at the Bible. "I do?" He takes a deep breath. "Nobody wins the lure," he agrees, giving the Bible to them. He and Steele shake hands.
The next day, Laura and Steele are in his office, on the sofa. Her head is in his lap, and she's rubbing her ribs as if they hurt. "Guy never believe Turk was dead," she says. "He believed somebody at the circus was working with Turk."
"He knew all the regulars worked as shills, so he rigged the séance to see how they'd react. I mean, any experienced carney knows how to rig a séance."
Laura smiles. Or experienced CON man."
"I'll take that as a compliment. Up you get." She gets up slowly and painfully as Steele turns on the carousel musicbox that's sitting on the table before them. "Enjoying Christy's gift?"
"Oh, you know me and circuses," she smiles, touching the carousel as it turns.
Mildred comes in. "Oh, I just wanted to remind you, I'll be gone for a couple of hours, okay?"
"Have a nice lunch," Steele tells her.
"Lunch?" she laughs. "A friend of mine's told me about this new palm reader."
"Mildred!" Laura says in disbelief.
"Well, you never can tell," Mildred says in her own defense. "There my be romance in my future yet."
Steele stands up. "She's right, Laura. Perhaps we should give it a try. Come on."
Laura takes his arm. "Mr. Steele-"
"We'll settle that question between the two of us." They sit back down as Mildred turns and leaves. "Won't we?" Laura asks, grabbing his lapels to pull him to her for a kiss.