Inside a European "Historical society" corridor an alarm sounds and a young man bursts from behind two large, wooden doors, and then into the gardens of the building with a guard in pursuit. The young man runs through a piazza and down side streets into a laneway before running up some stairs.
Inside the flat, the man pulls from his pocket an artifact similar to the Crusaders' cross but with only three points. Each of the existing points has two the shape of two isosceles' triangles joined as one so there is a wide base and two thin points. The young man opens a birdcage and attaches the cross to a falcon. He murmurs to the bird and leads him to the window to set him free as the Historical Society guard reaches the room.
The young man walks back into the room and says defiantly, "You'll never take me alive." He bites on a pill and collapses to a rug on the floor. The guard quickly checks for a pulse and then runs to the window to see the falcon flying into the distance. He turns back into the room and runs over the man to the door. He turns back to see the young man prostrate on the floor, who now has white foam on his lower lip, before leaving.
A woman in white sandals steps from behind a black curtain. The young man opens his eyes and smiles and stands up, very pleased with himself, wiping the white foam from his chin. "Great trick huh? Guy thought I was dead."
The young blonde woman takes a gun from her handbag and says, "The guy was right," before shooting the young man. After he falls to the rug, again, she comments, "You are dead."
A middle-aged man with a goatee beard is in a coffin is in a funeral home. Laura and Steele stand beside the coffin with a man declaring, "That is not my nephew!"
"Are you sure?" asks Laura.
"Look for yourself, Miss Holt." The man gives Laura a photograph of the young man that was shot.
"Distant cousin, perhaps," offers Steele quietly, peering at the man in the coffin.
"Doubtful, Mr Steele," replies Laura before walking to where the man stands. "What, what is it exactly you'd like us to do Mr Carlisle?"
"Find out what the hell's going on. I've been on the 'phone for a week but no-one in Malta will give me a straight answer. These papers say that's my nephew," he passes the papers to Steele. "Now, I know that's not my nephew."
"What makes you so sure your nephew is even dead?" asks Laura.
"Yes. I mean, he could be off gallivanting around the Mediterranean, even as we speak," offers Steele.
"If that's true then I'd like to know it. Please Mr Steele, Miss Holt. Benjamin's been, well, he's been an A-1 pain in the rear ever since his folks passed away. Arrested in England for selling false passports. The German authorities tried to connect him with a smuggling ring and the French simply refuse to allow him into the country." Laura wonders what they've got themselves in for. "So when he said he wanted to live in Malta I figured well why not? It's in the middle of nowhere. Look, all I want you to do is to return that body to Malta, bring my nephew back here where he can't cause any more trouble. Dead or alive."
A plane lands at Malta airport. A middle-aged moustached man watches as a coffin is slowly unloaded from the docked plane.
A Customs' official tells Mildred, "Open please." Steele and Laura are closing their suitcases
Mildred pipes in, "I'm with them."
"Open," repeats the official.
"Oh," Mildred crosses her arms, "Now look here my good Senor, as a former representative of the United States government I am the-"
"OPEN!" The guard reaches over and slams Mildred's suitcase on the bench.
Laura looks and then turns away as Steele observes, "Crude. But effective. Better open it, Mildred."
Mildred winks, "Don't worry chief." She starts to open her bag as Steele follows Laura.
The guard starts to pull her garments from the bag and Mildred exclaims, "Whoa, now take it easy now. This thing doesn't re-pack itself you know."
The moustached man is now watching Mildred.
Outside Steele and Laura wait on the footpath next to the coffin and their suitcases. "Refresh my memory Laura, why was it necessary to bring Mildred along on this *benign* albeit macabre mission?"
"Mildred can be a bureaucratic whirlwind. In a place like this, a skill like that can come in very handy."
"You don't say," says Steele looking as Mildred joins them with clothes falling out of both her bags.
A mini pulls up next to them, "Hey, wanna taxi?" asks the driver.
Steele leans down, "A bit cramped, eh?" The taxi driver looks in disgust and drives off.
Mildred winks and smiles. "Don't worry chief, I'll get us some wheels. I got these people eating out of the palm of my hand." She gives the 'okay' symbol with one hand.
Steele is holding the reins of a horse sitting next to Laura on the front of an open wagon carrying the coffin. Mildred and the suitcases are not in sight. "Palm of her hand, eh?" queries Steele, "Giddy up boy."
"It was the only thing big enough to accommodate our *traveling* companion," replies Laura, inferring the coffin as she takes photographs of the crowded street.
"Suppose it's too much to ask to hire a driver."
"Well, it's not Mildred's fault that the guy who owns this wagon is too superstitious to chauffer a coffin."
"Well, let's hope she has better luck checking us into a hotel. Come on Trigger." They enter a market place. "You know Laura, if I didn't know better I'd say that you brought Mildred along to act as a buffer between us. Come on boy-o."
"Mr Steele. The fact that we're on a *balmy* Mediterranean island, caressed by breezes, alone - except for an extra body or two - doesn't change things. Our relationship is *strictly* professional.
"Oh, splendid. I just wanted to confirm the rules of the game, that's all." As they ride through the streets the locals start to gather around and give them food. "Awfully friendly these Maltese, aren't they?"
"Oh," says Laura taking some of the offerings, including a basket.
"No, no we couldn't eat another thing. No, no, we've eaten already. Thank you very much," says Steele as the crowd starts to jostle to give them food. "We're beginning to look more like a traveling medicine show Laura."
"Oh, it must be a Maltese cust-," she takes a salami as someone places it in her hand, "Oh, I ate on the plane. Thanks."
"Right. That's it," says Steele as they pass a man in the crowd holding three replicas of the cross that Benjamin had tied to the falcon before he died.
At 'Borg-Ward Funerals' the owner tells them, "We *never* make mistakes."
"But that body out there is *not* Benjamin Carlisle," says Laura referring to the coffin on the wagon outside the door.
"*This*," says Steele holding up a photograph of Benjamin's, "is Benjamin Carlisle Mr Borg-Ward."
A young man working on some coffins stops to listen as Laura asks, "Now do you recognize him?"
"Mademoiselle, in my business it does not pay to become too familiar with the clientele," replies Mr Ward.
"Well at least take a look at him and it might refresh your memory," says Steele becoming impatient.
"If you wish," says Borg, also becoming impatient. "Hector!" The man by the coffins walks out with them to the wagon. "Open the box." Hector opens the box to reveal the middle-aged with the goatee beard. Borg looks at the corpse and the photograph of Benjamin. "Death is a cruel artist. It *is* the same man, mon ami." Ward closes the coffin and walks inside as Laura and Steele look incredulous. "Alright," calls out Ward and Hector follows him inside.
"Now I know how Carlisle's uncle felt," says Steele.
Laura is not happy. "Mr Borg-Ward," she says following him inside.
Ward looks at her, "Perhaps you would care to reinstate your friend Mr Carlisle in something more modern, classical, for instance this beautiful, deluxe model here." He points out a coffin and Steele groans as he leans on another coffin with flowers. "Ah, you want a little moment of serenity before you decide?" Ward quickly leaves them.
Steele takes the photograph of Benjamin from Laura, "This is it Laura. The absolute nadir of our association. Stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean, with an associate who won't associate, and a body that nobody wants."
Laura looks at the door and sees Hector slapping the reigns on the horse and leaving with the coffin on the wagon. "Pardon me but I think somebody is trying to steal the body nobody wants."
They both run out and give chase to Hector who has left the front seat and opened the coffin to search the corpse. He finds an item as Steele jumps on the wagon with Laura close behind. Steele and Hector start to fight standing over the coffin. Steele hits Hector with a right-hook and Hector falls off the wagon. Steele is still on board when the wagon detaches from the horse, causing him to also fall from the wagon. The horse runs free, and Laura jumps onto Hector but he manages to fight her off, runs past Steele still on the ground. Meanwhile the wagon with the coffin runs over the road edge and down a small cliff. Steele and Laura start to chase Hector down the street only to see him run into the path of a car, bounce from the bonnet into the air and land on the footpath as the car screeches to a halt.
Steele and Laura rush to Hector who is trying to speak, "What?" asks Steele but Hector dies before he can reply.
The woman who shot Benjamin gets out of the car. In Hector's hand Steele sees the item taken from the corpse and shows it Laura, "He took this from our friend in the casket." It appears to be the missing piece to the cross that Benjamin attached to the falcon before he was shot.
"What is it?" asks Laura.
"I don't know but it doesn't look as though it's worth dying for."
Steele stands and the woman driver is at his side looking upset. "He was right in the middle of the road. I couldn't stop."
The moustached man from the airport looks on as the Hector's covered body is placed in an ambulance and then turns his attentions to Laura, Steele and the blonde.
"He just appeared from nowhere," the blonde tells Steele and Laura in a breathless voice..
Steele puts his arm around her, "Hmmm. Senseless accident Miss Cable. It could have happened to anyone."
The blonde looks up at Steele, "I should have been able to stop. I could have swerved."
"Oh, it's not your fault," assures Laura as Steele passes, still with his arm around Miss Cable, who continues to speak to Steele.
"Who was he? I mean did the police find anything on his body? Any identification?"
Steele tells her, "His name was Hector Toulozer. He worked for the local undertaker."
"You're not in the undertaking business as well, I suppose?" asks a breathless Miss Cable?
"It's a long story, Miss Cable," says Laura.
"Are you good enough to drive, Miss Cable?" asks Steele.
Miss Cable starts to nod but her lower lip trembles and she starts crying. Steele looks concerned as he wraps her in his arms and gives her reassuring pats. "Oh, there, there, now. Don't set yourself off again. Yes."
"Forgive me," mumbles Miss Cable.
"Oh, not all. You've been through a pretty hair-raising experience," says Laura.
Miss Cable has only eyes for Remington who asks, "Perhaps I should drive Miss Cable home, eh?"
The blonde looks up at him, "Oh no, no. Really, I'm, I'm fine."
"Okay, then. Now, you don't hesitate to call us if you need anything at all now. We'll be at the Hotel Phoenicia, okay?" he tells her, turning on the charm.
The moustached man starts to move away as Remington opens the car door for Miss Cable, and warns, "Mind your legs."
She smiles up at him and says, "Bye, bye."
Steele replies, "Bye, bye," and Miss Cable drives away.
Steele and Laura turn to see the wagon and coffin being lifted back onto the road. "Look who's back," says Laura. The horse is trotting next to the wagon.
The wagon, horse and coffin are back outside 'Borg-Ward Funerals'. Inside Borg is telling Steele and Laura, "The body was prepared by Hector. My dear, departed colleague, so we cannot ask him." He walks to the flower-covered but open coffin and moves the arrangement to reveal a pile of business papers. "However, my records will show Mr Carlisle had *no* personal effects whatsoever."
Steele looks at the part of the cross that he found in Hector's hand. "What's so important about this thing that Hector would have gone to so much trouble to smuggle it *out* of Malta in a casket, eh?"
Laura looks at the piece. "Who said he was smuggling it *out*? You went through that hassle at Customs."
"Maybe somebody was smuggling the piece *in* to Malta and Hector was just the pick-up?"
"Is that possible?"
"That, sir, I cannot tell you," says Mr Ward.
"I'm not asking you," replies Steele, "I'm asking her." Borg is offended.
Laura continues, "Perhaps things will become clearer once we find Carlisle's body." She asks Borg, "Mr Borg-Ward, How many other bodies were embalmed the *same* day as Carlisle's?"
"I will make records," says Borg and walks to another open coffin, ruffling amongst its paper contents before pulling out a piece of crumpled paper. "Ah yes, here it is. On that day only one other. Mr Abdul Amad."
"That's Amad back there in the casket," says Laura.
"Yes, yes," agrees Steele, "Judging from old Borg-Ward's efficient filing system, odds are Carlisle was sent to Amad's family."
"So our next step is to find out where Amad was buried and have the body exhumed."
"Ah, Mr Borg-Ward. How long will it take to have Mr Amad's body exhumed?"
"Two weeks. Maybe even six months."
"Six months?" repeat Laura and Steele in unison.
"Listen, could you keep an eye on that body out there?" asks Steele.
"I'm sorry sir, but, for reasons I cannot explain. I must humbly refuse."
"Well then, perhaps you can recommend us to another mortuary where we might-"
"Senor! This is a one mortuario town."
Laura interjects, "Surely we must be able to come to some sort of ... transaction?" she finishes smiling.
Ward's attitude changes. "Paying customers? Please, do not disappear. I will get my order book." He leaves to find it.
"I'm afraid, Laura, we have our work cut out for us. That is, if we expect to get home by the turn of the century," comments Steele.
Laura picks up and smells one of the flowers from the arrangement on the coffin. "Just what I've always to do on a sultry Mediterranean night."
"Rob a grave," says Laura throwing the flower away.
At the Hotel Phoenicia, Steele leaves his room dressed in a white tuxedo with black bow tie and handkerchief in the left breast-pocket. The moustached man watches him leave and then picks the lock and enters Steele's hotel room.
Steele enters the bar and orders. "Scotch and water with a- twist please." He looks around the room and sees Miss Cable sitting on her own. He takes his drink and walks to her.
"Hello," says a pleasantly surprised Miss Cable.
"What a surprise."
Yes, I didn't realise you were staying here."
"I'm not. It's just that I, couldn't stand the thought of being alone tonight."
"Yes. It's amazing how a lonely bar offers comfort when you find yourself - alone."
"It's not the bar that I find comforting, Mr Steele. It's the thought that even in a foreign place, one can still depend on the kindness of strangers." She smiles at Remington and places a cigarette to her mouth, which he lights, and she blows the smoke up at him before holding up her glass, "Cheers."
"Cheers," he replies, sitting down as he looks around the room.
"So, what brings you to Malta, Mr Steele?"
"Yes, well, ah, like Miss Holt said this afternoon, it's a long story."
"Make it short. I've only got all night."
Remington looks a bit uncomfortable as he takes a sip of his drink.
Mildred walks up to the bar. The barman hands her a drink of red wine. "What's this?" she asks.
"Compliments of the gentleman over there," replies the barman pointing to the moustached man.
The moustached man lifts his glass, also filled with red wine, and indicates Mildred should join him. Mildred is pleased and does as he requests. He rises to pull out her chair. "Thank you," she says.
"Not at all Madam. I am Edvard Jenson," he kisses her hand.
"I'm Mildred Krebs from the United States."
"I know." Mildred looks surprised so he continues, "We had the pleasure of traveling to Malta on the same aero plane. Permit me to say, how very pleased I am that we are also staying at the same hotel."
"Listen. Anyone who talks to me the way you do doesn't need my permission."
"So Mildred, oh, I may call you, Mildred?"
"Oh sure. Can I call you Ed?"
"Edvard?" repeats Mildred slowly.
"So tell me, Mildred, what mischievous stroke of fate has arranged for our paths to cross on Malta?"
"Well if you had all night, I might begin to tell you."
"It just so happens that I do."
Mildred looks pleased.
Laura enters the bar and sees Steele and Miss Cable engaged in conversation and then Mildred chatting to Edvard. Feeling left out, she goes to the bar and orders. "Could I have a white wine please?"
"Sure," replies the barman.
"Thanks you," says Laura, sitting down at the bar. She notices Mildred signaling for her to come over, so she does.
Mildred does the introductions, "Miss Holt, I'd like you to meet Mr Jenson. Mr Jenson this is Miss Holt."
"Charmed," says Edvard taking and kissing Laura's hand.
"Mr Jenson," says Laura.
"Please," says Edvard indicating for them to sit down. "Mildred has been telling what an extraordinary woman you are, Miss Holt." Laura is suitably embarrassed. "What she failed to emphasize is, that you are as beautiful as she is."
Mildred and Laura politely laugh as Mildred leans to Laura and murmurs. "Couldn't you jut die for him?" They stand as Steele and Miss Cable approach their table.
"Ah, there you are," says Steele.
Mildred does the introductory honours again. "Mr Steele, I'd like you to meet Mr Edvard Jenson. This is my boss, Mr Steele." The two men shake hands.
"How do you do," says Edvard.
"How do you do. Pleased to meet you," replies Steele. "May I present Miss Margaret Cable."
"Miss Cable," says Edvard kissing her hand.
"Mr Jenson," says Margaret.
Mildred holds out her hand, "I'm Mildred Krebs," and the two women shake hands, "I sort of keep these two out of trouble."
"Feeling better?" Laura asks Miss Cable.
"Yes, thank you," replies Margaret.
"I thought we could all go to dinner," says Steele, looking at Miss Cable who is happy to look back.
"Oh," says Mildred, pleased.
"Well," says Edvard picking up his glass, "here's to new found friends and lasting relationships.
"If you will excuse us for a moment, Mr Steele and I have a *delicate* matter to discuss," says Laura using her forefinger to indicate he is to follow her.
"Hmmm, oh. Please excuse me will you," mutters Steele to Margaret and follows Laura.
"Ooh. Maybe I'd better make sure we can get that table," says Mildred. "I'll be back in a jiffy."
Edvard motions for Margaret to sit down. She pulls out her compact case, loses the breathless quality of her speech and accuses, "You idiot. After you put the missing piece in the coffin, you were supposed to wait in Los Angeles until you heard from me."
"Can I help it if by nature I am a suspicious man? It was *I* who found that piece and I intend to get my full share."
"Well, why shouldn't you?"
"That, my dear, is a question that I might ask Hector. If he were still alive."
"Hector was a fool. Anyway, we're better off without him."
"Is that so? And I suppose you felt the same way about Benjamin Carlisle."
"Carlisle was careless. Besides, now we only have to split the treasure two ways instead of four." She snaps shut her compact. Edvard looks unimpressed.
Outside the bar Laura is berating Steele, "We have a grave to rob and you're throwing a dinner party. I need you in top form tonight."
"Not to worry, Miss Holt," assures Steele, "I have every intention of being precisely that. Okay, don't worry. Icy calm." He pats her arm and leaves her looking worried.
During the post dinner drinks Edvard and Steele are smoking cigars. Mildred asks, "So what time is the gondola ride, boss?"
Steele chokes on the drink he is sipping. "The what, Mildred? The gondola ride?"
"There's a sign in the lobby advertising midnight gondola rides," explains Mildred.
"It sounds perfectly delightful, doesn't it Remington?"
"Yes, it does doesn't it?" replies Steele looking very happy.
Laura sighs, "Much as I hate to put a dampener on the evening, Mr Steele and I have a very big day ahead of us tomorrow."
Steele pauses and looks at Laura, knowing he's lost. "Much as I would love to enjoy the Mediterranean sky from the seat of a gondola, perhaps we should take a rain check, hmm?"
They all rise from the table. Edvard takes Mildred's hand and kisses it, "Well goodnight madam."
"Catch you tomorrow Edvard," says Mildred.
Steele takes Margaret's hand and kisses it, "Goodnight Margaret."
"Goodnight Remington," says Margaret as they kiss each other on the cheek.
Remington turns to Edvard, "Goodnight Mr Jenson."
"Good night Mr Steele," says Edvard as they shake hands.
Laura shakes Margaret's hand and they both exchange "Goodnight," before Mildred and Margaret do the same.
"Goodnight Miss Cable."
"Good night Miss Krebs."
"Goodnight," says Laura, shaking Edvard's hand.
"Goodnight, Miss Holt," says Edvard.
Laura, Steele and Mildred leave.
"Tomorrow morning. Nine o'clock," says Margaret, watching the trio leave.
"My room at nine," confirms Edvard.
Later, outside the hotel, Laura and Steele exit dressed all in black. Steele whistles for a taxi, which is followed by Margaret, now dressed in black and in her car and then Edvard, now also dressed in black, in a another taxi.
At the cemetery a man walks by an open grave carrying a gas lantern. As he leaves the grave Steele and Laura appear from the grave. Steele picks up a shovel and Laura holds a torch for him. Margaret slowly approaches. As she sits behind a headstone she makes a noise. Laura shines her torch on the headstone that Margaret is hiding behind and whispers, "Did you hear that?"
Steele nods, "Probably, a cat, or ..."
"Or?" asks Laura nervously.
"Or . . . something," says Steele, also nervous as he resumes his digging. Laura is still flashing the torch around, Steele taps hers and she points the torch down for him while she continues to look around. He lifts her arm up so he can continue.
Edvard now approaches the duo and makes a noise as he hides behind a headstone. Laura flashes the torch up into Steele's face. He points it away and she starts to search for the source of the noise, focusing on the gravestone where Edvard hides and then where Margaret is again.
Laura points the torch down again for Steele who starts digging, quicker this time while Laura continues to look around nervously. He hits the shovel against the lid of the coffin a few times. "That's not a cat Laura." He clears the remaining dirt as Margaret peeks out from behind the gravestone, as does Edvard.
"Laura," says Steele.
"Mmm?" jumps Laura in response.
"You better not look. This might be a bit grizzly. Okay?"
"Okay." She stands and continues to nervously look around.
Steele lifts the coffin lid and looks in before standing beside Laura. "Good Lord." Laura points the torch in his face and he points to the coffin. Laura looks and then walks over, lifts the lid and sees the coffin is empty.
She walks back to Steele and says, "Good Lord."
" 'The Third Man'. Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, London Films 1949. Cotton arrives in post-war Vienna looking for his old friend Harry Lime who seems to have a bit of an accident."
"Everybody thought Lime was dead but suddenly he turned up alive," finishes Laura.
Steele looks at her puzzled, "You saw the film did you?"
"No, I just had idea that's what you were going to say."
"Oh." Steele looks into the grave and then at Laura as he asks, "You don't think Carlisle feigned his own death in order to smuggle that bit of brass back into Malta, do you?"
"Obviously somebody knew the body would be returning to Malta."
"Let me see that thing."
"This," indicating the point of the cross from Hector.
"Oh. Here you go." Steele jumps out of the grave and then helps Laura out. As he turns around he hits his foot and calls out, "Ouch! Ouch." Laura shines the torch for him and they both stare at the part of a headstone where the torch light shines. Margaret and Edvard are keenly observing from their watching posts. Steele cleans away the dirt from the headstone to reveal a completed cross. He holds up the piece of the cross in his hand. "Laura, I think what we have is a piece of a Maltese cross."
Laura shines the torch on the piece, "Great." The rest of the headstone is revealed and it reads, "Abdul Amad, 1930 - 1984". Laura continues, "Now all we have to do is figure out what's so important about it and where the rest of it is."
As there talking Margaret raises her gun, aiming it at Steele who is holding the piece of the cross. Edvard is now aiming a gun at Margaret. The attendant who walked by earlier with the gas lantern approaches and calls out, "Hey, what is this? A convention?"
Edvard shoots and the man dives behind a grave. Margaret turns to see where the shot has been fired from and a running figure. She starts to run herself.
Laura and Steele have ducked where they sit. Laura flashes the torch around and asks, "Since when do Maltese cats carry guns?"
"Good question," replies Steele. "Come on," and they both start running.
In the hotel corridor. Steele is talking. "First thing in the morning we'll track down someone who'll be able to tell us what so bloody valuable about a Maltese cross."
They stop at Laura's door and she cautions, "In the meantime, beware of thieves in the night."
"Yeah. Listen, ah, perhaps it might be a wise move if we, ah, teamed up for the night. I mean, purely a precautionary measure, Laura."
"You'll do just fine without me, Mr Steele."
Steele is not surprised at her response, "Ah yes, well,
I'm beginning to suspect I will."
Laura starts to smile and enters her room, leaving Steele alone in the corridor. "Yes. Once again, good night." He walks back to his room and enters it as Margaret approaches his room.
There is a knock on Steele's door as he enters the bedroom from the bathroom, wearing only his black pants and wiping his face with a towel. "Laura?" He places the towel around his neck and answers the door. Margaret is outside, back to sounding as though she is breathless. "Oh. Margaret," says Steele surprised.
"May I come in?" she asks.
"Yes, yes, please do, please do." Steele looks around the corridor, happy with the turn of events.
"There was a man, lurking outside my house when I got home. I was afraid," she takes off her jacket, "I didn't know who to turn to."
"Has this sort of thing happened to you before?"
"No. Not until today. Until the accident."
"Carlisle." Steele goes to his bed.
From beneath his pillow Steele retrieves the fourth corner of the Maltese cross to hold it up. "The man who ran in front of your car this afternoon was carrying this."
"What is it?"
Steele shrugs, "That's what I'm still trying to figure out." He places the piece back under his pillow.
"I'm . . . not in any . . . danger . . . am I?"
"Oh, no, no, no. None whatsoever," says Steele walking slowly towards her stroking his chest.
"Are you sure?" she looks up at him placing a hand on his chest.
"Oh yes Margaret, I'm absolutely sure. Yes, please. Put your fears to rest." He embraces her and whispers into her ear. "I have a bottle of Dom Perignon in my refrigerator." Steele's back is to the window, so only Margaret sees Edvard walking past, staring in at her. "Perhaps if we-," Steele leans into kiss Margaret who kisses him back. Edvard leaves.
In the next room Mildred and Laura lay sleeping. Edvard approaches their glass door.
Steele and Margaret continue to kiss as the latter reaches into her handbag and starts to pull out her gun. Laura screams. Steele looks up, "What was that? Laura?!" He rushes for the connecting door but it is locked. "Oh! Damn!" He rushes out into the corridor and Margaret goes to the bed and starts to reach under the pillow to obtain the piece of the Maltese cross. Steele rushes back into the room and Margaret sits on the bed. "Ah, almost forgot," says Steele as he reaches past Margaret and takes the piece, "Okay?" He puts a hand on Margaret's shoulder and she smiles, "Yes." He leaves with the piece, much to her annoyance.
She mutters, "Damn" and leaves the room.
Steele rushes into the girls' room, "What is it?" They both look frightened.
"I don't know. We were asleep," replies Laura.
Steele walks to the open glass and Mildred follows him, "What kind of sleazy place is this boss? People breaking into your room in the middle of the night?"
"Not that sleazy, Mildred. I'll wager whoever broke in was looking for this." He holds up the piece of the Maltese cross.
"What happened?" asks the breathless Margaret, entering the room. Laura narrows her eyes at the other woman.
"Ah. Margaret. It's alright, don't worry about a thing. Somebody just had the wrong room, that's all."
"Listen," says Mildred, "You'd better let me have that thing chief. I'll have them lock it up tight in the hotel safe for the night." Mildred grabs the piece and leaves.
"Good idea Mildred, well done," Steele says as she leaves.
"I'd better get going now," says Margaret.
"Margaret, you can't go now, it's not safe," says Steele.
"Oh no, no, no. It's alright. I have a friend I can stay with tonight. I'll, ah, ring you tomorrow." She leaves much to Remington's frustration. He closes the door and sees an unimpressed Laura sitting on the bed.
"I can see the headlines now, 'Great American detective romancing woman while associates murdered in the next room.' "
"Laura, I was in bed."
Laura stands and with sarcasm retorts, "Oh you were, were you? Well, I'm terribly sorry if an attack on *my* life interrupted your evening."
Steele isn't happy either, "No need to flagellate yourself over it, these things happen. However inconvenient it might be for some of us. It's not your fault."
"My fault?! You've had your mind on everything *but* this case ever since we got here!"
Steele looks Laura up and down, "Are you always this grumpy at night?"
"Only when I wake up with a man's hands around my throat."
"Well if you hadn't locked the bloody connecting door, I would have been on the scene to nab that someone," responds an annoyed Steele.
Laura glares at him and then gets back into bed, shakes the covers and folds her arms over her chest. "Goodnight Mr Steele."
Steele stares at her, controlling his temper, and then slowly leaves quietly, humming to himself.
The next day in the 'Historical Society' from where Benjamin stole the incomplete Maltese cross, Laura and Steele are leaning over a display glass. Laura is reading from the display as Steele looks around the corridor. "The Maltese Cross. Circa 1530. Key to the legendary treasure of the Knights of Malta but for the missing fourth piece." The cross in the display is exactly the same in size and shape that Benjamin stole.
Steele takes the piece they have and places it against the display. It is a perfect fit. "Hmm. The missing fourth piece I presume."
Laura is elated. "No wonder Hector wanted it so badly." She continues to read. "According to this, the completed cross is the key to a fabulous treasure of gold and precious gems."
Steele nods, obviously interested. "Gold? Precious gems?" He quickly wipes his face.
"I mean, even if Hector was only the bagman his share probably would have been worth *millions* of dollars."
"You mean to say *this* plus *that*. Fabulous treasure? Oh. Watch the door, will you Laura." He bends to pick the lock on the case.
"Mr Steele!" whispers Laura pulling him back upright. Steele puts his arms out in a defensive gesture. "The question is, *who* was working with Hector? And if it's Benjamin Carlisle, where is he now?" Laura looks at the piece resting on the glass. "Why do you suppose that this piece looks so much older than the rest of the cross?"
Steele looks at the two pieces. "Yes. It does, doesn't it?"
Steele picks up the piece and starts examine the piece behind the glass a man walks up behind them, "Can I help you?"
"Oh?" Steele is startled but recovers quickly. "Yes, we were wondering why the Maltese Cross appears so new."
"I don't know what you're talking about," comments the man.
"And where is the missing fourth piece?" Laura asks.
"The fourth piece of the cross has been missing for centuries."
"That cross is a fake, old chap," asserts Steele.
"I'm afraid you're mistaken, sir," the man insists. "The Maltese cross was *dated* and authenticated by the British Museum, in London," the man insists.
"Is that so," says Laura. "Well suppose that I was to tell you Mr St Albans here was supervisor of medieval history *at* the British Museum."
Steele is surprised by Laura's turn of conversation but quickly adapts to his role. "Yes, and I have a mind to expose you and your Historical Society. What is your name old chap?"
The is shocked and starts to stutter. "Th, Th, Thackery sir. Oh, please, listen. Please." He takes them away from the Maltese Cross' cabinet. "Yes, you must, you must promise keep, what am I am about to tell, the strictest of confidence."
"Don't worry Mr Thackery, our lips are sealed," assures Laura.
"Oh yes, Mum's the word," says Steele.
The man is still very nervous. "You see, two weeks ago, the authentic Maltese Cross was stolen from that very case."
"Is that so," says Remington.
"Yes, it is so, sir."
"Was anyone arrested in connection with the crime?" asks Laura.
"No, not yet, but the authorities have reason to believe that the museum security guard who was on duty at the time was involved."
"Ohh," says Steele, "Listen. What would prevent someone from using that Maltese Cross to lead them to the treasure, Mr Thackery?"
Thackery looks surprised, "Well, the original Cross has a - map on one side. You must remember."
"Yes, yes, of course the map. You wouldn't-"
"Mr Thack-" starts Laura only to be interrupted by Steele.
"Excuse me. You wouldn't have any other artifacts lying around that lead to treasure would you?" asks Steele as Laura realises that he needs reeling in.
Steele is quite excited, "Oh, no reason. It's just that archaeology," - he is bumped by Laura in a bid to calm him down - " fascinates me.
"Presumably that is why you joined the British Museum sir."
"Oh, yes of course. Not only that, it delighted my mother."
At Hotel Phoenicia, Margaret approaches and knocks on a hotel room door. Edvard calls out, "It's open." Margaret walks in and Edvard comes from the bathroom and closes the door behind her. He grabs her handbag and pushes her on the bed. As he opens her handbag he says, "It's nice to know whom you can trust and who you can't."
Margaret is indignant, "What are you doing?! I thought we were partners?"
"Partners, my dear, don't double-cross each other." Edvard pulls her gun from the handbag.
"Don't be a *fool* Jenson. If you hadn't interfered last night we'd have the fourth piece in our hands *now*."
"Correction my dear, *you* would have had it and then where would I have been?" Margaret turns away before slowly meeting his eyes. "Yes, that's what I thought. Now listen to me *partner*, from now on *I* call the tune and *you* follow orders. I'm going to see to it that the fourth piece is delivered to me and then, if we are lucky enough *and* provided that we both live long enough to enjoy it, you and I will be very, very rich!"
Remington is speaking on a crowded street, "You caught a man stealing the Maltese Cross from its display case at the Historical Society, chased him to a run-down hotel, up to a room where he strapped the Cross to a falcon, let it go and then bit on a poisoned capsule and fell dead?"
The guard who had chased Benjamin replies, "Yes!"
"I believe you, sir," declares Remington eliciting a surprised look from Laura.
"You do?" she asks incredulously.
"Laura, nobody could make up something that preposterous."
Laura turns to the guard. "Are you absolutely sure that you had nothing to do with this?"
"On a stack of Bibles, I'm an innocent man!" is the emphatic reply.
"Do you have the picture?" ask Laura.
"Hmmm," says Steele passing her the photograph of Benjamin.
"Is this the man?" asks Laura.
The man points to the photographed and replies, "Yes, that's him."
"What did the Police do with the body, do you know?" asks Remington.
"That's my problem you see. When the Police came there *was* no body."
"Well what happened to it?" asks Laura. "It didn't just *get* up and walk away."
"Or did it?" asks Steele. "I think we'd better have a look at that hotel room Laura, don't you?"
"I'd like Mildred to check any falconers on the island first. I mean *somebody's* got to know where Carlisle is, whether he's dead or alive?"
Mildred and Edvard are walking arm-in-arm along the sea wall. Edvard carries a cane picnic basket and Mildred admires their surroundings. "Oh, isn't this lovely?"
"So glad that you like it," comments Edvard.
"Look at that view!" says Mildred pointing to the azure seas contrasted with the background of white buildings and blue sky.
"That is why I brought you here, my dear."
Mildred laughs, and approaches a bush with very colourful flowers, "Oh, my," she says and bends down to smell the flowers. She picks a small, dusty pink blossom, "Isn't this beautiful?"
Edvard looks into her eye. "There is nothing so beautiful my dear as a flower in full bloom. Except, perhaps, a woman in full bloom." He leans in and they kiss.
They slowly pull apart and Mildred's voice wavers, "You don't know how long it is since anyone's made me feel the way you do."
"I feel I have known you for a hundred years."
Mildred laughs and caresses her thumb across Edvard's lips. "Two hundred."
Edvard smiles, "Shall we go?" Mildred nods. "We don't want to miss the sunset do we?" They hold hands and continue to walk.
A taxi pulls up outside the Hotel Phoenicia and Steele and Laura exit the cab. "How much?" Remington asks the driver. "Okay. There." He pays the man, "Thank you very much." He and Laura enter the hotel.
Inside the hotel, Margaret enters Mildred and Laura's room. She pulls a note from her handbag and leaves it on Mildred's pillow. She hears the sound of the key in the lock and enters Steele's room through the connecting doors as Laura and Remington enter.
"Mildred?" calls out Steele and knocks on the bathroom door as Laura looks around. She sees the note - placed by Margaret - on Mildred's bed.
"Oh." Laura picks up the note and reads, "Unless you turn over the missing Cross to me, you'll never see Mildred Krebs alive again. Signed Carlisle."
A taxi stops outside the entrance to the hotel that Carlisle ran to with the stolen Maltese Cross. Steele pays the driver, "Alright. Thank you." He looks at the note in his hand. "This is the place." They walk into the courtyard and to the door. Steele slowly opens the door and Laura enters. They walk up a flight of marble stairs, through cobwebs, causing Laura to shudder.
On the stair landing, there is a note pinned with a knife to a plaque in the shape of a shield bearing the shape of the Maltese Cross. Steele rips the note from the shield and reads, "Go up the stairs to the roof." Steele screws the note up and throws it down the stairs. They both continue up the stairs with Laura shaking off more cobwebs.
They enter the roof and see a falcon perched on the balcony railing overlooking the courtyard below. They walk around to the falcon. Steele makes kissing noises to the bird as they approach it. "Mmmm, there's a good boy." There is another note, which he reads, "Secure the fourth piece of the Cross to the falcon and let it go. When I've safely received it, I will release Mildred Krebs. Signed Carlisle."
"Damn! I knew I shouldn't have brought Mildred along," Laura chastises herself.
"Laura you can't blam-"
Laura cuts him off and starts to pace, "You were right, I didn't want to admit it, but I *did* bring Mildred along as a buffer between us. It was a stupid, unprofessional decision. Once again, I let my personal feelings cloud my professional judgment."
"Laura, you can't blame yourself for Mildred's predicament. I mean, no-one could have predicted from the outset the simple twists and turns this peculiar case."
"It doesn't make *this* any easier to live with. Carlisle should have been here with Mildred. The fact that he isn't scare the *hell* out me. If we put that fourth piece on the bird and let it go Mildred hasn't got a chance!"
"Are you suggesting that we *don't* let it go?"
"If we send it, we've got nothing to *bargain* with."
"And if we don't send it we've got nothing to *bargain* for!"
Laura sighs. "In that case. Let's see to it that the falcon isn't the only visitor to Mr Carlisle's."
"Good thought Laura, very good thought indeed. Yes. Now here we go Tweety-pie." Steele starts to attach the fourth piece to the string attached to the falcon's leg.
"Careful," cautions Laura.
"There, there. Okay." Steele finishes attaching the fourth piece "After all, it shouldn't be too hard to follow a bird should it?" He lifts the bird into the air with a jerk to set it on its way. "Go. There we go. Wonderful."
Laura dashes back into the abandoned hotel and they start their pursuit. In the street Laura points into the air, "There he is!" and starts to become agitated.
Steele sees a horse and a two-person covered, open carriage with a bride and groom trotting towards them. "Cabbie!" The driver stops the carriage. Steele grabs the groom and pulls him from down, "Look at this view. How lovely, there you go, sir, there you go."
Stele grabs the bride's arm and she yells he draws her from the carriage too. "What are you doing? Who are you?"
Laura and Steel hop into the carriage. "Maltese Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations. You've just won the deluxe walking tour of Malta." He puts his hand to his mouth and throws a kiss to the bride.
Laura, whose eyes have not left the sky instructs the driver, "Follow that bird."
"C'mon," says Steele and whistles to start the horse moving down the street.
At an intersection a postman parks his moped and leaves it to deliver letters. The horse and carriage with Steele and Laura hanging out it, watching the falcon, comes alongside. They both jump out and hop on the moped with Steele driving.
They follow the falcon and drive down the beach, leaving a disturbed game of boche in their wake. Next they drive through a fish market resulting in a vendor with a tray of fish jumping to avoid being hit.
As they bounce down a stepped-street Steele says to Laura, "You realise what we're doing don't you Laura? We're chasing a Maltese Falcon."
Laura pulls a fish from her clothes and looks at it, "Right". She then throws the fish to the lap of woman sitting in the street shaking coins in her hand.
They stop at a pier along side the road. "There it is!" says Laura finding the falcon in the sky.
"Laura look," says Remington. "Better still." He points to a two jet-skis and they rush to jump onto them.
"I've never been on one of these things."
"Just like riding a bike, Laura," replies Steele.
They both set off and follow the falcon across the bay through the trawlers and boats. They land on the beach and climb up a dune. At the top they see a row of men shooting their rifles at the falcon.
"Wait!" Remington pleads running up to the men. "Please, please don't fire. Our bird. Our bird up there."
Laura runs with him yelling out, "No" as they pass through the men.
On the side of a fort overlooking the bay, Mildred and Edvard stop walking. Mildred looks around. "Oh, Edvard. This is just beautiful."
"Yes," Edvard replies, "But I think we should keep going Mildred."
"Oh. Can't we just stay for awhile? You haven't told me anything about yourself yet."
Edvard shrugs his shoulders. "What is there to tell?"
Mildred laughs, "Well, everything. I don't know where you were born? I don't even know what you do make a living."
"You will know that soon enough. But know, I *really* think we should go."
"No, let's just have a little nibble here." Mildred takes the picnic basket from Edvard and laughs. "Well, that's what I call light cuisine." She opens the basket and looks puzzled. "Edvard. It's empty." Realization that all is not well shows on her face.
Laura and Remington run to the fort. They climb up the corner of the outside of the wall using the crevices in the stones. Near the top Laura's foot dislodges some small stones and she slips. Remington calls out, "Laura!" and manages to catch her before she falls. "Are you okay?" He manages to hang on with one hand and pull her to the window at the top of wall.
The falcon is sitting on the edge of the fort wall. Edvard unties the fourth piece. An upset Mildred walks up to him. "Why didn't you just put a gun to my head Edvard? Why did you have to lead me on like that?"
Edvard looks at the item in his hand. "I did what I had to do."
"You could give yourself up. It's not too late."
"It is too late."
"No. Take it from me it's never too late. I mean, just a year ago I was working for the IRS, slaving away there, going nowhere in a nowhere job, when 'Bingo' all of a sudden-"
"Shut up. Mildred, you and I-. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings but sometimes a man gets caught up in events that are bigger than he is." Steele and Laura climb along the edge of the fort "So I hope that some day I'm going to forgive myself for what I am about to do."
"What are you about to do?" ask Mildred with trepidation. Edvard pulls a gun out of his pocket and points it at Mildred. Mildred sees Steele and Laura. She yells out, "Mr Steele!"
Edvard turns and fires the gun as Mildred hits his arm with the picnic basket sending the bullet away from Steele. Edvard then runs down into the fort. Steele and Laura jump down near Mildred and Laura asks, "Are you alright?"
Mildred points where Edvard is running. "Don't stand there talking to me. Go get that bum."
Laura and Steele chase after Edvard down a sloping road within the fort. At the bottom of the road Edvard turns and fires at them. Laura and Steele duck and then continue down the road.
Edvard runs into a three-story building and appears on the balcony of the first flight. He runs around a corner and there's the sound of a gun being fired. Steele and Laura stop their chase. Edvard stumbles back around the corner. He has a surprised look on his face. His right hand is clutching his chest, covering a badly bleeding wound before he falls to the ground.
Steele and Laura approach him. Steele picks up the fourth piece of the Maltese Cross.
"I'll take that." A no nonsense Margaret comes around the corner with her gun pointed at Steele.
"Margaret." says Steele questioningly.
"Give it to me."
Steele holds up the piece. "This is what you wanted all along isn't it?"
Margaret takes the piece from his hand and places it in her handbag. "I won't say it wasn't fun but a woman's got to have her priorities."
"That won't do you much good," says Laura. "Yours is a fake. Carlisle double-crossed you.
Margaret is stunned and takes the piece from her handbag. "You're lying."
"Am I? Then why did you kill him?"
Edvard, still lying on the ground, has drawn his gun, aiming it at Margaret. Steele sees Edvard's movement and rushes forward to move her out the way, "Margaret! Look out!" The gun fires and Steele pushes Margaret up against the wall with her hand with her gun pointing upward.
At the same time Laura steps on Edvard's hand as the gun fires into the courtyard. Edvard then collapses, dead.
Margaret looks at Steele and says in her breathless voice, "You saved my life."
Steele looks back at her. "Yes well, accidents will happen." He takes Margaret's gun and turns to Laura, who is now holding Edvard's gun. "Eh, Miss Holt?"
Laura looks at him, and then back at Edvard.
Steele and Laura are standing on a rocky outcrop with the sea either side. Steele is holding the now complete Maltese Cross and points to a cave. "That's it. There it is. Ah, think of it Laura. Men have searched for this spot for centuries."
"Need I remind you," They start walking over the rocks towards the cave and Laura tells him, "That legally, the old saw, Finder's keepers, is unlikely to apply here."
"Yes, Yes. We'll, ah, sort out those petty details later. For the moment though, let's savour the thrill of discovery, eh?"
"I imagine Benjamin Carlisle felt *much* the same way, Mr Steele. And look where it got him.
"Ah, yes Laura, but unlike Carlisle's feminine partner, you wouldn't murder me for my share of the treasure and then bury me behind an abandoned fortress would you?"
"*Don't* think the thought hasn't crossed my mind."
They walk into the cave. Steele holds out the Cross and says, "Laura, let me see the flashlight." Laura shines the beam on the Cross and he says, "There you go. Okay. Over here somewhere." They walk to where he is pointing. At a horizontal fissure in the rock wall he says, "Hmm. Ah. Ah, uh, huh, uh. Down with the torch." Laura shines the torch as he spits on his hands. "Ah, there you go. See." He gently turns a dial made of rock attached to the rock wall.
They hear a rumbling sound and further in the cave part of the wall crumbles. Laura shines the torch on the collapsed wall and Steele continues to turn the 'dial'. "Oh, I can smell it Laura, I can smell it. Go. That's it."
They walk to the newly revealed rock. Steele looks at it and murmurs, "Cross. Cross. Here you go." A part of the wall collapses. They step back and Steele removes the Cross from his pocket. "Cross." He has trouble finding the last piece. "One bit, oh, don't lose the second bit?" He finds the piece, "Oh," makes the Maltese Cross whole and smiles. He places the complete Cross into the evenly marked dial inset of the same shape in the now revealed smoothly carved wall.
"Oh. Oh my goodness," Laura is licking her lips in nervous anticipation.
"Okay Laura," Steele starts to slowly turn the dial. As it turns the door creaks open. Steele takes the Maltese Cross from the door and Laura starts to walk into the room. Steele grabs the torch from her and shines it around the room, "Steady. Steady. Icy calm."
Behind them Laura notices a sheet of paper on a ledge. "Look at that."
"A note." Steele picks it up and together they read aloud, "Well done, chaps, but too late. Signed, Sir Floyd Thursby, December fourth, 1884."
Steele holds back the tears of disappointment as the scene freezes.