San Vincenzo – 1944
British soldiers battle Nazis outside the monastery of San Vincenzo. Among the British soldiers are Captain George Kershaw and Lieutenant Foley. The Nazis finally take a stand and open fire, but the British decimate them and pursue them into the monastery… whose works of art include Botticelli's The Head of Venus.
McGill finishes a job in Naples and takes a jet back to London. He contacts his friend at the Gardens Hotel and arranges for a room.
Kershaw goes to see Miss Gilchrist, a black market art dealer. Her butler, Bateson, escorts Kershaw to Gilchrist's office and the former captain shows her a newspaper article about The Head of Venus and explains that he saw it at San Vincenzo in 1944 and that it was stolen. Kershaw describes the town in exact detail, confirming that he's telling the truth, and asks for £50,000 for the painting. Gilchrist wants the painting first and Kershaw admits that he needs £200 in advance to pay for the picture. As for the seller, Kershaw assures Gilchrist that he doesn't know what he has. Gilchrist agrees but steps out to tell Bateson to contact McGill. She then goes back in and gets a drink for Kershaw, and tells him to provide more details.
When McGill checks in at the hotel, the manager gives him a message from Gilchrist. McGill calls her and she says that she has a job for him. McGill demands a consultation fee and Gilchrist agrees.
Kershaw goes back to the flat where he's staying with a younger woman, Mavis Fletcher, who owns the building. He pours her a drink of champagne and tells her that he's made a deal with Gilchrist and it can't go wrong. Kershaw tells Mavis that he'll be back on top again and then calls Aladdin's Cave, a curio shop. The owner, Mr. Wren, promises that he'll hold the painting. Satisfied, Kershaw tells Mavis that they'll soon be rich.
Gilchrist asks McGill to track down an old soldier who fought in the battle of San Vincenzo, who is now at a mental institute somewhere in the vicinity of London. McGill realizes that Gilchrist isn't being honest with him and demands double his normal fee, and she reluctantly agrees.
After Mavis dozes off that night, Kershaw pours himself a drink to his last chance.
Kershaw leads his men into the monastery and Foley sees The Head of Venus. As he stares at it, overwhelmed by its beauty, a German soldier starts to open fire and Kershaw kills the man before he can kill Foley.
Kershaw looks briefly at the article about the Botticelli and then takes another drink.
McGill goes to a soldiers club posing as a writer and meets with Colonel Todd. Todd has records about the Battle of San Vincenzo and confirms that thirty-two soldiers survived the battle. There are thirteen remaining survivors and explains that all of them attend the reunions except for Foley, who is in an institution. Todd admits that Foley is getting worse and warns McGill that Foley is no good to anyone.
Later, McGill goes to see Foley and convinces the receptionist, Frances, to give him directions to Foley's room. Foley is doing a sketch of Venus and McGill tells the confused soldier that they served together at the Battle of San Vincenzo. Foley accepts his story and claims that the woman he's sketching is a real person. However, he can't remember where she has gone.
Realizing that something more is going on, McGill goes back to Gilchrist and demands the full story. Once he gets it, McGill wants $1,000 and 10% of the painting's market value. Gilchrist reluctantly agrees and shows McGill the newspaper article, but claims that the monastery is selling the painting. She tries to flirt with McGill, offering him a full partnership, but McGill knows better and leaves.
McGill tracks down Foley's old address and ends up at Mavis' building. He claims that he's a friend of Foley's and that the ex-soldier sent him to reclaim his belongings. Mavis insists that she doesn't have any of Foley's belongings, and McGill tips her four pounds to tell her where the paintings ended up. Mavis says that she sold them to French's pawnshop down the street and McGill goes to visit the man. French tells McGill that he sold them to Aladdin's Cave and warns that the curio shop is closed for the weekend.
Later, Gilchrist brings her young lover Martin with her to see McGill at his hotel room. She demands the painting and McGill tells her that he'll pick up the painting on Monday rather than make a fuss about trying to get it earlier. Gilchrist is less than happy with the delay but has no choice but to agree.
The next day on Sunday, McGill goes back to see Foley and gives the man art supplies. He also has a photo of the Botticelli and Foley insists that the painting belongs to him. McGill realizes that Foley painted over the Botticelli to conceal it, and Foley admits that he couldn't risk bringing the painting to the home with him. However, he insists that he'll soon be leaving and reunited with his beloved.
Kershaw goes back to see Mavis and she tells him about McGill's visit. Furious, Kershaw gets the address that McGill gave her if she wanted to reach him and then goes to see Gilchrist. Bateson and another servant, Henry, usher him out rather than let him see their mistress. Frustrated, Kershaw calls McGill at the hotel and warns him off. McGill relates Gilchrist's story about buying the painting from the monastery and suggests that they meet to discuss the situation. Kershaw refuses and says that he'll kill McGill if he doesn't stay out of it. McGill considers what to do next and takes his gun out of his suitcase.
That night, a drunken Kershaw goes to see Mavis and rambles on about Gilchrist cheating him out of what is his. He demands that Mavis give him the £200 he needs to buy the painting from Wren and she realizes for the first time that he's using her. Kershaw grabs a pair of sewing scissors and threatens her, and she finally gives him the keys to the money box. However, he discovers that she only has a few pounds and tells Mavis that she's ugly and useless. When Mavis goes after him, he accidentally stabs her with the scissors and she collapses to the floor. Shocked, Kershaw quickly leaves.
McGill fights his way past Bateson and barges into Gilchrist's room. He demands to know who called him and Gilchrist finally explains that she's taking Kershaw out of the equation and obtaining the painting directly. McGill agrees to get it for her but demands 50% of the market value. She accepts and after McGill leaves, calls Henry in and tells him to bring in a friend and follow McGill, and take the painting from him when he gets it.
When McGill returns to Mavis' flat, she reluctantly lets him in and he spots Kershaw's discarded head and coat. He realizes that Mavis is injured but she defends the old ex-soldier, saying that he just has bad luck. McGill calls the institution and discovers that Foley is gone, and then looks outside and spots Henry and his friend watching the flat. He tells Mavis to lock herself in and starts to leave, and Mavis asks McGill to tell Kershaw to come home. McGill then strolls over to Henry and suggests that he come along with him to make things easier on both of them. Surprised, Henry agrees and he and his friend get in the car with McGill.
After helping Foley escape the institution, Kershaw takes his former comrade to Aladdin's Cave to help him find the painting among all of the others. Kershaw breaks in and tells Foley that he'll soon be reunited with his beloved.
As they walk down the alley to Aladdin's' Cave, Henry suggests to McGill that they double-cross Gilchrist and take the painting themselves. McGill punches him unconscious, knocks out the second man, and heads on to the shop.
Kershaw and Foley go to the shop's attic and Foley gets confused at the sight of all of the paintings. He starts to crack under the pressure and Kershaw yells at him to remember which one conceals the Botticelli. McGill comes in from the roof and tells Kershaw to back off, warning him that the police are on their way and that Mavis won't press charges. Kershaw goes for his gun and McGill dives for cover and returns fire. Meanwhile, the gunshots trigger off flashbacks for Foley, who is overwhelmed by nightmares of San Vincenzo. He finally locates his beloved, while McGill shoots Kershaw in the shoulder. The police arrive and McGill turns the ex-soldier over to them. He then goes over to Foley, who is clutching his painting and insisting that Kershaw was a good soldier.
The next day, McGill goes to see Gilchrist and demands his 50%. She tells him that the frame is worth a pound and that the painting is a cheap copy. McGill pays her two pounds for the painting and tells the puzzled woman that it may not be as worthless as she believes.
Later, Foley is back at his room, admiring the copy of his beloved, unaware and unconcerned that it's a copy.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 25, 2015