An informant, Mickey Patchek, asks Kolchak to meet him at Madame Trevi’s fashion design salon. Inside, Carl scans the crowd for his contact and eventually spots Patchek near a corner and calls out. But Patchek merely glances his way and does not respond. Carl sits down in the audience as Madame Trevi begins the show--the first model is Madelaine.
Meanwhile, Patchek slips upstairs to Trevi’s studio and is photographing its contents. He moves about the room capturing images of everything there. Behind him, a mannequin shifts slightly. Mickey moves to a table to photograph some drawings on it, while the mannequin stealthily moves again. Several of the plastic women now stalk the spy. Mickey finishes at the table and moves away, but a crashing blow knocks him to the floor. He scrambles to escape but the expressionless killers surround him.
Below, Carl has tired of the fashion show and leaves--just in time to catch Mickey’s last performance, a swan dive from an upper story window to the roof of a parked car. Mickey’s camera lands at Carl’s feet and the reporter pockets the tiny instrument. Returning to the salon, Carl looks for a way upstairs. He meets Madelaine who shows him the way up. But the police are collecting evidence and they’re not going to let Carl up there until at least after they’re done. In exchange for some publicity, aspiring star Madelaine offers to tell Carl “more than he’ll find out up there.” She tells Carl that she knew Mickey--knew that he was stealing the designs for the next season from the studio. The police believe he was attempting to escape through the window and fell. Carl is surprised to learn there is a market for stolen fashion designs.
Madelaine and Carl try to play each other as each wants something the other can offer. Carl’s greater experience enables him to succeed without promising much. Madelaine reveals that Mickey was dating one of the other models; Carl manipulates her into giving him the woman’s name. Madelaine seems desperate for publicity and thinks Carl can help her get it. She shares a number of background bits--titles won in several contests, including a 4H award for raising a prize goat. The showing is Madelaine’s (and Madame Trevi’s) big opportunity--it includes a layout for the international edition of Vogue. But Madelaine was Trevi’s second choice--the designer really wanted Melody Sedgwick but the two of them got into a terrible argument when Trevi learned Melody planned to leave in the middle of the show to do cosmetic commercials.
As they’re talking, a man interrupts to tell Madelaine that top international model Ariel won’t work with her because they look alike. The layout features Ariel--it’s in the contract--which means Madelaine is out. The model Carl wants to see--Mickey Patchek’s date--isn’t around and Madelaine is heartbroken, so Carl ends the conversation and leaves. Seconds after he passes Ariel, a cat leaps onto the couch and then onto Ariel’s face, scratching her badly. The other models watch in horror.
Later that night Carl hears from Murray Vernon, Mickey Patchek’s leading competitor. Murray offers the same information--facts that would expose a labor extortion racket and send several garment union bosses to prison. Carl calls a particular number to arrange the pass…but gunmen put Murray out of business before the swap can occur. Carl returns to the INS office and is waylaid outside the door by two tough characters. They know Carl has “it” and they want “it.” Evidently Murray Vernon told them this shortly before he died. Over some tense haggling, Carl negotiates a sixty-hour deadline--the thugs warn that he’d better have “it” and tell him is that he can run but he can’t hide. Now Carl has to cover the story. He doesn’t even know what the “it” that the legbreakers want from him is. So his only hope is to cover the story and learn what the thugs want before their deadline--emphasis on dead--arrives.
The hoods have spooked Carl’s usual sources and he hasn’t found a connection between Patchek and Murray Vernon. That leaves one lead--the film in Patchek’s camera. Developing it reveals that the dressmaker’s mannequins have moved between two shots--apparently the police were wrong in concluding that Patchek died alone. Someone else must have been in the studio with him. Carl’s out of leads and luck--his one chance might be Madelaine. Tony is clearly concerned as Carl plans to talk to Madelaine; Tony advises him to stick with Murray Vernon. But he’s sure Carl won’t do it because he thinks Carl is “suicidal.” Carl exits down the stairs with Tony yelling after him.
Melody Sedgwick is exhausted from juggling her career and her many offers. She steps into the shower to soak her tensions away. And at first, it works, but then the door snaps shut and the water turns to scalding steam. The knobs are useless and the door won’t open.
Carl can’t find Madelaine and his sources are still making themselves scarce. But Miss Emily comes through, telling Carl about Melody’s death. Carl returns to the Trevi studios and for the first time talks directly with Madame Trevi. He pretends that INS wants a “man in the street” look at haute couture. She tells him that there might be “some” value in knowing a competitor’s designs, but as they don’t produce for the masses, that value would be limited--they’re not the Detroit auto industry. Carl moves around to individual models next and Trevi immediately realizes he’s there about Melody. She claims Melody was planning to stay on, and when Carl bites, she snaps back, accusing him of vague and absurd suspicions. Nor does she have any idea why Mickey Patchek would have jumped from the top floor of her salon. Carl has once again worn out his welcome; he leaves.
Carl stops at Melody’s apartment but even his press credentials can’t get him in. Down the hall Carl rings the manager’s bell. The manager has talked to police and to reporters and doesn’t want to talk to anyone else--until Carl mentions liability. Melody died in his building and that might leave him liable. That breaks his resistance and he shows Carl how the showers are all regulated and can’t get hot enough to injure, much less to kill.
After dark, Carl returns to the Trevi studios where he finds Madelaine modeling new designs. She’s there at Trevi’s request trying on some of the wardrobe so she can take Melody’s place the next day. Carl thinks that’s callous then notices that Madelaine seems scared. He tries to persuade Madelaine to tell him what’s going on so he can get the legbreakers off his back. But Madelaine tells him, “She won’t let you find out. She has power.” Madelaine tells Carl that Madame Trevi is a witch--a genuine broomstick-riding witch. Carl is skeptical and sardonically tells Madelaine to take care of herself, then leaves. Outside, a suspicious car guns its engine and nearly runs Carl down. He evades it by climbing atop his own car and throwing a discarded pipe through the windshield, and it screeches to a halt. There is no driver. And from a window on a high floor nearby, Carl sees Madame Trevi watching with a curious expression on her face.
Carl learns that even in the modern, rational age of today, people still believe in witches and witchcraft. At a lecture, the speaker is non-committal but says that a witch cannot be drowned--this is the only absolute test. The lecturer also says that a witch can be stripped of her powers if publicly accused. Carl buys the man’s book and then walks to a large board where the names of various practitioners are displayed. Before he can copy any of them, a woman approaches. She tells him the book is largely trash but points out a particular coven that she claims saved her marriage. Even her husband, a “stiff necked Freudian psychiatrist,” is a converted believer.
Carl copies the address and heads there after dark. Inside he parts with a nominal contribution and a robed witch leads him to the meeting room where the coven has gathered. Several robed figures circle a table or altar; occult symbols and paraphernalia are arrayed about the room. The witches prepare for a sacrifice, but one of them--Griselda--warns that their lord will not come because someone in the room is under the spell of a black witch. The leader tells Carl he must leave--the coven has no power over black witches and fears them as much as anyone does. Carl objects--his questions have not been answered. Griselda says she can help and scratches a note in mirror-writing. The note reads “Oak chest. Mojo bag. Brass bell. Copper thread.” Carl learns these items are the black witch’s power source and he must destroy them to destroy her. Griselda writes more, but then moans as a thin knife begins to dart about the room--the black witch is here! She insists that Carl must leave at once! Carl scurries out (after stopping to reclaim his nominal contribution) as the witches struggle to fend off the attack. The rest of the note tells Carl where to find the oak chest--a closet behind the witch’s desk. Inside, the coven is…laughter?!? The leader is stripping off his beard and moustache, and Griselda removes her hood--she’s the woman who sent Carl to the coven after she met him at the lecture earlier. And then a white robed figure pulls back her hood--it’s Madelaine.
Carl returns to Madame Trevi’s office. He picks the lock on her closet and removes several brass bells to reveal a small oak chest containing a strange collection of artifacts. There are small scrolls with curious symbols written on them, bags, buttons, and bits of vegetation. Carl pours it all into the trash can and chases it with a lit match: the items are soon ablaze. Madame Trevi arrives too late to save the contents of her chest. Now that Carl has stripped her of her power, he wants to know about Mickey Patchek. She reveals that he was trying to steal her designs, but when Carl accuses her of using witchcraft to stop her, she finally understands. Madelaine has made Carl think Madame Trevi is the witch. Trevi is finding it hard to breathe, but manages to tell Carl that he’s been tricked. He just destroyed the things that kept the real witch--Madelaine--under control. Now unbound, Madelaine can kill them both.
Madame Trevi may be the first of the two to die if Carl can’t get her some help. She is hospitalized with a laryngeal constriction. In layman’s terms, she’s choking to death. The doctors didn’t know how to stop it nor can they explain why the usual remedies don’t work.
Returning to INS headquarters next morning, Carl discovers the thugs visited during the night. They’re not pleased with his progress--the office is a mess. Vincenzo’s favorite hat is ruined and obscene graffiti covers one wall. Tony orders Carl to stay away from the fashion world and concentrate on learning what Patchek and Vernon knew that so interests the criminals. But to Carl, it’s all interconnected. He spent the night assembling a mojo bag to ward off the power of a black witch. One of the contents is copper, which can negate a witch’s power--the pipe Carl threw at the car earlier was copper. That bag and the sound of broken glass are the only things that can stop her. Tony is incredulous. With lives at stake, Carl has gone off on another of his bizarre tangents. Tony is seriously considering going into the Venetian blind business with his brother in law. After Tony leaves, Emily pipes up with a phone message: Dr. Gravinites from City General wants Carl to come right to the hospital. Carl stops to grab the last item for his bag--a coil of copper wire from the ruined teletype machine.
Back at the hospital, Carl learns that the doctor summoned him because Madame Trevi has been trying to contact him. She wants him to find a rag doll in her office and cut the threads from around its throat. The doctor tells Carl it would surprise him if Madame Trevi lasted the night; if Carl is going to help her it will have to be quickly.
The Trevi Salon is Carl’s next stop. Inside he skulks to the office, periodically ringing the brass bell from his mojo bag. He must cross the studio; hyperalert, he notices what Mickey failed to until it was too late: the mannequins are inching toward him. Uncovering a dressing table, he forces the drawer and finds a black-and-white doll with threads wrapped around its throat. He sets down his mojo bag, grabs a nearby pair of scissors and severs the thread.
At the hospital, Trevi experiences immediate relief. But Carl has become too distracted by the doll. Before he can reclaim his mojo bag, a mannequin knocks it away and throws him to the floor. He looks up to see the smiling face of Madelaine. Madame Trevi and Madelaine originally had a deal, but Trevi turned against Madelaine. Madelaine offers to make Carl important. To demonstrate her power she tells Carl where to find Murray Vernon’s evidence. Its cancelled checks, proving garment union extortion, are in a shoebox at Vernon’s mother’s rest home. Carl asks her where she plans to go from here and learns she wants it all: a career in films, a rich husband…everything. He asks for a little time to consider whether to throw in with her, but she sees through the stall.
Moving quickly, Carl grabs a chair and shatters the dressing table mirror. The sound is intensely painful to the witch. Several more mirrors go, causing her great misery. But she knows she has the upper hand; the sound of breaking glass is painful but does not actually injure her. And there are no living witnesses, so Carl can’t denounce her. The mannequins resume their relentless advance. They corner Carl and begin to beat him, but he manages to reclaim his mojo bag and in an instant the mannequins revert to plastic and cloth. Terrified of the bag, Madelaine backs away. Carl seizes her and forces her head into a vat of blue dye but she does not drown.
Enraged beyond reason and unable to rely on her magic, Madelaine grabs the scissors and begins chasing Carl through the salon. Carl makes it outside and Madelaine follows. Noticing there are people on the street, Carl accuses her. Madelaine collapses in a heap, her power broken and her sanity gone.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 3, 2017