A writer starts work on her new novel, featuring Ray.
Ray gets a message from a woman, Harmony Masters, asking to meet with him in her person, and gives him her address. She says that she's in danger. That night, Ray drives to Harmony's address, an expensive house in an equally expensive district. He goes to the front door and the maid lets him in, and Ray looks around while he waits. A Doberman barks at him until Harmony tells him to stop. She offers Ray a fruit, and he asks what kind of trouble that she's in. Harmony tries to flirt with him but Ray ignores her attempt, and she says that her father is missing and possibly dead.
The writer writes how Harmony described her case.
Harmony says that her father Elmore is a successful architect working on a state project to reroute irrigation. There are people who don't want the project to go through, and the father missed a dinner engagement. Ray wonders why she didn't go to the police, and Harmon says that the police are rough and she prefers things handled gently. She says that her mother has been dead for 15 years and she wouldn't care if he was having an affair. Ray turns down Harmony's case and goes to his car, and sees Harmony in a window struggling with a man. She runs out across the lawn in the rain and the man chases her. Ray goes after her and when he finds her, Harmony faints in his arms. He takes her back to the house and when she wakes up, she thanks him for his help.
The next day, Ray drives to the father's address.
The writer types out that Ray is wondering why he's looking for Harmony's father when all he can think about is Harmony.
Ray arrives at the office and finds a man talking to the receptionist, Marla. When she says that Elmore isn't there, the man says that the other people "up north" won't be as friendly and storms out. Ray says that he's a friend of Harmony's and she's worried about her father. Marla sarcastically suggests that Ray hopes to sleep with Harmony, and takes Ray to Elmore's office. She explains that Elmore had a dinner date with Fred Hoskins, the head of the water district committee. Marla says that Elmore was writing Harmony out of his inheritance and figures that she didn't tell Ray. Ray says that he works for her and finds a photo of Harmony with her father. He finds a gun and a threatening note, and confirms that the gun is unloaded. As Ray leaves, a driver tries to run him down and Ray dives out of the way just in time.
The writer writes that Ray is trying to fit all of the pieces together.
Ray goes to the water district department and meets with Commissioner Bernhardt. As Bernhardt comes down, Ray sees Elmore walk by. Elmore comes down and Ray realizes that he looks nothing like the man in Harmony's photo.
That night, Ray returns to Harmony's house and finds the front door unlocked. He goes in and finds a dead man on the carpet, a knife in his chest. The Doberman, Dexter, growls at Ray and police sirens sound in the distance. Ray runs out and drives off as a police car pulls up. Two officers go in and turn on the lights, and find the dead man on the floor.
The next morning, returns to the house and a mother and her two young daughters come out. Ray explains that he's looking for Harmony, and the mother has no idea who she is. She tells Ray that he has the wrong house.
The writer, Audrey Brewster, continues writing, and complains to her sister and assistant Amelia that the thermostat isn't working. Amelia asks how she's doing, and Audrey reads what happened to Ray the last night. She realizes that Amelia disapproves of Audrey manipulating Ray for the sake of another story, and Audrey says that it's for her last novel. Audrey points out that her last few books have been dismissed as tried-and-true, and tells Amelia that she's not going out with bad notices. She's heard of Ray and figures that he'll lead her now that she's planted the seeds of a mystery. Amelia mutters that Audrey should live so long to finish her novel, and goes to the kitchen to get Audrey some tea. After she makes it, she pours some powder into the cup from an envelope.
Ray drives to Elmore's office and discovers that although the sign is still up, the building is abandoned and the furniture cleaned out. There's a manila envelope on the floor containing the gun he found earlier.
Audrey is typing and Amelia vacuums until the elderly writer complains about. Amelia insists that she's doing work and Audrey isn't, and Audrey reminds her that she's the one who pays the bills. She insists that writing isn't easy, coughs repeatedly, and invites Amelia to try. She takes out the first seven chapters from her drawer, which has a gun in it, and explains that Ray is totally confused. Ray has the gun, and that's where Ray will lead her. She asks Amelia to send the copies of the manuscript to her agent and keep the originals, and bring her another cup of tea. Amelia sends the story to a different publisher instead with her name on the envelope, along with a letter saying that she's learned much from her sister. She then takes some of the powder from a bottle and puts it in the envelope.
Ray checks the weapon's serial number and discovers that it's an invalid. The TV is running and "Harmony" is in a perfume commercial. The next day, Ray goes to the actors' association and pretends to be a director looking for Harmony's phone number so he can offer her a job. The receptionist finally takes pity on him and lets him look through her Rolodex while she goes to the restroom. He discovers that "Harmony"'s real name is Janis Rubin.
Later, Ray drives to Janis' address and knocks at the door. She tries to close the door but he blocks it with his foot and barges in despite her protestations.
Audrey gives Amelia a handful of checks and tells her to hand the actors the checks and move on. Amelia reminds her that it was her idea, and that she has a speaking engagement at the Murder Mystery's Alumni. Audrey asks Amelia to say that she doesn't have the strength for it, and Amelia tells her that it'll do her good to get out of the house and she can finish the next chapter before Amelia gets back.
Following Janis' directions, Ray drives to a beachfront park. He tells Janis that he'll be nearby and won't lose her again. Janis sits down on a park bench and the other actors who played the roles in the staged mystery sit down nearby: Elmore's receptionist, Elmore and the two cops. Amelia drives up, comes over, and hands each of them a check. Ray has no idea who she is, and sneaks over to her car and checks the registration to get Audrey's address. There's a copy of one of Audrey's novels lying on the seat and an author's photo of her on the back.
Amelia drives away and Ray comes over and says that he's solved the "case" and they'll all live happily ever after. Now there are other thing he has to do, and tells Janis that he'll send her the bill. Ray drives to Audrey's house and breaks in before Amelia gets back and before Audrey returns from her speech. He finds Audrey's study, and the manuscript and the gun in her desk. The manuscript is in the typewriter and Ray reads it, and then notices that the tea in Amelia's teacup is poisoned. Ray finds the vial of poison in Amelia's dresser and the letter from Amelia to her publisher. Amelia returns with Audrey, and Audrey goes upstairs to take a nap. Ray is waiting for her and puts his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming.
Amelia heads a thud and goes upstairs. She finds Audrey seemingly dead on the bed, and complains that Audrey died before completing her novel. The police and EMTs arrive and take away Audrey's body, and the detective says that there was nothing Amelia could do. He says that he'll need Audrey's body for a legally required autopsy but assures Amelia that it's routine. Once everyone leaves, Amelia pours out the poisoned tea and washes the cup. She dumps the poison into the bathroom sink and burns her letter.
Ray is waiting in the study and asks if she's covering her tracks. She realizes who he is and Amelia says that Audrey thought the whole thing up to "create" a fresh character. Amelia explains that someone told her about Ray's ad, and Ray says that the police will do an autopsy and discover that Amelia killed Audrey. The old woman draws the gun out of Audrey's drawer, and Ray tells her that he's not going to tell anyone. Amelia refuses to pay him, saying that she has nothing, and confirms that she put small gradual doses of arsenic in Audrey's tea, based on what Audrey wrote about in an earlier novel. She threatens to shoot Ray and talks about how her entire life was sitting around waiting for Audrey's next order and got nothing for it. Audrey never thanked her or offered to share in her good fortune, and she thought that when Audrey died Amelia would have something that belonged to her.
When Ray jumps at Amelia, a startled Amelia shoots him dead. As Amelia stares in shock, Audrey and the "police detective" come in and Audrey berates Amelia on confessing to her accuser as a bad writer's device. She asks Amelia if she gave her so little, while Ray gets up and walks out. Amelia says that she just needed something that belonged to her, and Audrey assures her that she couldn't have done it without everything Amelia did for her.
Later, the police arrive and a real police detective handcuffs Amelia. Audrey complains that he's cutting off her sister's circulation, and Amelia says that she's fine. As the detective takes Audrey out, Ray steps out and points out that Audrey did attempt murder but Audrey can bring up any extenuating circumstances in court. Audrey figures that once Amelia starts her nagging, the police will let her go. Ray says that she's going to have to find an ending for her book and leave him out of it, and Audrey figures that she can finish it on her own. He then says that Audrey owes him his fee: a favor. Ray promises that she'll see him again: once.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 13, 2018