Bret is riding to St. Louis with his last $1,000 and comes across a man strung upside down from a tree branch. He cuts the man down and the man, Gillespie Mackenzie, says that three highwaymen saw his money and took it from him on the road and strung him up. He thanks Bret for his help and offers to sell him the deed to a riverboat, the Cynthia B, for a "token payment" of a thousand dollars. Bret isn't interested until Mackenzie says that the Cynthia B has a gambling salon with attractive women worth $40,000.
After paying Mackenzie his $1,000, Bret goes to St. Louis and discovers that the Cynthia B is a wreck and he's been suckered. He goes to the shipping office and tells the manager, Meacham, that he bought the Cynthia B. Meacham tells Bret that he's not the only one and takes him into a room where five other people are there. When Meacham says that Bret is another of Mackenzie's victims, the others introduce themselves as Quincy T. Smith, Mrs. Ambrose Tutwiler, Rutherford Carr, Montgomery Teague, and Jefferson Cantrell. Mackenzie all took them for money, and Quincy explains that Mackenzie is a forger. He's the owner of the Cynthia B and forged the papers. Quincy offers them $300 each to buy their shares, and says that he will take a chance on fixing up the Cynthia B and make a profit. The others perk up but Bert points out that Quincy's offer doesn't make sense. Morton has also read the paper and Quincy admits that he was trying to do a little business. He explains that Abner Morton is ending his search for an old sidewheeler, the Orleans Princess. His offer expires in a weak, and Meacham confirms that the Cynthia B is the Orleans Princess. Cantrell is a pilot and can provide stokers. Morton says in the article that the Orleans Princess is designed for racing. Bret reads the rest of the article and learns that the Orleans Princess was known as a death ship. The first six owners died under mysterious circumstances while aboard.
As Bret leaves the shipping office, he runs into Modesty Blaise. He's less than thrilled to see her given her previous cons. and she assures him that she likes him. Modesty says that she can set him up as a gambler aboard the Cynthia B. Bret cheerfully breaks the news to her that it's a con. That night, they go to the Cynthia B to look around and Modesty is less than thrilled. Someone rolls a barrel down the stairs and Bret gets Modesty out of the way just in time. He dismisses it as an accident, and Teague walks down the stairs, smiles, and passes them. Tutwiler and Carr arrive and Bret introduces them to Modesty. Cantrell joins them and says that they should move out.
Cantrell goes to the wheelhouse and takes the Cynthia B out. As they head to Memphis, Teague joins them and Tutwiler leads Modesty to the galley to cook. Quincy arrives with the stokers, Jim and Gus, and Carr quickly excuses himself. Teague goes with him and Quincy says that something funny just happened. A safety valve on the boiler was tied down, but in an obvious way as to scare them off. They both figure that someone is trying to scare one or more owners away so there's less ways to split the $20,000.
Everyone eats and Tutwiler complains about the cooking facilities, and Bret dismisses the curse as an old wives' tale. Cantrell says that Carr is at the wheel, and Cantrell takes offense. Modesty brings in dessert and Bret insults her cooking. The woman runs out crying and Tutwiler admonishes Bret. He goes out to Modesty and points out that he didn't know she could cry. Modesty says that she's a woman and Bret assures her that she's beautiful, and then she slaps him because of his remark. Then she kisses him because he called her beautiful.
Tutwiler comes out, sees Maverick and Modesty together, and continues on her stroll. Once she leaves, Modesty suggests that if there if the owners lost their paper, then the remaining person would get $20,000. Bret refuses to split the $20,000 with her, and Modesty says that she knows where all the ownership papers are. Bret asks where she keeps her papers, and Modesty says that they're tucked in her garter.
Tutwiler leaves her cabin and goes out on the deck, and a man comes out behind her and takes the papers from her purse. She screams and falls through the railing into the Mississippi, and Brett orders the boat to stop. He then dives over to find Tutwiler and after a moment, climbs back up. Bret says that all he could find of Tutwiler is her hat, and Rutherford suggests that Bret may have pushed her over. When Bret slaps her, Rutherford says that she may not be the last one who "accidentally" dies and leaves. Teague goes to turn in and Modesty tells Bret that he should turn in as well.
For the next days, nothing goes amiss. One night Modesty sneaks into Bret's room and searches his coat pockets for the ownership papers. He grabs her and she claims that a noise frightened her, but Bret doesn't believe her and tells her to go. Later, a clothed man sneaks into Bret's room and searches. Bret grabs her and the intruder attacks him with a knife. They struggle and the intruder runs out. By the time Bret goes after him, he's disappeared.
Bret knocks on Modesty's door and confirms that she's all right, and explains that someone tried to kill him. Quincy and Teague come out and Bret explains what happened. Rutherford is in a nightshirt and Quincy says that he was with Jim and Gus. Quincy figures that the thief won't stop at stealing one set of papers, and Teague suggests that Rutherford is the thief. They check his cabin and find him dead, stabbed to death. Teague faints and Modesty goes to help him up. Quincy says that they'll have to report the murder to the authorities in Memphis, and they go out in the hallway. Bret figures that Tutwiler's papers went down with her, and says that they'll take it out among themselves before involving Cantrell.
As Bret gets dressed, Teague visits him and says that he's there. He explains that he's a fast dresser, but Bret doesn't believe him and figures that Teague had his nightshirt on over his clothes. Quincy and Modesty comes in and Quincy suggests that Bret is lying. Bret suggests that with all of them there, the only one left is Cantrell. He notes that Cantrell could have lashed the wheel and then attacked him, but says that they'll just sit there together rather than confront Cantrell. It's Bret's turn but he refuses to go up.
The Cynthia B starts to run ashore and the four co-owners run up to the wheelhouse. Bret steers the boat back out to the river. There's no sign of Cantrell, and Quincy figures that he's the killer and hid because he realized that they were onto him, and says that they should stay in the pilothouse. He asks Bret for the gun, but when Bret tosses it to him he misses and it ends up in the river. Teague says that he'll hide and ducks into a closet, then yells for help. He runs out and Cantrell's body falls out behind him. Cantrell is stabbed in the heart, and Teague faints again. They realize that it can't be one of them because they were all together in the time it would have taken the Cynthia B to run ashore. They figure that Jim and Gus must be the killers, and Bret says that they'll let the authorities in Memphis take over.
Mackenzie arrives, aims a gun at them, and tells them to raise their hands. Once they do, he explains that he's been hiding in the storage locker after boarding in St. Louis. Mackenzie says that he tried to scare them off and warned Quincy by tying down the safety valve. He wants Morton's $20,000 and tells them to hand over the title papers. Teague goes first and Mackenzie tells Bret to go next. As he waits, he says that Tutwiler falling into the river was an accident. Mackenzie has Bret take the papers out of the envelope and hand them over, then gets Quincy's deed. Modesty hands hers over last and Mackenzie tosses them all overall. He says that he has the original title deed, and Bret tells Jim and Gus to grab Mackenzie. Mackenzie chuckles and says that he already forced them overboard, and tells them that they're going to jump in. Teague admits that he doesn't know how to swim, and Mackenzie says that he can't either. Teague goes first, and Quincy and Bret jump Mackenzie. He falls overboard and drowns,
The Cynthia B arrives in Memphis and the remaining owners meet with Morton. Morton refuses to hand over the $20,000 without the title papers, and tells Bret and Modesty to leave. As they go, Morton says that his offer expires at noon that day and they couldn't bring him proof of ownership in the last 15 minutes. Bart arrives and says that he has the title paper on the Cynthia B. Morton pays off and Bart explains that he won the paper in a poker game against Mackenzie. Once Bart collects the money and leave, Bret and Modesty leave him off and say that they're going to split the money five ways with Teague and Quincy.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 3, 2019