Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle are trapped beneath a grate and the sewer drain that they're in fills with river water. As Harry tries to reach the lock on the top of the grate, Arthur lights a match and they bicker over who will die first.
At a convent in the heart of London, Sister Winnie hears a baby crying and goes to investigate. She goes to a closed door and calls to Sister Fabian, but gets no answer. Winnie lets herself into the office and is sees Sister Fabian sleeping before a roaring fire. As she corks the bottle, she realizes that Fabian is dead, her throat cut. A ghostly figure moves behind her and Winnie screams in terror.
Later, Sergeant Gudgett and his men are securing the room. Sister Mathilda says that her nuns are hysterical. Winnie finally says that she saw the ghost of Lucy Allthorpe kill the victim... and Lucy died six months ago.
Harry is performing the Chinese Water Torture escape on stage and the curtain drops to conceal him from the audience. Two minutes count off and then a third, and then a fourth. The audience calls on the crew to let Harry out, and they pull up the curtain to reveal that Harry is standing on top of the tank, free. Harry complains to his assistant Florrie that the lock is still sticking, but notices a stagehand reading a newspaper report about the murder and snatches it away to read himself.
The next day, Harry goes to Scotland Yard and complains to Chief Inspector Horace Merring that they told the press a ghost is committing murders. Arthur Conan Doyle is there and says that he as an expert on the supernatural, he is consulting for the police. Harry puts up $10,000 that Arthur can't prove any supernatural presence. As Arthur accepts, Gudgett says that he can handle the case on his own and Merring agrees. Harry threatens to call Sir Nicholas Hampstead, the head of Scotland Yard, and have him override Merring. Merring wonders why they both care, and Arthur says that he hopes that with the aid of science, he can prove what happens to the living after they move on. Harry finds the entire idea rubbish, and Merring agrees to give them both access as long as one of his officers assists them. When Gudgett objects, Merring tells him to fetch Stratton.
Gudgett brings Constable Adelaide Stratton up from the depths of Scotland Yard to Merring's office. Harry is surprised to see a female police officer, and Merring tells her that she'll be assisting Harry and Arthur. As Harry and Arthur leave, Merring whispers to Adelaide that the two men are to be kept as far from the investigation as possible.
The trio arrives at the convent and Adelaide explains that it's a Magdalene Laundry. The nuns take in women, many unwed mothers, and in return the girls work the laundry. Sister Grace limps out to greet them, and is surprised to discover that Adelaide is a police officer. The nun explains that some of the girls saw Lucy's ghost just after she died. They go to Fabian's office where several nuns with children pass by. Inside Fabian's office, Adelaide confirms that both sets of keys were accounted for, and the study door was locked at the time of the murder. Arthur locks the door and Harry immediately picks it with a paperclip. He figures that Winnie killed Fabian.
Mathilda and Winnie arrive and Mathilda explains that she's managing the business since Fabian's death. She has Winnie relate her story, and Winnie insists that it was Lucy. Mathilda says that Lucy was vain about her beautiful red hair and her ability to bend her fingers back without breaking. Harry asks Mathilda to fetch him a glass of water. Once she goes, Harry puts the glass back and asks Winnie why she's lying. She says that she's telling the truth, and that Fabian killed Lucy. Lucy played the piano and Fabian hated it. She took Lucy's baby away, and Lucy grew embittered. They cut off her hair and locked her outside in wet clothes, and she died two days later. The nuns buried her in a nameless grave with the other "Maggies." Arthur believes that Winnie believes that Lucy killed Fabian, and Winnie admits that she prayed to God that Lucy did. Harry asks Winnie where the 50 pounds the laundry took in is. Winnie points out the lockbox and Harry picks the lock. There's nothing inside, and he figures that it was a robbery.
That night, Arthur and Adelaide are out walking. Arthur has to admit that Harry is right, and Adelaide says that she hoped it was supernatural because it would mean the case would run longer and it would keep her out of the Yard basement. Arthur says that he's not quite done with the case yet.
Later, Arthur goes to a medium, who says that there will be more murders. The medium says that the killer is a brown man made of soot, and he's in Whitechapel discussing his exploits with a rabbit. She then summons the spirit of Arthur's wife Touie. The spirit speaks through the medium, warning Arthur that his new companion is in darkness, and Arthur is in danger as a result. The medium breaks the connection and tells Arthur to go, and he pays her before leaving.
Arthur meets with Adelaide at the Bonny Black Hare Pub. They look for a man of soot, and they spot a worker buying drinks with money. Arthur walks over and asks the man if his friends know he stole the money. The worker tries to run and Adelaide knocks him out with a blackjack.
Adelaide and Arthur visit Harry at the theater and tell him what happened. Arthur points out that a medium helped solve the case, but Harry challenges Arthur to a game of ping-pong. As they play, he says that no one would rob a convent unless they knew money is there, so he figures that it was an inside job. Harry has checked the record books and discovered that someone was embezzling money. Adelaide has learned that Mathilda was formerly Bernadette Downie, a convicted pickpocket who joined the sisters after she served her time.
As they finish the game, the lights go out and a ghost soars past them. Blood on the table appears and spells out M-A-T-H. Arthur realizes that the "blood" is stage blood, and Harry admits that he set up the whole thing. Florrie comes out on a flying harness, and Arthur points out that Mathilda has no training in stagecraft. He's furious that Harry can't accept the supernatural, and Harry wonders who died that is so important that Arthur is chasing the dead instead of enjoying the living. Adelaide interrupts just as Gudgett comes in and says that Mathilda has been murdered.
At the convent, the trio checks the body. Arthur confirms that the worker is still in custody. Harry admits that he was wrong as well about Mathilda being Fabian's killer. Gudgett asks if they're going to let the professionals do their job, and Arthur points out that it wasn't their mistake that cost Mathilda her life. If the police had been there, she wouldn't have died. Adelaide breathes on the window, and the words "All things come in threes" appears in the condensation. Harry figures that someone wants to make it a triple murder.
The trio questions Winnie, who says that Mathilda stood by and let Lucy die. Winnie says that Grace was third person who let Lucy die, and Adelaide says that she'll have Gudgett put a guard on Grace. Harry suggests that they check Winnie's room for the missing money, and Adelaide points out that most of the Maggies' had to give up their babies. Harry leaves them to make a list of the women.
Both Arthur and Adelaide find something in the lists. Arthur returns to the convent and asks Gudgett to let him examine Fabian's office. After insulting Sherlock Holmes, Gudgett lets Arthur in. Arthur checks the study and finds two daisies in a glass of water. He then pries up the floorboards and removes a package.
Adelaide goes to the Metropole Hotel where Harry is throwing a party. The celebrities of the day are there, including an actor that Harry hired to play the king. Harry's mother Cecilia comes in and Harry tells Adelaide that now that he's rich and famous, he can give his mother everything they never had when he was growing up. They go into the next room and Adelaide notices photos of all the fake mediums that Harry has posted on the wall. She explains that the convent was built on the site of an old distillery, and there are several secret passages. One leads from the courtyard where Lucy is buried to Fabian's office. Harry points out that a ghost wouldn't need a passageway, and suggests that Adelaide marry a rich man. Adelaide objects, saying that she lives in fear of working in the laundry. She hopes that they can avoid a life of condescension. Harry concedes the points but still thinks it's a stupid idea.
Arthur summons them to the convent and explains that when they were there the first time, there was only one daisy in the glass. Now there are two daisies, and Lucy's baby was named Daisy. Harry insists that the murders are about the money, and Arthur shows them the package. Inside is the missing money, and Arthur explains that Fabian was putting away something for herself. Harry still isn't convinced Lucy is the killer, just as they hear a baby crying and a spectral presence drifts through the room and passes through the wall. Harry insists that it wasn't him this time, and Arthur figures that it's proof of the paranormal.
Arthur goes back to the medium and she warns that sometimes the messages are mixed. He asks her about Lucy, and she says that it's about redress: making things right. The medium tells Arthur that there is confusion about his motivation, and Touie speaks through her. She makes Arthur promise that he will come back for her, and says that it's been lonely since she died. Shocked, Arthur goes to a hospital to see the comatose Touie and take her hand.
Harry is in bed with Florrie, and considers what he saw at the convent. He looks at a glass of champagne that is vibrating as Florrie gives him a massage, and gets an idea.
The next day, Arthur is having breakfast with his children Mary and Kingsley. Kingsley is playing with two cups and asks Arthur about Marconi and his claim that he can send messages without a wire. Mary asks if Arthur was able to talk with Touie, and Arthur says that he'll keep trying. He gets an idea and says that he'll be back, and finds Harry outside. Arthur says that he knows who the murderer is and they take the subway to the convent. When they get there, Arthur says that he needs to talk to Grace immediately. When Gudgett doesn't believe that he knows who the murderer is, Arthur punches him unconscious, much to Harry's amusement.
Grace limps out and Arthur confirms that she's double-jointed. Harry removes her wimple, revealing red hair, and Arthur points out that double-jointedness is often accompanied by a limp, and hereditary. Arthur deduces that Grace was Lucy's mother. Grace admits that she was a Maggie as well, but she had committed a mortal sin. She changed her name and tried to start a new life, but Lucy showed up with a child of her own. Grace couldn't admit to being a fallen woman, and she believed that God sent Lucy to her when Mathilda and Fabian put Lucy out to die, so that she could watch her daughter die as penance. She killed Fabian and Mathilda to give her daughter peace. Harry realizes that she left the message on the window to take suspicion off of herself, but Arthur figures that it's more than that.
The nun limps off down the stairs and into the basement. Harry and Arthur go after her, and the grate falls beneath them, dumping them into the sewer. Grace closes the grate and locks it, and then runs off.
Harry picks the lock using one of Arthur's college stays. Adelaide opens the grate and explains that Grace told them where she was so that they wouldn't die. She knows that Grace is the killer and handcuffed her in Fabian's office. They run upstairs and find Grace preparing to cut her own throat with a razor. Arthur says that Lucy doesn't want her mother to die, and says wherever Lucy is, there is no anger or hatred. Harry says that he can feel Lucy, and calls to the ghost. He asks Lucy to show herself and forgive Grace, and the ghost appears briefly. Shocked, Grace drops the razor and Adelaide quickly takes it away.
As Gudgett takes Grace away, Harry explains that the "ghost" was caused by subsonic vibrations. The vibrations caused a disturbance in the human eyeball, generating visions. Their source? The new subway train, that was built about the same time that Lucy died. Harry knew the train passed nearby every 17 minutes, and was able to time the ghost's appearance. They say Lucy because they expected to see Lucy. Adelaide realized Grace was the killer because the handwriting on the window was similar to that on the ledgers where Grace wrote. Harry says that she's almost as impressive as he is and leaves. Arthur looks over at the glass... and notices that there are three daisies there.
Later, Merring visits Adelaide and says that he's moving her upstairs. Harry has said she's done a good job... so Merring figures that he and Adelaide are sleeping together. The chief inspector warns that once he proves they are, he'll have Adelaide fired and make sure that no woman ever works at Scotland Yard again.
Arthur goes to another medium. He sends Harry a copy of his new book. There's a handwritten signature from Arthur, and a quote from Thoreau: "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." Harry puts the book on a shelf with his collection of Doyle books. The piano starts playing in the next room. It stops, and when Harry goes out there's no one there.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 14, 2016