Columbo in formal dress? Only for the wedding of his nephew (and
ANDY PARMA. Andy is marrying MELISSA HAYES, a successful model and daughter of a wealthy
society family. So there's quite a contrast between the
Columbo side of the family (and Andy's police friends DENNIS MULROONEY and ROBERT GOODMAN)
and Melissa's side, her fragile mother MRS. HAYES and patrician father MR. HAYES (DONALD
MOFFIT). Columbo chats with the Mrs. Hayes telling her that Mrs. Columbo had to fly to
Chicago at the last moment to take care of her mother who injured herself in a fall. He
reminisces about his wedding day and his first waltz with Mrs. Columbo.
Mr. Hayes notices that his wife is fatigued and tells Columbo that he's going to take her
up to their room. They're getting up very early in the morning to see Andy and Melissa off
on their honeymoon trip.
The scene cuts from Columbo's conversations to the happy bride and groom,
to the ALEX VERTIG, the photographer, (he's a famous fashion photographer),
to the obstreperous friends threatening to "kidnap" the bride as a prank.
After Columbo dances with the bride, Melissa and Andy are ready to "retire".
The wedding guests walk the bride and groom to the elevator where Alex
requests a picture of himself and the bride; Andy obliges, snapping several
Melissa and Andy are alone in their hotel suite. Andy ducks into the
bathroom to take a shower. When he steps out of the shower he finds a
bottle of cologne which reads "To Andy Be my guest Love M." He splashes the
cologne on his cheeks, wraps a towel around his waist, and steps out of the bathroom
expecting to find his bride. But she's vanished. He checks the suite, then the hall. He
calls down to the bar to his friend Dennis. Dennis denies having
anything to do with Melissa's disappearance. Andy checks the hallway again and runs into
Columbo who's unused to staying up so late.
Columbo questions Andy carefully, particularly about the time he spent in the shower. Andy
finds a cotton pad smelling of chloroform, and becomes convinced it was used to drug
Melissa. She's been kidnapped. Columbo comments that the Hayes family is wealthy enough to
be a target for kidnapping.
Columbo checks the exit stairway and finds one of Melissa's shoes. The
stairway leads to an alley -- there's a restaurant kitchen across the alley. A slow witted
man is cleaning up and Columbo asks him about what he saw that evening. The man describes
the sound of cardoors and seeing a vehicle, a white car or bus or van -- he can't
remember. Cut to the room where Melissa is held prisoner. In flashback, Melissa remembers
answering the door and being attacked by a man wearing a surgical mask who overpowered
Columbo returns to the bridal suite which is now set up as a "war room Andy's
friends, Dennis and Robert are there as are several other police support to help. No
ransom has been requested even though, as Columbo points out, the LA Times did an article
on Mr. Hayes and his successful real estate and development co. in Seattle. The finger
print man arrives, and Columbo instructs him where to check for fingerprints and asks him
to get a rush on the reports from the police lab.
Columbo asks Andy about revenge -- perhaps someone he arrested in the past.
Andy recalls an incident in which he was forced to kill a street punk criminal -- the
criminal's brother swore vengeance. But as far as he knows the brother, ALBERT WAGNER, is
Columbo asks Andy how many people he actually knew at the wedding. A
surprising number were strangers to him. Columbo is thinking -- they need to go over the
guest list. He's been reluctant to approach the Hayes
because of Mrs. Hayes fragile health but he needs the guest list and
someone (Mr.Hayes) who knew most of the people.
Mr. Hayes says he'll pay any amount to get his daughter back. He finds
the guest list for Columbo and asks the Lt. if they can hold off telling
Mrs. Hayes. Columbo agrees -- why not wait to see what they can find out?
And where can Columbo find the photographer?
Melissa is terrorized by her kidnapper who shines a bright light in her
face ; he's hidden by the shadows but Melissa can see the gleam of a
knife. The kidnapper tells her he loves her Melissa asks where's Andy?
Her husband? The kidnapper comments that he's not really her husband
because they haven't consummated the marriage. The kidnapper removes her
bindings and the adhesive across her mouth. "I'm devoted to you and I
deserve your love." the kidnapper tells her.
Robert goes to a massage parlor/sauna to question a source TOMMY COMFORT
who may know something about the criminal. He asks Tommy where Albert
Wagner might be?
Columbo in his Peugeot, driving through the Hollywood Hills. He finds Alex
Vertig house and rouses the startled Vertig from his sleep. Columbo
cryptically misleads Alex into thinking that there may be a problem for
Mr. Hayes without telling him about the kidnapping. He says he has to
look at all the wedding photos and needs Alex help identifying guests.
The kidnapper gives Melissa some water. She tries to find out more about
him but he's drugged the water and Melissa slumps onto the bare mattress.
Back at Verig's lab, Columbo wheedles "just one more thing" from the
photographer. ID of as many guests as he can make. Alex is anxious to
get some sleep because he has an important meeting the next day with
Eileen Hacker, the fashion editor. Before Columbo leaves he asks if he
can take one of the white grease pens -- Verig hands him a dozen.
4AM Columbo wearily drives back to the hotel. He can't believe he's been
up all night. The kidnapper leaves his "home". The cleanup man leaves the
kitchen and the camera moves up to the exterior of the hotel/bridal suite.
In the room Columbo is busily eliminating all the known people with the
help of Mr. Hayes. Mr. Hayes is concerned that his wife will awaken and
wonder why Melissa and Andy haven't stopped by before leaving for their
honeymoon. He returns to his room.
Columbo figures there are fifteen people unaccounted form some may be
friends or partners of guests who indicated they might bring a guest.
Columbo calls the Capt. to get more men to question the guests and show
them the pictures tp ascertain who came with whom. Robert gets a call from
Tommy saying that Albert Wagner checked into a seedy hotel with a girl
who seemed spaced out.
Columbo and his nephew go to the hotel. Andy bursts into the room,
threatening Wagner and demanding to know where his wife is. Columbo
quietly goes into the bathroom and finds a girl hiding there. Wagner
doesn't know anything about Melissa.
Melissa is now conscious and determined to fight back. While wedding
polka music plays in the background, she uses the vinegar left for her
dinner to remove the rust from the door hinges. She scrapes the rust
away with a fork.
At the squad room, the investigative team has narrowed the suspects down
to six and Columbo narrows it down to one -- a good looking blond man who
appears in many photos, always alone. The Capt. wants his picture to go out
to the TV stations, but Columbo cautions against it. Andy is near the
breaking point, they all know this isn't a kidnapping for ransom -- it's a
weirdo and who knows how he'll react if he's identified on TV? Columbo
agrees -- and there's the matter of Mrs. Hayes. Columbo tells the Capt.
about Mr. Bailey the cleanup man from the kitchen. He saw a white van
outside the hotel around the time of the kidnapping. Columbo wants to
send the team to car dealers to see if they recognize the blond man.
Something is troubling Columbo as he rides in the unmarked car with Andy,
Dennis and Robert. Suddenly Columbo stops the car and jumps out --
"Carry on, boys," and hails a cab. Columbo appears at the swank office of
Eileen Hacker and asks to see Alex Vertig. The snobby secretary refuses
to announce him until Columbo says that he'll have to open every door
until he finds them. The secretary shows him into Ms. Hacker's office.
There Columbo charms Eileen Hacker and "borrows" Alex Vertig for a
question. What happened to the picture Andy took of Vertig and Melissa.
Alex says he just the pictures developed and shows them to Columbo.
There's a clear shot of the blond man standing behind Melissa and
Vertig at the elevators. Columbo promises to buy TWO issues of Eileen's
magazine with the wedding pictures in it.
The investigative teams questions car dealers. Columbo has the lab blow
up the picture of the blond man and he identifies a college class ring,
from Ramsey College. He phones the information to Andy. While Robert and
Andy pour over year books looking for the blond man, Columbo tracks down
Mr. Bailey at his home. "How would you like to save a life?" Columbo asks
the befuddled old man.
Melissa is able to remove the hinges and then the door. She can't get out
of the house. She can't open a window to escape. But in her wanderings
she finds a bedroom -- her modeling photos flash from a slide projector
and the bed is made up with white satin sheets. The wedding march eerily
blares from a stereo. And a wedding dress is laid out for her. Her
kidnapper approaches her, playing with the scalpel. He tells her they both
have to get cleaned up and dressed for the wedding. He's irritated with
her when she says she's already married.
Columbo is frustrated by Mr. Bailey who can't seem to recognize the car
even with dozens of car model photos. Andy discovers the identity of
the killer -- Rudy Strassa, and he may be a doctor. Columbo finally finds
a style of car Mr. Bailey responds to. Columbo covers part of the van
with a white piece of paper and the vehicle now resembles an ambulance
-- and that's what Mr. Bailey saw.
Strassa plots out Melissa's make-up. In a bizarre stroke he puts her
lipstick on himself
Back at the squadroom, the team calls medical schools and hospitals,
looking for a graduate named Strassa. Columbo is calling ambulance
companies. He's told that Rudy Strassa was a driver, fired the day before.
He's also told that Rudy stole an ambulance.
The squad cars roar towards Strassa's home while Rudy performs his own
wedding service. When Melissa refuses to say her vows, Strassa nicks her
face with the scalpel.
Columbo worries that the sirens and heavy artillery will panic Strassa. He suggests the
captain give him a few minutes lead time -- with backup from Andy, Robert and Dennis. The
Captain would love the big show, but Columbo convinces him to try it his way. The men
surround the house. Columbo reluctantly carries a gun.
Melissa is lying on the bed, terrified as Strassa slips under the sheets beside her.
Columbo is making his way quietly into the house. Andy bursts into the bedroom. Melissa
rolls away from Strassa who is shot several times. Melissa runs into Andy's arms. Columbo
ruefully looks at his gun and asks about the time.