The firm she works for is representing Morton Sorell in a messy, highly publicized divorce. A few evenings ago, Miss Aaron noticed a junior member of the law firm – she won't say which one – in a cheap eatery, tête-à-tête with Mrs. Sorell, the firm's opponent in the divorce action. That sort of ex parte communication is highly improper. Later, Miss Aaron asked the lawyer about it, and he wouldn't discuss the matter. Miss Aaron won't take the problem to the firm's senior member, Lamont Otis, because she fears that the news, coupled with Otis's advanced age and heart condition, will kill him. But it has to be investigated.
It's a novel problem, and Archie takes the unusual step of consulting Wolfe in the plant rooms. Because the case concerns a divorce, it's one that Wolfe normally would not touch. But because legal ethics, not the divorce itself, is the central issue, Archie thinks there's a chance Wolfe will take it. Even so, Wolfe tells Archie he won't do it, and Archie returns to the office to give Miss Aaron the bad news.
Back in the office, Archie finds he can't give the news to Miss Aaron because she's dead, hit on the head with a heavy paperweight and then strangled with a necktie. It's Wolfe's paperweight. Even worse, it's Wolfe's necktie. He had spilled some sauce on it at lunch, removed it, and left it on his desk where someone could find it and use it to strangle Miss Aaron.
Late that night, after Inspector Cramer and other police investigators have left, Mr. Otis arrives, along with one of the law firm's associates, Ann Paige. The death of his valued secretary has upset Otis, and he wants to know what happened.
Wolfe allows Otis to read a copy of the statement Archie gave the police, and Otis is clearly shaken by the report of the ex parte communication. Otis asks Miss Paige to leave Wolfe's office – he wants to discuss things privately – and Archie escorts her to the front room. Wolfe and Otis discuss the situation at length, and Wolfe gets Otis's take on the three junior members of the firm, one of whom Miss Aaron saw talking with Mrs. Sorell. During their discussion, Archie checks on Miss Paige, and finds that she has opened the window in the front room and, apparently, jumped down to the sidewalk. She is nowhere to be found.
The next morning, Archie calls on Mrs. Sorell, using as entrée a note he's written, informing her that she and the unidentified junior member were seen together in the restaurant. He wants to bring her to talk with Wolfe, but she plays dumb, and the best Archie can get from her is a promise to phone later in the day.
On returning to the brownstone, Archie finds the office occupied only by a man he doesn't recognize. He finds Wolfe at the peephole, and learns that the man's name is Gregory Jett, one of the law firm's junior members. Jett is there to complain that Wolfe's behavior caused Mr. Otis undue stress. Brushing aside Jett's complaint, Wolfe learns that Jett is engaged to marry Miss Paige, and also that he had a brief fling with Mrs. Sorell a year earlier.
Then the two other junior members, Edey and Heydecker, arrive looking for information and acting like lawyers. Mrs. Sorell's promised phone call comes, and she tells Archie that Miss Aaron must have seen her talking with Mr. Jett. Wolfe and Archie regard this information with skepticism: she seems to them devious.
Now Wolfe tells them what Miss Aaron had to say before she was murdered – as yet, that's been disclosed only to the police and to Mr. Otis. Wolfe also states his assumption that the guilty lawyer followed Miss Aaron to Wolfe's office, convinced her to admit him while Archie was in the plant rooms with Wolfe, and then took the opportunity to kill her.
The problem is that the three lawyers share a mutual alibi for the date and time that Miss Aaron was murdered: they were in conference together at their office, fully a mile from the brownstone. The lawyers leave, suspicious of one another, and not happy.
When Wolfe then learns from Inspector Cramer that the timing apodictically exonerates Edey, Heydecker and Jett, he arranges for all involved to be brought to the brownstone for the traditional climax. This time, though, all but one are in the front room, listening via hidden microphone to Wolfe talk things over with the murderer.
However, Mrs. Hazen soon gets back on track. Her husband of two years, a public relations counselor named Barry Hazen, has turned out to be a controlling psychopath. She despises him. In recent weeks she has been plagued by thoughts of shooting him with the gun he keeps in a bedside table. To put a stop to the thoughts, and deter herself from following through on them, she has come to Wolfe to confess beforehand, and brought along her husband's gun for emphasis. So doing, she thinks, means that she would not be able to get away with killing him, and she will stop dreaming about it.
Having unburdened herself, she asks to see the orchids. Wolfe loves to show them off, so he accompanies her to the plant rooms for a tour. While they're gone, Archie tunes the radio to the midday news, and hears that the body of a man identified as Barry Hazen has been found in an alley, shot in the back and dead for several hours.
When Wolfe and Mrs. Hazen return from the plant rooms, Archie tells them what he has just learned. Mrs. Hazen's reaction is so profound – the blood leaves her face faster than Archie has ever seen – that Archie is convinced of her innocence. She wants to hire Wolfe to advise her, but first Wolfe needs to know more, and he has questions.
He learns that she last saw her husband the night before. They had a dinner party for four of Hazen's clients and Theodore Weed, who works for Hazen writing copy. After dinner, Hazen dismissed his wife, saying that they were going to discuss business. The Hazens used separate bedrooms, so that was the last she saw of her husband.
Wolfe won't as yet accept a job from Mrs. Hazen, and tells her to wait and see what the police turn up. She leaves, but Wolfe insists that she relinquish the gun that she brought. Archie takes it to the basement and fires a bullet into a mattress to get a sample.
Then Cramer arrives. After some preliminary hostilities, Wolfe gives Cramer the bullet that Archie shot using Mrs. Hazen's gun. He suggests that Cramer compare it with the bullet that killed Mr. Hazen. By now Cramer is puce in the face; he has no choice but to leave with the bullet and without either Wolfe or Archie.
Archie spends several nervous hours. He is waiting to hear from Cramer regarding the bullet. If it matches the one that killed Hazen, there are two problems: it will mean that Archie has tampered with evidence by shooting the gun as well as keeping it from Cramer, and it will implicate Mrs. Hazen in the murder. It turns out that Mrs. Hazen is already implicated enough that the police are holding her for questioning. Nathaniel Parker is sent to represent her, and returns with Mrs. Hazen's authorization to enter the Hazen house and locate a metal box that her husband once showed her. Its existence is consistent with Wolfe's, and Archie's, conjecture that Hazen was blackmailing his clients.
Archie goes to the house, and finds the Hazens' dinner guests there, searching for the box. Archie gets it, and takes them and the box to Wolfe. Wolfe puts the screws to them by offering to sell them the contents of the box for one million dollars. They have 24 hours to come up with the money, or the box goes to the police.
When Cramer finally returns to the brownstone, it is with the news that the police have found a gun that, ballistics analysis shows, killed Hazen. And Cramer has a real bombshell: the gun was found in Hazen's abandoned car, and the Hazens' maid saw it in Hazen's bedroom the morning of the murder. So the gun that Lucy brought with her didn't kill Hazen, and Archie and Wolfe wonder where it came from.
Wolfe is busy with the orchids, but Hattie says she'll come back later if Archie will hold the money for her. Some time later, a young woman named Tammy Baxter shows up. She lives in the boardinghouse that Hattie owns and is concerned for her: Hattie almost never leaves her house, but today she said she was going to see Nero Wolfe, and she hasn't come home. Feeling protective of Hattie, Archie says he hasn't seen her, and Miss Baxter leaves.
When Hattie returns, she collapses at the doorstep. On her way back to Wolfe's house, a car swerved onto the sidewalk and hit her – fortunately, not hard enough to break bones, but enough to shake her up. In the front room, Hattie is revived by Fritz's coffee, and tells Wolfe and Archie about the money. She was chasing a mouse that ran behind the shelves in her parlor when she found the package hidden behind some books. She took the package and opened it to find a large amount of money – Archie estimates $10,000 in twenties.
The doorbell rings. It's Albert Leach, an agent of the Treasury Department, wanting to know if Archie has seen or spoken with a young woman named Tammy Baxter or an older woman named Hattie Annis. Archie, not caring for Leach's approach, shoos him. Then he returns to the front room, closely examines one of the twenties, and announces that there will probably be a reward: the bills are counterfeit.
Wolfe won't take Hattie on as a client, but he allows Archie to accompany her to her boardinghouse and investigate. Once there, Archie meets Hattie's boarders: Raymond Dell, Noel Ferris and Paul Hannah, three actors, and Martha Kirk, a dancer; Hattie caters to stage people. It isn't until Archie and Hattie enter the parlor that Archie sees the fifth boarder, Tammy Baxter, lying dead on the floor with a kitchen knife in her chest.
When Homicide arrives, Hattie locks herself in her bedroom and refuses to communicate with the police. Cramer doesn't want to break Hattie's door down and asks Archie to reason with her. Archie does so, and, acting as Wolfe's agent, takes Hattie as a client, but cannot talk her into coming out from her room. Eventually, Cramer gives up, breaks down her door, and has her carried away to be interrogated.
On his way back to the brownstone, Archie phones Wolfe to inform him that he has been hired. Over Wolfe's objection, Archie mentions that Hattie has extensive assets – close to half a million dollars in bonds, in addition to her four-story house in Manhattan. Wolfe, reluctant as always, accedes, and concurs that Parker should be instructed to see to her bail.
Archie has concluded that the murdered woman, Tammy Baxter, was a Treasury agent: Leach, when he asked about Miss Baxter, indicated that he knew both her phone number and that she had been to the brownstone earlier that day. He and Wolfe conjecture that she had been placed in Hattie's boardinghouse by the Treasury Department to investigate a counterfeiting operation.
Dell, Ferris, Hannah and Kirk call at the brownstone. As she was being carried out of her house, Hattie told them to go to Nero Wolfe and tell him everything they had told the police. They set in to do so, but Wolfe takes control of the conversation, and questions each of them about personal background, present employment and source of income.
Wolfe gets some hints, and the next day sends Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin and Orrie Cather to reconnoiter at the boarders' places of employment. Archie is called to the DA's office to help sort out why the Treasury Department, and not Manhattan Homicide, has possession of the counterfeit money, which is evidence in a murder case. When Archie returns to the brownstone it is to find all concerned – the boarders, Inspector Cramer and Sgt. Stebbins, Agent Leach, and Saul Panzer – in the office to hear Saul describe the counterfeiting equipment that he found in the building where Wolfe sent him.
Timothy Hutton is Archie Goodwin; distinguished character actor Maury Chaykin is Nero Wolfe. Other members of the cast (in credits order) are Bill Smitrovich (Inspector Cramer), Saul Rubinek (Lon Cohen), Colin Fox (Fritz Brenner), George Plimpton (Lamont Otis), Kari Matchett (Rita Sorell), Trent McMullen (Orrie Cather), Conrad Dunn (Saul Panzer), Robert Bockstael (Gregory Jett), R.D. Reid (Sergeant Purley Stebbins), Christine Brubaker (Bertha Aaron), Janine Theriault (Angela Paige), David Schurmann (Miles Heydecker) and Wayne Best (Frank Edey).
In international broadcasts, the episodes "Eeny Meeny Murder Mo" and "Disguise for Murder" are linked and expanded into a 90-minute widescreen telefilm titled "Wolfe Stays In.
A Nero Wolfe Mystery is available on DVD from A&E Home Video. ISBN 076708893X
The series of black-and-white telemovies stars Tino Buazzelli (Nero Wolfe), Paolo Ferrari (Archie Goodwin), Pupo De Luca (Fritz Brenner), Renzo Palmer (Inspector Cramer), Roberto Pistone (Saul Panzer), Mario Righetti (Orrie Cather) and Gianfranco Varetto (Fred Durkin). Other members of the cast of La casa degli attori include Giusi Raspani Dandolo (Hattie Annis), Agla Marsili (Tammy Baxter), Ruggero De Daninos (Albert Leach), Giorgio Piazza (Raymond Dell), Daniela Surina (Martha Kirk), Paolo Graziosi (Noel Ferris), Giovanni Di Benedetto (Avvocato Parker) and Enrico D'Amato (Procuratore Skinner).