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Journalist Rex Bryant, is sent by his editor to meet the "Golden Clipper" at Southampton, arriving from New York. On board are Paul Temple and Steve. The news story is that Temple has written a play - "The First Lady Seaton" for actress Iris Archer, and that at the last minute she's pulled out. Bryant finds the Temple's, but Paul is in the dark as to why Iris Archer has dropped out, and it is obviously a sore point with him. Bryant realises he hasn't got a story; and at the same time Paul introduces him to Doctor Ludwig Steiner, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Philadelphia. He is in the UK for a holiday.
Later; Temple meets with Iris Archer, who can give no satisfactory reason why she has pulled out of the coming production at the last minute. She agrees that she will play the part if Paul can convince the producer to delay production for a few months. Temple agrees to try. Archer tells him that she is going to the South of France for a few months.
The Temple's receive a visit from Sir Graham Forbes soon after they return to their flat. He tells them that he is taking his first holiday for six years, and that he will be staying near Nice. The Temple's tell him that they too are about to go on Holiday - to Scotland.
They Temple's depart... heading for Inverdale. Later they stop to ask directions at a small shop (they are only two miles short of their destination). Mrs Moffat - the owner, points them in the right direcction and sells Temple some postcards of Inverdale. As they are about to leave the shop, a young man called David Lindsay enters and asks Temple to deliver a letter to a Mr John Richmond at the `Royal Gate' inn at Inverdale. He stresses that it is very important that under no circumstances should the letter fall into other hands. Temple agrees that he will deliver it personally to Mr Richmond.
After the Temple's leave the shop, Lindsay asks Mrs Moffat if he could use the telephone. She tells him it is out of order, but as soon as he leaves the shop she places a call and outlines the whole of what has transpired in the shop to someone!!
Paul and Steve continue on their journey but are soon overtaken by a car and stopped. The two men claim to be Mr Lindsay - father of the young man they have met, and a Dr Van Draper. They say that young Lindsay is mentally ill and request that Paul hand over the letter he has. Eventually Temple reluctantly hands it over and they leave. However - Paul has tricked them and given them the envelope containing the postcards of Inverdale! He tells Steve he didn't believe a word of their story and fully intends to deliver the letter.
They arrive at the `Royal Gate' and are greeted by the owners; Mr & Mrs Ernie Weston. Paul asks if a Mr John Richmond is a guest? and Weston confirms that he is. It also transpires that their companion on the Atlantic crossing Dr Steiner, is also a guest, and to cap it off, Steve spots Iris Archer in a corridor - so she is not in the South of France. The surprises don't end there, because when Weston finds Mr John Richmond and brings him to met Paul it turns out to be none other than Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard!!
Steve addresses Mr Richmond as "Sir Graham", but Temple takes in the situation and pretends she is mistaken. Sir Graham is of course annoyed that his cover may have been breached and they all hope that they have convinced Weston that it was a mistake.
Temple explains to Sir Graham about Lindsay, and Sir Graham realises it is one of his undercover officers - Hammond, who is trying to get a message to him. However, when Temple goes to retrieve the note from his pocket - it is gone! They come to the conclusion that the two men who stopped them must have a contact at the Inn, and that they have managed to lift the letter. Sir Graham is reluctant to tell the Temple's what it is all about believing it will be safer for them, but he is aware of the involvement of Van Draper and Guest (the man posing as Mr Lindsay senior). Paul Temple decides that in light of the previous events with the "Knave of Diamonds" and the "Front Page Men", it is best that he and Steve leave first thing in the morning, and have nothing further to do with the business.
Back at the Shop - A meeting between Mrs Moffat, Guest and VVan Draper. They now know Lindsay is Noel Hammond a British Agent. He has been working with `Hardwick' on the screen.... He knows too much; including that Z4 is the head of the greatest espionage organisation in Europe. None of them know the real identity of Z4.... and they agree that Hammond/Lindsay must be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. They think he may return to the shop, not realising his cover is blown, and wanting to telephone Richmond/Forbes again.
While waiting at the shop; Z2 makes contact by phone, informing the gang of the presence at the inn of Paul Temple. They all agree that his appearance can't be a coincidence, and that he is a danger to the organisation. Hammond/Lindsay duly arrives - and is murdered by Van Draper.
It transpires that Z4 has been employing John Hardwick an inventor to perfect a secret weapon called `The Hardwick Screen' and his beam. He had offered it to the War Office, but after a trial they rejected it, 2 years later though he had made progress and the War Office are worried about what would happen if something like Z4's organisation have control of a fully working version.
Z2 (Iris Archer) arrives, she is shocked to find someone she introduced to the organisation (Hammond/Lindsay) has turned out to be a traitor and had to be dealt with. Mrs Moffat tells the group that Z4 will be coming out into the open very shortly - as soon as the "Hardwick Screen" is perfected. Z4 has four syndicates who all want the screen, and he/she believes they will pay up to £5,000,000 for it.
The gang discuss whether Temple might be Mr John Richmond, but while they agree that this is very unlikely ... they think Temple is probably more dangerous and his presence is no coincidence. They detail Iris to take care of him. Iris asks Mrs Moffat how she will recognise Z4? The answer: by their response to a quote - "What was it that Shakespeare said about travellers..?"
Back at the hotel; Temple tells Sir Graham that he and Steve are leaving in the morning, Sir Graham wants them to stay and explains about the `Hardwick Screen' - a system of camouflage for use on land. Sir Graham states that British Intelligence and Scotland Yard have been after Z4 for sometime. They don't know who he/she is - but that the organisation trade state secrets and must be stopped.
Temple returns to his room and finds the missing note now lying on the floor, it says:
"Identity of Z4 unknown, even by important members of the organisation. Believe Z4 to be in Scotland, likely to contact Headquarters in next 3 weeks. Have been compelled to work with Hardwick on behalf of Z4. John Hardwick now a prisoner at Skerry Lodge! Screen of definite value and importance, beam almost perfected. Imperative Hardwick rescued."
Steve is called to the telephone and Sir Graham leaves with her. Iris Archer comes into Temple's room while he is alone. She gives him one of her cigarettes (which is doped), she tells him she wants the letter and as Temple starts to go under the influence of the drug - she starts to search his pockets. However, she is disturbed in this by another visitor.... Dr Ludwig Steiner.
Iris pulls a gun on Dr Steiner and makes her retreat. Steiner goes to Temple's aid and he slowly starts to revive. Temple thanks Dr. Steiner as he thinks Iris may have finished him off but for the doctor's timely entry. Steve returns - the phone call being a hoax just to get her out of the way.
Later, Sir Graham tells the Temple's that they know a good deal about Z4's organisation, and blackmail is how people with good reputations like Iris are involved and kept in line.
Z4 has something on all the members of the organisation!
Paul finally agrees to help Sir Graham, he thinks he is probably a marked man in any case. He decides however to take Steve to Aberdeen in the morning, believing she will be much safer there, and then return alone. That night the Inn receives one more unexpected guest - journalist Rex Bryant. His only explanation for being there is that he's had the sack, and came to Scotland to see the bluebells!
At Skerry Lodge.
Guest and Van Draper are pondering matters. Ben Collins, another accomplice thinks they should leave Skerry Lodge now with Hardwick and the equipment, that it's become too risky to stay. Guest and Van Draper are waiting for Iris to report on whether she got the letter back. Iris arrives with the news that Temple does have the letter, but isn't Richmond - although she doesn't know who is. Mrs Moffat joins them with new instructions from Z4. Paul & Steve Temple must both be taken care of before they reach Aberdeen! The gang decide to sabotage a dangerous section of road by removing a warning sign and parking a vehicle on a bridge in such a way that Temple won't be able to avoid it.
Van Draper and Guest also agree that if Z4 knows the Temple's movements, Z4 must also be a current guest at the inn. The following morning the plan goes wrong when the Temple's car is overtaken by a "speedster" shortly before the bend leading to the bridge. The "speedster" slams into the stationary car, and is killed in a ball of fire. The Temple's are very shaken being close behind, and decide to return immediately to Inverdale.
When Paul and Steve return, they find that Ernie Weston seems to have disappeared. Sir Graham and Bryant are talking to Mrs Weston, Ernie took the dog for a walk after locking up the previous night and hasn't been seen since. Dr Steiner joins the party. When the Temple's return to their room they see paint on the floor, next to a locked cupboard - except it is not paint - but blood! They force the cupboard open and find a dead Ernie Weston inside. Clenched in his hand is a piece of watch chain ... Steve recognises it as belonging to Rex Bryant!
Bryant is taken aback, he says he lost the chain last night and denies knowing anything about Weston's death. He recalls mentioning the loss to Dr Steiner the previous evening. Steiner has also had some cuff-links go missing. Temple and Forbes press Bryant for the real reason he is in Scotland, and he admits he is looking for John Hardiwck. He has already followed up a lead from Hardwick's brother, who believes he is being held at Skerry Lodge against his will. Bryant tells them that he has visited the Lodge but not so far tried to gain entry. Paul and Sir Graham agree they must make an effort to get Hardwick away from Skerry Lodge. They agree that if he has perfected the "Inverdale beam" he will have served his purpose to the gang. Steiner confirms Bryant's story about loosing his watch chain the previous night - giving his story some much needed credibility.
The gang now know the Temple's survived their planned accident. Mrs Moffat has had more instructions from Z4. They must get Hardwick and the screen away from the Lodge immediately as Temple is going to be there shortly. Hardwick is to be taken to the chalet. Ben is told to show Temple down to the basement, and to lock him in and flood the place! The others start packing all the equipment in readiness for their hurried departure.
Paul and Steve arrive at Skerry Lodge and Ben tells them that Mr Hardwick is very busy, but can spare them a couple of minutes. They fall into the trap - being lead into the basement and locked in. There is no way out, as the water starts to pour in. Only as the water starts to reach the top of the room do they hear a voice from the outside ... it's Sir Graham Forbes and he rescues them in the nick of time! He also has soon good news. They have capture both Ben and Iris Archer before they could escape. They take there prisoners back to the `Royal Gate' and start to interrogate them.
Both are uncooperative. Temple reminds them of the death of the driver in the arranged accident, but they both deny any knowledge. Mrs Weston enters with a telegram for Sir Graham. It contains information of Ben's involvement in a murder. Forbes puts the pressure on him and he starts to go to pieces under the weight of evidence against him, and despite Iris's threats, he implicates Mrs Moffat.
Dr Steiner who is also in the room suggests that Ben is in need of a drink to steady his nerves. Bryant offers to slip down and get some, however Paul Temple has a flask in his pocket containing Scotch. Ben gulps it down .... and almost immediately hits the floor dead! Poisoned. Iris screams `My God Temple - You've killed him!' Paul replies that it was not he but Z4 who is responsible.
Sir Graham sniffs the bottle and informs the others that cyanide has killed Ben. Iris accuses Temple of knowing that the whisky was poisoned, and that if Z4 killed Ben, then Paul Temple is Z4! Forbes and Temple agree that it's an interesting theory if nothing else. They go back to questioning Iris but get nowhere, with her exclaiming `no one knows who is Z4 not even the infallible Paul Temple!' But he replies `I shouldn't be too sure of that Iris if I was you.' Mrs Weston returns; this time with a telegram for Paul - with new information he has been waiting for. Iris becomes totally uncooperative, refusing to answer any more question. As she is leaving the room, Paul reads from the telegram. Thanks for telegram. Information you require as follows. Hotel Martinez - April 14 1932. Iris collapses at the mention.
It's decided to send Iris to Glasgow with Detective Inspector Fuller. The train they are on is supposed to be a through train with not stops - however Z4's organisation have arranged a stop at a small station. Guest and Van Draper are waiting to spring Iris, in the insuing action Van Draper deals with Fuller.
Iris is very surprised to be rescued, and again Z4 has had all the important information. Iris is supplied with a car - and told to make herself scarce. After Iris departs, Guest and Van Draper discuss the car. The brakes have been tampered with on instruction from Z4 - who now considers Iris a liability, who may give the game away.
Temple and Steve journey by car to the town of Skellyfore, Paul wants to meet Sir Graham away from the "Royal Gate". While waiting they see a car racing out of control down the hill. When it reaches the bottom it crashes. The Temple's are very surprised to see Iris Archer at the wheel, while shaken and injured - she has survived and is only too aware thhat Van Draper, Guest and the rest of the gang have double-crossed her.
As Paul points out to her `they got you off the train for a purpose ... they wanted to make certain you wouldn't talk.' Paul makes an appointment with her to meet at the Shepley Hotel - High Moorford, after she has received medical treatment.
Later: At the meeting with Sir Graham, he tells Temple that they have been unable to locate the chalet, they are however keeping a close watch on the shop of Mrs Moffat. Forbes says he can't believe someone doesn't know who Z4 is, but Temple is sure that no one knows at present. Paul explains that the telegram he received showed the hold Z4 had over Iris. It relates to the apparent suicide of her husband in 1932 - but which might have been murder. Paul is certain Iris isn't Z4, and Sir Graham is highly sceptical of both Dr Steiner and Rex Bryant. Temple believes Weston was a petty thief and stole the watch chain. He thinks Weston also removed the letter from his pocket, returning it later and then being murdered by Z4 for this lapse. During their conversation Temple and Forbes discover the phrase Mrs Moffat will ask Z4 - having both been asked this the first time they went into the shop.
`What was it Shakespeare said about travellers?'
Paul visits a local bookshop and finds the quote. The answer is:
`Travellers ne'er did lie - though fools at home condemn 'em.' This gives Temple an idea!
Guest and Van Draper return to Mrs Moffat's shop. They've seen Iris's car and believe she is finished. They state that Hardwick has now finished the screen, but is proving very troublesome - they head back to the chalet to keep a close eye on Hardwick. Shortly after they depart - Rex Bryant enters the shop, asking for some razor blades. Mrs Moffat asks his the question ... and he answers correctly!
Guest and Van Draper are on their way back to the chalet, they are worried about Hardwick who is becoming very unhappy with the situation. They notice they are being followed by another car. Guest slows the car to let the driver draw level and then sharply turns into his car. The tactic doesn't work that well as both cars crash. Van Draper is killed and the car is a right off, but Guest survives relatively unscathed. The other car - containing a policeman, isn't unroadworthy. So after removing the officer, Guest is able to continue his journey.
Back at the shop: Bryant admits he is Z4! The trick works as Mrs Moffat starts giving away a lot of details. She realises too late that Bryant has tricked her and is not Z4. Bryant place a call to Paul Temple at the inn with the information. At the inn; Steve sees Mrs Weston going out for a walk. Forbes and Steve consider that Mrs Weston is taking the death of her husband very well.
Temple tells Forbes that he sent Bryant to Mrs Moffat's and that the scheme has partly paid off, although they still don't know where the chalet is. The Temple's depart for their rendezvous with Iris.
At the chalet: Hardwick is desperate ... he's tied to a chair, he tries to burn through the ropes with a cigarette lighter, but only manages to set fire to the many blue prints scattered around the room. He desperately tries to put out the fire as it starts to take hold.
Guest arrives back at the chalet too late ... the whole place is ablaze. The Hardwick screen and Hardwick himself have all perished. Guest decides to head to the Shepley Hotel to lie low for a few days. He books in and shortly after receives a surprise visitor - a very unhappy Iris.
The Temple's arrive at the hotel, but Iris isn't there. There is a message though, telling Temple to go to room 14. Inside he finds Guest dead with a tiny blue phial beside the body.
At Mrs Moffat's Shop: Sir Graham and the Temple's wait - in a concealed position. Mrs Moffat has used the line on several customers, but none was Z4. Temple informs Sir Graham that Iris extracted her revenge on Guest for his betrayal. A new customer arrives - and much to Sir Graham's surprise Dr Steiner does not answer correctly! Mrs Moffat wants to shut the shop as it is now 8 o'clock. Temple says the clock is fast and they will wait five more minutes.
The last visitor of the day enters ... but it is only Mrs Weston. Mrs Moffat goes through the routine and to everyone's amazement - she answers correctly and deliberately repeats the words. Z4 has finally revealed herself! Temple and Forbes pounce from hiding and overpower Z4. An alert is put out for Iris, and she is capture later at a small theatre in Craiglea by a vigilant police officer, who see's through her disguise and changed hair colour.
Finally discussing the case, Temple clears up all the outstanding points for Steve and Sir Graham. Mrs Weston had intended Paul to drink the cyanide laces whisky. Forbes was convinced that Steiner was Z4 because he suggested the drink. Temple says he was suspicious of Mrs Weston from the very beginning. He believes even Weston didn't know his wife was Z4. He knew that Bryant - who now has a tremendous exclusive wasn't involved, and the watch chain was planted to incriminate him.
Temple has found out that Mrs Weston worked at the hotel where Iris's husband had suspiciously died. She had read the telegram ... prompting her to want Iris disposed of. The Temple's talk about going on a proper holiday. Forbes has one last question. `Who the devil is Dr Steiner really?' Paul replies `believe it or not he really is Dr Ludwig Steiner, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Philadelphia!'
& pictures scanned by Greg Marshall.
8 April 2001.
Book cover from "News of Paul Temple" (Chivers Press edition 1998 - Black Dagger Crime Series).