“Why don’t you go ahead, Qwill, and do a Christmas series on antiquing?’ ‘I hate antiques [Qwill said]…Look, Arch, I wanted to write something with guts! What can I do with antiques?” (pgs. 13-14)
Book three picks up several months after The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. Qwill’s family has extended to include a a female feline friend for Koko, Yum Yum. The trio have moved out of the VV, as they were only watching Harry’s place for a month, and Qwill is currently searching for an apartment as the motel he is living in isn’t the best place for him and his animals. It is almost Christmas and Qwill is a little depressed ar his prospects as Cokey broke up with him for an engineer. Qwill now has no date for the Christmas Eve party, he is still writing about interior design, his ex’s parents are begging him for money, and he has no ideas for the writing contest down at the Flux. The winners would recieve $3,000 (about $20,000 today).
To make matters worse, he has no real hope as he is sure a young, upcoming writer (who is a smart-aleck jerk), Jack Jaunti, is the favored. He blew everyone away when he took a job as the wealthy, old-money, banker Percival Duxbury’s valet and wrote a story on a day in the life of the richest man in town.
“To win a prize,’ [Qwill] told the cat [Koko], ‘you’ve got to have a gimmick.” pg. 8)
Earlier that day Qwill had passed through “Junktown” an area, as a newcomer, he is not familiar with, but one that his cabbie called depressing and needs to be close down as it is full of riff-raff. Qwill plans on writing a series for Christmas of societies outcasts; junkies, prostitutes, single moms, broken dreams, etc.
Koko is not that impressed with Qwill’s idea as he has a new hobby. He likes rubbing his jaw along switches turning them on and off (hence the title).
So the next day Qwill throws his idea to his best friend, Arch, and supervisor. Arch is for it as he says it is becoming something more people are into. To Qwill’s utter Junktown is not a place for junkies but people who are into antiques. Arch gives him his card of the best dealers in the area and orders him to do the story. Suddenly, Qwill is not feeling so happy about his new assignment he hates antiques.
He leaves to cover an auction of a dealer that recently died. The dealer was hanging something when he fell off his ladder and died. As Qwill goes down Zwinger Street, otherwise known as Junktown, he finds that all the stores are locked even though it they say open at a 11 and it is clearly 11 o’clock.
I hate it when stores do that. I mean your sign says you are supposed to be open now or back from lunch, please open up so I can get my things done.
Anyways, so Qwill runs into a drunk who tells him that the dealer who died was murdered. That gets Qwill extremely interested and eager to know more.
There is one place open called The Blue Dragon with a huge china blue dragon in the front window. When he goes inside he sees all kinds of Oriental Art. (Just to clarify the original definition of Oriental art would refer to the Far East and Middle East.) In there he meets Mary Duckworth, proprietress and a very beautiful woman dressed in blue. Qwill is very interested in knowing more about her and tells Mary that he works for the Flux, hoping to use the idea of free publicity to wangle a date. To his suprise Mary turns down any publicity.
Now Qwill is definitely intrigued in Miss Duckworth. He tries to find out more info regarding the dealer, Andrew Glanz, but can’t get anything out of Mary. She was close to him and doesn’t want to talk about it. To change the subject Mary asks about his name, and when hearing it is Scottish she takes him to her room full of Scottish items. There Qwill falls in love with a Mackintosh wrought iron coat of arms with three cats and the motto “touch not the catt bot a glove”.
Qwill is enamored of it but can’t bring himself to buy it…yet. He leaves the shop, and is on his way out over to the auction, but has to call in a photographer as this looks to be a place that just needs to be photographed. Qwill ends up sitting next to a plump, white haired woman. He finds out that she is renting an apartment and makes an appointment to stop by and check it out. He also gets advice to make sure that he is careful to not scratch his face as he might find himself buying something he does not want. Qwill also gets the lowdown onthe dealers. There are the Cobbs who run The Junkery (Iris and her Husband C.C.), Ben Nicholas who runs a Bit o’ Junk, Russell Patch a refinisher, Hollis Prantz who runs Tech-Tiques, and a suprising guest, Robert Maus attorny for Andrew Glanz (Harry’s attorny that Koko found in Harry’s address book back in The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern).
The auction gets underway and really heats up.
The Cobbs, to Iris’ dismay, end up purchasing cast-iron stove for $150.
Qwill purchases his first antique, a typewriter with a missing Z (which turns out to be an E) for $20. Mrs. Cobb purchases a tape recorder.
Now things start acting strange at the auction. A vase gets knocked over, later a mirror crashes to the floor even though no one is around. Then the auctioner brings out the finial that Andy fell on and was killed by. It was one that Andy scrounged off an old house.
Just as the dealer announces that it is sold to C.C. Cobb, a bronze chandelier falls from the ceiling narrowly missing members of the audience.
After the auction, Qwill goes over to the Cobb’s and even though the furnishings aren’t exactly his taste (they are antiques), he loves the price and the apple pie that Iris gives him. Mrs. Cobb likes to talk and she tells him about the ghost in her house, Mathilda, that moves things around. And how strange it was how Andy died. Andy was so prudent, it’s odd that he would try to hang a chandelier over a finial like that.
When Qwill gets to his room things have been switched around, something that Qwill will have to get used rooming in a place run by antique collectors. He has a lamp made out of a cash register, one made out of a musket, a roll-top desk, Andy’s pot-bellied stove, a tavern table, a Morris chair, and curtains made from an old theater.
Qwill hangs out with Mrs. Cobb, eager to hear more about Andy and his accident as he is sure that Andy was murdered and finds out that Andy was a writer. He would write about antiquing for magazines and had started on a novel. He also was extremely ethical, as he didn’t partake in anything that was below-board. His nickname was “Saint Andrew”, lovingly or cruelly spoken (depending on the person).
Qwill tries to get info for his column and runs into Ben and plans to check out his shop the next day. That night Qwill also meets up with Mary to discuss Andy. However, as Qwill has the magic sympathetic face, he gets much more. Mary spills that her name isn’t Duckworth, but Duxbury. She is daughter to Percival Duxberry and was allowed to open her own antique shop and live on Zwinger Street (the street that she loves) if she changes her name and never gets publicity as it would disgrace the family.
Mary also reveals that since she comes from a wealthy family she can get the 411 on Qwill and knows all his history.
Back to Andy; Qwill discovers that Russ and Andy had a falling out. Mary tells him that the night she and Andy were having dinner, they argued and Andy left to show a couple his chandelier. When Mary went afer him to apologize, she found the body.
The next day Mrs. Cobb makes Qwill breakfast. Mrs. Cobb loves to cook and is practically feeding him ALL the time. Qwill finds out that Junktown suffers all kinds of indignities as the city really wants to eventually redo the whole area and change them to expensive high-rise apartments.
Qwill then goes down to see Russell Patch, the refinisher. There he gets a different view on Andy, like how hard it could be to work for someone that ethical. He told him how every antique dealer scrounges, (taking items off houses and buildings condemned by the city before they are wrecked). Everyone that is, but Andy. He called the cops on C.C. Cobb, who got left with a stiff fine he couldn’t pay. He would have been stuck there for a long time if Iris didn’t borrow the money. Russ got drunk and told Andy off, which cost him his job.
Qwill is more sure than ever that there is more to Andy’s death. He is determined to check every store and interview every person until he discovers who is behind it. He tries Ann ‘Tiques, but all that holds is a little old lady who is hard of hearing. Then he visits Papa Popopopoulos’ grocery, which does not have the best product. Then he hits The Three Weird Sisters.(Shakespeare reference)
Now Arch has told Qwill he would flip when he saw it, but Qwill isn’t one to flip over what he considers junk. However, the shop holds more than antiques, it has three lovely sisters. Cluthera, a volumptous redhead with a broken leg, Amberina, the brunette with blue eyes and dimples, and Ivrene the teeny blond. They offer him clam chowder and wait on him hand and foot.
He buys Arch a Christmas gift and gets information about Andy. He also notices that Ivy, the youngest, has no control over her mouth, and hopes to meet up with her later and get more out of her.
Qwill goes home and tries to get Koko to play the dictionary game again from the last book, but Koko does not want to join in. Qwill is really upset, but Koko has moved on.
Mary invites Qwill over and he gets more info out of her regarding Andy. Mary wants Qwill to leave the case alone as she is trying to get Zwinger’s Street reputation higher. Cobb has been trying to fight for them, but nothing has come of any consequence. Unlike other areas they force the people to put the garbage in the front, and they don’t even pick it up. Qwill starts considerering Mary’s point of virw on the issue and decdes to take the Mackintosh coat of arms home with him.
Qwill drops off his piece and goes to vist the Sorta Camp shop. He wants to get info out of the owner, Sylvia, who starts to tell him some things but chsanges her mind, not wanting to sound like a gossip. Qwill finds out that Andy wasn’t only seeing Mary, but was with another girl, Cluthera. (I do’t see how Andy could be considered so ethical as he had a girl on the side.)
Qwill visists Ben Nichloas’ Bit o’ Junk, but can’t get any info out of him as Ben likes to speak in flowery language. While they are there, a guy comes in looking for horse brasses. As Qwill is leaving the shop, snow comes crashing down on him from the roof and Qwill injures his left knee.
To make things even more blue for Qwill, he can’t find anyone to dine with that night at the Press Club. And when he runs into a few people, no one even comments on his hurt leg. He goes home and decides to try to work on something and sulk a bit.
Mrs. Cobb comes in bearing snacks, as she really enjoys cooking for people. She notices his hurt leg and fusses over him (giving Qwill the attention he wanted). Mrs. Cobb prattles on revealing that her first husband died of food poisoning and that she used to do palmistry. As she starts to read stroking his hand; Koko and Yum Yum start a cat fight and Mrs. Cobb leaves.
That night Qwill is waken up by Cobb’s snoring and his aching leg. He wishes he never came to Junktown and blames everything on Mrs. Cobb’s apple pie having tricked him. He wants to just get out of here.
The next day Mrs. Cobb checks on him and invites him to dinner. Qwill accepts and spends most of the day puttering around the house nursing his knee. Qwill feels a little like a third wheel between the Cobbs, espechially the way the two kid around each other. Like when Mrs. Cobb reveals she bought the tape recorder to show C.C. he snores. Qwill questions where Ben gets his money from as he couldn’t see anything worth selling in his shop and Cobb says that Ben has a bundle stashed away.
Qwill gets more information about the fight with the city on Junktown. They wanted better street lights, but the city wouldn’t give them any because Junktown is going to be torn down within ten years. When they tried to buy their own, the city tore them down and blocks all their efforts in every possible way. They used to have trees on the side of the street, but the city cut them down and widened the road. They planted more trees, but then the city came along and chopped them down, widening the road more. They are planning a Christmas Block Party, but it is impossible as there is so much red tape. Qwill decides that he is going to get the Flux to help them out. Cobb leaves to go scrounging, even though Iris begs him not to.
The next morning Qwill is woken up at five by Iris. She is deathly worried as Cobb didn’t come home at all. They call a cab, as C.C. has the station wagon, and the two go down to the old Mayor Ellsworth’s house, where Cobb was supposed to be. They go into the building and discover Cobb’s dead body.
With Cobb dead, that makes Qwill really push the block party; in his honor. He writes a huge plug in the paper, giving the story lots of heart. He also makes sure that their contacts in city hall won’t give the group the run-around.
After Mrs. Cobb is leaves for Cleveland, Qwill tries out his theory that Cobb was murdered. Mary says that sounds improbable. She also reveals that when Cobb said he was scrounging, he wasn’t always. In fact, a lot of the time he was visiting Cluthera.
Qwill goes back to the Ellsworth house for clues. The police said it was an accident, but Qwill is certain that it is murder. He discovers multiple shoe prints and the outline of another car next to Cobb’s in the snow. He knows someone else was there that night. Now to only figure out who and why. He also salvages a marble mantel and a chandelier of blackened brass for the Cobbs.
Hollis Prantz stops by the Cobbs looking for old radios promised to him. Qwill finds him suspicious and tries to do some background checking on him, but comes up dry. Not much is known about Pramtz.
He takes Koko on his harness to investigate the shop, and Koko is only interested in the finial. They also investigate Ben’s room, Koko does nothing noteworthy, but plays around with Ben’s scarf.
Qwill joins the dealers in plannning the block party. Qwil takes a seat between Cluthera who has a leg in a cast and Russell who is in patches. The three with injured legs all together :D. They finish planning the program and all agree to help Qwill keep the Cobb’s Junkery open.
Mary comes over that night and brings her heat lamp, espresso maker, and homemade fruitcake made by Robert Maus (the lawyer). Qwill uses this moment to get more info on Andy.
Qwill asks Mary if Andy knew that Cobb was aware that Andy reported him for scrounging. And if whether or not Andy was upset with Cobb stepping in on his time with Cluthera. To Qwill Andy seems to be a meddler with an ax to grind against C.C. Qwill also asks where Russ gets his money from as he has so much money. There are even more questions regarding that night Mary found Andy. Mary also found a folded bill on the floor, just like how Qwill, found a folded bill on the floor of his apartment (neither fold their bills that way). Now Qwill is sure the same person who was in his apartment had something to do with Andy’s death. Qwill tries to find out who did it.
To further complicate things, Mary reveals that she didn’t tell him the whole story.
Mary went to see Andy, but he was talking to Cobb. She left and came back later and found Andy dead. Qwill wants to further investigate, but Mary is really upset. She doesn’t want anyone to know she is there in Junktown. Mary begs him to promise that he will stop investigating, but right before he can Koko and Yum Yum start fighting and distract them.
The next morning Qwill is feeling pretty good abpout herself as he got Mary to agree to go to the Christmas Eve party at the Press Club, and to be known as Mary Duxbury as the society writers know her. That’s a real boon for Qwill. Qwill takes the rounds of Junktown and all are closed except Prantz’s. Qwill runs into Ivelina and gets her to hang garland in his room for Christmas so that he can get info from her. Ivy likes to exagerate and her ideas were a bit crazy. She thinks Ben is a dope addict.
Qwill wants to test out some theories and asks Russell if he can brung his cat over to listen to his collection. He also tells Cluthera he wants to meet up with her and see how dealers live. And to makes plans with Ben to do scroungeing. He figures that this way he covers everything and can figure out who killed Andy.
He then goes to Mrs. McGuffey’s, Andy’s old teacher. She tells him that Andy was writing a novel similar to real life Junktown, but with all kinds of “sordid” characters that could never be real. Alcoholics, gamblers, homosexuals, prostitutes, dope peddlers, and adulterers. Mrs. McGuffey finds it impossible that any such things could be happening in Junktown, although she does know that Papa Popopopoulos’ is a bookkeeper.
Qwill then searches pout Mary to see what she thinks about this new ingormation and to get Andy’s book. Mary tells him she doesn’t have it, that she only saw the first chapter about a wife murdering her husband. Andy’s lawyer doesn’t have it either. Qwill believes that Andy was trying to reveal all the secrets of Junktown within his novel, if onlyhe could find it; he believes that it holds the key to Andy’s murder.
Qwill goes to see Russell, bringing Koko and finds out nothing. Qwill then goes to see Cluthera, bringing Koko, but Cluthera slips him a mickey (having hoped she nd Qwill could get it on). Things would have gone farther than he wanted if it weren’t for Cluthera’s allergy to Koko splitting them up. Qwill finds out nothing from her too.
That night Qwill prepares for a first hand experience of scrounging. They head out to an old theater, Garrick’s. They try to get a piece of a theater box, but when they do the railing comes crashing down and almost kills Qwill. They go out to the a pub, The Lion’s Tail, where Ben buys a round of drinks if they listen to his performance of Richard III. Qwill is unsure as how Ben can affrord that. He starts to wonder how Ben can do that with what he has in his shop. What is the “bundle” that Ben has put away?
The next day is the block party. Qwill mixes with the crowd, until it is his turn to hold shop. He sells two “blue glass things”, a spool chest, and a tin knife box. Someone asks for horse brasses, but Qwill doesn’t have anything.
Qwill runs into Rosie Riker and finds out that the people who were going to meet up with Andy to buy a Chandelier were none other than Rosie and Arch Riker. They arribed at Glanz’s but it was closed so they ended up buying one at the Cobb’s instead. The Junkery wasn’t open but they saw Ben walking up the way and asked him if he could get them. He also discovers that they were going to look at a brass chandelier, not the crystal one that was found with Andy’s body. More of the pieces are coming together.
Qwill is pleased that he made about $1000 for Mrs. Cobb (about $6,693 today); and he got an idea to help out Zwinger Street. Qwill then runs into Ben who invites him over to his place for some cheese and wine. There Qwill discoers a whisker and figures out tha somehow the cats have been going over to Ben’s place. Qwill invites Mary over to help him look for some sort of passage or way they are getting there. They look in the bookcase and discover a secret passage.
Mary looks over the log Qwill made and finds it odd that someone asked for horse brasses as no one sells them anymore. He discusses the oddity of how Ben does so well when he sells practically nothing. She also finds it surprising that Ben tookn Qwill to Garrick’s when everyone knows that area is dangerous. No dealer will touch it because how dangerous it is.
Koko is always rubbing his jaw along things, and does this to the pot-bellied stove. It pops open and Qwill discovers a manuscript. It’s Andy’s script! Qwill immediately starts reading the story which is about a scatterbrained prattler who is planning on spiking her alcoholic husband’s drink with carbon tetrachloride to be free to marry another man. He continues but then has to head to the Flux with some important execs to discuss his secret plan for Junktown.
Qwill goes back to his room to finish Andy’s story, only to see that Mrs. Cobb and her son from her first marriage, Dennis, have come home, (Dennis is only visiting) Dennis helps Qwill move the apothecary desk into his room, to replace the roll-top desk he sold, and helps Qwill mount the Mackintosh coat of arms on the wall.
Qwill contemplates Andy’s novel, thinking over the narcotics storyline. One of the dealers was a marijuana dealer, who when someone wanted a Quimper teapot gave them “tea”. It reminds him of the horse brasses query done in Ben’s shop. He tries to test his theory by sending a messenger boy over, but that garners no response.
Qwill then buys some brandy and invites Ben over. Qwill tries to question Ben but gets nothing but flowery responses from him. Koko steps on the tape recorder that Mrs. Cobb gave Qwill and plays back a recording of Cobb speaking to Ben about his “side business”. Ben having heard the tape runs to the fireplace and grabs a fireplace poker. Qwill grabs the chair at the desk, but it breaks apart. Just as Qwill is worried, thinking that he is going to die, the Mackintosh coat of arms comes falling down off the mantlepiece hitting Ben in the neck, having been nudged by Koko.
Now the book cover goes perfectly with the story as it is of the fireplace poker Ben uses. The original cover has him by a lamp which works too, as Koko did turn things on and off. The newest cover is BORING! All it is of a cat.
Mary calls Qwill, and after hearing he is injured goes over with food from the very expensive restaurant Toledo, to cheer him up. Qwill later reveals to her the whole story.
Ben was selling heroin, and every time someone came to him asking for horse brasses he knew they were customers. Andy caught on and Ben got rid of him. Cobb found out and was trying to blackmail Ben.When they went scrounging, Ben pushed him to his death. Hollis Prantz was an undercover policeman who had been working on the case.
Qwill then reveals to Mary his great plan for Junktown. He’s been working with Flux execs, the mayor’s aides, and Mary’s dad to get Junktown to be a historically preserved site. Mary was happy, but sad that Andy couldn’t be there. Koko keeps messing with the book paper peelings that cover one of the walls and underneath they find out that there are tons of dollars hidden. It turns out that Saint Andrew isn’t so saintly after all, he had a sideline too. Gambling and working with Papa Popopopoulos. Mary collapses in tears and Qwill comforts her. Then Koko rubs against the light switch, leaving the two in darkness. Hint hint 😉