Louie M. Starr, Detective Hopkins, and Atalanta receive a summons to the mayor’s office. In the lobby of city hall the detectives first meet the businessman and his butler, Malvolio. Detective Hopkins’s partner, Atalanta, and Starr’s butler engage in a minor clash of wills, though the group is summoned to the mayor’s office before things can get out of hand.
The party discovers a distracted and disconcerted Dodo in his office. The flustered mayor confirms recent rumors that Obosk citizens are being kidnapped and murdered. He goes on to inform the group that one of the city’s prominent businessmen, Mr. Charles Ming, was found dead in his study by his wife, Sepa. Moreover, there is reason to believe that Mr. Starr himself is in danger. The detectives are instructed to keep watch over Mr. Starr, ensure his safety, and to get to the bottom of the string. Starr seems unfazed, though graciously accepts Dodo’s gesture. He sends Malvolio to his offices with instructions for his secretary, Amberly Allumette, to set up a meeting with the newly widowed Mrs. Ming.
As they are leaving the mayor’s office the group is intercepted by Kassel Savigny. The young clerk begs their assistance in locating his missing fiance, Rosie Capello. The girl was last seen several days previous, leaving her home, alone, with a basket of goods to take to Kassel at city hall. The group generously accepts, though prospects seem bleak. While waiting for a response from Mrs. Ming the trio take tea at Pratt’s, the local gentleman’s club. Less formal introductions are made, in which it becomes apparent to Mr. Starr that it may be prudent to take a more active role in the investigation.
After a brief stop at Starr’s office the trio makes their way to Ming’s manor house. They are lead to Ming’s study, where the body is still lying from the night before (as per police instructions). Upturned furniture shows obvious signs of a struggle, but there is no sign of forced entry. The body has been carefully laid out on its back. The heart has been removed. Stranger still, the victim is holding a blank piece of parchment over the hole—parchment that does not appear to have originated from Ming’s office. A search of the office yields no other evidence. In fact, the scene is oddly immaculate.
Despite the best efforts of Malvolio and Atalanta, Detective Hopkins and Mr. Starr manage to calm the new widow enough to ask a few questions. Sepa claims to have seen a shadowy figure leaving her husband’s study just before stumbling upon her dead husband. Yet, Mrs. Ming insists that she was in another part of the house and did not hear any indication of trouble beforehand. Additional inquiry only upsets her, however. Mr. Starr, understanding the futility of further questioning, makes an appointment to meet Sepa Ming the next day when she has had time to collect herself.