Irascible talk-show host Fielding Chase's adopted daughter Victoria wants to break away from her father's protective clutches. At 25, she is locked into a job as Chase's assistant, but she has written a novel which a literary agent, Lou Cates, thinks is brilliant and wants to publish.
Gerry Winters, a researcher for Chase's show, is close friends with Victoria and tries to convince her to dump her father and come with him to New York. Chase becomes furious when he finds out that Winters is trying to steal his daughter, and plans to murder him.
Chase tells Winters to phone him at a given time the next day to arrange a meeting. At that time, Chase goes to Winters's house and when Winters phones Chase, the call is picked up by Chase's answering machine. Chase then picks up the extension phone in Winters's house and pretends he is talking to him from his own home. He then shoots Winters, so the shots are recorded on Chase's answering machine, making it look like Chase was talking to Winters from his own house when the murder occurred.
Chase plants a few clues in Winters's house in an attempt to frame Winters's gay lover Ted Molloy who had recently had an argument with Winters, but Columbo isn't fooled.