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Ironside's friend Carl Anderson, a psychologist, has collected examples of art from five San Francisco artists. Following a chess match, he offers Ironside a different challenge: one of the artists is in a dangerous state of mind, where just a slight shift could lead to murder. Forty-eight hours later, Ironside returns to his friend's house. Anderson has been knifed to death, taking to his grave the answer to his tantalizing question. Ironside is more determined than ever to puzzle his way through the artists' minds to the truth.
Prof. Carl Anderson: Five moves. Bob, you are totally without scruples.
Ironside: No room for scruples on a chessboard.
Prof. Carl Anderson: The least shift in his... or her... precarious psychological balance could very possibly lead to murder.
Ironside: How we doing with Mrs. Kingsley and Rhea Prentiss?
Ed: Mrs. Kingsley is on her way here. Prentiss' phone is out of order.
Ironside: I wonder how police officers managed before there were telephones?
Ironside: Who's this.
Rhea Prentiss: It's my lawyer.
Ironside: You're not under arrest.
Rhea Prentiss: Well, he's just standing by in case I need something legal. Like a habeas or a corpus.
Eve: Chief, the reporters are getting impatient.
Ironside: An occupational disease.
Rhea Prentiss: I may give up painting and try acting.
Ironside: Art's loss will be theater's gain.