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One morning in Montreal, atomic physicist Dr. Carl Macklin gives a coin to an organ grinder's monkey as he leaves his hotel. Unknown to Carl, the organ grinder's hurdy-gurdy contains a motion picture camera, which is filming Carl. After Carl bids good morning to Constable Dan Percy, Percy notices the camera and chases the fleeing organ grinder, who is named Paola. When Percy catches him, Paola beats the constable to death, then reports to his boss, book dealer Eric Hartman. Hartman is actually a ringleader of a Communist organization seeking to kidnap Carl and steal his latest invention. Infuriated that Paola has endangered their operation, Hartman kills him and dumps his mutilated body in a ditch. While Inspector Raoul Leduc and Sgt. Fred Hart of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigate the seemingly unrelated crimes, Raphael Garcia, one of Hartman's henchmen, contacts exiled American gangster Joe Victor in Lisbon. Assuring Victor that he is only to kidnap Carl and not kill him, Garcia tempts him to accept the job by pointing out that if he goes to Canada, it will be easy to slip across the border to the United States. Lured by the $100,000 Garcia is offering, Victor travels to Montreal, where, under the name of Earl Steiner, he pretends to be a refugee working for farmer Anthony DuBois. While Victor rounds up his former gang members--Morrie, Nick Johanes and Jack Allen--he questions Hartman about Carl's habits. Upon learning that the hard-working Carl has no girl friend, Victor decides to enlist his former flame, Joyce Geary. Nick travels to Havana, where Joyce is operating a modeling agency, and when Joyce refuses to rejoin the gang, Nick threatens to expose her dubious past to Cuban officials. Meanwhile, in Montreal, Victor orders the handsome Jack to romance Carl's secretary, Yvonne Temblay, and pump her for information about Carl. Jack is repulsed by the homely Yvonne but nonetheless meets her at a club that night and charms her into another date. That night, Joyce arrives, and although Victor tries to rekindle their romance, the embittered Joyce rejects him and goes to stay with Hartman and his wife Viveca. Meanwhile, Leduc and his forensic scientists have identified the mutilated corpse as that of the organ grinder, and Leduc begins to keep a protective eye on Carl. One day, Joyce finagles an introduction to Carl by taking golf lessons at his club, and soon the couple is inseparable. Jack continues to date Yvonne but is frustrated by her lack of trust, and so Victor advises him to marry her and leave her later. Yvonne's over-protective sister sees Jack pick up Yvonne that night, and when Yvonne stays out past her curfew, the sister goes to Carl, who calms her fears and sends her home. Unknown to Carl, however, Jack shoots and kills Yvonne after she accidentally tells him where Carl's experiments are conducted, then realizes that Jack has been using her. The following morning, Jack goes to DuBois' farmhouse and lies to Victor, telling him that Yvonne is waiting for him, and leaves after collecting his pay. After Yvonne's body is found, her sister identifies Jack, and with the help of the FBI, Leduc connects him to Victor. Leduc then goes to Carl's country club, and there tells him of Yvonne's murder. Leduc is intrigued by Joyce's dramatic reaction to the news, and later that day, when Victor and Hartman read about the murder, Victor assures Hartman that he will take care of Jack before he can be questioned by the police. That night, Nick calls Los Angeles and orders Jack killed. When Leduc learns that Jack has been murdered, he subpoenas all the phone records in town and deduces that the call to Los Angeles was placed at a particular nightclub. There, Leduc arranges for Nick to get into a brawl, and the police obtain Nick's fingerprints and photograph when he is arrested. Leduc's men also discover that DuBois had recently sponsored a refugee from Lisbon, Victor's last known residence, but when they investigate, a suspicious Victor escapes and moves into Hartman's house. Meanwhile, Leduc gently questions Carl about Joyce, with whom the scientist has fallen in love. Back at Hartman's house, Joyce, who reciprocates Carl's feelings, is writing a letter to Leduc, informing him about the kidnapping scheme, when she is interrupted by Victor. Realizing that Joyce has switched allegiances, Victor forces her to lure Carl to the house, where Hartman knocks him out with a poisoned drink. The Hartmans then take Carl and Joyce aboard a ship bound for Europe. Upon learning that the constables following Carl have lost him, Leduc realizes that the only way to find the scientist is through Victor. Pretending to be workmen transporting Carl's equipment for testing, Leduc and a constable drive a truck to the rendezvous point. Victor, Nick and Morrie hijack the truck and stow Leduc and the constable in the back. The truck is loaded onto the ship, and while in the cargo hold, Leduc is unable to radio headquarters for help because the tracking device's battery has died. Seeing the men using the radio, Nick shoots the constable and captures Leduc. When Leduc is brought to the main cabin, he is recognized by Hartman, who tells him that even though they do not have Carl's equipment, Carl is the true prize sought by the Communists. Leduc attempts to incite Victor, Nick and Morrie to rebel against Hartman, but after Victor demands his money from Hartman and is paid, he is satisfied. Victor's attitude changes, however, when the ship sails and Hartman refuses to allow him to disembark. Leduc pleads with Victor for help, asking him to "do something decent for once" by fighting the Communists. Victor reluctantly agrees, and as the men try to reach the radio, Nick is killed by the ship's captain. Victor gives Morrie some money and shoves him overboard to safety, while Leduc reaches the truck and shoots off a distress flare. Hartman states that by alerting the river patrol, Leduc has signed Carl's death warrant, for the Communists will kill him if they cannot have him. When Hartman then goes to get Carl, Joyce begs him not to leave the cabin, but Carl, hoping to protect Joyce, leaves with the killer. Carl sees Victor hiding behind a door, however, and slips aside to safety while the two men shoot it out. Victor kills Hartman but is fatally wounded himself. Before dying, Victor gives Leduc Joyce's letter, thereby clearing her of all potential charges, and asks him to scatter his ashes in the United States. Leduc agrees, then somberly tells the embracing Joyce and Carl that Victor died a hero.