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In San Francisco, prospective murder trial witness Steve Garry evades a subpoena by fleeing to the Los Angeles home of his former wife, school teacher Virginia Merrill. Dismayed over Steve's arrival, Virginia asks him to leave, but Steve declares that he has stopped gambling and shows her his bank savings book to prove he has reformed. Steve explains that his best friend is on trial for the murder of his wife and that although knows he is innocent, Steve believes his testimony will be used against his friend. Virginia remains unconvinced, yet when her neighbor Phoebe drops by unexpectedly, she hides Steve. Later, Virginia grudgingly agrees to allow Steve to remain overnight and goes to the store to buy him food and liquor. At the local grocery, Virginia runs into slightly drunk off-duty police detective Sgt. Quentin McCloy, who briefly dated Virginia's former roommate, Dolores Alden. Despite Virginia's attempt to remain detached, McCloy insists on paying for the bottle of liquor and, following her home, forces his way into the house. When McCloy grapples with Virginia, she screams for Steve, hiding in the back room. Steve scuffles briefly with McCloy, who attempts to shoot him, but hits the ceiling instead. Steve ends the brawl by smashing McCloy over the head with a chair, then is shocked to discover that he has killed him. Stunned, Virginia proposes they telephone the police, but Steve asserts that he will keep her involvement a secret by making McCloy's death look like a drunk driving accident. Steve drives McCloy's body in the policeman's car into the hills and pushes it over a ravine. After watching the car catch fire, Steve catches a bus back into town. Sgt. Ed Donovan, who has been assigned to search for Steve by the San Francisco police, arrives at the accident sight, where McCloy's former partner, Lou Brecker, identifies the body, which had rolled free of the car before it burned. Returning to Virginia's, Steve patches the gunshot hole and pleads with Virginia to behave normally. Meanwhile Ed and Lou discover the footsteps leading away from the ravine and, with the coroner's initial report, surmise that McCloy was murdered. Finding footsteps from the top of the ravine to the road, Ed investigates the bus routes and by morning interviews the bus driver who picked up Steve. Arriving home that afternoon, Virginia meets Ed, who is seeking information on Dolores, explaining that her name was found on the body of a murder victim. At police headquarters, Ed and Lou question a number of women McCloy dated, including Dolores. Like the other women questioned, Dolores describes McCloy as an unpleasant drunk that she dated only once. Ed and Lou suspect McCloy was partially responsible for his own death, but must continue their investigation. The smashed bottle of liquor that Steve had placed on McCloy's body leads Lou to a store owner who recalls McCloy buying it for Virginia, which dismays Ed. Lou begins investigating Virginia while Ed takes her to lunch to question her further, but she remains evasive. When Virginia relates the lunch date to Steve, he grows anxious and insists on moving to a hotel. Later, Ed visits Virginia bearing the broken liquor bottle and the shopkeeper's description of that night. Virginia admits running into McCloy, but when she hesitates, Ed reveals that he has learned that she was formerly married to Steve and suggests that she is covering for him. Ed presses Virginia to tell the truth and gives her until the following day to decide. That night, Virginia visits Steve at his hotel to plead with him to turn himself in and he agrees. Virginia grows uneasy, however, when she spots Steve putting a pistol into his coat pocket. Ed discovers that Steve is now the prime suspect in the San Francisco murder as he was blackmailing the murder victim. On the drive to town, Steve entreats Virginia to let him wait until the San Francisco trial is over and steers toward San Diego. Stopping to get gas, Virginia offers to pay with her charge card, then writes a note to the attendant to contact Ed with the message that Steve is escaping. Meanwhile, Ed and Lou examine Virginia's home and discover the gunshot in the ceiling and when telephoning in a report, receive Virginia's message. Ed orders road blocks set up on roads toward San Diego. When Steve sees the road blocks shortly thereafter, he forces Virginia to abandon the car, and they walk to a pier where Steve's acquaintance, Cap Douglas, runs a boat rental business. Steve insists on renting a boat despite the unusual hour, until Virginia blurts out that he is wanted by the police. Cap bolts and Virginia successfully prevents Steve from shooting him. The police at the road block hear the shots and hasten to the pier. Learning that Steve has been discovered, Ed and Lou arrive at the pier. Steve drags Virginia to a large construction crane on the pier's edge, but when she struggles, he leaves her and climbs the crane. Ed spots Steve and follows him up the crane only to be wounded by Steve, who then runs out of bullets. Steve attempts to steer the crane over to another and escape, but instead plummets to his death as Ed trips him. Back down on the pier, Ed comforts Virginia.