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When Eli Jones, an eccentric recluse, tells deputy sheriff Les Martin that he saw a strange, well-dressed man lurking around a nearby ghost town on the rim of the Grand Canyon, Martin discounts Eli's claim and instead takes off after a woman speeding down the highway in her Thunderbird. After catching up to the car, Martin issues a ticket to its driver, Janice Kendon, whose father Jim is the prosperous local businessman who owns the now-defunct Kendon gold mines and their surrounding ghost town. While Martin lectures Janice about the evils of speeding, Eli returns to the abandoned office in the ghost town that he regards as home and finds the well-dressed man's dead body dangling from the ceiling. Upon learning of the murder, Martin blames himself for ignoring Eli's story and devotes his time to uncovering the identity of the victim, but learns only that the man bought a used car under the name of "R. E. Wallace." When Martin questions Eli about the stranger he saw, Eli recalls that he overheard the man mumbling something about "over the rim" and "dancing in the bucket." Martin soon discovers that the bucket refers to a tram car that traverses the canyon walls to reclaim bat guano from a cave on the opposite side. At the tramway, Bill Ward, the foreman of the guano corporation, tells Martin that Charlie Pfifer, his watchman, is missing. From the tramway, Martin goes to a tavern owned by the irreverent Scotty O'Brien, one of the few businesses still open in the ghost town. At Scotty's bar, Martin meets Janice's drunken brother Bob and takes him home. Later, Ward comes to the sheriff's office with the Pfifer's treasured watch, a sure sign that he is dead. After locating Pfifer's body in the canyon, Martin finds the dead man's wallet stuffed with cash. Searching for answers, Martin goes to the ghost town to talk to Eli and finds Janice, who explains that, although the mines still hold a bounty of gold, the price of gold has dropped so low that it is no longer profitable to dig it out of the ground. Later, County Attorney Sam Houghton calls Martin's boss, Sheriff Edwards, to taunt him about the lack of progress in the case, insinuating it might cost Edwards the next election. That night, while on a date with Janice, Martin wonders if someone might be sneaking gold out of her father's mine and selling it in Mexico at an inflated price. Over dinner, Martin confides that he started his career as a lawyer, but quit after two years to join the homicide division in Denver. When his wife fell gravely ill, Martin became distracted and bungled a case. Once his wife died, he left Denver and drifted aimlessly across the country until Edwards hired him as his deputy. The next day, at the abandoned mine office, Eli glances at a photograph hanging on the wall and recognizes the well-dressed man. Just as he is about to alert the sheriff, someone knocks at the door and kills him. At the inquest into Eli's murder, Houghton mentions Martin's performance in Denver and accuses him of incompetence. Afterward, Janice visits Martin at his office and recognizes the well-dressed man's suit jacket as a creation of a famous New York fashion designer. Contacting the designer, Randall learns that the jacket was made for Randall E. Whittemore, the executive vice-president of the Kendon Mining Corporation. Martin goes to question Jim Kendon about Whittemore, and while he is there, Bob answers the phone and rushes out of the house. After Martin voices his belief that Whittemore suspected someone of removing gold from the mines and selling it in Mexico, Janice speeds off in her Thunderbird. When Martin asks Jim where Bob went, Jim replies that he probably went to fly his crop-dusting plane. At the airstrip, Bob finds Scotty loading sacks of gold into the plane. When Bob accuses Scotty of killing Whittemore, Scotty denies it but takes credit for murdering Eli and Pfifer. Scotty then orders Bob to fly him across the border, and when Bob refuses, Scotty trains his gun on him. In the ensuing struggle, Scotty shoots Bob, and when Janice arrives, jumps into her car and forces her to speed away. Martin pursues them until Scotty shoots out one of his car's tires and the radiator, leaving him stranded. After notifying the sheriff of Janice's peril, Martin boards a helicopter to join the search. Scotty orders Janice to drive to the Grand Canyon where he climbs into the tram with her. As the tram winds out into the canyon, Martin jumps from the helicopter onto the cable. Scotty fires his gun at him, but when he runs out of bullets, the two engage in hand-to-hand combat. As the car traverses the Canyon's vast gap, Scotty falls out and clings to the edge of the "bucket" with his bare hands. Martin tries to save him, but unable to hold on any longer, Scotty falls to his death.