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As Joe Turner, a researcher at the Manhattan Literary Historical Society, parks his bike in front of his office, a mysterious man in a car crosses off his name from a list of employees. At the Society, which is actually a front for the CIA, Turner and his co-workers analyze every book published in the world and feed their information into computers, which then checks them against actual CIA operations. Turner is disappointed when his superior, Dr. Lappe, informs him that an inquiry he made about an intriguing irregularity turned out to be of no importance to headquarters. Later, because it is raining, Turner slips out the back door to fetch lunch for his co-workers, just before an assailant disguised as a mailman gains entrance to the security locked building and is joined by Joubert, the sinister man from the car. After riddling Joe's co-workers with bullets, the men depart. Upon returning, Turner discovers the bloody bodies of his colleagues, including that of his girlfriend Janice, the deadly silence pierced only by the monotonous hum of the computers. Horrified, Turner snatches a gun from the receptionist's desk drawer and hurries to a pay phone to notify headquarters, using his code name "Condor." Instructed to find a secure location and call back in one hour, Turner decides check up on Heidigger, the one colleague who did not come to work that day. Upon finding Heidigger's slain body, Turner panics and phones headquarters, after which Higgins, the Deputy Director, directs him to meet his department head Wicks, whom he has never met, in an alley behind a hotel. Now suspicious of everyone, Turner refuses to meet a stranger in an alley, and Higgins then agrees to allow Sam Barber, Turner's friend from statistics, to accompany Wicks. Dressed in a bullet proof vest, Barber enters the alley just as Wicks springs around the corner and shoots at Turner. Firing back, Turner hits Wicks in the leg and flees, after which Wicks turns and shoots Barber in the throat. Desperate, Turner abducts Kathy Hale, a young photographer, and forces her to drive him to her apartment in Brooklyn Heights. In Washington, meanwhile, a meeting is convened by Wabash, a high ranking CIA official, to try to unravel what has happened. Before being taken to the hospital, Wicks stated that Condor had shot both him and Barber, prompting Wabash to wonder how a researcher could shoot with such precision. Wabash also ponders whether Turner is an innocent or a turncoat. Afterward, Joubert meets Atwood, one of the agents attending the meeting, who directs him to eliminate Condor. In Brooklyn, Turner explains his predicament to an incredulous and defiant Kathy. Upon hearing a news report of Barber's murder, Turner ties and gags Kathy and then drives to Barber's apartment, where he finds Barber's unsuspecting wife Mae nonchalantly preparing for a dinner party. After insisting that Mae visit some friends who live upstairs, Turner enters the elevator and Joubert slips in behind him. Sensing danger on the ride to the lobby, Turner surrounds himself with some revelers as he leaves the elevator, thus escaping Joubert's waiting gun. The wily Joubert, however, notes the license plate number of Kathy's car. Back in Brooklyn, Turner unties Kathy and promises to leave the following morning. Feeling compassion for the tormented Turner, Kathy makes love to him. The next morning, Joe replays the previous events in his mind and recalls that the response to his inquiry about a book being translated only into Dutch, Spanish and Arabic was signed by Wicks. He then realizes that his query must have triggered the killings. Soon after, a mailman appears at Kathy's door to deliver a package. Once the man enters the apartment, Turner senses his peril and, after throwing a pot of coffee in his face, kicks a gun from his hand. As they struggle, Kathy tries to distract the assailant, allowing Turner to gain possession of the killer's weapon and shoot him. On the dead man's body, Turner finds a key and a slip of paper with Wick's office phone number. Kathy and Turner then drive to the CIA building in Manhattan, where Kathy lures Higgins into her car. Holding Higgins at gunpoint, Turner asserts that there is a rotten agent in "the company," and then describes Joubert. After Higgins confirms that Joubert is a freelance agent, Turner elaborates his theory about Wick's involvement in an intelligence network linking Arabic, Spanish and Dutch-speaking countries. Promising to investigate Turner's premise, Higgins then tells him about Wick's untimely demise after being mysteriously yanked from his life support system at the hospital. Disgusted, Turner leaves and uses the key he found on the mailman's body to track Joubert to the hotel in which he is registered. After stealing a case of tools from a phone company truck, Turner taps Joubert's phone line and traces a call he has made to a Leonard Atwood in Maryland. As Higgins' investigation turns up a link between Joubert and Wicks, Turner says goodbye to Kathy as she boards a train to meet her boyfriend in Vermont. Turner then takes the train to Maryland. Confronting Atwood in his darkened house, Turner introduces himself as Condor and demands to know what Atwood does for a living. Once Atwood identifies himself as Deputy Director of Operations in the Middle East, Turner realizes that Atwood was heading an unauthorized intelligence system within the CIA to help the United States gain influence in oil-producing countries. When Turner's inquiry threatened to uncover the operation, the entire unit had to be wiped out. At that moment, Joubert sneaks up behind Turner and orders him to drop his gun. After shooting Atwood point blank in the head, Joubert explains to the stunned Turner that the CIA hired him to eliminate Atwood. Joubert continues that the contract for Turner's death was simply a business arrangement between him and Atwood, which has now been cancelled. Impressed by Turner's instincts, Joubert suggests that he become a freelance agent, but Turner refuses and returns to New York. There, in a meeting with Higgins on a public street, Turner warns that Atwood was running a renegade operation to invade the Middle East and secure oil for the United States. Cynically asserting that the end justify the means, Higgins tries to bring Turner back into the fold. When Turner rejects his offer and states that he has told his story to The New York Times , Higgins questions if the paper will ever run the story, implying that Turner's life hangs in the balance.