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The Hat-box Mystery

The Hat-box Mystery(1947)

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In New York City, society matron Marie Moreland's life is threatened by a blackmailer named Stevens. Meanwhile, at the Ashton Detective Agency, Russ Ashton, his secretary and fiancée, Susie Hart, and his assistant, Harvard, wait for clients while filling up on hamburgers from Harvard's girl friend, Veronica Hooper, who runs a diner. When Russ is called away to Washington, D.C. to act as a bodyguard, Harvard borrows money from Veronica to pay for Russ's trip. Left in charge, Susie accepts a case from Stevens, who is in disguise. Stevens claims he needs evidence to sue his wife for divorce, and gives Susie a hat box equipped with a camera. The following morning, Susie follows Stevens' instructions and inadvertently shoots and wounds Marie, then is arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Later, Russ searches Marie's apartment and is knocked out by Stevens and Joe, a fellow gang member. The police arrive and bring Russ in for questioning. Russ convinces the district attorney to release Susie in order to bait the killer. When Harvard prepares to guard Susie, he discovers the gun missing from the office desk. Russ questions the beat officer who saw Susie shoot, and he recalls hearing two shots. Russ then measures the scene of the crime while Stevens and his boss, Flint, watch from an apartment window across the street. Marie dies from her wounds and Susie is taken into custody, but Russ again persuades the district attorney to let her go and issue a phony story to the press that Marie has recovered and is returning home, and that she will reveal evidence needed to arrest her killer the next day. Joe and Stevens abduct Russ, and while he is tied up, Susie arms herself and goes to Marie's apartment. She mistakenly knocks out Harvard, then is caught by Flint and Stevens and forced to confess to Marie's murder in writing. As Flint and Stevens are about to push Susie out the window to make her death look like a suicide, Russ and the police come to her rescue. Later, the district attorney congratulates Russ for solving the case, and explains to Susie and Harvard that Stevens had originally intended for Susie to use his gun, but when he found the gun in her office, he placed it in the hat box with a blank and shot Marie himself. Russ then gets another bodyguard job, and Harvard has to ask Veronica for more money.