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Bill Bailey, a former police officer who became a bail bondsman after he was thrown off the force, is an influential force in Los Angeles with politicians, judges, police and the underworld. Bill becomes attracted to Elaine Talbert, the wealthy daughter of an important capitalist connected to various Hawaiian concerns, when she comes to him after she has been charged with shoplifting. Through his influence with the Merchants' Protective Association, Bill has the manager of the department store drop the charges. Elaine invites Bill to a luau at her father's Brentwood estate, where she tells Bill that if she met a man who would be her master and give her a good thrashing, she would follow him around like a dog on a leash. Elaine's father explains that she has an "underworld mania," and that she is extremely fond of detective stories and movies. Ruby Darling, Bill's lover since the days when he was poor, learns about his growing infatuation with Elaine, but he tells her that no one could ever take her place with him. When Ruby's brother Drury pulls a bank robbery netting him $500,000 in bonds and currency, Bill convinces him to give himself up and post a $50,000 bail with the option of jumping the bail if things turn bad for him. Elaine, fascinated when she hears that Drury is a bank robber, flirts with him, and they surreptitiously begin a romance. When the district attorney locates the girl Drury had in his car the day of the robbery, Bill convinces him to jump bail and leave the country because one more conviction would mean a life sentence. Drury makes plans to meet Elaine in New York and arranges for her to destroy $300,000 worth of bonds, which are of no use to him because they are registered, and to pay Bill in gold securities to cover the $50,000 bail that he will have to forfeit. Elaine, however, keeps the securities and gives Bill a briefcase filled with the bonds. Furious that he has been made into a "chump," Bill hunts Drury down and has him arrested. Ruby, believing that Bill sent her brother up for life because of Elaine, meets with a number of underworld figures and instructs them to frame him. One of the racketeers, Charlie, arranges for a number of criminals to jump bail on Bill so that he will have to make good on their bonds. He then has his men blow Bill's safe, and after the police find the $300,000 in registered bonds, Bill is indicted for possession of stolen property. In revenge, he joins a newspaper campaign against a politician in cahoots with the racketeers, who is running against the incumbent mayor. When the mayor's vice squad, tipped off by Bill, goes on a rampage against gambling halls and resorts, Charlie vows to assassinate Bill. Because Bill is heavily guarded, Charlie's cohort Nagel suggests that they puts explosives in an "eight ball" and plant it on the table at the pool hall Bill frequents. When Elaine visits Drury in prison to try to help him break out, he learns that she kept the securities because she knew her father would cut her off. Drury slaps her and tries to tell his sister the truth, but because he struggles with the guards, he is placed in solitary confinement. He manages to write a message on the bottom of a plate, and the message gets to Ruby. She speeds in a cab to the pool hall and crashes outside it just as Bill is about to hit the eight ball. Ruby tells Bill about the ball, and he throws it outside, where it explodes. Elaine, who has decided that Bill is the only man who understands her, comes to the pool hall, but sees Bill embracing Ruby and leaves. She then meets a woman who was brutalized by a man named Johnson when she answered an ad for an artist's model. Bursting with desire to meet Johnson, Elaine dashes off. Bill tells Ruby that he'll never be behind another eight ball, and she says that though he probably will, she will always pull him out.