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After leaving his wife and baby safely asleep in their apartment, New York police detective Bill Reardon departs for his regular early morning duty, only to be shot in the street by an unknown assailant. At police headquarters a few hours later, among angry, frustrated detectives, Lt. Byrnes declares his certainty of capturing the killer and assigns Steve Carelli to the case. While Detective Mike Maguire follows a lead on a .45 caliber hand gun, the same caliber used to kill Bill, Steve meets his girl friend, Theodora "Teddy" Franklin, at her apartment for lunch. Although Teddy is deaf and mute, she reads lips and is upset and saddened to learn of Bill's death. Later that evening, Steve and Mike meet to compare notes on their fruitless leads. Mike arrives home late to find his wife Alice brooding and uncomfortable in the stifling summer weather. Alice complains about Mike's constant late hours and rebuffs his romantic overtures. The next day while Bill's partner, Dave Foster, is following a lead in the case, he is shot to death in an alley. Later, Steve and his men find spent .45 cartridges and a heel imprint in the dirt, but very little other evidence. At headquarters, newspaper reporter Hank Miller presses Byrnes for details on the murders, but when the reporter suggests that it might be the result of gang violence, Byrnes rejects the idea. Steve and Mike track two possible suspects only to discover each has a reliable alibi. Meanwhile, Miller goes to a bar and discovering a member of the Grovers gang, asks him several questions about guns, which rouses the youth's suspicions. Later, Steve and junior detective Kling part near the same bar and Kling goes in for a drink. After another day of frustrating dead-end leads, Mike returns home exhausted and is delighted when Alice models her new bathing suit for him. That evening as Kling leaves the bar, he is attacked by the Grovers and shot. When the gang is brought into headquarters, Byrnes questions them and learns that they mistook Kling for Miller, as both men are similarly built and dressed. Speaking for the gang, Joe Sanchez explains that they were angered by the reporter's attempt to link the gang to the two previous police murders. Joe insists that they only intended to beat up Kling, but he pulled his gun and it discharged in the scuffle. Byrnes books the entire gang until the actual shooter confesses. The next day Steve and Mike investigate a man arrested for a drunken shooting spree, using a .45 caliber gun, but once again, their search is futile. Hoping to relieve some of the stress surrounding the investigation, Steve asks Mike and Alice out for a double date that night, and Steve proudly announces his engagement to Teddy. The next morning, Byrnes declares that if the department is unable to solve the police killer mystery, he will resign. That evening as Mike walks home, he is stopped by a man asking for a match. When the man draws a gun, Mike leaps at him, but is still shot. Later that night, a distraught Steve visits the department pathologist, who explains that Mike managed to provide invaluable evidence of the killer by scratching him and grabbing his hair. Tests on the skin, blood and hair fragments reveal that the suspect is a white, fair-complexioned man under fifty years of age who probably works in a steel factory, as the hair was heavily covered by fine steel powder. Frustrated and despondent, Steve seeks solace with Teddy before visiting Alice. When Alice demands to know what is being done to find Mike's murderer, Steve implies that he has an idea that the murders may somehow be connected, but will not explain further. The next day Steve meets Miller, who apologizes for his earlier interference, assuring Steve that he only meant to help. Miller talks Steve into going for a drink and after several drinks, Steve glibly discusses his engagement to Teddy, then confides in Miller that he believes the murders are connected but that the department is stymied. The following day an outraged Byrnes summons Steve to demand an explanation of Miller's front page story declaring that the police are unable to solve the murder of their own. When Steve discovers that Miller has mentioned Teddy and her address in the article, he abruptly dashes away. Meanwhile, in her apartment, Teddy has just showered when her door light flashes indicating someone is ringing. Thinking it is Steve, she opens the door, only to be attacked by a man, Mercer, wielding a .45. Mercer demands to know Steve's whereabouts, but Teddy refuses to divulge anything. Mercer threatens Teddy and is on the verge of assaulting her when Steve breaks in and wrestles him to the ground. After a severe beating, Mercer confesses that Mike had always been his intended target and that the other murders were committed only to cause confusion. After more pressure from Steve, Mercer admits that Alice hired him to commit the murder. Later, under arrest, Alice angrily acknowledges her contempt for Mike's work and his meager earnings and as she is dragged away, boasts that no jury will ever convict an attractive woman for hating a "cop."