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End of the Road

End of the Road(1944)

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Walter Gribbon, a florist in Santa Barbara, California, is convicted of murdering a young woman named Nora Haines, and is sent to San Quentin prison to await his execution. Meanwhile, Gregory McCune, the editor of Living Crime detective magazine, assigns writer Robert Kirby to interview Gribbon and write an in-depth story about him. During the interview at San Quentin, Gribbon professes his innocence and explains that the morning of Nora's murder, he quarreled with her about her family's interference in her life. Gribbon further explains that he left the shop for a short time, and that when he returned, he found Nora strangled. When Gribbon insists that Nora was killed during the ninety minutes while he was absent from the shop, Bob decides to investigate the murder on his own. He begins by visiting Gribbon's flower shop, where he notices a dog barking wildly at the store clerk, Chris Martin. Inside the store, Drake, the owner, tells Bob that the dog belonged to Nora, and that Chris was her fiancé. Later, when Bob tells McCune that he believes that Gribbon is innocent, McCune, who wants a quick and sensational story on Gribbon, fires him and reassigns the story to another reporter. Bob continues his investigation nevertheless, and returns to San Quentin, where Gribbon tells him that Chris was never Nora's fiancé. Late that night, Bob goes to Chris's house and finds Nora's dog howling outside his window. Night after night, Bob, hidden in the bushes near Chris's house, witnesses the dog howling outside Chris's window. One night, driven to distraction by the howling, Chris prepares to shoot the dog, but the dog attacks him before he can fire his gun. Days later, Chris boards a bus for Los Angeles, and Bob follows him. As Gribbon's execution date nears, Bob continues to monitor Chris's every move, including his romantic association with Kitty McDougal, a waitress at a diner. Bob eventually tires of following Chris, and decides to get closer to him by introducing himself as a novice florist. As Chris and Bob become fast friends, Bob begins to set a series of traps for Chris, including a police raid on a poker game that they both attend. Bob eventually moves in with Chris, and continues to observe obvious signs of Chris's guilt. One day, Chris, unemployed and desperate for money, visits Kitty in her room and asks her to give him money. Kitty refuses, and just as Chris is about to shoot her, Bob enters the room and Chris hides his gun. Later that day, Bob takes Kitty on a picnic and advises her to avoid a close relationship with Chris. Believing that he has nearly enough proof to clear Gribbon and bring murder charges against Chris, Bob tries, unsuccessfully, to persuade the judge who sentenced Gribbon to reopen the case. When Bob discovers that Chris has applied for a florist's job in Phoenix, Arizona, he calls the agency that hired him and gives him a poor reference. During an afternoon outing at Willow Lake with Chris and Kitty, Bob sets another trap for Chris by staging a fight with a boatman, who is actually Joe Ferrari, a police sergeant, and pretending to kill him. The following day, when the story of the murdered boatman appears in the newspapers, Chris confides in Bob that he, too, is a murderer. Bob then records Chris's confession, in which Chris explains that he murdered Nora when she threatened to report to the police that he had stolen money from her. With Chris's arrest, Bob is certain that Gribbon will be exonerated. The amateur detective's good work results in his reinstatement at his old job, but first he plans to marry Kitty.