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Tom Lawrence, the debonair sleuth known as "The Falcon," and his sidekick, Goldy Locke, are traveling on a train bound for San Francisco when they meet Annie Marshall, a lonely little girl who tells them that she is being held prisoner by her nurse, Miss Carla Keyes, and butler Loomis. Annie's story is cut short when Miss Keyes comes to reclaim her charge, but soon after, Annie races back into the club car to announce that Miss Keyes is dead. Tom, suspecting murder, offers to take Annie home, but when they reach San Francisco, a mysterious man notifies the police that Annie has been kidnapped and Tom is arrested. He is released on $10,000 bail, which is posted by Doreen Temple, who promises to disclose the motive behind her generosity that night at dinner. At the restaurant, after Doreen excuses herself from the table, her thug Rickey, posing as a police officer, tricks Tom into leaving with him. Rickey knocks Tom unconscious and takes him to Doreen's apartment where she interrogates him about Miss Keyes's murder and orders him to tell racketeer Peter Vantine to stay away from the S. S. Citadel . Rickey then dumps Tom on a street far from the apartment. Upon returning to his hotel, Tom finds Goldy, and the two decide to pay a visit to Annie's house, where they meet her older sister Joan. After Joan denies that she knows Vantine or Doreen, Annie assures Tom that she is not being held hostage, and the detectives leave. Later that night, Tom and Goldy sneak into the house through an open window in Annie's room. Annie then confides that Loomis is holding her prisoner and takes Tom to search Miss Keyes's room, where he finds a photograph of a ship's officer bearing the inscription "to my dear wife Carla, love Abel." In their search of the room, Goldy knocks over a lamp and the noise draws Loomis to the room. As he opens the door, a shot rings out, and the butler falls dead. After grabbing the photo, Tom and Goldy climb out the window and return to their hotel room, where an armed Vantine knocks on the door and demands the picture. After Tom disarms him, Vantine tells the detective that Doreen was the paramour of the bootlegging racketeer, Duke Monette, who taught her his trade. To trap Doreen, Tom visits the Star Coastal lines to inquire about Abel. There, he meets DeForrest, the company's general manager, and discovers Joan in DeForrest's office. DeForrest explains that Joan is the owner of the company and that Abel is the first mate aboard the S. S. Citadel . Tom invites Joan to lunch, and as they leave the office, the receptionist presents Tom with Abel's address. In reality, the receptionist is in league with Doreen, and the address is that of Doreen's apartment. After Tom and Joan walk into Doreen's trap, Doreen warns Tom not to interfere with the unloading of the ship's cargo. Vantine, who has also been lured into the trap, arrives and begins to fight with Doreen's thugs. In the ensuing confusion, Tom and Joan escape and Tom returns to his hotel room, where he finds DeForrest hiding in the closet. DeForrest insists that his concern for Joan brought him there, and after he leaves, Goldy shows Tom a newspaper clipping stating that Duke Monette owns the S. S. Citadel . That night, Tom and Goldy sneak aboard the ship and discover raw silk hidden among the bales of hemp cargo. When Tom shows DeForrest the silk, he orders all the cargo reloaded. From the docks, Tom proceeds to the Marshall house, hoping that Joan will lead him to Duke. After Annie tells Tom that Joan has gone to visit her "secret lover" on Telegraph Hill, he follows her and watches as Joan meets DeForrest. Tom then unmasks DeForrest as Duke Monette, who admits that he is using a false identity to protect his daughters, Joan and Annie. When Tom warns Duke that Doreen plans to hijack the Citadel 's cargo that night, Duke asks for the detective's help. Later that night, Duke and Tom watch as Vantine, Doreen and the other hijackers board the boat. After Duke knocks the engineer unconscious, causing an explosion in the unattended boiler room, he pulls a gun on Doreen and Tom. Tom informs Doreen that Duke killed Miss Keyes and Loomis, the employees she hired to watch his daughters. When Tom warns that Duke plans to blow up the ship, Doreen and Rickey lunge forward to disarm Duke, who shoots them both. Before Rickey collapses, he shoots Duke, which allows Tom to flee before the ship explodes.