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When a highly publicized congressional inquiry into mob control of gambling activities, which targets kingpin Nick Mancani, subpoenas Nick's nephew, Joe Gray, whom Nick reared as a son, Nick must restrain Charley Pignatelli, his violent second-in-command, from killing Joe before he talks. Nick's insistence that Joe not be killed unless "absolutely necessary" is heard by Connie Williams, a long-time family friend residing with Nick. Connie eavesdrops from their New York penthouse study, where a desk is rigged with a tape recorder and a listening device to the room below. Later, when the investigation, which is headed by Senator Bill Stephens, begins at New York City's Federal Building, Charley is sworn in. Following Nick's instructions, Charley at first appears to cooperate, but feigns ignorance about Joe's activities by claiming that he heard Joe, who has been living in Central City since the war, has taken war buddies as partners. A spectator sitting next to Joe, the blind Rev. Simon Andrews, silently reminisces about how he first met Joe during the Normandy invasion when he served as chaplain to his Central City National Guard outfit: Joe, a city kid who is drafted into the National Guard, is at first disdainful of the "appleknockers," but comes to respect them. A French farm girl, Marte Dufour, rescues Joe when he is injured, and Joe is contemplating a life with her in Central City when Simon is blinded by a shell and sent home. Simon awakens from his reverie to find the investigators still questioning Joe's Central City businesses. As Charley's testimony continues, strong memories surface in Connie, who is watching the telecast of the hearings: When Joe returns a war hero, she assumes he is also returning to her, until he tells her about his engagement to Marte. Nick proudly shows Joe the changes made in the organization--his "inheritance"--which has grown to a multimillion-dollar syndicate that hides its activities behind respectable businesses. To Nick's surprise, Joe announces he is "going legit," but before leaving for Central City, Joe promises never to tell what he knows. Back at the hearings, Charley subtly implicates Joe in gang activities by pretending to cover for him. After the hearings are adjourned for the evening, Charley, who doubts Joe will keep quiet under pressure, abducts him, but Nick arrives in time to prevent his murder. In a fatherly way, Nick tells Joe that he is being set up as a fall guy to keep him from talking, but in consolation says it is better than being executed. At the next session of the hearings, Connie is called to the stand, but as she still loves Joe, fails to implicate him as directed by Nick and Charley. Nick testifies next, and is asked about his knowledge of gambling activities in Central City. One of Charley's henchmen watching in the courtroom remembers when the gang moved into Central City: Joe refuses to have slot machines in his own businesses, which surprises his former cronies until Charley explains how Joe, being the boss of the whole operation, has to appear squeaky clean. Continuing his testimony, Nick perjures himself by saying that he last saw Joe just after the war. As Joe anxiously watches the hearing, he is flooded with memories: At Stephen's campaign party, the politician refuses Joe's show of support and accuses him of owning several gambling establishments in Central City. Surprised by the accusation, Joe checks around and learns that his name is forged on canceled checks and other records of several unscrupulous businesses. Unable to free himself from his past, Joe wants to leave town, but Marte, fearing an unrooted existence, convinces him that their friends would speak on their behalf, if needed. After the session ends that evening, Joe bemoans to Marte and his closest friend Simon how he cannot cooperate with the committee for fear of reprisal from the gang. He also knows his silence will be taken as evidence of association and guilt, and given all the forged documents implicating him in gangland activities, the committee would never believe his innocence. Later, without Joe's knowledge, Simon confronts the mobsters at the penthouse, threatening to tell what he knows unless they publicly clear Joe of their crimes. In response, Charley pushes Simon down an elevator shaft. When Simon's "accidental" death is reported, Joe shows up at the penthouse and accuses Nick and Charley of murder. As the tension in the room escalates, Connie, who is again eavesdropping from the study, turns on the tape recorder and calls Stephens to send help for Joe. She tells the senator about the recording that she is secretly making which contains admissions of guilt and proof of Joe's innocence. She runs downstairs to prevent Joe's execution, but is killed by the raging Nick. In the ensuing struggle, Nick is accidentally shot to death just before the arrival of the police, who arrest Charley. Convinced by the evidence on the recording, Stephens apologizes to Joe at the next session and clears his name.