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When Ralph Johnston, an ambitious politician, receives a series of mysterious notes regarding his wife, he hires private detective Stuart Bailey to investigate her background. Stuart's inquiry leads from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, Mrs. Johnston's home town, and he learns that using her maiden name of Jane Breeger, she had worked as a dancer for a nightclub owner name Keller. After Keller and his partner Reno try to dissuade Bailey from continuing his investigation, the detective learns that Mrs. Johnston traveled to Los Angeles with an entertainer named Buster Buffin, who now owns a small café at the beach. Returning to Los Angeles, Bailey questions Buffin, who claims to know nothing of his former partner except that she changed her name to Janie Joy and enrolled in UCLA. Later, Buffin phones Bailey with a promise of more information, but when the detective arrives at the café, he finds that Buffin has been murdered. As he studies Buffin's corpse, Bailey recalls seeing Buffin outside his office building with Mrs. Johnston. Soon after, Bailey is visited by Norma Shannon, who claims to be Janie's sister and asks the detective's help in locating the sister that she has not seen in six years. The mystery deepens when Bailey shows Norma Jane's photograph and she informs him that the woman pictured is not her sister. Although Bailey is suspicious of Norma's motives, he finds himself falling in love with her. Bailey becomes more confused when Martin, a chauffeur employed by the prominent John Vega Caprillo and his glamorous wife, offers him a bribe to drop the investigation. When Bailey questions the Caprillos about the bribe, however, they disclaim any knowledge of the offer. Soon after, Bailey receives a mysterious phone call notifying him that Mrs. Johnston has been murdered and that her body can be found under a pier on the beach. Bailey hurries to the pier, and later, when the police find Bailey's monogrammed pen near the corpse, they arrest the detective for murder. On the way to police headquarters, Bailey escapes with the help of his secretary, Hazel Bixby. Upon returning to his house, Bailey finds Mrs. Caprillo waiting to talk to him. Their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of Keller, who identifies Mrs. Caprillo as the real Jane Breeger. Keller then reveals that he had been searching for his missing wife Ellen, who after absconding with $40,000 of his money, assumed the name of Jane Breeger and even used Jane's high school diploma to gain admittance to UCLA before her marriage to Johnston. Piecing together the clues he has gathered, Bailey proves that the murderer is Johnston, who hired Bailey to establish his wife's sordid past, hoping to frighten her into leaving him. When that strategy failed, Johnston murdered her to protect his career. With the case solved, Bailey asks Norma to marry him.