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In an Ohio mill town, blind veteran Frank Dunlap is walking up to his tenement apartment when a wounded man tumbles down the stairs and dies at his feet. Soon after arriving on the scene, the police deduce that the man, Maximilian, must have been shot on the top floor, in a room occupied by Joe Adams. When they try to question Joe, however, he fires a shot through his door and refuses to talk. Ned Meade, a no-nonsense sheriff, orders his men to position themselves in a hotel room directly across the street so that they can shoot at Joe from the window. As the police open fire, Joe falls to the floor and begins to recall the events that led him to commit murder: One day, while working as a sandblaster, Joe, a recently discharged veteran, meets Jo Ann, a sweet young woman from a flower shop. Joe flirts with Jo Ann and learns that she grew up in the same orphanage as he and now lives with her foster parents. Joe begins dating Jo Ann, with whom he feels a close bond, and three weeks later, deeply in love, proposes to her. Jo Ann is unsure about her feelings for Joe, however, and declines to give him an answer. Suspicious, Joe follows her to a nightclub, where magician Maximilian the Great is performing with his dog act. As an entranced Jo Ann watches Max from her table, Joe strikes up a conversation at the bar with Charlene, who has just quit her job as Max's assistant. After the embittered, jealous Charlene tells Joe that Max is a sadistic fraud, the middle-aged Max joins Jo Ann at her table. Back in the present, at Joe's mobbed apartment building, Bill Pulanski, Joe's next-door neighbor, begs for a chance to talk to Joe, but the sheriff refuses. Charlene, too, asks to speak with Joe, but is forcibly kept away. The sheriff's men then shoot through Joe's door lock, but Joe blocks the door with his dresser before they can enter. After the sheriff orders that tear gas be brought in, Joe returns to his recollections: Joe is visiting Charlene, who has fallen in love with him, when Max shows up, anxious to talk to him. Max informs Joe that he is Jo Ann's long-lost father and cautions him to stay away from her, as he feels that he will tie her to a "life of drudgery." Indignant, Joe tells Max that he is marrying Jo Ann and goes to see her. When Joe states that he knows Max is her father, Jo Ann is stunned and insists that they are not related. Jo Ann then tells Joe how she met Max months before: While watching Max perform one night, the lonely, insecure Jo Ann is called to the stage by Charlene. Jo Ann is both frightened and excited by the charismatic magician and, a few days later, attends a concert with him. Afterward, Max insists that he and Jo Ann are soulmates and are destined to become lifelong "companions." When Max later tries to force himself on her, however, she throws him out of her house. Despite her anger, Jo Ann finds she is drawn to Max and resumes seeing him, then months later, meets Joe. After Jo Ann concludes her story, she assures Joe that she loves him and gives him a "special" brooch as a token. Later, however, as Joe is saying goodbye to Charlene, he notices that she has a brooch identical to Jo Ann's and learns that it was a gift from Max. Seeing Joe's pained reaction, Charlene finally deduces that he is in love with Jo Ann and starts to laugh. Back at the apartment, while a deputy goes to fetch Jo Ann, police chief Bob McManus talks with Joe, encouraging him to surrender. Joe refuses to give up, however, and yells at the crowd below to "finish him off." As Jo Ann runs through the crowd, desperate to reach Joe, she is hit by a passing bicycle and taken away. More police then arrive, and Joe recalls his final meeting with Max: When Max shows up, demanding that Joe stop seeing Jo Ann, an enraged Joe almost throws him out the window. Max calmly reveals that he came intending to shoot Joe, then sees Jo Ann's brooch on Joe's dresser and starts to tease him about it. Unable to endure Max's taunts, Joe grabs his gun and shoots him. Back outside the apartment, the police start throwing tear gas through Joe's window, just as a recovered Jo Ann sneaks up the stairs to his room. After Jo Ann pleads with Joe to believe in himself, as she and his friends do, Joe finally opens his door, and she helps him escape the tear gas. Joe then gives himself up, and Jo Ann vows to wait for him.