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One night, businessman Dudley Wolff, his secretary, Alfred Dunning, and friend Dr. Haggard conduct a mysterious funeral while at the same time, Wolff's daughter Catherine, who is known as Kay, returns home for an unexpected visit. Wolff warns his cohorts and his wife Anna not to reveal any of the evening's events to the flighty Kay, who has come to announce her sudden marriage to government official Roger Blake. Wolff agrees to meet Roger the next day, then everyone goes to bed. Later, Kay is awakened when a man with piercing eyes enters her room and shoots at her. After Wolff finds a clump of dirt on the floor of her room, he returns to the gravesite, and finds it empty, despite Haggard's assurances that the man they buried was dead. The next day, Kay calls in her friend, private detective Michael Shayne, because she knows that her father, who is undergoing an investigation by a senate committee, does not want any adverse publicity. Shayne agrees to impersonate Roger, whom Wolff has never seen, and investigate the "ghost" Kay claims she saw. When he finds a bullet imbedded in her bedpost, Shayne realizes that the man Kay saw was real, and his initial inquiries lead him to Haggard, who keeps bullets of the same caliber in his laboratory. Wolff attempts to explain the visitation by saying that it was a former colleague of his who was embittered by the end of their partnership. Later that night, however, Shayne gives chase when the man returns and shoots and kills Haggard. The man escapes, but after coroner Tim Larsen and police chief Jonathan Meek arrive, he is spotted again. Shayne and Meek chase the man and find his body after his car swerves off the road and bursts into flames. Soon after, Shayne visits his magician friend Gus, who is known as The Great Merlini, and learns about Zorah Bey, a practioner of a shallow breathing technique that allows him to be buried alive. Shayne begins to suspect that the man who shot at Kay is Bey. When the crash victim's body disappears from Larsen's office, Wolff admits that the man who came to see him was a stranger who had tried to blackmail him and that when they came to blows, the man apparently died. Wolff, Dunning and Haggard buried the man that night, but the caretaker saw the man, whom Shayne has learned is Bey, and helped him escape from the grave. Using the crash victim's corpse, which Shayne has identified as Bey's, Shayne tricks Anna into admitting that she was Bey's former wife and partner in his magic act. Anna confesses that Bey learned of her affair with Haggard and was threatening to inform Wolff, so she and Haggard arranged for him to blackmail Wolff. Their plan to bury Bey alive was foiled by the helpful caretaker, and Bey took his revenge upon Haggard, and thought he was shooting at Anna when he shot at Kay. Shayne then returns the body to Meek and takes his leave without revealing to Kay how he put together the clues.