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Jim Adams, a criminal whose real name is Jim Larch, is visited by his boyhood friend, Dr. Ben Cameron. Ben pleads with Jim to allow him to take Jim's twelve-year-old son Mickey to their hometown of Hawley and let the boy be raised properly by Veronica M. Hudson, Mickey's maternal grandmother. Jim bitterly remembers Veronica's resentment of his marriage to her daughter, however, and refuses Ben's request. Soon after, Jim kills a teller during a bank robbery and realizes he must part with Mickey until the heat is off. As Mickey idolizes his father, he is greatly upset when Jim drops him at Veronica's house late at night. Veronica, whose stern demeanor masks a great love for her grandson, takes the boy in, and he is tended to by her scatterbrained maid and companion, Lilly. Mickey soon begins attending school, where his teacher is Sheila Roberts, Ben's fiancée. The children give Mickey a hard time at first, but when he whips the local bully, Joe Fisher, in a fight after Joe insults Veronica, the children warm to him. Veronica also thaws a bit when she learns the reason behind the fight. Veronica and Mickey's relationship further solidifies when she refuses to let inquiring FBI agents use Mickey as bait in a trap for Jim. Worried that Jim will be caught if he returns to Hawley, Mickey tries to warn Jim's gang. Mickey's call is traced and the gang is captured, but Jim has already left for Hawley. Jim sneaks into Veronica's house at night, and while Mickey is glad to see him, he is disillusioned to learn that Jim did indeed kill the unarmed bank teller. Jim hides in the attic while Mickey goes to school the next day, and later in the afternoon, Jim escapes with Mickey after locking up Veronica and Lilly, despite Mickey's protests. The fugitives make their way through a snowstorm after Jim hijacks a schoolbus loaded with children, until Jim loses his way and the bus gets stuck in the snow. Jim attempts to get Mickey to leave with him, even though it would mean abandoning the other children to freeze to death. Mickey locks Jim out of the bus, and while he valiantly tries to keep the youngsters alive by starting a fire and keeping them singing and moving, Jim has a change of heart. Jim then returns to Hawley, where he is shot by the FBI agents, but before he dies, he reveals the location of the bus and tells Veronica that Mickey belongs with her. After the bus is found and the children are rescued, Mickey receives a medal for his heroism and happily settles into a new life with Veronica and Lilly.