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Bracco, the victim of a waterfront stabbing in Naples, confides the names Gregory Arkadin and Sophie to Mily, the girl friend of Guy Van Stratten, an unscrupulous American cigarette smuggler. These names, asserts Bracco, will prove the key to a fortune. Learning that Arkadin is a wealthy financier, Van Stratten obtains an introduction through the magnate's sheltered daughter, Raina. Arkadin engages Van Stratten to reconstruct his life before 1927, at which time he lost his memory. So empowered, the American sets out on a quest, during which he encounters a Copenhagen flea-trainer; an Amsterdam fence masquerading as an antiquary; a Polish baroness; a French secret service agent; Sophie, Arkadin's former partner in a white slave operation, now married to a retired general in Mexico; and Zouk, a Munich tailor. All are subsequently murdered, as is Mily. Van Stratten learns that they are the victims of Arkadin's henchmen and he himself is the financier's dupe. To forever bury his unsavory past from his daughter, Arkadin has used Van Stratten to locate all former associates. Realizing that he is in imminent danger, Van Stratten contacts Raina, who attempts to radio her father. Convinced that she has learned the truth, Arkadin jumps from his private plane.