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Public Defender

Public Defender(1931)

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When the Central Realty Trust Company declares insolvency, Eugene Gerry, its treasurer, is falsely accused by his fellow officers--Thomas Drake, John Kirk, Charles Harmer and Cyrus Pringle--of negligence and is turned over to the authorities for indictment. Soon after, Drake is robbed of his business papers by "The Reckoner," a Robin Hood type of thief who always leaves a "scales of justice" calling card with his victims. At a dinner club, Gerry's daughter Barbara confides to Pike Winslow, a longtime family friend who is also friendly with Gerry's betrayers, her father's predicament. While Pike, who enjoys a reputation as a carefree adventurer, consoles Barbara, Harmer finds one of The Reckoner's cards, which reads "See you next week," under his sandwich. At home, Pike, who is revealed to be The Reckoner, confers with his confederates, "Doctor" and "Professor," about how best to vindicate Gerry and help Barbara. To save Barbara and her disapproving Aunt Matilda financially, Pike arranges to buy secretly much of the Gerry estate at an auction. Pike then plots with Doctor and Professor to steal Harmer's business documents. While Pike, Professor and Doctor hide outside Harmer's well-protected house, Kirk meets with Harmer to discuss the murders. Fearing incrimination, Harmer asks Kirk to take the damning papers from his safe, but Kirk refuses and leaves. Pike and his cohorts then overwhelm Harmer's guards and servants, knock out Harmer and steal the papers. Later, Pringle receives one of The Reckoner's calling cards and rushes to confer with Kirk. When an hysterical Pringle announces that he is going to confess to the police, Kirk first threatens him, then reassures him. Pringle is shot and killed, and The Reckoner is accused of the crime. Although he is advised to stay hidden, Pike insists that he needs more evidence and devises a plan to expose Kirk. From his unsuspecting friend, Inspector Malcolm O'Neil, Pike learns that Pringle's calling card had fingerprints on it. Pike then demands to accompany O'Neil and the police to Kirk's house, where they have been instructed to wait for The Reckoner. Just before The Reckoner's scheduled appearance, the lights go out in Kirk's house, and Pike steals the needed documents. When Kirk later deduces Pike's identity and corners him, Pike overwhelms him with a mild explosive and escapes. The police and Kirk follow Pike to Barbara's apartment, and are about to arrest him when he forces Kirk to put his fingerprints on paper that has been coated with lipstick. After turning Kirk's damning prints and documents over to O'Neil, the banker is arrested. Pike, pardoned by O'Neil, then embraces Barbara.