powered by AFI
An attack on New York gangster Mike Rofano by another prisoner at a California state penitentiary makes headlines. At the San Francisco office of the California State Bureau of Investigation, veteran detective Lee Davis is informed by his supervisor, Gary Benson, that there is reason to suspect that a double is serving Rofano's prison sentence. Assigned by Benson to investigate the matter, Lee visits Rofano in prison, and discovers that the once-feared gangster has become a meek botanist. Lee then flies to New York, where, posing as an author, he looks up Rofano's clippings at the New York Dispatch newspaper. Later, he is almost killed by one of Rofano's men, who instead pushes the wrong man in front of an oncoming subway train. At his New York apartment, Lee is met by Lois Grant, a Dispatch reporter, who deduces his real intentions and sends him the Rofano clippings. In these clippings, Lee and Lips Haggarty of the New York State Bureau of Investigation discover that a man named Fred M. Morton was once mistaken for Rofano by rival gangsters. After learning that Morton was reportedly burned to death in a rooming house fire, Lee goes to Morton's family home posing as an insurance agent, and learns that Morton was a botanist. Morton's mother gives Lee her son's research materials, and a police scientist confirms from fingerprints on these materials that Morton is the man in prison. Heading back to California to question Morton, Lee is caught by Lois, and agrees to take her along. Lee confronts Morton at the prison, where the botanist confesses his true identity, stating that he agreed to the deception because of the gangster's threats against his wife and mother. Lee is sent back to New York, only to find Morton's wife Mary working as a dental assistant for Dr. Charles Evans, a known associate of Rofano's attorney, Emanuel "Manny" Dixon. Lee is then kidnapped at the dental office by Rofano and his men. Later, Lips follows Dixon to the airport, where he is confronted by Lois. She agrees not to go to her newspaper with the story when Lips informs her of Lee's kidnapping. Meanwhile, Lee attempts to convince Rofano and his men that he is just an insurance agent investigating the Morton claim. Rofano does not believe him, but still plans to go through with his plot to kill Morton upon his release from prison, then assume his true identity. After tracing Dixon's phone call to the Rofano hideout, the police free Lee, who informs them of Rofano's plan to take a private plane to the West coast. Lee and Lips then capture Rofano and fly him out to San Francisco, where Rofano argues that he cannot be sent to prison, as he was never tried. The detectives then learn from the New York police that Rofano can be convicted of a murder if Morton admits to providing his false alibi. Fearing that the gangster's lawyers will stop any attempts at extradition, the police release Rofano, knowing that he will head straight back to New York. Rofano never makes it to the East Coast, however, as his own hired killers murder him, thinking he is Morton. Lois then threatens to tell the whole Rofano story, only to have Lee propose marriage, ending her journalistic career.