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Former policeman Chris Conlon, who now works as a private detective with his partner, Florence Cain, is relaxing in a New Orleans bar when a mysterious woman approaches and tells him that Florence is holding an envelope for her. The woman gives Chris a fifty-dollar retainer and the brooch that Florence said would be the price of the envelope, the contents of which the woman will not reveal to Chris. Angry that Florence appears to be "shaking down" the woman, to whom Chris is attracted, Chris confronts her when she later comes to his apartment. Florence brushes off his accusations, however, and goes into his bedroom to freshen up her makeup. While Chris is in the kitchen, Florence is strangled to death by an unseen assailant. Afraid that he will be accused of the crime, Chris moves Florence's body to her apartment with the assistance of his devoted black servant, Henry. Chris searches for the woman, only to discover that she gave him a false name. Chris is then questioned by police lieutenant Walter Castle, who suspects him of killing Florence. Chris brazens his way through the interview, and back in his office, is confronted by a man demanding the envelope. When the man pulls a gun on Chris, Henry knocks him out, and his identification reveals him to be Mihail Barak, a Romanian. Barak escapes but Chris tracks him to the theater where he is working for The Great Garonne, a mind-reader. While Garonne rehearses his act, Chris recognizes his assistant, Lila Neilson, as the woman from the bar. When Chris questions her, she admits that Florence came to her dressing room one afternoon, saying that she had information about Lila's long-lost sister. Lila's sister had disappeared a year after she married the current Garonne, who took over the act from Lila's father. Although Lila believes her sister has been in South America for a number of years, Florence claimed to have proof that she was murdered. Chris then searches Florence's apartment for the envelope, which he finds to contain old newspaper clippings about the last time Garonne played in New Orleans, when Lila's sister appeared as his assistant and was billed as The Spider Woman. Further investigation reveals that Florence believed Lila's sister to be an unidentified woman who was murdered five years before. Chris goes to the hotel where the dead woman was last seen, and Henri Dutrelle, the proprietor, states that he would be able to recognize Eric Campbell, the man who checked in with the woman, signed the register and disappeared after her body was found. Chris gives Dutrelle tickets to that evening's performance of Garonne's show, but while he is dressing, Dutrelle is strangled. Chris is arrested for Florence and Dutrelle's murders, and when Lila visits him in jail, he asks her to get Garonne to write the name "Eric Campbell" so that he can compare his writing to that on Dutrelle's register. After the show, Lila tricks Garonne into writing the name on a package, and after Chris escapes from jail, he confirms that the two signatures are the same, and that Garonne must be the killer. When Castle, chasing Chris, arrives at Lila's hotel, Garonne is captured, and Chris's deduction that he murdered Lila's sister, then killed Florence and Dutrelle to cover up the first crime, is proven correct. Later, when Lila goes to the bar to see Chris, Henry remarks that this is the way it all started before.