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In downtown San Francisco, a small gang, led by Luke Fraser, kills a bank securities delivery man and steals $250,000. By chance, Fraser's young son Frankie witneses the crime and is taken with the gang, but drops his books on the sidewalk as he is rushed away. Police Lieutenant Willard Logan investigates and reports to Chief of Police James T. Eckert that he suspects a child's involvement when he finds Frankie's notebook at the scene of the crime. Later, at the Blue Swan bar, Fraser informs his cohorts, Ben Driscoll, Harry Walker and Sammy Hess, that to reduce the chances of the money being traced by the police, he has hidden the money by checking it at the train station. When a routine absentee report from Frankie's school connects him to the robbery, Will goes to the Fraser apartment. Rocco, the building's manager warns Fraser, who hastily gives Frankie the claim ticket for the money and sends him out onto the fire escape. Fraser panics when Will arrives, and a shootout ensues, during which Fraser is killed. Will then takes Frankie, who overheard everything on the fire escape, to police headquarters. Even after Fraser's gun is linked to the robbery murder, the loyal Frankie defiantly refuses to talk. Will proposes to Eckert that he take Frankie to his home, hoping that time spent in a stable family environment will help the boy come to trust them. Although Eckert believes that Frankie should go to juvenile hall, he reluctantly agrees to let Will have the boy for ten days. Meanwhile, Ben discovers that the police have connected Frankie with the bank heist and hidden him away. In order top locate Frankie and the money, Ben tells Harry and Sammy that he plans to tip off the newspapers to the boy's involvement and let them find him. Frankie's distrust of Will, his wife Hazel, and her father, Pop Lockhart, gradually fades and he comes to believe in their kindness and sincerity. When a reporter named Nichols comes to the house to query Will about Frankie's identity, Will says that he does not know where Frankie is. Nichols soon publishes his suspicions, though, and immediately thereafter the mayor and the head of the Society of City Mothers confront Eckert and Will, demanding that Frankie be placed into a proper home. Will emotionally offers to legally adopt Frankie, but Nichols later returns to the Logans' house and accuses Will of keeping Frankie only to make him talk. Feeling that Will has betrayed him, Frankie runs away, but is picked up by Ben and Harry, who are waiting outside the Logan house. In order to get the claim ticket, Frankie must return to the house, and when he does, Pop, who tries to talk him into staying, is shot by Ben. Ben and Harry then take the horrified Frankie to the train station to claim the money. When signing for the bag, Frankie secretly leaves the clerk a message to alert Will. Back at the Blue Swan, Ben orders Harry to kill Frankie or forfeit his portion of the stolen money. Harry hesitates and just then the police arrive and shoot tear gas through the windows. Ben, Harry and Sammy are then killed during a gun battle with the police, but Frankie is not hurt. Finally, he is reunited with Will and they go to the hospital to visit the recovering Pop.