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Just after peanut-loving Los Angeles private investigator Michael Shayne learns from his devoted secretary, Phyllis Hamilton, that Jim Lacy, a fellow "dick" from New York, is coming to see him, Lacy stumbles into his office and dies of a gunshot wound. Searching Lacy's body, Shayne finds a large sum of cash and a piece of a baggage claim ticket. Shayne pockets the ticket, then leaves the office before Inspector Pete Rafferty, his longtime rival, comes to investigate. Later, Rafferty tells Shayne that, just before Lacy's death, he received a telegram informing him that Lacy was wanted "by Washington." After the ever-suspicious Rafferty tries to find out why Lacy was meeting with Shayne, Shayne is approached by Helen Brimstead, a beautiful blonde who says that Lacy, her old friend, recommended that she see him. Claiming that her estranged husband, escaped convict Mace Morgan, is threatening to ruin her relationship with her respectable fiancé unless she pays him blackmail money, Helen pleads with Shayne to help her. Much to the jealous Phyllis' annoyance, Shayne accepts the assignment. That night, Shayne and Phyllis are tailed by two thugs, Kurt Leroy and Trigger, who attack Shayne and force him into their car. The thugs take Shayne to a dockside hideout, where they demand to know where Lacy's ticket is. Shayne feigns ignorance, so Leroy and Trigger beat him again, but are chased off by the police and Phyllis, who has followed the thugs's car. Shayne then goes to Helen's apartment and is confronted by a gun-wielding stranger. Shayne jumps the stranger when Helen walks through the door, but the man escapes. Later, at the police station, Shayne learns that the stranger is a government agent named Pearson. Pearson tells Shayne that Lacy and Mace Morgan stole some valuable weaponry plans before Morgan was arrested for robbing a brokerage firm. Declaring that national security interests are at stake, Pearson tries unsuccessfully to pressure Shayne into revealing everything he knows about Lacy. Shayne's silence angers Phyllis and Shayne's reporter friend, Tim Rourke, but the detective insists that more investigation is needed. Shayne then meets Helen at a restaurant, and when Morgan shows up, holding a gun and demanding Lacy's ticket, Helen shoots him. Helen takes off before the police arrive, and a frustrated Rafferty accuses Shayne, who refuses to implicate Helen, of killing the convict. Later, Pearson appeals to Phyllis' patriotism and enlists her help in retrieving the ticket, and Phyllis goes to confront Helen at her apartment. Unaware that Leroy, who is plotting with Helen to get the ticket, is hiding in the bedroom, Phyllis admonishes Helen to stay away from Shayne. Despite Shayne's best efforts to rescue her, Phyllis is taken hostage by Leroy, who demands the ticket as ransom. Shayne negotiates Phyllis' release at Union Station, and after being reassured that she is safe, he gives Leroy and Trigger the ticket. Before the thugs leave the station with Lacy's bag, however, Rafferty, Pearson and the police arrive and engage them in a shootout. The crooks are eventually apprehended, but when Pearson tries to walk off with the bag, Shayne shows Rafferty a telegram he received from Washington, declaring Pearson an impostor. Pearson is then arrested, and Helen finally reveals that, after Lacy, Morgan and Pearson, whose real name is Barton, committed the New York brokerage robbery, they sent the money in a bag to Los Angeles and divided the claim ticket into three pieces. Helen admits that she conspired with Leroy and Trigger to kill Lacy and Morgan and take their share of the loot. The mystery solved, Phyllis rejoices the defeat of another blonde and reunites with her hard-working boss.