powered by AFI
On a westbound train, the conductor asks Dr. Paul Brucker, who is using the pseudonym Sloan, to assist a sick passenger. After his examination, Brucker tells the conductor the man may have polio, and recommends an unscheduled stop at the nearest town, Winston, Arizona. Meanwhile, the conductor grants Brucker access to the baggage car so he can get his medical kit. Unknown to the conductor, Brucker withdraws a gun from his bag and injects the security officer and baggage handlers with a substance that puts them to sleep. Brucker then blows open the train's safe and steals $500,000. Brucker, the supposedly sick man and his wife then disembark in Winston, where they board an ambulance. Early the next morning in Los Angeles, insurance investigator Charlie Norman is called in to work by his boss, Sam Hendrix, who assigns him to the robbery investigation, which disrupts Charlie's plans for a vacation with his wife Ruth. Later, Charlie teams up with his friend, railroad detective Joe Armstrong. After interviewing the train's crew in Phoenix, and questioning the witnesses and the local sheriff, Charlie and Joe learn little except that the regular ambulance drivers were knocked out prior to a call from the train. The next day, after the ambulance is located in a field, Charlie surmises that the robbers may have escaped by helicopter. Charlie is proven right when the helicopter, owned by charter operator Al Wolfe, is found in Riverside, California. Charlie and Joe then interview Wolfe, who claims that the helicopter had been rented a month earlier and was never returned. One evening, when Ruth observes that Charlie appears to be under stress, he yells at her. Unknown to Ruth, Charlie is the mastermind behind the train robbery and is having an affair with Paul's wife, Linda Alvarez Brucker, who had posed as the wife of the sick man on the train. That night, Charlie learns that Lombard, one of their cohorts, accidentally shot himself during their escape, and that Brucker, a real doctor who lost his license due to malpractice, has asked Wolfe to hide them while he treats Lombard. His timetable now disrupted, Charlie arranges with Linda to have Brucker meet him at a seaside bungalow with his share of the money. The next day, Brucker reports that Lombard died, and that Wolfe, who is unaware of Charlie's involvement, buried the body on his property in exchange for Lombard's share of the money. Brucker now intends to plot his own course of escape, but Charlie insists that he follow orders and reminds the alcoholic physician how they met years earlier, when Brucker bungled a fake accident claim he had submitted to Charlie's insurance company. Although the chastised Brucker realizes that Charlie is cuckolding him, he accepts Charlie's orders to leave and escape south to Mexico. Charlie then gets nervous because Joe has figured out that the robber was a real physician. Not long afterward, a bum named Frankie Paige is arrested and confesses that he drove the getaway car, but claims not to know the names of the other participants. One night, Charlie, in his capacity of insurance investigator, visits Wolfe, who, under pressure, admits to his involvement in the robbery. Upset that the Bruckers appear to have escaped, Wolfe agrees to confess to the police, prompting Charlie to kill him. Before he leaves Wolfe's apartment, Charlie takes a piece of paper with a Tijuana address from Wolfe's desk. Wolfe's death is declared a suicide, and Joe is about to give up on the case when he learns that Brucker was killed by customs police at the border, but his wife escaped. Joe, who is fond of Ruth, suggests that Charlie have Ruth meet him in Mexico so they can start their vacation at the conclusion of the case. That night, Charlie hides his share of the stolen money in a briefcase, and asks Ruth to bring it with his other luggage when she meets him later in Mexico. In Tijuana, Charlie and Joe work with Mexican police lieutenant Castro, and Charlie tries to throw Castro off Linda's trail by lying that she is a blonde, despite contradictory reports from the border police. That night, Charlie borrows Castro's patrol car and tells Joe he is going to the airport to pick up tickets for his vacation in Mexico City. Instead, he goes to Bobik's Bar at the address he found in Wolfe's apartment, and demands to know where Linda is. Charlie accuses Bobik of running a fake passport exchange with Lombard and Wolfe. Bobik concedes to the fact and reveals that he arranged for two passports for the Bruckers, along with safe passage out of Mexico. Now planning to run away with Linda, who is in a room upstairs, Charlie agrees to pay Bobik for the passports. The next day, Joe reveals that he has received a full report about Brucker and Linda, and insists on joining Charlie when he picks up Ruth at the border. When Charlie and Ruth are alone in their hotel room, she confesses that she innocently opened his briefcase and discovered the money. Realizing it must be connected to the train robbery, Ruth returned the money to Hendrix in an unmarked envelope. Enraged, Charlie admits that he plans to run away with Linda. Although Ruth is devastated by the revelation, she lovingly agrees to give him a head start before Joe finds out. Charlie is temporarily detained in the lobby by Joe and Castro, who has learned that Charlie was at Bobik's the night before, although Castro assumes he went for entertainment. After Charlie leaves, a now suspicious Joe visits Ruth, who tries to hide her distress. Joe then makes a telephone call and learns that it was Charlie who processed Brucker's long-ago fake accident claim. At the bar, meanwhile, Charlie insists that Bobik produce the passports before he will pay, then murders Bobik and flees with Linda. Joe and the police have already arrived at the bar, and during the ensuing chase, Charlie kills several policemen. Finally, both Linda and Charlie are shot by the police, and Charlie dies in Joe's arms.