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Having served eighteen years in prison for killing his father, Bill Clark is a free man, but finds the outside lonely and bewildering. After he is betrayed by a friendly man who turns out to be a newspaper reporter looking for a scoop, Bill heads for New York City to avoid the attention generated by a sensational article that identifies him as having been the state's youngest murderer at the age of thirteen. Bill makes a tentative friendship with a platinum blonde taxi dancer, Catherine, who shows him around the city, but her boyfriend, George Conover, finds them at her apartment and starts a fight. Bill is knocked out, then Catherine accidentally shoots George in self-defense, but later leads Bill to believe that he did the shooting. They flee the city after learning from a radio broadcast that George, a police detective, died from the wound. Forming an uneasy alliance, Bill and Catherine borrow her brother's car to get over the state line, then stow away in a truck hauling automobiles across country. At a motel, after checking in as "Mike and Nikki Lewis," they decide to marry using the assumed names. To assist with their disguise, Catherine dyes her hair back to brunette. Although mutual trust is slow to develop, their passion for each other grows. Finally, while waiting to hop a train, Bill tells Catherine how, at the age of thirteen, he passed out while defending his mother from one of his father's brutal beatings, and awakened to find him shot dead. Unable to express remorse for the death of his father, Bill's honest relief was mistaken as coldbloodedness by the jury, who passed a guilty verdict in spite of his youth. With no destination in mind, Bill and Catherine continue to work their way west, and hitch a ride with Henry and Stella Dawson and their young son Johnny, who are on their way to Salinas, California, to work in the lettuce fields. After being convinced to join them, Bill and Catherine set up in one of the cottages provided for the workers. Although they remain wary of the law, they find happiness in the hard work and community of laborers. When Bill is offered a welding job which will begin after the harvest season and Catherine learns that she is pregnant, they seem content. Then Johnny finds a picture of Bill in a pulp magazine article about murderers, which offers a sizable reward for his capture. Although the Dawsons are fond of Bill and Catherine, Henry considers turning in Bill until Stella convinces him that they do not want "that kind of money." Bill is unaware of the Dawsons' discovery, but perceives a change in the Dawsons' behavior toward him, and feeling distrustful, backs out of a fishing trip with Henry. Later, Bill's sense of paranoia increases when he sees police at the Dawsons' cottage, and even after Stella tells Catherine that Henry's car has collided with an oil truck, his wariness does not completely diminish. Upon learning that Henry needs expensive medical treatment in Los Angeles for burns suffered in the crash, Stella reluctantly alerts the police about Bill hoping to get the reward money. Meanwhile, Bill and Catherine panic watching more police activity outside the Dawsons' cottage, and Catherine finally tells him that it was she who shot George. Disbelieving, Bill plans to escape at all costs, and when the sheriff arrives at their door, Bill is armed with a scythe. To keep him from getting into more trouble, Catherine disables Bill by shooting him in the shoulder and Bill is taken into custody. Trying to protect each other, both Bill and Catherine confess to killing George, but after listening to their stories, the New York district attorney finally tells them that George made a statement before he died, claiming that Catherine shot him in self-defense. Although their disappearance looked at first suspicious to the police, he explains, they were not being pursued until the pulp magazine printed the "half-cocked" story and created a need to clear up the misunderstanding. With the case closed, Bill and Catherine are free to resume their new life together.