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Government agent Cal York goes into a San Pedro waterfront diner and loudly questions the owner about Pete Gore, a notorious smuggler who sells stolen U.S. munitions to revolutionaries in Central and South America. Gore, seated in the diner, is infuriated by Cal's verbal attack and lashes out. Although the diner is surrounded by policeman, Gore escapes to a train yard, where he secretly meets with Cal. Gore is actually fellow agent Lee Stevens, and the showy encounter was a ploy to alert underworld figures that Gore is in San Pedro, even though the real Gore is being held secretly in a South American prison. Lee and Cal hope that their undercover operation will lead to the arrest of a major weapons dealer. A day later, as Lee awaits some sort of contact, two armed men suddenly burst into his room. The thugs demand the half million dollars that Gore supposedly owes a dealer, but Lee disarms them and offers to hire them to help familiarize him with San Pedro. Soon after, Lee is walking with his newly hired henchmen when he spots Cal and, after stating that Cal is a federal agent, chases him. Once alone with Lee, Cal informs him that Lida Montoya, a South American working as a bar singer, has been attempting to reach Gore by dedicating a song to him every night. Lee then pretends to shoot and kill Cal, alarming the two henchmen, who run away. That night, Lee goes to see Lida, who has never met the real Gore, and arranges to meet her after her shift ends at the Terminal Island ferry. Lee is concerned, however, when Lida asks him about "Victor," whom she calls his best friend. Lacking any intimate knowledge about Gore, Lee passes on the question to his contact, and when the U.S. government cannot find any information about a Victor, they ask the South American prison holding Gore. Lee soon learns that Victor is a pet kinkajou, a South American mammal. At the ferry terminal, Lee and Lida escape the two men who have been following her, and Lida explains that they are secret police from her country attempting to stop her efforts to reestablish her late father's presidency. Armed with his knowledge about Victor, Lee convincingly impersonates Gore, whom Lida mistakenly believes is a good man because he supplied arms to her father. Lee tries to disabuse her of the notion that war is romantic and that he is a hero, coldly telling her that if she has enough money, he can obtain weapons for her. Lee then demands advance payment from Lida, and although she has only $500, she promises that she has access to the half million necessary to purchase her equipment. Hoping to attract more attention, Lee moves to a nicer neighborhood and is waiting to be approached by a dealer when Cal notifies him that Gore was released from custody and has since disappeared. Although their department chief wants to end their operation, Lee persuades Cal to give him a few more days, and soon after is taken by three men to a warehouse to meet their boss. The leader, Ed Dolphin, questions Lee and, satisfied with his answers, agrees to supply him with stolen arms. During the discussion, however, the two secret policemen appear and are killed in a shootout. Dolphin, who refuses to divulge the name of his boss, demands proof that Lida has the necessary money. When Lee questions Lida, however, she reveals that she does not have the money and was hoping to obtain the merchandise on credit. An infuriated Lee stalks out, and, unknown to him, is observed by the real Gore, who had heard that someone impersonating him was in San Pedro. Gore, with Victor in tow, bursts into Lida's hotel room and convinces her that he is the real arms dealer, although he assumes that Lee is merely a small-time thief using his name. Hoping to crack open the smuggling ring, the agency agrees to Lee's request to loan the money to Lida and places the half million dollars in a bank account for her. After Lee leaves the bank, however, Lida, at Gore's instructions, obtains a certified check for the amount and Gore makes a forgery of it, with which he intends to pay Dolphin while keeping the money for himself. Lida begins to see Gore as the mercenary he really is, but reluctantly agrees to meet with Dolphin to advance the schedule for loading her freighter with the arms. Meanwhile, Cal, who has discovered Gore's presence in San Pedro and his dealings with Lida, alerts Lee. Lee finds Lida at the warehouse, and she admits that the real Gore is aboard the ship, which is to sail soon. On the ship, Lee searches fruitlessly for Gore, then calls Cal, who is in Lida's room, just as Gore enters and brutally beats Cal. Lee alerts the authorities and reveals his true identity to Lida, who realizes that he was using her to identify the arms smugglers. Lee informs the crushed young woman that Gore sold weapons to the rebels who killed her father, and that her father was actually a corrupt dictator. At the warehouse, business tycoon Widmer is identified as the boss of Dolphin's gang and captured. Later, Gore returns to the ship and after a long fight with Lee, is tossed off the vessel to the dock below. After warning Lida to reconsider next time she feels like starting a war, Lee rushes to the hospital, where he learns that Cal will recover from his injuries.