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After a cruise ship docks in San Francisco, a porter snatches one of the passenger's suitcases and tosses it into a waiting cab, which then speeds away. When the cab driver accidentally runs over a police officer and then crashes into a barricade, Lt. Ben Guthrie and Inspector Al Quine of the San Francisco Police Department are called in to investigate. Their first step is to question Philip Dressler, the man whose suitcase was stolen. As Dressler is describing the bag's contents, which includes a statue that he bought in Hong Kong, word comes that the dead cab driver has been identified as a felon who served time for driving the getaway car in an armed robbery. At the police lab, the suitcase recovered from the cab is examined and heroin is found hidden inside the statue. Suspecting that Dressler may be involved, Ben decides to put him under surveillance. When the custom's inspector informs Ben that drug traffickers have been using unsuspecting tourists to smuggle their wares into the United States, Ben asks Dressler to attend a police lineup of the ship's porters to try and identify the man who snatched his bag. After Dressler fails to recognize the thief, Ben and Al proceed to the cab driver's apartment, where they find a hypodermic needle and conclude that the man was a drug addict. When they notice two dates circled on the man's calendar, Ben realizes that the robbery occurred on the first date and that the other is tomorrow's date. Ben then concludes that a shipment must be scheduled for the following day. Meanwhile, Dancer and Julian, two psychopathic hired killers, land in San Francisco and go to a secluded motel. Soon after, Sandy McLain arrives and introduces himself as their new "wheelman." After a porter's body is found floating in the bay, and the autopsy reveals that the man was given a lethal injection of drugs, Dressler is summoned to the morgue to identify the body. Meanwhile, McLain drives Dancer and Julian to the docks where they are to meet their contact. As Julian waits inside the car, Dancer meets Staples, their contact, who explains that two groups of passengers and one crew member are unwittingly transporting the drugs. Watching the passengers debark from a recently docked cruise ship, Staples points out the Sanders family, who are unaware that the flatware they just bought is filled with heroin; Dorothy Bradshaw and her little daughter Cindy, whose porcelain doll contains a cache of heroin; and Larry Warner, who has been asked to deliver a statue of a horse. After providing Dancer with the addresses of all three groups, Staples instructs him to collect the drugs and drive to Sutro's Museum, an amusement park, where he is to place them in a hidden compartment in the ship's pinnacle at 4 p.m. McLain then drives Dancer and Julian to the Seamen's Club where Warner is staying. There, Dancer states that he has come to pick up the statue, after which Warner invites him to join him in the steam room. When Warner reveals that he found the heroin hidden inside the statue, and demands $1,000 for its return, Dancer pulls out the gun he has encased in his towel and shoots him. As Dancer goes upstairs to Warner's room to claim the statue, two sailors notice Julian waiting for him in the hallway. After the killers climb back into the cab, Dancer tells Julian, who is fascinated with recording and analyzing their victims' last words, that Warner uttered "why be greedy?" before dying. Ben is summoned after Warner's body is discovered in the steam room, and the sailors provide him with an accurate description of Julian. Dancer proceeds to the Sanders mansion, where he is met by the houseboy. When the houseboy refuses to relinquish his employer's flatware, Dancer threatens him. The frightened houseboy tries to flee, but is cut down by a bullet from Dancer's gun. As Dancer places the flatware in the car, he reports that the servant's last words were "Mr. Sanders." At the St. Francis Hotel, where the Bradshaws are staying, Dancer learns that Dorothy and her daughter have gone to the aquarium. McLain drives Dancer there, where Dancer approaches Dorothy and persuades her to accept a ride back to the hotel. As they leave, a police officer recognizes Julian from the sailors' description and notifies headquarters of the license plate number of his car. In her hotel room, Cindy shows them her new doll. When Julian reaches up the doll's skirts to retrieve the heroin, he finds it gone, prompting an enraged Dancer to tear the figurine to pieces. Dancer then frightens the girl into admitting that she sprinkled the "powder" she found on the doll's face. Dancer is about to shoot both mother and daughter when Julian warns him that they need the women to substantiate the story about the missing drugs. After forcing the women in the cab, they drive to Sutro's and Dancer goes inside to explain the situation to their employer. As the clock nears 4 p.m., Dancer waits by the telescopes and eyes the ship's pinnacle, watching for his contact. Outside, a police officer spots McLain's car and issues an alert. As schoolgirls swarm around the telescopes and Dancer, a man in a wheelchair slides open a panel in the ship's pinnacle. Dancer then walks over to explain the loss of the drugs. When the man impassively replies "you're dead," Dancer flies into a rage and pushes the man's wheelchair over the railing to the ice rink below. Al and Ben arrive at Sutro's just as Dancer jumps into the cab and speeds away. With the police in pursuit, McLain recklessly careens through hairpin turns until he reaches the end of a partially built freeway and comes to a screeching halt. The crazed Dancer then slugs Julian and tells him that their employer's last words were "they'll get you." When Julian tries to surrender to the police, Dancer shoots him, then seizes Cindy to use as a shield. After releasing the girl, Dancer jumps onto the freeway railing and falls to his death after being struck by a police bullet.