After medical student Larry Crain learns that his scholarship has
been revoked, he takes his gold watch to one of his instructors,
Professor Morton Stanley, who is operating an unlicensed pawnshop
out of his apartment. Stanley offers Larry $10, which he
reluctantly accepts. Larry then goes to a restaurant, where the
customer next to him is unable to pay for her meal. Larry kindly
pays the bill for her, and she promises to repay him the next time
Larry returns home, wraps a glass ashtray in a
handkerchief and goes to Stanley's. Larry hides in the shadows
until a workman, who is painting an empty unit, leaves. Larry
pretends to have brought Stanley another item to pawn, then hits
him in the skull with the ashtray, killing him. Larry finds the
money box, just as two more of Stanley's customers arrive at the
door. When their knock goes unanswered, the customers decide to
ask the janitor to check on Stanley, in case he is ill.
leave, a panicked Larry rushes out empty-handed, and when he hears
someone coming up the stairs, slips into the vacant unit, getting
some paint on his jacket sleeve in the process. Larry falls asleep
and is awakened the next morning by the landlady and police
officer Schaefer, who has come to arrest him. As they are leaving,
the landlady hands Larry his mail. At the station, Capt. Burke
tells Larry that there was an announcement in the previous day's
paper requesting that Stanley's customers come to reclaim their
possessions and he was the only one who did not do so.
claims that he slept through the entire day and did not see the
paper, then opens his mail. After reading it, Larry tells Burke
that he has just received a check for $1000 from a periodical
review that is going to publish an article that he submitted.
Later, Larry finds Eileen (Anne Gwynne), the customer whom he helped, working at
the restaurant. They decide to have a picnic, but Schaefer forces
Larry to return to the station.
There, Burke complements Larry on
his article, "Men Above the Law," in which he states his belief
that if enough good results from an evil act, the act is
justified. At the restaurant, the students excitedly inform Larry
that the college has learned about his article and decided to
renew his scholarship. At the station, Burke tells Larry that they
found clothing fibers clinging to the paint inside the vacant
unit. Larry goes to Eileen's home, confesses to the murder and
resolves to turn himself in.
When he returns home, Larry finds
Burke waiting for him. Burke points out that day's headline:
"Painter confesses murder," then says that sometimes innocent
people confess to others' crimes. Burke calmly asks Larry to come
to his office later, which Larry agrees to do, but after Burke
leaves, Larry quickly packs. He arranges to meet Eileen at a
travel agency and, when he sees her across the street, is so
anxious to join her that he steps in front of a car and is hit.
Back in his room, a feverish Larry wakes up from his nightmare,
relieved to learn that he has only been dreaming.
arrives with a loan of $120 and news that Larry's scholarship has
been renewed. In the hallway, Larry sees the landlady showing the
customer from the restaurant to her new room, and she recognizes
Larry. After she pays him the money that she owes him, Larry asks
the woman, whose name is really Cathy, to meet him later.