In San Francisco, Jim is picking up a package from an Asian woman at a magazine kiosk. As he goes along his way, a robber runs out of a bank and the teller yells for help before collapsing from his wound. Jim fires a warning shot into the air and the robber falls to the ground. A doctor arrives and checks the supposed robber, confirming he’s dead. Jim comes over and discovers that the bags the robber had are empty. The agent turns back to point out the teller and discovers that he’s disappeared. The doctor comes over to check out the bank and discovers that it’s an empty building, long abandoned.
A puzzled Jim returns to his hotel and takes the elevator to the lobby. A preacher joins him as they descend in the elevator. When they arrive at the lobby, the preacher backs out of the elevator, claiming that Jim attacked him. A crowd gathers and Jim protests his innocence, but the elevator operator confirms the preacher’s story. Jim grabs the man and demands that he tell the truth, but Artie and Colonel Henderson arrive, tells Jim to turn the operator loose, and Henderson escorts Jim out while Artie claims that they were performing a play.
Artie then meets Jim and Henderson at a restaurant, and Jim insists that he’s innocent. Artie jokingly patronizes him and Jim yanks the menu out of his hand, and Henderson says that it’s time to talk to Jim’s behavior over the last couple of weeks. Someone has been sending gifts, apparent bribes, to Jim, followed by letters accusing Jim of having gambling debts. As they talk, Jim flies into a fury. A woman comes in, introduces herself as Crystal Fair, and claims to be Jim’s fiancée, but he has no idea who she is. She claims they had a fight, puts her engagement ring on the table, and runs out the back. Jim goes after her and congratulates her on her performance, and she claims that she hit him. Henderson and Artie come out and overhear her comment. As she runs off, Jim pours himself a drink.
The next day, the reporters arrive at Henderson’s office and ask if Jim is being fired. Henderson wonders why they’re there and one of the reporters, Hansbury, shows him a flyer that was sent out. Henderson assures the reporters that Jim is taking a leave of absence. Jim comes out and angrily tells everyone that his vacation is permanent. Artie tries to calm him down and Jim punches him and then walks out.
Jim goes to a saloon to drink, and starts smashing glasses when the bartender doesn’t respond quickly enough. The bartender orders him out but a woman tells him to give Jim another drink and walks out before Jim can see who she is. Jim goes after her into the street and sees a tattoo parlor across the street. He goes in and finally finds the Asian woman from the magazine kiosk. She shoots him with a knockout dart and the ex-agent passes out.
Artie is a neighboring booth, posing as a sailor getting a tattoo. He misses Jim’s abduction and returns to the Wanderer
to report to Henderson. He explains that Jim was playing the role of busted agent to the hilt, went into the booth, and disappeared. They figure that whoever went to all the trouble of making Jim look crooked wants Jim alive, but there’s nothing they can do but wait until Jim contacts them.
Jim wakes up in a parlor filled with precious antiques. His host, Elisha Calamander is there, along with his agents: the Asian woman, Song; the doctor, Raymond; the fake bank robber, Moke; and the fake preacher. Crystal is the last to make her entrance. When Calamander admits he is the one responsible for Jim’s predicament, Jim attacks him and knocks out the others when they try to stop him. Calamander admits that he’s impressed that Jim was able to fight despite the drugs, and suggests that Jim get a shave and a haircut before attacking him. Song does the honors and Jim asks why she is there. She explains that she is Calamander’s servant and her parents sold her into his service. Crystal comes in to invite him to see Calamander. Once Jim leaves, Crystal slaps Song and knocks over her barbering tools.
Jim returns to the parlor and Calamander suggests that he reflect on the fact that he was fired from the Secret Service without consideration. When Jim lunges at him, he hears several guns being cocked and Calamander advises him to sit down. Calamander then says that he’s willing to pay Jim for his services, and explains that he procures art treasures and collectibles for wealthy man while remaining anonymous. He tells Jim to look in his jacket pocket and the agent finds a bundle of $5,000, a token of good faith. Calamander says that the other 95% will be payable when Jim accepts the job. Crystal comes in and encourages him to take the money, while Calamander says that working for him will let Jim thumb his nose at the Secret Service. Jim takes the money and Calamander’s other men come in, smiling. The agent says that they need to celebrate and invites Crystal to dinner, and she accepts when Calamander nods in approval.
Jim and Crystal enjoy dinner, while Artie is there undercover as a waiter. While Crystal talks, Jim doodles on a menu. She wonders why Jim isn’t asking about the job Calamander wants him for, but Jim assures her that he isn’t interested in finding out until Calamander wants to tell him. As she drinks, Crystal explains that Calamander needs Jim for all of his special skills, including swimming, shooting, diving, and climbing. She mentions Calamander stealing back something that was stolen, and then finally gets control of herself and Jim escorts her out. Artie starts to pick up the menu but Moke comes over and takes it with him. Fortunately, Artie had placed a sheet of carbon beneath and still gets Jim’s message
Back at the Wanderer
, Artie and Henderson go over Jim’s note, which includes Calamander’s name and the skills Jim needs for the assignment. They’ve found nothing on Calamander, and Artie tries to work out what Jim will be stealing. Henderson goes over items stolen from the government but Artie says that since they know that Calamander is a patron of the arts and likes grand gestures. He’s checked the engagement ring that Crystal left on the table and confirmed that it was stolen from a museum and once belonged to Maria Sophia, Queen of Portugal.
Calamander is admiring a vase when Jim comes in. The crime lord asks what the code symbols indicate, and Jim pretends to take offense and attacks Moke and the other men. Once he’s taken care of them, Calamander draws a gun and demands to know what the symbols mean. Song comes in and says that they’re symbols in a game that she taught Jim to play. Calamander wonders why Jim didn’t explain, and he says that he would have gotten around to it.
Artie meets with Henderson and admits that he’s stumped as to what and where Calamander wants. Henderson gets a message concerning the disappearance of kilesium, a rare chemical that is a distillate of sea water. There’s only one vial in existence and it has been stolen. Artie confirms that the kilesium was stolen a month ago and realizes that Calamander wants the vial. The contents could decimate the country within 24 hours and is priceless. Artie explains that at 70 degrees and normal air pressure, it converts into poison gas. It has to be stored in a saline solution at low pressure and temperature, and Artie figures that it’s in a 30’ deep tank of seawater situated near the coast to replace the water due to evaporation. There is a chain of inland saltwater lakes nearby which would also meet the storage needs.
Calamander tells Jim that he’s been hired to obtain a relic, the Hand of St. Stephen. Crystal suggests that Jim should receive $100,000 rather than $50,000, Jim seizes upon that, and Calamander reluctantly agrees. Calamander then talks about Inigo Golem, who Jim knows as the director of the Marine Biological Institution at the Fowles Point Inland Sea. In fact, Calamander claims that he has gone into the same business as Calamander and stole the hand, and now has it hidden in a 30’ tank in his laboratory. They go over a map of the laboratory which shows the tank that leads from the inland sea to the storage tank. There is an 18-minute gap when water isn’t pumped into the conduit, and Jim has that long to complete his mission.
Jim rides to the coast near the laboratory and approaches the conduit. Crystal is there and tells him that Calamander and his men are waiting to kill him when he emerges from the conduit with the recovered item. She knows an alternate way out of the lab, but wants to split the take 50/50. Jim agrees and she tells Jim that there’s another entrance through a cave. Crystal kisses him for luck and Jim continues on his way. The fake preacher comes up behind her and grabs her. Meanwhile, Jim swims into the conduit and climbs up to the lab.
Artie arrives at the lab, posing as a postman delivering a package. He refuses to give the package to the door guard unless he pays the postage. When the guard gives him a quarter, Artie accuses him of bribing him. The guard lets him in to get the exact change from the head guard.
Jim gets to the lab and uses thermite to burn through the grille.
Artie insists on delivering his package to the recipient, Inigo Golem. Meanwhile, Golem goes to the lab and turns on the water pumps. Jim lights the thermite and then swims into the tank and uses a small explosive to free the case holding the supposed reliquary.
When Golem learns what has happened, he chastises the guards and demands to know why they didn’t hear the explosive. He looks into the tank and sees Jim climbing out. The guards attack the agent, who quickly subdues them. However, Golem calls in the two guards who are talking to Artie. Jim takes them out while Artie knocks out Golem and then directs his partner to a hidden door. It’s locked and Artie produces a small blowtorch to cut through the lock. They climb into the cavern and head for the surface, and Artie tells his partner that it’s kilesium. They drop the container, planning to bring the tunnel down on it, and get outside. However, Calamander and his men are waiting for them along with a captive Crystal. When Jim says that they had to abandon it, Calamander tells Raymond and Moke to hold the agents at gunpoint while he and the fake preacher go to get the kilesium. Artie tries to warn him but Calamander doesn’t believe him.
Calamander and his henchman find the vial, while Golem and his men enter the caverns and look for Jim and Artie. Both parties meet at the bag holding the vial just as the gas activates. When Moke and Raymond hear the screams, they’re distracted long enough for Jim and Artie to dispose of them.
Later, Henderson invites the press to the Wanderer
to inform them that Jim has been reinstated with a commendation from the President. Artie explains that they dynamited the cave and sealed off the gas, and Jim leaves for a dinner engagement with Song.