At the office, Lionel is reading yet another Mark Savage novel when E.L. tells him that they were underbid on a job by a P.I., Fred Wysocky. E.L. hears the phone call in the lobby and goes to answer it, claiming it's a personal call. He's pretending to be a referral service, and the call is from a teenager who wants to hire them to follow his girlfriend. E.L. refers him to Wysocky and starts to walk away, but gets another call. It's from Grace Ducharme, who wants someone experienced in background investigations. Not surprisingly, E.L. refers her to the Lionel Whitney Agency. When he returns to the office, Ducharme calls Lionel, who is surprised that a referral service recommended him. She wants to meet at somewhere public and Lionel sets up a rendezvous at a bar.
E.L. and Lionel meet with Ducharme, who explains that she's a judge with the superior court. She's surprised that Lionel has a Tommy gun on his business card, but E.L. glosses over it. Ducharme then explains that there was a miscarriage of justice on a case assigned to her that was then pulled at the last minute. She asks him to do a background on Larry Rodman, who was shot at a shopping center by a lunatic, Dean Culpits, who claimed Rodman was an alien. Culpits obtained an insanity plea, and is in a psychiatric hospital, but Ducharme doesn't believe it and notes that there are rumors of a case with a million dollars floating around. If they find it, they're entitled to 10%. She pays them their retainer and Lionel promises that the agency will assist her. As they go, Lionel admits that he's impressed that Ducharme chose them, and is curious how the referral service found out about them. He thanks E.L. for his faith and trust, and E.L. starts to have second thoughts.
Later, E.L. returns to the office and finds Lionel asleep at his desk. He's been unable to find anything on Rodman, and asks E.L. to hit the streets. Meanwhile, he goes down to the morgue to see who claimed the body. Later, E.L. returns to pick him up and tells his partner that Rodman rented a furnished condo a few months before he was killed, but didn't leave anything there. Lionel admits that they wouldn't tell him who claimed the body. E.L. takes Lionel's tie and coat and goes inside to talk to the clerk, Carl Eisenstadt. He starts dictating an interview tape and explains he's a city lawyer preparing a case. E.L. asks Eisenstadt to explain how he processed Rodman's body, and how he released the body to the wrong person. Eisenstadt insists everything was done properly and shows E.L. the file that Rodman was released to Michelle Moran, Rodman's sister.
The partners go to see Michelle at Sartain's Carpet Store where she works. She admits that she's Rodman's sister, but triggers a hidden alarm. Sartain goes to a one-way mirror and watches the partners interview Michelle as she spins a story about how she only saw Rodman once in Los Angeles before he died. Michelle claims she doesn't know anything about a million dollars. Sartain calls and tells her to find out who the partners are, and she gets their card. Once they leave, Sartain sends his thugs to track them down and eliminate them.
E.L. continues to send lousy clients to Wysocky via the lobby phone. When he returns, the two thugs burst in and demand answers. E.L. claims that Rodman's mother hired them, and Sartain's men tell them to drop the case. Once they're gone, E.L. reveals he pickpocket their wallets. They realize the thugs are from Sartain's.
Back at the carpet store, Sartain reminds his thugs that Rodman didn't have a mother, because he was actually Larry Cline. Cline used the Rodman identity to siphon money from their secret account. Sartain tells them to go back and get answers.
At the office, Lionel and E.L. try to put things together. They wonder if Ducharme can connect Sartain to Rodman and E.L. calls her, despite Lionel's warning that they'll be putting her in danger. E.L. claims to be a doctor and leaves a phone number for Ducharme. They're unaware that Judge Ducharme isn't the woman they talked to.
At a psychiatric hospital, a ranting Culpits is taken to a clinic room where a doctor, Alice Rynkoff, tends to him. She's the woman that hired the partners. Once she's alone with Culpits, she tells him that she knows he's faking insanity to avoid the penitentiary. She demands to know where the money is, but when he doesn't say anything useful, she prepares to give him a new psychoactive drug. Culpits finally stops faking and says he'll give her the money.
Lionel and E.L. go to the hospital and call the security chief, Kamecki. They tell him there's a sewage pipe break and that they'll be coming in as inspectors. As the partners go in, they're unaware that Sartain's men are watching them from nearby. Lionel and E.L. barge in and try to get into the psych ward to check the fake leak. E.L. gets in while Lionel distracts Kamecki.
Once Culpits gives up his information, Alice breaks her promise and has Culpits sent back to the ward. Meanwhile, E.L. dons a robe and passes himself off as a patient, but Alice spots him. E.L. figures out that Alice paid them to find some info on Rodman so she could use it to blackmail Culpits. He tries to bluff his way out, claiming Lionel is outside with the police, but Alice has him locked up.
Out in the main yard, Culpits talks to a friend, O.B., and tells him to get a screwdriver so they can escape. Meanwhile, Alice gets rid of E.L.'s street clothes and leaves, and Lionel spots her. Unaware that she's in on the whole thing, she claims that Culpits was going to confess and she came to talk to him. Alice claims she deputized E.L. to record the confession, and she'll take it to the D.A. in an hour. She deputizes Lionel and orders him to come with her to Sierra Madre Street after they stop at a military surplus shop. Sartain's men call their boss, who has no idea who Alice is. He orders them to follow her and Lionel.
E.L. listens as Culpits meets with O.B. and plans their escape. O.B. and Culpits start a fight and then slip away in the chaos. E.L. follows them into the break room, where they've prepare to escape through a vent. They spot him and E.L. convinces Culpits that Rynkoff has some of his money as well. Culpits agrees to let him go with them and they get out.
As they collect equipment, Alice explains to Lionel that Sartain is running a check-kiting scheme using computers. Culpits and Rodman worked for Sartain, and Culpits stole the million dollars from Rodman and hid it. When he was caught, he pretended to be insane and then reclaim the money later. Lionel wonders who Sartain's contact in City Hall is, and promises to help Alice.
E.L., Culpits, and O.B. get out, but it's daytime instead of night like Culpits planned, and there's nowhere to hide. They spot a maintenance van and E.L. suckers the worker into the tunnel so he can steal the van and escape with O.B. and Culpits.
Lionel drives Alice to Sierra Madre Street as she explains that Culpits came there and buried the suitcase with the money when the houses were merely staked out. Now the houses have been built.
Culpits steals bullets, guns, and shoes from a store and takes off with E.L. and O.B.
Lionel and Alice try to find the house and realize that the money is buried beneath the concrete base slab. He suggests that as a judge, she can call in the sheriff or the FBI. Meanwhile, Sartain's man tell their boss that Lionel and Alice aren't doing anything. Culpits arrives in the maintenance man and when Sartain gets word, he heads out to handle things personally. Meanwhile, Culpits confronts Alice and E.L. explains that she's not a judge. Culpits prepares to shoot Alice and E.L. tries to stop him. The robber refuses and has O.B. tie Alice and Lionel up in the van. E.L. suggests another approach to get at the money, and talks to the owner, Dorothy Walker. He claims she can get $200,000 in a lawsuit if they can take a piece of concrete from the slab. She's eager to invite them in and Culpits tells O.B. to get a sledge hammer.
In the van, Alice admits she was going to get Lionel off on false pretenses and leave with the money, but admits that she was bluffing about the psychoactive drug. When Lionel can't understand how she could violate the trust of her position, Alice explains that she was passed over repeatedly and wanted one shot at the big time. Lionel insists that it's never too late to change.
O.B. digs through the floor as Dorothy nervously looks on and E.L. and Culpits enjoy her iced tea. Once she leaves to get them some more iced tea, O.B. brings up the suitcase. Sartain and his men arrive and capture them all, and take the money. However, Lionel gets free, comes in, and knocks out Sartain and his men. When Culpits tries to escape, E.L. stops him but O.B. attacks him. However, E.L. points out that Culpits is leaving without him, and O.B. chases after his partner. Lionel explains that he sent Alice to call the cops, but E.L. doesn't believe she'll do it. He grabs a gun and captures the crooks, and the police arrive.
Later, Lionel is reading his Mark Savage novel about the detective's inevitable betrayal by a woman. Alice comes in and gives them half of the recovery fee. However, it's only $5,000, because they only paid 1% and she had to cover damages to the house. Alice tells Lionel that she is trying to change, Lionel pays half of the $4,899 in damages to the house. When E.L. disagrees, Alice hints that she knows he was running the referral scam and he gives her a parting kiss... and steals Lionel's check back. She thanks Lionel for his inspiration and leaves. Once she's gone, E.L. shows Lionel the recovered check. His partner disagrees and goes to take the check back, but finds Fred Wysocky at the doorstep. He wants to know which one of them is E.L. Turner, and the partners point at each other.