Announcer: The well-equipped car is the primary means by which the Highway Patrol achieves high-speed mobility in order to combat organized crime. A patrolman would no more abandon his car than his gun. And yet, on July 22, a migrant worker proceeding along Highway 15, came upon a patrol car, engine running, keys in the ignition lock..but empty. The citizen hurried to telephone his strange discovery to Highway Patrol headquarters.
At Highway Patrol headquarters, Patrolman Dorsey tells Chief Mathews that Officer Allard had been in radio contact with headquarters at 12 o'clock. Mathews replies that Allard was supposed to be on regular detail and had no special orders. The chief wants to go see the scene for himself.
Mathews and Dorsey get to the location of the cruiser that was abandoned and check out the car. The chief says that the car looks like the missing officer had just stepped out of it into thin air. Dorsey remarks that there is no sign of a struggle in front of the driver's door but Mathews spots something on the ground directly in front of the cruiser. Both walk to that spot and Mathews sees signs of a car that pulled away quickly and wants an impression of the tire tracks. As the patrolman prepares to take the impression, Mathews quickly walks back to his car and calls on the radio for prints to be taken from the car plus asks for all available units to come as part of a search party for Patrolman Allard. He also tells headquarters to get Allard's picture and description to radio and television and the newspapers. With that, the Chief gets back into his car to return to his office.
Announcer: A thorough examination of Officer Allard's car had revealed nothing except that the radio was out of order. Newspapers and broadcast stations had cooperated fully resulting in a number of false leads and an interview with Frank Handley, a car painter.
Mathews handles another false lead on the phone, then turns his attention back to his interview with car painter, Frank Handley. Handley tells Mathews that the officer that is missing eats regularly at the diner across from where he works. He even told him about a suspicious car that he had been asked to paint quickly; a car that didn't need painting with a driver who had a bandage on his face which he kept pointed at the painter. Handley said Allard took off after him toward highway 15. It was a 1956, green four door sedan that he had just painted black. Mathews asks for the license number which the man gives him. The chief then dials the DMV to get the information on who the car is registered to.
Mathews goes to see Theo Nielsen, a book store owner who the wanted car is registered to. Nielsen is sure that it must have been some other car that just looked like hers. She gives the story that she loaned her car to a lady friend who has had it for a week now and should be returning it soon. She doesn't want her name or the book shop in the news. Mathews obviously isn't buying the story but can't do anything at the moment. He tells her that there is a man missing and maybe murdered. They will do what they have to do. As he leaves, he tells her that they will stop and arrest her "friend" on the road.
Theo runs after Mathews as two men cross the street toward the shop. The younger man, George, tells Larry that it's too late, that the cops have gotten to Larry's fiance before they were able to. As Mathews takes a radio call, Larry blames George for using a gun when they were all clear with a newly painted car. Apparently talking about Patrolman Allard, the two continue to argue whether they would have gotten past the officer with the altered car when George accuses him of ripping off Theo of $10,000, the reason they were getting out of town with her stolen car. Larry says she's love-starved and he could have talked her into anything. George complains that they were doing just fine "lifting and selling" cars and why did he have to get them involved with a woman, her money, and her car which has now lead to the murder of a cop. George is concerned about leaving a witness but Larry assures him that won't be a problem and sends his "brother" to go watch for when Mathews leaves the scene.
When Mathews drives away, George signals Larry all clear and Larry calls Theo from a phone booth. He tells the worried woman that the police have made a mistake and that he knows where the car is. He gives her a story about George selling the car to a used car dealer and that he'll go and buy it back. He lays it on thick, telling the "blinded by love" woman that he wants to avoid the police so his brother won't get hurt, she agrees to his plan.
George wants to know the plan and Larry says they'll dump her body in a canyon as they leave town. George wants to know how they are going to get the woman up the canyon. "With my brain instead of your gun," Larry replies.
On the remote road, Officer Johnson is seen inspecting a burned out car as Mathews joins him. Johnson tells the chief that there are no numbers, no plates, no engine markings, and no finger prints. Mathews asks if Dorsey is on scene and Johnson tells him he's looking through the brush nearby. Just then, Officer Dorsey yells that he's found something. Mathews and Johnson take off toward the voice. As they approach Dorsey, they see the body of Patrolman Allard lying in the brush. Mathews whips into action, ordering the coroner to the scene and the burned car towed to the lab immediately. Johnson heads back to his radio as Dorsey tells Mathews there's always the chance it's not the car. Mathews says it has to be the car and to go bring Miss Nielsen in for more questions. Mathews glances one last time at the body of the dead officer before setting off to find his killers.
Announcer: Theo Nielsen could not be linked to the burned out car by the numbers on the engine, body, or license plate. They had all been obliterated. Still, every circumstance indicated that she owned the car.
At headquarters, Dorsey walks Miss Nielsen into the office where Chief Mathews is sitting. The chief begins to question the woman about the story she gave him earlier; that the car is 200 miles away. She confirms that the story was true. Mathews then refutes her story with a witness's testimony to seeing the car with her plates. She says it's a mistake. He then brings in tire impressions and shows them to her. One from where the patrol car was found and one from her car...they match. She says that when they find the patrolman he'll be able to explain. Mathews then pulls out a photograph taken of Officer Allard's dead body, shot to death, found 50 yards from the burned out car. Her car! "NO...NO," she exclaims. She's getting her car back today and tells Mathews a male friend has it. But then she starts asking herself questions about how Larry's story could be true and Mathews asks her to start at the beginning.
Looking for a car that looks like Theo's, George spots one with the window down a bit for the heat, pops it open, and hot wires it. It's an exact duplicate of Theo's car and Larry says she'll never know the difference, especially with her own license plate on it.
Officer Dorsey is taking Nielsen's statement at headquarters as Theo says that's all she knows about Larry. As a tear appears in her eye, Mathews tells the crushed woman that she's been taken for a car and $10,000. The chief tells her he doesn't expect the two thieves to show themselves to her again and she asks if she can go. Mathews asks her to call if she does hear from them. As Dorsey walks the woman out to his car to drive her back to the book shop, Mathews calls to run a make on Gardner.
Dorsey drops Miss Nielsen off at the curb and she opens the shop's front door just as the phone is ringing. She hurries inside to answer it and it's Larry informing her he's got her car. She asks him strongly if he does indeed have her car and he says of course he does, that he's looking right at it. But he tells her that the dealer will only sell it back to her and to meet him at Main and the highway at 6pm. She agrees. Larry steps out of the phone booth and tells George that they'll get to the book shop early just in case she changes her mind.
Chief Mathews gets the information on the phone he wanted: Larry Gardner was convicted of grand theft auto. Just then, the phone buzzes. It's Theo Nielsen. She tells the chief that Larry called and said he had her car. She asks if it is her car. Mathews says no it's not and then reads Garnder's rap sheet. As the list of crimes rolls over the phone, Theo's face falls as does the phone from her face. Mathews calls to her but she does not answer. Finally, she tells the chief that she heard him and that she's been a fool. She tells him that she is supposed to meet him but doesn't want to. She's so embarrassed. Mathews convinces her to help them out and she agrees. He tells her to not break routine, close up shop at 6 and to walk the few blocks to highway 15. He assures her that one of his men will be near her at all times and to not worry.
Announcer: The used car lot at Main and the highway was immediately staked out by plainclothesmen in an undercover car. A block away, concealed from the used car lot, Dan Mathews waited. Directly in front of Nielsen's Book Store, officer Dorsey, in plain clothes, and in an undercover car, maintained a close surveillance. All units were in constant communication. All necessary measures had been taken to protect Miss Nielsen and to apprehend the criminals. It was important to the plan that Miss Nielsen play her part well.
Officer Dorsey, in plain clothes, gets out of an undercover convertible and walks to the front door of Nielsen's Book Shop as Larry and George approach in the stolen car down an alley. Dorsey makes contact with Theo and tells her they are all over and if she needs him, to just signal. Larry exits the stolen car and walks in a back door to the shop. Dorsey asks Theo if she has any books about early crime detection methods and she smiles and says sure, they're in the back. As she walks into the back room, she surprises Larry who grabs her. She begins to scream for the officer and Dorsey pulls out his gun and runs toward the back as Larry runs out the back door.
Gardner yells to George to get moving as he jumps into the stolen car. Dorsey runs out the back door and fires a shot as the car pulls behind a wall. He runs into the alley and fires another shot just as the car turns out of sight. Officer Dorsey then runs back to check on Miss Nielsen and then on to his car where he calls 21-50 and reports. Chief Dan Mathews calls to all units in the Springwood area to look for a 1956 light green four door sedan and then gives the descriptions of the felons. Mathews then assigns cars to search. Officer Johnson spots the car coming out of the town and Mathews calls all cars to converge as Johnson blocks the road with his cruiser. The suspect car is flying through the canyon as Dan tightens up from behind.
As George and Larry make a turn they see Officer Johnson's car blocking the road ahead and slow down to a stop. George throws the stolen car into reverse and turns around. Johnson calls Mathews about the car coming back his way then jumps in his cruiser to pursue with sirens blaring. The family car is no match for the high performance squad car and trained officer. Just as Johnson reaches the killers, Mathews flies around a corner and cuts the sedan off. Mathews and Johnson are ready to shoot both cop killers but Larry rips the gun out of George's hand and gives it to the chief, and as Johnson frisks both suspects, quickly tells him that he's never used a gun; that it was George who killed Officer Allard. "He pulled the trigger, you mean," replies Mathews as both men understand what the chief means. After they are cuffed, Dan opens the door to his car as Johnson puts them in and climbs in the back with the two caught killers. Chief Dan Mathews slowly walks around the back of his car. The bleak job of finding the men who murdered one of his own, done...for now.