Major Ivan Kuchenko is sleeping in a cheap hotel room when the phone rings. The man on the other end asks for Kuchenko by name and tells him that he has friends. As they talk, Kuchenko is unaware that the man, Commissar Vassiloff, is watching him from across the alleyway. Vassiloff tells Kuchenko to stay put and hangs up. Vassiloff's henchman Boris is eager to kill Kuchenko and doesn't understand why they're waiting. Vassiloff assures him that Kuchenko's death will be an artistic triumph.
Kuchenko waits nervously until Vassiloff knocks on the door and identifies himself as the man on the phone. He offers to come in unarmed and Kuchenko lets him in. Vassiloff talks of Siberia and how Kuchenko spent time there, and Kuchenko angrily speaks of how he was imprisoned there. Vassiloff notes that Kuchenko, a political prisoner, escaped after a 12-year term and has come to a neutral country to get a flight to a Western nation. Vassiloff asks Kuchenko who has him under surveillance and Kuchenko admits he remembered Vassiloff as an interrogator in Siberia. Vassiloff is amused and unimpressed despite the fact Kuchenko has a gun, and says Kuchenko should have known better. The commissar offers him a bottle of Amontillado but Kuchenko believes it's poisoned. Vassiloff offers to drink it first and explains that he has killed 800 men and that he plans to make sure Kuchenko's death is an ingenious one. After drinking, Kuchenko drinks as well and notes he'll kill Vassiloff. The commissar starts laughing and then says that Kuchenko is a malcontent and he plans to prolong Kuchenko's execution in tribute to a worthy adversary. As he talks Kuchenko grows dizzy and drops the gun, then passes out.
Kuchenko wakes up and finds a tape recorder on the dresser. He turns it on and Vassiloff explains that he built up a resistance to the drug in the wine. He then goes on to explain that Kuchenko has been asleep for three hours. There is a bomb attached to a common item and if Kuchenko touches it, it'll explode. If Kuchenko finds the bomb in three hours, Vassiloff will set him free. Kuchenko must actively search for the bomb, and if he stops, tries to turn off the lights, runs for the door, or fails to find the bomb, he'll be shot. Kuchenko spots Boris across the alleyway but has no choice but to start searching or the bomb.
As Kuchenko searches, Boris wonders where the bomb has hidden, as Vassiloff hasn't told him where he placed the bomb. Boris follows Kuchenko's progress but the major fails to find the bomb. Vassiloff is amused, figuring that Kuchenko won't find the bomb until it's too late. Kuchenko examines the telephone and Vassiloff informs Boris that the major is close. Boris watches as Kuchenko takes the phone off the hook but nothing happens. Vassiloff explains to his henchman that the bomb isn't triggered until the phone rings. Kuchenko tries to throw a blanket over the window but Boris opens fire, driving Kuchenko back. Kuchenko screams in anger, telling Vassiloff to shoot him.
With ten minutes left, Kuchenko continues his search without success. Vassiloff calls the hotel and asks for Kuchenko's room. The phone rings and Kuchenko eyes it nervously and starts to pick up the receiver, then stops. Vassiloff has the front desk ring through again but this time Kuchenko runs out the door, evading the hail of bullets.
Vassiloff and Boris go to Kuchenko's hotel room and Boris notes it would have been better just to shoot Kuchenko. Vassiloff assures him that he'll catch up to Kuchenko in the next city and will take stricter measures. The phone rings and Boris instinctively picks it up… and the bomb explodes. At the other end, Kuchenko is informed that the line has been disconnected. Knowing what has happened, Kuchenko gets on his flight to New York City and freedom.