June 25, 1933. Ness and Lee Hobson are called to the Castle, a baronial estate just outside of Chicago, which is both the headquarters and home of the underworld's notorious "King" Frank Argos, one of Ness' old foes. Argos' attorney Eli Halstead explains that wealthy Frank Argos is about to die and he wants to leave his $5-million in bonds to his long-lost son. And he wants Eliot Ness to be the executor of the will, because he doesn't trust any of his crooked associates. When Halstead says that Argos' wife left him many years ago, the feisty Frank Argos interjects he kicked his wife out. But she took their 7-year-old son with her and Argos, certain that his son is still alive somewhere, wants to leave all his assets to him. The King offers Ness 100 grand for his services but Ness turns him down. He figures it's dirty money anyway and a pay-off for protecting his organization. As Ness is leaving, one of the King's hoods, Arno Beale, tells Ness that the son, Charlie Argos, died in WWII.
When the King dies, the mob celebrates with a wild champagne gala at the Castle, all but Marcie Decker, the King's former girl. Marcie, along with gangsters Gil Kellerman and Arno Beale, are running things now..barely because they are all broke since the King's son can't be found. Marcie tells Gil Kellerman she wants to liquidate everything and move out. Kellerman says that the booze is done (Prohibition ended on April 7, 1933) but that the rest, their narcotics rackets and the cathouses, will bring in 10 times as much. But that night, Kellerman's drug-runner Gruber, who had picked up 2 kilos of heroin (worth 300 grand) from the New York syndicate, has a shootout with Ness and Lee Hobson and Rossi; Gruber is shot, Ness confiscates the heroin. Of course, the New York syndicate doesn't want to hear their problems: they gave the junk to Gruber -- so Marcie, Kellerman and Arno Beale have to come up with the 300 grand, even though they don't have the heroin to distribute.
Now more than ever, Marcie wants out. So Kellerman says she's out-- but without one penny. Later, when Kellerman goes to New York, in the futile attempt to get credit from the syndicate, Marcie and Arno Beale devise a plan to double-cross him. If they can't find Charlie Argos, they will create one. They comb Chicago for a long time, until Marcie, while doing volunteer work in a soup kitchen, finds a guy who is a dead-ringer for Charlie Argos; at least, he looks exactly like the one existing photo of Charlie, taken when he was in the Army in 1918. They coach him on everything there is to know about Charlie Argos; but he seems to know more about Charlie than they do. When Charlie meets with Eli Halstead, he says that the reason dad kicked his mom out is because she had a lover -- Halstead. And then one day Halstead ran out on her. Not only does this shed new light on what happened, it also means that by a one-in-a-million chance, Marcie had actually found the real Charlie Argos.
Ness has done some investigating, too. Meeting with an Army Colonel, they find 1918 Army records of a soldier named Albert Posen that looks like Charlie Argos' photo; they figure he is the Charlie Argos impostor. They meet with his brother, Max Posen, a local butcher. He tells them that Albert Posen has a distinctive tattoo on his chest, swords crossed like an "X", with the blades down. Meanwhile, Marcie acts like she's in love with Charlie; he figures she only loves him for the potential of all his money. When Gil Kellerman returns, after being gone for 2 weeks, he finds out a lot has changed. Arno Beale wants Gil out, all the way out -- and shoots him, right in front of Charlie and Marcie. Disgusted by the violence and the life of crime, Charlie Argos walks out; he disappears, and along with him the prospect of $5-million for his partners. He gets a job unloading 55-gallon barrels at a warehouse.
Knowing that Ness is snooping around, Arno Beale, figuring their Charlie is an impostor, rubs out Max the butcher so he can't talk anymore. Ness calls for a meet with Charlie and Eli Halstead, to get this tattoo thing resolved once and for all; Marcie and Arno Beale are at the meet, too. When Charlie opens his shirt, his chest has a tattoo: crossed swords. So they think he must be Albert Posen, a nobody. Only Ness notices that the blades of the tattoo are pointing up -- he obviously got the tattoo this morning. Ness keeps his secret. Charlie says Ness wouldn't be able to pin the butcher's murder on Arno Beale, but he'll testify in court that Beale killed Kellerman; Ness arrests Beale. Charlie Argos wants to lead a clean life, not a life of crime and violence like his father did. Charlie figures Marcie will disappear now, since he's going to remain poor for the rest of his life. But she surprises him -- Marcie sticks with him, saying, "It could still be wonderful." (synopsis by: kdh)