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The fast buck runs around a complexed set of events and interactions between different people out to find a hidden Indian treasure with different intentions, soon involving a ruthless criminal who is on the run after a homicide in an attempted robbery.
The story opens with hotelier Ralph Rico rendezvousing with acquaintance Verne Baird, a ruthless killer who has just knocked off actress Jean Bruce to steal her necklace, and wants Rico to sell it safely for him. Baird then runs for safety. Officer Olin shortly comes in and reveals that Jean Bruce has died and he strongly suspects Baird, but Rico denies any knowledge of the killer or the necklace.
It is then shown that the Maharajah of Chittabad from India has come to claim a treasure of Indian jewels that his father had shipped to New York to donate to a museum long back, but was stolen and its whereabouts unknown, although the thief who attempted the robbery, Paul Hater, is serving a prison sentence due to finish in 2 years. The Rajah now wants the insurance company to make good the loss of the treasure, but the latter suspect that he is trying to exploit them by finding the treasure for himself and disposing it whilst making a false claim for insurance money, and have employed private investigator Harmon Purvis' agency to spy on him. Ed Dallas, sidekick to Purvis, spies on a couple visiting the Rajah and reports his findings to his boss. The couple are one Preston Kile from San Francisco and his companion Eve Gillis.
Olin finds Baird and pursues him with a police team, even managing to shoot and wound him, and Baird ending up killing two more innocent people in the process. But as fate would have it, Baird lands up in the apartment of Anita Jackson, a waitress, who hides him from the police and nurses him to good health for two weeks, much to Baird's surprise, in return for nothing at all. For some reason, Anita hates the police. Baird then gets time to prepare an alibi with friends in New York, and Olin is not able to pin the homicide-robbery on him. Baird develops a fascination for Anita and decides to meet her again.
Next the plot moves to Preston Kile, a Stock exchange manipulator and roadside romeo revealed to be broke, and Eve Gillis, an ex model, who has now come to stay with him. She convinces him to agree to find the Rajah's treasure for the Rajah against all odds. But Eve is actually working in hand with her wayward brother Adam Gillis, both of whom wish to usurp the prize money from the Rajah and ditch Kile after that.
Kile and Eve decide to 'kidnap' Hater from the Bellmore State Prison Farm itself and obtain the treasure whereabouts from him, as advised by Adam, and they meet Rico to find someone for this, who suggests Baird for a commission; the killer agrees to do the work for 10,000 dollars if he succeeds and 5000 even if he fails. Rico in the meantime gives the stolen necklace to Kile for safe disposal. Adam later scrutinises Kile's apartment secretly and notes this.
Baird's movements are noted by Purvis' agents spying on everyone involved. Baird however being intelligent and experienced notes this, and thinks there's more than meets the eye, and he understands Kile's intention behind kidnapping Hater. Baird ends up brutally interrogating and killing Dallas' girlfriend Zoe Norton spying on him for Dallas' sake, and brutally wounds two of Purvis' detectives.
Baird is now on the run as he and Rico are seen fleeing by Dallas after killing Zoe, with a look out notice for him everywhere, and a helpless Rico, who is witness to his activities, is forced to run away with him, leaving behind his club and businesses. Baird sets off with Rico to the Red River swamps near the prison to kidnap Hater. They reach the swamps where the prisoners are working, and manage to create a scene with smoke bombs and Baird killing few guards, and break away with Hater being brought to them by Baird's inside man Noddy, but not before an attack dog fatally bites Baird's left arm, and Baird having to kill Noddy as well when he tries to double cross and kill the duo.
Unfortunately lady luck does not smile on Baird and Rico anymore. Baird takes ill soon after the bite with rapid infection of his arm and fever, and the prison police soon catch up with them on the riverbank. Rico is shot in the leg by the police, but Baird manages to shoot them all. He then leaves Rico to die, and scampers away with the bound and gagged, knocked out Hater on the police boat itself. A bleeding Rico is soon attacked and eaten up by an alligator in the river. Baird decides to go to the Maharajah directly and deliver Hater.
The plot now switches to Adam Gillis and his sister. Adam secretly watches Kile waiting for Baird at the pre decided location to deliver Hater and pay Baird, but Baird never turns up. Adam then anonymously calls the police and informs them that Kile has the missing necklace they're looking for, and Kile is arrested. He then proceeds to Eve's apartment, where it is revealed that Adam was all along in touch with the Chittabad Maharajah, and had planned the whole game with him. Adam had previously helped the Rajah in India, and the latter tasked him with finding his treasure by extracting information from Hater, in return for a job in India. Adam was only using Eve and Kile as stooges to get Hater out, should in case anything go wrong. But now that the plan has failed and Baird delivering Hater himself, Adam didn't need Kile anymore and got rid of him by tipping police about the necklace. Adam tells Eve to come with him to India to become the Rajah's concubine, to which an angry Eve flatly refuses. In anger Adam tries to kill his sister but is stopped by Dallas who appears on the scene spying on Adam all the while. Dallas injures Adam and sends him and Eve to hospital.
The last phase and twist of the story moves to Baird. He manages to reach the city with Hater and begins to drive to meet the Maharajah. But Baird knows that he is dying soon with rapidly spreading gangrene of his arm and sepsis; he forgets about the gagged and bound Hater with him, and by sheer will power decides to meet Anita Jackson for the last time, driving to her apartment. He does manage to get to her doors, but Anita is outside, and on scene arrive Olin and Dallas with cops, and both question Anita. Hater is found dead of suffocation and injury in Baird's car already. At this point it is revealed by Anita that Hater was actually her father, and she was waiting for him all these years to return. Dallas sends Anita to meet the sick but armed Baird alone in her apartment. Anita tells Baird who actually Hater was, and Baird says he didn't mean to kill him. She also tells him at this point that there really is no treasure existent now because it was taken by her mother (Hater's wife) when Hater was arrested long back, abroad on a ship which sank with the treasure but her mother was saved and she moved on with life. She helped Baird because she dislikes police for what they did to Hater. Anita then leaves, and Olin and Dallas come in and confront Baird. A now remorseful Baird requests them not to charge Anita with sheltering him during his run from the cops, and he dies with his knowledge of the treasure.
Olin decides to leave Anita out of the case. Prodded by Purvis on phone, Dallas speaks to Anita and offers her money for any information about the treasure, but she flatly denies knowing anything about it and walks away. The impressed Dallas offers to help Anita in future.
- Ralph Rico - Hotelier with underhand connections
- Verne Baird - Ruthless Killer
- Jean Bruce - Actress
- Harmon Purvis - Private detective, with subordinates spying on everyone in the case
- Ed Dallas - Sidekick working for Purvis
- Maharajah of Chittabad
- Paul Hater - Jewel thief
- Preston Kile - Stock market manipulator and Eve's compatriot
- Eve Gillis - Kile's compatriot and Adam's sister
- Adam Gillis - Eve's brother
- Anita Jackson - Waitress
- Olin - Policeman investigating the case
- Zoe Norton - Dallas girlfriend
- Noddy- Inside man for Baird