Detective Rick Mallory (Rob Lowe), who has become romantically involved with the young widow Hadley Pyne (Leslie Hope), finds himself torn when she is accused of her late husband’s murder. He sticks by her, and claims to believe in her innocence, even after a small-time hood confesses to the killing, fingering her as the person who hired him for the hit. Mallory’s investigation leads him to the hood’s girlfriend, where he discovers that mobster Joe Galeno (Carlo Rota) has kidnapped the woman’s daughter, and that a false confession is the “ransom” for the girl’s release (Motive? Galeno appears to have had a huge grudge against the late Mr. Pyne, and wants to take down his wife as well). A shoot-out at Galeno’s warehouse leaves everyone but Mallory and the little girl dead, and the case is (apparently, because it all happens off-screen) closed. Later, after Mallory and Hadley have see up housekeeping together, she finds a copy of his novel, First Degree, which explains exactly how Mallory orchestrated and carried out the entire murder, just because he was captivated by her at their initial meeting. Mallory appears in the doorway, and invites her out for a drive. With a bizarrely unconcerned air, she accepts. (What’s her logic here? If somebody loves you enough that he’s willing to kill your husband just to be close to you, then it must be the real thing?) Anyway, they stop for gasoline, but no attendant comes to the car. Mallory goes into the station, inadvertently walking in on a robbery in progress. Mallory pulls his service pistol and fires after the fleeing robber, but misses. He walks back to the car, where he discovers that one of his stray shots has hit Hadley right in the forehead and killed her.
Editor’s note: Yes, indeed, this ending is just as completely ridiculous as it sounds here.