Perry must defend the secretary of a client whose wife and his con-man nephew tried to blackmail him. The murdered nephew's body is burned in a cabin fire but the secretary who delivered the payoff money is charged with shooting him.
Carl Gorman spats with his wife Alice over his ne'er-do-well nephew, Jim Ferris, who constantly asks for money to pay non-existent gambling debts. Unknown to Carl, Alice is having an affair with Ferris, who schemes with Stanley Piper to extort money from Carl. Ferris persuades Alice to join the venture. Carl consults with Perry Mason on how to deal with Jim. Alice calls Carl from their mountain cabin, pretending to be held for $80,000 by the gamblers who are after Jim. Carl sends his secretary, Betty Wilkins, with a briefcase full of cash to the cabin. After the money arrives, Piper, masked and armed, rushes in to claim the ransom, but Alice pulls a gun and accidentally shoots Jim. A kerosene lamp falls to the floor in the struggle and sets the cabin on fire. Alice escapes and arrives home incoherent. Betty sees the cabin in flames and finds a gun--her gun--outside the cabin. Carl asks Perry to defend Betty, who is soon arrested for murder.
Jim Ferris is something of a con man, making or taking money any easy way he can find. One of his favorite targets is his uncle Carl Gorman who is so fed up with his antics that he consults Perry Mason on what he might be able to do about him. What Gorman does't know is that his wife Alice is having an affair with Ferris and they've come up with a scheme to get $80,000 out of him. She's gone to their cabin in the woods and calls Carl to tell him that gamblers who are out to settle Jim debts are holding her and if he doesn't send the money her life will be in danger. Gorman sends out his secretary Betty Wilkins with the money but when the cabin burns to the ground and Ferris' body is found inside with a bullet in him, it's Betty who is charged with murder and Perry agrees to defend her.
- Carl Gorman (Howard Petrie) argues with his wife Alice (June Dayton) over his ne'er-do-well nephew, Jim Ferris (William Campbell). Jim constantly asks for money that he never pays back. His favorite dodge is that he's heavily in debt to nonexistent gamblers. Carl is fed up with Jim, but Alice is more sympathetic. This is probably because she's secretly having an affair with Jim. She reluctantly gets involved with Jim's latest scheme to extort money from Carl. Unknown to her, Jim has a more enthusiastic accomplice in Stan Piper (James Anderson), a former employee of Carl's firm.
Carl goes to Perry's office and describes some of Jim's antics. He mentions that even his secretary Betty Wilkins (Sue Randall, Leave it to Beaver's Miss Landers) was subjected to the gambling debt tale, upsetting her. He wants Perry to arrange to buy out Jim's small interest in the company through a dummy, and write the nephew out of his will. Perry mentions that taking money under false pretenses is theft, so he might be vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Carl seems interested in pursuing that, and Perry asks why Carl is suddenly interested in going after Jim this way after tolerating him for so long. Carl answers that Jim is his nephew, but enough is enough. He denies that Jim is blackmailing him. Perry says he'll look into the matter. After Carl leaves, Della wonders what hold Jim has on him.
At his office, Carl gets a call from Alice, who has gone to a mountain cabin. Only Jim is with her, but she tells Carl that gamblers are there, and that they want $80,000, in $50 bills, not to release embarrassing information that they obtained from Jim. The "gamblers" insist that Carl not come in person, so he agrees to have Betty drive to the cabin with the money. After the call, Jim wants to go and arrange for power to be turned back on in the cabin. Alice is too nervous after her performance and doesn't want to be left alone. She says they have lanterns they can use when it gets dark.
That evening, Betty drives up to the cabin and calls to Alice from the car. Alice shouts for her to throw the money packet on the cabin porch and leave. When Betty hesitates, Jim, disguising his voice, tells her to do as told, so Betty complies. Once she's driven off, Jim goes to the patio and retrieves the package. Once he opens the package, Stan enters, with a mask over the lower part of his face. At gunpoint, he demands they hand over the cash. Alice jumps up from her seat, knocking over a table and the lantern on it, which starts a fire. Stan shouts "Get the money!", and the distraction gives Alice time to draw a gun from her purse. Jim tries to grab her gun, but it goes off and he falls to the floor. "Lady, you've killed him!" says Stan. Alice runs outside, gets in her car, and leaves. Meanwhile, Stan starts retrieving the cash before it's burned. A few miles away, Betty is at a phone booth, about to call Carl, when she sees the glow of the fire. She returns and frantically calls for Alice. Then she look through the cabin window and sees a body amid the raging flames. She stumbles over a gun and picks it up, just as forest rangers arrive.
The next day, Carl asks Perry to find out why the police have been questioning Betty for such a long time. Perry asks what Alice knows, but Carl says that on her return she was very upset, nearly incoherent. She only told a brief story about two masked men before the doctor sedated her and ordered that she not be disturbed. Carl explains that the embarrassing material being used to extort money from his was that his father had previously been in the paper packaging business and was jailed for dishonest actions. This was something of a problem for Carl, who was now planning to enter the paper packaging trade himself, but not enough that he'd pay blackmail. He only paid the $80,000 because they had Alice. Paul reports that Jim's gambling debts were definitely a fiction - he was well known in the major gambling centers and had zero credit. He'd be lucky if any gambler would trust him for $5.
Perry brings Betty to her apartment, as she laments the long time she spent answering silly questions by the police. She also apologizes for the mess in her place, but then they notice that it's been straighten up. Perry explains that they kept her so long to search the place - presumably with her landlady's permission. They probably went through her car too, looking for $80,000. Betty remembers Jim as making a pest of himself during a brief period when he worked for Carl's firm. He was always trying to impress the female employees with talk of a Mexican resort he liked to visit. Betty guesses that's where he went when he left the firm. Then a couple days ago, he called her at her apartment, asking how to contact Stan Piper.
At the phone booth near the cabin, Perry calls Paul, who reports that Stan checked out of his rooming house a few hours prior to the events at the cabin. Perry wants him found, which Paul thinks shouldn't be too difficult because Stan has a widow's peak, a scar on his forehead, and a distinctive slouch. Della drives up and reports that the round trip between the cabin and the booth is at least 15 minutes, despite the short distance, due to the winding mountain road. Perry muses that a lot could happen in that amount of time, between Betty's first departure and her return to the burning cabin.
Paul visits the Gorman's, where Perry asks a somewhat recovered Alice if one of the masked men had a widow's peak. She says yes, and also mentions the forehead scar. As Perry asks if the other man could have been Jim, Lt. Tragg enters, curious about her reply. She says the second man never spoke in her presence and never came close to her, so it could have been Jim, trying to avoid being recognized. Tragg says that agrees with the report of a forest ranger, who saw a man at the cabin during the day, and his description fit Jim. Another witness saw Betty with Jim a day before that, and the murder gun was hers. She's being charged with the murder.
Outside the courtroom, Paul reports that, despite his earlier optimism, neither his men nor the police have found Stan yet. At the preliminary hearing, Deputy D.A. Jack Alvin (Kenneth Tobey) has called the autopsy surgeon (Pitt Herbert), who testifies that the death was definitely due to gunshot wound, not the fire. Although there were many empty shell casings in the cabin, the body had only a single wound, from which the bullet was recovered. Lt. Tragg testifies that tests proved that this bullet came from the gun Betty picked up. Also, this gun had been purchased by her. Betty tells Perry that Carl told her to obtain this gun for the office, as there had been robberies in the area. Tragg says the empty shell casings in the cabin were no mystery, as it was a hunting cabin. There were two casing that matched the type and caliber of the murder weapon. Perry gets Tragg to admit that this small gun was not a hunter's weapon. The detective also says no burned money was found in the cabin, but $5000 in fifties was found in Betty's car.
Mrs. Ames (Sarah Selby), wife of company executive Harold Ames (Tyler McVey), testifies that after a company party last year, she went to her car in the parking lot and saw Jim and Betty there, kissing. On the night before the murder, she happened to drive by the office and saw Jim meet Betty as she came out of the building. Meanwhile, Paul has gone to Mexico, but Stan is still nowhere to be found. Paul thinks this is a dead end, but Perry tells him to wait there, as he'll soon receive some "bait" Perry plans to send him.
When court resumes, Harold Ames testifies that Betty would know when the company had lots of cash on hand. On cross-examination, Perry starts to take Ames rather far afield with questions about his wife's doings. Alvin objects, but the judge (S. John Launer) says there's no jury to influence, so he'll listen for awhile. Perry ends up suggesting that Mrs. Ames could be involved with Jim. At this, Mrs. Ames rises from the gallery and says "I'm not the one - she is!", pointing to Alice. Perry asks a cocktail waitress in the gallery to stand - she'll testify that she saw Jim and Alice together. Alice screams out her confession to both the extortion scheme and to shooting Jim. The case against Betty is dismissed. Carl says that he still needs Perry's help, but Perry reassures him that Paul is still on the case. In Mexico, Paul sees a man surreptitiously grab an envelope from the mail slots at the hotel desk. Paul grabs him and notes that he never would have guessed, but Perry had it figured. The man is Jim.
Later in Perry's office, he and Paul explain to Carl and Betty that Jim, recovering from his wound, shot Stan with the gun Alice had brought and then switched places with him. The key was the second shell casing and its missing bullet, which left the cabin in Jim's shoulder. The bait Perry used to catch him consisted of fake letters from Alice, sent to the Mexican resort addressed to an alias that Jim was known to use. Carl says he regrets having told Alice about the office gun, but is convinced she didn't plan to use it. He expresses his sorrow that Betty had to bear all the burden. "Nonsense", says Della. "That's what secretaries are for, isn't it?"