In a village in the Cotswolds, a young boy named Steve Hart goes out to play. He treks across the countryside and goes to the nearby watermill and then into the forest. A man steps out and Steve backs away from him... and another man grabs him from behind.
Later, Steve’s grandmother Violet goes looking for her missing son. However, he doesn’t respond to her calls. The local police and villagers join the search but find nothing.
At a dinner party in London hosted by Michael Hornsby and his wife Dolores, Michael gets a call from Mrs. Hart. She tells him that her grandson has gone missing and the police haven’t found him. Michael promises that she can count on him for any expense and assures Mrs. Hart that Steve will be home soon. Dolores comes in and Michael assures his wife that everything is fine.
Four days later, McGill is playing racquetball with an associate, Rankin, for money. Rankin loses and pays up, and asks McGill that he wants to hire him for a job for Michael. McGill meets with Michael, who explains that Mrs. Hart was his housekeeper. When her daughter died, she went to the village to care for her grandson Steve. McGill is skeptical that Michael is just helping Mrs. Hart out of responsibility, and Michael says that he never met Steve’s father. He disappeared after the marriage and hasn’t been heard from for years. Michael says that he wants McGill to make sure every effort is being made to find Steve, and McGill quotes him a price of 100 pounds a week plus expenses, plus 1,000 if he finds the friend and 2,000 if he’s dead. Disgusted, Michael has no choice but to agree.
McGill arrives in the village and goes to Mrs. Hart’s home. Her friend Kenneth Mason meets him and insists that Violet isn’t seeing anyone, but Violet comes out and ushers McGill in. She thanks Mason for his help and sends him on his way, and then tells McGill that Michael has always been very nice to her family. Violet gives McGill a recent photo of Steve and eagerly volunteers McGill anything related to Steve. She breaks into tears and wonders what she can do, and McGill asks her to explain why Michael instructed him to not say that Michael had sent him. Mrs. Hart says that Michael doesn’t want his good deeds publicized, and a skeptical McGill leaves.
Out in the field, McGill meets with Sergeant Jones, who is leading the search. Jones figures that Steve is closer to home but refuses to admit that the boy is dead. He assumes that McGill is a newspaper reporter and the ex-agent plays along.
At the pub, Mason asks the locals if they’ll continue helping with the search. One farmer, Tommy, reluctantly says that he’ll be there. McGill comes in and Mason reminds him that they met earlier. McGill asks for directions to the local newspaper and as he leaves, Tommy watches him. He figures that McGill is a reporter as well and is disgusted that he’s exploiting the tragedy rather than helping with the search.
That night, McGill returns to the pub and confirms that Tommy was the last person to see Jones. Tommy refuses to answer his questions but McGill persists. The farmer says that he didn’t pay much attention, and takes offense. The other villagers join in and Tommy accuses him of trying to inflate the disappearance into a scandal. The farmer knocks him out and tries to check his wallet, and McGill knocks him down and rounds on the other villagers. Mason accuses him of being a killer, and McGill angrily agrees and walks out.
The next day, McGill goes to a local office and sees a newscast of Michael giving a speech against the government
At home, Dolores congratulates Michael on h is speech. He asks for her opinion on the government and Dolores points out that they never talk privately anymore. Dolores demands an answer, and Michael insists that there’s nothing to it. As Michael walks away, Dolores asks to help him. He tells her to find someone else to mother and storms out.
In the village, Mason complains to his accomplice, George, that McGill isn’t a reporter. George isn’t interested but Mason figures that “their man” sent McGill. When Mason wonders what they’re going to do, a man named Rudy peers out of a room. George angrily tells him to stay out of sight and says that eventually Rudy will see Mason and his word will get out. In the room, Rudy watches Steve and tells him not to cry. Steve offers to sing but Rudy warns that George won’t like it. Outside, George tells Mason that at some point he’s going to have to take care of McGill.
McGill returns to report to Michael, and says that he believes Steve is dead. Michael doesn’t believe it and tells him to go back, and insists that he can’t give up. McGill demands the truth and says that the local editor told him that Mrs. Hart takes Steve once a month to London. She said that Steve has cousins in London, but McGill went to the hotel and got a description of the supposed “cousin.” He asks if Dolores knows, and Michael admits that no one knows Steve is his illegitimate son except for Mrs. Hart... and the kidnappers. The kidnappers called him six days ago and demanded 50,000 pounds to see his son alive again. Michael contacted other detectives before McGill, and the ex-agent was his last resort. McGill says that he should have paid the kidnappers, and Michael finally admits that Dolores owns the property and the money. The only thing he has of his own is his son. McGill tells him to place an ad signaling the kidnappers that he’ll pay the ransom, and he’ll take care of the rest. Michael admits that he has enough money to pay McGill, and Michael calls the newspaper.
George sees the ad and shows it to Mason, and Mason figures that since Steve never saw his face, he can go back to his normal life with his share of the ransom money. As for Rudy, George is glad to turn him loose once the job is done... if Rudy is lucky. The kidnappers call Michael, and McGill secretly listens in as they make payment arrangements. McGill has Michael send him instead, and Michael asks to talk to his son. The kidnappers hang up and McGill goes to his room to get some sleep before leaving in the morning.
The next morning, McGill packs for the trip and Dolores comes in. She knows about his history with American Intelligence, and figures that he’s no traitor. Dolores also knows about Michael’s son and asks if McGill is going to save him from the kidnappers. McGill says nothing, and Dolores asks for the chance to pay the ransom. She figures that there will be nothing left of Michael if he loses his son, and McGill says that money won’t help. Dolores figures that they’ve killed Steve and will kill McGill as well, and says that Michael would have gone after his son alone years ago. McGill excuses himself and drives away.
In the village, McGill waits with Mrs. Hart until the kidnappers call. George tells McGill to meet him outside the pub at 10:30 that night. Later, McGill waits at the pub until the appointed time. Mason watches McGill as he glances at the man occupying the only phone booth. McGill finally orders another drink and the man on the phone leaves at 10:30. The phone rings and McGill goes in to take it. As Mason leaves, George tells him to drive to Old Hill near Mrs. Hart’s house. He’ll leave the suitcase there and they’ll tell him where to get the boy, and McGill refuses. He demands a meeting in daylight and a face-to-face exchange, and says that he’s going back to London with the money if George doesn’t agree. McGill gives George one minute to call him back with a decision and waits. The phone finally rings and McGill lets it continue for a minute until he picks it up. George agrees to the face-to-face exchange as long as it’s that night, and tells him to drive back and forth on the road until they stop him.
Rudy assures Steve that he’ll be going home soon.
McGill follows George’s instructions until sunrise. George and Rudy pull up with a sleeping Steve, and George tells Rudy to stay with the boy. Mason hides in the woods with a shotgun, and George checks his own revolver. McGill drives along and brakes to a halt. When McGill threatens to drive away, George has Rudy bring Steve out and orders McGill to toss the suitcase over so that they can count the money. McGill figures that it’s t rap and hesitantly gets out with the suitcase. He stays under cover and tosses his own suitcase over. George draws his gun and shoots, wounding McGill, and McGill shoots him in the chest. Mason fires a shot and McGill goes down, and Rudy holds Steve as the boy breaks into tears. Meanwhile, Mason runs over to get the suitcase. As he opens it, Steve sees his face and recognizes him. McGill staggers up and shoots Mason as the kidnappers prepares to shoot Steve. Steve runs to Rudy, who tells him to go home. McGill has passed out, and Rudy opens the suitcase just as the police pull up and arrest him. Jones confirms that Mason is dead, and Rudy says that he had nowhere to go. As for the suitcase, all it contains are McGill’s clothing.
Mrs. Hart soon calls Michael and tells him that his son is alive. Michael says that he’ll be there as soon as he can. Dolores comes in and asks if he’s all right, and a relieved Michael says that he has to go. She asks where he’s going, and Michael admits that he’s going to see his son. Dolores feigns surprise and says that she’s glad that Steve is alive. Michael wonders if she really is, and is surprised when Dolores asks if he’ll be back. She says that there’s always room for whatever he wants in the house, and Michael leaves.
Later, Dolores goes to the hospital where McGill is receiving treatment for his wounds. She drops off his suitcase and tells the doctor to put McGill in a private room and send the bills to her. When the doctor asks when she’ll be calling again, Dolores says that she won’t be and leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 18, 2015