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Julie Bronson returns home from college to the Arizona desert, where her father owns a café. She accuses "Pop" of cooperating with the notorious gangster known as "The Ghost" and allowing him to store his his stolen items in his sheds. Pop angrily refutes her accusation, but she remains suspicious because Pop has managed to put her through college even though the café rarely has customers. Despite waitress Melba's warning, Julie goes to see The Ghost at The Dunes, his nightclub. The Ghost, who has earned his nickname by surviving two murder attempts, tells Julie that he owns Pop's café. Julie is entranced by the charismatic, megalomaniacal gangster, and he in turn, asks for her love in exchange for his wealth when he dies. Julie rejects him, however, and returns home in a daze. Julie's former boyfriend, Lt. Bob Lord, meanwhile, stops by the café, and tells Pop and Melba that he is stationed at a nearby Army base. Julie is surprised when she learns about Bob's visit, as she had broken up with him because of his enlistment, but she happily reunites with him the next day. Although Melba warns Bob that The Ghost has Julie enthralled, Bob takes her out to The Dunes. While they are there, thugs working for a rival gangster try to intimidate The Ghost, but he throws them out. When he tries to join Julie and Bob, she insists on leaving. That night, Julie accepts Bob's marriage proposal, but later, The Ghost comes to the café and starts pushing Pop around because Julie has rejected him. The Ghost demands that Julie break up with Bob, and shows her an old newspaper report that claims that Pop killed three prison inmates and was never caught. Just then, thugs Steve and Shorty come in and demand that The Ghost leave with them. When he refuses, they grab Julie, but The Ghost and Pop kill them in self-defense. While Pop buries them, Melba tells Julie that The Ghost has been blackmailing her father for years. Although Julie is morally outraged by the murders, she forgives her father and reluctantly breaks off her engagement with Bob. Bob goes to The Dunes to confront The Ghost, but only gains the satisfaction of standing up to the gangster. Shortly after he leaves, the rival gang plunders and sets fire to the nightclub, brutally beating The Ghost unconscious. When he awakens, he stumbles onto the highway just as Julie drives by. She picks him up and they return to the café, where the crazed gangster accuses Pop of duplicity. The Ghost shoots Pop, and with his last breath, Pop returns fire. When The Ghost does not collapse, Julie calls the police, and The Ghost turns into a cringing coward. Julie reminds the killer about his victims and he finally dies. After the police arrive, Melba tells Julie that Bob is shipping out. With renewed hope for the future, Julie decides to meet him in San Francisco.