THE TORTOISE AND THE HEIR
A will leaves half of California to someone, if a lone wolf San Francisco private investigator can keep any of the heirs alive.
A tremor condemns a San Francisco hotel that was once a mansion. A will, found in the cornerstone, states nothing owned by the big 4 railroad barons can be sold till there is only one signer or direct heir. So all land in California ever within five miles of a railroad belongs to the heirs.
Ruthless junior corporate exec CHARLENE THORMAN (32) has the will, needs the heirs reduced to one that she can control, like she controls the corporation. She also needs every dime of the will to save her life. Charlene hires Stram to verify the will, and locate heirs.
Stram and Handwriting expert GAIL (40's) get curious, sneak into corporate headquarters and grab the will, intent on passing it to the heir. They spot Charlene hiring a hit man, TRUMPETER (30), who always chews a wood match, and carries a trumpet case. Stram locates heirs; but by the time he gets to them, the Trumpeter has killed them. Always looks like an accident, just like Max, Stram's girlfriend and Charlene's boss, death did 5 years ago.
Stram's down to the last name. He and Gail confuse Charlene's 2 man tail, and skip town. The last heir is GUTHRIE (20's), a folk singing vagabond who returns to his girlfriend CELIA's parent's estate on lake Tahoe. Guthrie's deceased adoptive parents were the estate's domestic help.
Stram, Gail, Guthrie, and Celia escape just ahead of Charlene's arrival. The chase, capture, and chase is on as the foursome race to the one man with enough judicial prestige to defend the will against the Corporation.
PROFESSOR SEWARD announces the will's discovery on his university's satellite hookup. The will is safe. But the will's only of value if there is a living heir.
Stram sees Guthrie doing a trick with a wood match, knows Trumpeter is somewhere in the auditorium. Trumpeter, on a backstage portable scaffold, takes aim at Guthrie. Stram opens a stage trapdoor. The scaffold falls. Trumpeter is at floor level, unconscious. He regains consciousness, raises his rifle to Stram. Nonviolent Guthrie steps backstage, clobbers the Trumpeter, saving Stram's life.