Beauregard “Bo” Lockley (Michael Moriarty), long-haired and thoughtful, is a new type of undercover detective in the New York Police Department. He is assigned to find a missing young woman (Susan Blakely), but is not told she is actually an undercover officer, whose latest assignment is to get close to a heroin dealer, Thomas ‘Stick’ Henderson (Tony King), upon whom the department has long been wanting to get the goods. Lockley finds her living with the dealer in the Times Square area of New York City. Frustrated by his presence, as it jeopardizes her assignment, she arranges to meet with Lockley the following morning. But when she misses the appointment he goes to where she and Henderson are living, and in the confused shoot-out that follows Lockley accidentally shoots her dead.
Lockley chases Henderson through the streets and into the Saks Fifth Avenue department store, and the two end up trapped in an elevator between floors, holding guns on each other. The two men bond during the fruitless negotiations that follow, and after some time agree to try to get away through the trapdoor in the ceiling of the elevator. However the entire area is surrounded by heavily armed police, who shoot Henderson dead.
Lockley and the policewoman’s superior officers, determined to save their careers, scramble to come up with a story that would be minimally embarrassing to the department. They claim that Lockley, the woman and the dealer were involved in a lovers’ triangle and that Lockley shot her out of jealousy.