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Freddie Trimball, Lee Watson, Dodie Rogers and his sister Betty are students at San Juan Junior College, which is celebrating its Quarter Centennial with a weekend of activities, including appearances by Bobby Davis and his orchestra. Lee's father, Inspector Watson of the local homicide squad, learns from the school's dean, McKinley, that his son has not been paying enough attention to his studies and has been reading too many murder mysteries. During the first evening's dance, Lee leaves to keep an appointment with James Dunkel, a photographer from College Campus Magazine , and Lee finds Dunkel dead on a bench. He then leaves to summon his father, but when they return, they find school caretaker Richard Winkler sleeping where Lee had left Dunkel, and Watson thinks that Lee has imagined his encounter with Dunkel. Meanwhile, in another part of the campus, someone places a body inside a harp shipping case belonging to the Davis band. Later, Ronnie Wallace, Davis' manager, asks Winkler for the key to a storeroom where they have arranged to leave the instruments overnight, but Winkler says that he will take care of storing everything for him. While Lee is walking Betty home that night, he steps on a watch, which is inscribed to Dunkel. Lee intends to show the watch to his father as proof that Dunkel was on campus, but during the night someone enters his bedroom and takes the watch. The next morning, when Lee tells his father about finding the watch but is unable to produce it, the inspector suggests that Lee might benefit from a long rest at a sanatorium. Later, Freddie, Lee, Betty and Dodie find Dunkel's body in the harp case. When Winkler appears, Lee and Freddie leave him and the girls to guard the entrance to the room while they go to summon Inspector Watson. When Watson and the coroner arrive, though, they find no body in the case and determine that no one has passed through the door, although an inside window has been opened. Dunkel's body is eventually found elsewhere in the room and Davis discovers that both his band truck and Winkler are missing. Winkler, who turns out to be an ex-convict, is soon found with Dunkel's camera in his possession but denies murdering Dunkel. He tells Watson that he thought he would be the most likely suspect so, to avoid incrimination, he hid the body. Lee and Freddie feel that Winkler may indeed be innocent and go to the local telegraph office, where Lee, who had previously wired Dunkel, poses as Dunkel and asks if someone has sent him a telegram. They find a copy of a telegram directing Dunkel to meet someone on the campus before his meeting with Lee. As the telegram is signed "R," and Winkler's first name is Richard, he becomes suspect, but he later denies sending any telegram. Watson then receives a report from the Los Angeles police that Dunkel was under observation in connection with a jewel robbery and enlists Winkler's help in trapping the real killer. During an interrogation of Davis and Wallace, Watson receives a phone call that Winkler has escaped in order to establish his innocence. At the scheduled school dance, Watson learns that Winkler will be there to identify the voice of a person he heard talking with Dunkel the night of the murder. When Winkler appears, Wallace turns the stage lights out and Winkler is slugged by band leader Davis. Later, Davis admits that he and Wallace had been acting as fences for Dunkel, a jewel thief. After some jewels were found in Dunkel's camera, the men had a falling out, Davis reveals that Wallace sent the telegram and confesses that he sneaked away from the bandstand and strangled Dunkel during a soloist's performance.