A dastardly criminal is terrorising the city, leaving no clues to his appearance or whereabouts. Though he has committed one audacious crime after another, the police are no closer to capturing him. The scoundrel leaves a bizarre calling card at every crime scene: a skeleton handprint. Helpless in the face of their elusive antagonist, the police call in the ace private detective Tom Atkins.
Behind the “Skeleton Hand” moniker hides an Indian man, a recent arrival in town. Going by the name of John Vermiel, he has taken up residence in a mansion in one of the city’s swankiest neighbourhoods. A secret entrance he has fashioned at the rear of the mansion allows him to slip in and out unnoticed. When Vermiel learns that the private detective is on his trail, he devises an ingenious plot and traps the detective. Hogtied in the basement of Vermiel’s mansion, the detective overhears Vermiel planning a meeting at an old tile works. In the nick of time, the detective escapes his death trap.
Vowing to capture Vermiel, he disguises himself as a tramp and hides in the rafters of the old tile works. From his hiding-place, the detective learns that Vermiel is planning to knock over one of the biggest jewellery stores in town. Vermiel now discovers the "tramp" but fails to see through the disguise. Wary all the same, he orders a pair of his henchmen to guard the prisoner. The detective makes a ruckus and a police cab arrives and takes him to headquarters. There, he throws off his disguise and reveals Vermiel’s plan. Vermiel is arrested but escapes half an hour later – the chase continues.