En route aboard the Wanderer
, an incoming telegraph messages comes in. Jim discovers that the telegraph key is missing. Artie traces the line and discovers that he accidentally put it on the dinner table. They’re ordered to proceed to the sheriff’s office in Ocala County and pick up a dangerous recaptured prisoner. Jim doesn’t see the point for all the fuss until Jim remembers that the prisoner, Liston Lawrence Day, is one of the most famed traitors in U.S. history.
Later, the agents meet with the sheriff and deliver the elderly prisoner. As they camp for the night, Artie dozes off and Jim tells the sheriff that he’ll watch over Day while he sleeps. Later, Day flees to a cemetery and goes to the gravestone of his dead mother Caroline to beg for her help. Jim, Artie, and the sheriff arrive to recapture him.
Back at the camp, Artie confirms that Day is dying of swamp fever. When the sheriff comments that Day doesn’t look dangerous, the agents exclaim that thirty years ago when Texas was fighting for its independence, Day turned traitor and was sentences to life imprisonment. After thirty years in solitary confinement, Day is insane. Jim tells Day that when they get to Beaumont, a doctor will fix him up and they’ll take him back to prison. Day doesn’t respond but Jim is confident he understands. As they prepare to leave, Day mutters that it’s the three men escorting him that will die.
The party approaches an old ivy-enshrouded manor several miles from Beaumont. The sheriff has never been that far and has no idea who lives there. They decide to ask the residents if they can stay in the barn for the night. As they dismount, the front door opens, seemingly on its own. Guns drawn, the three men escort Day into the foyer but find no one inside. The interior is shrouded in cobwebs and it appears that no one has been there in a long time. They take Day into the living room and sit him down, and find a portrait of a beautiful woman who they assume was the lady of the house. Day grows worse and Artie isn’t sure if he’ll make it through the night.
As Jim has the sheriff get wood to start a fire, they hear a woman crying. Jim and Artie run back into the foyer but find no one. The front door closes on its own despite the lack of wind and they discover that it can’t be opened. When they approach a window, the shutters of all the windows in the house close at the same time. None of them open and when the agents shatter the glass, the woman cries louder than ever. Jim uses a mini-grenade that should blast the wall down, but the damage is minimal. The woman continues to cry and Artie realizes that she cries when they hurt the house. Artie uses Jim’s knife to scratch the wall and the crying occurs again. He suggests that the house has a life of its own but Jim doesn’t believe it. For now, they’re prisoners. Day begins laughing hysterically as the others stare at him.
Jim and Artie confirm that all of the doors are locked and sealed. As they consider going upstairs, the chandelier above Artie starts to sway. They return to the living room and the sheriff informs them that Day is in a coma and apparently dying. Jim examines Day and notices that he appears younger than before., but dismisses it as his imagination. The agents examine the portrait and Jim admits that Day’s face seemed to look younger. Artie concludes that the portrait is of Day’s wife and figures that Day came home believing that she’d be waiting for him. He suggests that she has been waiting for Day for the last 30 years.
The three men hear the sound of a door slamming and look out into the foyer. A ball of light floats through the front door and dances in the air. The doors to the foyer slam shut and by the time the agents run out, the light has disappeared. Artie finds a velvet ribbon like the one in the portrait. As they talk, the chandelier breaks loose and falls toward Artie. Jim shoves his partner out of the way just in time. Day runs up the stairs and the sheriff chases after him. Jim and Artie go after him but by the time they reach the upstairs hallway, they find the sheriff, dead. His body has been drained entirely of blood in a matter of seconds. As the agents go downstairs, a much younger Day steps from the shadows to watch them depart. Back downstairs, Jim and Artie go to the portrait and discover that the woman is weeping.
The next morning, Jim and Artie get up. They both feel weak and exhausted, and the agents discover that their weapons are rusted. Jim speculates that the house is striking back at them by using all of the years it has accumulated. The damage from the explosive has disappeared and the agents suspect that the house is treating them like an enemy. Jim wonders if they can deal with by treating it like a friend. They go to the foyer and discover that the cobwebs, dust, and chandelier are all back the way they found them the previous night. As they go upstairs, Day watches them from hiding., wearing a Mexican lord’s clothing.
The agents discover that the sheriff’s body has disappeared. A door opens down the hallway and they enter into a woman’s bedchamber. Jim and Artie figure that the woman wanted them to come into the chamber. They go over what happened and figure the woman is hiding Day. Jim suggests that now that the woman has Day, she doesn’t want to do anything to them. A hidden panel behind a painting opens and the agents find a diary inside. It’s the diary of Caroline L. Day, Day’s mother. Day listens from the hallway as Artie reads of the birth of Liston. Liston spends hours in the laboratory with his father Charles, a doctor. In 1836, the Days learned that Santa Anna had ambushed Houston despite the fact that Houston’s operation was planned at the home. Finally, Caroline relates that Charles confessed to her that he betrayed Houston to Santa Anna. To keep his father out of prison, Liston confessed to the crime and was arrested, and Charles died in a hunting accident.
Once Artie finishes reading the diary, the shutters open. They realize that Caroline wants them to clear her son’s name. Day enters the room and holds the agents at gunpoint, and explains that he has no intention of letting them go. Jim and Artie say that the only mistake he has made was defending his father’s name and offer to get him a pardon. Artie hands over the diary and drops it, and the agents attack and knock out Day when he picks it up. Caroline continues to sob and Jim tells her that they have to take Day to clear his name, but he’ll come back a free man. The shutters close and the agents agree to leave Day and go with the diary. The shutters open again and the agents go down the hallway.
Day recovers consciousness and triggers a trap door, dropping them into a cell in the basement attached to a laboratory. The agents hear hundreds of rats behind the walls and see a series of small doors. Day looks down at them from the hallway, laughing hysterically, and then closes the door. He enters the laboratory and stirs up the rats, and ignores the agents when they say the government owes him reparations. Day insists that they address him as Dias, and that his grandfather took the name Day to blend in with the gringos. He insists that his father was true to his blood and that he is his father’s son. Day vows to retake the land for the Spaniards and dances by himself as he remembers the house’s greatest age.
When the agents warn him that Texas has been a state for 30 years, Day tells them that he has thousands of rats at his command. He explains that when the clock in the room strikes 12 in five minutes, doors holding back the rats will open. He and his father developed bubonic plague and infected the rats with the disease. The rats will spread through Texas, killing off the gringos. Caroline begins sobbing and Day assures her that the land will soon be free and the house will be restored to its former glory.
Artie goes to the wall and whispers to Caroline, telling her that Liston is insane and that she needs to release them so they can help her son. She refuses to help, but Jim gets up on a ledge and points to a lamp. He tells Artie to get Day to the cell door however. He can. When Artie starts laughing, mocking Day’s plan, Day comes to the cell door. Artie swings the lamp to Jim, who swings over and kicks Day. Artie grabs the cell key and gets out, and Jim throws the knife, stopping the clock hands just in time.
Jim and Artie takes the unconscious Day to the foyer and hear Caroline sobbing. She refuses to let them go and Jim calls out to Caroline, explaining that Day will kill millions. After a moment the doors open and the agents take Day outside. They leave him on the porch to get their horses, but Day awakens and draws a gun. However, outside of the influence of the house and his mother, Day is restored to his real age. He soon realizes what has happened and collapses, dead. Artie wonders what they’ll say in the report, and Jim says that they can report the truth: that Day died of swamp fever. The doors of the house close behind them.
Artie wakes up in the morning and realizes that he has dreamed the entire experience. As the sheriff returns with Day, Artie asks if his partner believes in ghosts. Jim says that he doesn’t and Artie hesitantly agrees with him.
The party approaches an old ivy-enshrouded manor several miles from Beaumont. The sheriff has never been that far and has no idea who lives there. They decide to ask the residents if they can stay in the barn for the night. As they dismount, the front door opens, seemingly on its own.