The Great Malooley and his assistants Princess Athena and Samson arrive in Sweetwater. Jack the Bartender greets them at the Red Ox and invites them inside. As Athena and Samson go in with their boss, Athena favors Rodney with a smile.
Bret is playing poker in the saloon against Rupert Cutler, who isn’t happy at losing to Maverick. Malooley and Samson examine the main floor and make plans to do some work. Tom comes over and complains that he’s not sure Malooley’s act will bring in business. The magician notes that Tom sent him an inquiry, implying that he wanted to hire him, but pays Tom $100 against his future profit. Impressed, Tom agrees to give him a chance. When Bret comes over and suggest that Malooley is too smooth for his own good, Tom asks him to watch the magician and make sure that nothing happens.
When Bret casually insults Cutler, the drifter draws a gun on the gambler and accuses him of cheating. He tells Bret to remove his clothing to see if he’s a real man, and Bret sucker-punches him and then uses a palm derringer when Cutler goes for his gun. Dowd and Sturgess arrive to break up the fight, and Tom confirms that Cutler drew on Bret. Dowd warns Bret that it’s the third time he’s been in trouble, and the next time he’ll ban him from the tables.
That night, Dowd and Sturgess split up to patrol Sweetwater. Meanwhile, a man approaches Cutler, who is sleeping in an alleyway. The man speaks up in Bret’s voice and points a derringer at Cutler. He tells the drifter to get up and turn around. When Cutler does so, “Bret” shoots him in the back. Sturgess hears the shot and arrives just in time to see the shadowy figure depart. The deputy hears footsteps behind him, turns, and shoots Dowd as he comes to hear the shots. As Elijah, Tom, and the others come to investigate the gunshots, the dying Cutler tells them that Bret shot him. Elijah assumes that Bret shot Dowd as well and Sturgess keep silent.
The next morning, Rodney talks briefly to Athena as she brings Malooley’s gear inside. Meanwhile, Sturgess arrests Bret and brings him into town. Elijah accuses him of killing Cutler and shooting Dowd, and Bret has no idea what he’s talking about. Tom admits that he heard Cutler accuses Bret of the shooting, and Elijah orders Sturgess to lock Bret up until the circuit judge, Hang’em High Randall, arrives in two days. As they listen to the exchange, Samson asks Malooley if shooting the sheriff to frame Bret was a little extreme, and Malooley says he had nothing to do with it.
Bret compares notes with Tom and Mary Lou. They call Sturgess in to ask what he saw, and he nervously lies and says that the same man who shot Cutler also shot Dowd. Once the deputy leaves, Bret asks Mary Lou to talk to Dowd and find out what he knows.
At the Red Ox, Tom discovers that Samson is cutting up the floorboards. Malooley explains that he’s doing so in preparation for his Eight Swords of Dyrus Illusion, and that they’ll put everything back the way it was. Tom reluctantly agrees, since he needs the money from the show to raise bail for Bret. Meanwhile, Rodney tries to talk to Athena, but Malooley orders him away and then tells Athena to avoid fraternizing with the locals.
Once they go up to their room, Malooley asks Samson what he found beneath the floor. They talk about a letter they found mentioning a treasure, and Samson argues that he should get a bigger share of the loot. Malooley tells him to keep digging, and the strongman admits that the situation with Bret has shaken him up. Athena is outside on the porch and hears them talking. As she starts to move away, they hear her and ask what she heard. The assistant insists that she didn’t hear anything and goes to her room next door. When Samson wonders what they should do about her, Malooley says that they should assume she heard everything.
At the jail, Bret and Sturgess play checkers. The deputy admits that he’s worried about Dowd, and Bret plays on his guilt. He suggests that Dowd wouldn’t want an innocent man to hang for a murder he didn’t commit, and tells Sturgess that it’s his move.
The next day, Mary Lou visits Dowd, who only remembers that Sturgess was on the scene when he arrived. She reminds him that Randall is trying Bret and is nicknamed “Hang’em High” for good reason. Dowd says there’s nothing else he can remember, and believes that if Bret killed Cutler than he should hang. Sturgess comes in to check on Dowd and tell him that Randall is there to take his statement.
The townspeople gather at the Red Ox as Malooley gives a free demonstration of his magic. Tom is more interested in the fact that Samson is spending time working on the floor. Meanwhile, Malooley does a card trick and uses Rodney as a volunteer, and Athena slips the boy a note.
Later, Athena meets Rodney in the alley and asks him for money. When he admits he only has $9.00, Athena lies and claims that her mother died and her father is sick. Malooley and Samson interrupt them and Athena tells Rodney to go. Once he leaves, Malooley takes Athena to their rooms and questions her. She insists that she didn’t tell Rodney anything and she didn’t overhear anything. Malooley tells her that if she makes one more wrong step, he’ll turn her over to Samson.
Tom and Mary Lou try to convince Dowd to testify on Bret’s behalf. Dowd doesn’t see the point, but they explain that Randall wants to make an example of Bret for shooting a lawman. The sheriff refuses to help and tells them to let him die in peace. Tom goes back to see Bret and mentions that Samson is digging beneath the floor. Bret takes an interest and figures that they know who shot Cutler, but Sturgess interrupts them to bring in the hangman to measure Bret for the noose.
Randall finds guilty and Elijah oversees the construction of the gallows. Sturgess brings a fancy meal for Bret, but Bret says that it won’t make up for the deputy testifying against him. Mary Lou runs in and tells them that Dowd just died. Sturgess breaks down and admits that he shot Dowd. He tells them that he didn’t kill Cutler, and he kept his mouth shut since they had Bret red-handed. Dowd comes in and they admit that they lied to get Sturgess to confess. After saying he’s glad his friend is alive, the deputy removes his badge and leaves.
Rodney goes to Athena’s room and knocks on her window. He tells her that he’s raised $103 by borrowing and then selling everything he has, and warns her that he and Mary Lou have run a check on Malooley. When they hear a noise, Athena pulls Rodney inside so no one sees him.
Samson finds what he’s looking for below the floorboards and runs to the room to tell Malooley that he found the tin box that Old Bob wrote about. Malooley is listening at the wall with a glass, and hears Athena telling Rodney that whatever the magician is looking for is worth $50,000. Rodney goes to tell Randall what he’s learned, and Athena assures him that they won’t kill her because they still need her for the act. Samson barges in and knocks Rodney unconscious before he can escape.
Mary Lou tells Bret about Malooley’s background doing a mimicry act, and that he “accidentally” killed an assistant during an illusion. Bret figures that Malooley impersonated his voice, and they ask Dowd to investigate. He reluctantly agrees to help them.
A depressed Sturgess goes to the gallows and starts to walk up the stairs. Dowd finds him and tells him to write it off as a good lesson for both of them, and leads his friend away.
Malooley threatens to kill Rodney unless Athena continues with the act. Once she goes, Rodney tells the magician that he knows all about the dead assistant. Malooley admits that he plans to kill Athena by rigging the trapdoor to jam. He gags Rodney and tells him that he’ll soon be joining a skeleton beneath the Red Ox.
After doing some checking, Dowd agrees to present the evidence to Randall. Bret asks the sheriff to release him, but Dowd says that he doesn’t have the authority. He says that he’ll bring in Malooley after the show, and figures the magician doesn’t suspect anything. Tom and Mary Lou go to the Red Ox to watch the act.
Malooley begins his show, summoning Athena out of a dollhouse cabinet. Mary Lou and Tom arrive to keep an eye on the magician. Upstairs, Rodney manages to knock over an oil lamp and use the glass to cut the ropes.
The magician begins the Eight Swords of Dyrus Illusion. After placing Athena in the cabinet, Samson slips away and goes to the tunnel in the back alley that he dug to the stage. He jams the trapdoor shut and watches as Athena tries to open it without success.
Once he cuts himself free, Rodney goes to the jail to warn Sturgess and Dowd.
As Malooley inserts the swords, Athena tries to call for help but the sound of the band drowns her out.
Samson grabs the tin box and crawls out of the tunnel. Bret, Dowd, Sturgess, and Rodney are waiting for him. Rodney shoves him aside and crawls beneath the floor.
Malooley inserts the eighth and final sword, and then removes them. When he opens the cabinet, he’s surprised to discover that Rodney is inside and unharmed. As Bret and the others arrive, Rodney steps out and tells Malooley that he’s under arrest.
Later, Malooley tells everyone that he learned of an outlaw, Old Bob, who fled the law and buried the tin box on the Red Ox’s construction site. He was shot and managed to send a letter to his son in Tula before he died. Malooley bought the letter from the man who killed Old Bob’s son, and has spent the last seven years trying to find the box. They open the box and find a diamond necklace inside. Bret identifies them as the Kurzfeld Diamonds and knows all about the legend of how they were smuggled into the U.S. He then explains that he made up the legend to run a con on a crooked politician, and the diamonds are fakes. Mary Lou can’t help pointing out the poetic justice that the fake necklace came back to get Bret killed, and Jack insists that it’s a kind of magic.
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