In the woods outside of Sweetwater, Tom and a young teenager shoot it out with a posse and Tom’s cheek is scratched. When the teenager is injured, Tom grabs him and rolls down the hill. The posse, led by Marshal Phillip Mondragón, move in and find blood, but no sign of Tom and his friend. Meanwhile, Tom rides into Sweetwater and takes the boy into the Red Ox to tend to his wounds, unaware that Philo is watching him from his cellar.
The next morning, Bret and Cy ride into Sweetwater. Bret has burned down the Lazy Ace’s barn and they’re building a new barn from a Bradlee kit, over Cy’s objections. Cy goes to get some parts and sees Mondragón and his posse ride into town. Tom and Shifty also notice the posse’s arrival and Tom tells his employee to hook up the wagon while he leaves Doc Vetter a message.
In the saloon, a man calling himself Fred “The Butcher” McShane refuses to hand over his guns to the bar boy. McShane tells Jack to choose between his money or a gunshot and Jack serves him. Philo and another townsman, Deacon, discuss McShane’s reputation and then Philo goes over and smiles at him.
Mondragón goes to the sheriff’s office and introduces himself to Dowd. He takes a cup of coffee and explains that he ran into some scavengers and asks Dowd to summon the undertakers. Mondragón then asks if there’s a doctor in town and sends his man Lester out. He explains that he was making a routine transfer to Ft. McHenry and asks to stay over for a couple of days. Dowd is glad to let him stay.
While he waits to collect his supplies, Rodney tells Bret that the barn-rising will go fine, but the gambler isn’t happy that people will be crawling all over his ranch helping him. Bret refuses to discuss his past with Rodney and collects his supplies. Mondragón’s lieutenant Beech recognizes him by name. Bret refuses to discuss whether he is in town permanently or not and walks away.
When Bret and Cy return to the ranch, they find Tom waiting for them. He asks Bret to put up his friend at the Lazy Ace because the Red Ox won’t do. They go inside and Bret discovers that Tom’s friend is already there. Bret talks to Tom in privately, well aware that the teenager is William Bonney, Billy the Kid. Tom says that once they get the bullet out, Billy can ride out in a few days. Bret has no desire to go to jail for harboring a fugitive, and even less when he learns that the infamous Marshal Mondragón is in town looking for Billy. The whole town will be there building the barn the next day and Bret figures one of them will spot Billy. Billy overhears them and agrees to leave rather than put everyone at risk. Tom gets Billy into a wagon and offers to head south via the river bend, but Bret warns that they’ll never make it. Bret finally gives in and agrees to hide Billy until Vetter arrives and removes the bullet.
As one of his men tells Mondragón what he’s learned about Bret, Mary Lou storms in and points out that Ft. McHenry is closed. She figures that he’s in Sweetwater looking for Billy the Kid, who escaped from Santa Fee a month ago. When Mondragón refuses to answer, a satisfied Mary Lou walks off. Dowd asks for confirmation and Mondragón tells him that Billy is overdue for a hanging, shot a friend of his, and plans to recapture the teenager no matter what.
Tom goes back to the Red Ox to confirm that Vetter is on his way to the Lazy Ace. Mondragón spots him and offers to buy him a drink. Unable to refuse without raising suspicions, Tom agrees.
Philo gets McShane back to his cellar room beneath the church and gets him to tell stories about all of his thrilling exploits. When Philo learns that there’s a $1,5000 reward on McShane’s head, he figures that Mondragón is after the outlaw. McShane wants to build a reputation for himself by killing Bret and draws a gun on Philo to force him to help. Philo agrees and then knocks him out when McShane’s back is turned.
Mondragón talks about how his ancestor owned the territory and that he comes from noble blood. Tom finishes his drink and starts to go, and Mondragón comments about the scratch on his face. He knows that it’s from a bullet despite Tom’s disavowal. Philo comes over and interrupts them, offering to direct Mondragón to the man he wants. Assuming that he’s talking about Billy, Tom tells him to shut up but Philo persists. The marshal agrees to send one of his men with Philo to check out his prisoner. As Tom rides out to the Lazy Ace, Mondragón’s man watches him go.
Lester accompanies Philo to his room but there’s no sign of McShane. Mondragón’s man assumes that he was lying and walks away.
Two of Mondragón’s men, Lester and Red, follow Vetter out to the Lazy Ace. They decide to get the reward for themselves but break in, only to but discover that Vetter is tending Cy’s injured leg. After searching the place, they leave, unaware that Tom and Billy are hiding in the root cellar. Vetter removes the bullet successfully. Afterward, Billy talks about how he was working on a cattle drive with a man named Tungstall, a man who took him on as a brother. Tungstall was shot down by a killer working for the local law. The man responsible, Chisholm, settled but Billy plans to kill him in return for Tungstall’s death. Shocked, Tom walks away and Billy tells Bret and Cy that he just met Tom, who helped him when they met each other in the woods.
Bret goes after Tom and suggests that his partner might see something in the boy. He points out that they both know there’s no percentage in revenge, but Tom figures that Billy wouldn’t listen to them just like he didn’t. Gunshots ring out and Tom and Bret duck for cover. Bret circles around and captures McShane. Meanwhile, Tom goes out and finds Philo lurking in the shadows. They tie up Philo and McShane, and Philo insists that McShane is a famous outlaw and he came out to help Bret, his blood brother. When Philo relates McShane’s stories, McShane admits that he might have exaggerated. He explains that he actually is a butcher and sold his butcher shop for enough money to go west to be somebody. While Bret and the others consider what to do, Mary Lou arrives.
Lester and Red report back to Mondragón, who condemns them as greedy idiots. Beech arrives and reports that Tom’s horse is gone. Mondragón figures that they’re meeting at the ranch and gets his men moving out.
Mary Lou has figured that Mondragón is staying on in Sweetwater because Billy is still in town. She ignores Bret’s offer to interview him instead and storms into the ranch house. They try to pass off McShane as Billy, but Mary Lou quickly realizes that he’s lying. She demands to see Billy, but Tom refuses to let her go. He takes her to see the sleeping Billy and explains that he’s a farm boy and that he’ll lose his life if Mary Lou prints her story.
The next day, Mary Lou assures Billy that she doesn’t need to publish his stories. They load the boy on the wagon and Tom rides off. The townspeople arrive later with the barn-building materials. Bret knows that Mondragón and his men are watching from the nearby hill but figures it’s safer to let them continue. However, Tom returns and explains that Mondragón has cut off all the routes out of Sweetwater. They get Billy back into the ranch house but he collapses inside. Cy sends Philo in, spots Billy, and tries to leave, but Tom draws and orders him to stay.
The townspeople realize that there’s something wrong with the barn plans, but wait for Bret to come over. Mondragón rides in with Lester and insists on searching the ranch house. McShane and Mary Lou are inside, cutting up salt pork for lunch. She distracts Mondragón and warns Bret that Philo is tied up and hidden beneath a table cloth. Mondragón and Lester find nothing and go out to check the barn. Inside, Philo manages to slip free of his bonds. He goes to warn Mondragón and collect the reward but Tom knocks him out with a well-swung board.
Mondragón rides off but Bret figures that the marshal gave up too easily. Meanwhile, Tom takes Philo to the root cellar where Billy is hiding. Tom advises him to go to Mexico and says that he knows all about seeking out revenge. He tells him that killing won’t help and drops the matter.
The townspeople try to figure out the plans but Bret is busy trying to figure out how to get by Mondragón. He tells Tom that they have to run a variant of the shell game and make Mondragón choose since he can’t afford to split up his men. Bret offers to take Billy out while Tom runs as a decoy, but Tom refuses. His partner insists that he’s not thinking straight and Tom reluctantly agrees.
Tom and Bret load up two wagons and prepare to leave. The townspeople tell Bret that there’s something wrong with the kit but he tells them to deal with it. Tom and Bret leave in separate directions and Mondragón goes after Bret. They pull him over but discover that he has McShane tied up in the back.
Tom heads down the road only to find Dowd and his deputies waiting for them. Dowd explains that he isn’t going to let a fugitive escape on his watch. However, he opens up the crate and discovers that Tom has Philo tied up.
Mary Lou smuggles Billy out in her newspaper wagon. He thanks her and agrees to head for Mexico rather than seek revenge.
Back at the ranch, Bret discovers that the townspeople have finished the barn. Unfortunately, the plans are wrong and he has a church instead. Share this article with your friends