At the Red Ox, Mary Lou is applying pressure and goose grease to Bret’s shoulder after he injures it making post holes at the ranch. As she works, Mary Lou asks if Bret has heard anything about the Union Investment Company, an organization that is buying up the local land. Tom gets Bret a drink of whiskey and Bret receives a telegram from Andrew Tindell, offering to play Bret a game of poker. Bret has no idea who Tindell is, much to Mary Lou’s surprise that he’d accept a game sight unseen.
Estelle watches as men set up a new newspaper, the Beacon
, across the street. She asks Rodney to find Mary Lou.
Tindell arrives in town and checks into his hotel, and finds Elijah waiting for him. As Tindell settles in, Elijah asks if he plans to stay for an extended period. The man avoids the question and Elijah leaves. As he heads down the street, Mary Lou asks him about the Union Investment Company. Elijah tells her to stay out of the matter.
Tindell finds Bret and they play, and Bret soon realizes that Tindell is cheating. The man cheerfully admits it and warns Bret that his two men, Leif and Monte, are watching from the bank. When Tindell offers to pay him back half of what he’s lost, Bret throws the money in his face and walks away.
At the Territorian
, Mary Lou tries to figure out what she’s missing with the Union Investment Company. Estelle is still watching the new newspaper and worries about the owner, Steven A. Hennessey. Mary Lou’s mother explains that Hennessey used to be a great reporter, but now he just starts up newspapers one after another. Hennessey comes over and mentions that he knew Arnold, Estelle’s wife. Unimpressed, she asks what he wants and Hennessey explains that he wants to buy advertising in the Territorian
. Estelle refuses and Hennessey leaves, warning that they need to reach an agreement.
That night, Elijah meets with John Davis of the Triple D, one of the most successful ranchers in the area. Davis refuses to sell his land to Elijah, but Elijah warns that Tindell represents powerful business interests and will do anything to get the Triple D. Davis is unimpressed and Elijah leaves. Once he leaves, Davis’ wife Ellie worries and her husband agrees to hire a couple of guns to protect the ranch.
The next day, Bret is back digging postholes at the ranch when Tindell and his men arrive by wagon. Tindell informs Bret that he plans to buy the land and guarantee 30% profit. He explains that he’s offered Davis the same 30% and is considering it. Bret knows better and tells Tindell to get off his land, but Tindell’s men beat him. However, Cy fires a shotgun blast at them and orders them off. A disgruntled Tindell rides away and Bret heads into town to talk to some people.
Bret tracks down Dowd at the barber shop and tries to swear out a complaint for attempted murder. When Dowd learns that Tindell played poker, he’s not impressed and assures Bret that he’ll track down Tindell if he murders him.
Elijah arrives at his office and finds Tindell waiting for him. Tindell offers to buy the bank and when Elijah refuses, Tindell warns him that he’s already purchased the other banks’ interest in Elijah’s. He plans to buy up Elijah’s personal mortgages in the next few days. When Elijah threatens to go to his friends in the government, Tindell warns him that he still has something to lose.
At the Red Ox, Bret comes to see Tom, who has just learned that their liquor supplier in Yuma has cut them off. The only thing Tom has heard is that Hennessey is offering them half on at advertising. When Bret points out that Tom has never let sentiment override profit, Tom points out that Bret was the one who threw the money in Tindell’s face.
Tindell and his men go to the barbershop and pay the owner to leave them alone so Tindell can shave himself. At the newspaper, Mary Lou finally finds what she’s looking for. She goes to the barbershop and confirms that he’s with the company that owns the Union Investment Company and the Beacon
. When Mary Lou asks why he’s so interested in Sweetwater, Tindell moves in on her and she quickly leaves. Hennessey arrives and assures Tindell that he’s picked up all but two of the Beacon
’s advertisers. The publisher disagrees and warns that Tindell is making too much noise, but Tindell tells him to hold up his end of the bargain. Once Hennessey leaves, Tindell tells his men that the time has come.
Bret visits with Davis and tells him to take some precautions. The rancher doesn’t believe he needs to do anything. As Davis’ children come in, someone shoots through the window and kills Davis.
The next day, Bret and the Davis family bring Davis’ body to Dowd. Bret points out that they’re dealing with more than a disgruntled poker player and Dowd tells him to come with him to the bank. They discover that Tindell’s men beat him but the banker insists that he didn’t give in. Mary Lou and Estelle arrive and Elijah explains that Tindell is a hatchet man for the Tucson combine. Once they get the major landholders, everyone else folds. Everyone looks to Bret for help, and he agrees to help as long as they give him a blank check. Elijah and the others reluctantly agree.
Bret goes to see Ellie and explains that he needs her help to run a game on Tindell. Ellie agrees and thanks Bret for being a good friend. As he goes, Ellie asks if John would have moved on if someone had killer her and the boys. Bret insists it isn’t the same thing, and Ellie tells him that she’ll be ready when he needs her.
Next, Bret talks to Tom as he returns from Yuma. Tom explains that their liquor man is now owned by the combine and he was lucky to get what he brought back. He insists that he doesn’t want to get involved in any of Bret’s schemes, but Bret finally convinces him to help. They go to a granary owned by Elijah and set some dynamite. As they walk away, it explodes. Another explosion goes off down the street and Elijah complains they were only supposed to blow up the granary. Dowd arrives to tell them that several buildings are on fire.
As the fire department mobilizes, Tindell and his men emerge from the hotel. Dowd and Elijah stage a conversation for his benefit, talking about all of the dead townspeople and the destruction of the town’s grain supply. Elijah then confronts Tindell, telling him that the atrocity won’t go unavenged. Once the banker leaves, Tindell complains to his men, who explains that they didn’t set the explosions. He tells his men to find out who it was and walks away. Bret and Tom watch the exchanges and figure they have his attention.
Later, Mary Lou publishes an article about the brutal assault on Sweetwater, blaming it on Tindell. The combine sends one of their men, Shaw, to check out Tindell’s overly enthusiastic attacks.
A reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune
, Busted Bill Sharples, comes to see Mary Lou and explains that he’s been investigating the Tucson combine for several months. He’s impressed with Mary Lou’s article and offers to work together with her, and she quickly agrees.
As Shaw’s stagecoach arrives in town, the townspeople begin a funeral procession for the supposedly dead townspeople. Bret, Tom, and Sharples take in Shaw’s reaction, and then watch as he goes to see Tindell. Shaw says that they’ve received telegrams from him but Tindell denies sending them and insists that everything is going fine. They warn him that the combine has to be more conscious of their public image, and Tindell blames it on Hennessey for not controlling the news. Tindell tries to get them out of town but Shaw assures him that they’ll be staying for a few days.
Mary Lou and Rodney are working at the newspaper when two hooded men break in, beat Rodney, and wreck the equipment. The next morning, the townspeople gather outside as the doctor confirms that Rodney will be fine. Hennessey watches with Shaw and they complain that Tindell is going too far. Meanwhile, Bret and Estelle meet with Rodney. Bret wonders if he’s endangering his friends but Rodney insists it’s for a good cause.
Mary Lou and the townspeople clean up the Territorian
as best they can. Tom returns from the Davis ranch where he was helping Ellie, and Mary Lou assures him he can’t be everywhere. Unconvinced, Tom insists that going after Tindell directly is the best way to handle the situation.
Hennessey comes to see Estelle at the newspaper and admits he had nothing to do with the attack. He picks up some press and throws it angrily at the wall, and explains that he eventually gave up when he grew tired of the combine wrecking his presses. Brett arrives and makes sure that everything is going as planned. Mary Lou comes in and tells them that Tom is going off on his own., but Bret ignores it and takes Dowd with him.
At the hotel, Tindell is collecting money from buyers. Monte comes in and tells Tindell that Bret set up the explosions and that Sharples is in town. Tindell him to dispose of Bret once and for all. Soon, Bret is riding to the ranch when Monte and Leif open fire on him. Bret ducks down into the wagon and Tom arrives to drive off the thugs. When Tom walks up, Bret explains that Dowd was covering him and had the whole thing handled. He calls for the sheriff and Dowd eventually rides up. He admits that he lost his hat and Bret walks away, disgusted that he’s dealing with amateurs.
Tom and Bret meet with Elijah and have him bring in all the merchants. The next day, all of the businessmen in Sweetwater close up their shops. Jack and Shifty close up the saloon and help Tom pack. Shaw and his men approach the hotel manager but he tells them that he’s heading out of Sweetwater. The combine representatives realize that Tindell has shut down the entire town. Estelle is handing out the last issue of the Territorian
, announcing the town is abandoned. Shaw confronts Tindell and tells him that the townspeople are leaving and poisoning everything behind them. Tindell suggests that they let the townspeople go and they can rebuild, but Shaw figures that Sharples will send his stories back east and there’s nothing to salvage.
Disappointed, Shaw goes down to the street and Tindell follows him, asking for a second chance. Sharples confronts Tindell and says that he’ll make sure that he’s ruined. Tindell attacks him and slams him into the stagecoach, and Elijah arrives in time to confirm that Sharples is dead of a broken neck. Shaw and his people leave and Tindell goes up to his room. He tells Monte and Leif that they’re leaving.
Once the combine representatives leave on the stagecoach, everyone goes to Sharples’ corpse. Bret tells Jack and Shifty to go to the Lazy Ace and tell everyone they can come back. When Mary Lou points out that Sharples is dead, “Sharples” gets up and introduces himself as “Busted” Bill Farley, master of the broken neck con.
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