Hoby rides through the town of Lampasas on his way to San Saba, and is surprised that things are so quiet. He planned to stop by and say hello to Judge Tolliver and Doc Rivers. When Hoby comes to the newspaper office, he discovers that it's closed. A sign out front says that the owner Fred Connors was killed by a "too-leggd snake." When he hears a crowd at the Lampasas Nugget, the town saloon, Hoby goes over. A man outside says that it's a trial and Tolliver is doing things up dandy... and they're having the trial to make the hanging legal.
Inside, Hoby finds Tolliver telling the jury to reach a verdict. One of the spectators says that the suspect San Devlin is obviously guilty, but Tolliver says that it's up to the jury. He reminds everyone that Sam had a long-standing feud with the Connors brothers, and points out that a spur from Sam's boot was found next to Fred's body. Sam is sitting with his wife Ruth, holding her hand, as Tolliver orders the court to recess and drinks for everyone. As everyone moves to the bar, Hoby bumps into Rivers, who once patched up his shoulder when he was shot. Disgusted, Rivers says that it's more of a medicine show than a trial.
As Rivers goes, Fred's brother Lance comes in and says that they wanted a trial and now it's over. He promises that if Sam walks out a free man then he won't live to see another. Ruth pleads with Lance, insisting that Sam didn't kill her brother. but Lance ignores her and walks out. The spectators go back to drinking, and Hoby approaches Sheriff Muldane, another old acquaintance. The Ranger points out that Sam will die whether he's found guilty or innocent, and suggests that Muldane take away Lance's gun. Muldane refuses to take away a man's gun for talk, and says that his job is to keep the peace. The sheriff says that Sam is as good as hung so Lance won't have to shoot him, and walks out.
Later, Hoby talks to Sam in the sheriff's station. Sam insists that he didn't kill Fred, but he wasn't going to let the Connors rustle his cattle. He explains that the brothers own the spread next to his, and Lance was the one who spent his time running the ranch. Sam says that Fred went east and came back three months, and it makes no sense that he'd wait three months to shoot him if his feud was with Lance. He doesn't know why Fred went east, and neither does Muldane. Muldane says that Fred's wife died wife a year ago and things went haywire for him after that. Ruth insists that Sam is innocent, and Hoby walks out without a word.
A crowd has gathered outside and they move to block Hoby. Muldane tells them to let Hoby pass and aims his shotgun at them, and they let the Ranger through. Lance is waiting for him and asks what he's up to, and Hoby says that he's just talking. Hoby advises him to get out of the way, and Lance so but promises that he's going to kill Sam if the killer isn't hung.
Hoby goes to Rivers' office and the doctor says that Muldane hates what he has to do. he talks about How Lampasas is young and the townspeople are sure of themselves, and Hoby realizes Rivers figures Sam is innocent. Rivers refuses to speculate about Lance's guilt, and warns that even if Hoby found evidence to prove Sam's innocence it wouldn't make any difference to the townspeople. As for the spur, Rivers says that it probably fell off Sam's boot when he fought with Lance a week ago. Sam came in with a gash when he slipped against a rock siding, and Rivers figures that saying anything at the trial would have been pointless. He realizes that he's disappointed Hoby, and Hoby leaves without a word.
The jury reaches a verdict and Tolliver calls everyone in. Hoby approaches Muldane and tells him about the fight Sam and Lance had. Muldane warns that no one will believe it, even if Rivers swears to it, and Hoby wonders what he's hiding. The sheriff says that the townspeople won't listen because all they want is Sam's hide, and invites Hoby to address the courtroom and see what it gets him.
Tolliver has the jury give their verdict of guilty. Sam looks around the courtroom and figures that whatever he really did must have been bad if God let it happen. Tolliver sentences Sam to death by hanging, three miles out of town in one hour. He then orders drinks for the jury and gavels the case closed. As Muldane takes Sam away, Hoby says that he must be getting. Muldane says that the old days are over and Lampasas has justice.
Rivers is sitting in his office death when Hoby comes in carrying Ruth. He says that she fainted in the sheriff's office and Rivers gives her some alcohol to revive her. Hoby asks if she remembers anything that Sam or Fred might have dead, and Ruth begs him to break in and free her husband. He warns that it's all in the hands of the townspeople and he can't mix in. The Ranger looks at Rivers, who walks out. Hoby follows him and explains what he told Muldane about the fight. Rivers suggests that Ruth has the right idea, but warns that every man would stand against Hoby. Hoby asks who Fred hung out with after his wife died, and Rivers says that he stayed pretty much to himself.
As Ruth comes out, Rivers says that he was tending Fred's wife when she died. Ruth says that Fred kept saying in the middle of town that the next issue of his newspaper would shock the town. However, he was killed before he published it. Hoby asks Rivers to tend to Ruth while he goes out and gets some air.
Hoby goes to the newspaper office, and Muldane comes over. The Ranger says that he wants to get in, but Muldane says that he needs a reason. Hoby tells him to man up and pulls down the board, and the sheriff reluctantly helps him. They break in and find the newspaper press with the page laid out. Hoby prints the page and Muldane confirms that Lance boarded up the place, saying that he didn't want anyone snooping around his brother's office. As they read the paper, Lance comes in and says that he could shoot both of them for trespassing. Hoby shows him the page and Lance stares at it in shock. The Ranger tells the sheriff to take the page to the hanging and show it all around, and the sheriff leaves with Lance while Hoby prints another copy.
Hoby and Lance ride up and they show Tolliver the paper. He holds it up and shows everyone the headline: that Rivers is wanted for manslaughter in Massachusetts.
Hoby shows Rivers the newspaper, and Rivers admits that it's all true. He explains that a patient died due to his negligence and the medical board revoked his license. Rivers took a new name and moved to Lampasas to start his career over. Fred somehow stumbled on the truth and came back to Lampasas to print the news. Rivers insists that he's been a good doctor and he's earned all the respect and truth he gained. The story would have been the end of him, and Fred hated him for supposedly killing his wife. Rivers admits that he killed Fred to keep him from publishing the paper, and now the law will find him guilty of killing a bitter man. Hoby points out that Rivers was willing to let Sam hang, and the doctor insists that he couldn't speak out. The Ranger walks out, leaving Rivers to his fate.
As Hoby walks down the street, Lance rides up. Hoby stops him, saying Rivers isn't going anywhere. Lance figures that they'll have the hanging before sundown, and Hoby points out that they were sure the last time that they wanted to hang man. Disgusted, Hoby mounts up and rides out.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 5, 2017