Hoby rides into his hometown of Compton and arrives at the family farm. His nephew Tommy is playing in the yard, and Tommy greets his uncle. Hoby notices that Tommy's right arm is in a sling, and Tommy says that it got busted. They go inside and Hoby sends Tommy to water his horse. His sister Norah runs to hug him, and Hoby wonders what's going on. Norah says that someone is trying to scare her, and explains that someone shot at her through the window. Hoby works out the angle of the shot and where Norah was sitting when it happened, and figures that the shooter didn't intend to hit her. The threatening letters are worded so there isn't a direct threat, except for the one that Hoby received saying that Norah is going to die, sent by Fred Sales.
Later, Hoby and Norah take Norah's carriage into Crawford. Hoby goes to Sheriff Jed Phillips' office and greets his friend. Jed looks out the window where a crowd has gathered outside the schoolhouse, and tells Hoby that there's a coroner's inquest going on. He says that the woman involved is Merrilee Quintana, a girl that Hoby ran around with when he was younger. Merrilee killed a man in the saloon, shooting him in cold blood. Jed admits that Merrilee wears a gun and handles it better than any man in town. The man, a drunken cowpoke, got fresh with her so Merrilee pistol-whipped him. When the cowpoke went for his gun, she shot him. Jed says that Merrilee is in the saloon every night by her town, and figures that the coroner will determine it was self-defense. The sheriff asks about Norah, and tells Hoby that a runaway team almost ran over Tommy. He got out of the way but broke his arm. Jed says that it was an accident, and Hoby shows him the letters that Norah received. He confirms that Fred is still the town drunk, and figures that Fred is too drunk to send any letters
As night falls, Hoby and Jed go to see Fred outside the saloon. They find him and demand to know who paid him to send the telegram. Fred rambles incoherently about the saloon, and they take him to the door. He points out Merilee, sitting by herself, and Fred tells Hoby that she married Cece Marple. The sheriff says that Merilee ran wild after her parents died. Then Cece came along and made a woman out of her until he got himself shot while robbing a bank. Jed realizes that Hoby was the Texas Ranger who killed Cece, and Hoby goes into the saloon.
Hoby approaches Merrilee and tosses the letter down in front of her. He then sits down and she says that she got bored waiting for him to return home. Hoby reminds her that he said he'd come if she ever asked, and asks if Merrilee is going to kill Norah. Merrilee says that she is and that she's going to make Hoby watch... and he can't stop it or prove anything. She asks if Hoby has something to tell her, and mockingly asks if he's sorry. Hoby figures that she's not interested in anything he says, and Merrilee tells him to start crawling. He tells her to come after Norah if she's going to do it, but she'll only get one chance. As he gets up, Hoby says that he killed Cece because he wasn't quick enough... and neither is Merrilee.
Later in the saloon's back room, Hoby is eating dinner with Norah and Tommy. The bartender comes in and tells Hoby that Merrilee has passed out drunk. Hoby sends Norah and Tommy to Jed's office so he can take them home. He then carries Merrilee home to her dead parent's ranch and tells the housekeeper that he'll sit with his childhood friend. Merrilee wakes up and says that a lot of things have happened to her since Hoby left. Hoby tells her that Cece was whipping an old man to death when Hoby saw him, and Merrilee says that she wants her husband back before passing out again.
Come morning, Norah wakes up and finds Hoby in the kitchen, sitting by the window. As she makes breakfast, he explains that he spent the night at Merrilee's. Norah figures that the two of them back together, and Hoby finally tells her that he killed Merrilee's husband and she plans to kill Norah to hurt Hoby. He suggests that they leave Tommy at Sunday School to keep him safe, and Norah angrily tells him to keep Merrilee away from Tommy. She grabs a shotgun, ready to gun Merrilee down, just as Tommy comes in. As she hugs him, Hoby says that they're going to have breakfast with Jed and his deputy, Norvil.
At breakfast, Jed warns that he can't throw Merrilee in jail for more than a day or two. Hoby takes Norah and Tommy to the hotel where they'll be safer, and she says that she has to go to the store to cancel an order. The store is closed but the owner unlocks the door when Norah knocks. Meanwhile, Merrilee rides into town and looks at Hoby for a moment before riding on to the hotel.
Norah and Tommy come out of the store, and Merrilee sees them. Hoby sees Merrilee as she goes over toward Norah, drawing her gun. She shoots and hits the post next to Norah's head, and Hoby runs over. Merrilee shoots him in the leg and tells Hoby to shoot her. Before Hoby can pull the trigger, Norvil runs out and shoots Merrilee dead. Hoby crawls to her and holds his childhood friend's corpse in his arms.
Later at the farm, Hoby is preparing to ride out. Norah asks if there's anything to make him give up the badge, and Hoby admits that he waited too long to come back and check on Merrilee. As he prepares to ride out, Tommy says that he's sorry, too. He and Norah watch as Hoby rides off.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 5, 2017