Dr. Wilson and Dawson are heading down the road, which Luke Monroe has marked as a toll road. When they reach the gate, they start to open it but Luke comes out and demands the toll. They haven't got the money but Wilson insists that it's emergency. Luke fires a warning shot and they're forced to turn around and take a detour.
Several weeks later, Luke comes into the nearby town of Garrison Flats and goes in to get groceries. Everyone glares at him except for Dawson, who smiles emptily at him, and Luke goes inside to get a shovel. The owner, Jerry Linden, tells him that the price is triple what is posted, and Luke says that he'll just raise the tolls. Jerry tells Luke that he let a woman die in childbirth, and Luke goes outside where Wilson is talking to Dawson. Wilson angrily tells Luke that he let Dawson's wife die and the shock unhinged the man's mind. He wrestles with the man, and everyone gathers around to shout encouragement to Wilson.
Hoby rides up and, dismounting, separates them. Luke says that he sent for Hoby and Hoby takes both of them over to the sheriff's office. Hoby introduces himself and Wilson leaves, and the sheriff throws Luke in jail for an hour to cool off. Once they're alone, the sheriff says that he didn't try to stop it because he thinks a fight is better than a killing. The law officer says that someone took a shot at Luke a week ago, but it was just a warning shot. Hoby asks if Luke can depend on the sheriff to protect him, and the sheriff tells him that Mayor Ronald Desmond wants to see Hoby.
Hoby and the sheriff go to the mayor's office, and Desmond tells the sheriff that it's his job to stop fighting in the streets. He says that the town hates Luke, and explains to Hoby that Luke was mayor but the people were disgusted with him and threw him out. When the railway came, Luke put up toll gates on all of the roads to it through his property. The sheriff explains that Dawson has stolen guns and he's had to take them away from him, and they'd like Hoby to take Dawson to an asylum in El Paso. Dawson is prepared to file the proper paperwork, and considers the matter over. He invites Hoby to the 4th of July celebration the next day.
Hoby rides past the cemetery and sees Dawson putting flowers on his wife's grave. The Ranger continues on to Luke's place, and Hoby says that he's on the law's side and no one else's. He assures Luke that he'll get protection as long as he's there, and Luke invites him in for a drink. Hoby advises Luke to get clear of the town, but Luke insists that he's staying for the sheer pleasure of watching them squirm. Hoby figures that there's no point in telling Luke anything else and rides off
That night, someone shoots Luke in his cabin and then pours the lamp oil on the floor and starts a fire. Once the killer leaves, Luke wakes up and crawls toward the door.
In town, the sheriff approaches Hoby and says that Desmond wants to see them. Desmond gives Hoby the paperwork for Dawson's commitment and says that there's something else he wants to talk to Hoby about. The alarm goes out that there's a fire at Luke's place. They ride out and find Luke on the porch. Hob draws him clear and they discover that Luke was shot dead.
The next day, Hoby and the sheriff go through the cabin wreckage and find the kerosene-soaked boards. There are empty money deposits, and the sheriff says that Luke kept all of his money there. Hoby suggests that the killer murdered Luke for money rather than revenge.
In town, Hoby approaches Wilson and tells him that he's on his list of suspicions. Wilson admits that he hated Luke but he didn't act on it. As they go into the sheriff's office, Desmond comes over and reminds the sheriff that he was supposed to line up a band for the town celebration. The mayor suggests that the sheriff put the investigation off a day ago, and they go inside. Wilson is buying candles for the Japanese lanterns, and Wilson complains that someone stole the other candles.
Hoby asks Jerry where he was at the time of the fire, and Jerry says that he was at his store. He admits that he hated Luke as much as anyone else and dares Hoby to prove that he killed Luke. Outside, Hoby and the sheriff notice Dawson sitting and staring. The sheriff says that he questioned him, but insists that Dawson isn't the killer. Hoby suggests that Dawson isn't as crazy as he makes out.
That night, the town is celebrating the 4th and Hoby points out that h, the sheriff, and Desmond were all together when Luke was killed. Two boys are fighting over burned -out candles, and one boy says that he found the candles in a junk pile behind the nearby building. As Hoby and the sheriff check out where the trash bin was dumped, Desmond goes into his office to secretly watch them.
Hoby points out that Desmond called them into the office to read a piece of paper that could have waited, and he kept finding excuses to keep Hoby there until the fire was discovered. The Ranger points out that Desmond was there when the fire started, but not earlier when Luke was apparently murdered. Hoby figures that Desmond took the candle for experimental purposes, and demonstrates how one could have been used as a delayed fuse.
Desmond gets his gun and the stolen money, and walks away. Hoby and the sheriff come over and spot him, and chase after Desmond as he runs. He pushes through the crowd, shoving past Wilson, and Hoby runs out and tells the mayor to stop. Desmond goes for his gun and shoots, wounding the sheriff in his arm. Hoby shoots back and kills the mayor.
Later, Hoby prepares to ride out of town with Dawson. Hoby assures Wilson and the sheriff that he'll make sure that Dawson gets to the asylum and leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 30, 2017