Ralph arrives at the sheriff's office and tells Melinda Curry that Hoby will be there in a few minutes. Hoby comes in and Melinda asks him to help her find her father. The last letter she got from her was mailed from Porter. When Hoby asks the last time that Melinda saw her mother Ruth, Melinda explains that she's blind and has never seen her. Melinda explains that she's from Ft. Worth and her mother's name is Mrs. Ben Steele. She thought that she should talk to Hoby first because four months ago, her mother left Ft. Worth to marry Ben and then she'd send for Melinda before Christmas. Her letters changed and Melinda thought that something was worrying her. Then the letters stopped coming six weeks ago. Ben met Ruth a year ago, they wrote for a while, and then he asked her to come to Porter to marry him.
At the cellar of the Steele place, Ben is going through a chest of Ruth's clothing when he hears a horse whinny outside. He looks outside and sees Hoby and Melinda arriving in a wedding. He quickly covers over the dirt on the barn floor, closes the chest, and shoves it in a corner. Ben then goes out to greet Hoby with a shotgun and tells Hoby to stay away. Hoby refuses to back down, and Ben lowers the gun. He says that his Ruth left and Hoby explains that Melinda is her daughter. Ben finally says that Ruth left him a month ago with a traveling man and doesn't know where she is. He says that offering her everything he had wasn't enough, and she didn't find what she wanted at his farm. Ben tells Hoby that he doesn't want Melinda there because her mother gave him enough unhappiness, Hoby goes back to the wagon and tells Melinda that he'll explain on the way back to town.
In Porter, Aaron offers to take Melinda in so his sister can take care of her. Hoby then checks in with Henrietta to see what she knows about Ben. She finds an article about how Ben bought the farm fourteen years ago and moved in with his first wife. All she's ever seen him do is sit in the front yard and shoot at the crows. Henrietta points out that Ben has been married three times. He said the first wife died, and the second wife ran off with a salesman after four months. Henrietta figures that there's a pattern and Ben has always lived good even though he doesn't seem to work for it.
Later at the Adam house, Hoby has dinner with Aaron, Penny, and Melinda. Ben comes by with flowers and asks to see Melinda. He apologizes to Hoby for overreacting that afternoon, and offers to make a hoe for Melinda and live up to his responsibilities. Ben tells Melinda that he's her stepfather and offers her the flowers, and Penny goes to put them in some water. He then explains to Melinda that he understands why Ruth left him, and he thinks her place is with him. Hoby points out that it's a fast change for him, and Ben says that he understands how Hoby is feeling but can't do anything more. Melinda says that she's still not sure if she wants to move in with him, and Ben asks Hoby to find Ruth no matter the cost and then he and Melinda can convince her to come back. He gives Hoby a cigar box with Ruth's things as clues, and suggests that it's the shame that is keeping Ruth away. Melinda agrees to go with Ben and they leave.
Later, Hoby sends telegrams to cities in the southwest. Over the next two weeks, he gets responses all saying the same thing. Aaron stops in to see Hoby who tells him that no one has seen Ruth. The barber wonders why Ben changed his mind and took Melinda in, and Hoby suggests that Ben tried to cover up how he reacted. He reads Ruth's note to Ben when she supposedly left, and points out to Aaron that the handwriting doesn't match the letter that Ruth sent to Melinda. Hoby and Aaron ride out to the Steele farm.
Melinda goes down to the cellar looking for Ben and trips on a piece of rope. She falls to the dirt floor and gets up, calling to Ben. Melinda stumbles across the chest and realizes that the nameplate has her mother's name on it. She opens it and finds Ruth's things, just as Ben comes in. Melinda closes the chest and Ben asks what she's doing. He notices that the chest has a piece of clothing sticking out of the chest, and leads Melinda upstairs.
In the kitchen, Ben tells Melinda to take it easy while he makes supper. He asks her what she found in the cellar, and she says that she found nothing. Ben goes into the cellar, feels the nameplate, and tucks the clothing away. He then goes back upstairs and demands the truth. Melinda finally says that she found the trunk, and Ben grabs her and says that Ruth didn't go anywhere. She breaks free, knocks over the lantern, and runs away through the darkened house. She enters a room, locks the door, and opens the window to cry for help. Ben breaks down the door and starts to strangle her. Hoby and Aaron arrives and Hoby shoots Ben. They carry Melinda to the bed and make sure that she's okay, and Aaron goes to call a doctor for Ben .
Later, Ben stands trial and is found guilty of three murders. Melinda tells Hoby that she's heading back to Ft. Worth and assures him that she'll never forget Porter. She touches Hoby's face and thanks him for her life.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 20, 2017