his inside coat lapel, cuts some papers of the same size, stuff it all in an envelope, and goes to the front desk. The clerk says that they're out of accommodations, but Bret ignores him and asks him to keep the envelope in a safe. Bret writes his name and "$1,000" on the front
Once Bret has washed up and put on his better clothes, he goes to the bar and sees a drunk poker player shoved away from a table. Bret confirms the man's name is Joshua Thayer and invites him to drink with him. Joshua thanks him but wonders why he has bothered, Bret says that he's a gambler and asks if there's a big game in town. Joshua says that it's upstairs but advises against playing, saying that mine owner Phineas King runs it and he never loses. Bret buys Joshua another drink and goes upstairs.
Bret joins the poker game and they discuss how John Stoler was in the bank trying to get a loan for her mine. Phineas dismisses her mine as worthless, and Bret introduces himself. Phineas is amused at the idea of a gambler trying to best him, They play and Bret loses to Phineas. Phineas "accidentally" reveals the cards that he folded on, and discovers that they're three aces. Bret says that he hates to be second best.
The men continue playing and everyone drops out except Bret. Bret asks for a cut and everyone stares at him, and Bret expertly cuts the cards. Phineas bets $1,000 and Bret tells him that he's out of money but says that he has $4,000 in the hotel safe. Phineas wants to see the money and has Bret write a note to the clerk to confirm the money is there. They wait Phineas' man Big Mike McComb comes back and says the money is there. Bret calls and raises $3,000, and refuses to let Phineas see the money unless he calls. Phineas folds and says that it's been an interesting evening.
Later at the bar, Big Mike joins Bret and says that it's the first time someone has beat Phineas. As a gunman secretly watches, Bret refuses to say whether he had the money. As he leaves, the gunman bumps into Bret and says that he dropped him, and hands him an Ace of Spades with the word "Get out of town" written on it. Bret pays two weeks' in advance for his room and tells Big Mike that he's sticking around to see who wants to get rid of him. Big Mike half-jokingly admits that he'd have been disappointed in Bret if he hadn't. As Bret walks down the street, two men hit him over the head and drag him into an alley.
The next morning, Bret wakes up in John Stoler's cabin. His daughter, Edie, introduces herself and says that she and her father found Bret in a ditch. She assures Bret that her father has Bret's money and wonders why the attackers didn't take the money. When John returns, Edie tells Bret not to say anything and goes to greet her father. Over supper, Edie talks about educated women not making good wives and flirts with Bret. She goes to wash the dishes and John offers to drive Bret into town. Bret says that he wants to know who was so anxious to get rid of him.
In town, Bret finds the gunman from the previous night at the barber, and asks at gunpoint who told the man to bushwhack him. The gunman says Big Mike paid him, and Bret goes to the hotel and confronts Big Make in Phineas' office. He punches Big Mike and then draws his gun on him, and asks why Big Mike agrees to tell Bret if he doesn't tell anyone where he got the information from. Once Bret lowers the gun, Big Mike punches him and laughs, saying that he had to return the "greeting". Bret takes it in stride and Big Mike says that Phineas wanted Bret out of town. The gambler says that Phineas is a card cheat and demonstrates what he did when Big Mike doesn't believe him, and leaves.
Bret goes to Phineas' office and Phineas feigns ignorance. The gambler figures that Phineas has to win at everything, including poker, and says that he's not leaving town until he gets his damaged coat fixed... and he'll send Phineas the bill.
Later, Phineas tells Big Mike to take care of Bret... permanently. Big Mike isn't interested in murdering a man, and tells Phineas to get someone else to kill Bret. Phineas threatens to take away his business but Big Mike, unimpressed, says that it might not be a bad thing.
Bret finds Joshua in his hotel room and is surprised to see that he's all right. Joshua figured the room was paid for and Bret wouldn't be using it. Bret tells Joshua to take his room and Joshua says that he was a judge once, but didn't say the right thing to the right people. He warns that Phineas is the wrong people, and Bret leaves.
Later, Bret returns to the hotel and finds Big Mike waiting. Big Mike tells Bret that he's leaving town. A passing rider shots at Bret and the two men take cover. Bret punches Big Mike, figuring that he set him up for a target. They go to Bret's room and Big Mike warns that Phineas will have Bret killed. Bret refuses to leave town, saying that he doesn't know how but he's going to stop Phineas.
The next day, Bret takes out an ad in the paper saying that Phineas didn't attempt to kill him The townspeople are amused, but Phineas isn't. He wants Bret taken to court for defamation of character, but his lawyer Bixby points out that Bret told the truth and Phineas had better make sure Bret is alive or townspeople will think Phineas had to do something with Bret's death. Phineas figures that it's his newspaper and he can refuse the ad, but hasn't second thoughts.
At the hotel bar, Bret notices Joshua passed out at a table and suggests to the bartender that with the election coming up, they write in Joshua's name as judge just to make him feel wanted. The bartender agrees, figuring it would be nice for Joshua even thought it was just a joke. Bret swears him to secrecy, and then goes around suggesting the same thing to other townspeople and also saying that it's betw3een the two of them.
On election night, Judge Richard Bixby and Phineas are drinking and waiting for the election results. Joshua wins, much to everyone's surprise, The townspeople lift Joshua onto the bar to congratulate him, and Phineas storms out. Bret joins Joshua on the bar and says that they made a good choice, and praises Joshua. As Bret takes Joshua to his room, Joshua says that he knows Bret set him up and figures there's an angle. He warns Bret that he's never been bought and never will, and Bret assures him that there's no angle. Bret asks about the validity of his books on mining law and Joshua says that the law hasn't changed. he goes into a room, starts to take a drink, and then sets it down.
The next day, Bret goes to the Stoler cabin and meets with the local miners. He points out that they're all adjacent to Phineas' holdings, and says that there's a way to outproduce Phineas. They form a company New Hope, and hire miners at better wages and hours than Phineas is offering. Soon, the company is getting silver from adjacent to Phineas' holdings. Phineas is less than thrilled and tells to take New Hope to court.
Soon, Bixby has an expert testify that New Hope is mining through Phineas' property. Bret doesn't question the witness, and Joshua points out that he hasn't challenged the statement of a single witness. He doesn't call any witnesses because they don't have any. When Bixby says that Phineas owns the land, Bret says that the Federal mining laws state that the first person to find the apex of the vein is guaranteed to mine it no matter where it goes. Bixby objects, saying that the veins are never continuous, but Bret insists that they stand on the law even if it's outdated. Joshua orders a recess until the next day.
That night, Joshua goes through the law books concerning the apex law. Phineas visits him and says that Joshua's decision can cost him a lot of money. Joshua insists that he won't do Bret any favors in the courtroom, and Phineas offers him a flask. The judge refuses but stares at the flask as Phineas takes a drink. Phineas subtly offers him a $100,000 bribe and leaves.
The next day in court, Joshua finally comes in says that he's decided there is no legal cause for an injunction. The miners cheer and congratulate Bret. Big Mikes come in and says that Bixby is heading to the territorial seat to appeal Joshua's decision.
Phineas waits for the appeal to come through, and says that he won't raise his wages or lower his hours. He has an idea and leaves.
Bret tells the miners what their profits are so far. The alarm goes off and they learn that Phineas flooded his own mines to flood theirs until he gets the court decision. The miners at all of the holdings are out of work, and they blame Bret. Big Mike hides around the telegraph office and the operator notes that even though Phineas flooded the mines, Bret set it off. A telegram comes in and the operator tells Big Mike that Bixby wired that the territorial court has found against Bret and the miners. The operator leaves to find his assistant, and Big Mike makes a few modifications to the wire before leaving.
The miners come after Bret at the hotel. Phineas and his men are waiting and Phineas figures Bret will be lucky to get out of town alive. Big Mike goes to Bret's room and says that he fixed up the wire like Bret wanted, but it will only last until Bixby arrives. Bret goes out and shows the miners his $1,000 bill and says that anyone who doesn't like what he says can collect it. He says that he and Phineas were both wrong, and says that Phineas is a fine man who will open the courts. Bret tells the miners that Phineas King and New Hope are about to merge. Phineas is listening and has no idea what Bret is talking about, and Bret says that all of the reforms New Hope has have initiated are being put in the new merger.
Phineas gets the altered telegram and figures that he'll lose. Bret arrives and Phineas says that it's worth the mines shutting down as long as he doesn't lose. The gambler says that the miners just want 5% of the profits and he'll leave town, and asks Phineas if they confirm the merger or Phineas says that he won't oppose it. Bret takes Phineas to the window and says the merger is on, and the miners cheer Bret and Phineas.
Later, Bret prepares to leave Echo Springs. Edie says that she's leaving to find a man in Boston. Phineas asks Bret to stay and run the miners, and Joshua assures Bret that the town is better than the way he found it. After Bret rides off, Bixby arrives and tells Phineas that the ruling was in his favor. Phineas realizes what Bret did but figures that Bret has guts and fires the lawyer.
Big Mike offers to ride with Bret, figuring that something is bound to be happening there and he can't miss it.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 28, 2019