A wounded Bret is riding across the country and stops to take a break. He hobbles over to a stream to get a drink, and a sheriff aiming a gun at him says that it's a long time back to town. The sheriff tells him to get back on his horse, and Bret says that he'll have to rest a while before he rides back. The lawman holsters his gun and gives Bret 20 minutes before he rides back to North Span. The sheriff checks Bret's saddlebags and finds them full of money, and takes them back. Bret says that it was his first try at robbing a bank, and asks if the sheriff wants to hear his story. The sheriff isn't interested, and Bret bets him $10 that if he told him the story, he wouldn't ride back to town. The lawman advises him to save his breath, and Bret bets that the sheriff wouldn't take him or the money back. Intrigued, the sheriff agrees.
Ten weeks ago in Denver, Bret is at a hotel riding poker. He notices a woman, Margaret Ross, comes in looking for Bret. She checks with a porter and confirms that it's Bret, and has the porter take a note to him. It's an invitation for Bret to come to her room in ten minutes. Bret excuses himself and goes to Margaret's room. She says that it's a business matter and she's a widow, and asks Bret to accompany her on a trip. Margaret will pay him $1,000 for protection along with a suitcase full of $200,000. Margaret explains that she's taking it to North Span, Montana, and that Mr. Peterson assured Bret that he's honest, discreet, capable, and a gentleman. Bret tells her that the suitcase never leaves his sight and Margaret says that it's not an issue.
Bret and Margaret are soon aboard the stagecoach heading to North Span. Margaret avoids talking to Bret. They stay over at a hotel and have dinner, and Margaret refuses to discuss herself. They continue on and another passenger tells him that he has a handsome wife. Bret doesn't contradict him, and puts an arm around Margaret's shoulders. Margaret smiles and doesn't tell him to stop.
The stagecoach arrives in Laramie. After they check in, Bret asks Margaret how he can get to know her. He suggests that they enjoy the town, but Margaret gently says that she's staying in for a bath and tells him to leave the suitcase with her. He goes to get it but keeps one bill, and shows it to a local banker. The banker's teller confirms that it's counterfeit, and Bret sets it on fire to light his cigar rather than hand it over for the manager to give to the government.
Bret and Margaret continue, and Margaret dozes off. Bret wakes her up and she tells him her first name, then goes back to sleep. They arrive in the next town, and check in as husband and wife. Bret asks the desk clerk to get them two separate rooms, claiming that he snores, and the clerk says that they only have a single room because the cattle buyers are in town. Margaret glares at Bret, who shrugs.
In the room, Margaret tells Bret to sleep in the livery stable and leave the money there. He refuses and Margaret figures that he's enjoying himself. Bret says that she's staying close-mouthed, and insists that he doesn't have designs on her or her money. Margaret asks what is bothering him, and Bret kisses her. She kisses him back for a minute and then backs away, saying that things are confused enough already before hugging him.
Bret ends up in the livery stable, and the next day he and Margaret continue on. John Grimes and his friend Andrew Wiggins are their fellow passengers, and Wiggins says that they had a successful visit buying cattle. They exchange introductions, and Margaret thinks that she recognizes John. He flirts with her and she talks about the farmland. John and Wiggins chuckle and say that Montana is grazing land. Wiggins explains that John will become the first governor when Montana becomes a state in a few years. John defers but says that he would serve as a governor if he was needed. He invites Margaret to have dinner with him so they can discuss his platform. Margaret says that she has an engagement and glances at Bret, who smiles smugly.
The stagecoach continues on and after John and Wiggins leave, Margaret accuses Bret of being jealous. Bret assures her that he isn't and they joke about Bret becoming governor. She admits that she doesn't like John.
When they arrive in North Span and check in, Margaret wakes up Bret the next morning and tells him that they're going to get rid of the money by putting it in a bank. They meet with the bank manager, Bradshaw, and Margaret asks him to hold the $200,000 in a strongbox. She has Bret present the suitcase full of counterfeit money. Bradshaw tries to convince her to deposit the money, and Margaret says that her late husband lost his $500,000 when his bank closed. The manager takes her to the strongbox.
After Margaret stores the money, she and Bret go back to their hotel and Margaret gives Bret his $1,000. Bret checks it to see if they're counterfeit without saying why, and Margaret kisses him and says that it's goodbye. He tells her that he's leaving yet and kisses her back, and Margaret says that she doesn't want complications. Bret says that she hits hard, and Margaret tells him that she's not in love with her. He asks who she is in love with, and Margaret says that she can't afford to be in love with anyone. Bret figures that they'll see and leaves.
Later, Bret watches Margaret leave the bank and go to the local newspaper, the Territorial Times. Bret goes in and Bradshaw tells him that Margaret has gotten what she came after. Bradshaw confirms that she did, and asks Bret if she seems eccentric to him. He finds it odd that she left $200,000 in a strongbox, and wonders why she borrowed $20,000 at 8%. Bradshaw admits that he'll make money on the interest, and Margaret has collateral from the $200,000 and the property. He finally says that she bought the newspaper.
At his ranch, learns from one of his men that Margate bought the Times even though he's been covering the previous owner's losses for two years, and the owner has left town. Wiggins warns him that there's nothing he can do about it and it would be bad politics if he did. His man tells him that Margaret bought the Times, and John figures that he's charmed her enough that he can marry her and get the newspaper.
Margaret soon publishes a newspaper with an editorial about how farmers have been run out of town by the cattle cabal. She promises to identify the leading members of the cabal in the next edition. John and Wiggins read the paper and John promises to stop Margaret. He visits her as Bret are there, and says that he knows the cattle ranchers. Bret "translates", saying that John wants her to attack the farmers. John denies it and Margaret says that she can see what's going on. Once John leaves, Bret offers Margaret his gun.
The next edition goes to print with a headline about the true John Grimes, who was thrown out of Texas. Bret sees John storm into the newspaper office and listens at the door. Inside, John tells Margaret that her story is untrue. She vows to stop him from becoming the governor of Montana, and says that she knows who he is and what he's up to. Margaret warns that if any violence happens, people will know who is responsible and will come for him. Once he leaves, Bret goes in and comforts Margaret. He offers to make an honest housewife out of her, and admits that he fell in love with her. Margaret refuses to admit her feelings, and Bret tells her that she can't fight herself.
Bret walks Margaret home and asks if she needs someone to talk to. She tells him that she can't and Bret says that he owes her a favor for not paying her with counterfeit money. Reconsidering, Margaret brings Bret in and explains that she was from Texas. John and his men were beating people, and her husband ran a newspaper and she helped him. John had his men burn down the Texas newspaper, beat Mr. Ross, and left him for dead. He was crippled and broken in mind and spirit, dying in poverty and bitterness. At the end Mr. Ross had a rage for vengeance and printed his own money to fight John. He told Margaret when he was dying and made her swear she wouldn't let John get away with it. Margaret saved the money until she could use it to get a loan to buy the newspaper and go after John. Bret asks if she loves her, and Margaret admits that she can't let anything turn her from her vow. Shrugging, Bret says that he'll help her while he waits for her.
The next day, Bret and Margaret discover that John's men attacked a newsboy and took his papers. Margaret prints more papers and Bret goes with the newsboy to hand out the papers. Once he leaves, Mrs. Effie Walker comes in and tells Margaret that the townspeople think highly of her. Effie and her husband Jeb are farmers, and Effie says that her husband knows things about John that would put him into the penitentiary if they got out. However, he's never said anything because he was afraid John would have him killed. Now Jeb is dying and hopes Margaret will pay him money so that Effie can get by. Effie says that Margaret can meet Jeb out of town to get his story.
When Bret and the newsboy return, they find a note from Margaret saying that she's going out to the Walker farm. The newsboy tells Bret that the Walkers moved back east a year ago. Bret rides after Margaret, and John's gunman fires shots to panic her wagon horse. It runs out of control and the gunman leaves. When Bret arrives, he finds the wagon at the bottom of a hill along the road. He goes down and checks on Margaret.
Later in North Span, the doctor announces that Margaret is dead. The sheriff is in the crowd, and Bret tells him that he's looking for John. He assures the sheriff that he's no gunfighter and it will be a fair fight. Bret goes down the street with the townspeople following him. The gambler finds John and tells him that Margaret is dead. John feigns innocence, but Bret says that he killed her and didn't have the courage to show her his fight. The townspeople get out of the line of fire, and Bret repeats his accusation. He says that John is a liar and a coward, and tells John that he can ride out of town and he won't stop him. John draws his gun, shoots, and hits Bret in the leg. Bret doesn't miss.
Later at the Times, the townspeople talk about how Margaret showed them what needed to be done. They promise that Margaret's memory will keep them proud and strong. Bret goes to the bank and steals the $200,000 from the strongbox.
Bret finishes his story, telling the sheriff that he couldn't let it come out that Margaret was using counterfeit money. The sheriff helps him to his horse and tells him to ride south, gives Bret his gun and the $10 for the bet. He promises that he won't let the fire go out and kicks the counterfeit money into Bret's campfire.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 22, 2019