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Rope of Cards Recap

Outside town, two guards hear gunshots and ride to a house. They see a man, Bill Gregg, running out and holding a gun. The men order Bill to drop the gun, and they confirm that the owner, Sloan, is dead. Bill says that John Sloan tried to kill him, and the men tie Bill up and take him to the sheriff.

At a saloon in town, Bret is playing poker when the sheriff comes in and asks him to come to the jail with him. He says that Bill thinks that Bret can help him out, and insists that Bret come with him. At the jail, Bill reminds Bret that he waved to him as he rode by, and figures that Bret saw someone else ride to Sloan's house. Bret doesn't remember passing anyone on the road, including Sloan. Bill says that Sloan invited him out to his place to lend him some money. Bret remembers Sloan at the saloon extending the invitation, and Sloan refused Billy. One of the men who captured Bill, Slim, points out that Sloan had several thousand dollars from a cattle sale.

The sheriff doesn't believe Bill and has him empty his pockets. Bill has $6,000, and Bret says that at the saloon Bill asked Sloan for $3,000.

The next day, Bret is back playing poker. The sheriff comes in and says that he's there to gather men for a jury. Bret wins the hand and the sheriff picks all four players, including Bret. Bret points out that he isn't a resident, and the owner Charlie Caldwell offers to put him up while the sheriff points out that Bret is in town making a living playing cards.

The trial begins and Bill's lawyer Jabe Hallock doesn't believe Bill's story. Bill's girlfriend Lucy Cutter does. The prosecutor, Blaine, comes in and greets Jabe. Jabe says that it hasn't been long enough since the last time he saw him, and Blaine says that they've had a few years to forget their differences. He warns Jabe not to make it a grudge match, and says that he asked for the case. Jabe says that he asked for the case because he doesn't think much of Blaine, and figures that Blaine doesn't care about the townspeople. He promises not to let Blaine use Bill's case to pave his way to the governorship.

The trial begins and Blaine calls Charlie as a witness. Charlie testifies that Bill talked to Sloan as he was playing cards with Bret.

Bill asks for a $3,000 loan to build a new place, and offers his current cabin at 10%. Bill explains that he and Lucy plan to get married, and admits that the bank won't loan him the money. Sloan says that it must stick in the craw from him, and refuses. He says that he doesn't want to lend and tells Bill to stop begging. Bill reminds him that his father loaned Sloan to get started and Sloan never paid it back. When Sloan says that Bill's father embezzled a lot of his money, Bill goes for his gun and Bill stops him.

Jabe cross-examines Charlie and confirms that Sloan called Bill a thief. Next, Blaine calls Slim who confirms that someone cut through the fence to get to the house. Jabe cross-examines and asks if Bill looked mean or scared. When Blaine objects, Jabe loudly says that Bill supposedly snuck in the back but ran out the front. When Jabe cross-examines the sheriff, he confirms that Bill wasn't drunk despite Blaine implying that he was. The shop owner confirms that he sold a pair of cutters to Bill, and Blaine tries to enter it into evidence. Jabe has the owner confirm that the clippers are Bill's and tells the jury that they'll find out why later on.

Later, Jabe cross-examines the town doctor and asks if Bill has a mean streak. Jabe calls Bill "Billy", and Blaine objects saying that Jabe is trying to make the defendant out as harmless. The judge rules in favor of Blaine and Jabe finishes his questioning. Jabe then tells the jury that Blaine thinks Bill fighting for his life is a joke, and accuses the prosecutor of speeding up the case. He calls Bill to the stand and has him testify what happened.

The afternoon of the shorting, Sloan rode up to Bill's cabin and said that he didn't come intending trouble. Bill agrees to hear him out, and Sloan says that he thought about Bill's request. He tells Bill that bracing him in the saloon rode him the wrong way. Sloan insists that he paid off his debt to Bill's father, and he didn't say anything at the saloon because it would have made him look like he was trying to squirm out of paying the money. He tells Bill to take money with no interest, but doesn't want him to tell anyone. Bill agrees and Sloan asks him to ride over to get the money and he'll clip the fence for him to get through. Before he goes, Sloan has Bill swear that he won't tell anyone.

Blaine cross-examines Bill, who says that Sloan took his clippers to cut the wire. No one saw Bill, and Blaine points out that he took special precautions to make sure no one saw him. Bill objects, insisting that he stood up for his own name. Jabe objects, saying that Blaine is attacking Bill rather than the evidence. Blaine has Bill walk through how he entered the house.

Bill comes into Sloan's office at his home. Sloan offers him a drink and offers a toast to Bill and Lucy. He insists on Bill having a second drink, then takes the money out of his safe. Sloan counts out the $3,000 and hands it over. As Bill leaves, Sloan draws a gun and tosses out the contents of the safe, and says that it will look like Bill came with a few drinks and tried to rob him. The businessman tells Bill that he's not good enough for Lucy and she's going to marry him. He figures that Lucy won't mourn a thief for long. Bill goes for his gun and manages to kill Sloan. Bill then runs out the front, and that's when the guards found him.

Blaine points out that Bill had bad words with Sloan, and notes out that Bill didn't suspect anything even though Sloan had a reputation as a hard-dealing businessman. Bill admits that he needed the money and was willing to convince himself that Sloan had changed his ways. Blaine asks where the extra $3,000 came from, and Bill admits that he doesn't know.

When she's on the stand, Lucy says that some townspeople have visited her at the schoolhouse where she teaches. Blaine asks how she knew Sloan loved her, and Lucy says that a woman can tell. The prosecutor then presents his summation, saying that Jabe presented his own imaginings and Lucy lied on behalf of her fiancée. He notes that no one has any proof of Sloan loving Lucy, but Bill hated Sloan and wanted to make a home for Lucy.

The jury convenes and everyone votes guilty except for Bret. One of the players, Pike, objects and says that they should have another vote. Bret offers to bet $500 that they leave the room with a verdict for acquittal. Pike hesitates and then makes sure of the terms of the bet, including his vote for innocence. He agrees and Bret points out that Sloan practically forced Bill to draw on him by accusing his father of being a thief. The other jurors agree with Bret despite Pike's arguments, and Bret says that there's enough doubt for it to be reasonable doubt.

The jurors vote again and this time three more jurors vote not guilty. One juror points out that Sloan cheated Pike at cards in the past. Pike figures it was between him and Sloan, but Bret notes that a man who cheats once would cheat again. When Pike insists that he will never vote not guilty, the foreman Price says that they're all listening to reason except Pike. Pike points out the extra $3,000, and Bret says it's a strong point. He notes that people are careful not to get short-changed, but not so much when they're getting paid more. Bret demonstrates by noting that he paid Pike $500 on the bet and had him hold the stakes... and slipped in an extra $500 there.

The sheriff comes in and says that they need to make a decision or they'll stay at the vote. This time there are 11 for acquittal, and Pike says that his vote will remain not guilty. The jurors argue with Pike, and Bret says that they're deadlocked. He asks why Pike votes for hanging, pointing out that there's no such thing as a pat hand. Bret gives Pike a straight hand and has him shuffle them and cut them twice, without ever touching them himself. He then has Pike deal out five hands face down, and then proposes a bet that there are five pat hands among the 25 cards. Pike doesn't believe it's possible, and Bret bets $500 and Bill's life that there aren't. If Bret loses, he'll stop fighting Pike and vote guilty. If Pike loses, he'll vote not guilty.

Pike figures that there's a trick and confirms the terms of the bet. He asks for another shuffle and Bret agrees. Once Pike deals the cards, Bret picks out five pat hands. He admits that five pat hands can be made out of any 25 cards, calling it "Maverick Solitaire".

The jury returns a verdict of not guilty, and Price admits to Bret that he never thought they'd reach a verdict. Pike never did vote "not guilty", but Bret figured that he kept their bargain. Price, the foreman, gets up and says they found Bill not guilty. Blaine demands a poll of the jury, and each juror says "not guilty"... including Pike.

Afterward, Pike pays the $500 talks to Bret and says that he made him look foolish. Bret tells him that he was betting that Pike was a pretty good man and invites him to go back to playing poker with him.

Written by Gadfly on Jul 28, 2019

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