Bret is play poker in Kiowa City, a Cowtown in Kansas. The trail hands often ride through town, shooting up the place when they think they're being cheated. Bret continues playing and winning, and a losing cowhand accuses Bret of cheating. He says that Bret deals crooked and threatens to kill him and Marshal Walt Hardie pistol-whips the cowhand unconscious from behind. Bret thanks Hardie for his intervention and goes to bed, and Walt gets some men to carry the unconscious cowhand away.
The next morning, Bret emerges from the hotel and notices that everything is too quiet. A businessman, Somers, advises Bret to stay off the streets. he explains that Hardie is going to have a shootout with Jack Wade, the boss that the cowhand worked for. The cowhand died earlier that morning, and Hardie is holed up in jail. Somers figures that Wade is having breakfast, and tells Bret that it won't be a fair draw.
Bret goes to the jail one of the trail hands standing guard tells him not to stay long. Walt confirms that Bret is who he says and lets him in, and tells Bret that his getting involved wouldn't help. Bret advises him to get out, but Walt says that the town is paying him to make sure the trail hands hoorah the town and he can't run. He advises Bret to get out before the shooting starts, but Bret considers himself responsible. Walt tells him to get out anyway, and Bret gives him a shotgun and says that Wade might decide to parley instead of shoot. He advises Walt to keep an eye on Wade's ramrod Red Scanlon and leaves.
Bret leaves and print shop owner George Buckner comes down the street. The gambler says that Walt and Wade are going to shoot it off, and George wonders who is going to stop it. George doesn't want to get involved and Bret tells him to go back to his shop. Further down the street, Red stops Bret and asks if he's getting involved. Bret says that he's not, and Red tells him to spread the word there won't be any more fuss in Kiowa once it's over... as long as no one gets involved. Bret asks if it will be a fair fight, and Red points out that Walt hit the cowhand from behind. The gambler asks where Wade is, and Red advises him to leave Wade alone. Bret points out that he's unarmed and leaves.
When he goes into the café where Wade is having lunch, Bret finds Wade eating breakfast with Lil. Bret says that he wants to make a deal and Wade assures him that Walt is dead. The gambler suggests that Wade let Walt ride out of town, and points out that the cowhand's death was an accident. Lil agrees with Bret, but Wade says that Walt should have gotten out when he had the chance. Bret points out that Walt is afraid that Wade and his men will tree the town. Red comes in and says that if Jack lets Walt go then the trail hands will quit. He doesn't aim to end his 10% cut, and says that if Wade's father was alive then he would have cleaned out the town by now. Wade tells Bret to go because there's no deal, and Bret says that it must gravel him taking orders from Red. Red challenges Bret to fight, and Bret points out that he's unarmed and leaves.
Bret goes to the salon where Somers and the others have gathered. The bartender, Gus Wilson, figures that once Walt is dead the cowhands will bust up the town, starting with his saloon. Bret says that Wade's bunch won't pull out but Red won't let him, and nobody is planning to stop Red.
At the print shop, George tries to convince his printer Charlie that someone needs to stand up to the trail hands. Charlie warns him that Kiowa isn't like Ohio where George came from, and nobody will stand up to the trail hands. Walt's wife Amy walks down the street, and Walt and Somers come out and watch her walk past the trail hands on watch. She goes to the cafe, and Wade, Red, and Lil come out. Amy begs Wade to sit down with Walt and talk, insisting that Walt didn't mean to kill the cowhand. She begs Wade not to hurt her husband, and Wade tells Lil to take Amy away. He glances at Red for a moment, then walks to the jail. Crying, Amy tells him that he doesn't want to live with murdering Walt.
Wade and Red arrive at the jail and Wade calls Walt out. Bret, watching, reaches for the derringer in his pocket. Wade says that Walt killed one of his boys, and Red gusn Walt down. The ramrod says that they should get a drink and they go into the saloon. Bret comes over and asks if Wade always has someone killing for him. He asks why Wade didn't give Walt a chance, and Wade insists that Walt didn't give the cowhand a chance. Once Wade goes inside, Red asks Bret if he's buying in. Bret says that Red will know if he does because he won't turn his back on him.
Bret goes over to the others who have gathered around Walt's body. George insists that it was murder and asks what they're going to do about it. Bret says that if anyone tries to do anything then they'll be killed. George asks the crowd if they can stand by while the marshal is murdered, and Somers tells him to simmer down. Disgusted, George says that he'll label Wade a coward throughout the state. Bret warns George that if he does he's as good as dead, and helps Somers take the body away.
George goes to his print shop and dictates his story to Charlie about Walt's story. Charlie warns that George is buying a lot of grief, and George says that he'll handle it as it comes.
At the camp outside of town, Red tells Wade that they should lay the herd over another day. Wade orders that there'll be no more trouble in Kiowa and they're leaving. Red says that they can't leave until Harry, the man he sent into town for flour, gets back.
In town, Harry gets a broadside from a delivery boy and once he reads it, quickly rides off. The delivery boy then goes into the saloon and hands out the same broadside with George's story. Bret tells Somers that he's going to ride out before Wade and his men ride into Kiwoa City.
Harry gives them Wade and Red the broadside, describing how Walt was killed. George describes them as "assassins", and Red says that Wade's father would have torn up in town. Wade tells him to leave his father out of it and orders his men to ride into town.
Somers and the other businessman go to the print shop and tells George that Wade and his men will destroy the town. George figures that maybe the townspeople will defend themselves if they didn't defend Walt. He says that they're cowards and leaves for Topeka. Charlie says that George is going to roust the governor against Wade.
Bret is preparing to leave town when Red and his men ride into town. They see Bret and ride over, and Red tells him that no one rides out or they'll meet with an accident. He tells Bret that he just doesn't like him, and points out that Bret is wearing his gun, and Bret says that he's wearing it in case he comes across a snake and then goes inside.
At the saloon, Gus pours drinks on the house for Wade and his trail hands. Wade asks him who wrote the broadside, and Gus says that it's none of his business. The boss demands an answer and Gus swears that he doesn't know. Wade takes offense at the liquor and throws a bottle into Gus' mirror. Gus quickly says that George wrote the broadside and he's going to Topeka on the night coach. Wade tells his men to bust up the place anyway.
Wade and Red go to the print shop Red beats Charlie for where George is. George is in the back and hears them beating Charlie, and considers going in. Wade says that Charlie is dead, and leaves with red. George goes in and stares at Charlie's body in shock. Bret comes in and George tells him what happened. He admits that he was afraid to come in until Wade left. Disgusted, Bret says that a man who shouts and then runs when someone responds makes him sick. He considers turning George over to Wade before George gets anyone killed. George points out that they both let their friends killed, and says that Bret can't condemn George without condemning himself.
Out in the street, Wade asks Bret where George is. Bret refuses to talk, and tells Red that Red isn't good enough to hit him at that range and if he moves any closer, Bret will kill him. Red wants to go up against him anyway, but Wade orders him to stand down. Bret insists that he doesn't side with anyone and just wants to be left alone. Wade tells him to spread the world around that if George gets out Kiowa he'll tree the town. If he doesn't have George by that night, he's taking the town.
Bret goes to the saloon and Gus tells him what happened. Gus says that he's done being scared by people like Wade and Red, and asks if Bret is afraid of them. Bret figures that he is, and says that his business is staying alive. Somers comes in and says that they can't find George, and admits that they're going to turn him over to Wade or the whole town goes. Gus says that George had no right to what he said and then runs, and Bret asks if they're going to stop the trail hands if they ride in. The two men remain silent, and Bret says that all towns die sooner or later and Kiowa isn't worth dying for.
Red tells Wade that there's no sign of George and figures he hasn't left town. He asks if the topwnpeople will fight, and Wade says that he's short-handed. Red doesn't care, and Wade tells him that they'll turn the men loose if they don’t get George by that night.
Bret finds George in his room, and tells him to get out and make sure no one sees him. George says that there wasn't any place else to go, and Bret tells him that he can leave after dark. Bret blames him for not having the backbone to take the consequences of his talk, and says that Wade will kill George. George thought the townspeople would stand behind him, and Bret tells him that he's going to make a deal. The publisher asks if Wade would forget the whole thing if he puts out another broadside retracting what he said earlier. Bret doesn't think much it will work but agrees to tell Wade.
Bret and Somers approach Wade and his men, who are waiting outside of town. They ask what Wade plans to do to George, and Somers says that he wants to see things settled without bloodshed. Wade poitns out that his boys won't think much of him if he turns the other cheek, and advises Somers to hand over George. Bret describes George's offer, but Wade isn't interested. Red says that they want to hear it from Wade, and Bret asks Wade what he says. Wade refuses and they walk off. The ramrod hopes that they won't hand George over because he'd like taking Kiowa apart.
George goes to Lil's house and she reluctantly lets him in. She says that he should go out and take what's coming to him, and figures that he's not much of a man. George explains the deal and Lil wonders if he'll stay there afterward. She warns that Wade will either get George or tree the house, and describes what the trail hands will do the town. With Walt dead there's no one to stop them, and asks why George isn't brave now. George says that he never thought of himself as a coward, but he couldn't force himself to open the door when he heard Charlie get beaten.
Lil goes to the saloon and asks if Wade took the deal. Bret told him that Wade refuses, and Lil asks what the "brave men" will do now. They ask if she's hiding George, and Lil says that George came to her and she didn't throw him out. She asks if there's any man in town who will fight, and Bret says that he only uses a gun when he has to. he says that she pushed him off the fence by coming in and hiding George, and asks if anyone else will go with him. The townspeople agree to fight back, and they discuss putting up a barricade to slow the trail hands down.
Bret and the townspeople wait in the shadows, and Wade and his men ride into Kiowa. George gets a rifle and steps out, and sees the townspeople gathered to defend him. The trail hands walk down the street, and George steps out. Bret joins him and the two men face off against Wade and Red. bret says that they'll have to take him and all of the men behind him. When Wade and Red go for their guns, the townspeople shoot them down and continue firing at the trail hands.
The two sides exchange shots, and then Bret yells that if they leave now there won't be any more shooting. After a minute, the surviving trail hands get the two corpses and leave. Back in the saloon, Bret pulls up a chair and starts dealing cards.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 4, 2019