Bret is traveling to New Orleans from Memphis, losing at poker. When they arrive in New Orleans, all Bret has is his emergency $1,000. He loses that as well at the casinos and leaves, and a man watches him go. Bret goes to his hotel room and finds a bill for his hotel room beneath his door. As Bret lays out his remaining money for the bill, someone slips another letter beneath his door. The seal on the envelope is stamped with the crest of the House of Gireaux, a family of famous silversmiths. Inside is a larger half of a $1,000 bill, and an invitation from Raoul Gireaux's home.
The next day, Bret arrives there and the man from the casino--Rene Gireaux--introduces himself as Raoul's son. Raoul is fencing with his teacher, Herr Ziegler, in the courtyard. Ziegler excuses himself and Bret takes a seat with father and son. Bret points out that they sent him the negotiable larger half of the $1,000 bill. Rene says that it was an attempt to convince Bret to visit them, and they exchange the old bill for new. Raoul says that the $1,000 is Bret's in any case, and there is $4,000 more if Bret brings Steve Corbett to justice. A mutual friend, Major Carponce, has advised the Gireauxs on Bret's qualifications: imaginative but realistic, personally free but responsible, and having expensive tastes but bankrupt.
Raoul explains that Steve is wanted for the murder younger son. The law has found Steve but he is in Mexico at Tampico. The Gireauxs can't extradite him, and Steve runs a large casino. The family wants Bret to persuade Steve to return, and Raoul insists that Steve must return of his own free will. Rene was a witness to Steve killing the son, Victor, and Rene explains that Steve was a blockade runner during the War. Steve knew they kept silver at their forge and robbed Victor. Rene arrived there and saw Steve leaving with a pistol, and Victor was shot through the heart. All the family wants to know is when Steve crosses the border. Bret accepts the offer.
Bret takes a ship to Tampico and goes to the casino, La Cantina Americana. Amy Lawrence is singing for the customers, and Bret listens as two customers ask Steve to join them at his table. The waiter, Carlos, explains that Steve only drinks at his own table. Bret tips the waiter to show him Steve's table, and goes over. Steve is listening to Amy and tells Bret to come back later.
Steve joins Amy after she's finished, and they agree to meet for breakfast in the morning. Bret approaches Steve and offers to work for Steve as a dealer. Steve isn't interested, and Bret gives his name as Steve goes into his office. A man, Paul Brooks, his on Amy at the bar, and she makes it clear that she isn't interested. The guitarist, Chicuelo, comments that Paul struck out but Paul isn't deterred. Bret asks Chicuelo who Paul is, and the guitarist explains that Paul occasionally works there as a dealer but deals primarily with the ladies.
Paul is dealing near the roulette table and Bret approaches him. He tells Paul that he had his description from a woman who made him promise to look up Paul when he got to Tampico. Bret describes the woman and plays along when Paul remembers her. He gives Paul an envelope and says that the woman told him that Paul should go to Corpus Christi if he wants the rest of the story. Inside is half of a $500 bill and no note. Bret points out that the woman gave Paul the short half of the $500, and tells Paul that she wants to see him again.
The next day, Bret returns to the casino and goes to Steve's table where he's having breakfast with Amy. Steve says that Paul left and offers Bret $25 a week. Bret sits down to eat and Steve introduces him to Amy. The gambler asks Amy if he heard her in St. Louis, and Steve advises Bret not to ask questions. Amy makes it clear she wants to forget the past.
That night, Bret is dealing cards while Amy sings. He spots playing a dealer, Sam Garth, dealing to a player. When Bret goes out for a smoke, Sam approaches Paul and explains that all of the dealers are skimming a little off the top. Bret says that he isn't interested, and Sam advises him to change his mind or he'll "disappear".
Bret goes back inside to Steve's office and finds Steve kissing Amy. Amy draws away and Steve apologizes for embarrassing her. She says that she doesn't want Bret to get the wrong impression and leaves. Bret tells Steve that he wants to quit, advising Steve that he should get someone to run his games. He asks for 10%, offering to raise his average income by $500 a week, and will take 10% of that. Steve insists that he runs a straight house, and Bret explains that he can make the $500 with better management. The owner figures the dealers are skimming from him, but realizes he has nothing to lose since he's taking Bret off of his $50 salary.
An hour later, Bret checks the house and then tells the players involved on the skimming to leave. He then tells Sam's partner to leave. Sam has no choice but to agree, and Bret continues dismissing players involved on the deal. Steve is impressed and Bret tells him that most dealers will cheat if Steve lets him and he let them.
At the end of the week, Steve confirms they made $2,600 more than they usually did. He honors his deal with Bret and gives him 10%, and locks the rest in his safe. Bret asks if Steve thinks he made a good deal, and Steve offers his hand and says that he knows he has.
As Bret walks back to his room, three sailors come after him with knives. As he fights two of them, Steve arrives and takes out the third one. Steve's opponent manages to stab him in the side, and the attackers run. Sam is watching from the shadows, and Steve grabs him and tells him to get out of town. Once Sam goes, Steve collapses from blood loss but tells Bret not to let word of the attack get around. As they head back to the cantina, Steve says that he got word that Sam was planning to make a move against Bret.
Back at Steve's office, Steve pours drinks and they bind their wounds. Bret thanks him for saving his life, and Steve refuses to discuss his past. The gambler figures the art in display in Steve's office is for his benefit, and all of the art is American landscapes. Steve tells Bret that he's wanted in the States for murder, and the tourists like the ambience. He admits that if he crosses the border he'll be hanged, and he fills the place with Americans. Steve tells Bret that he's going to keep Amy there by marrying her, and denies killing anyone. Bret asks him what happened, and Steve says that he thinks Rene killed Victor. Steve ran the blockade there and was wounded, but some Southerners still don't like him. He ducked across the border, and can't think of a way to claim himself without going back.
Bret offers Steve $700 and asks for $300 in credit. Steve opens the safe for Bret, and Bret claims that he owes someone in the States $1,000. The owner figures that Bret is staying and that's enough.
Later, Bret sends the $1,000 back to the Gireaux and figures that he's off the hook. Amy comes into the cantina and glares at a man, and Bret notices. She goes into Steve's office and he figures something is wrong. Bret comes in and asks Amy who the man was, and Steve has Bret point the man out. Steve goes out to confront the man, Fred Fowler. Fred claims that he's a furniture salesman and presents his card, and invites Steve to join him. Steve picks up Fred's tab and goes back to his office. She asks Amy what's going on, but Amy refuses to explain. Steve accepts that and Bret agrees, going out to watch the casino.
Once they're alone, Steve tells Amy that she's safe as long as she stays with him. She says that she can't stay with Steve forever, and explains that Fred is part of her past. Amy figures there is no escape from her past, and says that she has to go back. She asks Steve to trust her and says that she has to do it for herself. When it's done, she won't come back. Steve figures he can't help her because he can't cross the border, and figures he can avoid the law if he does cross the border. Amy says that she'll stay and they kiss.
The next day, Carlos tells Bret that he must stop Steve. Bret runs up to Steve's office and finds him packing to return to the States. Steve shows him a letter from Amy telling Steve not to follow her. The owner reveals that Amy caught a ship to Corpus Christi. Bret warns that Steve doesn't know anything about Amy's background, and explains that he was sent to get Steve across the border. He admits that he couldn't go through with it, and figures Steve is walking into a trap. He offers to go, but Steve says that there are some things a man has to do for himself. Steve assures Bret that he can take care of himself, and puts Bret in charge. He tells Bret that Gireaux picked a good man for the job--too good--and leaves.
Three days later, Paul returns and Chicuelo tells him that Bret is in charge. Paul goes into the office and Bret immediately gives him the other half of the $500. He takes the money and wonders why, and Bret says that he needed his job. Bret gives Paul his job back, and Paul says that he met a blonde. He also saw Amy in Corpus Christi, and she didn't see Paul as she arrived. Paul saw Rene meet Amy, and Paul tells Paul that the cantina is closed and leaves for the States.
Bret soon arrives in Corpus Christi and tracks the hotels until he finds Steve. The clerk tells Bret that Steve left 20 minutes ago to find a young lady at an address.
Steve arrives at the address and finds Amy there. She says that he shouldn't have come and leads him into the parlor. Once they're alone, Amy draws a gun on Steve and says that they thought Steve hadn't taken the bait. She explains that Victor was her husband, and it was her idea to lure Steve across the border. Raoul comes in and Amy says that the police are coming. The senior Gireaux asks if Steve killed Victor for the money or something else. Steve refuses to answer, grabs the gun from Amy, and says that he's going across the border. He tells Raoul that Victor tried to stop him and he had to kill him,. When Raoul goes for him, Steve shoots him.
Bret arrives as Raoul stumbles out of the parlor. Steve says that he's coming out and invites Bret to come to him. Bret tells him that he'll try to stop him, and Steve reminds him that he saved his life once and wonders if he's going to have to kill him. Steve asks Bret to let him go, and tries to shoot Bret when he refuses. Bret shoots first and mortally wounds his friend. With his dying breath, Steve tells Bret that he didn't want to die in Mexico anyway.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 29, 2019