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Ranchers across the west report large numbers of cattle stolen and the problem has become so large they refuse to drive their herds to market in the fall. The cattle industry is a large part of the American economy and stock market and if the cattle industry fails the market will collapse and send the country into a deep recession. The Cattlemen’s Association turns to Washington for help and their plea falls on the shoulders of William Burke, Special Assistant to the President.
Murphy, exhausted from months of searching for the woman he loves, Sally Orr, and the man who violated and caused her to run away, Christopher, takes temporary refuge at his father’s farm in Tennessee. Murphy’s rest is short-lived, however, when Burke shows up and calls him back into action.
In Washington, Burke and Murphy meet with members of the Cattlemen’s Association; John Chisum, the most powerful rancher in the country; and Mary Kate Ritchie, a powerful rancher from Kansas with a romantic eye on Murphy. From Washington, Murphy starts an investigation that covers most of the west over a span of many months. The urgency is high as the American economy is at stake and time is short as Murphy must find whoever is behind the devastating plot before the first snowfall of winter ends the cattle drive season and plummets the country into a recession.