The novel opens just east of Big Spring, Texas in 1880, where Frank McLeod, a respected Texas Ranger, is in flight to avoid capture for the shooting of another ranger. A warrant has been issued for his arrest based on false testimony. The man he is accused of killing had died with the word Ruidoso on his lips; Frank sets out for New Mexico Territory, following this single clue. He is tracked by Pedro Vasquez, a capable but vicious ranger, who plans to take Frank any way he can . . .