When a young prostitute is found mortally wounded in Hank Lawson's bed,
Hank becomes the prime suspect. 'It's just until the federal marshal gets
here and straightens everything out, Jake assures him as he locks the
cell door. But the evidence is overwhelming- a bloody knife found in Hank's
hand as he lay sleeping next to the victim. With the threat of a potential
murder charge hanging over his head, Hank decides he has no option but
to run. He has an orange grove in Los Angeles on land he has inherited,
he will head there and start over. But first he must retrieve the deed,
which he has left in the care of his son, Zach. Quietly, under cover of
darkness, Hank makes his escape and rides for Denver and the School of
Art, where Zach is a boarder. Zack erupts with joy at seeing his father
and when Hank reluctantly pulls away from his embrace to take his leave,
Zack holds out a drawing. It is a portrait of Hank. "Pa" he
whispers proudly gazing at his father and this proves to be Hank's undoing.
Against his better judgement he bids his son "Go on get your
things and don't leave nothing behind." Father and son set off for
Los Angeles and a new life together.
Shortly after their arrival to to town, Hank's handling of some potential troublemakers draws the attention of "Daddy" the town sheriff who offers Hank the job of 'deputy'. But Hank has other ideas, he is going to grow oranges, he just needs to locate his land. Hank's search brings him to a mission run by Fr. Thomas, a member of the Guevara family, who has been put in charge by the church of one of two main canals from the nearby reservoir- the one leading to the valley; the other leads to Los Angeles. "We are in a drought so the creek will be dry, Fr. Thomas informs Hank, as he points out the location on the map. But you can't miss it." "What about my oranges? asks Hank. Will there be enough water? "God willing" Fr. Thomas replies.
It's clear that 'oranges' may not be the solution to his problem after all, so Hank reconsiders the sherriff's offer and accepts the job of 'deputy'. His first assignment, after a group of settlers are beaten up by vigilantes claiming they have been stealing water, is to ride out to the mission to ensure the safety of the reservoir. When Hank questions Father Thomas with regard to the water supply, the latter confirms that someone has been stealing water but declines to answer when asked whom he suspects. "I will only say this, the priest answers cryptically, "Power corrupts." Hank has his answer. Storming into the bank, he informs the banker, Ben McKay, whose name he instantly recognized when introduced in a poker game upon his arrival to town, that he knows who he really is and he will share this information with McKay's son if he doesn't stay away from the reservoir.
Meanwhile "God " has decided that Hank's oranges need water
and Hank and Zak return to find that their water supply has been replenished.
Father and son react with delight as 'Christina Guevara" looks on.
It is her father to whom Hank was taken after leaving the mission when
his path unwittingly led him to trespass on Don Rafael's land. After introducing
herself to Hank, she informs him that she is a widow with a great deal
of time to spare and that she would happily tutor his son. Hank looks
to Zach, who clearly captivated by the beautiful lady who has been admiring
his drawings, nods his approval. Things are looking up. But their contentment
is short lived. McKay and his son have decided to shield themselves by
framing someone else for stealing the water- Marcos Guevera, Christina's
Ben McKay and his son Brian are doing their best to convince the townspeople
that the Guevera family is responsible for the lack of water. "Stealing
water is the same as murder and murderers must be hanged" Brian
claims. Hank and the sheriff who have been watching the scene decide
that things have gone too far at this point and to the McKays' disgust,
they order the crowd to disburse. Meanwhile Hank spies a wanted poster
with his picture on it causing him to remember the reason he left
Colorado Springs. Remembering Brian's words about 'murderers' Hank
sets off to see Father Thomas to clear his conscience. He tells his
story to the priest who to his amazement believes him immediately,
when his own friends didn't.
Frightened for Marcos Guevera's safety, Hank and the sheriff ride out to the Guevera home to take Marcos into protective custody. Jail will be safer for him they decide, then to be left to the vigilantes who are on the way to claim him. Christina and Hank grow closer, as Marcos temporarily safe in his jail cell, awaits his fate. He doesn't have long to wait. The crowd outside the jail who have been driven into a murderous rage by McKay and his son Brian, storm the jail. Marcos is taken and to the horror of Hank and 'Daddy', he is hanged.
Now it's Hank's turn to seek revenge. He has warned McKay what will
happen if he crosses him, now he will pay. To McKay's dismay and his son's
shock, Hank holds out a locket. "Here is your mother," Hank
coldly informs Brian. Not only has Brian's father deprived him of his
real mother his whole life but also of his 'half brother'- Hank. Disgusted,
Brian shoves the locket back at Hank. "Keep it, Hank replies. "I
know what she looked like." But nothing can appease the anger of
Don Raphael who enraged at Hank's failure to protect his son in prison,
forbids Hank and Zack to ever come near Christina again.