Pulp novelist Nimrod Bligh talks to his publisher Sam Durham and tries to get the man to pay for a new series of books. Sam warns that Bligh's writing is no longer popular and that the public now wants real-life stories of heroes and villains. In response, Bligh shows Durham a cover of his new series: "The Death Of Maverick." When Durham points out that Bret has settled down in Arizona, Bligh says that still won't be a problem.
In Sweetwater, Bret and Cy are taking a herd of cattle through town to Cy's ranch. The townspeople are less than thrilled as the cows run out of control. A young man, Willie Trueblood, offers his help and they manage to get most of the cows out of town. The townspeople complain to Sheriff Dowd, who hands out complaint forms. A gunslinger, Cole Farnsworth, rides into town and asks Deputy Sturgess if he's seen Tulsa Jack Turner. When Sturgess admits that he hasn't, Farnsworth says that he soon will.
Philo manages to snag one of the cows and leads it to the church where he lives.
Once Cy and Bret get the cows secured at the corral, Willie asks them for a job. He explains that he came out west to make his fortune and Bret tells Cy to find the boy a job.
Two men, Cockeye Pete Shonsey and The Kid, ride into Sweetwater on a wagon. Philo approaches them and offers his services as a guide but they're not interested. They continue to the hotel where Tom and Jack the bartender are unloading supplies. Tulsa Jack rides into town and glares at Tom, who looks steadily back. The gunslinger nods and rides on without drawing his gun.
Bligh and his assistant, Jasper Weems, arrive in town. While Bligh goes to the newspaper, Philo approaches Jasper and offers him some aged beef. Jasper isn't interested.
Mary Lou greets Bligh, an old friend of the family. He wants her to provide information about the town of Sweetwater for a book he claims to be writing. They agree to have dinner later and Bligh goes to the hotel. As he walks down the sidewalk, he glances significantly at Cockeye Pete, the Kid, Farnsworth, and Tulsa Jack, who have all gathered together. Philo, watching the exchange, takes in the fact that they all know Bligh.
A man in a preacher's clothing, Deacon Tippett, sets up on a hillside and takes out a rifle. Bret and Cy finish working at the Church of Sweetwater and pay off Willie. Willie spots Deacon preparing to fire and yells a warning and Bret and Cy take cover. The sniper misses and quickly leaves and the two men wonder who he was after.
Philo is on the street when Rodney passes out a newspaper with information on Bligh's arrival in town. The scout spots Bligh going into the church and goes to his room in the cellar. As Philo listens via the stovepipe, Bligh meets with all five of the killers and explains that he's summoned them to Sweetwater so that one of them can kill Bret. The one that succeeds will become the lead character in Bligh's pulp novel. Virgil LaFleur, a gentleman killer affecting a French accent, walks in and condemns the other men as primitives. Bligh tells them that he'll decide that night who goes after Bret first. Farnsworth and the others aren't thrilled at the arrangement and Bligh lets Farnsworth have the first attempt. Below, Philo takes out a copy of his autobiography and reads it while the stolen cow watches him.
As Bret and Willie ride into town, Mary Lou asks Bart to assist Bligh with his research in return for finding his missing cow. However, Bret isn't interested in helping.
Dowd approaches Bligh and points out that several lowlife gunslingers have shown up in town since the writer arrived. Bligh assures the sheriff that gunslingers often approach him in hopes of being featured in his stories. He then asks for an interview with Dowd so he can use him in one of his chapters, and a flattered Dowd accepts.
Willie and Bret go to the saloon where Jack and Tom are checking the earnings. Tom agrees to find Willie some work, and then warns Bret that he's spotted the killers in town. Bret figures that they're after Tom, but admits that he took Deacon at cards three times. Before they can pursue the matter, Bret receives a telegram from an old friend, Irish Annie. The telegram says that she's coming to town but Bret remembers that she's in Hong Kong and figures that someone is setting him up.
LaFleur talks to Bligh and explains how he has a story-worthy plan to kill Bret using a sword-cane and a hidden knife. Bligh doesn't give him an answer but suggests that he get his photo taken by Mary Lou. Cockeye Pete and the Kid are also getting their photos taken. Philo comes up and appeals to Mary Lou to arrange an interview for him with Bligh. Mary Lou says that Philo will have to talk to Jasper to make an appointment.
The six killers meet with Bligh at the writer's hotel room. He tells them that he'll choose the best candidate but they inform Bligh that they'll do the choosing. The killers deal out cards and Farnsworth wins the first chance at Bret.
Willie delivers hot water and coffee to Bret at the latter's hotel room. The boy has checked on the telegram and confirmed that it was sent from New York. As Bart shaves, he spots Farnsworth in the mirror, draws, fires, and wounds him in the arm. Farnsworth runs off and Bret decides that he's had enough. He goes to the sheriff's office and asks Sturgess to arrest Farnsworth and bring in Bligh for questioning. Dowd comes in and says that Bret isn't very popular with the townspeople right now and he's not going to interrogate a distinguished visitor like Bligh on Bret's word. The sheriff agrees to find and arrest Farnsworth and Bret angrily storms off.
At the diner, Bligh meets with Philo. He has no interest in publishing Philo's memoirs until Philo threatens to reveal the writer's scheme to Bret and Dowd. Bligh quickly agrees to a $200 advance and a publication contract. Bret comes in and orders Philo out and then sits down with Bligh. He tells the writer that he knows all about his plan, including the phony telegram to keep Bret in town. Bligh denies everything and says that Bret has no proof. Further, even if Bligh was arrested, the six killers would keep coming after Bret. Bret promises the writer that the next time one of his hired guns comes after him Bret will pay another visit to Bligh and it won't be a friendly one. As he leaves, Bret hints that he has a hired gun of his own on retainer who will take revenge if Bret dies.
At the saloon, Bret and Tom discuss strategy. Bret was hoping that Tom would take out Bligh so the killers would give up but Tom isn't interested. Deacon enters the saloon and invites Bret to sit down with him. After removing his coat and gun belt, Bret goes to meet the killer who offers him a game of poker. Bart refuses and points out that if Deacon kills him now everyone will see him gun down an unarmed man. After that, Dowd will have the killer hanged for murder. Deacon laughs and says that it isn't his turn to kill Bret. As he leaves, Willie comes up behind Bret with word that Philo is waiting in the alleyway outside. Mary Lou comes in to see Bret but doesn't believe him when he says that Bligh is setting him up so he can write a new novel.
In the alleyway, Philo offers to fake Bret's death for a small fee and even throws in the return of the stolen cow. Bret figures that Philo hopes to get the credit for Bret's death so that he becomes the writer's new star. Disgusted, Bret walks away.
That night, Cy meets with Bret and suggests they make a stand at the ranch. Bret refuses and goes off to find one of the killers so he can learn what their "game" is.
In the saloon, Tulsa Jack comes in and approaches Tom. Tom says that he thought Tulsa Jack planned to kill him the last time they met but the killer notices Bret leave and says that he has more important things to do.
Bret breaks into Bligh's hotel room and finds his portfolio. Inside is the cover of his new novel advertising Bret's death. Someone opens the door and aims a gun at Bret.
The next morning, the townspeople gather for Bret's funeral service at the church. Bligh and his killers hear the church bells and find a newspaper saying that Bret was gunned down by an unknown assailant. The writer angrily insists that there's no killer to immortalize if they can't identify who did the deed. Cockeye Pete takes credit for the murder and they notice that Tulsa Jack is missing. The Kid complains that his partner killed Bret on his own. LaFleur arrives and also takes credit for the kill and Bligh tells them that he won't pay anyone until they confirm that Bret is dead and find out who did it. He enters the church where Cy is concluding his eulogy for Bret. After the ceremony, Bligh opens the coffin and confirms that Bret is dead from a single shot to the forehead. However, once he leaves, Philo slips in, opens the coffin, and dabs off the strawberry jam that he used as blood to fake the bullet wound.
Out in the street, an angry Mary Lou confronts Bligh and loudly announces that he set up Bret's death so he could publish a new book. She kicks him in the leg and walks off as the townspeople look on.
Tom goes to the stable where he's tied up Tulsa Jack. He unties the killer and tells him to get it over with and shoot him. Tulsa Jack says that he isn't there to kill Tom for sending him to prison six years ago and even admits that he might have had it coming. When Tom wonders why he's had a change of heart, Tulsa Jack explains that he's getting old and he's getting scared. He hopes to retire and thought that Tom would understand. When Tom wonders why he was working for Bligh, Tulsa Jack explains that he wanted to warn Bret about Bligh and then ride out of town. He asks if Tom will let him go and his old partner hands the killer his gun. As Tulsa Jack leaves, Tom tells him to stay out of the saloon business because it doesn't pay either.
As Bligh prepares to leave town on the stagecoach, LaFleur warns him that all of the hired guns will find a way to get even with him. Philo asks the writer about his book and Bligh says that he burned it. The scout draws a knife and prepares to kill him but Dowd pulls him away and then tells Bligh that he's no longer welcome in town.
Mary Lou and Tom go to the bar and order drinks for everyone. Bret emerges from the backroom and apologizes to everyone for misleading them and thanks them for the touching service. Mary Lou figures that it's over but Bret says there's one more killer. He turns to Willie and explains that the boy had a gunslinger's callused thumb. Willie comes clean and Bret explains that Bligh hired one killer to work undercover and get close to Bret. Bligh enters the saloon and tells Willie to finish it. Bret reminds Willie that he's unarmed and if the boy shoots him then he'll be wanted for murder. He also points out that once Willie becomes a killer he'll be famous but the only people he can trust are snakes like Bligh. Willie admits that he's never killed a man before, and that shooting at tin cans is nothing like shooting a man who treated him well. He turns to Bligh and aims saying that if he kills Bret then he'll be murdering the wrong man. Bligh hastily runs out and Bret stops Willie and invites him over to the bar.
Bret only has one more thing to take care of. He asks Dowd to arrest Philo for rustling the cow. They go to Philo's cellar room and try to get the cow out while Philo demands compensation for taking care of the cow. When Cy and Bret realize that they can't get the cow out of the cellar, they drop the charges and leave. Philo realizes that he's stuck with a cow in his room but can't bring himself to kill it for steaks.