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Hard Times, a tiny frontier settlement consisting of a few ramshackle buildings and a stable, is terrorized one day by the "Man from Bodie," a stranger who brutally murders several people, rapes dancehall girl Molly Riordan, and burns the town to the ground before riding away. Only four of the survivors try to rebuild the town: Will Blue, lawyer and unofficial mayor; Jimmy Fee, young son of one of the murder victims; John Bear, a Pawnee Indian; and Molly. Consumed by hatred and convinced that Will is a coward, Molly teaches Jimmy how to shoot in anticipation of the stranger's inevitable return. As the survivors rebuild Hard Times, they are joined by Zar, who arrives with whiskey and women to set up a traveling saloon for neighboring miners. After a bitter winter, Hard Times begins to resemble a community once again. Finally, the stranger returns, and Molly's hysteria forces Will into taking a stand. His shot only wounds the stranger, and Molly is grabbed by the wounded man as she tries to stab him; Jimmy then tries to end the struggle by shooting the stranger, but he accidentally kills Molly instead. Aware now that bitterness can only lead to tragedy, Will decides to remain in Hard Times to ensure its safety for future residents.