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On the morning of 22 August 1879 in Winosa, Texas, James Lawrence is broken out of jail by a gang of outlaws and is later identified by witnesses in a series of robberies that he committed. One afternoon, Lawrence is shot by Luke Andrews, with whom he is riding. News of Lawrence's death reaches Texas Rangers headquarters, where Captain C. Sturdevant and Ranger Ed Ryan mourn the deceased, whose real name was Hank Caldwell. The Ranger had been working undercover to capture the outlaws responsible for the recent spate of jailbreaks and robberies. When Ed volunteers to continue his friend's work, Ranger William Vance is sent to work as his partner from afar. Ed adopts the assumed name of Robert Larkin, and after wanted posters with his likeness are disseminated, Ed rides into San Juan, where he is arrested by Marshal L. V. Bullock. Late one night, the outlaw gang frees Ed from jail and kills his guard in the process. Bill secretly follows them as they ride to the town of Clover, where the gang rents rooms in a boardinghouse run by an elderly deaf-mute named Soapy. Bill learns that each man works a regular job to maintain his cover: the apparent leader, Luke Andrews, runs a feed store, Al Slade works in a café, Big Tom Traynor is a bouncer and the youngest, John Jenkins, does odd jobs. Ed is left alone and unarmed while everyone else goes to work and is instructed to stay inside to prevent being recognized. Although he suspects Andrews takes orders from a secret boss, Ed fails to obtain any information from John, who he believes would be most susceptible to friendship because he appears discontented. Later that day, when Bill makes contact with Ed through a window, Ed instructs him to follow Andrews whenever possible. When the gang leaves town one day, Ed drops a message embedded in a cigarette to warn Bill about their impending stagecoach robbery. Bill follows from afar and watches as Ed, armed at the last minute, is forced to stop the stagecoach. Later, witnesses identify Ed for the marshals, who increase the reward for his capture. After Andrews distributes the stolen money, Ed complains that they purposely put him in a recognizable position. Big Tom teases John, who attacks him. Ed then defends John and faces off against Big Tom, whom he knocks out. John later privately admits to Ed that he is an Army deserter and feels safer within the gang, but warns Ed to get out while he can. The gang next frees prisoner Albert Clampett from Marshal Bullock's office, but allows the marshal to live. When Sturdevant receives word that Bullock identified Ed as his former prisoner, he wires Bill with instructions to arrest the outlaws without waiting to identify the secret leader, and sends Ranger William Stockton and a posse to assist him. Bill follows Andrews from Clover to San Juan, where he picks up his telegram, and immediately arrests Andrews. Bill then seeks Bullock's help in rounding up the outlaws, but Bullock murders him shortly after learning that a Ranger is working undercover in the gang. Bullock, the secret boss, and Andrews then plot to rob the San Juan bank the next morning and kill Ed and Clampett in the process. That night in Clover, Andrews assigns guards to watch Clampett and Ed for the night. While Clampett is sleeping, John tells Ed that he wants to escape, and following Ed's advice, seeks help from Bullock. However, Bullock murders John after which Andrews replaces him with Soapy. Upon completing the bank robbery, Andrews instructs Clampett and Ed to wait inside. Clampett exits when he sees the gang ride away without him, and is shot by Bullock, who fires at him from his office. Stockton and the Rangers encounter the outlaws at the edge of town and they exchange gunfire. Ed, meanwhile, slips out the back of the bank and into the marshal's office, where he overhears Andrews, who has returned with a gunshot wound, address Bullock as his boss. Ed wounds Bullock in self-defense when he resists arrest, and the corrupt marshal is then arrested. Later, the Texas Rangers case file reports that Bullock was found guilty of Bill's murder and executed, Tom was sentenced to life in prison, and Slade and Soapy were killed when they fled from the Rangers.