We open looking at the underside of the gallows as a sandbag falls through the trap door, the men testing it comment that it seems to work. Coming down the street is Judge Travis and a small, talkative man who seems to be thrilled to actually see his first hanging. He's written about four hangings but never seen one. Asks Travis what it's like. Travis tells him "short rope, long drop." Shorty likes that and writes it down. He scurries after the judge, asking about the guy to be hung. John Black Fox, part Indian drifter, part horse thief, got caught one too many times. This could be just the story Shorty is looking for, a man sentenced to hang, it's hard writing his books in New York, having to make it all up, although "Twin Guns of Death" did well, sold about 10,000 copies. Travis says he didn't read it, Shorty says he'll get him a copy, but Travis says he's not much for fiction. Shorty's name is Steele, which we discover as Travis shuts the sheriff's office door in his face.

Inside the sheriff's office, JD apologizes for bothering him, but the prisoner wouldn't talk to anyone else. Travis goes to the cell, Black Fox wants to trade, he has information, he'll give it to them, they call off the hanging. Travis says it doesn't work that way. Black Fox says it's about a murder, three years ago, east of here, out past Eagle Bend. Travis says information about a three year old murder doesn't count for much. Black Fox says it was two murders, a woman and a boy who burnt in a fire. Name was Larabee. Travis and JD both look a bit shocked.

An exterior shot, we see Chris stalking his way to the jail. Inside, JD says he's about to take a break, hands Chris the keys. Chris opens the cell, says he hears Black Fox is interested in making a deal, asks Black Fox if he was a witness to the Larabee killings. Black Fox stands up and says yeah, who are you? Chris tells him his name. Then drops Black Fox with a quick uppercut to the jaw.

Roll opening credits.

Outside the jail, Chris is shoving Black Fox's head in the water trough, tells him the woman's name was Sarah, his wife, the boy was Adam, his son. Black Fox says he didn't kill them, Chris asks who did, Black Fox says he doesn't know that either. Chris puts him in the trough again. When he lets him up, Black Fox says he was there, he was hired, him and two others, pretty much drunk, man came in and offered them $50 a piece, said it was to scare some people off their land. They rode out, by the time they got there, Black Fox was sobering up, didn't like it, said he'd hold the horses, when he saw the flames he ran off. Chris calls him a liar and dunks him again, says that everyone around there knew about the fire, he's just telling jail house lies to save his skin. Chris says he's going to put him back in jail. Black Fox says he's telling the truth, says he was there, he saw it, the house and the porch with the windmill beside it. Chris asks about a corral, Black Fox says he thinks so, it was past the windmill about 50 yards, it was empty. He could tell more if he was standing there. Chris bets he could.

In the street, along a tie rail, Steele is packing his gear on his mule, asks Josiah and Nathan how long they've been riding with Larabee. Josiah responds, you mean with his killer outlaw gang? Steele is all excited, says he's heard Larabee is a formidable man. Josiah says that don't tell it by half. Nathan says Chris asked him and Josiah to ride along since it's good to have backup when all the lead starts flying. Steele asks what Josiah does when he's not helping Larabee. Josiah says he looks and listens, Steele asks for what, Josiah says daily confirmation of the hand of God in all things. Nathan tells him Josiah's been fixing up the church in town. Steele says he never saw a man of the cloth carrying a gun, Nathan says Josiah can get real old testament on occasion. Chris comes out, asks if they're ready, Steele introduces himself, says he's going to make him a famous man, going to chronicle "Larabee's Bloody Revenge." Chris says he's not going with them, Steele says he has to, to get the story. Chris heads out, turns his horse right into Steele, says not going won't stop him from writing the story. They head out, and Steele runs to his mule, clearly planning on following.

On the trail, Chris is grilling Black Fox about the men he rode with that night. Black Fox says he doesn't remember much, never seen them before or since. Chris insists, were they tall, short, dark, what? Black Fox says they rode at night and he wasn't paying them much mind. Chris says to think. Black Fox says only thing he can remember is one had a single silver spur on his boot, his good luck charm. Chris asks about the man who hired them. Black Fox says hard man, not one you want to stare at. Remembers his horse, though, maybe 16 hands high, one of the guys said it looked a lot like Robert E Lee's horse, whatever that means. Big gray, Chris says.

Nathan calls that there's a rider coming up, it's Buck. Buck pulls up next to Chris, Black Fox backs off while they talk. Chris asks if Buck was out for a ride, Buck says he heard Chris was going back, Chris says no need for Buck to go along, Buck says yes there is, he's the one who talked Chris into staying down there an extra night. He keeps thinking if they just came back that night. Chris says he could have come back alone, he didn't keep him there, let it go. Buck says Sarah was his friend too, and Chris knows how he felt about the boy, so if it's all the same to Chris, he'll ride this one out with him. Chris says it's up to him.

At the evening's campfire, Black Fox is asking if they could take the cuffs off, they get to chafing pretty bad. As Chris is undoing them, he says if Black Fox runs, Chris'll hang him himself. We hear a coyote and then a shot, everybody drops to the ground except Josiah, who's on one knee. Chris asks if anybody has it, Buck thinks he does, Chris tells Nathan and Josiah to watch Black Fox. Buck and Chris go off to find the shooter, Josiah puts his gun down near Black Fox to switch to his rifle. Black Fox sneakily reaches for the pistol on the ground, but Nathan puts a knife in the ground between Black Fox's hand and the gun. Josiah says that's divine intervention, he was going to shoot Black Fox's hand off.

Buck and Chris are edging through the brush, looking for the shooter, Chris comes up behind him, it's Steele. Chris says "boo" to him, Steele is terrified. He's sorry he followed, but he had to have the story, he got a little lost and then heard something. The coyote calls again, scaring Steele. Buck comes up and joins them, asking who this is. Chris says he's nobody, leave him and walks away. Buck asks if he can just shoot him, pulls his gun on Steele. An owl calls, Steele is asking what it is, Buck kneels down, tells Steele, run, run away. Steele does and Buck grins, putting up his gun and going back to camp.

At the burned out house, Chris is standing by a small fenced area, the graveyard he made for Sarah and Adam. All that's left of the house is the stone foundation and a few of the main support beams. Chris is remembering his last sight of his family. It's a good memory, warm and colorful. There's smoke coming from the chimney, Sarah is coming out of the house with a bundle in her hands, Chris is finishing saddling his horse, Buck is in the corral, on his horse and leading a string of horses around and around. Adam is on the fence, asking Buck for a ride. Buck stops and puts Adam in front of him in the saddle. Sarah hands the bundle to Chris who hangs it from his saddle horn and then gives her a long sweet hug. Buck rides up and Chris takes Adam off the saddle, gives him a hug and tells him he's going away for a little bit and asks him to take care of his momma, Adam says he will. Another hug and kiss for Sarah and he mounts up and turns to head out, each of them leading a string of horses. It's a pretty scene, Chris is in pastels, Buck in a red shirt, both are in leather chaps and not wearing side-arms. As they ride off, Chris turns to wave goodbye and Sarah and Adam wave back.

Back in reality, Chris is hurting from the memory, he turns on Black Fox, demanding that he tell him exactly what happened that night, from the moment he stepped foot on his property that night to the moment he took the lives of his wife and son. Black Fox says that he told Chris he didn't do it. Buck is standing and watching as Chris says this.

From a bit away, Nathan calls that they found something. They go down to the creek, where Nathan was going to fill the canteens, and they find two bodies, one of them having a single silver spur on the boot. Josiah figures they're the other two fellows Black Fox was riding with.

Up at the house, Nathan is saying the men were shot in the back of the head, executed. Josiah says nothing left to providence, looked like it was a .44. Nathan thinks the guy was left handed. Chris asks how he can tell. Nathan turns his back, tells Chris to come at him like he was going to shoot him. Chris does, his hand is pointed at the base of his skull, slightly to the right. When Josiah, who is left handed, did it, it was slightly to the left, just like the guys were shot. They're looking for a lefty on a big gray horse. Time to head for the saloon in Eagle Bend.

In Eagle Bend, they stop in front of the Sandpiper Saloon and go inside. Buck, Nathan and Josiah take a table, Chris and Black Fox are at the bar, talking to the bartender, asking for information. Bartender is nasty, says he serves whisky, not talk, to go somewhere else and take Black Fox with him. Chris tries to stay calm, asks again about a man on a big gray, a lefty, who hired some men out of there a while ago. Bartender says things go on in there are private, he wants them out of there. Chris says just tell him if he knows the man. Bartender says Chris doesn't hear very well, reaches under the bar for his shotgun. Chris grabs man and gun, pulls him out and over the bar. Other patrons get up to help, but are stopped by Buck and Josiah. Bartender is now on his back on the floor, Chris asks him again. Bartender knows the man, doesn't know the name, describes him, he's about Chris's size, smokes little cheroots, wears special gloves, probably because his hand was all withered like. He was also real clean, always brushed his clothes and wiped out the glass before he'd drink. Chris says okay, they're taking rooms at the boarding house next door, he'd appreciate it if bartender would let him know if this man shows up. Chris leaves, asks if the others are coming, Josiah grins, says he'll stick around a while, service should be real good for a while. Chris gives him a little smile back.

At the jail, Chris is leaving Black Fox with the sheriff who says if he's got Judge Travis's permission, he can leave the prisoner there. Black Fox apologizes to Chris. He didn't know till the next morning that people died in that fire. Inside the jail, Black Fox is sitting on his cot, a voice from outside tells him he sings a sweet song, damn near brought him to tears. Black Fox climbs up to look out, asks what he's doing out there. Man asks what he's doing in there. Black Fox says he's trying to save his neck, they were going to hang him for horse stealing. Man says so you dragged Larabee back here? We see the man, lighting a cheroot with his left hand and there's a big gray horse standing nearby. Black Fox says Chris is dragging him, that he hasn't found out anything, can't get close to him. Man says he can't be sure about that. Black Fox says that man should kill Larabee, he'll take off, then both will get what they want. Man says he hired Black Fox to be his dog, he turned into a mouse, and now he's a rat. Man likes most animals, but he hates rats. Man walks off.

At the boarding house, Chris is coming into his room, takes off his hat, puts down his saddle bags, sees a stain on the floor under the closet door. Opens door, there's the body of the bartender hanging in the closet, dead.

Two men are carrying out the corpse, Buck and sheriff are standing with Chris. Sheriff says there was a dustup at the saloon earlier. Buck says yeah, Chris killed the bartender then hanged him up in his own closet. Sheriff says he's not suggesting that, but that trouble seems to follow them, and would they avoid it for the rest of their stay.

Josiah comes up to join them, Chris asks if he sent word, Josiah says he dragged the telegraph operator out of bed. Wonders if that poor soul is supposed to be their invitation to leave (meaning the bartender), it's not too hospitable. Buck agrees, it's a good reason to stick around, teach them some manners. Chris walks away, Buck asks where he's going, gets no answer, Josiah figures saloon. They turn to follow Chris. The lefty walks out onto the boardwalk just as the three go in the saloon.

Next morning, the four are sitting at breakfast, Chris is frustrated, son of a bitch is close enough to kill a man in his hotel room, why are they sitting around eating breakfast? Josiah says it's the most important meal of the day. Chris blows up, says you think this is a joke, preacher-man? Buck and Nathan try to calm Chris, Josiah says nobody thinks this is a joke. Buck says their search party is going to get bigger real soon, and that's going to help, they're going to find him.

In walks Steele, not a welcome sight. Chris takes a look at him and gets up and leaves. Buck tells him he picked a bad time. Oblivious, Steele pulls up a chair between Buck and Josiah. Buck says to him, mister, you're like a piece of something a man can't scrape off the bottom of his boot, did he follow them? Steele says he had no choice, they left him wandering around out there for a day with no food. He takes a plate and starts to eat. Josiah says he's going down to the dry goods store to see if the guy has his gloves custom made. Nathan says he's going down to the horse livery and see if he can find a big gray. On the way out, Steele wants to talk to Nathan, asks if he's a doctor, Nathan says no, he just tries to heal folks, Steele goes on, there's a story there, from slave to surgeon.

As they step outside, shots are fired from a rooftop, a wagon at Chris and the guys, Steele stands in the middle of the street, Buck yells at him, Steele says they're not shooting at him, then a shot goes through his ever present note pad and he takes cover. Buck yells to Chris to get down in the street with the rest of them, they'll cover him, shooting goes on, Chris gets down with Buck. As the shooting goes on a covered wagon, drawn by two mules, comes down the middle of the street. It doesn't appear to have a driver. As it gets in between the fighters, shooting stops while they try to figure it out. The cover comes off and inside are JD and Vin and Ezra, armed to the teeth, who take out at least two of the bad guys. Chris says that was good timing, Ezra apologizes for the delay. As three more men ride out, Vin tells Ezra and JD they'd best get down, he takes aim and hits one of the riders in the back. They all mount up to chase after the three riders.

The trail leads to Purgatory, Vin isn't surprised, back under the rock they crawled out from. Buck says they might want to keep them alive, see who's paying them. Vin says there were three, one on a paint pony. Of course, up rides Steele, who is thrilled to see Purgatory, Mexican bandit town, heard about it all his life, now he gets to see it. Riding into Purgatory, Ezra pulls up beside Steele, says his compatriots have told him Steele is a servant of the muse, a literary man, Steele says yes, he writes about this, Ezra goes on, high adventures in the untamed west, Steele says yes, his books do very well. Ezra asks if the characters who people his books figure prominently in his narrative, might there be some sort of remuneration? Steele says royalties and such, Ezra agrees, says he and Steele need to discuss the financial side of his business. Steele says he'd be delighted, does Ezra have a card? Ezra smiles and gives him an ace of spades.

In front of the saloon, Chris pulls Black Fox off his horse, says they should all meet back at the cantina in an hour. As Chris walks off, Buck tells Nathan to stay with Chris, hard to know what he's going to do. Steele is going into the cantina, but Ezra tells him it might not be a good idea for a man of his geographical origins. Steele says if he's heard right, half the wanted men of the west are in that town, men with stories to tell, it's his first visit there, and he's going to meet some of them.

Chris and Nathan are walking, see a paint horse tied up. Chris goes in and demands to know who's riding the paint, they tell him the man in number three. Chris breaks down the door, there's a man in bed with a woman, Chris is crazy, slams the guy around, demands to know who he's working for, draws his gun, threatens to spread the man all over his bedspread if he doesn't talk. Nathan comes busting in, says it's not him, that paint horse outside is fresh. Chris isn't listening. Nathan has to pull Chris's gun up and away from the man to get his attention, but he manages, and Chris uncocks the gun and stalks out.

Over at the undertaker's place, there's a man in an open coffin, and Buck is a bit squeamish at the sight. JD asks what's the matter, never seen a man in a coffin, Buck says he's been that man. Vin, behind them, tells JD to check the dead guy, see if he's got a hole in his left shoulder. JD does, it's the guy from the paint pony. They hear a shot, coming from the cantina.

Inside the cantina, Ezra greets the three, it's obvious he's been playing his card shooting game again, as he's gathering up a wad of money. JD says they heard shooting, Vin says he thought maybe somebody killed the little fellow. Ezra says kill him, they're about ready to elect him president, he said he was a writer who was ready to pay for any stories as long as they were about murder and mayhem. Josiah says of course that appealed to the congregation, and the only fights were to see who would be first in line. Steele leaves his bunch of fans, joins the guys, is all excited. He's been talking to Dan Barnes, yes, the Dan Barnes. Ezra has no clue, looks to Vin for enlightenment, Vin tells him it's Bloody Hand Barnes. Steele says Barnes told him how he got the name, story's going to sell a million.

One of the bad guys calls to Steele to come back and take another picture, Steele checks his watch, says the one he took should be dry by now.

Chris, Nathan and Black Fox come in, head to the bar, Nathan pushes Black Fox away, Buck comes up to stand with Chris. Tells him they found the one, dead. Chris says every time they get close to someone, they end up in a pine box.

Steele is handing around his photo, Ezra and Josiah are underwhelmed, Vin takes a closer look, goes over to Chris, points out the man in the corner with a glove and cheroot. Chris asks when it was taken, Steele says in there about an hour ago. Chris shoves Steele aside, asks Black Fox about the guy, who confirms it's the man who killed his family. Chris scans the room, looking for people in the photo, sees one guy at the bar, goes up and asks if he knows him, man doesn't answer, Buck puts a gun on the man, tells him to answer, man says he does know him. Chris asks his name, repeats himself, man finally tells him the guy's name is Cletus Fowler. Buck shoves the man away to talk to Chris. The name means nothing to Chris.

Back in Eagle Bend, they've been looking for two days, couple of ranchers recognized the description but no one has seen the man. Steele asks what they're doing now, Chris says he needs a drink. Steele says they're not going to get anywhere if Larabee starts wallowing around in a bottle. Josiah stops him and says he's going to assume his concern is for a man who's lost his family. Steele says of course.

Vin walks into the saloon, tells Chris they're ready to keep looking, sheriff and some locals are ready to help. Chris asks where Vin thinks he is, Vin doesn't know. Vin sits down, says after the brush in Purgatory, he knows there's seven men going to hunt him down, he's probably long gone. Chris's gut tells him different. Back when he was ranching, had trouble with a mountain lion killing his stock. Tracked him for seven days. Fifth day he woke up and his pack horse was dead. Cat had been tracking him while he was hunting the cat. That's how he feels about Fowler. Vin says fine line 'tween hunter and hunted, all the more reason to go after him. Chris says wait, have a drink.

A little later, outside, everyone's mounted up, Vin is saying everybody meet up back there in three days. Steele can't believe Chris isn't going. They all ride out in different directions.

It's night, we hear drunken shouting. It's Chris, shouting for Fowler. Chris is shooting wildly in the saloon, he looks pretty drunk, finally his gun is empty and he tosses it away and falls to the floor. Fowler and his men come in, Fowler holding a gun on Chris. Fowler tells Chris to get up, but he doesn't. Chris bellows at him that he killed his wife and son, why? Fowler says it seemed like a good idea at the time, the money was right. Chris takes a run at him, but Fowler shoves him away easily. Chris asks who hired him. Fowler says he's a professional, he guarantees the anonymity of his clients. He can say that he was hired to go after Chris, his family was just unlucky, he apologizes for killing them, but he has to admit he enjoyed it. He'd have killed Chris, too, but he ran off. Chris yells that Fowler ran off, he's been looking for three years. Fowler goes on that it was good enough for his client, but now that Chris is back, he's back on the payroll. Chris asks about Black Fox, Fowler says he was local talent, hard to find good help, had to eviscerate him in his cell. Tells Chris he sees he has a symbiotic relationship with the bottle, too bad, it makes a man sloppy. Chris says he brought an awful lot of men to kill one drunk. Fowler says he has no trouble delegating authority.

Chris has worked his way into a chair at a table, there's a gun under the table, which Chris draws. Tells Fowler he uses a lot of big words for somebody so stupid. ON that cue, the rest of the seven step out, armed and shooting to take out Fowler and his men. Chris puts a shot in Fowler, who is making his way to the door. Buck has a clear shot at him, but Chris tells him not to shoot, to cover him. Chris follows Fowler out to the stable, knocks him off his horse, they fight, knock over an oil lamp into the straw, which starts a fire. The fight is ugly and dirty, but Chris ends up pulling Fowler out of the stable, shoves him down, demands to know who hired him. Fowler says no, Chris belts him again. Fowler gets up, looks back at the fire, stalls for time, stammers some, pretends to tell, then says no, on second thought, go to hell, and walks into the fire as the stable collapses on him.

Back in town, we see the inside of the church, Josiah is standing at the lectern, reading to himself. It's the ending paragraph of Jock Steele's dime novel "The Magnificent Seven."

"And so it ended in that the cruel ironic hand of death encircled the killer in flames, as it had done to Chris Larabee's wife and child so many years before. Yet, was it the end, or would Chris Larabee ride again with the hard, complex men he had come to know. Gunmen like Buck Wilmington, and Vin Tanner, bounty hunter with a price on his own head. The gambler Ezra or the greenhorn JD. Nathan, both healer and destroyer, and Josiah, placing his faith only in God and his gun."

Josiah closes the book and tosses it in a chair as he walks out and we...

...fade to black and roll end credits.