Royce Blood was living his dream. He and his wife, Ophelia, had a cabin at the foot of the mountains near a river with their ten-year-old son, Nicholas. Life was good until the fateful Sunday afternoon when a bear came out of the woods while Nicholas was playing by the river. Too far away from Nicholas to help, Ophelia and Royce could only watch as the bear caught up to Nicholas and mauled him. Nicholas's death changed everything. Despite Ophelia's pleas not to leave her, Royce was determined to find the bear, kill it and be back by the end of the week. But the week turned into months. Winter came and snow trapped him in the mountains until spring. When he returned home, Ophelia had left. When he finally found her after months of searching, Ophelia was sick with a fever and died in his arms. With nothing more to lose, Royce started drifting and drinking, until an old friend, Burt Bee, convinced him to go to work as a messenger guard on the stageline for which Bee worked. It was a job that suited Royce, but it only made matters more complicated for him, since as a messenger guard he would be confronted by the outlaw Gypsy Davy, who had managed to keep his freedom by making sure never to leave any witnesses to his crimes.