The California Department of Fish and Wildlife runs an annual lottery for bighorn sheep hunting tags in the Kelso Zone which is within the Mohave National Preserve. Arizona rancher Jesse Holland wins a tag and begins hunting when the season opens on December 5, 2015.
On the morning of December 22, a bullet tears through Jesse’s chest and stops in the elbow joint of his friend and foreman, Slim Halloran. The San Bernardino County Sheriff investigates and declares Jesse’s death a hunting accident.
Jesse and his cousin, Steve Krogan owned and operated the Verde Valley River Ranch near Cottonwood Arizona. The ranch business purchased two million dollars in life insurance on each man. The benefits in Jesse’s case are to be divided equally between Claire Holland, Jesse’s widow, and Krogan.
Claire assures Ed Logan of Logan Insurance Services that her husband was murdered. He sends private investigator Dan Ballantine to talk with her.
Dan travels to the death site and finds two small holes on a desert hill which he believes were made by the bipod legs on a high-powered rifle. He photographs the holes and discusses the matter with the local Sheriff’s captain.
The man who paid the sniper to murder Jesse Holland learns of Ballantine’s investigation, and he hires the sniper to find Ballantine and murder him, too.