Lyndon B. Johnson is president, Beatlemania is in overdrive, and gasoline costs thirty cents a gallon when Ned Parker retires as constable in Center Springs, Texas. But his plan to live a quiet life as a cotton farmer is torpedoed. A phone call leads Ned to a body in the Red River and into the urgent investigation headed by his nephew, the newly elected constable Cody Parker. Together they work to head off a multistate killing spree that sets northeast Texas on fire.
As the weeks pass, Ned's grandchildren, ten-year-old Top and his tomboy cousin Pepper, struggle with personal issues resulting from their traumatic experiences at the Rock Hole only months before. They now find themselves in the middle of a nightmare for which no one can be prepared.
Cody and Deputy John Washington, the law south of the tracks, follow a lead from their small community to the long-abandoned Cotton Exchange warehouse in Chisum, which they are stunned to find packed full of the town's cast-off garbage and riddled with booby-trapped passageways and dark burrows. Despite Ned's warnings, Cody enters the building and finds himself relying on his recent military experiences to save both himself and Big John. Unfortunately, the trail doesn't end there, and the killing spree continues.