"Presumed Dead"

(Original air date 10/07/68)


A cattle rustler rescues amnesiac Victoria from a stagecoach wreck


Writer: Margaret Armen

Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Two cattle rustlers, Jason Fleet (Lew Ayres) and his partner O’Leary (Gavin MacLeod), come upon an overturned stagecoach at the bottom of a ravine and find an unconscious Victoria sprawled on the ground. Being on the run from the law, O’Leary urges Jason to leave the woman be but the old man insists on taking her back to their hideout.

Their other partner Charley Slim (Warren Vanders) is also annoyed at Jason’s decision to take in a stray, worried that the missing woman is bound to bring trouble to their doorstep.


While tending to Victoria, Jason observes the familiar features with his late wife, Hessie. Despite O’Leary’s warning that she is trouble, Jason won’t leave Victoria. When she awakes screaming he lulls her back into a peaceful sleep.


While keeping a vigil on Victoria, Jason rummages through his late wife’s belongings, reminiscing on the days she graced the earth. Again Victoria rouses in a panic and calls out to Jason. She vainly tries to recall the events before the crash. Jason sees in Victoria’s amnesia the opportunity to bring his late Hessie back to life and therefore tells Victoria that she’s his wife, Hesper ‘Hessie’ Fleet.

Sheriff Madden (Douglas Kennedy) drops by the ranch to bring Victoria’s belongings they found at the site of the wreck and offers his condolences, but her children won’t believe she’s dead. Heath suggests riding into the town of Volcano to search for their mother; however a flood in the area forces them to delay their trip.


Days later, Victoria is on the mend and raring to go out. She stops in front of a mirror and stares at the stranger looking back at her. Jason assures her that he’ll fill her in on her past when he deems her ready, but that for now she should feel right at home with him.

Charley and O’Leary still worry that the confused woman will eventually lead the sheriff to their hideout. In due time Jason intends to tell her that her‘husband’ is a cattle rustler, hence the reason why he cannot permit her to stray far from the cabin.

Jason accedes to Victoria’s request to return to the crash site, hoping it will jog her memory. When she asks the reason for her being on that stage, he feeds her a story about retuning from a meeting with a lawyer who has agreed to help them repossess the ranch their lost to squatters.


She bends down to pick up a locket containing pictures of her four children. She wonders who the item could belong to when she was told that no one else was riding on that doomed stagecoach.

Suddenly gunfire erupts from high above the hills and Jason is hit in the leg. While bandaging the wound, Victoria learns of Jason’s shady activities that he minimizes by calling it retribution. He’s only taking back what the squatters stole from him and suspects those men shooting at them are herd guards.


Victoria makes a dash for her horse to divert the gunmen’s attention long enough for Jason to make a clean getaway.

Back at the cabin O’Leary and Charley return to warn Jason about the lawmen swarming the countryside. They blame him for rescuing the woman and bringing trouble they don’t need. They suggest to get rid of her but Jason won’t hear of it.


Concealed behind rocks, Sheriff Mosley (Richard O'Brien) and his deputized hands spy on the Fleet gang about to brand stolen cattle. Victoria freezes at the sight of the ‘B’ brand on the cow, confused as to why it would strike her as familiar. She remains rooted to the spot, oblivious of the shooting happening around her. Jason scoops her up on his horse and they ride away.


Jason and his gang decide to set up camp for fear of running into the lawmen back at their cabin. The familiar brand still preys on Victoria’s mind, not only that but the vision of a grand house with white pillars that Jason dismisses as pure figment of her imagination.

In the morning the three men ride on ahead to assure the coast is clear while Victoria remains behind to guard the campsite. She is suddenly seized by a debilitating headache that prompts her to rummage through her saddlebag for pain medicine. Instead she stumbles upon the locket she found earlier. As she opens it, the memories of her children come flooding back.


She rides into the town of Volcano to send a wire to her family but gets arrested for cattle rustling instead.

In jail she vainly tries to convince Sheriff Mosley of her true identity but the lawman won’t buy her Victoria Barkley story.


A rock thrown through the office window prompts the sheriff to hurry outside to investigate. The diversion allows Jason to slip a gun through the barred window and instructs Victoria to use it to break out of jail.

The name Hessie triggers a flood of raw memories. As she gives the gun to the sheriff she tells him she may be able to lead him to the rustlers’ hideout.


Early next morning Victoria rides along with the sheriff and his men in search of the Jason’s cabin. The man still won’t believe she could have willingly guided the lawmen to the area. He warns her to ride away before the shooting starts but the sheriff guns him down before he can unsheathe his weapon.


Victoria navigates through the gunfire to reach a dying Jason. He thanks her for being Hessie these past few days before heaving his last breath in her arms.

Back at the ranch, the family is happy to have the matriarch back safe and sound.


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