Jim and Linda Spaulding disappeared more than three years ago. The Spaulding ranch is vacant after their sudden departure and no one sees or hears of them until Lanie Spaulding, their young daughter, crosses paths with Joe Dokes. It is shortly before sunrise when Joe rides along the base of Zuni Ridge, and Lanie, now nine years old, stands in the trail in front of him. She tells Joe a story of how she lived with the old people in the hills for the last three years, learning how to read and write, and discovering some of their secrets. Joe rides Lanie into town on his horse and discovers her life is in danger from the same people responsible for her parents’ disappearance, and Joe’s life turns upside down as he enlists a few friends to help protect her from unknown enemies.