Horsebreaker Ben Tyler has a contract to deliver 30 horses to a wealthy American sugar planter in Cuba. However, some simple math tells him that there's no profit to the contractor, Charlie Burke. The real profit is in the guns hidden on the boat carrying the horses.
On his arrival in Havana just three days after the the American battleship Maine is blown up in Havana harbor, Ben meets a collection of characters worthy of Elmore Leonard's rich imagination. There's the planter, Roland Boudreaux, his lovely girl friend Amelia Brown and his second in command Victor Fuentes, who is to take delivery of the horses. There's also a vicious member of the Guardia Civil, Lionel Travalera and a hotheaded Spanish officer, Teo Barbon. Tyler kills Barbon in a gunfight and ends up in Havana's notorious Morro Castle, along with one of the few survivors of the Maine's destruction, Virgil Webster.
Slipping in and out of the story is Chicago Tribune reporter, Neely Tucker, a source of much of the background information about the coming war between America and Spain – and how it will affect Tyler.
Amelia and Tyler fall in love at first sight, and get together after a wild gunfight between Cuban revolutionaries and the guards at a nearly abandoned prison to which Tyler and Webster have been transferred. Amelia – fed up with the life of the idle rich and disgusted at the treatment of the poor sugar workers – and the revolutionaries develop a bizarre scheme to raise money for the revolution. They will tell Boudreaux that she has been kidnapped and demand $40,000 in ransom.
As it appears the money will actually be paid, betrayal runs rife among the revolutionaries, Fuentes, Tyler, Amelia and Travalera.
In the background is the opening of the Spanish-American War, which will affect the characters as the American Navy begins its operations against the Spanish rulers of Cuba.
This report prepared by David Gordon