Here is the church, and here's the steeple, and here are the men who climb it-Stretch Clay, Joss, Casey, and Tom Kittredge whom they recruit- and theirs is the vagrant, often violent life of risk workers as the tensions of the day carry over into quick-tempered incidents at night. For Joss, there's the anodyne of religion; for Casey, the excitement of cards; for Stretch, women and a hard ambition. Tom, hounded by the memory of cowardice in Korea, now knows the fear of high places- and of Stretch- for when Casey falls to his death, he suspects that Stretch has killed him. And so does Mary, who had once loved Stretch, and now loves Tom, and who fears that Stretch will make Tom pay for it. And on the seaffold of the steeple, Tom faces up to Stretch's intent to kill as well as to his own fear, but it is Stretch who takes the fatal tumble.... A dangerous trade and the derelict lives it attracts, this certainly opens up a new occupational orbit- but the hoist, unless it might be violence, is not a sturdy one.