At the Carlton, Hey Boy brings Paladin the papers, and Paladin finds an article about a clash of the Texas, Colorado, and Overland, and Continental Divide. They're arguing over right-of-way in Big Spur, Colorado, and both sides have hired gunmen. The town is now an armed camp and Sheriff Dave Quinn says that he's powerless to rein things in.
Later, Paladin rids into Big Spur and finds the buildings boarded up and for sale. He approaches a woman on a carriage and asks where everyone is, but the woman's husband tells her not to answer, finishes packing, and drives out of town.
A woman, Molly, walks down the boardwalk. When Paladin tries to greet her, she ignores him and walks on. Two drunken men come out of the saloon and go after Molly, and Paladin intervenes as they manhandle them. He easily subdues them and apologizes to Molly, who tells him to go away. Dave comes over and tells Molly to go home, and she says that Paladin helped him. Molly thanks Paladin and leaves, and Paladin then shakes Dave's hand. Dave figures that it's been a long time since Albuquerque, and Paladin says that he's there looking for a job. He hands Dave his card and says that Big Spur used to be a pretty town. Now that the gunslingers have taken over is dying. When Dave says that he's too old, Paladin tells him to hand in his star. Dave figures that a little law is better than none, and Paladin offers his help because of the favor he owes him. The sheriff warns that he can't pay a fee, and Paladin says that owes Dave a favor and the railroads can afford his fee.
Later, Paladin goes to the Overland agency and asks to see the general agent, Charles Foster. He says that he's looking for a job, and Foster says that he's paying $25 a day. As Paladin agrees, another man, Ralph Coe, introduces himself. Paladin has heard of the man from Abilene, and Paladin says that he's going to the Continental Divide because he figures they'll pay more. Foster says that Coe is a deputy agent, and suggests that they could use another agent. Coe cuts him off, and Paladin bids them good day and walks out.
At the Continental office, Paladin meets with the company agent, John Sukey. Sukey says that he'll offer $30 a day, and Paladin asks if he has an opening for a deputy agent. He explains that Continental claims the TC&O leased them use of the nearby gorge, but they say they didn't. Now Continental holds the gorge but TC&O has the depot. They need someone to break the deadlock, and Coe controls the depot. Sukey offers to go $1,000 for a good man, and Paladin draws on him and tells him to open the cash box. Paladin confirms that there's $2,000 there and asks if Sukey will pay it, and Sukey hires him. The gunfighter says that he'll check the depot and let Sukey know how many men he needs.
Paladin goes out to the town square and smokes a cigar. Coe and his men come out of the saloon, and Coe knows that Paladin works for Continental. He wants to find out if Paladin is tough, but Paladin points out that there's no point in both of them getting killed. Coe tells Paladin to draw, but Paladin refuses for the moment and starts to walk away. The rival gunfighter shoots at Paladin's feet, and then shoots his cigar and laughs. Paladin tosses it away and keeps walking.
The next day, Sukey puts up a sign asking for men and points out to Paladin that Coe made a fool of him. Paladin says that he signed on to take the depot, but Sukey doesn't want to pay $2,000 for a man who walks away from guns. Unimpressed, Paladin tells him that he'll do the job in his own way, and Sukey says that twenty men just arrived. When he wonders how he's going to do the job, Paladin says that he's going to start with a legal eviction notice. Sukey warns that Dave won't get involved, and even if Paladin gets it Coe will kill him.
Later, Paladin visits Dave and says that he works for Sukey. Dave warns that it puts them on opposite sides of the fence, but Paladin needs the eviction notice. Dave refuses to give it to him and endanger Paladin, but Paladin says that he'll take the responsibility. The sheriff agrees to give it to him, but warns that he'll never get out of the depot alive.
Paladin returns to Sukey's office and shows him the eviction notice. He says that he'll serve it, and asks Sukey how much the fight is costing Continental. Sukey finally says that it's costing $8,000 a day, and Paladin wants to offer Coe $10,000 to surrender the depot. The agent admits that it's a good idea and Paladin says that he'll make the deal as long as it's firm. Sukey agrees and Paladin leaves.
At the depot, Coe comes out when Paladin arrives. Paladin asks for a word in private, and Coe tells him to toss his gun down and come in. Once Paladin does so, Paladin shows Coe the eviction notice and offers him $10,000 to honor it. After he pays his men, Coe figures that he'll clear $8,000 and agrees. Paladin tells him that he'll get the money when Sukey is in the depot. The men soon leave and Sukey gets his men together. Foster comes over and demands to know what's going on. The agent figures that Coe has sold out, but Coe says that it's a legal notice.
That night, Coe approaches Paladin and asks where Sukey is. He says that Sukey is gone and they go to the depot to collect their fees. Sukey claims that he already gave them their money, and accuses Paladin of cheating Coe out of his money. Angry, Paladin walks around the corner and Coe goes after him. he demands his money, believing Sukey, and Paladin punches him when he goes for his gun. He picks up the gun and hands it to Coe, and then asks how strong the depot is. Paladin sees the town cannon and points out that it's mining company, and they can use it to blast their way into the depot.
Coe agrees to help him and they rig a powder charge and then stuff it into the cannon. They toss in rusty nails and rig a shield on the front, and then wheel it to the depot. Sukey's men open fire without effect, and Paladin calls out that they have a one-minute fuse on the cannon. He says that they just want Sukey, and if he doesn't surrender then they'll blow the depot to pieces. Paladin lights the fuse, and Coe's replacement tosses Sukey out. Paladin and Coe grab the agent and take him inside just as the cannon goes off. Paladin gets the money from Sukey, just as Foster and his men comes in. Coe gets his money and Paladin grabs him and asks both agents if they want to repeat the same cycle over and over. He tells them that a court of law will decide the lease. Coe takes two cigars from Foster's pocket and offers one to Paladin, and gives him his money, and they leave together. Outside, Coe admits that he was on the right side for the first time and got paid $10,000 for it.
Later back in San Francisco, Hey Boy gives Paladin a package. It's a box of cigars from Coe, and a note of apologies from Coe.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 17, 2016