At a hacienda in Mexico, Pablo Reyes has his man Regaldo pay off the local peasants. Pablo then throws a knife at Regaldo's hat, pinning it to a tree. Regaldo tosses it back and Pablo ducks out of the way. When Regaldo points out that Pablo lost their wager by moving, Pablo refuses to pay. When one of the peasants laughs, Regaldo slaps him for his rudeness. Regaldo then warns Pablo that his father still has doubts that he can lead the silver convoy.
Paladin comes in through the gates, tired and dusty. Pablo asks what brought him there, and Paladin says that he lost his saddle and canteen to bandits and has gone two days without water in the desert. Paladin staggers to the well, but Pablo puts the knife to his throat and tells him to let the horse drink first. Unimpressed, Paladin tosses him into the wall. Regaldo watches while the peasants jump Paladin. As they hold him, Pablo's father Don Francisco Reyes comes out and asks if Regaldo can maintain discipline. Regaldo starts to punch Paladin, and Francisco tells him to stop and introduces himself. Paladin gives his name and suggests that he teach Pablo not to mock a man who has been in the desert. Francisco tells Regaldo that he should be about his errand and sends Pablo with him, and then offers Pablo his hospitality.
Inside the hacienda, Francisco asks Pablo why he crossed the desert. Paladin says that it was business and gives Francisco his card. Impressed, Francisco says that he would like to hire Paladin to escort a silver convoy from their mine to San Francisco. He's too old to lead the convoy and Pablo is anxious to do it, but Francisco doesn't think he's mature enough to handle it. Regaldo is necessary to keep order at the mines, and the governor provides prisoners to work for him. Paladin asks if Francisco pays wages, and Francisco claims that he pays a small wage they get when they're released. The gunfighter explains that he was hired to find an American, James Becker, and learned that he had been arrested and sentenced. Becker was sent to the mines six months ago, and Francisco says that he was killed in a cave-in with four other men. Paladin asks if many of the prisoners live to collect their wages, and Francisco advises him not to concern himself with such matters. He invites Paladin to stay until he regains his strength.
Pablo changes his wet clothes and meets with Regaldo, who explains that they are going to the village to capture the man who helped the prisoners escape. The man is Carlos, who brings food from the village. Carlos hasn't come to the barracks for three days, and Regaldo says that they may be lucky enough to have a chase... and a kill. They go to the village and wait near Carlos' house.
Carlos spots them and pulls a woman, Lupita, to him. He explains that Francisco's people tortured prisoner and know about his involvement, and Carlos has learned that Lupita's brother was killed. He says that they should leave, but Lupita tells him that she has to do something first. Pablo and Regaldo spot them and pursue, and Carlos tells Lupita that he'll lead them away. When Carlos runs off, Lupita hits Pablo in the head with a basket. He easily subdues him, and Regaldo figures that Carlos will come to them.
At the compound, Francisco points out all of his land to Paladin. Pablo and Regaldo bring Lupita through the courtyard. Francisco seems no point to stop them, saying that she's a peasant girl. Paladin tells Francisco that he'll try to deliver the silver, but first there is another matter he must attend to. He confronts Pablo and insults him for mishandling a woman. Pablo explains that Lupita is bait to capture an "animal," and his guards draw their guns. Regaldo tells a guard to lock Lupita in the wine cellar, and other guards to kill Carlos when he comes. Paladin tells Regaldo not to let anything happen to Lupita, and Regaldo walks off laughing. Pablo wonders what it is to Paladin, and Paladin explains that Francisco asked him to take the silver convoy in Pablo's place. He goes off to confirm that Paladin is telling the truth.
Later, Paladin goes to Lupita's cell and suggests that the guard loan him the keys so that he can know Lupita better. The guard refuses and orders him away, and Paladin knocks him out. He then tells Lupita to leave, but she refuses to go. She explains that they killed her brother, and figures that she can reach his killers if she's in their house. Lupita says that they have killed dozens of people, and knows of Becker. She explains that he was killed "trying to escape," and warns that there is no release but death. Everyone has served their sentence but still they remain, and Paladin can't free them without an army. Paladin says that he'll send a message to the governor, and Lupita advises him to choose his messenger wisely. The guard starts to wake up and Lupita asks Paladin to warn Carlos not to come. Paladin leaves the cell and threatens to tell Regaldo that the guard failed his duty. The guard makes Paladin promise not to say anything, and Paladin gives him the keys and his gun back.
Later that night, Carlos enters Paladin's room and puts a knife to his throat. Paladin calmly says that he knows where Lupita is and she's unharmed, and warns Carlos that it's a trap. He then pins Carlos and disarms him, and says that he's trying to help Lupita and the prisoners. Carlos says that his father died in the mine, and confirms that there are other villagers who feel the same. Paladin tells him to get them and surround the hacienda the next night and to not fire until Paladin signals. Carlos wonders how he knows that it isn't a trick, and Paladin gives him the knife back. He then tells Carlos to send his most trusted men to the governor.
The next night, the guards have the prisoners load the silver on the convoy. Paladin joins Francisco, who says that they will be ready just before sunrise.
Pablo orders the guard away and visits Lupita. She hides a candlestick beneath the blanket before Pablo comes in, and says that she expected Pablo to come. He figures that she's interested in him and starts to kiss her, but she doesn't respond. Lupita tries to club him with the candlestick but Pablo easily stops her. Paladin arrives and hears the struggle, and punches Pablo unconscious. He gets Lupita out as the guards arrive, and they hide in the wine cellar. Meanwhile, Pablo recovers conscious and joins the search.
Carlos and his men assemble outside the hacienda and he passes on Paladin's order.
Pablo finds Paladin and opens fire, and Paladin kills him with a single gunshot. After Paladin and Lupita leave, Regaldo and his men find Pablo's corpse and Regaldo tells the guards to bring him Paladin alive so he can suffer. As Paladin and Lupita enter the courtyard, the guards fire twice. Assuming it's the signal, Carlos tells his men to attack. Regaldo runs out and tells the guards to stop shooting, and he and Paladin draw on each other. Paladin guns Regaldo down, while the villagers open fire on the guards.
Paladin goes to the gates and lets the villagers in, and then he and Carlos fire on the guards. Francisco comes out with Pablo's body in his arms and tells everyone to stop. He says that with his son dead, there is nothing more to fight for. Lupita runs to Carlos and the lovers hug.
Later, the governor's emissary, Don Hernandez, meets with Paladin and Francisco. Hernandez confirms Paladin's charges from Francisco's records and the prisoners' testimony. Once Francisco is taken away, Paladin thanks Hernandez, who thanks him for revealing the injustice. The silver will be given to the prisoners as payment for their suffering, and assures Paladin that the silver will reach its rightful owners... just as Francisco paid Paladin to do.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 18, 2016