At the Carlton, Paladin is returning from a night on the town. Hey Girl tuts at him and gives him a newspaper, pointing out an article about Mayor Trevor, head of Bad Dog, Oregon, is looking for someone to collect taxes in his town. In return he's offering one-third of the taxes to whoever will do the job. The reporter warns that the townspeople scorn paying money for civic improvement. Hey Girl points out a man waiting in the lobby, and she and Paladin go over to talk to the man, Trevor. Trevor asks if Paladin will take the job, and Paladin admits that it's not a job that he fancies. The mayor explains that they've been trying to collect tax on cattle, but the ranchers don't like paying tax or accounting for their animals. The men that Trevor sent out were shot at or left with what they collected. Paladin insists on taking half of everything, and Trevor agrees. Trevor says that the most important rancher is Lewt Cutter, and warns Paladin not to worry about him. He suggests that Paladin work his way up to Lewt like the other fellows did, and Paladin tells Hey Girl to help him past.
Later, Paladin rides out to the Cutter spread. Two men immediately draw on him and tell him to drop his gun. Paladin reluctantly does so but then draws his derringer, wings one man, and takes the other one as a shield. However, a third man is ready for a gun and advises Paladin to drop his derringer. With only one bullet left, Paladin realizes the precariousness of his position and surrenders. The third man, Diego, takes Paladin to Lewt. Lewt is having a jockey run one of his quarter horses, and the ranch hands show Let Paladin's card. The rancher, intrigued, orders the disarmed man Abe to clear out. Paladin asks about the racing horse, and says that he's already hired on with Trevor to collect taxes. He then says that he's not there to collect Lewt's taxes. He wants Lewt's help to assay all the cattle to shut down the rustlers, and offers Lewt a third of his share for his assistance. Lewt agrees to do it for half and points out that Paladin doesn't have a choice, and has Diego give Paladin his gun back.
Paladin and Lewt ride out and collect taxes from everyone except Jess Cutter. Lewt says that Jess rode with raiders after the War, and him and the orphans he's taken in are tough enough on their own. he offers to help Paladin collect the taxes, but Paladin says that he'll handle it.
The two men ride onto the Cutter spread and Paladin spots the herd trail. Lewt figures that Jess hid them to change the brands, and they continue on. Jess' "son" Ham is at the river with Jess, making moonshine. Paladin and Lewt ride up and Paladin tells Lewt to put his gun away. When Lewt warns that Jess won't respond to anything else, Paladin insists. The two men go over while Ham climbs up a tree with a gun and prepares to shoot.
When Jess goes for his gun, Paladin shoots a nearby kettle out and says that he's the official tax collector. He and Lewt approach the still and Jess invites them to have a drink. They join him and Jess claims that his three sons left because they had a fight over them cussing on the Sabbath. He says that the boys took off with half of his herd, and acts shocked when Lewt says that half of Jess' herd belongs to him. Paladin takes a swig of the moonshine and says that he will collect from Lewt in due time. Jess insists that he doesn't hold with taxing, and loudly says that Paladin would gun him down to get the money. Lewt insists on taking a legal head count of Jess' herd, and Paladin shows Jess the legal document. Jess realizes that he has no choice and tells Ham to gun them down. When he opens fire, Paladin shoots him and Ham ends up dead and in the river.
Paladin and Lewt tie Jess up, and Paladin bluffs, saying that they'll have to sell Jess to the Apaches to get the taxes that he owes. Jess says that the tote sheet is in the flour barrel. While Lewt searches for it, Jess suggests that Paladin shoot Lewt and they can split his herd. Paladin refuses and Lewt finds the tote sheet. When Lewt reaches for his shotgun, Paladin tells him to put the money on the table and they'll divide it as agreed. They split up the money, and Paladin counts out Lewt's half of the take... and then applies it against Lewt's taxes. Furious, Lewt turns over the table and Paladin orders him to pick it up and stack the coins. When Lewt goes for his shotgun, Paladin is forced to shoot him.
Jess cheers Paladin on, but he takes out a knife and cuts Jess free. Jess grabs his shotgun as soon as Paladin's back is turned, but Paladin reveals that he took the shotgun shells out already. He tosses the shells into the river and rides off with Lewt's body.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 25, 2016