Night in Porter, and Aaron is walking down the street when he spots 10-year-old Eric Paine mounting up. Eric tells Aaron to get out of his way and rides past him.
Aaron goes to Hoby's room and tells him that Eric ran away. The barber says that he doesn't know why Eric left, and he had just talked to Judge Henry about he and Penny adopting him. However, the law doesn't like single people getting married but Henry figured a way around it. Eric didn't hear any of the discussion, and the two men head out to search Porter.
Hoby and Aaron ride out of town and split up to check the two roads to the two towns. Hoby finds nothing and returns to Porter, and has Ralph send some telegrams out to nearby towns to keep an eye out for Eric. Ralph insists on staying up and continuing the search for Eric, figuring that the boy doesn't have a chance if he's out on his own.
Dingo Noble is riding along when he hear a horse whinny. The man investigates and finds Eric's horse, and adjusts its saddle to make it comfortable. Dingo then sees Eric lying asleep in the nearby brush, and wakes him up. The man wonders if Eric's father whipped him, and Eric says that's not it. They introduce themselves and Dingo asks where he's from so that he can give him a nickname. Once Eric says that he's from Porter, Dingo nicknames him "Port" and gets him some jerky. Eric says that he's staying with Adams and Hoby, and Dingo recognizes Hoby's name. The boy says that he and Hoby are good friends, and Dingo suggests that they head out West together. He goes to get some food but says that he won't go to Porter or turn Eric in. Dingo suggests that they exchange something and points out the watch fob that Eric is wearing, but Eric says that Hoby gave it to him and Aaron was going to go to the watch. The man points out that Hoby wasn't going to California with him, and gives him his knife in return for the fob before riding off.
In Porter, Dingo approaches Hoby and Aaron and gives them a note. The paper says that there are four guns trained on them and the fob is wrapped up in it. Dingo claims that he's just the messenger boy, and explains that he's going to ride out of town. Later he'll ride back into town with a black leather bag and go to the bank. Aaron starts to walk off, saying that he doesn't want to ruin the deal. When Dingo asks what the matter is, Aaron says that if anything that happens to Eric then Dingo will be lucky if he dies within a year. Dingo continues, saying that the bank will then fill the bag with money and then his friends will turn Eric loose.
Once Dingo leaves, Hoby joins Aaron in the barber shop. Aaron complains that Hoby kowtowed to Ding, and figures that Dingo bluffed about the guns. Hoby says that he knows Dingo but hasn't seen him in over five years. Hoby explains the idea to the banker, who reluctantly agrees. When the time comes, Dingo rides back into Porter and goes to the bank.
Eric gets tired of waiting for Dingo and rides back to Porter.
Dingo gets the money and rides out, while the townspeople watch with guns ready. Aaron and the others go over to Hoby, who says that they'll wait for Eric and then come after him while he rides after Dingo. Once he knows Eric is safe, he'll take Dingo. As Hoby rides out, Eric finds him. The Ranger irritably tells him to head back to down, much to Eric's surprise.
Hoby remembers that Dingo killed 18 men who tried to outdraw him and lost. He follows Dingo's trail and comes to a ghost town, Sandy Station, two days later. Hoby calls Dingo out, sure he won't bushwhack him based on his reputation. Dingo steps out and takes off his glove... revealing his knuckles covered in rheumatoid arthritis. He explains that he hasn't been able to draw a gun in five years, and his pride wouldn't let him bushwhack Hoby because of his reputation. Dingo drops his gun on the ground and Hoby arrests him.
Later, Aaron tells Hoby that Eric overhead him talking about the adoption. The boy got the idea he was causing trouble and rode out, but he's settled down. Ralph brings Hoby a telegram confirming that Dingo has been taken to El Paso for trial. The deputy says that the imprisoned Dingo has cleaned him out in cribbage, and figures he'll only break even if Dingo leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 8, 2017