The El Paso stagecoach is heading toward Bracketville and one of the two passengers, Frank DeWitt, is going through his legal books. When he drops one of his books, the other passenger Lena asks what he's doing. Frank says that he's an attorney and goes on about a case that he's studying. Paladin is seated opposite them, and finally speaks up and gives the legal judgment, complete with the Supreme Court judgment upholding the matter. Lena tells Paladin that she'll be working at the Brass Nugget Saloon in Bracketville and invites him to come in sometime and see her. Much to his surprise, Frank discovers that Paladin is right. He explains that Bracketville is his home and asks what Paladin's business is, and Paladin hands him his card. Frank says that the businessman hired a new marshal and warns that the man is a killer. He explains that a few people with sense are fighting it with law. Paladin says that he admires the statutes, but warns that it's hard to win survival on appeal.
The stage arrives in Bracketville and Frank's father Sam comes over to greet Paladin. He takes Paladin to the Brass Nugget, and Paladin notices that the croupier is using a rigged Keno wheel. Sam takes Paladin to his office and introduces their marshal, Elmo Crane, who is waiting for them. Paladin congratulates Elmo on his reputation for bringing law and order to Abilene, and says that a local paper ran an article on his son's involvement with dangerous activities. Sam says that he wants his son kept out of trouble, and Paladin notes that Frank hadn't committed any serious crimes yet.
Elmo speaks up to say that the son has done something annoying things but nothing against the law. Paladin doesn't believe them, and Elmo tells him that they want Paladin to grab the son and take him to Laredo where they have friends waiting to keep him out of trouble. Paladin takes $500 for his time and trouble and starts to go. Elmo knocks him down and tells him to go for his gun. Sam takes the $500 and gives him $25 to catch a stage out of town and tells Paladin to be on it. Once Paladin leaves, Elmo tells Sam not to meddle in his job again.
In the saloon, Paladin staggers to the bar where Frank and Lena are. Frank offers Paladin a drink, and Paladin nods in thanks. He then goes over to the Keno wheel and and has him put the stagecoach fare on the 40-to-1 spot. As he watches, Paladin knocks the money on the floor and steps on the hidden switch for the wheel. When the croupier tries to trigger it, he finds that he can't. The wheel hits the spot and Paladin collects his winnings: $1,000. Lena tells Paladin that he'd better beat it, and Paladin tips her a bill.
Elmo and Sam go out and Elmo trains a gun on Paladin's head while Sam says that Paladin tampered with the wheel. He orders Paladin to put the money back, and Paladin hands over all but $25. He reaches for his gun and Sam warns him that if he does shoot the marshal then they'll hang him. Elmo says that they hired him to keep Paladin out, and tells him to be on the stage. Before he goes back into his office, Sam sees Frank and scowls.
Frank goes outside and tells Paladin that he showed courage. The lawyer gives his last name--DeWitt--and admits that his father owns the Brass Nugget and doesn't have a brother. Paladin explains what Sam told him that Frank is a troublemaker, and Frank explains that he objects to marked cards and watered whiskey. He asks if Paladin is leaving on the stage, and Paladin asks if he would. Smiling in satisfaction, Frank says that they can help each other and there's somebody he wants Paladin to meet.
The lawyer takes Paladin to Judge Robbins, who tends to Paladin's cuts. Robbins has a writ of injuction to remove Elmo based on unjustifiable homicide, and the judge explains that he has the authority to appoint someone to remove Elmo from office. Frank offers Paladin the job and Paladin agrees. They leave to file the injunction by telegram, and a few minutes later Paladin hears a gunshot. He goes out and finds Frank dead on the street. Elmo is standing over him holding the burning injunction. He reminds Paladin what time it is and that the stagecoach leaves shortly, and claims that Frank tried to pull a gun on him. Nobody else speaks up, and Sam arrives to see his dead son. Elmo takes Paladin to the stagecoach and sees him off.
That night, Paladin returns to the Brass Nugget and enters Sam's office. Sam offers him the thousand dollars to kill Elmo, and Paladin points out that the man wears a badge. The saloon owner raises his offer to $4,000, everything he has. Paladin demands $5,000 and when Sam can't meet his price, the gunfighter says that all he'll do is defend himself and settle his score. Sam gets the $5,000 out of his safe but Elmo shoots him through the window, killing him.
Paladin ducks into the saloon as Elmo climbs in through the window. The marshal says that he'll claim Paladin murdered Sam while trying to rob the safe, but Paladin calls back, saying that his gun hasn't been fired. Elmo figures that he'll have to kill Paladin after all and goes into the saloon after him. Paladin jumps him and beats him down, and says that it evens them up. Elmo says that he'll kill him, and Paladin invites him to get his gun from the floor.
Ducking into the shadows, Paladin spins the Keno wheel and Elmo fires at him. Paladin leaps out the window into the street and leads his horse off. Elmo comes after him and fires when Paladin tosses rocks the other direction. He then rides by, hanging onto the opposite side of his horse. Elmo fires at him and misses.
Elmo follows Paladin out of town and then dismounts, waiting for his pursuer. The two men come face-to-face and Paladin points out that they're in Mexico, out of Elmo's jurisdiction. Elmo tosses his badge away and Paladin says that he only wears the gun for survival and he's prefer to live that way. Smirking, Elmo agrees... and then goes for his gun anyway. Paladin shoots him down and rides bvack to town with his corpse.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 22, 2017