Hoby rides into the town of Talpa and one woman, Mavis, runs off down the street. Cotti tells townsperson Murdock that he told Hoby everything, and he yells to a wounded prisoner, John Quince, that they've brought the law. Quince just laughs at them, and then calls to Hoby and tells him to tell the townspeople that they won't have a town if they keep him locked up. Quince is one of three desperados who robbed and killed the Butterfield station agent. He was wounded by the dying agent and captured,
Hoby dismounts and tells the townspeople that the circuit judge will be there in the morning. Murdock accompanies him into the long-empty sheriff's station and explains that they can't afford it. Quince refuses to give his name, and promises that Hoby will never hang him. Murdock tells Hoby that the witness Mavis and Hoby can find her at the far end of town. When they go out, one townsperson, Peterson, says that they might have the wrong man and is worried that the other two desperados will come back. Murdock tells Hoby that they're worried that the other two robbers will come back, and Hoby says that they're just believing what Quince wants them to believe. Cotti offers to be Hoby's deputy and Hoby tells him that the star is inside.
Mavis lives at the last house on the street, and she hesitantly peers out. Hoby introduces himself and she lets him in but says that she's not testifying. Mavis is leaving, and says that Quince was in the saloon bragging about what he was going to do for her when he has some money. Hoby points out that Quince doesn't have any friends and she'll be protected. She asks what will happen when Hoby leaves town, and Hoby says that there's no stage out of town until the next night. He promises to protect her, but Hoby says that she'll walk out. However, she says that there was another witness, a blonde kid. With that, she walks off.
When Hoby goes back to the saloon, Murdock tells Hoby that one of the other two robbers is inside. Hoby says that he'll talk to him, and asks about the boy. Hoby goes in and talks to the man, Dorcas. Dorcas says that he's just traveling and Hoby points out that his horse doesn't look like it's traveled much and has a Wyoming brand. He asks Dorcas to take a look at Quince and Dorcas agrees. They go to the sheriff's station and Dorcas looks at Quince. Neither man reacts, and Hoby gives Dorcas his gun back and tells him to get out. Hoby then tells Quince that he's sure nobody is coming for him. Cotti has heard that they lost the witness and suggests that they let Quince ride out. When he worries that someone might get shot, Hoby takes his badge and tells him to get out.
As Dorcas leaves the saloon, the boy Johnny Doan runs up and says that he remembers Hoby from a year ago when he cleaned up Talpa. He explains that his mother Nancy has been holding him at their ranch ever since he told her he saw the killing. Johnny ran into town when he heard that Hoby was there, and insists that he wants to testify. Quince says that Johnny didn't see anything, and Johnny says that Quince is the one who shot the agent, Trager. Dorcas gets up and prepares to ride out, and tells Hoby that he's riding out of town and doesn't plan to ride back. Quince just laughs when Hoby insists that nobody is coming for him.
Nancy rides up in her wagon and tells Johnny to come home, but he refuses. She begs Hoby not to endanger the boy, and Hoby says that he doesn't like the idea but he doesn't have any other choice. Nancy asks who is going to protect her son after Hoby leaves, and asks Johnny to give the horse some water. Once they're alone, Hoby assures Nancy that there's nobody coming back for Quince. She says that she was in town getting groceries and came out right after the shooting. She saw Quince lying on the street, and couldn't let Johnny come back. Nancy explains that Quince is Johnny's father, and she ran away years ago because she couldn't stand being murdered to a thief and a killer. Johnny thinks that his father is dead, and that he was a good man. Nancy begs Hoby not to use Johnny.
Hoby goes over to Johnny as Quince watches, whistling. Murdock comes up and says that they decided that they don't want any trouble and are going to let Quince go. Quince calls over, saying that they're right, and Hoby tells Johnny that he's not going to let him testify. He tells the boy to go home, and Johnny yells at Hoby that he's just afraid as everyone else. The boy runs off and Hoby tells Nancy that he'll get Johnny home to her safe.
Murdock tells Hoby to let Quince out of jail. Hoby goes to the cell and tells Quince that eventually some town will hang him. He lets the prisoner out and asks if he's going out to meet his friends. Quince says that he isn't, but Johnny should be around. Once Quince leaves, Cotti tells Hoby to let Quince ride out of town. Hoby tells him that Quince wont' be there very much longer.
As Quince walks down the street, Hoby calls to him and says that there's a poster offering $2,000 for Quince. When Quince goes for his gun, Hoby shoots him down and looks at the poster... which is for someone else.
As Hoby mounts up, Johnny runs up and Hoby takes him home. Johnny asks why Hoby shot him instead of had a trial, and Hoby tells him that sometimes Johnny will just have to accept a grown-up's decision without question. With that, he takes the boy home.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 12, 2017