Paladin rides until he comes to man, Juan Quintos, who is waiting for him. He tells Paladin that they're going to a ghost town and ride off. Come nightfall, they ride into the town and a sentry tells them to identify themselves. He recognizes Juan and the two men dismount. Juan explains that the sentry is one of Costigan's men, and admits that he couldn't have come back after being blasted with a shotgun like Costigan was. Paladin knows that Costigan was shot by a man named Clemenceau when Costigan tried to drive the squatter off of his land, and now Clemenceau is planning to try it again.
They go into the saloon where Costigan's hired guns have made camp. Costigan comes down and looks appraisingly at Paladin, who comments on his old weapon. The man talks about how it belonged to his father, and wonders why Paladin is offering his services for free. Paladin explains that Costigan's brother James took a shell for him at Antioch, and he owes the man so he's there to pay his debt and be done with it. Costigan says that James loved him, and Paladin agrees to fight for Costigan.
Costigan tells Juan to test Paladin, and Paladin easily outdraws him. The rancher says that James owed him nothing and neither does Paladin, and he intends to hold his land. He tells Paladin that he'll need him for two weeks and insists on paying him, and Paladin cites his usual $1,000 price. Paladin says that he'll push Clemenceau off and nothing else, and Costigan warns him that three men died thinking the same thing. He makes it clear that he doesn't want Paladin to kill Clemenceau: he wants Paladin to kill Clemenceau if Clemenceau kills him.
Once Costigan goes back to his office, Paladin asks Juan for directions to Clemenceau's house. As Paladin prepares to head up, Costigan gathers his hired guns and tells them to brand his remaining cows. He tells Paladin to ride with him, and Paladin wonders if he wants more blood. Costigan says that he put his life into the land and he won't let any man take it from him. He says that Clemenceau has a wife, Sarah, and he won't support her unless she works for him. Paladin, Juan, and Sim ride out with Costigan.
The next day, Clemenceau's man Jeb Turner is busy butchering one of Costigan's cow when Costigan and the others find him. Jeb goes for his shotgun but realizes that it's hopeless. He says that Clemenceau gave him the gun, and Costigan tells him to put it down. Once he does, he explains that he decided to steal the cow on his own. Costigan points out a branch and tells Juan to hang Jeb. When Paladin objects, Costigan draws a gun on him. Unimpressed, Paladin says that he can take him before he pulls the trigger. Sim knocks Paladin out from behind and Juan goes about his work.
When Paladin wakes up, he finds Jeb hanging by his neck next to the cow. Costigan says that he didn't want to do it and asks if it's done between him and Paladin. He sends Juan and Sim over, and Paladin knocks Sim out and takes Juan hostage with his derringer. Paladin tells Costigan to toss over his gun and get out, and Costigan rides off with his men.
Paladin takes Jeb's corpse to Clemenceau's house and explains that Costigan killed him for stealing one of Costigan's cows. Sarah wonders if Paladin got sick to his stomach before or after Jeb dies, and Paladin says that it was before. Clemenceau invites Paladin to stay for supper before he goes on his way, and Paladin agrees. Together they take Jeb to busy him.
That night, Sarah serves supper. Afterward, the couple put out the lights and Clemenceau stands guard. He figures that Costigan and his men will come that night and Costigan will kill him. Paladin suggests that he move on, but Clemenceau explains that they buried his daughter there and they're not going to move. Horsemen ride up and Paladin moves them to cover. He points out that it isn't Clemenceau's land, and Clemenceau admits that he knows it but it doesn't matter anymore.
Costigan calls to Paladin, saying that he wants to talk to him, and Paladin invites him in. The rancher comes in with Juan and Sim, and offers Paladin a certified check for $1,000. Paladin offers Costigan his life in return, in James' name, and says that he'll push Clemenceau off the land. Costigan insists that he wants Clemenceau dead, and Paladin tells him to let Sarah go. The rancher agrees but Sarah refuses to leave her husband. He smashes the lamp and both sides open fire. Paladin and Clemenceau kill all three men.
Once the shooting is done, Clemenceau wonders why Costigan didn't bring his other men. Paladin figures that his army didn't want to fight, and says that he's going to keep his promise and push Clemenceau off the land because Costigan was right in his cause but wrong in his ways.
The next day, Paladin signs over Costigan's check to Clemenceau. Clemenceau refuses it, saying that he doesn't need money when he's got the will to make a new start. Sarah whispers to her husband and then takes the check, and Clemenceau admits that he never would have heard the end of it if they had starved or frozen without money to save them. As Sarah talks about all of the ways they can spend the money and leaves, Paladin watches them go.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 16, 2017