Paladin is in his suite working on a concerto when Hey Boy comes in with a letter. It's from Vanessa Stuart, asking for help to deal with people trying to take her late husband's timber holdings in central Oregon. Paladin tells Hey Boy to pack his bags.
When Paladin arrives in Oregon, he meets with Vanessa. She says that a stranger purchased the mortgage and was foreclosing. She says that a man named Boris Radachev gave her Paladin's name to contact for help, Paladin wonders what Boris is doing in Oregon, and knows that Boris is a prince. Vanessa takes Paladin to her timber land and they find Boris' camp. Boris greets them and says that he knows all about Paladin from his investigations. Vanessa explains that she brought Paladin to deal with her problem.
Boris has his personal chef serve dinner, and Paladin asks him what Boris' interest is in Vanessa's land. The Russian has his servant Niki bring over the mortgage, and then tosses it into the mortgage. Paladin realizes that Boris set the whole thing up to bring Paladin there, and Boris explains that he's a hunter and a soldier. Boris is looking for danger, and he plans to hunt Paladin. He offers Paladin $5,000 to be his prey, and then $50,000. Paladin refuses and Boris points out that Paladin is already involved... and Vanessa as well because she chose to came back. He tells Vanessa that she can ride with him or Paladin. Vanessa isn't interested and says that she will report them, and Boris tells her that he'll shoot her if she proves a burden. Paladin tells Vanessa to ride with him until they find a sheriff. Boris advises Paladin to shoot Vanessa rather than let her burden him, but Paladin refuses. Paladin and Vanessa ride off, and Boris offers a toast to the beginning of the hunt.
Paladin and Vanessa ride to find a sheriff, and Paladin sees Boris and his hunting dog standing on a nearby outcropping. They ride on and come to three cavalrymen. Paladin explains what's going on, and Boris rides up. Boris feigns ignorance, claiming that he's a naturalist, and says that he doesn't know Paladin and Vanessa. Paladin offers his email@example.com as identification, and Boris provides his passport. The leader, Lt. Brager, doesn't find anything amiss with the passport, and tells Paladin not to both Boris again. Paladin tells Boris that he'll fight if pushed, and Boris nods in agreement.
As they continue on, Paladin and Vanessa come to Boris' hunting dog. It attacks Vanessa, and Paladin shoots it dead. Boris is nearby and congratulates Paladin, then points out that it's not possible for Paladin to refuse his offer. Boris is satisfied and goes on. Paladin realizes that Vanessa's ankle is broken and offers to go on her own, but Paladin refuses.
The couple ride on and Boris follows them. They stop at a stream and Paladin carries Vanessa over to soak her ankle. They continue and Boris fires at them. Paladin returns fire and hits Boris in the side, then rides off when Boris hides. They come to a farm and the owner, Jesse, asks Paladin for help with his wife Louise, who is in labor. Paladin says that Vanessa needs a doctor, but Jesse warns that Louise is in a bad way and he just needs Paladin to help her get his wife into the wagon so he can take her into town to see the doctor. Paladin reluctantly agrees to help, and has Vanessa sit in the shade.
Jesse goes into the farmhouse and Paladin goes to the stable to get the wagon. Boris is waiting and tells Paladin that he's a fool, and insists that he's the winner. He says that they may find their deaths together and a shot rings out. When Jesse comes out, Paladin walks out of the barn alone. The farmer admits that Boris paid him $40 to make his claim, and that he doesn't have a wife. Paladin tells him to earn his money and bury Boris, and rides to where Vanessa is waiting. Niki rides up and Paladin tells him that his master is in the barn. The Russian pays Paladin his money and goes to get Boris. There's a note from Boris with the money. Boris tells Paladin to enjoy the fruits of his victory, because a greater hunt begins when life ends.
Written by Gadfly on May 7, 2017