Hobson's Choice Recap

Paladin is enjoying himself in the Carlton lobby when Hey Boy tells him that he has a potential client. Alfred Nobel has a suite in the hotel, and has a problem. Paladin goes there and Alfred tells him that he's received a shipment of mineral oil rather than the nitroglycerine that he's experimenting with. Someone has Alfred's nitro by mistake, and Alfred wants Paladin to recover it. He hands Paladin a vial of nitro but assures him that it's safe as long as the chemical balances are maintained. Alfred explains that contamination is a problem and demonstrates using a small drop in a reinforced lead box. He says that his substance could destroy London,, and insists that his invention will ensure peace. No army would dare to march because a balance of terror would exist. Paladin points out that there have been madmen with power throughout history, and isn't convinced. he points out that the ten missing containers could destroy half of San Francisco, and Alfred admits that he hasn't told authorities because he was trying to avoid a panic.

The two men track down the missing shipment to Sam Thurber's warehouse. Sam's nephew Hartman calls Sam out and he offers them some of the supposed mineral oil. Sam figures that he's been ripped off, and Paladin points out that one box is missing. The owner says that it tasted awful so he sold it off near the mission. Sam has a couple of bottles left, and Hartman tosses it to Sam. Alfred confirms that it contains alcohol, not nitro, but the nitro could go off at any minute. He pays Sam $100 for the nine containers, and Paladin stops Hartman from tossing another bottle. Sam says that he sold seventeen bottles, and Paladin tells him that they'll send him the mineral oil. Hartman finds an almost-empty bottle and Sam tells him to throw it out. When he does, it explodes and Sam figures that he knows someone who will pay better than Alfred.

Paladin and Alfred talk to a carriage maker, who explains that he couldn't drink the "mineral oil" so he's been using it to grease axle wheels. Paladin stops him from demonstrating how it just fizzles and smokes, and Alfred pays him $10 for the bottle and says that he'll pay the same. The two men quickly collect the bottle and leave. They go around the neighborhood buying bottle. A drunk has one bottle, and they have to wrestle it away from him. Alfred warns that the nitro is poisonous in large doses, and Paladin figures that's how it will be abused as they take the drunk to the hospital.

Back at Alfred's suite, Alfred determines that the compound will reach spontaneous explosion by 11 am the next morning. After that, any impact will set off the nitro. There are still nine bottles left, and Paladin figures that they have to find them and get them out of the city. He says that they should circulate warnings and have them brought to a central collection point. Paladin agrees to take the nitro out of the city and Alfred says that he's going with him.

Paladin and Alfred put up the warnings. Sam and Hartman see them and Sam figures that they're trying to cheat him.

The police cordon off the area and Paladin collects the remaining bottles. He and Alfred pack them in straw on a wagon with two and a half hours remaining. Paladin and Alfred carefully board the wagon and slowly drive out of San Francisco. They leave the city at 17 minutes after and a mile to get to a safe distance. A wheel slips off the axle and Paladin warns that they don't have enough time to fix it. As he lifts the wagon and tells Alfred to reattach the wheel, Sam and two of his men arrive and hold Paladin and Alfred at gunpoint. Sam says that he's going to sell the nitro for a hefty price, and the buyers don't care if it's pure or not.

Paladin invites Sam to take the wagon and the warehouse owner does so. As they ride off, Alfred and Paladin take cover. and the nitro explodes. Alfred and Paladin argue about what will triumph, the angels or devils in Man's nature.

Written by Gadfly on Jun 4, 2017