A woman, Emily Zeigler, is sitting in her carriage outside of her home in Benito. Doc Halwell walks out with her son Paul, tells both of them not to say anything about what happened, and says that he'll deal with Sheriff Lee Carmody when lee gets there. Once Paul drives the wagon away, Halwell goes inside and moves the body of Emily's dead husband Jake across the room. He eliminates the signs of a struggle and then picks up a revolver. After a moment he opens the door, fires a shot into a pillow, and then puts the gun in the corpse's hand.
Later, Hoby arrives in Benito to visit Lee, an old friend of Hoby's father. As they talk about old times, Paul arrives to talk to Lee. Paul asks if Hoby is there for any special reason, and Hoby says that he's just there to see Lee. The younger man says that he just wants to talk to Lee, but Lee asks what happened and Paul says that his stepfather has been shot. He runs out, and Lee invites Hoby to go with him.
As they ride to the Zeigler ranch, Lee explains that he doesn't know who Pauls' real father is. He admits that there might have been bad blood between Paul and Jake. As they arrive, Lee jokingly says that Zeigler owed him $40 in a poker debt and tells Hoby that nobody really liked Zeigler. He refuses to go into details, and advises him to ask Halwell any questions that he has.
Halwell comes out and says that Jake is dead, and that Emily and Paul weren't there at the time of the shooting. Lee suggests that they talk to Emily and Paul first, and Halwell reluctantly agrees. They go over to where Emily is waiting, and Halwell tells Lee that she was in shock and he gave her a sedative. Hoby listens and is surprised that neither Lee nor Halwell are that concerned about the dead man. However, he continues to give Lee the benefit of the doubt.
At Emily's home, Emily tells Lee that they don't need to feel sorry for her. Before she can explain why, Halwell explains that he doesn't want to be responsible for any consequences if they interrogate her too hard. Hoby notices bruises on Emily's face and asks how she got them. Halwell steps in and says that she fainted at the sight of Jake's body, and Hoby points out that he hasn't said before that he was at the Zeigler house. The doctor says that he came home with Emily and they found Jake's body, and Emily says that Paul was with her. She insists that Paul had nothing to do with it, breaking into tears. Paul hears them and starts to speak, but Halwell cuts him off and tells him to make sure Emily takes her medicine.
Once Paul leaves, Halwell says that Paul drove his mother there earlier today and Halwell drove her home. They were discussing Paul's mother's illness, and that's why he was at the Zeigler home when Jake was found. Lee says that's all they need to know for the time being, much to Hoby's surprise, but he says nothing and leaves with Lee. Outside, Hoby says that Halwell would be good at chess. Halwell joins them and Hoby asks to see his gun. The doctor says that he must have left it in his bag at the Zeigler house, and they ride back to the Zeigler house.
The trio enters the house and Halwell first tells Hoby and Lee that 17 years ago, Emily was married to her first husband and took up with Jake. He was told that Jake was a vile man, and it would be a shock to Emily if they arrested Jake's wife or son for murder. Halwell insists that he didn't move the body, and says that the room was neat and there were no signs of conflict. Acting as coroner, he points out a bottle of whiskey and has Lee and Hoby confirm that it is what he says. Halwell suggests that Jake was suffering from melancholia brought on by drunkenness. Hoby points out that Halwell hasn't examined the body yet, and Halwell invites him to do so first.
Hoby checks the body and discovers that he was shot from the front at short range. The gun has Jake's initials on it and was fired once. Halwell hands over his revolver and Hoby confirms that one chamber was fired recently. The doctor says that he killed a rattlesnake, and Hoby points out that he hasn't one seen out in the open in cold weather like they have. He says that there's a penalty for tampering with evidence and Lee agrees. Hoby points out that the coroner can arrest the sheriff if he tampers with evidence and vice versa, and Lee notes that Hoby could arrest any official performing dereliction of duty. Halwell says that he's done and they leave.
As they ride into the town, Hoby figures that he'll have to step in if nobody else is interested in finding Jake's killer. Halwell suggests that a crime was committee, and then amends his comments to say that there was a death by violence. In town, the livery man notes that people have seen Halwell out at the Zeigler ranch quite often. Hoby tells him to go about his business, and Halwell tells Lee and Hoby that Emily was once his wife and Paul is his son. Paul has never known it and never used Halwell's name, and concedes that he's a suspect.
As they go back to Lee's house, Hoby figures that there's only one person who might have killed Jake and needed the protection that he's seen. He believes that Paul killed Jake when he learned that he was beating Emily, and the town is protecting the boy. Hoby and Lee share a drink, and Lee invites Hoby to read his report. The Ranger figures that the jury would go pretty light on Paul if he stood trial, and Lee agrees with him. Hoby says that he'll give Lee six weeks and if he hasn't heard that Paul was brought in, he'll be back on official duty. The two men share a drink to Hoby's health.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 5, 2017