At the Carlton, Paladin is trying to avoid a dandy who is recently married to a woman Paladin unwittingly flirted with. He decides that going on the road for a job would be a good idea, and Hey Boy shows him a letter from a man, Tully Coombs, who says that his brother and father are trying to kill him, and needs Paladin's help. Paladin decides to take on the job and quickly leaves.
Paladin rides to Tully's town and stops at the blacksmith's shop. The hostler gives him directions to the Coombs place and a hotel, and advises Paladin to make sure he checks in with Avery, Tully's father. That night, Paladin rides to the Coombs' place and knocks at the door. No one answers and the door is unlocked. Paladin goes in and calls to Tully. He gets no answer and goes into the study, but there's no one there. As Paladin admires the décor, Avery comes in, with his arm in a sling and Paladin's card. Avery has read the letter Tully sent Paladin, and says that it's a family affair. He advices Paladin to go back to San Francisco, and Paladin spots a gunman outside the window. Paladin tells Avery to take the gun off him. When Avery says the man won't shoot unless he tells him to, Paladin immediately puts up his hands and explains that he knows Avery's reputation as a cattleman and an honorable man.
Amused and impressed, Avery orders the gunman Jayce to leave. He explains that Tully has come close to killing him twice, and has been looking to get married for a year. Tully has wanted Avery to give him 160 acres for a toehold, and Avery said that he could have it if he took it away from Jayce... his oldest son. They both have equal rights to it, and Avery figures the best man is the winner. Tully wouldn't fight Jayce.
A gunshot rings out outside, and Avery and Paladin run to the street. Jayce is there with his carbine, and says that it was Tully. As Paladin takes the carbine away from Jayce, Avery rides off after Tully. Paladin points out that Jayce was warning Tully off with his shots, and they go inside. Jayce explain that Tully shot Avery in the shoulder, firing through an open window. The room was well lit, and Jayce tells Paladin not to get involved. Avery comes back and says that he lost Tully, and complains that Jayce didn't hit him.
Avery's shoulder wound has reopened and Paladin tends to it. As he works, Paladin points out that Avery's father had to kill his partner. Avery tells Jayce that when someone threatens what is his, he has to kill or convert and only cowards convert. Paladin figures that Avery is pushing the matter, and tells Avery that he's a lesser man for forcing his sons to fight and one to kill another. Unimpressed, Avery figures that he'll have a son strong enough to keep the land, and talks about Darwin's theory of the strong surviving and the weak perishing. Paladin asks him if he's sure that Tully shot him, and the shooter missed an easy killing shot. He says that he wants to hear Tully's side of the situation and leaves.
Jayce goes after Paladin and tells him to tell Tully that he should run or he'll have to kill him. Paladin figures that Jayce framed Tully for the bushwhacking so that he'd be forced to run, so that Jayce wouldn't be forced to kill him. Jayce only repeats his warning, and Paladin rides off.
The next day, Paladin finds Tully at the saloon. Tully wonders if Paladin is on Avery's payroll, and Paladin says that he isn't and settles down to breakfast. Tully says that he has no idea who shot Avery, and heard the shot when he arrived. Avery got to a window and got Tully's range, and Tully had no choice but leave. He came back the night before for the first time to meet Paladin. Jayce bullied Tully a bit but mostly for Avery's benefit, and mostly raised Tully after his mother passed away. Paladin suggests that he run and never come back, but Tully refuses to run like he didn't belong. However, he refuses to kill Jayce even though he figures Jayce will kill him as he's promised. Paladin tells Tully that he's going to try and make sure neither brother dies.
Paladin and Tully ride back to the Coombs house and Paladin goes inside. Jayce is alone in the study, and says that Avery is on his way back. Paladin tells Jayce that Tully is outside and is going to fight Jayce, and Jayce goes outside to fight him. The brothers remove their guns and fight hand-to-hand.
As the townspeople gather to watch, Avery rides up and Paladin ells him to watch his sons fight like wild animals. Jayce finally starts drowning Tully in a water trough, and Paladin asks Avery if that's the end of it or will Avery eventually demand that the son kills the father.
Sobbing, Jayce pulls Tully out of the water before he drowns and hugs him. Avery goes over, disgusted with Jayce. Jayce punches him and screams that he'll kill him. Paladin pulls him away and says that there's nothing left of Avery but a reputation and a legend. Tully says that it's their land because they survived, and Avery finally agrees. He tells them to do what they want with it and walks into the house. Jayce and Tully smile at each, and Paladin watches them for a moment before riding off.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 12, 2017