Hey Boy shows Paladin an article about how the city fathers in Hogtooth hired three gunmen guns to deal with the criminal element but have taken over. Paladin figures that they'll need one more gunman to drive the other three out and has Hey Boy send his card.
Soon, Paladin arrives in Hogtooth and discovers that the town is set up for the Independence Day celebration but the streets are deserted. In the saloon, Kid Morrissey is shooting up the bar while the other two men, Claude Chapineau and Floyd Perrin, look on and laugh. When they tell the barkeep to set them up with more drinks on the house, he objects and Xxx fires a warning shot. Meanwhile, Paladin goes to the hotel where the three town fathers meet with him. They complain that each of them hired a separate gunman without conferring with the others, and one Irishman--Clanahan--warns the council that they'll have to pay for Paladin on their own. They complain that they're losing money because no one dares take to the streets. When they hesitate to pay, Paladin says that he's considering raising his fee and they quickly relent. Each one advises Paladin to take out their hire first, and assure Paladin that they're behind him.
At the saloon, Morrissey considers starting up a ranch and asks the barkeep if anyone has one. They start to argue but Claude says that there's no reason to fight among themselves because they possess the town.
The mayor comes back to Paladin and advises him to deal with Floyd first. He hired Floyd, and the mayor says that there might be a future for Paladin in Hogtooth if he does so.
As Paladin goes to the saloon, the bank manager Partridge suggests that Paladin deal with Claude first and makes the same vague promises. Paladin sees the general store owner, Hildreth, waiting, and asks if he agrees that Morrissey is the first one he should dispose of. Hildreth hired Morrissey, and eagerly agrees with Paladin.. Clanahan calls Paladin over to his blacksmith shop and admits that he's not thrilled with any of the councilmen. He warns that Paladin won't last ten seconds against the three gunmen, as shots ring out from the saloon. Paladin hands Clanahan his gun and says that with the aid of a diversionary action, no one might die. He goes over to the general store and buys a slow-burning cigar from Hildreth while contemplating his unsold firecrackers.
Claude suggests to his other three gunmen that they make the town their own. Paladin listens outside and moves a box of firecrackers into position. He lights one of them and tosses it into a nearby barrel. When it explodes, the three gunmen come to investigate. Paladin sets off another firecracker, and Floyd is eager to try some. Claude joins in, trying to hit the barrels. When Paladin sounds out like they sound like gunshots, and Morrissey fires off his own gun to demonstrate what a gunshot sounds like. He walks off and Paladin says that he has business with all of them. Claude invites him into the saloon, and Paladin waves to Clanahan and then goes in.
Inside, Paladin explains that he didn't bring his gun because he wanted to talk. Claude remembers hearing of Paladin, and tells the others that Paladin is one of them. He orders champagne, and Paladin talks about how the citizens of Jerusalem asked the Romans to come in and police the city. The Romans became their masters and Jerusalem never recovered, and Paladin explains that the citizens want the gunmen gone. Claude laughs and invites Paladin to joint hem, and Paladin sets the last firecracker on the counter. Floyd sets it off and all three gunmen laugh when Paladin jumps. Claude says that he can't leave and Morrissey tells Paladin to get out. Floyd throws a punch and Paladin decks him. Claude draws his gun.
Clanahan notices the remaining firecrackers out on the boardwalk.
Morrissey takes the unconscious Floyd's revolver, puts it in Paladin's belt, and invites him to draw when ready. Paladin steps aside and tosses his cigar out the window... but misses the firecrackers. Clanahan sees it and comes over, while Paladin waits for the explosions. Realizing that it isn't going to happen, Paladin turns back to face the two remaining gunmen. The firecrackers go off, and Paladin is able to shoot Claude and Morrissey when they're distracted. He then runs out and discovers that his cigar missed. Clanahan holds up the red-hot horseshoe that he used to set off the firecrackers.
The townspeople come over and everyone gathers. Tibury says that he wants to keep Paladin to stay and make him sheriff, and Paladin asks for a doctor. When a man steps forward, he sends them in to tend to the gunmen. Paladin then points out that each of the councilman offered him a bonus, and figures that each man made a deal with their hired gunman to clean up the town and then they'd stay on as their enforcer. Tibury demands proof now that the gunmen are dead, just as Floyd comes out and asks for his gun back. Paladin asks if he should give it back to him. When Tibury denies it, Paladin gives Floyd the gun back and Tibury drops to his knees, insisting that he would have kept his word. Floy tells him to run and the mayor quickly runs off.
Paladin tells Floyd that it's time to move on, and says that there's no hard feelings. The gunmen quickly leaves and Paladin tells the townspeople that Claude and Morrissey are alive as well. Hildreth runs off, and Partridge invites anyone questioning his motives to talk to him at his bank.... at regular hours. He runs off as well, and Paladin invites Clanahan to come along and watch as he collects his money.
Paladin calls the three councilmen out and they quickly emerge. As he goes with them to collect his fee, Clanahan yells to him to make the councilmen pay out of their own pockets. Paladin waves in agreement and goes with the three town fathers to the bank.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 6, 2017