Paladin rides into gold prospecting country in the mountain and stops at a camp. The man running the camp, Preston, says that there's a posting station halfway up the mountain and Paladin decides to stay at the camp for the night. Once Paladin dozes off with the other prospectors, a man Merton tries to take Paladin's gun. Paladin draws his derringer on him, and Merton man claims he was just pushing Paladin over and calls for Preston. Preston comes over and Paladin tells him to take a look at Merton's hand. When Preston sides with Merton, Paladin kicks him over and accuses him of taking money to let Merton rob their customers. He leaves as the other customers attack Merton and Preston.
Riding down the trail, Paladin comes to the remains of a torn-up camp. As he rides on, he spots Merton and his men behind him stopping to scavenge the wreckage. Continuing on, Paladin comes to the posting station and the owner, Beaman, invites Paladin to sleep with his horse because they're full up. When Beaman demands $5, Paladin offers him $1 and Beaman accepts. He then says that he has a map of the gold fields but Paladin isn't interested.
Two of the prospectors, Fred Hensoe and Sibley, ask where it is, but Paladin says that Beaman doesn't know anything or he wouldn't be running a stable. Beaman says that his injured leg won't let him prospect, and offers to sell it to the Fred and Sibley for $500. Paladin tells them not to give Beaman any money, but Fred says that he's at the end of the rope and offers Beaman $25. When Paladin objects, Fred draws a gun on him and tells him to shut up. Fred demands the map and heads for their cart with Sibley and his son, John. Once the prospectors leave, Beaman cheerfully admits to Paladin that he made up the map but at least the prospectors have hope now.
As Paladin cleans up, Merton comes up and knocks him over the head. His men arrive and Beaman tells Paladin that they shot his horse. Merton and his men take Paladin's jacket and hat, and says that Paladin is going to Reno on foot and they'll follow him every step of the way. When Beaman objects, Merton says that Paladin can scavenge from the clothing left along the trail. Paladin has no choice but to start walking.
Paladin comes to the Hensoes and Sibley, and asks to join them because someone shot his horse. When Fred objects, saying that they don't know who Paladin is, Paladin tosses over his card and offers to help pull their wagon. Fred wonders if Paladin wanted the map for himself, and doesn't believe Paladin's denials. Paladin offers to buy some pemmican, and Fred refuses. Merton and his men ride up and Fred assumes that Paladin is with them. Paladin says that they're scavengers, and Fred tells him that it's his trouble if they want Paladin dead. The gunfighter goes on and the Hensoes break camp.
Continuing on, Paladin tries to kill a rabbit for foot. Merton fires a warning shot and yells at him to get moving, and Paladin notices a spear among the wreckage. The scavengers are too far away for Paladin to throw it and they know it, so Paladin grabs a blanket and moves on.
The Hensoes make camp for the night and John stands first watch. Paladin approaches him and says that Fred knows the map is no good, but John says that at least his father has hope. The gunfighter warns that the next time he comes there, he'll have to fight Fred. John tosses him some dried buffalo meat and tells him to get away. Paladin goes to grab it, but Merton arrives and orders him at gunpoint to hand it over. The gunfighter tells him to shoot or come and get the meat. Merton's men grab Paladin, beat him down, and take the meat. Merton orders Paladin to move on, and Paladin has no choice but to do so.
Later, Paladin rigs up an atlatl and practices throwing the spear. He then goes to the Hensoes camp and sneaks up on the sleeping John after hiding the atlatl and spear. Paladin points out that John gave him food before, and asks if he's going to kill him. As Fred and Sibley wake up, Paladin grabs John and takes him hostage. John and Sibley lower their guns, and Paladin says that all he wants is some food. Once they're convinced, Paladin lets John go and the prospectors get him some pemmican and coffee.
Red still suspects Paladin. When John calls him a fool, Fred tells him that until he's older, he should keep his mouth shut. He figures that John has had it too soft, and Paladin tells him to hand over the map. Fred says that it was John's hope for the future and hands it over, and Paladin burns it in the fire despite Fred's efforts. John binds his father's burned hand, and Fred apologizes. The by invites Paladin to travel with them, just as Merton and his men open fire.
Paladin goes to where he hid the atlatl, and Paladin throws the spear, killing Merton. Sibley and the Hensoes kill the others, and Fred thanks Paladin and asks if they can join him the rest of the way. Paladin says that he'd be pleased for the company.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 12, 2017