At the Carlton, Paladin is carousing after two months on the trail. Hey Boy escorts a woman, Adella Ligget, to the room. He warns her that Paladin won't be interested in a job, but Adella insists and tips Hey Boy heavily. The steward goes over to Paladin and tells him about Adella, and Paladin reluctantly goes over to his visitor. Adella introduces herself and says that she's seen Paladin's card in his brother's study. Her brother is a minister, and he keeps the card as a reminder of Satan's presence.
Adella says that she's a nurse and many men consider that an immoral occupation for a woman, including her brother. She came to Paladin because she thought Satan wouldn't shrink from a female nurse. Amused, Paladin asks where she wants him to take her, and she shows him a headline from Goldfield, Nevada. They've recently lost their only doctor and Adella plans to offer her services. There's been a mine accident and the townspeople need a doctor to deal with the injured. Paladin wonders why she is pressing her services on people who don't want them, and Adella says that she's denied motherhood but she still needs to comfort and protect... to be a nurse. Paladin agrees to take her to Goldfield after a day's rest, but Adella demands that he take her now or she'll go alone.
Paladin agrees and they hit the trail. He finally suggests that they make camp, and assures Adella that he's too tired to do anything with her even if he was interested. Paladin spots a camp nearby and Adella wants to go over and see if any of them needs aid and comfort. She insists and Paladin reluctantly goes with her. Two men, Deke and Reamer, are making a cairn to bury a third. Deke comes over and has Reamer serve them snow water. Adella offers to share some of their supplies, and Deke explains that the dead man is Lucifer Blake. He was their partner and got hit by an Indian arrow.
Paladin notices Lucifer's jacket nearby, and Deke claims that Lucifer died at high noon. It's close to night, and Paladin wonders why they didn't bury their friend sooner. Adella is offended that Paladin is questioning the men, and Deke explains that they didn't think it would be Christian to help him along. Paladin says that he'll report back to the nearest town to report the death and send someone to talk to Deke. Deke insists that they haven't done anything wrong, and wonders if Deke is accusing them of killing Lucifer. Reamer speaks for the first time, asking what gives Paladin the right to stand judgment on them. Paladin doesn't care but insists that he has a responsibility of a citizen. Adella figures that Reamer is out of his mind with hunger, but Reamer says that he knows a challenge when he hears one. Deke says that they should accept Paladin's apology, and Paladin makes it clear that he's not going to give one.
Paladin finally apologizes for wronging them if they're innocent. Reamer says that isn't good enough and comes at Paladin with a knife, and Paladin draws and wounds him. Adella tends to Reamer's wound, and Paladin insists that if a man comes at him from behind then he assumes he's trying to attack him. Deke sarcastically says that Paladin isn't to blame and that if he's going to be suspicious then he should be good with a gun.
Deke continues to go on about Reamer, and Paladin asks if he has the arrow. The older man complains that Paladin sounds like a lawman, and says that they buried Lucifer with the arrow in his back. When Deke comes over, carrying a stick, Paladin draws on him and Deke continues riding him. He tosses his stick away and says that it's going to be dark and he's turning in. Meanwhile, Reamer tells Adella that he and Deke would be proud to take Adella anywhere she wants to go. Adella gently refuses, figuring that Paladin can't be what a life of violence has made him.
As night falls, Reamer thanks Adella for comforting him. Meanwhile, Paladin nudges Deke awake and says that he wants to see the arrow. Deke figures that Paladin suspects them of killing Lucifer, and agrees to ease Paladin's mind. They go over to the cairn and start removing the stone. Adella and Reamer agree that it's a terrible thing not to trust someone, and Reamer complains of fever. He asks her to get some snow from a nearby snowbank. Once Adella leaves, Reamer gets his knife from her bag and hides it in his pants.
Deke asks Paladin what he'd do if there was no arrow. He figures that Paladin might leap to conclusions and draw his gun. Paladin draws his gun and orders him to take off the rest of the rocks. Reamer grabs Adella as a hostage, and Deke knocks the gun out of Paladin's hand. They fight until Reamer orders Paladin to stop. Deke picks up the gun and says that Paladin will never know if they killed Lucifer. Reamer tells Adella that Deke is joking and all they want is their horses. As they mount up, Paladin draws his derringer. Reamer wonders if they should take Adella with them, but Deke says that they don't have time for that.
Paladin asks if Deke is going to send someone back for them. Deke says that he's not going anywhere and prepares to shoot, and Paladin shoots him dead. He takes the knife from Reamer and hands it to Adella, and Reamer begs her not to let them take her. Paladin ties him up and they ride for town, trailing Reamer behind. Adella figures that Paladin wants her to turn back and mind her own business. Paladin reminds her that Goldfield still needs a doctor and they head off.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 1, 2017