At the Carlton, Paladin is sitting through Commodore Newcombe's boring anecdote about a nearsighted maharajah when Hey Boy brings him an envelope. Inside is Paladin's card, half of a $500 note, and a message telling Paladin to take the Yuma stage and the other half of the bill and further details are waiting. Paladin tells Hey Boy to lay out his clothes and leaves.
Paladin takes the train to the Yuma stage stop where an insurance salesman, Altman, is waiting along with several other passengers. The gunfighter sits down with them and starts reading a book, and Altman introduces himself to the other passengers. He recognizes one of the men, a husband Ralph Turner, and goes over to chat with Paladin. Altman tries to make small talk but Paladin isn't interested.When he reaches for a cigar in his pocket, Sheriff Conlon tells him to keep his hands where he can see them.
Conlon has a prisoner, Jelly Wilson, with him, and asks what's in Conlon's case. He insists on taking a look, and Paladin tells him that he's way out of line. Jelly says that Conlon is skittish because he's afraid that his friends are going to rescue him, and Conlon promises that Jelly won't escape. Unimpressed, Jelly keeps riding Conlon and says that he'd consider hiring someone like Ralph. Conlon notices a bulge in Ralph's jacket and demands to see it. Ralph's wife, Lydia, says that her husband was an officer and doesn't need to submit to such treaty. Conlon insists and Ralph takes out a bottle. Altman says that he read a trial about how Ralph shot an officer. Ralph takes a drink from his bottle and Jelly laughs, saying that he'd probably hire a gunfighter like Paladin. Conlon tells Paladin to stay away from Jelly.
The Yuma stage arrives and everyone gets aboard. Jelly stares at Lydia until Conlon shoves him in. The sheriff tells Paladin to hand over his gun, and Paladin refuses. Jelly warns Paladin that Conlon is a backshooter, and Paladin says that he knows of Conlon's reputation... and Jelly's.
The stage heads across the desert and a bandit leaps on board and trains his gun on the driver. More bandits emerge and when the first bandit tries to club Paladin, Paladin knocks him to the ground. The leader, Solomon, Steps out and orders his men not to fire. Conlon figures that they're after Jelly, but Paladin points out that they would have shot Conlon down if they wanted the outlaw. Solomon says that he just wants to talk, and picks Paladin as the most reasonable man to discuss matters.
Solomon and Paladin step aside and Solomon introduces himself. He calls over one of the bandits, Miguel, and explains that a gringo came to his village, drank too much, and killed Miguel's wife. Miguel saw the man board the stage. He told Solomon, and they're going to get the man and execute him. The authorities aren't interested, and Solon insists that he's the only law people like Miguel have.
Miguel goes to the stagecoach and Conlon orders him to stay back. When Miguel keeps coming, Conlon shoots him dead and Solomon kills Conlon. Paladin, standing behind Solomon, does nothing. Solomon thanks Paladin for covering his back and figures that they're two of a kind. He says that he has one hour until the federales arrive, and Paladin offers him a cigar. Solomon says that Miguel was the only one who knew who his wife's killer was, and now Paladin will have to pick one for him. If he doesn't then Solomon will kill all of them by the time he finishes the cigar... including Paladin. Paladin calls Jelly out and tells him to bury Conlon.
The passengers gather and Ralph suggests that Paladin just pick one. He figures that Jelly killed the woman, but Jelly insists that he's no woman-killer. Ralph sarcastically tells Lydia that Jelly isn't as dashing as Lt. Carson, the man he shot, and Lydia tells her husband to drop it. She asks him if killing Carson was enough, and Ralph says that his wife's honor came at a high price.
Solomon reminds Paladin that time is running out, and Altman runs over and says that he has money in his bag that he'll give Solomon if Solon lets him go. There are bonds inside, and Altman insists that they're negotiable anywhere. The salesman says that he's an embezzler, but Solomon wants silver or gold and tosses them away and grabs the man. Paladin tells him to stop, and Solomon shoves Altman back with the others. Solomon bites off part of the cigar and tells Paladin that time is running shot. He advises Paladin to pick one, and is surprised when Paladin takes his word that he'll only kill one. Paladin tells him that he'll take his word based on the buzzards circling overhead.
Paladin goes over to the passengersand starts picking one at random. Ralph warns that the innocent might suffer, but Paladin points out that they're all guilty of something: an embezzler, a cutthroat, an adulteress, and a murderer. They wonder what Paladin is guilty of and why he should choose, and Paladin tells them to ask Solomon why he should choose. Jelly points out that Paladin might be the killer, but Lydia doesn't believe it. Paladin thanks her for her consideration, and Paladin points out that it wouldn't be any great sacrifice for any of them to die.
After a moment, Paladin calls to Solomon that he's chosen. Lydia realizes that he plans to offer himself, and Paladin says that he doesn't have the right to choose. Jelly warns that Solomon is fast enough to take Paladin, and Ralph figures that Lydia loves him since she didn't offer him. Disgusted, Lydia asks if he really thinks so.
Solomon steps forward and realizes that Paladin has chosen himself. Paladin refuses to give him a life, and he's choosing the one man he has the power of life and death over. He tells Solomon to let it go because no matter which of them dies, justice won't be served. Solomon says that he made a promise to Miguel and they toss away their cigars. They both draw and Paladin shoots Solomon in the stomach. The other bandits prepare to shoot Paladin, but the dying Solomon orders them back. Solomon looks up at the buzzards and says that they always win, and collapses dead.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 5, 2017