At the Carlton, Paladin is having supper with a girl. Sybil Lansing interrupts Carlton's supper in his suite and says that her mother doesn't know she's there. Sybil talks about the principle of not paying a ransom, and Paladin finally has her start from the beginning. The woman introduces herself and says that her mother is Bosley Lansing, and Paladin remembers that Bosley owned one of the biggest saloons in the area. Bosley hired player Franz Lister to come to America to play, for $50,000. The woman had to import Franz's piano and insure it for $25,000and the kidnappers want $20,000 in cash. Sybil offers Paladin $1,000 to help them retrieve the piano, and has already ordered a horse saddled. She asks for some of Paladin's buffalo haunch ragout while Paladin suits up, and he agrees.
The next day, Sybil takes Paladin to Bosley's plantation that she's had built in San Francisco. Bosley knows Paladin and he knows her as Mona, a former sharecropper. She wants Paladin to deliver the ransom, but Franz comes in and says that he refuses to let Mona buy back the piano. He insists that they take back the piano, and Mona explains that she's engaged Paladin to deliver the ransom. Franz checks Paladin's revolver and then asks if Paladin will buy it back or take it back.
Before Paladin can respond, Franz's manager Freddie Rubio runs in. He worries that Franz might injure his hands, and jokingly threatens to shoot his left hand. Franz gives Paladin his gun back and then waxes poetic about his own skill playing the piano. He explains that the King of Austria gave him the piano, and he insists on fighting for it rather than buying it back. Paladin concedes the point and says that he'll get the piano back.
Later, Paladin goes to a saloon to hire some men to go with him. The men find the idea of recovering a piano laughable, One man, Jerris, refuses to risk his neck for a ":music box," and the others agree. Paladin says that they're animals and points out that Fate has given them the chance to touch the hem of Music. Offended, Jerris challenges him and Paladin suggests that he doesn't have the stomach for violence based on what he just said. His pride pricked, Jerris agrees to take on the job three others step up.
Soon, Franz, Freddie, and Sybil ride out with Paladin and his men. Paladin has them make camp for the night while the sun is still up. Once they set up, Paladin spots Sybil standing off to the side. She admits that she's jealous of Franz and his relationship with his piano. Sybil tells Paladin that she can't compete with a piano and goes to her tent.
The next day, the group arrives at the designated spot and Paladin finds a message. It gives additional directions and tells Paladin to come alone. Franz insists on going with him but Freddie objects and Paladin agrees. He rides on ahead while Sybil comforts Franz. When Paladin returns, he tells Franz that the piano was there and he'll pay the ransom. Franz would rather fight than pay, but Paladin points out that they could destroy the piano. The musician insists on going back with Paladin, but Paladin insists that he's the master in the situation at hand. Franz calls Freddy over, gives him a lit cigar, and has him walk off twenty paces. He then demands Paladin's gun and shoots the cigar tip off. Paladin admits that it's impressive but points out that the cigar did not shoot back. Despite that, he takes Franz with him.
Paladin and Franz arrive at the wagon where the thieves are waiting. They let Franz check out the piano in the wagon and the musician confirms that it's his... but it's scratched. He attacks one of the thieves and Paladin jumps the other ones. Jerris and his men have come up and take out the other thieves on guard. The first thief knocks the strut away from the wagon wheel, sending the wagon rolling down the hill. Paladin rides after it but by the time he gets to it, it has crashed. The keyboard is surprisingly intact.
Later back in San Francisco, Franz is performing the piano at Mona's rented theater. Ferris and his men are dressed to the nines and sitting in the balcony, enjoying the performance. Once Franz is done, everyone breaks into applause and Franz waves to his former employees and then Paladin, who is backstage with Sybil. Sybil kisses Paladin in thanks and he says that he's been paid.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 26, 2017