Dr. Leopold Avatar arrives at the Carlton and has Hey Boy take him to Paladin. Paladin is having an Asian swordsman, Teanchin Khan, teach him sword fighting. Once Khan leaves, Avatar goes in and offers Paladin $1,000 in advance and Paladin has heard of his work in criminal identification. Avatar specialized in the cranial abnormalities of habitual murderers. he has come to America to check out habitual murderers to investigate the "mark of Cain". He plans to capture one and make a detailed measurement of his cranial dimensions and reflexes. Paladin tells him that the only killer left is Jake Trueblood, but warns that he hasn't killed anyone except in a fair fight. Avatar points out that Jake has killed thirty men in a "fair fight," and expects Paladin to convince Jake to participate. Paladin explains that Jake is living in seclusion to avoid gunfighters trying to build a reputation, but agrees.
Soon, Paladin and Avatar ride to the trading post to get provisions. A man, Enoch Harrison is buying hats. The two men go in and Enoch takes offense at Paladin looking at him. The storekeeper grabs a shotgun and orders them both out, and Paladin says that he knows who Enoch is. Enoch draws and turns, but Paladin outshoots him. Avatar goes to check the measurements of Enoch's skull, and the storekeeper gives Paladin Enoch's wanted poster.
Paladin and Avatar continue on to Jake's cabin in a canyon. The gunfighter tells Avatar to stay put and goes on ahead. Jake fires a warning shot at Paladin, figuring that he's there for a fight. Paladin explains that he didn't come there to kill Jake. Jake recognizes Paladin, and Paladin explains that he brought a doctor to see him and make some measurements. Paladin tells Jake that he's legendary in Europe, and Jake soon agrees in return for some wine and a current newspaper. An Indian woman, Pina, emerges from the rocks with a shotgun. Jake tells his wife that Paladin is fine, and Pina assures Paladin that she'll shoot even if Jake will. Jake assures her that Paladin is a friend.
Avatar rides up and starts taking Jake's measurements. He assures Jake that his skull has the configuration of a born murderer. Satisfied, he tells Jake that he's a born murderer, and Pina takes offense. Paladin assures her that it's just science, and a far-fetched theory at that. She agrees to let them stay in the storeroom for the night. Once they're alone, Avatar insists that the truth never hurt anyone, and pays Paladin an extra thousand dollars to bring Jake's skull in. Paladin refuses and tells Avatar to leave Jake alone.
Later that night, Avatar sneaks into the main cabin room and goes to the sleeping Jake. Pina draws a gun on him, and Avatar claims that Paladin is jealous of Jake's reputation as a gunfighter. He tells her not to let Paladin shoot first, and Pina wakes up Jake and tells him that he has to kill Paladin. Paladin comes out and realizes that Avatar has set him up. Jake admits that he doesn't know what is going on, but refuses to kill a man except in self-defense. Paladin thanks him and goes back to the storeroom.
Avatar goes in after him and admits that even if Paladin had lost, he still would have had a specimen to take back with him. The professor says that Paladin is an excellent specimen, and is puzzled that Paladin has taken offense. Paladin takes out Avatar's instruments and measures the professor's skull. He points out that Avatar's skull has the same measurements as his supposed ideal killer. Avatar draws a gun on Paladin and says that he doesn't intend to go back empty-handed. Paladin laughs and says that the gun isn't cocked. When Avatar checks it, Paladin shoots him dead with his derringer.
Jake and Pina come in, and Paladin tells him that he doesn't believe in but Avatar's mentor will want the measurements as a souvenir of his favorite pupil. Pina asks for Jake's measurements so that people will leave them alone, and Paladin hands them over. Jake tears them up, chuckling.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 30, 2017