At the Carlton, Beatrice and her husband Arthur visit Paladin and Beatrice asks him to find her brother Courtney Burgess regardless of cost. Arthur dislikes his brother-in-law and explains that he's a welsher and a crook. Beatrice insists that Courtney is special, and Arthur tells paladin to give her what she wants. The last she had heard from Courtney, he was going to Sacramento to make good for himself. However, Courtney disappeared en route seven years ago.
Paladin soon takes to the trail and two months later comes to a dying man lying in the grass. The man introduces himself as Emmett Wilhoit and says that Indians shot him up-trail. Wilhoit advises Paladin to turn back, and says that they burned Burgess Fort. Colonel Burgess built his own fort and owns the country, unless the Indians take it back from him, and dies.
Paladin continues to the fort and Indians ride toward him. He leaps off his horse and hides, letting the Indians continue after it, and then runs into the fort. The place is seemingly deserted, and paladin yells to anyone who might be there. Outside, the Indians catch Paladin's horse and the ride off. Inside the fort, Paladin finds a dead Indian. He continues searching and finds three dead soldiers--shot--inside of a room. Paladin goes inside and checks the office. There's an unconscious colonel at the desk, and a man, Sam Hodges, jumps him from behind. Paladin knocks him back and draws his gun, and Sam figures that Paladin has come for Colonel Burgess because everyone does.
Paladin checks the colonel and discovers that he's ill, not drunk. Sam explains that he has typhoid, and the three dead men are the only ones who didn't defect. Chief Tamasun and his war party arrives ten days ago but they figured the third and fever were on their side. Tamasun and the Colonel had a "disagreement" and food ran low and the water ran low. Typhoid broke out and nine of the twelve men in the company mutinied and left. Paladin doesn't believe it, and Sam explains that the Colonel set up the land and a few rules. He demanded strict obedience and share of their crops, and Sam refused to abandon him to die alone. The Nez Perce Indians let the others through because all they wanted was Colonel.
The Colonel begs Sam to not let them kill him, and says that he doesn't want to say. He asks Sam to ask them to take him with them, and Sam puts him off. He and Paladin go out to find water in the stores, and Sam asks who sent Paladin. Paladin admits that his horse is in the woods, and Sam says that the Indians aren't attacking because of their fear of typhoid. He says that he has a big ace in reserve but refuses to say what it is.
As the two men check the supplies, Sam keeps asking if banks sent paladin. He admits that the Colonel went into debt to build his kingdom. Paladin finds some chloral hydrate to soothe the colonel's pain, and Sam asks what they said about the Colonel. He says that they said not to turn his back on him, and Sam puts a gun to him and takes the medicine.
Gunshots sound outside and the two men run outside. The Colonel has staggered out and the Indians are shooting at him. Sam says that if he's killed then they're finished. Paladin runs outside and carries the Colonel back in. Tamasun rides up and Sam tells paladin to stay back because he's going to play his ace. The chief offers their freedom for the Colonel, but Sam figures that Tamasun wants the Colonel to torture him. Sam says that the Indians are bored and tired, and demands two ponies, a fresh supply of water, and guarantee of passage in return for the Colonel. Tamasun tells him to wait and rides off with his men.
Once Sam closes the gate, Paladin insists that Sam can't turn the Colonel over to the Nez Perce for torture. Unimpressed, Sam tells Paladin to get the Colonel's uniform jacket because the Nez Perce want the authority as well as the man. They go back into the office and Paladin grabs the jacket, but leaps out of the office. Sam goes after him and Paladin shoots him with his derringer. He goes over and tells Sam who sent him, and admits that he knew who "Sam" was all the time: Courtney. Courtney realizes that Arthur still hates him, and demands the jacket. Paladin puts it on him and Courtney asks him to tell Arthur that he sacrificed himself to save Paladin and the Colonel. He staggers out to deliver himself to the Nez Perce but collapses at the gate.
Paladin goes over and confirms that Courtney is dead. Tamasun and his men ride up, and Paladin tells them that Courtney is dead. The chief sends his men in to take the body, and Paladin discovers that the Colonel is dead as well. Tamasun gives Paladin the horses and the water, keeping his end of the deal, and rides off.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 5, 2017