Paladin is in his suite when Hey Boy escorts his new client arrives: a government Secretary. The Secretary tells Paladin to destroy the dossier he sent. Once Paladin does so, he makes it clear that the Secretary's son Billy Joe is a murderer. He insists that he won't help Billy Joe escape punishment or interfere with due process. The Secretary says that he wants Paladin to bring Billy Joe to justice in secret, to protect the administration from scandal. It's not public knowledge that the Secretary once married a dance hall girl. Paladin promises that he'll be as discrete as possible, and the Secretary says that Billy Joe uses his mother's name, Lamont, and gives Paladin a photo of his son.
Billy Joe is out on the plains behind the rocks with a gun. He aims at a traveling saloon in the middle of nowhere and Paladin comes up behind him and aims his rifle at him. Billy Joe tosses away his rifle and says that he wasn't considering shooting, and tosses away his gun. Paladin has Billy Joe manacle himself, and assures Billy Joe that he has the right man. Billy Joe says that he has friends in the saloon, and Paladin says that they'll see his friends.
The two men ride down and Billy Joe greets the couple in charge, Woody and Hanna, by name. Their son Jon offers to water the horses, and Paladin accepts. Hanna says that she's never seen Billy Joe until he points out that he was once on her bar top singing. She smiles and greets him, and Woody remembers that Billy Joe was Hazel's little boy. Paladin explains that he's taking Billy Joe in for murder, and Hanna insists that Billy Joe is no killer. A gambler and dance hall girl, Lucky Laski and Decora, are watching and Laski rubs at the scar on his right cheek. They remain silent, and Paladin says that they'll camp on the other side of the stream. As they go over, Laski figures that Paladin is a bounty hunter. Unimpressed, Paladin pays John for watering the horses. Hanna takes the coin from him.
Paladin fastens Billy Joe to a stake and Jon comes over and invites Paladin to have stew with them. The gunfighter agrees and gives Jon a coin, well aware that Hanna took the first coin. Paladin goes over and gets some of Decora's stew, and Laski deliberately blocks his way. He punches Paladin, who soon takes him down. Hanna aims a shotgun at Paladin, who tells her to put it down. After a moment, Hanna backs down and tells Paladin to move on. He says that he'll do so in the morning, and advises everyone to mind their own business. As Paladin goes back to Billy Joe, Decora watches and smiles.
Later, Billy Joe watches and chuckles as Jon carries a heavy barrel and sprains his arm, and Hanna slaps him when he lets it touch the ground. He asks if Paladin is a bounty hunter, and Paladin gives him his card. Billy Joe says that the saloon people are his kind, and maybe that's why he hates them. As Paladin washes the plates in the creek, Laski grabs Jon twists his arm. He threatens to break it unless Paladin drops his gun. Decora yells at Laski to let Jon go, runs over, and slaps Laski. She leaves with Jon, and Woody goes over and starts hacking at Billy Joe's stake. Hanna tells Paladin that her husband is turning Billy Joe loose, and they don't believe Paladin's claim that Billy Joe is a killer. Paladin says that he can kill up to three people and take Billy Joe in, but then laughs and says that before the evening is over, they may ask Paladin to take Billy Joe away. He promises that he'll take Billy Joe away the next morning, and if he draws on Paladin then he'll kill him. Billy Joe assures him that he won't, and buys drinks for everyone.
Paladin goes over to where Decora is giving Jon a drink, and says that he'll take the teenager with him. He asks if Decora wants to come with them, and the others burst out laughing as Billy Joe straps on his gun. Decora shakes her head, and Paladin goes back to his camp with Jon. The dance hall girl joins the others, and Billy Joe figures that his business with Paladin will wait until they do some partying.
After Paladin tends to Jon's injury, he sees Decora getting drunken and staggering around. He goes over and buys a drink, and Billy Joe says that he's buying to celebrate his freedom. Billy Joe buys a bottle of the best, and Hanna is furious to discover that he only has $18. He asks about Jon, and Paladin says that he's all right. Billy Joe admits that he'll regret killing Paladin, and Paladin tells him not to let it spoil his party. Meanwhile, Hanna hides the money Billy Joe has paid her in a flour box, and brings over a bottle of her best.
Billy Joe notices flour on the bottle, and wonders why Paladin is so sure of himself. Paladin says that he understands Billy Joe. The younger man talks about how most people never change, and Paladin tells him to keep the bottle because he won't need it. The gunfighter sits down, watching.
Later, Laski is showing Woody how to fan cards when Billy Joe shoots them out of the gambler's hand. Furious, Laski grabs him by the collar. Billy Joe insists that it was funny and Woody hastily agrees. Billy Joe asks what Laski plans to do, and the gambler lets him go and walks away. When Billy Joe asks Decora to dance, she refuses and he starts singing again. Woody asks what's wrong with Billy Joe, and Billy Joe insists that there's nothing wrong and yells at them to shut up. Laski suggests that Billy Joe take Paladin, and Hanna says that they already set Billy Joe loose. Billy Joe tells them to keep Paladin occupied while he circles around to get his horse.
Hanna realizes what Billy Joe is up to and follows him to her wagon. She discovers that he stole the hidden money Billy Joe stabs her in the back, but Hanna knocks him away and staggers back to the saloon wagon. She collapses, dead, and Woody runs to his wife. Billy Joe comes out aiming a gun at them and says that they're all going to die. Paladin asks why he didn't ride away like he planned, and Billy Joe says that he doesn't like the people and is going to kill them first. The saloon people beg Paladin to help them, and Paladin tells him that the gun Billy Joe has isn't cocked or aimed. He promises to kill Billy Joe if he tries to do either. Billy Joe goes for it and Paladin shoots him dead. Disgusted, Paladin tells the others that they killed Billy Joe and they can bury him now that he's back with his own kind.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 28, 2017