At the territorial prison in Arizona, a man named Bartlett is released. The guard gives him a rifle and Paladin's card. Paladin is waiting nearby, and Bartlett hits him. He points out that he spent eight years in prison after Paladin promised him a fair trial, and paladin admits that he couldn't keep it. Bartlett says that he's been on good behavior for eight years, and now he's going home. Paladin says that he promised Bartlett's wife Emmy that he'd see Bartlett home safe, and his promise isn't done until then. Bartlett agrees and asks how Emmy is, and Paladin says that she's a handsome woman now. Bartlett's son John Tecumseh looks like his father and still admires his father.
The two men ride across the desert to a town. Paladin notices three horses down the street, and suggests that they pull back and pick up the railroad. Bartlett refuses to back down and tells Paladin that he won't think he's a coward if he turns back, and a fool if he doesn't. Paladin figures where two of the ambushers are and wonders where the third one is. Bartlett rides forward and one of the three bushwhackers opens fire on him. Bartlett hits the ground and kills the second man. Paladin takes out the third man when he exposes himself, and the hotel keeper, Harry Kessler, kills the first man when he hears the gunshots. Harry The keeper tells Bartlett that it's been three years, and Bartlett remembers giving him a cup of water in prison. Harry is glad to get Bartlett a hot bath.
As Bartlett has a decent bath for the first time in eight years, he tells Paladin about how he and Harry were in prison and the guards were "entertaining" themselves by salting their food , not giving them any water, and then put them in a cell and told them to fight with a cup of water to the winner. They fought for an hour and then Bartlett gave Harry the water. Paladin merely smiles and tells Bartlett to finish his bath so that he can take him home.
The next day, the two men continue riding/ When they stop for the night, Bartlett figures that the old man is out there somewhere. Paladin tells him that the old man has been dead for two months, and he hired five men to kill Bartlett. The old man left all of his money to his nephew to finish Bartlett off, and bequeathed Bartlett a bag of shells. Bartlett recognizes all of them and they figure that there's one for each man that the old man sent after Bartlett. There are two bullets left out of five. Bartlett wonders if Emmy will want him back, and wonders if she'll want him back. Paladin kicks dirt in his face and says that the one thing he can't stand is a moaning man. He tells Bartlett to go to sleep and does so himself.
The next morning, Bartlett talks about how he used to think of Paladin and how he told him to give himself up after doing what he had to do. Paladin admits that the old man's money and influence made his promise to give Bartlett a fair trial a lie, and Bartlett says that at times he could have killed Paladin. When Bartlett came back from the War, the old man said that he was a traitor and tried to run him out. Bartlett killed his two sons nearby, and the two men ride on.
As they approach Bartlett's home, Bartlett talks about how he rode with Jeb Stuart during the War. He figures that Emmy can still cook and that he can smell her cooking from there. Bartlett insists on racing, and Paladin lets him go ahead. The former prisoner arrives at his home and Emmy comes out. They stare at each other for a moment, and then step forward. They kiss, and then Emmy kicks him in the chin and complains that he scared her and the chickens. As Paladin rides up, Bartlett tells him that he's home.
Johnny comes out and Emmy tells him that Bartlett is his father. He asks if Bartlett really killed five men in one day on his own, and Bartlett tells him that killing a man is never a good rhing. He offers his hand, and Johnny takes it. After a moment, Bartlett hugs him.
That night, Paladin stands guard against the last two killers. Bartlett joins him and thanks him for what he's done. Paladin admits that he owed Bartlett eight years, and figures that "he" won't wait that long. He tells Bartlett that he doesn't know why he figures the old man is coming even though he's dead, and suggests that the old man only hired four men so that Bartlett would spend the rest of his life worrying about the fifth one. Bartlett admits that the old man would have done it that way, and he never understood that Bartlett wouldn't bend his knee to anyone. Paladin tells him that he's going for a ride, and that come dawn Bartlett should step out and draw their fire. Bartlett agrees and Paladin rides off.
Come morning, Bartlett looks down on his sleeping son and then goes to the door. Emmy asks him to come back to her, and Bartlett tells her to go back to bed. He steps outside and starts cutting some firewood, and two men open fire on him. Bartlett takes cover, and Paladin hears the shots and comes over. Emmy opens fire from the window, She kills one, and Paladin kills the other.
Later, Paladin finds the killers' horses and brings them in. He tells Bartlett that he killed them, and they both used the same gun so that the fourth bullet represented both of them. He tells himself that Emmy killed the fourth man, and Paladin admits that she's some wife. Bartlett figures that it was the old man's last joke on him, and Paladin assures him that he isn't alone. Emmy and Johnny come out, and Emmy asks Paladin to come back some time. Paladin says that he will, when his face no longer reminds them of what happened. With that, he rides off.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 16, 2017