In the desert, John Tyree is looking at his dead horse when Paladin comes up behind him and tells John to drop his gun. Paladin confirms who John is, and admits that he's lost his horse tracking him down. John insists that he didn't kill Texas Ranger Silmzer, and goes for his gun. Paladin outdraws him but shoots him in the saddlebags, leaving John unharmed. The saddlebags had John's canteen and the last of his water leaks out. Paladin gives him a pair of manacles to put on.
The men continue across the water and Paladin finds nothing but dried-up waterholes. John continues to insist that he's innocent, and Paladin offers him a bit of his water. John refuses it and he says that he's too proud to take something that he's going to take. He attacks Paladin, but Paladin easily defeats him. John continues fighting, trying to strangle Paladin with his manacles. Paladin knocks him off again, and John says that he's not beat but a little more respective. He asks for the water but discovers that Paladin's canteen is empty. John advises Paladin to hold onto the canteen in case they find a waterhole later, and they continue on.
As they two men walk across the desert, Paladin figures that John knows the terrain and asks where there's water. John says that there's a place ahead but figure that Paladin won't make it. Paladin spots a man staked out on the ground and goes over, and discovers that the man has been dead at least half a day. John admits that he killed a man long ago and asks Paladin to take the chains off, but Paladin returns. There's a girl's bonnet nearby, and Paladin suggests that marauders took her. John suggests that the marauders killed Silmzer, but Paladin still refuses to take off the manacles.
Paladin and John come to the cabin and John assures him that they say the well never runs dry. They go to the well and discover that it's bone-dry. John peers at the cabin, and two people shoot out. One of them hits John in the foot, and Paladin drags him to cover. Paladin reluctantly gives John a rifle and John covers him while Paladin runs around the house and comes in through the back door. The shooters are a boy and girl, and Paladin advises the older girl to tell her adopted brother, Tommy to put the gun down. She does so as John limps in. and the children say that they have less than a gallon.
The girl reluctantly lets Paladin and John each have a cup of water, and Tommy starts to explain what happened to their parents. His adopted sister cuts him off and says that their parents are away, and they live in peace with the local Indians. Paladin asks about the marauders, and the girl says that they weren't violent until Paladin came. John trains his rifle on Paladin and demands the key, and Paladin points out that if John kills him then he'll have to protect the children. Paladin draws his derringer and turns around, but John collapses and Paladin easily disarms him.
John takes out the bonnet they found, and the girl says that well went dry and they headed for Fort Apache to access the wells there. Marauders attacked them and shot Tommy's father, and the children came back because they didn't know the way to Fort Apache. She figures that once the marauders determine where they are, they'll break in and kill them. The girl says that there were ten, maybe twelve, marauders, and tells them that she'll take out the bullet in John's foot. Paladin confirms that they have dynamite in the shed, and she asks Paladin to take John's chains off. He refuses and goes to get the dynamite.
Paladin wakes up the next morning and confirms that the storm has died down. He asks the girl if she stays, and the girl says that it's their land. She's been an orphan and now she wants to sink her roots and raise a family. The Apache raised her, and she was taken from then when she was 10. Since then she labored to stay alive, and she doesn't plan to do it anymore. She'll send Tommy to the fort to be raised by the Apache if she can't find anyone to share her life.
A horse neighs outside, and Paladin looks out to see six marauders approaching. John asks Paladin to unchain him, but Paladin refuses He does give John a rifle and then goes outside with a shotgun and dynamite. Paladin approaches the marauders and their leader says that the others are dead. He says that if they give them water then they'll go on their way without hurting anyone. Paladin says that if they answer three questions truthfully then they can bring up the bucket and go on their way. He asks if they killed and tortured the man who owns the place, and if they killed Silmzer. The leader admits that they did all three, and Paladin tells them to bring up the bucket.
The marauder bring up the bucket and discover that the well is dried. When the leader prepares to shoot Paladin, Paladin kills him and takes cover. John and the girl open fire as well, and Paladin tosses the dynamite at the marauders. The explosion blows up the well, releasing the water trapped below.
When Paladin goes back inside with a bucket of water, he finds John and the girl holding hands. They're too busy looking at each other to pay Paladin any attention. He refills his canteen and unchains John, and says that he doesn't make many mistakes. John half-jokingly tells him to go to the devil, and the girl asks Paladin to bring the preacher. When Paladin warns her that John has a bad nature, she says that she knows and Paladin agrees.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 30, 2017