Paladin rides south of the border in search of a rare brandy. He stops at a fountain near a mission, San Luis Ray, to get water for his horse, and villagers chase another man toward them. Paladin rides over, picks up the man, and leaves ahead of the mob. The gunman rides to the mission church, and the young man, Paco, says that they drove him out because of women trouble. He offers to watch out for Paladin in return for Paladin saving his life, but Paladin makes it clear that he's not interested and Paco quickly runs off.
Paladin gets directions to the padre, and realizes that the brother he asked directions for is the man he's looking for, Father Clare. They go to the patio and Paladin explains that a friend of his told him about a rare brandy and finding it would constitute a miracle. Clare has it but says that it's not for sale. Paladin asks for but two drops, but Clare jokingly points out that it's an unreasonable request from a man named Paladin.
Clare takes Paladin to show him the mission workers, and explains that they're the descendants of the local tribes. The next day they will celebrate the festival of the local harvest, and Paladin knows that the mission was reopened a year ago. The original monks brought a statute of their patron saint, Francis Assisi, with them. The statue was stolen and Clare asks Paladin to return it. The bell rings and Clare asks Paladin to consider performing a miracle by returning the statute.
As Paladin walks off, he finds Paco listening. Paco says that he has information concerning the statue's whereabouts. He tells Paladin to travel to the mountains where there are three strange ladies at a cantina, and to ask them about the statue. Paco runs off and Paladin finds Clare and asks if they could talk about the brandy if he brings the statue. Clare agrees to talk and Paladin leaves.
Paladin rides to the cantina and sees the statue behind the bar, a beer mug in its hand. He punches out the bartender while a man, Lundeen looks on. When Paladin picks up the statue, Lundeen tells him to put it back. He explains that bought the statue and it's not for sale even though it's a religious icon. Lundeen says that it was found in a heathen temple and is worth a fortune to a museum... according to the Indian who sold it to him. Paladin reluctantly puts it down and then punches Lundeen, knocking him down. Lundeen goes for his gun and his men move over to back him up. When Paladin threatens to shoot them, Lundeen laughs as three women block Paladin's way out.
The three women--Faith, Hope and Maria--beg Paladin to put the statue back. They refuse to budge, and Paladin reluctantly puts the statue on the counter. He goes out and finds Paco outside. Paco runs and Paladin soon corners him and realizes that he sold the statue to Lundeen. Paco admits that he made 20 pesos, and Paladin drags him to the three women. He explains that the statue belongs to the mountain, but they insist that the statue is their shrine and the mission has many statues. They're not happy with Paco for bringing them the statue, and Paladin realizes that he sold it to them as well. He tells them that Paco is going to volunteer for a dangerous mission and drags him off.
Soon, Paco runs in front of the cantina screaming in anguish. Lundeen and his men come out and Lundeen recognizes Paco. As the three women look on, Paco tells Lundeen that Paladin lashed him and he just got away from him. He begs Lundeen for forgiveness for telling him about where he hid the other statues. Paco says that there are at least each ten statues, and each is worth as much as the one he sold Lundeen. He's glad to lead Lundeen to Paladin's hiding place, and they all ride off.
Once the men leave, Paladin emerges from hiding and goes into the cantina to get the statue. He leaves $20 on the counter and takes it out, but the three women are waiting on his wagon. They insist on going with the statue, despite the fact that Lundeen and his men will gladly shoot them to recover the statue. When he realizes that the women won't budge, Paladin rides off with them
As Paladin takes the wagon across the countryside, Paco rides up on a "borrowed" and says that Lundeen and the others got away from him. The local Pimas are after him, and ride down on the wagon. The leader understands English, and Paladin explains that Paco isn't the thief. He points out the statue and explains that it was stolen from a sacred place, and Paco risked his life to return it. Paladin invites the Pima to ride with them to the mission and enjoy the festival harvest,. The leader agrees, just as Lundeen and his men ride up..
Lundeen demands his property back, and Paladin points out that the Pima want their property back as well and he paid $20 for it. The outlaw says that he gave Paco $50 for it, and Paladin pays the difference. Lundeen wonders how he can trust Paladin to deliver the statue to the mission, and Paladin invites him to come along. Paladin points out that the Pima understand English, and if Lundeen doesn't ride with them then they'll consider it an insult and exact violent revenge. Lundeen quickly reconsiders, and Paladin sends Paco ahead to tell Clare that they're coming. The women refuse to ride with Lundeen, and Paladin tells them that he's riding to the mission and they can all go wherever they want. The women stay in the wagon and Paladin continues on.
The entire group arrives at the mission and Paladin gives the statue to Clare. He invites everyone in for the festival, and then gives Paladin the bottle of brandy. Clare tells Paco that his people will be proud of him and goes inside, and Paladin tells Paco that they'll join them and he'll forget the $30. Paco smiles and points out that he guarded Paladin well and showed that Paladin can trust him. He asks for half the ransom, and Paladin insists that it's just brandy... and drops it. He licks up a few drops, and Paco says that at least there's the festival. Paladin concedes the point, glares at Paco, and they go inside.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 6, 2017