The stagecoach arrives in Sweetwater and Paladin gets out with the new saloonkeeper, Marie Ellis. A group of townsmen are waiting to take down their names, and one of them, Jenkins, warns Marie that she may not like it there because Sweetwater is a family town. Another man, Tyler, warns that the town marshal is particular about what people's business is. Paladin speaks up and says that the marshal might be more interested in his business, and hands over his business card. He says that he's waited a long time to meet the marshal again, and will be out of the street when he's ready. Tyler warns that Tom Carey is the marshal, but Paladin is unimpressed.
Tom walks out into the street and Paladin walks toward him. The marshal says that Paladin was always too sure of himself, outdraws him, and shoots the ground at Paladin's feet. Paladin tosses his hands up in mock surrender, and they cheerfully greet each other. He talks about how the Army disbanded the scouts, Tom dropped out of sight. Tom explains that there didn't seem to be any place for him, and then he showed up to clean up Sweetwater and the newspapers made a big deal out of his "legendary" return. He tells Tyler to pass the word that Paladin will be his guest in Sweetwater, and Tyler points out Marie as she walks away. Paladin explains that she bought the saloon, and Tom tells Tyler that he'll look in on her. He then says to Paladin that he has to be careful that things don't slide back to the way they were.
Later, Tom is in his office and tells a mother that she needs to make sure his truant son is back in school the next day. Once she leaves, Tom says that he tries to fix problems before they start, and only steps in when folks decide wrong. A man, Harry Brawley, comes in and Tom says that Harry has more grazing land then he needs but he never helps out his neighbors. Harry tells them that he has plans for the land and it isn't Tom's business to mess in his private affairs. Tom warns him that if Harry gives his neighbor Joe Elkins any trouble when he starts fencing, then he'll do his job. Once Harry leaves, Tom insists that there's a right way and a wrong way to run a town, and people just need someone to show them the right way.
A shopkeeper, Murphy, comes in and Tom says that he's overcharging three cents on a pound of flour. Murphy praises Tom, and Paladin points out that the law is specific on what a marshal can and can't do. Tom cuts him off, saying that Paladin has a lot of fancy ideas, and Paladin tells him that he'll check into his hotel and they can talk later.
That night, Tyler goes to the saloon and serves her with a notice. She tells the customers that the bar is open despite Tom's notice and the first drink is on her. Tyler warns her that Tom doesn't let saloons serve drinks until 7 and no more than three, just as Paladin only comes in. Marie insists that she won't make a living that way, and one barfly tells her that's why the previous owner, Houghton, sold her the place so cheap. Paladin orders a brandy, and Marie joins him. When she reaches for another, Paladin tells her to slow down and enjoy the brandy. He explains that Tom was his scout when he was a captain in the cavalry, and Tom has always said that he was faster than Paladin.
Harry comes in and dismisses everyone as yellowbellies, waiting for permission to breath. He asks for a bottle, and the others start to join in. They quickly back down when Tom comes in. Tyler hands Tom the crumpled-up notice, and Harry says that Marie will follow any properly voted laws. Tom figures that due to Paladin being in town, it's close enough to 7 for folks to start drinking.
Paladin sits down with Tom, and Tom talks about how troublemakers slither in quiet-like. When Paladin points out Tom's lack of expertise, Tom says that the place was crazy when he first arrived and his rules gave them something to depend on. He tells Paladin that alcohol and women caused most of the problems before, and when he wrecked Houghton's business before he thought he was done with them. Paladin asks if that's the real reason Tom can't keep his eyes off of Marie, and Tom rants about the kind of woman Marie is when he first saw her. Paladin warns Tom that he'll make a fool of himself given his inexperience at his age, and Tom takes offense.
Tom asks Marie where she came from, and wonders if she came from the end of town. Paladin tells her that she doesn't have to answer any other questions, and Marie says that she'll have to handle it herself sooner or later or Paladin should stay out of it. She tells Tom that she saved up until she had $1,200 and lived cheap until she could buy the saloon. Marie figured that she could run a saloon and be a lady at the same time, and Paladin tells her that if Tom doesn't understand then he never will. She insists that she'd rather die than go back where she started, and she's betting her life that she can run it and still be a decent person. Harry tells her that she stood up to Tom better than any man, and she shouldn't ruin it by begging.
Tom says that Harry is out of step with everyone else, and Paladin speaks up in Harry's defense. He "asks" Tom not to bother Marie again, and if it will cost them their friendship then so be it. After a moment Tom walks away, and Harry says that he wants to show off Marie to his wife. Tom says that Marie and Mrs. Brawley have a lot in common. Offended, Harry goes for his gun and Tom easily kills him. Holstering his gun, Tom walks out.
Later, the townspeople draft up a petition relieving Tom of his position. Tyler is among them, and claims that they Tom took over so gradual that they didn't realize it. Paladin tells them they all knew and should have realized it when they crawled. First Tyler, then Jenkins, then the others sign the notice.
Tom knocks at the door, calling to Marie, and Paladin quickly gets the others out the back. Paladin removes Marie's dress and she calls out that she's turned in for the night. She answers the door and Tom stares at her for a moment, and then claims that he hasn't been fair and they should talk about it. Marie tries to put him off, and Tom says that she's too pretty to be mad at him. Paladin listens just out of sight as Tom says that he thinks Marie just needs a little help and he could provide it despite his age. Marie says that she isn't interested, but Tom tells her that it might be easier if they do it together. He figures the townspeople will do whatever he tells them, and shoves his way in. He realizes that Paladin is there, and turns and walks out. Marie warns Paladin that Tom won't let him leave, and Paladin says that he'll take her to county seat in the morning until it's over.
The next morning, Paladin goes to the stage and Tyler shows him the petition with more signatures. Jenkins comes over and says that Tom is in the saloon with Marie, laughing and drinking. Tyler suggests that Paladin can get away while Marie keeps Tom busy, but a disgusted Paladin just looks at him and goes into the saloon. Tom is drinking with Marie, and she says that she's staying after all. She reminds Tom that they made an agreement and Tom said that Paladin could leave. Paladin warns her that it's a bad gamble, and Tom says that Paladin turned against him and deserves to die. Marie desperately kisses him, but after a moment Tom pushes her away and tells Paladin to shoot when ready.
Paladin walks out on and Tom, furious, goes after him. He yells that if Paladin takes one more step he'll kill him. Marie follows them and says that Paladin is trying to save Tom's life, and she couldn't stand to be touched by an old man like Tom. When Tom prepares to shoot her, Paladin calls to him. The two men draw and Paladin kills his friend. Paladin tells her that he always knew he could beat Tom on the draw, but he let Tom think otherwise because it pleased Tom. He tells the stagecoach driver that Marie will be staying on and he'll be making some arrangements for his friend, and takes Marie into her saloon.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 13, 2017