Paladin rides to the frontier office of Dr. Allan Moody in response to his message. Moody is tending to some local Indian children, and once they leave he takes Paladin inside. He pours Paladin a drink and joins in, and says that Aurora, the woman he loved was "the" woman. He talks about how he temporarily saved a man's live, and Paladin points out that he's there because Moody once saved his life in the War. Moody explains that he settled there because Aurora did when she married someone else there. He tended the bruises that her husband, Sheriff Caleb Tully, put on her. Aurora died two years ago and Tully died a week ago. They had a son, Johnny, who is almost 18. Johnny is in the mountains hunting the man accused of killing his father, and Moody wants Paladin to bring Johnny back. The doctor explains that Caleb took life without compunction, and brutalized his wife and son. Moody wants Johnny safe and then throws the glass on the floor in grief and fury. Paladin finishes his drink and leaves.
Later, Noah Cardiff spots Paladin riding into the mountains. He shoots and misses, and Paladin takes cover. When Noah moves in, Paladin lights his cigar and uses it to light the fuse on a small stick of dynamite. He tosses it away and the explosion draws Noah's fire. Paladin disarms him and demands to know he is. Noah introduces himself and figures that Paladin was following him. Paladin says that he was trailing a boy, and Noah clutches at his chest momentarily and says that it's the altitude.
Noah takes Paladin to where Johnny is tied up. Paladin unties the boy and says that he's there to take him home alive. Johnny figures that Moody sent him, and says that Noah is a murderer. Noah says that he had reason to kill Caleb but he didn't do it, and Johnny jumps him until Paladin shoves the boy away. The old man falls to the ground, clutching at his chest, and Paladin realizes that it's the man that Moody saved... from Caleb. Johnny shows his badge and says that he's the sheriff now, and he's going to make sure Noah gets what's taken. He explains that he took it off his dead father's chest, and Paladin tells him that he's going home and orders him to get the horses. Noah asks Paladin if he could just give him his gun and let him go, and Paladin refuses.
The three men ride back to town, and Noah keeps glancing back. They make camp for the night and Paladin stands watch. When a coyote howls, Noah puts out the fire and Paladin wonders who he's expecting. The old man says that he figures his four "business associates" are after him and maybe they should move out. Paladin tells Johnny to get the horses.
The three men keep riding and the next day, Noah passes out momentarily. He suggests that Paladin let him slip off and rest up, and offers half of the stolen loot. Paladin refuses and they continue on. The four "associates' follow their trail and their leader Canute figures that their quarry is just ahead and Paladin is the dangerous one.
Paladin and the others arrive in a ghost town, and Paladin says that if they keep riding then Noah will never reach town. He tells Johnny to get Noah down, and after a moment Johnny does so. Paladin tells Johnny to bring Moody there, and take their horses so their trackers will think they all moved on. As Johnny goes on, Paladin wipes their tracks.
The two men set up inside a building, and Noah draws his gun on Paladin. Paladin just chuckles and tells Noah that he removed the bullets a day ago. Disgusted, Noah tosses the gun away when he realizes Paladin is telling the truth. The four robbers ride into town and after a moment, make camp in the middle of the street. Noah suggests that they move on, but Paladin warns that he won't make it two miles. The old man figures that Paladin is bargaining and offers him 75%. Paladin refuses, well aware that Noah is still dangerous.
As night falls, Paladin figures that Noah spent the money already. Noah warns that Johnny will bring back a posse and they'll hang Paladin with him. Unimpressed, Paladin dozes off.
The next day, Johnny rides into town with Moody. The robbers' tracker, Ugarte, spots them and warns his associates. They hide the horses, and Moody calls to Paladin. Paladin responds and the robbers open fire. Moody and Johnny get inside, while Paladin returns fire and takes Ugarte down. Paladin has Moody check Noah while Johnny stands guard. Moody tells Noah that he's going to make it, and tells Johnny that Noah didn't kill Caleb. When Noah staggered into Moody's office, he was wearing hand irons and said that Caleb had tried to shoot him in cold blood. Moody did what he could for him and then Caleb came in following the blood trail. Caleb was eager to kill Noah, and Moody couldn't let him do it. Johnny realizes that his "uncle" killed Caleb, and wonders why Moody brought him there to tell hm. Moody point out that Johnny brought him there to save a man's life.
The robbers move in and Paladin has Johnny cover him while he crawls out the window and tries to flank their attackers. He jumps down one man and knocks him out, then draws and shoots Canute in the hand. The last robber, Sam, fires and Paladin kills him. Johnny yells for Paladin to come up, and Paladin leads Canute up.
When they reach the room, Paladin finds Johnny sitting over Moody, dead from a stray shot. Johnny says that Moody only killed one man and Noah killed over fifty, but Moody is the one who is dead. Even Noah is stricken, and Paladin closes Moody's bag for the last time.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 13, 2017