Paladin arrives at a Barbary Coast bar and passes out from a drugged drink a few minutes later. The bartender has his men haul him to the basement, and when Paladin wakes up he finds himself in an abandoned warehouse with a man and woman. The man, Wiggen, asks what it's all about and Paladin tells them that he has no idea. The woman, Alice, asks Paladin for something to drink. Paladin doesn't, and realizes that he's the only one wearing manacles. Wiggen describes their captors, three men, and Alice says that they've been there at least two days.
The three men open the door and Paladin demands an explanation. Wiggen tells the third smaller figure in the back to step out of the shadows, but the figure doesn't move. When Wiggen says that he'll pay them more than they'll get for shanghaiing him, the leader knocks him down and the captors leave. Alice confirms that Wiggen is okay, and Paladin tells her they may have been shanghaied. She says that she came out to San Francisco six years ago with some righteous people, and they didn't think of her.
Wiggen wakes up and says that he'll make it next time, but Alice doesn't believe him. He explains that he bossed a string of wagon from Denver, and when he got to Sacramento there was a letter waiting for him. Paladin receives a similar letter, and both men wonder why Alice is there. Wiggen thinks that Alice looks familiar. The three captors come in and the talker, Homer, says that his employer hopes that they're enjoying each other the way they should. Paladin figures the figure in the shadows is the employer, and says that five years ago he took a person way from a renegade band of Apaches. The person was taken away from a wagon track heading to California under unusual circumstances. Paladin says that the person preferred death to the knowledge of what happened, and nurtured hate and a lust for revenge. He asks the figure, Mollie Dean, if it's the truth. Mollie steps forward and says that's the way that it is. She then turns and leaves with her men.
Later, Mollie returns with her men and tells the prisoners that one more person is coming. She asks Alice if it's ever too late, and says that the Apaches should have taken Alice because it wouldn't have made any difference. Mollie holds up a bottle of alcohol and pours it out, and Alice begs for a drink. Paladin tells Mollie that Alice is a lot prettier than what Mollie has become, and Mollie turns to Wiggen. She says that he let the Apaches turned her over. Wiggen says that it was her or the whole train. Mollie tells him that he could have fought, and says that she's going to walk out and leave the door open. All Wiggen needs is the courage to walk out. However, she warns him not to do it and leaves with her men.
Paladin tells Wiggen that Mollie wants Wiggen to go through the door. Wiggen is ready to go, figuring that Mollie is giving him another chance. He gives Alice his coat and walks out, and then falls back clutching at his eyes and screaming. Mollie's tough man Ferdie comes in, holding a bloody knife, and Paladin yells at Wiggen to stand still. Ignoring Paladin's advice, the blinded Wiggen climbs up a ladder and Ferdie climbs up after him. Wiggen finally charges at him and the two men struggle. They both fall to their deaths, and Alice figures that she and Paladin don't have a chance.
Mollie and Homer bring in the last prisoner, a tied and gagged Lula. Lula was 11 when the Apaches attacked, and Mollie says that she was the innocence that Mollie was. Paladin appeals to Mollie to let Lula and Alice go, but Mollie tells him that she's worked too hard to become what she is and get them all there. She refuses to give it up, and wonders where Wiggen is. Paladin points out where Wiggen and Ferdie's corpses are, and Paladin tells Mollie that now she only has three reasons to stay alive.
Mollie leaves Lula there and locks the room again. Lula doesn't remember Mollie at all, and Alice figures that she's insane. Paladin figures that Mollie is waiting outside listening and calls to her. Mollie comes in and says that she sent Homer away because what she has to do she can do alone. Paladin asks if she's lonesome, and asks what she wants. She tells him that he has nothing she wants, and Paladin grabs her. Mollie says that she's been dead for six years and nothing can change that, and Paladin tells her that she can change that. He says that she's the only one who can see the scars, and she won't show anything else. Mollie tells him that no one could look at her, much less love her, and Paladin tells her that he can look at her. He says that he's looking at her, and could love her if there was anything to love. Paladin tells her that loving is giving, not taking, and revenge is taking her own life.
Paladin shows her her own hand and says that it's a woman's hand. He gently kisses it and says that her mouth is meant to give. He kisses her gently and Mollie rolls away, crying. Alice tells her that she wishes a man would look and touch her like Paladin just did. She asks for the keys, and Mollie hands them over. Alice lets Paladin free himself and Mollie holds up her hand and asks Paladin to help her. He goes back and helps her up, and takes her out with them.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 1, 2017