Hey Boy gives Paladin his newspapers and then tells a woman, Maria Rojas, that there are no more tickets for the opera. Paladin overhears and offers his season box seats, and Maria explains that she was going with her husband, Don Miguel Rojas. Miguel comes over with his associate, Dr. Mayhew, and explains about Paladin's offer. Paladin has heard of Miguel from the newspapers and extends his invitation to Mayhew as well, and they insist that Paladin accompany them.
Later at the opera, a man enters the booth with a knife and stabs Miguel in the stomach. Miguel shoots him with a pistol, and Mayhew tends to Miguel while Paladin confirms that the assassin is dead. Mayhew take Miguel for treatment, and Paladin asks if Maria has ever seen the killer before. She claims that she doesn't.
Back at the Carlton, Maria tells Paladin that Miguel has been attacked before as part of a blood vendetta. She figures that the killers will keep coming, and Paladin offers his assistance. Mayhew comes down and tells Maria that she can go up, and Paladin asks her to give Miguel his cards. Once she goes, Mayhew tells Paladin that the knife was poisoned and he doesn't recognize it, and warns that Miguel will only live for a week.
Later, Miguel summons Paladin and says that he knows about his coming death. He explains that the vendetta is between his family and another ancient line, and doesn't want Paladin to interfere. Miguel does want Paladin to escort his body to his home in San Tomasino and deliver it to Maria. Maria went home that morning so she was safely out of the way, and Miguel wants to die unobserved. He anticipates trouble, and Paladin reluctantly accepts although he still believes that Miguel will recover.
After Miguel dies, his undertaker Wilkins presents Paladin with the paperwork for the final arrangements. Paladin rides the stagecoach with the driver, Timmon, with the coffin to San Tomasino, and they stop at the border house for inspection. The inspector, Farley, has his man Hernandez check the wagon and Paladin hands over the paper. Farley warns that he can't take a body across the town. Paladin tells him that he doesn't know his job, and draws his gun when Farley tries to go with his. The gunfighter then presents the book on border rules, and Farley reluctantly okays the transport. He says that the way ahead is clear except for a town named Loma Verde. Farley tells Paladin to cross at another station when he comes back.
The wagon comes to a tree across the road. Bandits step out and order Paladin and Timmon to surrender. They put up a fight and ride off, and one bandit leaps on the back while the others pursue. The bandit on the back loses his grip and the others continue the chase. One is killed but Timmon is hit. Paladin finally outruns his pursuers and confirms that Timmon is dead. as he loads him into the coach, one bandit tries to sneak up on Paladin, who draws and kills him.
That night, Paladin stops to bury Timmon. Miguel appears out of the darkness and trains a gun on Paladin. He takes Paladin's guns and they check the coffin. Inside is the money from a payroll shipment robbery in San Francisco. The bandits were in on it, and they're dead thanks to Paladin. Mayhew and Wilkins were paid off to play along, Miguel tells Paladin to help him bury the money and then he'll kill him. He says that Paladin's reputation came to his attention, and has Paladin remove the coffin. The killer at the opera was hired to play a part, and had no idea they were sacrificing him.
As Paladin and Miguel unload the coffin, Paladin shoves the coffin into Miguel. He manages to grab his gun and shoots Miguel before Miguel can shoot him.
The next day, Paladin takes the coach back to the border station. He tells Farley what happened but the inspector didn't believe him. Paladin has him open the coffin and confirm that the money is inside. He explains that he'll sign the money over to a cavalry officer Hernandez on the way back, and he'll take it to San Francisco. They'll put the money in the coach and Miguel where he belongs. Farley wonders how they'll prove that Maria was involved, and Paladin says that he has a plan.
Paladin, Farley, and Hernandez ride to San Tomasino and Paladin finds Maria at her hacienda. He says that he hired a couple of workmen to bring in the coffin, and tells Maria that she'd better see that he fulfilled his bargain. They open the coffin and Maria calmly confirms that it is her husband. She goes to get the money, and Farley and Hernandez figure that she's innocent or she would have reacted. Paladin says that he'll join them outside, and looks at the letter Maria was writing. When Maria comes out, he points out that she was writing a letter to Miguel and congratulates her on hiding her grief. Maria says that she has no grief because life with Miguel was a nightmare, and thanks Paladin for giving her her freedom. As Paladin goes, Maria says that Miguel left her nothing but her family will pay Paladin's fee. Paladin takes it and invites her to come to the opera with him the next time she's in San Francisco.
Later back in San Francisco, Paladin sends for Mayhew and Wilkins. He draws a gun on them and has Hey Boy summon the police.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 19, 2017