Paladin travels to a fort with two Yavapai Apache Indians as escort.
When he approaches the fort, Paladin has the Indians hang back. Lt.
Harvey and Sgt. Combs come out to greet him and Harvey demands to see
the Indians. Paladin refuses and waves them off, and stops Harvey when
he tries to shoot them. The gunfighter quotes precise Army regulations
concerning Harvey's actions and demands to see Major Wilson. Harvey,
intimidated, wonders if Paladin is with the Inspector General's office.
Paladin presents his card and tells Harvey to deliver it to Wilson while
he stables his horses.
Harvey goes to Wilson's office to tell him about Paladin's arrival and protect his actions. Wilson says that he has heard about how Paladin operates. Wilson explains that many of the Indian tribes hold him in respect so he wants the gunfighter there. Harvey accuses Paladin of being an Indian lover and Wilson complains that is the attitude that has caused a recent series of Indian attacks. Disgusted, the lieutenant suggests that Wilson should start going out on patrol again, and Wilson orders him out to straighten the men and tend to himself as well.
Once the soldiers come to order, Harvey leads Paladin past them to Wilson's office. Wilson greets Paladin, pointing out that they both graduated from West Point, but admits that he doesn't remember Paladin even though they attended at the same time. Paladin finally tells him to get down to business and tell him what needs to be done so he can set a price. Wilson is irritated that Paladin would demand pay for saving innocent lives and complains about how little he earns and how long he has spent at the fort. When Wilson shows Paladin the $200 that is all he has for seven years of work, Paladin says that might be enough for him if he's interested.
Paladin informs Wilson that he has lived with the local Yuma tribes, and Wilson tells him that two of his soldiers disappeared while out hunting for meat. Since then, the Indians have attacked every formation that they've sent out. Paladin warns Wilson that if he fights back, it could set out a wide-scale Indian war. He suggests that Wilson negotiate with the local chief, Gerada, and Wilson agrees. He wants Paladin to use his influence to take him safely to Gerada. Paladin asks about the legends of the Maricopa gold mine, a white quartz vein loaded with gold. Wilson isn't interested and insists that innocent lives come first. However, he admits that he's worried about his career because the fort is his last chance. Paladin agrees to take him to Gerada and Wilson invites him to attend the retreat that night. However, the gunfighter points out that he's already seen the soldiers at their worse and a half-hour ceremony isn't going to impress him.
The next day, Paladin escorts Wilson toward Gerada's territory. The Maricopa warriors follow them from a distance and watch as Paladin comes to a snake tied to an overhanging branch. Realizing that it's a Maricopa test, Paladin coolly walks over, grabs the snake just behind the head, and unties it. He then advances on foot while Wilson rides behind him, until they come to Gerada and his men. Paladin tells Gerada that he will speak straight and then releases the snake, letting it slither off. Gerard points out that their enemies also know their ways, and Paladin reminds him that the Indians trust him. He then mounts up and follows Gerada.
The Indians ride to the Maricopa camp and Gerada talks with them in private. He explains that since Wilson left field command to Harvey, the lieutenant and his men have been looking for gold that the Maricopas sold at the local trading post. The two soldiers that disappeared were men that Harvey sent to find the gold. Wilson insists that they were innocent but Gerada explains that they marked the trails and killed two of his men, and they fought back in self-defense. Wilson apologizes to Gerada and offers to deal with Harvey once he has proof of the mine's existence. Gerada agrees to have two of his men, including his brother-in-law, blindfold Wilson and take him to the mine. The major agrees to the deal and Paladin settles down to wait with the tribe.
Sunrise the next day, one of the Indians returns... dying on the back of his horse. Assuming that Paladin has betrayed him, Gerada has his warriors club the gunfighter unconscious. They then stake Paladin out in the desert to die of dehydration, taking his revolver. However, Paladin whistles for his horse and when it comes over, he grabs the dangling rein. Paladin then ties it around a stake and orders the horse back. When it does so, it pulls the stake free. Once he's loose, Paladin rides up into the hills and finds Wilson's horse. He also finds a bag of gold nuggets tied to the saddle.
Before Paladin can find Wilson, a shot rings out. The gunfighter ducks for cover and draws his hidden derringer. Wilson tells Paladin that he's put his carbine away, but when he comes over he's prepared to shoot. Paladin gets the drop on him and disarms him, and Wilson claims that he wasn't sure who he was. When the gunfighter asks about the gold on the saddle, Wilson says that they were from his two dead soldiers. The Indians led him into a nearby box canyon and showed him the mine, and then tried to kill him. Paladin isn't convinced but Wilson insists that the important thing is that they can be partners and both become rich from the mine.
Disgusted, Paladin points out that Gerada will kill them both if he thinks that they've lied. He goes to get the gold and dump it over the nearby cliff, returning it to the land and convincing the Maricopas he's sure are watching that he's sincere. Furious, Wilson grabs a rock and tries to bash Paladin's skull in. Paladin trips and Wilson grabs the bags and then falls over the edge. The gunfighter manages to grab Wilson's leg but the weight of the gold drags him down. Despite the fact Paladin could save him if he dropped the gold, Wilson refuses to release the bags. Paladin finally loses his grip and Wilson falls to his death.
Paladin throws the rest of the gold into the canyon and Gerada comes up behind him and asks if he needs the gold. Paladin says that all white men need gold but that the Maricopas' gold is not his to take. Still suspecting the worse, Gerada calls one of his warriors over and orders him to fire an arrow at Paladin's head. The warrior fires and just misses, but Paladin simply stares calmly at the chief. Gerada tells the warrior to fire another arrow and this time the warrior aims directly at Paladin's face. Unimpressed, Paladin stands his ground without fear and Gerada, satisfied, returns Paladin's gun and then rides off with his men.
Sometime later, Colonel Harrison arrives in response to a wire from Paladin. He places Harvey under arrest and tells Paladin that he'll file a report that Wilson died in an accident while negotiating with the Maricopas. He will tell his superiors that no further action is warranted. Harrison asks about Harvey's claims of a god mine and Paladin dismisses it as a legend. However, he informs the colonel that he might return one day if the Indians are ever relocated and look for the legendary mine himself.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 10, 2017