After finishing an assignment, Paladin stops at a small town for a
shave. As the barber finishes up, Paladin hears gunshots outside and
looks to see what's going on. Rancher Gene Morgan has just shot Grady
Stewart in the arm when Grady tried to draw on him. Grady promises to
kill Gene the next time they meet but Gene puts the younger man over his
knee and spanks him as the onlookers laugh. The older rancher then
tells Grady to go home and the boy staggers off with his friend Frank
Paladin leaves the barbershop and offers Gene Grady's discarded gun. He warns the rancher that Grady might very well kill him someday, and that Gene made the situation worse by treating him like a boy rather than a man. Paladin introduces himself and offers to buy Gene lunch, saying that he has a business proposition. Gene figures that Paladin wants to kill Grady and says that he doesn't want the boy dead, but accepts Paladin's offer.
The two men chat over lunch and Gene says that he can handle Grady if it's a matter of shooting. However, he doesn't want Grady dead. Grady and his sister Sheila are foster children that he took in after their father, a neighboring rancher, died. Paladin points out that Gene's hesitation gives Grady the advantage, and advantage that could get the rancher killed, and asks how the fighting started. Gene tells him that the Stewarts owned adjoining land separated by a river. When the river changed course, Gene and Grady agreed to let the courts decide who owned what land. However, Grady recently changed his mind. When Gene told him to keep his promise like a man, he drew on Gene, forcing the rancher to shoot him in the shoulder. Paladin offers to settle the matter for $1,000 and then rides off to get Grady's side of the story.
Grady is at his family ranch practicing his fast-draw in the barn. Frank comes in and gives him advice, assuring him that he has plenty of time to become faster than Gene. He tells his friend that he calmed Sheila down because she heard about the incident, and Grady thanks Frank because he's the only one who treats him like a man. Frank gets an idea and tells Grady what he can do.
Later, Grady rides into town and spots Gene's horse outside of the barbershop. The old man is apparently inside, his face wrapped in a hot towel. When Grady goes in with a pair of shears, Paladin whips off the towel and explains that Gene loaned him the horse and that he's been hired to stop Grady. When Grady tries to attack him, Paladin easily subdues him, shoves him into the barber chair, spins him around, and smears Grady's face with shaving cream. The gunfighter then holds a razor to Grady's throat and asks whose idea it was to ambush Gene. When Grady admits that it was Frank, Paladin tells him to go back and tell Frank that it was a bad idea.
When Gene rides out to check on his cattle, his men inform him that somehow the herd broke through the fence the previous night. Paladin catches up to his employer and points out that Gene is making things worse by holding onto the land no matter what the cost. Gene admits that he doesn't want to give up land that he sweated over to earn and figures that Grady should know that as well. One of Gene's men rides back and tells him that someone cut a hole in the fence. As Paladin and Gene check on the fence, Grady and Frank ride up. Grady figures that Gene cut the fence and let his herd loose on Stewart land, but Gene insists that he's innocent. He offers to have his men round the herd up and Grady privately asks Frank what he should do. Frank tells his friend that Gene is trying to place a claim on the land and will keep letting his herd stray onto Stewart land. Gene calls to his foster son, saying that they should work it out on their own. Grady agrees to let Gene remove the herd but warns him that he'll kill them if they stray over again. As Grady rides off with Frank, Paladin figures that his job isn't over yet.
Later, Frank and Sheila, who are engaged to be married, have dinner in town. Frank insists that Gene started the trouble and that Grady was the one who calmly handled the situation. Paladin comes in and asks to speak with Sheila privately, but both her and Frank insists that he talk to them both. Frank continues to provoke things, telling Sheila that Gene hired Paladin as a gunfighter to take care of Grady. Paladin sits down and warns Sheila that Frank is the one putting her brother in danger. Sheila doesn't want to hear it but Frank tells Paladin to go on, figuring it'll give him more ammunition to use against the Stewarts. Paladin figures that Sheila is marrying Frank because she needs someone to run the ranch, but warns that if Grady dies, Frank will inherit it all. Furious, Sheila tells Paladin to go. Once he leaves, Frank suggests that they postpone the marriage if Sheila has any doubts. Rather than admit that Paladin might be right, Sheila insists that they marry immediately.
That night, Frank rides out to the fence, cuts a hole in it, and herds the cattle through onto Stewart land. He then shoots one of the cows dead and rides off.
The next morning, Paladin and Gene ride the ranch, having heard that Sheila and Frank just married. They find the dead cow and Gene figures that his foster son killed it. Furious, he rides to the Stewart ranch and calls Grady out, telling him it's time for him to be a man. Sheila and Frank come out and Sheila begs Gene to stop, but the rancher says that Grady killed the cow and brought it on himself. A surprised Grady denies killing Gene's cattle but Gene doesn't believe him. As the two men prepare to draw, Paladin punches Gene unconscious.
As Paladin puts the unconscious Gene on his horse, Frank reluctantly thanks him for his help. The gunfighter says that it's a matter of economics and then asks Frank about the pair of wire-cutters in his back pocket. Frank instinctively reaches for them and then realizes that Paladin is bluffing and says he doesn't have any. As Paladin rides off with Gene, Sheila wonder what Paladin meant and Grady points out that Frank does have a pair of wire-cutters. As they go inside, Frank claims that he lost them months ago and that he heard Grady ride out the previous evening. He accuses Grady of cutting the fence and killing the cow, but Sheila confirms that Grady was in the house. They realize that Frank has been lying to them all along and he shoves Sheila to the floor.
As Grady prepares to draw on Frank, Paladin steps into the farmhouse and calls to Frank. When Frank tries to draw on him, Paladin shoots him dead. Gene comes in with Paladin and helps Sheila up. Realizing what's happened, he offers Sheila and Grady his home for as long as they need it.
Later, Gene and Grady ride to the bank with Paladin and pool their money to pay his fee. Paladin decides to get another shave and invites Gene to join him. Taking the opportunity, Gene calls Grady "Mr. Stewart" and asks if he could use a shave as well, and the three men go off together.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 23, 2017