Paladin is relaxing in the lobby of the Carlton and considers
approaching an attractive woman. However, Hey Boy interrupts with a
special delivery letter. It's from E.J. Randolph, the bank manager at
the Bank of Colton in Colton, WY, and says that Paladin hasn't finished a
job. Randolph offers Paladin a bonus to finish it. With the letter is a
newspaper ad offering a reward for money stolen from the Bank of
Colton, and Paladin's own card. Hey Boy glances at the woman and asks if
he should get two opera tickets for Paladin, and a disappointed Paladin
tells him to get him one train ticket to Wyoming.
When he gets to Colton, Paladin goes immediately to the bank. The cashier draws a gun and eyes him suspiciously until Paladin asks to see Randolph. Randolph comes out and introduces himself, and nods to the cashier. As the cashier leaves, the bank manager chats with Paladin until the gunfighter finally gets impatient and tells him to get to the point. Paladin points out that they've never met because Randolph was out of town when he came there three months ago to hunt down the killer of John Griffin's son. Griffin owns the Broken Spur Ranch and killer Steve Morrow killed Griffin's gun during the bank robbery. Morrow escaped with $30,000 and it has never been recovered, and Paladin was forced to shoot Morrow in self-defense.
Much to Paladin's surprise, Randolph accuses him of finding and keeping the $30,000. The gunfighter is angry at the thought that Randolph "hired" him simply to lure him back to Colton to have him arrested. Right on cue, the cashier returns with Marshal Tom Jaffey, and Randolph tells Jaffey to arrest Paladin. Jaffey greets Paladin, remembering his help with Morrow, and points out that Randolph has no evidence to back up his accusation. While Randolph sputters, Paladin suggests that he might go looking for the missing money. As Paladin leaves, Jaffey advises him to forget about the money. However, Paladin asks if Morrow's widow Lucy still lives at the Morrow farm. Jaffey assures him that he already searched there for the money but Paladin says that he'll take a look for himself.
When Paladin arrives at the Morrow form, he stops to admire several rose bushes growing outside by the porch. He also notices a tax auction sign posted on the door of the farmhouse. Lucy comes to the door and recognizes Paladin, and invites him in. Her baby cries in the next room and Lucy goes to tend it. When she comes back, Paladin asks about the roses and if they're difficult to grow. Lucy explains that Morrow brought them back from his trips east, and admits that she didn't know what he actually did during those "trips." She wonders if it would have made a difference if it had, and Paladin concedes that it probably wouldn't. When he asks why she's still living there, Lucy explains that she has no money to move and only the little bit to live on that Paladin gave her.
When she realizes that he's uncomfortable around her, Lucy asks Paladin if she embarrasses him. He says that she doesn't and insists that he tried to bring her husband back alive. When he says that he's sorry, Lucy doesn't believe him and Paladin clarifies that he's sorry she's widowed, not that Morrow is dead. Paladin then asks about the $30,000, pointing out that Morrow stopped there before he rode on to the mesa where Paladin met him. The gunfighter is sure that a man who brings roses home for his wife wouldn't leave her destitute, but Lucy insists that the only thing Morro had when he rode out was saddlebags filled with food, because she packed them. Paladin apologizes for inconveniencing her and starts to leave, but notices that one of the rose bushes is withering. He asks Lucy for a rose and she lets him take one, and Paladin advises her to water the rose bush before riding off.
That night, Paladin rides to the Broken Spur to meet his one-time employer, Griffin. Word has gotten around that Paladin is in town and Griffin welcomes him. He introduces his men, including Clete, and they talk about the money. Randolph has told everyone about his theory that Paladin took the money, but has accused everyone in town of taking it at one time or another. After Morrow died at the mesa, the townspeople all rode out there and searched for the hidden loot. Paladin asks Clete what happened and the ranch hand says that he and Griffin's son saw Morrow robbing the bank. When they followed the robber to his farm, Morrow shot the son and rode to his farmhouse, and from there on to the mesa. As Paladin leaves, he asks about the auction and Griffin boasts that he plans to pick it up for a steal. Paladin reminds him that he's putting Lucy out of her home and that the rancher has no grudge with her, but Griffin is satisfied to get his final revenge by taking over Morrow's land. He hopes that wherever Morrow is, he can see what Griffin is doing.
Back at his hotel room, Paladin is settling in for the night when Jaffey comes to see him. He's confident Paladin hasn't found the money, and finds the whole situation amusing. Paladin points out that Morrow loved his wife, but Jaffey says that the last thing Morrow said was "Rose." The marshal figures a he was talking about a mistress. Paladin asks about the tax auction and Jaffey explains that the townspeople plan to let Griffin win it as recompense for his son's death. He agrees with Paladin that Lucy shouldn't suffer for her husband's crimes, but points out that it's all legal and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
Working on a hunch, Paladin rides back to the Morrow farm. Clete is there, gun ready, and tells Paladin that he's there to watch over Griffin's property. As another Griffin ranch hand comes up behind Paladin, Clete tells the gunfighter to move on. When Lucy hears the noise and comes out, Clete startles and fires. Paladin shoves the woman back inside and then shoots through the window, hitting the other ranch hand. Clete rides off and Paladin checks on the dead man. When Lucy wonders if killing is all that Paladin knows, he says that he hopes it isn't.
The next day, Paladin goes to the general store and makes a big production out of buying a shovel. As the proprietor spreads the word, Jaffey comes over to talk to Paladin. Paladin asks when the tax auction will begin and says that he'll see him there.
That afternoon, everyone gathers for the tax auction and Jaffey acts as the auctioneer. Paladin is among the crowd and Lucy is watching the entire thing. Griffin and his men ride up and demand to know why Jaffey isn't arresting Paladin for the shooting. The marshal points out that it was self-defense and that they have Lucy as a witness to confirm it. When Griffin asks why Paladin is there, Jaffey notes that the gunfighter has just as much right to bid as anyone else. He then starts the bidding at $276, the amount due on the taxes. Everything after that goes to Lucy. Griffin bids the minimum and looks around, but Paladin then bids $500. When Griffin asks how they know that he has the money, Paladin pats his shovel and assures the townspeople that he'll have it.
The bidding goes up and some of the other townspeople join in, much to Griffin's dismay. Paladin keeps bidding as well, keeping the price up, and they soon reach $5,000. Paladin and Griffin are the last two bidders, and Paladin lets Griffin take it for $5,000. However, as the last bidder, Paladin exercises his right to see Griffin's $5,000 immediately Jaffey agrees with Paladin but Griffin says that his money is in the bank. Paladin then suggests that Randolph go into the farmhouse with them and make out a promissory note, and Jaffey agrees.
Once Randolph has made out the promissory note, Griffin reluctantly signs it. Paladin then tells Randolph to draw another promissory note to the tune of $3,000: the reward Randolph offered for the return of the stolen money. Griffin figures the money is on the farm and claims that it belongs to him, but Paladin tells him that Lucy gave the money to Jaffey that morning. He explains that Morrow's dying word, "Rose," was a clue to where he hid the loot: beneath the withered rose bush. Furious, Griffin goes for his gun but Jaffey advises against him. Paladin tells Griffin that he agrees with his earlier sentiment and hopes that Morrow can see what has happened to his farm.
After Griffin, Jaffey, and Randolph leave, Paladin gives Lucy both promissory notes. She suggests that Paladin take some of it for himself. However, he simply asks for a single rose in payment and Lucy tells him that he's a remarkable man.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 28, 2018