Paladin is in the Carlton lobby reading a newspaper article about the search for murderer Jimmy Dawes and how he's avoided capture by leaving the state of Kansas. He sends his card to the victim's family to offer his services.
Soon Paladin rides off after Jimmy and tracks him down. Jimmy spots him and figures that the family hired him. Paladin explains that Jimmy has to go back and stand trial, and tells him to drop his rifle. Jimmy opens fire and kills Paladin's horse. Paladin shoots back, killing him.
Paladin takes Jimmy to his home town using Jimmy's horse and the townspeople gather around him. Sheriff Sam Truett comes out and warns Paladin that he brought Jimmy's body to the wrong place. The sheriff asks who hired Paladin to kill Jimmy, and Paladin shows him a warrant for Jimmy's arrest. He explains that Jimmy shot at him and he had to shoot and kill Jimmy. Sam orders Paladin off of his horse and tells him to hand his gun over. Paladin reluctantly does so, having heard that Sam is an honest law officer, and Sam tells him to be there for the inquest. Until then, he tells Paladin to stay out of his way because he makes Sam sick to his stomach. Paladin explains that it's his saddle on Jimmy's horse and he wants it, and goes to the hotel.
When Paladin checks into the hotel, the manager warns that he may be more trouble than he's worth. Paladin tells him to tell people that he gave him no choice and demands his key. The manager hands it over and advises him to sleep lightly.
That night, Paladin is sleeping when someone barges in and opens fire with a shotgun. Paladin avoids the shot and grabs his attacker, and the manager arrives and says that it's Jimmy's brother Ben. Disgusted, Paladin knocks Ben unconscious and shoves him out.
The next day at the inquest, the judge confirms that Paladin had the right to arrest Jimmy and defend himself when shot at. The spectators grumble in protest until the judge silences them. He says that under the circumstances, he has to find that Paladin is legally absolved of criminal responsibility. Outside, Paladin asks Sam for his gun. Sam tells him that he's a dead man, and tells Paladin to get out of the town in fifteen minutes. Paladin asks who is coming for him, and Sam says that Jimmy had two brothers--Charlie and Clay--and they won't miss. The gunfighter asks where he is and repeats his request for his gun, but Sam just walks off.
Paladin follows Sam back into his office, and Sam says that Charlie and Clay will return to town by sundown. He wants Paladin gone when they get there because he doesn't want to have to hang Charlie for killing a man like Paladin. Paladin grabs Sam, who trains his gun on Paladin and invites him to give him an excuse to shoot. The sheriff admits that he had warm feelings for Jimmy and points out Paladin's saddle. He says that there's a stage at 3 if no one will sell Paladin a horse, and advises him not to wait for it.
At 3 the stage pulls into town. Paladin goes out and asks Sam for his gun. Sam hands it over and tells Paladin that he'll arrest him if he doesn't put his guns away. Paladin ignores him and Sam asks if he'll open fire. Disgusted, the gunfighter says that Sam is abusing his badge but he respects the law and isn't going to push it. He removes his gun holster and goes to the stage, and Charlie and Clay step out and draw their guns. Charlie comes over and tells the stage driver that Paladin isn't going with him.
The stage driver rides out and Sam tells Charlie to put his gun away. Charlie doesn't, and Charlie tells him to back away. When Sam goes for his gun, Charlie breaks the older man's arm. He has Clay take Sam over to the pump and tells Paladin that he has until sunset to live. Paladin says that he'll shoot now, but Charlie tells him to sweat it out. The gunfighter insists that he did what he had to, and tells Charlie to think on the fact that he may not be the only one to die on the street at sunset. With that, he grabs his saddle and walks off.
Charlie goes over to Sam and offers to take him to a doctor. Sam pushes him away and Charlie tells him that it will be over in a few hours and not to make him kill him. The sheriff walks away without responding.
As sunset approaches, Charlie and Clay take up positions on the street. Sam walks by Charlie and goes into his office, and gets a shotgun. Paladin is watching the street from his hotel window and sees both brothers. Sam comes back out and goes to the hotel, and knocks at Paladin's door. Paladin calls him in, and says that he doesn't want Sam's help because he'd just get in his way. Sam doesn't want Paladin dying in his town, but Paladin doesn't care. He does take Sam's shotgun to use in the coming battle.
Clay finally goes to Charlie and says that it's about time to kill Paladin. Charlie goes out on the street and calls to Paladin. Paladin hears him and goes out, ignoring Sam's offer to help him. The manager tells Paladin that Ben is out back with a shotgun, and Paladin looks out the back and sees him. He shoos Ben and wounds him in the leg. Charlie and Clay run over and Paladin tells them to drop it. They do so and Charlie promises that he won't stop. Paladin insists that he had no choice, and says that there's no point in waiting for Charlie to find him.
Paladin steps away from Ben and when Charlie goes for his gun, Paladin breaks his wrist and aims his pistol at his face. Charlie says that it's not finished, and Paladin insists that he had to kill Jimmy. He regrets killing Jimmy, but if they push the matter then he won't wound them the next time. Clay goes for his gun, and Charlie tells him to leave it be because it's finished.
Back in the hotel, Paladin apologizes to Sam for refusing his help. Sam ruefully says that there was a time when he could have handled it, and Paladin tells him that he's sure there was.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 11, 2018