Paladin is sleeping at a campsite when Keno Smith comes up carrying saddlebags and draws his gun. He sees Paladin's revolver and takes it, and then goes to Paladin's horse. The man puts his gun to Paladin's head, and Paladin wakes up but feigns sleep. After a moment, the man walks away and Paladin attacks him and throws him into the campfire. After a brief struggle and a gun going off, several armed men ride up. They aim their guns at Paladin and their leader, Sidney Carter, says that they'll take care of the Keno. Keno insists that Sidney is making a mistake and begs him for a chance, but Sidney has the men take Keno to a tree and prepare to lynch him.
When Paladin objects, Sidney says that he runs half of the cattle in the state. One man, Jesse, explains that Keno robbed the Carson City stage and killed the driver and two passengers. They figure the money in Keno's saddlebag proves he was responsible, and Sidney explains that Keno planted some of the money on his son Roy and they're going to hanging him at the state penitentiary in 30 hours. Keno agrees to testify that he did it, and Paladin tells Sidney that they need Keno's testimony written down so they can stop Roy's execution. Jesse agrees with Paladin, but Sidney figures the evidence will satisfy Warden Bullock. There's a telegram in the next town, but Sidney wants to see John Bullock eat crow. Paladin tells him that Sidney should worry about saving Roy, and Jesse figures that Sidney would rather play the big man. Sidney slaps him and then agrees to take Keno into town.
In town at the U.S. Marshal's office, the marshal says that he'll wire Keno's testimony to the governor and get Roy's partner. The telegraph operator comes in and gives them the telegram saying that the governor is in Donnerville and there's no telegraph operator there. Donnerville is at least a day's ride away. Sidney wants to ride there with armed men, and the marshal warns that he won't allow it. The rancher figures that Bullock wants to hang Roy because his son was gunned down in a gun robbery. Bullock has blocked everything Sidney has tried to do for Roy. Paladin suggests that the marshal appoint him a federal witness so he can get inside, and tells Sidney that his fee is $5,000 for what it's worth to the rancher, and gives him his card.
Paladin rides to the penitentiary and he shows the marshal's papers. The guard says that they're going to hang Roy at 6 am and Paladin got there just in time. They take Paladin's guns and escort him past the scaffold, and Paladin demands to see Bullock. The guards take him over and Paladin tells them to have the prison chaplain meet them at Bullock's office.
Bullock and the chaplain, Robert April, go over the papers. The warden says that Sidney is a big man but he's not going to buy him off. Paladin points out that Sidney won't be the one to die, and says that he heard Keno's confession. Bullock insists that he's going to follow the letter of the law, and tells April that he'll take care of the prisoners' bodies while April minds their souls. April says that he has a thousand other prisoners to deal with, and says that he wanted to start a library. All he can do is take Paladin to Roy. Bullock won't give Roy three hours, and insists that he's following the Bible's. Paladin tells him that he's killing another man's son for his son and leaves with April.
April takes Paladin to Roy's cell, and the chaplain warns that Roy can't count on his father and has to find his own strength. Roy begs someone to help him and insists that he didn't do anything, and April privately tells Paladin that there's no hope. Paladin asks him if he'll help save Roy's life, and April says that he has to compromise just to get there. Disgusted, Paladin figures that he knows who April works for and leaves.
Paladin goes out to the scaffold and picks up a few scraps of wood left over from the construction.
Come 6 am, the guards take Roy up the scaffold. Roy panics and tries to run, and the guards drag him to the noose. Paladin asks Bullock to give them the three hours, but Bullock yanks on the scaffold hatch rope. It's jammed and doesn't drop, and the guards confirm that there's a piece of wood wedge din. Paladin attacks the guards and takes Roy to his cell. He goes in with Roy, locks them both in, and breaks the key off in the lock. The guards go to get a hacksaw to cut through the bars. When Bullock tells Paladin to stop interfering away, April suggests that they wait. Bullock has a guard train a rifle on Paladin, and warns April that if he interferes he's through.
The guards start cutting through the bars, and Roy tells Paladin that if he doesn't let them hanging him then they'll shoot him. Paladin asks if it makes sense to April, and points out that the Bible April carries talks about refusing to compromise with evil. Roy says that walking out to the gallows was the first thing he did without his father, and Paladin says that there's a first time when they decide they have to do something on their own. April grabs the saw blade and breaks it, cutting his hands. Bullock tells the guard to ride into town and get more blades, and walks off. Paladin kicks the cell door open and April figures that Bullock knew that it was weakened and he gave us the time. The gunfighter assures Roy that he'll be free by noon, and tells April to take care of his hands.
Later, Sidney and his men arrive. He pays Paladin is $5,000, and Paladin gives $4,000 of it to April for his library. Sidney tells Roy to come with him, but Roy offers to help April and the chaplain accepts. The two men leave, and Sidney tells Paladin to bring his son back. Paladin tells him that Roy as become a man and Sidney got more than he paid for.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 25, 2018