At the Carleton, Paladin finds an article about Sheriff Neal Grayson of Arcadia offering money from his own pocket to pay for people to help him against a potential lynch mob forming against an arrested murder. Paladin soon rides to Arcadia and checks in at the hotel. The widow Briggs and several men are eating, and Briggs comes over and asks if Paladin is answering Grayson's call for help. Once Paladin confirms that he is, Briggs says that she doesn't help. She identifies herself as the mother of the murdered man, Jim Briggs, and Paladin quickly excuses himself. Briggs tells her two ranchhands, Boak and Harry, to go back to the ranch and get Tom.
Paladin goes to Grayson's office and introduces himself. Grayson lets him in and barricades the door, and warns that it could get bad. He says that there's no other volunteers and explains that they just have to protect the killer, Andy, until the judge gets there. Grayson's daughter Julia comes in with cookies for Andy, and they go into the cells. Andy takes the cookies and invites Julia to sit with him, and talks about hearing an owl that night before and pretended it was her calling him out to the old barn.
Paladin talks to Grayson privately, who says that Andy has been simple-minded for years. He doesn't have any family, and he's followed Julia around for years. They found Jim stabbed in the back at the old barn, and Andy was sitting nearby. Paladin says that it would be easy if they established Andy's innocence, and Grayson says that they never found the murder weapon.
As Paladin rides out to the barn, Briggs points him out to Tom. Tom figures that paladin knows what he's doing but he can take him down. Briggs says that they've got to even things out for Jim and insists that Boak and Harry go with Tom even though Tom figures he can handle Paladin on his own.
At the barn, Paladin is searching the place when the three ranchhands come in. Tom orders him to get out, and Paladin refuses until Grayson tells him that his job is finished. He warns Paladin that he's outnumbered three to one, and Paladin walks out... and then slams the barn door shut, bars it, and rides off. Tom figure the town will move faster once they learn Grayson is bringing in gunslingers to defend Andy.
Late, Briggs and her men walk up to the jail. Paladin figures that she just wants to talk and lets her in, and Briggs demands that Grayson hand Andy over to them. Grayson refuses and Briggs says that they'll be back at 3 to take Andy away. Once she and her men leave, Grayson warns Julia that Briggs won't rest until she sees Andy hang. Paladin figures that Andy wouldn't have hidden the body and then stayed, and Julia agrees. The gunfighter goes back to the barn and Julia wants to come as well, but Grayson refuses to let her go. Paladin agrees with Julia, and Grayson gives in.
Briggs and her men wait and prepare a noose.
At the barn, Paladin suggests that a jealous woman might have murdered Jim. Julia admits that he had a lot of girls, and there were other people who hated Jim. When he starts to open a door, Julia desperately tries to stop him. Paladin pushes her aside and opens the door to reveal and finds a spike above shoulder-height with a holster hanging on it. He figure that's what killed Jim, and takes Julia outside. Julia finally says that she killed Jim. He agreed to meet Jim there for the first time there, and found out he wasn't very nice. Jim thought that she liked him, and when she fought back, Jim fell back on the spike in the struggle.
Paladin takes Julia back to the sheriff's office and has Julia tells her father what happened. Briggs leads the lynch mob to the jail, and Julia tells them to say what happened and runs in the back. Grayson knocks Paladin out and lets the mob in, and Briggs opens the cell and tells Andy to come out. He goes with them.
Once they leave, Paladin wakes up and realizes what happened. Grayson says that Andy doesn't have anything to live for, and insists on protecting Julia. The sheriff draws a gun on him, and Julia runs out. Paladin staggers out to the street as the mob prepares to string Andy up. Julia runs out and Paladin tells her to step aside as he walks over. Briggs tells Tom, who goes for his gun. Paladin is forced to kill him, and then holds up his hands and talks with Briggs.
Later, Paladin prepares to leave. Grayson says that Andy and Julia are preparing to leave for a hospital. He says that he's going to give up the badge because he acted like a criminal, and Paladin tells him that would accomplish nothing. He tells Grayson to watch and not interfere, then goes in and tells Julia that she's coming with him. Andy attacks him, and Grayson and Julia manage to calm him down. Julia realizes that Paladin knows, and he has her take Julia outside. Paladin tells Grayson that Andy did kill Jim after all, and he realized it because the spike was higher than Julia could have lifted Jim. He advises Grayson not to question Julia about it, and says that the hospital will take better care of Andy than any jail or lynch mob. Paladin tells Grayson that he should keep the badge because he's done a good job for the town and for Julia.
Julia and Andy get on the stage and Grayson kisses his daughter goodbye. Paladin and Grayson shake hands and Paladin rides off.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 8, 2018