At the Carleton, Paladin finds an article about a rancher in Benedict, Wyoming, who is refusing access to the only source of water and has killed two men. Hey Boy informs Paladin that the card players in 312 are waiting for Paladin, and first Paladin sends his card to Benedict.
Later, Paladin rides into Benedict and sees the townspeople watching him. Everyone takes cover as he dismounts and goes into the saloon. Paladin steps to the bar and orders a drink, and everyone stares at him. A young man, Jeff Calvert, is sanding at the bar. Paladin asks the bartender for directions to the Wellman ranch, and Jeff asks him if he's looking for work. When Paladin asks what everyone is waiting for, Jeff says that they're waiting for him to get killed. A man comes in and whispers to the others, and Jeff says that the wait is over. He pays off his bill and goes out on the street. Paladin looks out and sees a man walk up the street to face Jeff. Jeff tells Casey to stand down, but Casey keeps coming even when Jeff apologizes. He goes for his gun and Jeff shoots him dead. As Jeff goes back to his horse, Paladin points out that Jeff knew he could beat Casey. Casey tells the townspeople that they'll have to keep waiting, and Casey's job is open at the Wellman ranch.
Later, Paladin rides to the Wellman ranch. Mrs. Wellman comes out and says that she can let him have a bucket of water from the kitchen pump. She says that her husband is gone but will be back soon, and Paladin goes into the house where the Wellman's daughter Meg is working. She asks if something happened, and Paladin says that Casey was killed. Mrs. Wellman comes in and tells her not to speak to strangers. She then asks Paladin if Jeff killed Casey, and calls him a "poor boy". Mr. Wellman says wonders how long a man can live by a gun when he doesn't want to.
Frank Wellman rides up, comes inside, and tells his wife that Jeff gunned Casey down. He tells Paladin to get rid of Jeff, and Paladin says that he's only there to get the water. He insists that he's no executioner and says that he'll go on his way,
Paladin goes into town to get a meal before leaving. Frank comes in and apologizes, saying that he was upset about Casey. He says that the only way to get to the water is to kill Jeff, and Paladin agrees to hear him out. Frank explains that Jeff's father Roy owns the Six Iron Ranch. Paladin has heard of Roy as a gunfighter, and Frank says that Roy bought the ranch three years ago. There's a lake on his ranch, and Roy has fenced it off and won't let them through. He doesn't know why Roy closed them off. When a local rancher tried to drive his cows through, Jeff killed two of his men. He says that Roy has turned Frank into a bigger killer than he ever was. Paladin wonders if he wants water or Jeff's death, and Frank says that he wants results. The gunfighter says that he'll get results his own way and goes to talk to Roy and get the whole story.
When Paladin rides up to the ranch, he hears shooting in the barn outside the barn. Roy is teaching Jeff how to shoot to kill, and Paladin steps out and tells Roy that he's not as young as he once more. He asks for a few minutes to talk, and Roy warns him that anyone working for the Wellmans has no business there. Roy takes Paladin to his wife's grave and says that the town put him there. He explains that she was a kind woman and all he wanted was a place for her to live quietly. Frank found out and passed the word that she was a killer's wife. When she took sick, nobody came to see her or to the funeral afterward. Roy says that all he wants to kill the town, and he promised not to draw his gun on a man but will train Jeff to kill.
Paladin goes back to the barn and finds Jeff with Meg. She begs him to go away with him, but he says that they can't leave their parents. Meg warns that her father is desperate and wonders what they're going to do. Paladin comes over to get his horse, and she explains that she only went to a dance with Casey the night before because Frank insisted. Casey took offense when Jeff asked Meg to dance, and came to shoot it out with Jeff. Paladin says that they're going to have knock sense into both their father, but Jeff insists that he can't do anything.
Meg and Paladin ride back to the Wellman ranch, and Meg tells her parents that she went out for a ride and met Paladin on the way home. Once she goes inside, Paladin says that Roy told him about his dead wife. Frank doesn't care and says that they'll drive their cattle through, and Paladin should either cooperate, side with Roy, or get out. Once Frank goes inside, Mrs. Wellman says that Frank and the others will do it with or without Paladin and some of them will be killed. She asks him to measure one family against a whole town, and Paladin rides off.
Back at the Calvert ranch, Paladin tells Roy that Frank and the others will drive the cattle through. He wonders if Roy's wife will rest easier if they die, and Roy says that it will make him rest easier. Paladin asks Jeff, who says nothing. The gunfighter says that he'll be in town if the Calverts want to talk it over, and Jeff says that he'll be ready to shoot it out. Disgusted, Paladin says that Roy has turned Jeff into a killer and he'll enjoy the same life that Roy had. He shoots the target, hitting it in the heart, and adds that Jeff may not live long enough.
Later, Paladin and Frank wait at the saloon. Roy and Jeff ride into town and Paladin goes out to face them. Roy figures that there's something off with Jeff, but Jeff says that it doesn't matter and goes to face Paladin. Paladin tells him that it won't be self-defense and Jeff will have to shoot first. Roy runs out and tells Paladin to face him, and Paladin shoots him in the arm. Paladin asks Jeff if they're finished, and Jeff says that they are. Roy smiles and tells Paladin that he didn't turn his son into a killer.
Later, Mrs. Wellman and Meg ride out to the Calvert ranch. She says that it's too late for apologies, but asks for the chance to pay her respects. When Roy wonders what the point is, Paladin says that the townspeople are asking to forget the past just like Roy wants the townspeople to, and advises him to let it end. Roy agrees and sees Jeff and Meg painting over the target on the ranch. The ex-gunfighter tells Paladin that he'll talk to Frank later about the water.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 8, 2018