Paladin is riding across the north country when he comes to a man, Harleigh Preston, setting up bottles and addressing them like he's at a party. When Paladin walks up, the drunken Harleigh draws his gun and says that he's going to teach Paladin a lesson. Paladin easily knocks him out and takes his gun.
Later, Harleigh wakes up and Paladin offers him a cup of coffee. Harleigh realizes that Paladin isn't Walters, and introduces himself. He pours himself a drink and explains that Walters was his guide and they came hunting for big-horn sheep. Walters got Harleigh drunk and then left with his money. When Harleigh reaches for the bottle, Paladin pours the alcohol out and says that if he left Harleigh dead he'd be dead in four days. Whether Harleigh likes it or not, he's riding out sober with Paladin.
Soon, Paladin and Harleigh leave on their horses. They stop to make camp and Harleigh discovers that Paladin has tossed out all of his liquor. He says that he's been a failure at everything he's ever tried, and he inherited money. Paladin sends him to get some firewood and chuckles.
Later, Harleigh says that he can't eat because he needs a drink. He asks where they're going, and Paladin says that he has a job at the Evans ranch. Eventually they reach the ranch and someone shoos at them. They dismount and take cover, and Paladin calls out who he is. The owner, Hugh Evans, comes out and calls to his daughter Elaine that it's safe. Hugh invites them to have dinner with them, and the rancher explains that Martin Wheeler and his gang burned him out. Hugh's deed has been filed for over a year, but it disappeared and now there's a deed with Martin's name on it. Martin brought in two gunfighters, Bob Pelley and Wichita Walker. Paladin says that he filed a complaint with the government land office and Martin may be willing to negotiate. Hugh says that Martin is in nearby Eagle Bend, and Paladin suggests that Harleigh stay with Elaine to guard her. The rancher agrees and offers some alcohol, and Harleigh perks up. Paladin tells Hugh that he and Harleigh aren't drinking, and Harleigh lowers his glass.
Once Paladin and Hugh ride into town, Elaine tells Harleigh to notch logs while she cleans. Harleigh goes over and starts chopping, and Elaine soon realizes that he doesn't know what he's doing. She asks if he's on the run from the law, and Harleigh admits that he's been in jail of a sort. Harleigh tries chopping wood again and does a little better. Elaine points out that Harleigh is strong but out of condition, and goes to get some water. Pelley and Wichita capture them and tells Harleigh to gather some brush. Once he does, Wichita tells him to light it. Harleigh refuses and Wichita beats him, laughing. He tells Pelley to light it and they go to their horses. Elaine goes to the unconscious Harleigh and makes sure that he's okay, and then tries to put out the fire.
Paladin and Hugh see the smoke and realize that it's more than a campfire.
Harleigh wakes up and walks away when Elaine asks him to help her. He gets Hugh's bottle of alcohol and watches as Elaine struggle. Paladin and Hugh ride up and put out the fire, and Harleigh tells them that they're too late. Disgusted, Paladin knocks the bottle out of his hand
Walker and Pelley meet up with Martin and tell him that his plans have changed since he found out the land agent is nosing around. He figures that if Hugh isn't around then there's no one to say there was another deed.
Paladin chops the wood and Harleigh and Elaine drag logs away. Elaine asks if Harleigh is okay, and Harleigh angrily insists that he is. Martin and his men open fire and the group takes cover. While Paladin tries to get to the rifles, Harleigh apologizes to Elaine. She says that all he needs to do is toughen up, and says that he just needs something to live for.
Paladin lassos a log and pulls it over. Martin and Wichita go down to investigate while Pelley provides cover fire, Meanwhile, Paladin goes for the rifles, telling Hugh that he'll toss one to Elaine and one to him. He crawls over and does so, and Hugh and Elaine provide cover fire while Paladin runs for the rocks. Paladin finds Martin and Wichita, and shoos Wichita while Hugh hits Parley.
Martin runs and Harleigh goes after him despite Elaine's objections. When Martin turns to shoo, he discovers that his rifle has jammed. He draws his revolver and shoos until he runs out of bullets. Paladin advances on hi, and Harleigh attacks Martin and tells him that he's coming back with him. Martin aims his revolver at him but Harleigh jumps him anyway, not knowing the gun is empty. The two men struggle and Paladin watches, smiling. Elaine and Hugh run up, and Harleigh finally manages to knock Martin out. He tells Elaine that it will take hard work and food to get him into condition, and Paladin points out that Harleigh didn't know it was empty when he jumped Martin. The gunfighter says that they need to take the prisoners into town and they leave.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 29, 2018