Paladin attends a performance of Shakespeare's Othello in
San Francisco, and applauds when actors Charles Matthews and Victoria
Vestris finish their performance. He has been assisting them during
their stay in San Francisco and they have dinner afterward. They inform
him that they've been invited to San Diego for the Annual Cattle
Round-Up, and they'll be performing Othello while the rest of
their company returns east. Paladin warns that San Diego is a dangerous
place, particularly during the Round-Up, but the actors dismiss his
concerns. Charles insists that anyone would yield to the charms of
Shakespeare, and invites Paladin to see one of their performances.
Paladin offers his services to the actor's sponsors, manager Lucien Bellingham, and meets him in San Diego. The actors will be performing at Bellingham's saloon and as the manager shows Paladin around, the gunslinger notices that Bellingham is displaying posters of Victoria in revealing outfits. One man, Ben Jackson, is looking at a life-cutout of Victoria and Bellingham warns that he's been there for two days. Jackson and Paladin know each other by reputation, and Jackson warns that he plans to meet Victoria and Paladin would be best advised to stay out of his way. The gunslinger is less concerned about Jackson than Victoria's reaction when she sees the posters. Bellingham suggests that a gunfight would be a great crowd-pleaser and Paladin says he'll think about it.
When the actors arrive, they're shocked to see Bellingham's posters. Charles is infuriated that he's being billed as a comedian, and Victoria as a sultry temptress. They go into the saloon and start ripping down the posters. When Charles pulls down Jackson's favorite, the gunman fires a warning shot. Victoria asks him to stop and Jackson reluctantly agrees, but tells Charles to stay away from Victoria. Paladin forcefully tells the actors to go to their hotel while Jackson warns Bellingham that he'll shoot the manager if Victoria doesn't return. Once he's gone, Bellingham offers Paladin double his normal fee if he'll make sure that the actors and his saloon are unharmed, and Paladin agrees.
At the hotel, Charles and Victoria insist on performing. Charles has sent a statement to the newspaper announcing their intention and the paper was glad to print it and incite more trouble. They added more insulting comments about Jackson. When Paladin tries to warn them, the actors assume that he's trying to impress them with a real Wild West story and ignore his warnings. Charles boasts that he'll knock down Jackson if he tries anything.
Bellingham locates Jackson and offers him the same job as Paladin, to keep the peace in his saloon. After some haggling, Jackson agrees for the same fee that Paladin is receiving.
At the saloon, Paladin tries to warn Jackson off. Jackson insists that Bellingham has hired him to keep the peace, and he plans to start doing his job by dealing with Charles for disturbing the peace. Everyone yells for the show to begin and Bellingham finally gives in. As Charles performs over Victoria as she lies on a bed, an angry Jackson draws his gun. Paladin disarms him and the two men slug it out. Paladin tosses Jackson's gun to Charles and invites him to start shooting. The actors reveal that Paladin was serious and that they're in danger. Jackson reluctantly agrees to let them finish the show but insists on settling things with guns after the show. The gunman tells the actors to finish performing on the floor so they can't slip out the back. As they talk, Paladin claims that he bruised his shooting hand in the fight.
Charles and Victoria finished their performance to the appreciative crowd. A drunk breaks into tears and Jackson almost shoots him. After the show is over, Jackson tells Paladin it's time, insisting that he has to maintain his reputation. Paladin finally tells him the truth: Charles and Victoria are married. They have different last names because they're actors, and Victoria has kept her stage name. Realizing he's not going to get the girl, Jackson says that he doesn't want to ruin his reputation by shooting an opponent with an injured hand, and says they can settle matters in the future. Paladin agrees and the actors finish their performance.
The next day, Paladin takes the stage out of town, considering his uninjured hand, and smirks in triumph.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 29, 2018