Paladin is riding across the countryside, and reaches the Circle T Ranch. He dismounts and approaches the cabin, and sees a grave outside the house. Two men shoot at him, order him to surrender, take his gun and ask who he is, and Paladin says that he's passing through. They say that they finished burying Juliet Jones' aunt and uncle, and now they want her. Paladin figures the graves are for the two people they shot, and the men freely admit it, explaining that the dead couple were Harpers and they're Pikes. When Paladin reaches for his derringer, they knock him down.
Their father, Colonel Jeremiah Pike, arrives and tells them to leave Paladin be since he won't be a problem to them without a gun. He tells his sons, Nelson and Tad, that he found out where Juliet is.
Once Paladin wakes up, he staggers onto the road and tries to flag down a passing Butterfield stage. It goes past him, almost running him down, and Paladin runs down the hill and intercepts it at the next bend. Once he grabs the guard's gun and orders them to stop, they explains that they thought Paladin was one of Jeremiah's men. Pike slaughtered men during the Civil War and is wanted by both sides for his atrocities.
Paladin gets into the stage and finds a girl. She says that she's Juliet, and Paladin assures her that he isn't going to harm her. He advises her to put the knife away, and she does and offers him some water to clean up. Paladin tells her that her aunt and uncle are dead, and Juliet says that she's seen more death than most women at 70. She explains that her relatives tried to raise enough money for her to find a way to get a decent education, and that her brother got away first and has a ranch in Hawaii.
The Pikes open fire on the stage and ride after it. They wing the driver and stay out of the guard's shotgun range. Paladin has Juliet Jump off the wagon at the next turn, and the Pikes ride past without seeing them. Paladin figures that the brothers will realize the ruse soon enough and continue on. They come to an empty cabin and Juliet dozes off, exhausted. Paladin makes her comfortable on a bed.
The next day, Juliet wakes up and comes out, and Paladin has made breakfast. He tells her that they can't risk traveling during the day, Juliet stops at her and Paladin tells her that he's only interested in staying alive, not romance. Juliet complains that Paladin doesn't treat her like a woman, and Paladin points out that she's 17 and not a woman. He finally gets her to say that they're at the Judson ranch, and Juliet's aunt used to bring her there. Mr. Judson was with the Union cavalry, and Paladin figures that Pike had them killed.
The Pike brothers ride up and Paladin tells Juliet to arrange the room so it doesn't look like they're there. They clean up the place and hide, but Paladin goes back for his jacket and is forced to hide behind the door when Nelson and Tad come in. They go back to get food and water from the saddlebags, and Paladin and Juliet hide in the barn loft.
The Pikes set up in the ranch yard, and Juliet tells Paladin that she's no afraid while he's there with him. He refuses to say what his profession is, and she figures that he runs people, makes a lot of money, and lives with danger. Juliet points out that he's a gentleman and travels a lot, and Paladin gives her his card. She says that she doesn't care what he is, and Paladin explains that he has a hair-trigger on his missing gun. Paladin warns her that other things are triggered even more easily, and says that a careless word can break through the charade of decency. He talks about the difference between a young girl and an experienced woman, and how there's a time in each woman's life when she changed from one to another. Juliet says that the rules change when a girl becomes a woman, and Paladin concedes that the rules change considerably. Juliet says that they should get some rest, Kisses Paladin on the cheek, and thanks him.
Jeremiah arrives and tells his son that he tracked Juliet to the ranch. He figures that they're in the barn and calls on Paladin to surrender in return for his promise that he won't harm him if he hands Juliet over. Paladin rigs up a rope over a beam, while Jeremiah sends his sons in via the back and side...and tells them to kill Paladin and Juliet.
Tad goes in and hears Juliet moving. Paladin lassos him and pulls him u, then ties off the rope. Nelson opens fire and calls Jeremiah in. Jeremiah tell Nelson to get some kerosene so they can burn them out. Paladin jumps out the upper door onto Nelson and knocks him out, and then takes his gun. Jeremiah finds Juliet in the loft and grabs her. Paladin distracts Jeremiah and then shoots him dead.
Later in San Francisco, Paladin meets with Juliet in the lobby. He has arranged for her trip to her brother's ranch. Juliet complains that he was flirting with women only a year older than her, and figures that they were laughing at her. Paladin kisses her and she asks if he'll come to Hawaii, and Paladin assures her that he will. Juliet says that she won't look at or talk to another man until then, and 3rd Officer Jenkins arrives to escort Juliet to the ship. She's immediately smitten with him, and vaguely says goodbye to Paladin before leaving on Jenkins' arm. Hey Boy tells Paladin that one of the women is waiting for him, and Paladin says that he'll feel less noble but much better before the night is over.
Written by Gadfly on May 20, 2018