At the Carleton, Paladin reads in a newspaper about an estrangement between brothers Tony and Walt DeVries. The estrangement is turning into a range war between homesteader Tony and rancher Walt. Tony is placing up barbed wire on the contested line, inspiring other homesteaders to do the same. Walt has threatened to burn out anyone who raises barbed wire on contested land. Paladin has Hey Boy give his regards to the woman he was going out with that night, and sends his card to Tony with an IOU written on the back.
Later, Paladin arrives at a local town and three men watch him. One of Tony's workers comes out of the general store and sees the three men Paladin watches as the three men knock the worker down and say that he's working for a turncoat and a cheap woman. The men's leader, Tom Semper, tells another man Morales to knock the worker down. Paladin intervenes and Semper tells him that it doesn't concern Paladin. Morales tries to throw a punch, and Paladin knocks him down and draws his gun. Semper calls off Morales and the other man, Jesse Starrett, and they ride off.
Paladin and the worker ride to Tony's ranch and the armed Tony invites Paladin inside. Tony says that it's been a long time and they shake hands. Tony admits that he needs Paladin's help, and Tony's wife Elizabeth comes in. She makes Paladin a meal, and Tony goes out to check his guards. Once they're alone, Paladin asks why two brothers he likes and respects are ready to start a range war. Elizabeth says that she was in love with Walt when she was 18, but then Tony came back from the war and Walt eventually found the two of them together. Walt almost killed Tony, and it's taken Tony five years to come back. Elizabeth doesn't think Tony will stop until he's beaten Walt down or killed him.
Tony comes back and Elizabeth excuses herself. He says that he did Walt a wrong and he had a right to kill him, but not beat and humiliate him. This time Tony isn't to back away if Walt comes after him. Paladin warns that it might mean a killing, and Tony asks if Paladin will support him. The gunfighter points out that he hoped to arbitrate matters between them, but Tony demands that Paladin pay his debt to him for saving his life. As Paladin goes, Tony tells him to look around and see what Walt's no-wire edict has done to the homesteaders in the area.
The next day, Paladin rides out to Walt's ranch. He stops at a homesteader cabin and asks for water from a man, but the man confirms that Paladin is Walt's friend and says that he has no water. Continuing on, Paladin reaches Walt and the three men from the other day. Walt wishes that Paladin hadn't come, and asks what he wants. He advises Paladin to ride on, and Paladin tells him to let the homesteaders in and put up barbed wire to keep the cattle off their lands. Walt says that all he has is pride, and Paladin tells him to forget Elizabeth. The rancher promises to beat Paladin as well, and hang him if he uses his gun on one of his men. Realizing further conversation is pointless, Paladin rides off.
Jesse is pulling down a fence when Paladin and Tony ride up and tell him to go home. After the man rides off, Paladin and Tony hear a gunshot from the house. They ride there and find a dead man in the yard. Elizabeth, Walt, and Semper come out, and more of Walt's men come around the corner. Walt tells Semper to burn Tony out, and tells Tony that Walt is the man he wants. Morales tells Paladin to hand over his gun to save his life, and Walt holds Tony back as Semper lights up the house. Tony and Elizabeth leave in their carriage, and Walt whips Paladin. Paladin finally grabs the whip, shoots one man with his derringer, and tells Walt to back the others off. Walt does so and Paladin has Morales toss him his gun. Once Paladin rides off, Walt tells Semper to hunt down Paladin and hang him.
Later, Paladin hides in the homesteader's barn and contacts him. The man gives Paladin and a shotgun, and offers to stay, but Paladin tells him to leave with his family.
That night, Morales and Semper arrive outside and Semper orders Morales to bring Paladin out. When he hears them, Paladin invites them in, trains the shotgun on Morales, and advises him to drop his gun. Morales does so, but Semper goes for his gun and Paladin kills him. Paladin then hands Morales his gun back and tells him to tell Walt that he'll be in town. Morales agrees that Walt can do his own fighting and leaves.
The next day, Walt rides up to town and finds Tony and Elizabeth. Paladin is in the door of the general store, training a gun on Walt, and tells him to dismount. Once Walt does, Paladin says that Tony asked for Walt's life and he's giving it to him. Paladin tells Walt to drop his gun belt, and once the rancher does, Paladin comes over and asks for Walt's word that he'll let the people live. Walt refuses, and Paladin whips him. When Walt charges at him, Paladin knocks him down and then begs him to let the people live. Walt refuses and Paladin pins him down. Humiliated, Walt finally gives his word. Paladin walks away and Walt looks at a shocked Tony and Elizabeth.
The couple go over to Paladin and Tony says that someone had to do it. Paladin tells Tony that he owed him a debt and paid it, and rides off.
Written by Gadfly on May 21, 2018