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Death of a Gunfighter Recap

At the Carlton, Hey Boy brings Paladin a newspaper and then reads it over his shoulder until Paladin mildly objects. The article is about a blood feud in Santos, New Mexico where Juan Carlos Morrita killed James Sebrey in the Wren-Sebrey feud. Juan hired his gun to the Wren faction, and Sebrey's is the 38th death.

Paladin sends his card and later rides to Santos. A man gets the drop on him and calls Charlie Pitt over. Charlie says that Paladin isn't Juan, and calls out John Sebrey. John confirms that Paladin isn't Juan, and Paladin notices that a corpse is lying near a scaffold. He asks if Juan is coming for his brother, and John says that's the idea. Paladin introduces himself and John says that he's late. Disgusted, Paladin tells John that he doesn't want the job, and John demands the $500 advance payment back. Paladin hands over $300 and says that the rest are $200. John insists that Juan is an animal and he'll do what he has to to bring him in. Paladin tells him that he understands that Juan is a cold-blooded killer, but he buries the dead.

The gunfighter signs in at the hotel and says that he's just staying the night. As he goes to his room, the clerk Will Haskell asks if they stopped him and says that Juan needs dying. The clerk explains that Juan was born there, and admits that Juan used to be a friend of his. He insists that Juan needs dying.

The next day, Paladin leaves the hotel and prepares to ride back. A man faces him, and looks at Paladin for a moment. Another man on the street recognizes him, and the man--Juan--guns him down. John runs out and Juan shoots him. When Paladin objects, Juan pistol-whips him unconscious and rides out.

Later, the townspeople gather for the funerals. A woman, Maria is wearing black and walks with the procession. Paladin is standing with Will, and Will says that Maria loves Juan and was going to marry him. He realizes that Paladin is going after Juan, and Paladin says that he owes it to John and to himself. Will warns him not to stand in front of Juan, explaining that he can pull a gun faster than the gun can follow. Unimpressed, Paladin rides off.

Three weeks later, Paladin meets with a sheriff. The sheriff says that he knows Juan and casually asks who Juan killed. Paladin wonders if he's been paid off or is scared, and the sheriff shows him a newspaper article about an amnesty was declared in the Wren-Sebrey feud. Juan swore to accept the amnesty, and now he's riding back to Santos. The sheriff warns that if Paladin kills Juan then he'll be court-martialed for breaking the amnesty, but Paladin isn't impressed.

Paladin rides back to Santos and finds Juan's campsite. Juan steps out and recognizes him from when he killed John. He says that John hung his 18-year-old brother, and tells Paladin to put down his gun belt. As Paladin does so, he asks how many men his brother killed. Juan says that he doesn't want to kill again, and asks how much John's people are paying him. Paladin says that he's doing it free of charge, and tries to jump Juan. Juan easily draws on him, tosses away his gun, and says that he put his life in Paladin's hands. He offers Paladin $200 to take him and keep him alive until he gets there, so that he can die among his people. Juan insists that he won't wear a gun again and gives Paladin his weapons back.

The two men ride on and make camp for the night. Juan demonstrates his fast hands, but tells Paladin that he won't live a week. He explains that he dreams of the twelve men that he killed, and that he was an altar boy when he was a boy. Juan wonders if the others can forget them if he can't, and he's going back to try. He admits that he might be wrong and hopes that fast hands can be good hands.

Later, Paladin and Juan ride into Santos. The scaffold is still up, and a townsman says that it's up as a warning to Juan's kind. They go to the cantina, and the people hold a homecoming for Juan. Maria joins him, and Juan tells Paladin that they're announcing they're marriage. He asks Paladin to dance with Maria, and Paladin gladly accepts. She talks to Paladin privately outside and says that Juan is drunk and remembers how they loved him, but wonders if Juan will remember it when he's tired or bored and starts killing again. Maria explains that she admires Juan's grace and beauty, but she doesn't want to marry him. She worries that Juan will kill whoever she does marry, and Paladin advises her to tell Juan and insists that he won't kill again. He promises that if Juan tries, he'll stop him.

Juan overhears them and comes out, and demands to know what they're talking about. He figures that Maria doesn't believe him, and asks her why. Maria says that she doesn't want to marry him, and it's too late for his love. Juan figure that she's been cheating on him, and Maria insists that she loves him. He demands the man's name, and Charlie steps out and admits that he's the man. Juan says that he called Will friend, asks if he has a gun, and slaps him. Will punches him, and Paladin reminds Juan that he gave his word. Juan pulls away and tells Will that he'll face him in the morning.

The next morning, Paladin and Juan wait at the scaffold. Paladin asks Juan as a favor not to shoot. Juan says that when a man seals from him, he takes a part of him. Will comes out, refusing to hide, and Paladin knocks Juan down. Juan draws and wounds Will, and Paladin takes him inside despite Juan's objections. Inside, Maria comes out and tends to Will's wound, while Paladin straps on his gun and goes out to face Juan. Juan insists that he doesn't want to kill Paladin, and Paladin points out that Juan broke the amnesty. When Juan goes for his gun, Paladin shoots him dead. He looks at Juan's body and then the scaffold.

Written by Gadfly on Jun 10, 2018