Paladin is riding through the woods and comes to an Indian tending to a campfire. The gunfighter rides over and the Indian immediately mounts up and rides away. Paladin checks the fire and finds a poke with the letter J on it in a circle as well as a bandanna. He takes some of the food spitted over the fire, eats it, and rides on.
Following the backtrail, Paladin comes to a spread. He looks around but finds no one, and continues until he comes to Borrasca Bend. Paladin rides into a mining tent town and sees the miners watching a fistfight. Jackson comes over to Paladin and explains that the Watson boys are having their Saturday fight. One of them knocks out his brother. The leader, "Judge" Wesson, comes over and offers to buy Paladin's horse. Paladin declines, and Paladin asks if there's a Circle J Ranch. Wesson says that the only circle J he knows is Circle Jibes and his claim is a couple of hundred yards. Paladin wonders where Borrasca Bend is, and Wesson has Paladin come over and tells him that he's in the center of Borrasca Bend. He says that Jibes is in the saloon--a nearby tent--and Paladin goes in. A minute later, Paladin comes out and says that Jibes is dead. He figures that Jibes had a pretty good claim, and Wesson wonders how he knows. Curly says that he loaned the bandanna to Jibes a week ago, and Wesson arrests Paladin on the spot. They check Paladin's saddlebag and find $4,000 in gold dust in the bag. Paladin insists that he can explain, but Wesson immediately puts him on trial.
The men tie Paladin up and Jackson wants to hang him immediately. Wesson declares half of the men as the jury and has another man, Patterson, swear Paladin in. Paladin insists that the jury is prejudiced, and Wesson says that everyone has been paranoid since another man died. The gunfighter says that he was in Santa Barbara, but Wesson doesn't care as long as they can tie him to Jibes' murder. Wesson asks Paladin what led up to the murder, and Paladin describes what happened. Paladin explains that he took the bag to Jibes rather than follow the Indian, and points out that he didn't take Jibes' belongings but kept the bandanna. Paladin points out the flaws in the case and the jurors start to consider that he's innocent, but Wesson says that they're going to hang Paladin legal or not at all.
Wesson points out the "evidence" against Paladin, and says that they have Paladin but no Indian. A man, Sugie, arrives in a wagon and announces that there's a woman up in nearby Juniper. All of the men gather around the wagon, and Sugie charges them to take them to Juniper. Once everyone but Wesson leaves, Wesson tells Paladin that the case is dismissed. He says that Jibes was innocent and he knew Paladin was innocent because he found the Santa Barbara papers in Paladin's saddlebags. Wesson conducted the trial because things were dulling down, and says that they were just funning a little. Paladin reveals that he still had his derringer and would have shot his way out. As Paladin goes, he asks what will happen to Jibes' gold, and Wesson says that it will go to the town authorities: him. The gunfighter offers to find out who the killer is for half the poke, and gives Wesson his card.
Wesson and Paladin dig the grave and go over the possible suspects. Sugie set up the saloon tent and sells the whiskey. As for Jackson, Wesson says that he's a mean drunk but has a legitimate claim, and Jackson and the others are all looking to stake an honest claim. Paladin says that he'll camp away from the tent town since he doesn't know if Wesson is innocent, and Wesson chuckles.
Later, Sugie brings the miners back, and they're all passed out drunk. Paladin helps get them off the river, shoving them into a nearby creek. They continue on into the customer and find a passed-out Wesson, and Sugie says that he founds Jibes' body downstream. Paladin points out that the camp he found was upstream, and invites Sugie to ride with him. They take the wagon and go to the downstream campsite. Paladin finds empty bags where Jibes would have buried his stuff, and Sugie says that he spread belonged to Jackson. The man figures that the Indian saw Jackson kill Jibes and take his poke, then searched Jibes' campsites for any valuables. Sugie figures that Jackson only came back because he passed out drunk and he loaded him onto the wagon with the others.
Back at Borrasca Bends, Sugie shows Wesson the evidence. He confronts Jackson, who says that he has a dry claim but refuses to say where it is. Sugie points out the flaws in his story, and Jackson insists that Paladin is the killer. He says that one of the miners is dead even though it isn't known. When Wesson calls him on it, Jackson draws his gun and prepares to steal Paladin's horse. Paladin points out that the gun went into the stream with Jackson, draws his gun, and shoots Jackson in the leg. Laughing, the other miners figure that it won't hurt for long and take him away. Paladin demands his money from Wesson, and Wesson tries to shortchange him. The gunfighter catches on and quickly leaves before he commits another capital offense, and the miners set up for the new trial.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 10, 2018