At the Carlton, Hey Boy brings a woman--Helen Martin--to see Paladin. She says that a friend gave her the card, and that she needs Paladin's help. Helen tells Paladin that there's a $2,000 reward for her husband Paul, who was a clerk in the bank, in Blanton, Arizona. The bank was robbed and a man was killed, and Paul was blamed. A posse is hunting for him, but Helen insists that Paul is innocent. Nobody will tell her anything, and she figures that the posse will kill Paul. Helen figures that there's a valley that only she and Paul know about, and he'll go there. She gives Paladin directions to the canyon.
Paladin accepts the job and rides to the hills outside of Blanton. He comes across a rattlesnake and give sit a wide berth. The posse rides up and one man, Beckett, shoots the rattlesnake dead. Sheriff Scanlon asks why Paladin is there, and Paladin finally explains that he's looking for Paul. The other posse members, Breck and Gyppo, figure that Paladin is a bounty hunter. He tells them that they shouldn't get in each other way's man. Breck says that they could use Paladin to help them track Paul. Scanlon rides after Paladin and invites him to join the posse, and tells Paladin that he either joins them or clears out.
Once Paladin accepts the offer, he joins the posse at their group. Scanlon says that Paul shot his deputy, and his deputy is the only one who saw Paul rob the bank. The others why Paladin is asking so many questions, and Scanlon insists that Paul isn't innocent. Scanlon saw Paul ride away, and he dropped the gun the bank gave him that was used to kill the deputy. Paladin points out that Paul is unarmed so he should be easy to bring him back alive, but the others just smile.
The posse searches the hills without success. Come night, the men make camp and after eating they go to sleep. A rattlesnake is in Paladin's bedroll, and he kills it. The other men joke about it, and Scanlon tells Paladin not to take the others seriously because they've been out in the woods too long. Paladin figures that someone planted the snake, pointing out that if Paul is innocent then any of the men could be guilty. He notes that Scanlon didn't see Paul kill the deputy, and explains that the guilty man won't want Paul live. Scanlon considers the idea and says that they'd both better look out for snakes.
The three posse members suggests that Paul is coming out of hiding at night, and Paladin agrees. They want to ride out immediately and Paladin prompts Scanlon to remind them that they should take Paul alive since he's unarmed.
The next morning, Paul comes out to get water and berries, the posse spot him. One man shoots at Paul, and Scanlon yells to hold their fire. Paul runs and someone shoos him in the arm. The posse closes in and all of the men deny shooting. Paladin wonders if Gyppo shot Paul and checks his gun, and discovers that it hasn't been fired. Scanlon checks Beckett's gun, and Paladin asks Breck if he fired the shots. Scanlon tells Breck to hand his gun over, and Scanlon confirms that it wasn't fired.
Paladin rides off on his own and follows Helen's directions to the canyon.
Gyppo wakes up the others and says that they should ride out. They discover that Paladin is gone, just as Paladin returns. he says that he went looking for the gun and figures that one of them had a spare. Gyppo says that Breck's brother was a rustler and was gunning for Paul to get revenge. Paladin suggests that one of them might have robbed the bank, but Breck says that Gyppo was dating Helen until Paul came along. The two of them fighting, but Beckett breaks it up. The gunfighter returns to the motive of profit, and Beckett figures that Paladin is accusing him or Scanlon. Paladin points out that Scanlon was with him when they heard the shots, and Gyppo says that the bank wouldn't loan Beckett money so he lost his spread. Beckett points out that it's revenge, and Breck says that Paladin is trying to turn them against each other. Scanlon figures that Paul is the killer and tells the others to mount up.
The posse goes back to the hills and they find traces of Paul's blood from the gunshot wound. As the others look for a cave, Paladin scratches himself with a rock and smears the blood on the ground. He bandages the wound and covers it over with his sleeve, and calls the others. The posse figures that Paul is nearby, and Paladin goes to the canyon and finds Paul. Paladin says that Helen sent him, and demands an explanation. Paul says that he was working late auditing the books, and a masked man came in and forced him to open the safe after taking his gun. The clerk didn't recognize the robber, and explains that the deputy came in. The robber shot him dead with Paul's gun, then made Paul ride off. Paul figured that they'd figure he was the robber and the killer so he hid. He agrees to take a chance with his life to save his life.
Paladin steps out and fires into the air. The others arrive, and Paladin says that Paul will talk in front of a judge. Breck wants to beat Paul for the truth, but Paladin says that there's no hurry and Scanlon agrees. Once the others go to get the horses, and Paladin tells Scanlon that the guilty man will never let Paul reach town. He figures the killer will sneak back and try to kill Paul, and has Paul sit down and act as bait. Scanlon agrees but warns that if there are no surprises, he's taking Paul in.
After Paladin gives Paul his derringer, he hides in the nearby rocks. Breck opens fire and Paladin shoots him dead. Gyppo and Beckett ride up, and Scanlon draws a gun on Paladin. Paladin realizes that they were all in on it, and Gyppo says that Scanlon faked clearing Breck's gun. Paul shoots Beckett in the gun, and Paladin gets Paul to cover. The three robbers open fire, and Scanlon calls to offer Paladin his life in return for Paul's. Paladin doesn't believe him and moves off to the side, and Paul claims to be speaking for Paladin. Gyppo runs up and shoots Gyppo. Scanlon runs over to his fellow robber, but Paladin tells him to drop it.
Later, Paladin takes Scanlon and Beckett into town. He tells Paul that it's the first time the hunted has ever brought back the posse and they ride out.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 17, 2018