At the Carlton, Paladin is sitting in the lounge smoking and notices another guest dozing next to him. The man has covered himself with a newspaper, and Paladin sees an article about how Henry Carver apparently deserted the cavalry in Montana. Father General Joshua Carver insists that his son is innocent and must have run into foul play. Paladin tears the article off of the newspaper and sends his card.
Later, Geraldine approaches Paladin and introduces herself. She says that Henry is a deserter and wanted to become a doctor, but Joshua insisted that Henry join the army. Geraldine tells Paladin that Henry isn't a deserter, and she received a letter from her son that Joshua doesn't know about it. In it, Henry says that he's going to help Becky Gray, whose father is forcing her into marriage with Sam Dolan, who is twice her age and no good for her. Geraldine's son says that they're hiding at the Bismarck watering hole, and asks her to send someone to bring them money so that they can flee to Canada. Geraldine wants Paladin to bring Henry back alive so that it appears that he's willingly surrendering and the punishment will be less. Paladin accepts the commission.
Later, Paladin rides to Montana and stops at the watering hole. Henry and Becky find him and Henry trains a rifle on him, and demands to know what he wants. Paladin says that Geraldine sent him and she wants him to return Henry to his outfit. Henry orders him to ride off with a message for Geraldine that they'll get to Canada on their own. Paladin goes to his horse, pushes it off, takes cover, and yells to Henry that his job is to take him back to his outfit before he is captured and shot. Henry keeps firing, and a cavalry patrol rides toward the water hole.
When Henry stops shooting, Paladin comes over and tells him who is coming. He then goes over to the patrol and greets the leader, Sgt. Barsky. Paladin says that he was practicing target shooting, and Barsky recognizes him from when they served together in the war. Sam is with the patrol and Barsky explains that he and his men joined up with them. Barsky is wearing a bullet on a necklace as a lucky piece, after Paladin dug it out of his leg. The sergeant says that there are still some Indians in the area, and the three men go up to a vantage point to check the area. Barsky says that he's going to retire after his current term, and they'll rejoin the cavalry in a half day. Henry and Becky are hiding nearby, and Sam asks Paladin if he's seen the fugitives. Barsky confirms that he was told to keep an eye out for the supposed deserter, and wishes Paladin luck.
Once the patrol leaves, Henry and Becky hide. Paladin goes over and discovers that they're gone, and easily finds them. He draws his gun on Henry and says that he'll save them if he can. Becky takes him to their horses and they ride off. When they make camp, Paladin ties Henry up and says that if Barsky had gotten hold of Henry, the death penalty is mandatory. If Henry gives himself up, then he won't be shot. Henry refuses to give himself up, and Paladin hopes that he'll change his way. He says that his father forced him into the service, but Paladin tells them that they couldn't live with themselves. Becky tells him that they're married.
The trio continue riding and find the remains of a cavalry patrol. Paladin realizes that it's a different patrol, and tells Henry that they're catching up. He hears a trembling in the distance but doesn't know what it is. They continue riding and come to a claybank horse with a cavalry saddle, but no sign of the rider. Paladin checks the horse and finds seven gunshot wounds in it, and spots smoke nearby. There are three slugs in it, and Paladin digs them out. He finds a tag identifying the owner as Captain Kehoe, and Henry identifies the horse as Comanche. Paladin figures that Kehoe and his horse were ambushed because the wounds are on both sides, and the bullets belong to the guns that Indians use. He tells Henry that they'll learn more when they find Kehoe.
Riding on with Comanche, the trio ride into an ambush. Sam and his men are waiting, and Becky tells him that they're married. Unimpressed, Sam says that he'll make her a widow, and says that they left the cavalry and there was a big noise over the hills. As Sam orders his men to string Henry up, Paladin draws his derringer and wounds one man and then kills Sam. Paladin recovers his revolver tells Sam's men to take him home and bury him.
Once the men ride off, Becky clubs Paladin unconscious with a discarded rifle. She and Henry ride off, and Paladin wakes up a few minutes later. He continues on with Comanche and spots the couple on a ride up ahead. They're looking down into a valley filled with the corpses of the 7th Cavalry under Custer. Paladin realizes that what he heard was a thousand Indians massacring the 7th. He rides down and Henry tells Becky that he should have died with them. Paladin finds the 7th's standard and drives it into the ground, and removes a spear from Barsky's body and mourns his friend.
Lt. Bradley and his patrol ride up and realize what happened. Paladin tells him what happened, and hands over Comanche. Henry introduces himself and offers to turn himself in, and tells Becky that he couldn't live with himself as a deserter. He hopes that one day that they can move on once it's done, and Bradley orders him to come with them. Once they leave, Paladin speaks a eulogy over the fallen men and then takes Becky home.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 8, 2018