In the Carlton lobby, Paladin collects opera tickets and flowers for his date. Hey Boy also give him a telegram from Will Stanhope, saying that he needs Paladin on a life-or-death matter. Paladin tells Hey Boy to offer his apologies to his date, Miss. McCormack, and gives him the flowers and tickets.
Paladin rides to Hammond, but his horse founders and he stops at Three Forks Station and goes to the bar to order a drink. The bartender tells him that they don’t have any spare horses but Paladin can catch a stage to the next town--Hammond--to buy one. Paladin checks the local paper and finds an article about how a deathbed confession cleared Ed Stacy of a stagecoach holdup two years ago. Will, president of the stagecoach line, announced that he paid for Ed's release and expressed apologizes to the miscarriage of justice.
When Paladin mentions the article to the bartender, the bartender claims that he doesn't know if Ed is coming back to Hammond. One of three men come over and ask Paladin what business it is of his. He says that it's his business and grabs Paladin, who draws his gun on him. The stage comes in and the bartender tells the three men to drop it. The leader, Ben, says that they'll talk later, and the three of them walk out. The bartender explains that Ben is Ed's brother.
Outside, Ben greets Ed as he arrives on the stage. The bartender explains that Ben took over Ed's ranch a year ago. Paladin goes outside and offers his congratulations to Ed. Ed jokingly draws his gun on him but admits that he's rusty, and says that two years in prison has riled him up. Once Ed and Ben ride off, Paladin tells the bartender that he knows Ed because he brought him back for trial.
When Paladin reaches Hammond, he goes to the stage office where Will is with Sheriff Clyde. Paladin tells them that Ed rode off, and Will worries that Ed is going to come after him. Clyde doesn't believe that Ed is a risk and says that they should let Ed cool off. Once Clyde leaves, Will tells Paladin that he needs someone to help him. He explains that he wrote a letter to Ed offering his help, and Ed tore up the letter and sent the pieces back. Paladin doesn't figure Ed as a killer, but Will wants him to persuade Ed to leave Hammond for good. The gunfighter refuses, and Will asks him to offer him $3,000 of his money to convince Ed to leave and keep the rest. Will hints that he wouldn't mind if Paladin killed Ed, and Paladin takes offense. The stage owner quickly says that he didn't mean it, and Paladin agrees to talk to Ed in the morning.
As Paladin walks away, Ben watches him go. When Paladin gets to his hotel room and cleans up, Ben comes in and punches him. He beats Paladin and says that he railroaded Ed, then chokes him. Ed comes in and pulls Ben away, and Ben says that he saw Paladin with Will. His younger brother tells him to stay out of trouble and ride home with the others. Paladin asks why Ed didn't let Ben finish the job, and Ed says that he figures that there's no trouble between them. However, he says that Will is on his back and storms out.
Out on the street, Paladin approaches Ed and asks for an explanation. Ed goes over to buy some new bridles, but the storeowner puts out a closed sign and slams the door. The younger man explains that Will has a lot of influence on the town, and they do what he says. Paladin offers Ed the $3,000 money and explains that Ed would have to leave Hammond. Ed admits that he originally considered killing Will, but now he wouldn't even touch him because Will isn't worth another stretch in prison. He figures that he'll stick around and bother Will some more.
A man runs over and says that Ben is tearing the stage office to bits. Ed and Paladin go over and Paladin knocks out Ben as he grabs will. Clyde arrives and has his deputies drag Ben to jail, and Paladin finds a delinquent tax notice. The sheriff says that he handed it to Ben and was just doing his job. Ed takes offense and tells Will that he just wanted to start from scratch, but figures that Will won't let it rest. He promises that he has something big planned and leaves. Will demands protection, but Clyde says that he'll only offer it after the first shot is fired. Once he leaves, Paladin tells Will that he doesn't like being used. Will insists that he had to do it, but Paladin tells him that Ed didn't want any part of it and whatever happens is on Will. Ben's men Dan and Floyd break Ben out of prison and ride off, and Clyde has no choice but to go after them.
The next day, Paladin takes a stage. A deputy rides with home and says that Will sent him and it's a trap. Will figures that the Stacy brothers will hit a stage, and is offering a reward of $3,000 for anyone who robs one of his stages. The stage arrives at Three Forks for a stopover, and Paladin goes inside. The bartender stares at him, and Ed and Ben come out, guns drawn. Ed says that Dan and Floyd are taking care of the stage and he's just making sure no one will bother them. Paladin explains that will figured that they'd hit the stage there.
As Dan and Floyd take the money, Paladin tells Ed that now Ed will be a robber and the law will eventually get home. Will will sit in his office while Ed is hunted down. Ben figures that Paladin has a smart mouth, and Paladin points out that he's loyal to Ed. Paladin keeps talking about how Ed is repaying all of Ben's efforts by making him a fugitive. He warns Ed not to risk himself and Ben on a man who wasn't worth revenge in the first place.
Floyd and Dan come in and announce that they got $1,000. Paladin points out that Ed is exchanging ten years of his life for $1,000, and Ed tells them to put the money back. The two men say that they'll take the money with them and go for their guns. Paladin kills one of them, but the other one wings Ben before he goes down as well. Ed goes to his brother, who says that Paladin makes sense.
Later, Paladin, Ed, and Ben go to Hammond and give a deposition that Dan and Floyd robbed the stage, and Ed and Ben stopped them. Clyde accepts their story, and Will points out that Ben wrecked his office. The sheriff considers the matter and then fines the Stacys for disturbing the peace. When Will objects, saying there were at least $200 in damage to his offer, Paladin suggests that he deduct it from the $3,000 reward. Clyde agrees and Will realizes that he has no choice but to pay them the reward he offered. Satisfied, Paladin bids Ed goodbye and leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 8, 2018