At the Carlton, Paladin reads an article about how the Howard Lumber Company is facing bankruptcy. The owner, Sara Howard, claimed in an interview at the Carlton that her stepson Ben is crippling production and making it impossible to meet delivery dates. Paladin cuts out the article and sends it--and his card--to Sara. Soon, Paladin meets with Sara, who says that Ben contested his father's will six months ago and lost. Now Ben sees to it that no logs come to the mill by dynamiting the roads, stampeding the haul animals, and shooting at the crews. They've tried to catch him but failed, and Ben refused a cash settlement. Sara claims that Ben wants to ruin her anyway that he can. Paladin says that his fee is $5,000 and if he fails, there will be no fee. Sara immediately agrees and leaves to pack for the trip the next morning.
Paladin and Sara travel to the mill and Sara says that the land needs a strong man to develop its resources. He isn't impressed by her mercenary nature, and Sara says that she grew up poor and swore that when she grew up she'd have all of the good things. She kisses Paladin, who tells her that at least she grew up.
The duo arrive at a lumbering operation, and they hear a rumbling noise. They take the carriage to investigate, and find the superintendent Flannigan on the ground. Flannigan says that the chain snapped and broke his arm, and Sara calls for Birdie. Paladin confirms that the chin was filed through and Sara immediately accuses Ben. They take Flannigan to Birdie, who tends to his injury. Flannigan offers to show Paladin around, and they go out into the trees. Paul Eckert, the gang boss, comes over and Flannigan explains why Paladin is there. Paladin wonders why Ben hasn't hit anyone, and the lumberjacks insists that Ben hasn't hurt anyone. The gunfighter says that death is just as final met by accident as design and leaves.
As Paladin walks away, someone shoots at the tree near him. He takes cover, and Flannigan runs up and says that he heard the shots. Paladin points out that Ben missed him. They hear an explosion and run back to the site, and find a lumberjack on the ground, hit by a rock. As they take the injured man away, one lumberjack agrees with Paladin about the accidents becoming dangerous. Flannigan orders him to shut up and they go back to the camp.
Birdie tends to the man's injury, and warns Sara that he may die. Sara goes back to the house, saying that she doesn't feel well, and Paladin tells Flannigan to think about how the business has become worse than simple intimidation. Paladin goes to see Birdie, who says that she raised Ben and Paladin came there to kill him. The gunfighter says that he doesn't like to use his gun, and asks Birdie for her opinion on Ben. Birdie says that Ben is stubborn and hot-tempered, but he wouldn't hurt his men. She explains that Ben was jealous and things changed when Sara came there. Ben hated Sara for it and she knew it, and Mr. Howard became sick. Sara told him that Ben did something terrible and Mr. Howard changed his will. Birdie tells Paladin to ask Sara what she said.
That night, Paladin visits Sara and says that he talked to Birdie about Ben and Sara. Sara says that Birdie hates her as much as Ben and anyone she says would be a lie. She explains that she didn't grow up there so all of the old ones conspired against her. Sara figures that if they can't frighten her away then they'll do something else. When the lumberjack dies, Ben will be a murderer and everyone will have to tell the truth since Paladin is there. Sara hugs Paladin, who asks her what she told Mr. Howard about Ben. The woman swears that she didn't tell Mr. Howard anything.
Flannigan arrives and asks to talk to Paladin alone. Sara tries to dismiss him, but Paladin agrees and goes out with the superintendent. Flannigan says that Birdie told him that at the time of the explosion, Ben was with her because she took him some food. The superintendent shows Paladin a sabotaged high-climber rope, and explains that Brad checked it before using it the next day. Ben comes up out of the darkness behind Paladin.
The next morning, Paladin visits Sara and says that there's been another accident. He takes her into the forest, and Ben calls out of the trees, taunting Sara. He claims that Sara killed her father on her own, and Paladin leads Sara off. Ben continue taunting them, asking why Sara is running. He yells that Sara said that Ben claimed that he made lover to her, and the lie killed Mr. Howard.
Paladin takes Sara to a tree where a high-climber, Brad, is suspended by his harness from a tree. He's been shot, and Paladin says that she'll have to order someone to go up and recover the man before he dies. Flannigan has the safety belt that he showed Paladin, and Paladin accuses them of lying to deer Sara. He agrees to go up, using the sabotages safety line, and Sara tells him to stop. Paladin refuses and Sara yells that the rope has been cut. Paladin tells Brad to come down and descends himself. He asks Sara how she knew that the rope was cut, and she refuses to be lie. Paladin tells her that the foreman won't die, and Ben will share the profits with Sara if she goes away permanently. If she doesn't then she'll go on trial for attempted murder. Sara admits that she hoped to convince the men to turn against Ben, and Ben agrees to pay Paladin's fee. Sara goes to pack her clothing, and Paladin looks ruefully at the sabotaged rope.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 22, 2018