At the Carlton, Hey Boy brings Paladin his newspapers. Paladin is playing chess against himself, and finds an article about Fred Horn killing Judge O'Reilly and Sheriff Oestler. There's a third man associated with the hanging of Jacob Mordain's son is going to die the same way. Paladin tells Hey Boy that he's the third man, and Fred only kills his victims when they're asleep and defenseless. He sends his card to Jacob, saying that he won't wait.
Later, Paladin arrives at the hotel that Jacob owns. The hotel manager, Droggan, recognizes Paladin and says that Jacob said that he would come. Droggan asks for the night's fee in the night, and tells Paladin that if he dies then he keeps his horse. He says that a gun salesman, Starrett, is the only other person staying. Paladin glances over at the made, Mary, and Droggan suggestively asks if Paladin wants her to bring him some hot water. Paladin tells Mary that would be fine and goes up to his room.
Later, Paladin is rinsing off when Mary arrives with extra towels. She tells him that they say that Paladin hunted Jacob's son Billy down and killed him, and Paladin says that he handed a murderer over to the law and they hung him. Mary asks why Paladin came back, but Paladin figures that Fred would have found him eventually and he decided to strike first. Mary says that Jacob tells her that she owes him and has to pay him before she can go. She describes that she got involved with a drummer who sold her to Droggan to work in the kitchen. Paladin agrees to talk to Jacob about her, but refuses to leave until he deals with Fred. He asks if Starrett is Fred, and Mary admits that she doesn't know. As she goes, she gives her name and tells Paladin to call her if she wants anything.
Three men ride rides into town and Paladin glances out the window to see who it is. It's Jacob and two of his men, Walt Dunne and Abe Huston. As Paladin leaves his room, a man emerges from his room holding a gun. Paladin turns and shoots, and the man ducks back and then calls out that his gun isn't loaded. It's Starrett, who says that he wanted to see how Paladin handles himself. Paladin points out the gun Starrett was holding is well-worn, and the drummer says that it's his own and he won't sell it. He admits that he knows how to handle it, and Paladin warns him to keep in mind that he's a gunfighter and knows how to shoot. Starrett merely says that Paladin is edgy, and Paladin leaves. The drummer then loads his gun.
Paladin goes downstairs and finds Mary serving Droggan and the three men. He sits down to eat and Jacob introduces Abe and says that he saved his life during the war so he owes Jacob his. The other man, Walt, is his ramrod. Jacob explains that Starrett is a has-been gunfighter who doesn't like it, and admits that one of them is Fred Horn, the man who is going to kill Paladin for him. Paladin points out that Billy wasn't taken or killed from behind, and Jacob insists that his son was worth more than the thousand dollars Paladin received for bringing him in. Disgusted, Paladin walks out and Jacob tells him he can start asking which man is coming for him.
Later, Paladin sits in the lobby. Abe comes down and tells Paladin that he likes Jacob and suggests that Paladin ride out so that Jacob doesn't dirty his hands on him. He admits that Jacob asked him to kill Paladin and he's going to do it, and tells Paladin to get rid of his gun. Once Paladin does, Abe attacks him with his fists. The two men fight as the others come in to watch. Paladin finally takes Abe down and asks which one is the shooter. Abe passes out without answering, and Walt admits that Abe is his friend. Walt says that no man would do to him what Paladin did, and Paladin says no one would do it to him. He glares at Jacob and then goes to his room.
Mary brings Paladin fresh clothing, and Paladin figures that Abe isn't Ford or he would have used a gun and killed him. Later, Paladin goes back to the lobby where Mary is cleaning things up. Droggan tells Paladin that Abe will leave, and Paladin orders some whiskey. The manager sends Mary to take some towels to Starrett, and Paladin pays Droggan the $50 that Droggan paid for Mary. Droggan tells Paladin to get out in the morning and leaves, and Paladin gives Mary some money in case they're killed. Walt comes in and advises Mary to take the money, promising that he'll make sure she can go if Paladin dies. Mary thanks Paladin and goes.
Paladin joins Walt at the fireplace, and Walt says that he's seen women like Mary all over the West: forced to fend on their own as maids. Paladin says that he doesn't take pleasure in beating a man, and Walt admits that Billy was bad. He tells Paladin that he could still run, and says that he's been told that Horn never backs off.
Paladin sleeps by the fireplace with a gun in his hand. Mary comes in and offers him breakfast, and asks which man is Horn. Paladin says that they'll find out now and goes and kicks open the door to Starrett's room. Starrett is sitting on the bed, and tells Paladin that Jacob offers him $5,000 to kill him anyway that he can. The drummer says that he cares even if Jacob doesn't, and tells Paladin that he's been faster and could have taken him. Paladin knows about the gunfighter that Starrett killed, and how the man made Starrett crawl in the mud. He invites Starrett to put on his gun and take him on. Starrett insists that he's not Horn, and Paladin figures that he's a backshooter like Horn. Starrett goes for his gun and Paladin breaks his wrist. He says that Horn wouldn't have tried and leaves as Starrett collapses on the bed, crying.
When he goes downstairs, Paladin finds Walt waiting. Walt says that the gun he works with is out in the shed, and Paladin tells him to get it. Walt leaves and Jacob comes down. After a moment, Paladin goes outside and looks around for Walt. Jacob watches from the window as Walt emerges from the shed carrying his shotgun. He says that he respects Paladin enough to face him and goes for his shotgun. Paladin kills him, and then goes over to Jacob. Jacob says that there will be a next time, and Paladin asks him where he'll find another Horn before going back into the hotel.
Later, Mary joins Paladin as he prepares to leave. She says that he needs a woman to take care of him in San Francisco. Paladin gives her his coat and the two of them ride off.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 29, 2018