Paladin stops to get water and spots men riding past. They continue on their way, and Paladin rides on. He comes to an empty camp, and a man--Dobie O'Brien--steps out and trains a rifle on Paladin. He apologizes, saying that he was napping and Paladin startled him. Dobie confirms that Paladin didn't pass through the nearby town, and suggests that he bed down there for the night. After a moment's consideration, Paladin accepts and talks about the horsemen. Dobie claims that they're a bunch of his friends that he's been trying to join up with them, and Paladin admits that he's considered that they were looking for Dobie. The man tosses his gun to Paladin and says that just because they're strangers doesn't mean that they have to be suspicious of each other. Paladin hands Dobie the rifle back, but Dobie goes through Paladin's saddle bag looking for coffee and says that he doesn't have his hands free. When Paladin isn't looking, he puts a knife into Paladin's bag.
The two men settle down and Dobie says that he hoped Paladin would furnish the food if he helped him with his gear. He talks about how he's been riding a bad luck trail most of his life, and hears men riding by. Dobie takes out a thong and tells Paladin that he killed a man and woman that morning. The posse rides up, and Dobie wraps the thong around his wrists and hits his head on a nearby tree root.
The sheriff leading the posse asks Paladin who he is, and Dobie yells that he's a prisoner. He says that Paladin killed the couple and got the drop on him. Paladin says that it's an obvious lie, but the Sheriff draws his gun on Paladin and has his men take him. The Sheriff says that they were looking for Dobie, and a second man Curley tells Paladin to drop his gun and shut up. Paladin obliges and Curley takes his weapons. He confirms that the carbine is the same one that was used in the killings. When Paladin objects, Curley beats him unconscious until the Sheriff tells him to stop. The Sheriff then tells Curley, McKay, and the others that it's a legal posse and he's going to run it that way. Dobie asks if they should string him up, and the Sheriff insists that they're just going to tell him a few questions. McKay tells the Sheriff that he's there to make sure the Sheriff doesn't make any mistakes.
When Paladin wakes up, Dobie says that he found Willis and his wife dead and the killer used his knife to make them tell him where the money is. Dobie says that he followed Paladin's trail to make sure that he didn't leave the country. Curley explains that they were looking for Dobie first, and Dobie tells Paladin to admit that he did it. The sheriff tells Paladin to talk, and Paladin sarcastically asks if he's innocent until proven guilty.
Curley checks Paladin's saddlebags and finds the money that he took from his bank. Paladin offers to take them to the bank where he got it, but the posse doesn't want to hear it. McKay tells the Sheriff that they don't have time to take Paladin into town for trial. Curley finds Paladin's card and shows it to McKay, who tells the possemen to string Paladin up. Paladin says that he'd rather give the posse a chance to think rather than provoke them by protesting his innocence.
The Sheriff says that they want to hear Paladin's side of the story, and turns to McKay. McKay asks for some coffee, and one of the possemen--Perc--points out that it's the second time that Dobie has found a killer in two years. Perc figures that Dobie will soon be in town boasting about his efforts, and Dobie says that they should hurry it up. The Sheriff tells McKay that he doesn't want to see a lynching, and Paladin points out that the more he begged, the easier it would be to lynch him. When Curley complains that Paladin is talking too much, McKay tells him that he's running the show. The Sheriff asks Paladin if he has something to say, and Paladin says that he'll only talk to McKay and only when McKay is ready to listen.
Dobie ties Paladin's hands behind his back and the possemen prepare to string the gunfighter up. Curley offers Paladin a drink for luck, and Paladin refuses. McKay describes everything that they went through to open up the territory, and they're not going to turn it over to a sheriff who's too weak to do any ranching. The Sheriff says that he's got no quarrel with McKay, and Paladin figures that McKay is apologizing to himself. McKay insists that they're good men, but Paladin isn't impressed.
The Sheriff tells everyone to settle down and McKay asks Paladin for a statement about his killing the Willis'. Paladin asks Dobie why the posse started out looking for Dobie, and asks McKay if Dobie would shift the blame to someone else. The posse agrees that's what Dobie is like but McKay says that they want to hear what Paladin says. Paladin points out that the carbine that supposedly belongs to him is rusty and nothing like his weapons, and a killer wouldn't stop a few miles from his crime to make coffee. They've checked Paladin's back trail and determined that the hoof prints belong to Perc's horse, that was stolen from him a few days ago. Paladin tells them to match his saddle blanket to the sweatmarks on the horse and see if they match. They do so and find the knife that Dobie planted, and Dobie smiles in satisfaction.
McKay tells the posse to string Paladin up, and they mount him on a horse with the noose around his neck. Curley switches the horse, but Paladin manages to slip the noose off his neck. The horse rides off with Paladin on it, and Curley grabs the carbine to shoot him. Dobie tells him that he has to hand-fire it, and they wonder how Dobie knew. McKay realizes that they almost hung the wrong man, and Curley grabs Dobie. Two possemen ride after Paladin, and the Sheriff tells McKay that he hopes they bring Paladin back because the Sheriff wants to hear what McKay has to say to him.
Later, they find the money that Dobie hid nearby, buried in an old tin can. The two possemen bring Paladin back, and McKay says that Paladin is innocent. They untie him and McKay apologizes to him. The Sheriff gives Paladin directions, and Dobie begs Paladin for help. Paladin asks what they're going to do with Dobie, and tells McKay that whatever they do, they'll have to live with the rest of their lives. After Paladin rides off, the posse lynches Dobie.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 5, 2018