Paladin is relaxing in his room with his current girlfriend, Reeva, when Hey Boy brings him a letter from Beauregard Crommer.
Beauregard informs Paladin that his grandfather, General Crommer, is on
his deathbed, and would like to meet with Paladin on a matter of
financial benefit. Reeva wonders if the letter is bad news and Paladin
tells her that he has to meet with a dying man. They share a last kiss
and then Paladin has Hey Boy make his travel arrangements.
Later, Paladin arrives at the Crommer manor and the butler lets him in. Beau greets Paladin and complains briefly about how Paladin smells after several days of riding. He has the butler escort Paladin to the stables to clean up. When Paladin returns, he hears cheerful conversation from the parlor and discovers that all of the General's relatives are gathered there. Beau comes out and tells Paladin that grief is for the poor. The butler arrives and informs Paladin that the General will see him now.
When Paladin confronts the General in his bed, the man dismisses his greedy relatives as idiots and fools. Paladin, uninterested, puts his derringer to the General's head, only for the General to reveal his own hidden revolver. However, he admits that the revolver isn't loaded and Paladin takes it. Paladin points out that the General had him court-martialed after he saved his life, and the General says that he doesn't like owing any man a debt that he can't pay. Still furious years after the incident, the General complains that Paladin defended himself at the court-martial and got the General cashiered out of the Army instead.
The General tells Paladin that since he's dying, he's decided to forgive and forget. He wants to make amends to a man named Caterall, who he cheated in a gold mine deal years ago. They shot and wounded each other, and Caterall left the General for dead. Paladin isn't interested in helping the General, but the dying man says that he's left Caterall and Paladin in his will. He wants Paladin to deliver the news to Caterall, claiming there's no telegraph in his town. As for Paladin, the General wants to receive something in return for the money he's leaving him and expects Paladin to deliver the message. Disgusted, Paladin says that he'll do it but only if the General writes him out of the will. He demands $5,000 in cash instead. The General says that the inheritance is worth much more and Paladin tells him to leave the difference to charity. Angry at being thwarted, the General nonetheless calls Beau in and tells him to pay Paladin the $5,000. Once the two men leave, the General smiles in smug satisfaction.
Paladin is soon back on the trail and arrives in Caterall's town. He goes to the saloon and the bartender says that Caterall lives out in the country. The bartender advises Paladin to wait until Caterall comes in and Paladin joins a game of poker. A man who has been listening in goes to find Caterall, who is walking down the street, and tells him that another man is looking for him. Caterall asks him to find Ronson and set up a meeting for that night, and then goes into the saloon and confronts Paladin, claiming to be Caterall's foreman. Paladin hands him his card and Caterall says that Caterall won't be back for several days. Unperturbed, Paladin says that he'll wait and Caterall leaves.
That night, the older Ronson meets with Caterall, who says that the General kept his word and sent another man to town, just like he said in the telegram. He warns Ronson that Paladin looks tougher than the other men, and Ronson demands an extra $150. Ronson assures Caterall that he'll handle Paladin just like he did the other three men that the General sent, and collects half of his payment upfront.
The next, day, Ronson rides his mule into town and goes into the saloon. The townspeople see him and scatter, and Ronson confronts Paladin over his breakfast. He puts a gun to Paladin's head and tells him to leave town or else. Paladin calmly continues eating and says that he's only there to deliver a message to Caterall, but Ronson warns that he'll kill Paladin rather than let him get to his employer. When Paladin refuses to give Ronson an excuse to shoot and claim self-defense, the hired gun pours his tobacco in Paladin's breakfast and then throws it in the gunfighter's face. Paladin refuses to let Ronson rile him and the frustrated man tells Paladin to get out of town in 30 minutes.
As soon as Ronson leaves, Paladin watches in amazement as the townspeople start betting on his chances of living. A gambler is collecting the money and Paladin tells him that there won't be a fight, but the gambler warns that Ronson is a hardened killer. Ronson killed the three previous men that the General sent, businessmen all, and Paladin realizes that the General set the whole thing up. The gambler tells Paladin that Ronson prefers using a sawed-off shotgun and only wears a gun belt to trick his opponents. When the gambler tells Paladin that he'd be best off bushwhacking Ronson, the gunfighter tells him to mind his business and leaves.
Paladin goes to the general store and rents the owner's shotgun with the longest barrel, and then buys two shells. The 30 minutes are up and Ronson calls Paladin out. Wise to the old man's ways, Paladin steps out on the street and warns the man off, pointing out that he has the range. Rather than back down and lose his reputation, Ronson keeps coming despite Paladin's warning, and the gunfighter reluctantly shoots back as Ronson opens fire. The old gunman goes down and Paladin takes a wound to the shoulder, and the townspeople rush out to cart Ronson's body away.
The town doctor bandages Paladin's wound and admits that Ronson was a frightened fool who couldn't afford to back down. Caterall sneaks in behind Paladin and says that he's there to finish him off before Paladin guns him down. Paladin irritably insists that he didn't come to town to kill anyone, and Caterall realizes that the General is pitting them against each other. He tells Paladin that the General sent telegrams to warn him each time before sending a man, and Paladin realizes that the whole thing is a setup.
Later, Paladin rides back to the General's manor. Beau confronts him, angry at some imagined slight, and Paladin knocks him out. He then goes upstairs to the General's room and the General figures that Caterall is dead. Realizing the General's one weakness, Paladin tells him that Caterall has been forgiven. He and Caterall both know that the General was sending men that he held grudges against in the hopes that Caterall would kill them or one of them killed him. The General would rather see them all dead than admit that he had wronged them. Disgusted, Paladin tells the General that he's decided to give him the one thing that he hates the most: his forgiveness. The General literally chokes on Paladin's words, dying in his bed, and Paladin leaves the room.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 19, 2018