At the Carlton, Paladin comes down to the lobby and Chief Dark Leaf and his nephew introduce themselves. The nephew translates, saying that Dark Leaf's son is going to be hung for murder. They understand that Paladin has important connections with Paladin in the Army, and Dark Leaf wants his son's body to burned on a Sioux pyre. The authorities have refused the right, and the nephew explains that Indians at Ft. Benjamin don't have right. Paladin agrees to put in a ward but says that he won't interfere with the trial results. Dark Leaf gives Paladin a necklace to give to his son so that his son can die as a chief.
Three weeks later, Paladin arrives at Ft. Benjamin and watches Sgt. Kern beats an Indian prisoner for sloppiness while cleaning. When the Indian accidentally hits Kern in the face with his mop, Paladin jumps Kern and pins him. Lt. Graham comes over and Paladin says that Kern is trying to beat a prisoner. Kern promises to get even with Paladin, and the Gimp says that the next day he will no longer have any fear. Graham tells Kern to take Gimp away, and the sergeant leads the Indian away.
Graham confirms that the prisoner, Gimp, is Yellow Star, Dark Leaf's son. The lieutenant says that Yellow Star killed one of the soldiers, Pierson, and cut up his body. Graham dismisses Kern as a scraping of the bottom just like everyone else there... including Graham. Major Blake is organizing soldiers putting up a gallows for Yellow Star's hanging. Paladin asks for the evidence, and Graham says that he and Kern witnesses Yellow Star's confession. He admits that he didn't see Yellow Star actually kill Pierson but everyone knows it, and Paladin says that he doesn't know it.
Paladin talks to Blake, who says that he won't surrender Yellow Star's body. Paladin says that something--love, courage, death--has to wash away a man's guilt. He points out that his request came from his father for his last son. Now Paladin wants to know why Yellow Star is being harassed on the eve of his execution. Blake says that Yellow Star's body will be consigned to the lime pit per Army sanitation code. As Paladin walks away, disgusted, Blake tells him that he had a belief but the Sioux taught him different. He show Paladin his twisted hand and says that he walked into a Sioux camp under a flag of truce. They tortured him until he told them everything that he knew. Paladin demands to talk to Yellow Star, and Blake tells him to take a close look at the person he wants to honor.
An exhausted and manacled Yellow Star is sitting in the yard, and goes over as Kern tosses a plate of food at the prisoner. Paladin asks if it's the time or place for them to fight, and Kern glares at him and walks off. Yellow Star asks for whiskey, and Paladin tells him that he cut down the drunken Pierson from behind. The prisoner insists that he made Pierson face him and he cut his coup mark with a saber. Paladin asks where the saber is and says that he doesn't believe Yellow Star. When he asks if Yellow Star realizes that they're going to hang him, Yellow Star says that at least they'll no longer humiliate him and he won't need whiskey. He rambles on about how he advised surrender to the Indian council and now he'll die with honor. Paladin describes how they'll cut his body down and shoveled into a lime pit, and Yellow Star says that he must die as a brave.
After asking some questions, Paladin talks to Graham and says that he learned that Graham was drunk the night that Pierson was killed. Graham insists that he saw what he saw, drunk or sober, and it was the first and last time anyone saw Pierson smile. Paladin promises that he'll get the truth from Graham, grabs him by the shirt, and demands to know what he saw. Graham insists that he saw Pierson smile, and Paladin says that scalped men don't smile. He figures that Yellow Star didn't kill Pierson, but Graham figures that it'll be the end of Yellow Star's miserable life if they hang him. Graham says that another drunk charged and he'll be kicked out of the Army. Paladin figures that Kern was there, saw Pierson drunk, and threatened to report Graham. The gunfighter asks if Kern killed Pierson, and Graham warns him that Kern is a dangerous man. Paladin walks off, unaware that Kern has seen the entire exchange.
Paladin goes to Blake's office, and Blake tells him to stop interfering with his men. He knows that Graham is drinking again and says that he deserves a second chance just like the rest of them. Blake insists that he's not going to alter the court records to protect Yellow Star, and Paladin suggests that another soldier killed Pierson and let Yellow Star take the blame. Blake stands by Yellow Star's confession, but Paladin says that Yellow is deluded and thinks that it's an honor to die. He tells Blake that he's going to wire DC for a review of the case. Blake denies his request to use the telegram and says that he'll have to ride out to send the wire. Paladin asks him not to hang Yellow Star before he comes back and leaves.
Later, Graham releases Yellow Star and says that he has a horse for him outside the gate so that he can escape. Graham gives the Indian bottles of whiskey and tells him to go, and Yellow Star digs up a package, climbs over the wall, and rides off. He comes to a river, sends his horse on its way, takes a swig of whiskey, and then swims across the river.
The next day, Paladin returns and the guard tells him that Yellow Star escaped and the other soldiers rode north after him. Paladin rides after the Indian and comes to the river. Blake and the others are there tracking Yellow Star, and Paladin tells Graham to tell Blake the truth. Blake calls Kern over and tells him to return Paladin to the fort. Kern trains a rifle on Paladin and says that they're not going back to the fort. Paladin secretly draws his derringer and asks Kern if he wants him to beg. Kern admits that he killed Pierson, chased Graham away, and then gave the saber to Yellow Star so he could take coup. Paladin shoots Kern dead and he falls into the river. As he watches the body drift away, Paladin sees Yellow Star's footprint in the mud and realized that he swam across.
Paladin tracks down Yellow Star and finds him sprawled out drunk, the saber thrust into the ground nearby. Yellow Star offers him a drink, and Paladin says that if Yellow Star goes back to the fort then there'll be a new trial. The Indian insists that he's free, and Paladin says that he'll never be free until he proves that he didn't kill Pierson. Yellow Star insists that he killed Pierson with the saber, pulls it out of the ground, and describes how he killed Pierson with it.
Blake and the others arrive, and Paladin tells them that Kern killed Pierson with the saber and Graham saw it. However, he was so frightened of Kern that he'd let Yellow Star take the blame. Graham says that Yellow Star is a drunk, dirty Indian and belongs in a lime pit. Yellow Star says that he'll die as a brave and charges at Graham, and Paladin shoots him. He then offers his gun to Blake and says that it's turn to get vengeance. Blake says that it's over and Paladin can take the body, and puts Graham under arrest. Paladin tells him that Blake degraded Yellow Star and honoring his body won't change that. Blake and the soldiers ride off, and Paladin takes the saber and throws it away.
Later, Paladin sets up a funeral pyre for Yellow Star. He puts the necklace on the corpse and then sets it on fire.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 30, 2018