Paladin is playing chess at the Carlton when a woman, Juliana Guilder, comes over and points out that he'll be checkmated in three moves. Commodore Jonathan Guilder watches from the staircase, speaks up, and says that Juliana is her husband. Hey Boy tells Paladin that Jonathan is one of the big four members of the Comstock Lode. Jonathan says that he's come to buy Paladin, $5,000 for a month's service. Paladin refuses until Jonathan triples his offer. Juliana sarcastically says that there should be a limit to adventures, and Jonathan says that she's been milking farmers and miners for the money to buy her fears. Paladin figures that Jonathan has enemies, and Jonathan says that one of them is Quinah Parker. Quinah is stirring up the Indians to drive out the white settlers, and Paladin agrees to accept Jonathan's offer.
The next day, the Guilders head out in a stagecoach. Paladin chats with the other two passengers, Ben and Madge Mattock, and introduces them to the Guilders. They approach an abandoned fort, Adobe Wells, and Quinah and his men open fire on the stagecoach. The driver is killed and the wagon goes off the roads, with the guard falling off. Paladin and the others jump and enter Adobe Wells to take cover. A wounded buffalo soldier, Rio Jones, is inside and says that there are four Indians and they haven't had water for four days in the sun.
Paladin and Ben make Rio comfortable. He figures that he's going to die, and Madge tells Ben to get some water and tends to the soldier. Quinah calls to them and says that they've come at a bad time, and tells them to give him their guns and water and they'll go. Jonathan recognizes Quinah, and Paladin says that Quinah isn't known for keeping his bargains. Quinah says that if they hand over Rio then he'll hand over his water and guns, and Paladin figures Quinah won't fully attack until after sunset.
The men retreat and Paladin tells Rio that Quinah will torture him slowly. Jonathan reminds Paladin that he works for him, but Paladin refuses to hand Rio over. The commodore agrees to back down... for now, but says that they'll all pay the price for his safety. Once Jonathan moves off, Juliana suggests to Paladin that he give Jonathan to Quinah and Rio laughs.
That night, Madge tells the others that Rio is going to die despite her best efforts. The Indians fire constantly to keep them awake, and Rio prepares to run out and try to escape. Paladin advises Jonathan to let Rio go, but Jonathan fires and kills Rio. Dying, Rio says that he never shot Indian bounty. Paladin finds a scalp in his bag and tells the others that Rio killed Indians for payment. Ben says that they should give him to Quinah, but Paladin tells them that it's too late. Rio talks about the buffalo gone and dies.
Paladin says that they'll see if Quinah will take Rio dead, gives Ben a gun and tells him to cover him while keeping Jonathan away from a gun, and goes out to talk to Quinah. Quinah says that Rio cut the throats of an Indian family, even the children, and Paladin says that Rio is dead and will give Quinah water if he will let them leave. The half-breed wonders how he can trust Paladin, and paladin says that someone has to start acting decently and take a chance of being shot in the back. Paladin goes back to the fort, and Quinah tells his men that he wants to see Rio's body.
Back at the fort, Paladin and the others wait but Quinah doesn't move in. Paladin takes the guns and tells Jonathan that they have to get Quinah's guns before they hand over Rio. Jonathan says that he'll backshoot Quinah but Paladin refuses. The commodore goes over to Juliana, who insults him. He says that they could only die and she's the only woman he ever wanted, and Juliana snaps at him that he's a rich man wanting whatever he wants. She hasn't been able to give him a child, and Juliana says that she saw the woman he hired to give him an heir and she can't forgive him. Juliana tells Paladin that Quinah wants Jonathan because Jonathan pays the bounties on the Indians.
Furious, Paladin punches Jonathan. Madge screams as Quinah and his men come in, and Quinah says that someone has to begin. Paladin has Madge give them some water and then shows Quinah Rio's body. Quinah says that eventually the white men will take the land, and asks that they let the Indians live out their time before they take it all away.
Jonathan secretly picks up Paladin's derringer, and Quinah and his men surrender their guns and start to leave. Juliana tells Quinah who Jonathan is and yells at him to take her husband. Jonathan shoots her, and Paladin grabs him. They struggle and Quinah shoots Jonathan. The half-breed then says that they need not fear their guns until they come back, takes the water, and goes with his men.
The next morning, Paladin wakes up and the Maddocks tell him that there's no place for them back home. They plan to stay there and farm, and figure that they have to be tough or the land will be overridden by Indians. Paladin sarcastically calls Ben "Commodore", and reminds them that they owe Quinah trust and a beginning. Ben figures that Quinah would have killed them and doesn't trust him, and the two of them go out as a coach arrives. Paladin ruefully looks at Quinah and his men ride off.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 21, 2018