Paladin is playing chess against a professor in the lobby of the
Carlton and handily defeats him. As Paladin goes up to his room, Hey Boy
draws his attention to a man seated in the lobby, Haskell Sommers, who
wants to employ Paladin's service. Paladin goes over and Haskell has him
read a classified ad about a young attractive widow of means who owns
the Diamond S Ranch and wants to meet prospective young suitors. The
gunfighter points out that she's likely to get a lot of inquiries given
the tempting description, and Haskell offers to hire Paladin to respond
to the ad. When Paladin points out that he's not looking for a wife,
Haskell explains that the "widow" in question, Tamsen, is his wife.
Paladin rides to the Diamond S and finds a dozen suitors, cowboys and dandies, already there to meet with Tamsen. One of them challenges Paladin, demanding to know why he's there, and the gunfighter presents his card. The suitors tell him to take his place in line and Paladin settles down to wait. A disappointed suitor comes out and a cowboy marches out, disappointed.
Suitors are eliminated until there are only five left plus Paladin. When his turn comes, Paladin enters the study and finds a statuette of the Venus de Milo on the table. Tamsen comes in and asks if he likes it, and Paladin talks about the history of the original. The widow is impressed and says so, and Paladin asks about her husband. Tamsen explains that Haskell was quite a collector of things... and people. She no longer wants to be a captive in her dead husband's collection.
Paladin wonders how Tamsen plans to pick a suitor and she explains that she will use process of elimination. She goes on to explain that her husband hasn't died--yet--and offers Paladin a toast to her new life. Paladin asks what happens if her husband doesn't die and Tamsen explains that he's old and soon will. She indicates a portrait of Haskell on the wall and says that he's in San Francisco, and hints that the six selected suitors will make sure he won't survive the trip back. Realizing what she means, Paladin wonders why Tamsen doesn't kill Haskell herself and she admits that she's afraid of her husband. Paladin wonders what will happen when the suitors return, and Tamsen baldly states that she's sure not all of them will return. However, she assures Paladin that she doesn't have a preference for which one comes back and kisses him.
Back at the Carlton, Paladin tells Haskell what he's learned. Haskell admits that he's disappointed but that he's going to teach Tamsen a lesson she won't forget. Paladin warns him that five men will be waiting to gun him down, and Haskell informs Paladin that he'll be going with him. The gunfighter isn't interested even when Haskell offers him $2,000, half in advance. Intrigued by the situation despite himself, Paladin warns Haskell that the odds are against him. The millionaire insists and Paladin goes in, but says that he'll choose the route. Haskell refuses, saying that he plans to take the route that his would-be killers anticipate. He plans to eliminate them rather than wait for them to come hunting for him. He also admits that he wants Paladin with him in case the gunfighter gets any ideas about killing him and collecting his wife and money.
Haskell and Paladin take the direct route to the Diamond S and Paladin spots two of the suitors up ahead waiting in ambush. The suitors open fire on them and they take cover. Haskell runs out and opens fire, and the suitors gun him down. Paladin crawls out to check on Haskell just as the two men run up and prepare to shoot him. However, they check on Haskell first to make sure that he's dead. He rolls over and guns them both down. Paladin wonders why Haskell needs him and the man admits that there are three more men waiting for him. It's clear that Haskell still doesn't trust him, but Haskell admits that Paladin may have been trying to save his life.
That night, Paladin and Haskell make camp and Haskell lights up a big fire. When Paladin warns against it, Haskell draws on him and takes his revolver. He then orders Paladin to sit by the fire, where he will act as bait. When the other suitors arrive, they'll figure that Paladin is on their side and will come in to talk. Haskell will then gun them down.
Two of the remaining suitors approach the fire and Paladin tells them that Haskell has prepared an ambush. They insist on seeing for themselves and as they approach the woods, Haskell guns them down. He gives Paladin his gun back and tells him to get rid of the bodies. Haskell dismissively tells Paladin to protect him while he sleeps and the gunfighter admits that he's beginning to see why Tamsen wants to be rid of her husband. Haskell, unimpressed, tells Paladin that he's spent his life collecting works of art, including Tamsen... and he has no intention of parting with his collection.
The next day, Paladin and Haskell arrive at the gates of the Diamond S. Paladin says that his job is done, but Haskell orders him to kill the fifth suitor. The suitor steps out from behind the gate and Haskell rides for the house. His opponent shoots him in the back and Paladin guns the man down. He then goes over to Haskell but despite the fact that he's seen Haskell fake death once, he lets his employer sucker him again. Haskell tells Paladin that he's going to gun him down in front of Tamsen to teach her a lesson in betrayal. He orders Paladin to hand his gun over, but Paladin performs a stagecoach spin and shoots Haskell down. With his dying breath Haskell tells Paladin that he was right about him after all.
Tamsen is waiting in the study when Paladin walks in. She runs to him but Paladin coldly informs her that he wants the $1,000 that Haskell's estate owes him. He explains that he was working for Haskell and Tamsen realizes that her husband is dead, just as she planned. She offers Paladin much more than $1,000, but Paladin says that he doesn't want anything that belongs to Haskell. Realizing that Paladin will never join her, Tamsen gets the money. He admires the statuette as Tamsen comes back with the money and tries to convince him to stay with her. She calls him a fool and Paladin admits that she's right, and then walks out.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 28, 2018