At the Carlton, Hey Boy brings Paladin one of his cards stamped and dated. There's a banjo drawn on the other side, and Paladin realizes immediately what it means.
Paladin soon rides to a town after five men beat up a sixth. They go inside, and Paladin hears banjo music and a poster proclaiming "Billy Banjo for State Senate". Sheriff Cooley gets the drop on Paladin and tells him to hand over his gun, and says that he's trying to make sure the election goes smoothly. Paladin invites Cooley to take his gun, and Cooley does so and says that Paladin will get it back after the show.
Entering the saloon, Paladin finds Billy giving a speech as he plays the banjo. Everyone cheers as Billy plays and dances, then talks about the Mexican War. His wife Elise pours Paladin a drink, and Billy recognizes his old friend Paladin and tells everyone the speech is over. They go in the back and Elise says that Billy is charming the cowhands. Billy tells Paladin that Elise is the one who is ambitious, and explains that there's another candidate, Martin Jansen. Elise says that they'll bury Jansen and his miners, and complains that Jansen has them thinking that they run the mine. Billy explains that Elise owns the mine and the saloon, and Paladin asks why Billy wants him.
Billy asks Elise to leave because his business with Paladin is private. She sarcastically says that her husband doesn't have to consult her and leaves. Billy tells Paladin that he loves Elise, but he needs Paladin to protect Jansen from Elise. He explains that her ranch hands drove a miner off the streets and hands Paladin a wad of his money. Paladin says that he's going to consult with Jansen first and if he refuses with his services, then he'll give the money back. As Paladin goes, Billy asks him not to tell Elise about their arrangement.
Paladin goes to Martin's mining shack and Jansen has his miners bring Paladin in. The gunfighter explains that he was hired to protect Jansen. Jansen knows that Billy hired Paladin, and shows him the beaten miner, Fred wade. He figures that Billy is trying to make a fool of him, and Paladin assures him that Billy wants to win the election fairly. Fred dies and Jansen points out that Elise knows that Billy can't win fairly, and Fred's death is on Billy's hands. Jansen asks if Paladin is fair dinkum. When Paladin says that he is, Jansen insists that he can beat Billy in a fair fight.
The two men go into town and Paladin tells Cooley that Fred died. Cooley says that a murder trial would bust the town wide open, and he's trying to keep them alive. Jansen points out that Cooley isn't worried about the miners, and Paladin goes into the saloon alone. He tells Billy that he wants to talk to him privately, and the two men go in the back. Paladin says that Billy killed a man and asks if he still wants to be a senator, and the fun and cheering just stopped. The gunfighter tells Billy that the only way he can protect Jansen is to quit and help bury Fred. Billy warns that Elise wouldn't like it, and Paladin tells him that he's going to get a fair election, win or lose.
Cooley is busy telling Elise that Jansen hired Paladin to protect Jansen. Billy comes out and announces that Fred is dead, and the ranch hands toast their "victory". Elise knows that Billy paid Paladin to protect Jansen, and tells Billy that in a fair election the mines would bury Billy and hang the man who killed Fred. The head rancher warns that if Billy loses the election then they'll avoid the town. Elise tells Cooley to give the ranch hands their guns back, and Cooley reluctantly agrees.
Outside, Cooley hands out the ranch hands' guns. Paladin is watching, and signals to Jansen and his miners. They sneak in the back and work out how to break into the sheriff's office while the ranch hands make their noise to cover their digging. Once the ranch hands leave, Paladin enters the jail and hands out the ballot box, covers the hole over to prevent Cooley from noticing the draft, and leaves with the miners.
Jansen takes the ballot box back to his shed and the miners put their votes into the box. They then take the box back to the sheriff's office and put it back where they got it.
The next morning, Cooley prepares to open the election. Paladin insists on witnessing it, and Billy agrees. The gunfighter stops one ranch hand from double-voting, and says that he's disqualified because he killed one vote for Jansen. Cooley agrees and Paladin twists the ranch hand's wrist before sending him on his way.
That night, Cooley tells Paladin that the miners didn't come to vote. They take the ballot box into the saloon and Cooley and Paladin call off the votes. Everyone is shocked to discover lots of Jansen votes, and Paladin draws a hidden gun that he got from the miners. Elise is furious, and Paladin says that all of the miners voted except Fred and he died.
The miners arrive carrying Fred's coffin, and Jansen says that they're having their victory parade and burying their dead. Paladin asks Elise if she's going to let the miners defy her, and Elise warns Cooley that the miners will make him eat his badge. Paladin tells Cooley that if he breaks up the funeral then they'll never let him get away with it.
The ranch hand who killed Fred grabs a gun and says that Billy can't run out on him. He invites Cooley to come get him. Mrs. Wade slaps the ranch hand, and Cooley comes over and takes the man's gun. When Elise protests, Cooley just stares at her and then takes the ranch hand off to jail. She tells Billy to stop him, and the rancher tells her to shut up. Billy punches him, telling him that it's all done and he should go. The ranch hands help the miners carry Fred's coffin off, and Billy figures that plenty of saloons need a loud man with a banjo. He walks off, ignoring Elise, and Paladin takes his leave.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 25, 2018