At the Carlton, Paladin is checking his rifle when Hey Girl brings him a wire from Sheriff M.J. Smuggly asking him to come to the town of Arroyo and deal with some outlaws. Paladin soon rides there and goes to the sheriff's office. There's no one there, and two men on the street say that the sheriff doesn't come to that side of town to often and is at the local hay barn. As Paladin goes, they ask him to tell the sheriff that Arroyo could use some law and order.
As Paladin walks over to the barn, someone opens fire on him from the loft. He takes cover and makes his way to the barn, while the two men watch and chuckle. Paladin makes it to the door and a woman trains a rifle on him and tells him to come in. She demands an explanation, and Paladin says that he's looking for the sheriff. Paladin takes out the wire and shows it to her, and grabs her when she comes over to see it. Chuckling, the woman says that she's Maude Smuggly and flashes her badge.
Maude says that she doesn't want to give people a target and the two men work for Yates. She trains her rifle back on Paladin and demands to finish reading the letter, and then admits that she can't ready anyway. Maude figures that Paladin is all she got and hires him, then peers outside and confirms that the two men went to tell Yates that Paladin is there. She explains that Yates sent a man out to her place to kill her, and she buried him where he fell. Maude pours Paladin some coffee and he chokes on it, and she pours some whiskey in it to thin it. She then explains that Yates came through two months ago and tried to buy the land, and when the townspeople refused then Yates came back later and claimed he was with the railroad. There was some shooting and Maude's husband, the sheriff Fred, was killed. Maude admits that there's oil in the area, and Paladin points out that they've figured out how to run trains on oil. She offers Paladin $500 a head to kill Yates and his four men, but Paladin refuses to sell his gun. Maude points out that there's no law and order in Arroyo and turns on the tears, Paladin says that he has some tears for her opposition as well, and Maude asks him to take her to the bar so she can buy Paladin a drink. He offers his arm and agrees.
Paladin and Maude go down the street, Maude with her shotgun out. She explains that there used to be a man sheriff until he quit rather than get killed, and they elected her as the only person left. Yates' men step out of the bar and one of them goes to get Yates. The other one, Ted Greive, tells Paladin to get out of Arroyo and let them settle their local politics. When Ted introduces himself, Paladin remembers who he is and says that they laughed at him in Abilene. He goes for his gun and Maude shoots him dead. Paladin complains that it was the same as a bushwhack and figures that Maude can take care of herself. She warns him that they'll figure Paladin is with her now and goes into the sheriff's office. Yates' men open fire and Paladin runs into the office.
When Maude asks what Paladin is going to do, he says that he won't be pushed or forced into a deal. He admits that he would have shot Ted in self-defense, and Maude figures that Paladin is like one of her dead husbands. Paladin doesn't want to get involved and tells Maude to lock herself in the back and shoot the first man who comes in. Maude reluctantly agrees and goes into a cell, then climbs out the window.
Yates and his men check on Ted's body and confirm that Maude killed him with her shotgun. The leader figures that Maude will sneak out of the jail while he calls Paladin out, and tells them to watch out for her. Yates goes to the sheriff's office and says that he's alone. He offers to tell Paladin the facts and then let him go, and says that Maude is a killer and the townspeople are afraid of her. Paladin doesn't believe him, and Yates fires into the sheriff's office. The gunfighter finally kills him, runs out, and kills Yates' man on a nearby rooftop. Another one prepares to shoot Paladin, but Maude shoots him from an upstairs window. As she comes down, she trips and falls down the stairs. The man Maude shot is still alive and goes for his gun, and wings Maude before Paladin kills him. Paladin carries Maude into the jail to get her fixed up.
Inside, Paladin binds Maude's wound and admits that he's going to ride out. Maude suggests that Paladin stick around, become the sheriff, and marry her. A bemused Paladin declines with regrets and Maude figures that he prefers youth to experience and invites him back in ten years.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 31, 2018