At the Carlton, Paladin is in his suite and Hey Girl is cleaning up. She suggests that he get married, but Paladin is busy reading an article about how Jessie May say his father whipped and killed for an act of espionage during the Civil War. In recent weeks, seven of the twelve men who had Jessie's father killed. One of the five surviving men, Joseph Ergo, refuses to raise his hand against Jessie but the other four want to hunt down and kill Jessie, figuring that he's guilty.
Paladin sends his card to Joseph and after his services are accepted, rides out to the place in the hills where Joseph has holed up. Abe Sinclair, one of the other men, is with him. Joseph admits that he's has changed his mind and wants Jessie dead because he killed a girl 200 miles away. She was married to Purdy, one of the twelve, and when Purdy wasn't home Jessie killed her instead. Jessie has an automatic shotgun that he built himself and used to blow the shack apart.
A man whoops from the shadows and opens fire on the camp, and the men take cover. When Joseph goes out to talk to the shooter, the whistler shoots him down. Abe and Sim take advantage of their attacker reloading to move in, but he guns them down as well. Jessie whistles cheerfully from the darkness before leaving.
The next day, Paladin rides to a camp and finds two men, George Jondill and Ansel James. They invite Paladin to eat with them, and he accepts. After the meal, Paladin asks if anyone else has passed through. George and Ansel look at nervously at each other before claiming no one did, and Paladin says that Jessie killed seven men as well as a woman. Ansel admits that he ran into a saddle tramp in his 40s but no one else, and George insists that he saw no one. He explains that he was a bronc rider in his younger days but can't handle it anymore, and goes out. Paladin tells Ansel that he's never seen Jessie. They hear footsteps outside and Paladin blows out the lights.
Jessie calls out, saying that he hopes no one will shoot him, and Ansel tells Paladin that he's one of them. Jessie comes in with supplies and George introduces him, and Ansel figures that Paladin is a bounty hunter. Paladin tells him not to go for his gun and draws on Jessie. George insists that Paladin has the wrong man, and Paladin confirms that Jessie's father was executed a decade ago. Jessie describes seeing his father dies but denies killing anyone. Paladin takes Jessie's gun and tells Ansel to get the chains from his saddlebags. George warns that the territory is flooded and Paladin can't leave it, and Paladin admits that he doesn't know if he's taking Jessie back for a fair trial.
Ansel puts the chains on Jessie, and Paladin says that he and Jessie will stay outside in the lean-to. He leads Jessie out, and the ex-slave Ansel admits to George that he hates chains on a man. George brings blankets out later and tells Paladin that he's known Jessie for three years and he's a goodbye. He says that he and Ansel decided that if Paladin takes Jessie, they'll try to kill him.
Once George goes inside, Paladin asks where the automatic shotgun is. Jessie denies having one, and Paladin asks him about his father. The younger man insists that his father was king of the world, and Paladin asks if he was a traitor. Jessie says that his father was a Southerner and probably did what they said he did. Paladin asks Jessie why he hasn't killed the men who executed his father, and Jessie tells him that he doesn't want to see anyone killed again. He sings to himself a different song than the one the killer did.
The next morning, Paladin wakes up and confirms that Jessie is still sleeping. Ansel comes out, hangs up, and Paladin draws his gun and then warns Ansel that it was close. Jessie wakes up and calls to George, and Ansel tells him and Paladin that George isn't there. Paladin wonders where he is, and Ansel says that George is in the trees nearby with a rifle trained on Paladin. He advises Paladin to drop his gun or he'll drop his hat, signaling George to shoot. Paladin hands his gun over and Ansel asks for the key to the chains. Once Paladin gives Ansel that, Ansel frees Jessie and tells him to take care of himself. Jessie promises that he'll see the two men again. Paladin promises Jessie that he'll come after him, and Jessie rides away. Once he leaves, Paladin tells George to come out from the nearby tent. George limps out and Paladin figures that Jessie will wait for him with his shotgun rather than escaping, and admits that he didn't want to kill George or Ansel. Ansel admits that maybe he was wrong about Jessie and gives Paladin his gun back.
As Paladin prepares to ride off, they hear whistling and Paladin tells them all to get down. Jessie opens fire, killing George, and Paladin dives into the nearby river. As Jessie reloads his shotgun, Ansel shoots at him and Paladin opens fire as he emerges from the river. When Jessie aims at him, Ansel gets off a shot and kills Jessie. The ex-slave comes over and tells Paladin that Jessie had told him that his father taught him the song he was whistling, and as soon as Ansel heard it he knew Jessie was the killer.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 6, 2019