Paladin rides up to a posse, introduces himself, and says that he was hired by James Sanders, the father of the man who Sam Tamitzer hung. One man, Pike, calculates that if Paladin joins the posse then they'll split the reward $100 each. Another man, Pike, speaks up and says that at least Pike is no hypocrite and that they're all there to get revenge on Tamitzer. Tamitzer stole a mining claim from one posse member, Carter, and the wife from another one, Burton. Carter is a disbarred judge and doesn't say why he wants revenge on Tamitzer. Burton suspects that Paladin isn't who he claims, and Paladin points out that they outnumber him and that should give them some comfort.
The posse comes to an old barn and figure that Tamitzer is hiding there. They check the place and find nothing, and Tamitzer notices a rope hanging from the loft bean. He tells the others that Tamitzer must have headed for the water, and the posse is glad to let him hang back while they find Tamitzer.
Once they leave, Paladin dismounts and confirms that the bottom half of the rope is lying on the ground where it was cut from the other half up above. He then walks off into the nearby field and checks for tracks, and gunshots hit the dirt around him as Tamitzer opens fire from deeper in the field. Paladin takes cover and then calls to Tamitzer, saying that he's trapped and threatens to burn him out. Tamitzer offers to pay Paladin double to let him go, but Paladin says his fee has already been paid for Sanders. Paladin shoots and hits Tamitzer, and then goes over to him. Dying, Tamitzer says that he'll find a way to pay Paladin back.
Hearing the gunshots, the posse rides back. Tamitzer asks for a piece of paper and makes out a will leaving everything he has to Paladin... or any posse member who kills him before they get back to San Cristobal. He dies and Cartier says that the will is binding and Paladin can't disavow the will. Paladin disagrees, citing his own legal precedent, but Carter says that he would rule the will was legal if it came before him on the bench. The other posse members side with Carter, claiming that it makes no difference to them.
The posse rides back and Paladin suggests that they make camp for the night. Pike hints that he'd think Paladin wants to get back to San Cristobal to collect his money, and Paladin says that he'll keep an eye on him. They dismount and Carter walks up behind Paladin with a rifle. Paladin judges on him and Carter says that Pike is their judge now and offers Paladin a drink from his bottle. Paladin refuses and walks away, and Crawford insists that all of Tamitzer's money belongs to him because he found the mine that Tamitzer stole from him. Paladin comes over and says that they'd get hung for killing him or they'd shoot each other. Crawford challenges Paladin to a gunfight, and Paladin warns him that the will is worthless and Crawford shouldn't throw his life away on something that doesn't exist.
When Crawford goes for his gun, Paladin kills him. The others draw their guns on Paladin, and Paladin tells them that Tamitzer turned him into the same as him. Pike figures that Paladin might kill one of them but the other two will kill Paladin. Paladin hands over his gun belt and the men start squabbling among themselves. He says that they're the ones in a trap and it's one they made, and Pike threatens to shoot Paladin. Paladin says that Burton is standing behind him and would take advantage of the opening, and then sits down against a tree and suggests that they tie him up. They refuse to put down their guns to sleep, tie Paladin up, or ride in front for fear that the others will shoot them.
As night falls, the posse members try to stay awake and watch each other as well as Paladin. Paladin comes over and a drunken Carter offers him another drink and talks about the illusions he had destroyed when he was on the court. Paladin wonders what Burton and Pike will do with the money, and says that it won't get them what they want. The gunfighter figures that he's sleep as long as they won't trust each other, and goes to bed down.
Later, Pike wakes up and finds Burton and Carter sleeping. Satisfied that they're asleep, he goes to sleep himself. Burton, who has been faking sleep, takes Paladin's gun and goes over to Paladin and says that he has to kill him because he has more right to Tamitzer's money than Pike. He tosses Paladin's gun down at his side and says that he wants it so they can't accuse him of murder. Burton talks about how he wants to be like Tamitzer and take what he wants, and Paladin asks if he wants to trade places with the dead man. Unimpressed, Burton tells Paladin to go for the gun. Paladin hears Pike wake up and goes for his gun, and Pike shoots Burton dead. The gunfighter gets his gun and kills Pike.
The next morning, Carter asks Paladin if he's going to kill him. Paladin figures that Carter wants to die and tells him to keep the will. Carter laughs and Paladin says that three men are dead and Tamitzer played on it for nothing. The judge agrees that it was all for nothing and tears up the will, and talks about how the light of truth burns a man. Paladin stops him from drinking and says that he's going to stand in the light… and hopes that it burns him.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 20, 2019