At the Carlton, Hey Girl gives Paladin a news story about a $5,000 reward being offer for Isham Spruce. Paladin figures that it's a bigger challenge to bring the "game" in alive and leaves.
Later, Paladin meets with the sheriff and his deputy. The sheriff says that four bounty hunters got there first, and he deputized them. He refuses to deputize Paladin, warning that they'd kill Paladin to keep him from taking their money. He tells Paladin that Isham is the best natural hand in the West and if he doesn't kill Paladin, the bounty hunters will. When Paladin asks for a picture of Isham, the other two men laugh and say that Paladin won't need a picture.
Paladin rides out anyway and Isham gets the drop on him. The gunfighter knocks him down and realizes that Isham is a black man. Isham says that Paladin might as well as kill him, but Paladin ties up his hands. When Isham fights, Paladin knocks him out, ties him up, and puts him on a house. He takes him toward town, and Isham calls Paladin a slave catcher. When Paladin says that he broke the law, Isham tells him that he's seen that guns and money buy people law. He admits that he's guilty, and Paladin offers to get him to the best lawyer he can. Isham refuses to let him buy off his conscience, and says that he knows about the four bounty hunters and figures that they'll go after Paladin. He refuses to help Paladin, figuring that Paladin will know what it's like to be a hunted man.
That night, Paladin makes camp and dinner. He figures that Isham hasn't been free for long, and Isham says that the Yankees freed the slaves and then left them to die. Isham turned outlaw because he's not fit for anything but farm, and he can't farm without land. He got a job when he moved out West, but one man wouldn't leave him alone and he was forced to kill him. After that Isham was an outlaw, and Paladin says that he'll have to stand trial for it. Isham asks Paladin to write a letter for him to his wife Mary in Georgia. He has Paladin write that he's well and hopes that Mary and their daughter are as well, and they may not hear from him for a long spell because he has to pay for the bad things he did. Isham says that he did what he did for his family, and prays that his daughter won't be ashamed of him. He then asks Paladin to take what money he has and make sure it's delivered to his family, and Paladin agrees.
Paladin says that it would be a more comfortable trip to Cheyenne for both of them if he untied Isham's hands, and asks for his word not to try and break loose. Isham promises that Paladin won't take him back alive, and Paladin says that it's going to be a long ride. The former slave starts singing to cover the noise of him picking up a rock.
The next day, one of the bounty hunters--Hutton--rides up to Paladin and points out that he's outnumbered until the others arrive. He suggests that Paladin hand Isham over in return for $5,000. Paladin refuses and Hutton hunter says that they won't make it to Cheyenne alive. He asks why Paladin is keeping Isham alive, and figures that Paladin wants to see Isham hang. Hunter smiles, tells Paladin that they'll meet again sooner then he thinks, and rides off. Isham tells Paladin that maybe he should have taken the bounty hunter's offer. He wonders why Paladin doesn't kill him, and laughs as he asks Paladin how it feels to be a hunted man.
When the bounty hunter joins up with his fellow hunters, they ride off. They ride past Isham and Paladin without seeing them, and Paladin stops for water. Isham uses the rock to cut through of his ropes, but Paladin gets the drop on him. A rattlesnake bites Paladin in the arm and Isham gives him his bandanna as a tourniquet. Paladin starts to pass out, and Isham says that he has to go and takes Paladin's rifle. The gunfighter keeps his revolver trained on Isham and points out that he may not get a chance to send the money home. He offers to give the money back to Isham, and Isham tells him to drop his gun. Paladin does so and tosses him the letter and the envelope. Isham wonders how he knows Paladin wrote what he said, and Paladin says that he'll have to find someone he can trust and figures that Isham doesn't trust anyone. Isham rides off and Paladin tends to the snakebite.
Despite his efforts, Paladin passes out. The sheriff and the bounty hunters find him and the sheriff tends to Paladin. The deputy says that Isham told them were Paladin is, and the sheriff explains that Isham sent them a message. When Paladin says that he's glad Isham got away, the men look at each other and Paladin realizes that Isham didn't. He goes over to their horses and finds Isham's body tossed over a saddle. He takes the envelope with the letter and the money, and the deputy says that Isham just hung around like he was waiting for them. He suggests that Paladin share Isham's money with him, and Paladin and the sheriff glare at him. He walks off and as the sheriff goes, he tells Paladin that he'll make sure Isham gets a decent burial. As the men ride off, Paladin looks at the letter and says that he's sorry.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 17, 2019