In San Francisco, Bret is kissing a woman, Ellen Johnson. She leaves early at 10 o'clock, claiming that she has a headache. Bret follows Ellen into her hotel to confirm that they'll see each other at lunch the next day, He points out that she skipped three appointments with him the week before, and Ellen asks him for her earrings back. She says that they're heavy but wears them because their heirlooms.
Back at his hotel, Bret is eating at the buffet when a friend, Sim, comes over. He says that he went bankrupt at cards and they sit down at cards. Sim notes that Bret wasn't at the game, and points out that Ellen was in the back playing roulette with a man, and Bret wonders if the man is "Bert", the name that Ellen keeps calling him supposedly by mistake.
The next day, Bret goes to Ellen's hotel and asks for her room. The clerk tells him that she's left the hotel that morning. A gentleman has occupied her room so Bert can't check it out. A man matching the description Sim gave Bert comes into the lobby, and Paladin goes over and calls him "Bert". He says that they last met in Dallas, and "Bert" says that he's never been to Dallas and his name isn't Bert. Bret passes it off, but the man calls over his twin brother Henry and says that he hasn't been in Dallas, either.
That night, Bret is walking down the street when a news vendor hawks a lead story about a jewelry clerk disappearing with a quarter-million dollars in unset diamonds. According to the story, Adelbert Charles Sawyer, the second president of Van Der Meer, disappeared with the diamonds. Bret meets with Sim at his hotel and figures that Ellen was involved in the disappearance and "Adelbert" is Bert. Sim prepares to leave, and Bret prepares to recover the jewels for the $25,000 reward.
Bret continues playing cards at the El Dorado in San Francisco and months pass. He finally decides to leave, and is packing when Sim returns. Sim tells Bret that he saw Ellen alone and she cut him dead when he tried to greet her. He saw Ellen in Guatemala City in Central America, and Bret heads there by boat and then train. A man, Spelvin, suggests that Paladin stay at the Augusto, the best hotel in town. Bret agrees and they take a carriage. A girl, Angelita, and several other urchins beg Sam for money.
Once they leave and he gets into the carriage, Spelvin discovers that Angelita stole his watch. They go to the Augusto and Angelita secretly rides on the back. Once Spelvin goes inside, Angelita tries to sell Bret the watch. Spelvin comes back and finds the watch, and recognizes Angelita. He grabs her and calls over a policeman, and Angelita says that she was bringing back the watch. Angelita says that one of the urchins stole it and she took it back, and Spelvin apologizes. He pays Angelita a reward, and once he leaves Bret tells Angelita that honesty is the best policy. Angelita thanks Bret for his intervention and hugs him. When she leaves, Paladin discovers that she stole his watch.
Bret goes to the consulate and asks Consul Carter about Ellen. Carter suggests that Bret look for her himself because he can't help. When Bret gets back to his hotel room, he finds Angelita sleeping on the bed. She explains that she came in via the balcony and apologizes for stealing Bret's watch. Angelita claims that she came there to bring the watch back, and gives him a pawn ticket. Bret asks where she lives and Angelita says that she's an orphan and nuns raised her, and suggests that Bret feed her because she already spent the money.
Angelita and Bret go to a local café and she charges her food to Bret. Bret asks her if she's seen Ellen, and when he explains Angelita asks if he got the engagement ring again. Angelita orders the same meal again to take with her, and Bret pays for that, too. She says that she'll find a place to stay and Bret lets her stay in his room while he sleeps on the couch. Once he dozes off, Angelita invites the other urchins in and they divvy up the food from earlier.
The next morning, Carter calls Bret back to the consulate. He says that he's made some enquiries but has been able to come up with anything. The chief of police wrote to Carter to ask Bret if he's organizing some kind of a gang. The chief believes that Bret held a meeting with the urchins in his hotel room, and Bret figures that Angelita is responsible and passed out the food. Carter is happy to hear that Maverick is feeding the waifs in a friendly country and says that he'll tell Washington in his report.
Bret hits the streets and continues searching for Ellen but has no luck. He decides to go home and packs, and Angelita figures that he won't come back. She lays on the guilt, saying that she'll forget Bret eventually, and gives him presents from the urchins. Bret figures that it's stolen and tells her that stealing is bad, and says that he'll take it the police station and claim that he found it. He promises to leave her some money before he goes, and Angelita admits that she has a pair of earrings. Bret recognizes them as Ellen's and Angelita says that someone put them on a table in a hacienda, and Bret convinces her to take him there.
At the hacienda, Bret tells Angelita to run along but she doubles back instead. Bret rings the bell and Ellen is surprised to see her. He claims that he was in the neighborhood and just decided to drop in. Inside, Ellen says that she was married to a Guatemalan for 20 years, and explains that she promised her first husband Carlos Delgado on his deathbed that she wouldn't marry again. His ashes are in an urn on the fireplace, and Ellen figures that Bret hunted her down. Bret explains about the $25,000, and Ellen denies everything. He shows her the earrings, and points out that she left San Francisco at the same time that the jewels went missing. Ellen shows him the contents of her safe and then goes to empty her purse.
The shutters shake thanks to Angelita rattling them, and Ellen nervously knocks over her bottle of smelling salts containing the stolen jewels. She then tells Bret to leave because of his accusations, calling him "Bert". Once he goes, Ellen discovers that the smelling salts bottle and the jewels are gone.
Bret returns to his hotel, convinced that Ellen is the thief because of Ellen's slip of the tongue. Angelita and a man, Sam Bishop, are waiting. Sam is an investigator for an insurance company and says that Bret's friendship with Ellen developed into something more in San Francisco. The investigator knows that Bret went to see Ellen, and Angelita claims that Bret is his uncle and helpfully starts to say where Bret went. She sniffs at the salts bottle and sneezes, and Sam recognizes the bottle. Sam says that he's there to find the jewels, and knows that Ellen and Sawyer left San Francisco together and Sawyer died of poisoning. Bret asks who gets the reward, and Sam agrees to split it. Once he did Bret mutters that the jewels are in the urn. Angelita says that Ellen was never there and left town, and Bret agrees. He claims that he doesn't know where the jewels are, and Sam gives him until the next day to produce the jewels or he'll go to jail.
Once Sam leaves, Angelita says that she doesn't like Ellen and figures that Bret is in love with her. He assures her that he doesn't like Ellen more than Angelita. Angelita wants him to take her with him when she goes. Bret points out that he travels around the country, and says that he has to get to the hacienda before Sam figures out where it is. Angelita gives in and hugs him.
That night, Bret and Angelita break into the hacienda and Bret searches for the urn after telling Angelita to fake another earthquake if he signals. Once he goes in, Ellen steps out with a gun and says that the jewels aren't there and she'll claim that she had to kill him in self-defense. Bret claims that he came to return her smelling salts, and Ellen takes them and calls in her butler. As she gives the gun to the butler, "Bert" comes in holding Angelita and shoots the butler dead. "Bert" is Sam, and Sam says that he's really Sawyer. Sam slaps Ellen, saying that they pumped the poison out of him, and Bret attacks him. They fight and Bret grabs the urn and tosses it to Sam. When Sam grabs it, Bret punches him. Ellen grabs the gun and shoots Sawyer, and then prepares to shoot Bret. A real earthquake hits the place, and Ellen faints. Debris hits Bret in the head, knocking him out, and Angelita tries to give him the smelling salts revealing that the jewels in the bottle.
The next day, Bret collects a $3,000 advance on the $25,000 reward from Carter, as well as travel papers for Angelita. The consulate says that the authorities are holding Ellen, and Sam refuses to press charges. Ellen isn't wanted for jewel theft in Guatemala and can't be extradited. Van Der Meer considers Sam the thief, and the authorities are holding Ellen for disturbing the police.
Angelita buys a new dress and prepares to go with Bret. She asks if he'll adopt her as his niece, and he says that he'll apply to the authorities. Bret says that she'll be playing with kids while he plays cards, and they get into the carriage. The urchins run up and call to Angelita, and she tells Bret that they're her family and she can't leave and abandon them. Bret tells her that he'll be sad that she's not going with him but he'll try not to be too sad. Angelita and the urchins leave, cheering, and Bret discovers that Angelita stole his watch again.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 17, 2019