169-“Blind Circle”

Directed by  Richard Donner
Written by Anthony Wilson.
Ellen Atterbury as Mrs. Emily Madison
Woody Chambliss as McCormack
Susan Davis as Sarah Allyson
Gerald Gordon as Hughes – Cattlemen’s Assn.
Bob Jellison as Parsons – Salesman
Harrison Lewis as Simpson – Store Owner
Hank Patterson as Jess Larker
Stuart Holmes as Hotel Guest (uncredited)
Hal Taggart as Hotel Guest (uncredited)
You’re getting old, Larker. Sooner or later, someone will best you,
and then you will have to go too far, and they’ll have to hang you.
It’ll happen…one way or the other.

HUGHES – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
So I got up on the floor of that convention downstairs, and I told ’em.
I said, “This is 1875. It’s modern times.” I told the whole Cattlemen’s Association,
“We got to bury the past and live up to the promise of the future.”

SAM – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
I said, “You gotta bury the past.” You said…

HUGHES – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
That’s not the point.

PALADIN
Mr. Hughes, exactly what is the point?

HUGHES – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
The point is Jess Larker.

PALADIN
Jess Larker? I thought he went out of style when they buried Tom Cane. So you’re finally ready to close the books on Jess Larker, too, are you? Well, what’s the final count? How many killings for Cane and Larker in the ledger?

SAM – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
Well, we had to teach the rustlers a lesson. Besides, it was good business. But now…

PALADIN
Larker did your dirty work for years. Now he’s an anachronism, and you want him killed.

SAM – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
Well, if you’ve got to kill him…

HUGHES – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
Sam! We don’t want anyone killed. That’s just the point. Two years ago, the association put $500 on the head of a rustler named Cabell and forgot about it. Now, Larker’s the only one who knows him. He’s located him, and he wants to collect.

PALADIN
So, I find Larker and keep him from killing Cabell. Is that it? And the association’s hands are clean until next time?

HUGHES – CATTLEMEN’S ASSN.
There won’t be a next time. There’s got to be an end to Larker’s way. Now, we know that, and we believe we can stop it. You’ve got to believe it, too.

JESS LARKER
Step down, son. Have some beans.

PALADIN
Jess Larker?

JESS LARKER
Mm-hmm. I was the last time I looked.

PALADIN
My name is Paladin. The association hired me to give you a hand with, uh, Cabell.

JESS LARKER
Well, now, that’s right thoughtful of them. But I like to work alone.

PALADIN
So do I. That’s not what we’re being paid for.

JESS LARKER
Want some beans?

PALADIN
No, thanks. I think I’ve got enough cold duck for both of us.

JESS LARKER
What a good-looking horse you got there. Fast, huh? You think I could shake you?

PALADIN
No chance.

JESS LARKER
Yep. You know, them conventions ain’t for me. I’m getting too old. The boys are just too good for me. A man like my age can’t eat and drink and carouse all night and get up with the chickens. You drink much last night?

PALADIN
No more than usual.

JESS LARKER
If I was to throw down on you now, it’d give you the edge, wouldn’t it? Yep. Give you the edge, all right. You know, Tom Cane used to tell me about a place over on Madison.
It’s called the Madison House. Boarding house. Serves food family style. Nice clean bed.
A good place for rest, a man to rest up before he moves on to work. We could make that by tomorrow night. You know, it took me eight months to locate this fella Cabell. That’s about $70 a month. If I have to kill you, I don’t get a nickel more. Where’s that duck you said you had?

PALADIN
In the saddlebag.

JESS LARKER
Sure.

EMILY MADISON
You together?

JESS LARKER
Well, now, madam, I wouldn’t exactly say…

PALADIN
We’re together.

EMILY MADISON
No doubles available. Two singles might, uh, cost you a mite more. A dollar and a half a night, meals included.

JESS LARKER
Well, now, that’s a fair price.

EMILY MADISON
Well, they ain’t gonna be adjoining rooms.

JESS LARKER
Well, now, don’t you trouble yourself about that, ma’am.

PALADIN
Yes, ma’am, you trouble yourself.

EMILY MADISON
207, 209.

JESS LARKER
Thank you.

EMILY MADISON
Upstairs. We don’t, uh, normally cater to transients around here, only, uh…Supper’s at 8 sharp. One helping of meat and two of vegetables or potatoes.

PALADIN
Thank you. Larker.

PALADIN
Very interesting old place, isn’t it?

JESS LARKER

Son of a gun. Ain’t you the smart one.

PALADIN
Stop it, Larker. You could have climbed out that window up there and shaken me easily.
You didn’t do it. Why?

JESS LARKER
I don’t know. I never had a head for figuring.

PALADIN
Cabell’s here in this building, isn’t he? You had to get me out of the way before you could make your move. You thought I’d start looking for you outside.

JESS LARKER
Well, now, if you’re through showing off, suppose we go down and get something to eat?

PALADIN
All right.

JESS LARKER
And, Paladin, next time around is gonna be for the blue chips.

INT. DINING ROOM

PALADIN
Well, it feels like we may have a little rain.

EMILY MADISON
My husband never set any store in talking at mealtime. Overworks the digestive juices, he said. They’ve got enough to do as it is. After he passed to his greater reward, we made it a house rule.
Mashed potatoes.

EMILY MADISON
You’ve already had your seconds.

PALADIN
This is delicious. My compliments to the chef.

EMILY MADISON
Well, the fact is, we don’t really have a chef. I do most of the cooking myself.
Oh, just simple food but good and filling.

PALADIN
You do yourself an injustice, Mrs. Madison.

EMILY MADISON
Oh. All my regulars call me Emily.

PALADIN
Emily, this is a culinary oasis in a vast wasteland. I’m sure you attract followers from all over the countryside.

EMILY MADISON
Well, we don’t really cater to transients, as I said before. Most of my little family’s been with me quite a while now. Oh, that is, except for Mr. Parsons. He’s a traveling man.

PALADIN
Well, that’s astonishing. I would’ve guessed that you were a store owner, sir.

MR. PARSONS
No. Been on the road 12 years now. Simpson there… he’s the storekeeper.

MR. SIMPSON
Store owner. Never took another man’s wages in my life.

PALADIN
Well, that shows how looks will deceive. Now, you, sir, I would guess that you’re a, uh, trail boss.

L
Excuse me, ma’am. All this talking and chatterboxing is turning my digestive juices
over something awful.

EMILY MADISON
Oh. Mr. Larker is quite right. We’ve had quite enough talking for one evening.

PALADIN
Well, before we finish our little game, would anyone like to guess how Mr. Larker makes his living?

EMILY MADISON
I don’t think any more conversation is…

PALADIN
Notice the eyes… that animal look about them. Scavenger animal look. That aura of death all around them.

JESS LARKER
Go easy, Paladin.

PALADIN
No takers? Well, then, let me introduce you to Mr. Jess Larker. He kills people if the money’s right. Right now, he’s looking at one of you. But when Jess Larker looks at you, he doesn’t see a human being breathing, eating. No. No, Jess Larker sees $500 worth of cold meat slung over a saddle horn.

JESS LARKER
You folks will have to excuse me. I’m just a simple man easy to deceive by clever talk.
My friend here has almost got me believing that we both don’t work the same side of the street. But we do. A man can’t, uh…can’t sit down and eat. Well, if a man can’t sit down and have his…Paladin, are you coming with me? Or do you want me to play the little game by myself? Hmm?

EMILY MADISON
What’s all this mean?

PALADIN
It means that Jess Larker has been hired to bring back an ex-rustler.

EMILY MADISON
Oh, well, that’s only right. A man like that should be brought to justice.

PALADIN
Problem is, in this case, justice is Jess Larker’s justice…his personal justice…and I don’t even know about anybody that ever survived to complain about it. Now, I think the man that Larker’s looking for is one of you. He knows. I don’t. That’s your problem, not mine.
But it brings you to a very interesting decision. You can come back safely with me and stand trial, or you can gamble on Larker. You can gamble on Larker and try and win the whole pot, but your life will be on the table. I’ll be in room 209. I suggest that you do not gamble. Emily. Ladies, gentlemen.

EMILY MADISON
Well, I don’t know what he means. Who could it be? Who do you think it could be?

JESS LARKER
Come in. I was getting lonesome. Sit down. You know how to play spade euchre? Aw, nobody plays that game anymore. What’s the matter? Ain’t you never seen a handsome man like me before?

PALADIN
I was just wondering, after Cabell, where is your next one coming from?

JESS LARKER
The Lord will provide. He always has for a lot of years now.

PALADIN
It’s my understanding that you help the Lord along a little.

JESS LARKER
Well, you see, Paladin, I come into this business late in life. I can’t take the chances you young fellas take. You scared of me?

PALADIN
Well, I don’t know yet if you’re trying to kill me.

JESS LARKER
And I’m scared of you, plenty.

PALADIN
In India, when a tiger is too old to run down deer or fight for game, he turns on a more helpless prey… man. That’s when he’s most dangerous.

JESS LARKER
What are you driving at?

PALADIN
Well, I’m just wondering how much of a chance you’re gonna give Cabell when and if you find him. If you’re gonna go too far, and they’ll have to hang you. Or do you give him one notch too much of an opening? He’d beat you to the draw. It’ll happen one way or the other.

JESS LARKER
How many men have you talked to death?

PALADIN
Your leg getting tired?

JESS LARKER
A little cramp. Come on. Let’s play cards.

PALADIN
No, you better get some sleep. You’d better grab every minute you can that keeps you from thinking.

INT. PALADIN’S ROOM – DAY

EMILY MADISON
Breakfast in five minutes. Nobody can say that they missed mealtime at Madison House from oversleeping.

PALADIN
Morning, Emily.

EMILY MADISON
Good morning.

PALADIN
The… Allysons. Emily, where are the Allysons?

EMILY MADISON
Mr. Allyson rode out this morning on an errand. His missus is still in their room.
What’s all that racket?

JESS LARKER
Madam, I’m gonna check out, and I wanna pay my bill. There. And you’d better take Mr. Paladin’s out of that, too, because he’ll probably wanna…

PALADIN
All right. Where’d you get it?

JESS LARKER
Paladin, we’re gonna meet again someday. And when we do, I’m gonna buy you a drink,
because I’ve got a good joke to tell you. A good joke…on you.

PALADIN
What room are the Allysons in?

EMILY MADISON
The privacy…

PALADIN
What room are the Allysons in?

EMILY MADISON
204.
Oh…
What happened?
What’s the trouble?
I don’t know…

PALADIN
Mrs. Allyson, where’s your husband?

SARAH ALLYSON
He’s gone for the day.

PALADIN
Mrs. Allyson, I’d better…

SARAH ALLYSON
We don’t have any more money. I gave it all to your friend. You’d better collect your share from him.

PALADIN
Mrs. Allyson, I am not here to kill your husband.

SARAH ALLYSON
Doesn’t it mean anything to you that he was tried and acquitted?

PALADIN
Tried and acquitted when?

SARAH ALLYSON
Five years ago.

PALADIN
Under what name?

SARAH ALLYSON
Under his own name… Allyson. And he’s not coming back.

PALADIN
Nobody cares anything about your husband, Mrs. Allyson. Least of all Jess Larker. You just gave Jess Larker at least $500 and a free hand.

PALADIN
Get outta there! Get out! Get a doctor and close those doors. Go on!

PALADIN
Larker, which one?

JESS LARKER
I come in too fast. Always wait, think, then move. But this time, too fast.
Right in the back.

PALADIN
Jess, which one?

JESS LARKER
I got a joke on you. You’re smart, high-stepping, better than I ever was. But we’re out of the same stable, Paladin…you and me. You’ll get old, and you’ve got a day coming.
That’s the joke. Now you laugh.

PALADIN
Larker, which one?

JESS LARKER
You guess.

PALADIN SHOOTS HIM

PALADIN
This is a little bit short. You paid Larker’s room rent for one day. That’s all. Perhaps you’ll also pay for the funeral. Excuse me.

GUEST
That’s the way they live. They expect that.