194-“Genesis”

Original Airdate: (September 15, 1962)

Paladin is attacked in his room at the Hotel Carlton. A fight ensues and Paladin forces the man to explain. Paladin learns that the young man had gambling debts he was unable to repay. The holder of his gambling debts wanted Jefferson to kill Paladin (we are never told why). This apparently jogs Paladin’s memory of himself 10 years earlier. Paladin (whose real name we’re never told) owed $15,000 to a wealthy man named Norge.

Paladin’s only way out was to go to a valley, entirely owned by Norge, to challenge the mysterious Smoke to a duel. Smoke, a dying gunman, had been nursed to health by the residents of Norge’s valley. Paladin went there to challenge Smoke to a duel. Smoke’s outfit was all black with a symbol of a knight’s chess piece on the holster.

Directed by William Conrad, Written by Sam Rolfe.

RICHARD BOONE as Paladin / Smoke

JAMES MITCHUM as Roderick Jefferson
WILLIAM CONRAD as Norge
Parley Baer as Reston
Nestor Paiva as Burton
Ann Merrison as Mrs. Burton

Donald Chaffin as Townsman (uncredited)
Ethan Laidlaw as Townsman (uncredited)
William Meader as Poker Player (uncredited)
Tony Regan as Poker Player (uncredited)
John Rice as Townsman (uncredited)

INT. HOTEL CARLTON – UPSTAIRS HALLWAY – DAY

Paladin is walking briskly down the hallway and unlocks his hotel suite door. He enters, throws the room key on his desk and then ducks to narrowly miss a bullet which shatters a full-length mirror. A fight ensues between Paladin and his young attacker. Paldin manages to subdue him at  gunpoint.

PALADIN
Now, would you like to do some explaining?

RODERICK JEFFERSON
It’s nothing personal. My name is Roderick Jefferson. I… gamble, among other things.
I’m not much good to my family, or…the human race.

PALADIN
That’s very interesting and not very satisfactory.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
Well, I said “gamble.” Tonight my bad luck became catastrophic. I signed IOUs for $10,000, which I knew I couldn’t make good. I was desperate.

PALADIN
So you were offered the choice of… jail, disgrace for you and your family,
or…performing this…little favor. I’ve met you, Mr. Jefferson.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
I don’t believe so.

PALADIN
About ten years ago…one morning, in a mirror. At that time, I was receiving
a small monthly remittance not to go home. Oh, I had tried the high life,
I’d tried it often. But young as I was, I finally came to enjoy none of it.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
Look, why drag this out?
Call the police, and let’s have done with it.

PALADIN
Mr. Jefferson, I am trying to tell you something, and you would do well to listen.
Sit down. Look at that. Fused silica, lime…treated with mercury, polished…and in it, a man can see what he is. And what he was. Ten years ago, Mr. Jefferson, in this hotel, I was playing cards with a man named Norge. Norge was a man who hated people. Hated them because they were young, because they had decent features, because they were healthy…or just because they were there.

FLASH BACK OF 10 YEARS AGO BEGINS

NORGE
$15,000. I’ll have it now.

PALADIN
Mr. Norge, I do not have $15,000 and you know it. You knew it when you encouraged me to write those IOUs.

NORGE
Payable upon demand. Well, I demand it now.

PALADIN
I don’t have $15,000! Now, what do you want?

NORGE
I want you to kill a man.

PALADIN
To kill a man?

NORGE
There’s a place called Delta Valley. I own it all, animals and people included. And yet if I even set foot inside that valley, I’d die.

PALADIN
Of what?

NORGE
Of whatever whim moves that devil Smoke.

PALADIN
Smoke?

NORGE
Smoke. It’s the name of the man you’re going to kill. He’s wanted in a dozen states for a dozen crimes. He rode into Delta about a year ago, badly wounded. And out of pity, my townspeople nursed him back to health. And then he killed my guards… and one night I woke up with him standing over my bed with a knife at my throat, and he said to me,
“You get out of this valley. If you ever return, I’ll kill you.” I’ve chosen you very carefully.
I know your war record, I know your dueling record. Honor, hmm? Well, in that regard,
you and Smoke think alike. That’s what I’m counting on. You give me your word you’ll
challenge Smoke to a duel, and you can burn these notes. The alternative…is jail.
Or disgrace to your honorable family name.

EXT. ON THE TRAIL – DAY

SMOKE
Don’t bother looking. Well. Norge sent a gentleman this time, didn’t he?
What do you call yourself?

PALADIN
Now, that is none of your concern. I’m here for one purpose only. I challenge you to a duel.

PALADIN

Well, that’s no ordinary cough you’ve got there.

SMOKE

No, it isn’t. And it will probably be the death of me, since the likes of you will not.
So you challenge me to a duel, do you?

PALADIN
You accept?

SMOKE
I do, but as the challenged, it’s for me to choose the time and the weapons and the place.

SMOKE
That is your privilege. In the books, there’s a name for a man like you. Yeah. A paladin. Paladin. That’s a gentleman knight in shining armor. all armed with a cause and righteousness and a fine, pointed lance…and yet, a mercenary. A man who hires out for gold. What was your price, my paladin? How much gold did Norge give you to slay the dragon?

PALADIN
Now, you have accepted my challenge. Let’s settle it, here and now!

SMOKE
This place, my dear Paladin, like life itself, is at once a prison and freedom.
Freedom for me, and for you…well, that is a thousand-foot drop behind you.
You’ll find this wall somewhat difficult to climb, but you try it if you must. You try it. lt’d be just like killing a small child. Draw your gun.

PALADIN
You know my gun is empty!

SMOKE
It’s only that that keeps you alive, my noble Paladin. Now draw your gun and show me the speed you think’ll match mine. Your life depends on it. Now draw your gun! Paladin…if you want it to be a contest…think on it. Practice on it. And don’t be so anxious to die.

PALADIN
Smoke, I will kill you.

SMOKE
Here. Cut away half that holster. Get as much of that gun out in the open as you can.
Soft leather drags on a gun. Get that leather wet, let it dry stiff.

PALADIN
Throw me one bullet. Throw me one bullet and face me now!

SMOKE
Paladin, your armor is shiny indeed. Now make your lance and your arm worthy to fight the dragon.

SMOKE
I been watching you all day, boy. You do have a ken of weapons.
Who knows? In time, you might even rank with the best.

PALADIN
How long’ll you make me wait, old man?

SMOKE
Too quick to action, too slow to thought. That’s the sin of youth and penance of old men, my paladin.

PALADIN
Old men who are afraid to die. Smoke, are you afraid? Do you know why you’re gonna have to face me sooner or later, eye-to-eye?

SMOKE
You tell me, Paladin.

PALADIN
Because there’s another death that hunts for you in the dark of the moon. Even I can hear it coughing through the canyon in the night. Now, have I waited long enough?

SMOKE
I don’t even know if you could hit the sky, presuming you could get that gun out of the holster.

SMOKE
So you’re not distracted by a plethora of targets. Now shoot it out of there, like the fair lad you are.

SMOKE
At daybreak, then…noble Paladin?

EXT. CAMPFIRE

SMOKE
So ends the apprenticeship,
Paladin.

PALADIN
Well, it’s no wonder you’re still alive! Sunlight at your back!

SMOKE
Now all that remains is for you to loose that one bullet of yourn. Well…now that you think you’ve slain the dragon…you know what you’ve done? You’ve turned the dragon loose. The one decent thing I ever did in my life was chain him away from these people. Who’s gonna stop Norge now? You? Oh, your armor does shine brightly. And your arm is strong enough. But where is righteousness? Noble Paladin…where is your cause?
You remember…there’s always a dragon loose… somewhere.

SMOKE DIES

EXT. IN TOWN – FUNERAL OF SMOKE – DAY

TOWNSMAN
What more is there to be said about this man? About this man we called “Smoke”? He was not a free man. Yet he protected the freedom of a whole community. He was a man who took nothing for himself. And yet he gave unselfishly of what he had. Who can take his place?
Now there’s only one question I would ask. What kind of a man kills a man like this?

TOWNSPEOPLE TURN TO LOOK AT PALADIN
What kind of a man kills out of selfishness and for money? Smoke is dead. But our feelings for him will live forever, and so will our memory of the man who killed him.

PALADIN (REMEMBERING SMOKE’S WORDS)

Where is righteousness, noble Paladin? Where is your cause? There’s always
a dragon loose… somewhere.

EXT. ON THE TRAIL – DAY

PALADIN
Norge! Stay there!

FLASHBACK TO THE PRESENT

PALADIN
To Delta Valley.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
Did, uh, Norge ever go back?

PALADIN
Only once. Mr. Jefferson…if men have a common factor, it seems to me it’s their ability to err. If a man’s mistakes determine what he was, then what he does about those mistakes should determine what he is.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
Yes.

PALADIN
I would like to collect the price of that mirror from whoever sent you.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
I’ll give you his name and where you can find him. Or maybe I could take you there.

PALADIN
No. I may do some negotiating on your behalf. If you’d care to wait.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
I’d like that very much. It’ll give me a chance to start polishing on some rusty armor.
Hm.

RODERICK JEFFERSON
Mr. Paladin… I wouldn’t give a gun to man I didn’t trust.

PALADIN
Mr. Jefferson, neither would I.

 

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