Avatar mentions the James boys, the Daltons, "Cherokee Bill", Jake Trueblood, and Tom Horn, and Paladin states that, except for Jake, they are all dead. Various dates have placed this series in the mid-1870's. "Cherokee Bill" (real name, Crawford Goldsby) was hanged in 1896, while Tom Horn was hanged in 1903.
(An Oriental swordsman is demonstrating his prowess; first splitting a nail in the wall, then one of Paladin's cards.)
Khan: Control. Gentleness. Concentration. And terror! (Swings at Paladin, who ducks.) With those qualities, Genghis Khan conquered half the world. Now, for your first lesson. (Paladin steps away and takes up a sword.) My dear sir, it will take many hundred hours of intensive practice before you are permitted to even touch a actual sword.
Paladin: Temuchin Khan, I am paying for this lesson.
Khan: Of course, but-- Paladin: I would like to have a lesson with a real sword. (Swings at Khan; they parry for several moments before Khan overcomes Paladin.) Well, Temuchin Khan, you have earned your fee very well indeed.
Avatar: You will forgive me for disserving?
Paladin: I will?
Avatar: Well, for one thousand dollars? Payable in advance?
Paladin: Count it out on the table.
Avatar: I am Dr. Leopold Avatar. Er, perhaps you've read of me?
Paladin: Hm. Yes, you are Professor Cesare Lombrosso's disciple, and his theory of criminal identification.
Avatar: It is good to meet someone in this country who has heard of our work.
Paladin: Well, I do have a, ah, certain interest in criminology.
Avatar: Ah! Then, perhaps, you will know what these are for. (Holds up calipers.)
Paladin: Yes. They are used to measure what Lombrosso has termed the "stigmata of degeneracy". Certain cranial abnormalities, a low sensitivity to pain, primitive instincts found in cannibals, cave dwellers, apes, animals... and habitual murderers, in short, the mark of Cain.
Avatar: And that is why I have come back to America.
Paladin: Oh, a shortage of murderers in Europe this year?
(Paladin enters a store, glances at a man perusing hats, then looks at him more closely.)
Man: You lookin' at me? (Paladin nods.) Well, shove your nose in some other direction, or I might mash it down for ya.
Storekeeper: (Brandishing a shotgun.) Not in here! Outside!
Man: Can't rightly decide on either one of these. I'll just keep my old one. (Heads to the door.)
Paladin: Enoch Harrison. Wanted in Plasivo for the murder of two miners last year.
Man: (Still facing door.) Who says?
Paladin: I say. (The man spins around; Paladin shoots him.)
Avatar: Ah! You attract violence, don't you?
Paladin: Ma'am, will you take that gun off me?
Avatar: You know, it's, it's really, really quite fascinating how you did that. It's very neat. You goad a man into a fight, and then you kill him in self defense. Hah! (Takes out his calipers)
Paladin: What's that for?
Avatar: Merely to satisfy myself.
Paladin: Of what?
Avatar: That you've killed an innocent man. (The storekeeper had retreated; now she comes and silently hands Paladin a Wanted poster for Enoch Harrison.)
Paladin: Thank you. Thank you very much. Now, what we came in for was trail provisions.
Jake: So you want the credit of bringing down Jake Trueblood, huh? All right, go ahead and draw. I'll give you a fair shake at it.
Paladin: Jake, I didn't come here to kill you.
Jake: You didn't? I don't know any other reason a man'd come up in this canyon! Hey, don't I know you? (Approaches) You look awful familiar to me. Oh, you ain't no notch collector! What are you comin' after me fer?
Paladin: I brought someone to see you. That's a doctor, Jake. Doctor of sorts, he wants to make some measurements on you.
Jake: Ain't nobody gonna measure me. 'Cept for a pine box. (Spits) Ain't ready for that yet.
Paladin: That stranger has no harm in him. He's a man of science. Possibly a fool. Possibly both.
(Avatar taps Jake on the head with a rubber hammer.)
Jake: What are ya doin'?
Avatar: Low sensitivity to pain. Ah! Perfect!
Jake: Who, me?
Avatar: I did not believe it was possible. You have the ideal measurements.
Pina: Ideal? For what?
Avatar: The perfect configuration of a born murderer.
Jake: Well now, you didn't have to come out all this way just to find out if Jake Trueblood brought down a few men in his time. And besides, what's my head got to do with it?
Avatar: Why, everything. Whether you know or not, sir, it is the shape of your skull, and that alone, that has made you into a killer.
Jake: And now what happens?
Avatar: Nothing, nothing. My job is finished. You simple people have confirmed my theory. (Pina pulls a gun on him.)
Paladin: Pina, it is only a theory, and a pretty far-fetched one.
Avatar: My dear Mr. Paladin, let me assure you. A man, with the cranial measurements of Jake Trueblood, could no more help murdering his fellow man, than, than a cat can help from killing mice.
Paladin: Pina, he just doesn't believe that man has the free will to choose between good and evil.
Avatar: I suppose it's too late to start home today.
Paladin: May we stay here tonight?
Pina: I don't like that one. Not what he says about Jake.
Paladin: Well, it's just a lot of foolishness.
Avatar: Hmmph, surely to be a congenital murderer is no more disgraceful than any other kind of sickness.
(Jake stares at Paladin, standing on the threshold in the darkness.)
Jake: I don't know what this is all about. Pina says I gotta kill ya, I gotta kill ya. (Aims his gun.) No. No. No. I can't kill a man! 'Less I got a good reason fer it.
Paladin: Thank you, Jake. Good night, and thank you, I'll be gone by morning.
Avatar: I admire your forbearance.
Paladin: Well, don't push it much further.
Avatar: It's a pity, really. He surely couldn't have had much longer to live. I suppose even a creature like that has an instinct for wanting to cheat the Devil as long as possible.
Paladin: You're standing there feeling sorry for yourself because Jake's still alive.
Avatar: You don't feel that one man's life is a small price to pay for the advancement of human knowledge?
Paladin: What about your own life?
Avatar: My own included.
Paladin: It didn't occur to you that Jake or Pina might have killed me?
Avatar: But of course.
Paladin: Wouldn't that have left you without a head?
Avatar: Not at all.
Paladin: (Pause) You mean my head.
Avatar: You know, you're almost as good a specimen as Jake himself. In fact, I might have saved myself this whole journey if I could have found someone in San Francisco to kill you. What are you looking at? (Paladin marches to Avatar's case, and extracts the calipers.) What are you going to do with that?
Paladin: I am going to conduct a little scientific experiment to enlarge the frontiers of human knowledge.
(Paladin picks up the sketches of cranial measurements.)
Jake: You believe in all that stuff?
Paladin: No. But I suppose Professor Lombrosso might like to have these as a souvenir of his favorite pupil.
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