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Luke Welch, a United States Marshal turned bounty hunter, comes to the town of Mountain City in search of his prey, the killer Con Maynor. After scouring the register of the local hotel, Luke determines that Con is a guest there and finds him seated in the hotel dining room. Throwing down his wanted poster, Luke serves a warrant for Con's arrest. When Con refuses to surrender, Luke challenges him to draw his gun or face the hangman. Goaded by Luke, Con draws his weapon, but is no match for the marshal's speed, and Luke guns him down. When Sloane, Con's friend who witnessed the fight, accuses Luke of forcing Con to draw, the sheriff orders an inquest into the shooting. Although the judge rules that the shooting was justified, he refuses to identify the body as Con, thus prohibiting Luke from collecting his reward. Con, who never exhibited his violence in Mountain City, was well regarded by the townsfolk, who also refuse to identify the body. To prove that he apprehended Con, Luke hires a photographer to take the deceased's picture, but his plan is thwarted when several of Con's friends shatter the camera with gunfire. Determined to collect his reward, Luke decides to stay in town and checks into the hotel. When he signs the register, Luke notices that Con's name has been blacked out. Luke then visits Sally Crane, the hotel's waitress, in hopes of convincing her to identify Con. Sally refuses, asserting that Con never had a chance against Luke. To avenge Con's death, several cowhands decide to notify his hot-tempered brother Charles about the killing. Touched by Sally's earnestness, Luke buys her a jar of lotion for her chapped hands. When he presents her with the gift, Sally recognizes a kinship between them bred of loneliness. Sally, whose mother Jill runs the local saloon, confides that she has always been uncomfortable around men because of her mother's vocation, but feels at ease with Luke. Later, Doc Weber, the town's barber, undertaker and philosopher, warns Luke that Charles is coming to his brother's funeral. On the slope of Boot Hill, Luke finds Sally meditating under her favorite tree and invites her to a dance that night. When Luke escorts Sally into the dance, however, the music stops and the judge informs him that he is not welcome. Humiliated, Luke leaves, and once outside, Sally asks him to kiss her. Later, at the saloon Sloane worries that Luke may be romancing Sally to manipulate her into identifying Con. In response, Jill's trigger-happy boyfriend, Les Patton, suggests killing Luke. Soon after, Luke comes to the saloon to tell Jill of his love for her daughter. When Les challenges him to a shootout, Luke draws first and wounds him. Running out of patience, Sloane decrees that Luke should die and rallies an angry mob to execute him. Hurrying to the hotel to warn Sally, Jill offers her house as a refuge. Soon after, Charles arrives in town and joins the bloodthirsty crowd. When the mob barges into the hotel, Luke and Sally scurry down the back steps to Jill's house. Unknown to them, Les is there, recovering from his wound. When Sally asks Luke to tell her that he loves her, Les, delirious from pain and drugs, stumbles out of the bedroom and fires a shotgun at them. Just then, Jill runs in and Les blasts her with his gun. Doc treats the mortally wounded Jill, and as Sally tries to soothe her mother, the two reconcile. On the morning of Con's funeral, Luke watches the mourners head for Boot Hill. Turning to Sally, Luke confides that he became a bounty hunter because he had always been teased about his shortness and killing presented a way to earn respect. When he declares that he is going to Boot Hill, Sally begs him to reconsider. Ignoring Sally's entreaties, Luke proceeds to Boot Hill and arrives unarmed. Filled with rage by the sight of his brother's killer, Charles slams Luke with a board, but when Luke refuses to defend himself, Sloane and the others break up the fight. After the mourners file past, Luke tells Doc that he owed it to Charles to let him avenge his brother and that he now wishes he had never killed Con. Luke finds Sally seated under her tree, and Sally, relieved that Luke is still alive, embraces him.