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Pat Brennan, a struggling rancher on his way to purchase a seed bull from his former employer, Tenvoorde, the owner of the Tall T ranch, stops at the stage relay station run by Hank Parker. After promising to buy Hank's young son Jeff a bag of candy, Pat continues to the town of Contention, where the newly married Willard Mims has just hired a private coach to drive him and his bride Doretta to the nearby town of Bixby. Ed Rintoon, the crusty old stage driver, derides the fortune-hunting Willard, who has married his plain-faced bride solely for her wealthy father's money. At the Tall T, Tenvoorde offers to give Pat a bull if he can ride the bucking beast to a standstill. If he loses, Pat must forfeit his horse, however. After Pat is thrown from the bull and ends up face down in a water trough, he trudges away on foot. While stopping along the trail to rub his sore feet, Pat sees Rintoon's coach and hitches a ride. Upon reaching the relay station, they find it eerily deserted and are greeted by an unseen man, who orders them to drop their guns. Three outlaws then appear from out of the barn¿Frank Usher, the ruthless, intelligent leader; the trigger-happy Chink; and the impressionable Billy Jack. When Rintoon reaches for his rifle, Chink coldly shoots him down. After Usher informs the stage's passengers that the bodies of Hank and Jeff have been dumped into the well, Pat grimaces in anger. To save his life, the cowardly Willard suggests demanding a ransom from Doretta's copper magnate father and volunteers to deliver the ransom note himself. After scribbling a demand for $50,000, Usher hands the note to Willard and instructs Billy Jack to accompany him one mile out of town, where Willard will then hand the note to a passerby for delivery. They are then to regroup at the gang's hideout in the hills. After Billy Jack and Willard depart, Usher and Chink lead Doretta and Pat to their hideout, where as Pat seethes in fury, Doretta nervously paces. Sequestered with Pat in a cave after night falls, Doretta, who is unaware that Willard betrayed her, naïvely voices her faith in her husband. In the morning, Usher, hungry for companionship, tries to engage Pat in conversation. As Pat questions Usher's sense of morality, Billy Jack and Willard return and announce that Doretta's father will deliver the money the next morning. Contemptuous of the spineless Willard, Usher grants his request to leave, then orders Chink to shoot him in the back as he hurriedly rides away without even saying goodbye to Doretta. After Usher cruelly informs Doretta that her husband betrayed her, she sobs in humiliation and takes refuge in the cave. That night, Doretta confides to Pat that she married Willard out of loneliness and desperation, knowing that he never loved her. To instill confidence in the long-suffering Doretta, Pat gruffly kisses her and assures her that she is desirable. The next morning, Usher rides out to collect the ransom, leaving a jumpy Chink and Billy Jack behind. Seizing the opportunity to sew seeds of doubts in Usher's conspirators, Pat implies that their boss is planning to double-cross them. After Chink rides out to keep an eye on Usher, Pat tells Doretta to unbutton her dress and lure Billy Jack into the cave. When a distracted Billy Jack roughly grabs Doretta, Pat rushes in and wrestles his gun away. In the ensuing struggle, the weapon fires, killing Billy Jack. The sound of gunfire draws Chink back to camp, where he finds Billy Jack's body in the cave. Taking cover in the rocks, Pat hands Doretta a pistol and tells her to keep firing it until the chamber is empty while he sneaks around to the other side of the cave. After six shots are exhausted, Chink, thinking that the weapon is empty, steps out of the cave. Determined to avenge his friends' deaths, Pat calls to Chink and then guns him down. Soon after, Usher returns with the money and discovers the bodies of Billy Jack and Chink. When Pat orders Usher to drop his gun, Usher, playing on Pat's code of honor, reminds him that he owes Usher a debt of gratitude for sparing his life and then walks away and mounts his horse. Upon reaching the ridge, Usher pulls a rifle from his saddle and gallops back, gun blazing. Shot in the face by Pat, Usher flails around blindly and then collapses, dead. After hurling away his rifle, Pat puts his arm around Doretta and they walk away.