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A few years after the Civil War, Georgian Jennifer Ballard rides a California-bound stage across Arizona to meet her fiancé, rancher Ben Warren. Unknown to her, a fellow passenger traveling under the name of Hamilton is really notorious outlaw Frank Slayton, a bitter former Confederate. Riding with Slayton is his right-hand man, Jess Burgess. With an Army escort to protect the payroll box, the stage stops at a small town overnight and the guards proceed to a nearby fort for replacements. Jennifer is surprised by the appearance of Ben, who has ridden out to make the rest of the trip with her. Slayton, attracted to Jennifer's graceful manner, is annoyed by Ben's arrival, but invites the pair to dine with him. When Slayton turns the conversation to the war, Ben, also a former Confederate, declares the experience left him weary of violence and preferring compromise and peace. Later, Jess cuts in on Slayton as he dances with Jennifer and advises her that she and Ben should take another stage the next morning. Determined to get to California and marry as soon as possible, the couple sticks with Slayton. The following morning, the stage sets off with the Army escort, who have secretly been replaced by members of Slayton's gang. Midway across the desert, the gang stops the stage and kills the driver. Slayton informs the passengers of his real identity, and when Ben attempts to commandeer the horse team, shoots him. Leaving Ben for dead, Slayton and the gang takes the payroll box and Jennifer to their hideout. Later, Jess intervenes as Slayton is about to force himself on Jennifer and questions him about the wisdom of taking her with them. Slayton beats Jess up and has him bound to the fence outside in the sweltering sun, then departs. Meanwhile, Ben, who has only been grazed, revives in the desert, finds one of the stage horses and follows the tracks to the hideout, where he discovers an unconscious Jess. Ben restores Jess, who asks to accompany him in search of Slayton, explaining he has grown discontent with Slayton's increasingly malevolent behavior. He informs Ben that the gang is headed for their primary hideout in Mexico, and the two set off on Ben's horse. The next day, they come across sheep ranchers, who sell them a horse and guns and report seeing a gang of men with a woman the night before. The ranchers decline to help Ben and Jess in their hunt, as do the men in a nearby small town. However, a local Indian, Johash, overhears them talking and follows them as they ride on to the next town. In the saloon, Ben makes another unsuccessful plea for assistance and is overheard by two of Slayton's gang. They slip away only to run into Jess, who shoots one of the outlaws. Ben and Jess follow the other, but lose him as he returns to Slayton's camp to report that Ben is alive. Slayton orders the men not to tell Jennifer, who has already attempted an escape. That night as they near the Mexican border, Ben wants to press on, but Jess insists they rest the horses. Later, Johash jumps the sleeping Jess, but Ben comes to his rescue. After Johash explains that Slayton took his sister and left her to die, the men agree to allow Johash to accompany them. The following day, one of the gang, Curly Jordan, tells Jennifer that Ben is following and that he will help her escape. Slayton is suspicious when Curly creates a diversion, however, and both he and Jennifer are quickly apprehended. Slayton insists that Ben is dead and orders Curly staked to the ground and he is trampled to death by the men's horses as they depart. The gang moves on to the small Morales homestead, where Slayton's former girl friend Estella greets them with enthusiasm, until she spots Jennifer. The men get fresh horses and depart with the jealous Estella, who pursues them until gang member Blinky causes her to be thrown from her horse. Estella is later found by Ben and the others, who take her with them. While Slayton's gang rests near the border at Pete Barratto's bar, many of the men mutter against Slayton's hard drive, which they blame on Jennifer's presence. Jennifer appeals to the women at Barratto's to help her, but they are afraid of Slayton. Later that night, Slayton forces himself on Jennifer. The next morning, Estella, who has left Ben's camp, tries to attack Slayton and tells him that Ben and Jess are on their way. Alarmed to learn that Jess is alive, Slayton offers to exchange Jennifer for Jess when Ben and Jess catch up. Ben agrees to meet Slayton to hear the details, but insists that Jess must decide for himself. Hoping that by returning to Slayton he might get the money he is owed, Jess agrees. The next day at the exchange point, Jennifer is reunited with Ben, but Slayton murders Jess immediately. Furious, Ben insists on pursuing Slayton, despite Jennifer's pleas against resorting to violence. Ben, Jennifer and Johash trail the gang and at the hideout commandeer the house's only water source. A few gang members, exhausted by the hard drive, flee in desperation but are killed by Ben and Johash. Slayton attempts to escape using Estella as a shield, but she breaks away, only to be shot by Slayton. Ben chases Slayton into the hills, where they fight until Johash appears and knifes Slayton in the back. Ben and Jennifer are at last free to continue on to California in peace.