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In 1868, Howard Kemp encounters an old prospector, Jesse Tate, in the Colorado Rockies. Howard says he has come from Kansas in search of a man who killed a marshal, and offers to pay Jesse twenty dollars if he will help him find the fugitive. They set off together but are soon ambushed on the trail by a man on a ledge above them, who starts a rock slide. Howard shoots at his attacker, and although the man escapes, Lt. Roy Anderson rides up in response to the shots. Roy tells Howard and Jesse he is an Indian hunter, and shows them his recent dishonorable discharge from the Cavalry. Roy succeeds in scaling the cliff and confronts the outlaw, Ben Vandergroat, but is attacked from behind by Ben's companion, Lina Patch. While the two men are struggling, Howard and Jesse come to Roy's aid and capture Ben. Jesse, who had always assumed that Howard was a sheriff, is surprised when Ben informs him there is a five-thousand dollar bounty on his head. Jesse indignantly returns his twenty-dollar fee and insists that he and Roy share in the reward money. Howard has no choice but to agree, and as the group sets off for Abilene, Ben shrewdly begins sowing discord and suspicion among his captors. After Lina rebuffs Roy's romantic advances, Ben explains that he was a friend of her late father and has made himself the young woman's guardian. That night, at the campfire, Ben chides Howard for bounty hunting, and alludes to a woman in Howard's past. The next day, Howard and Jesse sight Blackfoot Indians, and Roy admits they have been pursuing him since he left the fort because he took advantage of the chief's daughter. Not wanting to share his fate, the others force Roy to ride off alone. The Indians approach the rest of the group peaceably, but when Roy ambushes their leader, a gun battle breaks out that leaves the Indians dead and Howard wounded in the leg. Roy rejoins the group, and when Howard passes out from the pain, they set up camp for the night. In his delirium, Howard calls Lina "Mary" and assures her he will soon be home from the war to marry her. Ben tells the others that Howard signed over his cattle ranch to a woman named Mary before going to war, only to discover upon his return that she had sold it and run away with another man. The journey continues, and one night, Ben asks Lina to distract Howard, who has begun to show tender feelings for her, so he can escape. Fearing that Ben will kill Howard otherwise, she agrees. Later, while Jesse and Roy are asleep, Lina listens as Howard talks wistfully about buying back his beloved ranch when he collects the reward money. Howard asks Lina to join him on the ranch, and they kiss. Just then, Ben attempts to escape but Roy stops him. Roy proposes that they kill Ben, but Howard is unable to shoot him in cold blood. Howard refuses to let Roy kill him either, and the following day, Ben watches with amused satisfaction as Howard fights savagely with Roy to protect him. Ben secretly offers to lead Jesse to a rich gold mine in exchange for his freedom, and as they sneak away that night, Ben insists that they take Lina with them. On the road, Ben takes Jesse's rifle and kills him, to Lina's horror. He then drags Lina to a rocky cliff from which he can easily ambush Howard and Roy. Lina tries to grab the gun, but he knocks her out, and a shootout ensues. Howard removes a spur and uses it to make his way up the rocky face of the cliff. He hurls the spur at Ben and catches him in the face just as Roy comes from the other direction and shoots the outlaw. Ben falls into the river below and is carried away by the current. Roy attempts to retrieve Ben's body from the rushing water, but is struck by a log and killed. Howard uses a rope to bring Ben ashore and flings the body over his saddle, but when Lina says she will go with him, Howard realizes what he has sunk to and weeps with disgust. After burying Ben, Howard and Lina ride off together.