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Residents of a small western town know Steve Norris as a local rancher, though he sometimes appears in public as The Durango Kid, the mysterious, masked enemy of all outlaws. One day, when Sheriff Brackett falsely accuses Steve of cattle rustling, Steve grabs the sheriff's gun and shoots him. Unknown to Steve, the sheriff's gun was loaded with blanks and deliberately placed within Steve's reach by outlaw leader Boss Decker. Believing that he has killed the sheriff, Steve is forced by Decker to sign a confession that makes it appear as if he murdered the sheriff in cold blood. Decker tells Steve that his signed confession will remain a secret only if he takes over as the new sheriff and agrees to be his puppet. A short time later, Decker orders his men to kill Brackett. Soon after he is sworn in as sheriff by Decker, Steve reassures his close friend, Bret Wallace, that he is going along with Decker's scheme only until he can turn himself in to U.S. Marshal Jack Reed, who is expected to arrive in town soon. In the meantime, Steve promises to do all he can to crush Decker's hold on the town. Steve's ability to carry out his promise to Bret proves more elusive with each passing day, as Decker forces him to carry out his orders, and he begins to lose the respect of the townspeople. One day, when Steve learns that Decker is planning to rob the town bank, he races to the bank in his Durango Kid disguise and takes the money before Decker arrives. Steve then delivers the money to Bret, but while trying to hide the cash at his ranch, Bret is shot by Decker's men. Though fatally wounded, Bret manages to make it to the home of Smiley Burnette, Steve's photographer pal, where, with his dying breath, he tells Smiley that Decker's men shot him. Later, Decker tries to pin the bank robbery on Jim, Bret's son, and sends Steve to arrest him. Steve arrests Jim, but intentionally allows June, Jim's sister, to escape, knowing that she will tell Smiley about the false arrest. Back in his Durango Kid disguise, Steve delivers Jim to Smiley and instructs him to keep Jim in hiding until Reed arrives. When Decker learns that Steve is planning to work with Reed to rid the town of his gang, he tries unsuccessfully to kill Steve. Decker then sends Larson, one of his henchmen, on a mission to ambush Reed and prevent him from arriving in town, but Steve foils the attempted ambush and delivers Reed to town. There, Reed overhears Decker and his men admit their guilt in Brackett's murder and confess their involvement in the attempted bank robbery.