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While riding shotgun on a stagecoach just outside of Lenoria, Arizona, Mexican-American constable Bob Valdez comes upon several men shooting at a small hut. Local rancher and acquaintance Mr. Malson relates to Bob that wealthy businessman Frank Tanner reported the murder of a man at a nearby fort by an army deserter whom Tanner then tracked to the hut hideaway. Disturbed when Tanner's dimwitted, sharp-shooting henchman, R. L. Davis, fires upon a pregnant Apache woman when she briefly exits the hut to get water, Bob places his law badge on his lapel and approaches the hut to negotiate with the man, who is black. The man insists he has killed no one and has papers in his saddlebag proving his honorable cavalry discharge. Unknown to Bob, on Tanner's orders, Davis has circled down the hill and, hiding in the brush, waits until Bob moves to examine the saddlebag, then fires through the hut's open door. Believing Bob has set him up, the man shoots wildly and, forced to defend himself, Bob kills the man. Later, to Bob's dismay, the openly racist Tanner admits that he was mistaken about the man's identity. After Bob buries the man and takes the Apache woman to town, he approaches Malson, fellow rancher Beaudry, the sheriff and several men at the shooting to ask for $200 compensation for the pregnant woman. Taken aback, the men reply that donating a sizable amount of money would imply their guilt in the man's death. When Bob insists, Malson promises that if Bob can convince Tanner to contribute one hundred dollars, they will supply the rest. Agreeing, Bob rides out to Tanner's ranch where Tanner refuses to hear his request and orders hired gun El Segundo and his men to harass Bob. Inside, Tanner joins his mistress, Gay Erin, widow of the murdered man at the fort, but refuses to tell her Bob's identity. Later, Bob takes the Apache woman back to the Mexican neighborhood where he lives near old friend Diego Luz. The next morning, Bob returns to Tanner, who has just agreed to supply rifles to a Mexican military representative in the border town of Nogales. Angered by Bob's tenacity and disdainful of his mixed-blood heritage, Tanner again refuses to listen to his request and orders his men to torture him. As Gay watches in distress, El Segundo and the others tie Bob to a cross made of two heavy wooden beams and force him to stagger out into the desert. Privately, Gay confronts Tanner over his cruel treatment and demands that he pay the money to the Apache woman. In response, Tanner invites Gay to accompany him to Nogales where they can marry. Meanwhile, Davis follows Bob's agonizing progress through the desert. Upon reaching a small wooded area, Davis watches in fascination as Bob struggles to crack the heavy beam across his back. After finally splitting the beam between two trees, the now injured Bob collapses as Davis rides up to mock him. That evening, Bob awakens in Diego's house, unaware that he has crawled there mysteriously free of the wooden cross. After Bob recovers his strength, Diego tells him that the Apache woman has returned to her reservation. Undaunted, Bob returns to his one-room house, where he retrieves his old cavalry uniform and weaponry. The next day, in uniform, traveling with a pack horse carrying firearms, Bob rides out to the edge of Tanner's property to tell a ranch guard to inform Tanner that "Valdez is coming." The guard attempts to attack Bob, who wounds him and sends him on to take Tanner the message. Tanner orders El Segundo and his men to go after Bob but by nightfall, El Segundo reports they have not located him. Angry at having to delay his trip to Nogales, Tanner retires with Gay and hours later the couple is stunned when Bob bursts in and demands the money from Tanner. When Tanner pulls a gun from his safe, Bob takes Gay hostage and escapes. El Segundo orders three of his men after Bob, but by dawn, Bob has killed two of them and sent the dying third back to Tanner demanding money for Gay's return. Although Gay initially attempts to escape, she is puzzled by Bob's consideration for her in providing clothing, food and water. At Davis' suggestion that Diego might know Bob's whereabouts, Tanner and his men ride there and threaten Diego's wife and daughters, then burn down their house when Diego fails to reveal information about Bob. Moving higher in the hills, Bob learns from Gay that the man in the hut did not kill her husband, nor did Tanner. Spotting the smoke from Diego's home, Bob secretly returns to check on his friend's safety. In Bob's absence, Davis locates Gay, who has been left bound and gagged. Unsure what to do with Gay, who confirms that Bob has not harmed her, Davis is interrupted by Bob's return and, when wounded, quickly gives himself up. As Bob is about to kill Davis for murdering the man in the hut, Davis pleads with him, revealing that he freed Bob from the cross. Confident that El Segundo will come after him shortly, to Gay's amazement, Bob refuses to flee, and instead digs in to wait. The next morning, seeing Tanner, El Segundo and his men approaching at a distance, Bob kills five of the men using a long-distance rifle, then retreats with Gay and Davis in a cloud of fog. That night, Bob sends the fearful Davis back to Tanner with a message that he will kill Gay by morning if he has not received the money. While hiding in a cave together, Gay tells Bob she believes he is bluffing about killing her. Bob is startled when Gay then admits her culpability in the death of the man in the hut as she could have talked Tanner out of the attack. When Bob presses for an explanation, Gay confesses that she killed her husband. The next morning, as Davis brings Tanner and the others, Bob offers to set Gay free, but she admits she would like to see Tanner pay him the money. Bob attempts to make an escape using Gay and the horses as cover, but the horses are shot out from under them. El Segundo and his men surround Bob, who after seeing to the uninjured Gay, declines to fight or escape. El Segundo expresses admiration for Bob's shooting and dignified, fair sense of combat. When Tanner orders El Segundo to kill Bob, he refuses and tells his men the chase is over. Furious when Gay also declines to join him, Tanner turns to Davis, who, unarmed, also refuses to fight. As the hired guns step away from Tanner, Bob holds out his hand and asks for the hundred dollars.