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Former Confederate soldier and highwayman-turned-marshal Jake Wade (Robert Taylor) breaks his former partner, Clint Hollister (Richard Widmark), out of jail in the small western town of Morganville. The men have not seen each other for over a year, since the bank robbery and murder that resulted in Jake's arrest. At that time, Clint rescued Jake and the men separated with an agreement to reunite later. Instead, Jake buried the $20,000 from the robbery in the desert and decided to go straight. Believing that he has now repaid Clint by freeing him from jail, Jake refuses to tell Clint where the money is buried and advises him to leave the territory. Disgruntled and disturbed by what he considers Jake's betrayal, Clint vows vengeance. Carefully covering his trail, Jake returns to Cold Stream, where he serves as marshal. That evening, Jake dines at the home of his fiancée Peggy (Patricia Owens), and asks if she would consider relocating after their upcoming marriage. Startled, Peggy asks for an explanation, but when Jake hesitates, then flatly refuses to explain, Peggy angrily sends him home. Returning to his office, Jake is confronted and knocked out by a stranger, Rennie (Henry Silva). Upon reviving, Jake discovers Clint and the rest of his old gang and army comrades, Ortero (Robert Middleton), Wexler (DeForest Kelley), Burke (Eddie Firestone) and newcomer, the hot-headed Rennie. When Jake expresses amazement that Clint was able to track him, Clint reveals that he set loose the horse Jake had brought for him and followed it to Cold Stream. Clint then demands that Jake take him to the buried money and when he refuses, Clint has Burke and Rennie bring in Peggy, whom they have abducted.Clint then announces that to assure Jake's compliance, Peggy will accompany them to the money. The next morning, on their way into the desert, Clint forces Jake to ride with his hands tied behind him, as Clint did when he was arrested. When the men set up camp that night, Clint tells Peggy about Jake's disloyalty. In a private moment later, Jake apologizes to Peggy for causing the dilemma and warns her that they may have only one opportunity to escape. The next day, after the bound Jake falls off his horse repeatedly, the men protest and Clint reluctantly agrees to untie Jake's hands. Jake immediately snatches Wexler's pistol and grabbing Peggy, tumbles down a sand dune into a canyon with her. Although the couple take the long way out of the canyon, Clint guesses Jake's plan and recaptures them. That night, Clint goads Jake into telling Peggy about their past. Jake explains that they were part of a Southern guerrilla outfit during the war, conducting looting raids that Clint insisted they continue after the war. Jake admits that during a bank robbery, a teenage boy was caught in the crossfire, prompting him to go straight. Clint scoffs, then demands to know when they will reach the buried money, and Jake promises they will be there the next day. The following afternoon the group meet a cavalry patrol and the commanding officer advises them to turn back because of the danger of Comanche attacks. Using Jake's identity as a marshal, Clint invents a story for being in the area and the lieutenant reluctantly allows them to proceed. The men are uneasy about riding into Indian territory and when Rennie shoots at coyotes, Wexler is outraged, certain that the shots will surely attract the Comanche. The group then arrives at a ghost town, where Jake reveals he has hidden the money. Jake spots three Indian scouts, telling Clint of one. After killing the 1st, Jake informs Clint of 2 other scouts. Enraged, Clint declares he must go after the others to prevent them reporting their location, telling Rennie he could have Peggy if he doesn't make it back. The remaining gang along with Jake and Peggy take shelter in the deserted saloon, tying Jake to a chair.While the men take turns keeping guard, Jake pleads with Ortero to save Peggy and return her to Cold Stream. As night falls, several calls are heard outside and Jake tells the men they are surrounded by Indians who will attack soon. When the others dart outside, Ortero tells Jake that he was not responsible for the teenager's death at the bank, but Clint allowed him to believe it in hopes of binding Jake to him. As the Indian calls intensify, Rennie anxiously tells the men they should flee as it is apparent Clint has abandoned them. The men return to the saloon and are bickering about escaping, when Clint abruptly returns. As Burke hysterically announces that they must go, he is killed by an Indian lance. The building is quickly surrounded by Indians and a vicious fight breaks out. Clint runs outside to fight and soon after, Wexler and Rennie are killed by Indian arrows. When an Indian breaks in, Jake distracts him and Peggy kills him with a lance. Peggy then cuts Jake's ropes, and as Clint and Ortero fight off the last of the Indians, they attempt to escape, but are caught by Clint. After Ortero buries the others, Clint asks Jake to take him to the money, and Jake reveals it is in a saddlebag, buried three feet deep in the cemetery. Jake digs up the saddlebag, then surprises Clint by pulling out a pistol from it. Although Clint suspects the gun will not function after spending a year underground, he eventually surrenders his gun as does Ortero. Jake then asks Ortero to take Peggy away and he agrees, they two ride out of town despite her protests. After Ortero and Peggy depart, Jake gives Clint an opportunity to settle the score by tossing his gun several yards away. Frustrated, Clint dashes for the gun, while Jake hides among the dilapidated buildings, forcing Clint to search for him. After a tense game of "cat-and-mouse," Jake and Clint confront each other in the street and Jake kills Clint. Hearing the gunshots, Peggy and Ortero return for Jake.