Honor is Always Worth Fighting For.
Aging town constable Bob Valdez (Burt Lancaster) is tricked into killing an innocent man by powerful rancher Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher), whose hired gun R.L. Davis (Richard Jordan) shot up the hovel where the wrongly accused man and his Indian wife were trapped. Valdez believes it would be a fair gesture to raise $200 for the widow, $100 from Tanner and the rest from others in town.
Tanner is livid at the old man's suggestion. He orders ranch hand El Segundo (Barton Heyman) and his men to tie Valdez to a heavy wooden cross and drive him into the desert. The central pole is so long that Valdez must walk bent over. He finds an oasis blocked by two trees that he repeatedly tries to ram with the ends of the cross. When it finally breaks, the jagged ends are driven into Valdez's back.
Davis finds him and cuts the ropes, freeing the unconscious man. The badly injured Valdez is able to crawl to the ranch of his friend Diego (Frank Silvera), where he is nursed back to health. Unfortunately for Tanner, he has picked on the wrong man: Valdez is a wily, experienced Indian fighter and a marksman with a rifle. He dons his old cavalry uniform and sends Tanner a message via one of the rancher's wounded men (Hector Elizondo): "Valdez is coming."
Valdez sneaks into the compound and, during the ensuing gun battle and his escape, kidnaps Tanner's woman, Gay Erin (Susan Clark), for whose favors it is rumored that Tanner had her husband killed. With her in restraints, Valdez proceeds to systematically do away with the men Tanner sends after him with his long-range Sharps rifle. The only one he shows mercy to is Davis, after the gunman screams, "I cut you loose! I cut you loose!" and reveals that the cut on the left wrist of Valdez concealed under his glove came when his knife slipped as he cut the ropes off.
Now he has two hostages. While hiding from Tanner's posse, Valdez realizes that Gay Erin knows who killed her husband. Valdez confronts her and she admits that it was she who killed her own husband in order to be with Tanner, not the other way around. He sets her free, but by now Tanner's woman is sympathetic to his cause, feeling guilty because she was the cause of all the deaths so far.
Despite Gay Erin's help, Valdez is finally surrounded and captured. Tanner and his men ride up. The men are ordered to shoot, but R.L. Davis backs off, showing he has no gun, and El Segundo calls his men aside, refusing to obey orders. That leaves Tanner to do his own dirty work—if he can.
Tanner turns out to be a coward one-on-one. Valdez tells him he should have paid the $100.