Lawman Conny Miller rides into a small dusty town not long after the townsfolk have gunned down the man he's been tracking for four months. He feels like he's wasted that four months and someone bets him $20 he hasn't the nerve to visit the dead man's grave. He takes that bet and has little difficulty going to the grave. Leaving it however proves to be another matter however.
Old West lawman Conny Miller visits the grave of a man who he failed to track down to prove he was never afraid of him but gets more than he bargained for.
- Outlaw and killer Pinto Sykes (Dick Geary) trots into the street of an Old West town. One of the townsfolk calls out that he's surrounded. Pinto goes for his gun, and eight townsfolk open fire. Sykes is hit and put into the town jail. One of the townsfolk goes to retrieve Pinto's father and sister, who live in the town. Pinto dies about a half hour later.
Two days later, lawman Conny Miller (Lee Marvin) rides into town and hears of Pinto's death; a spot where he bled has been fenced off. Getting a drink at the saloon, he's greeted by the saloon keeper, Ira (Stafford Repp) and several men playing poker, including Mothershed (Strother Martin), Steinhart (Lee Van Cleef), and Johnny Rob (James Best). Conny admits to being disappointed at having chased after Pinto for several months and failed to bring him in. Mothershed tells about how Pinto talked a lot in his last half hour of life, and said that Conny was afraid of him; Pinto stayed a while in Albequerque, sent word of what hotel he was in, and Pinto didn't show. During the dialogue, Pinto's sister Ione (Elen Willard) comes in to buy a bottle of rye and talks about Pinto's last words in the jail before he died. He said that Conny was afraid of Pinto and was in no hurry to catch him. She says Conny must surely be afraid of Pinto even now, and wouldn't stand before Pinto's grave because Pinto might "reach up and grab him." She chuckles as she leaves.
Conny says these stories are all lies; he searched Albequerque extensively and found that Pinto wasn't in town long enough to rent a room. The saloon guests say they consulted a judge about Pinto not having been brought in and were told to grow spines, whereupon they made the plan to all work together to nail him. Of the eight who fired at Pinto, only one bullet hit him; they're afraid to hazard guesses whose it was, although they suspect Pinto knows.
Johnny Rob finally says he doesn't know if Conny was truly afraid of Pinto, but is ready to bet $20 that Conny will not go to Pinto's grave in the cemetery at midnight. He's sure of this because none of the townsfolk dare do so; it's believed Pinto might reach up and grab them. Steinhart also bets $20 that Conny won't visit the grave. Conny covers both bets, and the rules are set: Conny must plant a Bowie knife into the fresh earth of the grave as proof. Nobody will dare disturb the grave until morning, and if the knife is found there, then, Conny wins the bet.
Conny finds Ione at the cemetery; she's drunk and her bottle is almost empty. She tells Conny that Pinto is waiting for him, and laughs as she trots off. Conny kneels by the grave and plants the knife. As he starts to rise, however, he's inexplicably pulled back down.
At daybreak, Conny hasn't returned, but his horse and gear are where he'd left them. Mothershed, Johnny Rob and Steinhart see Ione walking down the street with a plate she says belonged to Pinto, which she's bringing to him. To see if Conny fulfilled the terms of the bet, the three townsfolk accompany her.
They find Conny lying atop the grave, dead; the knife driven through one of his coattails. Steinhart sees Conny's knee prints, showing his position when he planted the knife. Steinhart deduces that Conny had his coat open, and was unaware of the wind blowing his coattails across the grave when he planted the knife, and died of fright when the pinned coattail pulled him back down when he tried to stand.
Ione stands at the same spot and asks Steinhart from which direction the wind blew from last night. Steinhart says it blew from the south. Ione answers that the wind is currently blowing from the south as well. She then tells everyone to look at her cloak.
Ione's cloak is blowing away from the grave, not toward it; meaning Conny's coat should have been doing the same last night.
Ione laughs merrily-- or mockingly-- as the townsfolk all stare at her.