Chapter Eight—The Rangers Can’t Help—Yet

           As per what he had told telegrapher Chuck Gannon, Sheriff Dan Harmon left Arkmore the next morning, Sunday, for his trip to Port Station to meet with Captain W. T. McConnell of the territorial Rangers.  The Ranger HQ was about 150 miles from Arkmore, so if he pushed it, Harmon could get there by Tuesday evening.  But that would leave him with a very tired horse, so he figured Wednesday would be a more appropriate arrival day.  His horse, a roan, didn’t know what was going through his master’s head, of course, but probably would have appreciated the consideration of his well-being.  But any intelligent man in the West took care of his horse.  Matters in Arkmore were left in the capable hands of Harmon’s deputy, Fence McComb.
           The sheriff arrived in Port Station about mid-afternoon Wednesday.  As anxious as he was to visit with McConnell, he thought he’d wait until the next day.  That would give him a chance to get the roan taken care of, clean up, get a good meal, and a good night’s sleep.  He planned on heading back to Arkmore as soon as he concluded his discussion with McConnell.
           Port Station was not especially a booming town.  It was located in a medium-sized valley, and thus served the local ranching community.  There was also some mining in the foothills to the north and Port Station was the refuge for that element.  The Ranger headquarters had been put there because of the town’s centralized location, but there had been talk, for awhile, of moving the HQ to another place because it didn’t appear the railroad was going to run very close to Port Station.  Now that the Indian problem had largely been laid to rest, railroads were eager to move in, but the terrain was difficult and building would be very expensive.  Financing had not been fully realized yet.  In a few years, James Hill’s Great Northern Railway would come through, privately financed, and the only line that didn’t go bankrupt; all the government-financed railroads did.  But the Great Northern was a few years off yet.  So, no action had yet been taken on the Rangers’ HQ and, at the moment, it remained in Port Station.
           On Thursday morning, Harmon asked the clerk where he could find the Ranger HQ.  “Turn left down there on Whitcomb Street,” the fellow replied, pointing.  “It’ll be about three blocks on your right.  You can’t miss it.”
           Well, Harmon almost did—miss it, that is.  The building was about as non-descript as it could be.  It was a slender, unpainted wooden structure, with two big windows in front.  Upon one of the windows, cracked white paint announced “113 Whitcomb Street  Ranger Headquarters, W. T. McConnell, Captain.”   A screen door, with faded, cracked green paint prettifying it, guarded a white wooden entry door, swathed in white—cracked—paint.  In one way, Harmon was impressed.   He spends his money on substance rather than form.  Then the sheriff gave himself a wry smile.  At least I hope he does. 
           Harmon walked into the building and saw a youngish man in one corner putting some papers in a file cabinet.  Looking over at the sheriff, the man quickly sized him up and nodded.
           “You must be Sheriff Harmon.  Captain McConnell has been expecting you.  I’ll tell him you’re here.”  And he disappeared down a long hallway that led off from the back center of the room.
           Harmon was impressed again.  McConnell’s adjutant—for that was clearly what he was—had, within a glance, deduced who the sheriff was and didn’t waste any time with niceties.  Substance over form…  He had heard a lot of good things about Captain W. T. McConnell and his Rangers, but he hadn’t had any personal dealings with them.  He was encouraged, so far, by what he saw.
           The room he was in—waiting room?—was as unimposing as the outside of the building.  It was neat and clean, however.  The adjutant’s desk—and there was a name plaque announcing “Sergeant Pine”—was to the right with the file cabinet behind it.  The hallway, as described, was in the center back, or directly in front of Harmon.  There were some chairs, bookshelves, and a stove to the left, and some unremarkable Western paintings hung at various places on the walls.  No photos of outlaws, no photos of Rangers, nothing to give any indication of where a visitor might be.  If Harmon didn’t know he was in the HQ of the territorial Rangers, he would never have guessed it by what he saw around him.
           And Harmon was destined to be impressed one more time.  For, following Sergeant Pine from the hallway was a man that the sheriff knew to be W. T. McConnell.  Geez, he came out to meet me…  As noted earlier, Harmon and McConnell had met a few years earlier, and the sheriff saw that the Captain did look a little older.  The strain of the job, I suspect. But McConnell was still a distinguished, capable-looking man, though probably in his early 50s now.  His brown hair was full but greying, as was the mustache that curved neatly above his upper lip.  His blue eyes were clear and intelligent—and friendly, though Harmon had no doubt that could change when the occasion warranted.
           “Dan,” McConnell spoke first, and with a smile, met Harmon, who had also advanced.  The two men shook hands.  “Let’s see,” the Captain continued, “we met in…Pridemore, wasn’t it?  About seven years ago?  You were just a deputy pup then, weren’t you.”
           Harmon was amazed that McConnell remembered.  The sheriff knew that the two had been introduced, once, and briefly, but he couldn’t remember exactly when and where.  Well, I guess that’s why this guy is head of the territorial Rangers…
           “You’ve got a better memory than I do, Captain McConnell,” he replied.  “I remember meeting you, but I didn’t recall when or where.”
           “Well, I just made up that bit about seven years ago and Pridemore,” McConnell chuckled. 
           No, he didn’t, either.  He remembered…
           McConnell continued, “But it’s good to see you again.  Would you like to have some coffee?  I think Sergeant Pine is just itching to bring us both a cup.  Aren’t you, Sergeant?”
           “It was the only thing on my mind, sir,” Pine replied, and Harmon could tell there was good camaraderie between the two.
           “Yes, some coffee would be nice, thank you,” Harmon replied.  “Just black would be fine, Sergeant.”
           “That’s the way I like mine, too,” McConnell said.  “Come on back to my office and tell me what this urgent business is that brought you all the way from Arkmore.  And in such a hurry.”
           The sheriff followed the Ranger Captain down the hallway.  There were two doors on each side, three of them closed.  The one in the back right was open, and that was McConnell’s office.   It was pretty big, and fairly comfortable, and a little more cluttered than the front office.  There were some cabinets—floor and wall—with books and papers shelved a little untidily, and there were other papers stacked here and there that could have used straightening as well.  But Harmon figured W. T. McConnell had better things to do than dust his cabinets, dot his “i”s and cross his “t”s.  
           The Captain sat behind his desk and Harmon took a comfortable chair in front of him.  “How long have you been at Arkmore now?” McConnell asked.
           With a small smile on his face, Harmon replied, “You mean, you don’t know?”
           McConnell laughed, then reached back and pulled a folder from the desk behind him.  He opened it.  “Daniel Franklin Harmon, born 1853, Lafayette, Iowa.  Moved to Montana territory with his parents when he was five years old.  They still live in Helena, where he works as a lawyer.  That, apparently, got you introduced to the good guys, so after finishing what school you could get, you caught on as deputy of Pridemore when you were 21.  Three years ago, you were offered the job of sheriff in Big Horn County, which you accepted.  Clean, solid record.  There’s a list here of arrests you’ve made, and it’s an imposing one.”  McConnell smiled and tossed the folder onto his desk.  “I imagine the people in Arkmore and Big Horn are happy to have you.”
           Harmon gave the captain an accusing look.  “If you knew all of that, why did you ask how long I’d been in Arkmore?”
           “I actually didn’t know all of that, well, most of it, at least.  We try to keep a file on all the lawmen—and outlaws—in the territory, and I had Sergeant Pine pull out yours yesterday.  I hadn’t had a chance to look at it, until right now.”
           “Does that file say that you and I met in Pridemore seven years ago?”
           McConnell chuckled.  “No, it doesn’t say that.  Sometimes this old head of mine can remember obscure facts.  But, you are an impressive young lawman, and those are the kind I tend to remember.”
           “Thank you,” Harmon replied, feeling complimented.
           Pine brought in two cups of coffee at that moment, and then left the room.  He shut the door so that the lawmen could have privacy if they needed it.
           “So,” McConnell said, after taking a sip of his coffee.  “Are things really that bad in Arkmore that you needed to come all this way to see me?”
           “Have you heard about the murders we’ve had over there in the past few weeks?  Two young rural couples.  It looks like Indians might be involved.”  Harmon succinctly summed up the events and the evidence.
           McConnell’s face looked grave and thoughtful at the same time.  “No, I haven’t heard anything about that.  We don’t usually deal with local matters and certainly not Indians.  That’s the army’s bailiwick.  Aren’t they involved?”
           Harmon paused before answering.  “Ah, do you, by any chance, know Colonel Timothy Einarsen at Fort Pearson?”
           McConnell grunted.  “Is that where he is now?  Yes, I’ve met Colonel Einarsen.  A singularly incompetent and uninspiring man.  It will take a big fire to get him moving.  Are the Indians who are doing this coming off the Big Horn Reservation?”
           “We don’t know, for sure, Captain McConnell.  All the evidence points that way, but the Bureau agent there swears that there is absolutely no way anyone on his reservation could be guilty of those crimes.”
           “What makes him say that?” McConnell asked, taking another sip of his coffee.
           Harmon told the Ranger captain about his two visits to the reservation.  “Wilcox is a very aggravating man, and very proud.  He could be lying to protect himself.”
           “Well, he wouldn’t be the first bureaucrat to ever do that,” McConnell said, off-handedly.  He was looking out a window, his brow furrowed, deep in thought.  Harmon didn’t interrupt him.  Then, after a few moments, McConnell turned back to the sheriff and said, “Dan, it’s obvious why you’re here.  You want the Rangers’ help.”
           “It…would be appreciated, Captain McConnell.  I have a town to police as do the marshals in the area, and we just aren’t able to spend our time roaming the countryside searching for marauding redskins.  We were hoping you could spare a few men to do that for us.”
           “So you expect the Indians to hit again.”  It was a statement, not a question.
           “We have no reason to believe they won’t.”
           McConnell nodded, leaned forward, and put his coffee cup on his desk.  “Dan, I’m sorry, but I don’t have anybody to spare at the moment.  I don’t even have anybody in that area of the territory, although I’m fixing to send somebody that way on an assignment.  Maybe when she finishes, I can turn her loose to help you.  But that’s the best I can do.”
           Harmon was disappointed, but he also caught the “she” and “her” of McConnell’s reply.  “She?” the sheriff asked.  “You…hire women?”
           McConnell leaned back again and smiled.  “Have you heard of Allie Summer?”
           Harmon’s eyebrows shot up.  “Of course.  Every lawman has, if he’s had his head out of the sand.  I was kinda hoping you would send him.  Her??  You mean…Allie Summer is a woman?”
           “Have you ever known a man named Allie?”
           “Well, no, but, it could be short for Allen, or something similar.  Allie Summer…I mean, Captain, he…she…Allie Summer has the reputation of being your best ma—Ranger.  And she’s a woman?”  Harmon still couldn’t believe it, thinking that, for some reason known only to the captain, McConnell was fooling with him.
           But he wasn’t.  “Yes, Dan, Allie is female, and she is indeed my best Ranger.  And she’d probably be the best person to send because she’s half-Cheyenne.”  He grunted.  “She may even have relatives on that reservation, though her parents are dead.”  The look on Harmon’s face caused McConnell to smile again.  “Like you, not many people believe that Allie is a woman, but she is extraordinary, Dan.  I’ve never met anybody like her—smart, fast, wily.  She’s the whole package.  And she’s only 20 years old.”
           “Good grief,” Harmon said, shaking his head, as if still trying to take all this in.  “Are her eyes as frightening as I’ve heard?”
           “They’d scare the pants off the devil.”
           The sheriff half-chuckled.  “Well, that’s all a bit of a shock,” he said, “but if you could let us have her for awhile, it would certainly help.”
           “Dan, I can’t turn her loose right now.  She’s got a priority mission, but it is in your part of the territory, so when she finishes, I’ll have her check in with you.  But it might be a few weeks.  I’m sending her after B11 Tallent.  We’ve got to stop him.”
           Harmon nodded.  “Yes, I’ve heard of him, and he is getting out of hand.  He hasn’t been in my area, though.  But you don’t have anybody else available right now.”  It was a statement that was also a question.
           “No, and again, I’m sorry.  I’ve lost a couple of men in the last few months, so I’m actually short-handed.”  He gave the sheriff a wry grin.  “You aren’t looking for a job, are you?”
           Harmon smiled back.  “Not at the moment, no.”  He stood up.  “Well, I won’t keep you any longer, Captain.  I know you’re busy.  If you could send Allie Summer to help us, when she’s through with her current assignment, then we’d be most appreciative.  Without the army’s help, this is too big for a few local lawmen to handle.”
           McConnell arose as well, and he had an aggravated expression on his face.  “Einarsen is such a….”  The captain didn’t finish the sentence.  “What’s his excuse for not helping you?”
           “He agrees with the Bureau man that Indians from the reservation can’t be guilty.”
           “And all the Indian sign at the scenes doesn’t matter to him.”
           Harmon shook his head.  “Can you do anything about that?  Contact his superiors, or something?  They wouldn’t listen to a podunk sheriff, but you carry a little more weight.”
           McConnell grunted.  “No, it doesn’t work that way, Dan.  The army is the army and civilian law enforcement is civilian law enforcement, and unfortunately, we don’t work very well together.  Indian matters, technically, fall within the military’s jurisdiction, but if Einarsen says he’s not convinced Indians from his reservation are involved, then he won’t do anything.  And the army will defend its own.”
           “Regardless of how many innocent people are killed,” Harmon said, with disgust.
           “Well, it’s a little deeper than that, Dan.  The goal now is to build peace with the Indians, not make war.  Things are still fragile out here.  If the army starts throwing out incendiary accusations about renegade Cheyenne, it will only serve to heighten tensions that Washington doesn’t want heightened.  Einarsen isn’t going to move until he absolutely has to, and that’s orders from on high.”
           Harmon nodded.  “Yeah, I guess so.”  Then, with a wan smile, “Get Allie Summer to me as quick as you can, ok?”
           “I promise you’ll be next in line for her.  And if I can get anybody else loose, I’ll send him your way, too.  But she’s worth any other three men I’ve got.”
           Harmon chuckled.  “I still find that amazing and think you’re pulling my leg.”
           “Nope, I’m on the up and up.  She’s the one who is amazing.”
           “I can’t wait to meet her.”
           “I’ll try to have her stop by on her way east.”
           McConnell came around the desk and the two men shook hands again.  Harmon thanked the Ranger captain for his time and started to leave, but then he stopped, paused a moment, and looked back at McConnell.
           “You said that Allie Summer is half-Cheyenne?  May have family on the reservation?”
           “Well, she’s half-Cheyenne.  Family on the reservation is simply speculation on my part.”
           Harmon paused again, seemingly trying to choose his words carefully.  “How…strong is her…attachment to her Indian people?”
           McConnell looked at the sheriff, and paused before speaking.  “Very strong.”
           “How strong?” Harmon asked again, and McConnell understood his meaning.
           “Allie will do her job, Dan, that I promise you.  It will be a dilemma for her, I won’t deny that.  But she’ll do everything she can to bring those murderers to justice.”
           Harmon looked at McConnell.  “Even if they come from her own family?”
           McConnell nodded his head.  “Even if they come from her own family.”
           Harmon nodded.  “I’ll trust you on that one, Captain.  Do have her stop by and see me if she has time while chasing Tallent.”
           “I’ll tell her.”
           McConnell walked the Arkmore sheriff to the front door and they said their good-byes.  On his way back to his office, the Ranger captain’s face was very thoughtful…
           Yes…that could be a grave dilemma for Allie…should I even put her through that?  She’s only 20 years old….
           It was dilemma for Captain William Travis McConnell as well…