Chapter Fifteen—Remembering the Prologue

Sunday, June 12
               An uneasy calm settled over the region for the next few weeks.  Fleet Fox had not produced any killers so, true to his word, Einarsen had arrested him and was holding him at Fort Pearson for trial.  There was some disagreement about where and when the trial should be conducted.  Civilians had been killed, but the Indian reservation was technically under the army’s jurisdiction; was it to be a military or civil trial?  Fleet Fox wasn’t an American citizen.  Was he entitled to a lawyer?  Would he be tried for murder, accessory to murder, or just plain stubbornness?  Einarsen had wired the Army Department in Washington for answers, but had not heard back.  So the old Indian wasted away in Fort Pearson’s brig.
             Life on the reservation actually went back to normal—or at least as normal as possible.  Einarsen had appointed Lieutenant Fielder in temporary command in the village, and the platoon of 25 men remained as a “protective” force.  “We don’t want the village being attacked again, do we?” Einarsen had told the Indians with a satirical smile.  With Fleet Fox gone, Bear Claw became the nominal “chief” for the tribe, and he counseled patience and wisdom. 
             “Let us rebuild our homes, continue to plant.  It is good land,” he said.
             His hot-headed son seethed.  “Hand-me-downs from the white man,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
             “I do not like what has happened, either, my son,” Bear Claw said to Swift Current, “but there is a time for everything.  There is a time to fight and there is a time for peace.  The wise warrior knows when he cannot win and makes peace so that he can live to fight another day.”
             “Are we going to fight again some day, father, or are we going to cower like old women and children for the rest of our lives?  Is this the way of the Cheyenne?”
             “We must accept what Maheo gives us.”
             Swift Current had only snorted at that…
             The local towns—Arkmore, Kinsey, Tin Cup, and Sugarloaf—had indeed organized night watches, and enough men had volunteered so that no one was out more than one night per week.  The men rode in groups of three, basically riding from ranch to ranch, checking for anything unusual.  There was a lot of geography to cover, of course, and the system was far from perfect.  But people felt safer knowing the men were out there.
             “How long are we going to have to keep these watches up, Dan?” Boomer Gulf asked him.
             Harmon half-chuckled.  “That’s a good question, Boomer.  We still haven’t caught the killers and until we do, well, they are still out there.  That means they can strike again as soon as we let our guard down.”  He sighed.  “I wish Allie Summer would get here.  I feel like she could do something, although I don’t know what.”
             For the immediate future, however, Allie had another problem on her hands…
             At this point in the story, let me remind the reader of the prologue.  Allie had been sent to capture B11 Tallent and was, in her own way, successful at that.  As noted in Chapter Nine, her assignment was now to help Dan Harmon find and bring the renegade killers to justice.  In an exchange of wires with McConnell, the Ranger captain had informed Allie of the third attack.  She still could not—would not—believe that anyone from the reservation was guilty, but she was uneasy about it.  Swift Current wouldn’t…no, I know he wouldn’t…he’s a hothead, he hates white men, he’s proud and vain…but he’s not a murderer…he’s not…he’s not…he’s not…
               As related in the prologue, Allie was on her way to Arkmore.  She was about 20 miles from the town, riding through the largely barren, undulating terrain of the region.  The land sloped and rose, usually gently, but with the occasional ravine or creek for variation.  This was big country, the air was clear, and at times, Allie could see literally miles ahead, with a cloudless canopy topping a strong, powerful land.  Most of the grass was brown as the rains had been few and far between that spring, but there was water to be had so none of the farmers or ranchers were hurting—yet.  Another year or two of dry weather could prove to be disastrous. 
             As she rode the trail that led to Arkmore, Allie’s mind was on the upcoming assignment.  When she got to town, she’d talk to Sheriff Dan Harmon, discover what he was doing and what he wanted her to do.  She’d probably make another trip to the reservation, talk to Fleet Fox, see if she could learn anything there.  She really had no ideas, at the moment, what assistance she could give.   I can’t be everywhere at once…
               It was midday, and Ranger, her horse, was thirsty.  Allie spotted the copse of trees about a mile off that indicated water was available.  She headed in that direction.  It was when she arrived at those trees that she spied the “strange and unusual” mentioned in the prologue, a site that caused her blood to run as cold as her ice-blue eyes….

             Tyree Turner said, “String ‘em up, boys.  Les and I will hold rifles on ‘em, blast ‘em to kingdom come if they tries to get away.  But they need their necks stretched, so I hope they sit there real peaceful like.”  He cackled.
             “We’re gonna be heroes, ain’t we, Tyree,” Louis Coy said, as he made a hanging noose at the end of his rope  “We’ll go into town an’ tell ever’body we caught these sneakin’, thievin’, murderin’ savages and hung ‘em good an’ proper.  Save the taxpayers a trial.  I bet ol’ Jackson at the Little Brown Jug’ll let us drink fer free fer a month.”
             “An’ maybe give us free whores, too,” Anton Causey said with a laugh as he, too, was putting the finishing touches on his hanging rope.
             “I want that Bitsy Maddon,” Louis Coy replied.  “She’s too high-priced fer me, but maybe she’ll gimme a freebie, since I was one of the fellers who caught and kilt these heathern.”
             “Let’s just get the job done,” Tyree Turner responded.  “We’re doin’ our civic duty, and that’s what counts.”
             “Yeah,” Les Nicholson said.  “I don’t care nuthin’ ‘bout booze and women.  I just want these Injuns dead.”  He had a rifle, and he spat out a stream of tobacco juice that looked like it was about five inches long.
             What Allie Summer had rode into, obviously, was a hanging.  Four white men—Tyree Turner, Louis Coy, Les Nicholson, and Anton Causey—were all sitting on horses, Turner and Nicholson, as noted, holding rifles while the other two men were making hanging nooses.  They had surrounded four Indians, who were also sitting on horses, but were at the mercy of Turner and his friends.  Allie could also see a few cows grazing about 25 yards away. 
             It was when she saw the identity of one of the Indians that Allie’s blood turned cold.
             Swift Current.
             His eyes met hers as she rode near, but she could read no fear, sorrow, remorse, or plea for help in them.  In fact, she could read nothing.  She held his eyes for a few moments, and then he looked away.
             Turner and his men glanced up as Allie rode near, but they didn’t say anything.  She spoke first.
             “Looks like you boys are fixing to have yourselves a party,” she said, looking from man to man, sizing up what she needed to do.  One of them reminded Allie of Chaucer’s description, in the Canterbury Tales, of the Miller, who “hade on the cop [top] of his nose a werte, and ther-on stood a tuft of heres reed as the bristles of a sowes eres”.  But he didn’t appear especially dangerous.  Then, she looked back to the Indians.  She recognized Live Spirit, Tehoka, and Buffalo Brain, the three who had long been Swift Current’s closest friends.
             “Sure are, sonny boy,” Turner replied, looking at Allie closely.  As usual, she had her hair piled up under her hat and she was wearing men’s clothes, so her gender was not immediately detectable.  One often sees what one expects to see and nobody expected to see a lone woman rider in the eastern Montana plains.  Turner continued, his eyes back on the Indians, at whom he also had his rifle pointed.  “These is the four savages who’s been doin’ the killin’ in these here parts the past few months.  We caught ‘em red-handed, stealin’ Les’s cows over there.”  He nodded to the grazing cattle.  “We’re gonna give ‘em the hangin’ they deserve and then we can all sleep good at night agin.”
             When he mentioned the stolen cattle, Allie looked at Swift Current.  He didn’t meet her eyes, which told her that the Cheyenne braves had, indeed, been caught thieving.  “You found them with the cattle,” Allie said softly, still looking at her cousin.  “Did they kill somebody, too?”
             “Well, no, thankfully we got ‘em before they could do anymore of their filthy scalpin’.  We’re gonna string ‘em up to these trees, then ride into town and git the sheriff.  He’ll be plumb proud of us.  The whole town will.”
             Allie sighed, and said, “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, boys.”
             Turner looked at her, and the other three men did as well.  “And just how you aimin’ on stoppin’ us, young feller?”
             Allie never wore her badge, which irritated McConnell a little, but she kept it in her saddlebags.  She reached back for it, and while she was doing so, she said, “I’m the law.  Montana Ranger.  I can’t allow vigilantes to do our work for us.  I’ll take these Indians into Arkmore and have Sheriff Harmon hold them there for trial.”  She showed her badge.
             Louis, Les, and Anton shifted their gaze to Tyree Turner, who obviously they considered the leader.  Tyree was a little uncomfortable, but he was also rebellious.  “Well, I don’t know about that, Ranger.  We caught ‘em, fair and square, and seems to us that we might as well save the taxpayers some money and go ahead and hang ‘em.”
             “You can’t be taking the law into your own hands and you know it,” Allie said, getting irritated.  Irritated at Turner, irritated at Swift Current, irritated at the whole world.  “I’ll make sure you get credit for capturing these…Indians.”
             Turner squinted his eyes and looked closely at Allie.  “You don’t look old enough t’ be a ranger,” he said.  “You coulda stole that badge.  And you sound like a woman and you look like an Injun.”  He couldn’t see Allie’s eyes.  “No, I think me and the boys will go ahead and do what we got planned to do here.  You just go on your way and we’ll take care of matters here.”
             Swift Current spoke for the first time.  He smiled at Allie, but only with his lips.  “The white eyes barbarian doesn’t know who he’s dealing with, does he, cousin.”  Allie gave him a rather disgusted look.  Identifying her as the Indian’s cousin didn’t do her any favors.
             “Aha,” Turner said.  “So you are an Indian.  You saw us capture your kind and you come to set them free.  Who did you steal that badge off of?  Did you kill a Ranger to get it?  I reckon maybe we ought to hang you, too.”  He swung the rifle towards Allie.
             And that was a mistake.  With a move nobody saw, Allie drew her .36 and blasted the rifle out of Tyree Turner’s hands.  He yelped.  Before Les Nicholson could bring his weapon into play, Allie had him covered.  He froze.
             “Don’t ever point a rifle at me, mister,” she said to Turner, in the voice that matched her eyes. 
             “Who are you?” Turner said, shaking his hands from the sting of having the rifle blown from them.  “I never seen anybody move so fast…”
             “Who I am is none of your concern, except that I am a Montana Ranger, and in the name of the law, I’m taking control of these prisoners.  And if you try to stop me, I’ll hold you in contempt and arrest you, too.  And have you tried for resisting a law officer and attempted murder.”
             “We wasn’t murderin’ nobody!” Louis Coy said.
             “You were fixing to,” Allie replied.  “In this country, a person, even an Indian, is considered innocent until proven guilty.  The guilt of these four is for a court of law to decide, not you.”
             “They was cow stealin’,” Coy murmured.  “We caught ‘em.  That’s a hangin’ offense, Ranger, and you know it.”
             “But it’s for a court to sentence them,” Allie replied.
             “Besides, we weren’t stealing cattle,” Swift Current said, obvious amusement on his face.  “Those cows were just following us.  We were minding our own business.”
             Even Allie didn’t buy that, of course, but it was Turner who snorted.  “Why would them cows foller you?  You was stealin’, shore enough.”
             Swift Current shrugged.  “Prove it.  I say they followed us of their own free will.  Maybe they like Indian smell better than white man smell.  Most animals try to avoid stink when they can.”  Allie gave her cousin a very annoyed look; he wasn’t making things any easier, but he obviously fully expected her to get him out of the mess he was in.
             Turner gritted his teeth.  “You filthy savages.  You been killin’ innocent white people and been stealin’ our cattle.”  He looked at Allie.  “You git on outta here, Injun.  I don’t believe yore no ranger.  I know what yore gonna do.  He said you was his cousin.  Yore gonna set these heathen free and they’re gonna steal and kill some more.  Come to think of it, that’s probably just what you want, ain’t it.”
             “No, that isn’t what I want, mister.  What I want is to see law and order prevail in this territory and if I let you hang these fellows, you’ll be no better than they are.”  She waved her gun at Swift Current and his companions.  “Come on, you four.  We’ll let the law decide what to do with you.”
             Swift Current sneered.  “You think a white man’s judge and a white man’s jury is going to give Indians justice?”
             Allie looked at him.  “Would you rather I ride off and let Buck Teeth and his buddies here finish what they had planned?”  Turner’s front teeth protruded noticeably.  “Would you rather be in his hands…or mine?”
             That was a question which, to Swift Current, hardly required an answer.
             So Allie continued, waving the gun again.  “Now, let’s ride.  Before I change my mind and forget I stopped here.”
             The four Indian braves looked at the white men cautiously, but gigged their horses and began moving towards Allie.  Turner was livid.  “We’re gonna get you, Injun.  We’re gonna find you, pluck your eyeballs out, pull out yer teeth with a pair o’ pliers…”
             “Aw, shut up,” Allie said, and fired the .36 again.  Turner’s hat flew off.  He looked utterly shocked and reached for his now hatless head.
             “You…you almost kilt me,” he said.
             “No, I didn’t,” Allie replied.  “If I had wanted you dead, you would be.  But I don’t like being threatened.  Now, you boys did good work catching these four.  Let the system do its job now.”
             “Who are you, anyway?” Les Nicholson asked.  “You don’t act like no Injun I ever seen.”
             “Her name is Summer Rain,” Swift Current said with a smile.  He seemed to be enjoying himself.  Or, more likely, he was enjoying Allie’s discomfort.
             “You shut up, too, before you get us all killed,” Allie said to him.
             “Her?” Nicholson looked nonplussed.
             In response, Allie lifted her hat.  Her hair immediately fell to her shoulders.  “My name is Allie Summer,” she said.  “You can check with Port Station if you still don’t believe I’m a Ranger.  Good day to you gentlemen.  Or whatever you are.”  And, keeping her eyes on the four white men just in case, she followed the Indian braves to the main rode.  “Sorry, Ranger,” she muttered to her horse.  “We’ll get you some water at the next stream…”
             Turner and his three friends watched the five Cheyenne—four and a half—ride away.  “Allie Summer,” Louis Coy murmured.  “I heerd o’ him.  Or her.  Did you know Allie Summer was a woman, Tyree?”
             Turner was stewing.  “I don’t care if Allie Summer is an elephant, and I don’t believe that is Allie Summer.  Allie Summer ain’t no woman, the Rangers don’t hire women, ever’body knows that.  She was pullin’ a fast one on us and stole our hostages.  I’m headin’ to town in the mornin’ and find out if’n she took them savages to jail.  And if she didn’t, I’m gonna tell Harmon and ever’body that I see.  If that Injun ever shows her face again, she’s in fer a rough time.”  He went and picked up his hat and examined the hole.  “Allie Summer my….”
             “She’s pretty quick with that gun, Tyree.  I’d be careful if’n you ever meet up with her agin.”
             Turner smirked.  “I wonder if she’s as fast as a double-barreled shotgun…”
           The five Indians—four and a half—were walking their horses on the road towards Arkmore, Allie and Swift Current in front.  There was no talking for a solid five minutes as they rode.  Allie refused to look at her cousin, her mind and heart in turmoil.
             Finally, Swift Current spoke, his voice bitter with sarcasm.  “I guess you are going to put us in your white man’s jail and leave us at the mercy of your precious white man’s law.”  He spoke to her in the Cheyenne tongue.
             Allie didn’t answer for a while, then finally said, speaking also the Indian language, “There is no excuse for what you have done, Swift Current.  None.”
             “Then why did you not let those men hang us?”
             “That is a question that does not deserve an answer.”
             “We have done nothing wrong,” Swift Current said.
             “Taking what does not belong to you is wrong, in any man’s culture, Swift Current.”
             “We are only taking back what is ours, Summer Rain,” Swift Current said.
             Allie turned on him.  “No, it isn’t yours, Swift Current.  These people are working hard for what they have, raising crops and animals that belong to them, not you.  They are earning what they have by the sweat of their brow and you have no right to it.  What galls me is to think that my cousin is nothing but a skulking, thieving murderer, a snake in the grass, a…boy…who, because he cannot get his way, goes around and takes out his immaturity on innocent people who have done him no wrong, who are doing nothing but trying to make something of their lives.”
             “We have killed no one, Summer Rain,” Swift Current said, his voice calm, looking ahead.
             “Six people are dead, Swift Current.  At the hand of four Indians.”  Allie looked around, deliberately, at her cousin, Live Spirit, Tehoka, and Buffalo Brain.  “Tell me you did not do that.”
             The son of Bear Claw looked at Allie, his face hard.  “I will admit to taking the white man’s cattle.  If you saw the miserable scraps our…White Father…in his benevolence gives us, food I wouldn’t feed to a dog, you would know why we have been stealing cattle.  Our people are starving, Summer Rain, and we need food.”
             “There is game in these hills, Swift Current, and antelope on the reservation.  Plenty of both.  But, regardless of the Cheyenne’s condition, that does not justify you killing innocent people.  Cheyenne do not do that.  You make me ashamed of my people.”
             “We have killed no one, Summer Rain,” Swift Current repeated mildly.  “But they have killed some of us.  Recently.”
             “What do you mean?”
             Swift Current told her about the raid on the reservation village a few weeks before.  “Mountain Hawk died in the flames as did the child of Sweet Water.  The American agent, Wilcox, also did not live.”
             This was news to Allie and she stared at her cousin.  “White men did it?”
             Swift Current shrugged.  “It was late at night, very dark, all were asleep.  I could not see clearly, but what I could see indicated white men.  The sign the next day was conclusive.  Boot prints.  White men cigars.  We found hoof prints of shod horses near the village.”
             “And they killed Wilcox?”
             “Why would they kill him?”
             Again her cousin shrugged.  “You will have to ask them that question.  But nobody on the reservation misses him.  The white army colonel and his sheriff lackey appeared at the reservation a couple of days later.  They arrested Fleet Fox and we have not seen him since.”
             Allie was having trouble absorbing all of this.  “Why did Einarsen arrest Fleet Fox?” she asked with disbelief and amazement in her voice.
             “He said he would hold him until Fleet Fox told him who on the reservation had been killing the whites.”
             Allie thought that over for a few minutes.  If anything, that raid, and the arrest of their chief, would give Swift Current more of a motive to kills whites, though the attack on the village had been done after the six ranchers had been killed.  And, as far as Allie, knew, there had been no whites killed since.
             “You aren’t behind the murders of those six white people?” she asked Swift Current.
             Her cousin looked at her, square in the eyes.  “I swear by all our gods and our ancestors…we have taken the white man’s cows, but we have not taken any white man’s life.”
             Allie stared at him, hard, wanting to believe him.  “Who has been killing the white ranchers then?”
             “I do not know.”
             “Swift Current…”
             The young man raised his voice in anger.  “I tell you the truth, Summer Rain.  It is no one on our reservation who is killing the white man.”
             Allie continued to study her cousin for several seconds, and then turned away, thoughtful.  Would he lie to her?  She had known Swift Current to be many things.  She had known him to be extraordinarily vain, and with a latent cruelty not uncommon among primitive people.  She had seen a pride that he was not yet worthy of.  He possessed an unbounded ego, and a ferocious temper.  He should have lived 100 years ago, in a different time, a different world.  But, for all his ego and anger and energy, because of the peace the white man had brought, Allie had never known Swift Current to kill another human being.
             And he had never lied to her. He would lie to an enemy, but a Cheyenne would never lie to another Cheyenne.  It was not done.
             He broke the silence.  “I ask you again, are you taking us to the white man’s jail and justice?”
             “You were caught stealing their property.”
             “They stole our land!” Swift Current retorted, his teeth gritted.
             “Then you are no better than they are by trying to steal it back.  What would you do to a white man if you caught him stealing your horses?”
             Swift Current made a disgusted sound and turned away.
             Allie spoke more softly.  “My cousin, I believe, as strongly as you do, that there is a time to fight and a time to die.  But that is not the only ‘time’ that exists.  There is a time to be wise, to accept the inevitable, to not try to change what cannot be changed.  The white man is here to stay.  This is his land now.  The Cheyenne must accept that.  You must accept that, Swift Current.  You don’t have to like it, but you must accept it.  I had hoped, by now, you would be man enough to do that, to become a leader of our people, to not deceive them into believing the impossible, into trying to resurrect a past that will never come again.  Are you?”
             “I am a leader of our people, you know this, Summer Rain.”  There’s the vanity again, Allie thought.
               She responded, “Leaders look ahead, son of Bear Claw, they do not dwell in the past, though they must learn from it.  Leaders show others the way to peace, safety, and prosperity, they do not take their people down paths of destruction.  Leaders recognize and accept the inevitable, do not try to change what cannot be changed, but with skill and wisdom, adapt as necessary.”  She looked back at her cousin.  “I ask you again, are you that kind of leader, Swift Current?”
             This time, he said nothing and did not look at her.
             Allie stopped her horse and sighed; the others halted, too.  They were at the top of a rise, and before them, they could see for miles.  Land…good land, Allie thought, and enough for everybody…She spoke again, quietly, and this time she spoke in English.  “Go back to the reservation, Swift Current, and be a true leader of our people.  The kind of leader I know you can be.”  She looked at him.  “The kind of leader our people need now, more than ever.”
             Their eyes locked for several seconds.  “Will you join me?  Lead our people with me?” the Indian brave asked her.
             Allie’s heart jumped into her throat.  She knew what he was asking—to become his wife.  With that heart aching, she tried to keep her eyes locked with his.  But she could not.  She turned away.  “I have made my choice, Swift Current.”
             For several seconds, there was silence again, as Swift Current stared at the daughter of White Wolf and Sandra; at his cousin who was cursed with the devil’s eyes; at the one human being he loved more than any other—and who would not look back at him.  Then, without a word, he flicked his wrist and turned his horse in the direction of the Big Horn Reservation. 
             But Allie had something else she had to say.  “Swift Current.”  He stopped and turned.  “I am sorry, but I have made my choice,” she repeated.  “And I will live with it.   Do not let me see you off the reservation again, not until I have found the killers of those white families.  It is for your own protection.”
             Swift Current sneered; he was good at it.  “Yes…Allie Summer…  He rode off, head high, his companions following. 
             The verbal knife went deep into her.  Allie watched him for several moments, then closed her eyes and dropped her head.  She clenched her fists and her teeth…and fought back tears.  Then, steeling herself as best she could, she said, “Let’s go, Ranger,” and put him into a ground-eating canter towards Arkmore.