Chapter Seven—Meetings

Nearing the end of April…
           The news of the Johnstons murder spread rapidly, of course, and all through the region.  As Harmon expected, there was an increasing amount of anger and fear, with loud demands that something be done “to wipe them savages off the face of th’ earth.” 
           “There are a lot of rumors flying around, Dan.”  Bradley Sims, the mayor of Arkmore, was talking to Harmon in his office a few days after the latter’s most recent visit to the reservation.  “It might be a good idea to hold a town meeting and get all the facts before the people, as best we know them.  That might head off a lot of panic.”
           Harmon nodded.  “That’s probably a good idea, Brad.  Today is Monday.  Why don’t you set it up for Saturday afternoon, say about 2?  That will give everybody a chance to get there and then get home that night.  I’ll contact Fred Harrison over in Kinsey, and…let’s see, who else?  I think Pick Handsome in Sugarloaf ought to be here, and Boomer Gulf in Tin Cup.  I think those are the only towns within 100 miles of the reservation.”  Then he pulled a face.  “At least on this side of the border.  But I’ll wire the law officers in northern Wyoming to let them know what’s happening up here and suggest they keep their eyes open.”
           “They’d probably appreciate it.  I’ll talk to the town council and we’ll schedule a meeting for this Saturday.”
           By that evening, Sims got whatever permission he needed from the Arkmore town council, and Harmon wired the marshals of Kinsey, Sugarloaf, and Tin Cup, inviting them—and any of their citizens who wanted to come—to the Saturday afternoon meeting.  Before noon the next day, he had heard from all the invitees and they would all be there.
           “What if’n them savages decide t’ lift s’more hair afore Saturday, Sheriff?”  That question came from Alf Zachary when Harmon was getting a drink at the Little Brown Jug Saloon on Tuesday evening.  “What’re ye gonna do then?”  Alf had a bit of cantankerous expression on his old, slim, weathered face, but then Alf usually had a cantankerous expression on his old, slim, weathered face.
           “Well, we hope that won’t happen, Alf, but if you know some way to prevent it, I’d sure be glad to hear it.”
           “Hmph.  I’ll tell ye how to put’a stop to it,” Alf returned.
           Harmon actually smiled.  He knew what was coming.  “How’s that Alf?”
           “Go down t’ that reservation and take all’a theirs'n hair afore’n they get all’a ours’n.”
           Harmon was sitting at a table with Conrad Assiniboine, one of the town councilmen, and Faye Fontenot, also a councilman, president of the Arkmore bank, and a man of considerable influence in the town.  But that was usually the case with most bankers in small western towns.  They could virtually hold the power of life or death over many people, who depended upon them for the loans they needed to finance their ranches or farms.  Bankers usually weren’t terribly popular; people who are feared often aren’t very well liked.  And Fontenot was no exception.
           He was a younger man, at least young for a banker, maybe 35, with a full head of black hair and a slender mustache that curled around his upper lip.  His chin was a little too prominent, his blue eyes were a little too large and round, and his pale skin looked like he never went outside.  He started talking finance, something Harmon wasn’t terribly good at.  “If these raids keep up, Dan, that’s going to drive up the price of acreage around here, you know that, don’t you?  That’s going to be rough for all of us.”
           Harmon, like most people, didn’t especially like Fontenot, either, but he tolerated him.  “Faye, I would think it would drive the price of land down, not up.”
           The banker raised his eyebrow.  “Why is that?”
           “If people don’t come, you’re going to have to lower the price to attract customers.”
         Fontenot smiled.  “Normally that would be true.  But if there is a lot of land available, but there is a risk involved—in this case, the risk of getting massacred—those who are willing to take the risk are going to have to be willing to pay for it.”  He shrugged.  “I’ve got to cover myself.  If I loan money to people who get killed, I don’t get my money back.”
           “But you’d get the land, and you could resell it.”
           Fontenot shook his head.  “Not many people are going to want to buy the land of somebody who just got butchered by Indians.”
           Dan didn’t understand the workings of a banker’s mind.  I guess that’s why I’m a sheriff and not a banker…  “It still seems to me that the more land that’s available, the cheaper it would be.”
           “It’s the risk factor, Dan.  It raises the cost.  If you worked at a very dangerous job, you would expect higher pay to cover the dangers you would face every day.  Not many people would want to do that job, so since the supply would be low, the cost would be higher.  If I’m going to finance land where there is a reasonable chance I might not get back what I loaned, then I’m going to have to charge more for it.  Losing money could destroy the bank and thus the town.”
           “I guess so,” Harmon said, a little put off by Fontenot’s estimation of the bank’s importance to Arkmore, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue about it.  He gave the banker a wan smile.  “Let’s just hope we can catch these killers and that will put an end to it.”
           “Amen to that.”
           “Einarsen is not going to help?” Councilman Assiniboine asked.
           Harmon grunted.  “Yeah.  If I dump the Indians who are doing this on his front door, he’ll help.  But not until then.”
           “That sounds like Einarsen.”
           “Amen to that, too,” Fontenot said, and got a general chuckle from his table.
           “Are you going to invite him to the town meeting?” Assiniboine asked.
           “Do you think he’d come?”
           The councilman thought on that a moment, then shook his head.  “No.”
           “I don’t, either, so I’m not going to waste the town’s money on a wire to him.”
           “I appreciate that, since I pay taxes,” Assiniboine replied, and there was some more laughing.
           “Well, let’s just wait and see what happens at the town meeting Saturday,” Dan said.  "Maybe some of the other lawmen will have a better idea than I do how to handle this.”
           The councilmen smile wryly.  “I have a feeling some them might think Alf’s solution would be the best.”
           Dan smiled back.  “It might be, at that…”

           Town meetings, which most men never bothered to attend, were usually held in the church building, schoolhouse, or maybe the courthouse.  These were the biggest rooms in Arkmore, the church being the largest.  It could hold, with people standing, about 200.  The Saturday meeting drew well more than that number, including quite a few from the other towns.  That being the case, a rostrum, tables, and chairs were hastily set up on the church grounds.  But that still left a lot of people standing up.  There was a quite a bit of buzz before the meeting began, and to Sheriff Dan Harmon, it sounded just like a hive of angry bees.
           Not surprisingly, this one ended up being a rather contentious affair, with most of the contention aimed at the lawmen, whom the hoi polloi believed were supposed to defend them from savages, outlaws, animals, vegetables, minerals, themselves, and any other potential undesirable that might be scavenging the territory.  Harmon was very happy to see the other contingent of marshals at the gathering.
             It was a nice afternoon, a bit of wind, with some puffy white clouds in the sky, but the temperature was pleasant and comfortable.  The dirt road in front of the church building was lined on both sides with horses.  Many of the town merchants, who liked to close at noon on Saturday, had stayed open in anticipation of getting some business.  But nearly all of them were at the meeting, so they were hoping for drop-bys after it was over. 
           “Howdy, Dan.”  Boomer Gulf, the marshal of Tin Cup, came over and shook hands with Harmon as the finishing touches were put on the makeshift rostrum from which the crowd would be addressed.  “Looks like the church grounds is drawin’ quite a congregation.  I brought 30 over from Tin Cup.”
           “It’s good to see you, Boomer, and I’m glad some of your people came.”  He looked around at the gathering.  Some thoughtful Arkmore women had provided some coffee, punch, and cookies, but the main activity seemed to be a lot of disturbed conversation.
           Pick Handsome walked over.  The lawmen shook hands all around, and Dan said, with a sardonic grin, “I might need you fellows to do some crowd control.”
           Pick didn’t quite catch Harmon’s irony.  “You don’t think anything is going to happen, do you, Dan?”
           “No, I don’t think so, Pick.  We aren’t allowing alcohol anywhere near this place.  The city councilmen are at the gate of the church property making sure no one brings anything like that here.  So that will help.”  Again, he scanned the surroundings.  “We don’t need anything else to stir up this mob.”  He looked at the other lawmen.  “Mingle and keep your eyes open, just in case.” 
           “What are you going to tell them, Dan?” Boomer Gulf asked him.
           Harmon shrugged.  “The truth.  We certainly need to squelch rumors, but we don’t want to sugarcoat this thing.  People are scared and concerned.  They have a right to be.  I hope we can calm their fears some, but, frankly, I don’t know how to do it.”
           “It would certainly help if the army were here,” Fred Harrison said.
           “Yeah.”  Dan half-chuckled.  “But then, a lot of the fire would be aimed at Einarsen, and he knows it, and that would be a good reason for him to avoid this meeting like the plague.”
           “Did you invite him?” Boomer Gulf asked.
           “I sent him a wire, though I didn’t intend to at first.  Didn’t hear anything back.  Didn’t expect to.”
           Right then, Mayor Bradley Sims stepped onto the rostrum and behind a small podium.  The crowd was still talking, so the mayor banged lightly, but sharply, on the lectern with a gavel.  The sound carried well in the crisp, spring air, and the sounds of conversation slowly died away.
           “I’m sure all of you know why we are here,” Sims began.  He was tall man, slender, about 35 with dark hair.  He had a strong voice and had no trouble being heard.  “First off, I want to thank you all for coming, especially Marshals Gulf, and Handsome from nearby towns.  We appreciate your interest—“
         He was interrupted by some heckler in the audience.  “Aw, cut out the barnyard stuff, Mayor, we didn’t come all this way to hear some politician jabber.”
           Sims wasn’t ruffled.  Being interrupted and heckled was a common occurrence for politicians of the day—and entertainment for the crowd.  “I understand that, and we’ll get right to business.  I simply want to note that this is a serious meeting and your cooperation will be greatly appreciated.”
           “Your silence’ll be greatly appreciated, if’n you ever shut up.”
           Harmon glanced at Boomer Gulf.  The latter whispered, “This might be a tough crowd.  Good luck.”  The Arkmore sheriff simply nodded.
           The mayor carried on as if he hadn’t heard the latest interference.  “We are all concerned about the tragic deaths of Ted and Melissa Britz and Ken and Casey Johnston.    I will now turn the rostrum over the Sheriff Dan Harmon, who hopefully will clarify any issues that you might wish clarified.”
           There was no applause.  I think I know how Daniel felt before he was tossed into the lion’s den…Dan took his place behind the podium, and briefly noticed that the other three lawmen surreptitiously were moving in amongst the swarm.
           “If you will permit,” Dan began, “and even if you won’t”—and here he received a few nervous chuckles—“I want to give a brief summation of the events at the Britz and Johnston homesteads.  This, hopefully, will dispel any rumors, false or otherwise, that you might have heard.  In early March, four men—at least that appears to have been the number—approached the Britz’ home and brutally murdered Ted and Melissa.  He was shot with an arrow and her throat was slit.  They both had been scalped and she was apparently…abused.  Upon investigation, I found not only the arrow with turkey feathers at the end, but moccasin tracks and the hooves of four unshod horses.”
           “Injuns!  Blasted savages!  The only good ‘un is a dead ‘un.”
           Harmon ignored the comment and continued.  “A couple of weeks ago, the tragedy was played out again at the home of Ken and Casey Johnston.  Ken was killed with an arrow, Casey’s throat was cut, and they both were scalped.  Once again, moccasin tracks were found as were sign of four unshod horses.”
           “The same Injuns, Sheriff?” somebody called out.
           Dan hesitated.  “It appears that the perpetrators were the same four men, but we can’t tell for sure.  Moccasin sign is hard to read—at least for me—but it did look like the same horses were used.  After the Britz murder, I went and talked to Colonel Timothy Einarsen at Fort Pearson.  He wasn’t totally convinced that Indians were the culprits.”
           “Aw, that man’s an idiot.  Why’d ye waste your breath?”  A voice from the crowd.
           “It’s pretty obvious it was Indians, Sheriff.  Why would he think it wasn’t?”  Another voice.
           Harmon replied, “He didn’t say it wasn’t, he simply wanted more evidence before he took the matter to his superiors.  I don’t know what other kind of evidence he wanted, but that’s what he said.  I subsequently visited Big Horn Reservation and talked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent, a man named Wylie Wilcox, who swears that the killers could not possibly have come from his reservation.”
           “He sounds like an idiot, too.”
           “Well, he made a decent case, actually,” Harmon answered.  “He said that none of the Indians on his reservation have any riding horses; they have only plow horses.  Plus, given the distance of the murders away from the reservation, he said that no Indian from the reservation could possibly have been gone long enough to have come to Arkmore, and then Kinsey, to commit the crimes.  He would know if any Indian were off the reservation a sufficient length of time necessary to come up here and then return, especially if there were four of them.”
           This time, when Harmon stopped to take a breath, nobody said anything.  The crowd was digesting what the sheriff had just told them.
           He continued.  “I talked to the chief Indian on the reservation, an old codger named Fleet Fox.  He also stated that none of his Indians were guilty—“
           “Well, o’ course the savage’d say that.”
           “Yes, he would, but he wasn’t as convincing when I asked him if any of the Cheyenne ever left the reservation.  In fact, he strongly implied that they did.”
           “There you have it then.”
           “It’s worth considering, but again, Wilcox the agent, is adamant that none of them ever leave.”
           “Whataya expect him t’ say?  He’d be fired if it was found out that the Injuns under his charge was out murderin’ good, decent white folks.”
           That was a good point, one that Harmon hadn’t considered and cursed himself for his oversight.  That does tend to weaken Wilcox’s assertions.  I wonder if Einarsen thought of it…”Well, regardless, after the Johnston murders, Colonel Einarsen, Marshal Harrison, and I paid another visit to the reservation.  We received the same claims that I had received the first time, that is, that there were no riding horses on the reservation, Wilcox would know it if there were, and he would know if any Indians were gone for an extended period of time.  That’s where that stands.”
           “That don’t convince me none.  An Injun can hide a horse under a blade o’ grass.”
         A man who hadn’t spoken up so far actually raised his hand.  Harmon didn’t know him, and motioned to him.  “Yessir.  Do you have a question?”
           “Yes, Sheriff.  Thank you.  My question is simply this:  do you trust this Wilcox fellow?  That he’s telling the truth?”
           Harmon thought a moment before answering.  “He…makes a pretty good point, regarding the length of time the Indians would have to be away from the reservation.  It’s about 60 miles from the Britz’ place to the Indian village.  Any Cheyenne from that village would have to be gone at least three or four days if they were guilty of the crime.  That is a pretty long time.”
           The man smiled.  “You didn’t answer my question, Sheriff.”
           Harmon smiled back.  “Well, then, no, I don’t trust him, but I confess I’m prejudiced against him.  He’s a Washington bureaucrat who did the best imitation of the sound end of a north bound jackass that I’ve seen in a long time.”
           He got a laugh at that.  “I second that motion.”  That was Harrison from somewhere in the crowd.  Another chouckle.
           Somebody else spoke up, without raising his hand, and he sounded a bit irritated.  “This is all well and good, Sheriff Harmon, but the Britzes and the Johnstons is dead, and I wanna know what you lawmen and politicians is gonna do about it.  A lots of us live out away from our towns, too, and we ain’t hankerin’ to get our hair lifted.”  There was a chorus of “yeah, yeah” after the man finished.
           “Gentlemen, I assure you that I, along with Marshals Harrison, Handsome, and Gulf are doing, and will continue to do, all we can to bring the guilty parties to justice.  But, I’ll be frank with you.  This is a big territory and we can’t be everywhere.  I strongly suggest that you people who live out of town take very decided measures to defend yourselves and your families.”
           “What kind of ‘de-cided measures’ do you suggest, Sheriff?”
           “Keep your guns loaded at all times.  Be especially watchful for anything suspicious around your homes, get a dog if you don’t have one—“
           “If’n I see an Injun, I’m a-gonna shoot on sight and ask no questions.”
           “Well, if you do that, I don’t think I can blame you.  I just hope you don’t kill an innocent.  Most of the Indians have become peaceful.  I suspect these crimes are being committed by a small group of renegades who are upset over losing their land and want to strike back at the white man.”  He shrugged.  “Maybe they figure that if they can kill enough of us, the rest of us will get scared and leave.  And the land will be theirs again.”
           “Why ain’t the army here?  Ain’t this an army matter?”
           “Well, again, as I explained earlier, Colonel Einarsen, just like Agent Wilcox, isn’t convinced yet that Indians from the reservation are guilty.”
           “They’re both of ‘em idiots!”
           “To be honest, I agree with that sentiment.  But, as of yet, we do not have any definitive proof that Indians from the reservation are guilty.”      
           “Then yore an idiot, too!”
           “I’m sorry you feel that way.  You can have my job if you want it, and then you can come up here and be the idiot.”
           The man didn’t respond to that.
           Another man spoke up.  “We’re a-payin’ you lawmen to protect us.  If’n you cain’t do it, we’ll get somebody who can!”
           “I’ll make you the same offer as I did the last man who spoke.  You can have this job if you think you can do it better.”       
             “Well, I couldn’t do no worse,” the fellow grumbled just loud enough for everybody to hear.
           “Listen,” the sheriff said.  “My point here is that the evidence certainly seems convincing that Indians are guilty.  I don’t dispute that.  What I said was we have no sure proof that Indians from the reservation are guilty.  There are other Indians in this territory, though as far as we know, they are all far away from here.  But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t make the trip here.”
           “But them turkey feather arrows point to the Cheyenne.”
           “Yes, that’s true, and that’s why I’ve been to the Big Horn twice.  But we have to consider the possibility that there might be Cheyenne loose that aren’t on the reservation yet.”
            Harmon continued before he could be interrupted again.  “Part of the reason for this gathering was, not just to get you men up-to-date on what has been happening, but also to ask for any suggestions you might have.  We’d welcome your help and ideas.  A hundred heads are better than four or five.”
           “Let Tom over there have your job,” somebody shouted, and everybody laughed.  Tom was one of the men Harmon had offered the sheriff’s position to.
           The calm man near the front who had raised his hand to ask a question earlier did so again.  And once more, Harmon acknowledged him.
           “Have you considered getting the territorial Rangers involved?  If the army isn’t going to help, maybe they will.  And, unlike you and the marshals that are here, they don’t have specific towns to protect.  Perhaps Port Station could provide a few men to roam the countryside and see if they can catch the killers.”
           Harmon looked at the man like he was a genius.  “Sir, that is a very good idea.  I’ve met Captain W. T. McConnell, the head of the Rangers, but I can’t say that I know him well.  I don’t know how many men he has working for him, but I will take it upon myself to ride over to Port Station and talk with him personally.  Perhaps he can provide a few men to help us.  It’s worth asking him.  They can’t be everywhere, either, but the more men that are free to be on the lookout, the better the chance to stop the next attack, especially if we let it be known that they are out there.”
           “So you expect another killin’?” somebody shouted.
           “I don’t know that, for sure, of course, and I certainly hope we’ve seen the last of those butchers.  But…well, let me say, I wouldn’t be surprised if they struck again.  That’s why I urge you to eternal vigilance—or you might end up in eternity sooner than you wish.  Does anyone else have a suggestion as to what else we can do?”
           A man named Odas Schafer, who had the reputation of being a bit of a hothead and troublemaker in Arkmore, spoke up.  “I think the whole bunch of us ought to git our guns and head down to that reservation and put th’ fear o’ God into them savages.  We don’t even have to kill none of ‘em.  We can just do what that army oughta do but won’t.  Show them Injuns enough firepower to let ‘em know what they’re in for if’n they don’t leave us white folks alone.”
           Harmon tried to nix that immediately.  “Odas, we’re not going to have any vigilantism here.  If we act like they do, then we’ll be no better than them.  We’ll handle this legally, like we’re supposed to.”  He spoke to the entire gathering again.  “Just be on your guard, men.  You certainly have every right to defend your families and your property, and we lawmen will do everything we can to help.  But don’t take the law into your own hands!   
           “All right, lawman,” Odas replied.  “We’ll play it yore way.  But if’n them savages hit again, and you and the army ain’t doin’ nothin’ about it, then, by Caesar, we will.”  And he turned and limped away.
           Everybody watched him for a moment, then turned back to Harmon, expecting some response.  From what Dan could tell, Schafer had more than a little sympathy.  “Keep cool, men.  There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this.  And starting another war with the Indians is the last thing we want to do.  It may become necessary, but let’s try the peaceful way first, ok?”
           “Keep us posted, Sheriff,” one man said, and with that, the group began to disperse, wanting to get home that night.
           Pick, Harrison, and Gulf came over to Harmon as the crowd was leaving.  “Well, I think that went about as well as could be expected,” Harrison said.
           Harmon nodded, and gave him a wry grin.  “Well, at least we’ve all still got our hair.”
           “I think that idea about the Rangers was a good one,” Boomer Gulf commented.  “Do you want me to ride over there with you?”
           “No, no sense in both of us going, Boomer.  I’m going to wire McConnell this afternoon.  Hopefully, he’ll be willing to meet with me as soon as possible.  And, more hopefully, he’ll be able to help out.”
           “It might be our only chance to stop a bloodbath, Sheriff,” Pick Handsome said.
           And the somber faces that looked at him were the only response he needed.

           About an hour later, once the town had pretty well cleared out, Harmon went to the telegraph office.  It usually wasn’t open on Saturday, but the sheriff roused Chuck Gannon, the telegrapher, in order to send a wire to W. T. McConnell in Port Station.
           “Chances are he won’t get it till Monday, Sheriff,” Gannon said as he sat down in front of his telegraph machine.  “But the wire’ll get there today, so if he’s working, he’ll have it in an hour or two.”
           “Let’s go ahead and send it, Chuck, and see what happens.  Here’s the message I want you to send…”  It was a short, succinct note.  “Urgent I meet with you asap.  Please respond quickly.  Sheriff Dan Harmon, Arkmore.”
           “Well, that won’t cost the taxpayers too much money,” Gannon quipped with a smile.  “I’ll be around all afternoon and I’ve got a bell that sounds loud and clear when a message arrives, so if he answers today, I’ll hear it.”
           “Thanks, Chuck.  Let me know as soon as you get something.”
           “Might be Monday.  Or later, if he’s not in Port Station.”
           “I understand.”
           As it happened, McConnell was in Port Station and he was in his office, though the telegram caught him about 10 minutes before he left for the day.  Sergeant Pine, his adjutant, brought the message in.
           “This just arrived, Captain,” Pine said, handing McConnell the brief note.
           McConnell read it, and frowned.  “Dan Harmon.  I think I’ve met him.  Good man.  I wonder what he needs.  Sounds important anyway.”  He nodded.  “Wire him back and tell him to come as soon as he wishes.  I’ll be here all next week.”
           Pine immediately sent a return wire, Gannon got it, took it to Harmon, and the sheriff read it.  “Good.  I’ll leave tomorrow and hopefully be there by Tuesday or Wednesday.  It would certainly be a plus if we could get the Rangers in on this….”

           That night, Odas Schafer had a peculiar guest.  There was a knock on his front door, and when Schafer opened it, he saw banker Faye Fontenot standing on his porch.
           “Mr. Fontenot,” Odas said, with obvious surprise in his voice.  “Since when have you been makin’ house calls on the likes of me?”  And indeed, Odas Schafer was nowhere near the social strata that Fontenot usually communed with.
           “I need to talk to you, Mr. Schafer.  We all need each other at times, and while your path and mine may not cross too often, that doesn’t mean we don’t have things in common, mainly the concern and well-being of our town.”
           “Well, that’s true, I suppose,” Schafer responded.  “Come on in.  Would you like a drink?”
           “No, I want stay long,” Fontenot said, entering the small house.  He was a little surprised to see that the place was fairly neat.  Odas lived alone, and there was only one room.  There was a bed, a stove, some cabinets and shelves, and a couple of chairs.  The room wasn’t very well lit, but that suited the banker well enough.
           “What can I do for you, Mr. Fontenot?” Schafer said, after the two men sat down.
            Fontenot leaned forward in his chair, a very thoughtful expression on his face.  “Odas, I fear what might happen to our community if these Indian attacks don’t stop.  People will leave, and others won’t move in.  Do you know what that means?”
           Odas worked in construction, and while he didn’t have real steady work, it was enough to support him.  “Well, I think so,” he replied, not sure he really did understand the banker.  “Suppose you tell me anyway.”
           “It means Arkmore will dry up,” Fontenot said.  “Now, I’ll be honest with you.  As banker, I obviously have a vested interest in seeing that doesn’t happen.  But, you’re in construction.  What would you do if people started leaving Arkmore and nobody moved in?  What would happen to the construction industry here?”
           Odas scratched his jaw.  “Well, I reckon we wouldn’t be doin’ much buildin’, and I’d have to go find another job sommers else.”
           “Do you want to do that?”
           “No, not especially.”  Odas wasn’t real bright, but he wasn’t necessarily a total moron, either.  “What’re ye drivin’ at, Mr. Fontenot?”
           The banker leaned back and looked at Schafer carefully.  “Odas, I think you had the best idea of all today at the town meeting.”
           Schafer looked puzzled.  “You mean, roundin’ up a bunch o’ men and hittin’ that reservation?”
           “That’s exactly what I mean,” Fotenot replied.  “Except it needs to be a small party, no more than five or six.  Do you know a few men who think the way you do about this?”
           Odas grunted.  “I know a bunch of ‘em.”
           “All right.  I want you to choose the four or five best of them, men you can trust.  I’ll bankroll the thing, say $50 apiece, plus expenses, though you shouldn’t have much of that.  What I want you fellows to do is sneak down to that reservation, late at night, and cause some havoc.   Set a few fires in their village, maybe kill some livestock…try not to kill anybody if you can help it, but it won’t be disastrous if you do.  I also want you to leave a note where they’ll be able to find it.  I’ll write it, but it will be something to the effect of ‘this is what happens to Indians who leave the reservation and kill whites.’”  Fontenot smiled.  “I think they’ll get the message, don’t you?”
           Schafer smiled back.  “Yeah, I think they will, and I think it’s a good idea.  There’s only one thing them savages understan’, and that’s the business end of a .44.”
           “So, you’re willing to do it?”
           “Yeah, I’ll do it, and I already know a few fellers I can ask who I’m sure will go along.  When do you want it done?”
           Fontenot hesitated, as if thinking.  “Hold off a couple of weeks.  Let’s see…May 14 is a Saturday night…how about then?”
           Schafer nodded.  “Yeah.  Ok.  I’ll get started on it tomorrow.  We ought t’ be able to do it then.  I’ll talk to some boys and see what they say.”
           “All right.  Remember, there’s $50 for each of you when the matter is concluded.”   That was more than Odas made in a month.  The banker stood up.  “We’ve got to make this area totally safe for settlers.  The more that come in…”  He smiled.  “Well, I’ll make more money, but there’ll also be more construction projects and that means more money for you, too.  We all win if more people move in, Odas.  We all lose if they start moving out, or don’t come because they’re afraid of Indian raids.”
           Odas stood up as well, and nodded.  “I understand, Mr. Fontenot.  And don’t you worry none.  We’ll take care of this.”
           Fontenot started to leave, then turned back and said, “Um, Odas, I would appreciate secrecy on this matter.  Please don’t tell anybody about my visit, not even the men you’ll get to go with you.  Just tell them that they’ve been hired and that the person doing the hiring wants to remain anonymous.”  He smiled.  “If you handle it right, nobody will know you were involved, either.  Wear masks or something so there won’t be any chance of any of you being recognized.  I certainly won’t tell on you if you won’t tell on me.”  And he laughed.
            Odas laughed with him.  “Mum’s the word, banker.  I don’t reckon what we’ll be doin’ is exactly inside the law, so I think we’d all be better hidin’ out.”
           “Yes, that’s true, but it’s necessary.  Once you’ve finished the job, I’ll come back over at night and bring you the money, ok?  Please don’t come by the bank.  Trust me.  Believe me, you can trust me, because I’ve got a lot to lose if those Indians aren’t stopped.   This will be our only contact until after you hit the reservation.  I’ll hear about it, of course, everybody will, and I’ll come by soon after and pay you.  Is that good enough?”
           “Good enough.  I’d be willin’ to do it fer free, if it would help our people and teach them savages a lesson, but since you offered money….”   Odas grinned, and held out his hand.  Fontenot didn’t especially want to shake it, but he did. 
           “I know you’ll do a good job, Odas,” the banker said.  “And that should end the matter.”
           Fontenot left Schafer’s house, with a small smile adorning his face….