Chapter Six—Stone Walls and Dead Ends

           The next morning, Harrison rode the 20 miles to Arkmore to talk to Sheriff Dan Harmon.  Harrison was only a town marshal; Harmon was sheriff of the whole county, though in many ways, it was a distinction without much of a difference.  Still, Harrison believed it would be a good idea to talk to Harmon, inform him of what had happened, compare notes, and come up with some kind of plan by which to proceed.  It was simply common sense that, since this was the second such attack, Harrison would not act alone on it.
           Harmon sat stern-faced as Harrison gave him the details of the Johnston massacre.  When the Kinsey marshal finished his succinct report, the Arkmore sheriff asked him, “And all the sign points to Indians?”
           Harrison nodded.  “Almost a carbon copy of what happened here.  Arrow, moccasin footprints, unshod horses, both of them scalped, the woman apparently ravaged…”
           Harmon gritted his teeth and swore.  “I was hoping that the attack on the Britz’ was just an isolated incident, but apparently, there are some Indians who’ve decided to make an issue of this.  And now, there is no reason to think they will stop, not until we stop them.”  He shook his head and sighed.
           “But what can they possibly hope to accomplish?” Harrison asked.  “Don’t they realize their situation is hopeless?”
           “Some of them haven’t quite learned that, apparently.  And, frankly, it must be hard for them—having lived a certain lifestyle for thousands of years and now to have that abruptly, finally, and conclusively ended, would be hard to take.  It’s terror tactics, Fred.  Brutally murder a few settlers, and put such a fright into the rest of them that maybe they’ll pack up and leave.  When word of such possible terrible consequences arrives back east, nobody will want to move here.  The white man will be gone and the Indian will be able to return to his own way again.”
           “But they’ve tried that elsewhere, Dan, all through the West.  It’s never worked, it’s only hardened our resolve to stay here.  Surely they can see that.”
           Harmon shrugged.  “You and I can.  The wisest of the Indians have accepted it as well.  But apparently the fire hasn’t died in all them.  What I fear is two things.  If whoever is doing this continues to have success, it might spur some other Indians, who are sitting on the fence, to join them.  Success breeds confidence.  This could escalate.”
            Harrison nodded.  “Yeah.  What’s the second thing you fear?”
            “Retribution, by whites, against any Indian they see.  Fred, I don’t believe this is a general uprising.  I’d like to ride over to the Johnston place with you and see if I can tell if that killing was done by the same Indians that killed the Britz’.  If so, that would tell us a lot.  But even if it wasn’t the same Indians, I firmly believe that most of the native peoples have accepted their lot and want all the bloodshed to end.  Some of them might suffer dearly at the hands of vigilante whites.”  Harmon’s face looked grave.  “When news of this second killing gets out, there’s going to be an awful lot of anger, not to mention fear.  And both emotions can be strong enough to lead to violence.  Something simply must be done before an uncontrollable wildfire breaks out.”
           “You going to talk to Einarsen again?” Harrison asked.
           “Yeah,” Harmon sighed.  “Maybe this will inspire to get off his lazy rear and do something.”
           The marshal put such a skeptical expression on his face that Dan Harmon couldn’t help but chuckle.

           “What do you think, Dan?  Same bunch?”
           Harmon and Harrison were at the Johnston farm, and the sheriff was studying the moccasin and hoof prints that were scattered around the lot.  Harmon nodded.
           “The moccasin prints are hard to determine, but I’d give my last dollar that these are the same ponies.  There are some prints that indicate a couple of cracked horse’s hooves, and they look an awful lot like the prints I saw out at the Britz’ place.”  He looked at Harrison.  “You say the arrow had striped turkey feathers on it?”
           Harmon grimaced.  “Well, that fits, too.  The Cheyenne are known as ‘the striped arrow people.’  And they used turkey feathers.”
           “Kinda conclusive, ain’t it,” Harrison said.
           “Yes, it is,” the sheriff replied, grim faced.  “Let’s go talk to Einarsen.”
           Colonel Timothy Einarsen was no happier to see Dan Harmon than he had been a few weeks prior.  The sheriff introduced Marshal Harrison to him, and Einarsen listened as Harrison detailed the latest tragedy.
           The colonel was silent for a while after Harrison finished, and had an angry, very unhappy expression on his bearded countenance.  So Harmon thought he’d tighten the screws a little.  “This is the second time in six weeks, Colonel.  You cannot let this go on.”
           Einarsen looked sharply at Harmon; the “you” wasn’t lost on him.  “How have your investigations gone, sheriff?  Have you learned anything?”
           “I went out to the reservation.  Wilcox swears that there is no way any Cheyenne from his reservation could have been guilty.”
           “What makes him say that?”
           “The Cheyenne have no riding ponies, and he would have known if any of them had been gone from the reservation for the several days it would have taken to get to the Britz’ ranch and back.  He knows where every Indian on that reservation is at all times.  So he says.”
           Einarsen grunted at that, but nodded.  “That little weenie is obnoxious, but I think he knows his job.”
           “Yes,” Harmon replied, “if starving the Indians to death is his job, then he knows it very well.”
           “What do you mean by that?”
           Harmon told Einarsen about the two Indians planting corn that he had talked to.  “Then I had a conversation with Fleet Fox.  He showed me a bag full of bugs that passed for the flour they were given, a hunk of meat full of maggots, and some eggs that were so rotten a scavenger wouldn’t touch them.”  He paused a few moments.  “He also was firm that nobody on the reservation had committed the crime, but he wasn’t quite as decisive when I pressed him about somebody—or bodies—leaving the reservation.  That’s when he showed me the food and let me draw my own conclusions.”
           “The Indians are supposed to learn to fend for themselves—on the reservation,” Einarsen said, as if in defense of Wilcox.
           “How can they do that, Colonel, with black, shriveled corn and no license to hunt?”
           “They can hunt on the reservation.”
           “With sticks and stones?”
           “They are provided a limited number of weapons.”
           “Well, maybe so, but I didn’t see any of them.  That’s really beside the point.  We’ve got four dead whites now and all the evidence points to the killings being done by Indians.”
           “Yes, but not necessarily the Cheyenne on this reservation.”
           “Oh, come on, Colonel, get your beard out of your eyes.  There aren’t any other Indians with hundreds of miles of here.”        
           Einarsen’s face clouded up, more than it had already been.  “How do you know that?”

           Harmon was getting very frustrated.  “I don’t.  Just like you don’t know, for sure, that no Indian on that reservation did the killing, especially since Fleet Fox strongly implied that some of them were, indeed, leaving it on occasion.  If there is Indian trouble, that’s the responsibility of the United States Army, not a couple of local lawmen.  You know that.”
           “My responsibility is this reservation, Sheriff Harmon.  Prove to me that the killers are coming from there, and I’ll act.”
           “Well, for crying out loud…” Marshal Fred Harrison muttered, shaking his head.  He looked at Harmon.  “I heard this fellow was lazy, but I didn’t know he was killin’ lazy.”
           That set Einarsen off.  “I resent that, Marshal, very much.  And if you suggest something like that again, I will demand satisfaction.”  In other words, he’d challenge Harrison to a duel, something that was quite illegal and past its time, but still something considered honorable by certain men.
           Harrison didn’t back down.  “And if you suggest that again, Colonel Einarsen, I’ll arrest you and throw you in jail.”
           Einarsen’s face turned beet red and he leaned forward, his eyes blazing at the marshal.  “You have no jurisdiction here, sir—“
           “Gentleman, gentlemen, please, we’re all on the same side here.”  Harmon was trying to play peacemaker.  “Colonel Einarsen, we need your help.  Marshal Harrison and I have towns to protect, and there are only two of us.  We obviously can’t spend our time combing the countryside for marauding Indians.  You have more men than we do.  Surely, you can send some patrols in our direction, and if you don’t want to tell your men about the killings, then at least ask them to especially keep their eyes open, that there might be some troublesome Indians on the loose.  And, frankly, I do think it would be a good idea if you showed up on the reservation, let Wilcox and Fleet Fox know that you know about the killings, and that this might become an army matter if it continues.  You can bring some pressure to bear on the situation that Marshal Harrison and I cannot.  It will help Marshal Harrison and me if the Indians know that we have the full backing of the United States Army.”   He paused a moment, then added, “The sooner this matter is concluded, the sooner we can all sleep peacefully again.”
           Einarsen gave Harmon an annoyed look, but the wisdom of the sheriff’s words wasn’t lost on him.  “We have men on patrol all the time, Sheriff Harmon.  And that’s one reason that I’m still far from convinced that Indians from that reservation are the perpetrators of these crimes.”
           “I’m not saying they are.  I don’t know who is doing it.  But I have to look at the evidence and begin my investigations somewhere.  And, at the moment, all the evidence points to Cheyenne Indians being guilty, and there are a bunch of Cheyenne Indians on that reservation.  Where would you start looking, Colonel Einarsen, if you were me?”
           Einarsen didn’t answer.  He didn’t have to, the answer was obvious.
           “And, just like me, you’d try to get as much assistance as possible.  Isn’t that so?”
           Einarsen stood up and surprised Harmon and Harrison by announcing, “I will ride out to the reservation and talk with Wilcox and Fleet Fox.”  He looked at the two lawmen.  “And since this is a joint effort by the United States Army and Montana territory law, I would expect you two men to go with me.”
           Harrison looked at Harmon, who simply made a face and shrugged.  “It’s worth a shot,” the sheriff said.
           “We’ll leave in the morning…”
           Fort Pearson was about 50 miles northeast of the reservation, which was a pretty good haul for a horse, so Einarsen decided to break up the trip into two days.  They went about 35 miles the first day, and on into the reservation the next.  The colonel had an escort with him, four men—“his slaves,” Harrison muttered to Harmon—and, indeed, they seemed to be at Einarsen’s beck and call and provided him with whatever luxuries he wanted.  For he certainly didn’t travel light or suffer any grievous torment while he was away from the fort.
           On the night they camped, Harmon, still trying to play peacemaker, asked, “How do you want to approach things tomorrow, Colonel?”
           In spite of all the comforts Einarsen brought along with him, he couldn’t bring everything he wanted, so he was a little grumpy.  “Well, I think it’s pretty simple,” he replied.  “We’ll talk to Wilcox and Fleet Fox and see what they have to say.”
           “Do you honestly think they’ll tell us something different from what they told me a few weeks ago?”
           The colonel was a little perturbed at that.  “What would you suggest we do, Sheriff Harmon?  Shoot every Indian on the reservation?  That would solve the problem, as far as you’re concerned, wouldn’t it.”
           Harmon ignored Einarsen’s last two sentences and answered the first.  “Well, obviously we need to talk to the principles there.  But you carry a pretty big stick, Colonel Einarsen—the authority of the United States Army.  You could let it be known that any more of these killings will not be tolerated, and if they continue, the army will take over the reservation.”
           “I can’t do that!” Einarsen replied.
           “Once you explained matters to your superiors, I think they would give you the authority to do so.”  He shrugged.  “Or do you want to go in there and shoot every Indian on the reservation?”  Marshal Harrison smiled at that one.
           “Keep in mind, Sheriff Harmon,” Einarsen said, “that I am not convinced that Indians from the Big Horn Reservation are guilty of these atrocities.”
           “If my ears are not mistaken, Colonel Einarsen, you’ve already said that a few dozen times.  All I’m suggesting is that a little bit of pressure upon the leading suspects might cause some mistakes.  Or completely silence them.  And that’s what we want, isn’t it?”
           If the sheriff thought the colonel was going to be of assistance, he was going to be mighty disappointed.

           The seven men rode into the Indian village a little before noon the next day.  Nobody—white or red—appeared to be in the least bit jovial at their arrival.  The Cheyenne, of course, had no reason to love the U.S. Army, and Wylie Wilcox was the sort who interpreted the presence of the colonel as a slap at his competence.  Harmon didn’t figure the meeting would be a Sunday walk in the park.  It was a cloudy day, with a pretty gusty wind that had some bite to it, and the sheriff thought that the weather was a pretty good omen for the whole scenario.
            The Indians stopped what they were doing as the horsemen passed and every one of them had a rather somber expression on their face.  “How long has it been since you’ve been here, Colonel?” Harmon asked him.
           “I was here at the opening of the reservation.”
           “So, you’ve not seen this village.”
           “It hadn’t been constructed by that time, had it?”
           Harrison and Harmon exchanged glances.  The Colonel apparently had gotten up on the wrong side of his cushy blanket that morning.
           Wilcox—somehow—knew of their arrival and was standing outside his office.  He had hung a sign outside his door since Harmon’s last visit: 

           Wylie Wilcox, Agent
           Bureau of Indian Affairs
The sign, dangling from the ceiling of the porch, was swinging back and forth in the wind, making a squeaking sound.  Just like a mouse…
           The agent’s countenance was less than warm.  “Hello, Colonel.  It appears that Sheriff Harmon was able to convince you that matters on this reservation are less than optimum.  I’m sorry you wasted your time with a trip here.”
           Oh, boy, Harmon thought.  This is going to be delightful…
           “I’m sure everything is up-to-speed here, Mr. Wilcox,” Einarsen said, as the seven men dismounted.  “There are some new developments, however, and we would like to discuss them with you.  And it would be good if Fleet Fox were here as well.”
           Wilcox’s aggravation was more than evident.  “There have been no new ‘developments’ on this reservation, Colonel, of that I can assure you.”
           Harmon cut in, and he was getting a little bitter himself.  “I doubt this information will be of any interest to you, Mr. Wilcox, but two more white settlers—a man and his wife—were killed recently.  In the exact same manner as the first two.  The man had a striped turkey arrow in his back.  The woman was raped, both of them were scalped, and there was Indian sign all over their yard.”
           Wilcox stared at him.  “That is a sad thing, Sheriff Harmon, but as I told you on your last visit, it is utterly impossible that any Indian from this reservation could be guilty of such a crime.”
           “Can we go inside?” the colonel suggested.  “I’d like to get out of this wind, and a cup of coffee would be nice, if you have one.”
           “Yes, of course,” Wilcox said.  “Fleet Fox lives in that house right over there”—he pointed—“if you wish to send one of your men to fetch him.”
           The Colonel nodded.  “Parker,” he said, and one of his men saluted and headed off towards Fleet Fox’s “house.”
           The other men went inside.  There were only four chairs visible, including Wilcox’s behind his desk.  He sat there, of course, and Einarsen, Harmon, and Harrison took the other three.  “Some coffee, if you will, Snyder,” Einarsen said to another of his soldiers, nodding towards the pot on the stove.
           “I only have three cups,” Wilcox said, “at least here.  I have more at the house.  But I don’t want any coffee so you three can use them.”  He meant Einarsen, Harmon, and Harrison.  The colonel’s men obviously didn’t count.
           That aggravated Harmon, too.  “I don’t want any,” he said.  “You men share a cup,” he said to the soldiers.
           “Nor I,” Harrison chipped in.  “I had my fill before we broke camp this morning.”  He would actually have loved to have a cup, but he thought he’d follow the sheriff’s lead.
           Anyway, as the coffee was being poured and distributed, Wilcox repeated, in effect, what he said earlier.   “You have made this trip in vain, Colonel Einarsen.  If Indians are indeed the perpetrators, you’ll need to look elsewhere.”
           “I understand, Mr. Wilcox, and I have complete faith in your abilities.”  Harmon wanted to throw up.  “But I’m sure you understand that, in matters of this importance, we must not leave any stone unturned.  Sheriff Harmon is convinced that some Cheyenne do, indeed, leave the reservation on occasion, and if that is so, you need to know about it.”  Harmon winced because the colonel had just dumped the whole thing in his lap.
           Wylie turned red—with anger.  “Sheriff Harmon, I think I told you conclusively, at your last visit, that no Indians leave here.  Ever.  They have no way of doing so.  What makes you think some of them do?”
           At that moment, Fleet Fox came in, escorted by the sergeant Einarsen had sent after him.  The Indian looked around, his face a mask of stone.  His gaze paused a moment longer at the sheriff, but he gave no other acknowledgment of recognition.
           Instead of answering Wilcox, Harmon addressed the Indian.  “Fleet Fox, have you shown Mr. Wilcox the food that you showed me when I talked to you a few weeks ago?”
           The Indian said nothing.
           Einarsen chimed in here, speaking to Wilcox.  “Sheriff Harmon tells me that their rations from the government are less than desirable.”
           The agent smirked.  “He did, did he?  Well, permit me to show you, Colonel, the food that we give to the people who live here.”  He got up, went through a door in the back, and was gone for less than a minute.  He carried a rather large canvas sack with him.  He set the sack on his desk and opened it.
           “Here is the flour we give them, Colonel,” and he pitched a small bag to the army man.  Einarsen opened it.  White and pure as the driven snow.
           “Here is some of their corn.”  It was lovely, looked good enough to eat uncooked, and Harmon wondered where in the world Wilcox got corn like that this time of the year.
           “And some meat.”  Harmon’s mouth actually watered at the thickness and beauty of the cut of sirloin Wilcox produced.  With a smug expression on his face, the agent said, “I don’t think any of the Indians on this reservation are lacking for nutritious sustenance.”
           Harmon glanced at Fleet Fox.  The Indian didn’t look at him.  And said nothing.
           “Would you mind, Sheriff Harmon, telling Mr. Wilcox what you told me you saw in Fleet Fox’s house?”
           Harmon was looking at Wilcox.  “A bag of flour with more bugs in it than meal, meat full of maggots, rotten eggs.”
           Wilcox made an exasperated sound.  “Well, of course if they leave the stuff sitting out in the open, it will attract bugs and become rotten.”   
           “He pulled it out of a trunk that looked pretty solid to me.”  Again, Harmon glanced at Fleet Fox, and again the Indian would not look at him or say anything.
           Colonel Einarsen spoke to Fleet Fox.  “What say you, Fleet Fox?”
           This time the Indian did speak.  Enough to say, “I say nothing.”
           Harmon was mildly irritated at the Indian.  “Chief, if things are not as they should be here, then you have a perfect opportunity now to speak up and say so.  The colonel can take matters to someone who can help.”
           The Indian looked briefly at the sheriff, then cast his eyes on Wilcox for a moment, then looked away.  “I say nothing,” he repeated.  As far as the sheriff was now concerned, he didn’t have to.
           Wilcox spoke, “Sheriff, may I ask where this most recent tragedy took place?”
           Harmon motioned to Harrison.  “Near Kinsey, where Marshal Harrison serves.”
           Wilcox busted out laughing.  “Kinsey??  Sheriff, that’s farther away than Arkmore.  I tell you again, that it is impossible for Indians from this tribe to leave here for the extended length of time it would take for them to get to that area and back.  Indeed, it’s impossible for them to leave, period.”
           Methinks he doth protest too much, Harmon thought with exasperation.  He once more glanced at Fleet Fox.  The stoic Indian made no move and his face showed no emotion.          
           “Why is it impossible for them to leave, Mr. Wilcox?”  This from Marshal Harrison.
           “They have no horses, Marshal Harrison.  Or, rather, they only have work horses. And I count them every night to make sure that all of them have been returned to the corral—which is behind my house.  The only other way they could leave is on foot.  I think I would know if any of them were gone long enough to walk to Kinsey and back.”  The last sentence was spoken with more than a touch of amused sarcasm in the agent’s voice.
           “And you are absolutely sure there are no Indian ponies being hidden somewhere on the reservation?” Einarsen asked.
           “I’ve combed this reservation personally, Colonel, and I can assure you that no such horses exist.”
           Harmon and Harrison looked at each other.  A healthy amount of skepticism showed on the marshal’s face.  “This is a pretty big reservation, Mr. Wilcox,” he said.
           “And I have plenty of time, Marshal Harrison, and it’s what I’m paid to do,” the agent replied.  Then, he looked directly at Harmon.  “Sheriff, can you tell me where you obtained this insane idea that some of the Indians might be leaving the reservation on occasion?”
           At this, Harmon looked directly at Fleet Fox.  Wilcox then asked, “Did Fleet Fox tell you this?”
           The sheriff continued to look at the Indian, who would not meet his gaze.  Slowly, deliberately, Harmon replied, “No.  No, he did not.”  Harmon might have detected a tiny movement of relief on the Indian’s face, but he wasn’t sure.
           “Then, again, I ask you, where did you get the notion?”
           The sheriff stood up.  “You gave it to me, Wilcox.”
           The agent’s eyebrows shot up.  “I?  And how did I do that?”
           “If I lived on a reservation where you were the agent, I’d do everything I could to leave.”  Harmon looked at Einarsen.  “Let’s go.  All I’m hearing is an echo from what I heard the last time I was here.  We’ve gotten all the information we’re going to get.  Wilcox’s head is still in Washington and Fleet Fox isn’t going to tell us anything.”
           Einarsen looked at Wilcox, and then at Harmon.  He nodded and stood up.  “I think it’s time to leave, too.  Thank you for your time, Mr. Wilcox.  Just routine, I’m sure you understand.”
           Wilcox also arose and smiled.  “I understand, Colonel Einarsen.  I hope you are satisfied with what you have learned, that nobody from this reservation is involved, in any way, in the terrible massacres up north.”
           “Yes, you have stated your case very well, Mr. Wilcox.”  Then, to the men who came with him, “Shall we ride, gentleman?  If we leave now, we should be able to make it back to the fort tomorrow.”  He shook hands with the agent.  The two lawmen did not.
           As they were departing, Harmon once again looked at Fleet Fox.  This time, the Indian did meet his eyes for about a second, but the sheriff couldn’t read anything in them.  He just sighed, shook his head, and walked out.
           Sheriff Harmon noticed, as the contingent of white men were riding through the village on their way out, a young man, with short, dark hair, torn white undershirt, and suspenders holding up baggy britches.  But what the sheriff noticed most of all was the fire and hatred in that young Indian’s eyes…
           “The fort is out of our way, Colonel Einarsen,” Harmon said after they were out of the village.  “So, Marshall Harrison and I will leave you at a convenient time.”
           “As you wish, Sheriff.  Are you satisfied with Mr. Wilcox’s explanations?”
           “Are you?”
           “I see no cause to doubt him.  A hard man, yes, but that seems to make him all the more competent.” 
           Harrison snorted.  “Colonel, do you honestly believe that there is no place on this reservation where Indians could hide some ponies?”
           “I think they could, yes, Marshal Harrison.  But they would have to hide them close enough to get to them by foot.  And I suspect that is what Mr. Wilcox meant when he said he had ‘combed’ the reservation.  And, yes, it seems to me that he would indeed know if any of the Cheyenne were gone for several days.  At the moment, my conclusions are the same as his.  No one from this reservation committed those heinous crimes near your towns, and none of the Indians ever leave here.  Find me some evidence to the contrary, if you think the guilty parties are to be found here.”
           “Fleet Fox is scared to death of Wilcox, Colonel,” Harmon said.  “That pageantry he put on for us with the food was just that—pageantry.”
           “Perhaps.  And probably.  I will not call you a liar over what you say Fleet Fox showed you.  But, as Wilcox said, food can go bad if not properly protected.”
           “I think Indians know how to preserve meat,” Harrison muttered, but just loud enough for Einarsen to hear.
           “I’m sure that’s true, marshal, but, frankly, is irrelevant to the issue of whether Indians from this reservation massacred those white people—“
           “No, it’s not, Colonel,” Harmon butted in.  “If they aren’t getting fed what they need by Wilcox, then they have to leave the reservation to find food.  And where would the quickest place to find food be?  If I were an Indian, and I were in a bit of a hurry, I’d head for somebody’s house.  And do whatever was necessary to get what I needed.”
           “Dozens of miles away?”
           “Do you think they would rob and kill somebody on their doorstep?”
         “Bring me the proof, Sheriff Harmon.  That is all I ask.  And then I will act.  Until then, I have no reason to.”  They were now at the location where they would go different directions.  “Good day, gentleman.  Men,” he said to his soldiers, “let’s get back to the fort.”  And they cantered off, leaving the two lawmen to go their own way.
           “The man’s a fool,” Harrison said.
           “Maybe so,” Harmon replied.  “But we aren’t going to budge him unless we dump the murderers on his front porch.”
           “How many more people are going to die, Dan, before we can do that?”
           The Arkmore sheriff looked at the Kinsey marshal.  “That, my friend, is the sixty-four dollar question.”