Doc Ch. 12bykingkey©
I awoke to someone pounding on the door of the cabin. Dawn got up and slipped into her dress to answer the door. Upon opening it, she discovered the storekeeper and two other men. One of the other two was hurt, with an arrow protruding from his shoulder.
I heard Mr. Miller ask, "Is the Doc here? We have a wounded man here. There was an Indian attack at his claim. Him and his partner here managed to run them off before they could do much, but he got shot with an arrow."
I went to the door and quickly checked the injured man. I looked out toward next door and saw that Rose and Sally already had the boys up and out, getting ready to return to the ranch. Seeing that the cabin I normally would use as my office was therefore free, I told the men to take the injured man to the next cabin, and that I'd be right there.
As soon as I was dressed, I went next door to examine my patient. I noted that the arrow in his shoulder was the same as those we'd seen stuck in the two dead prospectors Grandpa and I found. Like those, it had the black and blue bands of the Crow, not the red and yellow bands that marked those the Sioux used. I asked him if he had seen anyone, but he said it was dark and they were gone quickly once he and his friend started shooting back. He thought there were only three or four of them, though.
As I worked at removing the arrow, I told the injured man, "I don't think you were attacked by Indians. The arrow that hit you in the shoulder was Crow, not Sioux. The colors are all wrong – the Crow use black and blue and the Sioux use yellow and red. The Crow are enemies of the Sioux. They would hardly ever be found around these parts, especially a small party. From this, and some other similar attacks I've heard of, I suspect that it was white men that attacked you, trying to make it look like it was Indians.
"The Crow are normally found in Montana, or near the border, not around here. Do you know of any prospectors near here from Montana? If there are, then there's a good chance that's where the arrows came from."
He frowned in thought for a few minutes then he remembered something, "Now that I think of it, there's the Baxter brothers – they're from Miles City. They must've struck it big because they always seem to have lots of money. It seems like they're always over at the Lucky Lady Saloon. I think they live in one of the rooms upstairs. But, what's so odd, they never seem to be at their claim, and they haven't been here all that long to have made a big strike."
His friend spoke up. "Funny you should mention the Baxters,Pete Now I think of it, the first robbery and killin' happened about the same time they first got here."
The conversation had distracted the man enough that I got the arrow out without too much fuss. Once it was out, I cleaned and sutured the wound, using about eight stitches to close it properly. After bandaging it, I told him how to tend for his wound properly, emphasizing cleanliness, and instructed him to come back in 10 days to have the stitches removed. I charged him $12 and told him the follow-up was covered by that.
As the men were getting ready to leave, I pinned on my badge to some very surprised looks. I said, "Guess the word hasn't gotten around that as of yesterday there's now a regular lawman for the area. I'm fair, but I think you also know from what happened yesterday that I don't take any guff either. Right, Mr. Miller?" That worthy just nodded.
I checked my guns and flexed my hands. I smiled coldly and drawled, "Now then, why don't we all just head on over to the Lucky Lady where you can point out the Baxter Brothers. Someone's trying to stir up Indian trouble by making people believe that it's the Indians doing all the killing, when in fact it is actually white men, who then make it look like it was Indians.
"Whoever it is, did the robberies and then killed the prospectors and planted those arrows to hide their identities because they think dead men can't tell. I'm here to tell you that to a trained lawman though, who knows what to look for, dead men do tell. From what you've told me of the Baxters, and what I have learned about how these crimes are being committed, I have a feeling that it's them who are responsible."
We were all quiet, lost in our own thoughts as we walked together down to the Lucky Lady, which was about three doors down from Sam's saloon. When we entered, we found it to be a dingy, disreputable place, just the stereotypical type of bar where you would expect to find outlaws and other people of low character – a place right out of a B-western. I half expected to see Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach facing each other down at the long, dirty bar.
However, real life wasn't quite that dramatic, at least not this early in the morning. Still, for as early as it was, there were several patrons in various stages of inebriation. I asked the men with me to look around. Did they see any of the Baxter brothers there? They said they didn't.
I approached the bartender and asked if the Baxter brothers lived there, and if so, where they might be. At first the barkeep was of the attitude 'who wants to know?', but paled as he looked at my badge and checked out how I wore my guns. Deciding he didn't need the kind of trouble I represented, he allowed as how they did in fact rent a room there, and yes, they were presently in residence...
Gathering my witnesses together, we went up to the room the barman had indicated. I knocked politely on the door. Shortly a man opened it, looking and smelling as if he hadn't bathed in a very long time. It was apparent he was a real slob. What I could see of the room behind him reinforced my opinion, as it looked like a pigsty.
The slob tensed when he saw the badge on my shirt, but kept any rude remarks he may have been contemplating to himself. Stepping out into the hall with us, he asked what we wanted.
I remained polite as I asked, "Sorry to barge in, but we're looking for someone. Would you mind telling me your name, please?"
"Joshua Baxter, Marshal. Anything else?" the man replied, responding favorably to my polite enquiry.
"Yeah, sorry to be such a bother, but is there anyone else in here?" I asked, still maintaining the polite façade.
"Yup, my brothers. I'll get them for you." How obliging could he get? Before I could say anything else, he turned and called out, "Hey guys, c'mere! There's some people here looking for somebody!"
In response to his call, I heard some grumbling from deeper in the room, then the squeak of bedsprings being relieved of weight. Presently, two men, equally as scruffy as their brother, joined us in the hallway. One of the two was obviously the oldest of the three.
When they were all out and clear of easy cover, I simply said, "Baxters, you're all under arrest for robbery and murder."
The oldest one immediately went for his gun. I never hesitated, despite this being my first real gunfight. I instinctively drew my cross-draw and shot him, center-of-mass, in the chest, dropping him in his tracks.
The second brother still reached for his gun.
"Drop it! Or join your brother on the floor!"
When you look into the business end of a .44, it looks like a cannon. He obliged.
I had the men that were with me start to search the room.
"You men search the room while I keep Josh and his brother covered. Now don't you boys try anything stupid. I'm a little jumpy right now..."
It didn't take long before my companions found several pouches of gold and many other valuables. The most telling find, though was a small bow and about a dozen Crow arrows.
"You fellers have done a fine job. Looks like that's about all we're going to find here. Mr. Miller, you take that rope over there and tie Josh and his brother's hands behind them. No need to be gentle. Now my friends, let's take these clowns over and introduce them to Judge Mitchell. I think he'll be very interested in what they have been doing for a living."
I herded the Baxters out of the saloon and up the street to the courthouse. When I passed the bar on the way out, I handed the barkeep two dollars and told him to arrange for the dead man to be buried. We formed quite a parade to the courthouse.
When we entered the courthouse, I introduced myself to Judge Mitchell.
"Good morning, Judge. We met yesterday – I'm Clay Thomas. My Uncle Henry and I were in to see you about leasing some land."
"Good morning, Mr. Thomas. Last I heard, you were the new doctor in town. Now I see you wearing a badge. I've heard some rumors, and Jack left before I could talk to him. Now I'd like to hear it from you."
"Clay, Your Honor, just Clay – Mr. Thomas was my father. As you know, Uncle Henry and me got called away just as we finished up. We went to help our women folk get rid of a drunk. There was a bit of a dustup and the Marshal got involved. He liked how I handled myself and made me a deputy. I'm still the doctor, though. My rounds through the local area will let me do both at the same time."
"I'm glad to hear Jack got himself another deputy. He's stretched too thin by himself to do the job that needs doing. With you covering part of his territory, we'll be able to keep trouble under better control. Speaking of trouble, why have you brought these men here all trussed up like Christmas turkeys?"
"Judge, remember we told you yesterday about finding those prospectors dead and that it looked odd? Whoever did it, made the attack look like it was Indians, but they were sloppy."
"I recall. Go on. Consider this an official report. Don't stop until you're done."
"Well, from evidence we collected today, it is apparent these men are responsible for that and several other attacks. They have robbed and killed at least six men, and they attacked this man's claim last night. He was lucky and survived with just an arrow in the shoulder. In each case they tried to make it look like an Indian attack, but goofed and left clues behind that it wasn't.
"The Baxters are stupid, and even with that, might have gotten away with it, but they really caught a bad break when Uncle Henry and me stumbled on that one massacre. They're amateurs, where we are both trained, experienced lawmen and investigators.
"These guys – these Baxters – made a bunch of brainless mistakes. They left boot tracks instead of moccasin tracks. Their horses were shod. They robbed their victims of things white folk consider valuable – money, gold, jewelry. They left behind things Indians value – clothing, weapons and horses. Riderless horses returning to the stable was the first sign of trouble, but they shouldn't have come back. Indians would have caught them and kept them.
"But if the killers were trying to blame the local Indians, they totally screwed up by using Crow arrows. Like I told these men here, the Crow mark their arrows with blue and black bands while the Sioux mark theirs with red and yellow bands. The massacred prospectors, and our wounded friend here, all had Crow arrows stuck in them. But even without the arrows, we already knew it was done by white men.
"Judge, anyone who's lived in these parts for very long knows that the Crow and Sioux are enemies. So, you would hardly ever find Crow in known Sioux territory. The Crow territories are in southern Montana and northern Wyoming – not here.
"Once I figured out white men were the killers, I asked if anyone had recently arrived from Montana where they could easily acquire Crow Arrows. The only ones were the Baxter Brothers, from Miles City, which made them suspects. Even more damning was that they arrived at about the same time the robberies and killings started.
"We went to see them this morning and they convicted themselves by their actions. One is dead because he pulled a gun on me, and here are the other two, under arrest for robbery and murder. When we searched their room we found gold and other valuables. Some of the jewelry can be linked to the dead miners. We also found a small bow and several arrows with Crow markings.
"That's the whole story, Your Honor. We have 'em dead-to-rights. They're guilty as Hell. What do we do with them now?"
Through my whole report, the Judge had sat impassively, just nodding his head at certain points. When I finished, he looked at all of us then asked the injured man and his friend if everything I had said was right.
Pete declared, "Couldn't have said it better myself."
His partner and Mr. Miller agreed.
The Judge regarded the Baxters under beetling eyebrows. "You boys are in a heap of trouble. You didn't stand a chance when Hank Thomas and his nephew here got on your trail."
The two so-called bad-asses where strangely quiet.
The Judge turned to me.
"Now, on to more practical things. We don't really have a jail here in Hill City to keep the likes of them. The best we can do is a couple of storerooms in the basement here where we more normally throw the drunks and rowdies to sleep it off. I'll arrange for some extra guards. We can keep them there until we can have a trial. After that, I won't matter much because it'll be a short one. With the evidence you have collected, they will most likely hang. Justice is swift out here. They won't be using their room for long..."
I was skeptical of the incarceration plans, but what else could we do? We had no options short of taking them all the way to the stockade at Fort Laramie. And then they'd have to be brought back for the trial. Besides taking for ever, and keeping me away from other more important work, it allowed too many chances for them to escape. No, keeping them here, while not ideal, was still the best plan.
"I guess that will have to do. At least I can get on with other things that need doing right away. I have urgent medical business in Deadwood, as I find that I am also the only doctor in the area. I should take a quick trip around the local area both as a marshal and as a doctor. Plus, I have a lot of work to do back at the ranch."
The Judge grimaced. "Sounds like you're gonna be busy, Son. How long you figure you'll be gone? I want you here for the trial for your evidence, but I can't wait too long, either. When they hear we caught the killers, some people are going to demand quick justice. The sooner we have a legal trial, the less likely we are to have a lynching."
"I understand, Sir. The most urgent thing is the call to Deadwood. That shouldn't take long. Regardless, I will be back in a few days just to check on my patients here. I'll be using two of the cabins behind the general store as my doctor's office and as a place to stay with my wives when I'm in town. You can always leave a message there for me. I'll get it no matter what time of day or night I roll in."
"That's good, Marshall. I won't hold you any longer from your rounds. Lock these fools up and be on your way."
After I locked the Baxter Brothers in one of the storerooms and made sure they were secure, I thanked Mr. Miller and the two miners for their help.
I told the man with the wounded shoulder, "I should be back in a few days for the trial, Pete. Come back and see me in 10 days. If everything is Ok, I will take the stitches out then. Now remember what I told you about keeping it and the bandages clean. That will prevent it from getting infected. OK? Thanks again for your help, fellers."
I left the courthouse and returned to the cabin and my wives. Grandpa and the rest of the family had already left for home. I thought Standing Bear would be going back to the ranch to be with the other boys, but he was with his mothers when I returned. I advised new family to get ready to head out.
"Get ready to hit the trail. Good, Standing Bear, you'll be a big help with the stock. We need to head up to Deadwood. I have to check out the Oasis Saloon. One of their girls has a disease that she gave to one of my patients. While we're up there, I also want to let everyone know there's now a doctor in the area. And while I'm at it, I want to check if anyone around there is trying to stir up trouble with the Indians too."
It had been just coming daylight when I was rousted out to treat Pete's arrow wound. Although a lot had happened since then, it was still quite early. Seeing as we hadn't had breakfast yet, we decided to eat before we headed out.
We walked down to the same restaurant where we had supper the night before. When we entered, we discovered the same waiter as last night. This time when we ordered, he seemed slightly more cordial to me, but still acted pissed off that he had to serve Indians. As he grudgingly delivered our food, his surly attitude grated on me.
"Hey, bud! You don't seem to like us much, even though we've never met before last night. Just what is your problem?"
"We shouldn't have to serve any dirty stinking Indians in here. T'isn't right making white men eat with Indians. They should just wipe them all out."
"What makes you think that? This is their land! It was theirs long before the white man arrived. They hunted the buffalo here for hundreds of years until we came. After we stole most of their land, this part was given to the Sioux by treaty at Fort Laramie in 1868. Technically, all the white men in these parts are trespassing on Sioux land. They own it. Period."
"Those dirty Sioux don't need any stinking land! All they do is roam around! They don't build anything! They don't even bother picking up the gold, just roam around! When white men come here and try to build something for themselves or pan for gold, they go on the warpath and start killing everyone! It's not right! If all they want to do is follow the buffalo, they can do that anywhere. They don't need this land."
I'd about had enough. First it was the drunk yesterday, then this asshole, and now, here he was ranting at me again. I could see Standing Bear was getting agitated by the man's attitude, but he wisely held his tongue. Good Boy!
"I'll tell you this once more. This is their land. If they don't want you on it, then they have the right to drive you off, same as if you ran someone off your place back east. Now, I warned you yesterday, and I'll warn you again, but this is the last. If I ever hear you call one of my family a stinking Indian again, you better be able to back it up with more than your mouth."
The jerk carried on as if I hadn't said a word. This idiot did not hear or want to hear what I was saying. His bigoted mind was made up and don't confuse him with facts.
"Why don't you just go someplace else? We don't need your Injun lovin' kind around here stirring up trouble, siding with all those dirty Indians. Why don't you just take your squaws and leave town?"
"I have a home, a family, and a couple important jobs here. I'm afraid that I'm going to be around here a lot, whether you like it or not. This is my home. You and those like you are only here long enough to make a strike or go bust. You don't live here.
"My wives will be around here too. Get used to it! You will treat them with respect! If you don't, maybe you had better leave town. How dare you and your kind come in here and tell me to leave my home where I was born and raised because you don't like Indians!"
"It ain't right a man having more than one wife; and you got three! What are you, some kind of damn Mormon?"
"No, I'm not no Mormon! I just happen to have three wives, not that it's any business of yours."
I felt myself falling into the trap of a schoolyard argument – 'Is so!' – 'No it's not!' – 'Is too!' – ad infinitum, until it breaks down in name calling. At this rate, we'd be here all day. In the end, nothing would be changed. He'd still be a bigot. I'd still be pissed. Our food would get cold, and we'd be late leaving for Deadwood. Even Standing Bear was acting more mature! Time to wind it up.