Who says, what´s right?
There had been a time when Vin hadn't needed to consider how his actions might affect anyone but himself. That time was gone. He now had family. A family that would stand with him no matter the consequences of the recent events. He looked around at the others and wondered... Could he have done anything differently?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - -- -
Vin thought hard about that last question, while all the voices around him grew louder as they argued back and forth. Looking deep inside himself he found his answer. No, he knew he did the only thing that he could do.
Vin raised his head and looked at the faces of his six friends, no six brothers, as they argued with the army´s Colonel Andrews, his lieutenant and Mary Travis in his behalf. He hoped that they would agree or that they would at least understand what he had done. Either way he knew he had to stop the arguing going on, no matter what it might cost him. He spoke up, knowing that the price could be how they saw and felt about him from now on.
"Stop your yelling." Vin´s voice carried through the jail.
Stunned silence fell upon the room as all eyes turned to him.
Vin turned his back on the three outsiders and faced the men who meant everything to him. He met their gaze one by one until his eyes finally met and held those of Chris Larabee.
"I went out to Whispering Meadows and looked around like Colonel Andrews asked. And I did find signs that a group of Kiowa had just traveled through. I followed their trail through the night and came upon the camp at dawn. I stayed back and watched to see if the Colonel here was right and they had white captives. Didn´t see any whites at first, so I went into camp to powwow with their chief. Got lucky, their medicine man Moonstorm and I´d met before, back in Running Bear´s camp when I was huntin´ buffalo with em. They invited me to share their fire and talk. While we was sittin´ and talkin´ the women brought bowls around with stew. That´s when I realized one of them was white.
I asked Moonstorm where they got her and he told me they found her five summers back when they came across a wrecked wagon. She was the only survivor. The chief, Great Elk, took her to his wife and they raised her as their own."
"But you left her there! Why didn´t you bring her back? Why did you leave her with those heathens, their prisoner?" Anderson shouted.
Vin never broke eye contact with Chris as he answered, You ain´t listenin´. She ain´t no prisoner. Great Elk and his wife raised her as their own. They let me talk to her. I asked her if she wanted to leave, to go back to her born people and live with them. Little Swan told me she was with her people, her home, and didn´t want to leave."
"You fool, she was probably terrified what those savages might do to her. You´re going to tell me where they are so we can rescue the girl," Andrews snarled as he put his hand on Vin´s shoulder and spun him around to face him.
"They ain´t savages. Got more understanding of what´s right and wrong than most people I ever met," Vin shot back.
"Vin, you must know the right thing is for her to be back with her own kind," Mary stated, looking at him as if the tracker had lost his mind.
"Right for who, Miss Travis? Right for those who just see skin color? Right for those who think they know best? Or right for what the girl herself wants?"
Vin shook his head and turned back to the six men who had yet to speak, hoping they understood. "She weren´t scared. I saw her eyes, even when Great Elk told her she was free to leave - she wanted to stay. It´s her home, her people."
"Vin, she´s a child. She doesn´t know what she wants." Mary argued.
"Don´t matter, Mrs. Travis. We´ll make him take us to her and we´ll rescue that poor child from those savages," the colonel boasted.
"Ain´t there no more, and I ain´t tellin´ ya where they went." Vin´s voice held a determined tone against the narrow-minded colonel´s demand.
"You will do as I say or I´ll have you arrested!"
"Now hold on there, you can´t arrest Vin. He ain´t in the army." Buck spoke up quickly.
"Mr. Wilmington is quite right. Vin is not only a civilian, but he is employed by the Honorable Judge Travis to keep this Metropolis safe from lawbreakers, which you sir will be if you try to force him into helping you kidnap a young girl." Ezra stared at the colonel with disdain.
"If Vin says she wants to stay, that´s good enough for me. He wouldn´t say it unless she was old enough to know what she wants," Nathan added.
"Vin don´t lie. He knows more about Indians than you´ll ever know," JD added, his anger at how Vin was being treated clearly showing.
"If Brother Vin says the girl wanted to stay, then that´s a fact. The good Lord made all the people on this earth for a reason and we should trust he sent this girl to the family she has now."
"Josiah, how could you say that? Chris, you know it´s not right. Make Vin take them to the girl so they can bring her back," Mary demanded.
Chris´s eyes never left Vin´s as he saw the hurt reflected in the blue pools. "No. If Vin says she´s home, then she´s home. I´d take his word any day."
The six friends watched as Vin sagged with relief, realizing that they would stand with him and understood.
"You can´t be serious! I demand you obey my orders," the arrogant colonel yelled.
"Colonel, he has spoken the truth. I live with the family I have chosen," a soft voice could be heard from the doorway.
Everyone turned as a young woman dressed in buckskins walked into the room, an older native entering behind her.
"Little Swan, Moonstorm; what are ya doing here? Told ya I´d fix it."
"Moonstorm came to my father. He told Great Elk that you would try to tell them the truth, that I was where I wanted to be, but one who was hungry for blood and power would not listen, that he would cause great upset to you and your people. I ask Moonstorm to bring me here so I might tell them myself."
"You were taken as a child. You don´t understand what´s right." Mary began, but stopped when the girl raised her hand.
"You are wrong, I was not taken. I was thirteen summers when our wagon broke loose from the horse and rolled down into the gully. I remember my life well those five years ago. I remember my parents and brother as well as the name they gave me, Carole. I know my mind, I know my heart. I am Little Swan, daughter of Great Elk and Silent River. I am where I want to be. With the family who loves me and who I love. Just as Soaring Wolf. . . who you call Vin is with the family he has chosen."
"But it isn´t right, you living with their kind," Andrews stated.
"Who says what is right, you do not live my life for me." With that the young woman nodded to Vin, turned and walked out of the room.
Moonstorm looked to each of the men that Vin had taken as family, then to Vin. "It is good Soaring Wolf, you have found your pack, your brothers." With that the old man turned and walked away.
Ezra straightened his cuffs as he considered Mary and the army officers, "As you can see, there are no white captives in the tribe in question. It would appear that your business here is concluded."
"Ezra´s right, you got your answer, now it´s time for you to move on." Buck considered the trio as one would a squished bug.
"You don´t think I can just let her stay with those savages?" the colonel protested.
"You forget, Colonel. This is a free country. She´s grown now and can live where she chooses," Nathan informed the man.
"Andrews, I´ll be sending a wire to Fort Laramie, to the General. He´ll be informed of the facts, that there are no captives and that you are on your way back, just as I promised Judge Travis that I would, once this matter was settled," Josiah stated.
"Are you telling me to leave?" The Army Colonel growled.
"No I am." Larabee´s soft, deadly voice brooked no argument.
"Sir, they´re right. We´ve completed our business here. Their tracker found out what we needed to know." The Lieutenant, who had been silent until now, spoke up.
Colonel Andrews glared at the young lieutenant before marching out of the office with Mary Travis in his wake.
"Think you just made an enemy, son," Josiah said to the young man.
"I know, but don´t worry. He´s more afraid of my father, General Bates at Fort Laramie. My father doesn´t completely trust the Colonel to follow orders, so he sent me along." The man grinned, tipping his hat he left and closing the door behind him.
Vin´s gaze took in the men around him and he nodded his thanks. "Thanks for believin´ in me," he managed to say even with the lump in his throat.
"Well shoot, Vin, you know we´ll always believe you before anyone else," Buck boasted.
"True, Mr. Tanner. You are always a sure bet," Ezra smiled.
Chris gripped Vin´s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. The look in his eyes telling Vin without a doubt that they were family.