Several days later, the cavalry informed Josiah, Nathan, Vin, Ezra and the Comanches of the instructions they had from General Sanderson. Chief Red Dog, Little Bear, Georgia, Amanda and Soaring Eagle agreed to go in Vin's defense. They all left for Four Corners later that day with the cavalry. It would take them a few weeks to arrive.
Ezra's wrists were healed; Vin's injuries were healing well. His ribs and shoulder still gave him trouble, but they were getting better. The main problem was mounting and dismounting from his horse.
The group arrived in Four Corners just as morning broke. They were greeted by Judge Travis, General Sanderson and Chris. Greetings were exchanged and introductions were taken care of. General Sanderson called for a meeting back at the sheriff's office. Judge Travis, Chris, Buck, JD, Mary, Vin, Ezra, Josiah, Nathan and the Comanches were all expected to attend. He told them all what was going to happen and what to expect during the hearing. The hearing was scheduled for the next day.
The following day, General Sanderson called the hearing to order.
"Aw'ight, folks, let's have order, here," the general ordered.
The general ordered Colonel Dunn to explain his claim of Vin and several other Comanches raiding settlements along the Red River in Texas.
"General, Sir," the colonel began, "when Mr. Tanner was living with these heathens, he and several of his Indian friends raided many law-abiding towns full of innocent men, women and children. These people were doing nothing to entice these raids. They merely went about their business and their lives. I can tell you of several instances of towns that were raided along the Red River in Texas - Paris, Bonham, Sherman, Whitesboro, Gainesville, Henrietta, as well as a little trading post by the name of Wichita Falls. I'm sure we can get several residents of each of these well civilized communities to attest to the raids."
"Colonel, is this going anywhere? I do hope you have more to offer than the fact that these towns have had problems with Indians. I think all present, at least all those on this panel are aware of the problems along the Red River. Could you please give some hard evidence that Mr. Tanner was involved?" the general interjected.
"Yessir, I have here several sworn statements from some of the town folk relating the incidents that happened in these border towns. You see, sir, when the Comanches and Kiowas agreed to the treaty with the US Government regarding Arkansas and all, they began raiding in Texas with the guns and supplies we supplied them," Colonel Dunn explained.
"Yes, Colonel Dunn, I am aware of that. That situation has been remedied," General Sanderson stated.
"Well, sir, here are the statements," the colonel replied, handing the stack of papers to the general.
General Sanderson quickly breezed through the statements. It seemed most of the statements were descriptions of Indians; however, there was person evident in a few to be of another race - a blue-eyed young boy, maybe 14 or 15 years of age. One statement stood out; so, he read it aloud for everyone to hear. He then addressed Vin on the statement made by one of the residents of this small town.
"Mr. Tanner, please stand," the general requested.
Vin stood, cautiously, "Yessir?"
"Have you ever been to Gainesville?" the general asked looking over his reading glasses.
"With or without your Comanche family and friends?"
"Um, both, sir, but we didn't do nothin'."
"Well, this statement says otherwise. It says here that y'all came into town and attempted to take some women. Says here that shots were fired about the town and eventually a shootout between Indians, towns folk, and a few cavalrymen that were sent to protect the Red River border towns. Is this true?"
"Aw'ight, Colonel do you have anymore to add to your testimony and these statements?"
"No, sir, at least not at this time, sir."
"Aw'ight, Mr. Tanner, please explain what happened in Gainesville," the general asked curious about how Vin would explain this situation.
"Well, general, sir," Vin began to explain, "we did go into town, but we didn't do anything wrong. We approached a couple of girls - they were no older than we were at the time, sir. We were just havin' some fun with them. We didn't hurt them or anything; we were all just teasin' each other. If they had gotten some statements from those girls like they got from their parents, you'd know they were just as much to blame for the tomfoolery and teasin' as we were."
"How, may I ask, did the shooting get started?" General Sanderson asked the tracker.
"Little Bear an' me," Vin said pointing to his cousin, "got caught in a barn with Millie James. She was the pretties girl in town, an' she liked us. We didn't mean no harm. We never would've hurt her, but her daddy came in right when she kissed me. Well, he took aim at me and Little Bear quicker than you could spit. Little Bear grabbed my arm an' like near dragged me outta there, but not before that man's bullet went through my side. I can show y'all the scar if'n ya want?"
"No, I don't think that'll be necessary. Just continue; how did the entire town and the cavalry become involved in your fun n' games?" the general countered.
"Well, see Mr. James he was purty mad. He went to the captain that was in charge of the cavalrymen that were there. He told them that we were tryin' to rape his daughter. General, I swear we weren't. We woulda never hurt her. Anyway, Colonel Dunn was the captain there at that time. I don't know if you have that in your records or not," Vin explained.
"Yes, I am fully aware that Colonel Dunn was present and responsible for the safety of a good number of the towns he mentioned."
"Shootin' started no sooner'n me an' Little Bear reached our horses. We were startled at all the fuss, but we figured we had better get out...quick! We were all tryin' to get our horses an' get out of town when I heard someone scream, 'they killed Lillibeth'. Lillibeth was Mr. Greene's wife. Mr. Greene owned the livery stable where we put our horses. We didn't kill Lillibeth, General, sir. I don't know who did, but it wasn't us, sir."
"General," Colonel Dunn spoke up with anger in his voice, "this is ludicrous! I can't believe we are listening to the ramblings of these murderers. I am sure you can't possibly believe they didn't kill Mrs. Greene..."
"Colonel Dunn! I am conducting this hearing, and I will let you know when you can speak up! I don't believe you have permission at this moment! If you would like to say something, please ask!" the general scolded in a militant, dressing down tone of voice.
"Yessir," the colonel obeyed out of duty.
"Mr. Tanner, please continue," the general ordered as he turned his attention back to Vin.
"Yessir, General. Well, all I know is someone yelled that an' next thing ya know everyone's shootin' at everyone. We just tried to mount our horses an' flee. We did good to get out of town with our lives. Several of us were shot up. We had to all get fixed up when we got back to the tribe. Little Bear came with me to tell y'all I was tellin' the truth. I don't suppose y'all'd believe 'im 'cause he's more Comanche than me."
"Mr. Tanner, this is not a hearing to decide whether or not the blood that flows through your veins enables you to tell the truth."
"General, may I say a few words?" Colonel Dunn requested.
"Yes, what is it?"
"I have a witness to the murder of Mrs. Greene."
"Do you? Well, where is this witness?"
"Corporal Matthews, could you step forward, please?" Colonel Dunn requested of the soldier.
"Sir," the soldier responded, as he approached the colonel and the general.
"Corporal, did you see the event take place?" the general asked of Corporal Matthews.
"Um, sorta, sir."
"Yessir, well, you see, I saw Mrs. Greene get shot through the window of the livery stable. The next thing I saw was Mr. Tanner and Little Bear ride out on their horses."
"Mr. Tanner?" the general turned his attention once again to Vin.
"Sir, I...um...well...I can't really say anything against that 'cause my horse was in the livery stable. All I can say is I didn't kill her an' neither did Little Bear."
Just at that moment, a tall slender blonde woman entered the room along with two men. One of the men was a tall, well-built, dark-haired man; the other was a Kiowa man about the same age as Vin and Little Bear.
"General, may address your panel?" the woman asked.
"And who are you?" the general responded.
"My name is Millie Andrews," the woman stated.
The entire room gasped. Vin and Little Bear scanned the woman with their eyes; then, they cast their glances towards each other. Amazed at the sight of the woman before them, they couldn't believe this was their childhood sweetheart. She was still just as beautiful as the first day they laid eyes on her.
"General, this is my husband, Jacob Andrews," she said pointing to the man who's arm was intertwined with hers, "and this man is Silent Walker. He is of the Kiowa tribe. He has asked me to come here in defense of Vin Tanner and Little Bear, as well as the other Comanchce and Kiowa that were accused of raiding my town and several others along the river. He says Colonel Dunn is trying to have Mr. Tanner tried for crimes against the white man. I'd like you to know the truth, as I know it."
"General, may I speak?" Colonel Dunn questioned the general.
"What is it, Colonel?"
"Sir, this woman is obviously feels bad for her attackers. If you dealt with these Indians and their kidnapped victims as often as I have, you would be aware of the fact that they often sympathize with their captives."
"Colonel, let me inform you of another issue I have with this whole scenerio. You are the father of the accused! It is very well documented that you have a problem dealing with the Comanche. I don't know what your problem is exactly..." the general had begun.
"Sir, if you had seen what I have seen, you'd understand. His mother seduced me; then, I have to deal with a son whose blood is tainted with the blood of savages."
"General," Chief Red Dog addressed the panel.
"I would like to say that my daughter, Laura Mae, did not seek to lie with this white man. She was born and raised to a Quohadie family. Her mother, Amanda, sits beside me. She is white, but she raised my daughter to be with our tribe not to be among the white man. She told Laura Mae of her white family and where they came from; so, she would know her heritage. Our heritage is very important to us, as well as our honor. Laura Mae would not dishonor her family in the way that Mr. Dunn suggests. It is known to my people that Colonel Dunn raped Laura Mae several times. Together they had seven children; Vin is the youngest. Georgia, Little Bear's wife, is Vin's sister and the colonel's daughter. Georgia has a twin sister, Savannah, but she has been missing for many years now."
"Colonel Dunn, is this true?" the general queried the colonel.
"General, sir, this man is obviously lying. I mean Vin is my son, yes, but I did not rape his mother. He is lying;. He can't be trusted; he comes from a people that has constantly betrayed their spoken word," Colonel Dunn smirked.
"General," Ezra interrupted, "I don't mean to interrupt, but I would like to point out to the panel that whether the Comanche people can keep their spoken word or not should not be the issue here. I am sure there are many who can attest to the fact that the white man has also had problems keeping his word to the Indians of these lands. We are two people fighting for the right to use the land as we see fit. It just happens the white man has had tremendous experience in fighting battles over foreign lands and emerging victorious. I fail to see the purpose of belittling the character of any individual simply because we may not see eye to eye with them. It is apparent the colonel fell to human frailties, and his conscious has him attempting to undo the sin of taking this Comanche girl. He took her youth, dignity and abused her femininity, which resulted in her death. With her, he sired several children. Realizing his offspring were also his enemy, he decided to appoint himself as their judge and jury - one by one taking their lives. He is responsible for the deaths of four of those children. One is missing, and he is now attempting to rid himself of Vin. I can only imagine his plans for Little Bear's wife, Georgia. I ask you and the rest of the panel to consider this when you confer with one another about this situation forced upon us all by the colonel and his inability to control his male urges."
"We will consider what you have said, Mr. Standish."
"General, you can't be serious! This man helped Tanner escape. He's an Indian lover!"
"Colonel, I suggest you quit making accusatory remarks."
"Mrs. Andrews, would you please step forward," the general requested.
Millie Andrews followed the general's orders.
"Mrs. Andrews, would you please tell us what happened in Gainesville, Texas during the fateful day you met up with Little Bear and Vin in the barn. What were the events of the day that led to the eventual demise of Lillibeth Greene?" General Sanderson asked
"Sir, I was in the barn with Little Bear and Vin when my father came in. He saw me kiss Vin and became very upset. It seemed no one really knew if Vin had any Comanche blood in him or not, but it didn't matter. He lived with them; therefore, it was feared that he lived like them as well. I did not fear him or the others. They were always good too me. We never did anything more than kiss. Father told the rest of the town, and the soldiers began to chase Vin, Little Bear and the others out of town. Many of the town folk were shot and had to be tended to. Mrs. Greene died of her wounds. It wasn't the Comanche that shot up the town, though, sir. They were too busy attempting to flee the gunfire. It was the cavalry that shot folks in town, including Mrs. Greene. You can go to Gainesville yourself, sir, if necessary. Most who were there and survived know what really happened as far as the shooting goes. Those that gave their statement to the colonel are like him. They believe that the Comanche should not be allowed to live anywhere, let alone on the reservation," Millie related.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have a 20 minute recess. We, the panel, will discuss this situation. We will return here in the allotted time and issue our findings," General Sanderson informed.
All the townsfolk shuffled out of the courthouse onto the street. Mutterings could be heard throughout the town, as the people discussed the proceedings and the tidbit of information they had just received regarding one of their seven protectors. Little Bear, Vin and Silent Walker conversed about Silent Walker's brilliant idea to get Millie to come and testify in Vin's behalf. Vin and Little Bear also took the time to reacquaint themselves with Millie and her husband.
Twenty minutes passed and folks began reentering the courthouse.
"Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish, please, stand," General Sanderson ordered.
Vin and Ezra complied.
"Gentlemen, it is the findings of this panel that you two are free to continue to protect this town. I know the people of Four Corners have expressed interest in defending you both. Fortunately, I don't believe we need to go that far. It is obvious to the panel that this is not a military issue, rather a family issue. Colonel Dunn, this young man is your son, regardless of the blood that flows through his veins. I have little patience for a man who cannot offer his own blood compassion. I will request that you be reassigned far away from Four Corners. You will also be required to keep your distance from Mr. Tanner, regardless of any chance meetings within the United States or its territories; is that clear?" General Sanderson stated.
"Yessir," Colonel Dunn acknowledged.
"Court is dismissed; the hearing is over," the general dismissed the courthouse.
The seven met up at The Standish Tavern for a celebration. The Comanches, too, joined the seven for a drink.
"Well, it seems all turned out well," Josiah stated.
"Thanks y'all for all your help," Vin thanked all who offered help.
"My dear man, what do you suppose family is for?" Ezra commented jabbing Little Bear in the ribs, lightly, as he winked at JD.
Vin put an arm around his newest "brother" and smiled. He really did have a family after all - an Indian cousin that's also a blood brother, who just happens to be married to his sister and a white cousin that is now his blood brother.
The next morning, the soldiers headed out of Four Corners, finally! Life was about to get back to normal. The Comanches were escorted back to the reservation by General Sanderson and the soldiers from Fort Sill. Colonel Dunn was reassigned to fort up in the Dakota region.
(...or is it? You never know how one story can interweave with another!)
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