Tying a black headband around her long, jet-black hair, Galilahi stood in a crevice on a slope, camouflaged by tall bushes and fallen pine trees. She swiped blood from under her straight-edge nose and brunette eyes. Men dressed in navy-blue uniforms, bronze cowboy hats and revolvers holstered at their waist rode into town on coffee-colored horses. They tied them to a hitching rail and strolled into a two-story lily-white building with a porch supported by four thick pillars. Two”one hefty guy and another average size fellow” guarded the entrance holding rifles. Just across the road was a pale, cherry brick building with a sign that read jail. Her lover, Adahy, was being held there, accused of slaughtering a white family in the hills. And she wore a bounty on her as his accomplice.
Sky-blue wood buildings lined a ragged street on both sides. Auburn dust stirred through the town and leaves rattled as a cool breeze whistled through. Only two roads led in and out between smoky and hunter-green mountains
Galilahi looked at one of a dozen splintered shacks at the outskirts of the settlement where her family now resided. Since she chose to refuse the government’s rebellion, and run away with Adahy, they believed she was as capable as he was of murdering that family. The mere thought slowed her heartbeat. It stole the breaths right out of her. She hasn’t talked with them since they rebuked her for living the only life her lover and she knew growing up as an Indian, one that allowed her to live and think freely.
Galilahi gazed at the silent community down the slope. To think Adahy and she would ever be capable of such a horrible sin”slaying defenseless people”sent chills crawling up her spine. She wanted to be incarcerated beside him, waiting for mother Earth to plant the two of them beneath its soil, so they could blossom into another life together.
A flabby white man slumped down against a boulder next to her, his hands bind behind his spine with rope and his mouth gagged with a bloodied bandana. His right cheekbone discolored from where she struck him with the handle of his own gun. He reeked of sweat and body odor, and his rough hands were blotched with the brown Earth. Galilahi would trade his life for Adahy’s. But whenever would the white lawmen believe a ‘yellow-hide’ over a military general?
The sun cast a shadow over the town as it turned to the color of fire. Galilahi gripped the general’s revolver in her right hand. The fleshy, gray-bearded man sagged there, watching her with his bulbous nose flaring and algae-green eyes dilated. Maybe he knew he was about to lose his hidden wicked identity. After the sheriff listened to what he had to say, he’d see the injustice in keeping Adahy imprisoned. In a mass of ignorance, there had to exist at least one rational mind. Her family would see the truth, as well as the virtue in her lover.
Pointing the firearm at the general, she said, “You will tell your people the truth. You’ll tell them the man they have is innocent of killing those people.” The general scowled at her like she was a beast from an alien world. “Do you understand?” she asked. He drooped there silent. She grabbed the bear-jaw handle of her blade from her tan, elk-skin slacks and pressed the shrill end into his thick chest as he moaned. “If not, I’ll blow your brains out,” she snarled. “And don’t forget, my people are watching from every direction with bows and rifles,” Truth was, she was alone. She dug the pointy end of the blade in deeper as blood streamed out. “Do you understand?” she raised her voice. Grunting, he nodded nervously. Galilahi felt her blood boiling, and a frigid feeling flooded through her body. Never had she been so tempted of dark behavior. It was like a seed inside her had grown into an evil spirit, and she wanted to skin the flesh off his bones. But she released the force of the knife and tucked it away.
All but three of the sheriffs exited the white mansion, straddled their horses and galloped into the narrow valley out of town. The others ambled into the jail house.
A bone-colored moon grinned down on her as she crept into a tapered valley of twigs toward the town, the gun aimed at the general’s back. He shuffled, stumbling over the rooted ground like a drunker. The reek of tobacco invaded her nostrils as she squatted behind a big wagon next to the city. A ruckus of hollering drunks and carnival music stirred from the saloon. A black stallion shat in front of it. Everything else was dead silent, except for the shrieking wind. Buttery lights glowed from street posts on each corner. A timber constructed platform stood in the austerity of the city with a hanging rope. She thought they may as well find another cord if her plan failed.
Galilahi stepped out of the brush at the edge of the street pushing the general forward.
“I need the sheriff,” she shouted, removing the bandana from the general’s mouth. “Sheriff!” People paced out of their homes, their mouths hung open and eyes wide. And the sheriff with his long blond hair slicked down to his shoulders and fuzzy crud around his mouth trudged out gaping at her.
“Do you know where the hell you are?” the sheriff fumed.
She wasn’t dealing with questions with obvious answers. “Sheriff, the general has something to tell you.”
“Don’t be stupid lady.” The sheriff’s hand slid to his pistol.
“Drop your gun and tell everyone else to do the same. I have dozens of my people aiming arrows and rifles at all of you,” she bluffed.
“You’re already in enough trouble.” The sheriff dropped his pistol on the soil. “Killing a general? Well, now.” He scoffed shaking his head. “That’s beyond punishable””
“You all aim to kill me like the rest of my people and the man in that cell, guilty or not.”
“An innocent family was killed. Someone has to answer.”
“Tell him, tell the town the truth,” Galilahi demanded, poking the general in the back of his neck with the pistol. “Don’t make the wrong man suffer.”
Galilahi looked to the left as her people crowded the streets. She barely recognized them garbed in the white man’s clothing: dark slacks and button down casual shirts, and their hairs trimmed. They looked like adult children forced to dress in church clothes.
Her attention was captured as a plump man exposing his crooked teeth through a growl, and an average size fellow with a dark-brown gob of what looked like something that had fallen from an animal’s hide ran from his mouth”trudged out of the bar with their pistols drawn.
“Stand down damn it! The sheriff grimaced, throwing his hands out at them. “Stand down!”
“I’d listen to him.” Galilahi pressed the pistol’s barrel to the back of the general’s cranium, finger on the trigger. “Now tell these people the truth,” she yelled, her voice reverberating through the city, so all the folks would hear. “Tell them another guiltless man is going to hang for your crimes. Tell them!”
The general looked to his right and to his left. He sucked in wind and exhaled. “Now ya’ll,” he stuttered. He cleared his throat. “Ya’ll jus might have the wrong man.”
The sheriff frowned. “The wrong man? That Indian?” The other two deputies dipped their heads as they stared at Galilahi, their eyebrows gathering in.
“Ya’ll gonna need to let em go.” The general slurred through his grubby beard.
“General, he’s accused of slaughtering an innocent family,” the sheriff replied. “We caught em near the scene. Saw his tracks.”
The general held his head down shaking it. He looked at the sheriff. “Now listen. That injun ain’t had nuttin to do with those people gettin killed.”
“Tell them,” she threatened with the gun.
“I did gaw-dang it!” the general fussed. “Ya’ll’re gonna need to let the injun go. He ain’t guilty.”
“No, tell them,” Galilahi repeated. “Or die a coward.”
The general paused. “I” She could feel and hear his breaths grow heavier. “I ordered my men to kill that family.” He bowed his head as he sagged to his knees. I’m the man ya’ll’re wantin sheriff. I ordered those people to be killed!” the general bellowed.
A bang rang at Galilahi’s ears. Her abdomen throbbed with pain as she collapsed to the Earth, gaping at the lanky man behind her, frowning with the rifle pointed at her.
Wheezing and covering a hole in her side, blood oozed out, painting her hands crimson.
She gazed up. Her father and mother stood over her, both of their eyes soft. He knelt beside her and pillowed her head with his hand. Despite the agony, her body grew warm again, and her heart raced, not because of fear, but something magical she hadn’t felt in a while surged through her.