An Arrest in the Nations

By R. Earle Harris
All rights reserved (c) 2015 (rearleharris@tuxfamily.org)


BLACKNESS

The voice of BASS REEVES, black Deputy Marshal of the Indian Territories, reads the following:

Title Over:
               "If I was made another's slave, 
               By Nature's law designed, 
               Why was an independent wish 
               E'er planted in my mind? 
               If not, why am I subject to 
               His cruelty and scorn? 
               Or why has man the will and power 
               To make his fellow mourn?"

As he finishes:

Title Over:
               --Robert Burns

FADE IN:

EXT. INDIAN TERRITORIES, TAHLEQUAH - NIGHT

Poor Cherokee town in what is now NE Oklahoma. This is in the Cherokee Nation. Dirt streets. Board sidewalks.

Title Over:
               May 5, 1887.

EXT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

House of Jennie Schell in Tahlequah. The house has two rooms separated by a dog run. One room is a bedroom. The other is the kitchen, which serves as a local bar.

EXT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

JOHN PARRIS rides up followed by a wagon driven by CHARLEY BOBTAIL and BUD TRAINOR. Schell sells the illegal whiskey that Parris smuggles down from Kansas.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
Are we still bringin' this in?

JOHN PARRIS
Sure. What's one marshal?

He gets down off his horse.

JOHN PARRIS (CONT'D)
Jenny! You in there?

JENNY SCHELL (O.S.)
I'm here!

INT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

JENNIE SCHELL is cleaning up the room for closing. NED CHRISTIE is sitting on the floor, seriously drunk. Ned was one of the Cherokee's chosen leaders. He wears a distinctive leather coat and seems better than this place as if he does not belong here.

JOHN PARRIS (O.S)
We brought the whiskey! Three cases!

JENNIE SCHELL
All the way to Kansas and you only got three?

Parris enters with CHARLEY BOBTAIL and BUD TRAINOR. Bud and Charley carry cases of whiskey bottles.

JOHN PARRIS
Only three.

BUD TRAINOR
(To Ned.)         
What's a big man like you doin' on your floor, Ned?

JOHN PARRIS
Well...looks like our senator is having his own little party.

JENNIE SCHELL
It's a quiet little party. He hardly moves.

Trainor sets down his big case of whiskey.

BUD TRAINOR
I'll the last case.

Charley sets down his case and walks over to Ned.

INT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

Continuous. Charley hunkers down next to Ned.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
Ohayo, Ned.

NED CHRISTIE
Chaaaarley.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
You okay, Ned? You're not one to be sittin' on Jenny's floor.

Ned is seriously plastered.

NED CHRISTIE
Sometimes I drink. Sometimes I mourn.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
You mournin' now?

Ned smiles.

NED CHRISTIE
Not anymore.

He offers Charley the bottle.

NED CHRISTIE (CONT'D)
Drink?

INT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

Continuous. Jenny is with Parris and is starting to unpack the cases. Charley is taking a drink over with Ned.

JOHN PARRIS
Don't put those up yet.

JENNIE SCHELL
What else would I do with them?

JOHN PARRIS
Hide them, maybe. We heard on the way that a white marshal is coming with liquor writs in our names.

Christie overhears them.

NED CHRISTIE
A white marshal?

JENNIE SCHELL
Liquor warrants? I'm not even goin' to hide them. Get those bottles out of here.

NED CHRISTIE
Marshal comin' here?

INT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

Continuous. Ned's POV.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
Don't worry about the marshal, Ned. I help you home.

JOHN PARRIS
Just let him sleep it off outside.

NED CHRISTIE
This is...Cherokee nation. Don't need a white marshal here.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
Easy, Ned.

NED CHRISTIE
If our Lighthorse don't want to arrest us, what does a marshal care?

INT. SCHELL HOUSE - NIGHT

Continuous. Parris's POV.

BUD TRAINOR
The Lighthorse are scared to arrest us a real Indian.

JOHN PARRIS
So they run to the marshal.

Ned gets up slowly.

JOHN PARRIS (CONT'D)
Our leader rises.

NED CHRISTIE
We are Cherokee. We have our laws. No white marshal will put me in irons. Tow me to Fort Smith.

Christie weaves his way out the door.

BUD TRAINOR
His party's over.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
Good night, Ned.

Christie bangs his way out the door.

NED CHRISTIE (O.S.)
Tow me to Fort Smith.

JENNIE SCHELL
This whiskey has to go.

CHARLEY BOBTAIL
I'm gonna check on Ned.

BUD TRAINOR
We can hide the whiskey at my house.

JOHN PARRIS
Sounds good.

He turns to Jenny.

JOHN PARRIS (CONT'D)
Pour us all a drink and then we'll clean up your house for the marshal.

JENNIE SCHELL
Pour your own - I'm leaving. That marshal may ride faster than you three can drink.

Jenny leaves.

JOHN PARRIS
Bud?

BUD TRAINOR
Hey?

JOHN PARRIS
Maybe we should do somethin' about that marshal.

Bud laughs.

BUD TRAINOR
Sure. Maybe Ned would like to help.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Moonlit breaks near Tahlequah. Two men are picking their way along on horseback above a small, wooded river.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. DEPUTY MAPLES is a federal marshal. GEORGE JEFFERSON is his posseman. He helps guard prisoners but is not expected to fight. Both he and Maples are white.

GEORGE JEFFERSON
Are we going into Tahlequah tonight, Dan?

DEPUTY MAPLES
No. We'll save the excitement for the morning.

GEORGE JEFFERSON
You think there'll be shootin'?

DEPUTY MAPLES
Nah. They're just liquor warrants anyway. Let's cross down there at the ford and camp the other side.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

They ride their horses down into the trees.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

They come out of the trees near the river and cross over.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. George sees the gleam of a pistol barrel.

GEORGE JEFFERSON
Watch out!

The assailant steps out of the trees to their front and fires, shooting Maples out of the saddle.

GEORGE JEFFERSON
Marshal!

DEPUTY MAPLES
Get him!

Jefferson fires back, causing his horse to buck him off.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. The assailant steps out and visible only from behind. He wears the distinctive coat Christie had on. He and Jefferson empty their pistols at each other to no effect. Jefferson's horse heads off into the trees.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. Maples fires a parting shot from the ground, ineffectively, as he dies. Jefferson is frantically trying to reload.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. The assailant then moves back into the darkness and rides off.

EXT. WOODS - NIGHT

Continuous. Jefferson is unable to catch his horse in time to pursue. He can hear more than one horse riding off.

GEORGE JEFFERSON
Marshal?

Maples is dead at Jefferson's feet.

EXT. BREAKS - DAY

BASS REEVES, deputy U.S. Marshal, rides his horse along a stream. He is in his forties, black, six feet tall, 180 pounds, with a very athletic build. Bass has on overalls, a decent shirt, and cowboy boots.

EXT. CLEARING - DAY

First light, near a small cabin by the stream.

EXT. BREAKS - DAY

Bass dismounts, ties up his horse and watches the cabin from a distance. He hangs his gunbelt on his saddlehorn and changes into an old shirt. He hitches up his overalls by just one strap, takes off his boots, and puts a revolver inside his overalls

EXT. CLEARING - DAY

Bass shuffles across the open ground to the cabin, singing to himself.

BASS REEVES
Gin a body meet a body
Coming through the rye;
Gin a body kiss a body
Need a body cry?

EXT. CABIN - DAY

Continuous. Bass knocks on the door. There is shuffling around inside but no one answers. Bass knocks some more.

TOUGH GUY (O.S.)
Who is it?

BASS REEVES
I'se looking for my mule. It run off.

TOUGH GUY (O.S.)
We ain't got no mule.

BASS REEVES
Ya'll gots some cornbread? I smells it.

Door is opened by TOUGH GUY.

TOUGH GUY
We ain't feeding no lost darkies. Now git.

BASS REEVES
I jes' cain't.

Tough Guy draws his pistol.

TOUGH GUY
You cain't what?

Bass grabs the barrel with one hand and knocking Tough Guy ass over elbows back into the cabin with the other.

INT. CABIN - DAY

Continuous. Tough Guy tries to fight back but Bass easily knocks him silly.

INT. CABIN - DAY

Continuous. Tough Guy looks up from the ground.

BASS REEVES
I jes cain't stand being called darkie.

Bass notices a young black man in the cabin within reach of a Winchester. Bass draws his own pistol and flips the captured gun over near Tough Guy. He speaks to Tough Guy.

BASS REEVES (CONT'D)
I have a writ for this other young man. But I actively dislike you now. Why don't you pick up that pistol?

Tough Guy declines the offer. The black young man starts to move for the Winchester.

BASS REEVES (CONT'D)

Screenplay truncated at 500 lines.