Across the Dead Line

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


FADE IN:

EXT. DESERT - NIGHT

Title Over:
               April 2, 1909.

High-mountain desert, just east of the Big Horn Mountains. Middle of the night. Where the road south from Tensleep crosses Spring Creek there are two hills a quarter-mile apart. The sagebrush is three or four feet high everywhere except along the creek where it reaches seven feet tall.

EXT. DESERT - NIGHT

View sweeps in on the two hills. On the north hill, a sheep wagon and buckboard. To the south, sheep wagon, supply wagon, and buggy. All the horses for these wagons are in the Greet brothers' pasture, half a mile to the west.

EXT. DESERT - NIGHT

Title Over:
               The Spring Creek Raid.

South hill. Around the wagons are four sheepdogs, a few puppies, and four thousand sheep. The only man visible is BOUNCE Helmer, sleeping on the ground in his bedroll to the north of the southern sheep wagon. Bounce is eighteen, "a likable young man although not very bright," described by one who knew him as "goosey."

Bounce is awakened by his barking dog.

BOUNCE
Dammit dog, hush up!

The dog becomes quiet.

EXT. CREEKBED - NIGHT

Seven men move up the creek from the east towards the wagons. Six have masks over the lower parts of their faces; one has a white bag over his head, with eyeholes. Six have rifles; one has only a six-shooter. Five move uphill to the south wagons, two to the north wagons.

EXT. SOUTH HILL - NIGHT

The dogs commence barking in earnest. There is a single shot from the north wagon.

BOUNCE
Pete! Cowboys coming!

Bounce leaps up and runs barefoot downhill, running into the raiders who turn him around.

EXT. ABOVE BOTH HILLS - NIGHT

There is a long fusillade of two semi-automatic rifles from the north wagons. This shooting continues for a long minute.

EXT. SOUTH HILL - NIGHT

Bounce and another man are made to lie down beside their sheep wagon. The men around them are shooting the dogs and the sheep. The north wagon is burning now. The south wagons are set on fire. Bounce and the other man are made to get up and are taken down to the creek. One man remains at the south wagons tossing anything of value he can find into the fire.

EXT. SOUTH HILL - NIGHT

They all cross a simple bridge and as they begin to go uphill towards the north wagon they are made to lie down. Two men guard them. Two go up the hill.

VOICE (O.S.)
((From the north wagons.))         
Strike a light in that wagon! Strike a light! We'll give you to the count of three to light up or we'll damn sure shoot! One! Two! Three!

Another fusillade of two semi-automatics, a lever action, and a big pistol.

VOICE (O.S.) (CONT'D)
Get your hands up! Raise your hands!

There is a single rifle shot.

INT. COURTROOM - DAY

E.E. ENTERLINE, one of the prosecutors, is speaking.

E.E. ENTERLINE
And that shot, that bullet, gentlemen, was the death of Joseph Allemand. And this court will show that the man who pulled that trigger, who shot an unarmed Joseph Allemand even as he was surrendering, and shot him out of the darkness like a murderer and a coward, was the defendant: Herbert Brink.

Title Over:
               Thursday, November 4, 1909.

The trial is taking place in a "Fraternal Hall" as the regular courthouse is too small for the seven hundred people who are attending. The site of the trial is the town of Basin, Wyoming, with a population of about a thousand.

INT. COURTROOM - DAY

The defendant, HERBERT BRINK, sits with his nine lawyers, nine rich lawyers hired by a group of cattlemen. He looks - and will spend the whole trial looking - mesmerized by the proceedings.

Behind them, throughout the trial, are rich cattlemen in the audience who by their demeanor and their exchange of glances with the defense attorneys will give the impression that they side with the raiders, who may have broken the law but have done the right and justifiable thing in the minds of the cattlemen.

BAILIFF
The court calls Felix Alston to take the stand.

FELIX ALSTON, the local sheriff, takes the stand. He is an older man who has kept the law during the wildness of the West.

INT. COURTROOM - DAY

The prosecution consists of four lawyers: PERCY METZ, the inexperienced young county attorney; his father, WILLIAM METZ; and E.E. Enterline, his father's partner. The senior Metz and Enterline have been brought in with money from the woolgrowers' associations.

BAILIFF
Mr. Alston, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

FELIX ALSTON
I do.

WILLIAM METZ
You may state your name to the jury.

FELIX ALSTON
Felix Alston.

WILLIAM METZ
What official position do you hold in Big Horn County?

FELIX ALSTON
County Sheriff.

WILLIAM METZ
And were you such sheriff April last?

FELIX ALSTON
Yes sir.

WILLIAM METZ
Do you know the defendant Herbert Brink?

FELIX ALSTON
I do.

WILLIAM METZ
How long have you known him?

FELIX ALSTON
About four years.

WILLIAM METZ
I will ask you when you first learned, if you did at any time, of the killing of Joseph Allemand.

FELIX ALSTON
Last April.

WILLIAM METZ
And at what time?

FELIX ALSTON
The 2nd or 3rd. On the Saturday morning, either the 2nd or 3rd of April. I was out there by that evening.

EXT. RANCH - DAY

Title Over:
               Saturday, April 3, 1909.

The scene of the raid. About seven in the evening.

Roll opening titles to J.S. Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze. Long continuous shot. Sheriff Alston rides up on horseback as the day is turning to evening. The sun is lighting up the west face of the mountains and the desert is green with spring. There is first the southern site where the two wagons and buggy have been burned. There are a couple of dead dogs and a dozen or more dead sheep. He rides down and over the small bridge. At the north site, the sheep wagon has been burned out. Within it are what might be two burned bodies. The buckboard is unharmed except for the tongue which has burned away. There are three more dead dogs and more dead sheep. Directly in front of the burned wagon is the body of Joseph Allemand. He is on his back with his head to the north and his right foot drawn up. His left hand is on the wound in his side. Near him a shovel is stuck in the ground and a horse blanket is draped over a sagebrush. There is blood beneath his hand and a bloody wound across his collarbone. Two live sheepdog puppies are nestling against the body to stay warm and out of the wind.

EXT. NORTH HILL - DAY

Alston is coming up to AL MORTON, his Tensleep deputy, and the twins, FRANK and FRED GREET, near the north wagons.

FELIX ALSTON
Hello, Al. Boys.

AL MORTON
Felix.

Alston looks to the body.

FELIX ALSTON
Who is it?

AL MORTON
It's Allemand.

Felix goes over to the body and, as he starts to examine it, notices the puppies. He picks them up and carries them to where the others are and hands them to Fred Greet.

FELIX ALSTON
I want you to take these to Ada Allemand. She likes her puppies.
(To Al.)         
Has Ada been here?

AL MORTON
No, but she's been told.

FELIX ALSTON
(To Fred.)         
See if she needs anything?

FRED GREET
Sure.

Felix and Al go back to the body. Felix looks up at the bodies within the shadows of the burned wagon and then up at the sky.

FELIX ALSTON
(To Al.)         
We need to get these dead men out of the weather.

FELIX ALSTON (CONT'D)
(Calling to Frank Greet.)         
What have you got to carry him on? The doc will be here soon to look at the damage.

The Greet house is a quarter-mile to the west.

FRANK GREET
We can get a door from our place. You can put all the bodies in there for now.

AL MORTON
I'll come help.

FELIX ALSTON
Go ahead, Al. We'll wait till sunup to go over the ground.

Noticing where sagebrush has been pulled up near the burned north wagon he goes over and studies the ground. He turns and looks at the carnage in the dusk.

INT. COURTROOM - DAY

Continuing with Alston's testimony.

WILLIAM METZ
What did you do with Allemand's body?

FELIX ALSTON
Took it over to the Greet house.

WILLIAM METZ
Did you do anything on Sunday following the day you went to Spring Creek in the way of investigating and examining the scene, of the ground around the scene of the killing?

FELIX ALSTON
The following day it was, I suppose about nine o'clock, I began to look for tracks and cartridge shells, and make a general investigation the best I could.

WILLIAM METZ
Now in your examination of the grounds, what shells, if any, did you find, cartridge shells?

FELIX ALSTON
Found about thirty-five.

WILLIAM METZ
Do you remember what kind of shells they were?

FELIX ALSTON
They were 25-35 caliber rifle shells, .45 Winchester shells, some .35 automatic shells and 30-30 Winchester shells.

WILLIAM METZ
How many did you say you found of the different kinds of shells?

FELIX ALSTON
About thirty-five or forty. I am not positive, because I gave some of them away.

WILLIAM METZ
And the automatic. You speak of .35 caliber shells, shells ordinarily used in the automatic Winchester?

FELIX ALSTON
The .35 Winchester automatic rifle.

WILLIAM METZ
Do you remember how many of those shells you discovered there?

FELIX ALSTON
I think it was eight.

WILLIAM METZ
How near the wagon did you find those automatic shells?

FELIX ALSTON
They were up about the closest ones.

Metz hands the witness a package.

WILLIAM METZ
I will ask you to examine those and state to the jury whether you found those shells there or not, there where you found the body of Allemand.

FELIX ALSTON
Those are the shells.

WILLIAM METZ
Your Honor, we would like to enter these shells as Plaintiff's exhibit A.

JUDGE PARMELEE
Mr. Ridgely?

H.S. RIDGELY is the head counsel for the defense.

H.S. RIDGELY
No objection, your Honor.

WILLIAM METZ
Now what other investigation did you make in the surroundings there in your search for the perpetrators of this offense?

FELIX ALSTON
I began to look for tracks. I could only find two tracks going up to that wagon.

WILLIAM METZ
The north wagon.

FELIX ALSTON
Yes. It had been all tracked up by other people on the west of the wagon, and there were a great many tracks around where we found the shells. I saw only one track going up to the wagon and back.

WILLIAM METZ
And what did you find with regard to horse tracks?

FELIX ALSTON
We found where there had been several horses tied down in the big sagebrush in a horseshoe bend of the creek.

WILLIAM METZ
Did you follow those tracks?

Screenplay truncated at 500 lines.