A stranded pioneer mother turns to an unconventional scout, Tiger Lily, to find her kidnapped son, but the twisting trail brings Lily barrel-to-barrel with her own tangled past, even as it offers one last chance at freedom.
> FADE IN:
EXT. VERDE RIVER VALLEY (ARIZONA) - DAY (SUNSET)
Three YAVAPAI WARRIORS on slender ponies canter into the fading light, their thin bodies clad only in breechcloths and buckskin boots. A rifle, saddlebags, and a blond-haired boy, ISAIAH, bounce against the last pony's flanks.
EXT. VERDE RIVER VALLEY - DAY
Bees buzz in the flowers. Two covered wagons, their hitches empty, hunch beside the smoky remains of a campfire while scrawny oxen devour grass along the riverbank. Then a high, wailing SCREAM pierces the air.
IN THE GRASS
A man lies face-down, his back bristling with arrows, shirt stained crimson.
GINNY MCDANIELS, 1860 Henry rifle in hand across her blood-stained apron, and freedwoman MYRA WATSON, brandishing a shovel, come running.
A painfully young, and pregnant, SELENA RYAN keens beside her dead husband.
Myra, get her back inside that wagon. And fetch another shovel.
C'mon, now, Miss Selena. You got to think of your child. And the McDaniel's boy, too! We couldn't find Isaiah, you understand? Couldn't find his body nowhere! We gotta go.
No! No! I'll not be parted from him, I'm telling ya! *A chuisle, a chroi*! *A chroi*!
But Myra is too strong, and in the end, carries her away.
Wincing but undeterred, Ginny pulls out the arrows and turns over the body. A bearded Irish lad stares straight up at her, sky blue eyes meeting the cloudless blue above.
She closes them and, right where he lays, begins to dig.
.SUPER: "ARIZONA TERRITORY, 1866"
EXT. "FORT WHIPPLE" - DAY
The wagons emerge from a dust cloud as their beleaguered oxen drag them one last time to a halt inside the palisade.
COLONEL BRYCE swings out of a rough-hewn log cabin that serves as HQ in this desperate outpost.
Finished with the last button on his jacket, he smooths his mustache as his squint takes in the three women climbing down from the buckboards.
Welcome to Fort Whipple, ladies. I'm Colonel Bryce. Where you headed?
Ginny pushes her bonnet back, revealing the dust caked in the lines around her eyes.
Injuns took my boy! You gotta find him, Colonel. Until you do, I ain't going nowhere.
Where's your menfolk?
Dead. Both our men. Back at the Verde River crossing.
And your boy?
His name's Isaiah; he's eleven. Listen, I heard them Injuns take kids sometimes, trade 'em. Is that true?
Could be, ma'am. Either way, we'll find out.
(raising his voice)
From the porch of HQ, CAPTAIN MAUBREY eases forward of the mass of onlookers.
Take a detachment and ride down to the Verde. Apaches raiding out east. May have taken her son, Isaiah, eleven years old.
That right, Mrs....
... McDaniels. Ginny McDaniels.
Um... Sir, our scout's not in yet, went out with the last patrol.
Then I want men and horses readied soon as the patrol gets back.
Ma'am, if your boy's alive, we'll find him, I promise. Meanwhile, you should hold up in Prescott, town's only two miles away. We'll get your hitches tended to, and you can go on to town tomorrow. Here...
He crooks his finger at a PRIVATE standing nearby.
These unfortunate ladies are gonna be spending the night under our protection. Get their wagons in good order, understand?
Second one's got a bad wheel. It's gonna need a blacksmith.
But, sir, uh... we ain't had no ladies around before, where we gonna put 'em?
Just see to your work, Private. I'll take care of our guests.
He tips his cap, as Ginny walks back to the other wagon, her swaying hips so captivating the private stops unbuckling the harness just to watch.
She looks back. He tips his cap again.
INT. FORT WHIPPLE HEADQUARTERS - DAY
Bryce signs papers behind a makeshift desk of a few planks laid across two trestles. Trunks and crates serve as cabinets, yet the tidy office yields no secrets.
Captain Maubrey enters, snaps a salute.
Sir, the patrol's back.
Fine, fine. Maubrey, take a ration of that whiskey with you. I want the boys at Verde before dawn. We'll get those damn Apaches this time.
Maubrey pauses, raises an eyebrow.
You know what I mean. Dismissed.
As his hand drops from the salute, the colonel leans back in his chair and turns to look out the wavy-glass window. Blue and brown figures of men and horses ripple past.
EXT. FORT WHIPPLE - DAY
The dust-ghosted patrol separates as they ride through the fort. Soldiers peel away from the SCOUT, dressed in buckskin and wearing a grimy, wide brimmed hat.
Pistols -- a pair of ivory-handled Smith and Wesson Army revolvers -- are the only items that the scout clearly lavishes with care.
BY THE CORRAL
The scout ties a rangy little mustang to the fence.
From behind, Maubrey approaches the lone figure, jug in hand.
(clearing his throat)
Um... sorry to bother you, seeing as how you just got in, but we've, uh, we got a slight problem.
He offers the whiskey like a white flag.
Colonel wanted you to have this.
The small shoulders heave. A spit of chewing tobacco hits the dirt.
What's it this time?
See those wagons over there? Some settlers came in this afternoon, but the men were all killed by Apaches, near the Verde. Only three women are left, and one says her boy's missing. Colonel wants us to leave directly, check it out.
You can take one of our horses.
I guess. Give it here.
Looking up, the scout reaches for the bottle, and Captain Maubrey recoils a step.
For their tiger-eyed scout, LILIAN HINSHAW, channels every mountain man with a powerful fear of soap -- minus the beard.
He wants us there before dawn, Lily. That'll give you an hour or so.
She snatches the jug.
Should find out more about those Apache first.
And uncorks it.
Or they could be Yavapai.
She savors the aroma.
Only to sabers like you. If you had a man who could do what I do, even half as good, you'd hire him instead of me.
Maubrey bristles at the suggestion.
Men need work. Some have families to support.
Hell, and I don't? What's a woman like me supposed to do 'sides work the line?
Another spit of tobacco, the last of her chew. It nearly splatters Maubrey's boot. He sidesteps, much to Lily's amusement.
A man's job, that's what. Sure beats trudging cross-country after some gold-crazed husband, trying to keep your babies out from under the wagon wheels the whole way.
You just be careful what you say to those poor women. They're up at the Colonel's place for now.
Lily shrugs and takes another swig of the whiskey.
© Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.