It was time. Donatello’s heart was in his throat. This was the scariest thing he has ever done. He was about to lie in court and challenge Saki. If it wasn’t for the group of men who were with him, he would have turned and ran the other direction.
Donatello passed Leonardo on his way into the courtroom. He could tell by the look in Leo’s eyes that he was successful. The county official was not one who was closed minded to the rights of the natives. As soon as Donny entered the courtroom he couldn’t help but smile. He remembered Mr. O’Brian from when he originally sought the legal rights to the land his tribe was on.
Mr. O’Brian looked up as Donatello approached the bench. “Donatello. What brings you here? I see you brought some folks with you. I assume they are here as witnesses.”
Donny nodded his head. “Yes, Sir.”
Calhoun and a few other regulars from the saloon had come with him. They had all agreed to say that they had witnessed Saki losing the deeds to Donatello in a game of cards. They were all people who had been wronged by Saki in one way or another and they saw it as a way to get back at him. Part of him believed that the whole town would be in court to bear witness if they could.
Donatello was terrified. He was about to go up against the most powerful man in town. If he failed, if Mr. O’Brian believed Saki over him and the others, Donatello would be in a world of trouble. He was a turtle, a lowly native. He would be killed for his attempt at deceit. Then his tribe would suffer or worse, be killed off.
Swallowing hard, Donatello placed the deeds down on the long table, in front of Mr. O’Brian. “I have won these back from Mr. Oroku.”
The chair clattered to the floor as Saki abruptly stood. “What?”
Donatello gathered his courage and turned to look at Saki. “Don’t you remember? I came to you the other night and asked you for a chance to win the deed to my saloon and the tribe lands back. You were quite drunk but you accepted my offer and said that if I lost you would get Angela as a personal slave for Hun.” Donny gestured to the gathered men. “These men witnessed it.”
“That we did,” Calhoun nodded, crossing his arms over his broad chest.
“You stole them,” Saki hissed.
“I…? How…?” Donny stammered. “When have I had the chance to steal them? You work me day and night. I was only able to get away the other night because it was slow. I won them from you…, just like you had won them from me.” He didn’t know why he had said that. Why did he say that? It was basically and admission to guilt. What was he thinking?
Mr. O’Brian had opened the envelopes of both deeds and was in the process of looking them over. “It looks like today isn’t your day, Mr. Oroku.” He pulled the supplies he needed from his bag as he continued to speak. “I will admit that I did not enjoy signing these deeds over to Mr. Oroku. I had such high hopes for you, Donatello. I hope you have learned your lesson and will stay away from the gambling tables.”
“I will,” Donatello nodded his head. “I will not risk my future or the future of my tribe again. I have given up drinking and gambling completely.”
“Good,” Mr. O’Brian said as he filled out the needed papers. “There was a young turtle in here not too long before you came in. He is the adopted son of the late Hamato Splinter. He is now the rightful owner of the farm lands that once belonged to his father. He will be in need of some help to get his farm up and running.”
“Of course,” Donny smiled. “The tribe will be more than happy to help him.”
“That turtle with Leonardo is a thief,” Saki growled, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.
Mr. O’Brian looked up from his writing. “Do you have any proof of this?”
“He is wanted,” Saki stated. “I recognize him from the wanted posters I have in my saloon.”
Mr. O’Brian considered Saki for a moment before replying. “Weren’t you the one who issued the bounty? I ask again. Do you have any evidence against the young man? I cannot convict someone on your word alone.”
“I will not stand for this,” Saki spat out. The look in his eyes sent a chill down Donny’s spine. Was this really the best course of action?
“Then you may leave,” Mr. O’Brian stated flatly. “That is unless you have some other business that needs to be addressed.”
“I will find my witnesses.” Saki glared at Donatello and he felt his blood turn to ice. He had never known such fear before. Part of him wanted to confess that the deeds were stolen, and give them back to Saki but he stood his ground, pushing back the fear.
After a short stare down Saki turned and left, taking note of each person who had accompanied Donny. Calhoun watched Saki leave and then turned to look at Donny, nodding his head slightly. There was a look of concern in his eyes but there was also resolve. He wasn’t about to back down. Donny found strength in the carpenter’s determination. They would win against Saki.
Once they were finished in the court, Calhoun walked Donny back to the saloon. Donny had closed it down for the day and planned on keeping in closed until he was able to get his affairs back in order. He had to make new arrangements with his former suppliers and hire some new help. Mikey was going to work with him but he wanted at least one other person. He had to make his place the respectable establishment that it once was.
“Don’t worry about Mr. Oroku,” Calhoun said as they reached the saloon. “There is nothing he can do to you.”
“Not legally anyway,” Donny mumbled under his breath. “Thank you for your help today. Now that Mr. Oroku is no longer in charge, we can go back to our original arrangement.” Donny smiled up at him. “Your first drink of the day is on the house.”
“Then I will see you when you open,” Calhoun chuckled as he tipped his hat. “Good day, Donatello.”
“Good day, Calhoun,” Donny replied as the carpenter walked away.
Inside the saloon was quiet. Donatello had closed up after serving breakfast that morning and had sent Mikey back to the tribe as he headed for the courthouse. Now he had his place to himself. Taking a deep breath, Donny took a moment to enjoy the silence.
He looked down at the deeds in his hands and knew that he couldn’t keep them here. They would be safer with the tribe. He smiled softly to himself. He would gladly face Saki’s wrath to save his tribe. Saki no longer owned them, they were free to trade and sell their goods as they saw fit.
Donatello looked at the shelves behind the bar. They had been sparsely stocked for far too long. Soon they would once again be filled with items that only his tribe could offer. No more rotten fruit or cheap alcohol.
He placed some decoy, counterfeit deeds in the safe in the same place he had kept them before. He had forged them himself so they looked like the real thing but a county official would be able to tell that they were fake. With that done, Donatello headed to the tribe so that he could meet up with the others and hide the real deeds.
Michelangelo fastened his suspenders to his pants. It felt strange to be dressed as a boy but if he wanted to continue to help Donny with the saloon then he needed to leave Angela behind. She was gone forever. They were going to tell everyone that she returned to the tribe to make amends with her father.
Dropping his arms to this sides, Mikey turned to look at Venus. “How do I look?”
“Like a settler,” she answered, walking up to stand in front of him. He could tell by her scent that she was no longer in season. Which was good, he didn’t need to make a fool of himself attempting to be with her. She was nice to him but that didn’t mean that she would be willing to mate with him. Her whole clutch would need to be marked if she did. Mikey had no desire to inflict that kind of fate on anyone. Venus adjusted his collar and smoothed out his shoulders. “You look like a boy.”
“It’s a good thing that we all look the same to the settlers,” Mikey said with a chuckle. “They should buy the story that I’m Angela’s brother.”
“Yes,” Venus smiled down at him. “But, more important, you will be free.”
“Yeah,” Mikey nodded. “There’s that. Thank you for the clothes…. I should probably go now. I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.”
“The tribe is out there,” Venus waved her hand towards the door. “Donatello will be here once he is done in town. You can stay here with me for a little while and then go back with him. There is no need for you to be alone.”
Mikey allowed himself a sad smile. “Thank you.”
“I will get you something to eat,” she said and then headed for the door.
Mikey sat on one of the stools and waited for her return. She wasn’t gone long before she returned with a bowl of beans and vegetables, a thick chunk of cheese, and some flat bread. He had missed the simple food of the tribe. He detested meat but the settlers seemed to thrive on it. There was no value in the meal unless there was meat in the dish. Mikey had to eat what was available to him or starve. Some nights he was so hungry that he didn’t really care what he was eating. He was so happy that those days were behind him now.
As he finished off this meal, Leo and Raph entered the hut. Raph’s eyes fell on Mikey and a wide smile spread across his face. “You look good as boy,” he said in the common language for Leo’s sake.
“Thank you,” Mikey smiled back. “How did it go?”
Leo held up the deed. “I got the farm. Now I need to get everything else in order so I can rebuild and start planting. I don’t have much by way of money so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
“The tribe will help,” Venus assured him.
“Only if Donny gets the land back,” Leo replied. “Saki made it clear that the tribe is forbidden to help me.”
Venus raised her chin in a defiant manner. “Donatello will get land back.”
“I hope you’re right,” Leo said, sitting next to Mikey. “At least I will have Raph to help me with everything.”
Mikey felt his heart sink as he looked up at Raph. “You’re gonna live out at the farm with Leo?”
Raph nodded, “Yeah.”
“Oh,” Mikey looked down at his empty bowl. “I guess I’ll get to see you whenever you guys come into town to sell your wares.”
“We’re not going far,” Raph said in the native language to make sure Mikey understood completely. He knelt down in front of Mikey and placed his hands over both of Mikey’s. “I wouldn’t do well in the town, too many people. I like being out in the open. I want to work the land and make things grow.”
“I understand,” Mikey nodded, looking Raph in the eyes. “As long as you are still in my life, I’ll be happy.”
“I’m not going to leave you,” Raph insisted and then ran his hand down Mikey’s cheek. “Maybe you can come out to the farm with us.”
“I can’t leave Donny,” Mikey replied. “His cooking isn’t as good as mine. Imagine what I will be able to do with quality ingredients.”
Raph leaned in and softly kissed Mikey’s lips. “I will have to visit often to find out.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Mikey smiled.
A bowl suddenly appeared between them. “While you two were having a moment, I went and got you something to eat,” Leo said. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”
“Is okay,” Raph said as he accepted the bowl. “We talk about where we all live.”
“Oh,” Leo said, a little surprised. “I thought it was a little more serious than that. Does Mikey want to live with us out at the farm?”
“No,” Mikey answered, shaking his head. “I’m going to stay with Donny. He’s going to be struggling and won’t be able to afford to pay someone to work for him for a while. Besides, he needs a good cook.”
“I could show you how to pickle vegetables and preserve fruit the way my mother used to,” Leo offered. “It can be sold in the store or you can keep them in the kitchen for your own reserve.”
“I’d like that,” Mikey smiled up at him.
Donatello entered the hut and walked over to a statue. “I did it,” he said as he flipped it over. “I got the deeds. The decoy ones are in my safe back at the saloon.” He opened the small lockbox hidden in the bottom of the statue and pulled the money out before placing the deeds in. He handed the money to Leo. “You can have some of this to start your farm.”
“This is good,” Raph said and slapped Don’s shoulder. “Why you look like you lost everything?”
“Saki,” Donny answered flatly. “He was not happy. The way he looked at me…. He’s not going to sit back and do nothing.” A full body shiver moved through Donny as he set the statue back on the shelf. “We messed with a dangerous man.”
Mikey looked up at Leo and then over at Raph. They both looked concerned. Leo moved over to stand next to Donny. “There is nothing he can do legally. We cannot let a man like him win. Whatever he has planned, we will be ready for him.”
Donny turned and leaned on Leo. “I hope so.”