In July of 1925, Tom White arrives in the Oklahoma City field office and gets to work poring over the voluminous files on the Osage murders. He scours the random bits of data and information for some kind of pattern or design, struggling to find links between the murders. A few things become evident: rich Osage Indians are being targeted, and three of the victims—Anna, Rita, and Lizzie—were related. The files hold little information about Mollie, the last surviving member of her family, and White wonders why nobody has interviewed her.
As White and his team arrive on the scene, they begin finding holes in the previous investigation and start to understand that though a lot of things about the murders are crystal-clear, no one has taken any action to follow up on painfully obvious leads and lines of inquiry.
Another thing White notices about the files is that there is no “signature” to the killings—the murders have run the gamut from poisonings to point-blank shootings to bombings. The killer is not impulsive, White realizes, but rather a “connoisseur of plots,” calculating and patient enough to “carry out his diabolical vision over years.”
The killings are more sinister than White thought—whoever is behind them is enacting a carefully-calculated campaign of physical and psychological violence against the Osage, meant to decimate their community, their resources, and their sense of agency.
The files are so confusing that White believes the widespread corruption throughout Osage County has led to an intentional spread of disinformation, meant to conceal the truth from investigators. He sets to work separating hearsay from facts and building an “indubitable narrative” using as much evidence as he can gather.
White realizes what he is up against: not just a murderer, and not just an atmosphere of systemic racism, but a place in which corruption is so rampant that past investigators have all either been bribed away or scared off. White, though, wants the truth.
White sets to work assembling a team. He recruits a former New Mexico sheriff, a former fellow Texas Ranger, and an experienced deep-cover operative. He retains John Burger from the previous investigation, realizing how valuable Burger’s comprehensive knowledge of the case is. White also brings aboard a rough-and-tumble Texan, Frank Smith, and, finally, John Wren, an American Indian hailing from the Ute tribe and a former spy for revolutionary leaders in Mexico. White realizes that many of the previous agents on the case have been racist and cruel and have compromised the investigation—having Wren on the team, White knows, will bring a delicate hand and an empathetic perspective to the investigation going forward.
White’s team is varied, competent, and trustworthy. He knows that there is racism, greed, and corruption at every level of society in Osage County—and so seeks to have his team infiltrate every part of town in order to quickly and efficiently learn the truth of what’s happening to the Osage.