The Saga of Miles Forrest

It took nearly two hours before we chugged into Silverton and I was able to get to a livery for a horse and head back to the scene of the robbery.  Since the engineer was killed the fireman was able to get the train moving with one of the brakemen acting as fireman.  I wasn’t worried about finding tracks, for a buckboard would be hard to hide, but I was concerned some about the hostages.  I wanted to be sure to find them before night came for even though it was still summer, at this altitude it could get cold at night.
    Following the tracks of the wagon wouldn’t be hard, but I figured that somewhere close they would discard it, split the money, and take off on horses and possibly have pack animals.  Then the tracking would start.  On top of that they were now charged either with murder or conspiracy to commit murder.
    The outlaws had only two ways to go.  They couldn’t follow the rails into Silverton and certainly couldn’t go south into the canyon.  They could go east, but they would have to go overland quite a distance for there were no roads, only here and there some ruts into a miner’s camp.  No, it had to be west, up toward Molas Lake and the road.  How far they would travel with the wagon I didn’t know.  It was two miles of non-road, overland travel to the lake.  However, from there they had several options.
    This was a time I surely wish I had Hawk with me.  That horse was bred and trained for mountain travel.  The horse I was riding was left in the livery by one of the inhabitants of Silverton that had a severe case of lead poisoning.  It was a fair enough horse, but couldn’t compare a lick to Hawk.  I urged him into an easy trot.
    Even with a murder now on their record, I was real fretful about what might happen to the ladies with them.  I had no clue as to their experience in the wilderness and looking up at the sky there could be a storm brewing that would hit sometime in the night.  With that in mind, I gave the horse a little kick to hurry it along.
    The tracks led gradually toward Molas Lake and it was on a continual but gradual upgrade.  As I topped the ridge I could look down upon a low area where I could see the lake.  Stopping I wanted to observe where they might have gone, and upon looking toward the north I spotted the wagon.
    If there is such a thing as hurrying slowly, I did it.  I was almost certain that none of the outlaws would stick around, but there was always that chance that a couple might be there for an ambush.  It didn’t pay to hurrying too much, especially without taking time to observe the country.
    Molas Lake is just off the road from Durango to Silverton.  The wagon stopped at the northside of the lake.  From the lake it was about six miles or so down into Silverton.  The road continued on upward toward Red Mountain Pass and into Ouray.  As I approached I could see two of the women sitting in the back of the way.  I wondered where the third woman was.
    They weren’t very alert; dozing I expected as I rode up on them.  “You ladies all right,” I yelled brining my horse to a stop at the wagon.
    Jumping to the ground, they began fixing themselves, trying to make them presentable.  One of them, a lady dressed in greenish colored dress exclaimed, “Thank the Lord someone finally showed up!”  She was making it sound like I took my lazy old time to find them.
    The other lady was dressed a little more drab and that fit her face which looked as if she had been weaned on a dill pickle.  She nigh shouted at me, “Why did you let those hoodlums kidnap us?  They could have done all manner of evil!”
    “I reckoned at the time that it was more prudent to let them take you, than it was to start shooting with you in-between me and the outlaws,” I replied, then gave her a smile.  I wanted to say more, but held myself back.  Looking around, I asked, “Where is the other lady?”
    They pointed toward the lake.  Before I left them to get her, I took my time to look around for tracks.  There were six men with two pack animals.  Then it dawned on me that they horses for the wagon weren’t there.  Now that presented another problem.  How to get the women into Silverton.
    Giving the horse a nudge I started down toward the lake and noticed a figure, the woman, walking up toward the road.  She happened to see them before I did–supply wagons coming down the road.  I now applied a slight spur to the horse to get to the road before the woman.  As the horse moved out from the lake I put it in the middle of the road hoping that the wagons would stop.  One man, a horseback they might think an ambush was planned.  
    Then a man on the second wagon shouted, “There’s a woman walking up from the lake!”
    The wagons stopped and I rode easily up to the lead wagon.  After exchanging pleasantries I informed them that I was a Deputy U.S. Marshal, and told them what had happened.
    “Do you have enough room for three ladies to ride?” I asked.
    “Well, I don’t….”
    Before he could finish I interrupted.  “If not, three of your riders will have to get off.  You are goin’ to take these ladies on down to Silverton.”
    The woman who had been walking up from the lake was slightly winded due to the altitude.  She sighed, then gave them a smile.  “I’m Constance Fremont and I’d surely appreciate a ride.”
    A man hoped down off the wagon.  “Why shore,” he said then helped her up on the seat by the driver.  “My name’s Lyle and that ol’ coot drivin’ is called ‘Rascal.'”
    The other two women down at the abandoned wagon saw what was happening and started walking up toward the road.  Within a few minutes they were perched on the seats of the other two wagons.
    Rascal let out a shout, released the brake, snapped the reins and the wagons were off…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

I leaned back against several bags of pintos that were being shipped up to Silverton.  It was fairly comfortable plus it gave some warmth as there was not a stove in this baggage car.  Even though it was the end of summer, it was quite cool riding up the canyon, especially when the train moved into the shadows.
    My mind was a blur of activity, if that’s possible.  I always thought of leaving Molly behind.  She was quite capable of taking care of herself, but with that last robbery and her kidnapping I was bothered, plus there was still the situation with Marta.  She said she was alright, but I still wondered.  Then I thought of Clevenger.  He must be incompetent; not knowing how much money was taken and hiding in his office during the holdup.  
    Where would be places that a holdup could occur?  There were a few places along the trip that made for a feasible spot.  The problem the robbers would have would be to find an escape route.  Ore and bullion being sent out from the mines were normally left alone for this reason.  Wagons would be needed to haul it away, but payrolls were another issue.  Some of the mines paid off with gold from the mine itself, but the larger ones paid in cash.  The banks in Silverton normally didn’t keep that much money around.
    The attack could come at Rockwood, just before entering the Animas Canyon; that would make it about sixteen miles from Durango.  There were several places where the train could be boarded on the way up, but it would either have to happen at the lower portion or just before arriving in Silverton.  If an attack came I reckoned it would happen just a few miles south of Silverton.  That would give them the option of traveling to different areas:  to the northeast toward Lake City or northwest over the pass to Telluride.
    “Lord, give me wisdom,” I prayed silently. 
    There were two baggagemen in the car with me plus two other guards.  We would be met in Silverton by guards from the mines.  I didn’t think there would be a problem after the payroll reached Silverton.  No, if there was to be an attack it would happen on the way.
    The train continued chugging up alongside the river up through the canyon, stopping every so often for water on the way.  It saved time, as it would take an extra day to ride over the passes, but I sure missed riding the wild country and through the mountains.  I needed to get Hawk out and ride up here again sometime.
    With no windows in the car I had no idea exactly where we were.  I figured we must be moving out of the canyon into the valley where Silverton was located.  I was just getting ready to stand and stretch my legs when I noticed the slowing down of the train.  “Here it comes,” I thought.  I checked the Greener, my pistol.
    “Get ready,” I ordered the guards.  “I think we’ll soon be having company.”
    The train had come to a complete stop, but nothing happened.
    “Maybe it’s just some kinda mechanical problem,” suggested a guard named Baxter.
    Fifteen minutes went by, nothing.  Then…the hammering on the door.  “Don’t shoot unless I do,” I ordered the two guards.
    I nodded to the two baggage men to open the door.  “Then stand out of the way.”
    As the door opened the sight that greeted my eyes were two women dressed in their finery.  Upon it being opened completely I counted six women held at gunpoint.  Four masked men held them hostage.  They wore only bandanas across their face, so I scrutinized everything I could about their eyes and hair color.
    One man seemed a bit startled to see me there.  “Marshal, we meet again.  I don’t suppose you have your dear lady hidden there with the baggage.”
    It was the same man in the diner who kidnapped Molly.  From my posters I didn’t think this was Fooy.  “Always hide behind women?” I asked with scorn.
    The man snorted.  “Well, it helps keep the shooting down to a minimum with no one being hurt.  Now, if you don’t mind open the vault.”
    “I don’t have the combination.  That will be those at Silverton,” I informed him.
    There was a sigh from another man as he climbed up in the car.  Reaching inside his jacket he removed a stick of dynamite placing it next to the hinges of the large safe.
    “Won’t that blow the money to smithereens?” I inquired.
    Ignoring me, he lit the fuse then jumped off the car.  Those of us in the car tried to jump out before the explosion took place.  I had no time, I fell behind the several hundred pounds of beans I had been laying on and hunkered down.  The man must have know what he was doing for when the explosion took place there was little damage done except to the safe, and the floor beneath and around it.
    The man jumped back into the car, prying open the door.  Another outlaw joined him and they began to pulled out bags of payroll money.  I could hear the sound of a wagon approaching and the men began pitching the bags into the back of the wagon while the other two men kept guard over us.  My eyes kept going back to the man who had kidnapped Molly.  
    The sound startled all of us.  Some of the women screamed, we all jumped as a shrill whistle emerged from the engine followed by a gunshot.  I started to lift the shotgun when the man hollered, “Don’t!” putting his pistol to the back of the head of a young woman who was quaking and crying in his grasp.
    There was a quickening of activity among the outlaws.  Three women were chosen to keep the men company as they left.  “Marshal, we still have a date with destiny,” assured the man.

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Marta seemed to be doing better since Molly stood in for her.  She was back to her normal self, singing something in Spanish as she went through the day doing her work.  Emelda seemed to enjoy cooking and was doing a fine job so Molly agreed with Marta to let her stay on.
    I had just come in from riding Star.  He doesn’t get ridden enough and was getting fat.  We went up the canyon road for a few miles, then ran back down.  With that thoroughbred blood in him, he liked to run, in fact, he needed to run.  He was not the horse for the mountain like Hawk, but there would be few that could match him running out on the plains.
    It was mid-morning and there were no customers in the diner.  “Senor Miles,” perked up Marta.  “Come sit, I will get you some coffee.”
    Well, there was something that was hard to refuse.  I eased down in my regular spot, resting the Greener back against the wall as Marta came with a cup of coffee.
    “Sit down, Marta, join me,” I requested.  She hesitated, looked around the room and since there was nobody there she picked up a cup from the counter and joined me.
    “Where’s Molly?” I asked.
    “She back in the kitchen, making some pies for the lunch crowd.  She be out in a minute or two,” came Marta’s reply.
    “So, Marta, how are you feelin’?” I asked in concern.
    “Oh, I doing fine; I no hurt.”
    “No, I mean up here,” pointing at my head.
    There was a puzzled look for a moment, the a smile.  “Si, my head no longer hurts.  I’m okay.”
    I wiped my hand down over my moustache, then pulled on the left side.  “I mean, emotionally.  Do you still forget?”
    She held her cup with both hands and brought it up to take a sip.  Slowly she lowered it.  “No, I no forget.  I understand how important it is to remember, even the bad things of life.  El Senor,” she said looking up, “has a purpose in everything.  I am beginning to understand.”
    Well, I couldn’t argue with that.  I often pondered when I couldn’t understand something or why something was happening the thought, “His wonders to perform.”
    It was good to sit with her for a spell.  Molly had the pies out of the oven and was letting them cool.  I planned on lingering long enough to get a piece.  She came out, poured a cup of coffee and joined us.
    Marta started to get up when Molly put her hand on Marta’s arm.  “No need to get up.  Stay, that lunch crowd will be here in a little while, rest while you can.”
    We were having a nice time, chatting about this and that.  It was good to see Marta smile again.  I looked up as I heard the door open and three gentlemen walked in–the city council.  They came straight toward our table and just stood there.  I picked up my cup, took a sip and nodded at them.  
    Finally, Martin Olson, appointed councilman and saloon owner, spoke up.  “Forrest, why are you sitting here?” he snapped.
    Smiling at them I replied, “Drinkin’ coffee, and hopin’ for a piece of pie.”
    With that, Marta jumped up.  “Senors, coffee?”
    “No!” snapped Olson again.  John Newsome shook his head.
    Wilson Foster, supposedly the chairman of the council, gave Marta a smile.  “I’d be obliged.”
    “We want to talk with you!” bellowed Olson.  
    Staring at him I said, “Well, why don’t you start talkin’ and quite bellerin’?”
    “Alone!” he said, giving Molly a sneer.
    Molly started to push her chair back, when I placed my hand on her arm.  “This is her establishment, along with Marta, so they have the right to sit here.  Plus, you might as well understand this, I don’t hide things from Molly.”
    He was grumbling, but Wilson pulled out a chair and sat with Newsome following his example.  That meant if Olson was to join us he would have to retrieve a chair from an a-joining table.  He huffed some more, then turned and jerked a chair from the table behind him.
    After he plumped himself down in the chair, he started again.  “What are you doing about those bank robbers?”
    I took a sip, more to annoy him than anything.  “As I said, they haven’t broken a federal law.  Sheriff Gold should be back in today.”
    “That was Sam Fooy, and his bunch!” exclaimed Olson.
    “May I ask, how you know it was Fooy?  Do you know him?” I asked.
    He belched out a curse.  I slammed my cup down on the table.  “I will tell you this once, to refrain from using that kind of language here.  You have ladies present!”
    Olson turned to Molly and gave her a forced apology.
    “What about Marta?”
    Looking over at her, he sneered.  “She’s only a Mex…”
    The next thing he knew was the feeling of a coffee cup smashing against his jaw.  I couldn’t see that he was armed, but I stood wanting to give him a good thumping, but to his credit he turned to Marta and spoke a soft apology.  Then he stood, ready to leave.  “I’ll be writing the governor about you!” Then stormed off.
    I sat back down, and Wilson spoke up.  “Why do you antagonize him so, Miles?”
    They were in the process of standing when Molly piped up, “Gentlemen, why don’t you stay for a piece of pie?”
    “Well, I don’t think…” Newsome started to say, he was clearly agitated by what just took place.
    “Come on, Mr. Newsome,” encouraged Molly.
    Both of them slid back into their chairs and Marta hurried off to get each of them a piece of pie.
    “Don’t forget one for me,” I hollered as she ran into the kitchen.

The Saga of Miles Forrest

I had been riding hard for twenty minutes; I had to slow down or the horse wouldn’t be any good.  It seems like the outlaw didn’t drop Molly off at the edge of town.  I knew this road well, and these men were smart for it was a well-traveled road and their tracks were mix in with those of others.  However, a group of men, one of them holding a woman, would rise the attention of any travelers, so they had to do something soon.  
    Slowing down I began to look for places where they might venture off the road.  This area was covered mostly with sage, few trees, and was covered with boulder formations.  I was getting close to being halfway to Hesperus when on the horizon I saw a figure walking down the road toward me.
    Giving the horse a kick I had him running again.  The gap between me and the person began to close and soon I could see that it was Molly.  I slowed him down to a trot and when I was a few yards from her I stopped, almost fell off and ran to her.  She fell into my arms and we held each other tightly, neither of us saying anything.
    Finally she muttered, “Thirsty.”
    I hadn’t thought about water.  I went to the horse hoping that the owner had a canteen and that it was full.  That was the habit of most anyone riding in this area.
    Molly had found a rock just off the side of the road to sit on.  Thankfully there was a canteen and I rushed it over to her.  “Here,” I said excitedly, “just drink it slow.”
    The sky was clear except for two clouds that looked like cottonballs hanging above us.  In that high country the sun just seems to beat down on a person and it being so dry, well, a person can easily dry up.
    Taking off my bandana, I reached for the canteen.  She looked at me as I began to pour some of the water on the bandana.  “Unt uh,” she muttered.  “Is that bandana clean?”
    “Clean enough,” I answered, then completely soaked it.  I wiped her face with it, then wrung it out her hand and arms.  She reached for the canteen to take another drink as I placed the wet bandana on her head.  
    I watched her take a couple of deep swallows.  Then capping the canteen she handed it back to me.  “We need to get back,” she informed me.  “I’m worried about Marta.”
    That was Molly.  Always worried more about someone else than she was about taking care of herself.  I helped her up and we walked back to the horse.  I mounted and looked at her.
    “In my lap, or astraddle behind me?” I asked, now smiling.
    “Behind,” she stated, “but you’ll let me down when we come to town.”  I removed my foot from the stirrup and she put hers in.  I reached back to grab her and between the two of us she swung up behind me.  The horse started balking and I had to hold on.  It must not have been used to riding double.
    I started walking the horse back toward Durango.  Molly put her arms around me and settled her head against my back.  Neither of us said anything, but I could hear her quietly humming some tune.
    Feeling her pull her head away from me, she said, “Miles, that man scared me.”
    “How so?” I asked.
    “He was different than most of those that have come after you.  Most of them are scum, braggarts, but he, he seemed to be under control.  Am I silly for thinking that?” she asked.
    I didn’t answer right off.  “He was a logical man.  Now, he has armed robbery behind his name.  If he had shot someone then he would be runnin’ for his life.”
    “Miles,” she said tightening her grip around me.  “I really thought he was going to shoot you.”
    “So did I, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it,” I replied.  “The Lord must have sent an angel to stand between us.”
    She nestled her head back against me and we continued on down the road without any more talk.  When we were about a quarter mile from the town I stopped.  
    “Want to walk from here?” I asked.
    I felt a sigh against me, but she began to slide off to the side.  I dismounted as well, and handed her the canteen as she took the bandana from her head.  Handing it back to me she then took the canteen and drank several deep swallows.  As we started walking she started brushing back her hair with her fingers.  I looked at her and smiled.
    “What?” she exclaimed.
    I wasn’t about to reply.
    We could see people begin to form where the town proper began.  Molly was holding on to my arm and I gave her a little nudge.  “Look at the welcomin’ committee.”
    Martin Olson, new councilman, with Wilson Foster standing behind him some were in front, along with the new bank president.  I didn’t know his name; I had hoped that the job would be handed over to Ooverholm, but the powers that be brought in somebody from Kansas City.
    I saw Olson elbow the bank president and as we approached he stepped out from the crowd and began to jabber.  “Aren’t you going after them?”
    “Nope,” I simply replied.
    “But you’re the marshal, that’s your job.  I pay taxes and I expect you to do your job,” he was speaking so fast I thought he might pass out.
    “Not a federal case,” I said as I helped Molly up on the boardwalk.
    Then Olson piped in, “I think Miles is afraid of the outlaw.”
    Stopping, I turned to glare at the man.  “You call me Forrest, or Marshal,” I hesitated then looked him up and down.  “I’ll never be Miles to you.”  Then I pushed Molly on through the crowd on down to the diner.