The two men told us that they had a small claim on up the mountain. “This fellow Shawley was looking for work, but he had been wounded. He said it was when he took a fall and landed on a jagged rock,” the man named Billy Brice told us. “Well, Sheriff, you know how it is, a man is hurt, a person just don’t go askin’ him questions, he helps them get back on their feet. Shawley spent the winter with us; helped us with grub and worked on small things at the claim.”
“Did yuh ever think he might have been shot?” I snapped.
“The thought did occur to me, but I wasn’t goin’ to question him about it,” replied Brice.
“Didn’t think he might be runnin’ from the law?” I kept hounding him.
“Mister, ’tweren’t none of my business. I’ve seen several folks in these here camps that have been shot and weren’t running from the law,” barked Brice right back.
I sighed, he was right, but it still rankled me some. “You didn’t consider that he might shoot you and take your claim?” inquired Charlie. I could see he was a bit miffed too.
Then he turned to the other man, “What about you? No concerns about the man?”
He looked over at Brice and shook his head. “I’m holdin’ to the goodness of mankind,” he stammered. “No need askin’ a person ’bout his past. Maybe he’s makin’ amends for his wayward ways.”
“What’s your name, anyway?” I growled.
“Picken, Tom Picken.”
“Well, Samaritan Picken, I expect the Sheriff here will want you to stick around and sign a written statement, so don’t be traipsin’ off somewhere,” I said.
“Drag him off to the undertakers, then meet us down at the marshal’s office. We’ll be along as soon as we finish eating,” Charlie ordered them.
I stared at them, my eyes on fire. “Don’t make us come lookin’ for you!”
The one man, Picken, started to stutter with his answer. “Whhyy, we didn’t dooo nothin’ wrong.”
Charlie looked at him. “The man shot a deputy sheriff and another man. Therefore, you’ve been aiding a wanted man. It could cost you five years in the state pen.”
Both their eyes widened and Brice muttered something to Picken then nodded back at us. “We’ll be there.” Then each took an arm to drag Shaw from the eatery.
Flo was standing there, hands on her hips staring at the men as they drug Shaw out, then looked down at the floor. She wasn’t happy when she saw the blood and the streak it left as the body was drug out. She glared at us, then raised her arms to settle the murmuring. “Folks, it’s all over, go back to your meals.” She approached our table, “I’ll deal with you two in a few minutes,” she said in a huff then rushed off to the kitchen. A few seconds later there was a Chinaman down to wash off the worst of the blood.
She came back with a cup of coffee in her hand and promptly took a chair between Charlie and me. She looked first at Charlie then over to me. After taking a sip of coffee she spoke, “Boys, I know you were just doing your job, but you could have waited until he was outside.”
“No, Ma’am, I couldn’t,” I responded quickly. “Shaw was aware that we had recognized him and stood to shoot Charlie in the back. I had to act when I did.”
Her eyes were on mine for several seconds. “Miles, you’ve always been a man quick to react,” she paused. “But you’ve always been honest.” Then she smiled looking around the eatery. “At least I only lost one table in the ruckus. Men up here are used to a little gunplay now and then and they know that some blood usually goes with the deal.”
Flo finished her coffee, then stood up. “Next time, be a little more considerate.”
We watched her head off toward the counter in the front of the room and hop up on a stool by the cash register.
“Let’s eat so we can hurry down to the jail. I still want to go see Shy before the day’s out,” remarked Charlie.
“Think we ought to walk the streets tonight, sorta let the town know that the law is back?” I questioned.
Charlie was nodding his head. “Might be a good idea. Now hush up, I’m hungry.”