The Saga of Miles Forrest

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.”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Not much else was said, so I dozed most of the way to Silverton only waking up at the water stations.  The sky was clear and blue as can be.  Soon the aspen leaves will be turning to gold.  Maybe I’ll bring Molly on a trip to see them, or even better yet we could ride up the canyon for a ways, camp out, and just enjoy being alone for a change.  I know she faces people every day, and I do as well on my job.  It’ll be a plan, I decided.
       Charlie went straight to the marshal’s office to see if anything was happening.  He really didn’t think so since Shy was recuperating, but he thought he better check the jail anyway.  We really didn’t know where Shy was.  In fact, I didn’t know if Silverton had another doctor since Webb had died.  This was a rough and tumble town and it needed a decent doctor, two really.  I told him we’d meet at Flo’s Cafe after I checked us in at the hotel.
       I stopped by the Wells Fargo office as was my habit.  I worked through that office a few years back and got to know the clerks fairly well.  Morgan Appleby was still there but Dick Fletcher had been transferred to Leadville and the newer clerk, Troy Linton up and quit.  He left for parts unknown.  Tom Shuman and John Collins were the new clerks and Morgan introduced them to me.  
       Morgan poured a cup of coffee for me without me even asking and smiled when he handed it to me.  We made some small talk, then he asked why I was up in Silverton.  I told him I traveled up with the Sheriff regarding the recent demise of Asa Stokes, the town marshal.  I was informed that the vet over at the stables worked on Shy.  Morgan thought that he was shot in the hip breaking the tip of the bone, and also below the ribcage.  As far as he knew Shy was still in bed.  He was in bed over at the late Dr. Webb’s house.  The vet, Terrel Davenport, secured the help of Mrs. Yardley and one of the girls from the a saloon on Blair Street.  She was not one of the working girls, just worked in the saloon for the atmosphere her lovely face provided.
       “From what I hear,” Morgan began to inform me, “it’s been pretty rowdy up there.  Several fights and shootings, and we have no one to corral them.  I hope Sheriff Gold stays around for a while.”
       I thanked him for the coffee, then shook hands with Shuman and Collins and departed for the hotel.  There was one room left so I booked it.  I didn’t know the plans.  Charlie might decide to stay at the jail.  I remember the many nights I slept down at the Wells Fargo office.  I didn’t know what time Charlie would make it down to Flo’s, the office was only a half a block up the street.
       When I stepped in the eatery was about half full.  Miners ate at various times during the day, and several residents of the town would make their appearance at Flo’s as the place was known to serve good food.  I waited for several seconds, looking the room over and letting my eyes adjust.  It probably wasn’t as necessary as it would be if I entered a saloon, but in my trade a person can’t be too careful.  
       A waitress saw me standing there and came over.  “May I help you, sir?” she inquired.
       I saw her take a lingering look at the shotgun I was holding.  It was a required companion almost everywhere I traveled and especially here in Silverton.  I pointed, “Is that table available?”  It was back in the corner.  She led the way and then went for a menu.  I told her to bring two as I was expecting company.  Taking off my hat, I looked carefully around the room to see if I recognized anyone from my past that I knew, or maybe even from a wanted poster I had seen.
       My eyes stopped briefly on one man, then continued to rove, but came back to the man.  Some place in the back of my mind I seemed to recall seeing that person.  As I sipped my coffee I would take a glance now and again at the person.  I didn’t want to appear that I was staring at him.  As I started on my second cup, I thought of what Morgan said about hoping that Charlie stayed around for a while.  After what he told me on the train that might not be so good, but then again, he couldn’t let the riff-raff take over the town.  That had happened all too often in Silverton.  I had seen the same thing in Tincup.       
       It seemed like Charlie was taking quite a spell to arrive.  I know we had eaten on the way up on the train, but that was now several hours ago.  The waitress came by to top my cup several times and I would shrug my shoulders and tell her that I’m still waiting.  Finally Charlie came in the door and when he did I saw the man I had noticed earlier stiffen.  Charlie didn’t notice and came right over to where I was sitting.
       He seemed a little downcast.  “Miles, I’m going to stay over.  I hate to do this to you, but would you try explaining to Marta the situation?”
       I was looking past him, not paying any attention but closely watching the man.
       Then chaos broke out, the man jumped to his feet, turned, drawing his pistol.  I dropped the Greener and fell to the table, made a loud clatter, and drew my pistol firing under the table.  Then I brought my gun up, I fired again my bullet knocking the man back against his table.  
       After the shots, the room became deathly quiet.  Charlie’s eyes were wide, but he stood up with a gun in hand and went to the table.  The two men with the man I shot had their hands in the air.  I thanked the Lord that the man’s first bullet was fired too quickly and hit the floor under Charlie’s chair.  My first one caught him in the lower leg, and the second one took away his life.
       I stayed at the table while Charlie talked to the other two men.  He emptied the pockets of the dead man and when he was satisfied he came back to me.  He threw a few coins of gold and a jack knife on the table.  “Miles,” he sighed, “I’m so glad you didn’t fire that Greener over my shoulder.  I think my heart would have given out.”
       “Who was he?” I asked.  “He was ready to shoot you in the back.”
       “Feller there said that he went by Shawley,” he replied.  Then turned back to look at the man as his two companions were carrying him out.  “Hold it!” he yelled.

The Saga of Miles Forrest

I looked at Charlie, but he didn’t continue, he got up and walked outside the door.  I didn’t want to push him for information, so figured I’d wait ’til the first water station and pull out something that Molly had packed for us to eat, then maybe prod him a little.
       He seemed to have quite a bit on his mind.  I realized there was the situation in Silverton, but now he mentioned Marta.  Could there be trouble because of Lucas?  If so, that was my fault.
       It was perhaps twenty minutes before he came back in the car.  I didn’t blame him for wanting to ride out in the fresh air and survey the river and the canyon that we were passing through.  He came and sat down and I asked, “Do you think Williams can handle the job?”
       He shrugged his shoulders, “Shy is a good man, but I have no idea how bad he is wounded.  You know how it is after being shot at; a person gets sorta gun-shy,” he shrugged again.  “I’ll just have to wait until I talk to him.  You know the game, I have no say in town matters.”
       “Yeah, but you can give advice and make suggestions,” I remarked.
       A sigh came from him, but no reply.
       “Mateo seems to be doin’ a good job.  His leg don’t seem to hold him back from doin’ his job,” I stated, then heard the blast of the whistle notifying that the first water station was coming up.  The train lurched as it began to slow to a stop.
       I reached in the burlap bag to pull out a couple of apricot hand pies that had been placed in there.  I continued to search and smiled as I saw two pork steak sandwiches which I imagine Molly had loaded with mustard.  I’d keep them until we reached the halfway point.
       “He’s doing great,” Charlie said in response to my question about Mateo.  “But,” he hesitated, “Luciana doesn’t like it when he’s gone so long.”  Then he took a bite of the pie and stared out the window.
       It had helped Charlie to have Mateo as his deputy.  They would each make rounds going in different directions.  If Mateo was in Silverton, Charlie would most likely be over near Telluride.  They would meet in Durango, compare notes, then head out again.  They had a good system and it was working.  Of course, there were always unusual situations like Mateo having to spend two weeks in Telluride, and now Charlie going up to Silverton.  A lawman can’t always depend upon a strict schedule, the outlaws and scum out there won’t allow it.
       Charlie finished his pie and was wiping the crumbs off his moustache.  I plopped the last piece of mine in my mouth and mumbled, “I’m goin’ to find us some coffee.”  I got up and ambled up toward the more refined cars.  I glanced where the stove used to be; where they used to keep a pot of coffee going.  If they wouldn’t allow me a couple of cups from the fancy cars I’d go back to the caboose.  The brakemen would surely share.
       They were generous up front and gave me two cups filled with hot coffee and I didn’t have to pay.  I took a big gulp and it burned all the way down to my stomach, then with the rocking of the train, I spilt half of Charlie’s on my hand.  There were plenty of sneers and hard looks and pleading eyes given to me as I walked through the car holding two cups of coffee.  Folks must have thought we were someone special.
       I handed him the cup, now only half full and received a questioning look until he saw that my hand was somewhat red and wet with coffee, then he laughed.  “At least yuh saved me two swallows,” he snorted, then drank it,  swirling the last in his mouth to clean the crumbs out.
       After finishing his coffee he held the cup in both hands, looking at the dregs, “Marta wants me to quit.”
       “Why?” I asked, knowing what was probably the reason.
       He shrugged with one shoulder, “Too dangerous and that I was gone too much.”
       “Lucas?”
       Shrugging again, “Maybe some, he’s just added to her list of complaints.”
       “If you quit, what’ll you do?” I inquired.  
       “Vexler is always needing help down at the livery.  Maybe he could teach me to blacksmith.  Or I could work for Bert Crenshaw,” he said looking up at me.  “I always wanted to be a good carpenter.”
       Putting my cup on the floor, I then pulled at my moustache pondering what Charlie had told me.  “Charlie, you’re a lawman, and a good one,” I paused for several seconds.  “Durango, the west, we need good men to uphold justice.  Men to counter the lawless and low-lifes out there.”
       Then he pulled the final straw.  “Marta’s also going to have a baby.”
       My eyes widened, then I started nodding my head in understanding.  “What are you goin’ to do?”
       The shrug came again.  If it had been Lucas doing that I would have given him a little thump.  He looked over at me with a wry smile, “First, I’m going to take care of the situation in Silverton.

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Charlie went over to talk with Marta so I, being a curious fellow, picked up the telegram.  “Phillips dead — STOP — Shy wounded.  Come quickly.”  It was without a signature which I didn’t like.  Phillips was a good man.  I decided right then that I was going with the Sheriff.
       I read the telegram once more then happened to see out the window Mateo riding down the street.  He had been in Telluride investigating some claim jumpers for a couple of weeks now.  I rushed out before he could get out of hearing as I knew he always went to see Luciana and the boys before he did anything else when he arrived in town.  After I hollered I waved to get his attention.  He reined his horse over to where I was standing.
       “Get down and come in.  Charlie will need to talk with you,” I stated, waiting for him to dismount.
       There was a puzzled look on his face as he approached me still with a slight limp.  “I need to let Charlie tell you about it,” I said, opening the door for us to enter.
       Charlie, Marta, and Molly were all over by the table.  Charlie had just picked up his hat when I blurted out, “Look who just arrived.”
       A smile appeared on Charlie’s face as we approached the table.  Quickly Molly went to the counter to get a cup so Mateo could have some coffee.  I went to where I normally sat picking my hat from the hook on the counter and grabbing the Greener.  Molly made eye contact with me then turned to head for the kitchen.
       “I’m sure glad you’re back,” declared Charlie.  “Phillips was just killed earlier today up in Silverton, the deputy wounded so I’ve got to hot-foot it up there.”
       Mateo graciously accepted the coffee and after taking a sip at the hot brew.  He licked his lips briefly then asked, “You want me to go up there?”
       Charlie shook his head.  “No, you’ve been out of town for quite a spell.  If I sent you up to Silverton now I’d never hear the end of it from your Missus.  You go see her and then take care of the town.  Miles will…”
       “No, Miles won’t,” I stated.  “I’m goin’ with you Charlie.  I knew both those men and you might need some help.”
       He didn’t argue.  I’m glad Mateo was back or Charlie would have put up a fuss at me going and rightly so.  Molly was back with a sack full of food.  I looked down at Lucas who had been sitting there listening.  I was impressed, he showed some maturity not to butt in on the conversation.
       “Lucas, here, can fill you in on what’s been happenin’ since you’ve been out of town,” I informed him, then thought of something.  “Lucas, run up to the depot and find out when the next train leaves.  If one’s on the track hold it up until Charlie and I get there.
       He promptly took off and I saw the look of surprise on Mateo’s face.  “The kid, he’s wearing a badge,” he queried.  “I guess I did miss out on a few things.”  He looked at the door, then remembered the cup in his hand.  After taking a long guzzle and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand he placed the cup on the table.  “He’s not taking my job, is he?”
       That brought a chuckle from both of us.  “I’ll just let Lucas tell you.  He’ll enjoy it.”
       I reached to clasp onto Molly, drawing her to me for an embrace.  “I need to go get my jacket.  If Lucas comes back, tell him where I’m at.  After leaving the house I’ll head on toward the station.”
       “Be careful, Miles,” she softly said.
       “Always.”  Which brought a snorting sound from my dear wife.
       Thirty minutes later I met Charlie; we were fortunate that we wouldn’t have to wait long as the train was pulling out in another thirty minutes.  He seemed sort of down, and me being the kind of person I am asked him straight out what was wrong.
       “I just can’t seem to keep it all together.  There are too many camps, too many crimes, I can’t get to them all.  Mateo is a great help, but even with his help…” he sighed and I waited.  “I was hoping to finally have a good marshal up in Silverton.”
       It was too big an area for a sheriff and one deputy.  There were probably close to a hundred mining camps, maybe more in the region, plust the fact that Durango currently didn’t have a marshal.  The town fathers squabbled too much to agree.   I watched him as we boarded and sat down.  There was room for us to each have a seat to ourselves which was nice.  I’d wait awhile to open the lunch that Molly packed.
       Charlie didn’t say anything, he was lost in thought.  I didn’t think it my place to ask; I knew he’d tell me when the right time came.  I leaned back to shut my eyes for a few minutes as the train chugged up the mountain.  It was normally about a four hour trip, that is, without any problems.
       I had just gotten comfortable and was dozing off when Charlie remarked, “Marta…”