She didn’t allow him to finish until she corrected him. “Excuse me, I’m Mrs. Forrest to you.”
McCall smirked. “Fine, Mrs. Forrest you didn’t go home last night.”
She felt more comfortable since knowing that she remembered her pistol. Before going to Marta’s house she stopped by her cabin to pick up some clothes and her .32 Smith and Wesson double action that Miles had purchased for her as a Christmas present. It fit in the pocket of her work dresses well because it was small and was hammerless.
“How do you know I didn’t go home?” she asked.
He swallowed deeply, McCall didn’t like to be put on the defensive. “I came by to check on you.”
Molly gave a little laugh. “To check on my or to snoop? It’s mighty dangerous to be peeking through someone’s window. Good way to get shot. Now, if you don’t mind I have work to do.”
“One more minute of your time, Mrs. Forrest,” he snapped his voice filled with bitterness. “I went through the wanted posters and didn’t see one that fit the description of the man yesterday.”
The front door opened, Molly glanced toward it. “Sheriff Gold,” she gushed. “Excuse me marshal, Charlie, have a seat, I need to talk with you.”
* * * *
I had been able to stop the bleeding in Jens’ leg. He had pulled a couple of stitches loose, nothing serious, just sore as the dickens.
“I thought Martin was supposed to get here yesterday,” he wailed, the took some deep breaths. “So the croaker was beat pretty badly?”
Nodding, I responded, “But it was more than that. They threatened to break or cut up his fingers. That would stop his doctorin’ days,” pausing for a moment I pulled at my moustache. “Think it was Abrams?”
“I know it was Abrams!” he barked, “but I can’t prove it. So no one recognized the man? Someone just wandered by and happened to start shooting through the hotel window, which also just happened to be my room. Bah!”
“The senorita over at the cantina might tell me somethin’. The owner, Ramon, he’d like to, but he’s scared out of his wits.”
I got up to leave. “Hold on, Miles. Help me out of this bed.”
“No, you stay there! The bleedin’ has stopped and I’ve got you patched up again,” I answered him in no uncertain terms.
“Just out to the chair in the lobby.”
Between his hobbling and my half carrying him he made it to the chair without opening up the wound again.
“Hand me my rifle,” he ordered.
After giving him the rifle I turned to leave and head to the cantina.
“Hold on,” came another order. “You mentioned someone called the Pale Rider. That he was stalking me. Tell me more.”
“The Pale Rider–Death, is seen in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.”
Putting up his hand, he broke into my explanation. “I know the Bible, I’ve heard enough fire and brimstone preachers in my time.”
“Fine, for some reason the Lord has allowed me to…
Reaching to touch the pistol she normally carried in the pocket of her dress, she was alarmed when she found it wasn’t there. It was her custom, when Miles was out of town to carry it with her.
The man stood for a moment after tipping his hat then started for the door. As he was passing through he bumped into the new city marshal, John McCall. “Uh, excuse me, marshal,” muttered the man as went out.
McCall stood watching the man for a few moments then walked over to where Molly was sitting.
“Know him?” he questioned.
Molly was quiet, looking at the door. After several seconds she turned her gaze to the marshal. “No, not really, but there is something vaguely familiar about him.”
“He giving you trouble?”
“No, not at all. He’s been in the past four days, but today was the first time he paid any attention to me,” she responded.
McCall pulled out a chair to situate himself at the table. “Now, I find that hard to believe.”
Standing up, Molly asked. “Is there anything you’d like to have? I’ll send Marta over with a cup of coffee, I have to get back to the kitchen.”
With that she left and passed Marta. “Get him a cup of coffee with you? Is Charlie back in town?”
There was concern on Marta’s face when she looked at Molly. “Hopefully tonight. Are you all right?”
With a grim look and tightened lips, Molly nodded then headed for the kitchen.
* * * *
I didn’t bother to go get Abrams, I headed straight for the doctor’s office. There was blood on Jen’s pants. I figured some of the stitches tore loose. Knocking on the door, there was no answer, then I tried turning the knob–locked. Banging some more, I thought I heard stirring inside. Oh well, I stepped back and then kicked the door open.
The office was a mess. Bottles of medicine strewn around the room, table kicked over and under it I saw the form of the doctor. He had been thoroughly worked over. There was a gash over his right eye and on down the side of his face. It had already congealed so this must have happened last night.
Picking him up by the shoulders I carried him to the next room where I found a bed and laid him in it. He was breathing easily so I didn’t think anything was life-threatening but he was sure banged up. I found a clean towel, wetting it at the basin, I began to softly wipe his face. As I touched the gash on his cheek he winced. I figured that was good.
I could see his eye-lids flicker trying to open. “Thirsty,” came a moan.
Going back out to the office, I spotted a glass that wasn’t broken laying on the floor. I smelled it making sure it hadn’t been used for medicine and then filled it with water.
Lifting the doctor up some, I put the glass to his lips. He swallowed a sip, then another. Then he opened his eyes.
“Two men jumped me when I came in last night,” he said as he tried to move, gasped and grabbed his right side. “Must have broke some ribs.”
“Do you know who they were?” I inquired.
His eyes just stared at the ceiling, almost as if he were comatose. “Doc, I’m a U.S. Marshal, so is my friend. We can help you.”
He lifted his hands to me. I hadn’t noticed before as I was concerned about his gash. There was a cut across the knuckles of each hand. Not deep, but enough so that blood had trickled from it.
Finally, he looked at me. “They told me that they would break my fingers, maybe rip a couple off, if…”
Rushing out of the telegraph office and stepping on the boardwalk I saw a man run across the street into the cantina. Shortly afterward, Jens stepped out of the hotel and leaned against a post. I moved on up to him noticing that blood was beginning to show on the front of his pants. Subconsciously, he rubbed the front of his leg then brought his hand to look at the blood.
I could see that he was in pain as he held tightly to the column. Pointing with his gun toward the cantina, he hollered as I approached. “Miles, the cantina. Careful, he’s wounded.”
I started moving slowly across the street. “Find the doctor, and bring him back with you.”
Leaning against the wall outside the cantina, I took a deep sigh, breathed a little prayer then walked through the open doors. Ramon was standing behind the bar.
“Ramon…” I began but he cut me short.
I was now rightly irritated. “You disgust me! You whine and complain about justice, and when you have the opportunity to help you cover your head like an ostrich.”
The pretty, dark-haired girl who waited on me yesterday came out from the kitchen. “Sit down, por favor,” she suggested pointing at a particular table. “I will bring some coffee, but you must be patient, it is not quite finished.” She nodded toward the table again before disappearing in the kitchen.
I took a chair, looking at the bar. “Ramon, Marshal Blasco and I are tryin’ to help you.”
He began to shake his head. “Senor, marshal, you simply do not understand our situation here.” It was then that I noticed his eyes kept darting downward.
“On the contrary. I live in Durango. We have a similar situation there, but we are learnin’ to work together.”
The senorita came out and stood off to my right. “Sorry, the coffee, it is so weak. Go ahead, take a sip and see for yourself.”
She didn’t bother to give me the cup, but nodded toward the bar. Quietly I moved out of my chair and moved to the end of the bar. Laying on the floor with a pistol in his hand was the man I was chasing. The gun was pointed at Ramon, but his hand was wavering. Looking down I could see a pool of blood gathering.
He still didn’t hear me approach, I withdrew my pistol holding it a few inches from the back of his head and cocked it. That made him jump and I slashed out with my gun across his wrist forcing him to drop his gun.
Reaching down I grabbed him by the back of his collar and pulled him up to the bar. He was weak; I realized that the bullet from Blasco’s gun must have cut an artery and he had almost bled out.
“Who?” I started to ask when he slumped forward. Dead.
I grabbed him by the collar again dragging him out to the street. When I got halfway across I dropped him and went in search of the doctor.
* * * *
He didn’t look like a miner; his clothes were too clean. There’s something about him that didn’t quite fit that of a cowboy, but he had been in here for the last four mornings, always eating at a different table. Molly was thinking about the man sitting two tables away from her while she held her coffee cup in both hands peering over it.
“Marta, have you ever seen that man before?”she asked.
Marta turned to look at the man. “Only since he has been coming in here. Why?”
“I don’t know. Something familiar about him,” Molly responded. “Hmmm, he had a beard…”
He caught her staring, he smiled, stood up, tipped his hat, then…
It was all I could do to keep Jens in bed. To get up and walk would tear open the stitches. He finally compromised and agreed to stay in bed for a day. After that little discussion I went to the cantina for breakfast.
After greeting Ramon, I took a seat at the table. A young senorita came with a coffeepot in hand. “Coffee, Senor?”
“Si, and something to eat,” I responded, holding up my cup for her to fill.
When she turned to leave, Ramon came over to the table. “You no want to eat at the café next to the hotel?” he asked.
“Not partial to their company,” I replied, “plus I enjoy the food here.”
That brought a smile to his face. I nodded to a chair. “Have a seat.”
“You have something on your mind?” he smiled, then added, “Of course, U.S. Marshals always have questions.”
“Since you asked, I do have a few things I’d like to ask. How does Abrams get chosen for marshal? I assume he is appointed by the mayor and city council.”
“Si, that is correct.”
I rubbed my hand down the side of my face and over my chin noticing that I needed to shave. “Aren’t there enough Mexican votes to defeat the mayor?” I asked.
That brought a laugh from him. “Senor, there are few of us who will venture to vote,” he paused before continuing. “Let’s just say retribution occurs.”
At that time the young lady brought my breakfast. It was a plateful of sausage, eggs, and potatoes all covered with a red sauce. “You like?” she inquired.
“Looks delicious! I’ll need another plate of this when I go to take to the Marshal.”
“I’ll leave you to enjoy,” stated Ramon as he got up to leave.
I had some other questions, but it seemed as if he wanted to get clear of me. I finished my breakfast in quietness with Ramon watching me from a distance. When I was about half-way through I motioned to the senorita for a plate to take with me. When I completed my meal I took two silver dollars from my pouch I keep in my vest pocket and laid them on the table. That should bring a smile to her face.
Upon entering the hotel room Jens was out of bed and sitting in the chair by the window.
“What are you doin’ out of that bed?” I demanded from him.
“Tired of lying on my back,” came his tart reply. “I see you did a little rearranging of the furniture. Expecting trouble?”
“We haven’t exactly received the welcome mat; thought we might have some visitors last night. Here, I brought you some breakfast,” I paused, then asked, “Has the doc been here yet?”
“Ahhh,” his eyes lit up. “Go check to see if a telegram has come through while I eat.” With that command, he stuck his fork in the food and lifted a bite to his mouth. “When you get back I want you to tell me more about that cackling laugh and the Pale Rider,” he mumbled, his mouth full of eggs.
“What you really need to know about is Jesus,” I began to speak.
He waved at me, “When you get back.”
Turning I left to go see Fitzer at the telegraph office. When I stepped out of the hotel I saw the marshal standing three buildings down. Ignoring him, I continued on my way.
“Mornin’,” I hollered at Fitzer. He stood up from behind the little desk and came to the counter. “Any messages for us this mornin’?”
He had a telegram in his hand; it was from Fred Martin. “Be there on Tuesday.”
Tuesday, that was today. “Did you show this to anyone?” I asked. He hesitated, “Did you?” I asked a little more forcefully. He was beginning to irk me.
“Uh, just Marshal Abrams,” he muttered.
“Why you little pipsqueak. You know you just broke federal law…I should arrest you!” I didn’t finish as shots were fired from up the street. Up near the hotel…