The Saga of Miles Forrest

Ha,” came the laugh from the man wearing black.  “I had heard that my friend was dead and came to check on his grieving widow.”  His smile vanished at he looked across the room at the other man, then he turned his attention back to me.  “I figured I could bring life back into her life.”
    “Before I arrest you, I would like to know who is John and who is James,” I said simply. 
    “Ha,” came the laugh again.  “I am most certainly James,” he pointed at the other man, “the dull one is John.  Seems his aim wasn’t so good.  But arresting me, for what?”
    I just shook my head, wondering if he liked to hear himself talk.  “Let’s start with bank robbery, abduction of three women, using women as hostages, train robbery, and accessory to murder.  Add the attempted murder of a federal officer to the list.  My mercy, Lamb, you’ve got quite the resume.  Now, pick up the cup!”
    Instead of moving toward the cup, he took a couple of steps to his left widening the gap between him and his brother.  I had to bring this to a close quickly.  There was something about James Lamb that told me that he was a dangerous man.  They were far enough apart to make it very difficult for me to shoot both of them if it came to gunplay and they way he was acting I didn’t doubt for a minute that it would.
    “Don’t move another step,” I ordered.  There was the smile and he took another step, then another, testing me to my limits.
    “Stop!”
    A shot rang out from behind me.  From the corner of my eye I saw John double over.  James went for his gun, but he must have been distracted seeing his brother fall.  My bullet hit him in the elbow.  It must have broken the bone for he immediately dropped his gun.  I glanced quickly at John before looking behind me.  Lucas was there, holding a rifle.
    He had tears in his eyes.  “Senor Miles, are you goin’ arrest me?”
    I was watching James as I went over to Lucas.  Taking the rifle from his hand, I put my hand on his shoulder, “No, son, you’re not going to jail.”
    “That man was going to take Marta.  I wasn’t going to let him!” he said almost in a sob.
    It was then I noticed that James was bending down, trying to pick his gun from the floor.  I moved toward him, “Not the gun, pick up the cup.”
    Fortunately for me, he could not hurt me with his eyes because I could see the daggers being flung at me.  “The cup,” I said again.
    “I’m bleeding,” he snapped.  “Send for the doctor.  My brother’s dying!”
    “The wages of sin are brutal,” I replied.  “Pick up the cup and I’ll check on your brother.”
    He went to his knees and started to the cup, his right arm dangling.  He grabbed the cup with his left hand then looked at me.  “I can’t get up.  You’ll have to help me.”
    I reached down with my left arm to help pull him to his feet.  He swung the hand holding the cup at me; I was half suspecting he would try something.  My pistol was still in my hand and I slashed at his hand making contact with his wrist then I thumped him alongside the head and he felt to a heap on the floor.
    Looking up I saw Doc Jones coming through the door with Marta right behind him.  He looked at me and shook his head.
    “Better check that one first,” I suggested point at John.  “He took a bullet.”
    Doc looked him over, Lamb had passed out.  “I need to get him to my office to get the bullet out.  He’s losing blood, and I can’t really tell how bad he’s hurt.”
    A crowd had built up outside so I went out and grabbed a couple spectators to carry John Lamb over to the doctor’s office.  
    “Go ahead,” ordered the doctor, “I’ll be over just as soon as I check this other man.”
    The arm of James Lamb was bleeding with the bone sticking out, but the artery wasn’t hit.  “My, my,” Doc uttered.  “I’m not sure that I can do anything about this arm.  It might have to come off.”
    I motioned for a couple more men to help with James.  “Good thing he is unconscious, carrying him will hurt like the devil,” remarked Doc.
    “I’ll be over in a few minutes.  I need to check on Lucas.”
    “Lucas?” inquired Doc.
    My lips tightened as I told him, “Lucas is the one who shot John.”
    Doc stood by the door shaking his head as I told him, then walked over to his office.
    I went over to Lucas…
———————-
P.S.  The Saga will not appear next week as we’re traveling back to Texas.  Look for Miles on October 29 in another exciting episode.  The book, Return From Tincup, is about Miles Forrest when he was foreman of the Standing P outside Gunnison, Colorado, and is at the publisher.  Be looking for it!

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Marta informed me that Molly went down to the butchers.  The customers at breakfast had eaten most of the sausage and Molly liked to keep sausage ready to fry.
    “Keep me informed about Mr. Creeps,” I said with a laugh then went over to the stove to replenish my cup of coffee.  I had just gone back to my chair in the corner when Molly came in.
    “Elena, here is five pounds of sausage.  Go ahead an use half of it in whatever way you need.  Mister Vandemeer said that he will butcher up half a beef and have it brought down.  Have you seen Lucas?”  She was saying all of these, taking off her wrap and putting on an apron, and I just sat there and smiled.
    Then she turned towards me, “And you, how long will you be there, getting in our way?” she snapped.
    “I didn’t know I was in anyone’s way,” I replied.  I stood up and started for the backdoor.
    “Where are you going?” Molly barked.  “If you think we’re in danger, don’t you dare leave!”
    I stopped to look at her.  She avoided my glance then Marta came in giving an order.  Marta looked at me, “Senor Creeps told me that he’d see me tomorrow.”
    Molly turned toward her.  “Who?” she asked sharply which seemed to stun Marta.
    “The man out there, sitting in the corner by the window.”
    Molly rushed to look out from the kitchen.  The man was walking out the door with his back to her.  She turned to us, “Miles, there’s something familiar about that man.”
    I went to her, she started to turn away when I grabbed her shoulder and brought her to me.  Wrapping my arms around her, she finally sighed.  “After this is over I’ll go huntin’ to get some fresh meat for the diner.”
    “How long do you intend to stay here?” she questioned.
    “Two, maybe three days.  I just feel that I need to be here,” I replied then released her.
    The day passed by slowly.  Sitting back in the little alcove was not my way of having fun.  All I did was doze, and ponder, and pray.  Now, pondering ain’t bad; it just depends on what you’re pondering on.  Praying is always good, but I don’t know about the frequent naps.

    I was awake the next morning when Elena and Marta came to open up.  Marta went around the diner lighting the lamps while Elena began firing up the ovens and stoves.  She was good at keeping a constant temperature; to me that is somewhat of an art.  Too hot and the biscuits burn, to cold and they don’t cook properly.  There were two large stoves in the kitchen.
    Molly came in about twenty minutes later and she went to work making pies.  I hadn’t realized how much work was involved in the morning to open up.  Marta said that Lucas would be by to cut some firewood for the box.  I would have done it, but didn’t want anyone to see me.
    Marta was out in the diner with her usual smile and greeting to the first customers that came in.  The morning was usually fairly busy and the diner filled up.  Molly and Marta were hustling around waiting on customers, and Elena was doing a dance between the stoves in the kitchen.  I could see that they needed to hire someone to clean the pots and skillets, as Elena had to do that before she could prepare another meal.
    About 9:30, the last customer left from the morning rush.  Molly started to get a cup of coffee to sit with me.  I shook my head.  She realized that would be breaking habit, so she and Marta went out to sit at the table to rest and sip coffee.
    It wasn’t long when I heard the front door open.  A few minutes later Marta came in the kitchen.  She came by me on her way to get coffee for the customer.  “It’s Senor Creeps,” she whispered.
    She was on her way back to the front when I heard the door open again.  I heard some muttering out front, but I couldn’t make out what was being said.  Molly came in the kitchen.  “Two men, one dressed in black, but not sitting together.  I know I’ve seen them before.”
    I went to the edge of the kitchen so I could listen.  “Thanks for the coffee, darling,” I heard the man comment.  “Where’s that marshal, the one who brought me coffee last time?”
    “He’s been gone a few days,” Molly replied.
    “I sure hope he didn’t have an accident,” laughed the man sitting at the other table.
    There was a small laugh from the other man.  “Come here, sweetheart,” he ordered.  “I know you recognize me even with the beard.  You’ll get used to it.”
    I was hoping Molly moved back toward the stove.
    There came a shout, then I heard the cup crash to the floor.  It was time to play this out.  Entering the diner I said, “Pick up the cup!”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

The bullet whizzed by close enough for me to hear it, then instantly behind it I heard the shot.  Making as if the bullet struck me I fell off to my left.  The black-jack oak did more damage to me than the bullet as I fell headlong into it.  The branches scratched at my face and arms, but on the brighter side it softened my fall to the ground.  I only hit with a slight thud.  Quickly I removed my pistol and laid there, waiting.  Star had moved away down toward the river.
    If the man was smart, he would move slowly up on me then when he could spot me, fire again to finish me off.  I was hoping that he might walk right up to me, that would at least give me a chance.  I waited, staying still for several minutes when I finally heard the sound of a horse.  Was it the bushwacker riding away or was it someone else coming up the road?
    Taking a chance I crawled around the brush away from where the shot came from.  Then I slowly moved down toward where Star was feeding on some grass.  I led him on down to the river to drink while I thought over the situation.  I was inclined to continue following my assailant, but a voice inside kept whispering, “Go back to Molly.”  
    I took off my bandana and dipped it in the cold water of the Animas River.  Wiping my face the water slightly burned where the branches had tore at my face, but then the coolness began to soothe them.  Looking at the bandana I noticed a little blood, so I dipped it in the river again, this time holding the cloth tightly against my skin.
    “Molly,” came the thought again.
    Wringing out my bandana I tied it around my neck, then mounted Star.  Slowly I walked Star out of the brush to the road where I gave him a good kick to start him running back toward Durango.  He liked to run and within minutes the town was in sight.  Instead of going on down into town I went to the cabin and put Star in his stall.  After taking the tack off I rubbed him down quickly telling him that I’d send Lucas up to do a better job.
    Instead of going to the front of the diner, I went up the alley to the back door.  Molly just happened to be in the kitchen, her hands dipped in flour as she was making pie crusts.  I startled her slightly by coming in the back, but when she saw my face her floured hand flew to her face.  “What happened to you?”
    I started to laugh, I couldn’t help myself.  When she brought her hands down her face was white with flour, fingers extending up the side of her face.  She gave me a bewildered look, then stared at her hands.  “Ohhh, you,” she muttered reaching for the bottom of her apron to bring it up to wipe her face.  The problem was that the apron was damp and she just smeared the flour on her face.
    She looked at me, and must have thought I was a mirror for she ran over to the sink, found a cloth laying there and began to pump water.  After getting it wet enough she wiped the flour off her face, then turned to face me, hand on her hips.  “Now, would you tell me what happened?”
    “Some branches ran into me,” I replied.
    “Miles, be serious.”
    “I was shot at and fell off my horse, just so happened a shrub oak was in the way,” I told her as I felt one of the scratches.  “I just felt that I should head back to you and the diner.”
    “Well, go on to your table and get a cup of coffee,” she ordered.
    I went to her and put my hands on her shoulders.  “I need to stay in the kitchen, hidden out of the way until this thing plays out.  I’ll just go sit out of your way,” I replied and received a nod from her.  “Molly, don’t let anyone but Marta and Elena know, not even Charlie.  If you see Lucas, tell him to go take care of the horses, but in a way that he don’t know where I’m at.”
    Coffee, it was time for a cup.  I went to the big pot on the stove and poured a cup, then walked to a chair in a little corner where Molly and I had lived for a while.
    I must have fallen asleep for I felt someone shaking me telling me to wake up.  “Senor Miles, wake up.  There is someone out there I think I have seen before.  He looks different, but his eyes are the same,” Marta said quietly.  “He gives me, what you say, the creeps.”
    That made me chuckle a little.  “Let me know if he causes any problems.  Where is Molly?”

The Saga of Miles Forrest

After barging out the door I saw a body laying out in the street at the intersection.  There were a couple of men standing over it, and others were beginning to congregate.  I rushed down, wanting to get there before too many people showed up interfering with evidence there might be.
    I slowed down just before I reached the body and saw that the two men stooped down were the two that just left Foster’s store.  Quickly I pulled my pistol.  “All right, gents, slow and easy stand and keep your hands away from your guns.”
    They glanced at me in surprise, but they complied.  One of them, the one who wanted the cigars stated, “This wasn’t our doing!”
    Walking up to him, I put the barrel of my pistol just below his ear.  “Easy now, hand me your pistol.”
    He was trembling as he slowly reached and then handed me his gun.  I stepped back a couple of paces then checked the pistol over.  It hadn’t been fired.  Thrusting it in my waistband, I went to the man called “Red.”  He glared at me as if daring me to take his gun from him.
    “We can do this the easy way or I can lay you out in the street,” I warned him.  “Easy, does it.”
    Still glaring he complied.  His gun hadn’t been fired yet.  I still did not trust him, so I emptied the bullets out of his gun and handed it back, then did the same with the other gun.
    I looked at the first man.  “Did you see what happened?”
    Shaking his head, he answered.  “No, we had just turned down the street toward the seegar shop when we heard the shots.  When we turned this man was lyin’ in the street.”
    The crowd gathered closer.  Dead bodies might repulse people, but most often their curiosity takes over and they at least want a peek at the blood and gore.
    Foster and Darnelle, by that time, had walked up.  Darnelle whispered, “That looks like Mr. Winfield,” then grabbed hold of her uncle.  “She looked at me, “Why would anyone want to kill him?”
    I started to answer, when Red, asked, “Can we go now?”
    Nodding, they left and I turned back to Darnelle.  “Do you know his first name and anything else about him?”
    By this time, she had gained control of herself and released Wilson.  “I think it was Bert,” she paused lifting a hand to her mouth.  “He came in perhaps once a month.  He had a small ranch to the south, just over the ridge.”
    “Wilson, do you recognize him?” I questioned.
    “I don’t know him by name; Darnelle deals with most of the customers, but I do remember seeing him in the store.”
    Looking around, my eyes sought out two men.  “You two, carry him on down to Parkers.”  They grabbed him by the shoulders to drag him off.  “Don’t you be going through his pockets!  Tell Parker I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
    “Why, Miles?” Darnelle spoke again.  “Why would God allow this to happen?  I know he has a wife and some children.”
    Turning toward her, I took her by the arm to lead her from the scene.  “I don’t rightly know,” I replied.  “This is not of His doin’, but man has chosen to run with the devil and things like this are the results of that choice.  Why God allowed this to happen to Mr. Winfield, I don’t have an answer, but bad things happen to God-fearin’, good people.”
    I handed her over to Wilson and they started back to the store.  Since the body had been drug off the crowd was moving away going about whatever business they had before the shooting.  I started toward Parker’s place when stumbling across the street staggered Skinny Green.
    “Marshal Forrest,” he slurred.  “I saw it happen.”
    “Skinny, it’s still early and you’re already drunk!”
    He belched and gave a small smile.  “But I did see it.  A man from up the street shot him, then got on his horse and tore off to the north.”  He stumbled and fell against me.  “Honest, Marshal.”
    The word of a drunk, but he might have seen something.  Hurrying off I went to Star who I had saddled and had outside the diner.  Molly was standing outside the doorway.  I waved at her, “I’ll be back.”
    It was impossible to find a set of tracks as this road was well-traveled with horses and wagons.  I rode hard for close to thirty minutes.  I was hoping I might have caught up with the man, if there was one.  Slowing  Star to a trot, I looked at the hills to my left, when I heard a shot.  I was falling off…