The Saga of Miles Forrest

Lucas, what are you doing in here looking so glum? questioned Doc as Lucas came over to the tables.
        He gave a wry smile, then said, “Those idiots.  They’re always complaining about something, or else they’re moaning and groaning ’bout how life ain’t fair to them.  Senor Doc, I tell them, that life didn’t put them in jail, it was their foolish ways.”
        That brought a chuckle from both of us.  “I’m here to get their food,” he paused, “so they can complain again about Tia Emelda’s fine cooking.”
       “Sit down,” I suggested.  “Molly just went to the kitchen and will be back shortly.”
       “Lucas, I have one thing to say to you,” interjected Doc.  “You’ll find some people are that way–just plain contrary about life in general.  They don’t realize that the good Lord wants us to enjoy life, but to do that we must follow His rules.”
       “Si, Senor Doc, I know, but, but it gets so frustrating at times.”
       I slapped him on the shoulder.  “Don’t we all know that.  Want some coffee while you’re  waitin’?”
       “That would be nice, si.”
       Standing I went to the counter to grab a cup then over to the stove where the coffeepot was warming.  Doc and I had drunk about half of it so I poured Lucas a cup then brought the pot to refill ours.  While I was doing that Molly came out of the kitchen with a piece of pie.
       My gaze followed her and the pie as she sat it down in front of Lucas.  It was chocolate.  “I thought I heard you out here and thought you might like a piece of pie while you’re waiting for the food.  Emelda is dishing up enchiladas.”
       Lucas was licking his lips in anticipation of the first bite, but he remembered his manners.  “Gracias, Senora Molly,” he said with a smile then plunged his fork into the pie.
       “Enchiladas!” exclaimed Doc.  “I might just have to stick around for a plate of those.”
       I sipped on my coffee watching Lucas devour that pie.  It didn’t take him long and for a few seconds I thought he might lick the plate.  Molly was sitting there with a big grin on her face watching Lucas enjoy the pie.  Then she looked at Doc then to me, “I think he likes it.”
       “Well for a minute I was wonderin’,” I remarked with heavy sarcasm, then looked at Doc.  “Were you offered a piece of pie?”  He shook his head.  “Neither was I.  Hmpf, favorites.”
       Molly laughed, then got back up to go get the food for the outlaws.  In a few minutes she walked out with a tray covered with a red checkered cloth.  I looked at her then toward the tray.  “Ain’t no pie under that cloth is there?”
       She chuckled, “Might be.
       “Don’t let Lucas know.  He’ll have it et before he gets back to the jail,” I warned her.
       Lucas was looking from face to face with a big smile on his face.  He shoved his chair back still smiling and picked up the tray of food.  “I must go do my sworn duty.”
       “Wait just a minute,” urged Doc.  “I’ll go with you.  I need to check on their wounds.”  He slurped down his remaining coffee, then grabbed his coat pulling it on.  Looking at Molly, “Edith and I plan on eating supper here tonight,” he said then winked at her.
       “There goes a good boy,” said Molly as Lucas and Doc walked out the diner.
       “Boy!  He’s turnin’ into quite the man,” I stated.  “Charlie and Marta are doin’ a fine job in raisin’ him.”
       Molly smiled then put her hand on my arm.  “Marta has lightened up quite a bit.  I know that she and Charlie have been talking.  I was worried a few weeks back.”
       I nodded my head in agreement.  Then I gave Molly one of my best smiles.  “All right, you win,” she muttered in resignation.  “I’ll get you a piece of pie.”
       Customers were starting to come in as I was slowly working on my pie.  I wasn’t like Lucas to thrust it all in my mouth at one time, but I savored each bite.  Molly and Marta were both waiting on customers.  It was a place of contentment.  People coming in, smiling and nodding to one another, feeling comfort in the little diner.  It was a nice, relaxing place to eat.
       The cup was at the edge of my mouth so I could wash down the last piece of pie when I heard the shot.  In fact, everyone in the diner heard the shot…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

You look to be deep in thought, Miles,” came the voice of Doc Jones as he pulled out a chair to sit with me.
       I looked over at him, ready to get up for coffee when Molly came around with a cup for him and refilled mine then she sat down with us.  “Ah, you know me Doc.  Just ponderin’ last year and wonderin’ about what’s ahead.  Not worried mind you, just thinkin’.”
       Molly gave a little laugh, “No, he lets me do all the worrying.”  Doc chuckled along with her.
       “Well, you and Charlie did well with that last gang.  Three dead, two wounded, and you brought the bank’s money back.  That’s what I call good work,” uttered Doc after taking a sip of the hot coffee.  “If you hadn’t pulled that piece of steel from the one man, he’d be dead by now.  As it is he’s fighting infection now, hopefully he’ll pull through.”
       I was shaking my head.  “With the gatherin’ for Thanksgivin’ they thought they pulled the perfect holdup.  Fortunately much of the townspeople were here and none were hurt,” I said then smiled.  “They didn’t know much to do with dynamite.  It’s a wonder they didn’t blow the whole buildin’ down.”
       Doc grunted before replying.  “We found pieces of the safe throughout the lobby, in the wall, in the ceiling, in the counter.  They were lucky that only one of them was hit by the flying debris.  By the way, when is the trial?”
       “Judge Klaser is out of town visiting relatives, isn’t he?” asked Molly.
       “Yeah, it won’t happen until he gets back and I’m not sure when that is supposed to be.  Charlie complains about them takin’ up cell space and eatin’ on the county’s expense and Lucas isn’t too keen on being their babysitter,” I responded smiling.  
       “The one I worked on was Rich Samuels.  He didn’t say much, pretty somber as I sewed him up.”
       “From what they told me, they were part of the Cloyd Martin gang.  Biff, his younger brother, is the other one down at the jail.  He’s the one I shot in the hand forcing him to drop one of the satchels of money.  The other two men were Les Fuller and James Polque.  I have a poster on Polque for murder in Louisiana and Texas.”
       “One thing for sure,” Doc stated, rubbing his chin then wiping his mouth with his fingers.  “That Biff fellow won’t have much use for that hand anymore.  The bullet hit dead center and splintered most of the bones in the hand.”
       Molly had been listening as she sipped her coffee.  “Shame, that folks go bad that way.  I don’t really understand why.”
       “Men’s hearts are bent on evil,” I replied.  “Unless they find Christ, there is no hope for them.  Now, I’m not sayin’ that they’re aren’t good folks who don’t serve the Lord, I’ve known several, but they still need a heart change.”
       Doc grunted while Molly swirled the last little coffee remaining in her cup around.  She reached over to pat my arm.  “At least you made it back before Christmas.”  
       Christmas had been good.  The last couple of years Molly and Marta along with Emelda helping cook made handpies and little burritos then went through the poorer areas of town, the barrio, and to the jobless miners to hand them out on Christmas morning.  Then Doc and Edith, the Golds, and the Ramirez family joined us for dinner at the diner.  This year Rev. Chapman and his wife Betty joined us.  I enjoy the time, even though I’m a person who normally likes to be alone.  Days like Christmas make me a little melancholy and I contemplate like I was doing before Doc came in.
       “So when’s the trip?” questioned Doc.
       I gave him a puzzled look.  “Trip?”
       Molly laughed, “He’s forgotten already.”
       Doc scowled at me, “You promised Alejo and Enrique that you’d take them hunting.  So, I’m asking when are you going?”
       I had forgotten about it.  I twisted the end of my moustache then blurted.  “Next week if the weather holds.”
       Doc and Molly looked at each other then both started laughing.  I thought about what I had said and didn’t see much humor in it.  
       Molly then got up to check the coffeepot on the stove behind me.  “I need to see how much coffee there is in the big pot in the kitchen and make some more for this one.  The noon rush will be starting.  I told Marta to take off to spend some time with Charlie and not to come in until 11:00.”
       She had just walked with the coffeepot back to the kitchen when through the entrance walked Lucas…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Marta, what is wrong with you?” snapped Molly.
       “I don’t have to listen to this!” she snarled getting to her feet.
       Molly grasped her shoulders pushing Marta back into the chair.  “You are going to hear me out!  You may not listen but you are going to hear what I have to say.”
       Marta looked up at Molly glaring then her eyes went to that table.  
       When Molly realized that Marta was not going to jump up and leave she released her from her grasp then sat down in the chair beside her.  “Now I don’t know what’s going on but you are acting silly.  No, more than that outright foolish and hateful,” declared Molly.  “Don’t you remember saying, ‘for better or worse?'”
       Slowly she turned to face Molly.  “What about him?  Doesn’t he have to keep his part?”
       “Yes, but tell me when he hasn’t,” replied Molly.  “Go ahead, tell me.”
       “He’s never home,” she remarked.  
       “That’s nonsense and you know it, especially now that he has Mateo helping him.”
       Tears were forming in Marta’s eyes.  “The baby…I’m afraid, and, and I worry about Charlie.”  With that she broke down and began to sob.
       Molly pulled her close to hold her.  “Trust, Marta.  You must learn to trust in the Lord.  He surely knows that I had to learn that lesson.  It doesn’t help Charlie going out with you harping at him before he leaves.  Because he faces evil men, he must have his focus on what he is doing, not the harsh words that leave your mouth when he leaves.”
       Marta heaved a large sigh.  “You are right Molly.  I am so weak, and I know that God cares…  Help me, Molly.”
 
       All of the money taken from the bank was in camp so that was good.  Charlie would have it back in the bank before the day was out.  Now it was up to me to bring to justice the other two outlaws.  I watched Charlie leave before mounting to track down the two men.  It wouldn’t be hard, they could ride fast being bareback so I knew they would try to find a place to find saddle horses, or lay a trap for me following.  One was hurting for I saw blood on the moneybag coming from where Charlie shot him in the hand.
       I moved out, keeping Hawk to a walk.  The tracks were easy to follow with the light snow on the ground and once in a while there would be a spot of blood on the white snow.  I kept my eyes on the surrounding country looking for places where they might set up an ambush.  I would see when they went off the road, but that might be too late.
       It was cold, but not threatening snow of which I was glad.  I wanted to catch these men today and I didn’t need a heavy snow to hide their tracks.  Slowly moving up a ridge I stopped to dismount before reaching the top.  Walking over to some boulders on the side of the road I peered over at the road and land below.   There must be a stream for there was a grove of cottonwoods.  Plus the rocks were large and scattered on both sides of the road.  A perfect place for them to wait for me as they would catch me in a crossfire.  I didn’t relish that thought.   
       I checked the action on my pistol making sure the cylinder was loaded with six shells, then I checked the Greener’s loads.  Going back to Hawk, I pulled him over to a place between the boulders to keep him out of the wind, then I moved on foot toward the cottonwoods going way to the right.  If they weren’t there I just lost some time, but I reckoned it was better to be safe than to catch a bullet and be left in the frozen road.
       One thing about moving, I didn’t feel the cold get down in my bones, but with the snow it was hard to see rocks and I stumbled several times.  That wouldn’t do, for it made too much noise.  Finally, I moved into the cottonwoods from the west.  I hadn’t gone but a few yards, when I saw the horses, grazing on some grass around the stream.  There was no water flowing, what was there was frozen.  One had to be in the rocks before me, the other somewhere across the road.
       Moving slowly and quietly I left the cover of the cottonwoods, then saw movement.  A man moved his head to look around the rocks.    I came up behind him, I didn’t want to fire so I planned on getting close enough to thump him with the shotgun.  
       He turned and saw me.  It startled him and I was shaking my head.  “Don’t try it,” then lifted the Greener so those two black holes from the barrels would look him straight in the eyes.  He started to lick his lips…

The Saga of Miles Forrest

I woke the next morning to a skiff of snow covering my bedroll and frost all around.  It made me glad I wore my coat to bed last night so I was warm, but now I needed to get up and face the cold and the day.  I pulled my boots from my bedroll, something I learned many years ago as there’s few things worse than pulling on cold boots early in the morning.  It was the beginning of graylight as I reached to touch the handle of the coffeepot to find the leftover coffee from last frozen.  It must be colder than I thought.  
       Picking up some twigs and small branches I had laid by the fire I shook the snow off then got down to business of starting a fire. I blew on my fingers to warm them and was ready to put a match to the tinder when a whiff of smoke touched my nostrils.  There was someone else in these ruins.  Putting the match back in my pocket I went to rouse Charlie from his slumber.  Stooping down I touched his shoulder.
       “Charlie, Charlie, wake up,” he started to say something for my cruelty in waking him to the cold.  “Shhh, I smell woodsmoke.”
       His eyes widened then he threw on his hat, pulled on his boots then fastened his gunbelt.  I pointed in the direction of the smoke.  I couldn’t tell exactly where it came from, just the general direction.  We moved slowly trying to detect where the smoke was coming from.  Charlie stopped suddenly, then nodded his head to indicate that the camp was on the other side of a broken down adobe wall.  He was right. I could see light in the dawn.
       It could be the outlaws, or it could be a Navajo boy with a group of sheep.  We crept to the edge of the wall.  I pointed toward one way.  Charlie nodded then headed off in that direction.  I moved down the wall in the other direction and we would come to the camp and have them in a crossfire if they were indeed the outlaws.  Charlie gave me a few minutes.  I had the longer route and there were several obstacles of wood, cactus, and broken adobe to heed my progress.
       Moving around the far end of the wall, I could make out two men kneeling by a fire, two more in a bedroll.  I knew there were five in the holdup, one was missing.  We held our positions, the cold starting to work on our bones.  I was getting ready to make a move when a sound came to my left of a man walking–the fifth man.  When he approached the fire I could see it was the bum who accosted Molly in the diner.
       I moved out from behind the wall.  Charlie moved at the same time.  “Easy boys,” he said calmly.  “Put up your hands nice and easy.”  
       The men looked in his direction.  Then from the corner of my eye I saw movement from one of the men in the bedroll.  He pulled a gun, firing it at Charlie.  Now, I surely hate to shoot a man in his bed, but I cut loose at him, both of my bullets hitting him, but he had started bedlam.  Charlie fired into the three men, all three of them were shooting, and they now knew I was behind them.  
       The man who had just entered camp ran and another joined them.  One was wounded in the leg for he limped.  The man I recognized grabbed up a bag from the bank and was mounting his horse bareback.  Charlie fired, hitting him in the hand causing him to drop the satchel.  The men who limped was able to mount and the two of them rode off escaping our fire.  Fortune had it for them; it seemed that Charlie and I had picked out the same man to throw lead at.  He was riddled with bullets.  
       Checking the man in his bedroll I found him dead as well.  Charlie and I looked at each other then went to the other man in his bedroll.  His eyes were closed and he was breathing shallow, perhaps trying to make us think he was already dead.  “Go ahead, Sheriff, shoot him to make sure,” I said urging Charlie.
       He fired, the bullet hitting near the man’s head.  He yelped, opened his eyes to holler, “Don’t shoot!”  Then came another groan from him.  He was the man who somehow was wounded in the explosion.  We pulled him out of his bedroll.  He had a gash under his ear and had crusted over with dried blood, but when he examined further we saw a piece of metal protruding from his leg.
       Charlie moved to build up the fire to help us see.  It was full graylight, but we needed the extra light.  Sticking out of his leg was a piece of metal, about five inches in width, but narrow.  It had pierced his leg.
       “How in the world did you ride with that in your leg?” questioned Charlie as he knelt down by the man.
       The man didn’t say anything, just looked at Charlie.  
       I pulled my knife to split his trousers.  It was an ugly mess.  A piece of the safe had torn into his leg.  His pants were soaked in blood.  I reached down, and before I could touch the metal, he hollered, “Don’t touch it!”
       “Mister, that needs to come out,” I stated.  “Riding a horse would move that around and could cut an artery.  Might have already.”  His eyes were wide.  I realized that as long as he didn’t move he could stand the pain.  
       I looked at Charlie shaking my head.  Neither of us knew how deep the metal was in his leg.  If Doc Jones was here he might be able to give the man something and cut it out then sew him up quick.  I pulled on my moustache then rubbed down my chin as I stared at Charlie.  I had one chance.  In a flash I moved my hand to grasp the metal piece and Charlie threw himself over the man’s body.  I jerked hard, causing a tremendous howl to come from the man, but the piece of metal was in my hand.  It was a piece about 5 by 6.  
       The man had yelled, but now was breathing heavily, but with the metal removed from his leg he was already feeling some relief.  Charlie went to the fire, the water for the coffee was boiling.  He pulled off his bandanna, placing about two-thirds of it in the water then brought it to me.  It was hot, but I grabbed where it was dry and began to wash off the wound.  The man yelped again, but it soon went to moaning.  I cleaned it as good as I could, then took my own bandana and wrapped it around the wound, tying it off.    
       “What about the other two?” asked Charlie.
       I was taking the man’s bandana off to bind the wound tighter.  “Figured you could take these three back to Durango.  I’ll follow after those two.  Riding bareback they won’t get far.”
       Charlie started to protest.  “Take them home, see Marta.”
       He gave a grim smile, then nodded his head.
       “Better get that arm cleaned up before you see her,” I told him.  He had not realized that a bullet had grazed his left arm.  In all of the shooting, we were fortunate that that was the only wound.  Within the hour Charlie was headed with two dead men and one severely wounded toward home and I was on the trail of the other two fugitives.
 
       “Sit down Marta, we need to talk!” ordered Molly.  The evening rush was over and Emelda had left for the day.  It was only Molly and Marta in the empty diner.  
       Marta made some smart remark in Spanish, she snapped, “I have nothing I wish to talk about!”
       Molly seized her arm forcing her to plunk down in a chair.  “Maybe you don’t, but I do!”