The Saga of Miles Forrest

We were sitting on a bench in the shade of an adobe building that was being used for a general store.  I chose this spot so I could keep an eye on the corner in case the thugs decided to come looking for me.  “Tell me what you know,” I urged Elfego.
       “Not much, senor.  Marshal Udall does very little that I can see,” he began.  “Those two men and others put pressure on the merchants to pay them.  They force them to buy, how you say, an insurance policy.”
       I’d seen this scam before.  Pay me to protect you and if you don’t I’ll bust your head.  I knew it was common practice among some of the gangs back in the big eastern cities.  Rackets, people preying on the less fortunate or the weaker.  “Who is runnin’ this racket?”
       “I do not know.  I’m not sure even how many men there are.  I’ve seen those two,” he said pointing from the way we came.
       “There were three of them,” I interrupted.  “One was across the street.”
       “There are others though, I know it,” he spoke excitedly.
       Putting my hand on his shoulder, I said, “You best run along.  I’ll go see if anyone will talk to me about what is happenin’ to them.”
       He shrugged my hand off his shoulder.  “I go with you!” he protested.  “They will not speak to a gringo.”
       I nodded, he might have something there.  It takes time to gain people’s trust, and I had just ridden into town.  “Let’s start here,” I urged as I stood then started for the door of the general store.
       It was dark inside, with the only light coming from the windows on the side and in the front.  There was one lamp lit over by the checkout counter.  An elderly gentleman was wiping off the glass cases with a cloth when we entered.  He was grayish, wearing a white shirt with suspenders holding up a pair of dark blue trousers.
       He stopped his wiping and straightened up as I approached him.  “Mornin’, Sir.  I’m Deputy U.S. Marshal Miles Forrest and thought you might be able to help me out.”
       I could tell he was surprised when I said he could help out a marshal.  Then he saw Elfego and gave him a smile.  “What can I help you with, Marshal?” he asked, emphasizing the “I”. 
       “On behalf of the territorial government, I’ve been asked to come check out some disturbances in Socorro.  When I arrived it came to my attention that the merchants here are bein’ strong-armed into buyin’ protection.”  His smile left him when I informed him, and he took a step back.  A look of panic crossed his face and I could see he was glancing out the window.
       “Uh, well, Marshal, that’s not true.  I don’t know what the boy told you.  You know how young lads like to imagine things,” he said with a false laugh.
       “Did I say anything about Elfego?” I questioned, stepping toward the man.  “You willingly give into thugs?”
       “It’s, it’s not like that,” he stammered.  “We, I, pay for certain services…”
       Elfego tugged on my vest, and I nodded my head that I knew.  “Mr. Green, is this man bothering you?” came the voice of the deputy.
       I turned so that I could watch the deputy and by turning my head could see the proprietor.  “No, Deputy Case.  We were just having a discussion.”
       The deputy put his hand on his gun butt.  “Mister, you best come along with me,” he commanded.
       “It’s Deputy United States Marshal Miles Forrest, in case you forgot,” I quickly reminded him, then added.  “I don’t think I’ll be goin’ anywhere with you.  I have business to attend to.”
       He snarled, then started toward his gun.  I brought the Greener down on his wrist, hearing the bone snap, then felt a tug of someone grabbing my pistol from the holster.  A shot was fired from the doorway, hitting the merchant.  He groaned as he fell.  I leveled, the Greener in that direction when I heard the sound of my gun firing.  The man fell against the frame of the door as Elfelgo fired my gun.  I pushed the deputy aside as he was moaning holding his broken arm.  Another man appeared in the doorway and began to fire.  Elfego fired again.
       I didn’t want to cut loose with the Greener as I wanted one of these men for a witness.  I could see the third man running across the street to join them.  It was against my better judgment, but I also wanted to stay alive, so…

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

After a breakfast of huevos rancheros, refried frijoles, and several tortillas along with a pot of coffee, Elfego escorted me to the marshal’s office.  I didn’t know Udall, but Elfego told me not to expect much from him.  I tried not to go in with a preconceived notion, but my first impression of him wasn’t good.  He and a deputy were at the desk playing cards.  Now, I couldn’t say for sure, but I thought he should be making the rounds of the town, checking things out.
       The deputy, a young man, probably in his mid-twenties turned toward the door when I entered.  His hand went to the butt of his gun; oh, I could see he was ready for action.  I didn’t even bother to lift the Greener.  The marshal just sat there, then looked up from the cards he was holding.  He was a man past his prime, a little on the pudgy side.  His hair was receding and what was there was streaked with grey.  By his demeanor I could tell he was passing his time just waiting for a paycheck–in other words a hireling.
       Neither greeted me nor said a polite “Howdy, good mornin’ to yuh.”  They just sat, dumbfaced.  Finally, the marshall spoke, “What’s that little snip of a kid doing hiding behind you?  Get him out of my office!”
       Now I didn’t care for his tone nor his words.  I put one hand behind me, motioning for Elfego to stay.  “The kid’s with me,” I stated, my eyes boring into his.
       His lips curled into a snarl as he stood.  “Get him out!”
       “Mister…”
       He interrupted me, “It’s marshal!”
       I ignored him and continued emphasizing, “Mister, I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re asking for a thump.”
       Now he bared his upper teeth like some mongrel dog.  The deputy swirled in his chair, “You don’t…”  I didn’t let him finish for he was on the receiving end of one of my thumps.  It didn’t put him out, but it settled him back down in his chair with him rubbing the side of his head.
       “I’m Deputy U.S. Marshal, Miles Forrest, and I just came by to let you know I’ll be in town for a spell,” I asserted.  “Go on back to your cards.  I’m goin’ to take a paseo around your little town with my friendly guide.”  I put my arm around Elfego’s shoulders drawing him up next to me.
       The marshal started to say something, but I shook my head.  “Don’t go sayin’ anything you might get a headache over.”  I nudged Elfego and we walked back out of the office.  Glancing around I noticed one of the men across the street sitting on a bench in front of a saddle shop.  Looking up the street there were the other two men I noticed earlier.
       “Senor,” said Elfego, “we have friends.”
       “I know, but I wouldn’t call them friends just yet,” I responded.  “Why does that marshal hate you so much?” I asked as we began walking up the boardwalk back toward the center of town.
       “Because I am a Mexican…” he paused.  “Because I keep better watch over the town than he does.”
       “That so?  Let’s cross the street and go greet those two, show them our friendliness,” I said leaving the boardwalk and moving at an angle toward the men.
       “Fine day,” I said, walking up to them.  It caught them by surprise.  One of them grunted, the other stammered then nodded.  I stopped, turned my head to look at them.  “I’d advise you to keep it that way.”
       “Now see here!  We’re just standing here minding our own business,”
       “Ohhhh,” he groaned.  Elfego kicked him above the knee.  He began to slope, so I sighed thinking “why not?” and threw a right hand punch catching him on the jaw.  He collapsed to the ground.  
       His friend started to grab for his gun.  “You really don’t want to do that,” I warned, bringing the shotgun to bear.  The man calmed down right quick like.  “Help your friend up, and let’s go about enjoying this day that the Lord has given us.”  I grabbed Elfego by the shoulders pushing him along.
       We walked around the corner then stopped to sit on the bench in front of a butcher shop.  “Elfego, tell me what you know…”

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Well, the kid was right.  The food was amazing.  I just hoped that I would be able to lay in my bed tonight without my stomach gurgling from all the hot spices in the food.  It wasn’t so hot that you couldn’t eat it, in fact, I don’t mind hot food as long as you can taste the food, but now, in the stillness, looking out the window I began to wonder about the jalapenos and the frijoles.  Pleasure for a moment, and now reflection.  I reckon life is a lot like that.
       I enjoyed talking with the kid; I found his name was Elfego.  For a youngster, he was very aware of what was happening around him.  He hadn’t neglected his education, and was one of the few that put the thinking to use.  I told him I wanted to see the marshal in the morning.  When I said that his lips pursed in disgust like he might have bitten into a sour jalapeno.  
       “Marshal Udall is worthless.  He allows too much to happen in this town, especially against the Mexican faction,” he informed me.  “I don’t want to talk bad, maybe he is a good man, but he is worthless as a marshal.”
       We continued eating, then he spoke up again after taking a bite of tortilla filled with peppers and beans.  “I see you are wearing a badge,” he paused, wiping his lower lip as some of the sauce came from his mouth.  “Are you here to cause us more trouble?”
       I liked the kid, he had an awareness about him.  “I’m a United States Deputy Marshal, and I hope to stop some trouble,” I said.  “I still need to make my presence known to the marshal.  Udall is his name?”
       “Si, Mort Udall.  I don’t know if he is just lazy, or if the job is too big for him,” he stopped to look at me staring for several seconds.  “There are people coming in to Socorro bringing trouble.  I don’t have any names, but a gang lords over the store owners demanding to be paid.”
       We both continued eating, no talk for a while, but then he started again.  “They beat the merchants and take what they want.  There is no protection.  In fact, before this group came we had no need of protection!”
       After finishing eating I leaned back in my chair and patted my stomach.  “You want a drink?  Tequila?  Mescal?  Or maybe a beer?”
       I didn’t know if he was feeling me out or was interested in making me feel at home.  “No, don’t touch the stuff.  I want to keep a clear mind and a clean, sober heart.”
       He stared at me for some time.  “Some of that stuff will eat the varnish off the woodwork, what do you think it’ll do to your stomach?  No, the good Lord gave us better ways to enjoy a good time, besides drinkin’.”
       “I will try to find out a name for you,” he said solemnly.  
       “Don’t go gettin’ yourself into trouble,” I warned.  “And since you brought me to this fine place for dinner, I hope you don’t mind if I pay for yours.”
       I left him there and a few minutes later was on my bed, in the hotel room, listening to my stomach gurgle.  I wondered if Stinson was behind this group who had come to town.  I also thought some of what Elfego said about Marshal Udall.  Opening my Bible to do some reading I turned to the Psalms.  David and others were always having some kind of problem and my eyes went to Psalm 143, “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.”  “Lead me,” well Lord I sure need Your guidance, I said in a little prayer.

       The next morning, Elfego was waiting for me to go to breakfast.  However, the scene had changed and I could see it in his eyes as they darted around.  There were two men sitting on a bench near the cantina, another one across the street.  They were waiting.  I smiled at Elfego and winked…

 

The Saga of Miles Forrest

Ryan turned to face Mateo.  “Just who do you think you are?” he snarled.
       Before he could answer, Frank Connors drew his gun and fired.  Mateo wasn’t expecting it from him, as his focus was on Cade Ryan.  The man was drunk, and a good thing for Mateo as he felt the bullet whiz by his face.  Drawing his pistol he returned fire hitting Connors directly in the chest, the bullet knocking him down.  Ryan turned to look at his friend lying there on the ground already dead.
       “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” hollered Ryan, his hands out in front of him away from his gun.  He started to stoop down by his friend.
       “Don’t move!” ordered Mateo.  Ryan seemed not to have heard.  Mateo fired into the ground between the two men.  “I said, don’t move.”
       Ryan, visibly shaken even though in a partial stupor, stood back up.   “With your left hand slowly remove your gun,” commanded Mateo.  “Use your thumb and finger only.”
       Despite the shape he was in, Ryan was able to complete the action.  Mateo then nodded toward the man lying on the edge of the boardwalk.  Ryan moved down to check on his partner.
       “Alejo, go fetch Doc Jones!” ordered his father.  He didn’t hesitate, but took off running, meeting the doctor about half-way down the street.
       By the time Doc got to the scene, Mateo had picked up both of the guns.  He didn’t seem to be shaken, but almost in a trance.  Before Doc even stooped down to pronounce the man dead, he went to Mateo.  “Come on, man, snap out of it!” barked Doc Jones.
       Mateo jerked, then vigorously shook his head several times.  Doc gave him an intense look, then went to the man on the street.  He felt for a pulse knowing that there would be none then looked at the man on his knees by the dead man.  “Is he dead?” questioned Ryan.
       There was a small crowd gathered around.  Doc Jones glanced up pointing at a man.  “Go get Parker!”  He stood up waiting for Ryan to get up instead the man threw himself over the body and began to weep.  “I’m sorry, Frank.  I’m sorry.”
       Enrique had moved over to stand by his brother, Alejo and Mateo walked over to them giving them both a big hug.  Reaching down, Doc Jones picked up Ryan under the shoulder helping him to his feet.  He looked around, spotting Mateo with his two boys and walked over to them.  It was then he saw the badge on Mateo’s shirt.  
       “Sheriff, can I have my gun back?”
       “You leaving town?” returned Mateo.
       Ryan gave a slight nod.  “I’ve no place to take him for burial.  Will you see that it gets done properly?  There’s some money in his vest pocket to pay for it.  His name was Frank Connors.”
       Mateo emptied the cartridges from the pistol before handing it back to Ryan.
       Ryan reached out, took the gun, and holstered it.  “Am I under arrest?”
       “Leave town,” came Mateo’s reply.
                                       
                                           * * * *
 
       I got off the train at the last stop before Socorro and rode in just a few hours before sunset.  Taking Fred over to the livery I paid for a stall and feed.  After getting him settled I took my saddlebags walking up the street looking for a place to stay.  A youngster strode out toward me.  “Senor, may I help you?”
       I said youngster, but he was up in his teens.  A good-looking kid, thin, hair combed and seemed good-natured.  “I need a place to stay, and then some good food.”
       He smiled then pointed.  “There are two hotels across the street from each other.  I would recommend the one on this side,” he said pointing.  “No bedbugs.  As for a place to eat,” his smile seemed to broaden.  “If you like Mexican, I would go to Miguel’s cantina.  His wife is a mucho good cook.”
       Flipping him a quarter I started to walk off, when he pulled at my shirt sleeve.  “Senor, I do not accept your gracious gift,” he said, handing me back the quarter.  He stared at me for several seconds and then our eyes made contact.  There was something special about this boy.  I nodded, taking the money and putting it in my vest pocket.
       I continued on up the street, and coming to the hotel I went to one he advised.  After checking in and getting my room, I came out to find him standing, leaning against the hitching rail.  “Let me introduce you to Miguel,” he said to me.  “That way he might add some extra frijoles to your meal.”
       We walked to the cantina and he took me up to Miguel.  “This is Miguel,” he said beginning his introduction.  “And you are?”
       Miguel already had his hand out to shake mine.  “Name’s Miles Forrest, and I hear you have good food.”
       “Si,” he responded, then pointed to a table.  
       Walking over to it, I sat, then pointed at the kid and ordered, “Sit, and order us something good.”
       He smiled, took a chair and said, “I will order the best of the house…