Echoes From the Campfire

My mind was stewing over Conrad as I sat drinking coffee.  He was too young to be someone I knew from Texas.  Cheyenne maybe…
    “Marshal, yuh better come quick!” hollered Slim Wilkins bursting through the door of the diner.
    I had finished my supper and was drinking coffee waiting around for Molly and Marta to finish with the last of the customers and clean up.  Emelda had already gone home for the night; if anyone came in now wanting to eat they would have to eat what was left warming on the stove.  
    Holding my cup in my hand, I looked up at Slim.  “Why?  What’s goin’ on?”
    “Nick Parsons, just shot down a stranger over in the Dug Out and yur new deputy is goin’ ta git himself kilt!”
    “Simmer down, Slim.  Mateo can handle the situation,” I said, then thought to myself.  “He better.”
    Slim looked flustered when he came in now he was flabbergasted when I didn’t jump up.  “Aren’t yuh gonna go?” he said, the wrinkles in his forehead seem to fold over one another.
    “Tell you what, Slim.  As soon as I finish my coffee, I’ll head on down to the jail to meet him.”

    There had seemed to be some sort of altercation in the Dug Out Saloon.  It was at the end of the main road out of town, not one of the more popular or better dives in the town.  It seemed that this stranger had been steadily drinking and happened to bump into Parsons.  Parsons was a pretty good worker; he’d worked some in the mines, hired out to the ranches during roundups, worked the fields during harvest, but never really settled into something steady.
    There was a mean streak in him though.  If he had a few drinks in his system, it was likely to come out.  Usually nothing comes of it, but this time he had shot a man.  Mateo had been doing his rounds and was across the street when he heard the shot.  Running to the Dug Out he slowed as he came to the door, glanced inside before entering and saw Parsons with a gun in his hand and the stranger laying on the floor.
    “Mister Parsons, put the gun down,” ordered Mateo after he entered the saloon.  “You’re under arrest.”
    Parsons dropped his arm, but continued to hold the gun.  He slowly turned his head toward Mateo’s voice.
    “You!” commanded Mateo pointing out a man, “go get Doc Jones.”  Then to another sitting at a table closest to the fallen man.  “You! Check to see if he’s alive.”
    Mateo’s attention never wavered from Parsons as he gave the instruction.  “I said to put the gun down!” he said forcefully.
    Parson’s slowly moved a step toward the bar partially facing Mateo.  “No Mex deputy tells me what to do.”
    “Now you can drop your gun, or I can shoot you.  Your choice,” responded Mateo.
    “Nick, why don’t you just drop your gun and go along with the marshal,” suggested Kenner the bartender.
    “Last warning, I won’t speak again, and you can be lying next to the man you shot.”
    That brought a laugh and a grunt from Parsons.  “You’re not that fast.”
    “Try me,” answered Mateo.
    Maybe some of the whiskey was wearing off and he was sobering up.  He looked at the man laying on the floor, Blood now coming out from under him.  Through the door burst Doc Jones who immediately went to the man on the floor without a glance at Parsons or Mateo.
    Doc looked up, rubbed his whiskered face.  “Some of you guys get him over to my office, immediately!  There’s no time to lose if this man lives.”
    Parsons had uncocked his gun and now let it drop to the floor.  He looked at Mateo then nodded.

    I timed it just right for I met them coming down the boardwalk to the jail.  Nick was hanging his head.  “What’s the charge?” I asked.
    “Right now drunk and disorderly, plus attempted murder,” he paused then added, “possibly murder.”
    When Mateo said that, Nick Parsons jerked his head up, then let it slump again.  “Nick, why?”
    Mateo looked directly at me, his face solemn and firm.  “It’s the liquor.  It changes a man…”