Echoes From the Campfire

 I had just come out of the diner and was standing on the boardwalk when I watched him ride down the road past the diner and on toward the town square.  I recognized the type, not hard in my line of work and for as long as I’ve been doing it, but he was slumped down in the saddle.  Perhaps he had a long ride and was just tired.  I decided to follow him.
     The stranger reined in at the Sheriff’s Office, dismounted and went inside the office.  I could hear him yell, “Sheriff!  Sheriff!”  He then began to talk with Nick Parsons in the cell, but I couldn’t make out the conversation.
     That is, until I entered the office.  He was fuming and cursing.  “What kind of a place is this?” He said to no one in particular unless he was addressing Parsons.  “No sheriff, no deputies!”
     He turned to leave and was startled to see me standing in the doorway.  His hand moved to the butt of his gun.  It hadn’t been that long of a ride to dull his reaction. 
     “Can I help you?” I asked, calmly holding the Greener in my left hand.
     “Looking for the Sheriff!” he exclaimed.
     “Sheriff’s up in Silverton on his monthly rounds to the minin’ camps,” I replied.
     There came an oath, then he roared, “What about a deputy?  If he’s out running ’round the countryside there ought to be a deputy in the jail.  Why there’s a prisoner, where’s the deputy?”
     I put my hat on the edge of a desk that I had assumed for the office of town marshal.  Mateo and I shared it when we were in the office, which was a rare occasion.  “Sheriff doesn’t have a deputy,” I replied after I sat down behind the desk. 
     “What about a town marshal?  Where’s he at?”  He questioned a little more calmly but still agitated.
     Pulling at the end of my mustache and twisting it.  “Well, the marshal’s deputy is out for lunch.”  I was going to keep edging him along some.  “Perhaps I can help you.”
     “Any place I can get something to eat?” he asked, “And a place to stay?”
     “Just down the street, on the plaza is the Durango Hotel.  Good as any to stay in town.  There’s a great diner you passed on the way in.”
     “You watched me come in?”
     “That’s sorta part of my job as town marshal, to be aware of strangers when they come to town,” I stated.
     He cursed again; I might have to find a bar of soap, thump him a good one then stick it in his mouth.  A person should have a better working of the English language so that he doesn’t have to get profane.  “Why didn’t you tell me?” he snapped.
     “I asked if I could help you, but all you could do was cuss and ask for the Sheriff.  Now, if you’ll state your business I may be able to help,” I informed him speaking calmly.
     “Marshal, I’m Upton Shaw.  I’m looking for a man,” he muttered.
     I squinted my eyes a bit causing my forehead to wrinkle.  “Might this man have a name?”
     “Conrad Keim,” he replied.  “I have a poster on him.”
     “Hmmm,” I breathed, “bounty hunter.  I don’t recognize the name.  Is there a face on the poster?”
     Reaching in the left-hand lower pocket of his vest, he took out a paper which he proceeded to unfold then handed it to me.  “Wanted:  Dead or Alive for Murder, Arson, and Robbery–State of Kansas.”
     I didn’t recognize the picture.  I had recently come across a man by the name of Conrad, but he didn’t really have any resemblance to the face on the poster.  However, that wasn’t unusual.  “He’s not wanted in Colorado,” I simply said, then added, “but no, I don’t recognize the face.”
     “That’s why I’m here, to take him back to Kansas.”
     I sat up in my chair, “Just remember he’s wanted in Kansas, dead or alive, not Colorado.”
     The bounty hunter seemed unfazed concerning my warning, then his head turn to see who was at the doorway.  I followed and saw that it was the preacher.
     “Preacher!” I exclaimed.  It was always good to see E.B. Robinson, the minister of our church in town.  Not only was he a good preacher but he cared about his flock.  “Come in here.  What are you doin’ down at the jail?”
     “I told Nick that I’d stop by to see him,” he said, then in a more hushed tone.  “How’s the man he shot?”
     “From what I last heard he’s still holdin’ on.  Maybe you might want to visit him.  He may be in dire needs of some of your words for his soul…”