The Saga of Miles Forrest

Merker had just bumped into me.  I’m not sure that he recognized me as I was turned slightly away from him.  I was slowly taking a step off the boardwalk when I heard Ooverholm hollering at me.
    He was running my way.  “Marshal Forrest, you’ve got to come with me!”
    I grabbed him by the shoulder, turned him to go in the direction I was heading.  Ooverholm, a tall, skinny man, was red in the face from his exertion.  He wasn’t frail, but sure looked like a stringbean.  “Walk with me,” I ordered, “and tell me what’s wrong.”
    “They’re fighting!” he exclaimed.
    “Who’s fightin’?” I asked as I directed him toward the telegraph station.
    “Mister Douster and a woman claiming to be Mr. Billington’s daughter.  They’re in Mr. Billington’s office, or what used to be his office and are screaming at each other.  They’re saying awful things.”
    He was slowly calming down as he began to walk.  “Go see the sheriff,” I told him.  “I’ll be along, but first I have to send a telegram and see Judge Klaser.”
    Looking at me he nodded and then scurried off toward the jail.  I wondered, as I kept moving, what in the world was going on now.  Stepping up on the boardwalk I glanced toward the jail and saw Ooverholm rush through the door.  Lingering just a minute I watched as he reemerged with Charlie Gold and headed toward the bank.  
    “Howdy, Mr. Forrest,” greeted the telegraph clerk as I entered.  “What can I do for you?”
    “Need to send a telegram.”
    “Paper is right on the counter next to the wall.”  I don’t know why Stan Offut was so formal.  I’ve known him since I arrived in Durango.  We’ve done some hunting and fishing together over the years.  Nice man, has a good wife and young daughter.  He almost lost both of them to the diphtheria epidemic a while back, but they both pulled through thanks to the tireless efforts of Doc Jones.
    I wrote out the telegram to Gilford Covney.  “Saw Merker in Durango–STOP–Have you had trouble in Frisco?–STOP”  As I finished I decided to send the first part of the message to Jens Blasco, the U.S. Marshal for the region.
    “Thanks, Stan,” I said giving the telegram to him and paying him a dollar.  “Buy some candy for Beth with the change.”
    Now I hurried over to Judge Klaser’s home.  Since he had been hit in the head he had been doing most of his work from his house.  I was hoping that perhaps the federal judge would be there also.  Knocking on the door there was no answer.  He was having trouble moving around since his head injury so I gave him plenty time.  I knocked again, then tried the door knob.  It was locked.
    Sighing I turned toward his office.  It was a couple of blocks from his house, across the street from the jail.  The office was outside the courthouse but attached.  To enter the courthouse from his office he had to go outside.  There was a small chamber in the courthouse behind the courtroom where he could change if needed.
    George Denton, no relation to Billy, was sitting at his desk.  He acted as the clerk of the court, the prosecuting attorney, and the judge’s secretary.  He was a small man, slightly pudgy but I’ve seen him in action in court.  In the courtroom he’s a regular bulldog.
    Looking up, he saw me and smiled.  “Hello, Miles.  Here to see the judge?  He and Judge Broomfield are in his office,” he got up and started toward the door.  “I’ll let them know you’re here.”
    He knocked, opened the door and motioned for me to come.  As I entered, Judge Klaser greeted me.  “Miles, good to see you.  This is the federal judge that will try Billy Denton’s case tomorrow, Judge Nathan Broomfield.”
    The judge reached out my hand and I shook it.  I was a little surprised for it was callused and he had a firm grip.  “Sorry to interrupt you, but I thought you should know that there may be someone out there who might want to take a shot at either of you.”
    I proceeded to tell them of Lillian and the men I saw in town.  To my embarrassment I told them of being cold-cocked and then of a man that was of dubious character than I had seen in Denver who had just come to town.
    “I don’t have time to chat,” I informed them.  “Sheriff Gold has just rushed down to the bank where it seems our Miss Lillian is having issues with Douster.  I told Ooverhold that I’d stop by.”
    The men said their thanks and I headed toward the bank.  It had been thirty minutes since Ooverhold had accosted me on the street.  I walked in and he was working with a customer.  I took a seat by the window wondering where Charlie went.  When he finished his business he walked over to me.
    “Strangest thing, Marshal.  When Sheriff Gold and I returned it was quiet.  We could hear some chatting behind the office door and when it opened they were smiling at each other like they were old friends.  She shook his hand, nodded and smiled our direction and walked out.”
    “Where’s the sheriff now?”
    “He said he was going to follow Miss Billington.”
    As those words came out of his mouth there was a gunshot, then another.  It sounded like it came from the direction of the jail.