The Saga of Miles Forrest

I reckoned it was the blood that drew the wolves. They normally don’t fool around with men, but with the blood scent in the air they figure there are weak or dead folk around.  Winter time, and they’re just looking for an easy meal; kinda like a boarder waiting for his hash in one of them boarding houses.
    “Lucas, why don’t you go with Charlie and round up some buckets.  I’m goin’ for a meander in the woods,” I suggested to him as his eyes were still wide with fright every time one of those wolves would send up a howl.  From the sound there must be more than a half dozen.  He and Lucas headed on up to the car looking first there and then on to the caboose.
    “Theo, I’m goin’ straight out, and then veer to the right.  Did Charlie tell you his horse was shot?” I asked.
    He looked shocked.  “After the explosion?”
    “Right after the explosion and he made sure that Marta was alive, he came out of the car to survey the damage.  Someone took a shot at him,” I gazed around and pointed, “most likely from over in that bunch of rocks.  I’m goin’ there to take a look.”
    “Be careful; I’ll go check on those inside the canvased-off area.  See if they have enough fuel for the night; get some of the men to go out and gather,” he paused, then continued.  “It’s gonna be cold since the snow stopped.  Reckon it’ll get close to zero or below.”
    “Better make sure they go in twos and carry weapons; those wolves are gettin’ right friendly.  You might consider putting fires in four corners and the people inside them.  It’ll keep them warmer, but it will take a bunch of wood.  Also might keep the wolves at bay.”
    I moved slowly toward the rocks that was probably a little over fifty yards away.  I doubted if I would see any tracks since the snow, but a person never knows what might pop up.  Theo was right about one thing; it was cold.  I knew I could count on him; he was an old-timer who’d seen his share of troubles.
    Going to the rocks I tried to picture myself in a position to fire on the train.  I went to different places in the rocks.  I would get myself in position and try to imagine what happened.  There was one spot where a person had a clear view of the last door on the passenger car and the baggage car.  It made me think that he could have been the one to detonate the dynamite at this spot.  As I pulled myself up two unexpected things happened.  I looked down and there was a spent .44-40 cartridge and then I got a whiff of smoke.
    Following my inclinations I tried to figure on where the smoke might be coming from and headed off in that direction.  I walked careful and easy.  It was so cold that the snow was crunching under my feet.  I didn’t want to go too far, but when I picked up another nose-full I kept going.  I had walked maybe a half-mile and then I saw it, down in a little cleft between rocks was a fire.  I couldn’t see the flames as the rocks were covered with a canvas, but the glow was showing.  
    It was getting on toward dark, and I didn’t want to be out here in the dark, plus the fact that my toes were getting cold.  I waited and then I heard a howl off to my right and a commotion.  A man was running–chased by a wolf.  I watched him getting closer to the fire and then he stumbled and fell.  The wolf was upon him, tearing at him.  I was taking aim at the wolf when from the far side another joined in the fray.  He was screamed as the wolves were ripping at his flesh, trying to get at the soft underparts where the body organs lay.  
    I fired, hitting one of the wolves and it fell off whimpering.  The other wolf sorta jumped, but then went back after the man.  Then a shot came my direction from the campsite.  Turning my attention in that direction I unleased several shots, and heard a grunt.  Slowly I moved toward the fire; I heard nothing from the man who had been attacked, only the snarling of the wolf and ripping of flesh.
    “Comin’ in!” I hollered.  “Any movement and I’ll start shootin’ again.”  All I heard was a groan.
    As I entered the little canvas lean-to I saw a man laying on the ground, bleeding from where my bullet had found his stomach.  There was fear in his eyes.  “Don’t let those wolves have me, please.  I know I’m dyin’, but I don’t want to be torn apart.”
    “Start talkin’.  Got a name?”
    “Clem Ebert, the fella out there is my brother, Silas,” he moaned, in pain and in fear.  “They got him, didn’t they?”
    I nodded and said, “Yep, I tried to help, but you started shooting at me and made me take my attention from him.”
    His eyes widened.  “I killed my brother,” he started crying.  “You won’t leave me to the wolves?  You’ll bury me!”
    “I’ll stay until you’re dead.  Tough life, livin’ on this side of the law.  Tell me, Merker behind this?”
    “Yes,” he groaned.  “I’m thirsty.”
    “You better be makin’ your peace with the Almighty.”
    His eyes widened further, “Too late.”  He clutched at his stomach.
    “Never too late until your dead,” I urged.  Then came the sounds of the wolves, howling and I could hear them outside the canvas…