The Saga of Miles Forrest

Half a block down there was a man laying in the street.  The fellow that just left the diner was standing there with his hands raised, but holding his gun.
    “Easy, mister,” cautioned Charlie as he came up behind the man.  “I want you to lower your right hand and then let the gun drop to the ground.”
    “Why don’t you just take it from me, Sheriff,” taunted the stranger.
    “If I have to, I will,” snapped Charlie in return.  “I’d rather do it this way.”
    There came a small laugh.  “Maybe I don’t,” he paused turning his head to look at Charlie.  “I don’t think you can take it.”
    “I think he can!” I interrupted their little conversation with the cock of the Greener.
    The man lowered his arm, then hesitated, but only momentarily.  He dropped the gun.  While I held the shotgun on the stranger, Charlie went and picked up his gun.
    A man rushed up, “Sheriff, I saw…”  
    “Not now,” Charlie ordered.  “Go stand by that hitching rail.  I’ll get to yuh.”
    “Let’s go to the jail,” commanded Charlie with a wave of his pistol.
    “I heard you don’t have a jail,” replied the stranger.  “Plus, Sheriff, it was self-defense.”
    “That has to be determined by a court.  I see a dead man, you shot him, I hold you while I check out the evidence,” Charlie reminded him.
    The man standing at the rail lifted his voice, “Sheriff, I saw the whole thing.”
    “Let’s go,” Charlie motioned to the stranger.
    The man didn’t waver.  He turned and pointed at me.  “Who’s going to examine the evidence?  That wannabe lawman holding the shotgun?”  Now looking at Charlie, “Take away that shotgun and he’s nothing.”
    “Sheriff!” came the voice again.  By now there were others gathering around.  “That man was goaded into a fight.”
    “Watch him, Miles,” Charlies requested then walked over to the man doing all the ranting.  The stranger turned to face me, smiled, and pointed at me.
    When Charlie reached the man standing at the hitching rail, the man began to tell what he saw, raising his voice so others around would be able to hear him.  “The man came out of that alley and pushed this man, Sheriff.  He cursed and said he had finally caught up with him and started to pull his gun.  This man defended himself.  You can’t hold a man for defending himself.”
    “What’s your name?” asked Charlie.
    “Me, uh, uh, Tom Johnson.”
    “Well, Tom Johnson.  Have you ever seen this man before?”
    There was a slight hesitation then he replied, “Not until a few minutes ago.”
    “You wait here!” commanded Charlie then turned and walked back to the stranger.  “You got a name?”
    “Sure,” he replied smiling, “everybody’s got a name.”
    “Want to give it to me?” returned Charlie.
    “Why Sheriff, I surely will if you ask a little more politely.  You don’t have to be rude just ’cause your friend over there is a sneaking coward.”
    Now this guy was beginning to annoy me.
    “Sir, would you mind giving me your name?” asked Charlie politely.  If I had asked him I would have thumped him alongside the head with the Greener.
    “Tom Smith,” he replied.
    Charlie was shaking his head and muttering, “Smith.”
    I wasn’t paying attention and by the time I had focused on what was happening it was too late.  The witness had come up behind Charlie and had a gun in his back.  “Sheriff, why don’t you give Mr. Smith back his gun so he can go on with his business here.”
    “Just what is his business?” 
    “Why, Sheriff,” came the answer from the stranger.  “I’m here to kill this person by the name of Miles Forrest,” he then put out his hand for his gun.  “That is if he’s man enough to put down that shotgun and face me.”
    “Go ahead Charlie,” I said and uncocked the shotgun and held it in my left hand.
    The stranger’s smile widened.  The witness jabbed his pistol in Charlie’s back.  “Do it, Sheriff!”
    “Give him the gun, Charlie.”
    The man’s hand went out for the gun.  Charlie was shaking his head “no.”  “This will be even.  I’ll put it in your holster.”
    That brought a laugh from the stranger.  He lifted his arm so Charlie could place the gun in the man’s holster.
    “Ready to die, Forrest?” laughed the stranger.
    Looking at him, the thought of the Pale Rider flitted through my mind.  “Some day, but not today.  Not from the likes of you.”
    He flexed his fingers, the laughter stopped…