The Saga of Miles Forrest

Molly said she was going to visit Marta then go on down to the diner.  Edith was the only one waiting tables and she was just helping out as a favor to Molly.  Doc didn’t mind, and he came over and ate his meals there which were given to him.  They only lived a block away so it was real handy.
    I reckoned that Charlie was down by the jail.  The town council was moving fairly slowly on getting the jail repaired or building a new one.  They were also needing a marshal, but were dilly-dallying around appointing one.  I could talk with Wilson Foster the head of the council and he would give my name to them.  Foster I knew well, and Newsome, but the third man to come on the council I saw only on occasion; fellow by the name of Martin Olson who owned one of the saloons in town.  I was surprised that Foster allowed Newsome to talk him into Olson.  Come next fall, with the elections, it might become quite interesting.
    Johnson was sprawled up against the front of the jail, chained to the hitching rail in front.  Charlie was able to use the office, as only the cell area has been destroyed and a back wall made of wood was temporarily thrown up.  I saw him coming out of the telegraph office and waved.  He pointed to the jail so I headed that direction to meet him.
    “Miles, just received a telegram about a Chester Uttleman who was wanted for murder, extortion, and just about anything else.  Seems like he worked between Denver and Chicago doing dirty work for anyone who paid him enough,” he paused after giving me that information.  “I think our Tom Smith/Utley is this Uttleman as the description fits.”
    He took off his hat to run his fingers through his hair and took a seat on the chair by the jail.  “The folk in Chicago are sending a photograph of him and it should arrive sometime the end of the week.”
    I leaned back against the hitching rail and pointed at his prisoner.  “What about him?”
    “Well, I reckon Mr. Tom Johnson is going to be spending quite a bit of time in prison,” he spoke loud enough where Johnson could hear him.  “He’ll be an old man by the time he gets out.”
    That perked up his attention for he bellowed out.  “I was just bein’ a witness.”
    “Yeah, and holding a gun on a sheriff,” Charlie countered and took off his hat to scratch above his ear.  “Plus obstruction of justice, plus abetting a criminal,” he stopped and looked over at Johnson.  “And did you know that Forrest here is a deputy U.S. Marshal, so those charges will also be on the federal level.”
    Looking over at Johnson I asked Charlie, “How does your prisoner like bein’ chained outside?  Not bad now, but come one of those gully-washers he might be gettin’ some wet.”
    I turned my attention to Johnson.  “You know what happened to the jail don’t you?”
    “Now why would I know?  I just arrived in town a few days back,” he snapped.
    “Go ahead Miles, tell him,” offered up Charlie.  “He may be no good, and a piece of scum, but he does have a right to know why he’s not in a cell, sleeping on one of those comfortable cots we used to have.”
    Stepping over toward Johnson, I placed my hands on my hips.  “It seems that folk workin’ for Merker tend to end up dead.  The man in the cell was killed on his orders.  They blew the place up,” I paused to pull on my moustache and looked at Charlie.  “You know Sheriff, it seems it would be easier to shoot a man who is layin’ out here on the boardwalk.”
    “Okay, okay,” he muttered.  “My name is Henry Thomas Johnson and I don’t know no Merker.”
    “Didn’t say yuh did,” I countered.
    He moved to sit up straighter causing his chains to rattle.  He was a ragged, disgusting sight.  I wasn’t concerned about his comfort, but I did wish there was a way to hide him from the public.
    “Sheriff, you’ve no right to keep me chained up out here,” he bellowed again.  “It’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
    Charlie got up from his chair, and walked over to him.  I could tell he had a notion to give Johnson a good kick, but instead he leaned over.  “Mister Johnson, do you have money for the fine?”
    He sort of brightened up with that.  “How much would it be?” he asked.
    “Twenty-five dollars, but that would only cover the local fine.  I can’t remove the federal law that is facing you.  That would be up to the district court judge,” replied Charlie.  “But he takes it serious when someone is shooting at a federal officer.”
    “I didn’t shoot him!” declared Johnson.  “I was only helping Ches.”
    “Interestin’,” I muttered.  “So you did know him?”
    Scowling he turned part way toward the wall.  “Leave me be,” he spat.
    I looked at Charlie and shrugged my shoulders.  “I’m goin’ on down to the diner to meet Molly.  She was goin’ over to see Marta and then was headin’ down there.  If Marta’s feelin’ like it, come on down and grab a bite to eat later,” I said, the looked down at Johnson.  “I’ll have a fresh pot on and we’ll do some jawin’…”