The Saga of Miles Forrest

I went on over to the telegraph office, and gave the messages to Stan Offut telling him to send any replies to me over to the diner with one of the boys.  As I stepped out, I hesitated, and decided to go next door.  As I walked in I got the usual greeting from Solly Vendor.
    “What is it this time, Miles?  Cigars or do you want a plug?” Vendor asked.
    “Right now Solly, some information,” I replied.  “Do you remember the fancy-dressed guy, I think his name was Merker?  Has he been in lately?”
    He took a couple of puffs on his cigar and then blew the smoke in my direction, gave a little cough and smiled.  “Sure, I remember him.  Good customer when he was around,” he paused to take another puff, then continued.  “He hasn’t been around recently; last time was probably close to two weeks ago, maybe three.”
    “You and he ever talk?  What’s your take on him?” I asked.
    He puffed some more then came from behind the counter and sat down in one of the chairs he has in his store.  “Just general chit-chat,” he said.  “You’re right about one thing, he dressed well.  I think he thought of himself as one of those fancy dudes from back east; the type that sit on committees or boards,” he coughed some more.  “On the other hand, he looked as if at one time he was a barroom ruffian, surely able to take care of himself if the need be.”
    “Thanks, Solly,” I said as I started to walk out.
    “Miles, I don’t think he likes you,” he said, this time blowing smoke away from me.  “He muttered something once, about ‘that guy Forrest; ruined a good thing.’  Then he seemed to catch himself and put the cigars he just purchased in his pocket, and walked out.”
    “If he comes in again, let me or Sheriff Gold know immediately, will yuh?”  Just before I walked out the door.  “Sol, you better stop that smoking.”
    He smiled, then coughed a couple of times, the smile now gone.  As he gave me a wave I walked out.
    It was a nice day.  It would have been a day, many years ago, that I would have saddled up and rode out up the canyon just to enjoy the breeze coming down from the high peaks.  Glancing up the street, I could see Johnson, lying on the boardwalk at the jail.  Then I turned back toward the diner.
    Walking in the crew was sitting around the table, laughing, and then I saw it–each of them had a piece of pie.  Walking toward them, they didn’t notice me, nor was there a place at the table for me.  Marta was sitting in my spot, in my chair, by the stove.  I took a chair at the next table.
    There were customers at two tables in the place and right after I came in one man got up to leave.  No one got up to clean off his table.  They were enjoying each other’s company.  Marta, at that time, seemed like her old self.  Glancing up I saw Anihu standing at the door of the kitchen with hands on hips and smiling.
    “Oh, hello Miles,” said Edith, finally someone saw I was there.
    Marta looked my way.  I could see her begin to get up so I gave her a big smile and nodded at her.  “Take it easy folks,” I muttered, “it’s just me.”  
    I stood then, going over to the shelf to pick up a cup.  Before I got to the stove, I reached down and squeezed Marta on the shoulder.  “Sure good to have you back.”  Then filled my cup with coffee.
    Peering over her shoulder, I made the comment, “What’s that you’re all eatin’?”
    “Nothing,” replied Charlie and I looked down and his plate was clean.
    “You all are disgustin’,” I remarked and went back to where I was sitting.
    Molly didn’t seem to want to leave Marta’s side, but she did turn and wave to Anihu, and hold her, now empty plate up.  Anihu smiled and went in the kitchen.  A few moments later she came out and waddled toward me, holding a plate with a piece of pie in it.
    Placing it in front of me she gave a slight curtsy and said, “For you, Senor Forrest.”
    “Sit down,” I said.  She hesitated, so I had to say it in a little more commanding tone.  “Sit down!”  Then I stood and went for another cup filling it and bringing it to her.  
    “Did you eat a piece?” I asked.
    “Si, in the cocina.”
    I was cutting my first piece of pie; it was chocolate, when in through the door came young Henry.  “Mister Offut said get this to your right away!”
    He handed me a telegram from the warden of the prison.  I reached in my little pouch that I kept in my vest pocket and flipped him a dime, and he was off, back out the door.
    “Myers released a month ago….Stop….reported headed to Pueblo.”