The Saga of Miles Forrest

It took nearly two hours before we chugged into Silverton and I was able to get to a livery for a horse and head back to the scene of the robbery.  Since the engineer was killed the fireman was able to get the train moving with one of the brakemen acting as fireman.  I wasn’t worried about finding tracks, for a buckboard would be hard to hide, but I was concerned some about the hostages.  I wanted to be sure to find them before night came for even though it was still summer, at this altitude it could get cold at night.
    Following the tracks of the wagon wouldn’t be hard, but I figured that somewhere close they would discard it, split the money, and take off on horses and possibly have pack animals.  Then the tracking would start.  On top of that they were now charged either with murder or conspiracy to commit murder.
    The outlaws had only two ways to go.  They couldn’t follow the rails into Silverton and certainly couldn’t go south into the canyon.  They could go east, but they would have to go overland quite a distance for there were no roads, only here and there some ruts into a miner’s camp.  No, it had to be west, up toward Molas Lake and the road.  How far they would travel with the wagon I didn’t know.  It was two miles of non-road, overland travel to the lake.  However, from there they had several options.
    This was a time I surely wish I had Hawk with me.  That horse was bred and trained for mountain travel.  The horse I was riding was left in the livery by one of the inhabitants of Silverton that had a severe case of lead poisoning.  It was a fair enough horse, but couldn’t compare a lick to Hawk.  I urged him into an easy trot.
    Even with a murder now on their record, I was real fretful about what might happen to the ladies with them.  I had no clue as to their experience in the wilderness and looking up at the sky there could be a storm brewing that would hit sometime in the night.  With that in mind, I gave the horse a little kick to hurry it along.
    The tracks led gradually toward Molas Lake and it was on a continual but gradual upgrade.  As I topped the ridge I could look down upon a low area where I could see the lake.  Stopping I wanted to observe where they might have gone, and upon looking toward the north I spotted the wagon.
    If there is such a thing as hurrying slowly, I did it.  I was almost certain that none of the outlaws would stick around, but there was always that chance that a couple might be there for an ambush.  It didn’t pay to hurrying too much, especially without taking time to observe the country.
    Molas Lake is just off the road from Durango to Silverton.  The wagon stopped at the northside of the lake.  From the lake it was about six miles or so down into Silverton.  The road continued on upward toward Red Mountain Pass and into Ouray.  As I approached I could see two of the women sitting in the back of the way.  I wondered where the third woman was.
    They weren’t very alert; dozing I expected as I rode up on them.  “You ladies all right,” I yelled brining my horse to a stop at the wagon.
    Jumping to the ground, they began fixing themselves, trying to make them presentable.  One of them, a lady dressed in greenish colored dress exclaimed, “Thank the Lord someone finally showed up!”  She was making it sound like I took my lazy old time to find them.
    The other lady was dressed a little more drab and that fit her face which looked as if she had been weaned on a dill pickle.  She nigh shouted at me, “Why did you let those hoodlums kidnap us?  They could have done all manner of evil!”
    “I reckoned at the time that it was more prudent to let them take you, than it was to start shooting with you in-between me and the outlaws,” I replied, then gave her a smile.  I wanted to say more, but held myself back.  Looking around, I asked, “Where is the other lady?”
    They pointed toward the lake.  Before I left them to get her, I took my time to look around for tracks.  There were six men with two pack animals.  Then it dawned on me that they horses for the wagon weren’t there.  Now that presented another problem.  How to get the women into Silverton.
    Giving the horse a nudge I started down toward the lake and noticed a figure, the woman, walking up toward the road.  She happened to see them before I did–supply wagons coming down the road.  I now applied a slight spur to the horse to get to the road before the woman.  As the horse moved out from the lake I put it in the middle of the road hoping that the wagons would stop.  One man, a horseback they might think an ambush was planned.  
    Then a man on the second wagon shouted, “There’s a woman walking up from the lake!”
    The wagons stopped and I rode easily up to the lead wagon.  After exchanging pleasantries I informed them that I was a Deputy U.S. Marshal, and told them what had happened.
    “Do you have enough room for three ladies to ride?” I asked.
    “Well, I don’t….”
    Before he could finish I interrupted.  “If not, three of your riders will have to get off.  You are goin’ to take these ladies on down to Silverton.”
    The woman who had been walking up from the lake was slightly winded due to the altitude.  She sighed, then gave them a smile.  “I’m Constance Fremont and I’d surely appreciate a ride.”
    A man hoped down off the wagon.  “Why shore,” he said then helped her up on the seat by the driver.  “My name’s Lyle and that ol’ coot drivin’ is called ‘Rascal.'”
    The other two women down at the abandoned wagon saw what was happening and started walking up toward the road.  Within a few minutes they were perched on the seats of the other two wagons.
    Rascal let out a shout, released the brake, snapped the reins and the wagons were off…