The Saga of Miles Forrest

Brrr, that snow we received the other night sure brought in a cold spell.  Must be down near zero this morning.  I’d been helping Charlie do his rounds and took up some slack when he had to be out of town.  He wanted to hit the major towns before the end of the year; sort of take inventory.  He was supposed to be back from Silverton today, but with the snow the train might be delayed.
    I was warmly bundled as I walked the streets this morning.  The shops were just beginning to open.  Up the street I could see Darnelle out in front of her uncle’s store shoveling snow out into the street.  I decided to walk on up past the sheriff’s office and greet her.
    She looked up just as I got to her.  Tucking some strands of hair that had come out from under her scarf she gave me a warm smile for such a cold morning.  “You showed up just in time, Mr. Forrest, I just finished,” she said with a little laugh.  “Come on in, I have coffee warming on the stove all ready for this particular moment.  Join me.”
    I wasn’t about to turn down a cup of coffee.  In fact, weather like this makes a man hanker for it.  We stomped the snow off our boots on the little rug just inside the store.  I helped Darnelle with her coat and she proceeded down the main aisle toward the back.  I could feel the large room getting warmer as we neared the stove.  
    She handed me a cup, I didn’t bother to look in it for I knew it would be clean.  Pouring the coffee she asked, “How was your Christmas?”
    Fine, fine,” I responded, then took a sip.  Whew, it was hot!  Some women just have the knack of getting coffee, soup, and such hotter than others.  I wonder what it was?  “Glad you decided to come over to the diner for dinner.”
    Motioning to a chair I sat down and she took the one next to me scooting closer to the stove to warm her feet.  “Well, mother and father are out of town.  They went down to Santa Fe for Christmas.  They’ll be back this weekend if the weather holds.  I came to the diner to keep me from fixing a Christmas dinner.”
    “Wasn’t it lonely, here at Christmas?” I asked.
    She turned my way, looking at me solemnly and didn’t speak for a few seconds.  “In some ways you could say it was,” then a smile broke out on her face.  “In other ways, I’m never alone for the Lord is always with me.”
    I nodded at her; I could understand for I had spent many an hour on the trail by myself.  There were a few winters, that one up near Chugwater came quickly to mind when it was me, the wolves and the snowmen.
    Finishing my coffee I stood handing her the cup.  “Thanks,” then thought a minute.  “You have plenty of wood?”
    “I’m good.  Father had a couple of cords cut for us.  The upstairs doesn’t take much heat, except when that cold winds starts to howl,” she responded with a smile.
    I walked to the door and stood at the entry way looking up and down the street.  “You’re a cautious man,” I heard her say behind me.
    Turning my head I nodded to her.  “Pays to be cautious in my line of work.”
    “Do you think James Lamb will try to take his vengeance on you?” she questioned.
    I must have frowned for she continued.  “Oh, it’s all over town.  Some say you bring trouble to Durango,” she sighed and paused.  “Mister Forrest, don’t let people bother you with their talk.  Remember, you have been called to bring justice to this country wherever you are and right now you are in Durango.”
    Tipping my hat, I gave a smile.  “I’ll check back on you later.  I’m headin’ now to the station to see when they expect the train to be in.  Sheriff’s supposed to be on it.”
    Stepping out the cold wind came up the street.  That was one thing about going inside a warm room, a person had to come back out to the cold.  John Lamb’s trial was set for next week.  I reckoned that James and his cohorts would be here by then.
    I breathed a little prayer and I could almost imagine the words handing out with my frosted breath, “Lord, help me in the New Year.”