The Saga of Miles Forrest

There was already a small group of people gathered by the time I reached Dr. Webb’s place.  I went inside with some dread of what I would find.  My fears were realized when I saw the doctor, lying on the floor near the chair where I had last seen him.  It appeared that Dr. Webb killed himself with a bullet in mouth going out the back of his head; the gun was lying on the floor near his hand.
    On the desk, I noticed a notebook with pencil next to it.  My curiosity took over so I opened the little book.  Scrawled out on the page was the line, “The demons were too much!”  Suicide note?  I wondered, for some reason it all looked too tidy.
    “Get out of my way!” I heard a rough voice bark.  “Get out!  Mike, get these people out!”
    I left the book open as I turned to look at the commotion.  “Forrest, what are you doing here?” the rough voice of the town marshal, Asa Stokes, rang out.
    “Howdy, Asa,” I acknowledged him.  “I was just visitin’ with the doc this mornin’.  I’m lookin’ for a fella.”
    Marshal Stokes, stooped down to look at Dr. Webb.  “Those nightmares finally got to him.”
    Asa Stokes had been marshal in Silverton for six months now.  That’s just about the longest anyone has lasted.  The town was rough, not only with miners, but the evil that came with a rousing gold and silver camp.  Marshals were either killed, or they moved on to greener pastures, plus the fact that the winters were vicious.
    “Asa, there’s a note on the table,” I said pointing at it.  “Do you know the Doc’s writin’?”
    It seemed a growl came from him as he stood then picked up the note.  “Plain as day, don’t yuh think?”
    I shrugged.  “Your jurisdiction,” I replied, but then added, “Mind if I look around some?  I can’t be long, I have to catch the train.”

    An hour later I was on the train with Rev. Chapman sitting next to me.  I was staring out the window pondering when I felt the touch on my arm.  “Miles, Miles, are you all right?”
    “Oh, sorry, Parson, I was just thinkin’ how it just happened that I was talkin’ with the deceased doctor this mornin’ then findin’ him dead.”
    His face was grim when he answered, “Suicide is hard.  Why do you think the doctor did it?”
    I gave him a stern look then cocked my head.  “You don’t think it was suicide?” he asked shocked.  “But from what you told me…the evidence.”
    “That’s just it, the evidence.  Parson, there’s just somethin’ gnawin’ in my gut that it was too clean an’ neat.”
    We both quieted down, listening to the clickety-clack of the train moving along the rails.  Then I inquired, “Say, Parson, what was that package I saw you carryin’ up to Black?”
    He looked startled, so I gave him a grin.  “So you were watching me?”
    “Nope, just happened to see you walkin’ up the street with a package under your arm, then head into the Empty Diggin’s.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I went to the entrance and saw you walkin’ up the stairs.  Only Black lived up there.”
    “After what you told me, I thought he might want a couple of new shirts,” the reverend replied humbly.
    I nodded my head.  “Parson you’re a good man,” I stated, then thought of the coming week.  “Say, I expect to see you and your lovely wife, Betty at the fixin’s on Thursday.”
    A puzzled look showed on his face.  “Fixings?”
    “Why, Molly and I, mostly Molly, have been havin’ a feed for the town every Thanksgivin’ and Christmas.  If you’ve walked the streets you may have noticed that there are more people than normal.  Lots of down-an’-out miners and miners that have been laid off for the winter.  We always have dinner for them on those days.”
    “I didn’t know.  Yes, yes, we’ll be there.  What should we bring?”
    “Bring yourselves.  It’s not much, mostly venison or elk stew, plus plenty of pie,” I uttered.  “You’ll sit at my table.”
    He was smiling.  “It will be nice for Betty.  She hasn’t been out much since we arrived.  It would be good for her to get to know Molly, and who was the other lady?”
    “Marta, and Emelda is the cook.  Doc Jones and Edith will be there, Marta’s husband, Charlie, and I hope Mateo shows up with Luciana and the boys.”
    He leaned back in the seat.  I heard the train give a long whistle, we were coming into Rockwood.  I looked out the window, the snow was falling heavily now.  We got out of Silverton at just the right time.