The Saga of Miles Forrest

We made it back late on Christmas Eve.  The weather was terrible, the snow way falling heavily, and if the wind had picked up we most likely would have found ourselves in a blizzard.  I dropped Charlie off at Doc Jones’ telling him that I’d put his horse up.  
    There had been little traffic in the streets because of the heavy snow, most folks were holed up at home in front of a cozy fire.  Charlie’s horse had wandered to the livery while we were in Rico, but the trip had worn him out.  Even Hawk was mostly worn out.  No lights were visible at the diner so I went to the livery.
    Ol’ Mose Vexler was some put out with me getting him out of his little room at the barn.  It wasn’t all that cold, upper twenties, most likely, but there was snow piled up and it took the two of us to push open the door.  If the snow kept falling it would be a job to shovel it away.
    After giving the horse over to Mose, I headed Hawk up to the cabin.  I put him in his stall, rubbed him down, making sure he was dry, and threw some grain into his trough.  I looked in for a few minutes to check on Star and Two-Bits.  They seemed to be all right and had some hay in the trough.  Moving it to the side, I added some grain; that should make them happy.
    Glancing up at the sky all I got was a face full of snow.  This was turning into quite the storm.  It was hard to trudge to the cabin, but I knew that Molly would have it warm and the coffee on waiting for me.  I was not disappointed.
    Molly was up before me the next morning.  She started a fire, and put on the coffee–she was a good woman!  “Where are you goin’?” I asked stumbling to put on my pants.
    “The diner; it’s Christmas.”
    She and Marta always opened the diner on Christmas to feed any poor soul who didn’t have a place to stay.  “No one will be out in this weather!” I exclaimed as I now tried to pull on my boots.
    She gave me a look; she didn’t have to say anything.  The diner would be open and that was that.  I was mostly dressed by now, “Let me grab a cup of coffee and I’ll go with you.”  I quickly gulped the coffee she had poured in the tin cup on the table.  “Let’s go.”
    Snow had piled up around the door, but I was able to push it so we could get out.  There to face us was at least two feet of snow and it was still coming down.  Now, however, there was a slight breeze which would result in drifting.  The snow came up past my knees and I really struggled the four blocks down to the diner.  The things I do.
    It was cold inside.  I went straight to the stove in the kitchen to get it fired up, then on into the eating area to light the stove that would serve to warm the customers, if there were any today.  Molly was back putting coffee on, and fixing the pot for the stove in the dining area.  
    I went back to fix some breakfast for us as she began making some stew.  It wouldn’t be much today, and I wondered if anyone would even show up.  Just as I threw some bacon in the skillet there was someone banging on the door.  The diner didn’t open for another hour.
    “Could you get that, Miles?”
    Leaving the bacon to sizzle, I went to the door.  Outside was Marta and Charlie.  “Charlie!  What in the world are you doin’ out of bed?” I said quite harshly.
    Marta sort of huffed as she went by me, saying something that sounded like, “Men!”
    Charlie looked pale and haggard.  He tried to give me a smile, but it was weak and forced.  “Any coffee?” he muttered.  We went over to my regular table, I poured each of us a cup of coffee while he took his seat.
    I had forgotten the bacon so I rushed toward the kitchen.  Marta was bringing out two plates of bacon with three eggs on each.  “Good thing we brought most of the eggs in,” she said, “The ones on the back porch are frozen.”
    It was easy to see that Charlie was weak and in pain.  He took his time feeding himself and I finally told him, “You should be in bed.”  To which I received a nod.
    “Need to see Doc Jones, and didn’t want to bother him early.  Figured I’d walk with Marta,” came his reply, then he added.  “I think I’ve got some infection.”
    The morning moved along slowly.  There were no customers until about ten o’clock, then some bedraggled out-of-work miners began to show up.  Marta and Molly filled plates with elk stew for them and gave them coffee wishing them a Merry Christmas.  It must have been toward noon when I noticed a man creep in.  He was bearded, with hair down on his shoulders, his hat pulled down tight.  He was wearing a sheep-skin coat and what got my attention was that he walked with a limp, sort of drug his foot.
    There was a quick glance from him before he sat down, his back to me.  It was then that I saw he wasn’t a miner for his pistol stuck out from underneath his coat, ready for use…