The Saga of Miles Forrest

Charlie, Marta, and Molly were sitting with me, and we had a new guest, Darnelle.  She seldom ventured into the diner, usually eating at home with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Wilson Foster.  Since his stroke, she has been working through lunch at the store.
    “Darnelle, we don’t see you down here very often; it’s a pleasure,” said Molly.  “Hope you can stomach that coffee that Miles makes.  I’ll get you some cream if you need it.”
    I looked at her, then asked, “Did you come for a reason?”
    She sighed, “Not really, I just needed to get away from the store.  Uncle kept the books, orders and inventory, and I didn’t realize how much work there was in doing that.  So thankful for Mrs. Blackstone, she is a blessing,” replied Darnelle.
    Sometimes I don’t know when I’m good off, and when to keep my mouth shut.  “Darnelle, how old are you?” and I should have stopped for I received the look from Molly, but I didn’t heed it and continued, “Twenty?  I just don’t see why someone as pretty as you ain’t married.”  For that I received an elbow in my ribs.
    Looking down at her coffee then over to me, then at Molly, the responded, “The man I want is taken.”
    When she said that, Charlie sputtered in his coffee spilling some of it in his lap.  I glanced at Molly who just winked at Darnelle.  I was lost, what was going on?  “Will someone tell me the great secret?”
    “Oh, Miles, just be quiet.  You’ve already said enough,” commanded Molly giggling.
    I looked at all four of them.  They all were trying to keep from laughing.
    “Well, Darnelle,” chirped Molly, “you are welcome anytime.”
    Placing my cup on the table, I looked up to see a crew of men come through the door.  “Well, I’ll be,” muttered Charlie.
    It was Clyde Hoffner, Reese Donovan, Thompson’s cook, a rider I didn’t recognize, and Conrad Keim.  It was the first time I’d seen him since Shaw shot him.
    “Why the scowl, Miles?” inquired Molly upon seeing it form on my forehead.
    Rubbing my chin a few times.  “I’m just reminded that I haven’t apprehended Shaw.  He’s still loose when he should be in jail.  When the weather turns, that’s one of my first jobs–find Shaw,” then I looked over to Charlie, “and the ones who have the bounty on Charlie’s head.”
    Marta had already gotten up to take the men’s order.  I took one more final swallow, then stood.  Walking over to the table I nodded at the men.  “Glad to see you’re up and around,” I sincerely stated, then remembered, “Langston find him?”
    “Thanks, Marshal, I’m doing all right.  Haven’t heard from Langston since he left.  He’s either following Shaw, or Shaw maybe killed him,” responded Keim.
    After that I nodded to Hoffner who was preacher Chapman’s cousin, then inquired of Donovan.  “Reese, what in the world are you doin’ in town?  I haven’t seen you, oh, in at least a year,” then nodded at the newcomer.
    “Boss doesn’t trust any of the rowdies his has working for him to get supplies for the kitchen.  Oh, they’re all right with meat, but they don’t know nutmeg from chili powder, plus,” he said, a big smile forming on his face, “it’s been a year since I had a piece of Miss Molly’s pie.”
    I gave a little grunt, then spoke to Donovan, but I looked at the new man.  “New rider?”
    “Oh sorry, Marshal, this here is Nevada Bill.  Claim’s he’s a real buckaroo,” laughed Donovan.  “Bill, this here is a bull of the woods that you want to be wary of.  Stay on his good side.”
    “Ha,” came a laugh behind me.  I hadn’t noticed Molly coming up behind me.  “More like a cuddly bear cub,” she continued bringing a laugh from Donovan and a smile from Hoffner.  Nevada Bill just stared at her–a stare that I didn’t like.
    I remembered my manners, “Bill, this is my wife, Molly Forrest.”  She reached out her hand to shake his, but he just continued to stare.
    Since he didn’t take it, for which I was glad, I did and giving a final nod to the men, I walked her back to the table.  After getting Molly seated, I poured coffee for us.  “That was rude,” she remarked.  I looked at her, then over at the table with the men.  I’m glad Nevada Bill’s back was to me.
    “Who’s the man facing me?” asked Darnelle.
    “Oh, that’s the parson’s cousin.  He helped the preacher move to Durango, then took a job riding for Thompson,” I remarked.  “Don’t know him well, but he seems nice enough guy.  If’n he’s anything like the Parson, he’d be a good man.”
    Darnelle smiled, then remarked to Molly, “Thank you…I enjoyed myself, but I must get back to Mrs. Blackstone.”  Charlie was there and helped her with her chair.  She put on her coat then walked on past the men and out the door.
    There was some kind of comment made by Nevada Bill, I couldn’t hear it, but Hoffner was angered by it.  He said something back to Bill who made a move with his arm.  Quick-like Keim grabbed his arm…