The Saga of Miles Forrest

I can’t send these!” exclaimed Stanley Offut, “Why Marshal Queens would have a fit.”
    I stared at him with a puzzled look on my face.  “What’s gotten into you Stan?  You will send those telegrams as they are official U.S. Marshal business.  I’ll wait to make sure you do, and if I hear any discrepancies or if you don’t decide to send it I will have your job.”
    The telegrams were to Jens Blasco, U.S. Marshal–Colorado, Barnes McCoy, U.S. Marshal–Kansas, and Felix Wilcox, U.S. Marshal–New Mexico/Arizona Territory, inquiring about Mike Queens.  There was something about him I just didn’t like, but then I reckon he didn’t care much for me either.
    “I want an answer as soon as they come in, do you understand?” I said with my eyes boring into him.  I had known Stanley Offut for several years.  I just couldn’t figure out what had come over him lately.  
    Stepping out of the telegraph office I looked up and down the street.  Charlie Gold and I had talked about heading up to Telluride, but that idea was put to rest by another eight inches of snow.  I didn’t want to get stuck in Telluride for a week or even worse somewhere along the trail.  Maybe I was getting soft or too old.  I’d like to say it was because I had more sense than I used to have.
    Solly was standing in his shop, looking out the window smoking one of his big cigars.  I waved to him, and he motioned for me to come in.  His tobacco store was next to the telegraph office so I went on in to see what he wanted.
    “Miles, have a cigar on the house,” he said with a smile knowing that I didn’t smoke.  It was kind of a joke with him, and I know it wasn’t to malign my beliefs.
    “Not today, Solly, but I have been sorta hankerin’ for a chaw,” I smarted back at him bringing a hearty laugh.
    Still laughing, “Yeah, cut a piece from a twist I have here.  Chew it up real good, then go give Molly a kiss.  Ha, ha, I can just imagine.”
    “Imagine all yuh want, ain’t gonna happen.  What did yuh want to see me about?” I asked.
    He scratched his head, then took a puff and exhaling before answering.  “I don’t see Sheriff Gold very often, and I know it doesn’t pertain to you, but the new marshal doesn’t take his, let’s say, routine duties very seriously.  If it’s cold or snowing he won’t check the town at night.  I seldom see him walking the town.”
    I gave a slight shrug of my shoulders, “Solly, nothing I can do about it.  Unless complaints are brought to the council there is little to do about it,” I replied, then pulled at my moustache.  “I wonder why he wanted the job in the first place.”
    “Easy money, prestige, power,” he stated.  “Miles, you know there’s a dozen reasons.”
    “Thanks for the heads up. I’ll keep my eyes open,” I assured him just before stepping out into the cold again.
    Glancing down the street, I saw Doc Jones heading for the diner so I started for him.  He was already at the table when I came in the door.  A couple of out-of-work miners were sitting at a table and if I had to make a guess, Molly was feeding them for at least half price.
    I leaned the Greener and back against the wall, grabbed a cup from the shelf and filled it with coffee from the pot on the stove.  The heat being produced by that stove sure felt good.  Since it had stopped snowing the temperature had dropped rapidly.
    “Hello, Miles,” greeted Doc.  He twisted his head a couple of times and I thought I could hear bones popping.  “I’ll be glad when spring decides to hit the mountains.  These old bones just don’t cotton to the cold like they used to.”
    “Ha, I was just thinkin’ the same thing a few minutes ago,” I replied, taking my chair.
    I had just sat myself down when Molly came out with a couple pieces of pie, sitting a piece in front of us.  “Heard you guys come in, so I thought that you might like a piece.”
    “Sit down, Molly,” suggested Doc.
    She pulled out a chair.  “Only for a minute, Doc.  Charlie dropped by saying that Marta was sick and wouldn’t be in today, so I’ve been helping Emelda in the kitchen.  She’s making up a bunch of enchiladas for lunch.”
    Doc scratched the side of his head just above the ear.  “Say,” he started in, “have either of you seen Lucas lately?  My woodshed is getting low and he usually is on the spot with keeping it filled.”
    Molly and I looked at each other.  “Come to think of it, Doc.  Our woodpile is low.  If he doesn’t come in today or tomorrow I’ll have to get someone to chop some more,” replied Molly, looking at me.
    Several merchants and other businesses had hired Lucas to keep their woodpiles filled.  He had always been dependable.  I hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t working or feeding the horses.  I’d check on them after leaving here.  “Charlie say anything about Lucas being sick?”
    Molly shook her head then turned her attention to Doc.
    “No sickness that I’ve heard about,” he said in reply to her glance.  “Oh, that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask.  What did Mateo say when you asked why he quit the deputy’s position?
    “He really didn’t have much to say.  Not really evasive, but not wantin’ to talk much about it.  He did mention that Charlie was goin’ to make him sheriff’s deputy.  That might be a better position for him, plus a little more money.”
    Doc held up his cup for a refill.  “I know that Edith has been meeting with the preacher’s wife and a couple of other ladies to especially pray for you men.  She said they even pray for Marshal Queens.”
    “Well, we all need it Doc, that’s for sure,” I remarked emptying the last swallow from my cup.  “I’m goin’ out to check on a few things.  I’ll find out about Lucas.”  I started to leave, but stopped to look at Molly.  “Save me a couple of those enchiladas.”
    I nodded at the two men sitting at the table.  One lifted a hand in acknowledgment, then I went out the door into the cold…