The Saga of Miles Forrest

Charlie Gold was sitting with me in the diner sharing coffee and looking over the telegrams I had received.  Queens was not known in New Mexico Territory, but Marshal Wilcox thanked me for taking care of “the Scorpion” Rafael Garcia.  He was not a big time outlaw, but was known for his recklessness and attitude.  Pepe was a known killer and the two of them were beginning to cause concern in northern New Mexico.
    Both Blasco, Colorado, and McCoy, Kansas, said that Queens was not known to have committed any crimes but had shot several men in fights.  I also received a note from Dave Cook, brought down by the train from Silverton.  Cook said that Queens was a dangerous man, quick to anger, and he thought malicious.  So far Stan Offut had not said anything to Queens, but I reckoned sooner or later he would.  At least Queens wouldn’t know about Cook’s telegram.
    “What do you think the Judge will do?” asked Charlie after wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
    Molly was walking up to the table, so I dared not do what Charlie did.  Instead I took another swallow as she sat down watching me closely.  I touched my mouth with the table linen and received a smile from Molly, then rubbed down my moustache with thumb and forefinger.
    “Don’t know, that’s why I want to talk with him before deciding whether or not to bring charges,” I responded.
    “Oh, Miles, you’re really not going to charge those children with horse-stealing, are you?” questioned Molly.  “And Lucas, he just got caught up in something.”
    I stood to take the coffeepot off the stove behind me, and refilled Charlie’s cup, then poured Molly a cup and topped mine off.  “That’s just it.  He’s got to know that he can’t be led around by the wrong crowd.  Remember also, Two-Bits was one of the horses he stole.”
    Charlie took over from there.  “If it had been some rancher’s horses, say Cecil Thompson for example, most likely we would have found Lucas and Fernando dangling from a tree.”
    “It’s bad enough that those boys have been sitting in that jail cell waiting for the Judge to return,” snapped Molly before tasting her coffee.
    Marta happened to hear what she said, “No, Molly.  If Lucas was not in the jail, I would have wringed his stupid neck!”
    That brought a chuckle from Charlie who lowered his head placed his forehead in his hand.  He’d already been caught.  “What?  You think this is funny, my husband?  It is not!”
    “No dear, I was just imagining you grabbing hold of Lucas, that’s all,” he said trying to be solemn.
    I reached out and took the telegrams from Charlie and handed them to Molly.  “Looks like Queens is not wanted for anything, but his reputation is not the best.”
    “Hmpf,” she muttered, “I could have told you that.  When are you to meet with Judge Klaser?”
    I looked up at the large banjo clock on the wall, one of the few things that Molly had from her mother.  “Fifteen minutes,” I stated, then swallowed the rest of my coffee.  “Let’s go Sheriff.”
    When we arrived at the Judge’s office, he was standing by his office door to greet us so his secretary wouldn’t have to ask why we were there.  He pointed at us and motioned us to follow him into the office.  Charlie shut the door behind him.
    “Sit down!” he ordered gruffly which was not his normal character.  “Now, explain this to me again.”
    I went through the scenario of what took place, to which I received a sort of a grunt from time to time from the Judge.  When I was finished, he asked, “Are you sure you want to place charges against them?  It would be at least five years in the pen.”
    Glancing over at Charlie, then back to the Judge with a frown on my face.  “I don’t want them to go to prison, but I do want to teach them a lesson.”
    Judge Klaser then began to stroke his beard and at the end of each stroke he muttered, “hmmm.”  After stroking his beard for several seconds, he scratched his head and cleared his throat with a cough.  “I can do this, Miles.  But understand this, they will have a record.  I can commute their sentence and put them on probation.  They will answer to you or Charlie, whoever is available.  For six months they will muck the streets or Durango, make sure the community troughs are filled, the wood at all public buildings is cut and stacked.  They will report to you at the end of every week, giving you a written report of their work.  They are to be available to do any other work that may be required by the community.  Oh, and they will attend church with you each Sunday,” he stopped to look at me, then over to Charlie.  “Any questions?  If not, court date is tomorrow morning.”
    “One more thing,” he offered as we started to leave.  “They’ll be charged with public mischief and endangerment to property.”
    Charlie opened the door and stepped out.  I was just about to do so when the Judge hollered, “Miles, hold on a minute.”
    I went back to the desk.  “Have you heard anything about Queens?”
    “Not wanted for anything,” I replied, “but thought to be a dangerous man.”
    He nodded then waved me away.  Charlie was waiting for me outside and we went down to the jail to tell the “criminals” of their court date.  When we walked in Lucas was standing outside the cell with his back against the adjacent one with a look of total fear on his face.  Mike Queens was in the cell with Fernando…