The Saga of Miles Forrest

I saddled up Hawk and stopped by the eatery on the way out of town.  Molly had a couple of ham sandwiches made for me, and had packed some bacon and coffee in my saddlebag in case I had to stay over. 
“Miles, I don’t feel good about this,” she said. 
Pulling her close I held her.  “It’ll be all right.  The Lord guides our steps.”
Mounting I started to ride off when she spoke up again.  “Miles Forrest, you come back to me.”
I tipped my hat and road off down the street.
It hadn’t snowed in a few days and there had been some traffic on the road, so I couldn’t see the tracks clearly.  Even though the sun was shining bright it was cold.  I moved slowly from one side of the road to the other looking to see if any horses had moved off the road.
It was hard to see, the sun was so bright upon the snow.  I pulled my bandana around and cut a couple of places where I could see making a sort of mask.  Snow blindness was no fun, but the drawback was that I could not get a clear view around me.  I moved slowly.  A couple of hours went by.  I passed a couple of turnoffs, but felt that they stayed on the main road going toward Cortez. 
I knew they wouldn’t want to be staying out in the cold so I began to think of places on the road where they might hold up.  I knew the road pretty well as I traveled the coach this way often.  There were a few shacks here and there and then the little village of Mancos.  It was close to thirty miles and with the road conditions I don’t think they would make it that far.
Coming to the junction that would jog a few miles to the south to Hesperus or north to Mayday, I hesitated.  Not relishing to stay out in below zero degree weather I rode on down to Hesperus.  Western folk are pretty good about taking in strangers, especially during the winter so I figured I could find a place for the night.  There were a couple of stores and houses and I rode up to one that had a couple of horses out front.
It was warm inside.  There were some men watching a couple of others play checkers.  They greeted me with a nod.  I asked if they had any visitors recently.
“You a lawman?” one asked.
“Detective, I work for Wells Fargo.”
“Yur the first person that’s stopped in a couple of days.”
“Know of any place I can set up for the night?”
“There’s an empty shack down a piece.  Ifn there’s no wood cut, you can take some from the pile outback.”
“Thanks,” I turned and moved on out.
The shack was easy to find.  I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I brought Hawk inside.  I put him on one side of the room, but was concerned that he might get too accustomed to the warmth.  It was going to drop well below zero tonight so didn’t think it would hurt for one night.  After I got a fire started I found a pot outside and threw in some snow to melt for Hawk.  I threw my bedroom out in front of the fire and then fried up some of the bacon and put on the coffee.  Glad I had four walls and a roof for soon the wind was a howling. 
The next morning I had a quick breakfast and another pot of coffee then we were off.  I had hoped to find some hay for Hawk but none had been available.  I had better be sure and give him a good feed when we got back.
The wind last night didn’t help for it made the snow hard and would cover up any tracks that might have been there.  I decided to travel on down the road as far as Mancos before turning around.  We had been on the road a couple of hours, moving slowly.  A shot, then another.  Hawk shuddered and fell.  That little moment of shudder gave me time to pull my feet from the stirrups or I would have had a leg trapped underneath him.
I hunkered down beside him.  He was still, but I could feel him breathing.  What a stinking, rotten thing to do–shoot a man’s horse.  The shots came from above me in some rocks.  I was fortunate.  Then I heard sounds of horses galloping just to the east of where I lay.  Dummy!  They put me afoot and now were heading back to Durango.
The words came to me, “They plan to hurt me.”  They shot my horse…Durango.  They were going back after Molly.  I was almost in a panic when…