The Saga of Miles Forrest

We had checked a few shacks west of town, but they were filled with out-of-work, down-on-luck miners. I don’t know how they make it through the winter. The mines lay off two-thirds of their workers in the winter and just keep on a crew to keep the mine open and running.
I had hoped that we might come upon them. With two severely injured men, I didn’t think they could go far, but again we might be searching in the wrong direction. This was just the easiest way to travel. Most outlaws, in my experience, don’t like the hard way. That’s why they steal the hard-earned money of others; they are too lazy to work for it themselves. Ironic though, they usually end up staying in places of squalor.
We had been out about four hours when the snow started to fall. It was already coming down hard and Billy was whining about being cold.
“We need to turn back to Durango,” he whined.
With the snow falling harder by the minute and the wind blowing it was becoming hard to see. “Too late for that. We need to find a place to hole up until it’s over.”
It was becoming hard to see anything, but finally I spied a couple of shacks together with what looked like a stall. Hopefully, one of the shacks was vacant. Riding toward the shacks, I halted. There were three horses in the stall. Well, they would have to make room for two more.
“Ride easy, Billy,” I said. Looking around I could see firewood cut and in front of one of the shacks. There was some more on the side of the stall.
Dismounting I led Star inside, took off the saddle and rubbed him down. Billy was still sitting in his saddle. “Get down, and take care of your horse!” I ordered.
“Too cold,” he said shivering. I’m freezing.”
Poor boy, I thought sarcastically. With it snowing this hard it wasn’t that cold. As soon as it stopped the temperature
would really drop. “Take care of your horse! He’s been working and needs rubbing down in this cold weather.”
I noticed that one of the other horses in the stall was still saddled. Made me think I should check their gear. The other two saddles were laying on the ground, so I went to look them over. On one of them was a dark blotch of something–blood maybe.
Going back to my saddle I pulled the Greener. “Come on, I think we’ve found our men,” I said in a whisper.
His eyes widened. I walked up to the shack and pounded on the door. “Hello, the shack. We need out of the weather.”
A rough, growly voice answered. “No room, already full.”
I pounded on the door again. “Open up!”
“Go ‘way; try the other shack, it’s empty,” came the growly voice again.
“This is Marshal Forrest along with Marshal Denton, open up or I’ll kick it in.”
I motioned for Billy to move back just as a shot was fired through the door. There was a scream from Billy, “I’m hit!” Two more shots came through the wooden door.
Pointing the shotgun at the door I let go with both barrels. That made mostly splinters of the door. Quickly I turned to the side and reloaded.
I motioned for Billy to move to the left side of the building. “I can’t,” he cried, “I’m shot, I’m bleedin’.”
Sighing I decided I would try once more. “Through your guns out!”
Taking off my sheepskin coat so I could get to my pistol easier I dropped it in the snow. With the snow I wouldn’t freeze before I got the job done or took a bullet.
Slowly I moved to the doorway. Peeking through the shattered door I saw a man lying on the floor. He looked at me and tried to bring up his pistol. “Don’t!” I hollered.
He fired but could barely hold the gun and the bullet wasn’t close; as he did there was another shot from the right in the room. I didn’t know what good it would do, but I fired at the shack to my right side, then pulled my pistol and shot the man laying on the floor.
The door was now completely off the shack except for the bottom hinge. Easing up to it I saw a man laying on a bunk, holding a pistol. I could see he was bleeding some. Then I glanced to the other side of the room; there was another man laying on a bunk, either unconscious or dead.
“Put down the gun!” I ordered once more. “I don’t want to make you a present to your Maker for Christmas–put it down. I’m gonna fire both barrels when I come through the door and you’ll not even be good for mincemeat.” I waited a few seconds then heard the gun hit the floor.
“I’m hurt,” he mumbled.
“Billy, follow me,” I said and went in not knowing if he followed or not.
It was our three outlaws. The man who had dropped his gun was laying on the bed. He was the one I shot in the hip at the marshal’s office. The blood I saw was from splinters that were sprayed by the blast of the shotgun.
“Billy hold your gun on him while I check the man on the other bed.”
He started to whine. “Do it!”
Going over to the other man, I noticed that he stunk. He was unconscious and moaning. I pulled the blanket off him and saw his hip and leg–black, with gangrene. What a terrible way to die as there was nothing I could do for him.
“Billy,” I said, “I’m going to check out the other shack. I don’t plan to stay in this one with that stench,” I paused and looked around. “We’re going to be here a few days.”
He looked at me as if he was going to cry. “I’m hurt bad,” was all he said.
“I’ll look at you when I get back from checkin’ that other shack.”
Going to it, I slowly opened the door and… .