The story begins in another town. It was inside a house belonging to a man by the name of Ralph Hayden. He was a mortal enemy of mine. In his study, a very large picture of me hung on his wall beside his desk. On this particular day, another man by the name of Mario Rosati was there – not to admire his house, but to discuss business. And I was the subject of that business. Hayden pointed to my picture. “I keep that there to remind me every minute of every day that the slug from his rifle put me in this wheelchair for the rest of my life. I’ve died a thousand deaths since that shootout with Lucas McCain. But I’ll settle for one fast finish for him.” He gave Mario everything he had on me. “Remember…Remember this. Before he dies, he’s got to know that I arranged it. I went to a lot of trouble bringing you here from New Orleans. I don’t want it to be for nothing!”
Mario assured Hayden that he took a lot of pride in his work. “You’ll get only one chance. Don’t make a mistake!”
“They’ll be no mistake!” Mario assured Hayden.
“How can I be sure?” Hayden asked then.
“I have ways. I am different.” He suddenly turned and threw a knife toward my picture, hitting me right in the throat.
“Is that the way you will do it?” Hayden asked.
“It will depend upon my mood,” Mario answered. Then he took out the knife and stuck it back up his sleeve.
When Mario got into North Fork, he sat up on a hill above our house and waited for us to leave. He soon found his opportunity. Mark rode out to the south section of our ranch to check on some of our cattle when he noticed several post's were down. It looked as if they might have rotted off at the base. We rode out to round up the ten head of cattle that was grazing there and took them over to the east pasture until we could put up some new post.
As soon as we left, Mario cautiously rode up to our ranch. He knew us well. He knew Mark and I were the only two occupants of the house, so he could go inside and make himself at home. He did so quietly and carefully. While he waited for us to come home, he looked through our house – including our cabinets and doors.
When we returned home, Mark and I tied our horses by the shed. But when I turned to go in, I saw the white horse tied up outside our house. I didn’t say a word as I grabbed my rifle from the scabbard and motioned for Mark to stay where he was. I slowly approached the house. Quietly, I opened the door with my rifle aimed. I must admit that I was a bit surprised to find a man leaning over the table with his back towards me. "Looking for somethin' mister?" I asked him as I held my rifle on him. he turned to face me I noticed he had his right hand behind his back. "What are you doing here?" I asked him.
"The Door was unlocked...I took the liberty of entering," said the stranger. I looked at his right arm and motioned for him to show me what was in his hand. I thought it might be a weapon, but it was only a pencil. "I was just about to leave a note to let you know that I had called Mr. McCain." I was still not sure if he was a friend or a foe. "You are Lucas McCain?" He asked.
I moved from the door and stepped further into the room. “That’s right. Who are you?”
He smiled at me. “My name is Mario Rosati. I’m sure you’ve never heard of me, but I certainly have heard of you!”
Still not convinced…”Oh? How’s that?”
“In your hometown - Enid Oklahoma.” He then showed me a card from a lawyer, Johnny Morgan, one of my oldest and best friends. He told me on his way out west he had stopped in Oklahoma, he needed some legal advice and Johnny was most helpful to him. I told him I was glad to meet him as we shook hands. We then talked over coffee. He told me he was on his way to San Francisco and Johnny had suggested he stop by and meet me.
Now I was convinced he was a friend. I apologized for the greeting that I had given him. He understood. I told him anyone who was a friend of Johnny's was no stranger to me. Mark was standing at the door listening to our conversation. When I went to introduce him to Mark, he already knew his name. “Well, it seems like Mr. Rosati knows a little bit about us, son!” I declared as they shook hands.
I started to tell Mark who Mr. Rosati was, but he already knew. “Well…it seems like Mark knows a little about you to!”
“Well, I sorta saddled up to the door,” Mark admitted with a grin.
I asked Mario where his baggage was. He told me he’d left it with the stage master. He’d rented a horse in town and rode out. “Well Mark, do you mind saddling into town and picking up Mr. Rosati’s baggage? He’ll be staying with us.” Mario started to decline the invitation, but I wouldn’t hear of it!
Neither would Mark. He heartily declared, “And we don’t take no for an answer!”
I told Mario we’d set up a cot in the living room. He was to call me Lucas. He told me he was expecting anything like this. “Who says you were? It was strictly my idea!” I declared. “You finish your coffee. I’ll put your horse away. You’ve had a pretty long ride.” He wanted to repay me, but I told him to just make himself at home.
That night, Mario was getting ready to settle in when Mark approached him. "Mario...I was thinking...it sure is hard to believe," said Mark.
"What?" Asked Mario, wondering if Mark suspected something.
“Your reason for coming here.”
"Hard to believe?" He questioned, wondering if Mark was aware of something. "Yeah...what you were tellin' Pa and me at supper. About the way things are in your country," stated Mark.
"Oh," said Mario as he told Mark to sit down next to him. Mario had told Mark and I how his father was killed by the Society. "All those people workin' the land from the time they were young...'till the time they die and then just to have someone just come in and take it all away from them...to always live in such fear."
"Society is something to fear...never knowing when or where it's going to strike," said Mario.
"Yeah but they're just a bunch of bandits!" Exclaimed Mark. Mario told him it was much more then that, they are an organization. Which spread's far and wide like the tentacles of an octopus. Mark could get over no one trying to stop them. Mario told him that fear paralyzes most men. Some brave men have spoken up, but unfortunately their voices were stilled by either bullets to the heart.....a stiletto to the throat or a garrote, which is a weapon of strangulation prided by the societies trained by the professional assassinations. He told Mark they would come in the middle of the nice while the victim was sleeping and with one hard pull the life is snuffed out.
"Anyhow...that's all behind you now," said Mark.
"The wound heals Mark, but there's always the scar to remind one of the pain," said Mario.
“You’ll forget,” Mark assured him. “In this country a man keeps what he works for.”
"I guess I'll have to get used to that," said Mario.
"Like my Pa says, with hard work there's nothing you set your mind to that you can't get. And there's nothing to fear either. Course I'm not saying that we never run into any trouble but then my Pa, why he stands up and fights!”
“And he usually wins?” Mario asked.
“Well, he always wins, against all comers!" As Mark talked, Mario could see the devotion and admiration Mark had for me.
I walked in then and put up my rifle. “Lucas, I envy you!” Mario declared. I wondered what that was all about. “You’re the passionate champion!”
I laughed. Point at Mark, I said, “I wouldn’t say he’s a fair judge.”
"Well I'd like to know of anyone around here who can get the better of ya'!" Exclaimed Mark. I told them there must be somebody.
Mario disagreed, he knew how Mark felt because that was the exact way he felt about his father. "So it must be true." I told Mark that we had a big day of ahead of us and that we better turn in for the night.
Mario waited for us to close the door, then he opened a case. Inside were all kinds of weapons. The bedroom door suddenly opened. Mario quickly closed the case as Mark walked out. He handed Mario a blanket, warning that it could get pretty chilly here at night. Mark turned to go to the bedroom, but then he turned. “Mario, I sure am glad you are staying here.”
Mark’s presence made Mario uncomfortable. He knew it wouldn’t be as easy to carry out his job with Mark there. He took out the garrote and stared at it. He practiced tightening it around a pillow. Mario had a lot of anger inside himself.
The next morning, I was outside shooting my rifle for practice. Mario went to the front window and watched me. He started to come out the front door, but thought better of it. Quietly, he made his way out the back door and slowly crept up behind me. I was startled when he suddenly appeared. He apologized, telling me he had the country habit of walking too quietly.
I thought it must be pretty dull for him around here and thought he might like to take a ride up to Twin Peaks. He said he couldn't he had promised to help Mark as soon as he came back from town. “Oh, he’s been working on you, huh?” I smiled. “He’s been working on me too. He wants you to stay a while longer. Mario, he’s taken more than an ordinary shine to you. He’s never met anyone quite like you.” I couldn’t convince him to stay. He said he MUST be on the train tomorrow night.
The way he said that was odd…There was something about him…I just couldn’t put my finger on it!
. Mark and I were clearing the supper table while Mario went outside to take in the night and the thoughts that have been running through his mind. Mark saw Mario go outside and took this opportunity to talk with him. Mario was leaning over the corral deep in thought as Mark slowly and quietly began approaching him. Mario saw the axe on the post and pulled it out.
Mario had the axe in his hand, and when Mark tapped on his shoulder he turned and raised the axe as if to hit Mark. "Never do that! Never sneak up behind me like that! Do you hear me? Never!" Mark was shocked at the behavior. "You could have been killed!" Mario turned from him and leaned back over the fence. “Why did you come to me anyway?”
“I…I…I thought something was wrong,” Mark explained. “The way you were standing there and looking over there…I…” Mark stopped. “I’m sorry if I frightened ya.” He turned to leave.
“Wait!” Mario stopped him. He put a hand on Mark’s shoulder and Mark half-turned to look at him. “It is I who am sorry. Please forgive me, Mark.”
He was starting to feel the pressure of having to kill me and liking us, especially Mark. "I was looking into the past, reliving that day," said Mario.
"What day?" Mark asked quietly.
"That Day," answered Mario. There was such loneliness in his voice. “First it was the morning in the market place of our village. My father spoke to the other men who had gathered there. Spoke openly against the Society. He dared to say in public that they had the right to stand up for what was right for them…I can still see the dazzling fire in his eyes and the new born hope it kindled in the eyes of his listeners.” He spoke so sadly – as if it had happened just yesterday.
“Your Pa was a brave man,” Mark stated quietly. He had tears in his own eyes.
“He was a beautiful man,” Mario agreed. “That afternoon, my father and I were out in the field. It was early spring, just as it is now. My father sang as we walked. The sun was pleasant on our backs. Then the horsemen rode up. Not a word was said. The horsemen fired his gun. My father fell dead. The horseman turned and rode away. There was a hill on the edge of our field. Some strangers gave him that…My father loved that place the most. When we finished inspecting the fields, we would sit there…He would tell me stories. Being with him – listening to him…I was completely happy. He was such a wonderful man. I buried him there. And I sat out for revenge to find his murderer.”
Mark listened quietly with mixed emotions. He spoke in a little more than a whisper. When Mark finally spoke, he did the same. “Mario? Did you…find the man who killed your Pa?”
“I found him,” Mario answered.
“Did you kill him?”
“Many times!" He slammed the axe into the fence post. He was tormented in a lot of different ways. He saw his father and him in Mark and me. And that terrified him. “Many times.”
Later that night, I was sitting at the table reading my Bible and Mark was in my leather chair reading his. But he couldn’t seem to concentrate. “I don’t understand, Pa. The way he got up and went out after supper without saying anything…”
I smiled. Mark was such a worry wart! I reminded him that he said he was going for a walk. “There’s nothing mysterious about a man wanting to be by himself for a bit, son.”
“Yeah. But that was a couple hours ago.” I told him to go back to his reading. Mario would be back when he was ready.
“Many times,” Mark muttered. He was remembering the conversation from earlier. “Maybe you misunderstood.”
“No. I heard him clear, Pa,” Mark argued. Many times, he said. What could that mean?”
“Well, it could mean he’s lived it over and over again. A thing like that’s not easy to forget.”
We went to bed.
That night while Mark and I were sleeping Mario got his garrotes out and thought of strangling me while I slept. Tonight was his last night – he had to get his job done. He slowly opened the door. Standing in the doorway, he looked at me as I slept peacefully.
He knew what he had to do. He HAD to do it. He told himself that as he walked into the room. But as he started to approach me, he looked at Mark sleeping so peacefully and innocently. How could he take from Mark what was taken from him? How could he allow Mark to see the same thing he’d seen as a child?
He couldn’t. He turned and left the room.
The next day, I was outside sawing wood when Mario came out carrying his suitcase. “What is this Mario?” I asked.
“It’s time for me to leave.” I told him it wasn’t even noon yet. “Nevertheless, it’s time for me to go.” I reminded him that his train didn’t leave until 8:00 tonight. “I’m not going to San Francisco. Change in plans.”
I wanted him to stay until Mark came home for lunch. “It’s best that I never see him again. Best for me and him.”
“What are you talking about?”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a derringer. I was startled. “What are you doing, Mario?”
“What I was paid to do,” he answered. “What I came here for – kill you. I waited until now because I had an unexpected problem – your son. But in my business I can’t afford personal feelings. A job is a job – just as it is now.
I started to look out of the corner of my eyes to get a fix on how far my rifle was, but he warned me not to try for it, that I didn't have a chance. Mark came around the side of the barn then. He saw Mario holding a gun on me. “Why me?” I asked.
He told me Ralph Hayden was his client. “And he wanted the satisfaction of you knowing it before he died. Those are his feelings in the matter. Mine are purely business. Now…” Mario cocked his derringer.
Neither of us heard Mark slowly coming up the side of the barn. When Mark heard what was being said, all he could think of was getting my rifle to me. When Mario triggered his pistol Mark yelled to me. "Pa!" He threw me my rifle. I caught it, turned, and shot Mario once. He started to fall very, very slowly. But as he fell, I saw something on his face. It was almost like…relief or happiness…and he fell to the ground. Mario was dead. As I looked over at Mark I could see the anguish on Mark's face.
So many questions – but very few answers.
Mark was taking it pretty hard. That night he was outside going over in his mind the past couple of days. I went out to talk to him, maybe somehow ease his mind. "What are you thinking about son?"
"All along Mario had planned to kill you." He still couldn’t believe it.
"Something's happened to change his plans," I suggested. Mark wondered what I meant. "Well…in that split moment he found himself in his father in as you and me," I said.
"When you tossed me that rifle. Mark, he could have easily fired he was an expert, a professional. He had me son.....but he didn't squeeze the trigger."
"Then he wanted to die?"
"I think in that one moment he realized he no longer had anything to live for....he found a way of going home Mark...for good!"
"You know Pa...it may sound kinda strange but...I think I know how he felt."
piddlin' stuff.....Cesare Danova (pronounced Chez-a-ray Da-NO-va) played Mario Rosati. He was the one who claims to be an old friend of an old acquaintance, but was really hired to kill Lucas.
Cesare Danova played Count Alfredo di Marcosini Montova in 'Duel of Honor.' He also appeared in another episode of "The Rifleman".....'Baranca' as Baranca.
Although I enjoyed him in everyone of these episodes, I would say his role as Mario Rosati in 'The Guest' was my favorite.
He was a regular in two TV series. "Garrison's Gorillas" as Actor and Silvio Conti in the soap "Ryan's Hope." Was once considered for the role of Ben Hur in MGM's 1959 version of Ben-Hur.
He was an expert archer. Was born in Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy.
I remember him in the 1966 horror movie "Chamber of Horrors" as Anthony Draco. Loved this movie! Pure charisma!!!!! This guy really had class!
When Danova first came to America, he was quoted as saying that he wished to lose his accent so that he would be able to play the role he most wanted, that of an American cowboy. In 1958, he got his wish. He made his American television debut in a first-season episode of "The Rifleman" (1958) called 'Duel of Honor,' the first of three appearances.
Walter Sande played Ralph Hayden. He was the one who hired Mario to kill Lucas.
A primary support player during the 'golden age' of TV, Walter worked on nearly every popular western and crime show available throughout the 50's and 60's. He had a regular series role on "The Adventures of Tugboat Annie" as Captain Horatio Bullwinkle, Annie's tugboat rival, and a recurring one as Inger Stevens' Swedish father, Lars "Papa" Holstrum, on "The Farmer's Daughter" that ran in the 60's.
I bet this is the same white horse that was in 'Baranca'
ga·rotte /g-rät, -rt; gar-t/ — Function: noun
1 a : a method of execution by strangling b : the apparatus used
2 : an implement (as a wire with a handle at each end) for strangling
Taken from Merriam-Webster Word Central online Dictionary
How would you interpret the ending to this episode?
I'm not saying an alternate ending, this is different, I'm saying 'interpret.'
If you had to write your 'interpretation' of what you believe (just for pretend) really happened when we see Mario Rosati 'appear' as though he was going to kill Lucas. In other words, without changing the episode in any way, could you interpret the ending differently? 'The Guest' — The End
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
Old Man Running
Requiem at Missions Springs
around The McCain Ranch