Written by Deanne Bertram
Lucas McCain took a sip
from his cup of coffee as he stepped out onto the porch of their home. He
looked out over the horizon expecting to see his young son riding BlueBoy up
the road any time. It was the last day of school before summer break and
Lucas had planned to surprise Mark with a weekend of fishing and camping.
Things had quieted on the ranch from all the activity of spring calving and
planting. He’d wanted to reward his boy for bettering his grades the past
few months and to spend a few quiet days together before the work of summer
started in earnest.
Lucas returned to the
house, placed his coffee cup in the sink before he headed to the barn. The
farther the late afternoon sun dipped in the sky without sign of Mark, the
more concerned Lucas became. At the latest, Mark knew he should be home no
later than four o’clock. Finally, Lucas saddled Razor and headed to North
Forth to track down his wayward son.
His first stop along the
way was the boy’s favorite fishing hole. As he rode, Lucas gave a chuckle;
how many times had he found Mark fishing with his friend Freddie when he
should have been at home to work on chores? His boy was so easily
distracted when it came to fish biting that he tended to lose all track of
time. As Lucas approached, he didn’t see anyone sitting along the bank, so
he rode on to North Fork. Upon his arrival, he stopped at the school. He
peered inside the window to find no one in the building. As he
absent-mindedly tried the closed doors and realized they were locked, he
looked perplexed. Lucas returned to Razor and rode on to the Marshal’s
“Afternoon Micah, you
seen Mark lately?” inquired Lucas as he entered the office.
“Afternoon LucasBoy, he
was in town a few hours back. Saw him stop by Hattie’s looking over her
selection of hard candies,” Marshal Micah Torrance answered with a smile as
he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Care for a cup?”
“What? No, not now,”
Lucas distractedly answered. “That boy knew he was supposed to be home some
time ago. Well, when I find him, we may just not take that camping trip I
was planning this weekend.”
“Now Lucas, you know you
were planning to surprise him with the trip. And boys will be boys. I’m
sure he just lost track of time, what with today being the last day of
school. He and Freddie Toomey are probably out at the fishing hole.
Besides, would you expect anything less from an eleven year old boy?”
“No. Their fishing hole
was the first thing I thought about. No one was fishing when I stopped
there before heading into town. Stopped by the school too, just in case he
got himself into trouble and was kept after, no one was there either,” Lucas
“Lucas, he’s just a
Pacing in front of the
marshal’s desk, Lucas frowned. With a growing irritation, Lucas continued,
“Well, guess I’ll stop by Hattie’s and see if she knows where he headed
after he left her place.”
Lucas turned and left
the Marshal’s Office. He looked up and down the street hoping to see Mark
Lucas entered the
general store and waited as the proprietor, Hattie Denton, finished with a
customer. Mrs. Porter was leaving the store as Hattie greeted Lucas,
“Evening Lucas, what brings you to North Fork so late in the day?”
“I’m looking for that
boy of mine. Micah said he saw him over here a few hours ago,” answered
Lucas. Hattie didn’t miss the hint of irritation Lucas tried to hide in his
“Lucas, he was here, I
asked him to run an errand for me on his way home. Nick Bennett received a
special delivery letter two days ago,” Hattie realized from Lucas’
expression that he didn’t recognize the name. “Lucas, they moved into town
about a month ago. They purchased the McDougall’s place. Mark’s become
friends with Nick’s boy Marty. Since it wasn’t too far out of his way home,
I didn’t think you’d mind him running an errand for me.”
“McDougall’s place, well
I had heard the place was bought, just hadn’t met the family yet.” Lucas
answered. “I was looking forward to meeting them at the town social next
“Quite a fine family,
Nick and Mildred Bennett, they have two children, Marty and a girl, Lilly.
Oh, now Lucas, Mildred does a lot of baking and Mark probably got to
enjoying some of her cakes or pies and lost track of time. I’m sure by now
he’s probably at home and wants to know where you are.” Hattie’s voice had
taken on a motherly tone with Lucas, letting him know he was fretting over
“Maybe you’re right,”
Lucas stated has he allowed Hattie to continue to chastise him.
Lucas enjoyed these
moments. Hattie had taken both Lucas and Mark under her wings soon after
they had arrived in North Fork. Though she didn’t have children of her own,
she treated Lucas as if he were her son and Mark her only grandchild. And
the feeling was mutual.
Lucas walked out of the
store and mounted Razor to ride home.
“You better be home,
young man,” mused Lucas.
After Lucas left the
general store, Hattie walked over to the café for a bite to eat. Micah was
already inside and asked Hattie to have a seat with him. As they were
eating, Eddie, the town’s telegrapher, came into the cafe.
“Micah, got a wire here
from the New Mexico Territorial Prison for you. Seems there might be a
storm brewing our way.”
Micah accepted the sheet
of paper, read the wire, and shook his head.
“Micah, what’s wrong?”
Micah showed the wire to
Hattie, she gasped as she read the part about Nick Bennett.
“Micah, Mark ran an
errand for me to the Bennett’s this afternoon. Lucas was looking for Mark…”
Micah stood and ran out
of the café. He ran over to the saloon to see who would be available for a
posse. Inside were liveryman/blacksmith Nils Swenson, rancher Frank Toomey,
and banker John Hamilton. Micah explained to them his fears. They all ran
for their horses and rode to the Bennett’s.
As Lucas returned to the
ranch house, dusk was falling and from the distance he stood, he could see
no lit lamp evident on the front porch or in the front room, if Mark had
been home at least one of the two lamps would have been lit.
Lucas kicked Razor and
turned him to head over to the Bennett’s place. Lucas was trying to keep
his temper in check as he rode, no sense losing it in front of a new family
in town. He’d reprimand Mark, in private, once he got his boy home. There
definitely would be no fishing trip this weekend.
As Lucas turned down the
road to the Bennett’s he found Micah and a posse standing at the crossroad.
Micah was giving out orders to those present; he stopped as he saw Lucas
“Micah, what’s this all
about?” Lucas asked.
“Lucas, did Mark get
home?” Micah asked instead of answering Lucas’ question.
“Not yet. Micah you
didn’t answer my question,” Lucas said seeing the expressions on the faces
of the men. No one would look Lucas in the eye and he grew concerned.
“Lucas, after you left
town, I received a wire from the New Mexico Territorial Prison. Seems that
Tom Rawlings and two others broke out of prison a week ago.”
“Tom Rawlings, I don’t
recall the name,” Lucas replied. “Sides, what’s that have to do with why
“Lucas, he’s better
known as the Rawhide Kid. Nick Bennett was the key witness in testifying at
the trial that sent the Kid to prison for life. Took them a while to track
down where Bennett and his family had moved. That’s why it took so long in
getting the wire to us. The warden feels that I should put Bennett into
protective custody until they find Rawlings.”
“Mark!” Lucas wheeled
Razor and rode as fast as he dared to the Bennett’s home. The posse
followed right behind Lucas.
As they stopped their
horses in front of the house, each man felt it was too quiet. Surely, it
wasn’t too late in the evening that the adults wouldn’t still be awake. The
posse carefully entered the house, with weapons drawn. The smell turned
their stomachs when they found Nick, Mildred, and Lilly shot dead in the
kitchen. The members of the posse gripped their weapons tighter, praying
the murderer was no longer in the house. Each one saw Nick still had his
shotgun in his hands. They averted their eyes when they saw that Mildred
and been sheltering their daughter when they both were killed. The posse
searched the rest of the house to look for the Bennett’s boy. Adding more
horror to what they had already witnessed, Nils Swenson found Marty in an
upstairs bedroom, lying below the window, bleeding, but still alive. Next
to Marty, Nils picked up Mark McCain’s hat.
“Lucas, in here!” Nils
Lucas entered the room
and saw the blacksmith holding his son’s hat. Lucas started yelling Mark’s
name, running from room to room. Mark never answered.
“He’s still alive,” Nils
stated to the others who crowded into the room.
Gathering the child in
his arms, Nils carried Marty downstairs and out into the front yard. Micah
came out of the house carrying a lantern and bandages. They worked to
bandage the boy to stop his bleeding before taking him to town. Toomey and
Hamilton ran into the barn to search for Mark.
They continued to search
the property for any other signs of Mark. Toomey returned to the front
yard, having found BlueBoy grazing behind the smoke house; he looped the
reins around the hitching rail.
Despair was growing in
Lucas’ heart, ‘Where is Mark?’
As the men milled about,
having exhausted ideas on where to look, Toomey called out, “What about the
cold cellar? The McDougalls had a cold cellar on the back side of barn!”
Toomey arrived at the
cellar, a half step ahead of Lucas. Both reached for the cellar door
handles only to find them barred from the inside. John Hamilton ran to the
workbench in the barn in search of an ax.
“Mark! Are you in
there? Mark!” Lucas yelled, pounding on the doors. “Mark, answer me son!”
Panic welled inside
Lucas when received no response. Lucas saw John run up to them; he grabbed
the ax and started swinging away at the cellar doors. Micah arrived as the
third swing shattered the bar blocking the door from the inside. Lucas
immediately dropped the ax and pulled open the doors. He walked down the
ladder, John and Micah followed with lanterns.
“Mark! Mark, where are
you?” Lucas yelled, searching for his boy.
John and Micah lifted
their lanterns high above their heads as they searched around the cellar,
looking behind boxes and shelving. Soon Micah spied a small figure sitting
in a corner, knees pulled up to his chest, arms wrapped around his knees,
head bent down.
“Lucas, over here!”
Lucas raced to where
Micah stood. He threw the boxes out of his way to reach his boy.
“Mark! Mark!” Lucas
knelt down in front of Mark, grabbed him by the arms to try to pick him up.
Mark, frozen in place wouldn’t budge, he wouldn’t look up, and his arms had
a death grip around his knees. In between hearing Lucas calling his son’s
name, the men heard the ragged gasps of the boy’s breathing.
“Mark! Please! It’s
Pa!” Lucas gently pleaded. Mark never looked up, never gave any indication
that he knew his Pa was in front of him.
“Lucas, stay here with
the boy, I’ll head back to town and bring the Doc,” John offered.
John set the lantern
he’d held on one of the overturned boxes before he headed for the ladder.
After exiting the
cellar, John told Toomey of the scene below, he knew he needed to get Doc
Burrage for Marty and Mark, before taking both the boys back to North Fork.
Micah left the cellar
shortly after John; upset that he didn’t know how to help Lucas or Mark. As
he made his way out of the cellar, he asked Toomey to help hitch the team,
they’d need it to get the boys to town. They also needed to prepare the
bodies of the slain Bennetts to be taken to the undertaker in town.
It was sad work and no
one spoke as they went about doing what needed to be done. Tears streamed
down Nils’ face as he cradled the still unconscious Marty in his arms,
trying to talk soothing words to the boy, begging him to hold on until Doc
arrived. Micah and Toomey struggled through their own emotions as they
began covering the bodies of Nick and Mildred Bennett, but it was
devastating to cover the body of their young daughter and to carry the three
to the back of the wagon.
John rode as hard as he
dared with the light that was offered by the full moon. He pulled up in
front of Doc’s house and jumped down from his horse. He pounded on the door
until Doc answered.
“Doc, we need you… out
at the Bennett’s place.”
“What happened?” Doc
asked seeing panic in John’s face.
“We don’t rightly know…
The family was murdered… And the Bennett’s boy was shot and Mark McCain,
he’s just sitting in the corner of the cellar… He won’t budge, he won’t
move… He wouldn’t even acknowledge that Lucas was in front of him.”
Doc turned and packed a
few medicines in his bag as John hurriedly hitched Doc’s horse and buggy.
Doc left his home, and jogged to the livery, and followed John out of town.
From the porch of the
General Store Hattie witnessed John and the Doc leave town, she clasped her
hands together and closed her eyes as she feared the worse.
John and Doc arrived at
the Bennett’s to find Nils still cradling Marty in the front yard. Micah
and Toomey had loaded the bodies of the deceased in the back of the wagon to
take back to town. Doc gave Marty a brief examination, his pulse was weak
and his breathing shallow, but the bleeding had stopped. With Toomey
steadying him, Nils climbed to the front seat of the buckboard, still
After seeing Marty
settled and comfortable with Nils’ ministrations, Doc allowed himself to be
led by Micah and John to the back of the barn and down into the cellar.
While John was gone, Micah had found more lanterns and brought them down to
the cellar. Doc stopped halfway down the ladder as he saw Lucas and Mark in
the corner. He watched as Lucas kept trying to get Mark’s attention and to
pry the boy’s arms from around his legs.
“Lucas, stop!” Doc
Grief stricken, Lucas
looked over his shoulder towards the Doc.
“Lucas it’s evident he’s
in shock. Let me give him some medication to make him relax and hopefully
sleep. Once he’s asleep, we can move him back to town.” Walking to where
Lucas knelt, Doc set his medical bag on a box next to a lamp. He pulled out
a syringe and a bottle of medicine; he turned the bottle upside down, stuck
the syringe into the cork cap, and drew out the liquid.
It was awkward, but Doc
was able to reach a vein in Mark’s arm and administer the medication. It
took longer than he expected but soon, Mark’s grip on his legs lessened and
his arms fell limply to his sides. Doc was pleased to hear the boy’s
“Go on Lucas, pick ‘em
up. Let’s get him back to town where I can properly examine him and take
are of young Marty,” stated Doc Burrage.
Lucas picked up a
sleeping Mark, resting the boy’s head on his shoulder, the father’s arms
under his son’s back and knees, and carried him out. As the banker held
Razor, Micah helped Lucas mount his horse, still holding Mark in his arms.
Doc had offered to take Mark in his buggy, but Lucas wouldn’t let Mark go.
Toomey tied his and Nils’ horses to the back of the wagon before he climbed
to the seat and sat next to Nils. Once John and Micah mounted their own
horses, with Micah leading BlueBoy, the group rode quietly back to North
Hattie ran towards the
clinic when she saw the solemn procession ride to the doctor’s office,
arriving as the boys were carried in.
Doc was lighting the
lanterns in his office as Hattie stepped inside to see Nils place Marty on
the examination table and Lucas sit down in a chair, still cradling Mark in
his lap. Hattie slowly walked to Lucas’ side as he was brushing Mark’s hair
back from his forehead. Tears streamed down the tall rancher’s face. He
felt relief in finding his son alive, but was shattered for his child lying
in his arms; he’d not been there to protect his boy.
From one of the
cabinets, Hattie pulled out a light-weight blanket to wrap around the boy
sleeping in Lucas’ arms.
Doc diligently worked to
remove the bullet from the front of Marty’s shoulder, and after suturing the
wound closed, he bandaged it, wrapping the gauze around the boy’s torso and
ultimately, bound the child’s arm to his side. Many times the doctor had
worked to bandage a man after being shot, but never had he thought about
having to bandage a child for that reason. The wide bandage only made Marty
Bennett appear even smaller than he was. With resignation, he asked Nils to
take Marty to the back room and place him in a bed. Comfortable that the
boy was settled under the covers, Doc returned to the front office.
Before he turned his
attention to Lucas and to Mark, the doctor cleaned the blood off the
examination table and his instruments. He threw the bloody rags he’d used
in his effort to save a young boy’s life into the potbellied stove; wiping
his hands on the apron he wore as the rags caught fire. Now came the
hardest part, looking after the young son of a man he well respected.
After Doc motioned to
the rancher, Lucas carried Mark over and laid him down on the examination
table. Hattie stood in the corner and watched everything unfold. As Lucas
stepped back, Hattie walked to his side and placed what she hoped would be a
comforting hand on Lucas’ arm. Doc unwrapped the child and removed Mark’s
shirt, just to make sure he hadn’t taken a bullet or bullet fragment. He
positioned his stethoscope over the boy’s chest and listened to Mark’s heart
and lungs; to his experienced ear they sounded strong. He next opened
Mark’s eyes, one at a time and held a lantern close to look into them. Both
pupils reacted to the light.
Doc Burrage finished his
examination and stepped back to say, “I don’t know what more I can do for
him. It doesn’t appear he took any physical injury. But the emotional
injury in what he saw; to a small child can be far worse than a physical
trauma. However, I do believe I was right with my original assessment… The
boy’s in shock.”
Lucas couldn’t speak; he
didn’t know what to say, if anything.
Hattie had briefly left
the clinic and returned; in her hands she carried a nightshirt from the
store for Mark. Hattie assisted Lucas in removing Mark’s boots and pants.
Even asleep from the medication, Lucas could see and feel his boy’s body
trembling. Together, they slipped the nightshirt over Mark’s head and
worked to get his arms in the sleeves. Lucas laid him back down and pulled
a cover over him, then waited.
The medication kept Mark
asleep for the rest of the night. Doc pulled a cot into the room so Lucas
could be near his son. Doc and Hattie left the office when they realized
that Lucas intended to spend the night sitting beside his son. Constantly
the worried father swept his hand over his son’s forehead or lifted the
small hand and held it between his own calloused hands.
While Doc Burrage was
working on the boys, Toomey and Hamilton took the bodies of Marty’s parents
and sister over to the undertaker.
As the sun rose over
North Fork, news of the tragedy at the Bennett’s place began to spread
throughout the town. People quietly spoke of their disbelief that something
so horrible could happen in their town.
As Micah arrived at
Doc’s in the morning, people were gathering nearby, hoping for more news
surrounding Mark and Marty. Doc came out and tried to shoo everyone away,
saying, “If you want to help, please, just pray for these boys. Go about
your daily work. You’ll know soon enough if there’s any change.” With
that, the Doc turned back to his office and closed the door as he went
Hattie arrived with
breakfast for those inside Doc’s office. As she entered, Doc was just
coming in from the back room after examining Marty. She could see Lucas’
face was even more strained this morning than it had been the night before;
it was quite evident he had not slept at all.
Hattie set the tray with
the food on a table and tried to encourage Lucas to eat, without much luck,
all she was able to do was to encourage him to drink some coffee, but he
didn’t enjoy it.
“Doc, how is he?” Lucas
asked as Doc finished checking Mark for the morning.
“I’m not sure, he’s
probably still in shock,” Doc replied.
“How long before it
wears off? How long before he wakes up?” begged Lucas.
“Lucas, I don’t know.
He’s just an eleven year old boy and I can’t imagine what he saw out there
last night. All I can do is make him comfortable and wait.”
When Micah walked into
Doc’s office, there wasn’t a spring in his step, he felt older than his
years. He knew the question he had to ask would not be an easy question for
Lucas to answer. They needed to return to the Bennett’s homestead and track
down the killers. And until the U.S. Marshal arrived in response to the
wire Micah had sent, Lucas was the best person Micah knew to track down the
“LucasBoy,” Micah said
as he walked up next to Lucas. “We need to talk.”
“Not now Micah,” Lucas
answered without caring about the tone of voice he used.
“Yes Lucas, now.
Please...” Micah stepped outside; as Lucas followed he picked up his rifle
from beside the door. Outside Micah explained the need to track the killers
and see that they were brought to justice; said he owed it to the Bennetts.
“I never met the
family. How do I owe it to them when my son is lying in the doctor’s
office?” Lucas’ voice rose as he spoke.
Micah placed a hand on
Lucas’s forearm, “Lucas, if not for the Bennetts then do it for Mark and his
“I can best help Mark by
“Lucas, there are
killers on the loose. They murdered a family in cold blood last night and I
thank God that Mark was spared, but the next time, he might not be.”
“Next time? What do you
mean, next time?” Lucas demanded, his temples throbbing in anger.
“Lucas, use your common
sense, boy. This town is finding out what happened and people talk.
They’ve heard the news of the Rawhide Kid’s escape and putting two and two
together, they’ll figure out that he might be the person responsible. If
he’s anywhere near, he’ll hear the talk that there were survivors.”
“That just goes to prove
my point. I need to stay here with my boy. I have to protect him. I
wasn’t able to last night, but I’m damn sure not going to let anyone get to
him now,” Lucas declared.
“Lucas, I need you to
help protect this town. We have to track the killers, let’s stop them
before they can come back to North Fork and kill again.” Seeing that Lucas
was not listening to reason, Micah continued, “Lucas, can you live with
yourself if those murderers kill another family because you did nothing? Or
can you accept it because it wasn’t your family?”
Lucas and Micah
continued to argue for another ten minutes, neither letting the other have
the final word, until Doc came outside.
“Lucas, he’s awake,” Doc
Burrage quietly said.
Lucas turned, hope
burned in his heart. From the doorway, he saw Hattie sitting on the side of
the examination table, hugging Mark, rocking him in her arms. Mark’s eyes
were open, but weren’t focusing on anything.
With his rifle still in
his hand, Lucas walked into the room. The closer he walked to Mark, the
wider Mark’s eyes opened. Lucas saw fear in his boy’s eyes. With Mark’s
eyes focused on Lucas’ rifle, he started screaming, “No, NO! Don’t kill
them!” He tried pulling away from Hattie, to get farther away from the
rifle. His eyes didn’t see those in the room with him, his mind was
replaying Mark’s memory from the night before. Tears streamed down Mark’s
face as he continued to scream, “NO!”
“Mark?!” Lucas called as
he reached out to his son. But the closer Lucas stepped, the louder Mark
screamed, “NO! NO!” Lucas stopped as he saw his boy’s reaction
become more violent. Pushing Hattie’s arms away, swinging his fisted hands
in the air, and kicking out with his feet.
“Mark, it’s me, Pa,”
Lucas plaintively stated. He looked over his shoulder towards the doctor.
“Lucas, he’s trembling
something fiercely, I can’t calm him down,” Hattie stated with tears falling
from her eyes as she struggled to hold Mark in her arms, hurt that all was
not right once the boy woke.
Doc Burrage was there
again, grabbing for Mark’s arm to administer another shot. Lucas watched as
the medication took effect with Mark whimpering and ultimately collapsing in
Lucas was devastated. ‘What
happened to my boy?’ Not knowing how to reach his son, last night or
now, he turned to face Micah and asked, “When do we leave for the
“We’re planning to leave
from the livery in half an hour,” answered Micah.
“I’ll be there.” A
crestfallen Lucas turned and stepped to Hattie. “Hattie, please…, Take care
of my boy. I’ll be back when I can.”
Closing her eyes at the
sight in front of her, Hattie nodded.
John Hamilton and Frank
Toomey were deputized to stand watch over North Fork, especially the boys.
Micah deputized other citizens to ride with the posse as they began their
trek to find the Rawhide Kid and his gang.
The duly deputized posse
left the livery and headed for the Bennett’s. The mood of the group was
somber. Upon their arrival at the Bennett’s, Lucas and Micah realized just
how difficult it was going to be to track the killers. In their search for
Mark the night before and all the horses moving about as they had prepared
to returned to North Fork, the tracks were intermingled.
As Micah examined the
scene within the house, he picked up Nick Bennett’s shotgun and found one
empty shell inside the breech. He saw a blood trail that had not been
visible in the dim room the night before leading out the back door from the
kitchen. Someone had been injured by Nick Bennett’s shotgun.
Outside, Lucas spent a
long time studying which tracks belonged to the searchers and which tracks
didn’t. Micah hollered for Lucas from the back door of the house. Finally,
Lucas found the tracks he had been looking for, ones that led off over the
hills, away from North Fork.
Before they headed out,
Micah sent Andy Miller back to town with instructions to have Eddie send
wires out to towns South of North Fork, to be on the lookout for any unknown
person suffering a gunshot wound from a shotgun.
Without any further
word, the posse rode.
In light of everything
that had happened, the town council decided to post pone the town social
that had been scheduled for the following weekend. No one felt like having
fun in the aftermath of the tragedy involving the Bennett and the McCain
Lucas McCain sat apart
from the rest of the posse their first night out, his thoughts were back in
North Fork; his mind relived the terror in his son’s eyes and kept it
playing over and over.
“Hey McCain!” one of the
men yelled over. “How far behind the Rawhide Kid are we?”
Lucas stared over the
rim of the tin coffee cup he held in his hands, his gaze settled on the fire
on the other side of camp.
“McCain, I’m talking to
you,” the man hollered.
“Leave him be, Gamble,”
“I got a right to know!
We all do!” Gamble continued.
“Leave it,” Micah
“High and mighty McCain,
he’s the one supposed to be leading us to them outlaws and all he does is
sit over there as if he’s better ‘an us. We got a right to know if we’re
close to them, we got a right to protect ourselves if they’s close.”
“The trail’s leading
south, if we were close, we’d know. Rawlings wouldn’t be fool enough to be
here, just outside the camp if we were too close,” Micah ordered.
“That’s what I’m getting
at! This posse is going like a church social. He could be out there
waiting to pick any one of us off.”
“Rawlings has a wounded
man to deal with. If he thinks he got away, he’ll make a mistake. And when
he does, we’ll get him,” Micah announced.
“Still don’t make no
sense, him sitting over there,” Gamble threw his hand out in frustration in
the direction of Lucas. “I’ve ridden with a posse before and we never…”
“You never what? Used
your brains in order to out think a criminal? All you think about is using
your guns, you’re nothing better than thugs. This isn’t gonna be no
“I ain’t said nothing
about lynching. I just want answers from McCain!” Gamble declared.
“Leave him be. The
man’s son was traumatized by what the Rawhide Kid done to the Bennett
family.” Micah turned away in disgust.
The other members of the
posse had long settled in their bedrolls for the night. Micah stood watch
from the edge of the camp, facing away from the camp fire to keep his night
vision sharp. His gaze kept returning to the tall rancher, sitting alone.
Standing up to stretch his legs, Micah walked over to his friend.
“Lucas?” Micah called as
he neared. “You best turn in; we’ll need you rested in the morning when we
take after Rawlings again. You won’t be able to see the trail if your eyes
are bloodshot from lack of sleep.”
“Did you see his eyes?”
“He was more than
“Scared of what?”
“Me? My rifle? He was
struggling so hard against Hattie to get away.”
Hoping to alleviate the
grief his friend was experiencing, Micah leaned against a boulder, his
scattergun crooked in his elbow and said, “It wasn’t you or your rifle, it’s
what he remembered LucasBoy. I’m sure he didn’t even realize he was in
Doc’s clinic. I bet when he saw your rifle, he thought he was still at the
Bennett’s place. Thinking Rawlings was walking towards him.”
“He shouldn’t have been
there! He shouldn’t have seen what he saw!” cursed Lucas.
“No, no child should be
exposed to that. But he’s seen you kill men before.”
“But that’s just it,
when he’s seen me kill it was because I was forced to kill, it wasn’t wanton
murder; especially not a woman or a child! And I wasn’t there… there to
protect him, to hold him, and comfort him afterwards… He didn’t know me!”
“So, are you seeking
vengeance against Rawlings?”
“I’m seeking justice,
that’s what you’re always preaching about!” Lucas declared. “Isn’t that why
you dragged me away from my son!”
‘So there still is
some fire in there,’ mused Micah as he walked away.
The posse was two days
of out of North Fork and just an hour from Jarilla Junction, New Mexico when
they met up with U.S. Marshal Trip Corydan and a small posse of his own.
Jarilla Junction was a
small town that grew up on the outskirts of several mining camps in the
area. The town blossomed overnight with the promise of gold as men arrived
to make their fortunes quick; however, the big strike of the yellow mineral
proved elusive at best.
To the surprise of the
posse from North Fork, the marshal informed them that the Rawhide Kid and
two others were holed up in one of the local mines. They had made the
mistake of taking Jarilla’s doctor to tend to a shotgun wound. Having
received Micah’s wire two days prior, Marshal Corydan had posted one of his
men outside the doctor’s office as a precaution.
“Abrams will wish he
hadn’t left his post when I get back to town,” Corydan proclaimed. “If
anything happens to Doc, I’ll string him up myself.”
“But now we know where
Rawlings and the others are,” Micah declared.
“The only thing saving
his hide is that he was able to sort of follow them out to the mines,” the
marshal dolefully stated as he glared at his deputy.
“You said, mines,” Lucas
stated. “How many mines are out this way?”
“There’s three major
mines they could have gone to, two ultimately connected when they blasted a
“Three mines. Three
mines…” Lucas mumbled in frustration.
“Those are the major
mines,” Corydan stated. “There are countless smaller mines around this
“What kind of a mine is
Rawlings holed up in?” Micah asked.
“Not exactly sure, my
deputy only followed him to this general vicinity.”
The posse from North
Fork joined Marshal Corydan and headed for the mines. As they reached the
first site, they observed several men already standing behind mine carts and
“Is Rawlings in there?”
Corydan asked of the deputy in charge.
“Don’t know for sure,
but we were fired upon as we arrived.”
“Which mine is this
one?” Corydan asked.
“Jake Dundee’s mine?”
the marshal inquired.
“Yeah, old man Dundee’s
been working this claim.”
“Dundee! Jake Dundee!”
Corydan yelled. “This is Marshal Corydan, are you in there?”
“You ain’t driving me
out of here!” came the nervous voice of an elderly man from within the
mine. “I got papers saying this is mine!”
“Jake! Come out of
there! No one’s trying to drive you from your claim! We’re looking for Tom
Rawlings and his gang!”
“Ain’t no one here but
me an Jezzebelle!” the old man called.
The men in the posse
ducked when they saw movement from the front of the mine; Dundee walked from
his mine, rifle in hand, leading a mule.
“Nothing but wasted
time!” Lucas declared as he clutched his rifle and headed back to his
horse. As he mounted Razor he watched the animated conversation the young
lawman was having with the older prospector.
When the posse arrived
at the next two mines they found guards posted well outside their openings,
but no one else around who would be considered an outlaw. The guards both
stated the mines were closed until Tom Rawlings and his gang were
“That was three mines!”
Lucas vehemently declared. “You said three mines!”
“I said three major
mines,” Corydan corrected. “There’s one more, smaller stake mine about
three miles from here.”
“You really think Tom
Rawlings would kidnap your town’s doctor and drag him all the way out
here?!” demanded Lucas.
Scratching at the back
of his neck, Corydan answered, “Now that you put it that way…” Snapping his
fingers he declared, “Honeymoon Creek!”
Creek?” Micah asked.
“It’s a creek that many
men have tried to mine, they pan for a while, until the ‘honeymoon’ wears
off. There’s a small cave that was dug out into a deeper mine a long time
ago. Even still has tracks and a few carts. Why last time I was there as a
kid, I was surprised with how we could fit several horses inside and still
have plenty of room to play,” Corydan answered.
“Why it’s no more than
three quarters of a mile from town, only the opposite side of town than we
“You said your deputy
followed the man to this area,” declared Micah.
“That doesn’t mean
Rawlings couldn’t have backtracked and laid a false trail for my stupid
deputy,” Corydon stated with disgust.
The posse fell in behind
the marshal as he rode towards Jarilla Junction.
The posse arrived at
Honeymoon Creek and spread out, taking cover; handguns and rifles pointed
towards the mine opening.
Rawlings. I’m U.S. Marshal Trip Corydan. You’re surrounded! Give
The posse waited in
“Rawlings! We know
you’re in there!” Corydon yelled. “Give it up!”
“Like hell I will!” was
yelled from inside the mine.
“We can stay out here as
long as this takes! You can’t. You don’t have provisions to stay holed
up! Give the doctor your guns and send him out. We’ll see that you get
transported back to the territorial prison, alive!” Marshal Corydan yelled
to those in the mine.
“I ain’t going back!
You ain’t taking me alive!”
Then to the amazement of
both posses; the doctor came running out of the mine. He took cover behind
the nearest mine cart before making his way to where both marshals were
“Marshal… the one that
was gunshot… is dead. The other two are arguing… I was able to sneak out,”
the doctor said as he gasped for breath from running to save his own life.
His limbs were shaking as he tried to support himself by holding onto the
wheel of an overturned wagon.
“Thanks Doc, just take
cover, we’ll handle it from here,” Marshal Corydan replied.
Gunfire erupted from the
opening of the mine; the two outlaws were trying to make a run for it on
horseback. For the most part, they fired their shots wildly. One of their
bullets struck their intended target or unfortunately ricocheted to strike
the man. Men from the combined posse returned fired. The rider in back was
the first to fall from his horse. Most of the men pulled their handguns
realizing that Rawlings was out of range; Lucas sited his rifle and took
one last shot causing Tom Rawlings to fall from his horse.
Warily, the Marshal,
Micah, and Lucas headed towards the fallen outlaws. Once given the okay,
the doctor joined the small group and declared both outlaws dead.
“If that’s all, I’ve a
good man back there in need of my services,” the doctor stated, wanting to
be done with the outlaws.
Marshal Corydon quickly
tilted his head, motioning for the doctor to see to his patient within the
Pulling the third outlaw
from the cave, the posse draped the bodies of the three outlaws across the
saddles of their horses; the posses were ready to head out once the injured
member of the posse was situated astride his horse.
The posse from North
Fork headed into Jarilla Junction and stocked up on supplies as they
prepared to return home. Micah had to delay his departure long enough to
provide his report to Marshal Corydan, so it could be properly filed.
Before Micah left, he said he’d file the remainder of his report once he’d
had a chance to talk with both of the boys who survived the attack back in
Lucas refused to wait
for Micah; he wanted to get home to his boy. Worried, what would his boy be
like when he returned home? The image of Mark screaming in fear started to
flood his mind. As long as he had kept his mind focused on tracking down
the killers, he’d been able to block out the image. Now he had nothing to
keep his mind occupied, other than getting home and holding his precious boy
in his arms.
It was later in the
evening, after the posse left North Fork in search of Tom Rawlings that
Marty Bennett woke up. Nils was sitting in a chair at the side of the bed
as he watched tears start to form in the boy’s eyes and slowly run down the
sides of his face. Nils moved to sit on the bed, grabbed the boy in his
arms, and just held him. He continued to talk soothingly to the boy.
Rubbing the boy’s back as he held him and rocked him in his arms.
Doc Burrage entered the
room to check on Marty, the scene would have been so touching to watch, if
he knew the news he had to tell the boy wasn’t so heartbreaking. Doc sat
down in the chair that had previously been occupied by Nils.
“Good Evening Marty.
How do you feel?” Doc asked.
“My shoulder hurts,” he
said through sobs. “My folks…, those men…, they killed them?”
“Yes Marty. I’m so
sorry,” Doc replied.
Nils spoke to Marty,
“Marty, Doc sent a wire to your father’s family in Kansas City; they’re on
their way out here to take you home with them.”
“But this is my home…”
“If your folks were
still alive, but a young ‘en like you, you need adults to look after you.
You need an established home, full of love,” Nils whispered.
Doc excused himself from
the room when he heard a buggy arrive out front. Aldred and Lucy McAdams
stopped by the doctor’s office; they had agreed to open their home to Marty
until his family arrived. Aldred carried Marty out to their buggy and
headed home, with instructions on how to keep the wound clean. Doc also
gave instructions on not asking the boy any questions about what had
happened. “Give the boy time to grieve, but be there to comfort him.” Doc
had hoped the boy could wait until the Marshal returned.
Nils knew it was for the
best that Marty be placed with people who had children, but it didn’t stop
the hurt he felt as the boy rode away in the buggy.
After Marty left the
clinic with the McAdams, Doc moved Mark into the bed in his back room to
sleep. It was the following morning when Mark finally opened his eyes
again. Hattie was there to greet him, a big smile on her face, “Good
Morning Mark! How do you feel today?”
Mark gave no response.
He gave no reaction that he knew Hattie was in the room with him. Hattie
pulled Mark into a sitting position and swung his legs over the side of the
bed. She moved the water pitcher and basin over to the nightstand beside
the bed. She removed his nightshirt and proceeded to wash Mark. She
fervently hoped that the gentle touch of a woman’s hands would soothe the
boy. As she finished bathing Mark, Doc Burrage came in to check on his
patient. When the boy gave no response to any of his questions, he helped
as Hattie dressed Mark in his pants and shirt. Both looked at each other,
not knowing how to get through to Mark.
When the posse didn’t
return by nightfall, they decided to move Mark to Hattie’s home, feeling it
would be kinder to the boy versus staying in the doctor’s office. Before
settling the boy at her home, Hattie requested that Mrs. Donner tend to
things at the general store so she could devote herself to Mark, until Lucas
For almost four more
days, Lucas’ friends took turns watching over Mark. Each day was the same;
Hattie would bathe and dress Mark in the morning. Force him to eat what
little she could get him to eat, oatmeal for breakfast and soups or stews
for lunch and supper being the easiest. John Hamilton, Nils Swenson, and
even Ms. Adams, the school teacher, would stop by and try to draw him out of
the shell into which he had withdrawn. During the day, he’d just sit in a
chair or curl up on the couch when people would stop by to talk to him. Of
a night, whoever was there would help Hattie change him back into his
sleeping clothes and put him to bed.
Hattie stepped from the
kitchen when she heard the sound of pounding hooves and walked to look out
the window in her front room. Light from the lantern beside her front door
showed Lucas running up to her porch. Before he could knock, Hattie had the
door opened. Lucas removed his hat as he stepped inside and saw his son
curled up on the couch in the front room, eyes open.
Setting his rifle
against the inside door frame, Lucas asked, “How is he Hattie?” The concern
Lucas felt caused his voice to crack as he spoke, Mark didn’t move when his
father entered the room.
“I’m sorry Lucas, since
you left he either sleeps or when he’s awake, he just sits there and
stares. He doesn’t say anything, he just...” Tears streamed down Hattie’s
face as she watched Lucas stride over and sit down next to his boy. Gently
he picked Mark up in his arms and sat him in his lap, arms securely around
his boy. Lucas lovingly swept a large strand of Mark’s hair from his
forehead and replaced it with a kiss.
“Mark, I’m home. You
don’t need to be scared. Those men can’t harm you any more.” Lucas
continued to talk to Mark, hoping his words would make their way through to
his boy. As Lucas spoke, he tried to bring back happier memories to his
boy. After a while he felt his boy stop trembling and realized he had
Lucas saw the bible
sitting on the end table, it wasn’t his family bible, but he knew the words
inside would offer him the same comfort. Lucas picked it up and started to
read, still holding Mark in his arms.
Later that evening,
Hattie carried a blanket and placed it over Mark, wrapping Lucas in some of
its comfort. As she turned to leave, she softly heard, “Thank you Hattie.”
She left the room to go to bed for the night.
Hattie woke in the
morning to find Lucas and Mark sitting where she had left them the night
before; Lucas was still reading from the bible. She proceeded into the
kitchen to make breakfast for the morning.
She was just setting the
table when she heard Mark screaming, “Pa! Please! Help Me! Pa!”
Hattie ran to her front
room to see Lucas trying to restrain his boy. Mark’s eyes were wide with
fear. Though he still sat upon Lucas’ lap, the boy was kicking his legs,
his hands were balled up in fists, and striking out at someone only he could
see; as if he was trying to fend off an assailant.
“Mark, I’m here, you’re
safe. Please God! Help me understand! Lord, help me help my boy!” Lucas
continued to scream.
“Mark, please… Please
come back to me!” Lucas pleaded as his boy continued to fight.
Lucas grabbed Mark by
the shoulders and turned him around to face him. Lucas shook Mark harder
than he had intended, but he was desperate to get through to his boy, to
have his boy back. “Mark! See me! Please! Mark!” Again he urgently shook
Mark stopped fighting,
his body relaxed a little, and Lucas saw his eyes soften.
“Pa?” Mark called
plaintively as his eyes locked onto Lucas’ eyes. “Oh Pa!” he cried. He
wrapped his arms around his father’s neck and buried his face into his
father’s chest. Sobs wracked his body and the more he cried the stronger
his sobs became.
“Hattie, go get the
doctor,” Lucas begged after seeing Hattie standing across the room from him,
hands clasped as she witnessed Mark coming back to Lucas.
Hattie nodded and ran
from her home; she didn’t have far to go. Doc Burrage was already on his
way over to her home to check on Mark for the morning. He started to run
towards Hattie when he saw the expression on her face after she yelled
towards him, “Doc, it’s Mark, we need you now!”
The sobs wracking Mark’s
body were very uncontrollable, the more he tried to stop crying, the harder
the sobs became, causing him to gasp deeply for breath. Upon a quick survey
of what was happening, Doc took out a syringe and administered some
medication to the boy as Lucas held on to him. A few moments later, the
sobs seemed to lessen; Mark began whimpering, but didn’t fall asleep this
time. He pulled himself harder into his father’s chest, holding tighter to
his Pa, as his hands went under Lucas’ arms and then up to the back of his
shoulders, taking comfort in hearing his father’s heart beating.
Doc Burrage gently
pulled one of the boy’s arms from around Lucas in order to take his pulse
before pulling out his stethoscope and listening to the boy’s heart. A
faint smiled graced the physicians face as he returned the instrument to his
“There, there now
Mark...You’ll be okay,” Doc said as he patted Mark on the back of his
shoulder. Talking to Lucas, “Luke, just hold him and let him know you love
him. The medicine I gave him was just to relax the spasms. I didn’t give
him enough to put him to sleep this time. He needs to be awake. The boy
can’t heal if I keep him asleep all the time.” Doc stood and returned his
instruments and medications to his bag.
“Hattie, I think the boy
could eat some oatmeal for breakfast and your soup stock for lunch today.
Still, nothing more than that, until after I check him later.” Doc turned
and left Hattie’s.
As Doc walked along the
boardwalk and returned to his office, Micah and the rest of those who served
on the posse were slowly returning to town. The group wasn’t as solemn as
it was when they left, but it wasn’t a joyous home coming either. Micah
stopped in front of the jail and stepped from his horse.
“Well Doc, how are the
boys doing?” Micah asked as Doc Burrage approached.
“Marty will recover
nicely. We’ve sent word to his father’s family and they should be here any
day to take him back to Kansas City. The McAdams are tending to him. I’m
hoping in a day or two he’ll be able to answer the questions I’m sure you
have,” Doc stated as he followed Micah into the Marshal’s office.
“What about Mark?” the
question was hard for Micah to ask. He’d grown to think of Mark as the
grandson he’d never had. He couldn’t bear to see Mark as he had seen him
the day they left.
“Had a rough go of it
this morning; he came out of his shock, quite traumatic for the boy and for
Lucas from what Hattie told me. They’re both over at Hattie’s if you’d like
to check in on them.”
“Thanks, I might just do
Micah left his office a
few minutes after the Doc, and walked to Hattie’s. He entered the house to
see Lucas sitting on the couch, holding Mark in his arms, wrapped in a
blanket. Lucas was feeding the boy some oatmeal and the boy was willingly
eating. Hattie looked on; a small smile on her face. Lucas looked up and
gave a brief smile to Micah. The look in Lucas’ eyes was one of relief and
Within a few minutes,
the bowl was empty and Lucas set it aside, and before he could turn back to
Mark, his boy was asleep, peacefully.
“How are you doing
Lucas?” Micah knowingly asked.
“He called me Pa. And
he actually looked at me. He’s still not talking. But at least I see life
in his eyes and he’ll look at me and wrap his arms around me. Doc says it’s
probably going to take a while.”
“Micah, care to join
Lucas and me for a bite to eat? I’ve some breakfast already made,” Hattie
“I’d be real pleased to
take you up on your offer. Eating Toomey’s cooking is almost as bad as
eating my own.” Micah’s comment brought a little bit of laughter to the
Lucas laid his boy down
on the couch and followed Micah and Hattie into her kitchen.
Micah pushed his chair
back from the table as he finished eating and said, “Mighty fine breakfast
“You’re welcome,” Hattie
After a few moments of
silence, Lucas spoke. “Micah, I owe you an apology.”
“No you don’t,” Micah
“Yes I do. I had no
right you speak to you as I did, before we left, as well as what I said out
on the trail. I guess in a way I blamed part of what happened to Mark on
“You were lashing out
because of something beyond your control. I know if Mark had been fine when
we left, you would have been first to volunteer. If we had any earlier
warning of Tom Rawlings escape, we might have prevented this whole tragedy.
“He’s my life Micah,”
Lucas quietly spoke.
“I know Lucas. We all
know,” Micah quietly answered. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked you to go with
us, but I needed you and your abilities to track.”
“I know you did Micah.
And who knows… If I had stayed here, maybe… I don’t know…”
They talked through the
rest of the morning and through lunch and into the early afternoon. They
talked over the events of the past week. More importantly, they discussed
how best to talk to the boys to find out what had happened that evening at
“With Rawlings dead,
does it really matter?” inquired Hattie.
“I’m afraid it does. It
will give credence to why we were forced into a shootout that killed the
outlaws,” answered Micah.
“But he was an escaped
prisoner,” Hattie insisted. “And he killed a family!”
Before they knew it,
they heard a small voice calling, “Pa?!”
Lucas hurried to the
front room and to his boy’s side. As he approached, he saw the start of a
smile on his boy’s face.
“Mark... How are you
“Not so scared… now that
you’re here,” Mark answered his father, never letting his eyes drift from
his father’s face.
“Come here,” Lucas said
has he grabbed Mark up to carry him on his hip into Hattie’s kitchen.
“Well hello Mark, you’re
sure looking better than the last time I saw you boy,” Micah said with a big
smile on his face.
“Thanks Micah,” the boy
answered before he quieted again and Lucas could feel his boy grab hold
tighter around his neck.
“Mark? Want to talk
about it?” Lucas asked. “It’s okay if you don’t. We can talk, but only
when you’re ready.”
All Mark could do was
nod his head and bury it against his father’s shoulder.
“Tell you what, I want
the doctor here before you say anything. Okay?” Lucas stated.
Again, Mark nodded.
Micah stood up to go get Doc Burrage. Hattie brought a bowl of soup over to
Lucas for Mark.
“Pa, I think I can feed
myself,” Mark stated as his Pa started to pick up the spoon.
As Doc and Micah
entered, Doc was quite pleased to see Mark up, sitting in his Pa’s lap,
eating and looking around; even more pleased when he realized the bowl was
almost empty. Hattie took the bowl once Mark was finished eating.
“Doc, thanks for
coming. I want you here just in case…” Lucas’ voice faltered.
Before Mark started,
Lucas turned him around and sat him on top of the table so that he could
look his boy straight in the eye, hoping that by their keeping eye contact,
he could keep his boy calm. Lucas placed his hand under Mark’s chin and
lifted his head so that he could see into his boy’s eye. “Okay Mark, just
tell me what happened. Take your time. Stop when you need to, if you need
a drink of water or milk just let me know.” Lucas nodded his head as he
spoke, hoping to encourage his boy. He kept both of Mark’s hands in his,
squeezing them to let him know he was there.
Looking over his
shoulder to Hattie, Mark began, “Hattie asked that I take a letter to
Marty’s father, it had come in special delivery.” He turned his face to see
his father’s eyes before he continued. “I handed the letter to Mrs. Bennett
and she wanted to thank me for taking the time to bring the letter to them,
she was going to set out some milk and cookies for Marty and me. Lilly…
she’s Marty’s sister, was at the table already. Mr. Bennett came in and
read the letter. Mrs. Bennett asked me to go get Marty from his room
upstairs, but first asked me to help Marty put away a few of the books he’d
been reading in his bedroom. He wasn’t at school that day because he had a
tummy ache earlier… Pa, I did as Mrs. Bennett asked in helping Marty,
before we…” Mark stopped speaking.
“You’re doing find
Mark… Take your time,” Micah stated hoping to encourage the boy to
“Before we headed back…
downstairs.” Mark’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Marty and I started
down the stairs, we heard voices from men in the kitchen. They were… were…
yelling… loudly. Marty and I stopped halfway down, then…” Mark stopped
speaking; his breathing started coming a little quicker. Lucas could tell
his boy was struggling.
“It’s okay Mark. Deep,
slow breaths,” Lucas said as he started breathing loudly and slowly, in,
then out, hoping it would guide his son to follow his lead. Mark took a few
deep breaths and then closed his eyes. His grip on his Pa’s hands
With his eyes closed,
Mark continued, “Marty and I heard gunshots and heard Mr. Bennett yell. I…
I… I can’t repeat those words. We heard something fall to the floor and
then something fall to the table, because we… we… heard the dishes breaking
on the floor.” Again Mark stopped, he didn’t open his eyes, he just closed
them tighter. He took another deep breath and licked his lips before
continuing. “I heard… a scatter gun go off… and one more… gunshot. And
something… fell to the floor. Marty and I… We ran back upstairs.”
Lucas continued to
squeeze Marks hands, telling Mark to breathe deeply and slowly. “Take your
time son, we’re in no hurry. Do you want something to drink?”
Mark stiffened his body
and shook his head no.
Speaking a little
louder, Mark continued, “When we reached Marty’s room… he started pushing me
out the window… down the rose fence. I lost my hat as I tried climbing out
the window. I was halfway down, when… I looked up to see Marty climbing out
the window, feet first like I’d done... I heard him yell… and I saw he was
being pulled back into the window…” Speaking a faster, Mark said, “I kept
climbing down and jumped the rest of the way and hid behind one of the big
bushes next to the house.” Mark paused and spoke slower. “I heard Marty
screaming, then….” Mark stopped again and reached for his Pa, he slipped
from the table top into his Lucas’ lap, placed the side of his head against
his Pa’s chest. Mark took comfort in hearing his Pa’s heartbeat; it gave
him courage to continue, only quieter. “I heard another gunshot and… Marty
stopped screaming. I heard the men yelling and running down the stairs and
I remembered the cold cellar on the backside of the McDougall’s, I mean the
Bennett’s barn. I ran and bolted the doors closed behind me. I hid in the
corner. I tried to be so small so they wouldn’t find me. I just kept
praying they’d just leave. But they kept rattling the cellar door. Oh Pa!
I wanted it to be just a dream, I wanted to wake up and it be okay! I was
so scared! They killed them all!” Mark started crying again, holding tight
to his Pa.
Mark was crying, but his
body wasn’t wracked with sobs this time; the tears were a release. He
finally had told everyone what he had been reliving in his mind since before
his Pa had found him in the cold cellar.
“Pa, I just kept seeing
it play over and over again in my head. I heard you, and Hattie, and Mr.
Hamilton, and Mr. Swenson, even Ms. Adams, but I couldn’t get those memories
out of my head,” Mark said as he continued to cry.
Lucas allowed the tears
to fall from his own eyes. He looked up from his boy to see that Hattie,
Micah and Doc Burrage also had tears in their eyes. He rocked Mark while
they were sitting there. He stroked his boy’s back, hoping it would comfort
himself as much as comfort his son.
Lucas had seen his share
of death throughout his life. However, he’d always tried to shield his boy
from the harsh cruelties that one man could force upon another, until he
would be old enough to understand. There were some things that an eleven
year old child didn’t need to know and seeing his friend’s family
senselessly murdered was one of those things.
“Mark,” Lucas spoke,
lifting his boy’s chin up to look into his eyes. “Mark, Marty survived the
attack. Hattie says that Marty’s uncle and family will be here in a few
days and they’re going to take Marty back to Kansas City.”
“Marty’s okay?” Mark’s
eyes seemed to lighten when he heard the news. He tried hard to stop the
tears from falling down his face. Hattie handed him a dishtowel to dry his
“He’ll be okay in time.
Right now the McAdams are caring for him until his family arrives,” Doc said
to confirm what Lucas had told Mark.
“Has he said anything?”
Mark asked as he looked to Micah.
“No boy, I haven’t been
over there yet. You’re family to me, so I wanted to make sure you were
doing okay before I spoke with Marty. Guess I should head over to the
McAdams’ place and see how Marty is doing. You going to be okay Mark?”
“Yes sir, as long as I
have my Pa,” Mark tentatively replied, snuggling closer.
“Best we be going,”
Micah stated as he saw the doctor move towards the door.
Lucas sat Mark down in
the chair, “Now son, I’m just going to see Micah and Doc out the door, I’ll
be right back. You okay with that?”
“Yes sir,” Mark quietly
answered, his eyes never leaving his Pa.
Hattie had busied
herself earlier in the day by cooking a simple stew for them to eat that
evening. A lot of broth, with some vegetables and beef cubes. Lucas sat
opposite from Hattie at the table and Mark sat next to his Pa. He couldn’t
get any closer than if he was sitting in Lucas’ lap.
After dinner, Hattie
stood up to clear the table and much to her and Lucas’ surprise, Mark began
helping to clear the table, he even offered to dry the dishes, if Hattie
washed them, he added.
“Pa, why don’t you go
outside and have your evening cigar? I know you probably haven’t had a
smoke since you got back,” Mark hesitantly suggested.
“Think I will, if you’re
sure you’ll be okay.”
Mark nodded. Lucas
stood up and walked out the kitchen door. Happy things were starting to get
back to normal, but just how normal would they be once he took Mark home.
Lucas returned to the kitchen ten minutes later to hear Hattie request Mark
go upstairs and get ready for bed.
“Yes ma’am.” Mark
turned to leave the kitchen, “Hattie, will you come up with Pa and be with
me while I say my evening prayers and help tuck me into bed?”
“Why yes Mark, I’d love
Mark left the kitchen,
leaving Lucas and Hattie alone.
“Hattie, thank you for
everything you’ve done for me and Mark. I don’t know how I would have
pulled through all this if it weren’t for you.”
“Lucas you know that you
and Mark are like part of my family. I couldn’t turn Mark away and seeing
the pain in your eyes when you left. I’m just bursting at the seams because
all’s going to be okay. We have our Mark back.”
Lucas walked over and
gave Hattie a big hug.
“I think Mark and I’ll
be heading home tomorrow,” Lucas informed the store owner.
Hattie nodded; she knew
she couldn’t keep them there.
Lucas and Hattie walked
up the stairs to the room Mark had been sleeping in while his Pa had been
with the posse. He was on his knees at the side of the bed with his hands
folded in prayer. He asked God to watch over Marty and his new family in
Kansas City and to watch over all the people of North Fork, “Especially my
family… my Pa, my Grandma Hattie, and my Grandpa Micah. Amen.”
Mark stood up and
climbed into bed. Lucas pulled the covers up over his boy and gave him a
kiss on this forehead before wishing him goodnight. Hattie was there too
and gave him a kiss. They both turned to leave the room.
“Pa, where you going to
sleep tonight?” Mark asked.
“Probably on the couch,
“Don’t you think the
bed’s big enough for the two of us?” Mark asked.
“Go ahead Lucas, I think
you’ll enjoy sharing the bed with Mark more than sleeping on the couch.”
Hattie left the room and
closed the door behind her.
Through the night, Mark
was restless, continually in motion and never really settling down to
sleep. Amused that he had actually fallen asleep, Lucas woke to find Mark
clinging to him. He tried to get out of bed without waking his boy, but it
wasn’t to be. Mark woke and got out of bed as well. Standing next to each
other, they washed up at the basin before getting dressed. The whole time,
Mark made himself Lucas’ shadow, mirroring everything Lucas did.
They walked downstairs
together and ate breakfast with Hattie. After Mark had helped Hattie wash
and dry the dishes, Lucas and Mark prepared to head to the livery to get
Lucas hesitated as they
walked towards the door, he feared how his son would react to seeing his
rifle. Taking a deep breath, Lucas strode forward, opened the door and
reached for his rifle. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the frozen look
upon his son’s face.
“Mark? Come along son,”
Lucas called and reached his hand out.
Mark quickly went to his
Pa’s side, opposite of the rifle.
Mark walked so close to
his Pa that Lucas almost tripped over him a few times. Lucas understood his
son’s need and accepted it. They arrived at Nils’ and saddled their
horses. They waved goodbye as they headed for home.
As they rode, Mark kept
looking around; as if to search to see if anyone was following them. As
they reached the turn off to their ranch, Lucas stopped and asked, “Mark,
who are you looking for?”
“Just making sure those
men aren’t following me?” Mark stated. Lucas heard a tremble in his boy’s
Lucas reached over to
turn Mark’s face to his, “Mark, those men who killed the Bennetts are dead.
They were killed in a shootout down in Jarilla Junction. You’re safe.
You’ll soon be home.” Lucas smiled at his boy and then motioned for him to
The father was thankful
the nightmares hadn’t happened while at Hattie’s but still he wondered, ‘What
will tonight bring?’
Over the next two weeks,
Lucas rose early each morning, trying to get some work done around the ranch
before Mark woke. He continued to let Mark sleep in as long as he needed.
He knew that Mark was still scared from his experience; the nightmares Lucas
had feared woke them their first night home, coming numerous times through
the night. Whenever Mark was awake he didn’t want to be too far from his
Pa’s side. Lucas didn’t push Mark, if his boy wanted to talk, he would
there to listen. He prayed the memories would fade or as sometimes happened
the memories would lock themselves away in a place never to be remembered.
For such a happy child
that his son had been, it pained Lucas to see his son withdraw from the
pleasures he previously took in life…riding his horse, fishing with friends;
anything that allowed him to step away from his father’s side.
The one time they did
venture to town, Mark refused to ride BlueBoy, he insisted they take the
buckboard. Once underway, Lucas found it difficult to manage the reins to
the team for his son sitting so close on the bench seat.
Halting the buckboard in
front of the Marshal’s Office, Lucas suggested, “Mark why don’t you head on
over to Hattie’s,” and have him the list of supplied they needed.
Seeing the uncertainty
in his young son’s eyes, Lucas encouraged him, “It’s okay son, I’ll be right
here and watch you cross the street.”
Mark’s eyes implored his
fear of straying so far from his father’s side.
“Lucas,” Micah stated.
“Why don’t you go ahead and take the boy to Hattie’s.”
“I think… Nils!” Lucas
called upon seeing the blacksmith walk past the window to the Marshal’s
“Lucas, how are you?”
the burly man stated upon entering.
“Fine, would you do me a
favor?” Lucas beseeched.
“Would you take Mark to
Hattie’s, I need to talk to Micah for a few minutes, and if Mark could give
Hattie our list…”
Turning to the young boy
standing close to Lucas’ side, Nils stated, “Mark why don’t you come with me
to Hattie’s, I heard she received a shipment of new candies yesterday.”
Nodding, Lucas stated,
“Go with Nils, I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
With tears in his eyes,
Mark took the liveryman’s hand and walked across the street.
“It’s not getting any
better is it?” Micah asked.
“No, I’d hoped things
would have gotten easier as time went by,” Lucas answered with a defeated
tone to his voice. “He’s scared to do anything on his own. He’s leary of
“What’s Doc said?”
“Same as always, ‘Give
the boy time.’ Well, I’m running out of time,” a frustrated Lucas answered,
as he punched the desk top with the heel of his hand. “Neither of us are
sleeping, his nightmares just won’t stop.”
“Can Doc give you
medication to make him sleep?”
“He’s done that, but the
dreams still break through.”
Feeling for his friend,
the marshal handed him a cup of coffee.
“Has he said anything
more about it, other than what he said at Hattie’s?”
“No, not a word. I
thought after that last night at Hattie’s everything would be fine. But
it’s not… He’s just so scared. You saw him… Damn it! I’ve failed him as a
“Failed him?! How can
you say that?” Micah asked. “You’ve been there for that boy, time and time
“But I wasn’t there to
protect him!” Lucas bitterly retorted. “My God! He was in danger and I
couldn’t do a damn thing to protect him!”
“Lucas, you can’t be
there every second of that child’s life, you can’t keep him in a glass jar…
If you did, you’d smother him.” Seeing Lucas about to speak Micah spoke
louder in order to continue to get his point across. “You didn’t fail that
child! None of us knew Tom Rawlings had broke prison and was coming after
“No child, especially
not my child, should have to witness what my boy saw!” bellowed Lucas. “I
don’t know how to get through to him.”
“Lucas, just keep loving
the boy, in time, he’ll come to see he has nothing to fear. And for
Heaven’s sake, keep him interacting with people. Sending him to the store
with Nils was probably a good idea, that way he’ll learn to trust other
people. Lead by example. Give him time, and take things one step at a
“I can’t lose him,”
pleaded Lucas. “I just want my boy back.”
Unbeknownst to Lucas and
Micah, Mark couldn’t stand to be alone at the General Store; Nils returned
to the livery and Hattie waited on another customer. The boy ran across the
street, his progress halted upon hearing his father declare, “I’ve failed
him as a father!”
Upon hearing his
father’s final plea, Mark leaned against the wall. ‘Lose me?’ Mark
That night, after
supper, Mark stood looking out the open doorway.
“What’re you looking at
Mark?” Lucas inquired as he put the last pan way.
“The barn…” the boy
answered. “Can I…”
“Can you, what, son?”
Lucas answered, striding over to stand behind his son, placing his hand’s
upon the boys shoulders.
Taking a quick breath
and closing his eyes, Mark timidly asked, “C-Can I go see… BlueBoy?”
“Sure, you know you
can,” Lucas answered, giving his son’s shoulders a gentle, loving squeeze
before he pulled his hands away and slipped them into the front pockets of
Mark took a hesitant
step forward, and paused. Lucas watched as his son took a deep breath, and
then another step. A few more steps and his son was standing on the ground,
head down and shoulders slumped.
‘Go on, Mark. You
can do this,’ Lucas silently encouraged.
Mark thought of the
words he’d heard Micah say earlier in the day, ‘One step at a time.’
Talking only so he could hear, Mark encouraged himself, “One step at a
time… One foot in front of the other… One step at a time… One step…”
Lucas finally exhaled
the breath he didn’t realize he was holding as his son entered the barn.
Fifteen minutes later,
Lucas walked across the yard between their home and the barn to check on his
son. He was pleased to find his son in BlueBoy’s stall grooming the horse.
“Time to get ready for
bed, son,” Lucas quietly called.
“Okay, Pa,” Lucas heard
his son answer, but the boy turned back to his horse and quietly spoke to
the animal so that Lucas couldn’t hear what he said. Lucas patiently waited
as the boy continue to talk to his horse.
“In the morning, I got
to do this for Pa, BlueBoy. And you gotta help me. Okay?” Mark spoke. “I
can’t do this alone.”
As if in understanding,
the horse tossed his head up and down. Mark closed the stall door behind
him and with effort walked to his Pa, this time, stopping next to the hand
holding his rifle.
Lucas woke, surprised to
find the sun faintly teasing the morning sky and that both of them had slept
through the night. Lovingly he looked upon the sleeping body of his young
son in his bunk across the room, so innocent.
“Best get up and get to
work, so I can be back before he wakes,” Lucas said to himself.
Lucas had been out
moving a few cattle from the corral behind the barn to the northern pasture
when he returned to the ranch. He had planned to be back before his boy
woke; however, the task took longer than expected. As he stepped inside the
house and stepped to the bedroom, he found Mark’s bed empty. Panicking,
Lucas returned to the front room and saw a note next to the lamp by the
I’m sorry, but I have
‘Know? Know what?’
Lucas stepped back onto the porch and grabbed for Razor’s reins. He walked
to the barn and didn’t see BlueBoy in the stall; he turned to check the hoof
prints to see which direction Mark and BlueBoy had gone. Lucas was barely
in the saddle before he heard a horse running. Lucas rode to the side of
the barn to see Mark and BlueBoy racing down the road with Micah following
at a distance.
As Mark pulled up into
the front yard he yelled at his Pa, “I did it! I did it!”
Lucas and Mark jumped
down from their horses and ran to each other. As Mark jumped up in his Pa’s
arms, Lucas saw the huge smile on his boy’s face and asked, “Did what?”
“I got over my fear. I
rode into town by myself. I’m sorry Pa. Did you miss me?” The words came
out in a rush.
Lucas looked to Micah as
he arrived in the yard.
“Yep Lucas, I found him
riding into town so early this morning, whooping and a hollering. I think I
should arrest him for disturbing the peace… Sure made everyone in town add
a spring to their step seeing Mark becoming his old self.” Micah couldn’t
help the smile spreading on his face; seeing Lucas smile as he held his boy
in his arms. It didn’t help that Mark’s smile was so infectious. “I
decided to make sure he got home safe and sound. Also to let you know that
we’ve rescheduled the town social for this Saturday night. Town council
thinks maybe we’re ready.”
“We’ll be there Micah.
Oh, and thanks for seeing Mark home. I’ll see to it that he stays under
‘house arrest’ for a while.”
Oh, Pa.” was all Mark
could say as he saw the big grin on his Pa's face and the gleam in his eyes.