by Michelle Palmer
The saloon in Indian
Bend was now closed. Everyone had stumbled home to their houses to get a
good nights sleep after a hard night of drinking. It had been a typical
Saturday night, and Reynolds had had too much to drink, as usual. The past
months were catching up to him. He couldn’t stand the stares anymore. His
best friend had stabbed him in the back by taking his ranch, his girl, and
now his reputation. Reynolds no longer cared what happened to him as long
as he got even.
He watched in the
darkness as the man stumbled out of the saloon – he was always the last one
to leave. He saw her sitting atop the wagon waiting to drive him home.
Reynolds watched as the wagon pulled away. It silently rode out of town.
Reynolds mounted his horse and slowly followed them at a distance.
He and his friend had
been partners in a ranch. He still remembered the day his friend had
dropped the news that the money was gone, forcing Reynolds to sell out to
him. Then when Charlotte had discovered he lost all his money, she dropped
him and married Roger.
Tonight was the night
Reynolds would pay him back!
Reynolds watched the
wagon stop outside their ranch house. He watched Charlotte help Roger down
from the wagon, both of them toppling to the ground as he fell off. Then he
heard their laughs. Their laughs were sickening! She used to laugh with
him that way.
He climbed from his
horse and slowly walked over to them. He took the gun from his holster and
cocked it. Roger turned and saw the pistol. He threw a hand up. “No!” he
“Bang, Bang!” Two shots
dropped Roger to the ground, obviously dead.
screamed. She bent down beside her husband and cried. Reynolds didn’t even
stop to think. He cocked the gun again. Charlotte looked up. She gasped.
“Bang, Bang.” She fell
on top of her husband.
A pool of blood ran from
the couple and mixed in the dirt. Reynolds slowly lowered his gun and
turned from the couple. He suddenly looked down at the gun in his hand.
His eyes grew wide as he realized what he had just done. Then he turned and
A shadow emerged and
rushed over to the mound. He bent down beside the bodies only to realize
they both were dead. “Your gonna hang for this, Reynolds.”
Lucas and Mark McCain,
father and son, were on their first hunting trip since they had recently
settled in North Fork. They had come up to Rabbit’s Glen two days ago.
This was the last day Lucas would try his luck at hunting.
Lucas stood and
stretched as the sun began to rise high in the sky. He looked down at his
sleeping boy and smiled. It was funny how sweet and innocent he looked in
his sleep. But Lucas couldn’t help but shake his head as his boy’s mouth
twitched in his sleep. “I wonder what schemes you’re planning for today,”
After building the camp
fire, he called to his son. Mark mumbled but turned onto his side and grew
quiet. Lucas turned to build the fire. Again he shook his head. It had
taken quite a bit of doing to get his boy to settle down and go to sleep the
night before. Now it would take some doing to get him up.
Lucas started to fix
breakfast over the camp fire, thinking that would wake up his son. After
all, his boy was ALWAYS hungry! But even that didn’t cause a stir.
So finally, Lucas stood
and walked over to his sleeping son. He crossed his arms and in a firm
voice, declared, “Mark, I’m not telling you again to wake up.”
He got another mumble
from the bed roll. Lucas loudly cleared his throat and lightly nudged the
boy with his booted foot. That was the final warning, and Mark knew it. He
watched Mark slowly sit up and rub his eyes. “Do we have to go home today,
Pa?” he mumbled in his sleep.
Lucas nodded as he bent
down beside him. “Don’t you think three days of hunting is enough, son?
We’ve got chores waiting for us in North Fork. Not only that, son, but you
need to get back to your lessons.” There was a school in North Fork, but
Lucas didn’t want to send Mark until they were settled in their new home.
So for now, he continued with his lessons as best he could.
Mark sighed. “School!”
He shook his head. “There’s more to learn out here in the woods with you
than in some stuffy hotel room where I have to sit all day, Pa!” Mark
crossed his arms and did a mock pout.
“That may be so, son.”
Lucas agreed. “But now days, book learning is as important as learning to
ranch. You’ll appreciate my making you do all this book learning someday.”
“Yeah. That’s what you
keep telling me!” Mark mumbled.
Lucas raised an eyebrow
at his boy. Then he grabbed his arm and stood him up. “Get dressed, Mark”
Lucas watched his
ten-year old stretch again. “Breakfast will be ready soon, Mark. Why don’t
you go fetch some water and wash that face of yours?” Lucas turned back to
the fire. “Looks like you’ve been having mud pies for breakfast!”
Mark smiled as he made
his way down to the creek with bucket in hand. Being out here with his Pa
reminded him of all the adventures they had recently taken. They had
wondered from place to place since he was six years old. Only recently had
they ridden into North Fork to settle in the town. They now had a place to
call home. This made hunting trips exciting again. His Pa said he got
stir-crazy living in a town again, and hunting was a good excuse to live
They actually didn’t
even live in their house yet. Pa said there were a few loose ends that had
to be tied up, and they were sending for a lot of their possessions from
their house back in Oklahoma. Mark knew the day they arrived would be a
hard time. He watched his father lovingly build a shelf to put Ma’s dishes
on when they arrived. The dishes had been very, very special to his
mother. She and his Pa had gotten them as a wedding gift and they had made
his Ma so very happy. He knew his father could never, ever part with them.
“Mark!” Lucas called.
“Come on, son!”
Mark gasped and dunked
the bucket in the water. Then he turned and carried it back up the hill.
He had allowed his daydreaming to take over. Lucas shook his head as Mark
came over the hill. “Daydreaming again?” Lucas asked with a raised
“I’m sorry, Pa.”
Lucas laughed as he put
the flapjacks on a plate and handed them to Mark. Mark stared down at the
plate silently. Lucas started eating, but paused when he saw his boy’s
face. He nudged his shoulder with his elbow. “It’s okay, son.”
Mark’s voice sounded so
bothered that Lucas stopped eating and looked at his young son, barely ten
years old. “What, Mark?”
Mark continued looking
down at the plate in his hand. “When our stuff from Oklahoma gets here…I
mean…” Mark swallowed. Lucas heard the pain in his son’s voice. Mark
looked up at him. “I mean…are we gonna use the dishes?”
Sadness suddenly came
over Lucas’s face at the pain his question caused. “I thought we would.
Your mother would want us to.”
“We haven’t used them
since she…” Mark swallowed hard, but stayed quiet.
Lucas nodded. “I know,
son.” He lifted his eyebrows as he asked in a soothing voice, “What do you
think we should do?”
Father and son sat side
by side. They suddenly looked up into each other’s eyes. Both spoke
volumes to the other, but neither said a word. They knew it would be hard,
but having his Ma’s things close by would be a comfort – sort of like having
her there again. “Then that’s what we’ll do, son.” Lucas scraped his plate
as he took another bite. “Your mother would cringe if she saw us eating out
of these ol’ metal pans all the time and drinking out of metal cups! We’ll
cook from her pans, drink coffee from dainty coffee cups, and eat our
bachelor cooking from her fine china because that’s how your mother would
want it to be. You’ll grow up with proper table manners just like your Ma
would have taught you.”
Mark swallowed his last
bite of flapjacks as he looked up at his Pa. “And we’ll…have lace curtains
in the windows? The one’s Ma made?” Lucas nodded. “And have her things
around? Like the…like the lamps she so loved…and the pictures on the
wall?” Lucas nodded again as he smiled down at his son.
“And one more thing,”
Lucas said as he looked down at his son.
“What’s that, Pa?”
Lucas put a hand on his
young boy’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. “Flowers around the porch.”
Mark suddenly looked down at the ground. Lucas reached over and lifted his
head with his hand. He smiled into Mark’s eyes. “She loved her marigolds,
son.” Mark nodded.
“It’ll be hard.”
Lucas smiled, though his
eyes deceived his true feelings. “It’s because we love her.” Again, they
looked up into each other’s eyes. Yes, it would be hard, but they would do
it. They’d do it because Margaret still loved them and because they loved
her so much. She would forever stay alive in the McCain house.
Lucas stood and looked
up at the sun. “Well, it’s nearing 9:00, son. I think I’ll go on a quick
hunt for some game to take back to North Fork with us. Maybe I’ll bring
down a big buck this morning, son.”
“Gee, I sure hope so,
Pa!” Mark declared with a shake of his head. “I’d love to eat venison.”
Lucas picked up his
rifle and studied it. “While I’m gone, I want you to STAY HERE and get us
all packed up.” Lucas paused and pointed at Mark. “You hear me?”
Mark was still deep in
thought from their earlier conversation. He stared off into the distance,
never answering his Pa. “Mark?”
Mark didn’t even turn to
look. He merely nodded his head. “Okay, Pa.”
Lucas stood still
staring at his son. He put a hand on his hip and cocked his head to one
side. “You remember my rule about not wondering off by yourself? You are
to stay put, you hear?”
At the sound of his Pa’s
voice, Mark knew he had to look at him. “Sure, Pa.”
Mark hadn’t been working
on breaking camp for too long before he heard a nose behind him. He quickly
turned and the sight that met his eyes made him freeze in his spot. A big
buck lifted his head and stared right at Mark. Somehow, he knew Mark didn’t
have a rifle to shoot him with, so he didn’t feel threatened.
Oh, if only Mark knew
where his Pa was! Why, he’d LOVE to see his father take that big buck
down! The deer turned and started to walk away, but he was in no hurry as
he paused and took a nip of grass every now and then. Mark looked down at
the pan he was holding and dropped it in the dirt. Without even thinking
about the consequences, he began following the buck.
The buck walked upstream
for quite awhile, making it pretty easy for Mark to follow. Mark was so
mesmerized over the deer that he forgot EVERYTHING his father had told him
about leaving camp without his permission. And it was for the very thing
that was about to happen that Lucas sat that rule in place for his ten year
Mark was so interested
in following the deer that he didn’t even pay attention to the direction he
was going. Nor did he realize that the footprints he was leaving behind
were being washed away by the water flowing in the creek. Mark didn’t even
realize that two hours had passed.
Suddenly, the deer
turned and ran off into the woods. Mark started to go after him, and it was
then that he realized how far way from camp he had wondered. He turned
around to go back. But it didn’t take long for him to make a terrible
Mark had NO idea where
Mark looked up at the
sky. He had come East, then South…or had he gone west and North? He had
been so interested in the deer that he didn’t even know the direction he had
Mark started following
his own boot prints, but again…it didn’t take long to realize another
terrible truth: his prints had been washed away in the water. They were
Mark had no idea where
he had come from at thist point. How could he have let himself get into a
situation like this? When his father found out, he would be furious. Mark
knew that either way he would be in for some words from his father.
Lucas sighed as he
walked into the camp. He was disappointed he hadn’t had better luck in
hunting. In the three days he and Mark had been out here, he had yet to
find one single deer! Lucas shook his head as he stepped foot onto the camp
where Mark should be. “Mark, I hope you got everything packed up. We’ve
got to…” Lucas allowed his voice to die as he came to the realization that
Mark wasn’t there.
Giving his son the
benefit of the doubt, Lucas told himself that perhaps Mark had gone down to
the creek. “Mark, where are you?” he called. But he got no answer.
Lucas looked around.
Nothing was packed up. It looked exactly the same as when he left. Lucas
shook his head. “That boy! Just wait until I get my hands on that boy!”
He put his hands on his hips as he started toward the creek. But when he
got there, he found no sign of his son.
He had ordered that boy
to stay put, but like any typical ten-year old, adventure had trumped his
Lucas looked around for
tracks, but they were everywhere. It was going to be hard to figure out
which way he had even gone. He looked closely, and found that Mark may have
gone up the river, so he decided to try that theory. Lucas walked for
awhile, not finding any sign of his son. It seemed he may be on the right
track to find him, however.
Lucas sighed and shook
his head, thinking of what he was going to say and do to Mark when he
finally caught up with that boy.
Mark looked up at the
sky. It was now noon and his stomach was letting him know it was time to
eat. He looked toward the sun and knew that the camp had to be north of
there. If only he had paid more attention to his surroundings. How many
times had his father lectured him on the importance of paying attention so
that if he got lost, he could find his way back?
Mark looked ahead and
saw a small campfire burning. Someone was there cooking some lunch. He
hurried forward, not thinking that he could be walking into a dangerous
The man heard his
footsteps. He slowly sat down his plate, stood up, and whirled around with
his gun drawn.
Mark let out a gasp.
“I-I’m sorry, mister. I didn’t mean to startle you!” He stepped forward as
the man continued pointing the gun at him.
Boy and man stared at
each other for a moment. Finally, the man nodded his head as he uncocked
his gun and holstered it. “It’s okay, boy. But you should be more
careful. What are you doing out here by yourself?” The man turned to walk
back to his campfire.
Mark came forward and
extended his hand. “My name’s Mark McCain. Me and my Pa have been hunting
and I saw a big buck. I went to follow him and sort of got lost.” Reynolds
smiled at Mark’s rambling.
“I…I’m sorry, Mister.
I…reckon I disobeyed my Pa.”
The man nodded his head
in understanding. “Well, did you catch him?” Mark raised his eyebrows.
“The buck you were following. Did you catch him?” The man looked Mark up
and down. “Exactly what were you hunting with?”
“Oh, my Pa doesn’t let
me hunt yet – except with rabbit snares and such,” Mark answered quickly as
he walked further into the camp and Reynolds sat back down. “He let’s me
come hunting with him, but I can only watch him. He left me at the camp to
pack up and…I wondered off after he told me not to. I was kinda foolish
with it too, cause I didn’t leave any marks to find my way back. My Pa’s
gonna be awful soar with me!” Mark sighed as he lowered his head in
regret. “I’m…sorry I bothered ya, mister.”
“Name’s Reynolds, boy.”
The man took the pan off the fire. “I…uh…don’t reckon you’d want to share
this rabbit stew with me?” Mark saw a hint of a smile playing on his face.
Mark smiled himself,
trying not to let Reynolds know just how hungry he was. “Well…if it’s
They started eating in
silence. Reynolds took a big swig of coffee, then asked, “Where were you
camping at, boy?”
“A place called Rabbit’s
Glen. I think we’ve figured out why it’s called that too. We’ve been
eating lots of rabbit on this trip!” Mark shook his head as he drank some
Reynold’s gave a short
laugh. “Yeah. Well, what ever keeps you going, I guess.”
“Are you on a hunting
trip too?”Mark asked innocently.
Reynolds suddenly jerked
his head up and glared at Mark. But he knew Mark’s question was in
innocence. Instead of answering, he changed the subject. “If you give me
just a minute, I’ll show you the way back. You’ve wondered quite a ways
away, boy! I don’t think you realize just how far from Rabbit’s Glenn you
Mark finished his lunch
then helped Reynolds clean up the dishes. As Reynolds stood, Mark noticed
the gun in Reynold’s pants. “Don’t you have a holster, mister?”
Reynolds stood up and
whirled around. “Do you always ask so many questions? Just let me be,
boy!” Reynolds commanded. Mark gasped at the harsh words and turned away.
He knew he was being nosey.
Reynolds sighed. He put
a hand on Mark’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, boy.” He bent down next to Mark.
“The truth is…” he sighed. “I’m sort of…lost too.”
“Ya are?” Mark wrinkled
up his face. “How can you help me get unlost if you are lost?”
Reynolds squeezed Mark’s
shoulder. “No, son. I’m not that kind of lost. I’m…lost in another
way…I’ve done things I regret – things I’m sorry for. Ya know what I mean?”
“Yes sir.” Mark
nodded. “I think so.”
“That’s why I’m here,
son. I’m sorry for what I did and I guess I’m…running away from it. Have
you ever done anything you regret?”
“Oh, yes sir!” Mark
answered without hesitation. “I’m gonna regret getting lost today when I
get back to camp and my Pa starts yelling and punishing!”
“You think he’ll give
you a whipping?” Reynolds asked.
“Oh, Pa never whips me.
He gives me a good smack on the back side and an ear-pulling, but he doesn’t
whip me.” Mark sighed. “Course…the punishment he gives me is usually worse
than any whipping he can possibly give me!”
“I wish my problem could
be taken care of that easily.” Mark saw regret come over Reynolds’ face.
“Well…we better go!”
Reynolds wanted to get
rid of this boy as fast as he could. If the posse caught up to him, he
wanted to be the only one in the line of fire. He didn’t want to be the
reason an innocent child was gunned down.
It was now almost 2:00,
and Lucas was heading back to the camp to see if Mark had returned. He
didn’t know where that boy could be, but every minute he was gone was
putting more worry on Lucas. Not only that, but if that boy was okay, he
sure was in for some punishment!
“Mark! Mark, where are
you!” Lucas yelled. His voice was getting sore from calling so much. He
was worried. He hated not knowing where his son was. He just had this
dreadful feeling that something was terribly wrong!
When he returned to the
camp, he realized that Mark hadn’t been back. The horses were still grazing
where they had been left that morning..
The longer Mark was
gone, the more convinced Lucas was that something definitely was amiss.
Lucas headed north to
see if Mark had wondered off that way.
Mark and Reynolds were
getting closer to the camp. Mark stayed ahead of Reynolds as he led the boy
in the right direction. He had to stop and let Reynolds catch up. At one
point, his new friend laughed and said he wished he were Mark’s age again so
he could go as fast. “How does your father keep up with you?”
Mark simply shrugged.
“My father’s awful tall – and he’s fast! He can do anything!”
Reynolds nodded. “Most
fathers can, I reckon.” Mark didn’t miss the regret in his voice. He
wondered what Reynolds was lost from.
They weren’t far from
Rabbit’s Glen when Mark stopped to let Reynolds catch up. But as Reynolds
came toward Mark, he suddenly froze. His eyes grew wide. “Mark…” he said
slowly and deliberately. “Don’t move!” Mark was turned away from Reynolds
and didn’t understand what he was saying. So he turned to look at him.
That’s when Mark heard
the unmistakable sound of a rattle. Only a second later, he felt a sharp
pain in his leg. Mark let out a cry and reached down for his knee. The
snake scurried away.
Reynolds wasted no
time. He rushed over to the boy and knocked him to the ground. “Stay
still, boy!” Reynolds demanded as he tore the pants back from the bite. He
reached in his pocket and grabbed a knife.
Mark’s eyes grew big.
Reynolds had no time to waste. He couldn’t even explain to Mark what he was
doing. As quickly as he could, Reynolds grabbed a firm hold on Mark’s leg
and cut an X in it.
Mark let out a
blood-curling scream. But Reynolds ignored it as Mark cried. Blood oozed
from Mark’s leg. Reynolds bent down and began sucking the blood out. He
sucked and spit…sucked and spit…over and over until he thought he was going
to be sick.
Mark cried loudly. Not
only was he crying from the pain, but he was also crying from fear. “I want
my pa! Pa, where are you?” Help me!” Mark cried. “I want my Pa!”
Reynolds said while he continued the task.
Mark was shaking from
fear. “Am I gonna die?”
Reynolds stopped. He
lifted his head and looked into the boy’s eyes. He knew what he had to do.
Reynolds knew what the sacrifice meant, but he’d rather be dead than cause
his selfish acts to kill this gentle, sweet boy. He placed a hand on the
boy’s cheek. “You’re not gonna die!” Hs picked the boy up in his arms and
stood up. Reynolds took off toward the camp as fast as he could.
When he got there, he
saw a horse tied to a tree and grazing. Without a word, he untied the horse
and jumped on him bare-back. He straddled the boy in front of him and
wrapped his arms around Mark as he grabbed the reins. The boy was
weakening. “Hold on to me if you can, boy,” Reynolds said. “Wrap your
arms around me and hold on tight, son.” He commanded. “We’re going to get
you to the doctor fast!”
Reynolds dug his heels
into the horse’s flank and raced off as fast as he could.
Lucas was desperate.
Mark had been missing for several hours now. He knew he needed to get some
help. As he rode down the street, he desperately looked around for Mark’s
horse. His heart sank as he realized the horse simply wasn’t here!
Common sense told Lucas
that Mark wouldn’t have come this far alone, but perhaps someone had taken
him or found him hurt. He hurried over to the Marshall’s office. The
Marshall was busy talking to a group of men, so he waited, pacing the
floor. Suddenly, Marshall Wilson walked over to Lucas. “Can I help you?”
Lucas nodded. “My name
is Lucas McCain. My son, Mark, and I have been camping a few miles out of
town on our hunting trip. He’s been missing since 9:00 this morning. I
need some help finding him and-“ Lucas’s voice became desperate as he
spoke. Every man could see the worry and heartache in the man’s eyes.
But Marshall Wilson
shook his head. “We have every available man working on a posse right now,
Mr. McCain. A man killed a man and his wife a couple nights ago and we have
to find him. This man is dangerous. We think he may be camping around
Suddenly, Lucas McCain’s
eyes grew wide and he gasped. “Rabbit’s Glen? That’s where we’ve been
camping!” Lucas suddenly felt like his legs were giving out. He sat down
and placed a hand on his forehead in desperation. “Why did I leave him
alone?” He felt his heart sinking.
“How old’s your boy?”
The Marshal asked sympathetically.
“He’s barely ten years
old, Marshall. He’s only ten. I’ve got to find him!” Lucas put a hand to
his forehead. “My little boy is out there all alone! It’ll be dark in just
a few hours and it’ll be even harder to find him! I’ve got to…” Lucas
swallowed. “You’ve got to help me! He’s all I have!”
A horse raced into town
and didn’t stop until it got outside the doctor’s office. Everyone stared
and started walking down the street. They whispered and pointed fingers at
the man climbing from the horse with a boy in his arms. The boy’s arms
weakly laid around the man’s shoulders. Reynolds felt the stares and heard
the whispers, but he was too busy to pay any attention.
Reynolds held the boy in
his arms and hurried up to the door. “Open it!” he demanded. “Now!” The
man standing closest to the door opened it, but he didn’t take his eyes off
the killer for a second. Reynolds rushed inside. “Dr. Samson, this boy’s
been rattlesnake-bit!” He shouted. “I cut the bite and got out as much of
the poison as I could!”
Dr. Sampson hurried up
to the boy as Reynolds laid him down. He looked up and stared at Reynolds,
but didn’t say a word. Suddenly, he felt men grab him from behind. They
dragged him out the door and onto the street.
Hearing the commotion
down the street, the men meeting in the marshal’s office hurried out the
door and down the street. A moment later, one of the men stuck his head
back into the Marshal’s Office. “Marshall, Reynolds just rode in bare-back
on this horse with a boy. He took him to the doc!”
At the sound of this,
Lucas turned and pushed past the crowd slowly gathering outside. He ran
down the street and stopped as he saw the horse. ‘
“That’s Mark’s horse!”
He rushed up to the horse. “This is Mark’s horse!” He looked toward the
doctor’s office. “Mark…Mark!” Fear gripped his very being as he hurried
toward the office. But just then, two men cam out. They were dragging
Reynolds. Reynolds was flinching from the rough treatment.
Lucas watched as a man
pointed a gun at Reynolds’ head. “I’m going to kill you!” he shouted.
Lucas cocked his rifle,
ready for a fight if anyone asked for it He looked at Reynolds, unsure yet
if he was going to allow the man to live or not. If he was the reason his
son was hurt, he’d kill him! “You brought my boy in?” he asked in a
Reynolds nodded. “I-“
One of the men grabbed his arm and bent it back so Reynolds couldn’t say
anything else. Lucas pointed his riffle at the man. “Let him go! I want
to talk to him now!” He pointed his rifle at the man and stared hard into
They let Reynolds go.
Reynolds gasped as he rubbed his arm. “Your son wondered into my camp, lost
and hungry. I was taking him back to your camp when he was bitten by a
“A rattle-“ The blood
drained from Lucas’ face as he looked toward the doctor’s office. He could
only imagine what was waiting for him inside.
Lucas bolted forward but
Reynolds placed a hand on his arm. “I cut the bite and sucked the poison
out. Since he seems to be coherent, I think he’ll be okay.”
Lucas looked into
Reynolds’ eyes. He gave him a small smile. “I don’t know what you did to
deserve the treatment you’re getting…But I want to thank you.” He didn’t
wait for an answer, but rushed inside.
The doctor was bending
over the bed wiping Mark’s face with a moist rag. “Doctor?” The doctor
turned away. “I’m Lucas McCain. This is my son.” Lucas swallowed. His
eyes filled up with tears as he walked toward the bed and looked down at his
son. “How…how is he?” Mark’s face was white and his lips pressed firmly
“It’s hard to tell, Mr.
McCain.” He turned and looked at Lucas. “But I’ll tell you this much….He
has a heck of a chance since Reynolds found him and cut out the poison. If
he hadn’t been there…” The doctor shook his head. “He would have had no
chance of survival at all. That snake really lit into him.”
Tears fell from Lucas’
eyes. “So you mean…” Lucas swallowed. “He’s not going to die? He’s…”
Lucas closed his eyes. “He’s going to live?”
“I’m saying that I don’t
know if he’s going to live or die. Only God in Heaven knows that.” The
doctor shook his head. “There’s just not much we can do for snakebites –
except what’s already done. By the time they get to me, it’s too late.”
The doctor patted Lucas on the shoulder and walked out, closing the door
Lucas pulled up a chair
and sat right beside his son’s bed. He swallowed hard as he looked down at
his son’s hand. “Mark…” he whispered. He picked up the boy’s hand and
pressed it to his cheek. “Son, I…I love you…You cannot die.” He closed his
eyes and wept. “You…You cannot die…”
Lucas stared at his
sleeping face. Beads of sweat laid on his forehead. Lucas picked up the
rag and washed it. “We’ve come so far together, Mark. We finally have our
ranch. When we get back to town, it should be about time to settle in it.
Your mother’s dishes should be here. You know how much you’ve been looking
forward to seeing them again…” Lucas sighed as rubbed his son’s cheek. “Oh
son, don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me!”
For the next few hours,
Lucas stayed at his son’s side. He just stared into his son’s pale face and
prayed. Mark began mumbling about hurting. The doctor gave him something
to sleep. After leaving the room, Lucas suddenly felt he needed to be
closer to his son. He took his boots off and crawled up onto the cot. Then
he pulled his son up on top of him and held him close.
As Lucas stroked his
arms gently and pressed his lips to the top of Mark’s head, he spoke
softly. “Remember the turkey shoot?” Lucas sighed. “I threw that match to
save your life. I have no regrets. I just wish I could have taken that
bite for you, son…” Mark felt so hot in his arms. Lucas started weeping
again. “When I walked out of the saloon and saw those tears in your eyes…it
broke my heart. Oh son, I love you so very much!”
Lucas again pressed his
lips to his son’s head and kissed him. Suddenly, he remembered back at the
camp and his orders to Mark. “Oh….why did you have to disobey me???” he
The sun was shining in
the only window of the room as Mark slowly opened his eyes. He felt really
weak and groggy. At first he didn’t know where he was, but as he opened his
eyes he saw his pa sitting beside his bed, his head in his hands. Mark
weakly lifted his hand and placed it on his father’s.
Lucas jerked and looked
up. Mark saw that his father’s eyes were red and swollen. “You found me.
I knew you would,” Mark mumbled weakly.
Lucas leaned forward and
placed his hand on his boy’s flushed cheek. “Don’t you know that when
you’re lost I’ll never stop until I found you?” Father and son looked into
each other’s eyes. Finally, Lucas lifted his head toward the ceiling. “Oh
Dear God, thank you for giving me my boy back!” Lucas cried out.
Lucas just stared into
his son’s eyes silently. There was too much emotion for him to speak.
“How are you?” He finally asked.
“I don’t feel so good,
Pa,” Mark answered as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Mark…” Lucas swallowed
before he asked the question. “Son, what happened to you? Why did you
Mark closed his eyes as
they filled with tears. “Oh Pa…I saw the biggest buck and I…I…I’m sorry I
Lucas nodded. “We’ll
talk about that later, when you are feeling better. I’m just glad you are
“He saved my life, pa.”
Lucas lifted Mark from
the bed and cradled him in his arms. “Oh son, I thank God he was there!”
“Is he here? Can I
thank him?” Mark looked around the room.
Lucas forced himself to
look into Mark’s eyes. “He’s in the jail, son.”
Mark lifted his head
from his Pa’s arms. “In jail?” Mark shook his head. “No, Pa! He didn’t
hurt me! He saved my life.”
“And I’ll always be
grateful to him for that.” He hugged Mark again, not being able to find
words to say.
“Then why is he in
jail?” Mark asked quietly.
Lucas laid a kiss
against his son’s cheek. Then he put his son back on the cot and covered
him up. “You must be hungry. I’ll run to the café and get you some soup.”
He started to stand up.
Mark held tight to his
hand though. “Pa, why’s he in jail?” He demanded.
“We can talk about it
later.” Lucas answered.
But Mark shook his
head. “You told me you don’t want to keep things from me…ever. Why’s he in
Lucas didn’t want to
tell his son. He so wanted to protect Mark from this. But Mark was right –
they didn’t keep things from each other. “Mark,” Lucas sighed and took both
Mark’s hands in his. “He killed a man and his wife two nights ago. He’s in
jail for murder.”
Mark let out a gasp.
“He couldn’t have, Pa. He just couldn’t have.”
“He doesn’t seem to be
denying it, Mark.”
Mark lay back on his
pillow, suddenly feeling very weak. He remembered their conversation from
earlier about him being lost and running from something. He wished he could
take it back. “He’s sorry he did it.”
“You knew?” Lucas asked,
“He said he was lost.
He said he had regrets.”
“Well maybe so, son.
But he’ll be held accountable for his actions.
“What will happen to
him, Pa?” Mark asked suddenly.
Lucas lifted his head
and looked up into his son’s eyes. “You know the answer to that as well as
I do, son.”
Mark gasped. “But…he
SAVED my life, Pa!!!!”
Lucas squeezed Mark’s
hand. “He killed two people, son.” Mark stared as Lucas stood up and
walked toward the door. He didn’t turn back to Mark. He knew Mark was
upset, and he’d leave Mark to come to terms with this himself. “Someday
you’ll understand, son.” He opened the door and lifted his head. “I’ll go
get you some soup. Stay there until I get back.
Lucas helped Mark button
his shirt the next day. The bite on his leg still hurt, but the doctor had
put a clean dressing on it and gave Lucas some balm to put on it . Both
were ready to get home.
Lucas offered to carry
Mark to the waiting wagon he had rented for the trip, but Mark insisted he
could walk. Mark wanted to ride his horse back, but Lucas shook his head,
stating Mark’s cut could reopen. The doctor had agreed.
As Mark limped toward
the waiting wagon, he looked up to see the Marshal’s office. “Pa?” Mark
“What is it, son?”
Mark silently looked at
the jail. “Let’s go, son,” Lucas said firmly.
“I just…I want to thank
him and…and say goodbye.”
“I did that for you,
son. There’s no need to…” Lucas’s words died on his tongue as he looked
into his son’s eyes. He nodded. “Alright, son.”
Father and son walked
toward the jail. Lucas kept a firm hold on Mark’s arm as he tried to walk.
They went inside. “Marshal…” Lucas nodded.
“Marshal Wilson…” Lucas
looked down toward Mark. “This is my son.”
The Marshal stood up.
“Ah, yes…the missing boy has returned!” The marshal folded his arms.
“Well, young man, don’t you know better than to leave camps and go running
so far way without telling anyone?”
“He sure does!” Lucas
declared. “And when I get him home, he’ll understand it even better.” Mark
groaned. “We’d like to get home before dark. Mark wanted to say goodbye to
The Marshal suddenly
looked up at Lucas. He sighed and shook his head. “I’m afraid that will be
impossible, Mr. McCain.”
“But I have to! He
saved my life!” Mark argued.
Lucas squeezed Mark’s
shoulder. Marshal Wilson held up a hand. “It’s not that I won’t let you,
son…It’s just that…” The marshal’s eyes lifted and looked into Lucas’s.
“…he’s not here.”
“Where is he?” Mark
“He broke jail last
night, son.” Marshal Wilson shook his head. “Clobbered my deputy really
good with his own gun. The deputy got too close to the bars…”
“But…he wouldn’t do
that!” Mark argued. “He’s a nice man! He was helping me get back to camp
when I got bit by a rattlesnake. He brought me here knowing that…”
“Mark!” Lucas gave his
son a warning. He shook his head gently. Mark lowered his head. “Let’s
go, son.” Lucas shook the Marshal’s hand. “I hope you catch him.”
“We will…one way or
another.” The Marshal put his hands in his back pockets and walked the
McCain’s to the door. “I’m putting out a Wanted Poster…Dead or Alive.”
“No…” Mark shook his
head. “NO! You can’t!” he cried. “Pa, he saved my life.”
Lucas put a firm hand on
his son’s shoulder. “Let’s go, son.”
“But Pa, you’ve got to
make him understand what he did!” Mark turned around and looked at the
marshal. “Sir…he SAVED my life! He’s not bad! He…”
“Mark McCain!” Lucas’
voice was sharp. “That will be all from you, boy!” Mark silently turned
and limped out the door. He stood on the boardwalk, remembering all that
Reynolds had done for him. Lucas stepped out and closed the door behind
him. “Let’s go home, son.” Mark just stood there. He was upset that they
would hunt his friend down like an animal. Lucas bent down and lifted his
son up into his arms. “I said…let’s go home.”
Lucas laid Mark in the
back of the wagon, much to his protest. He sat up as Lucas put a blanket
around him for the trip home. Lucas started to push him back down, but he
stopped when he saw a defiant look on his face. “Well…I hope he runs far
and fast!” Mark declared. “I hope nobody catches him!”
“What about the man and
woman he killed, son?” Lucas asked impatiently. “Don’t you think he
deserves to be punished for what he did? Do you know he followed them home
one night and shot them in cold blood?” Lucas raised an eyebrow at his boy.
“I don’t want to hear no more about it.”
Mark lay down in the
back of the wagon. He remembered Reynolds’ smiling face as they talked. He
remembered how Reynolds’ had wasted no time in helping him. And he
remembered him rushing to the doctor, knowing he’d be captured. No man who
did that for a stranger was all bad. He didn’t deserve to be shot down. “I
hope he runs far away!” Mark mumbled as the wagon started up. “I hope they
never find him!”
'The Debt' episode #133
Be sure & check our the prequel to this episode -
Before the Debt by Deanne Bertram