The Writer's Corner
Making Room III
Lucas stopped and squinted into the midday sun.
Russell almost seemed to be playing a game. He wondered for the thousandth
time if he was doing the right thing. He bent down to study the tracks.
“Micah, he’s riding south, but he seems to be slowing
“Well, let’s keep going.” Micah also wondered if they
were doing the right thing but he kept quiet. He knew how important this
was to Lucas. He also knew that this entire thing needed to come to a close
so their lives could return to normal. So they pressed on. A few miles
down the road, they saw a man sitting against a tree. His gun was holstered
and a fire burned nearby.
“Micah, look!” Lucas pointed.
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know, but that’s not Russell.” Lucas
answered. They approached him cautiously.
“Howdy.” The man said with a smile.
“Hello.” Lucas said. “Mind if I ask what you’re
“Why I’m not doing anything except resting a spell.
I’ll pour you a cup of coffee if you’ll put down that rifle.”
Lucas lowered the rifle but he didn’t want any coffee.
“Were you in Northfork yesterday?” He asked.
“Matter of fact, I was.” The man answered. “Why do
“Do you know Russell Landers?”
The man only smiled and gestured towards Micah. Lucas
whirled around and saw that Russell was standing behind Micah and holding a
gun to his back.
“Drop that rifle, Mr. McCain, or your friend here is a
“Don’t do it, Lucas!” Micah said. “Shut up!”
Russell said as he knocked him to the ground.
Suddenly, Lucas knew he’d walked right into a trap.
He dropped his rifle. “Where’s my son?” He asked in a panicked voice.
“He’ll be here shortly.”
Lucas struggled to come out of the darkness. He awoke
with a sense of urgency when he remembered where he was. He lifted his head
and looked around. He’d been tied to a tree and Micah was also tied several
feet away. Micah’s concerned eyes were fixed on his friend. He knew this
could end very badly.
“Lucas…” He began but Russell interrupted him
“No talking!” He said as he walked over to Lucas. He
was struggling against his restraints, but it was no use. He was helpless.
A sense of desperation he’d rarely felt filled his heart. He knew that
Russell was planning to kill his son before his very eyes. He shot Russell
a look of death.
“You listen to me, Russell. You better kill me right
now because nothing will save you if you harm my son.”
Russell just shook his head. “Apparently you’re
missing the point, McCain.”
“Look, just get it over with. I know you’re going to
kill me. You don’t really need Mark. I was behind this whole thing. He
didn’t know what he was doing. With me out of the way, he won’t be any harm
to you. You’ll have time to ride out of here without anyone knowing you’re
gone.” Russell just laughed.
“Nice try, but not a chance. Besides, I’m not going to
harm your son…I’m going to kill him…” he said as he lifted the rifle, “…with
this.” “Then I’m going to kill you, if there’s anything left of you after
watching your boy die. The boys here think that may be enough to do you in,
but I’m not taking any chances.”
Lucas felt his world collapse around him. A sense of
unimaginable horror left him momentarily speechless. He shook his head back
and forth as he tried to comprehend what was happening. Helpless, he tried
to reason with this madman again.
“Russell…” Lucas was panting, shaking with horror.
“He’s just a boy who got in over his head. You don’t …you don’t have to ….”
Lucas couldn’t finish.
A wicked smile spread across Russell’s face. “Do I
hear what I think I hear? Is the great Lucas McCain about to beg? This I
have to see.” He bent down and put his face mere inches from Lucas. He
spoke quietly. “It won’t make any kind of a difference. I see your fear,
McCain. It’s a look I’ve seen many times in a man’s last hours on this
earth. I saw it on James’ face before I killed him, but not many men can
say they’ve seen it on yours. You see, I don’t just kill a man. That would
be brutal and I am not a brutal man. I find a man’s strongest
weakness…whatever it may be….and I break it… right in front of him…so that
when it’s his turn, he welcomes death as a friend…. he begs for it.” He
stood up. “So you see, McCain…I’m really just giving people what they
want.” He stood up and held the rifle in his arms. “And I’ll soon be doing
you the same favor.”
Lucas turned his head away. The excruciating pain
evident on his face. He couldn’t hear this any more. This was his worse
nightmare…one he’d never dared to even dream. Was he really going to have
to watch Mark die? The thought turned his stomach inside out. This couldn’t
be…it was more than he could bear. He had to do something, but what? His
mind frantically sought an answer, but he could think of nothing…only that
he was on the brink of losing what mattered most. For the first time, Lucas
felt powerless to protect Mark…and if he couldn’t, who could? His thoughts
fell to only one person.
“Margaret…help him. Please help him.”
Mark rode in silence, gripping the rifle Johnny loaned
him in one hand and the reins in the other. The pleasant breakfast he’d
shared with his father that morning seemed like years ago. The carefree
evening they’d spent in town seemed now to be nothing more than pretense….he
had been deceived into thinking that he was safe, that Lucas had been
overreacting. Again, he realized that Lucas had been right ….Russell was
still out there, just waiting for the opportunity. This realization just
added to the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. His eyes bore into the
back of Carl and he bit his lip in an effort to fight the urge to knock him
out of the saddle. He said he was leading them around to the back of where
Russell was supposed to be. Mark knew they needed him. He knew what he was
going to have to do to save his father and he knew it had to be with Carl’s
help. He just prayed for God to give him the opportunity to do it. Carl
began to slow down and gestured with his shackled hands.
“They’ll be at the top of this rise on the other side,
under a stand of trees. He’ll be looking for me and the boy to be coming
from the south.”
Johnny jumped down from his horse. “I’m going up to
the crest of this hill to see if we’ll have them in our sight from this
side. We may need to move down some.”
Mark jumped down, too. Johnny turned. “You stay
here.” Johnny went on ahead. Several minutes later he came down.
“I can see them. He’s got Lucas and Micah tied to
some trees. He’s facing south like Carl said. He’s got 2 other men with
him. We better act fast, before he has time to get suspicious.”
Mark grabbed Johnny by the arm. “Wait a minute. Just
how are we going to do this? As soon as they begin shooting, my Pa and Micah
will be as good as dead.” Johnny looked down at Mark.
“We are not doing anything, Mark. You are staying
here. The others and I will ride down and confront them.” He began to walk
away but Mark followed him.
“And then what? You might get Russell, but you won’t
get my Pa out of there alive and you know it.” Johnny turned and sighed.
“Mark, we’re going to do our best. I don’t see
Mark let go and stood up as tall as he could. This
was the moment he’d been waiting for. He took a deep breath.
“What is keeping Carl?” Russell asked himself. He
didn’t like waiting. He strained to see if he could catch a glimpse of them
on the trail, but he could see nothing. He turned to look at his captives.
The old man had his head leaned back against the tree and was staring up at
the sky. Lucas’ head hung toward the ground. He turned back towards the
trail and finally saw two riders approaching. He smiled. It was them. He
watched as they rode up the hill, Carl in front leading Mark’s horse. He
had tied his hands just as he had been instructed. When Lucas heard horses
approaching his head snapped up and he looked with horror at what he saw.
He struggled in vain to break from the ropes that held him to the tree.
“MARK!” He called out. It was a cry of utter
despair. He looked as Russell moved towards Mark. This couldn’t happen.
He couldn’t let this happen.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” He yelled as Russell reached up to pull
Mark from the saddle. But suddenly, before Russell reached him, Mark had
jumped to the ground and was running towards him, throwing the rope that had
held his hands to the ground. At the same moment, he heard gunfire coming
from behind. Russell hit the ground and fired back.
“Pa!” Mark yelled as he slid to the ground and began
to untie his hands. Russell was returning fire with Johnny and the others.
When Mark had Lucas untied Lucas pushed him behind the trees.
“Here, Pa.” Mark said as he handed him a handgun he’d
concealed under his coat.
“Stay here. I’m going for Micah.” Lucas said as he
Mark watched anxiously. He saw both of Russell’s men
take bullets and fall. He saw Lucas untie Micah and begin making his way
back to Mark. Russell saw them, too, and fired a shot in their direction.
“NO!” Mark yelled. He felt as if he was moving in
slow motion as he stood and yelled.
“Get down, Mark!!!” Lucas cried as he and Micah
approached the trees. Mark did as he was told and Lucas began firing shots
in Russell’s direction. With bullets flying from two directions, Russell
didn’t last very long. A rifle shot from Johnny brought him down. As soon
as he fell, Lucas rushed over and grabbed his rifle, a look of utter
loathing across his face. He looked down and saw Russell lying in the dirt.
He was still alive. Lucas had a strong urge to finish him.
“Lucas!” Johnny yelled as he and the other men rode
up. He came over.
“I’ll take care of him.” He said gently. Lucas
slowly dropped the rifle and turned around. He saw Mark and everything else
faded away. He quickly made his way over and threw his arms around his son.
“Mark…you’re alright! Oh thank God…” Mark hugged his
father back and for several minutes they just held each other.
“Russell was going to…Oh God.” Lucas’ voice broke as
he held Mark tighter.
Mark was in shock but as the realization that he and
his father were both all right sank in, tears welled up in his eyes. Mark
put his head on his father’s shoulder.
“Pa…I….I was so afraid.”
“I know, son. So was I. He was going to….” Lucas
couldn’t bring himself to even say it. A shadow crossed over his face.
Mark looked up at his father. He’d never seen him so distressed.
“I’m sorry, Pa. I’m so sorry for all of this.”
Lucas took his son’s chin in his hand and forced him
to look him in the eye.
“Mark…don’t you know how happy I am that you’re alive?
A few minutes ago I thought I was going to watch Russell kill you.” Lucas’
voice broke. “The things he said…” Mark took his hand.
“Pa…it’s okay. I’m okay.” He squeezed his hand and
tried to sound reassuring. Lucas shook his head.
“You don’t know…I thought…He was….”
“I know what he was planning, Pa. You don’t have to
say it. But it’s over now.” Lucas looked down at his son with red-rimmed
“But how did you know? What happened?”
“It was Grid. After you left, I visited with him for
a while. When I was walking back to the dining room, I heard him call my
name. When I turned around there was Carl, pulling a gun. I was able to
wrestle it away from him in time. He brought us here in exchange for
leniency.” Lucas looked puzzled.
“You mean you coming along was part of the deal?”
Mark cast his eyes downward.
“Not exactly.” He looked up into Lucas’ eyes. “I
insisted on coming, Pa.”
Lucas was alarmed. “You mean Johnny allowed you to
come with him? Is he out of his mind?” Lucas was voice was getting louder.
Johnny looked over at them when he heard his name. He looked away when he
saw the look on Lucas’ face. Mark grabbed his father’s arm.
“No, Pa. It was me. I told him I was going, with or
without him. I didn’t leave him a choice. By letting me come with him, he
was actually keeping me safe. Nothing would’ve stopped me from going after
“But Mark I told you stay in the hotel. I told you
not to leave there…don’t you see? You could’ve been killed! If you knew
what they were planning, how could you put yourself in danger like this?
What if something had gone wrong?” Lucas didn’t realize he was shouting.
“You must’ve known that I would never have allowed you to do this.
Especially after last summer….”
“Pa, you’ve risked your life many times to save me.”
“That’s different, Mark. You are my son!”
“No, Pa..it’s not different!” Mark was shouting now.
“You’ve taught me to always do the right thing…to fight for justice…to
fight for what’s right. It’s what you’ve always done, how could you expect
anything less from me?”
“Mark, I’m a grown man. You are still a…” Mark
interrupted before he could say it.
“I’m not a child any more, Pa!”
“You’re my child!” Lucas shouted.
Seconds of silence passed as they stood looking into
each other’s defiant faces. Mark felt like nothing he said mattered. Lucas
would never see him as anything but a boy. Feeling utterly dejected, he
whirled around and ran towards Blue Boy.
Lucas turned. “Mark! Wait…” He shouted, but it was
too late. Mark jumped on his horse and rode away as fast as he possibly
Lucas felt a totally new sense of loss watching his
son ride away from him. A deep sense of regret filled his heart. He stood
watching the horizon where Mark had disappeared for some time. Finally,
Micah approached him. Lucas turned to look at his friend, but before Micah
could say anything, Lucas spoke…
“I know, Micah….I know.” He quickly mounted Razor and
rode out after his son.
Mark sat staring out across the river. Why did he
come here? He wasn’t quite sure. He knew that Lucas would find him here.
Is that what he wanted? Or did he come here because something inside him
still wanted to be the boy that Lucas thought him to be? His mind was
whirling. He had disobeyed his father, but why couldn’t Lucas understand?
Was he ever going to realize that Mark was only becoming the man that Lucas
had taught him to be? In a way, he understood how his father felt, but the
way Lucas had shouted at him made him feel so, well…. small.
Lucas followed Mark’s trail, but purposely held back
while he thought of what he should say to him. His son had always meant
everything to him. He was what kept him going…the reason he didn’t give up
years ago. He’d do anything to protect him…but he knew the day was rapidly
approaching when he couldn’t any more. Had that day already come? Was he
just too stubborn to see it? He thought back to what had transpired that
afternoon. He’d been beyond terrified when he thought Mark was about to be
killed. The thought still made him shudder. When he saw him alive and
well, he was so relieved he could hardly stand. Then to hear that he’d put
himself in danger…it was more than he could take. But there was this
nagging thought in his mind….wasn’t it also Lucas’ fault? Wasn’t he the one
who’d been tricked into trailing after Russell to begin with? There was
another thing, too. Fear, love, relief and anger weren’t the only emotions
he was feeling. In the middle of his heart there was the distinct and
unmistakable feeling of pride. His son had saved his life. Not Johnny, not
the others….Mark. Mark had the most to lose out there, but it didn’t
matter. He’d put Lucas and Micah before himself. Suddenly an image crossed
his mind….a man, yelling, threatening to kill him. Mark in the
doorway…tossing the rifle to him. What was it he’d said when the old man
questioned Mark’s disobedience? He’d disobeyed out of love. Tears welled
up in Lucas’ eyes as he realized today was no different. If there was a
good reason for disobeying your father, love would be it. In his mind he
saw the image of Mark’s downcast eyes…his slumped shoulders as he ran away.
He choked back the tears and kicked Razor. It was time.
Mark was staring out over the water, his back against
a tree when he heard Lucas ride up and walk over to him quietly. He stood
there a moment in silence.
“Mind if I sit down?”
Mark shrugged. Lucas sat down next to his son.
“Mark, before either of us says anything else I want
to tell you that I’m sorry. There was no reason for me to yell at you like
I did….no excuse for it at all. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to
forgive me and try to understand.”
Mark still stared straight ahead. There were tears in
his voice when he said “I always understand you, Pa…and I’ll always forgive
The words cut Lucas to the heart. It was a moment
before he could speak. “I know that, son. I also know that you understand
how much I love you…how much you mean to me. You’ve never had to wonder how
far I’d go or what I’d do to keep you safe. I think, though, that maybe
sometimes I’ve neglected something else.” Lucas took Mark by the chin and
gently turned his face towards his own. Mark’s brown eyes were filled with
tears. Lucas swallowed hard.
“Mark, I not only love you…I’m more proud of you than
words can express. I appreciate what you did today…and everything you’ve
done for me in the past. Having you for a son is a gift that I could never
deserve. I don’t just love you because you are my son. I love you for who
you are….for what’s in your heart. You always put others first. You always
put me first…and I just want to say thank you.”
Mark stared at his father. He blinked and the tears
fell from his eyes and down his cheeks. It was more than Lucas could take.
He took his son into his arms.
“Pa…I did what I thought was right.” He said between
sobs. “I’m sorry I disobeyed but I did it….”
Lucas interrupted him. “…out of love.”
Mark pulled back from the embrace and looked
Lucas brushed his own tears away. “I know why you did
it then and I know why you did it today. I also know something else.”
“My boy isn’t a boy any longer.”
Mark smiled knowingly.
“I mean it Mark. It’s true and I need to remember it.
Look, I won’t lie to you. I’ll always be your father and I’ll always want
to protect you, no matter if you’re 17 or 70. But from now on, I will treat
you like the man you are.”
Mark nodded again and then spoke. “I appreciate that,
Pa. I still have a lot to learn and I still need my teacher. He’s the best
man I know, remember?”
Lucas put his arm around his son’s shoulders. “I
remember…and I still need my son.” Lucas smiled.
“He’s the best man I know, too.”
Making Room —
This is a story based on the TV series “The Rifleman”
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
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