The Next Step…
Chapter 4 - Deputy McCain
Written by Deanne Bertram
He collected his rifle; put his hat back on, and with a spring in his step he walked back to Micah’s. He stopped and petted Blue Boy on the neck and offered him a sugar cube. As he entered, he set his rifle on the desk and felt very self conscious and alone. He walked to Micah’s chair and spun it around. He couldn’t bring himself to sit in it. He walked to the chair where Johnny sat and he ran his hand across the top of the back.
Mark’s thinking was brought back to the present when he saw John Hamilton standing in the doorway.
“Mark, I thought I saw you come in here.”
“Mr. Hamilton, sorry, I didn’t hear you come in,” Mark replied.
“That’s okay, I saw you were thinking and didn’t really want to disturb you. Just came to say, if you need anything while Micah or Johnny are out of town…”
“I appreciate the gesture Mr. Hamilton. I really do. I mean, I’ve had the badge for more than six months, but this time, it just feels different.”
“Have you talked with your Pa?”
“I’m planning to. He’s supposed to be in town around five o’clock then we’re having supper with Miss Hattie. Mr. Hamilton, did you know that Hattie Denton is back in town.” Sheepishly Mark continued, “She came here to help me in my time of need, just recently read about Micah’s and Pa’s deaths in an old newspaper.”
“No, I hadn’t heard she was back in town,” John replied.
“She’s over at the hotel. I’m sure she’d enjoy seeing you again,” Mark said with schoolboy grin on his face. “Mr. Hamilton?”
“Do you think it would be alright if I made rounds of the town? Walked the streets like Micah or Johnny would?”
“Mark, I think the people of North Fork would expect that from their deputy. Believe in yourself, Mark. I’ll see you later.”
Mark did walk the town. He kept his rifle in his hand and walked from one establishment to the next. All the shop owners stopped whatever they were doing to have a few brief words with Mark. Offering support and encouragement. Waving goodbye as he proceeded down the street.
Lucas arrived in town shortly after five o’clock and walked into the Marshal’s office. Mark was sitting in the chair on the front side of Micah’s desk, looking through the most recent stack of wanted posters that came the day before.
“Evening Deputy,” Lucas called as he entered.
“How’re things going for you son?” Lucas asked as he sat down on the edge of Micah’s desk.
“Everything’s going fine. Mr. Hamilton met me here earlier, said he believed in me as much as he believed in Micah, Johnny and you. I asked him if he felt it okay if I walked the town. He said the people expected no less from me. Everyone was genuinely happy to see me. Sure felt funny though.”
“You know. All the times that you filled in for Micah and now it’s my turn, but more so, me being so young. But it felt different when the shopkeepers spoke with me. I didn’t feel like it was Mark McCain they were talking too.”
“So just who did you think they were talking to?”
“They treated me… just like they treat Johnny. It just felt weird.”
“Mark, treat the people with respect and they’ll answer in kind.” Lucas was tempted to ruffle Mark’s hair, but it took a good resolve to treat Mark for the man he was becoming. “Well, did you get a chance to ask Milly and Hope to join us for dinner?”
“Yes, Pa, I told them we’d expect them at the restaurant around five, thirty.”
Lucas and Mark McCain shared the company of three very fine ladies for dinner that night. No one touched on the subject of Hope’s past, but Hattie was immediately taken in by the girl’s grace and the fact that Mark cared so much about her.
When the topic of Hattie staying in North Fork came up, she didn’t know if she should. It had been a long time since she had left and she wasn’t sure there was a place for her.
“Non-sense,” Milly stated. “But you don’t have to make up your mind right away. At least stay through Thanksgiving next week. Please?”
Hattie accepted the offer. Soon the evening came to an end. Lucas saw Hattie up the stairs to her room. Then he and Mark escorted Milly and Hope home.
“Pa, it’s getting close to nine o’clock, time to make my rounds.”
“You want me to tag along.”
“No, sir. I appreciate the offer, but… Maybe you could just have a seat in front of Micah’s, just in case?”
“Sure son,” Lucas stated as he smiled. He walked with Mark to Micah’s and took a seat, then watched his son perform his rounds.
Nearing ten, Mark returned. “So, are you going to spend the night in the jail or in the hotel?” Lucas asked.
“I was thinking for at least tonight inside. Lou has a room for me at the hotel that Johnny said you could use too.”
“Alright son, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Next Step —