The Writer's Corner

The Next Step…
Chapter 14 - The Delivery
Written by Deanne Bertram

Mark met Amos at the telegraph office, first thing in the morning.

“Amos, I need to send a wire to the U.S. Marshal’s Office in Denver.”

“Sure Mark, just write it out.”

U.S. Marshal’s Office

Denver, Colorado

Sirs,

Deputy Anders injured  /stop/

Unable to transport prisoner to Amarillo /stop/

Please advise   /stop/

Mark McCain, Deputy

North Fork, New Mexico Territory

“Amos, I’ll be at the jail when you get a reply.”

*****

Mark arrived back at the jail in time see Micah opening the door.

“Micah!” Mark hollered.

“Morning Mark, you been out on rounds already this morning?  Sure is a glorious day.”  Then seeing the tired look in Mark’s eyes, he smiled as he asked, “You and Hope spend some time together afterwards, last night?”

“No sir, we had a little bit of trouble late last night.  Didn’t get much sleep.”

“Trouble?  Why didn’t you come wake me?”

“Micah, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.  A friend I met, when I was up in Denver, he broke his leg while transporting a prisoner.  I got the prisoner in jail and Drew’s over at Doc’s.  They’re supposed to be heading to Amarillo.  I just had Amos send a wire up to Denver letting them know what happened and asking they advise us how to proceed.”

“Hey, lawboy!” the prisoner yelled.  “Get me my food!  You can’t starve me like this!  I got my rights!”

“Who’s the prisoner Mark?” Micah asked as they entered the office.

“Drew said his name was Henry Barlow, said he was a horse thief and he was to be transported to Amarillo, Texas.  I sat up with Drew while he got drunk enough for Thadd to set his leg.  Surprised you didn’t hear him yell.”

Mark sat down on the chaise and was soon asleep.  Micah laid a blanket over the sleeping Mark, then went to order breakfast for the prisoner.

*****

About an hour later, Amos entered the office.

“Micah, I got a reply to Mark’s wire to the Marshals up in Denver.”

Mark started to rouse.  Micah read the wire. 

Deputy Mark McCain

North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Unable to send deputy to North Fork /stop/

Require you transport deputy to Clovis, New Mexico  /stop/

Meet with Marshal James Carson  /stop/

Respectfully

Cole Barker, U.S. Marshal

Denver, Colorado

“What’s wrong Micah?” Mark asked as he looked at Micah.

“Mark, seems we need to get Barlow to Clovis.  I’ll go get your Pa, see if he can help.” 

“No Micah, I’m your deputy.  If you don’t trust me to deliver a horse thief up to Clovis, then take back the badge.”  Mark stood in front of Micah, defiance in his eyes and voice.  “Besides, I can’t ask Pa to leave Ma right now.”

“Mark…  Listen to me.” Micah pleaded.

“Micah, you trust me to watch the town, but you won’t trust me to deliver a horse thief?”

“You’re right, it’s just that…”

“I know, it’s hard to let go.”

Micah headed to the General Store for provisions for the trip.  Mark headed to Nil’s to borrow a packhorse and get the other two horses ready.  He was going to use Drew’s horse instead of Blue Boy for this trip.  He led three horses to the Marshal’s.

“You’re not taking Blue Boy?”

“No sir, thought I’d leave him for Hope to ride.”

“Well it shouldn’t take you no more than three days to get to Clovis and then three days back.  You wire when you get there?”

“Sure Micah, now let’s get my prisoner in the saddle.  Will you let Ma and Pa know, and Hope?”

“You ain’t going to tell them yourself?  They should be here in about an hour for church.”

“No Micah, if I wait to tell Pa, he’ll insist on riding.  I know he’s my Pa, but right now, it’s more important that he stay home, close to Ma.”

“Mark, that’s twice now that you’ve said your Pa needs to stay close to your Ma.  Just what’s wrong with Milly?” Micah asked, concern in his voice.

“Micah, it’s nothing that time won’t resolve.”

“Boy you’re talking to an old man.” Micah chided Mark.

“Micah, last week I arrived home to find Ma passed out on the floor.  I tended to her and she finally came around.  I wanted to go get Pa, but she said no.  Said she didn’t want no fussing.  I think she’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant?”  Micah repeated.  “You know, she did seem to have a special glow about her last night at the dance.  Does your Pa know?”

“I don’t think so.  If he did, he wouldn’t have been dancing with her like he was last night.”  Mark pleaded again.  “Micah, just wait until after church services to let them know you sent me out of town.  You don’t have to tell them I’m escorting a prisoner.  Please.”

“Mark, you know I can’t lie to your Pa, he’s my best friend.”

“Micah, please.  You don’t have to tell him the whole truth, just enough to satisfy him so he won’t worry.”

“And if something happens?” 

“Then Pa can tan both our hides when I get back home.”

Mark and Micah saw the prisoner to his horse.  Mark mounted and, leading the packhorse, left North Fork.

*****

Lucas and Milly arrived in North Fork, shortly before church services were to start.  They met Hope and Hattie out front.  Lucas scanned those walking down the road for sign of his son.   

“Lucas, we really need to go inside.  I’m sure Mark will be along soon enough.  He probably slept in a little after helping to keep an eye on the festivities last night, and then walking the town afterwards.  I’m sure he and Micah are catching up.” 

Reverend McCafferty’s sermon was wonderful, but he kept is shorter than usual.  The day was already hot and all the windows and doors were left open to help keep the parishioners cooler.  Service ended and the town’s folks left the church, stopping to make small talk with the Reverend and his wife as they left.

Lucas and Milly stood to leave, but Lucas sensed something amiss.  He looked at Milly as he felt her grab tighter to his arm and then he felt her release her grip.  He caught Milly in his arms as she fainted, gently lowering her to the ground.  Lucas yelled for Doctor Burrage.  Hope started fanning Milly’s face.  Hattie ordered everyone out of the church.

Worry grew in Lucas’ heart, what was wrong with Milly? 

Young Doc Burrage made his way into the church.

“Lucas, what happened?”

“She fainted Doc.  We stood to leave, she grabbed my arm and then, she fainted.  Doc, what’s wrong with her?”

“Lucas, I’ve not had chance to examine her.  Do you mind carrying her to my office?  It’s a more fitting place than here.”

*****

Micah insisted that Lucas accompany him to his office, leaving Hope with Milly.

“Give Doc time and the room to examine her LucasBoy.  He can’t rightly do a good job with you asking questions every thirty seconds and standing at his elbow.”

Doc Burrage arrived at Micah’s.

“Doc, how is she?  Is she going to be alright?” Lucas pleaded.  “Please Doc, tell me what’s wrong with my wife?”

“Lucas, I’ve been asked to not say anything to you.  Milly wants to tell you herself.” Thaddeus did his best to keep a stoic look on his face.  “She’s getting dressed and wants to see you.  You can take her home, but I order her to take it easy for the next few months.  As this progresses…”

Lucas didn’t hear anything after Thaddeus said Milly wanted to see him, as he ran to be with his wife.

“So Doc, Mark was right?” Micah asked.

“Mark, right?” Thadd looked at Micah, perplexed.

“Mark told me this morning that last week he found Milly passed out at the ranch.  She didn’t want Mark to tell Lucas.  He told me he thought she might be pregnant.”

“You know Marshal, from what Uncle Jay has told me, the intuition and knack for knowing what to do when someone get’s injured, I sure don’t know why Mark didn’t plan to become a doctor?”

“Too many years of watching his Pa help me.”  Micah answered with a laugh.  “Tell Lucas and Milly congratulations from me, when you get back to your office.”

*****

Lucas arrived at Doc’s and quietly called to Milly as he entered. 

“Lucas I’ll be right there,” Milly replied.

He waited for her to step from behind the partition. Hope came first, holding Milly’s hand.

“Hope, I’m fine.  Please.” Milly stated.

“Milly?” Relief flooded Lucas to see his wife standing in front of him, but deep worry wrinkled his brow.

“Lucas, please.  I’m fine.”

“Milly, please tell me what’s wrong.  I promised to love you in sickness and in health.  If something’s wrong, please, don’t try to protect me from hurt.  I hurt more not knowing.”  Lucas walked to his wife and wrapped his arms around her. 

Milly felt Lucas tremble.  She pushed herself slightly away so she could look him in the eye.

“Lucas, honestly, I’m going to be fine.  Just that…”

“Milly, what?” Lucas pleaded.

“Well, there’s going to be an addition to the family, we’re going to have a baby.”  Milly smiled as she told Lucas their news.

Lucas stepped back and looked his wife in the eye.  He stumbled backwards until he sat on Doc’s desk.

“A baby?...”  Lucas shook his head.

“Lucas?” 

“A baby!  You’re pregnant?” Lucas asked as a broad smile appeared on his face.  He scooped Milly up in his arms and swung her around.

“Lucas!” Milly squealed.

Lucas quickly set Milly down.  Hope stood to the side laughing.

“So who’s going to tell Mark he’s going to be a big brother?” Hope asked.

“I guess we all ca…” Lucas started.

“Lucas, what’s wrong?”

“Milly, I just realized, Mark wasn’t at Micah’s when I was over there.  I was so concerned for you, that I didn’t realize it until just now.”

 The three walked over to Micah’s.

“Well, if it isn’t the expecting parents!” Micah exclaimed with a huge smile on his face.

“Micah, I asked Doctor Burrage to not tell anyone.” Milly stated.

“He didn’t, Mark told me.”

“Mark?”

“Yep, he told me before he…”

“Before he what, Micah?” Lucas demanded.  “He wasn’t at church and he wasn’t here earlier.  Where is my boy?”

“Now Lucas, he’s running an errand for me.  I had some business that needed to be delivered in person and Mark offered to do the delivering.  Youth.  I wasn’t looking forward to being in the saddle that long, anyhow.  Should be back by week’s end.” Micah answered as he poured himself another cup of coffee.  “He asked me to let both of you and Hope know.”

“Why couldn’t he wait and tell us himself?” Milly asked.

“Well, he wanted to get gone, so he could get back that much sooner.”

Neither Lucas or Milly believed Micah, but they let it be.

“Come on Hope, let’s go have lunch at the hotel.” Milly stated as she took Hope’s arm.

They entered the hotel to find a very concerned Hattie sitting at a table with John Hamilton.

“Milly!  Are you okay?  Can I get you anything?”

“Hattie, I’m fine.  Just need to take it easy from here on out, at least for a while.”

“It wasn’t just the heat inside the church was it?” Hattie asked.  “No, it wasn’t.  You know, you have a certain glow about you.  Milly, you’re expecting?”  Milly nodded.  “Congratulations!”  The two women hugged.

John Hamilton stood and gave Milly a hug and offered a handshake to Lucas.

Hattie left the restaurant and proceeded to tell everyone she met the news!  A steady stream of town’s people paraded through the restaurant in order to congratulate the happy couple.

*****

Lucas told Milly to wait in the restaurant as he walked Hope to Miss Hattie’s.  He returned with the buckboard and escorted Milly and gently lifted her up to her seat.  He only allowed the horses to walk for the trip home.  As they arrived, he lifted her down and carried her inside.

“Lucas McCain, I’m pregnant, not an egg.  You don’t have to treat me so fragile!  I won’t break.  Besides, I don’t know if I can survive another seven months of you treating me like this.”

“Milly, please, please sit down.  Let me have my say.”

Milly pouted her lips, but did as Lucas requested as he knelt down in front of her.  He took both of her hands in his.

“Milly, I don’t want you pushing yourself.  I…  This baby…” Tears were falling down Lucas’ face.

“Lucas, talk to me.” Milly asked.

“Milly, Mark was three years old when I found out Margaret and I were expecting a second child.  I was thrilled with the idea of Mark having a younger brother or sister.  Thrilled to hold a second baby in my arms and introduce that child to the world.  Yet, I worried.  I almost lost Margaret when Mark was born.  She was so weak and sick, that for the first month of Mark’s life, she couldn’t take care of him.”

Lucas paused as his memories took him back in time.

“It was summertime and I had been working hard on the farm back in Enid.  I was running late in getting home one night.  When I finally got home, the doctor was already there.  Margaret had lost the baby.  She miscarried.  I knew how much that baby meant to her.  In the years after Mark was born, seeing other women having baby after baby.  Margaret had desperately yearned for a second child.  This time, the doctor told me that if Margaret were ever to get pregnant again, it could….  She just wasn’t strong enough to carry another child to term and the strain the baby would put on her body…  The doctor said it would kill her.”

Lucas’ eyes returned to look into Milly’s, they pleaded for her to understand another part of his hurt.

“Lucas, I didn’t know.  If I had known, I would have told you when I first suspected.  I didn’t mean to worry you like this.  Lucas, please forgive me?” she asked.

“Milly, there’s nothing to forgive, as long as you promise to take it easy.  I can’t lose you or this baby,” he stated has he rubbed his hand over her stomach.  A smile finally appeared on his face.

“So, are you going to let me fix supper tonight for my husband?” Milly asked.

“Only after you take a nap!”  Lucas helped her to their bed, saw her lie down.  He left the house and started to tend to the stock. 

*****

It had been four days since Mark left North Fork and Micah grew worried.  He should have received word by now that Mark had arrived in Clovis.  He watched out the window as Lucas rode up to Doc’s.

*****

“Doc?” Lucas called as he entered.  “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were busy.”

“That’s okay Lucas, I’m almost done.  What brings you to town?”

“Doc, I was wondering if you have something for Milly, to help with her morning sickness?”

“Sure Lucas, let me write it down and Mrs. Donner can get it for you over at the general store.  By the way, Lucas McCain I’d like you to meet Drew Anders, he’s been a resident of mine for the past four days.”

“Lucas McCain?   You’re Mark’s father?”  Lucas nodded.  “I’m pleased to meet you sir.  You must be mighty proud of him.”  Drew extended his hand.

“I am.  If I can ask, you’re not from around here, so how is it you know my boy?”

“Oh, I’m sorry sir, I met him up in Denver.  I’m a deputy U.S. Marshal, don’t have my badge on seeing as how I can’t get around on my own, yet.  I sure am glad Mark could deliver my prisoner while I’m laid up,” Drew stated. 

“He’s what?” Lucas asked, surprise in his voice.

“Since Doc here won’t let me ride and I had a prisoner that needed to get to Amarillo, Mark took him.”

“Mark is delivering a prisoner, by himself?  To Amarillo?!”

Lucas left Doc’s and headed for the Marshal’s, Micah saw the storm clouds brewing.  He stepped to the pot belly stove and poured a second cup of coffee, this one for Lucas.

“Morning LucasBoy,” Micah cheerfully said.

“Don’t Morning LucasBoy, me, Micah.  Just when were you going to tell me my boy was delivering a prisoner to Amarillo?  Why didn’t you tell me?  I could have accompanied him.  How could you let a seventeen year old boy, deliver a prisoner?”

“Now Lucas, if you’ll let me answer your question, before you ask the next…  First off, he’s not going to Amarillo.  Marshal’s Office is sending a marshal to meet up with him in Clovis.  Second, I didn’t tell you because Mark asked me not to, he knew you’d want to go along and he didn’t want you away from Milly right now.  Third, as he pointed out, he’s my deputy and if I couldn’t trust him to do what’s required of the job, then I should just take the badge back and let him go back to being Mark McCain, the child.” Micah’s voice held firm.  “Now anymore questions?  Here, drink some coffee, I’m not holding two cups for my own health.”

Lucas took the cup from Micah and sat back on the edge of his desk, trying digest all that Micah had said.

“You said Mark didn’t want me away from Milly.  Did he say why?” Lucas asked.

“He suspected she might be pregnant.  Said he found her passed out one day last week when he returned home.  Said she begged him not to tell you, yet.”

“He knew, before he left?”  Lucas shook his head.  “Okay, now that I’m simmered down, when is Mark supposed to get to Clovis?”

“That’s just it Lucas, I thought I should have heard from him last night or this morning at the latest.  I was gonna wait until you left town to send a wire and inquire.  So what brought you to town today?”

“Milly’s morning sickness… Oh, boy.  Micah you send that wire, I’m going back to Doc’s to get her prescription and then fill it over at the general store.  I’ll be right back.”

The waiting game began.  By early afternoon, Amos came into Micah’s. 

“Micah, I’m sorry.  We just can’t get wires through to Clovis, the closest we can get is to Portales.  Telegrapher says a wicked storm hit outside of Clovis last night and probably took the lines down.”

“Well Lucas, you just get on back home to Milly, I’m sure she’ll appreciate that medicine.  I’ll get word to you as soon as we hear something.”

Lucas left Micah’s and as he mounted Razor, he looked to the heavens and closed his eyes.  Then he rode.

*****

U.S. Marshal James Carson, rode to the edge of town, scanned the horizon for signs of the deputy from North Fork and his prisoner.  Seeing nothing he returned to the Sheriff Cameron Mitchell’s office.

“That deputy should have been here by now,” Carson stated.

“Marshal, the lines are down between here and Portales and that storm that came through here, last night.  You just don’t know if’n they were caught up in it.”

As they continued their discussion, a boy from the livery came running in.

“Sheriff, ya gotta come quick!”

“What’s up Jimmie?”

“Strangers and they look bad off.”

Mitchell and Carson ran behind the boy.  They reached the edge of town and through the last rays of the setting sun, they saw a bedraggled sight.  Two men wearily walking, leading three horses.  Two children riding one horse, a woman carrying a bundle on the other, and the packhorse was pulling a travois.

“Jimmie, go get the Doc.  Tell him he’s got patients coming.”

Carson and Mitchell ran out to the group.  The men barely acknowledged their presence; they just continued to walk, as if in a trance.  They led them to their town doctor’s office.  As one man pulled the children down from their horse, Mitchell noticed the handcuff on one wrist.  He tapped Carson and pointed.  They watched as the other man took the bundle from the woman and then helped her down from her horse.  Carson and Mitchell unhooked the travois and carried it and the man lying on it into the doctor’s office.

The doctor was busily checking his patients.  Carson and Mitchell stood and watched as one of the two strangers slid down the wall to sit and his head fell forward.  The other held out his hands.

“Guess you should know that I’m the prisoner he was supposed to deliver to you” Barlow stated.

“He trusted you enough to remove your handcuffs?” Mitchell asked.

“It weren’t a matter of him trusting me, at first.  He didn’t have a choice.  That storm hit us and as we was looking for shelter, we came across those people.  They were bad off.  Woman in the wagon giving birth, a tree came down on their horses and the man at the side of their camp.  But he needed help, he unlocked the one and I helped him get the man out from under the tree.  The man was wearing a gun, I grabbed it and held it on the boy.  I started to run away.  He yelled after me, saying ‘good riddance’.  Said that I’d have to be the one to explain when I met my maker.  But then, I saw a boy trying his damned’est to help strangers.  I couldn’t just leave him.  I tended to the man while he helped the woman deliver her baby.  I’m ready to head to your jail.”

“You keep saying boy,” Carson stated.

“Yeah, that deputy can’t be more than eighteen,” Barlow replied. “I’m ashamed how I treated him out on the trail, before hand.  I know he didn’t get much sleep before we met up with those people, but even less afterwards.”  He proceeded in front of Sheriff Mitchell to head to the jail. 

*****

The doctor had finished tending to his other patients when he turned his attention to the deputy sitting asleep against the wall. 

“Well Doc?” Carson asked.

“I’d say from what I overheard the prisoner saying and what the woman told me, he’s probably suffering from sheer exhaustion.  Come on, grab an arm, let’s carry the boy to the hotel.”

Between the two of them, they carried the sleeping Mark to the hotel. 

“Mrs. Bowers, you got a room for an exhausted deputy,” they inquired as they entered.

The hotel owner’s wife led them to a room and lit the lantern as they laid the deputy on the bed.  She pushed the men out of the room, then returned to the deputy.  She looked down his sleeping face, ‘A child” she said to herself as she got into her grandmotherly mode and pulled his boots off.  Next she removed his dirty shirt and pants, thinking to herself, ‘let him be embarrassed in the morning, but these need cleaning.’ She pulled the covers over him.  She blew out the lantern and left, closing the door behind her.

*****

Carson returned to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Carson, telegraph wire’s been restored.  We got a message from Portales, the marshal in North Fork is worried sick about his deputy.”

“Funny how no one seem to mention how young this deputy is.  Well, I’m sure he has family that must be scared to death, I’ll send a wire back,” Carson stated as he headed to the telegraph office.

*****

Amos ran into Micah’s yelling, “Micah he’s safe!” as he handed the wire over.

Marshal Micah Torrance

North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Deputy safe  /stop/

Suffering exhaustion   /stop/

Will keep in Clovis until recovered  /stop/ 

Marshal James Carson

U.S. Marshal Service

“I better ride to Lucas’.  I’m sure he’ll want to know, regardless how late.”

*****

Micah arrive at the McCain Ranch, he saw a lantern turned down low, sitting on the table.  He quietly knocked.  The door opened and Lucas stepped out.

“Micah, any word?” Micah saw the worry in Lucas’ face.

“Got it right here.  No detail, but he’s safe.  Say he’s suffering from exhaustion.  Marshal Carson is going to keep him in Clovis until he’s recovered.”

“Thank God,” Lucas exclaimed as he leaned back against the side of his home.

The door opened again, this time, Milly was there.

“Micah?  What are you doing here so late?” Milly asked.

“Milly, get back to bed, you need your rest,” Lucas stated as he tried to maneuver Milly inside. 

“Husband, I know you too well.  You’re trying to hide something from me.  Oh, No.  Mark!  Something’s happened to Mark?  Lucas?” Milly pleaded.

“Milly, yes the news is about Mark, but he’s safe.  Micah and I got worried because he was overdue to wire back.  Now please, I don’t want you worrying yourself.”

“Worrying myself!  Lucas McCain!  I’m your wife and Mark’s mother.  You had no right to keep this news from me.  How am I going to trust you in the future, when you say everything is alright, when I know in the past you’ve kept things from me?”

Milly turned and walked to their bedroom.  She slammed the door behind her.

“LucasBoy, you better do some sweet talking to her.  Guess I was wrong in keeping from you the fact that Mark was delivering a prisoner and you were wrong for not telling Milly that Mark was overdue.  Go to her Lucas. I’ll let you know when I hear anymore.”

Micah watched as Lucas entered his home, then he mounted his horse and headed back to town.

*****

Lucas walked to their bedroom door and gently knocked, “Milly, please.  May I come in?”

“Go away Lucas!”

Lucas opened the door and saw his wife lying on their bed, crying.  He walked over and climbed into bed, lifted Milly up and pulled her into his arms.  He felt a tenseness in her body.

“Milly, I was wrong to keep this from you.  Please trust me in the future, I won’t keep secrets.  I’m sorry I hurt you.” 

He gently kissed the top of her head.  Lovingly, he ran his finger tips down her arm and then placed his hand over her stomach, giving it a gentle pat.

“It’s been so long since I was married… I forgot that it also meant sharing everything – our love, our bed, our hopes, our hurts, and our fears.  Please forgive me Milly?”

Milly nodded and turned around to face Lucas.  She saw the truth in his eyes.  She leaned forward and they passionately kissed.  They fell asleep in each others’ arms.

*****

Morning arrived in Clovis and Mrs. Bowers entered the sleeping deputy’s room.  Saw that he had rolled over onto his stomach and kicked the covers off.  She stopped to pull the covers back up over the boy.  She stared at the scars on his back.  She laid the covers over the boy and left the room.

*****

Night was falling in Clovis when Sheriff Mitchell entered the hotel and waited at the bottom of the staircase as Mrs. Bowers came down.

“He’s still asleep Sheriff.  I set his clean clothes on the chair by the window.”  Then she asked, “What happened to him?”

Sheriff Mitchell answered, “Two days and nights of delivering a prisoner with little sleep and then dealing with helping a family caught out in a storm and delivering a baby.  Then another two days of responsibilities of the prisoner and a family.  That boy’s had quite the adventure.  Should I send the doc over to check on him?”

“Why don’t we just let him sleep himself out.  If he needs the doctor once he’s awake, I’ll let you know.”

*****

Mark woke to a gentle knocking on the door.  He sat up in bed as the door opened.  He looked around, confusion on his face.

“Good Afternoon Deputy,” Mrs. Bowers greeted him.  “How are you feeling?  I bet you’re hungry?”

“Yes Ma’am.  Excuse me, but who are you and where am I?”

“Lord have mercy.  I’m Mrs. Bowers, my husband and I own the hotel.  You made it to Clovis.  Don’t worry, the Marshal took your prisoner yesterday afternoon and returned to Amarillo.”

“Yesterday?” Mark asked surprised.

“Child you’ve slept for almost two whole days.  You arrived here late Thursday evening and it’s just after lunch on Saturday.”

“Oh no, I’ve got to get word back home!” Mark started to throw the sheets from him when he saw Mrs. Bowers pick up his clothes from the chair.

“No need to fret, the Marshal sent a wire back to Marshal Torrance telling him you were safe.  Here, I’ve laundered your clothes.”  Seeing Mark’s expression, “Don’t worry yourself, I’ve six grandsons and if you think I haven’t stripped an exhausted boy out of his clothes…  If you have a mind to bathe, there’s a bath down the hall, last door on the right.  There’s a towel and soap on the stand, with the water pitcher and basin.  Oh, and there’s a robe in the closet for you to wear down the hallway.  You come on down when you’re ready and I’ll have a meal ready for you.  Would you like a breakfast or a dinner?”

“The way I’m feeling right now,” Mark answered as his stomach growled, “Both.”

*****

An attendant drew the hot water for Mark, then left.  He slipped into the tub, stretching his body out to its fullest, then set to work scrubbing himself.  Afterwards, he dried himself off and put his clean clothes back on.  Then set to find out where Mrs. Bowers might be.

He arrived at the landing of the staircase to encounter Sheriff Mitchell entering the hotel.

“Good afternoon Deputy!” Mitchell greeted him.  “I’m Sheriff Mitchell, glad to see you up and awake.  How’re you doing?”

“Much better sir.  Sorry to be such trouble.”

“Non-sense.  From what Barlow and the Jacobsen family told us, I’m surely surprised you didn’t sleep another day.  Care to join me for lunch?”

“Yes sir, Mrs. Bowers was there when I woke and told me to come on down and she’d have something ready.  Only, I don’t know where to go?”

“Come on Deputy, I’ll show you to the kitchen.”

Over lunch the Sheriff told Mark of how he’d kept Micah informed, sending wires morning and night.  Also told Mark, “There’s a very thankful Jacobsen family that is eager to see you, once you woke.  Our doctor thinks the husband is going to recover fully and that baby...  Why he’s such a cute bundle.”

“Thank you sir, glad to hear they’re all doing fine.”

“If it weren’t for you Mark, they wouldn’t be.  The stories we heard surely did impress Marshal Carson.  Says a lot about your character, the way your parents raised you right.  ”

Mark didn’t answer, his eyes drifted off to his own memories.

“I bet you’ll be wanting to send your folks a wire.  I’ll take you to the telegraph office once you’ve finished eating.”

*****

Mark wrote his wire and handed it to the telegraph operator:

Marshal Micah Torrance

North Fork, New Mexico Territory

Sorry to be sleeping on the job   /stop/

Start return trip tomorrow  /stop/

Deputy Mark McCain

Then he wrote and handed a second wire to the operator:

Lucas and Milly McCain

Hope Lane

North Fork, New Mexico Territory

All is well   /stop/

Sorry to put you through worry   /stop/

Start return trip tomorrow, early  /stop/

Love, Mark

The night before Mark left Clovis, he stopped and checked in on the Jacobsen family, before he said goodbye.
 

The Next Step — Mark’s Return

This is a story based on the TV series “The Rifleman”

Here are some other great stories.  Enjoy!
 

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